Welcome home

A follow-up to the “peek through the loupe” post, I have now received my rings from Charlton & Lola, which completes the set. What a wonderful journey from initial concept to designing sessions over pots of tea to the social media admiration of the final product.





A peek through the loupe

Recently, I’ve been working with Lisa Owusu of Charlton & Lola on updating some pieces of jewelry I inherited. It’s been wonderful learning about another industry; this is my first exposure to high-end jewelry design.

@virago7 #gemstones #spinels #zircons #diamonds

A video posted by lisa@charltonandlola.com (@musingsbylola) on

As with any industry, names are important. Having a common nomenclature allows people to share complex ideas. Since I was a complete novice who didn’t know that baguette  referred to a type of diamond cut and not the bread, Lisa listened closely to my style requirements and then she transformed that into technical requirements. This was a refreshing reminder that it’s easy to become caught up in PM jargon like  “WBS” and “progressive elaboration” – ultimately we should use phrases that enable the clients to feel comfortable and understood. Saying “schedule of tasks” conveys the same essence as WBS, but in a more generally understood manner.

Another interesting aspect to this project is being the client – quiet a role reversal from my normal work experience. There were moments where as the sponsor and key stakeholder, I felt “my way or the highway” but Lisa was gracious in pushing back and suggesting an alternative. Usually she was correct — there is a reason why she is the vendor and subject matter expert. However, by working together with me on the idea and explaining her rationale, it made for a collaborative decision.

Now that we’re done designing and Lisa is building the pieces, I can’t wait to see how they develop!



Fun with Zojirushi

I used to skimp on kitchen small appliances, but once I invested in a Zojirushi rice cooker I was hooked! I’ve been expanding my Zojirushi items ever since.

I recently changed jobs and am trying to be careful budget-wise. However, Bed Bath & Beyond did it again and I saw a Zojirushi 1-Pound-Loaf Mini Breadmaker in the clearance section. It was brand new too – not a floor demo or anything! Clearly a sign that I had to add it to the collection.

I’ve only made banana bread so I was looking forward to experimenting with more traditional breads. Looking at the recipes in the instruction manual, the cinnamon raisin bread caught the eye of my stomach. I did have to purchase bread flour & dry milk, but had the remaining ingredients on hand. I loved the ease of measuring out ingredients and magically a couple hours later — fresh bread! The aroma was so tantalizing and it was fun to occasionally look into the clear top to see how the bread was progressing.

I did worry about it being an expensive rarely used appliance (looking at you, Kitchenaid mixer), but so far I’ve made one loaf a week. The honey bread recipe in the manual is also tasty. As a single lady, the 1lb-loaf lasts for a week of breakfast toasts. I’ve not used it for making sandwiches as I’d have to get better at cutting thin slices of bread. So far I’ve been enjoying thick slices of buttery toast with my coffee….

Oodles of Zoodles

zoodle collageI normally agree with Alton Brown in that a single use kitchen tool is a waste of space. However, there are times were an one-purpose tool is handy. I’ve been seeing alot of zucchini noodle (aka “zoodles”) recipes on Pinterest. I’m lousy at julienne slicing by hand and my grater wasn’t up for the challenge. But lo & behold, the Microplane Spiral Cutter was on discount at Bed, Bath, & Beyond for $4.99. Just the right price point for a fun gadget.

Instead of focusing on a specific recipe, I wanted to test out the tool and the zoodle texture. I went with a simple peanut butter-based sauce that I whipped together using what was in the pantry.

IMG_7338The first zucchini didn’t spiral easily because it turns out the wider side should go in first and then you can use the stem as a handle towards the end. I had chopped off the stem and slide the smaller end first, which then made it very difficult to spiral as there was less zucchini to hold on to. My middle-school sense of humor giggled at the extruded core and the spirals coming out of the bottom…

I’ve read posts where people cut up the core and other leftover bits to add to the dish, but considering my lunch was going to be two zucchinis as it is, I tossed them out. I added in some red bell pepper for color and crunch. Turns out I made too much sauce for the amount of zoodles as they don’t soak up the sauce like traditional noodles.

IMG_7340Time for the taste test – perhaps it was due to the amount of sauce, but I couldn’t tell the difference between the zucchini noodle and slightly over cooked noodles. There is a lack of al dente/QQ texture, but a decent compromise for the nutritional benefit. Looking forward to trying the zoodle tool again!

Surprising success


One of the reasons I enjoy cooking is the thrill of experimentation. What if I add a pinch of this and a dab of that?

After watching an episode of “Extra Virgin“, I was craving linguine alle vongole. Trouble was that it was a cold & dark night, I had no linguine, and definitely did not have fresh clams. But I did know the basics on how to make a white wine sauce so let the fun begin!

Going through the pantry and fridge, I had whole wheat thin spaghetti and a bag of frozen mixed seafood (scallops, shrimp, and squid). I let the seafood defrost while the pot of water came to a boil. When cooking the pasta, I started the sauce by sautéing some celery (I also had no parsley so figured celery was close enough…) with garlic in olive oil. I then added in the seafood. By then the pasta was almost done — I saved a cup of the pasta water before draining. I added white wine and some of the pasta water into the sauce pan to deglaze a bit before adding in the pasta to allow it to finish cooking in the sauce. And some pepper and voila! — a jury-rigged pasta dish that not only satisfied the craving, but was good enough to be desired in its own right.

Flushing or Bust: a Queens night market

I recently backed The Queens Night Market campaign on Kickstarter. It aims to open in the Spring of 2015 in Flushing, near the old World Fair site. It’s quite a fitting location due to the diversity of the borough.

Some of my fondest and tastiest memories of visiting Taiwan involve the night markets. I always thought of it as a distinctly Asian experience, until I visited some holiday markets in Europe. There was a similar air of excitement as people roamed the stalls and sampled goods.

I hope the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, even though I famously lost a bet that I could make it to Flushing from Lower Manhattan before a friend leaving from New Haven, CT. Evidently I-95 is much faster than the 7 train!

Rainy day pantry soup

It was a dark & stormy night…and I was way too lazy to go out to grab dinner. Time to raid the pantry and see what I could rustle up. Turns out I had the ingredients for a makeshift minestrone soup!

Continue reading

Durham Fair 2014

I try to return to Connecticut every year to attend the Durham Fair. I have wonderful memories of the fair – from as a wee tyke on the pony rides to a high schooler enjoying the carnival games to last weekend’s wondering on how to train a llama to go through an obstacle course.

Of course a big part of going to the fair is the food! While glad to not encounter anything like deep-fried butter, I couldn’t resist indulging in apple crisp, fried dough with powdered sugar, and, of course, the “Big Doughnut” that’s the speciality of Durham Fair. As you can see in the photo, it’s almost as big as my head!