Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Dress for the Gardens

Due in part to my recent obsession with visiting the botanic gardens in Brooklyn, I made myself a new dress. I have a lot of fabric lying around, and I wanted something simple and elegant in a light, solid color.

I was trying to mold together the tight fitting bodice and full skirt of the 50's with a sense of the ruffled collar of the court dresses of the Elizabethan period. But mostly, I just wanted to be able to spin around with a ruffly skirt and look like one of the tea roses I was going to visit.

I have been preferring longer and longer skirts on my dresses recently, as if I am trying to fall into the 1890s, perhaps the next dress I make will be floor length?

I spent my entire Sunday off making the dress, and it was ready just in time to go to the gardens. I am a bit bummed that I can't wear most of my dresses to the bakery, since they do not have a sleeve, but I should probably try to avoid getting chocolate butter cream all over silk anyway.

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

I am a botanic garden enthusiast, to put it lightly. I haven't been to the Brooklyn Botanic yet this year, and that is for no lack of trying. I have been planning this outing for at least 2 months and begging every one of my friends to go with me, but it seems to always be falling through.
Mission was accomplished this past Thursday when my friend Daisy and I finally made the trip. The cherry blossoms are long gone, but many ethereal wonders awaited us on our day of strolling.
We entered into a bogoda inspired landing that overlooked a massive lake home to the gardens' koi and turtle population. A beautiful sight: the calm waters begin to ripple on closer inspection as you notice hundreds of foot long koi skimming the surface, reflecting light off their pearlescent, multicolored scales. Even odder are the slider turtles bobbing after the fish.

A serene and beautiful start to a lovely day.

We walked the entire perimeter of the gardens, strolled through the rose arches and the herb patches, past incredible flowering trees and climbed the branches of one of the oldest trees on the property, whose bark is home to dozens of scribbles and inscriptions of lovers and friends who have sat under its shade. We were promptly asked to remove ourselves from the tree, as climbing is not permitted.
More climbing off the prescribed route ensued, which got us these wonderful pictures next to a waterfall which I am so fond of. We had to jump a rope and skip a few stones to get up there, we didn't get caught this time.

There is something incredibly romantic walking around a well planted park, so reminiscent of my childhood summers in the woods and all of those period books I constantly have my nose planted in. I can't think of a better place to get to know a person than a park with cascading hills and tree grouping surrounded by roses and lavender and every single color I could ever imagine.
My favorite part of any botanic garden is always the orchid and tropical plant conservatories, and the Brooklyn Botanical does not disappoint. The orchid greenhouse is amazing. Walking in you are hit with an intense cloud of humidity, which you soon forgive when you see the incredible specimen plants hanging from the ceiling. Giant cattleya and dendrobium plants, whose shoots reach 10 feet out of their baskets and vanda plants hanging in groupings of 20-30 showering their incredible masses of exposed roots and almost tangling in your hair. The center of the room is closed off and turned into a wading pool for water hyacinth and bog plants, while dead tree trunks reach out of the water and support mounted orchids and air plants, which in turn provide shade for the venus fly traps and other carnivorous plants on the outskirts of the bog. It is an incredible sight which makes you wish you could handle the humidity for more than 15 consecutive minutes.
We circled the entire garden and visited every conservatory, and I was able to bring a few little friends home from the plant shop which I will show you later. I had a wonderful day and am super glad Daisy came along with me and let me ramble on about plants and books for a solid 5 hours. <3

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ladies Night

For the past four years (right?) my friends Iris, Jess and Rafael have been getting together for dinner parties at each others' houses every month. It has come to be known as Ladies Night.

Iris is vegetarian, so we usually go with a vegetarian meal and a delicious dessert. Today was the first day we made a fish dish, woot! Jess marinated some amazing salmon with a teriyaki glaze and rice and Iris made a delicious salad with carrots, cucumbers, almonds and an amazing home made sauce and a mango, cucumber and tomato salsa for the salmon. Amazing!
I am still obsessed with figuring out the best Macaron recipes so I made another version of a chocolate macaron and a lemon macaron with a lemon butter cream. The lemon butter cream was great, but the cookies were a tad carmelized. Still working on it. Mango macarons are coming up! (Will post all of the recipes once I get them right.)

