Jan 30, 2011

Half-Assed Sponge Cake

I flop therefore I am.

Recipe for a Half-Assed Sponge Cake
  • 2 tsp cough medicine that "May cause excitability or marked drowsiness."
  • Blender with chopping attachment for half of butter and sugar mixing process until you realize your mistake and swap it for the whipping attachment.
  • Measuring cup with faded measurements so you can never be sure just how much sugar/flour you're adding. 
  • 1 cake pan instead of two, because your mix is too stiff and won't fill out two tins.
  • A steady hand to shave your half sponge in half (quarters?), so you can continue to beat/chase that dead horse.
  • 2 cartons of heavy cream and a carton of ripe strawberries to camouflage/distract from warped cake.
  • A healthy sense of humor/more strawberries for when you (sob!) overwhip one carton of cream—the one meant for the top of the cake.
  • 2 undiscriminating boys who don't know/care what a sponge cake is supposed to taste and look like.
I don't look too bad from here ...
We all have our bad angles.
 An old make-up technique known as "Making the most of what you've got to work with."

Cue Kate Bush: "Don't give up, you still have friends. 
Don't give up, you know it's never been easy. 
Don't give up, somewhere there's a place where you belong."

The good news is that my bad sponge tasted a lot better than it looked. If you'd like to make a less unfortunate-looking/more sponge-like cake, you can follow Mise's poetic recipe:
"Whisk 3 eggs with 3 oz sugar,
determinedly. Fold in 3 oz of flour.
Bake. Add jam and cream." 
I know I will next time.

Jan 28, 2011

This weekend ...

A few things distracting me from my end-of-week to-dos right now:

The Villagers at Vicar Street

This footage (by Arbutus Yarns) of The Villagers live at Vicar Street in Dublin  last month makes me want to see them live again. I might have to travel to catch them as they're heading Down Under next and then onto an arena tour of the UK and Ireland. Check out their dates here.

Macha Jewelry Moves to Brooklyn

Sad for London and happy for Brooklyn as Irish designer Bernice Kelly announced this week that she is relocating Macha Jewelry to Brooklyn. (My stalking tactics worked!) They're celebrating with an up to seventy percent off sale at MachaJewelry.com

 Irish Figure Skater Clara Peters

I'm always surprised when Irish people prove handy at skills that come less than naturally  (to Irish people) like surfing, elephant-farming, or ice-skating. I wanted to be a figure skater when I was a kid but my guidance counselor mocked my lack of skates/ice-rinks/sequins and said I should be a nurse. I guess Clara Peters had a more supportive guidance counselor, as she is competing today against some of the best skaters in Europe at the Short Program of the Ladies event at the 2011 European Figure Skating Championships in Bern, Switzerland (and blazing a trail in the ice for the sport in Ireland.) You can keep track of her progress at the Ice Skating Association of Ireland.

Irish Poetry Now
The 2011 Irish Times Poetry Now shortlist (aka All The Irish Poetry I've Missed in the Past Year Shortlist) was announced last week and I'm hoping to track down copies of all five nominated collections this weekend. The winner will be announced at the end of March so there's still time to catch up on what we missed last year:
A Fool’s Errand by Dermot Healy
Maggot by Paul Muldoon
Until Before After by Ciaran Carson
The View from Here by Sara Berkeley
Human Chain by Seamus Heaney

Now I'm off to try and remember how to bake a Sponge Cake.
Remember: Friday comes but once a week so make it a good one!

Jan 27, 2011

Snow Day

More           snow. Do you feel the foul language between the words "more" and "snow"? Ugh, it's too early in the winter to be feeling as mentally snowed in as I felt this morning when faced with nineteen inches of snow at my doorstep, so I forced myself to welcome the snow with open arms (for the record this is as easy as smiling in the heat of an argument). I reminded myself that I love snow. I repeated this thirty-seven times to commit it to memory. I took pictures of the felted tree branches hanging over my stoop to make myself notice, and acknowledge, their beauty. Then, I sang to my shovel.
"Don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work.
Oh don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work.
Don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work
Or you'll end up where you came from like the rest of us
Diggin', diggin', diggin' ...
And don't forget your shoes and socks and shirt and tie and all.
No don't forget your shoes and socks and shirt and tie and all ...

