Sunday, January 31, 2010

My first Yelp Event - PLEY at the San Jose Discovery Museum

There are very few occasions when eating a big dinner is not a good idea. So few, in fact, that I can name them off right now.

Eating dinner is a bad idea when:

1) You are right about to race someone across the English channel (cramping up would be no fun)
2) You are about to time travel back to the days when everyone wore wigs (hey, it could happen. And if it did happen, all that food sloshing around inside of you probably wouldn't be too comfortable)
3) You are right about to attend a Yelp event

No. 3 is what I learned firsthand Saturday night. It was my first ever Yelp event, and I had no idea what to expect. Fun, sure, I imagined fun, but that was about as far as I let myself imagine. Although I knew that a few local restaurants would be catering the event, I had no idea what that actually meant. For fear that a man with a tray would walk by every 45 minutes with tiny shrimp on toothpicks, I decided to eat dinner beforehand -- a few slices of leftover pizza, a piece of chicken and a cucumber and avocado salad for good measure. As I would later learn, this was a terrible, terrible idea.

The way to go, it turns out, is to arrive to Yelp parties ravenously hungry and about as parched as though you had been walking through the desert for thousands of hot, sandy miles. When we first entered the museum, it was obvious that the main attraction of the night was FOOD -- food, food and more food. And Skyy vodka. Everywhere we turned, there were tables lavishly displaying trays and trays of ahi tuna, red velvet cupcakes, steak sliders and mini key lime tarts. I suspect that this is what dying and going to heaven is like.

Cindy is an Elite Yelper and the magnificent human being who so kindly invited Denise and I along as her +2.

My first time having Crispy Pata -- a twice-cooked crispy pork leg.

Jen's Cakes was there. They made Denise's wedding cake (which included a delicious banana cake layer) and they supplied the best red velvet mini cupcakes.

I mean, those suckers were really good. So good that Denise began quietly hoarding them.

And there was chocolate Shokolaat.

After eating chocolates and pork and steak, we went upstairs and had more cupcakes from another cupcakery because it wasn't gross enough that we had about 24 of Jen's cupcakes between the three of us downstairs.

So happy together....

Back downstairs for something delicious in a cup.

The dancers that performed were awesome. This was right before she held a candle to her thigh and then consequently put out the flame with her bare foot.

The Children's Discovery Museum was such a neat place to host the event. There was so much to do and see, including a life-size firetruck.

And of course, the night wouldn't be complete without a pink bus.

Note to self: Become an Elite Yelp member A.S.A.P.!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Dream Job

Happy Friday! I hope everybody is out eating cheesy-covered foods and reveling in Friday night shenanigans. We are about to step out to catch Crazyheart with Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal. But first, a request. Could I show up to work on Monday and have a job like this? Please?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Work First

A good way to keep things fresh in any situation is to experience something novel in the targeted environment every once in a while. For example, tomorrow I am going to be sitting in a 4-hour meeting. This event is something that I have experienced before. Now, to switch things up, halfway through the 4-hour meeting, I have scheduled an official cookie break. Sure, I've eaten bunches of cookies in the afternoon before, but never have I had a scheduled appointment for the eating of said cookies.

I'm curious to know if there will be a black and white cookie in the Specialty's mix as those are, of late, my favorite kind, but more than that, I wonder how I will announce the cookie break. Should I suggest it? "Cookies, anyone?" Or should I make it more of an announcement? "Cookie time!" Would interrupting the meeting to ring a small bell to signal the arrival of the cookies be too much? I'm not sure, but I do hope everyone else likes the cookie break as much as I will.

If, having observed the ridiculousness of the above black and white Specialty's cookie, you would like to join the meeting in order to partake in the cookie break, this could probably be arranged if you have many intelligent things to contribute on the topic of technology. Or you could just bring the small bell and we could call it even.

