Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hanging On

This has been one of the roughest weeks of my life. Physically and emotionally. I returned from Hong Kong (photos!) on Friday. It was a brutal 21 hours of travel- 13 hour flight to LAX, 4 hour layover, 3 hour flight to Dallas, 1.5 hour layover, 1 hour flight to Austin. Arrival time: 8:10 AM. The last time I went was in 06, and I don't remember it being so draining. I've basically been recovering from food poisoning (thanks dim sum), jet lag of 13 hours, and a combination of not eating much and upset stomach since then. On top of that, the stress of coming back to the week of my move, with nothing having been set up yet by B, it's all killing me. I've never felt so fatigued and weak in my life.

Saturday I woke up at 5 am and was sick all day from exhaustion, so much so that I couldn't even drag myself out of bed to get food. I felt an heavy, oppressive fatigue that seemed to increase even after I slept the whole morning. I barely had enough energy to text people from my iPhone, much less respond to their text replies. Worried that I was super sick and had to go to the doctor/hospital, I finally reached B and had him leave work and bring me food. On Sunday, I felt better and ran some errands and did a lot of packing. That night I had the worst nightmare ever (had to do with infidelity and yelling a lot) and had a restless sleep. Monday I had to go back to work, welcomed by stacks of papers to deal with and a short payroll deadline. It was all too much for me, and I had an unexpected freak out when meeting B for lunch. I don't know what I'd do without him, because he managed to calm me down and make me eat a bite before my lunch hour was over. Yesterday evening I crashed and took a 2 hour nap, but upon being awakened to eat dinner, I felt exceedingly nauseasted and weak for the rest of the evening. I was completely useless once again and ended the evening by crawling into bed, laying in the fetal position, and whimpering.

This morning I woke up at 3 AM and couldn't sleep anymore, even after 2 Benadryls, since I was anxious and my stomach still felt off. I would rather not resort to actual sleeping pills, but it was frustrating, to say in the least. I ate some food, played with Boyd, Twittered, and laid in bed. For hours. A futile effort. I ended up dropping by HEB at 7 AM, convinced that I needed some sort of health boost ASAP, so I got soy yogurt, kombucha and some breakfast. Probiotics? The last time I tried kombucha it made my stomach gurgle all day and gave me the tipsies. I hope it's worth giving it another chance. So now I'm at work at 8 AM (not sure how early the office unlocks), just hanging out for a bit until my boss comes in. Then I'll start the boring stuff. Moving tomorrow. On top of that, I just received an email from my mom about my grandma's failing condition. It's gonna be a rough week.. If I don't make it out OK, I'm thinking I might take more days off to rest and go to the doctor, because this has reached the level of ridiculous.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Work Today

Excerpt from Identity by Milan Kundera

I'd say that the quantity of boredom, if boredom is measurable, is much greater today than it was. Because the old occupations, at least most of them, were unthinkable without a passionate involvement: the peasants in love with their land; my grandfather, the magician of beautiful tables; shoemakers who knew every villager's feet by heart; the woodsmen; the gardeners; probably even the soldiers killed with passion back then. The meaning of life wasn't an issue; it was there with them, quite naturally, in their workshops, in their fields. Each occupation had created its own mentality, its own way of being. A doctor would think different from a peasant, a soldier would behave in a different way from a teacher. Today we're all alike, all of us bound together by our shared apathy towards our work. That very apathy has become a passion. The one great collective passion of our time.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Cool Hand Luke spoiler

Trying to find meaning in the tasks I do. This article on boredom completely describes how I've been feeling for the past few years. Funny that it's in a mainstream magazine publication. Existential boredom is a serious problem. I know I'm not the only one. At least when I was going to church I was encouraged to think critically about my way of life once or twice a week. Now there is no external motivator. Guess it just goes to show that living passively isn't really living at all. From The Philosophy of Boredom (yay Google Books): It is easy to work, whereas genuine idleness is really demanding on a human being. More like on the edge of unbearable. It's hard for me to go to work, but the free time after work every day really kills me. Recently I haven't been able to stand watching endless amounts of tv shows and movies with B, which is one of his favorite leisure activities. Bring up the idea and it causes profound anxiety. So I've had to rethink my media consumption and I've come to the conclusion that I need to watch fewer, but good movies, and be able to discuss them immediately aftewards, so that it they aren't merely passing entertainment.

