Monday, February 27, 2012

Sappho on the Edge of the World

Do you ever feel fragmented? Scattered? All over the place? It seems like lately I've been saying things like "I need to get my life in order" a little bit too much. But how many afternoons or evenings can be spent achieving such a lofty goal? Especially given all the distraction that gets in the way, it's hard to focus on this special "me" time. Do you find it's hard too?

This past weekend, I carved some time away to be by myself, alone with my thoughts so I could listen to what they said. What did my thoughts think of me? My dreams? My hopes? My needs? I know it sounds cheesy, but if you make space for thought, particularly "quiet" thought, you'll hear so much. I didn't hear everything, and I'm not completely enlightened (whoever is, please comment and tell me how ;). I'm not ready to share everything, but I will share one special moment. On the beach, in Point Reyes. With nothing but a setting sun and poetry.

If Not, Winter (Fragments of Sappho translated by Anne Carson) had been sitting on my shelf for years and I hadn't picked it up. I knew it would be the perfect reading material for my weekend. Lyric and grounding, Anne Carson was the answer.

These fragments jumped from the page and into the windy beach air.

I read and I listened.

When I listen sometimes I'm reminded of what's important.

The sun sets everyday.

I am so lucky to see it rise again. My solo weekend is still so close and comforting to me, I'm not yet ready to process it on the page. I'm still soaking it in, feeling this feeling a little longer.

Friday, February 24, 2012

If Not Winter

Make it be Spring! Off adventuring...

with this close in hand.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


How is it that I've lived in San Francisco for almost 5 years and only just been to Miette for the first time? Well, it's not entirely true. I had popped into their Ferry Building location once or twice, but I'd never seen the Hayes Valley shop - perhaps what some might call the flagship store?

About a week and a half ago, I stumbled in with my Mom and Heather on our Mother/Daughter weekend. It was approaching Valentines Day and the place felt like one giant heart! Although I have a feeling this place is always this pink.

As it should be. This could seriously have been the most beautiful curated pastry shop I'd ever been to.

With treats that look this good, it's hard to decide whether I should eat them or just stare in awe.

Candy coming out of every nook and cranny!

Bowls of pink! When I was younger, my childhood room was pink. Everywhere. Pink walls, pink curtains, pink bedding. I want to say the carpet was pink, but I imagine my parents had to draw the line somewhere. At Miette the other day, we were all kids in a candy shop.

So beautiful and delightful. I have a sweet tooth for Miette!!!

What's your favorite sweet treat??

Monday, February 20, 2012

Carrot Cupcake Swirls

Three-day weekends are my favorite. With one extra day of blissful vacation, I feel even more motivated to wipe my schedule free of plans, thus creating a vast landscape of openness. Clearly, I've thought long and hard about this. When I heard that Omnivore Books was having another baking contest I grappled with my decision to participate. Saturday of Presidents Day Weekend: laze around or get straight to work in the kitchen? The latter, then the former, the latter, then the former. Remembering last year's fun, I went with the latter.

This year, instead of a cake contest, they hosted a cupcake contest. Everything I did, I did in a hurry, which called for Martha. Stewart (not Washington, although I'm sure everyone's minds went to our very first First Lady as it is President's Day). Martha Stewart is the ultimate go-to in times of rush and urgency. Now, where to find the culinary inspiration? A few weekends ago, when I was in Madison, Rachel's friends baked a delicious carrot cake that that we enjoyed over a game of Banana Grams. Carrot or banana, carrot or banana? In the end, I went with the Carrot. Cupcakes.

The recipe was super easy and it was my very first time truly decorating a cupcake! (if you want to know how to make, scroll down to the bottom).

Once the cupcakes were out of the oven, cooled, frosted and sprinkled with coconut, I didn't feel satisfied. Something was missing because they looked plain and not very Martha. Was it my messy frosting skills? Was it something Martha excluded from the recipe? Perhaps it was color? I decided these cupcakes needed some flair. Kind of a Downton bling?

There were a few leftover carrot shavings so I experimented with those. I rolled one into a tight swirl and pressed it into the top of my cupcake. The carrot swirl looked like a flower and the end had a kind of lacy, delicate je ne sais quoi as it extended out. In my mind, it was the perfect final touch - and might get me 1st place in the contest! I figured that Martha would be proud with my savvy decor-while-running-out-the-door.

After my success in the kitchen, it would take my success in the bookstore to determine how good these cupcakes really were. To be honest, though, I wasn't really in it to win it. If I had been, I would have sent out an invite weeks ago, inviting everyone I knew (the public votes, you see).

Even with the last minute notice, I did manage to bring in some sweet supporters, like my friend Mariana (pictured above). Anyway, win or no win, I was proud.

