Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A Very Virginia Christmas: First Day of Christmas!

"Are you awake?"

Those were H.'s first words to me on Christmas morning. I, E., immediately answered by describing the past night's dream. It was either about a curry dinner at Biola or me finding out I was the Virgin Mary, except I wasn't pregnant with Jesus. ...Must have been something I ate.

Then H. and I remembered it was Christmas morning. ("Hurrah! Squeee! Snow? Flannel? YAY!") We woke up S., who also described his dream to us. (Killer bunnies? Linear Algebra Tests?)

Then there was much squealing, running down stairs, opening of stockings, more squealing, and unwrapping parcels. It was a very bird-y Christmas for me, and I now have two little owl friends, a ceramic blackbird for pies, and a string of birds and bells for my room. Hoot Hoot! 

We followed the bird-theme by feasting on cheesy-eggy strata for breakfast.

Followed by S.'s Apple Tart, which we pecked on all day.

And we put on all of our Christmas finery (new sweaters, ties, stockings, etc.) to parade around the empty (and freezing cold) campus.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

A Very Virginia Christmas: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

...And all through the house,

H., S., and E. were frying LOTS OF BACON.

(Only the scent of bacon wafted all through the house. Cooking was limited to the kitchen.) 

They did not attend Church on Christmas Eve for one very unfortunate reason: There was no room in the inn. Literally. The gatekeeper told the unhappy church-goers to reserve tickets for the next service. Tickets?? Harumph. H., S., and E. were too stubborn and cold to wait around for two hours, so instead they drove home and made fudge.

And thus began the culinary merrymaking!

H. made popcorn garlands.
(My apologies for the yellowness!)

S. made apple tart/provided entertainment/etc.etc.etc.

Yes. They listened to the 4 Seasons. It wouldn't be a party without Frankie Valli. 

Bacon fried, E. cried (because she was chopping onions), and everyone had a jolly time making the kitchen messy.

After cleaning for a good hour or so, the group read from the Bible, sang carols around the piano (in the style of Little Women), and turned off all the lights to scurry about and fill stockings (in the style of Betsy-Tacy). There may or may not have been much squealing and bumping. Of course, E. slept upstairs with H. since she needed to run down the stairs with everyone on Christmas morning. H. probably was glad that E. didn't have cold feet (for she wore boot socks), and E. was glad that H. had double the comforters.

It was a very merry Christmas Eve.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Just Call Me "Babs"


H. went away for the weekend.
Snow came in her place.

Bun Tracks?

Little Bear, Lettie and I attempted a group picture:

And then we had our version of Don Rags, during which Let and I discussed Peter Rabbit and plans for Apple Cake this weekend. 

Since man/E. was not meant to be alone, God provided Betsy-Tacy as a companion.

Eeek! I just realized that I have four books left to read, not three. Yipeeeeee!

Well, you know what I'm going to be doing.


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

In Memory of Juries Past (and Passed)

You Know Your Violin Teachers Are Wonderful People 
(in addition to being skilled performers and teachers):
-When your teacher spends twenty minutes telling you about his new baby.
(Okay, this also falls under "How You Know that You're a Baaaaaad Student", like when you come unprepared and use this question to get out of an uncomfortable lesson. Yes. I confess. But I only used it twice. And I will ALWAYS carry nail clippers in my purse. Forever and ever.)

-When they offer to teach you during the Winter Break, Summer Vacation, or an extra lesson on the weekend. 
I never thought I would say this, but, um, I actually enjoy lessons. Especially if I prepare for them. Ahem.

-When they tell you not to schedule more lessons but to go do something FUN.

-When they don't chastise or embarrass you for having post-studio-class-meltdowns, pre-jury- breakdowns, or other emotional-water-works-moments. Yes, these happened a lot. But hugs were often involved. I told you my teachers were wonderful.

-When they invite the whole studio over for a party with homemade Beef Stroganoff, ice cream, and readings from Winnie the Pooh.

-When they call you the day before your juries to reassure you that you're going to do fine, not to stress, take it easy, and have fun.

Many thanks to Ms. L. and S.!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Food Adventures: H&M Journey Onwards!

Hoorah! H. and I made it to Day 3 of our little eating experiment. We both had headaches over the weekend, which might be from sugar withdrawals or plain ol' allergies. However, yesterday I tried a new recipe for Chili-Citrus Chicken with Olives that cleared our sinuses, pronto. I'm sorry H. Three tablespoons of chili powder was more than our systems could handle. So much milk. I salvaged the meal by washing everything off and then mashing the potatoes with (more) milk. It worked, and we still have food for the rest of this week. I also cooked a pot of brown rice and lentils. It was a delicious accompaniment for the (washed off) chicken and olives with some feta cheese sprinkled on top.

