Celebrating Baby Yang’s baby shower was much more blissful than I expected; I first thought of hosting a baby shower but was concerned with 1) how friends and family would respond to me having an in-person baby shower during this pandemic 2) the cost 3) the effort having to host one 4) my guy friends being too awkward about joining in something traditionally “for women only”
As I was closing in on my last month “the final stretch” I decided to invite and host family and friends over to our home for an in-person baby shower because 1) I’ve been really, really missing hosting gatherings 2) I’ve been missing my family and friends throughout the pandemic (I am still disgusted that it’s been 2 years and there’s a lot to go) and 3) I was and still am bummed that I just had 1 family member, 5 friends join our own wedding after all of that anticipation growing up and planning for the big day. My coach also reminded me that this day of memories could “replace” those memories – and fast forward, it has fulfilled all of those holes.
It was a total relief that the weather was sweet and dreamy, not too cold nor too hot for friends and family to easily hang out in our patio and/or freely into our home (while also seeing and sharing advice on our baby room set up). I wanted to make sure everyone felt safe and welcomed, so I had a mix of activities, food, and refreshments outside and inside our home from 9AM-5PM. I get that wedding food and baby shower food don’t need to be spectacular, but it was important for me to support some local businesses without having to make anything myself that could be appropriate for brunch/snacks/sweet tooths depending whenever our guests dropped by.
Thank you so much again Capri and Hangry Bakery for the delectable treats (and Tammy for doing my hair and makeup!) Instax worked really well because as much of a sucker I am for memory keepsakes, I didn’t want to be walking around snapping photos with everyone and worry about getting perfect shots but legitimately catch up with friends and family I haven’t seen in years.
As I’ve been reading more about labor and epidurals and Oly and I’ve been also watching more parenting educational videos, my belly has also protruded more to a point that it’s been much more difficult to move (yes, I feel more like a penguin than a pregnant woman sometimes and waddling is real) As I’ve been struggling to fit into my own clothes, I decided to rent a few RTR outfits including this Rachel Pally dress to save some closet space and not have to commit to buying maternity clothes.
My mother in law being a yacht enthusiast really worked out for party supplies; she has a gorgeous tiny boat model, a classy life ring, and various other nautical props. Facebook marketplace also proved to be wonderful in snagging hand-me-down server trays and being 1/4 mi away from Trader Joes proved to be wonderful for bundling a few of my favorite plants (Eucalyptus and pampa grass) and finding a new favorite like these Eryngium blue flowers.
Since my dad left for a more senior-appropriate home, we’ve turned his bedroom into our baby room – which has been an enjoyable work in progress that we like to work on a little every day. Although I was super enthusiastic about creating this Eames inspired mobile, Oly came to my rescue in finishing it up for me (I guess pregnancy hormones colliding with the anxiety of getting closer to my 3.22 (or the physical labor of delivery) colliding with more physical discomfort is catching up more and more)
By the end of the day (Thank you Weiyi/Vivien for coming at 5:30PM and asking about where everyone was), Oly and I were particularly relieved and exhausted. Opening up our home to our coworkers, family, and friends to celebrate baby Yang (a 2 in 1 housewarming and baby shower) was so pleasantly perfect that I think it made me happier to celebrate this milestone with Oly than our own wedding celebration. It also helps that Oly and I are such morning people and would much rather have friends and family trickle in than a dense crowd of friends and family at night. Was it worth it? Hell yeah.
O and I originally wanted to get married 6/20/20, which then was pushed earlier to 6/6/20 for the sake of hosting our wedding at our preferred venue. Who knew that with a year of planning and being so schedule oriented (heavily organizing everything on Google sheets + checklists) we still had to scrap everything? With COVID heavily affecting our lives day to day and concerned overseas family/friends inquiring about our wedding… we decided to postpone our wedding.
I was in complete denial that we’d have to postpone because 1) we’ve scheduled with our vendors and organized so efficiently over Google sheets, so postponing wasn’t “possible,” 2) we spent 9 months planning + coordinating and I was exhausted 3) I was going to pick up my customized wedding dress that I bought with $$$ and 4) I believed that we’d have enough time with beaches reopening in May and our wedding being just barely “safe” in early June. (Hoorah! right?)
Yet after reading that fashion runway shows and concerts originally scheduled for the fall were postponed/cancelled, I realized that a June wedding was too optimistic and incredulous. I couldn’t expect our friends and family to come celebrate with masks by June. I also wouldn’t want to remember my wedding day being filled with hand sanitizer/masks. After screaming into a pillow, we emailed everyone that we were postponing our wedding (and continued to scream into my pillow). While some friends sighed in relief that they could make the ones a few weeks/month after me, I was definitely bitter about being the cut off.
Tip: There are only a few wrong responses you can say to a couple who has a postponed wedding because of a pandemic… and that is one wrong way.
But ultimately, this whole pandemic is a life or death matter; to even think about possibly “going on” with our 80+ person wedding, possibly infecting someone (anyone) and them possibly have symptoms is terrifyingly selfish. Really, love is patient, love is kind – (insert all other biblical definitions of love here) … No matter how many masks /hand sanitizer/ social distancing practices we use….
Pandemics don’t pardon parties – and parties can always wait.
With a friend suggesting that we just do something happy and personal on our designated wedding day, we tentatively decided to at least (possibly) get legally married with paperwork on 6.2.20 as the latest option for that month period of when we contacted the OC bureau via phone. Because LA’s bureau was closed, I didn’t want us to keep having to call the OC bureau, and COVID + black lives matter protests changing every days’ curfew, we decided to just try to go for it and have the required check in with the bureau the day before our scheduled legal marriage date.. Many of our friends and family were confused thinking that meant that we’d completely scrap a wedding ceremony/reception where they wouldn’t have the opportunity to ever join (def…no!)
After researching more extensively, I realized that this wasn’t the “end” of it but a very strange and hopefully fantastic beginning – life is all about improvisations, right? I also have friends who saved thousands of dollars to purchase a house first – then respectively threw their well deserving party with everyone the following year(s) later than when we’re all poor-er. As a woman approaching her 30’s… hey, I get it.
Fast forward to 6.2.20 – 2 days after I flew back from NYC, 1 day after I dyed my hair from blonde to brown and received my first haircut in 1 year… we made it. My fabulous photographer Mike/Villa Visuals saw my announcement of getting legally married at Honda Center, contacted me telling me that he could actually swing by to snap some (stellar) photos of us since he’s nearby, Oly assembled his gopro for us, we tested it late that morning, I did my makeup as best as I can with eyeshadow for the first time, and I slipped on my Bali dress. My mom picked out flowers and assembled it herself and drove me over to meet with the rest of our family in Anaheim’s parking lot. A sheriff scorned a few couples incl. us for mingling with supportive family/friends, so we had to leave our parents/dogs/O’s bro in the car. By our designated time slot, O and I walked up to a kiosk with his mom as our witness.
Was it weird? Obviously yes. I never thought I’d literally get married by some random officiant in a kiosk and mask kissing in a parking lot of a hockey stadium which I knew 0 facts about; I’d like to say that that’s just a part 1 and a circumstance to step into another phase of our lives. In a way it felt magical … (as magical as it could be to “have” our family/friends around via a gopro and being paranoid about the black lives matter protests/curfew) Quite cheesy, but at the end of the day, love… is love.
One perk of something I’ve been looking forward in being a Mrs. Yang is easier reservations. No more repeating my name 5 times, no more “it’s line without the e” it’s “lin” not “rin.” … but more importantly, it’s really nice being officially stuck with Oliver. Oliver is as peaceful as his name means + he’s been a great friend for the past decade + a compatible roommate for the past 3 years. We can be heroes.
