Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fleeting Emotions

I recently discovered that a childhood ex-friend moved to the Bay Area. We were quite close when we were young, until we had a falling out almost 9 years ago and we haven't spoken since. This discovery has been on my mind since I found out a few days ago, even though I'm not having any thoughts of reconciliation or confrontation. Jeff asked why I was thinking about it then.

Ever since I was young, I've experienced deep feelings and strong convictions. As a teenager, these tendencies were clouded by delusion and immaturity - I can't say for sure that has gotten much better in my adult years. I remember feeling so sure of our friendship during the good times, and feeling so hurt by our fights during the bad times. It's a sobering thought that human emotions can be so temporary, even if we were so sure of them at one time. Here I am now 8 years later, and both of those emotions feel like faraway memories. They've been replaced by a quiet acceptance that not all friendships are meant to last forever, despite the best of intentions. But you can appreciate them for the time that they were a happy part of your life.

Bodega Bay, CA, July 2013

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Looking for symptoms when TTC

I was reading on about how women trying to conceive assume every feeling is a pregnancy symptom and it rang so true for me. In the last month and a half, I've become hyper aware of twinges in my general middle area. I keep thinking "Could this be a pregnancy symptom? I'm so sure I've never had this feeling before!" and then my period comes. Chances are, I've had those same minor aches before but I just never noticed them until now.

I also think that I'm feeling nervous and excited, which is manifesting itself as butterflies and I'm misinterpreting as a symptom. I have a lot of respect for women who are able to exude such calm and confidence in the TTC process. Patience is not my strong suit! But we're early on enough in the process that we're feeling positive rather than anxious. At least I am, Jeff seems to be feeling a bit more antsy. He's already talking about temping and charting, which feels a bit overkill right now. I'm hoping his antsiness doesn't rub off on me. Here's to staying positive and stress-free!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Friends With Kids

Now that a growing minority of my friends are becoming parents, I'm finding it harder to navigate those friendships. While Jeff and I may have kids in the future, we are currently relishing our child-free state. We stay up late, we go out to movies, we try new restaurants...we enjoy our freedom while we have it. Understandably our parent friends can't do the same, so we're asked to accommodate by going over to their house for dinner. If the kids have later bedtimes, then it means we all eat dinner together and the kids will take their baths and go to bed once they're done.

From our parent friends' perspectives - this seems so easy for us to manage. Our schedules are so free and flexible, we could be anywhere at anytime. The truth of it is - we could be anywhere at anytime. So when they request that we eat dinner before 6pm to accommodate to their children's early schedules, that means we can't be at the gym working out like we normally would be at that time. Eating a homecooked meal is fine - except that I already cook at home 5 days a week for health and budgetary reasons so the weekends are when I get to go out. Most of the children I eat with are super cute and have great table manners - but they are kids, so it's difficult to have a real conversation throughout dinner that isn't peppered with child interruptions.

I don't mean to sound so inflexible, but when parent friends expect us to do this regularly, I start to feel conflicted. I know that kids keep them home bound in the evenings so their social interactions are limited to those that are willing to go over for dinner. Sometimes I feel like I bear an unfair share of the burden - and it feels even more unfair because they're not my kids. This probably makes me sound like a heartless monster but it's true. If I don't get the long term benefits of having kids, it kind of sucks that I deal with the inconveniences and hassles that come with kids.

I know that griping about all this makes me seem like such a jerk. Maybe you're thinking that I'll get what's coming when I have kids, because then I'll realize just how hard it is to manage and I'll feel awful for not having been a more understanding friend. But if/when I have kids, my parent friends won't be coming over to come hang out with me on those long, lonely evenings - they'll still be at home with their kids. They're not going to be self-sufficient teenagers anytime soon! But at least I'll know not to over-burden my childfree friends the same way. In fact, I have parent friends that manage this beautifully so hopefully I can emulate their examples - I'll blog about it some more in a separate post.

Athens, Greece, July 2011

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Housing Must-Haves

Jeff and I hate watching the show House Hunters because we get too envious of how much they can buy with relatively small budgets! Understandably, the show needs to be relatable for the majority of the country and the high cost of living we deal with in NorCal is not relatable to most of them. On the flip side, I can't relate to most of them because I've only lived in high cost areas my whole life (New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley).

