Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Washington, D.C. - Day 2 U.S. Capitol

We took the Metro to visit the U. S. Capitol.  It was raining when we arrived.  Food and drink were not allowed.  We finshed the bottled water before we got in line to get into the capitol.

U. S. Capitol

Old Supreme court chamber (1810-1860)

The clock in the supreme court chamber is still running accurately today.

Inside of the beautiful capitol dome

One of the historical portraits displayed: Marriage of Pocahonda and John Smith

Statuary Hall:  Only  marble and bronze statues were displayed in this room.

After the tour, we headed downstairs to have lunch at the cafeteria.  We then took the Metro again to get to the Pentagon.  Pentagon was heavily armed with military soldiers and guns.  Pictures were not allowed anywhere in the Pentagon vincity except White House press area that you always see on TV.
Everyone was very obedient while on the tour with all the military soldiers around.  When we were shown the 9/11 site, we were all sad and quiet at that moment.   It was an unusual tour and really worth the visit in my opinion.

After the tour, the rain had stopped.  We went  to a Chinese restaurant, Sichuan Pavillion which was closed to our hotel for dinner.  The food here was good.  We ordered these from the menu and they were all delicious except for the hot and sour soup.

   Crispy whole fish 脆皮全魚
Vegetable with garlic sauce

Crispy Duck 香酥鴨

Sichuan Pavillion 重慶樓
1914 K. Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006

Monday, August 30, 2010

Washington D. C. - Day 1 Birch & Barley Restaurant

We just came back from vacationing with the kids in Washington D.C. and New York.  I promised my older daughter a trip to New York when she graduated high school.  We also wanted to take the kids to visit  D.C. since they have already taken U.S. history classes in school.   We also asked her to plan a trip to Washington D.C. and New York  with her sister, so that they can both learn how to go about planning a trip.  After we set the dates and booked the flights, she and her little sister split up the work by googling and researching online to get all the neccessary tickets for all the tourist attracions.  They did a good job keeping us posted on their progress and telling us where and how we would go.

When we arrived in D.C., it was already late afternoon.  After checking into the Westin Washington, D.C. City Center, we headed to the lobby to drink some cold water that had fresh honeydew and watermelon in it.  We later found out they had them at the lobby everyday in the afternoon for the guests to enjoy since the weather in D.C. was very warm.

We found out from the concierge that it was Restaurant Week and a lot of restaurants were offering a 3 course meal for $35 per person.  We went on Yelp and found a three and half stars restaurant in the area, and while waiting for our table, we walked around the neighborhood.  These houses were more commonly seen in the east coast but not in California.

The restuarant we went to called Birch and Barley.  There wasn't room to wait in the restaurant.  There's another bar restaurant on the second floor where you could wait, but my kids are underage so we couldn't wait there and decided to walk around the neighborhood instead.  We waited for about an hour before our pager lit up. 

Birch & Barley
1337 14th St. NW
Washington D.C. 20005

The food and the service were excellent at this restuarant.  To compensate for the long wait, we got this small complimentary snack. 

Fried potatoes and Basil topping on baguettes.

This is their 3 course resturant week menu.  (click to see their menu online)

Instead of regular house bread, they served 3 different kinds of freshly baked dinner rolls.

Corn bread, Olive roll, Pretzel roll

For our first course, we chose these:

Vialone Nano Risotto, green summer squash, squash blossoms, romanesco

Yellow Garden Gazpacho, maryland blue crab, celery, green apple, almonds

House Formed Sweet Corn Tortellini, broccoli rabe, pinenuts

This is not included in the meal   I was willing to pay for the extra $8 just to try their foie gras.  It came with a warm brioche. This was just done perfectly.
Foie Gras Terrine

For our second course, we had these:

Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin, spaetzle, mustard greens, haricot verts

Cioppino of Halibut, seafood sausage, mussels & clams

Pan Seared Poussin, cornbread stuffing, confit thighs, potato rosti, swiss chard

Next we received another complimentary dish:

Rasperry and prosciuto pizza
By the time we finished the pizza, we were full.  We didn't realize we would get so much complimentary food, and the dinner just kept getting better and better.

