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Seven Hills

Boston-area exploration, travel notes, crafty things, and other Somervillainy.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Fat-Free Treat

When I received my invitation to a friend's recent bridal shower, I knew right away that I wanted to get her the cupcake carrier off her registry. I thought it would be fun to also give her a cloth or knitted cupcake from an Etsy vendor, but when I saw that the various available faux-cakes were all rather pricey, I decided it would be worth trying my hand at one myself.

After experimenting with a few free patterns, my cupcake consultant and I decided this one looked the most convincing. We especially liked the way the ribbing mimics the classic pleated cupcake paper, and the way the wavy flourish around the edge of the "frosting" seems to sit on the edge of the cup. A smattering of iridescent bugle bead sprinkles sewn on top are the finishing touch.

I used a cotton yarn (and organic, at that!) for this one, but wonder if a heavier wool would help the cupcake to hold its shape better - when it came time to stuff the cupcake, I found I had to leave it quite soft and smooshy to keep from distorting it. I am a complete novice when it comes to crocheting and making stuffed toys, so there may be some basic tricks I'm missing here.

Anyway, smooshable though it was, the cupcake was finished in time for the shower and presentable enough to top the main gift, tied to a ribbon. It was lots of fun to make -- quite addictive, in fact -- so I foresee more evenings of cupcake-crocheting while watching TV in my future. The shower was fun, too: held at a classic New England inn, overflowing with finger sandwiches, scones, and cookies, and lit up with bright spring bouquets. No cupcakes on the menu though ... for those we'll have to wait for the wedding.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Thumbs Up

Last weekend I made a quick getaway to Atlanta to visit my cousin, who recently moved there. It was my first time there and I knew next to nothing about it, other than associating it with Martin Luther King, as well as a former coworker who grew up there, and once taught me how to combat an alligator, should I ever find myself in such a scenario.

If I'd had to guess, I would have said Atlanta would consist of a bland, sleepy downtown area with a few modest skyscrapers, and then miles of subdivisions surrounding it as far as the eye could see. Instead I was greeted by a rather swanky and glittery city center, with elegant old tree-filled neighborhoods of single-family houses and rolling hills running right up to the feet of these shiny new high-rises. It was surreal to see the two areas existing side by side. My cousin lives in one of these peaceful leafy areas, and I was shocked when after winding through a few remote-feeling suburban blocks, we suddenly burst out onto a four-lane commercial strip where one could take one's pick between chicken and waffles, New Orleans beignets, or sushi.

Spring in Atlanta is a good month or so ahead of Boston, which was a huge treat for me. The redbud trees were covered in tiny purple blooms, and the wisteria vines, which seem to be everywhere, were just starting to flower. On Saturday we made a rainy visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where I was fortunate to spy some Atlanta bluebells:

When I arrived on Friday night, the air was balmy enough to feel like early summer. Everyone was out enjoying the weather, filling up the outdoor restaurant patios. After dinner we headed over to the Virginia Highland neighborhood for a dessert of delicious gelato, courtesy of this wacky Italian:

My cousin's home was truly envy-inducing, a townhouse that manages to be both adorable and huge, and also happens to be more affordable than the one-bedroom apartment in the Michigan college town where she used to live. She had to work both mornings I was there, but I was happy to relax and drink a cup of tea while I waited for her, admiring her pretty decor and reading her copy of "Eat, Pray, Love." ( I didn't get very far, but so far my favorite thing about that book is still the word "eat" spelled in macaroni on the cover. Ah, the power of good cover design!)

Saturday afternoon we spent with our other Atlanta cousin visiting her parents who've also relocated to the area, where we were plied with gooey white chocolate chip brownies as we gossiped about my cousin's wedding plans. Then we met up with some Cambridge friends, who also happened to be in town, for a quick tour of Atlanta nightlife. It was by far one of the most social weekends I've had in awhile, and all in this place I would never have imagined having reason to visit until a few years ago.

Our Sunday ended up being mostly devoted to waiting for and consuming brunch at the Thumbs Up Diner on Edgewood Avenue in the Fourth Ward, and boy was it worth it. It wasn't that there were any fancy or unusual ingredients in the dishes - the food just tasted really, really good. We both got eggs and pecan pancakes (which come with a mini bottle of maple syrup), and shared a side of cheese grits over which I am still obsessing. I wish I could go back right now. Even in early afternoon, the dining room was packed with waiting customers, but renowned hostess Kavinique ruled the chaos with an amazing blend of steely control and unflappable good humor. I have worked the hungry weekend brunch crowd in my waitressing past, and it's not for the faint of heart.

So here's to the ATL! Somerville gives you a thumbs up.

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