Monday, May 3, 2010

Magazine Birds

Inspired by amazingly creative Katie at Color Me Katie, I spent an afternoon cutting birds from vibrant magazine pages and filled an empty wall.  I smile every time I see them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Kathmandu Valley

I was so enamored by the quiet Himalayas that last week when I posted pictures, I forgot to include some from our whirlwind tour of the Kathmandu Valley.

Black and Whites

While I was sick, I remembered the times as a kid being home-bound with a fever, lying on the couch and watching more TV in a day than I was allowed to watch in an entire month.  Other perks that came along with being sick were gifts from my dad, including musical cards, silly pens and gadgets from drug companies, and famous NYC black and white cookies.  Admittedly and fortunately, the cookies didn't only show up when illness struck.  They were presented from briefcases, on occasion, just because.  

They are not pinnacles of gourmet baked goods, they do not require special skills or equipment or ingredients to make, they are not complex in flavor; however, they provide that taste memory that brings me back to my childhood when sweets and TV were treasured privileges. 

So, after I was feeling better, I decided to attempt to recreate the black and white cookies of my youth using the recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  The results were good, but the cookies just didn't taste the way I remembered.  In fact, the ones I made tasted more gourmet-y with a cakier cookie and chocolatier icing.  Nevertheless, they were a nice memory trip.

Dirty Water

Well, I think I am finally on the mend after two weeks of being sick!  First it was a cold that just made me feel really run down and then the giardia hit and took over my world.  If you've never had the pleasure of meeting these little parasites, allow me to introduce you.  They lurk in food, water, or soil that's been contaminated by the poo of an infected person or animal.  (Yes, that's right.  In spite of choosing food carefully, treating our water, and washing my hands, I managed to ingest someone else's fecal matter.  Eew!)  Once consumed, they take up residence and reproduce in the small intestine, where they wreak havoc on the digestive system, causing abdominal cramping (among other symptoms I will spare you) with pain that may give childbirth a run for its money.

So, anyway.  I took a single mega dose of an anti-parasitic drug and am now cured.  Yeah! 

I must admit, that during the past few weeks between tense political protests, traveling in Nepal, and then being sick, I just haven't really felt inspired to blog.  I'm hoping after forcing myself a few times, I'll get back into the swing of it.

*Fingers crossed*

Friday, April 23, 2010

I'm Back!

April in Thailand is wet and wild during the annual Songkran (aka Water) Festival that marks the Thai New Year and the beginning of the rainy season.  I am not ashamed to say, I hate this holiday.  I lived through it once and found participants intrusive and aggressive and it was downright annoying to be drenched with water days on end, especially on the way to and from work.  (I sound like Scrooge, I know.)  So, I have vowed to myself to always leave the region during this time of the year.  (Yes, as I discovered three years ago, it's not only a Thai phenomenon; Burma celebrates drenching strangers, too.)

This year, T and I traveled to Nepal where we remained undrenched (except for copious sweating on our trek to and from Namche).  It was awesome.  The hiking was tough, but the views made it all worth it.  I loved being in nature and working hard during the day and then hunkering down with a book or a few games of Uno before an early bedtime.  The mountains breathed new life into me and I had a smile plastered on my face nearly the entire time.  I just couldn't contain my happiness.     
T on one of the many suspension bridges --not for those with fears of heights!
Namche Bazaar.  We made it!
From our hotel window at Snowland.  We moved to the much nicer and friendlier Namche Hotel the next night.
  Thar she blows!  Everest!  (T was pretty disappointed that all we could see was the tip.)
A mani stone with "om mani padme hum" painted in Tibetan on it.  The words are considered sacred, so one must always walk clockwise around these stones, as tradition dictates.
Ah, mountains!  LOVE them.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Birthday Cupcakes

I took on the task of baking cupcakes for a friend's daughter's 3rd birthday.  I opted for plain chocolate cupcakes using a Cook's Illustrated (maybe the smartest, usually-right-on cooking magazine out there) recipe with a surprise ingredient of sour cream (crazy! wild!) to make the cakes lighter and cut the sweetness a bit.  Much needed, since I topped the cupcakes with super-sugary buttercream.  This was my first attempt at buttercream and I don't know if I did something wrong or if I'm just not a fan of buttercream, but it was just ultrasweet, buttery, and otherwise pretty flavorless.  Blech.  I'm much more of a chocolate ganache girl.

All in all, I thought the project turned out well and all who partook in the results seemed happy.  Including the birthday girl.

Perhaps my greatest source of pride: a homemade cupcake transporter

Also, in case you didn't see this article,  or hadn't noticed during your blog travels, taking photos of food is a trend.  (Duh.) Thank you for pointing that out, New York Times.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Going Postal

In 1975, four Postal workers, tasked with canceling stamps, were recorded at the University of Ghana post office where they kept their boredom at bay by turning their rhythmic work into music.  So cool.

Aquatic Insects

Incredible photos of sleeping insects covered in dew.  These bugs look like jeweled broaches.

Tastes like Crap?

