31 October 2015


How do food bloggers do it? How do they cook and take photos at the same time?

Here's my attempt at documenting the roast meat process.

1. The meat

Why is beef so expensive? This cost as much as my entire week of groceries if I eat mostly vegetarian. Gonna stick with pork shoulder in the future, which is half as expensive.
And yes this is preciously little counter space, I miss my kitchen back in Toronto ;_;

2. Cut and brown

This is the most time consuming step, firstly because I have dull knives that barely slice through the meat and secondly because you just gotta be patient while browning meat. I've finally learned my lesson to pat the chunks dry with a paper towel lest I want to be hit in the face with splattering oil. Be prepared for oil to splatter regardless.
Also browning the meat is not essential, it's a low taste payoff for how much time it takes. 

3. Cook spices

Trying some gochujang this time, but otherwise the cast have not changed from previous times (1, 2 opps forgot to label the sichuan peppercorn).
Side note: got some spices from Penzey's, their indian black pepper is amazing (probably just fresh).

4. Braise
Add just enough water to barely cover the meat and braise on low heat for at least an hour or so. The time varies depending on how large you cut your meat, but you want it tender enough to easily poke through with a chopstick. This time it took around 2.5 hours. Then I'll add my vegetable component (potatoes this time) and continue braising on low until the vegetable and meat falls apart without much resistance when poked.


Side note on the sudden image size increase: I no longer want to downsize my images so much since it messes with the sharpness. So the blog layout is now wider to accommodate larger images.

To continue on this aside, I started to manual focus and it's made as big of a difference as when I learned to manual aperture and shutter speed. *pats self on the back* This photo has 27 predecessors before I was fed up with auto-focus, though I'm not entirely happy with the current one either. More practice is definitely needed.

Later edit: the focus in this photo is better

These deli containers are one of my best kitchen purchases.

The biggest challenge of lazy cooking for one is trying to finish eating the big batches before they go bad. I use to freeze in bulk half of what I make, but the second half ends up sitting in my fridge for a week after defrosting and goes bad anyways. Freezing in individual portions should eliminate this problem.
The containers are also great for storing dry bulk items, soaking grains/beans, etc etc. Gonna stock up on more before going back to Canada.

27 October 2015


Weekend tea, my most commonly photographed subject. I've finally learned to increase my f-stop.


In other news, made cheesy gochujang pasta. They are a perfect match *u* Cast iron pan is also getting more uses, this time for browning mushrooms.

26 October 2015

lab colors

I've forgotten how long post-processing can take... but at least I can make up for my crappy shooting skills in post. Though I should really do so by practicing shooting more.

Anyways, as I was editing through my photos from a brief walk out on Peachtree, the before and after of this particular picture really shocked me. Can I blame it on the cloudy weather for bad lighting?


In other news, I've gone full circle on my camera selection and is back to lusting over the Leica Q. This was the camera that originally got me interested in wide angle lenses.

My current decision is just to wait until I can afford this and use my X10 in the process. I've been mulling over Sony a6000 vs. Fuji x-t10 for the past two weeks and both systems aren't perfect for me. The Sony is definitely the more practical choice in terms of both weight and price, but I really love Fuji's abundance of manual controls. I had a whole bunch of saved searches on ebay and was thissss close to buying 2 used Fuji lenses. But alas I realized that $1000+ is too much money to spend on something I'm not completely in love with.

I'd love to say that this is money saved, but I've found 2 pair of boots that I did fall in love with:
  • Mercer from Cord boots + shoes (local Atlanta shop! Planning on visiting their workshop)
  • Grace from Crockett and Jones (this is just swwooooooon, will visit in NYC)
More on this topic in a later post.

25 October 2015

Fire Emblem: Awakening - end

 image via.

I've finally finished FE:A! Actually I could've said this more than a month ago, but I was putting off finishing the final chapter because I have a tendency to stop playing the game right before the end (which is what happened with FFX)

Playing the game on easy (aka no perma death) did detract from the experience, as normal campaigns are just too easy once I got my children units. The focus of my gameplay became unlocking support diaglogs rather than optimizing my army to defeat the enemy. I'm okay with that, because the dialog really are great and I would not be able to stand to permanently lose my units (see the Gaius episode). The paralouges were also sufficiently challenging, especially the mirror one and protecting unit ones, to offset the campaign chapters. I'm looking forward to FE:fates's Nohr route with it's mix of objectives.

I racked up about 73 hours on this game spread over 4 month, which is a good return on investment. Actually every game I buy has a good ROI (once I get around playing it) since I'm a decently obsessive completionist. That said, I'm no where close to 100% support dialog since it just takes too many hours to reach A. It's good enough that I got all my children married. Overall I'm really happy with my character pairings in terms of dialog suitability and children stats.

