21 December 2010

Palm Springs

Jacob and I went to Palm Springs this last weekend.  The desert was breathtaking, strange, and weird.  We were surrounded by senior citizens, locals, and L.A. hipsters in love with all things midcentury.  We went hiking in Taquitz Canyon and it was gorgeous.

Jacob tried on hats.

We ate dessert.

We hung out by the pool.

And we played with dinosaurs.

13 December 2010

2nd week of December

This past week was so full of lovely people and new experiences.  It taught me that good people are always worth making time for and that trying new things is exhilirating.  And that sometimes, a packed schedule is an awesome thing.

- met up with my central Oregon pals Melinda and Jeff and had one big Korean night!
- discovered a fabulous korean bbq place (Great service, great meat!) in Garden Grove and inducted Jeff, a first-timer into the joys of korean bbq
- went to a Korean cafe
- then capped off the night with Ding Dong Dang Noraebang--Korean karaoke!
   sang: What a girl wants; Creep by TLC; A Whole New World; Don't Speak by No Doubt; Hey Jude...

- joined a knitting group and learned to cable knit in 10 minutes after years of being intimidated and am working on this burberry inspired cowl neck scarf pattern

- woke up at 5am on Saturday morning to go shooting with my friend Jan at Crystal Cove State Park.  There was so much mist it was amazing!  We finally left the park at 8:20am and it felt like we had only been there for 15 minutes.  What a blast.  We had breakfast at Zinc Cafe in Corona Del Mar.

- attended my friend's daughter's 1 year old birthday and drooled over the cute girl.

- studied at Portfolio Coffeehouse in Long Beach--love that place.

- got confirmed in the Episcopal Church Sunday.  I didn't think anything of it.  It just seemed like the thing to do since I like being Episcopalian.  In fact, I had zero emotions until the music started playing and we had to line up to receive a blessing and POW, the tears hit me and I had to work really hard to keep those babies back!  It turned out to be the biggest surprise of the week in how unexpectedly meaningful it was.

- and then more knitting.  I've become obsessed.

09 December 2010

Thursday musings

I read this article this morning about vegan sister entrepreneurs and was struck by this quote:
"She started to study for the LSAT and she became a raging [witch], so we realized she was on the wrong path," says Heather in the same chipper voice she uses to dish out nutritional advice in the cooking video.
That one hits home!  Do you know I studied for the LSATs this past summer?  I didn't become a raging witch but I did become uber competitive, bored, and frustrated with all the time I had to put into something that I didn't care about.  After 10 weeks of intensive study plus full time work and all my other side projects, I experienced burnout.  And somehow, it just didn't seem worth it.

How can I pay attention when I become a "raging witch" or unhappy and remember that there is more to life and choose the path that gives me joy and life?  That, dear readers, is the challenge when you've been brought up to have intense willpower and just push through anything and everything to reach your goal. 

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life
I've started to read Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris.  It was recommended to me by my friend Karen, an exceptional friend I met at the UN Commission on the Status of Women meetings.  Karen is smart, compassionate, gutsy, sexy, sensual and spiritual.  What a combo right?  Karen's vocational counselor recommended the book to her and as she read it over the course of 2 months, it changed her life.  She started making the bed everyday (even with the "10 decorative pillows" that she bemoans yet loves) and being faithful to all the little daily tasks that adds up to living a life of self-respect and love.

Acedia in part means depression but it's also a lot more.  Originally, a term used to describe the afflictions monks felt in the endless cycle of monastic life, acedia also includes apathy, despair, and ennui.  You'll have to read the book to plumb its debts as Kathleen spends the entire book trying to describe this ancient word that has no English equivalent.  Acedia also looks like feeling so overwhelmed by the day to day tasks required of us stretching into the future that we disconnect from the present and stop caring enough to do the repetitive tasks that we need to do like taking showers, cleaning our home, washing the dishes, etc.  With acedia, nothing really seems worth the effort because the cerebral world is superior.

 Since starting the book, I've noticed a greater awareness and shift in my psyche.  I'm washing the dishes more and I even went to the gym yesterday and had a fantastic workout.  It's often been a difficult journey for me to be happy here in Orange County surrounded by horribly drab architecture and sleepy suburban life but now I can see how there's a host of little things I can do to make the most of the situation instead of wishing for the big things like moving asap.

So these are my thursday thoughts.  hope your day is going well.  xoxo.

01 December 2010

The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong

I hope you've all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Mine included seeing a dear long-distance friend and her brother last minute and a snowy cabin retreat with two other couples in Big Bear.  It was one of those weekends that restore you and by Monday when you have to be back at work, you feel like a new person and you wonder what happened and how and when you try and trace it back, the line gets quickly lost in the beautiful friendships and books that steeped your weekend.  And somehow it doesn't matter how it happened.  It just did.  And you're grateful.

For Thanksgiving, we had dinner at my parents' house as usual and I made a couple of dishes that were a first for me--bourbon pecan pie and butternut squash and cranberry farro salad.  I've been curious about farro for over a year now because I kept seeing it pop up in food blogs but had no idea what the raw form looked like and where to buy it.  I was able to guess correctly at my amazing local Persian supermarket, Wholesome Choice, that packages of Unspelted Wheat were indeed farro.  Farro is chewy and moist and makes a subtle pop in your mouth when you bite down on the grains.

It's also been a pleasure to get feedback on the Chickpea Tomato Stew post and to hear that it has given my readers rapturous kitchen pleasure.  Getting that kind of feedback almost makes me want to be a dedicated food blogger. I can see how bringing pleasure into people's lives with your recipes can really be gratifying and delightful.

But back to the title at hand: Karen Armstrong's memoir, The Spiral Staircase.  Last week, a jazz musician that I play with mentioned that he was reading the book, and I became immediately intrigued.  An ex-nun losing God, discovering she has epilepsy, finding a career as a writer, and writing about religion?  Come to mama.

I checked out the book at my local library and took it with me to Big Bear where it wasn't until the second day that I cracked it open and several pages later, I knew this book would change my life.  I was trying to tell J. why I was astonished by this book, and I kept saying things like, "It's as if she can describe my thought processes.  Her ability to articulate her loss of faith, her traumatic experiences with religion, the mental toll, the psychological aftermath--I feel as if I have found a kindred spirit, someone who understands what I've gone through and can find the exact words to describe it spot on."  J. nodded and said, "She's your interlocutor."

I won't go into all the details of the book and will leave that for you to experience if you choose.  But I wanted to share, really for my own sake, what this book gave me.

Courage:  I have been very well aware that for the last couple of months I have been living in the grips of fear and terror alternating with despair.  It sounds so dramatic I know but I was finding it very hard to have hope about my future and as my spiritual director would say, "You've been experiencing a lot of desolation."  My director said that intense desolation comes when you're trying to move forward in your life to something good and undergoing a transitional point.  My dear friend Andrea put it another way, "It gets really hard before it gets really good."  As I read The Spiral Staircase, I found my fears replaced with courage and strength, and I received the will to live and move forward. 

The conviction to make my own path: Karen Armstrong ascertains through not fitting in at the convent and not fitting in with secular life that really, she's not going to fit in anywhere and had better stop trying to conform her life to one path.  She decides that the only way is forward and it's going to be a completely different path from anyone else, and she might as well accept that.  I hadn't quite gotten to that point.  I was still mourning not having a normal predictable life.  And now I'm not.  Every morning, I think, I must make my own path, and this fills me with deep gratitude and courage.  It is liberating.

