Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Artwork

I have been a pencil and pastel artist since a wee babe, but hadnt cracked open the newsprint sheets now for almost 8 years, despite frequent pushes by my dad, and gentler nudges from my husband to do so.

I tried doing some work a few months ago, and failed miserably. My figures, to put it plainly, were crap. I have always drawn the female form, but the sketches I was coming up with looked like weird stick figures, if anything.

And then last weekend, my sister came over, and gave me some rapid action poses, which basically charged up my sketching hand. Did a few pages worth of 1 minute squiggles, that helped my hand remember what it is capable of.

And last night, it came back! I got inspired, worked on a pencil scetch, and finished the entire piece in a marathon session of about 5 hours (which means I had a very very sleep day :) ). It isnt perfection yet, but I am getting there, and will continue to work further. At least I have the perspective and proportions correct.
I am not posting any of it up- the textural quality needs to be right first.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring Sun

I cant wait for my next vacation. I was never big into going out on the weekend, and have pretty much always been a homebody, but for the past few weeks, I try to ensure that I drive out of town on Saturday- seems to keep me sane.

Last week we drove out to Santa Barbara, the surrounding wine country and a small Danish village called Solvang (in the middle of nowhere, in the Santa Ynez valley!). Santa Barbara is always beautiful, but this was a really good day, not so hot that it'd burn you, but warm enough for shorts.


  • Food Find: Should you happen to go, and happen to fancy Indian food on State Street, steer clear of "Spice Avenue," and stick to the "Taj," which is less pretty than the former, but has way better food. "Spice" is an oxymoron; the food is really pretty bland.

Then drove another 45 minutes up to Solvang, which I was visiting for the first time- finding Solvang is a bit of a surprise to all first time visitors, me included. It is primarily 2 streets of Danish style architecture, all tourist traps, with some fun stores. Lots of wine tasting opportunities, should you be so inclined.




  • Food Find: Hold off on dessert till you get here, so that you can Mortensen's bakery and the ice cream shop next door to it. I recommend the ice cream shop's weird but excellent root beer flavor, and pretty much all of the bakery's goods :)

You might consider stopping in the nearby flower fields of Lompoc; for us it was already 3:30pm, so we drove right back down to the Refugio beach, where I hadn't been before, and much fun was had by all.


You would do as well by stopping at one of the many beaches dotting the shores in the surrounding area- most of these are not overflowing with the general populace, and you will have relative privacy. Steer clear of beaches in the immediate Santa Barbara area- too many weepy kids, bicyclers and the like, unless of course you are so inclined.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Weight Check

Its been approximately 5 weeks since I've been trying to monitor my weight and blood pressure, and while my pulse is still racing, I am happy to report that I have lost a total of 13.2 pounds (6kgs).

The honest truth is that I am a poor dieter and exerciser. I love cooking and therefore eating, and am terribly lazy. Having identified my weaknesses, I have finally hit upon my best way to lose weight: I have decided to go on a series of diets, changing from 1 to another every few weeks, to avoid boredom and weight regain. For the past week, I've been on a modified version of "master cleanse."

I add 2 teaspoons of maple syrup, 2 of lemon juice and a smidgen of cayenne in my handy dandy water flask, fill up with water, and drink that from morning through lunch time, having nothing else till then. I have a complete, huge lunch, and then some more of the maple lemonade (if you will) if I get hungry, till I get home in the evenings. Then, if super hungry, I'll have a small meal, but nothing at all after 8pm- after that I can only have more of the drink till lunch the next day.

Its really not bad- if you look up the master cleanse diet, you will find that folks (namely Beyonce) live only on the drink for a month or more, which I honestly feel is just barking mad- I have no desire to faint from starvation in the middle of the workday, thanks very much.

I'm wondering on which diet to try next...:D

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Curry puffs

Do you have a Famima in your area? This is a Japanese 7-11 of sorts, and Southern California has been inundated with them sprouting all over the place in the past year or so. They have a curried fried bread that is truly addictive, but it is so chock full of oil, that it makes me feel sick later.

So I figured out a lighter version, sans the frying.

Keep in mind we ARE using Japanese curry paste cubes here- and much as I am averse to prepared curry pastes, in Japanese cuisine even the natives use prepared curry spice blocks, so I can't complain :) My preferred brand is S&B:


What you will need:
  • A package of phyllo sheets
  • 1/2 a broiled or fried chicken
  • A package of Japanese curry, preferable S&B
Optional:
  • A boiled potato
  • 1/2 cub of diced red onion
  • 1/2 mined jalapeno
This is what you do:
  • Once you have bought your phyllo from the store, please keep it refrigerated (NOT FROZEN), until ready for use. Typically, 1 phyllo pack has approximately 12 6" x 6" sheets, which you can cut into your preferred shapes- you can also get larger sheets and shape per preference.
  • Open the package of Japanese curry- it is going to be in the form of solid blocks of spice, divided into 1" square cubes. For this recipe, you need only 1 square- you could add more if you like. I like to store opened packages of S&B in the fridge.
  • Thinly shred the left-over cooked chicken, discarding any bones- you should be left with about 2 cups of shredded chicken you can work with. Whatever kind you use: fried or broiled, just make sure it is no more than very mildly spiced.
  • If you are using the potato and red onion, spray some olive oil in a wok, and throw in the onion- stir fry till slightly golden.
  • Then add the potato, and stir fry till it is slightly golden as well.
  • Add the shredded chicken, jalapeno and the cube/s of curry, breaking up the spice with your spatula in the wok.
  • Stir fry for about a minute, then add 1/2 a cup of water, and bring to a boil.
  • As soon as the water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover and let cook for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes:

