Monday, December 22, 2014

MythBusters: Behind the Myths Tour

Jeff and I were lucky enough to catch the last show of the Mythbusters tour in San Jose last week. He's a huge Mythbusters fan so when I saw the tickets for 50% off on Goldstar a few weeks ago, I knew I had to snatch them up. They weren't allowed to blow anything up but they did have a lot of cool stunts and performances. Even though the Civic Center is pretty big, they managed to make it feel like a pretty intimate show with two Q&A sessions and audience participation. I love how they're so funny and down to earth. Jeff and I ran into Adam Savage at Foreign Cinema two years ago and he was super nice. So if it's an act, they manage to keep it up pretty well, even when the cameras aren't running!

While I'm not as big of a Mythbusters fan as Jeff is, I definitely want to catch next season - they're going to be tackling the final scene of Breaking Bad!

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Sweet Holiday Treat

A colorful assortment of macarons from Alexander's new patisserie for a dear friend - vanilla, lavender, peach saffron, gingerbread, and passion fruit dusted with chocolate powder. I'm obviously biased towards passion fruit - I even got 2 additional ones for Jeff and me to try. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I always use the holidays as an excuse to make flan. It's not a particularly winter-y type of dessert but given that this time of the year is filled with large social gatherings, it's always a good time for my favorite dessert. I've adapted the recipe from a cookbook I bought Jeff many years ago, and it's served us well ever since! This recipe makes 8 servings.

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  1. Combine everything in a light-colored pan and heat over the stove on medium-high heat. This process will take about 8 minutes – the mixture will start to turn colors and you will wonder if it’s done yet, even though the color is not quite golden. It’s not! You’ll know when the color is right.
  2. Keep swirling the pan until you get that color change. Once it turns that honey-caramel color, remove the pan from heat and distribute caramel into ramekins. The book says to keep it heated for another 4-5 minutes after the color change but I did that and it started burning after a minute so I would recommend removing it almost immediately.
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (The recipe stipulates whole, I’m a rebel so I use 1%.)
  • 1 1/2 cups light cream
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar (The recipe stipulates 2/3 cup sugar…again, I’m a rebel so I cut it in half. I feel like 1/3 cup is plenty sweet, especially with the caramel, but you can adjust this to your preference.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat milk and cream over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until steam appears. You don’t have to heat it until it’s boiling. Once it’s finished, remove from heat.
  3. Whisk the eggs, yolk, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl until just combined.
  4. Gently whisk the warm milk into the eggs.
  5. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve – this part is particularly important to me and I actually strain it a few times, just to make sure the mixture is smooth and clump free.
  6. Bring 2 quarters of water to a boil. Fold a dish towel to fit the bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan and position it in the pan.
  7. Divide custard mixture among the ramekins and place them on the towel in the pan.
  8. Fill the pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins; cover the entire pan loosely with aluminum foil so steam can escape.
  9. Bake until a paring knife inserted halfway comes out clean. The book says it’s about 35-40 minutes but I have found that it’s closer to 45 minutes. It might just be my oven though.
Once it's ready, loosen the edges with a ramekin, flip it over onto a plate, and serve!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Home Alone Concert with the SF Symphony

Home Alone is one of my favorite holiday movies so when I saw that there was going to be a Home Alone concert by the San Francisco Symphony, I didn't hesitate to buy tickets! Can you believe it's been 25 years since the movie first came out?

The director of the film, Chris Columbus, kicked off the concert with a quick intro. The movie was projected on a large screen above the stage and the SF Symphony performed the instrumental part of the soundtrack live. It was such a treat to watch the movie this way - it's a good thing I splurged for orchestra seats this time so we had a good view of the screen. I typically pick cheaper seats for the symphony since the acoustics are great regardless of where you sit. There was also a children's choir to perform scenes in the second half of the movie.

Even though I've seen this movie many times, this time was different. Maybe it's because I'm hoping to be a mother for the first time in my life - I found myself reacting rather emotionally (and dramatically) to the scenes with Kevin's mom. I felt her pain and horror when she realizes she left Kevin home alone and I teared up when they reunite in the end. I was overwhelmed with a protective instinct in that moment - this instinct to protect my own children and keep them safe, even though they don't exist yet!

I can't seem to make any sense of these crazy feelings that are hitting me. This is brand new territory for me! Is this my biological clock ticking? Does this mean I do have a maternal instinct after all?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

White Elephant Exchange

Here's the loot that we scored from the gift exchange we went to on Friday!

Jeff loves the selfie stick he got - he started using it immediately to take pictures of the festivities. 

I got this awesome cake pop and donut hole maker. My first thought was that I could use this to make Hong Kong egg puffs. Elsa improvised by making a waffle batter from scratch. While it didn't taste exactly like the HK egg puffs, it was delicious. 

