Weekend in Review: Books, Paintings, and Sushi

Spent last weekend with a whirlwind trip to San Francisco that mostly involved a lot of traveling as this time I took some public transportation and drove up with 2 friends and a cat (not my own) instead of flying.

I attempted to make sushi for the first time with my friends with the help of a sushi mold (ie a plastic tray where you place the seaweed/rice/filling and it helps you keep it all nice and tidy when you cut it) and although it wasn’t very professional looking, all that matters is the taste, right?  And you definitely can’t go wrong with fresh fish, rice, and veggies.  The purple in some of the rice is from furikake we added.  Behold!

SushiI also stopped by the de Young Museum and saw a painting that I’ve wanted to see for years: Vermeer’s “Girl With A Pearl Earring.”  I first saw the painting on the cover of a YA novel was curious about the beautifully mysterious girl.  I read about the equally mysterious painter Vermeer and read the novel of the same name by Tracey Chevalier (which imagines who this model was and her relationship with the painter) and then subsequently watched the movie based on the novel starring a young Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth.  I love the movie.  Not because I think that it’s the greatest film of all time, but I absolutely love the way it was made.  Every scene in the movie is shot like a Vermeer painting- the posing, the colors, the lighting.  If you watch the movie and pause it at random spots, the probability of it showing a scene that Vermeer would have painted is high.

So I’ve been dying to see the real thing for years, but resigned myself for a long wait since I have no plans to visit The Hague anytime soon.  Imagine my happy surprise when I heard it was visiting SF!  When I saw the painting in person I wanted to just stand there for hours (like a creeper) and soak it all in- it was smaller than I imagined (most famous paintings usually are) but it was so perfect.  The restoration really made it seem brand new.  The invisible brushstrokes, the lighting, the flawlessness of her skin and the pearl earring- it was beautiful.  I highly recommend the exhibit for anyone in the Bay Area.

In other literary news, I just finished the fantasy novel The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card.  I rate it a “meh.”  Mostly because the magic in it required me to consider physics, and out of all the science classes I took in school, I bombed physics the hardest.  I spent a good deal of the book trying to wrap my head around the magical concepts, giving up (because my brain is no longer wired to attempt advanced scientific possibilities anymore) and then moving on without fully getting what was going on.  And the protagonist is a smart ass 13-year old.  If I was a teen, I’d probably be more sympathetic to his character and find him funny.  As an adult, I just find it annoying.  That’s not Card’s fault, I will admit that I was just as bratty and exasperating at that age as well.  But that doesn’t mean I want to read about it.

I also realized I ate out five days this week.  Wow.  New record for me (and not in a good way.)

Holidays and Family Time

Hello, everyone!  I hope you all have sufficiently recovered from your Thanksgiving holiday by now (those of you who celebrate it, anyways.)  Hopefully the food comas have passed, the waistlines gone back to pre-feast measurements, and the fridge is no longer overflowing with leftovers.  I ate a tremendous amount of food (but that’s nothing new for me) not only on Thanksgiving Day but the following days as well, due to the sudden influx of out-of-town relatives and friends visiting.  But I did manage to wake my sorry butt up and go running the day after!  I think that although I haven’t run in a while, the quick burst of energy prevented me from sinking into a post-Thanksgiving daze all weekend long.  The weather was deliciously hot- I got to bust out those tank tops and shorts and bask in the glory that is Southern California.

Here’s a picture of the amazing turkey my mom roasted (garnished with herbs and flora from our yard)- it’s always good, but I think this year might have been the best one yet.  This is one recipe I won’t be sharing with you because I’m selfish like that.  Your turkey will never be as good as ours!  (Insert evil laugh here.)  But I will tell you that this year we added some white wine to the brine so maybe that’s the key to having an awesome turkey…I’m drooling just thinking about it- can Thanksgiving come again soon?  It’s the only time of the year when I get to tell myself that eating pumpkin pie for breakfast is a good thing…

Thanksgiving Turkey!

On a non-food related note, I finally became an aunt for the first time last night!  My cousin had a beautiful baby girl and as the first baby born to the new generation, everyone in my family is very excited.  Those of you who know my family know I only have a younger brother who is WAY too young to be thinking about producing offspring.  So technically, the new baby is really my first cousin once removed and not my niece.  (Don’t worry, I know all the terms- you can’t outsmart the genealogy geek!)

But I will always be regarded as her aunt, and not her cousin.  Confused?  In Chinese families (and other cultures that place high regard in Confucian values such as honoring your elders, obeying your parents, etc. etc.) if I am older, I am accorded more respect (“respect” being applied very loosely- it’s not like I bow to my older cousins every time I see them or anything like that!).  Regardless if she is my cousin’s child or my brother’s child, she is born in the new generation and she’s significantly younger than me, so that makes me her aunt.

I’m sure those of you with Asian families know what I mean when I say that everybody who I’m vaguely related to is called “auntie” or “uncle”- and even if you’re not blood related, if you’re a somewhat close family friend, you’ll still probably be given those titles even if you’re not Chinese.  Calling someone “aunt” or “uncle” implies a sense of familiarity and comfortable respect, rather than the sort of distant respect one gives to a stranger with “Mr.” or “Ms.”  Of course, every family is different and I am certainly not one to speak for all Chinese people, but this is generally how things work when it comes to defining familial relations.

This is probably a much longer and complicated answer to the simple question: “Why are you her aunt if it’s not your brother’s kid?”  But every time I tried to explain why it was so, I’d get blank looks.  So I’m going to refer all confused persons to this post and leave them to it.    I apologize if this post put you to sleep- I just jump on any chance I get to talk about genealogy 🙂

Mac & Cheese

I’m going to stop trying to figure out the weather, as it’s cold one day and hot the next and now the winter winds are kicking up.  I used to really enjoy the sound of strong winds, until last winter when it knocked out the power in our house for three days.  I just have to keep my closet stocked with summery dresses and winter sweaters (although tights are always a nice accessory to help carry over thinner dresses into the autumn season.)

I haven’t posted any food-related posts lately, but luckily I have just the thing to break my dry spell- baked macaroni and cheese, mmmm.  Mac & cheese is one of things that elementary school ruined for me (for a while.)  My cafeteria was definitely not the worse eatery around, but it didn’t do some things very well.  Like mac & cheese.  Pretty sure it came out of a box (no offense to any Kraft lovers) as it was the color of a Cheeto and tasted like chewy glue.  At least my younger self thought so.  Anyways, I refused to eat it for the longest time and it finally took a homecooked version to convince my taste buds that mac & cheese is a delicious dish.

My friend & former housemate used to make this recipe and I am very happy she gave me the recipe she used, as it made for a very happy family over the weekend.

Gooey and crispy and crunchy and cheesy goodness, all smushed into one pan.  God, I’m salivating just thinking about it.

I had to make do with Colby Jack cheese instead of Sharp Cheddar like the recipe called for because our stash of orange cheese had turned into an appetizing white and green medley of mold (since I obviously check to see if we have all the proper ingredients when I cook/bake), but the taste didn’t change too much.  It was a little more mild in taste and creamier in texture, but overall nothing too dramatic.