Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Proud Moment

As much as I love getting opportunities to practice my Khmer, I've recently become just the slightest bit disenchanted with speaking it and a good deal frustrated with how limited my conversational abilities are. I noticed this when my parents and I were in the fancy soap store last week -- picking out fancy soaps for my Grandma -- and I found I could not sufficiently explain in Khmer the differentiating qualities of the soaps to my mom.

Tonight, I stopped by my Grandma's to drop off these soaps. She picked up the soaps and admired the beautiful box they had been packaged in -- its colorful, illustrated lid and the plentiful crumpled tissue paper inside. She wondered if I had paid extra for the shopping bag the soaps came in -- so lovely a bag it was! Curious now, my grandpa held it up within an inch of his face (he is legally blind) to take a look for himself, and together they ooh'd and aah'd. After all this, and after discussing how nice packaging must contribute greatly to the high price of luxury goods, she then picked up the soaps, one at a time, for examination.

I explained that the soap she liked had been discontinued. I explained that I had gotten her the last of it the store had. I explained that I got them in Oregon last week. But for the life of me, I found that I could not explain that since they are no longer making that soap, that I've picked out another soap for her to try, one that I hope she will like just as much. And to not be able to form the words I so badly wanted to say felt sort of like a small bird had perched in my mouth and had snatched my tongue in between its beak, holding my tongue and my speech captive.

Needless to say, I also could not explain to her that this new soap I've gotten was recommended to me by the sales girl for its great exfoliating properties. I could not find the words to tell her that the exfoliating part is apricot kernel powder and that there is the essence of grape juice to revitalize her skin. All I could say is that I've gotten her a new soap, and I asked her to tell me if she likes it.

When I decided to leave, my grandma decided that my grandpa would escort me to my car. It pains me to watch them move, like they are on stilts, except the stilts are nearly broken and wobble terribly, which requires them to move slowly, so very slowly. So it was even more painful to think about my grandpa making his way down the long flight of stairs, down past the playground and down an endless stretch of dark sidewalk with me to make sure that I got to my car ok. I tried to fight it, I tried to ask him to just watch me from the safety of his front door, but he had already pulled on his tennis shoes and hat. And before I could kiss my grandma goodbye, he was out the door, halfway down the stairs.

As we walked out of earshot from my grandma, he asked me how much I make a month. When I told him, he exclaimed I could buy a house! That I must buy a house! I told him I would.

We arrived at my car, and I unlocked it so he could see the flash of the car lights. And immediately, after taking note of my car's impossibly small parking space between two large SUVs, he said that I must be a skilled driver to have gotten in there. So I guess all is not lost in translation if we can communicate the important things to each other -- namely, my grandpa telling me I have got some mad parallel parking skills -- even if my grandma will never know what exactly in her soap is making her skin so soft and smooth.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Christmas Portrait

On Christmas morning, while drinking my fifth cup of decaf coffee (the only kind in the house), I watched the grand display of winter happening outside. Great, big, fat snowflakes flurrying about and falling so fast, as if they were all late to their scheduled appointment of meeting with the ground. After becoming just barely caffeinated, I began rounding everyone up for our annual family portrait.

Now, half the fun in taking the family picture every year is seeing what everyone will dress up in. Last year, I asked my dad if he could go upstairs and put on something nice -- imagining he would put on a jolly red sweater or a crisp, unrumpled shirt -- and he came back down dressed in a suit and tie. My brother donned a California t-shirt, the kind that are sold 3 for $9.99 in a fluorescent-illuminated store on Hollywood Boulevard.


This year, my dad decided he wanted to wear the complete opposite of what he wore last year. He posed in front of the tree wearing what he wore to sleep the night before, and then thinking better of it, pulled a jacket over it to mask his jammy shirt.

My mom appeared, dressed tastefully festive, and she matched my holiday reindeer pin perfectly.

She then noticed my dad, far from dressed, and said, No, no, no. She disappeared back upstairs to find him something appropriate to wear. In the meantime, my brother came downstairs, and this year, he was the one wearing a suit and tie.

My mom came back, dressed in a different outfit, and brought with her the sweater my brother gave my dad last year and demanded my dad change.


Sophie had been missing for some time, but appeared at about the same time my dad re-appeared, now properly dressed.