Fast forward to a 1+ month later after getting married… is life that different? No, not really. I pretty much feel like it’s still June with the exception of my birthday coming up. I’ve become numb to the facts that I’ve missed my bachelorette party in Mexico City, wedding in Malibu Beach, and am currently missing my honeymoon in Europe + our other friend’s wedding in Germany (that was cancelled). I’ve passed the point dreading of how “2020 is shitty” because I’m just (trying to be) thankful for my blessings like being alive/healthy with Oly, and hoping the best for my friends and family out there + those in the research and healthcare industries. Surely, America sucks terrible right now. But we can make it suck less.
We take it day by day and are extremely thankful for our photographer Mike for capturing these and making us look 100x better with our furry little friends and family. From the bottom of our dear hearts – thank you friends and family around the world for the constant support and love. We genuinely hope everyone just keeps wearing masks + stay safe. We WILL celebrate with everyone when things settle down. XOXO.
Growing up, I thought birthdays were the best day of the year until you were 18, then 21, then 30… and that anything after that was just an awful sad reminder that you’re old. I also thought that birthdays were the day of when you have a justifiable reason to be selfish, the day of when you could really do whatever the hell you wanted, the day you hopefully get the presents you wanted but didn’t get for Christmas…(and the day you could tell that those who didn’t say happy birthday weren’t your friends)
But I now believe that a birthday is ultimately a date to celebrate another year of survival and hopefully accomplishment preferably with loved ones; we all go through incredible experiences earlier or later, and grow older faster or slower – mentally and physically in years.
When I was a kid with my very active parents and “asian genes”, I believed that my parents could live forever.
I truthfully have done a terrible job in keeping track of my parents’ age (partially in denial that they are aging) and honestly forgot their birthdays a handful of years. It wasn’t until a few months ago that my older brother reminded me that our dad’s 80th birthday was approaching…and that we should probably buy tickets to LA and celebrate with him altogether.
Because of COVID, we cancelled our flight from NYC to LA. But O and I drove over cross country and were just 50 miles away; I certainly couldn’t let COVID deter my dad’s birthday into anything less than awesome.
So like any other overenthusiastic woman planning for her nonexistent child’s birthday…I coordinated as best as I could the best birthday possible.
Stumbling into his old closet in Orange County, I found photo albums stashed away, neglected and gathered them.
In 8 damn decades: photographs changed from classy black and whites to ..sepias resembling an Instagram filter… to vibrant colors and smiles of my childhood with my dad.
Without many dates nor recollection of who is who / where is where, I placed the images from top to bottom, left to right based off of the photo quality and how my dad had matured (just hoping that the baby photo I found was of him – and to my amazement- was)
What I love about my dad is that while he’s been extremely wise, he has always been particularly young at heart – encouraging me to make friends with whoever, hang out with whoever until whenever, play video games like Star War’s Episode 1: Podracer , watch MTV’s Daria, welcome any of my friends over for a slumber party, go out for McDonald’s fries – Full Moon Sushi – and then probably Wendy’s for frosty shakes on our way back home.
While my dad’s memory has been declining, there’s something incredible about the power of photographs and how they trigger memories. While my dad has been living with strangers, I assembled these photographs to remind him how incredible of a life he’s been leading and that his family and friends were always with him in some form – and to my relief, he soaked it all in and explained to me who they were in smiles.
While my dad’s an absolute genius, he’s never instilled the “helicopter parent” or “crazy tiger parent” demands to be #1 at math, science, tennis, or piano at all throughout my childhood. While I was particularly a rebellious prick watching some MTV crap, he was totally faithful in me, patiently helping me with homework everyday. While waiting in lines or in elevators, he’d almost always compliment someone or strike up a happy convo, constantly reminding me to smile and be happy and love others. I was embarrassed, but I get it now. I get why his #1 values were to be happy and always love.
As for celebrating, I thought that it was silly to shower people with gifts and plan accordingly to a theme… but I finally also understand why women, particularly moms go “all out” for their child’s birthday – especially his/her first birthday. This was the closest for me to experience preparing for a nonexistent child’s birthday – one meal and/or present wasn’t enough. Aside from the shadowbox of photos and a Japanese dinner, I prepared a watercolor painting of our dog, big/little dipper card in watercolor, ice wine from Niagara Falls, a telescope since my dad’s been heavily studying Einstein’s theory of relativity, and the celestial cake.
I get why photographers want to capture every single moment of intimacy and laughter (and why you designate a photographer while you host/spend time with family/try to Facetime other family/get music) My parents threw me lovely birthdays where I was “the princess”, and on the flip side- this was my opportunity to be treat him like a king.
Days later and coincidentally Star Wars Day…May the fourth be with you and still – Happy birthday dad. I love you to the moon and back x 17.
Thank you so much to all the support and vendors during this time:
Japanese dinner – Sushi Koshu
Cake – Pufffect Bakery Cafe
Crafts – Michaels
Groceries – Gelson’s
While I was in London, I figured I might as well swing by Paris on my own. Since I was jet lagged for the first 2 days in London, I figured I might as well just take the first train ride to Paris. One all nighter for traveling wasn’t uncommon for me, but 2 hours of sleep on 2 days was entirely a new level that I hope none of us has to endure. But because I was too excited and tossed/turned all night (calling friends of different time zones) I bounced off C’s bed and quickly caught the bus for my 6am train ride to Paris + ridiculous security protocols. (Eurostar is the way to go. Shame on America for not having transportation services like that)
And before I knew it, I arrived Paris within a few hours. My first and last time I visited Paris was back in 2014 and an entirely different experience with my Itoya coworkers (who paid for us to visit everything including the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Palais Garnier via Taxi)
Immediately after arriving Paris (ah, the good ol’ Gare du Nord) + picking up train tickets, my priority was to grab a croissant …obviously, further away from the station/shopping. Something about walking down boulevards with no reception was very liberating. As soon as I found a hole in the wall bakery along my path, I walked in. I didn’t even know how to pay for the croissant (nor ask for it), but began pointing at one and am (optimistically) sure that the French owner didn’t overcharge me. That flaky, buttery croissant just smiled at me and spoke to me that I was officially in Paris. And that’s how I really woke up to Paris.
Because I didn’t really plan/RSVP this trip either, I couldn’t visit Musee d’orsay and Atelier des Lumières (damn you Mondays + Pre-sale tickets) However, I did manage to scavenge my way through various city zones and got a good glimpse of the streets. Paris’s metro to me is Tokyo’s metro + NYC’s metro; Efficient with automated announcements, but strangely filthy. Somehow, every train I’ve been on is cooler than NYC’s. I’m still traveling to see which can disprove that.
Whenever I was tired or felt defeated, I grabbed more buttery carbs like this huge galette (+ a glass of champagne) to regain energy.
Fortunately, one museum I was able to step into was Musée d’Orsay, with a fantastic collection of Van Gogh’s water lilies. My photograph doesn’t even capture a quarter of how dainty and wonderful it is to be in the space with lilies that large. Something about museums that I realized I’m disturbed by is when people papparazi around an art piece and take too many selfies for me to never get to. Something that I love about museums is re-experiencing brush strokes, particularly Impressionist work.
Although I’m not a shopping enthusiast, the only shop C recommended me to check out was Merci (but before, a kickass French waittress at Merci’s cafe gave me that wonderful detox tea that really, kicked my ass)
Merci’s store is impressively well curated, quaint, and dangerous with a superb collection of various textiles, accessories, furniture, home decor, stationery, and beauty products (basically, everything I love). If American Apparel + Anthropolgoie + West Elm altogether gave birth, then Merci would be their offspring. Merci tempts me to go all the way back to Paris just to pick up another plate.Although I’m not a shopping enthusiast, the only shop C recommended me to check out was Merci (but before, a kickass French waittress at Merci’s cafe gave me that wonderful detox tea that really, kicked my ass)
While I was a bit concerned about how I’d freely and quickly explore Paris on foot without having to #RentAFrench, be fluent in French, nor carry a fanny pack for my passport, I’m quite proud to say that I did everything I wanted to do…and more. Something about my solo day trip in Paris made me very proud to be a woman. (Was it because I’m a designer? Because I didn’t look suspicious? Because I didn’t keep looking down at my phone?) Whatever the reason was, France made me feel fantastic. Paris is certainly comparable to NYC in having filthy streets. But somehow, it’s still so much more romantic and chic.
