Archive for April 2010
I have been on a baguette quest at the stores near me and finally heard from a friend that Whole Foods has good baguettes by Semifreddis and Acme. Now, I don’t go to Whole Foods often. I usually find them so overwhelming and huge with a giant selection that I try to avoid going there. Sure, it’s nice to have so many things to choose from, but I also find it mildly stressful to have so many things to choose from.
But anyway, I headed to the Whole Foods and soon found myself standing in front of the ridiculous baguette selection. There were 4 or 5 different brands and each brand had at least 2 types: sourdough and french (which I am assuming is regular white flour?). A couple brands had seeded and multi-grain types too.
Honestly, it was a lot and I thought it was a little crazy. It reminded me of going to CVS after returning from a two-week Europe trip and being completely overwhelmed by just the shampoo/conditioner aisle. In Europe, there is much less selection and the stores themselves tend to be smaller than here. I find these much easier to handle and not so overwhelming, even if I am limited as far as my choices.
Back at the Whole Foods, I just wanted a regular old baguette and here I was picking my way between so many different types at once. I ended up doing the touch test and picked the crispiest french-style baguette (why can’t these just be called baguettes).
The cashier offered me a bag (it COMES in a bag, hello), but I turned it down, shoved the baguette under my arm and walked out of the store. I immediately tore the end off and ate it, walking the rest of the way home.
Oh, and I found this car on my way home. Pretty!
This week has been all about trying something new and learning new techniques. While a couple of them are food-related, the rest are just generally life-related. It’s always good to get out and learn something new, right? Keep on learning, keep on growing.
1. Making runny American yogurt edible
I have been trying to get back into eating yogurt and dairy regularly. First I started buying milk for my morning coffee, and then I started buying yogurt and fruit for breakfast. I don’t usually eat a lot of dairy-based foods, but for some reason I started craving it! Who knows… I bet it translates into some kind of vitamin deficiency when it comes down to it. I am not the sickly type, I swear!
But anyway, I usually eat Fage Greek yogurt, which is thick and creamy and lovely. Since I’m a little cheap, I ended up buying one tub of Fage and one tub ofregular old runny American yogurt at the store. I finished the Fage quickly and started eating the runny American yogurt, but found that it was just SO runny I couldn’t stand it.
Then I did a little online research (and asked my part-Greek friend for advice too) and found that I can Greek-ify runny American yogurt using a sieve, a paper towel, and a lot of patience.
So I did.
And it was thick and creamy and wonderful.
2. Just like regular cooking, but it’s s-l-o-w-e-r
Inspired by a friend who has recently taken up learning to cook, I decided to poke through a few recipes for the slow cooker and found this one refreshingly simple recipe for chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce. As you can probably guess, it uses condensed cream of mushroom soup, chicken, and a few other vegetables. You toss everything into the slow cooker, leave it for 8 hours on low, and come home to dinner.
I’m really pleased with how this turned out, but I think next time I’ll use pork and add some spices. It was rather bland for my tastes, but it did the job.
3. The winding path
I haven’t been riding my bike to work that much lately because of my incorrectly zoned train pass (I have to buy zone upgrades every time I ride, which is annoying and expensive), so it has taken me a while to figure out the best way to get to and from the station up in San Francisco. The ride isn’t too bad in the mornings, since there aren’t that many cars on the road when I’m out, but I think it’s a little dicey in the evening and I should really work to find a better route. Or I should grow some balls and not be so afraid of cars passing so closely. I’m just not used to it yet.
On the ride home, the nice thing is that I can now ride all the way from work to Menlo Park to catch a train up. I think at some point, I will make the ride from work to Redwood City since I seem to get to Menlo Park too early and have to wait at least 15 minutes in the burning sun. I’ve discovered that waiting off the platform is much cooler and nicer.
Oddly enough, I would like to point out that the way the train schedule works out, I get to work 15 minutes earlier now that I live farther away.