(Photo by JonasApproved)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekend Splurge

I have a secret to confess. In the kitchen, I have been using steak knives to chop up all my food -- vegetables, meat, cheese, you name it. I actually had no idea that there were better things available to cut food up with. 8 years of cooking later, I found myself complaining to Roy about how long cooking takes. He, being the experienced cook master he is, asked me a series of revealing questions:

He: Does it take you a long time to chop and stuff?
He: What kind of knife are you using?
Me: Umm... a steak knife type thing?
He: A steak knife??? No wonder you hate cooking! I'd hate it too if I were cutting with a steak knife!
Me: What do you mean? What do you chop with? What else is there?

And this was when Roy introduced me to the scintillating world of fine cutlery. When he explained that some knives made it so that one needn't saw at food to cut it, I was blown away. I had been sawing food up for so long that I just couldn't imagine cutting any other way. Because his carbonara recipe didn't fail me, I decided to trust him on this. I thought about it for a number of weeks, deciding between the different brands. Today I finally took the plunge and bought my first nice knife, a Global 7" hollow-ground Santoku.

I tested it out while cooking dinner tonight, and as promised in the countless reviews I had read, it cut like a dream. Plus, on the back of the box, the Global makers liken the knife to that of a samurai sword, so it definitely helps that it makes you feel like you are a great warrior taking care of business as you chop up your vegetables.

Feeling like Giada right about now, minus the cute outfit and exceptionally manicured nails.

The most beautiful, finely chopped garlic and scallions I have ever chopped myself in less than 10 minutes.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Please Excuse My Russian

While in Seattle over the holidays, I made friends with a delightful lass named Anna. Anna could do multiple pull ups and majored in math, all things that I can't do. Our meeting was a timely one as she was planning to move to Germany just a few weeks later for an indefinite length of time. She enjoyed the nomadic lifestyle and didn't seem bogged down by the sentimental value of material things. It didn't matter if she would be leaving her family behind because there were planes where she was going, and when there are planes, visits can be made.

As a person who still has, in her possession, a card from her best friend from 8th grade graduation, I admired her free-ness. She could go anywhere and do anything, a life philosophy based on the belief that things would just "work out," and if they didn't, she could decide from there what to do next. I admired her not because I wanted to be her or to have that lifestyle myself, but because it put my own daily struggle with decisions in perspective. Should I have cereal or should I have oatmeal? is no longer an inner battle that lasts for 10 minutes. I think, Somewhere in the world someone is on a plane starting a new life, and then I will have some coffee, that being the obvious, sophisticated choice for morning nutrition.

One thing I admired most about her was the way she spoke. It was almost as though she were singing, a "hello" turned into a "hellll-ooooh." It was soothing and calming, which made me want to talk to her even more. I found out that her boyfriend was German and I asked if he had a German accent. Perhaps he, too, sang his words, and I wondered what that might sound like. Her boyfriend did have an accent and she explained that he sometimes constructed his English sentences in unique ways, something that she finds herself doing when she is around him. "Like you are mocking him?" I asked. She said, "No, not like that." When I still couldn't understand, I asked her for a demonstration, but she found she couldn't replicate it on the fly. It only came out when they were together.

With the non-English speaking bathroom construction men around all the time, I finally know what Anna was talking about. Yesterday, the one with the best English, the designated communicator of the group, beckoned me over to the bathroom. He explained as best he could, in his broken English, that although the bathtub was installed, we should not use it, and instead use the bathtub in the vacant unit downstairs.

"Bathtub here, no use. Down, you use, please," he explained slowly, making sure that I was catching his drift.

And then to assure him that I understood his request, I found myself repeating back to him, just as slowly, and in a Russian accent, "Bathtub, me, no use. Down, the more better, thank you."

Later that evening, I found out the men were Polish. Alan had asked. I was impressed.

"How did you find out?" I asked. "Did you point at him and say, 'You Russian?'" And I couldn't help but adopt my Russian accent once again at the end.