For our third course, we had these:

Buttermilk Panna Cotta, passion fruit cream, apricot sorbet, graham cracker

Hostess Cupcake, PB Brownie S’more, Mint Ice Cream, Oatmeal Cream Pie

Chef’s Selection of Artisanal Cheeses with accoutrements

The total bill for the entire dinner was $150 including tips.  We were very happy with the experience and the food was delicately done and service was just phenomenal.  It's definitely a place we will remember for a long time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shrimp Fried Rice

Fred rice is one of the frequent dishes I made at home. Whenever we have left over steamed rice, I would check to see what I have in the refrigerator.  Any vegetable and meat can be used alone or combine to fry with rice.  There were times I would have no food but eggs in the refrigerator, with a quick whip on eggs and soy sauce, a simple and delicious fried rice was done in 5 minutes.  Here is one of my favorite fried rice because it has all the ingredients I love. I love frying fresh green bean with eggs and I never get bore with shrimp.


3 gloves garlic, minced
1 cup shrimp, peel and halves
1 cup green bean, chopped to small pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
2 eggs, whip
1 cup white rice
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce


1.  Heat pan with cooking oil.
2.  Stir fry shrimp until cook, scoop out and set aside.
3.  Add 1 tbsp oil and heat until it's hot. Stir fry garlic until fragrant.
4.  Add and stir fry green bean for 5 minutes, add salt and water
5.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes.
6.  Add cooked shrimp and pour in the egg, mix and cook until egg is done.
7.  Add in the steamed rice, soy sauce and oyster sauce, stir fry well until all incorporated well.
8   Sprnkle some black pepper and serve.

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Finds For Home

With the kids off from school for the summer, I got the kids to help clean up their closets and rooms.  I couldn't believe we still had toys from when they were toddlers.  We didn't have many clothes to donate since we regularly donate them through out the seasons.  As I looked through the cabinets in the garage, I found so many household items that I haven't had a chance to use.  It feels so good to finally get rid of unused items but I couldn't help myself bringing these home from the store.  I don't have any excuse to buy them besides just wanted them. Oh well...

Flameless candles

Waste Basket

Citrus Potpouri

Oriental Infuser
Aren't these beautiful?  Don't they look like a sign for me to redecorate my bathroom?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter is always my top pick over any other spreads .  When I was a kid, my dad always sprinkled some sugar over peanut butter on a slice of bread for breakfast.  As I turned into a teenager, I liked to eat crackers with peanut butter as an after school snack.  I learned later from my kids that kids at school like to eat peanut butter with Jelly or bananas. It was odd for me to hear that at first,  but then it became our favorite lunch to make.  Whenever I am craving for some candy, I get myself a small bag of  peanut butter M&M candy.  Now whenever my daughter makes cookies, I ask her to make me some peanut butter cookies.  These are the cookies she made for me.  They were a little crunchy but not too sweet;  a perfect recipe for me.


1/2 c shortening
1 1/4 c light brown sugar
3/4 c  peanut butter
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
2.  Cream together shortening, brown sugar, peanute butter. 
3.  Stir in egg, milk, vanilla.  Add in flour, baking soda, salt.
4.  Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets.
5.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes.  Cool before transferring to wire rack.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sweet Yam Soup with Tapioca

This is an easy Chinese soup dessert that does not take a long time to cook.  Whenever I crave dessert, I would throw in a yam with a couple slices of ginger, cook it for about 20 minutes and the dessert is done.  It's also a quick and last minute dessert to make if we have friends visiting at home.  This time I made it with the fragrant leaves commonly found in Asia and some tapioca for additional texture.


2 Pandan leaves, screw pine
1 big Yam, peel and cut to pieces
2 slices ginger
1/3 Cup Sago (Tapioca Pearls) - see instruction below
Rock Sugar


1. Place water and pandan leaves in a pot and bring to boil.

2. Reduce heat, add yam and simmer for about 20 minutes (or till yam is soft).  Add rock sugar to taste.
3. Add prepared tapioca (read below for instruction).

To prepare tapioca:
  1. Soak tapioca pearls in cold water for 20 minutes.  Drain.
  2. Boil a small pot of water.  Turn off heat and add the drained tapioca, stirring constantly until the pearls are translucent with a very small white center.
  3. Drain the tapioca in a fine mesh sieve and run cold water through the sieve to wash the starchy tapioca pearls. Drain and add to the yam soup.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Green Curry Chicken

Curry is one of the foods I grew up with, but not until I hit my 30's had I had my first taste of Thai green curry.  I learned this dish from a Thai friend who always made this at home whenever I visited her.  If she had not shown me the ingredients, I would have never known how to make this Thai dish.  Warning:  It is so good that you will eat more rice than your usual.


