Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving! Part 1

I can’t think of a better way to have spent my short Thanksgiving break from school than by cooking for TWO ENTIRE DAYS! It was pretty epic, not to mention delicious. And just about everything turned out exceedingly well considering most were first-time recipes. My dear friend Diana came into town from Oklahoma City for the holiday and was my partner in crime for the cooking extravaganza. Together we made a feast to rival any other!

So, where shall I begin?

Saturday-Sunday I put the turkey into the fridge to defrost and planned our menu. I knew I would be brining the turkey, strictly following Alton Brown’s oldie-but-goodie episode of Good Eats: “Romancing the Bird”. My family always used the Reynolds Oven bags for our turkey, and it was always hit or miss. I kept getting the oven-bag advice from naysayers of the brine, but knew that my man Alton would not steer me wrong (I am a faithful Good Eats-ite from way back). For the rest, I took a turn from the website on their “Classic Thanksgiving” menu and subbed/added some of my own classics from home:
  • Giblet Stock Gravy (I sort of made this one up as I went)
  • Cornbread Dressing (Pepperidge Farm bags, my Dad’s tweaked recipe)
  • Mashed Potatoes (basic Yukon Golds w/ butter and cream)
  • Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Thyme
  • Green Bean Casserole (Old-school with canned beans/soup/onions! Nothing gourmet here!)
  • Canned Jellied Cranberry Sauce (Can-mold intact!)
  • Kat’s Angel Biscuits (Recipe to Follow)
  • Pumpkin Pie (again, went the easy route with the canned stuff)
  • Double Chocolate Pudding Pie (for Steven)
  • Schminnabons (to eat whilst watching the Macy’s parade!)
  • Deviled Eggs, Cheeses, Pickles, Olives, (for munching!)
So, Wednesday Diana and I carefully planned out what we should cook when. The pies and biscuits were to be baked that evening, the cinnamon rolls would be all-but-baked, the turkey would be put in its brine, and the eggs would be deviled. A tall order. But by doing our calculations, analyzing oven temperatures along with baking/rising times, we handled it in style!

The Angel Biscuits, I must say, turned out unexpectedly well. I’ve always had trouble with biscuit dough being too messy to work with, and it was looking like it would turn out that way this time, but with a little flour at hand, it was quite painless! My good friend Kat has told me this is not a secret family recipe and shared it with me willingly, so I figured I could share with the two people who read my blog (parenthesis emphasis = mine):

Angel Biscuits
5 c. (yes, that is correct) AP flour
1/2 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. butter (unsalted)
1 packet dry yeast
1/2 c. warm water
2 c. buttermilk (and no, not that milk-with-vinegar stuff…the real, full-fat, thing)
Additional butter for melting/dipping (you’ll use about 1.5 more sticks)

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter with pastry blender (till mixture resembles crumbs). Dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand 10 minutes. Add yeast/water and buttermilk to dry ingredients. Mix well. Knead until elastic. Roll out (on parchment dusted with flour) to 1/2 in. thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter, dip in melted butter, and fold in half. Place on baking sheet and allow to rise in a draft-free warm place (We let em go for about an hour, and they didn’t rise all that much. No worries, as they were still delicious.) Bake for about 12 minutes (and then resist eating every last one).

(Yield: about 2/2.5 dozen depending on the size of your biscuit cutter)

Fear not my friends. Part 2 is soon to follow. For now, alas, I still have schoolwork to accomplish.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


So I’ve been on hiatus from blogging at all this last month-plus due to the explosion of the fall semester that inevitably occurs 3-6 weeks out from finals.

What’s new?

1. My hard drive crashed last week. It’s been rough. But I finally got my computer back today, and it’s like starting fresh and actually feels rather cleansing. I can now just take a deep breath and move forward. No news yet of how much if any data will be recovered. I remain hopeful, however, because really, why not?

2. There are about two weeks before most of my DMA applications are due. I almost have all of my ducks in a row. I just need to finish the actual applications online, update/print all of my scores I intend on sending out, and of course, finish the orchestrated chunk of my thesis that I want to send out as well. All of this has been put on hold for the last week as a result of point 1. Dumb.

3. I am almost done with my ensemble for the semester. It’s been swell. I like playing piano in an ensemble. It’s stressful but not nearly as much as solo playing, which gives me the shakes.

4. I have so much classwork to catch up on it’s not even funny. A 10-12 page paper due in exactly one week, an opera proposal for a play I haven’t even read yet in three, a 20 minute presentation over lord knows what in three, and a 16-20 page paper due in four.

So for now I bid ye adieu mein interwebs. And also a fond farewell to my friend sleep. I’ll miss you both. See you again mid-December!

