The Best-Laid Plans...

2012:  The highs were high and the lows were low. Highlights:  Saw Cock Sparrer.  Learned to Sew. Did the Color Run. Started my business. Got tattooed. Travelled to cool cities. Got an awesome backyard. Turned 29. Election Day wins (!)  Friendsgiving.  Had quality time with friends + family.

This year didn't turn out the way I intended. But to put a positive spin on it, I'll think of 2012 as the foundation-laying year.  I've made some big changes. Time to build on them.

Here's looking at you, 2012.

2012

Onward and upward,

sig line

Victory Lap: Thirty Before 30

I've hit what I like to call the victory lap of my 20's: today I'm 29.

At 15, I said I wouldn't live past 30. Not because I had a prediction about my untimely death, I was just a smart-ass teenager who thought that 30 was old and life wouldn't be worth living once you were "old".  Now that I'm on the brink of 30, I certainly don't feel old and I feel more excited about the possibilities that life presents.  Unlike many women, I look forward to 30 (and beyond).

Look at this this way: I've really only been a certifiable adult for about a decade (or "a dolt", as my smart-ass teenage self would have said). If I take into account all the experiences and what I've achieved over the last 10 years, I feel proud of myself.  But it really isn't about the things that I've done, or what I have, or achieving a certain station of success--it's that I really like me and I really like who I'm becoming.

A good part of my twenties was spent: 1.Beating myself up for the things I didn't do or accomplish, 2. Feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, 3. Wallowing in uncertainty, and 4. Comparing myself to others. I'm proud to say that's not who I am anymore.  And even if all I achieved in my twenties was overcoming those four things, I'd still be pretty damned proud of myself. But I still have another year to live up my twenties and do more. And that's exactly that I intend on doing.

Without further ado, my Thirty Before 30: (in no particular order)

1. Get stronger & healthier//Lose 65 lbs

2. Run 5k//10k//Half Marathon

3. Go Skiing

4. Become a more committed blogger

5. Launch Inkblot & Bard

6. Launch Undistinguished Americans

7. Launch New Business Venture (stay tuned!)

8. Volunteer 60+ Hours

9. Organize a charity event//Raise money for charity

10. Remodel Bathroom

11. Plant a Garden

12. Complete a 365 Project

13. Learn to Sew (...more than a straight line)

14. Learn to Watercolor Paint

15. Write a Novella (30,000+ words)

16. Visit 5 new museums

17. Eat at a Michelin Star Restaurant

18. See a Vegas or Broadway Show

19. Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride

20. Go Horseback Riding

21. Go Camping

22. Read 12 Classic Books

23. Watch 12 Classic Movies

24. Become more fluent in Spanish or French

25. Speak at a Public Engagement

26. Join a Group focused on something I value//Be more engaged//Make new friends

27. Collect 2 New Tattoos

28. Hire a Professional Photographer for a photo shoot

29. Indulge in a Spa Day

30. Splurge on a Designer accessory

I'm really energized by this list.  I think it's a grand finale of my twenties and a great lead-in for my thirties.

My twenties were good for figuring out who I was, I'll spend my thirties becoming the person I want to be.

Onward and upward,

DreSSed 003: Enviable Little Kid Style

I've often said I don't want to have kids.  But secretly I do imagine having a little girl that's a carbon copy of myself--only smarter, prettier, and more successful (whatever that means) while not being a creep of a mother who lives vicariously through her child and causes years of therapy.  While carrying a parasite on my insides for 9 months (too harsh? see, I'm unfit for children...) seems like an eternity to me and the idea of giving birth would make me voluntarily pull my own teeth out instead, there is that certain part of me that still thinks, "maybe."  I'll blame that on biology.

Often times when I tell people I'm (most likely) not going to have kids, their response is almost always, "but your kids would be so cute!"   Cuteness doesn't make up for lost sleep, dirty diapers, temper tantrums and a lost sense of identity.  I'm not naysaying all the parents out there or anyone's choice to have children.  Hell, I do believe that YOUR lives are more fulfilled, enriched and complete with kids--that your capacity of love has exponentially increased in ways that you didn't think were possible (or so I've been told).  I say this with no amount of sarcasm: Good for you.  I just think it may not be right for ME.

But considering everything my psychic said has eerily rang true thus far, it may be in the cards for me anyway. Well technically, she told my husband she saw kids in his future--so I like to think that provides me with a convenient out.

If I were to indulge in a fantasy world wherein I do have a little girl, I imagine her dressed like the adorable Alia Wang:

Maybe my want to give something "good" to the world will result in having a child.  Maybe said child wouldn't be crushed by the tremendous expectation that I as an Asian-ish mother inherently would harbor.  Maybe she'll be bright, caring, worldly, intellectual and funny, strong but not hardened, and do something to make a lasting impact and difference in the world.  Then again, instead she may bring about the end of days, be a cheerleader or socially conservative.

That's a gamble I'm not ready to take.

Maybe it really comes down to the fact that I want to have a wardrobe as chic as Alia Wang's.  Or have Alexander Wang be my uncle.

Who knows...

Let the Table Get Messy.

Sometimes I wish I had a time machine I could hop into just to see what the next 3-6 months hold for me. Since that's not an option, I decided to seek out what I saw as the next best thing: a psychic. I know there will be plenty of naysayers and skeptics out there--and I feel you--but I went into the whole thing with an open mind and suspended my doubt just to see what the experience would be like. And without seeming like I drank the Kool-Aid, wandered out into the ether, or gone off the deep end, I want to say that it was an interesting and illuminating experience.

No crystal balls. No fancy turbans à la Zoltar (though I would have been a fan of that). No tarot cards. I didn't have any "tells"--all I provided was my name and birthdate. There were some things that didn't register but there was a lot more that resonated immediately. I'm not going to concern myself with the how or assume that my life will unfold according to my reading. But you have to admit that getting a glimpse of your future, however skeptical you may be, has to appeal to a certain extent.

Here's a little portion of my reading. It's almost as if the psychic took a peek inside my brain and captured all my hopes and fears:

There's so many different ways that if you wanted to be self-employed, a lot of different things, hobbies that can becomes businesses--but--you have to charge for your time. Do things that come from your heart. Have confidence that you'll be able to do it. Revise your sense of security. Once you get out there with your work, what you can do for people--they'll be no shortage of work. There's money there.

