One year later and our frames are still not up, our second bedroom still has a mish-mash of randomness. We have not successfully hidden away the wires from our TV. One of the dining table chairs is missing a piece, but miraculously it still kinda stands when you sit in it (although you do have to kick the legs out to keep it stable). But despite these pieces of unfinished business, this is home. We've established our spots on the couch. We know how much produce we should have in the fridge at any given time of the week. I wash the dishes, he dries. It feels comfortable and I look forward to coming home after a long day. And the view of the city still kicks ass.
I feel like this year was one of the fastest ones. Maybe because everything just felt so new? I feel like I've been navigating through uncharted territory all year. Getting a feel for the land - quite literally, I think I finally understand the geography of this city. But also figuratively, figuring out this new chapter of adult life. Including the nitty gritty not-so-glamorous parts of life (bills on bills on bills), but also establishing friendships with women and colleagues I hope to keep forever and ever, developing my own sense of style, and coming to terms with a lot of overthinking that plagued my young twenties. I am slowly doing more things for myself and less for other people. I don't mean that in a selfish way. I mean that in a self-love kind of way. I don't know how else to put it other than that this year, I feel like I know myself better. I know when I'm thinking irrationally. I know when I should be more confident. I know what drives me crazy and I know what measures to take to avoid getting into a situation I'm uncomfortable in. I know how to say no, and (for the most part), not FOMO.
So what's in store for the next year? Well, maybe we'll get those damn frames up. Hopefully we'll manage not to kill any more plants (RIP George, you were a real gem). But mostly I want to embrace the little things I've figured out about myself. I want to go to yoga more regularly because it makes me feel like a queen just as much as a run does. I want to drink more wine with my girl friends because dinners with them make me remember that I'm not alone. I want to say "no" more confidently and "yes" more emphatically. Here's to year two in the Windy City, friends!
I asked Andrew if he wanted coffee cake or muffins, and when he said muffins I was still kinda feeling coffee cake so I went for tall, bakery style muffins with a sweet, crunchy crumb topping, the kind you like to get when you want a dessert for breakfast. The muffin itself actually isn't that sweet, and the blackberries stay somewhat tart so it gives you a nice balanced bite. These went to work with Andrew and got destroyed in ten minutes, which is always a good sign.
Bakery style blackberry muffins, adapted from King Arthur Flour
- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of room temperature unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
- 1/2 cup full fat sour cream
- 2 tablespoons almond milk
- 1 1/2 cup frozen blackberries
For the crumb topping, adapted from Oh, Ladycakes
- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
- For the crumb topping, whisk the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt into a bowl until well combined. Add the melted butter and using either a fork or your hands (I prefer my hands), mix the butter and flour mixture until large clumps form when you squeeze the mixture between your fingers. Set aside.
- Line a standard muffin tin with 12 liners. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter with a hand mixer until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes on medium-high speed. Add an egg to this sugar-butter mixture one at a time, beating in between each addition so that the egg is fully incorporated. Add the almond extract, sour cream, and milk and mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix gently using a rubber spatula so that the flour is just barely fully incorporated - you should still see some flour streaks. The mixture will be thick! Add the blackberries and stir to combine.
- Scoop the batter into the liners so that the batter nearly fills to the top. Add the crumb topping to each muffin - be generous! Place the muffins into the oven and bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the center of the muffin comes out mostly clean, with just a few crumbs clinging onto the toothpick.
- Remove from the oven and remove the muffins from the hot tin as soon as possible and onto a wiring baking rack. Let cool, then enjoy with a pat of butter, a tall glass or milk, or - if you're like me - a strong cup of coffee.
On measuring flour: I use the scoop and sweep method, as described here. It's really important to measure your flour this way because packing it in otherwise could lead to too much flour, leaving you a dense muffin!
On dense muffins: You should try to take your muffins out of the tin as soon as possible (but be careful not to burn your fingers) - leaving them in the tin for too long after they are done baking will dry out the muffin and leave it much denser, your crumb will not be as tender or fluffy.