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Thursday, March 03, 2011

On Tactile Pleasures, a Plethora of Plaid, and Souvenir Socks

This Little Tiger Wish Everyone a Happy Year of the Cat 2

One year ago, my darling little niece was born. Any time I see this cutie is a good day. Happy Birthday baby!

February was mostly a miss for me. The Year of the Cat started the month off on a bad note and ended badly with the loss of my parents' beloved chihuahua, Penny. In between was a lot of hibernation as I retreated to bed with my flannel to escape winter and busy myself quilting again. Let's hope spring's warm weather gives me a more cheerful outlook.

Well, you've already seen by January that sometimes what I get in the mail makes my day. And indeed, on the first day of February, when I got home and found a box on my porch I was a little confused. I didn't remember ordering anything. Then I saw the return label and realized my advertiser, Foodbuzz, had sent me free samples of Pure Dark chocolate. O. M. G! That dark chocolate bar topped with cherries, roasted almonds, and caramelized cacao nibs. I'm not ashamed to say I wolfed down the whole thing that night. I just checked the website and found out the bars cost $7.99 each. No wonder I was in heaven!


I was invited to sample the new winter menu at RA Sushi Bar Restaurant - Tustin . So I asked my friend DP to be my +1. My favorite item actually wasn't the sushi, but the sauteed shishito peppers, in what tasted like XO sauce. Mmm. I did a pretty good job replicating the recipe later at home. I'll have to blog the recipe soon because it's sooo good.


The Year of the Cat did not start off so well for me. Men suck. And that's all I'll say about that. Immediately after I got home from work, I put on my flannel pajama pants and jumped into bed. Then I remembered that Mrs. SinoSoul was due to come home that day. So after checking to confirm, I decided to stop in for a visit with the Vietnamese head cheese and pickled pork sausage that my mom had made. Her mom and a childhood friend were there too. Tony steamed some frozen xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) from Dean Sin World - Monterey Park. Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese feast. Afterward, Tony made espresso, which he poured over Thrifty ice cream. Despite the rough day, sitting in their kitchen eating good food made me feel much, much better. It's nice to have the kind of friends where I can show up on their doorstep wearing my pajama pants. I'm not that uncouth, if I had known her mom was gonna be there, I might have put my street clothes back on before coming over.


One of the things I feared about documenting every day this year was struggling to take photos every day. Not the actual photo-taking part, but the finding of things to photograph. I couldn't even remember what happened on Day 35. Most likely the same as other days -- I woke up, I ate, I went to work, I went home. I do know that it was cold since I had to wear socks to bed, and I generally do not like wearing socks to sleep. The mismatched penguin socks? Lil' sis has a pair exactly like mine. I bought them last Christmas and told her to pick one pair and I'd take the other. Instead, she said if we had one of each, we would always match each other, or something sisterly that would make you say, "Aww." Except, that I can't exactly remember and lil' sis supposedly didn't either, but now swears she does remember, but won't tell me. Nonetheless, whenever I wear the penguin socks, I always think of lil' sis's affectionate solution.


Lil' sis was in town for the middle '87's birthday. I bought a Groupon for The Original Tops - Pasadena that I wanted to use so I could try their Kobe bistro burger. OMG! Sooo good. Half a pound of American Kobe beef, smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions, tomato, mixed greens, herb mayonnaise on a ciabatta bun. We split it along with an order of pastrami chili cheese fries and zucchini fries. The burger pretty much filled us up, so we packed up the leftovers and brought them to our brother's apartment. So he could finish the food, and so we could play with the baby.


Enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea at Tres by Jose Andres (SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills) - Los Angeles, with my childhood friend. I just loved everything about it. The cozy rooms with lit fireplaces and shelves of books, the fancy little tea snacks, the much-needed girl talk with a long-time friend. Afterward, I stopped off at my cousin's Superbowl party and couldn't wait to share the chocolate Pop Rocks with everyone as well as describe all the details about the tea.


