Saturday, June 30, 2012

Places Becoming Homes

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Have you ever felt so familiar with a place that it feels intimate?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Something Missing

I'm living my dream. Somehow I managed to get a job doing what I love. I come home to two playful, loving, and obedient cats. (I know you're thinking that obedient cat is an oxymoron, but with proper and consistent training, it's not!) I have an awesome (yellow!) kitchen that I get to cook in every single day. And yet, something is missing.


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That something is DANCE, my friends. You see, I love dance almost as much as I love cooking. My last quarter at UCLA I took dance (ballet) and it was, dare I say, one of the best course choosing decisions I've made. I was the only non-dance/theater major in the class and I struggled to keep up with the combinations that the professor counted out for us. But it was awesome. I had so much fun.


I love the dance in the middle of the Anna Sun music video and I love this guy's interpretation of it. And I love the cross behind him.

And now I sit here not having danced in a year now! I mean, there is the occasional improvised dance routine in the kitchen, or a waltz and pique turns in the work hallway, but there is nothing like learning a combination, marking it with the whole group and then performing it across the room in pairs. I miss it so much. Need to find a class to join pronto!


Can these guys be my friends?!

Or find people in a park to dance with. I'll take either.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beautiful Dawn

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I love the contrast of warm light against the cool blue sky. How amazing are those precious minutes of dawn? Maybe the reason it's so beautiful is because it doesn't last.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Squash and Young Potatoes


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I got my grubby hands on some home-grown summer squash recently. And thought, "what to do, what to do". I could go simple and just sauté the beautiful yellow things and call it a side, or I could enter "summer squash" into the smitten kitchen search (which, by the way, yields an impressive 10 page result). I went with the latter.

The number one reason I went with this particular recipe is because I could use a mandolin! Slicing with this thing is so fun, I was kind of disappointed when I ran out of vegetables. I did have to wear a cut glove and I'm so glad I did. I would've cut myself 4-5 times if I wasn't wearing one.

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I followed this recipe from smitten kitchen. She did hers in 2 cake pans, but the cast-iron skillet did not let me down. I probably wouldn't use a full cup of parmesan cheese next time. But I'm not a huge fan of parmesan like some people are. I mean, I love me some parmesan on pasta, but I think another (milder) cheese would go better with this dish.

Of course, making a full 7-layered summer squash and potato torte for just myself is something only a crazy person would do. I had a pretty hard time finishing the whole thing. This yields very generous 8 (side) servings. It was really good the first couple of nights, but there are only so many meals in a row you can eat a dish with "torte" in its name. Am I right? I can see making a 3-layer version of this in a personal au gratin dish.

I have good ideas, readers! I have great ideas.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Go-To Breakfast (Ricotta Pancakes)

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I know some of you are thinking, "there she goes with the food pictures again". And to that I tell you, I write about what I know and I know breakfast. Also, I'm in need of a place to keep the recipes that I use often, organized, and with ingredients measured by weight, not by volume. Given my dislike of paper-products and the lack space on my cookbook shelf, this blog lends itself as a natural alternative, don't you think?

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This is another pancake - yes! I figure I'll get all my regular pancake recipes out of the way first. Well, this is a wonderful one that is completely unlike the regular-old-buttermilk pancake that you're probably used to. It takes a bit more work than the german pancake, but about equal time as a regular pancake. Nevertheless, if you're not in the mood to clock full 30 minutes of hands-on time in the kitchen before sitting down with the coffee, look elsewhere (no less delicious) for your breakfast needs.

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This recipe came from Deb, of course! She also has an awesome pancake 101. You should check it out if you're into that sort of thing (which you probably are if you've made it this far in my food ramblings). She makes her ricotta pancakes with sautéed apples, which are incredibly tasty, albeit time-consuming. Definitely don't forgo the apples if you have the time. I think thinking they might be especially good when fall rolls around. All I'm doing here is posting the pancake recipe with weights rather than volume.


4 large eggs (separated)
328 g (1 1/3 cups) ricotta cheese
18 g (1 1/2 tbsp) sugar
freshly grated zest from 1 lemon
62 g (1/2 cup) flour
pinch of table salt
butter for the pan

Mix together egg yolks, ricotta cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and flour until just combined. In another bowl, beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt with an electric mixer until they hold stiff peaks. Whisk a quarter of the beaten egg whites into the ricotta mixture. Fold in the rest of the egg whites. Voila! The batter is done. Heat your trusty cast iron skillet on medium-low heat and cook the pancakes 1/4 cup of the batter at a time. 


