Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A girl's kind of weekend.

One thing I really missed when I moved was having that solid group of girlfriends. If only it were possible to pack them up with you too! For me, I had a hard time finding friends when I first moved to Washington. I was no longer in the environment where everyone was in my age group, or people going through the same thing I was. Soon the distance between California and Washington became more apparent, and phone calls from my old friends less frequent (though we are still good friends and able to pick up right where we left off when we do see each other). It was a huge adjustment period.

Personally, I prefer having a small handful of close friends than a big network, as I find it difficult to really get to know a person otherwise. This past weekend I was able to do just that and have one-on-one time with a few gal pals.

On Friday, Cristine and I went wine tasting in Woodinville and had dinner afterwards to calm our spinning heads. We encountered really cool people at the tastings, sparking conversations with strangers we may never come across again. Before I knew it, it was already past ten and time for me to make the drive home.

Photo Cred: Cristine Peters

Saturday was a bit different. I met with my writer friend Lisa for a hike and we were rewarded with an awesome view. Afterwards we headed to Din Tai Fung for some much needed dumplings and drinks and nachos at Tavern Hall.

In the evening, my friend Hyojin came over. She made cocktails for us and I made dinner. Afterwards we did some facials, gabbed all night, and ate dessert. The morning after we went to brunch and drank tea and talked all afternoon.

Throughout all these separate encounters, the big takeaway from it all were our conversations. If you can talk about anything and everything, and also be okay with comfortable silences, then you know they're the real deal. Conversations that are reciprocated is a big indicator of a friendship's success.

I feel the need to write about successful friendships in this post, only because I went through a period of my life where I was really social, always had a bunch of people around me, but never did I ever feel more lonely in my life. It was a rude awakening realizing I didn't even know them. Yeah, I could spout superficial facts about them, but that was it. Nothing under the surface.

I am lucky in the sense that I have permanent friends. Though sisters by birth, I have a friendly relationship with all of my sisters, but friends outside my family allow me to get a different perspective on things.

One thing my friends and I contemplated was about the future. What's planned, and what is not. What do we want out of life. How to achieve personal happiness. Though I hardly had any writing time this weekend, it made me think a lot about how my protagonist would answer these questions, and how I should convey her friends.

Since the characters in M3 is loosely based on people I knew, I find myself thinking about the real life versions of them a lot. What are they up to now, are they happy? And how do they remember themselves in the time where our lives crossed?

I'm rambling into a tangent now, but it's strange how different friendships come across certain periods of your life, and even more amazing when some friendships can endure all of life's changes. There's one friend in particular that I am oh so very fond of. He is my oldest childhood friend. And though I've moved over three times since we first met, he has been the one constant (besides my family) in my life.

Who is your oldest friend? And would you ever write them into a book? Answer with a comment below ;)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Asia Vacation: Day 4

Chuc Mung Nam Moi! Happy New Year!

February the 19th marked my 4th day in Vietnam! And better yet it was the holiday. The new year is like the biggest holiday in the culture. It's equivalent to the American Thanksgiving. All about family, food, celebration, and hope for the year to come. I was beyond excited since it was my first time ever celebrating in the homeland with the extended family.

My sisters and I all woke up and got dressed in traditional Vietnamese dresses and met the rest of the family at my grandpa's house. My mother had rented a van for the day to take us to the temple, the village where she grew up, and then onto Hue.

The main temple in Da Nang sits alongside the water facing the city. With the temple and neck bending monuments, it's a very beautiful and serene place to be--but not on the holiday. It was buzzing with people. We quickly went around saying prayers before going crazy with photos.

After that it was off to my mom's home village Vinh Hien. We had gone there too during my first trip, but going again, with fresh eyes it really struck a chord within me. This little town is based off one little dirt road with little houses pressed against each other. There are no streetlamps, no gutters. Just yellow sand and dirt, with the exception of green rice paddies in the distance.

We passed by my mother's old house, the school she had gone too, and houses where she remembered her friends. It was a very different upbringing than the opportunity she had given us in the states. As a sign of respect, my mother paid visits to relatives and friends, and those that had passed by going to their gravesites.

It was hard not to imagine my mom as a young girl just like the little kids I had seen the day before. Odds stacked against her. Living in conditions we hadn't. No power, no electricity, no creature comforts. It makes me respect her even more.

Our final and last stop was Hue to see the imperial palace. It was huge. Bigger than I remembered my first time around. Here there were a lot of tourists from many different places as well as locals. The city was bustling with people.



Michael and I walked side by side holding hands and it was the first time that we got more than the occasional glances. People were staring and it made me uncomfortable. It wasn't like it was rude stares or anything, more like curiosity. I could only imagine what they thought: mail order bride. Ha! I brushed it off and made the most of it. When we got back to the Van, I knocked out, and before I knew it we were back in Da Nang at my grandpa's house for dinner.

[[photo credit: all amazing and clear photos were taken by Michael. All the fuzzy ones were from yours truly on my iphone :P]]

Friday, March 27, 2015

24th Birthday Thank You's, Hommage, and the Purple Balloons

A very big thank you to everyone who sent me kind birthday wishes via mailed cards, e-mail, text, phone calls, social media, blog comments, and in person throughout this past week. It meant the world to me and made my day brighter! So bright, it stopped the endless rain streak that was plaguing the Seattle area. Hello sun!

