Monday, April 30, 2007

LiveSTRONGer

I can't feel my thighs, or my butt... No actually, I take that back. I can feel them- a lot. Because the entire length of my leg from my hips to my calves is aching to high heaven right now. Just getting up from the couch took so much effort I audibly groaned just to go to the fridge to get water.

Jude and I took our bikes out for the first time this year. Bill & Jolie- who we met via Libby- were going to bike into Ypsilanti and asked us to come along. It was yet another beautifully blue day and we needed little nudging to abandon everything to spend the day out :) These guys have been doing this for the past 7 years and know exactly the prettiest, most scenic route to take. Jude and I biked from our place to meet them at Gallup Park (about 2 miles or so), and then we all rode into Ypsi together (this leg is more or less 6 miles). The motivation for everyone apparently was that we were going to end up at the Corner Brewery where you would replenish all the calories lost with beer and cheese :)

This was the longest bike ride we've done- 16 miles (26km) in total- and honestly, I couldn't have gone on any longer even if someone paid me to- I don't know which would have given way first, my back, my butt, or my breathing. I have a feeling things are going to hurt even more tomorrow, which is why I've been icing my knee (just in case), and trying hard to massage my legs when I can. They feel so much like jello I can't even bring myself to get a glass of water because I don't want to have to maneuver down the stairs to the kitchen...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Jude's personal webpage - feedback anyone?



I have been obsessing over my personal webpage for the past couple of weeks. I don't know why ... well actually ... I do know why. Having graduated with a degree in HCI, I feel the pressure to not muck up my personal webpage. It's like if I were a plumber and I mess up my own home's plumbing, what would folks think ;)

Anyway, I've finally gotten the webpage into a decent enough shape for public consumption ... more importantly I just needed to get it done so I can move my energy on to other more pressing matters ... like graduating :)

So, folks, I am asking for some help here. Click on the image above to get to the webpage, and browse through it. I would love to get some feedback about what works and what doesn't.

Also, I am toying with the idea of getting a domain name and a hosting service. Any recommendations for a hosting service? As for the domain name, I am not sure whether I like the idea of having my own name as the domain name. I don't know ... what do people think? Is it too passe to have www.judeyew.net?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tune(s) of the week: Varo - "Pieces of April" & "Amores Perros"





This was a real serendipitous find! I've known that Taiwan has a burgeoning Taiwanese music scene but it's often difficult to find recordings even in Chinese music stores. There are a number of reasons for this; 1) there's an established chinese music infrastructure that makes it difficult for young bands to make a break, 2) my grasp of chinese is unfortunately very very bad, I tend to know the band's name in English but not in Chinese. However, random goggling around last night led me to Pacification Records - an online music store that specializes in music from Taiwan. It was here that I found out about Varo - You can find out more about them on their webpage and their MySpace site. What's interesting about the band is that they compose and perform original compositions of music that are their interpretations of prominent independent films. Hence the titles of the tracks that I linked from their website above. Good stuff I must say :)

Other Taiwanese music acts I am flagging for myself to check out:
Chasing Sparrow

Second Life more effective than first-life?



I must admit I have been rather skeptical about the hype surrounding Second Life but I didn't want to be a hater. So I decided to give Second Life another go this morning. The opportunity to use Second Life again came about when the Media in Transition 5 (MiT5) conference allowed individuals to participate in the sessions in real time and virtually. So I was all excited about that and really wanted to attend the plenary session on "Folk Cultures and Digital Cultures" today at 12.30pm.

The day began rather badly (I overslept) and had to hurriedly get logged-on to Second Life, figure out how to navigate myself to the conference location, make sure that I had the right permissions to join the New Media Consortium campus (NMC), figure out how to trigger the video ... etc etc. But I finally made it in time for the conference ... only to sit there waiting for the simulcast of the plenary session to screen. And as you can see from the image above, all I got on the screen was an icon for Quicktime loading for 45mins. And it wasn't just me; apparently most of the people who made it for the virtual simulcast, and who were not physically located in MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, were not able to view the video ...

