Friday Favorites

What’s not to love about Fridays? The sun came out this morning for about an hour and then rain fell hard. I was on the phone with some folks in Dallas who laughed when I told them about how it’s raining and grey here but only because I did not rub in the fact that it’s beautiful out here in the PNW. I didn’t want them to be envious.

I’m feeling much better today. Still a little foggy but am so glad it’s the weekend. And a long one.

Here are some things that has helped me through this week:

Matcha Coconut Oil and Honey Tea
I mix half a teaspoon of matcha powder with a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of coconut oil into a dark green paste then add hot water. Stir well and it’s a delicious healthy drink. It’s not oily but makes the matcha richer. Wakes me up every morning.

Clementines or Baby Mandarin Oranges
We buy them by the bag and go through 2 bags every week. Sweet and tart and juicy. Helps to round off anything savory.

Broadchurch Season 2
I watched Season 1 a while ago and it was at times, difficult to stomach the pain that some of these characters carry but it was done so well and the acting was impeccable. It took me a while to get back into watching it because of how I empathize with the pain but Season 2 was even better. I just completed all 8 episodes this week. I like how UK series don’t try to overdo and extend their storyline until they “jump the shark” (Happy Days). Worth the watch.

Trader Joe’s Dried Pineapples
These are so sweet and taste very much like pineapples and not sugar. It would be good in a trail mix but on its own, they are a nice little healthy dessert. I like how they are sliced crosswise and when dehydrated, look like little crinkled chrysanthemums.

Homemade Boba Tea
I made some boba tea right after Whole30 with these slow cooked tapioca boba, some black tea, milk powder and honey. I was in boba heaven. This brand is recommended by boba aficionados so I bought some to try. The texture is wonderful.

It was a crazy week, not as bad as last week but I surrounded myself with things that made me happy. It helped with my perspective.

Feeling

I knew that it would happen. That I would fall sick after the recent stress at work and also holding my little guy close when he was not feeling well. My ears feel clogged and I feel a general malaise. Thanks, Fire Monkey, for bringing the blah!

We made it to the end of Whole30 just before Chinese New Year reunion dinner where we had a nice spread of food and desserts. But right after that dinner, we immediately went back to eating clean again. This time around (our 5th time), it was not so difficult to stay on it and we definitely acknowledged the benefits of eating better.

What made it easy:

  • All of us (mum joined us) were on the same menu/eating plan so we supported each other through the process and didn’t have to cook separate meals.
  • Preparing and planning for the meals on Sundays made us ready for the week.
  • I created a menu plan for each week and cooked accordingly. We made some big meals so that there would be leftovers for another day. That reduced the amount of cooking.
  • Cleared out our snack pantry and filled it with only healthy snacks like nuts, dates, plantain chips, seaweed, and jerky.
  • Have a repertoire of easy & quick meals that you can easily make. For us, ground beef with veggie stir-fry in Thai curry paste is a favorite, or sardines mashed with avocado mayo and wrapped in seaweed.

I’ve been enjoying these podcasts recently:

  • Dear Sugar – because I enjoy listening to how we can handle different relationship challenges
  • Being Boss – because I dream about being boss one day
  • Stuff You Should Know – because I am curious about stuff

Ok, back to bed for a nap…

Impact

The trouble with being the Prime Minister’s sister is, it does put your life into rather harsh perspective. What did my brother do today? He stood up and fought for his country. And what did I do? I made a papier maché lobster head.” – Love Actually

If you have watched the movie as many times as I have, you will probably remember Emma Thompson’s character say the above to her husband.

As I was browning some pork shoulder chunks in my new Instant Pot to make some chile verde, this quote struck me. It’s always been something that made me think, that somewhere someone is doing so much more and making such a difference in the world. Here I was, making a pot of stew. It’s not that it won’t be delicious or that my family would not enjoy it. I simply feel these days, that I need to make an impact, a difference with this one life that I have. Some days, I don’t feel like I am doing “all I can” to make lives better.

It’s not about being famous, I’d be happy to do it anonymously. I think it’s about making the most of one’s talents and time.

I’m sorry if this seems to be a sort of ramble. I felt like this was the best place to say this. To send this out into the universe so that maybe, it will be echoed back at me often. To remind me of this desire.

