Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Great Cupcake Search -- Kupcakz Red Velvet

Remember when I said I wasn't willing to die in my pursuit of a perfect cupcake? Well, who knew how close I would actually come?!

Here's what happened: My friend,  Carrie, recommended a new cupcakery for me to try, a little place called Kupcakz, Tulsa's Original Cupcake Bakery. And, even considering my directional issues, it was amazingly easy to find. And amazingly hard to get out of since there are approximately 6,734  streets currently under construction in Tulsa. I crept out sllllooooooowwwwwlllly into the construction zone, got a little overconfident and started progressing even faster and WHOOSH! this crazy woman flew into my lane like she'd been shot from a gun.
If it weren't for my ninja moves and cat-like quickness, I'd have been a broken puddle of Kimbo splashed all over the streets of Tulsa.
Luckily I slammed on the brakes just in time, missed her by inches...but then the container with my red velvet cupcake flew off the seat, smacked into the dashboard and fell on the floor.
At which point I loudly suggested that the woman, the construction, and all the other cars in Tulsa should engage in a few activities that aren't all anatomically possible.
(Opie would like to take this moment to interject that he doesn't think sole blame lies with the construction or the other driver. Instead he faults "that deathtrap matchbox car" and is muttering something like "Probably didn't even see you! Stupid car!" But I choose to ignore those kind of comments as they are clearly unsupportive. Besides, I love my car.)
Anyway, I was positive the cupcake would be a mess...but I have to give Kupcakz' packaging 2 enthusiastic thumbs up! You could hardly even tell the poor little thing had been through a near-death experience:
See? Only slightly smooshed on one side!
And then I got a little worried that maybe it escaped unscathed because the frosting was some sort of rock-hard solid sugar block.
It wasn't.


Instead of traditional cream cheese frosting, Kupcakz uses mascarpone which adds just the tiniest bit more sour tang to complement the sweetness of the sugar.

"That's awesome!"  Opie said. "The cake's ok but the frosting--"

"Amazing!" I interrupted. "Seriously, I could eat a bucket of it!"

And I probably would have gone on and on and on about the utter perfection of the mascarpone cream cheese heaven but that's when tragedy struck.

See I eat my cupcakes in a very precise order. I eat the stump first to get any extraneous cake out of the way. Then I eat the top in a clockwise motion, around and around, until there is finally one glorious bite with the perfect frosting/cake ratio. Which is, for the uninitiated, 90% frosting and about 10% cake.

So there I was with the perfect bite speared on my fork, raising it ever so gently to my mouth when God or Fate or the devil reached out an angry hand and intervened.

And somehow that perfect bite went tumbling...not to the floor, which would've been bad enough, but right on top of Bubba's head.
This is Bubba, prior to the unfortunate cupcaking.

It's important to note here that I am a complete germaphobe.  I consider double-dipping a crime punishable by death and I would almost rather stab something in my eye than share a glass with another person. 
But even with all that crazy going on, I looked at that delicious dollop of dessert on Bubba's head and for one Instant thought "five second rule."

But only for an instant.
Then I screamed "NOOOOO!" like I'd just been set on fire.
"I'll still eat it," Opie offered.

"You will not!" I snapped, scooping it up and marching to the trash can.
Because A. We're not savages!
and (more importantly)
B. Even though I try to be kind and compassionate and unselfish and put others before myself, I really I think God himself understands the "If I can't have it, no one can." rule when it comes to mascarpone cream cheese frosting.

Final verdict:
Cake: Very good
Price: Average ($2.50)
Size: Average
Frosting: Amazing...and almost good enough to eat off a dog's head.

Stay tuned for future installments or let me know if there's a cupcakery you recommend by clicking here. Or read the post that started it all: The Great Cupcake Search.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My WTF Moment of the Day

Quick post but I couldn't resist!

Opie and I went to the home improvement store to get a new trimmer/edger. As we were checking out, the salesclerk handed us the receipt and thanked us for shopping at the store.

