Monday, November 24, 2008

Halloween Part 3: Party On!

To finish up Halloween (finally!)...

For the rest of the story, go to Part I and Part II.

After dinner, we headed to our first party at the Annex with one of our favorite bands - Paperdoll. They are a super talented group of musicians and play some super fun music, which is great for watching live and dancing.

The band in action! If you want to hear their music, go to Amazon, Myspace, or Itunes.

FI and I in full Amazing Race mode! We kept our headlamps on and pretended to be running down the streets as we were making our way to each party.

Since Paperdoll is 3 guys and 1 girl, they went as the 2008 presidential and VP candidates.

A picture of Teresa doing the Palin wink. I think I'm chanting "drill, baby, drill" or something like that.

I ran into an old friend from business school. Regardless of the occasion or theme, if we had a party that required dress-up, he would wear his cow costume. For our beach themed spring formal, he wore it with leis and was a beach cow. For our pajama themed party, he told everyone that's what he slept in. I saw the cow out of the corner of my eye and my first thought was "That looks familiar..." and it was...

After listening to Paperdoll's set at the Annex and hanging out for a bit, we headed over to another friend's office party in Brooklyn. We really felt like Amazing Race racers since we didn't have a map and were just running around the streets trying to figure out where we were supposed to go.

There were some amazing costumes.

Josh went as Iron Man. This costume is homemade! He made the battery for Iron Man's heart out of a salsa jar lid and LEDs. The Iron Man glove is made from random scraps and wires and he used red electric tape to make the finger joints for the glove. It was amazingly detailed and intricate. Check out how accurate he is. He even grew a goatee to match.

Our friend Calvin has been going as some version of an egg for the last couple of years. The first year, he was a plain egg with a yellow t-shirt under a white t-shirt with a hole in it and white pants. Then he was a Ranchos Heurvos, which was the egg costume with a sombero. This year, he was Eggs Benedict. We spent the subway ride home thinking of other possible costumes for future years. Western Omelet - wear a cowboy hat. Eggs Florentine - wave an Italian flag.

Our friend Sam went as Gloomy Bear. Which I know nothing about, but apparently it's very popular in Japan and is sort of the anti-thesis to Hello Kitty. That costume is all homemade except for the pink paw with claws. He bought a pink sweatsuit and sewed the bear ears and eyes and made the face mask and sewed little blood splatters on his outfit.

Our friends Danny and Judy came as Ravin Rabbids from the Wii game Rayman Ravin Rabbids. It's a super silly video game where the main character Rayman (who kind of looks like a psychedelic Warner Brothers character) has to escape a bunch of crazy rabbits by getting through a series of obstacles. The games are similar to ones in Super Mario Party and also childhood games like Red Light, Green Light. The rabbits are the enemy and they are pretty freaky looking. Judy captured the crazy rabbit eyes pretty well.

It was a long but fun night. I loved seeing all of the costumes and people dressed up. Our friends are super creative!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Halloween Part 2: Putting the Look Together (and extra)

To continue on our Halloween costumes, the day of Halloween...

I wanted to make fake Amazing Race clue envelopes for us to hold and run around with. My original ambitious plan was to also write real tasks inside the envelopes and have people open them at the parties we were going to and do the tasks.

"A Detour is a choice between two tasks, each with its own pros and cons. In this Detour, teams must decide to 'Shoot it up' or 'Drink it down.' In 'Shoot it up', each team member must do 1 shot of some kind of strong alcohol. In 'Drink it down', each team member must chug 1 glass of beer."

I couldn't think of many party/bar-related tasks, so I didn't end up doing this.

I looked online for images of the race envelopes to print out, but there wasn't much. I finally found some teeny-teeny images, like little internet icon sized ones, that I decided I would blow up and edit.

I used Powerpoint since I did this at the end of the day at work and it was actually pretty easy and the clues turned out really cute.

I first blew up the image so it fit along the page. Then I used basic shapes to redo the images so they came out sharper. The circle with the bar was made by 3 basic shapes - 1 black circle ovaled a bit and rotated slightly, 1 smaller red circle ovaled and rotated, and 1 black shape made with straight-line connectors. I just lined all of the shapes up with the original image and moved them front and back to get the right order. I also looked for a similar font to redo the titles as well.