Self-acceptance and love: Self-acceptance is an ongoing process and it was incredibly refreshing to read Karen's no-nonsense British style of accepting what is and what isn't.  She accepted her weaknesses, her dashed dreams, her likes and dislikes, and her intolerance of authoritarian control.  She accepted that as horrible as her experience in the convent had been, it had changed her and shaped her and she needed to accept that it had made her who she was at the present.  I feel invited to accept all of my quirks and strong feelings and weaknesses instead of wondering if I should change or if something is wrong with me.  The wisdom of age is that you have the perspective to see that in all due time, grace and the needed changes do come but it will never be through coercion or because you're supposed to.

It's been a long time since a book has given something back to me, and I'm looking forward to plunging into more reading, finding more interlocutors, and living a more courageous life.


14 November 2010

Chickpea Tomato Stew

Tonight was a moment of culinary genius. Inspired by this spaghetti with chickpeas dish here, I bought some chickpeas and canned plum tomatoes the other day along with a package of diced pancetta.  I needed to make some food to pack for lunch tomorrow and the refrigerator was in sore need of a cleanout.  I wasn't feeling the spaghetti dish so I thought I'd get creative with what I needed to use up in the fridge.

There were a couple of leeks that looked like they had gangrene, a big bag of peeled garlic that I needed to keep chugging through, and that pancetta looking for some action.

I salvaged the leeks and chopped those up and threw them in a saute pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Then, I minced 8 garlic cloves and threw those in.  Next, the pancetta went in with a teaspoon of minced fresh garlic.  Sauteed everything.  Then I drained a can of chickpeas and dumped those in.  Let those fry and develop a golden crust (add more olive oil if necessary).  I chopped up the plum tomatoes in the can and added those. 

Then I added a couple pinches of sea salt
crushed red pepper
a few dashes of dried basil leaves (didn't have fresh)
fresh black pepper
tomato paste

And then this is when the creative genius really kicked in.

I knew it needed some kind of fish/anchovy kick so I contemplated squirting some anchovy paste into the stew but thought better of it since anchovy always seems better off melting off in hot olive oil at the beginning of a dish.  I took a risk and opted for fish sauce instead.

So in went a splash of fish sauce

Then, a splash of soy sauce

....a little bit of sugar

and juice from half a lemon

At this point, I tasted to see if it was done.   I could tell it needed a boozy kick to end things on a complex note.  We had some leftover red wine so in went a splash.  A few minutes of simmer later...

oh my god, I just died and went to heaven.  This dish was absolutely spot on.  It hits your savory spot with just enough of a sour tinge from the lemon juice to make your hiney tingle and twitch. It is tomatoey and worldly and creamy from the chickpeas and the pancetta and leaks just bring everything home.  I did a dance and spoke in Spanish, then French and J. had to come over and try it and when he had recovered, he said, "You are so hot."

I can see eating this with spaghetti, couscous, or quinoa.

Yes, my friends.  I know I'm infuriating and didn't put down exact measurements.  I hope to one day.  I will be making it again.

04 November 2010

Wholesome Choice and a Vegetarian Dinner

Yesterday was a steamy hot sucker punch of a day.  It hit the 90s and the sun's glare was so intense that my Nordstrom teeny bopper sunglasses didn't cut it.  I knew I would be headed towards the beach to sit and walk and let the Pacific waters cool my feet.

But mid-afternoon, I found this recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers, the Wednesday Chef, and I knew I had to make it immediately.  I've lately become enamored with vegetarian dinners and bread and cheese. So instead of driving south towards the beach, I found myself veering north to Wholesome Choice, a gem of a supermarket five minutes from my home.

When I first discovered Wholesome Choice, my eyes bulged and my insides tingled with nervous excitement.  It's what you would get if you put Whole Foods, a Persian market, the farmer's market, and several international aisles into a jar and shook it up.  Apparently, that location used to be a Whole Foods International before it was taken over by a Persian grocer so the layout and feel is remarkably familiar and yet markedly different.  You walk into the doors and to the right, a long line wraps around a bakery and a hot stone oven and you wonder, what are these people standing in line for? And then a few steps in and the produce looks so incredibly fresh and firm and dewy and are piled into big bins for people to sort through and select.  And the prices...how can I not mention the prices?  This is where I get parsley and cilantro, 5 for a $1 in green vibrant bunches and the best kale for less than a dollar.  Then there are the middle eastern selections like crates of dates and figs and persimmons, the halal butcher with fresh cuts of lamb, and the deli where I can buy baklava by the slice and fresh French Valbreso feta and brine by the pound.  There's also a food court with different vendors selling hot Indian, Chinese, Persian, and mediterranean cuisine.  It's heavenly.

But let's go back to the bakery.  It took several visits before I could muster up the nerve to stand in line and see what the fuss was about.  I stood in line for about 20 minutes and realized that what people were waiting for was this Persian bread called sangaak, a long flat crispy and chewy bread that crackles and melts in your mouth.  It's yeasty and and peppered with sesame seeds and there's just something about it that will make even a bread-apathetic person fall apart.  It's made in a rotating furnace with a pebbly surface and when you get to the front of the line you have to say either "one" or "two."  Two is the limit per customer.  You should see the happy smiles and sighs of contentment when each customer finally gets his sangaak folded over in thirds on parchment paper, carrying it gently to his shopping cart and tearing off a crusty, steaming corner into his mouth.

So last night, I bought sangaak to go with Gabrielle Hamilton's Soft Zucchini with Harissa, Olives and Feta
I bought a half pound of fresh French Valbreso feta made with sheep's milk, a tube of harissa, zuchinni, parsley, and kalamata olive, and a couple of baklava pieces for dessert.  Dinner came together in a matter of ten minutes or so and I ate it with an ice cold glass of coconut juice and pulp.  It nourished my soul.

When J. came home later in the evening, his eyes became luminous discs in the face of sangaak and the zuchinni dish.  He inhaled it and gave thanks.  You would have too.

01 November 2010

Halloween Haunts

Where were you this weekend?

I ate too much dim sum Halloween morning washed down with too many cups of tea to count while child-size ladybugs and Nemo and caterpillars wafted by my table full of pork and shrimp and friends.  It was a lovely way to do Halloween.  Might become an annual tradition.

After dim sum, we walked around one of my childhood haunts, Garvey Ranch Park, and then hit up Cofftea for hand-crafted ice teas and boba and excellent customer service. Really nice people over there at Cofftea.  I got the house special iced tea which tasted like a fruit-infused black tea with hints of honey.  C'etait superb!  J. had stars in his eyes and our friends thanked us for introducing them to one of our top tea destinations.

Wisdom gained:
Morning pages help me get past dread and emotional blocks.  I did five minutes of morning pages and walah, I'm doing the laundry and starting work on applications fives minutes later.  Was dreading that for a whole week I tell you.

I'm learning, no matter what the situation is, whether it's freaking out about never finding a job, having a horrible supervisor, feeling like you'll never ever get married--fear can really keep you from treating yourself right.  You want to hold on to the bad because you're scared it won't get better.  No matter what, you have to treat yourself right and choose the best path of integrity, respect, and dignity.  And when you do, others notice and you're more likely to be treated better by others.  No guarantees, of course, but treating yourself right even when there is no guarantee is still the right thing to do. 

Ok enough of that.  This week, I'm going to Laxmi Sweets & Spices to have lunch with Bishop Diane Bruce of the Diocese of Los Angeles to interview her for this little zine here.  Can't wait!

28 October 2010

What's been going on

Alo, everyone.  I can't believe it's been over two weeks since I've posted.  I haven't stayed away like that from blogging in a while.  Let's catch up.

It's been a busy few weeks, filled with soul-searching and prayer, as I hit a low with my temp job situation and confronted some necessary challenges in my life.

