Saturday, January 31, 2009

Harlem History

Did you know that over 130 years ago, Harlem was covered in lush farmland, and was the scene of a fierce battle in the Revolutionary War? George Washington might have been walking around right where I live! I hope he can't see how the place looks these days.

Down In the Underground

I have sort of a second job now. Well, maybe it's more of a fourth or fifth job! (I work hard for the money.) It's kind of a job within a job. So I work in a jewelry and watch store, and they have a service department that does repairs and stuff on watches and jewelry. It used to be closed on Saturdays, but now its open, and I've been asked to man the place one Saturday a month to give M a weekend off. Working Saturday is fine, and I would be at work anyway, but today is my first day over here in the service department, and I'm kind of nervous because I have never helped any customers with watch or jewelry repairs before. I think I know the basics, but... I'm still nervous. I had to learn how to enter and post the sales on the computer, and it seems pretty straightforward, but I haven't really been tested yet.

David the watchmaker is here with me--it's just us down here. But he is an older Russian guy, and not very talkative at all. We are connected to the main store, but I can't leave my post to go associate with them, because I have to be here if a customer comes in. And I can't do my regular job, because I'm not allowed to have watches and jewelry laying around down here for security reasons. So there's really not much to do except sit and wait for customers to come in. But it's Saturday in midtown, and the old hours are still on the door, so there are no people coming in. Which is fine with me. I've been facebooking and blogging with no shame at all.

I can people-watch, because I'm right near the subway, and have a big glass window. This is nice, because my regular desk is in a basement with no windows. Glamorous, I know. On the one hand I have half-million dollar watches coming through my hands, but on the other hand I have a basement desk that gets coated in blackish soot if I don't dust it every day. Hey, I'm just happy to have a job! The other perq down here is the i-pod player. I can listen to my own music!

Right across the way is a bodega with candy, magazines, and other random things. A neon sign in the window taunts me with the current amount of the New York Mega Millions lottery: $50 million. And the guy at the register in there is staring at me. Sometimes if I'm desperate I'll go buy candy from him, but it's a big rip-off. A dollar for a candy bar! I could spend that dollar on a lottery ticket and win the jackpot, but I never buy a ticket.

The door is broken, so it doesn't close all the way, and a cold winter breeze is coming in. Good thing I wore a wool sweater! Sigh... I think one of the salespeople from upstairs is going to bring me a piece of pizza later for lunch. That's what I have to look forward to. I think it's going to be a long day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


For those of you who follow the nuances of my blogroll over there in the sidebar, you will notice that I have added the blog of Kelly and Ivan. They are The Rosebuds, a band I fell in love with about six years ago, on my first date with Matt. We had gone out to dinner in Raleigh, and as we were walking down a random sidewalk, we passed a disheveled bearded guy on the corner, holding a red plastic cup. Matt greeted him as if he were an old friend, and as it turns out, he was. I still don't know why he happened to be there, but Matt asked him what was happening in Raleigh that night, and Trent told us that this pretty good band called the Rosebuds was playing at The Basement. After dinner, things were going well, so we headed over there to check out the show. The Basement was a dive, and the first place I'd ever been that required an ID check at the door. It was full of a mixture of impossibly hip and unattractively intoxicated people all rocking out to a sound I'd never heard before but loved instinctively. I fell in love that night, and I fell in love with The Rosebuds. Over the years, Matt and I would go to almost every one of their shows that came along. Our relationship played out in venues like Kings and Cat's Cradle, in the car with the stereo blasting, or at home with the record player and the promotional vinyl records I scooped up at shows; the band's sound was the soundtrack of our life together. But I'm getting sidetracked.

One of the things I love about The Rosebuds is that Ivan and Kelly are just normal kids from Raleigh. Before and after their shows they would come out into the crowd, and hang out with their friends, and I'd feel like I was a part of something really cool. Kelly would man the T-shirt and sticker table over in the corner, and one time as I pondered which EP I wanted to buy, she complimented my earrings. Even though they dressed like Eastern Europeans, Ivan and Kelly were real, people I would like to know. Even now, I know that they are friends of one of my friends on Facebook, and I am so tempted to send friend requests! And that's what made me suddenly write about them today. Is it strange to feel like you can be friends with someone you've never talked to? Is it wrong to want to be part of that "cool" world of rock and roll?

