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Spring Break in New York

2 Apr

So it’s been a while, and the reason is that I went home for spring break and brought only my iPad, which I still can’t use as well as a computer.  I have a couple of new recipes to post in the coming days, and more to follow soon after, but for now, here’s what I’ve been up to outside of my kitchen.


Catching the train to get to the airport.


First stop: Chelsea.  I had lunch last week with a really good friend who’s going to Japan for a long time, and one of her friends, a guy we went to high school with, came by as well.  Turns out he’s also studying Chinese and we’ll be in China at the same time for  few weeks next January.  So naturally we made plans to hang out over break, and went into Manhattan to see art galleries and go to Chinatown.  And Tribeca, and Central Park…  anyway.


The architecture in Chelsea is so excellent.


Now, Chinatown.  I love Chinatown.  In Chicago and New York, but really Chicago doesn’t compare once you’ve spent any time in New York’s Chinatown.  We spent so much time here.  First, lunch at a dim sum place, then walking around.

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I love graffiti.  Also, since David can read Chinese, he tried to decipher all the signs with varying degrees of success.



We stopped in a park, listened to some musicians…



Went to a bakery, and walked up through Tribeca all the way back to Houston.

Having no other ideas for what to do, we got gelato in Central Park.



And found a guerilla haiku.




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And then we headed out.



As you can see, this is all from one day, so I’m debating posting the other photos I have since it’s such a pain.  We’ll see!


Chinatown, Chicago

18 Feb

It’s been a while since I’ve done a plain old photography post, and I have some neat pictures from today, so here goes.

I went with my dearest bros down to Chinatown today to see the New Year’s parade and get dim sum.

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We got there after the parade started, and it was totally mobbed so we missed a good chunk of the beginning, and probably some of the best floats…



But there was still a lot of good stuff to be seen.  Including a bunch of adorable kids from the local schools:



I saw a lion dance for the first time at my school’s Chinese New Year gala, and I was really happy to see more.  I love pretty much any kind of dancing…



Of course, after the parade, everything was absolutely hectic.  We managed to snag some cotton candy before we fought to get a dim sum table at one of the massively over-crowded restaurants.



We did finally get into a restaurant, not dim sum sadly, called Lao Shanghai.  I had heard good things about the Lao restaurants, so I figured it was a good bet.

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And ohhh, it was.  The wait was tremendous, first to get seated and then to get food, but goddamn, it was worth it.

Although… there was a group ahead of us.  And by group, of course I mean two parents with a small horde of babies.  Who got the big dim sum table with the rotating center.  For two adults.  When there were six of us.

Can you feel my anger through your screen?  Because we were all mad as hell, let me tell you.  I hope someone stole their damn stroller while they were eating.


Anyway.  Up above there are pork shao mai and Shanghai dumplings, which were insane.  The pork we perfectly marinated and incredibly juicy, with really good seasoning.



We didn’t know what these were–Shanghai Man Tou–so we ordered some.  Turns out they’re just dough…  So that was a little disappointing, but we were glad for having tried them.  And dipped in the bitter sauce that was on our table, they were pretty good anyway.

My favorite by far were the xiao long bao, which are soup dumplings.  I didn’t get a picture because I think my roommate would have stabbed me if I had delayed her eating any longer.  I had been wanting to try xiao long bao for a while, and I am still thinking about them even though I’m not remotely hungry.

I was reading about dim sum last night instead of doing anything productive, and apparently there is a story surrounding the origin of bao.  There was a military strategist in ancient China who was trying to cross his troops across a really tumultuous river that they had little chance of fording because the river spirits were mad as hell about whatever spirits get mad about.  The spirits told the strategist that if he brought them 49 human heads, they would let the troops past.

Of course, the strategist was like, “To hell with you, I’m not sacrificing my men to you assholes”, so that night he and his men cooked a ton of meat and wrapped it up in dough so that they were shaped like human heads.  They gave these to the river spirits who said, “This looks legit.  You can cross, I guess.”

