Cinnamon Bread, Pt. 2

Last time I made cinnamon-swirl chocolate chip bread, the edges got scorched and dry, while the center was raw. This time, I turned down the temperature to 325°F after preheating at 350°F and baked for a full hour and a half instead of forty-five minutes to one hour. The result?

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Not exactly like the photos from the original recipe (especially since I’m a bad photographer with shaky hands and a cameraphone), but infinitely better than last time. I haven’t been documenting any of my cooking for the past… month? Three weeks? I also haven’t photographed all of the things I’ve made, but here’s a taste.

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Mini chocolate chip cheesecakes with salted caramel

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Spaghetti carbonara

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Partially destroyed spinach and mushroom quiche with some leftover bacon

The original recipe for the quiche, which I don’t have, because my roommate was the one who found it and I forgot to ask her to send it to me, only used spinach, but we had organic mushrooms, so we figured- why not?

I’m off to watch Emma Approved. And eat a small slice of the cinnamon bread-which-I’m-not-supposed-to-eat-till-tomorrow-’cause-it-tastes-better-on-the-second-day.

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I need a job!

I have sprouted two white hairs, and that is unacceptable! I bet it’s from feeling stressed about NOT applying for jobs. I’ve been working on the same application for three weeks. The more I think about it, the more unqualified I feel. This is abnormal for me–I usually dive right into something and start figuring out how to do everything along the way. I’m more likely to get stumped in the middle of an interview than while writing a cover letter. I want to get a move on already! I want to take the “unemployed” out of my tagline. I don’t want to work more long days without pay. I love working with my two museums, but it takes a lot of time, and I need money NOW.

I suppose I could settle for another boring job that pays decently well. But I keep thinking back to how miserable I was at my old job and how I would go out every day after work for drinks in order to erase the workday from my mind. Sunday nights were the worst during what I have dubbed the Dark Days. I went to bed dreading having to return to the Hellhole. Life after quitting was the most exhilarating thing. My ex-coworker said she felt the same way after she left. Too bad the lack of income is going to give me wrinkles and turn my hair gray. I’m gonna be poor AND ugly (I’m too young for gray hair and wrinkles to make me look regal and refined). Fabulous.

My roommate is annoyed that I turned down an offer last month because I knew I wouldn’t like working at the place. If I were her, I might be annoyed at me, too; she’s been applying for many jobs and not getting any responses. I’d rather work at Barnes and Noble for low pay than work another 9-to-6 that makes me hate the world and everyone in it. Holy shit, my neighbors are starting to head off to work. Why am I still awake? I don’t have to go to my internship or my volunteer job until Wednesday this week, so I didn’t feel the need to go to sleep reasonably early, but that doesn’t mean staying up until 6:30 AM! How will I fix my schedule if I keep this up?!

Before I go, though– the Olympics! I spent the weekend binge-watching. I was originally going to watch only figure skating and snowboarding, as usual, but I somehow got sucked into skiing and luge as well. I am now a fan of skiing. Luge is still somewhat of a mystery to me. Until yesterday, I didn’t know what it was. I had seen the guys lying down on their toboggan-looking things and going down the giant slide contraption, but I didn’t know that was luge. I did some reading, and found out they steer those toboggans with their fricken SHOULDERS and CALVES. Luge has always looked very bizarre to me, but once I understood (and saw) how it was done, it still looks bizarre, but I respect it a lot more as a sport.

It’s the weekend!

I forgot today was Friday. When le fabulous boss-lady told to us to go home and continue our work on Monday, the other two interns and I stared at her in confusion for a second. But once I realized, I was ecstatic. I can finally catch up on sleep! And clean.

Cleaning is no longer as fun as it used to be. My roommate and I set some roach traps (the ones with the poison) after we saw another roach that was definitely from the previous tenant. How do I know? Well, you should have seen the state of this place when we first moved in. The only thing that was clean was the new carpet. I haven’t seen a roach indoors since I was a child, so we couldn’t have brought them here with our stuff, which is what the manager tried to accuse us of when I told him we have fricken roaches in our apartment. But anyways, now I live in fear of cleaning and finding roach corpses.

