Monday, December 1, 2008

much to be thankful for . . . .

I just finished up a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend. The past four days were filled with lots of food and plenty of relaxing. On Wednesday night, Nick and I decided to get a jump-start on holiday shopping by checking out the crazy sale at Saks and the cute holiday display they unveiled the night before. Half of the windows featured the Swarovsky windows featuring designers including Zac Posen, Alexander McQueen, Bill Blass, etc, but I wasn't all that impressed. I did, however like the cute windows based on the book A Flake Like Mike.
The story is based in "Snowflake City," and centers around this adorable snowflake, Mike:
The basic jist of the story is that Mike is different, and eventually encourages all of the other snowflakes to be different too ----- which is now each and every snowflake that we see is different from the rest.
A pretty cute story encouraging kids to embrace their identities as individuals!

We couldn't handle midtown for more than a couple of hours, so we hightailed it to the Upper West Side to check out the balloons inflated for the next day's Macy's Thanksgiving parade. It was crazy-crowded, but we had a blast checking out the balloons without having to deal with the terrible parade-day crowds:
It's crazy how big the balloons are! Look at at old Horton here compared to the apartment building.
This is me + Nick posing with my favorite balloon, modeled after a Keith Haring piece, in honor of what would have been his 50th birthday:
Although Nick and I opted out of seeing the actual parade, here's a picture of some of the balloons making their way through the parade route on Thanksgiving day:

After freezing our buns off outdoors, Nick and I decided to check out the new Shake Shack outpost. For you non NYC-ers, this place is famous for its burgers and milkshakes. People will wait in line for an hour to get their hands on Shake Shack goods. Luckily, with the new branch, there's no need to wait outdoors, and the line was only 15 minutes!

Here's the before picture. Nick got a cheeseburger, I opted for the portobello mushroom burger + black & white milkshake, ice cream sundae, and piles of fries to share.
We clearly loved the food, as evidenced by the aftermath:

After a restful night of sleep, Nick and I headed to Goddard Riverside Community Center to help prepare and deliver Thankgiving meals to homebound elderly folks in the community. The event was a part of a program the center puts on every year, which includes serving Thankgiving dinner to about 1000 homeless New Yorkers. It's the second year we've volunteered, and is a highlight of my holidays.

Since both Nick and I are far away from family, we continued our tradition of making a meal for just the two of us. We made way too much food, but managed to eat most of it anyway!
It was Sid's first Thanksgiving, which he seemed excited about. Well, at least he didn't look as annoyed as usual when I stuck a camera in his face:
And, in accordance with Thanksgiving tradition, Sid quickly learned the art of the food coma nap and cuddled up with his new mouse friend:
I spent the rest of the weekend meeting up with some friends, watching lots of bad movies, and just having a great break. Although the past few weeks (and years for that matter) have been filled with ups and downs, I have a great deal to be thankful for. And for that, I feel blessed.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday with your family/friends/loved ones! Sending lots of love your way.

Monday, November 24, 2008

weekends without work = just as enjoyable as i remember!

The past couple of months of work were intense, and the past couple of weeks of life have been very overwhelming ---- that's why it was so nice to finally have an entire weekend free without work and/or other drama. Spent most of the weekend catching up on some much-needed sleep + also got to do some much-needed socializing!

Started Saturday by going out to Williamsburg to join two of my cousins, Lindsey and Erin, for brunch at Relish (perhaps most famous for its presence in the hot "Milkshake" music video by Kelis). The place was cute, tasty and affordable --- a great combination!
I loved the old-school diner feel of the place --- apparently it's been around for decades, and was most recently brought to Brooklyn + remodeled in 2000. Anyway, I haven't seen the girls in a couple of years, so it was especially nice to hang out. They are awesome, and I look forward to hanging out with them more often now that we're all living in NYC.

After brunch, I headed back to Manhattan to meet up with Nick, his brother and my buddy Nan to watch the Apple Cup @ Dewey's Flatiron. Man, I love my Huskies, but this season has been unbearable. By the end of the night I quickly found out what's worse than a 0 - 10 season: A 0 - 11 season, with the most recent loss to the Cougs.
I'm still irritated about the whole thing, so I can't say much else. Tyrone Cunningham seems like a really good guy, but this season (amongst other missteps) justifies his early termination.

I wrapped up the weekend on Sunday night with two of my favorite co-workers. I adore Gail and Effi -- they've become not only two of my work favorites, but also two of my closest friends in the city. We all billed crazy hours over the past couple of months, and they helped me through the turmoil of the past couple of weeks so it was a real treat to have them take me out to one of Jeffrey Chodrow's restaurants -- Asia de Cuba -- for a pick-me-up meal.

