It's my friend Sarah's birthday. Happy birthday, Sarah! I wish I could send you some cupcakes in the mail, but I think they would arrive in a sad state. So here are some to feast your eyes on.
We bought these for Stephen's mom's birthday earlier this month at Lulu's in the North End (for some reason, the website only seems to work in IE). It was a day much like today, rainy and cool but definitely spring. We walked through Haymarket on our way to the bakery and heard lots of funny conversations. One man, his arms so loaded with bags of produce that they were practically dragging on the ground, warned his wife, "You're gonna drive the Haymarket out of business!" A vendor chided an overly-picky customer: "You're not buying a car! It's lettuce, just lettuce." We hardly saw anything before we were swept away by the great river of humanity surging through the narrow aisles, but I noticed that the produce got progressively cheaper the deeper into the heart of the market we went. I guess that's your reward for fighting your way through.
Looking at these pictures, I can't wait to go back to Lulu's. There's another cupcake place just a few blocks from our house, but it's more expensive and not as delicious, in my opinion, although their flavors are pretty wild. Stephen had a mojito cupcake there once, with rum-soaked cake and mint lime frosting, and I had a lemony one that came with a fortune in the icing. I'm really into citrusy desserts lately. I've got some lemon bars in the oven right now. Baking for two is always tricky. Do you halve the recipe? Make the whole thing, and just eat as much as you can before it goes bad? We decided to make the full recipe this time, because the number of eggs (3) meant we either had to make one third of the recipe (too little) or two thirds, which would be a lot of confusing division of teaspoons and tablespoons for only a little less final product. Maybe I can take some of them to work. Or maybe I'll just...eat them all.
Posted by Heather at 4/28/2008
We went! It was one of those weekends that you realize is going to be legendary even as it's happening, that you'll try to recapture in the future but never quite succeed. It was sunny and warm, and all the flowers were out. You'd think that winter had never happened. The sky was incredibly blue. There was no traffic on the island, and just enough of a crowd that it didn't feel deserted.
I'd read about this fiber festival online, so we went out to the Ag Barn on Saturday and sat on bleachers eating healthy food (a relief after a vending machine breakfast and lunch) while they sheared goats and sheep. Stephen got sunburnt, but the outing felt very wholesome. Later, I saw some of the angora goats up close and petted their incredibly soft coats. There were dozens of white goats, and one black one named Roquefort who was very eager to get a haircut. He kept wandering over to the shearers and trying to cut in line, but the farmers explained that he had to go last so his fleece wouldn't mix with the others'. My mom and I bought my sister a share of the yarn that will be spun from the wool they collected. I wonder if she'll get any of Roquefort's yarn.
It took us a while to figure out the bus system on the Vineyard, but once we did, we went all over the island: to Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury. I was surprised at how different each town was. Oak Bluffs was like something a child would dream up, rows and rows of tiny, incredibly ornate gingerbread houses. Edgartown looked more like Nantucket, with stately shingle-covered houses set in well-manicured lawns, but I think the buildings were actually historic rather than just historically accurate.
We walked out to the lighthouse in Edgartown on Sunday morning, and I napped in the sand while Stephen took pictures of the scenery. The bus took us out to another lighthouse in Aquinnah, but we could only stay for a minute before running back to the parking lot to get back on the shuttle. (The next bus wasn't coming for more than hour, so we didn't want to take any chances. The buses were cheap and the drivers helpful, but I wouldn't say that the system ran frequently.) We watched 21 in a tiny one-room theater in Vineyard Haven on Saturday night, and ate ice cream sandwiches on a porch swing outside of the general store in West Tisbury on Sunday afternoon. It was a great time to be on the island, before the crowds of summer descend. That said, I can see why so many people choose to spend their vacations on the Vineyard. Being on a island feels so remote and secure, and this one in particular has lots of charm. I wonder what it's like to be a year-round resident, watching the ebb and flow of tourists as the seasons change. It must be beautiful in the winter, though perhaps lonely.
Posted by Heather at 4/24/2008
I love reading Virginia Woolf, but I've never finished one of her books. I've read To the Lighthouse twice, but never made it to the end. Do they ever get to the lighthouse? That was one of the first books I read in college, and I remember being very confused and put off at first by things like Mr Ramsay's never getting to R. ("R was beyond him. He would never reach R.") I liked it better the second time (partly) through.
I've been thinking about To The Lighthouse this week because we're going to Martha's Vineyard on Saturday. I've never been there, either. I've gone to Nantucket a few times, with Stephen's family, but never MV. I think I'll like it, though. I like islands and the shore, and especially the New England coast.
