Hope, Self Care Pt.2, Homemade Sprinkles Cupcakes, Pink Floyd, Cyrus Chestnut & Rach. 2
Updated: Nov 7, 2020
“Sprinkles” (Homemade) Strawberry & Dark Chocolate Cupcakes. Yum!
The world has become a freak show and in response, I’ve decided to post about “Sprinkles” Cupcakes, Self Care Pt. 2 (check out my previous post here), and Concerto Recitatives. Instead of hyperbolizing or dividing, for my own sanity, I’ve decided to keep things light and funny. For weeks now, I've decided to make my own sunshine where it’s been difficult to find some. (Damn, it can be hard!) I’m only now crawling out from under the rock of global absurdity, so I figure, I’d share what I’ve been doing to keep me (and my close family and friends), happy. I hope this makes you laugh and helps create some hopeful happiness in your own life.
Make these and I swear you’ll feel like a badass!
1. Make cupcakes Yes, they’re a pain in the ass and take hours to make, but the smiles on your family’s faces (or the hilarious back and forth texts to your friends) are worth every struggle. (Plus, you’ll feel like a superhero for pulling it off). I made “Sprinkles” Double Chocolate Cupcakes and Strawberry Cupcakes (from scratch) for my daughter’s birthday and although it took me 4.5 hours (ridiculously, at night, with cleanup), it was worth the screams, pictures, and delight the following morning. My husband taste tested a chocolate one while watching “Dark” during baking. Simple pleasures. Happy family.
Here’s the “Sprinkles” Dark Chocolate Cupcakes my husband devoured while binge watching "Dark."
2. Listen to Happy Podcasts. I loved the news before the pandemic. I now only check the news a few times a day and only look at articles that I deem relevant. Lately, if it’s truly mortifying, I check only once a day for my sanity. I now know my “Doomsday” threshold. What’s the point of information if it causes analysis paralysis?
3. Consume mindfully. Ever had a bad day because a friend was bitching about multiple people, situations, etc or you watched a violent show? Yeah. That dog poop is contagious. I try to replace it with humorous reality shows, happy books, and music. Better yet, have a themed dance party with your friends or family and see who looks the most ridiculous. We have one almost every day… sometimes with a themed “happy” hour.
4. Maintain Hope. Why? It keeps you happy, broadens your mind, and improves social relationships. Plus, who wants to be with a constant downer during a pandemic? It’s hard enough to get through the day. No one needs more B.S. I really like this article.
12 Ways to Bring You Hope
5. Know when you suck. Seriously. No one will adequately have all the tools to handle home schooling, working from home, losing your job, finding a job, childcare, chores, frustration at the government (and economy), being a rock to all your friends and family, and being lovable and sexy, all at the same time, DURING a global pandemic. The only people who are unreasonable about this are unreasonable themselves. I think we’ve all experienced this. Maybe the reason they’re unreasonable is because of this! Lol!
Check this out: Mom Rage (or Dad Rage)
6. Embrace the absurd. Is it cake or is it real? Is this fake news?
7. Exercise. Yeah. It’s easy to slough this off, but seriously, apparently just 10 minutes a day can do wonders. (It’s hard for me to get this in, so I have to get up early to have a yummy run and yoga it.)
Plus, if I don’t, I’m kind of a crank monster…
Or, if you want to delve deeper, here are some of the psychological benefits of exercise from the APA (American Psychological Association). Check out the part about brain buffering and socially defeated mice!
The exercise effect
8. Control reactions. This is always easier said than done… hence my constant yoga-ing, and since I’m human, I routinely, do pretty well and also fail miserably. Yoga was one of the first doctrines revolving around respiratory control and longevity. People are nuts now because they’re scared and angry. (Rightfully, so!) I am not personally responsible for their insanity and neither are you. (Let’s revisit the history and psychological reasons for scapegoating). I am not scared, but I am frustrated and an overreactive mind can easily turn to anger.
Coming from a culture where suppression of anger is an art form, over the years, I have learned to recognize it as a tool that something is horribly wrong and needs to change. Instead of repression (for the other person’s sake) and a freak out (no good for anyone), experience has now taught me when something is toxic and needs to be let go (or at the very least, very firm boundaries.)
Sometimes, when you realize you cannot receive what you need and the person or situation is incapable of giving it to you or changing and vice versa, the only person who is responsible for your own well being is yourself. (It’s also one of the largest indicators to longevity and happiness in relationships along with appreciation and perceived satisfaction, for the other partner. It makes sense. No one wants to be with a pissed off person let alone one that makes you feel bad… even if you’re a masochistic musician. :))
It’s like the airplane masks. Parents are told to put their masks first, before their child’s. I always thought it should be the either way around, until I realized how easily two lives could be damaged if one is irresponsible and doesn’t have their act together. So, here’s to cultivating happiness!
9. Put your headphones on. As I mentioned from the previous post, when all else fails, put your headphones on. Your true friends and family who love you will understand that in order to maintain your happiness, you need to focus. The best way you can help them, (I think) is if you can be there as an objective, funny, observer with solutions. Sometimes, the only way to find the answers, is to make sure you’re happy, optimistic, and balanced enough to see them. (I know it’s been extremely difficult right now.)
