Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NOLA - Day 2

We woke up early, had breakfast by 8am, but lazed around for a bit and did not leave the hotel until 10am this morning. We walked down to the corner of Canal and Carondelet to catch the street car, which is kind of like the San Francisco cable car ($1.25). It was a beautiful and sunny day as the street car hummed along St. Charles street and we got to see a many gorgeous Victorian homes in the Garden District. We hopped off at the Audubon Park (pictured) and had a nice picnic of crackers & cheese and apples. We walked along the edge of the park, which, incidentally, is also a golf course, and ended up at the zoo. We didn't have any plans to visit the zoo today, but it being such a wonderfully warm day, I couldn't resist the pink flamingos. I enjoyed the zoo, and I have to say that it was much better than the aquarium, even though there were twice as many kids running amok. 

After spending (and walking for) 3 hours at the zoo, we headed back downtown. I had been thinking about the beignets and cafe au lait from Cafe du Monde all day so I wanted to go. Because we'd been walking all day, Tom wanted to go back to the hotel and relax but...we ended up eating at fried donuts. =) I wanted us to eat mufflettas at Central Grocery Co., but who wudda thought they closed at 5pm?!? So we ended up eating at Cafe Maspero, which is another restaurant on my list to try. We shared a cup of their jumbalaya and a huge muffletta sandwich. The portions are so big that I couldn't even finish my half. We got back to our hotel by 6:30pm to rest our poor feet and I think we are here to stay.

NOLA - Day 1

Our first full sight-seeing day in New Orleans started off with a complimentary breakfast at our hotel. I've had better breakfast, but it was free! Our first stop was the Aquarium of Americas, which opened at 10am and by 11am, I was done looking at penguins and jellies next to snotty kids. So, we had lunch at Ruth's Chris in the Harris Hotel thanks to the gift certificate we got for our wedding. I had wanted to go to the Hermann-Grima House, but when I called to make sure that they were still open, they weren't. So we visited the 1850 House at Jackson Square instead. Tom is not as impressed at old things as I am, but I thought it was kind of neat, if not creepy. Next we browsed through the French Market and the Flea Market while I looked for fresh produce among stalls of cheap tourist wares. 

In the afternoon, we (finally) got to enjoy some beignets and cafe au laits at Cafe du Monde. I enjoyed every single bite. We stopped by this pricey grocery store to pick up some fruit on our way back to the hotel for a nap. After a short rest, we headed out to Mother's, where the line is long, but worth the wait. This place is famous for their po' boy sandwiches and it was yummy! I'd definitely go back again. We ended the night with 1.5 Hagen Daaz ice-cream bars each and by watching Boston Legal.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I am no Lynne Rossetto Kasper, but I love food. I love talking about food, thinking about food, shopping for food, cooking food, and more importantly, I love eating food. Because I spend a great deal of time thinking about what to eat and where to eat, in order to be my friend, you must enjoy talking about food with me - incessantly.

Some people obsess about food by reading. Others like to experiment with new recipes and cooking techniques. Some people like to try new restaurants while others like to collect fancy kitchen tools. My specialty is knowing where to find exactly what you're looking for. Wanna know where you can get an excellent PB&J on toasted sourdough bread? Ask me! Or where you can get a delicious Reuben sandwich that melts in your mouth? Look no further! Or how about a crab louie salad? Not a problem! Or how about a nice, hefty, juicy burgers with the best fries? I know where to go! As your neighborhood foodie, I relish in the fact that I know just where to go to satisfy your tastebuds.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Tribute to Tom

I like to toot my own horn from time to time because as the domestic diva of our household, I do all of our weekly grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and bill-paying. But I would like to take this opportunity to give a "shout out" to my hubby, who definitely pulls his own weight around here too.

Tom is in charge of managing all of our computers and basically any appliance with a plug or that is battery-operated. And in our world of technological gadgets a-plenty, this is no small feat. Tom makes sure that our 3 computers are up and running with the latest and greatest software updates, AND he also makes sure that our computers are backed-up regularly to prevent a major crisis. Tom also maintains all of our 3 vehicles, and I have a feeling that if we had a garage, he would do more. Around the house, Tom also does the traditional manly tasks of changing the lightbulb, moving heavy furniture, and taking out the garbage.

But what I live for and what I truly appreciate about Tom is his sweet and romantic side. For example, on our first wedding anniversary, he made me a handstamped card that read, "One Year" on the outside, and on the inside, he wrote, "Many more to come! Happy First, Natasha! We are making our family one step at a time. Love, Thomas." 

Now, how can you not love a man who writes those words?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Kitchen Kaos

It seems like we've had a series of kitchen disasters lately. A couple of Fridays ago, our kitchen and dining room lights went out all of a sudden while I was vacuuming the living room. Several of our outlets in the living room also quit working, which included our wireless internet as well. This happened on a Friday morning, of course, and I was unable to get our property maintenance person to return my phone calls.

They finally sent someone out on Monday morning and though the maintenance guy was very sweet and a Jack-of-All-Trades, he couldn't fix our lighting issue, even though we had already moved several pieces of furniture. The property management company contracted for a professional electrician to come out on Wednesday, and according to Tom, he fixed it in about 5 minutes without moving any furniture. According to this guy, the problem was a loose wire and would have been entirely avoided if the builders hadn't done such a shoddy job in constructing the place. But the point is -- I had to cook, and we had to eat, in the dark this entire time!