This, obviously, was not the WTF part.

That came a second later when she smiled, handed us the trimmer and said "Try not to hit a bunny!"

Pretty sure I made this type of face:

Ok, should mention once again
that this isn't me--but my
friend Martha makes the best shocked faces!
Anyway, the woman wasn't done! Still smiling, she followed up her "don't hit a bunny" warning with "I did that once--it was gross!"
Seriously, nothing like a horrifying image of brutal bunny death to get my day off to a disturbing start.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chess -- The Last Bastion Has been Breached!

How's this for strange: Opie was talking to one his buddies over the weekend and heard that the guy was taking his son to a chess tournament.

That’s not the strange part.

The strange part is that the father is not allowed in the room where the tournament is taking place; he's not allowed to watch the tournament AT ALL. He has to sit out in some anteroom, waiting, until his son finishes the match and then comes back to tell him about it.

To be honest, since this is a friend from Opie's younger, wilder days, I assumed this was an individual ban. I suspected that the guy had been involved in some alcohol-induced shenanigans of questionable legality. I had a vision of a group of guys huddling around a chess match, passing around a bottle of Jack Daniels (or some classier chess-related beverage), yelling “Drink!” and doing shots every time some kid said “Check” or moved a pawn or whatever.

Which is a little unfair considering these guys have all grown up and matured but sometimes those old images are hard to shake...besides, if truth be told, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't take a lot of effort to convince Opie to partake in a chess drinking game, even now.

But then Opie be told me that it's not an individual ban; no parents are allowed in the chess room. None of them get to watch the tournament.

So I can only assume the prohibition  came into effect because parents were acting poorly during the matches.

Chess parents were acting up.

Chess parents!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not making fun of chess or chess parents. Both my brothers play chess, several of my nieces and nephews play chess—one of their schools offers chess class as an elective. I have no problem with chess other than the fact I'm terrible at it. Chess is a game of logic and strategy; I'm a creature of emotion. I play chess and I think things like “Why isn’t the queen as important as the king? That seems unfair!” and then I worry about the cruelty of throwing pawn after pawn into the heat of a battle they can’t win.

Chess does not go well for me.

My point is I always considered chess one of the last bastions of civilized society. I imagined chess parents clapping lightly, saying thing like "well done" and nodding their supportive approval. I didn't realize they must run around like drunk Little League parents screaming “Take that idiot’s knight! Take it!” and “Go for check!” and “Kill that Grand Master wannabe!”

So now I need to know if this is common practice or if this is some weird Midwest aberration. Do all chess tournaments ban parents? Is there some other reason for this type of ban or has the world descended so far into madness that the last bastion of civilized society has been been breached?

Please, someone, restore my faith in humanity!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Great Cupcake Search – Merritt’s Bakery -- The Chocolate Sprinkle

When you’re on The Great Cupcake Search in Tulsa, everyone tells you that Merritt’s Bakery is the first place to go.

Actually, that’s not completely true. A lot of people also suggested a place called Ann’s Bakery. Unfortunately to get to Ann's from my house, you have to drive through a little part of town that I like to call Murderville.

And I want to find a good cupcake but not enough to die for it.

Merritt’s it was!

“Now, I just have to find this Merritt's place.” I told Opie.

“They have a couple locations,” he said. “I think there’s one a little southwest of the mall. And another one a little east of our old church.”

Which was NOT helpful at all…I mean, I don’t even know what most of those words mean.  Southwest? East? It was like he didn’t know me at all.

“It's right next to that place where get your hair done,” Opie said exasperated. “Right next door.”

Which probably makes me sound a little bit like a moron but the thing is finding a hairdresser in Tulsa has been a challenge of epic proportions.

Again, that's not completely true.  Finding a hairdresser has been easy. It’s finding a good one that’s been a nightmare—I’ve gone through 5 different hairdressers in the 2 and a half years I’ve been here.

