April 4, 2014

at home in the curious city

Homemade Soy Milk

Since my mom's been staying with us, I've been reaping all the benefits of freshly made everything everyday. Monday thru Friday she sends me off on my morning commute with a jar of homemade soy milk. I like to heat it up in the microwave and drink it at work whilst confronting my Outlook inbox.

Ingredients (makes 60 oz pitcher):
2 cups soybeans
10 cups warm water

1. Measure 2 cups of soybeans. Rinse soybeans so they are clean.
2. Soak overnight or for 8 hours.
3. Boil until soft, 15-20 minutes on a low flame. Strain half the soybeans out.
4. Put into a food processor or blender. Add 5 cups warm water.
5. Blend for 2-3 minutes.
6. Let soy milk sit for another 2-3 minutes to allow the pulp to sink to the bottom.
7. Sift the soy milk.
8. Repeat steps 4-7 with the other half of the boiled soy beans.

Add sugar to taste. Drink cold or warm. Enjoy!

Since the bebe was born, my sister had to cut dairy out of her diet  temporarily - specifically ICE CREAM. This is a big problem for the Sheen sisters, and I had to take pity on her. Big problem though... I had no idea how to make dairy-free ice cream. Having no dietary restrictions, the world of gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. desserts is foreign to me. I headed to dear google to do some research.

The problem with nondairy substitutes is that their fat content is too low - nonexistent for some. Well, you can't have ice cream without that creamy fattiness! So based on my research, I wanted a recipe that used soy CREAMER rather than milk (pretty genius). Most of the dairy-free recipes out there are based on coconut milk, but I didn't want to deal with the coconut taste. I searched longer for a soy creamer-based recipe. I found a good one and adapted it just a bit since 1) xanthan gum cost a whopping $15 at the market and 2) eggs are just fine for a new mom to eat.

adapted from Oh Lady Cakes

3 1/2 cups soy creamer
1/3 cup cane sugar
1 egg white
3 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Add the sugar, egg white, and vanilla extract to a bowl and mix well.
2. Heat 1/3 cup of soy creamer in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
3. Slowly add the sugar and egg mixture into the saucepan and mix well with a whisk.
4. Continue whisking and bring the mix to a boil.
5. Add 3 cups of soy cream and continue to whisk for 2 minutes.
6. Pour into a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
7. Stick everything in the fridge until completely cooled.
8. Add to ice cream maker for 20 minutes.
9. Thaw for 10-15 minutes before serving.

March 22, 2014

at home in the curious city

It's been four months since my last update on my mom's house project. During this time I have been working nonstop and yet it feels like I have nothing to show for it. A lot of the work has been coordination with the survey, soil, structural, mechanical and fire engineers, as well as running back and forth to the city. The design of the house has also gone through minor changes, especially on the exterior but I'll share that next time. Today will be a purely plan-based discussion, focused on zoning and paving design.

As I mentioned before, the area of the house is limited to 1200 square feet by the City of Torrance. But to maintain a sizable backyard and visibility from the street (the new house will be located behind our existing house, around 200 feet from the street) I made the house two levels so the actual footprint is only 800 square feet which is pretty tiny. Therefore an open floor plan at the ground floor and proper zoning will help make the space feel more expansive. The white oak floor is consistent throughout to emphasize a singular grand space, the kitchen flows into the living room which opens up into the backyard. Only the entrance and bathroom deviate with their own identity. 
The white oak continues up the stairs onto the second floor. For the master bathroom I chose Dwell's Little Diamond tile from Heath Ceramics in dark grey because the three dimensional geometry conveys a more modern and mature tone. In contrast, the guest bath on the first floor has a more flowery geometric tile pattern called Half Hex which is playful in nature. Another tile company I like is Fireclay Tile. I particularly admire their Ogee Drop tile which is scallop shaped. I need to somehow incorporate it into the house...

Paving is just the beginning. I have already started looking into exterior cladding materials, wall and ceiling finishes and light fixtures. It's all fun and games until I punch everything into the budget spreadsheet. And by the way, I'm still behind on the permitting...fml!

When my parents moved into their 1-bedroom last year, they downsized a lot of their home furnishings. Since my mom was busy picking and choosing from what they already owned, she did not even imagine buying new pieces. After more than a year of living with what they had, my parents had settled into their place, albeit a little more crowded and cluttered than before. My sister and I (and actually my brother-in-law too) were on a mission to help my mom redecorate the living room.

Each of us were dissatisfied with one or more of the pieces. Personally, the lamps were driving me crazy. Ugh to the beading/tasseling! I actually really liked the green chairs, but there just was not enough space for them.

The first swap was the sofa. I spent FOUR grueling hours at the Sofa Company with my mom to pick out a sectional with interesting, textured fabric. A few weeks later, the sofa was in, and now I am seriously reconsidering my dislike of sectionals. Sectionals are.. genius!!! Also, I am very serious about being awarded some sort of medal for those 4 hours of my life.

Next, up was a trip to Ikea to replace the lamp and side table. Though the Alang lamp is by far what I would have chosen, my mom was set on having the lowest floor lamp ever made and of course the $30 price point made the choice final. My mom was on board to switch to the Vittsjo side table because of the way it slides under the sofa and because it was only $25! Seriously, the Vittsjo series is my fave at Ikea - remember our bookcases?

