Reflecting on 2014

Here we are, on the last day of yet another year. For me, 2014 has been a little surreal in more ways than one. I woke up on New Year’s Day 2014 in Vancouver, Canada and we’re counting down to 2015 here in California. Sometimes, I wake up and I have to take a minute to check my mental GPS.

Looking back, it’s been sort of interesting…

Cooking firsts

This has been a year of cooking firsts for me. In these past years of cooking for my kids, I’ve always been the chief of pastas, salads, and roasts. This year, well, we seem to be going through a small Asian food revolution here. My kids have started warming up to Asian food which they never quite appreciated before. Thing is I’m not much of an Asian chef. But being the mom that I am, I’ve always catered to my picky eaters’ whims and fancies, or at least, I’ve tried. So that set me off dishing out an eggplant stirfry here, a sophisticated steamed tofu there and glam rice congee on a cold day. There’s nothing I can’t cook with my kids cheering me on 😉 !

New loves

This has got to be the year of new loves.

  • Fruits, fruits, fruits – all locally grown (read: no worries about their country of origin!).
  • Boots – bought my first pair, so wearing them every day, I’m in love!
  • Mrs Dishwasher, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. That you’re making sweet music with my dishes and pots while I’m sitting here at my computer, and when you’re done, everything comes out squeaky clean.
  • Toilet tablets – truly a gift to someone who hates cleaning the toilet bowl.
  • Ready-peeled shrimps, ready-peeled garlic, pre-washed veggies, you get the idea.
  • A car with a reverse camera – not that I can’t do without one but it sure as heck is a cool thing to have.
  • Self-cleaning oven… and if I were ever to have pet fish, they would live a life of luxury in a self-cleaning fish tank.
  • A whirlwind romance with Korean food, thanks to the K-friend who dragged us around town in search of.

Learning experiences

This year has been fraught with new learning experiences, among them:

  • Don’t park the car under a tree unless you want it to be decorated with bird droppings.
  • Volunteering at a community service center was a first and very rewarding experience for me.
  • I spoke Korean to our Korean mart lady so I guess that officially makes me Korean, huh?
  • Diving into a ‘shark’ tank was eye-opening *shudders* and we might even have befriended a semi-friendly shark name of Roger.

I swear there’s a ton more stuff I’d blogged inside my head for days before this but right now, this is about all I can come up with. I’ve got Korean BBQ chicken wing dings fresh out of the oven, scallops and Shiitake mushrooms and a bowl of kimchi sitting on the dining table.

To all my readers and fellow bloggers, have a safe and amazing 2015. Happy New Year!

How I learned to cook

These days I’m spending much more time in the kitchen than ever before in my life. Since my kitchen has always been managed by a team of devoted chefs and food experts (to whom I’m eternally grateful) who took care of all the daily cooking and cleaning, I rarely found reason to venture in there. Don’t judge, I may or may not have been a spoilt brat.

When I left home for college halfway across the planet, I was armed with all of two kitchen skills – boiling water and frying an egg. More often than not, cracking the egg itself presented a major obstacle as half the egg would inadvertently end up outside the pan.

It didn’t help that I was surrounded by roommates and friends who were no better than me. We never knew how our meals would turn out, many times they were some of the most grotesque meals imaginable and very hard to swallow indeed (literally!). One time we got together to cook fried rice, it turned into fried porridge. So you can imagine.

On a random night, someone would ask, “So what are we eating tonight?”. And someone else would shrug and say, without even looking embarrassed, “I don’t know, I just put everything in and boiled it for an hour… I think, I’m not sure because I got a phone call and forgot all about it. And when I came back, this is it!”.

I somehow survived my first year of college sharing the cooking with these 6 or 7 other clueless amateurs. Don’t ask me what we cooked or ate. I honestly don’t know. All I can say is that our food pictures would’ve blown any cellphone camera to Mars and back, if cellphones existed back then.

So then, being that I was a student on a shoestring budget, I couldn’t afford to eat out often, and it quickly became obvious I had to either learn to cook something palatable fast, or starve. As it happened, I lucked out and found a new roommate to share my apartment the second year whose boyfriend was a pretty darned good cook and although he didn’t live with us, she had clearly picked up a few recipes from him.

Hanging around the kitchen while she cooked, I learned a thing or two. We took turns to cook on alternate nights and somewhere along the line, I guess my cooking improved. Sorta. It wasn’t the best but it was decent, she never complained, and that gave me confidence.

