Tuesday, April 30, 2013

a chocolate cake, reimagined.

chocolate cake with whipped cream and cream cheese frosting
This is not the cake that I thought I was going to write about. That cake had a different and more complicated recipe. James was going to make it because he's patient and good at this sort of thing. I was going to flit about taking pictures.

But then we lingered over the newspaper, and our morning run to drop off the compost became a run to get bagels and eat them in the sunshine. When it's late April in a spring that's been slow to arrive, these are the sort of things that take precedence.

Cakes take a while to make. It's not that they're difficult, there's just all that baking and cooling that needs to be accounted for. When it's 1:00 pm and you're supposed to be bringing the birthday girl her cake at 2:00 pm, sometimes you need to scratch complicated and go for easy. This cake is the result: half fancy, half simple.
chocolate cake with rose petals

James adapted the cake recipe from one by his all-time-favorite baking bros. at Baked (see also). The original is for a delicious-sounding German Chocolate cake with a decadent pecan and coconut frosting. We didn't get quite that far, but we like what we got instead:

For the cake:

2 1/4 c. cake flour (we used all-purpose, no surprise there)
3/4 c. dark unsweetened cocoa powder (we used unsweetened hot chocolate powder because it's what we had. Worked like a charm, powdered milk and all).
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. hot coffee
1 c. buttermilk
1 1/4 c. butter, softened
2 1/4 c. sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz. dark chocolate, melted and cooled


1). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans. (The original recipe calls for 3 8-inch pans--fancy!--but who has those?). Butter and flour the pans. Cut out parchment rounds and butter those if you're nervous about the cake sticking to the bottom. We didn't. Ours stuck. You've been warned.

2). Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk buttermilk and hot coffee.

3). In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy (I know, lots of bowls). Scrape the sides of the bowl and add your eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla.

4). Add the dry ingredients bit by bit, alternating them with the buttermilk and coffee mixture (begin and end with the dry stuff). Fold in the melted chocolate with a wooden spoon (or whatever you have on hand).

5). Divide the batter between your pans (Ours was just enough to fill 2 9-inch pans, but we did have a minor fiasco wherein "we" added the batter without first preparing the pans. Adventures in baking). Smooth the tops and bake for 35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Test with a fork; it should come out clean when the cakes are done. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the cake from their pans and let cool completely before frosting.

...Or, if you're like us: clear out the freezer, put your wire rack on the top shelf, shove in your cakes, and pray for a miracle while running to the grocery store to find an alternate frosting recipe...

For the frosting:

When I realized we'd never have time to heat and cool and otherwise labor over a hot stove to make the frosting we'd planned, I grabbed my phone and ran out the door. This is the recipe I found somewhere along Clinton Street. It's light like whipped cream, but the cream cheese means it won't all squelch out when you add a second layer. Adapted below:

8 ounces heavy whipping cream
8 ounces cream cheese (We used full fat, because that's how we like things).
1 cup sugar (We used a little less, because that's also how we like things).
dried coconut (unsweetened for the love of all that is good), as much as you like
vanilla extract, to taste

We used a stand mixer because we're lucky enough to have one, but you could do this with a handheld mixer or a whisk and very strong arms.

Mix together cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract until blended. I also added in a heaping handful of dried coconut because I love it and we had it handy. With the mixer churning, slowly add the heavy cream until the frosting stiffens and forms stiff peaks. Stiff peaks is like the ultimate in opaque recipe-speak, but once you make something like a frosting the meaning becomes quite clear. Courage!

When the cakes were finally cool, I glopped huge piles of frosting and sprinkled the whole thing with dried rose petals before walking it down the street to Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Guesses for how many people men asked me for a slice of that? Too many.
You have read this article chocolate / chocolate cake / food with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-chocolate-cake-reimagined.html. Thanks!
Monday, April 29, 2013

tulips, full color.

tulips, brooklyn
tulips, brooklyn
tulips, brooklyntulips, brooklyn
tulips, brooklyn

tulips, brooklyn
tulips, brooklyn

tulips, brooklyn
tulips, brooklyn

There's lots to be said for the beauty of muted colors. I like them too; all those soft neutrals, the grays and whites and blues. But there's something about springtime tulips and the way that they remain bright and vibrant even when the sun is setting and the street lights have come on, that I'm finding pretty inspiring. It isn't such a bad thing to show a little bit of exuberance every now and then.

