Black & Blue – berry!

While we’ve been fortunate to do a fair amount of traveling this summer, there’s been no shortage of baking when we’ve been home!

A few weeks ago, I won some beautiful deep blue linen napkins (handmade by Willow Ship) and black & blue jam (concocted by SQIRL) thanks to the lovely ladies at Design*Sponge and Juniper and Scout. What to make first with these gifts? Should I slather the jam over some ricotta toast, or bake crumbly bars? Spread it on a decadent cheese board (my weakness), or make thumbprint cookies? No matter what, those napkins were going to come in handy! In the end, I went with my go-to: cake.

I chose a buttermilk cake combined with farm fresh blueberries & blackberries, a sprinkle of lemon zest, and a honey cream cheese icing, infused with locally sourced honey. The jam served as a nice layer between the icing and cake! Topped with more blueberries, blackberries, and a sprig of thyme from the garden, it was a sweet little treat for the August new moon.

Buttermilk cake with blueberries, blackberries, black & blue jam, & honey cream cheese icing

Okay, not to sound too much like Ina Garten, but if you can get local honey, it will change your life. I don’t know if I can make cream cheese icing without honey swirled into it anymore! The tiny honey bear bottle didn’t hurt, either!

While summer may be fading into fall, that doesn’t mean much for us – the temperatures are still sweltering, and we’re continuing to take advantage of late summer delicacies. Our garden is in full bloom, and I cannot help but plan our meals around our herbs – and I can’t stop adding more to the pack!

herbs for days!

Next on the baking agenda – chocolate cookies with fresh mint! We have several varieties, so I’m debating as to whether to use a bright Kentucky Colonel mint, increase the chocolate flavor with my beloved chocolate mint, or experiment with a fruity mint, like orange. What do you think?

Many thanks to Design*Sponge, Juniper and Scout, Willow Ship, & SQIRL for the goodies! I’m a strong advocate for small businesses, so please check out these great shops (and get lots of tips from Design*Sponge)!

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Memphis in June

Or, at least, the South in June…

I can’t believe how quickly Summer is approaching – it’s been a busy Spring!

Between work (all three jobs, plus smaller side hustles!), my involvement with the Young Democrats of GeorgiaThe Young Democrats of Augusta-Richmond CountyThe Columbia County Democratic PartyRCSAS, school (all As, thank you very much!), and as a contributing writer for Live Your Dream, it’s pretty much non-stop all day, every day. I can’t really complain, though, as it’s all fulfilling, and on top of all of that, I also get to flex my creative muscles with weddings, cake baking, & personal writing, so the balance is starting to fall into place. Since my facebook and twitter feeds are already full of politics, I’ll not bore you here with it and instead share a few of the other things I’ve been up to over the past month and a half.

My mom and I went to the lavender farm in upstate South Carolina and came back with a plentiful supply! Lavender simple syrup was made first, followed by blackberry lavender jam, and I’m still filling jars full of dried lavender buds. The simple syrup was used to soak lemon cakes – one of which was for a Memorial Day low-country boil at a friend’s house and the other for Humanitree House.

 

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lavender infused lemon cake

 

Each cake was iced with a lemon buttercream and sprinkled with fresh lavender on top – all vegan, of course. I was really happy with how this recipe turned out – a nice combination of moist and fluffy, with just a hint of lavender that wasn’t overpowering.

Strawberry season started early this year (looking at you, global warming) and ended this past weekend, but I took as many opportunities as I could to hit up the u-pick. We’ve got jars of strawberry preserves stocking the fridge, which are even more delicious when spread on homemade strawberry loaf!

 

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freshly picked strawberries with honey from Duck Feather Herbs & handmade wooden spoon from The Hermit & Co.  plus mint from the garden

 

In between baking, I was fortunate enough to have two pieces of work published. The first was in WSU’s literary journal, LandEscapes, and the other was in a book produced by Weaver House Co. about textiles. There are still some books at Weaver House available, as well as some really beautiful weavings!

 

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There’s really nothing like fruits and veggies this time of year. We planted artichokes last summer, and they finally produced! I was SO PROUD of these delicious gals! It was *almost* too hard to eat them, but somehow, I managed. 😉

 

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One of my co-workers has backyard chickens and every Friday, she sells the most beautiful eggs. I don’t always eat eggs, but when I do (insert meme here), they are always fresh! Look at these pretty colors!

