Thursday, December 31, 2009

So this is the new year, and I have no resolutions for self assigned penance for problems with easy solutions

2009 was not pretty. Between being laid off, death, sickness - there have been a lot of ups but mostly downs. Sadly, I don't see 2010 getting much better either.

And just for the hell of it, 2009 decided to kick me when I was down - by exploding my kitchen faucet right in the middle of my New Year's day food prep. Hello flood, you've ruined my plans. Still, I've tried to just move on.

Despite these setbacks, I've have been prepping for tomorrow's lunch since 7am. No big party tonight on the Eve, just lots of New Year's Day good luck foods tomorrow. Here's to hoping.

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This is the coastal town, that they forgot to close down, Armageddon - come Armageddon!

Day two of tourist hell. Wow, I didn't think my life could get worse. Think again! We have annual passes that were gifted to us for SeaWorld. Normally San Diego is a lovely place. 75 degrees. Pleasant. A nice place to visit. Well today, was not one of those days. Try darkness, the freezing rain, the cold. This is not normal Southern California weather.No it was abnormally bad weather brought on solely to kill any joy in my life, I am sure. Meanwhile, the kids didn't care - which is all that mattered. They enjoyed watching large fish jump out of pools of water. Still seems rather odd. Wouldn't those whales rather be free? Maybe it's just me.

The weather was in the low 50s, but with the wind chill I'd say 40s. My SIL asked if I was wearing blush...that's wind burn, goddamit. My inlaws are from Hawaii where it is currently 79 degrees and this freezing weather...they weren't prepared.

You could tell the animals weren't feelin' it too. On this day there was no jumping, or fun diving. Nope. Those whales just swam and were like WHAT. They were in no mood to participate and I don't blame them.

But the kids had a FANTASTIC time and can't wait to go back. Maybe when there is actual sun in the sky, kids. I enjoyed the fact that this was my last stop on the family tourism train. Also I ate a pretzel in the shape of Elmo's face. THAT equals a successful vacation...right??

More Sea World pics, here.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Some imagination, huh?

There's some things you will only do for the love of your child. Like sit in the freezing cold holding a table for five hours. Yeah, I'd say that is love. Or craziness.

When we go to Disneyland it's usually for 4 hours max, that's all I can take. Now that the kids are in school and since my inlaws are here our time is limited so we had to visit the Happiest Place on Earth...on the worst day ever. The holidays. Oh lordy was it crowded. You couldn't even walk. I mean look at all these tourists!!:

Not only that, we were there from 10am to 10pm. Twelve freakin' hours.

For five of those hours I parked my butt at a table and held our space for a 9pm showing of Fantasmic - something I never let the kids see cause I never want to stay that late. It was...worth it(?) cause the kids loved it and had a blast. There was a new mighty dragon and it was pretty amazing.
And of course there was the beautiful fake holiday snow, i.e. soap, which the Baby kept trying to lick while I screamed DO NOT EAT WHAT IS FALLING FROM THE SKY. Ah, happy holidays. Meanwhile sitting in 40 degree weather for 5 hours, I'm pretty sure that I am back to being sick again because of it. I'm sure having a root beer float in the cold had nothing to do with it...um, yeah.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is it worth it, let me work it

Christmas means nothing...nope, it's all about New Year's day for me. That's the day I work hard and plan for.

So in preparation for New Year's we went over to thefoodlibrarian's house for mochi making. Her family and mine are practically related - so it was a big ol' family affair. Let me tell you about Japanese Americans. Our holidays revolve around mochi and Mexican food. That's just the way it is.

The annual mochi-fest was so much fun. We steamed, formed and packaged over 250 POUNDS of fresh mochi. Can you believe it?? It was a lot of fun but I was exhausted. The old people were the ones holding it down all day, I could barely stand after about an hour. Me=lay-z.We ate lunch, formed mochi, ate some more and then ate some more. I was covered in mochiko from head to toe. It was tiring but there is nothing, NOTHING as delicious as freshly made mochi.

By mid-day I couldn't take it anymore and I hid in the kitchen with foodlibrarian's mom. She was sick so she had an excuse. I was just sick of it. So I just sat with her and ate enchiladas and cookies until my pants were tight. Everyone else worked really hard, and for our - I mean their hard work, we got a giant tray of FRESH mochi for my New Years Day party. Ah, the fruits of labor!

