Found Art

Kasey's new place of employment. Truly.

I guess people in the East End (where this was sighted) don't care much for labels.

Corina! Corina! Cake! and Art!

When Corina, the birthday girl at our apartment this weekend, saw the abstract art detailing atop these mint chocolate chip brownie cupcakes with their substantial layer of dark, intensely-mint-chocolaty ganache frosting, she exclaimed, "Pollock! I love it!"

Ahh, typical Corina -- giving me far too much credit, and herself too little. You see, Corina is a marvelous artist, impressive modern pieces being her favorite to paint. So it was Corina's artwork, not Mr. Jackson's, that served as my inspiration for her cupcakes' abstract appearance. That she would pay me such a compliment, overlooking the fact that her own artistic talents may have influenced the aesthetic of her birthday confection, is just the genuinely un-self-absorbed perfectly lovely soul Corina is.

The cupcakes themselves were made with a brownie recipe that uses one of my favorite techniques for producing properly decadent slices of chocolate heaven - sticking them into the freezer directly after their emergence from the oven. I'm of the "if you want chocolate cake, make chocolate cake" opinion when comes to brownies, and doing this miraculously imparts the brownies with a rich fudginess usually only achieved by using a copious amount of eggs.

As for the chocolate mint frosting . . . well, I can only give approximations here. Put about a half cup of milk (I use skim) on the stove, wait till it starts to bubble around the edges. Turn off the heat and add almost an entire box of "After Eight" mints. Let sit for five minutes, then stir till smooth. Cool for ten minutes before adding at least a half cup of cocoa and enough powdered sugar to produce your desired consistency . . . voila! Ah well, at least it was an attempt at a recipe.

Here Kasey and Marilyn serve up a Guatemalan-style (Corina's homeland) feast to the starving rest of us.

Party on!

Here's Corina, keeping tradition alive . . . in Guatemala, you get cake and frosting smashed onto your face when it's your birthday.

Can you believe Corina didn't think I would concoct any cake creation for her birthday?! (The cupcakes were made in secret and hidden away for the ultimate surprise factor). This was what she whipped up (using a mix, gasp, the sacrilege!) to ensure she'd have something to put candles on. Darling girl, she loved even this.

Roadtrip: British Style

In the U.S., road tripping means heading out onto wide well-marked roads, flying down the freeway at 75 mph, and taking detours to landmarks like "The World's Biggest Ball of Twine," or maybe a an old Pony Express station if you're lucky.

In Britain, well, I don't think the British road trip, since while the sites to behold may be more impressive (ahem, see Stonehenge above) the roads are poorly marked cow paths where you crawl rather than cruise. The tiny hedge-lined trails barely accommodated the mini-van our ever-expanding "apartment-family" rented for our Bank Holiday excursion to southwest Britain.

This is us fresh and bright and cheery for our trip's first stop: a view of that mysterious stone monument through a chain link fence (we were a tad too late to be admitted beyond the wiry barrier). We are, from left to right, Priscilla, Kasey, Corina, and Marilyn (I'm busy capturing the moment).

Our one definitive destination was the ocean. After fleeing the tourist-infested city of Torquay, we found our sandy paradise at Bigbury-on-Sea.

We were even granted Corina's wish for a rocky cave where we could hide away from the wind.

Inscribed above the door of the Pilchard Inn is the date 1336!

On one of Bigbury's main (but still narrow) streets is the Journey's End Inn.

After faithfully following the signs leading us to the "inn" we were very disappointed to discover that you can't actually stay there.

Instead, we ended up at the most delightful Bellplot House Hotel in Chard. Highly highly recommended! Our hosts were Betty and Dennis (seen below) who, despite the late hour, welcomed us in like long lost grandchildren - even whipping up plates of gourmet food in their closed kitchen for their five hungry guests.

While feasting, we were entertained with tales of the four spinster sisters who orignally owned the house - and told about the ghost of the scullery maid.

Here we are being ushered to the cellar to be shown where the scullery maid, who now haunts the place, mysteriously met her fate.

Dennis shows us exactly where her body was found in the coal chute.

Kasey is captivated . . . and scared.

When I took this picture of the coal chute, I didn't see a thing, but now, looking closely at this picture . . . it seems my camera captured the presence of a ghostly figure. There, in the center of the frame, do you see that hazy outline of something eerily once-human?

One of the spinsters was Anne - and hers just happened to be my room!

The fright of the ghost stories lingered with us . . . so we all congregated in one room to keep each other company.

Surely all the ghosts in the place were scared right back with one look at our own freaky antics.

Parting photo of Bellplot House . . . after all of us having thankfully made it soundly through the night.

On the road again . . . this time Dartmoor Forest bound.

The Moors are dotted with the most perfect of fairytalesque thatched roof cottages.

A cat stands guard.

The miniature wild horses of the Moors will come right up to your car. It's a bit like being on a safari.

This was a little too close for comfort - there are tales of people losing fingers. We quickly rolled up the window and drove away.

Another night, another B&B. The best part of this one was the kitchen - I am as green as the stove with envy. Gourmand that I am, scenes like this are what my kitchen fantasies are made of.

Here we are road tripping Medeival style. Kasey was tired of driving and we were told the "Rose and Crown" was none too far from our B&B. But as Corina's dejected expression and posture attest, "within walking distance" is a very relative term . . . especially it when it starts to rain.

More of Dartmoor. No wonder the British royals are so partial to this region, between the magic atmosphere and all the soft moss to sit on, this looks exactly the place you'd settle into and wait for Oberon, the fairy king.

No, Kasey's not waiting for any fairy royalty . . . she's pausing for a moment to examine a leaf in the gardens outside Castle Drogo (not really worth a picture in itself). The final stop before our grand road trip adventure came to an exhausted close.

Writing Poetry in Strange Situations

for: gigi

"you can write a poem about me bringing you a cup of tea"

which he did do

while i sat in a patch of sunlight on an endless afternoon

strangely camped outside his front door
putting down words like a misplaced doormat

offering up a mug of earl gray to keep me company
the way you would put out a saucer of milk to placate a stray cat

it was an odd scene

and the cordial gesture went well with the christmas tree