And before anyone else could get away, change their outfits or take a phone call, we took this one.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pretty Presents

Sanrio knew what was up from the very beginning -- the pink, the cutesy-ness of their characters, the completely unnecessary bows and bells. And to top it all off, their competitive edge lies in their spectacular presentation. As a young girl, there wasn't anything better than getting small, adorable treasures all wrapped up in decorative paper bags. The gift baskets I got from my Uncle Sosa's then girlfriend Elaine (bless her soul) were so big that they even came with an extra goody stuck or tied onto the outside -- pencils, lollipops or keychains. Entire treats in themselves!

Now that I no longer have Elaine buying me Sanrio gifts, there is something else I look forward to receiving as much as I looked forward to receiving foofy, pink stationery -- presents from Jennifer. Her presents make me giddy, especially her packaging. I find her gift wrapping so stunning that I just want to sit and stare at it. Then I remember the old saying from my Sanrio-school days, "take a picture, it'll last longer." So I do.







Don't you just want to eat it?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Baby Talk

I am very often amazed by my mom, but my awe is strongest when I'm in her house witnessing her many daily miracles. Right now, where as I am sprawled in front of the fireplace roasting my frozen feet and lazily reading a book, she is in the kitchen, spraying every surface down with a lemon-fresh disinfectant and wiping it all off to a high shine because, as she says, "the kitchen smells like fry."

The other day, Thai and I discussed ways to boost readership of my blog in entertaining my dream of becoming a professional blogger. Now, I know that might sound silly to some, but to that I say that everyone has, and is allowed, a dream. When I was 5, my dream was to be a pediatrician, mostly because I liked the way it made everyone's faces glow when they heard me say it. After I broke my ankle when I was 7, I decided I wanted to specialize and become a podiatrist. After I needed glasses in the fourth grade, I wanted to be an optometrist. Then came a long time of not really knowing what I wanted to do, but knowing for certain that becoming a professional swimmer, softball player or historian were out of the question. Lasting 2 weeks on the high school swim team, hating my entire softball team and barely keeping awake during history class were all proof of careers that were not meant to be.

I often point to Dooce's highly successful site as evidence of someone who was able to professionally blog very well, well enough that she is able to house, feed and clothe her entire family from her blog's revenue. Thai offered some good advice, namely, he said that I needed to find my "baby." Dooce writes about her babies, her growing daughter and about her new pregnancy, all topics that have measurable progress -- Dooce is 14 weeks pregnant now, how is she going to look and feel at 15 weeks? You are almost prompted to internet stalk her in order to check on the progress of these things going on in her life.

All this has brought up the question: What is my "baby?" What are the topics I can write about that have a start and end date, things that I could report progress on? This is too daunting a question to be addressed in this blog post, but suffice it to say that I did have a fleeting idea of actually having a baby of my own! Imagine the turn of events! People would come back for sure to find out if Baby and I had found better shelter yet or if we were still living next to the dumpster behind the pizza place. And what about my business of selling mini sail boats built inside small glass bottles on Pier 39 -- has that taken off yet? Yes, it all sounds so exciting, doesn't it?

But upon further thought, I wonder if I would be a good mother. Sometimes, when I see plump babies dressed in faux shoe socks or striped leggings, I feel my maternal instincts calling loud and clear. These are the times when I feel like I should have had a baby by now, but then I find myself making trips to the store to buy gummy bears and sour worms and I am reminded of why I don't have children. When I see my mom constantly bustling about -- cooking this, washing that, tidying up here, making recommendations there -- it is very clear that I don't have "that." In complete contrast, I left a sink full of my own dishes at home before flying here and hoped that Alan might take notice and do the whole lot while I was away. I suppose if I did have children, I could have them help me do things around the house... But I doubt Child Protective Services would take too kindly to that.

Ok, but seriously, aside from my top 2 reasons for having a baby so far (No. 1: baby Crocs and No. 2: striped baby leggings), No. 3 is babies that look like Hayden.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow Days

Recent events have led me to believe that maybe in another life, I may have been a cat or perhaps a hibernating brown bear. While here in Oregon, anytime my head and/or body assumes an even slightly horizontal position, I can be sure sleep will soon be forthcoming. Yesterday I woke up at the deliriously delightful hour of noon and found myself snoozing on the couch again at midnight. Without work to think of, and with GMAT studying on a temporary hiatus, sleep comes almost too easy. Or maybe it comes easy from all the snow walking I've been doing lately...

