deux

In the warm autumn breeze
that tickled the trees’ leaves,
I filled my watering can full
and watched as it pooled
in the overflow pan under my rose.
Would you happen to know
what jumped up as I
tipped the plate dry?
A sweet little toad,
with water dripping from his toes!

pauvre crapaud

This post is part of a series! Check out the collection here.

London Fog Tea Cake: A Recipe Review

London Fog Teacake

Tea is a newfound love of mine, and I love to drink it iced for any meal or warm to decompress after a long day. My favorite brew is Earl Grey: a black tea flavored with the oil of bergamot oranges. Citrusy and floral–mmm! I’m a bit new to the tea game, so just recently I learned the definition of a London Fog. It is, plainly, an Earl Grey Latte–or Earl Grey tea with milk and a bit of vanilla flavor. I’ve never had one, so it’s now on my bucket list! I wonder if Starbucks has one worth trying…

Whilst browsing Pinterest as usual, I found the recipe for this London Fog tea cake that has Victoria Sponge cakes infused with tea leaves, drizzled in an Earl Grey simple syrup, and topped with a light vanilla cream and a sprinkle of dried (edible) flowers. When I tell you that I can remember every delicious bite of this cake, I’m not lying! This recipe is from the blog Not Quite Nigella. I saw there’s a Chai Spice Tea Cake as well, and that one will be next on the tea cake list!

This recipe requires a moderate skill level to properly bake the sponge. According to Lorraine, it is quite the “temperamental” cake! She recommends not to open the oven door to check on it or even turn the oven light on. I was worried that my sponges weren’t going to come out as fluffy and flat as I wanted. Alas, I ended up with one concave layer (which ended up on the bottom). If you look closely at her cross-section though, it seems like she had extra cream in the middle, too! So maybe I wasn’t the only one with a wimpy layer.


HIGHLIGHTS

One thing I loved about NQN, is that she writes so well and teaches along the way. I don’t know much about the science of baking, so when I can learn something, I take it gratefully! I learned the namesakes of Earl Grey tea and Victoria sponges, and I also learned how that sponge differs from a more common cake (chiffon). I very much enjoyed her slight digression to talk about a book she was currently reading and her thoughts on that. It seemed to be part of her inspiration for this recipe.

Teacake mess
Okay, not everyone’s perfect… #kitchencrimescene

I always appreciate a simple recipe/recipe card at the base of a blog post because it is concise and I can’t miss a step. She makes each ingredient clear and gives ideas for substitutions or ingredients that might work better than others. For example, she explains that using duck eggs for Victoria sponges because the extra protein in them makes stiffer peaks when whipped, allowing for a sturdier sponge. (Probably would have helped with my sunken one…) It is also so simple to decorate. Just spread a ton of that delicious whipped cream between the layers and on top, and sprinkle with whatever edible flowers you have around. I just used some lavender and rose petals. So yum!


LET-DOWNS

I have to be honest. There was nothing about this recipe I didn’t like! The only let-downs I came across was my scarcely-stocked kitchen. I needed a scale for more accurate measuring (which I now have).

Also, I believe you can’t be stingy on the Earl Grey simple syrup. One would think that it’d be potent, but it really isn’t. There is an Earl Grey aroma to the cake already, but to get some real tea flavor, it needs a good amount. Just not so much that it is sitting in a sugary bath! I wish she would have mentioned how much she used, because I don’t believe she used all of it! Or…maybe she did? Because I don’t bake as often as I wish I could, I’m not attuned to the ratios of ingredients to use.


London Fog Teacake 2
My beau and I sat down for a candle-lit dinner and had this lovely tea cake for dessert.

SUMMARY

I would absolutely recommend this recipe to anyone. The cake is spongey (because, you know, it’s a sponge) and moist, and the whipped topping is hardly sweet at all. It was an airy dessert that is easy to eat after a heavy meal. I also had it with coffee or tea in the afternoon as a light snack after work.

Definitely keep this baby in the fridge. The whipped topping needs to be refrigerated to keep solid. It isn’t a let-down for me because it comes in the territory. Any whipped cream should be kept in the refrigerator! Moist cakes, too, most of the time.

Everyone in my family + my beau were enchanted by this delightful tea cake. It whisked them away! (Get it?)

Let me know if you try Not Quite Nigella’s “‘London Fog’ Earl Grey Tea Cake” recipe. I’d love to see pictures, too!

