Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Twilight Saga and Me

About a year ago I got on an airplane to come home for the holidays, and my in-flight entertainment was a book that I had heard of and found at Costco for $6.99. That book was Twilight. It took me the five-hour plane ride to tear through Twilight; and when my sister picked me up from the airport I nearly demanded to be taken to the mall so I could find the rest of the books. This was on December 24, 2008. The next three days were spent reading, shunning conversation, and doing my best to never leave the house--quite amazing considering it was Christmas. I even read Eclipse during the island-wide blackout on December 26.

Since then, I jumped, quite shamelessly, into the young adult world of Twilight through movies, merchandise, blogs and podcasts. I even took a trip to Forks this summer with my sisters, and went to my first Comic-Con. Best of all, my love for reading has been reignited, and I have read several wonderful books this year.

Thank you, Stephenie Meyer, for creating this foggy, green world of nicer vampires in Forks. I have thoroughly enjoyed my reunion with books and my local library, and look forward to more of this in the years to come.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

When Friends Move Away

It is a real bummer when friends move away. I know it's selfish of me, but I really can't help it. At least when the Sarmientos, Imaokas and Kims moved, they moved back to Hawaii, so it's relatively easy for me to see them when I go home. Then there's the Contreraseses (sorry, had to do that for my own comic relief). They are moving East, and now Seth and I are bummed out that we just had our last football season with them in the Bay. Of course this is a good thing for them, but we will still miss them! I also just realized that we did not get a chance to go to the Vietnamese restaurant in Walnut Creek before their move. They will just have to visit.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

In Search of Great Customer Service

My best friend prefers not to shop at Nordstrom because the workers constantly ask you if you need help. I, on the other hand, love shopping at Nordstrom for precisely this reason. Yes, I realize that they are paid on commission, but this fosters what is usually an environment in which I can easily find a willingly helpful salesperson.

For me, great customer service is not about me, the customer, always being right. Great customer service is a pleasant greeting, knowledge of your wares, and a willingness to help. This plays a large role in where I choose to shop.

If the service is not up-to-par, especially in a place where I expect it to be good, or in a place that prides itself on its high level of service, I will often change my mind about a purchase and leave. I did just that tonight at an unexpected place, Whole Foods.

Normally, the employees at Whole Foods are helpful and nice, but the man behind the coffee counter tonight was a grouch. Staring back at me with a disdainful expression on your face in response to my, "Excuse me," is a poor form of communication, and does not convey that you heard me. I actually have tried the tea sparkler I asked about, but his grouchy stare and the lack of verbal response made me choose to leave Whole Foods, even after I got my answer.

In all fairness, this is not my usual experience at Whole Foods, but I am disappointed because I know this man's behavior is not what this company is about; not when one of its core values is "Satisfying and delighting our customers."

Now that I have bemoaned this topic, I think it would nice to share some better examples of people who demonstrate great customer service. Unfortunately, I cannot remember their names, but there are two women at Nordstrom who have been fabulous recently. One works in the TBD area and the other in Brass Plum, both at the Broadway Plaza location. They rock, and I recognize them on sight, so I seek them out whenever I have a purchase. Oh, and Kay at the fine jewelry section of the Neiman Marcus in Honolulu is almost too good.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chewier Peanut Butter-Cup Cookies

The first time I made these cookies, they came out chewy (yum), but every batch after was crispy (still yum, but not quite right). I finally wised up and turned to the internet for some recommendations on how to bake a chewy cookie. So, I made some changes to the original recipe, and tonight's batch came out of the oven just right.

I think my pops would really enjoy these. Maybe I'll bake him some for Christmas. And then I'll make the rest of my family their own batch, because when it comes to chocolate, it's a race with my dad to see if you can even get one piece.

Here is the recipe:

Chewier Peanut Butter-Cup Cookies


1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (somewhat packed)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 12-oz. package small peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  • In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar until creamy. It still looks grainy, but if you stir a bit with a spatula, the mix smooths out. Add the egg and vanilla and beat. Gradually add the flour mixture, and mix with a spatula until just blended. The batter will be quite thick and more difficult to stir. Carefully fold in the peanut butter cups.
  • Using a tablespoon, place mounds of dough two-inches apart onto the parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. In the oven, the cookies should appear fluffy (flat cookies equal crispy cookies). Once removed from the oven, let them sit on the cookie sheet for several minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Contrary to what my family may believe, I do miss my home-home, Hawaii. Beyond the lilikoi iced tea, Island Manapua and W&M Drive-In, I miss my family. Then there are those only-in-Hawaii moments: a fan of shoes outside the front door; the ice-cold slush of your sort-of frozen, sort-of melted can of juice; and the surf phone tree.

I experienced a little bit of the surf phone tree yesterday when my dad called to tell me that the Eddie Aikau was on and there was a live-feed online. It was a sweet way to end the day, watching pro surfers drop-in on some ginormous waves. I loved hearing names like Sunny Garcia, Bruce Irons and Shane Dorian called out. It took me back to high school, and I am always amazed to see that that those guys are all still competitively surfing.

The moment when Greg Nolan went on his 100-point ride sticks out most in my mind. The way the camera shot him dropping in reminded me of the footage of Greg Noll taking on Waimea Bay in Riding Giants. Chicken skin.

I was so proud yesterday to see my home-home, and I was glad to see all those people on the beach playing hookie. The Eddie has been around for 25 years, but because the wave-face has to consistently hit 40 feet, this was only the eighth running of the contest. How often do you get to experience a day like the Eddie?

I can't help but think the Eddie Aikau is so much cooler than Mavericks. Considering that I live in Nor Cal, it's surf blasphemy, I know. But I can't help it. Waimea Bay is beautiful, the temps were near 80 yesterday, and sunshine beats fog any day in my world.

Monday, December 7, 2009

December is Here, as Indicated by Bad Behavior in a Parking Lot

Where have all the turn signals gone? The California Driver Handbook states, "Always use turn signals," in reference to right and left turns and goes on to give several more examples of when drivers should be using their signals--i.e. merging into traffic, making U-turns, acknowledging a law enforcement stop, etc. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten how to use their signals.

It happens without fail every morning during my commute to work, and it is pretty annoying to be waiting to make a left turn (with blinker on) only to have a car make a right turn (with blinker off) into the lane next to me. But, the most annoying moment occurs when a driver goes sans-signal and becomes irrationally irate because other drivers cannot tell what he/she is trying to do.

