Around here.

1. Can't get enough of Trader Joe's flowers. They're a nice substitute for an actual Spring.
2. Waiting for my bus in Harvard Square and enjoying the view.
3. Finally made it to Union Square Donuts!
4. Quilting on a Saturday.
5. The Lowell Memorial Auditorium, waiting for Louis CK last night.


Making good.

There is something about the promise of spring, of warmth that makes the forgotten goals of the new year resurface with a new urgency. Recently I've had so many conversations about getting older, and while I by no means consider 26 to be old, I feel a responsibility toward myself, my body, my mind that I didn't feel at 24, 22, 19.

I'm inspired by these women and these women to live more simply and with more grace and responsibility toward myself. This morning I woke up before the sun and did yoga in the living room before my shower. I couldn't believe how much of a difference that made; I was so much more awake, enough so to make us an egg sandwich for breakfast instead of just a piece of toast. I know it's a long road to consistent healthy decisions, but I love the sense of accomplishment with even baby steps.


Made | Lemon poppyseed donuts.

A new gourmet donut shop opened up in Union Square, and it's put donuts on my brain. The thing is, I'm not a fan of the super crazy donut. If you set a Maple Bacon donut and a Krispy Kreme glazed in front of me, I'd choose the original glazed every time (but don't do it too many times because I'll get a stomach ache). I've heard only good things about the new donut shop (aptly named Union Square Donuts), but I wanted to satisfy my donut craving at home. Enter: Shutterbean. There are all kinds of baked donut recipes at the ready. We had Meg and Tom over on Saturday, and I made the dark chocolate cake donuts and these baked cinnamon sugar donuts (I also put some grapefruit glaze on a couple of these). It was a good day, and I fell in love with the dark chocolate donuts thanks to my favorite cocoa powder. But after they left and the memories of the morning's donuts was fading, Mike kept asking me to make more donuts. I kept laughing off his suggestion until it hit me: lemon poppyseed donuts. I accidentally bought more lemons than we needed last week and a container of poppyseeds had been sitting patiently in our cabinets. So I took Shutterbean's cinnamon sugar recipe and made a few adjustments. 
Poppyseeds instead of nutmeg and cinnamon. That's acceptable right?
A little lemon zest in the buttermilk mixture.
She was a beauty.
I got the big donut pan for $3 at Savers a couple weekends ago, and I've already gotten my money's worth out of it.
Lemon Poppyseed Donuts
Yields 6 regular sized donuts and 12 mini donuts 

For the donuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp poppyseeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

For the glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A couple splashes of milk

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, poppyseeds, and salt. 
2. In a small measuring cup, beat the egg, then add buttermilk, melted butter, vanilla, and lemon zest. 
3. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into a plastic ziploc bag or a pastry bag. Pipe the batter into your sprayed donut pans; they should be about 3/4 full. 
4. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-12 minutes or until the donuts spring back to your touch. Let cool in the pan a couple minutes, then gently pull from the pans. 
5. While the donuts are baking, make your glaze by combining the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and milk. Combine the sugar and juice first, then add milk until you've reached the desired thickness. 
6. Brush the glaze over the donuts while still slightly warm, then let them cool. The glaze will set and harden. Or you can eat them while they're still warm because who doesn't like a warm donut? 

The lemon flavor in the glaze drops a notch after sitting a day, so if you think they're too tart, add more powdered sugar before glazing or just wait a day. Keep these in a sealed container for up to three days, but who are we kidding?

All I needed was a little coffee for dunking and I was ready to go. Are you a dunker? 


Can't get enough of The Equals Record

I found the Equals Record through one of favorite bloggers, Samantha Shorey of ashore. She has quite a way with a camera, an even better way with words, and she's currently getting her master's in Northampton (a place I discovered only in the last two years, but holds such a special place in my memory of my first year with Mike).  She, and so many other great writers, contribute to the Equals Record. Here are some of my favorite articles of late:

With the snowstorm that came right before the first day of Spring, I needed this little reminder about the beauty of the season: Snow Fall(ing) by Samantha Shorey.

