Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cupcakes were made to celebrate

Cupcakes. The mini-pleasantries of love and joy that we remember from childhood. A grade school birthday was never complete unless a plate of cupcakes was ceremoniously displayed, painstakingly passed out, and then ravaged in mere moments.

Reading that back, grade school sounds a lot like the Wild Kingdom.

Nonetheless: Cupcakes. As school has taught us, cupcakes are the best way to celebrate momentous events. Birthdays, weddings, graduations...

Yes, graduations. And by graduations I do mean mine. I submitted my last paper (a 50-page business plan) on Friday night and now I wait until that diploma arrives in the mail.

But I'm not going to wait. I'm going to celebrate - with cupcakes!

The Prep:
Observe: Carrot cake cupcakes in their oozy, sticky form.

The Result:
Observe: 8 dozen (soon to be 10), naked cupcakes.

The Beauty Shots:
Lemon cupcakes (Champlain blue and white)

Double chocolate chip cupcakes

Pineapple cupcakes (destined to be pina coloda)

Vanilla cupcakes

The Big Freeze: Take One
The cleanest my freezer has been in, well, forever.

The Big Freeze: Take Two
Frozen, organized cupcakes!

In two weeks these little beauties will make their graduation party debut - dressed to the nines in frosting and edible decorations. Until that day, I will refrain from freezing any items including, but not limited to: garlic, fish, onions, and Gorgonzola.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

China Diaries: Xinging and Xi’an by the numbers

China Re-hashing Time: The following entry was written for our CampChamp ChinaMojo blog. To read other impressions from the group, visit ChinaMojoVT's blog


June 4, 2009

It’s hard to process the trip on the fly AKA when tired/grumpy/has a stomach that is destined for the Moscow Circus in the high wire act. But numbers are easy to understand, so let me start there.

6 AM: The time I woke up to take a shower on top of the toilet. Yes, on top of the toilet. The shower head was not separate from the rest of the bathroom. An adventure in cleanliness, I like to call it.

100 Yuan: The bill I gave to a storekeeper to buy 8 bottles of water for our crew. She took the bill, looked at me, and laughed. Apparently, the water was only 2 Yuan/bottle – I got a lot of change back.

Two: The number of peach Fantas that were purchased at the Xi’an city wall. A long, enjoyable walk along the top of this wall made us all want a little refreshment. Miguel was the lucky purchaser of this nectar of carbonation with Rob soon to follow. Kat even got one at the Terracotta Soldiers cafe.

Hundreds: The number of parasols that visitors to the Terracotta Soldiers had thrown over their heads to protect them from the sun’s rays. Donna was coveting a few of the fashionable umbrellas – we even saw women wearing matching outfits to go with their parasols.

4D: The number of my seat on the plane to Xinging. A lot of turbulence, but we made it in one piece. Plus, I got a chance to scribble down yesterday’s events.

A lot: The number of toasts made by our host and Xinging delegates at dinner. The food was plentiful, tasty, and beautiful. The fruit juice and dog "pee" bread was a particular favorite. Now, I will roll to Skype and then to bed.

Tomorrow, after all, is spent with the Master. Need to be rested!

-Kristen (sans Twitter, Youtube, and WP)


Fun fact: There are two Great Walls of China. One is the physical one we all know, love, and cannot, in fact, see from space. The other is the Great Firewall of China - blocking the Internet access that I and my companions had grown accustomed. A day or two before our departure, this wall came to our attention and its existence caused a slight panic as it thoroughly blocked not only Twitter and YouTube, but also WordPress and Blogspot.

The solution to our problem was only determined the night before our flight, as we sat in Rob's childhood kitchen in New York: E-mail. We could e-mail our entries to the blog. It would just be text, but that was better than nothing.

Ingenuity - the Mojo way.