 

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I’m now salivating because blackberry season has finally started! I had wanted to pick my own, but they won’t let you do that at the farm with the strawberry patch due to snakes! Regardless, I got a bunch that were pre-packed, ready to make jams and cakes! The farm also has rows and rows of gladiola and zinnias and I can never leave without filling my car to the brim. I’ll save those for another post, though!

 

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ready to become blackberry lavender jam

 

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blackberry champagne cake

 

Finally, with the premiere of the new season of ‘Twin Peaks,’ I had no choice but to make a cherry pie. I know I wasn’t the only one enjoying a slice!

 

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I suppose I should have made something for the latest season of ‘House of Cards,’ which gave me LIFE. Also, Robin Wright in ‘Wonder Woman’ is seriously the greatest thing ever. I could wax poetic about her right now, but then I’d end up crying (again) so instead, I’ll just daydream about owning the Antiope Barbie doll.

In other news that will be detailed in the next update, baby Iris turned 1 and we adopted an 11-year-old deaf Boston baby named Spanky, who I like to call Spankmaster Flash. He is just the sweetest and they are getting along swimmingly! All the heart eyes for my babies.

Fingers crossed I can knock out another blog post by the end of the month. I’ve got a wedding this weekend, and am super excited about the flowers we’ve ordered – plus, the site is incredible. Now, if only I could decide what cake flavor to make next…any suggestions?

 

 

bread and roses*

Since I’ll be baking a blackberry cobbler tonight for a friend, I’ve got dessert on the mind and thought I’d share some of the cakes I’ve made recently. I had a last minute order for a birthday cake this past weekend that was fun to do, as I was given carte blanche in regards to the filling. I used my beloved vegan Lithuanian white cake for the base, soaked the layers in a homemade lemon simple syrup, and enrobed it in a fresh strawberry icing. Because I was short on time, I opted to decorate it with strawberries and candied lemon slices, leftover from the lemons I used for the simple syrup.

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My jadeite cake stand is one of my favorites, and it always looks good with pink icing! The best part about cake-making is leveling the tops – delicious scraps for days! I inevitably have leftover icing, as well, so makeshift cake sandwiches are made frequently. I’ve yet to use the scraps for cake pops, as I’m still on the fence about those. I know that sounds weird, but THEY seem weird to me!

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The client I had before this one had requested a cake with a bohemian theme, with fresh flowers. She also wanted the white cake, but with fresh raspberries for the filling and icing – this happens to be my favorite combination, so I was quite eager to make it and lick the spoon!

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I really enjoy using fresh flowers as decoration, and will never tire of using roses and raspberries together. Again, the color palette of jade green & rose pink will never grow old…

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She also wanted a bit of the “naked cake” look, so the icing wasn’t applied on it too thickly.

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those flowers, tho!

We have “treat day” at the station each year which encompasses delicacies of both the savory and sweet variety,  and, naturally, I bring some kind of dessert. Last year I made a vegan dark chocolate yule log, but this year I decided to go with something a little simpler, and made a gingerbread cake with cream cheese icing and candied cranberries.

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We are savages at work when it comes to food, so the cake was gone within an hour, at best.

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holiday cake baby

Last, but not least, I made a dark chocolate cake for my former 😦 co-worker’s birthday. I don’t really like chocolate cake, and because I think they all taste bad, I can never gauge whether or not mine are okay, haha. Still looking for that perfect chocolate cake recipe, so if you’ve got one, PLEASE send it my way!

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Inspired by one of my friend’s love for violet-flavored candies, I’ve got violet simple syrup on the mind now, and am thinking of making that the star of my next cake. I’m also leaning toward a slightly tart, slightly sweet grapefruit and poppy seed cake – doesn’t grapefruit curd sound so good?!

*extra credit if you get the title’s reference!

This is What Democracy Looks Like

What a wild two and a half months. In January, some friends and I attended the Women’s March on Washington, which was, for lack of a better word, surreal. We were so fortunate so be apart of “herstory,” and hear from many of the people who have stood up for women’s rights throughout the past 40+ years. Here’s a brief rundown of that weekend:

The night before the march, I visited with my dear friend and fellow activist, Christin, and stood in line for three hours  – yes, you read that right – to pick up some souvenirs from a special pop-up shop. The camaraderie in line was incredible – we shared pizza and stories, and drivers honked and cheered in support of us. I was interviewed by a Danish journalist for Jyllands-Posten, and it was pretty cool to hear his perspective. Jorgen had spent some time in Georgia at Jimmy Carter’s home, and was eager to talk about his experiences with the former President. img_0523

After the pop-up, I stopped in a bookstore whose name I now forget, and picked up a copy of Our Bodies, Our Selves from 1972 – hand stapled and everything! The record cafe nearby, Songbyrd, was pretty cool, too, but I resisted the urge to buy any vinyl, due to difficulties getting it back home.