I never thought to credit empathy to the books we read, but now I do: On Reading Fiction & Ethics by Carrie Ann Tipton.

Another thought on empathy: Lessons of Loss by Renee Pepmiller.

And a sentiment that I'm sure is familiar to most of us, Making My Time Worthwhile by Cindy Baldwin.

What have you been reading lately?


Step aside banana bread & Spring.

Happy first day of Spring! I was hit by a stomach bug yesterday and spent the whole day on the couch while it snowed outside. Today it's sunny, all of the blankets/pillowcases/towels I used yesterday are in the dryer, and the (once again) delightful smell of coconut is filling up my house. I'm catching up on all of the work I fell behind on yesterday, and I made this coconut bread from Smitten Kitchen on my lunch break. I put chocolate chips in the majority of the batter, but I put some pure batter in my tiny bread pan to see what it tasted like without. It is amazing.

Our seedlings are still doing amazing! Those zucchini leaves are twice the size they were when I took that picture. We planted more tomatoes, cherry this time, and we're reading up on city gardening thanks to the library. How's your spring going so far?


Five things!

Abbie was curious, so here I am. Five things about yours truly:

1. I am a Jane of all trades. If you go into the little office in my apartment, you'll find the tools for all kinds of hobbies. Calligraphy, sewing, knitting, crocheting, painting, drawing, writing...you name it, I've tried it. I am a frequenter of JoAnn Fabrics, Artists & Craftsman Supply, Blick: anywhere that sells supplies. Now I just need to work on mastering one of those trades...
2. I consider myself a shy-ish reserved person, but not as much as I used to be. After joining the Drama Club in high school (thanks to the encouragement of Cyndi), I started to come out of my shell a bit. I haven't acted since then, but those are my favorite memories of high school. Sometimes I get teary eyed at plays because I'm so excited for how much fun the actors are probably having. Which brings us to...
3. I cry. A lot. Movies, commercials, talking about that time I cried about something else: pretty much anything with strong emotion is fair game. It's really the best way for me to express the strongest of my emotions or to release tension. It's usually embarrassing, but it always makes me feel better.
4. I was born in Guam, lived in Saipan for a few years when I was a kid, and have lived all over. For all intents and purposes, I'm from Georgia. I have no accent to speak of, but my facial features sometimes give people pause and wonder where I'm from. My mom's parents had a mix of Chinese, Filipino, Chamorro, so I usually just answer "Pacific Islander," which doesn't really mean anything to anyone but me.
5. Ice cream is my favorite food. I try to tell myself that my love of broccoli and brussels sprouts help even that out, but I'm not fooling anyone. (No, I don't have a favorite flavor, they're all delicious.)

I'd love to hear what Cyndi, Tracy, Heather, Eliza, and TJ have to say! (If you've already done one of these, leave me the link!)


Humble beginnings.

I worked from home this Wednesday, which turned out to be such a beautiful day. I opened all of the curtains and moved our little greenhouses to sit in the sunny back window. I took a peek at the little guys, and was so excited to discover a couple had begun to sprout! I sent a picture to Mike and went back to work. A few hours later, I checked again and they had made even more progress. 

So yesterday I couldn't wait to check on how they were doing after work. We had propped the lid on Wednesday night to improve airflow, and it really helped! The first two pictures are the two different greenhouses on Wednesday and the following two are on Thursday evening! I can't stop using exclamation points! 
I went into this gardening thing with very low expectations. I know they're all pretty far from producing anything, but even this tiny bit of success has me stoked for summer veggies.


Made | Peanut butter pie (for Pi Day!)