If you know me well, you know I have this aversion to getting older. I obsess about time and I like the idea about being young forever. Peter Pan syndrome for sure. Of course, everyone likes to remind me that I am still young, even at 24. And if yesterday was any hint at what the rest of my 24th year would be like, then I guess it isn't so bad.

Of course, like a responsible grown up, I went to work and was surprised to find my cube decorated with purple balloons and cards waiting for me to open. Another co-worker was also kind enough to take me out for coffee. These small acts of kindness and well wishes made work a little bit fun for once ;)

After work I grabbed my balloons and cards in a cheery spirit and went down to the parking garage. I placed all my birthday souvenirs into the back seat, and drove towards Seattle. Lo and behold the sun was freaking shining! This is a very big deal because it's been nonstop grey and raining, and I distinctly remember the bad weather on my Birthday last year. So thinking the Birthday gods were in my favor, I had this brilliant idea to open my sun roof.

The balloons went crazy from the suction. Leaping from the backseat to the front, reaching for escape, they blocked my field of vision just as I was going downhill during traffic hour. I flipped out, reaching for them, hoping to reign them in so I could shut this stupid sun roof. I managed to get my hands on two of them but the third busted free from the car taking my birthday cards with it. Shaken, I drove the rest of the way to Seattle with one hand on the wheel, and the other restraining the balloons. Once I got to my first stop light, I grabbed a pen from my purse and popped the rest of the balloons.

After that, I was pretty bummed. I have a thing for cards and I wanted to add them to my keepsake box, and I really wanted to show my cat the balloons (he's never seen one and I thought it would be a good brain stimulus for him). All was not lost though. At least I would definitely remember this day as the Birthday where I almost crashed from purple balloons. When I recounted this story to Michael, he shook his head, a hint of a smile on his lips, and said, "Only this kind of stuff would happen to you. Now you know, balloons should go in the trunk."

Ha! Like I'd ever put myself in a balloon situation again!

For dinner, Michael spoiled me by taking me to my favorite Seattle restaurant, Hommage, formerly known as The Book Bindery. I've mentioned it numerous times on my blog, but without photos. This post, however, be prepared to drool from my delicious meal! No, but really. This place is amazing. French Nouveau cuisine made by Chef Nico Borzee, it never ceases to amaze me how inventive these classic dishes can be. Beautifully prepared, engaging all the senses, it's like a glimpse into foodie heaven.

We started with the Chataigne, a chestnut soup with a foie gras custard, and burnt onion oil, served in this cute jar. It was really neat because the components were layered, and you could feel the cool layer of the custard and the warm chestnut soup puree. The burnt onion oil was also a really unique touch.

Next was the Trompette de la Mort, black trumpet mushrooms, goat cheese panna cotta, with a mushroom jus. What a savory, creamy, and decadent bite it was. I could eat bowls and bowls of this stuff.

The Carrotte, carrots braised in hay, rabbit jus, and bethmale goat milk cheese was just as good. With such different components that harmonized in such a surprising way, ordinary carrots became extraordinary.

For our mains, we shared the Saumon, cold-smoked kind salmon, with a 35-minute poached egg on a vodka crème fraiche, and the stuffed quail on a thinly sliced gratin. Words cannot describe how delicious they were. They left me speechless.

Everything went well with the bottle of French Pinot Noir. It was such a memorable meal.

To finish we had the tres leches for dessert and cheered with some brut rose. 24 never felt so fabulous!

So thank you to everyone! Just all your birthday wishes leading up to the day and throughout made me feel so loved and the gifts were just absolutely thoughtful. I am truly blessed and count my lucky stars for the fortunate life I have. It's made me realize that birthday's aren't about getting older or wiser, it's about celebrating another year of life. Not everyone is so fortunate to reach a certain age or grow up healthy and happy, so I am truly thankful for another year and for everyone that's come into my life. My encounters with you all have made me who I am and have shaped the life I live today.

My thanks and well wishes to you all <3

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tavern Hall, FLO Sushi, and Sunday Dinner

As you all know. I LOVE food. So this weekend was like an eat-fest of deliciousness.

After cooking all week,  Michael and I decided to grab a meal out on Friday. We tried a new place called Tavern Hall in Bellevue. Tavern Hall is a pub-style bar with an Irish décor vibe to it. Known for their Moscow Mule on tap, Michael and I both had one.

For our dinner, Michael had the Tavern Burger and I had the Chicken Sando. If you ever go, get the Chicken Sando. It is by far the best chicken sandwich I've ever had. So crispy, served on a rustic bun, with a crisp coleslaw, and spicy aioli, you'll think you're in chicken sandwich heaven after a bite.

On Saturday, I got a surprise gift from one of my sisters. Tea! Oh I do love tea.

Then that night we did a prebirthday celebration with Michael's sister (our birthdays are three days apart) and her husband at FLO sushi. We exchanged gifts and it was such a strange coincidence that we both got each other Kate Spade gifts!


Sunday was very rainy (as I write this, it's still raining), so Michael and I kept it low key. I spent the morning reading SPEAK (book review to come!) while Michael organized the garage and basement. For dinner, we realized we wanted to do something special because we'd be missing each other the next two weekends due to travel. Alas we did a team effort and made steak with onions and a green bean casserole. We opened a Maurice's estate Syrah from 2009 (my fave!) and had some dark chocolate for dessert.

A very good weekend of deliciousness indeed!