Saturday, March 27, 2010

Let's Kill 'Em!!!

Hi guys,
So sorry for not putting something up in  a while.
The internet here has been down for the past few days, coupled with YouTube having some technical issues= no vlogs (or blogging) for a while.

Over the past few days quite a few remarkable things have happened.
The US barely passed the new (and historic) health care bill.
The real story though, was how the Republicans, some of their supporters and some individuals from the Tea Party Movement took it upon themselves to endorse and support acts of hatred, intimidation, vandalism and violence towards those they disagree with. 

Over the past few years, we've seen many issues on which the country was completely divided. The Iraq War, how to save the US economy, and sending aid abroad, (to name a few) but I genuinely never thought that we'd collectively get to a place where directing homophobic chants at senators whose policies we disagreed with was encouraged, or where violent acts and cases of vandalism were somehow acceptable because of differing political views.

When did all this become ok?

I understand that there will always be those that are more extreme in their views than others.
And that there will always be one or two who will act out violently.
But seems like a sizeable portion of the population is headed in that direction, and what's even more dangerous than that, is that they think violent action is an acceptable response to an outcome they don't like.

I guess when history looks back at this time, the warning flag would have come in the form of the man who flew his plane into the IRS building.
While it appears that he had long standing issues with the agency, and certain political views, what is most disturbing is that very few people condemned his actions, and some even appeared to understand his motivations.
It is the beginning of a very slippery slope.
And though I acknowledge that I am a pessimist at heart, it seems as though the US is headed in a very dangerous direction.
*
In an effort to rein in on the madness going on in Washington, and the apparent encouragement by some Republican members of some of their supporters' more radical actions, the DNC has asked the RNC to join them in signing a 'civility' statement calling on "all Americans to respect differences of opinion, to refrain from inappropriate forms of intimidation, to reject violence and vandalism, and to scale back rhetoric that might reasonably be misinterpreted by those prone to such behavior.” 
This statement comes at the end of a week which saw acts of vandalism and threats of violence directed at members of Congress from both parties, but mostly aimed at Democrats who voted “yes” on the health care bill. [POLITICO]
Now guess what the RNC response was? 
Hell no.
I guess one can't expect too much from a party that thinks its acceptable to depict Nancy Pelosi surrounded by flames or who distributed racial songs aimed at the President.


To be honest with you guys, the whole thing makes me sick.
What's worse though, is that the RNC isn't even willing to make the symbolic gesture of condemning attacks against those you disagree with.
The GOP has truly gotten out of control.


Just some of my thoughts.
I should have a few vlogs up soon!
Hope you're having a great weekend.
Lyla

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Perching Cookies, Little Pies & Flowery Kittens!

Hey Guys,

So this morning I got the urge for some more pastry baking.
I find myself drawn to more to conceptual desserts, than based off of how it's going to taste.
The more unusual (or miniature) the dessert gets, the more I'm interested!

It all started a few moths ago when I spotted this adorable little gingerbread house perched on a side of a mug at not martha.

It is so unbelievably cute, and simply irresistible.
The only problem is I lack the patience and the ability to make sure each one fits absolutely perfectly.
So yeah.
A few weeks later I saw this over at Reader's Digest.
It's official.
Having things perched on the side of (or floating in) your drinks is the cute culinary thing of the moment.
So this morning I decided to finally get around to making my own (way way way simpler) version of this trend.
Basic sugar cookies with your tea.
As usual, by the time I went to get my camera (and to leave them to cool off for a minute or two), all the best ones for perching had mysteriously disappeared.
I ended up making some bird cookies (which I thought would look the best), some angel ones, and a few hearts. I then just cut a slit in the cutout!
Easiest thing ever! (and I can guarantee your visitors will love them!)

After completing these cute cookies, I decided to tackle another backing prject on my to-do list.
Little 'Pielets'.
You know little pies..
These cute little pies were very easy to put together if you have everything prepped from before.

