Month: January 2013

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

This is a food memoirs by an Ethiopian born, Swedish adopted and now American chef. I had not heard about Samuelsson before this memoirs. I think I picked this up because it I read some good things about it as a memoirs about food.

The book discusses not only food, but adoption, culture, soccer/football, and many countries including: Ethiopia, Sweden, Switzerland (it made me miss it!), Austria, New York City, France (I always miss it), time spent on a cruise ship, Ethiopia and more New York. I appreciate any book about travel and observing cultures. The author is a product of that in many ways so it was interesting to see his life over three continents and his journey as a top chef in America.

I did like the food moments and learning about little things from each food culture such as Swedish rustic cooking. I wanted to know more about Swedish pickling’s 1-2-3 method (Swedish vinegar, sugar, and water). I also liked the metaphor of fine dining as museum curation. Food as art that after consumed, you would see the world differently.

Like some chefs, Samuelsson fell into it after failing at being a football star and he admits he sometimes feels like a failed football more than anything. I don’t know if Gordon Ramsay has said that, but cooking was also his secondary choice after his failed football career. Ramsay is actually mentioned in this book. I have read a few things about Ramsay. I have watched and liked a lot of his British (not American) shows. I even just bought one of his cookbooks during my Boxing Day cookbook spree. I don’t find a lot of his food accessible (too fine, too limiting for my tastes), but I bought the one which had reviews for being accessible. I think he tries too hard with his persona, but I also think it’s somewhat admirable how driven he is about everything. There are a number of British chefs who have worked and been made by Ramsay. Two of the most prominent are women. In a boy’s club such as the restaurant kitchen, female chefs are rare especially those running one of Ramsay’s three star Michelin kitchens. Therefore, Ramsay is mostly in my good books. On the other hand, a lot of people have mentioned what a jerk he is and I don’t mean on TV, but behind the scenes. The jerk American persona is mostly played on his US shows. He has badmouthed a number of people, including the author of this book apparently. He’s allegedly a serial cheater. I also think he is arrogant sometimes, but so are a lot of TV chefs. Reading about how he screamed at Samuelsson and with a racist remark did give me pause.

I digressed a bit, but the book does discuss race and ethnicity a number of times. Fine dining is very much a man’s world and sadly, a white man’s world at that. It was intriguing to read in which Samuelsson tried to reach out to the Harlem community, employ women and not tolerate prejudice or abuse from his employees.

While the topics of the books were interesting and a couple of times, touching and candid, there was something about this book that I didn’t love. It had moments and I even felt sympathy for the author, but I didn’t fall in love with this book. It is not a must read, but a decent one if you like memoirs and biographies that feature food and chefs.

Read January 28-29th 2013.

Sunday Salon

Hello, everyone!

This past week my review of Ex Libris was posted. I posted beauty reviews of my favourite hand creams and first impressions of two Lioele BB creams. Finally, I featured my finish Shedir hat.

This weekend I am finally finishing Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I started this all the way back in October, but I’ve mostly put it aside in my kindle as library books and other things have gotten in the way. The book finally got very suspenseful and gripping last night around 12:30AM. I had been reading it yesterday, and it has been good, but I didn’t know where it was leading too. Now that I know, I can finish it in a couple of hours.

After I finish that, I’ll probably read a nonfiction book or a book from TBR pile. I am doing quite well on my nonfiction challenge this year so far. I’m also reading The Kintting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliffe on the side to see any additional tips I can bookmark for later.

In non-book news, at the urging of one of my friends, I started watching “Scandal” from season 1 to catching up for next week’s episode. I am not always sold on Shonda Rhimes’s writing, but I must admit the show is addictive and has a relationship with ridiculous chemistry, some of the best on TV.

Now, I must meditate, maybe take some photos, and most of all, read!

What are you reading and doing this Sunday?

Have a good week!

Lioele BB creams

On the left is the Triple the Solution sample beside the Dollish Veil Vita

I recently ordered some BB cream samples from eBay seller “sing-sing-girl”. The seller also provided extra samples of two Lioele BB creams that I have yet to try: Triple the Solution BB cream (Lioele’s most popular BB cream) and Dollish Veil Vita BB cream. While these weren’t on the top list of BB creams to try, I was pleased to do so because I did like the Lioele Water Drop BB Cream.

This is not a full review since I usually need to try a product for weeks to really see how it affects my skin. Since I only had such a small packet sample of each, I managed to get about 2-3 applications of it. I could have gotten more, but unsealed and unprotected product is probably not ideal for testing.

As a reminder, my skin is normal (dryer in winter), I use an SPF moisturizer before BB application, and sometimes my homemade Vitamin C serum. I am a MAC NC20.

Here are my first impressions.

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Shedir IIThis is my second Shedir. My first Shedir was made over five years ago. I really liked this pattern the first time, and it is one of the items that many knitters and non-knitters alike remark on. I only did the main cable repeat 4 times because a lot of people said the hat was too long. It was a tad too short as it barely touched my ears. It was a beanie and I needed more of a toque. It is warm and light though.