China Diaries: Tired is not a 4-letter word…but it should be

China Re-hashing Time: The following entry was written for our CampChamp ChinaMojo blog. To read other impressions from the group, visit ChinaMojoVT's blog


June 1, 2009

While many are far more articulate than I in describing where we are right now (Beijing) and how we got here (we flew – and boy are our arms tired!), allow me to pontificate on something that is hitting me right now, at this very moment:


I woke up at 5:30 AM Est. today after a rather fitful rest in a magnificent room (note to self: post pictures of the green bunny wallpaper). It is now 5:40 AM Est. (5:30 PM, China). And no, I did not sleep like a baby on the plane -although, to be truthful, there was a baby on the plane and I think he/she got just as much sleep as I. Like that baby, allow me to whine: I’m tired. Wah.

Now that’s out of my system. Our flight for Xi’an is at 6:30 PM China. I’ll keep on Skype until the last moment.

Nin’zao, East coast.


I feel that this is the best time to mention an unfortunate little event: My camera died in China. Due to this, you'll see a few "Notes to Self" in my entries that will never be fulfilled. The majority of my pictures survived the Incident**, as as I like to call it, but a few images will never be seen again. I wish the Incident had never happened, that I had all of my pictures and that I could have taken more.


I still went to China. I still flew over 13-hours, stayed for 2-weeks, and experienced a lifetime's worth of wonders. A photo or two would have been nice to document the experience for friends and family, but I'm still here, ready to share a story or two.

**The Incident occurred at a Buddhist retreat. I dropped the camera on my walk up to see the largest Buddha carved into the mountain. It then began to storm and the water added insult to injury for my poor little camera. The screen went white and all of the buttons stayed lit up, no matter what. It was only recently declared dead-as-a-doornail. Have fun in camera heaven!

China Diaries: Packing

China Re-hashing Time: The following entry was written for our CampChamp ChinaMojo blog. To read other impressions from the group, visit ChinaMojoVT's blog


May 30, 2009

It's Saturday. We depart for Newark on Sunday. Our plane (with us on it, one hopes) flies to Beijing on Monday.

What does this mean: Time to pack!

Before: The Chaos!!! Run in fear!!! Maybe not fear, but serious doubt. This is my attempt at packing light for 2-weeks in China...clearly, I fail in a very strong way. I failed so much, in fact, that I went out and bought a new, bigger, better bag mere moments after this picture was taken.


After: Serenity in two petite (as if) bags. My bags are rotund, I admit this. However, I can carry them around like a good independent women (mama taught me well) and will never be bored as a result! Of course, this is China we're talking about - boredom is an unlikely attraction.


T-minus 2 days.


Maurice. At the time I wrote this entry, Maurice was still just "that bag." The big bag that could fit all of my China needs (and more than a few luxuries that turned into needs as the trip progressed). That big bag with wheels, two compartments, and handles.

"Handles?" you ask, a slight frown on your face and a worried light in your eye, as if you don't truly want to know the answer but are lulled into asking by my overwhelming wit and Maurice's intriguing name.

Handles. Handles for hauling onto the check-in scales. Handles for tossing into vans. Handles for lifting up and down (and over and under) stairs in Beijing subways, because escalators are so last century, don't you know? How much I now appreciate good handles.

Maurice - a constant companion in black, silver, and yellow - now occupies my closet, waiting for the next big adventure.

No worries, Maurice. Our adventure is just around the next bend.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

China Logs: Let the Re-hashing Begin

The Travel Channel is running a China marathon and I can't help but to look a little forlornly at the television screen because...

I miss China.

The Xi'an City Wall, June 2009

It was just under two months ago when I joined a group of social media travelers and hopped across the other pond to a completely different, completely disarming culture. If the language didn't confuse the daylights out of me, it was the traffic, bathrooms, and proffered statements of piào liàng (漂亮) that did. But it was a content confusion - a confusion of wide-eyed wonder from an East coast bound American with very little to compare anything to, let alone comprehend in the moment.

Looking back, I think it's time to share a few of my China musings on this blog. My thoughts on the trip were posted to our ChinaMojoVT blog, but I think I'll migrate a few of my entries over here. Add a few comments to my "in the moment" renderings of two months ago.

Should be interesting.

And maybe it will make China seems closer to home, if only for a few minutes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Julie & Julia: Blogs & Letters

I've just returned from seeing Julie & Julia in a full, chortling theatre. As soon as the credits rolled, the applause started - for a movie. It was witty and charming and exactly what it needed to be. Julia was the icon we remember and Julie was us - joyful, struggling, mean, and oh-so human.

