Thursday, February 25, 2010

Olympic granola

One time (during the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City) I worked at the Deer Valley Snow Park Bakery. A bakery on the mountains in Park City, UT. Not just on the mountains, at the ski resort. I was the grunt baker. I made cookies, brownies, and cakes in giant Hobarts. And sometimes they'd let me help decorate their fancy evening desserts. And sometimes they'd give me a new recipe and I'd end up with four delicious Sunggery Chocolate Silk Pies. And sometimes I'd end up with a batch of ganache. And one time I ended up with a huge batch of granola.

Watching the Olympics brings back all the memories of working at an Olympic venue during the Olympics. Lots of people in Salt Lake volunteered or worked for the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee that winter, but me? I wanted to ski for free and be part of the Olympics. And I got both.

We got to work really early (as the sun was rising) on a normal day, but during event days we had to get there even earlier (before the sun rose). The first day we stood in line with the spectators to get through security. Standing outside on a cold mountain before the sun rises is no one's idea of a good time. And we got to do it long enough to watch the sun rise over the mountains. But then Deer Valley was left with a bunch of hungry spectators who made it through security, and a bunch of cold employees stuck outside still waiting to be told they weren't security threats. They decided to give us our own security line the following day.

And we weren't allowed to bring out knives home at the end of the day like we usually did because that made security take even longer.


Mr. Yin loves granola.

And we both love the Olympics

So I made Olympic granola.

Okay, so not the Deer Valley recipe (which I do have thanks to this cook book, a favorite). I used this recipe instead.

Please imagine my granola is as pretty as Sunday Suppers. Because it is, I just can't take pictures like they can. Yet.

And I used walnuts instead of almonds.

Mr. Yin likes it. And I like Mr. Yin.

And we both like the Olympics.


This week I had my first sewing lesson with Mrs. Webb and her adorable little sidekick.

As a "welcome to the desert!" gift, Mr. Yin bought me a sewing machine to keep me company when he was working away at the library day after day after day. Please meet Sewing Pretty With Hello Kitty:

Despite looking like a toy, she's actually quite a workhorse with a zippy motor. Just like the big cats. And perfectly portable.

For our first lesson I wanted to make produce bags. You know, so I don't have to get plastic bags ever time I buy veggies. Luckily my friend Ellen posted a link to the perfect tutorial just that morning!

Armed with the tutorial, Sewing Pretty With Hello Kitty, a pair of scissors, some muslin and some orange thread I headed out to the east valley. I am happy to report Mrs. Webb is an able teacher and as proof I share a detail shot (I still need to add the drawstrings) of my bags:

(And a photo of the very quick sidekick.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

on sleep

Someone once told me I must have a clear conscience since I'm able to sleep for hours on end, sometimes 12+ hours at a time. If that's true, I must have an even clearer conscience since moving to Arizona because I could sleep peacefully all day.

No, I am not depressed or pregnant. But I am certainly well rested.

Today was a sleepy day. It was raining this morning so it was nice and dark, my bed was perfectly comfortable and so I slept. And slept. Mr. Yin kissed me on his way to school and told me to sleep well. So I did. Sometimes he has really good ideas.

Now the sun is shining, the palm trees are waving in the wind and I'm ready to tackle the (rest of the) day!

on time

It used to be that I would look at the clock on my computer at work and wish for it to say 5:00. And waiting for that moment sometimes felt like an eternity.

Now, time is relative. I wake up whenever I want, and go about doing whatever it is I feel like doing. And today I wait and wait for the clock to say 9:00 because that's when Mr. Yin will come home. And now that feels like an eternity.

It's funny to think that I have six hours to fill before then. If we were both still working in lovely Bostonia, we'd only be two hours away from heading home time.

In those six hours I'll finish the organization project I started last week and make granola for the first time since my Deer Valley days. And maybe something else, just to mix things up.

And then Mr. Yin will come home and we'll watch the end of the prime time Olympic coverage on NBC, and go to bed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

muffin verdict


(Joe if you want some you better come home soon!)

happy birthday to me

Blue berry muffins will be enjoyed pre-dinner tonight.

Though they're still in the oven and I haven't even cleaned the dishes from the mixing, I'm confident they will be delicious. The batter was divine. I licked the spoon. And the bowl. And I'm not even hungry: I had dulce de leche ice cream for lunch.

For my birthday a few months ago, Erica gave me an awesome cookbook, BakeWise. It won the James Beard Award for Best Baking and Dessert Cookbook in 2009, so it's no joke. The subtitle: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking. It's like a nerdy text book that tells you why certain ingredients work in certain recipes and not in others. And how an oven heats and why you should bake on a stone. She'slike a nerdy grandma who is awesome. And of course it's full of delicious recipes.

And I finally got around to baking something from it.

Blueberries and Cream Muffins.

Anything that calls for buttermilk is going to be delicious. But folding in whipped cream on top of that?