Then she says this:

Here's another thing about you, you always have the idea of giving back. It's not just like you make money just so that you can live or survive. I feel like you're always going to add to other people's lives.

...eerily accurate.

And then:

I would really strongly suggest to you, you're real smart when it comes to the numbers and the creativity, the part that I would really, really love for you to do is before you go to sleep at night think about that you'd like to remember your dreams. I'd love for you to get a journal and write your dreams down and working with them if you can. I'd love for you to do that. I just feel that it will help you stimulate your creativity. It'll help you understand how your creative, intuitive mind works. I just feel if you just open that part of your brain that thinks outside of the logic, if you build that part of your brain the divine ideas that you need for your work, you'll be open to them. Open that part of your brain and working with your dreams, let them guide you too. To be honest with you, I feel like you could be so successful. You have a really good work ethic, and you have integrity. And you have the passion for it.

Logic has always prevailed for me. I've abandoned many a creative pursuit simply because I'm too focused on the minutiae of daily life, calculating every step, factoring in every possibility for the most mundane issues. Given the choice of security or possibility, I've chosen security every time.

Recently I made a concerted effort to do something new, something as a creative outlet. Of the many options, I decided to take up sewing. Like two weeks ago. Seriously. So it was particularly peculiar when the psychic said:

Did you recently take up something involved with stitching...or sewing?

With sewing or this stitching sometimes you'll think, "I don't know why I'm doing this." But I feel you were led to that--because it's opening up your brain. When you learn a new language, there's a chemical pathway that's laid down in your brain. With these different things you're doing it's opening you up to your creativity.

Then she says this, taking the spooky factor to the MAX:

Can I also tell you...I want you to know this--really think about this: Don't be afraid to make a mess on your table. Okay. Okay? You need to know that, if your going into this new thing you gotta take a risk like that. If the dining table is a mess, it doesn't matter. It's part of the creativity of what you're doing. Art is not organized. Let it go.

The last time I sat down to sew, my frustration level was getting off the charts. My needle broke for the second time, the thread kept snapping, there was a mess EVERYWHERE. I hate messes. I hate clutter. I hate when things don't work out. I got up and walked away to cool down for a moment intending to come back. Then I thought, "Screw it. I'm not doing this." I went back into my kitchen--to the dining table to clean up. "No point in leaving this mess here," I thought to myself. I'll be the first to admit I'm a neat freak--I like order. Hell, I like the dishwashing soap turned a certain way so that label is faced just right.

It's not as if the psychic told me anything that surprised me. If anything she gave just a shot of courage to keep traveling on the path I'm already on--to move in the direction of my dreams. Succeed or fail, that's exactly what I'm going to do.

So what now?

Now I'm going to let the table get messy.

Go and do something that scares you,

Ma Vie En Photos 004: Sacramento Color Run

 

I can't recall where I first heard about it, but I've always been enamored with the Holi Festival held in India.  Seeing such joy and celebration makes me feel alive--it makes me feel connected to strangers halfway across the world, it makes me feel bonded to other human beings.

Here's a little peek at Holi:

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/40123818 w=500&h=281]

Considering my chances of going to India to celebrate Holi are slim (but not impossible!), the Color Run is the next best thing.  I heard about the Color Run back in March and feverishly signed up and solicited some friends to do the same.  It was one of the best decisions I've made this year.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EERSfHiqT8?rel=0&w=640&h=360]

The Color Run was my first 5k and it delivered its promise of being the "happiest 5k on the planet".  I had so much fun!

Before: 

During:

After:

In every picture I'm in I have the most derpy looking grin and my eyes are closed.  Oh well.

Thanks to all the ladies (plus Dan) of Team Gang Green for making the Color Run great!  Can't wait until next year!  I'm already looking for coordinating outfits for us all and witticisms to put on signs...

Thanks Color Run for coming to Sac!  See you August 2013!

(Thanks to Staci, Jessica and Lynn for the photos.  All others are taken from the Color Run's Facebook page.  Check our their site here.)

Yum Yum 002: Confessions of a Food Obsessionist or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Loathe the Carb

Confession time:  I have a history of failed eating ideals (that’s right eating ideals—I don’t believe in dieting) and I’ve spent the majority (ok, almost ALL) of my twenties overweight.  I don’t believe in dieting because I have an aversion to temporary approaches to nutrition in order to lose or maintain weight.  I don’t think a healthy lifestyle can be built on a foundation of The Hollywood Diet, The 10 Slices-of-Bread-a-Day Diet, The Baby Food Diet, The Tapeworm Diet...the list goes on and on.  While these examples may be Fad diets, the word “diet” will always bear a negative connotation to me. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but I feel like I let myself gain weight and I need to pay my dues in order to lose it.  No short cuts, no quick fixes, just healthy eating and working out.

While I haven’t done any crazy fad diets, I am (was) a ritual calorie-counter.  At one point I was eating 950 net calories per day, which is effective but unhealthy. Most of the time I capped out at 1250 calories a day.  Paired with working out, this method worked.  But there were major pitfalls.  Counting calories made me obsess about food.  All I could think about was food—but not in a good, healthy way. I thought in calories; I can divide like a champ since I spent a lot of time calculating fractions of portions so they would be an “acceptable” number of calories.  I found myself doing things like cutting 1/6 of a cake donut to eat (ridiculous), eating ice cream out of a 1/8 measuring cup (think taste bud blue balls), eating 1/3 cup of rice (this is miserable for an Asian mutt like me).  I don’t know about you, but that’s tantamount to torture in my book.  While I was eating a low calorie diet, I was still trying to eat like a fat kid—a sadistic, twisted, anguished fat kid. While I did eat vegetables, fresh fruit and lean meat, most of my free time was spent dreaming of naughty food.  I would salivate at the idea of eating cheesecake and indulge in a nearly transparent, paper-thin slice.  Misery.

