Friday, January 30, 2009

Food Rant

Regarding one of the financial/ frugal living blogs that I follow, The Simply Dollar, lately I've noticed more posts that are not useful to me. Like today, there is a post on cooking with a crock pot (Because I grew up eating traditional Asian cuisine, I've never used a crock pot. It seems pretty convenient- can anyone share their experience?). He references an older blog post:

Don’t have any idea what to cook? I’d recommend starting off with one of the spice packets sold in the grocery store, usually near the soup mixes. McCormick’s slow cooker packets are quite good for what you pay for, and the recipes usually involve dumping in the packet and four or five ingredients, turning it on low, and walking away for eight or nine hours. If you need to be away longer than that, add a quarter cup of additional water to the mix.

Cheap spice packets? Ew! Assemble your own collection spices- it's not that hard. (OK, I can't verify the exact ingredients online, but will check when I'm at the grocery store.) Later on, the first recipe includes canned cream of chicken soup. Yuck. Talk about unhealthy, not only because it's fattening, but because it's processed. What are we, living in the 1950's?

In another recent post about his well-stocked pantry, he states that a big key is to have a large store of non-perishable items (flour, rice, sugar, baking ingredients, etc.). Though he makes no mention of it because of the limited subject, I sure hope his family eats lots of perishables as well, since those are what contain the various nutrients our bodies need. A diet based on "staples with a long shelf life" is very paltry indeed.

I have to disagree with him on these food posts, because he is clearly eager to trade in healthfulness for frugality, and in my opinion, he has gone too far. It is downright foolish to ignore all the facts warning against eating processed foods, and especially foods containing certain harmful man-made ingredients (HFCS, preseratives, etc.). Sure he may be saving money for his family, but at the expense of health and decreased quality of life. I strongly believe that better and fresher food is worth the extra money, even if you are tight on cash. This is the only body you'll have- take care of it! (And I'm quite sure he's not poor and drowning in debt anymore, so these practices are probably of due to his old habits.)

As I scrolled through his other posts with the label 'food,' I found one on gardening (yes, it's cheaper than buying produce at the grocery). OK, that I can fully support. I know that his blog has a specific purpose (frugality), and that demanding awareness of another topic (healthy eating) is too much to ask, or maybe I'm reading too much into it. Hm, my healthiness radar is super sensitive!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Over the new musics

Though I hadn't ever completely thought it, this post explains why I'm not passionate about discovering new music anymore. These days, it's either all over the blogs or blaring at Urban Outfitters (love/hate relationship moving quickly towards hate).

The joy is gone.

Aimee Mann

I've liked Aimee Mann for a long time. (Way before I saw Magnolia in what, 2004?) She's definitely a mainstream artist, but her popularity among her diverse listeners stands as a testament to her skill. From what I've heard, her songs are consistently good. Catchy, but not too catchy, and a deep sadness and even futility underlies many of them. As she older than most of the artists I listen to, her music is still wonderfully relevant.

Been enjoying her Daytrotter set. (See "Phoenix." Love the organ (?) lines in the background.) Daytrotter is geared towards the hipper indie music genre, so I was quite pleased to see her on there.


More choice, less happiness.

I think that's a big problem. It's not that I need to be told what to do, like when I was a child, but that I don't even know how to go about choosing what to do. And, much chagrin over perceived missed opportunities.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I keep a service bell by my bed for you.

The lovely Ed Droste (of Grizzly Bear fame) has a Twitter. I'm tickled. I appreciate how connected he is.

And a new redone song by Grizzly Bear feat. Feist. Beautifully haunting, and all too short. Stream here. (Edit 1/29 - track rotated to Sufjan) Stream HERE

Img source: Exclaim!

another something to put in my full purse

Bought Lego Batman, decision sheerly based on the cuteness of the characters. It's a really easy game, made for kids ("great for tween boys!"), but it's challenging enough for me at this point. You can die an infinite number of times, and when you do, your character just bursts into Lego pieces. Hehe.

