Monday, December 28, 2009

all buttered up

I know this is a little early for this, but happy new year! (Shortly leaving for family trip, so I won't be around for a while.) As I've reflected on the past 4 months, this statistic kept jumping to mind:

20 pounds of butter in 4 months.

I baked away 20 pounds of butter from September to December. This is a slightly insane and delicious number. And who knows what the next year will bring?! 

Wishing you a peaceful, love-filled, and buttery 2010,

Saturday, December 26, 2009

coming full dumpling

First off, happy Christmas "to you and yours" (this little phrase is so strange and apart from this entry, I will never use it)! This was an interesting holiday as I remembered how wholly different it was from last year (we topped off our celebration with Christmas day all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ. Oh yeah!). It came and went very quietly this year but not without ponderings on the subject of our celebrations: a poor unwed teenage girl giving birth in a stanky barn to a baby who would one day grow up to love and save and change the world for good. God's love, revealed to us.

The parallels between this life and my East Asia life continue to be striking. I had a poignant Christmas Eve day as mom and I prepped potstickers for dinner, a tradition now several years running. (Just a year ago, we were eating dumplings at our neighbor's place for winter solstice, a tradition in the north.) Mom commented that while I still made a messy job of it, my potsticker stuffing speed has gotten a lot faster, which I had to attribute to the mothers and grandmothers of East Asia.

Making dumplings (potstickers being a subset) is like a national pastime for the women of East Asia. It is super labor intensive, but somehow, all know how to make them impeccably. You would think that constructing them would be fairly simple, but spoon, pleat, pleat, twist is surprisingly difficult. I will not claim that I ever got the hang of it, but I did manage to eat a whole lot of them while I was there. What were you expecting? This blog is aptly named. (sidenote: It is my dearest hope that every foreigner in Asia has at least one opportunity to try to make dumplings at some grandmother's house, subsequently get laughed out of the kitchen due to awful foreigner dumpling folding skills, and then proceed to get stuffed with said dumplings for dinner. I can eat 50 in one sitting!)

Some throwback photos from the spring at my friend's grand-uncle & aunt's place...yes, dumplings.

You can tell some of these were made by me..the ones with green filling sticking out the top.

Grand-aunt's hands, rolling out dumpling dough and going a million miles a minute! 

As I connect all the dots in my head, I realize that I can't ever fully escape East Asia because it lives on in photos, in this blog, in my memories, and very importantly, through food. With our Christmas Eve potsticker tradition, it seems like I have come full circle (or dumpling, if you're feeling punny), and I look forward to the next one, where I will undoubtedly pick up new questions and answers, insights, lessons, and (hopefully!) more hope.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

i found you some pesto to love

(in response to Queen)

Pesto is kind of a wonderful thing to make. Pestopestopestopestopesto. Saying it 5 times fast makes me wish I hadn't eaten all of it already. I know that you're boggled because basil does NOT grow in December, and therefore fresh pesto should be an impossibility, but you are discounting the beauty of winter pesto.
Winter pesto, I love you and want to make you in the spring and summer and fall too.


Arugula grows well in winter, so that's a good one to throw in there. I've been using a lot of walnuts lately, so yay for those. Suddenly, I found myself saying, basil? Pine nuts? What are those?!

Even when you sub out all of a traditional pesto's ingredients for slightly less conventional things, it will always remain herb + nut + cheese + olive oil, take or leave the garlic (and nut for allergies) (and the herb thing can just be a green thing like spinach or peas or roasted tomato (I know, not green)). In the same vein, my life today looks vastly differently than it did a year, even two years ago, but I love remembering (when I can) that the most important things are still (and forever will be) the most important things: loving people, listening to the Author, and letting myself be guided.

Winter Pesto

Stuff handfuls of arugula in food processor. Sprinkle with a healthy dose of walnuts. Grate a bunch of Parmesan over the top, then run the processor as you drizzle in olive oil. When it comes together, toss with tagliatelle, smear atop homemade croutons, or sneak spoonfuls of it from the fridge (for personal thrills). Repeat with parsley + almonds, spinach + pistachios, cilantro + brazil nuts with romano or asiago or manchego you know the content of half of my daydreams! Scintillating, I know.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

no snow scones

I wanted to write a poem for you yesterday entitled "A Snow Dream Deferred", but Mr. Hughes did it better anyway. (Hey, that rhymes...right? Poem quota for blog: check.)

This part of the world never gets snow. Ever. So Sunday night when the weather man started talking crazy and mentioning snow...I got excited, naturally. But when the promised "snow" amounted to only a mere ground dusting that melted by the time I woke up...what's THAT all about?! (In case you were wondering, plenty of people around here woke up crazy early to catch a glimpse of snow, which tells you that this promised snow was a Really Big Deal. Oh California.)

