Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Snow Cake

Last spring I came across the most beautiful cake. It was my dream cake. Simple and unfussy. Adorned with flowers. Plain and sweet. I knew that I had to make one for myself. 

So I did. 

I had to wait a year until the violets were in bloom again, but it was worth it. 

On Sunday morning we woke up to a sprinkling of spring snow, so when I baked this cake later that afternoon I couldn't help thinking that it looked like ice-crusted violets peeking their heads up out of the snow. Hence the name, Spring Snow Cake.

The cake is a lemon yogurt cake. I thought I was trying out a new recipe, but it turns out the yogurt cake in Baking From My Home to Yours is the same as this one, which I've made lots of times. Oh well. It's still good.

I dressed up the cake with a lemon buttercream frosting. Last week one of my co-workers brought in strawberry cupcakes topped with this lemon frosting and she passed along the recipe to me. It's this one, though I halved it for this single layer cake.

I decorated my cake with sugared violets because I have also been waiting a year to make this old-fashioned treat after reading about it here.

I broke out my Liberty tea pot and Woodfield teacups for a celebratory tea party. This time it was a tea party for two. While I like contemplative tea parties of one, I love the coziness of tea for two. 

Sugared Violets

handful of violets
1 egg white
small bowl of sugar
wax paper

Pluck the violets from their stems and gently wash the flowers. Let dry on a clean towel.

Whisk egg white until frothy. 

Paint violets front and back with the egg white. After painting, place each flower in the sugar bowl and toss lightly to coat. Let dry on wax paper overnight.

Use your crunchy flower candy for decorating desserts of all kinds.

* * * * * 

I feel like each year I become more enamored with spring (but don't worry, Fall, you're still my favorite). I love spotting (and picking) new flowers in bloom and seeing fluffy-breasted birds return to the still-bare tree branches. 

What signs of spring are you enjoying? 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

(tea) party of one

green tea waiting on the kettle

i often have tea parties just for myself.

almost as often, i leave a cup of tea to steep in the kitchen only to remember it an hour later.

last week i remembered in time and took photos to share. huzzah.



my south bay shawl served as an impromptu living room picnic blanket.

 drink up

Drinking tea on my living room floor isn't a daily habit, but I do have a cup of tea nearly every day. I think my favorite part is wrapping my hands around a warm mug and feeling the heat rise through my body. It's such a soothing moment.

What's your daily ritual?

* * * * * 

Not pictured: 

Spilling tea into my new rain boots. Bah. How will I ever keep my feet dry if I'm pouring liquid into the boots???

My attempts at taking a photo with both hands in the picture. I only succeeded in snapping photos of the ceiling. (Sorry about dropping the camera, K. If we get a new one I promise to take better care of it.) 

Friday, March 25, 2011

knitting (!) my tea leaves cardigan

Updated to add: I just found out that one of my photos is featured on Your Tea Time today. Hop over there for a visit.

Week's end. Sigh.

I am so glad to have a couple of days of free time (ok, more like a few hours of free time, but I'll take what I can get). I've been watching Downton Abbey recently and in one episode the grandmother of the artistocratic family asks: "What's a weekend?" She can do as she pleases every day, so the end of the week holds no special significance.

But for me (and I'd venture to say most of you, too) weekends are everything. On the way to work this morning I realized how many ways I've already spent those free hours in my mind. I've thought of baking a cake, walking to the farmers' market, eating at my local Indian restaurant, watching more Downton Abbey, and knitting. Will I accomplish all of those things? Maybe not, but it sure is fun to think about.

One thing I will undoubtedly be doing this weekend is knitting. People, I'm obsessed. It's like when I first learned to crochet. I'd wake up every morning *so* excited that it was another day I could crochet. Well, now I want to spend every spare moment knitting. And all the other non-spare moments. I make deals with myself such as, "You can knit one more row and then you have to do your homework." But inevitably after that one row I give in and let myself purl a row, too. And then the next row is knitting, which is so fast that I convince myself I might as well do that row as well. Before I know it an hour has passed in this way of bargaining with myself and no homework has been done, though the cardigan is looking mighty pretty.

There is one thing that compels me to stop knitting (hint: it's not homework). I'll tell you on the condition that you don't laugh too hard about my knitting-nerd ways. My other recent obsession is reading about knitting. Oh gosh, I know, how dorky can I get? Well, the secret is out now so I may as well tell you all about it. I've been reading Knitting Without Tears during the daytime hours and The Knitter's Almanac before bed every night. Elizabeth Zimmermann seems like my own special knitting friend, and she makes me feel less awkward about my nerdiness because she also likes to talk about yarn and needles and stitches all day long. Plus, she's just a good writer. I love that she starts her almanac with a story about why she writes about knitting--her husband had listened to all of the knitting details that he could possibly handle and finally suggested she write a book. I read that part out loud to K because I knew he'd identify with EZ's "Old Man."