Which makes me wonder ... why the extra overhead of using Second Life to be "virtually present" when only people who were physically co-located in MIT could view the video? I thought that was doubly ironic!!!

I haven't yet gone back into Second Life to see if the video issues have been resolved. And I don't want to be unfair to the organizers who have graciously tried to make sure that people who were not able to attend the sold-out MiT5 conference were able to do so virtually. However, it really begs the question about the virtues of Second Life that have been hyped all over the media. It really was a lot of extra overhead in terms of effort, processing cycles and bandwidth to attend a conference virtually.

On the plus side, I was able to interact with the folks around me. For example, I was sitting next to a certain "Doug Whittaker" (see image above) and we were helping each other out with the video simulcast problem. I don't know who "Doug Whittaker" really is and he might even be halfway across the world from me. But we were sitting virtually next to each other :)

Update:
Given some of the comments that I got for this post, I thought that it's important for me to clarify that the image you see above highlights only myself and doug whittaker. In fact, there were several other people at the event. Hopefully, the image below will provide you with a better context of who else was there.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Makan sedap


Tempeh tauhu goreng
Originally uploaded by jyew.
It was a trip "back home" for us tonight when we had Eric, Amy and Finn over for some home-cooked Singaporean comfort food. Ever since I was in Chicago, Jude's been on a gastronomic mission to recreate all our favorite foods from home- from char kway teow to sambal tempeh. And tonight, we hope we came close...
Dinner Menu
Kari Ayam (Singaporean chicken curry)
Sambal Udang (Sweet & spicy shrimp)
Tempeh Tauhu Goreng (Stir-fried tempeh and tofu with green beans)
Nasi Lemak (Rice cooked with coconut milk)
Kacang Ikan Bilis (Fried dried anchovies with roasted peanuts)

I was particularly happy with how my nasi lemak turned out- it was rich surely, but not overwhelmingly so that it distracted from the other dishes. My chicken curry doesn't come close to how my mom or Jude's mom make it, but considering how deprived we've been of this most basic of Singaporean comfort foods, tonight's version was a virtual godsend. And especially on a rainy, cold evening like tonight, rib-sticking, spicy food hit just that right spot. We can't claim credit for everything though- due credit must be given to James Oseland (& his book that Jude bought me for my birthday) and Prima Taste for being vital members in tonight's little experiment ;)

Most importantly, we had great company! Eric and Amy even brought us a sampler of all-American desserts from Zingerman's- pecan pie, Canadian maple syrup pie, and lemon meringue pie- to complement the Southeast-Asian entrees sampler :) And of course, there was also the after-dinner entertainment that they so thoughtfully brought along with them- a most precious display of delightful, spontaneous Finn-ness as the little one ran around our coffee table and laid on the floor with Jude with his toy airplane :) Thanks for coming guys, and for joining us on our little gastronomical trip home!

[Photos here.]

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rockabye baby...

Jude's friend, Nate and his wife just had a baby, and instead of the usual gift-card, toys, or baby blanket, we thought that it might be kinda fun to give Nate something to gently initiate the baby into the big bad world of grown-up music. Baby Rock Records produces a line of baby-friendly records that are in fact sweet, lullaby versions of sometimes rather loud, unsweet, and definitely not slumberful tracks. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world of cherub rock!

We only managed to download the U2 and The Cure albums, but you can hear excerpts from all their available albums on their website. The main instruments used are the glockenspiel, harp and bells, so the tracks are indeed extremely soothing. And trust me, some of these tracks will really make you smile :)

Not everything translates well though- the compelling strings of "All I Want is You" end up sounding kinda discordant with the bells, and "Friday I'm in Love" definitely loses some of its exuberance in the translation. But there are of course songs that lend themselves naturally to this sort of re-intepretaion: Radiohead's "No Surprises" is one, and I love almost every excerpt I've heard on the Coldplay album. The Beatles works pretty well too (especially "Here Comes the Sun".)

