An Ode to Cupcakes

November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hey all!

I have a confession. I have been eating my weight in cupcakes for the past two weeks. You know, it’s quite odd. I’ve always been a huge fan of desserts, but cupcakes were never my favorite. Brownies, real cakes, and donuts usually stole my heart away quicker than cupcakes.

Until… I met Magnolia Bakery last year. And then, I waited and I waited and I waited until we could be reunited. In San Francisco this year, I finally got to try Sprinkles Cupcakes, the much-lauded miniature cakes on the West Coast. I liked their cake– moist and sweet, but their icing was too headache-inducingly sugary for me. They were good, but they weren’t Magnolia. So when I went to the Northeast two weeks ago, a stop at Magnolia was a must.

And then… I upped the ante.

I sampled Crumbs Bake Shop cupcakes. Some say that it beats Magnolia to the ground. And after trying both, I have to say that I’m still a Magnolia lover at heart. From Crumbs, I had a red velvet and a bite of the vanilla. The red velvet was ginormous, the size of my palm:

And the cake itself was superb. Very moist and dense and the flavor was amazing. But… everyone knows that it’s the frosting that wins people over. And quite frankly, Crumbs’s frosting was just too darn sweet and crumbly (ha, get it?). I guess some people prefer their frosting extra sweet, but that’s just not me. Here’s another look:

So… In conclusion, Crumbs is pretty high competition, but it doesn’t take the cake for me. Now, what does win my heart over:

Magnolia Bakery. I’m going to be completely straightforward here. On my list of “last meal” items, a red velvet cupcake from Magnolia bakery is very much at the top. I’ve been to three locations so far and it just does not help that one of them is about a stone’s throw away from my sister’s apartment:

Don’t they look so darling? The bakery itself is so awesome, as well. All lace doilies and warm vanilla smells. Oh, gosh. Okay, so what did I get?

Two red velvets and two vanillas. The vanillas aren’t my favorite. The cake is soooooo old-fashioned (AND AWESOME!), but the frosting, once again… Is too sweet. The red velvet, on the other hand, is my favorite thing in the world. The cake is so moist and buttery and dense and great and the frosting… The frosting. The frosting. The frosting. Too amazing for words. It is a cream cheese frosting, but to me it tastes a lot like a condensed milk sort of thing– almost like tres leches. Creamy and milky and whipped-creamish. I have become ineloquent.

More views of vanilla:

And now, for the kicker. When my sister came home from Thanksgiving, she brought me a box of Magnolia cupcakes. Yeah. She did. And that’s why she’s the most blessed child and the greatest person ever to have walked this earth.

Observe:

My brave little cupcakes fared the plane rides well! Clockwise from the top right: Red velvet, red velvet, vanilla, chocolate, snickerdoodle, and vanilla. Red velvet will always remain my first love, but chocolate and snickerdoodle are close seconds!

Snickerdoodle was absolutely amazing with it’s marshmallow-y frosting and its cinnamon-y cake. Goodness gracious.

Here’s tame vanilla once again.

Chocolate was also a clear winner. Very rich, but not tooth-achingly sweet!

My love.

Cupcakes taste best with a glass of milk, of course.

Proof of damage done. And don’t you worry– that cupcake was gone the instant this picture was taken. Like literally, half a second after I clicked the little button.

Anyways, I think it is my new goal and life to try a cupcake at every single famous cupcake bakery in the world. Which is genius because that means the list is neverending. For now though, I am itching to try: Billy’s Cupcakes and Buttercup Bake Shop in New York City and Georgetown Bakery in DC. Where else should I go?

Travel Diary 5: Easy North

November 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have gotten to be quite unimaginative. Easy North? (I was trying to play with term Northeast, but what an epic fail.)

So this post has been long-delayed. I visited the Northeast two weeks ago for about four days. Officially, I was touring colleges. Unofficially, I was visiting my sister in all her Manhattanite glory and Β also to celebrate her birthday!

