Feeling French Music

Happy first day of spring! It snowed here (because of course it did) but I hope you are enjoying free Rita’s and warmer weather without suffering from allergies.

Lately, I’ve just been really feeling French music. Not necessarily French by nationality but French as in the language that is being sung. I think I can trace this kick back to seeing a Stromae music video for the first time. It was this one:

Tumblr was a big fan and I was, too. I had first heard of Stromae through Pentatonix, actually, when they did a cover of his hit song “Papaoutai”. Their cover was really good, but I love Stromae’s video.

First of all, freaky fresh dance moves. Second of all, I really love how weird but not too-weird his music videos are? I get pretty easily waaaaay weirded out by music videos. Call me provincial, but the “artistic message” behind really “avant garde” music videos is very frequently completely lost on me. With Stromae’s videos, I am really engaged by the interesting video but I am also listening pretty closely to the music.

Even though I know French, I don’t really listen to the lyrics too closely when I listen to French songs. It’s like when I had my kpop phase; I listen to the songs because they sound good, and very rarely do I pay attention to what the words themselves mean. In fact, I rarely listen for the lyrics in English songs the first few listens. I have never spent much time on lyrics when it comes to listening to songs.

Anyway, French music keeps following me about so I thought I’d share a couple of music videos with you all. I made a Paris playlist ages ago, intending to release it with my Paris blog. That won’t be out for a while, since I spent a long time in Paris and… I am putting it off knowing how much I need to put into it. Also, these are mostly contemporary songs. Before this current music phase, I liked listening to a lot of older French music and was not at all familiar with anything from the last decade or two. (Or really any decade, let’s be real.)

Besides Stromae (who I am seeing in September!), I have also been listening to these artists on-and-off for the past few years:

Coeur de pirate
(love her)

Vanessa Paradis
(who is on my Paris playlist)

(the first contemporary francophone artist I ever listed to was Yelle)

(you may know her best from her work on the Ratatouille soundtrack)

Do you listen to French music?
Can you recommend any other artists/songs for me?

Surviving Valentine’s Day

I am so lucky to be alive right now. But let’s dial back the drama and start at the beginning.

Ben and I went to a Valentine’s Day party at our friend Tim’s on Saturday. Because of this, I decided I would make Ben a fancy home-cooked meal Friday night instead. Here’s the menu:

Soup Egg drop w/ tofu & shiitake mushroom  Salad Mixed baby arugula and baby kale, avocado, bell peppers, pomegranate  Bread Red Lobster cheddar bay biscuits  Entree Surf 'n' Turf: Steak and Maryland-style crab cake  Sides Garlic mashed red potatoes Roasted brussel sprouts w/ bacon  Dessert French-toasted PB&J w/ French vanilla ice cream & berry reduction
The finished menu I served! I had to drop the appetizer because I wasn’t able to get ahold of scallops in time. Also, I forgot to include that I served my steak with onions & mushrooms

Even though I still have kinks to work out with timing, I think dinner went really well. I got way too ambitious with the amount of food I made and we had most of what I cooked for dinner the next day for leftovers.

The spread… complete with sparkling apple cider because nothing says fancy like sparkling apple cider
Clockwise from top left: Steak w/ onions & mushrooms, Garlic mashed potatoes, Brussel sprouts w/ bacon, Crab cake

I got so caught up with trying to make Ben a fancy meal that I realized I had lost sight of why I was doing it: to make him a meal that he loves. He was getting stressed by my constant grilling of “What is your ideal meal?” “What do you wish I would cook for you I’LL MAKE IT” “Name a fancy meal you wish you had more often!”. What he loves is PB&J, plain and simple.

So I jazzed it up by making it a stuffed French toast, drizzling a berry reduction over top, and serving with vanilla ice cream. Plain and simple.

Started with heart-shaped sandwiches, French-toasted, the berry reduction, and then ICE CREAM YES

On Valentine’s Day, we kicked off with brunch at La Malinche for all-you-can-eat tapas and bottomless drinks. (You have to get the drinks on the weekends; we usually like coming on weekdays for AYCE lunch because we don’t really drink.) Ben and I were committed to eating as much as we could for as long as we could. We held out for 2½ hours before throwing in the towel. When we walked out, it had barely started flurrying. We knew there was snow in the forecast and figured we could take a food coma nap before heading out to Tim’s party.