Specifically, I am talking about the older man driving the silver Honda Civic tonight in the Target parking lot. He had no signal on and stopped right in front of the empty parking stall I planned to pull into, as indicated my left turn blinker, which blinked away. While I waited for him to get out of the way, he began to gesticulate wildly, and futilely yelled at me from behind his rolled-up windows. All the while his wife sat in the passenger seat and covered her face. At first I thought maybe my car blocked the way to a parking space he sought, but that was a fleeting thought as he suddenly jerked the Civic into a haphazard turn and then crooked stop into the space my signal pointed.

Funny thing is, there were several other spaces available, and this strange battle need not have been fought. Especially when I would have immediately understood the parking plan had Mr. Silver Civic bothered to use his turn signal.

As far as holiday parking sparring goes, this was a lame exercise. Maybe for Christmas the general public will decide to make the use of turn signals and more regularly practiced driving habit.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Appetizers

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This year I just made the following appetizers to take to Seth's mom's house:

It was my first time making the flatbread, and I was intimidated, but it all turned out just fine. It was a little time consuming cooking the bread on the stove, but part of the problem was that it took me a little to figure out the best temperature setting. I definitely recommend this recipe, so visit the myfoodaffair blog and check it out.

Friday, November 20, 2009

November 20 , 2009 is Finally Here!

The movie version of New Moon is in wide release, and I just got home from the Nordstrom screening. Chris Weitz did a great job, and I am content. Of course, I plan to see this in theater again, and I know next time I will scrutinize less. It also may help not to sit near someone who makes loud commentary throughout the movie. Mostly she said "wow" and it pretty much ruined the effect of a pack of wolves stalking a vampire.

Now, about the movie (stop reading if you want to judge the movie for yourself).

I thought Melissa Rosenberg captured the essence of the book well, and I am happy with what was and was not included. As I mentioned earlier, Chris Weitz did an excellent job, and the special effects did not disappoint. Even Seth, who does not care for CGI, thought the wolves were awesome.

Side note: Seth prefers Jacob to Edward now that he has experienced New Moon. This is something my youngest sister will be happy about, but I am not so thrilled.

The fight scenes are better than I expected, and I especially enjoyed the addition of the row between Felix and Edward. Thumbs up on making the Cullens all look more like the Cullens of my imagination. Thumbs down on the silly moment that flashes through Alice's mind when she shows Aro the vampire future of Bella and Edward. Thumbs up if it was meant to poke fun at the Robsession (something I would not put past the director given the razzing that went on at Comic-Con). Selfishly, I would love to see the post production team pay more attention to small details like making Alice's eyes black when she comes back to Forks. But then again it would only be something for the fans of the book, and would probably fail to add substance to the storyline.

Though this was the most difficult of the four books for me to get through, I thought the movie was much lighter in feeling than Twilight. It was still awful when Edward left, but the general feeling of the movie was not as angsty, and there were so many more laughs which helped to foil the depressing moments. I wonder how I will be able to wait for my trip home to see this again.

Final thoughts are reserved for the event itself: The Nordstrom event was well organized, and since all 14 screens were taken over by New Moon, we somehow ended up in a theater with an older age group. This made a huge difference in keeping the screaming down, which is a big plus.

Monday, November 9, 2009

From Party Planner to Boutique...Builder?

In my work life I have gained a lot of experience planning events like receptions, reunions, and dinners, so sometimes I feel like a professional party planner. This fall I took on something new at the office, and planned the annual holiday boutique.

It turned out to be quite the undertaking. Between recruiting new vendors, balancing product selection, marketing, fielding phone calls and juggling logistics, my head was spinning. This might be why I fell asleep one night in the beginning of October and woke up to find myself in November.

The boutique was this past weekend, on November 6 and 7. All in all, I am somewhat pleased with the end result. I liked that we had a better variety of vendors, including succulent plants, coffee, and soaps. Long-time boutique vendors had nice things to say about the improved variety. Among other things in the future, I would like to draw more people from the surrounding communities rather than just the immediate geographic area.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Day That Dan Was Sick

I admit, I am late to the party with the the Dan Patrick Show, so on November 3, I find myself listening to the show from September 25; but I am so glad that I didn't miss this one. Apparently, Dan got sick on the night of the U2 concert and didn't come in for the next morning's radio show.

In the past, when Dan's been out, the show brings in a guest host to sub. I have never listened to one of those shows. This time, I listened. Show hosts were none other than the Danettes themselves: Paulie, Fritzy, Seton and McLovin'. It was a nice surprise, and I thought the guys did a great job. Even though it's not quite the same without Dan, it was still a funny show. Now that I think about it, the show would lack something without one of the Danettes.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's November!

I think I went to sleep my one night in the beginning of October, slept a restless, stressful sleep, and awoke to find that it is now November. Everything has been busy, busy, busy.

The good thing about all the busy is that I forgot to be antsy about the release date for New Moon. This weekend, that changed. I caught bits of the trailer during the World Series and some football games, and that brought all the excitement back.

That's when I got fidgety and my mind started buzzing. I started to wonder, "How will see New Moon on November 20? Is it sold out already? Can I really stand all the screaming? Would Seth go with me? Probably not. But then maybe he would. Should I try to go to LA and see it with friends down there? Seth did mention that he would rather pay for me to fly down there than to have to see it with me..." Luckily I happened upon a promo at Nordstrom's Brass Plum.

Basically, you spend some money and you get a pass to a screening on November 19. So, I took care of some early Christmas shopping, and I got two tickets to see New Moon one night early. Somehow I even got Seth to be my plus one.

I think it will be relatively controlled since it is limited by the number of seats they have in the theater. Hopefully it's not too crazy of a night, but I will still be prepared for high-pitched screaming and loads of teenie boppers.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween Cupcakes

Things have been highly busy lately, and it did not look like I would be able to do much for Halloween this year, so I wanted to at least make cupcakes. This recipe for pumpkin cupcakes is Real Simple.

The recipe calls for pumpkin puree, and since I could not find any, I substituted for it with Libby's pumpkin pie mix and omitted the pumpkin spice. The cupcakes themselves are yummy, but the frosting is lacking something. Next time I will use the America's Test Kitchen recipe for cream cheese frosting, and I will not make it the night before. Refrigerating the frosting was a bad idea, as you can see in the photo below.

The coloring from the candy corn ran as the frosting reached room temperature.

This frosting experience pretty much sums up my disastrous Halloween crafting attempts this year. In addition to my sad looking cupcakes, my Halloween costume did not work out. I used a pattern with measurements meant for teenagers and ended up with a skirt that did not fit. Did I mention that I started working on my costume on October 31? Consider the lesson learned: I will not push the crafting and creativity when everything else is so hectic and stressful.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I hate to gush over something I love and build it up so much that someone else has too-high expectations; but gush I must. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows' The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was a lovely read, and it did not take long for me to fall in love.

