• Bug,  heavy on photos,  out out out of the house!,  photography,  urban life

    Another Trip to LA: Minefaire and Chinatown


    It seems like ages ago we went to LA for Minefaire. It was snoresville but we did have a great time in Los Angeles afterwards. I always love a day in LA for adventure. Traffic not so much but adventure, yes. Everything there is charmingly different from Orange County and it always feels like an infusion of much needed variety.


    We don’t have graffiti where we live. If so much as the tiniest tag goes up on a wall or a fence it is gone the next day, no questions asked. I guess that is a good thing but I do love street art, especially really good street art. Sometimes I just want to paint my house purple in rebellion but I’m all hot air.


    Minefair and Minecon are not the same thing at all. Payam bought these tickets for the girls a long time ago before we even knew there was a difference. I’m sure to die-hard gamers it was pretty cool but to me it was just a giant conference room  filled with computers where kids were zoning out. We can do that at home. The store was pretty cool I guess. If you need another stuffed creeper, which we don’t. I did find a reason to have a pumpkin headed snowman of course. Gotta throw that in for seasonal decorations.


    The funny part was that we went to Minefair ON Payam’s birthday. Driving to LA in horrible traffic and then hanging out with gamers is not exactly his favorite thing to do but I guess he loves his girls. I add myself into that group because of how much I love adventure in LA, even if it does include a lame convention for a game that I’m not that into.

    Bug is into Minecraft and she’s really good at creating these really cool houses and buildings. She’s thinking she might want to be an architect when she grows up and I am heartily encouraging that. I wanted to be an architect too way back in the day but I got discouraged by all the math.


    The best part of Minefair was going outside and eating street food. I love fresh tacos made on an industrial-sized cookie sheet over a propane tank. I am ever amazed at how ingenious street vendors are. And to think I wouldn’t rent an apartment because it had a hot plate and not a real stove! I should have taken some lessons from these guys.

    I especially love the fresh fruit in cups. Coconut, mangos, cantaloupe, cucumbers…a squeeze of lime and some chili powder–yum! I always worry about getting food poisoning because surely things can’t be that clean but we never do. Street germs are good I guess.


    After our lunch in the street we decided we weren’t ready to go home yet so we took a quick trip to Chinatown. We love ducking into the little shops and discovering new things.


    I feel privileged that I get to follow Bug and Joon around and take pictures. They are getting prettier and prettier every day. I feel like I have my own models constantly walking around with me just asking me to take their picture. I need to take my real camera out more often. Whenever I do I always have such a good time with it.


    After Chinatown we rushed home to go to a violin concert that Bug’s new violin teacher was starring in. Her teacher is really really good. Like ripping up the violin in a floor-length red velvet dress good. The girls sat there mesmerized, not even bored at all.  Sadly I have no photos of that. I wish I could have but I was shy to take my camera into the theatre.

    I didn’t even tell you that we hired a private tutor for violin lessons for Bug. She’s getting serious about violin and unfortunately her class at school is kinda stuck and not progressing so she’s forging on ahead with private lessons. I’m really proud of her. Of course getting her to practice regularly is a challenge but that’s really what this whole thing is about anyway. I’m really happy that she is not giving up on something that she is good at.

    After the concert the girls and I stopped by a grocery store and bought Payam a cake. He didn’t go to the concert so it was our little surprise.


    Which he wholeheartedly deserved.

  • domesticity

    Salted Banana Pecan Muffins!


    I like salt.

    I’ve been progressively using more and more salt when I cook. It hasn’t been on purpose.  It’s something that has crept up on me. Perhaps my tastebuds have built up a tolerance.  It’s gotten to the point that Payam has suggested, kindly, that I cut back.

    I blame Blue Apron. Those magical boxes of pre-measured food and delicious recipes have basically taken me from being a mediocre cook to a pleasantly surprising good cook. The secret? Salt! They have me salt two and three times while cooking. That’s three more times than I’m used to. My mom always taught me to let people salt their own food at the table so salting the pot of boiling water, the sautéing onions, the bubbling sauces, before and after something comes out of the oven is way way way a lot more than I am used to. But you know what? Everything tastes delicious! Just like a restaurant. Salt must be their evil weapon.


    Now it’s my evil weapon. Last week I decided to punch up my usual banana muffins with some pecans (unsalted by the way) and some flecks of Maldon Salt crystals on top. It was DYNOMITE! I’m never going to make banana muffins without salt again! Maybe it’s just me though. I always ignore recipes that say unsalted butter and use the salted stuff anyway. Maybe my salt tastebuds are dead.

    Anyway, I wanted to share my new “evil” recipe with you. Do you keep old bananas in your freezer? I always have leftover bananas that pass their perfect ripeness and get banned to the freezer to be made into banana bread at a late date because we are picky. We don’t like mushy sweet bananas with bad spots. So there’s a whole shelf full of dark brown bananas in my freezer. They are gross too. Have you ever defrosted a frozen banana and then squeezed out it’s slippery slug of a fruit from it’s black skin into a bowl? I’ve gotten over the grossness though because they make excellent banana bread and I love that I’m not wasting.


    First go in three bananas. I mush them up in the mixer. Then I add sugar and oil, two thirds of a cup for each.  I originally got this recipe from a free Alpha Bakery kiddie cookbook that you can get from Gold Medal flour. I love that cookbook. I still use it as an adult.  I’ve reduced the amount sugar and oil from the original recipe because it calls for three-fourths of a cup which seems like a ton to me. Two thirds seems like a lot too but I’m afraid of cutting it back too much without the muffins getting too dry. Of course apple sauce or canned pumpkin or maybe even a fourth banana could come to the rescue but that’s for another day.

    Then I add my eggs (2) and two cups of flour. I let that mix for a while and then add the baking soda (1 tsp), baking powder (1/2 tsp) and salt (1/2 tsp). Then I add some cardamon because I love cardamon. I’ve only added about a teaspoon but I’m thinking I should have added more because I think the flavor could be stronger.  I want it to taste nutty and exotic.


    Then I add a cup of chopped pecans (saving at least twelve whole ones to put on top for decoration) and swirl that all together until it’s mixed.


    Pour the batter into a muffin tin, with cute papers of course. (I collect cute papers.) Here’s a secret: if you use the same cup you used to measure the oil as a scoop to pour the batter into the muffin tins, the batter will slide out smoothly from the oily measuring cup and into your muffin tin paper like magic.  If you are a messy cook like me, this will greatly improve your drip factor and therefore the pain-in-the-neck-to-clean-up-later factor as well. Pretty cool, right? I mean if you aren’t grossed out by the fact that this recipe calls for 2/3 cup of DISGUSTING OIL. But we’ll just gloss over that because they are very tasty muffins and the moist factor has to come from somewhere.


    Now the best part: Top your muffins with the leftover whole pecans and sprinkle a tiny bit of flakey salt on each one.  Then pop them into a preheated oven at 325ºF for 30 minutes. Mmmmmm…. now your house will start smelling good and the little ones will come out of their rooms to see what deliciousness is perking away.


    Some of the little ones might not like nuts but that’s okay, that means more for you! I justify it by saying that these muffins are probably better for your than a corn-syrup-filled granola bar.  Don’t quote me on that. Just make them. They are delicious!

    Click here for a printable version.