hermione granger

Celebrating the 20-Somethings.

In the movie 13 Going On 30 (2004), a young girl named Jenna laments the woes of being a teenager and longs for the day when she’ll be “thirty, flirty, and thriving.” Of course, in typical movie magic style, Jenna is zapped to the future via glittery wishing dust and a birthday party gone bad, skipping right past her late teens and 20s, and Jenna wakes up as a fabulous and well-established 30-year-old with a career in fashion journalism.

Apparently even 13-year-old movie characters aren’t brave enough to wish for early entry into the maze/minefield that is your 20s…

From what I’ve experienced so far, your 20s are an age of mystery, adventure, and confusion. You’re caught between not knowing what you’re doing and needing to keep doing something. You have a drinking license, freshly printed diploma, and possibility, and sometimes that’s all. In the end, being in your 20s means constantly being on the verge of everything, but with a blindfold on–you have no clue where your life is headed but you cannot stop heading there.

In our 20s, we’re in perpetual motion.

It’s no surprise then that we spend (or waste) a lot of time thinking on, worrying about, getting sick over our life journey. We 20-somethings cannot seem to comprehend the idea of just letting life happen or going with the flow until something clicks and the light bulb pops on. As a result, when we finished our degrees and were thrust out of complete academia, we were filled with questions and completely terrified of making choices:

What do we want to do?

Who do we want to be?

Where do we want to go?

Why is the future so hard to see?

Ugh…

If the Doctor can be confused, I reserve the right to be confused too.

We also spend (or waste) a lot of time mourning, bemoaning, raging about the fact that we cannot answer every question and make every choice. We see missed opportunities and feel like life itself now has fewer opportunities. We see others taking different paths and we assume that means we’ve somehow gotten lost in the woods. We see years laid out before us like paving stones and we don’t know where those years will lead us. In short, we fret.

Yet, at the same time that we’re walking about in darkened rooms and worrying about what comes next, being 20-something means experiencing dozens of wonderful people, places, and events.

We’re at the point where we’re entering relationships that just might last beyond coffee and movie dates. We’re learning that our knowledge and skills are valuable to someone somewhere. We’re taking the time to prove to ourselves that the world isn’t flat by leaving our hometowns and zipping around the globe. We’re meeting new people because we want to, not just because they’re in our neighborhood, class, or club.

We’re branching out and carving our own niches in the world, which is pretty freaking amazing.

And, you know what? We’re pretty freaking amazing.

It’s mystery, adventure, and confusion.

We’re mysterious, adventurous, and confused.

We may not know what we’re doing quite yet, but we’re doing something. The path may be untrodden, but we have the chance to forge it ourselves. Life may be a giant jumble of excitement and uncertainty, but we’re trying to figure it out. We may wish for the TARDIS and a smooth jump forward or back, but our 20s are quite fantastic if we just take the time to recognize them for what they are–a decade of freedom and discovery, growth and change (the good kind).

It’s perfectly acceptable not to have our lives completely put together in our 20s. Rome wasn’t built in a day, Harry Potter didn’t defeat Voldemort with one spell, and Frodo couldn’t have made it to Mordor alone–we’ll get there eventually and there is no need to feel down about our youth along the way.

Clichés exist because some ideas are true and common, which is why I don’t feel silly for saying that we would be crazy to waste our 20s worrying and obsessing about what comes next. Life happens regardless of what you decide or do, and we might as well have some fun along the way. In 13 Going On 30 (2004) Jenna skipped over being a 20-something but, in the end, it was that skip, that lost time, those neglected experiences that made Jenna wish she could go back to being a 13-year-old and give growing up another go.

The Doctor isn’t going to schlep us back to 20 when we turn 30, Hermione Granger doesn’t have a time-turner to volunteer, and Doc Brown and Marty McFly aren’t on their way with a tricked out DeLorean time machine.

It’s up to all of us 20-somethings to make the most of our 20s and not turn our back on the experience out of fear for the future. Your 20s are a crazy era but, someday we will look back and say that “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” we were awesome, we did amazing things, and we don’t regret even a single minute of that adventure. Of course, then we’ll brag about our current and future awesome-ness like the millennials we are and get down with our bad selves to infinity and beyond, though that’s another post entirely…

Be your age, live your life, and know that, even if better days are ahead, these days are pretty great too.