Because of the constant misery, it was difficult to be a hardcore calorie counter for more than a few months at a time.  I thought calorie counting would be my best bet because I could eat anything, just less of it.  After a while, it becomes unbearable.  What good is pasta if you can only eat a ¼ cup of it?

I’ve moved on to something new. It may be premature to share, but what the hell: I’ve gone low-carb and I’m digging it.  Call it Paleo, call it Atkins, call it whatever--I'm on the train.

Here’s why:

  1. NO CALORIE COUNTING!  Halle-effing-lujah! I feel so liberated!
  2. My OCD counting problem has been reduced (and fulfilled) to simple carb counting = less neurotic me.
  3. I’m eating healthier things by default—greens, some fruits, and proteins are low or no carb.
  4. I’m cooking more creatively (my creativity comes in the form of problem-solving).  I’m having zucchini pasta, cauliflower “rice” risotto, parmesan chips, avocado shakes, and they all taste DELICIOUS.  It feels like I’m being naughty, but I’m not.
  5. I’m less hungry.  Less obsessive about food. More energetic. I’m also losing weight AND inches*.  You know, no big deal. (*I do have a fairly regular work-out routine, too)

Right now I’m trying to eat 20 grams net carbs per day.  Seems like a low number, but it’s not hard to stay in that realm.  Sure, a Cappuccino Blast sounds amazing but at 97 g of carbs, it’s not really worth it.  Instead I’ll drink a Chai Tea with Almond milk and satisfy the same craving.  The really crazy part for me is that I’m actually still staying within 1250-1300 calories per day (I know I said I wasn’t counting calories, but the easiest way to keep a track of carbs is to use a site like Livestrong.com, so I get a calorie count by default--don't judge! I'm in the recovery stage of calorie counting). So far, so good—and I haven’t felt this good in a long time.

I can say for certain my inner fat kid does a little dance every time I eat.  Donuts may be out of the picture, but I’ll take a creative, healthy, delectable low carb meal over them any day. Well, today at least and hopefully tomorrow and loooong into the future. I'll be damned if I spend my thirties rotund!

So far, here are a few of my favorite recipes:

 Zucchini Pasta

 

Cauliflower Risotto

 

And my favorite salad:

 

For an intense Foodgasm (yeah, I said it), combine:

-2 Cups Organic Arugula

-1 oz Cubed Pancetta

-1 T Light Champagne Vinaigrette (Trader Joes has a good one)

-½ Avocado, Diced

-2 Six-Minute Free Range Eggs (How to here: Eggcellence! P.S.  If you can't appreciate a runny egg yolk, our friendship is on the line.)

Cheese Crisp Garnish (How to here: Cheese Chip from joyfulabode.com. You'll never want croutons again!)

Now put it in your food hole and gobble it up. Delicious and 3 Net Carbs.

Here’s to eating well and being healthy!

Ma Vie En Photos 003: Kitchen Edition

This post is waaaay past due. My other and I bought a house back in 2009. The listing for the house was as follows:

Move-in ready 3 Bedroom, 1 Bath home in a convenient location.  With a minimum amount of TLS [sic], this will make a nice starter home or investment property.

Allow me to breakdown the realtor speak:

There's nothing great or worth mentioning about this house other than the fact that you could move in if you can deal with its dated, hodge-podge interior. The location is made convenient because one of the busiest streets in your area is right in your backyard.  The word "minimum" is used at liberty and is subject to interpretation. "TLS" was the intended acronym and is short for "Tears, Labor and Sweat".  This will be a nice starter home because as a first time buyer, your expectations should be lower.  Investors: this is a steal 'cause you won't have to live in it.

Despite my fluency in "realtor-ese" we bought the house anyway.  Oy vey. There's a lot of work to be done and a lot to cover, but for this first post about my home, we'll focus on the kitchen.

The kitchen when we bought the house had the original cabinets from the late 1950's that were complemented by a mustard countertop. There was a weird soffit, broken stove, peeling linoleum and a junky fan.  Impressive!

One day a friend stopped by to check out our newly acquired home.  She was so moved by the appalling nature of my kitchen, that we had an impromptu demolition session.  Bless her heart--if we hadn't done the demo then, we knows when it would've happened.

Phase One: Remove cabinetry.  (The ugly aluminum shade outside the window has also been removed. Thank goodness!)

Another view of the mess.

This is where the oven was.  Goodbye!

This is the subflooring after the linoleum was torn out.

There's no photographic evidence of the tear out of the lower cabinets since we were apparently having a ton of fun applying blunt force trauma to those scary cabinets.  We were surprised to find gravel under the cabinet bases.  Gravel.

With the demo complete, it was on to my favorite part: designing and shopping!  We wanted something fresh, modern and unique.  I love, love, love this stage--there's something about creating and executing a vision that is really gratifying.  I certainly enjoy picking paint chips more than painting.

I'm very fortunate to have AMAZING in-laws and friends who helped us tremendously through the kitchen renovation process.  This could have never happened  without them.

Here's one of the only progress shots we have. All new cabinets, paint, soffit, hood, and recessed lighting.

And here's the after shots after we installed the flooring, countertop, appliances, lighting fixtures, decorations and furniture.

We still have some things to check off the list before we're finished: Tile backsplash, under cabinet lighting, perhaps a new kitchen table.  And maybe one day I'll get to ironing and hemming those curtains...

Ciao!

Do This, Not That!

So, I often find myself spending entirely too much time on the computer.  Apparently sitting in front of one at work, at school, and for my business ventures isn't enough to keep me away from my internet box.  When I have free time, I have an urge and tendency to waste it browsing tumblr, Facebook, imgur or my email instead of doing something (ANYTHING!) productive.

I have quite a few goals that I could pursue instead but yet I find myself wasting time all too often.  I need to stop.  But why do I always do this?

I tell myself I'm bored.  Or maybe, I'm boring.  Eff.  That's exactly what I don't want to be.  Boring.  What an ugly word.

199/365 - Stop Being Boring

John Berger, an art critic, novelist, painter and poet said, "Is boredom anything less than the sense of one's faculties slowly dying?"

I don't want my faculties to die.  So I did what I do best.  I made a list.