On page 11, Juliet Ashton writes, "That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book." My thought at that precise moment was, "Exactly."

Then there was page 24, "There were eight boxes--eight boxes of my books bound up and ready for the basement...Well, there were no words! I was too appalled to speak." I also love my books too much to store them away--who knows when I might want to re-visit with one?

By page 48, the speculation was over, and knew I was hooked. This I know because on October 14, I tweeted "Doing the one city, one book thing. 48 pages into the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society and i love it!"

There are more quotes which I find quite nice, but I leave that to future GLPPPS readers to discover. I would enjoy the opportunity to hear/read what others have to say about their favorite quotes from the book.

The books is actually a series of letters, something of which I am not usually a fan. However, I found this a brilliant literary move. The written banter between characters is witty, humorous, and so descriptive that despite the changing perspectives, the reader always has a clear idea of people and places. So, please do not be turned off by the collection of letters. If I had given into my typical distaste for such books, I would have missed out something that was written for those who loves books and reading.

Many thanks to the Contra Costa Library System for selecting this book for Walnut Creek's "One City, One Book" program. Without the program or the library system, I probably would have never stumbled upon GLPPPS.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Postseason Baseball

It is an amazing thing to walk into a baseball stadium for a postseason game. This is a moment when you can actually feel excitement in the air. It is something not to be missed--well worth a vacation day, and maybe even missing school (don't tell my sisters I said that).

My first postseason game was in 2005, Angels vs. Yankees (American League Division Series Game 2). It was unbelievable, but yesterday's ALCS Game 3 (against the Yankees again) was even better.

It was the best baseball game, no, best sporting event, I have ever been to in my entire life. The game went into extra innings, the Angels came back from a deficit and a tie-game, and except for Bobby Abreu's base running error, it was a well-played game.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Reusable Bags

My latest project: reusable bags. The middle one is Bag C from Butterick pattern 5338 that needed double fold bias tape, and the other two are from Simplicity pattern 2806.

The Butterick pattern was more difficult with all the bias tape; and even after figuring out the square neckline, I had to wrestle with the handles. However, Butterick did provide a better way to complete the handles than Simplicity. I have since combined patterns for a cleaner, neater way to enclose the raw edges.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Coach Wooden

Today is Coach John Wooden's 99th birthday. If you don't know this man, he is the legendary UCLA Men's Basketball Coach whose teams won ten NCAA championship games in 12 years; had an 88-game win streak; and went 30-0 for four seasons. You can still see him at home games, and it is very cool to see him there.

The Los Angeles Times has a great piece on him to commemorate this occasion. Who knew that he almost went to the University of Minnesota? Thank goodness for "inclement weather."

Happy birthday Coach!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Congratulations to the Angels for finally beating out the Red Sox for a post-season series! The last few years of losing to them in the American League Championship and Division Series have been agonizing and despairing times for me as a fan. The fact that this was a series sweep and a come-from-behind-victory makes this one of my all-time favorite baseball memories.

I love October.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Yes, I Love Los Angeles

There is no place like LA. It is a sprawling mass of land, people and freeways. Traffic is everywhere, at nearly all times of day, and it turns people off because it can be such an impersonal place, but I love it.

Los Angeles is a fascinating place, especially when you look into its back-story. It truly is a man-made place: without the California Aqueduct, life in the Golden State would be entirely different. I read about the aqueduct in a book called Water and Power a few years ago, and this week I revisited the subject in the PBS documentary, Inventing LA: the Chandlers and Their Times.

While I found Water and Power to be a bit dry (too many numerical facts for me), I thoroughly enjoyed watching the documentary. From Harrison Gray Otis' union blocking tactics to Harry Chandler's real estate dealings to Dorothy Chandler's philanthropy, the story amazed me. As the documentary wove through LA's history I learned just how large of a role the Chandlers played in making Los Angeles into the city it is today. Plus, I finally see how the Valley became a part of Los Angeles County (water).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Double Fold Bias Tape and a Square Neckline

Butterick's pattern 5338 (Bag C) nearly stumped me. It's a cute shopping bag that appears to fit on the grocery store's metal rack for plastic bags, and it looks simple enough. Until you get to the part where the pattern instructions read, "Encase upper and inner edges of handles on front and back with bias tape, having narrower side on outside and folding in fullness at corners, as shown..."

Problem is, the pattern shows a whole lot of nothing. There is a diagram, but it does not demonstrate the clipping and folding which must occur. I desperately tested out different folds and tried to think of a backwards way to work mitered binding, but nothing worked. Then I turned to Google, but all I could think of was "attach double fold bias tape corner," which eventually led me to "double fold bias inside corner." Lucky for me, there is someone else out there who struggled with this pattern and I found some online help for sewing a "square neckline."

The responder to the original post recommends a book called Power Sewing. It helped, but it took awhile for me to understand what needed to happen and being the skimmer that I am, I could have used more photos with shorter explanations. As you can see below, I finally figured it out, and now I have my square neckline complete, with binding. I still have to attach bias tape to the side edges of the handles and finish the bag itself, but I am enjoying the sweetness of finally being smarter than the square neckline.

How I Finished a Square Neckline (a.k.a. Inside Corner) With Double Fold Bias Tape (With this particular pattern, I use "square neckline" interchangeably with "upper and inner edges of bag handles")

  • Stay stitch the upper and inner edges of the bag handles. Stay stitching should be 1/8" from seam; so with double fold bias, stay stitch 1/4" from raw edge because the seam will be 3/8".

  • Clip inner corner, almost to stay stitching.

  • Right sides together, raw edges even, pin narrower side of the bias tape to neckline and sew until you near a clipped corner. The seam allowance is 3/8" and stitching should be in the fold of the bias tape.

  • When you near a clipped corner, stop sewing, but do not remove the needle from the fabric. Carefully spread the fabric at the corner so you now have a straight edge. Pins help here, but while you continue to sew, be careful not to pinch the bag fabric, which cannot be seen under the tape.

  • Press seam toward bias tape. The photo above shows a sample of how the corner will look once the bias tape and bag are sewn together.

  • Fold at the corners, right sides together. Be careful the fold is right at the corner. Stitch across fold, but instead of a straight seam, sew a "V." The bottom of the "V" points toward the center of the bag.

  • Fold bias tape over to wrong side of the bag. To finish the neckline, topstitch about 1/8" from open edge of tape. Topstitching is done on the right side of the bag fabric, and this is why the narrower side is attached here. Finishing can also be done by hand on the back if you are working with more delicate fabric.

