Friday, October 3, 2014

The Autumn Tag and Pumpkin Cookies

...but first, some whining about the weather.

It's October, yet every morning is still oppressively humid. The sky has been choked with thick gray clouds for the past week. Today I woke up, showered, then realized that with the humidity at 90%, my hair would take hours to air-dry. I got out the blow-dryer, which I almost never do, and ended up looking like a Korean boy-band member, my hair simultaneously lank and feathered. Now for my makeup--but thanks to the film of moisture all over my face and neck, nothing would stick. Each product melted off before I'd finished putting the next one on. Finally I resigned myself to mascara and matte lipstick and headed out the door. After a fifteen-minute walk, every inch of my skin felt clammy. My hair was still wet. I tried to take off my blazer, but the cloth was clinging so closely to my bare forearms that the lining of one of the sleeves ripped loudly. To hell with this weather.

Because of the persistent cloud cover, I haven't been able to take photos for the next post I was planning to write. What better excuse to do the Autumn Tag, which I found on Liz's blog? When it's not humid as Satan's nostril, autumn is by far my favorite season. Because even when it is that humid, you can still see this sort of thing:

1. What's your favorite seasonal drink from Starbucks or another coffee shop? 
Every fall I buy one Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, take a sip, and think, "Ah, so this is why I buy only one a year." Despite my fierce sweet tooth, I don't like most sugary coffee drinks; I'd rather have a cupcake or something. I do love the occasional mocha, though.

2. Accessories--what do you opt for: scarves, boots, or gloves? 
Scarves are my favorite of these three! Since so much of my wardrobe is black or gray, I like brightening up my look with a scarf. As you can see, I've amassed more scarves than any one neck needs in a lifetime.

3. Music--What's your favorite music to listen to during autumn?
There are a few songs I find myself playing more often when the weather gets cooler, either because they mention autumn or because they remind me of autumns past. Chief among these are Beirut's "Vagabond," Belle & Sebastian's "Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie," Janelle Monáe's "Electric Lady," and David Garza's "Discoball World." I've also been exploring the vast, gleaming world of kpop this year, and have spent more of the last two days than I'd care to calculate listening to Ailee's "U&I" on repeat. (Though Spica is my first, last, and only true k-love.)

4. Perfume--what's your favorite scent for this time of year?
I don't own or wear enough perfume to have seasonal scents, but I think L'Artisan Safran Troublant is the perfect fall perfume. It smells like Indian ice cream: saffron, rose, and vanilla. I treasured every drop of a sample I got from Aedes de Venustas a couple of years ago.

5. Candles--what scents will you be burning this season?
Diptyque Feu de Bois is my favorite candle year-round (and one of two scented candles I own, the other being Diptyque Violette), but it feels particularly appropriate to fall and winter. This is one of the bb Diptyques; I might spring for a full-sized FdB eventually.

6. What do you love most about autumn?
Halloween, my birthday, plum and berry lipsticks, all things pumpkin, the golden light of early evening, the clatter of acorns on the sidewalk, a campus covered in fallen leaves, and a new semester in which I haven't yet committed any social blunders or deadline infractions.

7. Favorite makeup look?
Everything plum and gold and brick-red and bronze. I've lost the desire to wear any lipstick that isn't Topshop Get Me Bodied. Here it is today, with mascara and the traces of Sleek Flushed blush that managed to stick to my cheeks. Plus maple leaves!

8. What are you looking forward to most in autumn?
Traveling to Bloomington, IN, to visit a dear friend from college. We're going to see Mockingjay in costume because we're huge dorks. I'm dressing as Effie Trinket, obviously.

And now for a very autumnal recipe! The café in my undergrad library (an outpost of a popular Pioneer Valley coffee shop) sold dome-shaped pumpkin-walnut-chocolate-chip cookies that were the perfect little snack for a study break. There were many great things about my alma mater's library--lofty vaulted wooden ceilings, stained-glass windows bearing Renaissance printers' seals, comfortable chairs everywhere, my beloved thesis adviser downing triple espressos and scolding noisy first-years--but those cookies may have been the best thing of all. Two years ago, nostalgia prompted me to try and recreate them. I started from this recipe but adapted it significantly. The original calls for a full cup of sugar and two cups of chocolate chips; at that point, you might as well just make a pan of brownies.

I had no chocolate chips for the batch I made last night, so I substituted half a cup of chopped Green & Black's white chocolate, which was obviously a good life choice. Also, in typing up this recipe just now, I realized that I FORGOT THE BAKING POWDER. It's a testament to the forgiving nature of this recipe that the cookies turned out fine--just a bit softer and more cake-like than usual. Here's a photo, though I beg you not to let my poor food-photography skills (and the fact that I probably underbaked the cookies) bias you against the recipe. These cookies are absolutely delicious. And they stay moist forever, provided you store them in an airtight container.

(Update, 11/7: I made them again and remembered the baking powder, which produced a more appetizing-looking batch, shown below.)


1 cup plain canned pumpkin
Generous 1/2 cup sugar
Scant 1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg (slightly less if using freshly grated nutmeg)
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2-3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or to taste)
1/2-3/4 cup chopped walnuts (or to taste)


Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Dissolve baking soda in milk and stir into pumpkin mixture. Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture. Add vanilla and, if using, chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop by spoonfuls (I used an ice cream scoop) onto a greased cookie sheet; bake at 350° until lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes. Makes about 20 smallish cookies.