Breakfast is my favourite meal these days. Eating sans ketchup is easier than I thought. Rather than mindlessly squeezing goopy red sauce onto my eggs, I try to consider what tastes I'm craving. Salt? Vinegar-y Tang? Sweetness? These flavours can be found non-ketchup foods, such as pan seared tomatoes with sea salt and Herbes de Provence. (My favourite!) Or even salsa works, too.

And eating French Toast without sugar or syrup gives me the chance to enjoy the texture and flavour of comforting eggy-bread. Not that toast ought to be bland, though. Cinnamon and nutmeg add flavour while applesauce, golden raisins, and Greek yogurt provide sweetness and creaminess. Maybe even some nuts for added crunch?

Of course, I won't kiss syrupy French Toast good bye. However, I am noticing that a decrease in processed sugars seems to (at least psychologically?) make my tummy feel better. And maybe, just maybe, those Ladies Magazines speak truth when they say cutting sugar might decrease cyclical discomfort (erm, PAIN. Really, really, really bad pain). It seems to be working for me, so I won't complain.

So here's to more (or hopefully no more) adventures with spices/chili powder, whole grains, new vegetables, and lots of apple sauce and frozen strawberries.


Saturday, 4 December 2010

Food Adventures: Towards "Thoughtful Eating"

Today is the first day of "Thoughtful Eating" week. I must have eaten too many thoughts in my sleep since I dreamed that my mom put me in time out for eating chocolate pudding. Maybe I've been nannying lately. And maybe I was feeling just a little apprehensive about the whole "No Sugar and No White Flour" plan. (The word "No" continues to trouble me since I am probably still two years old at heart.) But after a good "reasoning conversation" with myself, I decided to go along with the project and make some breakfast.

Today's breakfast was whole wheat toast with strawberries and Greek yogurt sprinkled with chopped pistachios. Since the frozen strawberries were not very ripe, I diced and mixed them with a tablespoon of natural orange juice. Just the right amount of sweetness and tang. I didn't even need the honey. They paired well with the creamy yogurt, and the pistachios provided the perfect crunch. And whole wheat toast? Nutty and, well, very "dark" tasting. (Does that make any sense?) Dark from the toast complimented the lightness of the yogurt and the sharpness of the berries. Mmm. Is it silly to say that pistachios taste "like the woods"? I've never eaten "the woods", but if I ever do, I hope they taste like pistachios.

It was a very satisfying breakfast: colorful, not too heavy or too light tasting/feeling, a range of different textures, and even healthy by the textbook definition!

Maybe breakfast was even better because I woke up early in the morning and ate by the fireplace.

I'm just glad to know that tastes such as "sweet" or "rich" are not my enemies. Sugar and white flour aren't even my enemies. Instead, it's rather like I'm going on a culinary vacation and leaving familiar ingredients behind. Who knew that strawberries and orange tasted so delicious together? Well, probably most people. But I didn't know until this morning.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

House-y Things and a Ramble

Virginia welcomed the First of December with sunshine and a rain storm. Funny how the two go together in this state. Sadly, the weather forecast canceled the "Snow Alert" for next Wednesday. I guess I still have time for a few more walks before my boots need their rub-down for snow.

My Use-Up-Fridge/Pantry-Items week continues. Our meals have been quite substantial considering I, erm, slightly over-purchased groceries the previous week. Here's what we've cooked so far:

Sunday: Curried Red Lentil, Quinoa, and Chickpea Stew. Recipe courtesy of Eat This. Homey, healthy and delicious. My first time cooking quinoa, too! The quinoa cooked for a while and looked like tiny little floating nose rings. I'm sorry, but that's the best way I can describe them. Maybe itsy bitsy smiles without the eyes?  I made a full recipe, so it will probably last us a while. (I might freeze whatever we don't eat.)

Monday: Whole Wheat Penne Pasta with Marinara, Spicy Chicken Sausage, and Olives. We had an unopened package of sausages in the fridge for a while now, so H. and I decided to cook two and freeze two. I love listening to the sausage skin "snap" while it cooks. Olives and penne pasta were in the pantry.  Um. I also attempted to make "S'mores Brownies" listed on the Food Network website. Lesson learned: don't attempt brownies unless you have all of the right ingredients. Suffice it to say, H. and I did not ask for s'more.

