Monday, February 14, 2011

my kind of valentine.

Having culled the best of the best from Twitter suggestions, NPR have created a series of public radio themed Valentines, which, it has to be said, would win me over any day of the year.  Thanks to Becca for the link!
I for one will be spending Valentine's Day stacking Gala apples into aesthetically-pleasing pyramids and trying to resist the temptation to buy chocolate and baby roses with my employee discount.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

hyperlinked apologies, or the best email i've gotten in a long time.

My 24th birthday is swiftly approaching, so I invited a few friends to celebrate with me in New York for a variety of activities, included, but not limited to: improv comedy at Upright Citizens Brigade, burgers at Trailer Park Lounge, and jukebox partying at The Library.  My friend Jackie can't come, but she completely made up for it by sending me this hilarious email (if any of the links don't work, blame Mark Zuckerberg):

Hey Shin

I'm super sorry but I can't make it down to the city this weekend! School is just crazy, shocking, I know. Anyways I'm pretty bummed because (aside from seeing your shining face) I've recently been getting into Parks & Recreation which makes me think of UCB bc of Amy Poehler. I was actually just trying to explain it to someone. Which sketches are the ones that you would always watch? I want to show them to everyone and/or watch them at 7:30 pm on Saturday so we can be doing the same thing...I'm such a hopeless romantic! <3

mmmmk well I'm sorry again that I can't make it. I guess you can have a "Lovers Concerto" with someone else at the Trailer Park Lounge. Tell me what the special surprise is...I'm really curious.

xoxo    :-*   lylas    ;-)    


If being a fancy lawyer doesn't work out, perhaps crafting hyperlinked emails could be a valid career choice...


Monday, February 7, 2011

grade 3 plants a flower.

If you haven't heard by now, I lived and worked in South Africa last year as an Augustinian Volunteer.  I taught English in a Zulu primary school not far from Durban five days a week, to children in Grades 3-7.
This is a silly and very amateur video I made of one of our projects.  On Earth Day, Mary-Kate and I asked our third graders to decorate (hlobisa) a petal we'd cut out of white paper, which we then assembled, and... well, just watch the video.

Music by Orba Squara.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

chocolate orange cake.

As I mentioned last time, I decided to bake a chocolate orange cake for my sister's 21st birthday.  While many people don't love fruit and chocolate together, I think that chocolate, especially of the dark variety, and crisp, citrusy orange is a match made in heaven.
The cake turned out quite dry, but the delicious ganache frosting made up for it (in my humble opinion).  I used a few substitutions, but for method stuck quite strictly to the recipe.

(1) melty chocolate (2) orange zest (3) batter
(4) stiff egg whites! victory! (5) in it goes (6) out it comes
(7, 8) the finished product (9) mumsy and the birthday girl

Chocolate orange cake,
adapted from the Avoca Café Cookbook

6 oz dark chocolate (70% cococa)
6 oz unsalted butter
8 oz sugar
6 eggs, separated into yolk and whites
Grated zest of 3 oranges
5 oz self-raising flour -- if you have it; I used all-purpose flour and added a bit of baking powder... almost forgot that step but yanked the cake out of the oven when I had realized my mistake
Orange slices, to decorate

For the icing:
4 fl oz double (or whipping) cream
8 oz dark chocolate (55% cocoa) --  I used Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark With Pieces of Orange and Almond Slivers and it worked really well, if you like almonds
1-2 tablespoons Cointreau -- I used Bailey's and it was deeeelicious

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Break up the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler (bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water-- but make sure not to get any H2O into the chocolate!).  When melted, set aside.  Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the egg yolks.  Stir in the melted chocolate and the orange zest and then fold in the flour (and a bit of baking powder if you're using all-purpose flour-- don't make the same mistake I did).  Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff and fold them into the cake mixture.  Spoon into a lined round 9 inch cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Remove from pan and leave to cool on a wire rack.
To make the icing, put all the ingredients into a double boiler and leave to melt.  Stir until smooth (unless there are pieces of almond in the chocolate, obviously) and then remove from the heat and set aside for about 20 minutes.  Spread evenly over the cake and decorate with slices of orange, and Joyeux Anniversaire! if your sister is an avowed Francophile.

Try not to eat it all in one sitting; the icing is rather rich. 


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

joyeux anniversaire

One's younger sister only turns 21 once in her life, and there are only so many times a number of one's college friends can gather together in the same city.  Thus, I spent the weekend at Villanova, my alma mater, for some good ol' (disappointing) college basketball, quality time with old friends, and birthday celebrations.
I coerced my friend Diana to drive up the dreaded PA Turnpike with me late Friday night, and we arrived on campus just in time for a French-themed fête at Niamh's apartment, where red lipstick, cheap wine, and striped apparel abounded.
Saturday morning took us bright and early to the Wells-Fargo Center, where after some raucous tailgating and joyous reunions, we watched Villanova lose to Georgetown in quite a nail-biter of a second half.  Oh well.  After snacks and lots of lounging, our stamina failed us and we ended up choosing bedtime over bars.  Typical postgraduate behavior.
We spent Sunday morning eating sandwiches and getting caffeinated at Milkboy Coffee in Ardmore, an excellent haunt where I spent many a long thesis-writing weekend as an undergrad.  When our drinks were finished, we ran around campus in the winter sunshine, reminiscing and trying not to look too out of place-- next time, we'll bring backpacks.  After saying goodbye to friends, Niamh and I got ready to meet our parents and little sister for dinner at Sangkee Bistro in Wynnewood, where we ate lots of delicious Asian seafood, showered Niamh with birthday love, and laughed at our waiter's ridiculous antics.  And then, after the family had gone home, there was a trip to the bars for a celebratory drink (or four) come midnight.
On Monday, I walked back to campus to meet up with two of my former professors.  Though reminiscing about college life with my friends on Sunday left me feeling a bit bereft, the strange feelings lessened come Monday, and I felt as though I could have sat there, drinking coffee and talking for hours.
Confession: I not-so-secretly long to have the life of an academic.

I left campus and drove home with the Arcade Fire blasting, the window down (halfway), and feeling very positive about life.  It was so nice to sit down and instead of discussing philosophy paper deadlines or conjugating the ever-elusive subjonctif, we could swap book titles (and actual books), chat about interesting movies, and catch up on life in general.  It was very nice indeed.
Optimism continues to prevail and I feel quite confident that whatever direction my life is due to take in the next few months, I will still have some really great relationships with my family, old friends, and other acquaintances I can count on for intelligent conversation, movie recommendations, and des spectacles (merci, SW).

And now, some photos:

Post-script:  I baked the Avoca Cafe chocolate orange cake for Niamh's birthday.  Recipe to follow.