Ecce, bao.



We went to a Chinese bakery next, in search of anything containing red bean paste.  We hit on Chiu Quon Bakery, which has a ton of amazingly delicious food, almost all for less than a dollar.  Needless to say, we ate… quite a lot.



My friend Katie, very happy with her red bean bun, not as happy with her pink eye.



I got an almond cookie (and then a whole sleeve of them to go, which I ate way too many of not long ago),



a giant puff of angel food,



and a red bean moon cake!  Which was so, so good.  Ah, I am going back to that place very often, I can tell you.  I know China isn’t nearly as big on dessert (or not the same kind of dessert) as America is, but I love what they have.



One of the highlights of the evening was sitting in the back of the bakery where a Cantonese channel was on TV, and seeing everyone’s reactions to a Chinese music video that was playing.



No one was impressed, evidently.



Finally, we ended up in a gift shop because Katie wanted to look at something.  Among the inventory were: a pen/magnet shaped like a croissant, face masks with boy bands on the wrappers, photocopies of sticker sheets, gorgeous cutlery that we admired with too much enthusiasm, and a comb my roommate bought that operates like a switchblade.  She’s wanted one for ages, so it was a very exciting discovery.



All in all, we had a good time not doing anything related to school or sitting around and staring at the walls, which is probably what would have happened otherwise.  We’ve resolved to go back for dim sum during the week when some places are 20% off and also not packed to the rafters.

I’ve got a couple of recipes floating around that I’ll write up soon, but until then… I return to my research project and endless essays on religion and weapons of mass destruction.


Home Away From Home – At the Art Institute

1 Oct

Since I got a membership to the AIC, I have essentially moved in.  I get in for free now, so there’s every reason to go as often as possible.  I love almost everything in there, too — I mentioned the Frank Lloyd Wright Japanese art collection in my last post, and I want to call it to your attention again because it’s so understated and beautiful.

The Japanese/Chinese art gallery is always very quiet and smells strongly of ultra clean carpet.  The air is sharp and dry.  As soon as you turn into the gallery, you are shrouded in reverence, pressed into quiet contemplation of the art.  This is not a gallery where you can carry on a conversation.  It’s as much about admiring the art outwardly as using the collection as a mirror to look inward.

Does that sound trite, or cheesy?  It’s hard to describe the gallery.  It’s such a peculiar place, like you’re stepping out of time.

But the rest of the museum is equally amazing.  The staircases, for example.


They aren’t even part of any collection, but they’re so beautiful.


Architecture is my favorite sub-field in art.  I’m doing research right now on sustainable architecture in China, which is really just an excuse to cram two of my favorite subjects together.


Check that out, okay.  Those angles.  That lighting.  Oh my God I lose my shit over geometric design, okay?  I admit it.  I just love the mathematical precision of architecture.  It comforts me like nothing else can.


In the Modern Wing, heading up to the European art where there is located a Mondrian.  I could stare at Mondrian for hours.  It’s the same situation as architecture – clean lines, perfect angles, and geometry bring such peace of mind.  That’s also why I love Frank Lloyd Wright so much, and minimalist mid-century architecture more than Gothic, or Sullivan-esque stuff.


The window to the new Studio Gang Architects exhibit.  I went to the member preview and spent… two hours?  I think that’s about right.  That exhibit actually gave me the idea to research sustainable architecture, because I had been doing Colony Collapse Disorder in honeybees before. But SGA’s buildings are all inspired by nature, and act as extensions to the natural habitat where they’re built.  For example, their plan for Chicago’s Northerly Island hinges on a hexagonal design like the comb bees make.  I think it’s obvious why I love them.  I wish I could tell you all about SGA, but it would take pages, and pages, and pages, and more time than you probably have,


I like to think of this guy as a guard to the Modern Wing.