My friend, Bridget, hosted me at her house with her sweet corgi puppers, Pebbles and Skylar, and has the most comfortable bed EVER. She also spoiled me rotten with her amazing cooking! I had to get up pretty early Saturday morning to take the Metro into the city to meet Liz, her daughter, Abby, and their friend, Aleia, and it was none too easy get out of that comfy bed. Nevertheless, I did, and with a bit of trepidation for what the day might bring. The Metro ride was eerily quiet, with us marchers gearing ourselves for the day. Once we hit our stop, however, it was mind-blowing to see the amount of other people getting off with their signs, hats, and jubilance.

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Liz and I had to meet a reporter from my station’s DC Bureau for an interview and in a sea of hundreds of thousands of people all gathering in the same place, this was no easy feat! We found each other and ultimately landed in a prime location for the event.

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Liz being interviewed by Gray Reporter, Peter Zampa

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Gloria Steinem

 

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Angela Davis

Again, we stood for hours. But it was so worth it. We shared snacks and helped each other see better, and supported each other in general. Mid afternoon, we finally began to march. Onlookers cheered from the promenade of the Newseum, and people came from every direction. I cannot stress how many people were there – they took up every.single.street. We opted to stop at the Washington Monument, rather than continue to the White House, as it was already so late and we were pretty much starving at that point. Marchers left their signs on the lawn, and it was a sight to see.

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Exhausted, but fulfilled, we went on the hunt for food and ended up in a Greek restaurant in Alexandria. Every. single.place was PACKED.

I spent the rest of the weekend visiting the US Botanic Garden, the National Women’s Party Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and a brief stop at the National Gallery. I also had the pleasure of meeting my mom’s old college friend and art historian, Peter Lukehart, and had the most delicious lavender hot chocolate ever. My bff, Crystal, and her other bff, Catherine, had come into town and we spent a weird night at an underground goth dance party, because why not? Photos from the rest of the weekend will be saved for another post.

Just when I thought things would be back to normal, a month later, Liz and I found ourselves with Maxine Waters, Jehmu Greene, Tom Perez, Bob Bland, and Howard Dean at the DNC Winter Reception. Saving that story for another blog post, as well!

rebel, rebel

I don’t know about you, but I spent the entirety of my holiday break in pajamas, watching Netflix, baking cookies & cakes, and eating potatoes. Having spent the past several months working four jobs, volunteering, and earning As (!) in my classes, on top of the political nightmare that continues to unfold, disappearing for a few days was much needed. And yet, there was still that lingering feeling of being unsettled. I envy those who are able to get off the grid, who can carry on with their daily lives, not a care in the world – or for what’s happening in it. Unfortunately, it’s just not who I am and never has been. But there sure are times when I wish I could run away to some hidden cabin in the woods and pretend nothing else matters.

One of the more recent things  weighing heavily on my mind right now is this mass of celebrity deaths. I think everyone can agree that this has been quite a devastating year. The reality is, we don’t know these people – but we feel like we do. Celebrity deaths matter because these extraordinary people make an impact on our lives. The represent the beauty of escapism, characters we dream of being. Why do you go to a movie or listen to a song? For entertainment, yes, but often we go to get away from it all. We sit in a dark theatre or lie in bed, headphones on, and willfully surrender ourselves to another realm. Carrie Fisher’s untimely death resonated with a lot of people, I think, not just because of her trials in life, but through her characters on screen. Princess/General Leia, to generations of people – women, especially – represented strength, courage, and of course, hope. While those characteristics will live on, they’ll be tinged with a bit of sadness, as we wanted our heroine to live forever. We want the dream to live forever. Because of the fantasy provided on screen, the character became ours, the actress someone to whom we felt a connection. When we become engaged with a character, it is often because we see something of ourselves in that player, or endeavor to be like him or her. Even if it’s a cartoon, we may find ourselves thinking, “I want to embody those aspects,” or, “I do those things!,” and they provide reassurance of our own humanity. When you have stars like David Bowie or Prince, artists who owned their individuality, and who explicitly declared that it was okay -nay, GREAT- to be different, to be weird, they become our idols. They may live fantasy lives and project otherworldly images, but we watched them achieve those illusions by talent, yes, and also by challenging the “norm” and furthering the acceptance of diversity. Music, like film, transports us. Regardless of whether a song invokes a sad memory or a feeling of empowerment, there’s still that connection to the musician, that s/he is speaking directly to us, and therefore this magical, untouchable creature knows exactly what we feel. Again, the lyrics, the melody, and the message remain, but when the translator of said message ceases to exist, it can shake our very core. Celebrities often represent the things we often cannot do or say. When they die, our voices, through theirs, feel silenced. We mourn because we feel grateful. The person who watched Star Wars, knowing she would not be an actual princess saving a galaxy, became a politician, an advocate, a teacher – encouraging others to learn and find the fortitude to guide others. A voice. The person who may have been a terrible guitarist, but heard the call to create, to own that Flock of Seagulls haircut, became a designer, a store owner, an ally to others who felt like they didn’t “belong.”