Well, the relationship ended, but the music persists, and I still enjoy The Rosebuds, though these days its more of the darker Night of the Furies, rather than the innocent Makeout. And it's funny because soon after Matt and I broke up, I heard a rumor that The Rosebuds were splitting up. It was eery--like their music was actually connected to our relationship and couldn't continue without us. However, despite the rumors, The Rosebuds released an album last year, and just played shows together in Chapel Hill and New York City. Hopefully they will keep going strong, and just get bigger and better. I would wish that for any friends of mine.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays

Today was definitely a Monday. But other than that, Happy Asian Lunar New Year, as they called it on NPR this morning. Work wasn't so bad, until the end, and then I just wanted to go run away and hide under a red Chinese umbrella or five. I hate it when I do stupid things at work. I'm not that dumb! I think I just daydream too much, and rush, and don't pay enough attention when I should be paying the most attention. And the mistakes that I make always turn out to be the worst ones. Uggg.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Depends on Your Definition

Ha! I just had to write another post today, because in my last entry I said that I felt like it was going to be a very good day. And, I suppose it has been a good day, but church was pretty crazy!

Everything was going fine at first. Sacrament meeting was great, and after that was over, Sunday School started without a hitch. We were in the middle of the lesson when all of a sudden an older woman in the back row collapsed and began having an epileptic seizure. It was frightening, but the people around her rushed immediately to her assistance and luckily one of them is a trained nurse. Several people called 911, and as we waited for paramedics to arrive, everyone sat quietly, trying not to stare at what was happening, but unable to ignore the situation. Our teacher was one of the men assisting the woman, so class had come to a standstill. As soon as the bishop saw that everything was under control, and that the woman was not dying, I suppose he wanted to divert everyone's attention, so he went up to the front of the room and started making an announcement about a ward trip being planned for the summer--a trip to the Hill Cumorah Pageant. He began describing the elaborate costumes, the artistry of the choreography and how charming the camping facilities are there, and the moment just became even more bizarre. We tried to politely listen, but the woman's seizure continued in the back, the paramedics were storming in, and nobody knew where to look or what sort of facial expression to have. A few minutes later our teacher wisely escorted us to another classroom, which we should have done long before, and our lesson continued where it had left off.

After all the commotion of Sunday School I was anticipating that the third hour of church, Relief Society, would be relaxed and soothing. The lesson was supposed to be on the topic of unity, which turned out to be ironic. My ward is comprised of people from all backgrounds and levels of learning. Some women have only been members of the church for a few weeks, others have come their whole lives, and others have been members but have only recently come back to church after years of inactivity. Unity is a good topic for us to discuss, because such a disparate group can only learn and succeed if they are unified in some way, with a common purpose. Today that common purpose was just to get everyone on the right page at the same time, so we could finish the lesson. After we had read and discussed a few sections of the lesson, I was asked to read a scripture, but as soon as I began to read it I heard a loud voice saying "Excuse me! Wait until we ALL get there!" One woman was very frustrated that when the teacher asked people to read scriptures they were doing it promptly, without waiting until everyone in the room had turned to that page and could read along. I was not offended, but just waited for a few more seconds as the woman found the right page. (Meanwhile, it was dawning on me that although the lesson was supposed to be about unity, all of the scriptures the teacher was giving us to read were about repentance, another thing that struck me as ironic.) A few minutes later, the topic of discussion turned to scripture study and prayer and one lady made a comment about how you can tell God all the things that you can't tell your friends. Another woman countered that with an impassioned statement saying that in our ward you can tell your friends anything and they won't judge you. A short debate ensued, the teacher regained control, and the lesson moved onward. However, the first lady was again complaining that the teacher was going too fast and not letting everyone have a chance to speak. The teacher apologized, and asked that woman if she would read the following passage from the lesson:

