28 May 2009

wedding cookies in progress

weddingcookieinprogress04i’ve been busy giving myself carpal tunnel syndrome for this wedding.

weddingcookieinprogress00 look familiar? a bit shaky, but i have more to decorate so they’ll get better.

weddingcookieinprogress01and that’s just the table. there’s an entire kitchen covered in cookies. approximately 100, to be exact. the bride told me to not go crazy. but, she’s such a good friend, how could I not? I am more than happy to hole myself up in the kitchen for her :)

weddingcookieinprogress02here is some advice:

when you are tired, do not attempt to double a recipe that uses the American measuring system after having used the metric system for a good 10 months.
…because you will write 4 cups of butter instead of 4 sticks, due to the fact that you have no concept of what a stick or cup is after doing everything in grams for so long.

and your cookies will spread. no amount of freezing will keep all that butter from killing your perfect edges.

 

weddingcookieinprogress03But no worries, because then you give those batch of cookies to your mom to take to her work to share, and you start over and fix your mistake. and end up with perfect and beautiful edges. 90 degree angles all around, hooray!

that’s all for now – back to cookie making!

ps: and on an unrelated note, the response to my rings have been amazing. i’ll have a better response to them later, but right now I have to get these cookies done. thank you so so so much for liking them!

25 May 2009

cinnamon babka

babka01my roommate N recently went to New York and asked me what i wanted.  i could always go for something from La Maison du Chocolat, but i didn’t want to make her trek out there. To make it more convenient, i asked her tobring me back something from Dean & Deluca because i knew she’d be going there regardless. And brought me back something she did! She brought me back this loaf of bread.

babka02 which turned out to be a cinnamon babka.  i wasn’t sure what a babka was, but I did enjoy the funny name. regardless of how it looked (long, brown, and very squished), it did smell good…

babka03and then i sliced it. and BAM. i was awed by such beauty. such a perfect and beautiful swirl. taste wise, it did not disappoint. chocolaty, cinnamony, buttery, flaky, and whatever other goodness was baked into it all merged together for perfection. i felt bad that i judged it before I sliced and ate it, because it was definitely a susan boyle moment. i never should’ve doubted dean and deluca. and now, i never will.

babka04and just look at that crust. how could i doubt such a beautiful crust? this cake also vanished in a disturbingly short amount of time, which i will never reveal.

this is my third dean and deluca experience. Oddly enough, it was not New York or Felicity that first introduced me to Dean and Deluca. It was the basement of the Breeze shopping center in Taipei. There, I had some sort of cake with lots of berries at Dean and Deluca. and it was beyond delicious. Beyond. I’d rank it somewhere in my top ten pastry moments in life. However,  I can’t remember anything about the cake itself beyond the berries. Only the feelings of happiness and delight as I ate it because it tasted so, so, good.

and so, when I went to New York a few years later, I of course visited Dean and Deluca with the faint hope that they’d have a slice of that cake for sale. Expectedly, they didn’t. But they did sell strawberry guava juice. And that was beyond amazing as well. a light and refreshing blend of my two favorite fruits, one of which is rare to find in the US.

and of course, this unexpected swirled surprise was my third.

i know i’ll never find that cake again, or know specifically why I liked it so much (it could’ve been a tart too… i honestly do not remember.)

but what matters is that I have the memory of enjoying such a treat. not once, but three times at three different points in life and places.

whether it is through jewelry, pastries, art, language, cooking, reading, talking, making, photographing, or teaching, I hope I can create such happy memories for other people as well. the best would be if I could combine all of those listed into one – which i know is not impossible.

24 May 2009

a crush

spam look, spam! but spam en français!

it doesn’t matter how terrible, ugly, or awful something is. if it is in french, i have a crush on it. it is the loveliest feeling on earth – to be infatuated with something. to be obsessed. to be in love. for me, it’s with a language, and anything associated with that language. (and also bakeries and jewelry and food and all sorts of other things. but i could go on forever about things i like.)

and i think its important, to have these passions and interests that drive your motivation to do things.

