5 August 2011

We're Getting Out, We're Moving House

Anyone else liked Blood Brothers?  No? Okay, that's not the topic of this post anyway...

Emilia Lives Life is moving!  Follow me over here.

Cupcake Friday: Italian cakes!

This has been an unusual week, thus there is an unusual cupcake recipe this Friday: Italian cupcakes.  They were originally going to be funfetti, mostly because I wanted vanilla cake.  Unusual thing number one: I'm usually a chocolate girl.  Even though I had a perfectly good, untried, funfetti recipe, I decided to go ahead and veganize it.  Unusual thing number two: I used a flax egg instead of applesauce.  Then I realized we didn't have proper sprinkles to make the funfetti magic. Oh, I really must buy some soon!  After all, how can one call themselves a baker sans sprinkles?  After scooping the batter into my new silicone cupcake holders, I discovered some quite ancient christmas themed sprinkles...and thus Italian cupcakes were born!

The cupcakes are vanilla, there's the white.  The sprinkles had red and green.  Instead of looking out of place, I decided to jump at the chance to honor my studies and dub them "Italian cakes".  Then, unusual thing number three happened.  I decided to forego frosting.


Shocking no?  I'm usually such a frosting girl, but this week, call it laziness or whatever, I decided to present bare cupcakes.  And you know what?  They were FANTASTIC!

I hardly missed the frosting because the cupcakes were so full of flavor with an absolutely to-die-for texture.  It's rare that I will comment on the texture of a cupcake, usually they have a, well, cakey texture.  These cupcakes, however, were moist and dense, basically everything you would want in a cupcake.

Actually, I think these would make positively brilliant normal sized cakes with the appropriate adjustments to proportions/baking times.  With that recipe, I'd totally add frosting.  A proper cake must have frosting.

Italian Cupcakes (original recipe from How Sweet It Is)
makes 6 cupcakes

4 tbsp Earth Balance

1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup brown and 1/4 cup white)

1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax + 3 tbsp water)

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/6 cup almond milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream earth balance and sugar(s) together until light and fluffy, about a minute depending on how melty your butter is when you start.  Add in flax egg and vanilla and beat until combined.  It will still be slightly water-y, but you want as much as possible to be absorbed into the batter.

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add in half the ingredients, mix gently until just combined. Add in the milk, mix in.  Add in the rest of the dry ingredients, mix until just combined.

Pour batter into cupcake liners until they are 2/3 full, about a tablespoon and a half of batter per liner.
Bake for 18-20 minutes.  They are done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

What kind of theme cupcake would you make?

4 August 2011

Boston Re-cap: The Eats

If you are anything like me one of the first things you think about when planning a trip somewhere is: where am I going to eat?  Well, that task certainly fell to me when thinking about Boston and I must say, I was ready to take on that challenge!  While I won't say that we ended up eating at all the places I wrote down, or that some of them turned out to seem like quite duds, we did ultimately have a good array of yummy meals.  There wasn't one I truly hated (well, except for lunch at a museum...).

The first dinner was accidentally a restaurant that I had put on my original list.  We were heading for a different place, but saw this restaurant, realized we were all starving and decided to give it a go!  It was The Parish Cafe.  They had a lovely outdoor seating patio/deck, but since it was raining lightly when we arrived, we opted to eat inside, which was perfectly lovely!

I got a mushroom sandwich with white bean salad on mixed greens.  It was all really good, but the white bean salad was my favorite part of the meal!

The next day we went to a simple diner for breakfast.  It was close to our hotel and we all started the day out starving, so it seemed like a good choice!

We ended up having a table with a great view of Newbury Street.  Definitely one of the highlights of the meal!

For breakfast I got an omelette with spinach and mushrooms.  It came with toasted whole wheat bread and home fries. 

Looks quite a bit like the previous meal, no?

After breakfast we headed to Caffe L'Aroma for a quick coffee.  Which I obviously need to start my day.

Again, they had a lovely outdoor seating area, but since it was full, we opted to have our coffees inside.

My mom got a cappuccino (and gave me the schiuma, thanks mom!), my dad got an espresso and I got a cafe au lait.  Or at least, I got one at first.  It tasted like dirty water so I went back and got a latte instead.

