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Bicarbonate of soda, wheels up to Michigan, and being back in the saddle again.

Time for a quick update: what I’ve been baking, new places I’ve explored, and new things on my calendar.

Ever since I started watching The Great British Bake Off, I’ve been fascinated by the different names for ingredients (caster sugar, plain flour, strong flour, and my personal favorite, bicarbonate of soda), as well as measuring in grams and milliliters. I’ve always read that measuring by mass is best for dry ingredients, and it really does make everything more accurate, instead of accuracy depending on how tightly the flour is inadvertently packed into the measuring cup. And it’s so much easier to stick the bowl of your mixer on the kitchen scale and pour everything directly in.

It’s a little change, but I’m hooked. I’ve made two delicious bakes since measuring like this, and they both came out perfectly. It helps me bake more confidently.

First, when Dienesa visited a couple weeks ago, we found Martha of Bake-Off fame’s cookbook at Parnassus. Having no self-control, I bought it, and we read through it to find something to bake that night. We landed on her recipe for a carrot, blueberry, and orange cake with mascarpone frosting. Needless to say, it was incredible. Warm, citrus-y, and packed with blueberries that had burst during baking.

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I also made a lemon drizzle traybake, courtesy of this recipe by Mary Barry (I’m a Bake-Off fiend). The drizzle was tart and became crisp on the top of the cake, and it paired well with the sweetest of the cake itself. It was really easy but super impressive in how delicious and perfectly balanced it was.

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Just out of the oven.
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With a lemon juice + sugar drizzle.

In addition to all the baking, last weekend, Ben and I took our first flight together to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to see my sister Kim graduate with her Master’s degree in Social Work. We read all the books on our flights (I finished one and started another—thank you, Goodreads, for reminding me that I have at least 50 books I want to read at any given time), did all the people-watching in the airport, and ate all the flight snacks. I still can’t believe Southwest gives out peanuts. I mean, I personally love them, but I feel like it’s an accident waiting to happen with allergies. I do not want to see any emergencies 30,000 feet up, thank you.

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Anyway, when we got to Michigan, we tried out this delicious Thai restaurant called No Thai that serves your order in a giant pile—we could’ve easily split 2 orders among 3 people and had leftovers. I had red curry fried rice with pineapple, chicken, sprouts, peas, carrots, and egg. The pineapple added just the right touch of sweetness alongside the heat I’d requested to be at a medium level. Mmmm. From there, we headed to the farmer’s market area and did a little shopping. Ben found a tea shop and Kim led me to a stationery store, so we were right at home. Plus, the weather was SO NICE and not 100 degrees and I was in heaven.

Then it was a whirlwind of graduation day activities and moving Kim out of her apartment, but we packed in the fun with lots of Starbucks stops (I have incorporated iced decaf coconut milk lattes into my diet because #dairyfree and I am slightly addicted after going so long without coffee), family chats, snacks, and teamwork. #TeamCharlton moved her out in about an hour and a half.

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In other recent news, I’m back in the saddle writing nonfiction and submitting myself and my work to only the best parts of sharing your work with people—no pressure, no competition. Workshops can be kind of awful, but I joined one at the Bellevue branch of the Nashville Public Library, and let me tell you, these people are incredible. They’re kind of cranky sometimes, very opinionated, quite loud—but equally kind, welcoming, encouraging, and incisive with their comments. One told me recently that I didn’t use any wasted words, and that should be the case, after all, as I’ve “been trained in writing, young lady.” Another saw my Purdue sticker on my car as we were leaving and asked if I went there. I said yes, and he said “Yes! A Boilermaker!” Boiler up, y’all.

I’ve loved hearing their work (one writer is working on a novel in the voice of a violin that details what symphonies were like in the 1930s-1950s—I mean, the imagination), and they’ve been so kind to my own. It’s on Tuesday nights a couple times a month, giving me ample time to write in between meetings, and it’s been great to get into the community and find this little group of interesting people. It’s one of those things that, when I first stepped into the room, made me feel like it was going to matter down the line.

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That’s it for an update this time. Happy August, y’all. Tell me what you’re reading and eating and doing lately!

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