"A second principle to guide our progress to become one is to be humble. Pride is the great enemy of unity. You have seen and felt its terrible effects. Just days ago I watched as two people—good people—began with a mild disagreement. It started as a discussion of what was true but became a contest about who was right. Voices become gradually louder. Faces became a little more flushed. Instead of talking about the issue, people began talking about themselves, giving evidence why their view, given their great ability and background, was more likely to be right. You would have felt alarm as I did. We have seen the life-destroying effects of such tragic conflict. You and I know people who left the fellowship of the Saints over injured pride."

It was purely coincidental that we had come to this part of the lesson, but the woman must have felt it was aimed directly at her because when she finished reading, she immediately apologized to the teacher and the whole class for having been loud and disruptive. It was quite awkward, but the good news is that my ward is full of wonderfully kind, friendly, and forgiving women and though they are often loud and opinionated, none of them hold grudges or anything like that. Once the strange meeting ended, everyone lingered together for a while to talk, hug, catch up on news of each other, meet new people, etc. I guess despite the chaotic lesson, we are better at the principle of unity than we might think, thank goodness! And if it had not been for a unified response to the tragic experience in Sunday School, things could have been completely crazy. I'm happy that my fellow ward-members are so quick to help out, quick to speak out, and equally quick to forgive one another and just love.

A Good Day

For those of you who may wonder why I put pictures of random Harlem churches on my blog... it's just something I like to do every Sunday for no particular reason. Sunday=church, plus there are a billion churches in Harlem and they endlessly fascinate me, so there you go. It's my blog--I can do what I want. Isn't there something charming about this one? Do you know that the corner bricks, that are larger than the rest and sort of protruding, are called quoins? That's your architectural terminology lesson of the day.

On my blog, I can talk about myself as much as I want to. I'm feeling much better, by the way! The antibiotics have successfully killed the enemy bacteria that were infecting my sinuses, and the war is almost completely won. All that remains is a gravelly cough. I'm delighted to be healthy again! So I'm taking advantage of all my new-found energy and catching up on stuff like laundry and cleaning. Because the other great news is that the washer and dryer on my floor have been working great. They used to be out of order constantly, but so far so good, and it's so nice not to have to schlep to the laundromat on a 20 degree day. I'm very happy. And I'm happy that I can go to church today--last week I was all but bedridden. So you see, it's going to be a very good day.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Morning in January

A gray January Saturday morning in Harlem isn't the prettiest sight. The empty lot across the street from my building is still covered in a blanket of white snow, but the snow everywhere else has been reduced to chunks of black compacted ice that fills the gutters but blends in perfectly with the concrete. There is litter everywhere. I could spend every day picking it up, and it would make no difference. So I've become like every other denizen of this neighborhood, just ignoring it, or looking at it abstractly. There is nothing green anywhere. Only gray and the artificial colors of shop signs.

This morning I woke up and went outside to wander around a little bit. I got quarters at the laundromat, for future laundry purposes, and stopped at the drugstore for something. The grayness of my surrounding streetscape lulled me into a gray mood, which was interrupted only by a big guy who suddenly yelled at me, "Watch your back! Watch your back!" I looked up and narrowly avoided an oncoming car. The streets are a dangerous place, and just as wild as the jungle. I'm in awe of them and the mysteries they keep. For example, what night storm caused this urban tumbleweed to become lodged atop this fence?

