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The Boutique Cupcake

Not even Nostradamus could have warned us about the cupcake, that miniature dessert dressed in layer upon layer of frosting rosettes that has seduced the country with its hollow decadence. Bit by extravagantly decorated bit, the twenty-first century’s All-American Boutique Cupcake has invaded every possible venue with unnecessarily polka-dotted, pink or curlycued cupcake services, erasing from the nation’s memory such once-beloved delicacies as the Apple Pie or the S’More. The following instructions indicate how, with just a handful of ingredients, you too can contribute to this cream cheese-frosted, sprinkle-covered skid mark in the nation’s culinary history.

Prep time: Varies
Baking Time: 0 minutes
Yield: Three-dozen cupcakes


Old family recipe for fairy cakes

15 ½ ounces all-purpose flour

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

3 eggs

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/8 cup water

1 episode of Sex and the City

5 tablespoons of flour

1 cup of milk

1 dump truck filled with confectioner’s sugar

Assorted buckets of food coloring

1-3 starving artists (use as needed)


1. Refer to an old family recipe for fairy cakes, the boutique cupcake’s homely English predecessor. Hold the yellowed, tea-stained piece of paper in your hands as you relish the thought that you are about to make a vintage dessert. Following the instructions that have been passed down for generations, combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well before adding the eggs, vanilla and water. Set the mixture aside.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. As you wait, help yourself to an episode of Sex and the City. Observe as Carrie Bradshaw and her girlfriends buy cupcakes from Magnolia’s Bakery Shop. Notice that the cupcakes these women buy are just as glittery and glamorous as their sequined clutches and sparkly platform heels. Wonder whether the recipe you are using will include instructions for red velvet cake, which is Carrie’s favorite flavor.

3. Return to the old, tea-stained family recipe for vintage fairy cakes. Read the instructions from beginning to end, and frown as you realize that this 1850’s recipe doesn’t tell you how to make red velvet batter. Frown even more as you notice the recipe’s lack of instruction for elaborate frosting methods, proper sprinkle application or marzipan garnish techniques. Deem the old English recipe absolutely useless and stuff it down the garbage disposal along with the flour, baking soda, salt, eggs, vanilla extract and water mixture you prepared earlier.

4. Turn off the oven. Buy a red velvet sheet cake. Using a thin knife, carefully cut round, fluted cup shapes out of the sheet cake. Refer to one of your paper liners as a model. After cutting out the first cupcake, briefly consider cutting in straight cylindrical shapes, or even cubes to reduce the leftover cake scraps. Decide that the traditional cup shape is much cuter than any efficient alternative, and continue cutting. As you cut out each cupcake, keep in mind the proper cake-slice-to-cupcake ratio; one hearty, satisfying cake slice should be the equivalent to 1.7 cupcakes. A successful all-American boutique cupcake denies the eater a satisfactory helping of dessert after one serving, but leaves the eater feeling guilty and engorged after a second. Throw the remaining sheet cake scraps down the garbage disposal.

5. In a pink, polka-dotted, or Rachel Ray-endorsed saucepan, prepare the frosting by whisking the flour with the milk and setting over heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is as thick as the fake French accents you’ve heard on Cupcake Wars. Add the confectioner’s sugar to the mixture one bucketful at a time, stirring occasionally. To create batches of colored frosting, add ¼ bucket of food coloring to each bucket of icing at a time and stir briskly, adding more coloring as needed. Summon one or more artists, and put their extensive backgrounds in color theory to use by having them create your frosting palette.

6. When you have made enough icing to create an edible life-size statue of Paula Deen, remove the saucepan from the stovetop and let cool. Divide the frosting among your various artists. Drawing from any number of sources for inspiration, choose several objects and/or scenes that will take each artist at least 2 hours to sculpt or paint using the icing provided. Encourage each artist to incorporate the traditional elements of design (e.g. form, line, value, rhythm, variety, symmetry) as they stack nauseatingly overworked poodles, Hello Kitties, flower arrangements, Muppet characters, Mario Party scenes, ladybugs and lipsticks on top of each cupcake. Carefully measure the icing-to-cake ratio of each cupcake; ideally, the amount of icing on each cupcake should be equal to 1n+4, where n = amount of cake and the units are measured in the average human mouthful.

7. When all of the cupcakes have been adequately frosted, place them delicately inside their respective paper liners. Although you may choose from a variety of these, note that any self-respecting cupcake liner comes in animal print, floral print, plaid or paisley patterns. If the pattern isn’t short-circuiting your retina, select another cupcake liner. Alternatively, you may choose to construct your cupcake liners using hand-made paper made with exotic flower petals or dried fall leaves, depending on the occasion. You may also opt for disposable lace liners cut with butterfly patterns, snowflakes, picket fences, intertwining hearts, family crests or flower silhouettes. Although these can be accomplished with any laser-cutter, it is in the spirit of the all-American boutique cupcake to waste more time, energy and morale by cutting each delicate pattern by hand.

