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Saturday, February 05, 2011


One of the first pictures I took when I got my new/used camera almost two years ago were these photos of vanilla ice cream with chocolate revels. I was playing around with my camera, trying to figure out how to work it, and searching for subject matter to photograph. I knew I would somehow work that analogous anecdote in somewhere on the blog and the when of the photograph doesn't matter so much to you as it does to me.

Life is Like Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Revels 4

Except that the when of things has started to matter a lot more to me the longer I've been blogging. I guess because at the beginning, this blog was a more solitary endeavor and has now grown to encompass family and friends and so many more people than I expected. I ate this on this day with this person. I visited this restaurant on this day with this other person. I cooked this for the first time on this day and fed this person or just myself. A lot of vanilla. Occasional chocolate revels. And sometimes the dreaded icy chunks.

While my days have a whole lot more vanilla than anything else, I started toying with the idea of participating in Project 365, a photo a day for a year. Sure I take a lot of photos, but revisits to restaurants don't often make it on the blog. Non-food or just the minutiae of my life in general doesn't either. But isn't that life? A compilation of our minutiae? Small moments, occasional large moments, that add up and drift by year after year. I tried playing with this idea a bit when I did my month of mostly photos three years ago (Gah! How time passes by when you blog!), but that was more to give me a break from writing. I was intrigued following along Lan of Angry Asian Creations' Project 365. Perhaps because she's a blogging, and now real-life, friend. I enjoyed the glimpses into her day-to-day life, what doesn't make it onto her blog or Facebook updates. She fizzled out near the end. But then, via Lan, I found Jacqui of Happy Jack Eats' blog and her Project 365 too and enjoyed reading about her year.

I have no momentous year ahead of me. Well, not that I know of anyway. But it's my zodiac year, and well, if I'm gonna do Project 365, why not this year? The last time it was my year was pretty good. I really enjoyed my job, had my funnest vacation ever in Ibiza, Spain with Norwegian girl cousin, made lots of trips home and to New York and to Vegas, and right before the Year of the Cat ended, landed my dream job at the time, before I switched careers. So all in all, though this Cat year didn't start off well, I'm hoping overall it'll be as fondly remembered as the last time. OK, technically the Cat year doesn't start until February, but I'm used to the Julian calendar so I know it's a document of this year and technically gives me another month if I so want to include it.

Or perhaps I'll find out that my life really is more vanilla than anything else. I admit I'm pretty boring. If January is any indication, the highlights of my days are mostly food-related, or the people I see, or sometimes just what comes in the mail. Lots and lots of minutiae. It's as much an experiment for me as it is a chance for you to follow along, if you so care to anyway.

I began the first day of 2011 with dim sum with lil' sis and her friend at Capital Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park. The wait was long. I did a little grocery shopping next door at 99 Ranch Market while waiting for our number, and again with lil' sis afterward. Lobster was $4.99/lb so I bought a behemoth and stir-fried it in black bean sauce for dinner. To usher in the new year and to thank lil' sis and her friend for moving some furniture around while I attempted to organize my house yet again.


They moved a big dresser into my kitchen, but I hadn't put away all my dishes yet. So while the dishes occupied the dining table, I had no place to photograph my Miso Soup in Lobster Broth except on my kitchen cart. Who knew the lighting was actually better that way? Quite a departure from my usual dining table black background.


I bought eight varieties of apples at 99 Ranch Market that day. Just because. To see if I liked any of them more than crispy Red Delicious or Fuji. I sometimes like to eat my fruit with salt and chili paste. And have been playing a lot of Tetris on Facebook since my oldest uncle passed away. Mindless order helps me not to think.


I had photographed my lunch of pork chop rice and chrysanthemum tea from Banh Mi My Tho - Alhambra and thought that would be the highlight of my day. But the pork chop was a little slimy. I have a feeling it was leftover from the weekend and not freshly made Tuesday since they close on Mondays. Sad. So I didn't bother keeping the leftovers for dinner and instead had leftover miso soup in lobster broth with sliced napa cabbage and tomatoes added. And ate an organic Gala and Jazz apple. I think it was Jazz. It might have been Ambrosia.