Missing Rafiqua this time around, hope you see the pictures, and can't wait till you come back!

Picnic at the Cloisters

Summer is finally coming along and the time has come for picnics!

I love the idea and history of picnics, so romantic. I recently bought myself a wicker basket at that Basket Shop in the Chelsea Markets, and decided a picnic was destined in my near future. Luckily, I recently started working at Billy's bakery and the cool kids I met there were up for a Sunday picnic at the Cloisters!

I wanted to avoid the cheesy zip lock baggy sandwiches and made sauteed chicken, mozzarella tomato and pesto sandwiches on ciabatta bread which were wrapped in parchment and tied with a bit of string.
We made fresh raspberry lemonade in random mason jars I found around the house, mashed together some avocados for guacamole and bagged the macarons and short bread cookies I made the day before.

We spent a lovely afternoon on the lawns of Fort Tryon Park, watched a little kid shove himself in a hole in a tree, played uno, told each other's fortunes and threw pita chips at the chubby squirrel population. And, I got to wear my new dress!

Thanks to new friends Stephanie (also known as Daisy) and Matt for coming with me on this cheesy picnic and joining me in obsessively documenting the food before we actually got to eat it. And thanks to Stephanie for bringing a camera when I stupidly forgot mine at home.
We visited the Cloisters themselves after the picnic, chatted in a gorgeous atrium garden while it rained and threw coins in a fountain from the dark ages!

Day well spent!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mon petit macaron!

Not macaroon...

Macarons are a simple elegant cookie that haven't gotten enough credit in the States (granted they are becoming more and more popular now, perhaps they are heading towards the macaron version of the cupcake craze?).

Several specialty bakeries and shops display these amazing little cookies, but most people I talk to, still refuse to acknowledge that I am not talking about the coconut macaron.

It is generally accepted that the cookie originated from France, however some believe its history can be traced back to the arrival of Catherine de' Medici who, upon marrying Henry II in 1533, brought Italian pasty chefs with her to court. Macarons are served in the best

Parisian pastry shops including the tea house Laduree, Pierre Hermé and Fauchon who consider the cookie a source of pride and display them prominently.

The macaron is a sandwich cookie whose dainty domes are made out of a mixture of egg whites, almond meal, confectionery and granulated sugars along with a wide range of creative flavorings. Two domes sandwich a dollop of ganache, buttercream or jam.

It is a very formalist cookie, and does not count as a macaron unless a distinctive pied or foot (a delicate fringe around the base) is formed during the baking process, to a point where chefs display these cookies as a signature of their talent.

After being intimidated by the pied for a long time, I decided to attempt making the cookie. I had all the ingredients on hand to make a chocolate macaron with a mocha buttercream, so here they are!

Look at them feet! I have a lot of work to do on experimenting with flavors and recipes to reach the perfect crust, but the texture was pretty good on my first try, and I am super excited!

On a side note, I also made some heart shaped shortbread cookies with raspberry filling!

When you can't afford that Anthropologie dress.

daria souvorova not anthro dress
daria souvorova not anthropologie dressI wear dresses almost exclusively and the vast majority of them are from Anthropologie. I love their dresses, but most are so incredibly expensive that I can't afford them.

A good friend of mine has a slogan for me "Daria wants, Daria gets." Thus, I just make my own.

I saw a beautiful dress a few weeks back, the Norrbotten Dress. I tried it on at the store and fell in love with it, but not its $258 price tag.

The beautiful crewelwork fabric, I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to find. I went to Purl in SoHo and found an amazing Rapunzel and a simple pale peach linen/cotton blend which I am super excited about.

daria souvorova not anthropologie dressI spent several days sewing tiny triangle patterns on the subway. I think I terrified an older Asian lady when I pulled out a giant pair of cutting shears (with that certain amount of excitement and verve needed to pull out a kick ass pair of scissors, I don't know if anyone knows what I mean.)