I'm so excited. They're already starting to smell perfect.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Does anyone else think the free skate in Olympic ice skating is w-a-a-a-a-y t-o-o long?

Plus I get so nervous when they fall!

Not as nervous as I get when skiers face plant on the icy hill while going 75 miles an hour.


When I was a kid the ice skating was my favorite.

Now that I'm all grown up I really prefer to watch races. Like cross country skiing. Those races are intense.

No matter what it is, I keep watching. Every night Bob Costas and I comment on the events together.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

on recycling

I went to the Glendale Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) today to drop off the recycling I've been collecting for a week. (Special shout out to Bizzy for doing the research!)

It's much further away than I thought! I passed the Cardinals stadium (I don't think that's the real name) on my way, and oh my, is it a big structure. Next time I'll venture closer and take pictures. (I forgot my camera.)

Once there, I quickly noticed I was the only car. Everyone else was a dump truck or truck with a bed full of leaves and a trailer full of trash. On their website the MRF says they'll tell you where to drop off your recyclables when you get there, so I dutifully got in line with the huge trucks and waited to be told where to go. I waited 5 minutes and realized the recycling bin in right there. Three big green bins: one for cardboard, one for glass and one for the other stuff.

I got out of line, tossed in my recyclables and didn't miss too much of Talk of the Nation on NPR.

Gotta stay savvy while I'm here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

on being outside

Normally in February I try to stay inside as much as possible. And when I'm outside, try to be as bundled as possible. With everything covered and tucked in so no unexpected breezes can come surprise me. And boots. Warm boots make all the difference.

But now that I live in the desert, February is a time to get out and enjoy the gorgeous weather and leave the windows open when I'm home.

Yesterday I ventured out to the bike path that is just around the corner and biked for a good 90 minutes or so. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and it felt great to get out there and make my own wind.

I rode past a horse farm and an orange grove, a farm farm, and then more orange groves. I also rode past lots of houses and strip malls.

The bike path is really a canal that fills up when it rains. (Mr. Yin claims it was full a few weeks ago when it rained off and on for a week.) And there are signs warning of flash floods. There are also parks along the way. Parks of cacti and desert foliage. Parks without grass and trees mean sketchy in my experience, so I'm working on getting used to desert parks.

But I love the kind of temperature that feels like nothing when you walk outside for the first time. Not hot, not cold. Just perfect.

That is this week in the desert.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Year of the Tiger

We started our New Year celebration by hitting the Chinese Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix. Mah Jong was, in my opinion, the best attraction there. Except they were playing the version with 13 tiles, we play with 16. Still, this sign was begging me to take its picture.

The Year of the Tiger is not a good year for snakes. (Mr. Yin's mother called to remind us.) Mr. Yin and I are both snakes. So to keep the bad luck at bay, we changed our sheets, swept our floor (okay, vacuumed) and made dumplings!

Initially I was just going to toss some ground pork and leeks with some salt and pepper and call that dumpling stuffing.

Luckily, Mr. Yin pulled out the Asian Grandmother's Cookbook that he got me for Christmas and bookmarked the dumpling recipe. Turns out you need a few more thing than just pork and leeks!

He also stopped me from using leeks purchased at the local supermarket. When we were at the Asian market, he insisted we buy Chinese leeks. I insisted we had leeks and didn't need to buy any more, especially since the ones he wanted to buy looked like green onions and said "chieves" on the package. I figured they'd just spelled "chives" wrong.

I lost that fight. One point to the tigers.

The Chinese leeks are much smaller, though they have a similar smell. And they worked much better for dumpling filling than big leeks would have.

The recipe called for Napa cabbage, which I did not have, so I substituted the Chinese leeks and some celery, which I did have.

It also says to wring all the water out of the cabbage, so I did that with the leek/celery combo and ended up with a rag stained a pretty green color.

The leeks, celery, fresh ginger, salt and pepper. Oh and of course sesame oil and soy sauce. Otherwise we couldn't call it Asian.

In goes the ground pork. And voila! We have dumpling filling.

All folded up pretty. (The pretty ones are Mr. Yin's, but I'm getting there.) One point each for the snakes for working together so nicely.

Ready for a little pan frying on their bottoms, and a nice steamy bath.

Ta daa!! Dumplings!

Take that Year of the Tiger.

Snakes win, two points to one.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Joe came home last night with the chills and a stomach that very much felt like it wanted to eliminate it's contents the fastest way possible.

He warmed up and got some good sleep last night and this morning requested shi fan.


After a quick Google search and a call to his mother (who told me it's the same thing as conjee--a word I actually know) I got to work.

After letting it simmer on the stove for over two hours, this is the result of this labor of love.

(And my first attempt at food styling. Lots of room for growth! I'm still not sure why it's sideways. But pretend it goes the other way. Spoon to the north.)