Sometimes, we only have the energy to fix one problem. (My husband and I are definitely “fixers” and always have been.) But, after a while, one little fix, with enough perseverance, gains momentum, and before you know it, you’ve done a million fixes and you’ve created your answer. As hard as it is, I try to make sure I’m not the one tripping myself up in the first place, to create these answers and to help invoke love and happiness, for those I care about.
During these trying times, I hope this helps.
Here’s an interesting article on parasympathetic breathing, it’s physiological effects, cardiac coherence (misdiagnosis for cardiac ailments and panic attacks) and better health.
10. Congratulate yourself. It’s hard enough to get through the day (let alone with the gravity of ridiculousness around you or dealing with haters). Be kind to yourself and save your energy. We only have so much and remember your top priorities for self care. Your mind, body, and closest loved ones will thank you.
If this guy can laugh, I think we all can! Oh happy day!
Cheeky boar leaves nudist grunting in laptop chase
Thanks for reading!
Pink Floyd & Parasympathetic Deep Breathing
A sonic realization of parasympathetic deep breathing (deep inhalations and longer exhalations. Serenity now!). This is completely how I feel during yoga. Your welcome!
Pink Floyd- “Breathe in the Air (Long Version)”/ “The Great Gig in the Sky”
Cyrus Chestnut & (my feelings of) “Hopeful Happiness”
Check out his dynamic contrast between his left and right hand, melody and accompaniment and phrasing. It changes throughout the piece, like a great classical pianist, with different attack technique. Most musicians keep both hands at a pretty consistent dynamic and velocity level, but his touch is sublime. A lullaby to happiness.
Cyrus Chestnut- “ Blues from the East”
Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No. 2, and Concerto Recitatives
When I was 12, I fell in love with the Vladimir Ashkenazy’s, Rach. 2, conducted by Andre Previn with the London Symphony Orchestra. This recording shaped almost everything I love about music: technical virtuosity, harmonic and orchestral passion, it’s visceral sensuality, emotive dynamism, and disciplined recklessness (plus the cellos are really hot in the recording.) I used to blast this in the dark, upside down on the couch with my hair dragging on the floor, like most kids would listen to metal. Like a beloved stuffed animal, it will always be an integral piece of me, like my tattered, practiced, renditions from years ago. It’s like (I imagine) having the most sensuous chocolate pudding in between silk sheets (which I would never do because I’m kind of OCD).
Vladimir Ashkenazy, Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18 - 1. Moderato
I love the veracity and skillful abandon of this LIVE recording. If you can’t watch the entire recording, please try to just get through the 1st movement and let your mind wander. Her technique is impeccable. She takes it a bit faster than most, runs wild with the tempo in certain sections, and I love her determination. Before naysayers say they hear a few wrong notes, I say, try learning, then memorizing a thousand notes, rehearsing it multiple times with another pianist as a stand-in for the orchestra, rehearse it with a live orchestra with a conductor trying to follow you, then recording it live. What she did was a feat.
Anna Fedorova - Complete Live Concert - HD-Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto no.2 op.18 -
And Self Care Pt. 2 and “Hopeful Happiness” to make you, your friends, and family smile…
Thanks for reading! If you have a piece of music of topics you'd like to discuss, feel free to contact me. I hope this made you laugh, think, and forget about things for a while. Have a wonderful week! Xo, Melissa
“Sprinkles” Dark Chocolate Cupcakes and Strawberry Cupcakes
from the NYT bestseller, “ The Sprinkles Baking Book,” by Candace Nelson
“Sprinkles” Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 12 Cupcakes or One 2-Layer Cake
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup buttermilk, shaken
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
10 Tablespoons (1/1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/3 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
Dark Chocolate Frosting
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12- cup cupcake pan with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low , add the eggs one at a time, and beat until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add half the flour mixture, then the buttermilk mixture, then the remaining flour mixture, beating until just blended after each addition.
4. Divide the batter evenly among the liners and bake until the tops are just dry to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to the wire rack and cool completely before frosting with dark chocolate frosting.
Dark Chocolate Frosting
Makes 2 Cups
3/4 Cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate , melted and cooled to room temperature
2 Tablespoons whole milk, if necessary
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and alt on medium speed until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add the vanilla and melted chocolate and beat until just incorporated, being careful not to incorporate too much air into the frosting. (I incorporated too much air because I was exhausted and doing this at night.)
3. Add milk, 1 Tablespoon at a time, if needed, to achieve a spreadable consistency.
"Sprinkles" Strawberry Cupcakes
Makes 12 Cupcakes or One 2-Layer 9-inch cake
1 1/2 cups all-all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup whole hulled fresh or frozen strawberries (thawed if frozen)
1/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup cupcake pan with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a food processor (or mini chopper), puree the strawberries until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the milk and vanilla.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low, add the egg and egg whites one at a time, and beat until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Slowly add half the flour mixture, the the milk mixture, then the remaining flour mixture, beating until just blended after each addition.
6. Divide the batter evenly among the liners and bake until the tops are just dry to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 21 to 23 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting with strawberry frosting.
Makes 2 cups
1/4 cup whole hulled fresh or frozen strawberries (thawed if frozen)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. In a small food processor (or mini chopper), puree the strawberries until smooth. Measure out 3 tablespoons of the puree.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, and beat until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and the 3 tablespoons strawberry puree and beat until blended, making sure not to incorporate too much air into the frosting.
Thanks for reading!