I am getting more and more interest in my little Bike2Lunch outings. I think the grand plan is to get a lot of momentum going for it, start my own Google Group, and open it to anyone who is interested. Eventually, I’d love it if I could get people who aren’t even in my area to organise their own Bike2Lunch outings.
And then I can take over the world!!
5. The gooey, sticky red stuff
I gave blood today. It was pretty hilarious because I felt like I was going to be turned away at any moment! In case you don’t know, I usually get turned away at blood donation events because of low iron. A couple times, they actually took a blood sample from each hand and centrifuged one of the samples, only to reject me after all. Well, today was my lucky day because even though I was disapprovingly borderline for a few of the preliminary tests, I still made it through by the skin of my teeth!
One really interesting thing I learned this time is that the blood center will turn away people with less than 90 systolic pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80. I usually have low blood pressure, about 110/60, but today I measured in at 98/64, which warranted a disapproving look. The lady did end up saying that in the end, it’s okay, but I should make sure to drink plenty of water so that my blood will flow better (the better hydrated you are, the faster the donation goes).
Oh, and I look totally bad ass because I have bandages on both arms (the first arm’s vein rolled around and was completely unsuccessful). And I also have a cool sunflower sticker too. Yeah. Giving blood is AWESOME.
I decided to start a brand new photo series. I haven’t been making photos at all lately, and have been only doing snapshots with the camera phone. Don’t get me wrong, the camera phone isn’t half bad, and I can prop it up and do self-timer shots pretty easily, like this one below:
I set the phone with the clamshell open on an empty seat, turned on the self-timer, and ran over to Blue and posed. I’m sure I looked like a psycho to anyone else who might have walked by and wondered what I was doing, but I got the shot. Yay.
So anyway, I’ve noticed that I take a lot more photos with the camera on my mobile than I used to. I can’t help it. It’s convenient, I have my mobile with me everywhere I go, and the photos aren’t that bad are they?
(Wait, are they??)
Actually, I don’t really care if the photos are bad anymore. I think I may be giving up on the idea of becoming a "good photographer" and settle for being "a photographer" instead. I think I’d rather go around documenting my life and what I’m doing instead of trying so hard to be good at something that I don’t really excel at.
No really, it’s okay. I’m totally okay with it.
Right. So this series I decided to start, the Everyday Series, will just be a (rather lame) collection of photos that I feel show my everyday life, the things I do everyday that I don’t always think to photograph. So far, I have a shot of myself eating dinner:
Yep. That’s me, stuffing my face with boiled dumplings that we bought earlier that evening down in South Bay from our favourite dumpling house.
What’s kinda funny is that while I was eating, Frannie yelled to me from another room that he knew I was eating out of the big plastic bowl and dipping my dumplings into the little dishes we share with the cat (is that gross? I wash them thoroughly!). How right he was. That’s exactly what I was doing. He even guessed that I was either sitting at the sofa, or sitting next to the window at the table. Wow. Am I really this predictable?
But yes, that shows how I usually eat dinner. Sometimes I eat with Frannie, but usually I eat in silence by myself at that table. There’s no TV or music on. I sit next to the window while the cat either sits on the opposite end of the table or on our second stool. If Frannie’s there, he sits on the second stool and doesn’t let the cat near the table at all (he’s so mean to her). I’m much more lax and I let her sit wherever she wants: on top of the table, on Frannie’s stool, on the back of my stool, in my lap, etc.
I wonder if these photos will be interesting to anyone who visit my Flickr (or this blog site), but in the end, I do these little projects for myself and not for anyone else. I hope someone might find them interesting, but I mostly like having a little fun with photography and these projects let me do that.
We’ve still got the old flat until the end of the month, so even though we’ve moved the majority of our stuff up to the new place, there are still a few odds and ends left at the old spot. They are mostly documents and some sentimental things that we don’t immediately need, but somehow cannot throw away. I throw more and more of our old stuff away with each move, but somehow we always have a couple boxes of sentimental crap that we just can’t rid ourselves of.