The space was fantastic. Which wasn't a huge surprise, since Phillipe Starck designed the place. I didn't have high hopes for the food, since it sounded like another one of those hip Asian-fusion places that had watered down flavors, etc. I was pleasantly surprised. I thought the food was actually pretty tasty (with generous portions), especially the picadillo-style tuna app, the miso-cured black cod and the bread pudding dessert. And the drinks were also fantastic, particularly some kind of fruity vodka and champagne concoction they dreamed up.
All in all, a fantastic night and an excellent way to wrap up one of the first relaxing weekends I've had in months. God knows I needed it!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

yes we did!

Because I am still at a loss for words, I will only share a few pictures that I felt captured the spirit of this momentous occasion and some words from the 44th President of this great nation, Barack Obama:

" . . . . This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America."

UPDATE: And, because I totally agree with lajournalista's comment, I had to add one more picture.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a barack-tastic weekend in pennsylvania.

So much for posting a new blog entry once per week! In my defense, the past month or so has been busiest I've every had at work (so far). I've been a lean, mean, billable hour machine lately and have only been able to sporadically come up for air.

Last weekend was the first weekend I didn't have to work in four weeks. Glorious. Nick and I committed to clearing our schedules for the entire weekend so that we could take a road trip over to Bucks County, Pennsylvania to do some campaign work for the Obama campaign. There was only so much growling and screeching at the candidates and political pundits on television I could handle before I decided that I needed to be more productive with all of my political energy. Plus, while Pennsylvania seems to be leaning toward Obama, there are some signs that he still needs a big push there in the last couple of weeks.

So, Nick and I called up the Obama campaign in Pennsylvania, rented a car, booked a place to stay and hit the road early Saturday morning. It was a beautiful weekend to travel.
The fall leaves were out in full force. For the first time since leaving Cornell, I actually missed Ithaca. But only a little bit! : )

Since I was still feeling sleep-deprived from work, I only managed to stir once we were at a rest stop and BK french fries were close at hand:
Man, those suckers are tasty. I try to stay away from fast food, but all bets are off on a road trip!

A couple of hours later, we arrived in Bristol, PA. Downtown Bristol, where our base of operations was located, was very old-school charming. Lots of small shops (sadly, many were empty and shut down), a beautiful waterfront . . . .

We arrived just in time for Historic Bristol Day, which involved a Farmer's Market type set-up with lots of delicious food and live entertainment. But Nick and I were there for business, so we bypassed the festivities and attended a short training before hitting the road. First things first: The campaign staff we dealt with was incredibly organized. I've volunteered with political campaigns before, but never one with this level of precision and organization. We were given a helpful training, along with a packet of information detailing the neighborhood that we would canvas that day (info on the folks we were targeting, detailed directions on how to get around, brochures to hand out, a well-organized chart of information we should use to keep track of the info we come up with). Nick and I hopped into our car and set out for a busy day of hitting the pavement for our guy Barack.
I didn't take any pictures from the time we spent canvassing --- thought it was a little weird to take pics outside of strangers' houses. But to summarize the day: It was an extremely humbling, yet extraordinarily inspiring experience. We were assigned to a very blue collar, working class neighborhood in Levittown, PA on the first day. Given the work Nick and I do in NYC, we've seen the first-hand effect of the economic downturn as it pertains to I-bankers and the like. The first-hand effect we witnessed on Saturday was different, but the adversity people faced was just as real (and honestly, really hit us at the core).

Our task was to knock on specially designated doors (people who were registered Democrats, not affiliated with any party, or part of a household that included both Democrats and Republicans), determine where that person/household stood in terms of presidential choice, answer any questions they might have, and stump for our candidate (if and when appropriate). By the end of the day, we ended up speaking with all kinds of folks: The wife of a soldier currently in Iraq; a 22-year old guy with a 2-year old daughter who had never voted in an election before, registered on a whim, and was considering actually voting for the first time (especially after we were through with him!); a man with his own roofing business; a feisty grandmother who was so pumped about Obama that she even took my Obama pin off my coat . . . . All kinds of people. Including some folks who slammed their doors in our face, or didn't share our enthusiasm about Obama. But in the end, we were able to have pleasant, engaging conversations with just about everyone we encountered. A lot of the people we met with were undecided on who to go with, and Nick and I were happy to just get them leaning towards Obama (or at least more committed to carefully analyzing some of the misinformation they may receive) by the time we left.
50 houses later, we were exhausted. We dropped off our materials at the campaign office, and relaxed for the rest of the night (and by "relax" I mean do work with the television on in the background --- I'm racy like that).

