Friday, February 20, 2009

strawberry likes to...

Andy always posts the funnest blogging ideas. For this one, just go to Google and type "[your name] likes to" and post the first ten results. I had to kind of cheat on mine since my parents spelled my name so unusual (real name), so I had to use the more traditional/boring spelling of it in order to get any results. I must say, mine were pretty cool for the most part.

1. Strawberry likes to help Mom cook.
Indeed, I do enjoy helping my mom cook when I'm home. I like cooking FOR my parents even more, they're the best people to test recipes out on.

2. Strawberry likes to keep things pale and interesting.
HAHAHA, this one is awesome because I'm so white. I don't really know what it means to "like to keep things pale and interesting" but I definitely keep things pale. SPF 30 every day, baby.

3. Strawberry likes to party...obviously.
When it's time to party, we have a tea party.

4. Strawberry likes to get sloppy drunk and hit on bartenders who are dumb and not that good looking (or nice) and then she drives home really really really fast listening to OAR - I mean not listening to OAR.
#1 I do not get sloppy drunk and hit on bartenders (I prefer getting sloppy drunk and hitting on much-older-than-me ferry boat captains at formals, thankyouverymuch) #2 I would never drive drunk. Ever. Period. #3 It's physically impossible for me to drive anywhere really really really fast in my jeep wrangler (they were built for off-terrain driving, not racing) and #4 Who the heck is OAR?

5. Strawberry likes to take risks.
I moved to China for a year, didn't I?

6. Strawberry likes to be outside and has been photographed frequently strolling along the sidewalks and beaches near her home.
Sounds pretty nice to me.

7. Strawberry likes to eat Ramon noodles, Fruity Pebbles, and cheese pizza.
WTF....was someone watching me from my window tonight and taking notes or something?

8. Strawberry likes to be the little spoon.
I'm always the little spoon. Duh.

9. Strawberry likes to go camping with her friends and enjoys anything that involves bright colors.
Camping is so much fun. I haven't been in a while but want to go some time when I get back in the States. Bright colors are okay, too.

10. Strawberry likes to say, “It’s only the beginning. Get ready.”
Hellz yes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

product review: skippy's peanut butter and chocolate swirl

I couldn't find a photograph of Skippy's Peanut Butter and Chocolate Swirl variety, but trust me, it's out there, haunting the shelf of a grocery store near you. I would have taken a photograph of the jar I had, but it was the Chinese Skippy brand so everything was in Chinese and I also threw it away after trying it. That's right, I THREW IT AWAY.

I've always been curious about peanut butter swirl jars, y'know, like those ones that come with jelly already mixed in with the pb (haven't tried those yet), so when I saw the chocolate peanut butter mix at Carrefour a few days ago and noticed that it actually had LESS calories and fat than the regular creamy peanut butter spread, I had to buy it.

Chocolate and peanut butter are probably my favorite combination of anything in the world, having them both in one convenient jar seemed too good to be true. And it was. If you want the deliciousness of chocolate and peanut butter combined the next time you make a pb and banana morning sammy, you'd be better off just squeezing some Hershey's syrup on top than you would be using this nasty product.

First, the chocolate was way overwhelming at the top of the jar and if was difficult to mix it well. Second, the peanut butter was lacking in flavor. It wasn't sweet at all and didn't really taste like anything other than "mushy". The chocolate also wasn't very sweet. I mean, really, there was nothing good about this product. I THREW IT AWAY, and this is coming from a girl who literally only has $3 to my name until I get paid in a week which means I have to survive on the oatmeal, protein powder, rice, and soup mixes I have stock piled in my room for the next 7 days. For me to throw away something edible is a clear indication that it wasn't really that edible.

Verdict: Skip it. It's a waste of money and the few calories you'll expend tasting it before realizing it's nasty.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

fear of fitness

Gyms in China are nothing like gyms in America.

For starters, gym memberships are way more expensive here than in the States. Working out is a very American thing to do, and as such it's seen as a luxury and "foreign" so they charge outrageous prices and rich status-seeking Chinese people (and foreigners who have been raised in a society where NOT having a gym membership makes you a freak) are willing to fork out the dough.