So I thought I'd show you a quick way to be happy again. For me, there is baking, and then there's baking for others, and I've slowly learned over the years that making someone else happy is almost guaranteed to make me happy. (Unless we're playing a game, and then I'll make you work for your own happiness...) So I pulled out an old favorite.

Behold...the apricot scone. This is my take on Cheeseboard's take on that perennial morning pastry glory. But no triangles here! The Cheeseboard book compares this to a "rich, buttermilk biscuit", and I wouldn't dare to disagree. The top is crispy crunchy and the inside soft, with a cakelike crumb. If it's even possible, I would like to dare to say that the addition of following took this unusual scone to Mt. Everest heights:

White Lily (cue heavenly music). Many southern devotees are anxious that a recent relocation of the White Lily flour mill to the Midwest (oh, horror!) has wrecked the flour for good, but this Yankee wouldn't know the difference, given that this was my first experience with it. (Thanks to JH for gifting me with 2 bags after Thanksgiving'd better believe I held them to me tightly all the way home as visions of biscuits and cakes danced in my head.)

Of course, no scone would be complete without its fruity mix-in; Mom's favorite is apricot. (Notice how all the pieces are pretty irregularly-sized, meaning that my knife skills won't be winning awards anytime soon.)

Snow comes and snow goes, but a good scone is a portable piece of buttery joy. Spread the love!

Apricot Scones

3 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 c (2 sticks) butter, cut into little cubes and then stuck in the freezer for maximum coldness
1 c dried apricots, fairly finely chopped (alternately, use anything else you love)
3/4 c buttermilk
3/4 c heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, briefly stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar to combine. Drop in the cubed butter and stir on low for about 4 minutes until the butter is the size of little peas. Add in the apricot, and then stir in the buttermilk/cream with just a few rotations of the paddle (it's good if there's still flour at the bottom of the bowl).

Shape dough into 2 inch or smaller balls (warning: super sticky) and place on baking sheets. Bake 18ish minutes or until golden brown/you feel that you just can't wait any longer before actually sticking your hand into the oven to retrieve your afternoon snack.

Makes just shy of 2 dozen scones.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

the sweet smell of failure

I just screwed up big time. SO excited about this Chez Panisse apple tart I was making for tonight's post-Thanksgiving dinner, and everything just went wrong. So very wrong. The tart dough came out way too wet, far past the point of salvation, and I bought the wrong apples for baking (mushy instead of crisp) and so they wouldn't slice well, everything went to pieces, and I am so frustrated with myself.

Please don't think I'm foolish enough to try out new things on guests. Isn't that one of the fundamental rules of life, Thou shall not force one another to eat a first time product of yours (thine? thy?)? However, the last time I did try the apple tart was 2 years ago, when I was way worse at baking than I am now, so what's that all about?

In case you hadn't noticed, failure doesn't sit well with me. I am not one of those people who can laugh it off when things go awry and spontaneously create something magical on the spot. (Secretly I wish I could do this, but living in reality means telling the truth about myself.) I plan and I schedule and I measure; these are the things I do well, but they also leave little, if any, room for trust. And I want to trust, I really do. I want to put my trust in something higher, wider, deeper, taller, greater than myself. For me, this means praying for my soul to know as deeply as it can that there is a Plan, that someday I will get it a little bit more than I do today, that the process is beautiful.

To cheer us all up, some examples of things I've done right this fall:

mushroom, mozzarella, arugula frittata. Dreamy.

The contents of my September lunches. Assorted heirloom tomatoes, cubed mozzarella, basil.

Plain oatmeal cookies for Digsy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

one of THOSE days

About a minute after sliding the pumpkin muffins into the oven, I realized I had forgotten the baking soda. Dang it.....I was so excited too because I was a baking with pumpkin virgin, and I decided to just go big and roast a for real pumpkin instead of canned and THIS happened. Also burned my finger in the process. Just one of those days. It's time for Glee.

Monday, November 9, 2009

these are a few of my favorite things

All right. I'll just be honest with the 2 of you who read this thing. Life has slowed down a loooooot since I returned home, not necessarily in a bad way, but definitely in a less-than-constantly-blogworthy sort of way. (Although come to think of it, don't I get to dictate what happens here, and can't skilled writers spin the mundane into the fabulous? How do I get to this point? Oh yes, of course. Practice. Write some more. And some more. And then again.)

(In case you're wondering, my mind does go there (there meaning this vein of internal conversation) pretty regularly. I think it has a lot to do with this transitory period of being a twentysomething and questioning myself daily about where I want to be in life and what I want to do in life and what are my life goals anyway? As Joy the Baker would say, holy heck! It's enough to make a girl crazy.)