Speaking of character pairings, I think the game would be stronger from a plot perspective if the gender of My Unit is not up to the player's choice. I played with female MU and many of the cutscene dialogs, and especially the ending ones, don't fit MU x Chrom, they're written with MU not being paired with Chrom in mind. I'm also angry that Sumia is the canon mother for Lucina when Cordelica's backstory is that she has a (not-so) secret crush on Chrom, that's just not cool bro. My final complaint is that the children units are flat, all of their support dialog is about their one defining trait (eg. Severa just goes insulting everyone).

Now if only Bravely Default would have a price drop...or maybe a bundle when Bravely Second comes out in NA?

24 October 2015

fragrant moonlight

Making up for my cancelled hiking trip with the best tea that I have, it is tasting better now that it's aged a little bit.

Thinking of switching to gaiwan for all my yancha brewing. The faster pour helps a lot, and I don't need to fill the cup so I can conserve my precious leaves (this tea is obscenely expensive...$1.60/g, its what happens when you don't ask for the price before buying). On the other hand, the allure of yixing pots is hard to resist. Ideally I would like a 60-80ml flat pot with a very wide opening, no I really shouldn't be thinking of another pot.

Went back to flash brews for this one, because I want every nuance out of this expensive beast. Worked well today, mostly because of easier brewing in a gaiwan. The first couple of brews were interesting, it was first sweet, then savory, before settling into the characteristic mineral taste.

21 October 2015

Kodomo no Omocha

I swear I read at least half of this series ages ago since I clearly remember a couple of scenes, but I am glad I picked it up again.

image via, it shows off the characters personalities well.

Kodomo no Omocha is probably the best school-life/rom-com shojo I've read. It was perfect for the majority of the story, with none of the usual annoyances that come with this genre. It kept me up reading for two nights despite the fact my body was screaming at me to go the fuck to bed because I was most definitely still sick. And even when I did finally oblige, I ended up thinking of Sana and Hayama and not being able to fall asleep. Their interaction is so...pure and wholesome (am I too old that I'd be thought of as creepy for using those adjectives?), it's the innocence of childhood that you lose when you grow up and replace with cynicism.
The point to take away is how great the manga is and not how terrible I am at taking care of myself. Lessons learned is not to start new mangas on Sunday night.

Anyways my only two complaint is with the latter two arcs of the love triangle between Sana/Hayama/Fuuka and then Sana'a mannequin disease. I wish the manga showed more of Fuuka and Hayama's prespective on their breakup, because it seems inconsistent that they don't immediately part, but then do so very easily. The last arc with Sana's disease just seems unnecessarily dramatic. 
And the ending, another case of it was a good fit for the story but I really want an overly romantic end :( There was a side story/cross-over, but that didn't scratch the itch unlike Basara's.

19 October 2015


Battling the remnant of a nasty cold over the weekend, ugh. How I've underestimated thee, Atlanta weather.

But look, pretty colors from leaving work late:

16 October 2015

autumn/winter 2015

So the Atlanta weather didn't turn out to require drastic wardrobe changes, mainly because the office is air-conditioned to the max.

What I did end up buying:
  • This first shirt dress in the S/S 15 post. It's been very useful, my default going to a client meeting outfit because I don't have to worry about shirts staying tucked in.
  • Ugh regrets of not buying the Club Monaco trench, because all the soft trenches this season have no buttons! Wrap coats look fantastic in still images, but are not very practical (as I've found with my caramel one, but it is damn beautiful).
  • B/W patterned pencil skirt from BR. Got good mileage out of this since it matches every top, but busted a seam already smh. Will repair. 
  • White blazer from BR. Am not getting good mileage out of this, a white blazer is harder to pair than I excepted, but also because my office isn't formal enough to wear blazers regularly.
As for this autumn / winter, the list fluctuated a lot. It was rather ambitious at the beginning, then I realized how much money I needed to save, and then how hard it was to find a piece that fits all my criteria. So now it's these three:
  • Duffle Coat: I agonized over coat choices for the longest time, still unable to find my beloved green coat. In the end I settled on a duffle because there's not many more years left before it's becomes age inappropriate. I ended up getting one from ASOS, 73% wool for a good price but I almost dislike the toggles enough to change them out. 
  • Everlane striped tee and card case: surprisingly I can wear a striped tee fine to work, falling in love with them yet again. The card case is because since losing my old one, my purse has become increasingly disorganized and now it takes several tries to pull out the right card. Also watching their launches of silk tee and heavy weight wool, might get some items from there too.
  • Black, over the knee boots: taller boots = block more wind, also doubtful that my old leather boots can survive another winter. Which particular boot will depend on sale prices in January. 
Some inspo images to complete the cooler weather, all pulled from my pintrest:
really digging variations of blue + red / orange

every year I'm tempted by turtlenecks

14 October 2015

moisture management

Today I figured out why I don't like the southern climate. One is definitely the humidity, but second is because it's warm. But let me explain.

