What’s dessert got to do with superheroes?

What's dessert got to do with superheroes?
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I came across a tweet last night that reminded me of Thai food which I happen to love. Yup, like half the world out there, I’ve been sitting here obsessively refreshing my tweet feeds and mentally praying that the Thai cave rescue of the last 4 (out of 12) boys and their soccer coach will go safely, smoothly and swiftly.

So to keep that unstoppable finger off my left mouse button, I figured I’d distract myself and keep my spirits up at the same time by talking about my favorite Thai dessert. Yums.

Well, y’all know me, I’m not much of a desserts person. Never quite fancied how overly sweet most desserts are that’re out there. No, seriously, where do you find a dessert that isn’t diabetic?

And yet, on an unbearably hot day last year, I surrendered to the call of tub tim krob. That’s not the name of a person, mind you, though it does sound like that distant grand-uncle who ruffled your hair when you were six?

What's dessert got to do with superheroes?

Okay, okay, so I’ve been having a hard time with the name, calling it tum tim tom, tim tum rom, tim tom kob, no, that’s not right either! Hopefully none of these are vulgarities I may have let slip without knowing their meanings but you get the idea. I just couldn’t get it right.

Yet it’s one of the best things ever. Although tim tub krob looks as scary as your white-haired grand-uncle at first sight with that thick coconut milkiness, there’s a lot of fun stuff going on underneath that mountain of shaved ice – thinly sliced jackfruit, red and green rubies of water chestnuts and whatever else is in there, it’s all good.

What's dessert got to do with superheroes?

This is sweet but not grab-you-by-the-throat sweet. Having all those rubies inside helps cut through some of that sweetness. And of course, in weather like this, I love all things chilled and icy.

So then, back to the newsfeeds. It’s crazy to even try to comprehend what it’s taken to get to this point in a rescue that’s fraught with so many dangers and factors beyond human control.

What’s truly incredible and heartwarming are the stories of kindness, compassion and sacrifice, the many levels of brainstorms, tough decisions and planning, and the thousands of real-life superheroes who have literally emerged from out of nowhere in this time of need. Truly amazing!

Today is an important day in the rescue. They’re trying to wrap up the mission and get everyone out of there quickly and safely before the brunt of the monsoon. Okay, back to refreshing my feeds, sending positive energy and praying (join me, there can never be too many prayers for something like this).

Lockstep day

Lockstep day
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I had a simple lunch today. Alone. All I wanted was to eat and absolutely not have to talk to anyone. The result of two mornings of dealing with organizations that specialize in runarounds, excruciating headaches and leg cramps. It’s beyond me how something so incredibly simple can become so insanely complicated??!

Anyways, there’s this cafe I go to that’s the perfect hangout. There’s nothing fancy about it. In fact, it’s plain, dull and rather dimly lit as cafes go, which probably explains why it’s so cooling inside. It has the feel of  a big cave, spacious and cool with ample angled corners and small spaced-out tables where you can sit and relax without feeling trapped.

Some simple noodles and a glass of cham (an ingenious concoction of coffee and tea) and I’m happy. These noodles aren’t that good but at least I have the peace and quiet to eat slowly and enjoy my book.

Lockstep

After lunch, I decide to take a stroll around the mall. No sooner do I get on the escalator when a young man with a backpack decides, at that same exact moment, to descend on that very same step and I’m like, what the heck is happening?!!

We’re squished together on one step when there’s like 35 other steps he could’ve picked. I give him the slanted eye as he continues to stand there like a bag of rocks, never once moving or turning his head. Okay, so maybe the poor boy needs his 20 seconds in the orbit of a mother, so sad for him lol.

At the top of the escalator, he turns right and I turn left (goodbye, my escalator friend) as my attention turns to… oh, nothing of interest in any of the clothing stores. I wander into Uniqlo for no reason and note that their current collection features jarringly obvious prints. Great but if I were to wear that, I’m guaranteed to run into 50 other people wearing the same exact thing! So no!

I walk around some more and wander, again for no reason, into Muji where everything is either gray, brown, white or black. Absolutely nothing wrong with that if I were feeling foggy but today, I’m feeling and looking like neon pink. So no!

And that brings me to the end of my nothing-interests-me tour of the mall. So what’s left? Not much except the grand old grocery store to scout for random veggies. I decide on avocados, pumpkin, bread… and after running the length of the vegetable aisle and finding only a pitiful selection, I’m forced to rummage through the organic section. Which, by the way, I find quite amusing.