8. Spare no expense when it comes to arranging your cupcakes. Stack tray upon pastel-colored tray of your chocolate-frosting sugar bombs to create faux wedding cakes. For an attempt at classiness, serve cupcakes in expensive wine glasses alongside sparklers, flower arrangements, or any other largesse that will distract from the fact that you are dressing up a child’s dessert in high heels.

9. At no point should you stop to consider the implications of contributing to this current culinary trend. Do not stop to ask yourself why the boutique cupcake so depends on its frosting, its liners, its arrangements and its endless embellishments. Doing so might reveal that the cupcake is not a dessert at all, but just a brightly colored illustration of what “delicious” might look like if it were made with more than sugar and food coloring. Doing so might remind you that while four shades of orange frosting topped with a marzipan sun and a hand-embroidered liner taste like very little, a goopy, half-melted ice cream cone makes up for its lack of aesthetic in Rocky-Road flavored relief from the summer sun. Doing so might remind you that fried Reese’s bars don’t need to dress up in frosting because the experience of battered peanut butter is memorable enough to last an entire year. Doing so might remind you that licking the streams of lemon syrup running from the popsicle stick in your hand down to your elbow does more for your senses than seeing a million perfect pink sugar rosettes.


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22B422 Pt. 15: Division Street Curse

I used to think Rochester was a teeny little midwestern town.. and then I moved to Northfield. Our downtown area is Division Street, our own little Champs Elysees sitting pretty between Carleton and St. Olaf. The cute, hustlin’ bustlin’ part of Division Street goes on for about 4 blocks of renovated hundred-year-old buildings that house yarn stores, used bookstores, LOVELY ANTIQUE SHOPS, and like five different ice cream places. The well-trimmed trees and baroque-looking street benches give Division Street a deceptive air of perpetual happiness, but those of us who’ve been here for over a year know that all the decorative street lamps in the world can’t mask the Ghosts of Businesses Past who still haunt the street.

Division Street Businesses That Have Closed Since I Started College

1. Sweet Lou’s Waffle Bar, in business from 2008-2009. This was a fun place to visit now and then, and the business was owned by (and named after) one of Carleton’s own Religion professors. People could order sweet or savory toppings to go on their waffles, but at 7$ per waffle, the closing really came as a surprise to no one.

2. River City Books, in business from 2002-2009. The store had been a branch of the Carleton Bookstore, but specialized in books that people actually read rather than Organic Chem textbooks that end up serving as doorstops.

3. Tea Creations, in business from 2011-2012. This place had bubble tea and regular tea and mango smoothies an egg rolls and I ONLY CAME HERE ONCE because I didn’t realize how yummy bubble tea was until the year was basically over and I went back to Rochester. I think I had a bubble smoothie, which is basically a smoothie that has gummies at the bottom. The best part of bubble drinks is that they come with the fattest straws in the world. 😦

4. Pan-Pan International Cafe, in business from 2010-2011. Ernesto and I ate here pretty often because they had an enormous peanut stir fry that always comes with tons of cilantro and because they sold Jarritos. This place sold Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Mexican food (weird combo? yes. delicious? yes.) and had sort of awkward waiters. It also had Saturday breakfasts that I never tried. 5 dollar huevos rancheros, you’re the one that got away..

5. Digs, in business from 2001-2011. Digs was a yarn and fabric store that left Northfield right when I started doing soft sculpture for my senior year art classes. I ended up driving to JoAnn’s in Rochester like every other week to get satin or zippers or polyester fluff or blue thread and whatever else I needed for mah artz. Speaking of which.. does anyone need fabric hamburgers? Fabric shotguns? Fabric pretzels? Fabric syringes? Fabric rifles? Fabric cigarettes? Anyone? Anyone?

6. Tiny’s, in business from THE BEGINNING OF TIME – 2011. Tiny’s sold hot dogs and indie soda BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY its ads were literally the best part of The CLAP (the edz got free hotdogs every Friday for making them). So now that Tiny’s is out (and Andreas Stoehr graduated), 1. There is no way to save America and 2. The CLAP just has a bunch of rehashed look-a-likes and Asian mom emails. And soft porn.

Someone else’s photo of the Tiny’s bumper sticker.

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22B422 Pt. 11: Other Names for Jelly Beans

I’m so behind on this thing.. get ready for some boring lists.
This one’s dedicated to my favorite kind of chocolate-less Easter candy.

