After my somewhat lackluster April, in comparison, May seemed to overflow with family and friends.
I started off the month with brunch with my siblings. The darling niece was pouring tea for lil' sis. For some reason, she always had to take the lid off the teapot before she would pour. Lil' sis tried to teach her how to pour tea with the lid on, but nope, she insisted the lid needed to be off. Where do babies learn these things?
On the way home from brunch, I noticed a house in my brother's neighborhood in which fuchsia cereus were blooming. Sure enough, the next day, my cereus bloomed again too.
While at the grocery store, I saw Cadbury Creme Eggs on clearance. I got it for the childhood novelty, but they're wayyy too sweet for me now so I ended up giving the rest away. Then I made a batch of Shisito Peppers in Chinese XO Sauce and that was my whole dinner.
Been working a lot and feeling under the weather. My dad's cure-all for upset stomachs is 7-Up. Not Sprite or Fresca or any other clear soda. Must be 7-Up.
My third cousin was up from Orange County again so we had a quick lunch at JR Cafe - San Gabriel. She remembered their sizzling udon as her favorite, but twice we've gone to Garden Cafe - Alhambra instead since that's my preferred sizzling udon. I don't know what happened, but our udon did not come out on a sizzling plate. It did before when I last ordered this in October. I hate when stuff like that happens. And yeah, Garden Cafe's sizzling udon is still best.
My new sheets, that were on sale, that I ordered online finally came. What was it I said on Day 19? Sometimes, my favorite part of my day is my bed.
Still sick. All I thought about was hopping back into bed after work. Stopped off for dim sum to-go at Capital Dim Sum & BBQ - Monterey Park because all I wanted were a few har gow (Chinese shrimp dumplings) and Siu mai (Chinese Meatball Dumplings). I saw an old man selling bunches of bok choy in front of nearby Wing Hop Fung - Monterey Park. When I went to get some, another man was buying his last three bunches so he resold me one of his for $1. He said I was doing a good thing by helping out the little old man. I wondered if he had been standing there for a long time, if too many people had passed by and never bothered. When I see an old person selling vegetables, I can't help but buy whatever they're selling, regardless of whether I need it or not. When I lived with my grandma, I remember bringing home a giant bag of plucked water spinach telling her that I bought it from an old lady. She said it was good of me to do that so I've continued doing so long after she's gone.
It was not such a great month for me. I found out some more stuff related to Day 34 that had me down for a little while. My childhood friend messaged me to ask if I wanted to have dinner. I asked if she was checking up on me or hungry? Both, she replied. She wanted to make sure I was OK and she was going to eat dinner anyway. I offered up some leftover Thit Heo Bam Xao Ca Chua Banh Mi Op La (Vietnamese Ground Pork Tomato Stir-Fry with Sunny Side Up Eggs and Vietnamese French Bread) and a bottle of pinot gris from Hawks View Cellars - Sherwood - Oregon. Between the two of us, we polished off the bottle of wine with some much needed girl talk. By the time she left, it was well after midnight, and I noticed that many of my cereus blossoms had opened. A lifelong friend and flowers blossoming are always good signs.
Coming home to my bed. That really was the highlight of my day.
I don't think "Made of Honor" is a particularly good movie, and to me Patrick Dempsey will always be the nerd in "Can't Buy Me Love," but I do like the soundtrack and the Scottish scenery. It's also one of those movies that I like to have in the background since it won't actually distract me from blogging. While the movie was playing, I finished replying to every single comment on the blog. Phew! Except, now there are new comments to reply.
Spent most of the day in bed. Hungry. Finally, I remembered I had some makeshift kimchee I made a while back by adding chopped and brined napa cabbage to a too salty batch of store-bought oyster kimchee. Hunger temporarily assuaged. I then made Swedish meatballs for dinner.
I loved my sheets so much that I decided to make a matching duvet. So I bought a king size set since they were the same price, and the leftover fabric can be used for quilts. The receipt came in the fabric manila interoffice memorandum envelope. How much do you love clever packaging? I bought a vintage-looking tablecloth and napkin, which you'll probably see quite often as the background to future recipes.
The Hello Kitty fabric I ordered from Hong Kong came in the mail. The fabric was much nicer and more vivid than expected. They're earmarked for a quilt for lil' sis and me and probably some baby blankets as well.
Even though I've mostly switched over to MP3s, I still enjoy listening to a whole CD to get a feel for the musician/band and the album. As I said in Day 130, I like the "Made of Honor" soundtrack. Well, there's not an actual soundtrack, so I bought the MP3s to Dashboard Confessionals' "Stolen" and Sara Bareilles "Love Song," but couldn't find one for El Presidente's "Without You" so I bought the whole album. Luckily the CD was only a few bucks because I ended up not liking anything else from the band except that song. But, how cool is it that their drummer is a Chinese Scottish woman? Swapping out of rotation was Runrig's "Everything You See," which I got for "Year of the Flood," but have grown to like the other songs as well. My favorite Runrig album is still "The Stamping Ground." I sing along to all those songs, except you'd probably want to hold your hands over your ears when I attempt to sing in Gaelic. :P
The oldest '87 mentioned how her family has been loving the Vitamix blender her middle sister received as a wedding gift. Late that night, while out walking her dog, she knocked on my door with a homemade berry smoothie. Aww, how nice!
