Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!
I hope you are all spending time today with your loved ones!  I am so thankful for so many things, including my loving family, my wonderful friends all over the world, and for the chance to pursue my dreams.  So blessed  =)

I wish I could be spending time with my family, but Rice had school yesterday (I know,,, classes the day before Thanksgiving!  so sad..) so it wasn't really possible for me to go back home, but that's ok because we're going to spend the day with friends!!   =D

Last year, we had an epic Thanksgiving-Turduckenhen-orphanage at my apartment for those of us who were 'orphaned' during Thanksgiving. This year, however, David and I have been invited to a Thanksgiving at my friend Miran's place, so we're not going to be Turduckenhen-ing this year.  

So we've been going back and forth on what to bring...

we've made multiple loaves of cranberry-sunflower seed breads to see if that's something we wanted to bring...
we even got a Dutch oven (which we are absolutely LOVING!) so we could bake this beautifully golden crust on the bread!

but it actually didn't make the cut... so no bread for the party..

in the end, we decided on spinach artichoke dip!! 
we made it a couple of nights ago while doing homework, and we finished it between the two of us.  yup. consumed the whole thing.  in like 5 minutes.   so yup.  it made the cut and it's going to come with us to the party!

I'm so excited for the dinner with friends, and I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  =D

Friday, November 15, 2013

Playin' Hooky

hello everyone!

sometimes, playing hooky can be good for the soul.
especially if you end up going on an impromptu date with your guy for some udon and ramen at Nippon on a chilly (finally!) autumn night instead.

as mentioned before, my life is pretty regimented here (practice, rehearse, eat, teach, exercise, sleep...) so it was really quite liberating to play hooky from our exercise block and do something spontaneous  =)

and don't worry, we made up for it by exercising later that night.  can't go tooo crazy  haha   =p

have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cream Puff recipe!

Hello everyone!

Once upon a time, I went to a french cafe with a friend, and there I saw the most delicious looking eclairs ever!  When I got home, I mentioned how amazing looking they were to David, and that is how we ended up baking eclairs and cream puffs a grand total of 4 times in the next 3 weeks.
It all began with David saying, "let's make it!  it's not that hard I've made it once before", so that night, we had a little midnight baking session thinking that it would be a breeze.

Sadly, our midnight baking session didn't turn out so well... and here is the breakdown of our cream puff adventures:
the first attempt?  failure. on both the outer shell and the filling  (we used cream cheese frosting.  don't do it)
the second attempt?  failure. on both accounts again (used pudding mixture packet. don't do it)
the third attempt?  with the addition of the stand mixer from our anniversary presents, the shell dough was a success, but the lack of piping skill on my part made them look rather interesting.  Annie, one of my friends who is also very into baking gave us a cream filling recipe, and it was exactly what we were looking for!
the fourth attempt?  success!

The eclairs are harder to pipe than the puffs for me, and while some of them did turn out, we like the bite-sized-ness of the puffs anyway, so we're just going to stick with those..  haha
The recipe for the shell has been adapted from Alton Brown's show 'Good Eats', and the recipe for the cream is adapted from the recipe my friend Annie gave us!

So for these cream puffs, you'll need...
1 cup water
6 tbs butter
pinch of salt
1 tbs sugar
5 3/4 oz flour
3 whole eggs + 3 egg whites

350 ml whole milk
150 ml double cream
75 g sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg + 3 egg yolks
40 g flour

I would recommend making the filling first because it has to cool, so let's start with that!

Cream Filling Recipe
1.  Pour milk and cream into a saucepan with 1 tbs of sugar and the vanilla extract.  slowly bring to boil then turn off the heat.

2.  In a big bowl (or in your mixer) beat 1 egg, 3 egg yolks, and remaining sugar until pale and creamy.

3.  Sift a third of the flour into the bowl and whisk until well incorporated, and then do the same (twice more) with rest of the flour.