Reading EZ's almanac before bed means that knitting has most definitely crept into my dreams. A couple of nights ago I dreamed that I was knitting all night long. It was the best dream I've had since the one where I met Dolly Parton and knew that we were going to be best friends forever (I am letting out all my nerdy secrets today).

* * * * *

Do you have any nerdy secrets you'd like to reveal here?

Come on, make me feel better about my obsessions.

If you're not a nerd (and I don't believe that for one minute, but I'll let it slide), you could just leave a comment about your weekend plans. I'm always looking for ideas of more things to cram into my free hours, though I think we all know that the only thing I'll be doing this weekend is working on my cardigan (and squeezing in a bit of homework so that the university will give me a degree come May).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Appreciating: Him

We've been together eight years today. 

I still can't believe I get to spend every day with my love.

* * * * * 

I'm taking a cue from my friend Fumiko and *appreciating* things that make me love life.

While I often post moments that I love, I want to think about how these moments connect. What threads run through my life that make me happy? 

I plan to continue this Appreciating series to reflect in the wake of the Japanese disaster. Feel free to join me by posting on your own blogs or leave a comment here!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Appreciating: Time Away

I'm taking a cue from my friend Fumiko and *appreciating* things that make me love life.

While I often post moments that I love, I want to think about how these moments connect. What threads run through my life that make me happy? 

I plan to continue this Appreciating series to reflect in the wake of the Japanese disaster. Feel free to join me by posting on your own blogs or leave a comment here!

* * * * *

One thing I absolutely love is taking time away to escape the stresses of everyday life. Last weekend, Korey and I spent several days at a cabin near Natural Bridge and Red River Gorge.

We slept late, emerging from the loft bed only when the sun reached the high window and made us feel like bums for not being out to enjoy it. 

We breakfasted on granola, yogurt, and honey. Black coffee, too.

We realized too late that we do not own hiking gear. We didn't let that bother us. We hiked through mud and up steep trails to see amazing rock formations.

We acted goofy. We ate lots of pizza and drank Ale 8s and red wine.

We sat out on the deck each night after dinner knitting (me) and reading (K) to soak up the sun rays before they disappeared behind the mountains. We listened to bluegrass music on the radio and played cards and board games late into the night. I am a gin rummy fiend!

* * * * * 

Two, four, six, eight (sorry, couldn't help myself),
What do you appreciate?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Messages from Japan

A note on the photos in this post: 

I lived in Yamagata, Japan for a couple of years (2006-2008), which is only an hour drive from Sendai. We'd travel by bus to shop in Sendai because it was the biggest city around. Korey and I loved to go to Matsushima, a town on Japan's east coast near Sendai. We'd walk across the red bridges to visit the shrines on the coastal islands there, stroll on the shore, and eat fresh oysters. I haven't seen any pictures of Matsushima after the tsunami. For now, I want to remember the beautiful, joyful moments I spent there.   

Hello again. I took some time away, but now I'm back. This week has been unbelievable. The photos of Japan have taken my breath away time and time again. I keep looking. I can't stop myself. I look away, then look again. I can't believe the destruction wrought by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear instability. Houses gone, towns disappeared, family lost.

I've struggled to keep any kind of positive outlook, but what has helped me most are emailed conversations with my friends in Japan. My friends are safe and their families are safe. Most surprising to me are their positive attitudes. Yes, they are worried, but they are also so glad to be alive and confident that their country will recover.

From my former supervisor Yoriko:

"All the teachers in kitako [North High School] are ok. It was sudden, big earthquake and all the electricity were gone, but now everything is all right."

From my friend Yu:

"Thank you for your message.
It makes me cheer. We will be OK. Japan has been revived many times since disasters."

From my former student Ayumi: 

"We are ok! There weren't got so big damage in Yamagata. I hope a lot of people who live in the disaster area will be good soon."

From my friend Fumiko:

"And after all it's my country and I can't run away or fly away to another country so I think I just do what I can do to help the victims' life and this situation improve. Anyway for now don't worry too much. have to appreciate we have our life!"