O and I jumped on the bandwagon to check out NYC’s Color Factory after J, one of our bubbliest and inspirational designer friends, highly recommended us to go together as a nice date. She showed us photos from her experience and suggested that we check it out for a nice date. But after visiting the Museum of Ice Cream and 29 Rooms (honestly, underwhelming), I couldn’t help but feel a bit guarded. Because it was J of all designers and friends, I was curious and convinced to check it out.
O was just as excited as I was to start the new year off with it. Unlike other pop-ups where your timing could be a huge factor, the Color Factory did a phenomenal job of not making us feel rushed by encouraging us to make the most out of each room because once we moved on, we couldn’t “go back.”
And yes, I recommend to come as a pair/pairs for the sake of one room being less awkward. Nothing wrong with making a new friend though. People should cut some slack and just chat/get to know strangers if he/she is separated from their S.O., because really – it held up my line and caused one guy from his friend and me from my boyfriend. sigh….
Part way through, we matched with colors that reflect our life choices / personality. And woah. we’re complementary colors, re-emphasizing how we complement each other.
Although it’s best to attend every room with the group we came with based on our scheduled slot, we didn’t feel rushed. I also loved the fact that they gave each and every one of us cards so that we could tap at every exhibition to have our photos taken. Color Factory? Hell yeah. Thanks for bringing me back to our childhood selves.
The ball pit is understandably, one of the most infamous rooms because it’s a vast sea of about 207,000 gorgeously blue balls. Drowning ourselves / soaring like flying fish / playing hide n seek / chucking balls at your friend / taking selfies with aerial photos using the cards they provided are all brilliant ideas. Nonetheless, swimming in that sea of 207,000 balls was magical and everything I needed to start the year.
With the great customer service, all of the interactive experiences, take home photos without us delicious treats (macarons, ice cream mochi, Swedish fish…) and even thoughtful take home gifts, I’d rank it 10/10. Color Factory is officially my favorite interactive (temporary!) pop up museum and I so highly recommend it.
251 Spring Street
New York, NY 10013
When I was leaving Tokyo in July 2015 to move back to LA, I thought that I’d visit at least once every year, as I’ve been convinced that Japan is truly, my second home. Living in Tokyo was a major reason why I chose to live in New York City over Los Angeles for the past few years; It’s bustling – there’s something happening around every corner, the food and art scene has been in a constant rush, public transportation actually exists. Since I’ve moved to New York City, I’ve mainly met O’s friends and my brother, Tony’s friends. It’s honestly been a bit lonely sometimes because to this day, I still feel a little culturally out of place. This time, I brought O to meet some of my best friends – some of the characteristics and rituals and mannerisms that could define me a bit more.
4-9-22 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
First off, Majima-san – my Itoya coworker, has known me too well for these past 5 years and invited me to Toraya, this gorgeous confectioners gallery and cafe. Not sure how she does it, but whenever Majima-san invites me for an outing, it’s always particularly mesmerizing. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who’s so spot-on for what kind of food, drinks, interiors. and experience I love. Toraya, founded back in the 1600s, has been renowned for its gorgeous illustrated wagashi design books from the Edo Period (1603 – 1868) and well known to feudal lords. It blows my mind how the original location in Kyoto was burnt to the ground along with the original Imperial palace and such a place still exists. And who knew wooden restrooms and hallways could smell so earthy and heavenly at the same time.
While we did check out a few ramen restaurants, Afuri was the best – better than Tokyo street/Rokurinsha 六厘舎, better than Kyoto’s burnt miso ramen. Not sure why, but I loved the Yuzu ramen this time more than I had when I lived in Tokyo. Maybe it’s because we were the first that morning.
I don’t know why, but Tokyo Disney Sea makes Disneyland look almost sad and ghetto. Something about the scenery of Tokyo Disney Sea makes me want to go every single time I visit Tokyo. I vividly remember my dad telling me stories of Tokyo Disney Sea when I was growing up. Although I’ve been there 4 times within the past 5 years, I fall in love with it every time – from the entrance, from getting my mickey mouse popcorn bucket filled with various flavored popcorn, to gazing out the ocean, eating curry, and screaming hysterically at random rides. There’s something hilarious about Indiana Jones and Genie speaking Japanese and Mickey Mouse fighting in Japanese.
What I like to call…”Kyoto in Tokyo” and one of my favorite gardens (with a museum) by Kengo Kuma and his associates. This gorgeous minimalist museum with Traditional little tea houses even includes a cafe with wagashi. Everytime I come here, I always feel like I am at peace. But of course, O and every other architect I bring here spends almost more of their time/energy on studying the joinery and details rather than the garden – that’s particularly mindblowing in the fall.
3rd Floor, 1 Chome-6 Jingūmae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
Originally, O and I were going to go to an owl cafe, but when he noticed a sign for capybaras along Harajuku’s infamous Takeshita… he insisted we come here instead, just for the capybara. I had no idea that this animal existed nor that rodents could be so relishing with 4 webbed toes at its hind legs and 3 webbed toes at its front legs. Such peaceful creatures.
On the bittersweet side, who knew coming back after 2 years would reveal that 1) My home of over one year is no longer there because of Japan’s disposable housing market, 2) Tokyo metro and J-rail feels and looks cleaner than I’d recall, 3) the majority of my favorite places and coworkers would still be there and 4) To me, truly, these architectural designers are #1 in the world, including my JMA friends.
My favorite type of tofu is now the yuuba. With a burner heating a pot of tofu soup, I’ve learned to use a bamboo stick to pick up layers and layers of tofu skins gradually. Who knew tofu could be served in so many ways. The first time I came to this comforting tofu restaurant was with my Kyoto friend, Rika-chan. Ever since then, it’s been a tradition for me to visit the Kiyomizudera temple and tofu restaurant everytime I come to Kyoto. And of course, end with tofu ice cream – creamy, slightly sweet with subtle flavors of soymilk and tofu.
Before/after tofu and ice cream I know it’s always a good idea to swing by Kiyomizu dera aka “Water Temple” – which was and is always particularly beautiful in the fall, not necessarily for their light show nor the swarms of tourists in kimonos, but how gorgeously red and vibrant it stands with bright leaves – naturally and from all angles.
This Shinto shrine of thousands of gorgeous Torii gates is perhaps most infamous. there’s no wonder why it’s featured in so many films, music videos, posters, art in general. This is hands down, a favorite stop that I love walking up in early mornings. While I should’ve truly believed my friend that there isn’t much at the top, O and I hiked to the top.
3-47, Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo-ku
Kyoto 616-8385 Japan
Although I never like to wait in long lines nor be associated with coffee snobs, I always make time for Arabica Coffee, particularly the one next to the breathtaking Arashiyama river. After I saw Arabica Coffee in a magazine last year, A and I taxied over first thing in the morning and was alright with just a few people in front of us in line; A liked it so much that he went again the next day – and bought a bag of coffee beans to bring back home. Not sure if we were just lucky then going in early in the morning or if it’s gained so much more popular by now, but even after O and I taxied over on a Friday morning, we had to wait a good 30-ish+ minutes in a line full of other coffee enthusiasts/photographers/foreigners around the world. No, they don’t offer seating, but yes you can sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous scenery or you have to rent that space for $10 per hour.