Not bad for our first batch! I promised I would learn how to make a chocolate version for our group. They are hoping I'll learn how to make all the creative cake pops - I told them not to hold their breath. :)

We ended up bringing the iPhone portable battery and bluetooth portable speaker. I'm happy to report that the gifts we brought were well-received - the portable battery even got stolen once!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday Gift Exchange Ideas

While I've been shopping for myself, I have been shopping for others too. I have a few holiday gift exchanges coming up so I've been looking for unique, useful gifts that are under $20. Holiday gift exchanges are tricky because you don't know who will end up with your gift, so you have find something that's broadly appealing for less than $20. Mike is hosting one of the gift exchanges this year and he already said that only lazy people resort to gift cards, so there goes Plan B...

Oriole recommended this garlic and ginger chopper. She's an avid cook so she loves this gadget - ever since she got it, she's been using it everyday. I have a lot of friends who like to cook so this could be quite handy. I saw this at Target in-store for only $5 so I don't know why it's over $10 on

I thought that a portable phone charger would be a super practical gift. I have one myself and find it to be a lifesaver for when I'm out and about. But is this gift too boring? I'm starting to wonder if everyone else participating in the gift exchange will bring this too!
I'm also thinking about portable bluetooth speakers. But I worry that this also falls into the uber practical (aka boring) category. Does everyone already have one of these? I may have to keep the receipt so that if I end up getting stuck with my own gift, I can exchange it for something I don't already own!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Finding Good Holiday Deals

It's been hard not to indulge in all the holiday sales going on. I was doing pretty well on resisting all the sales but this past week, I ended up getting a few things for myself.

I need more winter dresses so I picked up this dress from BR for 40% off. I'm a little nervous though, because the material looks like it snags easily. I like the fit, which is atypical since I typically look better in fit and flare dresses. I'm undecided if I'm keeping this one.

I also picked up this cute colorblock sweater from Gap for 50% off. I'm always in need of low maintenance sweaters so I love that this sweater is machine washable. Also, the light cotton material works well for California winters - anything heavier and I'm sweating profusely throughout the day! The color is more of a robin's egg blue than a mint.

I also found some good deals on workout tanks at the Lucy for $30 each. Cute, comfy workout gear makes me more motivated to workout. It's silly and shallow but hey, whatever works!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Shabu House and Gong Cha

I caught up with some grad school friends over dinner at the new Shabu House in Milpitas this week. To be honest, I prefer eating hopot at home because it's so much more cost effective! But alas, I couldn't fit everyone at my dining table so Shabu House is a decent alternative for large groups. This location is pretty new and spacious so it's easy to get a table for a large party on weekdays. Not sure if that would still be the case on weekends though. 

We had 2 pots at our table of 6 people, with the option of splitting each pot into 2 types of broth. My dinner mates and I on the left side of the table opted to go for a full pot of spicy miso broth with a large order of kobe beef. I'm not convinced that the beef is better quality than what I could have gotten at the Japanese market, while the accompanying platter of spinach and yellowed cabbage was lackluster. When we make hotpot at home, we buy the good stuff in generous portions! Still, Shabu House has yummy broth and sauces.

I love how bubble tea has been winterized for the holidays! Gong Cha is one of my favorite tea shops, since it's an authentic chain from Taiwan. Jeff loves the Earl Grey Milk Tea with 3J (3J = bubbles, pudding, and grass jelly). I opt for a plain milk green tea - simple but satisfying. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving weekend eats in LA

Whenever I visit LA, my priority is spending time with family and friends - but food definitely comes in at a very close second! Luckily, we can have our cake and eat it too (figuratively and literally) by enjoying delicious cuisine with our loved ones.

It's becoming a tradition for us to eat Ding Tai Fung with Christina during the holidays. While the Taiwan locations will always taste more authentic and delicious, this one is still a yummy and viable alternative. We prefer the Glendale one because it's located by the Americana so we can shop while we wait. They also let you track the wait time with a nifty app that will text you when your table is almost ready. While the pork soup dumplings (below) are a must, I would also highly recommend the noodles with sesame sauce (not pictured).

No trip to LA is complete without a visit to an all you can eat Korean BBQ. We went to OO-KOOK in San Gabriel - the service was particularly fast and friendly this time. I love that OO-KOOK is generous with the rice paper (lower left corner below) because some restaurants are quite stingy about it for some reason. I focused most of my energy and stomach space on the different types of kalbi, all of which were tender and flavorful. 

While we ate out quite a bit, we stayed in for Thanksgiving dinner. I didn't want to trouble my sister-in-law into cooking a huge Thanksgiving meal, so we opted for Taiwanese style hotpot instead. I always load up on silken tofu and fish balls filled with cod roe.