I am not quite sure if this is supposed to be as challenging as it turned out to be, but I am hoping it is not meant to be easy since I did take sewing lessons from Mrs. Iki when I was a teenager; and while I do recall using bias tape for a blue-green tank top, I do not remember any encounters with square necklines. Hopefully this makes things a little bit clearer for other sewers out there. If you have any questions, just post a comment and I am happy to help. If not, then you are a better sewer than I am, and I wish I had your skills!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Baby Blanket

This baby blanket is for the second son of a family friend in Hawaii. He was born on the same day in March as my sister. I am late with a gift, but between all the babies my friends have been having lately, my stash of blankets has been depleted.

The pattern is called blue tranquility and is from Leisure Arts Our Best Knit Baby Afghans.

Friday, September 25, 2009

In Search of That Which is Handmade

When I was little, my mom dragged the three of us to craft fairs on weekends. It was torture and so boring. Little did I know, in a couple of decades, I would be seeking out craft fairs as a part of my job.

I have been tasked with managing the holiday boutique at work, and even though I have been to many craft fairs in my life, I have never had to recruit vendors. Lucky for me, my friend from high school owns a business, Shop Toast, and participates in craft fairs. She had some useful advice for me and gave me some ideas on what kinds of vendors to seek out. The two that stood out to me were: gourmet foods and plants. I also was told by a couple of other sources that the best way to find new vendors was to get out and pound the pavement. In other words, go to fairs, boutiques and festivals.

Over the past three weekends, I have now been to three different fairs: the Castro Valley Fall Festival, the Lafayette Wine and Art Festival and most recently, the Walnut Creek Fine Arts Festival. While not all responses have been positive, I have met some very cool artists and crafters. These are my favorites:

  • i melt with you: purveyor of handcrafted candles made of soybean wax, lotion and perfume; her tuberose lotion reminds me of home
  • Yahzi Rose: natural, locally made apparel for children
  • Hoffman Designs: handmade ceramics from Eureka, California; no website for this one, but they made these wonderful bowls and various types of plates; designs include Redwood leaves, bamboo, fern and oceanic themes that symbolize California

This has been a tiring endeavor, but hopefully this helps us to accomplish our goal of having a wider variety of vendors. I should probably also admit that I am having fun.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hummus Done Italian Style

Lately I have been making a lot of hummus. It started with Giada De Laurentiis' White Bean and Roasted Eggplant Hummus earlier this summer,and then I tried her White Bean Dip.

Giada's hummus is made with cannellini beans rather than garbanzo beans, and it is yummy. If you have a food processor, this is a very easy dip to make. It is simple enough that I made the regular version the morning after a 12-hour work day for a co-worker's birthday lunch.

The only thing with making my own hummus is that now I think most of the store-bought type is too creamy, and I just want homemade hummus.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Party Plan

Since this is our first year celebrating our birthdays in the house, I decided it would be nice to put together a party for Seth's 31st birthday. It also happens to be football season, and Seth follows USC so we got everyone together in time to watch the game against Ohio State.

I took on too much cooking and not enough hosting, but Seth had a good time. Here's the menu of food that I made:

Main Dish
Char Siu Chicken

Caesar Salad
Pesto Pasta Salad

Edamame Rice
My Mom's "Spanish" Rice




Seth's mom made mac and cheese; his dad and step-mom brought sausages; his sister brought edamame; and his grandma made a fruit salad. There were some other dishes that people brought as well, but I cannot remember it all. The nice thing is that there was a huge variety of food for leftovers.

Also, don't be too impressed with the main dishes. I bought the kalbi meat and marinade from the Korean market in Concord and our friends sent us the char siu marinade that they get from Hawaii.

This one of two food picture I have from that night:

I am exhausted just thinking about having made all this food...I started cooking on Friday and did not stop until Saturday night.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Another Book: Speak

Speak ( Platinum Edition) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak stunned me. The book takes you through one school year as seen and experienced by high school freshman, Melinda Sordino. Melinda enters high school as a shunned student—she broke up an end of summer party when she called the cops and everyone hates her, including her friends. She slips into a silent depression in order to deal with what happened on the night of the party, and no longer does she speak to anyone around her.

The book is about depression, and Anderson effectively conveys the painful loneliness and hopelessness of Melinda’s situtation. She does so through witty writing, but also writes her story using descriptions and viewpoints on high school life with which most people can identify. Not everything in Melinda’s thoughts swirl around depression, but rather silently pulse with a teenager’s attitude and outlook on the silliness and mortification that is sometimes high school. Early in the book Melinda thinks “Gym should be illegal. It is humiliating.” It it not a stretch to say that most P.E. uniforms and that alone is embarrassing, athletic or not.

Then there are Melinda’s thoughts on EspaƱol, “My Spanish teacher is going to try and get through the entire year without speaking English to us. This is both amusing and useful—makes it much easier to ignore her.” Exactly. I understand why language teachers adopt this strategy, but I also understand how it can have this effect on students.

Speak is considering a Young Adult book, but I think it is book for adults to read as well as teenagers. It might provide a parent or teacher with a new perspective, and maybe it will help a teen to realize that other people share their feelings and thoughts.

These are just moments I particularly loved from Speak:

The chapter title “Student Divided by Confusion Equals Algebra” is perfect.

"Ninth grade is a minor inconvenience to him. A zit-cream commercial before the Feature Film of Life.”

“Then Ms. Connors blows her whistle to stop and explain the retarded scoring system in tennis where the numbers don’t make sense and love doesn’t count for anything.” This is exactly how I feel about tennis.

There is also a movie, based on the book, starring Kristen Stewart (which I have not watched).

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Finally, I Read Interview with the Vampire

Interview with the Vampire Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was not what I expected; not that I can articulate specifically what I expected from Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. However, I do know that she wrote a book that delved so deeply into the concept of humanity that I sometimes forgot it was about a vampire.

Of course there is plenty of vampire lore and gore, but this story goes much deeper than some of the other vampire stories I have read. While the elements of lust are definitely there, Anne Rice took me on a journey that included the search for knowledge, companionship and discovery. I can only equate the way I felt about Interview with the Vampire the way I did about Shadow of the Wind: this was simply a fantastic and well-written book.

I will have to revisit this one.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Friday Night Apron

Most of my projects are made as gifts for other people, but once in awhile I sneak something in for myself. I have been meaning to make this apron for a longtime, but just got around to it a couple of weeks ago. Unless you actually click on the picture, you cannot see the fabric--Angels for the bodice, and baseball for the bottom piece. Click on it, and you will see how I love baseball and the Angels.