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Don't try to make a giant pan-size pancake with this batter like I did. This ricotta pancake is a delicate creature and won't flip very well. You'll end up with, quite literally, a hot mess. But the cool thing is that if you are only cooking for yourself you can save the rest of the batter in the fridge for the next morning.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hello, Summer!

I came across these photos posted by The Atlantic. As temperatures soar, zookeepers schedule regular hose-downs for the big cats! Love the giant paws and scrunched nose under water.


All photos are from In Focus by The Atlantic

I'm super excited for the summer. I'm going to a housewarming party for a friend I haven't seen in ages this weekend, also playing ultimate on Sunday.

Here's to hoping I get invited to lots of barbecues, pool parties, beach parties, bonfires, and backpacking trips. I'm a good guest that brings slaws and desserts. I promise!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Friends with Guitars and Cameras

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Every other weekend my friend Joe and I go over to our friends' house down the street from my apartment. They have a beautiful home with beautiful furniture (that I'm always coveting). They bring out tasty (and healthy) snacks and several bottles of different bourbon, I bring a dessert of some kind and my camera.

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We sit around the kitchen counter/dinner table (what an awesome idea to make it dual purpose) and talk about our weeks. They drink bourbon, I drink water and eat 2-3 servings of dessert. John usually starts off playing some blues guitar, we transition into me playing the songs that I've learned since we met last, and John improvising on top of what I'm playing. Then they play and sing some combination of the Beatles, James Taylor, Eagles, Cat Stevens, and other artists that I've never heard of and Mer contemplates starting a cover band.

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John has taught me pretty much everything I know about guitars and cameras. I purchased a guitar after our first weekend get-together where I learned a few chords on one of John and Mer's guitars. I have been learning how to play it since and it's been a blast. 

As is watching their daughter do somersaults in their trampoline!
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So, here is to good friends

Monday, June 18, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

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I don't like going to the movies much because it's loud (and expensive!), but I make exceptions sometimes. I could not wait for The Iron Lady to come out on the iTunes store, so I went to see it in the theater (twice). And that's when I saw the preview for Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. I was stunned. One of my favorite movies is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou which is also directed by Anderson. I can't get enough of it, I must've watched it more than dozen times at this point. So, Moonrise Kingdom definitely has the potential to be on par with Life Aquatic.

I logged on my flickr this morning and my eye went straight to the blog section of the screen. (I love reading flickr's blog!) Sure enough, it was titled Moonrise Kingdom. ANTWRANGLER took some stunning photos on the set and they were featured on the blog (here). Here are my favorites:

Bill Maxin and relaxin

Wes stares down troops

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All these stunning photos taken by ANTWRANGLER and found via the flickr blog

Can't wait to see it one day! For now, I'll settle for watching Stevesie, Kingsley, Klausie, Allie, the gorgeous bull dyke - Jane, the most ravishing creature - Eleanor, and the bond company stooge kicking some pirate ass.

Here is where I, under usual circumstances, would share my favorite Life Aquatic quote, but I just can't decide on one, and should really get back to implementing a swipe-able tableview cell.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Happy Friday!

gif with pictures from Moonrise Kingdom (yet to see it) from mustache robots via cup of jo

What are you doing this weekend? I'll be getting back on the interview horse next week, so lots of studying for me. BUT I've been reading about night photography, so I might schlep out on a highway overpass with a tripod and camera to do some long exposure shots. Wish me luck!

Dinner: A Love Story (Chicken with Artichokes)

Last Saturday morning I had my front door open as I was doing some chores. I heard a FedEx van pull up into our little cul-de-sac. I dropped everything and ran out yelling, "Is that my book?!". "Uh. 2716?" "Yup!", grabbed the package and ran back up. It was the Dinner: A Love Story book. Needless to say, no more chores were getting done that weekend (at least not until I finished the book). 

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I guess I should preface this by saying that when I was paying off my student loans I did not buy anything other than groceries. I got recipes from the handful of cookbooks that I already owned (which is really more than enough), the internet, and I borrowed a couple of (Lidia Bastianich) cookbooks from the library. I did get a couple of really awesome cookbooks for Christmas, thanks to the very generous family I have in the US. But this is the first book I've purchased in 9 months.