I’m still seriously amused by their consistency in serving superb coffee in such small space with mobs of customers. Something about the coffee beans being brought from high elevations elevates my experience.
I also tell my friends who want to see the Golden pavillion, to visit either by sunrise/early morning or sunset; it’s one of the best things you could do for your soul. O and I arrived shortly before it started raining and the sun set, which created such a heavenly experience.
Since I’ve been particularly fascinated with history and learned more about samurai and imperial history, I fall in love with Nijo castle and am always mesmerized by how sophisticated the Japanese culture has been throughout centuries and how well they preserve their culture. Although photos are prohibited, I well…. accidentally snagged a few.
Kyoto wouldn’t be Kyoto for me without the nostalgic Mister Donut “pon-de-ring” – this very chewy sugar coated donut that’s filled with mochi. Thank God there is one in Kyoto station. I always love to snag one (or two) as soon as I arrive and just before I leave. Something about that texture in donut form…
Our one night stay in our tiny little hotel in Shimogyo-ku was not only traditional and clean, but so serene with the phenomenal view. Who knew sleeping on the floor could be so dreamy. This time I also appreciated Kyoto just as much or more than I had Tokyo. Not sure if it’s because I’ve gotten older, or if it’s because I was so much busier in Tokyo meeting with friends and old coworkers, or if it’s a mix of those and Kyoto’s traditional architecture and general serenity made it so much more peaceful than our lives in New York City.
Boucherie, a French word for “butcher” is a traditional French restaurant chain that specializes in dry-aged steaks, absinthe driven cocktails, and plenty of phenomenal French dishes and wines with Executive chef Jerome Dihui.
All Boucherie owned restaurants except one lie in quaint West Village – and that’s Boucherie Park in Gramercy Park. Among all Boucherie locations that I’ve been invited to dine at: Boucherie, Boucherie Park, Olio Piu, and Petit Boucherie (formerly Dominique Bistro), Petit Boucherie has become O’s and my personal favorite and proved to me that traditional, comfort French food with a romantic touch is still discoverable in New York City.
After dining at all other Boucherie restaurants since December, Miki the manager from Macedonia, invited me to dine with O in July. I was surprised, yet pleased that it was nested at a corner and that Miki recognized me with a nod and smile. When I came in again, he even recognized that I’m an architect transitioning into UX Design. His warm voice, humble and calm character reflects the overall mood and pleasant experience. He happily sat me down at the elegant cool copper bar, and told me to prepare for some Boucherie history 101 as if it were a legend in West village.
He taught me how Petit Boucherie began, how it used to be a lively coffee shop called “Why Not,” that the oomakase room byTatsuya underneath was a jazz bar that bursted with jazz. He explained to me how the signature dishes like Escargots a L’ail et au Beurre (buttery escargots drenched in garlic, parsley, and lemon) are permanent, but they also offer seasonal menu items that change with time, like Salade D’artichaut (Artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, haricots verts, tomato, parmesan & Dijon mustard). I vividly recall Olio e Piu’s halibut being served with beans in winter but noticed that my halibut was served with fennel recently now that it’s summer. From my most recent visit, I highly recommend the Escargots de Bourgogne for the intense depth of flavor and texture, O’s Lenguine Neri (Squid ink linguine perfectly balanced with a garlic cream sauce of shrimp, crab, and chilis), my Moules Frites (PEI Mussels with white wine, shallots, herbs, and French fries). Although they don’t have the quintessential French dessert: Profiteroles (French choux pastry with custard, vanilla ice cream, and drizzled with chocolate) that the larger Boucherie locations serve, their Apple Tatin was a great alternative, as it was a French’s equivalent yet more delicate version of America’s warm apple pie, with a thinner, moist crust and sliver of chocolate.
While Miki reminisced to me about tourists eagerly entering Petit Boucherie after it was listed as one of Tripadvisor’s top New York City restaurants., I wondered if Petit Boucherie was too hidden for the attention it deserves. But I’m also (selfishly) happy to know that this can be the perfect spot for intimate dates and meaningful friendships amongst Manhattan restaurants.
14 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014, USA.
Mon – Thu 9:00 am – 12:00 am
Fri & Sat 9:00 am – 1:00 am
Sun 9:00 am – 12:00 am
My first 18 hours from LA TO SF from Friday to Saturday were the most traumatizing and exhausting hours of traveling in my life. And my trip overall was filled some of the biggest lows and highs. LA’s insane storm on Friday was so awful that the Uber surge pushed my ride from downtown LA to LAX airport to $85 (almost as much as my flight) Then after arriving the airport, my flight time was delayed 10 times, with 4 gate changes across the airport. I was too afraid of falling asleep, moving around, and my phone dying. I was initially scheduled to depart at 9:30 PM, then eventually scheduled to 2:51 A.M. But thankfully an engineer fixed one of the planes to set up a new flight and I made the list of passengers to take that 1:30 AM flight.
By the time I got to SFO at about 3 AM, my friend who I planned to stay with… fell asleep, so I was left wandering around lost and completely drained at 4:30 AM. Thank God- My friend’s boyfriend picked up her phone, called me back and ran out to save me and bring me in. I was so traumatized from my night that I was shaking and couldn’t sleep more than 3 minutes. I thought things would get better after having coffee and breakfast with our solid group, but while we were eating, my friend got his parked car windows slashed, battery died, and we were waiting for over an hour for cops and AAA to help.
I forgot my dress for a wedding in my friend’s closet..and by then I regretted my itinerary. But Andrew picked us up and dropped us off at the nearest BART station so we could make it to the Palace of Fine Arts, really a stunning architectural masterpiece… and thus allowed us to walk over to check out the nearby Wave Organs (these man made PVC pipes that create different sounds of splashes and splashes when the waves hits these instruments)…. really soothing.
On Sunday, after a heavenly 8.5 hours of sleep with Nyquil, I reserved a popup lunch in Russan Hill for Andrew and me and he drove us for Feastly, which includes rotating featured chefs with temporary menus for you to RSVP for. I’d never heard of it, but Feastly’s popup meals extends throughout several states including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Chicago, and Washington D.C. This lunch really lightened my terrifying Friday because I had the chance to meet and talk with the chef, Andrew, photographer, and manager, Monica. Surprisingly, their space doesn’t include vents… can you imagine how hard it must be to cook without a vent…?
The main reason why I came was to attend my Gamble House roommate, Cece’s wedding. She’d tell me at USC that her family only allowed her to marry a guy in the same tribe as her from Nigeria…. and she met him in NYC. Cece is truly, one of the smartest and talented individuals/architects I know – she won so many scholarships that the school asked her to stop applying because she hogged too many… I feel pretty lame next to her.
Anyway, as for the wedding- it was engaging and really cultural to see all her tribal rituals carried out after the ceremony. The ceremony lasted about 30 minutes and ended by 5/5:30. but the ceremony after lasted until at least 11 when I realized…crap, I have to get up at 4 A.M. to catch my flight because yes, I had to work on Memorial Day. Anyway, it feels good to be back in so-cal. Until next time, peace SF!
I was addicted to traveling in 2016. But yes, flights are damn expensive. I still want to continue to travel to at least one destination every month, so to take it down I decided to go on a road trip. My architect friend Mikey proposed to drive up to Big Sur just as refreshing getaway from the ton of architecture wall sections and the busy city life I’m surrounded with.
Big Sur is known as the “great meeting of land and water in the world” and is a 90 mile stretch along central California. Look at that coastal fog from the waves that crash against the coast. Check out that Bixby Bridge. I watched Death Cab perform the song, “Bixby Canyon Bridge” live and would sing along to it in my car but wonder what it must be like. That reinforced concrete / open spandrel arch bridge is incredible. Yes, Ben Gibbard wrote this song while he was staying in a cabin in Big Sur.
