Monthly Archives: November 2010
… is what I’ve been experiencing this whole Thanksgiving long weekend.
It all began Wednesday afternoon, after my morning class and finishing up an assignment due that day. Yufei and I headed downtown for lunch at Pommes Frites, a tiny little place in East Village that supposedly serves up excellent Belgian fries. Armed with a coupon from KGB deals, we arrived at the shop, where a line had already formed outside the entrance.
We waited for about 15 minutes before we were inside and had our orders taken. We got 2 regulars and 2 sauces, one sweet mango chutney mayo and one curry ketchup especial. The fries were nice and thick, freshly fried twice, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, served up in a paper coane. The regular size was pretty big, definitely enough for a meal. Their sauces, of which there were many (nearly 30), were also delicious and went perfectly with the fries.
We were lucky enough to get seats inside, and leisurely enjoyed our meal. I also liked the fact that we could see the entire process of how the fries and sauces are made, from the potatoes getting peeled, cut, and fried, to the sauces being processed in blenders. In addition to their regular fries with sauces, they also serve poutine. The Québécoise inside me has always loved poutine, and I’ve yet to find a good place for it in NYC. I think I might have to come back to try it here.
After lunch, we walked around a bit, found a Salvation Army thrift store, where we marveled at a fully functioning old school cash register and a early 90′s word processor, and from where I bought a Banana Republic skirt in great condition for only $5. After that, we found a Best Buy and played games on the iPad for about an hour. Then we finally got to where we were supposed to be – the Union Square Holiday Market. After looking around all the booths filled with all sorts of trinkets and treats, I finally decided to buy a lavender scented sea salt scrub for my mom. Of course, we also got more food at the market: a Belgian waffle from Wafels and Dinges! Soft, warm, with hot fudge on top – it was delicious. Who knew one could have so much Belgian food in a day?!
By the time we finished strolling in the market, it was still too early for dinner, so we found a Barnes and Noble nearby and went inside to read (you know, bookstores are excellent places to kill time). Then finally the time came for the dinner I’ve been anticipating all semester – authentic Sichuan cuisine at Szechuan Gourmet! We ordered eggplant with garlic sauce, Kung Pao chicken, and spicy dumplings. Everything was absolutely delicious. The eggplant was amazing, exactly how it’s supposed to taste, made with real doubanjian!
The chicken was also excellent. You know, Kung Pao chicken is such a simple dish, yet very few restaurants I’ve been to get it right, and this is one of them. It’s almost exactly the way we make it back home, except we put green peppers in it just to add some veggies.
It was such an awesome meal; I wish I could eat at that restaurant every single day. Sigh.
The next day, Thanksgiving day, we went to a brunch held on campus for those students who couldn’t make it home. A lovely meal consisting of turkey, stuffing, and all the traditional Thanksgiving fare shared with friends, it was a great meal. Once in a while, you get the feeling that Columbia may love you after all.
Then on Friday, a potluck dinner had been organized by the unofficial Canadians at Columbia group. I decided to try out a recipe I’ve been wanting to experiment with for a while now – Oreo truffles. It’s super simple to make, all that’s needed are a package of Oreo cookies, cream cheese, chocolate chips, and optional sprinkles. It’s basically powdered Oreos mixed with cream cheese, rolled into balls, then coated in melted chocolate. So easy to make, but they look totally gourmet and taste amazing.
It was a big hit at the dinner, but I found them just a tad too sweet for my taste, though still delicious. Will definitely make more over winter break (perhaps with dark chocolate to lessen the sweetness a bit?)!
Then came Saturday, and for dinner I decided to cook and made cola wings according to my own recipe. I think it was the best it’s ever turned out! So good. And now I just came back from lunch at my favourite Thai restaurant uptown, Wondee Siam V. Had my favourite thai dish, chicken pad kee mow, and fried coconut ice cream as dessert. They lit the ice cream on fire at our table! It was really cool and tasted great as well.
Ahh… just thinking about all the great food I’ve had this weekend makes me happy :) I hope everyone’s had as excellent a Thanksgiving weekend as I had – can’t wait until Christmas now!
21/11/10 “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”
I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 this past weekend, and the experience brought back waves of nostalgia.
