My new love for homemade granola bars

Now that I have mastered the art of making my own granola bars, I’m no longer interested in the aisles where all kinds of snacks are sold. Homemade granola bars are the most amazing things ever because you can customize it with whatever you want, and the best part is when you use a no bake recipe. I told my close friend about it but she would rather read about boss loop station at guitarcenter.com so I moved on and continued searching for more recipes. One day, I’d like to try making granola bars with dried dates. I think that’d be really delicious.

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Long weekends with the SpudBuds

I believe this was our first long weekend since the semester began. You have no idea how thankful both of us are. Talking to people has made me realize that weekends go quick for a lot of people too. That means: Yay, we’re not alone! Responses I got after I asked some friends if they were looking forward to the weekends:

“It’s like I come home, go to sleep and it’s Monday.”

Agreed!

“I don’t think it’ll be long enough.”

How about we protest for a 365-day weekend?

“I think… it’ll be over soon…”

Depressing but 100% true!

Whatever it is, we’ve been winning this weekend! It has been eventful, surprisingly. We went to a basketball game, cheered on our favorite players, and made delicious Hainanese chicken rice in 30 minutes for dinner! We also returned a bunch of clothes we bought, quickly realizing that false advertising is everywhere and that we need a fashion designer in this house ASAP.

We made cranberry salsa to eat with the best damn low-salt potato chips. Finally we were able to replicate the one that Baja used to have ages ago. It was amazing and we need to buy more fresh cranberries to make more!! We also made garlic bread and tomato soup. We realized how we had been doing our soup wrong – red onions instead of sweet white onions. Who cares! The red onions were cheap! screams the broke college student in me.

We cleaned the bathroom – a very strenuous activity that makes me wish technology could do something about this. But I think the most rewarding part was feeling like you have done something important over the weekend. And hey, everything looks nice too! The other part that is my favorite is getting to laze around for the next one and a half days in my sweatpants.

Did I mention that we made no bake PB&J granola bars and banana bread in about an hour early in the morning? Talk about efficiency! Finally getting to open a jar of creamy peanut butter was the most satisfying thing on Earth.

We proceeded to make okonomiyaki and mastered it! Eureka, the shape finally holds up! So delicious too! Shake on some green onions, shrimp furikake and katsuobushi, all done to the beat of GOT7 songs we’ve been repeating for the past few weeks, and life is perfect.

Now that we’re done with the fairytale part of our weekend, the part with lots of reality and adult life consisted of completing a bunch of homework, printing out stuff, checking stuff on checklists, worrying about vacuuming the floor, receiving a steady flow of annoying text messages, and pondering over life matters deeply.

Hope you had an awesome weekend, too!

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An inconsiderate potluck party

potluck1It’s no secret that I enjoy a good buffet/potluck party.

Before it turned into an overpriced buffet with significantly watered down food quality, we used to frequent this classy Japanese buffet religiously (maybe that’s why I’m so convinced that we’re Japanese). We went there for the wide spread of Japanese food but as the years went by, the customer profile began to change and eventually so did the menu. Soon they were serving things like porridge and chicken nuggets to people who had no decent manners (think: shoving others or cutting the queue at the buffet line or shouting like they were in their own home or piling their plates and leaving NONE for others or leaving the buffet lines filthy). It came as no surprise when we all jointly agreed to stop going there.

I like food but I also like manners. That’s a buffet story.

Here’s the potluck one: I always used to think that potlucks were gatherings where invited guests would bring batches or trays of homemade food. Because my mom never once showed up to a party with store-bought food and because I had never been to a potluck which had store-bought food, potlucks, to me, were always associated with the words ‘homemade food’. Maybe that’s completely wrong. Maybe it’s simply associated with the words ‘contributed dish’ which can mean either store-bought or homemade.