Tuesday/Wednesday: Left over stew and pasta. Bacon and Cheesy Eggs with Toast and Baby Spinach Salad + Chocolate Pudding.
H. and I finally finished the package of bacon we froze a while ago. Eggs are a House-y Staple. So is baby spinach. We eat it like chips around here. Everything came from either the fridge, freezer, or pantry. 
In the spirit of culinary creativity, or plain ol' "Grocery Budgeting", H. and I decided to try a No Sugar, No Flour experiment until S. arrives on the 19th. My goal is not to worry about weight loss or maintenance. And I'll try very hard not to make eating a means of justifying myself and feeling better that I'm consuming "more natural ingredients" than those who eat processed foods. (But honestly, don't we all feel that way sometimes?) 

The older I get, the less I enjoy heavily processed foods without feeling "gross". But can part of the "gross" feeling be influenced by my personal beliefs about processed foods? Once I ate half a biscuit and found the other half covered with what seemed to be mold. I felt sick for the rest of the day. Then my sister came home and told me that the powdery white stuff was just flour. Whoops! Ok, so I'm a hypochondriac.I'm not advocating that we all start eating moldy food and believing that it's not moldy. Or anything like that. (What a relief to discover that the powdery white was only flour!) I just wonder how the condition of the soul and body influence food choices and feelings/reactions to food. Does that make any sense? I'll keep working on a better form of that question.

Sometimes I eat apples just because I'm ashamed. And sometimes I feel guilty when I eat nachos from Target. But I don't really know why I feel guilt or shame. (Ahhhh, Roy, this is making me think of Brothers K. Cuban Cigars, anyone?) Some of the best eating moments happen when I munch on an apple just because I love the taste of apple. And really, I never want nacho cheese for more than one or two days. Oh but sometimes it's so tasty. Why why why?

Oh well. Too many unfinished thoughts and half-formed questions. I should go read some Betsy-Tacy. Thought Project, I'll be back. (With more rambles. And more unfinished thoughts. And maybe some Target Nachos.)

No sugar or white flour for a few weeks can't hurt me. I'm hoping to see if it will help with the general achies and lethargy I've felt for the past few months.

And above all else, I want to have fun and be creative in trying new recipes and ingredients. So many vegetables and grains I've never tried! Bulgar? Nope! Celeriac or beets? Nope Nope! Eggs without gobs of ketchup? Nope. ...I'll have trouble with that one. 

How exciting! The day E. finally learns to eat an egg without loads of ketchup to mask the eggy taste. 

It can be done.

Well, it has to be done. At least for the next two weeks. I still have half a week to finish off some of our sugar/flour ingredients. Hoot!

Here's to a month of good eats and joyous meal making!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Pre-Winter Projects

Well, it's officially "late November" now and the poor trees look sparse and spindly. I love walking on Country Roads since the goldeny-crimson leaves "crunch, crunch, crunch" beneath your feet.

Walking is an excellent remedy for self-inflicted "Restless Funks".

Little "Projects" are also good remedies. 

This week I've given myself the task of cooking and eating only what's readily available at home. Lucky for me, H. and I have a well stocked pantry and freezer! And maybe, just maybe, I made one last shopping trip to buy some quinoa and squash today. And chocolate.

We'll see how it goes! I'll probably post pictures and recipes this week.


Monday, 15 November 2010

Jolly Post: Photos From My Phone

H. and I are both sicky poo, so we decided to think about jolly things. Here are a few from the past month:
Blanket Forts!

M. asked me to "put her hair up pretty". What lovely hair! 

This photo is jolly in retrospect.

Turkey Feathers! Or plans for a squishy ball. Maybe both. 

Scones on Domestica Day. 

H.'s scone and coffee. 

My scone and hot chocolate. 

This is not a recent snapshot, but it is a rather jolly scene. I can't tell whether S is amused/horrified/embarrassed/JUSTHAPPYTOHAVEAGELCUP.

Baby Cat! 
Baby Cat Love!

Yay, Cat!

Friday, 12 November 2010


Recipe for A Deliciously Autumnal Friday

-2.5 Mile Morning Stroll through Country Woods with H.

-Roasted Butternut Squash for Lunch

-Autumn Leaves! (And Jazz Music!) 

-Green Sweaters and Suede Boots 

-Trip to World Market for a Green Curtain, Christmas Gifts, and Winter Spices

-Trader Joe's 

-Canned Mandarin Oranges, Macaroni and Cheese in a Box, and the Promise of Sweet Potato Pie! 

-Babushka Loungers and Betsy-Tacy

-Enjoy your walk, pick some leaves, take some pictures, get lost in World Market looking for vanilla beans and cloves, bustle through Trader Joe's during "busy hour" (which in California Talk=NOT BUSY), come home, put mandarin oranges in the refrigerator for later, and lounge about in comfy pajamas until your sinus headache goes away.

