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,


24 July 2011

Cafe Chronicles: Cafe Regular

Sometimes I'm not in the mood for properly good coffee.  Those are the times I head on over to Starbucks and get, well, whatever.  When I'm in the mood for a good cup of coffee, however, Cafe Regular is one of my favorite stops.  I don't necessarily go there food the atmosphere, food or space, but putting up with all of that is worth it sometimes.

The strongpoint of Cafe Regular is just that, their coffee.  They serve good coffee in nice amounts with a good selection of choices.  If you get a cappuccino, latte or au lait, you can actually taste the difference between all of them.  Sometimes at Starbucks or Le Pain Quotidien there is very little differentiation between these beverages, if there is any at all!  This isn't the place you go when you want a paper cup (which I do, quite often).  When you go to Cafe Regular, you are getting your coffee in a proper mug, with beautiful schiuma art as well; if that is important to you, and it is to me.

While I enjoy the coffee at Cafe Regular, they make amazing soy iced lattes (with unsweetened soy milk), there is very little else I enjoy.  I am not going there to enjoy the atmosphere/ambiance, sit down for a while, get good food or work.  When you go there you go to get coffee, sit for a spell, but preferably leave as soon as possible.

The major problem with the atmosphere of this cafe is the size.  It is just too small to fit in a decent (or really any) people.  You will end up perched on a  stool the size of a dime (or five p coin), sitting in an awkward window seat or sitting in the middle of a cafe, once again on an uncomfortable stool.  I'm okay suffering a little to get good coffee, but there is no way I could spend a sustained period of time there after my left butt-cheek goes numb.

You may think that the lack of comfy seating is excusable, and it most definitely could be if they had something else that made up for it.  Unfortunately, the rest of the cafe experience at Cafe Regular is similarly lackluster.  Since the cafe is so small it feels cramped, uncomfortably so.  Small spaces are no doubt the norm in New York, but it feels as if they are trying to fit something that would work well in a much bigger space into a shoebox.  This raises tensions among people who are already hopped up on caffeine.

Once you get over the small space and the lack of proper seating, you must deal with the poor customer service.  I can deal with a lot.  Short salespeople generally don't annoy me.  It's a long day, they are probably tired, they want to rest!  I get it, it sucks.  But when you are doling out doses of caffeine to people on their way to work, it makes sense to me to use caution.  Please don't get annoyed when I ask you for a single iced soy latte.  I don't mean harm!  I'm giving you nearly four bucks for the thing!  Now, I've seen people in there having surprisingly animated conversations with the counter people.  Yet, I've always found them highly detached.  Maybe they don't like what I'm ordering.  Maybe because I don't look achingly hip.  Maybe because I didn't order something simple.  I don't know, but I definitely don't go here when I want good service.

Now, back to the coffee.  Because it really is very very good.  It keeps me going back, over all of that.  I put up with less than good service, I put up with a cramped cafe and I put up with wacked out seating to get this coffee.  That says something.  Sure, there are times when I don't feel like going, but when I do go, I am never disappointed in the coffee.  Afterall, isn't that the reason we are going to all these different cafes?  To get good coffee?  Plus, they serve Jacques Torres hot chocolate.  The drinks are pretty much ace.

So should you go?  If you are in the neighborhood and want good coffee, this place is ace.  Yet, I wouldn't go out of my way for it.  Part of my affinity for this cafe is the location, which, for me, is extremely convenient.  The service and general lack of ambiance makes this cafe a miss on too many levels to call it a destination cafe.


Atmosphere: 1 out of 5 coffee cups.  Maybe it's the odd music.  Maybe it's the dark colors.  Most of all it's the cramped space and bad chairs.  Cafe Regular's atmosphere is there, but is lacking in nearly every department that would mark the reason you go to a cafe.