Lunch at Mo-Chica - Los Angeles with my brother, his wife, and their baby. Then a nap at home while she napped because my brother's driving gave me a headache. Met up with them again later in the afternoon to walk around Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Any day seeing this cutie is a good day.


I've always wanted Delft bracelets and stumbled upon someone selling these for $4 each on eBay. They finally arrived in the mail and were much nicer than expected.


The Tanya Whelan fabric I ordered on Etsy arrived. I have plans to use the paisley print to recover a footstool. No idea what to do with the blue medallion print, but it looked very French to me and I just plain old liked it.


My friend DP came over for dinner and some girl talk. Hot pot at Jazz Cat Restaurant - San Gabriel seemed to be the thing to offer comfort. Spicy Japanese curry for her. Spicy Thai for me. I still love the broth, but miss the old location with its cheaper prices and drinks with free refills included. No more fish paste either.


While cleaning the house, I stumbled upon L.M. Montgomery's "The Blue Castle." The bookmark is on page 165 and I'm not sure why, or when, I paused in re-reading it. I read it long ago as a teenager. Right after reading all of the "Anne of Green Gables" series. I'm a glommer and read everything I can if I like a particular author. Flipped through the "Further Chronicles of Avonlea" trying to find a short story about a girl and a photograph that I was trying to remember, but it wasn't in that particular collection.


Made Cream of Four Mushroom Soup so I could re-do the recipe with nicer photos. Googled the silverware that I bought for $2 at the thrift store and found that they were selling for $50 to $200 for mint condition sets online. I have a good number of pieces, but appreciate more that I now own something nice that cost me very little. Queen Bess pattern by Oneida Community Tudor Plate silver dates from 1946. That's why this photo shows off the spoon pattern more than it focuses on the soup. Not that it matters to you, but was a bit of a departure for me.


Craved the Thai beef salad from Noodle World - Alhambra so I got it to-go after a long day at work. My favorite item on their menu, but I hadn't visited in years because I hate their new location.


Couldn't sleep. Woke up in the middle of the night and decided to re-read "Stranger with My Face" by Lois Duncan until the sun rose. Had forgotten how much I loved this book. Received "Down a Dark Hall" as a gift from a former reader/blogger who reconnected with me on Twitter. And we just had to meet after we discovered a mutual love for Duncan and Jean-Luc Picard. As I said, I'm a glommer and I had forgotten how much I loved Duncan's books as a kid. But her books always linger in my mind and invade my dreams for weeks afterward. It's amazing how much I remembered of "Stranger with My Face" and how much more I understand reading it as an adult, especially after having passed through Tuba City, Arizona two years ago. Then had lunch with Gourmet Pigs at Mo-Chica again, where I lent her the book so she could read it too. And she gave me a souvenir plate from her recent trip to Ronda, Spain.


Tried a new Korean barbecue restaurant for the oldest '87's birthday -- Don Day - Los Angeles (Koreatown). Really good brisket, but skimpy on the panchan selection. Also, the $9.99 after 9 p.m. ad on Yelp was wrong. It was $11.99 and only included brisket, beef belly, and pork belly.


Ended up having Korean barbecue again the next night at Chung Kiwa Korean BBQ Restaurant - Los Angeles (Koreatown) when my college friend was in town with her family, and her little sister's family too. Polite kids. Lots of "pleases" and "thank yous." It's nice to see little children taught manners, even when they're so young. That's a rib-eye on the grill that they later cut up for us.


