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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bridges, Literal and Figurative, and Reuben Obsessions

Ronda, Spain Souvenir Plate From Gourmet Pigs

Gourmet Pigs brought back a souvenir plate of Ronda, Spain for me from her visit there in December. She's nice like that, always bringing back gifts for me when she travels. Thanks lady!

Lest you think I post these things to brag, I should say it's rather the blogger equivalent of the thank you note. I learned this aspect of blogging from craft blogs. I discovered craft blogs before I stumbled upon food blogs. Craft bloggers, by their very nature, create, and they often share their creations with other bloggers, who then post about it and thank the sender. I've noticed people don't do this much anymore. Not that people don't give gifts, just that the community aspect of blogging seems to have shifted to the wayside in the last few years as more people vie for attention. Many posts now are geared toward specific subjects, what they think will turn up in searches, not so much the day-to-day humdrum of life. And yet, those are the blogs that have held my attention year after year. The subject might lure me in, but I read blogs for the people. Always a dinosaur, I hate to think manners have fallen out of vogue in the quest for SEO.

I've been thinking lately about bridges, or connections if you want to be heavy-handed with the symbolism. The literal bridges of the Columbia River Gorge on my visit home to Oregon last month, and the figurative bridges I've formed with family, friends, bloggers, and readers.

I don't fuss too much these days dealing with people. Well, some you can't do much about, like family or co-workers, people whom you have to be around. But the people I choose to spend time with are the ones who like to be around me. When I was younger, in school and in work, there was more of a need to find connections with others. I'd try and find connections with the few other Asians in school, or the few other Vietnamese in college, or the few other young people at work. But remove the shared environment, and many times there wasn't much left to connect us. These days, I'm just thankful for the long-time friends who've stuck around. Those friendships take the least amount of work and are the most rewarding.

A few days before my parents were due in town, I decided I wanted to highlight my hair and then dye it auburn so it would look nice in photos of my niece's first birthday. I asked the oldest '87 to come help me and made sure to buy some McDonald's sweet tea to fuel our efforts. After unsuccessfully trying to pull strands of hair with the tiny plastic hook that came in the box, she went home to get a brush and instructed me to fold aluminum foil for her to wrap around sections of my hair. I have to say, my cousin did a great job and my highlights look nice and even.


Met up with Tony and Mrs. SinoSoul because they had a coupon for shaved snow at Le Arbre Tea House - Rosemead. The shaved snow was not very good and overpriced even with the coupon. After they left, I stayed to get some work done. I felt bad about staying until midnight so I ordered thinly shaved sweet potato strips. Looked pretty good until I realized how very little food I actually got. Oh well, got some blogging done in the meantime.


My parents came into town for my niece's birthday. As per usual, we went down to my youngest aunt's house for dinner. She always makes Hainanese chicken rice, but this time stir-fried some of the chicken with Chinese celery. So good. How come the Chinese celery I buy isn't nearly as tender or sweet? Once, I didn't take photos of our dinner, and my aunt asked if something was wrong with the food. No, yummy as usual, I said. Then how come I didn't take a photo, she asked? So now I always do. :P


Late that night as I got ready for bed, or rather for sleeping on my sofa, my mom brought out heating pads that she had sewn covers for. See? My momma likes plaid too. She also had one for lil' sis and oldest nephew. Perfect feet warmers because it was a little chilly that night and I didn't have to wear socks to keep warm. Oldest nephew got excited when he saw his and thought he was special. He asked if we got one too. Of course we did.


These Hello Kitty red velvet Cake Pops that I made for my niece's first birthday were almost the death of me. So much work.


The day after the party, we went out for brunch at Pho Filet Vietnamese Restaurant - South El Monte. My parents, second-youngest uncle, and youngest aunt and uncle sat at the big table while lil' sis and oldest nephew and I were in a booth beside them. My brother, his wife, and baby didn't arrive until we were nearly finished. Afterward, we went to check out a house, but my parents aren't quite ready to retire yet. And lil' sis and I realized, that if our parents retired down here, there'd be little reason for us to visit Oregon. My last bridge home will be gone, and I'm not quite sure I'm ready for that. Portland has always been home, no matter where I wandered.


I told my mom I had been craving her braised squid and bought about a half pound at the grocery store when I bought other food for the party. That morning, my mom remembered and rummaged my fridge until she found the bag. She braised the squid, then sauteed pea tips, spinach and English peas for our lunch. These peas are tough, she said. I told her the shells of English peas weren't meant to be eaten and she told me that was wasteful and I should just buy snow peas because I could eat the peas and shells. So practical. She also thought lil' sis had craved the braised squid too, but nope, just me. Momma got her daughters mixed up! But mmm, the braised squid was sooo good. I hadn't eaten it in years.


