11 May 2011

rainy day post

Okay, so the April showers here in NY have officially ceased in order to make way for May flowers, but here are some photos from a very pretty rainy day not too long ago:

Moving out tomorrow, and heading back to California in six days. My love and I are excited to be back home, but we will also miss the little family we've made here in New York. It has been an important, and largely successful year here--despite a handful of tragedies this spring. I, for one, am very ready to go home to the sunshine and slow pace of my life on the West Coast. Soon, soon.

04 May 2011

100th post!

We are stepping over a threshold here together--this blog's 100th post and second birthday! On this occasion, I want to thank all my lovely readers out there who have so diligently followed me, even through periods of extreme lack of diligence. It has been a pleasure to type at you for the past two years.

Watching the numbers tick up toward the third digit this past week, I have been contemplating exactly how I want to spend this momentous post; it occurred to me that the life I've led since I began this blog has been the manifestation of a fantasy for me, and I want to compile here a list of things I have learned/discovered from it, and things that have surprised me since I became a student.

12. Paper disposables cost a lot of money and disappear WAY too fast in a house full of college students. I don't buy any paper products in New York (except t.p. which we get for free at school anyway--I'm not about to go that far!)--I've switched to rags from paper towels, and hankies for tissues. I never really used paper eating stuff anyway.

11. You should never, ever assume the people you live with have learned the same things about cleaning that you did. For example, that you are not to touch the spice bottles when your hands are covered in raw fish juice, that in order for dishes to be cleaned, they must be washed WITH soap, that normal people use towels when they get out of the shower, etc. (You'd think people would at least get the soap thing!)

10. The romance of working on your conference paper all night at the end of the semester when the library is open 24/7 is not worth moving out of your dorm and flying home to California on on 1/2 hour of sleep (but is worth the the walk home to your dorm at 5:20 am with your finished paper in your hand and the sun coming up).

9. Like-minded souls really do exist, no matter how much your adolescence wanted to convince you otherwise.

8. Your body doesn't like all the goop you put on it every day. Before I moved out here, I used at least eighteen products on myself daily. I use six now, and my skin and hair have never been healthier. (My six are Dr. Bronner's Magic soap for hands, hair, body, and face, a homemade vinegar rinse instead of conditioner, toothpaste, non-antiperspirant deodorant, one lotion for face and body, and sometimes a little mascara.)

7. Sometimes, there are just people in your life with whom you don't want to remain in contact. Good friends are worth the extra effort of long distance.

6. Staying in is usually more fun and less expensive than going out; that being said, a change of scenery is welcome and sometimes necessary when you've been in your own home-bubble too long.

5. Public transportation, no matter how inefficient, annoying, and troublesome it is, is SO much better than no public transportation, especially for those of us who choose not to learn to drive.

4. Nearly anything can be cleaned with baking soda, vinegar, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap, hot water, lemon juice, or a combination thereof. Anything. Clothes, shoes, hair, body, house, dishes--Anything.

3. The most important elements in changing or even revolutionizing an artistic culture are craftsmanship and discontent. Nothing changes if no one gets angry. And do we all want to go on in an art world ruled by egotistical, postmodernly ironic, multi-millionaires Jeff Koons and Damien Hirsch? Do three basketballs floating in an aquarium belong in the SFMOMA? I didn't think so. That being said, although there is hope in discontent, there is hope in beauty, too, and that, really, should come first and foremost.

2. That really, I am a West-Coaster at heart. I miss the Pacific, and when I have served my obligatory term as an artistic soul in New York, I will be packing my bags right back up and moving back Home, where there are redwoods and sea otters.

1. That everything works out in the end. If you know it as hard as you can know something, you work toward an end, and leave yourself open to creative opportunities, everything turns out the way it should. Not necessarily the way you thought, but certainly the way it should. But the only way this works is through exploring--if you are not constantly, diligently searching, brainstorming, and trying on new hats, sometimes you don't end up find the thing that needs you in order to work out the way it's supposed to.

Well, my beloved family, friends, and even my anonymous (and beloved) followers, I hope that you've discovered as many things in these past two years as I have--and I wish you many more years of precisely that. My love to all tonight and all nights.

03 May 2011

fancy springtime cupcakes

With all the procrastinating for me to do this time of the year, I have been a mad baking fiend! I made these on a whim last night trying to use up leftover buttermilk:
These are (deep breath) vanilla buttermilk cupcakes with cream-cheese-pomegranate-honey frosting topped with home-candied violets!

I was inspired by these cupcakes, got the recipe for the cupcakes here and came up with the rest on my own. Here's the (modified) recipe (again this is not my own recipe, but I changed a few things, such as omitting almond extract):

Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tin
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until it looks creamy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla and almond extracts until mixture is smooth.
Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until almost combined. Add buttermilk and stir, again, until almost combined. Add the rest of the flour and stir until all ingredients are mixed in.
Divide batter evenly into muffin cups.
Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350F, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Let cupcakes cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the muffin pan. Cool completely before frosting.

Makes 12 cupcakes, or about 36 mini cupcakes


Mix together 2 parts homemade or store-bought cream cheese frosting and 3 parts jam of your choice (we used a pomegranate-honey jam that a neighbor in California makes).


Wash violets and allow to dry thoroughly. Lightly beat one egg white with a little water. Dip each violet in egg white and then roll in granulated sugar, and set on wax paper to dry.

We also made our own aluminum muffin cups, as we didn't realize until after we had bought regular-sized ones that we owned only a mini-muffin tin. We just cut circles out of aluminum foil by drawing around a coffee mug with an X-acto knife. We've decided we're never buying muffin liners again. :)

Well, still just working on one thing at a time, but despite these baking sprees, I am actually getting schoolwork done. Done this weekend, hopefully!

02 May 2011

the cloisters and a cake

With only two weeks of classes left, I find myself in good shape academically, and this weekend I allowed myself a little free time with my Mister to celebrate his birthday. Honestly, it was a nice break from the computer for a couple of days (it's amazing how tired, sore, and irritable just sitting in front of a screen several hours every day will make you). Here is a picture of the cake I made him (I apologize for the poor quality):

This was a mocha cake with a chocolate-hazelnut glaze, both recipes from the wonderful Complete Tassajara Cookbook, by Ed Espe Brown and it was to-die-for delicious. This is the best cookbook I have ever beheld--directions are simple, ingredients common, and every single recipe is perfectly balanced and delicious. Ed Brown is an inspiration and a wonderful chef.

Anyway, the cake turned out brilliantly and was completely stress-free (I often avoid making cakes because they tend to call for special flours, lots of sifting and whipping and then turn out only plain-tasting), and so I highly recommend the recipe, and will surely be making it again, on multiple occasions.

After eating half the cake for dinner, we got up to eat the second half for breakfast, then made a pasta salad to take with us as a picnic lunch to the Cloisters, the beautiful medieval art extension of the Met in Washington Heights. Both the collections (inside an old cloisters on a hill) and the vast gardens that surround them are beautiful, especially this time of year, and we were lucky enough to have the lovely weather to enjoy them:

So much beauty all in one day! The Mister and I noted how like the "complacent smiles" of the Classical Chinese and old Buddhist works were the smiles on the faces of the Virgin in many of the Medieval works. And how wonderfully Utopian these old interpretations of Christian allegory were. And the colours on the angels' wings--crimson, and lapis, so beautiful!

Back to the books now, unfortunately, but if all goes according to plan, I should be finished with all my work and have it turned in by next Tuesday! And then, the following one, back to California. More before then though--I have more pictures that I've saved for a rainy day. :)