Our first stop was Boston, Massachusetts. I’ve been to most of the major cities in the US and Boston has been on my to-see list for a very long time! Granted, we didn’t get to explore the city much itself, but I did love the accents, the lights, and the general friendliness. Those who complain of Northern non-hospitality are completely false! Everyone is so nice up there.

It felt so nice to be back on the East coast– my home πŸ™‚ I felt very New England-ish with my mocs and blazers and peacoats. People are a million times more fashionable up there.

We visited Harvard University first:

We didn’t take many pictures here as I was completely focused on the tour and also… I forgot to insert the battery into the camera. Hmm, that cold did some brain damage, I see. How did it feel to be walking around the finest institution in the world? It felt relatively normal! Everyone at Harvard is completely friendly and unpretentious. They were all spirited and the campus is absolutely beautiful!

Next, we stopped by Tufts University where my TA from camp two years ago went! The campus is so peaceful and quaint… Very quiet. It was so gorgeous though– so many hills and trees and colorful foliage. And here, on the roof of the main library, is the most wonderful view of the Boston skyline.

See? Pretty!

Later that night, we headed off to Providence, Rhode Island, a bustling little town. In the morning, we situated ourselves at Brown University:

Brown seemed very relaxed, very free-thinking and joyous. I really enjoyed touring the campus, which was very compact and nice. I also had lunch with three current students and the cafeteria food is pretty amazing!

Brown is very uniquely traditional and modern. They are known for their art program since RISD is right next door, so much of their works are very modern. On the other hand, if you take a look at their buildings– very traditional, very Ivy.

Just a quick note– I’ve always been a Subway girl at heart, but this Chicken Carbonara from Quizno’s has won be over. It’s very creamy and slightly tangy, delish!

And finally, the last leg of my grand college tour was at Yale University. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures there but the campus is absolutely breathtaking. I spent the night and am just awed by the intelligence of everyone there! Also, Yale food is probably the best college food I’ve consumed (followed closely by WashU and Berkeley!), most likely enhanced by the fact that their dining halls very closely resemble the Great Hall at Hogwarts! The buildings were all so large and wonderful. New Haven, Connecticut is gorgeous.

And finally, I was in New York City. What an amazing place to live. I am so jealous of my big sister. There is always something going on and the whole city is just so glamorous! Just walking through Soho, we saw a photographer shooting pictures of an long-legged model with huge hair and a handful of balloons. We also saw a movie filmed that’s directed by Brett Ratner and stars Ben Stiller and Casey Affleck! So cool.

For brunch, we hiked to Congee Village. Take it from a Chinese family always on the lookout for good, real Chinese food. Congee Village is authentic and oh-so-delicious. This seafood mee-fun is tossed so flavorfully with vegetables and seafood. It was my favorite!

Sorry for the blurry picture, but these clams do deserve a mention because they are so scrumptious. The sauce is salty but substantial and the clams are very fresh and chewy.

I was not the biggest fan of their version of the salted-pork-and-preserved-duck-egg congee (which is usually my favorite), but my parents did love it and they were the ones who grew up inhaling this stuff, so I’d trust their judgment over mine. The pork wasn’t fatty enough for me and there was just an overabundance of ginger! I don’t like ginger in my food!

After brunch, we walked to Soho so that my sister could show us her office. We also made a quick detour into UNIQLO so I could pick up some jeans… More on that later!

While my parents rested at the hotel, my sister showed me around her neighborhood. We walked around Central Park first as it was the most beautiful day.

Funny story– we were going to take a shortcut through Central Park on our way to the hotel to meet up with my parents, but we ended up right where we had started! Oh my sister, the New Yorker πŸ™‚

Welcome to Shake Shack! I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this place before as I try to be a connoisseur of all things popular-food in cities. But the line (it snaked around the building) proves just how popular and delicious this place is. Shake Shack is a burger joint, sort of like In-N-Out or Mooya Burger if you’re from Houston. I only had enough stomach for a chocolate milkshake, but folks– this is one of, if not THE, best milkshakes I have ever consumed in my life. So thick and creamy and absolutely phenomenal.

