Birth of Changi, the cute elephant

I was supposed to go to dinner with my friends after climbing at Planet Granite. It was around 9pm on the 23rd of August, my 28th birthday. All afternoon I had been checking my phone at every moment I got, for S called me earlier that day saying “It looks like A’s going to give birth either today or tomorrow!” And I was supposed to take pictures of the event. No one was expecting it this early; she was actually due in mid-September.

In the brief minutes that I was distracted from checking my phone, Szilard had texted me again: “Come now! She’s giving birth!” The unread text sat on the screen of my iphone 6, as I was climbing a very tricky yellow-handhold 11B in the corner of the gym. The distraction continued in the form of friends crowding me in a circle, singing happy birthday in the gym during probably the most crowded time of day, as I pretended that I was also singing for someone while turning bright red. Of course they yelled my name really loud, just as A was probably screaming in effort to push a new life into this world.

My friends presented the “cake” aka a bunch of cut fruit in a cake tin, as the nurses placed an equally if not more sweet baby girl into A’s arms. My present had all sorts of fun things in it: figs cut in half, spears of pineapple, bright red strawberries, soft melon, and strips of dried coconut topped with unlit candles. In the same moment, S was gaping with awe at the soft-cheeked baby Changi with a bright red face, struggling to open her brand new eyes to this new world she rushed into. Was it really a good idea she must be thinking to herself? Unsure, she wails as she is placed on her mother’s bosom.

Mostly through my “slice” of the fruit-cake, I casually check my phone, and nearly choke on a piece of coconut. “Guys, I have to go, dinner is cancelled, my niece was just born!” After that, everything happened so fast: I throw my climbing stuff into my bag, jump into D’s car and we race to the curtly instructed location: West Pavilion, Purple Elevator. D drops me off, and I rush in the entrance, past the security guard. Having no idea where I’m going, I just feel my way through the hospital, looking for signs: purple elevator… purple elevator. As if I was being led, the elevator revealed itself in a corner; anyone watching me would probably have thought I knew exactly where I was going. Come on come on… open faster – I thought willing the sliding doors to open already.

Reaching the floor, everything looked calm, but I was anything but that. The lady at the front desk was my last obstacle. “I’m here to photograph the new child, last name is Suto,” I tell her. “Sorry, I can’t hear you, can you come closer?” Ahhhhhhh! But I put on a placid face. “The mother’s name is Arty.. I mean Tatawan Suto.” I say more clearly. The lady bobs her head, pulling out a sharpie as I’m tapping my foot impatiently and slowly writes on a sticker already marked with the date Aug 23: Suite 324. She points to a double doors, hands me the sticker-badge, and I’m on my way through the labyrinth of hallways and adjoining rooms, the 3 by 5 foot white poster board I brought floating like a sail in my right hand. I wanted to be prepped with a light reflector in case the lighting was awful.

I finally reach the door and knock. For a split second I thought I had the wrong door, as a low-pitched lady voice mumbles, “what?..” Then I hear my cousin S’s masculine voice as the nurse opens the door. He pushes past her and grabs the door wide open, with an even wider grin. I have never seen him happier, and I have known this guy for 25 years.

Let these pictures tell the rest of the story…

A set of meaningful quotes from the first two hours after Changi’s traumatic entrance into our world:

S: “I’m in love” [while holding a sleeping Changi in his arms]
A: “Nothing on my calendar matters anymore…”

Thanksgiving in Tigard

A little late posting, but better late than never. Was just having too much fun since Thanksgiving apparently and had no time to post.


This year, I decided to forgo the “usual” Thanksgiving dinner with the usual suspects in Portland (family/family friends and their kids, now mostly “adults” in their 20s… time flies!). Also, I can’t really eat the typical thanksgiving foods anyways, due to my body’s hostile response to certain organic molecules.

