August 30, 2010

A Whole New World

I know it's only been two days, but it feels like ages since I last posted.

New York is definitely a whole new world from where I was two days ago!

So remember how I was sick on Thursday? Turns out I had a raging case of strep throat. Which to the doctor looked a lot like mono. Which, if I unfortunately happened to have it, could potentially knock me out for the entire semester, forcing me to defer and change all my plans.

Needless to say, when I found out it was just strep, I did a little happy dance. Or a strep dance, as the nurse called it.

I don't think I've ever danced for a disease before.

But I got my antibiotics, and last night I was finally feeling better (after a very eventful moving down weekend, with a car disaster story that I'll save for a rainy day). Today I was at SIPA Orientation all day, meeting wonderful new people and learning all about the complexities of the degree I'm about to start.

After a whole day of concentration and specialization info sessions, and peer meet and greets, I went out for a drink with a lovely new bunch of girls, and got home to the sweetest most unexpected thing, a Welcome to New York email from a fellow blogger! Allison, from Lemonade Life, warmly welcomed me to the city, invited me to meet up, and offered help for whatever I might need!

What a sweetheart! :)

Who knew that making friends through blogging could be so rewarding? I can't wait to meet the lovely lady!

And now I'm off to bed to rest up, and sleep off this glass and a half of wine (apparently a round of antibiotics and not eating for three days because my throat was swollen shut was enough to make me a light weight!), and get ready for three hours jam packed with logarithms, derivatives, and calculus tomorrow morning! Joy!

Hopefully I'll be back in before the end of the week, but between school social and academic events I'm pretty swamped, so I can't promise anything. 

August 28, 2010

Moving Day!


I'm moving down to New York today!

I'm driving down with my mom after lunch, and tonight we're having dinner and staying with old family friends, before driving uptown tomorrow to move in with my host family (for whom I should probably come up with a wittier blog alias than "host family").

I can't wait!

August 27, 2010

Murphy's Law Is A Bitch (Thank God For Distracting Blanks!)

It seems that the universe is playing a little prank on me.

Let me explain.

Remember when I got pharyngitis two times this spring? Well, I assumed it was because my throat was punishing me for yelling at the kids at school so much.

Fair enough.

But today, when I woke up with a ranging case of tonsillitis, which apparently is more likely to be strep throat (yay!), I knew it couldn't have been my throat being pissed at me, because I haven't yelled at any children in months!

And then it dawned on me.

I'm currently between health insurances. I was covered in Spain while I was working, and my school coverage begins September 2. In six days.

Only in a screwed up world where Murphy's Law is one of the only laws you can actually count on, would I get sick not only a mere six days before my health insurance kicks in, but the day before I have to move to New York, and three days before I need to be in perfect health for a week of grueling math camp and Columbia Orientation.

I officially have a bone to pick with the universe. This isn't funny anymore.

But luckily today is Friday and I have a nice distraction!

1.  The most adventurous thing I've ever done is      probably open wilderness camping with my dad when my brother and I were kids. My dad would make us whittle tree branches for silverware.  Apparently it builds character. 

2.  If I were a pair of shoes I  would be    a pair of classic black pumps. Comfortable enough to wear all day, elegant enough to wear at night, and always appropriate for any outfit you want to dress up.

3.  My preferred mode of digital communication is     the phone. I'm old fashioned, I like hearing people's voices. But only if it's a real conversation, like to catch up with an old friend.  If I have to figure out trivial plan details, texting all the way .

4.  I feel happiest when     I'm about to start something I've been looking forward to for a long time  .

5.  A little dream I have for my life is    to someday open up a Stationery Shop with a Bakery and Cafe.

6.  The one modern convenience I could NOT do without is     the internet. And now that I have one, my iphone .

7.  Music, movies, TV or books:  if I could only choose one to enjoy I would pick     Books  - the only other world you can really get lost in. Followed by movies, music, and TV .
Don't forget to link up with Lauren!

