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Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Donuts

There seems to have been a conundrum surrounding the entire idea of donuts. As Americans, we're normally accustomed to believing that donuts are something of a fattening, albeit delicious beyond celestial boundaries, treat. And that's about it. No one ever thinks beyond the fact that they're donuts. I mean, they're just there.

Anyway, earlier I was at Dunkin Donuts and while browsing through the flavors (because, you have to admit, they do have a lot of flavors, especially at chain stores like Krispy Kreme and Peter Pan), I was wondering why there were so many varieties in the first place. Obviously, there's the different combinations of colors, creme, icings, designs, sprinkles, and who-knows-how-many other embellishments customers just love smothered across their donuts like gravy on egg foo young. Factoring out the cheery marbled holiday designs, there was the simple decision -- what sort of donut do I want?


Now, for anyone who's thinking on terms of glazed vs. jelly, I'm past the fillings and decorations. There's (almost) literally hundreds of batters and doughs you can use to make donuts. Yes, batters and doughs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but from the myriad combinations of cider, sour cream, red velvet, cake, etc. donuts I've seen a distinct difference -- donuts, once thought to be a fried culinary delicacy, seems to be jumping out of that hard-enclosed box these days.


Quoting Wikipedia, "doughnut or donut (pron.: /ˈdnət/ or /ˈdnʌt/) (see spelling differences) is a type of fried dough confectionery or Dessert food. doughnut or donut (pron.: /ˈdnət/ or /ˈdnʌt/) (see spelling differences) is a type of fried dough confectionery or Dessert food...They are usually deep-fried from a flour dough, and shaped in rings or flattened spheres that sometimes contain fillings. Other types of batters can also be used, and various toppings and flavorings are used for different types.” 

In a nutshell, donuts (or doughnuts for the more literally correct) seems to have the connotion of being fried. Not just shallow fried like pancakes or those adorable crepes you can buy off a street vendor along the Champs-Élysées. Real, hardcore, deep-fried balls of dough. If I'm not mistaken, this eliminates the entire line of cake donuts, waffle donuts, and adorable bagel-like donuts that have recently been showing up in donut stores everywhere. 

What's the big difference anyway? Negating the excessive use of oil and calories gained from frying, texture and taste-wise baked donuts have the same variety for which fried donuts are loved. Unless you're a fan of greasy and crispy crusted balls of dough, opting for the baked seems to be the better choice. Although Dunkin Donuts seems to have a tradition of frying all of their donuts, in that past few years many stores have been baking their goods (hence the promise of "fresh baked goods"). 

Besides, what's the one feature we love about donuts anyway? It's their light, fluffy texture, their perfect pick-me-up conglomeration of sugary goodness, and simple, satisfactory puff of air that escapes when you pull it away from your mouth in a bite. Personally, so long as my donuts taste right, I wouldn't mind switching to the baked varieties.

Out of simple curiosity, I've compiled a list of unique donuts from around the world. They say it's a small world, but I believe otherwise.

Over the Top Bagels
Fine, so these aren't donuts. Since when have I ever been able to pass over exotic foods, though, and bagels and donuts are confused often enough (more about that in a future post). With the grand opening of a new Dunkin Donuts in Xi'an, China, they began a line of "Over the Top Bagels" which are certainly over the top, with their flavors including Pineapple , Ham, Tomato & Cheese; Spinach, Roasted Red Peppers, Roasted Garlic Mayo and Cheese; and Caramelized Onion, Cracked Black Pepper and Cilantro.

http://164.109.96.224/DDBlog/2011/12/dunkin_donuts_opens.html

Mochi Donuts
Found in Dunkin Donuts across China, these treats are made of glutinous rice that is then fried in oil in their distinctive ring shapes. The green one is green tea latte, with "the texture and color of split pea soup." From my personal experience, however, they are more like chewy cakes.
http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/dishing/2008/11/tang_en_dou_le.html

Daiquiri Donuts
Found in Spain, these donuts provide a burst of er, happiness, for any rum/cocktail afficianado. Seems as though they must be pretty popular in the area.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-most-unusual-dunkin-donuts-from-around-the-wor

Kimchi Donuts
Yippee, savory donuts! Though I'm typically opposed to such combinations of sweet and savory, these kimchi donuts sound like they might be perfect for an after-dinner treat that isn't too sweet. Slash that, not sweet at all. In Korea, Dunkin Donuts sells varieties of kimchi or lentils curry croquettes, which are really more or less fried balls of dough stuffed with fillings. Not the conventional donut, but a work of art nontheless.

http://cltampa.com/dailyloaf/archives/2009/10/28/strawberry-chocolate-cream-or-fermented-cabbage-dunkin-donuts-stuffs-their-dough-with-kimchi-in-korea#.UNZUbOTAfD4

Red Bean Bismark
For the culturally inclined (at least in tote with the Asian subculture) there's no surprise someone would dream of injecting our lovely Berliners/bismarks, yeast based fried donuts, with red bean filling. 

Dried Pork and Seaweed
Again, found in China, these are savory donuts that just need some love. If you've ever been in a Chinese bakery, you know how it looks -- among sweet, delicious sheet cakes and buttercream fantasies, there are small, dilapidated fried buns of pork, seaweed, fish powder, and just about every unlikely combination. Not too surprising to see Dunkin Donuts jump on the bandwagon.