Mmmm, this little guy is from Bomboloni, an Italian dessert place right by my sister’s apartment. I am so in love. This is so dangerous for a dessert-lover like me. Bomboloni are Italian donuts. The pastry part of it does taste very much like a donut, but the inside is filled with delicious cream (in my case– vanilla bean). It’s very much like a cream puff in a way. They are not too sweet, but very creamy and insanely good.

The two of us browsed at a couple markets– both flea and farm! We didn’t get any at either one though except for a nice bottle of freshly-pressed apple cider. It definitely put me in the fall mood!

Before dinner, my parents and I made a quick trip to Times’ Square. I’ve been there plenty of times before, but it was especially crowded that day. No idea why– nothing special was going on! But after much pushing and shoving, we finally did get to see all the shining lights.

This American Eagle billboard seemed very Buried Life-esque, so I had to take a picture! One day you will…

And finally, where did we go for dinner? My sister, the birthday girl, got to choose of course (not that the rest of us would have any idea were to pick if we could…)– Ippudo was the winner!

These pork buns were way too amazing and gone way too quick. Fluffy, white buns were filled with cubes of fatty pork and veggies. Oh God, it could induce a seizure, it was so mind-blowingly good. Slightly sweet and slightly spicy, it provided just the right amount of kick.

What could be in this darling bowl?

This isn’t the best picture because the lighting was so dim, but it was Tori Ramen. Oh my Lord, one of the best bowls of ramen I have ever had. Tori Ramen is chicken-based (my sister and mom’s were pork based and my dad’s was soy-sauce based) and so heartening. The noodles were chewy and wonderful. This is something that I would crave if I was sick or you know, anytime at all. I tried some of my family’s respective bowls, but I thought mine was the best πŸ™‚

I am now officially hooked on Ippudo. It’s all good. And that was my food coma. (Oh, there’s more, but I shall show you tomorrow!)

Well-fed and happy πŸ™‚

After dinner, we tried to work off a bit of that food by walking back home, but it didn’t do much. We did however chance upon a pretty fountain and I made a wish! Anyways, I slept over at my sister’s place and we watched Wizards of Waverly Place to our hearts’ content. Sisterly bonding!

And that was my lovely Northeast trip! Have you realized how every Travel Diary I post always ends up being 95% food-related? Le sigh.

C

Giving Thanks

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is going to be a quick little post– I have bigger ones coming up tomorrow and this weekend, but I just wanted to note that I am so thankful for…

  • God and everything He has blessed me with. I am so incredibly fortunate to live the life that I live.
  • My mom and my dad and my sister… They give me so much and are such beautiful, kind, brilliant people. I can honestly say that they are my favorite people to be around and I love them so much.
  • My extended family (even though they don’t celebrate this holiday in China!). I have the best family in the world. They let me do all the things that I’m passionate about and support me wholeheartedly. Both sets of my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins are beyond gracious and wonderful.
  • My friends. They range from people all over the world and are all different ages. But they all have such good hearts, are so fun to be around, and never fail to be there for me when I need them the most.
  • Food, drink, shelter.
  • Pretty clothes, a kick-butt camera, lots of mileage for traveling, being able to watch HP7, being a senior in high school, being half-way done with college applications, having the most wonderful teachers, having books to read, a knack for writing, CUPCAKES, my beautiful PALees, a computer, this blog, technology, colors, and a million other things that aren’t on the top of my mind but that make my life so incredible.
  • And a special note for this year especially, I am so thankful for having experienced EPGY at Stanford University. It has changed my life completely– my writing has improved, my personality has expanded, my independence and confidence has skyrocketed, and also– I’ve met the best group of people ever.