I'm definitely a wimp when it comes to weather (and many other things), and I am very prone to catching a cold when I feel cold.
Which is what just happened.
So back in Toronto, I know it gets cold so I bundle up the second I feel a little chilly. I remember back in high school when Janice and Kelly were wearing shorts and I was in long pants plus a cardigan. No problem here.

But in Atlanta, it's suppose to be warm, and I'm deceived into thinking I should feel warm. Right now it's usually around 10 in the mornings & nights and mid 20s during the afternoon. So I'm still dressing for the afternoon temperature and throwing on a coat just for show (aka not zipping it up in the wind, frankly negating any warming).
It's also goddamn freezing in the office and even at home, where I spent 90% of my time. I have no idea why it's so cold at home when I don't have the a/c on, it can be mid 20s outside and I am not at a comfortable temperature even with wool socks and a hoodie.
I long for the day that heating will be turned on...hopefully they have heating down here.

Point is: Atlanta is freezing indoors. At least it's warm inside in colder climates.

13 October 2015


Aside: today's been a rollercoaster kind of day.

Brie and Parmesan are my gateway cheese, but cheddar is definitely the start of the slippery slope. The one I have is creamy and salty mmm. All I've had are supermarket quality ones, it would be wise to keep my standards low. Publix did serve it with some apple and peach preserves on a thin cracker, how could I not buy it after tasting that? It turned out to be an expensive grocery trip with this and the falcons sub.

12 October 2015


It's always nice when good weather greets you on Monday mornings. That and donuts. Today's donut count is 4.5, only surpassed by LP events when we were trying to finish off boxes and boxes of Krispy Kreme.

11 October 2015

crop factor

I'm dipping my toes into the world of interchangeable lens cameras. It's a a deep rabbit hole, much like how I felt when I first began exploring tea and teaware.

Interlude for today's tea: Eco-Cha's heavily roasted dongding, but brewed in my dragon kyusu.
It was a little weird during the first two brews, there was an obvious savoriness or almost fishiness to it. But that disappeared and the subsequent brews returned to normal.

Interlude back to camera: I should stop using my phone to take tea photo, the quality is really bad unless there's abundant lighting. But it's so convenient to post-process with vsco cam.

So how the camera exploration started is from me revising my NYC trip plans last night, and decided to add B&H to my list of places to go. Then it moved onto deciding between Sony a6000 vs Fuji X-E2. I quickly discovered that you're not just picking a camera body, you're picking a systems of lenses to stay loyal to. Picking lenses then led to finally figuring out sensor sizes and equivalent focal length.

As of this night, the shortlist of lenses include:
  • Sony Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
  • Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8  
  • Sony FE  28mm f/2 and E 16mm
The 3 options come out roughly the same price range if I get the Zeiss ones used. Currently leaning towards the Touit 12mm since it has the widest field of view because I anticipate being in amazing locations if visiting Tibet & Yunnan works out next year. Not sure if it would work well for shooting street / stills / food in dimly lit restaurants. Any advice is very welcome.
Though the choice will likely come down to how cheaply I can buy them for.

10 October 2015


I ate almost a full week of vegan food unknowingly.
  • Breakfast: avocado toast, aka the greatest lazy breakfast ever.
  • Lunch: roasted vegetables with lentils and rice. I forgot to mention that my new favourite seasoning for lentils is star anise + bay leaf, very earthy.
  • Dinner: african peanut stew with rice
Did I miss meat (or eggs, or dairy), no not really. I didn't even realize until this morning while eating the last of the avocado.

Actually this isn't entirely true. On Tuesday Chick-Fil-A had a free chick mini promotion (chick minis are nuggets of fried chicken in a bun that's the closest to a chinese bao) which made me crave fried chicken hard so I ended up eating their fried chicken sandwich for lunch on Thursday when I was running late to my site visit. Actually this isn't entirely true either, I was craving the bao part more so than the chicken part, would have been perfect if I could get my hands on Bahn Mi Boy's fried chicken bao... *u*

The point is, no I was not actively missing meat until I had it again. To paraphrase a quotation from Nana (woah how many years ago did I read this? I bought quite a few issues of Shojo Beat from the Chapters at Bayview Village), you don't appreciate what you have until you lose it and see it again.