 Donut Balls (On a Stick)
...because anything tastes better on a stick, right? I find these little cake pop-esque creations by a Dunkin Donuts in Thailand absolutely adorable. I can just imagine the faces of the little toddlers who get these as a treat for finishing their veggies. :3

Siam Square
I haven't seen these outside of Thailand. Unlike the usual ring-shaped donuts, these are actually infused with jelly along the length of their rings. I'd say it was innovative, if you eliminate the wonder of why they didn't just infuse the donuts with jelly to begin with...

Waffle Donuts
Armed with a new waffle maker (thanks for the birthday present!!!) I am entirely intent on making these waffle-batter-based donuts. Apparently they have the texture of a Belgian waffle with all of the nostalgia of the flat donuts you sometimes try to make on your own (assuming you have no clue how to bake as I once was).

Be Happy!
What's not to love of these adorable emoji donuts from Russia? I'd buy one!

And finally...


Because we all love kolestrol!
                                     

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sugar Cookies

As with every holiday season, my fingers start itching for the oven once the first tinkles of bells start ringing in the doorways of the little corner stores of NYC. There's just that sentiment of "Winter Wonderland" and "Frosty the Snowman" that make me want to frost up some snowmen of my own. This weekend, since we had time and I didn't feel like studying for the big Geometry test coming up on Monday (joy, proofs!) I went shopping for new holiday cookie cutters.


Now, I'm no newbie to the tradition of Christmas cookies -- ask anyone in my family and they'll tell you all about the horrors of finishing cookies months after the holidays have ended -- but until this year I'd never made cut-outs before. Not one. Sure, I've made sugar cookies, soft shortbreads, gingerbread, chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, almond cookies, candy cane twisted-colorful-naturally-flavored cookie bars, and just about every gluten-based pastry you could think of that was even slightly related to the holidays, but it never crossed my mind that I didn't own even one tiny little cookie cutter. How's that for a baker?

If you ask anyone for the smells of Christmas, vanilla's bound to come up in the top ten, alongside the more popular pine and cinammon. It's common knowledge -- at least in these parts -- that Christmas cookies are an imperative addition to any holiday season. It's like a Christmas tree without a star, a door without a wreath. Where's the fun in that?

I started out by experimenting. About a minute into the recipe, I discovered I was missing a stick of butter -- no doubt my parents had used it for some other recipe I was unaware of. Plus, the butter we did have was partially used, from other experiments with baking and stuff. I made do with my 2.9 sticks of butter, compensating by removing an entire cup of flour. I'd read someplace that more flour makes for crispier (aka dry and hard) cookies while less flour makes for more moist cookies. Not that I'd want shortbread, of course, but I figured that if anything was right, it was the word of the Martha Stewart commenters.

Anyway, I didn't have any trouble until I found out that creaming the butter was a little harder without my trusty egg beater. While I did use the electric mixer in the past, I simply couldn't find it today, this not being my kitchen to begin with. Figuring that there was nothing to lose, I spun a whisk. It kind of worked albeit in a messy splash across the table in random spurts of buttercream kind of way. Fun.

Next, the egg and vanilla. I was thinking about adding some almond extract for some depth in flavor. In the past, I'd made orange and lemon flavored cookies by adding about 2 teaspoons per 50 cookies. Amazing. Maybe I'll try it out on some spring-themed ones.



Another thing: the dough. It was painful to watch, my whisking the dough so amateurishly. First were chips, then they slowly, slowly, slowly clumped together. I started feeling some impatience when they were still barely coming together and I'd been kneading it for almost half an hour. After sometime, and a bit of heat, it came together and was ready to roll out into the awkward mats of doughy goodness that is the birthplace of Christmas cookie heaven.

My first batch of cutouts was pretty awkward -- and not too pretty to look at. I didn't want to take a picture, to spare your eyes, but the dough had been rolled pretty unevenly - and a few of the tender candy canes broke at the curve. That's something I'll keep in mind -- make your candy cane cookies thicker, or else they'll snap in half at the slightest movement!

Afterwards, I lightly decorated them. No need to be too fancy on my first batch after all. They were perfect in my opinion -- almost the same flavor as chocolate chip cookie dough minus the chocolate chips. A bit bland to European standards, but what do they care anyway? I'll be giving some away this holiday for sure!


Sugar Cookies

Yields about 50 cookies (depending on cookie cutters)

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups butter (about 4 regular sticks)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 cups flour (plus extra for rolling out the dough)
Directions:
  1. Cream the butter and sugar.
  2. Add egg and vanilla.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients and slowly add to butter cream mixture until incorporated.
  4. On lightly floured board or table, roll out to desired thickness. 
  5. Cutout even shaped cookies and bake at 400 degrees F for 7-10 minutes.
  6. The bottoms should be slightly browning and the cookies should be light in color.
Note:
Thicker dough tends to make softer cookies, while the thinner dough makes crispier ones. Whatever you do, make sure all of the cookies in your batch are the same thickness!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More Procrastination

...Wow.
It's been a while. And it's been pretty surprising how many ways you can think of a "while." I mean, there's the technical definition off of Oxford's dictionary (which is really the official guide to English, not Merriam Webster's as many of us die-hard Webster fans have been led to believe.) A period of time. Then there's the connotation and whatnot, which pretty much tell you that there has to be some time that has passed, a lot longer than a jiffy, but not as long as forever might feel.

Here was a really good guide to the
whole Zen/Ch'an idealism
Anyway, getting back to the topic, it's been a while since I've been able to blog. Between NaNoWriMo -- didn't think I cheaped out this year did you? -- school work -- lots and lots of reports and essays that I pretty much spend oogling delicious new recipes from Crockpot and Yahoo! Shine -- flute -- because I have more music-stuff to work on before disappearing from the scene forevermore (more on that at another time) -- and my new passion for travel literature, I've hardly had enough time to even get the shuteye I need. Which doesn't exactly help my newfound love for coffee. And along with that, my newfound passion for coffee creamer and Belgian waffle makers.

