Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Fat Fiend

I have not worked out since I arrived in California...about 2 weeks ago. I have also been gorging on my mother's delicious cooking, eating disgusting fast food and processed meals (when we are on the road with not much of a choice), or stuffing my face with dim sum.

Other than the walking when we are out and about, sightseeing, I'm pretty much sitting on my rump all day. Rocking out with a small, plastic guitar with Rock band cannot really qualify as much of a physical exertion, sadly.
I know I should just lay back and enjoy my little piggy vacation..I can't help but notice my lowering energy level, my crankiness, and my feeling of bloat-y fatness.

I had hoped to be able to have access to a gym, but have been prepared to give up on the idea if it is too much work than it is worth it. I don't get to see my family very much; the last time I saw my parents was last year, and I probably won't see them again for another year. This vacation is about being with family, so I decided if I have to go through the process of joining a gym for a month, drive through traffic, work out, then drive through traffic back...it would not be worth it. I do miss going to the gym for some "me time"...but I can wait until vacation is over. I shall waddle off the plane, and be ready to gym it up with a vengeance.

Vegas Winnings!

This is what we won after a night of gamblin' in Vegas. Wooo hooooooo. Money in the bank ~~

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fiend, back from Vegas

So...we're back from Vegas. I am pooped.

We stayed at the Venetian, we walked down Las Vegas Blvd and watched the shows in front of the Bellagio, Treasure Island, and The Mirage, we shopped, we went to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, we took many silly pictures and did a lot of people-watching.

Now, back in L.A., I am recharging before we go to San Francisco.

Do I need a vacation from my vacation?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fiend in L.A.

Yay! The Crafty Fiend finally has some internet! Hip hip hooray!

The family vacation is going well...we are staying in Walnut, L.A., which is basically Little Taiwan. My parents have found old school Taiwanese cuisine here that they were not able to find in Taiwan! My aunt just retired and is moving here for a few months to improve her English...however, she has yet been in a situation where she is forced to speak English since everyone here speaks Chinese Mandarin.

Family vacations are trying at times...we're all cooped up in an apartment, jetlagged, exhausted, and irritable...but everyone makes up at dinner time. Cooking and eating bring people together, no matter how cranky they are!

We have just gotten back from a weekend at the fair city of San Diego. I'm always the happiest when I am by an ocean, so I was a happy camper. We visited the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and the tackiest, but fun, tikki-themed restaurant where all the servers wore Hawaii shirts.

Tomorrow, we are headed for Las Vegas for two nights, so...wish me luck!

Hopefully, I can get my paws on some pictures and videos soon for the blog :-)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fiend on Vacation

I have been guilty of being neglectful of my blog, running around getting everything done so I can go on vacation in L.A. without any worries. Leaving your life for three weeks is never as easy as it should be...who knew going on vacation requires so much work!

This time, after much internal debate, I have decided on not bringing any crafts with me on vacation. The main reason is that when I travel alone, which I do often :-(, I try to go as light as possible. Even after sacrificing many, many things I want to bring with me, I am still stuck with a (big) laptop, a carry-on purse/bag, and a luggage which I checked. Lugging around these three items through the airport sucks. That is why I was more than willing to shill out the $25 for three hours to use the reLAX lounge (LAX airport, reLAX lounge, get it? heh? heh?) while I wait for my parents to arrive from their international flight. The only downside is that the lounge allows me full access to all the chocolate chip cookies and chex mix that I can want...so I think I will have to exercise some sort of self-restraint here...as to not result in some sort of junk-food-binge tragedy.

Going back to my decision to not bring any crafts (boooooo, slightly regretting now):
I had wanted to bring my knitting with me onto the plane, since it's my preferred project-on-the-go, after crocheting. Crocheting, however, usually require some scissors and needles, which are prohibited on the plane, so knitting would be the second best choice. Afterall, if you really want to keep it simple, all you need in order to knit is two knitting needles and a ball of yarn. I researched on the internet (o, the mighty internet) for airlines' policy on knitting needles...and it seemed like it was a O.K., but I did come across some knitters who posted about problems going through security with their needles.