The other day I was reminiscing about all the crazy things I ate in Asia. (Remembering is a good way to bring my mind back to the way things were.) I started out tame with duck brain and mooncake the size of my head.

By November I was tackling scorpions.

Winter break brought the fish eye episode in Kuala Lumpur (ps I know Kathryn has a photo of me mid-fish eye chew...where is it?!)

East Asia then got too boring, food wise (totally kidding) but we moved on to the wild lands of Central Asia, which brought the sickest thing I've consumed to date. I do not joke or overexaggerate. Fermented horse milk. I know. You're sitting there, completely stunned and kind of sick to your stomach just thinking about it. I'll create you a word picture, since Blogger and I are still at odds with each other and posting pictures is just too much work for it right now (seriously, someone please help me with the tech part).

As I was saying. Our Central Asian friends are cheering us on as we all sat around this large table high in the mountains. All the foreigners got a bowl full of something creamy, white, and intensely sour scented. All the way down the hatch it was pungent, sour, bitter, and still creamy, and I wanted to gag as I considered how long it had been fermenting outside. At the end, a smoky aftertaste, but not like pleasant gouda/sausage smoky. Nasty smoky. Why would this drink even taste smoky? Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot to mention this is the national, and probably regional drink of Central Asia. Why would the national drink taste smoky? Why would aforementioned drink have such widespread appeal? Why on a chilly August mountain night would we be subjected to such torture by our Central Asian hosts?!

This, like all the things mentioned above (minus the fish eye, that was for my BC point), was eaten/drunk in the name of love/being polite guests in new cultures. I don't get that experience anymore, and sadly enough, I miss it. I miss it much more than these Georgia font blog words can express.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

tuesday i'm in love

Lately, Tuesdays have been soooo good to me, and that is why I love Tuesdays. We started subscribing to a CSA a few weeks ago, and they deliver on Tuesdays, and that is why Tuesdays = love.

I would tell you all about what comes in each week's box, but I don't want to make you sad. Tonight's dinner features yellow wax beans, though, so yay for everyone here!

Another big yay factor is that I'm going to Chicago tomorrow! Do any of you, dear blog readers, live out there? I'll be around until next Friday, so LET'S HANG OUT! And eat pizza. Hot dogs? What do you guys do for fun other than freeeeeeze your booties off?!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

i really did eat almost everything, berkeley ed.

I've started this entry a million times in my head--I've been dreading it, really, because like so many other recent indicators, it marks an end. I can even be so dramatic as to say the end of my Asia life, a chapter firmly, decidedly closed by the ever-wide streets and the (relatively) tiny population of American suburbia. I have been enjoying it by doing all the things rendered impossible by living in Asia, but something deep inside me tells me that baking up a furious storm of key lime pies will not, cannot patch this gaping hole only able to be filled by the sweet sounds and smells and people of the East.

This weekend I did, however, manage to patch the gaping Berkeley hole that developed last year. Another place I love, filled with sweet sounds and smells and people. Oh my goodness. And I ate enough to...well, I'll let you read the list and decide for yourself.

Eating through Berkeley (& Oakland), September 17-20:
So yeah. It was an amazing, heart-friendly weekend (Note: I did not say heart-healthy. Heart-friendly is a completely different concept...) and I miss it already. All of it.

PS. Safari has gone off the deep end and won't let me post pictures on Blogger? I swear the internet, as well as all technology are generally conspiring to kill me one of these days.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

my time is running wild

from the ever truthful David Bowie:

Strange fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace I'm going through

(Turn and face the strain)

Time may change me
But I can't trace time

And so it is. Changes are exposing themselves all over my life as I pack up this Asian life and move it to America (a strange place I'm not sure I know anymore). Oh, it's sad, and soon enough I will be clamoring for noodles and dumplings and fragrant eggplant will never be the same, as I will also never be as I was.

Sorry that was a downer. Sometimes when I feel like the things around me are flying out of control, I need stability and comfort--Dad, of course, along with some other fun sites:

I've spent the vast majority of my internet time on this site this's my aspiration to one day make it on there, preferably with cupcakes?

JNNPR I just recently found this, and it is HILARIOUS! Sex week was particularly enlightening...

1000 Awesome Things
You try and find something on here that's not awesome! You will fail.

Orangette My favorite food blogger opened a restaurant with her husband!! Seattle weekend trip...anyone?

The next time I write here, I may be in California! Crazy crazy crazy. The finality of it all has not quite sunk in. Central Asia, by the way, was nothing short of amazing and you can read all about it from Jena.

Monday, July 13, 2009

away we go (again)

To read about what's up with me, read Jena's blog.

(Except I have not yet gotten a name stamp for myself. But that being out of the country part...true.)