Speaking of the recent move, it is just so interesting to see how many belongings we have. Back when I used to share my flats with roommates, I only had as much stuff as would fit into a single room (usually a small at that) and I didn’t have much furniture at all. For a while, the only furniture I owned was an old sofa that was given to me by my roommate’s old roommate, a table and chair, and a bookcase. I slept on the sofa because I couldn’t afford to buy a bed; besides, I didn’t have a car to transport it either. It wasn’t much, but it was home to me and I was moderately comfortable.
During this last move, I noticed that we still have a lot of stuff. If you compare us to other people around our age, I might even say that we are below average or average in the amount of stuff we have, and I suppose that for two people, we aren’t so bad, but I always have this feeling that I never want to get tied down with a lot of furniture. I don’t really like the idea of buying furniture, using it, and then selling it when we move again. It’s easier to streamline our furniture and keep the number of belongings to a minimum. Do we really need another table? Probably not, but we sure could use a few more small stools for when we have folks over.
I suppose what’s really important is that everything we own can be moved by the two of us. Having nice furniture is definitely a nice thing, but it’s also a bit overrated to me. At some point, we’ll have to settle down, but who knows when. The way we’re going right now, it seems like that could take a while. There are so many more areas that we want to try in this world, even just in this country. I used to keep a list of future places to live, but lately I’ve just been going from job to job and we move as necessary.
Oh, and one last thing…
I love the new flat. Love it. Our old flat was rather crowded and never got good light, but the new place is wonderfully bright and lovely. I never wanted to have people over to the old place because I felt it was cramped and disorganised, but now I want to have people over all the time! It’s such a great feeling.
My friend and I were talking about having people over to our respective places, and he mentioned that he hated having people over because he isn’t much of a host. I never really thought I was much of a host either, but I find myself wanting to organise parties and gatherings at our new flat. I’ve always been quite a little busy organiser, and now I have my own private venue too. If anything, I just like to invite people to come over so I can feed them and chit chat.
A friend told me about Pancake Sundays, where you just make and eat pancakes on Sunday as a weekly food ritual. You don’t need to make fancy pancakes, you just have to make them.
When I was growing up, my Sunday breakfast ritual was to pan-fry two eggs and eat them on toast with lots of ketchup. I never ate eggs during the week, but on Sunday I would always make my two eggs. After I left home, I stopped eating Sunday morning eggs and realised that I could just eat them on any day, even eating them for dinner sometimes.
This past Sunday, inspired by my friend’s Pancake Sundays idea, I decided to make banana pancakes since I had extra bananas that were never made into a banana pudding for friends. Since we still don’t have internet working at home, I looked through my rather paltry selection of cookbooks and decided to follow the basic pancake recipe from the Joy of Cooking. I mashed up two ripe bananas, saving half a banana for slices for topping, and slipped them into the batter and heated up the griddle.
Even though I burned the first pancake, the rest of them turned out pretty tasty and were well worth the minimal effort. I am pretty sure I can figure out some kind of simplified ratio that I can memorize so I won’t need to break out the cookbook (I hate cooking from books) next time.
Yes, a completely gratuitous photo of me.
So we’ve done it. We’re all moved into the new place and just about everything is set up and functional now. Almost. It’s exciting. So far I’ve gotten to hang out with one friend that I never ever see unless our schedules magically happen to coincide or we do major planning to meet. I’m also planning to see another SF friend next week that I rarely see. Now that I live up in SF, it’s a lot easier to meet with folks who live up in SF that I so rarely meet.
1. It’s not so bad
We’ve discovered that our new commutes down the peninsula are not all that terrible. Frannie can make it to work in less than an hour, and I love my new bike car. I get up about a half hour earlier than down in SJ, but it’s not so terrible and I usually get to the station with plenty of time to spare. I haven’t been able to ride regularly to work yet since my train pass is still zoned for the San Jose -> work commute and I have to purchase an additional upgrade every time I want to take the train. As a result, I’ve been riding with Frannie instead and he drops me off on his way down to work. Just two more weeks and then I can have my train pass again and start riding regularly.