So there- who would have thought that we would one day hear a lullaby rendition of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", although do you really want to send your baby to sleep to Metallica's "Enter the Sandman", lullaby version or not?

Monday, April 23, 2007

"Take me out to the ball game..."

Guess who went to her first baseball game today? :) Rick, Emilee, Rick's friend, Michael, Libby, Jude and I trooped up to Lansing today to watch the Lansing Lugnuts play the Beloit Snappers at Oldsmobile Park. I don't get the game much (what I know, I know from playing softball a couple of summers ago, and even that's not much at all...), but it was just a gorgeous day to be sitting out in the sun with thousands of other people, stuffing ourselves silly with greasy, overpriced food. I am convinced that spring just passed us over and summer's here already, because everyone was in their shorts and tank-tops, Emilee busted out her sunscreen, and there were definite "roast" casualties ;)

Anyways, we had fun just soaking in the wonderful atmosphere- parents and kids everywhere, the cheering fans, the overstuffed mascot (whom we really empathized with in this weather), and the all-round infectiously good cheer. Sitting there watching the game, eating hotdogs and listening to the Van Morrison and the Beach Boys that was playing, I could just imagine that I was experiencing the quintessential all-American Sunday.

In the end, we didn't stay for the whole game- and the Lugnuts lost- but all of us had a great time, and this girl is definitely looking forward to her next baseball game where she puts on another 895 calories for $19 while listening to The Foundations' "Build Me Up Buttercup" and getting delectably roasted by the sun :)

[Photos here.]

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Dude abides...

I tried. Really, I did. Despite attempting once before to watch the whole thing through and failing miserably, I agreed to sit down with my husband as he watched his all-time favorite movie- for the 112th time- that just happened to be on TV.

I still don't get it.

I love the Coen brothers- from The Hudsucker Proxy to Fargo to Oh Brother Where Art Thou?- but the appeal of The Big Lebowski, and Jude's (together with a veritable legion of similarly-inclined male 30-somethings) undying devotion to the movie will always continue to elude me. Maybe there's something about trying to watch anything vaguely intelligent after 2 in the morning, or maybe it was the incomprehensible censoring that completely obliterated any trace of the divine John Turturro.

Or maybe I just have to accept the fact that The Big Lebowski will always be one of those incomprehensible things whose popularity will baffle me forever... like decaffeinated coffee, reality TV and Will Ferrell.

"Then I look at you and the world's alright with me..."

Today was one of those days that couldn't have been any better had I personally orchestrated each and every moment myself... :) I woke up early from the guilt of having slept at 10.30pm last night, but that also meant I manage to get quite a bit accomplished by the time I went to school for a meeting at noon. By this time I was already feeling kinda good about how much work I had done- not so much that I was tearing my hair out, but just enough to make me feel like I was sorta kinda on top of things...

It was a spectacularly gorgeous day out- one of those days that made you feel like you could do just about ANYTHING. It also felt like a day that a girl should look just that little prettier than usual, so I busted out my capri pants and a sweet polka-dotted silk blouse I got when I had gone shopping with my cousin when she was here. Plus little handmade earrings Jude bought for me when we were back in Singapore. It's a girl thing, but it always feels nice to dress up a little bit, and what better way to celebrate the coming of spring by attempting to look somewhat stylish? ;)

It was a uncharacteristically stressless and panic-free research meeting which is why I believe that divine powers must have been at work to make today a perfect day- no new deadlines, no last-minute assignments and no frantic nervous breakdowns... Perfect :)

The best part of the day was when Jude and I just spent the evening on a little impromptu date :) Nothing special, and it was precisely more precious because of its simplicity. We got my favorite mango ice-cream from Stucchi's (deliriously creamy and yummy), bought a camping back-pack from Bivouac (it's one of those with 295 straps hanging from everywhere but makes 30 lbs of weight feel like nothing), had a surprisingly good dinner at a newly-opened Taiwanese eatery- Asian Legend on William Street (anywhere that serves crispy fried chicken wings that good is fine with me), and bought two records- The Band's Music from Big Pink & Thelonious Monk's Monk's Dream from Encore Records. Jude's finally going to buy a second-hand turntable from Kiwanis tomorrow and we figured we should have at least a couple of vinyls to play when we bring it home.

