Brooklyn in August: Birthday Trapeze Edition

Thank you everyone for all of the birthday wishes, and thank you especially for making my tribute post to my mom one of my most popular posts to date.  It figures, right?
I celebrated over the weekend in Brooklyn with Kayte and Melissa – my BFF’s that had the nerve to flee Boston for NYC within a year of each other and leave me behind.  Fortunately I manage regular visits.  Friday night we had a supper of takeout tacos, no bake cookies birthday “cake”, and my cocktail of choice (G&T, in case I need to say it). 

cookie birthday

After a lovely brunch on Saturday morning, we headed over to Pier 6 to take the ferry to Governors Island for… wait for it…TRAPEZE LESSONS from New York Trapeze School!  Roughly fifteen minutes after showing up and signing the waiver, I found myself standing at the edge of a platform, holding onto a bar, poised and ready to jump.  Flying through the air was like being a kid again on the monkey bars…only more thrilling, and with a snug harness.   

Here is a video of me doing a mid-air catch with Dave, one of the instructors.  The guy yelling instructions was Hal.  You can’t see him in the video, but you can see him with me in a picture below.  The last instructor on the platform was Eric.  They were all terrific.

It was an amazing two hours and I loved every second (except the part beforehand where we had to change into our trapeze workout clothes in port-a-potty’s).  I highly recommend that you put this on your NYC to-do list.  I am already itching to get back on the bar.

These girls made it all happen and I adore them.

Before heading back to the ferry we strolled around the island and came across a Civil War soldier’s camp reenactment.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to stand in my sports tank and talk hardtack with one very friendly Yankee.  History nerd alert.  My solider demonstrated how authentic his homemade hardtack was by firmly rapping it on his tin cup and then showing us how it was virtually unchanged.

Trapeze lessons and a Civil War reenactment camp all in one afternoon?  Does it get any better?  It did!

Back in Brooklyn, we picked up Italian Ices for the journey home (the creamsicle was superb), which also included a stop at the Zombie Hut for some kitschy tiki fruity bevvies.

Later that night we headed over to the Bell House for a 90’s dance night, featuring The Bayside Tigers – a live band with a vast and impressive set list.  When 3 dudes can pull off a cover of Madonna’s “Ray of Light” you have to give them their due credit.  We danced from the moment we entered the room until the wee hours of the morning, laughing nonstop. 
And of course, what trip to Brooklyn would be complete without a stop at Four and Twenty Blackbirds for pie?  I have mentioned it before here and here, but when we woke up Sunday morning to rain, it was the obvious choice.  My pie this time was a beautiful summer peach.  Part of this complete breakfast, also featuring coffee and a hot-sauce drizzled egg-in-a-nest:

I am so blessed to have friends that love me so much.  They made me feel like a million bucks, and I only hope I make them feel equally special, because they sure are.

Love you girls!  Thanks for a fun, hilarious, and delicious birthday weekend!  I’ll get you both back in a few years when you both get around to turning thirty…jerks!

Chocolate Chip Castle Cake

I wanted to make a cake for a coworker’s birthday, and a chocolate chip cake just seemed appropriately fun.  And since I was going for fun, I also decided to go with my much-neglected castle Bundt pan. 

Bundts have so much to offer visually, before you even get to the taste.

You don’t cover these babies with frosting.  You glaze.  You ganache.  You dust.

And then, if your cake is a castle, you add some flair. 

Would you enjoy entering your office and being greeted by THIS on your birthday?

Chuck was! 

The almond extract in this recipe is absolutely noticeable (heads up, non-almond lovers) and lends a grownup flavor to what is otherwise a very simple, dense, and delicious yellow cake, studded with chocolate chips.

Covering the cake with the chocolate glaze adds polish and texture, and the dusting of powdered sugar covers up any blemishes – like the crack I accidentally put in mine when I tipped it out of the pan improperly.  The cake basically wore a girdle of plastic wrap overnight to keep it together…but you’d never know that, would you you?

You know…unless I told you?

Oh well.  This is a place of honesty.

Happy Birthday, Chuck!

Click for the full recipe

Mocha Love

Like many of you, I love my coffee.  My romance with coffee deepened from flirting to IN A RELATIONSHIP in 2004 when I moved to Edinburgh for 6 months and got a job at a cafe. I drank cup, after cup, after cup and infused my bloodstream with sweet, delicious caffeine.  It’s been a pleasant part of my day ever since.

Notice how I didn’t say “morning”?  I don’t restrict coffee to one part of the day.

Another favorite concoction at the cafe was a Mocha.  This was basically a latte with a generous ladle of warmed chocolate, topped with whipped cream.  I am not so into chocolate, but the coffee and chocolate union is something else. Something I wanted to taste yesterday, on top of a cupcake.

Any combination of chocolate and coffee is often classified as “mocha”.  The name comes from the Red Sea coastal town of Mocha, Yemen – which was a dominant exporter of coffee from the 15th to 17th centuries.  These coffees had a chocolate-y taste, so mocha became a term for anything that combined the two flavors.

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday and I spent it with him at Rye Beach on the NH coast.  Per recent tradition, I also made his birthday cupcakes.  This year I made shortcut (box mix) vanilla cupcakes with seedless raspberry jam filling and mocha buttercream frosting.

(PS…that is John’s man-hand, not mine)

The frosting was a stick of soft butter mixed with around 6 teaspoons of black coffee and a couple of heaped teaspoons of dutch cocoa…and then I added confectionary sugar until it was the consistency I wanted.  This is how you make frosting at the beach with no mixer and no idea where the measuring cups or spoons are…basically frosting is foolproof if you stop often to stick your finger in to taste it…which I did.  A lot.

Happy Birthday, Dad!