Practice Makes Perfect


This past Saturday, I had taken Champagne Calligraphy 101 taught by, Bianca Mascorro (pictured left) who is the mastermind behind Little Miss Press. This was organized by Jessica Dixon (pictured right), co-founder of Fullosophie which has lots of fun workshops for anyone who wants to learn a new skill.


It was my first time using a calligraphy pen with a nib. Right when were able to dip into the ink, was it such a an amazing experience to put it on paper. I found myself smiling and taking it all in, learning from the previous letter form to improve the next. There is something quite meditative about calligraphy. On my most stressful days at work, I’m thinking about whipping out the pen to practice letterforms to calm my mind.


In other news, I’ve been working on the “ultimate” porridge this past year, chasing that white whale of a recipe. Each version of it always seems to taste different. It’s been pretty fun and interesting experimenting with various techniques and ingredients. This morning my roommate had asked what kind of porridge I was making, whether it was Vietnamese or Chinese and I replied “I don’t know, it’s a ‘Vy’ version.” I thought about the evolution of the recipe and how once I am completely satisfied with the results can I confidently call it a ‘Vy’ version. As my friend would say, “it’s not a soup and it’s not a solid. What is it?”

It’s porridge.

Discovery

What initially began as a post about discovering a different Vietnamese noodle soup (which I will get into in a second) has led to me to finding this image of a bubble snail that I saw skimming through my news feed.


I’m always amazed about all the beauty and wonder that exists. And me being me, with amazement comes fear of the unknown. My brain immediately remembers the horror movie The Descent where these girls bravely go into a cave and discover…

I won’t spoil it!


This food discovery isn’t so much the The Descent, but very much the excitement of finding a starlit bubble snail.

I’ve grown up eating Vietnamese food my whole life and never once have I encountered this dish called bún mắm which is essentially a fermented thick vermicelli soup that originated in the Mekong Delta. Di and I have booked our plane tickets to Vietnam for the end of February and with this recent discovery of bún mắm, I can only imagine that there is going to be so much more when we visit. I am making a visual (mental) note to re-watch Luke Nguyen’s Great Mekong to brush up on the Mekong Delta just in case we decide to drop by.

I had the pleasure of eating bún mắm at the appropriately named, Bún Mam Sóc Trang in Oakland. Their version included shrimp, pork belly, assorted fish and I got the special that included crispy pork skin. It’s a unique flavor that is subtly sweet, has a bit of funk to it and is entirely balanced out with the fresh herbs & lime added to it. If you like a bit of spice, then you’ll love their chili paste in this soup.


This is the interior of Bánh Mì Ba Le which has a yummy meat ball bánh mì that you can add a fried egg to. They also sell delicious Chinese sausages that I’ve used to cook what I call “Jank Rice” made for the laziest of lazy days. I cook an omelette with a little bit of fish sauce, pepper and green onions. I slap the egg over some rice, top it with one sliced Chinese sausage (pan fried), hot oil, sesame oil and soy sauce. VOILA! Jank Rice.


This last one was found during a light hike at the Panoramic Hills in Berkeley. It’s times like these where I really wish I had a car so that I can efficiently explore different areas.

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I enjoyed an article written by David Chang. To sum it up, nay on the turkey, yay for family traditions. I did happen to read this after I had already completed my turkey quest, but lucky for me, I was able to join in on someone else’s non-turkey meal.

Every Thanksgiving, Kim’s family eats this delicious crunchy Vietnamese crepe called bánh xèo for breakfast. The crepe is actually just flour and turmeric mixed with water, coconut milk and sometimes beer. Their fillings consist of bacon, pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and cucumber. Once fried, we drizzle our plates with peanut sauce, a squeeze of their most fragrant meyer lemon and if we saw fit, some chili for that spicy kick. Lastly, we top it off with fresh greens to balance out that fried goodness.


My family likes to keep it pretty classic during Thanksgiving. What you see below is the first turkey I’ve ever cooked! Many thanks to Kim for helping me brine this the night before.

Cmd + Return

I started to realize that the more I grow older, the more I forget things.