Mr Murphy's afraid you'll make a claim if you take a fall.
("how's it goin'" "not too bad")
We want to go to Heaven but we're always diggin holes.
Oh we want to go to Heaven but we're always diggin holes.
 Yeah we want to go to Heaven but we're always diggin holes.
well there's one thing you can say...we know where we are goin'...
("any chance of a start?" "no" "okay")
And if you want to do it... don't you do it against the wall.
If you want to do it... don't you do it against the wall.
Never seen a toilet on a building site at all.
There's a she'd up in the corner where they won't see you at all.
("mind your sandwiches")
It worked! I'd forgotten just how much I love this song, and before long I was sweating up a storm as I sang (just like Christy Moore himself) and scattering snow like a sheepdog scatters sheep. I took advantage of the slow pace forced upon passersby to smile and say good morning. I talked weather—past, present, future, domestic, and international—with the dentist next door. I tipped my shovel to young fellas out trying to make a few bucks shoveling driveways, and I even spontaneously, and anonymously, shoveled a neighbor's sidewalk and steps! I felt only love for my neighbors up the road who ALWAYS shovel/decorate by dawn and then judge everyone else on the block (ahem, me) who doesn't pull their weight as fast. Yes—only love.

It's supposed to snow again this weekend. I'll be watching the video of Christy Moore's "Don't Forget Your Shovel" before I face it (possibly barechested). Maybe you should watch it, too, to help you whistle as you work your way through the end of this week ...

Jan 26, 2011

Spotlight: Mia O'Connell

Some people have skeletons in their closets; I have ghosts. Ghosts of sizes I used to be and styles I thought I would one day become. I decided this past weekend that I can no longer bear to be haunted  by ghosts of misses past every time I'm looking for something to wear, so I'm ghost/closet-busting. I'm parting with delusions ("this will look great when my growth spurt happens" or "this will fit right when my growth spurt stops") and parting the waves of hangers for new, smarter choices that suit me—and not the Brazilian/Danish/French me I sometimes wish I could be.

I was feeling goosepimply and sorry for myself until I came across hot young Irish designer, Mia O'Connell; now, I feel I was meant to make room for her gorgeous designs. O'Connell graduated from The Limerick School of Art and Design in June 2009 and started her own label—Mia O'Connell—in January 2010.  I'll be keeping an eye—and several hangers—open for her chic and modern capsule collection (released last year and hopefully on sale by now!) when I'm home next month.

In the meantime, I'm thinking I need one of her silk chiffon pom-pom mohawk headpieces (available in her etsy store) to keep my streamlined new wardrobe interesting.

Jan 24, 2011

My New Phobia

This is exactly how I feel today ... maybe I should see a quack? (ba-dum tsss!)
Anatidaephobia by Paris-based Irish graphic designer Claire Gallagher.
 Ever feel this way?

Jan 23, 2011

This weekend ...

It's cold out and only getting colder so I'm in hibernation mode. I spent last week running around and was doing my best to spend the weekend lying around until a new duvet cover arrived and triggered/demanded a room makeover, which in turn triggered/demanded a dustball chase, closet makeunder, and mid-life crisis. I wonder if this happens to squirrels.


Damien Rice singing on "There are Debts," the title single of Dubliner David Hopkins' album. I haven't heard anything from Damien Rice in ages, and I'd forgotten how much I like his voice (maybe because I'd filed him next to Sara McLachlan on my take-a-break/do-not-playlist). This video lacks in the moving-image department but the song makes me want to resurrect Rice and find out more about US-based David Hopkins. Think I'll give his album a go this afternoon.

There Are Debts at Amazon.com
Stalk David Hopkins on Facebook


Room by Irish writer Emma Donoghue. I've been lost in Patti Smith's Just Kids for the past few weeks and so Emma Donoghue's much-lauded Room was a little bit of a shock to the system when I started it this week. It's the story of a boy and his mother imprisoned in a tiny room for years, and honestly, I felt so uneasy when I first started reading it that I thought to return to Just Kids ... but I couldn't leave it, and I'm so glad I didn't because Room has me held captive now.



I haven't checked out Mercury Orchid's Etsy shop in a while and a quick peek this morning showed that this Sligo-based jewelry designer has been busy making beautiful new pieces. Especially love her oversized Nestled in the Forests ring (the center image above), representing "Three droplets of water that nestle contentedly in the lap of the heart of the forest."

Now, back to my midlife crisis, Jets football food (great insulation against this cold weather), and trying on everything I own with my new duvet cover. Happy hibernating!

Jan 18, 2011

It's Raining Poetry

Rain and Tuesday can be a downer combination, but today it's okay. It's the kind of rainy Tuesday that forgives a top up of cream half way through your hot chocolate and indulging in poetry half way through your to-dos. I thought of this Seamus Heaney poem (about a musical stick native to the American Southwest) this morning as I was taking my wellies for a walk. It was nice to distract myself by listening to the rain, instead of feeling it ...