The decision took its course based on the challenge from a close friend’s parents: why don’t you make us a dinner that you can eat in its entirety and that is delicious and we can’t tell it’s xyz-free. To be specific: no egg, no dairy, and no gluten. Challenge accepted…

Not to be a complete spoiler, but I even surprised myself in how good everything turned out, of course not without help of my minions…C,D, and G. (names not published for anonymity)

The first step was to brainstorm dishes. I wanted to include seasonal vegetables, like mushroom and pumpkin/squash. Apparently they have good vitamins and minerals we need with the cold-sunless season coming up, among other reasons. Here’s the final list:

Drink:
Mulled Wine

Appetizer:
Curried pumpkin Soup
Mixed Pumpkin Seed and Currant Salad

Main Course:
Mashed potato-carrot
Vegetable Medley
Turkey with Cranberry-orange sauce

Dessert:
Mini Cheesecakes
Chocolate Mousse

The day before Thanksgiving, I had to figure out what order all these things should be made in. It was almost like a programming problem. Here are all the things to consider:

  1. Time to make dish
  2. How much time after making it would it have to either
    1. Sit before it was good (for something like cheesecake to solidify)
    2. Be eaten before it would cool down and be no longer good to eat unless reheated
  3. What kitchenware was needed, or appliances that were shared, so the dishes couldn’t be worked on simultaneously.
    1. In some cases at all (where it was on the stove and there’s no more space, or there was only one large enough pan, etc.)
    2. other cases only for part of the preparation (i.e. need of food processor for one of the steps of dish).
  4. Who was making the dish (even I can’t be making 4 dishes at once, at least it would be difficult…)

Considering all the above, here is how the list played out, with some overlaps with multiple people helping out.

  1. Turkey
  2. Mini Cheesecakes
  3. Cranberry – Orange Sauce
  4. Soup / Salad
  5. Mashed potato – carrot
  6. Mulled Wine
  7. Vegetable Medley
  8. Chocolate Mousse
  9. Mulled Wine

(Yes I’m an engineer for those of you wondering…and yes, I was very serious about this. All or Nothing. Just to make it more difficult, I biked from Portland to Tigard, carrying part of the food I was going to use. Not crazy at all. Nope. The glass bottle of maple syrup survived my fall on the icy road, not to worry. )

Here are all the pictures from the process:

Cheesecake Crust made of ground dates and hazelnuts in muffin tin
Cheesecake Crust made of ground dates and hazelnuts

Cheesecake no-cheese filling made from cashews, coconut milk, agave, and lemon juice
Cheesecake no-cheese filling made from cashews, coconut milk, agave, and lemon juice

Mini cheesecakes filled with cashew filling and spiced with a variety of flavors: strawberry, banana-rum, raspberries, and moreMini cheesecakes filled with cashew filling and spiced with a variety of flavors: strawberry, banana-rum, raspberries, and more

Homemade vodka tonic with some festive cranberry mixer to improve the mood while toiling in the kitchen
Homemade vodka tonic with some homemade cranberry mixer to improve the mood while toiling in the kitchen

Caramelizing onions as first step to sautéed veggie dish
Caramelizing onions as first step to sautéed veggie dish

Chopping Green beans for the veggie sautéChopping green beans for the veggie sauté

Finishing touches on the green bean-mushroom-onion sauté, simmering on lowFinishing touches on the green bean-mushroom-onion-asparagus sauté, simmering on low flame

Mashed potatoes and carrots with coconut oil and spices. A south french twist to regular mashed potatoes Mashed potatoes and carrots with coconut oil and spices. A south french twist to regular mashed potatoes

Leafy green salad with tomatoes and pumpkin seeds
Leafy green salad with tomatoes and pumpkin seeds and walnuts

Mixing mashed pumpkin and curry-coconut soupMixing mashed pumpkin and curry-coconut soup

Soup ready to eat, garnished with roasted pumpkin seedsSoup ready to eat, garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds

Boiling Cranberries for an unsweetened sauce experienceBoiling cranberries for an unsweetened sauce experience

Food processing boiled cranberries with a fresh orange including the peel. Adds a bitter taste to the soft sour cranberries
Food processing boiled cranberries with a fresh orange including the peel. Adds a bitter taste to the soft sour cranberries

This turkey was incubating in the oven at around 170F since the day before. We had to increase the temp towards the end to kill any remaining bacteriaThis turkey was incubating in the oven at around 170F since the day before. We had to increase the temp towards the end to make the outside perfectly crisp

Finely Chopped bakers chocolate from Trader Joe's to be melted for second dessertFinely chopped bakers chocolate from Trader Joe’s to be melted for second dessert

Accidental art with chocolate. It is ready to be mixed with tofu and coconut milk for the vegan mousseAccidental art with chocolate. It is ready to be mixed with tofu and coconut milk for the vegan mousse

Mousse almost ready: just need to press go!
Mousse almost ready: just need to press go!

