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.