Our second disaster happened last night. When we came home, we discovered that our refridgerator decided to retire and everything in our fridge and freezer was "sweating." This came at an especially bad time since we had a TON of Thanksgiving leftovers, and plus I needed to bake cupcakes and a quiche for a potluck I was attending the next day. Luckily, we were able to store 2/3 of our food at a neighbor's, kept some in a cooler chest, and threw the rest away. The property management came and determined that we needed a new fridge (surprise!). He says that he can't give us a working fridge until tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Sundays are my least favorite days of the week. It is the last day to complete all of my house chores *and* to get all my studying done for the week ahead. Things go terribly wrong when neither are done, but rarely, both get accomplished. Sundays are ephemeral; before I know it, the day has slipped through my fingers. I found myself wondering where all the time went just last week, and here is the answer:

The day started off nice and early. I woke up at 6am and was at the grocery store by 7am. I was done with my grocery shopping by 8am, and Tom made me breakfast by the time I got home. I read the Sunday papers until 10am and Tom and I went for a 3-mile walk and was back home by 11am. I put some potatoes in the oven to bake while I showered. Then I made myself lunch and started cooking. I baked 24 cupcakes and a green bean casserole. By the time I was finished it was around 2pm or so. I prepared for my meeting at 4pm and met with my school group from 4-6pm. I stopped by the grocery store on the way home and fixed a quick dinner. 

Well, there goes my Sunday!

Friday, November 14, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons...

My first trimester of pregnancy has been good so far. The list of pregnancy symptoms for the first trimester includes: fatigue, frequent urination, nausea, excess saliva, constipation, heartburn, indigestion, flatulence, bloating, food aversions and cravings, breast changes, visible veins, increase in vaginal discharge, occasional headaches, occasional faintness or dizziness, and weight gain. Really, given this list it's amazing that women are willing to get pregnant at all! But I suppose that a bundle of joy that is half yours is worth the physical ailments (plus the pain during birth). 

I first knew I was pregnant when I had an urgent and insatiable craving for lemonade, something I have never cared for before. But on that day, I had to have it. Thereafter, I've been craving things that were sour or tangy, like key lime flavored yogurt, cranberry juice, lemons, yakult, ketchup, sour candy, and my newly discovered favorite tangy frozen yogurt from Pudding on the Rice. No pickles yet.

Luckily, I did not experience any nausea or "morning sickness," but in my first trimester (and yawn...I think now too) I have been more tired than usual. I've been prone to frequent naps as well as going to bed fairly early. Still, it beats getting friendly with the porcelain bowl.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dream Theory

I had a really strange dream the other day. I dreamt that Tom bought a 28-room Victorian house for us before I even saw it. When I told Tom this, he said, oh that must have been a nightmare for you. LOL. The strange thing about this dream was how vivid everything was. The owners of this house were anxious to sell and so we bought this house for a ridiculously good price. The owners were also anxious to leave town and they left everything behind, including food in the fridge as well as their Golden retriever named Billie, and sold it "as is."

The previous owners were antique collectors, so the house was full of Victorian antiques, some valuable but mostly junk. In my dream, I surveyed every room to see what they had left behind and I can still recall every unusual trinket. I also remember this oddly shaped room that was painted blue. Tom had begun moving some of his stuff into this room, like his guitars and video games. I remember saying to him, "Well, where am I going to put my Stampin' Up! stuff?" He then opens up another room and says, "In here." 

There were two other strange things about this house. First, it was part of a townhome situated in the middle of a lovely park. Next to the house was a cute little outdoor cafe with chairs and tables outside, but it was closed indefinitely. And the townhome association had a "knight" theme and we had a knight's helmet as our door knocker. Second, I looked out the window at one point and could have sworn that I saw our neighbor, dressed in a full knight's armor, walking out his front door. When I pointed this out to Tom, we couldn't see anyone in a knight's costume except for joggers and their dogs running through the park.

So what was the point of my dream? I think it was a nightmare, but not for the same reason Tom gave. I think it's a nightmare because in real life, I hate Victorian homes and antiques because I think they're creepy. They are both items a dead person use to own. But the real petrifying part of the dream was that deep down, I knew that the previous owners were eager to split because the house was haunted. Not only that, but the house made some of its inhabitants go crazy and see visions that were either real or imaginary, such as the neighbor in a knight's armor. I have no idea where this dream came from because I wasn't thinking of Victorian houses earlier that day, but I guess it's easy to let your fears sneak up on you.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A.M. P.M.

Before I met Tom, I was a total night-owl. I would often stay up watching TV until midnight and I loved to sleep in until 10am or 11am the next day. Late afternoons and early evenings would be my "prime time" as my brain started to awaken and I found myself more alert.

Tom is just the opposite. Like his dad, he loves the mornings and he LOVES to wake up early. He is chipper and energetic while I am crabby and cranky. Tom would wake up, be ready to go, and essentially hit the ground running. In the event that we had to get up early for a roadtrip or something, I would often comment to Tom, "Can you believe all these people are out on the road already?!?" He would reply, "People like to get up early."

I couldn't understand why any reasonable person would voluntarily wake up at 6am or 7am, or eek(!), even earlier, unless you worked in construction or had some sort of (awful) employment which required it.

