Friday, August 31, 2012

Fab Five Friday {8/31}

1. Short bike ride with H and exploring the neighborhood

2. Meeting up with my friend Fanny for tea - we make it a point to sit and chat at least every 3 months

3. LA morning commute - it's not fabulous because it's worse with back-to-school, and LA has A LOT of crazy, angry drivers, but it's fabulous nevertheless when I compare it to commuting to Long Beach which I was doing for 2 years

4. Finishing the book Wild (read my review and story here)

5. 2nd Pop Physique class

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wild, the book, and my version of Wild

Do you have a penchant for hiking? A love for nature? A quest to conquer the mountains?

If yes, you might enjoy this new book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It's her memoir on how, after her mother's unexpectant death, her loss of family, marriage, and self, she hiked some 1100 miles solo along the Pacific Crest Trail through California and Oregon.

After reading this, I was half turned off by nature. By its dangerousness (for example, how does one know she has stayed true to the trail? how does one use the compass? how does one evade the rattlesnake, bears, and foxes?); by its lack of good food (dehydrated meals, three times a day, everyday); by its solitude (imagine being in the middle of a forest with nobody to hear you talk, let alone scream, and you can't tell forward from backward).

But, my adverturous side got the better of me, and I started thinking, how would it be like to spend several days hiking, to camp out night after night, to hitchhike for rides, to be so dirty you probably smell like a homeless bum?

Then I remembered, oh right, I've done it before.

Well, sort of.

Back in 2009, when I was still living in Salt Lake City, a new friend I had made in LA months prior decided he wanted to come up to SLC and learn how to kite-board*. And crash at my place. Okay, I thought, as I proceeded to turn in my request for a few days off work and somehow became his tour guide to the city.

The place he found to go kite-boarding was in Ogden, Utah, which was an hour away from SLC. On the first day, everything was fine. He went kite-boarding and I did my own snowboarding. It was fun for me because it was a new resort with new runs, and it was a weekday so there was no wait at all at the lifts.

The second day, my friend was meeting an actual instructor at a different part of the mountain, so we had agreed to meet back at a certain lodge at 3pm. I went off and did my own snowboarding. Halfway through, at say, oh 1-something, I somehow veered off one of the courses and tumbled down half a hill. When I regained my footing, I realized that I could not make it up that hill, so the only way was to continue going down.

Down to where, I had no idea.

Oh crap, I thought.

I walked down with my snowboard and eventually came to the side of the mountain. (Maybe it was a hill, but it sure looked like a mountain at the time.) I could see the mountain road - it seemed very close, but the only way to get to it was to climb to the other side of this mountain I was on, down the hill, over some rocks, and over a ditch. THEN I could reach the road!

very rough schematic

So I did exactly that.

It was scary. Climbing on the side of mountain wasn't exactly easy with snowboarding shoes on. It was like rock-climbing with fat shoes on and a snowboard in your hands. If I slip and fall, there were tons of big boulders waiting for me. I've been falling in the snow a couple times already, so I was half wet, but because the wind was cold and the sun was setting, I was also shivering. Part of my fear was that there was nobody in sight or within earshot, so if I got stuck in some sinking snow-hole or something, I would likely be there for a very long time. It was getting close to 3pm, but I had no idea if my friend would know to get some help if I didn't show up. It also didn't help that I had no reception.

When I finally made it down the cliff, I still had to make it through a ditch that was on the side of the mountain road. I was so tired and sore that the snow looked like a good place to sleep, but I also knew I had to hurry. The sun was setting, and the resort was closing soon at 4. By the time I made it through the ditch and up to the mountain road, it was past 3.

Now what, I thought. How am I supposed to make it to the lodge or my car without even knowing where the hell I was?

I started walking up the road. I was hungry. I was tired. I was wet. I was shivering. I was sweating. And I was scared. I walked for 10-15 minutes and all I saw were cars driving down with headlights on. They, of course, did not stop for me, even when I stopped and stuck my thumb out. Of course, they would be wanting to go home, as I would have been doing too, if I could.

After who-knows-how-long and who-knows-how-many-steps I've been trudging along dragging my heavier-by-the-second snowboard around, this little jalopy finally stops beside me. This 30-something year old hippie-looking guy stepped out and asked me if I needed help. It turned out that he was going up to the lodge to do some maintenance. I was so excited! His car was literally filled to the brim with "stuff," but we managed to fit my board and myself in. As he started driving 50 mph up the mountain road, he pulled out a can of beer and started drinking. At that point, I could only laugh and just be glad I had a ride back to my life.

* Kite-boarding is similiar to kitesurfing, in which a snowboarder is propelled by a kite in addition to his/her own body.

** In case you wonder, after I made it back to the lodge, my friend was there, sipping on his hot chocolate, not the least bit worried about me. Maybe I should have found my car first and drove off without him. Just kidding!!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fab Five Friday {8/24}

Every Friday, I share 5 things that I loved from the week.

