A long-awaited update

I’ve been shamefully derelict in updating my blog lately. A lot has happened: I’ve moved back home to Kansas City for the time being, I formally completed my master’s degree and have the paperwork to prove it and I’m currently job-hunting.

One thing I’ve been doing a lot to stay busy and productive (sadly, though, not “thin”) is cooking and baking. Like two years ago, I made all of the family’s Christmas goodies with my mother this season. This year’s menu consisted of red velvet cupcakes (the Hummingbird’s recipe from “Cake Days”), vanilla-and-spice whoopie pies (also from “Cake Days”), chocolate-and-caramel shortbread bars and peppermint macarons. For Christmas Eve, I put together a Linzertorte, a German pastry made with almond meal, lots of butter and raspberry jam.

I have a few cooking feats I want to achieve in the next few months. Sometime later this winter, I’m playing host to an Indian dinner party for my family, serving homemade chicken tikka masala, naan, bombay potatoes, pilau rice and pistachio rice pudding. The chutney and papadams, I’ll probably buy. I also want to improve my macaron technique (I’ve made better cookies than most food bloggers’ efforts that I’ve seen, but I’m no Ladurée), field a decent risotto and make a Battenburg cake, the gold standard British teatime treat.

Despite this baking, I’m still not a food blogger (if you want to read a great one, read my friend Brenna’s). But I love doing it for fun, it gives me something to do and I enjoy it. More importantly, I also hope to start regularly updating my blog again, now that I’m in a more stable living situation. The Republican primaries are coming up, there’s a lot of social media topics to be discussed and lord knows I need to keep up with my writing.

In the meantime, I can make more of these.

Not bad for a first effort, no? They have feet!!

Chocolate macarons with chocolate-and-coffee ganache

Chocolate macarons with chocolate-and-coffee ganache

A damp day in London

I get a bit of a rush whenever I step off the train at a London station. I got it when I went from Reading to Paddington, and I get it when I go from Canterbury to St. Pancras. I love going into London, because it exhausts me — I’ll sleep like a baby tonight — and it challenges me, as I try to find my way around, discover new places and keep up with the fast pace. Best exercise I’ll get all week.

I don’t get to go into London very often, about once or twice a month, so when I go, I leave early and come back late, so I get a full bang for my buck (quid?). Take today, for instance. Instead of leisurely seeing two or three things, I covered a lot of ground, most of it in the West End or in Chelsea/Knightsbridge.

First I hit Hummingbird Bakery near Soho, where I picked up a red velvet cupcake (the house specialty) and a cola cupcake (Friday special). I ate my red velvet cupcake with a peppermint mocha at Starbucks on Regent Street, and visited the Regent Street Apple store, the world’s largest by area.

After that I walked from Piccadilly Circus to Trafalgar Square, where I ducked inside the National Gallery to see a few of my favorite paintings: Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, Raphael’s portrait of Pope Julius II and Da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks. I went to the National Portrait Gallery to say hello to the Tudors and all of their associates — Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, Henry VII, Catherine of Aragon, Mary Stuart, Mary I, Catherine Parr, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Edward VI. They’re all there, although poor Anne Boleyn was getting her portrait cleaned.

It was lunchtime after that, but I was dismayed to find that Tsunami wasn’t accepting lunch walk-ins. Making a note to make a reservation next time, I braved the Charlie Foxtrot that is Tottenham Court Road(work) for the foreseeable future, and had tacos at the UK’s only Chipotle on Charing Cross Road. Verdict: Just as yummy as at home, but they get brown rice as an option!

I was in a museum mood today, so next I stopped by the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Natural History Museum has all kinds of animal skeletons, ecosystem exhibits and fossils, so it’s a popular place with school kids. The V&A Museum has a lot of sculpture, textiles and “industrial”/useful art. Harrods was just down the road so I went to look at expensive handbags, Seven for All Mankind jeans and the selection of dog collars. Harrods is already dolled up for Christmas, and the display theme this year is Peter Pan (when I was at Reading the theme was Casino Royale).

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Harrods was also unbearably hot, so after I finished there I went to Kensington Gardens and found the Peter Pan statue (I saw it once before but it was dark) and walked over to Hyde Park. By then it was getting a little dark and rainy, so I took the Tube to Covent Garden, where I promptly walked out onto the street, slipped on the wet stones and fell flat on my rear. How embarrassing.

There was another bakery near Covent Garden that I was going to try and find, but with the early darkness and rain I didn’t get to it. I grabbed coffee to give myself a boost and get out of the rain, before I went to a hopping Leicester Square to see “Let Me In” at the Odeon. The movie was pretty good and a nice twist on the vampire genre.

After the movie I took the Tube back to St. Pancras, where I observed the people just getting in from Paris and Brussels, grabbed some McDonald’s for dinner — first time I’ve had it since moving here — and caught my train home. Whew!

I’m going in again on Wednesday, and that day I’m shooting to see the Tate Modern, the British Museum and a few of the other parks, or at least St. James Park. Oh, and that second bakery …

(Today was also Guy Fawkes Night, but more on that tomorrow.)