3 audiobooks by actresses

Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life – Sutton Foster

I’m Glad My Mom Died – Jennette McCurdy

Hello, Molly! – Molly Shannon

Somehow in the past month, I’ve listened to 3 audiobooks by American actresses. In recent years, I’ve taken to audiobooks, usually nonfiction, and preferably read by the author themselves (with exception to certain audiobook narrators, like Richard Armitage, whose voice I love!). I listen to the audiobooks when I take walks and when doing some chores like laundry or cooking. It helps the time pass faster. And on occasion, I’ve even walked an extra round just because I was eager to finish listening to a chapter. 

Audiobooks have their drawbacks of course, like when my mind wanders and I somehow miss out on an important part and it’s hard to go back and figure out what I’ve missed. Also, taking notes is hard. So while I usually enjoy writing down quotes from the book that I’ve enjoyed or admired, this is a quote-free post. 

Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of Jennette McCurdy until her book seemed to be everywhere. I never watched iCarly or the other shows she’s known for. But the title of her book just made me want to find out what exactly happened. And ok, that really was a very honest, and just really painful, listen. McCurdy started acting at the age of 6, and her mother controlled and obsessed about her physical appearance. It’s a book that made me seethe with anger at what her mother put her through, and admire the compassion Jennette showed her. 

Molly Shannon is more familiar to me. I used to watch Will and Grace and she played their upstairs neighbour Val who’s rather unstable and kooky. She really does seem like that in her audiobook too, vivacious and full of incredible energy. Her story is another one of struggle and angst. But in a very different way. Her family was in a horrendous car accident when she was 4, and her mother and sister died. She and her younger sister were raised by their dad, and while he definitely tried his best, his parenting style is best described as very permissive. Like when she and her friend snuck on a plane to New York City (they lived in Cleveland). They were 12! 

One thing about Molly Shannon’s story was her persistence and determination to become an actress. A New York Times article used the headline “The Unsinkable Molly Shannon” and that really is perfect for her. She really just kept going and never gave up. 

For me, this worked really well as an audiobook. I read a sample of the book and wasn’t quite sure, but when I gave it a listen instead, I started to get more into it. 

As for Sutton Foster, I enjoyed watching her in the short-lived TV series, Bunheads, where she played a showgirl turned dance teacher. I like that she’s a crocheter, although she also talks about other crafts in the book, like collaging and cross-stitching. She first started cross-stitching at age 19, as an understudy on the Grease musical. It was a means for her to cope with anxiety and stress and the less than friendly people who were on tour with her. Her crafting journey helps her through difficult times, like her mother’s agoraphobia and declining health. A heartfelt story that made me want to start crocheting a blanket (and did). 

It’s Monday (January 30, 2023)

Hey, it’s Monday again. Hope you had a great weekend!

Some things last week:

We tried out two new-to-us eateries. This Japanese eatery has a huge selection of rolls, it was so hard to decide. We also wanted to get some of the cooked food to try – chicken katsu with added vegetable tempura, and pork belly with added prawn tempura. I quite liked their Godzilla roll – it was crab salad and a tempura prawn inside and on top is spicy tuna and eel with wonton chips.

Another new-to-us place was this Thai eatery. The last time I ate Thai food was last summer in Singapore! The kids really liked this crispy tamarind glazed duck dish. That surprised me as the younger son definitely didn’t like eating duck previously. I like that the eatery provided options of “hot” and “Thai hot”. I like spicy food but even Thai hot is too spicy for me (same goes for Indonesian version of “hot”), so this way I know that I can order it “hot” but it won’t be numb-my-tongue, cry-my-eyes-out hot 😛
The 9yo had his first elementary orchestra concert. He’s been learning the cello since mid-September. I was quite surprised that they would put on a concert so early on, especially since the kids had all only just been playing for a few months. But they did it wonderfully.

Besides the elementary beginners, intermediate, and advanced bands, there were also performances by the junior high. The elementary bands are organised by the music teachers at the junior high, I guess to allow for more experienced kids by the time they enter junior high. I like that the elementary school kids get to see what they can possibly sound like in years to come.


Recently, I’ve been making boba at home. We found these boba packs at a Chinese supermarket and it’s super easy, just boil them in water. After that, I pop them into some sugar syrup, which keeps them from drying out.

Made some Chinese bakery-style hot dog buns, using tangzhong bread. Here’s an example of a recipe . My go-to tangzhong bread recipe is this one by Christine’s Recipes.

Currently…

Reading:

Watching:

The K-drama Crash Course in Romance on Netflix. I liked the actor Jung Kyung-ho in Hospital Playlist (still one of my favourite all-time shows), and he’s great in this one too!