Mochi making process, here.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

This year, to save me from tears, I gave it to someone special

Christmas ended up being pretty good. Totally not planned. Totally relaxed. I just sat back and let O.G. do whatever she wanted which was probably the best idea anyway - but don't tell her that.

We didn't eat anything fancy, just our family favorites. O.G.'s famous flank steak, ham, fried chicken, potato salad, spinach salad, wonton and jello.

The Baby got the coolest gift - I come from a family of seamstresses and my aunt made the Baby an amazing Batman cape, complete with hood, ears and gold Batman symbol. The thing is heavy and almost looks like leather. Considering she only sees him once a year she sized it perfectly. Amazing.

I was in charge of dessert and since there was so few of us, I just wanted to make something quick and slice-able. When I was a kid I remember making Buche de Noel with my mom. They can be overly complicated, but I just wanted to do a simple version, one that the kids would enjoy as well, so no chestnut cream or fancy meringue mushrooms, just lots of chocolate whipped cream. Yum.

It was quick to make and my MIL watched with big eyes, wondering what the hell I was doing. I've now converted her to roll cakes, since I showed her how easy it really is.

I gotta say, I'm glad the drama of Christmas is over I am ready to move on, bring on New Years!

Buche de Noel recipe
Christmas Broken Glass Jello recipe

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Waiting for Santa

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hidey Ho

Well Christmas plans are effed. What's new. Nothing ruins the holidays like family. Is there a holiday tradition where we all hole ourselves up in separate rooms and not talk to each other? Cause that'd be awesome.
At least my tree just pops right out of a box. It's a lovely tree, except I always put my plush Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo on top which I suppose is disgusting. I never think much of it til the kids tell people there is poop on our tree. Um. I guess I should rethink my decorations...

So now I'm scrambling trying to pull something together for my kids on Christmas. Dear Santa: Help.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Run, run, as fast as you can

The Kid has gingerbread on the brain. He wanted gingerbread houses, gingerbread trains, gingerbread buildings - look Kid, we're in a recession, all construction is on hold.

I gave in slightly and allowed the kids to decorate gingerbread men. That way everyone had their own piece and there was no in-fighting over decorating - this goes for you too, inlaws. It also gave me an opportunity to finish up the last of my '6 months of baked goods' as a wedding gift for Parlene.I made up a batch of GIANT gingerbread men, these suckers are a good 10" tall, and since Batman is still King in this house, I also made little gingerbread bat-masks for them to wear. While I had intended totally Batman-them out in all black, I got caught up in how much fun the kids were having just going nuts with the candy. So they look less Batman and more...freakish nymph...or something. Who cares, they were tasty.

The boys went nuts - they never get a candy free for all around here and I watched as the Baby put just as much in his mouth as his did on the cookie. Ugh. Candy overload.

It was fun, I still miss house building, both real and gingerbread. Maybe next year.

Gingerbread Bat-boys
Gingerbread house decor

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Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm just a bill, and I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill

Well, the vacation didn't quite go...as planned. Four out of five days I was lying in bed sick as a dog, never even left the hotel - only to end up in the hospital. Only after an EKG, chest xray, blood work and an IV of fluids - was I finally was able to stand up again...just in time to get on a plane home. Can I get a break up in here?? Ugh.

We went to Washington D.C. because O.G. loves it there - it has some of the best museums in the county and she loves to wander through as many as she can. Also it was one of the few places she would agree to travel to. I was only well enough to go out for ONE day, and thankfully O.G.'s love of tour bus rides made it possible for me to see almost everything in the city before I was down for the count.We saw the Capital and the White House, Georgetown and the museums. My mom is a member of the American Indian Museum, something I have NO interest in that is until I found out their restaurant - Mitsitam - is known for some of the best food in the city. No joke, it was really good. It served up traditional Indian foods at different stations, from salmon, to buffalo burgers, tacos, tamales - just really flavorful food.My favorite thing and one of the only things I really wanted to see was the Lincoln Memorial. It was breathtaking. So amazing to finally see in person. Right across was the reflecting pool for the Washinton Monument. This was right before the storm was about to hit - so the skies were clear and perfect but it was increasingly cold. The pool was just starting to freeze over. I saw a kid throwing chunks of the into the water so I had to do the same of course because I am also 5.
O.G. also loves monuments. Her goal on this trip was to see the Japanese American Internment camp monument, as well as almost alllllll the others. The war memorials were the most touching and disturbing. My heart breaks for all those people who died, it's scary to see so many names of young people who went off to war so long ago.

