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Nice Cream

I’ve known about using frozen bananas to make (n)ice cream for a long long time, even before I stopped eating dairy. The first time I heard about it was on a TV show where Jerry Seinfeld’s wife said this is how she makes healthy treats for their kids. I filed it away in my brain but never made it because I’m not a big fan of ice cream anyway. And why have frozen bananas when I could just get store bought?

People, this is not your average ice cream. It’s better.

First, I recommend using organic bananas.
Ripe bananas
Let them ripen until they have spots.

Freeze the bananas: Wash and remove the stem and end, leaving the rest of the banana peel on.
Frozen bananas
Cut into quarters, then freeze them.

In a blender, add almond or some other dairy-free milk, the frozen bananas, and an avocado if you want it extra creamy and rich.
Frozen bananas and plant milk

For flavoring, I’ve had good luck with cocoa powder (use a lot! Then add more), cinnamon (a little), and liqueur (optional) and peanut butter.
Nice Cream
The cocoa powder and peanut butter are essential in my opinion.

Blend it up then put it in a bowl and freeze it again.
Nice Cream
Now you have nice cream. It reminds me of Chunky Monkey.

C-ville

Spent a weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Yes. The Deep South. Confederate flags and all!

We stayed at the Econo Lodge.  It was $70 a night and felt like it.  The package came with squeaky beds and audible upstairs neighbors having a lovely evening which immediately bumped up my rating of the place.  I don’t mute Keeping Up with the Kardishians for just anything.  Live entertainment is always better then TV.

Charlottesville doesn’t seem like much of a food destination.  It’s not bad, but it’s nothing memorable either.  We ate at Bodo’s Bagels, Firefly, Mellow Mushroom, and Mellow Mushroom again.  Granted, that’s not much of a sample size.

We also visited a brewery bar – Three Notch’d Brewery.
Three Notch'd Brewery
Good beers.  I learned that I’m not a fan of very very hoppy beers. Of the ones we tasted, Jazz Fest (sugar cane and pecan ale) was our favorite. You can definitely taste the pecans. Hydraulion Red was number 2. It was just a very balanced beer that was a little bit caramelly sweet. And number 3 was Jack’s Java Espresso Stout. It definitely tasted of coffee. Probably our least fave was Ghost of the 43rd American Pale Ale. It tasted of hops, hops, and more hops.

Our two main attractions while visiting Charlottesville were the McCormick Observatory and the Paramount Theater’s children’s musical, Alice in Wonderland.  

The Observatory was a long line where each person got to take a peek through the giant telescope to see Jupiter and 3 of its moons – Io, Callisto, and Europa.  
McCormick Observatory
It was mostly for historical purposes, just to get an idea of how people in the late 19th century studied the stars. Nowadays there are more advanced telescopes (Kepler/Hubble) that sit in outer space. The experience included a good bit of waiting in line while a staff member gave each person a few quick seconds of a look.  I love looking at outer space things.  They’re kind of magical and beautiful.

The Paramount Theater is in “downtown” Charlottesville.  The performance of Alice in Wonderland was given by the Missoula Children’s Theatre by local children in the area.  The company brings the props, a director and other staff and they audition local children and rehearse for about a week and put on the low budget show.  It was pretty cute to watch kids (I’m guessing they were K-12) running and dancing around the stage in costumes. It was as cute as one can imagine. Little kids dressed as lobsters and singing flowers. They waved to their moms, forgot their lines, tripped and stumbled, mumbled their lines and missed some cues. Pretty adorable stuff! Still, even though it was all rather sweet it felt more like something the family or friend of a performer would enjoy more.

And what is a trip without some shopping? I started out at the conventional shops. Ann Taylor. Banana Republic. I didn’t find anything I liked that much. Then while we were at the Paramount Theater, I overheard a mom raving about their local Goodwill stores. She said the best time to shop is when all the university students leave for the summer. I mentally smacked my head, duh! Of course the Goodwill store. So after the play and lunch we went to a Goodwill store.
Thrift Store finds
I got these 4 items for $16! One still had the tag attached and one was a pink cashmere sweater that appeared unworn.

Foodwise – I’m not sure I need to bother talking about Bodo’s Bagels or Firefly. They were both decent but nothing stand-out. The best place we ate was Mellow Mushroom which is why we went there twice. The first time was better than the second though. My first impression was, hey, this is comparable to Lost Dog Pizza here. I got a mushroom hoagie.
Hoagie @ Mellow Mushroom
It was mostly bread, but with a good dollop of marinara sauce, it was decent. Some red onions would have made it even better. On the plus side, it came out very hot and the bread was nicely toasted.
The second time we went, I wanted to try their pizza. So I got a veggie pizza with no cheese.
Vegan pizza @ Mellow Mushroom
Here’s what I got. Looked and smelled good but tasted bland and dry. This is a vegan pizza made by non-vegans. They don’t consider that without cheese, it needs something more to add flavor or moisture. This thing needed oil or a lot more marinara sauce to help improve the lack of cheese situation. This just isn’t a pizza. I realize this isn’t fair to Mellow Mushroom. They sell traditional pizza and I turned it into this monstrosity by choice. So when I opine that it’s sub-par to Lost Dog, I took those particular dings out of the equation. What makes Lost Dog better is the crust, which is thinner and lighter (less dense doughy-ness), the marinara sauce, and more even distribution and generous portions of toppings. To boot, LD on a busy day churns out their food a lot faster than MM on a quiet day. Mellow Mushroom can hack it in Charlottesville but I’m not rushing to go to any of the locations here.

