August 18, 2016

Scenes from my past two weeks

image11{Montepulciano, Tuscany}

I’m back from Europe! After a few days in London I went to Italy where I embarked on a road trip that began in Milan, moved through Cinque Terre in Liguria, and ended in Tuscany. Below are some pictures!

image1{View of London as seen from Duck and Waffle}

image5{At Sugar House Studios in London}

image12{Walking along the terrace of Milan’s cathedral}

image3{Inside the Orto Botanico di Brera}

image6{Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre}

image7{Siena, Tuscany, where preparations for the Palio were underway}

image8{Siena Cathedral}

image9{The view from a vineyard in Montepulciano}

image13{A fountain in Siena that dates to Roman times)

image10{Tuscan grapes}

image14{My trusty ride on this Italian road trip!}


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July 29, 2016

packing list: Italy and London

Soon I’ll be leaving for Italy and London! Below are the things that I’ll be packing in my suitcase. Hopefully I’ll be well-prepared for the sweltering heat that the Italian summers are famous for!







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July 25, 2016

colour study: navy x peach


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July 19, 2016

Scenes from my last two weeks

image6{At Bluehill Stonebarns/ photo: Chi Chi Lin}

Last weekend a few friends and I decided to rent a yellow beetle and escape the city for a day trip to two farms: Grace Farms in Connecticut, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York. Other highlights from the past two weeks included a visit from two ancient Chinese bronze specialists from Japan and several summer barbecues!

image4{Lunch at Grace Farms/ photo: Estherina’s World}

image2{Grace Farms}

image5{Our literal ‘girl squad’ / photo: Estherina’s World}

{Blue Hill at Stone Barns}

image1{A wolf in sheep’s clothing}

{A sea of chickens}

image1{One of my favourite things about summer: barbecues!}

{Our visiting bronze specialists from Japan}



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July 13, 2016

colour study: muted hues


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July 6, 2016

Jade in Ancient Meso-American & Chinese Funerary Rites


The two images above of the funerary mask of Lord Pakal (603-683 A.D.), a Mayan ruler, and the burial suit of Prince Liu Sheng (c.135-113 B.C.) of the Chinese Han dynasty represent the different ways in which ancient civilisations utilised jade in their funerary rituals. In both ancient China and pre-Columbian Meso-America, jade was revered as not only precious but sacred and reserved for royalty, especially in their deaths.

Several Meso-American civilisations used jade in their funerary practices, including the Olmec (1000-400 B.C.), the late Yucatec Maya (100 B.C-900 A.D.), the Aztec (1000-1521 A.D.), and the Zoned Bichrome Period peoples of northern Costa Rica (300 B.C.-300 A.D.). Figurative jade pieces that have been excavated from Olmec burial sites in the present-day Mexican state of Tabasco show that the Olmecs preferred jades of a translucent blue-green quality, while the Mayans preferred bright green ones. Linguistically, as is the case in Aztec Nahuatl, many Mayan languages considered ‘blue’ and ‘green’ the same colour but regarded them as different hues. This provides one reason for why the Mayans painted their gods blue in their temple reliefs, as opposed to the skins of mortals, which they painted red: if ‘blue’ and ‘green’ were the same colour to them, then green jade and blue paint would have served the same purpose of indicating sacredness. The same sacred significance was also placed on Costa Rican jade, however, unlike the Mayans who used jade in both domestic and mortuary contexts, jade in Costa Rica was restricted from personal adornment and used solely for funerary purposes.

The death mask of Lord Pakal was found alongside a trove of other jade adornments when it was discovered in 1952 in a crypt below the Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque in Mexico. With the mask found inside the Mayan ruler’s sarcophagus were jade ear-spools, necklaces, and rings. A large jade was held in each hand and another was placed in the mouth, a practice also documented for the Aztec and Chinese.

The Chinese reverence for jade dates back to the Neolithic era and still continues to this day. During the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), jade cicadas were placed in the mouths of deceased royals as symbols of cyclical resurrection, and jade pigs were placed in their hands. Jade burial suits such as the one above were also made for the nobility, although the type of thread used to hold the jade pieces together differed according to the status of the individual. According to the Book of Later Han (後漢書), gold thread was reserved for emperors; silver thread for princes, princesses, dukes, and marquises; copper thread for the sons or daughters of those given silver thread; and silk thread for minor aristocrats. Amusingly enough, despite the material worth of jade, Emperor Wen of Wei in 223 A.D. apparently ordered the practice of jade suits to be stopped because they attracted tomb looters who would burn the suits to harvest the gold thread.