It was much MUCH better.

For lunch that day we ate an (unphotographed) lunch from the cafeteria at the Museum of Fine Arts.  I was way unimpressed by the choices and ending up only having a little bit from the salad bar and eating a Clif z bar I brought with me.

Luckily that afternoon they were handing out free peanuts near the harbor.

We rallied for the food department with dinner, however.  We found that Boston has Wagamama!  I was totally thrilled.  Once again, no photos, but I got the Yasai Yaki Soba with yasai gyoza as a starter and a melon juice that I split with my mom.  Wonderful.

The next day for breakfast we opted for the cafe route.  We went to Espresso Royale Cafe on Newbury street.

I got a croissant, my mom got a poppy seed bagel with butter and my dad got an everything bagel with peanut butter.

My croissant was good, but a little on the sweet side; I generally prefer them flaky and buttery.  My dad's peanut butter bagel was definitely the winner out of this lot!

Being from New York, my family is definitely bagel snobs, so to say that these were good is quite the compliment!

Of course, I had to get some coffee, another latte!  I'm usually a cappuccino girl, but this trip I seemed to morph into a latte lover.

For dinner that night we went out to Figs.  I don't have any photos—I was positively ravenous by the time our meal arrived—but if you are ever in Boston go to Figs.  Seriously, it was phenomenal.  My parents and I split a half mushroom half eggplant pizza and loved every bite of it.  Brilliant, truly brilliant.

Overall, we only ended up eating at a couple of the restaurants I listed (Figs, Parish Cafe and L'Aroma), but enjoyed every dining experience, museum excluded.  Still, I would recommend doing some advance research; it will always pay to have a list of places you'd like to try!  My favorite meal was at Figs, followed by my mushroom sandwich on the first night.  Totally brilliant.

Have you ever been to Boston?  What was your favorite meal?  Do you enjoy finding restaurants on vacation?

3 August 2011

What's in my bag?

Looks simple on the outside.  This thing can't fit too much right?  Of course not, I'm a simple kind of girl...

Bag: Paul's Boutique, from Topshop

Or maybe not.

The contents of my bag.  They just fell out like that, I swear ;)

So what is all that?  Why do I need it?  Well, lets see.

The makeup section.  In the small bag that resembles a chocolate bar (given to me as a gift) I have, Kiehls French Rose lip gloss, dior eyeliner in black, some blotting papers, strawberry lip balm and a tokidoki by smashbox mirror.  The key ring is from Tous and the random green coin was from my uni's modern languages ball.

Obviously, every girl has gotta carry gum and an umbrella (cath kidston).  The red folder they are perched on is my intern handbook.

Then there is the wallet, which is Mark B from Topshop; the cell phone with a hello kitty charm I got from a gumball machine in Italy, my keys with a Hello Kitty key topper and my green ipod nano.

I also managed to fit in my trust A5 filofax and the book I was reading, The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips.

Yes, my bag is usually quite heavy.  That day I also carried my lunch and a bottle of water with me, so it was even more bloated in the morning.  Ultimately, I would rather have everything I need and a heavy bag than leave something important home!

What are your must-carry essentials?

2 August 2011

Back from Boston

Just got back from an absolutely lovely long weekend in Boston.  The city was pretty and the weather was spectacular!  Certainly a good time.

Some of my favorite photos from the trip...

Here's to a good week!

1 August 2011

Beach Week by Susan Coll

I'm always in the mood for summer fun.  During summer, it's a pretty good bet you can fin me reading a summer-y book at some point in the day.  Of course, I don't really discriminate against any type of book set during the summer, but when you add the idea of a beach in, I am totally 100% there.  I'll even bring the sunblock, Nivea spf 20.

That's what I thought Coll's book, Beach Week, was going to be like.  A romp with a group of just-graduated high school students while they go absolutely insane on a beach.  Sure, I read the blurb and knew the parents were going to be featured, but at least they would be at home sweating and thinking about the beach, right?