Listening:

The Sixth Extinction – Elizabeth Kolbert

Eating and Drinking:

I’m typing this on Sunday afternoon for a change! I’m having some green tea and contemplating a slice of Castella cake.

Cooking:

Ah, the same question every week. What to cook for the week ahead? I have some cauliflower and broccoli to cook up. So maybe I’ll roast the cauliflower in the oven. And maybe since the oven will be on, grill some chicken drumsticks, marinated in soy-honey-garlic.

For the broccoli, I’ll cook it up with some pasta. And maybe some bacon?

Last week:

I read:

I’m glad my mom died – Jennette McCurdy

Why We Swim – Bonnie Tsui

Vladimir – Julia May Jonas

I posted:

Everything is Ok by Debbie Tung

Legends & Lattes

Library Loot (January 25 to 31)

Happy Lunar New Year#WeekendCooking

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

Everything is Ok by Debbie Tung

I am an introverted and anxious person. I overthink things, even when writing a message back to someone. Let’s not even mention having to talk on the phone with someone.

Reading Debbie Tung’s EVERYTHING IS OK, I recognized myself in some of her story. I was the shy kid. The quiet kid. I always remember the horror of being called upon in class and my mouth feeling like it’s been zipped shut and I would stand there, knowing in my head that I could say something, answer something, and the teacher would move on, but I would feel frozen and my lips wouldn’t move and it would just get worse as everyone in the class stared at me.

While I still would probably freeze up if I had to give a speech in front of a large crowd, I think I got a bit better at participating, and at talking to people, although I’m still usually the one who talks much less when in a group of people. I guess I forced myself into situations where I had to voice my opinions and talk to strangers – graduate school, working at newspapers, and at one point, saying yes to every blind date that came my way.

Tung’s book is full of little nuggets that may seem simple but are reassuring and encouraging. Like learning to accept yourself and embrace your awkwardness. And to be kind to others and to yourself.

It’s important to appreciate the small things. The husband bought a handheld coffee grinder for me last year and it’s strangely pleasing turning the handle and grinding the coffee beans, then adding it to the French press.

I also find delight in reading your posts and stories, whether you’re sharing a travel snapshot, your meal, an old photo. And especially the book posts. I love discovering new-to-me authors, and adding to my ridiculously towering (virtually, that is) the lists.

So, Everything is Ok, it really is.

Legends & Lattes

Legends & Lattes is just delightful. It’s comforting in the way that a warm mug of milky bean water (ie coffee) is, as you breathe in that nutty, chocolatey aroma, and take a sip, ah. 

Viv is an orc and she’s setting up a coffee shop in a city where no one seems to know what coffee is. It’s a bit of a learning curve for this former mercenary, but with the help of some new friends she makes, her coffee house is established. 

Reading this story is just soothing and heartwarming. Yes this is fantasy, and it’s not exactly your typical fantasy with adventures and bloody conflicts, but it’s utterly satisfying. Somehow all the fantasy I’ve read this year (ok so at the moment it’s just The Goblin Emperor) has been not your typical fantasy but that’s just exactly what I need right now.

Happy Lunar New Year#WeekendCooking

Happy Year of the Rabbit!

It’s been a busy few days preparing for the Lunar New Year.Spring cleaning is a must. The weekend before, we had vacuumed and cleaned the house, everyone pitching in. On Saturday, we put up some decorations like lanterns and red packets.

But perhaps some of the most important traditions revolve around food. In Singapore, Lunar New Year is a public holiday, at least for the first couple of days of the new year. This means you get to go visiting friends and family. And when people visit your home, you’re supposed to provide different treats and snacks. Common new year treats found in Singapore are:

pineapple tarts

love letters

bakkwa, a kind of grilled pork jerky

kueh bangkit, a crumbly cookie made with tapioca flour and coconut milk

When I was a kid, my mum would also make cookies like peanut cookies and checkerboard cookies. Last year, I posted about enjoying Yusheng in Singapore. This is a vegetable and raw fish salad that’s kinda unique to Singapore and Malaysia. For instance, it’s not easily found here in the Bay Area Chinese restaurants. And so I miss eating it during the new year!

This year, I made Chinese peanut cookies, as well as pork floss and sesame cookies (recipe here). Both cookies are the type that melt in your mouth, so they’re quite small.

It’s not easy being away from our families during these times that are about family and celebration. I often wish that we could go back to visit, so that my kids can get a chance to experience Lunar New Year celebrations too. I guess that’s why I try my best to keep some traditions going, like making new year cookies, even though we don’t have family visiting us!