I could not peel my eyes off until I was finished. It was funny, heartfelt, full of good advice, omitted recipes with olives (yay), but most importantly, it was honest. I don't have a husband, I don't have picky kids (or any other kind) to cook for. I cook for myself, how hard can it be? And yet she described so many situations in the book that I could relate to. Like the "Brilliant, Jenny!" moment - I have a handful of those written into my memory. I try to recall them as often as I can.

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This Chicken with Artichokes recipe came from her blog, so you guys can try it! I was a little skeptical because there are so many strong flavors: artichoke, lemon, dijon mustard, tomato, but it was surprisingly good. I don't even think it needed the chicken. I can imagine making same dish without. I went with a crusty ciabatta roll on the side and skipped the rice. The bread soaks up the creamy sauce, it's the best part of the meal. 

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Miam, miam! The only bad thing about this recipe is that it uses 1/2 cup of wine. Given that I don't drink, it's a hassle. I hate throwing food/drink away (even though it's just 2-buck chuck wine), but I always end up doing that with wine.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I usually make oatmeal raisin cookies when I get a cookie craving. I've gotten the oatmeal-cookie-making time from thought "I should make cookies" to standing next to the oven impatiently down to 13 minutes 49 seconds. No joke. I regularly time it and try to beat my best time. But this time I decided to go with chocolate chip cookies.

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I loosely followed this recipe from Cup of Jo. It suggested you roll the cookie dough into a log and refrigerate it for an hour. But let's be honest, who has that kind of time when you've got a cookie craving to satisfy? I skipped all the fancy gluten-free flours and the muscovado sugar (whatever that is) in favor of regular flour and brown sugar. But I really liked the fleur de sel in the dough and on top addition.

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A right out of the oven cookie topped with fleur de sel and coffee ice cream. Mmm. It was perfectly chewy, not too sweet and just the right amount of salty.

Monday, June 11, 2012

WWDC Keynote 2012

I was following Mac Rumor's live updates from the WWDC Keynote presentation this morning. I've been looking forward to this for months (right after I got over the fact that I wasn't going because the tickets sold out in 1 hour and 43 minutes!). 

First impression - WHO is this silver fox?! 

Where did he come from? I've never seen him in any of the Apple release videos. Phil Schiller - check, Jony Ive - check, Scott Forstall - check, Craig Federighi - what the what? Hats off to whoever made the decision to put him and his glorious hair on stage to present Mountain Lion. Every lady developer out there was too distracted by his perfect face and voluminous hair to hear anything he had to say about the new OS.

But seriously, I'm pretty stoked for iOS 6. Can't wait to play with the new stuff in the UIKit, Social, and PassKit Frameworks. I really hope lots of companies start using PassKit to do their stamp and membership cards. That's my dream come true because I don't have a wallet and I'm constantly losing cards.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Love These Cats

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Even though Moos wakes me up too early with a toy in her mouth, and Tig starts going up and down the cat shelves as soon as I climb into bed, they're my lovey cats and I couldn't imagine living without them. They are 1 year and 2 months old today.

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Also, Tig naps far too much. She seriously needs to get a job or something.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Go-To Breakfast (German Pancake)

Mmm...breakfast

Breakfast is, by far, my favorite meal of the day. I just don't get people who don't eat breakfast. I'm so hungry when I wake up. When I still lived in Russia my dad made me and my brother jog in the mornings before school. I hated getting out of a warm bed into the cold for a run the most. But, not eating breakfast as soon as I roll out of bed was a close second. (I realize that running on a full stomach is probably even worse, but that's why now I run in the afternoon. Plus you are more prone to injuries in the morning. You're welcome.)

German Pancake in the oven

I love making/eating breakfast. It's my area of cooking expertise (if I have one). I've blogged about this miraculous pancake before. Allow me to elaborate on its beauty: you probably have all the ingredients to make it tomorrow morning, it takes literally 5 minutes, one bowl and one whisk to get it in the oven, 35 minutes to bake (um..the perfect amount of time to shower, get ready, check your email, and make coffee/tea), and 2 minutes to devour. I used to make it in a cast-iron skillet which made the cleanup a bit of a pain. But I recently noticed that Deb makes hers in a cake pan. It works just as well and cleaning up is that much...lighter.