I foggily remember listening to Radiolab on memory and forgetting. I could be quoting this entirely wrong, but I believe the interviewee stated that there is a limit to what our brains can store and once you’ve reached capacity, all new information that is being retained would push old memories to this black hole section of our brains. We unfortunately do not have the luxury of buying an external hard drive to increase our memory storage, so we work with what we have.

Me doubling down on social drinking + my lack of healthy brain foods (and healthy foods in general) probably means my storage has decreased.

I had a great conversation with a friend maybe 7 years ago, who mentioned that the purest form of a memory is the first time in which you recall it and anytime thereafter, the details change until it becomes something slightly if not drastically different from the original. Kind of scary… right?

Every now and then I return to this site and skim through the posts and I feel my brain being reignited. Apparently, mnemonic devices are a great tool for recalling things and the photos posted will serve as a memory triggering device. So before I become senile, I would like to retain the purity of my memories within this space.

The Mummy Returns… again!


Steamed shrimp dumplings with XO sauce at Koi Palace in Daly City on a mostly lazy Sunday

Ich bin ein Berliner

Maybe what what JFK meant after he said his famously quoted “Ich bin ein Berliner” is that he actually ate so much in Berlin that he felt like a jelly doughnut. I know I did. (That said, warning: a lot of these are food photos.)

After many years, Vy and I finally took our first international trip together, which incidentally happened by accident. Vy’s work trip happened to coincide with the beginning of my two month sabbatical, and we decided to take on Berlin and see our good buddy Eloise.

Flying in from Amsterdam, I arrived a day earlier in Berlin than Vy. I met up with Eloise at her place in Friedrichshain, and we quickly got started with the eat-stravaganza. She took me to the new location of the famous Berlin döner spot, Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap, located dangerously close to her place. We picked up a couple chicken kebabs, a couple beers, and made our way down to the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall and found a spot near the river to eat.

doner

After realizing I was hungrier than I felt and demolishing the massive döner, we headed for a Turkish market near the canal in Kreuzberg. The rest of the afternoon found us wandering from bar to cozy bar (seriously, every bar was begging for a nap) through Kreuzberg into Neukölln, and eventually ending the evening with some of Eloise’s friends at a taco dinner party. By this time, I had already fallen completely in love with Berlin.

The next day, we eagerly awaited Vy’s arrival from Frankfurt. As soon as she arrived, we ended up at the Boxhagener Platz for the weekend flea market and snacked on some Russian dumplings and greek yogurt-like quark. Heading back, we stopped for another kind of döner kebab (Vy’s first!). We then checked into our hostel, Ostel, about a 15-minute walk from Eloise’s. Our night began to get interesting from there. Since the evening was quickly approaching, we decided to head out and see some of the Festival of Lights attractions in the city. Stopping at Alexanderplatz, we saw Fernsehturm, the TV tower, and happened upon a small festival happening in the town center. Currywurst and some spiked gluhwein warmed us right up as the rain started to come down.

currywurst

We hopped our way over to a cozy, Russian-themed bar nearby to dodge the downpour, and as we saw the rain let-up, we made our way to another nearby bar/club venue. It turned out to be closed, so we trekked our way through pouring rain to a bar about 20-30 minutes away. Totally drenched, we were all pretty relieved to find some shelter. Somehow still hungry from the day, we ate some weird nachos and cashews out of (the best) vending machine, then topped that off with a few drinks (and maybe a shot or two). Vy had a marker with her, which resulted in some silly handdrawn temporary tattoos.

tattoo

Eloise found out that her friend was at a bar right across the street, so we made our way over to meet up, and imbibed even more! By 3am (!!!), we had clearly had our share of alcohol, and started trudging back to our homes. But, not without a stop at world-famous (by my account, anyway) Burgermeister. A couple cheeseburgers and fries later, we finally got ourselves to bed at 4.

berlinwall

Needless to say, we had a slow start the next morning. Fortunately though, we were graced with amazing sunshine in exchange for the shitty weather we had the night before. Bleary-eyed and hungover, we went back to Boxhagener Platz to see all the treasures at the Sunday flea market, then had brunch (and a lot of coffee) nearby.

