Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where Christmas trees come from

This year, Alan and I cut down our own Christmas tree! Because neither of us had ever done it before, I fantasized pictured that we'd drive up to a mountain somewhere and chop down a few trees like in a SUV commercial. But it turns out that that's illegal, so instead we went to a Christmas tree farm where everything's all very organized and there are trees everywhere.

Our friend Scott, who's an expert at chopping down Christmas trees, helped us scope out the best ones. He said to pick a tree surrounded by light, that way it would have even branches all the way around.

I got a little carried away practicing for the big chop.

We picked a really nice tree (the biggest one we've ever had), and cutting it down was a lot easier than I had imagined.

 It's all about the saw action...

 And yelling "timber!" as the tree falls.

That evening we came home and set our tree up in the living room. The entire house smelled like fresh pine; it was pretty wonderful. Now that we've seen our tree's original surroundings, it's fun and odd to see it standing indoors next to our non-naturey TV and books. He definitely needs some lights and tinsel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This polka dot sweater...

...has me smitten. 

(Sweater and photos from Madewell)


Rival Schools

I recently got a new cube mate at work who's a USC Trojan (UCLA's top rival!). Even though I'm not the biggest college sports fan, our schools' rivalry makes poking fun of each other a daily treat. One day I saw that he had put up a school pennant on his wall, so the next day, to show my own school spirit, I wore my favorite UCLA t-shirt. It made me feel smug, even if no one else noticed but me. I always think it's funny when people take their schools' rivalries ultra seriously.

Who's your school's biggest rival? Do you have lots of school spirit? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Post-Thanksgiving Weekend

Did you have a good Thanksgiving weekend? My mom and dad were in town so I spent lots of time with them. We ate dim sum, went for walks, and I made everyone stop to admire all the pretty foliage. Four-day weekends feel like mini vacations to me. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Two great movies to rent during Thanksgiving weekend

I can't believe it's already time for Thanksgiving again! Since we have such a long homey weekend ahead of us, I just wanted to recommend two really great movies you can rent and watch from the comfort of your own couch: Beginners and Win Win. Beginners is quirky and touching, and Win Win —starring Paul Giamatti; I love him! — is super funny. Neither is Thanksgiving-centric, but I can guarantee they're both thoroughly entertaining. We just watched Beginners this past weekend, and I'm still thinking about it.

(bottom photo via IMDb)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grandma Furman's Persimmon Cookies

Alan's favorite cookies of all time are these persimmon cookies his grandma makes. I was reminded that I had the recipe recently and made a batch this weekend, and now they're one of my favorites, too. Alan describes them as tasting like mini muffin tops — they have a wonderful soft texture — but the rest of it's hard to explain. It's got the warm spices of most pumpkin desserts and a little bit of heartiness like that of an oatmeal cookie, but so much better than both overall. I was planning on making this brown butter raspberry tart for Thanksgiving this week, but I think I'm going to make more of these. What are you bringing to your Thanksgiving dinner(s) this year?

Grandma Furman's Persimmon Cookies 
(aka Alan's Favorite Cookies of All Time)

1 tsp baking soda
1 stick of butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1 egg, beaten
1 c persimmon pulp (I used the hachiya variety)
2 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c chopped nuts (I love walnuts in cookies)
1 1/2 c raisins

Sprinkle baking soda over pulp and let stand. In a medium-sized bowl, cream butter. Add sugars and beat well. Add egg and persimmon pulp. Mix well. Add sifted dry ingredients, nuts, and raisins. Mix until just combined. (Mixture will be sticky.) Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Yields 36-48 small cookies.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Have you ever been kissed by surprise?

Have you ever been kissed by surprise? I never have, but I think they're one of the funniest kinds of kisses — they turn a (usually) intimate moment between two people into something completely goofy. My friend Stacy was once kissed by surprise, and there's even the greatest photo booth pictures of all time to go along with it! Every time I see it, it makes me laugh. Here's her story...

My husband Robbie has this crazy tradition where he kisses the groom each time a friend gets married. It started a couple of years ago when he was a groomsman in his good friend’s wedding. After the wedding party walked out of the wedding, they all gathered in a private room to celebrate while guests exited the church, and Robbie planted a big, fat, wet one on his friend! The groom was surprised, the rest of the wedding party was surprised, and I would say that even Robbie was a little surprised.

Since then, he has decided to make it a tradition to kiss his (groom) friends on their wedding days. He’ll even go so far as to inform people it’s a compliment when they're kissed, because of course this means he considers you a good friend. When our good friends, Alison and Elijah, got married last year, the tradition hadn't changed. Before the wedding, someone spilled the beans and gave Elijah warning about what to expect on his big day. This made Robbie’s mission a bit more challenging.

Elijah spent most of the day dodging kisses from Robbie. He swiftly avoided him while he was talking to his grandparents, he blocked him from sneaking up on him from around a corner, and he escaped an “almost trapped” situation in the kitchen. At this point, Robbie probably sounds a little bit like a creep, but I do want to provide the disclaimer that this specific situation had turned into a battle of wills. Elijah was determined to avoid the kiss and Robbie was determined to plant the kiss.

Meanwhile, us ladies were having a blast. We were dancing, mingling, and taking part in the photo booth they had set up. Since Alison and Elijah would be moving in with us after the wedding, we thought it would be a great idea to take a roommate picture in the photo booth.  We gathered up and decided on what theme each of the four frames would include: official, silly, crazy, and improv.

We all looked great for the first frame. I made sure to do my usual angry face and threatening choke for the second. Sarah and I leaned in to give Alison cheek kisses on the third, and that’s when it happened. I had my eyes closed and lips puckered facing Alison. All of a sudden I felt lips pressed against mine and they were not Robbie’s. Alison had planted a big, fat, wet one on ME! I was in complete shock and couldn’t stop laughing at the same time. After “the kiss,” Alison explained that since Robbie wanted to steal a kiss from her lover so badly, she decided to steal a kiss from his.

Aren't the photos priceless? Robbie's face in the third frame cracks me up. And I love how surprised Stacy looks in the last frame and how Ali's totally flipping her hair back like "Gotcha!"

Thanks for sharing, Stacy

(Top photo via pinterest)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My (Mildly) Roaring 20s: Conversations Between Couples

Do you ever wonder what couples talk about when they're alone? I imagine that just like the kinds of conversations you have with your mom or your best friend, the heart-to-hearts you have with your significant other are different from the talks you have with anyone else. Alan and I talk about all sorts of things. There are a lot of random things and then there are things that carry over from conversation to conversation. Last week, we talked about what we'd want the other person to read to us if we ever got diagnosed with locked-in syndrome. (We both agreed on David Sedaris.) Alan talks a lot about the faults of our couch; I talk about finding a rug to pull the room together. We both somehow bring up a basset hound topic at least once a day (their walks, their sausage shape, their silly personalities... we could really go on).

Sometimes though, the most telling conversations are the ones that couples don't have together. Like the ones between my grandparents. They've been together for over 60 years, have raised 11 children, and have ventured across the globe from Cambodia to California to start a new life together. They're barely ever apart. Once, my grandma shared the benefits of marriage with us as she saw them. She said there were two great things: 1) that you only have to make half of the bed in the morning and 2) that you have someone to share a few words with each day. Just a few. In all the times I've seen them together, they're never particularly chatty.

This weekend my grandpa was hospitalized. We all feared and suspected it was an unstoppable cancer even before the biopsy came back, but no one dared tell my grandma until there was absolutely no denying it. But she knew. Somehow she knew. On the first day of his hospital stay, our huge family filled his room. We all tried to talk about other things. I talked about the cat slippers he had brought from home. Someone else talked about the hospital food. My grandma didn't say much. Mostly, she sat and watched him, like she was afraid he would disappear any second. I wondered if I'd ever know what they talked about alone in their apartment.

At one point, my cousin and I stepped out of the room for a break. Grandma followed. The door shut behind her, and all of a sudden she was saying everything she felt in their decades of life together without saying anything at all. She cried and cried, in the the most terrible soul-gripping way. There was nothing anyone could say. And after, she wiped away her tears, went back inside, and our hearts hurt.

(Image by devil_smile55)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Your Perfect Day

My best girl Nat once took a class where her professor posed this simple question: What would your perfect day be like? Where would you go? What would you do? Who would you be with? What would you eat? What would you smell? What would you see?

People said things like: go to the beach, sleep in, go on a hike, snuggle with my kids, meditate in the morning, be in nature, eat a big meal with friends and family, read a book. There were a lot of answers, but none of them were terribly extravagant. In fact, almost everyone's answers involved simple everyday activities. So he then asked, "How many of you have done any of the activities that you just described today?" No one raised their hands.

"Why not?" he asked.

People said that they had to work or that they didn't have enough time. He asked, "How much time would it take to read your book or to meditate in the morning?" People gave ranges of time, but some were as short as 15 to 30 minutes.

The point he was trying to make was that so many of us have these simple things we could do that would make us happy — would culminate in a perfect day even — that we never seem to get around to. So why don't we try to do them more?

I know I have a lot of days where I feel like I'm rushing from one thing to the next and feel like I have absolutely no time for things on my "perfect day" list. I'll get to bed later than I'd like and spend the rest of the week feeling like I'm playing a losing game of catch-up. I hate feeling so frazzled and am always looking for balance. I just read this really great article about the power of doing less. The author says, "But do what you do with complete and hard focus. Then when you're done be done, and go enjoy the rest of the day." Doesn't that sound like a great idea? I'm going to give it a try and see if I can squeeze in more time for walks, reading, and chats with friends and family.

What would your perfect day be like? 

(top image by Sunday Photo, bottom image via i don't bite)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New favorite burger place: Naglee Park Garage

This weekend I (finally!) watched The Princess Bride — which is as good as everyone says it is — and discovered my new favorite burger place in San Jose: Naglee Park Garage. Alan and I are always on the lookout for a good burger, and I'm ecstatic we found this place because it's so close to home. I've probably driven by it a good number of times, but it's so tiny I've never noticed it before. Their burgers are perfect: big and juicy with a side of thick-cut fries. So perfect for a Friday night! For dessert we ordered the vanilla bread pudding but forgot to wait for it and got up and left after eating our burgers. I realized halfway home and made Alan turn back. The restaurant was so happy I'd come back for it, and after tasting the whipped cream, so was I. 

(Top and bottom photo from Yelp, middle photo c/o my iPhone)

Monday, November 14, 2011


It's pomegranate season! I loved pomegranates as a kid because the seeds inside reminded me of lost treasure — all these glistening rubies just waiting to be found. Nowadays, I love them because they remind me of the holidays. Using the seeds to make festive ice cubes is one of my favorite party tricks.

Using a sharp knife, cut a pomegranate in half from top to bottom and then use your hands to carefully pick out all the seeds. (Tip: Don't wear a white shirt!) Drop a few seeds in each ice cube compartment, fill with water, and freeze. Even a simple glass of water looks like it's ready to have a good time :)

And two other pomegranate party ideas I love:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Scallop: Feeling Edgy

Scalloped edges are on my current list of favorites. They can make almost anything look whimsical, don't you think? I got this black skirt to wear to holiday parties and because it makes me feel like I'm wearing a piece of a gingerbread house (of course, only in the good way). Here are a few other pretty pieces with this lovely subtle border. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Anthropologie's Holiday e-Cards

How cute are Anthropologie's holiday e-cards? You can find a whole gallery of them here, and spread some holiday cheer! 

p.s. I know everyone complains about how Christmas gets here earlier and earlier every year, but I have to admit I'm totally smitten — I've already listened to A Very She & Him Christmas album a few times through! 

My (Mildly) Roaring 20s: Business Trip Adventures

The career fairs I'd go to my senior year of college felt really exciting. Everyone would be wearing suits and looking all professional (a big change from the sea of jeans and flip flops you'd normally see around campus every day). I'd talk to recruiters and try to impress them with the modest things I thought they might find impressive on my short resume, and in turn, they'd try to impress me with their glossy brochures and official-looking business cards.

The best part was when recent graduates were there to represent their current employers. These people had jobs. Which meant that they were the people I wanted to be. My favorite question to ask them was "What's a typical day like for you?" And my favorite response, the one I got a lot, was "It's hard to say — every day is different!" Of course, now I know that most people's work days aren't that remarkably different, but back then, boy, I thought this meant that I'd be sealing million dollar deals one day and jumping out of planes the next.

Working in a stable office environment has taught me to embrace the small things that make each day unique: cake on somebody's birthday, a particularly satisfying lunch, a tiny bit of water-cooler gossip. For me, the king of these small indulgences, the thing that really shakes things up, are business trips. I've only been on a handful here and there, so I definitely haven't tired of them yet, and I could see how they wouldn't be fun if you had to do it all the time or are forever going for no-fun reasons, but almost every business trip I've gone on has been pretty neat. Two of my favorites are the time I went to prison and the time I went to Tennessee to eat at Wolfgang Puck Express.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Denise's Bow-Themed Surprise Party!

This weekend was my cousin Denise's surprise birthday party! My cousins and I have been secretly planning and crafting for it for the past few months, and it was so fun to surprise her with it all. It was bow-themed, which meant...

 ...everyone wore bows!

We set up a cake buffet table with jars of candy and a big happy birthday banner.

For guests that didn't come already wearing bows, we made lots of extras for people to wear in their hair or clipped to their shirts.

 Our centerpieces were cans we spray painted one of Denise's favorite colors: Tiffany blue.

The cakes were amazing. My friend Ali made them, and they were a huge hit. I love the bow-covered cake she created just for our party.

One last fun party detail: right before the festivities began, but before she knew what we had up our sleeves, we gave Denise a bow-themed outfit to change into. She arrived at the party wearing this sparkly bow dress that was just perfect on her.

Here's a picture of our cousins, boyfriends, and friend Sean — at one point we all worked together at the same company!
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