Other Names for Jelly Beans

– Color Chews

– Rainbow Tears

– I Can’t Believe They’re Not Salmon Eggs

– Pretty Pebbles

– Obese Sprinkles

– Edible Barbie Ball Pit

– Lisa Frank’s Every-Flavor Pellets

– Crayon Turds

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Read This To Feel Cooler Than Me

Ernesto has been out of town on another one of those nErD cOnVenTioNz (i.e. medical school interviews) (i.e. paths to an actual future) since Thursday, which means I’ve had the entire apartment to myself to go crazy. Carpe diem! Git’er dun! Just do it!  Here’s how I’ve seized the day so far:
1. I woke up promptly at 11, after staying up until 3:30 a.m. the night before for no apparent reason other than to watch The Office while eating choco-banana muffins.  (It was actually only one muffin.. I ate it slowly so it would last the entire episode. I’m not sure whether that makes my night more or less pathetic.)
2. At some point while singing/washing the dishes, I came up with “I ain’t no challah-back girl” and thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world.  Like, I couldn’t get past the chorus without giggling uncontrollably, which was probably a good thing because I wouldn’t have been able to come up with more dumb food puns for the rest of the song. Honestly, I still think it’s the most hilarious thing in the world, partly because “challah-back girl” conjures up this delightful image of Gwen Stefani using a loaf of challah as a track baton in a 4×400 relay, while “hollaback girl”only makes me think of Gwen Stefani in a cheerleader outfit. You decide which one would make a better GIF. 
I just got 245,000 results after Googling “challah back girl,” so it’s probably too late to use it as my original catchphrase. Under most circumstances I might get a little depressed, BUT I also found this site, where I can still feel like it’s my original catchphrase by purchasing “I ain’t no challah-back girl” business cards at the very reasonable price of 7 cents each for each order of 1000! Never mind the fact that I, 1) am not Jewish, 2) don’t have a company. The last time I checked, I live in Amurrika, where I’m free to buy 1000 business cards that have my full name printed on every line.
I’m, like, 5% tempted to actually do this just to spite Ernesto, who is probably stuffing his face with challah at some charming bakery on Brookline Ave. as I type this. You think you can just fly to Boston without me and shrug it off?! Think again, sucka. 
3. Speaking of healthy communication in relationships. Today I decided that my New Year’s resolution will be to not suck at texting. There are two specific ways in which I am the worst texter I know. The first way only applies to Ernesto, because only Ernesto would put up with it. To sum up a very long, heartbreaking story involving a comatose Blackberry to which I never got to say goodbye, my old  phone broke and now I have a touchscreen piece of crap that puts up a hissy fit every time I try to unlock it to DO anything, but somehow manages to call my house whenever the fabric of my pockets or the dust particles in the air of my apartment so much as brush by the screen. Which they like to do between 2 and 4 in the morning, at least once a week. The phone also insists on typing 5 different letters when I very clearly only pressed one, and the autocorrect is a joke. 
SO as an act of resistance, I refuse to correct my spelling whenever I text Ernesto, which may have something to do with the fact that he MADE me get this phone (yes, at gunpoint) (obviously not at gunpoint.. in case social services or someone is reading this) instead of the perfectly acceptable Blackberry with actual buttons, all because the non-Blackberry was $70 ish cheaper. Well, I can use those $70 to buy 1000 personalized business cards now, so I think we know who really won that battle. 
Well, no one won that battle, because everything I send Ernesto looks like a drunk text (see Figure 1) AND I’m still stuck with this touchscreen phone that takes 3x longer to text with than a phone with actual buttons (so if the things I text you don’t look like they’re straight out of a Ke$ha music video, FEEL IMPORTANT). Also, I still don’t have 1000 challah-back girl business cards. Lose-Lose.  
Figure 1: Paulina Lopez’s texts to Ernesto are 80% incomprehensible.
Second (and this applies to everyone), I take somewhere between one hour and 4 days to respond. Sometimes I don’t respond at all. So.. my apologies if that’s happened to you. I’m not trying to be a jerk. Usually, what’s going on is something like this scenario (my thoughts are in purple):
(recieved text) Friend: blahblah insert funny thing here
(attempting to text a response) me: hahahaha wait how many ‘ha’s are too many? just one sounds sarcastic, whatever I’ll go with three. although.. three seems a little much for something that wasn’t exactly the most hilarious thing Friend has ever said. I have to make them work for my ‘hahahas’, don’t I? Otherwise I’ll have to add another ‘ha’ onto the actually funny stuff and that’s gonna take forever to type out. lskjlfkjs ahh whatever I don’t text Friend that often anyway that’s  real funny god I sound like a hick really funny that doesn’t seem sincere totes funny wait will this person get that I’m making fun of abbreviations or does it seem like I’m actually abbreviating? Cause I’m trying to make fun of abbreviations here. I only sincerely abbreviate when I text Other Friend.. although now that I think about it, does Other Friend get that I’m sincerely abbreviating and not just making fun of abbreviating? 