Coffee: 4.5 out of 5 coffee cups.  The coffee is potent, yet cut nicely by a generous amount of frothed milk.  Their variety includes iced lattes, cappuccinos and coffees, extending to hot au laits, cortados and mochas.  You can tell that the owner knows their coffee and wants to share good coffee with people who care to stop by a whole-in-the-wall coffee joint.

Food: n/a.  There really is no food to speak of.  Even if there was, you wouldn't have anywhere to eat it.

Prices: 4 out of 5 coffee cups.  The prices are pretty standard, think Starbucks.  Even though Starbucks tends to veer to the expensive side, you are getting really good coffee here, so it ends up being worth it.  The other day on the way to work I got a soy iced latte for $3.80.  Way better than Starbucks for about the same price.

Location: 3 out of 5 coffee cups.  While the location is great for me, they only have two, which can make it extraordinarily inconvenient for others.  Take your pick.


Interested in Cafe Regular? Here are some useful links!

Yelp Reviews


Un Bacione,


23 July 2011

An Ode to Breakfast

Remember back in halls when I absolutely hated the food, hated anything they made me eat and wanted to gag at the smell of the tuna pasta bake?  The one meal that was ok (besides lunch, ha!  They didn't even serve that to us) was breakfast.  How can you go wrong with cereal, yogurt, "toast" and a cooked breakfast?  You kinda can't.  That doesn't mean that it didn't get painfully boring after a while, because it totally did.  I found easy ways that I could merge my tastes with the ones of the hall.  Of course, now I get to eat whatever I want for breakfast!  Yay, celebration time.  So here is my ode to good breakfasts I've been enjoying this summer.

Blueberry Coconut Milk Yogurt with Chocolate O's

Almondine Croissant (the pain au raisin was my mom's) and Cappuccino

Siggi's Passionfruit and Pomegranate Yogurt with Kashi Go Lean and a Cliff z bar

Cookie Dough cereal from fitnessista

A Strawberry Smoothie made with greek yogurt

What is your favorite breakfast food for summer?

Un Bacione,


22 July 2011

Cupcake Friday: Inspiration Station

Brilliant rhyme, no?  Okay, so maybe it's not such a brilliant rhyme, but due to another mind searingly hot week, for this edition of cupcake friday we'll be talking about places to get inspiration for your cupcakes!  Sometimes it's easy for me to think of what kind of cupcake I want, yet other weeks I have absolutely no clue.  Generally, my inspiration is found through a mix of blogs, books and famous cupcake-eries. If you want to inspire yourself to make some gorgeous cupcake creations, here are my recommendations.


Chocolate Covered Katie - I always use the single serving cupcake as my base recipe for my creations.  It makes the perfect amount, is vegan and endlessly adaptable.  There are also a good variety of inspiring variations on here, not to mention good vegan frostings!

Annie's Eats - This entire blog is a baking inspiration, but I adore her cupcakes.  They are gorgeous, each looks like a little work of art.  I look at this blog when I want to create some impressive, unique and gourmet cupcakes.

Tastespotting/Foodgawker - Just entire in cupcake and prepare to be amazed.  Whatever you want to find a recipe for, you'll be able to find it here.


Dorie Greenspan - Generally, I find all of her cookbooks completely inspiring.  My personal favorite is Baking: From My Home to Yours, though I also really enjoy Paris Sweets.  She doesn't have many dedicated cupcake recipes, but all her cake recipes can be adapted.  The frostings are one of the highlights from this cookbook, they are all rich, decadent and delicious!

Pretty Party Cakes - One look inside this book and you will be in absolute awe about the myriad of ways in which one can decorate  a dessert.  If you need/want to make the most beautiful cupcakes of your life, definitely try this out!  Lots of her recipes call for using rolled fondant, you can either make your own or buy it prepackaged.

Hello Cupcake - Looking through this book originally sparked my desire to get fancy about cupcake making.  They have so many ridiculous ideas in here and even though most of them I would never have a reason to make, they still push me to be more creative with the cupcakes I do make.  And I now know that it is possible to make a cupcake that looks like corn on the cob.  Winner.