The next morning, my brother made us all delicious gluten-filled waffles (he experimented with a few gluten-free mixes that didn't quite work out). This is one of the first meals he has cooked for me in at least 3-4 years, if not longer, so I had to document this momentous occasion! I added the berries myself. ;) 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We spent the weekend down in Pasadena, enjoying some quality time with friends and family. We have so much to be grateful for this year - most of all, that Jeff does not have SCA3. While that doesn't guarantee us immunity from any other type of health risks, it does remove a huge cloud of uncertainty from our lives and for that we are so incredibly grateful. Here's to another year filled with love and gratitude!

Bali, Indonesia, February 2009

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Currently addicted to...

1. Serial - I know I'm late to the party here but I'm all caught up now and eagerly awaiting episode 10. I just started listening on Wednesday so I haven't had enough time to ruminate and figure it all out yet (ha!). It's definitely made my workouts more interesting.

2. Warriors - People are always surprised that I'm an NBA fan. Basketball was huge when I was growing up in New York - I will always love the Knicks but I've really become a Warriors fan over the years. We got to catch Game 6 of the playoff series between the Warriors and the Clippers in May and we had a blast. Even though the tickets were so expensive and the seats were so bad, we had an awesome time. The intensity and energy are insane during the playoffs! I'm excited that they're playing so well this year.

Oracle Arena, Oakland, May 2014

3. 巧虎 (Qiaohu Tiger)- My friend Tzui managed to track these Qiaohu dolls online - reasonably priced ones are hard to come by for some reason. While a part of me wants to keep these adorable dolls for myself, they're actually for my nephew. 

Jeff saw this picture and exclaimed "oh no, they're suffocating!" 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fuschia studded flats

Since Jeff was out last weekend, Katie and I headed to the Livermore Premium Outlets for some quality girl time and catching up. I picked up this adorable pair of flats from Splendid for $30 (available at Last Call for $41). My outfits can be pretty vanilla so it's always nice to dress it up with a pair of cute shoes in an unexpected color.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Keeping up with old friends

My friend Katie and I recently had a chat about how hard it is to keep up with old friends. Both of us have made good friends at different stages as we moved around for college, grad school, jobs, etc. The friends we've made have done the same and thus, we have friends all over the world. While technology and social media has made it a lot easier to keep track of childhood and college friends, the distance still makes it difficult to maintain friendships. We all have limited budgets and vacation days, so we rarely get to see the friends that live in faraway places.

Furthermore, when you look at people our parents' ages (baby boomers in their 50s and 60s), it turns out that many of their good friends now are the parents of their children's friends. So we came to the dreary conclusion - does that mean that we haven't even met our lifelong BFFs yet? What happened to the friends they had before the kids came along? What a terribly depressing and sobering thought. I have some great friends now! Am I going to lose them if I have kids and they don't, or vice versa? I know my rambling is just based on anecdotal evidence and this isn't any absolute indication of what will happen in the future. But it's sad to know that some friendships will inevitably fade away - and if I'm being really honest here, some already have.

I don't mean to be so depressing - I'm in a contemplative, reflective mood today.

Santorini, Greece, July 2011

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Blueberry mochi muffins

I started looking for a mochi cake recipe last year and stumbled upon this version on Week of Menus, a blog filled lots of awesome recipes. The mochi cake was super easy to make and well-received by our dinner guests. Friends raved about how delicious it was - especially the chewy corners and edges. Their comments motivated me to buy a mini muffin pan so that each serving of mochi cake would be covered in the edgy goodness. 

Here's the recipe I used from Week of Menus, with a few tweaks:
(makes 24 mini muffins)

1 1/2 cups (or 1/2 pound) of mochiko flour 
1 teaspoons of baking powder
1 dash of salt
5/8 cup of sugar (I never use more than half the amount of sugar stipulated in any recipe - I hate when desserts are too sweet)
1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk (I use the lowest fat version I can find at the Asian market)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons of butter 
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
6 oz of blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray the muffin pan with a non-stick oil spray.
2. Whisk the mochiko flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together.
3. In a separate bowl, melt the butter and combine with eggs, coconut milk, and vanilla extract.
4. Combine the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until the mixture is smooth.
5. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin.
6. Add 2 blueberries per muffin.
7. Bake for approximately 40 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

I am a terrible baker so I don't believe in allowing desserts to cool for more than a few minutes - I'm just too impatient for that. Plus, I love how delicious things taste straight out of the oven. The mini muffin version is even better than the original!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Spicy Wontons (紅油抄手)

I love spicy wontons (紅油抄手) but I have yet to find a really great rendition of them here in the Bay Area. Taikee Wonton in North San Jose has pretty good regular wontons but they don't make spicy wontons the way I like them. Luckily, I've learned to make a pretty decent rendition of these wontons via trial and error after watching my aunt in the kitchen for years. The recipe is fairly approximate, so do adjust the ingredients and flavoring to your personal taste. 

