Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year, New Dreams

Happy New Year's Eve, everybody! All afternoon I've been toiling away at my honors project for English class. This class is hands-down my favorite class in a long time: 20th Century American Masters. Three mornings a week, I get to start my day off in the company of the brilliant minds of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, John Steinbeck, and countless other geniuses. If only I really were on the streets of Paris with the "Lost Generation" sipping coffee.

This semester, we've read classics like Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises," Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," and a handful of poems from the Harlem Renaissance, Southern Gothic stories, and some Carl Sandburg too. What was interesting is that while all these stories spanned from writers throughout a century and across the world, there were several major themes that threaded through all of them. For our end-of-semester project, we had to pick a theme and make a presentation to the class about how that theme runs through the various texts we've read, and why that theme was significant to 20th Century America.

I chose [bah budah bah!] dreaming, and only now as I was sitting at my laptop trying to think of some New Year's blessing, greeting, hello, whatever you may call it, did I realize that this connected perfectly with the theme of our blog! What better time to make a dream than at the beginning of a new year? (I really am always's dangerous when we travel because sometimes I get so caught up with this world inside my head that I am unaware of what's going on around me––native city folk aren't too patient.)

 The "thesis," I guess you could call it, of my presentation is Langston Hughes' poem, "Harlem," (also known as "Dream Deferred"/"A Dream Deferred"). We analyzed the poem as a class, and I used this to help me connect each dream that Hughes describes in his poem to a dream that one of the characters we met this semester had. I found this cool Nike commercial that used a reading of the poem as a voiceover, but I put the words beneath it too, in case you're like me and have to read something to fully appreciate it.

"A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

What happens to a dream delayed? Does it change or die, like a dried up raisin? Does it "fester like a sore," and infect you? Becoming dangerous? Does it "stink like rotten meat?" Does it have an expiration date and eventually spoil? Does it eventually go bad? Or does the dream "crust and sugar over--like a syrupy sweet." Syrupy sweets are addictive, but they're empty calories. They never fill you up. Maybe the dream just stays the same. Maybe it's like a heavy load that sags and weighs you down. Or does it explode? Does the pressure eventually build up so much that it finally explodes? 

This poem was unique to America in the 20th century. America was–and still is, but uniquely was at the time–the land of opportunity. For the first time, dreams could become reality. If you worked hard enough, you could "make it" in the world. Social class lines were blurred. You were in control of your own destiny. People began to question their lives; they didn't just accept them. They spoke up for themselves. African-Americans began to have a voice ("Any Human to Another" by Countee Cullen, "If We Must Die" by Claude McKay, "Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes). 

We Americans are fortunate to live in a country where it's possible to achieve our dreams and speak our mind. Think about 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai, a young Pakistani girl, who was almost killed for supporting education for girls. Yet, even she followed her dream, despite the risks. 

Don't delay your dreams. Don't let them dry up, fester, or spoil. Don't let them just hang there, useless. Don't let the pressure build up so much that they explode, because you never know what the explosion could trigger. Don't let your dream get too sweet. There's no better time than a new year today. You don't have to wait until a new year to tackle that dream. Tackle it today.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Baking

Chocolate. What a wonderful way to start the morning. Baking. What an even more wonderful way to begin. 

The past two weeks have been filled with Christmas baking in both my house and my grandparent's (who have an in-law with us). Between the two houses, there has been lots of delicious treats to share and sample. My grandma's glazed pecans and walnuts have always been a favorite of mine. She was kind enough to give me my own personal stash this year, but I ate it all in one sitting while up late doing homework. In fact, I think it was all the sweets that kept me going last week, what with all the end-of-semester project work. I had chocolate saltine bark and homemade granola and chocolate pretzel M&M wreaths and lots of dark chocolate M&Ms. Friday at school everyone was in a particularly cheerful mood. Many people carried tins of fudge and homemade cookies and other goodies that they were eager to share with their friends or whoever they saw in the hallway. What's the fun of food if you can't share it? Soo I have two Christmas recipes to share with you today!

