arts and crafts and chocolate cakes (gf)

I realized recently that I am often compartmentalizing. Friend groups; appropriate topics of conversation therein; the year by season; music by playlist; and, most recently, books by Kindle folder.

(Aside: 800-odd books later, I’ve finally invested in a Kindle. The future is now.)

It’s one of those things that reminds me of the extent of my neurosis. Having a mental grid where things must belong, a metaphoric handbag with thousands of pockets designated for particular things. A cross-section of my brain would probably look like a filing cabinet. Which is a mental image that makes me want to die, a little bit. (So much neurosis.)

Shockingly, I was not always like this. I was quite a carefree child, in fact. Artistic; always sketching in the margins of notebook papers; experimenting with watercolors and charcoals on canvas and sketchpads; molding clay or carving foam; and, eventually, graduating to digital painting with graphic tablets to accompany my shoddy web-designing (I still remember vividly how my 13-year-old face lit up like a Christmas tree when dad gifted me an absolutely gorgeous Wacom tablet). I don’t know when it died down, my love of art. College, I expect. Other obligations got in the way, as they always do.

(The tragedy of growing up.)

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new cities, uncertainties, and flourless cakes

I’m the type of person that prides herself on having her shit together, so to speak. Typically level-headed, rarely emotional, a stoic wall of realism and rationality. So the last few weeks have been a rather unwelcome change in my routine.

It’s as though the world is resting on a different plane; a mirror of reality tilted a few degrees past the point of comfort.

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Turkey was a month ago, but it feels a lifetime away. I haven’t had as much time to dwell on the loss as I feared, though, since my days following arrival back in the States were spent flying from city to city; transporting crates of furniture and boxes of a life haphazardly printed on coffee mugs and pages of unread books; catching up with family and old friends; trying to assemble a picture of the upcoming months from puzzle pieces cut like shards of broken glass. It has been exciting and nerve-wracking and utterly overwhelming.

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lemon-poppyseed mini bundt cakes

Goodness, it’s been a while. I suppose time flies when it’s your last semester of undergrad and you’re caught in the middle of job and internship applications and a thesis with zero motivation to do any of the aforementioned because Netflix has finally added every great cartoon from your early childhood to its instant selection.

Luckily for me and my lack of willpower, I got to take a break from academics, thesis-writing, and job-hunting (not the Netflix, of course, let’s not kid ourselves now) for a few days of non-stop baking.

Though, I suppose I have O to thank for that.

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flourless chocolate torte

Noosh and I have always had an unconventional way of celebrating. Whether it be the end of a busy semester, the completion of a long assignment, the bright festivities of the holiday season, or a long-awaited birthday.

By that, of course, I mean that we hole up in our apartment with absolutely zero intention of leaving the living room, and all of our efforts are spent on ensuring the accessibility to and consumption of good food. As I type, in fact, we’re lying here on the floor, surrounded by throw pillows and knit blankets, a platter of cake and tin of sweetened cream at our fingertips, only a few small bites away from a food coma with The Man in the Iron Mask playing on the telly.

Maybe not the most celebratory of 22nd birthdays, but as far as I can tell, we’re pretty content.

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pumpkin bars with maple cream cheese frosting

It’s a nice time of year. And not even because of the wool coats and bright scarves, coffee mugs and Louis Armstrong blaring merrily in every cafe, and time off from classes for a few days’ respite with family fast-approaching.

Those are all nice too, of course. Sensory manifestations of why I adore autumn and the holiday season. But even more than all that, it’s a nice time of year.

I was at Barnes and Noble yesterday, working on a paper after my excursion downtown, a cup of pomegranate tea in hand as uni-student-occupied-tables covered in Macs and textbooks littered the Starbucks cafe (a common sight).

And behind me I heard a mum and child walk by – a son around 5 years old, 6 at most – talking about Christmas presents for dad and going to the grocery store to buy ingredients for gingerbread cookies and “how about this nice new book for your sister?”

I hadn’t even realized that I had stopped typing, trying my damnedest not to look too overt in my eavesdropping. I caught the eye of the woman sitting next to me – alone, save for the latest copy of the Times and a plate of biscotti – and she gave me a knowing smile. I returned it, heart unexpectedly lightened.