And now I'm off to start packing for my big move tomorrow (I know, I know,  I'm the worst procrastinator in the world). 

August 26, 2010

Sunset On The Charles

Today, before dinner, I went for a nice walk along the Charles River with my mom, to get some fresh air and see a beautiful sunset.

It has been pouring torrential rain all week. And not in a hot August thunderstorm way. In a cold and chilly spring way. 

So today when the sun came out - and it felt like the very  very first day of summer, not like one of the last days of August - we decided to take advantage and enjoy the warm sunshine for a bit.

I haven't lived in Cambridge in more than seven years, and even though I always came home at least once a year, every time feels like the first time back, and makes me think how lucky I am to have a home here.

Even though I'm beyond excited to be moving to New York City, I'll always be glad to come home to Cambridge, and its beautiful river,

and the cute little Canada geese,

and the crazy aquatic athletes,

but most of all, the gorgeous sunsets.

What do you love about your hometown?

August 25, 2010

Disclosing My Undisclosed Location

 Fire Island

I realized (with the help of a very astute commenter) that when I was talking about my "undisclosed location" two weeks ago, it wasn't actually very undisclosed.

I'd forgotten that I'd put my plans on the calender in my sidebar. Oops.

Yeah, sometimes I'm a little out of it.

But even if some of you did put two and two together, and figured out that I spent the week in Fire Island, what I didn't explain was why I was going there.

As I've mentioned before, I'm moving down to New York this weekend to start a Master's in International Affairs at Columbia University. And, as most of you know, Columbia is located in Manhattan, one of the - if not the - most expensive place for renters in the country.

I wasn't as lucky as I'd hoped in terms of financial aid, which means that this first year I'll be taking on a large financial burden, and so I wanted to find convenient living arrangements that would wouldn't cost me an arm and a leg.

Living in Manhattan, even in student housing, was too expensive. And living in Brooklyn meant an hour or more of commute each way to and from school, every day, without a

So my mom put me in touch with friends of a friend - a family with two children, aged nine and eleven, who were interested in finding a live-in au pair to tutor the kids and help out a bit with taking case of them, and who happen to live in Manhattan!

So I'd been in touch with the mom when I was in Spain, and we decided that it might be a good fit for me to come live with them. In exchange for room and board, I'd tutor the kids a few hours a day after school, and watch them every once in a while when the parents went out in the evenings.

But because I'd never met the family, they invited me down to Fire Island with them for a week to meet everyone and get to know the kids a little better, and make a final decision about whether or not this was something we all wanted to go through with.

I didn't want to say anything before I went down, because I didn't know how it would go, but now that everything's been decided, I'm not so (irrationally, superstitiously) worried anymore.

When I move down to New York on Sunday, I'm going to be living with this lovely family and their wonderful children, as an au pair, in their beautiful brownstone on the upper west side, only two express train stops away from Columbia!

(Not their actual apartment, but similar beautiful upper west side brownstones)

This allows me to not only save the money I would otherwise be spending on room and board (which in the upper west side would run close to two thousand dollars a month!), but also to get to know my amazing host family, and help their children learn and grown.

I feel so lucky to have this amazing opportunity, and I can't wait move to New York City and start my life there!

August 24, 2010

Soiree Chez Julia

 Gosford Park 

I'm having a dinner party tonight.

Ten or so of my friends - from high school, college, Spain, and even my cousin - are all coming over for a shabby chic meal chez Julia.

Usually I try to make my meals just chic, but this is sort of a last minute affair, and I'm a poor grad student now. So there is definitely going to be an element of shabby as well.

Which is fine with me. I think those are the best kinds of dinner parties. The most fun, anyway.

I'm fairly sure about most of the menu - starter, entree, and side - but I'm at a loss about dessert.


Any Suggestions?

August 22, 2010

Flaky Buttery Buttermilk Biscuits

When my mom came home from the supermarket with two cartons of buttermilk, I knew right away that I had to make biscuits.