By the time we finished the leftovers from the night before and were ready to leave, Tim was already urging people to park on top of the hill and not at the bottom of it. Many folks had already cancelled because of the weather.

Red flag #1: The garages in Ben’s community are all below-ground, and we saw a car struggling to get up the incline away from the garage. I reminded Ben to drive slowly and we mozied towards the beltway when Google Maps told us that it would take nearly 3 hours to drive the 20 miles to Tim’s house on the beltway and only 45 minutes to go through DC. It almost always takes longer to get anywhere by going through the District, so we figured there must have been a pretty bad accident on the beltway. (How bad the accident was… probably red flag #2.)

Red flag #3: As we were driving, Ben was weirded out by several blank road signs. I realized that they were not blank, but that the snow had been blown horizontally and immediately frozen over, resulting in whited-out road signs. Speed limits? Who knows. Exit numbers? Iono. Street names? No clue. The roads were nearly empty and the signs were blank. It felt like we were in some post-apocalyptic horror video game. I joked that every gust of wind that brought about powdery snow was actually a ghost. In hindsight, I think this just made me more tense.

Red flag #4: Cars were skidding EVERYWHERE. We were about a mile away from Tim’s house when Ben started skidding himself. It was pretty scary.

Then it happened.

We were already driving really slow (“10 miles an hour? What is this, Fast and Furious slow down, Tokyo Drift!” – my shrill voice) when we were trying to make one of the last turns to reach Tim’s. The car lost traction and we started skidding, unable to stop.

We hit a bus. Luckily, since we were going at about 3 mph at this point (less than 5 kph for my international friends). Ben was so freaked out that he just went into “what kind of damage was there we have to file an insurance report???” mode. I was like “WHAT IF THERE WERE PEOPLE ON THE BUS?!” Since we were going so slowly, we just got a tiny scratch and there was no damage to the bus or the people on it. (No damage to the people in our car either.) We walked away with no reports filed because it really wasn’t worth the trouble. But oh man, were we shaken.

We arrived at the party to find that all 100+ people who were slated to arrive weren’t there. Because of the insane road conditions. I mean, people usually flake anyway but Tim was stressing about fire codes and the police showing up. The Facebook event was full of “Tried to come over but there was standstill traffic, had to turn around” and “Couldn’t make it out of my driveway sorry!” so the party didn’t end up being as packed as anticipated.

Tim goes ALL OUT. There was a free raffle, 10 gallons of homemade sangria, so much alcohol I didn’t even bother to tally it up, karaoke with 5 microphones, bumpin’ dance floor in the garage, a live serenade, and so much more. It was easily one of THE best parties I have ever attended in my life.

RAFFLE TIME. (Do you see the giant chocolate heart in the back?)
Friends Tommy and Jeff nailin’ it at karaoke
Bumpin’ dance floor that was really cold (it was in the garage) but once you worked up a sweat, it was nice to just press your face against the literally-freezing garage door.

Even though it was about 11°F (~-11/12°C), my friend wanted s’mores so we headed out to the firepit on the patio. It was SOOOOOOOOOO COLD even after I put on fuzzy penguin slippers and threw blankets over myself. It was really nice in front of the fire but the wind was cuh-razy. We were on wind advisory and apparently winds reached about 50 mph Saturday night. I was very wary of this because a) the wind was blowing the flames dangerously close to everyone sitting around it and b) the wind was blowing the trees kind of all over the place. It was very cool in an eerie way, watching the trees sway violently against a clear night sky. As I was trying to point out how cool the trees looked, we heard it.

Toasty and warm! Even though all the s’mores ingredients were frozen solid.

SNAP! CRASH! A tree behind Tim’s house was just blown down. We watched a tree fall. TIME TO PACK UP we did not want to be under the next tree that fell. How many brushes with death were we going to experience on Valentine’s Day?

Instead of driving back to Ben’s when we left, we drove to my place because the highways weren’t treated yet and we didn’t want to be on the roads any longer than we had to. Plus, with the steep incline leading to the garage, we couldn’t risk it. Still, I live in a hilly area, so it was risky either way. We were relieved to reach my apartment alive, even though we had no phone chargers and dead phones.