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salted caramel cinnamon cake

After September all but flew by, I was hoping to savor October. Weekdays spent at the Market, weekends out at the orchard, coffee dates and movie nights, windbreakers and sturdy boots, bright buckets of Halloween candy and gourds adorning doorsteps. All the makings of a good autumn month.

And funnily enough, all the above came to pass. I just seem to have missed my chance to savor it.

Now we’re well into November, and I feel like each day slips through my fingers before I even realize I have a hold of it. So when Zach told me he would be out of town on Friday for nationals up in PA – on his birthday no less – I decided I couldn’t let the day go by uncelebrated.

Even if it is still a bit early.

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lemon, blackberry, ginger cake

“…yeah, dad, the car’s been making this awful, sputtering noise for the last few hundred yards. But we made it up to the orchard and into a parking spot, at least. I’m about to call the guy and I guess we’ll have the car towed back to grounds. What a birthday.”

And so then we waited. Hot apple cider in hand, a bag or two of peanut brittle tucked away, and a container of apple cider donuts sitting on the hood of Matt’s poor old car. The poor old car who endured her – debatably – untimely demise on a breezy, October afternoon.

Then again, in retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t the greatest idea we’ve ever had to drive a near-18 year old stick-shift up a mountain.

It was somewhat of a stressful time, to be sure. Particularly for dear old Matt, who I’m quite certain did not plan to spend his 22nd birthday afternoon on the phone with AAA.

But we all persevered. Dignity a bit bruised perhaps, but happy enough full of donuts and each other’s company, and the assurance of a story that wouldn’t look quite as devastating after a few drinks.

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forever-flourless-chocolate-cake for (almost) finally-twenty-one

I’ve always had this bizarre sort of problem where people expect me to be much older than I actually am, and then seem affronted when I inform them otherwise. It’s like it’s somehow my fault that I’m not already 23 or that I haven’t graduated uni yet, as if I’m hanging around here for my own health instead of going to classes because I’ve got 9 credit hours left before they’ll give me a diploma.

I remember one instance in particular, during my senior year of high school, an afternoon after classes spent at one of my favorite cafes in the city with a bowl of Asian-inspired chicken salad and Italian language textbook. I was there on my own – not an unusual occurrence – absentmindedly flipping through verb conjugations while none-too-discreetly following a particularly appealing member of the waitstaff out of the corner of my eye. He was, incidentally, one that I’d had my eye on for a few weeks by then, primarily out of fascination of his mysteriously sandy blond locks and sleeve tattoos carefully hidden under the black, longsleeved button down he was forced to don for work.

(I know of the sleeve tattoos only because I happened to be eating there with a friend when he came in, fresh out of the nearby university gym in Nike shorts and a perfectly tight A-shirt, head bobbing subtly to what I can only imagine was the distasteful rap music social constructs seem to brainwash us to listen to when we’re lifting weights, but nonetheless. It was sexy.)

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battenberg cake

Food and English history. An ironically delightful combination. At least, in my eyes.

I’ve always found English food appealing, despite its historic reputation for…ignominy. But I mean, for a nation responsible for scones, Sunday roasts, and Harry Potter, the cuisine of England has always emanated an aura of warmth and whimsicalness to me. So to finally try my hand at a recipe that combines aforementioned whimsicality with a historical tale that allows me to pretend I live in Buckingham Palace was a joy.

(Perhaps, though, it’s actually my intense desire to somehow become English, but nuances.)

In any case, I’d seen this lovely dessert flutter rather surreptitiously around Tastespotting on occasion, and, having finally finished up with a fracking exhausting spring term, had been dying to try my hand at it. So I called Tommy up, presented him with the idea, and the two of us met in my tiny apartment earlier this afternoon to make it happen.

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pineapple upside-down cake

“A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
-Tenneva Jordan

Mother’s Day is always somewhat of a blur; I mean, spending the 2 weeks leading up to the weekend with nothing but caffeine running through one’s veins and a mountain of books strewn across every flat surface in an attempt to teach oneself a semester’s worth of financial math is enough to leave one feeling exhausted and irritable, let alone in the right state of my mind to remember such an event even happens.

But this year is this last year my grandmother will be spending with us here in the States, so mom wanted to make it special.

And, since she’s my mum and all, I figured the least I could do was help a bit.

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