Instead of idling my time away, I will do one of these things instead.  If I have a moment of weakness where I want to check my Google Reader for the 5th 10th time in one day, I will do one of these things instead.

So here it is, my "Do This, Not That" List:

  1. Exercise
  2. Study French
  3. Design a greeting card
  4. Draw Characters of/from
    1. Favorite movies
    2. Everyday life
    3. Celebrities
    4. Musicians
    5. Imagination
  5. Write a poem
    1. Haiku
    2. Limerick
    3. Rubiyat
    4. Sonnet
    5. Free form
  6. Write an editorial piece about a current event
  7. Read a book
  8. Try a new recipe
  9. Take a walk
  10. Make a clothes pin character
  11. Think of a theme and take 10 photos
  12. Practice a musical instrument
  13. Meditate
  14. Draw a comic of yourself
  15. Make a collage.
  16. Design a product
    1. Realistic
    2. Fantastical
  17. Mold something out of clay
  18. Plan an outing
  19. Design a tattoo
  20. Call a friend to catch up
  21. Illustrate an inspiring quote
  22. Learn about a philosophical movement
  23. Draw a portrait
  24. Pick two nouns and an adjective & write a short story
  25. Study Religious Texts
    1. Dhammapada
    2. Qu’ran
    3. Bible
    4. Torah
    5. Mahabharata
  26. Give yourself a spa treatment
  27. Create a new font
  28. Design print material for potential client
  29. Find a piece of art to reproduce
  30. Draw a graffiti version of your name
  31. Bake something from scratch
  32. Detail clean something
  33. Make a paper doll + outfits
  34. Paper mache a mask
  35. Write about a significant moment in your life
  36. Make a mini-photo album complete with absurd captions
  37. Print out a picture.  Deface it. Embellish it.
  38. Write a dialogue between two unlikely characters.
  39. Work on a coloring book.
  40. Dream up a successful business endeavor.
  41. Sew a pillowcase
  42. Experiment with watercolors
  43. Brush up on a subject.
  44. Refile/Reorganize/Tidy up something.
  45. Sketch 5 things around you.
  46. Outline a debate on a topic.
  47. Do MENSA mind challenges.
  48. Make a feltie.
  49. Practice drawing a body part.
  50. Make a new list of things to do.  Then do it.

Now it's your turn!

Ma Vie En Photos 002: Portlandia

 

Dan and I decided to take (another) mini vacation.  Hey, we deserve it.  Instead of just saying we were going to Portland, we actually went.  Despite the fact that we drove (which equals misery for me since I get VERY car sick) and Dan got a speeding ticket in Weed(83 mph in a 65 zone), it was good times.  Next time, a plane ride is in our future--in my mind, it's not a bona fide vacation without one.

We stayed in Downtown Portland at the Hotel Lucia.  Modern Decor with excellent photography on display. Nice hotel in the middle of everywhere we were planning on checking out. Plus fresh green apples ripe for the taking.

We arrived around 5pm on Friday and apparently everyone was getting out of work.  From our vantage point, we had arrived in Hipster Mecca.  Men in capris, handlebar mustaches and neon framed glasses.  Women vintage looking dresses, torn tights and thrifted cardigans. It was almost painful.  Fortunately, the tragic hipster vibe mellowed out the longer we stayed.

The trip in short: Naps, food comas, cool places and boozy drinks.

Dan and I ate at the Original Dinerant (Diner/Restaurant) when we arrived in Portland. As luck had it, we made it in time for Happy Hour. Score. On top of that, it's Dine Downtown in Portland, so we each opted for a Three-Course menu for $25.

Me: Appetizers: Scotch egg + Pimiento Cheese + Arugula Salad. Delish! Pretzel Bites filled with Cheese Curd + Tomato Bacon Relish. Yum! Entree: Farmer's Pasta. Some of the best noodles ever. Booze: Barb Daly Cocktail (Vodka + Rhubard & Meyer Lemon Soda + Meyer Lemon. Refreshing. Dessert: Sour Cream Peach Cake. Very moist and tasty, but I was hoping for a little tart kick. Booze II: Tom Collins (Gin + Citrus Lemongrass Soda + Amarena Cherry). Tasted a little like soap, but I drank it anyway.

Dan: Appetizers: Beef Wagyu Hot Pockets. Tasted like an upscale version of the original. House Smoked Baby Back Ribs. Dan ate it all. Entree: Braised Pork Shank + Apple Bacon Fritters + Brown Butter Sherry Sauce. Seriously, those apple bacon fritters were amazing! Booze: The Copa (Flor de Caña + Rum +Velvet Falermum+ Zwack + Grapefruit + Absinthe). Dan drank it all. Dessert: Nutter Butter Pie. Tasted like Peanut Butter Heaven.  I wanted to steal it. Booze II: Heminingway (White Rum + Ginger Tarragon + Lime + Soda + Star Anise. Very tasty!

We came back again for a late night snack Saturday night.  We had the Poutine (Fries+Gravy+Cheesecurds) and Buffalo Wings.  The devoured the Poutine, which was delicious in that guilty sort of way.  The buffalo wings were good, but nothing to write home about. I opted for a Boozy Milkshake called the Salty Jim (Bourbon + Salted Caramel + Vanilla Ice Cream) and Dan ordered another Hemingway. We switched drinks midway through. We ordered a Nutter Butter Pie(!) and Dulce de Leche Brownie to go, so we can eat in shame without others looking on at our gluttony.

Portland Japanese Gardens. We've been to other Japanese Gardens before, so I wasn't expecting much. Shame on me.  I will venture to say that the Portland Japanese gardens were BETTER than the SF version.  It was well laid-out, with secluded pathways and benches all throughout.  Gorgeous and peaceful.

Dan also bought me an anniversary gift there for me:

It's yellow and ochre and I love it. Plus no sales tax!

Powell's Books. A haiku about Powell's City of Books:

So many books here

Treasures are easily found

Money, quickly lost

Seriously, there were aisles and aisles, rooms and rooms, levels and levels of books.  Dan & I dropped over $100 here.  This place is dangerous.

Sizzle Pie: Thin Crust Pizza with Snazzy Names.  Good eats. 

