Thursday, June 30, 2011

JUST before July

It's almost July! I needed to squeeze in one last post for June.
My friend Kristen laments on how she wished that August would arrive so we can all resume our dynamic college lives, but I'm in no hurry leave just yet.  Yes, home life can be suffocating, yet I'm trying this new thing where I take a step back and realize how grateful I am for the present. 
Took me long enough to figure that one out, eh? ;)
I work hard and I see the people I love; that I can not complain about.  I wish I was more satisfied though, because I always find myself dwelling and yearning for the past and how things used to be.  I realized that my attitudes towards the present realities can either be joyful and boundless, or turn painful and bitter.  Obviously we are shooting for the former.

So between these two attitudes, there seems to be a bit of a trade-off:
I despise my weakened mental resilience when it comes to exercise and how I don't maintain my body the way it used to be; I am frustrated by various restrictions in my life that I can't seem to overcome; I am saddened by the people who are losing priority in my eyes, as I am losing touch in theirs.
I am proud of what I have learned throughout these last two years, and the progress that I still am making in all different areas of my life; I am thankful for a mind that has been expanded and a body that has healed itself; I am astounded at the maturity that has developed in my family relations, despite the occasional setback; I am invigorated by my friends who have stayed true and keep me going.

Oh, the contradiction of life.
Peace out, take care and see you in July :).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Back with my Baking Buddy

Of course I'm still bonding over food with friends.

In particular, my friend Ariel and I go back to the middle school years of being baking buddies. Last week was the first time we really spent time together since I returned from college, and it was great running errands at the grocery store and making our own confections.

I just bought a cookbook from Kohl's ($5 and all going to charity, why not?) that has dozens of simple, healthy recipes. We used Ariel's wilting bananas and made the banana blueberry muffins-- and I added the rest of the dried cranberries from my house.

We also baked a two-layer confetti cake for Jen's birthday, smothering it with vanilla frosting and candy messages.

And for dinner, we followed another recipe for pesto pasta salad. I've never made my own pesto unfortunately, so we mixed in pre-made from the olive bar at Wegman's. That was super easy to make as well, and with fresh cut mozzarella, steamed broccoli and crunchy bread, dinner was divine!
Would anyone like to join me for a food party?  Really, come visit, and we'll eat until we pass out.

Listening: "A Punk" by Vampire Weekend

Friday, June 17, 2011

Riots Whereever We Go

"It's like a Chinese Thanksgiving!"
Wednesday night I went to dinner at P.F. Chang's for my friend Jen's 18th birthday (which was Thursday)! It was chaotic and confusing trying to order a sufficient amount of food for a table of 12, because it's served family style, but the staff was totally patient and courteous.  A lot of my friends were first-time eaters there, so of course we ordered the chicken lettuce wraps!  Much laughter was shared as we passed around sweet and sour chicken, sesame chicken, crab wontons, lemon scallops, the coconut curry veggies and tofu that I ordered, and much more.  Dessert was fun too; Jen was given a complementary dessert 'shooter', while a few others tackled the 7-layer chocolate chocolate cake called the "Great Wall of Chocolate"!!  We were all frazzled by the ordering process, then forgetting what we had ordered when it arrived, though Jen declared that dinner with all her friends was perfect.  I couldn't agree more :).
A group picture in front of the (hollow!) horse statue outside the restaurant. 
Do you have a particular restaurant or place you love going out with your friends?

 Afterwards I slept over at Jen's house, though there wasn't much rest amidst the wild toddler, cats walking all over you, and her 9th grade brother climbing and harassing our friend Brad.  Typical-- but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Lastly, that afternoon a baffling package arrived in the mail! It turned out to be a lovely, hand-sewn leather iPhone case that my extraordinary friend Justin ordered from Etsy!  The crafter (Robbie Motto) mailed it to me, accompanied by an endearing note from him.  We became friends this year at school, and he lives quite a distance away, so this really made my day :).
If you're up to it, send a friend, regardless of how near or far they are or how often you see each other, a handwritten note just to remind them how much their friendship means to you.  And if you'd like a snail mail penpal, at least for the summer, give me a shout. Receiving mail addressed to me is my favorite

Happy Weekend!
Listening: "United State of Pop" by DJ Earworm

Monday, June 13, 2011

An Except from a Self-Described Foodie

So I'm going to talk about spinach again...