1. Birthday celebration with 2 other August babies. We did brunch. I think maybe we should do this every year?

"moulin rouge french toast"
the AMAZING tiramisu cake from porto's

2. Two impromptu game nights (only one pictured) and of course hanging out with FRIENDS!

3. Good-bye BBQ and dinners (restaurant hopping) for our friend Jason moving to Taiwan for work

water balloon fight in progress

boys = liquor
the boys were shy so this chicken burger will be "jason"
It's not exactly fabulous that he is leaving, but we are all happy for his promotion and his exciting next chapter in life!

4. The sight and smell of fresh laundry

i prefer sun-dried but dryer-dried will have to do for now
Image source

5. Libraries - where I recently found decent movies to check out for free!

yes i'm a nerd!
Image source

Have a great weekend! I plan to get all my errands, Internet readings/research, workout, chores, and sleeping caught up! (That sounds tiring already, boo...)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Link up time!

How do you know who to marry? Well, ask these kids of course!

If you like comics. Cuz I do.

The Science of Appetite. I like these videos.

The Power of Naps. I knew this all along. Now if only I can convince my manager...

Listen up Ladies! Here's everything real men think is wrong with you. This is a hilarious read I tell ya. I may or may not have forwarded it to every girl I know.

20 odd inventions that I've been waiting for all my life, especially the butter stick (except I would sub with peanut butter - do you know how hard refrigerated natural peanut butter is to spread??) and also the baby mop.

Have you ever seen a flying baby? 'Cuz now is your chance. Or a second chance.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jo Totes & Other Camera Purse Bags

I bought my dSLR about 2-3 years ago off Craigslist, yet it is only in the last few months that I've started bringing it out to public (outside of family events). Most friends didn't even know I had one. One of the reasons why I didn't want to carry it around was that I had to carry the camera bag (granted it was small - a gift from my brother) and my purse. I'm usually very lazy but I would like to be efficiently lazy.

So, to help motivate me to learn my camera better, H found me a camera purse bag. Enter: Jo Totes.

Jo Totes are specifically designed for women. They are essentially nice looking camera bags that double as a purse. Or you can use it to carry more lenses too. I'm showing here the Millie Pewter, which I have. (Millie is the style name, and Pewter is the color.)

See? The insides are padded with black brushed nylon which helps to protect the camera. The outside is made of top quality faux leather and is waterproof. It feels very nice, and the straps are adjustable so you can wear it on your shoulder like a purse or across your chest like a messenger bag (my preference). And the Millie style comes with 2 pads that you adjust to your liking. I use the middle compartment for my camera, one side compartment for my (fat) wallet and coin purse, and the other side compartment for car keys, iPhone, small tube of hand lotion, and lip balm. There are also zippered enclosures in the front and the back of the bag. The only thing I did not like about the 2 pads was that since it was adjusted by velcro, and there were velcro on 3 sides of the pad (left, right, and bottom), it was actually quite hard to maneuver the pads inside the purse area since the velcro easily sticks to the inside of the purse. Price-wise, at least the Millie seems pretty reasonable, given how much a regular camera bag would be and how much quality purses costs (although it is still my most expensive purse-bag ever though...) and the quality of it.

If you are ever looking for camera/purse combo bags, here are some other considerations (in alphabetical order):

Cheeky Lime - "Where fashion meets function."

Dre Hartmann - hobo and satchel styles

Emera - totes and messenger bags. "Camera bags with modern style."

Epiphanie Bags - many different styles, backpack and laptop bags too

Jill E - a very comprehensive all-types-of-bag store

Kelly Moore - free shipping in the US
Ketti Handbags - fashionable handmade bags

ONA - shoulder & messenger bags, backpacks, and other small gears

Photojojo - has 5 adjustable and padded compartments, free shipping
Pompidoo - based in Europe so note currency exchange and shipping
Porteen Gear - "Gear for the professional photographer", where you can actually design your own camera bag

ShootSac - an assortment of camera bags, lens bags, and laptop sleeves

THEIT - stylish, note - Canadian company thus Canadian dollars/shipping charges

** Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way by Jo Totes. This review was my own honest opinion. None of these bag companies know of my existence.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bouts of Motivation and Inspiration

Two nights ago, H and I had the the fortune of being taken out by my good friends Evelyn and Anthony for our birthdays. We took them to our new-found Asian restaurant and they liked it. We then played games at home, and it was really fun.

I realized I was happy amongst people I love and it almost made me cry.

Sometimes, in this world where I'm constantly confused by things going on around me, by things that are supposed to be simple yet turn out to be not, by people who are supposed to be your friends yet lie and flake out on you, simplicity is actually hard to come by.

By simplicity, I mean pure, unadulterated friendship. People who accept you for who you are. People who accept you for whatever situation you are in, regardless of how much money you have, what job you do, what crazy antics you pull from time to time, and how plain WEIRD you are (or in this case, me).

By simplicity, I also mean simple actions. The simple act of playing board games or cards. The simple act of us four sitting around the table, chatting. The simple act of my mother calling me just because she could since she is actually in the same continent as me. The simple act of random emails, calls, or texts. The simple act of a friend trying so very hard to arrange get-togethers. All these are seemingly nothings, but one day, God forbid if one day, something happens to any of us and we are unable to do any of these things, the little simple acts will seem like luxuries. Or for example, our good friend Jason moving to Taiwan - it makes even seeing each other that much harder.