It's a city I'd love to go back to, maybe next time I'll actually be able to leave the room. Good thing I take a lot of pictures, since other than the first day, you'd just see me in bed vomiting. Ah, vacation memories...

More Washington D.C. pics, here.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch
Who watches over you

Last day of Restaurant week! (Back to cooking next week - ha!) And enter the Bento Supplies Giveaway on the recipes blog, who doesn't want free stuff, what's wrong with you?

I took advantage of one of those Restaurant coupons, where you get a $25 gift certificate for just $1. While there are TONS of stipulations on those things (Read the fine print!!) I decided to give it a go and take O.G. to Thousand Cranes for lunch.

Thousand Cranes is an old Japanese restaurant in downtown Little Tokyo. For year is was housed in what we called the New Otani Hotel, come to find out the changed the name and it confused the hell out of me and O.G. Eventually we made it there.

The restaurant overlooks a stunning Japanese roof garden that you'd never know was there. If you are ever in Little Tokyo, it's worth a stop by - very tranquil and serene.

The restaurant is...pricey. Heck I'll say it, it's downright reedickulous what they charge. But it's more of a special occasion restaurant and you can tell they cater to foreign clientle who wouldn't balk at those prices. Meanwhile - I'm balking. However - let it be said that they do Japanese food RIGHT. The food tasted real and perfectly done, how Japanese food is supposed to taste, not like a cheaply done knock off.

Let it be said though, both O.G. and I do NOT eat raw fish. Sushi is not us cause we are the worst asians ever. Don't touch the stuff. But the food we did eat? AMAZING.

It's worth it if you can afford it. And if you do go with someone make sure they don't try and pawn their shrimp off on you. Like O.G. DID.

More Thousand Cranes pics, here.

Thousand Cranes
Kyoto Grand Hotel & Gardens
120 S Los Angeles St

Los Angeles, CA 90012

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ziggy Piggy

We're almost at the end - Restaurant week continues! And go enter the Bento Supplies Giveaway while you're at it!

It takes a lot for me to drive up the 2 freeway. Luckily my friend Maria lives up there and she promised to take me to lunch at a place that would make the drive worthwhile. She was right.

Oinkster is well known but I've never been able make it there, even when I lived in that area. Odd. It's a small place with great food - the sandwiches and burgers are where it's at. But the fries? Oh dear - those are AMAZING. Belgian fries - crispy yet tender served with the most perfect garlic aioli.

I've been back with the kids since my first visit, and every time I get the pulled pork sandwich. Sweet and delicious slow cooked pork on a soft bun, and the cabbage inside adds just the right crunch. The pastrami is just as amazing too.

An odd additon to the menu is the Ube shake. (All the Filipinos in the house say HEY! HO!)

Ube is taro root. If that doesn't put you off, maybe the fact that it is purple would do it. I'm not a fan of weird things either but this shake is amazing. Sweet, delicious and of course made with the best ice cream in the city - Fosselman's. You can't go wrong.

Guy Fieri featured Oinkster on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and left his mark accordingly. (As a side note, at Comic Con there were a lot of cosplayers that I couldn't tell if they were supposed to be Guy Fieri or Naruto. Just sayin'.)

Stop by Oinkster for some amazing sandwiches and be brave enough to try the Ube shake. Everyone's doing it, kids.

More Oinkster pics, here.

Oinkster
2005 Colorado Blvd
Eagle Rock, CA 9004

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Out on bail fresh outta jail, California dreamin'

More Restaurant week! And don't forget to enter the Bento Supplies Giveaway on the recipes blog! Don't you want an egg shaper? Well. Enter anyway, sheesh.

There has been a lot of hype about Ramen California and rightly so. It's fresh, new and different. With the abundance of noodle places around here this one is very...Los Angeles.