  1. Today it really feels like autumn here in NYC. I'm a bit sad but I've decided to embrace the new season. Soon I will be flipping my closet and rearranging my scarves in the drawers.
    There was no halloween when I grew up in Korea, and I felt silly wearing costumes and wigs in my twenties because I was already doing that occasionally for work (hated wearing blond wigs so much, I remember), so I've never really dressed up for the holiday. Maybe this year I will. Any suggestion? I think you'd look amazing as Effie. :)

    1. What job required you to wear blonde wigs?! I think I remember you saying you were a musician?

      I can see how growing up without Halloween would make you indifferent to it: for me, so much of the holiday lies in reliving those childhood memories of dressing up as a fairy, getting together with my best friend, and sorting all my candy at the end of the night. (I was always a fairy. In fact, from the ages of six to nine, I wore the same dress every year--it just got shorter and shorter!) I think the best costume as an adult is one that requires you to get crazy with your makeup. :)

  2. Humidity is the WORST. We get tons of it here in my part of Middle Earth (thanks, maritime climate), although we're fortunate that the actual temperature doesn't usually top about 25 degrees celsius. Still, when everything feels sticky and all the paper is drooping limp and buckled in the printer, you know it's gonna be a trying day. This is partly why I like powder foundations, but I'll be honest and admit that I usually just go without makeup on really humid days. I did put makeup on in Singapore though, when both temperature and humidity were through the roof, and it more or less survived. Go Lancome? (I had the travel palette with me).

    We don't *really* have Halloween here either. I mean, we do, because the stores will try and cash in, and kids do go out trick or treating (kind of) but pretty much everyone over the age of ten doesn't bother... unless they're over *18* and it's an excuse to get horribly, emetically drunk while wearing a
    sexy (__insert profession or 'Alice in Wonderland' here__) costume, which is always suitably noxious to behold. I am all for dressing up, and all for special makeup though, so I'm at least thinking of trying to put together a couple of 'costume' themed makeup looks for the blog during the month. This is currently being delayed by the fact that I have run out of both mascara and waterpoof eye makeup remover, and have to wait until they go on sale to get more (aah, the glamorous life I lead! :-D).

    Isn't cloudy weather just the pits for blogging, when your 'lighting setup' is the sun? We're only jut starting to come out of that here, and it's been a long winter for the blog...

    The pumpkin cookies look amazing. We don't really get canned pumpkin here (unless I want to pay many, many dollars a can for it), but I do have an actual pumpkin staring at me from where it sits, frankly all too smugly, on top of the little sandwich press in our postage stamp of a kitchen. Perhaps I can find a recipe for getting from pumpkin to an approximation of the canned stuff...

    P.S. I think you're looking pretty darn fresh and fabulous in that lipstick photo, despite the humidity ^_^

    1. I didn't realize that Middle Earth was so humid! It is truly awful. Though having experienced the other extreme on my trip through central and southern California this August, I'm not sure anymore which I prefer. At least humid weather generally means low UV exposure, so you don't end up all weathered-looking.

      I would love to see whatever costume-themed posts you think up! I wouldn't worry about not having mascara--you have such long, beautiful lashes anyway. I'll probably limit my own Halloween posting to my Effie costume, though I've already started planning that one out, three weeks ahead. If only I could be so diligent about every other aspect of my life...

      Do New Zealanders like sweet pumpkin dishes, or is it more of a savory thing? My British friend who's here for grad school was appalled to discover that Americans love pumpkin ice cream--she had the same reaction to it that I might have to cauliflower ice cream.

      I took that photo in the afternoon, after the humidity had gone down significantly! It's actually cooled off quite a bit in the last few days, thank Jove.

    2. You flatterer you *bat bat* :-P

      We don't really do the sweet pumpkin thing, no - we're pretty resolutely British/European in such things, true to our colonial roots. You can buy canned pumpkin, as I said, but only as a cuirosity in the American bit of the 'international' foods section of the supermarket (along with Cherry Coke, etc). Randomly: I heard recently that the Crispy flavour of M&Ms is discontinued in the US! It's one of the only 4 flavours we actually generally get here, which I thought was interesting.

      Anyway, as to whether Kiwis *like* sweet pumpkin things, I have to say most probably don't know for never having really tried it. However, we're big on our kumara here (sweet potato in like 3 different colours), so I think it could be a thing, if given half a chance...

  3. Glad you did the tag! I've stopped tagging people because most people don't end up doing them for whatever reason and nobody needs another chore.

    YOU MUST TAKE PICTURES IF YOU DRESS UP AS EFFIE. I'm not a huge Hunger Games fan or anything, but the movie has a kind of visually bleak flatness so that seeing Effie on-screen was rather invigorating for me.

    1. Of course there will be an Effie post! I'm very excited to put the costume together (I'm wearing it for Halloween as well). I confess I am a huge Hunger Games fan. The books are appallingly written, but I'm such a sucker for post-apocalyptic decadence and morally ambiguous revolutions. And I think the movies are really well done! I especially love the older actors who play the Capitol establishment (though Donald Sutherland looks like one of my professors and it creeps me out).

    2. Oh good, I'm not the only one who thinks the books suck. Although, to be fair, I only read the first one and found that I couldn't go on and went to the movies instead.

      I've always found Donald Sutherland to be creepy no matter what he plays.

    3. The premise of the books is compelling, the themes are thought-provoking, but the writing sucks. so. badly. I think almost any other writer could have done a better job. My favorite groan-inducing moment comes in the second book, when Katniss is narrating an aerial bombardment in District 5: "It was like shooting fish in a barrel. We were the fish, the street the barrel." YOU DON'T SAY.

      To be fair, I like the third book better than the other two, because it ends on such an ambiguous note. Young-adult fiction isn't always good at conveying that power corrupts, even in the hands of the "good guys," but I think Collins does a decent job of communicating that message.