4.  Take the milk/cream mixture and pour a third onto the egg mixture, beating well.  gradually pour rest of the milk and whisk continuously.  We were afraid that we would have cooked egg happening because the milk/cream mixture was so hot, but I guess if you whisk furiously, they don't have a chance to become cooked?  anyway, this worked, and we did not have cooked eggs in our cream!

5.  Return mixture to pan, whisking.  simmer for 3-4 min, continuously whisking (we used a stick blender) until smooth and thick.

6.  Pour into a bowl, then refrigerate until the shells are ready to be filled!

Now, onto making the shell portion of the cream puff!
Shell Recipe

1.  Preheat your oven to 375.
2.  Boil 1 cup of water and 6 tbs of butter.  Add a pinch of salt, sugar, and 5 3/4 oz of flour to the boiling water/butter and mix.  Lower the heat, and keep working the dough until it is dry to the touch.

3. Move the dough to mixer and leave it until you can touch comfortably.  With the mixer on, add 3 eggs and 3 whites slowly one at a time.

4.  You'll know the dough is ready to be piped when it makes a nice 'v' shape off of the mixer attachment.  This picture was taken the first time we used the mixer, and David's face really conveys our excitement at having gotten an actual 'v' from the dough. haha.  Before we had the mixer, the best we ever got was a sad looking 'w'..

5.  Now it's time to pipe the dough!  you can be all fancy and use a piping bag, or if you're like us and do not own one of those, just use a ziploc bag!  Just pipe a little Hershey Kiss looking blobs on your baking sheet, and then with a wet finger, flatten out the little tips so you get a nice rounded puff in the end  =)

6.  Once your oven has preheated to 375, put the puffs in the oven and increase the temperature to 425.  Bake for 15 min, then turn heat down to 350 and bake for another 10 min.

7.  Once the 25 minutes is up, take them out, and pierce each of them with a knife.  This lets out the steam and keeps them crisp and puffy!

8. Once the puffs have cooled (the cream should also be cool by now) fill the puffs and you're done!

It's a bit labor intensive, but was a huge hit at the reception, so I'm sure we'll be making it again.. perhaps for our Thanksgiving party?  ;)
I hope you give this little puffy delight a go, and let me know how you like them!
Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Anniversary date misadventures!

Hello everyone!

Last week, David and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary!!
Is it just me, or does it seem like as we get older, pin pointing exactly what day a relationship started becomes more difficult?  At least in my case, this has been the case.  

It's especially true in David and my relationship because we met, became friends, then best friends, I went through my 'monkhood' (where I just really needed and wanted to be single), then everyone thought we should be dating, then everyone thought that we were dating, and then,, well, here we are.  You see?   where do you pinpoint the anniversary date?  So we just had to pick a date, and pick we did!  haha  it's a date somewhere between when everyone thought we should be dating and when everyone (including ourselves) thought that we were dating.

We actually gave our anniversary presents to each other a bit earlier than our actual anniversary because it was something that we thought would be useful for us in preparing for my recital reception.  And when we learned what we had gotten for one another, we just had to laugh.  the presents we gave each other? 

a stand mixer and a food processor...
haha.  we are such kitchen nerds!  but we were both so excited, and this is why we are together, I reckon  ;)
 AHHH we were so excited to put these to use, and we are both so in love with both of these!  And I think Amulet (my roomy) was just excited about them as we were  haha

So after nerding out pre-anniversary, we weren't really sure what to do for our actual anniversary.  Amulet and Chris (our double date couple of choice) highly recommended going to Giacomo's, so we decided to do that, and do something else afterwards.  The day of our anniversary came, and we still weren't sure what do do after dinner when David suggested going to the Houston Met Dance Company's show--I know! I wasn't the one dragging him to go see a dance performance!  He knows me so well  =).  So the evening was planned to be a smooth ride from dinner to show.