My first baby photoshoot!! I’ve known Francis since I was 12 years old and living back in the OC. He was my youth group leader and Disneyland passport buddy who I’d religiously go to Disneyland with at least once every month. A few years ago, Francis married Becky Yoo and they now live in Orange. They had little sweet Kennedy last year, and yesterday was her big birthday! Super cute. I love American / Korean baby birthdays. I’m not sure if Japanese or Taiwanese people do anything traditionally for the baby’s first birthday. But in Korea, a melange of specifically symbolic items are sprawled out on the floor and the baby has to pick one item. That item will foresee the child’s future. For example, if the child selects a calligraphy pen or book, the child is destined to be smart.
The cutest. The end.
Before my flights to Tokyo, Boston, and New York City for the holidays, I purchased my first mirrorless lens camera: Sony A6000 (with a f 1.8 35mm) and a remote. (My goodness, it weighs like a feather, compared to my D700) To test it before I fly out … (tonight to Tokyo), I practiced shooting some food and interiors by starting at my home this past Saturday morning with my furry little friend, Teddy.
Sometimes I wonder if my dog still looks like the same 3 month year old sleeping puppy or a really old grumpy man. Maybe he’s both, depending on what angle you look at him from.
I struggled a lot with directing the light. Every morning there are always these gradients and cast shadows… but I couldn’t help try to photograph my favorite place in my studio and my latest favorite fall snack: Pear crostini with a spread of brie cheese and sprigs of rosemary.
As 2016 is wrapping up, I decided to start focusing on fulfilling specific goals that I want to bring into 2017. Honestly, I haven’t set new years resolutions in years, yet from the habits I’ve developed and progress that’s been made – I’m feeling better about all of this.
Details on the interior:
West Elm Belgian flax duvet
West Elm cozy texture throw
Zara Hydraufallic top
Banana Republic sloan pants
Franco Sarto boots
Crate and Barrel LED birch tree
Crate and Barrel birch plant with rocks (stole from Kyle’s garden because I don’t think anyone should pay for rocks)
Aside from the plethora of craft coffee shop options, Maru Coffee sits quietly along Hillhurst Ave, as this dreamy quintessential, design-build coffee shop. But it’s more than just the up and coming LA hot-spot that brews craft coffee in a minimalist space. The delicate, serene experience begins as soon as you walk in. You’ll notice the carefully crafted maple stools, a long family-style sycamore table hand-welded by the owners themselves, and cute pockets of plants and zines of poetry that peek out on a door. To your right – a serene display of soft and smooth ivory ceramics by Notary Ceramics that you look almost too sacred to touch. And after you re-gain your consciousness and that you’re supposed to order something to sip in front of you, you’ll notice the medley of sweet pastries in a glass display box, and an attractive barista team with Jacob Park rhythmically pouring water and ground coffee from Stereoscope Coffee beans. Maru Coffee brings the LA community an artistic display of both hospitality and decorum, while bringing close attention to the practice of hospitality and community.
My relationship with Maru Coffee first began when co-owner Joonmo Kim came to pick up his book bag next to me and found me flipping through my Kinfolk issue on Japan. He curiously peered over me and asked me more about what I’ve been reading. My initial visit here that was meant to be my Japanese interior design study session, developed into an extensive dialogue with Joonmo about design, culture, and ways that western and eastern cultures, traditional and modern design can integrate.
Every time I meet Joonmo here, we sit on his incredibly comfortable, soft and smooth stools and bench with our warm cups of coffee and we continue exchanging our dialogue about our experiences in Japan, Korea, America – how sharing design and cultures can contribute stronger ideas, unite individuals, and serve the community. Maru Coffee is a strong testimony to our values: it has a distinctive humble approach that resonates with quality art and service for the people.
I eagerly came for my second visit to learn more about the story of Joonmo, Jacob, and this cafe. From my childhood joy of hand-making sweets, handing them to neighbors, and studying architecture in college, my primary lifelong dream has been designing my own cafe and serving my pastries to customers. I firmly believe that good design and hospitality can brighten communities. As I approached the front door on Saturday morning, Jacob gently smiled and quietly welcomed me into the cafe before it opened. While I was gazing at their display of soft ceramics again, Jonmo playfully came in and poked me from behind, offered me help and a sip of his coffee. As I busily crouched and tip-toed to shoot photos at various angles, Joonmo politely bowed and welcomed a cute group of elderly Korean customers, while his partner, Jacob prepared a variety of coffees, my favorite almond latte, and an almond croissant powdered with fine sugar for me. We sat down and continued our conversation specifically on how Maru Coffee’s idea became a reality and future possibilities of how it can develop.
Please tell me more about your backgrounds in the coffee industry. How did you two meet and decide to collaborate and open this cafe?
JP: I’ve been working in the coffee industry for the past 12 years as a barista and a roaster. I’m also a certified Q grader. Simply put, I just want to brew good coffee. Almost half of my life, my work has involved coffee…. it’s been a long time, haha.
Jacob and I met while working at the same coffee shop. While working there, he re-taught me everything about coffee. He was so knowledgeable I knew with our different strengths and qualities, we thought we would do a good job. So we went for it.
How do you, Joonmo and Jacob, collaborate together? How are your personalities portrayed through the work you do in this cafe?
JP: I’d say I’m fairly calm and am more of a deep thinker. And I like to approach my craft and coffee the same way. I don’t think there should be any fluff in quality. I’m always testing various beans and trying to brew better, even after 12 years.
JK: Haha yeah, I give Jacob a lot of respect because I see how dedicated he is to his craft. His personality is perfect for quality. For me, I am a believer of community. I think good things happen when people get together. I am inspired by connections with people and ideas. So my mind is always on people.
Is there a meaning to the name, Maru Coffee? Why did you choose this name for your coffee shop?
JK: Maru is derived from an old Korean word, “San Ma Ru,” which means mountain top. It is our representation of high quality as good coffee beans come from high elevation.
I really admire your minimalist interior design. Who designed the interior, furniture, and how did you come up with the design approach?
JK: We both don’t have any design backgrounds, but we were both pretty particular about what we like and didn’t like. We’re both Korean, so naturally we were drawn to Korean aesthetics and design. We wanted to create a space that is simple, minimal, with warm vibes.
JP: Since I also grew up in a Korean temple as a child, we also drew some influence from my childhood. As for the furniture, we decided to design and make everything ourselves based on furniture we were inspired by. We had put together the wood pieces we had custom cut and sanded all our furniture altogether inside our shop before it opened! Youtube is a great resource, because it taught us how to do it ourselves. We mainly used light maple and sycamore. This process gave us an appreciation for real wood and its textures.
The ceramics you also have are also beautiful. Did you design these as well? If not, who and how did you find them?
JP: We had them custom made by Notary Ceramics from Portland, Oregon. Sarah, who is the ceramist, makes amazing pieces. The cups have a good weight, earthy texture, and it feels good to hold it. We are looking forward to collaborate again with Notary Ceramics.
What is your overarching philosophy when it comes to what constitutes a good coffee shop?
JP: For us, it’s simple. Good coffee and good people makes a good coffee shop.
Is there a purpose for your cafe? Do you envision your cafe to do something specific for the LA community? Would you like it to expand?
JK: To be honest, we haven’t thought about our specific purpose yet. Our main goal was to bring good coffee and we just got started… literally opened a month ago. so we’ve been focusing on that right now. It would be nice to expand but we’re taking it one day at a time.
1936 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
M-F 7:00-19:00, S-S 8:00-20:00
As an architect, interior designer, and culinary artist who lived and worked in Tokyo for over 2 years, I’m happiest in minimal spaces and maximized uses of space. In Tokyo, I was very well accustomed to living in my tiny, 100 sq foot washitsu (Japanese style bedroom) But due to personal matters, I moved to Los Angeles, jobless, homeless, and faced some severe reverse culture shock. Moving to Los Angeles and adapting to LA lifestyle was surprisingly much more difficult for me physically, mentally, and emotionally than it was for me when I moved to Japan.