I just finished reinstalling Sibelius onto my computer. Nose to the grindstone. Pedal to the metal.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Worth the Tears

In honor of our first real fall weather on Sunday I decided to make some autumn comfort food: French Onion Soup. I’d never made this soup myself before, but as it is one of my favorites I thought I should at least give it a try!

I started the way I usually do when making a more or less standard kind of recipe—I looked up a bunch of different ones and picked what I liked out of each. I mostly stuck to my man Alton Brown’s recipe with some additions/subtractions from here and there. I was mostly intrigued by his use of apple cider in the recipe, so I had to try it out. I did use a beef bouillon cube instead of consomme (forgive me, AB! Cubes store much better in my teeny weeny kitchen than cans do!), but to counteract a minor offense, I used my tasty/frozen homemade chicken stock. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any wine handy so I tried to make up for it with some balsamic vinegar. This was unfortunately not as successful as I’d hoped it would be. The soup as a whole was intensely flavorful, but a bit too sweet for my liking. And also a bit thick, more like an onion stew. I might not let the broth cook down so much next time.

I splurged on fresh thyme (which I’m now obsessed with and want to put in/on everything I make) and a $10 block of gruyere cheese for the croutons (which really helped balance the sweetness of the soup, i.e. made it edible).

There’s really no better excuse for a good cry than cutting up a whole mess of onions. I’m pretty stressed these days with school, applications, and composing, I feel like I’m kinda out of it most of the time. I needed to let it out a little. I tell myself that I like being busy and that it keeps me motivated, and this is sometimes true. But sometimes I’d rather just be chopping onions.

Anywho, the real moral of the story is that I will surely make this soup again in the near future, but perhaps not on a Sunday when I am unable to go to the liquor store and get some actual wine to help balance the rich flavors of sweet, sweet caramelization.

If at first you don’t succeed: try, try again. And even then, keep trying until all the tears are gone and there’s nothing left but sheer will.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Today I applied to my first composition competition in over a year. It was an art song competition I have entered before and obviously had no luck with. I feel better about it this time around, though. I really feel like my recent work is strong enough to compete.

I reapplied to SCI (Society of Composers Inc.) today as well. They have this fabulous e-publication called the SCION that is basically a list of most of the major competitions and calls for scores out there with all of their criteria laid out in a tidy format. Even with the $30 member fee, if I can apply to several competitions without fees, the thing really pays for itself.

I’m feeling motivated to be more proactive with my career and get my name out there. I want to have more performances and opportunities to write for people—more musical experiences outside of the university.

And let’s face it, I really want more bells and whistles on my resume.

But the first step (well, pre-first step, actually) is to write some more music, which as of now is my thesis. The thesis is the first step to many of my goals, come to think of it. Graduate, get into a DMA program, become a professor, become a better composer—all of these things and more. It is, however, becoming somewhat elusive. I really like some parts of it; some, I really don’t. Unfortunately the ‘some I really don’t’ tend to occur in the beginning, which is what I’m working toward having completed by the end of November for my portfolio. A tall order. I’m convinced I can make it better though. Honestly, I have no other choice.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

  My in-laws from Houston are visiting us in Louisville this weekend for my husband, Steven’s birthday. They’re the first of our families to come and visit us here, so we’ve tried to plan the weekend so we can hit most of our favorite Louisville places and restaurants. We went to the zoo, Woodford Reserve distillery, the Slugger museum, Seviche, and Mark’s Feed Store (both on Bardstown).

  Anywho, it is Sandra and Bobby, my mother and step-father in-law, who bought for me my wonderfully wonderful artisan stand mixer that I absolutely adore. On the card they said “we expect cookies!” So, upon their arrival I said “what kind?”, and Bobby answered an emphatic “Peanut Butter.”

  Now, I love me some peanut butter. I like it on sandwiches, with crackers, with carrots, and fruit. I am however not the biggest peanut butter cookie fan in the world. But any excuse to use my stand mixer, right?

  So, I found a recipe through I just searched ‘peanut butter cookies’ and picked the ones that looked and sounded the best (the original recipe is here: ice cream for dinner).