It's surprising how old you can feel at times. Now, I know I'm a hypocrite to even call myself old when there's barely any life lived yet, but it's just the sentiment that, "Wow, I've been up to a lot." I'd recently been catching up on my Ch'an reading (that's Chinese Zen -- the original zen -- for all you Oriental noobs out there) and one of the exercises involves detaching yourself from the moment and letting the reality of the moment flow over your mind, so that you see things not from the hectic viewpoint, but from the window of an observer. It can get really philosophical at times, which is why I usually refrain from doing it until late night cram sessions like these when I really need a reality check.

At any rate, no doubt you're wondering how life's going. Why, thank you for asking because it's coming along quite fine. Of course, I'm in the middle of a dilemma right now that no degree of family or acquaintance intervention can solve. High school applications have been coming up and there's this really great vocational school that I've been meaning to apply to for a pretty long time. I mean, they've got the all-inclusive nerd community, awesome technology courses, a whole research lab, mentorship, and loads of other stuff that make overachievers drool in their sleep. The catch? They've got a sever lack of humanities -- literally, they've got one English and one History sequence, no APs (not that I mind too much, but I've been looking forward to taking APUSH some time, especially with the quality of the course material around these areas.) Plus, they've recently lost funding for their newspaper, the most important club of any school in my opinion. Where else can students of completely opposite personalities and interests meet for a lively debate? How else are wallflowers supposed to keep up with the news?

I suppose I've been rambling, though. I'm just a bit depressed, because the whole music thing's been catching up with my life. After a hefty argument that got no where, my old piano teacher (who had actually given an astounding amount of help) decided to leave our center for new employment elsewhere. Which means that, rather than taking our lessons at the local music center, we (my family) will be switching over to a private teacher, who happens to be a member of a statewide music association that's known for producing "fine young musicians," or in other words national award winning Chinese kids who bring tears to their parents' eyes. I've seen them before. They're pretty salty.

That's not the worst part, though. About three years ago, I discovered a strange little object. It made a metallic noise when I rapped my nails against it, and it felt cool to the touch. When I picked it up for the first time, my fingers felt electrofied -- possibly because it was really cold in the air-conditioned lobby of the music center. When I brought it up to my lips, I knew a connection had been forged. I'm a proud flautist, and I'm even a bit sad to be (possibly) leaving this behind in the coming years. I mean, sure I'll still play and everything, take lessons and whatnot, but I had this stupid little dream a while ago -- back when I was still doing competitions and stuff -- of performing as the principal flute in an orchestra. Stupid, I know, especially for a student of two years. But it was a dream, and I was a bit sensitive to criticism whenever it was around. Time came that my family decided competitions were too hectic to track over. And in the sweep of a finely inked ballpoint, my stupid little shrill was drawn closed.

But what of the title? That's true, even as I type these words I'm procrastinating. There's apparently a flash fiction piece due tomorrow, some new essays to write, and loads of stories to study. What am I doing in place of my well awaited work? Staring at the menus of Taco Bell and Au Bon Pain, deciding tomorrow's lunch. And yet, as they say, the worst has yet to come. Well, au revoir!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

So it's here again. I'll be doing NaNoWriMo for my third year and (hopefully!) emerge victorious. Tired, fatigued, exhausted, but victorious. And this year I'm going for the ultimate challenge - to publish my second book. That's right. The first passed by in a whirlwind of color. I'll admit, compared to the first and only published work of Harper Lee, I'm a bit discouraged, but that's more past than anything. I'm setting my eyes forward and hoping for a great November!

As far as school goes, I've been pretty well off this year. Our middle school recently ended the much coveted (at least by the Asian-American and overachieverist community) Honors Geometry program. Technically, students can still skip, but now we're treated like any other grade-skippers - forced into a class of upperclassmen, tortured with heinous piles of work, and whipped until we run as fast as we can on our stubby legs up the staircase halfway across the building and into the room. That might sound like an exaggeration, and I certainly don't want to berate the school administration too much, but it's a bit unfair how they make us go to class almost two minutes before the bell. We're lucky we can still catch up - me especially, since John Hopkins had so kindly offered me a discount price on their CTY Geometry course last summer semester, allowing me to take an extra sneak peek at their course offerings. Now if only I had known about such fickle matters at an earlier time...

Anyway, I have the feeling that things are about to go up a notch. That's right, I've got high school admissions. See, most teens (apart from preppy and private school kids who have to attend endless interviews and campus tours before they even hit puberty) are probably lounging away, thinking about how little time left for fun they have. Here in our town, we have a vocational school district. It's not your typical mechanic/farmer/carpenter/marine biologist vocational academy either. These, my friends, are offerings of state-of-the-art research labs, award winning curriculum, internationally recognized standards, and a host of some of the brightest kids in the nation. If you still don't know what I mean, here's a hint - just last year, one of the schools hit the #1 in the nation for math and science. It's driving the school board insane, since they recently spent all that money on educating the gifted and talented, only to see them whisk off to vocational schools, leaving the normals to attend our local district. Kind of depressing, when you put it into retrospective.