Earlier in the day I had already made the crust [scroll to bottom] and left it to chill in the fridge, and I also had quickly whipped up some crumble topping by mixing some flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon.
For the filling, I rummaged through the fridge and happened to stumble across some pear and lemon jam I had made two weeks earlier after my mum had come home with an insane amount of pears.
That's what I happened to have in the fridge, but I'm pretty sure almost any fruit or jam with the crumble on top will work.

To start things off I just rolled out the pastry, and cut out circles using the top of a mug.
Fitted them in a cupcake tin, and started filling them up with jam!
To test the best combination for future pielets, I decided to make 3 with crust tops, 3 with crumble and crust stars, and the remaining 3 just with crumble topping.
In the oven for 15 minutes, and you have the cutest little dessert!
As these were in the oven, my Mum was doing some gardening outside, and called me over to see the antics that Baby was up to!
Can you spot him?
Playing with leaves...
...and basking in the sun!
Just as this picture was taken, my Mum had moved to the other end of the garden and started raking some fallen flowers, and he was right behind her!
I happened to take this short clip before the sprinklers came on!
Oh and I've been trying to upload the latest vlog for the past two days... this 11 sec clip took 50 minutes... so yeah. Hopefully the internet will pick up tomorrow!

Anyway, sorry for such a long post....
Hope you're all having a great weekend!
Lyla.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I Am A US Bashing Lib (Apparently)

Putting oneself out there is a very difficult things to do.
And from the general response and messages I've received from my latest vlog, I've definitely hit a nerve.

It constantly astounds me that the comments of a stranger can hurt so much.
Can keep me up at night, or make me doubt myself.

The comments of an anonymous individual who knows nothing about me except for the fact that I look young, naive, talk softly, and generally seem like I know nothing.
It would be easier to know nothing.
Because then I would think I knew 'the truth', and have the ignorance that comes with that.
Instead I know that I am in no way infallible.
And I try everyday to gather and learn as much information out there as possible.
Past that, there's really nothing I can do.

No one is completely right,
and neither is anyone completely wrong.
It seems like most people in the US political system have forgotten that.

-Lyla.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dry Felting A Baby Seal


A very special someone, knowing my love for crafting and little animals gave my the cutest felting book ever. 
The only problem was that I live in the Middle East.
And at times, it's hard to translate 'carded unspun wool', or trying to explain what a felting needle was.
So I spent the last few months trying to unravel wool (in hopes of creating 'fluff') then using a normal needle.
Suffice to say it did not work. 

So when I got back home to find an unexpected package at my door, from this same person (after hearing all my whinging about it not working), full of everything I need to make my own little animal!
It was SO exciting. 

I flipped open the book today, looking for the easiest animal (I don't like failing at my first try!) and decided to go with the little seal.
Isn't he adorable?
I have to admit that it wasn't as complicated as I thought it would be (given that I'm terrible at sculpture work, and there wasn't really any instructions).


I also didn't realize it at the time (because I was so into it/super excited about the outcome) but it did take me longer than I thought.  About 2 hours or so.

I introduced him to Soda, and they seemed to hit it off!
Getting to know each other...
A bit closer now...
Best Friends.
Talk to you soon,
Lyla
Oh and if you're interested, a new vlog is up!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bab Al Bahrain & Slimey Syrian Salesmen

Today's been one of those incredibly busy days.
I decided to trek out in the morning to see the new renovations on the center (or main souq) of old bahrain.  It's known as Bab Al Bahrain (the door of Bahrain), and back in the olden days boats would enter the city through that gate.
It's now quite far from any sort of water.
You know.
Modernization and whatnot.
But I digress.... so I decided to go check out the 'new' souq, and it's much better than I would have thought.
The walls seems plastered and are a gorgeous shade of white, mixed with a modern arabesque dark wood make the place seem incredibly serene.

Even though it was a hot day, the tented area, along with the architectural structure created this amazing breeze, which was perfect.

