July 10th – “Work your charm on any grumpy types.”

I don’t have any special charm for grumpy types. The best thing to do is to avoid grumpy people. When that isn’t possible, I distract grumpy people with things they like. From my experience, food is a good distraction.

Today, I made pork buns in preparation for any grumpy types who might cross my path.

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Steamed Buns

2 ¼ teaspoon yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

1 to 1 ¼ cup warm water

4 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

 

Directions:

  1. Proof yeast by adding yeast, sugar, and water (start with 1 cup). Wait for 10 minutes until the mixture becomes foamy.
  2. Sift in the dry ingredients. Knead for about 10 minutes. If it’s too, add water a little at a time until you get a soggy sticky mixture.
  3. Let rise for 2 to 3 hours.
  4. Punch down. Then divide into 16 pieces.
  5. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten, leaving the edges thinner than the middle.
  6. Fill with meat.
  7. Steam for 15 minutes.

Original recipe here

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Pork Filling

5 spice powder

Oyster sauce

Hoisin sauce

Soy sauce

Ketchup

Grated/diced ginger

Grated/diced garlic

Rice wine or white wine

Honey

1 pound of boneless pork ribs or shoulder

 

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients, except for pork, to taste. Sorry, I don’t measure! Just try to sauce before putting the pork in!
  2. Marinade pork for at least 1 day before cooking in oven or pan.

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July 9th – “All kinds of dynamic partnerships become a priority over the coming six months ruled by this [new] moon, as does spending more time in your own town or city.”

For the 3rd time in the past 30 days, the streets near work have been closed down by the police.

The first time was for a hit and run. A pedestrian died while walking his dog across an intersection that I use regularly.

A week later, the Golden State Warriors won the championship and there was a parade to celebrate.

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It was nice to see people out on the street for a happy event, but I couldn’t help remembering what happened not too long ago.  

On Friday, there was a huge fire at a construction site near work. It displaced about 700 residents in the neighborhood and closed down the streets for the entire weekend.  

It would be silly for me to think that these are all signs that I need to quit my job sooner rather than later.  No, the world doesn’t revolve around me! I’ve already stayed a year too long and it’s time for me to go.

I have been actively been pursuing opportunities near home and have a few things in the works. It’s going slow, so I better get started on those partnerships my horoscope keeps bringing up. The sooner I move on, the more time I’ll have to make cat beds for Little Rooks!

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July 3rd – “ Give yourself a break — maybe even a whole night off.”

The great thing about not comparing myself to others is that I don’t measure my success or failures based on anyone else’s. The bad thing is that I can be hard on myself.  

Lately, I have been feeling lazy and very underachieving.  When given the choice to get more sleep or stay up to work on something, I choose sleep.

This weekend I had a small gathering in my little town. We went for a hike among the redwoods,

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ate a ton of food,

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and painted.

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I had plans to make fancy wine country inspired meals from scratch, but I ended up substituting half the recipes with store bought stuff. I was feeding 5 people a late breakfast and dinner and took shortcuts. We had frozen tater tots instead of hand cut fried potatoes, bbq sauce out of a jar instead of a homemade concoction, and veggie burgers that came out of a box instead of my food processor. The strawberry rhubarb pie was made with freshly picked ingredients from my garden, but the pie crust was ugly and I didn’t churn any vanilla ice cream for it. It was not the extravagant meal I planned.

I didn’t feel very accomplished until one of my guests remarked, “You do a lot.”

I paused for a moment. She was right. I don’t know too many people who would take time to organize outings for friends, all while working on creative projects, managing a garden, teaching, and clocking in hours at a day job. 

That’s a lot. I took a night off.

June 24th – “Have you been curious about what an ex has been up to? Get back in touch today.”

NO, I have not been curious about what an ex is up to. No, I do not want to get back in touch. NO THANK YOU!

Some days, my horoscope is a complete miss. I can think of a million other things I could do than get back in touch with an ex.

Instead, I worked on my novel,

gardened,

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waited in line at the dollar store behind a 7 week old husky German shepherd mix who looked just as cute as this puppy,

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and read a book.

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It’s amazing what one can achieve when one doesn’t contact an ex. 

