Friday, September 23, 2011

Off To Cali

I'm off to SoCal to help Nana get ready for her move. I also aim to spend time with friends, eat a lot of Native Foods, and catch some indie films while I'm out there. Man, is Tree of Life still playing? Any recommendations?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

French Macarons

French Macarons! Sigh. I love these sweets--the look, the taste...they just convey the concept of a little gift of sweetness.  Since they are usually filled with raspberry or buttercream or ganache, they are best enjoyed fresh and aren't available at a lot of places. In terms of making them they can be a bit labor-intensive and tricky.

Ever since I saw a recipe in Martha Stewart Living in 2009, I have been obsessed with making them myself.  Side note: apparently they're called Macaroons in France, but are called Macarons everywhere else to distinguish them from the other cookie largely consisting of shredded coconut, also widely known as the macaroon. Not living near a bakery specializing in European pastries finally pushed me to make them.

One of key ingredients is almond flour and rather than buy it online, I googled how to make it myself and landed at PastryPal.  Not only did she advise making almond flour at home but also had a Macaron primer! So I ended up trying her classic almond macaron with vanilla buttercream.  Though I struggled with the vanilla buttercream, I love how these came out--look at those smooth tops and beautiful "feet"!

Unfortunately, the lesson learned the hard way was to bake one sheet at a time. I put both baking sheets in the oven at once on two different racks and the second tray didn't bake all the way. So then I had a tray of caved-in macaron halves:

For better or worse, they did not go to waste as I ended up eating a bunch of these halves "nacho-style" with leftover vanilla buttercream. Ugh, not a pretty picture.

Then I decided to try the Martha Stewart recipe. Interestingly, still quite labor intensive but I found it focused on whipping the egg whites longer and the oven was at a higher temperature.  Unfortunately they ended up looking like little meringues with semi-risen "feet", instead of smooth macaron halves. Though I discovered I did like raspberry filling:

I'll probably go back to the PastryPal recipe but I look forward to experimenting with different flavors and probably will invest in blanched almonds so my almond flour won't be speckled with the almond skin so I get that perfectly smooth macaron look. Stay tuned...


Finally, watched my NetFlix movie: Young@Heart

This documentary about senior citizens in a singing group that covers rock songs by the likes of the Ramones and Sonic Youth was well-received when it first came out in 2007. Since the success of Glee came after this movie, it also has an element of being ahead of the game in terms of putting a twist on modern rock and pop songs. Unfortunately, it also has the burden of sometimes appearing as a novelty, kind of like the way you'll awkwardly laugh when a toddler repeats a string of swear words. The video of their version of "Stayin' Alive" is so tongue-in-cheek, it bordered on being condescending to me.

But the movie is still an inspiring story. Some of these seniors dedicate themselves to sing together as if it's something they live for--sadly, the concept of death and near-death is not lost in this documentary. And clearly, they enjoy singing (even though they are sometimes frustrated with the songs or lyrics). And sometimes the songs really work. The Ramone's "Sedated" certainly has a humorous restlessness that really clicks with this chorus. And Coldplay's "Fix You" sung by a member of this senior chorus resonates with the gravity of long life experience that is simply moving.

Overall, I give this movie a B. Enjoy it on NetFlix because by the time I watched this DVD it became available as a streaming movie. I know, time to return the DVD finally.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Once again, I am late to the party. I joined NetFlix in December (of 2010)--opting for the magical streaming and 1 DVD-out option for the rate of $11/month that everyone raved about. I had been wanting to see a bunch of movies and I've been talking with a friend who watches movies voraciously and has seen dozens of arthouse and foreign films and another friend who I managed to watch the entire first season of "Dexter" with (through her Netflix). In terms of my streaming use and as someone who loves films, I'm disappointed in myself that I haven't watched a single streamed movie completely and have been watching more tv shows. And as much as I'd like to say I've finally seen all the Ken Burns documentaries or caught up on "Lost", or "24", I have to confess that my streaming history reveals episodes of "South Park", "Family Guy", and the "David Chappelle Show" instead.

In another regard, I must be NetFlix's dream customer. I have had the same DVD for months--and if I wanted to follow the rules of rounding, it'd be more accurate to say I've had it for almost a year. And of course, there was the infamous rate hike.