Well, it ended up being anything but a smooth ride.
First, David is in massive crunch time at work, so we were a little short on time to fit the dinner in before the show.  But we were going to try to make it work, so we headed off to Giacomo's anyway, planning on eating there for about half an hour before zooming off to the show.  We didn't expect the traffic to be so bad, but it was, and when we got there, we actually only had 20 min to eat.  Then, we couldn't find a parking spot, so we decided to just skip dinner and go to the show because we didn't want to be late to the show.  On the way there, we found out that the Bernie's Burger Bus (the first place we went to go eat together) was near where we were going, so we decided to do a quick dinner there before the show at Bernie's.  Well, after two wrong turns on the most confusingly laid out road, we had to scrap that plan as well, and go straight to the show.  The show was great, but towards the end (around 10 pm) I was beginning to get a stomach ache for lack of food because my lunch was at 11 am, so we left early to find a restaurant near there to have dinner. To top off the misadventures of the night, we took the wrong door out of the theater.  haha

Really, it could've been a scene in a movie with people yelling at each other and getting increasingly frustrated at every single thing that went wrong (because really, every single thing we planned ended up going somewhat awry), but what I really appreciate about David is that he's so calm about everything.  There was no road rage, no frustration at the circumstances,,  we just went from one foiled plan to another without missing a beat, and in the end, we had a great anniversary date together =)

so here are some pictures at the gorgeous Wortham theater where the show was happening.

We were there early for the show (which never happens) so we had a chance to look around and find cool little nooks in the theater like this cool little bar/room.

The show was wonderful (I felt a little like I was back in Modern Dance class I took in undergrad  haha)

and!  our dinner at Little Napoli of lamb chops, spinach & artichoke dip was delicious!!

Despite having everything that could have gone wrong, go wrong, it was a wonderful night spent together, talking about anything and everything, reminiscing about our year together, and discussing our hopes and dreams for the future.  =)  Could not, and would not, have asked for a better night!  ;) 

and I leave you with a quote by Rober Fulghum

“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”

I'm glad I found someone who would do lamb chop cheers with me without missing a beat!  ;) 

Hope you have a wonderful Tuesday, and thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Violins on Fire

Hello everyone!

Last night was a pretty momentous occasion for Shepherd School of Music because for the first time ever, all of the violin faculty shared the stage performing Vivaldi concerto for 4 violins!  Wow. All four of the faculty here (Mr. Lin, Ms. Winkler, Mr. Kantor, and Mr. Goldsmith) are all a violin legend in her/his own right, and hearing them all performing at once was definitely an experience.

rehearsal..  I mean, look at this.  so much awesomeness on one stage.

after the performance...

With the whole Vivaldi group!

Other pieces also on the program included Maurer's concerto for 4 violins, Golijov's Last Round, and a couple of Piazzolla pieces.  It was one of Shepherd's 'Sharing the Spotlight' concerts where the students and faculty collaborate together, so all of Mr. Lin's students were in the program (minus a few injured) as well as a student cellist and a violist.

I got to play the Golijov's Last Round for 2 quartets and a bass, and when I heard it, the first thing that came to my mind was 'man, it's like Piazzolla on crack...'  If you don't believe me, here, give it a listen.

And as it so often is in the professional world, the rehearsal period for this concert was incredibly short.  As student groups, we get to spend a whole semester on a piece before we perform.  This concert?  we had 3. Yup.  And at one point at the dress rehearsal, everything disintegrated and we had a train wreck. I mean, just listen to the piece, it's incredibly easy to train wreck that movement.  See, when stuff like that happens in student groups, we would rehearse it at least one more time just to make sure that wouldn't happen again. So the 4 students in the group were expecting to do that after the run-through, and the faculty goes 'ok, I think we're good for tonight!'  and just like that, we were done with the dress rehearsal!

