Saturday, December 25, 2010


Hope yours was merry and bright.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


The following is a draft from a series of 500-word essays I am writing for my Design Writing Criticism course. If you have any critical feedback, please comment below or e-mail me. I would love to hear your suggestions or edits:

Last week I spent £12 on soy lattes. I may have a problem.

My excessive consumption wasn’t for lack of caffeine. A full container of instant coffee sits between teas of various strengths in my kitchen cupboard. The milk has not gone off. I’ve not run out of sugar. I own four coffee mugs.

Snuggled into my usual drafty corner of Café 67*, the buzz doesn’t matter. What I crave is everything that surrounds my soy flat white. Despite the isolation of laptops, headphones and newspapers, the patrons of Café 67 find silent companionship in our cozy neighborhood of brass-topped tables. Across the way an American accent competes with the soundtracked, ooh-ing magic of Darlene Love’s Winter Wonderland. With every drink ordered, the espresso machine screams in frenetic delight. I could go many days without caffeine. But days without the jovial, excited bliss of a room like this?

I blame it on college. In downtown Columbia, Missouri the most difficult exam-related question I encountered was where to study. The library was distractingly quiet. My house was just plain distracting. But at the intersection of 9th and Cherry a trifecta of coffee shops beckoned me with affordable lattes and decent music. I’d grown tired of smelling Lakota’s burnt coffee beans from my second story apartment. I dreaded the packs of Ugg-booted sorority sisters who “studied” at the Artisan. But the red Delonghi that glistened in the window of Kaldi’s drew me close. I walked in and never looked back.

I attended cuppings. I wrote about fern-shapped latte art in the city’s magazine. I became such a regular that formally ordering my drink was necessary only when I felt like talking to Dylan, the cute barista with the bird tattoo. Still, life at Kaldi’s wasn’t perfect. For its college-town location, there was a serious shortage of power outlets. The plush couches encouraged large amounts of inappropriate snuggling amongst college-aged, sexually-frustrated members of Christian youth groups. But encounters with abstaining co-eds were worth it for more reasons than a dry cappuccino: Kaldi’s was a hub for snippets of conversation and my own knowledge-harvesting in an nonacademic environment. The café sparked my love and addiction to the culture of coffee.

All good things must come to an end. I had to leave Columbia. The owner and I commiserated over chocolate-covered espresso beans. Everything will be fine, he assured me. “There will be others.”

When I moved to Kansas City, I rebounded. For proximity’s sake, I could walk down the hill to the townie cafe. Or, I could drive to the Roasterie for a Mac-using, frequent-smoke-break-taking, Facebook-checking Hipster fix. Every shop had something, but no shop had it all.

When I moved to London, I worried I’d be forced into a life of Twinings. Unable to quell my appetite for froth and free wifi, I embarked on a search for café culture in a supposedly tea-drinking country. There had to be a decent spot in my neighborhood. That’s when I walked into Café 67. I ordered my first drink — soy latte. Delicious. I felt guilty for admitting it was better than Kaldi’s. I stopped by again. And again. Two weeks later, the owner knew my order. Two months later, I am in my usual corner. Café 67 possesses the familiarity of far away but the sparkle of something new. My doctor would be shocked at my caffeine intake. But despite frequent bathroom breaks and late-afternoon shakes, I am happy here.

*Café 67 is actually called Number 67, but for the sake of clarity, I changed the name.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

8:48 a.m.

Many of my friends are not red meat-eaters, and I've posted my fair share of carnivorous dishes, but can we all take a moment to appreciate the incredible mashed potato crust that topped the cottage pie T made last night? A sight to behold.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

9:36 p.m.

An image of yesterday's batch. After the first attempt, I had to make more, this time with bigger, juicier apple bits and more topping. Mmmm.

This afternoon I took a deep breath and partook in a bit of culinary chemistry. I decided to pursue a recipe that had been on my mind for days and faced my biggest baking fear: conversions.

With the cold weather, temptation of comfort food, and an oh-so-deluxe food processor as an early Christmas present, I couldn't resist an attempt at tasting what might happen when flour, butter and sugar combine.

For me baking is the ultimate challenge. Even a recipe as simple as the one on the back of Tollhouse chocolate chips is loaded with obstacles. Baking powder instead of baking soda? Was that 3 cups of flour or 4? There is an obnoxious exactitude to baking; one that I never encounter when making dinner (usually because I steer clear from anything savory-pastry-related). If you pour too much wine in the pot, the stew will eventually soak it up. My fear of the oven, however, is absolute. And despite my bizarre affinity for my high school anatomy class, I've never been a science girl. This avoidance of chemistry, paired with the British Imperial system of measurement, makes baking all-the-more intimidating. Yet tonight, I couldn't get the idea of nutmeg out of my mind.

Enter eatmakeread's recipe for Spice Apple Muffins, and this afternoon turned into a proper gladiator-style challenge of Cups versus Grams.

Things started out okay. I bought the right ingredients. Butter melted. Apples roasted. T helped with the conversions. I precisely weighed dry ingredients on the plastic scale. I factored the meniscus into my liquid measurements. Soon the smell in the kitchen actually qualified as fragrant. Things looked like they might taste delicious, at least until I reached for what I thought to be the ground cinnamon, and instead dumped a teaspoon or two of ground cumin into the mixing bowl. Guh.