One of my new bffs moved out of state and I was so sad to see her go.

I started a communications contract job that I'm uber excited about but that means more evenings working after the day job.

Busy, I suppose is better than not busy...especially if you're busy with the things you know you need to be doing to reach your goals.

J. and I got our very own grown up bedroom set and something about that process flung the doors of feng shui and chi and life force or whatever you want to call it wide open and we found ourselves feeling like very different people.  Like more productive.  More organized.  More on it.  Not out of it.  Proactive.  Assertive.  Sharp and clear.  It was amazing.  We still drool about it.

The surprising thing about that whole furniture milestone was that all of the organizing and decluttering it forced us to do in our small one bedroom apartment made me finally ready to  move on.  As in, move to a different place.  I think when we were surrounded by boxes and ugly furniture and too much stuff, it just made me feel weighed down and all I could think about was sorting through all of that--not moving it all to a new place.  But now that we have done it, I'm ready to address how as much as there are some things about the OC that I love, I'm ready to move to a place that gives me more life.  So we are now planning for a move out of Orange County and back to our old city and the whole thing has felt spontaneous, organic and right.  It really goes to show that if we keep working on the small things, the big things really don't feel that big.  Things come together.

Among other good news, I attended a Shakira concert at the Honda Center a few days ago and had an amazing time.  Her joy and exuberance as a performer is a real gift, and it made me want to live a life filled with doing what gives me the most joy.

So today, I wish you joy whereever you are!  May you continue to discover what gives you joy and find ways to live it.

11 October 2010

Dad's Birthday Weekend

Favorite moments of this weekend:

- Sunday breakfast with my parents at Panera (it just opened up by their home and they are so excited)
- A delicious birthday dinner for my dad--filet mignon, seafood stuffed mushrooms, grilled asparagus, and garlic mashed potatos! (Thanks mom!)
- Talking into the wee hours with old friends (felt like high school)
- A two-layer raspberry buttermilk cake with lemon curd whipped cream frosting that almost became a disaster but worked out in the end.
- Cleaning, cleaning, and sorting our apartment--it's really starting to look different!
- Watching "A Barefoot Dream," a Korean film while folding laundry
- A Ms. Bento lunch jar set that I'd been eying for months was left at my mom's house by her homestay kids and walah, it's mine!
- A successful fall shopping spree at the Marshall's by my parents' house (it must be that inland empire folk don't have the same tastes as mine because this Marshall's was rocking with some baller stuff like a $15 Velvet dress on clearance)
- Drinking a $50 bottle of wine with my family and seeing what that did (mainly--more laughing, a guitar serenade by my brother, and a touching story where my mom shared her current favorite song and told us she realized all her youthful dreams have come true....awwww)
- Hugging Gomi the Akita and talking about dogs
- Playing with Mochi the Huskey puppy

What a great weekend filled with wonderful moments.  Hope you had a good one too.  XOXO, Hanna

06 October 2010

Blogging & Life

Do you know Angie?  If not, I hope you do one day.  She's lovely.  Absolutely lovely.  She can make me laugh like no tomorrow.  And then the next minute, we're sobbing together over the most beautiful things.  I do not exaggerate.  She's a fiery Dominican Republican New Jersey hot mama that showed up to my wedding in a bright red cocktail dress that made her look like the hottest shade of lipstick.  Angie recently became a mama to beautiful Olivia whom I have yet to meet and started blogging over here.  Olivia's daddy is Taiwanese and that combination together is so adorable I just cannot keep my jaw up when I see pictures of her.  Angie's birth story is also absolutely amazing.  Read it.  Your eyes will pop in a good way.  Sigh.  I'm getting Olivia pangs.

Where was I?  Oh yes.  So Angie commented on this post and got me thinking about living and blogging and what it's all about.

She said:

"i don't get to read blogs often anymore but reading yours always makes me want to LIVE in capital letters. Love."
It was such a sweet comment and reminded me of why I blog about the things that I do.  When it comes to bloggers that I read, I adore my favorite food bloggers and my artist/design bloggers.  I also like to read my friends' blogs and that's kind of what I've come to accept about my own.  It's a friend blog.  Most of my readers are friends and people that I know and although at one point, I entertained aspirations of specializing in something niche like food or design, I just stopped.  You know why?  Blogging needs to be fun, not work (at least for me) and the only things I wanted to talk about on a regular basis were about living life.  Especially the things that made life more enjoyable and bearable.

You see, I have a melancholy soul.  I have a happy and joyous soul too but it's prone to melancholy.  It's also gone through some horribly traumatic stuff in the last six years, and I've been in the process of recovering it.  This blog has been a place to record my journey, to provide a concrete visible presence in my life so that I don't forget that I'm moving forward rather than just wallowing in a confusing cloud of who knows what.

I blog about the things that give me life because I'm trying to remind myself that life is worth living.  Yes, I do have to try hard at that, some days more than others.  And when I read other people's blogs, I'm reminded of how much fun things there are to try out there and take risks on.  It's a place to go out on a limb a little, to put myself out there and says, ok, here it is, this is a desire!

And lastly, it means so much that in this journey, I'm not alone.  Your comments remind me of that.  And I am so grateful for that.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you for being there.

 xoxo, Hanna

30 September 2010

2010-2011 Goals

I don't know about you but fall to me still feels like the beginning of a new chapter.  A time for reassessment and fresh starts and goals to accomplish by the end of spring next year.

At my last Ignatian Retreat meeting, my spiritual director asked me what was next for me.  I had no clue.  I was just relieved and ecstatic to be finally done with the Ignatian Retreat.  I saw this next year as one of no obligatory daily meditations.

But then, as I was in a yoga class on Monday, I had a brilliant idea.  This year would be the year of the body--getting in touch with my body, taking care of my body, and connecting that to my spirituality.

I get tingles just thinking of it.  If I could describe this past year in relation to the body, I would say it was one of mental and emotional exploration and healing.  And now, I'm looking forward to being more grounded, in tune with my body, and exploring what it means to honor my desires and take care of my body.

To kickstart this year, I'm going to run my first 5K on November 6th with my beloved partner, J.

I'm taking yoga classes once a week at my gym.

And this is a hard one but I'm going to make it a goal to do at least 30 minutes of heart-raising exercise a day.

Do you have any goals?  Looking forward to hearing them.

24 September 2010

Two Things for Friday

 Gwyneth Paltrow's Newsletter, "GOOP," has been around for a few years and seems to draw lovers and quite a few vocal haters.  I'm not a regular reader but I checked it out again this week and found two articles that resonated:  one for fun and one for reflection.

The Uniform
Wish I could post all the pictures here but it's such a fun little spread on how you can take a gray tank and black leggings and mix it up for different occasions.  It's not a new idea but it was inspiring to see it done well.  I find that even though the newsletter was created several seasons ago, it's still relevant--another clue that this works and has longevity..  I've been thinking more and more lately on how I'd like to invest in a few quality key pieces that lasts and goes with lots of items rather than buy lots of shirts and random stuff on sale.  Wish I lived by a Uniqlo!  I think wide legged jeans and booties are on my list for fall.

Friendship Divorce
Fall out.  Have you ever uttered those words?  It used to bring me shame and anxiety and guilt.  But I'm learning to embrace that friendships change just like everything else in life changes and even if I value loyalty and jung (the Korean word for deep seated unwavering affection that motivates a kind of familial love and attachment), I've got to move on and not hold on to my expectations of a friendship if it's not working.  I found the reflections and responses from Dr. Karen and Cynthia Bourgeault to be particularly apt, challenging, and affirming (Which by the way, sidenote!,how does Gwyneth know Cynthia Bougeault?). I'm so tickled whenever I find Cynthia on GOOP (she's actually a regular).   Cynthia is an Episcopal priest, contemplative prayer teacher, and a protege of Thomas Keating, father of the contemplative prayer movement.  She's also a hermit!  I'm a fan of Cynthia's book, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening--it really shaped my practice of centering prayer.