You can find the recipe that I use here. Deb's recipe works well for two. I find that there's really no need to sift the flour as long as you add the flour gradually and keep whisking to prevent clumps. I like my german pancake with a bit of lemon juice, powdered sugar, and lots of peach slices. But I've also been known to rough it with maple syrup or just powdered sugar.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hollywood Sign Hike

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At the summit

First impression: crowded! I did this on a Saturday, so if you're visiting LA and can go during the week it might be less busy. Saw a couple of girls before the 0.5 mile mark hiking in skirts and wedges. I mean, I know chiffon midi skirts are airy and summery, wedges are comfortable, as far as uncomfortable-but-pretty shoes go, and this is, after all, a hike to the Hollywood Sign. But it is a hike, ladies!

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The city skyline barely visible through the smog

Overall, it was really easy, but confusing. There are a lot of misleading "trails" made by people just exploring. I think it might be a side-effect of such a popular trail. I actually went about a mile or so off-track when I took the wrong turn and I came to a dead-end with a lot of people standing around and taking pictures. It was a pretty cool spot for a picture, but I knew it wasn't the closest the trail promised to take me.

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The end of the bait-and-switch trail

A nice lad gave me some vague directions of how to get to the top, and off I went. Crowds notwithstanding, it was pretty awesome to see the Hollywood sign up close. I can't believe I've been living near/in LA for 7 years and hadn't hiked to it until recently.

I remember coming to visit LA the first time. I imagined that as soon as you enter LA city limits you'd be able to see the Hollywood Sign. My visit was long before Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus came out featuring the following lyrics adding to the misconception:

Jumped in the cab, here I am for the first time
Look to my right and I see the Hollywood sign...

Now, I do love me some Miley, but that line is a little misleading. That's not the case, friends! You kind of have to go out of your way to see the sign.

This hike reminded me I still haven't gone on this one: Mt. Wilson Trail. It's an 18 mile, all day hike. Since it's more of a challenge, I'm trying to recruit someone to go with me. Will let you know how that goes.

nodding my head like yeaaaaaaa...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rejection Email

Three interviews and three (very nerve-wracking) weeks later I didn't get the job that I was really hoping for. I found out yesterday.

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Stunning photo by Tim Robison

I never even expected to get a first interview with them. I remember checking my email that Monday morning and managing to get out the "eeeeeee" before leaping up and doing the knee-bent shuffle with the drumming hands. There is only one occasion on which my body does that stupid-looking move -- when I am extremely excited about something. I think that was the first time my cats saw it. Both of them got into the "I'm-about-to-flee" position: body low the ground, ears on alert, tail whipping. I tried to reach out and comfort them and they both bolted out of the bedroom. (Gah. I really get side-tracked talking about cats, don't I?)

Since that Monday until yesterday I've been on pins and needles. Every time I thought about it (which was A LOT) my stomach would flip and I rushed to check my email to see if there was an update. I had interview nightmares. Although for some reason, in my nightmares, I was always interviewing for Facebook in a room resembling one of the lecture halls at UCLA. (Strange.) Finally, when I found out yesterday at 4:37 PM, I felt sad but also relieved. I went right back to coding a draw hook to draw "Page X of Y" at the bottom of each script page. I tried not to think about it, I really tried to hold back the tears at work, but couldn't. I finished my ticket, checked it in, put it up for review and drove home.

I cried and cried and cried. And then I got a good night's sleep.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wonderfully Fun June Weekend

This weekend was so unproductive, and so fun! I learned a new song on the guitar and I love singing it. I was really hoping to debut it for my parents on Skype (my bestest audience), but they didn't show up. What's up with that?! It's Russian song that was recently covered by Regina Spektor. It's called Old Jacket (Stariy Pidjak) and it's amazing.

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I also hiked to the top of Mt. Boney - an oldie, but a goodie. Saw many lizards, bunnies, and 2 snakes! I was sooooo exhausted when I came home. And then I had to make cat food. I procrastinated until Sunday. Tsk, tsk. The cats did not appreciate. The cool thing is that the cats get super-duper playful when they're hungry. That's how they wake me up in the morning. They chase each other around, it sounds like mini-buffalo herd running by my bed. They are clearly too fast for the shutter speed that I was using, but you can take a look at more cat attack photos on my flickr if you like.

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And man, oh man. I've been having ridiculously good blog-finding luck recently. I found Ghetto Hikes the other day. And this weekend I discovered Samantha, who writes bitches gotta eat. Her blog is hilarious. This lady certainly is "all killer, no filler".

I'll leave you with the Regina Spektor song that I was talking about.