This is the second time I have used this pattern (the first time I made my sister a purple apron as part of her bridal shower gift), and I forgot that I needed to modify the sash. Oh well, next time.

Hopefully I will have more time to make more things for myself. Mostly so that I can get through some of the fabric stash I have piled up in the closet, in various plastic and canvas bins, under my sewing table...maybe I should just go and sew.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I do miss Southern California and I look forward to some quality time with Los Angeles. Life by the beach is the best, and I will pretend I'm back for a few days. Let's hope there's some sunshine and 80-degree weather. Oh, and there will be football at the Coliseum.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Watermelon Table Runner

Here is a very late birthday present for my mom (her birthday is in March and it's now August). The pattern for this table runner is a freebie from Better Homes and Gardens' allpeoplequilt website.

The instructions are not the best, and it's also very hard to find black, heart-shaped buttons, so I used multi-color ones. You also need to know how to cut bias strips for the white and green binding. Since I didn't know how to make my own bias strips, I turned to Google, and I thought these instructions from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture were the best.

A couple of pattern modifications and/or notes:

  • Next time I make this, I will increase the width of the green strips by 1/4 inch so some green shows in the back (totally an aesthetic thing on my part).
  • The pattern instructs you to trim down from Pattern A to Pattern B after you sew the red strips onto the batting and backing combination, but you don't have to do that if you cut your binding strips long enough. I did not trim down the pattern.
  • In my quilting experience, normally the batting and backing extend 1/4 inch beyond the "quilt top," but with this pattern, everything is even.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ginger Pork and Cucumber Pitas

Easy-to-make meals are my favorite way to cook during the week. I like to check my monthly copy of Real Simple magazine for their five easy dinner recipes. This time I tried the gingery pork and cucumber pitas from the September 2009 issue. Seth and I both liked the Chinese-Japanese flavor fusion (hoisin sauce and ginger), and the cucumbers give the dish a tiny kick (jalapenos) and just the right amount of tang (mirin, rice vinegar). For my Hawaii people and/or Japanese food friends, the "cucumber salad" is essentially tsukemono with a touch of spice.

Gingery Pork and Cucumber Pitas
Serves 4; takes about 15 minutes (if you chop quicker than I do)

1/4 C mirin (rice vinegar)
2 t sugar
1/4 t salt
2 Kirby cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground pork (ground chicken or turkey can be substituted)
1/4 C hoisin sauce
1 T grated fresh ginger
4 pitas, halved

Combine the vinegar, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the cucumbers and jalaneno and let sit, tossing occasionally for at least 5 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork, breaking up, until no longer pink 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the hoisin, ginger and 2 tablespoons water.

Fill the pita halves with the pork and "cucumber salad."

Notes: I substituted ground turkey for the ground pork. Also, I had no idea what Kirby cucumbers were, so I just used a regular garden cucumber. Since the cucumber was pretty large I ended up doubling the mirin, sugar, salt mixture. Then I had too much of the liquid, so I chopped a second cucumber into thicker pieces and let that pickle as well. This made a lot of [what I like to call] karai tsukemono; so if you do this, let the cucumbers pickle for two hours, after which you need to keep removing excess water in order to keep the tsukemono crisper. For a traditional tsukemono recipe, visit the Kumiko's Kitchen blog. Finally, if you cannot handle any kind of spice, do not use the jalapeno.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pesto and Pizza

Sometimes I wonder how I ever got a long in the kitchen without a food processor. A couple of years ago I asked for a food processor for Christmas because I wanted to try out Seth's favorite cookie recipe. My parents bought me an 11-cup Cuisinart model, and it came in a big box.

Having never used one before, it was a bit intimidating just looking at the box. I actually ended up buying a mini version from Costco and took that out for a spin before the 11-cup even came out of the wrapping. First I minced garlic, jalapenos or onions in the mini, but then I wanted to have a go at pesto. That meant I needed to try out the bigger model. Now thanks to pesto, I regularly use my 11-cup food processor; and this weekend, things got interesting.

On Friday night I made pesto using our basil from the backyard. We recently decided to have a go at growing our own basil, and since the plant is doing so well, I was able to get the two cups of leaves needed. I always use Giada de Laurentiis' recipe from Everyday Italian. The basil may have been a bit too fresh though--the pesto was a bright green this time, and when I use a basil bunch from the market, the pesto is normally a darker green and more flavorful.

Then on Sunday I tried making my own pizza dough so that we could use up some of the leftover pesto. This was the first time I have ever made pizza dough in my food processor, and pretty much my first time making pizza dough (I don't think I was ever old enough to run the dough machine when I worked at Little Caesar's in high school). This was quite the messy project between the sticky dough and all the flour, but definitely worth it. Normally I use Boboli or Trader Joe's pizza dough, but last weekend I realized that it was time to try making my own. Seth and I ate pizza at a friend's place and they used dough they had made; homemade was clearly better.

The recipe for the pizza dough comes from the American's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, and it makes enough dough to make three 12-inch pizzas. I did end up making three pizzas; two used pizza sauce and one used pesto. The two with pizza sauce were topped with either pepperoni and salami or pepperoni, green pepper and heirloom tomatoes. The pesto pizza had heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese as toppings. I opted for rectangular shape pizzas (I need more practice rolling the dough out), and I used cookie sheets, not a baking stone. I do know that as long as time permits, from now on, it's homemade pizza dough for us.

Pepperoni and salami pizza

My "supreme-ish" pepperoni, green pepper and heirloom tomato pizza

Pesto, heirloom tomato and goat cheese pizza

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Love Books

For awhile now I have been trying to remember the title of the books I used to love to checkout of the Manoa Elementary School Library. Usually the thought comes in passing, and I always forget to write myself a note to do some online research. In fact, all I have ever been able to remember was that the main character's name was Betsy, and that there was an entire series about her.

Tonight, the mystery has been solved thanks to a blog post on The Twilight Lexicon. Their post, "First Book: What Got You Hooked?" is actually about a non-profit called First Book; an organization that works to provide children with books and encourage literacy.

On the homepage of the First Book website, you see the tag line, "Do you remember the magic of your first book?" This got my mental hamster running, and at first I thought of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House series. But I know I read the Betsy books first, so my mental hamster kept going, as my fingers got to typing.

Thank goodness for the internet! With a little bit of net-sleuthing, you can pretty much figure out the answer to any question, instantaneously. Actually, this didn't take much detective work because apparently the Betsy books have never been out of print (this is according to the product description on the Amazon page). All I had to do was type in "Betsy" on Amazon, and there it was, B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood.