Childhood friend happened to be near me again the next day for a doctor's appointment so we went out for lunch at Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa - Rosemead. We split an order of banh beo (Vietnamese steamed rice discs) and Nem Nuong Cuon (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty Rolls). I can happily eat banh beo as a meal, and have many a time. She asked why I snapped a photo since I already blogged this restaurant years ago and I told her about my Project 365. She said she wanted to try it too, but only lasted about a week before she forgot to take photos every day. :P


I bought two bunches of tea tree flowers for my oldest uncle and grandmother's graves. But it was raining heavily on his 49th day ceremony, so we didn't go to the cemetery after all. I gave one bunch to my uncle's family for when they visit later and kept the other. The flowers were just about dried out and ready for the compost heap before I decided to snap this photo.


I dragged out my Don't Fence Me In quilt to work on it for a bit. I also stopped in at Jo-Ann and decided to buy the pink brocade from the clearance bin because the flowers reminded me of thistles and I thought it might go well with the plaid that I want to use for a Scottish-themed quilt. It doesn't. Too pink. I'm going with that plaid and different lavender fabrics instead.


Again, I have no memory of what I did on Day 41. But it must have been cold again because I dug through my sock drawer and found this long-forgotten pair that I bought in Scotland. I started buying souvenir socks a while back and every time I wear them, I think of that particular vacation.


Too tired and lazy to cook, I talked the oldest '87 into having dinner with me again at Don Day - Los Angeles (Koreatown). I didn't get any overall shots from our meal there the previous month and I just felt like eating their brisket dipped into Korean bean paste and soy sauce. This time though, the restaurant was crowded and we had to wait quite a while for a table.


Met up with Gourmet Pigs at Chado Tea Room - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) so she could use her coupon before it expired. Worst case of food poisoning in a looong time. :( I was either puking or on the toilet. :( Miserable night. Water. Tea. Clear soft drinks. It all came up every time and I was so dehydrated. GP wasn't affected though so it was just me. Too tired to even move my laundry off the foot of my bed. I also can't sleep with the door open, not that I was getting much sleep that night anyway, so I had to wrench open the door during every run to the bathroom.


Finally fell asleep around dawn. Guess all the toxins finally made their way out of my system. Slept until late afternoon. I was famished when I woke up. Gulped a lot of water. Jasmine rice, sauteed mushrooms, and Scrambled Egg Omelet never tasted so good.


On Valentine's Day, I stopped off at my youngest aunt's house after work for my great-grandfather's death anniversary dinner. My father's maternal grandfather.


Felt the sniffles. Wondered if it was a remnant of my bout of food poisoning or if I was coming down with something. Took some Airborne anyway. I wasn't a believer until my brother and I both came down with something at the same time. He swore by the Airborne. I didn't. I got sick. He didn't. Besides, I figured the extra boost of vitamin C was good for me. My mug is chipped, but the chip is the perfect place to place my mouth when I drink so I keep it around.


Took my dad's friend's daughter out for her belated birthday at Larchmont Bungalow - Los Angeles. Red and blue velvet pancakes, lobster cakes, and lobster, crab, and shrimp omelet. I'm generally wary of hipster places, but everything was so delicious. Now, I wish I had bought more than one Groupon. She told me she was moving back to Oregon, so I decided at the last minute to take her to the J. Paul Getty Center & Museum - Los Angeles before she left town.


The day after my bout with food poisoning, I remained abed and finished quilting a baby blanket for some friends. I was experimenting with a quicker design and completed it in three non-consecutive days. After a wash and tumble dry, the quilt ended up nicer than I expected.


Rainy days remind me of home. Except for the fact that SoCal drivers don't know how to deal with the rain. I am so glad my commute is super short. Dinner was leftover baked mackerel, jasmine rice, and a side of Baechu Kimchee (Korean Pickled Napa Cabbage). I ate straight out of the container. I didn't even wash the blueberries that I ate for dessert. Then I happily put on my gray flannel pajama pants and rummaged around my sock drawer until I settled on these double-decker red bus socks I bought in London long ago.