Admission: Last night, I bought a Nintendo DS. !!! B is secondarily responsible for this. It took a few weeks, and 3+ trips to Walmart and Best Buy (previously known as Worst Store to be Stuck in Ever). His reasoning was that since I felt like I wasn't accomplishing anything in real life, I could set up virtual goals and meet them and then feel a little better about my life. Hmmm.. can't say that I agree with this logic. But in the end, I caved in, as I recently began to realize how much I missed playing the video games of my youth. Last weekend in Dallas, we played hours of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 on the N64. (Or rather, B did. I got frustrated that my fingers were not as nimble as before for getting the best trick combos.)

And, I think I can safely say that this purchase has helped me get over my snooty condescension for all things nerdy and geeky. For example, B reads Gizmodo so devoutly, and I like to stick my nose up at most of the topics on that site. And he has a group of gamer friends (who I prefer to avoid hangouts with), grown men in their mid-20's who are highly intelligent and banking in their tech jobs, but spend much of their free time playing Warcraft or Guitar Hero. I've always tried to escape the extreme definitions of that label (a big characteristic: adults who play video games, in my opinion), but you know what, if you limit your experiences and activities based on judgments, you may be missing out on some great stuff. So here's to openness to fun. Haha! After all, when you exit adolescence, you are only as cool as you think you are.

Img source: Xboxic

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

while we have the sun

image by lemonfresh

Mirah's pretty tune about our transcient lives this sunless day makes me a bit sad. I really love the 4th stanza- piercing.

Let's take the time to walk together while we have the sun
You never know when temperamental weather's gonna come
And if you want to face the death you're never that far from
Just take a breath and sing to it when all the day is done

So sorry about all the sorrow in your life you'll know
It's true that all the ones you love will someday have to go
And everytime you say goodbye you'll hear the trumpets blow
A serenade to the soul, all surrounded by the glow

If you feel all broken 'cause i left you there too soon
Just know that it's not up to you to make the flowers wilt or bloom
And if you think you're lonely then just listen for the tune
Of all the stars i left for you in the chest of the moon

If you want to shake whatever separates you from
The holiness you want to make your life on earth become
Live your life with a compassion you can be proud of
Then let your last breath fade away with dignity and love

Let's take the time to walk together while we have the sun
You never know when temperamental weather's gonna come
And if you want to face the death you're never that far from
Just take a breath and sing to it when all the day is done


Monday, January 26, 2009

back to culinary roots

This photo reminds me of how cute bunnies are. Especially when they are munching on greens. It's from a food blog I stumbled upon today, writings of a smart, 27-year-old, Asian-American woman fast on her way to a culinary career. I dig her personal musings and also her about page- having recently subscribed to The World's Healthiest Foods newsletter, I have been reading about cruciferous vegetables and their amazing health benefits (see Cabbage). For more than a year now I have secretly lamented that even though I am 100% Chinese and grew up eating Chinese cuisine 95% of the time, I can't make any of the Chinese dishes that I love. A 5 year hiatus of college introduced me to a mostly American, Tex-Mex, Thai and basic Italian diet. And on top of that, I have never really experienced a strong desire to cook and experiment.

It helps that I have B around; he loves cooking and eats more Asian food than I do, using dashi in our noodle bowl broths, praising the tastiness of thousand-year-old eggs, and often suggesting dim sum for after-church luncheons. My appreciation for his openness towards food grows each time I encounter white Americans who are either ignorant of, wary of or disgusted by certain ethnic cuisine. Heck, even I'm picky about certain Chinese foods (like anise, the aforementioned thousand-year-old eggs, pigs blood, some kinds of tripe, to name a few). And I have always been acutely aware of void between the instructions of Chinese immigrants who cook (like my parents) and authentic recipes in English of the dishes they make. Of course I should've assumed that by now the latter exist, thanks to the Internet, and today discovered a couple of well-written food blogs that bridge the culinary gap for 2nd generation Chinese-Americans (or rather, Americans who are Chinese by blood), it is a good time to return to Chinese cooking.

Oh, and happy Chinese New Year! I should mention that eating nian gao, low boh gao, jiu liang tang yuan, and various other dishes in our exceptionally tasty family dinner this weekend (and lunch the next day at Jengchi Bakery, best green onion pancakes) also contributed to this rethinking of what I cook and eat.