Other things:
A Gardener's Stage: Park Avenue
Supermarket Tulips.
You have read this article flowers / life / tulips with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/tulips-full-color.html. Thanks!
Friday, April 26, 2013

my week in objects (mostly).

five little things that made my week.

1. this plant.
snake plant
{because as james would say, i'm straight-up copying these guys. flattery}.

2. this light.
{because it's there}.

3. this new striped laundry bag.
laundry bag
{because finally we're not using oversized safety pins to keep our underwear from peppering the sidewalk}.

4. this iphone case.
iphone case
{because i don't know how much more bloggerly i could be, but it's my second iphone case ever and a vast improvement}.

5. these worn-in clogs.
{because nothing beats worn-in clogs, especially in a week when you can wear them without socks}.

other things:
new york finally improved its recycling!
this made me very sad. but it's worth the read.
i grew up listening to this man. thanks, parents and richie.
i'm very excited to be a part of this book project.

other things by me:
make your own glass cleaner.
what does it mean to "be green."
garden clogs.
grocery store ranuncs.

PS. Thanks so much for everyone who entered the Nahla giveaway. A little reminder that the discount code is good through May 7 and 100% of proceeds from internet orders will benefit One Fund Boston, now through April 30.

You have read this article life / my week in objects with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-week-in-objects-mostly.html. Thanks!
Thursday, April 25, 2013

brooklyn, a century ago.

brooklyn back yard, circa 1911
brooklyn, circa 1911
brooklyn, circa 1911
brooklyn, circa 1911
brooklyn back yard, circa 1911

I've been poring over these family photos lately.

There's lots to say about them, but for now I couldn't help but to share them as a little celebration of Brooklyn in the summertime.

I wouldn't mind a summer filled with watering cans and floppy hats, oversized hair bows and dropped waist dresses. Add in a hydrangea bush with blossoms the size of a horse's head and I'd likely keel over from the delight of it all.

Brooklyn, you looked mighty fine in 1911. Aunt Ruth, you were pretty cute, too.

You have read this article brooklyn / family / hydrangea with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/brooklyn-century-ago.html. Thanks!
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

< two fifty: life in a tiny apartment.

It doesn't matter how tiny your apartment is, if you share it with someone, divvy up the housework.

Without going into all the mushy details about how we met on a tiny island off the coast of Georgia, and how James has seriously the bluest eyes of anyone I'll ever know, and how three months after we met I moved to France and he moved to Utah and somehow the stars aligned and here we are 6 years later and 8 months married and on our way to happily-ever-after, let me just say that I feel pretty darn good about my choice in life partner.

James and I moved into an apartment together when I was just four days past my 23rd birthday. It took us three days after that to have our first fight about cleaning.

I could write an entire book on this subject, but recognizing that this is a blog and not a book and that maybe you are reading this surreptitiously while at work and would really just like me to get to the point already, I'll try to be brief:

Just because you live in a tiny apartment, it doesn't mean the housework that needs doing is also tiny.
There's still (likely) a toilet and a tub that need scrubbing, two sinks that need scouring, a kitchen trash can that needs emptying and a bed that needs changing, not to mention everything else. Even though the square footage that needs to vacuumed is small, the sum total of things that need cleaning isn't.

And just because you live in a tiny apartment, it doesn't mean that the cleaning should be the responsibility of one person. Maybe there are folks who have a happy arrangement wherein housework is solidly one person's domain and all other drudgery is someone else's, but in my humble opinion the single most important thing you can do in the name of keeping the peace, love, feminism, and all that is holy, is to embark on housework as a joint effort.

It's taken us six years to get it right, but James and I are pretty good about keeping things evenly divided. I might still get annoyed that James "doesn't notice" when the tub is dirty, and he might still get annoyed when I can't take out the trash because "I already took off my shoes," but we're not going for perfection here, just peace.

ps. I have a little tutorial on making an all-natural glass cleaner over on Gardenista. I think you'll like it!
pps. There are still two days to enter yesterday's giveaway!
You have read this article cleaning / coupledom / life / life in a tiny apartment with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/two-fifty-life-in-tiny-apartment.html. Thanks!
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

nahla: a beautiful giveaway.