My brother asked my youngest aunt to babysit my niece for a week while his in-laws were out of town. I went down to my aunt's house to take my niece in the morning and brought her back when it was time to go to work. While there, my aunt told me that one of my second cousins in Texas recently died when his friends decided to play a practical joke by putting a knife in his bed. Such a stupid, senseless death. He was only 24 years old. His first cousins, who are also my second cousins, linked to his Facebook profile while they were en route to the funeral. So now I had a face and a name.
Feeling subdued, I was so thankful to have my niece to cuddle that day. She would take a quick nap in the morning. Then I'd feed her lunch and play with her a bit. I'd plop her down at the foot of my bed, barricade the sides with pillows, give her some play pots and pans, and just watch her amuse herself. I made sure to buy some blueberries in anticipation of her visit. She loves them just as much as I do, even double-fisting them.
My brother says she likes to pull things out of purses. So the next day, I put some of the play pots and wooden pizzas (25 cents on clearance at Target!) into a purse and let her take them out one by one.
It was rainy on Day 138. So I went down to my youngest aunt's house instead of taking her out into the cold. She loves jewelry, especially when the older '88 showed off her extensive collection of necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings. Since it was my day off, I took a nap with her from 11 a.m. to noon. And again from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Then I stayed for dinner. After my brother picked her up, I went home and slept again from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Gosh! Babies sure are exhausting!
One of my college friends was in town. Usually we meet up somewhere, but since I had my niece and she had a toddler, it was simpler for me to cook a quick lunch. I managed to wrangle up some stir-fried pork belly with dinosaur kale and my Scrambled Egg Omelet. Must have been the fish sauce, her son ate four small servings, probably the equivalent of a rice bowl, of the eggs with rice. I liked how my friend taught her son to say "please" and "thank you" and to not be a picky eater.
Darling niece. It was our last day together this week. I've so enjoyed having her around before I start my day. Napping on my lap. Playing within reach. Usually either my brother or my sister-in-law is around so I don't get her undivided attention. Lil' sis wasn't a particularly snuggly baby; I'm so glad my niece is. She happily sits on my lap while I show her pictures or videos of herself on my laptop. She gets this freaked out look when it's nap time and I rock her, but usually within minutes, she's sound asleep. Sometimes I nap with her too, but most of the time, I just cradle her close, watching the gentle rise and fall of her chest, ready to soothe her brow if she frets. She won't remember these quiet days together, but I surely will.
I love earl grey, tea and scents. And indulged in purchasing a few others for fun. Stopped off at a friend's house and he said I smelled like an old Chinese lady. Doh! After a week of not doing much except playing with my niece and then going to work, when I got home, I wanted to spend some time in the kitchen. I had earmarked a chicken stew with fennel and olives in Sophie Dahl's "Voluptuous Delights," but decided to break out my Romertopf clay baker and roast the chicken instead. She's Roald Dahl's granddaughter you know. That's really why I bought her cookbook. Curiosity. I need to come up with more recipes to justify purchasing that clay baker because I don't use it often at all. The baked fennel was my favorite part of dinner.
One of my students' parents gave my boss a jar of Chinese XO sauce (the real kind made with dried scallops and not my poor woman's version), but it was too spicy for her. So she re-gifted it to me. I stir-fried it with sliced Napa cabbage for dinner. After only taking a few bites, Gourmet Pigs messaged me to say that she just ordered a whole catfish from Vietnam House - San Gabriel and asked if I wanted to help her eat it. Rather obvious which decision I made.
I am so addicted to this XO sauce. Stir-fried it again. This time with cucumbers.
Just a little bit of the XO sauce left so I added leftover rice and scoffed the whole thing down. Thought about snapping a picture, but honestly, didn't want to interrupt my eating to get up and get the camera. That bowl? If you live in the Chicagoland area, you might have a set from Jewel-Osco. I bought four bowls, four plates, and four glasses to use during college. The glasses all broke long ago, but I still have the bowls and plates. They're not really my style, but they hold a lot of memories since I also used them a lot during the year I lived in the Bay Area, shortly after graduating from college.
My sample box of food products arrived from Foodzie, courtesy of my advertiser. The alfajores were yummy. The roasted seaweed I can get at any Asian grocery store. I did not like the dried pineapple, bits and not slices. I haven't tried the biscotti or tea yet. I'll have to think of something good for the flavored sea salts. So overall, just an OK box of goodies. I went out for a quick Korean barbecue lunch with the oldest '87 at O Dae San - Los Angeles (Koreatown) before driving down to San Diego because second-oldest nephew was in town. For dinner, we ate $1.50 lobster tacos at World Famous - San Diego.