When we think about the type of home we will need for the next 10 years, here are the must-haves:
  • Mostly move-in ready - Good contractors are hard to come by in this area. With the housing boom, they're busier than ever and won't necessarily have time for renovations that aren't worth their while. Sometimes a home is perfectly move-in ready but just not quite our style - I'd find a way to deal with it, as long as it wasn't dirty, worn, or falling apart.
  • Short commute to work - "Short" is rather relative but ideally less than 30 minutes in rush hour. Life is too short to spend sitting in traffic!
  • Good school district - Our parents did everything they could to provide us with great education, and we hope to pass that onto our children.
  • Good location - We're light sleepers so we can't live next to major streets, freeways, or under flight paths. Sadly, a lot of the more affordable, newer housing is situated in one of the aforementioned places. 
If we're being truly honest, even our "must-have" list is a stretch for the Bay Area, despite our DINK budget. Jeff and I are constantly discussing which of these items we're willing to forgo. I think the first would be commute length, followed by move-in readiness. I'm so envious of people who live in areas where affordable housing doesn't mean having to make these kind of tradeoffs. We have talked about how if/when kids happen, we will need to have some honest conversations to see if we should stay in the Bay Area or move to a more affordable city. While I'd hate to give up all the amazing things we have here, it's also exciting to think that new changes and adventures still await us. In the meantime, we'll continue to enjoy living it up in NorCal!

A view from Twin Peaks, San Francisco

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Planning a Girl's Day Out

I mentioned earlier this week that I'm in the midst of planning a celebration for Katie, who's getting married later this year. She didn't want a shower or bachelorette so we had to get around it by designating this as a "Girl's Day Out" that just happened to be before the wedding. :) All kidding aside, I think this is more aligned with what she wanted, as she wasn't interested in the typical bachelorette shenanigans or shower games.

We have approximately 7-8 girls in our group, which I think is just right. A large enough group to feel fun and festive, but not so large that we're unwieldy and impossible to manage. Here's what the tentative schedule looks like:

1:00pm: Blowouts at Dry Bar 
I've been to Dry Bar with a friend before and it was awesome! It's a nice way to feel pampered while bonding with your girlfriends.

(Photo credit: Dry Bar)

3:30pm: Pedicures at La Jolie
One of the other bridesmaids recommended La Jolie. The pictures look lovely - definitely better than the usual places I go to for a quick, cheap pedicure. While those cheaper places are great, they don't quite give off the pampered, relaxed vibe we're trying to spoil Katie with. :)

(Photo credit: La Jolie)

5:30pm: Dinner at Village Pub
Village Pub is one of my favorite restaurants in the area - and the Michelin guide clearly agrees with me. :) The menu frequently changes but luckily, their delicious chocolate souffle with earl grey creme anglais is a pretty consistent staple on their dessert menu. This is a great restaurant for celebrating special occasions.

8:00pm: Cake / tea / gifts / scrapbooking

After dinner, we'll be heading to one of the girl's houses for some scrapbooking so that Katie will have a memento of the day. Truth be told, I have never scrapbooked before so I'm not sure how this will go - thank goodness someone else will be heading up this activity! We're also planning to have some tea with burnt almond cake (her favorite!) as we "shower" her with gifts to end the day. Even though she didn't want a typical shower, I wasn't going to stop her generous friends from buying her gifts. I'm thinking about getting her the awesome cake pop and donut hole maker that I got from our White Elephant - she actually brought the gift but admitted that she considered keeping it for herself! So I won't win any points for effort or originality...but at least I remembered? :)

There were tons of other good ideas we all came  up with for the day:
  • Hot tub rooms: I've heard good things about the Palo Alto Watercourse Way and the rates are super reasonable. Unfortunately, we have a pregnant mom in our group and some others that aren't crazy about hot tubs.
  • Group cooking classes: We tried looking for a reputable cooking class that wasn't super expensive - unfortunately, these don't seem to exist! I'm just not interested in paying $100+ to cook one meal - at that price, I'd much rather have someone else do all the cooking and cleaning for me. We did get some reasonable quotes for group cooking lessons on but we weren't sure if the instructors were any good. Plus, most of these instructors don't provide the venue and none of us have houses with kitchens that are big enough for 8 of us to cook in at the same time. 
  • Pole dancing class: I've heard lots of good things about these types of classes. Katie has already done that before but if she hadn't, I would have looked into this some more.
  • Group yoga class: Katie enjoys yoga so this could have been a fun option. It's too bad one of our favorite yoga instructors is out on maternity leave right now! I imagine we could have practiced outdoors in the park somewhere if we couldn't find an indoor space large enough.
I'm super excited that we were able to throw this together within 3 days! Crossing my fingers that everything turns out well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ramen Izakaya Yu-Gen