The first is super easy:

Chocolate Cherry Mice 

These things are almost too cute to eat! But then you eat one...and they're too good not to eat. 


Hershey kisses (for the head)
Maraschino cherries with stems
Slivered almonds (for the ears)
Food coloring (for eyes)
Chocolate chips OR more Hershey kisses

1. Place the maraschino cherries on a paper towel and dry them with another paper towel. This will make the chocolate stick easier. *If some of the cherries don't have stems, DON'T THROW THEM AWAY. There is a way to make them work! All it takes is a little surgery :) *
2. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil to avoid sticking.
3. Melt the chocolate chips or Hershey kisses in the microwave. My grandma and I melted Hershey kisses, and we melted them for 30 seconds, stirred them, and then put them back in the microwave for another 30 seconds.
4. Dip the cherry in the melted chocolate. Dip the base of another Hershey kiss in the melted chocolate, and attach two slivered almonds for the ears. Stick the head to the chocolate-dipped cherry. There's your mouse!
5. If you have a tailless mouse, have no fear! Take a toothpick or anything sharp and just poke a little hole in its bum (sorry, Mousie!). Dip the tip of the cherry stem in chocolate, and just stick it in there! Nothing a little rectum surgery can't fix.
6. Let the mice harden in the fridge. Later, use food coloring to give them eyes. (All we had was green, black and red food coloring, and the red kind of freaked me out, so I used green. Looking back, red would've been really cute for the nose.)

Here's a close-up!

Oh, and the white blocks the mice are surrounding in the first picture are hunks of white chocolate. Don't they look like cheese???

Alrighty, now moving on to Recipe #2. This one is a bit more involved, but it's well worth it: Coconut Key Lime Cake.

Last weekend, my family and I went to DC, and we had this amazing coconut key lime cake. Now I'm picky when it comes to cake, but this cake was GOOD. So, I decided to try and replicate it for my family for Christmas! The only problem was, I didn't want to let them know I was making it. Luckily, Grandma's kitchen is always open.

Coconut Key-Lime Cake 
A key-lime cake frosted with coconut whipped cream

Because I was trying to replicate the recipe at the restaurant, I didn't follow much of a recipe for this cake. But here are the basic steps I followed.

Key-Lime Cake:
For the cake, I just used a Pillsbury white cake mix, but any brand will do. If you're feeling ambitious, you can make it from scratch, but I'm still somewhat of an amateur at baking, so I figured I would start slow. For the key-lime tang, I used an entire 4 1/2 fluid oz container of lime juice, and two grated limes. I grated each lime entirely, skin and all (my hands were tired!). When it comes to how much to use, the best thing you can do is go by taste. Next time, I think I might do less limes, because the cake was really dense and the lime was a bit overpowering. It's all trial and error!

I made this cake in two layers, so after mixing the batter, I separated it into two 8x8 circular cake tins (to avoid sticking, make sure you oil the cake tins well before pouring in the batter), and baked them for approximately 30 minutes at 350ºF. You'll know they're done when you stick a fork in and it comes out clean.

Coconut Whipped Cream:
Before I even knew I wanted to make this cake, I had bought a Coconut Cream Pie dessert mix from a craft fair, which I mixed with 16 fluid oz of homemade whipped cream. (For the whipped cream, all you need is whipping cream and an electric mixer, with vanilla and sugar to taste. Beat the cream until it peaks.) But I'm sure you can just use a recipe for coconut cream pie for the frosting. 

Allow the cakes to cool for a minimum of 30 minutes after you take them out of the oven. While it's cooling, cut thin slices of fruit to layer in the middle. I used strawberries and kiwis. 

Once cool, take one cake and flip it onto whatever you will be presenting the cake on. (I used a glass plate.) Frost it with a layer of the coconut whipped cream. 

Arrange your fruit. 

Apply another layer of coconut whipped cream and fruit, and top it off with a third layer of the whipped cream. Sandwich the filling with the other cake.