**
After a morning of browsing and people watching, we got home just in time to partake in one of Bahrain's latest fads... the home salemen (gosh... the proper word seems to have escaped my mind... you know the guys who come round to homes and sell -usually housewives- some amazing new product... a vacuum machine, a blender etc etc.)
Well this guy was trying to persuade us to buy a water filter.

Since Bahrain is a desert island, it's pretty hard getting fresh spring water for daily uses, so anything that comes out of the tap in pretty much undrinkable. So for a nifty solution, water companies have sold water coolers (with 'sweet' water as they like to call it) for drinking.

To explain the ridiculousness of the situation, here I am sitting with my mother, the main salesman, and a rookie that he's trying to teach the ropes. As it turns out he happens to be the manager of the company, so there was quite a lot riding on this sale.

He basically ends up using 10 minutes worth of talking material over a span on an hour and a half.
Neither my mum or I had any intention or desire to buy the device (which he knew walking in), but we were a receptive audience.
The conversation went as follows:

Syrian Salesman: This water purifier is the best thing since sliced bread. It's by far the most amazing thing for your families health and well being. 
Look it does this.... this..... this..... this.... AND this.
So what do you think? 
Do you want to buy it now? 
How about now?
It's only USD$3000!


Mum: (trying to find a way out)...well... even though I agree with everything you say... and it is an
amazing product, I can't buy something like this without consulting my husband first....


SS: Well...ok.  But let me ask you one question first... 
[me in my head: no.... don't do it... don't go there...]


SS: ....Do you care about the health of your family? 
Do you realize that everyday you go without this product you are slowly killing your children (he then points in my direction)... 
Wouldn't you want to sent your daughter to school (that's right... apparently i'm 16 again) with a cup of tea knowing that you're not killing her slowly?


Mum: Well... ummm... no... I guess not..


SS: Don't you care about them? DON'T YOU  LOVE THEM? Your daughter is convinced... (he then looks at me....) aren't you?

So by this point this theme of conversation has gone on for about 40 minutes, I'm behind on lunch making, my mum is trying to be polite and tell him gently that she can't buy anything without discussing the issue first.
Knowing how she is, she is incapable of being direct when it matters.

So I took the opportunity and said:

Me: Well even though that display was pretty nifty (he tested the water with electrodes), it doesn't really indicate anything concrete from a scientific perspective, and while I'm sure your product is aweome, no one in this house buys anything instantly.  A lot of research goes into what we get, so if your prduct is as amazing as you say it is, you'll be getting a call form us in a day or two.

I swear to god, I've never seen anyone's face change so quickly.
I didn't think I'd said anything too out there (I mean if it was me, I'd want someone to tell me I was wasting my time, instead of yammering for an additional hour and not get anywhere!)
So here I was, the manager completely shocked, the rookie trying really hard not to start laughing at him, and my mum just shocked.
Just sitting there, too scared to look away.

So yeah.
That was my morning.

Oh and them I hit up the pool.
It's officially summer in Bahrain.
You heard it here first!
Lots of love,
Lyla

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How to Make A 1940's Inspired Anthropologie Apron

So last night, after doing some tidying, I got it into my head to make an apron.
Why you ask?
Well... it's true.. .I am a very messy person, but that's not the real reason.
The real reason is that I had happened to spot THE cutest apron ever over at Anthropologie, and since then I haven't been able to get it out of my head.
It's very 1940's housewife look, but really liked the fact that it was somewhat elegant (as elegant at an apron can get I guess), and didn't have chickens or chili peppers anywhere near it! 
I especially loved the little ruffle at the bottom!

So I decided to look through my Mum's fabric box to find something similar, to make my own 'Lady's Apron'.
Here's how it turned out!
Note: the spoon is my sister's idea... 
....she thought it would add a more 'kitcheny' feeling. 
Why I listen I don't know.

So since I'm useless at sewing, I tried to make this whole process as simple as possible.
I hope this helps!