Who are we, if not measured by our impact on others? That’s who we are! We’re not who we say we are, we’re not who we want to be — we are the sum of the influence and impact that we have, in our lives, on others.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

3 weeks into the new year

Wow, I cannot believe how the first 3 weeks of 2016 have already passed us by.

There have been quite a few changes in my life (wellness, work, habits), while the important anchors (family, home, hobbies) are still present.

We started Whole30 about 11 days ago so I should be “killing all the things” but I am actually feeling the “tiger blood” phase sooner than expected. Sorry for the Whole30 jargon :) basically, I am past the difficult phase of transition and I feel like my body is liking me better. And hello my new friend, black coffee!

Last weekend, I was at the company annual conference and experienced a really great speaker – Drew Dudley. You might have heard him on a TED talk but I enjoyed listening to him talk about how we can all be leaders in our world and what it really means to be a leader. Very inspiring.

I’m still listening to my podcasts and lately, a new favorite – Imaginary Worlds. If you love sci-fi and fantasy, this is for you.

Work stress is accumulating so I need to keep up with my Headspace sessions. I do feel it when I miss them.

At home, I’ve been rearranging my workspace. It’s not quite where I LOVE it but when I get it there, I’ll be sure to share a pic. You can see a part of it in my Instagram feed to the left.

Are you still reading here? If you are, I’d love to hear from you.

First Snow

We saw our first snowflakes this afternoon, it’s not cold enough to stick but I just enjoy watching those fat flakes fall. I look forward to some more snow since we are now closer to the mountains.

Mike is making pot roast with mashed potatoes, I’m salivating over my laptop.

I spent quite a bit of my afternoon researching left-handed brush hand lettering. I need to find some good but economical (since I’m still very much a rookie) round watercolor brushes. I also plan to starting using my new Tombow Dual Grayscale brush pens. A Christmas gift for myself.

I bought some practice sheets from Random Olive. It seems like a good place to start but I might also look into an online class. Maybe on Skillshare.

Some inspiring leftie type designers that I’ve been following on Instagram: Winston Scully, Neil Secretario and Matt Vergotis.

Another goal for 2016: to spend a little bit of time with the things that “spark joy”. (Thank you, Marie Kondo!)

December Rewind

I wanted to do a quick rewind for December since I completely forgot about posting. I post more frequently on Instagram and Twitter. It’s just much easier to snap and post with my new iPhone 6s Plus. I wasn’t sure if I wanted such a big phone but now that I have it, I am so happy with it.

Work kept me busy as usual but the last 2 weeks were a little slower since most people were out on vacation.

The first weekend saw us celebrating our 13 years together at a winery in Quincy WA. It was such a fun time to spend with only each other – wine tasting, hot stone massages and a languorous dinner with more wine.

Vines resting for the wintertime #stefmike13

A photo posted by @astromei on

I actually returned to the kitchen quite a bit too. I haven’t really been cooking as much in the last 2 years. I still do simple meals but nothing elaborate. I have not been inspired. This past month, the baking bug bit me. I made peanut butter cookies, coconut macaroons and bacon gingersnaps. All delicious if I might say so myself.

Bacon Fat Gingersnaps, thanks to @seriouseats

A photo posted by @astromei on

We celebrated our first Feast of Seven Fishes. It was our excuse to eat good seafood on Christmas Eve. We made chorizo-stuffed squid, smoked oyster pate, smoked salmon canapés, seared scallops, baked shrimp scampi, Dungeness crab and black-bean sautéed Manila clams. SO good!

Christmas morning was filled with Sagan’s excitement. He is really into Christmas. It’s the perfect age. The rest of the time was quiet but staying in pajamas, listening to music, and watching movies made it perfect.

Then we went and watched the new Star Wars movie. I am still reeling from it. I felt like an 8 year old all over again.

Last night was another New Year’s Eve that we stayed in. However, there were no fireworks audible in our new place. That was refreshing. I kissed Mike just before midnight and just before we fell asleep, Sagan woke with complaints of growing pains. Poor little guy. (He’s fine now, it just comes occasionally in the night)

I think that brings us up to today, Jan 1 2016. Happy New Year, my friends! So far today, I’ve gone to the grocery store so we can have some good eats this weekend, undressed the Christmas tree and put away the decorations. Now I’m sitting down to finish up this post and continue binge-watching “How to Get Away with Murder”.

