Monday, September 30, 2013

Life And Death

I got a frantic text message last night at 1am that read, "If you are awake, call me within 15 minutes." I had missed the message and didn't get it until later, but I already knew what the urgency was about. I texted her back in the middle of the night, "Do you have an announcement?".

And at 6am, I got a reply back saying, "YES! I'm engaged!!". 

I've known her since I was 7. So you could only imagine my excitement when I heard the news. Although it was already much anticipated. And with the technology nowadays, I was able to keep in contact with her and our friends while we were all at work through the day... all sharing our own bouts of excitement about her news with each other. 

Another friend has reached another milestone in her life. A life changing one. And it's amazing. Moments we live for. And to share with one another. Makes everything worth it. 

Once I got home, as I was trying to quickly change into my home clothes before I plop myself down to pick up the phone to call her about her engagement story, as we all know it would be a long one... I had clicked open Facebook. And through moments of organizing myself, I quickly caught a glance at a status line of a friend. His father had suddenly passed away from a cardiac arrest yesterday. My heart sank from the feeling of elation. I couldn't even begin to imagine what he's going through. 

I picked up the phone and dialed my friend's number to hear about her engagement. Her voice was filled with happiness. Couldn't help but bring a smile to my face. I laughed and "awwed" at her every sweet detail of her story. I could feel her floating on cloud nine. I told her I couldn't wait to see her in person and go through the story again. In different details. And to see her ring. Every girl must gawk at each other's rings. I hung up after many reminders to her to not forget to at least send me a picture of her ring. 'Cause I cannot wait till next week when I see her to see it. 

After I got off the phone, I went on fb and sent my condolences to my other friend. These polar emotions have me feeling bits of sadness, gratefulness, excitement, and life. All mixed in together. Which has somehow inspired me to write. Growing up, I was taught how to be a good person. One with a kind and caring heart. I was taught how study hard and do well in school. I was taught how to care about myself and care for others. I was taught how to be independent. But through life lessons, I was never really officially taught about life and death. I'm learning now as I grow older that the contrast between life and death are taught through experience. An inevitable experience.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Day Of Surprises

(Mobile photo dump)

I'll be honest and say that a lot of morning shifts are not my favorite. I'm just not a morning person. Or so, I always thought. I do get some mornings where I wake up feeling like I got up on the right side of the bed... even though knowing that everyday, I always get up on the same side of the bed. Can't say today was totally one of those days (I'm still not a morning person after all)... but I was chipper enough to notice the beautiful sky on my way to work. I quickly grabbed my phone and took this shot. I felt the need to capture it... especially when the forecast for the next few days is showing a definite switch into Fall, rainy weather.

To my surprise, I got two visitors at work right before my lunch break.  I hadn't eaten much of a breakfast in the morning, so I was starving. An ex-coworker had dropped off a box of Tim Horton's donuts when she visited the pharmacy the night before, and I caved in and ate half of a chocolate glazed donut. (Unlike me to pass up on my favorite - which is the crueller). I swore to myself that would be my only sugar treat for the day. Of course, when you swear yourself to anything... there always happens to be a greater chance to break that promise. Shum and Ben dropped off this box for me. It was still warm. Inside was... 

...a blackberry pear walnut pie. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds. If I had to choose a favorite pie of mine right now, this would be it. Not too sweet. Tartness from the berries. Whole, chunky pieces of pear. And a great compliment with the addition of crunchy walnuts. If I'm in the mood for pie, I'm getting another one of these. Thank you, thank you! I didn't need the pie to warm me up... the thought of friends thinkin' about ya unexpectedly is all I need.

The surprises didn't stop there. My Italian neighbours (whom I've lived next to all my life, 'cept for the 3 years I lived out of town) came over with an entire homemade pizza, a bottle of homemade wine, a bottle of champagne, and a box of Italian baked goods. They were in Italy last month when my dad turned 65. So, they wanted to make up for missing it. It was seriously one of the sweetest things a neighbour could do. 

These were from Calabria Bakery. And amazing too.

So, I totally broke my promise of the Tim Horton's donuts being my only sweet treat for the day. But worth making my day.

My Weakness

On the whole, I try to make healthier choices, but there is one weakness I totally couldn't control this summer. That is, my velvety ice cream.

If you asked me how much ice cream I consumed this summer, I couldn't tell ya. Mind you, it's never a lot at one time. But pretty consistent almost every night. My absolute favorite at the moment is Haagen Dazs' Green Tea and Honey. I can't get enough of it.

I still have these in my freezer. Guess they're not as popular to last so long. Don't get me wrong. Still very good. But just not one that I could eat a lot of. Although, both are a tad too salty, even though I love the combination of salty and sweet. I was surprised to find Haagen Dazs disappointed with a peanut butter so salty ('cause I love Haagen Dazs). I was also surprised to find that President Choice's black label ice cream is very velvety. Am liking quite a few things under the PC brand.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Paradise On The Living Room Floor

Blogging has been neglected a little this year, I gotta admit. I was away for a couple of weeks during the first part of the year to spend a couple wondrous weeks in Asia to escape the winter, then I spent most of Spring totally distracted by a boy I hopelessly grew to really adore, then there was a whirlwind of a summer spent most concentrated on my cousin... and her wedding. In between, there was a whole lot of biking, friends, and city events... but much more of work and sleep. And somehow, that sucked up all of my time. Where does it all go?

