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Easy, Breezy…

8 Jun

Two weeks ago, I took a quick trip back to California. Despite the ridiculous flight delay that had me grounded at JFK for 6 hours (on the runway! 6 hours!), I am so glad I went. A little dose of sunshine and a whole lot of love welcomed me and I spent my 5-day vacation catching up with family + friends.

Being away from my loves for 5 months really took its toll on me. Once home, I started questioning my decision to live in New York.

California is so easy. No subway, no evil characters. All my loved ones here. People who I have known for decades live here. How can I be away from them?

It didn’t help that once I got back to the city, I had to deal with a possible bug problem that left me in a hotel, depleting my impending vacation savings for Australia. Suffice to say, I was NOT a happy camper.

But these past few days I made sure to catch up with my friends here who matter most. Just talking with them and hearing their own troubles makes me feel like what I am going through is normal.

Let me be frank: New York is hard. Crazy hard. It’s dirty, rude, gritty, and challenging. But it can also be magical, rewarding, astounding, and exciting.

You could say I am in a love/hate relationship with NYC. Like a typical girl, I keep coming back for me ;)

Anyways, while home, I made this simply Strawberry Cake. Can I tell you a secret? I cheated and used Trader Joes Vanilla Bean Cake Mix. I often hesitate to buy cake mix because the flavors are muted and it tastes like cardboard. However, this mix was steller. Moist and natural, I would gladly use it again. For the frosting, I used this one that I love so much. Since you are using real strawberry preserves, you can actually taste the real bits of strawberry in the frosting.  I can’t wait to buy this mix again and pair it with other frostings and flavors. Anybody up for a funfetti cake?!

 

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Go big, or go home

15 May

New York

This weekend, after spending the past two weeks digging myself out of boxes and cleaning products, I ventured out in to my beloved NYC and actually explored.

With my camera.

Ground-breaking, right?

However, it felt… Amazing. Like I was back in business. After a really lonely winter and struggle with the blues, I’d like to think that I’m waking up again, which, coincidentally, matches the coming of summer. I’m not gonna sugarcoat things; the past few months have been rough. Real rough. I lose all enthusiasm for school and dealt with a copious amount of stress and dissatisfaction at work. Ask any of my friends and I was one negative nancy.

coffee

But, this weekend I felt like the old Amanda, er the new Amanda… The more lively Amanda, I guess.

What better way to celebrate the gorgeous weekend than a little excursion to get monster donuts. Donuts that have a loyal (albeit cultish) following. My friends and I made the trek to the Doughnut Plant, a Lower East Side doughnut shop that has a damn good reputation for delivering fatty, sweet doughnuts. The line was long, but not as bad as expected for a Saturday morning. However, I should warn you that the shop is teeny tiny. One man working the register, and at least a dozen customers excited to nosh their brains out.

While I love a good cake donut, this time I was all about the yeast kind. They had a range of flavors including Vanilla Bean, Coconut Cream, Valhrona Chocolate, Cashew, Fresh Mango, Creme Brulee, and so many more. Resisting the urge to get them all, I settled on a true winner: the Peanut Butter-glazed doughnut with Blackberry jam filling.

donut

Oh. my. god.

It was heavenly. No, seriously. I heard angels sing. The salty crunchy peanut butter glaze combined with the sweet blackberry jam was exactly what I wanted. Not to mention, the actual monster-sized donut was pretty stellar. Soft, with a fried outside, but moist inside. It is sad to see a donut fall flat and thankfully, the Doughnut Plant’s did the exact opposite.

Next time, I plan on trying the fresh mango flavor because I just can’t imagine what mango + donut actually tastes like.

Till then, I will dream about the epic donut I had.

Getting Gorgeous!

