Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Word of the Day: Biriba

Learnt a new word today: Biriba - the knobby green tropical fruit that almost resembles a cross between an artichoke and a pine cone, with a cream-colored custard-like flesh shaped like the seeds of a pomelo and large oval black seeds that are smooth.  Out of curiosity, I had to find out what this fruit is called in this part of the world, because it was one of my favorite fruits as I was growing up in Hong Kong, and because I've found this delicious fruit in the Chinese supermarket last night and I just had to buy it.  Apparently it is also called sweetsop and more fittingly, sugar-apple.  I couldn't wait to devour it last night and I can't wait to share the other one with my family tonight :)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

BodyAttack is addictive!!

Lately our usual Zumba classes aren't as much fun as it used to be - mostly because our instructor Jewel is so awesome that over 40 people try to squeeze into the tiny studio and end up hitting/stepping on each other.  I've been stepped on several times and it's such a turn off when people are so inconsiderate to barge into my space.  Half the time I manage to stay for the whole class, but even so I never feel like I get a good enough work out.  Especially after I've started doing the BodyAttack/Yoga combo.  I get a natural high out of it, whether it be the adrenaline from the intense workout or the triumphant feeling that I'd survived.  And yesterday I was actually craving it, so I scrambled over to the Millcreek gym after work and made it into the Body Attack class that was just starting.  What a workout!  I actually felt less tired last night and slept more soundly than usual.  This group exercise class is totally addictive!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

how to stop a coworker on speaker phone from grating on last nerve

I can usually tolerate background noises and I handle multiple tasks no problem, but this particular coworker of mine is really starting to get on my nerves!  She seems to have a need to talk incessantly and she is always striking up conversations or when that fails, goes on the phone.  Not only does she dials on the speaker phone - when she does get through she talks as if there is no one else is in the office.

I didn't want to say anything because nobody else in the office seem to be bothered by the constant dial tone and yapping in another language, and I felt bad about my growing resentment towards her voice.  A confrontation is that last thing I want, and I really don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  I tried to rationalize for her: maybe she doesn't have anyone to talk to at home and maybe she just doesn't realize how loud she gets, and maybe talking is her way of dealing with stress.  It's not working.

I've resorted to my iPod Shuffle to keep my sanity in the office these days, but then it blocks out not just the noises - I missed out on other conversations as well, including remarks and instructions from my boss. I wonder if there are more technologically-advanced headphones that allows for selective filtering.  And even when I have my headphones on, she would come to stand close enough that I feel her presence and am forced to take off my headphones for her conversations - most of the time about her children. Meanwhile, I tried to look up "how to stop a coworker from constantly dialing on the speaker phone" on google to no avail, but I did find many people suffering from the same obstructive harassment in their workplace.  Knowing that I am not alone makes my feel slightly better - but the noise is still there and I can't have my headphones on all the time!  What to do??

My scarf done, his scarf unbound

I had almost finished my scarf last week and managed to get some help from my coworker who's an expert knitter - to get a nice edge at the end, binding off must be done in pattern - which means my knitting all the way through when I bound off B's scarf was what caused it to go all ruffled and fluttery. So I bound off in pattern for my scarf by knitting where there is a knit and purling where there is a purl, which wasn't all that tricky and difficult to do. And despite the lack of even tension, it turned out much nicer than B's scarf, which I have to undo anyway because it's not quite long enough.

Well, as I was knitting B's scarf Mom had insisted that it was getting way too long and kept nagging me to bind off already. I gave in after the scarf grew as tall as me and bound off - and the first thing Mom blurted out after seeing it on B was "why is it so short?"!! I didn't really know what to do but I seeked advice from my coworker who suggested that I can undo the binding to add more length - so that's what I did. Revealing the end that I've weaved in was not the hard part - but taking it out was another story. I was iffy about it because I've never done it before and I don't consider myself skillful enough to not mess it up, and it did prove difficult for the first few stitches when I didn't know which loop to put back on to my knitting needle and which loop I let go. But after awhile I realized that all I had to do was to insert the needle where the yarn has gone through and before long I had gotten into a rhythm of reverse-knitting. Thank goodness I had all 54 stitches picked up as I wasn't that fond of the idea of ripping out and redoing the whole scarf.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I probably shouldn't be ranting about this but I'm quite annoyed by the fact that my parents still fuss over my brother (who is only 2 years junior) like a baby while treating me so indifferently.  Case in point - we realized that my car has been overdue for an oil change during our Tremblant trip.  I'm worried - I am usually OK with things like this but last time we got the oil change done at Costco they didn't put a sticker to state when the next one should be - so I only realized when the "maintenance required" light came on (and after panicking and perpetually sensing a weird smell that no one else notices).  So I mentioned that I need an oil change for my car.  If it had been my brother - Mom would have offered to take care of the whole thing for him, right away, no questions asked.  With mine - that's a different story.  Not that I mind taking care of my own vehicle, as I should be doing, but it's just small things like that that show what a huge difference it is to be a son rather than a daughter.