❤ Michelle

Fit for the Future

Good evening, all!

I’ll start this update honestly, by saying that today was rough at work. Naturally, writing will help to ease that anxiety and remind me that “it is just a job”. So I came to you guys! This fall will be an extremely exciting one for this blog and I hope it will be for you as well. Currently I am sitting outside listening to the squawky bluejay and the buzz and sweet chirping of hummingbirds at the feeder—that’s a good start to fall, if I must say!

Part of this excitement is a new series I’ll be starting Friday! I hope all of my readers will return (after my long hiatus) to join me on an Autumn Lovin’ adventure, because I just can’t resist its charms! There will be 7 installments, or so I have planned, and will be posted once-a-week on Fridays. Ponder all of these wonderful things that fall brings: color changes, pumpkin recipes, feelings of the ever-encroaching holidays, sweaters, boot socks, costumes, camping, new crop to harvest… The list goes on!

◊◊◊Have an idea that you’d like to share, or is there a favorite thing that you look forward to all year that comes in autumn? Do you even care for the season? Get in touch with me in the comments below!


Business #2:

Heard of Write 31 Days before? I actually did it last year! If you don’t know what this is and want to participate, here’s a link to the website that will be most helpful in informing you.

Last year, I did 31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes, which was just a more specific version. Basically, you join thousands of writers around the globe writing every day of the month in October. This event happens every year, so it is definitely something I look forward to!

I will be changing it up a bit this year, since I am running the Autumn Lovin’ series during the month of October as well. I read on that same website that they are also hosting a micro-blogging for 31 days on Instagram. I haven’t fully researched their explanation of what it is, but I am significantly intrigued. I have my Instagram account linked in the sidebar, so if I do decide to micro-blog for 31 days, you can keep up with me there!

Well, that’s the skinny of it. Lots of new stuff coming! I hope you stick around for tons of fall goodies and photos. For me, it’s the best time of the year!

❤ Michelle

Dessert for Dinner: A Recipe Review

Long time, no type! Thanks for hanging around in my absence.

I’ll be honest and admit I’ve been pulling myself away from my laptop since I graduated this past May. It’s been a great, relaxing summer so far, but it’s about time to get back on some sort of (loose) schedule. Apart from playing video games, taking some flower arranging classes, and reorganizing my room with all of my belongings from campus, I’ve also started a short story. I haven’t finished the one I’ve been working on for nearly four years, but that one will come in time…right?

One thing that absolutely makes my heart soar, though, is all this time I have to bake! Have you seen Rosanna Pansino’s channel on YouTube? If you haven’t, please–do yourself a flavor. Check out Ro’s videos! I love baking, but she takes that love to a whole new level. Her playlist, Nerdy Nummies, is absolutely adorable.

gal 1.jpg
Before baking: see that yummy egg wash sprinkled with sugar?

Alas, I digress. Today I made some of my absolute favorite desserts: mini-blueberry galettes! One, blueberry; two, pastry. Nummy! I had these for the first time at our local farmers and artisans market. One of the bakers from a fancy restaurant opened her own little stand of sweet treats that makes my mouth water just looking at her sweet, pastel-colored display. There are coffee cakes, loaves of fresh bread, brownies, cookies, pies, and (best of all) the galettes. Oh, they are divine.

I searched Pinterest, because naturally that is the first place to go for recipes, for a simple and delicious recipe to satiate my newfound craving. A few of the prettier pictures caught my eye. Surprisingly, I ended up on The Pioneer Woman’s blog! I do love Ree and her recipes. I decided that, juxtaposed with my own foodie photoshoot, that I’d review this recipe of hers. This recipe was one that I have made twice so far.


HIGHLIGHTS

There are many things about The Pioneer Woman blog that I love and could write about all day, but I will focus only on this particular recipe.

To begin, she tells us the story behind naming her recipe, and all the tears and brainpower to go along with it. I’ve never come up with a recipe in order to name it, so imagining this predicament was pretty entertaining. The pictures on her blog are gorgeous, and her dishes are so eye-catching. Maybe that’s why her galettes look better than mine; they’re on prettier plates! Those vibrant blueberries in the red, floral bowl? Stunning. If there is one way to sell a recipe (aka, make someone try it), it is the addition of high-quality photos. I want to see real water droplets on my washed blueberries and the soft imperfections on its indigo skin. I get those indulgent feelings from her recipe; I want my creations to look this heavenly!

gal 2.jpg
Fresh out of the oven.