So last weekend, as I watched Carol, Suffragette, Ghost World, Cafe Society, and binged on the entire season of Hello, My Twenties, I was thankful for that escape. Inspired by the historically-based and real-life characters of Carey Mulligan and Natalie Press, identifying with Steve Buscemi’s nerdiness, and motivated to go out for black bean noodles (we’ll be dining at a local Korean restaurant tomorrow night!) , these are examples of how celebrities and their art affected me in a span of a simple few days. Nothing particularly life-changing, but they made a small impact, and they helped me find some solace when the future can seem rather bleak. This is why the arts, and the lives who contribute to them matter. They afford us the ability to disappear, even if for a mere two hours. As Princess Leia said, they brought us “hope.” And for that, I am grateful.

rebel

 

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

My brain is foggy right now, so I’m afraid my words are not going to be as eloquent as I’d like.

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America broke up with me last night. I have to say, it came as a bit of a surprise. I thought we were on the same page with our goals in life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice, but I was stunningly wrong.

As I sat stunned into silence, America told me in no uncertain terms that:

My LGBTQ friends are worthless; their “lifestyle choices” are disgusting and that not only did they need conversion therapy, but they don’t deserve the same rights as “straight” men and women. Love is only love between a man and a woman. America said that my gay best friend deserves to live in fear for his life. America told me that fags and dykes are ruining family values.

My immigrant friends and family are a danger to our way of life. They are taking jobs, they need to speak English, that they are terrorists. They aren’t welcome here. America told me that my Hijabi, Muslim friend, a citizen of the country, is a threat to society, secretly working for Al Qaeda. She should be deported. I was also told that my immigrant grandfather, who spoke seven languages, served in the United States military, a doctor of internal medicine, and was forced out of his country because of the war, represented what is “wrong” with this country. That we were letting too many immigrants in, and that has to stop. America told me that the rag-heads are dangerous.

My extended family, my African-American aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmother, are criminals. IT’s okay for a white man to have a gun, but not a black man. White men are trying to protect their homes, while the black men are thugs out to rob you. Their skin, in various shades of brown, is dirty. Their lives don’t matter because they shouldn’t be walking in white neighborhoods to begin with. They should only wear clothing that doesn’t appear “threatening.” They bring violence upon themselves. America told me that you can’t trust a nigger.

My sex isn’t equal. Because I am a woman, I deserve less pay than a man, should be subjected to harassment, and kept quiet. America laughed at my stories of sexual assault, blamed my friends for being raped, and told me that my body doesn’t belong to me. America said my body, my vagina, my ovaries, my breasts, belong to man. America said I wasn’t capable of making decisions regarding my reproductive rights. America said my grandmother, one of two women in her class to graduate medical school, with degrees in anesthesiology and psychiatry, wasn’t as qualified as her male classmates. America told me I can be anything I want to be – unless a man wants that job. America called me a bitch, a slut, rated my appearance, and told me I was only a vessel for procreation.

My disabilities don’t matter. I shouldn’t get healthcare – in fact, no one should have access to free healthcare. America said, “tough luck, not my problem.” America made fun of my friends with physical and mental disabilities. Said we were all a burden, retards begging for handouts. Fight or flight.

America laughed at me last night. America told me I don’t matter. I really thought we were in this together – after all, we’ve been in a relationship for quite a long time now. But America broke my heart, stripped me of my sense of being, took everything we had together, and destroyed it all. I didn’t know there was that much hate in America’s heart. America walked out on me last night, leaving me in a puddle of tears and a state of disbelief.

If America were actually a person, everyone would agree that I’d be better off without him or her. But America is not a person – it is my country, my home. How is it that this type of abusive behavior is acceptable for millions of people?

Take note, America. We will not be silenced.

“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light”