Yet Kyle, my loyal friend of over 15 years, invited me to move into this studio attached to the house he and his new Japanese-American wife recently purchased. A week after arriving Los Angeles as this disheveled mess, I lugged all of my boxes of furniture and luggage into this LA studio, fell asleep on my blankets spread out on the floor, and woke up to a hipster neighbor’s rooster cukoo-ing. On my way to adjusting to the neighborhood of my new office in downtown LA, I walked through alleys that wreaked with piss and pot, and accidentally ran through Skid Row. I was so terrified and overwhelmed by all of the clutter, chaos, and a personal life crises I was struggling with, that I seriously considered to move back to Tokyo. Tokyo, which I considered my home, is one of the world’s cleanest, safest, and most organized metropolitan cities, qualities of what a home should have. Yet after consulting with my friends, and reflecting on my experience, situation, and future, I became determined to make my LA home a comfortable and cozy haven to wake up and return to, just as I had in Tokyo.
After I’ve switched my weekday role as an interior designer with up to 80 hour weeks in Tokyo to now, an architect with 40 hour weeks in Los Angeles, I’ve pledged to myself to invest my additional time, money, energy by exploring, designing, cooking, building, and decorating my home into my personal sanctuary. Through personal time and the help of many incredible friends on weeknights and weekends, I/we researched, drilled, screwed, and assembled everything altogether. While I’ve still been transitioning between Japanese and American lifestyles and cultures, I gathered my favorite design elements I grasped from Tokyo and brought them into my LA home. Again, I utilized mid-century Scandinavian, American, and contemporary Japanese design and maximized my space to be multi-functional. I firmly believe that comfortable living consists of stripping everything down to simple lines, organic curves, and blending a palette of whites, grays, neutrals, and blue hues.
When you first step in, you’ll step into a spacious entrance foyer with an alcove for what should contain a fridge, counter, and stove. But to my horror, I was informed that the kitchen was removed and I was prohibited from having a kitchen because the city law prohibits one home for having two kitchens and my friend’s house was already fully equipped with one. Fortunately, Tokyo living had taught me to improvise well, so I assembled my kitchen and dining to consist of this: a compact wine bar from CB2 that contracts and expands into a functional work and dining station.
My LA home isn’t just an ordinary square-layout studio. It consists of a corridor and bathroom that separates two spaces, which enables me to designate spaces for specific uses. I designated the entrance area to function as my work / food experimentation for my blog and hospitality purposes. Meanwhile, the other functions as my resting / reading / dresser space.
For my bedroom, I rolled out my 8′ x 10′ cream rug and found this mid-century table and chair from Wayfair, this gorgeous Belgian flax linen duvet cover at West Elm that paired well with my brother’s bedsheets, and I covered my pillows with linen pillowcases hand-sewn from an Etsy designer in Lithuania. Behind the bed was a huge 75″ x 55″ x 20.5″ crawl space (an ugly pitch in the wall) that the previous owner designated for entertainment purposes. But because I don’t have the attention span/interest to regularly watch TV and the unrefined crawl space disturbed me, I covered it with a work in progress painting to make my sleeping space more therapeutic. I combined (4) – 30″ x 40″ canvases into one giant quatych that can still be conveniently detached and transported through cars. Installing the canvases onto the wall was the most challenging task, but many thanks to Home depot’s 2×4 plywood and Benny’s quick thinking and determination, we were able to suspend 4 canvases (without them all falling on my face) and I’m able to continually paint over whatever and whenever I want.
Although I’m still working on my painting and replacing/adding elements, my studio has definitely become my sanctuary that is an ongoing home project in progress. Thanks again Jonathan Vu for this fun collaborative styling photoshoot! And of course, thank you friends for making my every day of living – a little sweeter, a little brighter.
Details on the interior:
CB2 swig white mini bar
CB2 Odyssey dining table
Eames Eiffel style chairs
Ikea MALM bed / desk / shelves
West Elm Belgian Flax linen duvet cover
Muji linen storage and organizers
Customized Idee curtains (from my last Tokyo apartment)
Succulent from Home depot, re-potted into World Market dinnerware
Wayfair lounge chair
Wayfair mid-century table
After wrapping up a Revit presentation of our current mid-rise SF project, I flew up to San Francisco and reunited with one of my best friends from Architecture school. A.L sat next to me on our first day of studio, and although our friendship has extended to this brutal LDF, I’m incredibly thankful to have designers/friends like him in my circle. My last trip to San Francisco was just this past December, but I booked this flight to SF for the purposes to have another getaway from Los Angeles and to reunite with some solid friends while I check out new cafes/potential upcoming collaborative projects. My schedule was slammed back to back and the lack of sleep from the previous week + heat tormented my skin and flared up my eczema. But, thank you so much A.L. for driving me to every destination for me to reunite with architecture colleagues + Japanese friends from Tokyo and Osaka, waiting in lines for me, keeping me cool, and for taking such wonderful care of me. San Francisco was again, so stellar.
1. Song Tea and Ceramics
2120 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94115
I found this tea shop with A.L the last time I swung by San Francisco. This time, I didn’t get the chance to see Peter Luong, founder of Song Tea and Ceramics, but I happily picked up some Snow Jasmine tea to bring back to LA.
2. The Elite cafe
2049 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
While my eczema was completely tearing my skin apart, A.L found me some shade and a place for us to settle down in a cooler area. It’s been too long since I’ve had southern comfort food, and just one of these buttery biscuits fulfilled every longing.
3. The Mill
736 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117
The Mill is also a great resting / afternoon spot, with sweet stacks of fresh loaves of bread (coming straight out of the open oven), a selection of Dandelion chocolates and pastries that go perfectly well with your coffee and sketchbook.
4. Tartine Manufactory
595 Alabama St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tartine Manufactory is this up and coming San Francisco cafe that combines a bakery + restaurant + bar + ice cream parlor + coffee shop into one heavenly space at the corner next to Blue Bottle. I was initially invited to join brunch with my Japanese girlfriends at Bar Tartine, but because of my misreading and clash in dates/schedules, and a friend working in Tartine Manufactory, A.L and I decided to scrap the Bar Tartine brunch idea and instead swing over here for brunch. Although the line is a drag and the circulation – a mess (a bit of a clusterfuck especially on Saturday mornings that mislead customers with a bad sense of direction), the tables were great and the food? … fantastic.
A.L. and I settled on the porchetta sandwich (a stack of assorted meats and vegetables covered in a buttery bun) with a liege waffle. (A.L opted for the house coffee while I chugged my drip of Blue Bottle)
5. SF MOMA (extension design by Snohetta)
151 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103
Right after Tartine Manufactory, we quickly drifted to SF MOMA to check out the extension/renovation by Snohetta. Thanks Anish for the SF MOMA tickets + A.L. for capturing the candid portrait of me.
6. Samovar Tea Lounge
Yerba Buena Gardens
730 Howard St
San Francisco, CA 94103
I came here to reunite with another tea enthusiast blogger who I met in Tokyo. This duck jook was so damn tasty and the bottomless pu-reh teas really calmed me down after a restless weekend. I’m really excited to see what upcoming projects both Steph + I can steep up in the near future.