It made big news this summer that NetFlix would start charging $7.99 each for streaming and for 1-DVD-out, raising my current set up to $15.98.  Apparently they're separating the two services into two separate bodies, and will rename the DVD-out entity as "Qwikster".  Yeesh, nothing like actual dollars to make me move my butt and actually watch the DVD that would have been a better value to purchase brand new at Best Buy and then donate it to Goodwill. Twice.

So I've decided to switch to streaming only and maybe when I actually watch more than a movie a month, I'll treat myself and get the 1-DVD-out service as well. But for now, I've got the rest of this month to watch the one DVD I have out now. Don't worry, it's on my to-do list.

Seriously it's almost October

Okay, South Carolina, we're almost at the end of September and you've got the temperature thing right, but can we crank down the humidity too?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Good Day: End of DADT and surprise in the mail

The miserable loss last night by the Rams put me squarely at 12th place out of 17 in our pool.  Not a good start, but optimistically speaking, it's still early and there is only a difference of 7 between 1st place and 17th after 2 weeks.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of rookie bungles last night and I don't know if there were a lot of injuries last night, but they stayed in.  Which kind of surprised me because I thought the coaches would be more cut throat and pull them out. I thought that if I were a coach I'd keep them in as well, but more so because as a parent, I feel you have to shake off the missteps and have faith in the skills and talent possessed and keep trying.  But then I thought, there's probably a reason no moms are NFL coaches and shrugged it off to injuries. But I wonder about Josh McDaniels (offensive coordinator, Rams and previous head coach of the Denver Broncos)--I find him a bit of a nurturer and patient groomer, more parental. Is it just me or is someone going to correct me, "nah, just injuries"?

In much more significant news, today marked the end of "Don't Ask Don't Tell". had this statement:

"Today, the military will become stronger, with the official end of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.  For those of us who served, this is a moment to be celebrated.  Over the course of two wars, our military became dangerously overextended, while we were severely lacking in troops with special skills, such as translators.  This didn't have to be, but it was, because we discharged many able and honorable servicemembers - many with the skill sets we needed -  simply because of their orientation.  Going forward, our military will be able to hold onto its finest, and those who serve will no longer be ordered to lie about who they are and who they love.  Today, the greatest military the earth has ever known has become even greater."

And on icing on today's cake, I got a surprise in the mail from my crafty friend:

Such a cute bag with a zipper...and lined with this cool fabric on the inside!

And a note:

Sigh. She knows me so well. I love it. Great way to end the day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

St. Louis is my new Detroit

Unlike my awesome victory and top ten standing in Fanpool last season, I'm having a rough start after the first two weeks of the NFL.  I'm solidly in the lower middle of the pack and already eliminated from the Survivor pool in the first week (thanks a lot Kansas City!)

I am really psyched that my underdogs of years past, the Detroit Lions are busting out this year.  My faith in Detroit seems to have finally paid off (at least in these first 2 weeks) with their startling wins so far.  Finally a some pride and joy in the Mitten.

Unfortunately it seems I always seem to have a team that I stubbornly think is a dark horse.  Detroit had been my sleeper and finally that Lion is roaring.  But this year, it seems I'm placing much more hope and faith than reasonably expected in the St. Louis Rams.  I banked on them last week and was woefully disappointed.  Yeesh, why couldn't have my foolish hope been pinned on Buffalo?  Talk about a surprise.

Tonight we'll see if St. Louis is my new foolish hope.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

TKD Tournament - Gastonia

We spent a day just over the SC-NC border, in a Tae Kwon Do Tournament in Gastonia, North Carolina. It was the girl's first tournament here since her first over two years ago. She chose to compete in forms:

I'm proud to say that she had been diligently practicing and taking guidance from the instructors for this competition and I was impressed how much her forms improved. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to beat the other competitor. But I definitely think that if she stays determined (and would let me coach her a bit), she could definitely place better at the next tournament. 

I took some other snaps of other folks at her school, including this young one breaking some boards:

And this assistant instructor breaking a board in an impressively acrobatic way:

The girl ended up also helping out a bit at the tournament so we were able to spend the whole day there watching everyone compete.

On to the next one.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

I confess I felt like a jerk today. 

I read this interview with a famous chef and he expressed intense irritation at restaurants boasting that they are farm-to-table (how they work with the best farm-fresh ingredients as a new and self-righteous concept). He blasted them, of course, they should (use the best and freshest ingredients)!  That's what every good restaurant does!

