Thursday, April 22, 2010


But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
- Robert Frost

I keep a lot of lists - ones for errands, for work, play, and for life. These lists fill up notebooks, notecards, and Post Its, both real and virtual. I can't always rely on my memory, as I'm easily distracted so for me it's necessary to write everything down. But I also keep lists to remind myself of what's really important in life.

My "Sweet List" is a revolving list of things I'd like to see, do, and be. I think most of us keep a similar one whether you call it your "bucket list", "things to do before I die list", "carpe diem list", etc. These lists hold our deepest desires, fondest wishes, and biggest dreams. And there's nothing sweeter than crossing off an item on that list. I've been lucky in that I've been able to cross off a lot of items off my "Sweet List". I've never let the lack of money, time constraints, or even fear stop me from accomplishing those things that I believe are worth pursuing. Life is short but sweet, and from a very young age I decided that I could do anything I set my mind to. Many of the choices I've made in life have been on account of that list. And I have very few regrets because I believe absolutely that it's never too late to do anything. When most post-grads buckled down to a career, I chose to travel. I wanted to see the world, immerse myself in the underbelly of life and live fully without regrets. I knew when I was ready to have a career it would be waiting for me, and it was. When I wanted to write a book, I made it happen for myself. And I think that's the key - you can't wait for things to happen to you or for you, you make it happen for yourself. If I'd waited for those things I desired to be handed to me, or for people to do or go with me I'd never have accomplished much. Instead, I chose to do things solo, to follow my own agendas. I've traveled the world on my own, but even then you find like-minded companions. Even when I begin a journey alone, I'm never really alone.

Family, friends, strangers - they've all told me that certain things are impossible, that responsibilities prevent them from following dreams. But I think I'm a pretty responsible person, and I've always managed just fine. Certainly it's necessary to shift priorities, shuffle around schedules, and re-think what's important to you but if you want something bad enough, and you're willing to work for it then nothing is impossible. Where there's a will, there is a way. It's for you to discover how.

So I hope you wish me happy trails as I'm off on another adventure, another item to cross off my "Sweet List"... surfing in Costa Rica.

Dulce de Leche Banana Cream Pie
2 (14-oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
3 medium bananas
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp sour cream

1. Pour condensed milk into a large, heatproof bowl and set over a pot of simmering water to make dulce de leche. Cook, checking water level and adding water as necessary. Stir milk occasionally and cook until it is very thick and golden brown, about 2 1/2 hours.

2. Bake crust according to package directions. Cool on a wire rack.

3. Slice 2 bananas. Spread half of warm dulce de leche in crust; top with sliced bananas. Spread remaining dulce de leche over bananas. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours.

4. Just before serving, combine heavy cream and sour cream in a bowl. Whip, using a mixer on high speed, until soft peaks form. Spread over pie. Slice remaining banana and use to garnish pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


commercial shoot, ph: slw

I apologize for my absence but it's been a busy couple weeks. I was swept up by a shoot and it's difficult to fit in anything but the project on hand. Although pies and tarts are my desserts of choice, this morning I'm baking banana bread. I have a couple of bunches of over-ripe bananas left over from the shoot, and I always say waste not, want not. A big part of my job is trouble-shooting, not only putting out fires that inevitably occur put to anticipate problems before they happen. And as much as you feel you're prepared, things happen. It's just the nature of the beast that is a live-action shoot. Every shoot I always try to figure out how to be 'greener'. Every phase of production can have an impact on the environment, and it's important that every department does their part to make a set 'green'. And it's not always an easy task, as generally
there seems to be a lot of waste in production but I believe every person can do their part in making a difference - craft service, set construction, office staff, transportation.

What are some steps we can take? Recycling and proper waste disposal. Recycle everything possible and provide recycling bins for all recyclables. We generate a lot of paper as sometimes hard copies are preferable to digital files. Print and copy double-sided, and reuse single-sided, used paper. On shoots I make sure recycle bins are on hand for paper, water bottles and aluminum cans. But not everyone follows the rules, and often times you find busy crew have mixed the recyclables in with the trash. Post-shoot most locations won't allow you to dump your trash and recyclables on their property so I contract someone to come in at the end of the
day to dispose of them appropriately. At the end of a job, all unwanted items are donated to organizations in need.