One film I saw recently was Cool Hand Luke, starring the ruggedly handsome Paul Newman. B and I went to see it at the Paramount for the price of 2 jars of Newman's Own Salsa (it was a promotion for Paul Newman tribute week). It felt so good watching a movie in a theater that is genuinely classic. The film was longer than I expected and I admit that I was somewhat bored during the first half. Older movies have slower, deliberate pacing that viewers of my generation are hardly prepped for. But then I was plunged into Luke's plight and many hopeless escapes. It was a specific story about one man's stint and death in a chain gang prison, but I really, really felt for this likeable rebel and the injustice he bore. B felt like the film was "pointless" (his word) and had no useful message, in that he didn't want to see Luke get shot down at the end and have the film show that evil people get ahead and good people get screwed in life. We both agreed that it was a well-made movie. It was definitely depressing, but I thought it was a great story and Cool Hand Luke is one of the most unforgettable characters in cinema history. He wasn't a superman and didn't have any impressive life achievements, goals or talents, but his huge spirit and infectious smile were irresistible to both his fellow inmates and the viewers. Now hopefully if I can convince B, we'll also go see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting this weekend. I think the old male movie stars were so much more manly and admirable than our current ones. They were just so cool, ya know?

Img source: legalmoviesdownloads

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Latest Bakes

Food blogs are the cream of the blog crop. It's all about the photos! See? And here? I am getting back into baking and cooking and thought about chronicling my attempts on my blog. But that may not happen, as I don't have a good digital camera (just film and it's inconvenient to wait a week to get em, scan up, upload em), and most food photos will not look good with indoor lighting unless you Photoshop the life out of them. Anyways, thought I'd make a list of stuff I've made recently, with a few comments in tow. I will refrain from posting other sites' photos, as I have gotten in a bit of hot water doing that in the past without supplying sufficient credit.

Biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie - B and I both like a good chicken pot pie, but I don't have it in me to make a real one with a real crust. This is why I like recipes that use biscuit mix. And I also don't feel like we need to be eating a dish that is loaded with cream and salt, no matter how tasty it may be. This recipe has too many ingredients for my liking. I didn't use all of them (normally I skimp on the specific and uncommon herbs), but was introduced to shallots, which I now love. No idea why they are so pricey. Preparing and then cooking all the ingredients was really a lot of work, and I think I faltered on that part, as I am not very sensitive to the ideal cooking times for each ingredient. I think it took me 45 minutes to prep, but baking time was only 20 min. After all that work, B took a bite and exclaimed that it was sorta bland. And it was. It was salty enough, but needed some other savory flavor to pick it up. We couldn't figure out what it was, but B smothered his in mustard and ate the rest. Pretty disappointing. Oh, and apparently I did not rinse the green onions (substituted for leeks) enough, as there was dirt in them. Ew! At least I impressed my roommate's bf, who came over just as I was taking it out of the oven. He thought it looked very fancy, but I am glad he didn't taste it!

Fork-crushed Purple Potatoes - The captivating photos of this demanded that I make this recipe immediately. So I did. It would've turned out great if I had let the potatoes cook fully.. I do not possess a lot of patience for cooking whole potatoes. I probably should have cut them into pieces, but I try to avoid doing that as much as possible to prevent nutrient escape into the boiling water, which is not usually consumed. I was skeptical about using so much lemon juice, but combined with the olive oil made the dish deliciously tart. I will have to try this recipe again.