When we first moved in I was happy to note we had a functioning garbage disposal in the kitchen. In-Sink-O-Rator. And I was very happy to know it would grind orange peels up with no problem and send them on their way. Thus reducing the amount of waste we contribute to the Glendale landfill. (Wait, I don't even know if they have landfills here!)

We've been happily grinding things up for a week now.

Then the other day when I was making corn chowder, I was chopping and tossing. Tossing some things into the chowder, and others into the sink for grinding. And then I realized the sink was not draining. I dug around and couldn't find a culprit and kept on cooking. Figuring I'd fix it when I was done.

But it wouldn't fix. I poured Ace-brand Draino down, and nothing. I poured the other half of the bottle down and nothing. It would drain V-E-R-Y slowly and leave nasty bits in the sink.

Kind of gross. And kind of frustrating.

I should have gone and asked the management to fix it, but I'm still a little unsure how the whole process works. Do we call? What's the number? How long would it take?

Enter Joe. (My hero!)

He got under the sink. Took some pipes apart. Found the clog, the clog that would not respond to chemicals, and took care of it. Made it disappear. And had our water flowing the way it is supposed to.

What was the clog, you ask? Potato peels and egg shells.

Potato peels and egg shells? Aren't those things garbage disposals chomp up even if they won't chomp anything more challenging? Seriously!?

A post script to this story: this morning I was making eggs and opened the dishwasher so I could spray my pan with cooking spray and not get it all over the floor, and the dishwasher had stagnant water sitting in the bottom of it. And it did not smell pretty.

(Side note: we haven't been using the dishwasher because there are only two of us and it doesn't fill quickly enough to warrant using.)

So I ran the rinse cycle on the dishwasher, and the problem seems to be taken care of for now.

For now.

I'll let you know if anything changes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


To feel more a part of the crowd here in Arizona, you know the 70+ crowd, I decided to pull a muscle in my neck. And one in my back.

Both while playing tennis.

On two separate occasions.

Joe's mom had the idea of blowing hot air on said muscles using a hair dryer.

It worked so well I decided to get a heating pad.

So I'm sitting here on my floor (no couch, you see) with a heating pad strapped to my back.

As soon as it's just a pad and no longer of the heating variety, I'll stick it back in the microwave and then wrap it around my neck.

Heat and repeat on lower back.

Heat and repeat on neck.

Heat and repeat on lower back.

You get the idea.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Sometimes you have to sacrifice things.

Sometimes it's for a better cause. The greater good.

Like moving to Arizona so Joe can get an MBA.

Sometimes it doesn't make sense and goes against your whole soul, but you have to sacrifice anyway.

Like with not being able to recycle here in Arizona.

I have to throw away perfectly recyclable things, like glass, #1 plastic, cardboard and paper.

Just toss it in the trash.

Even when we were kids and it wasn't popular, we recycled newspapers and Daddy's Dr. Pepper bottles.

For the first few days I let all the recyclable things pile up in the kitchen because I couldn't bear to throw them into the dumpster. It got to the point I couldn't move around the small kitchen without knocking over my carefully constructed piles.

I finally let Joe take them out.

And now I just toss.

My soul cries out every time.

And I hope it always does.

dinner 1.1

One of the goals while living here in the desert is to learn how to cook. Not bake, cook.

Preferably without a cookbook. To become familiar enough with ingredients and processes to be able to look in the fridge and cupboards and be able to fix something tasty for dinner. Or lunch.

Last night was a little rough and I ended up relying on an old classic: shrimp tacos. Sadly our delicious cajun spices from New Orleans didn't make the move. Or if they did they have not yet been unpacked. So the tacos were tasty, but not the best. Since it was an old recipe, we're not really counting it for the new cooking experience.

Tonight, however, I went out on a limb and made corn chowder from scratch, roughly following Martha Stewart's recipe. (Because Heath's is for clam chowder, or I would have used it.) And I made some cheesy puffs (ie: cream puffs with cheese in them).

Of course we had it with bacon. Pomp wouldn't have it any other way.

I wanted to take pictures, but we ate instead.

I claim the first cooking experience a success.

Joe was very happy and went back to school with a full stomach.

Maybe next time there will be pictures.

Dinner 1.1 = success

Monday, February 8, 2010

things I've learned in far

Do not leave the door to your laundry room/outside storage area closed and locked while you're drying your clothes. There is no vent; it will turn into a sauna.

One person's idea of "a beautiful love seat" or "perfect condition" on craigslist may not be the same as yours. (PS Just because your dog didn't chew it to pieces does not make it beautiful.)

You have to drive everywhere you go. Everywhere. Even across the street.

Lots of people retire to Arizona. And they move at a retired-person pace.

If you wear your MIT sweatshirt, people always ask if you went there. I'm going to start saying yes. Because I did in fact go there every day for almost three years.

Walmart is closer (and cheaper) than Target.

In 'n Out Burger is not very far away. Like everything else, it's just a drive away.