See y'all in 4 weeks?! Promise I'll have something good for you. In the meantime, enjoy...

jumbo ice cream cupcakes! So yummy: check out the Omnomicon for the cool details. Basically, combine 1 box cake mix, 3 eggs, 1 cup water, and 1 pint ice cream! Bake as usual. So amazing!!!

(I apologize for the blurriness. I baked at night this time!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

we danced everywhere!

In case you haven't seen this yet...a peek into our world and then some!

(an offshoot of the incredibly famous Where the Hell Is Matt? video.)

All of the locals' stares, sweaty clothing changes, and weary feet by the end were totally worth it!

Your favorite location?

Monday, June 15, 2009

the hundred

I just found Very Good Taste's top 100 foods. (Bolded means I've done it before.) How many have you eaten?

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine (but I looked it up and it looks AWESOME)
60. Carob chips (sick)
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers (if rose gelato from Naia counts)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I really want to try poutine! Who wants to hike it up to Canada with me in September?! I've still got tons on this list to conquer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

recipe overload

Do you SEE that screenshot?! All those recipes underneath the folders, unfiled...they go on for a good 400 more!! I blame Tastespotting. (If you are able to look at that food pile of love and not feel at least a little tempted to bookmark one page, you are deranged. Or remarkably self-controlled.)

The strength finders test says that this is one of my strong suits, collecting things. I subconsciously decided that collecting physical things will probably lead to me being crowded out of my own house, so recipes it is. It has been kind of difficult recreating things I love here, but I've recently made tres leches cake for our cinco de mayo party and cinnamon espresso cake as a last hurrah for the roommates before Lent, and even peanut butter cookie crust with brownie on top (both box mixes)...the truth is that we're living it up here, albeit a bit creatively!

Monday, May 11, 2009

kitchen improv

Well guys, it's no secret that they who love chocolate chip cookies and their like can find East Asia to be somewhat desolate. I try to not hold this country liable for its lack of sweet things, as it is quite clear that its citizenry prefers the sour, spicy, savory, and bitter sides of life (and food). As I have already said...I'm trying to not hold it against them.

So what is a girl to do when she finds herself away from everything she holds near and dear to her dessert stomach*? Here's a possibility: make bread pudding out of what I've got.

You know what? This is actually almost as easy said than done! Jena recently made heart shaped sandwiches for a baby shower we threw for a couple of adorable pregnant friends. I eyed all those leftover bread scraps and some milk in the fridge that was due to expire...the wheels turned. And after a while, this emerged.

The best part of this was eating them from the adorable silver cupcake cups Jena and I got from Vietnam for Aubrey's birthday. I stored them in the fridge, unbaked, and took them out as we needed over the course of four days. They tasted like Americana, like home.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

To maximize satisfaction, make with milk you're about to throw out and whatever bread scraps you can find. It's amazing how these things come together (bound by chocolate of course) to make your day a little sweeter. For those who thrive on kitchen improvisation (Lis, I'm winking at you...), this is your recipe, impreciseness encouraged. (All the measurements are approximate.)

1 c. milk
2-3 tbp. sugar
1/4 c. chopped chocolate (chips, bar, anything you've got...I used a couple shakes from the bag of chocolate chips)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
couple dashes cinnamon
1.5 c. bread (bread with lots of crust like a baguette is the best, but here in the woods you've gotta rough it a little with sandwich bread crusts)

Heat the milk and sugar over medium heat. Simmering is good; boiling is too much heat. Remove from heat and add in the chocolate and cinnamon; stir to combine. In a different bowl, mix together the egg and vanilla. Slowly pour in the hot milk mixture as you whisk so that the egg doesn't scramble. Toss the bread into the bowl until coated fully. Spoon into individual cups and chill for at least 2 hours, even better overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

*dessert stomach is that interesting physiological phenomenon when you have been completely stuffed by dinner, but at the mention of dessert new hunger presents itself. May be specific to a certain dessert, i.e. ice cream stomach, cake stomach, cookie stomach. Bread pudding stomach?

Friday, May 8, 2009

when pigs fly

People are all buzzing around the world about this purported "swine flu" epidemic. This led to the question: does this country have it and people are keeping hush hush about it? That would be awful because I could breathe on the apple guy outside and he could kick the bucket. Or vice versa. So I took a test just to be sure. Check yourself.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

springing forth

Friends! Spring has been here just a few short weeks...and I couldn't be happier. Some snapshots of what spring in East Asia looks like...

The poor trees! The spring wind blew them so far sideways. Our city is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains, so it's like living in a constant wind tunnel. Yay?

This picture is pretty blurry, but at the same time it's just so quintessentially Jena...

Umbrellas upon umbrellas after an unexpected late March snowfall!