But since I've known Tom, I have really come to appreciate the value of waking up early. For one thing, you can accomplish so much more in the day. For another thing, like most animals, humans are diurnal (as oppose to nocturnal) so it is best to be productive during the day. Finally, as an added bonus, there are very few things that beat the crisp morning air.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Everyone loves to hate big conglomerates, but I have to say, when it comes to glue and other things adhesive, I vow to only by 3M products from now on. While I love generic brands as much as the next person, I have found generic glue sticks and packing tape to be *noticeably* far less superior than 3M products. Even though 3M products costs sometimes three times as much as generics, they are worth the grievances in my book.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wedding Tips

There are TONS of wedding tips out there - online, in books, you name it! So I figured, why not add my two cents? Here are my top 5 Saves & Splurges for a wedding:


1. Photographer - Given that Tom and I are both students right now, I was astounded by some photographers asking for $6,000-$10,000 to take pictures at your wedding! I had really given up on finding a photographer at our going rate until I met Didi at a law school function. She seemed like a really nice person and she sympathized with our student-situation and gave us a generous discount. Because photographs and your memory are all that remain from your wedding, I highly recommend hiring a professional rather than asking friends or family, or leaving it unassigned.

2. DJ - We had specific songs we wanted to play for each event (i.e. for the flower girl, ring bearer, seating of the mothers, and the couple's dance). We also wanted to incorporate karaoke as part of our reception. Finding a DJ who is also a KJ is no easy feat, but we did it!

3. Florist - I splurged on the flowers for the wedding party but bought these bright yellow chrysthanemums from Home Depot for the centerpieces.

4. Open Bar - Apparently it's highly kosher to have an open bar at a wedding, which we did.

5. Food - We love to eat, so we served salmon, steak, beans, salad, rolls, corn on the cob, potato salad, fruit crisps, plus two types of cake!


1. Cake - We bought our wedding cake and groom's cake from Costco. All cakes are made from flour, butter, and sugar, and they all taste the same, so why not?

2. Personalized Items - At first I did look into personalizing ribbons with our names and date, but the cost was going to be something like $10 for a yard of ribbon. Thinking that most of these are going to end up in the trash, I went with a generic red gingham ribbon that matched our tableclothes. I don't think anyone noticed the difference. We chose to personalize our wedding in other ways by giving every out-of-town guest a welcome bag.

3. Invitations & Notices - Again, most Save-the-Date notices end up in the trash or buried in a drawer so we sent out our Save-the-Date with a picture of the two of us in a .pdf via email. Luckily for me, I had the time and materials to make my own invitations for the wedding, rehearsal dinner, and family brunch.

4. Decorations - I used the same tin pails for the rehearsal dinner as I did for the wedding reception. For the rehearsal dinner, I filled them with salt water taffy and flowers the next night. Guests got to eat the taffy and take home a tin-ful of flowers. Thanks IKEA!

5. Dress - I know that not every bride can do this, but I got an $80 wedding dress from J.Crew because the style was discontinuing! It didn't bother me none since it was exactly what I was looking for - a long ivory halter. Also, we skimped on the tux and Tom just wore his suit, keeping with our wedding "informal."


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What I learned from Jenny

I've tried the no-sugar, no-carb, nothing fried, low-carb, and the you-name-diet but nothing worked. I only seemed to be successful at maintaining my body weight, which according to an online BMI calculator, I was on the border of "normal" weight and over-weight. Not good. Something had to change -- and quick! -- and with seven more weeks until the wedding, I had no time to spare. So after watching an ad on TV for Jenny Craig, I decided to sign up.

My goal was simple: lose 10 pounds in 8 weeks. With Jenny Craig, and as with all forms of dieting, it comes down to simple arithmatics (in the words of Gwen Stefani): counting calories. Jenny's program is based on a 1,200 calories a day, which trust me, is not very much. But I learned 2 things on my Jenny-journey:

  1. Your body, and more importantly, your stomach learns to adjust to less food. Not only that, but your body really doesn't need that much food to survive.

  2. When you are hungry, your brain sends you a message to eat anything in sight and usually this is something that's quick, easy, and convenient. The truth is, your stomach does not care what you feed it as long as you feed it something. So it makes no difference to your stomach if you are feeding it a bag of chips or baby carrots. Because Jenny is not designed to starve you; on the contrary, the program wants you to eat every 2-3 hours, you learn to feed your stomach celery sticks rather than that donut. Your stomach does not care, but unfortunately, your mouth does.

At my last "weigh-in," I had lost 7 pounds in 4 weeks. Hopefully I can lose that last 3 in two weeks!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Portland, the City of (White) Roses

One thing we miss about the Bay Area is its cultural diversity. When we arrive at San Jose airport, we are always pleasantly surprised, I think, at the number of minorities we see. And no one looks at us twice because we look Asian!

Our flight back from San Jose to Portland was surprisingly mixed. Come to find out later, the flight was continuing on to Phoenix (what a horrible route!). And when we arrived in Portland, all the white people de-planed and all the 'colored folks' continued on!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My recent obsession with Vera Bradley

It all started with a need to find good gifts for my relatives in Taiwan (see 3/4/08 blog). I bought all my female relatives the Medium Bow Cosmetic bags (in various colors) and they loved it. Next I bought my mother-in-law an "On-the-Go" purse with adjustable straps in Yellow Bird for her Mother's Day/birthday present. The next week Tom's cousin, Alaina, was graduating from high school so we sent her the "Amy" purse in Daisy Daisy. Then I bought my Matron of Honor a Baby Bag in Raspberry Fizz as her wedding attendant gift (practical too!). For my good friend Divya, the co-host of our Jack-and-Jill shower who graciously opened her home, I also bought her a Baby Bag in Pink Elephant. And as a "just because" present for a good friend from law school, I bought her the a wristlet in the latest color - Seaside.