Food Carts. If there's one thing I'll miss most, it's the food carts.  So many options in a compact space.  Korean? Thai? Ethiopian? South Carolina BBQ? Cuban? Mexican? Euro-Fusion?  It's all there.  I'll look at empty parking lots more wistfully after visiting Portland.  Sacramento, get on the boat.

Voodoo Doughnuts: One place we knew we were going to visit.  I was expecting more kitsch than actual deliciousness, but I was wrong. Maple Bacon Doughnuts forever! The Mexican Hot Chocolate, Grape Kool-Aid, and Butterfinger were also good.

Portland in review:  Great city.  Felt like a bigger Midtown Sacramento, cleaner San Francisco.  The food was good.  The shops were cool.  Downside: Annoying street kids with a huge sense of entitlement, but I'll forgive you on that front Portland.  Maybe you'll be in my revised 5 year plan.  We'll see.

Until next time,

"How To Be More Attractive" or "How to Be Less Ugly," A Ladies Guide:

Not everyone can be beautiful, but you can definitely be less ugly with five simple rules: 1.   Wear clothes your size.

This doesn’t mean squeezing yourself into the smallest size possible, this means wearing the size that fits you. “But I am a size four!” you insist.  You’re not.  You’re making yourself look like a heifer.  Muffin tops are not attractive.  And if your shirt sticks to your belly like cling wrap on a jellyroll, that’s a problem.  Ladies who wear Bebe two sizes too small, I’m talking to you.  Cut it out.

 On the other hand, don’t wear clothes that are too big.  If you think it makes you look smaller, you’re kidding yourself.  A hippo in a baggie sweater is not magically a gazelle--it’s still a damn hippo.  If your size XXXXXXL sweatshirt is your go-to article of clothing, I’m concerned for your physical and mental well-being. Leave your insecurity blanket at home. When it comes to pants, no one looks good with a drop crotch and a sagging seat.  If you disagree, stop reading since I assume you need room for a penis and if you like the pancake-butt look, you’re beyond help.

Your nominal size is irrelevant.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a 2 or 20; you’re not doing yourself any favors if you’re delusional.

2.   Wear appropriate clothes.

There’s two parts: Dress for your age and dress for the occasion.

Your closet says a lot about you.  If it looks like a teenage boy’s closet and you’re a twenty something woman, that’s a problem.  If you wear yoga pants everywhere you go, that’s a problem.  If you’re approaching or are in your 30’s and get fashion inspiration from Seventeen magazine, that’s a problem.

Nothing ages you more than dressing inappropriately for your age.  Don’t worry about trying to look young, worry about looking good...or at least not ugly.  There is such a thing as too tight, too short, and too trendy.  Bad fashion is like crack, just say no.

Dress for the occasion.  Don’t be the dumb broad who wears heels at the gym (I’ve seen this!).  Don’t wear a t-shirt and jeans to a nice dinner (if the Golden Corral is your idea of a “nice dinner”, stop reading). Don’t wear pajamas in public.  EVER.

If you think you can wear the same outfit to any and every occasion, you’re either wrong or Amish.

A few notes:

1. Uggs are always inappropriate.  Always.

2. Wearing designer labels doesn’t mean you’re well dressed.

3. Eurotrash fashion is a baaaaad choice.

3.   Handle your face.

First things first, EYEBROWS MATTER.  They frame your face.  Your face may be a masterpiece by Michelangelo but in an effed up frame, no one cares.  This can be the difference between looking decent and looking atrocious.

What bad eyebrows say about you:

  • Untamed: Hot mess who doesn’t care.
  • Over-plucked: (and uncorrected): This is what I call the “wish I was classy, but really I’m trashy” look.  It brings to mind streetwalkers or meth heads.  If you find that to be a compliment, stop reading.
  • Sharpied: “I don’t give a fuck and I will fuck you up.” Unless the rest of your look includes crispy perm hair, a bandana, dramatically lined lips, a teardrop tattoo and wife beater, don’t do this.  (Don’t cut me.)

  • Overarched: I’m a villainess. Or a circus clown. Or both.

 If you don’t care about anything else on your face, care about your eyebrows.  Keep them in good shape.  Be good to them.  You will be less ugly.  Promise.

Compared to the eyebrows, the rest of the face is cake.  Balance is key.  If you wear makeup, don’t over do it.  If you look like a raccoon after applying your eye-makeup, that’s a problem.  Frosted lipstick is a problem. Too much makeup is a problem—the world is not a nightclub.

Final word:  Even out your complexion.  I don’t care if you hate makeup, just do it.  You will look infinitely better. Even if you spend an hour doing your makeup and neglect to even out your skin, just crawl back into bed.  Everyone is better off that way.

4.   Hair Matters.

 Your hair sets a tone.  Sometimes that tone is, “I’m a whore,” or “I’m boring,” or “ I’m lazy.”

Whatever you do, your hair should be shiny, groomed and ideally, be styled. A ponytail everyday is a problem. Fast and loose everyday is a problem.  Not trimming split ends is a problem. Overgrown roots are a problem. Invest in a comb. Do it.

5.   Attitude is Everything.

 Okay, it’s not really everything.  Appearance matters (If that’s news to you, you should have stopped reading a long time ago).  This doesn’t mean you have to be society's notion of pretty, just be put-together (see 1-4).  But attitude counts. You can be outwardly attractive and have a bad attitude that makes you ugly.

Bottom line: Don’t be a bitch.  It’s not a good look.

Go forth and be less ugly!

An Open Letter to College Students

Dear College Students (under the age of 25, or those lacking maturity thereof):

For most of you, I know I am a decade or more your senior, which in your book makes me near-ancient, uncool, and seemingly (truly) grumpy in comparison. My background and disposition admitted, it should come as no surprise that you all annoy me and had I knowledge of black magic, I would make you all turnips or sew your mouths shut or dismember your thumbs. Yeah, something like that.