For the past few days, we've been completely snowed in, something that is amazing and also slightly annoying. It's amazing because when you grow up in California, all you want is to have a white Christmas. It's annoying because piles and piles of cold, wet snow outside make it impossible to do anything but sit inside and enjoy your snow white Christmas.

Sunday afternoon we decided to go on a walk to the park, which, when we got there, was very much the opposite of a walk in the park.

My dad kept insisting we walk in the road where the snow had already been compacted, but I rather liked walking over the untouched ice. Everytime my foot crunched through, it reminded me of breaking the tops of creme brulee.

The biggest snowflakes I've ever seen.




Today, we braved the snow again on a mission for provisions. Then, ravenous after our three-hour hike, we came home and proceeded to eat all the fruits of our labor.


Advice for if you ever need to go on a long walk to Safeway in the snow: Bring Kleenex.

Good to know knowledge from a truck.

By the time we got home...

Friday, December 19, 2008

What Happens When You Finally Show Up to the Airport On Time


For the past few years, around the middle of December, it has been a tradition of mine to haphazardly throw clothes into my suitcase about an hour and a half before my flight takes off to then wait in excruciatingly long check-in and security screening lines at the airport. Last year my experience was particularly bad, what with my getting to the airport 30 minutes before my scheduled departure time and all. The security line snaked down corridors and continued through the automatic sliding doors outside.

As an extra holiday treat that year, and as a favor to my mom, I was also bringing her 16-piece blender/chopper/whipping gadget, packaged nicely in an awkwardly-shaped, over-sized box, back to her from my grandma. The rest of my stuff was packed in the ancient suitcase given to me by my parents. The kind that does not come with wheels for easy pulling and must be lugged from place to place.

Because only 2 shirts and 1 pair of underwear would fit into my suitcase, I decided to shove the blender/chopper/whipping gadget into a plastic shopping bag and for good measure squeezed in a few extra presents. Although there are many reasons why one shouldn't do this, it was not readily obvious to me until, after standing in the security line for 40 minutes, a hole tore in the bottom of the bag and the handles ripped apart. What followed was a lot of sweating and the creation of a makeshift sled from the torn plastic on which I pulled my possessions. Thankfully -- after a few minutes of pulling my sled along and then running back to pick up items that had fallen off or slipped out of my arms -- this was a sad enough sight to behold that a family eventually offered me one of their plastic bags. (Obviously I was not the only one who thought plastic bags were the way to go). Every muscle in my back was sore for 2 days after that.

So far, traveling this year is much better. I checked in in 5 minutes and flew right through airport security. While standing in the security line, I worried that I would be hassled about the cake I was carrying. I imagined how it would go down. Maybe something like this...

I place my cake through the x-ray machine and wait to receive it on the other end. As it begins rolling down the conveyor belt, I move to pick it up, when all of a sudden it is snatched up by a uniformed TSA officer.

TSA officer: Okay folks! Who's cake is this?

He is met with silence.

TSA officer: I'll ask one more time, who's cake is this???

I step forward to claim it.

Me: Mine... It's my cake.

TSA officer: Your cake. This is your cake.

Me: Yes. Yes, it is.

TSA officer: I'm going to need to ask you to step over here.


I reach to take the cake.

TSA officer: Ma'am! Do not touch the cake.

Me: Sorry.

The TSA officer proceeds to put on gloves. He cuts the string off the white bakery box and opens the lid apprehensively. We both look into the box.

TSA officer: Can you tell me what this is, ma'am?

Me: It's a ... cake.

TSA officer: Can you be more specific? Can you tell me what kind of cake it is?

Me: It's a, um, pumpkin, burnt almond cake.

TSA officer: Uh-huh. And? Is there anything else you want me to know about it?

Me: ... It has a light buttercream frosting?

TSA officer: So that's what this is? You're telling me it's a pumpkin, burnt almond cake with a buttercream frosting?

Me: That's right, yes.

TSA officer turns his head slightly away from me, presses a button on his walkie and mumbles into it. Soon, a second TSA officer appears, observes my cake and speaks in hushed tones with his colleague.

