Happy weekend!

We're spending our pre-anniversary weekend at the Highland Springs Resort in Cherry Valley! I love it here. It's like a rustic lavender oasis. In a couple hours, the annual lavender festival will begin. We'll have more pictures later, but for now, happy weekend! Xoxo.

our fur baby is back!

The little guy was staying with Grandpa and Grandma (yes, we are that serious about his fur child-ness) while we were travelling. But now we have him back home! And we can't get enough of these kisses.

seven years.

Three years ago, I graduated from UCLA. I worked there and continued to take classes (Chinese) through this year. I left work just a week ago and took my last Chinese final today. For seven years, UCLA has been my home. It's where I grew up and met my husband and made my best friends. It's where I cried and learned and changed. It's strange that the next thing is happening so quickly. 
This week has been a whirlwind week, heading straight from the end of work, to class, to a flight to Michigan, to home to start grad school work and study for my final. Tomorrow is orientation day, and I feel like I haven't really had time to process. Or clean out my closet. Or make salted caramel ice cream. Or plan a picnic at the park. When I'm not working or studying, I'm paralyzed by how much there is to do and see and experience in the next two months. I have a feeling this summer is going to be hard. Not just a challenging-busy kind of hard, but a being-away-from-my-friends kind of hard, a how-am-i-going-to-fit-everything-in kind of hard, a this-is-all-happening-so-fast kind kind of hard. 

books, lately.

One of my goals for the past year and a half has been to read a book a month. Lately, I've found myself reading more. Not because I have more time, but because I need a break from the other work/reading I've been doing. My list, of late:
  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The '20s is one of my favorite time periods to read about, and Fitzgerald will always be my favorite. This book got me back into that groove, and I started reading Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, from which many of the book's details come.
  • 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. This was another book club selection. I thought the writing was too colloquial at times, but there were some gems in this. Definitely relevant.
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova. This was a fast read. Fascinating for anyone interested in learning more about early-onset Alzheimer's.
  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I loved this book. My friend, Karli, suggested it, and when we didn't read it for our book club, I put in on hold at the library. After I got it, it took me two days to read it all. I read it while I was waiting for the pasta water to heat and on my breaks at work. It's just a really good story, heartbreaking at times, but memorable. I'm buying a copy for my momma. 
On the list of books to finish and read:
  1. Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.
  2. Peter Hessler's River Town.
  3. Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef.
  4. Amor Towles' Rules of Civility: A Novel.
What are you reading? Any book recommendations?

[photo via my instagram]


[image from our trip to Irvine Lake]

June is here.

It snuck up on me, this month of leaving work, traveling to a new state, finishing an entire year of Chinese classes, starting grad school.

I'm a little bit nervous, a little bit anxious. I'm ready to say goodbye to the grind of a 3+ hour daily commute and 4:30a wake-up calls, but reluctant to leave people who I now call my friends. Ready to jump on the bandwagon called grad school, but apprehensive over whether people will want to have lunch with me or if I'll get stuck doing all the group work.

I'm praying that whatever this month is, that it will be good. That it will be a month of healthy change, welcome challenges, and new relationships. I'm praying that I'll build character, stay focused, be diligent, and try new things, like riding to class on my bike.

 I pray that I remember to make time for a cup of coffee and a morning devotional, a daily dip in our mediterranean oasis of a pool before we move out, to read books that aren't required for school, to have a glass of wine on the patio with my boys. I'm praying that it will be a month where the little joys don't get forgotten amidst the bigger changes.

we work out.

Ok, sometimes we work out. Sometimes we just wear our workout clothes to frolick in the grass, taking ridiculous pictures and jogging... a little. Don't judge.

Irvine Lake

We spent this Memorial Day's weekend camping at Irvine Lake with our friends, Zach and Steph. Even though it means a lot of packing, being constantly dirty, and a lot of cleaning afterwards, camping is just fun. One of my favorite things is watching the sun set on the water while toasting up some marshmallows.  And being able to spend an entire weekend lakeside is even better. 

Not that there weren't a few hiccups. Like Dave's sunburn and the WORLD'S WORST MUSIC FESTIVAL playing hippie trance music ONLY from the time we went to bed until 8 in the morning. 