Happy friday!

22 September 2010

Grateful Wednesday

Grateful to live by my favorite beach and drive down the coast to Laguna Beach

Grateful to witness the setting of a pink sun hidden by gray clouds over the most serene green gray blue ocean.

Grateful for people who love art and design and fashion and light up my life.

Grateful for fall and wearing layers of clothing and clogs.

Grateful for new furniture and the energy it's giving me and J. to tackle other parts of our lives with gusto.

Grateful for the hidden voice of desire and the dear friends who remind me to listen and act.

21 September 2010

Happy Birthday & Happy Graduation

Today is the last day of my Ignatian Spirituality Retreat.  Can you believe it?

It feels like an epic journey.  Has it really been a full year?  A full year of emotional ups and downs, of psychological examination, of spiritual growth, lots of consolations and desolations, countermovements and movements towards God, and most of all, freedom.

The Ignatian Retreat wasn't perfect.  There were times when I wanted to quit or questioned whether this was really all that good for me.  But you know, I'm glad I did it.  Last night I reflected on what I received from this retreat.

Here are some below:
1.  One year ago, I looked at my Bible and didn't want to touch that thing for fear of brainwashing or a severe case of the fundamentalist scabies.  Now, I am at peace with it for what it is and what it isn't.  It doesn't have power over me but it nourishes me when needed.

2.  A year ago, I didn't talk to God for fear of talking to a made up voice in my head that would make me do shitty things that seemed Christian.  Now, when I talk to God, I hold all things loosely and can discern what is love and what is not.

3.  I feel really free in who I am.  I don't feel entrapped by religion.  I don't even feel like I have to be any particular religion.  I feel called to be me.

4.  On that note, I have grown in my desire for authenticity and humility.  Humble enough to be my true self and not fake any thing more or less.

That's it for now.  Gotta go for my final session with M.!  xoxo, Hanna

15 September 2010

Taize: Cantarei ao Senhor

I remember sitting in the main hall at Taize, France, fumbling through the Portuguese in the song, Cantarei ao Senhor.  I learned to love this song, to associate it with the hundreds of lovely Portuguese young adults that were there that week, and by the end of my time, I was singing it along with the best of them.  It's a beautiful song.  It's better live, sitting on the floor with thousands of people at a faster pace.  I came across it again today while writing an email.  Thought I'd share.

Cantarei ao Senhor, enquanto viver.
Louvarei o meu Deus enquanto existir.
Nele encontro a minha alegria. (x2)

All life long, for the Lord I will sing
While I live, I will praise my God;
My joy is in God.

14 September 2010

Tuesday Roundup

It's been a busy month and the  following segments have fed me and kept the excitement of discovery and love around.  Here's a roundup of the week's fun finds.

Aarti Paarti - I discovered Aarti's blog when I was on my guilty pleasure site, the Pioneer Women.  They presented at a food festival together.  I went on Aarti's blog, and I was immediately smitten with her joie de vivre and felt that I could relate to her in many ways such as how she left a succesful job to move to L.A. to be with her actor husband college sweetheart, creating recipes to make an unemployment check stretch, the pursuit of dreams, and her love for good friends and bike riding down to the beach.  Aarti pursued her dreams and her heart on the Next Food Network Star reality show and won!  Her blog writing and personality has such a warm, authentic, and effervescent spirit.  I can see why she would make a fantastic food star.  I've only seen clips of her food show but it looks like so much fun.

Jonathan Franzen - Granted, I had never heard his name until I saw his face on the cover of Time Magazine recently.  But that article and this Fresh Air interview made me appreciate what he had to say about the writing life.  I found his words both literary and personal to ring true and deep.

A couple more Fresh Air book finds:

The 10th Parallel by Eliza Griswold--what a beautiful, poetic, and well traveled book by journalist and poet Eliza Griswold.  The Tenth Parallel is a result of Eliza's 7 years of travel along the 10th parallel, investigating religious conflict between Muslims and Christians and the role of the West in it.

The Warmth of Other Suns--Listen to this segment on the Great Migration of African-Americans in the South to the Northeast, West, and Midwest.  It took the author 15 years and over 1000 interviews to write the book!  Inspiring.

07 September 2010

A Man Named J.


I never thought I'd get married.  But J. convinced me otherwise.  He was my best friend.  And when I first met him in college, I found him incredibly tall and mysteriously midwestern.

He wrote on his shirts with red pens and drew a heart on his sleeve.  He liked to smile like a happy monkey.
And lo and behold, he even liked Hello Kitty.  I love Hello Kitty.

When he came on family vacation, he drove a van full of sleeping Kangsters.  Does that mean sainthood?
He introduced me to his friends, and I loved them.
He wowed me with his intellect and shared my love for London.
He liked to cook and shake his butt in the kitchen.
He was a man of slow golden gazes.
And best of all, when I'm exasperated with life, he brings me balance.  He reminds me to look at things another way, to say funny but true mantras like, "It's not that deep."

02 September 2010

Introducing Awkwerd Turtl, a new blog by Chennergy

 {caviar topped sea scallops w/leek and cauliflower soup}

Some of my favorite people include Dan and Sarah Krusen-Chen of wedding photography and videography fame (consistently ranked top in the wedding industry and blogosphere favorites).  They are the charismatic and romantic duo behind Chennergy, a professional photography and videography business.   J. and I went to Italy last year for their uber romantic, lush, and emotional wedding and feasted for days on delectable delights.

I knew Dan in college when he was living off of Taiwanese dried shredded pork and slim fast (he's a wrestler--I'm guessing it had something to do with that) so I was surprised to hear that Dan had started a food blog.  Now, I knew he had great taste in food.  But I had NO idea, absolutely no idea, that he was a budding gourmand chef.  One look at this food blog and I was wide eyed, salivating, and weak in the knees.  It looks like this guy can seriously cook and combined with his photography skills, he turns his food into visual poetry.

I'm a fan of Dan's unique processing style--a mix of vintage, nostalgic, saturated pics that hearken to the past but also seem utterly new.   They make for beautiful wedding photos and it is a treat to see his signature style applied to food.

Check out his new blog, Awkwerd Turtl.  It's pretty darn amazing.

01 September 2010

September: Fave Products

I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the products that have been enhancing my life. I'm not a big consumer of makeup or fragrance but these here below have really been special.

Korres Jasmine Body Butter
I was gifted a bag full of travel size Korres shower gel and body butter for singing at a friend's wedding. I'd never used Korres products, and I didn't think too much of it because I'm not a huge fragrance/bath & body type person. My routine is pretty simple and consists of Dr. Bronner's Lavendar Liquid Soap and Abba Body Lotion.  The Jamine Body Butter is a wonderful pick me up to have in your purse.  Whenever I need a mood kick, I moisturize my hands and the scent just takes me to a higher place.  :)  I'm very sensitive to smell and Korres seems to get it right on.  It smells so natural and not synthetic.  The Jasmine scent always makes me feel as if I am in India or Thailand, or somewhere where jasmine grows profusely.  Guava is also an excellent scent and the shower gels are really worth it.  Even J. commented on how amazing the products were.

M.A.C. Cosmetics Paint Pot: Bare Study
I use this every day.  Swipe it on my eyelids with my fourth finger and it acts as both a primer and a shadow base and makes my eye makeup stick throughout the day.  Really quite useful and so easy to use.  Still have a lot left in my pot and it has been over six months since I bought it.