3 Apr

getting gorgeous, metropavillon, nyc, photography, event, beauty, bloggers

blog, bloggers, beauty, event, getting, gorgeous

shopafrolic, beauty, nyc, getting, gorgeous, style, blog

On Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend the Getting Gorgeous event in Chelsea, which was aptly held on a stunningly fab day here in New York. Hundreds of bloggers and countless businesses were in the house, along with my dear friend Chris. Vera from I’m Not Obsessed kindly invited us and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

simply orange, juice, mimosa, getting, gorgeous, nyc, blog

Event attendees included Simply Orange (who happily gave us mimosas to enjoy while wandering the floor), Degree Women, Hanes (who talked me into trying their socks when enduring sweaty workouts), Sarah Potempa (who chatted with me about the importance of finding the PERFECT hair straighteners), Georgetown Cupcakes (drool!) and many more.

georgetown, cupcake, sweets, bakery, nyc, getting, gorgeous, blog

cupcake, georgetown, bakery, dessert, nyc, getting, gorgeous, event, blog

Go figure, I was more enthused about the cupcake than anything else. My friend Chris has the red velvet while I had some lemon-raspberry concoction. When I say they were droolworthy, I mean it. Moist and sweet, with a crazy delicious cream cheese frosting.

Overall, I had a fun time talking with vendors and snapping pictures like crazy. Once I got home, I dove in to the gift bag and found some cool stuff. I never knew Wheat Thins had Cinnamon Sticks, but hey, guess what? They do. Also, I found a product close to my heart… I don’t normally write about my work life but I was really happy to get these little gals in this bag.

getting, gorgeous, event, blog, nyc

What I loved the most about the event was seeing all the ladies come out in full force. White, yellow, purple, black, women from everywhere were here to celebrate their overall gorgeousness. Who doesn’t love that? Channeling my Spice Girls days, I’m all about girl power.

Thanks to Vera and the entire Getting Gorgeous staff for a lovely event!

Going Gluten-Free at BabyCakes NYC

27 Mar

donuts, sweets, babycakes, bakery, breakfast

When I think of gluten-free pastries, I think of dry baked goods, stiff to the touch. Thankfully, going gluten-free isn’t my lifestyle however, after trying Babycakes NYC, I might change my tune. In the midst of the gritty Lower East Side lies this little bakery. The minute I walked in , I knew it was my kind of place. While it was tiny, the attitude was cheerful and contagious, with some 90s rap playing in the background and cute, retro girls serving up some pastries. I don’t know what made me laugh more, the guy behind the counter trying to dance to “Back That Thang Up” or the girls rapping along to the song…

I had my heart set on donuts so that was my obvious choice. Looking at their display case, I felt indecisive and overwhelmed, as if I was shoe-shopping. Which one do I get? What if it isn’t as good as I had hoped? Why are there so many options?

donuts, babycakes, sweets, bakery, nyc, vanilla, breakfast

donuts, bakery, breakfast, nyc, babycakes

After my quick nervous meltdown, I went with my gut: vanilla doughnut with pink sprinkles. My friend went with the Lemon Coconut, which, by her guttural response, was delicious. Soft inside with a crunchy sugary outside, my donut was the best I had eaten in a while. I can’t remember eating a donut that didn’t knock me over the head with sugar, but somehow Babycakes delivers a sweet but not coma-inducing baked good. As for the rest of the products, I plan on coming back if I am back in that neighborhood. I hear they deliver too which is awfully tempting.

Coffee Cheesecake with Chocolate Sauce

1 Mar

Sometimes I crave cheese. In a major way. Which wouldn’t be so out-of-the ordinary if I wasn’t lactose-intolerant. Yes, my little stomach can’t process those cheesy enzymes. I blame my asian DNA since it is pretty common for Asian people to have some form of lactose intolerance. While everyone runs for milk when eating warm cookies, I shudder at the thought.

However, once in a blue moon, I get a craving for something rich, decadent, and cheesy. Case in point, last week I went with a friend to S’Mac, a small Mac and Cheese hotspot that serves the main dish anyway you like it. Tummy ache be damned, I said, I want a skillet of hot mac and cheese and I want it now. Cut to me, rolling in a ball on my bead, quivering in pain. Not my finest moment but it was worth every bite. Today, I have another craving, but for that sinfully delicious dessert known as Cheesecake. Not just any cheesecake but one right up my alley: Coffee Cheesecake with Chocolate Sauce.

I’d like to eat this everyday. I’d like to eat this everyday with maybe a side of mac and cheese.