Finally for myself, I initially ordered the Miller Bag in Mesa Red, but it was too big so I returned it and bought myself the Villager in Mesa Red. And because it's a retiring color, all Mesa Red items were 25% off. It didn't take too much convincing from my Mom for me to get the 21" Rolling Luggage (pictured)! Ho! Of course, then I fell in love with the Note Cube and matching pen in Pinwheel Pink (a portion of which is donated to Breast Cancer Research), which I had to have! But oh I am far from done - I've got my eyes set on the beach towel and hat - both in Seaside. So am I obsessed with this stuff or what? Oh maybe just a little...

Friday, May 23, 2008

I feel recessed.

Strangely enough, it is not the slump in the housing market, or the $4 dollar per gallon of gas, or the layoffs, or the general solemn and morose atmosphere that seems to emanate from people these days that makes me feel like we are in a recession, even though no one official will come out and say it. It's actually the little things - the things that affect me on a daily basis - that remind me the economy is slow.

For example, we use to have Little Moos, or half-and-half creamers, at work and now we don't. Apparently this one restaurant we went to use to provide free bread, and now customers have to ask for it. And my favorite rubber stamp company increased their price for shipping. The reason for these changes weren't explicit, but the message is loud and clear: We're in a recession, stupid!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An Addiction to Chips

One thing my friend Michelle and I have in common is a deep love of chips. Since I've known her, Michelle has lived abroad twice - once in China and now in London - both times for about a year. We like to spoil each other by sending care packages. The things I've received from Michelle include various Starbucks paraphenalia to furnish my obsessive hobby, PJs, chocolates, chapsticks, and other fun little knick-knacks.

All of the care packages I have sent to her are varied but are mainly food-based. She likes Trader Joe's, See's Scotmallow, and chips. Michelle's favorite types of chips are the Maui Sweet Onion chips and Flamin' hot Cheetos, and these two are constant staples in my care packages to her. In the most recent care package I sent her, I added Salt & Vinegar chips and Salt & Pepper kettle chips. The international cost of shipping, at $34, makes these the most expensive chips in the world.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Tom's been wanting to see a baseball game since the weather got nice. Don't get me wrong - Tom is not a baseball fan, but rather he wanted to take pics with his new camera. I merrily go along with this plan for a different reason altogether: the food. People think I'm crazy because I go to ballgames to eat hotdogs, garlic fries, lemonade, cotton candy, and beer, but there's really no better time (or place) to enjoy all that junk.  

Last night we went for the first time to Portland's PGE Park and watched AAA teams, the Beaver versus Las Vegas 51s. For me, baseball games are more about the food and the people watching rather than the game itself. I often find that Tom will talk to me about something that just happened, or I will hear the crowd cheer loudly, and I have no idea what just happened because I was in the midst of watching someone. People are immensely fascinating to me, much more than a little ball that flies from here to there. I am just worried that one of these days, the ball will come flying at me in the face and I won't even know it. 

Monday, May 5, 2008


Love is never getting tired of spending every minute with your spouse and when you are parted for only a mere 3 hours, you miss that person.


Happiness is taking turns reading a fantasy book, by your favorite author, out loud with your spouse before bed.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Life is Good

Life is good when you can wake up, have 2 cups of coffee with rice milk, and study Constitutional Law in your bathrobe until noon.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Chicken Florentine

If this blog is turning into a list of recipes, so be it! Second to the crockpot, casseroles are my next best friend because they are simple, easy, and will usually take care of at least 2 of your food groups. Here is another easy and foolproof recipe that is simply delicious!


1 can of chicken
1 box of chopped spinach, thawed
2 cans of cream of mushroom
shredded cheese, any kind
saltine crackers
sauteed mushrooms


1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly Pan a casserole dish - size does not matter.
2.  Mince chicken using a fork.
3.  Drain spinach by balling it up and squeezing all the water out.
4.  Mix spinach, chicken, cheese, cream of mushroom soup, crackers, and mushrooms.
5.  Bake casserole covered in foil for 20 minutes.
6.  Uncover, add more cheese (be generous), and bake for another 10 minutes.
7.  Serve over rice.  Pictured is the result.

Breakfast Burritos

Imho I make the best breakfast burritos that always hit the spot.

Ingredients for each burrito:

6 tater tots 
2 eggs
2 slices of bacon
2 spoonfuls of pinto beans
1 tortilla
cheese - any kind
optional: salsa


1.  Pop the taters in the toaster oven.
2.  Fry slices of bacon.
3.  Heat up pinto beans.
4.  Scramble eggs, add salsa & cheese if desired.
5.  Heat up tortilla.
6.  Assemble.
7.  Add hot sauce if desired.
8.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Time to Smell the Tulips?

I realize that Tom and I are sort of fortunate right now because we get Fridays off from school, work, and other life commitments. This type of flexibility allows us the time to, say, go for a leisurely walk at 10 o'clock in the morning. Today we walked slower than usual which allowed us more time to admire our neighbors' yard, take pictures of tulips, and watch a squirrel scurry atop the power line for a long distance. Often I find that our lives are so insanely busy that it's nice to sometimes stop and smell the roses.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Killer Minestrone (pictured)

I have said many times that the crock pot is my best friend. This is especially true in law school when I have only a 2-hour window on Mondays and Wednesdays to drive home, cook dinner, and drive back to school in time for my 8pm class. One of my tried and true crockpot recipes is my minestrone soup, which is just so satisfying on a cold and rainy Portland day. And to top it off, Tom loves this dish so I am willing to share it with my friends, many of whom also have a very busy schedule.