Crumbs - I'm definitely vocal about my love for this cupcake shop!  It's where I find the majority of my inspiration to create fun cupcakes that people will love.  They look appetizing, yet not so beautiful that you can't eat them.  Plus, they strike the cupcake/frosting ratio just perfectly.

Magnolia - When I'm in the mood to make cute and pretty cupcakes I turn to Magnolia.  The colors, the swirl of the frosting, the sprinkles, everything about Magnolia's cupcakes screams lovely.  These are the original cupcake in a way, establishing the classic buttercream and frosting/cake ratio.

Baked - From their interesting flavors, to the brilliant combination of tastes and textures, I always look to Baked if I'm in need of some sophisticated cupcake inspiration.  Their cupcakes may look unassuming, but pack a serious flavor punch, something which I appreciate.  I'm more inspired by the flavors as opposed to the actual recipes of these cupcakes, I may not need to know how to make their cupcakes, but I'm eager to create my own version that looks like it!

21 July 2011

Things I Wish I Knew About Living Abroad

We've all seen the movies and read the books.  People seem to think that living abroad for an extended period of time is simple and fun.  They never get homesick, they rarely have culture shock and you can forget about all the logistical nightmares being accurately portrayed.  Basically, society portrays living abroad like disney portrays relationships, completely fictional fairytales.

That doesn't mean that the fun you see people having when living abroad is fictional, because in most cases it probably isn't.  I don't know about other people, but living abroad has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.  Somedays I woke up and had no idea how I was going to be able to do it and other days I woke up ready to conquer the world.  Bottom line: living abroad is great fun, but it's hard work.  There are a billion things that make it a difficult experience, but those same things make it a really rewarding experience.  You just need to learn how to balance your life and find a new perspective.

Things I Wish I Knew About Living Abroad (before I lived abroad!)

 I hardly brought anything over with me.  My room felt alien for a good month.

1.  You will feel like you are in constant limbo with what you own.  When I am in England, without fail, I always wish I had something that is at home in America.  In America, I always realize I left something really important in England.  During spring, I didn't bring back any sweatshirts with me.  Big mistake.  Right now?  I really wish I had my cream t-shirt.  You have to get used to the idea that something isn't going to be there and try to discover your must-haves, what you really need wherever you go.

I did not expect to HATE the fact that Starbucks gives you ceramic mugs in England.  I hate it.

2.  Expect the unexpected.  This applies to every single aspect of living abroad.  I loathe and detest English weather.  Seriously, it has become the bane of my existence.  Of course, before living there I had no idea about this.  I thought it would be fine, lovely even.  Turns out, I can't stand it.  On the other hand, I also thought that I would hardly ever be able to talk to my parents.  Apparently a five hour time difference really isn't as big as it seems.  Bottom line, no matter how much you prepare and read in advance, you won't know what will actually bug you and what won't turn out to be a problem until you are living abroad.

Hello New York!

3.  If there is anything stereotypical AT ALL about where you are from/where you are going, people will ask you about this.  When I meet someone new, they, pretty much without fail, ask me if New York is like Gossip Girl.  The same goes with England.  This will get annoying.  This will get exhausting.  But it can also get you talking about different subjects.  At least it only happens about once per person.

I study Italian, but it's not only the language!  Here is the first text I read in Italian, Dante's La Vita Nuova

4.  There is something you are going to have to explain over and over.  And over again.  It will get tiring and annoying and you will want to poke your eyes out scream.  But that's okay.  Try to think of it as educating people.  I've had to explain the English degree system to my parents so many times it makes me want to cry.  Just remember that you know so much more from having to adapt to a new system, now it's your turn to share your knowledge with other people.  It's definitely a responsibility, but try to have fun with it.

I'll always be a New York girl, but I'm also a total anglophile.