Use the rest of the whipped cream to frost the cake. Then go to town with the decorating! I sprinkled coconut flakes around the cake, and used the leftover strawberries and kiwi to add some color. Then, I had a little photo shoot :) 

Do you have any special holiday recipes? There's no reason why I couldn't make the glazed pecans or the mice or any of the other recipes year-round, but then they wouldn't be as special. It's nice to have something to look forward to. 

Here's wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season! 

Megan xo

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Million and One Things To Do
This is an awesome image I found on Google Images. The quote is from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot, which I know I've mentioned before. The poem is genius. Really. It has so many relatable themes, no matter what age you are. One especially prominent theme is "time," so I thought this would be appropriate for this post. 

Goodness, it's been a long time since I've posted! I kept putting it off because I didn't think I had anything to write about, but that just means I've done a bad job at noticing, because every day there are dandelion seeds blowing in the breeze just waiting to be caught and planted. So I guess maybe the bigger issue is that everything I think to write about doesn't seem good enough, or interesting enough, or "blog-worthy" enough. So I do the very worst thing a writer can do: not write. And I lose touch with my pen and the pages of my notebook feel stiff and my brain is filled with cobwebs and every day I tell myself I'm going to write and I don't. And then comes the day I finally sit down with my notebook, and I foolishly think that somehow everything is just going to come and I'm going to write this great piece that I can share with the Blogger world and then, *surprise surprise!* nothing comes. I find when I've been away from my writing for so long, it's like when I haven't talked to a friend in awhile. Somehow I'm more at a loss for words than when I communicate with them on a daily basis. There's so much to say, but the question is, what do I share? What's noteworthy to share?

Do I tell how I got floss stuck in my teeth the other night? Do I talk about that cake I made for Dad's birthday? Do I talk about the midnight run and 2am cinnamon buns? I guess this is where I have to stop worrying about what people think, and just say it. Write it. Post it. And not worry about if people will like what I have to say or not, as long as my intentions are good.

So please forgive me while I ramble here a little's been awhile since I've rambled. It's nice to have the time to ramble, though. Time. Here I go again about time. It seems like there is never enough time to do everything, and I feel like I'm at a time in my life where I need to do everything. I'm being pulled this way and that way and I want to do so many things but I just don't have time.

Like theatre. All I want to do is sing and dance and get better. I could be onstage and around the stage for the rest of my life, and I would be the happiest person in the world. Except I would also want to find time to write. I want to write and get better and go to camps and blog more and write something really good and submit it and get it published. And then there's reading,  because to become a better writer, one has to read. There are so many classics out there I've never touched that I want to read and need to read, but where do I find the time to read all these books on top of what I already have to read for school? School in general has stressed me out lately. Our PSAT scores came back and they made me anxious about college and I feel like I need to be so much I should be reading more and learning more and researching more. And then apart from my needs, I want to help others. I want to volunteer my time and make a difference.

But where do I fit all this in, while still having a social life? I feel like I have this never-ending To-Do list, and every night I struggle to turn off my brain because I'm thinking about the million and one things I need to do. Then there are some things I just keep putting off because I'm afraid of how long they'll take once I get started.

What I try to do when I get overwhelmed is make a physical To-Do list, so I can physically see what I need to get done, and have the satisfaction of crossing them off once I do something. Sometimes I write down simple tasks like "Organize binder" or even "Make bed" just to feel like I've accomplished something. Sometimes I make the mistake of writing too many things on my To-Do list, though, and then I feel even more overwhelmed when I look and see I've only accomplished maybe half of my list. Do you make a To-Do list? Or do you have some other method you use to stay organized?

I want to find my place in this world, as we all do. I want to find my purpose. Am I going to pursue performing arts? Writing? A little bit of both? A lot of one, a little of another? I want to feel like I'm doing something, and going somewhere, but lately I've felt like I've just been floating. And it's driving me crazy.

There are so many different paths I can take, and whichever one I choose will take me down a very different road. God blessed us with the gift of Free Will, and with that we can choose to take our life in various directions. While it is a blessing, it is also overwhelming at times. I wish someone would just tell me what to do.