More than 20 years into my life, it was to my undisguised shock and confusion that I found out people actually bring store-bought food to potlucks. It was a Christmas party. We baked and brought – at the risk of sounding fluffy and clichéd – cupcakes (Mom suggested bringing deviled eggs but that didn’t happen). I feel some need to point out that we were not aboard the Cupcake Mania Express when cupcakes rose to stardom years ago. Anyway, off we went to the party with a box of freshly-frosted cupcakes. I couldn’t help but wonder what the other guests would bring. I happened to be aware that some of them are challenged in the culinary department.

The hosts were still cooking in the kitchen when we arrived. We were told to place our cupcakes on the table. A good idea, too, since oftentimes people forget about the food in the fridge that they meant to bring out for dessert later. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang. Some of the guys had arrived… with KFC meal buckets. And apparently two different groups of guys had run into each other at the same KFC.

I was stumped. I felt cheated. How can this be a potluck party with the Colonel’s mashed potatoes and Original Recipe chicken drumsticks?! That was before the store-bought papaya salad showed up. I began to realize, with a sinking feeling, that my idea of a potluck could have been wrong all this while. WRRRRRRRRRRONG. It’s like when they tell you the tooth fairy isn’t real (I always knew it was my mom slipping money under my pillow). That Christmas party forced me to rethink my idea of a potluck gathering.

I accept it. I accept that people do – and often – bring store-bought food to potlucks but here’s why I think it should be exception rather than the norm. I get that sometimes people don’t have time to prepare food – this 9-to-5 grind has made me rethink how I used to spend my free time since now the only time I get to go out is during the weekends (oh hell no) – and other reasons like not knowing how to cook or whatever. But cooking isn’t hard and there are a bazillion recipes out there that you can whip up in less than 15 minutes and yes, for more than 10 people! Better still, there are recipes you can prepare ahead of time and just bring on the day of the party! Unless it’s a super last minute party and you really can’t be bothered, at least try not to show up with KFC buckets?!

I think homemade food shows effort and sincerity. Not that store-bought food doesn’t (and it’s still way better than showing up empty-handed). Also, I don’t think you should feel pressured about cooking or overthink your kitchen skills. It’s not a Master Chef competition, after all, and hey, if people don’t like the food you made, at least you can say you tried.

Maybe I’m just old-school. Wouldn’t be the first time someone has thought that of me.

Oh, and there wasn’t enough food for everyone at that Christmas party. I think I went home and had ramen. A good potluck party should have just enough food, if not extra, for everyone and everyone, as guests, should take one helping per food and only go back for seconds if they need to.

Okay, you’re thinking, so you like buffets and potlucks, you like manners, and you don’t think someone should show up to a potluck with store-bought food. So what?

Here’s what.

Two weeks ago, I received a most delightful email in my work inbox. Potluck gathering in 2 weeks, please post the food item you’ll be bringing. I’m like, yeaaaaaaah fooooooooood yeaaaaaaaah! I only voiced my excitement when I got home, of course.

Over the next two weeks, I diligently opened every email regarding the potluck to read the updated list of foods that each department was bringing. I noted that most of the contributed foods would be store-bought.

On the day of the potluck, I brought a container. Y’know, just in case there was extra at the end and the organizers wanted to dump it (say no to food waste). I didn’t bring a container intending on filling it up to the top with food and gleefully running away with tonight’s dinner. I’m frugal and practical but my mom also taught me manners. I’m not going to, out of greed, deprive a fellow guest of their share of food.

I arrived at work, ready to leave my desk at 11:30 sharp to head upstairs for the party. An email popped up. I read it. I deflated. I had read the date wrong. The potluck wasn’t until three days later. Oh well, it was vegetarian day anyway so it was a good thing after all.

Three days later, it’s today! The day I get to take a 2-hour lunch break to enjoy a free meal at the expense of the generous folks in each department. I left the containers at home after several people warned me against it.