"No, I just said, 'Are you guys Russian?'" he said. "And then I asked if anyone wanted a diet cherry Coke."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Getting Situated

Now that we are officially moved in to our new place, I am surprised by the fact that I sort of miss the duplex. Well, some things about the duplex. Like the sound of trains late in the night, the reassuring cave-like atmosphere, and, oh, the bathroom! I really miss having a bathroom. To our surprise, when we moved in, our bathroom looked more or less like this, just not as nice:

This is the state it was in today after many, many hours of work by the construction men with blue eyes and white hair who do not speak English. This morning I stopped one of the men to ask if we might be getting a new toilet. He looked at me blankly, so I pointed at the toilet, made a face to show my disdain for it and then jerked my thumb out the door. Then he took both his hands, and moved them from right to left. I figured that meant that a new toilet would be coming, and once it came, would be installed in place of the old toilet. Or he could have just been telling me that sometimes he, too, has arthritis that acts up and makes him jerk his hands around.

When I got home from work, it was confirmed that indeed we would be getting a new toilet and sink, at least as indicated by the absence of the old fixtures. Our landlord called to apologize for the inconvenience of not having a toilet, sink or bath and to assure us that it would all be done--get this--tomorrow. Then she asked how it was working out using the bathroom in the vacant unit downstairs, and because I didn't want to tell her that it was creepy and exactly the kind of bathroom people are always caught in right before the killer shows up in horror movies, I said that it was fine. But I really miss having my own bathroom... inside my own place.

Amidst all the moving was Alan's birthday. It just wouldn't be right in a story involving the both of us if there weren't some tardiness involved, so I must admit that we took this picture 15 minutes before our dinner reservation. This probably explains why Alan looks like we should not be taking a picture at this time but getting in our car and driving to the restaurant, but that's okay.

It's okay because for his birthday, I took it upon myself to unpack and organize, turning this...

...into this:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rachel Comey oxfords

I've been on the search for the perfect pair of light brown oxfords for some time. I finally came across this beautiful pair by Rachel Comey. I love the color, the simplicity and the shape. Too bad they are all sold out!

In other exciting Rachel Comey news, she has an exclusive collaboration with Urban Outfitters called Contributor. A little less chic, but much more affordable, these moccasins are kinda cute.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Moving Up and Moving Out

As of Saturday, Alan and I will be officially moved in to our new apartment. It's exciting because all of the things that I thought were cute about the duplex when we first moved in have turned out to be actually very inconvenient. For example, in the tiny bathroom, the sink is located directly in front of the toilet about a foot away, and as it turns out, I wash my hands while seated on the porcelain pot much less often than I thought I would. There is also no real practical place to situate furniture in the living room, and the best available spaces for Alan's desk were in front of the bedroom door or in the middle of the kitchen. We thought maybe the spot in the kitchen could get ugly what with the possible oil splatters and the kitchen oven being right there, so we had agreed to place it in front of the bedroom. This proved to be all sorts of inconvenient, but it was better, I figured, than having too many cooks in the kitchen.

As the move date gets closer, I find myself, after driving around for 10 minutes looking for parking, saying things like, "I can't wait to have my own parking space!" And I am surprised by just how many things I can’t wait for. A non-pink, non-ugly bathroom sink that is next to, and not in front of, the toilet, hardwood floors, parking, on-site laundry, free water, a convenient rent drop box which requires zero stamps, a heater that isn't located in the floor and isn't activated by a medieval turn key, the possibility of a garbage disposal! This may well be the closest feeling I will ever get to being invited to live in a castle.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Roy's Carbonara

Usually, really good things happen when I visit my friend Roy in L.A. If I sit on his couch and impede his ability to carry about his daily activities for long enough, he will eventually come to understand that I do not plan on leaving until the magic happens. Which is exactly what happens when he goes into the kitchen with a few key ingredients and comes back out moments later with piping hot bowls of delectable soup and pasta or plates of fragrant, freshly baked cookies. Before I met him, I didn't know that people like me could make food like that.

One dish of his I remembered fondly from this past summer is his carbonara. Hearty, tasty and satisfying, his carbonara haunted me all last week. I had a terrible craving for it, but, since we live in opposite ends of the state, I finally decided to put an end to the hankerings by trying to re-create the dish myself. Luckily for me, Roy had made a video of his carbonara magic, one that I'd end up studying fifty times over before finally trying my hand in the kitchen.