You probably already know this about me: I'm a beauty aisle hand wringer. I'm the woman in Duane Reade frowning at mile-long ingredient lists and struggling to decode them in search of a perfect face cream. I've spent the better part of a half hour debating potions only to leave empty handed. I may or may not have once argued with an esthetician about petrochemicals...in public. Beauty products are an investment, and I don't want to invest in something that doesn't meet my standards.

Nahla Beauty is a new sponsor of Reading My Tea Leaves, but I like to think of them as an answer to my prayers. Maybe yours, too. Their ingredient lists are 100% readable and 100% free of parabens and petrochemicals and phthalates, and phenoxyethanol, and on and on. They smell wonderful, but not because they're pumped full of artificial fragrance. Maybe most important of all, they've been making my skin feel terrific.

This week, Nahla has generously offered a whole selection of goodies for one Reading My Tea Leaves reader. These are the goods:
For a chance to win, hop over to Nahla Beauty to explore their handiwork for yourself and leave a comment back here, complete with contact information and a description of one thing you're going to do this month to be kind to yourself and kind to the planet. 

In addition to producing honest and reliable products, Nahla has a long history of philanthropic giving. They give away 20% of their profits annually. From now through April 30, they're donating 100% of their web order proceeds to One Fund Boston to support victims of last week's marathon bombing. If ever there was a time to invest in something special, this might be it.

And as if all that wasn't enough: Nahla Beauty is offering 10% off your order of $65 or more with discount code “TEALEAVES”. As a bonus, they’ll also include a special gift with every order regardless of size. This offer is valid through May 7, 2013 at 11:59 pm eastern time.

The giveaway will close on Thursday evening at 5:00 pm and a randomly selected winner will be announced on Friday. Lots of luck and thanks for reading!

PS. You don't have to follow this blog in a reader or on facebook, or twitter, or pinterest, or anything else in order to enter, but if you're new here, it'd be great to have you.

UPDATE: This giveaway is now CLOSED. Thanks so much for entering, the winner is Musings from the Corner!
You have read this article beauty products / giveaway / nahla beauty / organic skincare with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/nahla-beautiful-giveaway.html. Thanks!
Monday, April 22, 2013

bear mountain.

Here's a thing about me that you might not know. To my family, I'm Bear. Growing up, while I picked buttercups on the margins of the soccer field, my mom and dad shouted a never ending chorus of encouragements:

"Go, Bear!"
"Go get 'em, Bear!"
"You can do it, Bear!"
"That-a-girl, Bear!"

Mostly this mortified me, which it shouldn't have. The inscrutable name coupled by my utter lack of response would have made it difficult to determine which of the players on the field was actually called Bear. To this day, parents of other players from Shoreline Connecticut circa 1992 might actually believe Bear to be the name of a girl who ran toward the ball instead of away from it.

That's an aside, mostly.

The main point is this: On Sunday, to celebrate the first three months of my nephew's sweet life on this planet, I dusted off the kind of athletic skills that have always been more squarely in my comfort zone and hiked Bear Mountain with my sister Cait, baby Oliver, and our partners in crime and other things. That's kind of like hiking Erin Mountain. Just so you understand.

We packed a lunch of hummus and pita and more than our share of chocolate-covered almonds and spent the day outside of the city gulping in fresh air and getting sunburned. It was glorious. Here, a few photos:

Fueling up and fancy footwork.

Bébé, incognito.

Babbling brooks and other nature-y things.
Cait and Curt, and an invisible-but-decidedly-present, Oliver.

Stone steps.
Queens of Bear Mountain.


Happy Earth Day, friends.

ps. My thoughts on what it means to "be green."
You have read this article bear mountain / life with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/bear-mountain.html. Thanks!
Friday, April 19, 2013

my week in objects (mostly).

five little things that made my week.

1. these flower stamps.
flower stamps
{because just look at how many letters i have to write}.