And, you guessed it, there was no win. But I'm happy I decided to "enter" the weekend with some sweet treats and the continuation of an ongoing tradition of participating in local baking contests that I don't stand the chance of winning. Interested in the winning cupcake? Captain Crunch cupcakes.

Anyway, my carrot swirls were a hit in my mind! Here's the recipe from Martha (with a few small asterisk indicated additions from the kitchen of Poem, Sweet Poem):

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil
• 2 tablespoons orange juice
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
• 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots ***(plus extra for swirls)***
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/4 cup shredded coconut, plus more for garnish
• 8 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
• 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners. In a bowl, combine sugar, vegetable oil, orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and eggs.
2. Stir in baking powder, baking soda, allspice, and salt. Add flour; mix. Stir in carrots, walnuts, and coconut.
3. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
4. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
5. Frost cupcakes, and garnish with shredded coconut***and carrot swirls***.

Happy Baking!!! and to all the Martha's (Stewart and Washington), thank you!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Friendship "Sister" Bracelets

At the tail end of our Mother Daughter weekend, Heather and I made friendship bracelets. We didn't get too far along because we had dinner and a nutty finale of Downton to watch, but we dipped our toes in the process for as long as we could. It was raining outside which made staying inside with a project very cozy indeed.

Once I got the hang of it, I was immediately transported to little girlhood, when I made these at recess or on play-dates with friends. The hand motion took me right back.

Heather printed out the instructions and the very first step (numbering your strings as 1, 2, 3, and 4) reminded me of the amazing Feist song of the same name:

Not sure which colors are bolder: the ones on my couch or in the Feist video. Listen to the song here if you want a soundtrack while you read.

With dinner at Wo Hing General Store in our future, I had food on my mind. I told Heather that her bracelet "looked" like Joan's on Third.

And that mine "looked" like Outerlands.

Race to the finish.

Or, not really. We sisters are a lot of things, but competitive is not one of them.

It was fun getting crafty with Heather last Sunday night. By the time we were ready to move onto a new pattern, is was time for dinner (or we got distracted by episodes of Modern Family, I can't remember). We really only scratched the surface. Luckily, Heather left me with many colors of "floss" so I have a long Spring of friendship bracelets in my future.

Thanks, Heathie, for bringing this fun activity into our trip!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

12 Hours at Hurley

I'm always looking for ways to switch up my routine during the work week. It's embarrassing to admit but sometimes all it takes is deciding to go to an 8 pm yoga class (as opposed to staying home and watching hours of Dexter) or deciding against going to a 6:15 spin class (and baking banana crunch muffins instead). Going to a poetry reading on a Wednesday at 9 (instead of watching Modern Family) or taking an impromptu trip to Tartine for breakfast (as opposed to the usual, frantic grab and go from my fridge).

Last week, I did something even more radical than deciding whether or not to go to an exercise class (I know you're all on the edge of your seats here). I left work and headed up to Sacramento for the night, to stay with my friend Sarah. She lives and works on a farm up there. Remember Soil Born?

As I drove up the highway, listening to the new Lana Del Rey album (p.s. love or hate?) I was loving the freedom of the open road. Mostly, I was relieved not to be heading home as I normally do on a Wednesday night after work. Don't get me wrong: life in San Francisco is not blah or boring, but we all fall prey to our habits and routines. What better way to switch it up than to venture out of the city and into the state.

I arrived at Hurley Farm just after sunset and was greeted by these chirping friends:

As with every new pet, we spent a lot of time playing with them and watching them play with each other. And yes they are as soft as they look.

As I gabbed on and on about my life (it had been a while since we'd seen one another), Sarah prepared a farm fresh dinner for us. I admired her confidence in the kitchen (they've just moved into this new space only recently). She seemed right at home. Dinner was delightful and then we were all off to bed because it had been a long day for all of us and it was, in feeling rather than fact, a "school night."

After a restful night's sleep, I woke up to the sound of chirping birds and cracking eggs. Sarah mentioned the yokes were a beautiful orange, verging on red. Who needs the Food Network in HD when you have Hurley Farm 80 miles NE?

I went for a quick stroll around the farm to catch the sunrise. I needed to soak it all in. Sarah let me drink my coffee out of her special "farm" mug.

Morning moons are my new favorite thing. They're on their way out just as we're waking up.

More morning friends calling us to wake up.

Early morning skies change so fast. Going in and out of the day is such a special time. We can watch the beauty of change (a good reminder that not ALL transitions are bad).

Farm fresh breakfast before hitting the road!