Friday, January 23, 2009

My New Favorite Movie

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


The instructions included with my antibiotic tell me that I may experience weakness of my Achilles tendon. Duly noted, although I don't think I'll be running any time soon. I'm also supposed to avoid orange juice and multivitamins with iron and zinc. Drugs are so complicated. Anyway, I know I've been complaining a lot lately, but I think I'm slowly getting better. There is still an alarming amount of mucus, but at least my cheekbones don't hurt anymore. (Big smile.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

There Ought To Be a Holiday

I believe that inauguration day should be a national holiday, especially when a brand new president is sworn in. We should have all been able to be at home with our television on, watching the crowds in Washington, hearing Aretha sing, and listening to the words of our new president. Luckily, my boss loves Obama, so when it was time for the swearing in, she let everyone gather around the biggest screen available and watch the proceedings. Unfortunately, everyone in the world was trying to stream the inauguration online, so the visuals didn't really work, but with the radio giving us live clear signal, we didn't miss a thing. I thought it was wonderful. I'm not a Republican hater, or a Democrat lover. I tend to walk a middle ground--I just love my nation. And I don't think anyone who loves this country could help but be moved by the sincere words spoken by Mr. Obama today. It was a momentous occasion, for many reasons, and it was so great to be able to live it in the moment it happened instead of have to wait and catch it later on the news. Yes, I would have rather been watching in my living room, in pajamas, or out in Times Square with the crazies, rather than at work, but it was still great.

On the way home, I found myself in a subway car plastered with Pepsi ads. I didn't realize they were for Pepsi at first, though--it just seemed like a continuation of the day's theme. I was just going to insert a picture of one of the ads, but this was the only thing I could find, so if you watch this, imagine being in a subway car with these colorful images bombarding you from all sides.

From the Peanut Gallery

Since I don't have word verification on the comment section of my blog, every now and then I get some random upstarts trying to link my blog to their websites selling discount shoes, cosmetics, or body-enhancing products. While this can be mildly annoying, I actually kind of enjoy it because instead of just attaching their link, these people feel it necessary to insert some sort of realistic sounding comment. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure English isn't their first language, because their sentences are just too funny. For example, a message from early this morning: It seems my language skills need to be strengthened, because I totally can not read your information, but I think this is a good blog. Um, thanks? Then, there was this one: Good Blog, I think I want to find me, I will tell my other friends, on all! Hey, I'm flattered.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Doctor Time

Luckily I didn't have to work today, so I figured it would give me one more day to recuperate from my influenza. I seriously thought I should be better by now, so I was starting to worry about it over the weekend. For all I know, I could have pneumonia or something, and be on the verge of dying. Then again, it could be just a bad cold. How am I supposed to know? E listened to my chest as I breathed in and out, and said I didn't have a death rattle, but then I started to cough and couldn't stop. And nothing has stopped my sinuses from producing an endless flow of mucus. Sorry! But it's what I've been living with for a week now.

E has had a few sinus infections, so I asked her how I would know if that's what I had. She said that if I just never get better, then that's probably what it is. Also, all the descriptions of sinus infection on the internet seemed to match my symptoms. So, after a week of not getting better, I decided to find a doctor. But I've never seen a doctor here, and even though I have health insurance, the thought of searching through lists of doctors names and calling them all to see who could see me today made my head spin even more than it already was. I mean, who decided that sick people should go find the doctor? I think the doctor should come to me. I'm sick. I don't want to get out of bed, get dressed, get on a crowded bus or subway, trek through the snow on a freezing day to find a doctor, then wait in a waiting room full of germs, then have to go wait in line at a pharmacy for my medicine. I want the doctor to come to my bedside and cure me!

However, the nice thing about New York City is that there are pharmacies on every street corner, and a couple of them happen to have doctors in them. E told me about the Duane Reade Doctor Walk-In, where you just go, first come first serve, and see a doctor about whatever (non-emergency) problem you have. So I decided to go try it out. Luckily, they took my insurance! And although I did have to wait for about an hour, it was really easy. The doctor felt my sinuses, listened to my graphic descriptions of mucus, and prescribed an antibiotic for me. He said I don't have pneumonia, which is great, but my sinuses are no doubt infected, which is why they are performing on overdrive. The drugs were expensive, but at this point I just want to get better, and I have some baby-sitting money that I was saving for just such an emergency, so I'm really coming out even.