June 23rd – “Slow down today — you are right on track and you have nothing to worry about.”

It’s been a busy month. I have a two projects I am working on, so I’ve put the blog aside for the month. I can do two things at once, but not three!

As predicted by my horoscope, June has been a beautiful month for devoting more time and energy to passion projects, learning, and extra-curricular activities.” I’ve been doing all three and I am already experiencing some of the rewards!  

The end of month deadline is closing in on me and there’s still so much work left to do. I started worrying about it yesterday, but today is a different day. So what if I wasted time and worried yesterday? I don’t have to do that today. With each new day comes new challenges, new ideas, and new attitudes. For example, yesterday there was no cake in the office. Today, there was cake in the office.

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Is 10:00 a.m. too early to eat cake? I don’t think so!

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If cake isn’t a sign to slow down and stop worrying, I don’t know what is!

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Tomorrow is the beginning of pride weekend and my boss brought this understated cake to the office. The outside is simple, but the message it conveys is crystal clear. I think there is something for me to learn here.

I have been trying to add more adventure and excitement to my story and I don’t think it needs that. The story is a simple one. It’s not supposed to be a drama filled with twists and turns, betrayals, reversal of fortunes, or evil twins. No, that was never the intent. My tale is about the everyday life of people who are not often seen.  If my story were a cake, I think it would have ten or twenty different colors underneath the vanilla frosting. Thank you for the sweet lesson today, horoscope!

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May 29th – “Forget about that supposedly perfect future version of you.”

That’s good advice because I’m already perfect!

Okay, I’m kidding. Everyone has flaws and I have too many to count. Some days I’m a know-it-all. Other days I’m intolerant, moody, and just unpleasant to be around.

When I envision what I am like in the future, I don’t see what my attitude, opinions, and behavior is like. What I do see is what I am doing, and that isn’t much. My future self is lazy and enjoying a life of retirement.

That’s not very useful. I don’t see who I will be. What are my values? How do I see the world? More importantly, how am I treating myself and others around me?

Imaging the perfect future version of me doesn’t provide me complete picture. Moreover, when I hear the word “perfect,” I think  “boring.” If perfect means boring, I’ll take imperfect any day!

May 28th – “Hold yourself and the company you keep to high standards.”

 

Whenever I have the time, I like making things from scratch. I think that’s a pretty high standard. Lucky for me, today was such a day! Well, sort of.

We had a carton of tomato soup that needed to be consumed because it was close to expiring and we wanted  grilled cheese sandwiches to go with it. There was store bought bread with all the preservatives and yucky stuff that keeps it intact for weeks sitting in the frig. We did not want to have that. Homemade bread is MUCH better!

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The best part about homemade bread is that you can cut the slices to any thickness you like!

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Our sandwich was completed with 2 slices of Gouda.

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White Sandwich Bread

2 ¼ teaspoon yeast

2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons honey

1 ½ cup warm water

2 ½  cup flour bread flour*

 

1 tablespoon butter

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 ¾ cup flour (or wheat flour)

2 tablespoon and 2 teaspoon honey (optional)

 

Some butter (for the crust when the bread is done baking)

 

*If you don’t want to buy bread flour, you can get wheat gluten separately. To make bread flour, substitute 1 tablespoon of flour with wheat gluten.

 

Directions:

  1. Mix first 4 ingredients together. Let rise for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the next 4 ingredients. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Put dough into an oiled/buttered bread pan. Let rise for about 1 hour or until the dough has risen just above the pan.
  4. Bake in preheated oven of 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Take bread out of the pan and let cool on rack. For a soft crust, cover top with butter.

 

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May 28th – “You are what you do; own up to it instead of trying to separate your work from your life, and you’ll be much happier in the end.”

Yes, I am what I do. I don’t like to be defined by work, but it is a part of who I am whether I choose to identify with it or not.

For a long time, I hated being associated with my work because I felt that I was being limited. I had so many other things that I wanted to do. Well, that was the problem. I had things I wanted to do, but I wasn’t doing any of them! I’m happy to report that I’m no longer in that situation. Here is what I do:

Five mornings a week, I am a jogger. I tell people that I like to jog, but I really should give myself more credit than that.  I’ve been doing it for 20 years, so I am entitled to call myself a jogger.