Made Bossam (Korean Pork and Lettuce Wraps) for dinner. Started quilting down the new border to the wedding ring quilt I started repairing in Day 27.


The cashier forgot to put one of the two avocados I bought into my grocery bag. So the next night I came back with my receipt and grabbed another avocado. Do you do that? For 23 cents? Or was it 29 cents? It's the principle! The avocado also went perfectly with the messy chicken taco salad I had for dinner so I really did want that extra avocado. Then after assuaging my hunger, late at night I started making a pot of Gumbo for the next night's dinner. Sometimes I'm just too tired after work to make a proper dinner, so I usually just do a quickie dinner and begin preparations for the next day's meal.


Ate the gumbo for lunch and dinner. The Japanese fabric that I ordered from Singapore arrived. I'm stockpiling these fairy tale prints for a quilt. The Rapunzel is part of the Far Far Away II line by Heather Ross. I already purchased the Princess and the Pea and unicorn fabrics from her Far Far Away I line last year. The pink and blue tea time prints and the strawberries are being saved for another quilt in just pinks and blues. Too many quilt ideas, too little time to make them all.


More quilt repairs. It might look the same as Day 67, but this was actually another side of the border


Gumbo again for lunch. Got tired of gumbo so grabbed an early dinner of In-N-Out Double Double protein-style with chopped chilies. Then for late night, I stir-fried some venison and ate them as wraps too.


Went to my friend E(L)'s house because I promised, as her bridal shower gift, that I'd teach her how to cook. We made two lunches, one dinner, and the makings of a second dinner. Plenty of leftovers for her to pack lunches all week.


Love the play of light and shadow as I squeezed blood oranges, grapefruit, oranges, and tangerines. In the background are the fruits my friend E(L) sent home with me, strawberries from the farmers' market and a Meyer lemon from her little 2-foot-high tree.


Making lentils with the rest of my English peas from Day 66 and mushrooms. Just love the color contrast between my colander and the English peas. Sometimes, buying impractical food is worth it.


Long, long drive to Portland. Passed Yuba City. Inside joke. And a reminder that I need to blog it.


Stumbled upon this fun photo shoot at Horsetail Falls - Columbia River Gorge while hiking the waterfalls along the old Columbia River highway. Speaking of bridges, do check out the gorgeous bridges at Multnomah Falls, Shepperd's Dell Falls, and Latourell Falls.


Went wine tasting in Oregon for the first time. Epic day of 1 pub, 2 wineries, 3 cocktail bars, 1 tapas bar, and 1 tea house. This photo was taken at Hawks View Cellars - Sherwood - Oregon. Best pinot gris I've ever tasted. Great view, generous pours, cheese and fruit plate, lit fireplace, knowledgeable wine guy, great wines.


Best banana cream pie I've ever tasted. I dream about this pie. The crust is that flaky pastry crust like in the butterfly cookies? Not overly sweet. Homemade whipped cream. Get thee to Random Order Coffeehouse & Bakery - Portland stat!


Scary drive back down to LA. Heavy rain almost the whole time. When it wasn't raining, it was snowing. Snow and chains required at the border. Whiteout in Grapevine. Insane! And so sooo happy that my daddy fixed my car. Twinge of guilt that he took it back to the shop at 9:30 p.m. to double-check the spare tire.


Lil' sis did my dishes while I was gone. Was nice to wake up to a clean sink. I was running late and in a rush to leave before rush hour traffic so I left behind a sink full of dishes. Thanks lil' sis!


I had a bunch of my mom's banh xeo (Vietnamese sizzling crepes) because the drive down took much longer than usual with all the crazy weather. Lil' sis couldn't wait before she had to drive back down and my brother was leaving for a week's vacation. So I had both of their packages of banh xeo that my mom made. I refried them and ate them for lunch and dinner and lunch...


My oldest uncle's 100th day death anniversary. :( My dad called my youngest aunt and dictated a brief letter for her to place on his altar. The letter, about how much my dad loves and misses his older brother made me cry. I made Chuoi Chien (Vietnamese Fried Bananas) because my uncle had once praised them long ago. With overly critical parents, my 13-year-old fragile ego relished his words of encouragement. It was an all vegetarian menu as the first year?, two years? death anniversaries are meat-free. I still don't really want to believe he's gone and soothed myself with kobe beef pho for dinner at Noodle Guy - Alhambra and a visit to cuddle a friend's new baby.