The American concept of biscuits - essentially plain or savory scones - doesn't exist in Europe. Biscuit actually means cookie in French. And not that I ever really had them that often before moving to Europe, but the fact that I couldn't have them there made me want them even more than I would have if they had been available.

I know, it's ridiculous logic. But that's the way it is with things I can't have.

Anyway, so I was looking on foodgawker for the perfect buttermilk biscuit recipes and I came across one that looked pretty damn tasty.

And in fact, it was. The only thing I was a little disappointed with was that my biscuits didn't get as much height as I would have liked. I think it was almost all my fault, but I've tweaked the recipe to reflect good solution to the problem.

I also have two upcoming dinners, so I doubled the recipe, since I wanted to make enough for each dinner. But I think it's a good number of biscuits for a standard recipe so I left the amounts doubled. 10-12 is too few, I think, but if 20-24 biscuits is too much, cut the quantities in half :)

Flaky Buttery Buttermilk Biscuits
adapted from buttermilk biscuits

Makes 20-24 biscuits

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup or 16 tablespoons) butter, fridge cold
1 1/2 cups buttermilk


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix together all of the dry ingredients.

Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles pea-sized crumbs.

Make a well in the center of the butter-flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Stir until the flour is just incorporated but the dough is sticky and loose.

Pour dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 1 minute. The dough starts to clump together and be no longer sticky.

Sprinkle the surface with more flour if the pieces of butter start sticking to your kneading surface.

Shape the dough into a ball.

Hit it with a rolling pin, turning it and folding it in half every few whacks. Do this five or six times until the dough comes together.

Roll dough until it is 1/2 inch thick and then fold it in half. Lightly press the dough down to stick the layers together.

Cut out your biscuits from the folded dough using a round biscuit cutter or a glass. I made large biscuits, 2-3 inches across, and mini biscuits 1 inch across. Use whatever size you prefer!

Collect the scraps and without kneading them too much, smoosh them together and flatten them out enough to cut out some more biscuits.

Place on a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper (or grease the baking sheet if not using either of those). Make sure the biscuits are slightly touching so that they will help each other rise up instead of out.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. When slightly cooled, transfer the biscuits to a cooking rack.

Eat one slathered in butter!

August 21, 2010

Anthropologie Inspired Tutorial Roundup

I used to walk around - on the street, in stores, wherever - and see items of clothing that I liked. My first thought used to be, "Oooh, I wonder where she bought that!"

Now, with a few months of sewing experience under my belt, my first thought is, "Oooh, I wonder if I could make that!"

Obviously, I'm not an expert seamstress. Yet. I have yet to make a fitted top or dress, but I have tried my hand at a dozen skirts or so, and most of them have been fairly successful.

So who knows, maybe it's hubris, but I think I'm ready to start trying to make a few Anthropologie inspired projects, and other sewing projects at a slightly more difficult level.

Starting with the the following.

Which should I attempt first?

August 20, 2010

Filling Blanks On Television

When I was growing up, I never watched TV. I mean never.

There were few films my parents deemed totally inappropriate - they considered my brother and me to be fairly mature young tots - so we saw tons of movies. But my parents were both immoderately anti-television.

Maybe because they thought seeing hours upon hours of commercials targeted at kids would turn our brains into mush, and us into demanding little brats. 

Or maybe because they thought the programming in itself was not worthy of our developing little minds.

Whatever their crunchy, alternative parenting reasons were, before middle school I don't think a single channel was ever turned on in our house.

In middle school, we were given the benefit of the doubt and let choose - largely based on our friends' preferences at the time - two or three television shows that we could watch every week, obviously with the commercial breaks on mute.

Crafty girl that I was, I finagled four shows into my weekly rotation: Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson's Creek, and Felicity. The first two remain some of my favorite shows to date. The second two, well, lets just say that after my first year allowed watching television, I decided I had better things to watch with my limited viewing hours. 

In high school things were obviously a little more lax, and in college I was a free woman. In fact I spent a year watching Canadian TLC and realizing exactly what my parents had been saying all those years. 

