New Blog!

Hey readers!

A quick update on my life:

1. I’m about to graduate college in a month! (Only two weeks of classes left!?)

2. I’m staying in the Boston area for the next year!

3. I HAVE A NEW BLOG dedicated entirely to photography! I’ve been spending more time taking pictures than I have making food, so I thought it would be appropriate to have a separate site. Please go check it out: sydneychar.wordpress.com! And please contact me if you’d like to have me take portraits or event photos; it’s what I love, and I would more than love to help out my readers ;)

The site is still in the works, as I’m pretty new to WordPress still, but please visit often and refer friends!

4. I’ll still bake/cook, I promise, especially since I’ll have more time next year when I’m not studying all the time!

Happy Spring!

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syd

Brother’s Appreciation Night 2015

Passion: love so intense that you’re willing to sacrifice for it

We’d do anything for our brothers, including making fools of ourselves and working for long hours on decoration. It was sometimes tiring, but I’d do it again and again just to know that the brothers felt as loved as they are.

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Welcome to 2015!

Happy 2015!

It’s been a busy end of 2014/start of 2015. I spent some time with Nathan & his relatives in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Cambodia, and then I was home for a bit. I took way too many pictures (as usual).

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It was so exhilarating to travel, to see new places and meet new people. Experiencing beauty in all forms, in ways I couldn’t imagine, was breathtaking and awesome. My only regret was not having enough time to see more.

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We ate and walked so much! We tried some street food and also ate in some nice restaurants. Thankfully, the weather was good to us–it was much warmer than frigid Boston. Cambodia was super hot! I was too excited to break out the shorts and tank tops.

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As much as I love traveling, and as much as I was so happy to wander around Asia for a while, I was so relieved to finally return home. I hadn’t been home in 6 months! It was wonderful to see my family & my dog.

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We also love to eat and try new foods. We love to make Vietnamese Spring Rolls (my favorite food!) all the time, but this time, we tried to make a few different things…

Caramelized Bacon!

Apparently I missed this amazing caramelized bacon that my cousin made for Christmas dinner (I was in Asia still). My parents were raving about it still when I came back, so of course I had to attempt it! I Googled a recipe and found a winner. It’s modeled after the bacon featured at Sweet Maple in San Francisco, but this one has a bit of soy sauce tossed in.

It was surprisingly easy to make, and although it took a little longer than expected. We served it at a dinner party, and they were the talk of the town (at least for the night!). Warning: this is not a good food to make/eat if you’re trying to lose weight for your New Year’s resolution…

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mmm. bacon. (heavy breathing)

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We cut the strips into smaller, bite-size pieces for quick and easy consumption :)

Without further ado:

Five-Spice Glazed Caramelized Bacon

(From Simply So Good)

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs thin-cut bacon
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 3-4 cups brown sugar (light or dark)
  • crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Cover large rimmed baking pans with aluminum foil. Place racks on each pan, and lay bacon on the racks.
  2. Mix soy sauce and five-spice together in a bowl and brush over bacon (only one side).
  3. In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar and red pepper flakes. Add as many red pepper flakes as desired, depending on desired spiciness. Sprinkle sugar mixture liberally over bacon, ensuring that the bacon is completely covered. (You may choose to add more brown sugar here if there isn’t enough.)
  4. Bake in preheated oven at 400F for 30 minutes, or until sugar is melted and bacon is brown and shiny. Let the bacon cool on the rack for 5 minutes, then use a metal spatula to move the bacon on the rack to unstick it from the rack. Let it cool for another 5 minutes. The bacon will become more crisp as it cools.
  5. Cut into smaller pieces with scissors and enjoy.

Dumplings!

I’ve made dumplings before with Nathan, and mom had made them also with her friend, but we tried on our own. These ones are pork dumplings, with a ton of veggies thrown in there, too! This picture was taken before they were boiled.

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It was surprisingly easy to make. We had 2lbs of pork, and we chopped green onions, leek, cabbage, and any other veggies we had lying around. We also mixed an egg into the mixture to make it fluffier.

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After that, we put a small tablespoonful of the mixture into the center of circular dumpling wrappers (we used the wrong ones here–get the white ones!), and folded the tops together. Lastly, we placed the dumplings in boiling water until they were completely cooked through.

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Super easy, and super delicious. I’m definitely making these at school and whenever I go home!

The holidays are for spending with family and friends to remember the love that has been shown to us. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to spend time with Nathan & his family, as well as my own, and seeing this beautiful world we live in. As the final semester of my college career begins, I look forward to new beginnings and more memories.

How did your New Year begin?

New Beginnings

This has been a semester of change… weird change.