 

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Butterbeer & Other Decadent Desserts.

I’ll just cut to the chase because, if my stats hold any truth, you’re here for either the butterbeer recipe or another major sugar rush. Have fun in fandom-land and bon appetit!

Potterhead Butterbeer

butterbeer

Whipped Topping:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoons imitation butter extract
  • 3 teaspoons granulated white sugar

Butterbeer:

  • 1-2 cups cream soda
  • 1 tablespoon butterscotch topping or syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon imitation butter extract

Directions:

  1. Place all whipped topping ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. Beat with electric mixer for approximately 3 minutes or until soft peaks form.
  3. Set aside.
  4. Pour, squirt, or spoon butterscotch into tall glass or mug.
  5. Pour cream soda into glass or mug, leaving 1 inch of space at top.
  6. Add imitation butter extract (according to ingredients list or to taste).
  7. Stir well.
  8. Spoon whipped topping onto the surface of the soda mixture.
  9. Sport a frothy/creamy mustache and pretend you’re Hermione Granger!

Classic Pound Cake

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  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3 cups granulated white sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • vanilla extract
  • imitation butter extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Place cake flour, baking powder, and salt in medium mixing bowl.
  2. Sift two to three times. Set aside.
  3. Place butter (sometimes cutting it up helps) and coconut oil in bowl of stand mixer. Beat until fluffy.
  4. Add sugar. Beat until thoroughly blended.
  5. Beat on low while adding eggs one at a time. Beat until thoroughly blended.
  6. Alternately stir in parts of flour mixture and milk until all mixtures are semi-combined.
    1. Be sure that the mixtures are semi-combined. Using a hand or stand mixer with exposed dry ingredients may result in flour mushroom clouds!
  7. Beat on low as you add vanilla extract, imitation butter extract, and lemon juice.
  8. Allow cake batter to rest for a couple of minutes.
  9. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. Grease a bundt pan well.
    1. I’ve found the greatest success with coconut oil or olive oil.
  11. Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Adjust time based on oven.
  12. Remove from pan immediately after removal from oven.
  13. Let them eat cake!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated brown sugar (dark or light)
  • 1 + 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 3/4 cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Place all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Stir well (carefully) and set aside.
  3. Place brown sugar, white sugar, and yogurt in a medium mixing bowl. Stir well.
  4. Add eggs to mixture. Beat eggs in mixture with fork.
  5. Add pumpkin, coconut oil, and vanilla extract to mixture. Stir well.
  6. Combine dry and wet mixtures in the large mixing bowl. Stir well.
  7. Add chocolate chips to taste. Stir well.
  8. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Grease two 9×5 loaf pans.
    1. Again, I prefer coconut oil or olive oil.
  10. Pour batter into pans and bake for 55 minutes. Adjust time based on oven.
  11. Remove from pans immediately after removal from oven.
  12. Give a toast to pumpkin spice season!

Chai Tea Sugar Cookies 

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Cookies:

  • 1 stick butter (I prefer butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows, like Kerrygold unsalted butter, for cookies; however, any butter will do in a pinch.)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 + 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 chai tea sachet/bag

Glaze:

  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk

Directions:

  1. Place butter and coconut oil in large mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer until fluffy.
  2. Add white sugar and powdered sugar. Beat until fluffy.
    1. Beware powdered sugar mushroom clouds!
  3. Add eggs, vanilla extract, and milk. Beat only until blended.
  4. Stir in baking soda, table salt, cinnamon, and flour.
  5. Add chai tea. Knead dough with clean hands.
  6. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Place on parchment paper-covered cookie sheet and flatten to 1/4 inch thickness.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes. Adjust time based on oven.
  10. Mix powdered sugar, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and milk in a small bowl.
  11. Spoon glaze mixture onto hot cookies.
  12. Be a cookie monster!

