Ooh, my favorite!

Blog it On
April 26, 2010, 4:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of the perks of having more free time is that now I get the chance to volunteer! As terrible as it sounds, I was so protective of my weekends since my weekdays at work were often so bad. As I mentioned before, Sandhya over at Livin Wide has organized a Blog It On volunteer campaign through her blog, and there are lots of wonderful people participating. I’m really excited about this, and I’ve been researching for weeks to figure out where I’d like to spend my time.

Since food is such an important part of my life, I decided to work at the San Francisco Food Bank. I’ll be based at their warehouse sorting and repacking food for distribution throughout the city:

The San Francisco Food Bank works to end hunger in San Francisco. We provide donated and purchased food to over 400 non-profit agencies, enabling them to give nutritious meals or supplemental groceries to thousands of low-income families and individuals in our community. These agencies range in size and mission, from the city’s largest soup kitchens to smaller agencies such as after-school programs, AIDS service providers, battered women’s shelters, child care centers, food pantries, health clinics, homeless shelters, residential programs for people in recovery or transition to independent living, senior lunch programs, and street outreach programs. We are the largest distributor of food to non-profit agencies in San Francisco; for many agencies, we are their only source of food. This year, we will distribute nearly 36.5 million pounds of food, or enough to provide 78,000 meals a day.

This seems like a wonderful organization and I’m so excited to help feed so many people. My first day is tomorrow, so I’ll try to get some good pics to share.

When I grow up
April 26, 2010, 1:16 pm
Filed under: Personal

Me, a long time ago.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to be when I grow up, and suddenly a series of events have made this question so much bigger. Friends, I have news. BIG, crazy news. I’ve been debating on whether or not I was ready to share this with the world, but I’ve decided that it’s such a big part of my life lately and it will ultimately affect everything that I want to be, so there’s no point in hiding it.

I have left my job, and there’s not a single ounce of me that regrets it! Ahh, that felt great to say out loud.

I’ve been a Web project manager at two of the worlds largest and most well-known companies, and as excited as I was to form a career and kick some ass, I was never able to get used to the corporate culture. There are too many reasons to mention, but one of the biggest reasons was that it just wasn’t satisfying, and it was just too political and had that “watch your back” mentality. I posted once before on the horrors of my job, and still words cannot express how utterly toxic and unhealthy the environment was, and how belittling and cruel my manager and director were.

One day last month on the way to work I had a full-fledged meltdown in the car, and suddenly it dawned on me: “What the f*** Natira, you’re not supposed to cry with your co-workers on a weekly basis. And you’re not supposed to have a panic-attack before you meet with your manager. And good grief, you’re definitely not supposed to come home at the end of the day and take your frustrations out on the one that loves you most! This is wrong and you know it, so DO SOMETHING!” An immediate call to mom for some support, and by the time I made it into the office we decided that my notice was going in that day. Oh my God, instantly I felt the knot in my stomach loosen. (We also decided that we’d wait to tell dad. For those of you with an Asian dad, you understand. And I do say that with all the love in the world!)

I realized you do the things you have to for so long, that you don’t often stop to think about the things you want to do. I went to school, got good grades, and found a job because I had to. And while I’m thankful for many of the benefits that came with my job, they never really added up to being blissfully happy at work, especially when you consider how much of our self-worth we associate with what we do as a career. I can say now that I’m on my way though, and while being completely unemployed is scary and crazy, I know that it’s up to me to create a wonderful and meaningful way to support myself. I have some ideas I’m researching now, and I will do everything I can to achieve this vision I have in my mind. So here’s to finding yourself, living your best life, and avoiding sucky people along the way!

PS. The first pic of me here on the site. I hear this hairstyle is coming back…have you seen Heidi Klum lately?

April 26, 2010, 10:00 am
Filed under: Silly, Videos

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. We had a gorgeous day yesterday, so I camped out at Golden Gate park for a bit to soak up some sun. What were you up to?

It all went by so fast…as usual, so here’s a funny video to kick-off your week.

Happy Earth Day!
April 22, 2010, 6:23 am
Filed under: Clean, Food, Green, Nature, Personal

It’s kinda funny, I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but for some reason Earth Day seems to bring out the best in me. We do pretty well so far, and to be honest most of it is second-nature now, and at the end of the day it makes me really happy.

More than a piece of trash – Thankfully we have mandatory recycling and composting, so this part is easy.

Landing strip – All of our lamps and electronics are plugged into power strips so that we can turn-off the strip when we’re done in a certain section of the house. Most electronics still pull small currents even when they are not in use, so this adds up when you consider how many things are always plugged in. It’s nice too…I just use my foot to switch of the power; save a little wear-and-tear on the back and knees. A stretch, I know, but this is a good one and I want you to try it!

Twice as nice – I’ve mentioned before that I usually wash all of our produce as soon as I get home. My trusty salad spinner and a large bowl are my staples for the washing process, so instead of streaming water constantly I’ll do a few batches in the bowls and take the dirty water out to the porch to water the plants.