Woke up at 5 a.m. I haven't been sleeping well since my oldest uncle passed away. With a box of Kleenex on hand, I finally started blogging again after a month's hiatus. Later, went out for lunch at Noodle World - Alhambra (Again!) with lil' sis. Craved that Thai beef salad again. The other reason why I haven't been there in so long is because lil' sis hates it, but really liked the salad and crispy chicken wings this time. Then we babysat our niece until lil' sis went out to meet up with the girls to go clubbing for the oldest '87's birthday. At one point, after rocking her to sleep, I crawled into bed and took a nap with my niece. It's been far too long since I've napped with babies. So nice. I was in the middle of bathing her when my brother and his wife came home from a wedding.


My friend DP needed some more girl talk. We had lunch at J&J Restaurant - San Gabriel, crab xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings), Shanghai rice cakes, and green beans. Then walked around Old Town Pasadena, something we hadn't done in more than a decade. Then hung out at Tea Station - Alhambra, but their requirement of ordering one item every three hours, and an order per person makes it a very unfriendly place to linger. Made a Triple Spicy Mac and Cheese for lil' sis to take back for her and oldest nephew to eat.


Leftover Triple Spicy Mac and Cheese was even better the next day. Still getting a thrill that my $2 thrift store silverware is so old and worth so much. The napkin was 75% off on clearance at Target. The bowl was too.


Had In-N-Out for lunch -- cheeseburger animal-style with chilies and a side of fries. Thought that would have been the highlight of my day. But actually, it was my dinner of baked salmon with lemon pepper seasoning, my Scrambled Egg Omelet, and boiled cabbage and romaine lettuce. One of my favorite combination of flavors. For some reason, I really love eggs and salmon with plain white jasmine rice.


Some days, the best part of my day is my bed.


In remaking my Chicken and Dumplings recipe for new photos, I baked a couple into biscuits instead of tossing them into the soup. I used softened butter that had been sitting out for an intended batch of chocolate chip mint oatmeal cookies. All this time, I had been using cold butter thinking it would make the biscuits flaky like pie crust. Sooo wrong. Light and fluffy and tender. I'm never going back to cold butter ever again.


The Vietnamese chicken curry pot pie at Good Girl Dinette - Los Angeles (Highland Park) was rather disappointing. Compare that biscuit crust to my biscuits in the photo above and you'll see what I mean. My Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry) Pot Pie is way better.


Saw "The Wagamama Cookbook" on sale at Barnes & Noble for $9.99 while wandering Old Town Pasadena with my friend DP. That was too much to pay for a bit of nostalgia (My lunches at Wagamama were my favorite meals when I lived in London.), but it was only $5.99 online. The tapas book I was eying was cheaper online than in the stores too. So of course, I had to get them both, along with several other books so I could get free shipping.


Did you know Costco has a carne asada bake? Lil' sis told me she thought they also had a bulgogi bake so I went to check it out, but no. Still, carne asada bake was pretty tasty. I got yelled at by an employee for taking a photo of the sign.


Honeycrisp apple. So sweet and crunchy. After a month of eating apples, I finally found a new favorite.


Yes. More things in the mail. Got a coupon for $10 for $20 worth of Amazon goodies, so I decided to splurge and finally ordered "The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking" by Jane Brocket (I've long-admired Jane's quilts on her blog, Yarnstorm and have been itching to quilt again.) and Pride and Prejudice (Because Colin Firth is yummy.)


Luckily, Gourmet Pigs called to ask to borrow shoes because I completely forgot about our dinner at The Royce at The Langham Huntington - Pasadena. One of the very nicest dinners I've had in a long time. All the dishes were wonderful, but I really loved the broth and the micro veggies.


My "Little House on the Prairie" season 6 (When Laura meets Almanzo.) and season 7 (When they get married.) DVDs came recently. Ordinarily, that would have been the highlight of my Day 24, but the Honeycrisp apple was pretty darn amazing. I've been watching the DVDs while repairing my wedding ring quilt. It's store-bought but is my favorite summer time quilt. And can I just say that the casting for ma and pa were just so perfect?


Making good headway into finishing up the border. Must be old maid month, first with "The Blue Castle" (See Day 9) and now with Eliza Jane Wilder. And how funny that I love James Cromwell as both Harve Miller and Zefram Cochrane.