As I waited for my prescription to be filled, I stood at the second-floor window of the Duane Reade and watched fat snowflakes falling thickly on the gray city. It was a day to be curled up by a fire or laying on a tropical beach somewhere instead of sniffling in the candy aisle of a drug store. But illness is luck. We can't choose a lot of the things that happen to us, we just have to grin, bear it, and try to make the most of our situations. I'm thankful for my body, and for its general good health. I'm thankful (after listening to Radiolab) that I don't have a botfly in my head, or a terminal illness. I'm thankful for modern drugs and a job that provides me with insurance and money to live on. I'm pretty happy... but I'll be even happier when the mucus finally stops!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Grace United

Happy Sunday. I'm still too sick to go to church. I'm wondering if I have a sinus infection. It's all very disgusting. Sigh... But the most bizarre thing? At night when I'm asleep, all of my sickness symptoms go away. My nasal passages clear, my cough is gone, my head no longer hurts. I awaken refreshed and feeling good. Then, a few minutes later, I become all stuffed up, full of sinus pressure, and start hacking and wheezing. Again, sorry for the details! But I wonder how my body knows it's asleep? Why does it suspend virus-attacking mechanisms, or whatever it is? Is it like war in the olden days when both sides would camp for the night side by side and wait until the next morning to resume killing each other? I don't understand it, but am grateful for the chance to rest. Last night I slept for ten hours, and I'm thinking tonight I should try for twelve. If sleep is the only respite I get, then sleep I shall, for as long as it takes.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Goodbye Andrew Wyeth

I was saddened to learn of Andrew Wyeth's recent death at age 91. He was about as close to being America's "artist laureate" as anyone could have been. While some derided his work as too illustrative, too realistic, or too monotone, anyone could see that his eye was that of a genius following his own inner vision, speaking in a completely unique voice. Now that voice has been silenced. Mr. Wyeth, you will be missed!

The War Within Me

Sorry to be going on and on about my sickness, but its obviously been at the forefront of my mind this past week. I hate being sick! But I am also sort of fascinated by the war going on within my body. I've come to the conclusion that it probably isn't this guy (the robotic cold virus) who has infiltrated my immune system:
Instead, I think I have influenza, (as pictured on the right). That's disgusting, you say? I know. And to think it all could have been prevented by the flu shot, which E got a few months ago. She urged me to get it too, but I laughed it off and took my chances. I gambled, and lost. E remains unscathed by the germs that inflict me, while I suffer the effects of a body under siege by tiny spiky mutant cell-pirates. So, sorry Dad--your zinc lozenges won't help me now. All I can do is drug myself up with Mucinex, Robitussin, water and vitamins, get tons of sleep, and hope for the best.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Look At Her Go

Home sick today, I've been reading the ol' blogs. Check out what my friend Tamara is doing! She's amazing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Still sick.... I accidentally took the night-time Robitussin this morning instead of the day-time. Now I'm definitely a zombie. I think I'm at work, but am not sure...

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Uncommon Cold

I have a cold! Yesterday I knew it was coming--I could just tell that something wasn't right, but I didn't want to admit it. This morning I woke up all stuffed up and scratchy-throated and it was all downhill from there. What a way to start the week. And such a busy week at work, too! There will be no possibility to call out sick--I'm way too responsible. And if I get all my coworkers sick? Who cares--they are probably the ones that got ME sick.

No, actually, I think it was my roommate's subletter. S is gone for a month, so she got a subletter, who is really nice and great, but the moment she moved in she started coughing and sneezing on everything! I did my best to wash my hands all the time and stuff, and it was kind of annoying because she was blaming us for having really dry heat in our place, but we can't control the pipes, and anyway, she was already infected when she got here, so it's not our fault. It's her fault for bringing the germs, and now I have to suffer! No, I'm not really angry--she's a really nice person--but ugh. I hate being sick! I'm not going to be able to smell anything for 2 weeks, and I'm going to be walking around with tissues everywhere. I demand to know why there is not a cure for the common cold!