Cacao Loose Leaf Tea
I couldn't find a picture of Cacao Tea.  Maybe it's because it's not sold in the U.S.  My mom went to Peru on a missions trip and came back with bags of this stuff.  Yes, cocaine is made from cacao but I believe you need like 100 pounds of cacao leaves to make one pound of cocaine.  Something like that.  One sip of this tea and you will feel relaxed and soothed.  The Peruvians use it to deal with altitude sickness, headaches, etc.  If you can get your hands on some, I recommend it.  Everybody that I have served this tea to have immediately felt the happy calming effects.

30 August 2010

Orange County Round Up, Part 1

I think it's about time that I share with you my favorite places in Orange County--the places that have fed me, nourished me, and kept me sane in this Republican bastion, the hinterlands of L.A., the place otherwise known as the Orange Curtain.

Granted, some parts of Orange County are bursting with flavor and culture like  Little Saigon in Fountain Valley or Santa Ana.  But this girl here is an L.A. girl at heart, and she happens to be living in the master planned city of Irvine aka Sterile City U.S.A.  So these favorite places have been hard earned and cherished, collected one at a time, gripped in a strangle hold during times of uncertainty.  You get my drift.

First, let's start off with two local cafes that a Newport Beach-ite recommended to me.  Gypsy Den and Alta Cafe.  Alta Den is located right off the bay in Newport Beach.  Don't let the wood-grain walls throw you off.  This little house turned cafe oozes character and charm.  The baristas are laid back and beachy cool and the proprietor will charm you with her British accent.  During the day, they can be quite anti-study people but the coffee is excellent (roasted on site) and the lunch sandwiches are gorgeous and affordable (especially the ginormous half sandwich with chips for $4.50).  The pastries haven't knocked my socks off but they're not bad.

Gypsy Den is a little less cool because, well, it's fabricated.  It's decorated with wall tapestries and oodles of vintage frames, paintings of nude women, and other paintings that you remember thinking was really ugly and dated at your grandparent's house.  But you know what, when you're in Orange County, you take your coffee with character however way you can.  It's the Disneyland effect.  Gypsy Den is located in two places: The Lab in Costa Mesa and the Art District in Santa Ana.  I like both for different reasons, though the Santa Ana one is cooler for being in a historic downtown area.  The food is yummy (though their chili and soup is lackluster), their Pirate Chai is truly worth its reputation, and their outdoor dining actually makes for a great dinner party of 4-8 people.  They even serve wine.

And lastly, I leave you with my all time cherished find.  Are you ready?  This will be it for now until Part 2.  This place is....

located in Crystal Cove

involves big hunks of cake or bricks of creme brulee bread pudding

a dinner to boot

a view of the ocean

A beautiful courtyard and patio seating

all for $9.99

It's called Pacific Whey Cafe.  Every day after 3pm, they have a dinner and dessert special for $9.99.  You get to pick one of seven different freshly made dinner options (like lasagna, meatloaf, fish'n chips, chicken pot pie, pasta) and any dessert out of the monstrous case of desserts.  And let's say you're full and you just want a coffee and something sweet.  No problem, all desserts are half off after 3pm.

I stop by here every time I come back from Laguna Beach after seeing my spiritual director.  The drive up Pacific Coast Highway takes my breath away and as the golden California sun sets over my beloved beach, I get to journal, eat, reflect, and collect myself for the week ahead in gratitude.  This is when I feel so lucky to be alive and lucky to live in Orange County if just for that moment.

Tune in for Part 2 Orange County Round Up!

27 August 2010

Andrei Rublev by Andrei Tarkovsky

{scenes from Andrei Rublev, the film by Tarkovsky}

UCI has a summer film series sponsored by the Film and Media Studies department, and Jan, J. and I went to watch the 1966 Russian film, Andrei Rublev by Andrei Tarkovsky.  I had no idea who Andrei Rublev was but at the mention of his name, J. and Jan spoke in exclamation points and said I must see him and that I would love him while also praising Tarkovsky.  I thought Andrei Rublev was an art house film director.  When I found out another Andrei had made a film about Andrei Rublev, I thought then that Rublev must be a contemporary artist.

Wrong on both counts.  Andrei Rublev was a Russian monk and icon painter who lived in the 1400s, a violent and turbulent time in Russian history.  Rublev's art and vision was shaped by his struggle to reconcile the violence and suffering he saw with the love of God.  Before going into the film, the nice folks hosting the series gave us water bottles, junior mints, and cheese popcorn and said, "It's going to be a long film.  Take as many water bottles as you'd like."

Holy cow.  Three and a half hours later, my butt was numb and I was starting to get back pain. Because the film didn't depict Andrei Rublev's work until the very end, I had no idea who he was in relation to his icons until the last five minutes (this goes to show how ignorant I am of icon history--any person in the know would know this info).  Then I finally got it.  Oh my gosh, he's the guy that painted the Trinity?

 {the Trinity by Andrei Rublev}

I first encountered the Trinity in Taize, France which was also the first time I had experienced the use of icons in worship.  I was drawn to the beauty of the icon and the fact that they were all hanging out on a box and every time you look at one person, you're drawn to looking at another, and then another.  A cyclical meditation happens without even trying and there's something about that box that makes them seem so human, so relateable, yet holy.

The film was beautiful and uncomfortable in its portrayal of the brutality and suffering of those times.  I had lots of thoughts about how glad I am and lucky I am to not be born into a feudal society or a nation ravaged by civil violence.  It puts things in perspective.  It makes me more realistic about life and about doing what I can right now and not trying to be a rock star.  I also loved Tarkovsky's interpretation of the need for beauty in our lives and the ways in which our talents are divine gifts that should be used, even in the face of hardship and adversity and other pressing physical needs.  Jan and J. had more art film intellectual thoughts. :)  It was the first time in a long time that I've seen a film address the harsh realities of being human.  No escapisim here.  No siree.

I will say though that I was most disturbed by the scene of a horse falling down the stairs and dying.  It was one long shot and looked undeniably real.  Animals were definitely harmed in the filming of this movie.  :(  There's a also a scene where an angry monk just beats the shit out of a dog.  That looked totally real too.  Ach.

The film, tis good.  It's deep.  It draws you into contemplation.  Like all Tarkovsky movies, or so it seems, I think I need to watch the film again to catch the details and attention to symbol.

Highly recommended-with friends, junior mints, popcorn, and a butt cushion.

26 August 2010

How to permanently disable your ethernet port

This quote from this Time Magazine article, Jonathan Franzen, Great American Novelist, is pretty hard core.

Franzen talks about how he strips his computer and workspace of all distractions, including removing the wireless card out of his Dell laptop and plugging the Ethernet port permanently.  How?

" What you have to do," he explains, "is you plug in an Ethernet cable with superglue, and then you saw off the little head of it."

That's what I call dedication.  Hard core dedication.

25 August 2010

too fun

Had to share.  Here's a link to a Feb 2010 article by The Guardian called "Ten Rules for Fiction Writing."  The article interviews authors for their personal rules on writing.

Some good ones:

Ronny Doyle:
1 Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

Anne Enright
10 Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day, not ­counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.

Richard Ford
1 Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer's a good idea

Al Kennedy
9 Remember you love writing. It wouldn't be worth it if you didn't. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back.

Hilary Mantel
9 If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.

Zadie Smith
10 Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

Inspired By

I'm inspired by writers who write about food, culture, sexuality, power, and religion.  Here are a few that have really been piquing my interest and giving me something to be inspired and renewed by.