  This recipe turned out to be absolutely fantastic. Soft and chewy, the perfect size, and a great peanutty flavoring without being too sweet. I also ended up with a perfect two dozen cookies (three batches of 8), which never happens! The last batch I decided to throw in about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips I had in the cupboard, which was probably one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. Ever. I’ve finally made a peanut butter cookie I LOVE. Not to mention Steven, Sandra, AND Bobby! There are not many problems in this world that cannot be solved with a little chocolate.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 c. Natural Peanut Butter (peanuts, salt, no filler)
1 stick of butter (1/2 c.)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar (I always use dark, no matter what the recipe calls for. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.)
1 large egg
1 1/4 c. AP flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2-2 c. chocolate chips (optional)

  Preheat oven to 325F. Line baking sheets with parchment or your trusty silpat. Both work well. Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars in the stand mixer. Blend for 3-4 minutes. Beat in your egg. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together flour, powder, soda, and salt. Incorporate into the wet mixture, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl at some point to get all of that goodness in. Spatula in the no-longer-optional chocolate chips. Spoon with a rounded teaspoon (not as in the measuring spoon, as in the small spoon in your silverware drawer) and roll into balls. Place evenly onto cookie sheets (I got 8 per sheet), and cross hatch with a long-tined fork dipped in sugar. Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies reach your favorite shade of golden-brown and delicious.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Goal

  Thanks to some convincing on the parts of my composition professor, family, and friends I’ve decided to take the plunge, both feet at a time, and apply to DMA programs for next fall.

  I was really struggling with the idea of applying this summer. There is all kinds of pressure I’ve built up around this goal. Not only is doctorate level composition a highly competitive field, but also highly subjective from school to school; different programs look for different things in your music and your background. I worry that I don’t have enough in my portfolio from undergrad till now, that it’s not strong enough to compete. I worry about the cost of applying; app fees alone range from $35-$100 and I’d be applying to 6-9 different schools and mailing in CDs and large scores (though I’m looking into emailing these things instead, which will help drive the costs down significantly). Also, it is the LAST degree I’m ever going to get—the last bit of “education” I’ll get to write on my resume. I want it to be a “good” school, but I also want to like what I’m doing there and feel like it’s useful to my future goals.

  Bit of a side note: that’s why I’m going for a DMA instead of a Phd. Usually, a Phd program in composition will require an extra written thesis on a more musicological topic, while a DMA usually only requires you to write a piece for your thesis, sometimes with a lengthy explanation of the piece. I don’t feel like an extra-long research paper will help all that much in getting a job in the future. Perhaps that is naive. Perhaps it is just lazy. I’m not sure. What I am sure of, though, is that I don’t want to do it. Sure Phd sounds cool, but I’ll be Dr. Sproul regardless.

  Anyway, there were some good arguments for going straight through. If I waited a year, would I really have THAT much more in my portfolio to show for it? Probably not. What would I do during that year off? Working some J.O.B. in something unrelated to music?
I’ve been assured that my portfolio is strong enough and that my background is extremely marketable. I’ve been assured by my parents (all SIX of them! what a wonderful thing!) that should application assistance be required, it would be gladly given. So, really, I have no excuse.

  Fear is a terrible reason not to do something great. Especially if you’re definitely planning to do that something anyway at some point in your life. Why delay your plans and allow room for any other life crises to get in the way?

Get the noseplugs and the goggles. I’m going in.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I think I have an ending.

Finally. The water went cold in the shower, but I think I worked it through.

I’ve got my first lesson of the semester tomorrow, though. So we’ll soon see if I really do have an ending or not. Or a beginning and middle for that matter.

I feel like I’m on the right track with this. I’ve thought long and hard about the drama and flow of the entire piece. It’s just all of the notes and little interludes that have yet to settle themselves.


I am very good at joining them. I am usually a little late in getting there, and stick around far longer than is probably appropriate, but alas, this is how I’ve resigned myself to be. However, I would like to separate myself from a mere follower. I am an extremist to the full degree—I will pour my heart, my soul, my being into this blog and make it my own. My dribble about being a composer, a musician, a baker, a knitter and all around domestic will be sung from the hilltops all because I said so.

And in the words of Milton Babbit (kinda1.), “who cares if you listen”? Because I will say it regardless of who may be reading, because I have an intrinsic need, like everyone, to express my opinions, thoughts, and emotions, to release them into the ether and let them go on their merry way to where they will.

I like this too, because it gives yet another dumping ground for one of my favorite websites out there: It’s a site for the goal oriented at heart. Part social networking, part self exploration, 43things allows users to list, order, prioritize, blog upon and remind themselves of (up to 43) things they are doing in their lives. It also allows users to cheer others on in their quests for self-betterment/enlightenment/indulgence and to create forums of discussion on how to accomplish certain goals they have in common. It is a great site, and I wish more people I know were on it. However, the fact that random people around the world are cheering me on, and that I am doing the same thing for others is also a nice feeling—a sort of paying it forward kind of thing. (ps I am not getting paid for this plug, although my many showers of praise might convince wary readers otherwise).

So this is where I shall stow short posts on my goals at, amongst other things I feel the need to chat about.


1. Milton Babbit didn’t coin this phrase, a magazine editor did, apparently. “Who Cares If You Listen” remains his most famous article on music, however, and the title is most certainly in the spirit of his ideas. I love learning new things from school!