End of Another Year

>> Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another year is at its end. I guess the biggest news for many of us this year is the death of the King of Pop. Watch this summary by JibJab.

You can see the summary of each year by JibJab since 2005 from below, seems we haven't had a great year since then and every summary seems to be "Oh, this year sucked, hope next year will be better." And though the pattern doesn't seemed to have changed since then, I do hope the coming ear will be different.

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Have a great New Year's Eve!


United States of Pop 2009

>> Wednesday, December 30, 2009

DJ Earworm has done it again this year. Mashing up the top 25 songs of the year and giving it a hopeful note after a sorta lousy year. Last year's mash up is here.

It's not until I hear this that I realize how fast the year has passed, seems like the days are passing a bit too soon. I still don't understand the Taylor Swift fascination, but I guess that's like the Jonas brothers or Zach Efron or to that matter Barbara Streisand, I'll never understand why people like them so much.


Year in Baking

>> Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Making desserts has always been one of my favorite things, it's just the result is often personally rewarding and usually it pleases my friends too. I guess the boyfriend has inspired me to bake more often, since he do enjoy cookies and cakes alike, especially all thing peanut butter and pumpkin related.

These are some of the bakings I've done this year"

Oreo Tart with peanut butter cream with peanut turtle bites

Lego cake for the boyfriend's birthday. He's a Lego fan. It's my first attempt doing things with fondant. I chose a simpler recipe for the fondant which didn't turn out so good. I'll try using glycerin some other time.

I enjoy making and eating fruit tart especially in summertime when fresh fruit is abundant.

Panda bread. Looks cute, but didn't taste so good. I have a difficult time with yeast and its taste.

In the downtime, I've made some yogurt cake and this pineapple up-side down. They are both a bit on the dense side.

One of my highlights this year, this simple cheesecake with a hint of coconut, covered in caramel sauce and slices of bananas. I will add a little more rum next time but after I served it, my friends were silent with munching sounds. It was that good.

Halloween pies on Halloween.

Mont Blanc - Chestnut cake. It was good since I love chestnut cream, but it could be much improved. I'm just glad to have set a goal and achieved it.

Pumpkin cheesecake for thanksgiving, people loved it but unlike the boyfriend, I'm not a huge pumpkin fan and the recipe called for too much sour cream. Still a lot of friends claimed it to be the best cheesecake they've ever tasted.

My White Christmas Chocolate Tree inspired by Whole Foods. My first attempt, it's a little like a show piece because it looks good but actually hard to eat and serve. People had to use a sharp knife to break it apart, dangerously.

Some X'Mas cookies to give out to friends: ginger bears, peanut butter kids and regular chocolate chip cookies.

From the top-left corner: A pumpkin yule log with maple glaze, toasted pecans and leaf cookies, meringue snowmen with marzipan embellishments and a much improved chocolate Christmas tree.

A close up on the x'mas tree. Smaller increments to give it a more slender look, some cookies to imitate ornaments.

A close up on the snowmen. Even added cream of tartar, the snowmen didn't hold up as good as I wanted them, I guess it requires more whipping time. Also it requires a convection oven which I didn't turn on. They slumped and looks more like mellow jazz musicians now. I'll have to practice some more next year.

Aside from these I remember doing a few tiramisus and some cookies. I do enjoy baking, but it's very doubtful that I would be able to do it professionally. It's a people pleasing hobby and I like that.


Year in Burgers

>> Sunday, December 27, 2009

Turn around and Christmas is over. Friday was spent on a mad dash of cooking, I had four meals in one day. After preparing the yule log and other stuff the night before, I woke up to a bowl of wonton udon, then two hours later it was fruit salad and various noodle stir-frys for lunch, then it was the dessert high tea at around 4:30pm then around 9pm was dinner. I didn't know you can get desensitized from food but then the boyfriend brought home 8 bags of leftovers from his family dinner and blown my mind. The friend that took pictures didn't post all the pics yet. So I'll have to re-post some stuff when she does. Meanwhile there are these:

Inspired by a post on Serious Eats: AHT, I thought I'd do the same since I have taken some burger pics this year. I think a lot of us love to find the ultimate hamburger in the city, since it's fun and very rewarding to do. Though sometime I have the intention of taking some pictures and my gluttony gets the best of me and I bite into one and realized it's too late for a picture. Ha!

