It feels like spring this week. The windows are open, we’re probably about halfway into the busy season at work, and my new intern has been NO help.

If we’re being perfectly honest, I’m not even sure what her role is in the apartment organization, because right now it seems to be limited to darting in front of me while I’m walking and keeping my foot warm with her tail. When I say “foot,” I do mean that in the singular sense. Her tail does not appear to be sized in such a way as to warm both of my feet at once. And also, I worry about what corporate America is doing to me.

At the same time, though, I can’t be mad, because she is such a fuzzy little sweetheart.

This past month also marked a milestone: I took Circe to the dentist for the first time, and she not only came back with clean teeth, she very considerately gave me the vet’s lowest dental bill of the day THAT’S MY GIRL 😀 As a super cute bonus, all of the dental patients had their names written on the door, which was absolutely adorable and had to be documented.

I kind of need to know if Chaos is a cat. I mean, the names were written on the cats’ door and I didn’t think to check the dogs’ door to see if there were names written there, but that is such a great name and honestly it probably should have been Circe’s middle name. (Too late to change it, her middle name is Cnidaria.)

Five things I have learned since I brought Circe home:

  1. Calicoes are the redheads of the cat world.
  2. Calicoes are more emotional than other cats.
  3. Calicoes, not unlike chihuahuas, are stubborn and will become very attached to one specific person. In this case, me.
  4. Calicoes, or at least my calico, will knock almost the entire contents of my night cart onto the floor first thing in the morning while screaming for her breakfast, NOT THAT I’M BITTER.
  5. I did not know any of this when I went to the shelter to meet Circe.

I should note that none of this would have been a deterrent if I had known it before I went to the shelter. I don’t care if she’s difficult. I am a former difficult child who became a difficult adult, and I can relate. (But also calicoes are the Maryland state cat and I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a state cat, but apparently there is and that’s super cool.)

2 Girls 1 Birthday

Anyway, it’s time for the annual birthday recap, which became something of an unofficial tradition last year. I’ve decided to keep going with the birthday recaps not because I expect anyone to be particularly interested in what I ate over the course of two parties, but because this blog is basically my diary and I like looking back at my past doings. An inevitable side effect of packrattiness, I suppose.

Birthday with Family

This year is the reverse of last year, the family dinners came first this time lol. My birthday happened to coincide with the Lunar New Year/Superbowl weekend this year, so Circe and I went home for three days, and baby girl was not happy. She had a nuclear meltdown at the tail end of our first night in her grandparents’ house, conveniently enough while I was just minding my own business and trying to go to the bathroom at six in the morning, and threw a kitty tantrum when I took her back to our room. And I felt so bad, because she was so disoriented when she darted out of our room that it really seemed like she was expecting to find our apartment on the other side of the door, and she became very upset when she realized we were somewhere completely different. She was so stressed that she hissed at me just before I caught her, which she’s never done before, and screamed all the way back to our room. My brother the vet now recommends leaving her at home with an automatic feeder for short trips (i.e., day trips and one-night stays), but I really hope this isn’t going to be the rest of her life.

The bright side is that she showed some interest in the window shelf my mom set up for her back in November, and stood on it long enough for me to catch her at it. Progress.

Archie, of course, was lurking while Circe was shut away in her tower.

This is part of the reason I have been trying to get Circe acclimated to my parents’ house and my family in general: I really really really want her to have a good relationship with her cousins. But I genuinely did not know the whole calico-chihuahua thing when I was trying to lure her into family-occupied territories with her favorite toy, and now I feel bad all over again because apparently that approach is not good for my little calico and her stubborn ass. Long story short, we’re going back to the drawing board. We will figure this out. She cannot keep living in fear of new circumstances even though I have done exactly that all my life shut up I still know what I’m talking about.

Anyhoosies, I did not get any pictures from my unofficial family dinner for reasons I am not sure of, but I did get the birthday cake baked by myself and my brother. Every year I tell my family they are not allowed to get me the Safeway Boston cream cake, which historically has been shoehorned into more birthday celebrations than it should have been, and the last couple of years I’ve come armed with a plan. This year I wanted to try a new recipe for a browned butter upside down apple cake with a sticky honey caramel and I have no regrets, it was absolutely divine and I will be making this again. In the background: pastéis de nata, made by my dad. They were a bit more browned than he was expecting, but they tasted great, so I have no complaints.