Speaking of applications, my parents have gotten this idea that I need to prepare for college. If that includes taking the SAT II, AP courses, and other acronym happy whatnot years before I need to, I'll comply like the good little Asian I'm not. But recently I've stopped getting stressed out. Loads of homework reaching past Mauna Lua and tests scheduled iotas within each other have stopped making my heart beat fast. I've read in some places that for some people, stress gives them an adrenaline rush. Translation: work makes you high. What do you think of that idea?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

End of Summer

Hi guys. Sorry for keeping you waiting, but I haven't had much time to post anything anyway. Anyhow, school's about to start, so with all of the scheduling, back to school shopping, and last minute summer getaways, I haven't had much time to do anything. My poor amigurumi have been neglected for a little too long, but hopefully, once September starts, the hooks and needles will start clicking again.

What's that thing they always said about middle school? I'm pretty sure we're the forgotten alley between elementary, where kids are basically treated with rainbows all yearlong, and high school, where teachers roll you along a conveyor belt and parents claw each other to get their kids into the top colleges. Yeah, I've been influenced by Alexandra Robbins a little too much...anyway, we're supposedly the top dogs now, especially since eighth graders are given priorities in all of the school clubs, bands, sports, etc. Not that I'll be doing much of them anyway. Science Olympiad and TSA take up way too much of my time. :P Plus, I was planning on spearheading another club - we haven't decided on a name yet, but it's basically a conglomerate hodgepodge, like yours truly. That's probably going to take up a good chunk of my time, anyhow.

Remember the book I published a while back? I've been thinking for a while about my next one, a bit guiltily spending the summer lounging instead of editing or drafting. There's too much sunlight! Anyway, since none of my cousins are coming down and we weren't planning anything too extravagant for the month, my conscience told me it was time to get back onto the lap tops. I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo (sound familiar?) It's advertised as a virtual summer camp. I don't really get the point of the cabins, since hardly anyone seems to be logging on everyday and the message boards are a bit slow to respond anyway, but the graphics on the site are nice and not too buggy. I'll admit I really prefer the November program, but hopefully I'll be getting in a little more writing. The word count's the same as usual - 50K - so I've been writing about 2000 words a day. And today I'm up to...42,565. Not a bad number, but the sad part is I'm still in the first five chapters :3.  It's going to be a hectic few weeks to finish up the book. That's the thing with the program - they expect you only to write 50K, not finish the whole book. Of course, as daunting as 50K in 30 days sounds, the truth is that most of the books out on the market (think Stephen King) seem to be exceeding 100K. It's a wonder how those authors keep typing without getting finger calluses. Then again, I've heard the rumors of R.L. Stine, famed author of the children's series Goosebumps, typing with only one finger. How reliable can author gossip be, when all writers are basically really good fabricators?

I've been having ideas for starting a new blog, but that's going to be in a long while. Transferring all of the posts doesn't really appeal to me, and lots of people seem to have trouble transferring all of their viewers simultaneously. Nevertheless, I'll think about starting a new venture sometime. The basic idea is for a more "intellectually inclined" type of site for my essays to be posted. It's kind of like an ezine, only in blog form. If that's not confusing to you, congrats, because wrapping my head around my new ambitious ventures is only going to go downhill from here.

Since September brings about the new 2012-2013 school year, I've been thinking of adding things to my bucket list, or at least start a list of new school year resolutions. It's a bit pathetic that the schools down here in NJ are all fall wannabes. We get out all the way in late June, when most of the other kids are already enjoying the sunlight, and in late August, when the summer's actually dying off already, we still have a month to go. Sure, it saves time and money to plan vacations on the late, but doesn't it seem kind of, I don't know, paradoxical? Or at least illogical. I'm personally a supporter of the school year round plan (think homeschool, but in a standardized environment) which entitles more breaks, but less often. Kids might not be able to go on month-long vacations, but it sure helps with  memory retention. Why waste precious time reviewing material we've already covered? Plus, days ought to be shorter. We spend most of our time reviewing material over and over, waiting for the bell in most classes. And then we rush in between. Maybe a block schedule would work better. And actual opportunities to take more advanced classes. America's stuck with a school system that teaches Pre-Algebra in 8th grade. You know what Singapore's kids are doing in 8th grade? Algebra II.

Anyway, back to my resolutions. Despite all of the summer reading requirements, I've been failing in my reading this year, plus library books are due in a week T.T. That's my fault for not having checked their return dates and renewing them on time. I've also signed up for Code Year, a project within CodeAcademy. The website's actually pretty neat, as it teaches you about JavaScript, Python, HTML, CSS, and lets you create courses for others. It's set up like a game of Candyland - you complete activities and learn about the various tricks, functions, and syntax for each language. They don't have the more prominent languages set yet (though maybe I could use my C knowledge to set that right) but it seems like a cool site to check out:
www.codeacademy.com
I've also (re)discovered my love for math and all things geeky. 'Course, I won't have time to do any of the more fun aspect of loving calculus and such, but I'm learning vector art at the moment. Art and tech integration - just about how much more geeky can you get? I just hope my poor stuffed bunnies won't be too jealous of the fact that I'm spending more time in front of a lit screen than with their little stitches.
In leau of my recent CashCrate participation, I've been earning a few dollars in the form of Amazon $5 gift cards. Not much, but SwagBucks is kind of hard to work on. Yup, here's my referral link:
http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/archytas

Ah, I'm tired and it's about time to sign off. Here's my full list of new (school) year resolutions, for all of you who were interested:

  • Keep agenda clean 
  • Learn to code JS
  • Find a possible career
  • Finish drafting my second novel
  • Keep locker mess-free (let's see how long this lasts)
  • Keep a journal
  • Convince parents to get a new pet (even a fish is okay...unless it's a phase...then too bad :3)
Haha, happy end of August guys! 