1. Goodburger

Although extremely fatty, I do like the milkshake/burger/fries combo. If you're going for it, you might as well go all out so you don't have any regrets, right? Though Goodburger was a nice joint, they took extremely long with their made-to-order unpressed burgers. I waited a good 25 minutes standing around waiting for the burgers to be cooked and while the burger was nice, it's not so outstanding that it's worth the wait. For a fast food joint, it was really not fast enough. Well, I guess it's the reason why they aren't in business any more, they still have locations in NYC for the patient ones.

2. Bridget Foy's

I had a nice lunch there, but the best thing of the meal was the Barritt's ginger beer. It was high in sugar content of course, but it balanced out the stronger ginger flavor that is so pleasing. Regular ginger ale has nothing on it. The fries had a good crisp on. My burger was decent, I ordered to have bacon and mushrooms on my burger for extra flavor.

3. Monk's Cafe

Not my picture

Monk's Cafe is a standard in Philly. They have probably have more than 60 kinds of beers and half of them available on tap. Since I'm not much of a beer person, it doesn't have much effect on me. The food is decent though, the menu is vast, interesting and affordable. Just for hamburgers, they have 7 different kinds. I ordered an Antwerp which is with sottocenare truffle cheese and shiitake mushrooms. It was nice.

4. Standard Tap

Another crowd favorite in Philly located in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Northern Liberties. It's a cozy bar that seems to be a lot of fun, though it's a bit awkward not to be served and I have to go to the bar and order food myself. I also find it that comparing burgers is a hard job given that there's really little to differ between the burgers, thought this one was perfectly cooked and high quality.


I know it's a chain store for Trailer-Park Americans, but the service were great and the burger tasty. They must have had went under severe training to make their staff endearing and courteous to the T. The buns of the burger was spiced with rosemary and garlic, the beef patties were also very well seasoned which regular restaurants or bars are afraid to do for fear that it will mask the taste of the beef itself. So maybe I have a problem with my palette, but I thought it was good and the service made it a great experience.

6. Five Guys

Another food chain and folks, this place have the best burger I've had so far. Well, any place who call a single patty burger "little burger" and a double decker "regular burger" you'll have to love, right? Their burgers is juicy and big, like what a Big Mac is supposed to be and then there's a list of topping you can customize your own for free is pretty sweet. The only thing though is that their fries are a little inferior, they are all crisp and no tender inside, but I'll still go back again and again for their burgers. (Well, hopefully I will be able to control myself.)

I also had a memorable burger at Vargas, which is a half block away from me and the buffalo burgers at Ted's I find to be more flavorful than regular beef burgers, they also have a long lists of topping they can do. Next I think I'll go to Village Whiskey which is a new venture from the city's very own Iron Chef Jose Garces, they have a $24 burger with cippolini, blue cheese, bacon and foie gras that I might "splurge" on, but did I mention the boyfriend came home with 8 bags of leftovers?

Maybe non-fast-food joints are too proud to use MSG? lol.


Merry Christmas Everyone!

>> Friday, December 25, 2009

Stole this from Towleroad, I do like the desolated urban feel

Thanks for reading my blog and commenting on my various posts. I hope you and your loved ones enjoys the holiday! Try not to drink and drive.

Love you all!



Best X'Mas Song of 2009 (and 2000): I Wish It Was Christmas Today

>> Thursday, December 24, 2009

Julian Casablancas of The Strokes covering Jimmy Fallon's I Wish It Was Christmas Today. I adored the original with Jimmy, Horatio, Tracy Morgan and Chris Kattan but this one has The Roots playing the music... The Roots! I still don't get how Jimmy Fallon can be so lucky, each guest on his show has the entrance music specifically tailored and designed by The Roots.