My parents came into town for my oldest uncle's 49th day death anniversary. The night before, I was at the grocery store buying four ducks and various bags of noodles, dried dates, and lettuce for my mom to make Vietnamese duck egg noodles. She had made two ducks into rice porridge the month before but my youngest aunt's husband's family had just come over from Vietnam and they ate it all. Lil' sis suggested she bring some back for me since I was sick, but my mom told her I didn't know how to eat duck rice porridge. Not know how to eat?! Shhh. As my mom rushed her out the door. It was because the relatives ate every last bit. But the four ducks ended up being overkill because the relatives were out of town and there was no one to eat all that duck. My mom used two ducks for her soup. I roasted the other two.


My oldest uncle's 49th day death anniversary ceremony at the temple. Technically, it was the 48th day, but the monk wanted to do it on Sunday. It was combined with three other families' ceremonies too. A lot of kneeling and praying. I tend to forget that my uncle is really gone until these mourning rituals remind me. Then I feel sad all over again. But, best vegan bun bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-style beef noodle soup) ever.


Up at 4 a.m. to take my parents to the airport. I had replaced my winter flannel sheets and thick comforter with my summer crisp cotton sheets and lightweight quilt because the former are much too thick for my parents. Brr. It just doesn't feel right to slide into crisp cotton in the middle of winter. I added two more quilts on top, but still miss my flannel.


Bed, books, food. I have no idea what this says about me, what I choose to focus on each day. Seems a little self-indulgent. Which is why I'm relegating this cataloging to just once a month to spare you the navel-gazing. Ha! At least if I were Shoegazing, you'd have some good music instead.

My Project 365 posts:
January: Minutiae
February: On Tactile Pleasures, a Plethora of Plaid, and Souvenir Socks
March: Bridges, Literal and Figurative, and Reuben Obsessions
April: Quotidian
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
November: Sentimental

1 year ago today, Mexican Nutella Hot Chocolate with Chilies.
2 years ago today, Chicken Enchiladas with Nutella Mole Poblano.
3 years ago today, German Oven Pancakes.
4 years ago today, Pupusas with Beans and Cheese.


  1. oh i love that you're doing Project365!!! i know you won't lose steam, like i did!

    are you looking to achieve anything in particular with this project at all, in regards to technique, editting etc?

  2. hi wc - it's been about a year since we finally met! :)

    i enjoyed this post very much. very thoughtful...i also remember reading lois duncan when i was younger. some of her books scared me (I know what you did last summer and Down a Dark Hall)!

    maybe we can meet up again during march or april. :)

  3. I don't think vanilla is boring. It may not sound exciting, yet it's that old favorite that everyone goes back to.

    Thanks for sharing glimpses into your life. I enjoy these kids of posts as much, if not more, than the recipes.

  4. Wow. What a great way to review the first month of your year -- from activities to restaurants to meals at home. Love it. And I love the views of your comfy place.

    So you're the year of the cat. Hope the year turns out really well for you.

    p.s. Yes, peafowl make the strangest noises, don't they?

  5. Lan,
    I might lose steam. I have a hard time finishing projects. So far I'm just photographing the high or low lights of my day? Just the most significant thing, whether good or bad. Too many times it's a meal that's the most memorable, often because of the people I'm eating it with. But I'm curious to see what else I focus on that doesn't have to do with food. I guess that's the same for photography. usually when I shoot for recipes or restaurant posts, I want to give an accurate picture of what you'll get. But since these pictures have a lot of revisits, I think I can play around and be a little more artistic with my photos.

    Seems like forever ago, huh? Call me any time you're in the area!

    I wondered if people would be bored silly with inanity so it's nice to know you liked this post! Honestly? Since I don't cook so much from other people's recipes, I enjoy reading other people's non-recipe posts more too.

