Wednesday, September 28, 2011
You can see the trailer here: http://www.17miracles.com/
Now just for informational purposes. This is what a brown recluse spider looks like. It looks big and scary right? Well lets be honest all spiders look scary. None of them are exactly cute and cuddly. Either way. This looks big but a brown recluse is usually about the size of a quarter.
Now that doesn't seem so bad. It's big enough to be scary but not that scary. Until you consider that this is what a brown recluse spider bite looks like.
Basically it starts to disintegrate your flesh and the only way to treat that is to cut out the affected flesh that spreads the longer it's not taken care of.
Now back to my story. I like to sleep in the shade under a tree behind the building where I work. I did so today and my cell phone alarm went off to let me know it was time to go back in. I proceeded to get up groggy and disoriented and went to pick up my shoes which were on the grass next to the blanket I napped on. I look down to discover a normal looking brown spider taking up the heel of the inside of one shoe.
I proceed to freeze since all spiders freak me the heck out. I stand there for a good minute trying to process what I can do. I consider leaving my shoes and making a break for it. I then consider I work in an office that requires business attire and I need my shoes. I finally decided to try knock my shoe in hopes the spider will leave. As I lean over to do so it evacuates my shoe only to go into my other shoe. I am back where I started. I knock the shoe over then retreat 4 feet while I try to figure out if that got rid of the spider or not. There is no movement by my shoe so if the spider is out of my shoe it's just sitting next to it and not going anywhere. I figure maybe it's not moving because I'm still there. I gather my blanket and walk barefoot back to my car to put it away and give the spider time to leave.
I return and gather my one shoe and put it back on while still trying to scope out if the spider is still anywhere near my other shoe. I proceed slowly. I finally realize the spider has left my shoe but is sitting in the grass just next to it and has not seemed to move from the spot where it was hurtled out of the rolling shoe. I once again freeze and consider my options. I can no more go back to work with only one shoe than I can with no shoes at all. I kick the shoe and retreat once more to stake out the situation. The shoe remains spider free and a good 3 feet away from where I believe the spider still is. I grab my shoe and run. I then stop on the sidewalk, try to compose myself, inspect my shoe once again, put my shoes on, and return to work.
Now keep in mind the whole time I am afraid of this spider but it looks like an ordinary brown spider. I tell my co-worker about my experience and quip, at least it wasn't a brown recluse. This leads dear Megan to research what a brown recluse looks like and leads we to have a near heart attack when I realize that based on appearance, size, the quick movement from shoe to shoe, the crouched stance, and the relatively non-agressive/not moving really after coming out of my shoe, that there is a very good chance that the spider in my shoe was a brown recluse. Had I put my foot in my shoe without noticing the spider there is a chance my foot would have looked like the picture above.
I said quite a few prayers of gratitude today. I will never again sleep under a tree behind my work. Ever. The End.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Adapted, only barely, from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
This cake is INTENSE. Serve it in the thinnest slices possible, and keep a glass of milk handy.
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16 (the book says, I say a heck of a lot more)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)
4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)
5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.
Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)
1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half
1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.