To color the rest of the envelope, I basically looked for a color that matched the original image and did a filled shape over the rest of the page. I made 4 types of clue envelopes and also printed out a bunch of the Amazing Race flags. Note the slide sorter on the left.

Here are the completed clues! They looked pretty good! And fairly realistic if I do say so myself.

Here is FI all dressed up with his shirt, clues, backpack, and headlamp. Isn't he a cutie?

Here I am all dressed up as well. Note I am wearing the Amazing Race fanny pack. We borrowed a fanny pack from FI's dad and FI taped an Amazing Race flag printout across the front. While FI stored his clues in the back of his backpack, I put mine in the fanny pack.

Now you may be wondering why we have bits of foil on our heads and on FI's wrists, it's because we were going to Chipotle for dinner. We dressed up like burritos (basically wear some tinfoil) to get a free burrito from Chipotle on Halloween! You don't need wrap yourself in tinfoil, pretty much any bit will do and your meal is free!

The Chipotle employees were pretty tickled by our costumes and one even took some pictures on her camera phone.

FI enjoying his burrito and me enjoying my burrito bowl. While we were eating, we got several questions about the tinfoil on our heads. We happily explained about the free burrito and a couple of guys even "borrowed" our foil pieces to go back in line and get more food. :P

Next post, onto the parties and the great costumes we saw...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Halloween Part 1: Making Costumes

So this is a bit of a late post, but I still wanted to write about Halloween...

FI and I would be spending our 2nd Halloween together and we needed to figure out what we'd want to be. We wanted to do something fairly inexpensive, something as a couple, and something we could put together ourselves. Last year, we went as Hiro (from Heroes) and Betty (from Ugly Betty). FI keep his hair shaggy, wore glasses, wore geeky middle management clothing, and fashioned a Takezo Kensei sword out of a plastic ninja sword and a belt that he wore over his shoulder. He also ran around yelling "Yatta!" For me, my Betty costume consisted of a pair of red sunglasses (with the lenses popped out) and a fake mustache (that I cut in half) for bushy eyebrows and then the most bright clothing I had assembled into one outfit.

This year we decided to take inspiration from television again and go as competitors from The Amazing Race. We weren't going as a specific couple but the typical racer pair.

With that said, we knew we needed a few key items that all Amazing Racers had:
- matching outfits
- backpacks
- headlamps
- fanny pack with the Amazing Race flag on it (also known as the Amazing Purse)
- lots of Route Clues, Detour, Road Block, and Fast Forward instructions

Prior to Halloween, we made our t-shirts and tried out the headlamps.

We bought iron-on letters and t-shirts from Michael's.

The iron-on letters are very easy to use. You just peel them off the sheet and position them on the fabric.

We decided to go with our friend's suggestion for a team name - Amasian Racers! There weren't quite enough As so we had to improvise by using upside Us and Vs and cutting up an I to cross the modified As.

There are directions on how to iron, but basically an iron on a low to med setting works. You just run the dry iron over the letters until you can see and feel that they're really stuck.

Then we set up the headlamps. We tried to find headlamps at the local Modell's and Target, but they didn't have any. So we went online. FI found some relatively inexpensive headlamps on Amazon - the Wenzel Mini LED Head Lamp - . We asked Stephen to order 2 for us so we could save on shipping.

FI trying to open the package.

FI putting in fresh batteries.

FI testing out the headband.

FI testing out the headlamp. It is really bright. And even though the main purpose of the lamps was to flesh out our costume, they will come in handy when we go camping or do some ourdoorsy night activity.

Our final budget:

$ 13.68 - T-shirts (2), iron-on letters (2 packs) - from Michael's Arts & Crafts (FI also found a coupon online for 20% off 1 item per person, so we each bought a t-shirt and iron-on pack and save 20% on the iron-ons.