Personally, I have never brought knitting with me onto the plane before, but I have had experience with bringing medication which was O.K.ed according to the rules/regulations, but the officers at security still gave me trouble over it. I decided I don't want the stress of catching a flight, going through security, and add issues over knitting needles to the mix. The last thing I want to do is having to either toss my knitting, or mail it to myself at the airport. So, to be on the safe side, I just decided to leave it at home...and go on this vacation sans crafts projects.

I suppose I will commit my next three weeks to enjoying some summer reads in the sun, and enjoying California. I will TRY and stay away from crafts stores...and give my inner crafty fiend a break. Who knows, maybe I will go back to NY all full of new creative ideas!

Meanwhile, I hope to fill my blog with some good summer read reviews, and maybe some of my adventures in L.A.

Before I sign off...I have a question for everyone. What is your preferred bring-along project for airplanes? Has anyone ever made the mistake of bringing something in their crafts bag that was a no-no?

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Sunday is probably my favorite day. Unlike Friday and Saturday, it is my shamelessly lazy and I-do-whatever-I-want day. As much as I like weekend errands like grocery shopping and visiting the farmer's market, and catching up with friends over coffees/drinks/ dinner/etc., on Sundays, I am not pressured to work or party.
To me, it is a day for spending time with loved ones - a nice way to end the week. Growing up, my parents and I always get dim sum on Sunday morning, then go grocery shopping together.

Now, I usually cook a yummy dinner, and veg out on the couch with my bf and on-demand a show (since the new seasons of Dexter and Californication are still not out yet, we're watching Nurse Jackie). Dishes that require long hours of marinating, braising, or roasting, have no place in a busy weeknight...so this is usually the day I take my sweet time, and cook something time consuming, while I lounge around the pad.

This Sunday, has been uber-lazy. I slept in, met the bf for lunch, then went to the gym to find out that it was closed for Labor Day. Booohoooo...or teeeheeee? It was a pretty good excuse to be off the hook for working out today, but I ended up going for a run. Now, I dislike running...so all the conditions must be perfect in order for me to volunteer to do it. I like to run outside, because treadmills bore me, and I prefer running when it is cool out. I have to shamefully admit, we live right next to a city park, and our pretty neighborhood is all sidewalks and trees, but I don't go running often. When my girl friend talks about braving traffic, uneven sidewalks, and even, once, HAIL, to finish her run...I hang my head in shame.
I have no idea how far I ran today; I wasn't keeping track and just went at my own pace, and had quite a fun run (haha). So, I think I shall make it my fall+early winter fitness goal to go out and run more. I think I'm going to set goals, and, if I make them, I will reward myself with a new pair of running shoes. Hoorah!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Aren't these so cute?

I saw these on Etsy seller aimoobaroo's page, and I can't handle it. It's so cute! I don't usually have projects that require buttons, but these make me want to start one so I have an excuse to buy them!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Braised Pork Shoulder

The pork shoulder have always been a cut of meat I wanted to learn to prepare. It is shamelessly fatty and flavorful (my favorite kind of meat), but does require some patience for it to transform from tough and chewy to melt-in-your-mouth. You know if you do it right, it will be delicious.
The common methods of preparing pork shoulders are braising, roasting, and barbecue. I chose the braising route this time, but barbecue is something I vow to attempt in the future. Cuban barbecue pork shoulder? Mmmmmmm!!!

I bought the smallest pork shoulder I could find in the store, and it was 7.8 lbs. I repeat, 7.8 lb chunk of meat. I have never felt like such a carnivore until I had to haul that heavy a piece of meat home.

Apple Cider Braised Pork Shoulder

7.8 lb pork shoulder
salt and freshly-ground pepper
canola oil
one large onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 potato, unpeeled and chopped
1 tablespoon butter
3-4 cups apple cider
5 juniper berries
1 teaspoon dried thyme
8 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
4 fresh sage leaves
8 whole cloves

Rub the meat with salt and pepper and canola oil, then sear the meat in a cast-iron skillet, at medium-high heat, until it is nicely browned on all sides. As you can see in the picture, the shoulder barely fit in the skillet. I should have used my largest one!