The Book of Salt: A Novel

Reading The Book of Salt by Monique Truong, Vietnamese-American author and lawyer.  A gorgeous essay by Monique in a past issue of Gourmet here.  Also featured on the cover of the Sept/Oct '10 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam
 Eliza Griswold, journalist and poet, discovered via this NPR Fresh Air interview with Terri Gross.  Cool bio factoid:  Eliza grew up Episcopalian and is the daughter of Franklin Griswold, former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.  Wrote The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam.  On my hold list at my local public library.

I also discovered Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and Harvard Divinity School grad, through the Los Angeles Catholic Worker's July issue of The Agitator. Jeff Dietrich, Catholic Worker, interviewed Chris Hedges in a fascinating article.  The article covered a lot of ground on how theological education has influenced and shaped the way that Chris investigates and interprets the world.  I was inspired and challenged.  He's a columnist at TruthDigs.com.

Life Questions

In the last month, I've collected a few key questions to reflect on, prompted by my feelings of anxiety, being overwhelmed, exhausted, and pulled in multiple directions.  These questions come from different sources, readings, favorite bloggers, Ignatian spirituality,  and I thought I'd share them with you.  Use them if they help.   I spent an hour this week writing my answers and reflections down on an index card with a question written on the top.  I tucked those cards into my purse and look at them throughout the day.  They help me keep in touch with what I discovered and want to honor.

1.  What do you want to do with your time?  This includes what you would want to do as work.

2.  Who do you want to spend your time with?  (actual people you know or kinds of people you'd like to spend time with)

3.  How do you want to live your life?

4.  Where do you feel invited into to be your authentic self, to bring the light of your soul?  This could be a place, a profession, an industry, a community, etc.

5.  What do you have that you are thankful for?

6.  What do you want that you will have?

7.  If you feel anxious and overwhelmed, what do you want to get rid of in your life?

8.  What can you get rid of to create space for God (life, love, desires) to come in?

23 August 2010


Grateful for my birthday, for friends and family.

This past weekend, my friends reminded me to celebrate all my years, not the fact that I'm getting old in terms of my ovaries or popular American society's perception of a woman's worth or what it means to have a career.  All my years.  What a concept.  To be grateful for the year that has passed, for all the years that I have had with friends and family, for health and growth. 

I received thoughtful, beautiful gifts that were so me that I felt really loved.  I have to list them here because they were too cool.  A recipe book featuring desserts with typographical designs.  A thai condiment kit complete with blue and white ceramic jars and fish sauce, chilis, and a special chili mix I fondly refer to as my crack.  A lovely book on throwing handmade French soirees.  Beautiful tins of tea.  A wine bottle from Hanna Vineyards.  Two beautifully bound classics.  A big chocolate cake and lemon curd raspberry tart.  Hello.

The weekend was full of scrumptious food (Korean, Cuban, Italian), sangria and wine, Italian coffee and desserts, good conversation, and all around wonderful people.  Last night I watched Eat Pray Love with two dear friends after a dinner of pasta and gorgonzola pear salad.  In the movie (and the book), Elizabeth Gilbert goes to Italy, India, and Bali to find her self and to experience love and life after feeling lost, depressed, and heartbroken with life.  I sat there in the theatre remembering my trip to Italy last year with J. and our best friends, traipsing around Rome, staying in Trastavere, exploring the ruins.  Or Bali two years ago on my trip to Asia, where I said yes to J., yes to loving my self, and yes to loving him.  And India, where I went for two months when I was fifteen, which kicked of my lifelong search for adventure, mystery, and holy longing.

I realized, I have had a good life. As much I felt so melancholic and down this past week, my friends and family showed me that life is about more than what was getting me down.  One of the pieces of wisdom I am gaining with the passing of my 27th year is a value for people--family, friends, loved ones. 

Thank you to all who celebrated with me, in person and in spirit.  This was a special one.

20 August 2010


After feeling really wound up and upset this week about the state of my life and things not working out, I did a couple of crucial things.

Slept early and deeply.

Went to the beach, ran barefoot, and ate at my favorite cafe.

Talked with friends.

It's easy to flip back and forth between depression and anger.  Talking to a good friend who could understand the dredges of melancholy was so helpful.  The beach healed me.  Realizing that I needed more support in my life was good.

It's hard to admit how little control I have in my life.  And as much as I go through really good spells of letting go, of living in peace, of being centered, I hit rough patches where every little thing just makes my stress shoot through the roof and make me feel like everything just flat out sucks.  It's whiny.

So this morning, walking to my car, I thought, you know, there's so much that could go wrong and does.  But I need to remember to receive instead of being distrustful.  Receive from the universe.  Receive from God.  Receive whatever it is I can in all situations.Remember to receive.

17 August 2010


Lately, I've been feeling melancholic.  Anxious.  Worn down.

This summer proved to be a big and busy one, full of personal risks, multiple projects, and lots of work.

Sometimes, that can mean that I'm tired, overwhelmed, raw, scared, discouraged.

Other times, it means that I'm getting a ton done.  I've learned that the busier I am, the more I get done.  And there's something so satifying about that (Although, there's a definite threshold to that equation)

This may have something to do with my birthday coming up at the end of August.  I feel like I have less to show for myself than I did three years ago.  Less money in the bank.  A totally unglamorous day job.  Struggle to find a job.  More pounds on the scale.  Is this what getting old is like?

Here's what I have learned though and what I've gained with age. I'm more comfortable in my own skin.  I know more of what I want, what I don't want, and what to do about either. I know who I am spiritually and my spiritual life nourishes me.  I move towards freedom and life.  I have more direction in my life.  I've explored my various interests and discerned the better of them.  I have more inner strength and conviction.  I'm less swayed by what others think.  I've learned to accept my emotions.  I'm less afraid and more courageous.  I'm not afraid to be vulnerable.  I'm more open to the universe, to God, to possibility.  I've gained wisdom on the role of suffering in my life.  I've learned to say yes to my heart and fallen more deeply in love with people and life.  I've learned to receive love more deeply in all the ways it comes to me.

What I've gained also means that I feel more deeply and suffer more deeply.  Apparently that is the more authentic way.  The way that leads to more love, compassion, and freedom.  Sometimes, I'd rather not feel things so keenly.  I'd rather be shallow and flit past things without being affected at all.  I'm still learning.

13 August 2010

swimming silly

Yesterday, I went swimming after work in the outdoor pool down the street from my place.  I haven't been swimming all summer even though I got a gym pass just for that reason, and as I walked down the hill to the pool, I noticed with dismay that there was a TON of people there.  Oh my jiggly butt.

Once I arrived, I realized there was a pool party for all the international students that came to UCI for the summer program.  They were sitting around in dense clusters all around the pool, playing volleyball,  stripping down to their undies, peeing in the pool (I swear, this one Japanese kid stuck his butt in the pool in his undies and I really think he did it just to take a piss).

Not so thankfully, I had to walk past hordes of bikini-clad 18 year-olds in my Speedo swimsuit that I had bought for $12 at Marshalls.  You know why it was only $12?  Because it says "LIFEGUARD" across the chest.

Um, yup.  I couldn't resist a $12 swimsuit.  Plus there were no other swimsuits my size and I desperately wanted a one piece and not a two piece for lap swimming.  And I did not want to pay $70 at a sporting goods store.  I was really questioning the merit of that decision as I walked to my lane, trying to hold my goggles casually against my chest.  My biggest fear is that someone will be drowning and everyone will look at me to save that person.  My superficial fear is that the lifeguards will stare at me while I swim and wonder how in the world I was ever a lifeguard.