Shedir IISecondly, since this has been my favourite winter hat, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of it so it has felted over time. When I bought this oddball of Felted Tweed probably in 2008, I had a feeling that I would knit this pattern again.
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Do you ever try to pair music with the book you’re reading? Play the movie soundtrack while reading the original book? Find mood music that fits with your story? – BTT

Not really. I don’t listen to music that much, but sometimes when it’s very quiet, I will play something mellow since I don’t want distractions to the words and the story. Lately, I’ve have used Songza’s Reading playlists though, but it’s not a regular thing.

How about you?


As I was perusing Sali Hughes’s recent article about hand creams, I realized that I’ve used and experimented with a lot of hand cream over the years. As someone who is dedicated to taking care of my own skin, the hands need to be treated well.

I do frequently wash my hands and am susceptible to the dreaded hang nails. If you do not take care of yours hand, they will become dry, red, and even crack and split. Hands can also reveal your age faster than any other physical attribute.

I put on hand cream throughout the day, but most importantly, I put some on before I go to bed especially in the dry indoor climate during winter.

Some years ago, I was a waitress and had to wash my hands constantly. It’s one of the many reasons I won’t go back to that job. I do wash dishes daily and not always with gloves. My hands can get dry easily in winter, but I am lucky enough not to suffer from eczema or dermatitis though many of the below hand creams have been reviewed and endorsed by those who do.

Here are some tips that I’ve found worked for me:

  • The best time to put on hand cream is immediately after you’ve washed and dried your hands as this seals in moisture.
  • Always wear leather or wool mittens/gloves in cold weather. I put hand cream on before going out as a double preventive.
  • Wear gloves during gardening, dishes, canning preparation (acidic fruits), and whenever possible.
  • Pay attention to cuticles and the surrounding areas as this prevents hang nails. This thin skin area gets driest the fastest.
  • Other ways of keeping hangnails at bay is to regularly push the cuticles back with an oil and always cut (never pull) them when they appear and moisturize afterwards.
  • Put a strong hand cream on before bed and if your hands are extra dry and cracking, wear moisture gloves. You can buy household cotton cleaning gloves instead of the specific moisture ones to save money.

Now for the feature attraction, some of my favourite hand creams.

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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

A book about books that I’ve wanted to read this for a number of years. Anne Fadiman wrote 18 essays over four years about reading and books.

The essays cover such wide range of bookish topics such as book arrangement, poetry writing, book treatment, writing new and unknown words from books whilst reading, book inscriptions, reading books in the locations they are set, private readings, secondhand books, and a few more.

“What a blessing it is to love books as I love them, to be able to converse with the dead, and to live amidst the unreal!” — Thomas Babington Macaulay

This is definitely one of the better books about books I’ve read over the years even though I can’t relate to the author all the time, more on that later. Still, I think because of that difference, it was thought provoking. The essays gave me the idea to arrange books in chronological order especially for those classics pre-20th century. Right now, I arrange my books haphazardly over four locations by subject and priority in the read queue. I do arrange my cookbooks by colour though two of them are vintage and all 15 cover four decades.

Her essay on how to treat and love books was interesting. She divides them between courtly book lovers (those who maintain their love by keeping the books pristine) vs carnal book lovers (they love their books to bits including writing, ripping, breaking them). I am definitely more the former than the latter. I don’t really like writing in books, and when my copy of Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince split, I was sad and went out to buy a new one. I also am wary of lending my books out for a similar reason; I’ll usually just give them away or give another copy. Few things annoy me more than people who rip and write unnecessary notes in library books. I don’t care what people do to their own books, but library books are public common goods. /End Rant.

I should really read out loud more though and be open to inscribing books to my friends. As well as writing new words from books. I always read too fast to stop and use a dictionary, unless it’s in the Kindle.

“Alas, where is human nature as in the bookstore.” — Henry Wood Beecher

Fadiman comes from a literary family and has one of her own. Her husband is also a voracious reader and a writer. I can’t really imagine if my life would ever be so literary. It’s so hard to find a boy who reads even a tenth of what I do. Fadiman’s bibliophilia is fostered by a prominent intellectual father and a war correspondent mother. Not all readers are raised equal. I think she makes a good point that most writers are fostered by parents who actually love to read.

This book was published 1998 so it does not address recent prominence of audiobooks (though it does mention it once), ebooks and ebook readers. It actually feels dated in a way because people of my generation do not view books the way Fadiman does. Books use to be one of the main sources of entertainment for people and now it’s down the list. Also there is an even steeper decline in classics, language or bookstores. It makes me a bit sad, and reminds me of what Nick Hornby wrote in More Baths, Less Talking that book lovers of his and Fadiman’s generation are older and not the majority. Ultimately, books are not as omnipresent in people’s lives as they use to be. There is far more competing for our entertainment.

In any case, a lovely book about books that I recommend to all my fellow bibliophiles.

Read January 19th 2013.

Sunday Salon

Hello, everyone!

I read a book this week: Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman. The review will be up tomorrow or Tuesday. It feels like an accomplishment because it’s third week of January and I’ve only read three books! Two of which were very small and short. It’s been a busy month as I try to improve my job hunt and do some reflections on my life.