Okay, more to come later! Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving! (Have a SAFE Black Friday too, if you are so inclined!)

C

Life List Item #10: Attend a Midnight Showing of a Movie

November 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

I think this may be the longest I’ve gone without blogging since the day I started the blog. What’ve I been up to? Oh, you know– college applications, trips to the Northeast (more on that later this week!), enjoying my time as a senior in high school. As per ushje (uje? ushe? ooj?). Now that we’re on Thanksgiving Break, I’ll probably make up for time lost here!

So the first minute of Friday, November 19th marked a very important moment in history. The beginning notes of Hedwig’s Theme echoed all around the world. Masses of teenagers, kids, adults, grandparents even, most likely cheered as the lights dimmed. It was the moment that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I was first viewed by the planet. I was among the 24 million people who was present in a movie theater at that moment. And so, I marked off list item #10: to attend a midnight showing of a movie.

The tickets to our main movie theater was already sold out three weeks in advance, when we first thought about booking some. Two other nearby theaters were sold out as well, so we settled on one a good thirty minutes away. It’s known to be in a very shady mall. We were a bit creeped out, but since our group was so big, none of us was too concerned. There we are– first people in line!

We were there so early (5 PM!) that none of the management really knew what to do with us. The lines weren’t even set up yet! Here, my friends even tried to lift a bench from the mall into the theater so we could chill. The employees even offered to let us go into another movie if we wanted. How did we occupy our time?

By playing Liar’s Dice and board games (and posting on Facebook)…

And by playing Never Have I Ever with a mixed ICEE that we intentionally concocted to taste nasty…

By reveling in our costumes…

By having story time with a narrator and animated voices… (and extra embellishments, no less)

By eating… My friend Will brought along two boxes of pizzas and we all ate and shared heartily.

By taking pictures (and playing more Liar’s Dice) in the theater. The employees felt kind of sorry for all the people waiting in line for hours, so they let the first 150 people in line get seats and wait inside the theater for the last two hours. Being first in line, we of course got the best seats πŸ™‚ The entire theater was pretty anxious for the movie to start, but we made the best of it– we started a theater-wide rendition of Don’t Stop Believin’!

By talking and laughing and having a general great time with friends in matching outfits…

And by napping.

I do so love the fact that I have friends who would go through this 10+ hour experience with me (7 hours of waiting, 3 of watching the movie, plus one or two more for transportation/showers/getting ready time).

Do you see my friend Kris in the corner? What a sneaky cat.

And then I snuggled into my friend’s Harry Potter blanket, put my feet up, and watched the long-awaited movie.

A Short Review: I am a longtime diehard fan of Harry Potter, so I have very high expectations for the movies and the books. I was sorely disappointed by the fourth, fifth, and sixth movies so I honestly didn’t come into the seventh one hoping for too much. But actually, I came out amazed. I must admit that the beginning wasn’t done too well– I really did not like how the escape scene was done through Muggle tunnels and streets. I highly doubt that JK Rowling would’ve wanted for her beloved characters to almost indifferently harm Muggles for their own sake (I don’t want to go too much into detail for those who haven’t watched it yet!). Deathly Hallows as a whole did drag on a bit, but that is the way that the books were as well. As a whole, the movie remained highly faithful to the book, most likely because of its being split into two movies and having more time to fit everything in. The characters do seem ever-solemn, but then again, that is the nature of the situation. Ron Weasley and his brothers presented much of the comical relief. All in all, I was very pleased with the film and will watch it over and over again! I can’t wait for the second half!

But boy oh boy did we pay for it the next day!

Until next time,

C

Wishin’ & Hopin’: November 2010

November 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Today is definitely not the first of November. I am a couple days late on the game, but I have come to play after all!