These pictures are from our trip to Salem in March. I like taking public transportation in general, but especially the train. If I had to commute long-distance, I'd do everything I could to take the commuter rail in and out of the city each day. I've taken it a few times since moving to Cambridge, and I love sitting by the window and seeing each station go by, not worried about traffic or anything besides getting off at the right stop. The reason we went to Salem in the first place was because I wanted to take the train somewhere, and it was suitably far away.
We're going to a sheep-shearing this weekend. I'm excited because I like animals and farms, but also because we're going to take the ferry. It makes me a little nervous: I imagine dropping something over the side, like my camera, and seeing it splash and disappear. But I also love being out on the water, going somewhere but without anything pressing to do.
I read a book last weekend about early settlers crossing the Atlantic to Massachusetts. It's so hard to imagine travel taking that long, weeks between continents. As much as I like the ferry, I am glad that it's over after an hour or two. I don't think I'm reading for trans-oceanic boat travel.
Oh, and speaking of books - I finished Mountains Beyond Mountains this week, way overdue. Hopefully I can make up some time with my considerably lighter April book.
Posted by Heather at 4/19/2008
I thought this week would never end. All I want to do is sit still for a very long time, and then sleep. Then I want to go to the gym, and eat something wholesome, then sit some more. Not even think. This week has been so crazy. At work, I ran our three biggest events of the year on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. There were a million little and big things to arrange, so many last-minute frantic phone calls and errands and dashings between my office and various auditoriums around campus.
My brain pretty much looked like this, hyped up on refined sugar and caffeine:
I haven't had time to cook anything for myself, so I've been relying on whatever's left over from the catering at these events to keep me going a little longer. I've had several meals that consisted entirely of carrot cake and/or Fritos and/or coffee. Bleh.
I think I'll go to the library tomorrow and try to regain my sanity by doing just one thing at a time. Maybe I'll try to finish my March book. I'm so behind.
Posted by Heather at 4/11/2008
Spring cleaning madness has descended. I spent the morning washing down the counters and scrubbing the cutting boards with salt and lemon. Everything feels stale after the New England winter, so I've got the windows open even though it's slightly too cold to do that now that the radiators have cooled.
This is my favorite time of year: right now, and the next month or so. It was over 60 degrees on Tuesday. We walked up Mass Ave yesterday and saw rows and rows of pansies out for sale by Pemberton Farms. I'm at the library now, watching a slow rain fall on the trees outside, heavy with buds.
This season feels harsh, in a refreshing way. It's still brisk outside, but I get overzealous (because it's April; winter's over, right?) and then freeze when I wear a sweater to work instead of a coat. The early blooms (forsythia, crocus) are acid-toned and incongruous against the dull brown muddy yards. It's overcast most of the time, with fog and rain. I like this kind of weather better than bright sunny days. Everything feels close, whereas unmitigated sun can make the day feel so vast in an empty and unfillable way. Only sometimes, mind. I like summer, too. But April--April is a big favorite around here.
Posted by Heather at 4/06/2008
I've lately discovered fresh pasta. This stuff is awesome. There's a little store in Davis Square that will cut it while you wait, in any size you want. I've also found it for sale at Whole Foods, and even Shaw's. We bought a bunch of the stuff a couple of weeks ago and ate it with brown butter and sage until we were bursting at the seams. I'm not convinced that it's superior to the boxed, dried stuff, but it cooks so quickly, and I love ordering it at the counter and watching them cut up the blocks of dough.
I've tried making fresh pasta myself a couple of times over the years. Once, in high school, I spent a Sunday afternoon making dozens of spinach gnocchi. I'm not sure why; I'd never had gnocchi before, and I didn't like spinach. I think I was just into shaping the little dumplings, imprinting each one with the tines of a fork. I didn't realize they'd dry out so quickly, though, nor that they'd be so dense when cooked. I ate my way through about 15% of my yield before I had to trash the rest.
Stephen and I tried making pasta once, too, in college. We were cooking dinner for his parents, and decided to make the whole thing--orecchiette with fresh pesto--from scratch. The little ears proved time-consuming to mold, though, so ten minutes in we switched over to cutting fettuccine. I think we tried making spaghetti with a pasta maker, too. In the end, we threw it all together, along with the most extraordinarily verdant pesto I've ever seen. (The latter was made with a mortar and pestle, which may account for its vibrancy.) It was one of the most visually stimulating dinners I've ever had, that's for sure.
Posted by Heather at 4/02/2008