2. these neighborly violets.
{because they remind me of my momma}.

3. this water mark.
grease stain, undone
{because it means i actually got the grease stain out. dish soap}!

4. this pile o' nettles in my smoothie-to-be .nettle leaf{because even though they kinda look like illicit greens, they're not. and they are making my allergies virtually non-existent}.

5. this head scarf.
{because i'm trying, yet again, to wash my hair every other day. and this is necessary by the morning of day two}.

other things:
gabrielle giffords says it all.
the sweetest little craft.
magnolia bugs!
these stripes.
i caved.
leotards and underwear get me every time.

other things by me:
making neighbor friends.
a flowery face mask.
You have read this article life / my week in objects with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-week-in-objects-mostly_19.html. Thanks!
Thursday, April 18, 2013

magnolia and barbed wire.

magnolia and barbed wire
In the winter months it's easy to forget that there are whole lives lived in the interiors of the city blocks, but when the spring comes and the trees bloom, I suddenly remember. The view around Brooklyn these days has been made positively fuzzy with blossoms. I'll take the fuzzy over the stark any day.magnolia and barbed wire
I read this poem this week. I think it's just right for this time of year and for this week, especially:

“Under the Magnolia” by Carolyn Miller

I give thanks because I do not have
a great sorrow. My village has not
burned, my child has not died, my body
is not ravaged. I sit here on the ground
lucky, lucky. Somewhere, villages are burning,
somewhere, not too far away, children
are dying; in this great urban park
painstakingly constructed over sand dunes,
people live in the flowering bushes. But
just here, in front of me, is a bride and groom;
here is a child running with
a red ball; another child is rolling on
the grass. All I have to do is to decide
how much fear to let inside my heart
in this fragile, created place, this bowl of grass
surrounded by palms and cypresses and
shaggy-barked cedars and trees
whose names I do not know, long fronds
falling, clusters of lilac fruits depending like
bouquets. All we can do is trust
that we belong here with the flowers: white
iris and Iceland poppies, a blur
of primroses, beds where flowers are
a crowd of color, where they close in the dark,
where the first light finds them starred
with dew. The trees seem to know
what I do not know; even the cultivated grass
understands some chain of being I can only
guess at, whether it is God’s mind, or
the erotic body of the Goddess, or some
abstract kind of love, or
some longing for existence that includes
the fern trees, the new buds of cones on the
conifers, the white butterflies, the skating boys,
the hooked new buds of the magnolia
that look like claws holding on
to life, the curved thick petals of magnolia
in the grass, some gone to rust, some creased,
some streaked, others freckled, others magenta
at the curved stem end, others cracked,
all lined with long veins branching out
to the petal’s edge.
You have read this article life / magnolia / poem with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/magnolia-and-barbed-wire.html. Thanks!
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

< two fifty: life in a tiny apartment.

Your stovetop is not your countertop. Even if you want it to be.

I was going to take a photograph of my sandwich sitting on this charred wooden cutting board. But then I realized that I was more interested in eating the oozing cheddar-cheese and hot sauce-covered egg sandy than I was in photographing it. So. You get this instead.

I have developed a habit of making myself lunchtime egg sandwiches and serving them to myself on this slim board. Ever in search of a way to do fewer dishes, eating off the cutting board means one less dish to wash and if you ask me, it's the perfect combination of pretty and practical.

The routine goes like this: I take my toaster down from its perch on the refrigerator and place it on the 12 inches of counter space we call ours. Then I pop in my toast, fire up my pan and ready my board for receiving the sandwich. (I like to imagine that the operation looks something like this, only I'm the moving parts). To make things easy, I balance my board somewhere between the inch or two of available counter space and the electric burner on the stovetop. It's not perfectly flush, but it works.

Until I turn on the wrong burner.

And then I char my cutting board, alarm my neighbors, and remind myself to get renter's insurance. Again.

It's tempting, in this kind of small apartment to use your stove as countertop, but this week I was reminded that it's also not very wise. Just in case you've been similarly tempted, here's a friendly reminder to move the operation elsewhere. Preferably someplace that won't catch fire. Oops.