Soft & Puffy Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/2 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup granulated brown sugar (dark or light)
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Place butter and coconut oil in large mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer until fluffy.
  2. Add brown sugar and white sugar to mixture. Beat until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Beat only until blended.
  4. Stir in baking soda, baking powder, table salt, and flour.
  5. Knead dough with clean hands.
  6. Stir in desired amount of semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Place on parchment paper-covered cookie sheet.
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Adjust time based on oven.
  10. Quick, hide the cookie jar!

Vanilla Bean Custard

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Madagascar vanilla bean, split
  • 1 + 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 + 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon coconut almond milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar

Directions:

  1. Cut vanilla bean pod in half length-wise.
  2. Moving a knife perpendicular to the vanilla bean pod, scrape out the vanilla beans and place in medium sauce pan.
  3. Add cream, milk, and coconut almond milk to sauce pan.
  4. Set aside.
  5. Place sugar and egg yolks in medium mixing bowl.
  6. Whisk together until combined.
  7. Set aside.
  8. Bring milk mixture to a boil.
  9. Combine milk mixture and sugar/egg mixture in medium mixing bowl.
  10. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  11. Pour mixture into four 6 oz. ramekins or custard cups.
  12. Place filled ramekins or custard cups into a small roasting pan.
  13. Fill roasting pan with warm water to hot until water is halfway up the sides of the ramekins or custard cups.
    1. Alternatively, place ramekins or custard cups into roasting pan, place the roasting pan in the oven, then use a kettle to pour water into the pan while it is in the oven.
  14. Bake for 35 minutes. The tops of the custards should look crisp with small bubbles.
  15. Remove roasting pan from the oven, remove ramekins or custard cups from the roasting pan, and drain water.
  16. Allow custard to cool, then refrigerate or serve warm.
  17. Oh you fancy, huh?

Accepting My Inner Hermione Granger.

From the very first time I picked up a Harry Potter book, I related to and adored the character of Hermione Granger. She’s intelligent, driven, focused, and dedicated, yet she is also awkward in social situations, fearful of failure, obsessive in her projects, and annoying in her relentless rule-following.

It seems that, for every reason she is likable, she is insufferable. There is a definite yin and yang within her personality. Just as she is someone you think you could be or already are, she is someone you wouldn’t necessarily want to know. Through these contradictions and complexities, Hermione became a stabilizer among characters like proud blood-traitor Ronald Weasley and fearless boy-who-lived Harry Potter.

In essence, Rowling wrote Hermione so profoundly that an intangible character became a finite human being that many of us can see ourselves in.

 

However, despite my genuine love of all things Hermione and continual defense of her necessity in the overall plot, I never before realized how thoroughly I connect with one particular aspect of her personality and practices: her incessant desire to learn, to know, and to understand.

While the boys wonder about the name “Nicholas Flamel,” Hermione pursues his record through the ancient tomes and dusty pages of a library that contains information well beyond her year.

When the pink toad known as Dolores Umbridge removes any trace of learning from Defense Against the Dark Arts curriculum, paving the way for the Dark Lord Voldemort, Hermione incites a desire to learn among her peers and, as a result, a full-fledged rebellion.

After horcrux-deluded Ron abandons she and Harry, Hermione reads and re-reads the only books available to her–Albus Dumbledore’s biography and The Tales of Beedle the Bard–until the next step on the quest becomes apparent.

Greater knowledge, man, it’s worth pursuing. Hermione proves it.

Academia and learning were where Hermione succeeded above all others. (We will just ignore the “Harry and the Half-Blood Prince’s perfectly annotated book” incidents.) Books and cleverness are dominant aspects of who she is and everyone knows it.

At every turn, it was Hermione’s intellect that helped herself, the boys, and her other classmates on their way, no matter how much they grumbled about her studying and hand-raising. Her intelligence and logic were as valuable as Harry’s heroism and Ron’s loyalty, if not more so in certain situations.

The truth of the matter though, is that while Hermione wanted to learn, she also desperately needed to learn. She was a young woman who woke up one day to a new world that, while beautiful and complex, did not wholeheartedly want her to exist within it. As such, Hermione sought to empower herself in the ways that seemed most natural to her: studying and learning.