Even though I wrote about fanfiction last week, I’ve banned myself from reading it for a time. It’s very distracting. It’s not the only thing I’ve had to reign my control on such as spending less and watching less Youtube. I am also going to try and not buy as many used books this year if at all as I am too much of a secondhand book fair junkie.

I still have lots of books to read, and I’m trying to encourage myself to hit my TBR and library pile. Reading about reading makes me want to read more again. I had to force myself not to start a book, but I still need to finish reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Whenever books are on my Kindle, I tend to forget about them. I see the Kindle on my desk, but I forget that there is a book that I should finish or read from it. With real books I can see where I am and they call my attention. The Kindle not so much.

As I am feeling tired and lazy today, I’ll do some writing and reading now.

What are you reading today?

Have a good week, everyone!

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon

Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon is copyright Naoko Takeuchi, Toei Animation and others.

For the past month, I’ve been experiencing an anime revival in the sense that I have found opportunities to rewatch some of my favourite anime series. I thought this would be a good chance to explore my relationship with anime and all the ones I have watched.

Most of the anime I’ve seen were first watched in the early 2000s which was the height of my anime phase. I was an adolescent with an anime past, curiosity, and the internet. In general, I have become quite picky about the animes I watch. I just need to find the time to track the series down and stick with it. I’ll watch an episode or two and I tend to know early on if it’s for me; I did use to be more open minded about the series I watched. Same with Asian dramas really, but when they are good, they are really good.

Not all the animes in the following list are my favourites, but they are ones I stuck with for the whole series so that in itself is an achievement for me.

If you’ll notice below, I watch a lot of female dominated series and movies. Part of the reason I go back to anime is the dominance of strong female protagonists and gender roles. Anime is the medium which fostered a whole genre about girls saving the world by being girls. For that reason, I do tend to go back to my favourites.

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It’s the depth of winter here where I live right now … what books do you like to read when it’s snowy and white? What books do you read to evoke a real feeling of winter (good or bad)? BTT

I don’t really read for the season. I do think I read much more in summer and spring. This partly due to a habit I grew up with when I went to school. Winter was exams and midterms and summer was free time. Even now, winter is more fraught with responsibilities, work and less for free time. I’m disappointed that I haven’t really had much time to read this month, and I doubt I can make more time.

As for books that evoke winter, all my favourite young adult series use winter very well: Harry Potter (just reread last week), His Dark Materials (ditto), and Narnia (particularly TLWW).

Sunday Salon

Hello, everyone! This week I was very unproductive and rather escapist. I read one a beauty book: The Beauty of Color by Iman. But really, I spent most of the week rereading some of Harry Potter, the His Dark Materials, and fanfiction.

Yes, I read fanfiction. I have done so for years, for perhaps dozen years now. I have read it from many fandoms. While I have not read many real published books as I would like, it is often because I get waylaid by fanfiction. I can not count the amount of time I have done so nor how much it constitutes my actual reading, but it is a significant. I love stories. I love fiction, and I love characters so it makes sense to explore it.

The grammar and the syntax may not always be great, but if you’re good at research, you can find some very interesting storytelling and exploration of characters from canon. A number of writers started in fanfiction online and went on to become published authors. I remember the days when certain writers wrote only fanfiction and now they are published best selling authors. Cassandra Claire is one example.

A few fandoms I read fanfic from as follows: Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Pride & Prejudice, and Star Trek. This is just a small sample as I read fanfics from movies, TV shows, book series, etc. I do not read fanfic from every series I love. For example, I don’t really feel the desire to read His Dark Materials or Laura Ingalls Wilder fanfiction. There’s no criteria why I seek out fanfics from certain works of fiction that others. I also do not stick to a fandom consistently for long periods of time like I did when I was a teenager. I’ll go months or even years without reading fic from a particular fandom and then get in the mood for it again.

While I don’t count this in my books reading, it is reading and even I forget that I spend a good amount of time reading. Perhaps all this online reading has also helped with my reading speed as much as normal published works.

Does anyone else read fanfic?

Speaking of reading fast, I discovered which is a site to help you improve your reading speed. The site says I read around 470 reads per minute, but I’m not sure how fast that is compared to others. It’s an interesting idea.

What are you doing this Sunday?

The Beauty of color by Iman

This is a book about makeup and beauty for women of colour. Even though I rarely wear makeup (more of a skincare person), I do enjoy looking at beauty books and am interested in makeup. Also, even though I am East Asian, I am on the paler side (MAC NC20), so most of the tips in this book didn’t apply to me so much.

Having said that, I think this a good beginner book for people who are just getting into makeup as it has several looks and makeup tips for women of colour. Like Iman, I do agree there is a dirth of good makeup products and looks for these women. She doesn’t specify specific products which means it gives the reader the ability to explore her options, but maybe daunting for some beginners with no makeup knowledge. There is some excellent photography in this book too. I also picked this book up because I have always liked Iman when I see her TV appearances and interviews.

Most of the tips in this book I know from other resources, but I have some Notes and Things I took Away:
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