Other than the aforementioned songs, I'm still a bit mesmerized by the multi-holiday cheerleading Gap commercials and apparently I'm not the only one. There's this and this:

How cute are these boots? How cute are these boots... it's gonna rot my brains

Somehow Elvis-y Tom Jones' It's Not Unusual also sipped into my brain. Not really a Christmas song so it IS a little unusual.

I wonder why and how, must have been featured in a holiday movie like Love, Actually or something, I also recall Aiden in Sex and the City sung a few bars of it. Though when I really listen to the song, it made me think about what Whitney Houston said about I Will Always Love You, the melody is too cheerful for the lyrics. It's Not Unusual is about a jealous lover being quite upset about his love interest seeing other man but the big band music sounds way too cheery. Unusual?

Anyhow, I'm staying over at my friend's tonight prepping food and playing mahjong. Then cooking pretty much the whole day tomorrow. So I'm here wishing you all a great, great, merry christmas! Have as much fun as you can crammed in in one night!


Christmas Prelude

>> Tuesday, December 22, 2009

There is nothing quite as big as Christmas, even to the atheist me. Sorry, but for me Christmas is not so much about baby Jesus but it's about celebration, festivities and maybe showing the ones you love that you care. It's like Valentine's Day not being so much about St. Valentine. It's about showing your friends that you care, reinforcing relationships, gift-giving and some partying. It's the motherlode of all holidays.

Growing up in a British colony of course I've known Christmas since I was born, but the religious origins of the holiday didn't get passed on as much as the story about Santa and gifts, though one have to figure how it came to be when there is not even a single chimney in tropical Hong Kong.

I've already attended a few parties and gathering this year, shopped for gifts for the boyfriend but other than that I wasn't expecting much. Last night I went out with a few close friends for dinner and got surprised from one of them by receiving a very nice Godiva chocolate basket. It was totally unexpected and very sweet of the sender. Good thing I baked a batch of cookies in a hurry to give them away, else I will feel quite inadequate and embarrassed. It was a good time talking with them.

Since the boyfriend is going to spend Christmas eve and day with his family, I was thinking that I might be spending those days by myself, since most of my friends will be spending time with their own families. Good thing my straight Asian friends decided to throw a party on Christmas day. I'm politely ask if they needed me to assume the role of house chef, and they couldn't be happier. They also requested me to stay the night before so we can shop, I can have more time to prep and we can play mahjong at the same time. Guess I won't be alone for Christmas eve.

Watching TV, I saw Michel Richard's meringue snowmen were featured on a Martha Stewart rerun and extreme dessert show either on Travel Network or Fine Living Network, the recipe and instructions were posted and since it seems easy enough. Michel hollowed them and stuffed them with chocolate mousse, I really want to try to make them but use sorbet instead. And to complete the scene, I think I'm going to make a smaller scale chocolate X'Mas tree and a yule log on the side. I was thinking about making a black forest yule log at first but since I have a few friends that doesn't care for chocolate much, maybe I'll make a pumpkin roll with cream cheese filling instead. Somehow I always associated X'Mas with chocolate.

I'm thinking of making a carrot ginger soup, rib roast, roquefort popovers, shepherd's pie, stuffed mushrooms, baked porkchops on rice, a balsamic glazed brussel sprouts and some other vegetables. Maybe Beef Wellington instead of the rib roast but then I'll have to find something to replace the stuffed mushrooms. It's roughly 16 people this time, after the thanksgiving experience I think I've learned the amount of food I should be making. It should be a lot easier this time. Hopefully the meringue snowmen will turn out okay. Wish me luck.


Eliminating Cursive

>> Monday, December 21, 2009

I read a post on Slog yesterday that disturbed me a little, it's about a writer on Miller-McCune and Good Magazine named Anne Trubek who's advocating for schools to stop teaching kids how to hand-write. Lady, are you f#(king insane?

