Monday, December 22, 2014

MythBusters: Behind the Myths Tour

Jeff and I were lucky enough to catch the last show of the Mythbusters tour in San Jose last week. He's a huge Mythbusters fan so when I saw the tickets for 50% off on Goldstar a few weeks ago, I knew I had to snatch them up. They weren't allowed to blow anything up but they did have a lot of cool stunts and performances. Even though the Civic Center is pretty big, they managed to make it feel like a pretty intimate show with two Q&A sessions and audience participation. I love how they're so funny and down to earth. Jeff and I ran into Adam Savage at Foreign Cinema two years ago and he was super nice. So if it's an act, they manage to keep it up pretty well, even when the cameras aren't running!

While I'm not as big of a Mythbusters fan as Jeff is, I definitely want to catch next season - they're going to be tackling the final scene of Breaking Bad!

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Sweet Holiday Treat

A colorful assortment of macarons from Alexander's new patisserie for a dear friend - vanilla, lavender, peach saffron, gingerbread, and passion fruit dusted with chocolate powder. I'm obviously biased towards passion fruit - I even got 2 additional ones for Jeff and me to try. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I always use the holidays as an excuse to make flan. It's not a particularly winter-y type of dessert but given that this time of the year is filled with large social gatherings, it's always a good time for my favorite dessert. I've adapted the recipe from a cookbook I bought Jeff many years ago, and it's served us well ever since! This recipe makes 8 servings.

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  1. Combine everything in a light-colored pan and heat over the stove on medium-high heat. This process will take about 8 minutes – the mixture will start to turn colors and you will wonder if it’s done yet, even though the color is not quite golden. It’s not! You’ll know when the color is right.
  2. Keep swirling the pan until you get that color change. Once it turns that honey-caramel color, remove the pan from heat and distribute caramel into ramekins. The book says to keep it heated for another 4-5 minutes after the color change but I did that and it started burning after a minute so I would recommend removing it almost immediately.
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (The recipe stipulates whole, I’m a rebel so I use 1%.)
  • 1 1/2 cups light cream
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar (The recipe stipulates 2/3 cup sugar…again, I’m a rebel so I cut it in half. I feel like 1/3 cup is plenty sweet, especially with the caramel, but you can adjust this to your preference.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat milk and cream over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until steam appears. You don’t have to heat it until it’s boiling. Once it’s finished, remove from heat.
  3. Whisk the eggs, yolk, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl until just combined.
  4. Gently whisk the warm milk into the eggs.
  5. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve – this part is particularly important to me and I actually strain it a few times, just to make sure the mixture is smooth and clump free.
  6. Bring 2 quarters of water to a boil. Fold a dish towel to fit the bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan and position it in the pan.
  7. Divide custard mixture among the ramekins and place them on the towel in the pan.
  8. Fill the pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins; cover the entire pan loosely with aluminum foil so steam can escape.
  9. Bake until a paring knife inserted halfway comes out clean. The book says it’s about 35-40 minutes but I have found that it’s closer to 45 minutes. It might just be my oven though.
Once it's ready, loosen the edges with a ramekin, flip it over onto a plate, and serve!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Home Alone Concert with the SF Symphony

Home Alone is one of my favorite holiday movies so when I saw that there was going to be a Home Alone concert by the San Francisco Symphony, I didn't hesitate to buy tickets! Can you believe it's been 25 years since the movie first came out?

The director of the film, Chris Columbus, kicked off the concert with a quick intro. The movie was projected on a large screen above the stage and the SF Symphony performed the instrumental part of the soundtrack live. It was such a treat to watch the movie this way - it's a good thing I splurged for orchestra seats this time so we had a good view of the screen. I typically pick cheaper seats for the symphony since the acoustics are great regardless of where you sit. There was also a children's choir to perform scenes in the second half of the movie.

Even though I've seen this movie many times, this time was different. Maybe it's because I'm hoping to be a mother for the first time in my life - I found myself reacting rather emotionally (and dramatically) to the scenes with Kevin's mom. I felt her pain and horror when she realizes she left Kevin home alone and I teared up when they reunite in the end. I was overwhelmed with a protective instinct in that moment - this instinct to protect my own children and keep them safe, even though they don't exist yet!

I can't seem to make any sense of these crazy feelings that are hitting me. This is brand new territory for me! Is this my biological clock ticking? Does this mean I do have a maternal instinct after all?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

White Elephant Exchange

Here's the loot that we scored from the gift exchange we went to on Friday!

Jeff loves the selfie stick he got - he started using it immediately to take pictures of the festivities. 

I got this awesome cake pop and donut hole maker. My first thought was that I could use this to make Hong Kong egg puffs. Elsa improvised by making a waffle batter from scratch. While it didn't taste exactly like the HK egg puffs, it was delicious. 