That's kind of how I felt today, when I felt every tweet and news program solemnly imploring me to "never forget",  I just want to hit some magical reply all and say, of course, I'll never forget!  Who in this country are you talking to?!   It felt like the hollow mantra of some prig advising me that I should wash my hands after using the bathroom--I don't need a useless reminder.

But I realize in some ways, there are times when I'd like to forget. I still have a box with the local papers (including the infamous New York Times with its shocking and uncompromising photos) and videos from those days, so yeah, you could say I was planning on not forgetting. But I know most of the time, I prefer to think of us having "recovered" from 9/11.

A lot of programming this weekend was dedicated to recognizing 9/11 due to the ten year anniversary where a lot of footage from that day was replayed. My God, it was so painful. It just brought me back to that day of panic and shroud of misery that just encompassed us for such a long time. So I guess in some ways, there was a lot that I forgot.

This morning they finally opened up the 9/11 memorial and broadcast it on network tv. Speakers included governors and mayors of then and now, but the most chilling part is when they marked the time when the planes hit and towers fell. And of course, the most heartrending part was watching family survivors clutching the engravings of lost loved ones' names in the memorial. Some did rubbings of the names with paper and pencil with their children, some were able to insert flowers into the engraved names, and some were just digging their fingers into the name, just crying and physically grieving like they never stopped from ten years ago. The program ended with Paul Simon singing "The Sounds of Silence" (with my final jerk reaction of come on, where the heck is Garfunkel?), a somewhat eerie yet appropriate song to close the broadcast.

Though I went through jerk moments today, ten years later, I didn't forget. But thanks for the reminders anyway.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy Birthday

Sigh. My baby is 12 years old now.

I cannot believe how fast time flies. Of course, for her it's awesome. Especially when she gets gifts aplenty.

Happy Birthday to my girl!

Monday, September 5, 2011

An exciting start

Anybody else glued to the Baylor-TCU upset?!

Or the near Utah St-Auburn upset?  Or South Florida win over Notre Dame and the ensuing near-strokes of Coach Kelly?

On the amazeballs side--Coach Miles leading LSU over Oregon with his 1st string QB out.

All the home teams won as well--a good start.  Looking forward to week 2.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

NC Charm

Visiting my friend in North Carolina where we had a great night chatting and dancing:

And meeting other kind folks in North Carolina who will charmingly tell you to "hang a lucky" (go left) or "hang a ricky" (go right) when giving directions. Unfortunately, as the hours go on, I completely lose my charm, Carolina or otherwise.

Does the white shirt at least make me look less "Moosey"?

SC Pride

Having lived in fairly out and gay-friendly New York City and then moving to California where Prop 8 was on the ballot, was an eye-opener. Made me realize how easy it is to take certain civil rights for granted when they don't affect you. It was a learning lesson for the girl as well, as kids are constantly taught about treating each other fairly but in practice it's a different story, especially by adults who want to legalize their prejudices. So she learned sometimes it's necessary to rally.

Moving to South Carolina, we are in another world of slim acceptance of equal rights for gay citizens as the argument is dominated by folks who like to co-opt God to justify their discrimination. So we were excited that there was actually a gay pride festival here in Cola: SC Pride

Martha Wash? Drag queens and kings lipsyncing to the likes of Nicki Minaj and Adam Lambert?  Food trucks?  We're in:

A former Miss SC Pride lip syncing to "Super Bass"
The girl really enjoyed the music part but was reluctant to dance with either parent but did say that next year she'd want to bring her friends.

Enjoying music and a snow cone but not dancing with nerdy breeder parents

There were some informative booths--campaigns for equal marriage rights, churches open to the LGBT community--as well as ones for specific clubs like local Bear Clubs, and some clothing and jewelry boutiques.

But our money was spent on the food. We tried this food truck, Bone-In Barbecue:

We had their grilled pimento cheese sandwich with hand cut potato chips:

And afterward, we hit the Krispy Kreme and grabbed a couple of dozen donuts!

A deliciously gay Saturday!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Rooting for the home team

Gearing up for College Game Day (finally!), today was Wear Your School colors day:

We're rooting for the home team, the Carolina GameCocks (but also for Michigan State and Nebraska--eek both in the Big 10 this year. A house divided--sigh). So glad the season is starting--Saturdays are officially occupied!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hello September

So grateful to meet a morning where it didn't feel like my face was melting and sliding off my skull.

Keeping my fingers crossed that fall might be coming...