1 tbsp Mae Ploy brand green curry paste
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 can shredded bamboo shoot
1 lb. Thai eggplant, quartered (or orkra, sliced)
1 lb. chicken
3 gloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp of sugar
1 stalk Thai basil (optional)


1.  Heat oil in pan and stir the garlic and curry until fragrant.
2.  Add in the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown.
3.  Add in the bamboo shoot and stir.
4.  Pour in coconut milk and water.  Mix well.
5.  Add fish sauce and sugar.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked.
6.  Add Thai eggplant (or okra) and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes or until eggplant is soft.
7.  Add Thai basil.
8.  Serve over Jasmine rice.


I also added some okra along with the eggplant this time.   Dilute it with more water if you think the soup is too thick and add fish sauce instead of salt.  Green curry paste is very hot, adjust to your prefer taste.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

My daughter made these cookies tonight and they were moist and not too sweet.  I like that she made them into smaller sized peices, so that I could indulge myself in eating a few more cookies instead of eating just one big cookie.
Chocolate Chip Cookie

1 c butter
1/2 white sugar
1 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 c semi sweet chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven at 375 degrees F.
2.  Cream together butter, sugar until smooth.
3.  Beat vanilla and eggs one at a time.  Combine flour, baking soda; stir into the sugar mixure.
4.  Mix in the chocolate chips.  Drop by tablespoonsfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
5.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet to cool on wire racks.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Front Door Restyle

I have been wanting to redecorate my front entrance of the house lately.  Although I love these two metal containers, but they have been hanging on my front doors for several years.  I have been trying to come up with some ideas to change the look.

This is how it looked like before:

Close up look of each of these:
I thought I could spray paint the containers and replace with some new flowers.  But the flowers were glued so tight in the foam and I didn't want to ruin them.  Instead I just added more leaves and now they are hung in the back yard for a different look.  Here is the after photo:

We have a double door in the front entrance of the house, and I always wanted to get something that went together but without looking too similar.  I thought the only way to achieve that was to get a couple of wreaths and make them myself.  I was lucky to find two wreaths at the clearance price of only $3 each.  I snipped off the flowers that were originally on them and hot glued my own silk flowers and arranged them.  Now I have a brand new look for my front door:

I was thinking I could also pull these silk flowers out and replace them with different flowers as the seasons change.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Legend of Honor Fine Arts Museum

Last month when we were visiting Art Museums in San Francisco,  we didn't have enough time to go the other museum and I really wanted to see the exhibition of Impressionist Paris.  The Impressionist Paris exhibition was exhibited in the Legion of Honor fine art museum in San Francisco.  I made a point to go there on Tuesday, which was also an admission free day, as an outing for the whole family .  As we drove up to the museum, this lovely hill and scenice drive was in front of us.

Over-looking the ocean:

Legion Of Honor front entrance.

The exhibition of Impressionist Paris was downstair in the building.  We were not allowed to take pictures in this particular exhibition.  There were many collections on the main floor of the Fine Arts Museum.   The collections consisted of some Erupean paintings includes masterworks from the 14th thought the 20th centuries.  A few of my favorites from Claude Monet:

I was really happy to see this original painting from Claude Monet.

This particular painting caught my eyes.  Title:  The Russian Bride's Attire , 1887 by Kontansky Mokovsky.

Another type of art piece: Trompe L'Oeil Illusion

There were also some European decorative art, including furniture, sculptures, and other decorative items.  Highlights included French baroque inlaid furniture, 18th-century English porcelain, and Rodin sculptures.( I didn't know until later that the famous Rodin sculpture:: The Thinker was in this museum, or else, I would have taken a picture of it).

Stone Painting

Bronze Candlelabrum

Terracotta Painting

Beautiful Victorian Room

Extraordinary inlaid art work of this writing desk

Inlaid side table

Another inlaid writing desk

Sudan Box

Italian Art deco, 1500

French Servre Porcelain, 1839

Russian Tea Service and Table, 1900

It was a beautiful museum and there was so much to see.  I wish we had more time for a scenic drive, but when we went outside the museum at 5 pm,  it was foggy already and it was impossible to see where the ocean was.  However, I really enjoyed the trip on that day.