2. Cooking calms the soul
Within a few days of moving our stuff, we managed to get the kitchen up and running and have been cooking dinner for ourselves again. We ate out for almost a week straight while we were moving, so it feels really good to go back to eating our own home-cooked food.
3. Check it out!
Since the kitchen is already functional, we decided to have a very small get together to show our new place to some close friends. Of course, I want to plan to make a lot of food, but it’s really going to be just a few folks, so I fear we will have too much and I will have put too much effort into the whole thing. But… we’ll make what we can and shortcut the rest. I’m excited to have people over, even if we’re not completely unpacked yet. That second bedroom is still Box Central.
4. I hear white walls make you crazy
I like plain white walls with nothing on them. I just do. However, I know that white walls look so bare and uninviting, so I am making an effort to decorate a little throughout the flat to stop this. I have a lot of photos, but I don’t tend to put them up on the wall. I guess I could start… maybe. I don’t have a single wall decorating bone in my body, so I am usually the worst at planning where to put things and end up putting random stuff everywhere, which doesn’t look very good and results in me taking everything down again and sticking with the white walls.
5. Weighty issues
Through almost no effort of my own, I’ve managed to shed a few pounds these last couple weeks. I think it has more to do with strength training (packing, lifting boxes, unpacking) and not eating very much (getting up too early in the morning to eat anything, and eating too sporadically and getting too full too quickly when I do eat). The major down side of this is that I’m letting my blood sugar drop and I get massively cranky until I can eat something. Not very healthy of me at all. I figure I’ll go back to my usual eating/exercise habits after we get settled (and I can once again buy a new monthly train pass for the correct zones), so I’m not too worried about it at all.
I had this guy (up there) over to our new place earlier this week. We took a little field trip to Rainbow Grocery, which is conveniently within walking distance from the new flat. Wow guys. That place is pretty damned awesome. It’s expensive, but it has a lot of really random exotic stuff like giant jars of spices and loose tea, bins of dry goods including different types of granola, and a huge selection of cheese I’ve never heard of before. Wow. I will definitely be back in the future to check out everything.
After, we went to Trader Joe’s (also conveniently within walking distance of the new flat) and picked up a few more essentials, i.e., bananas and a jar of tomato sauce for me. Of course, I forgot to get another tube of toothpaste, so we will continue using Colgate until I remember to get some Tom’s of Maine.
At this point it was pretty late and I hadn’t had any supper, so we went back to my place and I decided to makes some dumplings. We buy frozen dumplings from a little place down in Cupertino because they make the best ones we’ve had here so far.
(Just so you know, we do make our own dumplings sometimes, but we eat them right away and they’re gone in a day or two since we’re too lazy to freeze them.)
The ones we buy are thick-skinned Chinese-style dumplings, and they have a lot of different fillings, including one called Su (vegetarian) that is super tasty and my favourite. It has mushrooms, noodles, and greens in there, and maybe a few other things too. Now, don’t get these confused with Japanese gyoza; the Japanese version of dumplings have a much thinner skin that makes them perfect for pan-frying to a crisp.
When it comes to preparing dumplings, we either pan-fry them (guotie aka pot stickers) or we boil them. I usually prefer to pan-fry them since I like a crispy outside, but I wasn’t feeling like it that night, so instead I decided to boil them. The nice thing about boiling dumplings is that it takes minimal effort, I can usually eyeball them to know when they’re just right (it’s my secret superpower), and it’s a healthy way to prepare them.
One of the perks of boiling dumplings is that you can then drink the broth that results from it. Depending on the type of dumpling and how they’re made, the broth can vary a lot. Some dumpling makers put extra flour on the outside of the dumplings, so when you boil them the broth ends up being very starchy and not very good. Luckily, the dumplings we buy don’t have extra flour on the outside and make a very clean, clear soup. The vegetarian dumplings, in particular, make a very light broth.
My friend liked the broth so much that he ended up drinking two bowls of it while happily stuffing his dumpling-hole with dumplings dipped in rooster sauce and shoyu. Good times chez Reese.
