Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sweets, Sweets, and More Sweets

Because many residents of Lafayette are unfamiliar with our Chinatown neighborhood, I thought it would be a great idea to take residents on a tour of the area, pointing out some of the best local restaurants and grocery stores.  Along with my fellow RA, Joanna, we sampled Italian pastries from Ferrera Bakery this past Saturday.  Since 1892, they've been wowing New Yorkers with their cannolis and pignoli cookies.  All I can say is Carlo's Bakery better watch out; Ferrera's desserts are just as yummy, and the commute is a whole lot shorter.  Next, our group stopped at Tasty Dumplings.  For only $1.25, we were able to get each resident a dinner of five dumplings.  Our last stop was Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.  Notorious for their bizarre flavors, I sampled blueberry, red bean, and pumpkin pie before finally deciding on red velvet cake ice cream.  Just as quick as I finished, I started craving more.  Just writing this post, I'm pretty sure I'll have to walk back over there tonight for more. 

Sugar Plum Fairy Pops 
Sweet treats have certainly been on the brain.  So for this weeks floor program, I made cake pops.  I found the recipe in my Ballerina Cookbook.  This easy  recipe make 36 pops, but be sure to allow yourself plenty of time. 

  • 1 prepared cheesecake
  • 36 popsicle sticks
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon of shortening
  • Sprinkles (optional)
  • Chopped nuts (optional)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a tablespoon to scoop out 1-inch balls of cheesecake.  With clean hands, shape the portion into a ball.  Roll with you hands until the ball is smooth, and place it on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat to make about 36 balls. 

Place your popsicle sticks in the top of each cheesecake ball.  Make sure the stick goes almost through the other side, but not quite.  Place the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze until they're hard.  It'll take about three hours. 

When you're ready to dip the pops, break the chocolate into pieces and put it in a microwave-safe bowl with the shortening.  Microwave the chocolate on high for 30 seconds.  Remove and stir.  Repeat this step until your chocolate is melted, smooth, and creamy. 

Remove your pops from the freezer.  Dip each pop in the chocolate, tilting the bowl as needed to cover the cheesecake bowl.  Remember to hold the pop upright so the chocolate drips down to cover the entire pop.  Return each pop to the parchment-lined pan and sprinkle with your toppings (Besides sprinkles and nuts, I also chopped up peppermint sticks and drizzled melted peppermint patties on the top of  some for variety.)  Repeat this step for your remaining pops. 

Store in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Artist

When I was growing up, my dad and I would spend hours in front of the television watching classic black and white movies.  While most elementary students named Zoog Disney as their favorite program, for me it was all about Turner Classic Movies with Robert Osborne.   The older they were the more I liked them.  Beautiful costumes, rich story lines and brilliant acting consistently contributed to the top notch quality each movie goer expected.  I'd watch these movies and just think "they sure don't make them like that anymore."  Well tonight, I was proven wrong.

It's the late 1920s and handsome Hollywood actor George Valentin is the silent movie idol of the day.  While at the premiere of his latest project, he meets Peppy Miller, a star-struck extra and aspiring actress.  Sure Valentin might be married, but the two are instantly intrigued by one another, and Peppy's given a small role in his next picture.  After the movie wraps, Valentin and his producer are forced to realize there's a new fad in the movie business...talkies.  With audiences craving this fresh fashion, Valentin finds his future in the movie business to be quite uncertain.

Now, be prepared.  Even though this movie was released in 2011, it is a black and white silent film.   Repeatedly, I found myself laughing at this witty romance despite its lack of dialogue.  If you only see one movie that's been nominated as Best Picture for this year's Oscars, this should be it!

Book Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

After tearing through the pages of The Hunger Games series,  I found myself bookless with a week life of Christmas vacation.  I scrounged through my sister's bookshelf and found a title I'd long but forgotten.  Way back in 2009, on my first trip to the Strand, I'd picked up The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  I'd always intended on reading it but soon found myself drawn into the college freshmen lifestyle.  Fast-forward to 2012 and the 600+ pages seemed a little daunting, but I thought "what the heck; it'll keep me from having to make another trip to Barnes and Noble."

Steig Larsson's first novel about Lisbeth Slander, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, combines a murder mystery, a family saga, a financial intrigue, and a love story.  After a confusing introduction, readers quickly discover Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago.  She vanished without a trace, and her aged uncle is determined to seek the truth.  He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate.  Aided by the pierced and tattooed tech prodigy Lisbeth Slander, they tap into a vein of iniquity and corruption.

Be warned this isn't your mom's Nancy Drew mystery story.  The novel offers a thoroughly ugly view of human nature, especially when it comes to the way Swedish men treat Swedish women. In Larsson’s world, sadism, murder and suicide are commonplace.  It may take a little while to sort through the various Vanger family names but keep reading; it definitely starts to gain speed after the first hundred pages.

