Year Six: Our Story

Today, February 14th, is our six-year anniversary. Yes. Six years, seventy-two months, 312 weeks, 2,190 days.

People have been asking me about us a lot lately. I’m not sure why. How we met. How we’re still dating. How we survive being so far apart these days. So I tell them.

We met in the eighth grade, 2012. We had the same English class. Your best friend had a crush on my best friend, my best friend liked you. Somehow you and I concocted the same idea to wingman for our besties at a school dance. You were trying to help your best friend out and I mine. As that night grew on, your focus shifted to me for some reason. I’ll never really know why. I was skinny, had pink hair, and wore braces. I even had another boyfriend at the time. But you didn’t mind. You sat with me while I played a dumb game on my phone. We sang, we danced, we had a great time. Three days later, my best friend didn’t like you as much. Don’t worry, I checked.

I remember that you’d come up with excuses to come talk to me before class. You’d stand there, looking over my shoulder, and I would hold my breath. Plenty of other, prettier girls would flirt with you. I was sure I never had a chance. Our little flirtationship developed until I was head over heels.

I was on the dance team in middle school, you know that. You were in the TSA. Somehow, we both stayed after school one day. The dance team had to change into our practice clothes before practice. I was walking down the hall having just done so. You were in a classroom and saw me. You ran out of the classroom and called me name. You walked with me for as long as you could and concluded that walk with our first hug. I don’t know if you remember this, but it’s one of my favorite memories.

You waited months to ask me out. I had almost lost hope. On Valentine’s Day, you found me before class. You gave me a pink rose and asked me to be your girlfriend. There was a crowd around us. I’m sure I turned more pink than the rose. It’s been my favorite flower ever since.

We dated through high school, making you my high school sweetheart. You supported me through SO many things. Getting bangs, doing makeup, joining the dance team, quitting the dance team, starting ballet and pointe. You even let me arrange our class schedules so we had nearly every class together. You supported my choice in colleges somehow. You told everyone how I was the valedictorian.

In fact, we’re still dating. 2019. Your support has been unrelenting. We’ve been through some crap. And this distance hasn’t done us any favors. There was even a few rough months last year when I thought I had lost you. I love you more than I ever have.

People ask me if I want to marry you. I do. I’d love to bake breads and desserts for you every day. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve already been inviting people to our wedding. You would be proud of how many friends I’ve made here.

Don’t get me wrong. You can work my nerves. You can get under my skin worse than any other person on the planet. And I know I push your buttons, too. But in the same breath, you know how to fix all of my problems. You are home, you’re safe. You know exactly what to say and when I need to hear it. In a way, I’m grateful for those few terrible months that we had last year. If I hadn’t come so close to losing you, I probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate you the way I do now.

And I think that’s the secret. It would be so easy to take you for granted, especially considering how long you’ve been in my life. But I don’t want to take you for granted. I treasure every second we get together, every text from you, every phone call. I love every interest we share and don’t share. I love that when I started this blog, you made an account called “bakersrighthand” so you can read everything I type. I love learning new things about you. I love that you don’t hate me for putting this distance between us. I love that you encourage me to better myself. I love that you embrace my hobbies, especially the baking. I love that you can be so thoughtful. I love that you know my flaws and accept them. I love that you call me beautiful every day and that you tell me how much you love me. You have a seemingly unlimited amount of faith in me. You keep me grounded and on cloud nine at the same time.

I can’t thank you enough for sticking around. I love you. Happy anniversary.

Macarons

I finally made macarons!! They have been an obsession of mine for months now. A large part of getting my KitchenAid stand mixer was having the ability to make macarons. Amidst the studying and stressing, I purchased half a dozen macarons from a bakery in town. I ate them right away and was greatly disappointed.

Like I said, macarons have become an interest of mine, so naturally, I’ve been doing my research. Macarons are supposed to be delicate, chewy, sweet, and overall AMAZING. The half dozen I consumed that day where anything but. The shells were hollow and crumbled. They were also baked too much.

That fiasco prompted me to do it myself. I’ll post the recipe I used. I have found that the two most difficult tasks involved with making macs is:

  1. WHIPPING THE EGG WHITES: It is far too easy to over-whip egg whites. Then you’re stuck with something you can’t use. You may as well start over. If you put it in your batter, the batter won’t have the consistency required in order to dry.
  2. GETTING THE AIR OUT: If you’re not familiar with macs, the batter is almond flour and confectioners’ sugar carefully folded into meringue. You want the batter to move around without it being too runny. It’s quite finicky. Then once you have the shells piped out, you have to slam the trays against a hard surface to release any excess air. An unsuccessful removal of the air will result in a less-than-appealing appearance, but they’ll still taste great!

With my macarons (pictured), I wasn’t able to get all of the air out. I was worried my neighbors would complain about noise. My friend pointed out that an easy solution would be to lay a towel down under the trays. I also tried to make them light blue, but I didn’t use enough dye. They turned out a little green.