Even though the title sounded right, as did the author name, I wasn't 100 percent sure that I had found my first-favorite book series; after all, it has been more than 20 years since I read those books. It was time to Google Carolyn Haywood. She was born in 1898 and in 1939 her first books featuring Betsy and Eddie were published. Amazingly, she went on to continue writing about the two characters for the next 50 years, and she even illustrated her own books until the 70s! Yes, I think I have found my first, favorite books. I may just have to read these again.

In the meantime, I wonder what books first got the rest of you hooked?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Comic-Con 2009

When someone asks “Where are you going on your vacation?” and you say “Oh...to Comic-Con,” be prepared for laughter and “geek,” or “dork,” in response. Really though, Comic-Con isn’t just about comic books and geeks anymore. In recent years it has morphed into a pop-culture phenomena, and this year, it was bigger than ever.

Between July 22 and 26, about 125,000 people invaded the San Diego Convention Center for the Con. Every single day, and every single pass sold out. In fact, if you tried to buy a four-day pass in April, you were out of luck.

Luckily, my sister and I bought our four-day passes in February. I should admit now that our main reason for going was Twilight; and before this year, neither of us had never been to Comic-Con. I should also be thankful now that this is an unpopular blog so I don’t have to worry about veteran attendee ire over the vampire-fan convergence. But, like I said, the Con is also about pop culture, and it truly isn’t for your average geek anymore. Now it includes the general population, and the teenie boppers.

Comic-Con is amazing and crazy. There are an unbelievable amount of people moving through the convention center: pushing their way through to pick-up swag, straining to see the latest toys, getting pictures of costumed attendees, etc. It also smells. There is a lot of body odor and not enough deodorant. You can easily forget that part though, because Comic-Con is multiple sensory overload.

The big name studios (Warner Bros., Fox, Disney to name a few) and major comic book players (DC, Marvel and more) have huge booths filled with displays, merchandise to consider and autograph opportunities. Besides the giant corporate areas for movies and comics, there are sections for gaming, manga, comic distributors, and merchandise opportunities galore. Then you spot a Stormtrooper; oh wait it’s Princess Leia; now it’s Naruto; what is this steampunk thing; look a battle-worn Stormtropper; I think I see Slave Leia; oooh Spiderman; another Stormtrooper…you see? Sensory overload.

Beyond the exhibit hall, requiring hours of patience, are panel sessions. Fans get sneak previews and question/answer sessions with the stars, directors and producers of their favorite sci-fi and/or superhero movies and TV shows. The great thing about the panel sessions? They don’t clear the rooms. The horrible thing about the panel sessions? They don’t clear the rooms.

If you want to see a panel that’s not until 1:45 p.m., plan to camp out in your seat, or hopefully move up if people vacate. But, if you are there for something Twilight related, especially something that includes Rob Pattinson et al, then don’t hold your breath and hope for people to leave.

The New Moon Panel
On day one of Comic-Con, my sister and I arrived at the convention center at 6:00 a.m. Thanks to a parking mistake, we saw the line for the New Moon panel. The sun was barely up, and there were already hundreds of people in line. It turned out that you could sleepover—something we thought you couldn’t do (or maybe we just hoped you couldn’t because we really didn’t want to sleep on concrete). Eventually it was apparent that people were holding places in line and instead of hundreds of people ahead of us, there were thousands. By the time Hall H opened, it was 10:30 a.m., and we were seated in the middle of this 6,500 seat hall. But, we were in.

Thanks to the Con’s practice of not clearing rooms, we saw the Disney 3D panel (A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland and Tron Legacy), another 3D showcase panel (not that great) and a surprise appearance by Johnny Depp (Alice in Wonderland). When Chris Weitz, Rob Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Ashley Greene walked onstage for New Moon, it made the hours of waiting and the extremely early morning totally worth it. Interestingly, the screaming was not that bad, and even more surprisingly, everyone kept to their seats. The movie clip they debuted was awesome (Jacob teaches Bella to ride her motorcycle, and she starts having her Edward hallucinations), and at the end of the panel they treated us to another clip (Bella and Alice race to Volterra in the yellow Porsche, and Bella races through the city to stop Edward…clip ends right as Edward takes a step toward the sunlight). It was cool seeing the cast, but honestly, some of them have a hard time with interviews and questions. All in all, it was a fantastic experience. And yes, I would do it again (even if while standing in line, I said never again will I do something like this for Twilight).

The Coraline Panel
The other panel on my list was Coraline. I just wanted to see Neil Gaiman. He is one of my favorite authors, and because of my Forks trip I missed a wonderful opportunity to attend one of his events in San Francisco. This panel was a lot easier to get into, and I had prime seating. For me, the only drawback was that the director, Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach), has a huge following so many of the questions were directed to him. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the making of Coraline, and that night I went out and bought the DVD.

In addition to holding a panel discussion, there was an autograph opportunity for Coraline. However, it was a lottery drawing that took place right around the same time that you had to stand in line to get into the panel. Lucky me, my sister was willing to stand in line for the lottery, and even luckier, she got the ticket. The only problem was that they then put a wristband on her (one that could not be easily removed), so only she could stand in line for the autograph. It all turned out okay in the end. Even though I didn’t get a chance to meet Neil Gaiman, he was graciously willing to sign two items. I let my sister keep the autographed Coraline print (signed by Teri Hatcher, Neil Gaiman, Henry Selick and David) and my copy of Good Omens was also signed by Neil himself.

The Experience
Comic-Con is one of those things that should be experienced by everyone at least once. You just have to get over the crowds and the smell. It really seems like the studios do their best to treat fans to something special, before the viral video hits YouTube and while movies like Alice in Wonderland or New Moon are still in production. The whole thing really is enormous, and while it gets bigger every year, I have heard that the convention center is at capacity. I hope the Con figures out how to handle the Twilight craze, because there are two more movies yet to come, and it is a bit out of control. Plus, the veteran Comic-Con people are not happy with the rabid vampire fans—everywhere we went we heard varying forms of “dumb Twilight”. Regardless of your interest in the different genres of comics, Comic-Con is something you don’t want to miss. If you are in the right place at the right time you might hear people dressed in costume, from different movies, speaking in character to one another. I missed out on this, but hopefully I hear this sort of talk next year. My sister and I already bought our four-day passes for Comic-Con 2010.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Adrienne's Cousin

After years of hearing about Seth's cousin Ty from PA (learned to call it "P-A" from Ty himself), I finally met him last night! Ty and his fiancee are visiting NorCal, and lucky us, he brought his guitar. Seth's mom arranged for us to come over to her place so we could all hear Ty play, and it was a lovely way to spend Friday evening.