Happy Gerber daisies outside of my favorite coffee shop in the main square.

Friends really enjoy dressing alike. I personally am enjoying their coordinating high top pink Converses! Who wants to go in with me on matching Converses?!

A couple weeks ago, we visited a different city, and my friend ordered us these. Snails. Ummm...right. I've done scorpions and countless other questionable looking food products, but these things were GROSS. Nothing even close to that elegant French escargot ish. You're supposed to jab the exposed interior part with a toothpick, then slowly pull out the little darling. All twisty and intestinal looking, probably because it's actually a digestive tract of sorts. No pictures of that because everyone's hands were covered in snail guts. Yum...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The vast majority of the time, I really like it here. I love walking down the street and blending in, wind blowing through my hair, staring at the setting sun because the endless layers of pollution make it possible. I love the food--tonight Aubrey and I had "ribs 'n rice" (literally, 3 huge pork ribs in a bowl with your choice of potato, cabbage, carrot, etc and unlimited rice. Genius!) for dinner. But when I wander upon something like this, I find myself hunting for the fastest plane ticket home so I can chomp on one of those. Scanwiches! Brilliant.

One of my favorite questions to ask a person is "What is your ideal sandwich?" So much potential discourse here. Mine has been a long time coming because really, you can't rush this kind of thing. Stephanie's ideal sandwich has turkey, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, bacon, avocado on some sort of lightly toasted bun thing. A close second would be anything to do with salami/sopressata/prosciutto--pork is a wonderful thing. That said...would I drop everything for a smoky BBQ'd pulled pork or a Philly cheesesteak? Are you kidding me? (Oh, I miss sandwiches. Not as much as Jena, but I do.)

(The "best" sandwich in Saigon! They wrap them in cute dot matrix printer paper.)

Your turn (and truly, I want to know, so please be serious and give it some careful consideration): What's your ideal sandwich?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

a drop of golden sun

Thanks Dboots for the amazing link. A-freakin-dorable!!!

There is just something to be said about dancing in public. (I've done it quite a bit this year myself.) Such inexplicable joy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

with liberty and malaria for all

So I am almost 2 months late on this topic, but for those of us who didn't see it, I thought it was worth sharing:

He keeps a really light tone during his "who let the mosquitoes out?" talk, but the reality of this disease is that
  • 250 million cases occur worldwide per year
  • almost 1 million die of malaria per year
  • every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria
  • incidence has increased in Africa over the past 3 decades (and eliminated almost everywhere else in the world) because of increased drug resistance and inadequate health care
  • entire countries are incapacitated because of the prevalence of the disease--their economies are floundering due to the health burden
  • it is preventable and treatable. (from
It just doesn't make a ton of sense why malaria is still around (and flourishing, for that matter). What if all the balding people gave up all their anti-balding products for a year and gave that money to preventive malaria measures (mosquito nets, insecticide spraying) or even treatment options (anti-malarial drugs, vaccine development)? You know, because it's pretty inevitable and all (balding, that is).

Today Kristin introduced something I'll call an "emotional needs" chart. It is based on the idea that our emotions happen for a reason, and that to be in an emotionally healthy relationship these emotions need to be shared, not bottled up inside. (Pretty intuitive so far.) Furthermore, if the emotions you feel have needed responses from others. Example: if you are sad, you need comfort; if you feel shameful about something you did, that necessitates a friend affirming your inherent value as a person, etc. The most interesting one on there was anger--it requires change.

After watching that video and subsequently researching what I could on the state of malaria in the world today, I was angry. I was angry because it seemingly does not affect rich countries, therefore many are rather indifferent toward it. I was angry because halfhearted attempts to help have only worsened the disease-carrying mosquitoes are more resistant than ever to anti-malarial drugs. I was angry because a $10 insecticide-treated bed net will protect a family of 4 from malaria for 4 years, and we are all too wrapped up in lattes and movie tickets and iPhones to care. I was angry because every year the number of people afflicted by malaria equals the populations of Canada, the US, and Mexico combined, and you'd better believe that if the actual populations of these three countries were collectively struck by some terrible, life-threatening disease, the entire world would sit up and take notice. And yet...

So I've got this anger, and according to the chart change is needed. But where? While I can rant that as a world we are so irresponsible with the resources so graciously granted to us, as a global community so blind to members so desperately in need, and it could go on forever...the cold, hard truth: I am irresponsible with the resources so graciously granted to me. I am so blind to people so desperately in need. I am also impressively quick to point the finger of blame, and so this first needs change. I first need change.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

the pippin of my eye

It is Sunday night, which means I am playing around on freerice so I can a) donate rice grains to the world, b) improve my vocabulary/preserve what English skill remains since this year's language immersion has somewhat wrecked the past 22 years of English language ability, and c) procrastinate on studying for that pesky test on Tuesday. Obviously.