The one place that showed a lot of promise that we didn’t get to was Bluegrass Bar & Grill. The waiting time for lunch was an hour!! After no breakfast, and an hour of hot yoga, we decided to head back to Mellow Mushroom instead of waiting.

The surprising highlight of our weekend turned out to be attending 2 yoga classes. I planned them as time fillers. These were heated vinyasa flow classes and I came out of there totally soaked through with sweat and feeling calm and energized.

And what is a trip to C-ville without a visit to TJ’s UVA?
The Rotunda
Yes, this is The Rotunda. It’s under repair.

Why I would not get another Savvy Rest mattress

I’ve had a Savvy Rest mattress for a little over 2 years. The idea is, it’s a 3-layer latex rubber mattress that you have to put together in a cotton mattress cover. Because we got a queen size, it’s 6 pieces of latex and you lay them 3 layers thick on each side.

The good:

  • It’s organic.  No toxins, no fire retardants.  No pesticides on the cotton or latex.
  • There are no metal spring coils.
  • No off-gassing.  No smell at all.

The not-so-good (reasons why I would not repurchase):

  • There’s a crack in the middle.  Because it’s two sides of latex layers, you feel a crack in the middle.  That bothered me for a while.  It doesn’t as much now but I still notice it and don’t like it.
  • They advertise that you can restack the latex layers to the firmness of your liking.  So I chose Firm, Medium, and Soft for the 3 layers.  But honestly, these latex layers are so flimsy – tear easily, heavy, and bulky that after we got the bed together, there was no way I was about to take the thing apart to restack.
  • The flimsiness of the latex means I can’t even flip the mattress over and fitted sheets are also harder to put on.  And it also means I have a hard time vacuuming under the bed.  It’s just a blob of mattress basically.  Rather inconvenient.
  • It’s too soft.  I chose the firmer latex – Dunlop.  Have it stacked firm on bottom, soft in the middle, and medium on top.  It’s still too soft.  For a while I had back pain from the softness.  I think I got used to the bed eventually and the pain went away.
  • It was on the pricey side: $2300 thereabouts.  I wouldn’t mind if it were a better product, but it’s only so-so.

So what would I get instead?  I don’t know yet.  I’m hoping this mattress lasts us a little while.  I know I won’t go back to conventional mattresses though.  And I would look for a firmer mattress next time.

Lent Update

I guess it’s a bit late to be updating about Lent seeing how it ended in March. But this year has gone by pretty quickly hasn’t it? We’re more than halfway through 2016! Some years feel faster than others. This is one of those faster than usual years.

I studied the Japanese alphabet (hiragana). I memorized (and then promptly forgot) the alphabet. So now I know nothing. I never even got to the talking part or grammar or anything. Just dropped off at the very fundamental alphabet. So yeah, that was a bust. I didn’t even study it for 40 days straight. It was maybe for 3 weeks.

Hajimemashite – Nice to meet you.

Yup. That’s what I have left.

I killed my fish and shrimp!

Last night, I changed the drinking water filter in our sink and used the first 5 liters of it to top off my tank thinking it was freshly filtered water. And even though I knew it was filter flush water, I figured if it was good enough to water plants with then it was good for my planted fish tank too. Apparently not. This morning, I found both of my fish dead. And some shrimp too. I don’t get it! People put carbon filter media in their aquarium filters too. Same basic principle of drinking water filters. How did my fish die?

I still have some tough survivor shrimp hanging about, chowing down on their dead brethren so at least there’s that. And the plants seem okay as well. I don’t know what’s in the water filter but now you know, animals should not drink new filter water. Especially small animals.

On a side note, I learned that some locations of Whole Foods or Mom’s Market will accept used water filters. Look up Preserve Gimme 5 for your nearest collection site.

I think I took how easy it was to maintain my fish tank for granted. I started to think they were indestructible because of how the shrimp and plants were flourishing. Invertebrates tend to be more sensitive to water quality. But they really handled my low tech, minimal intervention/work methods well. I didn’t really so much change the water as just used the tank water to water house plants and then top it off with regular untreated tap water. Chloramines and all. At most I would let the tap water sit for a week before using it, but not always. So they did well with infrequent water changes using untreated water. What’s kind of scary is, I put 5 liters of this Union Carbide water in a 100 liter tank. That’s only 5%. What am I drinking?!