Granted, had I finished college in a more timely manner I would be not in a situation wherein I am constantly aggravated, annoyed and enraged by your behavior. Instead, I would only have to face that at the workplace, where admittedly it only gets a little better and trangressions are more covert and if not, I am paid a sum of money per hour at the very least. Instead, I have to bear your company AND pay for it. I'm actually grateful that I'm an older college student. Nothing seems challenging, it's all seemingly remedial and when I actually learn something new, it's gratifying and interesting. I don't take it for granted. I don't have to be taught what the "real-world" is like or "real-world" applications, I already live in it. When I get my college degree, I will already have 10+ years of experience on top that over-priced piece of paper. I promise you that your college degree at 22 won't match my college degree at...(ahem) my more advanced age. So suck it.

I digress.

Truly, youth is wasted on the young. Instead of being eager, young minds hungry for knowledge, you're dim-witted tweeters, resting your damn cell phones on your lap as if no one notices you're not paying attention. You're dumb. I notice. If you have somewhere better to be, go there. Otherwise, I promise that no one really cares about your facebook statuses. You will survive without your phone for an hour and fifteen minutes. Yes, your significant other is probably cheating on you--you don't need a text to confirm it. No, I don't find your Justin Bieber backpack amusing or ironic, I find it vacuous just like that space between your ears. You look absurd with your full-face of makeup paired with sweat pants and Uggs or your skinny-yet-sagging jeans. You disgust me.

Working with you in groups is like babysitting baboons. But then again, even baboons are productive; they pick lice off of each other's heads. You barely can keep your head off the desk or stare vacantly into space. Comparing answers doesn't mean you copy my answers onto your blank sheet. Discussions aren't composed of "Umm...". I'm not the professor, if you don't get it, I'm not explaining it to you. I don't relate to you about how lame school is or how you couldn't get the homework done because you drank too much. Rookie.

Let me paint your a picture: Imagine yourself ten years from now. You're "old" (read: my age). You work in a non-descript office, doing menial work for an insignificant wage. You're either miserable or (still) terribly stupid. "How did I end up here?" you ask yourself, "I majored in business! I'm a college graduate!" Alas, you're still an idiot. And always will be.

Do yourself a favor and take advantage of the opportunity to learn something (anything) while you're in class or do me a favor and piss off.

Resentfully yours,

Ma Vie En Photos 001: Hello 2012

 

As January draws to a close, the New Year is finally looking up for me.  Since December 1st of last year, my life has been colored mostly by this:

And a lot of this:

All because I decided to do this:

Because I was so damn into The Art of Dancing.  Kids, the Charleston c'est dangereux!

Meanwhile, I've discovered you can buy happiness AND it smells delicious. Targét never disappoints:

Work has been made better through moments like this:

I also have an inspiring new workmate at the office:

Stoked about getting these babies in the mail. Thank you Coastal.com for carrying my ridiculously high prescription and charging only 1/4 of my typical costs for glasses:

Started school again this week.  Which means Office! Supplies! Yes, those are color coordinated folders and notebooks. I have a strict one subject, one hue policy.  No, not any notebook will do. Yes, I'm a nerd:

Finally here's me, pretty pleased with life, my haircut, and new shirt:

Onward & upward,

P.S. My knee hurts...

Onward and Upward

Looking back at 2011, I dub it the year of catharsis.  During the course of the year, there seemed to be many more ups than downs.  There were strains in many of my personal relationships. I made a drastic change at work and abandoned a passive career. There was a great loss and difficult news. I pursued a new role I foolheartedly invested in that didn’t come to fruition. My character was challenged, doubted, and tested.  But ultimately I came up ahead.

The year was difficult but I have grown tremendously. I’m stronger, more resilient and more hopeful for the future. I only wish I saw that with more clarity at the time.

And 2011 wasn’t all downs. I went to NYC: rode in death defying taxi-cabs, ate amazing food (some from carts!), wandered around in Central Park, experienced history at Ellis Island, caught a broadway show with Robin Williams and saw Eloise at the Plaza. I got tattooed, once to remind me of the importance of friendship and self-worth and a larger one to symbolize both bravery and vulnerability. Dan turned 30 and we had a Star Wars themed party, complete with Bantu Bites and Princess Leia Cupcakes. I turned 28 and celebrated in Disneyland...again. We celebrated our 10th anniversary together and began our 3rd year as a married couple and I’ve never been more in love.

Ups or downs aside, It was a year of release.  There were emotional hurdles to overcome, feelings of self-doubt to conquer, relationships to strengthen and some to sever.

More than ever in my life, I have so much more hope for 2012 and the years beyond.  After my catharsis, there is clarity.  Rather than search for a theme after the next year concludes, I’m setting the stage now instead:

2012 will be the year of chrysalis, one of focus, purpose, growth, and change that will bring about renewal and transformation.  It will be the first step of fruition--of achieving all I set to accomplish.

2012 will be Effing Fabulous, with two capital F’s.

Onward and upward,

dressed 001: cabin fever edition

I'm feeling under the weather at the most inconvenient time ever.  Since I've been home bound for the day, I've been online window-shopping in between neti pot sessions and sips of hot tea.  The most productive thing I've done today was dye my hair. Observe:

My hair dying technique is very professional, as demonstrated by my use of a Target bag.

I digress. Back to the online shopping.  These are some things that caught my eye:

Some Dresses from Zara:

(I did buy the second dress. Shhh.)

This amazing necklace by Three Horses:

(The Other bought this one for me from Fab.) 

I'm saving my pennies for these Vince Camuto boots.  I'll have them in time for Fall 2015, I'm sure.

I think I may just get these frames from Warby Parker, too bad they don't make lenses for my terrible eyes...but they will give a pair of glasses to someone in need.  How cool is that?

That's all for now.  My sinuses beckon for more neti pot.

Ciao,

It's Go Time!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! October is by far my favorite month of the year, for a number of reasons:

1.  It's my birth month.  And I celebrate my birthday everyday in October. Why celebrate just one day when you can celebrate for 31?  I'm not afraid of my nominal age getting bigger--I think I'm one of the few women who look forward to turning 30.  Sophia Loren says it best:

     “Actually, I rather like birthdays. It is a good reason to talk to yourself, to ask yourself what you have been doing, what you are doing and what you will do. Girls who can’t go off and talk to themselves stay girls and never become women. Women who can’t take stock turn to drink, take pills or worse, but I can take stock. I can send for the bill of life and add it up too. If I ever feel depressed I consider what I have done and what I have accomplished — starting from nothing and arriving now with so much happiness.”