Sarah sent me home with tomato sauce and apple sauce that she canned last year. She also gave me the most delicious oranges and grapefruits. I wish I could savor all the fruit, but it's too good not to eat. When I peel the oranges, they spray that mist into the air. The room is suddenly filled with a citrus scent and I'm reminded of Sarah's farm and the warmth that she creates with her hospitality.

As I drove back to the city, the morning soon became day and a blue sky surrounded me in my car. Back to Lana Del Rey, back to the Bay. Back to the routine but thankfully now I have new ways to jazz it up (that don't include an exercise class). Oh, I can think of another thing I like to do to spice up my life. Sometimes I'll go watch the Sunset on Ocean Beach. Maybe next time, I'll head north and watch it on the farm. Thank you Sarah for giving me this gift!

Tell me, what do you do to switch up your routine?

p.s. Happy Valentines Day!!! <3

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mad(ison) Love in the Midwest

There's a chance I almost never met Rachel. Yes, it's true. I almost spent my college years in the Midwest, pursuing film studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Although I was film buff as a kid, the thought of attending Madison came as a surprise. As a high school senior I felt it was my destiny to go to a small liberal arts school on the east coast. However, no curve ball comes as fast or as unexpectedly as the ones we throw ourselves.

During that complicated and stressful time, I got it in my head that I might want to go to a big school, a Big Ten school to be exact (Go, Badgers!). Wisconsin had a good film program and in those days, since I wanted to be a movie director (my, how times have changed), it seemed like the best option. Enter the college tour and a capitol city in mind:

After interviewing, applying and getting in, suddenly a California girl was spending her Spring Break in Wisconsin. It was a challenging decision. East coast or Midwest?

In the end, my heart yearned for Maine and I ended up at Bates College, spending four blissful years in an old mill town called Lewiston. That's where I met Rachel, who lived in the room next to mine in Hedge Hall.

A series of fortuitous events led us to living with no more than a ceiling between us for the next four years. We started off next door to each other, then across the hall, then in the same get the picture. You can imagine the withdrawals after graduation day.

I often talk about friends scattered around the country. Since college, Rachel and I haven't lived in the same city for longer than a few months but we keep in touch so well it's as if we're still across the hall from one another. It's amazing how a long-distance friendship can bring two people closer!

Anyway, I hadn't really thought much about my college brush with the Midwest until this past weekend when I was back in Madison. Only this time, instead of wandering around campus with my parents, I was visiting Rachel. She lives there now while getting her PhD and has QUITE the cozy life.

Returning to this gorgeous city, my adult experience differed quite a bit from when I was a nervous young perspective student. First of all, I got to stay in Rachel's cozy apartment and spend time with her all weekend. I loved experiencing her day-to-day routine. I loved getting a glimpse into her life in a new city. She lives in an adorable neighborhood right near a lake. It's kind of my dream to live by a lake, so our daily walks down to (and on) the water, I mean ice, were just what I needed.

Oh, and did I mention she has a puppy named Calli (whose 7th month birthday we celebrated together)?

Between playing in the park...

...and slip, slidin' away on the ice, we were pretty much in winter wonderland heaven.

Surprisingly, it was quite warm for the dead of winter. Our days were spent in 40 degree weather—hot for this time of year. It was warm, but we still had our fair share of wintry moments...

If we weren't going on epic walks on or around the lake...

...over bridges to catch the scenery...

...or lounging dreamily in Rachel's apartment, we were eating and we were doing more eating. Did I mention that Madison has insanely good food?

We drank New Glarus beer.

We had a pizza pie for dinner one night at the Roman Candle Pizzeria.

Of course, a trip to Madison isn't complete without a cheese board. Featured in front is Little Boy Blue, the highlight of the cheese-fest.

While walking off all the food and more food, we passed a lot of cute houses. Standing alone...

...or in rows.

Mostly, though, we just played in the Madison sun. Calli got exercise, and so did we!

We didn't just do pull-ups and lunges on the monkey bars. We went to a Sunday night yoga class while the rest of the world watched the Super Bowl. It was the perfect place to be, to relax, to melt into the (heated) floor—which was lined with white holiday lights.

While in Madison, I had a crazy thought: we could have never met (had I gone to Madison for college or somewhere else entirely). I talked it out with Rachel and we decided on this: if I had gone to Madison for school, I probably would have fallen in love with the city, stayed after graduation, got a job, bought a dog and settled on down. The vision continues:

While playing in the dog park, I would have met another dog owner, Rachel, and learned that she was at the University, studying to get her PhD. There you have it. We decided we would have met no matter what.

After such a magical weekend and after all these years, I'm continually reminded of how happy I am that it was meant to be :)