The Rain Stick
Up-end the stick and what happens next
Is a music that you never would have known
To listen for. In a cactus stalk

Downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash
Come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
Being played by water, you shake it again lightly

And diminuendo runs through all its scales
Like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,

Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
The glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.
Up-end the stick again. What happens next

Is undiminished for having happened once,
Twice, ten, and thousand times before.
Who cares if all the music that transpires

Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
Through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.

~ Seamus Heaney

Jan 17, 2011

Recipe for an Irish Vacation

I finally booked flights home to Ireland for a quick visit next month and I spent the weekend trying to stretch a week to accommodate family, friends, and vacation time, too. Every time I sat down to try and create a rough outline of things I'd like to see and do, I found myself creating a menu of foods I'd like to eat!

Left to right from top: Irish breakfast (with a side of mushrooms please), curry chip, garlic chip with cheese, Kerrygold butter, Salad Cream, Guinness, Taytos (cheese and onion as well as salt and vinegar please), black pudding (left over from the breakfast), brown soda bread, Club Milks (7 pack please), sausages, Brennans Bread ("Today's Bread Today"), apple tart with custard, fizzy cola bottles, mashed potatoes, mushroom vol au vent (I've only ever had these at Irish weddings and they don't even sound Irish but I'm hanging for one!), Barry's Tea, scones with butter and jam, Bourbon Creams, 99 ice cream (with raspberry syrup please). 

Obviously this list does not speak to the culinary revolution that happened in Ireland after I left fifteen years ago; it speaks to my childhood. There's a story with every bite ... fresh apple tart with custard (before dinner) the day I was almost struck by lightning ... a bottle of tea for my grandfather in the bog—kept warm in a sock ... Mary Nugent's whole BOX of cola bottles at her birthday (the equivalent of a Bentley delivered by "The Situation" at a Staten Island Sweet Sixteen) ... buying Bourbon Creams from change I found in the couch that Mrs. Hayes thought I stole, and so said Jacqueline couldn't be my friend anymore ...
On this trip home, I hope to update my palate—and stories—with some nettle soup, local cheeses, and wild smoked salmon ... if I have time between Tayto sandwiches.

Jan 12, 2011

I Should Wear White More Often

Everything looks prettier in white ...

Yesterday, there was dog poop, uncollected garbage, and polluted snow on my block. Today, there's dog poop, uncollected snow, and polluted snow on my block; you just can't tell!

Jan 5, 2011

Electronic Sheep

I read an article about Guinness heiress and fashion muse Daphne Guinness in the New York Times at the weekend and was inspired to jot some of her thoughtbytes on playing with fashion into my trusty notebook/list of quotes to inspire resolutions (and maybe even revolution):
"Of course I get it wrong 60 percent of the time, but it's about the experimentation ... Even though I am not trained at this, I try to find new ways of expressing myself and to use whatever it is I have creatively. "
I love to get dressed. I love to play with layers, textures, and patterns. Thing is, I work from home and—I know it's no excuse, really—but the mailman just doesn't appreciate it when I have successfully pulled off the stripes-with-florals look. The one time he commented on my get-up was to tell me to lose the long bohemian skirts and wear shorts—completely disregarding my protestations that I don't look good in shorts! Adding to my mailman-don't-send-me-flowers issues, I have to walk almost fifteen blocks to pick up my son from school every day, and I'm usually running late, so my shoes have to be practical. Once you start wearing practical shoes, before you know it you're wearing practical socks, too, and it's all downhill from there. Also, cry me a river but I get cold sitting at a desk all day, so any effort made in the morning is usually buried under bulky socks and sweaters by afternoon. Sigh, it's so bad that my youngest bought me two pairs of ski socks for Christmas; I DON'T SKI!!!

Daphne Guinness and I have nothing in common (unless she actually drinks Guinness) but her words spoke to me. I, too, want to experiment. I want to use whatever I have creatively. I want to be less ... dull? Sadly, practicality has taken root, so I also want to be warm.

Enter Electronic Sheep (On a sidenote: I would love an electronic sheep!) ...

Electronic Sheep is an Irish fashion label specializing in graphic knitwear accessories. Designers Brenda Aherne and Helen Delany graduated from Dublin’s National College of Art and Design (Aherne in Fashion, Delany in Graphic Design), and after much work and world-travel experience, they came together to establish a knitwear label, specializing in accessories and demonstrating strong visuals and inventive use of color. Their Autumn/Winter 2010/11 collection, "Pyramids & Pipes," takes its inspiration from Sir Francis Drake's early European perceptions of the New World, as well as the perceptions of more recent sailors than Drake. I'm in love with this collection, with the piling on of interesting layers, and I'm inspired to be warm and cool, too.

Lov-lov-loving the knitted triangle scarves available in their online store from €35—€70.

Stalk them on Facebook