Today, even though it's now been approximately half my life since I've pretty much had TV freedom, I still have a trace of the feeling that if I have a chance to watch TV I should take advantage.

But between being in Canada and Europe, I haven't had steady access to American programming in more than half a decade, so I haven't been able to go completely overboard. And the roundabout ways I've discovered for watching my favorite shows - streaming them online - have mercifully eliminated the commercial segments. But this doesn't mean that I don't occasionally exaggerate: I have eleven currently on-the-air shows that I follow, and eight off-the-air shows that I relive every once in a while. 

Let's just say that I'm a television convert.

And now, after carrying on for far too long about my TV history, let's fill in some blanks, shall we?
Don't forget to go link up with Lauren!

1.  My favorite current TV show is     Dexter. Only because it ended with such a cliffhanger than I cannot wait to see how the next season starts. Once it settles down again, I'll probably have a new favorite .

2.  The TV character I can relate to most is     Samantha, from Samantha Who. Ok, partly because Christina Applegate is frickin hilarious. And not because I have amnesia or anything. But because I think that she does a great job of trying to find a balance between being a good person and being a bad person. Everyone has impulses that pull them in both directions - being selfish, or doing the right thing - and sometimes it's hard to reconcile the two  .

3.  My life is like (fill in with TV show and why)....     How I Met Your Mother. Because that show pretty much encapsulates what it means to be in your twenties in a big, cosmopolitan city, and have  all kinds of crazy friends.

4.  My all time favorite TV show is     Friends. No doubt about it.

5.  A TV show that is ridiculously stupid, but I continue to watch is    none. Because I don't actually watch TV on a TV, I don't get sucked into watching Real Housewives of New Jersey, or Teen Mom, or the Hoarders just because it's on. I get to cherry pick the TV shows that are actually worth my time.

6.  My favorite TV couple is     Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy, on 30 Rock. Ok,  ok, I know they aren't a couple couple, but they have an amazing dynamic, and they are a couple of people, so I stand by my choice.

7.  One TV episode I could watch over and over again is    Friends,  "The One With The Stoned Guy".  Um, what's more hilarious than a stoned Jon Lovitz throwing cheerios as tiny life savers to drowning gummy bears in a bowl of soup. "Tartlet, tartlet, tartlet, tartlet... The word has lost all meaning." Oh man, it's pure genius .

August 19, 2010

I Occasionally Like To Make Lists: Favorite Summer Smells

Even thought Autumn doesn't technically begin until September 21, it still feels like Summer ends at the end of August. Maybe it's because school starts again, maybe because it stops feeling like eleventy billion degrees outside. Who knows.

I just know that the end of summer is near, and that always makes me think back on what I like best about my favorite season. And while summer is great because of all the things you have free time to do, it also is lots of fun for your senses. So here is a list of my favorite summer smells.

Rain on Hot Asphalt
It's hot, it's humid, the sky is starting to cloud. Finally, when you can hardly stand the weather anymore, the heat breaks and the rain comes pouring down, practically steaming on the hot asphalt. 

Someone's Else's BBQ
I don't know what it is, but smelling something that someone else is bbq-ing always smells so much more appetizing than whatever you happen to throw on the grill. Not that what you grill isn't delicious, but walking by someone else's grill is always a little better. I think its the same rule that dictates that someone else's Coke is always tastier, colder, and less flat; the whole grass is greener argument. 

Freshly Cut Grass
And speaking of grass, I know this is super cliche`, but it is for a reason: 
freshly cut grass smells amazing! And it's so green and pretty!


Fragrant Peaches
Fresh summer produce - especially fruit - is one of my favorite parts of summer. Especially the sweet, succulent smells that wafts off of peaches, nectarines and apricots. Yum

Minty Limey Mojitos
Nothing better for cooling off after a long, hot summer day than a fresh-squeezed mojito with plenty of fresh mint and crushed ice. And the citrus mint smells so good!

What are your favorite Summer smells?