5.  It's tough to figure out who you are in two vastly different places.  Honestly, I don't really know if everyone experiences some type of identity shift when they go away to school, but going abroad seriously means you have to remember that who you are is who you are no matter what your location may be.  In New York, I'm Emilia who is kinda short, likes to wear flip flops and loves veggie burgers.  Of course, that's not exactly who I am in England.  Abroad you are tied to your nationality, whether you like it or not.

It may look pretty, but I can assure you that trying to get home in this wasn't pretty!

6.  Learn to accept things you hate.  I know you think there isn't anything to hate about England, Italy, Spain, France, Germany etc, but I guarantee you that there is something you will not like.  Of course, they thing you hate may not even be about where you are living.  Is there a type of accent that you didn't know exists that drives you crazy?  Maybe you really like street lights?  Or maybe you didn't realize the coffee tastes different.  There are a million things that actually feel different when you are living somewhere for an extended period of time.  Soon you'll realize that hating these things helps you form an identity that relates you to your new country.

I emailed photos like this to parents to keep in touch!

7.  Keeping in touch is hard, but so so worth it.  There's a five hour time difference between my two worlds.  This makes it difficult to keep in touch with my friends and family no matter where I am.  Despite sending oodles of letter, there is nothing better than actually talking to someone.  I don't know how I would do it without skype.  Being able to see someone, even if it is through a screen with a crazy delay that is strangely pixelated, helps to keep you grounded.

I may have celebrated Thanksgiving with my friends, but I'm more than that!

8.  Some people will only be able to see where you are from.  These are the people who stink.  These are the people who probably wouldn't be your friends in your home country.  They aren't worth your time or mental energy.  Focus on making friends who are interested in YOU and share your interests because they are out there.

I took this picture at three am.  In the morning.  I woke up this early to get a plane.

9.  Airplanes and packing suck.  You think you hate packing now?  Just wait.  I actually used to like packing, a fact which I find completely dumbfounding now.  Packing takes on a completely new meaning when living somewhere for an extended period of time.  You aren't just packing a capsule wardrobe, you are packing your life.  I seriously hope this is a skill (like flying) that I'll get better at over the upcoming years.  If not, at least I know that I can fall asleep on a plane and more/less beat jet lag.

My first birthday abroad was super hard, especially since I just arrived back in England.  My parents sent me these flowers, it helped to make the day extra special!

10.  The most important thing is to take things one day at a time.  I can't say how much this piece of advice helped me when adjusting to life abroad each time I returned to uni after coming home.  It's easy to get bogged down by how much you have to do and by how long it is until you see your family and friends again.  I would seriously have gone insane if I counted down the days/months.  Just focus on the day you are living in and getting everything done you need to will help tremendously.

Have you ever lived abroad?  If not, would you want to?  If yes, what was the hardest part?  The best part?

Un Bacione,


20 July 2011

Terrific Tuesdays


It's HOT here.  Too hot to turn on the oven (which means I can't satisfy this HUGE craving I've been having recently to bake cookies...it's starting to get seriously annoying).  Too hot to go running (even in the morning).  And definitely too hot to spend a lot of time outside.  Bummer, right?

Well, Tuesday's itinerary seemed to satisfy the need for coolness and my desire to actually DO something, instead of just bumming around all day (hello Monday!).  So what did I do?

The morning started off with a VERY early wake up time in order to get to the MET early enough to not have to queue up for a lifetime in order to see the very talked about and hyped show: Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty.

It was super crowded, impacting one's ability to actually see the clothing.  I had very mixed feelings about the show, I'll share them in a later post.

After that it was time for a coffee in one of the MET's many cafes.  I got a cappuccino and was expecting some dirty water, though it wasn't actually half bad.  Of course I've had better cappuccini, but I've also had worse.  That being said, I was originally going to get water until I saw their fancy espresso machine.  A fancy machine surely means good coffee, no?