Chocolate Mousse garnished and ready to be devoured. There's a separate stomach for dessert, right?Chocolate mousse garnished and ready to be devoured. There’s a separate stomach for dessert, right?

All ready to eat, five hours later. yumm :)All ready to eat, five hours later. yumm 🙂

The table is set, freshly cut linen courtesy of C. All about presentationThe table is set, freshly cut linen courtesy of C. All about presentation.

Welcome to Portland, Keepin’ it Weird

Note to self: Thursday night is a bad night to go out if you have work the next morning… in general, that is, but sometimes one needs to make sacrifices. And sometimes those sacrifices are actually worth it, given the experience one has.

Wow I’ve been writing way too many formal documents.. So. Yesterday was my cousin’s birthday. The day I flew to Portland, he picked me up, and asked me if I’d be DD (not drunk driver, but designated driver…) for his birthday. At that point, I was well rested, happy, ready to start work, excited for new things. Didn’t even think about it, said sure, no problem.

Had I thought ahead of time, I would have realized that his birthday is on a Thursday, and he’d want to go out Thursday night. Seems normal, right. Here’s the catch: Thursday != Friday => If I go partying Thursday night, I still have work the next day, and like every other day of the week, I have to wake up at 6am.

So being DD.. means I got home at about 2:30am, went to bed at 3 and got about 3 hours of sleep, and then expected to function the next day. For those people that may not have jumped to this highly intuitive conclusion: BAD IDEA.
But I was willing to make a sacrifice for my cousin, and said, ok, I’ll survive.
And I think It was totally worth it. The experience I had was one synonymous to the title: a kind of taste of night life to Portland, OR, where I finally understand this bumper sticker: “Keepin’ Portland Weird”

Here is the highlight of last night’s adventures:

After going to a conveyor-belt sushi bar, another bar with a lot of game tables, and a dance club called “Dirty”, the token gay guy in our group said: “We need somewhere better,” not that we hadn’t bar-hopped enough already.

We leave the dance club, and walk down the street, passing an outside courtyard area that slightly caught our attention: an outdoor tent area with a “pen” of feathers and mattresses where they had hired three girls dressed in cheer-leader-like clothes who were clearly supposed to be emulating a pillow fight in the middle of a ring of guys.. however, there was no one in there and the girls were obviously bored out of their minds 😀 [weird point no 1]

So here comes [weird point no. 2-infinity] Walking further, i look ahead, and spot a sign in front of a club saying “Female Impersonators”.. think to myself out loud, “what the heck are female impersonators??” The guy i was walking next to just gave me an amused look, and laughed: “..You’ll see :D, ” Ah so that’s where we are going! o_O As we get closer, we start passing more and more people where their genders were highly questionable – in both directions.. females that looked quite convincing, but there was just something not right: large cheekbones, enormous bone structure, fake hair… It’s like spotting a phishing email: if only one thing looks wrong, it’s not necessarily a phish, only if multiple things just create a picture of, oh this can’t be true…and of course, there were slightly smaller stature male-looking females running around everywhere.

We get to the door, and approach the bouncer (I was of course fumbling around my purse trying to find my ID again.. I’ve never used the card so many times..). After checking it with a cursory glance, he takes this huge stamp and infects my right wrist with these words: “Great Dye Job!” LOL. Rainbows to the max..

And inside: dance floor, bar, coat check, tables… all normal.. but they might very well have been upside down, because the inhabitants of this bar completely turned what is considered normality in the normal society, completely upside-down. Groups of these female impersonators dancing like it was no tomorrow, as well as hipster-dressed males.. there was barely one human in there that looked “normal”..

Well, at least gay guy was happy 🙂 I just tried absorbing this scene, and truly enjoyed watching all the weirdness that Portland had offered in just 1 night…

Of course that doesn’t mean I didn’t hate myself the next morning, but the experience was definitely worth it.