As I’m coming out of checkout, another random young man falls into lockstep with me as he tries to get me to sign up for some credit card. Most times, this gets me slightly annoyed, especially when I can’t understand a single word of what they’re saying so my signature bored and beechy resting face is my unspoken answer right there.

Strangely though, this guy’s super cheerful, speaks English and refuses to be shooed away. So now even I have to smile when giving my standard answer – “No, no thanks”. Of course, he insists his card is like no other and that I simply must sign up now or forever regret it. He’s funny and frankly, I admire his enthusiasm. He’s prattling on like a train even as he tries to keep up with me. His is not an enviable job and I wish I could help him but the best I can do is tell him “No thanks but good luck”.

Some days, you run into random people that bring up question marks in your brain and other days, you run into someone that make you smile. I ran into both types today. Lucky me!

The receptionist and the food seller

The receptionist and the food seller
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And so when Wesak Day (the Buddha’s birthday) rolled around, I signed up to be a volunteer. I mean, why not? It sounded like the perfect excuse to get out of the house, meet new people and do some good. I was all gungho and excited and signed up for not one but two ‘jobs’. I had no idea if I was being over-enthusiastic but decided that I’d go with Nike and “just do it”!

For two days, I played receptionist at an art exhibition that was being held in conjunction with Wesak Day. Never having been a receptionist before, it was good fun pretending to be one (lol) welcoming visitors, having them sign in the visitors’ log and handing out guide books, all while baring my teeth flashing a toothy smile!!

On Wesak Day itself, I took on my other job, one that involved, you guessed it – food, lots of food, so much food – only this time, I got to be on the other side of the counter. I started my food selling stint with a partner who pretty soon was called to help out at another counter. A manpower womanpower shortage apparently!

So off she went and I was left manning the entire counter all by my lonesome. At this point, I should mention that my only other bit of volunteering experience was at a food pantry in California handing out bags of groceries to the underprivileged. Which doesn’t really count for relevant experience, if you ask me, but I guess it’s close enough.

So there, I found myself fearlessly going the whole 9 yards from promoting and bagging to collecting payment and replenishing stock, all while baring my teeth flashing a toothy smile!!

Yup, I sure did a lot of smiling. I mean, heck, it was such a lot of fun who could resist smiling to themselves? Not me. And you know what else, half the fun and amusement was seeing this whole new side of myself that I’ve not seen before lol.

To sum up this whole experience in a hashtag: stuff you never got to do when you were running mom’s taxi. So worth it!

Between a cuppa and a sippa

Between a cuppa and a sippa
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So one exceptionally fine morning on the dawn of a new day maybe, I found myself sitting in some corner cafe having ordered myself an early lunch. When it came, I noticed the portion was rather yuge. My lunches aren’t usually this heavy but I had a growling tummy to appease so what the heck!

Between a cuppa and a sippa

Not only did I dig in shamelessly, I licked the platter clean! If I’m hungry, I eat. I don’t care if it’s the right or wrong time to be eating like a pauper or a king, or how many “guilt trips” I’m supposed to run round the park afterwards. Bunch of bologna! Our grandparents did just fine before all this nonsense started circulating. So yeah, just do what your body tells ya and you’ll be fine!

Oh yes, and I even ordered a drink!

Which I’m so not in the habit of doing. Instead I’m used to getting the slanted eye for refusing to order a drink. Oooh, I’m so shivering in my shoes! But like it or not, it’s a habit of mine cultivated from when I was that new kid on the office block. A group of us would frequent the cafes and eateries near the office daily.

When most everyone else would order a drink, I would almost inadvertently say no. My logic is really quite simple. Why order a drink when the office is 5 minutes away and all the drinks I could ever want are right there in that pantry? It doesn’t make sense!

But if I’m feeling happy and relaxed or craving a certain kind of drink, I’d certainly pamper myself with one. Like on this particular day when I really wanted something to sip on while settling in to read a book.

Between a cuppa and a sippa

A book, you say?! Yeah, this is probably the first book I’m reading in something like 20 years but I’m not ashamed to admit it. Hey, I’ve been busy devoting all of my energy on being the best mom I could be and somehow in the midst of all that rushing around, never found the patience nor the inclination to sit through a book.

What good fortune that I should suddenly find a book in my hand and the time to read it at leisure over a glass of coffee and tea! And that’s got to be a good thing, right? *lifts up glass* Cheers!