This year, I also wanted to try making huat kueh or fa gao 发糕, which can be translated to fortune cake. It’s a kind of cupcake that’s steamed. They are often flavoured with brown sugar, but as we love the flavour of pandan leaves, I made this pandan coconut version (recipe here). The green color is from pandan paste. The batter is quite thick.

Steaming it in a pot. Make sure not to lift the lid until the 15 minutes are up.

Our other tradition is always having hotpot for our reunion dinner (tuan yuan fan 团圆饭). This takes place on Lunar New Year eve, and is meant for the family to get together for a meal.

It’s labelled “pudding” but nian gao is really not a pudding. It’s instead a rather firm sweet cake made with rice flour.

The best way to eat it is dip it in flour and beaten eggs, then pan fry it. The nian gao softens with cooking, and is delicious and sweet. I cook this for breakfast for the first couple of days of the new year, for a sweet start to the year.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

It’s Monday (January 23, 2023)

Happy Lunar New Year! It’s the Year of the Rabbit! Following our usual tradition, before the New Year, we spring cleaned, decorated the house a little bit, even managed to donate some old clothes to help a fundraiser at a local high school.

I also made some cookies previously, but wanted to make some huat kueh or fa gao 发糕. It’s supposed to bring fortune and is a delicious light steamed cupcake of sorts. I made a version with pandan and coconut.

For our reunion dinner or tuan yuan fan on the eve, we had hotpot
Thinly sliced meats are a must for hotpot!
A recent love of mine is mixing regular jasmine rice with some Korean mixed grains. I bought this packet at an Asian supermarket. It contains brown rice, sweet brown rice, barley, wild sweet rice, mung bean, millet, glutinous millet, green peas. Per some online recipes, I soak the grains for a bit before adding it to the washed jasmine rice. Then I let my rice cooker do the work. The first time, I tried it on a brown rice setting but that seemed to overcook it. A regular rice setting does much better.

Last Friday evening, while at the Japanese supermarket to pick up some thinly sliced meats for hotpot, we discovered that their sushi and cooked food is 20% off in the evenings. The husband grabbed probably what was a bit too much sushi, and we had a nice dinner out of it.

The mochi doughnuts were also discounted.

Currently…

Reading:

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida – Shehan Karunatilaka

Watching:

Single’s Inferno on Netflix

Listening:

I’m glad my mom died – Jennette McCurdy

Eating and Drinking:

A homemade peanut cookie and coffee

Cooking:

We still have some hotpot broth leftover, so might warm that up with some extra fish tofu and vegetables. Eat it with rice. Later this week, maybe some mushroom pasta as I have extra mushrooms.

Last week:

I read:

Winter in Sokcho – Elisa Shua Dusapin

Legends & Lattes – Travis Baldree

Ducks – Kate Beaton

A Man and His Cat vol 2 – Umi Sakurai

I posted:

Winter In Sokcho

Library Loot (January 18 to 24)

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

It’s Monday (January 16, 2023)

Hey, happy Monday to you!

Some things last week:

Another very rainy week. I think we only had one day where there was no rain. It rained so hard last night that I kept waking up!

Rainy days are good for baking, and since the Lunar New Year is coming up on Sunday, I decided to make some peanut cookies (the ones on the left) and some pork floss and sesame cookies. Both these cookies are the melt-in-your-mouth type of cookie, so they’re pretty much bite-sized.
Rainy days also mean soupy noodle cravings. We went to have Taiwanese beef noodles, as well as xiaolongbao. Unfortunately, there were a couple of customers in the restaurant who were coughing away! So we ate quickly!

Currently…

Reading:

Farm City – Novella Carpenter

Watching:

Last night, watched the Penguins documentary on Disney Plus with the kids. It was really funny.

Listening:

Started listening to Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon

Eating and Drinking:

I had homemade sourdough toast and a big mug of coffee

Cooking:

The husband has asked if I could make a pandan cake as I haven’t made one in a while. It’s a light chiffon cake flavoured with extract from pandan leaves (something grown in Southeast Asia), and coconut milk. Of course lots of eggs too since it’s a chiffon cake.

Last week:

I read:

Booked on a Feeling – Jayci Lee

A Man and His Cat – Umi Sakurai

I posted:

Booked on a Feeling by Jayci Lee

3 manga series

Library Loot (January 11 to 17)

Notes On Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

Booked on a Feeling by Jayci Lee

I’m here for all the Asian romance novels, as well as romance novels that take place in bookstores. So this book brings both of that together – joy! 

It starts out strong, with lawyer Lizzy, brilliant and determined, working hard but struggling with anxiety. After passing out at work from a panic attack, she takes some time off and takes a break in a small town where she used to spend summers as a child. Her best friend Jack still lives there, where he works at his family’s brewery. He’s had a secret crush on her since he was 10. But doesn’t want to risk their friendship. 