When I get asked, "How is the photography coming along?". I'm left with replying with, "What photography?".

"Have you seen that TV show?".

"What TV show?".

"Did you hear....?".


"Have you done...?".


"Can you please...?".

"Sorry, no."

Just a couple weeks ago, when the wedding ended which also marked the end to a lot of my duties, I found paradise lying on the floor in the middle of my aunt's living room. My cousin and her brand new husband were at her in-laws. My aunt was entertaining out-of-town guests. My parents were home. I had just dropped off my uncle after taking him around town. I laid there for a while before my parents called to tell me I should come home for dinner. So, I went home... had my dinner...and drove back to my aunt's to find peace and quiet again lying on her living room floor.

I could hear the older bunch shuffling MJ tiles downstairs. One of my cousins had also come back to his mom's place to bum. He parked himself on the couch and threw a box of macarons on the coffee table. "Have one. They're from Seattle. Free. 'Cause I wrote them off on my expense report for work." Then a second cousin came over and parked himself on the other couch. Whipped out his phone and started checking his emails. Then my newly-wed cousins came over and popped open a bottle of red wine, and joined me on the floor. I had company. There was a house full of people. Four in the same room. Each sorta doing their own thing.

I laid there on the floor staring up at the ceiling fan whirling around. I heard my phone buzz. C texted me, "What are you up to?".

"Lying here on the floor and staring up at the ceiling," I texted back.

"Seriously? People do that?".

"It's paradise for me right now."

There's something about those quiet and still moments that are so satisfying. As if time froze for awhile. Giving me a breather.

But that's it. I'm ready to peel myself off the floor... and let's go again.

Blogging is back.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Finding The Ultimate Banana Bread

If only I was so diligent at everything else.

So I continued to study the endless recipes for banana bread found online in hopes to find the ultimate banana bread. I started to read in multiple articles that trying to bake a banana bread packed with an intense banana flavour is not just as easy as adding more bananas. The more bananas you add, the more intense flavour, yet also the more liquid. Increasing the liquid content will make the banana bread chewy, or even soggy, and not the cakey consistency that I was looking for. I mean, it all depends on what you prefer. Some actually want the chewiness. But for me, I prefer it like a dense cake. And so I found a new set of tips that help pack in more bananas but also not sacrifice the consistency of the banana bread.

The extra step : Microwave your bananas for four minutes, letting all its juices to come out of its pulp. I used four bananas because that was all I had (when most recipes using this step requires five). Pour it through a sieve to separate the liquid. Mine yielded about 3/4 cup of liquid, and then about a cup of pulp.  

Heat the liquid portion in a saucepan over medium heat until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup. Takes about five minutes. This will save all the banana essence but taking away some of the liquid. Then, add the liquid back into the banana pulp and use it as the banana portion to any banana bread recipe. 

I used the same recipe from last time but with some minor changes. 

2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 cup mashed bananas (4 bananas)
1 3/4 cups whole wheat AP flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

- I ran out of flour after the last banana bread, and when I went to pick up a refill of it, I decided to get whole wheat as a healthier alternative
- I read that using all brown sugar can overpower the banana flavour, so for a cleaner taste, stick with white sugar. However, I personally think brown sugar might make it a richer flavour, so hence the split of 1/2 white and 1/4 brown.
- Last time, I subbed a recipe's requirement for oil with apple sauce. This time, I split it half oil and half apple sauce just to see if a little bit of oil can add to the moisture of the banana bread. 

See previous post for instructions. (Only difference was instead of sprinkling the walnuts on top, I mixed it in with the batter).

I personally think this banana bread turned out much closer to what I'm looking for in a banana bread recipe. It had good banana flavour (although could be even more intense). It was a great dense-cake-like consistency. I enjoyed the whole wheat part of it. 

Changes I'd make for next time : 

- Try reducing five bananas instead of four. 
- Try plain AP flour instead of whole wheat to see if the banana flavour may be more intense/clean.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Obsessed With Banana Bread?

Even though every banana bread recipe I've tried are pretty good, I'm still looking for one that is the best - in my books anyway. And because I quite often have an abundance of over-riped bananas, this is usually my go-to easy-to-make comfort baking. And who doesn't love a good loaf of banana bread? My brother likes this recipe better than the last, but as much as I do like this one, it still requires a bit of tweaking. I do like my addition of walnuts on the top, which was something I used to dislike about banana bread as a kid. 

2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 and 1/3 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 and 3/4 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp of chopped walnuts for the top

Blend together eggs, buttermilk, apple sauce, and bananas.

Sift together sugar, flour,baking soda and salt. Add to banana mixture, and mix well. 

Pour into 9x5 inch loaf pan and bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees F.