It may not be your typical ramen, but the light broth and gorgeous farmer's market fresh produce are what won me over. Small bites of purple cauliflower, fresh beans, potatoes - all my favorite veggies in one bowl full of noodles.

The place is small, in a South Bay mini mall, and has a full wine selection for those who like that sort of thing. They also are known for their fresh baked rosemary bread and small plate appetizers giving the Japanese noodle house an almost Mediterranean feel.

The meals are affordable and fresh. Just the way I like them.

Ramen California

24231 Crenshaw Blvd
Ste C

Torrance, CA 90505

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kiss my grits

Restaurant week continues! And don't forget to enter the big Bento Supplies Giveaway on the recipes blog!

My mom has furlough days now, like most people in the country - which means I have someone else to hang out with to avoid my spiral into depression...yay? We went out looking for a place for brunch the other day and ended up at Tart.

Tart is a restaurant that is part of the old Farmer's Daughter Hotel at 3rd and Fairfax across from the Grove. Except...what it's most known for is that TONS of reality shows film here. You may remember this as the place that Spencer yelled at Heidi's mom. I do believe I stopped watching the Hills after that.

Despite that, it is a GREAT place for breakfast. A lovely interior dining and a great patio makes for a nice sunny brunch. I ordered a really delicious BLT with egg for breakfast, and my mom, who can't pass up grits - ordered creamy grits with chopped bacon and green onions.

One thing - the cook only knows how to make eggs one way. My fried egg was a bit overdone, but I'm fine with that. My mom's poached eggs? Whoa. Those things were HARD BOILED. She couldn't even eat them. Oh and when I went to open the ketchup bottle...it exploded on me. No one's fault, it felt like Candid Camera, but luckily I was wearing a red shirt. Despite those missteps, the rest of the food was really good. I even enjoyed the Banana Coffee Cake - now that's something!

Afterwards we walked across the street to stroll around the Farmer's Market. We checked out the caramel apples but we were too full from brunch. Looking at this picture, I could really go for one now, darn.

More pictures from Tart, here.

Tart Restaurant
115 S Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036

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Monday, December 14, 2009

You found out, I've got a crush on you

I'm going on vacation with O.G., can you believe it? I don't know if I'm going to survive - no joke. So I've got a great big BENTO supply GIVEAWAY running on the recipes blog (Go enter!!) and I'm designating this here is restaurant week. Here's to hoping I make it back from vacation alive...and sane.

Wako Donkatsu is a place specializing in katsu - fried cutlet. It's odd that this Japanese specialty is right in the heart of Koreatown - and in a strip mall no less, but it works. Wow does it work.

Katsu is a breaded and deep fried cutlet - who doesn't love fried food, but when katsu is done this well it's almost heavenly. Here it's done perfectly. They have pork, beef, shrimp, chicken - they also offer soba noodles.

But the real fun here is the katsu sauce, not stuff from a jar - they get YOU involved by having you crush and grind your own sesame seeds with a mortar and pestle. Let me tell you, the kids thought it was crazy fun. The seeds add an amazingly amount of flavor depending on how well you grind them down.

The plates are huge, with tons of cabbage that at first you might dismiss, but don't. The dressing on it is so delicious, I'd almost forgo the katsu just to eat that giant mound of cabbage.

It's definitely a great place for lunch, I can tell you O.G. - Queen of all things Fried - LOVED it and even asked me to take her back -- and for once she wasn't lying. That's recommendation enough right there.

More Wako Donkatsu pics, here.

Wako Donkatsu
3377 Wilshire Blvd
Ste 112

Los Angeles, CA 90010

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Friday, December 11, 2009

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

I went to the Kindergarten and saw all the kid's work on the walls. They were writing about what they will be doing over Christmas. Here's what the Kid wrote:

"My mom and I are going to bake cakes for Satan."

Er. So close, yet so far. I bet Santa gets that ALL the time. Riiiight. We won't be making cakes for Satan OR Santa - but cookies, YES.

I always see biscotti at the coffee place but never think to make it. It seems easy enough to just buy it for a dollar and be done with it. And really, it is. But what the heck, roll with me on this.