fleamarket

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We then took the train over to Museum Island, and saw all of historical Berlin as we made our way to Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial.

vyweez

checkpoint

After a quick stop at Potsdamer Platz, where we got our stamps to “go to” East Berlin, we made our way back to Kreuzberg where we ate at Nansen, a quaint little restaurant with really tasty food. Still super sleepy from the rager the night before, we went back to end our night at Eloise’s (after stopping at Sofa Bar, of course!), and read each other’s tarot fortunes.

taro

The next day we found ourselves with unexpected amazing weather again, and decided to rent bikes, which turned out to be the best way to see the city! Eloise took us to her favorite kumpir (Turkish baked potato) spot in Kreuzberg, where we got drunk off food (again).

kumpir

We walked it off with some shopping in Neukölln, then hopped back on our bikes to visit the abandoned Tempelhof Airport before Vy had to catch her flight. It was the most amazing spot! A totally empty airfield-turned-public park, where everyone could ride/wheel/run/kite to their heart’s delight. It was definitely one of my favorite spots that we visited in Berlin, and I wish we could’ve stayed longer! After failed attempt to rent Segways (yes, we tried), we took our bikes around the runway, and made the ride back home through Hasenheide Park. It was an amazing autumn day with leaves falling all around us, and a perfect ending to the Berlin trip.

tempelhof

cycling

The next day, the rain started again (probably because Vy left!), and after a small kaffee and küchen, Eloise and I made our way over to the Sachenhausen Concentration Camp memorial near Oranienburg. Like we expected, it was a super sobering and eerie experience. Everyone knows the Holocaust happened, but there’s something about being where it happened, and walking on the same grounds where so many atrocities occurred. Everyone there seemed to have a heavy-heart and a very somber experience, but it was definitely one like no other.

concentrationcamp

Our trip was cut short when I needed to leave to get to the airport to fly back to Amsterdam. Rushing out the door, I gave Eloise a quick squeeze, and promised that I’d be back to Berlin again. After that trip, I definitely intend to.

Gem & The Holograms

Last weekend, Chris and I Hank’ed it (for Breaking Bad fans) and attended the San Francisco Gem Show held at the San Francisco County Building.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect since it was my first show. Upon walking in, there were display cases full of the finest gems, but we decided to look at that last. First, we must browse around at the tables selling minerals so that we don’t miss out on the good stuff. Casino style, I set a cap on my expenditure. They surprisingly served wine at this event. Heck, why not? We each got a wine-shaped plastic cup and were on our merry way.

We went behind and under tables, sifting through all these boxes. I liked that there were labels with locations, some tables even had their their scientific makeup. Each box was a new discovery into a different part of the world. I happened to come across this piece that I thought Di and her fellow Fresnonians would be into. It’s tiny and is actually from Germany instead of Fresno, CA.

Leave it to me to be drawn to pieces that remind me of food. These look like cookies or some kind of dessert with sprinkles on it. The colors on the specks are so vibrant. I’m like a child, amazed at nature’s creations.

For those who really know me, there should be no surprise that I am interested in the metaphysical properties of stones. I jokingly said that this one below was Slimer’s poop. Malachite “balances mood swings and heals cramps.” How did I manage to pass up such a prize that would be beneficial to my lady needs?

These are some other goodies for everyone to ooh and ahh at. I can see this hobby being dangerous for me.

I left with only 3 pieces, one of which will now be used as a calcite lens. I didn’t capture a post worthy shot from my own camera, but Chris managed to get one from his.

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Dance party Fridays! Take a cue from Bart, put on your MC Hammer pants, and let loose this weekend.

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A rainy Friday in Southern California, and maybe where you are too?

I’m leaving for China for two weeks on Monday, so I thought this .gif was an appropriate parting gift. If there was no chance of getting fired, I’d dress up in a panda suit, knock all the stuff off people’s desks and say “SEE YA SUCKERS.”

Happy Friday!

Birthday Meatloaf Cake

Best cake ever.

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I couldn’t resist. Apparently I have the last expression that this little girl makes, a lot.

It’s been awhile! Happy Friday, all.


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