The time stamp on my camera did not fall back. But I know that this photo was taken before midnight so that's good enough for me. I bought this tablecloth with scenes around Edinburgh long ago. It was too lovely to be used and stained. I knew I would turn it into a quilt, but didn't know how best to display the tablecloth. I finally settled upon an easy pattern of smoky grey and pale green plaid strips with wider strips of lavender. Alternating, about half a dozen rows of each. I hope the plaid and the lavender will play up the colors of the thistles on the tablecloth. Edinburgh is my favorite city in the whole world.


"Why oh why, my little siu mai, why do I love you so?" The best present at the baby shower came from Daily Gluttony. The cake pops, cookies and milk shots, and Thai feast were pretty darn amazing too. I think my friends liked the baby quilt I showed you in Day 48.


I used leftover acacia leaves, from the Thai feast at the baby shower, to make an omelet for dinner. Then I promptly put on my flannel plaid pajama pants (Yes, I own quite a few flannel plaid pajama pants. I buy them when Target has them on sale or clearance.) and rummaged through my sock drawer until I stumbled upon these socks I bought in Australia long ago. Also, I realize I was wearing plaid flannel and have plaid flannel sheets. Umm, yes, I do like plaid flannel. :)


Bought a package of eight chicken thighs for $2.20 at the grocery store. I froze two for later. And braised half a dozen thighs in my basic Vietnamese marinade for chicken or pork. Mmm. I had forgotten how much I love braised chicken. Perhaps I need to update that recipe with some more pictures?


Actually, when I braise chicken, most of the time, I like the sauce even more. After reheating the chicken, I mopped up the sauce. The onions had caramelized and were just so perfect with lightly toasted bread. I stood over the stove with warm bread and warm sauce and ate it right there.


I bought a bunch of nettles for $1 at the Farmers' Market - Alhambra. After eating bowl after bowl of Stinging Nettle Soup, my friend E(L)'s email about only knowing how to cook spaghetti and tacos made me crave some. So while shopping for taco fixings for dinner, I also bought a ton of junk food for various desserts for my niece's upcoming birthday party. The cost of all the junk was nearly double the price of the taco ingredients, salmon, a whole chicken, cornstarch, sea salt, and various other sundries. I hope the dessert experiments will turn out well and I'm glad I don't have much of a sweet tooth because not only is all that bad for you, it's also expensive!


Penny died today. :(

This photo of Penny and Sebastien was taken in my parents' garden in September 2008. I could take a photo of this photo for Project 365, but that would be lame. So I hereby declare that it's OK for me to use old photos if it illustrates a point I'm trying to make that day.


While at the thrift store, I came across copies of "He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys," "Be Honest -- You're Not That Into Him Either: Raise Your Standards and Reach for the Love You Deserve," and "Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others: The Fascinating Research that Can Land You the Husband of Your Dreams." I wondered if they were all donated by one woman, and whether she gave them away because she found someone or because she simply gave up on love?

Instead, I bought a book of love letters with correspondence between various historical figures. I admit, I mostly bought it because there was a taped note inside with words by Admiral Nelson on the eve of the Battle of Trafalgar. Curiosity gets me every time.

A little Googling when I got home turned up that the words were written to his mistress, Emma Hamilton. Considering that both of them were married, and that this love affair was a literal affair, I wondered who wrote and attached that note to the book and why? I'm not English, so obviously I don't hold their greatest war hero in any veneration, but I'm hard-pressed to celebrate adultery.

I also came home with cute pie pans with recipes for apple pie and pecan pie printed on them. Mmm. Pie. And a soup mug with a recipe for French onion soup on it.


Woke up early and decided to finish reading "Fire and Rain" by Elizabeth Lowell. Her evocatively-written passages about the Anasazi ruins were my first glimpse of this ancient culture. Reminded me that I still need to blog about my trip to Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado. Went to Target and then the Farmers' Market - Alhambra when my friend DP called me asking if I wanted to go out for lunch. We drove by Luscious Dumplings, Inc. - San Gabriel, but the line was ridiculous. I suggested Mama's Lu Dumpling House - Monterey Park so I could finally blog it. Look at the fabulous pottery she got me from Hanoi, Vietnam. Soy sauce and vinegar bottles and salt and pepper shakers. Her trip was in 2007 though, and she only just remembered to give this to me now. :P

I also did 12 loads of laundry this weekend. I had many, many, many bedsheets and towels that hadn't been washed in a while. I also vacuumed the interior of my car and wiped the windows. Yay me for doing chores!