Although the dress does not have the same beaded intricacy that the original dress, the dress has a similar fit, tied with a bow on the back, and I really enjoyed the movement of the triangle fringe when I wore the dress today!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Exotic Terrariums!

A tale of my mass plant genocide en route to self contained exotic orchids and such.

A new terrarium craze has been swelling for the past few years, and I have seen amazing specimen of miniature worlds enclosed within vintage bottles and unused goldfish tanks. Worlds of moss and stones and miniature ferns accompany little colored mushrooms and even smaller figures in their own, closed off atmospheres.

Moss is beautiful in and of itself, and I admit to having one moss terrarium, but what interests me most is enclosing tropical plants under glass. For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with orchids: buying them almost as quickly as I killed them. By the time I turned 17, I quickly outgrew the phalaenopsis and oncidium orchids you could find in a grocery store, and became fascinated with miniature cattleya and bulbophyllum species which I hunted down on ebay and hung on my walls. A few years ago, I discovered Andy's Orchids in California. Andy sells tropical orchids of all types and sizes, on sticks! Yes, any miniature orchid you could think of, blooming size, mounted to a stick or a piece of wood.

Most orchids are epiphytes (grow on trees in nature), and receive water from gentle showers filtered by the leaves of the trees on which they reside. Reproducing this setup allows for certain, more moisture loving orchids to reside happily in a high humidity environment, since the roots are not surrounded by moist bark, which may cause rotting. Thus orchids become perfect candidates for terrarium plants.

Orchids generally require some air circulation, which is a challenge in a terrarium setting, and I have spent a lot of time hardwiring tiny fans into bell jars to try to provide air, but at this point, I am just choosing plants that are more likely to survive with little air movement.

Plants that have worked for me:
Orchid Paphiopedilum henryanum and most solid leaved, waxy flower hybrids.
Orchid Haraella odorata, a beautiful micro mini orchid
Air plants do very well, I water mine once a week and allow them to dry out before replacing them in their enclosure.
Succulents do very well, but my apartment does not have enough light for most.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


No its not a mood ring!

I grew up in Belarus and have always known Alexandrite as an awesome gem stone that everyone knew about, and everyone was obsessed with (almost as much as amber, and we do love amber!).

Years ago, my mom gave me a small collection of family jewels, and one of them was a big Alexandrite ring, which I am in love with. Every time I wear it, I get plenty of comments, most however range in the "I love your ring, is it an emerald or amethyst? I thought it was green before, is it purple?" No neither, and yes both!

It seems no one here knows about Alexandrite. According to legend, Alexandrite was discovered by Finnish mineralogist Nils Gustaf Nordenskiöld in the Ural Mountains of Russia on April 17, 1834, the 16th birthday of tsarevitch Alexander, who would become Tsar Alexander II of Russia. The stone was named Alexandrite in his honor. Nordenskiöld first thought the stone he unearthed was an emerald, but looking at the stone under candle light, he discovered that it changed from green to raspberry red.

Quickly, the stone became a beloved jem stone in Russia, as its colors so closely matched the colors of imperial Russia. The stones have become fairly rare, especially stones over 5 carats with good coloration, however synthetic Alexandrites are now being created for those who want to have a sample of the amazing stone without the crazy pants pricetag.

Synthetic stones tend to be either bluish grey or rosy amethyst in daylight and turn to a purple in incandescent light, while natural stones are bluish green and turn to a reddish purple (the closer to a ruby color, the better the stone), However, some very good synthetic stones have been created, and the only way to determine a synthetic stone is with microscopic examination.

Either way, whether natural or synthetic, Alexandrite is an amazing and rare gem stone which seems to have slipped completely under the radar due to its rarety.