My FIRST EVER macs

RECIPE

Macaron shells:

  • 3/4 cup of super fine almond flour
  • 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 egg whites (large eggs at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

Filling:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp milk or heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

FOR THE SHELLS

  1. Sift the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar together into a bowl. Set this aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium until you see soft peaks. This should only take a couple minutes. It would be best if you monitored the progress.
  3. Add the granulated sugar to the egg whites. Mix on medium until the peaks are stiff and glossy. This should take a couple minutes.
  4. Add the vanilla and beat for thirty seconds on high.
  5. CAREFULLY fold the dry mix into the meringue you’ve just made. You want the batter to be runny, but not TOO runny. Think the consistency of lava. If you’re unfamiliar with that: you want to mix the batter until you can remove some, add it back, and the batter recombines on its own.
  6. If you want to add color, do it while you’re folding the batter. Add more than you think you’ll need.
  7. Put the batter into a bag. This can either be a piping bag with a 1/2 in tip OR a regular sandwich bag with the corner cut off. If you use the sandwich bag method, use a freeze bag. It’s stiffer and will give you more control.
  8. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper. Hold the bag vertically and do not swirl as you pipe.
  9. Bang the pans against a counter to release the air bubbles.
  10. Let this sit for about half an hour. This is so that the macarons can form a film. At the end, you want to be able to run your finger across the top without disturbing the shell.
  11. Bake at 325°F for about 7-10 minutes. It doesn’t take long. You’ll want to rotate the pans halfway through.
  12. Let the macarons cool. When they’ve cooled, you should be able to lift them off the parchment paper easily.

FOR THE FILLING (Buttercream)

  1. Beat the butter with the paddle attachment on medium-high until it looks smooth, light and fluffy.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk (or whipping cream), and vanilla.
  3. Beat some more.
  4. Don’t be afraid to taste test. You may need to add a pinch of salt if it’s too sweet.
  5. Pipe this onto a macaron, sandwiching it with another.

It will help to let the macarons rest in the fridge overnight inside an air-tight container. Consume with pleasure!

Studying and Staying Motivated

One of my downfalls in the past has been staying motivated. I’m talking motivated to study, to work, to cook, to clean, to wake up early, and just being productive in general.

I’m taking only 13 credit hours: organic chemistry, organic chemistry lab, genetics, ethics online, and a seminar.

I have learned that being busy does not equate to being productive. Doing busy work is not the same as committing several minutes to work on an assignment or two. I use downtime between classes to take notes or read the chapters or work on homework assignments. My major motivator these days is the fear of falling behind. That may not be the case for everyone, and that’s understandable. You have to find something worth working towards. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or drastic. For example, find a bakery with the most amazing cupcakes. Set some goals for yourself at the beginning of every week. Buy yourself a cupcake for every week you fulfill your weekly goals.

Motivation isn’t easy. I manipulated my course schedule to only have classes on Tuesday and Thursday, with the heaviest load being on Thursday. If I stumble, my assignments could pile up. I still go into work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I use the morning hours to sip some hot tea and read assigned chapters. At nights, I cook. It’s become an outlet for me. I put on a load of laundry meanwhile. When I can, I write for this blog, I read books, I bake bread. Multitasking is key.

I’ve managed to study every night and stay on top of things. I’m proud of myself. I can say that.

The most important thing to realize is that progress is relative. You shouldn’t compare yourself to others, only to your previous self. All you need to do is better than you did yesterday. You can do this. We’ve got this.

Book Club

Could this be a new subtopic? Perhaps. Let’s try it.

I love taking the weekend to realign my thoughts. I also love to give myself a mental break. I do this my reading recreationally. I purposely choose my books so that they do not pertain to the courses I am currently taking. I maintain a list of books I would like to read. I either own the books, plan to own the books, or I listen to the audiobooks while I’m at work.

My current list is:

  • 12 Rules for Life
  • A Brief History of Time
  • A Simple Favor
  • Brief Answers to the Big Questions
  • Cooked
  • Different Seasons
  • Divine Comedy
  • Doctor Sleep
  • Elevation
  • Existentialist’s Survival Guide
  • Female Persuasion
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Pet Semetary 
  • Red Sparrow
  • Robin
  • Sleeping Beauties
  • Wicked

If you have read these books and would like to share your thoughts, you can find me at hellolittleredbaker@gmail.com. Alternatively, if you disagree with this list and would like to suggest others, you may contact me at hellolittleredbaker@gmail.com! I’m thinking that I can start posting reviews if enough people seem to like the idea. Don’t forget to share your thoughts with me!

You On Netflix

Plenty of people appreciate a spoiler alert. This is a spoiler alert. There will be spoilers if you read any further. Do not continue to read unless you have watched You on Netflix.