When the meat is nicely browned, about 8-10 minutes, place it in a large pot. I could not find my Dutch oven, which would have been perfect, and used a large oven-proof oven soup pot instead. The meat was so heavy I had to hoist it out of the skillet and into the pot with both tongs and a meat fork.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the meat is in the pot, I added the chopped carrots, onions, and potatoes into the skillet so they cook in the remaining oil and fat. I want to make a note that organic carrots always works best, since they are always so much sweeter and flavorful than non-organic carrots. You may add salt and pepper to your taste, and the tablespoon of butter (salted or unsalted), and sautee until the carrots and potatoes are soft. Scoop up the carrots and potatoes and add it to the large pot with the pork, and let the onions cook a little longer until it has caramelized. Add the onions to the pot.

Add the rest of the ingredients (apple cider and spices) into the pot, and place in the middle of the oven. Let braise for about 6-7 hrs. If you don't want to use an oven, you can also braise this stove-top at very low heat. While it is cooking, check to see whether you need to add more liquids - the liquid should almost cover the meat.

Because my cut of meat was so big, I had to braise it for about 6.5 hrs (I would have braised it a little longer, but the hunger whines were getting out of control). I served it over some white rice, and sprinkled with some chopped green onions. The leftovers were delicious too, sitting in the fridge overnight, then being reheated softens the pork even more, giving it a melt-y texture.
(I sort of just threw everything on a plate and snapped a quick picture, so I apologize if it's not the prettiest looking thing - we were all very hungry, and the house smelled divine when the meat cooked the whole 6 hrs.

Fingerless Glove For the Fall

I have been running around like a crazy person for the last few days, getting everything together before I leave for my month-long vacation with the family next week. But, sneakily, September has rolled around - therefore, marking the official ending of summer. How did this happen? I can't help but feel a little bit sad.

To cheer myself up, I set aside a few hours this evening and did some knitting. I'm embarrassed to say that I had to hunt for my knitting needles, which were scattered throughout the apartment. So, my new knitting-year resolution is to get organized and find some sort of vessel to keep them all in once place. When I did the double-pointed needles I needed, I made a fingerless glove with some forest green yarn I had laying around (I'm also using it to crochet a blanket).
It's my little secret (seeeeecreeeeeets), that I usually prefer knitting fingerless gloves and mittens because I'm not in love with making glove fingers...but they do offer other pros too! My hands get ice-cold in the winter, so I wear fingerless gloves indoors to keep them warm. I can type, knit, stitch, and whatever else I please while still keeping my hands warm, and that makes me a happy gal.

I was only goofing about when I made this glove, but I ended up being very happy with the results. I liked the forest/army green and how the cable down the middle turned out (it was a four-rib braid). I still need to bind the end and block the glove...and of course make the second one as well. Or I can just wear one fingerless glove, and look like a superhero.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Men Who Knit

The topic of gender-appropriate play and activities came up today, specifically with children, came up at Blogher.com.

I commented and threw in my two cents - and I would like to add that upon consulting my boyfriend (after I had posted), he reminded me that he did not just play with My Little Pony's, but also wore his grandmother's clip-on earrings. That's what's awesome about children - they are truly free (or should be) to explore whatever they please, because they have not yet learned social roles and constraints.

So, this leads me to a thought: I don't have any male friends that knit! I know there are many men out there who knit - enough that there are books published and online communities formed, but why is it while all my female friends either knit or feel that they would like to learn to knit, none of my male friends would even admit any interest. I'm pretty sure having a pair of ovaries does not automatically give you the desire to knit. So...I'm going to make an arrogant statement and claim that these male friends (or at least some) may enjoy knitting, if given the opportunity, as much as I do, they just can't partake because it's not o.k.

This is why I've always appreciated these men who knit communities...knitting is therapeutic and is an artistic and creative expression...why can't men do it? You should never have to be painted as effeminate and bizarre because of what makes you happy.

And here I am complaining when people laugh at me for knitting because I am young and should be "out there enjoying life" i.e. partying and dancing on a bar. I guess I'll shut up about that now.