29 April 2012

red velvet.

number one on the list and I feel great about it. I finally tracked down the famous recipe from that lovely friend who thankfully included some expert advice from her years of experience. for example, I am completely confident I would have had a very flat cake without her adamant multiple warnings not to over-beat the batter. and the frosting? guys. you have to believe that, contrary to popular cupcake shops all over the place, buttercream frosting goes wayyy better with red velvet than that of the cream cheese variety. per her guidance, I whipped that frosting until my arms were sore. and folks, it was totally worth it.

seeing as this is not a fancy food blog where I take detailed and beautiful photos of each step, I only snapped one before I got too engrossed in the actual cake creation. and then by the time I was finished it was 1am and I was too tired to take more than two, poorly lit photos documenting my success and that lovely red that took two bottles of food coloring to create. who knew it takes multiple hours to make and frost a cake from scratch??? (probably a lot of you.) so there you have it. number one completed with flying colors. if I do say so myself.

25 April 2012

a sinking city.

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if venice were part of my family, she would be my spontaneous, slightly erratic, but lots-of-fun little sister. full of impetuous moods (see: weather), over the top personality (see: local gondoliers and vaporetto operators), and a slightly concerning shopping addiction (see: trinket stores and boutiques everywhere). she would also be super mysterious and beautiful but need a lot of direction in life (see: magical streets of water and cobblestone, but with no explanation of where anything actually leads). but if venice were my spontaneous, slightly erratic, but lots-of-fun little sister I would probably love her the most for all the same reasons she sometimes annoys me.

the rain. it came. strong and continuous throughout our entire first day. but with water below me and all around me and coming down on me, I kind of didn't mind it. I kind of felt at home. I didn't very much care to get my pant legs wet and my hair frizzy. but I did like the feeling of rain covering everything and making it all a bit quieter, a bit softer. I liked the way bright umbrellas looked in a gray world. I liked the way strangers huddled together under store awnings and bonded for just a few minutes before venturing back into the downpour. I liked the way the gondoliers flipped their collars up, pulled their rain rackets over their striped shirts (yes, they dress that way at disneyland and real life!), and continued calling out discounted prices for a ride on the grand canal. I liked the way my world felt contained and settled in a blanket of rain.

and as much as the first day was full of rain that I thought would flood an already flooded city, the second day was full of sun that seemed as though it didn't even know rain existed. we went to an island where all they do is create masterpieces of blown glass. glass so hot that the master glass-blowers (like that lovely gentleman with the glasses) create something fragile and exquisite and then light their cigarette right off of it. I wandered through peggy's favorites and dipped my hands in the canal of this sinking city and rode the vaporetto with venetian locals on their way to work just as if I were riding the DC metro on my way to work. we zoomed up the waterway like a freeway. and I marveled at half-flooded but still wholly-functioning buildings and boats carrying all the same things (food. lumber. moving boxes. people.) that cars carry in our world. but our world seemed about a million miles away.

23 April 2012

currently loving.

I'm almost done with the recaps. just venice is left. but friends, there's still so much to say. so many images and words and thoughts and people to remember in this little corner of the internet from that little corner of the world. I imagine it will come in bits and pieces. an image here. a list there. it will come as it comes, I suppose. but sooner or later it will run its course on the blog. and whenever that happens I think I'll be a bit sad. so just stick with me a little longer.

but today it is raining. and this weekend it was raining. and the rain covers me like a blanket and I just want to listen to beautiful music and read beautiful words and spend time with beautiful friends. and so that's what I've been doing lately. it's been a lovely way to ease back into DC life as slowly as possible.

listening: music for spring mix by threading in the choirs. (he makes the best ones.) brian eno. joni and james.

reading: the principles of uncertainty. gilead. kinfolk volume 3.

attending: wendell berry live at the kennedy center. needtobreathe live at the 9:30 club.

watching: anis mojgani (at my alma mater, no less!) on connection and nobility and magic and science.
"making of" videos. dr. horrible's sing-along blog.

tasting: breakfast (with this girl, no less!) at northside social. all the goodies I brought back from italy.

painting: my nails. this color. because I needed a little color.

19 April 2012

a city with a view.

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we took our time in florence. with a larger handful of days than in any other city, we discovered the city slowly, peeling back layer upon layer like a giant sweet onion.

we strolled the streets gazing lovingly at bright colors and perfect fits and beautiful bags. dolce and gabbana. roberto cavalli. and my favorite, max mara. it was nice to have them around for a little while to understand that art is as much on fabric as it is on a canvas.

we almost became regulars at the restaurant at the corner. with it's slightly overdone italian decor (we are italian! it shouted to us. please believe us!) and slightly earth-shattering pizza. all sorts of flavors and freshness and delicious bites shared.

we became fast friends with lorenzo of lorenzo's gelato on the corner as he let us (me) taste practically every flavor behind the glass. at least we thought he was lorenzo. he could have been anyone really. but we like to think he was the lorenzo.

we met david at the accademia and I think I may have fallen in love. michelangelo was given a discarded and neglected piece of marble when he was 26 years old. 26. really? yes. really. and then he created something completely miraculous. breathtaking in more ways than one.

we chatted with owners of camera shops and of leather shops. we got hit on by waiters who called us honey and sweetie, reminding me more of what my mom might say to me than what flirting men might say.

we saw street performers and buskers. everywhere. campy puppet shows and classical guitar players and spray paint artists. I almost got pick-pocketed while enthralled with a slightly inappropriate charlie chaplin. and I'll always be a sucker for an accordion player.

and that last photo up there is of my lovely new friend, kristin. she is loosely related to my traveling friend and is from sweden. she is a writer and a walker and peruser of tiny hidden bookstores that she shares with us. and I think she looks just like joni mitchell. and we all know how much I love joni.

