Thursday, May 26, 2011

Comparison shopper extraordinare

It has taken me 75 minutes, but I have finally decided on which tartlet pans to buy.  From the vintage Swedish Sandbakkelse tins to the fancy Norpro nonstick dark metal, I looked at them all.  Etsy, Ebay, Amazon, Google shopper---I feel a bit like my grandfather.  If he had lived to see the era of online purchasing, he would have been in hog heaven.  So many opinions, so many options, so many possibilities.  He was a man with a rare talent for garage-sale-ing, seeing the potential in what many would see as useless.  He also enjoyed things that, well, do what they're supposed to do, and well.  On of my favorite things of his (one of my uncles probably has it somewhere?) --it's an old thermos-shaped holder for styrofoam cups.  Odd, yes, but it was always in the back of his truck, ready for a hot beverage if need be.  It wasn't in the best shape, but it didn't need to be.  The job was simple---looks didn't really count.  Yet he lived for fifty-five years with a woman with three full sets of china and a whole cabinet full of things just there to look pretty.  But that was their job.  That was different.

So the question is---what job would these pans have?  Look pretty?  I mean, not really.  I want to be able to use these for as many summer tarts as I can.  Believe it or not, it's a pretty easy thing to make tart dough, smoosh it into molds (technical term), bake and cool.  Then fill with fruit or whipped cream, curd or a custard - easy.  So, these won't be staying in a closet, that's for sure.  When I looked at reviews for tin-coated steel vs. dark nonstick, both online and in the trusty Bakwise by Shirley Corriher, I arrived at the conclusion that while tin is traditional, it rusts easily, especially with lots of use.  (this can actually also be seen in all the sales of vintage tins, which all contain the caveat "some rust present"). 

My heart sighs with the beauty of these vintage tins, their rust spots...they are so cute.  But I just don't need something I cannot really use, especially when there is an alternative so vastly superior if I want to make good tartlets.  There are sometimes that old country anything would be great...but with tartlets, I don't think so.  Modern smelting techniques and materials science, for the win.

So-- Amazon won out, with an expensive ($80) but life-lasting set of 60 mini-tartlet pans from Paderno.  All of the tart pans I have are Paderno, and the quality is noticeable. 

My first use for these lovely molds will be at one of the summer girl's nights I have planned.  Upon writing down the things I really wanted to accomplish this summer, both spending time in the Penthouse and seeing girlfriends topped the list, so I went ahead and sent a list of fifteen summer girl's nights to my Cambridge ladies.  Plans for the first one:  rhubarb spritzers, goat cheese and rhurbarb compote crostini, and these almond pastry tartlets filled with (fingers crossed) fresh strawberries.  Ah, summer, you're here. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Garden update

It's cold out.  Reaallll cold.  And windy.  (still 60ºF in my room, as well).  Meaning that yesterday when I had these grand plans to do all of the things I needed to do up in the garden, I put one hand in the freezing cold damp soil and totally chickened out.  Than drank a pot of tea and read a Swedish cookbook. 

But it is supposed to be 70 on Thursday, with no rain...meaning I will finally get to muck in the dirt and get things planted.  Progress. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I'm back from both DC and Pittsburgh!  More pictures and stories forthcoming, but as an update...I'm freezing.  It's been a week of 50 and rainy here in Boston, and the heat in McCormick has been turned off since the third week in April.  It is now May 17th, and it is 60ºF in my room.  I'm shivering in my warm fuzzy pajama pants, drinking tea, looking forward to my bed covered in blankets.  On May 17th.  Brr.  (now, compare this to winter with the heat on---it's a balmy 75ºF). 

Monday, May 9, 2011

No wonder I don't like getting my hair cut.

There always seems to be some sort of selective hearing going on at salons.  My only real successful haircut was at Pyara in Harvard Square September of 2010--the guys was tattooed, pierced, and super sweet.  He took one look at me and said, "I bet you're a grad student."  I smile, and nod.  "You look like a girl who likes her hair just the way it is, am I right?"  He was.  I'm a boring hair person.  I take the time to keep it healthy, but I am absolutely all thumbs when it comes to doing anything pretty or fun with it.  Groupon and the upcoming gala reminded me that I should get my hair cut, and so I did.  Well, that idea was for chumps.  The vast majority of stylists (okay, n= total minus the one awesome guy at Pyara) ---they just don't listen.  At all.