Things you'll need:

  • an old apron
  • material
  • scissors
  • chalk
  • pins
  • a sewing machine





1. Lay out the old apron that you'll be copying the general shape of, and iron it down the middle.
2. Fold your fabric in half, and trace around the apron, cutting a few cm's from the end (since we will later add the ruffle). Make sure that you add a good distance around the apron for the hem. This is also the time to alter the shape if you want.   Since there was very little material for me to work with, I made no alterations.


3. Pin down the hem of the body and sew.


4. Cut out a long (preferably double in length) and thick band that will become your bottom ruffle. 


5. Hem the edges with a sewing machine, and hand stick the top loosely.  Pull against the string forming the ruffles. Pin and sew the ruffle to the bottom of the apron making sure that the ruffles are distributed evenly.


6. Cut two more strips of fabric that will become the waist ties, fold them in half and iron them. Sew them, making sure to round the tips, leaving the other end open. Turn them inside out, and sew them to the rest of the apron. 


7.  Follow step 6 for the neck tie. I decided to make a non adjustable neck strap, so I just used one piece of fabric.

And there you have it, a 1940's ruffled apron!


spot the cat!

body shot

So yeah, I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and if you have any questions let me know!
Lyla


'Phew...I'm glad this is over...'

A Hammock & a Bird

So the past few weeks here, the weather has been amazing... just perfect.. it's warm yet it's there's a cool breeze, just perfect for sitting in the garden.

Every year when this sort of weather rolls around, all of us start wishing for a hammock.... we've been wanting one for years, anything that's no exorbitantly expensive.

Although living in a place like Bahrain is awesome, the lack of manufacturing infrastructure means that almost everything is brought in from abroad... one of these items, is the ever-illusive hammock.

Given that hammocks here are ridiculously expensive, I finally realized that I could try to rig one up myself, and turned to Instructables in the hopes of finding something easy to do.
And wow... did I ever... I couldn't believe that one could construct a hammock without sewing anything together. All you basically need is some thick long material, and some long heavy rope. 2 minutes later, and presto....a hammock!
It's super easy, and I just watched it in video form here.
Now do  you guys remember the super cute little kitten that we rescued a while back?
Well he's now turned into a (not so) little monster, that I've dubbed him 'fatty'. 
He's grown so incredibly fast, and is so much bigger than any cat we've ever had (and he's still only 6 months old!)

Well right after I put together the hammock, he started going crazy and attacking it in anyway he could..

eyeing the strings
attacking the palm tree

I also ended up finding this cool woven bird tutorial on another site, and thought I'd try it out.

The author wears them as brooches, but I found it was a tad too big for me.... Planning on putting something together sometime soon that will really show off it's beauty!


Anyway, I should run...
Tc,
Lyla

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pi Day (3.14)

Happy Happy Pi Day Everyone!!!
WOOP WOOP!!

Source: Shane M. Hale

To explain my zeal, I feel like I have to tell you that for as long as I can remember, pi day growing up, was.... like.... the most awesomest awesome day ever. 
It was only one of the few days throughout the year (not excluding pancake day- a story for another day) that my very strict teachers at my very very stodgy British school would let us muck around, and eat pie!

So on this occasion I thought it would only be fitting for me to bake a pie, and well.... eat it.
But living in the house I live in, finding butter is like finding snow in my back yard. 
It's not going to happen. 
No matter how badly you want it to.
So yeah.
I just made fudge instead.

So from me, all the way in B-town, I hope you're all enjoying Pi day, and having an awesome day!
Be good,
Lyla.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Curiosity Killed The Cat

Cats have an amazing talent for unusual positions, and are constantly challenging the way you view the world.
Example:

I never remember to photograph things (thinking that i'll be able to catch them again in that position- wrong!), but for some reason, at the precise moment, I had the camera on me.

I was looking for my mum to ask her about something, only to find her in my sister's room changing her bed sheets.  Now Soda (pictured above) loves sleeping by the foot of my sister's bed, just where the light and warmth hits, and more than anything loves following my mum around.
Everywhere.
All the time.