But we were alive and we were together.

How was your weekend? (Hopefully way fewer near-death experiences. Hopefully zero of them.)

And I hope you take the chance to stop and smell the… just kidding, I won’t. 😛

Seventh Son (2015)

This was not a good movie. It pains me to say this because I have a friend who worked on it (the visual effects were great, B!) but oh boy.

Okay, now that I’ve blurted out my thesis, it’s time to back it up.

First of all, is anyone surprised? When my friend Annie told me she had early screening tickets on Wednesday, I had no clue what she was going on about and very vaguely knew that it was a movie at all. Something something… fantasy or sci-fi genre? Am I out of the loop or did it seem like there was very minimal promotion going on for this? (Not a rhetorical question, it is entirely likely that I just was never targeted for advertising for this movie.)

I am assuming that all the actors in this film were really well-paid because ugh, it was just awful. I really take issue with the writing. The dialogue made me roll my eyes into the back of my head and the plot points were so loosely tied together. The movie itself was pretty short, which was great for me because that meant I didn’t have to endure it for more than 2 hours. But maybe they could have used some extra time to build the world here? World building is crucial and I will never excuse any book, movie, TV show, etc. that doesn’t take care to do it. I mean, there’s a scene where we are looking at a tombstone. It says “REBEKKA” backwards. Is this the script of this grand world? Mirrored English? That was one of the worst offenses, that they made such a laughably barely-half-arsed attempt at the world-building. This is a movie based on a book series, the world-building is done! You just have to put it in the movie!

You know what’s worse than a movie with an all-white cast?
A movie where the only people of color are the secondary villains who have zero character development and are killed off.
Djimon Honsou is in this and it’s such a shame that his talent is wasted here. There was an Asian secondary villain who doesn’t have any freaking lines before he is killed. Do not even get me started on the black female secondary villain who takes the form of a leopard. She is reduced to an animal much more than the other villains, and the Asian one was a bear chained in a cage for most of his scene, so that’s telling. And of course, she has no lines. At least Djimon Honsou had lines.

I cringed during most of Jeff Bridges’ and Julianne Moore’s scenes. I think I cringed most watching Julianne Moore play this poorly developed villain. I couldn’t help think of her standing in front of a green screen pretending to wield magic while she has been nominated for an Oscar for the fifth time. I’ll go more into how I think her character fell completely flat later, but just… know there was a lot of putting my head in my hands in the middle of the theater. I don’t blame her at all. She did the best she could with what she was given… but she was given baloney.

Jeff Bridges, the Oscar-winning actor, may have known this was all ridiculous. He uses this strange affect when he speaks in this movie, like if Sean Connery was trying to play Gandalf. Maybe his character is supposed to be a kind of washed up old fool, but it was still very sad to see him like this. I’d like to think that he knew this whole movie was ludicrous and was just having fun while getting paid.

Ben Barnes actually did a pretty good job. I’m not familiar with his work (sorry Prince Caspian fans) but you know what, he looked good in this role and I think he delivered. Not sure why his character was the only one with any real depth but okay then. I’d watch more movies with him after seeing Seventh Son.

If you’re familiar with my reviews, you might know that I care deeply about world-building and relationship-building. The relationships between characters bond us to them more than their actions independent of other people. The relationships in this movie were almost all BS. There’s, obviously, a love story and it’s completely limp. It drives much of the plot ending forward and I was so detached from it that I was really disgusted. Two attractive actors with some on-screen chemistry does not a love story make! The only maybe compelling relationship, to me, was of Tom Ward (our protagonist) and his mother. His mother was a pretty cool character, played by Olivia Williams, and I maybe felt most attached to her. But maybe that’s just because it’s easy to write maternal traits without having to do much else.

I mean… I have so many negative things to say here. A waste of Kit Harington, who is only in the movie for the first 10 minutes, sorry to all his fans. A waste of admittedly, as I said early, really nice visual effects to create magic and mythical beasts. A waste of what seems like it was a really cool world. This story is just empty and flat and I had no reason to care about it. I was so uninvested in the characters, in the story, about 5 minutes into the movie. Spoiler alert: Gregory locks away Mother Malkin and she escapes because “time made her stronger” and that is the impetus for our conflict? That after enough time passed, she could just leave her prison? As soon as this happened, and Julianne Moore was introduced in just an utterly tragic costume, I knew this movie was worse than I thought it would be going into this screening.