On the plus side? If there is one :( my cherry shrimp which are usually always hiding because of the fish are now always out and about. Their predators are gone and they feel safe. So I may just leave this a planted shrimp tank.

Kimchi Rice Bowl

Since I made kimchi last month, I’ve been having it all the time. I’ve already finished 2 big jars of it – one napa and one cubed radish.

Here’s how I enjoy it sometimes.

I cook beans in the steamer cooker (my rice cooker) and then I cook them again with rice to get:
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Rice and beans.

I add any kind of vegetable side dishes I have.
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This time it was mung bean sprouts.

In goes the kimchi and also a cut up avocado. Mmm-mm! A filling and delicious meal.
IMG_0488
The kimchi and kimchi juice provides all the flavoring.

If I don’t have cooked rice ready to go, I’ll boil noodles which takes no time and make a noodle bowl instead.

Shopping at Ikea

For years I’ve “stored” a pile of dried foods on the floor between the pantry and the washer/dryer. Oatmeal, rice, rice noodles, dried fruits, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, mung bean noodles, wheat pasta, quinoa, and the list goes on. Like a spillover of stuff from the pantry. It looked like a mountain of stuff. So I’ve been wanting to get a cart of some sort to organize this mountain since last year. I’m okay with disorder to a certain extent but I have my standards too! Said disorder needs to be lifted off the floor.

IMG_0510

And here it is. The Ikea BYGEL. It was between the Raskog or the BYGEL. They’re both small enough to fit in the corner and $30. If I was more diligent about checking Craigslist, I could’ve probably gotten one for much less. I ended up picking the BYGEL because it was slightly larger. Putting it together was a little challenging. Some of the screw holes weren’t drilled properly so the screws only went in part of the way. As long as it can hold my kombu seaweed.

While I was at Ikea, I also picked up more than a dozen kitchen rags.
IMG_0511
I’ve gone through boxes and boxes of virgin paper products to blow my nose. For a while I got recycled tissues but they hurt after blowing through a box in a day. So I’m now using dishrags as snotrags. The handkerchief is coming back! I considered making my own with old t-shirts, but that meant I had to cut my old t-shirts which I couldn’t bring myself to do. They are the most comfortable and have many holes for ventilation during the summer. It took over a decade to get them this soft. So I plan on sewing old shirt buttons on my kerchiefs to differentiate them from kitchen rags. They get washed regularly no matter what but I figured for the kimochi of it, I should keep them separated. What do you think of handkerchiefs? Gross or thumbs up? I used one today and liked it. I felt a little embarrassed whipping it out on the metro but then I got used to it after a while. Today wasn’t a bad allergy day so one kerchief was enough. I will probably keep 2 in my bag and 1 at work at all times and washing each after a day’s use. I blow my nose over 100 times(?) on a bad day. Today it was maybe 30 times. Yes, my nose has killed many many trees. I feel like I should have done this a long time ago. It’s very absorbent by the way. I wonder if people use these for cloth diapering or as burp rags.

Baked Ripe Plaintains

I’m not sure what this is. A snack? A dessert? It’s anything. It’s good. My coworker told me this is how she eats plantains, but she emphasized that they must be ripe. Like spotty black ripe!

I washed the plantains first.

Then sliced them in half lengthwise.
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Then baked at 350 fahrenheit for about 30 minutes.
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That’s it!

Is this even a recipe?? It’s like boil a potato. Or boil water. 1 ingredient. Add heat. Enjoy.

Mukbang

I have been resucked into the world of mukbang – broadcasted food eating. For a while I was watching videos on YouTube featuring eaters speaking Korean and even though I didn’t understand what they were saying I still loved watching them. The enjoyment of food needs no translation or explanation. They ate some pretty bad garbage though. American cheese, ramen, fried chicken, fast food burgers. Often enjoyed with kimchee. (That’s what inspired me to make kimchee actually. It’s been a long time since I’ve fermented any vegetables though. I’m still eating my way through a large jar of fermented cabbage.)

Anyway I stopped watching Korean mukbangs for a long time and recently rediscovered it on YouTube when I stumbled on this English-speaking mukbang hosted by MommyTang. She’s a loud-mouthed, opinionated, stay-at-home mother of 4 and I love her. Her children are often featured in her videos, which is entertaining. Oh and she also happens to be vegan and I’ve picked up some good simple vegan recipes. Asian cuisine really lends itself well to being vegan. So I am hooked! Also, true to mukbangs that I’ve seen, she eats kimchee with almost every meal, even Dominoes pizza. It fired up my desire to make kimchee once again. A meal just isn’t complete without some good ol’ kimchee! So that’s what I did last weekend.

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Pink Phone

Pink Flippy is 8 years old and still going strong. It’s done quite well for being 8 and having never been couched in a protective cover. Do they even make Sanyo Katana covers? Well even if they did mine doesn’t need one. Every chipped paint or scratch is a story, or something.