Friends have graduated, new friends have appeared, and I feel like I’ve learned more about myself in ways both good and bad. One of the things that is very real for me right now is that one of my friends is going abroad next semester, which means I won’t see him… ever… (or at least for a while) unless I’m in Boston for work next year. (Fingers crossed!) It’s sad to think that immediate contact with someone can be cut off so quickly. And even in the age of Skype, Facebook, and ceaseless texts, it’s hard to keep in touch.

We threw him a little surprise sending-off party tonight, just to show him that we love him and are wishing him the best. I made a cake, of course. It’s been a while since I shared a recipe, so here’s one of my all-time-favorites: chocolate cake.

I made it because it’s his favorite, heh. The first time I made it for a group of friends, I think he ate like 3 or 4 pieces. Yup.

I could rave about this friend forever, but I think if he ended up reading this, it’d be disappointing because I couldn’t say enough in a short post. And it also might be embarrassing, but… meh, oh well. <3 <3 <3 I just know I’m going to miss him next semester.

OKAYY away from the mushy-gushy friendship stuff. Now, about this cake…

It’s a huge crowd pleaser. Seriously, everybody raves about this cake. I was lucky that I stumbled upon the recipe a long time ago and kept it! I whip this cake out when I haven’t had time to prepare anything too fancy, but it has never failed me.

The thing that makes this cake so good is the fact that it has a cup of boiling water in it to make it super moist, yet flavorful with that melt-in-your-mouth feeling. I’ve topped it before with store-bought chocolate frosting, chocolate buttercream frosting, and cream cheese frosting. Anything will do, really, because the cake can speak for itself.

I also love this recipe because it only takes ~45 minutes from start to finish, with only 35 minutes in the oven! So quick, so easy, so delicious. Seriously: try it, and tell me it’s not delicious. I dare you.

The only people who don’t like this cake are people who don’t like chocolate. Whatever, more for the rest of us.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 pan or two nine-inch cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Stir in the boiling water last. Batter will be thin. Pour evenly into the prepared pan(s).
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. EAT AND ENJOY

nom nom nom <3

Also–working on remodeling the blog a bit so it’s more functional and user-friendly.. but I first have to finish finals, and then figure out how to WordPress. SRSLY what is going on with all the buttons? (Help.) Anyways, I’m hoping to have more photography stuff on here, as well as a recipe index so it’s easier to find the recipes I’ve posted before. Hope it’ll be easier for you and me!

Here’s to friends and love and forever,

syd

Of Personal Legends & Love

I know, right? Two posts in two days? That be crazy talk.

Warning: deep thoughts & rambling.

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I had a crazy night last night, and not in the typical college “go wild and blackout” crazy. It was simply emotional, confusing, relieving, and heartbreaking all at the same time. Nothing even happened. I was just thinking, and then all of this came up.

Expectations are rough to overcome. You constantly feel like you’re not good enough and that you have to try harder and harder (infinitely) to please people, whether that be others or yourself. They’re also so limiting, because you’ll only do what’s expected of you, and one day you might look back on your life and realize that you’re not where you wanted to be.

I suppose that’s where I am now–somewhere I don’t want to be. As a senior, I often catch myself reminiscing on the past three years, and they’re great memories that I hold dear. But at the same time, it feels like I’ve boxed myself in within the limits of expectations: I won’t do this, I only do that, these are my friends, I can’t meet new people, etc. As much as I love my friends (omg I love them so much), part of me is saying, “Well, how about other kids on campus?”

It feels like I’ve become comfortable with the people I met freshman year, the people with whom I feel safe. But I haven’t stepped out of that haven because why should I? I’m happy here, people love me, and I know I belong, but outside of that place, who knows if it’ll be the same? Why should I try something new if I’ve already got everything I wanted right here?

The part that scares me the most is that I do want more than what I have. I’m so blessed to have these friends, and I’m ashamed to be unsettled with where I am.

Let me clarify that I’m not trying to be a new person or redefine myself: in contrast, I’m trying to be who I am, and meet new people at the same time. I gave up on the “create new identity” protocol a while ago when I realized it’s kind of impossible.

So that was the first thing I’ve been reflecting on.

The second is the idea of trust. Who do I trust with the deepest problems of my life? For most, it’s a few close friends or family members, and I’m no different… I think. Out of my basketful of issues & secrets, there’s a handful or two that I don’t mind sharing with most people because they’re about the past. There’s another handful of things I’ll tell a select few, and even another (small) handful that maybe one or two people are privy to. But is there more in that basket? I don’t know. Maybe I haven’t self-reflected recently to know.