And those were the early days of my cooking adventures. Looking back, leaving home without the foggiest idea of how to cook was plain crazy. But I got by with trial and error. I guess as long as you (and the poor folks you’re cooking for) are willing to close one eye and pretend your gobs of grub to be gourmet food, it’s all good 😉 .

So tell me, do you cook? Are you one of the lucky ones who was born with a spatula in your hand, or did you have to learn the hard way (like me)? Share your cooking story.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

So here we are, on one heckuva sunny Thanksgiving day. The weatherman says it’s 70 degrees but I’m more inclined to go with 80 seeing as the sun is streaming in through every window and brightening up the whole house. I know, I can’t believe how excited I am about the sun either. That’s so not me but when the air is cool outside, I don’t mind the sun so much.

On to the turkey. While everyone else was picking out the biggest turkeys (one person bought 6 turkeys!!), we chose the smallest one there was, and it’s this 11-pounder…

turk1

… set to work marinating it overnight…

turk2

… and now it’s turning an amazing golden brown in the oven while we’re sitting here breathing in that heavenly aroma *drools*. I’ve left a window open to torture the neighbors 😉 ! I don’t think that’s going to work though as I’m sure everyone is roasting a turkey today.

turk3

In the tradition of giving thanks, I’m going to say I’m thankful for everyone who reads and comments on this blog. I am also thankful to the person who created online shopping (whoever you are) which allows me to shop till I drop in the comfort of my living room (hi ho, Silver!) instead of physically getting out there to do battle on Black Friday.

Have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving, everyone! Smile, hug and appreciate. And be safe on the road! If you’re getting ready to hit the stores tonight or tomorrow, may the trunk of your car/truck be filled with the best buys of the season! 😀

Fruit paradise

Fruit paradise

Quite frankly, if this isn’t fruit paradise, I don’t know where it would be!! We’ve been devouring fruits like they’re free. Well, they’re not free but they’re certainly not expensive and there’s enough choices to make my eyes go zo-iink! We’ve been carting back boxes and boxes of fruits and eating at least 3 different types of fruits after dinner every night.

Bosc pears, blueberries and crimson grapes

Bosc pears, blueberries and crimson grapes

I love pears but I haven’t bought, or eaten pears in ages simply because I haven’t been able to find any that are not from the land of exploding watermelons. Now there are these Bosc pears, so soft and sweet, I buy them practically every week! It’s like making up for lost time, know what I mean? 😀

Okay, you know the Red Globes or whatever so-called seedless grapes – forget about those. Let me just say, there’s nothing, repeat nothing, like these crimsons. They’re super-sweet. The skin is not bitter and you don’t have to peel it off (if you’ve ever peeled the skin off grapes, you know it’s torture). They pop in the mouth (yes, you can literally hear the pop).

And they’re seedless, as in really seedless, no false advertising here. We’ve been gobbling them every single day, faster than you can say ‘where have these crimsons been all my life?!!’. Sadly they’re out of season now. We passed by the vineyard and the tops of the grapevines have been cut *sobs*. Guess we’ll have to wait till next year for these gorgeous babies.

Bagfuls of crimsons

Bagfuls of crimsons

You know, most fruits are meant to be sweet and plump. But somehow I can’t say I’ve eaten too many strawberries and kiwis that aren’t sour and dry, and that has really put me off. Well now, these strawberries and kiwis are sweet and juicy, and I’m totally sold.

Strawberries, plums, kiwis and gorgeous crimsons

Strawberries, plums, kiwis and gorgeous crimsons

Persimmons, plums, honeycrisps, love ’em all. What can I say?

Persimmons, honeycrisp apples and black plums

Persimmons, honeycrisp apples and black plums

Did you know that storing sweet strawberries with blackberries in the same box makes the blackberries sweeter? And those navel oranges the size of my palm are in season, yay us! Bought my first crate of 24 sweet-and-juicies for $9.99 and I’m laughing!

Navel oranges, blackberries and strawberries

Navel oranges, blackberries and strawberries

So cheers to some of the fruits we’re going gaga over. Of course, we love bananas too because they don’t need to be peeled, cut and stored, says the hip but lazy mom.

You know what’s so great about this whole fruit shopping experience? It’s that I don’t have to scrutinize the labels and question where the fruits are from, and limit myself to buying only Washington apples, Del Monte bananas and kiwis which are practically the only fruits I’ve been buying for years. Now it’s like the fruit gates have been thrown open right before me and I’m shoveling a myriad of fruits into the trunk of my car each week with my eyes closed. I’m in fruit paradise!!!

