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