Lemon-Mint Granita - There is a family-owned coffee shop in Plano called Jaca & Cha that I used to frequent in high school. It is owned by the dad of an old church friend, so we always found ourselves hanging out there on uneventful weekend evenings. They have a coffee frozen granita drink that I always loved to get, mostly because it resembled no other frozen drink I have tasted. The pieces of ice were finer than any Frappucino, and it just had a good flavor. I've never had a desire to reproduce this dessert, but after watching an episode of Good Eats with said recipe, I decided to give it a go. And it was half a disaster. My roommate let me use all the mint in our garden, which was kind and awesome. But in the process of transferring the initial lemonade mixture in a baking sheet to the freezer, I discovered that our freezer floor is pretty slanted. The angle was probably 1 degree away from spilling the entire mixture out of the pan. Thankfully it did not, but it also made the mixture really difficult to freeze. It never completely froze because I gave up after spending an afternoon trying to make it, so I scraped it a few times while it was partially frozen and then called it a day. B had one spoonful and winced.. it was really tart! The authors of the recipe admitted that they love a tart granita, but I didn't realize just how tart they liked it. In the end, I transferred the lemony minty ice chips into a bowl to melt down and added to my batch of barley tea. The tea was delicious!

Royalty Chocolate Chip English Scones - The 3rd time I made these was last week for KK's anniversary party. I used a liberal amount of butter and cut the dough into mini pieces. The orange juice gives it a little kick. I like to go overboard on the chocolate chips, as most scones IMO do not have enough "flavor bits." I'm not a huge fan of scones, but the recipe is wonderfully simple, and I have gotten positive feedback each time.

Easy Quiche - I'm not a huge fan of eggy dishes. I just don't love eggs (especially not when they are runny!!). Last week B and I ordered from the Soup Peddler for the first time. While I was waiting for the pickup day, I was sent next week's menu to drool over. Very good marketing! I saw a Migas Quiche that looked rather tasty, but stopped myself before ordering it. Quiches are easy, why not make one myself? So I found this recipe and made a few mods, since I had not actually planned on making this so I didn't shop for the ingredients. I substituted chicken stock for milk and didn't use parmesan but used roommate's cheddar cheese. For the vegetables, I sauteed some yellow onion with chopped garlic, and then added some frozen corn I found in the freezer. I had no ham or lunchmeat, so this was vegetarian. What makes this recipe truly easy is that you don't have to go through the trouble of making a crust. Adding biscuit mix incorporates a crust into the mixture. I made a mini batch so it only took 20 minutes to bake. The flavor was immense! Especially for a dish with no meat. Both B and JJ, my taste testers, heartily approved. JJ, who isn't into cooking, even asked for the recipe.

To make (I've got a handy bookmarks folder in Firefox for these):
Cherry Clafoutis - I'm thinking this is similar to a dutch baby. I really effed up that recipe the only time I made it, using B's cast iron pan, because the pan stubbornly refuses to be seasoned. So the baby stuck like mad. When we finally scraped out the pieces, we found that they were quite tasty. The powdered sugar and lots of lemon juice combination is spectacular. But the cleanup was not. Other sites mention that the traditional way is to leave the cherries with pits intact, as the pits give the pastry an almondy taste. I don't want anyone to chip a tooth though. And I'm not quite ready to invest in a cherry pitter. This will sit on the backburner for now. I found this recipe through this first recipe, Cherry Brown Butter Bars.

Grandma's Chocolate Pie - I knew I stumbled upon a keeper once I read the blog title. Generally I stick to eating only fruit pies, but after a great Chocolate Coffee Pie experience at the Pie Slice Bakery down the street (highly recommended, even at $4.25 a slice!), I googled for a similar recipe. I'll probably skip out on the meringue, since I don't love it and it is a lot of work. My guests at my birthday dinner party will be able to enjoy the original, as I ordered it for today (special order without walnuts in the crust so B can enjoy it too).

Bagels - This was suggested by B first. Ever since my short-lived intial breadbaking attempts, I have moved back to sweets and had no desire to revisit them. Not even the thought of freshly baked baguettes (spurred by too much Jimmy John's) could draw me back to that messy and long process. Now that I say this, I'm not even sure I want to make bagels anymore, haha. But B and I both love getting bagels at the store, so how much more delicious would they be homemade? According to several recipes, it's not that hard. The biggest concern for me while making bread was the actual temperature in the kitchen while the dough rose. It was winter, so the dough didn't rise as much as needed, but now that it's over 100 degrees outside, the rising time may have to be adjusted. Small complaint, but I have only enough gumption for super simple recipes.