Friday, July 20, 2012

5 Tips for Preserving Candy

Bird's Eyes View of the initial "kid's candy basket"
The other day we were finally able to clean out our cabinets filled with candy. I've got to say, breath mints aren't as sweet after they've been sitting in a musky pantry for over a year...

Anyway, we started off with our Chinese New Year candy. I understand it's supposed to be good luck, but out with the old and in with the new, right? So, after debating on whether or not to just dump the entire lot of uneaten candy, my mom and I reached a compromise: The Chew and Spit.
Basically, we try and eat all of the candies while consuming as few calories as possible and limiting the inevitable sugar rush as best we can. I took this approach by chewing off a corner of a fruit chew or suspicious looking hard caramel colored object wrapped in a flimsy plastic foil. If it tasted decent (milk candy!) then I'd gladly spit it away, knowing that my taste bud fears had been conquered. Likewise, if the thing turned out to be disgusting, such as the happy penguin powder candy sitting alongside some lolipops, I'd throw out the entire lot, cleanse my mouth of the impurity, and proceed to throw away any matching chewies. There were a few incidents of chewies not actually being chewy, but accidents happen. I'm just glad our counter's been cleared.
Yay! M&Ms :3

As you can see, here's the entire lot of our candy. (Ignore the lone M&M if you want a clearer picture of our labor.) It took a while, and a lot of groans from my siblings, but we eventually managed to pride ourselves in saving the abandoned sweets from eternal boredom. At least now they'll have fun dissolving into their respective sugars in the land fill. Or be turned into mushy goo. Or be preserved for future generations to prod over and study.

Anyway, there were surprisingly a few lessons I learned from today.
1) Don't keep all of those Lifesavers from restaurants. Keeping an emergency stock in the car is always fine for immediate breath-purifying moments, but make sure to frequently purge the stock. You don't want a crushed up/mushed mess when you reach your hand in for a breather.
2) Jolly Ranchers should be eaten immediately, and preferably in the winter. Although there are certainly summer candy freaks (and we all love you) it's not too much fun for most people to open up the delightful plastic wrap only to find that it's been melted and misshapen. A flat Jolly Rancher isn't a happy candy. Treat your sweets right.
Another photo of the candy basket...just 'cause
3) Chocolate with white spots is perfectly edible. Keeping the cocoas in the fridge preserves them better over the long course, but if you ever receive premium Godiva or Lindt chocolates for, say, a birthday or new year, eat them within a week, because chances are you'll eventually forget about them and leave them to rot or they'll have melted into unrecognizable blobs (see #2). The hard chocolates can last longer, so make sure those truffles and caramels centers are eaten right away and enjoyed at their peak of flavor. Of course, cherry cordials can probably last a while (we had one from last Christmas that tasted as fresh as anything.) If you can't finish them, there's always the option of giving them to me ;)
4) Gum should never be ignored too long. If you want, keep it in a cool area, not in the open or in the car, where the sun's menacing rays will rip its little gummy flesh apart (again, see #2). It's chewability rating severely drops as the temperature rises, a phenomenon I've had the honor to witness myself. The "Extra" on the gum only applies to the moment it hits your mouth, not before. Unlike Twinkies or honey, gum expires. Once the flavor's gone, there's a fat chance of getting anyone to savor in its gummy goodness. Tip for expired gum that's still somewhat edible: Give them to a friend. They never know the difference if it's not in the container. Especially if it's in a wrinkle-free wrapping. (Even I can't put my finger on a gum that looks as if it's been taken out of the trast.)
5) Do not eat candy that smells funky. Period.

Monday, June 18, 2012

End of Year Surprise!

I hate deadlines.

Did you ever get that feeling of resentment when the school year almost ends, but it's dragging...slower...and slower until your brain is about to explode? (Or maybe that's just me because my brain was literally on the brink of exploding after I crashed headfirst onto our hardwood living room floor from failing to pick up my pencil...while doing a bridge...)

Colleges let out way back in May and I was only just invited to the CTY award ceremony. Now I've just learned that it's a year away, so my hopes haven't gone up at all.  I mean, now I've got to wait for all of my favorite book releases (The Mark of Athena, The Last Guardian, Shadows Alive, etc.), the Pikmin game for Xbox (don't ask), and the invitation (coming in August) for a ceremony that won't even be taking place until spring of 2013. If the world does end, that would mean that I'd never even get my hands on that hard-earned award. T.T Then again, it's already tomorrow in Australia, and they're still alive...so that would mean the world would technically never end today for us. It will always end tomorrow. But the question is - which tomorrow will it end on? I mean, psychologists can never get around the fact that they have no idea where this "end of world" mumbo jumbo came from, let alone find out its effects on the human psyche. Luckily, I have other things to occupy myself with, at least for the time being.

I've recently founded an after-school club at my school where we "learn about Life, the Universe, and Everything and hopefully eat pie." That's how it's introduced, but the real reason of the club's about as murky as its name: AA. I was hoping that things might clear up, but so far it's just a study group for things that matter - like Life, the Universe, and Everything. Meetings will probably be starting around September, so I'm really excited!

All stuff aside, I've finished a lot of my teachers' end-of-year gifts. The Student Council recently decided that they weren't going to throw their party after all, so all the favors are being collected for a random surprise party thrown for my awesome Honors English Teacher (who happens to not be allowed to bring in cookies, hence the "surprise" aspect.) I'm donating lemon cookies! Seriously, who doesn't love lemons?
As for my social studies teacher, she's been keeping this really neat collection of stuffed animals recently and I decided to use my talent to make her possibly the best stuffed animal in the history of stuffed animal-ness: The Little Squishy Green Bird from RIO!!!