Last note, I know it has been 2009 for a while, but recapping all the helpful and kind comments I receive from Flickr members who graciously comment on my halfway-there photos, I resolve to focus more on the quality and not quantity of my consumption. Meaning, I will think about what I have to say, and why, and be specific about my comments on others' art especially. And practice using proper capitalization again; sentences for sure, phrases maybe. A hundred "nice shots" and "prettys" do not amount to one thoughtful and personalized reflection. Somehow this slowing down will also reflect in other areas of my life.

Currently listening to Small Sur. It is introspective, stripped-down, nature-inspired folk music with soft male/female vocals. I wouldn't be opposed to making such music with B and company. Try: Second Chances, Small Stones.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I'm about to pull my hair out I am SO BORED. Imagine 5 hours of nothing to do at work. I should ask for more to do, but it's all pretty uninteresting anyway. Should I try to get out, even if I don't know where to go? Even in the state of our economy?

In trying to keep sane, I've revisited, the website whose contributors are some the smartest people in the western world. Most of time I get overwhelmed with trying to understand the articles, as opposed to actually thinking about the content. Oh yea, and the "indie newsletter" site layout and design is a little distracting as well. Clicking through their About page, I found a list of their official members, each with their own titles, which I thought was pretty cute. I've only heard of a handful of them: Bill Gates, Kevin Kelly, Nathan Myhrvold. How aware should we be of these people and their ideas? Is it OK to be ignorant and only think in the context of the present and not the future? Most of us are trapped in that way of thinking anyway. Makes the world seem more managable at least. Somewhat recommended, if you have any interest in technology and science, or like to give your brain a workout.

out with the old

Beginning the slow conversion to stainless steel and cast iron. Don't want any more of those toxins from the chemically engineered non-stick pans. I bought B a Lodge cast iron griddle for our nine month-aversary. (Forget Le Creuset! The enamel will come off eventually, and real cast iron cookware is cheap and indestructible.) He loves to cook and with all this practice, is definitely better than me by now. Kitchen toys are fun, but I should let him in on it, since the only thing I do now in the kitchen these days is bake. I also painstakingly printed out part of a cast iron recipe book off google reader during work (on Windows, print scr, paste into Paint, cut and copy the page, re-paste into Paint, etc., then paste all into a Word doc), which is to accompany the gift. I have to return the one I got, actually, because the black "seasoning" is chipping off and revealing a rusted interior. Gross. We should probably get an unseasoned one and do it ourselves. It's dorky, but I'm excited that this pan could become a family heirloom for generations.

Img souce: Acemart

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Cracking and eating some pumpkin seeds to whittle away the time..

Watched part of the Obama inauguration this morning, half because I wanted to not work, half because it's sorta historic. I'm not an Obama fanatic, even though I did vote for him, and I have a meager interest and knowledge in US politics/ government. I know it's important, but my mind gets hazy after reading or hearing too much about it. Since when did being informed citizens take so much work? Transparency about how things really are, what politicians really do seems impossible. Anyway, his speech was excellent. He made us sound... humble. Definitely a new step in defining America's identity, post-Bush. It left me wondering just how much he could lead the nation to accomplish during his presidency. I would really like to be proud of my country again.

In my recent craze to become a financial wizard, I sure am glad I procrastinated (or am still procrastinating) on converting my traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Due to the state of the economy, if you have a Roth IRA, despite significant losses, you will be taxed on your "pre-loss" balance. Ouch. Though, seems like you can profit from this...? I don't like jumping through hoops for money.

Last weekend, I purchased a new old camera! The Canon AE-1 Program. I had previously been floored by the quality of these photos produced by the Canon A-1, and since then, have been researching the different models and running the occasional eBay search. I prefer to keep transactions local and found a craigslist post selling said camera. I don't know much about thoroughly checking the condition of an old camera before buying, but lucky for me, the amiable seller agreed to take it to Precision to get an estimate of repairs. Everything was in fine condition, and it only needed its light seals replaced, which is pretty standard for a 30 year old camera, so I completed the transaction. Can't wait to take it out on a test run, especially since my 50mm lens is still being borrowed by my pastor... The only thing I am wary about is the manual focus lens. I'm so used to autofocus that I'll have to work more efficiently and think ahead before taking the shot. Hope it's worth it.. The other thing I love is the sweet sound of the mechanical shutter (no Canon squeak!). So satisfying! Also, I thought I wanted to get a nice, thick, vintage strap just like this, but the woven hippie strap it came with seems to fit the piece. And if all goes as planned, I'll have a new Domke F-3X sand color bag to carry it around in at the end of the week..