Since this I’ve been updating this blog pretty regularly, I could probably say that I’ve succeeded in my small-time goal of starting to blog again. I took a bit of a break from regular blogging, well, because I just didn’t feel like it anymore, but lately, I’ve had more to say than I can possibly express in just photos on Flickr, so this is why I’ve been writing a lot more.
Besides that, it seems that a bunch of my old blog friends have suddenly started blogging regularly again, so that helps give me the motivation to keep it up. Also, I don’t care as much about garnering comments, so I don’t feel rejected or anything when people don’t comment on what I write. Yeah.
Wait, but I won’t pretend like I’m doing this just for me, because if I was, I wouldn’t need to publish it online, right? I like the voyeuristic quality that blogging affords, so I could say that I do it for me and for you, my reader, whoever you are. I want to thank all the little people!! <sob sob> Wait, you guys aren’t little people, are you? I bet most of you are average height or taller.
I don’t really want to get into a conversation about your height (and your weight too; have you checked your BMI lately??). Let’s talk about something else now.
How about the Winlife? I have to say that living the Winlife is pretty awesome. Well wait, I’m actually not sure if my life is really so super duper awesome that I can’t handle it or I just choose to see it that way. Hmm… it’s probably the latter. For the most part, I’ve spent a lot of my time sitting around and feeling happily pleased with just about everything (except the cat being extra clingy).
Sure, there are still disappointments in life, but I don’t dwell on them for long and that really seems to help a lot. I could sit around and bemoan something that’s happened, but I’d rather get out, be active, and change my little world for the better. My sphere of influence is rather tight, but I try to do what I can to make myself happy and help out with those around me too.
When it comes to my close friends (you know who you are, I think), I would do anything I can to help them feel better when something bad happens in their lives. It might not be something really terrible that’s happened, but if something’s got them down I try to do what I can to cheer them up and help them figure out how to get their head out of the muck.
Having a bad day? Maybe we can meet and do something you like, like a) riding our bikes around, b) eating good food, or c) visiting a museum you enjoy. If you want to drink, we can get a drink too. If you want to just sit around and watch a movie, we can do that too. What would cheer you up? Can I crack a few (bad) jokes and make you smile? Can I send you some music to keep your foot tapping and your head bopping? Maybe I could just go over to your place and get you out the door on a walk. Or maybe just a hug would do the trick.
Life can be tough and it can be demoralising. It throws you curve balls when you least expect them, but maybe the right friend can help you get through the dark bits.
P.S. – What is with these sappy entries? I just start writing and writing and then this stuff comes out. Ha. maybe I should go back to writing fiction or work on being more moody and emo so I can complain about stuff instead of talking about how awesome life is all the time.
P.P.S. – Nah……….. Winlife fo’ life!!
It can be so strange waking up the first few times in a new place. My eyes pop open and see that naked bay window in our bedroom; the shade was broken and we haven’t replaced it yet. I can see the sky, and a tiny bit of the buildings across the street. It’s not a bad view, and I love being able to see straight out the top of the window. Our bed is actually on the floor right now, because I haven’t gotten around to re-building bed frame. Between me and Frannie, I’m the furniture builder/deconstructor and the packer. He’s the brute force that carries packed boxes up and down the stairs and packs them into the car (he’s great at packing tetris).
Since we’ve no dryer, we’ve had to air dry our fitted sheet and we put an extra flat sheet that never gets used directly on the mattress. I’ve never really cared much for matching sheets or beds that look pretty and pristine. My bed is usually made, but not very carefully so. I think this flat sheet is one that my mum gave me when I was in college and I’ve been moving it from place to place over the past 10 years.
(Wow, that’s a long time.)
Perhaps because of its age, the sheet is soft to the touch and is so smooth when you first slide on top of it and under the comforter. Someday we may have the little things like matching sheets, a bed skirt, and those silly little decorative pillows, but it’s never been important to me. I just like the bed to be comfortable and the blankets to be soft and warm and my pillow to be firm and supportive. It just has to be good at letting me rest; who cares what it looks like.