My mom doesn’t have to worry about our behavior when we attend events with food. We know the drill. She knows we won’t dive for the buffet bar before everyone else neither will we pile our plates embarrassingly high. We won’t attack the food as if we’ve been starved for weeks and we most certainly won’t waste food by taking things we know we don’t like. We may go for seconds but third rounds are rare.

I spend the morning on my work and finish it long before my boss graces us with her presence at, I don’t know, 10:30am? I poke around on CNN and New York Times until it’s 11:00am. I don’t want to be sardined in the elevator with the others later so I get up at 11:10 and go upstairs. I use the washroom because it’s the cleanest one out of the other floors and pop inside the office. I find my usual cozy spot and wait.

At 11:20, I crane my head over the row of cubicles to see if everything has been set up. No. Ladies are still bustling about, arranging food and cutlery and chairs. I get up anyway and walk over to inspect. Everything looks about done. I walk back to my seat and think, I’ll go back in 5 minutes.

More than 5 minutes later, I stand up and walk over to the meeting room where the spread is. I am stunned to find that there is a line snaking out the door. When did the horde arrive? In mere minutes too? I join the line. The line crawls. It’s like the city traffic jam at peak hour. The room is filled with people trying to get food. A young woman squeezes past me with a plate piled with meat skewers. It’s clear it’s not for one person.

I think little of it and reach for a plate. In front, someone cuts into the line. Nobody says anything. I am reminded of the article my mom read aloud to me about why Chinese people love cutting lines. I reach for the first dish. It’s a baked pasta dish. I cut a small slice and flop it onto my plate. I ignore the brownies and go for the fruit tarts. I adore fruit tarts.

The line stalls again. I look ahead. A girl steps out of the line – or should I say, clump since there were a few people all crammed up against the table – and I see her plate. It would seem that she emptied the entire container of fried snacks onto her plate. She scurries towards the exit the same way the woman earlier did.

The clump disperses. A guy has, if I’m not mistaken, grabbed dozens of bags of individually-packed fruit. He, too, leaves. I look around the room. There are a few other young men and women piling plates and plates with a single type of food. I begin to see a pattern and I begin to remember where I’ve seen these faces.

I begin to seethe but not that hard.

It’s them. The two rows of young men and women sitting one row behind me that are always screaming and shouting obnoxiously, having loud conversations without a care in the world. The ones whom I have thought many times of saying ‘WILL YOU SHUT THE F**K UP?’ to. The ones who so deeply remind me of all the similar folks that I had the displeasure of going to high school/college with. The ones who belong to a single ever-expanding group that continuously bring shame and a bad name to the decent people of our race and culture. Unprofessional twats. Rude twats.

Oh, will I just say it? The Chinese people whom you read about in the newspapers and snort in disgust at. The uncivilized Chinese people whose horrific behavior and manners bring shame to the rest of the good people of Chinese descent. Yes, there, I said it.

From the corner of my eye, I watch them leave the cramped room with their full plates. I chalk their behavior up to the typical every day behavior of their kind and continue making my way down the buffet line. I take a little bit of this and that. I skip two or three dishes because a new line has formed there. I carry my plates – one with dessert, the other with entrees – and find my cozy spot to enjoy lunch.

I’m eating halfway when it is announced that the meat skewers have finished. It has been barely fifteen minutes since the lunch started. I think to myself, oh, I should go get the rice and chicken that I missed before it’s gone. I abandon my plates and rejoin the line. The line crawls. I look at the other trays. Almost everything is nearly finished. Even the fruits that I didn’t put on my plate earlier are gone.

When I finally reach the rice, I find that there are only three miserable scoops left in the gigantic box. The two men behind me in line are only joining the line for the first time. There’s nothing left for them. I take half a scoop and look at the tray of chicken. Only piddly bits and bones are left. It doesn’t look appetizing. I scoop the sauce but leave the rest. I move down the line. The only dish remaining is stir-fried seafood noodles. I look back with mixed feelings at the men who are scraping whatever is left onto their plates. Next to going out to buy lunch, that’s all they can do.