1/2-1 onion
2 zucchinis
1 can white beans
1 can diced tomatoes
12 oz. spicy Italian sausage (comes in a tube)
1 cup cooked macaroni elbow (medium-sized)
1 box of thawed and drained chopped spinach
1 box of vegetable broth
Spices: Italian seasoning & garlic powder (optional)

1.  Brown sausage with no oil, and drain (Viva paper towels work the best!)
2. Cook macaroni and refrigerate.
3. Chop onions and cube zucchinis.
4. Mix all the ingredients in your crockpot, except the macaroni.
5. Cook on Low for 6-10 hours.
6. Microwave macaroni and mix it in the soup.
7. Serve with sprinkles of fresh (not grated) parmesan cheese!

Tip: I usually do steps #1-3 the night before so that all I have to do before school is mix all the ingredients together and turn the crockpot on. Bon Appetite!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Cheap Date

Here is a secret on how we make a dinner & a movie affordable:

First, we use coupons.  Last night we went to Chevy's where we could buy one entree and get the second entree for $3.99.  We did not order appetizers or fancy margaritas or desserts.  We ordered extra-large entrees, ate half, asked for extra tortillas, and brought the rest home for the next day's lunch. However, we do not skimp on tips and we calculate the tip amount without the coupon.  Total dinner price, including tips? $28.

Second, we buy our movie tickets at Costco.  A regular adult movie ticket is $10; student's $9, and matinee $8.  Costco sells 2 movie tickets for $14.99 (or $7.50 per ticket), which is the best deal around because we can see new releases and we aren't limited to matinee times.

Total date price?  $42.99.  I just love a good bargain, don't you?  

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I'm nuts about nuts!

At times I feel like the characters Bubba from Forrest Gump, who names all sorts of shrimp varieties, or Harlan Pepper (owner of the bloodhound) from the Best In Show, who names all different types of nut varieties.

Although I prefer some nuts over others, I am definitely nuts about all nuts. I like Trader Joe's unsalted roasted almonds and unsalted blister peanuts. I love pecans, walnuts, or slivered almonds on my salads. I enjoy nuts in my cookies and cakes, and who can forget pinenuts in a hearty pasta salad or in pesto pasta dishes? My favorite combo is chocolate & nuts, like Snickers, Babe Ruth, and Almond Joy. Sliced Washington red delicious apples with generous servings of Adam's creamy peanut butter* also make a great snack. (*I feel really bad for people who are allergic to peanuts!)

Lately, I have become a fan of Marcona almonds that come from Spain and are extraordinarily expensive and can only be purchased from the deli section of a gourmet grocery store (such as Whole Foods, Zupans, New Seasons, etc). "Known as the 'Queen of Almonds,' the Marcona is a smooth, tan almond known for its sweetness and its soft texture, similar to a cashew. No other almond in the world is quite like the Marcona! Marcona almonds are handpicked and hand-fried in small batches, which explains the variation in flavor and form." To me, they are worth every penny. Alas, Tom won't let me buy them too often because of their cost (hey, someone has to fund his pricey photography hobby!).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Crazy Neighbors

What is life if you do not have at least one crazy neighbor?

Last night I was woken by our upstairs neighbor. This time, it was not due to one of her romantic escapades. Instead, I woke up to a screaming match around 3am. Because this is a PG-blog, let me just say that there was a lot of screaming profanities. I am not sure who she was arguing with because it sounded like the other person had a high-pitched voice, which makes me think that it was either her niece, mother, sister, or young son. Either way, it didn't sound like a man.

I was tempted to go get plastic cups from our kitchen so that I could hear the conversation better, you know, old-fashioned operator style. But I was too lazy. This screaming match went on for at least half an hour to an hour, followed by sobbing (not sure who). Surprisingly, Tom slept through all of it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

No Yukatas for Nattie

Our hotel room in Tokyo provided these lovely waffled cotton yukatas.  A yukata is a Japanese bathrobe (of sorts).  You can wear it just out a shower or over your undergarments when you're at home. There are also fancier versions of a yukata, ones which you could wear outside the home, and these typically have a much nicer design. Unlike a kimono, a yukata is usually made out of cotton, not silk.

I was in love with the ones provided in our hotel room, however. Instead of a belt, these yukatas buttoned down.  The sleeves were 3/4 length and the robe came down to knee-level.  Thinking that these would make great souvenirs for me and my friends, I tried to buy these from our hotel but the first clerk told me that they didn't sell them.

Then I tried to ask a local girl where I can buy these and she told me, I think, if I understood her correctly, that this was not the season to buy them.  We found a traditional kimono store in Harajuku who also sold $1,500 a piece!  Again I tried to cajole the second hotel clerk to sell at least one to me but he wouldn't budge.  He directed me to go to a department store, whose selection was meager and none were made out of waffled cotton.  

I have to admit, the thought of sneaking these little suckers into my suitcase did cross my mind. Oh but the bar application!  Hence the title: No yukatas for Nattie.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The California Court of Appeals recently came down with a decision that may place parents who home-school their children at risk for prosecution for teaching without credentials. Tom and I were also listening to an NPR program about it last night via podcast.