Unfortunately, one week of classes are completed, and already I'm thinking this is going to be one long semester!  The syllabus for "Japanese History Since WWII" had a wapping 13 books on it, so it doesn't look like I'll be having more fun reading anytime soon.  But, if I can somehow manage to squeeze in the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, I'll tell you have it measures up.

My Rating:  ****

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Re-Acclimating to the City

Creepily Watching Shoppers Below

Wow...this past week's been a little crazy.  My Christmas Break came to an close; the NYU RAs had winter training, and I only have 12 more hours until the Spring 2012 Semester begins.

After a month of southern living, I was lucky enough to have a day to readjust to the not-so-laid-back pace of city living.  This may sound a little silly, but one of my favorite places in New York City is the Macy's Starbucks.  My mom and I discovered it on the trip we took to tour NYU, and now whenever I find myself with a few hours to kill, I somehow always end up there.  There's just something about  drinking a latte and watching people shoplift below that just screams happiness to me.  Plus, I figure what better way to get re-acclimated back to the city life then by pretending to be a tourist.

Despite the calendar reading January, Georgia's weather wasn't hitting much below 55ยบ.  I'd gotten used to wearing skirts without leggings and short sleeve skirts again.  But on only my second day back, New York got a mini snow storm.  After walking to a meeting despite the falling flurries, I quickly came to the conclusion that there's nothing more beautiful than New York City in the winter, except the view of New York City in the winter through my apartment window.

Snow boots, not driving, super chapped lips, slippery sidewalks (all on top of working and studying)... I'm not really sure if I'm ready for all this yet.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rediscovering a Disney Classic

Tale as Old as Time, Song as Old as Rhyme, Beauty and the Beast....

Yes, I may be a junior in college, but Beauty and the Beast is still one of my all time favorite movies.  Belle's the best Disney Princess too.  She knows there's more to a man than just good looks, and in her opinion nothing beats snuggling up with a good book.  I've learned quite a few life lessons from her, so when I found out they were rereleasing the classic movie with a new 3D twist, nothing was going to keep me from going.  Knowing how much I love this animated love story, my good friend, Dalton, surprised me with two tickets to today's matinee showing.  Although no dancing dishes jumped out of the screen, it was worth the extra three dollars.  It had added depth and made it seem as though I was an actual guest of Lumiere and Cogsworth. 

Just in case its been a while since you've seen Beauty and the Beast, it's your typical fairytale.  Belle and her father live in a quaint French village.  After inventing a new contraption, he leaves his daughter for a chance to show at the fair.   However, he's directionally challenged and winds up in an enchanted castle. The Beast imprisons him, but Belle comes to her father's  rescue and offers her life for his.  However, she quickly discovers her captor isn't really a beast but an enchanted prince.  

Watching the flick on such a large screen, I noticed a few new things.  For example, in the tiny town all the shop signs are in French except for the bookseller.  Why's that?  Maybe because in French, a book store is libraire, which is a false cognate to library.  Sorry for being such a language nerd.  

Something else, the prince had to both love someone and have them love him in return before his 21st birthday or be forever a beast.  That's so early.  If the rules of happily ever after applied to my life, I'd only have two more weeks to find Prince Charming.  It's a good thing Disney doesn't write the script to my life, just that of my favorite movie.

But anyways, basically the whole point of this post is to encourage you to stop by you local movie theater and rediscover the magic of Beauty and the Beast.  And be my guest to check out this scene too; here's the moment where Belle and the Beast discover their love for each other.  It's all just so romantic!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Virginia Is For Lovers

Southern in the City from Richmond, VA
These past few days in Richmond have been a whirlwind of museums, monuments, and meals.  My mom's been busy with meetings, and I've been looking to the AAA Tour Book for entertainment ideas. 
Yesterday had a late start time.  Momma didn't have to be at Virginia College until 3, so we looked to the hotel concierge for lunch options.  Our massive Marriot had a list of downtown favorites.  We decided to be adventurous and exchange the typical sandwich from Subway for a meal from Millie's.  Despite its limited seating, this cute, eclectic restaurant had delicious options.  I ordered a fresh vegetable wrap while my mom had a roast beef sandwich.  For dessert, we split a pumpkin roll slice drizzled with caramel. 

 After she dropped me back at the hotel, I grabbed an umbrella and hit up the Virginia Library.  According to my guide book, it was supposed to be a gem of the city, but I found it to be nothing special.  Now, I'm a girl who loves books, but their content was lacking.  The few titles they did have were so ordinary I quickly found myself leaving in search of a little more excitement. 