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June 30, 2016

colour study: a dark rainbow

dog copy

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June 24, 2016

Metaphysical poetry as explained by Florence + the Machine (part 3/4)


(For the introduction to this series, see here)


“The stars, the moon/ they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark/ No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart”

Paradise Lost largely focuses on the Fall of Man and the loss of privileges that Adam and Eve suffer in the wake of their condemnation. As such, one of Milton’s chief methods of imparting the feeling of hell both on earth and in actual hell is by emphasizing the link between despair, darkness, and the absence of God. The introduction of darkness to Man’s paradisaical world once the Original Sin has been committed is symbolic of Man and earth’s tainted status. In Book IX, after Eve convinces Adam to also partake of the fruit, the pair feel briefly invigorated and flee into a shadowy forest. Upon awakening in the darkness, however, they see the world in a new way and realize that they have lost favour with God, thereby losing Paradise.

“I can hear your heartbeat/ I tried to find the sound
But then it stopped/ and I was in the darkness
So darkness I became”

One of Adam’s first lamentations after his expulsion from Eden is that he can no longer communicate directly with God. Although he is aware of his maker’s presence on earth, he can only offer prayers to an invisible force rather than speak to God, face to face. Adam’s world becomes that much more silent as a result, and he finds himself in anguish over the loss of God’s physical voice.

“I took the stars from my eyes/ and then I made a map
And knew that somehow I could find my way back”

In Book X, the archangel Michael descends to escort Adam and Eve out of Eden. After putting Eve to sleep in order to have a private conversation with Adam, Michael comforts Adam with the thought that his separation from God is only as temporary as his life on earth, so long as Adam lives virtuously. Having seen Michael’s visions of how humanity will withstand the forces of evil despite their tendency to sin, Adam then feels reassured that he and his descendants will be able to rejoin their maker in heaven and becomes resolved to endeavor towards that end.

“Then I heard your heart beating/ you were in the darkness too
So I stayed in the darkness with you”

Once Eve awakens from the sleep that Michael induced, the couple is led to the gate of Eden. As soon as they pass through, Michael stands before it alongside other angels, wielding a flaming sword to protect its entrance. Adam and Eve tearfully turn away, hand in hand, and venture out to take their place in their new, impure world. As sorrowful as they are to leave, however, they are assuaged by the idea presented by Eve in Book X that they might not be overwhelmed by the darkness of their new home as long as they remain united and equal in sharing the burden that has befallen them.

Next (part 4/4): The Sonnets of John Donne as set to “All This and Heaven Too”



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June 15, 2016

colour study: popsicle shades

popsicles copy

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June 10, 2016

Asian-ifying Cheesecake: Recipe for Makgeolli Cheesecake


In another twist on my original series on Asian-ifying vegetables found in the U.S., I enlisted the help of a fellow recipe blogger and friend, Jessica Han, who is also interested in finding new ways of combining Asian and Western ingredients (see her blog here). A UX designer by day, Jess spends many of her nights baking incredible and photogenic confections during the same hours when I am faffing around my kitchen trying to come up with new main dishes. And so I present you with her recipe for makgeolli cheesecake, which serves as a sweet foil to my otherwise savoury list of east-meets-west recipes. For those who are wondering what makgeolli is, it’s a slightly sweet Korean rice wine that has a milky, off-white colour.

From Jess: Every summer I find myself going down the boozy baking path. When one of my favorite restaurants, Take 31, offered a makgeolli tiramisu dessert I was blown away. However, the serving was incredibly tiny– I was saddened and obsessed at the same time. What else could I make with this delicately sweet flavor? And could I make it fit into a mason jar? 

Makgeolli Cheesecake

Original recipe and photos found on

  • 1 packet instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups makgeolli
  • 1 vanilla bean pod
  • 1 packet cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • graham crackers (enough to fill the base of a mason jar)
  • 1/2-1 stick butter
  • honey (to drizzle)
  • 2-3 large strawberries

1.) Mix 1 packet of instant vanilla pudding mix with 2 cups of makgeolli until combined and there are no clumps. Add the seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod.

2.) Using a hand mixer, blend 1 cup of the pudding mixture with 1 packet of cream cheese and 1/3 cup of sugar. Add more pudding to taste.

3.) Mix the graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and pat them into a crust on the jar’s bottom. Pour the cheesecake mixture to fill the jar and refrigerate for a few hours, or as long as you can wait!

4.) Add some summer strawberries to the top and drizzle with honey. Enjoy!






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