I don't know very many people who home-school their children nor am I the parent of a school-aged child, and I'm sure arguments could be made on both sides, but I know that I, for one, will not home-school my children for two reasons:

(1) I do not possess, or profess to possess, all of the knowledge that I want my children to learn. Because I am not a teacher by profession, I want to leave this job for someone who is.

(2) Not only is the interaction between peers and adults crucial in one's development, I also think it important that my children see my role as their mother, and not mother/teacher, although I am inherently both.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Indicator of Good Husbandry

Like a new parent or a new aunt, I think I'm entitled to some bragging rights about my new husband.  Tom is a lot like his dad - he can fix almost anything mechanical without a manual.  A few weeks ago Tom noticed that my shift gear stopped lighting up.  (You know, the thing in automatic cars where it tells you what gear you're in.)  Having never done this before, he experimented by taking apart my whole middle console, found the burnt out light bulb, and replaced it for a total cost of $1.97.

This week I commented to him about how my gas gage light was dim compared to the others on my dash board.  Again, he did the same thing. He took my whole dashboard apart, figured out which lights were dim, replaced 5 of the bulbs for the cost of $3.98, and then put everything back together.  

I am most impressed with this act because (1) he saves me a lot of money, and (2) his inquisitive nature of taking things apart, figuring out what is wrong, and then fixing it with such enduring patience is markedly different from myself.  When I see a problem that I don't know how to fix I throw my hands up in despair, whine, and hope that it will magically fix itself one day. I guess in this manner we complement each other.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Yup, it's true...I'm addicted to coffee. But the good news is, I'm very indiscriminate when it comes to coffee. I do not need award-winning coffee beans imported from a special region in Guatemala that costs $60 dollars for a 12 oz. bag (true story). I will drink coffee from Starbucks, McDonald's, Denny's, Dunkin' Donuts, Stump Town's, or even off of a coffee cart. Furthermore, I will drink coffee that comes in a can, bottle, iced, hot, and I have never rejected a free cup of java from anyone.* (*See Comment)

Like any addict, the smell of coffee and the sight of a single coffee cup excites me. But my favorite coffee is from a diner - any ole' diner. There's something about the water-downed coffee they serve in diners, along with the fairly generic ceramic mug that they serve it in, that I love. Maybe it's the fact that diner coffee usually comes along with a big hearty breakfast or a T-bone steak and baked potatoes. Either way, I find diner coffees to be just right.

Lately, thanks to my friend Cat who is on a dairy & soy-free diet, I've started adding vanilla flavored rice milk in my coffee, which tastes great (plus less fat!). I am also very blessed that I have my very own barista at home. Tom brews our coffee every morning and puts them in matching thermal bottles for us to take to work/school. Now, we can stay awake while doing stupid things faster!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Curse of Globalization

Sure, it's nice to fly over to Taiwan and get your favorite specialty drink from Starbucks, but honestly, globalization has made it more difficult to give gifts to relatives who live abroad.  My mom and I moved to the U.S. in '89 and every time we made the trek back to Taiwan, we brought suitcases full of American goodies.  This practice stopped, however, since the time when we brought these huge bottles of Pantene shampoos and conditioners and were practically laughed out of the house. How were we suppose to know that you could now buy Pantene at your corner convenient store?

The trick of this gift-giving is to buy something uniquely American, yet something with brand recognition as well so people don't think you just picked it up at the local Wal-Mart or Sears. But the real problem is this something "American" must be 1) sold only in the U.S.A., and given our increasingly globalized world, this is getting more difficult to find; and 2) by default, this item some kind of kitsch (i.e. no Americans would be caught dead sporting, like T-shirts that say Levi's on it or something).  And because I am inherently American, I cannot for the life of me figure out what to gift people.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Omg...what have we done?!?

Tom and I are not impulsive people, especially when it comes to major purchases. It is for this reason we have not gotten AppleTV yet even though Tom deeply yearns for it.

But tonight...oh tonight was a different story. We attended the 19 annual PILP auction because it's a fun evening spent getting dressed up and seeing your fellow classmates and professors all dolled up as well. People meander, munch on mozzarella balls, and oogle over the ambundant number of silent auction prizes.

One of the live auction prizes was accommodations for 1 week in Disneyland or 1 week Williamsburg, VA (where Thomas Jefferson is from). The available dates for Williamsburg were from 8/3 to 8/10. We took this for a sign because our wedding is on Aug. 2 and we do not have honeymoon plans since Germany was scrapped for being too expensive. Anyway, we were outbid by another couple who wanted to go to Disneyland but we were called back by the auctioneer when we started to walk away; she offered us the trip to Williamsburg. With everyone's eyes on us and cheering us on, we had to cave in. Ok, so Virginia and Washington D.C., here we come!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Birthday!!!

I love celebrating birthdays -- even if it's not my own.  Birthdays are like national holidays - they only come around once a year and why not get excited for it?  So Happy Birthday to all the Leap Day babies!!!!

Update on our noisy neighbor situation: Our upstairs neighbor has nearly driven us to move out or otherwise not sign a lease a dozen of times.  Last night, Tom says that she was up from 2-4am singing really loudly with a band and playing music.  And then at 4:30am, I heard love-making noises.  Total ugh.  Luckily, it was short-lived, unlike all the other times.