I love my life!


Monday, 1 November 2010

Oh Happy Day!

A Jolly Monday is brought to you by: 

-An unexpected paycheck. (!!)
-An impromptu visit to Anthropologie with H. and S.
Some women splurge on shoes. I splurge on pajama pants. This is what I get for having a bum knee. Never could manage those heels or unsupported ballet flats. Oh well. I sure can manage flannel loungers. Especially flannel loungers in Matryoshka doll print. !!!

I bought my jammies, and it was a happy day.

Plus, H., S. and I ate cupcakes. I will find buttery sucrose laden cakies wherever I go.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Are You Sitting Down?

No, I'm not pregnant. But I am sitting down, and so is everyone else in my family. Why is this so significant? Well, because we've been on our feet moving for the past several days. You know, the kind of moving that involves transferring all of our belongings from one house to another house. (And maybe the kind of moving that necessitates a giant "House Purge" from all spices, baking mixes, and Asian cooking liquids that have been around for 15+ years. Yeah. ...It was icky, but I feel liberated.)

Think Little House on the Prairie, except with a blue minivan replacing the covered wagon. Also, Costco pizza instead of corn dodgers and bacon. I'll always associate pizza and hot dogs with moving.

Moving is tough work. Packing and loading boxes mirrors a clumsy ballet routine. Grand Plié to lift a load, twirl twirl twirl to avoid hitting your sister, who is also carrying a full load, and another plié to lower the load. I am no dancer. 

Thankfully, we picked a Non-Thunderstorm week to move, and I am happy to say that everything was successfully transferred from House #1 to House #2. Or should I call it House #7? (Or House #9 if you include dorms and my Virginia house.) 

Like I said, moving is tough work. And in the past, moving was always bitter work for my family. Tension grew, tempers flared, and everyone was wary of one another. This time was different. Our family came together, literally, and labored together for days and days until we had to be out of the house. We were exhausted and stressed, but nobody yelled. In fact, there was a lot of laughing. Um, there might have been a lot of singing and dancing, too. Maybe all that Costco Pizza helped us stay sane. Or maybe it was Sam and my Aunt, who helped move heavy boxes, brought us food, and drove several loads of "schtuff" to the new house. Or maybe it was all the above combined with the knowledge that all really shall be most well. 

I used to quote that phrase during stressful times like finals or juries. However, moving, and all the circumstances leading to our move,  forced me to really consider what I was quoting. Everyone in my family had to trust that the source of ultimate peace and happiness transcended any material house. As we backed out of our driveway for the last time, my sister reminded me that everything we own is a gift from God. I do not think God gets angry and takes away our things just to spite us or "teach us a lesson". Those "things" were never ours to begin with. Maybe what feels like God's anger is really our own pain upon realizing that we sought happiness in the wrong place. I don't really know. 

But I do know that all has been well thus far. We have a place to live and loads of citrus trees in our yard. We still have our cats. The sun still rises every morning. Trader Joe's still sells Salsa Authentica. (WHEW.) 

I'm glad to be here. And I'll do my best to be glad to be "there", wherever the next "there" might be. 

For now, I should just say:

It's good to finally meet you, Little Brown House! 

(No, not "Welcome Baby Darling!")

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


California, we'll meet again in less than 48 hours.  (!!!) 

I'm just a little excited. (!!!!!!!!)

Just a little.


Saturday, 9 October 2010

Are Jolly Owls Called Jowlets? JollyOwls? JollOwls?


Well, sometimes life brings you Not-So-Jolly-News. And sometimes you just have to let yourself feel sad about the Not-So-Jolly-News.
 Sad, Sad, Sad.

Thankfully, my housemate, H., makes Not-So-Jolly times a bit brighter with Chocolate Cake, Random Dance Parties, and trips to Target. She also makes me Potato, Leek, and Chicken Soup. And she will eat my cookies when I feel overwhelmed for making too many. And she will buy me a new jar of Salsa Authentica when the original jar turned out to be expired. And she will tell me it is okay not to finish University studies until I'm ready. And she will put up with my inability to speak coherently and succinctly when I come home from work. AND she will rub my shoulder blade when it spasms. Oh. I will always remember this.

(H., sorry for all of the "And's". But you are wonderful. Not "and wonderful". Just "wonderful".)