An occasional vegetarian’s dilemma

An occasional vegetarian's dilemma
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So another vegetarian day rolls around and this time, it falls smack on a weekend. And weekends are when I do my grocery runs. Simply because I so enjoy mingling with the rest of humanity. If you want the skin of your ankles scraped off by stroller wheels or your bum pancaked against your grocery cart, this is the day and the way to do it!!!

Okay, so now I’m at the mall and I’m walking aimlessly trying to think where I can find a decent vegetarian lunch. Nothing comes to mind. This is when it hits me. Sure, going vegetarian every fortnight is a good thing (both from a religious and health perspective) but vegetarian food is notoriously hard to find when you’re out. Probably not to some but to me, it is! ’nuff said!

Wait, I do know one place – a newly-stumbled vegetarian restaurant. So we head on over, only to find a parade of smiling staff leaning against empty tables and chairs, arms folded, turning people away. Wh-whot?!!? What’s goin’ on?!!! Well, here’s the story one-liner – there’s a “problem with the gas”. Darn, what could be wrong with “the gas” on a day we’ve got nowhere else to go??!

Well, I wasn’t sticking around to find out. I took it to mean, better get out of here quick before the fireworks begin!!! Okay, so maybe I overreacted. Still, better safe than sorry. I herded my group to higher ground. We wandered around wondering what we could eat but almost everything I could think of had some element of either meat or eggs in them. Think, come on, think harder! Well, good luck with that. When your tummy’s growling like a bear, you can’t even hear yourself think!

So we bummed around and eventually wound up with a miscellany of this and that and called it lunch. Okay, let’s see what we had. Lonely french fries, without the chicken.

An occasional vegetarian's dilemma

A reluctant salad for sharing. Trust me, this wasn’t love at first sight. Unwrapped self-service food in open glass coolers are a huge red flag for me and I stay clear of them for obvious reasons (golly help us if someone were to sneeze over them!! and believe me, I’ve heard a big old sneeze in a bakery but was too afraid to look back, so yes!). But desperate times call for desperate measures so I crossed my fingers and dug in.

An occasional vegetarian's dilemma

Not that the salad tasted half bad but that doesn’t mean I’m okay with room temperature salads. I’m not. Clearly that cooler belongs in the junkyard. That said, there’s nothing that a good old cup of cold bubble tea can’t fix, right?

An occasional vegetarian's dilemma

Do you have an interesting vegetarian story to share? Either leave me a comment, or post it on your own blog and leave the link below.

What’s in that rickety tin bowl?

What's in that rickety tin bowl?
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Just when I thought it was going to be an ordinary dinner at one of the most highly-anticipated restaurants on our p.e.a.r.l (our picky eater restaurant list is still very much alive despite having gone through many iterations since the last mention), this Saturday night Korean barbecue came with a question, what’s in that rickety tin bowl?.

We walked in and all the tables inside the restaurant were occupied so we had to grudgingly say okay when the server pointed us to a table outside. Outside, as in on the kerb along the road where cars are double parked.

After the initial clinkety-clang of distributing plates and cutlery (which is apparently the customers’ job now), we eventually settled down to enjoy an ambiance of blue evening skies, natural lighting and lungfuls of a barbecue smoke and carbon monoxide fume cocktail that, we were delighted to note, comes free with the meal! Aah, the joys of kerbside dining!

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

So there we were, alternating between flipping various kinds of meat on the grill and constructing meat morsels and 반찬 (banchan or side dishes) into lettuce wraps. I have to admit that when it comes to cramming fistfuls of lettuce wraps into my mouth like they do in Korean dramas, I’m an epic fail. I bite my lettuce wraps in half and sometimes chomp on just the leaf alone. Duh!

Diners were filling up the tables fast and pretty soon, we were surrounded. Too busy playing musical chairs with cutlery and utensils on a table that’s way too small for everything to fit, I paid little attention to the 40-ish couple at the next table. From out of the blue, Mr Smiley (seems he had this perpetual smile pasted on his face) reached across and asked if we’d like to have the excess rice balls his wife was rolling in her gloved hands.

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

I was like, what? say that again, read: eyeing him in disbelief. Now how often does a random stranger offer to share their food? That’s right, almost never, right?! although I’m guilty of having done it myself. One time, we had a bowl of untouched salad that was too much for us to finish and so as not to let it go to waste, I handed it over to the young couple at the next table. And they too had been just as wide-eyed and hesitant to accept my offering then.