so have crushes. on people. on things. on animals. on anything. it gives you a wonderful reason to wake up and do stuff :)

and since i’m on the topic of french – i’m on my 4th french workbook right now, McGraw Hill’s Complete French Grammar by Annie Hemingway. I’m not sure if the book is simple, or if I’m smarter in French now, but it’s super easy! Less things are confusing to me. What used to give me a major headache and tons of re-reading only causes minor annoyances now. And that is a good good feeling. I’m also reading Le Fils du Pendu by Francis Chalifour, a french young adult novel I found at the library. And L'elegance du Herisson by Muriel Barbery. And resuming Don Quixote by Cervantes. And Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin in Chinese. For the first time since junior high, I'm reading seriously for pleasure again. However, the question is if I’ll actually finish them before they’re all due back at the library!

ps: vie de merde, the french version of fml, is my new favorite french learning tool. not only are they hilarious and in french, but most importantly, they're short. i can spend a few seconds or a few hours, but I always end up with lots of new vocabulary and phrases. another good one is postsecret france. They may be short, and not only do you improve your language skills, but you come out touched by the things people share.

22 May 2009

i walked / j’ai marché

capi walked today. and that’s right, I put dried fruit on top! it’s always fun to see how people decorate their caps, and this seemed like the obvious thing to do for my cap.

towerit’s funny. i’ve never taken a photo of the tower, which most people usually do their very fast day here at UT. but i waited until the very last day to take my obligatory tower shot. actually, i’m lying, as i will have one last photo of the tower when it is lit up with 09 tomorrow evening! but let’s see how this image will change years later.

21 May 2009

tim walker

timwalker01Dear UTexas Library: I love you. Always have, always will. I love you even more when I don’t have to spend money but am still able to look at and touch books that I could never afford because you buy them for me. Like this Tim Walker book.

timwalker02And I <3 you even more when your staff orders books related to things I like but didn’t even request. Like this other Tim Walker book.

So to anybody at any major university: Your school has money! Lots of it! That’s what the football games are for, right? They are more than happy to spend it for you, but you have to put in the effort to let them know what you want.

And so, here are some of my favorite images from these two books. It is a tiny sliver of what those books have within their pages. (FYI, the “Pictures” book is a beast. Oversized and huge. A burden to carry, but a pleasure to flip through.)

(In case you don’t know who Mr. Walker is, he’s a fashion photographer known for his dreamy and imaginative shots. You’ll see what I mean later on.)

timwalker03Both of his books opened with this shot of this grasshopper. Although simple, it still has lots of the qualities found in his fashion photos. But what stood out the most to me is the fact that this little guy had his picture made in Austin, TX! And now, many years after this photograph, he is finally back in his hometown nestled on some library shelves.

timwalker04My summer is somewhat in limbo. I’ll talk about it later, but it was reassuring to see this photo. Sometimes all we need is a little reminder.

timwalker05I fell in love with this photo last summer in France. At that time, and at the time of writing that post, I had no idea who Tim Walker was. But then I saw this photo. And I knew. It had to be the same photographer. If it wasn’t, then there was some plagiarizing going on. Regardless, I’m still in love with both images.

timwalker06I love sketchbooks.

timwalker07They give you a rare peek into the artist’s mind. They allow you to fully explore your thoughts without any fear or constraint. And they are just so lovely to flip through years later to see what you were thinking about at the time.

timwalker08Look! He has a page of pastries in his sketchbook.

timwalker09I’m convinced that anything can be made better with the addition of balloons and umbrellas.

timwalker10Very Christo et Jeanne-Claude-esque…  but with his own twist. A giant bow. I love love love bows.

timwalker11 His work often takes the viewer back to childhood imagination and fairytales, and what better motif to use than the swan?

timwalker12 Swan lake is definitely one of my favorite fairy tales!

timwalker13 Just look at that light.

timwalker14I always like the dialogue that is brought out when something that is usually small becomes enlarged or vice-versa.

timwalker15 If I ever actually saw butterflies that large…

timwalker16Ah-hah! The library. My favorite place makes an appearance!

timwalker17i would not mind having this tree in my backyard.

timwalker18it’s all we need. to do, and to receive.

timwalker19dreamy.

timwalker20refer to my comment about balloons earlier. am i right, or what? balloons do amazing things to a photograph!

timwalker21 silhouettes soaked in sunshine. love it.

i’d also like to share a quote I found by him in his book:

“The fairground used to come where I grew up. I’m still inspired by magical, escapist environments. Richard Avedon once told me: ‘Only photograph what you love. Everything else will slot into place’.” –Tim Walker

19 May 2009

cashew blondies

cashew01 Continuing with my “use up as many things in my kitchen cupboard without buying new things because i am moving out and there is no point in stocking up the fridge” mantra, of the basics, I am left with: 1.5 sticks of butter, 9 eggs, no milk, no cream, tons of flour, tons of sugar, and tons of salt. Of the non-basics, I have tons of cashews, almonds, extracts, powders, honey, oatmeal, noodles…

I already used up the milk and cream, and the butter is next. What to make with it? How about…. blondies! With cashews. Lots and lots of cashews. They are my newest addiction, and Costco’s 40oz. jar is a dangerous thing to have in the pantry.

Modified recipe by Dorie Greenspan from Baking: From my home to yours, p. 109.

The blondies in the book actually had about 10 more ingredients, like coconuts, walnuts, chocolate chips, etc. However, in my case, I just wanted a simple blondie with cashews. And that is exactly what I made.

Ingredients (double for a normal batch, i had to halve it due to scarcity of butter):

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder (actually .375 tsp, but that’s too exact for me.)

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick butter

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup cashews

Very simple. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt together in a bowl. In another bowl, cream the butter, then add both sugars. Continue to mix. Add the egg and vanilla extract. Mix. Then slowly add in your dry ingredients until they disappear into the batter. Add in your cashews at the very end with a spatula.

Spread out the mixture in a shallow baking pan with edges.  Bake in a preheated 325F oven for about 40 minutes, until done.

cashew02

that is one seductive piece of cashew sticking out, isn’t it?

So now I'm left with half a stick of butter, 8 eggs, and lots of flour and sugar. I see lots of meringues coming up… But in reality, I think I am going to be lazy and just eat lots of hard boiled eggs.

To tell the truth, it isn’t a big deal as I am only moving 4 blocks away, so nothing will get trashed. But it is fun to see how much I can make without spending any extra money.

18 May 2009

dried fruit rings

fruitrings14Pear.

The dehydrator is my new favorite toy. With it, I began to dry fruits and incorporate them with my work in metal.  And what better way than to combine two things I love: jewelry and food. No more cheerio necklaces, I wanted something better! These rings are completely edible, except for the silver part of course. So if one is ever desperate for a munch… and not just any munch, a very delicious and healthy munch!

The perishable fruit contrasted against the permanent silver ring became my main motif as I experimented with different ways of manipulating such a delicate material. More art talk at the end.

fruitrings01 Plum.

fruitrings02 Granny smith apple.

fruitrings03 Granny smith apple.

fruitrings04 Beet.

fruitrings05 Pear.

fruitrings06 Orange.

fruitrings07 Orange.

fruitrings08 Kiwi.

fruitrings09 Plum.

fruitrings10  Plum.

fruitrings12  Burnt granny smith apple.

fruitrings11Burnt granny smith apple.

What will be fun is to see how these rings hold up over the next few months – I plan on making another set of photos later on to see how they decay. Already the Texas humidity is making them a bit soft, which I don’t mind – the only thing I really fear are maggots. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen!

(And on a related note, you can check out the fresh and dried photo series here. I’m not done with it yet, but it’s my growing collection of photographs of food freshly sliced and freshly dried. it was a way to document the changes fruit go through before all the water is removed.)

 

ART TALK (for those who care, feel free to skip)

-Redefining Jewelry: Does all jewelry need to comprise of precious metal and gems? What is it about silver, gold, diamonds, rubies, etc. that have made them the ultimate representation of jewelry?

-Preservation: I realize drying the fruits are a form of preservation, but I did want the rings to last beyond two days. Often I’m annoyed on the archival process in art – acid-free paper, archival pigments, fiber paper in photo which lasts 50 yrs versus the RC paper which only lasts 10 yrs… I really don’t like the emphasis on saving something forever when you haven’t even made it yet. Also it’s a bit haughty to me when someone considers their work important enough to save forever. For me, it’s just about creating. If it lasts, it lasts. If not, then oh well.

-Memory: How we attach meaning to items and how those meanings fade once the person passes away. Most objects we treasure have sentimental meanings attached, but once we pass, so does all knowledge of why that object is important fades as well.