Now to cook some roast meat for lunch next week.

Later edit:
I tried the falcons sub for lunch. For those too lazy to click on the link, it's basically exploding with fried chicken, and some bacon, peach preserves, and sirracha mayo. Quite tasty, would be better if it was toasted for a bit.

Also sprouting some mung beans after watching Maangchi's video. I had an eureka moment to substitute a steamer insert in a pot for her flower pot & bowl set-up. I feel quite clever, like those dorm hacks that you see with people straining pasta over a tennis racket.
On the topic of sprouting, I've switched to soaking my black rice after watching Peaceful Cuisine's video. Both my mom and dad has previously complained about the hard grains of black rice when they've ate my cooking (they were never impressed).

As always, weekend tea:

Dian Hong from the Joseph Wesley sample pack. I don't care too much about this one, it's more bitter compared to other Dian Hongs that I've had, and only a loooong brew brings out the familiar sweetness. The wet leaves did smell exactly like dark chocolate though.

05 October 2015


My weekend revolved around the cast iron cookware in my kitchen.

Apologies in advance for the lack of photos, because my tiny kitchen has shitty lighting and after this whole ordeal, I was not in the mood to make the effort to take decent photos. 

The bulk of the time was spent babying my skillet according to these instructions (flax oil + 500F heat), which had solid sounding science according to how little biochem I knew. Additionally, I was a try-hard and sanded off the factory applied finish, which isn't great according to the collective wisdom of the internet.
The results were not bad at all after 6 cycles.

All of this prep was so that I can roast a big batch of fall vegetables. Again, I felt like putting in more effort than usual and followed these instructions (Series Eats has all my trust when it comes to food).
Again, the results were great. The potatoes are indeed the best I've made, crispy on the outside and creamy within. Thank you cast iron for your heat retention capabilities.
(psst. Amy if you're reading this, roasting carrots with cumin is amazing)

So what went wrong was roasting vegetables in a virgin cast iron skillet. It wasn't a good idea to first roast the sweet potatoes since the sugar (while it caramelized beautifully) is guaranteed to stick. To compensate I added more oil with the remaining vegetables. The thick layer of oil formed a crappy layer of half polymerized seasoning...which I had to scrub off. It was a pain to remove too, it took the combination of soap + vigorous salt scrubbing to completely remove. And along with it went my first layer of good seasoning.
Back to square one.

Oh well, cast iron is like nice work boots, they'll age nicely by just using them.


I also made some African peanut stew in the dutch oven.
Notes for future iterations:
  • Chunky peanut butter is the way to go. Good texture from the larger chunks of peanuts.
  • Thicker consistency is good for mixing with rice. Would be better if the stew was pureed a little before adding the leafy greens.
  • Would benefit from herbs & drizzle of good olive oil, but this applies to all soups. 
As for the roasted vegetables, the end product is some mixed bowl with lentils and black rice, accenting with some quick-pickled onion. This is my lunch for the week, and I go through great lengths to reheat the 3 components separately because I ain't ruining my crispy vegetables after all that trouble. Thankfully the office kitchen has both a toaster oven and a microwave.
 Notes for future iterations:
  • Par-cooking saves so much roasting time! My old method for roasting sweet potatoes is literally throw them in a hot oven when I get home from class and forget about them. 
  • Either pickle the onions for much longer, or just use pickles. I do like a sour element.
  • Would benefit from some sauce, thinking of either the Tibet hot sauce, or maybe some sriracha mayo? Another route would be a herbed yogurt like a raita, or a sweet yogurt.

04 October 2015


The convenience of online shopping coupled with general laziness has resulted in cardboard boxes making up a good portion of my furniture. Currently using three big boxes as end tables and countless others for storage.

Heck they way outnumber my actual furniture, which consist of dining table, 3 stools, side table, mattress, lamp and a drying rack. This is about the bare minimum that I can comfortably live with, except I'd like to swap a stool for an actual chair and add a full length mirror. Otherwise it's great living with so little stuff, less to clean and less clutter. Though I can't resist a fully stocked kitchen, kitchen gears are my kryptonite to owning less stuff (way more so than clothing or cosmetics, though these 2 areas require some restraint as well). I need to come to terms with the fact that I can either have a fantastic kitchen...or I can relocate more often. Or the third option is to have both and pay insane amount of money to ship my gear durr.
I should make it a life goal to have only as much stuff as I can move with a sedan.