Remember that guy who was squeezed twice by Nigel before telling him that he was "smart...and handsome?"

I've got him live and in flesh!

Grr... Feel my squishy wrath, scrawny humans

Okay...maybe not so much in flesh.

I've also taken about four hours of my time to sketch these beautiful birds (red-bellied woodpecker and Carolina Chickadee) for my science and math teachers, respectively. They've actually been pretty awesome this year, and even though they gave me pretty low marks considering all the work I put in (totally true) and all of my internal awesomeness that should've blinded them alive, but merely scorched the tips of their manes, I've decided that they needed something in reward. Aren't the birdies positively adorable-sauce?

I kind of felt bad about my art teacher and tech ed teacher, though. I mean, they were probably the heads of the classrooms I spent the most time in, especially during the month of March (when TSA, Science Olympiad, Art Show, and all of those competitions came rushing in. Now that I think about it, I am some sort of workaholic. Luckily, my nerd friends are too, so there's no difference there.) I was about to prepare something for them, but excuses never did work and I'll leave you hanging as to the exacts details of my epic procrastination.

I did, however, get nominated for the NJHS (National Junior Honor Society) at our school! The only problem is the application process, which involves a random assortment of paperwork, essays, recommendations, leadership brownie points, and community service hours. I am somewhat lacking in both my leadership and community service, so I'm probably not going to having too much fun this summer. Help me!

Did I also mention that one of my super amazing friends is already set for life? Not only is she a treasurer of a gifted-education society, but she's also a project manager for a recital, a stage director for a piano club, a volunteer gardener and tutor, a Builder's Club officer, a XC team captain (or at least team captain in training), and a church assistant. She's probably going to become a Westinghouse/Rhodes scholar and rule the universe one day. With kitties.

But I've also acquired some brownie points for myself recently. I'm really excited about this, because my CTYOnline course was actually finished in four weeks! It's a little longer than the kids who spend approximately 6 hours a day on their course, finishing a yearlong course in a measly 3 weeks, but I'm still pretty proud to be able to skip an entire grade (even if it's just in math)! Plus, if I decide to go to a specialized science academy, I'll have an extra excuse to take college courses in my senior year! Fun! (Come on now. Challenge my definition of fun, you Neanderthals :D)

Oh, and for an end-of-year special, here's a slightly modified approach to one of the "difficult" questions from my Honors Geometry course (despite the rumors of me becoming a patent attorney, I am still not quite an expert in the area of copyright law and for the meantime will abide by the liberties Creative Commons allows me.)


Is it possible to have four non coplanar points, three of which are collinear?

Answers in the comments!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Personality Quiz

There's an awesome site that I recently found with the help of the local high school's guidance counselor. (By the way, do not judge a little girl for talking to counselors in their high school.) The link is

http://www.free.typefocus.com/

It works really well, but I recommend not expecting much from the site. You answer 66 really quick questions (my test literally lasted 2 minutes max) and then they give you a four letter personality label, which you can apply to the search engine bar, which will direct you to some sites for people like you! I was an INTJ, which means that I'm a intuitive scientific type of person who also happens to like conclusions and intelligence. :)
Once you go to the sites, here's one that I particularly liked.

http://www.personalitypage.com/html/home.shtml

If you explore around a little bit, then you can actually find the right page for your personality. I clicked on mine and it came with career advice, relationship advice, and personal growth charts! It's like a horoscope, but geekier! Plus my personality (INTJ) has a bunch of people who are equally geeky, nerds who are proud of being nerd, and in fact are so proud that they began a whole bunch of forums to talk about geekiness!
Anyway, the best news is that if you find a career on your page that fits your liking, it's likely to be a good future for you! My own personal quota had to include law and science, which was perfect for my personality type. Good luck!

Summer, Camp, and Contests

Time for an update.
So school's almost out, even though our district's probably one of the slowest to let out their kids. Honestly, letting out last week of June and starting first week of September? Absolute torture. I'd love to hear of a day when our district simply removes summer vacation and creates a yearlong school year on the grounds that they'll give us more free time in between class and home. I'll never be able to go to summer camp again.

Speaking of summer camp, did I tell you that I was going to be the newest sailor in my hometown? (Nice try, but I'm not revealing any secrets...yet...until I win the Nobel Prize). That's right, step right up and join the crew of the S.S. Islander! I can't wait until July, when the day camp actually starts. Even though I've hardly been out on a lake lately, better late than never, right? Don't the girls below look excited?

I've also got other exciting summer plans. Smack dab in the middle of my crazy life (now, sadly, filled with absent gaps of A- in my grades despite by newest 100% on my Algebra I final), I will be doing Camp NaNoWriMo. Hopefully, this August will give me the inspiration I need to pursue my picture perfect career as an author gone lawyer!

Also, I sent off another application form for an art and writing competition that one of my literacy teachers recommended me. It's about peace and harmony (things that the world needs more of, especially after learning about all of those mass massacres in North Korea <shivers>) and how to relinquish human greed and glutton. I wrote a really nice poem (in my teacher's words, not so much in my own), but posting it online would be auto-plagiarism (again, in the words of my crazy science teacher who also likes to hand out candy canes during Christmas. We love you, Mrs. B!). I guess, I'll have to wait out on this one. Anyway, a few classmates of mine have been too lazy to enter, so that kind of slims down the applicant pool, hopefully allowing me to take a grab at one of those top three awards for middle school students in my state. I'm not really hoping for much, since self publication of my poem is also good enough for me if I don't win, but wish me luck!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Thanks!