Also, they have tons of equipment...and yet, they don't really have much variety. For example, my gym, Best Fit, has about 25 treadmills, but only 1 elliptical, 2 stairmasters, and 2 bikes. Why 25 treadmills? It makes no sense to me.

Unlike in America, gyms in China are always empty, which makes me question even more why they thought they needed 25 treadmills. In the States if you go to a gym before work (between 5-9AM) or after work (between 3-7) the machines are pretty packed and I've even had to wait up to 30 minutes for my chance on the stairmaster. My gym doesn't even open until 10Am, for starters, and even with ONE ellipitical machine, I've never ever had to wait. It's like walking into a ghost town filled with free weights and yoga mats, I halfway expect a few tumbleweeds to scatter across the floor in front of me after I swipe my membership card.

Okay, I'm not being 100% honest here, because my gym is never completely empty. There's always about 10 personal trainers milling about, walking slowly from one side of the building to the other, or going out in the courtyard for a cigarette break (they all smoke). And when they're not busy doing that, they're busy harassing the few people that actually go to the gym (read: me) into using their services.

A lot of people who are out of shape say they don't want to go to the gym because they're embarrassed, that they don't like the idea of other people watching them work out. Well, these people definitely could not hang in a Chinese gym. Chinese trainers are on you like hawks the whole time you're there, waiting to pounce at any sign of weakness, like when you take your iPod ear bud out of your ear for a split second to untangle the cord, or set your kindle down next to you to focus on your work out. They see that as their "in" and they pounce.

And they. won't. leave. you. alone.

I straight up had to tell one of them "LEAVE ME ALONE!!!" because he was being so annoying. So he left me alone. Left me alone by standing two feet away from my weight machine and staring at me while I finished my set.

how to: throw an easy, elegant, and kick-ass oscar party in 5 steps

How to throw an easy, elegant, and kick-ass oscar party in five simple steps.

1. Get the party started!

First, make sure to invite people that are compatible. This may seem like a no-brainer, but seriously, no Debbie Downers or Party Poopers allowed.

Second, have enough seats for your guests. Count all the couch space you have and add any chairs or cushions needed. If you're short on seating, big fluffy pillows placed strategically around the room should do the job just fine.

Third, if you're hosting an Oscar party, it's assumed that your television is large enough for a small crowd to comfortably sit and watch. If you're still rocking a 10 incher from your college dorm days, you should probably NOT be the host of an Oscar party.

And finally, dress up! As my fashion guru Isaac Mizrahi says, "If the stars try that hard, it's only polite that you and your friends make the same effort". In this day and age there's not many opportunities to get dolled up, so by all means make this Oscar party an event to remember and encourage your guests to dress to the nines! Black-tie is totally appropriate, but if you think your guests wouldn't be too interested in donning tuxedos and gowns, then state that cocktail attire is o-k, too.

2. Have FUN.

I am a firm believer in Oscar pools. To make it easier for your guests, print out a list of all the nominees. I've made it simple for you, just go here and you'll find everything you need in easy to print format! Make sure everyone makes a vote for each category. Sure, they might not know anything about "live action shorts", but have them make a wild guess for the category Best Live Action Short! Who knows, they could end up being right.

Have some sort of reward for the person who got t
he most and the person who got the least amount of awards correct. Present the "Biggest Winner" and "Biggest Loser" with an Oscar gift basket. A cute (and relatively cheap!) idea is to buy one of those large popcorn tubs and fill it with candy and a movie. For the winner, provide a copy of one of the "Best Picture" nominees. For the loser, choose a total razz-worthy film, like Waterworld or Dude Where's My Car?.

Another fun party activity is to vote for best dressed male and female. Give each winner a fake Oscar (you can purchase them at an party supply store during this time of year) and encourage them to give an acceptance speech!