All photos by my fantastical friend Victoria Anne Boardman, check out her blog here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Love You

My roommate and best friend Rafael just left for 5 months for a residency and job in Seattle. His flight took off Monday morning and I expected to come home to see an empty room and spend the night pouting by myself. Instead, I found one of these notes on my door. I walked in to put my necklace in my jewelry box, and alas another note was on the top, and on my weird little red cash register, and on my tip piggy and my lamp shade and my kitchen aid mixer.

Everyday I seem to find a new one, on Wednesday I went to grab a headscarf, and found a note in my handkerchief box. Today I reached for a pair of socks, and found a note attached to my fluffy airplane socks.

I am glad that as digital and distant the world has become, we can still experience wonderful, pure moments of sentimentality.

Needless to say, I did not spend the night pouting. I love my Rafael and can't wait till he comes back!

PS: Raf is a fantastic photographer, check out his work at RafaelSoldi.com

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cupcakes at Stranger Than Fiction: Yale MFA Photography Show

Stranger Than Fiction: Yale MFA Photography Show is a show curated by Soraja Helac and Sabrina Wirth of the Helac & Wirth Art Advisory at 25CPW. The show held a pre-opening event for young collector groups of the New York Museums for I was invited to serve cupcakes.

This was the first time I have served my new cupcakes to a larger audience, and it was a really great day. This served as a great experiment to see what people thought of my recipes and which ones were the best received. I got some really great responses! Apparently vanilla vanilla is still the most popular cupcake. Some of the other flavors were: Vanilla with Orange Peel Buttercream, Chocolate with Mocha Buttercream, Chocolate with Peanut Butter Buttercream, Lemon with Lemon Cream Cheese, Banana with Cream Cheese, Banana with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese and Ginger Carrot with Orange Peel Cream Cheese.

Thanks to Soraja and Sabrina for the opportunity, and congratulations to all of the artists in the show!

All photos by Arthur Eisenberg.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cupcakes Photoshoot and Cupcake Tasting Fieldtrip

I started working at Billy's Bakery a month ago, and since then I have been thinking about my own recipes. After spending one day behind the counter, I have already dreamed up exactly what my bakery would be like if I had one. I have planned out the menu, built a website, and dreamed up exactly what it would look like.

I have always loved cupcakes for their adorable shape and convenient size, and I know that cupcakes would be one of the main events in my dream bakery.

My two friends Nancy and William Grimes (Biff just published "Appetite City" an incredible history of the restaurants in New York City) and myself went on an epic mission to taste the best cupcakes in New York City. I gathered up some cupcakes from Billy's and we took a road trip to the Cupcake Cafe, Amy's Bread, Two Little Red Hens and Sugar Sweet Sunshine to try their most popular flavors.

Two and a half hours and 24 cupcakes later, we reconvened in their Queens living room to sample the goods. A traumatizing experience. The red velvet from Billy's and Two Little Red Hens were really pretty good, but why don't we use cream cheese in cream cheese frosting anymore, it seems to taste just like buttercream.

Post tasting, I decided I wanted to bake with all natural materials and try to avoid using food coloring. Since then I have been testing out my recipes, trying to work out a red velvet recipe without any red (beets!). After making 8 dozen cupcakes, me and my roommate, Rafael Soldi, set up a photo shoot for the little guys. I have been taking them around to friends and colleagues to see what people think, and so far its been really great!

All of the photo shoot photos were taken by Rafael Soldi. Check out his portfolio here.

Australia II: The Paintings

My residency in Australia came at a perfect time, after a long struggle with several friendships, I was looking for some solitude; for time to reflect on my thoughts and process it through my work.
After graduating from Pratt, my work has become less outwardly social and iconographical and has become more and more about my personal life. Where my paintings used to depict allegories, they now focus on social awkwardness and my day to day interactions with people. This is a very welcome shift, and I am happy to be able to express these feelings somehow, if not in words then in images.