But take those deep secrets I have about myself, things that I don’t want anyone to know about me because they’re dirty and wrong and weird and shameful. Take those, and who would I trust with them?

The more important thing here, though, is that when someone trusts you, there is love. No matter what they tell you about themselves, they trust you to 1) not tell anyone else (usually) and 2) still care about them. Most of the time, those two things are pretty easy to do.

Okay, Syd, cut to the chase already. Okay, okay, sorry!

When someone tells me something so deep inside of themselves, I find myself sometimes overwhelmed. I’ve had a problem with empathy in the past, where I would take everyone’s problems as my own to the point of feeling (a large fraction of) the same pain/rejection/sadness/guilt/temptation/etc they felt. It was almost natural to share their burden, too, because I could automatically imagine how they felt.

I’ve since learned to control that, though, because in the past it (among other things) drove me into depression. But last night I was put in a situation where I felt so overwhelmed and hurting because a friend was hurting. I hadn’t before realized the pain this friend was experiencing, and while they were confiding in me, I found myself thinking back to all the times I felt the same way, even though it was a different situation altogether.

So right now, I feel so sad. I feel guilty for not recognizing this person’s pain before and being there when they needed it; I feel ashamed that I assumed so much to begin with; I feel inadequate because I don’t know what to do to help; but most of all, I just feel sad, because I love this person dearly and wish they didn’t have to experience the feelings they’re feeling.

I know it’s not my fault, and I know it’s not my “responsibility” to “fix” their problems–which is impossible for anyone to do, by the way. But I wanted to empty my heart and mind of all the swirling emotions.

I know that my friend’s situation will improve, even if they don’t believe so. In the meantime, I know that all I can do is be here to listen and to give hugs, and although I wish I could do more, I have to realize that it’s not my role in this play. All I can do is love, and maybe that’s all we need in the first place.

Welcome to Fall…ish?

School has started. Classes are underway. There are too many meetings to attend. And what’s more–IT’S SO COLD TODAY. It’s only halfway through September; it’s not supposed to be THIS cold already! (For those of you not in Boston, it’s currently 57F. Ew.)

Updates on my life as of late:
1. Did research at Tufts during the summer.
2. Studied for and took the MCAT at the end of August.
3. Traveled to Niagara Falls for a weekend with the boyfriend and his fam.

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4. Moved into an awesome house (school-owned, so no landlords or bills) with some awesome people.

5. Decorated aforementioned house.

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6. Took on too much responsibility in too many extracurriculars… again. Derp.

7. Family came and visited for a weekend! We spent a night at a friend’s in New Hampshire and went apple picking.

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8. Eating healthier & working out again. (Planning to run a 5k in a couple weeks!)

Over the summer, I also tried a bunch of cool restaurants in the area, such as Not Your Average Joe’s, Marliave, Dali, and (not new to me, but my favorite) Elephant Walk. Tip about Not Your Average Joe’s: they give you a free entree AND dessert on your birthday when you sign up for their mailing/birthday list! Be sure to sign up at least three weeks before, though, or it might not go through in time. Also, Elephant Walk is the bomb-diggety. Try the duck crepe if you go for dinner. Spoiler: it’s life-changing. No hyperbole there.

One of my goals for this year is to post here (about food, travels, my feelings) once a week. Apologies if you were expecting just food-related things! I promise that food will still be a part of my life!

OMG I forgot to mention: I’m doing a low-carb high protein diet. Basically, I’m cutting down on starchy carbs like bread, pasta, cereals, rice, potatoes, etc, and eating lots of protein-filled foods like meats, beans, nuts, and tofu. My parents started this diet a few months ago and convinced me to give it a shot, so here I am. It’s actually quite liberating! Even though I can’t eat as many sandwiches as I usually did (it was an everyday thing–I love sandwiches), I’ve been noticing that I feel less sluggish in the middle of the day, don’t feel as “heavy” or like there’s a rock sitting in my stomach all the time, and just have more energy in general. I do eat carbs when I really want them. I allow myself one or two meals per week with carbs, like rice or pasta or a sandwich. It’s kind of like a pseudo-paleo diet… just not as extreme. (I would go paleo but it’s a little difficult to do in the dining hall at school.) I encourage you to give it a shot!

Ok, so now that I’ve sufficiently caught you all up on a good portion of my life, I’m out. Homework is pulling me away. :( I’ll be back soon, I promise! And as I mentioned before, this will be more about life updates AND recipes AND restaurants I want to try/have tried, etc. I might even post some things I learned in my Food, Nutrition, and Culture class! (If that’s not exciting, I don’t know what is.)

Peace, Love, and Cookies,

syd