I was late this morning, so I did my make-up in the car. While I was unlocking my door after work, my brand-new powder case and kabuki brush slipped from my hand and rolled away. The brush stopped a foot from the door, but the powder case went right over the railing into the clump of bushes and tree roots on the first floor. I ran down and spent five minutes shuffling around, parting branches and leaves and checking the ground for my case. No dice. I was about to give up when  I happened to look up ’cause my neighbor with the friendly little five-year-old kid was coming down the stairs, and I saw the stupid case on the ground, several yards from all the foliage. I didn’t even need to stick my face into those bushes. What a waste of time and energy. But I AM grateful that I found the case. I do NOT feel like another trip just to buy more powder. Shopping for new make-up is a bitch.

Oh, yeah, did I tell you I made cheesecake bars the other day? Well, my sister found this recipe for strawberry swirl chocolate chip cheesecake bars, and they were AMAZING.

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We didn’t know how to artfully swirl the jam in, so my sister just mixed it with the top layer of cream cheese to form this… funky pink glob. But who cares? It tasted so good!

Enjoying my rainy night alone

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What’s that? It looks completely unappetizing! It looks like a bowl of old potatoes! No, my friends–that is called bo vien. It’s a Vietnamese meatball! I bought them from the store and dumped them into a pot with a can of chicken broth. Ha! As if I’d take the time to make my own meatballs at home. I was going to eat a frozen pizza when I got home, but I left my internship and it was raining, so I decided I wanted something soupy. Ideally, I’d be slurping up beef noodles (the real kind from a restaurant, not the instant ones you get in a bag), but driving far in the rain to get food? No, thanks. I’d rather heat up the meatballs in my fridge. And that is exactly what I did. Now I’m waiting for them to cool so I can scarf down the whole bowl within ten minutes. Yummmm…

Understanding the appeal of Mr. Darcy

(Warning: The title is misleading. This post is not really about Mr. Darcy.)

I introduced my sister to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries last night, and she was immediately sucked into it. If you’re an Austen fan and you haven’t seen the series yet, do so asap. If you, like my sister, have never made it past the first chapter of an Austen novel, watch it anyways. It’s a great modern adaptation of that one book everyone loves so much and that I myself reread every other year. P&P isn’t my favorite Austen novel (that title will forever belong to Persuasion), but it has an enjoyable plot and really, really likeable characters. They’re even more likeable in Hank Green & company’s vlog series. I’ve always found Elizabeth annoying at times in the novel and the BBC miniseries (Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth is okay), but Ashley Clements’s portrayal of her is brilliant– funny, not-so-painfully-awkward, and endearing as hell. Lydia is actually cute instead of just bratty and selfish, and I can see that she and Lizzie care for each other, unlike in the novel and previous on-screen adaptations (whenever I think of novel!Lizzie and novel!Lydia’s relationship, I’m always reminded of zombie-huntress!Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fantasizing about chopping off Lydia’s head). Caroline, the original literary two-faced bitch, is even more two-faced than usual, Charlotte is sarcastic and delightful, and Darcy!

Darcy is LIKEABLE. I cannot stress how important this is. I mean, he’s a decent guy and all, but I’ve never understood why all my female friends (and perhaps some of my male friends, too), along with half the world are so in love with him. Guy’s devoted and all, but he seems so… boring (that one display of passion–you know which one I’m talking about–aside). I have been told I am biased, because I worship at the shrine of Captain Wentworth, that other Austen fellow women seem to like, but I acknowledge that these two dashing gentlemen are from two different novels and have gone through very different things. No, the reason I am biased, friends, is because I have always been an admirer of one very underappreciated Pride and Prejudice character, Mr. Charles Bingley.

ImageBingley, played by Simon Wood

Friendly, cheerful, kind-hearted, red-headed Bingley. That ray of sunshine next to Darcy’s abysmally dreary and ever-present raincloud. I can see why Jane fell for him at first sight. He’s so adorable! And in LBD, he gets more screen-time and character development! Not to mention, I personally think LBD’s Bingley (who is mixed Asian and has been renamed Bing Lee) is hotter than LBD’s Darcy.

ImageBing Lee, played by Christopher Sean.