And they all start out normal. I go in, explain what I want, and the first visit goes great. Then, when I’m lulled into a sense of false hair security, on the second or third visit, the hairdressers all remember that they’re actually completely insane and wham! Bride of Frankenstein.

Like the second-to-last woman. First haircut and dye, perfect. The second time I went, I said “I want to dye my hair a reddish bronze as a surprise for my husband.”

At least that’s what I thought I said. 

What she clearly heard was “My husband has a bizarre obsession with the Muppets and I was hoping you could give me something in a purple a la Abby Cadabbby.

Seriously, I felt like an Easter egg.

I only found my latest guy when I was desperately looking for someone to fix that disaster. Thus, I hardly think I can be blamed for not noticing one little bakery in a line of businesses.

But I digress…

I’m reviewing cupcakes here!

Since I know where my hairdresser's is (at least for now), I scooted over to Merritt’s and decided to start with something easy : Chocolate Sprinkle.

I have to be honest, they were a little smaller than I had expected—the same size, if not a touch smaller—than a cupcake I’d make at home. But reasonably priced, just $1.30 each.

"What do we think?" I asked Opie as we dug in

"Good," he said.

"We're writing a review," I reminded him. "I think we should be a little more specific than 'good.' Are they light and fluffy? Was there a taste explosion in your mouth? Do you feel like you've bitten off a little slice of heaven or has the cake left you wanting more? Can you describe your culinary feelings for me?" 

I'm not going to lie, he stared at me like I had lost my was a little like the expression he makes when I tell him all the things that the dogs have been talking about while he's at work.

"Good," he said again. "Not great but good."

And I have to agree, they were good but not great.  The cake was light and moist and had a deep chocolate flavor. The buttercream frosting was creamy but not quite sweet enough for my taste.

Definitely not a taste explosion in my mouth.

Final Verdict:

Size: A little small
Price: Reasonable ($1.30)
Taste: Good, not great...
The kind of cupcake that can calm your nerves when 
you're on your way to a new hair salon for that 
oh-so crucial third visit but not enough to ease 
the pain of Muppet hair.

Stay tuned for future installments or let me know if there's a cupcakery you recommend by clicking here. Or read the post that started it all: The Great Cupcake Search.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fuch's Dystrophy And, Of Course, Drama

In case you think my somewhat over-the-top reactions are limited to my fur family, I thought I'd share that Opie has been diagnosed with Fuch's Dystrophy.
Which sounds like some disgusting STD, I know.  I mean, with a name like FUCH'S, everybody's mind probably went to the same place.

But it's's an eye disease.  In fact it's a "degenerative disease of the corneal endothelium."  Which basically means that the cells in his corneas are dying off.
You know how many people have it?

Less than 1% of the population.
You know how I handled this news?

Not well.
But this is partially because Opie came home from his annual eye appointment, told me he had this disease that could eventually BLIND him, and had none of the relevant details.

"Did you ask the doctor how fast it progresses?" I demanded.

"Did you ask him what warning signs we should be looking out for?"

"Did you ask him the odds of it getting worse?  Or the percentage of people who end up needing cornea transplants?  Or how many of those transplants are successful?"

And that's when I lost it a little.
"Did you ask what we're going to do on the day you WAKE UP BLIND?"  I screamed.  "Did you happen to mention that you're a computer programmer and that if you are suddenly STRUCK BLIND you'll probably lose your job and we'll lose the house and then we'll end up living in my car and considering I have a Miata and we have a Rottweiler, things are going to get pretty damn crowded!  Did you go over any of THAT?"

Surprisingly, no, none of that came up in the doctor's office.
Equally surprising was the fact that Opie chose that moment to remind me that Bubba is only half Rottweiler and didn't I think we'd live in his car since it's bigger?