Okay, I asserted my adoration for spinach.  One thing that irks me, however, is the rapid deterioration and expiration of these glorious leaves-- pretty much the reason I went on a spinach binge the past few days.  We also had left over wheat pasta and three (!) cartons of eggs (what??), so I figured it was time to improvise.
I put a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and began cooking chopped tomatoes and baby carrots.  I poured a bit of water in and placed the lid for a few minutes to stew and soften them.  Then I added a handful of spinach, followed by two eggs.  I proceeded to scramble the eggs and vegetables and finally stirred in the pasta and remaining spinach.  With the help of herb & garlic hot sauce, thyme (amazing with eggs) and oregano, I cooked a delicious dinner.
So much did I enjoy my dinner, I basically made the same type of meal to bring to work as lunch for the next day!  Incidentally enough, the Food Network had Iron Chef on, and the secret ingredient was... spinach! Haha, I was so pumped but unfortunately none of the courses were as practical for me to cook.  For this serving, I left out the tomatoes and added peanuts.  I also used curry powder, chili powder, cumin and turmeric rather than the former spices.  Curry powder rocks my world, and another satisfying reinvented pasta-egg-spinach meal was consumed.
Finally, I had less than two cups of raw spinach that I bagged and placed in the freezer over night.  For breakfast the next day, I blended the frozen spinach with a handful of frozen blueberries, original Silk soy milk and a spoonful of berry jam.  Please reconsider the concept of smoothies/mixed drinks with me, because this was amazing!  It smelled more of spinach, but the taste wasn't strongly present, I think due to the jam.  I was quite proud of my superfood smoothie.  Oh, and that's more spiced oatmeal with blueberries and cranberries :).
Yay, spinach!

Sunday the cafe where I work closes at noon but the ice cream side stays open until nine, and I had that shift for a few hours. The air finally chilled out, but no one was in the mood for ice cream. Basically I was being paid to serve no one. Yet, I did spend a solid amount of time making waffle cones! We began making them 'in house' a few weeks ago, and the batter is quite simple and I enjoy using the press and mold and making the shop smell heavenly.

Here's a brief glance at the process
(collage courtesy of the iPhone app called Montager):
And can I say how gratifying it is to fill a container with hand-molded cones, with the curiously delighted inquiries of customers who are now persuaded to eat them.


A parting Instagram-ed shot:
 Boca Grande Beach Lighthouse, Florida

Apologies for the superficial/lame posts-- I'm hoping to come around to something a bit more substantial soon enough.  Have a good week!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Your Stomach on the Line

After last post, Joce had me thinking; I'm going to try to write about more of the culinary adventures I have.  
Especially things that are inexpensive and easily reproduced.  I, fortunately, did not subsist on ramen noodles in my dorm room at school because our dining services were actually great, but I have learned what's good food to keep around!
I have developed a fondness for oatmeal Maybe I'm overthinking it, but it absolutely excites me when I consider all the ways you can prepare oatmeal-- like a blank canvas! I prefer plain oats, either instant or microwavable.  I think it tastes better than the other instant oatmeals, and I know there aren't any odd chemicals or flavorings.  When I have more time and a stove I definitely go with rolled and steel-cut oats.  I tend to cook the oats in half water-milk (whoo, a dairy serving!) and fill it slightly above the oats in the bowl-- I'm a not-too-lumpy-or-moist oatmeal person :P.  It's kind of trial and error, similarly with the microwave times because all are different, though starting with one minute is good.
Then, comes the culinary freedom!  Some ideas that I mix and match:
  • pushing some oatmeal aside to eat with plain or vanilla yogurt, or applesauce
  • mixing in fruit jams (also helps plain yogurt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
  • maple syrup or honey
  • brown sugar (while the oatmeal is still hot, so it caramelizes :)
    cinnamon (I use generous amounts) and a dash of nutmeg
  • sliced almonds or walnuts
  • toasted coconut
  • any fresh or dried fruit
  • granola mixed in, or improvise with your favorite cereal
  • a dash of whipped cream or a few mini marshmallows :)
  • and savory flavors! I haven't gone too much into that, yet I imagine eggs and cheese with thyme would rock.
Yeah, it seems obvious, but once I started thinking about all the possibilities I was blown away.  I have oatmeal nearly every morning.  It was so convenient at school because you can throw whatever you want into it. Oh, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are my absolute favorite.  I still haven't tried baking oatmeal, but I'll post about that once it's done :).  Do you have any oatmeal ingenuity that you would like to share?