It’s true that Bingley lacks the strength and firm-mindedness that Darcy seems to possess in huge quantities, but he’s a loyal friend and he has a big heart. He’s a bit naive, but I think I also would have a hard time ignoring my best friend and my sister-who-I’m-close-to if both of them were telling me they don’t think my interest in a particular person is a good idea. There’s also the fact that he’s a genuine nice guy, and I’ve always liked nice guys, though I’m the anti-Jane Bennet and I repel nice guys, as my friends keep reminding me while laughing in my face.

The point is, according to the novel AND all versions of P&P, Bingley is (almost) as much of a catch as Darcy is, but he doesn’t seem to make women go weak in the knees and swoon away like other Austen heroes do. Could it be because he’s often remembered as one half of a very popular pairing, as JaneandBingley, BingleyandJane, instead of just Bingley, who is his own person and happens to be in love with Jane? That’s another thing I like about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, btw–Jane may have a huge thing for Bing Lee, but she has her own dreams and her priorities in life are her family and her career in fashion; Bing is similarly independent. It’s awesome. My sister says I should make a shirt that says “Bingley fangirl for life”, because it’s been, what? More than a decade since I read P&P now, and I’ve never once budged from my Bingley-over-Darcy stance. I might actually make the shirt and wear it next time the girls and I have a P&P night. I’ll make it in the style of the shirts Mrs. Bennet gives the girls in Ep. 1 of LBD.

Eating in the middle of the night with Shostakovich for company

So it’s a Sunday night, and I’m eating a big bowl of Shin ramyun instant noodles (with an egg!) in the kitchen, which still smells like incense. I hate the smell of incense past the Lunar New Year, so my nose isn’t very happy at the moment. I usually don’t eat this late, ’cause I’m not often hungry this late, but my sister was watching some Korean drama in which the main characters seemed to do nothing but eat, go to work (“work”– they didn’t do any work while at the office), eat some more while at work, and then go home or head to one another’s houses and eat again. There were many close-up shots of people’s faces as they slurped up noodles, soup, stew, etc. It made us really want to eat, though, so we made our own bowls of noodles. I wonder how the hell Korean people can just take a huge bite of food when it’s still literally boiling in the pot– I’m blowing and blowing on my spoonful of noodles/soup and my glasses are fogging up, I feel the noodle-steam rise up and clog the pores of my freshly-washed face, and the food is still too hot to eat. A couple of weeks ago, Hollywood-friend visited, and requested that we go to the local pizzeria, ’cause it fricken has the best pizza ever. We were in a hurry, and I was hungry, so I started eating as soon as I got my piping hot slice of mushroom pizza, and the sauce scorched my tongue, the roof of my mouth, my gums, and my throat as it went down. Dear Buddha, I’m never doing THAT again. Friend across the way was eating his slice like it was nothing. Perhaps I’ve just been cursed with a weaker, more sensitive layer-that-covers-my-inner-mouth-and-throat than everyone else. TRUE WOE. When you eat at Korean restaurants often, this is a huge disadvantage.

Oh, man, I’m so full. Why did I think it would be a good idea to eat so late? Hello Giggles recently did a post on Korean girls filming themselves eating trays upon trays of food (in one sitting) for live audiences. Apparently, it’s called mok-bang, and it pays pretty darn well, if you become popular enough. I watched the mok-bang video they linked to, and I was truly astonished; a petite, slim girl happily munching away at what looked like PANFULS of food, two-three inches deep, BY HERSELF. I couldn’t eat that much if I TRIED. Despite my calorie-counting that I might as well not do ’cause I’m going over it as we speak, I tend to eat what I want, when I want, however often I want, and I still end up eating less than most people I know. I get full fast, and aside from a few days per month when I’m in what I’ve dubbed as beast mode, where I’m strangely hungry 24/7 and binge-eat, I don’t require that much food to feel stuffed. But this girl! Wow, she can EAT.