I first heard of the Harry Potter books when I was 11 years old and still attending a French school in Quebec City. It was the spring of 2001, and the first four books in the series had already been released. But with my imperfect French and my peers’ imperfect pronunciation of the English name, I didn’t have a clue of what everyone was talking about. It wasn’t until we moved to Edmonton, Alberta a month later that I finally clued in. Since I was still not fluent in French and I could barely speak English at the time, my most proficient language remained Chinese. So I downloaded the first four books in Chinese and began reading on my home computer. It was a long summer with nothing much else to do in this new city, so my days were spent with my eyes glued to the computer screen, taking in the magic that was Harry Potter. If you ask my mother, she will still blame Harry Potter as the reason my vision got bad and needed glasses the following school year.
I was obsessed. “I’ve changed my name,” I wrote to a friend back in Quebec, “to Hermione” (I was quite serious). “Hermione?” She obviously had not read the books, “I’m not sure I know how to pronounce that” (neither did I, at the time, but that didn’t stop me). I waved around a dowel like a wand, and I was quite sure that I just didn’t know how to master my magic yet. I wore a tiny glass bottle around my neck filled with “magical” glass beads that would grant me wishes. I drew pictures of the characters, printed out quotes (in Chinese) from the books, and visited the official Chinese Harry Potter website religiously every day. I stared dreamily out my window, half expecting an owl to bring me my acceptance letter to Hogwarts. But to my disappointment, it never came.
At the start of fall, we moved again to Langley, British Columbia. My English had improved vastly over the summer, and as soon as I thought I was competent enough, I begged my parents to buy me the books in English. They reluctantly obliged, suspecting that the series was already doing enough damage to my mental state. I read the books every night before going to sleep, sometimes way past my bedtime, dimming my lamp so much that I could barely make out the letters (this probably did contribute to my worsening vision). Since I hadn’t made any friends yet at my new school, I dragged my dad to the theater to see the first movie with me.
I remained a dedicated fan for the years that followed, eagerly awaiting the release of each new book and film. Mugglenet became the website most visited by me, and I even did a short stint translating Harry Potter news into Chinese for the official website I used to frequent. I did more fan art (including a few I’m proud of even today – see below), wrote short fan fictions, and even fan poetry (yes, poetry).
The summer of 2007 was devastating. The book release of the Deathly Hallows and the film release of the Order of the Phoenix came within 10 days of each other, and I had to miss both. I was away at a summer program, and the coordinators were strict about keeping us on campus and focused on the program at all times. A few of us spoke about sneaking out at night to see the movie, but were too scared to be caught to carry out the plan. So as soon as I got home, I went to buy the book (I got the second last copy at the store!) and see the movie. It was the last book, and I told myself to read slowly to savor it, but I couldn’t help but finish it within 2 days (my reading speed when it came to Harry Potter never failed to astonish my mother).
A strange feeling of emptiness washed over me as I turned the last page. I’ve always felt this way when I finish a series of books – Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables – but this time, it was particularly strong. It had been six years since I started the books, and I literally grew up with the characters in them: I was 11 when I began the books and 17 when I finished. Harry Potter was a veritable part of my life, an essential part of my childhood. I knew I could always count on it for an escape when reality got too harsh or mundane. It was a good friend that was there for me at all times, when things got lonely at each new school I attended. Despite my childish attempt to change my name earlier, Hermione remained a role model for me, especially when things got difficult when I was perpetually “the new girl”. She helped me focus on my studies during my adolescence and to learn to pride myself on my intelligence, not my looks. These characters that I grew up with, they were like friends to me, friends that I lost touch with after the books ended, friends whose lives I long to learn about now.
Now there is only one more film left before it’s all over. By the time the Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows is released next summer, it will have been a full ten years since I was first introduced to the world of Harry Potter. Ten years. It’s incredible how a mere story can stay with you for half your life. At the same time that I’m anticipating the release of the last movie, I can’t help but feel a bit of sadness to see it all come to an end. But I know that it won’t be over: all seven books are still sitting in a neat row on my bookshelf back home, waiting for me to open them, turn their pages, dive into the timeless adventures. Harry Potter is timeless. And that’s the magic of it all.
So here’s the promised tutorial for the cupcake headband I wore for my California Gurl inspired costume!