I go back to my seat, seething for real now. I’m angry and upset. I picture those selfish a**holes/greedy f**ks feasting downstairs while here scraps are all the rest get. I feel a sense of injustice for those who haven’t eaten and those who wanted to wait a little for the lines to clear. I get very upset when I see that people don’t have enough to eat. This could have been easily avoided if everyone could be civilized or considerate enough to take only one helping each. The potluck could have used a little extra food but I’m sure there would have been enough for everyone if people didn’t take a big bunch of everything and leave nothing for the rest.

I am now just hearing from the two rows behind a girl crowing about the fact that her buddy, one of the guys, took five packets of noodles for himself.

I have nothing more to say.

It’s no secret that I enjoy a good buffet/potluck party and loathe selfish and rude partygoers.

Raine
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Aptly titled: on food and writing (in no particular order)

The mood has been decidedly down these past few days. That’s why I’m writing. I find that lately – well, the past few months or more – I write when I am upset, anxious, angry, or just about any other negative emotion. Is this a good thing? When I look back at my recent blog posts, I see myself from someone else’s eyes. I see someone else reading those depressing blog posts and thinking, I’m not coming back here again. But somehow I can’t seem to find that brightness in my writing anymore. In my head, I’m still sometimes witty and funny. Then I sit down and write and when I read it from the top, I realize that things get depressing, fast, as in a matter of 500 words or so. Is there something wrong with me? Am I not happy? Well, never mind that. That was a bad intro. Let’s start over.

As I sat at our dining table this afternoon, spreading copious amounts of butter onto my tuna sandwich which I am prone to doing when my sister isn’t watching me with disapproving eyes, there was a moment of peace. Just a moment. In that moment, I managed to think, why can’t it be like this every day? The next thought followed immediately, I suppose every day would be boring then.

Then that moment ended (read in Flynn Rider voice). “Shut up and learn to keep your mouth closed.” Not to me, but that would have burst anyone’s bubble.

Anyway, I meant to write about writing yesterday but never got around to it because 1) I spent too much overthinking what to write and ended up reading Michael Procopio’s blog for hours and 2) I wanted to start a new piece of fiction and was overthinking that too but I’ve learned that it’s usually not a good idea to start writing when I’m in a funk/crappy mood.

Two days ago – or was it three? – I was bored at work – and since I finish my work fairly quickly, I’m left with many hours of spare time – so I decided to Google for more food blogs to read because I discovered Serious Eats (where has it been all my life?) earlier last month and I’ve been spending my free time reading food blogs ever since. My everyday internet browsing ritual – Tasty on Youtube, CNN, New York Times, Serious Eats, local food blogs, in that specific order; sometimes National Geographic (where I read up on the Tiger Temple controversy, felt a surge of anger towards human beings who deliberately abuse animals and make money off them then lie about it, and briefly wondered what my mom would say if I told her I wanted to be an animal activist). But I soon exhausted all those sources quickly and there are only 1 or 2 Tasty videos uploaded a day (sad).

So I Googled and clicked on The Food Blogs You Should Be Reading Right Now, According to Saveur on Huffington Post. It took me to the site where food blogs were categorized under labels such as Best Cooking Blog, Best Culinary Travel Blog, Best Photography Blog, you get the drift. I browsed through the blogs under the Best Cooking Blog label but found none to my taste. Those blogs feel too elegant and stuffy with their fancy photography and tiny fonts and pristine layout. I’m sure they are wonderful blogs with great recipes and I have nothing against neatness and fanciness but I’ll pass on those.

I skipped the Baking and Desserts category because as I’ve announced on more than one occasion, baking is not for me. Not that I don’t bake. I do. I just highly prefer cooking over baking and I wouldn’t want to be a baker. The measurements are too precise and tedious to work with. I’m a no-measurements-please kind of person. That’s why I took the easy math class in college even though my math doesn’t suck.