08 April 2012

as we drive through perilous and stunning tuscan hills from one tiny village to the next, I am struck by the human capacity to remember. and more strongly, the human tendency to forget. to forget so much more than we want to. how often I misplace my car keys or cell phone. how often I cannot remember the plot of a book I once loved. how often I forget the name of that one song or the date of my best friend's birthday. I have forgotten so much of my time in germany just a few years ago. it comes back to me in pieces or through photographs. but the memories of those unforgettable experiences have proved to be, well, forgettable.

and now I am here and I want so badly to remember everything. how I wish I could paint every image in my mind as vividly and everlasting as the frescos of these breathtaking duomos. how I wish these moments and experiences could last as long as the ancient cathedrals and castles that surround me. how I wish I could remember every landscape. every face. every piece of luscious cheese that I am consuming with no regard to my slight lactose intolerance.

I am sitting in a cafe overlooking the famous piazza in siena. where tourists and locals fan out as if they were on a sandy beach instead of on hard brick under the shadow of an enormous bell tower. I am here, sipping a macchiato and watching the rain of this sudden thunderstorm fall hard and fast. I am here, listening to four languages spoken at once. english and german and french and...is that dutch? surprisingly, the only italian is when the waiter asks if I want anything more. I am here and the chatter of others is comforting in my own desire to be silent. I am here, trying to recount everything of just the past few days. the past few hours. I am trying desperately to remember before I forget.

trying to remember the young couple in front of me. writing postcards and drinking cappuccino. but mostly just making out. I would feel awkward and imposing if I thought they cared at all. if I thought they even noticed me. I wonder if their passionate love will last. there is an older couple sitting in front of them. their hands resting lightly and naturally on each other. their love has lasted and become normal and not something to flaunt. their love seems more real.

trying to remember the hotelier in montepulciano. his unenthused but otherwise impeccable service. his sort of bored beauty. and trying to remember adamo, whose family has been making wine for over 1,000 years. he let me snap just one photo of him before insisting that I be in the shot with him. and trying to remember jenny, the winery tour guide who moved from new york with her dog to write a book in tuscany. and trying to remember that I wondered all of the things I wondered. I wondered if I should move to tuscany too. befriend the hotelier who is too cool for me. befriend adamo and with him, harvest the vineyards for wine and the olive orchards for oil. befriend jenny and have her teach me italian with just a hint of new york accent.
trying to remember the tuscan hills. rolling and green and dotted with cypress trees just as I imagined. idyllic and picturesque and so similar to what I see in movies and in my mind. but also different. also dotted with gas stations and car dealerships. the ancient fortified cities still holding tabacchi shops and overpriced gelato.

trying to remember driving in italy for the first time. not just through the steep and winding hills of tuscany with their sharp turns and narrow lanes and road that go from pavement to dirt without notice. but also on the italian highway with speed measured in kilometers and road signs I do not always understand and drivers who know themselves and their cars well enough to drive in such a way that would find my mother with her eyes tightly shut and hand gripping the door.

trying to remember the bright blue cathedral floors. the taste of baked pecorino with pears. the smell of cypress trees after rain. the feel of cold concrete city walls on my fingertips.

but I know I won't remember. like everything else, I will forget as time passes. I will forget too soon. I will look back at photos and I will read these words. but my memory will be hazy and only half-formed. I will forget what intrigued me so about saverio and what inspired me so about jenny. I will remember them only a little. and eventually I will only remember remembering. I will have a memory of a memory. but oh how I wish it could remain vivid and bright and full in my mind forever.

03 April 2012

a little town by the sea.

if I grew up in italy, it would have been in portovenere. and if I grew up in portovenere, my life would be similar to the one I know now. I would still have learned the same lessons of my childhood. (with less snow?) I would still have yearned for an escape only to long to return the moment I left. I would still have appreciated the beauty and significance of my home only after I had left it.

so many reminders of life in a small town balancing precariously between tourism and daily life. so many reminders of a tight knit community somehow entrusted to care for and cultivate a little piece of paradise. life surrounded by the salted waters of the ligurian sea or the fresh waters of the lake I love best. tiny islands holding the ruins of lighthouses or victorian tea houses. specialty shops selling locally made pesto or locally roasted coffee beans. masters of handmade ceramic boats or tiny pinecone pendants.

every person was my person in one way or another. these people. and their crafts. were my people. my mom, the beautiful woman serving dinner and chatting with locals at the most popular restaurant in town. my dad, the skilled skipper manning the helm of a strong and sturdy boat with confidence. my grandmother, the tiny italian women with her legs dangling above the ground while sitting and chatting with her friends. my friends, ignoring the tourists and continuing in daily life of soccer games and first loves. my brother, happiest in the sun and on the water. or in simpler times, he was one of the boys, bored and waiting for the fish to bite. (but would he be the one without pants?) could we have been so close as to sit on the crumbling rock wall together?