Lithuanian Hot Pockets

29 Apr '17  — Snackable comfort food

Fun to make

It's rare to come across a flavor that's entirely new. Perhaps that has something to do with being vegetarian. How different can veggies and herbs taste?

Over Easter, I was surprised by the flavors I had in a Lithuanian pastry. My cousin-in-law made a large plateful. They were so delicious, I had to make them myself.

They were gone in one day

Finding the recipe wasn't difficult. But I couldn't find the recipe in English. Google corrected my keywords. The terms I was entered into google were 'pakory litewskie soczewiaki' but the results suggested 'kakory litewskie soczewiaki'. I went with the first result, a food blog where I spotted the pastries from the photos.

Making the pastries myself

The next time I make these, I'm going to try my own filling, perhaps spinach and feta, or a breakfast version, scrambled eggs and cheddar.

It was fun molding these crescent shapes after filling them. The potato dough mashes together so smoothly.


Too High

28 Apr '17  — Maintaining a false reality

Above the clouds in the Flatiron District

Freak shows are inhumane. Whenever I see a roadside attraction (snake girls), I get angry thinking how evil they are. Yet, I partake in a similar form of entertainment.

What is the real drama of the real housewives? I watch Beverly Hills and New York. It's a strange delight to see faces transformed from scene to scene.

In each episode, a gravity machine switches on and off. All the women look okay in a single moment, but then, in the next, someone will have their eyes stretched past her forehead and a few others have their lips drooping past their chin.

It's an acrobatic act like Cirque du Soleil. My enjoyment is cruel, despite how much money these women have.

The premise of the show is to demonstrate how much of a hell life can be despite having resources.

The popularity of the show has to do with how the storylines fit expectations. These women don't really have homes that are that extravagant. A room is just a room, even if it is in an expensive neighborhood. Many of the scenes look as if they could be shot in suburban homes.

There's a perverted delight in knowing that the characters are going through divorce, loneliness, feeling disliked and unpopular. It feels as if justice is served. These women have so much that seeing them suffer gives commoners a sense that things are balanced in the world. That's the escapism.

'Does she not know that those fake eyelashes look as if she's wearing eyebrows for lashes?'

Should I fall for such a mechanism? The tragic part of the story is that while I am enjoying the freak show, I'm reinforcing the belief that there needs to be justice in the world.

I think I'd be too out of touch with reality if I held the world to such high expectations. This reality show promotes an unreality where people get what YOU think they 'deserve'.

I could never figure out how watching these shows were specifically unhealthy, but now I see how similar it is to junk food: incrementally toxic.


Once a Year Tradition

27 Apr '17  — For the past 3 years

Lovely ironwork

I never plan to visit the nearby cemetery but for some reason, I always end up visiting each year. There's so much decorative iron work, vintage patterns and fonts. Also, the plants growing on crumbling mausoleums are a sight to see. The cemeteries on Bergmannstraße are full of 19th century tombs.

A crumbling corner

This red mausoleum above was in the least flattering corner. For some reason there was a clearing--it's a pretty packed cemetery so I wondered how the patch of space opened up. Did they remove the tombs?

Black and orange

I wonder what happens to details like this patch of tiles in a crumbling structure. What do they do when they want to get rid of it? Or the iron door? Some things seem too nice to discard but it seems that they might be making effort to maintain the space and make room.

A window for air?

There's a surprising amount of variety in the details.


Palazzo del Grillo

26 Apr '17  — A peachy corner

The Palazzo del Grillo (Palazzo Robilant) on the left is a 17th century baroque palazzo attached to a 13th century medieval tower

When my husband and I went to Rome (a while ago), we didn't have a plan as to what to see. We wandered the streets and that provided plenty of entertainment. On one day, whichever direction we wandered, we were to lead to the same corner.

The Piazza del Grillo had this warm gold color with orange peeping out. Like a ripe peach. I didn't mind coming across it again and again. When I tried to take a photo, none of my shots could capture anything close to how I was seeing it. I felt mute, not being able to capture and transmit something I experienced.

Hitting a wall of color

The confrontation with color is something better captured through drawing. Today, I used some inks to re-create the experience. Photos can only describe so much.