It's easy to get caught up in accumulating the "right" gear and forget the art you are making. I am not sure towards what direction I want my photography to go. I don't think about it much, except that I try to steer clear of what has already been established. Or even what is soon to be established. I'm not interested in creating a perfectly exposed photo.. or an artsy-fartsy/light-leaky/fuzzy/badly exposed photo. Or even super hip photos like this, or this. Point is, I know what I'd like to avoid copying. So much has been done already that I can't have anything but a humble attitude towards my output, and hope that somebody will like it. In fact, most of my photos which I deem ordinary other people on Flickr seem to appreciate. I know I'll never be great (due to lack of passion?), but I think that as long as I try to look at the world differently and find some meaning in what I capture, it will be worthwhile.

Whew, those last two paragraph were long and boring. Sorry for the readers who have no interest in photography or rather, no interest in my specific photographic interests, hah.

Regarding being in the know: I'm generally not a big fan of media overconsumption anymore. What's the point? I have used it to avoid asking myself important questions before. So now, as I am timidly revisiting those questions that will not disappear, I am also laying off the design/music/culture/fashion blogs, the news sites, google reader, the millions of interesting looking links. A hiatus, for now, but I believe that a quiet, uncluttered life is more ideal. Coupled with a life passions and goals, of course, including serving others. It's definitely hard to accomplish that simplicity in this age, where connectedness fuels efficiency, and so many distractions compete for our attention. Skimmed (when do people really read? It's exceedingly difficult for me to really read anything online) this article today about a woman around my age whose lifestyle (and existence!?) relies on social networking. I'm not behind the times, but the way she relies on these tools astounds me. What a product of this age. I do admit that I am somewhat jealous at all her traveling, but she definitely works to get what she wants. I don't think I can be this type of super-connected person, which may be to the detriment of my future career. It isn't smart anymore to believe that if you only work hard doing what you are told to do, it will eventually pay off. As much as I wish I were a Big Thinker, I am not. I was raised to follow. Wondering if I should look to enter a trade, in a smaller sphere that is easier to understand and operate..

Speaking of being a natural-born follower, what do I do when everything I was taught is in question? I was also taught to distrust my own conclusions about things.. that there is a Truth about everything outside myself. Finding that all my answers are merely regurgitated dated teachings, where is there to look? Who can I trust for wisdom? It's hard swallowing the fact that your nurturing parents may be wrong about some things. Or everything? (I admit, much of this is a rephrasing of what my boyfriend said to me during a heated and revealing discussion. It ended poorly. But that's how much it rattled me.) Just trying to get a grip and keep the daily routine without falling asleep again.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Jesus, help me find my proper place
Jesus, help me find my proper place
Help me in my weakness
'Cos I'm falling out of grace


I find that I have extremely high standards for someone who isn't Ms. Fantastic herself. Oops.
And that I'm pretty lazy and have little patience for tinkering with old technology. Am checking out a Canon AE-1 Program tomorrow from a Craigslist buyer (prefer the all-black A-1 for looks, but that is only on eBay). I like the look of shots taken with old cameras, and this late 70's clunker has a Program (Auto) mode! Revolutionary for its time. Dunno how I'll like manual focus though. Using old cameras is such a labor of love. Too much love for things? I'm loving the military/rugged/understated look of the legendary Domke camera bags. It's almost enough to make me get the gear to fill it up. Trying not to become a gearhead and start out modest..

Edit 1/26/09: I got the Domke F-3x (in sand)! I made an offer to an Ebay seller after I saw the item location was Dallas, TX. Picked it up on the way back home this weekend. It fits my 3 camera bodies and 1 accessory or 2 camera bodies and a few accessories. The canvas and construction is solid. Love it! I look forward to carrying it around at all times (maybe make it my new purse?). : p