A key part of a smooth shoot is to make sure my crew is fed, and fed well. Empty stomachs not only cause growling stomachs, it affects the crew's attitude. Shoot days tend to be long, and it's important to keep their energy levels up, hence craft service. I hire someone specifically to take care of this. They keep the crew supplied with snacks throughout the day that compose of sugar, salt, and protein. For lunch I hire a catering company to feed us a healthy but delicious meal, but sometimes they fall short of the order. I don't think it's too much for crew to expect a
great lunch and if a caterer disappoints I usually don't hire them again. When it comes to lunch you also never want to run out of food. I usually know how many people to feed, but if the caterer miscalculates on their end, you find yourself short or with too much food. What happens to the left-overs? Most of the time I ask the caterers to wrap it up for hungry production assistants to take home - they tend to be young and lean in the pockets, and with roommates who appreciate the gesture. But this doesn't always happen. My hope is that the caterers donate the left-overs to food banks. Encourage both your craft service and caterers to buy local organic food, fair trade coffee and teas, to purchase in bulk, and carry groceries in canvas bags. Also encourage the use of reusable dishware and mugs. Provide unbleached, recycled paper towels, plates and cups, and when possible avoid disposable. And ask caterers to
provide only recyclable serving containers, like aluminum pans. Avoid styrofoam at all costs.

In set design and construction reuse and recycle sets, and donate unwanted lumber, fencing and other supplies to local organizations. Use sustainable wood products. Purchase low-emission (low VOC) and less toxic alternatives of chemicals, paints, flooring, etc. Use sawdust to make sweeping compound, clean painting equipment like brushes and buckets, clean moisture spill, mix into plaster instead of sand, or sell as composting material to make natural fertilizer. Use canvas drop cloths instead of paper products to protect floor while painting. Clean and reuse paint brushes instead of throwing them away.

For transportation, encourage carpooling and the use of public transportation. Ask suppliers of trucks, buses/trailers if they have vehicles that run on natural gas, biodiesel or fuel cells. Turn off production vehicles when not in use. Utilize electric or hybrid vehicles if available.

Another thing you can do is to purchase with the environment in mind. Buy products from companies that provide technical assistance, products and/or services that conserve energy, reduce water consumption, preserve the quality of air and reduce the generation of solid wastes. And when possible utilize natural gas, biodiesel or solar generators and refrigeration systems.

More and more, shoots are going 'green' and it's a great thing. There are companies out there that hire out their services to help you do that. But we can all do our part to lessen the impact on our environment, and minimize our carbon footprint.


ph: slw

Banana Bread
3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup light brown sugar (or lessen to 3/4 cup)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. No mixer needed for this recipe. With wooden spoon mix butter to mashed bananas.
  3. Mix in sugar, egg, and vanilla, then the spices.
  4. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over mixture and mix in.
  5. Add flour last.
  6. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 loaf pan, or 2 smaller ones.
  7. Bake one hour.
  8. Cool. Remove from pan. Slice and serve.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


When I lived in New York City, I rarely made it home for Easter. We weren't necessarily a religious family, so Easters were reserved for chocolate bunnies and egg hunts for the kids, and a chance for the family to get together and feast on good home cooking. When I couldn't make it home for the holiday, my friends and I would end up in Chinatown for Dim Sum. In fact, my friends and I reserved many Sundays for Dim Sum. I'm not necessarily a big fan of dim sum dishes, but it became a sort of ritual we indulged in as the food was always cheap, and there was nothing more entertaining than sitting around a big round table daring one another to try some of the more exotic dishes that came by on rolling carts. I rarely had room for sweets afterwards, but one of the more popular desserts on offer were tiny egg custard tarts.

Egg custard tarts are popular in many parts of the world, particularly in Chinese and Western European cuisines. Custard tarts were introduced in Hong Kong in the 1940's by "Cha Chaan Tengs" or "tea restaurants" which is a Hong Kong version of grassroots American diner. Custard tarts were then introduced in western cafes and bakeries to compete with dim sum restaurants, or yum cha. Yum cha literally means "drink tea" and describes the dining experience of drinking Chinese tea and eating dim sum dishes. Dim sum is a varied range of small dishes, not unlike tapas, eaten for breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea. Mini egg tarts are now a common dim sum dish. Hong Kong egg tarts are typically encased in shortcrust pastry or puff pastry, and traditionally use lard rather than butter or shortening. This is just one of many variations of the recipe.

Hong Kong Style Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Tat)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup lard
1/3 cup butter
4 tbsp hot water, or as needed
Custard Filling:
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 ounces sugar (castor or superfine if possible)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
yellow food coloring (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Grease the tart pans.
  2. Cut the lard. Use a sifter to sift the flour into a large bowl. Work the lard and butter into the flour with the tips of your fingers, until the mixture has the appearance of coarse breadcrumbs. Continue kneading, adding the hot water. Roll the dough into a large ball, cover with wax paper and refrigerate while preparing the custard filling.
  3. Lightly beat the eggs, taking care not to produce any air bubbles. Stir in the milk and the sugar. Add the yellow food coloring if using.
  4. On a large, lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it is very thin (about 1/8-inch thick). Cut the dough in half before rolling out if needed. Use a pastry cutter to cut out 18 circles that are 3-inches in diameter. Fit the circles into the tart shells.
  5. Pour the filling into the shells. Bake until the custard is cooked and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean (about 35 minutes). Cool.