Sure, just get some Zycam, you say. Well, I was going to do that, but I was so stuffed up in my head that I forgot to put my wallet in my bag, so I ended up downtown with no money. So it's too late for the Zycam. And unfortunately, after years of taking antihistamines for allergies, I think I'm immune to all of them. I've been taking Tylenol cold medicine, but it doesn't really do anything except make me feel like a zombie. The best cold medicine there ever was used to be the Alka-Seltzer tablets that you'd dissolve in water and then drink really fast because it tasted so bad. But something happened and they took out the main ingredient (because people were using it to make meth or something) and now it does nothing for me. That used to be my sure-thing cold remedy. On the radio I heard a lady say that you just have to coat your feet in Vicks Vap-O-Rub, put on some socks, and in the morning you'll be all better because the congestion will be drawn down out of your head. And I took a look at the Vicks at the Rite-Aid tonight when I finally went after work, but I just couldn't bring myself to spend 6.99 on a remedy that sounds kind of crazy. Plus, it's too hot in our house to sleep with socks on. So, I guess I'm just going to have to feel like a zombie for a week or so until my immune system wins the war against the weird cold virus thingys.

E wants to know what the deal is with the cold virus anyway. Apparently scientists argue about whether its actually alive or not. To some people, it seems more like a robot than an organism. It certainly looks like one. It's pretty freaky to think that my body is full of these things right now! What do they want with me? IMy best guess is that its a conspiracy by ABC and Orville Redenbacher to infiltrate me to the point that all I feel like doing is curling up on the couch, watching horrible reality TV and eating microwave popcorn.

But seriously, I think they are transmitting some kind of signal because this morning right after I woke up my mom called me and asked me what was wrong. She had awakened with a feeling that I was experiencing some kind of doom and gloom. I guess I'm not the only psychic one in the family. I don't think I'm depressed, but then again maybe I am now. Ug. Sick!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Humble Harlem Church

I passed this church on my epic 125-block last Sunday. As I passed, I looked in through the doors and saw a tiny room with a few people on folding chairs. A young woman was singing in the front, holding a microphone that broadcast her song through speakers onto the street. I crossed the street and took a couple of pictures. I was struck by the tiny humble nature of the church, seemingly at odds with its desire to blast its message outside into the world.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


More crochet talk today. I've been thinking about knots, and how they can be good or bad things. I've been organizing my yarn, which I haven't really attempted since moving last July. In the rush of the move, all the skeins, which were covered in plaster dust from the ceiling collapse, were thrown into a big basket, where they became even more jumbled than they were before. They tangled together into one huge knot, which I've almost successfully untied. I've vacuumed the dust out of them, unpicked all the tangles (well, E helped, and so did the scissors!) and rolled each color into a neat ball. I have a lot of yarn! Time to get busy and make some things.

Anyway, while I've been sitting untangling these knots of yarn, listening to the radio and watching fat snowflakes waft outside my window, I've been thinking about how I'm taking apart knots only to create new ones. I mean, crochet and knitting are just ways of tying yarn into a large neat and organized knot. A tangled knot is the result of carelessness, neglect, and chance, but a crocheted or knitted piece requires attention, dedication, and patience. A pattern usually helps, too.

And of course, I've also been thinking about my own life, what is right and wrong with it, and how there are definitely some knots that I need to unpick, smooth out, and weave into a more beautiful and orderly interlace. The process is frustrating, sometimes seems pointless, but I know that it is necessary. Also, its not impossible, and I'm hoping that I will have the patience and control to do it.

Friday, January 9, 2009


A bowl of hot grits with butter and honey is one type of heaven.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Today my coworker, who asked to remain anonymous, brought in examples of the point lace that she makes by hand. She learned the technique, which she calls macrame or frivolite (accent on the e), in the 5th grade in Romania. There, she told me, back in the 1950s, she was able to take all kinds of classes in school, including one where she learned to build hammers and dustpans. She told me she took every class she could except machine sewing, because she likes to make things by hand. It's no wonder she's in the watch and jewelry business, because the intricacy of her point lace stitches rival the complications of a Patek Philippe.