Aaaand that’s how what should have been a very simple response never gets sent because I’m the most awkward person in the world. 
(relevant at this point in the post:)

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I Can’t Believe It’s Not Art

I’ve never gone to an addiction recovery program, but I’ve seen enough episodes of The O.C./Grey’s Anatomy/Arrested Development/other shows featuring well-to-do alcoholics to know that the first step is admitting you have a problem. 
There are a couple of instances throughout this blog where I hint at my obsession with all things food-related, but even I didn’t grasp the extent of my infatuation until recently completing a sculpture assignment that, as it turns out, is the fourth consecutive food-related artwork that I’ve made in the past 2 months.  Below, I give you the artistic manifestations of my troubled, food-addicted subconscious:
Let Cake Eat Them. Felt, thread, zippers. 
Prompt: Make a piece about connection. 
This guy took me 2 weeks to finish, so I spent a looooong time daydreaming about real desserts during the process. 
Putrescence. Satin, Sequins, Thread. 
Prompt: Make your favorite word.
An excerpt from a future art history textbook that will undoubtedly be written about this work: “Much like Picasso went through a depressive Blue Period (or how Van Gogh went through an entire depressive career), this piece sheds some light on the more painful aspects of being in love with anything: having to say goodbye. The juxtaposition of fine materials with forms that reference a clear state of putrescence manifests the artist’s inner struggle at this crossroad; by looking at the piece, the viewer can almost hear the artist whisper to the bowl of fruit, ‘You are beautiful, no matter what they say,’ before tossing it into the dumpster to avoid yet another fruit fly infestation.”

 Concessions at Weitz Cinema. Fake popcorn, fake coke, fake candy bars, fake nachos, fake pretzels. 
Prompt: Make something site-specific. 
I sincerely believe that more people would attend movies at Weitz if they could buy overpriced snacks. I know I’d rather pay $5 for a jumbo box of Sour Patch Kids than for a 2-day old parfait at the Sayles Cafe. (count the rhymes, imma poet)
I Keep On Fallin’. Flannel, Satin.
Prompt: Make something else that’s site-specific.  
It was in the making of this piece (at 2 in the morning while watching Arrested Development) that I realized all of my art was about food.

So now, I’m going to follow in the footsteps of Kirsten Cohen, Chief Webber and Lucille Bluth and weasel my way out of any interventions that threaten to separate me from my one true love.
1. It’s not really a problem to think about food all of the time if food is my muse. Some people get The Dark Lady, some people get Yoko Ono, and I get the food pyramid. Potato/Potahto. (but no one says ‘potahto,’ so more like.. Coupon/Kyoopon)
2. This entire dilemma only exists because I initially denied food the condition of Art with a capital A to begin with. Luckily, people like Marcel Duchamp and Laurence Weiner have paved the road for making Non-Art into Art at my very whim. So.. food, I now declare you to be Art. Which makes my food-related sculptures actually art-related sculptures. Which in turn makes my art self-referential and snooty and fit for inclusion in fine institutions like ARTFORUM and the MoMA! Below, I present you just one of many works of art handcrafted by moi that you now have the privilege of admiring:

Enchilovin’ It?

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Unsung Heroes of 2011

I just thought it’d be nice to give a shout-out to some of 2011’s finest before the novelty of the new year tapers off. The Justin Bieber movie happened. Greek yogurt became a thing. It goes without saying that all of us have a non-sarcastic special place in our hearts for this year’s musical masterpieces, like “Friday” and the entire 21 album (also, I like to think that Rebecca Black and Adele hit it off really well and are planning a secret made-to-dvd movie that will be this decade’s version of “From Justin to Kelly”).

I have my money on 2011 being remembered as the MiddleLopezShian Triple Wedding Megathon. If any Cams majors are reading this and still need an idea for a comps proposal, I have lots of exclusive wedding footage for what could be your career-making E! Hollywood Special on the 2011 Summer Wedding Megathon. I can’t speak for Kate Middleton and Kim Kardashian, but I’d be willing to let you interview me about exactly how much time I spent bawling in a parked car somewhere on Elton Hills Drive the day before the wedding. It might take a little convincing, but I think I could arrange for the three of us to get together and record a sweet R&B single about our collective experience. Kate and I could sing about the joys of marrying up (ha..) and Kim could do a bridge about 2011’s shortest marriage. Deal!