I was excited to explore a new ramen joint that Nicole discovered this past weekend - Ramen Izakaya Yu-Gen in downtown Mountain View. I try to limit my ramen intake these days, as I don't want to over carbo-load in one sitting - but once in awhile, a bowl of hot ramen really hits the spot!

Most of us ordered a tonkotsu broth ramen. I love how they give you the option to make the broth spicy, as well as add a side of karage for $3. The broth was solid and the noodles were decently chewy.

Jeff ordered the paitan chicken broth ramen with 5 spice chicken, which actually came with a whole chicken leg. I thought this dish was really expensive, even with the extra side of chicken, which Jeff found unimpressive.

Luckily, there was no line when we arrived as a party of 6 for Sunday lunch. Perhaps they're still new so people don't know about them? If it stays that way, this could be my new go-to ramen place. I do love the customizable spice levels for all their ramen options!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Thoughts While Planning a Bridal Shower / Bachelorette

As I currently plan for Katie's bridal shower / bachelorette, I'm having a lot of fun looking up different ideas and activities. She's been pretty insistent on not having a "shower" or "bachelorette" so we won't be partaking in some of the typical rituals associated with these events. I've also been referring this celebration as a "Girl's Day Out" to make that distinction. I'll write some more about the activities we have planned in a later post.

Through this planning process, I'm remembering my own bridal shower - mainly because Katie is the one who saved me from a super embarrassing adult-themed party that I really didn't want. One particular "friend" thought it would be hilarious to plan an event centered around humiliating me with lots of adult paraphernalia, even though people told her that type of party wasn't my thing and I would not enjoy or appreciate it. It got so bad that I ended up telling everyone that I just didn't want a shower at all.

I will forever be grateful to Katie that she stepped in at that point. She ended up taking over and planned an amazing day for me - I only hope I can also plan a great day for her to feel loved, supported, and celebrated by some of her closest friends. But even if she didn't plan one for me, I still wouldn't go out of my way to plan a horrifying day for her. It befuddles me why anyone would put in the time and effort to plan an event for someone that they wouldn't enjoy. Who has that kind of time? While I could bash "friend" for hours on end (Jeff can attest to this!), I don't know how long my blog will remain anonymous so I'll just sum it up with one key takeaway - use my time and effort for good! Life is too short to waste time on anything else.

London, UK, March 2011

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Helen Keller sunglasses

Spotted in Taipei - a ginormous ad for Helen Keller sunglasses. Oh my...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Running Shoes

I'm embarrassed to admit that after 4 years of running, I have only recently acquired a pair of proper running shoes. I'm lucky that I haven't suffered any injuries wearing my old, flimsy Pumas! I didn't do much research for this purchase - I just walked into DSW, wandered over to the running shoes section, and started trying on a few styles. While I like these Nike runners, I honestly haven't noticed much of a difference while running. Will I start to notice more over time? Or is there something wrong with my feet?

Hopefully, these new shoes along with the new workout clothes I bought will be motivation for me to stay fit in the new year!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Life Planning While TTC

Trying to plan for life while trying for kids is new and nebulous territory for me. It's hard to plan for something that could happen right away or may not happen for a year or more. Of course, we are doing the obvious things like saving money and planning for the right housing situation. However, there are other not so obvious things that we're unsure of how to plan for.

Being a Bridesmaid in a Friend's Wedding
I have two close friends that have asked me to be a bridesmaid in May and August of this year. I could see this going one of two ways:

Scenario A
I'm uncomfortably pregnant and unable to help at all - in fact, I may be more of a hindrance than anything else since people may think they need to tend to me rather than the bride.

Scenario B:
I'm not pregnant or I'm pregnant but feeling great and able to perform all bridesmaid duties as normal.