My pictures of her work don't do it justice. Using just a small bobbin and her fingers, she makes incredible tablecloths and decorative pieces. Some take several months to complete. Often, she works on a project during her long commute between Manhattan and Long Island. When she does, both women and men come up to her and want to watch and touch the fine lace, the product of 40 years of practice becoming perfection.

She tells me that her daughter has been asking to learn the skill. I want her to teach me, too. Nowadays we have machines to make our lace tablecloths and curtains, which we can buy for a few dollars at the store. We have no need to make things for ourselves, and anyway we have no time. But how boring life would be if people didn't make beautiful things with their hands! I do my small part, crocheting scarves and other random things, like these coasters, but you can see how small my skill is in comparison to my Romanian friend's. I want to do more. If I could just make things with my hands all day, I would be so happy.

Monday, January 5, 2009


A fun project would be to recreate every cake in Wayne Thiebaud's famous 1963 painting. Maybe I should try it, but one by one, so as not to go completely insane. Well, here's how you can make the chocolate cake in the middle row on the far right:

Chocolate Cake:
1. Cream together 1/2 c. shortening and 1 c. white sugar.
2. Separate 3 eggs and add the yolks to the mixture.
3. Stir in a teaspoon of vanilla.
4. Sift together 1/2 c. cocoa powder, 2 1/2 c. white flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt.
5. Alternately add the sifted dry ingredients and 1 1/3 cold water to the mixture, blending well.
6. Stir in another 3/4 c. white sugar, and blend well.
7. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks and fold in.
8. Pour batter into greased pans (I used 2 10-inch pans) and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Tips: Spread the cake around in the pans to help the cake layers bake evenly and flat. The biggest mistake in making cake is to overbake, which makes the cake dry, so keep an eye on the time. Cool the cake in the pans for a while before you try to eject them. The cake is very soft when its hot and it could break in half if you try and take it out the pan too early. Keep the cake covered up as much as possible to retain the moisture. You don't want it to dry out, so let it cool for a while, but then wrap it up loosely in plastic wrap or cover it with a cloth. But don't frost it until its completely cooled off. And even after its frosted, don't refrigerate the cake, because that dries it out too.

Aunt Victoria's Chocolate Frosting:
1. Whip 1 1/2 cubes of butter for five minutes (I did it for about 2 with the electric mixer and it came out fine)
2. Add 4 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 c. milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 4 Tablespoons cocoa powder, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.
3. Mix well, and frost your cake!
4. Top with sprinkles, coconut, raspberries, or whatever. Just be sure to add sprinkles right away, because the frosting will set after a few minutes, and won't be super sticky anymore.

Thanks to Brooklyn for sharing her mom's frosting recipe. It's awesome, and tastes delicious on the chocolate cake. My mom comes from a great family of bakers. If only I could figure out my grandmother's fruitcake recipe. She used to send us a fruitcake every year before Christmas, and you will laugh at me, but it was SO delicious! However, fruitcake is not in the Thiebaud painting, so we will not worry about that. Which cake should I try to make next?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Call Me Crazy

Today I didn't go to church because I had to work. It was the bi-annual mandatory inventory day, so I had to be there. Oh well. It wasn't a bad day though because I could wear jeans, and we all got a free lunch. Plus we could blast the music. (Sorry Princess for putting up with my current Blitzen Trapper obsession!) And, since two of my coworkers have birthdays this week, I gave into peer pressure and agreed to make a cake. I have a really great chocolate cake recipe, but had never actually tried it, so I figured this was the perfect chance. And a great excuse to wear my cute new Anthropologie apron! I love the kitchen in my apartment because it has a ton of counter space, and by the end of the night every inch of surface was covered in cocoa, powdered sugar, or flour. I'm not a neat baker, but I get the job done right.

Despite the fact that I forgot I had shortening and so used margarine instead, the cake seemed to come out perfectly! And yet, with just two layers it seemed a bit small to me. Call me crazy--I decided to make another batch! So I made two more layers and added one to the first batch, so my cake had three layers. I contemplated four, but realized that the thing was already starting to resemble a certain Pisa landmark, so I kept the fourth layer back and frosted it for me and my roommates.

