November is coming to a close, which also means that soon this year will be over. It's been a rather emotional year for me, one where I have felt the happiness of delving into new experiences to sadness after losing a friendship. It was during that time that I felt a bit lost and started questioning about where my life was going. I knew that I was doing so much and yet I was feeling unfulfilled.

I started this blog to help remind me of all the wonderful experiences I was having. All the opportunities that I am so lucky to be able to have. During the few months that I have been writing, I've rediscovered photography and how much pictures capture feelings that for me are often hard to express. I'm still learning.

When November began, I wanted to highlight all the things in life for which I was thankful. I started to bold those words in my posts that brought me happiness. 

It was hard not to bold everything! Sometimes it was as simple as a smile to as odd as a vacuum. It was small like a tomato to big like nature. It is almost anything and everything.

There is so much in this life to be thankful for and it is so easy to take it for granted. I look at my list of words and it really could go on and on and on. But I've limited myself to a list within 8 letters this month. 

As of yesterday, I have almost filled all the letters. I think if I had written a post everyday, I could've filled them all. I filled the last of it in about 1 minute of free writing. 

Sometimes, I would look at my growing list and close my eyes in peace. I wish I could say that it's every day I feel that, but I'd be lying if I said I did. Life is difficult. It's big and it can be lonely. It can be tiring. It can be painful. It fills you with emotions that can be hard to manage. But life gives back so many rewards for every challenge it throws at you. 

Those rewards are what I cherish. The words that represent just a few of those rewards are now on eight letters that are hanging in my dining room. It is the room I pass through every day. Those letters will be one of the first things I see when I come home. When I am feeling unfulfilled, I just have to look at these letters and see how fulfilling my life is. 

Life is good. My life is good. And for this I am thankful. Everyday and forever. 


Nature's mood board

It's that time of month--posting my mood board with the finds in my garden. (Thanks to Karin A for the inspiration!) While the temperature has dropped at night and some rain has fallen, there are still some flowers insisting on adding color to the browns. The bougainvillea has turned a deep red, the calla lilies are starting to bloom, and there was one rose left on the bush.

Aren't these colors perfect for Christmas? They definitely are putting me in the holiday spirit.

In fact, these colors inspired me to start some holiday decorating. I spent yesterday up on the roof hanging lights and wrapped my arms around the big magnolia tree so that now it glows and sparkles! I have had a small potted tree for the last two years, but I do miss having a big tree. The magnolia does a good job in its place and everyone in the neighborhood gets to enjoy the decorations!

But it's still November, and I'm just about done with my thankful project. I'm hoping to post it tomorrow. (I've been hinting at what I'm doing herehere and here.)


Dog days

The dog days are certainly not over. Dog friends and friends of dogs joined together for a hike yesterday in Oakland. Under cloudy but dry skies, we trekked through the trails, with our dogs romping gleefully around us.

The players:

Guess which one is the puppy?

What a bundle of energy! My old guy (he's 10) still seems pretty young.

The air was crisp and clean, the four-legged guys were having a blast, and the two-legged ones were enjoying the surroundings.

"Hurry up, will ya?"

Lovely lines

Majestic redwoods

Lush moss

Scenic views


The day after

What a great meal last night, courtesy of my younger sister. She and her roommates made a meal for 9, plus leftovers for a million! I think it was the first time she held a dinner party and she did a fantastic job. I'm so proud of her. I think my parents were too. My mom said she was glad she passed down her cooking gene. I am too! 

I brought her and her boyfriend a nice dessert wine, which I wrapped in some tissue paper and ribbon, both "gently used," as I'm big into reusing. I refuse to buy wrapping paper and wine bottle bags; there are so many other options! I took a leaf and made it into a gift tag. So easy and making use of nature too! 

And now, some photos of the evening!


Mom's sticky rice stuffing, best stuffing ever!

My pumpkin cheesecake
Life is good, really good

Pleeeeeaseee? Anything???
(I let him lick the remains off my plate when I was done)

And now I'm off for a hike in the redwoods! Burn off those biscuits, baby!


Happy Thanksgiving

Getting ready for a fantastic meal with my family! I offered to make dessert and knew it would be pumpkin based. I decided on a Pumpkin Cheesecake via Bon Appetit.

Supremely labor-intensive! It's still in the oven and I can only hope it turns out ok. It will barely have enough chill time before it's served. Fingers crossed!

Preparing the springform for a long dip in a steam bath

I'm thankful for so many things, and I've been highlighting them all this month. I'm working on a little project that should be finished by the month's end.

I hope everyone has a wonderful, safe, and love-filled day! Cheers!