I've committed to being a bridesmaid for both weddings, as I love both friends dearly and want to be there for them! I would be so upset if I turned them down and Scenario B came to fruition. However, I do know that if Scenario A happens, it could be a huge hassle and inconvenience for them. So to try and mitigate the effects of Scenario A, I'll try to let my friends know if I suspect this is going to be the case as soon as it makes sense. I don't really know exactly when is "as soon as it makes sense" - are they the second and third calls I should make once I have positive pee stick results? Hopefully I'll figure it out if and when I get there, and it will be early enough for them to make other arrangements.

Making Travel Plans
So far, we have no major international trips planned for this year, as we assume we will want to hoard as many vacation days (and money!) for any potential bundle of joy. However, there are other smaller trips we're not sure about. An old college friend is getting married in Vancouver over Memorial Day weekend and we'd love to attend, and possibly tack on a few extra days to visit Banff National Park. My friend getting married in August is having her wedding in New York. I think I should be able to make both trips but then again, some of my mother friends have told me about feeling absolutely miserable for a large part of their pregnancy and couldn't imagine getting on a plane during those awful periods. I'm hoping I'll be able to suck it up and be there for our friends if that's the case but having never felt the pain of pregnancy, I have no clue if that will be possible.

Trivial Everyday Stuff
Trying to conceive has infiltrated some of my most mundane decisions. Is it okay for me to have some unpasteurized brie cheese? When is a good time get a perm? (Whether or not I should get a perm is a totally separate debate I'm having with Jeff - he's not a fan of perms.) Should I be switching out our household products to safer, more organic versions? How do I politely demur when well-meaning friends and family offer me certain foods without being too obvious? It's particularly hard if it's a food they know I typically love (like bubble tea...or uni!). 

Am I overthinking it? Is this normal? Some days I feel like a crazy person!

Queenstown, New Zealand, November 2013

Monday, January 12, 2015

Chen San Ding, KiKi, and Japanese Eats

Chen San Ding in Taiwan is known for their bubble milk, which consists of tapioca and brown sugar in milk. It's a twist on the usual bubble tea since it contains no tea - I'm not usually a milk lover but I love this drink! There is typically a line of people waiting but it tends to move quickly.

KiKi is one of my favorite restaurant chains in Taipei - I managed to eat here twice during this trip! They are known for their spicy dishes but they also have delicious non-spicy options. Two of my favorites pictured below: crispy deep fried tofu and pork slices with garlic sauce. Other amazing dishes I greedily gobbled up before I remembered to take pictures: braised chili fish, pan fried eggs, minced pork with chives and black beans, spicy fried chicken...I could go on and on.

My in-laws treated the whole family to a fancy dinner at a trendy Japanese restaurant in Zhu Bei (about a 30 minute ride from Taipei via High Speed Rail). They had delicious shrimp tempura, uni hand rolls, and seared salmon sashimi.


Looking at all these food pictures is making me feel so sluggish and fat...time to hit the gym!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Year, New Me rambles

Is it too late to have a New Year reflections post? Maybe I should have saved this for Chinese New Year instead. :)

I worked with a manager at my first full-time job that gave me some advice about approaching the new year. He told me to set goals for myself every year and he gave me examples of some of the annual goals he had set for himself in the past: get married, buy a house, etc. At the time, I remember thinking "whoa those goals are totally not in line with my life stage! His advice doesn't apply to someone like me." But every now and then, his advice would come to mind and I'd think...hey it doesn't seem so crazy. He didn't tell me to buy a house or get married every year - he was just telling me what his own accomplishments had been. I can set whatever goals make sense for my life. Big duh to 22 year old Emily.

In addition to looking forward, I also think it's important to look back and see where we've been. The idea is not to limit ourselves ("but we've never done that before!") but rather have that act as a guide for where we may want to go next.