The other thing we have noticed is that her car has been parked here practically all-day and we were wondering...does she still work?  This morning, I did a sneaky thing.  Seeing that her car was here and I just heard her get into the shower, I called our Property Management company and asked for her.  Sure enough, it was confirmed that she no longer works there.  Hoor-ray!!!  Tom and I will be going out to celebrate!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mean girls

I met my three best friends from college during our Freshmen year. The four of us all lived in the same "suite" with six other girls. Our friendship took no more than three weeks to gel when it became clear that we were the mean girls. When I say "mean," I don't mean a bullying type of mean, but rather, we were mostly prone to giggling and gossiping about other people.

The movie that eptomized our humor was "Welcome to the Dollhouse," which was about the trials and tribulations of a 7th grader named Dawn Weiner. Poor Dawn is not only teased at school, but she is also clearly not her parents' favorite child. Yes, kids can be cruel sometimes but we didn't take this movie seriously and found it to be hilarious instead.

So that became our "test": the people who did not find this movie to be funny were not "cool" and did not become part of our tight-knit clique. And the people who did find it funny, well, you now have an "in."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Mommy Issue

Many mothers and daughters experience conflict and after this weekend, I guess my mother and I are no different. My mother flew in from out of town to celebrate my birthday and although it was suppose to have been a happy and joyous occasion, it resulted in a lot of tears and hurt. Not all was bad, however. These past few days are more equivalent to a root canal - painful for a short period of time, but better for your health in the long run.

I have always considered my mother and I to be close; we talk on the phone every day and we are well acquainted with each other's daily routines. We celebrate major life changes together and as an only child, our love and adoration for each other is plain for all to see. But we were too busy in our lives to notice the gradual change in our relationship that occurred sometime over the last 10 years. It's hard to say what caused the change, or even if there is a single catalyst. One major change is that we stopped living together and we both got married. And this change, although natural, has transformed us (without our knowledge) from being each other's confidants to being perfect strangers.

Sparing the reader the minute details, the problem in our relationship can be boiled down to 2 things: (1) I perceive her comments as hyper-critical, only because she's my mother and therefore they rack up double the sting; (2) she feels like I don't make time for her and that she doesn't know me anymore. My mother and I concluded that we have taken this relationship for granted and this weekend was the first time we verbally acknowledge the change. We also concluded that this relationship, like any other relationship, takes work and we made a resolution to get to know each other - the old-fashioned way - through letter writing. And at the end of each letter, we were to ask the other person one question to be answered in the next letter. I know it sounds a bit antiquated, but I think it will work. I think this will work because not only does letter writing take time and thought, but the writer often feels less inhibited in in writing than talking over the phone.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I know what you did last summer.

I don't consider myself a pro at driving stick shift by any stretch of one's imagination, but I will say...I have certainly come a long way. What is so interesting is that I've driven an automatic car from when I was 16 years old until last summer. Yet in my dreams, whenever I'm driving a car, it's always a stick shift. Last summer Tom decided that I should learn because he has a manual car and what if something were to happen to him and I needed to drive his car? Good point, but it didn't make the learning process any easier.

So it was summer - the weather was nice and I had free time in the evenings. After dinner, Tom would ask, "So do you want to practice driving?" Do I *want* to? No. To be honest, I'd rather eat ice cream, go for a walk, or see a summer blockbuster. And it wasn't like each practice session would encourage me to keep practicing. Oh no, it was just the opposite! Learning to drive stick shift (in a real life setting) was one of the biggest stressors of my life and I would dread each time I was asked to drive. There were many sessions where I would end up in tears, and asking Tom why he made me do this, not to mention that my confidence in driving any car was shot.

But Tom is a patient man and knew better. Eventually I improved, my confidence level increased, and the thought of driving his car no longer frightened me. But for the longest time I refused to drive without Tom in the car; he was like my security blanket. And now, you'll see me cruising around by myself in his little red Miata...smiling.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sex as a Crime?!?

In a perfect world, waking others up in the middle of the night would to be a crime. Specifically, being woken up by a neighbor because of her loud sex ought be punishable by law. Those who know me inevitably know about our noisy neighbor situation. From September to December 2007 we have documented a pattern of her squeaky mattress between the hours of 1am to 5am. After several attempts of notifying her and allowing her opportunity to correct her habits, things finally came to a head and we reported her to her boss (because she also happens to be our on-site property manager. One would think that with such a responsibility, she would be a role model tenant. Nevertheless...).

Sometimes these habits of hers are accompanied by the playing of really loud music. But generally speaking, we would be woken up every other weekend when she didn't have custody of her young son, estimated age = 7. And when things got really loud, long, obnoxious, or otherwise when I'm pissed off (hey you would be too if you were woken up from deep sleep), I pound really hard on the walls and she stops.

But what I find most puzzling (aside from why anyone in their sane mind would have sex at 3 or 4 in the morning and how does one function the next day, and why she isn't ashamed that she's waking up her neighbors by her loud sex - the presumption of course is that normal people would be) is her behavior.

I have a couple of theories. Theory #1: Initially I thought she was having an affair with a married man who works graveyard shift - hence the wee morning hour lovemaking sessions. This also meant that whoever it is she's having sex with must tolerate her bizarre schedule of every other weekend. I think I have seen this fellow around - he's tall and lanky with shaggy hair. But then this theory was quickly dispelled by the fact that I saw her driving around yesterday with a man who had curly hair. Ok, so this launches Theory #2: she has multiple boyfriends. This "theory" might work if one were to picture late-night partying at bars (this explains the early hours) with a mixture of substance abuse (this explains the prolonged love making sessions).