These past few weeks have been a mesh of huge celebrations, including the Gamble House’s 50th anniversary of the transfer of the Gamble House from the Gamble Family to the City of Pasadena + USC’s School of Architecture, Kevin and Lisa’s wedding, and other college/high school/OC reunions. I was cordially invited, along with all other graduating scholars in residence to attend this in-house tour of the newly renovated kitchen, brunch reunion, and festivities (+ this clip of me + T in a band) (Photo credit to T for taking the blurry group photo and cutting off our legs in the mob of photographers haha)
After this event, T and I split and I quickly rushed down for a much needed haircut from Yuki-san and met with J to Trabuco Canyon to help photograph for Kevin and Lisa’s wedding at Coto. Some photos I was able to snag:
As mentioned before, I started getting involved in LittlemeatsLA. This time, I was called in last Friday to help host a 9-course umamikase (non-Japanese omakase) dinner for 11 guests with Colin Gardner, a renowned New York CIA alum chef /model who specializes in French and Italian gourmet cuisine and worked in Michelin restaurant: Melisse.
Aside from Colin spending days in advance preparing ingredients and sauces, the team (Colin, Billy, Michael, Nate, and I) hustled through 3 kitchens: 2 stoves, 2 portable burners, a grill, sous vide, blender, electric mixer, dozens of pots, pans, trays, cups, jars, bottles of wine and vodka, while also entertaining our 11 guests. Please forgive me for my lack of photos and understand that I had every limb occupied (shoulders with dslr/hand holding two Iphones to photograph and Snapchat, other hand busily chopping/saute-ing/garnishing, legs hustling to accommodate chefs and guest calls – and of course my mouth was either filled with samples of cocktails/condensed watermelons/tuna tartare/double creams/sorbets/poached peaches or busy talking and laughing with guests) Here’s some of the highlights of the night:
Condensed watermelon blocks with soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds, a nectarine slice and sprig of shiso leaf.
Soft boiled egg on top of a nest of fried potatoes on top of chopped bell peppers, cauliflower puree that are all sprinkled with leek ash.
Salmon with heirloom tomatoes, lemon, olive oil, tobiko, beurre blanc.
Oysters with a smoked sriracha, topped with caviar.
Duck with butternut squash, charred cabbage puree, and sous vide poached peaches.
Hell yes, we killed that night. It was such a pleasure to work alongside Colin with such a great crew, while sharing our culinary/travel adventures over the table to our guests. Thanks Greg for helping with some photos and Robin for opening, welcoming, and also entertaining all of our guests while we were busy! And thank you guests for joining in with our fun filled adventures and conversations!
I highly suggest you to check the calendar and snag your own umamkase dinner tickets here!
Unable to sleep for the hundredth time, I called Catalina Express at 6:00 AM and bought the last ticket bound for Catalina Island on Saturday morning. I left at 5:30 AM for the harbor, boarded and arrived Avalon at 8:00 AM with my brown satchel and phone that died minutes later.
My motives for solo getaways is to liberate myself, strengthen myself, be better in problem solving independently, and discover beautiful things, places, and people. Growing up, I believed fulfilling dreams quickly = success = beauty. Now, I’m done with being pissed at myself for not fulfilling my dreams by 25. I aspired to have a cookbook published, a few recipes featured on Foodnetwork, knock out a few ARE exams, and marry a solid handsome gentleman by 25. I aspired to bust babies out by 32 and hand them brown paper bag lunches every morning at the door and prepare heartwarming comfort dinners for my husband and kids to come home to. I’ve been invited as a single individual to 14 weddings within the past 3 years, and now, I’ve accepted the fact that my dreams weren’t/won’t be fulfilled because of how naiive, stubborn, and impatient I’ve been with them. Surely I’m still determined to fulfill my dreams. Yet I forgot that many pursuits demand a period of solitude, patience, and reflection.
One thing I really love about traveling solo is that I can do whatever the hell I want, whenever. This includes a pretzel caramel stracciatella gelato in a thick, buttery waffle cone for breakfast (and chugging large iced coffees with extra espresso shots) on a Saturday morning in mid-September.
I spent the rest of my morning walking along the harbor, sketching and painting on a bench, sliding through pockets of downtown alleys to check out boutique shops and skim articles of various architecture/interiors/fashion/trashy girl magazines. By noon, I went up inland, encountered a few water buffalo, appropriately devoured some juicy, tender buffalo tacos at the peak, got lost, found a talented musician playing and singing one of my favorite songs, “Israel Kamakawiwo’ole-Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” on the ukelele. My heart sank and I almost cried as the beautiful performance ended.
On my way to Descanso Beach Club, I walked underneath the arcades of the Catalina casino, sunk onto the sand with a refreshing mojito slush while reading the latest issue of Bon Appetit. A drunk, sunburnt white dude stumbled into me as he pounded his party straw hat over my hat. He started talking to me in broken English while I was eating oysters and I couldn’t stop laughing. We fooled around and discussed stealthy acts of what we could do to cause the restaurant more problems. It’s really fun meeting other strange locals and/or travelers. A tease here and there. Not expecting more/less. A polite nod, smile, and laugh. Aside from whatever personal stories/experiences that fall into our conversations, the only personal information I give to strangers who ask, is my first name. I enjoy sharing stories with some encouragement / thought to ponder about – nothing more.
Then I was surrounded by blondes in bikinis and sailor hats shouting and spanking each other in a train lineup around a bar to an EDM version of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, old chubby wrinkly sunburnt shirtless men and Latino girlfriends stroking their tattoo arms. Although it was really cute and amusing, I realized how alone and out of place I was socially and culturally. In Japan, none of these (nor me being by myself) would be proudly exposed, because these generally aren’t considered beautiful. Then I wondered what really is beautiful? For my thesis in architecture school, I investigated the definition of beauty by discussing the art of Mary Cassatt, Degas, and Angelo Merendino. I concluded that beauty is timeless, not bound by gender roles nor cultural standards. Beauty is always emotionally evocative, timeless, and always motivates you to do something out of ordinary. Now I furthermore believe It requires strength, to stand boldly, with or without support.
By sunset, I painted by the shore for T and continued to walk around the harbor, play some arcade games with hot cocoa, and while I sat and waited exhausted on the sand for the last yacht to take me back home, I read my favorite excerpt of my favorite poem again:
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
-The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot
“On Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends, we travel for miles on roads without seeing another vehicle, then cross a federal highway and look at cars strung bumper to bumper to the horizon.”
— The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (current read)
My 2 busy weeks of cramming my home improvement project for a photoshoot + Revit and poche cramming for Tuesday’s client deadline finally ended. Since Tim was getting even busier, we parted, I left on Sunday morning for my solo getaway; I put on my travel essentials: Uniqlo leggings, tank, New Balance running shoes, Northface backpack, and packed my open back Bali spa onesie, Franco Sarto leather sandals, black moto jacket, an extra pair of lingerie, skincare essentials, watercolor sketchbook, palette, brushes, novel, Kinfolk mag, Banh Mi sandwich from mom, latte from Zweet cafe, and $40 cash ($20 for refilling gas, $20 for whatever needed food/drink/emergency)
Throughout my years I’ve refrained from driving for long hours and hiking by myself because of fear. But after spending too much time at home and in the office, Tim truly inspired me with his solo road trip stories. I decided to leave everything, just drive, explore, and go solo. No trip advisor / Yelp / texts / phone calls. There’s something very liberating about making an as-you-go adventure for yourself in unfamiliar places. And there’s the risk of going solo as a woman with health insurance still being processed. But pushing all my excuses aside, I drove 250+ miles up north, listened to some solid Radiolab podcasts, then blasted and sang along to every track on Weezer’s Blue album and Avril Lavigne’s Let Go. I was in search to fulfill my list: 1) Trail 2) Something strange 3) Seafood 4) Beach (and somewhere along the line, read and paint a bit)
After rushing into the Jack in the Box restroom, I drove up to the very peak of a steep neighborhood and found the beginning to Bishop Peak Trail. The lack of signage, the unstable boulders piled on ridiculously steep hills really caused me to struggle. Within 30 minutes of this trail, I was completely alone, lost, and surrounded by poison ivy and other weird bugs I thought only existed in Lion King, so I decided to jog towards whatever light and open space I could find, which led me to this sunny spot of solitude. I sat, felt and heard nothing but really cold wind blowing my hair in front of my face for a good 10 minutes. Since it was getting really cold and a bit dark, I decided to drive out towards downtown.
