Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

We flew back to SoCar to Paul who was happy to have us back. We arrived after 9:30pm and we managed to pick up a nice dinner at Al-Amir of pizza and my favorites--baba ganoush and hummus for New Year's Eve:

And well, we decided to say goodbye to 2011 with native Carolina treats, Krispy Kreme doughnuts:

See ya, 2011.

Butter Lane

After that wonderful brunch we spent a little time in the Tompkins Square park playground and decided to get cupcakes on the way back at Butter Lane. They have only a couple of cake choices--vanilla, chocolate, and banana:

But offer a sweet array of frostings featuring French or American buttercream:

We had vanilla with caramel frosting (haha--bonus, popcorn!), banana with raspberry frosting, banana with cinnamon honey, and banana with cream cheese frosting.  And since we bought a four box, we got a free "icing shot"--we chose sea salt chocolate.

The raspberry was a nice surprise--kind of refreshing for frosting, but they were all delicious. Sweet way to end our visit.


Though it was a really busy trip, we were able to squeeze in trying a new restaurant that opened up around the corner from my sister's. On our last day, we had brunch at this "Filipino Moderno" restaurant, Maharlika:

For our departing meal from New York, it hit the spot.  We weren't familiar with Filipino food, but it seems we were enjoying high end production of traditional food. Annabelle got the Barrio Breakfast, which featured pandesal, a delicious sweet bread which came with guava jelly and macapuno jam. Josh got the ilog breakfast featuring garlic rice (sinangag) and egg (itlog) and garlicky sausage (longsilog-longganisa)--I loved the garlic rice. :

I got the Eggs Imelda which seemed like a twist on Eggs Florentine, but instead of spinach, there was taro root leaves laing as well as grilled prawns on the side.  It was delicious and the kamote home fries were perfect.  Also interesting was the banana sauce instead of ketchup.

Velina had the mango stuffed French Toast, which was as good as it looked:

Augie actually dozed through our meal but woke up at the end as pleased as if he had eaten it as well!

Great food and great company made for a perfect meal.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hanging out

The cousins spent some quality time hanging out in the car, during our multiple trips and errands.

Sometimes it was just easier on the kids rather than dragging them through a Target.

Sometimes the little one was sleeping and the girl would be wonderfully helpful and stay with him in the car (I'm sure an mp3 player helped mitigate the downtime).

And when he woke up, he was in a good mood to hang out.

Hopefully they'll remember these sweet times!

Purl soho

Due in part to Linda's fabulous catch, I made a trip to Purl Soho.

Unfortunately, I did not score a stack of polkies like her, but I do dig the florine Lotta Jansdotter fabrics and viewmaster reel fabric I got. Of course, I don't have a specific project for them, but they were too lovely to pass up, right?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Memories found

On one of the visits to NJ I found a chest at my mom's house that I filled with, what I assumed was my precious items before I left for college:

Aside from the multiple letters, autograph books (anybody else remember those?), photos (OMG), a few plaques, and a stamp collection, I see that I felt the advice of famed "60 Minutes" curmudgeon, Andy Rooney, and a sentient porcine puppet, Miss Piggy, would serve me well after college.  It also reminded me why I still love listening to "Pyromania" to this day.

I also found various report cards and my efforts for college choices.  I forgot that I applied to my parents' alma mater, Michigan State University, and they had offered me a small academic scholarship if I went there:

In the end, the ride to NYU could not be topped, but that's a whole other story. Kind of made me wonder how different my life would be if I went to MSU instead. Anyone else ponder such decisions in life and curious how our lives would alter?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Busy in NJ and NY

This trip up to the Northeast has been pretty busy including commutes to Jersey to visit Mom (replete with road-rage-inducing back-ups on the turnpike and Holland Tunnel). But we were able to squeeze in a few trips to the park (even if it was a little chilly):

Who doesn't love swings?