HAPPY 2016! This year, I seek to LIVE, LEARN and LOVE!

Orange Spice Banana Bread

I don’t know how long it has been since I have posted a recipe here on daxiang but here is a quick bread recipe that I modified to include some seasonal spices and ingredients (adapted from this recipe from Running With Spoons).

Yields: 1 loaf

Ingredients
Dry
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
zest of 1 orange
½ tsp. sea salt

Wet
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 large, ripe banana
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
½ cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter your loaf pan.
2) Mix dry ingredients in a big bowl and stir to blend evenly.
3) Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
4) Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stir to combine.
5) Once it is mixed in well, pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 60 mins.

感激 (Thankful)

I really love these copper wire LED fairy lights

A photo posted by @astromei on

2015, like most of the recent years in my life, has flown by. Although the Thanksgiving holiday is this Thursday, we had Thanksgiving dinner this past weekend. Because of that, I feel like I have a lot of time before Christmas and the New Year rolls around. A good head start. Maybe we should move Thanksgiving up every year!

I think that the additional time (at least in my mind) is good for us since this is the start of Sagan’s true love with Christmas. He is going to soak up every bit of it, I can tell. We have a stuffed elf on the shelf, his Advent calendar is waiting for him and we even have plans to go cut down our own tree since we live out where the tree farms are. We’ll see, I might get distracted by the cider and ask for help instead.

Whoa whoa, I know what you are thinking – stop it, Stef, we are not yet even eating our Thanksgiving meals yet! Alright, I’ll refrain :)

Here are a couple of November favorites:

Story Corps app – I plan to make recordings with my mum, Mike and Sagan. Now we can record on our phones and have it archived for the future.

You know that I do Southern cooking. This podcast has been keeping my belly hungry for it. The recent episode has me adding a soul food restaurant in LA on my Yelp bookmarks.

This year, I made my favorite Thanksgiving dish again (3 years and counting) – Ina Garten’s Leek and Mushroom Bread Pudding. So flavorful. Gruyere is one of my favorite cheeses.

Current favorite cocktail: Ginger Whiskey

And something to make the holiday more meaningful: The Thanksgiving Reader

Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” Hansa Proverb

Fall Eats

I made an easy and tasty tomato soup in the Vitamix. Really quick.  And for an accompaniment – Pull-Apart Cheese Bread. Instead of melted butter, I used bacon fat. Uh, YUM!

If you are in Seattle, please stop by Dough Country at Pike’s Place. Szechuan style flatbread sandwiches. Flatbread made on the spot and a great variety of fillings (meat and veggies or just veggies)

Mike made clam chowder from American Classics. Our favorite, most used cookbook.

And of course, Butternut Squash soup with Italian Sausage. We make something similar, with a lot more sausage.

I need to be better with my photos.

Home from travels

I have been away from home for the last 2 weeks, one week in Vegas for work and the next week in Portland and the Oregon coast. It was good to spend some time away from the office as work has recently been weighing on me. I am trying hard to avoid a burn-out. From previous experience, burn-outs are no fun, to say the least!

My time at the work conference was ironically inspiring. I love the product that I support and work with, it’s always good to bond with likeminded people. What I enjoyed even more was the company of my coworkers as well as a very inspiring talk by Sal Khan, found of Khan Academy. I’ve been trained in Arts and Social Sciences all my life, but now I feel there is a chance for me to learn about physics, chemistry and astronomy!

Even while traveling, I tried to keep up with my meditative practice. I think that it has kept me sane thus far.

The time on the Oregon Coast was short but it was just a joy to see S run all over the beach, chasing gulls, picking up shells and running through frigid waves.

What a beautiful day! #pdx2015

A photo posted by @astromei on

Here are some of my recent favorites:
Gnocchi with any kind of sauce – creamy crab parmesan sauce last week and bacon arrabbiata last night
Pear Cider – any brand
Lush’s The Comforter Shower Cream – berries, bergamot and vanilla, need I say more?
Rimmel Oh My Gloss in Snog – not sticky, smells good, lovely pigments
1940s big band music
The Martian – I saw the movie this week and I am going to start reading the book tonight!

There is a trip to the pumpkin patch in the books and more fall loves. Stay tuned!