Anyway, to take out some stress I thought I would need some sweet.  Our dessert du jour was sago pudding with coconut Cream and sweet ripe mango:

I had ripe mangoes that needed to be consumed because I'd rather pay 8 bucks for 18 than 6 bucks for 5, and I had some coconut cream that would be divine with the mangoes. But I didn't find black sticky rice at home, so we couldn't make that famous mango coconut rice pudding found in all decent thai restaurants. We did have some sago, which is finicky to get just right, but I thought it was worth a shot. And after the sago is done, all I've done is to layer - sago first, then coconut cream, then chopped mangoes - YUM!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mont Tremblant

I just LOVE skiing at Mont Tremblant - whether it's about the sheer size of the mountain or the amazing scenery or the great restaurants - it's just so much better than the local ski resorts in Ontario so much so that it's totally worth the 6 - 7 hours drive.

Can't really remember how many times we've gone skiing at Mont Tremblant, but we try to do it once a year - and this year we only managed to go at the end of my brother's March Break - which is fine, except that it's been exceptionally warm this year and the conditions weren't the best we've seen on this mountain.  Either way, we can't complain - we still got 2 full days of snowboarding and didn't miss all the trails that were closed.

And because of the warm weather we weren't expecting much in terms of snow - in fact we even considered cancelling the whole trip - so we weren't really disappointed or anything with the slush and ice.  Friday was so warm that my brother was snowboarding in just his T-shirt and jacket - without any fleece or scarf.  Even in the evening we were able to walk around without our outer shell.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

getting off track

I aimed to finish my half of the pair of scarves that I am knitting for B and me over this past weekend.  Well, I got side track when I saw these cute little amigurumi and I just had to try my hands at it - and ended up sitting in front of you-tube tutorials with my crochet hook.

I had tried to crochet before but it never really made sense to me, but after the 5th or maybe 6th view of the video I started to get the knack of crocheting in the round - I still can't do it on a straight chain yet.  It took a couple of trying and unraveling but in the end I managed to make a small ball using some scrape yarn I found lying around and some polyfil that was intended for another project (that's been long abandoned).  My first amigurumi ball has got bald spots all over the top and bottom, however, probably because I am using too big of a hook (I had a size-K on hand, so that's what I used).  I didn't want the bald spots to show, so to hide them, I looped a darker yarn around and it turned into a lion's mane!

I had no idea what I was making when I started, but turns out it was meant to be a lion:

I surfed some more on you-tube and found videos of how to make ears.  I didn't find any buttons nor beads so I used black thread to make the eyes - and ran out of thread half way through the second one.  I made another bigger ball to become the body and attached it to the bottom of the head.  Then I added a tail, and voila - Leo the Lion says GRRR!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Firefly @ First Markham could use some training in customer service

We stopped by Firefly Seafood and Steakhouse at First Markham Place for a quick bite over the weekend and for me it was the first time.  I have always been curious about it because of the commercials and this restaurant seemed to have lasted longer than the usual in the plaza, but I didn't think I would have set myself up for some major disappointments.

The portions were quite generous, considering the vibe and the prices but the food was only OK - it's nothing to rave about.  Service, on the other hand, was HORRIBLE.  Our server must have really not wanted to be there and throughout our visit he has not once smiled.

Since it was taking so long, we had asked our waiter to change one of the drinks included in the combo.  He nodded, muttered something, and disappeared.  A while later another waiter brought our drinks - without having made the switch we asked for.  When we questioned, the first waiter came by to finally let us know that he couldn't change it because the drink was already made.

Then the dishes weren't placed on the table - it was more like it was thrown at you - and not once had they got the right dish to the right person.  And the waiters didn't bother to ask neither, they just dropped them off and left.