Happy Pi Day, y'all! I'm writing to you through my post-work post-Pi Day hangover. I have disappointed all the mothers out there and ruined my dinner. This day always sneaks up on me, made known by an email from a coworker saying, "Pi Day's coming up. Let's all make pie!" There were six pies in all: a chocolate pecan pie, a mushroom truffle tart (yum), lemon meringue, apple with cheddar crust, frozen maple pie, and my frozen peanut butter pie. My favorite was the frozen maple pie; she even brought a maple chocolate sauce!

Frozen Peanut Butter Pie
Serves about 12

2 1/4 cups whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/4 cups peanut butter
1 cup of mini peanut butter cups
6 peanut butter cups cut in half

So this recipe is pretty much a no-brainer. It calls for homemade whipped cream, peanut butter cups (in two sizes), peanut butter, a chocolate crust. The trick to making this pie the best it can be is to use great ingredients.

Let's start with the peanut butter cups. If you have a Trader Joe's near you, go for the dark chocolate peanut butter cups. And the mini peanut butter cups for the filling. You won't regret it, and there will be some cups leftover to snack on while you wait for the pie to set in the freezer.

Then comes the crust. The recipe calls for a store bought chocolate crust. No thanks! Pull out the big guns (i.e., a food processor) and splurge on the Nabisco chocolate wafers. Some recipes say you can use the cookie part of an Oreo, but that sounds like more work, and it'll be a shame to throw away all of the Oreo filling. (Not as much a shame as eating it all, though.) Mix 30 wafers with 4 tablespoons of melted butter in your food processor, then press it into your pie plate. Bake that for about 10 minutes at 350 then let it cool. 
On the stove, combine 1/4 cup of cream, all of your peanut butter (I used a mixture of crunchy and creamy), and 1/4 cup of powdered sugar. Heat for a few minutes until it's all combined. Let that cool to room temperature.
Then make your whipped cream. If you don't have a hand or stand mixer, turn back now. Go to your local bakery and buy a pie. I'm serious. 

If you do have either of those things (or a desire to bulk up the muscles on one arm), proceed by putting the remaining cream (2 cups) and powdered sugar (3/4 cup) into a medium bowl. Whip that sucker up until it forms stiff peaks. 
Getting closer... 
We made it!
Now taste a little bit of that whipped cream. Good, right? Now fold in your peanut butter mixture and make it even better! Fold in your mini peanut butter cups and plop that filling into your cooled pie crust. Then decorate with your big peanut butter cups as you please, being sure to save some for snacking later. 

Freeze your pie for at least three hours before serving. (I know. That's why I told you to save some peanut butter cups.)
The pie was a hit today, but I'd definitely recommend taking it out of the freezer about a half hour before serving. Maybe stick it in the refrigerator an hour before serving. Either way, be careful how much of this you eat, especially at 9:15 in the morning. 

You've been warned.


Workspace Wednesday v.4

Yesterday was overcast and gloomy, so today's sunshine and mild temperatures are that much more appreciated. I finally got some soil for my hyacinth, and she's sitting pretty in her blue ceramic pot. I moved the seedlings to sit in front of the sunny window, there are bird songs outside my office window, and in general, it feels like spring today. My nights have been busy with fabric cutting for my newest quilt endeavors, one for a wedding gift and one for me and Mike. I loved the patterns I was picking for the wedding quilt so much that I got double, so we'll have matching quilts: one in Texas, and one in Massachusetts.


Made | A home for seedlings.

One of the things that got us excited about our current apartment is the backyard that we share with our landlords (who live upstairs). They rarely use the space, and our back porch looks out onto it, so it feels a little bit like it's just ours. In August, when we moved in, we talked about how next summer we'd plant a garden and try to grow all of our own tomatoes. (I also mentioned chickens during that conversation to get Mike ready for when we own a place and I come home with chickens, but I'm still wearing him down.) So when we went to Ocean State Job Lot a couple weekends ago and saw all of their gardening stuff out, we figured we'd stay good on our word. Last weekend we started our very first batch of seedlings.