Project: cupcake headband
Difficulty level: medium
Step 1: Gather your supplies! You will need: a plain headband, ribbons, super glue or hot glue gun, a plastic bottle cap, felt fabric or cosmetic cotton pads, small beads and sequins.
Step 2: Wrap the plain headband in ribbon. Choose a ribbon of the color you want your headband to be, and glue the end of the ribbon to one end of the headband. Wrap the ribbon around the headband, overlapping a bit, and gluing it down every few turns. If your headband is already in the color you want, you can skip this step.
Step 2: Take a length of ribbon in the color you want the base of your cupcake to be. Glue one end of the ribbon to the inside of plastic bottle cap. Then start wrapping the ribbon around the bottle cap as shown below.
Keep wrapping until the whole bottle cap is covered. Cut off the excess ribbon and secure the end by gluing or sewing a few stitches. Now you have the base of the cupcake! The exposed edges of the ribbons resemble the folds in a cupcake liner :)
Step 4: Take the felt or cotton pads and cut them into 5 or so circles. The biggest circle should be around the same size as the base, and each successive one is slightly smaller. These will become the top of the cupcake.
Step 5: Arrange the felt/cotton circles from biggest to smallest, adjusting their sizes if needed. When the pile of circles look like icing on a cupcake, glue them together.
Step 6: Decorate your cupcake! Glue beads, sequins, and anything else you like to the top of your cupcake.
Step 7: Assemble your cupcake by gluing the base and the top together. Your cupcake is now finished!
Step 8: Attach the cupcake to the headband. You can glue it, or, if you want to use the cupcake later for something else, pass a ribbon through one of the ribbons on the base and tie it to the headband.
Tie a bow with the ribbon or just leave it hanging.
You’re done! Now you can wear your cupcake headband with pride :) The little cupcakes are super cute by themselves too and can be used as pin cushions, Christmas ornaments, or just looking so sweet on your desk.
Floral chiffon dress, elastic tan faux leather belt, owl necklace – all from eBay, boots from Payless, black wool tights.
Oh yes, definitely; dressing up is way too much fun. This year, I had in mind a costume inspired by Katy Perry’s California Gurls video. As an official cupcake enthusiast and lover of all things sweet, I just adored pretty much everything about the video. Even though I didn’t end up dressing up for Halloween, I thought it would be fun just to do it anyway and take some photos. Here’s how I put together my own super sweet California Gurl getup.
Handmade cupcake dress from Etsy
DIY cupcake headband, tutorial here
Accessories and make-up
DIY lollipop wand, tutorial here
So… my surprise birthday trip this year was to… DISNEYLAND! I had never been to Disneyland before, and growing up amongst my friends in Canada, I always felt like something was missing from my childhood because of that. But finally, in the last few days before turning 21, I finally made up for it! After all the stress of midterms, it was such a fun-filled getaway for 2 days. I was happy and excited pretty much the entire time and now I miss it incredibly much and want to go back. I guess the next best thing would be to relive the experience by sharing it here, mostly through photos (though we went on way more rides than I could post here, so I had to pick and choose). Here goes :)
The entrance to Disneyland Park, all decked out for Halloween!
A street party? Why yes!
We rode Dumbo!
Autopia, where my lack of driving skills became totally exposed:
Mickey, Walt, and the Disney castle at night:
Day 2! Spiky stole my Minnie ears in the morning:
Haunted Mansion Holiday:
Forgot to zoom out for this picture, but I think the result is super cute!
After Splash Mountain, where the titular passport (and my clothes) got half soaked:
Spinning away in a teacup in the Mad Tea Party:
We met Mickey!!
Inside Minnie’s house:
Paradise Pier in California Adventure:
Silly Symphony Swing:
Mickey’s Fun Wheel at night! I loved the swinging gondola!
Toy Story Mania! Waited in line forever for this one, but it was super fun!
World of Color, Disneyland’s new live show with water, lights, fire, and music and video from beloved Disney movies! What a great way to end the night.
The next day we reluctantly left Disneyland and headed back to LA. Not ready to give up any chance to enjoy sunny California, we went to Venice beach to soak up as much sun as we could.
And that was it! After a mad race to the airport and getting to the gate merely 10 minutes before take-off, a feat I’d rather not repeat, we were back to cold cold New York City. We had a super time on the trip thanks to my wonderful boyfriend Yufei, definitely a birthday celebration to remember for years to come!