You have read this article life in a tiny apartment with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/two-fifty-life-in-tiny-apartment_17.html. Thanks!
Tuesday, April 16, 2013

brooklyn loves boston.

Photo by Lucky Tran; Illuminations by @NYClightbrigade and @illuminator99

I'm not a runner. Just a sister to runners. Proud by proxy.

In my estimation, there is only one reason to stand at a marathon finish line. It is to feel your heart swell.  To feel it thrum steadily and then fill suddenly with a burst of astonishment and compassion and pride so great that you can physically feel it. 

Watching runners cross the finish line is to be reminded of the strength of the human spirit; the persistent keeping-on that we manage by miracle over and over again. 

At a marathon, the demonstration of will and strength is elective, mostly. Runners set a challenge for themselves and they set out to meet it. And when they do, and even if they don't, there are heart swells. 

In these next few days, and in the months and years that will follow, we will see a similar kind of strength. Tragically, it will likely not come with the hoots and hollers that you find at the end of a finish line, but we will take lessons from that place. We will buoy each other up, press ahead, face each new day with fortitude that didn't seem possible the day before. We will make like the marathoners and carry on.

In the wake of yesterday's senseless bombings at the Boston Marathon, I find comfort in knowing that the scores of people who were there--and likely all of the people who were injured and killed--had come together because of a common desire to bear witness to the strength and vitality of human beings. 

Last night, a series of illuminations were projected against the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Simple messages of love and hope for Boston. These make for heart swells, too.
You have read this article boston marathon / life with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/brooklyn-loves-boston.html. Thanks!
Monday, April 15, 2013

gramercy, etc.

gramercy, weeping cherry
Pink spring blossoms again? Well. It's gonna be flowers and sunshine from here on out, so get ready. James and I have decided to officially come out from hibernation along with the trees. We're even on a kick of getting together with nearby friends whom we haven't seen since the weather turned nasty...oh, six months ago. If we haven't raised a glass with you yet, it's coming. Consider yourselves warned.
gramercy, spring
This weekend we made impromptu plans with old & new friends, had brunch with Mildred, ran the usual errands, did the usual housework and generally enjoyed the idea that it wasn't the work week (per se) and there were flowers on the trees.
1 gramercy park
There's nothing like New York in the springtime, and there's nothing like Gramercy for showing off the best the city has to offer. After brunch near Stuy Town, we tooled around the neighborhood, drank too-strong iced coffee, let our noses get a tiny bit sunburned, and pretended like we had keys to the park that we were just deciding not to use.
gramercy, bradford pear
Lately I've been utterly preoccupied with the idea of having our own little outdoor spot to dine (more daydreaming here), so we took advantage of our walk to do some gawking and drooling over other people's spaces.
gramercy, fence
We're just doing our best to soak it all in these days. What about you? What are your weekends looking like lately?

{ps. i'm finally admitting that google reader is going away and giving bloglovin a test run. you can follow my blog with bloglovin, too, if it suits you.}
You have read this article gramercy park / life / new york / spring with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/gramercy-etc.html. Thanks!
Friday, April 12, 2013

my week in objects (mostly).

five little things that made my week.

1. this lace curtain.
lace curtain at prime meats
{because someday all my curtains will be so dainty}.

2. these daffodils.
bridal crown daffodils
{because i planted them in reused potting soil, and this week, blooms}.

3. these white magnolia blossoms.
white magnolia blossoms
{because it seemed like every restaurant and shop in the neighborhood had their own set of branches}.

4. these dress shirts.
{because they're vestiges from james's hockey coaching days, and now they're outta here}.

5. this white tulip.
open tulip
{because i don't mind one bit that three out of my five objects are flowers}.

other things:
advice to little girls. brought back to life by maria.
the east village: mad men vs. reality.
vintage seed packet stamps.
forget sneakers, i want these.
or maybe these and these.
webbys!: vote here.
this is delightful and kooky.
i was captivated by this renovation this week.
i really want to see this.

things by me in other places:
miracle tea. 
mudroom hooks.
You have read this article life / my week in objects with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL http://newbieny.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-week-in-objects-mostly_12.html. Thanks!