So...thanks to everyone who helped me with Hidden! Admittedly, the sales have been really slow lately and I'm hoping I actually get that check I was promised sometime soon (at least before they forget the publishers forget that they offered me a royalty on every book sold.)
Recently, I've begun working on a sequel, but I'm not too sure whether that's going to be published anytime soon. Honestly, the actual idea of the Beings is kind of hard to digest for far too many people who haven't already been introduced to the idea via Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, and other science fiction/fantasy authors.
Also, school's about to be coming to an end and I'm hoping to get some good pictures up before then! I'm still debating whether or not I should continue art (especially since my drawing haven't been up to quality lately) and my culinary skills are lacking...
However, here's a peanut cracker I made with my sister's help, so enjoy! The original recipe was a graham cracker with a dab of peanut butter and Nutella smeared on top, then jammed onto another graham cracker. However, for peanut lovers, this alternative seems like an equally delicious choice!
By the way, I've found out something really cool -- internationally ranked memory champions don't actually have eidetic memory after all! They just have great control over their hippocampus, a well-toned spacial memory banks, and loads of training. Theoretically, anyone can train to become one of the greatest memory champions in the world! My own skills haven't been as lacking in the memory/focus category (compared to my failed artwork and food) so this is a cool hobby. Imagine the surprise when your friends find out that you won poker not from sleight of hand, but from memorizing the cards in all of their hands!

Last, but not least:
I recently won Ole Miss University's math contest. The prize came with a T-Shirt (since I'm a privacy freak, here's a pic of the T-shirt itself, rather than yours truly modeling it out). I've fallen in love with geeky shirts, so I can't wait to wear this and shout out to the world!


























Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hidden - Please read

Hi Everyone!

If you hadn't already heard, I'd recently published a book called Hidden. It's about a two entirely separate creations that try and find a tangent. One of these world, that of the Beings, decides to send over a messenger that contains the soul of their creator. With such a mission in hand, they create a changeling who in turn grows up as a normal human would...or does she?

Here's the synopsis:
There had been a time before the humans, before life had existed. Since the start of time itself, Beings have inhabited the world, and with it, the deepest realms of thought. However, with the arrival of the humans, a deep connection had been wrought. Controlled by a fiery and bold Potentate, the Beings began to steer the creation of mankind. They Enlightened the ones they choose with potential. They created leaders, maniacs, civilizations. And the one Crawn, reincarnate of the Potentate, controls it all.
When Fanglae was born, she had been nothing. However, once she realizes that her world is occupied by the Beings, there is no longer any way for her to turn back to normal. With the help of her longtime friend, Jasperal, she discovers secrets about the Beings and herself that she would never have imagined. But with secrets comes dark consequences... Do you have the courage to unveil the Hidden?

The book is available in paperback for $6 or Kindle for just $3.99!
Additionally, it will be made available FOR FREE for all members of Amazon Prime!


Opening Your Pool



Here's a little something I'd written a while ago:

As I stepped outside, I could smell the fresh late-spring air. The birds were chirping, the grass rustling, the trees whistling. Best of all, the pool cover was about to be taken off.
It had taken months of preparing last summer to get the nerve to cover up the pool before the cold set in. Finally, it was time to start anew. With our handy-dandy pool-opening, stainless-steel-spring-removing gadgets in hand, old rags in the other, it was time for our mission to start.
Every groan of a spring coming loose, the boing of the safety cover letting go was only the prelude to what it would feel like once the cover was completely gone, to be stored away until the dreaded end of summer once again.
Until then, the opening of the pool, the time when you can feel the summer setting in, kids being let out of school, the season of freedom, change, happiness. That is joy.
 
 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ender's Game

Since I'm not really expecting too many people to be reading this (800 hits? REALLY????) I will post a personal rant statement  that I am hoping will be out of my mind once this episode is over.

OMB Orson Scott Card is writing a movie for ENDER'S GAME!!!

In case you didn't know, Ender's Game is my all time favorite book. The rest of the series didn't quite...measure up...but that doesn't really matter because this is just too awesome to be eclipsed by something insignificant like a broken up series.

Okay, that may have been a bit too dramatic, but I'm still excited! The actors look like they're pretty good.
Check out this link that I found on the IMDb that might be dead by the time you read this:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1731141/

And since Card's writing the script, I'm really hoping this comes out right. I know I'll cry if the movie comes up funky....please don't come out funky...

I've probably read the book five times already and I've recommended it millions of times after that...thank goodness because the school system actually agreed to make it a summer reading book for  the seventh grade (not that I had any influence on them whatsoever, though.) The school system just never listens to teenagers these days...


Any way, happy spring breaks for all you readers out there <snicker> and happy days!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Back from NJ-TSA!

Whew, what a long day. As I type this, I have been winding down from a really intense day at the College of New Jersey - and yes, middle school kids do get really intense college experiences, too.

Why was I at college, you may ask.

Why, it was because today was the much-awaited, nail-biting, hair-raising day of the TSA state conference! And our middle school had signed up for the first year, thanks to a very fortunate grant given to our school.

I had to get up pretty early to catch the bus to get to school. Nearly forgetting to wear formal business attire, I had to rush out of my room right as my mom was going to call me out of my bedroom. TCNJ was way too far for us to get to the competition on time (8:30AM) any other way, so to the bus we departed. Since we normally go to school at 7:00AM anyway, getting up early to catch the bus wasn't a problem.