Most recently, after probably 50+ emails from my mom to us, the rug was purchased! During the Great Rug Hunt of 2014, I taught my mom how to share the links for rugs she was looking at on her iPad. Little did I realize that she would send us that many emails... Technology is awesome though, and it's amazing to see how easily she learned to surf the overstock.com inventory. I spent multiple rug hunting sessions arguing that she had to buy a rug that fit the whole sofa. She wanted one that would just fit in the little square in front of the sofa, and not extend up to the sectional part. Finally she laid down the law and said she was going with 5x8 and that was final. One night, my mom called me in a panic at 10 PM and asked me to buy the ombre rug in raisin from West Elm. In the end, the 8x10 was the same price as the other 5x8s she was considering. SCORE!! I was totally doing mental fist pumps. Here's another look at the new rug for you to drool over:

The transformation is not complete. I am currently trying to convince my parents to get rid of the painting. Isn't it ugly?  Okay, it's not ugly but it does not look like it belongs there. I am thinking either a picture rail (or rails) so they can change out the photos as desired, or a simple but smaller series of art.

February 19, 2014

discover the curious city

I'm always on the lookout for cheap no fuss eats in our neighborhood. A few months ago while we were riding our bikes down Hyperion to Trader Joe's, we noticed a tiny white storefront. We stopped to read the menu plastered on the glass door. Finally a bahn mi place nearby! Could O Bahn Mi be the Lee's Sandwiches of Silver Lake? But our excitement quickly turned into wariness because hipster Asian food can be hit or miss, and usually it's the latter. For example hipster Pho Cafe cannot even compete with the bomb Pho 87 in Chinatown. And I just said the bomb.

We did not eat there that day because it was closed. So fast forward to a few weeks ago. Antony and I are arguing about what we should eat. Should we eat before or after Trader Joe's errands?  Blah blah blah oh wait there's that O Bahn Mi place on the way to Traders how convenient! So we went and ordered their regular cold cut and veggie sandwiches. The french bread was crunchy and fresh and the pickled carrot toppings were on point. Antony said the meats in his sandwich were good, not amazing. I liked my tofu lemongrass sandwich because it was warm and quite flavorful. The prices are around $7-$8 which I would consider cheap in the Silver Lake area, plus the nearest Lee's is in the San Gabriel Valley. Final verdict is it's not a must try, but it's definitely an easy and satiable place to go when you are brain dead and don't want to eat fast food. Although they do have this pig roast sandwich thing only on Fridays that really got Antony excited to go back.

Koreatown may not be the first area of town you go for good pasta, but I recently tried a yummy, affordable pasta spot right in the heart of Koreatown. Anima Pizza and Pasta opened just a couple months ago next to one of my favorite restaurants, Kobawoo House. Anima is not like Caffe Concerto, which features Koreanized pasta -- which is delicious in its own way. This is real Italian pasta! From what I can gather from the rave reviews on Yelp, this is a real Italian restaurant with a real Italian chef.

The menu is huge, and I had a difficult time choosing what to eat. Our waiter read us their ridiculously long list of specials, but I finally decided on Strozzapreti alla Trentina because I had never tried strozzapreti before. It turns out that their other strozzapreti dish (with saffron) is one of their most popular. Sharon (my human Yelp) recommended we try Anima, and she ordered the Linguine alle Vongole. We also ordered the 4 cheese white pizza, which was VERY cheesy in the best way possible.  The food was all good - I have 0 complaints! The wait staff was very attentive, and the restaurant is clean and decorated cutely.

With really reasonable prices ($8-12ish for real pasta!) and just 1 block from the Metro, I know I will be back! I'm already planning to bring my parents there. Also, if you're not already sold, the waiter mentioned that the pasta is handmade daily! 

February 2, 2014

discover the curious city


Junette tipped me off on the exhibition City in a City: a Decade of Urban Thinking by Steven Holl Architects at the Mak Center/Schindler House. The exhibition on show through March focuses on Steven Holl's ultra urban projects in China which has also been the crux of my work. Steven Holl was the first architect who made sense to me as an overwhelmed architecture student so the chance to hear him lecture this past Thursday was immense. 

1/ I had the most awkward stalker moment after the lecture when I asked Steven Holl to sign my book.
2/ Wacky model of the Dongguan project. The towers were literally modeled after some chicken scratch sketches he and his colleagues made eyes closed on a train ride.
3/ Steven Holl's signature watercolor sketch of a project in Qingdao which is also the city of the first built project I ever worked on woohoo.
4/ The lecture was held outdoors in the Schindler House garden under unexpected rain, but also so appropriate since Steven Holl is from Seattle. 
5/ Model of the Qingdao project

I stopped by the Geffen Contemporary during lunch because it happens to be so close to my office. I was of course drawn to the exhibit because it's called the LA Art Book Fair. I had visions of the Scholastic book fairs of my childhood dancing in my head. Rather than being a more formal art exhibit, there were just a few exhibits and mostly booths for exhibitors like a fair would have. I was surprised to find that there are so many indie book publishers out there. If I had more time I would definitely have browsed the books on the tables, but I was just happy soaking up all the typography and paper.

This round of Dine LA, I decided to go to with more of a classic restaurant. I know that it's not the newest and most exciting restaurant these, but I've never been, so Drago Centro it was. Although I was hesitant about the Dine LA menu because the main course was not pasta (I do love my pasta), I'm glad we ended up choosing from the Dine LA menu. I was able to enjoy a delicious duck entree, which I probably would never have ordered if it hadn't been part of the Dine LA menu. I enjoyed every last bite of the dessert too. We took the subway there to avoid the hassle and cost of parking, and it was fun to bundle up. And just like that, our eating-out money for the month was gone at at the swipe of a card at Drago Centro.