2. Fall really starts. Forget that it technically starts in September, it starts to feel like fall in October.  The weather cools down, the leaves start turning, and everything starts to feel cozier.

3. Fall Fashion. I'm not talking Mercedes Benz tents at Fashion Week (although I would love to attend), I'm referring to a warmer color palette, great knits, tights, boots and scarves, scarves, scarves.

Fall Wardrobe
4. It's Vacation Time! Every year, over the past 10 years I've taken vacation for about three weeks in October.  I haven't worked on my birthday EVER in my life, I don't ever plan on it.  October has great weather, and it's also the off-season for traveling so there's great fares for plane tickets and less annoying tourists to disassociate from.

5.  Halloween. The combination of things macabre, dressing up, and decorating make this my favorite holiday, hands down. Honestly what I love most is planning and making stuff, and Halloween gives me an excuse to do both. Halloween brings out my inner Martha Stewart and I ride that crafty high all the way through Christmas.  If could somehow carry over my Halloween decorations through New Year à la Nightmare Before Christmas, I would!

It'd be killer if I could do my house over like this:

It's going to be a great month!

Ciao,

For Lack of Words

Sometimes nothing can be written or said to express what's in your heart.  Maybe we're all just astronauts floating through space, looking back at what is now beyond our reach. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zz-DJr1Qs54&w=420&h=315]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D67kmFzSh_o&w=420&h=315]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hHjctqSBwM&w=420&h=315]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OSvJvSwmd4&w=420&h=315]

Always,

Silly Little Woman

As my high school reunion draws near (it falls on my birthday of all days!), a little nostalgia hit me.  I busted out my yearbook from my senior year and flipped through its pages.  It was interesting to read what people had signed: there's a sea of keep in touches, take cares, and it was good to know yous--all good natured, but hardly personal statements.  Then every once in a while: a gem.  Something personal and heartfelt. I got a glimpse of the person I was and how I was perceived then through adult eyes.  I regret having taken myself for granted when I was younger.  I took stock of the person I was 10 years ago and almost wish I could be her again.  Not want for the "freedom" of youth and carefree days (that didn't really exist for me then, anyway) but my attitude, my certainty and self-assuredness that I up until recently have I squandered and lost in adulthood.

The old me: the Esses with one "ess" wasn't concerned with fitting in or being popular. She thrived on being different and made no apologies.  She was vocal about her cynicism (and everything else).  She dressed funny. A non-conformist, feminist and a (tad) elitist.  Highly opinionated and not afraid to let you know what she thought.  A little lost but above all: Passionate.

On the edge created by the pages of my yearbook I affectionately wrote my self-imposed nickname, "The Silly Little Goirl".  Back then I thought that people should pursue happiness and not dollars, that the end didn't justify the means, that individuality was sacred and conformity was akin to death, to never give in to or trust the "man".  Like the wise words of MTV's Daria, my teenage hero, I thought the world was my oyster, I was just too bored to open it.

In my yearbook, I gave my future self advice (it's on the right of the picture above).  I wish I revisited this sooner:

I realize now, I wasn't a "Silly Little Girl"--I've been a Silly Little Woman for having had lost my way for so long.

I'm glad to have "met" myself again--there's a lot I can learn about "us".  It's good to know that I'm just as stubborn and opinionated as I've always been.  And I certainly still look funny.

Of all the generic yearbook sentiments, there's one to take to heart: Never change.

There are qualities in each of us that should be carried with pride and valued, that have never changed.  And never should.

 

Hair Story

Growing up I had only one style option: Long.  So long that I sat on it.  So long that it wrapped around the bolts of those uncomfortable plastic chairs in elementary schools. So long that getting my hair brushed at the end of the night was cruel and unusual punishment. So long that I hated it.

It stayed long until I turned 13, when my parents moved to the Philippines and I entered a “rebellious” phase when I did crazy things like paint my nails (gasp!), had friends who were male (the horror!), wore shorts that were (slightly) above the knee, and got an “A-” on my report card for the first time. Cutting my hair was the ultimate pièce de résistance of said rebellion.  It was cut into the most unflattering bob by a lady with a fluffy mullet at JC Penney.  It wasn't cute, age appropriate, or anything that a 13-year old girl would want--but it wasn't long so I LOVED it.

I've never looked back since then.  The longest it’s been since I cut it 15 years ago is shoulder length.  My hair has been every color imagineable, from fire-engine red to the most vile shade of vomit green.  I’ve had the once ubiquitous Jennifer Aniston cut, a “Fashion-Mullet”, the A-Line, the Bob, the Pixie, the Sasoonie, the Betty Page, the Faux-Hawk and now, even the Curl-Hawk.  I’ve had every asshole indie haircut under the sun and then some.  But I’ve had one constant, one faithful friend I will never, ever abandon: Bangs.  No matter what form they come in, they’ve been there for every fantastic haircut I’ve ever had and have been my saving grace for the not-so-spectacular ones, too.

I’ve never been scared of changing my hair, of taking risks, of doing something different.  I like the danger of sitting in the stylist’s chair with my glasses off, blind as a bat while scissors, razors or clippers made their way around my head.  Whatever the result, I always feel transformed and new.  There have certainly been styles that have been less flattering than others and some that have been outright hideous.  But nothing has ever really gotten me down, even when my hair fell out en masse after trying to retouch the roots of my platinum blonde hair. C’est la vie.

If there were life lessons to be learned from my ever-evolving hair they would be:

1.     Embrace change and try new things.

2.     Accept that you can’t control everything and work with what you’ve got.

3.     There’s always opportunity to reinvent yourself.

4.     The right attitude is everything.

5.     Shit happens.  Laugh about it.

Ciao!