I skipped past the Best Cocktail Blog and Best Wine or Beer Blog categories, past the Best Regional Cuisine Blog and Best Culinary Travel Blog section (briefly acknowledging Eating Asia which I discovered only two weeks ago), and spent some time looking through the Best Family Cooking Blog. I have a soft spot for family cooking blogs since Menu Musings was where I found my now favorite dish to make – tomato basil chicken pasta. Best. Recipe. Ever.

Is this post even about writing anymore? I do this – wind off some other path and talk about something other than the main thing I mean to talk about – but I’m getting there though, I swear. The part about writing, I mean.

The next category was Best Photography. Something about perfect edited photos make me uncomfortable. I admire people who take the time, trouble, and patience to arrange food, lighting, and props to create beautiful food photos but I honestly cannot see myself arranging strand after strand or leaf after leaf or spoonful after spoonful of whatever food just for a photo. Also, I want to see a bit of imperfection. Food that is not so staged. Pictures of food that people can relate to – a smudge (or ten) on the plate, uneven potatoes, a burnt edge, a salad accidentally drowning in dressing. On the other hand, maybe that’s why I don’t think anyone would read my food blog if I were to ever create one.

My favorite category turned out to be Best Writing. Best Food Writing? I thought. What could that be? Well, I’ll tell you. Culinary Bro-down is genius. I laughed until I nearly cracked a rib and had to dry my eyes on my sleeve reading Josh’s writing. His writing is honest and hilarious with a dash (read: piles) of profanities my mom wouldn’t be proud of. Oh, and his recipes are great though I doubt I’ll ever make that 8-layer burger.

Food for the Thoughtless written by Michael Procopio is also genius. His dry humor captivated me immediately followed by his remarkable arsenal of vocabulary and down-to-earth style. I wanted to read more… and more… and more… Okay, I started reading his blog from the very beginning because I didn’t want to miss a post. His ‘Yelp’ post set me off again and I couldn’t stop laughing for a full two minutes. He is the kind of writer I look up to, equal parts awe and envy.

I want to write like that, I think whenever I come across awe-inducing writing like Michael’s and Metin’s and Ashten’s (I’m terribly sorry I haven’t replied to your email, please forgive me). Needless to say, my mom is in that awe-inducing writer category since she is the reason I started writing. I want dry humor and wit and honesty and passion and impressive words and the ability to mash that all up into a beautiful, fluid piece of writing.

Then I get sad because I know that I can’t. Then I also get sad as I start to criticize my own writing style and wonder if I could have done something in the past to bring my writing style a bit closer to these demigods (just kidding, I wanted to use this phrase after seeing it in an article about the current Japanese emperor who plans on abdicating the throne).

Should I have read more?  I should have read more. I should read more. Why didn’t I read Shakespeare when the whole damned volume surfaced in our house? Should I have become an English major? Damn it, if I had grown up elsewhere in a school system that didn’t focus on forcing kids into molds and suppressing creativity or if I had grown up in a place that emphasized less collectivism and more individualism, would I be writing like that now too? Those two questions would just make my mom sad for reasons I cannot divulge. I also wonder if English weren’t my native language, would I be able to write better? That might be a funny thought to you but non-native English speakers actually make good writers because they learn the language from scratch and appreciate it the way native speakers hardly do.

But then, it is what it is, isn’t it? My mom and sister tell me my writing style is casual and funny (I’m sorry, I don’t remember exactly what the adjectives are). I don’t see it. I see a tween writing choppy posts with no clear goal on her Myspace account (I’ve never had a Myspace account), using lots of ‘like’s and ‘kind of’s and ‘really’s. Okay, that might be exaggeration. (I did say above that I sometimes write witty and funny) But I see it even less these days since all I have to offer are chunks of my anxiety or sadness laced into my writing. I have avoided calling myself a writer for years and I don’t have the guts to show anyone my writing so yeah (see, what I mean about the tween?). Cue insertion of ‘the struggle is real’ meme.