I am overwhelmingly surprised (bordering on shock) pleased to report that the carbonara was actually very, very good. So good, in fact, that Alan had three helpings of it. This is solid evidence of the goodness of the dish as when a dish is not so good, Alan will exclaim over-enthusiastically about the great merits of the dish and I will eat only the bits of garlic in whatever it is I have made. This time neither of us spoke, the aroma of bacon and parmesan overpowering any need for words.

And now for the good news! You, too, can make Roy's carbonara. Here is his video on how to make it. (I absolutely love this video, by the way. And it was only after I had watched it for the 50th time that I learned from him that it is actually not really a video but a series of still photos -- over 1200!)

If you are, like me, a better absorber of information through the written medium, here is his recipe written out with words and all:

A spot o' heavy whipping cream
A touch o' Italian parsley
6 cloves of garlic
10 strips of bacon
A smattering of peas
1 lb. of spaghetti
7 (depending on your hand size) handfuls of shredded parmesan
1.5 eggs

Chop Italian parsley finely and set aside. (I realized that I do not like the taste of this green garnish, but it is so pretty all mixed in to the dish that I couldn't resist chopping up a few sprigs).
Also chop, and set aside, garlic and bacon. Place parmesan in a separate bowl. Cook the bacon until crispy, place cooked bacon on a paper towel'd plate. Reserve about a quarter of the bacon fat in the pan and saute garlic, bacon and peas. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and pour over parmesan cheese. Add a spot of cream and a dash of salt. Mix well. Boil spaghetti and drain well. Place the bacon, pea and garlic mixture in the pot and add pasta. Add salt and pepper and mix together. Stir in cheese mixture (make sure it is off the heat!) and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley and more parmesan. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert On Marriage

When I read Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, it felt like I was spending time with a very good friend, a friend who just so happened to be telling me the story of her adventure to three very different places. I felt like I had gotten to know her so well that I actually felt a pang of sadness when I finished the book and no longer had her around. Luckily enough, I recently found out that she has written a new book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. She talks about the book and about marriage in this interview, and I found something she said to be very eloquently stated (and not just because she mentions Britney Spears either).

"Marriage is not a game for the young. One lesson that Britney can teach us is: Don't get married when you're 20 years old, for reasons I am certain I do not need to explain. Maturity brings--among other things--the ability to sustain and survive enormous contradictions and disappointments. Marriage is--among other things--a study in contradiction and disappointment, and inside that reality there is space for us to truly learn how to love. But it is wise to check at least a few of our most idealistic youthful dreams at the door before entering." --Elizabeth Gilbert

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Post Office Pens

When my sister told me she was having a bad day (which would then turn into a string of bad days, each bad day, hopefully, less bad than the day before it, but still bad nonetheless), I had to get her a cheer up present. Because who doesn't like getting presents when they are down in the dumps? Exactly. Along with the present, I made her a homemade card, partly because I found out she really likes it when I make her those and partly because making mini-collages from magazine cutouts is a part of my 13-year old self that never grew up.

Today I admired my work and even showed it to Nathalie who remarked that I've always been good at making homemade cards. Then I lost myself for a moment or two daydreaming about opening a card shop somewhere slightly hip, but quaint, in a town which would appreciate my mini-collage card art form. When I came back to reality, I walked over to the post office to mail my package.

If this had been a Saturday, it might have been less irritating to have to wait in line at the post office for 20 minutes just to mail a small, tiny, itty-bitty package, but when you're on your lunch hour and have places to go and things to do, every minute that ticks by can really start to get under your skin.

After about 25 minutes, I began studying the interactions at the counter to find out where the hold up was happening. I noticed that every customer was spending time filling out labels and forms. I looked down at my blank label and guessed that I, too, would have to be the jerk holding up the line by filling out my label at the counter where there might be an available pen.

When it was finally my turn, the lady behind the counter looked at my blank label and then at me.

"You're going to have to step out of line to fill that out," she informed me.

"What? Oh, but no," I said. Perhaps she thought I had forms upon forms to fill out like the people ahead of me had. But all I had was just one small address label, something I could fill out in the quickest of flashes, if only I just had a pen... "I just need to fill this out. Can you just weigh my package while I do that?"