What I say:  Four inches off at the most; even though it's been awhile since my last haircut, I take good care of my hair, so there aren't too many split ends.

What she heard:  Oh, she must not be serious!  Longer hair just make her look so old and dowdy; I'll cut it shorter.

What actually happens:  6-8 inches, gone.

What I say:  I wear my hair back every day for my job in a lab, so no layers, please.  (to her question of layering, each of the four times she asked)

What she heard:  She would love layers, she's just afraid to ask!  And look, she took her glasses off and she's not half bad looking!  She just doesn't feel ready for layers, but they'll look so fantastic on her! I will transform this geeky sad scientist into a bombshell!

What actually happens:  layers.  I look like I have an electron cloud around my head: a halo of frizz.

And then of course, she puts this crap in my hair that yes, makes it look all shiny, but also makes it feel super thin and awkward, not to mention it smells like chemicals.  I'm pretty sensitive to the smell of colognes and perfumes and chemicals in general, they just overwhelm me completely.   Every once in a while I would turn my head quickly and get a whiff of something strong and nasty, and be angry for about three seconds before realizing, oh it's me!  And then feel like I needed to wash my hair in the bathroom sink just so it didn't smell anymore.

So hair stylists, here's the deal: I am not your Barbie doll.  I am paying you to cut my hair, not to make decisions on what you think I need and what you think I should want.  Unless you want to come to my apartment every single morning for the next year and do my hair from me, don't sneakily legislate your views on what my hair should be or what you want it to look like...cause frankly, I don't care.  If I wanted your opinion or trusted your judgment, I would tell you so.

In other news, I set a personal record today at the Red Cross blood drive: one pint of blood, 4 minutes and ten seconds.  That along with a blood pressure of 96/58 and a hemoglobin of 13.4, wow, I feel ready for action.  The dress is done, I'm almost packed---DC, I'll see you tomorrow!

(one last photo of Boston before I go)
The Mass Ave bridge, illuminated by a FAST project (FAST is an MIT 150 event, the Festival for Art, Science, and Technology---for more pictures, see here)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Mom and Eric, looking at gulls in Florida

All smiles to see my orange little brother.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pinterest: my new love

I tried putting it off for ages, especially since they require the use of facebook to sign up, but I am so hooked.  I'm crazy about sorting things by color, as anyone who has seen my apartment and shelves of books can attest to.. (though the love extends to my closet, my scarves, my bangles, I'm a bit obsessed). 

Joining is easy (just let me know if you want in!) and you have a nifty little plug-in that allows you to click on any picture or image you want to save and pin it to a virtual board (here's a link to mine).  My pinboards are mostly colors, but you could make boards for your favorite street style looks, bathroom renovation inspiration, great-looking food, you name it.  Now if only I could find some of those crystals in pendant form, I'd be a happy woman.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Third row seats.   Incredible.

The beautiful Wang Theater.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 2011

 The magnolia season lasted only five days this year, ending yesterday compared to lasting from April 7th to April 19th in 2010 (ah, the joys of timestamps on photos).  A few days of warmth in early April coupled with a three week cool spell and tons of rain and wind made for a late and short season.  There is nothing like a magnolia tree to remind you that nothing lasts forever.


This made me cry.  Yes, it had been a long day, but there you are.  Homelessness is one of those things that just kills me.  I really don't think that giving people money on the street is the best way to solve the problem, but then what do you do?  I remember the most astonishing thing visiting Sweden as a seventh grader was the complete lack of homeless individuals.  Thus began the start of what my father would call my "rampant socialist tendencies."  Ah well, if caring means I'm socialist, then so be it.  (from here, via D Sharp Design)

Wye Oak - Fish from Merge Records on Vimeo.
Lovely music, lovely video.  (from Wye Oak, via Design Sponge)

Clouds and words from Fred Eerdeken (via Dudecraft and Design Milk)

Beautiful music and painting (via Dudecraft)

Debussy's Clair de lune (via Black Eiffel)

On the calender:

---trip to Washington DC to support my mom!  (plus meet Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar)

--finish up my second year as a GRT

--annual McCormick spring BBQ

--go see this lovely lady say "I do!"

--MITSO Concert

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Garden Update

It's spring in Boston!