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What meets the eye…

22 Feb

Raised in the buckle-down-and-bear-it environment, I am a fighter at heart. Trust me, I’ve got the battle scars to prove it. However, in some situations, I’ve learned that it is perfectly appropriate to throw in the towel. Sometimes, fighting is too hard and takes too much effort. Stubborn and prideful, it kills me to have to walk away from something because it means I’ve given up. But there are some aspects in my current life that leave me in tears some days. Ripped to shreds. Because I am a fighter. Because I am a vocal, passionate person.

With all this commotion going on, I’ve left this little space quiet. A tad bit preoccupied and uninspired, I apologize for my silence. I have some great ideas and posts in the works but getting down to business can be tedious. Especially when your heart is somewhere else and your mind is focused on a challenge that might swallow you whole.

Instead of showing you a perfectly pleasing recipe, I’m going to show you these disastrous cookies. Why?  Because, despite the fact that the recipe was utterly flawed, they sure looked pretty. Plus, not everything goes right in my kitchen and I like to show my mistakes as they happen more frequently than one can guess.

To anyone else they might have been a success. But I knew better. The shortbread was unevenly baked, and lacked flavor. Cutting the actual cookies was a test of my patience since they started crumbling the minute I touched them. I’m providing you the link to the basic shortbread recipe. Maybe you will have better luck than me? I added two cups of reduced-sugar raspberry preserves and baked them according to the regular instructions.

If you have a better recipe for shortbread cookies, leave them in the comment section. I am looking for a real winner!

Many loves for today

14 Feb

My current loves:
Cinnamon-spiced coffee with a touch of cream
the new Kings of Leon cd
My leopard-print ballet flats
Pink donuts with white sprinkles from the local donut shop
Nearby friends
Faraway friends
Pretzel M&M’s
My new gorgeous necklaces from this magical shop
Never Let Me Go
Romantic dresses from the Elie Saab Spring 2011 Couture show
This, always and forever

I don’t care if you are married, pregnant, single, divorced, dating, desperately single, or none of the above. I hope you take a minute on this overly pink/red holiday and know that you are loved.

Happy Valentines Day! Go eat some cake :)

Devil’s Food Cake with Angel Frosting

31 Jan

When I think of moving in to my dream apartment, I imagine hosting intimate, cozy dinner parties. The kind of dinner parties where the wine is flowing, the food is delicious, and the laughs can be heard down the hallway. When I lived in my own little abode, I didn’t have enough room to host these kinds of dinner parties, which was unfortunate because my friends and I were eager and willing to have those kinds of parties.

Menu-planning is a skill I don’t really have and I tend to just throw things together. I know how different flavors and ingredients work together but I am not an expert here. A summer menu would obviously rotate around a hot grill, but dinner requires more thought. I would serve a colorful salad, some fresh dinner rolls, and a hearty, warm main dish. As for dessert, I can imagine all kinds of delicious cakes and cookies. However, nothing stuns a crowd like a glorious chocolate cake.

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Winter Pie

18 Jan

The month after Christmas is always the hardest. Sugar has lots its appeal as your jeans have gotten tighter. The sky, once bright blue, has turned gray. Piles of slushy snow sit on the curb, with litter and cigarette butts scattered all over. Leaving your bed has become an everyday struggle.

However, life goes on and soon you start realizing the beauty of winter. The way it makes you more motivated to plow through your library pile. The way it makes you crave hearty soups and piping hot tea. The way the lights twinkle amidst the falling snow. And, last but not least, the way the kitchen and oven become the center of your house.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies, yet again

11 Jan

chocolate chip cookies

If there is one thing that I could bake over and over again, it would be the chocolate chip cookie. You’d think after four posted recipes, I’d be over these little morsels. However, you are mistaken.

chocolate chip cookies

chocolate chip cookies

chocolate chip cookies

It’s a simple mix- chocolate, butter, sugar, and flour. Yet the results are so satisfying, so perfect in their simple nature that I can’t help but keep trying recipes from different authors. First, there was the classic from Martha Stewart, which I swore by when I was younger. Then, I added some liqueur to the mix a la Giada de Laurentiis. Finally, I settled on the most amazing recipe from my mother of another brother… Wait that didn’t make sense. Anyways, it was from Dorie Greenspan and it sill hails as the best cookie recipe around. But I had to try just one more.

I know, bear with me.

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