  • Your chicken filling is done. Open the cover, and boil away any excess moisture- you are going to bake this, so you don't want liquid floating around in there. Kill the heat and let the mixture cool for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes:
  • Take the phyllo out of the fridge, and take out 1 phyllo sheet at a time.
  • I simply folded each 6" square sheet in 1/2, and filled the resulting pocket with the chicken mixture. Don't overfill.
  • Close all the edges of this "pocket" by pinching the ends together. You should have a small parcel of pastry in your hand.
  • Take a sharp knife, and slash 2-3 lines on 1 side of each parcel (1 side only).
  • Fill the rest of the phyllo sheets, until either the sheets or your chicken mix finishes!
Baking:
  • Place all the pastry parcels, knife-slashed side up, on a lined baking tray, and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. This will depend on the strength of your oven, so please do keep checking, but don't open the oven door (they are transparent for a reason).
  • Take out when golden brown. Serve w/ sirracha/jalapeno sauce/ranch- per preference. We ate all these up super fast, so I couldn't click a photo, and therefore hijacked a pic from Wikipedia

Storage:

  • If you are preparing extra pastries (I always do), these are super easy to store.
  • Just take the puffs out when they are barely beginning to puff in the oven, and are NOT golden yet. This should be after they have been in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  • Cool the puffs completely on a the kitchen table, place in a air tight box and store in the fridge, where they will keep for 1 week.
  • When reusing stored puffs, remove from fridge, and leave on the kitchen table for about 15 minutes, until they are almost at room temperature. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or till golden brown.

Variations:

Instead of the chicken mixture, you may also like to try:

  • Apples, splenda (as sweetener)/sugar and cinnamon (ahem, no curry please).
  • Potatoes, broccoli and red onion (w/ or without curry).
  • Peaches, sweetener/sugar, dried sweetened cranberries and mangoes (yes, no curry here either :D)
  • lamb/beef, red onion (curry per preference).

Or any other combos of your choice!

Disclaimer: I do not have an affiliation with any brands mentioned in this posting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An audit poem

12 Benefit Plan Audits
4 Compliance Reviews
1 New Entity Formation Review

Insanity

Friday, April 11, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

I am so over this-

I am so over everything right now.

I cant believe this is the beginning of another work week; I am just so sleepy and tired this very moment that I know I am pretty useless.

There is tons of work in the offing, and honestly I barely have time to do anything, but instead of driving up my blood pressure, I have resolved not to think about it, but just do the best I can.

I also think it is high time I went back to church- I haven't been in a while, and my soul is in desperate need of some spiritualism. Meanwhile, this blog is doing double duty as a confessional of sorts, where I can empty my angst and move on, as I have just done.

Ah well, back to the grind.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Much ado about Poached eggs

I have a weird relationship with eggs.

Initially, I'd only eat 'em hard boiled or in frittata form.
Then there was a period of time in my late teens, where I was forbidden to eat any due to an illness. I stayed away from them out of habit from then on, and hardly ate any through my early 20s.
And now I seem to have moved a step further in my "egg" relationship this past quarter-year- I crave for eggs which have been poached till barely set.

Before I say another word, if you cook eggs, you can already surmise the big issue here- for some scientific reason, eggs poach best when super fresh; refrigerated eggs just look terrible when poached the traditional way. Unfortunately, living in Los Angeles does not equate to living on a farm- leading to a slight difficulty in satisfying my current poached egg obsession.

I coaxed and pulled and messed in my kitchen on the supposedly "fresh" eggs from Trader Joe's, resulting in decent eggs which just didn't LOOK pretty :(- and how can we bear ugliness on a plate?! So after much contention, and much heart-ache, and much scouring of stores, I located an egg poacher at Linen'n Things, quietly hidden in a corner- I guess folks don't like poached eggs much. Keep in mind that egg poachers are really glorified steamers, so we are cheating a bit here.

So last night I got home having made this wonderful acquisition and decided to try it out at 10pm. Hubby was intrigued by my loving cradling in the arms of said poaching pan, and gallantly volunteered to eat three (!!!), hard poached. I ran to the kitchen in sheer joy, first making sure I took off my pale pink Cashmere sweater, lest I spilled stuff, which I am often known to do.

The water heated in the pan, as I sprayed olive oil (very very lightly- greasy poached eggs is NOT what I want) inside the individual poachers and plopped in the eggs. They looked so cute sitting there!



As soon as the water boiled, the poachers were loaded on, the lid shut and the water reduced to a simmer. My soft poached egg came out looking adorable, in 4 minutes, while hubby's hard poached eggs came out looking ethereal in 6 minutes.


The egg tends to stick to the walls of the poacher, so you do need to run a sharp knife round the edges, turn the poacher upside down on a serving plate, and whack the back of the poacher gently (sounds a bit S&M-ish, yes?)

I tried a bite from hubby's plate, since I hadn't tried hard poached eggs before, and I have to admit, this beats boiling any day- the eggs just come out fluffy as a cloud and super comforting. I prefer my soft version though, and who knows- I may try Eggs Benedict next!!!

Warning: Doctors say we should limit our egg intake to 3-4eggs (with yolk) a week, owing to the cholestrol content.

Disclaimer: I do not have an affiliation with any brands mentioned in this posting.