Okay, first of all: social media is the worst. This stalker was able to find out everything about Beck and everyone in her life through social media alone.

This psycho man chose her, stalked her, dated her, and then killed her.

I’m almost at a loss for words.

I’ve had a sour opinion of social media for a while. People tag the locations of their photos without a second thought. Photos show only the best aspects of a life. Twitter is for every thought you have. Snapchat is for video proof you did something, sometimes it’s amazing but more likely mediocre. Facebook is where you update your older relatives on your life and occasionally dabble in political debates. People post because that’s how we connect these days.

I’m not blaming Beck, necessarily. She was doing what people do. But goodness, sometimes I wanted to shake her. What are the chances that Mr. Seemingly Perfect just shows up at a Charles Dickens festival? Dude know the king size bed won’t fit in your bedroom because he stands outside your apartment every night, watching you mess around with other men.

Beck wasn’t perfect, but did she deserve to die for that? Would he have really allowed her to live if she had gone along with his delusion?

And Candace?? Thought she was dead. Guess I was wrong. What happened with Candace?

These are just some thoughts I had after finish the first season. This show was amazingly spine chilling. It has coated me in another layer of paranoia.

Please share your thoughts and theories with me. hellolittleredbaker@gmail.com.

My History in Makeup

I started wearing makeup in the sixth grade, as was common. I started off small with only mascara. It evolved to include eyeshadow, eyeliner, the works. By eighth grade, I was a strong believer in layering mascaras, a technique otherwise known to make your eyelashes clumpy and your mascara flaky. Enter freshman year. I honed my talents by waking up hours before school to do my makeup. I even started filling in my eyebrows. I got my certificate in makeup artistry during my junior year. These days, I go more natural, unwilling to forsake the time I could be spending doing other things (like sleeping).

I did makeup for other people quite often. I would start on the eyebrows, move to eyeshadow, eyeliner, and eyelashes. I would use concealer to clean those up. Then I would use color corrector and foundation. I would set the foundation with powder, bronzer, and blush. Then highlighter would be applied, followed by a lip color. The end. The process would take about an hour, give or take.

I begin my process by filling in my eyebrows. I used to used an auburn color, but I’ve grown to love the lighter look. I use eyeshadow, maybe two different shades at a time. Darker in the my crease, lighter on my eyelid. Then mascara and I’m done. If I move slowly, it takes about thirty minutes. If I’m in a hurry, it’ll take ten.

My routine has changed drastically. I’m not the person I was in high school. I don’t think anyone stays exactly the same. I still do makeup when I’m asked to. If you ever have questions, feel free to email hellolittleredbaker@gmail.com and I will answer them to the best of my ability!

Casanova

I often like to reflect on my life and how amazing things really are. Days spent with Casanova remind me of how grateful I am to have stumbled upon him. I am in love with everything about him.

I embarked on my quest for a puppy in March of 2018. I had just moved into my apartment. It began innocently enough. It started by browsing through internet advertisements during my classes. Some of the advertised puppies had names, I’m guessing to add to the cuteness. One little puppy was named Casanova; I fell in love with the name. I added the name to my growing list of possible names. My idea was the name had to match my pup’s personality. The frontrunners were Casanova if I found a boy and Cecelia if I found a girl. Obviously, the name needed to be unique.

I spent months looking online and in pet shops and at animal shelters for my puppy, but none of them felt quite right. At the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted a boy or girl, I just knew it had to feel perfect. I had already purchased a dog bed, food bowls, and several toys.

I eventually had a dream about my puppy. In that dream, my puppy was fluffy, yellow, and loved me to pieces.

In July, my brother found an advertisement online posted by a family about an hour and half away. This family had three boy puppies: one black and white (which had already been sold), one brown, and one sandy blonde with dark hair around his mouth. I was told the mother of the puppies was a shih-tzu, the father was a maltipoo. The family sent me pictures of the sandy blonde one. I knew. That was my Casanova, the malshipoo.

I immediately arranged to pick him up. My brother went with me. On the way, we stopped to buy a little blue collar and an engraved name tag.

My sweet boy cuddled against me from the moment he was in my arms. He was eight weeks old, born on May 29th. He slept the entire way home. He didn’t understand his toys at first, but he caught on. He learned so quickly and would do anything for a piece of turkey.

I brought him a bear to play with on the ride home. He cuddled it instead.

It sounds cliché, but that day changed my life. Casanova has been a blessing. He is seven months old. The dark hair around his mouth has grown out. He cuddles with me when I’m sad. He plays with me when I need a distraction from the monotonous daily grind. He especially loves to be outside. He hates baths. He hates to be separated from me; he won’t even let me close the bathroom door. He usually sleeps with his head on a stuffed toy or a pillow. He gives me SO many kisses.

I truly adore him. My goal is giving him his best possible life. I sometimes wish he could speak so that I could explain what it means when I tell him I love him.