    Haha. The only views of my place have been my bed. The rest of the house is always a mess. :P

  6. I just loved reading your posts! Next time I have to set aside some time block. 31 posts in one sitting is a lot! I didn’t know how wide spread this Project 365 is till I’ve read your post and then Googled it. It is such an interesting idea! I think that I will jump on the bandwagon myself and since my blog is about food, garden and golf it will be so easy to pick daily subject, I think.
    Thanks for sharing you stories with the rest of us.
    PS: Can you tell me what new-used camera you got 2 years ago?

  7. I don't know how to describe what I feel right now, but I'm going to try my best. I feel like I'm part of a distinct moment in your life that is life changing in a good sense of course. I'm just glad that I am able to be a part of it by reading your blog. I love this post! <3

    Please continue with project 365; I don't mind you writing about it everyday. :)

  8. Jerry,
    I bought a Canon Rebel XTi and a cheapy 50mm 1.8 lens off Craig's List. But I still alternate taking pictures with my Canon SD1000 for most restaurant and quick shots. There's much nicer and newer equipment out there, but it works for me.

    Look on Flickr for Project 365. There's a lot of people doing it!

    You know, I was thinking of you when I wrote this post, thinking that you'd like the intimacy of it. I've just been feeling contemplative lately about many things and don't always feel like posting a recipe or a restaurant review. And I guess you, and a handful of my blog friends, and maybe a reader here or there, are the ones who seem to appreciate that more. Most people just check in for the recipes and tune out everything else. Which is fine, but it's nice to be viewed as more than just that?

    As for this distinct moment, I'm not sure I have anything life changing to talk about? :P I think after so many years of blogging, it helps to change things up a little bit. I thought of various ways to organize this. Whether to post every day, but that made it too hard with how I tend to piggyback recipe posts or revisit restaurants before blogging them. I guess it comes down to organizing things in a way that makes it more enjoyable to read. I think the impact of everything together at once, or parceled out by month, makes it seem like I'm sharing my days/months/year with you. So if I want to re-read this year later, I'd rather read through it a month at a time, than a bunch of random posts. It's easier for me to organize as well. :P

  9. Aww you were thinking of me! YAY! Seriously, that made my day. You have no idea! Today's been a bit sh*tty that's why. :P

    You're right. If I was doing the 365 project, I would rather read it a month at a time too. It makes more sense because it summarizes your whole month because truthfully there are days that aren't so great as other days of the week.

    Perhaps I shouldn't have used the words life changing; maybe something along the line of impactful moment? I always suck with words anyways. I really need a thesaurus and a vocabulary book.

    Trust me you are definitely viewed as a person in my eyes, and not just a recipe book. :)

  10. I truly admire you for forging with this 365 project. It does take great discipline and a gift of writing, which you do have in abundance. Thanks for taking time to share your days with us. No, I don't read your blog just for the recipe. I enjoy just about everything that you have written! I don't eat out a lot, but I kind of curious to see what kind of restaurants and what kind of food that are out there where you travel. Your blog is not only interesting but also very informative. Keep up the good work!

  11. Diana,
    Well, with some posts I think of certain people who I hope would enjoy and/or respond to them. :)

    Hope your month got better. So far, it's been hit or miss with me. Not one of my better months.

    Aww. Thanks. Yeah, the people who only come here for the recipes, only click on the recipes. :P

    Co Toan,
    I don't know about discipline. Just need to remind myself to take a photo each day. But some days, there's a struggle to find something to photograph. I think I eat out too much. I need to stay in more, but eating is how I socialize with my friends.

  12. I read quite a bit of Lois Duncan too... while being alone during recess and lunch at school upon first arriving in Vancouver. =) (OK, it's been a really looooong 2 weeks, so I think my previous sentence is a bit weird, grammatically.)

    Bed, books, food: sounds good!

    (Oooh, that BBC Pride & Prejudics is sooooo good!)

  13. TS,
    That sounds so lonely. Where was JS? Although, my head is often buried in a book too. I still haven't watched the DVD yet!


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