My mother and I had no other plans for the morning, except to head over to Candle Cafe for lunch.  Since we still had some time left before either of us got hungry, we walked through the museum a bit and talked about our feelings about the McQueen show.

Once we worked up an appetite, we hoofed it over to Candle Cafe, though not before stopping at Sur La Table to get some silicone baking cups.  I've been wanting these things since FOREVER and am so glad to finally get them!  I also got a small little heart pan that I have big plans for upon the return to uni and cooking for one.

Candle Cafe was, in a word, awesome.  I've been wanting to go there for quite a while and am so glad I finally made it up there!  It took me forever to decide what to order, partly because by that time I was properly starving and partly because everything looked good!  After some serious deliberation, I decided on the Ginger Miso Stirfry.  I was a little apprehensive about ordering this, not because I didn't think it would be good, but because it seemed a bit normal.  Since I was at a vegan restaurant, surely I should order something totally vegan, like the tuscan lasagna or a seitan sandwich?  Once I took my first bite, however, I was thrilled I with my choice.  The chunks of tofu tasted brilliant, the vegetables were fresh and the rice was spectacular.  I have to say that the ginger miso sauce really brought the whole dish together and was unlike other sauces I have had with similar meals.  A total winner.

My mom got a Green Goddess and the Cajun Seitan Sandwich.  We ended up splitting the juice, which had a lovely fresh, yet spicy flavor.  I might not get it again, but was glad to have tried it.  The cajun seitan sandwich (yes, I definitely had some ;) ) was awesome.  My mom said she felt like it was a little heavy, with the fried seitan and the bread, but I just loved it.  The avocado slices on the sandwich perfectly complemented the spiciness of the seitan and bitterness of the sauteed greens.  She also said the coleslaw was spectacular, I didn't try any as I don't particularly like coleslaw.

Then it was time for one of my favorite New York stores, Bloomingdales!  I went their knowing that I wanted to get some Kiehl's products, their grooming cream and a conditioner to be exact, but also ended up getting some lipgloss.  We walked around a bit, but their contemporary clothing floor was mostly under construction...oh well, still got in a good walk through shoes!

That was basically my Tuesday in a nutshell.  I'm hoping to get some more recipes up soon, though you may have to wait until it cools down a bit!  In the meantime, I'll be eating fro-yo like it's my job (you mean it isn't?) ;)

What's been going on with you lately?  Is it hot where you are?

Un Bacione,


19 July 2011

Cafe Chronicles: Le Pain Quotidien

If you live in New York, you have no doubt witnessed the boom in the amount of Le Pain Quotidien locations in recent years.  It feels like recently they weren't around, then suddenly they were everywhere.  Well, I'm not complaining.  This is another chain that I can get behind wholeheartedly.  Not just because I have a friend from Belgium and not just because they have an awesome Speculoos doop.  What I love the most about Le Pain is their ingredients and focus on quick healthy foods.

When walking into a Le Pain anywhere in the world, you will be met with the same decor.  Sort of a rustic-modern-french style with a long communal table at the centre of the restaurant.  In bigger locations, they sometimes have two communal tables.  The communal table is, no doubt, a central component to the Le Pain experience, making it a brilliant choice if you choose to dine there alone.  If you have a dining companion or two, there are also small tables where you can sit and have a bit more privacy.  Overall, the communal table helps to bring a lively and personal atmosphere to the impersonal formula of chain restaurant.

Le Pain straddles the line between being a restaurant and being a cafe.  Ultimately, it depends on the time of day you go what kind of experience you will have.  Most locations are open from breakfast until past dinner, so you can choose the type of experience you want.  For breakfast they have an assortment of pastries and some more traditional choices.  Although the breakfast choices are fine, the majority of them fail to truly shine because of the mass-produced feeling of the place.  The croissants are good, as well as the breads and other breakfast choices, but they do not exemplify the types of food that make Le Pain such a delight.