Anyway, that entire spate of words above was not to obfuscate you all but instead just to say that look who made it onto the website tonight:

Clarifying note: Pippin is the name of my MacBook because I wanted to name it after an apple, and according to this website it is the very definition of the fruit. Take that, Macintosh!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

jungle janes and sandy shoes

Combining two adventures into one. We left KL and headed off into the jungle for a little alone time with nature. Those who know me are chuckling right now because I rarely desire said kind of time, but I enjoyed it, surprisingly?

Taken from our boat on our way to our morning hike. Notice the trees in the background; I bet one could find gorillas in the mist over there...

In the midst of the jungle canopy, a clearing...and a beautiful lake underneath.

(from near to far): Kristin, Jena, and Aubrey walk the line.

We hiked up a hill and got to this vista point. Trees! Mountains! Overall it was a grand time, but the last night I found a huge leaf bug in my was time to head to the beach.

Footprints, ocean. Not too sure why the sand part is level but the ocean is crooked.

Be happy dont' crazy, my friends.

Once again, I am a huge sucker for sugar donuts.

Sunset on the beach...perfectly romantic for me and my four besties for the year.

Also, I apologize for the writing being less than scintillating this entry. Something about not being able to describe the beauty of aforepictured places...spell check is telling me that aforepictured is not a word? Get a life, spell check!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

getting my feet wet

How to even begin describing this monster of a place, of a genre, really? If it wasn't apparent, I did a fair amount of research before our trip on basically everything food-related in Southeast Asia. And a huge aspect of the SE is the wet market, a place where a local can buy not only produce but also meat, poultry, fish, clothes and toys? The list goes on. Its name is derived from the water that vendors use to wash off their stands/goods. And many argue that they encapsulate the heart and soul of the SE. I love hearts and souls, so I made it a must-see on our list. (For comparison purposes, Jena's must-see was the Petronas Towers, and Aubrey's was Batu (aka full of monkeys) caves. We are such different people, and yet we love each other so very very much.)

We went to the Chow Kit wet market our last day in Kuala Lumpur. It was kind of a transcendent experience.

Green bean man poses with his produce!

Huge bonus for being a tourist here: the market rarely gets them (something about how the ground is dirty...? Pansies!) and so vendors are totally down for talking with you, letting you take pictures of their stuff/themselves, and even giving you a little sample of their many varied fruits! Freebies!!

This was something crunchy and red. I liked it a lot.

This is a mangosteen...less fond of this. (And I'm sorry to all the people this offends.) Ok, it's kind of slimy, and it looks like a garlic clove, for heaven's sake, how was I supposed to like it?

The rows and rows of peppers were extremely photogenic.


This was a happy surprise outside: sugar donuts and other fried things! How many ways are there to say I love wet markets?!

And I'm happy to report that we braved it with flip flops! When we returned to our hostel, we excitedly recounted to our hostel's owner our morning activities. He looked alternately at our faces and our feet and with an air of incredulous disgust asked, "You did not wear rainboots? You wore those?" Yes, sir. And we have the remnants of fish guts on our toes to prove it!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

follow the bouncing ball!

Busy at work on a fabulous post on what grocery shopping in Kuala Lumpur looks like...hint: Safeway not included. In the interim, here's a window into what I spent approximately 50% of my childhood might be the best minute of your day!

Talk about a heady whiff of nostalgia!

Friday, February 20, 2009

take a big bite

Due to extremely popular demand (okay, only Jena actually voiced this but I try to believe that more of you want it as well), here comes a hearty take on Southeast and other things that were worth photographing. Ready?

Kuala Lumpur--I'm a big fan. On our first day, after some monkey business (thanks Jena for writing about it so I don't have to), we were famished and ready for some real Malaysian food. We made a beeline for a place that said "banana leaf" on it. I mean, if ever in your life you have a choice between banana leaf or no banana leaf, please for the love of your stomach choose the banana leaf!

(top, left to right: some unidentified pink thing, cucumber, radish, carrot. And the fattest hunk of rice you ever did see with curry on top.) We also ordered some small plates of chicken curry and fish (the infamous fish eye was consumed here). So my former roommate T-face really enjoys eating with her hands, thus she would have enjoyed this meal, but I used a fork and spoon..sorry T!

The second day...on to KL's finest kopitiam, or the original kind of coffeeshop, a place to gather and meet with friends, a place that far preceded Starbucks. Just saying. Okay, so this place we went to is a solid part of KL history. It's been around for 80 years, which is really quite remarkable. Jena really hit the nail on the head with the roti babi, which is fried bread stuffed with pork, onions, etc. Amazing. Aubrey also hit the nail on the head by smothering her pork chop in kaya (coconut jam). The owner was rightfully confused when she asked for a side of kaya with her pork chop, but can't deny the combination of two very good things.

half of the pictures I took on the trip look like this. It is because there is no standard of decent coffee that anyone cares to live up to in East Asia.