The cake turned out beautiful, but the next question was how to get it to work! It was on a nice platter, too big for any bag or box that I had, so I settled on covering it with tinfoil and carrying it on the Subway. Luckily it was Sunday so I could sit down on the train. But the D was running on the A track so rather than transfer to the E, I decided to just get out at Columbus Circle and walk the rest of the way, carrying the cake in my arms. Now I know how mothers feel. That thing must have weighed as much as a 2 year old. Writing this post has helped me realize that I tend to do things in extremes. Cake made from scratch and twice as large to boot, volunteering to come back to work on my day off tomorrow because there is still so much inventory work to do, then walking the entire 5 miles home just to see if I could do it... I like to test my limits, which I think is a good thing.

By the end of Inventory, the cake was everyone's reward for coming in to work on a Sunday, and I enjoyed a piece of it myself, although I was stuffed from a pizza lunch. And I guess I could have kept it to two layers, because there was about half of it left over. Then again, the leftover cake will help motivate us all to go to work tomorrow! I left work at 3 and decided that it was such a nice day I would walk along Central Park for a while, and not get on the Subway right away. Call me crazy, but I ended up walking the whole way home!

It was cold, but sunny, and not windy at all, and the walk up 8th Avenue was so pretty. It's amazing to see how the scenery changes from huge mansions, hotels, and apartment complexes to discount stores, empty lots, and churches as you get farther up the West side and into Harlem. My feet would just not stop walking, but it felt so good. I worked that cake off, for sure! I figure it was about 5 miles, give or take, and it took me exactly 1 hour. Now I know.

New Hope 7th Day Adventist Church of Harlem

The most interesting thing about this church is the pointy copper overhang on the front of the roof. It just looks all white and washed out in my photo, but it's actually bright shiny copper, and it really shines in the sun. Also, it's really weird how the windows are spaced--notice how the center windows aren't actually centered, but more to the left? I do like how the metal fence in front echoes the gothic-arches of the windows.

Friday, January 2, 2009


This is what my dad got for Christmas, and I'm totally jealous! This is it. I'm going to learn how to motorcycle-ride if its the last thing I do. (And hopefully it won't be!) Which brings me to a random thought I've often pondered. We call bicycles "bikes." We call motorcycles "bikes." There should be a different word. The only problem is that the logical abbreviation for motorcycle, following the pattern of bicycle=bike is motorcycle=mike, and that just won't do. That reminds me of something really funny I read in the paper today, which I hope won't offend my parents if they read this. (As a disclaimer, I have nothing against the vice president--I'm sure he's a nice guy) That said, the newspaper article (I think it was the Post, so no surprises here) was talking about the comedian lady on CNN who was broadcasting live with Anderson Cooper and how she got really upset by a heckler in the audience and started spouting profanities. Apparently she made some sort of awful comment and used the D-word (not that one, the other one) on live television. The newspaper article then said that "CNN normally refrains from airing the D-word except in reference to the vice president." It wasn't meant to be a joke, but I burst out laughing so hard, and couldn't stop for a long time. Poor Dick Cheney. Then again, he could go by "Richard" if he really wanted to.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yes, motorcycles. (Drool, drool...) There really ought to be a better word than "bike" to describe such a magnificent machine, and to quell confusion in conversation. For now I guess we'll just have to call Dad's new Harley a hawwg.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happppppy New Year!

Happy New Year! I have a feeling 2009 is going to be a good year for me. I've done my reflecting on the past year, made my resolutions, and decided that there is every reason for me to be happy. To celebrate today, I'm not going to do anything very spectacular. No doubt I'll read In Memoriam, as I like to do every year to remind myself that life is a journey of upward progression and triumph of life over death. Later I might make some Hoppin' John, the traditional Southern dish that is supposed to ensure prosperity in the new year. More mundanely, I'm going to clean the house (an appropriate way to start the new year, I think, is with all things in cleanliness and order) and start some projects. Here's to a fresh start!