When the restaurant/cafe is at its best is during lunchtime.  There is an assortment of fresh salads, sandwiches and hot dishes to choose from.  Each option is unique and completely delicious.  The prices are more than you are going to find at somewhere like Pret, but when adding table service and the quality of the ingredients, those extra dollars are completely worth it.

My personal favorites are the Six-Vegetable quiche and the Quinoa and Arugula Salad.  They both highlight what makes Le Pain such an excellent choice, hight quality food with good portions and interesting flavors.  In addition, Le Pain offers a wide variety of Vegan and Organic choices.  I'm not a meat eater and definitely welcome the variety!  This is only true, however, for the American branches.  In England, the majority of the menu has meat so it's worth checking online if you are going to a new Le Pain in a different country.

The coffee at Le Pain is good, though not exemplary.  I find the quality perfectly acceptable for getting a coffee with your meal, I usually order an Au Lait, but I'm not going to go out of my way to get coffee from Le Pain.  The only exception is the iced latte.  I'm a huge fan of soy iced lattes and adore getting them from Le Pain.  If I'm in the mood for only a coffee, however, I will usually just get it to go.

A unique, and completely amazing, feature of Le Pain is their variety of sweet spreads for their bread.  With a name like "the daily bread" you expect some good bread!  I'm not going to get a baguette from here to bring home, but thoroughly enjoy when I get a side of bread with my salad.  They have four different spreads to choose from: Noisette (their version of Nutella), Noir (Belgian dark chocolate), Brunette (Speculoos, or hazelnut praline) and Blondie (white chocolate).  I have, of course, tried them all.  My personal favorite is Brunette, it tastes extraordinarily similar to Belgian Speculoos!  Noisette is also good, imagine a more hazelnut-ty and less sweet version of Nutella with a similar consistency.  I don't particularly like Noir of Blondie.  Noir simply tastes lack luster, if I want chocolate, I'll just have some chocolate!  Blondie is too sweet for my personal tastes, it tastes like vanilla frosting.  Perfect for dessert, or if you have a super sweet tooth.

Le Pain can get supremely crowded during lunch hours, resulting in long lines and a crazy impatient wait staff.  There lies my major problem with Le Pain, despite the good food and lovely atmosphere, I rarely feel like I get good customer service.  Sometimes the food is slow, I've gotten undercooked food before and sometimes you just have to wait crazy long times!  Ultimately, I don't believe the problem is huge, it will most definitely not keep me from going.  I do, however, keep that in mind if I am extraordinarily hungry or am having a day that is stressing me out.  Then, I'll go somewhere else.  Most times I thoroughly enjoy the food and the experience.  So much so that I had to get a cup from there.  It keeps my Starbucks iced tea tumbler company. :)


Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 coffee cups.  I love the decor, no matter how homogenous it is between locations.  Whenever I walk into a Le Pain restaurant, I feel delighted.  There is something about the French Modern Rustic look that makes me feel like I'm about to have a good meal.

Coffee: 2 out of 5 coffee cups.  The general brews are quite lack luster and the Au Lait can sometimes taste watery.  Their iced lattes and cappuccinos makes up for that however.  Get them with soy milk and you are in for a real treat!

Food: 4 out of 5 coffee cups.  One of my favorite parts about Le Pain.  The food is fresh, wholesome and delicious!  There is also an awesome variety that is sure to please your dining companions, even if they have extremely different dietary needs/concerns.  Vegan food?  Check.  Omnivore food?  Check.  Vegetarian food?  Of course.  I've never had anything I didn't like.

Prices: 2 out of 5 coffee cups.  They're expensive, yet you are getting good and quite healthy food.  It's your decision if it's worth it or not, but my vote is for yes.

Location: 5 out of 5 coffee cups.  I'm never far from a Le Pain when I'm in New York.  It makes me happy to know that I can find good food if I'm hungry.


Interest in Le Pain Quotidien?  Here are some useful links!

Serious Eats

Yelp Reviews

Urban Spoon

Un Bacione,