Surprisingly, the concert came around, and the faculty were right... no train wrecks at the performance despite the questionable dress rehearsal, just an incredibly exciting performance of the piece.  I suppose they know a thing or two about performing, huh?  ;)  haha 

The whole concert was an incredibly exciting one with a whole lot of fiery playing from everyone.  and as one piano faculty commented, 'a whole lot of e-strings on the stage!'  haha.  I don't think I have ever been a part of a chamber concert with so many violinists in the concert.  and man, all of them were on fire  =)   One of my friends who came to the concert said he was not expecting that kind of a concert on a Wednesday night!  haha   he was struggling to stay awake during the day (hump day you know) and he said when he got to the concert, he was so overwhelmed with intensity that he felt incredibly disoriented at first: I believe the exact words he used to describe how he felt during the first part of the concert were, 'omg, where am I?'  ;)

It was such an exhilarating concert, and I am so thankful that I got to be a part of it!  getting to play Golijov with so many awesome players was awesome. Thank you Mr. Lin for programming such an awesome concert and asking us to be a part of it! 

Most of Mr. Lin's studio + former student + Mr. Tim Pitts that awesome bass-twirling bass faculty of ours  ;)

I hope you all have a wonderful day, and thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Hello everyone!
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

My recital is finished!!!!!!!!!!!!
I can't even put into words how relieved I am to be able to say that because I injured my left wrist a week before the recital, and the whole week we weren't sure if I could play the recital at all.  If we had to move the recital, that would have been an awful nightmare because everything gets booked up here at Shepherd School of Music like a whole year in advance, not to mention juggling 10 different people's schedules who were involved...

but yes, I am glad it is over, and now I can get back to doing other things.  like living.  and blogging.  and practicing other repertoire...  haha

Anyway, here are some photos from the recital!
I forgot to take pictures of the reception table, but there were many different kinds of cookies, cream puffs (which we're going to do a recipe here soon), and the Trader Joe's Spinach Kale Dip.

The recital itself was an interesting venture with a coughing fit from the performer in the middle of a piece, as well as a wardrobe malfunction--if you wear an infinity dress, make sure you tie and knot the ribbons...  I just tucked the ends in, and... let's just say that is not a good idea if you're going to be on stage and you're going to be using your hands to do something else.  No worries, I caught it in time and there was no Janet Jackson episode, but man...  the most interesting recital experience ever.

Anyway I can't thank Mr. Lin enough for teaching me for the past year and a half, and always pushing me to my maximum.  I really feel like I'm going to look back on my graduate years as the years where I practiced like a crazy woman  haha  =)  but he is such an inspiration, and I couldn't have asked for a better teacher for where I am as a violinist!

and of course Neal, our studio pianist  =)  I don't know how he learns and plays so many different pieces that we play!  It's been so wonderful getting to work with him these past year and a half!

Oh!  and funny story: Betsy and I met when we were like...11?  we were in Tri-City Junior Youth Orchestra together, and we lost contact for like 8 years or something and then we realized we both were in Houston!!  Thank you Facebook.  So she came to my recital and it was SO much fun getting to catch up  =D

And of course, some ballrooming love  =)  we met through ballroom last year, and it's been so awesome to get to know and hang out with this girl  ;)  

and of course, the three people the recital could not have happened without these three people in my life!
my roomy for being so accommodating during my freak out week leading up to the recital where I was incredibly messy around the house because I guess my level of stress directly correlates to my messiness... she also baked cookies and got me flowers!  best roomy  =)
and my boy, of course, for dealing with the grumpy Janny during my injury episode, because when I can't play the violin and I want to practice, (because let's just admit it, sometimes we just don't feel like practicing!) I am rather grumpy.  Oh, and just being so supportive and helping me bake  =)
and Satoko!  We played Strauss together for the recital, and she has been such a trooper learning that sonata because man, that piano part is like a piano concerto!  and just being overall so accommodating throughout the whole process  =)

Thank you everyone for coming, and I am so thankful for everything and everyone in my life.  Feeling just so incredibly blessed  =)
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and thanks for stopping by!