Now here was a stranger holding out a rickety tin bowl with 9 rice balls inside and I’m like umm. I could’ve been gracious and snatched the bowl from his hand but my first instinct was to say no. It would’ve been out of character for me to accept. People including acquaintances have been offended. Not that I mean to offend. Truth is although I love to cook and I blog endlessly about food, food is not really a big thing for me.

So then Mr Smiley started explaining that one order of rice balls was too much for him and his wife as they had other dishes as well. Then, he said the magic phrase – they don’t like wasting food, he said and I was impressed and instantly sold. We collectively chimed in and thanked him profusely. Since you put it that way, sure, we’ll help you with that, thanks lol.

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

So that was how a rickety tin bowl and 9 rice balls changed hands. We’d never had rice balls before but Mr Smiley assured us they’re delicious and that we won’t regret it. And he was right. Those rice balls were freakin’ tasty (we order them quite often now) and meeting these like-minded folks is always nice.

What's in that rickety tin bowl?

That not so obligatory end of year post 2017

That not so obligatory end of year post 2017
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As usual, at around this time of year, I’ll be agonizing over whether to write that obligatory end of year post. Which really isn’t that big of a deal, if you think about it. Because, you know what, no one really cares what kind of year you had. They’re all out taking one last swing at the holidays before going back to the exciting world of work and real life in the new year. Bah humbug!!

Oops, was I being negative? Because it’s something of an online crime these days to be sayin’ negative stuff. Now I’ve done it. Now no one’s going to be reading this post for sure. So scratch that and let me bring on the positive vibes. In the spirit of positivity, let me start with what we had for dinner on that oh-sooo-long-ago Christmas Day. Yup, you guessed it, Korean fried turkey. The real deal – teeny tiny little turkey chunks – crunchy, meaty, sweet and spicy! So good, I tell ya!

That obligatory end of year post 2017

My all-time favorite Korean fried “turkey”!

Okay so I did a lot of traveling this year, zipped across the planet a few times. I’ve stopped looking aghast when people gasp at how I do those 20-hour flights so often. No matter what my answer or expression may be, the unspoken answer in my head is always the same – when you love where you’re going, you’ll do it over and over again and never consider it a chore. Simple, eh?

With all that traveling back and forth, it’s also been the Year of Road Trips for me. I’m now officially wearing my Road Trip Warrior badge. Those were some amazing road trips. I enjoyed each and every one of them and would gladly do them all over again, especially the Grand Canyon, in spite of having done some of them a few times before.

Wait, what else did I do this year? Lots, that’s for sure but it’s hard enough remembering what I had for lunch 3 days ago so try recalling an entire year’s worth of events without looking through a folder of 10,000 photos. Forget it.

All I want to say is: Be attentive to the people you love and who love you most. Before dismissing anyone or their problems, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes (this point inspired by 2 people who would still be alive today if someone close to them had taken their depression seriously).

Spare a thought, some loose change or whatever you can (no good deed is ever too small) for those less fortunate. Make some time every day to pray for lunatics to somehow find sanity, for Mother Nature to figure a way to heal the planet and most importantly, for world peace.

And of course, thank you for reading my humble blog. Have a safe and wonderful New Year! Here’s to good food, good friends (whoever you may be lol), good conversations and a fantastic year ahead!

Happy Thanksgiving from my head to yours

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Once upon a Thanksgiving Day, I was clucking around in the kitchen like a crazy chicken prepping the turkey for roasting, setting a pot of water for making the best-darned mashed potatoes, putting my kungfu knife skills to the cabbage for my killer coleslaw…

Somehow it feels strange to be sitting here doing all of this clucking inside my head instead of in the kitchen. Thanksgiving has always meant a lot to me. Doesn’t matter if I don’t celebrate Chinese New Year (which I’ve missed for 3 years straight several times in my lifetime) but Thanksgiving, I’ve made it a tradition and never missed a beat.

This year, I’m in the desert and there’s no turkey in sight for miles so I decided to do the next best thing – pardon the turkey. Sure, I miss my home-roasted turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes, and even more so, since I started making even my own cranberry sauce and coleslaw from scratch in recent years.

What keeps me celebrating Thanksgiving is that it’s so much more meaningful than many other events I can think of. I don’t make it a habit to shout out the things I’m grateful for but rest assured, I do have a mental list swirling around in the cosmic universe inside my head.

Do I wish that more people were grateful for the things they have and for the people in their lives? Sure I do but hey! I’ve just had the most awesome homemade roast turkey feast – inside my head – to think of anything else! Hope you did too. Happy Thanksgiving from my head to yours!