Playing the Lotto

25 Apr '17  — A vivid memory of being four

Back to the hen
or was it 7-elev again?

The pink lotto card, we were after
and dreaming of the finest green pasture

Grandma, like most
was interested in getting on the boat

Flush with cash she'd sail
to all her spun up tales

of the dresses I'd be wearing
of the girls that'd be glaring

As soon as we win...

Little did I know
She was doing some imploring
to pick up my feet,
to pick up my pace.

To get that ticket,
before having to retie

my shoelace.

An element of fantasy, found on the Peak Tram in Hong Kong

I remember walking with my grandma to the closest convenient store. It'd take 30 minutes to walk and I was four at the time. With short legs, I must have been slow. Also, I remember my shoe laces coming undone every few steps.

My grandma would fill out a pink sheet every week and I remember wishing I was 18, the requirement to play.

When I look back, I realized that she brought me along to keep her company. I felt like an accomplice but she was working hard to make sure I was entertained. She'd tell me all the incredible things we'd do together, the amazing dresses I'd wear once we had won.

I remember thinking winning the lotto was like waiting in line. My grandma had to show up each week and eventually, when her turn came, she'd have all the cash she needed to do what she wanted.

I'm glad she didn't win during this period, I wouldn't have had such wonderful walks.


Chia Oats

24 Apr '17  — It's what's for dinner

I've gotten to a point where it doesn't feel right if I go a week without making a video. I made a quick one of my dinner, which may not seem tasty but was.

The making of a meal

Plenty people have spent periods living off oatmeal. I had a roommate who found money for shoes by eating £4 bags of oatmeal.

Oatmeal can be made in so many ways. While in London, I was amazed how much porridge is served. There were so many cafes that served it with fresh cut fruit or stewed fruit that had been cooking overnight. The same places would often serve fresh granola and yogurt.

I wanted it all: fresh fruit, cooked fruit and granola. It's common to have one topping. Since I'm American, I wanted it my way.

Modest compared to my past

I remember getting anxious before ordering, having to ask before they filled the bowl, to make space for all three toppings. It's not common, but if you saw the fresh cut fruit, stewed berries and granola it's hard to choose just one. Knowing I was in the UK for a limited time, I wanted all the toppings every time I had porridge.

These hot breakfasts would leave me overwhelmingly full. I totally deserved feeling lethargic for filling up on too much at once.


Night of My Life

23 Apr '17  — Staying up on a Saturday night

The mood: like a ghost, wandering listlessly in a foreign city. This was taken in Hong Kong while jet lagged, a long long time ago

Have you ever been caffeinated to the point that you were awake an entire night?

I've never had the chance until last night. Sleepless nights happen, but never has it extended until the morning.

Yesterday evening, I made chai for the first time. In Germany, Chai lattes are served everywhere. It's usually from a powder and there's one company got a monopoly in Berlin, their chai is found in most cafes.

In the few places that don't carry that brand, chai is served in a tea bag steeped for seven minutes. Steamed milk is added after. I used to prefer this method because I thought it was the more authentic way.

Coming across a made-from-scratch method online, I found that the tea takes a lot more time. I've always wanted to try. The process involves boiling grated ginger and a crushed cinnamon stick for twenty minutes before adding cardamom and Asaam tea. Much longer than I expected. Then you add milk and cook until it foams. At least half an hour goes by before it's ready.

The flavor is so different. Homemade chai is far better than the powder or dry tea leaf form. I drank the entire batch. My original plan was to make extra and save some in the fridge for the morning.

I didn't know I was caffeinated until 2:30 in the morning when I was wide awake. I had done all sorts of tasks on the computer. It was strange being alert in the evening. I was enjoying the boost of energy so much, it was subtle enough that I didn't think to question it.

Without jitters, the caffeination snuck up on me. I forced myself into bed at 3 and tried to fall asleep. 5 am came and as the sky got brighter, I got more anxious about getting sleep.

When I woke it was 10am. I was happy I got at least some sleep.

As much as I love the tea, I don't want to experience that again.


A Comfortable Morning

22 Apr '17  — Unexpectedly smooth

Nice because it's subtle: a vintage pillow case I found at a thrift store.