This month, I am celebrating (or have celebrated):

My only and therefore favorite sister’s birthday! Still lookin’ quite young and radiant, but all the wiser and knowledgeable in the ways of the world. I love her to the moon and back πŸ™‚

Looking forward to:

Thanksgiving! This is one of my favorite holidays as there will be plenty of food and family. My go-to goods on the table are the pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes. Yours? Also, it is such a magical time as it puts everything into perspective– we all have our personal troubles and worries, but when it comes down to it, we all have so much to be thankful for.

Anticipating…

Black Friday! I’m not really in need of anything this year (except for a new laptop, but I’ll be getting a Macbook Pro in May!), but I do like to stock up on DVD’s. And perhaps this year I should seek out some sheets and pillows and whatnot for college. I just love the thrill and frenzy!

I’ll be traveling to…

The Northeast next week! Boston, New Haven, Rhode Island, New York City, here I come! Officially, the trip is to see a jumble of colleges. But unofficially, it’s to see my sister and celebrate her birthday– with tons of cupcakes from Magnolia, of course!

I need to purchase…

New outerwear! I really love coats from Old Navy. They are of great quality, look polished and nice, and are uber-cheap. This coat’s pretty cute– love the ruffle! I tend to go for blacks and cobalts, so I should probably look for a berry color for my next conquest.

I am going to adorn myself with…

Pearls! For some reason, once autumn hits, I’m in the mood to don pearls. Perhaps it is because they complement fall clothing so well– blazers, peacoats, jewel tones.

I am so ready for…

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1! I have been waiting forever for this movie to come out. I am a die-hard Potter fan. I’ve already gotten my tickets for the midnight showing (which is on my bucket list) πŸ™‚ So excited.

Going to try…

I really like the idea of patterned tights. I’ve seen pictures of Leighton Meester on the set of Gossip Girl as Blair pairing patterned tights with coats and dresses. It looks unbelievably chic and slightly edgy. However, I think it’s important to find the right pattern, or else you can end looking like you have a disease of some sort!

About to try an old trend…

Berets are so overdone, but rightly so as it looks so amazing. Looks very European and chic… I think I may finally get one for myself. And at Forever21, where it’s only 6.90, why the heck not?

And, finally… Loving…

Lace! I have been so obsessed with lace these past few months… Lace tops, lace dresses, lace everything! Especially cream, white, and blush lace. Lauren Conrad rocks it perfectly.

Happy November!

C

A Million Kisses

November 3, 2010 § 1 Comment

…to my big sister Sarah!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Travel Diary 4: Charmed by Chicago

November 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Whoa, long time no blog.

What have I been up to? You know– same old, same old: keeping up grades, doing a million things at school, completing college applications (one down, many more to go!), traveling to Chicago. Wait, what?

Yes folks, I have just returned from a two day trip to the Windy City. Officially, I was there to visit both Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, both of which were breathtakingly beautiful. Unofficially, I spent some QT with my pops and consumed lots of good food. Here are some iPhone pictures, all edited with the CameraBag app:

Early morning when I should’ve been on my way to school, I dropped by Starbucks and picked up very first (hot) Pumpkin Spice Latte of the year. Just as sensational as I remembered. It’s actually pretty chilly here in the mornings now, so the warmth was welcome!

Mmm, I also picked up an Iced Lemon Pound Cake, one of my favorite breakfast goodies from Starbucks! I don’t know, this one seemed a bit too sugary, but I deemed this weekend “Eat Everything, Think About Nothing” weekend, so it is all good!

Like always, I asked for a CranApple on the plane. It’s my favorite and I hardly ask for anything else. (One of the major reasons I don’t like flying in China is because they don’t have CranApple and they only have Pepsi products– no Coca Cola!)

I am so extremely proud of the fact that I studied the whole way to Chicago. Granted, it was just reading US History, which isn’t that bad…

For lunch, we stopped at Luigi Stefani’s Pizzeria at the Midway Airport in Chicago. My tummy was yearning for something hot and cheesy, so I was very pleased with this pasta (which had a super long and difficult name).