And just when I thought that the day couldn't get any sweeter, we come home to find what in our kitchen? A brand new refrigerator!! I had written to university housing yesterday to report that our fridge has been leaking and expected them to just fix the leak. But noooo.... And not only did they give us a brand new fridge, they had helped us move all our food from the old fridge into the new one. Even if we had expected a new fridge, we would have thought that they would make us empty the fridge on our own before moving the new one in. Honestly, we've never felt better about living in university housing. Go Blue!

So there, a vague sense of self-accomplishment, gorgeous gorgeous sunshine, ice-cream, good food, a couple of vinyls, a new fridge and a wonderful date with my husband. The perfect ingredients for a perfect spring day.

How was your day today? :)

The Observatory - 3-album free concert


Just a shout out to my pals in The Observatory and to congratulate them on the launch of their new album "A Far Cry From Here". Judging from the band's latest blog entry, the launch of the album seems to be a successful event.

Also, the band is going to be playing a free performance at the Esplanade Outdoor Powerhouse stage. The performance is going to be a special one that will go through material from all three of their albums in chronological order. This concert will definitely give you a sense of how the band's sound (and Leslie Low's songwriting) has evolved through the years. Check out this excerpt from the track "Enlightense":




If you have the time and are in the area, drop by and watch the show :)

THE OBSERVATORY - 3 ALBUM SPECIAL
Saturday Apr 21, 2007 at 7:30 PM

Stage@Powerhouse, Esplanade Outdoor Free Seating

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sam turns 14!

It's moments like these that make me miss home the most- when I can't be there physically to celebrate those important days that mark my family's calendar- my sisters' and parents' birthdays, Chinese New Year, or my parents' wedding anniversary.

And especially so for Sam's birthday- she will always be the little girl, no matter how old she's turning. I wish I could be there today to watch her open her presents, or blow out her cake; I wish I could bake her her birthday cake- ok, I know my limitations- just birthday cookies maybe... but most of all, I wish I were home to give her a birthday hug, and tell her in person what a wonderful young woman she's grown into and how proud I am of all that she's done and become.


Happy Birthday Sam! And Chets misses you very, very much... :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pop! goes my knee...

I had blogged here about how having my little Nike+iPod transmitter has been nothing short of an absolute lifesaver in terms of motivating me to run. I've been keeping up the running regiment, and coupled with the strength and breathing I got from yoga, I was feeling really good about my exercise routine in general.

But about a month ago, my left knee started bugging me. It wasn't like I was in pain or anything, but it would hurt every time I walked up or down the stairs. I figured it was just a slight strain that would go away eventually. And I was hoping that the week off from exercising when I was in Chicago might help. But at the gym yesterday, I really felt the pain and I knew something wasn't right.

So I went to the doctor's today and without even taking an x-ray, he told me that my left kneecap had become misaligned and is now inflamed. Ok, it sounds nastier than it really is (I hope...) and he said it was good that I went to him today. A couple more weeks without attention and he would have had to put me through physiotherapy. He gave me a knee sleeve that I now have to wear all the time except when I sleep, some anti-inflammatory drugs, 20-minute ice-pack treaments three times a day, and I'm not allowed to run for the next 10 days. I can still use the elliptical machine which might help actually, and I have to work on strengthening the quad muscles along my thighs so that they can better support my knee.