Me, Mika, Hiroka, Mika's mom

This last message is from my friend Mika. I tutored her daughter Hiroka for a year. Mika made me feel like part of the family. I heard from her just after the earthquake before the tsunami hit. Her words really lifted my spirits because I saw how strong she remained for Hiroka (now almost 6). 

Mika describes Hiroka's reaction: 

"Hiroka never mind about earthquake. She dances in dark room!"

* * * * * 

I'll leave you with that image.

A little girl dancing in the dark. 

Such joy and hope even among the darkest destruction.

* * * * * 

If you'd like even more hope, watch this video that my friend Kat made. Kat lives in Yamagata now and put together a video about this past week. The students in the video are amazing!

Friday, March 11, 2011

this moment: a little bit of sweetness


it's finally friday, huh?

this week was tough.

there were lots of moments that i'd like to forget. 

fortunately there were also a few wonderful moments thrown in with the bad.

mmm...sometimes chocolate chip cookies are the best medicine.

* * * 

find more moments over on amanda's blog.

* * *

please keep the japanese earthquake victims in your thoughts. my mind is there today.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

gray day, green sock

yarning along for the first time

On this Wednesday morning I have...

...made a small pot of coffee just for me.

...finished the last paper due before spring break.

...listened to my favorite radio station. 

...knitted a heel all by myself (very magical! how'd this heel get here?). a bit of Room, which is unsettling but consuming.

...gazed out the living room window at the gray rain that keeps falling.

...wished with all my might that the UPS truck would show up with my new rain boots before I leave for work. No dice so far.

* * * 

What have you been doing today?

* * * 

Some yarny things I want to share:

*Check out Jennifer's crocheted hats. Can you believe she just started crocheting a couple of weeks ago?

*Do you know a university student who knits or crochets? Tell them about this scholarship! I wish I had known about it last year.

*Sock knitting class is over. Sweater knitting class starts this week. I am super-pumped! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

weekend snippets: pizza bread

My father-in-law David's specialty at family get-togethers is pizza bread. I was hanging around the kitchen this weekend when he was making it, so I snapped some pictures.

Here's his pizza bread recipe in photos:

Layer ingredients

Cut dough and criss cross



* * * * * 

We had a really delicious trip to Maysville over the weekend. To celebrate the winter birthdays, my mother-in-law Phyllis made a fantastic turtle cake. Knowing that I had a leftover piece of that cake in the fridge got me through a tiring Monday. Find the recipe here. Phyllis highly recommends the website it comes from, Just a Pinch.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

weekend snippets + menu: city and country edition

Pink Palace on St. James Court

So it's Tuesday and I'm still basking in the glow of my incredibly full weekend. I wish the events had been spread over many weekends so I could have spent more time enjoying each experience instead of rushing around and exhausting myself. Oh well, happy exhaustion isn't too bad, is it?

We had friends from out of town staying with us, so we got to show them around and play tourists in our own town. We strolled around Old Louisville to take in the Victorian architecture and the local color (haha--I'm talking about you, Pink Palace!). 

Then we drove downtown where our new German friend made himself right at home with the World's Largest Baseball Bat. We also spotted the 21c's bejeweled limo. 

Hood and bumper

(A sidenote: I am dying to stay at the 21c. I don't usually go in for fancy-schmancy hotels or restaurants, but I'll totally make an exception for the 21c. I think a free night in exchange for a glowing review on this little craft blog is completely fair. 21c people, contact me!).

I squeezed in some knitting time in my spare moments. This thick green sock is the one I'm knitting for class. The worsted weight yarn and chunky needles make it easier and quicker than the sock weight version I've been working on. Knitting class has been so much fun! So far I've had two sock classes--in the first we learned to cast on and knit the leg and in the second we learned how to make the heel. In the final class we'll do the toe and finish the sock! That's right, after three classes I will have precisely one sock. 

Maple tea

As if all the running around town weren't enough, Mom, Julie, K, and I headed to the Sugarbush Festival to gorge ourselves on local maple syrup. After stuffing ourselves with syrup-drenched waffles and maple tea, we decided to partake in the woodsy activities. Julie threw tomahawks and we both took up a saw to cut our own slice of wood. We are such city girls. The festival continues next weekend, so if you're in the Southern Indiana area, check it out.

What moments are you savoring from this weekend?

* * * * * 

Weekly Menu

Sunday: Veggie burgers, mashed potatoes, salad

Monday/Tuesday: Tomato and Mushroom Soup with lime, quesadillas

Wednesday: U of L game night/excuse to eat nachos for dinner

Thursday/Friday: Vegetable Lo Mein


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