Chicken rice! Rice cooked in chicken stock, accompanied by deeeeelish chicken and cucumbers to balance it out. Oh, that's not a worthy description because it's one of those must-taste-to-understand sorts of dishes.

That night, we went firefly watching outside of the city. On the way was a pit stop to feed some monkeys because really, what is Malaysia without monkeys?

He's a cutie, is he not?!

Anyway, it is becoming very obvious that southeast Asia will go on for a few more posts--too many pictures, and there is this little rule that blog posts should not go on for forever. Fair enough. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

home sweet east asia

7 hotels/hostels, 1 night on a sleeper bus, 1 night in an airport, 2 nights in a sleeper train, and 72 showerless hours later, we're home!!! 3 countries in 3 weeks. More, as always, to come.

(credit to Aubrey for the stats)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

too much coffee?

HA, of course there's no such thing with me. So yesterday, I had 5, yes 5, cups of coffee. To clarify, I have totally downed multiple cups of coffee in one sitting, but never 5 all in different locations in the course of a day. To document this momentous occasion, I present Stephanie's coffee log for February 1, 2009.

3:30 am: kopi o from kopitiam in Singapore airport. So we spent the night in the airport since we had an early flight the next morning, and it was so COLD inside I couldn't fall asleep for the life of me. I decided to stop trying and embarked on my first coffee of the day, Malaysian style with a side of toast with kaya (coconut jam) & butter.

6:30 am: cappuccino from western-style coffee stand in the terminal. Amazing foam, and they sprinkled it with cocoa powder...bonus points! Lisa, I wish you were there.

12 pm: ca phe sua da (which translates to iced coffee with condensed milk) at restaurant in Saigon...a little weak.

4 pm: ca phe da (no milk) at a little place on our street. People watched with Jena and Aubrey. Pondered why Vietnamese women wear pajamas in the daytime.

9 pm: ca phe sua da with PHO for dinner. I can't believe I ate pho in Vietnam. It was so BOMB. And they brought it with the drip filter thing on top of the cup and it was like a dream. As I ordered it, I realized that it was the 5th coffee of the day, and I promise, reader, I hesitated a little, but then I realized that this stay in Vietnam is all too short, and I am returning to a land where the coffee is frightfully sum up, I needed that coffee. And it was the best one of the day.

I then slept like a baby in our amazing $11/night guesthouse.

I am so excited for tomorrow; we are going to eat the reportedly "best sandwich" in Saigon. Somebody pinch me!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

i wish for a fish

Today has been a fishy day! First, let me say that it has been so painful for me to not be able to upload pictures here. Second, I earned my BC point* by eating a FISH EYE at lunch today. Yes!! Third, my feet were massaged by skin-eating fish today. All for the low low price of a little over $1.

*One may be initiated into the Balls Club if another member challenges said person to do something, well, ballsy. Once you are in the club, you then have the power to challenge others into it. You are not allowed to make up BC initiation challenges for others if you yourself are not in the BC. Once a BC member, always a BC member.

Friday, January 16, 2009

selamat datang!

I think (hope?) that means "welcome" in Bahasa Malay...? Just a quick update to let everyone know that southeast Asia is warm, beautiful, and full of mosquitos: bite count at 16 and rising...

Nevertheless, it is DELICIOUS, and I am trying to eat as much as I can! We spent a half day in Singapore before hopping over to Johor Bahru in Malaysia. INDIAN FOOD! Chicken biriyani and roti prata abound here. My life is so full of happy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

methods of transport

Sometimes when comparing different places, one might be led into thinking that due to some surface-level shared qualities (they both have great hole-in-the-wall sushi joints! Their residents are so friendly to visitors!), said places might actually resemble each other.

This is not one of those instances. Whether I am aware of it or not, I keep a running mental log of observations of my new surroundings and how it compares to Modesto, Berkeley. If I were still a developmental psychology student, I would discuss the use of schemata (fancy term for mental categories) and how so many things here don't fit into my previously established schemata. They are that different.

This resembles nothing I've ever ridden before, save that John Deere junior year of high school. Introducing...the "tiny automated rickshaw" (my words) or alternatively, a "ghetto lawnmower" (Aubrey's). There are illegal taxis here called "hei che(s)" (literally black car)...this here thing is several steps down from that.

And a photo with the driver for good measure.

And in case all of you were wondering, this is how dogs roll around here.