We used a seedling starter kit, which came with little soil pods that expand when watered. We bought seed packets and used some tomato seeds we saved from our friend's dad's mini farm. In all, we planted cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, cilantro, basil (that little green house off to the side), jalapenos, green onions, and cayenne peppers. This past weekend, we bought even more seeds and soil pods. We figured not all of them will make it (we're optimists over here!), so we want to get as many started as possible to get the odds on our side. We plan to transplant them when spring decides to come (it snowed a couple days after we started the seeds) into these wine boxes from the restaurant where Meg works. They're the perfect size to keep on our back porch so we don't kill the grass, and we'll be able to take them with us when we decide to move.

After the cruise, I was fine with taking a little more winter, and was glad for a snowy excuse last Friday to work from home again. But after a weekend of real sunlight and walking around without a coat on during the day, I'm feeling the spring itch.

Anyone have any tips for new gardeners? Any tips for convincing Mike that we should get chickens someday? If you're looking for tips or inspiration yourself, I love this farming blog.


Books of 2013: January & February

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

To be honest, I don't remember when I technically started and finished this book, but I couldn't not include it in this list because, you guys, it's so good. I actually recommended this book to Meg before I even read it. I had seen it at the library and added it to my mental to-read list (I always forget to update Goodreads). Meg went right out and bought the book, read it, then turned right around and recommended it to me. I borrowed her copy and after a month or so of dilly-dallying (I am prone to basking in the convenience of having a book that doesn't have a library due date [i.e., procrastinating]). When I finally picked it up, I had started and stopped several books that hadn't caught my attention. This was the perfect book to pick up at a moment like that. Flynn writes well; her characters are engaging and complex. Just when you think you have it all figured out, someone surprises you. Just when you think you know how you feel about a character, they go and get all human on you and you don't know anymore.

I loved this book so much, not only for its content and that rare I-can't-stop-reading feeling it gave me, but for its knocking me down a notch in my book snob ladder. This book was marketed to (and praised by) the masses, and I was happy to find myself plopped right down in the middle of them, wanting more. I was sad to see this book end, but I've added Sharp Objects to my mental to-read list. Now I just have to wait for Meg to buy/read/lend it to me.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenedes

I picked this up one day after work at the tiny library branch that's right across the street from us. We used to live about a seven minute walk from the main Cambridge Public Library, which is so beautiful and makes me never want to leave every time I go. So moving down Cambridge Street away from that place was a bit sad. I knew there was a small library super close to our new apartment, but I convinced myself that it was too small and would serve only as a place to get book requests delivered. Then one night, Mike wasn't coming home until later, and the bus let me off right in front of the library, and I thought I'd walk through. I was in another reading rut, and I wanted to see what they had. I was pleasantly surprised by the selection. The new books table was just as well-stocked and intriguing as the one at the main branch. I remembered seeing this book around, and thought I'd see if they had. They did! I read the first couple pages in a comfy chair to make sure I was into it, and that was all it took. I read this book in less than a week, finishing off the last third on my flight to Chicago to see Nabila. I've been recommending this one non-stop as well. Now I want to read his other books, but I'm afraid I'll be disappointed. 

Eugenedes kind of writes Madeleine, the main character, like a woman he used to love, memories colored with resentment. That is not to say she is not complex or sympathetic, but there is a bit of that why-are-all-the-male-characters-in-love-with-her reaction. Maybe that's just me. Either way, this book is one of my favorites.


Self-Help by Lorrie Moore

I read this one on the cruise, sitting by the pool and sipping a mango pina colada. There probably wasn't much that would make me not like this collection of short stories, but I really enjoyed it. Moore has definitely had some unsatisfying relationships with artistic types. That, or she has a great and specific imagination about what it would be like to date a playwright. Each of the stories is written as a how-to, each of the topics general and interesting, the stories themselves achingly specific and heartbreaking. My favorite was "How to Be An Other Woman." I mean, what a great title! 

I've started the third month of the year with a new book, and I hope to have three more under my belt pretty soon. What have you been reading lately?