A few days a week, I am an expert at work. I have knowledge that very few people do and it takes years to acquire the expertise that I have. My clients come to me for help and trust the recommendations I give them.

Every day, I am an intellectual who likes to over analyze culture and read books on history, politics, and theory.  Trust me, you do NOT want to watch a movie with me!  I like to watch bad sitcoms like Fuller House just to see how race, gender, and social status are portrayed. I think there’s something to learn in everything, even the crappy stuff.

Most days, I am a cook. I try new recipes, make things from scratch that many people would not, and prefer home-cooked meals than eating out.  

I am also a blogger. I document my experiments, thoughts, and feelings and share them with a few readers every week. By the way, thank you for reading! I’ve only been blogging since September and it’s great to know that someone out there reading my stuff!

Finally, I am a writer. Perhaps, this is the most difficult thing to call myself. I still struggle with my writing, rarely have perfect grammar, and am not a fan of proofreading. Nevertheless, writing is still something that I do and like.  Believe it or not, I even have some published articles out there.  Am I am a writer? Yes, I am!

May 24th – “You’ll awaken today with one question on your mind: How can I get my daily allowance of potassium without all the sugar in bananas?”

Really, that’s the one question I have on my mind? It’s not, “Why do I have to get up so early” or “Why do I have to go to work?” Whoever wrote today’s post has a funny sense of humor. Perhaps I should get that into the business of horoscope writing. I’m sure I can come up with some weird suggestions for readers to follow! 

Nutrients are the last thing on my mind and I have no problem eating all that sugar in bananas. I have a banana almost every morning with yogurt.

My horoscope further instructed me to have some celery because it “three stalks of celery contain the same amount of potassium as one banana without all that pesky sugar.. I hate celery, but thought that I should try something new for a change. I went to work with a couple of stalks of celery in lieu of my banana.

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It was pretty bland on it’s own, so I had the celery sticks with a side of raw honey I keep for emergencies like this. So much for skipping sugar!

May 23rd – “Nature nurtures your soul to its very roots.”

IMG_9073[1]Seven years ago, I spent four months in Hong Kong. It wasn’t my first trip overseas, but it was my first time staying in the city for more than two weeks. It was then that I realized that I did not want to live in a city anymore. I lived in the suburbs of Hong Kong and even that was too crowded for me. Yes, it was convenient place filled with all sorts of amenities, but I would have traded the air conditioning for peace and quiet. A New Yorker I met  once described Hong Kong as “New York on steroids” and I think that it’s an accurate description.

I’m sure my city friends will be annoyed at me for saying this: I think there is something dehumanizing about city life. The city eats away at my soul. It makes me wait in endless traffic, rush from one place to another, and buy $3.50 croissants and teas for breakfast without hesitation.

San Francisco is much slower than Hong Kong, but sometimes when I’m there I feel like I am disappearing into the masses, and the city is using my soul as its energy source. Perhaps I don’t have the same defenses I once had when I was young, or maybe Hong Kong broke me.

On the days that I’m home, I spend my time admiring the flowers and plants I help grow. I have been planting vegetables for the past five years and only started bringing flowers into the mix last year. Boy, it makes a huge difference!

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The little fig trees I have aren’t flowering yet, so I too some dried figs to make a new recipe.  

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Fig Bars

Filling

⅔ cup to 1 cup water

8 oz pack of dried figs, diced

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup

 

Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients in pot and gently boil for about 7 minutes on low heat. The filling is ready when it is a thick jam consistency.

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Dough

⅓ cup shortening

⅔ cup maple sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¼ cup flour

1 ¼ cup wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

A few dashes of salt

1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cream shortening, sugar together until smooth. I didn’t do a good job on mine, so there were little specks of shortening!
  2. Add vanilla and eggs and mix until combined.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined. If dough is dry, add a teaspoon of water one at a time until the dough sticks together.
  4. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  6. Roll dough into a 14 x 14 inch square. Cut into four long pieces.
  7. Add filling to middle, then fold both sides to cover filling.
  8. Place bars seam side down, and bake for 14 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice.

Original recipe here.