The Historic Shockoe District had great reviews too.  With its cobblestone streets and quaint, independent sellers, I discovered this was more my style.  Great jewelry and books penned by indie authors could be had; unfortunately, if you're on a college budget, their prices might be a little too high, or at least they were for me.

After an hour or so of roaming the streets with my flimsy umbrella, I took shelter in the Virginia State Capitol.  I'm sure with my rain-soaked jacket and matted hair I was quite a sight for the in-session senators, but I wanted to see where the oldest legislative body in the United States worked.  The rest of the day was spent in the hotel; I snacked at the lobby Starbucks and ate dinner from the Concierge Lounge.  Countless episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras played on my big screen TV.  It was a very good day.

I'm Not So Sure If This is What Margaret Mitchel Had in Mind
As for this morning, I knew exactly where I wanted to go...The Museum of the Confederacy.  With more than 15,000 artifacts, it houses some of the most unique pieces from the War Between the States.  There of course was your typical gray jackets and rivalry, but I was particularly interested in the unusual objects from the "Knickknackery Exhibition."  Here, they had children's dolls and women's dresses.  The real garments of the day don't quite match the Scarlett O'Hara vision I had in mind, but they were still pretty cool to see. 

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I also paid special attention to cards soldiers made.  Even though they were battling Yankees, these men scrounged together bits of lace and cardstock to make sure their loved ones knew they were thinking only of them...oh what Southern gentlemen they were! 
Antique Valentines
Around noon, I made my way next door for a guided tour of the White House of the Confederacy.  Here, Jefferson Davis with his wife and four children lived from August 1861 to the War's end.  The home was restored in the mid 1980s.  Original antiques from the time period as well as Davis family heirlooms decorate the home.  It was quite an opulent plantation, certainly fit for a president.  If you're a history nerd or just like Civil War trivia, I'd certainly suggest you stop by both places; for only $15, admission to the two attractions can be had. 

For lunch, I made the walk to Comfort.  Located at 200 West Broad Street, its name certainly wasn't misleading.  The food was delicious, and their cute waiters made sure my glass of sweet tea was always full.  Moderately priced, I'd suggest it for any Virginia tourist who's hungry for a scrumptious Southern meal.

After eating my mac-and-cheese, I walked back over to the Capitol Building.  When I was there yesterday, I'd noticed the square's ultra green front lawn.  The weather's absolutely beautiful, so I scoped out a shaded bench and opened up my book.  A few chapters latter, I looked up and noticed a statue of Edgar Allan Poe stared back at me...how fitting. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Roll Tide!

ESPN Reporters deemed the November 5th matchup between LSU and Alabama as the "Football Game of the Century;" well tonight was most definitely the Rematch of the Century.  Just as I said in a previous post, the Crimson Tide deserved another shot at the Tigers, and tonight they proved why. 

After Maze pulled his hamstring in the first quarter, I was a little worried.  But the Tide was the first on the board with a first of five beautiful field goals by Shelley.  The key to winning this game was making less mistakes then their opponents; throughout the game Alabama played with confidence.  And at the end of half, Alabama had 13 first downs with LSU at only one.  The score was 9-0 in Bama's favor. 

After the band played, my mom, Dalton and Mrs. Amy discussed the commentators’ outfits.  They especially thought Gene Chizik, Auburn's head coach, looked particularly bad with his stripped suit and mismatched yellows. 

LSU really began to give up in the 3rd quarter.  Erin Andrews even said, "I've never seen an LSU team as lifeless.  Alabama's taken everything away from them."  Saban's Gang was riding Jordan Jefferson, assuring their score would remain at zero. 

Seven full quarters passed before the Tigers even made it into Alabama territory.  It was only in the game's last few minutes that a touchdown between the two teams was made.  Trent Richardson ran from over 30 yards and secured the Crimson Tide's title.  The Tide really did roll all over LSU with a final score of 21-0, the first shutout ever in any BCS Bowl Game.  It's the second National Championship for Alabama in the past three years, and there's no way anybody can vote a team better than the Crimson Tide.

After Saban was presented with the Coach's Trophy, AJ McCarron won the offensive award, and Courtney Upshaw won the defensive MVP. 

My little brother and dad were in New Orleans for the Big Game and I'm sure they're celebrating the Tiger's taming.  I can't wait to hear their stories and see their pictures, but I hope they remember I'm a fan too and would like a souvenir.  

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games

As much as I absolutely love books, I'm not exactly the fastest reader.  I'm not one of these people who can just pick up a 400 page book and finish it within 24 hours.  But, there's a new trilogy that's made me do just that, The Hunger Games.  Written by Suzanne Collins, its genre is young adult fiction.  That's not usually my cup of tea, but its combination of nerve-racking tension, thrilling action, and engaging love story kept me up until the wee hours.  Seriously, I was surprised at how engrossing the plot was! 