So as dinner's soup simmered on the stove, I began again on dessert. This time my measurements were hastier. I quickly weighed flour on the scale and swapped teaspoons for pinches. I might have even thrown in some dashes. Yeah, I'd say the second time around was more fun. More fly-by-the-seat. And when the muffins, topped with a crumbly coat of cinnamon and sugar, went into the oven, my once dismal hopes were elevated to realistic. Patiently I endured an invisible chemistry class, with the hope that my concoction might, might be tasty.

My thoughts raced back to several weeks prior, when after plugging through hours of an uninspired writing session, I surrendered to my own literary ineptitude and made cookies. The batter looked — and tasted — delicious. I had splurged on Green & Black's chocolate. If I couldn't write, I thought, maybe I could make a living feeding people. Visions of opening a bakery/cafe formed loose and fast. By the time the mix was ready, I was 10 years ahead of myself. In a daydreamy, batter-induced stupor, I doodled apron designs until it was time to check the oven. I was abhorred to discover that the beautifully shaped doughballs had melted into one ugly, flat, brown crisp that hardly resembled anything you'd dip in milk. Santa would have turned these cookies down.

Tonight, with the memory of failure still fresh in my nose, I worried. Despite quick checks on the oven confirming that the batter was indeed rising, I refused to trust any sensorial organ except taste. Butterflies abound, my stomach prepared itself for an impending failure. But I was wrong. The muffins were delicious. Somehow the ingredients — the nutmeg, crispy butter, brown sugar and apples — mixed exactly how they should, and I was rewarded with spiced apple muffins that served as more than tonight's dessert...or tomorrow's breakfast. They became a dozen small symbols signifying that I not only stand a chance at converting cups to weights, but also that I'm adjusting to life here. The days may darken at 4, and the oven temperature might be impossibly read in Celsius, but I now know that 1 cup of flour equals 125 grams, one egg is equal to one egg, and butter tastes good no matter where you are.

11:52 a.m.

Sunnyside Up

Saturday, December 4, 2010

8:32 p.m.

They noticed on their walk home this afternoon that yesterday's snow had already melted. And instead of the flurries that had gracefully settled on their eyelashes, raindrops now pelted their exposed noses. He swung the plastic bagful of groceries. She held his gloved hand in hers. It had been a good day. A wake-up-at-noon day. They would make a dinner. They would share a bottle of wine. They'd light the candles in the nonworking fireplace and listen to Christmas music. The house would never be warm enough. Their feet would stay cold all night. But their cheeks would be radiant, and they'd be happy nonetheless.

Friday, December 3, 2010

1:03 p.m.

I have been neglecting this blog, lazily uploading photos instead of spending anytime writing anything good. I will get back into it, I promise.

But for now, enjoy this December day, wherever you are, and peruse the blog of my friend Kiernan who has been making beautiful posts about the 4-month-long roadtrip he took across the United States. He also contributed a story to Mastering the Art of Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


The following is a draft from a series of 500-word essays I am writing for my Design Writing Criticism course. If you have any critical feedback, please comment below or e-mail me. I would love to hear your suggestions or edits:

Standing at the intersection of St. Martin’s Lane and Cecil Court, I steal glances inside a shop where tightly bunned heads, framed by amber-lit windows, gracefully bob up and down. Slender arms lengthen into arabesques. The lithe limbs belong to ballet dancers of all ages — nine-year-old girls in pink tights who’ve not yet lost their babyfat; and women in their 20s who roll onto their toes with the ease of a prima ballerina — and they’ve come to Freed of London to buy pointe shoes.

I duck inside, attempting to nimbly weave between agile bodies, maneuvering past Christmas-themed displays of black leotards and heeled character shoes. But no one notices the displays or me. They are looking at their feet.

Freed of London has handmade pointe shoes since 1929, and in 81 years, the methods have barely changed. Each shoe is constructed, uniquely, from the inside out. Each pair is made by one of 34 shoemakers. And each year, Freed of London sells more than 250,000 pointe shoes — more than any other manufacturer in the world. As official shoe providers to companies such as the American Ballet Theater and down the road at the Royal Ballet, Freed of London has a close relationship with the professional dancing world. But they aren’t only for the pros. If the shoe fits, any girl can own a pair.

Back inside the shop, all of these dancers want the shoes to fit. A clerk thumbs the wood block that surrounds a dancer’s foot. “Are you sure? You seem to be sliding down when you roll en pointe,” she says.

“No, no,” the dancer insists, furrowing a brow pulled taut by her slicked-back hair. “These definitely fit. They’ve got to.”

Because of the one-off shoemaking process and the who’s who-type list of dancers who wear them, Freeds are synonymous with beauty, and dancing in them is foreshadowing for the rest of your ballet career: If you can fit into Freeds, you have an ideal foot. Slide them on, and from the knee down you stand a chance at looking like Sarah Lamb in the Royal Ballet’s Giselle.

Still, it’s not just about pretty feet; pointe shoes are tools of a rigorous trade. At the height of ballet season, a principal dancer averages one pair per performance. So if a ballerina is lucky enough to find the perfect pointe shoes, they must be replaceable. All of Freed’s shoemakers bake a mark into the sole of every shoe, allowing dancers to identify what they need simply by looking.

When a ballerina leaps on stage, an unspoken partnership blossoms at her feet. The makers of Freeds — some of whom have made their mark for 40 years —are dedicated craftspeople that represent the role design plays in the performing arts. Theirs is a supporting part that exists in the basements of shops like the one on St. Martin’s Lane, where timeless methods are used to make the pink satin icon most girls dream about and few are lucky enough to roll up into.