Wonton ingredients
  • 1 pound of ground pork
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 3-4 pinches of white pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons of sesame oil
  • 1/8 cup of chicken broth 
  • 20-30 wonton wrappers (I have yet to figure out the right amount of pork for exactly one pack of wonton wrappers)
1. Mix wonton ingredients together in a large bowl (except for the wrappers). Add water until the consistency is soft but not too watery (approximately 1/8 cup of water).

2. Put 1-2 teaspoons of filling per wonton wrapper. Seal the wonton any way you prefer. I copy my aunt's method of scrunching them up in one hand, but I don't do it as well as she does - sometimes mine fall apart as the meat escapes the wrapper, while hers always stay perfectly intact.

3. Boil wontons in a large pot of water. After wontons have been floating for a few minutes, remove from pot and into a large bowl.

Spicy sauce
  • 2-3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Chinese chili garlic sauce (For many years, I used the Lee Kum Kee brand but I've recently switched to Ning Chi to up the spice factor.)
  • 2 teaspoons of black vinegar
  • 2-3 pinches of black pepper
1. Pour sauce over the wontons. Garnish with green onions if you wish. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How I find great travel deals

Friends are always asking me how I find such great travel deals. While I don't always get great deals (domestic airfare is impossibly pricey during the holidays!), I'm always scouring the internet to find them. These travel deals tend to require flexible timing, which is easier for us to manage as DINKs  - I will miss that about DINK life if/when we have kids.

Here are some of the deals we've travelled on recently:

Positano, Italy, September 2014
  • Deal: $685 per person for roundtrip airfare from JFK to Naples 
  • Found through: Kayak
Hakodate, Japan, May 2014

  • Deal: $1,075 per person for roundtrip airfare from Taipei to Hokkaido, 5 day guided tour through 3 cities within Hokkaido, and four nights of hotel accommodation
  • Found through: Lion Travel
Moorea, French Polynesia, November 2013
  • Deal: $1598 per person for roundtrip airfare from LA to Auckland, including a 3 day stopover in Tahiti, one night in a standard room at the Intercontinental Tahiti, and two nights in an overwater bungalow at the Intercontinental Moorea
  • Found through: Travelzoo Top 20 deals (expired link here for your reference). 

Tips on getting good deals
Kayak: Whenever I find a great fare on Kayak, I always check the fare for the same flight on the airline's own website, as it doesn't always match the lowest fare on Kayak. This is particularly true with flights on EVA Air - I have no idea why. The limitation to Kayak is that it doesn't include certain airlines, so it's not a one stop shop.

Lion Travel: Lion Travel tours start in Taipei and only offer Mandarin language tours, so they probably aren't a convenient option for most people. However, if you can make it work, Lion Travel puts together some great packages. I always price out a package to see if I can get it cheaper on my own - just the roundtrip airfare from Taipei to Hokkaido would have been $700 per person, so their Hokkaido package was definitely legit.

Travelzoo: Travelzoo is where I find a majority of my combo (flight & hotel) deals, so I'm very diligent about checking the new deals of the week every Wednesday morning. You have to be patient though, because weeks or months will go by where I am not interested in any of the deals. Keep your eyes peeled for the combo deals to the intriguing destinations abroad - that's where I've found the best deals. Just like with the Lion Travel package to Hokkaido, I always price out the deal separately to see if it really is a good deal. With the New Zealand/Tahiti package, I knew that it was a good deal since one night in the overwater bungalow at the Intercontinental Moorea is close to $1,000/night!

Hope that helps! In the meantime, I'm daydreaming about this deal for a week long vacation in Japan...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Turning Point

We recently went out to dinner to celebrate our friend Donna's birthday. This was one of the few group outings I've been to in recent memory where no kids were present. Jeff made the wise observation that such occasions will be much harder to come by in the future, so we should really cherish these moments when we have them.

Given that all the women present were in their early 30s, Jeff's observation invariably shifted the conversation towards kids. We've all put off parenthood for various reasons: marriage, career, travel, finances, illusion of more time, etc. But we're starting to realize that we can only put it off for so long. It was comforting to hear that we're all at similar stages. We all worry about buying homes in good school districts, having multiple children so that they won't be lonely only children, maintaining work-life balance...the list goes on and on. I imagine it only grows exponentially once the children are actually here.

If we were the only ones at the turning point of wanting to become parents, we'd feel really lonely so it's nice to be going through this with other friends. It's also nice to know that if we all become parents within a similar time frame, we'll be able to relate (and commiserate!) as we go through new experiences. I also hope that means we will have kids that are similar in age so that they can play with each other. I know this post is counting so many chickens before they hatch, which I normally try not to do - but for today, we'll go ahead and embrace the optimism.