The Hunger Games is set in a future, post-apocalyptic North America, known as Panem.  The country's been divided into thirteen districts, each controlled by an iron-fised Capitol.  After a rebellious war broke out, District 13 was wiped out, and the remaining twelve were left to the Capitol's mercy.  As a reminder of their power, once a year the Capitol selects a boy and girl from each the twelve districts  to fight to the death on live television.  Told from the point of view of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, the real action begins with the selection ceremony.  When her younger sister is selected to attend the games, Katniss courageously volunteers to take her place.  

The Hunger Games is the first in the trilogy, and already I've started reading  the second book, Catching Fire.  I'm only 100 pages into it, but already I'm engrossed in the story line.  As for who would like this book...well if you ask me, any person who enjoys reading would love it.  Collins has made sure there's something for everyone.  

Also, the first movie of this action packed trilogy is set to be released on March 23, so get to reading! 

My Rating:  *****

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Adventures for a New Year

Birthday Becky
Goodness; I can't believe it's been so long since I've written a new blog post.  I'm so sorry, but I've been without internet access for the last few days.  Quite a bit's happened for the Thublin/Schien family.  We visited my cousins in Orland; my sister turned 19, and my mom surprised us with an excited New Years trip to the mountains.  Of course there's been a lot of cupcake baking with all this celebrating, but a few unexpected adventures have transpired as well.

For Becky's 19th Birthday Party, she requested an evil witch themed party.  Complete with candied apple cupcakes and a table full of presents, it was certainly a shindig.  After she blew out her candles, we were told we needed to set about packing our bags, for the next morning we'd be heading to a cozy cabin in Fort Mountain State Park with the Tribbles (you may remember them from our 2011 Beach Trip or Summer Cabin in the Woods Weekend).

After just three hours in the car, we were up in the mountains.  A full 2,108 feet separated us from sea level.  Of course, the view was absolutely spectacular.  That's one thing you won’t get in New York City…a beautiful view filled with trees. 

Our cabin was the perfect size for our family of nine and one little brown dog.  The only thing missing was a fireplace grate.  The temperature would get down to below freezing, so this led to our first adventure.   My sister anticipated a late night New Year celebration with an afternoon nap, and the remaining three girls made the trek down the mountain hoping for an open Ace Hardware.  Just our luck, it had just closed and wouldn't be open until the 2nd.  On our shopping trip to Bi-Lo (Mountain Town's version of a grocery store), I noticed this metal stand that could become a make-shift grate.  We had our own Thelma and Louise moment and decided to “borrow” it. 

After our could-have-been-run-in-with-the-law, we went back to Cabin 9 and rang in the New Year, watching the Peach Drop on our tiny TV.

Forget the Subway, I Have a New Mode of Transportation  
The start of 2012 brought a new resolution:  I want to be more adventurous.  And on the first, I had my first opportunity...horseback riding.  That's right, this wanna-be-1950s housewife turned into a mountain woman for an hour long ride on a big horse named Picket.  Before leaving the stables, our guide comforted me by saying Picket's their gentle, babysitting horse.  Usually, it's the little kids that ride him.  But, that certainly wasn't running through my head as we broke out into a fast trot.  Of course, there were no major incidents.  The only scare you could say was when I dropped one of my monkey mittens.   And the trail was the prettiest place I've ever been too.  We saw three waterfalls and more than enough trees for me to fill my quota.  

Of course, I couldn't be kept out of the kitchen for long.  Mr. Steve Tribble is a New Years Baby, and he was celebrating a big birthday (the big 6-0).  So after our hour long ride, we drove back  I did what I do best...made more cupcakes.  There's no denying my love for him because, despite the fact that I root the Crimson Tide, our party was Auburn themed.  Navy and burnt orange sprinkles or iced AU’s decorated the chocolate cupcakes.   

The Wonderful Birthday Boy, Mr. Steve

Attempting to Make Smores
January 2nd had a few unexpected adventures as well.  After lunch, I made s’mores over our open fire (what would we have done if I wouldn’t have found that grate???).  Sure, this may not sound too crazy to some, but for me it's pretty out of character.  The afternoon ended with a two mile hike up the mountain to see the fort that's given the GA State Park its name.  The sign's a bit misleading. It just says "Site This Way:" it somehow forgets to mention that its way up this super steep hill that’s made up of  about a billion step.  But, the view from up top was breathtaking, and we took some goofy pictures in front of the mysterious fort.

I was a little sad when we had to pack our bags and leave the cabin this morning.  I know, beautiful mountain towns probably don't have the best news stations, but it sure would be fun to leave in one someday.

The Five Kids In Our Matching  Lumbermen Jackets