Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Boat Cruise

To celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday over the weekend, my entire family went on a boat cruise around Manhattan. It was kind of a grey day, but I still managed to get a few nice pictures.

The Colgate clock on the New Jersey side of the river:

I love all the old buildings in this picture:

I'm endlessly fascinated by seeing Manhattan from the East River, probably because I hardly ever get to see it from that point of view. I got a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge:

And a not so great view of me! There's always some risk involved when you give an iphone camera to an unfamiliar user (a.k.a. my dad). I'll admit it can be tricky to see when the picture is actually being taken, especially with the outdoor glare.

Besides the great scenery, there was lunch and music on the boat. When the DJ played the electric slide, my grandma just couldn't help getting up to dance, and it turns out that she's got some nice moves. Forget when I'm 90, I hope I manage to look this good dancing at the wedding I'm going to this weekend!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Henry James Fatigue

A long time ago, at some flea market or antique shop that I've since forgotten, I picked up this copy of The Ambassadors by Henry James.

Better than a plain old used book, it's actually a vintage library book. The old Brooklyn Public Library stamp is still inside the front cover.

Until about two weeks ago, this book kept getting passed over when I reached for something from my shelf. I finally picked it up, and it completely wore me out!

The Ambassadors
is the story of a middle-aged man named Strether who, about to marry into an old New England family, is first sent to Europe to rescue their errant son and bring him home to step into the family business. Paris ends up having quite the effect on Strether, and another "ambassador" has to be sent to rescue him.

Like most Henry James novels, it revolves around the manners, customs, and social maneuverings of Americans abroad. The Ambassadors just seemed to take this to a greater degree than the others I've read. About 25% of the plot is made up of dialogue. The other 75% is made up of characters analyzing what's just been said or thinking about what's about to be said. And it's all done in intricate, meandering paragraphs, which are made up of intricate, meandering sentences that require you to be 100% focused at all times. I'd find myself getting heavy-lidded after a few pages. Of course, that may have also been due in part to the small, old-fashioned print in this particular copy:

I will say that despite being on the brink of casting this aside several times, I did tough it out to the end and found myself legitimately interested in the last quarter of the book. It was a long road to get there, though, and I don't recommend it lightly since it may result in Henry James Fatigue. It's a real medical condition.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Look Up

I had heard about this public art installation going on around Manhattan. Human statues by the artist Antony Gormley, made from casts of his own body, are standing on rooftops around the city. The last time I was in Union Square, I finally remembered to look up and I spotted one.

I think it has such a creepy vibe. Its shape reminds me of one of the aliens from the movie Signs.

I wonder how many false alarms about building jumpers the police have gotten about these.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wedding Craftiness

Over the weekend I got to help my friend make decorations for the church for her upcoming wedding.

We used silver and white craft paper to make cones that will each be filled with a fresh green hydrangea and hung on the end of each pew (the white door is filling in for them in this picture). I can't wait to see how they look when they're all hung up together.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Note to Boston

Dear Boston:

Thanks for giving me such an amazing view of this building from my hotel window during my recent trip for work.

I'm not even sure which building this is, since it's easily overshadowed by the Prudential and the Hancock tower, but it's very pretty and art-deco.

Also, thanks for giving me lovely weather to act like a tourist in and take some pictures of different things around the city...

...and of the prettiest college campus anywhere (there, I said it!).

And p.s. to Amtrak- this view from the train window makes me forgive you for the hour delay:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spring Craving

I can't take any credit for this lemon asparagus risotto, except as an eater. It's a Barefoot Contessa recipe that my mom first made about a month or so ago. Ever since I had it, it's been the dish I find myself craving most often. Other than cupcakes, of course. Now I just need to find a way to make Barbara Kingsolver proud by using fresh asparagus picked the moment they sprout from the garden.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Clutch

The clutch purse that I designed at Lill Studio arrived about a week ago and I'm quite happy with it.

I debuted it at my family's Mother's Day brunch.

I'm pretty pleased my accessorizing of this outfit. The clutch, a green cardigan from Gap, and some interesting beads from Anthropologie dressed up this little black dress from Target.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Occasional Essays

First of all, how great would it be to be a writer of occasional essays? It sounds like the most leisurely job, undertaken only on occasion, whenever inspiration strikes.

Of course, it's probably a bit more involved than that. Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays is a collection of short pieces that range from literary criticism to biographical essays to movie reviews.

I'm a big fan of Zadie Smith's fiction. Her novels somehow manage to be modern and yet traditional at the same time. These nonfiction essays give a sense of her as a writer who also manages to be multiple things at once. The book starts out with a section of literary essays, which, though interesting, get a little dense with literary theory at times. It's an interesting choice to open the book with these, since it probably results in losing some readers who are expecting the casual essays the title hints at. (Even I skipped or skimmed through a couple of these when my English major hat got a little too tight.)

But just when it seems like the entire book will be filled with highbrow criticisms, you hit the next section of essays and find out that besides being incredibly intelligent, Zadie Smith is also incredibly funny and relatable. Pieces about a trip to Liberia and her writing process sit next to memoirs of her family and an account of her Oscar weekend experiences. Her collected movie reviews are filled with humorous gems. I can't resist sharing what's probably my favorite passage in the entire book, a description of Steve Martin's face in the movie Shopgirl:

"Steve Martin's face. I can't explain it. You have to see it. But whatever he has done to it, he does not look one day younger than he is. He has, however, succeeded in leaving himself only one facial expression: smug. No, that's not fair. He also looks creepy."

Such subtle wordplay in such a biting remark. I could probably go on and on, but then I'd be writing my own essay, not a snappy blog post. I'll just say that this book cemented Zadie Smith as one of my favorite writers.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beet Cupcakes

By popular demand, I forced myself to try making the flourless chocolate beet cupcakes from MingMakesCupcakes. Strictly for research purposes, of course.

The end result gets two thumbs up. They were delicious! The recipe was a little bit involved and it only yielded about ten cupcakes (because they're flourless and don't rise, I had to fill each cupcake to the very top, which meant that the batter didn't go very far), but it was worth it. The hardest part was actually getting the beets to puree. They proved to be tough little guys.

Even though the recipe was involved, I have to say I actually enjoyed going through all the steps. I felt like a real baker, doing things that I normally cut corners on, like using a double boiler and not the microwave to melt the chocolate...

...and tempering the egg whites into the rest of the batter.

For the frosting, I made homemade whipped cream swirled with a few drops of the beet juice for just a touch of pink. The cake itself is actually more like a chocolate torte than a traditional cupcake. It's incredibly rich and chocolaty without being cloyingly sweet. And you would never, ever know that there were beets in it.

I'll definitely be trying out some more of Ming's cupcakes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bike Makeover

A few weeks ago, I got to take my mom's bike out for the inaugural ride of the spring.

It's had a slight makeover since last season, with some additions like this nice new leather seat:

And this big, detachable wicker basket, which you could use to (theoretically) ride to and from shopping at a farmer's market.

It must have been feeling jealous of those Liberty bikes I'd been raving about. I have to say, I think I like this preppy green with a pink stripe just as well.


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