Family dinner part II: exploring the chef-set five-course menu at Charleston Restaurant in downtown Baltimore. I’m getting tired of my own photo walls, so I’ve stuck these guys into a gallery. Suffice it to say that everything was absolutely incredible. The creamy, curry-accented lobster soup was hands down the best soup I’ve ever had in my life, and I don’t even particularly like lobster. I don’t hate it, but it’s not my favorite. The lobster in the soup, though, was sweet and tender, and it was wonderful. Other favorites were the salmon crudo, though the vinegar tang was a bit too strong for me (my mom who loves all things sour was a huge fan) and the halibut, and I even liked the small taste I had of the goat cheese-stuffed pasta, though I still do not like goat cheese. The MVP award has to go to the cornmeal-crusted fried oysters, which were the best fried oysters ever. They were so melt-in-your-mouth tender, and I am so glad my dad ordered them even though they weren’t on the chef’s menu.

The desserts were also superb: my raspberry vanilla panna cotta came with a heart-shaped cookie and a birthday candle, and we even received complimentary mini macarons, of which I only got to try one before my brothers inhaled the rest. I love panna cotta, but I think the standout dessert was my dad’s chocolate cake, though admittedly I might be biased because I am a sucker for chocolate cake.

The one blotch on the evening was that I got super lost in downtown Baltimore and went to the wrong garage and ended up mega late to my own birthday dinner. :’) Look, it’s not my fault. I knew Charleston’s free valet service was on Exeter, just past the restaurant, so I plugged Exeter into Google Maps (while I was already driving in downtown Baltimore – okay, I am willing to admit that there was fault on both sides). The first thing that popped up was the Exeter Street garage so I said cool that must be it, only I hadn’t realized that garage is on a one-way street and I got lost just looking for the entrance. Then I entered the garage and saw a valet section but no valet, so I parked by myself and had just got off the elevator in the garage lobby when I saw a map of the businesses around the garage and realized I was in the wrong fucking place. And after all that I still had to pay for the privilege of parking in that stupid garage for like five minutes, and long story short I was swearing like a sailor before I even got to dinner, which was a non v.g. start.

Obviously this has a happy ending because I did get there and I did find the valet stand, though not before trying to park with the wrong valet and having to make a completely legal three-point turn down the street from Charleston when nobody was coming from either direction, I am a mess. And then I got home to the cat, who apparently had convinced herself I was gone and I was never coming back. Nice to see you too, sweetiepie.

Birthday with Friends

I decided what we did last year, so this year it was Michaella’s turn to pick our bday doings. We ended up at KPOT, a combo hot pot/KBBQ restaurant – I mean, say less – and then went back to her place for presents and a dessert potluck, which I did not photograph because I copped out with a cake I picked up at Wegmans.

And then I indulged in my favorite Taiwanese takeout on the way home, I mean, you only live once, right? And it’s always good to have leftovers for the week, right?

Cnidaria’s Injury-Ridden Kitchen

Just to prove that my life is not 100% fine dining and takeout, welcome to my apparently very hazardous kitchen. I can no longer say I’ve never cut myself on the underside of a cabinet or while washing out a cat food can. I hadn’t even started baking at the point that I scraped my finger open in the first pic. I just wanted to bake some cookies, why the fuck am I like this?

Heather made me a certificate after the cabinet incident. I felt so seen.

About this particular batch of mapo tofu: this was was supposed to be a half recipe. It has the full amount of oil, the full amount of doubanjiang, and twice the amount of sesame oil. None of this was intentional, and I am questioning the judgment of everyone who insisted I could do well in math if I tried just a little bit harder. It’s not even spicy because my doubanjiang was about two years expired, again, WHY AM I LIKE THIS???

Consolation: mapo tofu ramen, first introduced to me as a concept by Cinnamon Society, then known as Appetite for China. Unfortunately since this was mostly a half recipe I didn’t have quite as much left over as I thought, and I ended up skimping on the mapo tofu in order to still save some for later. This was a mistake, because the taste of the instant chicken ramen overpowered the mapo tofu. Next time I will add more mapo tofu.

As to why I was muddling through a failed half-recipe in the first place, I was planning to make dong-gue-rang-taeng for the first time and I only needed half a package of ground pork and 1/3 of a package of tofu so I thought well that’s perfect I’ll use the rest of the pork and tofu to make a half recipe of my favorite mapo tofu but apparently forgot to factor in my complete inability to Do Math. I told my parents there was no point in teaching me math, and I stand by that.

And the dong-gue-rang-taeng came out great, in case anybody was wondering. I’ve been wanting to try making these ever since trying the frozen version, and I had a pack of uncommitted tofu and a brand-new tofu press, so it seemed like as good an excuse as any. They were slightly undercooked, so next time I’m going to try frying them longer at a lower temperature, but that’s more of a user error. Dong-gue-rang-taeng pictured here with instant sundubu-jjigae and the world’s ugliest gyeran-mari that isn’t even a gyeran-mari because I suck at rolling eggs, yes, even with my fancy egg-rolling pan. That one’s next on the list of accomplishments.

This isn’t the end of the story. I’ve already racked up more kitchen mishaps and it’s not even ten days into the new month. We will be revisiting this topic.