Green Eating

I'm not cooking for Thanksgiving this year. My sister has taken on that responsibility. But I still need to prep. My stomach, that is. I definitely stretched it out last week and over the weekend. Yeesh. I could probably fit a good 25-pound turkey in there.

In an effort to get into bikini bathing suit better shape (I'm going to Hawaii in two weeks, woo hoo!), I've decided to change the eating workout. Six days on, one day off. This Thursday will be my day off this week. So the last few days, I've been reducing the carb intake, avoiding pre-packaged foods, and adding more fruits and vegetables. Green is good.

Today, my green intake was bok choy. I had just seen a recipe in Sunset magazine the other day and I had a few bunches sitting in the fridge. So the bok choy and tofu noodle dish was born. Now, I didn't have udon noodles so I replaced it with some whole-wheat spaghetti. A marriage of Asian and Italian, isn't it great how we can all get along?

I also had a box of this coconut milk that I had bought last month. It's not like the canned stuff, as it is much thinner. I decided to use it instead of the vegetable broth.

Baby bok choy and tofu noodle dish

Adapted from Sunset magazine

  • 8 oz. long pasta of your choice (spaghetti, udon, ramen)
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (or try the unsweetened coconut milk beverage from Trader Joe's)
  • pkg. (14 oz.) firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon each minced fresh ginger and garlic
  • baby bok choy (about 1 lb.), leaves separated
  • Salt for seasoning

  • 1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and divide among 4 bowls. 
  • 2. Cut tofu lengthwise into 3 pieces. Cut crosswise into 1/2-in. sticks and blot dry. Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Brown tofu (don't stir), 4 minutes; brown on other side. Set on noodles and season with a pinch of kosher salt.
  • 3. Add remaining 1 tbsp. vegetable oil to same pan over medium-high heat. Cook ginger and garlic until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add bok choy and cook until wilted, 5 minutes. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, and broth/coconut milk and cook until boiling, about 1 minute. Spoon mixture over noodles and tofu. Season with a pinch of salt and dig in!


Foraging and Underground Dinners

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing Wild Kitchen with ForageSF. It was a-ma-zing! I really loved dining at the communal tables and meeting new people. Guests brought wines to pair with the eight (!) course meal and everyone was sharing their wines. By the end of the evening, it was like a holiday dinner with family. It was quite dark so taking photos was impossible. Plus, I was having too much fun eating and drinking!

I saved the menu, of course.

I've been trying to recreate the evening a bit by drawing out the meals. I'm not a very good drawer though. I usually have to look up a drawing and model my drawing from it. It would be cool if I could draw from "scratch" but I'll take what I can get. 

Anyhow, I'm still working on it. It's hard to find a sketch online of roasted pulpo with salsa verde.

After that event, I was eager to find more. And I did with the Stag Dining Group. They had a dinner on Friday, which was set in the lovely Trocadero Clubhouse in Stern Grove. Three long communal tables in a quaint dining room with a cozy fireplace and beautiful hardwood floors. The vibe was a bit more formal than the Wild Kitchen event, but the food was just as fantastic. 

It was pretty dark in their dining room as well, but I was determined to take some photos, because I knew drawing goat cheese panna cotta would be impossible for me. 

When photos are dark and blurry, photo editing programs sure do come in handy.

 This cauliflower soup was divine. I just wanted to find those little tea pots and pour that creamy deliciousness straight into my mouth!

These short ribs of beef melted in your mouth, and made me very thankful that I'm not a vegetarian. Looking forward to another event in the future and discovering these hidden treasures!


Clean things

I used to be a clean freak. Now I'm just a clean freak in spirit, as I'm not motivated enough to actually clean off every speck of dust in my house. Except then I look at the dust and get pretty disgusted. I actually want to vacuum my vacuum cleaner. Then I look at the grand scheme of things and think, why dust? Aren't there more important things in life? And a little dirt and mold will probably make me stronger, eh?

Mr. Bird hopelessly reviews the situation

Or not. It's pretty bad. So today, I'm going to clean. I don't know if things will be spotless, but they'll be better. First things first, I need a new dish rack. I need a dish rack that doesn't need to be in a dish rack. Meaning, my current dish rack is mildewy and gross and making my freshly-cleaned dishes dirty. Plus, it doesn't drain well, which just makes it more mildewy.

The utensil carrier. Yuck.

Adjustments to the drainage system

I took a look online and found this beautiful dish rack from Williams and Sonoma.

I'm drooling. Is it weird to be drooling over a dish rack? It's so pretty. And clean. The whole kitchen is clean. This is my clean kitchen inspiration. But it's $70. How do I justify spending $70 on a dish rack?

So then I found this guy.

Better priced at $50, but not as pretty. And finally, this one, at $40.

Which one? While I ponder on this, I'm going to clean.
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