But in spite of those little (in the long run) things, I'm thankful. Thankful for having such great friends to spend a weekend with. Thankful for more than enough food which kept us eating all weekend long. Thankful for a time devoted solely to rest.

Every weekend should be like this one.

Happy Cinco!

Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday to go uncelebrated in our household. We're trying to stick to our food budget, so we had a DIY cinco this year (which I think might actually be better than going out). Saturday night, we whipped up some Petron margs, Mexican rice, and, in my opinion, the best carne asada ever. And really, one day just isn't enough. So we continued our celebration on Sunday with this 7-layer taco bean dip for dins.

I was so happy with all of the recipes we used (linked above), and so was my tummy. Cheers!

good morning.

After seeing these on tumblr, I wanted to make my own. I picked up these mugs and a glass paint marker (also for use on glazed ceramics) from Joann's. The whole craft took less than 5 minutes (plus setting time). I'm thinking that these will be the perfect mugs to sip coffee out of on a Sunday morning in bed.

our Easter celebration.

We spent this past Easter with my family: brunch at church followed by a late lunch BBQ at home. It's a little bittersweet thinking about how different next year's Easter will be, but right now, I'm still soaking in how incredibly blessed we are with healthy bodies, a loving family, and undeserved grace for every moment of every day.

Shanghai, here we come!

The last couple months have been, for lack of a better word, crazy. Busyness is consistently the story of everyone's life these days, but lately my schedule has been a taken to a whole new level of exhausting. Commuting combined with spending every waking hour studying Chinese combined with personal statement writing combined with regular life... whew. The great thing is (and I'm so, so thankful for this) that it is paying off!

I applied, was admitted, and just a week ago, accepted admission to this graduate program. The summer semester takes place in Irvine, which is just perfect. I'm looking forward to leisurely sipping homemade lattes on my patio at sunrise, whipping up breakfast fruit bowls in my sunny kitchen, reading poolside, the 10 minute commute, and making happy hour at this rooftop bar. After which, we move to China!

In August, we'll be moving to Shanghai, where the rest of the program will take place. I'll be taking classes, teaching English, writing my thesis, and immersing myself in Chinese language and culture. Husband will most likely continue working in finance, ideally just transferring over to the Merrill Lynch office in Shanghai.God has brought us this far, and we trust that He has a plan for all aspects of this move. We plan on bringing our fur baby, although the quarantine period is a little scary. The details are still being worked out, but the process has officially begun!

I've had a great time living and working in LA, and Irvine has been the setting for all of our newlywed memories, which I will always treasure. Leaving behind family and friends for almost a year will be so hard, especially as our flight date approaches, but I can honestly say that I'm ready for a change in scenery. LA has worn me down with its traffic, its parking, the time consumed just trying to get from one place to another. I'm ready to be present. To just stop shuffling around so much. We can't wait to explore a new city, learn a new language, try different food, while we're young and while we can. And after this, who knows where we'll be (I'm secretly crossing my fingers for Palo Alto). I'm hoping that this is just the first in a lifelong series of cities that we can call home.

hipcooks west.

Husband surprised me a few months ago with a gift certificate to Hipcooks. I had been wanting to take a cooking class here for a while (no. 16 on my 101 in 1,001 days list) because of their class options (Persian Immersion, La Belle Epoque...). We decided on the Dim Sum and then Some class to get a head start on some Chinese cooking, and we definitely made the best choice. We had the best time learning to use different asian sauces and wrappers and making SO MUCH FOOD.  In between "courses," we ate our cooking at a big family-style table with the appropriate tea accompaniment. I was a teensy bit worried that I would get hungry since the class was so long, but there was plenty of food to go around. My fave: the sweet wontons... I'm already scheming about when I can make them again.

Our menu:
4 types of Chinese tea
steamed shrimp wontons
chicken cabbage dumplings
scallion pancakes with shiitake mushrooms
chinese-style green beans
seared sesame beef in rice paper
lotus flower pork puff pastry
seared scallop chow mein
sweet wontons with orange, walnut, and dates

Five tracks: live forever.