3. Nom.

Provide plenty of appetizers and sweets for your guests. Suggestions for appetizers include spinach dip and sourdough bread, chili in bread bowls, na
chos, vegetables and dip. For dessert, my signature Oscar frou frou cupcakes are an absolute MUST for any elegant celebration, they just scream glamor. They are also very, very tasty. Champagne jelly is another fun and festive idea, you can find the recipe here.

Popcorn is, duh, a total necessity for an Oscar party, but forget microwave popcorn, it's all about the real deal. Trust me, after you make popcorn once this way, you will never ever buy microwave popcorn again.

Perfect Popcorn Recipe

3 Tbsp canola, peanut or grapeseed oil (high smoke point oil)
1/3 cup of high quality popcorn kernels
Salt to taste

1. Heat the oil and a few pinches of salt in a 3-quart saucepan on medium high heat.

2. Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan.

3. When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer. Cover, remove from heat and count 30 seconds. This method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time.

4. Return the pan to the heat. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. Once the popping starts in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper). Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into a wide bowl.

5. Top with anything you like! Salt and butter are pretty standard, but you can get creative and make kettle corn, add some cinnamon, maybe a pinch of nutmeg, the possibilities are endless! One great topping is rosemary and cayenne pepper. Seriously, so good.

For Spicy Rosemary Cayenne Popcorn you will need:

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced rosemary (I used dried rosemary - 1 tbsp)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or more, to taste) (I added at least one teaspoon!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 cups popped popcorn

In the bottom of a large bowl, mix the butter, rosemary, parmesan, brown sugar, cayenne and salt. Pour the popcorn into the large bowl. Stir the popcorn to evenly coat the kernels with the seasoning.

4. Sip and judge.

Make sure you provide plenty of drink choices for your guests, there's nothing better than a good sipping and judging session with a delicious cocktail in your hand.

Come up with a signature drink for your party and make a large batch of it in advance and put it in a large punch bowl for guests to serve themselves throughout the night. It can be ANY drink you like, but give it a fun Oscar-inspired name. Have a thing for mojitos? (I mean, who doesn't?) Make a big batch and put a cute label near the bowl "Slumdog Millionaire Mojito". Just add an actor's name or the title of a film to any drink and you're golden.

Make sure to have nonalcoholic beverages on hand for those that don't like to drink. Staples include diet soda, fruit juice, and water. You can have fun with this and make a nonalcoholic punch, too.

5. Au revoir.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, but eventually, your guests need to leave, if only to give you an opportunity to clean up after your successful Academy Award bash. This is your chance to give your guests a little star treatment with goody bags similar to those the stars will all be receiving! Okay, maybe not similar (I don't know if any of my blog readers have enough disposable income to buy 20 iPods and sets of Le Mer face cream), but definitely super thoughtful and sweet. Some ideas include a small bag of your home-made popcorn (prepared in advance), lots of movie theater candy, and a custom-made mix CD of all the songs from the films that received nominations. Put it in a cute bag, tie a bit of pink ribbon on it, and voila, perfect ending to a perfect party.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

and you thought lolcats were the end all be all

The coolest thing to come to the internet since LOLcats....LOLMart!!! Where you can satiate all your LOLware needs in just a few clicks of your mouse and taps of your keyboard.

Currently the stock is pretty low and I'm hoping over the next few months they take it up a notch and offer a wider selection of t-shirt designs and plush toys. I must say, though, that this LOLrus plush toy is pretty much the sweetest thing I've seen EVER.

I has a bukkit. Nooooo. They be stealin' mah bukkit.

Don't worry little buddy, I won't steal your bukkit.

WTF wednesday: dragon fruit

While I'm somewhat confident these are available in the United States, I still think the shape and look of them alone merits a hearty, "WTF?!"

Behold, the dragon fruit.

There's actually three varieties of dragon fruit. Two with pink skin, one that has white "flesh" or fruit inside, and one with pink/red "flesh". I tried a pink dragon fruit with white flesh, as shown below. The third kind is yellow with white fruit, but seriously, what's the point in that? It's all about the pink.

Apparently the fruit is low in calories (score!), but personally I wasn't a huge fan. It's cool to look at, sure, but it wasn't anything that special on the inside. The texture is a lot like a kiwi, and it tastes like a mixture of a kiwi and a pear, but I found the flesh to be a bit more grainy than a kiwi, which is probably what I found most off putting.