Santorini, Greece, July 2011

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Keeping a bad day in check

Work has been super frustrating this week - I'll keep it vague as I'm not looking to pull a Dooce. I'll just say that my projects were not going as planned and conversations were not happening the way I had hoped. I was feeling really discouraged, wondering if my career is ever going to progress. On top of that, my super predictable period showed up 3 days early, throwing off all our fertility planning. So much for Jeff rearranging his work trip to be home early!

After my long, bad day, I came home and saw that a friend had texted me a request to make some last minute arrangements for church yesterday. I was so annoyed, I responded rather brusquely, letting him know that I was currently swamped and couldn't manage this last minute request. He was very apologetic and said he would take care of it himself, while Jeff scolded me to pull it together and not take my bad day out on innocent people. I knew he was right, so I messaged the friend to make amends, who had already very graciously taken over the task himself and insisted that I find time to rest from my hectic week. 

This morning, I came to work and was unexpectedly pulled into a series of great meetings, one after another. Suffice it to say, it looks like people have noticed that I do good work so new opportunities are opening up for me. I'm super excited, grateful...and also embarrassed and undeserving. I'm the type of person that lashes out after a bad day and yet God still blesses and loves me so much. Seriously, it's a miracle that I have any friends at all! 

Hopefully this is a good reminder for me to keep my attitude and perspective in check. Jeff and I just got the best news we could possibly hope for last week! And yet, eight days later, I'm having a huge hissy fit over some work issues and my period. Even just typing that out makes me feel ridiculous. Life is so much bigger than all of this!

Waipio Valley, Hawaii, August 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Revisiting the idea of kids

I jumped the gun with getting an OPK last month before we even knew that Jeff did not inherit his mom's SCA3. At the time, I wanted the distraction and thought it would be a good idea to track ovulation, just in case. But now that we know there is no risk of SCA3, sh*t just got real. I think that means next month, we are officially "trying to conceive." Umm...time to gorge on soft cheeses, runny eggs, and sushi this month!

The shift is a bit extreme, since I've spent the last six and a half years believing that pregnancy is the scariest thing that could happen to us. I was terrified of SCA3 taking its toll on Jeff and our kids. Suddenly, I've gone from preventing kids at all costs to hoping that we can have two healthy children. Both of us enjoyed growing up with siblings and continue to have close relationships with them, and we would want the same for our children.

Still, I know that fertility is not something to take for granted, especially now that I'm in my 30s. That's why we still haven't told anyone beyond our closest family members about the results of the SCA3 test. Friends are already constantly asking us if we're expecting. The questions would only multiply tenfold if they knew that SCA3 was no longer a risk factor (our good friends know about the SCA3 risk in Jeff's family).

On another note, is there a reason that so many people believe that it's okay to relentlessly hound couples with questions of their fertility status? I love my friends and they're generally awesome people but their constant questions are driving me crazy! Is it really necessary to ask me if I'm pregnant every 3 weeks? I wish I could share the great news of the SCA3 diagnosis but because they are always so nosy about the status of my womb, I know it will only get worse.

If kids don't happen for us, I know that Jeff and I still have incredibly blessed lives to be  thankful for. I hope we continue to remember that throughout our lives.

Napa Valley, August 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Food recap: Taipei eats

I was scrolling through my posts the other day and realized that I didn't have a single post dedicated to the delicious eats in Taiwan. How could I have neglected such an important category in my life? I predict this will be the first of many Taiwan food posts to come. :)

I first discovered Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake when I noticed long lines at Taipei Main Station. The lines are the worst during rush hour but if you go in the middle of the day, the lines are relatively manageable. I personally prefer the ones that are straight out of the oven because I am a pig that brings them upstairs to the Breeze Food Court to eat right away - but there are ways to avoid the line if you are okay with cheesecake that was made earlier in the day.

Cafe Melange is known for their waffles. Last time I was here, waffles were only served Friday - Sunday so make sure you check for availability if you have your heart set on them. This place is pretty popular so you may have to wait for a table. 

Tung Hakka cuisine has amazing Hakka dishes and even more amazing desserts. Their chocolate souffles are impeccably beautiful and taste even better than they look. Their yam cake is also delicious.

In case all these sweets are starting to make your tooth ache, I decided to add in a savory item here. The food court in the basement of the Ding Hao mall in Taipei has a tiny little shop that makes the best spicy wontons. I typically eat multiple bowls when I make the trip here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Finding a good work tote

As much as I love European designer handbags, I am more muted in my choice of work totes. I don't want to stand out with something too flashy or expensive, as my work environment is pretty casual. Plus, carrying a laptop around can be pretty hard on a handbag so I don't want a fussy bag that I need to be delicate with. For awhile, I was using a Longchamp Le Pliage tote. I love that it's roomy and zips all the way close. On the downside, the nylon material is so flimsy, I'm always afraid the straps will break off at some point. To be fair, it's never happened so I guess I'm just paranoid. I also dislike how ubiquitous the bag is - every woman I know seems to have the same bag.

