History and Theory: Design Past

Starting this new semester, we are going into a lot of History and Theory which is included in the shaping of what architecture is as a whole. Our studies have taken us from the debate of art categories-the fine arts as compared to industrial arts; all the way to the push for a violent revolt of the arts and society as a whole. In the first few lectures, we focused on what it meant to be “Modern”, and what that means for architecture.

With the start of the industrial revolution, the world moved into the modern era–but some would say this isn’t the start of the modern era. The real change that occurred what the explosion of new materials and machines that allowed for so many new and different artistic expressions and styles.

The Arts and Crafts Movement was one of the first reactions to the Modern era and its effects. The Arts and Crafts Movement hoped to return to the more handcrafted tradition of creating all utilitarian and decorative items uniquely and personally. This included highly intricate work by people-instead of machines. They created by hand their own furniture, houses, stained glass, fixtures, and even wallpaper.

Art Nouveau was the reaction to the Arts and Crafts Movement. They believed in the machine and the possibilities behind the machine. They praised engineers as artists and embraced new technologies and materials as ways to enhance their artistic expression. They started to use machines in art and created an evolved style based on these ideas.

The Futurists came soon after these two groups, in the beginning of the 1900’s-right before the First World War. They suggested that society should reject all previous styles and ideas-to move onto the next era of thought. This takeover and renewal of thought would be constant-reoccurring every ten to twenty years (in the minds of the Futurists). They imagined a new society based on the machine-and architecture which reflected this.

The Deutsche Werkbund was a group of German artists, architects, and thinkers who were set on changing Germany as a world power and bringing the culture of art and creation to the foreground of German life. They saw little distinction between architecture, art, and print. This idea started to infiltrate into industry and product design.

Image sources: Morris Grafton, Alphonse Maria Mucha, Peter Behren and Antonio Sant’Elia.

I’m Lovin’… Black & White

I have just started looking over Etsy now and then so I decided to pick out a few items that really stuck out to me to use as some sort of blog post Coincidentally they all were black and white so this post is dedicated to the lovely style of Black & White. The Black and white patterns are so great because it always seems to go well with any season, in every dress (like this dress!). When I picked all these items out I also thought about how perfect they would be for a day of shopping during the summer… I simply cannot get over that yellow mustache bag! Which item is your favorite?

Sources:{one, two, three, four, five, six}

Cake Challenge: January

Mocha Espresso Drizzle Layer Cake:

Cake Challenge Series: is a collection of posts which document the cakes I bake each month. More specifically, I have a goal this year to bake at least one (hopefully spectacular) layer cake each month, and photograph/post them here. I hope you enjoy this collection as much as I enjoy baking these delicious desserts!

I’m happy to say that I was able to achieve my goal, for the first month at least. My first triple decker cake this year (and EVER) was from my new cookbook, Sky High. The texture of this cake is more dense than it is fluffy. Personally I enjoyed the change, I’m so used to vanilla cakes with sugar based frosting, so this coffee flavored cake with expresso glaze tasted heavenly.

As I describe this to you, I have to remember all the things that did NOT go right when making this cake. You see, I started this venture with high hopes, the ingredients were measured, the batter was spun to perfection, the oven was ready… but little did I know my “ready” was the wrong temperature. Sadly, the first two layers were slightly overcooked and a bit dry. And although the last layer was baked to delicious moistness, more problems were awaiting when I began the glaze. As you will see below, the expresso glaze calls for a bag of white chocolate chips melted. <This was when I started hitting bumps in the road.> THE CHOCOLATE WOUDLN’T MELT! My parents and their friends were coming back for dessert at our house and the glaze wasn’t even close to completion! At this point, I was quite disappointed with myself and honestly just wanted to give up. Jessie keep me going though, she never gave up hope while I on the other hand was pacing back and forth voicing “what ifs” here and there… after much stress and multiple rounds in the microwave, the chocolate finally loosened (I think something was wrong with the chocolate and that is why it wouldn’t melt).

Finally, I mixed in the the sweetened condensed milk, other ingredients and vuoila, the glaze was done. My parents were already home waiting for the cake and although the glaze was on the thin side, we quickly assembled the cake and brought it out to be served. I was definitely not eager to serve this cake; after agonizing over it for so many hours I thought that it would taste horrible for sure. But it DIDN’T! On the contrary, I quite liked it… As I happily ate this beautiful cake, I reflected on my baking experience and found that…

Baking my first layer cake taught me three things:
1.) Check the oven temperature before you start baking!
2.) Only make chocolate based icings/glazes when you are mentally, emotionally, and physically sound- and don’t start unless you have LOTS of time.
3.) If you taste bits of cake crumbs and licks of icing here and there, you won’t have any appetite left to eat the finished creation!


Mocha Cake

1 cup freshly brewed espresso OR double-strength coffee
2/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
4 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cup cake flower
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of your cake pans.
2. In a medium bowl combine the hot coffee and the coca stirring until the mixture is dissolved into a glossy, smooth mocha. Let cool to room temperature.
3. In another bowl beat eggs lightly and whisk the buttermilk and vanilla in.
4. Place all the rest of the ingredients (dry) into a mixing bowl. With the mixer on low first add butter, followed by the mocha mixture. Beat until well incorporated. Raise the mixer speed to medium and blend until light and fluffy, at this point add the egg mixture in three additions.
5. Bake the cake layers for 35-38 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean but still moist. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes then invert onto wire racks.