A part of living in the city I kind of don't miss is the stairs. Believe it or not, this is the easiest way to transport Augie and his stroller from the bottom floor to the 3rd floor:

And well we managed to make more than one trip for some Pommes Frites:

And for some ramen, including shio and spicy miso at Setagaya:

Our mindset was to enjoy foods that we can't get in SoCar. I know some folks unfamiliar with Pommes Frites think that they are just french fries but these are ten times better and I haven't found anything close to them in SoCal or SoCar. So we indulged a couple of times. And fresh ramen! It's perfect in chilly weather and well, a hundred times better than the boil for 3 minutes kind (though truth be told, we certainly indulge in that kind too).  Hopefully we'll branch out beyond comfort food here!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

We're having a Merry Christmas

And we're wishing everyone Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday in CT

We're having a great time getting ready for the holidays in Connecticut. Whether it's decorating gingerbread houses:

Or discovering fire trucks:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On way to Northeast

Velina and I are headed to the Northeast to see my mom and my sister and her husband's family. As seems to be the tradition when we're traveling between the Carolinas and New York, we were delayed. But eventually we were on our way.

Here's to a safe and productive trip!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When you put it like that

Yesterday I finally cooked a decent meal of spaghetti with Boca Burger "meat" sauce and green beans. Even the girl thought it was a good idea that I come down from my sick-days-binge of processed food: "Yeah, I thought it was a little gross that you ate those 3 bags of gummies in one night...then finished those two bags of kettle chips the next day AND that giant Symphony bar...and then you starting making s'mores in the microwave..."

Yeesh, hearing it like that sounds a lot grosser and more pathetic than when I was actually consuming it all. Additionally, I'm not really exercising. So I feel even grosser, if that's possible. Oh and definitely already over 160 pounds AGAIN. E suggested this 7 day cleanse diet:

It sounds fairly stringent with the first two days being the most miserable--only two shakes a day and water. But she said it's to get rid of the toxins (food, stress, environmental) in the body and I feel like I've had plenty of all of it. Then she said, "think of it as a reboot" and I was sold. My body could definitely use a reboot.

Obviously I'm going to wait until after the holidays so the big question is whether to start on New Year's Day proper or wait a few days until after the Bowl games so I can properly indulge in Bowl Game food.

Either way, I'm half dreading it and half looking forward to my system getting a reboot.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Luck is turning for the better

First, the big news--North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is dead. My initial reaction was relief, as if some great monster was finally slain. But before I let myself get excited about a change for the better I realized that change doesn't come easy. It's been exciting and inspiring over this year to watch people rise up against unjust and greedy autocrats, but it appears that as significant as it is to remove a poisonous head of state, putting in a new system is fairly arduous process as well. Will the North Koreans currently in power have the heart and guts to change the miserable system in place? Or are they going to try to continue the dictatorial system of their Great and Dear Leaders that has a majority of their country starving? I definitely want to be hopeful as more of this story unfolds.

Second, as opposed to last week where I was dead last in my football pool, I came in very close (but can only achieve 2nd place) this week:

The big upset of course being the Kansas City Chiefs beating the defending Super Bowl champs Green Bay Packers, ending their streak at 13-1. The Chiefs?! I'm pretty sure this week they get to own the "BELIEVE" mantra that's been making the rounds with various teams, most recently with Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Despite losing this pick, I have to say I'm happy to lose it when it means such an underdog wins. Probably one of the few games I was excited about losing.

And finally, I think I'm getting out the fog of this cold and infection. I still have a lingering cough, which is annoying and I have a massive list of things to do that I should have been doing last week but it feels good to be conscious again.

Let's hope luck keeps getting better...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pig swig

Is it the DayQuil...

or does this six-pack look very promising?

Friday, December 16, 2011


I came back from California feeling under the weather and it really came to a head by the end of the week. I'm ready to pass out armed with antibiotics, five bags of various gummies, and a few different bags of chips. I guarantee the edibles will be gone in 24 hours.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Football Pool misery

Argh. Unlike my glorious overall win last year, including a few weeks' wins, this year I have only come as close as 2nd (which means nothing) in a week and have come in DFL 3 times this year, including last week. Overall, I'm currently in the middle and it's very frustrating and annoying.

With only 3 weeks left, I pushing to at least win a week. Hopefully, I'll get a good start--let's go Jacksonville!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Concert

Last night was the Holiday Concert for the band, orchestra, and chorus at Velina's school. Velina was very excited (and secretive) about the side project she was working on for the show.