I'm also grateful to my parents for teaching me and my sister to keep active in the midst of sad times. (The kitchen looked immaculate last Sunday, by the way. Thank goodness for stainless steel cleaner.) I cleaned, took walks, went grocery and sock shopping, folded several loads of laundry, and so forth. But after a day full of "activity", I realized that being "active" also includes allowing yourself time to grieve. (A box of tissues is handy at this point.)

On a whim, I began reading Revelations of Divine Love by Dame Julian of Norwich. (Good decision.) In my silly Owlish insecurity, I first approached the text with an agenda to analyze and form academic paper topics. Um. Yes. Note the "silly" and "insecurity". My agenda was forgotten as I began reading. Perhaps there are times when you need to read just for soulish comfort. Well, this is what I am doing, and soulish comfort I am finding. The commonly quoted "...all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well" begins to make more sense. Well, at least a bit more sense. And the sense is followed by a host of questions. But these are the comforting kind of questions that keep your mind active during holidays.

So here I am, a silly little Owlie living in Virginia. I am still very happy to be here. And I feel that each new sorrow I embrace will increase my capacity to feel new and greater joys. So here's to another week (with more Salsa Authentica, I hope).

(When I expressed to my sister a concern of seeming too sappy, she replied by saying: "I love how their [that of the sappy people?] world is always populated by beautiful people."

Then she told me she was watching a music video. So maybe she was referring to the music video. Either way, I hope my world is populated by beautiful people. As of right now, it's mostly inhabited by squirrels. Oh so many.)


Friday, 1 October 2010


Today I sat in bumper to bumper traffic for two hours. All the drivers around me looked rather "Hmmph". You can also use the term "Harrumph". My macbook dictionary informs me that this word can either be used as a verb ("to grumpily express dissatisfaction or disapproval") or a noun ("a grumpy expression of dissatisfaction or disapproval").

But how do you look Harrumph?

Maybe like this:

Photo courtesy of C.Larsen.

I felt Harrumphy too. 
My arms felt Harrumphy,
and they sent shooting pains down to my wrists.

But then I remembered jolly things, like the soybeans I ate for lunch. 
(Still on a soybean kick.)

Or when the chin-rest maker let me picnic on his hilly front lawn while he varnished wood and told me funny stories about Heifetz. 

Or how refreshing the country air feels when it blows through the trees.

And then I put in an unlabeled CD stolen from H.'s car and proceeded to have a seated dance party with myself. No one else noticed since they were busy Harrumphing. Thank goodness. I also had a sing along to Handel's Messiah. "EEEEVVERRRYYY VALLLEEEYYYY." (LOVE LOVE LOVE.) I finally listened to the complete Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and the Mendelssohn Concerto, too. So I ended up switching back and forth between Messiah, MGMT, Michael Jackson, the Weepies, Regina S., Mika, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, and random gospel songs. Eclectic driving mix, but it made the 4 hour commute more bearable. Rather ironic that the first Messiah track to play after listening to Michael Jackson was "And He Shall Purify". 

I had a jolly good time.
And there was no more Harrumphing. At least not for me.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Rainy Week!

Rainy Week Agenda: 
-Taking my morning walk in heavy downpour. 
(Yellow Umbrella and Soaked Sneakers included. ) 
-Epsom Salt Bath of Wonderfulness. 
(My rhomboids thank me. I thank them. Relax. Take it easy, kids.)
-Chamber Music Concert on Tuesday Night.
(Courtesy of Friendly Neighbours. Also, Asian Networking occurs with the only other Asian woman. She wants me to e-mail her. ....) 
-Wednesday Nannying.
(...During which I braved an epic pre-bedtime tantrum. I also experienced night driving during a tropical storm. Fear and Trembling. And maybe some Tchaikovsky.)  
-Post Card Making/Letter Writing
-E. Tries To Learn How To Cook
(I can bake decent cakes. But cooking? Oh dear. Right now the kitchen smells of burnt soy sauce and honey. Yeah. I'm cooking. Oh well. 6 chicken legs at a time, right?)
-E. Buys Frozen Soybeans from TJ's and Includes Them in Every Dish She Makes. This too shall pass.
(Ma, I never thought the day would come when I would WILLINGLY put vegetables in my macaroni and cheese. In fact, I ate all the soybeans and picked around the noodles. Um. I'm still a picky eater, but we're making some progress. This house goes on a legume kick whenever I'm too lazy to cook meat and my body says "MUST EAT PROTEIN'. Plus, soybeans look fabulous when shelled and flecked over white rice.)

-Rainy Day Reading
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Too Many Cooks (by Emily Franklin), and perhaps some Hopkins?) 
House-y Things
(Dishes, laundry, planning my 3 hour drive tomorrow to visit a Chin Rest Maker in the D.C. Area.)  
And La Photo Cabine with Little Bear:
A Very Cheery Thursday to you! 