I’m just going to show you the trailer now, I guess. More ranting afterwards.

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January Favorites

I know that I’ve been a bit all over the place with update schedules (and I completely dropped the ball on my daily photo resolution this weekend)  but I thought this might be a nice time to just do an end-of-month recap!


What can I say, I really loved this movie. I cannot recommend it enough. My write-up was really long, I know, but please consider seeing it. It didn’t get 9 Oscar nominations for nothing! Run, do not walk, to go see it.

Seeing an old friend after 10+ years

In 2004, I met my friend Tammy at nerd camp. As per usual for me, we fell out of touch over the years. BUT our friendship was rekindled in the past few years as we both struggled with the decision to leave the pre-med life. She helped me a lot with the decision to walk away from something I was no longer happy to do. She was in town this past weekend — and actually used to live in the building next to mine! — so we caught up for brunch. It was a lot of fun to see her again after soooooo long.

We didn’t take any photos Sunday, so here is — apparently — the most recent photo of us. From 2004. I’ll let you guess who is me and who is Tammy (and who is everyone else).


Kale chips

Okay, so. I have been 5 months potato chip-clean. Prior to this, I was eating an entire family-sized bag of crispy, crunchy goodness every day. Maybe two bags a day. It was bad. I’m finally getting control of my life back to the point where I am not thinking about chips all day, every day. (It was a serious problem, there was a lot of crying.)

I also haven’t been eating as healthily as I should be, so I went and bought a big bag of kale the last time I went grocery shopping and tried my hand at making some kale chips.

YOU GUYS they were surprisingly so tasty and practically healthy! My recipe is simple:

Put washed and dried kale on a baking sheet. (Removing stalks optional.) Drizzle olive oil over top. Sprinkle seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, Old Bay, whatever) over top BUT be sure to sprinkle sparingly. Use less than you think you’ll need, as kale shrinks significantly when roasting. Massage oil+seasoning into the kale until all coated. Put in oven at 375-400°F for 20 minutes.

Super yummy, really easy, almost healthy, and helps avoid potato-chip relapse.

Chinese sausage (lapchang)

I went vegetarian a few years ago and I was doing just fine with that. But there were 3 reasons I could not fully give up meat:

  1. Korean barbecue
  2. Hotpot/shabu-shabu
  3. Chinese sausage

That’s how good Chinese sausage is, you guys. If you haven’t had it before, it’s a cured sausage that has a lot of rendered fat in it. It tastes sweet and is juicy and makes everything taste good. I’m planning on attempting a recipe that I have never tried before featuring Chinese sausage so keep an eye out for that! And go buy a package if you know what’s good for you. I just added a sausage to some leftovers I wasn’t really thrilled about finishing and I ate every last morsel.

Peanut butter in ramen

I’ve heard this as a “hack” for ramen many, many times, but I was always very hesitant to try it. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I love ramen and my specific brands of instant noodles; why would I do anything to alter it?

But peanut butter is real good, lemme tell ya. It thickens the broth a bit and adds a little sumfin-sumfin to the whole ramen experience. Adding a dollop of peanut butter is now part of my standard ramen process, along with adding veggies and poaching an egg.

Studying for the GMAT

At first, I was going to say that I love being post-GMAT. While I like it, I think I actually liked being in the throes of GMAT-studying just a wee bit more. Am I a masochist? Maybe. But it felt nice to have been able to — however temporarily — discipline myself to follow a study schedule and to be able to measure my progress concretely by ways of score increases. Being in-between full-time jobs as I am, I really miss having a more rigid structure in my day and being able to see improvements or progress in a concrete way.

Most of these were food-related, but who’s surprised?

February holds a lot of promise, I think. Chinese New Year is coming up! And right before then, I’ll be giving something up for Lent as per my annual tradition now. Valentine’s Day is coming up and I’m going to be mixing it up a bit this year for that.

PLUS look how gorgeous February looks on a [US] calendar [where the week begins on Sunday]:

  • Tell me about your January! What were some of your fond memories?