Portrait of a Pencil I Saw Next to Some Guy’s Elbow


I’m not going to lie, most of the reason I love this sculpture is the fact that he looks like he’s got a mustache.


For some reason I find the idea of a marble mustache hilarious.


Sitting outside the New York photography exhibit.  I don’t go down here very often because it makes me miss New York too much.


And thus concludes the tour of my second (third?) home.  Back to our regularly scheduled baking posts.

Fried Rice. Just Ordinary Fried Rice This Time

20 Jun

This isn’t really a recipe post; I just thought I’d share pictures of my dinner from last night.  No special reason, but it’s nice to have little chats sometimes that don’t have any clear purpose.

I used frozen spinach.  Ech, I know, but there were no vegetables in my house.  Not  a single little leaf or sprout.  I guess my family no longer eats vegetables, with the exception of my dad who keeps these gross frozen packages of peas and corn–my least favorite foods.  I’m absolutely going to Whole Foods this weekend and getting peppers and bok choy and onions…  It will be great.

Also, tofu.  I’m sort of fascinated by it.

That top egg (I rotated the picture… hmm, what happened) was way larger than any of the others in the carton, and I found out when I cracked it into the frying pan.  Twin yolk!  Whooooo!

Well I was excited anyway.

It’s just… those little things, those little surprises that mean absolutely nothing but are still absurdly delightful just because they’re little and they’re surprises.  Something you couldn’t have expected even if you’d tried.  I like things like that.

It’s 95 degrees right now and I’m sitting on the patio in the back of my house in a bathing suit, which I have never done before.  But it’s disgustingly hot, and the idea of wearing actual clothes makes me want to dig a hole deep, deep underground where it’s cool and dark and stay there forever.

I had a sort of experimental iced mocha that I made, homemade soda, and pineapple so far. I’m not even really hungry, which is disappointing because I had plans for today.  Plans in the shape of homemade falafel and hummus.

By homemade I mean from boxed mixes because I found some in my cupboard last night when I was looking for rice.  They’re probably from six years ago when we went to Israel, but I feel like that stuff doesn’t really expire…  I guess I’ll find out, right?

Also, as you can see, I got to use the wok.  It was


So was washing it, but not in a good way.

Ugggh washing it was such a pain.

But woks are very cool.  I’ve never used one before.  I may have to get one for the apartment because I have this problem where I throw food everywhere when I’m trying to make dinner, and you can’t do that with a wok because of the depth of the pan.  A+ design.

I added one of these noodle nests, too.  I misread the directions and tried to add the nest straight to the wok, not realizing that I did indeed have to boil it first.

This probably seems obvious to you, but you know what, sometimes a person just isn’t thinking.

And this is what I came up with!  Using the fancy chopsticks I brought back from Japan for my dad.

Man, I want to go back to Japan so badly.  But China first…

Those brown tubular things are, as the bag labels them, Chinese noodles.  They’re just fried noodles I suppose… I grew up eating them, but I’ve never actually seen them anywhere else now that I think about it.

Anyway, I will let you get back to your life, and I will go back to James Mann’s The China Fantasy.

Up next: an actual recipe post!

A Jazz Age Lawn Party and a Weekend with Friends from the Internet

20 Jun

This past weekend, a friend of mine from Tumblr visited and we hung out in Manhattan.  Yes, that’s right.  Friend from Tumblr.  We started talking when I did a concert review post of an Andrew Bird show, and then found we had quite a lot in common.  I had a very good time with them.  Especially because I suspect we function socially on the same frequency.  There’s a love of talking to people, but there’s also a love of silence.  We read our own books on the train and the subway, walked around in silence, hung out without speaking… I can’t speak for them, but I enjoyed it.

The ferry to Governor’s Island is free on the weekends.