Yes, yes, I understand there's not much use for handwriting anymore and I'm from an "older" generation now but I cannot imagine eliminating such a basic skill altogether. In her original article, Ms. Trubek used her third-grade son's struggles as her launching point, saying that her son can't seem to be able to write in cursive and his teacher think he might fail the state assessment standards, the pressure is getting to him so that he's afraid to pick up a pen. After being told repeatedly that his handwriting is bad, he hates writing now. No offense but Ms. Trubek sounds like an overprotective mom who regards her son's failure as the shortcomings of society in general.

It's not that I don't understand where she's coming from or the reason why I'm so biased on the topic. After all, I've been taught to write cursive from elementary school straight through junior high. I was told it is the standard type of writing until I got to the U.S. where teachers demanded that I write in prints. Til this day, my preferred writing style is still cursive. Though it's true that I don't utilize handwriting as much as before. Nowadays, I only uses it for the occasional check writing and groceries list; I do like to make lists.
To not teach children handwriting at all?

Sure, we are in the computer age now, and there are so many small handy gadget out there that it is more useful to teach kids how to type or thumb-texting than it is writing. I'm sure the kids will acquire motor skills from playing video games and such but I can't see myself relying on typing and the internet completely. It's like telling children that since calculators are so readily available, we'll stop teaching math in school. How would the next generations of taggers write if they don't even know how to do so? The choice of self-expressions are taken away, you can only do it in Arial or Times New Roman from now on. And what? The written English will become a secret language where people in the future needs to decipher to understand it's meaning? Says the typing blogger.

It's going to be mighty unlikely that an apocalyptic event will occur and we'll lose all the electricity to operate machinery. The worst thing that could happen is a computer virus or your motherboard go kaput and you'll have lose some data and forced to spend money on a new computer in order to write, but in no way can I advocate for a skill to go extinct. How impersonal would it be for you to receive an automated X'mas card e-mail? And if we're getting rid of seemingly outdated and useless things, why not take out grandma? Getting rid of a crucial skills from everyone just because your kid is having a hard time with it - bitch, please!


The Fun Theory

>> Sunday, December 20, 2009

The fun theory is a new initiative from Volkswagen, to think of creative ways and fun as a factor to make people do stuff. I don't really think it's much of a theory, people would do anything for fun.

The downside with this is that you might end up with a lot more than bottles.

I would have loved this one and might go up and down for a while and twist and ankle or lose some weight.

I actually never liked sanitizing lotion, not even with fun sounds.


Weekend Meme: X'Mas Shopping Meme

>> Saturday, December 19, 2009

A snow storm is approaching Philadelphia. If weather.com was right, I will see a blanket of snow when I open up my curtains and it will continue to snow until sometime around Sunday noon. Christmas is also approaching, so in preparation to these events. I went out for a shopping day yesterday for foods and gifts.

I wasn't in the greatest moods to start with and then after being woken up from another ruckus, I headed out to post my X'mas cards which undoubtedly will be late on arrival. Lined up for 20 minutes and got a postal service lady who was quite rude. A store at the mall ran out of an item that I need. After a giant bowl of Pho, I went to shop for produce where another cashier lady was being very rude and dropped the basket of produce I was buying, I've yet to decide whether she did it intentionally or not. Headed to Brookstone to look fro another item, where the schmuck salesman decided to tell me that they don;t have it in store and good luck finding it. At last, at the department store some guys just decided to jump the line and walk straight to the counter ignoring people who were waiting, so I stepped up and told him there was a line. The guy backed off and the cashier lady called me sugar and told me to relax. Relax... easier said than done.

I was rushing but I didn't think I was tense, I didn't even think I was irritated, I just had a strong urge to finish everything so I can go home and relax. At the end, I have finished all my Christmas shopping, I have got my heavy coat back from the dry cleaners, I have enough groceries to last me until possibly Monday and when I got home my door was ajar, thank god no one got in and stole anything. So, I was really rushing.