2. Something strange.
I’ve heard about this gum wall, but didn’t know where it was. I didn’t know I would walk right by it after sipping on some sparkling pear tea, reading at Cafe Scout, refilling coins at my parking meter. Yet the wall is pretty obvious because of the kids shrieking and laughing, and the smell is quite disgusting as you proceed through the alley. But walking through it, reading messages that people wrote with their gum – was quite fascinating. I too wish I had gum to sign my name with.
Years ago when my brother and I swung by Pismo beach, we swung by Splash cafe for their award winning, kick ass clam chowder. Although I was getting really cold, I wanted some seafood that came in something other than in the form of soup And I found it: 2 Shrimp tacos drizzled with this creamy, pesto glaze for $7.50.
4 . Beach.
Just around the corner of the main street towards the pier, I picked up ice cream (another great choice as I was shivering). Luckily, this hole in the wall, janky looking ice cream parlor just had everything I wanted at that moment to fulfill my sweet cravings: sea salt caramel ice cream with a chocolate dipped cone. While I was sketching a mountain and enjoying the sunset by the pier, a few Brazilian men who seemed French, asked me to take photos for them and told me that my English was great. I laughed and we exchanged our travels / living abroad stories. I found myself agreeing with them on so many levels of LA: Unfriendly, cold people in sunglasses, crappy public transportation, yet good weather, an extensive variety of food options and cuisines, and laid back lifestyle with a hodgepodge of cultures.
Would I do this solo getaway again? Hell yes. Next up, Catalina Island.
I began my first day in LA in one of LA’s hottest new restaurants-the Otium. Situated adjacent to the Broad Museum, the restaurant makes a perfect choice for a break before/after looking at the Broad’s contemporary artwork. Otium is yet distinctive for its casual, warm-modern, industrial-chic interior, designed by South Pasadena based interior designer House of Honey and creative, electic menu by Chef Timothy Hollingworth- previous chef de cuisine of French Laundry.
R and I enjoyed their pork belly kimchi fried rice and an off-menu item: smoked french toast cubes with bacon bits, served over coal with a side of fruit sauce for dipping. Killer presentation that fulfilled both sweet and savory taste buds. (Thank you again R for reserving well in advance.)
During my adventures dining through LA, my (first and only DSLR) NikonD3100 unfortunately broke. With even more tragic iPhone/technical difficulties, I couldn’t shoot the colossal carnitas sandwich I devoured at R+D Kitchen, Abricott’s spicy pork belly sandwich (my local favorite), nor Bacao Mercat’s Toron/oxtail hash sandwich and Mussels soaked in Sriracha and Feta for NYE. Yet, I’m thankful that I was able to borrow my brother’s SonyRx1 to shoot my last brunch at Bottega Louie.
If you’re living in Los Angeles, you know that Bottega Louie doesn’t need any introduction. Yet if you’re like me – a sucker for clean, crisp white interiors, high ceilings, sharp packaging, Italian food and French pastries, then Bottega will probably fulfill all your fantasies and cravings. Surely the cost of poor acoustic design + high ceilings + long queues on weekends = people yelling over the table and across the room. Although this makes it a poor choice for a quality first date, my last brunch here with some fine company on Saturday afternoon with stellar food made it all worthwhile- a fine brunch for a double date. (Sorry, I ate the portobello fries and burrata pizza so fast that it was too late to shoot photos.)
2015 was the year of many big firsts for me: my first year in stepping full time into an interior designer, initiating the ChefCharette and blogging, and pursuing freelance photography. I feel worn out thin from juggling all of these on my plate (with also the additional occasional event planning)… I’ve been desperately trying to maintain some work/personal life balance and am learning to say no to meeting old/new people, even if they are for networking purposes.
Yet I’m also still this incessant 24 year old woman who is worried shitless of what is to come in 2016 and the years aftermore. I can’t help it, I’m anxious to quickly figure out how I can best utilize my skill set and contribute to the world with a meaningful purpose. (I am tired of drawing nonsense lines for buildings that don’t get built, photographing and filming narratives that people barely glance over.) I’ve decided to hone my design portfolio by studying and adding more interior, architecture, and lifestyle photography. After reading more into Cereal’s travel issues, I decided book this trip to San Francisco by 2015 and to experiment with cafe photography (and to see whether San Francisco could be my next potential move for 2016.)
This year’s trip through downtown was mainly guided by my one of my closest Architecture colleagues: Andrew Lau. Within two days we prepared a breakfast, walked throughout the streets of downtown, and roamed through cafes and restaurants including Blue Bottle, Sightless Coffee, Song Tea and Ceramics and Hops and Hominy.
After a year of requests to see my bedroom, I decided to try out interior photography and share my bedroom story with snippets. My bedroom is characterized as a Washitsu (和室)- a Japanese style unadorned bedroom with exposed wooden framing and sliding doors inlaid with washi.
When looking for a home, I look for 3 qualities in a bedroom: 1) A good window that brings in abundant, diffused light into the bedroom, 2) Storage space for my culinary and design equipment, 3) The location being conveniently close to a grocery store and metro station. Back in February 2015, I found this handsome bedroom of rich wood, veneer, and washi inlaid walls. This bedroom fulfilled all my needs and is also a convenient 5 minute walk from my favorite design stores, culinary specialty store, and bookstore including Spiral Market, Muji, Idee, Itoya, Tomizawa and Tsutaya. After negotiating for a reasonable rent with the tall, sincere Japanese architect house owner, I quickly packed everything in my previous 7m² apartment and carried everything through the rain to this 10m² bedroom.
My main table is what we call a contemporary Kotatsu（こたつ): it sits low and is equipped with a heating element underneath the top. Since I don’t like sitting on the floor, I prefer to sit on the basket stool and use this table for painting, photography, and reading during cold winters.
The tokonoma (床の間), the recessed alcove, is traditionally used for flower arrangements and hanging scrolls. Naturally instead, it became my ritual space for me to pick outfits and apply makeup before work, in between meetings, and occasional events.
Now that I’ve settled in, switched from being an architect to an interior designer, I’ve learned to maximize minimal space, to make my furniture multi-functional, to embrace the formal qualities of Japanese wooden framework and soften it with Scandinavian patterns and textiles. I’ve donated and collected pieces over time, altered and decorated bits every weekend. Home decorating and designing is never a finished project, and it’s liberating for me to freely roam with my creativity in my bedroom. My bedroom is this calm sanctuary with existing Japanese furniture and accumulated gifts from friends and family all over the world. These historical pieces remind me of my roots and surrounding myself with these warm, meaningful pieces gives me a sense of closure wen I feel lost and overwhelmed in a bustling Tokyo.
Details of the mix:
Customized Idee readymade curtains.
Bed sheets from mom, Muji pillows, Loft pillowslip cover.
Clothes and shoes from Zara, Rope Picnic, Uniqlo, Lemaire, Banana Republic, Fed International, Parare, Randa, Pura Bianca.
On the cabinet daily essentials: Matsuyama Alternative face lotion, MIMC eyeliner, Anastasia brow palette, Kiehls ultra facial cream, Shiseido BB cream, RMK lip balm, Ooshima Tsukbaki hair oil, Muji herbal bath salts.
Pearl necklace birthday present from mom, Kanazawa handcarved wooden piece from a local landscape architect.
On bedside table: Yumiko iihoshi espresso cup, Kinfolk home issue, Muji FOUND notebook, black Pilot gift pen from Itoya.
On the Kotatsu: Honey from my brother in Paris, Muji calculator, Design magazines and Bow Wow book from Tsutaya, Handmade wooden coasters from Maruni workshop.