There were dapper people everywhere, and it was lovely.  The twenties is certainly my favorite decade, for music, fashion, weird slang, and leisure activities.  I hadn’t realized how extensively I love it until I wrote out that list…  Hmmm…

I love cars that look cool.  That sort of surprises people when they find out, because I don’t actually like cars at all.  I hate being in them, I don’t want to drive them, and I would prefer it if there were far, far fewer of them.  But I love a good design, and cars have some really fabulous ones.  Old cars, especially, have an uncanny ability grind my gears.

Ha.  Get it?

I’m sorry.

Even if you would never wear it, you can’t tell me that’s not cool?  There aren’t many who can pull that look off, and yet…  I really can’t get over people’s clothes at this thing.  Some of them really knew their way around the decade.

And of course, the main reason we were there: swing dancing.  That’s what I meant by leisure activities, by the way.  I love swing dancing.  I started in January, and have fallen deeply, deeply in love.  It is also the only kind of dancing I can do.  Put me in a club, and I will probably fall down and die.  But put me on that dancefloor?

And I will be very awkward.  But I do know the basic steps of East Coast, Lindy, and Charleston, so I have that going for me at least.

I do so enjoy Charleston.

Mainly because I can–and do–do it anywhere.  Including the El, in case any of you were wondering.  If you don’t believe me… you’ll have to try it yourself.

This woman actually entered the solo Charleston contest.  It was pretty rad.  The whole contest was great fun to watch, actually.

Start ’em young, folks.  Start ’em young.

And, finally, the view from Governor’s Island.  What a lovely place.  I can’t believe I’ve never been there before.  I’ll have to go back with my bike next time…

We had dinner on the mainland (well…) with another Internet friend, at P.J. Clarke’s.  Ohhh man, P.J. Clarke’s.  And then we walked the area, going into bookstores and bagel places, acquiring waffles, and making the kind of small talk wherein you try to learn someone’s life in the span of a few minutes that I have become very accustomed to in college.

It was Golden Hour, which is a very dangerous hour, particularly when I’m in New York City.  Actually, almost every hour is dangerous there, especially when the hours accumulate, because then I think, walking around, dancing around other pedestrians, staring into the setting sun, rushing around beneath the Earth on the Subway… I think I won’t ever leave, and why must I ever leave?  That’s a very dangerous feeling, you know.  Actually you can’t know until you feel it.  And then, I’m sorry if you do.

More Errant Photos

30 May

From God knows when.  Let’s see what we’ve got this time.

A couple of weeks ago I started going back down to the lake more often.  I was there this weekend as well, when it was 90 degrees.  I guess I’ve been there more often in the winter and in the middle of the night, so I wasn’t expecting the swathes of people littering the sand at all.  I left quickly.

This was when it was still pretty quiet.  The weather was not too bad, but since Lake Michigan is, evidently, perpetually freezing, there weren’t many people out.  That day was a little on the stormy side, as well.

It’s probably my favorite kind of weather, because the light on just-a-bit-stormy days is generally stunning, and this day was no exception.

The movement of the waves absolutely enchanted me.  Particularly standing on this part of a cement pier, watching the water crest and break, the undercurrent pulling strands back into the lake like hair blowing back in the wind.

I’m fascinated by large bodies of water, and sort of terrified of them as well.  There’s just so much potential in them, you know, especially in the ocean.  I can be floating on the surface in a boat, large or small, thinking about how, just below, beyond sight, is an entire universe of creatures.  Fish at the surface, and maybe sharks.  Then, deeper down… who knows.  There’s just a macrocosm of life hidden in the shadows of the Earth’s oceans, living lives unimaginable to us.  We see what we fancy to be vaguely human behavior in cats, monkeys, sloths, even birds.  But deep in the ocean?  No one knows what’s down there.  Not everything, anyway.

Potentiality is a very scary subject, okay.  And on large bodies of water, it’s made physical, unlike the potentiality in our every day lives.  That can be scary, too, but it’s so abstract that it’s easy to forget about.

