Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Interesting reading elsewhere

The New Yorker's profile of Whole Foods' CEO, John Mackey.

John Mackey, the co-founder and chief executive of Whole Foods Market, refers to the company as his child—not just his creation but the thing on earth whose difficulties or downfall it pains him most to contemplate. He also sees himself as a “daddy” to his fifty-four thousand employees, who are known as “team members,” but they may occasionally consider him to be more like a crazy uncle. To the extent that a child inherits or adopts a parent’s traits, Whole Foods is an embodiment of many of Mackey’s. A Whole Foods store, in some respects, is like Mackey’s mind turned inside out. Certainly, the evolution of the corporation has often traced his own as a man; it has been an incarnation of his dreams and quirks, his contradictions and trespasses, and whatever he happened to be reading and eating, or not eating.
NYT's article about procrastinating pleasure.

For once, social scientists have discovered a flaw in the human psyche that will not be tedious to correct. You may not even need a support group. You could try on your own by starting with this simple New Year’s resolution: Have fun ... now! Then you just need the strength to cash in your gift certificates, drink that special bottle of wine, redeem your frequent flier miles and take that vacation you always promised yourself. If your resolve weakens, do not succumb to guilt or shame. Acknowledge what you are: a recovering procrastinator of pleasure.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas POD

My mom taught me how to make vareniki (you probably know them as pierogies) from scratch. We made a large batch yesterday afternoon.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thanks, Starbucks!

Starting today, Starbucks is selling French macarons produced by Chateau Blanc. Macarons are a traditional French pastry made of egg whites, almond powder, icing sugar, and sugar (and are not coconut macaroons).

The box looks like this:

The macarons look like this:

You'll get two each of coffee, pistachio, raspberry, chocolate, vanilla, and lemon. Macarons do not tend to last very long, only a couple of days, so I expected these not to be super fresh. The fruity ones -- raspberry and lemon -- were actually very moist and fresh-tasting. The chocolate one was a bit on the dry side and the coffee-flavored one was my least favorite (ironically for Starbucks?). But don't get me wrong. I. Am. Thrilled.

I had afternoon tea with my macarons and out of curiosity, did a Google search of other reviews or articles about this product. Words like "sacrilegious" and "outrageous" are being thrown around all over the Internet. But seriously people, is there a Laduree somewhere around here that I don't know about? For the price and for the accessibility, I am willing to forgive that fact that they do not taste EXACTLY like the ones you would order in a shop in Paris. Theory of the day: Acceptable and decent macarons are better than no macarons at all.

Try them before the 25th!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The ultimate day of Christmas activities

Today was a whirlwind adventure of Christmas fun. Tomorrow is a day of hard-core final exam studying. But today was a day of Christmas fun.

First stop: the White House Christmas tree.

Surely it looks better lit up at night. But I thought twice about braving a cold winter night as I pulled on my under-the-jeans tights to keep warm on this sunny day.

Next stop: get a picture of yourself with your home state Christmas tree.

Here is me with the Maryland tree. What a pair of classy broads.

Next: go to the Willard Intercontinental Hotel and drink a hot toddy in the decorated lobby. Things went awry a little bit at this stage of the activities as I placed my feelings of adventureness ahead of my feelings of "what sounds good". I found myself ordering the Hot Buttered Rum, which was literally heated rum with a slab of butter floating and melting around in it. Note for next time -- go with the spiced apple cider or that peppermint drink, not the drink that Mark Twain supposedly enjoyed, Jesus what is wrong with you?

Pit stop at Teaism for a bento box of delicious Japanese food.

Next: browse the stalls at the downtown holiday market. Buy presents only for yourself. Actually, I only really bought just one thing: a yummy photo print of a farmer's market in Venice (photo taken by this man). I have high hopes for this print and the kitchen of my new apartment.

Keep going!: visit Julia Child's kitchen at the American History museum.

While not particularly a Christmas activity, it was on my must-see list.

Finally: visit the parents and put up and decorate the T family Christmas tree!

The responsibilities fell on Papa T and I this year, and my absolute favorite part was unwrapping each ornament and associating it with a certain memory.

This one my mom bought during the Chinese Year of the Boar, since yours truly has a pig year birthday.

This one I purchased at the Buckingham Palace shop the year I spent New Year's Eve and the two following weeks in London with a college friend.

This one serves as a reminder of the year I was supposed to study abroad in Japan for three weeks and got sick with the flu two days before the flight and was unable to go.

Ah yes, the Irish harp I bought last year when I was living in Ireland by myself and had no Christmas tree, but thank goodness my parents came to town and saved the day and visited me for the holidays.

These I can remember from forever ago. My mom calls them the "GDR ornaments" because, yes, they were made in East Germany way back back in the day.

What are your favorite ornaments (or Christmas activities)?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin
by Colum McCann

I am going to come right out and say it, no suspense-building here, this powerhouse of a novel gets a 5 out of 5 from me.

The story centers around Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the World Trade Center Twin Towers in the 1970's. And by the way, that's a true story (watch this documentary!) although that story is certainly romanticized in this novel and it is quite clear that the author has taken liberties to add many a whimsical detail and flourish. Regardless. It's a fascinating bit of history. I think of Petit as both 1) quite literally a freak of nature -- seriously, how many people in the world could have accomplished that feat? and 2) amazing in the truest sense of the word. Throughout the novel we get glimpses into Petit's brain about his preparations and his actual walk as well as the various reactions of New Yorkers who saw him up there, over 100 stories high.

Mind if I read you the first paragraph?

Those who saw him hushed. On Church Street. Liberty. Cortlandt. West Street. Fulton. Vesey. It was a silence that heard itself, awful and beautiful. Some thought at first that it must have been a trick of the light, someting to do with the weather, an accident of shadowfall. Others figured it might be the perfect city joke -- stand around and point upward, until people gathered, tilted their heads, nodded, affirmed, until all were staring upward at nothing at all, like waiting for the end of a Lenny Bruce gag. But the longer they watched, the surer they were. He stood at the very edge of the building, shaped dark against the gray of the morning. A window washer maybe. Or a construction worker. Or a jumper.
This is the backdrop.

The meat of the story intertwines the complicatated lives of several strangers, picked to live in a house, work together, have their lives taped . . .  oh sorry, I have Real World DC on the brain. There is Corrigan, a young Irish monk, who lives among the prositutes of the Bronx and struggles with his faith. There is a Park Avenue woman who has lost her son in Vietnam. There is a young artist who finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run. There is Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother whose teenage daughter is also a prostitute. Their lives are messy, fascinating, heartbreaking.

5 out of 5

Read it. And here is an extra credit viewing assignment:

The Colbert Report
Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Philippe Petit

Colbert Report Full Episodes
Political Humor
U.S. Speedskating