There’s so much of it that I loved – the friends to lovers trope, the bookstore and Lizzy’s love for romance books, Jack’s family, the adorable small town setting. I also appreciate that both Lizzy and Jack had difficult decisions to make about their careers. And that they were afraid of disappointing their families and their expectations, but in very contrasting ways. Is it odd that one of my favorite things about a romance novel was the very sweet and supportive family that Jack has? It was such a contrast to Lizzy’s mum in Korea, who has high expectations and is completely overbearing. 

The romance between Lizzy and Jack was, um, ok? They’re cute together but I wasn’t quite invested in their romance. Maybe because the story lacked major conflict, some kind of painful thorn in the side that’s jabbing away until the couple finally works together to yank the damn thing out. Or you know, leave it there to fester and rot. 

Anyway, this apparently is the third book in the series, and I’m curious to see what the other two books are like. Don’t worry, it reads fine as a stand-alone as the other books are about different characters. 

3 manga series


For #januaryinjapan and #Japaneseliteraturechallenge I started off with 3 different manga series. 

THE FOX AND THE LITTLE TANUKI vol 1 by Mi Tagawa

Initially borrowed for the kids, this cute creature-filled manga soon made me want to read it too.

Senzou the black fox spirit is finally set free after 300 years. But he can’t have his powers back until he helps a little tanuki called Manpachi become a servant of the gods. Senzou can’t be trusted to do this, so he’s made to wear magical pearls that will hurt him if he doesn’t do the right thing. 

The first volume has some background and explanation to get through but the story quickly picks up. The pair help out a low-level god, and learn more about each other in the process. It’s amusing to see how their personalities play off each other – one is gruff and world weary and the other, innocent and full of sunshine and butterflies. 

While initially a bit confusing especially if unfamiliar with Japanese mythology and folklore, this cute manga is enjoyable for readers of different ages. 

SPY X FAMILY vol 1 – Tatsuya Endo

Twilight is a brilliant spy but his next mission has him stumped. He has seven days to marry, have a kid, and infiltrate an elite private school. So he sets out adopting a girl (who happens to be a telepath), and meets a young woman (who happens to be an assassin). All three of them are keeping secrets from each other. But they’re now a family. 

Absurd? Yes. Incredibly fun to read? Also yes! 

A MAN AND HIS CAT vol 1 by Umi Sakurai

A charming story about an unwanted cat at the pet store, who’s finally bought by an older man, a widower. He’s never owned a cat before, and the cat has never had an owner before, so they’re both new to this. Love how Kanda and Fukumaru just adore each other. And we get to hear Fukumaru’s very cute thoughts, “all I wanted was for someone to look meowy way”. 

A truly heartwarming story about relationship between a man and his cat. 

Favourite quote: “Your name will be Fukumaru. Meeting you has been a joy, or koufuku…So you’re Fukumaru.” 

It’s Monday (January 9, 2022)

Some things last week:

The kids are finally back at school. They had a nice two week winter break, where we didn’t travel, and instead spent time at home. And the weather last week was not the greatest. Luckily, we didn’t have it as bad as places on the coast, like the beach towns of Santa Cruz and Capitola – you can see some of the damage in this news article.

Besides hanging out at home and playing video games and board games, reading books, and watching movies (we watched all the Hobbit and Lord of the Ring movies, the kids’ first time), the kids also helped me with some cooking and baking.

We made pizza
The kids wanted breakfast burritos
On the day it didn’t rain, we went out for some seafood. Great calamari!
And after being bored at home on yet another rainy day, we drove out to a Barnes & Noble (there isn’t one in our town). The kids discovered that they have a pretty big manga and comic collection!

Portofino bag (pattern)

Long summer crochet duster (pattern), but I don’t think I’ll make it duster length.

Currently…

Reading:

I was Born for This – Alice Oseman

Booked on a Feeling – Jayci Lee

Cult X – Fuminori Nakamura

Watching:

I’m still watching West Wing!

Listening:

I’ve just finished Hooked by Sutton Foster and am looking for a new audiobook.

Eating and Drinking:

Banana bread and coffee

Cooking:

We went to a relatively new Korean supermarket that opened in our city. It doesn’t have as huge a variety as the popular Korean supermarket chain, HMart, but it was not too bad. HMart after all is a bit of a drive from us, so it’s nice to have this just 10 minutes away.

Last week:

I read:

The Fox and the Little Tanuki vol 1 – Mi Tagawa

The Violin Conspiracy – Brendan Slocumb

The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison

I posted:

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

Pozole and Tortillas for a California Missions project #WeekendCooking

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Library Loot (January 4 to 10, 2023)

Favorite Reads of 2022

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date