Monday, 27 September 2010

Monday Musings

Dear California,

You may take our 100 degree weather. Forever. We're glad to send it your way now. But we'll also try to send some rain, too, as a consolation prize. It was an awful week of hot and muggy, and I'm sorry you have to experience our discomfort now. But this too shall pass.

Yep, it's raining today! Even though the weather outside is still warm and muggy, the air conditioned house allows me to wrap myself in a fleecy robe and pretend that it's Fall. H. even made Spiced Apple Cake yesterday! Perhaps I'll try some after lunch. Lovely, lovely day.

When I moved to Virginia in hopes of finding rest and healing, I think I expected immediate relief. Sort of like in cartoons when a harp strums and a character's back is suddenly realigned. But I'm  discovering that healing is a long term process, and many of my bodily ailments are related to my, er, dare I say "misaligned soul". 

For example, my neck pain and back spasms (owowow) directly result from my neurotic drive to be a perfect music student. "Perfect Music Student" became my ultimate end, and since my definition of perfection only involved technical skill, I stopped caring for my physical and emotional well being. Luckily, this lifestyle eventually lead to (a rather gentle) crash 'n burn, and after a "great awakening" with the help of Pa, I am on the road to a more grace-filled life.

I'm giving myself the grace to get lost while driving, read books that I want to read, not finish books I would rather not finish, start projects, not finish projects right away, buy almond butter even though it's more expensive than peanut butter, not beat myself up if I don't walk every day, and even leave the kitchen messy for a whole day. (Yeah, A., unbelievable, isn't it?) 

I'm learning how to feel again, too. I've stopped trying to avoid strong emotions by rationalizing them. Sometimes I'm like my little nanny-ing girls who tell me they just feel SO frustrated, grumpy, disappointed, upset, angry, or sad. No, I won't start having tantrums in the middle of stores. But I will work on not bottling, since bottled emotions, unlike wine, don't really taste better with age.

Well, that's just a rambly blip of all the "non-academic" things I've been learning here. 
 I'm off to be a good student and work on Assignment 1. Baths really are heavenly.
I'll leave you with this Cheery Owl-y Video:

They are my favourite! :)Especially the one in the middle. Ahem. 


Sunday, 26 September 2010

Lesson From Living 101

Section 1: On Surviving and Thriving
Subsection A: Managing Stress, Anxiety, Grumpy Bugs, an Upset Stomach and an Aching Back

Take a Bubble Bath
(Cooking/Food Magazines are suggested, but not required.)

For severe cases,
Take an even longer Bubble Bath.

Assignment 1: Follow the above instructions.

Student: E.O.
Grade: A

Monday, 20 September 2010

H&M Visit NYC(!!): Part IV--The Final Instalment

H. and I spent Monday morning exploring Central Park. 
(We ate another cupcake for breakfast. Actually, it was breakfast's dessert since we brought sandwiches, too.) 

 More green..
Lovely, lovely!

A tour of our hostel:

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

H&M Visit NYC (!!): Part III

Even though H. and I took advantage of NYC's dessert opportunities, our main reason for visiting was this event:




We made quite a fuss over what we would wear for this event, and my room was covered in clothes the week before our trip. (Oh, maybe it was also covered in clothes because I had just moved in. Yeah, that, too. You could say that it's just because we're girls. But the Jazz Party proved to me that Mister-Fellows enjoy dressing up just as much as the Lady Folk do. More on that later.)

I'm rather proud of how my hair turned out that day. Not that the style was authentically 1920's, but it was sufficiently curled, pinned, and tucked under a hat. I felt like Miss de Vine from Gaudy Night since my pins kept falling out all day!


 As the pins began to fall...

We did H.'s hair in two braids pinned up and also tucked underneath her hat. I thought she looked absolutely charming.

If you look closely, you can see the braids peeking out from beneath her cloche. Isn't her dress fabulous?

I purchased a pair of perfectly round spectacles,
And they make me look perfectly silly.
But I'm determined to wear them if I ever have to write some sort of thesis. Or maybe just for term papers. Or if I'm ever feeling silly.
And we toured the cars.

We also picknicked on bread, hummus, cheese, and champagne sorbet. (No picture, but our meal was delicious.)


We danced, 
We watched a vintage bathing suit contest,
We listened to the masses of costume-clad people talk high society, 
 And we and managed to stay cool despite the 100 degree weather. 


We also decided that all men ought to wear suspenders.

Part IV will be about Central Park and our Hostel tour.