Dinner was the last of the chicken from Day 53, Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes, and leftover salmon. After rereading "Fire and Rain" and also "Granite Man," I thought about some of the places I read about in books as a teen and only dreamed of visiting some day.

"I'll taste the rain winds and hear water rushing over stone, and I'll see in every shadow a culture that was old before Columbus set sail for India and found the New World." -- from "Fire and Rain," page 86.

Not just the Anasazi ruins, but I'm so glad I've been able to explore some of the places I've been. These socks? They were cheap free socks that British Airways gave out in the economy section. And yet they're as much a souvenir of my travels as any of the other socks in my collection.


Hmm. I thought my February was pretty boring, but I guess hibernation isn't such a bad thing since I was able to catch up on a lot of chores, quilting, and reading.

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, my darling little niece was born.
2 years ago todayRoasted Pineapple Tomato Salsa.
3 years ago today, Ga Hap Mam Gung (Vietnamese Steamed Chicken with Ginger Fish Sauce).
4 years ago today, the spareness of the J. Paul Getty Center and Museum (Winter) - Los Angeles.


  1. It's good to know that I'm not the only one that goes out in my pajamas. I've actually made a quick trip to Albertson's once in them. I say what the heck they won't remember what you look like anyways.

    I hate men too. Mine is an asshole. Which I shouldn't really complain because I knew he was an asshole when I married him. :P

    The whole sisterly mismatched sock thing; definitely an "awwww" moment.

  2. hi wc - loved your socks from australia!!!!! so cool! i also liked the red and blue pancakes - i must try that place if we ever go up to l.a.

    i like your 365 project pix/posts and how you consilidated it to once a month.

  3. Ah man I remember Top's.. Never imagined them with a kobe burger, things do change. Really sorry to hear about your dog passing away.

  4. Still feel sad seeing the picture of Penny and Sebastien :(

    What a clever idea to buy socks as souvenirs where you travel, as you can think back of that place when you wear them :)

    The braised chicken looks so good, I'll have to use that recipe again. Thanks for letting us "tag along" via your activities.

  5. hi wc - whenever i travel, i like to buy earrings. one of my fave pairs is this green czech glass pair i bought from (of all places), the multnomah library gift shop.

  6. Diana,
    My friend once convinced me to do a late night doughnut run except I was wearing full fuchsia cowgirl pajamas and she only had light sweatpants and a T-shirt. So not the same! Usually when I'm grubbing, I wear my gym clothes.

    Yours is not a jerk or else you wouldn't have married him. :)

    Those red and blue velvet pancakes were really good! Much better than expected! Your earrings sound really lovely.

    The Kobe burger was so delicious. I still think about it!

    Co Toan,
    Actually, the socks work well as souvenirs since they hardly take up any room and they don't break. :P

  7. Hi WC,

    Sorry about Penny and Sebastien, I have been reading your blog and enjoy them very much - the stories and the recipies. I never comment before b/c 1) I'm not tech savy and 2) didn't have a gmail account :) Your blog endulges my love of travel and food - I'm too chicken to venture far from my comfort zone and am really not that good of a cook - I experience both through your post and really appreciate you taking out the time to share.

  8. Huong,
    I don't travel much these days. Or I guess you mean a glimpse into places in LA? Thanks so much for your kind words and for commenting. :)

  9. WC,
    Yes - I do mean LA and Oregon(some). Thanks for not mentioning my poor spelling. I was so mortified I stayed away for a few weeks. I'm a little behind - I found your website last year and have been catching up from the beginning. Love the pictures, I tried some of the recipies and found them to be very simple and good. If only you would share your mom's banh xeo recipie, I could really impress the family with that :)

  10. Huong,
    No worries. I'm only anal about my own spelling and grammar since I try to edit myself. But I still catch stupid mistakes all the time when I comment and post. The fingers move faster than my thoughts.

    Oh dear, I cringe at some of those early posts! So glad you're enjoying the blog.


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