While it’s important to look back and remember the people and events that affected all of us last year, I think it’s my duty to put the spotlight on a couple of memorable people/inanimate objects that made a tremendous difference in my life during 2011. Here’s a countdown:

5. Kwik Trip
A few days ago, Ernesto and I got back to Northfield after spending the day in the cities, and as we were getting out of the car, one of us left the keys in the trunk, locking us out of our car and our apartment at two in the morning. Minnesota has had a mild winter so far, but it’s still super cold at two in the morning. We did the responsible thing and called AAA to send someone down to save us. After AAA told us it would take about half an hour for someone to drive over, we did the important thing and walked to the nearest Kwik Trip, where we bought hot chocolate and a six-pack of Glazers donuts and ate our troubles away. I think I was the one eating my troubles way, and Ernesto just ate a donut to make me feel like less of a gluttonous monster. What a guy. SO this very nice lady at Kwik Trip let us loiter at her gas station for a while and looked away while I stuffed myself with fried dough at 2:30 in the morning, which I think deserves a spot on this list of 2011’s Greatest. A lesser person might say that the real hero of this story is AAA, but AAA didn’t provide free warmth and cheap food when I needed it most.

4. Chicken Wings
I don’t have a neat story to follow up with, just a whole lot of love for the most delicious half-off appetizer option at Applebee’s. That sounds a little product placement-y, but I’m being so sincere right now. I didn’t start liking wings until about a month ago, and they have made me a changed woman.

This is me being a champ and giving myself a thumbs up at BWW after a successful order of Chipotle BBQ wings. Also, it’s hard not to feel like a champ with the awesome manicure my 5-year-old cousin gave me. She got bored after doing my right hand and just left my left-hand nails blank, so I have to constantly hide one hand in a pocket or a mitten to give the illusion of symmetry.

3. Chuck Testa
I watched this video at least five times a day for a week after I first saw it. I could write poetry to you about all the ways I love it. He probably shouldn’t be on this list because he’s already gotten 10 million Youtube hits, but seriously.

2. Stephen King audiobook
The more I read things by Stephen King, the more confident I feel in concluding that 1) he’s probably a jerk, and 2) we would get along super well. He’s from the East Coast, he’s a Red Sox fan, he constantly makes pop culture references, he wrote a book about how to write a book. I use the very brief window I spent in living Massachusetts to claim that I’m from the East Coast, I used to cheer for the Red Sox when I could blame their losses on a cool legend (and even for a few years after they stopped being the underdogs), etc etc etc, we obviously have tons in common. So for me, listening to It on audiobook felt less like faux-reading, and more like having a very long, one-sided, slightly terrifying conversation with my pal, Stephen. Stevie. Stevie-K.

1. Karaoke
Geddit?! Unsung hero?!!! Hold your applause. The truth is, karaoke would probably be better off unsung by me, I haven’t done it any favors this year. BUT BOY DID IT DO ME SOME. I have known four kinds of karaoke throughout 2011, the intricacies of which deserve more attention than I’m willing to give in this already drawn-out post. Let me just say that karaoke has always been here for me during the best of times and the worst of times, and that I believe heaven is just me with a microphone and some lyrics in front of me and a voice that carries like Mariah (this isn’t a list of my proudest accomplishments of 2011, but I just want to sneak in here that I know 100% of the Inspectah Deck and Ol’ Dirty Bastard verses in “Da Mystery of Chessboxin”.. I promise you that it’s impressive).

What did you do to celebrate New Years? Because I kicked in the first twoish hours of 2012 singing karaoke at my house with a bunch of hispanic families and it was the happiest two hours of this year so far. Most of them were in Spanish, but I also did Wham’s “Last Christmas,” which has been sort of a personal fantasy of mine since I was fourteen. In my “Last Christmas” Karaoke Fantasy, I’d envisioned everything to be powder blue and taking place in a mix between a Christmas claymation movie setting and an Old Navy commercial. I’m wearing a very cute cashmere beret while fake snow falls gracefully around me. There’s also a sheepish-looking boy who is either Aaron Carter or Gordo from Lizzie McGuire standing under the claymation trees looking at me sadly, thinking something like “Man, I’m such an idiot, why didn’t I realize she was someone special?” Maybe this started before I was fourteen. Anyway, the real thing didn’t turn out quite like the fantasy I’ve been envisioning since maybe-age-fourteen (but probably more like age ten), but when I closed my eyes and ignored the dull roar of screaming children running around my house, it was close enough.