They do make for a great tablescape, though, and if I have any kind of Chinese welcome home party, I'm sure these suckers will be making an appearance on my table because they're so visually interesting. I also really like saying the name "dragon fruit". Sounds ferocious.

update on saemi, my injured 12th grade student

Today was the first time seeing my 12th graders since the break and all the drama with Saemi happened. They all seemed pretty normal, I don't know what was I was expecting, maybe for them to break down into tears when I took roll and left out Saemi's name? A few students were absent so I was asking the class, "Where's Dulce? Is she coming back? Oh, and what about Daniel? Is he going to be back?" and I almost asked "Where's Saemi?" out of instinct since her seat is empty, but I didn't.

Big Amy seemed a little on edge, especially when I was asking everyone where Daniel was (Daniel is Korean like Saemi and they were very good friends), but for the most part she acted normal. Everyone acted so normal. It was weird. It would have been less weird if everyone was acting out of character, but instead I conducted class with a huge pink elephant standing in the room right in front of me, and no one said anything about it. I wonder how the next few days and weeks will be.

This is the spot where Saemi fell. It was the roof of a bar/restaurant. Apparently she was balancing on the ledge in her high heels and fell three stories to the floor below, right on her head.

The doctors still don't know the extent of the damage, but seeing as how this is China, I'm not surprised by that. Thankfully this school has a lot of money and the administration is helping the family with their medical costs, which means Saemi is at least getting the best help available in this country. They're doing a mixture of Western and Chinese treatments. I'm not sure of a lot of details, but I know they've been doing accupuncture and are hoping it will bring her out of her coma.

Saemi is breathing on her own, which is step in the right direction. When I left for my vacation the only thing keeping her alive was the machine she was hooked up to. Now that she's able to breath on her own, it shows at least some sign of life. She's been moving her hands and opening her eyes, but there's no real signs of consciousness yet. The doctors have performed a few surgeries to decrease the pressure in her skull by draining fluids and they're anticipating by May of this year everyone will have a clearer picture of the Saemi that will be here post-accident. Like I said, they don't know the extent of the damage, so who knows what this new Saemi will be like. But I'm hoping for the best.

That's Big Amy and Saemi, during better times. Whether you're religious or not, I'm a true believer in the powers of positive thinking, so if you're reading this, please do a little "Get better, Saemi" mantra in your head and send some positive vibes over to Shanghai. She needs it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

product review: 100 calorie delight cheesecake bar

Twin and Mom sent me two fabulous care packages for Valentine's Day. They were filled with cute stickers, some candy for my kids (I like to bribe them into paying attention in class), and tons of snackies from the States. I love snackies of all varieties, but 100 calorie packs are definitely my favorite. Now that I've given up dessert, they're a total god send for my sweet tooth.

Nabisco is always trying to produce new 100 calorie pack snacks and their most recent HoneyMaid graham cracker series is totally nom worthy. Today I tried the Cheesecake delight bar and it was SO delicious. The graham cracker crust is sweet and moist, not too crumbly which I thought would be a problem. The cheesecake is the perfect balance of tart and sweet. It really does taste like cheesecake! Perfect as a dessert substitute.

Verdict: GET IT!!!

the things people do for attention

Before I left for my South East Asia trip I made a post about the awesome tattoo my dad got with the names of me and my two sisters on it. I can't wait to see it in person, it looks so cool! I also mentioned a lot of the shenanigans my dad has gotten himself into over the years, the most memorable of which being his April Fool's joke of dressing up like a woman.

Well, I don't know how or where, but Twin found a photograph of him from that day and sent it to me. He looks JUST like his mother, only about a foot taller. So creepy.

While I have your attention, readers, I'm curious...why do you read my blog? I know there's a lot more of you out there than comments suggest (thanks Google Analytics), and it makes me wonder what keeps you coming back to read my posts. Do you find me entertaining? Do you hate me? What's the deal? You can comment anonymously if you want.