Which means the most surprising thing of all is that I didn't beat him to death.
Especially when he followed that up with "It's probably no big deal.  We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

My reply was so obscene that I don't actually feel comfortable sharing it.  Suffice it to say that I decided NOT to wait and see what happens and instead asked around and got the name of the top eye guy in Tulsa, and made an appointment.
"You don't have to go with me," Opie said quickly...which probably sounds suspicious unless you realize I have a weird thing about eyeballs…I’m like Rachel in Friends, I freak out when I go to the eye doctor…I can’t even put drops in my own eyes.  About 10 years ago, I had a really disgusting case of Pink Eye and every night I had to drive over to my parents’ house and have my mom put the drops in…which is embarrassing enough but I needed those drops twice a day.  So, in the mornings, I had to have the English department secretary do it.  This is slightly mitigated by the fact that the secretary in question was also my godmother, but still EMBARASSING.

But my husband was in need so it was time for me to face my demons..."Of course I'm going." I said. "What kind of wife would I be if I didn't support you?"
To be honest, I'm not sure sitting in a chair, gripping the arms with white-knuckled intensity, moaning every time they poked something in his eye, and mumbling about needing to vomit was the type of support he was looking for but I was present that's what counts.

Besides, I think constantly asking me "You ok over there?" probably took his mind off his own troubles.
Especially when he told the nurse about my unfortunate eye aversion--complete with eye drops story--and she decided that she was going to single-handedly cure me of a lifelong neurosis.

"Oh, honey, it's easy!" She said, grabbing my head and tilting it back.  "All you have to do is...."
And I'm pretty sure she said some words after that but since she also basically ASSAULTED me with eye drops I have no idea what any of those words were.

"Honey?" Opie asked gently. "Are you all right?"
And it took awhile for me to answer, largely because it's difficult to fight back waves of nausea AND plot the nurse's bloody death at the same time. "Call the police," I finally mumbled. "Tell them I've been the victim of a drive by eye dropping."

And then things got ugly.

The nurse came back and dilated Opie's eyes so we could finally get in to see the specialist and at almost the exact same second, the specialist got called away for some eye-related emergency (his office is connected to the hospital for just such a situation).

I tried to be unselfish and compassionate, I really did.  I tried to think about the poor person with the eye emergency (though I desperately tried not to speculate on the nature of the emergency because that made me feel even sicker). That worked for the first hour.
By the time we hit hour number 2 of waiting, I had forgotten all about the other person and was bordering on insane with rage.

If I hadn't been woozy and half-sick by all the eye-related paraphernalia, I might have gone on a wild rampage.

A situation made infinitely worse by the fact that when the doctor finally came in, he decided the best way to ease the tension was to turn into it a comedian.

He did the exam, ran a few other tests and then confirmed that Opie is in the beginning stages of Fuch’s Dystrophy.
I, of course, had a few questions.  “Does it progress quickly or slowly? Is there anything we can do to help?  Is it something we need to monitor closely or do we just have to wait and see what happens?"

"Yes" he said and laughed.


I think, at that moment, Opie had never been more afraid in his life.  Afraid that I would actually leap from my chair and pummel the doctor with a huge plastic eyeball.

However, this clown came highly recommended as the top eye specialist in Tulsa so I tried to restrain myself. Instead of punching him right in the face, I had to settle for giving him my best teacher look.

The one that says "I know you think you're funny but I don't think you're funny at all. And the only thing saving your life right now is the fact that I'm so scared of prison."

It worked.

He got serious immediately and explained that, unfortunately, there's no way to tell how fast things will progress, we just have to keep an eye on his cell count and see. Sometimes it goes slowly, sometimes quickly--there's just no predicting the disease.  Some people need a complete cornea transplant within five years of being diagnosed and some people never notice any ill effects at all.

So, the long and the short of it is that we went through all the drama for NOTHING.
Opie was right, we just have to wait and see what happens (and, yes, that did hurt a little to say!) and we'll need to keep meeting with the specialist at least once a year.

