Tuesday, May 12, 2020

They Declared a Pandemic on my Birthday

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I had a major milestone birthday on March 11th.  We got to go out and celebrate.  But it was also the day that the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a worldwide pandemic. 

I’ve been meaning to blog about my birthday for a long time now (2 months).  But things have been SO different since then that it’s hard to even go back to when it was kind of normal.  Things like eating out and going to an art supply store.  But here it is, for memory’s sake! 

Todd took the day off work to celebrate with me.  It was also the day that his company declared that everyone should work from home from that day on, until May 1st.  They’ve since extended WFH indefinitely.  The day began with Todd showering me with gifts. 

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I got an Apple Pencil, a tracing board with lighting, and a Baby Yoda sketch book.  Great gifts!  I had been into drawing already so these were prescient gifts for quarantine, it turns out.

I wore my “Fifty Years Young” Baby Yoda shirt that I bought from Disney Store online.  We were supposed to spend a few days at Disneyland for my birthday.  I was looking forward to all the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge rides and attractions.  But the pandemic changed all that.  Disneyland was closed, and I didn’t get to go.  But I still had my shirt!

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We had my birthday lunch at Bencotto in Little Italy.  They had already instituted social distancing, so the seating was spread out and only at around 50% capacity max. 

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I had squid ink gnocchi with shrimp and it was delicious!

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Todd had gnocchi with spicy marinara sauce and sausage.  He really enjoyed it.

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After lunch, we walked down the street to Blick Arts so I could peruse art supplies.  I purchased a few pens in their loose pen section.  Some of my favorite types of pens, where I didn’t have the colors yet.  Then we walked over to Extraordinary Desserts, where we seem to celebrate our birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  We got my favorite cake there, Truffe Framboise, and took it home to share later that day.

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In the evening, we went to the movie theater and saw “Onward”, the new Pixar movie.  It was great!  It was right before movie theaters shut down, but after people pretty much stopped going to movies.  So there was hardly anyone there and we were naturally socially-distanced.  I really enjoyed the movie.

It was a wonderful birthday! 

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Friday, February 28, 2020

I’ve Been Drawing

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Recently I’ve been drawing again and it makes me feel so alive, productive, and happy.  I had listened to a NPR Lifekit podcast episode about how making art is good for your health.  The podcast says that the act of creation reduces anxiety and stress.  It’s not the end result that matters, but the act of creating.  So I let go of all expectations and just followed some tutorials and started drawing.  I loved drawing as a kid.  I took art classes in high school, college, and even post-college in my 30’s.  But I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it.  Until now!  I’m so happy to pick it back up again.

I am NOT a great artist by any means.  I copy other artists a lot when I practice.  If you read Austin Kleon’s book “Steal Like an Artist”, you know that imitation is a form of practice.  Perhaps from that, you will evolve your own art and ideas.  I love to look at all kinds of art, but I would categorize my own style as graphic and colorful.  I have tried sketching still-life and making things look real with depth and shadows and such, and have found that it’s just not my style.  I don’t find it fun.  I like drawing graphics.  I like drawing things that I’m obsessed with at the moment.

In the case of recent months… it’s Baby Yoda!  I watched The Mandalorian on Disney+ when it came out end of 2019 and instantly fell in love with Baby Yoda.  I have watched the 8 episodes over and over again.  So I drew a few different iterations of Baby Yoda…


I integrated my favorite features from these and came up with this Baby Yoda, which I loved.  I colored it and cut it out and put it on a card to give to Todd for Valentine’s Day.

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And of course I had to also draw the Mandalorian himself.  I watched this tutorial.

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And I drew Elsa from Frozen, from this tutorial

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And I’ve been watching drawing classes on CreativeBug.  I signed up for a three month special during their Black Friday sale.  These are a few things I’ve done from Lisa Congdon’s More Sketchbook Explorations class.  I LOVE using the watercolor brush markers with the black micron pens and white gelly roll pens

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This one I used a watercolor pan instead of the brush pens.

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Both of the above I painted the colors first and let them dry.  Then I drew on top of it with black and white pens.  This one below I drew the graphics first, and then colored them.

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The cool part is that I had a lot of the materials for drawing and painting already, so I didn’t have to buy a bunch of stuff to pick up this hobby again.  I am enjoying it so much right now!  It feels great to be creative again.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

What We’ve Cooked Lately

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I thought it was time to round-up some of the dishes that we’ve been cooking lately.  A few months ago, I took over the weekly meal planning and grocery shopping duties.  Todd still does the majority of the actual cooking at the stove, but I plan, shop, and prep the meals before he comes home from work.  I may do a blog post about the tools and my method of weekly meal planning, if you guys seem interested.

One of my goals in life is to learn to cook some authentic Chinese dishes similar to what my mom used to make for us.  Todd and I attempted the Pork & Chive Dumplings.  We didn’t make the wrappers from scratch, we just used frozen ones from the supermarket.  But we made the pork & chive filling from scratch, and the chili oil from scratch. 

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We thought it was very good!  But we’re going to try a few more different recipes and then pick our favorite.

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We saw the episode of Milk Street where they went to Taiwan to eat street market food.  One of my favorite fond memories of childhood in Taiwan was the grilled corn from the street vendors, so we had to try to make this Taiwanese Grilled Corn!  It was also very good, but no exactly like my childhood favorite, so the search continues!

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The 3rd classic Chinese dish we made was Mapo Tofu from Woks of Life.  It did turn out yummy, but I think I bought pork that was too lean.  Next time I’ll try with a fattier ground pork.