Ocean myths are very interesting, too.  And then there’s that song, Lull, which is oddly riveting.  I can play some of it on violin.  Whenever I hear it, it absolutely enchants me.

I write a lot about lakes and oceans, too.

Hmm…. This is more pervasive than I had initially thought.

You know, it’s like one of my favorite books, The Log of the SS the Mrs. Unguentine.  It’s super hard to find, and I acquired the last copy on Abe books, so that should tell you something.  It’s about a couple who live on a barge that sails the oceans.  They never disembark.  It’s largely about their marriage but… I don’t know, it’s an amazing book.  And it’s utterly hopeless to try and summarize it.  But if you can find a copy, read it.

I think maybe part of the fascination also is that the ocean is so lonely.  It’s like space.  And space and the ocean are so intimately tied together…

It’s appropriate, then, that I kept taking pictures of people from very far away, all alone on the shores.

Switzerland, 2010

23 Apr

You know that moment when you’re doing something completely mundane  like unscrewing the cap on the laundry detergent or opening your front door for the n-th time, and this one time, for some reason, a powerful memory comes out of nowhere and grabs you by the nose, yanking you hard?

That totally just happened to me.  I was unwrapping my chocolate while sitting in the library (again; I live here) and was punched in the face by Switzerland.

Specifically, unwrapping Swiss chocolate on a bus going through the Alps as we drove across from Italy into Switzerland on a concert tour where I played flute with the most amazing band I’ve ever played with.  We sounded so good.  I was so happy, for a solid five weeks.  I can’t articulate how I feel about that summer even now, two years later.

We took a bus to six countries: Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, and Luxembourg.  Some day I’ll post all of these pictures.  Some day I will find the France pictures and post those.  Ha.


Oh my God I need to find those pictures.

I don’t know what to say about these.  The Alps.  What can you say.  What I remember best is how it was summer, it was July and sweltering in Italy and Austria, but the air was cold in Switzerland.  It’s something I’ve never felt anywhere else.  The climate is warm, but the air is cold.  That’s the closest I can get to describing this.

I can’t think of anytime I was happier than when I was in Europe.  I have never felt more at home, more content, or more excited consistently and on a daily basis.

I’m actually not crazy about these pictures.  My Italy and Germany pictures are great.  I don’t have many of Salzburg mysteriously.  But you know, I don’t know how to photograph mountains.  I never did before this.  I’d been on a few in America, but when I was very young, when I didn’t love them and appreciate them.

Do you know how I got this particular picture?  See down there, where there’s concrete and buildings?  That’s where we were parked.  My friends and I had a picnic right on that lake yonder, which consisted of Nutella and Other Things On Which to Slather Nutella.

After lunch, I was pretty restless, so I went off the little hills by the lake and across parking lot to the foot of the opposing mountain.

Then I ran up.  Like, literally all the way up to where I was standing when I took this.  I just climbed as fast as I could, pulling myself up bump by bump, propelled by years of cross country and an overabundant energetic outpouring of rampant happiness the likes of which I had never felt before.

And then I slide back down like the Alps were my personal slide.  It was.  Magical.

I’d never been so high up, certainly.

This is the chocolate I was reminded of.

In the door of our room leading out to the deck.  I almost walked straight through it.

The view from our room.  I say our.  Not me and my roommate.  We were in a suite-style room, so my roommate and I were paired with another duo.  My roommate and I split into different rooms, so I was with a random girl.

Her name is Corinne, and she’s my best friend.  We see each other bi-annually, trading states.  I go to Rhode Island in the summer and she comes to New York in the winter.  We love telling people how me met in Switzerland.

My best relationships have happened by pure chance.

A cable car riding up the local mountain.

I don’t remember the name of the town where we stayed.  Typical.  But it was in the more German part of Switzerland, before we went to Chateau-aux-Fonds in the French part.  Then on to Dijon, Paris, and Luxembourg…