Ty is a part of a band called Adrienne's Cousin and you can check them out online at www.myspace.com/adriennescousin. Sample and/or buy some songs, and see pictures of the band. Ty does the lead vocals, writes songs and plays the guitar. Adrienne's Cousin has a chillaxed sort of vibe. The kind that's perfect for lawn concerts in the summer.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Forks, WA

If I was in elementary school and had to tell my class about how I spent my summer, this is what I would say: "On my summer vacation I went to Forks, Washington. Forks is located on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. It is three-hour drive from the Bremerton Ferry; which is about an hour ride from Seattle. It takes about half a day to get out to Forks from Seattle. You can also take the Ferry to Bainbridge Island, or you can just drive around the water."

Forks is just about the smallest town I have ever been to on the continental United States; the 101 cuts right through the town, and you need some vampire driving skills if you want to make the 60-mile drive from Port Angeles to Forks in under an hour. This was a difficult trip to plan—I had no idea what to expect, and since the Forks/Twilight craze is relatively new, there aren’t a whole lot of online tips to planning a trip if you don’t have time to comb through Google. I thought I would share my experience in the unlikely event that my blog shows up in someone’s search for trips to Fork.

You will need a car to get to Forks from SeaTac. Get a car with GPS and a CD player, or a jack in which you can plug in your iPod. Our car had both of these features, as well as Sirius, but satellite radio becomes spotty once you start heading away from Port Angeles to Forks. The drive from the Bremerton Ferry to Forks is about 98 miles, and it’s a good two and a half to three hours. The 60 miles from Port Angeles to Forks is mostly a two lane highway, with no divider, and no lights. In addition, the road leads you around Lake Crescent, so it winds. A lot.

I made my trip in July, so the sun does not set until after 9:00 p.m. that far North, but I would not want to make this drive in the dark. You can also take the Bainbridge Ferry, but a friend of mine, who also happens to be from Seattle, suggested Bremerton. If you are in a car, you can drive your car directly onto the Ferry, and get out and walk around for the one-hour ride. There is a fee for the car and driver, and passengers pay a lesser amount (on the way back to Seattle, passengers do not have to pay). There is also the option of driving South on the 5 through Tacoma and then heading back North around Olympia. Either way, plan on spending at least half the day to get out to Forks from Seattle.

Finding a place to stay in Forks was difficult. There aren’t very many reviews of the different inns and motels in the area when you search Travelocity or Orbitz. I went to the Forks Chamber of Commerce website for some options, but I believe they only list Chamber members, and beyond this list, there are a few other options. You can go the B&B route, but this didn’t seem like a good option for us since you have to share bathrooms with other guests in some of these places. Our trip, also had some uncertainty about how many of us would embark on this adventure. After a relatively extensive search, I decided upon the Olympic Suites Inn. From the photos and description, this seemed like the best option, but I did worry about cleanliness, as well as the non-ghetto factor.

Luckily, the Olympic Suites Inn was great! We had a King suite, so it had a full kitchen, full bath, living room area and a bedroom with a king bed. I believe the couch might have been a fold-out. You can rent cookware for $10 from the Inn if you want to cook. It was clean, and the bathroom was remodeled. The older gentleman who checked us in was a really sweet guy. He’s a bit religious, but he seems to embrace Twilight and the craze it has brought to his small town. I recommend the Olympic Suites Inn—if you are going to visit Forks in the summer, make your reservations in the early Spring. Forks is a destination for the hunting-fishing-camping folk during the summer, so the town does have periods of no vacancy. The Olympic Suites Inn has now hosted guests from 30 different countries.

Forks Food
Warning: Most restaurants in Forks close at 9:00 p.m., even on Saturday night. Of course, if you stay at the Olympic Suites Inn you can cook your own food. If you are used to some really great eats, then maybe you should cook. We actually only ate at one restaurant in Forks, so I don’t have anything to recommend. On the first night we arrived, we ate at Golden Gate Restaurant—yes, a Chinese restaurant. It was not the best, but I am used to Chinese food from Hawaii, Southern California and the Bay Area, and all three places have large Chinese populations.

Of course, there is always Bella Italia in Port Angeles, a.k.a. where Bella and Edward had their first dinner date. Rumor has it that Bella Italia never had mushroom ravioli on its menu until the Twilight phenomena erupted, and has since sold more than 250,000 dishes. For breakfast, we ate at First Street Haven in Port Angeles. This is a small place, but the food is good! I had the eggs benedict.

We also ate at the River’s Edge Restaurant in La Push. This came at the recommendation of the nice old man at the Inn. My sisters thought the food was good, but the place was a little dirty for my liking. The restaurant really is at the edge of the river, and you can sit in a window seat to get a view of the water. They have homemade pie, and my sister gave it the thumbs up.

What to Do
Forks is a great destination for anyone who enjoys camping, hunting, fishing or hiking. If you dare, there is also surfing; but you will need a 5/4 wetsuit, booties and a hood. Here is a list of things to do and see for Twilight fans:

  • Forks Chamber of Commerce—make stopping here a priority because they have a list of Twilight related sites to see in the town, and this is where you will find “Bella’s truck,” but check their website for hours; we missed them on a Sunday because they closed at 4:00 p.m.
  • The “Welcome to Forks” sign—photo op and it is amazing to see that their population is just over 3,000 people!
  • Forks High School—photo op!
  • Forks Community Hospital—we missed this, but heard that there is a reserved spot for one Dr. Carlisle Cullen
  • Bella’s House—we missed this one too
  • J&P Produce—one stop shopping for groceries and Twilight tchotckes
  • 98331 Gear—a small, retail store where you can find Twilight gear
  • Dazzled by Twilight—another retail store to sate your thirst for Twilight gear and they offer tours; this has more selection than 98331 Gear, but a lot of stuff here can also be found at Hot Topic
  • First Beach, Second Beach and Third Beach—located in La Push, these three beaches are cool photo ops, but be warned, it is cold
  • The “Treaty Line”—just a banner of sorts, but honestly it’s cute and it’s funny
  • Bella Italia—you must drive 60 miles to Port Angeles for this one, but it’s the restaurant where Bella ate her mushroom ravioli after Edward roared in with his shiny Volvo to save the day

If you want to mix in some non-Twilight activities, there is a visitor center in Port Angeles for the Olympic National Forest. From Forks you can also make a drive out to the Hoh Rainforest; this drive is about 24 miles away, along the two-lane 101. We did not make it out there, but it’s a place I would definitely want to see next time (yes, I said next time). Finally, please stop at the West End Surf Shop! The owners lived in Hawaii before returning to the Pacific Northwest, and I always like to support people from the rock. Plus, the shop is cool, and you can find great gifts to take home for your own surfer (Seth got a t-shirt), and the guy working in there was a nice young dude.