Not bad for our first batch! I promised I would learn how to make a chocolate version for our group. They are hoping I'll learn how to make all the creative cake pops - I told them not to hold their breath. :)

We ended up bringing the iPhone portable battery and bluetooth portable speaker. I'm happy to report that the gifts we brought were well-received - the portable battery even got stolen once!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday Gift Exchange Ideas

While I've been shopping for myself, I have been shopping for others too. I have a few holiday gift exchanges coming up so I've been looking for unique, useful gifts that are under $20. Holiday gift exchanges are tricky because you don't know who will end up with your gift, so you have find something that's broadly appealing for less than $20. Mike is hosting one of the gift exchanges this year and he already said that only lazy people resort to gift cards, so there goes Plan B...

Oriole recommended this garlic and ginger chopper. She's an avid cook so she loves this gadget - ever since she got it, she's been using it everyday. I have a lot of friends who like to cook so this could be quite handy. I saw this at Target in-store for only $5 so I don't know why it's over $10 on

I thought that a portable phone charger would be a super practical gift. I have one myself and find it to be a lifesaver for when I'm out and about. But is this gift too boring? I'm starting to wonder if everyone else participating in the gift exchange will bring this too!
I'm also thinking about portable bluetooth speakers. But I worry that this also falls into the uber practical (aka boring) category. Does everyone already have one of these? I may have to keep the receipt so that if I end up getting stuck with my own gift, I can exchange it for something I don't already own!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Finding Good Holiday Deals

It's been hard not to indulge in all the holiday sales going on. I was doing pretty well on resisting all the sales but this past week, I ended up getting a few things for myself.

I need more winter dresses so I picked up this dress from BR for 40% off. I'm a little nervous though, because the material looks like it snags easily. I like the fit, which is atypical since I typically look better in fit and flare dresses. I'm undecided if I'm keeping this one.

I also picked up this cute colorblock sweater from Gap for 50% off. I'm always in need of low maintenance sweaters so I love that this sweater is machine washable. Also, the light cotton material works well for California winters - anything heavier and I'm sweating profusely throughout the day! The color is more of a robin's egg blue than a mint.

I also found some good deals on workout tanks at the Lucy for $30 each. Cute, comfy workout gear makes me more motivated to workout. It's silly and shallow but hey, whatever works!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Shabu House and Gong Cha

I caught up with some grad school friends over dinner at the new Shabu House in Milpitas this week. To be honest, I prefer eating hopot at home because it's so much more cost effective! But alas, I couldn't fit everyone at my dining table so Shabu House is a decent alternative for large groups. This location is pretty new and spacious so it's easy to get a table for a large party on weekdays. Not sure if that would still be the case on weekends though. 

We had 2 pots at our table of 6 people, with the option of splitting each pot into 2 types of broth. My dinner mates and I on the left side of the table opted to go for a full pot of spicy miso broth with a large order of kobe beef. I'm not convinced that the beef is better quality than what I could have gotten at the Japanese market, while the accompanying platter of spinach and yellowed cabbage was lackluster. When we make hotpot at home, we buy the good stuff in generous portions! Still, Shabu House has yummy broth and sauces.

I love how bubble tea has been winterized for the holidays! Gong Cha is one of my favorite tea shops, since it's an authentic chain from Taiwan. Jeff loves the Earl Grey Milk Tea with 3J (3J = bubbles, pudding, and grass jelly). I opt for a plain milk green tea - simple but satisfying. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving weekend eats in LA

Whenever I visit LA, my priority is spending time with family and friends - but food definitely comes in at a very close second! Luckily, we can have our cake and eat it too (figuratively and literally) by enjoying delicious cuisine with our loved ones.

It's becoming a tradition for us to eat Ding Tai Fung with Christina during the holidays. While the Taiwan locations will always taste more authentic and delicious, this one is still a yummy and viable alternative. We prefer the Glendale one because it's located by the Americana so we can shop while we wait. They also let you track the wait time with a nifty app that will text you when your table is almost ready. While the pork soup dumplings (below) are a must, I would also highly recommend the noodles with sesame sauce (not pictured).

No trip to LA is complete without a visit to an all you can eat Korean BBQ. We went to OO-KOOK in San Gabriel - the service was particularly fast and friendly this time. I love that OO-KOOK is generous with the rice paper (lower left corner below) because some restaurants are quite stingy about it for some reason. I focused most of my energy and stomach space on the different types of kalbi, all of which were tender and flavorful. 

While we ate out quite a bit, we stayed in for Thanksgiving dinner. I didn't want to trouble my sister-in-law into cooking a huge Thanksgiving meal, so we opted for Taiwanese style hotpot instead. I always load up on silken tofu and fish balls filled with cod roe.

The next morning, my brother made us all delicious gluten-filled waffles (he experimented with a few gluten-free mixes that didn't quite work out). This is one of the first meals he has cooked for me in at least 3-4 years, if not longer, so I had to document this momentous occasion! I added the berries myself. ;)