I'm a little bummed that I won't be able to keep up the gym routine for a while, but can I confess that deep-down, I'm actually a little proud of this injury? For the longest time, I had never been an active person and as I always maintain, exercise is pure necessity, little pleasure; but precisely because of that, it's also kinda cool that I've been disciplined enough in my regime to have actually gotten injured from it. It's embarrassing how terribly self-indulgent this sounds... Jude says I should think of it as some kind of battle scar :) I won't go as far to say that I'll miss running, but I'll definitely miss the guilt-free munching and snacking that I heedlessly indulge in after a good workout! :)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Hoax

So the American Typewriter font is little shout-out to one of the most delightful movies we've seen since Little Miss Sunshine. It's a consummate Spring release- sunny and light-hearted, but with enough seriousness to make you sit up and pay attention. No one's winning any Oscars here but who cares? The actors were having fun playing each of their well-written roles, the audience loved every moment of it, and in the larger scheme of movie-making and entertainment, what more could you ask for?

The Hoax is a wonderful romp of a film- funny, witty, a little sad at times, but all round good fun. It was a little hard for Jude and I to comprehend America's obsession with Howard Hughes and why an autobiography of him would be such a big deal, but that's besides the point. Watch it for the exquisite cast- Richard Gere obviously (who does so much better acting his age and not pretending to be the swoony leading man he no longer is...), but also Alfred Molina and Hope Davis in particular (I wonder how I'll look in a tunic dress, clunky shoes and blue eye-shadow...). The writing is sharp and concise and on the whole, it felt a little like Soderbergh's Ocean's 11 but with nine less accomplices and no stylish suits (not of the Clooney-Pitt variety anyway...)

Director Lasse Hallström also made Chocolat and has since been better known for flakier confections such as Cider House Rules and Casanova. Thankfully though, The Hoax achieves a greater complexity of tone. For the most part, it is a jumpy, suspenseful caper, chockful of narrow escapes. But it has a sinister undertow as well, a shadow of dread that emerges once Irving’s game begins to unravel. And that, is what I call a good Spring movie- just the right touch of fluff and gravity.

There's a veritable treasure trove of information on the web on the whole Irving-Hughes hoax, as well as its accompanying conspiracy theories involving Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. There is of course a Wikipedia entry on Clifford Iriving who incidentally also has a website of his own where he talks about the hoax, disavows parts of the movie as being exaggerated and inaccurate, and continues to try getting his "authorized" autobiography published.
I was on a train of lies. I couldn't jump off.
-Clifford Irving
the end.

Tune of the week: 1234 - Feist



Having watched Feist at the Blind Pig last year, I can safely say that her positive stage energy is seriously infectious. And I think that it really comes across in this music video. Most probably filmed in one single take, I am seriously impressed at the choreography and coordination it must have taken to pull this performance off. Also, watching this video brings to mind the genre of the "Broadway-esque mass dance" in music video. Presently, Bjork's "It's So Quiet" comes to mind as being most similar in form and aesthetic as Feist's video. However, this isn't Feist's only mass dance - inspired music video, check out her performance on previous tracks such as "Mushabooom" and "One Evening" (well, the last video isn't exactly a mass dance, but you gotta lurve the grooving in the track :) ).

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bliss is...

...coming back to Ann Arbor to see the sky a perfectly cloudless azure blue, to experience temperatures above 40 degrees for the first time in a week, and having the most satisfying meal in days- Jude's homemade char kway teow waiting for me at home :)

It's great to be back!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Morning has broken...

My fever broke :) And now I'm famished! All I've ingested in the past 32 hours has been a cup of coffee, one Italian cookie, a couple spoonfuls of tomato soup, half a cup of pomegranate tea and a chocolate chip scone.

Think I shall get myself some Jamba Juice from downstairs... :)

Gross...

So that brisk walk in the morning ended up into a full-blown chill and fever in the afternoon. *Shoots*!... I was feeling downright wretched, and the blustery winds as I walked back to the hotel didn't help. I ended up sleeping from noon to 7pm, simultaneously battling the fever and boredom from bad afternoon TV and even worse acting by Reese Witherspoon in Mira Nair's Vanity Fair that was on HBO (ok people, honestly, with the exception of Meryl Streep, American actresses should categorically NEVER act with a British accent- hear this Renee?)