Modern Toilet, a restaurant chain in Taiwan and, now, Hong Kong is decorated like a bathroom, complete with porcelain pots to sit on while you eat your meal.  In 2004, it began by serving swirls of ice cream out of toilet-shaped bowls, but they have since expanded their menu to include savory dishes, as well.  I'm not sure if I think this gimmick is clever or kind of gross.  Regardless, I think it's funny that people dig it.
 unless noted, all images via

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I am a Hollow Reed

 I have been absent here for a week somewhat intentionally.  In an ordinary day, I feel I am hit by waves of negativity numerous times.  Why are there so many brash, hostile, bitter, and just plain mean people out there?  I have yet to learn how to brace myself and prevent the bad vibes from penetrating me to the core.  It's exhausting.  In an attempt to learn, I am staring to read some books on meditation and, at Meg's suggestion, I have picked up a couple of Eckhart Tolle's books.  He's received so much press; I'm curious what all the hype's about (and am hoping his words will guide me to a place of clarity and peace).

In the past, I have had long periods of laid-backness and intrinsic happiness.  Recently, in my life of imbalance, I have been recalling those times and trying to determine the pieces of the puzzle that made it possible.  Three things stand out as influential factors: 

*lack of responsibility and ability to live a carefree life (I was traveling or doing work that was mindless and simply a means to pay rent, not a career path)

*surrounding myself with kind people who didn't stress, laughed a lot, and were seemingly on their way to enlightenment or just content living a simple life
*having easy access to nature and living in the mountains

*living far away from my parents and being less in touch with them

This last point deserves some explanation.  I love my parents dearly and often consider them two of my best friends.  I think they did an amazing job in parenting me and making me who I am.  That said, I know I rely far too much on their opinions and allow them to subtly (and subconsciously) impact my choices in a way that makes me wonder whose life I am living.  Even as an adult, I feel an extreme internalized force pushing me to choose what they think is best for me and questioning my role at work, what I do extra-curricularly, and with whom I spend my time.  And when I can't or don't live up to the high standards that have been set, I feel overwhelmed, anxious, and disappointed.

How can you be a grown-up when you're still your parents' child?

It's not clear how much of the pressure is coming from them and how much is actually perceived by me, but I do believe that from the time we are quite young, we are conditioned through role modeling and explicit or implicit messages to live a certain way.  I take life so seriously, feel so much pressure to achieve and succeed, and am so controlling that when something doesn't go as planned, I get bent out of shape and feel as if my head or chest will explode.  I am too tightly wound and need to remember how to relax and enjoy life.  I need to rediscover how to let go, chill out, and release the negativity and the anxiety.

I am hoping that through reading, thinking/introspecting, meditating, and visiting mountains,  I will remember to breath and live with kindness for myself and others.  I will return to the self I recognize and aspire to be.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Yiddish Tuesday: Schmatta

Schmatta (ˈ sh mätə): n. old, tattered clothing; rags

You're not going out wearing that schmatta, are you?

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Like Smoking Chocolate"

I love cafe culture.  I love sitting in a coffee shop and reading, being anonymous amidst the other nobodies, enveloped in the aroma of freshly ground beans and espresso.  

I'm not a picky coffee drinker.  I mean, sure, I can tell Starbucks from Nescafe, but I'm not fussy about my beans or the particulars of the techniques.  (It would be hard to be fussy in Bangkok, as Starbucks is often as fancy as it gets.)  I take mine black with a splash of skim and sometimes a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon.  And, I love the routine of preparing my cup, then snuggling into a corner with the newspaper or a crossword puzzle or a good book (and sometimes with a smuggled-in homemade scone, which is much healthy, more delicious, and cheaper than a Starbucks' version) and pretending I am in a wintery place and it's Sunday.  Ahhh...

So, when I read about the year-old product, Le Whif, which offers "the taste of chocolate without the calories" and "the kick of coffee without the cup", I was kind of horrified.
The mere idea of chocolate or coffee without the full sensory experience leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  But wait.  It gets worse.  The company that produces these lipstick-sized whiffing sticks are working on an "inhalable three-course meal"!  Can you imagine taking a puff of particles to replace a morning coffee, a piece of chocolate, or even a leisurely meal with friends? 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sexy Structure

Jean Nouvel's new residential tower on West 19th Street in NYC is one hell of a sexy building:
The piece in the NY Times called it a "mix of grit and glamour — embodied in a glittering facade that seems to have been wrapped around the curved front of a black brick tower like a tight-fitting sequined dress".    A tight-fitting sequined dress!  I love that description!

Absolute Cringe-Worthy

Bizarre, sure.  But, Ruscious?  Heroine?  Come on, Absolute.  Are you serious?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bloody Tuesday

And they followed through...

Peaceful Balcony


Yiddish Tuesday: Yenta

Yenta (yen′tə): n. A busybody, gossipmonger, usually a woman.  

[Following the 1964 Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, yenta entered Jewish American lexicon and has also become synonymous with matchmaker after the show's well-meaning but meddlesome marriage broker named Yente, a character originally created by writer Jacob Adler in the 1920's.]

Two well-known yentas:

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