Weekend in Review: Books, Paintings, and Sushi

Spent last weekend with a whirlwind trip to San Francisco that mostly involved a lot of traveling as this time I took some public transportation and drove up with 2 friends and a cat (not my own) instead of flying.

I attempted to make sushi for the first time with my friends with the help of a sushi mold (ie a plastic tray where you place the seaweed/rice/filling and it helps you keep it all nice and tidy when you cut it) and although it wasn’t very professional looking, all that matters is the taste, right?  And you definitely can’t go wrong with fresh fish, rice, and veggies.  The purple in some of the rice is from furikake we added.  Behold!

SushiI also stopped by the de Young Museum and saw a painting that I’ve wanted to see for years: Vermeer’s “Girl With A Pearl Earring.”  I first saw the painting on the cover of a YA novel was curious about the beautifully mysterious girl.  I read about the equally mysterious painter Vermeer and read the novel of the same name by Tracey Chevalier (which imagines who this model was and her relationship with the painter) and then subsequently watched the movie based on the novel starring a young Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth.  I love the movie.  Not because I think that it’s the greatest film of all time, but I absolutely love the way it was made.  Every scene in the movie is shot like a Vermeer painting- the posing, the colors, the lighting.  If you watch the movie and pause it at random spots, the probability of it showing a scene that Vermeer would have painted is high.

So I’ve been dying to see the real thing for years, but resigned myself for a long wait since I have no plans to visit The Hague anytime soon.  Imagine my happy surprise when I heard it was visiting SF!  When I saw the painting in person I wanted to just stand there for hours (like a creeper) and soak it all in- it was smaller than I imagined (most famous paintings usually are) but it was so perfect.  The restoration really made it seem brand new.  The invisible brushstrokes, the lighting, the flawlessness of her skin and the pearl earring- it was beautiful.  I highly recommend the exhibit for anyone in the Bay Area.

In other literary news, I just finished the fantasy novel The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card.  I rate it a “meh.”  Mostly because the magic in it required me to consider physics, and out of all the science classes I took in school, I bombed physics the hardest.  I spent a good deal of the book trying to wrap my head around the magical concepts, giving up (because my brain is no longer wired to attempt advanced scientific possibilities anymore) and then moving on without fully getting what was going on.  And the protagonist is a smart ass 13-year old.  If I was a teen, I’d probably be more sympathetic to his character and find him funny.  As an adult, I just find it annoying.  That’s not Card’s fault, I will admit that I was just as bratty and exasperating at that age as well.  But that doesn’t mean I want to read about it.

I also realized I ate out five days this week.  Wow.  New record for me (and not in a good way.)

San Francisco & Pumpkin Cookies

Back from my weekend trip up north and missing my friends like crazy already. But, there is one simple reason why I do not visit the Bay Area (San Francisco, for those of you non-California folks) more often, even though I love all my friends up there and wish I could see them more than once every few months. The weather is WAY too cold. And yes, even though I went to school in the north, I still consider anything below 70 degrees to be cold. Below 60 = freezing.

Of course, cold weather didn’t stop me from going out and about in the city and celebrating a friend’s birthday, though it made me very appreciative of the weather at home. Like that fact that I don’t have to wear 100 layers before going outside. And although I love having easy access to public transportation that can take me everywhere, I don’t appreciate having to walk 10 blocks up a hill to get back to the apartment (that’s just me being lazy- I haven’t run in over a month!!! Eeek- I gotta get somewhat back in shape so I can gain all the weight again come holiday time.)

Also, on an unrelated tangent, I spent too long at Sunday brunch with my cousin and cubby (see this post for definition of a cubby) and had to rush through the airport. (Why is it that every time you are late for a flight/transferring to another plane your gate is ALWAYS at the other end of the building?) Luckily a nice family let me cut the really long security line and I was wearing somewhat fashionable outfit (royal blue pajama shirt, black skinny jeans and black boots) to make up for the fact that I was that girl who ran through the terminal with hair flying, shoes half on, and sunglasses askew as she dashed onto the plane with 5 minutes to spare. I was definitely a hot mess.

At least cold weather means I can bake cookies and fill the house with their yummy scent and soft chewy goodness. For an office potluck, pumpkin cookies were requested and though I’ve never made them before, that has never stopped me from trying! Being the lazy baker I am, I kind of approximated the amount of some ingredients in order to accommodate lack of others, but I still think it tasted just fine, and I got plenty of compliments.

I used this recipe mostly because I just searched for something that looked really easy really yummy. I made two servings, but I’m glad I only made one serving of the glaze because it was more than enough to cover all the cookies- I’m not sure who would need to make double the amount of glaze- I guess if you wanted to completely frost your cookies, but then I’d rather just make actual frosting. The batter itself was very sticky (could be because I cut back a little on the butter in the hopes that I would be slightly healthier) so after a few failed attempts of using my hands to mould the cookies, I ended up using two spoons to scrape the dough together. An alternative and equally messy method would be to coat your hands in oil to keep the dough from clinging to your hands, but that seemed too bothersome for me. (I like to do things the easy way out, remember?)

When the cookies came out of the oven, I was slightly alarmed as they puffed up greatly and it looked like I had baked biscuits instead of cookies, but after they spent the night cooling, a lot of the air that had been puffed up in the pumpkin puree deflated the cookies, returning them to a somewhat more manageable size.

My pictures don’t do the cookies justice, but I have never been one to take photos as I’m baking/cooking. I don’t have the patience to make sure the lighting perfectly highlights the golden tint of the pumpkin and arrange cookies artfully on a plate. If that’s you, more power to you. I salute your powers of patience. Me, I’m more eager to finish the product and then commence eating 🙂

And yes, I realize that my cookies’ glaze looked like someone took a whiteout pen and scribbled all over them but cut me some slack- this was my first real attempt at dribbling glaze in an artful pattern! Besides, everyone knows that your food will never look as good as the ones in the book. 😉 (It’s actually kind of gross, the tricks food photographers use when they photograph dishes and such for books/magazines/articles.)