I was supposed to grab some dinner and hang out with friends tonight to kinda celebrate our presentation going well, but there was no way I could have been able to walk more than two blocks or stay outside in that dastardly weather for more than an hour. Dinner ended up being a chocolate chip scone and pomegranate tea from Argo Tea Cafe around the corner. I had no appetite whatsoever, and although I'm usually not a tea person, the sweet, slightly tart tea was incredibly soothing and helped settle my nerves a little.

I'm still having a fever, but I've managed to purge some of it out by heaping myself with extra blankets. I just want to feel better enough tomorrow to take the train comfortably.

As if I don't miss home enough already...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wet and not-so-wild...

Abysmal does not even begin to describe how gross the weather is in Chicago right now. It didn't help that we had to wake up at 6.30 this morning to brave the wretched icy rain and wind to get to our 8.15 session. So much for looking sleek and stylish at the presentation- think tousled and soggy, more likely.

But it went well and we presented to more than just the five people we were expecting (I'm amazed anyone was awake that early on this spectacularly gloomy day). People had nice things to say and we got some interesting feedback, so that was good.

I'm off to more sessions now, but really, I just can't wait to get home- this has just been a really yucky week to be in Chicago. And at risk of sounding like a clingy parasitic spouse, I really do miss Jude. So there, another 30 hours and I'll be back in Ann Arbor- probably equally wet and cold, but at least I'll be considerably happier :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Little Miss "Slightly-Less-Unhappy"


Yup, chintz wallpaper...
Originally uploaded by jyew.
Ok, so I decided to get myself out of that grumpy rut by doing something about it. Whining wasn't going to make things any better. I called the front-desk and told them that I was just unhappy with the room and not comfortable with being on the second floor and directly next to the elevator. Plus I'm sharing the room with my friend, Sarah, and we'd rather have two twins instead of a king bed. And guess what? Speaking your mind works! They gave me a new room, on the 7th floor, and with two twin beds :)

The only thing now is that for the next four nights, I'm going to be sleeping in a room that looks like it came straight out of The Age of Innocence. We're talking chintz wallpaper, with matching pillows & tapestry, and wall-papered bathroom with gold-plated faucets. Any moment now, someone looking like Daniel Day-Lewis is going to knock on my door and ask me in a crisp turn-of-the-century aristocratic American accent if I need room service... :)

Little Miss Unhappy

So here I am, sitting on a king-sized bed at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago. It's rated as a 4-star "Elegant" hotel, but honestly, it's closer to "shabby chic". This place has clearly seen better days (apparently, in the '40s, it used to be some kind of meeting place for the mob...); I have a feeling that some of the fixtures are meant to recreate some kind of regal opulence, but ermmm... they don't. And they put me on the second floor next to the elevator. Not happy :(

So I'm here for the annual giant education conference, and I have to say, I'm honestly not looking forward to it much (and be warned, I'm going to start whining here...)- it's been a gloomy, snowy day, none of the sessions I went to today were particularly informative, I had bad coffee (what could be worse?), and although it's only been 10 hours, I'm already missing home... The only saving grace was a more than pleasant train ride from Ann Arbor. I definitely recommend taking the train- it's a scenic route, you save yourself the grief of thinking about parking when you get here and you have all that free time on the train to relax.

Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow if the sun comes out. If not, you know you'll hear about it...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Of blogs and pomegranates

Yup, time to change the blog template again. Without our own house to redecorate, I guess the closest approximation to choosing drapes and wallpaper (not that we would ever have wallpaper) is re-doing the blog AGAIN...

We've had the same blog layout for almost 2 years (although the images and colors have changed) so I thought this three-column design might be a refreshing change. I'm sticking to the fruit theme though- don't ask me why. Maybe I just like pomegranates...

The blog's design has evolved quite a bit over the last 3 years, and with it, our coding and customization skills.

The first two were basic Blogger templates- one was too light, and other, too dark:



I briefly toyed with an Arcade Fire template in 2005 but for some reason didn't stick with it. I think it was a little too cluttered for us:


Next was my homage to Laura Ashley in bright pink and blue. I liked it quite a bit and we stuck with this layout for a while. But I think the neon brightness and paisley print might not have sat too well with my husband ;)


The last template was the "A good pear" one- I liked that very much and it was the cleanest and lest cluttered of our designs. And I loved the pretty little daisy.