Last year, I decided I needed a sturdier tote, so I bought the Kate Spade Charlotte Street Reena tote. I liked how it was similar in shape and style to the Prada Saffiano tote, but at a much more affordable price point - especially since I was able to get the bag at 25% off during Bloomingdale's Friends and Family sale. I also liked how the handles are long enough for me to comfortably wear the bag on my shoulder. While it doesn't zip all the way closed, there are two large spacious zipper compartments and one small zipper compartment to ensure that my small valuables don't slip out of the bag. There is a snap closure for the main compartment but that's pretty useless in keeping anything except my laptop securely in the bag. I just wish it weren't black! I have so many black bags, I was hoping for a more interesting neutral color, like caramel or grey. It's currently on sale in yellow, which is adorable but I just can't pull it off!

When Ann Taylor had a 50% off sale last week, I couldn't resist ordering the Ann Taylor Gallery tote. It's a popular bag in the blogging world but I have yet to see it on anyone in real life, so it's a relatively unique bag in my social and professional circles. I also love how neutral the taupe latte color is and yet different from any other bag I own (which just goes to show how boring my bag collection is). While's it's a bit smaller than the Kate Spade Reena, it's sufficiently large to hold my 12" laptop and other necessities. Unlike the Kate Spade Reena, there are no secure zipper compartments, so it's not as functional for me. But I think I'm being too picky - for $59, this should probably be an obvious keeper!

Meanwhile, Jeff naively asks "Don't you already have a work bag? Why did you buy another one?" Some days, I wonder if he knows me at all. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A New Day, A New Beginning

Today is one of those days that I know God loves us so immensely and so completely. We are so relieved, so grateful, and still in disbelief at the good news.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, April 2008

Monday, October 27, 2014


I can't believe that after 12 years of wondering, agonizing, and planning together, we might finally get the SCA3 test results tomorrow. I say *might* because this process has involved so much waiting, it's hard for me to imagine there won't be further delays. So it's possible that after all my melodramatic pontificating, tomorrow will be just another day. But if it's not, I'm hoping for the best and preparing for worst. So here are a few of our next steps as preparation if things don't go as hoped for:

- Ask the genetic counselor for a retest with another lab to confirm the results.
- Provide the results to the endocrinologist and genetic counselor so that the genetic probe can get set up. I'm still not 100% sure how I feel about IVF but I can at least get the process kicked off while I think about it.
- Adjust our health, life, and long term insurance policies accordingly.
- Start house hunting for a home without stairs for easy accessibility. Ideally, we'd like a ranch style home but that comes at a huge premium in the Bay Area so we'll have to see what we can manage.
- Pray for peace, hope, and understanding to maintain our spiritual grounding and mental sanity.

Jeff worries that our communication might break down and I'll shut him out. When we had our first serious talk about SCA3 as college juniors, I struggled with what I should tell him and what I should keep to myself. I was afraid that whatever I said might compel him to get tested for all the wrong reasons. I desperately wanted to know if he had SCA3 but I didn't want him to get tested and possibly ruin his life if he couldn't handle the results. There was a one hour train ride where we sat in silence because I couldn't trust myself to say the right thing. The memory of that train ride still haunts him. I had to remind him that I wasn't shutting him out, I was demonstrating a tremendous amount of maturity for a 20 year old under a lot of pressure!

It's hard to imagine that after tomorrow, our lives could be changed forever. I wish it didn't feel so binary - that it has to either be great news or terrible news. There is no in-between. It feels like my heart is about to burst from all the suspense of waiting. Hoping that it doesn't drop, break, and shatter from bad news. Feeling too scared to anticipate good news. I don't know if I will be ready to talk about it right away. We'll just have to take it one day at a time.