Only words

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First there were the Wordless Wednesdays and I think many of us had fun with it. I have to admit it’s an ingenious way to ‘write’ a blog post without actually writing it! But now I’ve decided on going in the opposite direction – pictureless posts, something that few may embrace though it sounds like fun to me.

For too long, we’ve given in to our photo-snapping obsession and allowed our pictures to tell our stories for us. Some folks have even gone so far as to trade in their blogs for insta’s. Nothing wrong with that but there’s a reason why I never bothered setting up an account!

Personally, I’m not a fan of using my photos to do the talking, or blogging, for me. I’m someone who rarely pulls out my cellphone to show people my pictures or plaster them all over the internet. I actually prefer to describe stuff to folks whether they like it or not.

We-ell, it could be because in real life, I’m a nerd lol. So yeah, it’s all very well that technology has made it so much easier for our pictures to paint a thousand words but for me, I still prefer to write a thousand words.

I think half the fun of blogging is the writing itself. To some, a post without pictures is like driving without a steering wheel. I get that! But somehow, that’s not me! Sure, photos add a nice backdrop but ultimately, I think it’s the words themselves that speak the loudest.

More power to the written word! Hear, hear!

Days like this

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Okay, so it’s a sizzlin’ 106 degrees outside. It’s been hovering steady at these temps all week. That’s the heatwave for ya, all up and down the west coast of California and the southwest in general. Good thing we’re back from our road trip to Arizona (it’s even hotter there, ouch!) or you’d hear me swearing from way out there (not that I swear. that much!)

Inside the house, however, it’s a different story. We haven’t set foot outside today. Not one step. Yup, best to stay cool even if it may be a little stuffy at times with the windows shut tight to keep out the hot air. Thankfully the air-conditioning is behaving.

So here we are, on this sizzler of a day. The first phone alarm goes off at 5:30 this morning. I stumble across the room in true zombie fashion to swipe the freakin’ thing off and jump back into bed. Mid-dream, someone else’s phone alarm goes off. Who the heck sets the alarm to 6:02 anyways? Okay, okay, it was ME!

I transport said phone to my bedside table knowing it’ll ring again soon and I’m certainly not going to go tripping across the room for the third time. The next time it rings, my arm swings out and I blindly and furiously tap my screen till the music stops. Note to self: I really shouldn’t use a song I like as an alarm. Now I kinda hate that song.

Okay, okay, I’m up, I’m up! If I sound like I really don’t want to get up, I’m lying! Thoughts of that delicious cup of morning coffee sends me off like an arrow, headed straight to ye ol’ electric kettle to turn it on. And that jingle is playing in my head, the same one I learned from the TV commercial during my college days – the best part of waking up is Folgers in my cup!

I take, oh maybe, a half hour over my bowl of oats and coffee, savoring the still and quiet of the morning as I potter around the house and the internet before anyone else is awake. That, for me, is the best part of waking up with the sun.

Soon the house is awake with sounds of Hip2bDaughter2 concocting her potato soup from scratch in the kitchen. By this time, I’m hungry. Again. I need to eat. But with lunch time technically 3 hours away, what am I supposed to do to assuage a growling tummy?

Thank goodness for leftovers. But is the single serving of rice and braised pork ribs from last night enough for us? Clearly not! So should we have the potato soup now? The answer is, why not?! Potato soup and crackers it is! That’s how we end up finishing lunch at 9:30am.

And needless to say, by the time the real lunch time rolls around, we’re famished. Poking my head into the refrigerator, I find the last bit of banana cake we baked last week for our Arizona road trip. Whew! I’m glad someone thought to defrost it.

By mid-afternoon, the naughty knotty tummies are a-calling yet again and this time, it’s some sun chips, dates and a half grapefruit each. By dinner time, it’s really beginning to feel like we haven’t stopped eating since breakfast, which is technically true.

Still, dinner is certainly not to be missed. Soon ’em chicken wings be in the oven (on such a hot day?! you better believe it!) and a whole pound of ’em asparagus (which is in season at $1.99 per lb so it’s been asparagus 3 nights in a row!) be saute-in’ in the skillet.

Man, I love me days like this, just hanging out at home chillin’ and drinkin’ (lots of water!), with no place to go and nothing much to do and piles of unwashed dishes in the sink, that make life in the hometown so cool. Did I just say cool?!

 

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