Okay, maybe not totally wrong.  They DO go to the beach, but the majority of the book is not set on the sandy shores.  In fact, it opens in winter.  That's right, winter.  The book opens and it's snowing in Verona, a fictional suburb of Washington DC.  Not exactly what you expect with a book entitled: Beach Week.

Thus, we come to one of the major reasons Beach Week fails to live up to its title.  Instead of focusing on the recent high school grad's trip to party away from the watchful eyes of their parents, the majority of the book is spent in the preparations and negotiations for this legendary post-graduation week.  It is within the realm of the discussions amongst parents and children, children and children and parents and parents that the book's true message comes to life.

The interactions between the parents and the kids intricately detail one family's experience on the brink of momentous change; not only with a child going away to university, but also the repercussions of freedom, letting go and acceptance.  Through the unique challenge's of one family, Coll manages to spin a story that tells a universal tale.  Anyone who has gone through the process of letting go and growing up after high school will be able to relate to this story.

That is not to say that Beach Week is not without it's hitch.  At times the pace gets frustrating.  One moment it's snowing and spring, then all of a sudden they are about to go on the fabled week away.  This can be frustrating at moments, when one feels that they are moving on a different sphere than the characters.  The movement at time prevents the reader from truly becoming friends with the characters.

Unfortunately, there are other ways that the reader is stopped from inhabiting the character's world.  At first, the sheer number of characters and their different views becomes overwhelming.  While the reader is still trying to assimilate into the novel's word, they are bombarded by a myriad of strong characters.  Yet, even though the characters seem overpowering initially, this happens because of how good the characters are.  They approach you like real people, annoying spots and all.

I may not always be going back to Beach Week, but the book tells a strong story with a good message.  Parents and children having gone through the process of assimilating to college-life will be able to appreciate the message and experience the hardships once again.  Coll manages to masterly capture an evanescent time, despite the difficulties in gauging time and overly-real characters with feisty personalities.

Do you enjoy books with a linear time line or an amorphous one?

photo source

29 July 2011

Cupcake Friday: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Coconut

I'm proud of myself this week.  And you should be too.  I didn't look to Crumbs to come up with these cupcakes as I usually do.  No, this time I came up with the flavor combinations by myself, asking friends and family what they thought would make a good cupcake.  The frostings, fillings and combinations were truly my brain child this week.

I'm obviously making great strides in my cupcake baking.  Accomplishment number one of the summer, sorted.

In all seriousness though, not only were these the most "original" cupcakes I came up with, but they were also the most delicious cupcakes I have made thus far.  Everyone who ate them thought so.  Which is part of the reason that you should make these right now.  Seriously, they are that good.

Plus, I got to use my new cupcake holders from Sur La Table, total win!

The cupcake base was my old standby with whole wheat pastry flour and canola oil.  I used one tbsp of brown sugar.

Peanut Butter Frostingy-glaze
makes enough for one cupcake heavily frosted, or two lightly glazed

1 Tbsp Almond Milk (I'm sure you could use other types of milk, but I only have almond)
1.5 - 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter (I used White Chocolate Wonderful)
Dash of sweetener

Pour almond milk into a small bowl/large cup and add 1.5 Tbsp of peanut butter.  Stir with a fork until the mixture begins to come together.  Depending on desired thickness, add in more peanut butter.  Stir until the almond milk is totally blended into the peanut butter and has a runny, but slightly firm, consistency.

For the filling of this cupcake, I used some straight-up peanut butter, which contrasted quite nicely with the light-er frosting.  Since I used an already sweet peanut butter, I did not feel the need to add anything to it in order to give it a more traditional frosting flavor, though someone using natural peanut butter may want to.  Try it before you add it!

Chocolate Fuge-Frosting Filling
makes enough to frost one cupcake or fill two

1 Tbsp coco powder
1 tsp Agave
1 tsp vanilla
generous splash of water (~1/4 tsp maybe?)

Mix the first three ingredients together in a small bowl until they are fully blended.  Add in the water slowly, mixing as you go.  Start with less water, the more you add, the softer the frosting will get.  There will be a little hardening afterwards, but not considerable amounts (unless you refrigerate/freeze it!).

Vanilla-Coconut Frosting
makes enough for one cupcake

1 Tbsp Coconut Butter (soft/melted)
1/2 tsp Agave
1 tsp vanilla
splash of water

Mix together coconut butter and agave.  Add in vanilla, mix until it has all been absorbed and looks almost crumbly in texture.  Slowly add in some water and mix while you go.  The final texture should be slightly spreadable and slightly crumbly.  You may need to use your fingers to help mold the frosting on.

To make the coconut cupcake extra pretty (the coconut butter frosting tends to look a wee bit mucky), add some coconut shavings onto the top of the cupcake.

What cupcake flavor would YOU create?

28 July 2011

E's Take: Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty

There are hour queues to get into see The Costume Institute's new show Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.  Reviewers seem to love it.  The audiences seem to love it.  But is it worth paying entrance (this means a dollar if you are poor/cheap like me) and actually waiting to see this show?

Yes it is.

You may be disappointed when you leave and you may be annoyed when walking through the exhibit, but the ability to see McQueen's brilliant and inspiring creations will be worth at least a fraction of the effort, if not more.  The reason Alexander McQueen was and is popular has less to do with his unfortunate death and more to do with his brilliant designs.  This exhibit does not only show clothing, it shows garments that are more-like artwork than anything you would find on the shelves of Bloomingdales.

Yet, the presentation does not do the clothing justice.  Instead of presenting the clothing in a cohesive and inspiring manner, one feels that the Costume Institute got carried away with quantity, sorely forgetting quality.  This focus on quantity over quality permeates the show, leaving the museum-goer with a disjointed feeling.  You will be impressed by what you see, but you will most likely fail to see McQueen's unique point-of-view, highlighted only by the tag line, Savage Beauty.

I didn't read the placards going through.  Mainly because it would be impossible.  The show is so saturated with people piled in like a delayed subway during rush hour that you can barely move.  Forget seeing reading the descriptions, getting a proper view of the clothing is distinctly difficult.  This could be excusable if the museum had not anticipated huge crowds; I highly doubt this is the case.  Since McQueen is widely recognized as one of the most creative designers in recent memory—his popularity, unfortunately, bolstered by his death—the MET should have made proper adjustments to create an effective blockbuster show.

Yet, that is exactly it.  After the exhibit one sense that the museum is exploiting McQueen in order to create a high-grossing popular exhibit.  I understand that New York City is cutting funding for cultural institutions, but does that give a museum the right to use whatever method possible to gain money?  No.  There must be a line that gives a cultural institution boundaries for what they can and can't use to draw in crowds and money.  It is not the fact that they are putting up a show about Alexander McQueen, rather it is the manner in which they have chosen to exhibit all the pieces.

Walking through the exhibit I felt like I was in an amusement park.  In one room, they have a sound clip of blowing wind on rotation.  That combined with the decor properly made me feel like I was in the Disney World Haunted Mansion ride.  A museum should never make me think I am in an amusement park.  Where is the line between a brilliant show and pure entertainment?

I want a museum to show me something that encourages me to think, as opposed to bombarding me with sensory overload.  If large cultural institutions begin to present each new show as a spectacle, where does it end?  There needs to be a defined line that allows a dialogue to ensue between the museum and the viewer.  While the McQueen show displays breathtaking garments, it does not encourage the museum-goers to think about what they have seen in a deeper manner than they could by viewing the original runway show.

Ultimately, that is exactly what the McQueen show is, a glorified compilation of a variety of different runway shows.  There is no denying that the MET has gone above and beyond.  There is no arguing that the garments are beautiful.  The show falls short when one leaves, without being truly aware of what they have just seen.

What kind of museum shows do you like?  Have you seen the McQueen show?  What did you think?

top photo source

27 July 2011

Ways to Keep Workouts Fun

One of the worst parts of working out is burn out.  It happens to even the toughest/strongest/most determined athletes.  Personally, somedays I'm totally into weight lifting and feel like I could do it all the time, yet other days it is absolutely the last thing I want to do.  Usually my desire to workout correlates with how frequently I've done a certain form of exercise.  In order to prevent burnout and boredom, I try to switch it up!  I'm constantly trying to discover and search out new forms of exercise, but I definitely have my favorites that I return to time and time again.

Emilia's Favorite Type's of Exercise:
Weight Lifting
Walking (hey, it counts!)
Ice Skating

Even within these different ways to get my move on, I try to mix it up.  I don't always do the same weight lifting routine and challenge myself to continuously lift heavier weights.  When running, I don't always take the same route or run for the same amount of time.  I don't do the same yoga routine, or take the same bike path.  Diversity is the spice of your exercise life ;)

The main thing you need to remember when trying to keep workouts fun is the delicate balance between variation, exertion and rest.  At first, this may seem easy, but often ends up being difficult to put into practice.  No one wants to do the same routine over and over again, it gets boring, we zone out and stop pushing ourselves.  Why would you choose to do something if you didn't enjoy it?  I know I sure wouldn't!  Not only will you stop wanting to work out, but even when you DO choose to exercise, you won't be getting the same quality as if you tried a new harder routine.

Exertion helps us get the most out of our workouts.  I know that it doesn't matter how long or far or fast I run on a given day, as long as I try my hardest and exert myself appropriately on THAT day, I'm good!  The same goes for weight lifting, you want to increase the amount of weight you use in order to exert yourself physically AND mentally.  If you follow a program that says 'Use five pound weights!' you will, inevitably, reach a plateau where all you can lift are five pounders that no longer feel heavy enough.  When I exert myself after a workout, I certainly feel much prouder, and eager to start on the next one!

The last pillar of keeping your workouts fun is, for me, the hardest one: rest!  Everyone needs rest, but sometimes it can be extremely difficult to admit that you need a rest day.  If you have variation and exert yourself in activities that you genuinely enjoy, you most likely won't want to rest.  I used to have a scheduled rest day in my week, but now I just take one when I need it.  Some days I'm just too tired to actually work out.  That is perfectly okay!  Listening to what your body needs and wants will help you to continue having fun as you exercise.

Sometimes, even when you try all of the above tactics, you just get stuck in an exercise rut.  New activities may be fun, but they don't hold your attention.  Sometimes, you just get plain tired of exercising!  If something like this happens, it may be time to take a break longer than just a rest day.  There is nothing wrong, I repeat nothing wrong, with take a rest week or even a rest month.  Most likely after taking a sustained chunk of time "off" you will be excited to start up with your activities again.  There are certain times in our lives where we need space to breathe.  Besides, you never want exercise or workouts to get in the way with living life.

Finally, rewards can be a great way to keep up incentive, motivation and help you push yourself harder.  Maybe you really want to run a 5k, 10k or half-marathon, but you also really want a pair of new sneakers.  Get them!  They'll help you train if you are super excited to go out in your lovely new sneak's!  The same goes with other rewards.  New gym memberships, books, baking time, dinner out, find some kind of reward you really enjoy and use it to help push your workouts and keep them interesting!

What is your favorite workout?  What do you do when you find yourself in a workout rut?

26 July 2011

Handling the Heat

If you haven't heard, New York has been dying from a heat wave for the past couple days.  From Thursday-Sunday there was unbearable, record-breaking heat that caused normal life to come to a near standstill.   I managed to do pretty well during those days, however, escaping the bubble of air-conditioning to live a bit ;)

There were plenty of iced coffees used to chill off!

I managed to get a wee bit of baking in before the heat really set in.  I made chocolate chip cookies that ended up a bit flat, but they were eaten straight from the oven which made the DELICIOUS!

I had my first experience with oats in a jar; they were beyond delicious.

I used the worlds best nut butter ever, PB & co Cinnamon Raisin Swirl.  Words cannot describe my abundant love for this stuff!  I recently got White Chocolate Wonderful, which tastes like the inside the middle of a peanut butter cup to me.  Good, but I prefer this one.

Sunday evening was considerably less hot and I jumped at the chance to bake a bit, meet chocolate mint cookies.  These were absolutely incredible!  They have an extraordinarily rich chocolatey taste with a unique fudge-like texture.  I highly recommend you making them as soon as possible, the minty flavor is absolutely perfect for summer.

Since the hot weather has more/less left these shores for a bit, my mother and I headed out on some errands/fun stuff on Monday.