Thursday, January 15, 2009

it's a thursday

I wonder how many people actually read this blog. 3? I find my posts becoming increasingly personal, but it's probably unwise to open myself up on the interweb. But every so often, I stumble upon a personal blog that I find amusing and enlightening. (Dunno if mine will be perceived that way to strangers..) A recent example of this is this blog that I've been perusing for the past few days. It's by an ex-arts pastor living in Austin. I first found it by googling 'Toddy Burton', and kept reading because it reminded me so much of the college faith community I was a part of just a few years ago. It's nice to know that there are creative Christians out there who can dialogue intelligently. Beyond the musings on faith and culture, good art, and mention of Andy Crouch, I felt a groundedness (or maybe engagedness) that is missing in my own life. Not that I wanna be all into the new hip culture of Christianity (see comments).. Maybe for me there is an attractiveness about artists who aren't crazy and directionless. Their lives intrigue me. I think that I've always been drawn towards people who are doing something confidently and going somewhere, but now it's high time become one of those people.

As a relative newbie, I'm still on the fringe of my current church community. I don't know most of the people there (college kids, er) and am not invited to every single hangout with the pastor. I've been hanging out at some church families's houses in the evenings lately, chatting, playing with cameras, baking or crocheting, yet I still am an hour late to services (terrible, I know).
But I am also all too familiar with what it feels like to be near the center- comfortable and at rest. Real complacent. Neither are ideal.. where is the place to be? Right now I sorta miss being in the core, and this forces me to consider how I want my current role to unfold. I don't know. And having a somewhat anti-social, completely anti-community boyfriend doesn't help, ha.

No artsy, unrelated photo at the top of the post today. Pictures don't say many words at all

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

so many days

Above photo: B's house. No central AC or heating. It hasn't been pleasant hanging out there in the evenings, even with this mild Texas winter.. I should tell myself it's like camping! Something I've been meaning to do anyway in one of the nearby state parks (McKinney State Falls, maybe?). Gear is so expensive though. Gotta escape that city life and practice some Wordsworth!

I took that photo and 19 other polaroids last weekend. I never really liked polaroids, because image quality is low, exposures are expensive (well now they're around $2 a shot), and it became way too hipstery. To me, photographic artistry went out the window, every crudely composed polaroid assumed instant charm. This photographer's essay on Lomography partly encapsulates my feeling. "[It] be­came a syn­onym for bad pic­tures, for see­ing things that aren't there, for la­bel­ing ev­ery­thing art." But after seeing the magic of the SX-70 (and a 10-pack of polaroid film at Walgreens), I felt like paying tribute to this highly influential format. The results were satisfactory, but I think I'll stick with my 35mm film and slr with manual settings.

Funny thing, I think about my life so much at work. Because I am very underutilized and too lazy to do anything about it now. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. So, here's the thing. I'm doing all the right sustainable things in my life, like cutting out high fructose corn syrup, throwing away my teflon pans, turning down the thermostat, not using disposable dishware.. But overall? Mostly clueless, and skeptical of what I used to know (the "Christian" life. Need new "eyes." So much makes me shudder). I'm tempted to drop everything again, and start anew, but it was hard picking anything back up. Where is my passion? I've been baking more these days, and I love bringing people fresh baked goods, but that is only an interest. I've been trying to read more, and while the books are interesting, they don't really stick. Is it because I haven't really lived? There is nothing here worth pouring my full self into..

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

vhs club

Started watching old vhs movies at Evan's cabin-loft this week, since all he has is a tiny tv with a built-in vhs player. The Jerk and Klute. Hadn't heard of either of them, but my knowledge of cinema is pretty sparse anyway. Both surprisingly offbeat. It's refreshing feeling no pressure to watch hyped up old films and just picking them out leisurely at I Heart Video. It used to be that way, before movie critics and their reviews biased our opinions and told us what to watch. Out of anticipation, I started a list of next movies to watch (classics such as The Maltese Falcon, F for Fake, The Elephant Man), but that also takes away from it, doesn't it, when a plan becomes too formalized? I struggle with anxiety over checking all the boxes on an imaginary life/culture to-do list, which also includes watching "good" movies. Why? Just a small way to control and order the world. So I'll save myself the grief and try not to monitor my social consumption so much. Let it unfold organically (?). Memories always seem to be fond anyway.

Img source: Film Reference

Monday, January 05, 2009

ride on riders

I find this photo intriguing. The grandpa is an Italian frame builder. Look at how beefy the son is. The father isn't skinny either. Yet they ride road bikes and are rockin' those jerseys. It's nice.