The next day, I took second-oldest nephew for lunch at Phil's BBQ Restaurant - San Diego before heading back up. Nephew pronounced it the best barbecue he's ever had. And while I think he tends to speak in superlatives, I had been craving their beefy ribs and onion rings for weeks.
Scored some great deals at the thrift store including Chinese and Korean dolls, still in their boxes, from Target's Dolls of All Nations collection for $7 (I would have bought the Japanese doll, but she didn't even look Asian.), a brand new windbreaker with a hood that can be concealed in the collar for $3, James Beard's "The Fireside Cook Book" with the most fabulous vintage illustrations, "The Technique of Chinese Cooking," and a French cookbook for $1 each. Also, got a bunch of glass plates for the younger '88's sister's bridal shower later this summer.
Forgot my laptop plug behind in San Diego. The night before, I read an actual book. In fact, I read two actual books. *Gasp!*
I stopped by cousin Q's to see if he had a spare, or if not, I could at least borrow his plug to charge up mine. Turned out he had several plugs and had to get an extra when his cord came loose. He said oldest uncle repaired it for him. When I got home to plug it in, I realized the one he gave me was the plug my uncle fixed. Bittersweet. That even after he's gone, there's still so many memories attached to all the little things my uncle did for us.
Before work, I stopped off at Saigon's Bakery & Sandwiches - San Gabriel to grab a sandwich and some Vietnamese coffee. Pretty interesting morning crowd of whites, Latinos, and Asians. The woman before me started complaining about how her sandwich was taking too long and she had a bus to catch. That's where the Chinese buses to Vegas and the Grand Canyon pick up people. Said they should have told her if it was going to take that long so she could order something else. I'm not sure why I kept thinking about her. Probably because when I get annoyed, I probably sound that bitchy too.
The Vietnamese coffee kept me wired so I couldn't sleep. Got up at 4 a.m. to finish prepping the oxtail Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) I had started earlier that evening. I also made Sriracha Mac and Cheese at oldest nephew's request. It was so early that the drive down to San Diego only took 90 minutes. Everyone was still hung over, which I figured would happen, when I came through the door with homemade pho to wake them up.
Since oldest and second-oldest nephews are only a year apart, they have mutual friends who flew in from the East Coast and Northwest for the weekend. The boys were fixtures at my cousin's house during their high school years and I used to see them often when I was home during college. It's so strange to see them all grown up now, but so nice to see that childhood friendships still continuing on. We had an impromptu barbecue by the beach and just hung around the apartment afterward. As I left to head back up, they all said thank you again for the pho, even though they had said it many times already earlier in the day. They also addressed me as co (Vietnamese aunt), which made me feel a million years old, but so pleased that they grew up to be nice, polite, mannerly men.
I made Banh Mi Xiu Mai Sliders for cousin Q's older brother's Memorial Day barbecue. Actually, I had intended to make some to bring down to San Diego, but figured I should leave early to beat traffic. As it was, I didn't get around to making them until after work and by the time I showed up at my cousin's house, everyone had already eaten. Some of my cousins wrapped up the sliders to eat later and I took the rest home to bring to work the next day.
The older '88 made a patriotic yogurt parfait. Pretty clever, huh?
I brought the rest of the sliders and the leftover Sriracha Mac and Cheese to work. Some of my students were polite and thanked me. The majority of them ate and didn't say anything at all. One remarked that I should have brought Asian food. Another hovered around the other teacher asking her if the mac and cheese was any good, until she got annoyed and told him not to eat any so that there would be more for her. *Sigh.* After the generous "pleases" and "thank yous" from my nephews' friends, it's really disheartening to think that parents aren't teaching their children manners these days. My student, whose parents gifted my boss with the XO sauce and who gave me the dried fish snacks, brought in a giant box of black cherries to thank us. After the behavior of the other students earlier, it was nice to feel appreciated.
Last month it felt like I was just taking photos for the sake of this project. This month, I was glad I took photos every day because they reminded that despite many mundane days, there's something to be said for lifelong friends and manners.
My Project 365 posts:
February: On Tactile Pleasures, a Plethora of Plaid, and Souvenir Socks
March: Bridges, Literal and Figurative, and Reuben Obsessions
May: On Lifelong Friendships, Napping with Babies, and Thank Yous
June: On Brocade Slippers and Spaces
July: Breakfast for Dinner, Paris On My Mind, and the Last Harry Potter
August: Blueberries, Long Days, and Vacillating Victuals
September: A Reunion, a Wedding, a Birthday, and a Michael Jackson Impersonator
October: North, South, and East
1 year ago today, Chinese Deep-Fried Pork Chops with Spicy Salt.
2 years ago today, leftovers folded into foil animals at Le Bistro Montage - Portland - Oregon.
3 years ago today, I do most of my grocery shopping at the San Gabriel Superstore - San Gabriel.
4 years ago today, Mangoes with Sticky Rice.