Woolamai Beach, Australia, 2011
I normally post random travel pictures to accompany these serious blog posts but this one is oddly appropriate. It seems like Jeff is facing the great big unknown all by himself but it doesn't mean he's alone - I'm behind the camera taking this picture. And I've got his back.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Consistent Workout Routine

I never put in the effort to exercise regularly until I moved to the Bay Area, where it felt like everyone was super active and outdoorsy. I'm not either of those things, so it took a lot of effort for me to start working out. Over the years, I've tried a couple of different routines with varying degrees of success:
  • I started attending a hip hop class once a week, with the hopes that it would be funner and more interesting of a workout. It was fun until the regular instructor quit - I ended up quitting too, as I wasn't a fan of the new instructor.
  • One of the companies I worked at had a gym with nice equipment and towel service, which made it very convenient and pleasant to work out. I spent 40 minutes on the elliptical machine 3-4 times a week. When I quit my job, I also quit the regular workouts.
  • I bought a Groupon for one month of unlimited yoga at a nearby studio. When the month was up, I was too cheap to pay the regular monthly rate so I stopped going.
  • Jeff and I started hiking every week with a group of 6 other friends. We ended up hiking all around the Bay, with the goal of ultimately conquering Half Dome in Yosemite. After almost an entire year of hiking, we all made it to the top of Half Dome! I subsequently lost my motivation to ever hike outdoors again. Did I mention that I'm not an outdoors person? 
Yosemite National Park, August 2007

I could go on and on with more examples but I think you get the picture. I rarely exercised more than once a week - and when I did, I only did one type of exercise at any given time. I also found it hard to maintain a routine for more than a few months at a time. 

I'm still a long way's to go from a perfect routine but I've definitely improved quite a bit in the past few years. Here's what has worked for me:
  • Invest in my health  - For me, this meant joining an expensive gym. I know this sound utterly ridiculous but because the membership fee is so high, I feel obligated to go often to make it worthwhile. There are certainly other investments that are more cost-effective, such as buying workout props, equipment, DVDs, etc.
  • Find a routine that keeps it fun and interesting - Thankfully, the expensive gym has great classes and instructors that help me mix up my routine so I don't end up doing the same workout all the time. These days, I try to incorporate kickboxing, pilates, yoga, and running into my weekly routine. I spend most of my time running but I go to at least 1-2 classes per week to keep it interesting. I try to arrange my workout schedule to attend the classes and instructors I enjoy the most. I still haven't found a way to incorporate weight training into my routine though. I find it boring to weight train on my own and I'm too intimidated to try a Body Pump class. 
  • Make time for mini-workouts - I try to exercise 4-5 times a week but of course, life happens so that isn't always feasible. On days where I have long meetings and I can't do a regular workout, Jeff and I will take a brisk 20-30 minute walk after dinner. It's a great way for us to catch up and connect - we have some of our best talks during these walks. Other times, I will look for workout videos on YouTube to do a quick routine. Anything to get moving, even if it's not a full, sweaty workout.
  • Get motivated - If Jeff has SCA3, I want to be healthy enough to take care of him and any future children we may have. I don't want to be bogged down by health issues that could have easily been prevented. There are enough to worry about that can't be prevented.
I worry about how my routine will change if we have kids. We will probably invest in a treadmill so that we can work out easily and conveniently at home. I will miss the variety of workouts that my current gym offers though. Hopefully we'll figure out something that works if/when we get to that point. Now if only I could do something about my terrible eating habits...sigh. Another post for another day!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Still waiting...

I'm finally done with all my Italy and New York recaps, so it's back to the regular stuff for now until our next trip. It was fun to turn this space into a travel blog for awhile - if only I could be a professional travel blogger. :)

Jeff got the SCA3 test the week we left, but it's going to be another 2-3 weeks before we can get the results. Even though the date is getting closer, it still feels far away so the reality of it hasn't quite set in. I hate that there's so much time in between the testing and the results. I suspect they do that on purpose so that you take the time to weigh your decision and the possible consequences of either result. I've been thinking about this on and off for the last 12 years so I feel like I've had the time to digest our decision, although I can't say we'll ever be fully prepared for it. I can't guarantee we won't second guess our decision and back out of our appointment but as of right now, we're pretty determined to stay on course with our plans.

In the meantime, I've started taking some preliminary steps to get my body baby-ready for if/when that time should come. It may seem like we're counting our chickens before they hatch but I like to be (over) prepared and we need the distraction in the meantime.

I stopped taking birth control pills in September, as my doctor said it could be a few months before my body starts ovulating again. I reluctantly bought a Clear Blue Digital Ovulation Predictor Kit with 20 sticks for $35. They're expensive but highly rated and easy to use. I didn't realize until after I bought the kit that it doesn't confirm ovulation, it just detects the surge of hormones that typically precedes ovulation. Oops.

I have a 30 day cycle so according to the instructions, I should have started testing on cycle day 13. That seemed kind of late to me - I assume ovulation happens around day 15 so the hormone surge could be day 13-14, as it occurs 24-36 hours before ovulation. If ovulation happened any earlier, the OPK could miss the surge altogether so I decided to start testing on day 10. The smiley face came on day 13 so I'm glad I started a few days earlier and I didn't have to waste too many sticks until I got to the smiley face (which indicates the hormone surge). I tried doing some research on when to start testing but I found mixed opinions/ideas - start tests on day 6, wait until day 13, test twice a day, test first thing in the morning, test anytime except first thing in the was so overwhelming and inconsistent! Either way, starting on day 10 worked for me, assuming I didn't get a false positive.