My dad stayed at a Hilton in Evanston. This was a weird little building right next to it. It had a metal man dangling outside a window. Pretty unique! I, on the other hand, stayed with a student host at Northwestern University. I really adored the school– it is absolutely gorgeous, has the cutest traditions, and the community is incredibly close-knit. Residential colleges had a night every week just for bonding time! We watched Sweeney Todd, which grossed me out more than I thought it would, but whatever, it’s Halloween season.

This is Lakefill, one of the most gorgeous spots on campus. There is a beach open only to students– no faculty, visitors, or parents allowed. There were so many things that I loved about Northwestern. I took an Intro to Social Policy class, which was extremely thought-provoking and insightful.

Another view of Lakefill! The people were all so warm and welcoming, holding spontaneous popcorn parties and offering stolen pumpkin loaves (just from the cafeteria, no worries). Everyone was so fashionable, as well. It was all peacoats and flat riding boots. Gorgeous!

Anticipating the cold, I borrowed by sister’s poofy down coat. The temperature was mostly in the 20’s when I was there– a HUGE contrast to the 90 degree weather I left behind in Houston. I came prepared:

Huge puffy coat, mocs, a sweater, scarf, AND a furry hat! The wind was brutal!

My dad and I trekked around Evanston in the morning, bravely facing the chill to try and find a Starbucks. I was easily distracted by the coziness of Seattle’s Best Coffee and settled for a Chai and some Pumpkin Spice Loaf:

The poor Chai just couldn’t compare with my beloved Tiger Spice from Coupa. It was too watered down and not creamy enough. But the Pumpkin Loaf, oh my Lord, it was so amazing. I just can’t rave about it enough. So moist and slightly spicy with a great amount of pumpkin flavor. I think I’ll hit up Borders one of these days to grab some more.

Next up, we visited the University of Chicago. It was illustrious– ivy-covered buildings, trees in the midst of changing colors, towering buildings that look straight out of Harry Potter. I was smitten.

Please ignore the lack of proper makeup and hair styling. It was cold. Just look at those buildings– breathtaking!

This particular tree was layered so beautifully: red, yellow, green. Just like a stoplight!

Again, the buildings resembled Hogwarts so very much! I was tempted to apply JUST so I could feel like Harry Potter πŸ™‚ But actually, their liberal arts program is super impressive and the vibe was just so mellow and welcoming.

I just can’t get over the natural beauty of the campus. It has been the most traditional of campuses that I’ve seen yet.

And, it apparently hosts some very impressive guests. President Barack Obama gave a speech here on Saturday!

Winding down, we stopped by Henry Caray’s at the Midway airport. My Cheese-Filled Spinach Ravioli doesn’t look so appetizing in the picture, but I promise you– it was mouth-wateringly delicious.

Of course I took the opportunity to wear my Ugg Dakota moccasins πŸ™‚

For din-din: Grilled Mahi Mahi with crawfish, shrimp, and scallops on top of dirty rice. Perfect chilly night for some hot, hot Cajun food (Pappadeaux’s). Love.

I love flying at night. It’s so peaceful– just the sky, the clouds, and you. I was in a very contemplative mood and the music was helping out with slow, nostalgic songs (I always have my iPod on Shuffle). All in all, I just felt very at peace with myself and with the universe. Now, I’m not a very religious person. In fact, I’m not a religious person at all– I’ve never practiced any particular religion, never gone to church. But, I do believe in God and I have had many conversations with Him these past few months which have brought me a lot of comfort and peace. And lately, I’ve felt very accepting and open and I’ve been taking on the mindset that everything happens for a reason. So, with that in mind, no matter where I end up, no matter which school I end up going to, I know there’s a reason for that and I’ll be okay regardless πŸ™‚

And when you see such beauty like this, how can you even doubt that God exists? Feeling especially spiritual today! Anyways, I had a BLAST in Chicago. Awesome city, not so awesome weather.

Till tomorrow (hopefully!),

C

Where Am I?

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