Birthday Bonnets

December 8th, 2012

In celebration of a recent natal anniversary, my affectionate mother sent a package of goodies across the country. The contents proved how well she (and my father, who enclosed a beautiful William Morris-themed notebook) knows me. To witness, this pair of sunbonnets:

Birthday Sunbonnets

I guess she was tired of hearing me worry about ruining my porcelain complexion in the California sun. Alas, it’s probably too late. Since moving here nearly a year ago, my face and arms have taken on a decidedly berry-like glow. And my hair has changed from mousy brown to some weird mix of gold, brown, and red, with a few pale blond streaks on top.

Wearing the sunnbonnet

Not many people wear sunbonnets these days. I only knew of one person in NYC who indulged (needless to say, she is a close friend). Alas, I can’t seem to find the post featuring her amazing bonnet — it was black and white striped silk with slats a mile long. Swoon. But I haven’t seen a single soul wearing a sunbonnet out here on the central coast of California. Yet.

My mother tells me she bought my bonnets at a store in south eastern Pennsylvania that caters to Amish and Mennonite communities. Groups that subscribe to traditional or modest dress for religious or social reasons, along with historical reenactors, seem to be the last major proponents of the sunbonnet. A mere century ago, this was definitely not the case. Sunbonnets were necessary work clothing for many American women. Lest I overstep my rather limited knowledge in this area, let me instead recommend The Sunbonnet: An American Icon in Texas, by Rebecca Jumper Matheson. Small world — I had the honor to help organize a book launch party for this title when I worked at an historic house in New York City.

And last but not least, a picture of my new sunbonnet doing what sunbonnets do best: covering my face!

Wearing the sunbonnet, side view

Cupcake Marathon

May 6th, 2012

Don’t ask why — the reasons are long and complicated, involving at least four countries and more than one birthday — but this week I made 11 dozen cupcakes and one layer cake. Luckily, I happen to own a stainless steel mixing bowl that could eat Chicago.


First, I made four dozen vanilla cupcakes from my favorite “California Cake” recipe (circa 1865). Then came four dozen chocolate cupcakes, using a fantastic vegan recipe learnt from a fellow member of the Fourth Street Food Coop in NYC. That was followed by a dozen gluten-free chocolate lavender cupcakes from a mix. And last, but not least, two dozen carrot cupcakes and a two-layer carrot cake.

Birthday Cake

With the exception of the carrot cake and cupcakes, which require cream cheese icing as a matter of course, I topped the cupcakes with butter cream in various flavors:

  • Vanilla cakes with pink rosewater cinnamon butter cream
  • Vanilla cakes with milk chocolate butter cream
  • Chocolate cakes with purple vanilla butter cream dipped in shredded cocoanut
  • Chocolate cakes with coffee butter cream
  • Gluten-free chocolate lavender cakes with purple vanilla butter cream

Here’s the majority of my handiwork. A few cakes didn’t make it out of my kitchen…and it wasn’t long before a few more were swiped by passersby once I delivered them to the lodge. We hid the layer cake until it was time for the candles to be lit.


The cupcakes were a hit — and I even saw a few people eating them the next day for breakfast! The remains of the carrot layer cake are in our refrigerator, haunting us with every overwhelming mouthful.