 

 

American Ghost

I wrote this about a year ago when my grandmother died:

            After the passing of my grandmother two days ago, I’m officially American despite having been born and lived in California for almost 27 years. It’s all burgers and French fries from here on out.  I’ve been cut loose from my Filipino ties, from the notion of a “home” that I’ve never thought of as my own. No longer do I have a bridge to a history, of wholly Filipino roots that tied me to another place and another time. If I ever visit again, I won’t be a Balik-bayan, someone returning to their homeland, I’ll be a tourist in my own grandmother’s native country. Not only have I lost my grandma, I’ve lost a sense of identity. The hurt is deep, as if someone has carved a piece of me out and I will never be whole again.  And I don’t think I ever will be.

Growing up for me meant moving from household to household.  While some can think fondly of their childhood home—the smell, the way their room was arranged, some tree fort in a back yard—I have to think of several places, each move punctuated by some painful familial disaster.  I found myself living in different apartments, staying in some bad parts of town with a distant relative I had never met prior, staying with one aunt and then another.  I felt like an orphan bouncing from house to house.  Most often, I found myself at grandma and grandpa’s house—other than the feeling of uncertainty, it was the only constant in my life at that time.  It was the most familiar.

I remember standing slouched against a cool, white kitchen counter.  I stared blankly at the graying grout between each white tile, my eyes scanning the linoleum floor up to a hobbled wooden table covered by a vinyl tablecloth with nauseating flowers.  I wanted to be anywhere but in that kitchen.  Next to me, my grandma asked if I was paying attention.  Of course I wasn’t.  “You should watch me, so you can learn.”  I looked at the floor again.  I didn’t want to watch her; I wanted to watch MTV.  So as my grandmother cut up garlic, and poured soy sauce, vinegar and black peppercorns onto chicken, I stood distracted by a blue clock on the kitchen wall, by the painting of peaches and berries in a basket on a white canvas with peach colored lace glued to its sides.  I regret nothing more than not learning to cook adobo that day.  I remember everything about that kitchen, every detail, every overstuffed cabinet with ancient boxes of cereal, and the exact spot where my grandfather’s instant coffee stood on a shelf.  I remember everything but how to cook adobo the way my grandmother did.

Almost every memory I have of my grandmother, occurred in the kitchen.  At the table she told me about teaching English in Mapandan and smacking students hands with rulers when their penmanship was sloppy, about her college days, and about the Japanese occupation and the brutal things they did.  It was also at that kitchen table she would tell me to sit straight, and suggested I made a habit of pushing my fingers across the space between my upper lip and nose so that my overbite would be corrected.  I remember the irony of my grandmother telling me to finish my plate because there were kids who didn’t get to eat in the Philippines, and then later that evening telling me that I should exercise more while she bended at the waist showing me what to do.  Next to that kitchen table she tied my “waist” with a ribbon so that eventually I would really have one.  Another day, she sat at the table with a discerning eye, as I walked from one end to another with a book carefully perched on my head.  And there she would cook, and I would be oblivious.

They say smell is the most powerful trigger for memory.  I can remember the smell of ginger wafting through the air as we all sat eager at the table to eat arroz-caldo, the comfort of the porridge-like rice and tender chicken.  My grandmother knew I didn’t like biting into the sharp bitterness of the ginger, so the slices were coin sized instead of being minced.  “So you can pick them out,” I remember her saying.  I remember the sweet smells of bitsu-bitsu, bibingka, and cassava.  I can still smell and taste real coconut, it’s sweetness and tenderness imprinted on my mind, unlike the dried and shredded versions most people think of when they tell you they don’t like coconut.  I remember the lingering smell of cooking oil after a batch of lumpia was cooked. I can close my eyes and think of the smells that came from the kitchen, and I can remember my grandma.

Right now, I’d like nothing more than to smell candles burning.  Here in my own house, on a suburban street half a world away from my grandmother’s body lying in wake, I could get up and light a few—but that would be beside the point.  In the Philippines, they say that when you smell candles burning when they aren’t, your loved ones are visiting from the other side.  I’ve smelled and smelled the air around me since I got the news, but still no burning candles.

I mourn the loss of my grandmother, of both my grandparents really.  I mourn the distance between where their graves lay and where I lay my head to rest every night.  I mourn the distance between my Filipino roots and me.  They were what was Filipino about me, and now they’re gone.  They taught me “Lupang Hinirang,” the Filipino national anthem. I can hear my grandmother softly singing and my grandfather joining, singing passionately the way he did when he would sing “Blue Spanish Eyes.”  They were the only attendees when I received my “Gintong Lahi” award for outstanding Filipino youth. But no longer will I hear my grandfather call me “hija” or my grandmother call me “annako”.  I’ve lost them, and now I’m American.

With the mourning of their loss, I mourn for my own childhood, for the remnants of my family that never talk, for the heartbreak of a family who will never be the same, for any hope that a family could be reunited.  I bear the pain of living like an orphan--although I have living relatives, I have no family.  I mourn the Filipino food that tastes empty, cooked without the love of my grandmother.  I pick at arroz-caldo with hidden bits of ginger that I bite into.  I eat bibingka, sad that it doesn’t taste the way my grandmother made it. I buy Manila mangoes from Mexico. I frown at my own attempts to cook my grandmother’s steak and onions—sad that I don’t even know the real name for the dish.  It’s not the same; it’ll never be the same.

As I sit here, reflecting on all the things I’ve lost—I just want to smell candles burning.  I close my eyes and slowly inhale, but nothing.  I’m worried that now that I’m American, Filipino ghosts won’t find me.  And I’m a ghost without them.

I love you Grandma and Grandpa, I’m not the same without you.

The end is the beginning.

In order to live life fully, I challenge you to work backwards.  Accept the inevitable. Confront death and you will be liberated to be the person you want to be--the person you were meant to be. If we appreciate that we will die, that life is limited, that there is no permanence, no certainty of what lies beyond, we should value every day and create our purpose.

Only one thing is certain about life: it'll end.  So stop waxing philosophical, stop crying in the corner with grief and regret, and get out there and make the most of every moment.  Be the best person you can be every millisecond of the day. Do everything that you've ever wanted to do. Be everything you've ever wanted to be. Live without regret.

Time is ticking.

"And indeed there will be time To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?" Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair— [They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"] My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin— [They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"] Do I dare Disturb the universe? In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse."

Eliot says, "Don't be a Prufrock."

Forgive. Love. Create. Dream. Do.

Ciao,