Then one of the waiters tried to pick up something and somehow knocked over a glass of water and spilled it onto our bags and onto B - but there was no apology nor offer to help clean up.  We had to move our stuff out of the way so they don't get soaked, and we had to ask before they gave us paper towels.  I know you can't expect much from a Chinese restaurant, but this was one of the worst experiences ever.  I certainly won't go to this place ever again, and I would never recommend it to anyone.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Body Attack + Yoga Double Combo

One of my 2010 resolution was to try Body Attack at least once this year - and I did it!!  I did run a little late coming out from work, plus I got distracted by the sale going on at Sport Mart (picked up a decent pair of Columbia snowpants for $75+tx), so I did join the class 10 minutes after it's started.  Regardless, I'd had a great work-out.

There was a running track where the whole class just ran in a big circle, then there was an aerobic track with jumps and kicks.  We also did push-ups (which I failed, if anybody was grading) and quite a bit of abs work like sit-ups and leg raises.  The moves were easier to follow than I thought - I think Zumba had trained me well with all the different dance moves so these knee-ups and heel-jacks weren't too much to pick up.  I was surprised when the class came to an end - I had survived!!  I was soaked and out of breath, but I survived!!

And I stayed for my usual yoga class - right after Body Attack.  I could feel that some poses (like the "tree") had became harder to hold, whereas other poses (like the "plank") I could hold longer than usual.  I wonder if that has anything to do with the intense aerobics I had just done.  Regardless, I had an awesome time last night, I slept like a baby, and this morning I woke up feeling refreshed and ready for just about anything.  I think I will try to do this more often.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Morty Nomination

There's this thing at work called the Morty Award that allows us to nominate a fellow coworker who goes above and beyond.  From all the nominations collected in a month, one will be randomly drawn to win the prize - a $50 gift card of their choice.  And guess what?  I am one of the nominees!!

My boss had nominated me for the award without me knowing, so I was quite surprised when people greeted me for congratulations.  There was one other nominee this month and fortunately for him he's won the prize (boo!).  But the nomination itself was awesome enough - it's justified all the staying late and running around I do here and it's so nice to know that what I do is actually appreciated.  Yay for Morty!

Cream Cheese Tartlets - Two Ways

Rummaging through our pantry I discovered a lonely can of peaches, so I thought I'd make use of it and turn it into something delicious.  A lightbulb came on when I saw puff pastry in the frozen aisle in the grocery store - and I came up with this quick and easy recipe for these pretty little tartlets:

Peach Tartlets

  • 1 sheet frozen rolled puff pastry (I used the PC brand, which was on sale), thawed
  • 1/2 brick cream cheese (Philly light), softened
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 can peach slices (Del-Monte), drained

  1. Prepare cream cheese mixture:  mix cream cheese with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla until smooth.
  2. Prepare pastry: seperate rolled puff pastry into 24 pieces by cutting into 4 strips widthwise then cutting each strip into halves and then each half into thirds.  Place each of the 24 pieces into the cups of a non-stick mini-muffin pan, lightly pressing down the middle then down the side to form a tart shell.
  3. Spoon 1 teaspoon of cream cheese mixture into each tart shell, being careful not to put too much.
  4. Top each tartlet with half of a peach slice
  5. Bake in preheated oven: 18 - 20 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until corners are puffy and golden.
  6. Tartlets are easier to remove from pan while still warm.

Since I had left-over cream cheese and a bunch of fresh, fragrant basil that would have otherwise gone to waste, I thought I would make a savory version:

Tomato Basil Tartlets


  • 1 sheet frozen rolled puff pastry (I used the PC brand, which was on sale), thawed overnight in the fridge
  • 1/2 brick cream cheese (Philly light), softened
  • 1/3 cup freshly chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teapoon mashed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tomato, sliced, then cut each slice into quarters 
  1. Prepare cream cheese mixture: mix cream cheese with basil, parnesan, garlic and sugar until smooth.
  2. Prepare pastry: seperate rolled puff pastry into 24 pieces by cutting into 4 strips widthwise then cutting each strip into halves and then each half into thirds. Place each of the 24 pieces into the cups of a non-stick mini-muffin pan, lightly pressing down the middle then down the side to form a tart shell.
  3. Spoon 1 teaspoon of cream cheese mixture into each tart shell, being careful not to put too much.
  4. Top each tartlet with 2 quarter-slices tomato and a dash of basil.
  5. Bake in preheated oven: 18 - 20 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until corners are puffy and golden.
  6. Tartlets are easier to remove from pan while still warm.