On this occasion instead of waiting for my mum to finish what she was doing, she decided to sleep on the headboard (which really is only 5cm wide), dangling her arm off one side and her head off the other.
How she thought she could balance on the headboard I do not know.

Truly creative.

Have a great weekend,
L.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Curry, Gnocchi, Popsicles, Chocolate Banana Stud Cake & Molten Chocolate Cakes!

Hey Guys,

So I must have filmed about 2 vlogs since my last upload, but there seems to be something up with my account, so hopefully I’ll be able to put something up soon.

In other news, today ended up being pretty packed, and I went on a bit of a cooking bonanza.
I started off the day experimenting with a vegetable curry for lunch. It tasted amazing (nothing like I thought it would), and incredibly hearty.


As soon as I was done with that, I got the overwhelming urge to try and make gnocchi.  Although everyone in this house is a hardcore pasta eater, we’ve never really ventured that far from the basics.


So with that in mind I challeneged myself to some gnocchi making.
1.boil potato
2. "shred it" (super technical I know!), until it's super light and airy

3. Roll, roll and roll,and do that special forky thing, and ta-da!


 cute little pillows


I'm still shocked at how light and airy the dough was... not what I was expecting...


5 minutes after it was done.... 
I ALWAYS forget to take a picture of the finished product (more like I'm too hungry to remember!)

This recipe from Martha Stewart that I ended up using turned out amazing, and was incredibly fluffy.  It was a very easy recipe to follow (especially for someone like me who can miraculously mess something up), and didn’t take as long as I was anticipating.


Potato Gnocchi
Serves 6
4 large (about 2 pounds) Idaho potatoes, scrubbed
2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Place unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 2 inches with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high, and cook until tender, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill another large saucepan with cold water, add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. (These are for cooking and cooling the gnocchi.) Drain potatoes, and peel while still hot, holding them with a clean kitchen towel. Pass potatoes through a potato ricer or a food mill fitted with the finest disk onto a lightly floured work surface. Make a well in the center of the mound of potatoes, and sprinkle flour evenly over the potatoes. Break eggs into the well, and add 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and the pepper. Using a fork, lightly beat eggs, and incorporate the remaining ingredients to form a dough. Knead lightly on the work surface until the dough is soft and smooth.
Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Divide dough into four balls, and shape each ball into a rope 3/4 inch in diameter. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Shape the gnocchi: Hold a dinner fork in one hand, and use your index finger to hold a cut edge of a piece of gnocchi against the curved back of the tines of the fork. Press into the center of the gnocchi with your index finger to make a deep indentation. While you are pressing the piece against the tines, flip it away over the tip of the fork, allowing the gnocchi to drop to the work surface. If the gnocchi becomes sticky, dip fork and index finger into flour. The finished gnocchi will have ridges on one side and a depression on the other. At this point, gnocchi can be refrigerated on a lightly floured baking sheet for several hours before boiling and serving.
To cook gnocchi, drop half of them into the boiling water, and cook until they float to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat process with the other half of the dough.

I’ve come to realization that once I start cooking, I’m barely ever able to stop unless I’m  ingredient deprived, or I’m exhausted.
The next thing I ended up doing were some fresh apple and lemon popsicles (since it’s starting to get really warm here, and ice cream intake in the house has sky rocketed).

I then decided to make this intruiging banana chocolate cake from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes (via Project Foodie) for a little get together that my mum’s invited to tomorrow.
right out the oven


all glazed and ready to go


getting my chocolate chips ready....


all studded (though very differently from the original!)

I must be honest and say that the main thing that attracted me to making this cake was to stud it with chocolate chips! I love the idea, it’s so original!

Just as I was about to sit down, I remembered that my sis’s Arabic tutor was going to come, so I got back to work and whipped him a molten chocolate cake. 

As usual, the day was an ‘experience’.
Hopefully one day I’ll be able to install a more reasonable ‘on’ & ‘off’ switch.
Until then,
Lyla.


Some of my Vlogs

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