But next time I'm taking my pepper spray and if anyone comes near me with a bottle of eye drops, you'll probably all see me on the news.

 These don't look like bad eyes, do they?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Drive By Boot Theft

Life In gets a little weirder every day!

Like today when I went up to the local farm and home supply and noticed a woman walking into the store in front of me wearing long shorts and flip-flops.

Which I, of course, thought was a little bit completely insane because it's 32° out today.
But I was wrong!

The woman wasn’t insane after all—she was a criminal mastermind!
See, as I went to the back of the store to get a huge bag of birdseed, she flip-flopped her way over to the men's department, grabbed a pair of expensive cowboy boots, slipped them on and hobbled for the door.

“Ma’am!” The clerks called.  “Excuse me, ma’am, you need to come back here!”
(It is interesting to note that I’m pretty sure back in St. Louis no one would have said “excuse me” or called her ma’am.  The clerks would have tackled this thief to the ground and wrestled the boots off her feet—all the while screaming profanity. People here in Oklahoma are just so stinking polite!)

Anyway, the clerks did start moving before she got all the way to the parking lot but, like I said, this woman was a criminal mastermind. The clerks ran after her, she hobbled even faster, a van screeched up, and she flung herself inside.
Clean getaway!

And because I’m NOT a criminal mastermind, I allowed as how I thought this was a rather odd thing to steal.  “Why would she want men’s boots?” I wondered out loud.
“They’re our most expensive pair,” one clerk told me. “She’ll probably take them to another store and try to return them.”

“Or sell them,” another clerk predicted darkly.
I had no idea there was such a murky cowboy boot underworld here in my fair city! Live and learn, people, live and learn.

If I had known, perhaps I would have paid closer attention but I had been so focused on her ridiculous outfit that I seriously couldn’t pick that woman out of a two-woman lineup. But, I am pleased to report that police response time was lightning fast! By the time I walked out to my car not one, but TWO police cars were pulling into the parking lot to investigate the drive-by boot theft.
Because that, my friends, is what passes for criminal intrigue in small town Oklahoma!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Great Cupcake Search

Opie and I are on a mission to find the perfect cupcake.  Which may seem like an odd mission but we're odd people.  In any case, here’s how it all started:

Short version:

Getting ready for Thanksgiving is a huge pain in the butt.

Most cupcakes are awesome but some flat out suck.            

 Long version:

For the first time ever Opie and I decided not to go home for Thanksgiving.  Apparently spending 16 hours in the car with a neurotic Rottweiler, a motion-sick cat, and a new puppy does not make Opie feel thankful for anything except the sweet release of death.

So this year we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving here in Oklahoma by ourselves. “It’ll be great,” Opie said. “I’ll just smoke a turkey and everything will be easy.”

There was one small problem with this arrangement: since he made the turkey, I made the sides. And a traditional Thanksgiving dinner includes approximately 1,436 side dishes…ok, slight exaggeration but still there were potatoes and corn pudding and green bean casserole, and bread, and stuffing, and salad, and cranberry cocktails and on and on and on…a veritable cornucopia of side dishes.

Which is why, although I like to bake, I decided to kill 2 birds with 1 patriotic stone by  purchasing our Thanksgiving dessert at a small cupcakery.

“It’s the perfect solution,” I told Opie. “We get delicious cupcakes and support Small Business Saturday a few days early.”

Which is when Opie made his fatal error.

“You know that cupcake place you like is a national chain, right?” He asked.

No, as a matter of fact, I hadn’t known that.

“It’s not a big deal,” he said quickly.

“Oh, it’s a big deal!”  I assured him.  “We support SMALL BUSINESSES in this house.  We support the working man!  We don’t just throw our money at Corporate America! We support the community that supports us!”

And he tried to point out that the community in which we live is not actually the community that supports us since we both work elsewhere…but I have never been one to let logic and reason sway me from a newly developed obsession.