That’s the sad ending. The not-so-sad ending is that my dream has always been to write a book. I don’t know if it will be in this life or the next but it will be done. I will write that acknowledgement page, I just know it. The neutral ending is that I don’t know if I’d actually want to write like anyone else rather than me. Include insightful Dr. Seuss quote that I sadly can’t think of since Dr. Seuss wasn’t a big part of my childhood.

I’m all over the page today – pun intended.

I understand that I write with a lot of parentheses. I suppose I could remove them and make them into regular sentences but I just like that bubble around the words, you know?

Hey, I managed to write about food and writing – two things I am particularly fond of – in the same post. Not too shabby, self, not too shabby.

Raine
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Here I am

Today has been one of those really strange days. My emotions have been all over the place. Okay, maybe this has been happening more in recent weeks but today has been one of the days I feel like writing about it.

First, today I dropped my sister off at the health center. I think that was the first time this semester I’ve been alone in the car. As I drove in silence to the building I needed to be at, I pinpointed the emotion I was experiencing. Emptiness. The seat beside me was empty and the silence was deafening. It was strange. It really was. It made me think about how I wouldn’t be the person that I am (the positive parts, of course) without my family behind me.

This morning we had an exam. The kind of exam that requires you to process and memorize so much information that your brain feels like it’s being squeezed and your eyes glaze over the words at the information overload point. I think that exam drained a lot of my energy today. I was ready for it to be over and when it was, I felt… nothing. Don’t you just hate feeling like you need to study even though the test is over already?

We had leftover Thai curry (yesterday), rice and vegetables (from two days ago) for lunch. Remind me that black rice by itself is not a good idea.

I was supposed to turn in two thank you letters today – well, I set the deadline myself – but by the time I got to the post office to get some envelopes, it was closed. I kept overthinking what I wrote in the letter, wondering if the reader would find me childish or inadequate with words. Speaking of which, I am a terrible email respondent and I have a reply sitting in my draft box, waiting to be perfected. I can only hope that when the person receives my reply, she won’t think poorly of me. I suppose if she does, it’s my fault anyway.

Then dinner was surprisingly upbeat. We ate out with friends at a popular Mexican restaurant. The food was good – I have this newfound love for fish tacos – but for the price, the portions were underwhelming. Finally, one of us announced: I’m still hungry. Everyone chimed in wholeheartedly and we decided to go get dessert at Yogurtland which is obviously our new obsession. Confession: I’m hungry as I write this and it has only been a few hours since dinner.

Last week, this is what I wrote but never posted (today’s thoughts will be added in parentheses):

“My emotions have been overflowing lately (nothing has changed since last week, huh?). Yesterday I poured my feelings into one thank you letter, one thank you post, one very brief speech, one un-brief speech to my sister about holding important positions, and one (I didn’t finish this sentence and I can’t remember what I meant to say here). I wound down with a 40-minute-long video that had me wishing I vacationed in Bern last year lol (and today I wound down with 2 40-minute-long videos that still have me wishing that I vacationed in Bern).

Then this morning a panic attack woke me up. My pillow was already damp with tears from the nightmare right before the one that woke me up. I tried to shake off the terrible feeling and immediately got to making the lists that I needed to make. All semester long, I have been feeling inadequate, feeling like I’m not doing enough, and worse still, knowing that I haven’t been doing what I need to do. It usually always boils down to this feeling.

I have asked myself over and over again this semester: Have you been slacking off? Have you been doing enough? No, is the answer I keep coming up with. I haven’t been able to bring myself to clean the apartment consistently, I haven’t put 100% into my studies, I have let my hobbies and passions slide like hot butter, I feel like I haven’t been half the responsible person that I was last year (when will I go easy on myself?), I feel like I’m letting the people I love down. I’m not and don’t want to make excuses for myself. Discovering Kpop has given me an avenue to conveniently put everything aside but when I return from those dance-y and stress-relieving videos, everything is still here waiting.