But like I said, we've had that layout for a while and so to usher in the spring (once this spectacularly ridiculous cold spell blows over!...), I thought to give ghetto of our mind a little spiffying-up :)

This might be a good post to do something Noor calls a comment open-mike night. If you’re reading this post right now, leave a comment with your name, how long you've been reading our blog, or just say "hi". We'd love to hear from everyone!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Shirlyn Tan- Newfound Jealousy

Here's just a plug for an old classmate Shirlyn Tan who's releasing her first solo album this weekend at the Esplanade in Singapore!

We were close in secondary school but unfortunately didn't keep in touch after we graduated. We managed to catch up again a couple of years back, and Jude & I even went to one of her first concerts at the Esplanade. That was really moving coz it got me remembering how much Shirlyn has always loved music.

I think it's wonderful how she's stuck by her dreams all these years and continued to pursue her deep passion- something so few of us get to do. If you're reading this in Singapore and have some free time over this long weekend, pop by the Esplanade and watch a dear old friend of mine make her dream come true... :)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Free Cone Day!!

Don't say you haven't been forewarned... :)


Press Release: On Tuesday April 17th from 12pm until 8pm participating Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops around the world will be hosting Ben & Jerry’s Annual Free Cone Day.

Tune of the week: This is the day - The The



Uncharacteristic track from Matt Johnson - i.e. it's not a song of despair and a Thatcher-esque Armageddon - that has now become the soundtrack for the latest M&M ad.

Posting this video got me thinking about how the music of your youth has become associated with commercials and advertisments. Check out this hilarious post on identitytheory.com that ruminates on the co-option of music from youth culture for commercial ends:
It’s clear to me now that many of the pop songs of my youth will be turned into commercial jingles. Sometimes this is a shocking process, but oftentimes it’s just disconcerting. Iggy Pop selling the cruise liner life? Nick Drake selling cars? I lose my bearings when I hear these things.

And now a song I associate with all manner of psychic dead ends is trying to sell me pants.

Trousers.

With pleats.

While we are on the subject of music/icons of one's youth being disconcertingly associated with products and goods, Eric Cook has alerted me to an ad featuring Blixa Bargeld, lead singer of Industrial music outfit Einstürzende Neubauten. I am unsure whether it is a masterful stroke of genius to cast Bargeld in a commercial where he reads from a product catalogue as though it were performance poetry. Did Bargeld sellout? Or is Bargeld making turning the whole "celebrity" endorsement on its head? Watch below and judge for yourself:

"Far" away...

It was inevitable.

The moment I saw this pic on srah's Flickr album, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would try the recipe too. And I did :)

A far is a custardy pudding cake, with a dense, smooth, flan-like texture. This one, a far breton, is studded with brandy-soaked prunes, and is apparently the signature pastry of the region of Brittany, served for breakfast as well as dessert.

Ingredients

* 3 large eggs
* 2 cups milk (or 1 cup milk and 1 cup half-and-half)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for pan
* 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 cup pitted prunes (or dried cherries)
* 1/4 cup Armagnac or 1 cup hot tea, such as Earl Grey
* Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions

1. Place eggs, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, and melted butter in a blender or food processor and blend for 1 minute. Add flour, and pulse several times. Pour batter into a pitcher, cover, and refrigerate for 3 hours, or preferably overnight.
2. Meanwhile, place prunes, 1/4 cup water, and Armagnac in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until prunes are plumped and the alcohol no longer smells pungent, a few minutes; set aside to cool. If using tea, place prunes in a heatproof bowl and pour tea evenly over fruit. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and set aside.
3. Place rack in center of the oven and preheat to 375°. Butter an 8-by-2-inch round cake pan; or use an 8 inch skillet. Place the pan on a baking sheet.
4. Remove batter from refrigerator and whisk to reblend. Forcefully tap the bottom of the pitcher on your work surface to break any top bubbles. Pour batter into prepared pan. Add the prunes, evenly distributing them within the batter; discard any remaining soaking liquid. Bake until top of the cake is puffed and brown and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire cooling rack and cool to room temperature. If desired, dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Ta-dah!

