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the gift outright

It’s been awhile since poetry was on so prominent a national stage. And with due respect to Elizabeth Alexander (to her credit, few occasional poems, especially those that speak directly to the occasion, are all that glorious), she was no Robert Frost. At JFK’s inauguration, Frost intended to read Dedication but, blinded by the glare, was unable to see his notes. Instead, he recited by heart an older poem, written in 1942.

THE GIFT OUTRIGHT
Robert Frost

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

like dew upon a thought

inkwells

Happy new year indeed. I recently started using the glass quill and petit inkwell that the lovely Y.S. and A.L. brought me from Italy awhile back. The quill is utter brilliance — small fissures spiral around to converge at the tip, so that no matter how energetically you dunk it in, the ink flows in steady rivulets for a smooth, decidedly non-blotty line. The design also leaves you having to dip less frequenly, since the aforementioned fissures also hold some ink in reserve.

In any case, I was writing on night and upset the little inkwell, making a big black puddle on the coffee table. Fortunately, it was only a small fraction, and I was able to salvage some more using a straw (probably, if I recall correctly, because plastic and ink are slightly attractive chemically?), though I was still able to write from the remaining puddle the rest of the night. Regardless, the running-out-of-ink concept dawned, and I scrounged around for any and all places that might carry inkwells (not exactly popular nowadays, it seems), and gathered this lovely collection from a musty dusty box that the Paper Source clerks on Fillmore unearthed from some forgotten corner.

Oh, and the title comes from Lord Byron: “Words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.”

candles & cakes

Very briefly.

coconutcakeLast week two of my loveliest colleagues celebrated their birthdays, and the confluence pushed me over into bake mode.  Not that that’s very difficult.  This latest concoction (another modification of the pistachio cake recipe) was three layers of macadamia nut cake, separated by layers of dark chocolate ganache and toasted coconut flakes, then frosted with the ganache all round.

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willscake

Meanwhile, a few weeks earlier, I made this one for my best friend’s surprise-but-not-quite birthday dinner: a lemon-blueberry macadamia nut cake.  The three layers here were also macadamia nut cakes (as construable from the sentence prior), but with lemon glaze and blueberry preserves in the space between, and topped with a lemon buttercream frosting (that needs to be, well, improved) and fresh blueberries.

kingdom of dumplings

dumplingsThis past weekend, we discovered this delightful joint in the Sunset — a nondescript little store maybe 15 feet wide and 40 feet deep? — adorably dubbed the Kingdom of Dumplings.  They keep a chatty flock of little old Chinese ladies in the back of the room who sit around a small folding table industriously wrapping dumplings (a gleeful reminder of afternoons when my mommy and aunties and I wrap trays of wonton for big family dinners), which they flash freeze then sell in packs of fifteen or twenty.  They have a considerable assortment — wonton with a variety of fillings, potstickers, even 小龍飽 (a rather precious, Shanghainese sort of soup dumpling).  I can’t say they were spectacular (I have to say ours are yummier, but I guess that’s not surprising), but the fact that you can buy fresh-made freeze-packs of dumplings sure is.

cakewalk

innardsSo finally–! My entrée into the world of cakes, after a long interlude on the back burner.  We went to LA for Labor Day, where my lovely aunties had a surprise birthday party at Fraîche ready in waiting for Daddy. Anyways, I found the recipe for this chocolate pistachio & marzipan petit-four cake at Smitten Kitchen, and baked it for Daddy’s birthday, very covertly schlepping it down by plane.  It only occurred to me partway through that a three-layer cake was probably a little daunting for my very first cake bake, but it was actually simpler than I thought and turned out spectacularly.  And it was perfect — nice pistachio cakes separated by layers of chocolate ganache, homemade marzipan and apricot preserves.

The not-so-laborious odyssey, chronicled

letterpress

letterpress3At the core of my addictive stationery craze lies letterpress — so organically, deliciously lovely.  If only books were still printed in letterpress…!   And while I was looking for custom letterpress printing online, I found this little documentary short on letterpress.  It’s exceptionally beautiful.

 

echinoidea

uniHere’s another curio from my trip to LA — uni soup during the HKSA Foundation dinner at the Bonaventure.  I find it rather interesting that the wikipedia page on sea urchins mentions that “sea urchins are harvested and served as a delicacy” but declines to elaborate any further gastronomically.  Anyways, apparently they’re in the Echinoidea class of critters, which also includes sand dollars (saw these at Monterey Bay and was tickled pink), sea biscuits (really — sea biscuits?!!) and heart urchins!