But what really got me was the reason we were able to see these portrayals: because of what they chose to leave behind.

[Okay, and an agent or two - but that's beside my point.]

Powell left behind a blog - The Julie/Julia Project. She wrote, cooked, and wrote some more. Gained a following, got media coverage, insert many other landmarks here, and then got a movie made about her endeavor.

The Child's left behind letters - copious letters to friends detailing their daily lives. They were never meant to be seen by those other than the recipients, and yet, the fact that someone somewhere laid their hands on this seemingly innocent pieces of paper makes it so we are able to "know" the Child's better.

And there is the rub: a blog is for the masses; a letter is for a single recipient.

The medium makes for quite the different story - the persona vs. the person.

Is this what we leave behind in the world of Web 2.0 - an airbrushed version of our life? No, it's not perfect - far from it in most cases - but it's not exactly real, either. We choose what we write. I choose to tell you that I saw Julie & Julia today. I choose to refrain from further detail about the rest of my day. I can also choose to delete it all if I want.

Yet, in letters, it's different. In the few (and I do say 'few') letters I've written in the last 5 years, it's easy to pour myself out onto the paper. I know my audience, our relationship, our history. I know that they know more than I write and, as such, I can be a truer version of myself. The letter is a document - historical, if you will. Permanent, save for a fire or water damage or an angry 5-year-old...okay, at least it's not made of zeros and ones.

Or maybe this is just jibber-jabber.

Julie & Julia made me wonder what will be left when we're no longer here.

Will you be a 30-minute meal or boeuf bourguignon?

Monday, August 3, 2009

My Career Formula is Laughable

"I'd like to be happy," I respond. I receive a chuckle and a quizzical look, but I still share a grin with my inquisitive conversational partner. The reaction's expected. I've answered with this sound bite before and I'll repeat it again in the future.

The question?

"So, what do you want to be after you graduate?"

It's not a conventional answer, my "happy" response. As a matter of fact, it could (and may well) be categorized as the wrong answer. I should say that I want to be a strategist or a gaffer or an account executive or a carnival worker. Really, anything would better than "happy" according to the look on most inquiring faces.

However, for me, that is my answer: I want to be happy. No matter the position, no matter the company, no matter the cubicle, office, or flickering light above my desk that facilities says is on the to-do list but has remained flickering for weeks, I want to be happy with my work.

Too broad? Too optimistic? Too sentimental? Maybe. But not lacking in metrics. Happiness, specifically at work, requires the following:
  1. Positively affecting others.
  2. Constantly expanding knowledge for personal, professional, and emotional growth.
That's my career formula. Basic, but mine. Idealistic, but mine. Laughable, but mine,

What's your formula?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My brillant idea: Biking

I own a bike. It is a nice bike: two wheels, a seat, brakes. It is blue.

Might I also add that the tires still have those little caterpillar feelers on them?

Yes, I own a bike but do I use it? That would be a hearty, "No."

Until recently, that is.

This week, I not only realized that one of my internships is next to the bike path, but my friends also realized this fact. And, being excellent people, I was inclined to agree to their request for an evening of joyous biking.

And it was joyous! Like flying, I say! Or flying with wheels. Or flying on the ground, with wheels. Or, perhaps it would be better to say that it was very similar to biking, which was exactly what we were doing.


Nonetheless, it was splendid (save for a rather sore bottom - darn those seats!) and I decided to do it again this morning.

Before: Look at the excitement that thumbs-up exudes!

After: Look at the excitement those...feet exude! Or exhaustion. Either/or.

After an epic 45-minutes (or 30-minutes, perhaps) to the tune of Josh Groban on my iPod, I returned triumphant - and promptly passed out in the garage. It was an elegant passing out, mind you. Only surpassed by the Russian ballet. Or stampeding elephants. Either way, I hit the deck moments after dismounting, fighting nausea like whoa. Note: No vomiting occurred in the making of this Fail Event.

Pathetic? Yes. Ever-so typical of my life? Yes, yes it was.

Maybe fewer hills next time. And yes, there will be a next time. (Maybe a small engine would help...)