"No, you have to be all ready to go," she said in a huff.

Resigned, I moved to the side, but not before asking to borrow a pen.

"I'm all out of pens," she said. Then, seeing as how I wasn't moving, she sighed and got up from her seat to find me one.

"But isn't that a pen?" I asked, pointing at the black ball point in front of me, just out of arms reach.

"Yes, but that's my pen," she said. And she was serious.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Our Blog of Love Photography

Sometimes I get into this mood where all I want to do is sit and look at beautiful wedding photography. There is something about weddings that is so perfect and pretty that I can just sit and stare for hours, even if, especially if, I don't know whose getting married. It's all the more perfect then because I wasn't there to know if the bride and her mom had an awkward, inappropriate spat right before the bride walked down the aisle or if the crab cake appetizers tasted like dry bread. All I see are two perfectly dressed and handsomely made up people on a very important, very expensive day of their lives. It's the stuff great photography is made of!

Tonight, in a successful effort to put off something that needs doing, I was enjoying the photography from Our Blog of Love when all of a sudden I saw this picture:

I realize now that I forgot something -- apes. Apes also make great photography. Especially ones like this one.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fuzzy Backgrounds Abound

My very first batch of pictures taken with my fancy new camera! (Okay, it's not really that fancy, but I like to pretend).

Christmas dinner -- seafood hotpot.

Sophie's new dress which looked fabulous on her and which made her feel "like a worker at a store." (I think that is a good thing.)

Waterfalls make such excellent backgrounds.

Mom at Multnomah Falls

These llamas are my family's next door neighbors. I've wanted to photograph them for years -- can you imagine having llamas next door and not wanting to? This wasn't quite the shot I had in mind, but it was so cold outside that this was the best we could do with our fingers half frozen.

When Alan saw them, he exclaimed how ugly they were, but I think they are terribly cute.

On the bit of deck in the backyard, we have a neighborhood cat that comes by and lounges for hours on end, soaking in sun and waiting for snuggles. Alan named her Garfield.

Some families bake sugar cookies on Christmas Eve to leave out for Santa. My parents made bananas and sweet rice wrapped in banana leaves to leave out for me.

Banana leaves

Special baby bananas = super sweet

Made with love

Family <3 (Next year, per goal no. 1 in the previous post, the family Christmas picture will hopefully look warmer and fuzzier than this year's)


When writing about one's life in a blog, there is, of course, the fear that one might write too much. This maybe wouldn't be a problem if I lived by myself in the middle of the woods and wrote mostly about my adventures in collecting rocks and trying to light cooking fires, but sometimes life has a funny way of not always turning out to be what we originally wanted. In search of a new supplemental creative outlet, I've recently become intrigued by photography and what neat and amazing things can be captured and expressed in that format. For Christmas, Alan got me a Nikon D3000, and so, this year, I've resolved to learn how to use it better, particularly in tricky low lighting settings.

It's also worth noting that my friend Thai pressured me (or was it challenged me?) into creating a list of 30 goals to be completed before or by age 30. I'm not sure exactly why, but this has turned out to be a rather challenging task. It might be because I feel 30 is too large a number to be taken seriously, a quantity which makes a list of goals (which by definition (at least the one I subscribe to) should be weighty and lofty) seem more like a mundane "to-do" checklist.

But, alas, I did tell him that I would work on the list, and so here is what I have so far:

1) Learn how to take better pictures.
2) Cook more.
3) Go to Cambodia.
4) Go to Italy.
5) Get better at yoga.
6) Hike regularly.
7) Be more calm.
8) Begin writing (and eventually complete) a collection of short stories.
9) Maintain friendships, especially with the friends who live far away.
10) Figure out how to do the pencil twirling thing with my fingers that all the Asian kids in high school knew how to do.
11) Go clamming.
12) Go to Hawaii.
13) Drink a fruity beverage out of a coconut shell with a tiny paper umbrella in it whilst laying on a beach absorbing sun and eating Clementines.

What are your 2010 resolutions/resolutions for the next few years?
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