I also started taking folic acid supplements with my regular daily vitamins, as my doctor says that folic acid is the only supplement proven to make a difference. In fact, women should start taking them a few months before they start trying to conceive so I'm not actually jumping the gun on this one. I'm also looking around for a pre-natal vitamin to start taking once I run out of my current vitamins. Even if the other supplements aren't "as proven" in terms of pre-natal health, it can't hurt to get more vitamins in my body.

Even with the distraction of peeing on sticks and finding vitamins, the SCA3 test results are always in the back of my mind. Still waiting, still praying, still holding for now.

Sydney Opera House, Australia, August 2011

Sunday, October 19, 2014

New York Day 3: 911 Museum and Memorial

In between days 2 and 3 in New York, we spent a day out in New Jersey to attend our friend Mei's wedding. It was a beautiful wedding at the Mansion on Main St - I love how weddings are a great excuse for everyone to get together. We had so much fun catching up with college friends with good food and good music. 

The morning after the wedding, we drove back to New York to spend a few hours at the 9/11 Museum and Memorial with Bryan. We purchased tickets online beforehand but we still had to wait a a bit to get into the museum, as they were fairly strict with crowd control. We were an hour late for our reserved ticket time but they still let us in anyway.

I had already moved away from New York by the time 9/11 happened and thank God I don't have any friends or family that were hurt in the attacks. Because of that, a part of me has always felt like I didn't have the right to be as affected and grieved by the events of that day. This visit to the museum was probably the first time I felt deeply affected and emotional about 9/11.

We would have liked to spend more time at the museum but we had to catch a flight back home to SFO. We definitely cut it close, as we didn't make it to the gate until 6:11pm for our 6:24pm flight. While I don't recommend it, I think it shows that we're good at making the most of our time, even down to the last minute. I can't wait to go back to New York and visit another European destination "on the way"! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

New York Day 2: Old friends and the Met

Jeff and I woke up on Day 2 and headed straight to Come Buy Tea in the Flatiron district for our morning caffeine fix. I love how so many of these Taiwanese tea chains are aggressively expanding into the US - it means that we have more access to authentic tea! From 28th St, we made our way up to midtown for lunch. Jeff was wary about walking 15+ blocks but I reminded him that walking was our only form of exercise while we were on vacation. I'm so glad we didn't end up getting unlimited ride Metrocards. The weather was fantastic and it was fun to share bits and pieces of my New York past with Jeff as we walked. 

We met up with my dear friend Lulu from middle and high school (we go way back!) at Sakagura. I was eager to try their uni soba special - they only have 7 servings per day so I was worried that they would run out! I guess I didn't need to worry, as the dish was just okay. Their chocolate souffle and sesame creme brulee are fantastic though. It was so nice to catch up with Lulu - she just gave birth to an adorable baby girl so I appreciated her taking time out of her crazy schedule to meet us.

After lunch, Jeff and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I have really fond memories of the Met, as it was a popular school trip destination when I was young. My favorite memory of the Met was when I came with a group of friends as part of a 7th grade art project. Ms. Rich sent us on a scavenger hunt to find various works of Japanese art throughout the Met. I was so bad at drawing that Ms. Rich couldn't identify my sketches of the art exhibits and gave me an A-. I had to do an extra credit assignment to earn my A for that class, as an A- just wasn't going to cut it for my tiger mom. 

Jeff and I spent quite a bit of time in the Japanese art exhibit as I reminisced about Ms. Rich's scavenger hunt through the Yamato-e period. It's only now that I appreciate what an awesome teacher she was and how I was able to learn art history at a world-class museum! We were also particularly interested in American art, as we see a lot of European and Asian art in our travels.

Once we finished up at the museum, we took the train to Flushing to Andrew and Laurie's to meet their new baby. After admiring their son, we walked over to Joe Shanghai to meet Jack for dinner. Jack, Andrew, and I were all violinists in an orchestra together in high school and have been friends since we were 14. It's crazy to think that we're now wives, husbands, and in some cases, parents!

In my biased opinion, Joe Shanghai has some of the best soup dumplings I've ever had in the US. I used to eat here all the time when I was younger, so I'm sure the familiarity and comfort contribute to my affinity for the food here. 

After dinner, we went to the Rose House for dessert. This place is clean, quiet, and fancy by Flushing standards so the prices are rather steep. The desserts were average but I did enjoy the tea, even if it was $12/pot. The company and conversation was silly, hilarious, and awesome and you can't put a price on that.

The older I am, the more I appreciate the people who knew me when I was younger. Does that just mean I'm getting older? :)