Not only does Ree tell her courageous home-baker what to use and how much of it, but also why in the world we would add it. Why do we add cornstarch? To thicken the blueberry filling, of course! To most seasoned bakers, this knowledge is almost common sense; but to occasional bakers, this tidbit is quite helpful.

I really do enjoy seeing each step in picture format. When I read a recipe out of an old cookbook, I find it difficult to know what my project is supposed to look like after each step. Maybe that’s why Pinterest is such a helpful recipe box!

Ree is a very talented writer and entertainer. I enjoy reading her plights and excitements in the kitchen as she seems to be making the recipe along with us. She keeps a very active and engaging tone, keeping me awake while I’m mixing and cutting and rolling, etc.

Lastly, her recipe card at the bottom is convenient for those not willing to read the rest of the post. Displayed on the very top of the card is the number of servings, the prep time, and the difficulty of making this dish. (Galettes are easy, of course.) The ingredients are in a bulleted list form, one very easy to read, and the directions beneath are precise and easy to follow.

The prep time for these “sweetie-pies” is only 10 minutes, and they bake for 15. If you have some leftover blueberries or they’re on sale at the grocery store, this recipe is easy to throw together at the last minute to bake before dinner. Or in our case, for dinner!


LET-DOWNS

As a writer, I take care to analyze the use of every word in a sentence and the inclusion of certain ideals. It is unsettling to read a very self-conscious blog post coming from a bright-eyed, TV personality. These belittling parts of her post either reflect her inner self-consciousness for humor purposes, or she is just using it as comic relief. I’m not attracted to this sort of humor in excess, and she uses it a bit too often here.

gal 4.jpg
Crispy, bubbly, drippy, crumbly goodness!

She comments on her finger looking silly in a photo, which probably wouldn’t have bothered many readers. Saying that your head is a mess is normal, but it felt out of place with the rest of this recipe for some reason.


SUMMARY

All-in-all, Ree has an outstanding recipe! The form is great, the ingredients are easy to find, and the directions are understandable and easy to follow. These galettes are so delicious; I know because I’ve made them twice now and can’t get enough of them. Just divine.

Blueberries are precisely my Second Favorite fruit and one of the best fruits of the summer. Did you know they contain awesome antioxidants? Add them to smoothies, cereal, yogurt, or oatmeal for some healthier choices. Heck—wash ’em up and eat them straight out of the bowl! Can you tell I can’t get enough of these blue beauties?

If you make any, I’d love to see them. Get creative with your dough!

❤ Michelle

gal 3.jpg

Perspective: A Discover Challenge

image

One rainy day, before the 30 mph wind gusted on through, my mother and I strolled down the gravel road to Main Street to get a look at our favorite tree. We have no idea what this tree is (if you know, please enlighten us!), but I vowed that someday I would find out! My mother loves cherry blossom trees, and this one reminds her of them. We’ve plucked off branches and made arrangements out of them for a few years now, and still we have no idea what this beautiful, fairy-tale tree could be! Here sprung my idea for perspective. 6 different perspectives on one tree; a Spring perspective.

Just a Journal: To Write

White Peacock
Talk to the Feathers

Lately I’ve had the most sudden abandonment of inspiration. Writing is usually a part of my everyday thought, even if I don’t physically write something. Once Finals Week came and passed, writing flew right out of my mind with it–as did most of my normal habits. I’ll blame fatigue again and simply say that I don’t fancy thinking for a time while I relax my brain and body, and decide exactly how I want to organize the rest of my summer.

I am used to summers without any plans, except a short vacation, but this year I will be taking summer classes. I’ve heard it’s low-key. At least I will have a schedule to work with, and maybe then I will get more things done…hopefully writing.

Neglect is a nicety compared to how I’ve treated my writing. If I am studying writing, why aren’t I writing every day for at least 2 hours? Laziness, fatigue, lack of inspiration…whatever I want to call it, it isn’t fixing the problem. Writing is an exercise: it warms our brains up and then starts rolling with vocabulary and story-telling and all sorts of brilliance, just like walking and running stretches out and strengthens our muscles.

Well I’m also terrible when it comes to exercise.

Free writes everyday with coffee or tea would help. I could set up a writing area in my room so that it is sacred and I won’t be distracted (if I decide to clean this room). Reading is the best aid to writing, and I’ve been pushing that away as well.