I had a craving for a Reuben sandwich because the one I had at the pub on Day 77 at Thirsty Lion Pub and Grill - Tigard - Oregon was so delicious. I got lazy and heated it in my toaster oven. The bread was not buttery. The pastrami was sliced too thick. The Swiss cheese did not melt. I had neither Thousand Island nor Russian dressing. The makeshift ketchup and mayonnaise mixture didn't cut it. I was an unhappy camper.


So I get a little obsessed when I have a craving, OK? The next day after work, I stopped off at the grocery store to get the proper dressings and to get corned beef sliced super thin. Geez, dressing is so expensive. $2.69 for that little bottle of Thousand Island and $3.69 for the Russian dressing. By no means is this an endorsement for Wishbone dressing. It was simply the only brand that had these flavors at Albertson's. In fact, I hate Wishbone ranch dressing. Ick! But what's a girl gonna do when she has a craaaving? Ironically, I was too tired by the time I got home to make the sandwich.


Finally! Reuben Sandwich perfection! Thinly sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, the tang with both Thousand Island and Russian dressings, Swiss cheese that melted, buttered Jewish rye bread, and all perfectly pan-fried in the skillet. Then shortly before midnight, I had another craving. Argh! So I ran out for passionfruit green tea and popcorn chicken from Tapioca Express Inc. - Alhambra.


Finally planted the blueberry bush that my friend E(L) gave me on Day 72 as a thank you for our cooking marathon. And finished putting on the new border to my quilt. The solid green was a bit heavy, but I needed something dark to disguise that I was covering the flowers and leaves that were on the border. No way was I sewing tiny leaves and flower patches. Now, I just have to make new patches on top for the ones that have ripped. I guess some people would just toss a blanket if there are too many rips, but this is my favorite light summertime quilt. Plus, I've had it for more than a decade and if you haven't figured out by now, I'm rather attached to my stuff.


I went to pick a few lemons from my youngest uncle's tree and saw that my irises and freesia were blooming. They're more than a decade old. I grew them in pots, then I moved, and left them behind for my uncle. He tells me to pick them if I want to (Irises are my favorite flower and I love the smell of freesia.), but they look pretty happy in his garden so I left them there.


Unsatisfying baked chicken. Is it because it's too easy now? I don't appreciate it as much anymore because I make it so often? Or I was too liberal with the herbes de Provence and didn't like the result?


Started a small project for a birthday present for a friend that was long overdue.


Spring allergies. Achoo! Some days are worse than others. I didn't have spring allergies when I was a kid. Now it seems like every year I sniffle, sneeze, cough, and get irritated eyes when the pollen count is high. So I went straight to bed after work and spent some more time working on that project that I started in Day 89.


What about you? Which bridges still connect you to home? The people or the location? And do you get weirdly obsessed with cravings too?

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, Tom Yum Goong Kai (Thai Hot and Sour Shrimp and Chicken Soup).
2 years ago today, my cousin designed my awesome header.
3 years ago today, Iceberg Wedge Salad with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing. 
4 years ago today, frozen yogurt at the original Cefiore - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) (Closed).


  1. When my mom comes to visit (which is a rare treat), I "make" her cook for me so I can have a taste of home. And your quilt? It reminded me of my childhood blanket, patched so many times. I thought that my mom finally threw it out, but I chanced upon in during a visit home. Someday, I'm going to have to sneak in out my suitcase.

  2. best birthday present i've received in a really long time. thank you! :)

  3. I've been reading your blog for so long now and totally wish I live in California. I can't grow much in Vegas and the Viet restaurants here are not so good. Reading your post about your mom's food, makes me miss mine.

  4. I don't see you often, yet just knowing you'd still have a reason to visit PDX is nice. I hope your parents don't retire too soon!

    The banana cream pie was good, but the coconut cream pie was my favorite. It was really the best I've ever had.

  5. Scrapper Al,
    There are so many rips in my quilt that I think I almost have to literally re-do the whole top. Debating whether to continue or just make another top over it. It's so incredibly soft and worn though.

    You're welcome.

    I thought the Vegas Vietnamese restaurants were pretty good? Seems like it from photos, but I admit I've never eaten at any of them. LA isn't so far. If people from LA head to Vegas all the time, the reverse must also happen?

    My mom is coming down again next month for several weeks. Can't wait for yummy food.

    Probably in another few years. I hope you don't move. Even less of a reason to visit PDX then. :(


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