Bag lady no-more – I’ve gotten so good at using my reusable bags that we’re often out of a good paper bag when we need it for random things around the house. Not a bad problem to have though.

Plastic beach– Boo to plastic water. (See here and here for more on this from me.)

Slow food – I can’t help it, I’m a farmer’s market ho! Local and sustainably raised food goes so far in leaving a greener footprint.

Now for the things that I hope to incorporate into my daily routine:

One day off – We usually end up having a vegetarian/vegan day sometime during the week anyway, but adding an official day regularly will go a long way in saving water, grain, livestock/poultry/fish, antibiotics, fuel, soil, and more. A lot accomplished in a single day, once a week, over the course of a year! I’m really excited for this one.

Pull the plug – Somehow my cell phone charger is the one plug (not on a power strip)that I can’t remember to pull when I’m done. I just need to get this to register in my brain; maybe now that I’ve written it down it’ll actually stick.

Beam me up – I’d love to figure out another way to get around instead of always using the car. I’d like to get a bike to run more errands, but the hills and traffic in the city are not great for the casual biker. For now I’ll continue to walk whenever  possible.

In and out – Oh how I try to hop in and out of the shower! This one’s tough since I sometimes use a nice hot shower to warm up. (My sweetie’s almost too good at monitoring the heater.)

What about you, do you have any Earth Day resoultions?

[image via NASA. The most detailed image of Earth to date, taken by the Terra satellite orbiting 435 miles above our surface.]

Garlic chili oil
April 21, 2010, 9:41 am
Filed under: Recipes, Thai Style

This condiment is a staple in every Thai kitchen, and oh my gosh, there are no words to describe its yumminess. Just the word garlic is all I need to hear, but then you add fried to the mix and it’s on a whole different level; I’d even go so far as to say the same level as bacon. Then, with the addition of ground chili and a touch of sugar we’re in a different world all together.

This chili recipe actually stems from the basic fried garlic oil that’s used daily in Thai cooking, so if you prefer just the fried garlic, you can still use this recipe, just omit the addition of the chili and sugar. I typically have both handy since it will last for a few weeks.

Garlic chili oil

– 15 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed in a mortar and pestle (food processor will work too)

– 3/4 cup canola oil

– 1-2 tablespoons crushed red chili flakes

–  2 teaspoons sugar

In a small pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. You can test the temperature by dropping in a tiny piece of garlic; it should bubble right away, but be far from burning. When it comes up to temp add the garlic. Stir often and watch the garlic carefully to see how the color changes. After about two minutes it will reach a light yellowish color, about a minute or so longer and it’s a rich golden color with hints of the lighter yellow. Stir in the ground chili flakes and sugar and remove from the heat.

Note: The garlic will continue to cook after it has been removed from the heat, so the trick is to pull it a minute or so before it’s done.

Let cool and store in an air-tight container. Do not refrigerate.

If you want to skip the chili and sugar, simply pull the garlic from the heat when it reaches the rich gold and yellow stage. That’s it.

Here’s a pic from a batch I made a few weeks ago. I was feeling lazy and used the food processor to chop the garlic, so feel free to do that too. I do prefer the texture of the smashed garlic from the mortar and pestle, but in a pinch the food processor is great.

Serving suggestions:

– Soups (see my Jok recipe)

– Pizza (so good on a slice of margherita!)

– Sauteed greens (spinach, kale)

– Fish

– Use the oil in other cooking around the kitchen, it has a great flavor

Only a tiny amount is needed per serving. For a big bowl of soup like jok or pho I’ll add just under a teaspoon–you still want to be able to taste the flavors of your dish.

Afternoon snack: savory cottage cheese
April 20, 2010, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Food, Recipes

One of my favorite afternoon snacks is a quick and easy savory cottage cheese concoction. It’s a million times better when tomatoes are in season, especially when heirlooms or dry farmed ones are available, but for now I’ve been making due with what I can find. I usually stop buying them during the winter months because they’re so not-yummy, but I finally caved and tried the first bunch of decent looking ones I could find, and luckily these guys were pretty good. Admittedly, my threshold is probably pretty low right about now, but I just couldn’t hold out for the official ones to start popping up in July.

It’s not a recipe or anything, so here’s just a quick list of what to throw together:

A couple spoon-fulls of organic cottage cheese

Palm-full of cherry tomatoes, diced

Palm-full of arugula (or micro greens), roughly chopped

Pinch of fleur de sel

A few turns of pepper

Drizzle of olive oil

Mix a tiny bit and enjoy!

Iceland volcano images
April 20, 2010, 8:26 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Daily Telegraph compiled these images of the Iceland volcano eruption. Holy crap, I never knew lightning bolts could be seen at the mouth of a gushing volcano. Is there anything else incredibly scary and intense that can be added to this scenario, oh yeah, pitch black sky in daylight (see last pic).

Magnified view from space.

Aurora Borealis in the background, taken March 25.


[all images via The Daily Telegraph]

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