I recently read a wonderful post about the true cost and cost-savings of a garden. And it made me think about the tangibles and intangibles of the rooftop garden I started this past year in McCormick.  Last year was mostly herbs and "traditional" patio flowers:  geraniums, ivy, sweet potato vine...there were some successes (rosemary!  sage!  thyme!) and some failures (cilantro, basil).

I held a study break the first week of classes in order to introduce students to the garden, get some ideas for the space, and eat ice cream.  Because, really, everything is better with ice cream.  Their feedback was valuable --sweat equity will not be easy as students can't live in McCormick during the summer, but some of them will be on campus, and rest assured there will be a garden night once a week for weeding, harvesting, all that sort of thing.

Now is the second year of the garden, and much is happening!  All of the planters have been cleaned out and dirt-ified, ready for planting.

Seeds have been started!

Sage is coming back!

And so is mint, yum.

A new addition for this year:  blueberry bushes!

On the docket for this next week:

--buying additional irrigation equipment to install 360º through the Penthouse
--install said irrigation
--install irrigation timers
--transplant all current seedlings (greens like kale, mizuna, lettuce, and so on)
--start wildflower seeds indoors
--design wooden planters for eventual blueberries/strawberries/tomatoes
--clean up extra dirt and gravel littering the rooftop
--clear front planters of last year's detritus
--replant ivy (for plant hangers)
(gosh, no rest for the weary.  Thank goodness I'm not alone doing all of this!)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dress update!

In this dress search, I've had some issues.  Mainly, there are four choices out there:

1.  Slutty prom dress
2.  Trophy wife dress, lots of leopard, slits, and size 000
3.  Mother-of-the-bride
4.  Haute couture

The first three are not age or event appropriate.  The last is far too expensive for my budget, even with my tax return to help matters.

But, even though I've poked around a lot of options on the internet, as well as done some in store searching here, I hadn't gone to a place other than a department store.  So, this afternoon, with the event eleven days away, a friend and I went to Wrentham Outlets to check out BCBG, Karen Millen, and assorted other stores that may have more dresses in that sweet spot between too skanky and too mature for me. 

Karen Millen highlights

It's called the Boudoir dress, and while I thought I would look ridiculous, the draping is actually really well-done.  I have a consistent problem with the bottom matching the top of anything I wear, but even with that problem, this gown fit all right.  At $450, a bit steep, though.  And I wanted something with color!

My policy in stores is to tell whomever joins me, pick out whatever you want, I will try anything on...this gets me into things I would take one look at and grimace.  This dress on the rack looked like something vomited ruffles onto a bustier dress...but put it on, and wow.  The cascading ruffles are actually fitted to the curves of your body, creating a slight mermaid.  Whoever did the designing, bravo.  The top, though, same problem.  Tops just don't stay up on me.  And when you're going to pay $475 for a gown, and need to have it tailored and not just tailored, re-boned in the bodice, that just doesn't work.  But the shape was really pretty. 

BCBG.  I love this store.  I love the fit of their gowns.  I do not, however, love strapless.  Actually, even though the friend I went with adored some of their strapless gowns (especially one in Lisa Frank purple), I just can't deal with them.  While some may accuse me of hating my arms, it's more because I perpetually feel like they will fall down.  So, all I will do is pick at it all night, something cringe-worthy and decidedly non-classy.  I will not put myself in that situation.

I thought this would look horrid on me, but it looked...okay.  Still had the general top-falling-out problem. 

This dress in purple made me look a bit preggers.  It was also about eight inches too long with me in four inch heels, which would have been a bit of a pain to hem due to the drape.  But the color was gorgeous. 

So.  What to do, you ask?  Answer:  make one.  Or, have an awesome amazing friend help you make one.  She and another friend actually made me a dress this year for my birthday, and it's just such an appropriate dress for someone with my particular body eccentricities (don't hate, it sounds better than flaws).  Anyway, the dress they made is a shortened version of an Infinity Dress:

Origins are unknown, rumors fly, but Butter by Nadia sells a lot of these gowns in either jersey or satin.  They are quite easy to make in comparison to many other dresses out there, which is why ten days is still more than enough time.  Tomorrow is making patterns, Tuesday is buying fabric, Wednesday is cutting, and Sunday morning is sewing.  My friend has also made them several times before, and with that experience comes the glorious lack of troubleshooting---it's all been done before!

I'm loving the raspberry color.  But other suggestions are welcome---shoes are either silver or black, depending on what I feel like.  Any thoughts?