Found this meme at Mommablogsalot"

1. Have you started your Christmas shopping?
Oh unless I got a present from someone I didn't expect, I'm done!

2. Tell me about one of your special traditions.
Every year, I travel to NYC to the Moma store and browse their creatively unique selections of X'mas cards. Then I buy a few boxes and send them out to friends and family.

3. When do you put up your Tree?
I don't.

4. Are you a Black Friday shopper?
No, I'm not but this year I was tempted.

5. Do you Travel at Christmas or Stay home?
I stay at home, it's probably the craziest time to travel, no?

6. What is your funniest Christmas memory?
Not a lot of funny X'Mas memories.

7. What is your favorite Christmas Movie of All time?
Home Alone, though I cried a little watching Home Alone 2 when Kevin gave that pigeon lady one of the two turtle doves.

8. Do you do your own Christmas Baking, what’s your favorite treat?
I like to bake and I love yule logs.

9. Fake or Real Tree?
Though nothing looks as good as a real tree, I have a problem chopping a tree down every year just for X'mas. Real trees are messy and hard to maintain. Also hard to hang stuff on.

10. What day (as a Mom) does the actual panic set in to get it all done?
I guess it was yesterday.

11. Are you still wrapping presents on Christmas Eve?
Oh, no. Usually I'd have it done at least the day before.

12. What is your favorite family fun time at Christmas?
Getting presents. Usually I don't get much from the Grams, but my uncle would give me money.

13. What Christmas craft do you like the best?
As a kid, I used to cut some papers and make the folded garlands.

14. Christmas music?
Sure, I like them in moderation and reinterpretations are always welcomed.

15. When do you plan to finish all your shopping?
Like I said, if no one gave me a surprise present, I think I'm done.

Have a great weekend!


The Bore-ification of Menswear

>> Thursday, December 17, 2009

Not that I'm a fashionista, I barely get any new clothes unless they serve a function that my wardrobe lacks or I'm replacing a worn out item. But going out window-shopping in New York and the nearby mega mall has made me very disappointed on the selections out there.

The boyfriend was looking for a new sweater, so it got me paying attention in what selection there is for winter 09' and thus far all I've seen is either solid sweaters or argyles, other than that it's a sea of plaid and flannel shirts.

Abercrombie & Fitch

Banana Republic

Brooks Brothers

Macy's Club Room


Old Navy


I am a fan of all three items, but it does seem a little excess when they are all there is out there. While the mens department is shrinking and shrinking, the men's department of the H&M in NYC is 7 times smaller than the women's department, does the product have to be so much alike? And while very versatile, why must every single clothing store carry a plain sweater? What is the difference between one and another other than the logo?

I understand that men, especially here in US are not known to be shoppers and the designs and colors are based on the words of trend-forecasters, but if every single company are doing the same thing, our choices are limited to just these few styles. While I love the convenience of shopping online, I do like to touch my clothing and maybe even trying them on before I buy. Add least add some pockets or some funky shoulder details. A suede lining or something. I feel frustrated walking in another store and feel the eerie Deja Vu like I've seen everything already. It's like a uniform. Don't be so boring!


On Joe Lieberman and Health Care

>> Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Politicians don't acquire power by saying 'Yes'. In a perfect system, each senator will consider the need of the people in which he/she represents and make a decision base on that fact alone, but sadly politics is a game. Very soon these representative realize that they are in a position of power and corporations are willing to pay to sway them one way or another. For maximizing profits, one such politicians will announce to the press that they are 'unsure' on an issue like an auctioneer announcing the bidding war has begun.

In politics, you can be loyal to your party and be a 'yes-man', in turns you are giving away your power to the party. While noble in a sense, your party will not value you as an individual become you're highly manipulatable. You can be uncompromising and be loyal to your people and make your decisions based on their needs. Though such actions will require certain independent thoughts, rendering the person to do his own stuff all the time, unpersuadable, then people will stop trying. Politicians who seeks power needs to be loyal to themselves, use their votes as bargaining chips even though it is wrong.