TSA officer #1: We're going to need to take you into custody.

Me (dropping my innocent passenger act and now speaking in an authoritative, slightly huffy voice): And just what is this about??

TSA officer #2: Ma'am, people don't just show up to the airport with entire 10" round cakes. Especially, 10" round cakes that aren't decorated and that don't even have any custom writing. There's no "Happy Birthday, Mom!" or "Season's Greetings" written in frosting on this. It's just a plain ol' cake.

I wince. Obviously, these people do not know the delightfulness that is Peter's burnt almond cake. They do not understand how divine the frosting is, so light and delicate that even those who detest frosting enjoy it. They also don't know how the moist cake enfolds in your mouth with just the right amount of frosting in every bite, all complemented by the crunch of slightly sweet toasted almonds.

TSA officer #1: With all due respect, ma'am, this plain, un-celebratory cake is suspect.

And then I will kick myself for not having the bakery write something on the cake as Nathalie originally suggested in order to avoid arousing suspicion.

The interrogation will be grueling and they will bring in the special canine force to sniff my cake. They will want to know if I accepted the cake from a stranger who asked me to watch the cake for just a moment. They will want to know if I have any liquids or gels in the cake. They will want to make sure that this cake does not put me over my carry-on limit. They will want to know if the cake has any special needs, and if it will require extra time to board. And then they will tell me that despite my best efforts to pack lighter and arrive to the airport a whole 2 hours before my departure time this year, that high winds are delaying my flight for an additional 2 hours.

The cake after spending many hours in the airport and in the air. And after my dad ate a piece.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Staying Warm War

Where once I despised the weekday ritual of waking up because of the ensuing grogginess and bitter feelings of never having enough sleep, I now am afraid to get up in the mornings for fear of the blistering cold. If an arm accidentally pokes out from under the covers, I get a little taste of what the igloo's brewing and the idea of being fully immersed in that temperature is frightening. After 15 minutes of avoiding getting out of bed, I finally run into the bathroom and turn the space heater on at full blast. I finish my morning bathroom routine and leave myself approximately 3 minutes to get dressed outside of the bathroom, in the unwarmed bedroom. Any longer and hypothermia might result.

When I get home from the day, I sit huddled in front of the same, small space heater. I could move around or think about the upcoming weekend or go on a walk, but the cold has a way of withering away any motivation. So this is why productivity has come to a near halt when I'm at home. Any and all activities revolve around trying to stay warm. There have even been a couple of times, close calls, where I have eyed my Christmas tree and saw not the twinkling lights nor the domestic symbol of holiday cheer that it is, but only a nice warm bonfire.

Aside from the near betrayal of my tree, life has been pretty quiet.

But in the quiet, in the middle of all this, a war is waged. Per customary wars, this one has two sides; I am on one side of it and Alan is on the other. For a month or so, before it got like this, we had been griping about the cold and about how we needed to call PG & E and have them come out to light the pilot light. After weeks passed, it became clear that neither of us was going to call. I don't really know why we were both so averse to the thought, but we were.

To avoid having to call, I outfitted myself with a new fleece robe and became accustomed to wearing socks around the house. Alan went out and bought a beanie, an extra blanket and set up a new space heater in the living room. Neither of us knew how much longer the war would last, but each of us wanted to be sure to outlast the other.

Eventually I came to see our war had resulted in a stalemate. I was afraid to get up in the mornings and Alan had turned into a wild grizzly man, wearing 10 layers of clothing and mumbling under his breath about nonsensical indoor snow parks. I hated to admit that we really did need to get the heat on, but when I walked to my car this morning, I noticed that the 47 degree air outside welcomed and warmed me. When the icicles melted from my hair, I knew it just wasn't right for it to be 20 degrees warmer outside than it is inside. Alan has also fallen ill with the beginnings of pneumonia, so taking pity upon him, I called to set up the appointment.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gift Ideas to Help Spread the Holiday Spirit

Way back in elementary school, it was easy to find and give unique gifts during the holiday season. If I wasn't spending half the school day making ornaments out of old Christmas cards or gluing together macaroni picture frames, the other half of the time I would be in Santa's Workshop, a gift store that came to our school every year. Santa's Workshop set up shop in the school library and offered affordable, yet timeless presents for everyone on one's shopping list.