Bear with me, please.

I apologize if the new layout gives you a headache. I'm currently playing dress up with my blog, and even though I'm not perfectly satisfied, I have to leave it dressed in something.

So it's dressed in green.

But I'll work on it, and I promise to send you pain killer if it really is that bad.


Saturday, 11 September 2010

H&M Visit NYC(!!): Part II

Here's my confession to preface this post: I like cupcakes. A lot. But when the cupcake craze first swept through California, I refused to succumb to "the trend" and visit any popular shops. This was a silly vow, and it only lasted a few months. When the Perfect Circle Cupcakery opened a few miles away from my house, I give in to curiosity. Can you blame me? They advertised chocolate and buttercream! What more could I ask for? Well, I guess I could be more specific and ask for a deliciously moist chocolate cupcake topped with homemade buttercream. And this is what The Perfect Circle gave to me on that chilly October afternoon. It tasted homemade, and I was satisfied.

Okay, you're probably thinking: "WAIT WAIT WAIT. It tasted homemade?? Why would you buy a cupcake that you could make yourself at home?!?! You could have a dozen little cakes for half the price!"

(Well, that's what I said to myself at first.)

And this is how I responded to myself:

1) I don't want a dozen little cakes. There aren't always enough hungry cupcake-lovin' people in my house to eat the other eleven, and I really ought not eat all twelve. So in a way, I'm wasting less food by purchasing one cupcake for myself than by baking twelve and only eating one.

2) Sure, I'm paying for labor, service, supplies, ambiance, and the cuteness factor of the-little-white-box-and-brand name. But sometimes I'm willing to pay the price when I don't have time to bake and I want to eat a cupcake.

3) I would rather my cupcake taste homemade if homemade means delicious. (I'm sure you could debate over the definition of delicious and proper taste and what not, but perhaps you should do so over some coffee and cupcakes.) I've always preferred the taste of a cupcake made from scratch over a cake mix cupcake. Not as springy, but with a tender crumb and melt in your mouth moist. ...Ahhhh. 

4) Context? I don't eat cupcakes every day. Rather, they're saved for celebratory occasions like birthdays or surviving finals, etc.

Of course, not every cupcake shop experience has been wonderful. There are dry crumb days, and overly sweet frosting days, and even service-is-really-horrid-I-wonder-if-those-girls-eat-lemons-for-breakfast-days. But I think I'd rather try a bakery first before I deny the possibility of good cupcake shop experiences.  
That being said, you can guess what H. and I did in New York.
 I was very, very happy to have a Partner in Dessert (A PID?).

And although I'm still a bit sheepish to admit it, I was wildly excited that we bought cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery.

Banana Cake with Caramel Buttercream, Devil's Food with Mocha Buttercream,
and Chocolate with Traditional Buttercream.
(We could only finish the Banana and Devil's Food that evening. 
Chocolate was saved for breakfast the next morning.)

H. and I also stopped by Sweet Revenge, where we enjoyed their Pure Vanilla cupcake with a glass of milk. (I'm still not telling how much I paid for that glass of milk. But it was worth it.) We didn't bother to photograph anything since the room was very dark and the shop was closing.
Many thanks to H. for joining me with much enthusiasm on my cupcake search!
We win!

H. and I also enjoyed non-cupcake delectables during our trip:

Gelato on a stick from PopBar?
H. chose Almond dipped in Dark Chocolate. 
(There's your Asian tourist picture for the day.)
H. very graciously allowed me to drag her to one of my very favourite places: Le Pain Quotidien.
This restaurant will always remind me of my Dad, since he was the one who first took me here. It also reminds me of Sam, since we often stop in the bakery to pick up a muffin or cookie. And now the café will remind me of New York, too. 
(Please pardon the terrible image quality!) 

H. tried the Tuna Tartine and I tried the Quiche Lorraine.

We also shared a bowl of Fresh Tomato Soup,

And we had a very fine supper!
(I suppose it makes up for all of the cupcakes. Or maybe not.)


Next: Part III--Parks, Parties, and a Tour of the Hostel

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Blargady Blarg: A Rambly Post

Well, so much for NYC Trip (!!) Part Two. It exists. At least the idea for the post exists. I just haven't found the will to actually write it. Plus, Blogger's new Photo-Upload system confuses me. I promise I'll do my best to have it up by this weekend so all my dear family can see pictures of New York and Delicious Things to Eat. (For all of you facebook folks, go look at H.'s facebook album. Mmmm. Cupcakes!)