I've been wanting to try Argo Tea for quite a while (say early April) and finally managed to today!  Yes, much celebration ensued.

Okay, so maybe you cannot actually read the menu from this photo, but the point was to show you all the really cool screen.  Of course, none of the awesome-ness comes across in this photo.  Basically, there was a t.v. screen that displayed all the drinks and changed so you could see the different variations.

After much deliberation I chose...

An Iced Coconut Chai Latte!  It was beyond beyond.  The coconut flavor was nice and subtle, yet pronounced.  That being said, it most definitely did NOT overwhelm the spice-y chai taste that I love oh-so-much.  Perfect way to enjoy a chai latte during the summer :)

The rest of the day was spent running around and doing fun errands.  This involved going to Fishes Eddy and totally not getting the dishes we planned to get, a trip to Lulu Lemon that ended up in shorts and a racerback tank top (so so so excited to go running in these!) and a lovely little jaunt through Whole Foods purely to get Guittard chocolate chips. What can I say, I need the good stuff for baking!  Not to mention (another) trip to the container store and lunch at Pret (avocado and pine nut wrap, go get this now.  you will NOT be sorry!).

While at the container store I looked a bit at all the crazy things they had to pack lunches in.  This year I'm totally committed to bringing lunch with me to uni.  Of course, now that I'm living properly close and will have even less classes than last year, this could end up being a moot point.  Still, salad bowl anyone?  It even has a little top container for your dressing!  Quite brilliant, if I do say so myself.  I didn't get it, but I am definitely thinking about it.  Need to pack myself nutritious lunches ;)

What have you been up to recently?  What is your favorite summer beverage?

25 July 2011

Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger

Chasing Harry Winston

The Devil Wears Prada is one of my favorite movies ever.  Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and awesome clothing?  Sign me up!  Last summer I decided to read the actual book, long time coming.  I liked it a lot, but didn't love it.  The easy-going fun of the movie was present in the book, but not in the same amount.  Ultimately, I just didn't love it.

What does this have to do with Weisberger's Chasing Harry Winston?  A lot.  I liked the book, it was a lot of fun, but I just didn't love it.  Part of this had to do with the shock that the two books were by the same author.  Where The Devil Wears Prada dealt with harder-to-deal-with issues in a light manner, Chasing Harry Winston dealt with light issues in a light manner.

I don't have a problem with this.  Not at all.  I adore light, fun books that are driven by a story and not the author's desire to show their spades of intellect.  What I felt lacking in this specific story was the layered characters and highly unique story that I look for in a so-called light novel.   The plot, while not predictable, was uninspiring.  Three girls, all scared about reaching thirty, old college friends and wanting to make changes in their lives?  I may not have read this exact variation before, but it's a tale as old as time.

The characters, while fun, were unrealistic.  A beautiful woman who doesn't work and lives off a trust fund.  A hard-worker in a seemingly perfect relationship who isn't really happy.  And the modest girl who needs to come out of her shell.  The characters were not doubt the archetypes that you normally run into, but I didn't feel that Weisberger added anything highly original to them in order to make the archetype come alive.

Despite the issues I have with the unoriginality of both the plot and the characters, the book was saved by the writing.  It moved along at a nice pace, revealing just the right amount of information at critical moments.  Even though the characters felt two dimensional, Weisberger made me root for them.  Ultimately, I wanted the best for Leigh, Emmy and Adriana, even if I couldn't relate to them.  Their trials may have seemed dramatically un-dramatic, but Weisberger's writing made the events of the plot interesting.  The story was definitely NOT like The Devil Wears Prada, but that's what made it better for me.  I enjoyed the lightness, just wish that the characters and the plot could have been more developed.

So, should you read this?  If you enjoy fun books that take you on an escapist journey, I would recommend Chasing Harry Winston.  However, if you tend to find yourself gravitating towards realistic books where the characters face hard issues, this may not be the book for you.  I'd say that this book is the meeting place of a beach read, such as Elin Hilderbrand's The Beach Club, and an intellectual light novel, such as Emily Giffin's Something Borrowed.  Even though I won't be racing to re-read it, I would definitely read another book by Weisberger.

photo source

What is your favorite genre of book?

Un Bacione,