Yesterday morning, I had the luxury of being able to sleep in (until 7am...), to surf online, to listen to my music, and to chat with some friends online. "Luxury??" you might gasp in amazement. Yes, to me, being able to do all these things none the less on a Saturday morning is indeed a Luxury. These are things I used to do without thinking and got bored of perhaps even a year ago, yet now, it is a luxury because of my busy-ness doing nothing and everything. Everything is perspective I suppose.

While chatting with some friends online, I noticed that a lot of us are getting into physical activity, whether it be working out, being active, or working towards a goal such as a marathon or a weight loss. It reminds me of the saying that you are who your friends are, or something like that. By surrounding yourself with people you want to become, you can become more like them. I'm glad I have friends that help me want to become a better person.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cinema Excitement

1. I'm quite excited about the upcoming Les Miserables. I tried watching the really really old version (so old and probably a foreign version) that I was asleep in 3 minutes. Even with subtitles on, I couldn't understand what was going on.

2. Also excited about The Great Gatsby. I'm going to try to reread the book before the movie comes out.

3. I've been hearing good things about Moonrise Kingdom. It's in my Netflix queue and I can't wait to watch it. In the meantime, if you havn't already, check out Midnight In Paris. It's lovely and deep in a way you don't realize until the end.

4. H and I just watched Friends with Kids. I got the movie because Entertainment Weekly kept mentioning it, and it was much better than I expect (partly because I didn't know what to expect).

5. If I didn't tell you in person, I'm telling you now: Hugo is one of the best movies ever. It is such a beautiful story and such a beautiful movie. You'll have to watch it to know what I'm talking about. Not to mention, Chloe Grace Moretz is one of my favorite actresses (even though she is only 15 or so).

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fab Five Friday {8/17}

1. It was H's 33rd and my 30th birthday a few days ago (yes, 1 day apart!), and H and I decided to go to Vegas.

We ate at a fabulous off-strip find, Goyemon. They have the freshest sushi and the tastiest non-sushi items we have ever had.

We ate lots of buffets, and I had lots of desserts.

We did some shopping.

I wanted to try this but didn't want to wait in line. Next time...
We took some time at the Bellagio Gardens (pictures via Instagram).

We went to the Bodies Exhibit in Luxor, which I've been wanting to see for years. H was very gracious to stay the whole time even though he was totally grossed out by it.

And most important of all, we met up with H's brother and his wife and also my friends Amy and Michael who drove all the way to Vegas after a camping trip to surprise me for my birthday. I was indeed very surprised!! (Too bad we all forgot to take pictures...)

2. I've been on a smoothie phase for 2-3 weeks now. H used to work at Jamba Juice, so for him to let me make smoothies however I want was a biggie. Yesterday he complimented me on my watermelon+yogurt+banana creation. Score!

3. Went with my friend Karen to my first Pop Physique class. I've done Pilates before but this was more intense and more fun!

(picture via PopSugar)

4. Came across this trailer of Downton Abbey Season 3 - can't wait!

5. I took a weekday off and spent some time with the parents and my nephews. It was tiring...but family time is always good!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Travels: Northern California

Last weekend, we took a trip up to NorCal with H's parents and cousins to attend H's cousin Harry's wedding. It had been more than 2 years(?) since I had been up north so I was really excited. We started driving Saturday around noon.

The drive was...scenic. Lots of emptyness.

 We saw a bunch of grapevines and other fruit fields where we tried to guess what the fruits were.

More nothingness... 

Oh yes, lots of coffee.

Random tractor. 

Stacks of hay. 

We also saw lots of tomato trucks. We lost count. I told everyone about how tomatoes are actually picked when they are green and are made to mature during transportation, but I'm not sure if everyone appreciated that nutrition tidbit, ha!

We passed by The Oracle, home to the Golden State Warriors.

So much traffic I thought I was back in Los Angeles. Oh but wait, there is a toll bridge!

I love bridges. This is the Bay Bridge. Too bad we didn't get to go through the Golden Gate Bridge.

More random views of SF.

We got to San Francisco (where the wedding was) 2 hours early, so we dropped by Japan Town where they had their annual street fair.

I think they were having some kind of dog show or contests because we saw lots of interesting pooches.

SF is so green. Even their food containers at the fair were of recycled material.

The wedding itself was at a bank reserve. How neat is that! (and no, they are not in the financial business)

Wedding flowers.

Violin trio during the ceremony.

Decoration - isn't this beautiful?!

The wedding menu. One of the very very few American-style weddings I've been to where the food was awesome and filling.

Centerpiece - so beautiful, again.

It was a wonderful, beautiful wedding, and I had lots of fun bonding with H's family and meeting his other cousins. Too bad we had to leave right after the Sunday wedding to drive back to LA because H's parents wanted to go back to work on Monday. We ended up getting home at 4:30am... It was terrible... But at least we made it home safe!