Right after that, I read a girl’s post on Fb about her depression and anxiety. We’re not that close since she took a gap year after I got to know her but after reading her post, I felt like I needed to say something to her. I wanted her to know that she’s not alone in feeling helpless and unmotivated. So I did. Sometimes I think I have no sense when it comes to timing when I say stuff and how much to say, sometimes I just let my heart lead. Today was one of those days the latter happened.

Random: It’s surprisingly easy and quick to print photos out at Costco. At 17c per photo, I’d say that’s a good deal.

Just like that, a friend that we seem to click with and feel comfortable around – the feeling is rare – is going back home to Europe next month. I feel sad that we didn’t meet earlier but what we have, I’ll treasure it. Last year, a girl I enjoyed working with moved back to the East Coast. I regret not keeping in touch with her and am considering sending her a Fb message though I am not sure if she feels the same way about me as I do.

The other day at a club meeting, I passed up on the opportunity to hold an officer position. I was very upset with myself for a few hours after that. My family tells me I’m already doing a lot. I feel like I should be doing more. The struggle… is real (on some days harder than others).

Random: Remember in my previous post about Super Junior I talked about being envious of Kpop stars’ ‘perfection’? Well, I think I began to feel that a little bit until I saw pictures of their bare face. They have the same skin tone as me under all that makeup, yay. It was beginning to feel unsettling to see their flawless shiny faces, I’ll just admit. (DongHae is everything)

Apparently, my sister can read me like an open book. She asked me while I was writing this from right across the table, “Writing an emotional post?” If anyone had any doubts that she is my better half, I think that’d be dispelled by just that one line.”

She also apparently just took one look at my face and said, “Don’t be emo.” -_- Am I that obvious?

Oh, and it’s been getting HOT. I am already getting flip flop tan lines which I swore last year I would try to avoid.

I can only be honest at the end of this post: I’m mentally tired. And also hungry.

Raine
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First week of April

An update has been long overdue.

First off, today is my least favorite celebrated day – April Fool’s Day. Lame jokes, irritating pranks, and a bunch of falsehood make a poor combination and I cannot appreciate any of it.

Second of all, I got off early from class today. From the class that hasn’t ended early at all this semester. It’s a good thing because there was so much information to absorb and I don’t think I could’ve sat through a guest speaker’s presentation without being distracted.

This time last year was spring break. Oh how good we had it last spring break. There was plenty of time to mess around in the kitchen and experiment with recipes. Spring break this year is over and I spent half of it not doing the work I should have been doing which made me feel horrible but I was insistent on letting the break stay a break. I spent one day doing absolutely nothing but writing. Aside from the nagging guilt and procrastination buildup, it was great.

All my hobbies and interests have had to be pushed off the trundling wagon. My language learning has been stalled. I have been thinking about the many language sites I’ve visited telling you that the only way you can make progress in language learning is by cutting out a block of time for language studying and sticking to the schedule. Here’s the thing though: life happens and sometimes even when I do have 15 minutes or even 2 hours of free time, my brain is so tired that I just want to not do anything, and sometimes I have no mood to get back into that language learning zone so it makes studying frustrating and pointless.

Last week I had a surge of inspiration after having lunch with a Japanese professor. I came home and pulled out all my studying material. I didn’t get to any of it. I looked down at the first set of notes and felt guilty about not doing school work so I set it aside. That pile of papers now sit beside me on the desk, collecting dust… again. I want to get back into the momentum I was in before the semester but I know that school workload is only going to take over as the semester comes closer and closer to the end.

In other news, I finally have a functional phone again. I have been without a phone for 6 weeks. It was okay. A bit challenging at times, not being able to communicate with my sister, but mostly it was liberating. I didn’t feel the need to check my phone unnecessarily and I didn’t get distracted by the light flashing when I got incoming messages.