It sounds like I’m trying to inspire myself. Can one inspire one’s own self? Is that possible? It isn’t working so far.

I’m writing in circles now. Typing helps my flow of thought. Perhaps if I keep typing something interesting will appear, but soon this journal will be too boring to continue reading.

I suppose it’s time for bed, and I will continue my search for inspiration and those looking for it tomorrow.

❤ Michelle

Our Creative Genius and Source of Inspiration

Today in one of my writing classes, we watched a TED Talks segment featuring the author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert. Her session was called “Your elusive creative genius”.  If you consider yourself a creator or a writer of any sort, definitely check out this video. It’s worth sparing 20 minutes. 🙂

Gilbert, a very engaging and inspiring speaker, begins her speech by introducing the stalemate she’s experiencing in her career as a writer. She is looking back in time for ways to inspire her to keep writing, even though her greatest novel may be behind her. A scary thought is how many creative minds have been destroyed, sometimes “by their own hand” just in this century.

Ancient Greeks and Romans believed in a magical or divine being the Greeks called a “daemon” and Romans called a “genius” that would bring creativity and inspiration to people. Creativity wasn’t thought as coming from an individual or humans in general. A genius wasn’t considered something to describe a human, but it was a spirit itself that would guide humans to be creative in art. These “beings” also shielded the author or artist from uncomfortable views from the public (she mentions narcissism or just a failure) by blaming part of these reactions and the content as the “genius’.” A terrible work could not be blamed solely on the artist or writer himself.

This point of view changed with the coming of the Renaissance, when humans and the individual became prevalent in thought. Humans were “at the center of the universe.” It was then believed that “creativity came completely from the self.” So instead of having a genius, the artist was the genius. Gilbert thinks this is “an error.” It is too big a responsibility for one human being to own. To say that this one artist holds all the creativity that exists is unthinkable. She believes that “the pressure of that has been killing off our artists.”

In an interview with the poet Ruth Stone, Gilbert discovers Stone’s mind-blowing explanation of her creative process. Stone explains her inspiration for poetry as “a thunderous train of air” that she could hear and feel flying toward her from far off in the fields where she grew up. She would run from the poem until she reached her home, finding paper and a pencil to write it down as it collided with her body. If she couldn’t catch it, it would find its way to another wandering poet. Sometimes she felt she could grab the poem by its tail, just at the last second, and bring it back to her. This story is so fascinating to me. I’ve never thought of creativity being brought to me by some thing, some being that could see past my human imagination. I always thought inspiration came from around me in people, nature, and words. Perhaps this idea of a divine being “living in the walls” is the true source of my creativity. This theory is highly debatable, but what an interesting thought. If there are spirits who visit us, why shouldn’t they bring us wisdom and inspiration?

Gilbert asks, “What is that thing?” That thing that brings us such random but fantastic ideas as if they appear from the air, inspiration that is sent to us beyond explanation. She, taking after a musician, has talked to her randomly-appearing creative impulse before. The creative being, she realized, did not have to be some parasitic genie inside, but “this peculiar, wondrous, bizarre collaboration” to which we can work together with, not just be pushed around by. Basically, she is saying that this “being” may not appear at “the most opportune time” and should come back later when you’re ready. She’s spoken to a space in the room in her time of doubt, just experimentally, and told the thing that she is doing her part in writing this book, but “it isn’t entirely my fault”, and “if you want it to be better, you should show up and do your part of the deal.” This comment was pretty funny to me; I enjoyed the way she tried to convince the air to bring her some inspiration.

Lastly, she explains why she has started believing in the being. It’s hard to stomach that all of the greatness we will ever achieve is inside us. It is much easier to think that our great creative impulses are loaned to us by a genius for a portion of our life, who will move on to someone else when we are finished. Her main point she expresses to us is to keep writing, keep creating our art because that is our portion of the work. That creative being will come and give its two cents to grant us a moment of greatness.

Is there really a divine, spiritual being swaddled in ribbons of creativity? Are they assigned to us to give us inspiration when our wells have run dry? Should we relax and just do our jobs under the impression that if we have a great muse we might create greatness? Comments and opinions are welcome. What an intriguing thought, that not all of my creativity is bottled inside me. “Olé to you, nonetheless.”

❤ Michelle

This photo from: https://berryduchess.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/elizabeth-gilbert.jpg
Elizabeth Gilbert | This photo from: https://berryduchess.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/elizabeth-gilbert.jpg