I woke to drizzling rain. The atmosphere gave me a sense of accomplishment. By staying put, under my blankets in bed, I was doing the right thing.

One of my favorite things in life is to listen to the rain, tucked under blankets with the window open. I can feel the cool breeze, hear the tapping rain drops and appreciate that I'm dry, warm--protected.

When it stopped raining, I suggested to my husband that we go out for coffee. But where? There were many places but we've been to them all.

Bonanza coffee opened a roastery cafe in our neighborhood. It's been blogged about incessantly for it's interiors. Located in the back of the building, you have to make it a point to stop by.

I was curious when it first opened last year. I even walked up to the entrance, wandering all the way around the back of a building. Right before, I saw a sign on the adjacent building "yuppie coffee this way" with an arrow pointing at the entrance.

Realizing I was part of the problem, I decided not to step in. My guilt weighed on me as I took another 100 steps to return to the street.

Today, we got up relatively early. Under the cover of the morning, with less people up, it was the perfect time to go. No one will know.

When we arrived, I was happy that I didn't have an internal debate about going in. There weren't that many people there.

What greeted us was a glass pastry display. The chaussons aux pommes and almond croissants looked familiar. I was hesitant before asking whether they were from nearby. Could I have ogled at enough pastries in the neighborhood to know where they came from? Yes, they were from the French bakery we often visit.

We ordered two cups of coffee and two pastries. I was surprised how attentive the barista/servers were. Especially for a hipster coffee shop. In Berlin, you never get good service, especially on Saturday mornings. Bonanza's servers were not only enthusiastic but they didn't even try speaking German. I don't think they were from around, which made the place all the more accessible.

"If I didn't know these pastries were from Salon Sucre, I would've been like, 'Oh, wow, they make nearly as good of pastries but it's much closer.' Because I know where they're from, I'm not as excited. There's less filling and more dough...the ones at the French place are tastier." - my husband

Perhaps there's too many hipster coffee shops these days that it makes no sense to be snobby. Even the decor was less haughty than I expected. With mirrors, towering monsteras and wishbone chairs, it reflected a style that was 'cutting edge' a few years ago. Now, it's just clean and practical, no longer as snobby as it once implied. The atmosphere was far more accessible than I expected. I've never felt as welcome in a gourmet coffee place.

Of the four tables that were occupied, two tables had women pouring over a guide book.

It feels great to be anonymous. Not that anyone recognizes me, but you start seeing the same faces around. It's nice to go out to a cafe nearby and be in a place where no one will remember who you are.

In the audio version of this post, I recorded a sampling of today's rain. Hear what it sounds like from my bedroom window on Soundcloud or iTunes.


Competitive Focus

21 Apr '17  — You never know when you'll get a push

Alert and in the dark

I was so tired today that I took an hour and a half nap. I only take naps when I'm tired to the point I can't function.

Yesterday, my husband took interest in bread making. I got weirdly competitive and found motivation to pursue what was wrong with my bread--it hadn't been rising as much.

It was 2am when I finished a new loaf and went to bed.

My progress on bread making has dragged on for a very long time. I admit that I could have improved faster. But there was no need.

There's a dissatisfaction that comes with the inability to do something right. Having the competitive pressure, I saw the rewards of figuring things out more tangibly than before and it felt like the rewards outweigh the freedom to take my time.

But then I had an entirely unproductive day from being tired.

Everything seems to come at a cost. Seeing what's possible with a little pressure, I'm curious what other skills can develop, with more dedication. Hopefully, there's a way to plan things out so I can still get enough sleep.


Bohemian Details

20 Apr '17  — Happy arrangements

This was found on a wood carved awning over the top of a window

A few months ago, I flipped through a book on traditional homes in Mauritius. I don't know much about the island so I was surprised to find folk details, especially the lambrequins (even this word was unfamiliar until today).

Folksy patterns can be overwhelming and too serious. I found many arrangements that were elegant and fun. There's something about that shapes that remind me of bohemian cottages I've come across. Perhaps I'll collect my favorites and be able to use them in a DIY project for my future home.


There are plenty of patterns, but I only like a handful.