Monday, August 24, 2015

Alexis Attempts Baking

Today I tried to make cookies. Just in case you were wondering, baker I am not. But lately I've been trying to find new ways to entertain myself as I sit at home and ponder my existence. So after watching a super cute video of these adorable heart cookies being crafted, I decided to try my hand at making something colorful and happy and seemingly medium in difficulty.

So, after watching the short video like, 1,000 times, I went to the store and got everything I needed. 

-unsalted butter
-confectioner's sugar (also known as powdered sugar)
-vanilla extract
-cake flour (unfortunately, I couldn't find cake flour anywhere, so I used all-purpose flour)
-food coloring 

Then I got to work. It wasn't until I was sitting down to write this blog post that I discovered that there was actually a website with complete instructions. I literally just got all my instructions from the video, so there were a couple of key points, like whip butter into mayonnaise-like consistency that I skipped. There were also helpful hints like "all-purpose flour and cornstarch mixed together make cake flour" that were included that I could have used had I known about the site. AUGH, tumblr, you failed me. 

Also, Wal-Mart failed me, because my Wal-Mart only had flower cookie cutters, not the cute little hearts shown, which made my life way more difficult. 

So after layering the different colored doughs with a egg-white and water paste and letting it set for an hour I was ready to cut the flower shapes out of dough and stack them up and glue them together, again using egg-white and water. Because my cookie cutter was longer than the one in the video, I should have adjusted the number of layers accordingly, but I did not, and ended up having to stack two of the color stacks together to make it work, but it didn't affect the size of the cookie dough log in the end, so it was all worked out. But then came the hardest part. 

To make the log circular and able to be rolled in sprinkles, each of the spaces between the petals had to be filled in with dough and then wrapped in dough again to create a log. One of the tips I wish I had known before was that vanilla butter dough is insanely sticky when warm and if it gets TOO sticky, it should be refrigerated for an hour. BUT I PREVAILED, and got the whole thing surrounded in vanilla dough and covered in sprinkles, which is a lot harder than I initially thought it would be. 

But, after washing my hands a zillion times and literally just dumping sprinkles on the thing a couple of times to fill in holes, I was ready to cut the dough into cookies and bake. There is nothing exciting about that part of the story, except that the bottom started to look flat from the pressure so I had to roll the cookie log a couple of times to restore the circular shape. So half my cookies look like the letter "D". 

At the end I had a lot of scrap dough from the colored layers that I didn't want to waste, so rolled it into a large sheet, cut out some more flowers from it, and made cookies from the scraps as well, just an easier, more tie-dye variety. Oh, and the cookies are SO GOOD. I've never used that recipe before, because as I said, baking is a no-go for me. Normally I get the hankering to make cookies, buy a tub of cookie dough, and eat it out of the container in a fit of laziness mixed with impatience. 

If you're gonna make these cookies, and I totally suggest you do because they are so cute and so good, make sure you let everything set in the fridge for an hour between steps. That's 4 hours of prep work, but like, the easiest prep work ever. I've watched almost an entire season of The Mindy Project while making these cookies. So, not a horrible process. I would also say to be prepared to use a lot of food coloring. They suggest using gel food coloring, which is what I did, and it works really well, the color is very vibrant, but it also gets all over your hands, and incidentally, my face. Yeah, I wiped my face with my food coloring hand and it was awesome. 
It is safe to say that I am still not the worlds best baker. But maybe with some practice I'll get to be at least okay. 

Photo by Shakanna Inman
Alexis Olmstead is a 20something living in Middle-of-Nowhere, Washington, trying to make herself better one teeny tiny step at a time. She doesn't have anything figured out in regards to "the big picture" but hey, her eyebrows look good, so that's a start. For more rants, raves, life experiences, and opinions, check back semi-regularly. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Alexis Reads: "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn

I finished "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn in a candlelit room, the sickly sweet smell of caramel candles filling the house, lying on my back with the flashlight of my phone, which was held between my chin and my sternum, aimed at the quickly dwindling pages of the book. 

I've owned the paperback copy of this New York Times Bestseller for quite a few months now, but moving, starting a newish job, playing part-time actress, part time assistant cheer coach, and a recent addiction to Sid Meier's "Civilization: Beyond Earth" has left me little time to read. And that is a shame. Because as soon as the power went out and I settled down into the corner of my couch armed with "Gone Girl" and pure resolve to finish the book before the day was done, I immediately remembered why younger Alexis was such a bookworm. Books are AMAZING, people. Instantly I forgot that I am in a county being ravaged by fire and that I had no power, because I was in this tantalizing world of absolute insanity and there was no possible way I could leave until I had soaked up every last page. 

Nick and Amy Dunne are far from the perfect couple, a fact that becomes more and more clear as the investigation into Amy's disappearance on their fifth wedding anniversary goes deeper and deeper.In what I decided to call "tag-team storytelling" the reader gains valuable insight into both sides of the disappearance through the point of view of both Nick and Amy, who is mostly represented by past-dated diary entries. Through this diary we see Nick and Amy's first meeting, their first kiss, Amy's constant wish for Nick to be something more, her fear for their marriage, her anger at having to leave her luxurious Manhattanite lifestyle to move to Missouri when Nick's mother falls ill. Through the course of these interchanging narratives we begin to question ourselves more and more. Has Amy simply disappeared, or did something more sinister happen? What exactly is Nick's involvement in everything? Just like every true crime show, book, or movie, the husband is the prime suspect, with a trail of evidence leading directly to him, including wickedly clever details that not even he remembers or thinks of when speaking to the police. OR DOES HE?

Basically me, the entire book.
Gillian Flynn's writing is hypnotic at best, and thrill-inducing at worst. The whole book, which is
split into three parts that all end with the reader's mouth agape, eagerly turning the page to continue this story that has them reeling in disbelief, is clever, and perfectly thought out. As the story went on, I began to try to think two steps ahead of the narrator, searching for a flaw in all of these perfect plans, and I didn't find one. And where I  imagine the one plot hole, there was later a careful explanation and a few precautions previously taken to cover the necessary tracks.

Seriously, "Gone Girl" is such a smart book. It is full of twists, turns, pure insanity, and minute details that come back to haunt the reader later, but never for a second does this book let its guard down or let the reader out of its vice-like grip. Honestly, I didn't eat for 11 hours yesterday, because I forgot to, and honestly was a little scared that this book would get mad at me and exact its revenge if I put it down, even for a moment. 

I absolutely recommend this book, more than any book I've reviewed so far here on "I Am Unwritten", and I cannot wait to get my hands on Flynn's other two books, "Sharp Objects", and "Dark Places". 

Before I go, I would like to take a minute to thank all of the hardworking men and women that are out there fighting fires here in Washington state. This week three firefighters lost their lives protecting ours, and that is a sacrifice we, as a community, can never truly repay. So thank you to all the firefighters, from all of us.

Alexis Olmstead is a bookworm, actress, assistant cheer coach, and the mother of three fur children, Scout the Cat, and Haida and Brego the Huskies. She enjoys long musicals, anything involving Idina Menzel, Meryl Streep, or Anne Hathaway, spending time with her family and friends, and a good glass of whiskey. For more rants, raves, and reviews, check back sporadically.