$19.98 - Headlamps (2) - from Amazon with no shipping costs (since Stephen had Amazon Prime)

Free - backpacks (our own), fanny pack (borrowed), TAR flag (printed), Paper instructions (Powerpoints that were printed)

Total cost of $33.66 - Not bad for 2 costumes!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, FI and I were in Chinatown, visiting a potential DJ for our wedding, and after the meeting was over, we went to Dumpling House to get some dinner.

We actually were at some other dumpling restaurant, but then were charging $4.95 for 8 fried dumplings. Outrageous! We left and found found our way to Dumpling House, where 4 yummy friend dumplings were only $1. Yeah, that's right, for the price of a Starbucks Grande Latte, you could have eaten 16 dumplings.

The inside of the restaurant. It's actually a lot nicer now. I think they just had a major renovation.

We were pretty hungry so we got 2 orders of guo-tie (the fried dumplings).

We would have gotten more had we not spotted the sesame bread sandwiches. Basically a round flat doughy bread covered with sesame seeds is toasted in the oven and it comes out all puffy, like the bread from Cosi. Then it's cut up into slices, like pizza and the inside is split open for whatever fillings are ordered.

We ended up getting 2 - the Peking Duck with cucumber (in the picture above) and a roasted beef one. The 8 guo-tie and the Peking Duck sandwich actually filled both of us up, so I was able to bring the other sandwich for lunch the next day!

To wash down all of the good cheap food, we each had a bottle of soy milk. This would have been true Chinese style if the soy milk had been served in little plastic bags.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A 2nd mea culpa...

Sorry for the lack of posting.... I was doing so well all through October, but then things got busy and kept me away from the laptop...

- Halloween (of which I do have pictures and am ready to blog about)
- Road trip to see the So You Think You Can Dance tour (which was awesome and I have the blurry pictures to prove it!)
- FI's brother and nephew visiting
- Election Day
- Road trip for my grandma's 90th birthday

While I'm busy writing up posts, I'll leave you with a funny conversation (paraphrased) I had with FI's nephew, who is a super-smart, super-confident, self-assured, arts-enthusiastic, 4-year-old.

Me: Did you like The Little Mermaid? (His grandparents, FI's parents, had taken him to the city to see the matinee.)
Nephew: Yes!
Me: Was it cool to see the fish and the water?
Nephew: Yes!
Me: What did you like best?
Nephew: Ariel!
Me: That's cool!
Nephew: I want to be Ariel for Halloween!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Japanese meat on a stick

To celebrate our almost-anniversary, FI and I went to Yakitori Torys for dinner. It's a higher-end yakitori place and is a lot quieter than the places on St. Mark's.

A simple and clean table setting. I like this plate and chopstick holder.

We love going to Yakitori Torys and even though we're really all about the meat on a stick, we love their steamed vegetables. I think we mainly like them for the sauces they come with - sesame, wasabi mayonnaise, and flavored salt. Every time we've eaten there, we order the vegetables. And every time we eat it and say "We can make this at home!" But it's really not the same without the sauces. Which we need to figure out where to buy.

Then it was on to meat on a stick! First up, chicken skin. Now chicken skin has a pretty fatty chewy texture, so you need to grill it just right to get it crispy and not gooey and fatty. Torys does a great job with chicken skin; I think they just take their time grilling yakitori so it's actually cooked well.

More meat on a stick! From top to bottom - kalbi beef, chicken oysters (tender part of the thigh), and soft knee bone (of chicken). All were delicious! The kalbi was juicy and tender. The chicken oysters were so soft and easy to eat and were very tasty too. The knee bone did not taste like cartilage at all.

Then one of our entrees showed up - grilled squid. That's a spicy mayonnaise on top. The Asians sure love using mayonnaise as a hot condiment. We saw it on top of all sorts of food - vegetables, fish, meat - when we were in Taiwan and Japan. The squid was pretty tasty, but the mayonnaise made it super rich. This was the only dish we didn't quite finish.