Other Random Tidbits
Forks is a small town. Did I mention that already? The 101 cuts through it, and not in the way that the 101 cuts through the Valley. The 101 in Forks is a two-lane highway.

In addition, cell phone service is spotty, and there is no Starbucks. On the flipside, it’s kind of nice to not be totally available for communication, and if you crave coffee, Forks has two drive-thru coffee stands. And honestly, the Olympic Peninsula is absolutely gorgeous. Normally Mother Nature and I sidestep each other, but there is just something about the Pacific Northwest that makes me almost want to hug her. It is a very calming place, and I love the water and the green, green scenery. I would go back again, and for more than just Twilight.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Seven-Day, or Rather Four-Month Quilt

This is a wedding gift for friends who were married in March, and the pattern came from the 7-Day Quilts book by Leisure Arts. It would have been completed on time had I not decided to quilt this freehand, by hand. It's now July, and I have FINALLY finished. As much as I love CB and AT, I am thinking that next time it would be better to pay someone the $75 to do the quilting by machine.

As for the material selection, well, they are both USC alumni, and Seth has enjoyed several great tailgate parties with them. Perhaps this will make an appearance at the Coliseum this season.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Neil Gaiman is Coming to the Bay Area But I'll Be in Forks

Woe is me. One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, will be in San Francisco on Sunday, July 19 at Comix Experience. The opportunity is open only to the first 100 people who purchase Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader from Comix Experience. I will definitely not be one of hundred as I will be traipsing around Forks on my own little Twilight adventure. And while I do love Twilight, I absolutely love Neil Gaiman's books, and this is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: From 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. you can experience a reading/Q&A/signing session with Neil Gaiman! Visit the Robot 6 transmission for more details on how you can be one of the hundred. I will only be forever jealous.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Apricot Sorbet

The apricots are quickly reaching the point of nearly-too-ripe, so I have spent almost everyday this week making some sort of food item involving them. This sorbet is my most recent apricot adventure in the kitchen. Thanks to kk of the myfoodaffair blog for directing me to this recipe. The recipe is actually from another blog, Annie's Eats. As you can see, Annie's sorbet came out significantly lighter in color, and much more frozen in its consistency than mine. If you have ever had Trader Joe's sorbet, that is the consistency of my sorbet.

All in all, it's a refreshing treat and I wish I had made it over the weekend during the 103 degree weather we had in Walnut Creek. Also, it was well worth it to buy the ice cream maker. I see homemade ice cream and sorbet in my future.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jam Filled Butter Cookies

I love cookies with jam in the middle, so I decided make use of my homemade apricot jam. This is my first time making butter cookies, and baking can be tough for me, but I think these turned out okay for a first go around. The recipe for Jam Filled Butter Cookies is from www.allrecipes.com and was submitted my MKHG. It is a simple recipe, although I did have to look up how to cream butter and sugar together.

My #1 taste-tester Seth gave it a good rating, so it looks like the Office will get some cookies tomorrow.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Apricot Jam

Now there is apricot jam. The recipe for this apricot refrigerator jam came from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. It was a bit of a pain to peel the apricots since they are so small, and I think this is what caused them to be on the mushy side after I blanched them. That was a bit worrisome, but I figured it might be okay since it has to turn syrupy anyway. All in all, I think the jam turned out pretty well, but my taster Seth has not had any yet. We'll see what he says.

Stay tuned for more apricot-themed foods as we have tons of apricots to use.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments Trilogy

City of Glass (Mortal Instruments, #3) City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
The thing about certain sci-fi fantasy books is that when I get hooked, I tend to swallow the hook, the line, and the sinker. Books like Harry Potter, the Eight and Twilight have cost me countless hours of sleep, but it does not matter how much I suffer the next day, when it comes to books like these, I willingly give up the sleep everytime.

Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series is the most recent set of books to capture my attention in such a way. I started the first book, City of Bones on Saturday, and that night I only got four hours of sleep because I just had to get all the way to the end. Sunday was supposed to have been spent working on my craft projects, but I could not put down City of Ashes. I knew better than to open City of Glass, but I just could not help myself that same Sunday. So, on a work night, I got three hours of sleep after only getting four the night before.

Work was not fun, and my brain was mush, but it was worth it. It is hard to believe, but I love the Mortal Instruments series almost as much as I love the Twilight Saga. Besides the lack of sleep, there is also a lack of hunger; and that is how I know I am in trouble. Lucky for my sleeping and eating patterns, the trilogy ended with City of Glass; but just like with Twilight I wish I could have more time with the main characters, Clary and Jace.

Clary is a human girl who discovers one night that she can see things that other people cannot, and an entirely new part of the world is opened up to her. That same night, she meets Jace.

Oh Jace Wayland.

He is kind of like the bad boy version of Edward Cullen, and this is probably Twilight blasphemy here, but I think I like Jace better. Don't get me wrong, Edward is nothing short of wonderful, but he is also a little too perfect for me. Jace falls far from perfect; he can be an arrogant smart-ass, but it makes him more real. Either way, Jace or Edward, maybe boys in books are better.

One final thing, while I loved reading this series, I feel that I should also share a small warning. There is a strange plot twist that occurs and goes unresolved in book one. However, in my experience American authors tend to be a bit obvious when it comes to their foreshadowing technique, so I read through books two and three, despite this strange turn in the story. I also did do a minor search on Google for a hint at what might happen, but I would not let myself click on any actual links to read full details. Now for the spoiler (stop reading if you don't want a clue): I was pleased in the end. Now it's time for me to re-read these a little because I haven't had enough.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Apricot Cobbler

Apparently we have an apricot tree in the backyard, and it decided to produce a ton of fruit. So much fruit that one of the branches broke! Most of the fruit is not quite ripe, but some of them are, so I picked a bunch and made cobbler (the recipe is from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook). It's a little on the tangy side, for Seth, but I happen to like fruit desserts with a little bite. KK, this post is for you!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Finally I Finished a Project!

With multiple projects going on I am having a hard time finishing anything, so I am happy that I finally completed something: a knitted cap that is supposed to look like a baseball. I bought the pattern a longtime ago from Patternworks, but this is the first time I tried it out. The instructions were not the best, so it took a few tries to figure out and I had to go back to the knitting store a number of times for stitch markers. In the end I used almost 100 stitch markers. At least it is done now, and I think it is reminiscent of a baseball.