Oh, damn it, now I crave cinnamon swirl-chocolate chip bread. What is cinnamon swirl-chocolate chip bread, you ask? It’s from this recipe here. My sister and I used a metal pan, and our bread somehow came out an inch taller than Sally’s (I think that’s her name); the center was completely raw after an hour, so we left it in the oven for another fifteen minutes, and it was STILL raw, so I we had to put it back in for ANOTHER fifteen minutes, after which it came out slightly dry and crispy around the edges. Sadness.

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We ate a slice each, with a glass of milk, because it was way too dry and thick to eat without milk. THIS MORNING, HOWEVER! I cut myself a slice for breakfast, and it was really good. Sally was totally right– you should wait until Day 2 before eating the bread. Good-bye, plans to share bread with friends. It’s going into my tummy now.

Random comment before I go… I’m listening to my favorite musical piece, Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 7 in C Major, op. 60, ‘Leningrad'” on my iPod; it’s been a while since I’ve made it past the first half hour of the thing, and right around the thirty-fifth minute, it gets pretty damn awesome. The first few minutes will always be the best, but there are three-to-five minute bursts of amazing symphonic eargasms throughout “Leningrad” that make the entire hour and a half worth listening to, at least once.

Lunar New Year

Well, Happy Year of the Horse, folks. I am home for the weekend, starting tonight, ’cause it was our New Year’s Eve until about half an hour ago. I’m not big on tradition by any means, but the Lunar New Year is one thing I will continue to celebrate no matter whom I marry or where I end up someday, even though I have to call my mom and ask what day it is every year, ’cause it keeps shifting from January to February. The Lunar calendar is strange and confusing. Anyways, for those of you who have no idea what we Asians-who-do-celebrate-Lunar-New-Year do on Lunar New Year’s Eve, here’s a summary.

First, we buy a shit-ton of fruit, enough to wash and separate into five separate platters. Here is all the fruit together in one place.

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I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it before, but I hate fruit. I don’t eat it, and I don’t like touching it or feeling its texture. So I let my dad take care of this task while I washed the giant stack of dishes in the kitchen. My sister plated the sweets, while my mom frantically swept the kitchen. Normally, the cleaning would have started a week ago, but my family got hit with really nasty colds last week, so they just cleaned last-minute. Despite that, my dad still put up his yearly decorations, according to tradition.

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And they managed to make it to the florist in time to get some chrysanthemums.

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Why the hell didn’t they just go to the grocery store or something to get them, you ask? I don’t know, reputation? You’re supposed to go around in the days leading up to the New Year (and the days immediately following) distributing gifts, usually in the form of a traditional food, a box of sweets, or “Spring flowers”. My family always gets the chrysanthemums, EVERY SINGLE FRICKEN YEAR. I mean, no complaints–I love mums, but it is now a cause of panic if my parents arrive at the florist’s only to discover that he has five pots left when they need seven. Surely Aunt So-and-So or Your Friend Linda or whoever will notice if her chrysanthemum pot is from Trader Joe’s when Cousin Jenny’s mums are from the florist! The only solution is to go to another florist! They never send me to get the gift-mums ’cause they probably know that I can’t tell the difference between mums unless one pot contains wilted flowers while another is vibrant and fresh.

Anyways, after everything has been set up, the TV’s on to the channel where they’re broadcasting firecrackers being lit live, and midnight actually rolls around, we say our prayers for the New Year at each of the five stations that have been set up. I think this part’s a bit different for everyone. My family’s Buddhist, so we pray (in this order) to Buddha, our ancestors, the gods of the land and sky, and the kitchen god (my favorite). The prayers are private, brief, and involve saying thanks and asking for blessings for the New Year, while lighting sticks of incense.

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That is the prayer station (as I’ve dubbed it) for the kitchen god. As you can see, I spilled ashes when it was my turn to pray, ’cause my hands shake 24/7, and some of the hot ashes landed on my skin. Ouch. Well, that’s pretty much what we did to welcome the New Year. Tomorrow, we’re going to my uncle’s house to eat some traditional New Year food. My aunt’s a terrible cook who doesn’t ever improve, so every year, we eat the same slightly mushy rice with a dish that everyone is familiar with, except it always ends up tasting slightly off. It wouldn’t be the Lunar New Year without my aunt’s awful cooking, though. I’ve come to see it as a part of the family tradition.