Last night we were woken up at 4am and nearly 6am by her whoopi-making. And unfortunately, Theory #2 has been thrown out the window too because I saw her walking out to her car with not one, but TWO gentlemen! Neither of whom I have identified to be the tall lanky fellow or the one with curly hair! This leaves me no choice but to conclude Theory #3: she's a nympho who enjoys three-somes?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bad movies

There are a lot of "bad" movies I wouldn't mind seeing, such as "27 Dresses," "Definitely, Maybe," and "Over Her Dead Body." Of the good movies I want to see, "No Country for Old Men" is still on the list too. But with a paper due Monday and overcoming a cold, I'm pretty sure we'll just have to wait for Netflix.

On another note, this has been a weekend of junk food. It all kicked off on Valentine's Day when I came down with a cold; the most likely culprit was the guy who sits next to me in Crim Pro who was sick with a cold the week before and still showed up to class. So Tom and I got take-out Chinese and watched "No Reservations" on V-day and I ate 2 fortune cookies. On Friday night, after a day of doing our taxes, we grabbed cheeseburgers and shakes from Burgerville. Saturday we had Costco hotdogs and shared an ice cream bar. Today for lunch we had a cheese pizza from Pizza Schmizza. Have no fear...tomorrow I'm back to my usual diet of oatmeal and carrot sticks.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Funny Honey Bunny

As you've read, I'm on a diet (of sorts). The other day I bought these Cheetos Asteroids that come in a box of 5 packages. Each package boasts of only containing 100 calories. This box cost me between $2-3 dollars.

Tom says, "I can make you Cheetos Asteroids for cheaper." And I asked, "How?" He said that his plan was to buy a big bag of Cheetos, put 5 Cheetos in each sandwich bag, and then I'll have about 200 bags worth of Cheetos only 100 calories for less than $3 dollars.

What a smart alec.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sugar-holics Anonymous

I am on Day 5 of no added sugar and please allow me to emphasize that this is no easy feat. Not eating added sugar means I can eat things like fruit, prunes, raisins, yams, some juices and the like because they contain natural sugars. The items that have been eliminated are ice cream, cookies, cakes, chocolates, and all of the other stuff you dream of. I will have to say that I'm not a sugar-purist. A lot of things contain "sugar" or high-fructose corn syrup and I have not stopped consuming ketchup, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, or jam, although I don't over-indulge in these items either.

An excellent question would be, why am I such a masochist and doing this thing to myself? First, I have noticed that my metabolism started slowing down my Freshmen year in college (coinciding with also an excess amount of dorm food), but that since then I have (a) been in denial about it, and (b) have had difficulties in keeping off the excess poundage. I also recognize that some might think that I'm somewhat vain because I am already small-boned and quite petite and fit into a size 6 for most brands, but the point is, I'm greedy and I want to lose more weight.

Second, and a minor point, is that avoiding foods with added sugar also helps stabilize your mood and energy level. I've noticed less of a sugar dive an hour or two after lunch. This is definitely a nice "plus" to the fact that you are depriving yourself of all things yummy, but like I said, I am doing this to lose weight primarily.

One thing I discovered about myself (and my body) is that sugar sticks to me like glue. This reminds me of a quip I heard on NPR many moons ago about Vienna's famous Sacher Torte - "a moment on the lips and a lifetime on the hips." So when I stop eating sugar, I notice a difference in the way my pants fit immediately (although to be honest I have not really tried cutting other foods like meat, dairy, flour, or fried foods).

Unfortunately, though, I think your body needs sugar and when you deprive your body of one thing (i.e. sugar), it automatically tells you that you want some of the other stuff like salty chips or greasy fries. So here I am, eating potato chips at 9am in the morning - ah, the cornerstone of every nutritious breakfast.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


As mentioned already in the description of my blog, I have married a terrific man. He is perfect in almost every way - for example, when Tom saw that my shifter was not lighting up (the thing that tells you what gear you're in), he removed my entire shift counsel and replaced the light for under $2 (cost of 2 light bulbs). Needless to say, Tom is a very good mechanic.

However, no one is perfect. With much hesitation, I am saying that Tom needs a little help in the gift-giving department. I hesitate in saying this because I have loved all of the things he has given me - not for the item itself but for the thought. For example, after a long weekend away from each other, Tom bought me some New Balance socks (my favorite brand) as my homecoming gift. When I told him that most men buy their wives flowers when they pick them up at the airport, Tom said, "Why didn't you tell me?" And even though these socks are the type I usually get I wear them with pride because they were gifts from my husband who thought of me.

As Valentine's Day and my birthday are fast-approaching, Tom keeps pressing me about what I want. I have not told him in these exact words, but the truth is, I don't know what I want. And this is also intrinsically linked to the fact that we now share the same bank account so I do not have any interest in watching the balance go down. The other part is, and I hope Tom will this learn someday, the secret to gift-giving is the surprise element. In truth, the sine non qua of giving gifting is surprising the receiver.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hello! Hi! Hola!

Welcome to my blog!!! I've been wanting to create a blog for months now! Ok, maybe weeks. But what inspired me is that my husband's blog is Coffee Cup with Tom and so I wanted to imitate his (hehe). Ok, House is waiting impatiently for us. Gotta go!