Case and point Joe Lieberman who has got the democrats to butcher the health care reform bill into something he had advocated for years during his vice presidential campaign with Gore and all through his political career and without reading the new incarnation, he's already saying no to it. It's infuriating of course, but why is everyone holding their breath on what Lieberman has to say? He's in no way the leader of the party, he is but one vote. Why is the whole party molding this health care reform bill to Joe Lieberman's liking? And after we get his approval on a bill that is so severely butchered, is it something that the people will still want/benefit from? John Avarosis at AmericaBlog has an idea on why this is happening.

It's not about the votes, people. It's about leadership. The current occupant of the White House doesn't like to fight, and the leadership in Congress has never been as good at their jobs, at marshaling their own party, as the Republicans were when they were in the majority. The President is supposed to rally the country, effectively putting pressure on opposition members of Congress to sit down and shut up. And the congressional leadership is supposed to rally its members to hold the line, and get the 51 votes necessary for passing legislation in a climate where the minority is too afraid to use the filibuster. When you have a President who is constitutionally, or intellectually, unable to stand for anything, and a congressional leadership that, rather than disciplining its own members and forging ahead with its own agenda, cedes legislative authority to a president who refuses to lead, you have a recipe for exactly what happened last night. Weakness, chaos, and failure.

We lost real health care reform not because we don't have a "real" filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. We lost health care reform because we don't have a real leader anywhere in our party.

No doubt what he wrote was part of the reason why the year of hope is ending on a such a dim note leaving everyone disappointed. Personally I would not rate Obama's first year as a B+, I think maybe a C at best.


The 56 Ethnic Groups of China

>> Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My friend Cubxotic, a Pinoy I might add, had found this post on a site called ChinaHush about Chen Haiwen, a photographer and his project that lead him to travel around China taking family portraits of families of different ethnic groups in their traditional garbs. I knew there were a lot of different ethnicity subgroups in China and to think about it, since China has existed for so long and had waged war with so many nearby countries, there has got to be a lot of different tribes living in the same land, I just didn't realize how many were there.

Here are a few of them with more distinguish costumes:

The most prominent ethnic group in China, most people consider themselves as "Han people". Though I doubt that any of us are pure Han at this point.

From the people who brought us the Mongolian BBQ, love the two sumo-like warriors bearing their chests and bellies.

They took over China and formed the last dynasty before the people revolted. A lot of movies and TV shows were about how people schemed against the Manchurian empire and succeeded. (sorta)

Another big ethnic group in the Western, more spiritual part of the country.

The Chinese Muslims pretty much lives all around the country.

The headress looks like horns that is made out of silver, but what's with that gun?

That guy up from looks like a wise old man that you wouldn't want to offend. He's ready to KICK. YOUR. ASS.

According to Wikipedia, their traditional costumes are made of cotton and linen, but I bet they have something to do with silk worm keeping while making cloth.

The white clan who hold the color white in high esteem.

Also called "Monguor" or "White Mongol", I do like that splash of yellow on top of the black background.

The aboriginal people of Taiwan, I think.

Love the bright red on the guy and of course the camel in a family portrait is priceless. I wonder what are the roast pork looking things hanging on the right.

Oroqen means people who uses reindeers. They wear a lot of furs and skins to overcome to cold of the north.

With a population of only 7,000. Derung was once thought to be the Southern Barbarians.

The Chinese believed that every East Asian culture originated from China, just like Japan and Korea. I'm sure that can never be proven or disproved.

I didn't know about Kazakhstan until Borat comes to the scene but apparently there's 1.5 Million of them living in China.

Kyrgyzstan is even more foreign to me. Love the pink Indian goddess look.

Russia is adjacent to China and there are cities in China where Russian is spoken. People migrates.

These 56 ethnic groups are officially recognized, there are still a lot of subset unrecognized. I wonder how many languages ends up on the table if they do study it. What about the overseas Chinese, like the Chinese-Australians and Chinese-Canadians. Would they be very different? Do go to the site to explore and look at more pictures.


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