I decided to try to make some by myself. Believe it or not the Kid's chocolate allergy has magically disappeared so I'm all excited and want him to go for it Augustus Gloop-style. No dice. The Kid is way too cautious. He wants to eat at tiny bit just to make sure he's ok. He's no glutton like me.

So I made up some mini biscotti - in chocolate of course - and boy, was it easy. And tasty! It was nice and crisp yet soft enough to the bite. The kids loved them. If Santa doesn't, then I guess I'll just call up Satan and invite him over for tea.

Mini Chocolate Espresso Biscotti recipe, here.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bacon Brothers

Ok, this is another After Dinner Art project that was allll the Kid's idea. I've been sick lately - in the hospital if you must know, but won't bore you with the details. I wasn't able to even stand, so the Kid took the initiative and made up his own art project.

Uh. I don't know what the concept was behind this...but I'm going to go with hats. Um. And bacon. Yeah. I don't know, but the fact that he drew the sides of the hat to look like strips of bacon cracks my a$$ up. Hilarious. He made a matching one for his brother too, of course.

Also his hair looks like an afro which amuses and frightens me. I waver between wanting to shave it all off and letting it go to see what happens. Seems like it will just grow OUTwards...forever. Gravity be damned.

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Michael Scott: I have painted a portrait of the two of them, from memory. And I have another one of them in the nude. But that one is for me.

When my friends Paul and Darlene got married I didn't have a lot of money since I just got laid off, and I wanted to give them something unique for their wedding. Since I did their wedding cupcakes, and I know their taste for sweets pretty well, I thought a special gift would be to send them 6 months of baked goods! Believe it or not, I am now going on the 5th month!

June:
I made 100 wedding cupcakes: 50 Ovaltine and 50 Red Velvet.July:
The first gift I sent them was chocolate chip cookies from the Baked cookbook. SO GOOD. I kept some and made ice cream sandwiches with homemade coffee ice cream. HEAVEN.
August:
Darlene just so happened to have sent me the link heard 'round the world - for Pies on a Stick. I knew I wanted to try them and ship some down to them.

September:
My memory is fading, but I do believe peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were sent. It was around the time of my SIL's baby shower, so I'm guessing that was it...
October:
Ah, how can I forget this one. The disaster of all disasters - the cupcakes that I hand crafted lovingly drew in chocolate cupcakes that I made......totally destroyed by the Postal Service and I don't mean Ben Gibbard. Sad.

November:
I got smart. No mailing. I suckered them into coming to me so I could hand deliver Peanut Butter and Boysenberry Jelly cupcakes.

And that brings us to December. The end of this strange wedding gift, which was a fun challenge for me and probably made them super fat. In any event, it was a good time. But what did I send them for their last and final gift in December...?

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Monday, December 07, 2009

I want to take his face....OFF.

My kids love breakfast. From french toast, to moffles, to breakfast muffins - it's the one thing guaranteed to make both of them happy. During the week there's so much chaos but on the weekends they can take their time and get involved.

I decided to make up some Pancake Faces and let the kids 'decorate' them with toppings. I put out a mini muffin tin filled with things for them to use - craisins, bananas, chocolate chips, cherries anything that might inspire them to make a face.

They had a good time using all the items that tasted good (coconut, blech) in really creative ways. By the time they were done their pancakes were cold but I don't think they cared much, they were just happy to have a good time!

Pancake faces how-to, here.

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Closing time - you don't have to go home but you can't stay here.

Unique L.A. was great! It was so much fun to share a booth with Bonnin designs. I got to go pee and eat anytime I wanted! Not at the same time. Ew.

Speaking of, a lady (who was a vendor) saw me in the bathroom and said, "Everytime I'm in here, I see you." Guess what lady, I pee a lot. I told her I'd see her back in the bathroom in and hour.

It was kind of nice to be stuck in one place for a whole weekend, I got to see a lot of friends that I'd never get to see otherwise. It's like I was a freak show. Come see...me!

And since I didn't have time to really shop, I took a lot of biz cards to go and check websites at a later time. Just too much going on.

My shop is closing up this Wednesday for a much needed break. Coincidentally, my in laws arrive Wednesday. I can't decide if I should fake my death now, or wait til then. It's a toss up...

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