I have always been a process junkie. I appreciate the steps it takes to achieve a finished composition. Each step, to me, is a sketch and an image in its own right. I begin my compositions as line drawings, which are then redrawn and painted in black and white acrylic as value studies. Using those two studies, I create small color studies in oils on paper which I use to guide me in creating the larger works. I have always strived for very complex compositions, using hoards of entangled figures, whose limbs and bodies guide the viewer through passages of light and dark and intense and subtle color.

The first piece I started during my residency is called "A Tale of Great Shortcomings." It did not come to me that it was a version of Gulliver's Travels until one of the boys from Guildford asked me if it was. The painting is about not fitting in. I wanted to focus on having a tangible space for my figures to reside in, since previously I composed with figures and half assedly painted in some semblance of a space behind them. The shift in size of the figures was a very awkward to deal with, compositionally, but I am happy with the motion of this piece.

"Great Expectations" was started at home, before my residency. I have had many interests in my life, and have always strived to pursue many of them, at the same time. This year I found myself working at a gallery, painting, working at a chemistry lab and working at a bakery. In each situation, people pushed me to spend all of my time doing each thing, and for a long while I struggled with what I would do. I have known always that if I could, I would paint full time, but to paint full time I have to have a job, and to have a job means that I cannot paint full time, and which job, to work in chemistry I need more degrees, to teach painting, I need a masters, to bake, I need to dedicate epic amounts of time. This painting is about indecisiveness, I suppose, about wanting to appease everyone and still do what I love to do. An impossible struggle.

Formally, I chose to leave the center of this composition blank because I wanted to emphasize the swirling and commotion inherent to this piece, by forcing the eye constantly around the center, without allowing it to rest there. I was very happy with the way the color structure turned out here.

I began two other compositions during my time in Australia. They seem to act as a diptych. The first is called "Not Always Greener" and the second "A Dancing Partner". Both pieces are about relationships and lack there of. The first looks at how two different girls see the world, and the second is about finding someone who understands you.

Click on any of the images if you would like to see the images larger. More work from Australia can bee seen at DariaSouvorovaArt.com.


From February to March of this year I had an amazing opportunity to live and work in Australia. I was the Artist in Residence at Guildford Grammar School in Guildford, Australia.
Since finishing school, I have had little time to work on my paintings, so this residency was an amazing opportunity. Two months of painting every day, swimming and enjoying the amazing flora and fauna of Western Australia. A perfect combination, especially during the snowiest winter in New York.

I stayed at a little house on campus surrounded by grape vines and banana trees and huge marshes that dried out during the summer to leave fields and fields of hay. I worked in an amazing lofted studio which the school provided. It was above the art classroom and looked out at the marshes from a long wall made up entirely of windows.

The light coming through the windows was amazing and the eucalyptus trees I saw in every direction reminded me so much of twisted reaching figures that I began to incorporate them into my compositions. In every direction I saw beautiful creatures and plants thriving in their natural environment, where I had only seen them secluded in zoos and botanic gardens. The "pigeon" population in Perth are actually parakeets...amazing!

On the weekends I would explore the country. I spent time with Adam, who offered me the residency, and his friend Michelle who took me around to the beaches and the botanic gardens and took me on weekend trips to the country. I saw kangaroo and emu and touched a baobab and finally saw a place where orchids grow like weeds!

An amazing creature can be found on Rottnest Island. The Quocker is a miniature species of kangaroo and lives,

almost exclusively on Rottnest. The island was named after the creatures, as they were mistaken for giant rats. The little guys are so used to company that they can be petted and scratched and seem to have an affinity for chips.

I have an obsession with water and the ocean. I bought myself an underwater housing for my camera just before the trip and finally realized my dream of swimming with the fish! I went snorkeling in the reefs on Rottnest Island! I gathered sea shells from the bottom of the ocean and sang yellow submarine to some unsuspecting fish (and the dozens of sun bathers who could hear my muffled song through the breathing hole of my snorkle,


It was an amazing trip and I got an incredible amount of painting done. I hope I can go back some day.

More to come about Australia and the paintings I completed in my second post, coming up!