I can’t remember what else I wanted to say except that the only thing I feel like doing is eating. I have been craving vegetarian pizza, Thai panang fish curry, dim sum, all things pasta, all things potato, a nice big fat tray of sushi (I haven’t had decent Japanese food here, not counting the meal my Japanese friends made), samgyeopsal, Burger King french fries, fish and chips (I miss fish and chips so much), and anything homemade. I want it all. So much food, so little time, so little money.

I feel that a lot of my update posts are depressing to read. They probably are.

But if it’s not challenging you, you’re not changing, right? That’s what my friend told me today. Let’s keep hustling.

Happy Friday.

(P.S: It’s getting warm, maybe that’s why I’m irritable and have the hot weather blues)

Raine
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First time trying Panera

In all the time we’ve been here, we have heard about Panera but have never actually gone there. It was just never on our list of places to eat at… I don’t think we would ever have gone if not for a friend of ours who took us there one day. From what I heard, Panera is supposed to have lots of healthy and delicious options.

Does it, though? I saw a lot of white bread and deli meats (bacon, salami, ham) and some soups on the menu. Being in the major that I am, I couldn’t help thinking: okay, white bread equals refined carbohydrates equals blood sugar spikes… and deli meats equals processed foods equals everyone knows processed food is no good for you… and soups? Oh, don’t get me started on the sodium level and the stuff I learned about salt.

I’m not a health freak (lol inside joke) by any means but I was curious to know if the rich  (oh yes, they are) health freaks who eat there regularly actually think Panera is healthy.

We generally don’t order sandwiches at restaurants unless we are at Subway or Togo’s because my mom’s idea is that sandwiches can be made at home for less and better. Almost everything on the menu seemed to be something I could make at home and not have to pay $7 for half a sandwich or buy double the amount at a store for the same price.

Well, anyway, the cashier explained how to order and I went with the roasted turkey and caramelized kale panini. “Did you want half or the whole order?” she asked. She somehow couldn’t tell me exactly how big half was…? “It’s just half an order,” was her very helpful answer. I decided to go with half. It was $6.59 for half an order and I could apparently choose a side of either apple, bread, or chips. I went with bread.
sb-panera-sandwich1

So this is it. This was all it was. Maybe my expectations were too high for a place that seemed to be adored by many folks. I looked down at the panini… disappointed. I paid $6.59 plus tax for this… Can I have my money back and go home and make it myself?

Okay, but the real question in your mind (at least for those of you who haven’t tried Panera) is, was it any good?

It was neither tasty nor yucky. It was just a panini. It would have benefited from having some herbs inside but it was alright. I guess you could say it tasted ‘healthy’ since it wasn’t special in any way that would make you wonder if they had put some ‘extra ingredients’. It tasted like something you would make at home thus the ‘healthiness’ factor, I suppose.

Who serves cold, hard, and dry bread? Panera does. Who likes bread that way? Not me. It was a sorry piece of bread that couldn’t be saved by the pats of butter you tried to put on it. You look at the luscious loaves of bread arranged on racks behind the counter and think, my god, that looks delicious, I’ll have that bread. When it arrives on your plate, you find it COLD and TOUGH. I’m sure I saw a microwave somewhere in their open kitchen. They are certainly generous by giving half a loaf of bread but perhaps they are just trying to rid their kitchen of days-old bread.

The elderly lady who was with us had a hard time trying to rip her bread apart and chew it. I was tempted to ask her if she needed any help shredding it to bits. In the end, she tore the remaining bread into chunks and fed it to the birds who were more than happy to have their go at the stone-cold and rock-hard bread.

My sister got the roasted turkey cranberry flatbread. It, too, lacked any kind of appeal except maybe for the fact that it is listed on the site as being a mere 300 calories.

People who don’t know how to make their own sandwiches and have extra money to spend, I get why you love this place. People who do know how to make their own sandwiches and have better things to spend their money on (I don’t know, utility bills and tuition fees), save yourself a trip here.

I’m almost afraid to try Chipotle which is the other place that have people singing praises about…

Raine
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