2014 Highlights

  • We found out that Jeff does not have SCA3. A huge relief and an even bigger blessing.
  • We had some amazing travels to ItalyTaiwanJapan, and New York.  
  • After a few setbacks, I was offered a new job on a different team working on some cool things that I'm really excited about.
  • Jeff also transitioned to a new role as part of a re-org that more closely aligns with his career goals and interests.
2015 Goals
  • Try not to go crazy with TTC. We will do what we can to facilitate the process naturally but everything beyond that is out of our hands. I don't want to feel like a total failure if this year does not end with a pregnancy or a baby. After all the research I did around IVF, I don't think that's the route I want to go but who knows...we'll see if/when we get to that point.
  • Potentially explore new housing, depending on outcome of goal #1. Obviously, if there is no baby, our current setup suffices just fine. But otherwise, we'll have to figure out if we can repurpose our current place or move to a new house.
  • Learn and grow in my new job. Pretty self-explanatory.
  • Live with gratitude. God has given us so many good and wonderful things in this life - let's live in such a way that is worthy of those blessings.
Taipei, Taiwan, January 1, 2010

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Maokong Gondola and Rao He Night Market

I've been meaning to make a trip out on the Maokong Gondola in Taipei for awhile now - I finally got the opportunity to go with my grandma in December. This excursion is definitely about the journey rather than the destination. The ride is about 25 minutes each way and the view along the way is lovely - particularly cool if you are in a glass floor gondola. On the other hand, the view at the top is partially obstructed and the food is not impressive by Taipei standards. I had heard there were a lot of great teahouses at the top so I was pretty disappointed to find only one teahouse close to the last gondola stop that was open - and a serving of tea was 180NT! That might not seem like very much since it translates to approximately $5 USD but that's a lot for Taipei. Grandma and I skipped out on tea here and headed to Ba Fang Yun Ji, where we had a meal of dumplings, potstickers, wontons, and vegetables for a total of 180NT.

A fuzzy silhouette of Taipei 101 on the right

Hello Kitty branding everywhere!

A lackluster ice cream crepe with peanut powder and cilantro

Jeff and I had a chance to catch up with friends over a visit to the Rao He Night Market this time around. The older I am, the less I am enticed by the cheap wares they offer. Even still, I can't always resist a great deal! Between the four of us, we got a selfie stick, an iPhone case ($3 USD), a cute top ($5 USD), and some tasty snacks.

Grilled mochi

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ippudo Ramen, Ba Fang Yun Ji (八方雲集), and 1010 Xiang

My trips to Taiwan are about the three Fs - family, food, and fashion - with an emphasis on the first two. Luckily, it is easy to kill two birds with one stone by combining the first two. :)

I spend a lot of my time in Taipei at Taipei Main Station, since there's so much eating and shopping to be done here. This time, I checked out Ippudo in the Breeze Food Court upstairs, as the wait was only 15 minutes. The noodles were great - I love that you can grind up your own sesame and mince your own garlic to flavor the broth. But no pork buns available? That's half the fun of an Ippudo meal! 

I'm a bad blogger so I can't remember the name of this ramen - sorry!

My adorable grandma adding garlic to her spicy broth

We also ate at Ba Fang Yun Ji (八方雲集) in the Eslite shopping area of Taipei Main Station. They have amazing dumplings and potstickers. This branch also happens to make wontons - not as good as my favorite wontons here but still pretty tasty. 

I'm a huge fan of spicy food so the Hunan cuisine at 1010 Xiang is right up my alley. Their dishes are a notch less spicy than Szechuan cuisine and they have non-spicy dishes as well. They have a couple of restaurants scattered through Taiwan but I've only been to the one on Fuxing North Road. There are so many more dishes that I didn't have a chance to photograph! Jeff also raved about a spicy fried chicken dish that he had during another visit to 1010 Xiang with his family.

Beef with pine nuts and rice cake

Spicy ribs (served with gloves so that your hands stay clean) 

Sigh...this post is making me hungry so I'll have to stop here!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy New Year!

I was lucky enough to spend the holidays in Taiwan, indulging in delicious eats with loved ones. I only brought a small carry-on suitcase so I couldn't bring too much back but I did manage to bring home my favorite fruit pastries from Chia Te bakery. It's much easier to get to these days now that the MRT green line has been extended along Nanjing East Road - the bakery is a block away from the Nanjing Sanmin stop.

Since this bakery is uber popular, there is always a long line of Asian tourists outside with a bouncer managing crowd control. I dragged my poor grandma along to keep me company as we waited about 30 minutes to get in. They have a lot of other baked goods here but I focus on their flagship pastries - Taiwanese pineapple cakes. Jeff is pretty adventurous so he likes some of the other fruit flavors as well but in my humble opinion, none compare to pineapple!