By the time we got to school, though, we had learned that all we would be getting for this incredibly spectacular competition would be a tiny little kindergarten ride. Imagine the humiliation. Of course, once my friends and I boarded the minibus, we realized that it wasn't too bad (hahaha) anyway, because the floors were clean and the leather smelled nice. And my back was thankful for the brief respite of rest, too.

The ride to the college was relatively peaceful. I was able to catch up on some sleep in my itchy formal wear, but the arrival was later than I thought and I even grew a tad bit bored. But enough of my boring banter.

Soon, we'd arrived at the college (Bower Student Center) and we had set down all our stuff and other. My adviser had to attend to a board meeting, so we had to lug around our heavy bags with us for practically the entire day. I happened to have the most inconvenient purple drawstring bag a girl could have (because it just had to be me) and I was practically dying the entire time. Enough of my moaning, though.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cake-time!


As you probably saw immediately upon looking at this post, here is a cake.
Why is is special, you ask.
Because I made it :D

Anyway, I'd decided to take a short break from amigurumi frenzy-ing (too many orders are clogging up my yarn-filled blood stream) and yarn designing (as you can see, my clock is malfunctioning).
My mom had signed me up for this amazing cake decorating class at our public library, located in a cozy little room in the corner. 
Fortunately for me, I was no outcast when I arrived. 
Unfortunately, my brother was one of three boys who had showed up, but that's okay because his cake turned out better than anyone else's (except mine, of course.)

So, we started right away, with the buttercream spread onto the cake. I honestly had no idea what kind of cake we were making and as usual I was daydreaming during instructions plus my near-sighted eyes couldn't see anything the instructors were doing.
So I ended up with a beautifully iced butter cream cake when the fondant arrived.
Just imagine the horror. My beautifully iced masterpiece would be ruined by a fondant dress.
But that didn't bother me because my creative juices were already flowing. And I had already designed the perfect cake in my head:

A birthday cake. Because my sister needed one XD

The next hour flew by as I was instructed on techniques to roll out fondant, color fondant, and shape fondant. In fact, I performed so well that I was given a formal invitation to the royal culinary academy from which the cake decorating instructors were trained! (Ok, fine, I got a flyer...)

And in a matter of no time, I'd arrived with...voila! My masterpiece.

And now it's about time to get back to amigurumi. So much for procrastination.

See you all later!
My brother's awesome cake :D


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fear and More Boring Stuff

Hi! I know I haven't been posting anything recently (Wow, one post a month? Really?) and I really have to catch up on my schoolwork, so I've decided to post a essay I recently wrote, just for fun.
(It would be really funny if my teacher found this and blamed me for plagiarism XD)

So...planning a trip to Taiwan sometime in the future so that should be fun, upcoming Jazz Band Festivals are going to be exciting, Chinese School Field Day in June, though I'm definite you want to hear about those things...

One last thing. Our middle school recently held a pep rally to "pep" up things around our community, because we're totally not peppy enough! So, we wasted spent an entire week furnishing the school for the event. This is the only remnant of the festivities:
My awesome hawk (designed for the Middle School Pep Rally...don't ask why)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

10 Ways to Tell Your Teacher's Pranking You

What's hiding under that grin?
Even though the end of the school year's already approaching, I can't seem to forget how my teachers always pull the most ridiculous pranks on me. Naturally, since I'm so gullible, I actually fall for all their tricks. But here's I've managed to retrieve some clues to remind others so they won't have to fall into the same traps I do.

1) Check for her body language.
Even teachers can't always hide their internal thoughts. Eyelash flickering, constant arm movement, and a tapping foot are sure signs that something is amiss. If you know your instructor really well (as you should by the end of the year)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year's

Hi guys! Haven't posted in a while, but I have my excuses.
Anyhow, like the majority of American public school systems, our local town's granted us a one-week "Winter Vacation" far from schoolwork and boring banter. Fortunately for the New Year's placement on a Sunday, Monday's off, too.
My family had never really thought about this New Year as much as we celebrate the Chinese New Year (something fishy...) but I thought it would be nice to share some traditions anyway.
First off, there's the resolutions. Surprise, surprise, nearly all of my family put two items on their list and almost everyone had "get more sleep". So that puts our situations into retrospect.
The awesome sushi dinner (I made the rolls)
Next, we have the late night dinner, short catnap, and the wake-up call about five minutes before the Big Apple falls on New York City. Why five minutes? Well, one year we did it five seconds before and I don't suppose that's enough time to turn on the TV and enjoy the music before the year's up.
Finally, there's the summary of the year. How did you enjoy yours? How much fun did you have? Is there anything you'd regret?
I didn't really regret too much (after all, at my age there's not much happening in the first place) and my year went by pretty smoothly, as I hope most of yours did, too.

So, Happy New Year 2012!

Enough of the festivities. As for an update on our holiday vacation, we mainly strolled around Indiana (suburbs of Indianapolis to be specific). Dad and Mom planned everything beforehand, since we had a barely six day stay at our relative's lovely home. The events were kind of mashed up, so don't expect too much accuracy (my head's too full of chocolate :P)

Day One-Saturday: Christmas Eve! Made cookies, wrapped up final presents
Day Two-Sunday: Christmas! Eat cookies, get fat, open presents, sit by the television, Wii...
Day Three-Monday: Ate cheesecake
Day Four-Tuesday: Played tennis to burn off some extra calories
Day Five-Wednesday: Sushi dinner, played some more, went out to browse for some green tea ice cream
Day Six-Thursday: Skiing on the Perfect North Slopes of Ohio hehe... fell a few too many times on the blue squares (got to get more practice sometime)

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!
 

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