It wasn’t until last week, amid responding to an email from my new graduate studies advisor, that I realized that I have sought to empower myself in the same ways. Apparently, without realizing it, I’ve become, or quite possibly have always been, a Hermione Granger.

Of course, as moments of clarity are want to be, the whole situation felt a bit absurd at first. If you’ve ever been fitted for glasses and experienced the sudden realization that the world looks different from what your eyes alone have allowed you to see up to that point, then you understand my meaning. It’s the experience of finally seeing the clear image that has always existed before your own blurry eyes.

You see, I’m still on an extended RV trip with my family and I just wanted to have the “graduate advising hold” removed from my account so that I could register for classes later this year. But, being more than 2,000 miles from home means I’m not exactly available to do the whole “don a pretty dress, worry over finding a parking space, search out the office that I’ve somehow never noticed before, smile big, and make small talk” routine with an advisor.

Luckily, the advisor for my graduate program was kind enough to run me through the routine via email, minus all of the typical rigmarole. He began by covering all of the simple yet important details that I will probably forget and relearn at least twice before the semester starts. Then he set in with the questions. What is my educational background? What about professional? Why did I choose this program? Have I taken undergraduate statistics? Am I prepared for graduate school?

Oh. Oh goodness. There is a special kind of anxiety that is reserved for instances of simply not knowing quite how to answer questions. It’s awful and terribly disconcerting to say the very least.

I then found myself writing what quickly became less of an email and more of an unintentionally egotistical essay filled with “buts.”

Yes, I attended these universities, but I attended them in this order. I took these classes, but I studied these subjects in-depth as “a bit of light reading.” I feel this way, but I also feel like this. As I struggled to explain why a person with a B.A. in English would want to delve into criminal justice, why I had already begun to do so, a “but” slid into every too-long-and-too-detailed paragraph. For every stated fact there was some seemingly necessary addendum.

At the same time, every statement about myself felt absurd. I know that graduating two years early and studying extra subjects for fun sound like lies of the kiss-up, trying-to-impress variety. I know that purposely picking a foreign topic to study at the graduate level sounds incredibly ridiculous. Despite knowing those things, both notions are true in terms of who I am and what I’ve done.

Still, who is going to buy my truth when it smells strongly of baloney?

I had to question the entire situation. What do you do when the truth sounds like a series of lies, and you don’t want to lie to make the truth sound truthful? The only conclusion I’ve come to is that you just stop. You stop worrying. You throw caution to the wind. You let the admissions counselor judge you, critique you, and come to some half-arsed conclusion if it makes him feel good. You give up on appealing to others and fitting yourself into expectations, preconceived ideas. Maybe, just maybe, you realize the truth.

You realize that you’re a Hermione Granger, and that’s completely okay. Okay?

It’s perfectly fine to be something that sounds false as long as it isn’t actually. The truth is what matters, plain and simple, not how the truth sounds. Who you are and what you do are worthwhile and essential to a balanced world. There must be a Hermione for every Harry, Ron, Neville, Seamus, Luna, Severus, Minerva, Dumbledore, and so on and so forth.

It’s alright to be the brains, the student, the autodidact. Having knowledge is half the journey to understanding. Just don’t forget that there will always be something you don’t know or understand, and that is why you must keep trying, keep living. Learn, grow, and know as much as you like. Dismiss the “tone of surprise.”

Ron (by way of the wonderful HP Queen Jo) once commented on Hermione, saying her philosophy was “when in doubt, go to the library.” I’m come to realize that I believe and do the same thing because, as a much older man, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, once said, “the scholar and the world” are together in “the love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books.”

If you’re like me, if you’re a Hermione, embrace it. You’ll be glad you did.

Without further adieu, if you ever have to explain who you are, narrowing your whole being into one measly message, do not feel ashamed, fraudulent, or confused. All the words you’ve read will be insufficient to describe you. You’re just a Hermione Granger–one of a large community of insufferable know-it-alls–and there is nothing “just” or “merely” about any of us.

(“Hermione Reads Before Bed” by Lorena Garcia, fan artist)