It was gooood... I used 2% milk because that's all we had, which worked just fine, so I guess it's a matter of how rich you prefer your custard. Also, the recipe calls for the prunes to be soaked in armagnac but we didn't have any so I soaked them in Earl Grey tea instead. I actually kinda liked the faint bergamot aftertaste in the prunes- plays off the richness of the custard and the sweetness of the dried fruit (which plumped up nicely into burstfuls of pruney goodness!). Jude didn't quite care for the prunes though so I'm glad I didn't put more of it. I might try it with dried cherries next time. And it really is great both warm and cold- we had it for dessert last night, AND breakfast this morning! :)

Thanks Sarah!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Are you messing with me??

It was a gorgeous Sunday- the sky was blue, the clouds marshmallow-white. All the kids in our neighborhood were out in their shorts and t-shirts on bikes and scooters. Driving in the heart of Ann Arbor was great, with people smiling everywhere, milling on the streets with ice-cream, their friends, children, & dogs, and waving at you as you drove by. Sunlight does that to you I guess... :)

Walking along the trails in Pinckney was beautiful. It was cool without the chilly bite, you could see the spring sunlight peeking through the tall foliage. Hopeful small shoots were beginning to sprout and some tiny flowers were already blooming. Mountain-bikers shot us by as they zoomed through the trail, but were kind enough to always say "hi" and "have a good day". Like I said, sunlight does that to people.

Spring is indeed here.

Oh, by the way, it's going to snow on Wednesday.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

You say biscuit, I say scones...

Ok, so it took the me- the British-English educated Singaporean- a while before I finally figured out that cookies (U.S.) are biscuits (U.K.), biscuits (U.S.) are scones (U.K.), scones (U.S.) are in fact just giant rock-buns (U.K.), and no one I know in the U.S. knows what rock-buns are...

One of my favorite travel writers, Bill Bryson has an entire book on the humorous trivialities of the the English language, and more significantly, the differences between the American and British varieties. The Mother Tongue had me so tickled that I once burst out laughing out loud on the bus as I read his description of the consequences of the confusion between "lift" (U.K.) and "elevator" (U.S.).

But I digress from the point of this post... So I made biscuits (U.S.) today, and really, they tasted more like scones (U.K.) and nothing like scones (U.S.). Back home, many of the places (see here and here particularly) still serve scones the British way- small, warm, flaky, buttery, with jam, and uncompromisingly, to be had with tea. The biscuits (U.S.) I made today were savory (with goat cheese and green onions) so they're not quite the same; but the moist, buttery consistency had a definite scone-like (U.K.) quality. For those of you reading in Singapore, remember the time when McDonald's had two types of breakfast sandwiches? McMuffins and biscuits- the latter is the richer, more buttery one. I think it was a little too rich for the Singaporean palate, especially with a sausage patty so it was discontinued (they won't have biscuits (U.S.) for breakfast but Singaporeans will have greasy fried noodles and coconut-rice with fried fish and eggs at 8 in the morning... I miss nasi lemak!!)


The biscuits (U.S.) I made today are from Simply Recipes, fast becoming one of my most favorite food blogs next to Orangette. It was really easy to make and the only thing I had to keep note of was to not over-knead the dough to keep the final product light and fluffy. I'd recommend a tad more goat cheese and salt just for a little more depth of flavor, but on the whole, it was quite good for a first attempt. Maybe next time, I'll make it a sweet biscuit (U.S.) with more sugar and dried fruit, then they'll really become scones (U.K.)! Or add less butter and baking soda for scones (U.S.)!

“England and America are two countries separated by the same language.”
George Bernard Shaw

“England and America are two countries separated by the Atlantic Ocean.”
Eddie Izzard