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We made homemade from scratch pizza at home!  We did purchase a pizza stone and a pizza peel for getting pizzas in and out of the oven.  We used the America’s Test Kitchen One Hour Pizza dough recipe.  We made two pizzas, one for me and one for Todd.  The crust was chewy and crunchy, delicious!

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I started perusing the site Eating Well and found a salmon recipe that we tried and LOVED!  It really was so tasty!  It was this Roasted Salmon with Smokey Chickpeas & Greens.  Definitely 5 stars and will be making it again!

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Another Milk Street recipe we made was Sichuan Chicken Salad.  It was good too!

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A couple more salad-y dishes we enjoyed… Speedy Beet and Bean Salad with Herb Vinaigrette, except we added rotisserie chicken too. 

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Farro Salad with Asparagus, Sugar Snap Peas, and Tomatos

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A very flavorful chicken dish that we made for Todd’s family when we visited in August… White Balsamic and Terragon Chicken.  Here we separated the chicken and the sauce.

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An absolute favorite that we’ve made several times recently is Chicken Curry in a Hurry with Basmati.  It is SO GOOD and it’s easy, you make it with rotisserie chicken.  You can buy ready to heat naan bread at grocery stores.  Also, you MUST get the mango chutney because it really turns this dish from good to GREAT!

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Another Indian inspired dish we tried was Punjabi Aloo Gobi.  We didn’t super enjoy this one, mainly because of the very strong flavor of the hing.  If you try it, let me know what you think!

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These Beef Kofta Meatballs with Roasted Vegetables was absolutely delicious!  I love Middle Eastern beef kofta at restaurants!  I could NOT believe that we could make such similar beef kofta meatballs at home, I was so excited when we tried it!  It was great!

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Another Woks of Life dish we tried was Red Curry Noodles with Chicken.  We liked it!  Ours didn’t look very red.  It was very easy.

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Seared Tofu with Sweet Chili Sauce and Broccoli – very healthy dish

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America’s Test Kitchen’s Chicken and Dumplings is SO good!  To save time, we used rotisserie chicken.  You would need to add more fat (such as butter) to duplicate the taste if using rotisserie chicken.

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One of the first things I learned to make in the pressure cooker (Instant Pot) was Tex Mex Chili Mac, and we still love it!  It is from the America’s Test Kitchen Pressure Cooker book, but this one seems similar except we use ground beef.

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A recent favorite is this Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe from Skinnytaste.  Yum!

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Last but not least, I’ve fallen in love with steel cut oats again, now that I’ve learned to make it in the Instant Pot!  So fast, and so yummy!  I put fruits, pecans, and honey in it.  I make 2 cups, which is good for 8-9 breakfast servings!  Just keep in a glasslock container in fridge and eat it the whole week.  Add some milk and heat up.

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Well, that was a lot of recipes thrown at ya.  Cooking good food at home is one of our enjoyments, so we do it on average 4 dinners per week.  See ya next time!  If you try any of the recipes, I’d love to know what you think!

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

October 2019 Favorites

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A little late in summarizing a very busy traveling October.  In the beginning of the month, we traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia for vacation, with a one-day stop in Seattle.

We visited the Pike Place Public Market in Seattle.

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And visited our friend Cassi in Bellingham, WA.

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We visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, and went on a Forbidden Vancouver tour.


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We biked around the seawall of Stanley Park.

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Went on a Gastronomic Gastown Tour

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Visited Granville Island Public Market and Queen Elizabeth Park

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Vancouver was awesome and we would totally go again!

This is definitely NOT a fave, but on our last night on vacation in Vancouver, we got a text from our next door neighbor Fred, who is also our catsitter.  A driver in a Prius HIT OUR HOUSE.  We are still dealing with insurance and contractors to fix our house, with no end in sight yet.  Total bummer!  This is what I referred to in my previous blog post about being busy dealing with this sh*t!  I will write a whole blog post about dealing with this once it’s finally over, which I don’t expect until January 2020.

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We watched Veronica Mars season 4 on a one week Hulu trial.  Then we did a 5-day trial of YouTube TV and decided to cut the cord and cancel Dish Network.  Saved us $75/month and a great decision so far.  No regrets! 

On Monday 10/21 I had lunch with my friend from my old job Patsy, at Pailin Thai.  I totally forgot to take a photo.  It was GREAT to catch up with Patsy!

Todd went on a bike ride by the ocean with some friends from the San Diego Triathlon Club.

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On Sunday 10/13 we met up with Sally and her kids to walk around Miramar Lake and have lunch at Chile Peppers afterwards.

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On Wednesday 10/16 I had lunch with my work friend Erecca at Ponce’s Mexican.  Always so fun to chat with Erecca.  We have made it a recurring monthly date to get together.

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I am going to write a post about all the awesome new dishes we’ve cooked at home lately.  One of them is this homemade from scratch pizza!  It turned out so good!

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We went to dinner with our friend Cecile at Sushi Fish Attack.  It was fun to catch up with Cecile and see what she’s been up to!

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I deep cleaned my Keurig for the fall season (I only drink cold brew coffee during the summer).  Then I bought the “My K-Cup” (at the recommendation from my friend Jennifer) so I could use whatever coffee I want, and it’s reusable so it’s a lot less waste!  I’ve been enjoying extra-good coffee! 

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We went to Ohio to visit Todd’s family at the end of October.  We did lots of fun things, including a special tour of the Goodyear Blimp.

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Making a spooky Halloween dinner.20191028-2019-10-28 18.41.25_blog

And enjoying the fall foliage.

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Noodle was extra needy because of all our traveling.  And he’s more snuggly when the weather turns cooler.

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Still loving his infinity bed.

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