Before the shopping began, there would be a preview day so that students could browse and plan what they would purchase for those hard-to-shop-for people in their lives. After I would visit, I'd then prepare my list of desired shopping items so that when school let out I would be prepared to go home to plead with my parents for money. Although they would always say they didn't need or want anything, what they didn't know was that I had found the something that would complete their lives at Santa's Workshop.

One year I bought my mom a small blue sandcastle dusted with an irridescent, snow-like sparkle. I fancied it to be the most elegant little statue, a guaranteed conversation starter. The next year I bought my brother a paper clip holder with a magnetic lid for easily accessible paper clips. It even included 25 or so multi-colored paper clips. If that gift didn't say thoughtful, I don't know what would.

Now that I'm older, I no longer have the safety net of Santa's Workshop or classroom crafts to fall back on when Christmas shopping. I worry that my gift will seem insignificant, completely thoughtless, too random, a bad color... the pressure to pick just the right thing for each person can be paralyzing. This year I've decided to give a few presents not from the mall. Below are my top non-mall gift ideas (followed by a few from the mall).

1) Christmas Tea -- Neither Irene nor I have ever had proper tea before and it has always seemed quite relaxing, so this year I invited her out for some Christmas Spirit (that's really what our tea was called) at Lisa's Tea Treasures.

Never have we been more amused with sugar cubes, tea cups and crustless sandwiches. I wanted to eat everything with my pinkies sticking up and Irene kept asking for "two lumps of sugar and just a spot o' creme." A rollicking good time was had.

2) Cambodian sausages -- My mom has never asked for much for Christmas, so this year, when she asked if I could get her some Cambodian sausages, I was more than happy to. She had a friend in Portland who knew of a lady who made these sausages in San Jose, so all I had to do was call her and drive over to pick them up. When I called her, she had to shout a bit to be heard over the chanting monks in the background which made me think I was calling at a bad time. Nonetheless she told me to come over and so to Eastside I drove. When I showed up at her front door she asked how many I wanted and led me to the bed of her truck where she showed me the different kinds she had -- spicy and non-spicy. I took some of both.

Other gift ideas (the mall variety):

3) Digital Photo Frame Keychains -- I've been wanting one since I saw it in a Black Friday ad. Who cares if the screen is smaller than the one on your phone and of a lower resolution. This one is on a keychain!

See how happy Nathalie is that she has one??

4) A fleecy robe -- this is great for keeping warm on a Sunday morning or for putting on when you get home from work, along with your slippers. After I got mine, I put it on and then retreated to the study where I sat by the fireplace in a wing-backed chair so I could smoke my pipe and contemplate the world over.


5) How I Met Your Mother DVDs -- Barney and hot chocolate for Christmas? I think I've made my point.


Other edible gift ideas:

6) Decorated cookies -- show you care with finely detailed decorated cookies. Check out the pleated skirt and purple scarf on the lady cookie below.


7) A Krispy Kreme cake -- Give them the best, give them snowmen donuts.

If you run out of ideas and you don't have time to run out to get some Cambodian sausages, don't forget the power of a hug! Or a Starbucks/Nordstrom gift card in a high denomination.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Britney, Cheetos and the Paps

This past weekend I had the pleasure of a leisurely Sunday in which I woke up, sipped cups upon cups of coffee and watched Britney's new documentary Britney: For the Record. And it was fascinating.

I think the reason why I, along with millions of other 13-year old girls and 22-year old boys, find her so interesting, is that her life is significantly different from mine. For starters, she has been married twice, she has two children, she has the confidence to wear a shaved head around Hollywood, she dances, she lip syncs and she makes flashy music videos. Plus, when she goes to the grocery store and throws a bag of Cheetos in the cart, she makes the front cover of all the tabloids for being just like us -- how much do we hold her in awe??

It's insane to see the throngs of paparazzi that hound her and crowd around everywhere she goes. People are always talking about how terrible that would be, but I think I would love it. I would eat Cheetos all day. And I know paparazzi are supposed to be terrible and life-ruiners, but I say bless their souls. It's a dirty, dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Brian and Lindsay's Big Day


Starfish

Preparing to board our boat.

On the dock.

Waiting with Sarah.

The groom and his party.

Nat.

Brian looking remarkably calm.





The happy couple.
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