I swam and swam and swam and then at the end of my practice, I waited for five minutes trying to figure out how to get out of the pool without having to flash my chest at the five lifeguards hanging out right in front of my lane.  In the end, I realized, there was no way I was going to get across the three other lanes to the ladder on the other side of the pool without messing up someone's practice so I just bit the bullet and scooted out of my lane.  Avoiding eye contact.

I know.  I'm so silly.  I'm sure nobody cared.

I walked back to my lounge chair with my shoulders hunched up and then I realized, wait a minute, I feel hella good.  Like HELL YEAH good!  And just like that, my self-consciousness went out the window.  Damn. My body was sending me kisses and love notes and saying, thank you thank you thank you, i love you, thank you for taking me swimming.  It was exhilarating.  I recommend it. 

10 August 2010

gawd, it's summer

it's summer and i need a break from serious heady soul thinking.  you know what i mean?

here's what i'm excited about...

watching a film on letterpress printmaking with my art buddies

picnics at crystal cove state beach

making andrea nguyen's pho

taking more pictures and making this blog more visually friendly

eating lots of korean popsicles in red bean, iced coffee, and melon flavors

going to san francisco and seeing friends, laughing, exploring, and eating out the town

designing and writing from the heart

falling asleep to alfred hitchcock movies

celebrating my birthday with J. and friends.

ahh, now that's what i'm talking about.

Chi-Town and Forays into Academia

This past weekend, I went to Chicago for the Asian Pacific American Religions Research Initiative (APARRI) 2010 Conference.

I presented a paper on Asian American young adults in the Episcopal Church--a labor of love that I had feverishly worked on the past month after work and during lunch, interviewing participants, reading scholarly work, thinking and analyzing and stressing.  I'm not specifically interested in Asian Americans and religion but the conference gave me a chance to work on something that I had been thinking about and mulling over for the past year.

It was intimidating and stimulating to be around scholars whose work I have admired for several years, some of whom even changed my life with their writings like Rita Nakashima Brock, Asian American feminist theologian, and Rudy Busto, a professor in UCSB's religious studies program.  I'm happy to report that they were totally normal people that ate regular food, made goofy remarks, and liked to laugh and chat.

More than anything, this conference was a chance to act out deep desires to pursue scholarly work in religion and see what it really felt like, outside of my idealism and hopes, and into embodied living.  It was a crushing, illuminating, risk-taking endeavor that left me spinning with the repercussions of what I had observed and learned.

I'm still thinking through these repercussions and how they shape my next moves.  More than anything, I want to be authentic and have the humility to be who I am whatever I do.  I'm grateful for the growth that I've experienced to take risks and to explore these topics.  Thank you to my blog community and friends for being with me through this time.  We'll see what's next.

04 August 2010

i love food but...

I love food.  You know I do.

Thai, Korean, Japanese, Mexican, Burmese, Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Cajun, Southern, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, Meatatarian

Pork Belly, ribs, spicy stews, cold noodles, steak, chicken, pho, beef noodle, doh miao, pizza, quiche, crab, alfredo, kabab, fish tacos, kalbi, french toast, pastries, Pastries!, cake, baguette, dumplings, kimchi, pickles....

I am the girl that drove her midwestern hiking buddies nuts with incessant chatter about food for sixteen days in the Upper Peninsula (they had never heard of the Food Channel).

I am the girl that on her first visit to Paris, decided to stop at every single bakery she saw and get a pastry.  I stopped at five in one day.

I am the girl that went to Manila to learn about the urban poor squatters, and instead learned to shop in the open air markets, negotiate in Tagalog, and make authentic dishes.  Once they saw me do that, they said, "You're a Filipina now!"  My homestays with families turned into cooking lessons--making chicken soup with green papaya, Philipino fried chicken, pac bet, spicy coconut pork curry, and lumpia.

Throughout the day, food flits through my mind as much as sex must for a guy.  I read about food.  I write about food.  I wonder what it would be like to abandon everything to be a food writer.  I savor one more slice of pork belly.  I refrain from cooking with cream but when I'm out, I sometimes can't resist.

I love food so much,  I even say it all the time.  But last night, while I was throwing up from a bad combo of a midnight snack involving tangy cool made from scratch with greek yogurt tzatziki sauce and an espresso to keep me up for a project, I realized, I love food but I should probably love my body more. 

I don't know why God made me a Francophile and gave me lactose intolerance.  Unfortunately, lactaid pills don't cut it for me.  And probiotics don't seem to help in that department either.  The answer is clear--restraint.  Prioritizing my love for my body over my love for food.  Oh dear.  It's a hard one.

02 August 2010

The Joy of Living Alone

J. was gone all week visiting family in Kansas and attending his brother's wedding in Ohio.

A couple days before he left, I started to feel slightly panicked.  Who was going to help me wake up in the mornings?  Greet me when I came home from work?  Talk me through my research questions?

I moved down to Orange County to be with J. as he goes through grad school.  And whenever he leaves, it is painfully clear that the main reason I am choosing to live in Orange County has just flown away.

J. left last Monday, and I dreaded the thought of waking up by myself.  I am a horrible morning person and sleep till the last minute.  J., sweetheart that he is, has honed his waking Hanna up skills to the tee. 

I was so worried that I wouldn't wake up on time that I set two alarms.  I had no problems.  I got to work on time with my makeup on and a cute outfit to boot.

When I came home from work, I thought the gaping silence would gnaw at me.

Instead, I reveled in it.  It was so nice to watch whatever I wanted to on Hulu!  It was so much easier to keep the apartment clean!  It was so nice to have quiet and space and time for myself.  I could sleep in the middle of the bed, ah!  The joys of living alone rushed back to me, and I seriously wondered if J. and I weren't better off living apart.  I remembered what I had so desperately clung to in the last days before getting married:  I LOVE living alone!!!!

My good friend came out and spent a couple of nights with me.  Two words.  Pillow Talk.  We went out to Crystal Cove State Park and enjoyed a dinner overlooking the ocean and talked late into the night with hot cups of tea.
Jan came out on Friday and brought this absolutely addicting Thai chili pork dish along with a baggy of the chili mix straight from her parent's trip to Thailand.  Anyone who brings me food like that goes straight to my heart.  What is in that chili mix?  I guess red chilis, fish sauce, shrimp paste, sugar, and crack.    

And on Saturday, I had dinner at C&O Trattoria in Marina Del Rey with K. and S., both fabulously liberated Episcopalian women who made me happy to be me.

All you single men and women out there, ENJOY the single life.  Revel at sitting around naked in your apartment with nary a sexual reaction in sight.  Eat cake all to yourself.  Watch The Bachelorette without shame.  And sleep in the middle of your bed.

23 July 2010

i love women

Girls are taught to please, to smile, to pretend that everything is ok.

And as we become adults, we realize, we don't want to pretend.

For those who have the courage to be authentic, it sometimes means losing friends and a reputation for being well-groomed, maintained, and mannered.  Sometimes it means people think we're crazy.

Strong women reach out and learn to listen to their desires, their hopes, their fears, those feelings that we've been told is not ok to feel.  We feel them anyways.  And we follow through with action and care for ourselves and ultimately, the world.

I love women.  I love their strength, their vulnerability, the hidden depths that emerge with clarity and beauty.

22 July 2010

When you're worn thin

When you're worn thin and your mind races and there are multiple deadlines and you can't remember the last moment when you had an hour to just be...

When you multi-task everything you do and can't remember when you actually did one thing fully present from start to finish...

When you start hearing a voice in your head that says, "Vacation ...Vacation ...Vacation ..."...

When you start picking on your roommate or spouse and say "Fuck you" during the breakfast rush...