So. No secrets here, but a big reason why I started this blog was to have a place to tell y'all about our amazing trip around Southeast Asia! (I then realized that this country itself has a ton of blog-worthy material...) I leave early Tuesday morning, but hopefully I will be able to quickly update from fun places! And when I return...prepare yourselves. In the meantime, who wants to be my technical support? I tried to upload a video of our lawnmower ride, but to no avail.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

but for you who fear my name

(I believe the "you" is plural)

Well, far be it from me to write an album review since I'm barely qualified.

I'll back that up now. To me, music reviewers are the kind of people who know about artists and passionately love (or hate) them even before they've made it big, before they've scored a record deal...dude, if you've "discovered" them by the time they're in the process of recording their first album, you've missed the boat and are sooo 2008. Our finest case in point here, where their ever so slightly patronizing tone never lets the reader forget that their first (implicit) objective is mockery. Of the ironic sort, of course. (How dare you call my Decemberists "pretty ridic"? Who ARE you? I hate Pitchfork and their pretty ridic rating system.)

Reason #2 why I am not qualified: I dislike most music the first time around. And the second, and the's not my fault; it sometimes takes a kid 20 times before she'll eat a new food. Fortunately, I have a loving friend whose middle name is perseverance--she persistently introduces new music to me and smiles as I initially fight it and eventually surrender.

Speaking of said loving friend...she sent me a package full of happy that I received today! I was so excited that I called her right away:

S: THANK YOU!!!!!!!

D: Did you listen to it yet?

S: I'm so excited to read the David Sedaris book, and to eat the Oatmeal Squares...

D: Did you listen to it yet?

S: ...and to use my new floss, and to make my Peet's Fair Trade coffee...


S: Well no, I called you first.

D: Go listen to it now. Email me when you've finished. (hangs up)

"It" refers to this, a recent Sufjan Stevens production of a couple and their forays into folky-but not-hokey song. Here's a picture of how I feel about the album:

(It means I like it a lot!* Hat tip to Jena for the reminder to take joyous pictures with Photobooth with things you love.)

Anyway, it will probably be at least 2 weeks before I can give a solid two cents on the album, but seriously, while none of the songs are penned by Mr. Stevens himself, the album is full of Sufjan soul and heart. The horn interludes, the gentle choir crooning, and the lonely banjo strums are all Sufjan trademarks, trademarks that I happen to enjoy quite a bit. I repeated #6 multiple times today (the title of this post). It comes straight of Malachi: triple point word score all around! It's clappy and easily sing-a-longable, which is a high priority of mine. Plus, inside the little booklet is a 4 page essay of Sufjan ramblings about musicians' "proclivities" and attempts to "extricate" meaning from life. Well, stick a fork of obtuse vernacular in me, I'm sold!

*Pitchfork actually gave a decent review for the album and managed to not make fun of Faith in the process. A thrill of hope...?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

the first step

Inaugural post! This should be epic. Anyway, the purpose of this blog is to document my life in a organized way so that the grandkids have something to laugh about later. Focus of this blog: a lot about things I eat, since 10 minutes into my waking day I have usually figured out breakfast and am tackling lunch and dinner. But there will also be all the little stories and random thoughts that come with living in a foreign country...I can't write on food alone. Can I?

So let's get started! I've been in East Asia now for over 4 months. The language continues to be difficult. The people continue to be unflappably friendly and go miles (or kilometers, I guess) out of their way to make sure we are happy and wearing enough clothing. I continue to learn my new land. It is at turns confusing, inscrutable, completely different from anything I've ever known, and at times strangely familiar. It brings me so much joy when I am able to call it home, temporary though it is. And while I think I have a lot to teach these people, the reality is that I still have so much yet to learn.

Food Lesson #1: freshness counts!

One of the absolute joys of living in this country is the people's insistence on buying nothing but the freshest food for their meals. I mean, I come from the US, where we buy mangoes in December shipped from tropical places. The US, while it encompasses many traits, is absolutely not a tropical country, especially in December. So here is an example of daily eye candy on what we call "our food alley", which is a mere stone's throw from our apartment:

I believe these contain some sort of pork and green vegetable.

A husband and wife team run this dumpling cart. He rolls out the dough and oversees the cooking; she stuffs the little 饺子. In case anyone was wondering, I am so very fond of these. Also, I am fond of how they lay the dumplings out in concentric circles in the giant cast-iron pan for neatness.

These were photographed on the stairway of my apartment...I had to capture them before I ate them for lunch!They are transported in what I like to call the ubiquitous plastic bag. If you grab absolutely any food to go in this city, it automatically comes in a small and impossibly thin plastic bag that can't be good for the environment. I've learned to let that go a little bit this year.

note to self: get serious about blogging this year