The picture next to my breakfast (accompanied with a chai latté) was my lunch!  I could, without a doubt, live on baby spinach I love eating it straight out of the bag.  I just happened to have the perfect melange of food in my house to make this extravagant salad: leftover summer squash that was sautéed in olive oil and dill, leftover sliced chicken, a diced tomato, peanuts and dried cranberries.  Then I added a bit of a herb olive oil dressing.  It was so satisfying, my bragging is obnoxious but I felt like this was breaching restaurant quality (at least a Panera-type :P).  What's your favorite food to indulge on in the summer?  I could also o.d. on watermelon!!

Ahh, and Monday night I finally had my first backyard bonfire of the season.  Nothing like keeping the neighbors awake with my friends under the stars.  I think I ate four s'mores and roasted numerous marshmallows.  I was so glad to go to bed smelling of burning wood.

Listening: "North by North" by Faded Paper Figures

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sound Off

All these pictures are from my iPhone.  I love this thing, a bit too much!

Over the last few years I have had a difficult time finding external speakers for iPods/mp3 players.  They tend to be unreliably short-lived and distort sound to a certain degree.  And expensive!  I'm thinking, though, that my next investment will be in this Lego speaker that can connect to iPods.  It's only $10 on and use the iPod life rather than its own battery.  Yay!
On another note, I spent this past weekend back at my school for the Alumni Reunion.  Rather than organizing for a specific class, it's a series of milestones gathered together.  This weekend we had over 1,200 alumni attendees and their families for the 5th, 10th, 25th, 30th, 40th, 50th, 55th and 60th reunions, and more!  I spent the first two days trapped in the Registration room, handing out packets to alumni and orienting them with what they needed to do with their name tags and residences for the weekend.  Thankfully Saturday I worked outside at different events, and it was glorious weekend.
I spent Wednesday through Sunday living in one of the upper class dorms, but it's the shoddy one known to be trashed on weekends.  The walls are this terrible whitewashed stone, and there's permanent stains and odd smells in the carpet, but at least I had a view of the courtyard..!

As a student working registration, we would be open until 10 pm so I wouldn't have time to make a proper dinner and eat until 11!!  Luckily, there were quite a few friends living on campus for the summer, whether they were doing research or working, so we had some food resources.  My friend Soknea, from Cambodia, always cooked jasmine rice and fried chicken.  She also stir-fried asparagus, while I contributed peanuts and haphazardly cooked lentils, and my friend Viktoriya made a cucumber tomato salad.  We kept joking on how we should be documenting the curiously innovative meals of struggling college students :D.

The alumni were, for the most part, generous, zealous people with a great enthusiasm for my (our) school.  Some of them had not been on campus in over 40 years!  It was my pleasure to show them how things have developed and changed, and they shared many of their stories as well.  The classes of 80, 81 and 82 (for the 30th year reunion) resided in the same dorm that I lived this past year as a Freshman.  My friends and I were wandering around Saturday and saw that all the lounge furniture had been moved outside!!!  I found it brilliant.  We would have been fined if we tried that...

One of the annual events during the reunion is the Parade of Classes.  I had to help blow up hundreds of balloons, for each class had their own specific color and theme.  It was hilarious and I was so thrilled to see all these alumni marching around.  It was also amusing how drunk they all were throughout the weekend, and we danced with them during the concerts at night, and some had to be chased down after they stole a golf cart!!  Despite the long hours, I'm glad I came up to work.  The pay check will be gratifying and I'll certainly do this again next summer!
This is the class of 1961, and their banner. I can't even imagine what the next 50 years will bring.

Listening: "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty