Sunday, August 5, 2012

Good: Day 2

The second assignment in August's 30 days of food campaign is to learn how to say "thank you" in 10 languages. I did a mental check of what languages I already know:

  • Cantonese: Do jeh

  • English: Thank you

  • French: Merci

  • German: Danke

  • Italian: Grazie

  • Japanese: Arigato

  • Korean: Gamsahabnida

  • Mandarin: Xie xie

  • Portuguese: Obrigada

  • Spanish: Gracias

  • Vietnamese: Cam on

That's 11, including English. Not bad! Of course this means I didn't actively learn something for the day... so I decided to intentionally learn how to say it one more language. Swedish: Tack.

In what language(s) can you say "thank you"?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Good: Back to school


This month I'm going to try Good magazine's 30 days of good challenge. The theme is "Back to School" and today's assignment is to start reading a book.

From young adult fiction to literature to short story to a book on lettering, I've got a stack of books in progress and am going to continue with them.

Here's what I have:

  • Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire. I was #200-something on the list when I put this book in hold! But the library has 300 copies of it (!) so the wait wasn't so bad.

  • Zadie Smith, On Beauty. I finished her first, prize-winning novel, White Teeth, last year, and found this copy in my local thrift shop.

  • John Biggs, Craft of Lettering. I like how this book describes the characteristics of each letter and I enjoy learning typographic terminology. Here's an excerpt of the letter J, which I read on the train this morning:

J is a letter which was not used by the early Romans and therefore does not appear in their inscriptions, but it came into occasional use in the second century for the consonant Y and the vowel I. It was not until the seventeenth century that J was established to represent its present consonant sound. In form it is an I carried below the bae line and may taper to a point or swing to an abrupt finish in a sheared terminal. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it sometimes ended in a circular blob. In 'modern face' letters the tail of the J does not descent below the line.

  • Lydia Davis, Collected stories. This is a dense volume and full of all kinds of stories, some of which comprise simply one sentence. It's great short-span reading, and gives me great hope for my own scattered craft! Here's one short story, "A Position at the University":

I think I know what sort of person I am. But then I think, But this stranger will imagine me quite otherwise when he or she hears this or that to my credit, for instance that I have a position at the university: the fact that I have a position at the university will appear to mean that I must be the sort of person who has a position at the university. But then I have to admit, with surprise, that, after all, it is true that I have a position at the university. And if it is true, then perhaps I really am the sort of person you imagine when you hear that a person has a position at the university. But, on the other hand, I know I am not the sort of person I imagine when I hear that a person has a position at the university. Then I see what the problem is: when others describe me this way, they appear to describe me completely, whereas in fact they do not describe me completely, and a complete description of me would include truths that seem quite incompatible with the fact that I have a position at the university.

  • Isabel Allende, Island Beneath the Sea. Sent to me, along with the above, by someone I greatly respect and admire, describing it as probably the best book he has ever read. I can't wait to get into it!

  • Kathryn Stockett, The Help. I know: super behind on this one. I saw the film last year but have not had a chance to crack it open yet.

  • Clare Vanderpool, Moon Over Manifest. First one, pulled at random, on my quest to read the Newbery Award winners. This is 2011's and I like it so far.

This is only a part of the stack of books strewn about my apartment. Who knows when I'll finish them all! Bye the bye, as it always is. What's on your summer reading list? I love recommendations. And do you know about Goodreads? Yea or nay? Or would you vouch for another book list site?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Color-coded clothing


red-orange | pink | off-white | navy | grey


I brought out the crochet that's been sitting under my coffee table for months, and in between readings and musings and during phone conversations, finally managed to finish one of two bolster covers.


This used to be a XL men's cotton cable sweater that I thrifted something like six summers ago. If feels very gratifying to have:

  • practiced crochet

  • reupcycled

  • finished!

Only one more to go! Let's hope it takes about six weeks rather than six months this time. And let's not even talk about years.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Even though I hardly remember a time when there were no animals at my home growing up -- from dogs to cats to birds to fish. Including piranha! And snakes! -- I have never considered myself a pet person. Part of it is because ours were always outdoor pets, and outdoor duties went to my brothers (that's how it worked in my family). Beyond that, though, I've always been nervous about their sudden movements and start at fuzzy (or wet!) nuzzlings. And I'm not a huge fan of all the shedding.

Our dalmation, Zip (or Zipper, as I like to call him), didn't really have sudden movements. He was a beast and you could see -- and smell -- him coming a block away. When he got to you, he'd wag his tail so excitedly that you'd sometimes get a rather painful lashing. He was infinitely playful and cheerful, and never realized his own strength. I admit that I was scared of him in his early adulthood because he seemed so unpredictable.

As he got older, Zipper never lost his exuberance, never forgot about us. He would run to the gate whenever I came back to my parents' house, and whine until I reached over the fence to pet him. Then he'd sneeze -- always big, wet sneezes -- and get his slobber and fur all over my arms and pant legs.  Yum.

He got older and older. And arthritic. It gradually became harder for him to get up and run to me when I came over to my dad's house. My brother moved back home and started taking better care of Zipper, and he got better. But he didn't get younger. After my brother got back from a trip recently, he sent a concerned email to the familiy to let us know that Zipper would barely move and could hardly control his bladder or bowels anymore. I came to see him a couple of days after that and saw that he had weakened considerably since the last time I saw him. Still, my little Zipper came to greet me. He leaned all his weight into my leg, like he always did -- but was so wobbly that he ended up rolling over and ended up on his side. I helped him to his stomach, cleaned him up a bit, and took this picture. 


We said goodbye Zip last Saturday. It was so difficult to see him at the vet's -- my brother had to carry him into and out of the car -- his breathing had become so labored. He still hobbled around the room, sniffing at the different scents and chewing up pet treats. The veterinarian confirmed that there was nothing we could do that would restore him, and that the summer heat was probably making it more difficult for we decided that it was time. I made sure to look into his face for a long, long while. So that I would remember him. So that he would know that he was loved. I think he knew.

I thought about what a luxury it is to be able to say goodbye to a loved one. I'm glad I got that opportunity with the Zipper. I'm glad I got to be there with my brother, that he didn't have to make the decision alone. We both agreed that Zip's quality of life wasn't very good at that point. That he had had a good -- no, great -- life, that he had brought us all a lot of happiness in all the ten or twelve years he was with us. That we were doing the right thing.

But it still sucked.

For the rest of the weekend I kept my mind and hands occupied with a lot of cleaning and ironing. The couple times I pulled up that picture on my phone, tears would well up and flow over. But I couldn't help it -- I mean, c'mon: that is one good looking doggy.

On Monday, I passed a woman walking her dog and mentally shook my head at the thought of her one day having to say goodbye to it, and that's why I could never have my own pet. But then it hit me: if I extended that thought to people, jobs, books, projects -- or anything, really -- I would never do anything. Or know anyone. Anything or anyone meaningful, that is. Just because something ends doesn't mean it's not worth having at all. Actually, it makes the time you have with that something even more precious.

I still don't see myself as a pet person, but I learned in that brief moment that memories are not lost; I can treasure them in my heart and mind. And, more importantly, I am not afraid of loving again, of loving more. And that's a very good thing.

Thanks for helping me realize that, little Zipper. I love you and miss you.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Following mom's feet

Soon after my mom passed, I piled up all my red and brightly colored clothes, bundled them together in a furoshiki, and relegated that to a corner of my closet. I wouldn't be wearing them for three years: the culturally appropriate mourning period for a parent.

A couple weekends ago -- only about halfway into the prescribed period -- I painted my toenails red, a color I haven't used since I-don't-remember-when.

Why did I commit such a faux pas?!

For one thing, those "rules" only loosely apply to me because I wasn't born in the home country, and we aren't there now.

But the real reason -- the one that makes most sense to me -- is because rather than miss and mourn my mom, which I do all the time anyway without even thinking of it, I wanted to intentionally celebrate and be like her (which Ikind of am anyway thanks to genetics).

When I still lived with my parents, my Mom and I had a weekly Sunday night ritual: I'd give her a manicure and/or pedicure; she always had French manicured fingernails and red toenails. We'd chat a little about our day or week, and then mostly read or write -- or in my mom's case, household bookkeeping and such -- in our own little words, but right next to each other.


Last weekend, my dad and I went to the cemetery to visit Mom's grave. I hadn't been there since my birthday. And it felt especially right to be there with my red toenails. I think she would have been glad about them.

Someone I know would call this, "Saying 'yes' to life." I think that's why it felt so good. And I think my mom would have agreed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer, so far

Could it be that it's only three weeks into summer? Life's been going at breakneck speed, so much so that I'm consciously creating me-time, even if it involves backing out of events previously committed to. Here are some snippets of what's been keeping me occupied:

  • Handmade tissue paper tassels for my BFF's birthday party

tissue tassels

  • Checking out: Shakespeare, American poets, craft books, Newbery Award winners


  • Making pizza with my Italy friends

  • Farmers Markets (I'm lucky to have access to four, from Tuesday to Friday!)


  • Watermelon + feta salad (with sea salt, honey, and olive oil): this summer's staple

summer salad

Much in between, and much more to go! A part of me feels like summer is entirely booked, but I am being intentional about finding making snippets of time for both big (being a bridesmaid in a month!) and little (calligraphy, coffee, conversations, crochet) things.

How are you spending your summer days?

Summer, so far

Could it be that it's only three weeks into summer? Life's been going at breakneck speed, so much so that I'm consciously creating me-time, even if it involves backing out of events previously committed to. Here are some snippets of what's been keeping me occupied:

  • Handmade tissue paper tassels for my BFF's birthday party

tissue tassels

  • Checking out: Shakespeare, American poets, craft books, Newbery Award winners


  • Making pizza with my Italy friends

  • Farmers Markets (I'm lucky to have access to four, from Tuesday to Friday!)


  • Watermelon + feta salad (with sea salt, honey, and olive oil): this summer's staple

summer salad

Much in between, and much more to go! A part of me feels like summer is entirely booked, but I am being intentional about finding making snippets of time for both big (being a bridesmaid in a month!) and little (calligraphy, coffee, conversations, crochet) things.

How are you spending your summer days?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Starting summer


When I asked about the "Gin + House-made Tonic," our server said that it was a bit lighter and fruitier than the regular stuff (probably on account of the grapefruit pulp), which made the drink "girlier."

I didn't know I'd been drinking like an old man.

So I ordered the special and found it a bit too flowery for my taste. When the server came by to ask how it was, I had to admit, "I think I like 'em dirty." So she brought me a regular. And all was well again.

We scoured the menu -- all three items -- for something to snack on, but all they had was "fries" (a cross between a potato wedge and potato skin; no thanks) and "puff chips with Thai salsa verde." To her credit, the server tried enthusiastically to make them sound really exotic.

"You mean the spongey, crispy, shrimpy ones?" I asked.

"Yes! That's exactly it!" she said.

"Uhm... the kind we grew up eating...?"

"Yeah, I guess so... Sorry."

"No worries. We were just looking for something a bit... different, is all."

We ended up ordering the "chips," for lack of a better option. "See? We don't hate our culture," I assured our server. And I must admit that the "Thai salsa verde," whatever was in it, was quite good.

All in all, though, a spontaneous happy hour with an old friend was a marvelous start to the summer. And said friend having experienced the merits of public transportation now that the Expo Line is open, such spontaneity may be the summer trend.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My happy home

Last year I mentioned the possibility of entering my apartment in the Small | Cool Contest.   I didn't get "moved in" enough to feel confident exhibiting my living space to the world, so I held off.  But I worked on my apartment here and there, and was ready to enter this year's contest; of course it helped that I was already in spring cleaning mode. I scrambled a bit to take and edit the photos and to create an easy floor plan, and got my entry in by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin. Yet sadly, my apartment wasn't selected for the contest. Still, I feel good about having entered at all -- my strong and courageous thing for April -- and I feel good about the little nest I've built these past 15 months. And I'm happy to share it with you here:

There are still a lot of things I'd like to do:

  • re-upholster the loveseat

  • turn my library card file into additional kitchen work/counter space

  • get rugs

  • design/furnish the patio

  • sew one last pillow cover

which is basically the list I had from last year! I also considered "upgrading" to a larger bed, but I'm just so darn comfortable in my little daybed, and I love my current layout -- it's so perfect for the very little time I actually spend here.  I've recently cleared some room for my round folding table, now in the corner; it just needs a spot of lighting to make it fully functional. In reality, however, I spend most of my time on the floor, near the coffee table that also serves as my dining table, desk, and craft surface.

Nevertheless, I would love to hear any comments (and criticisms), as there's always room for improvement and beautification. Lemme know what you think!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Birthday self-gifting


I have a habit of buying for others things that I want for myself. (Maybe a therapist would call this projection? Whatever.) It's something that I've noticed about my gift-buying habits over the last few years. And it makes sense, too, if "you are your friends" holds true. I get to buy something without the guilt of having been too extravagant, because it's okay to lavish other people with things. Win-win!

This year, however, is the year of being good to myself. So when I found out about the Graphic Image winter sale, I got my click on and picked out a few things. And they arrived just after my birthday!

A beautiful desk-sized address book in a beautiful Robin's Egg blue leather, with gold embossing and edged pages.  My pocket one, which I've had for seven years or something, is not in the best condition.  And I wanted something a bit more substantial, a bit more grown up. Not just as a place to store contact information, but a history of places and friends.  I love my parents' old address books, filled not only with their distinct and beautiful penmanships, but the strikethrus and squeezed-in jottings that reflect home purchases, new jobs, the advent of mobile phone numbers, and all sorts of life changes -- including births and deaths.  I am eager to start my own!

I have set up an online address book through Postable (ironic, I know), which I've emailed and posted to Facebook, for my friends to send me their updated information. Then I'll transcribe it all into my book.  But which pen to use? Or shall I use pencil? And shall I write in block letters or script? The possibilities are endless.

My second self-purchase was a jotter. It's such a classy way to write notes. And easier for me, the slightly scatterbrained overwriting lefty. I don't have to flip through pages, but whatever's on my mind can get shuffled to the top, and additional notes can be written. And when I write (or doodle) I have a nice, compact, flat surface.

So far I love my self gifts! What have you, or would you, buy for yourself?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

FO: Selbu Modern

If you've seen any of my weekly photo mosaics (which I'm terribly behind on, I know) you may have glimpsed my first FO of the year: a Selbu Modern beret.  A fantastic pattern! It's knit in a skein of Lang Jawoll sock yarn (white) and Elann Baby Cashmere (purple), both of which I've had in stash for years now. My stranding skills leave much to be desired, but blocking really helped even things out.

I finally took a couple moments after work to take some snapshots, which proved more difficult than I'd anticipated.  Here are the best couple of the lot.  They don't show off the hat exceptionally well, but well enough I suppose.

The pattern is simple enough to knit, because it's so well written and the chart is so clear.  The pattern adds just enough a pop of texture and contrast to my usual attire of mostly solids, yet doesn't overwhelm some of the prints I occasionally wear. This, along with an Urchin hat I knit up about three (!) years ago, has been keeping me warm and toasty all winter. A beret is the best hat for this head.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring cleaning

I was looking forward to Daylight Savings time so much, but got sick the weekend of and had to take most of the following week off. One day, when I finally mustered enough strength to get out of bed, I managed to squeeze in a spot of spring cleaning:


Ah, those old days of paper statements and returning cashed checks! I used to be quite fastidious with my bookkeeping: stapling receipts, in chronological order, to their corresponding statements. Boy am I thankful for paperless everything these days ! I finally let go of old, no longer applicable paperwork, too -- like AP and SAT scores, college acceptance letters, check stubs from part time college jobs (when I thought $11/hour was a killing!), etc.

I feel so much lighter and freer.  Next steps: my inbox and closet!

What's on your spring cleaning list?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Old School birthday bash

I love organizing and throwing parties for people. I love the planning, the sending, the organizing, the gathering of loved ones onto the birthday gal or guy. But when it comes to myself, I typically shy away and am content with a small dinner with my closest circle.

A few years ago I said to myself that by a certain age, I will love myself enough to throw my own birthday party.

"That certain age" was this year.  And amid doubt whether I'd actually follow through, I called my city and secured the gazebo area.  Once the credit card got charged, things got real.  So I downloaded the fonts (Marcelle and Colleged) and got out my contact list.

The theme: Old School.  Feelin' like a kid again. 

It couldn't have happened with all the help from friends far and near. My game masters filled up water balloons for the tossing.  Laid out sacks for racing.  And brought jute string for the three-legged race.  

My BFF laid out an entire spread to fulfill my "candy apple bar" request.  She even peeled the caramels, one by one, and melted them together. Another friend supplied the most delicious furikake Chex mix ever.  Yet another plucked and washed three whole bagfulls of lemons from his tree for me to have a lemonade stand. And cakes?  Three: the other BFF brought both the cake I wanted (a fruit tart) as well as "a proper birthday cake" (old school, complete with roses in our high school colors); and there was an awesome birthday brownie (which I may have taken home without sharing) with a secret message. 

My only real material contribution was the pinata, which was inspired by my inordinate love of polyhedra and high school Geometry Honors.  I'd wanted to cover it in tissue paper or fringed crepe, but ran out of time... but looks okay with seams done up in painter's tape.  I filled it with old school candies: Smarties, Tootsie Rolls, and Dum Dums. Everyone insisted that I take a turn at bat, and I need to tell you how desperately difficult it is to willfully destroy something you so lovingly created -- even if you made it to be destroyed.  I wasn't strong enough, but my brother (pictured) gave it a good go, and another karate-practicing friend gave it the death blow: a drop kick.  Beautiful yet painful to watch.

bay brownie


And the gifts.  A table full.  I haven't had so much to unwrap since I was a kid.  Which goes along with the old school theme, I suppose.  It was SO nice to be SO loved by SO many people -- from family to friends from so many periods and parts of life.


Funny: when everyone started gathering for the birthday song and cake, it was all I could do not to sing along; I'm usually the one holding the cake, or taking pictures, or recording. It took some a moment to remind myself that everyone was singing for me!  I had to force myself to stay in the center of the circle, and smile.  And once I accepted and allowed that in my heart, I could truly and fully appreciate and receive the well wishing. In the end, I'm glad that I gave myself this opportunity for people to shower me with love. Not so much with their presents, but their presence.  Both on this day and in my life all these years. 

Best! Birthday! Ever!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I've been told that if I ever run another 1/2 marathon, I'll be disappointed: no one produces like Disney. From bib pickup to expo to starting bell -- not a bell, but fireworks! -- to running through the theme parks, whilst Disney staff, music, and characters cheered us on. Runners themselves got into the Tinkerbell spirit.  I don't think I've seen so many wings or so much tulle in my life (on both women and men)! It was a memorable experience indeed.

magic kingdom run

mile 13


What a great way to start the year: crossing the finish line arm in arm with my oldest, closest friends!

From being someone who vehemently declared that I was not a runner, that I would never run, the last seven months have been quite a transformation -- mentally and physically. Here I am, a runner.  And the process taught me, all over again, that it's never to late to change. And that if I can change, anyone can.

The bestie is already talking about the Coast to Coast Race Challenge.  Hmm....

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


In every box of Crane's stationery there is a "Thank You" card. Over the years I've saved up a neat little stack, waiting for the perfect reuse opportunity.  It came this Valentine's Day! Inspired by a perforated card set I spied at Paper Source, I set to work.  Sketching different sized heart shapes as stencils. Grabbing my thimble and a small nail. Punching away. Then sewing, using sock yarn remnants.

I decided to employ the trusty fountain pen to fill up some of the white space, resulting in one of my favorite cards, which was sent to one of my besties:

Here's what my coffee table looked like at the end of January and beginning of February:

As you can see, I didn't just sew my cards.  I also picked up some cardstock and "X" and "O" letters at Paper Source to make some simple "hug and kiss" cards.  I splurged on the anatomical heart stamp and new ink pad to make a "heart of gold" card. And I printed out Zebra and Love Big cards, free printables courtesy of Bunny Cakes. The variation was absolutely necessary to save my poor fingers from all the needlework, and to flex some creative muscles. 

I had a good time creating about 20 cards, and more fun writing messages to my beloveds. Hope you all had a Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Week 4

home cookin' | li xi | cheetah carpet! | twilight | "fortune" | [x] | bibbed

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Week 3

earl grey | almost mont blanc | gift hat knitting | looking up | air mail pad | freshly blocked | gambling

Friday, January 13, 2012

Week 1

bay bridge | closet clean-up | chimay | diy calendar | new year's cards | banh xeo | italy reunion

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mini Moleskine

When I first saw the Moleskine mini daily planner online, I immediately dismissed it as useless: it was way too small.  I saw it in person when I went in search of a 2012 planner at my local bookstore, and after a bit of handling, I determined again that it wouldn't be functional for me.

But some kinda bug had gotten a hold, and the desire to acquire grew stronger and stronger.  Was it the cute factor?  The chubby factor?  I'm not sure.  As I looked ahead to 2012 I knew I wanted to get back to being more creative.  I thought about doing a daily sketch.  And maybe a gratitude journal. And by the bye, this tiny little Moleskine became a necessity.

Still, I hesitated.  In SF I stopped in at Phoenix and Dog-Eared books, half looking for the planner.  I found one, and convinced myself that I didn't want a navy blue one.  Of course, once January 1 hit I realized that I had to have one.  But by then they were nowhere to be found--of course.  Oh man, did I kick myself.

I considered ordering one online, but my need for instant gratification could not be stopped.  I spent all of last week looking for it -- Vroman's, Dick Blick, Barnes & Noble, MOCA gift shop, WDCH gift shop, Kinokuniya, Urban Outfitters, Paper Source, and a couple of shops in my neighborhood -- all to no avail.  Finally, last Saturday, I shimmied into a Papyrus store, hope all but gone... and sitting on a shelf were three of these wee guys!  I grabbed one immediately and rushed to the cashier counter... where it was rung up for 50% off!  Eep!

Can you guess what my first gratitude entry was?!  I'd been mentally cataloging some of my gratitudes for the week, and  jotted them down on the corresponding dates, too.  I haven't sketched anything yet, but a slightly-larger-than-credit-card sized sheet of paper seems a feasible nad no-pressure space upon which to unleash my creative juices.  So far I like sitting for a few moments at the end of the day to think about what I'm grateful for.  It's a good way to wind down.

We'll see how this works.  If all goes well, I'll have a cute little memento of the year, and perhaps, even a new tradition to continue.  And who knows what else -- wishmeluck!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The perfect souvenir

When my coworker told me she was going out of town to spend the holidays with her sister and new niece in Fort Bragg, my eyes visibly widened and I let out a quite audible, "Eep!"

"Is that a few hours north of San Francisco?" I asked.

"Yes; they moved up there for my brother-in-law's job. How have you heard of Fort Bragg?"

"That's where one of my favorite breweries is!"

We consulted a bit on an embroidery project she was working on for the new baby, and went our separate holiday ways at nenmatsu. Though we started work again last week, today's the first day I actually saw her. And this is what she brought back for me:

beer sampler[north coast brewery sampler]

Eep -- I can't wait to try them all!

I suggested to my coworker that if she wants to visit her sister and niece again, I am confident in my northbound driving, so maybe we can go together, stay a few days in Fort Bragg (so I can visit the brewery!) and hang out in SF or the Fort Bragg environs.  She was enthusiastic.  And the Presidents Day holiday is upcoming.  It seems plans may be afoot.