So to answer the much asked question, "What have you been doing with all of your time?" (with different people emphasizing different words), here's a sample:

-I've been watching episodes of Pushing Daisies! I know it might sound like mindless activity, but it's actually quite hard for me to sit through an entire TV episode or movie. Perhaps this stems from my short attention span. Pushing Daisies is a fun and not too emotionally taxing way to practice focusing my attention on one thing at a time. I don't sew, cook, eat, or clean while I watch. But I do relax. And I occasionally burrow myself under the brown blanket whenever there appears anything too intensive (oh, like CRASH DUMMIES in Dandelion Cars). Admittedly, I have an embarrassingly low tolerance for stressful situations, even when depicted through film. But come on, crash dummies are frightening. ...

-It is also horrifying to realize you've just watered two baby squirrels with your hose. Which leads to Thing-I've-Been-Doing #2: Watering for B.D. Neighbour B.D. hired me to water the lawn in preparation for aerating and seed planting. I love this job since it forces me to wake up early and gives me a chance to use my yellow umbrella. (Yes, I accidentally sprayed two blind baby squirrels that had fallen out of their nest. I took the Beatles' advice and let it be. Or let them be. The squirrels were gone when I went back to look this evening.)

-Chicken Curry for Supper, and Chocolate Pudding and Whipped Cream for Dessert. Enough said. Tonight is Lasagna Night.

-Walks through the Neighbourhood, Shrimpy Prawn, Pretend Yoga and Ballet, And Anything That Might Make My Neck Vertebrae Return To A Proper Place.

-Work. I'm nannying for two little girls four days every other week, plus Wednesday on every other week. (It's not as complicated as it sounds. At least the schedule is not complicated. Little girls, on the other hand...) How much I am learning about my own childhood by working with little girls!  Strong displays of emotion always frightened me when I was younger, but I must now learn to handle the unarticulated feelings of four and five year olds. For instance, I've learned that child M. needs help to identify her growling and grrr-ing as "FRUSTRATION" over not being able to color in the lines. Isn't it still frustrating to grown ups when they realize they're not perfect? I could relate with M. and her poor coloring book trials. And I could also relate with her sister, M.R., during her meltdown after school. But I can only empathize and sympathize to an extent. Then I must be firm (gaaaahhh) and somehow gently exercise my authority as the "guardian in the house" to ensure that homework is completed. I don't like this part since it means conflict, and conflict is still difficult for me even when it involves a five year old.

Ma, I am learning so very much about not stressing. And I think you and Pa are saints for raising two daughters.

Martyrdom of Nannyhood? Sounds dramatic, but I'm realizing that any vocation, particularly the ones involving the care of children, require learning how to love and accept grace.

And sometimes grace comes in the form of your housemate making you dinner.


Oh, and when I feel like I have no purpose in life, I sew dinosaurs. (Or at least I try to come up with dinosaur patterns.)

Poor Dinosaur/Nessie/Dragon/Creature. I shall work more on the pattern later.

H. really took a liking to him. (I think it's a him, right?)

He's good for stress-relief-squeezes.


And H. and I have random dance parties.
I am very happy.

Friday, 3 September 2010

H&M Visit NYC(!!): Part 1

      Two weeks ago, I would have considered a nine hour car ride terribly long and arduous. That was two weeks ago. Now, anything less than 40+ hours seems manageable. I guess driving across the country helps build an immunity to day trips in the car.

On Friday morning, H. and I miraculously woke up at 5:30 AM, cooked a hot breakfast of scrambles and toaster waffles, and started driving by 6:15. (I say "miraculous" because I was still running on California time and I didn't go to bed until 1 AM the night before.) 
We reached Baltimore, Maryland by early afternoon. 
Too late, said H., to say GOOD MORNING.
And "goodearlyafternoonBaltimore" just doesn't flow.
We drove by bridges,
And through tunnels that were truly a bore. At least for Number 4. 

H. and I went to look for America.

 We tried to count the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike...


And we drove and drove and drove some more,
Releasing all of our pent up Hoorah's and EEEEEK's and giddy squeals,
Since we soon had to don our Bored Faces for the New York Subway.

In this video, it's hard to tell who is saying what since H. and I have similar sounding camera voices. But this is a sample of what went on in the car. We decided to spare you the torture of our Beatles sing along.

(H. did a much better job than I at this. I often had to bury my face in my bag to hide my excitement. Or I pretended to sneeze. Or my upper lip twitched to no end. Or I looked worried since it's been years since I rode the Subway. Let's just say that I failed at assuming a jaded countenance in New York. But we had a jolly good time.)

Next up: Trains and Subways and Lots of Buttery and Sugary Things To Eat.