The talk of town

The talk of town

So everyone was talking about the impending storm on Halloween night. And I mean, everyone. The owner of the Chinese fast food place we frequent, he was the one who told us the storm would start around 11pm. We stepped out of his restaurant a little after 7pm and we were practically air-lifted by the gusty wind and transported to our car. Now that was convenient!

When we got home, I deliberately parked the car outside so the rain (when it came) would give my car that much-needed wash. You have no idea how dusty my car is. It hasn’t rained in months! If you know me, you know I don’t wash my car, like ever. Rather than getting all wet and soapy, I’d rather leave it to Mother Nature to do the dirty job for me. If it rains, I get a free car wash. If it doesn’t, well, I drive a dusty car.

Saturday afternoon on our way to a Thai lunch

Saturday afternoon on our way to a Thai lunch

You can imagine my joy when I heard the rain was coming. Apparently the Chinese fast food guy also had the same thoughts. He happily confessed he was going to leave his car out to get a free car wash that night. See, I’m not the only weird one. Anyone else who doesn’t wash their car? let’s have a show of hands.

So it’s Halloween night, right, and my daughters have been saving candy for the neighborhood kids who would come trick or treating. As it turned out, no one showed up at our door. Maybe it was just as well. Maybe trick or treating has gone virtual, who knows?

Anyhoo, Hip2bDaughter1 peeked out the window and shrieked in delight, “It’s raining, omg, where’s my phone? I need to take a picture of this!” And we all rushed to the front door, opened it and true enough, it was raining! The wind was very strong but the rain was, well, somewhat drippy, like someone is sitting on a cloud pouring rain from a jug, know what I mean?

Earlier we’d seen a news clip on TV that showed the storm at a nearby city. Yup, the ground was wet and that was it. A storm, they call it? That ain’t no storm!! On the equator, there are freakin’ huge electric storms complete with Zorro lightning flashes, deafening thunder and blinding walls of rain like someone emptying barrels from the sky. You can’t see to drive. You turn your windscreen wipers to the max and hope they don’t fly off. Now that’s a storm!

In Vancouver, the rain is drippy like what we had but it goes on every single freakin’ day for days and days. So annoying! Here it started raining on Friday night all through into Saturday afternoon and we were done. Everyone I met was talking about it and then the sun comes back out, strong as ever, and life goes back to normal. So much for the rain.

To the person who called me Madam

Yes, you did tick me off. I picked up your call on a sunny morning and when I heard you call me “Madam So-and-So”, the skies turned grey outside! I don’t like being called Madam. I may be okay with Ma’am, or maybe not but Madam is a definite no!

I don’t like the sound of it. It gives me da goosebumps and makes me go, who? me? madam? It’s archaic, antiquated, like aged paint peeling off the walls. It conjures images of a huge woman standing over the stove, wooden spoon in hand, ready to smack some poor kid. That’s not me. I can’t see myself.

I know you’re trying to be polite and all, being that you’re trying to sell me something. I get that. But you could’ve asked, “How should I address you?” and we could’ve happily sorted it all out right there.

I mean, come on, Madam? Seriously? In this day and age? Take a look outside your window (if you have one). Hell-llo?!! It’s the 21st century. You can’t go around calling people Madam. Ask around, there’s many ladies like me out there, I’m sure!

A jumpstart of sorts

Seems like a while since I managed to crank out two posts in a week. I know. It’s come to this 😳 . The weekends go so fast, and the weather’s been nothing short of ridiculous, and I haven’t been taking many photos of the same old, and I’ve been running errands the length of my arm, and so when Monday rolls around, all I seem to be doing is catching my breath…

Yeah, that’s a lot of and’s. Anyhoo, here’s a quick update of what I’ve been up to.

Early last week, we were invited to the premier screening of How to Train a Dragon 2. How cool that there was a pre-movie dinner buffet, and caramel popcorn and soda served to us just as the movie started. Talk about being thoroughly spoiled 😆 .

The movie, well, it was cute and simple, nothing too complicated that you had to get your grey matter in knots. In stumbling upon a new colony of dragons, Hiccup inadvertently finds himself reunited with his long-lost mother. I would’ve liked certain parts of the movie to be better developed to give it a bit more depth. Still I guess it’s a movie for kids and they would appreciate that the plot is easy to understand.

In other news, I’m thoroughly enjoying the World Cup. Not watching it, yeah, ours is probably the only household where no one watches soccer (or badminton for that matter). But we’re thrilled that while the rest of the world is hung over or glued to the TV, we’ve got the roads, malls and restaurants pretty much to ourselves. Lovin’ it!

With this, I’m gonna kick back for a bit now that the weekend’s here again. Here’s hoping next week will be a better week as far as posts (oh and pictures) go.

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