It's time to

Buy a tall soy cappuccino during your morning break even if it breaks your shoestring budget
Plan a vacation, even if it's not in the budget
Stop working on other projects over lunch

Stop thinking about a hundred things while doing something else with your body

Take a walk on the beach
Drive along PCH
Reconnect with yourself
And stop pretending everything's ok.

21 July 2010

Summer Cocktails

Over here in Orange County, it's been mostly grey and cool with a flash of heat this past week.  This morning, we're back to drizzly grey and cool breezes.  It's lovely actually.  I'm a sucker for grey weather...although I've found that this is only true when I'm in California because it's such a novelty.  The sun comes out by the afternoon and in the evening, it's balmy enough for shorts and dinner by the grill.

J., with his epicurean tastes, has taken to making cocktails in the evenings.  Throughout the year, wine is our aperitivo of choice but in the summer, two strong contenders emerge:  Campari and Pimms.

We first had Campari in the Venetian Spritz on our trip to Venice, Italy this past year.  It's a sweet, citrusy, bitter, and salty drink, served with ice, green olives, and a wedge of orange.  In Venice, it was served to us in big glass goblets with a basket of salty potato chips.  Our host told us that the Venetian Spritz was a must have to cooling down in the heat of the summer and experiencing Venice.  He was right.  Our jet lag slid right off into the sweet and briny drink and the crunch of potato chips and we felt the afternoon slow down into a wonderful people watching pool of relaxation.

Pimms is a cocktail from England.  The last time I was in London, my friend Reshma suggested I order it at an open air bar by the Thames, and it was delightful.  A cooling treat to sit and shoot the breeze with and watch the boats go by.  Mint, lemonade, and cucumber combine with liquor for something that feels like quintessential summer.  Cucumber can be cut into spears or slices and eaten along with the drink.  And according to other sources, other fruits can be added such as strawberries, apples, and oranges.  Last night, J. and I enjoyed our Pimms cocktails with a simple dinner of grilled salmon and steamed broccoli drizzled with our very best olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

What is your summer cocktail?  I'm interested to know.

08 July 2010

Week 3

Week 3 sounds so docile and meek, like it happened quickly and in the blink of an eye.  But Week 3 in Ignatian 9 Month Retreat speak means four weeks of contemplating the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.

I know, yikes!

Yesterday, I finished the last week of Week 3, and I experienced a passing through and growth in my self and in wisdom. 

Week 3 was tough.  Mary, my spiritual director, mentioned that most people experience fatigue at this point.  I've been experiencing fatigue throughout this retreat so it was nothing new.  But the thing that I was unprepared for was the depth of mourning and grieving I would do for the suffering I had experienced in my past and present life.

I've been learning a lot about suffering--the nature of suffering, what suffering does to us, the gift of suffering, how to experience suffering.  I know it's not a light topic, and it probably seems odd  for someone in their 20s to be thinking so much about suffering.  But it's so human--our need to understand and find a way through our pain.  It doesn't seem odd to me.  Although I didn't expect to learn so much about suffering in this retreat, in a way, it was what I needed all along.  I needed answers and a space to mourn; I needed a way to deal and live.  I needed the space to find my self and honor it.

Some of the wisdom I've gained/others that have been reaffirmed:
- Experiencing our own suffering with more depth and honesty allows us to be more fully human.
- God never wants us to suffer.  God wants us to be deeply alive.
- Stop the pretending; the energy poured into making something work.  Trust your restlessness, your need for something more.
- Suffering happens.  Most of the time, there is no explanation.  It's not rational.
- Our essential needs, the things that make us desire to really live, need to be honored above all else.
- My reactions are not your reactions.  Your reactions are not my reactions.  I don't ever need to compare my reaction to yours and wonder if it's "right."  If it doesn't feel right for me, it's not right.

Peace to my readers.  Thank you for sharing in my journey.

02 July 2010

Work & Hobby

Work:  What you do consistently whether you like it or not.

Hobby: What you do whenever you feel like it.

What is my work?  What are my hobbies?  What hobbies need to become work?

22 June 2010


The body likes to be unhurried and appreciates people who do not hurry it.

Making Decisions


for learning to associate decisions with positive feelings

not heart palpitations

or paralysis

just openness
and confident knowing

that in time, wisdom and self-truth unfolds

16 June 2010

Lessons learned this week

If you're stressed, check in with yourself physically.  Are you tired?  Hungry?  Do you need sleep and drink?  A well rested body can give you a clear mind and make stress melt away.

When fear sets in, use your "fight or flight" impulse to fight for what you need and want instead of becoming paralyzed.

Knowledge gives you direction; support give you the tools to overcome the challenges.

10 June 2010

The 9 month Ignatian Retreat is Over! Kind of

 {spritz & crisps in Venice, Italy}

Last night marked my last group meeting for my 9 month Ignatian Retreat.  It's not over for me completely--I missed several weeks throughout the retreat so I have more to go before I finish the exercises.  I'll continue to meet with my spiritual director until I'm done.

But still, I feel an immense sense of accomplishment, a kind of passing through.  A big milestone!  J. was an absolute doll and surprised me with Campari mixers and recreated the Venetian Spritz aperitivo that I adored so much in Venice.  We toasted to the end of my 9 months and chatted about the meeting.

01 June 2010

Language Tools for Learning Korean & French

One of the most helpful, practical tips that I picked up in the last month from blog browsing is the practice of writing out goals and actionable steps and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet. 

I wrote out my goals, one sheet as an overview with a broad deadline, and another one as a daily checklist of lifestyle goals and habits I'd like to incorporate into my life.

One of my top priority goals is to learn Korean and French.  I know some Korean and a little bit of French but I've become so rusty that it's been embarrassing admitting to knowing either.  On top of that, I've been in enough international settings to realize how important it is know other languages in showing respect and a regard for other cultures and communities.

24 May 2010

Life Lessons from Graphic Design

{Product Illustration of a Tacori ad by Hanna Kang-Brown}

I remember flipping through a book on interior design by Candice Olson of Divine Design at a local Home Depot, marveling at her introduction where she says all she needed to learn about life and success came from a ball--a volleyball to be precise.  Candice went on to talk about how competitive sports taught her to rise above her competition not by having more talent, but by working harder and more diligently than anyone else.

Made me wish I had been a competitive athlete in high school and college.  Then maybe, I would be a more successful person and learn how to handle life better.  Like Sarah Palin, with basketball.

All joking aside, I have wondered why sports never gave me a life lesson.  I played soccer and softball for part of high school and maybe it's just that I was never pushed to the breaking point with those things.  I worked hard, I practiced, and I loved playing but it never translated into a major life lesson that I could draw on for the rest of my life.  Where was my life lesson to be found?  Had I missed the boat with competitive youth sports?

19 May 2010

How to Make Friends at Work

1.  Bring in a bunch of peonies (courtesy of TJ's) and put them at the front of your desk.
2.  Put the peonies in a really cool tall blue vase that comes up at eye level to the average male.
You'll be amazed at how many men walk up to the flowers, stick their face in, and say "mmmmmmmmmmm."
The ladies like it too but I've been surprised by the male reaction.  J. thinks it's an interesting experiment on the effects of putting something at eye level for guys.

On Monday, I was feeling blue and bored at work.  On Tuesday, I brought in the flowers, and got happy reactions and conversation from every person who walked by every single time.  I was really shocked by how much people reacted to the flowers. 

What this taught me:
1.  Most people are as bored at work as I am.
2.  Other people don't like the white and grey cubicle walls either.
3.  Flowers make people happy.
4.  Anything visually striking or different provides a conversation piece in an otherwise staid and stilted environment.

Next idea that's brewing:  bring in baked goods.  Now that will  make things really interesting!