Our other entree was a pork stew with a turnip and a boiled egg. The boiled egg was like a tea egg and the turnip was pretty soft and salty after being cooked in the broth. The pork was so good. The fatty layer on top and the silvers of lean meat on bottom were thoroughly soaked in broth and a nice soy sauce flavor. It was such a great combination of textures to eat and I would alternate bites of the pork with bites of the turnip and the egg.

We also had a lamb chop. The meat was grilled well, but not very flavorful. It was actually pretty bland and putting lemon juice on it just made it taste like sour meat.

Our final yakitori was tsukune (basically a giant chicken meatball) with diced radish. We had forgotten what tsukune was but it was a special on the menu, so we got it thinking it looked pretty good. And it was pretty good. Very tender and the meatball was very well mixed and tasty. The diced radish added a nice crunchy addition.

We couldn't finish our dinner without sharing a dessert. We ended up with a pumpkin creme brulee. This was a cold dessert and the texture was much denser (due to the pumpkin) than your normal creme brulee. But it was really smooth and yummy and I almost wanted to lick the ramekin clean. :)

Yakitori Torys is one of the few restaurants we keep going back to. Not only is it pretty close to our apartment, but it's also delicious and they always have new specials on their menus. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tasty Spare Ribs

This weekend, we decided to go Southern and Eastern with our cuisine. Not south-eastern, mind you, but attempting our own version of BBQ spare ribs.

We had gotten some nice spare ribs that we decided to marinade and bake.

To properly marinade them, I first took them out of the package and stuffed them into a takeout container so there would be little room for the marinade to go and hence go into the ribs.

I didn't have a set recipe in mind for the marinade; I just pulled a bunch of things out of our fridge and cabinet and set about mixing them together until I had the taste I wanted.

I started out with honey and then added soy sauce. I think added vinegar and rice wine. Then I threw in some garlic powder and black pepper. Finally I added cane sugar. Then I mixed everything. That took a while since the sugar granules would not dissolve. Now I started taste-testing the marinade. It was a little too sour and sweet so I added soy sauce until the sweet and salty was just the right balance.

Then I carefully poured the marinade over the spare ribs.

Soak 'em up, spare ribs!

Then, cause marinades work better in the cold (I'm not sure where I heard that, maybe on Nigella Bites?), I covered it and stuck it in the fridge.

After 20 minutes, we pulled the ribs out to bake.

After plating all the ribs on the oven pan, each rib got a wash of the extra marinade. The rest of the marinade can be used for basting.

Into the oven they go! We looked online to see what temperature we should bake them at and we found 1 recipe that said 300 degrees for 1.5 hours for 4 pounds of ribs. Since we only had 2 pounds, we figured we'd just keep an eye on them.

We've been doing the "use only one part of the recipe" thing a lot recently. Mostly it's because we already have a sauce or marinade or something in mind, we just need to know the finer details of the science of cooking. Our theory is, as long as the meat is the same, it should cook the same way.

While the ribs were baking, we started on our veggie dish - snow peas and tofu.

Here are the cleaned and peeled (at least the stemmy things on both ends) snow peas and tofu.

FI prepares to cut up garlic for the dish, while I use a knife to section the tofu into cubes. There's something so satisfying about cutting up tofu, especially in its box. I love to cook, but my knife skills aren't the greatest and my knives are neither super nice nor super sharp, so I'm always having a tough time making quick, clean cuts. But tofu yields so easily and you get the edges of the box as a guide, so it's fun to make quick, clean cuts down and across the block of tofu.

The garlic and snowpeas went into the wok first since they'd take longer to cook.

Then we added the tofu and a little teriyaki sauce.

Our finished veggie stirfry!

After 20 minutes, we checked on the ribs and basted them with the marinade. After 40 minutes, we flipped the ribs over and added another coat of marinade.

We finally took them out at about 1 hour and 10 minutes. This was after testing a small rib first. You'll notice one less rib in the picture below versus the picture above.

I then plated everything for us to eat.

A homey and simple meal, plated on our coffee table, to enjoy!

I like our create-our-own-flavors type of meals. We basically use what's available in our kitchen and then adjust to our own taste. We use the web for guidance on the science part of it, but the sensory part - how it tastes, how it chews, how it looks - that's all up to us.