[photo: "the california trip," 1968 by Dennis Stock found here]

This blog is undergoing a little evolution, starting with a new look! It doesn't know exactly what it wants to be yet, but I'm OK with that. I'm trying something new, starting with a mini mixtape: five tracks that move me at the moment.

Listen: spotify

1. Live Forever - Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
2. Back Down South - Kings of Leon
3. Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley (one of my life faves)
4. Holocene - Bon Iver
5. Higher Love - James Vincent McMorrow

p.s. isn't this photo amazing? i'm so fascinated with the Sixties.

the cheese shop.

about a month ago, a glorious place called the cheese shop opened at the oc mart mix. since we discovered it, husband and i have been obsessed. if they didn't close at 6p, we would probably be making nightly trips over there. i am by no means a cheese connoisseur, so having someone there to make recommendations and let us sample to our heart's desire was invaluable. and in addition to their great selection of cheeses, they stock all sorts of accompaniments like marinated figs and marcona almonds. the first time we went, we sampled a mustard cheddar (red dragon) and a brie-like cheese (d'affanois). we were hooked. we came back to try a 3-cheese plate (with the softest ciabatta ever made), but we still came home with red dragon & d'affanois. i'm excited to make these trips a regular saturday afternoon activity, and expand our repertoire of pairings (more on that later).

i have the coolest sister.

so this clutch that i've been drooling over for over a year now?
the clare vivier with the hot pink streak?
my sister made me one.
it's really kind of crazy how awesome she is. i'm still trying to wrap my mind around it.
also, i've reached a personal milestone... i haven't purchased any new clothing this month.
not even from target.
not even sweat pants, which, strangely, is one of my favorite things to purchase.
shopping my closet has got me rediscovering and repurposing my wardrobe... made even easier when i'm gifted beautiful accessories!
(thanks, lauren! you are my favorite. also, i think you need to start a DIY blog).

jacket // j.crew. dress // tart c/o ruelala. watch // michael kors. wedges // aldo.

happy chinese new year!

take-out from p.f. chang's is awesome.
winston thought so, too. 
i'm pretty sure he snuck  away a rib bone & hid it under the bed.
we had cupcakes from sprinkles for dessert.
the two made a great combo for celebrating the chinese new year.
even though we never received one of those supposed red envelopes
with a coupon inside.
the s'more cupcake made up for it.
i was in heaven.
maybe i'll get one every day from now until feb 2.

the spences.

it was so much fun getting a chance to take some pics of karli, nick, and lola for their christmas card! they are such a beautiful family, inside and out. i'm so excited to get to spend more time with them this year... starting with a triple date planned for sunday and a book club meeting with the girls the week after!  
we only had about 5 feet of space to move around in, but we still managed to find some little nooks to shoot in. the favorites:

sunday style, inaugural post.

sunday is probably the only day that i wear clothes that aren't pulled from a pile of half-folded laundry at 5am. and the only day that i'm actually outdoors when there still light out. and today was actually my first day wearing a hat as part of an outfit, so why not commemorate it? i'm an accessory minimalist, so i actually ended up taking it off in the car on the way to LA, but it was fun while it lasted!
hat // anthropologie. lipstick // nars schiap. // charm // anthropologie. watch // michael kors. necklace // junghwa. bag // b.makowsky via tjmaxx. shirt // j.crew. jeans // paige flares c/o madewell. over-the-knee boots // nordstrom. nail polish // essie.

our town.

this past saturday, dave and i had the chance to see one of my absolute favorite plays, our town. it's a play about life and moments, and without fail, i think about anything thornton wilder writes for days afterwards. helen hunt was great, of course. her voice has so much presence, and all the actors were right there. and, probably because santa monica in general is just so wonderful this way, the concession food was good. as in, i actually enjoyed the sandwich that i bought five minutes before the play.
afterwards, we stopped at the 3rd street promenade, because i have missed it so much.
our first official date night of 2012 was complete with strawberry nutella crepes from cafe crepe and a stop at LUSH to pick up some bath bombs.
nights like this one make me even more thrilled about this new year. i really think it will be full of special moments.