Espresso Drizzle

12 ounces white chocolate
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
6 tablespoons freshly brewed espresso OR double-strength coffee

1. Melt the white chocolate using either a double boiler (more reliable) or a microwave.
2. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk and espresso until smooth. (If your drizzle is too thin, stick it in the fridge for an hour)

To assemble simply pout glaze in between each layer of cake, and add more on the top layer so that it will drizzle over the sides!


Valentines Almanac

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Getting Creative for Valentine’s Day

It was Saturday and I was feeling a bit down, knowing that Valentine’s Day was approaching and that I couldn’t just go down to my favorite Target Store to buy my “Sweetheart” a nice card or my little Valentines some chocolate treats and goodies. Besides, Megan’s class is scheduled to have a  Valentine’s Day party this week, so another pressure…how to make cards for her 17 classmates? It’s not like the local markets here in Tianjin will have pre-made Valentine’s Day cards for kids.

The Lord was so good to me. I opened Megan’s backpack to find that her teacher had already prepared Valentine’s Day cards that just needed to be colored and addressed. WoW! Then I came up with the idea of putting a little Chupa Chups lollipop on each one, by cutting small slits in the cards. Megan did the coloring and I did the cutting!

Here’s our creations…


Neapolitan Valentine Treat


Today I’d like to share with you a recipe I found on this blog. This is a perfect, delicious shortcake cookie for a Valentine Treat… Enjoy!

What You’ll Need:

– 1 cup of unsalted butter
– 1/2 cup of sugar
– 1 1/2 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
– 1/2 teaspoon of Almond Extract
– 1/4 teaspoon of salt
– 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
– Pink or Red food coloring
– 2 1/2 tablespoons of Cocoa Powder
– 1 large egg
– 1 tablespoon of water

Add sugar and butter to a bowl and cream well with a mixer… Then add vanilla extract and almond extract. Mix. Now add the flour and salt, mix on low.

The dough should be a bit crumbly so knead it together to ensure that it doesn’t fall apart. Then separate into three equally divided balls of dough

Place one of the balls of dough in a bowl and add the cocoa powder, use a mixer to blend these together to make the brown colored dough, or you can also knead the cocoa powder and dough together to make this mixture.

Add another portion of dough to a bowl and add a few drops of pink food coloring, blend together with a mixer and you have your pink colored dough!

Take each color of dough and place it between two pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap and roll it to a thickness of about 3/8 inch

Use  a ruler and sharp knife to cut the dough into 3/4 inch wide strips and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. While the dough is refrigerating whisk together the egg and water .

Lay a large piece of wax paper out and spread egg and water mixture on a small strip of the wax paper before placing a strip of brown dough on it. Then repeat with pink and white strips using the egg mixture as a “glue”… continue process till you have a large striped dough pattern. Finally take a heart cookie cutter and cut  hearts out of the pattern.

Pre-Heat oven to 350 degrees and cook for 8-10 minutes and you have yourself a very tasty Valentine treat!

I’m Lovin’… Valentines Day

Yesterday I had a movie night with my amigos, we went out to eat and gathered at my house to watch the classic National Treasure. It was nice to catch up and just chill :] For our movie snacks we had chocolate popcorn (made by a local street vendor in my neighborhood), coke/sprite, and my mommy’s homemade Lemon Bars. Yumm…

Valentines Day is almost in our grasp <3 and to tell you the truth I haven’t thought about it much. I think I might make some goody bags for my sis’ but I need to think about it more this weekend… Hope you get lots of Xs’ and Os’ this year on Valentines Day!

One: Don’t forget your camera to capture the moments :]

Two: Etsy Sailor Playsuit… CUTE!

Three: Red Velevet Cupcakes are to-die-for!

Four: Wear the reddest Lipstick you own <3

Sources: one, two, three, four

Sean Teaching in his New Classroom


The year Sean is teaching three classes in our high school: Computer Animation, Digital Citizenship and two sections of AP Computer Science. Rachel and Jessie are both taking Computer Science. Although it’s challenging for them, I think they are doing well in his class. This is actually the first time Rachel has had Sean as a teacher. She’s enjoying it. All our other kids have had Sean in previous years. Sean will also be leading the Senior Class spring trip coming up in May. Now that our school has moved into its new campus, Sean has his own classroom. Picture above Sean is teaching AP Comp Sci., Rachel is in the foreground.

Late Night Snack

Let’s face it, it is intrinsic to have late night cravings. Unfortunately for me it is a terrible sweet tooth – which often lands me in the dentists office – but that’s beside the point. My late night snack tonight is 1/2 blonde and 1/2 brownie! Such contrast – such sweet balance – they were made for each other! Just like yin and yang. Ok, maybe I’m over dramatizing this, but I was thrilled to find that my mom had made a pan of blondes when I came home from school today. I waited until Mom and Dad were safely tucked in bed, then I sneaked to the kitchen to get this amazing snack!