Long Time No See

Hi readers! It’s been a while. What have you been up to? I’ve been taking a break from this exhausting blog.

Blue Skies and No Blogging

Nearly three years ago, I set out to write the kind of blog I like to read — full of ideas for new things to make.

kochen

It was great! Except I didn’t actually have a kitchen. Or a well-lit photo spot. Or a high-functioning camera.

Take this unfortunately grainy photo for example. Here, I am using a water bottle and a hairspray lid to roll out sugar cookies.

In this grainy photo, I am using a water bottle and a hairspray lid to roll out sugar cookies.

The pressure to write came from my journalism professors. For three consecutive semesters, I was required to share a new post every week.

I scrambled during breaks to store up a hoard of fresh material (using my mother’s kitchen and my father’s camera). Then I doled my ideas out, one by one, to you.

IMG_4773

Take a look at my last post. See, the bagel one? By the time I wrote that post, the pictured bagels were long gone — nine months gone, in fact! And I knew I’d never make them again, because of what I had learned in the interim: a gluten allergy was behind my strange medley of health issues.

But those photos were all I had left, so I wrote about bagels.

Bagels

Then, after 16 months of blogging belatedly, it was a relief to stop ransacking my computer for material. I even loved not having to stop and photograph everything I made.

I spent nearly all the next semester in a ceramics studio. It was like heaven!

Practicing in the Ceramics StudioIn a post that never happened, I intended to share photos of my pots here. However, I quickly found out I couldn’t stand seeing them in two dimensions. So I abandoned that plan. (If you visit, you can look and touch and use them all you want!)

But now, here I am — I have a kitchen!

Kitchen

And I found I have ideas for this blog again — not just food on my table, but also words in my head.

I still don’t have a fancy camera (and I cook under fluorescent lights), but I’m learning a thousand things, and I want to celebrate by sharing them!

So, coming right up on Spicy Life, you’ll be seeing my new favorite things to cook, artsy gifts for new friends, and who knows what else? My life is full of new challenges — and finding words to fit them may be the hardest and sweetest of all. You’ll hear more from me soon!

DSCN2629

Cute as a Bagel

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Cuteness, on the other hand, has universal standards. According to several scientific studies, these include big eyes, round faces and other infantile features.

Cuteness also seems to have universal appeal. An Atlanta psychology professor found that “men and women showed nearly identical responses to cute stimuli,” although they rate it differently for social reasons.

Some say cuteness is a survival adaptation that triggers nurturing from adults. But that can’t be true, since people also love to eat cute things.

IMG_7536

Still, the effects of cuteness on our brains’ pleasure centers are evident. They give laughing babiessleepy rodents—even Hello Kitty—power over us. And unleashing this power is a great way to infuse bagels with extra charm.

Continue reading

Discambubolated

Spring is such a disorienting season. Yesterday, at this time, I was stretched out on the grass in the sunshine, thankful for the breeze that kept the heat from getting too intense. Today, I’m fighting with the wind to keep my hood up and wishing for a heavier coat.

I’m also discombobulated realizing how close I am to the end of another semester. I’m amazed—but how can I be so shocked when I’ve been so desperately aware of the crawling countdown to summer?

Still, I love spring—so bring it on. To celebrate the discombobulation of this lovely season, I’m throwing my blogging pendulum to the other side of the food spectrum from last week. If any of you were unsettled by last Friday’s  bean bread, you can relax. Today, it’s only oatmeal.

IMG_9831

Continue reading

A Mad Experiment

Does it sound too pretentious to call this creation “avant garde?”

I’ll accept any of the usual connotations—from daring and innovative to just plain weird.

As far as kitchen experiments go, the recipe was a surprising success. But in a parade of beloved, more traditional breads, I’m afraid it might need an intellectual term to hide behind.

IMG_0121

Continue reading

Polly Wolly

The first recipe I made from my new bread cookbook wasn’t bread.

It was Crispy Rye and Seed Crackers.

This may have disappointed my family (I strongly suspect their motives in giving me the book), but since the author, master baker Peter Reinhart, freely admits his own preference for crackers, I know I have very distinguished company outside the bread box.

IMG_9526

I was fascinated to find crackers—which I had only known as mass-produced snacks—among recipes for ciabatta, croissants and baguettes. I was further intrigued when Reinhart’s recipes introduced me to a kind of dough so completely different from anything I had worked with before.

Before many days passed, I had turned out half a dozen different batches. I fell in love with the process—and the results were incredible too. Who knew that humble crackers could be so classy and delicious?

Continue reading

Quirky

We never decorated Easter eggs at my house. It seems a shame, because as you can see from my last post, colorful and intricate designs are right up my alley.

But we only ate scrambled eggs when I was little. In fact, some of my family members are still dubious of eggs in any other form. This breakfast pizza, for example, was deemed too frightening for human consumption.

IMG_4239

Hard-boiled eggs are even more objectionable, according to my sisters. So you can see why we didn’t cook a batch every spring. They might offer a fun canvas for painting, but the insides would be wasted.

I, however, learned to love hard-boiled eggs after a trip to Germany. My host family also introduced me another unfamiliar substance often viewed with suspicion: quark.

Continue reading

Bored Squiggly

Boredom is bad for you.

Warnings against the dangers of idleness have circulated for centuries, and people resort to all kinds of pointless activities (or worse) when they’re bored to tears.

Doodling, on the other hand, has been officially sanctioned and hailed for its many psychological benefits.

This tactic has saved my under-stimulated brain from destruction more than once. And these shoes elevate doodles from a last-ditch defense against boredom to a wearable art form.

IMG_7450

Continue reading