Humming the national anthem to myself, I began searching the Internet and finally found a bakery on the edge of town that made cupcakes.  Or, to be perfectly precise, had pictures of cupcakes on its Facebook page.

“Do you have any of the chocolate caramel cupcakes?” I asked the owner when I went in and didn’t see any in the display. “Or the espresso ones?”

“We don't carry cupcakes,” she said.
And I was pretty sure she was lying to me as part of some nefarious cupcake hoarding scheme because, as I pointed out with as much calm as I could muster, there were pictures of cupcakes on the window of the shop not to mention all over their Facebook page.
She nodded. “But you have to order those in advance,” she said. “Could I interest you in some nice cake balls instead?”

Cake balls?  CAKE BALLS? Tiny balls of cake with less than ¼ of the delicious icing that is liberally slathered across a cupcake? Seriously? The whole thing made me insane with rage. I mean, ok, I bought 12 cake balls and ate 4 of them on the way to the car but I wasn't happy about it.
Then, still muttering to myself about duplicity in advertising, I stormed to the only other local small bakery. And they not only had cupcakes but chocolate cupcakes with a borderline obscene amount of red frosting.


Which probably seems like a pretty anticlimactic ending unless you were there on Thanksgiving day when I actually bit into one of them.

“That isn’t chocolate!” I spat out the foul mouthful and began yelling about poison and duplicity and cursing the bakery owner.
Which was apparently a little unnerving for a man who was just trying to relax after a huge Thanksgiving “What's the matter with you?” Opie demanded, running into the kitchen.  

“This cupcake is awful, it’s the worst thing I’ve ever tasted! It’s like DEATH in my mouth!” I shouted, rinsing away the taste with a liberal swallow of cranberry mojito (it’s possible that the mojitos are at least partially responsible for what Opie considered an “overreaction” to a culinary surprise).

In any case, Opie tried one and we realized that instead of chocolate, the cupcakes were actually anise…which a lot of people call black licorice flavor...but I spent the rest of that day calling “anus” and “ass-flavored death” and a variety of other, even more offensive things.

Especially when I realized that storing the stupid cupcakes in the same tin as the aforementioned cake balls had caused bizarre osmosis of flavors and the cake balls were now infected with the disgusting taste of black licorice death.

I did NOT handle this well…although, again, I suspect the mojitos share some of the blame for my poor behavior.

You would think that this would be enough cupcake drama for a lifetime, not to mention one little holiday weekend…but my life is always a little more bizarre than the average bear’s.  So, instead of shopping on Black Friday, I became determined to find a decent cupcake. I threw the “small business” requirement to the winds and focused on “locally owned” heading to our local grocery store.

“I’m desperate for a good cupcake,” I told the clerk at the bakery.

At least, that’s what I thought I said.

Apparently, what she heard was “I’m desperate for a cupcake that you guys probably made Tuesday night, hoping to sell on Wednesday, and has now been sitting in your display case for 3 days getting drier and drier.”

Because she sold me 2 absolutely gorgeous chocolate cupcakes with caramel filling and chocolate buttercream frosting…2 gorgeous cupcakes that Opie and I could have used to cut glass.

“This is unbelievable!” I yelled. “Who do I have to kill to get a decent cupcake in this town?”

At which point Opie suggested that, perhaps, I was overreacting to the whole situation.

“I’m not overreacting,” I told him. “I’m just motivated. I’m finding a good cupcake.  I’m finding a great cupcake.  In fact, I’m finding the BEST FREAKING CUPCAKE in the free world.  I’ll find it OR DIE TRYING.”

In the intervening months, we have been searching, reviewing, and tasting as many different cupcakes as humanly possible. And though we haven’t found the perfect cupcake yet, we’re ready to start sharing our observations…and we’re open to suggestions…let us know where we can find a great cupcake by clicking here or by leaving a comment below and stay tuned for more cupcake drama!

elleroy was here