It turns out that she hardly played her viola at all--she was part of the group that danced around in wrapping paper with a Santa during one of the songs. Hmph. Well, it wasn't what we expected but Velina really enjoyed herself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

M Vista

Thanks to Groupon, we enjoyed a nice lunch at M Vista, a restaurant which features various Asian cuisine, like delicious sushi:

Besides the classics like yellowtail and eel, they also do nouveau type rolls, like this Mojito roll in the center featuring fresh lime and whitefish:

And they still give a fortune cookie at the end:

Oh yes, please.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Goodbye SoCal

As I left SoCal today, I was able to sneak in one last coffee with Linda, though Oli got juice instead:

I was also able to get a few last kisses from him, the best being "with sound". He leans in and gently puts his cheek near mine and makes the "mmmmmm" sound and eventually caps it off with a "muah". I loved it.

I actually got on a flight with a movie, "Crazy Stupid Love", which is such a rarity for me since I usually fly so many short leg flights. I fell asleep. Good thing I already saw it.

And finally, my dinner at the Chicago airport:

Does this look like a $15 meal to you? I know, me neither.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Venice Visit

I was able to squeeze in another visit to LA and spend an afternoon in Venice with a friend of mine who lives in downtown LA. As suggested by the crafty Amy Tangerine, we hit the splendid Lemonade and my lovely friend treated me to an awesome lunch:

I wanted to eat EVERYTHING.  I settled on blood orange lemonade and four salads:

- Beluga lentils with house made salmon sausage, lemon & horseradish
- Watermelon radish with ahi tuna, snap peas, and sesame
- Spaghetti squash with farro and pomegranate vinaigrette
- Snap peas with edamame, sesame

They were all soooo good. Yes, I ate them all.

I also got a sandwich of spicy tuna, avocado, carrot slaw, sriracha aioli on laffa bread:

Yes, I ate the whole thing. And for dessert, this giant salted caramel macaron:

Afterwards we walked around a bit.  We stopped in this Scandinavian store, Huset, and I picked up a house-warming gift for the newlyweds I was seeing later:  Totally cute right?

We refueled with a couple of ridiculously delicious iced lattes from Intelligentsia:

And also hit Urbanic, where we both got these 7 year moustache pens.  Man it will be a bummer if I lose this pen in less than 7 years:

And I also picked up some cute washi tape and some of Amy's illustrious mixtape.

We also spent time at the Tortoise General Store, where I picked up some cute animal mugs and color pencil set for another friend's daughter's birthday. Regretfully, no pix! I also regret not picking up the Yoshitomo Nara (hands-down, one of my favorite artists) sketch book "Nobody Knows" or this other book "Brooch" by Yoshie Watanabe and Yayako Uchida (it was like a piece of art that you could journey through) while I was there.

Well, that definitely motivates me to visit Venice again next time I'm in SoCal! Needless to say, it was a great afternoon!

Awards Banquet

The blessed reason I came out was the Awards Banquet and it was wonderful. There was a moving tribute to our COO who had passed away this year and the food was fantastic. Chocolate souffle anyone?

(Sorry for the photo of the half-eaten dessert, I just about inhaled it when I realized I wanted to take a picture of it.)

And bonus! K., who bid farewell in June, was in town and joined us for the get-together afterwards.

Sigh. Just like old times!

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Secret Santa efforts

My Secret Santa efforts were a bit thwarted as I was traveling in and couldn't really pack anything to do my usual decorative adventures like in 2009 or 2008.  My recipient had put down sun and beach as interests so I tried to create a sunny theme by absconding with these decorative balls from my friends and attempting to spray paint them yellow and orange.  My plan was to hang them from her ceiling like little sunshiny orbs.  Unfortunately, it appears I should have primed them first: 

Fail.  My first day as Secret Santa, I simply gave a lotto scratcher (which I heard won her a dollar--hooray!).  Then my friend L, suggested making a beach scene with supplies already there.  BRILLIANT.  That night, magic happened--I felt I got my Secret Santa mojo back.  What do you think of this little office beach?

Including a wave on her door--yes!

On the following days, I gave her a mixtape CD, an iTunes card, and for the gift under the tree, a jump rope she asked for and this cute hypotrochoid set (anybody remember Spirograph?):

I also had the opportunity to help another Secret Santa whose recipient, S., loves Marc Anthony and candy.  I found this close-enough look-alike at the dollar store, gave him a microphone made from a rolled-up post-it, and put him on a stage of candy that said "Marc Anthony Sings S. Sweet Something".

Man, I LOVE Secret Santa!