The next day, we set out to do the same thing. This time, however, we were assigned to a very affluent nearby neighborhood. Bucks County (or at least the part of it that we saw) was an interesting mishmash of folks from throughout the socioeconomic spectrum. Interacting with the higher end of that spectrum on Sunday was quite a contrast to our experience the day before. I'd like to elaborate further, but given my time constraints right now will just say this: We received a lot more resistance in terms of folks being comfortable opening up their front door and chatting openly with us. More doors were quickly (but fairly politely) shut on us. There were a couple of bright spots in our day: A born and raised Republican woman married to a Republican man who was genuinely conflicted about the candidates and was considering voting for a Democrat for the first time in her life. She was extremely articulate and was clearly conflicted about what to do. Nick and I had a great time talking to her and we think that we made some progress with her ---- I'm keeping her in my thoughts and prayers because I hope she ends up having some clarity and peace of mind. Also, a woman (married to a Republican) who just adored Obama insisted that we bring her back a lawn sign to put in her yard that day. She was a delightful and sweet woman who brightened our day after some discouraging encounters.

All in all, for those of you who are so inclined: GET OUT THERE AND VOLUNTEER!!!!! Whether or not you live in a swing state doesn't matter ---- the Obama campaign is launching a huge get out the vote campaign that will start up in the days immediately before the election. And the most important thing = people power. The campaign needs lots of folks to get out there and hit the streets. This is not the time to be complacent, regardless what any poll may say. There are two weeks left in this monumental presidential race. Be a part of it while you can. I can say from my recently acquired personal experience that you'll leave feeling inspired; feeling like you're part of a community ---- and will also have lots of fun! Even though my work schedule is bananas, I'm hoping to squeeze in one more day trip to PA, some phone banking, and election protection work. I hope you guys do some of the same. The clock is ticking!

Monday, September 22, 2008

the election keeps me up at night . . .

. . . as does my job. i'm wrapping up a fun-filled weekend by getting home from the office after 1 am early monday morning (after a near all-nighter on saturday night too), with an 8 am conference call to follow. alas, my hours at the office go with the whole "lawyer" territory, so i shall not complain. but i digress. the point of this post is to encourage you to pick up the latest issue of rolling stone (oct. 2, 2008). i just read the article titled "mad dog palin" during my car ride home and it got me all fired up. although matt taibbi's often over-the-top pieces on religion have the tendency to irk me, overall i love his (angry, sarcastic, hilarious) writing. please take the time to read his piece on sarah palin. it's not available online yet, but is well worth the price of the magazine (or a quick read at the grocery store if you're feeling frugal). i've had my panties in a bunch over palin over the past few weeks and i'm pleased to see that someone else does too. until you're able to read the article for yourself, check out this quick little sidebar that accompanied the taibbi article.

this snl skit was pretty good too. tina fey = comic genius (she may look like palin, but she sure brings a lot more to the table!)

seriously, read the article. i'm even willing to mail my copy of the article to anyone who is interested.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

too little, too late?

Late last night I read a short piece in the New York Times about the U.S.'s recent pledge of $1.8 million to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The ECCC is a hybrid court system (a combination of United Nations and Cambodian efforts) tasked with the responsibility of trying the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge for atrocities committed in Cambodia between April 1975 - January 1979.

Most of you are likely familiar with what I mean by "atrocities," but for those who are not familiar and are interested in learning in greater detail, I recommend A History of Cambodia (David Chandler) and The Pol Pot Regime (Ben Kiernan). Or, if you're interested in a quicker tutorial, read the relevant portion of A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (Samantha Powers) (which is one of my favorite books and definitely worth reading in its entirety) or watching the movie The Killing Fields (this is the really easy way out, but I still find the movie worth watching, especially for the Sam Waterston/Haing Ngor combo).

My mom and dad lost almost their all of their immediate family members (both sets of parents, seven out of nine siblings, plus countless extended family and friends) during the Khmer Rouge regime and the preceding bombings of the country. I cannot begin to describe what my parents or other Cambodians went through because now, even after many years of trying to wrap my mind around it, I cannot even begin to surmise what that level of loss might feel like. There are certain acts that speak volumes on their own and provide lucid illustrations of what loss looks like: My parents' prolonged silence when they are struck by certain memories at inopportune moments; my surviving aunties' matter-of-fact manner of discussing horrific acts committed against and in front of them; every one's intense dedication to family and community . . . . well, sometimes loss simply cannot be articulated through words alone.

I don't mean to use this post to dwell upon my family's personal losses, but I must first say that it is possible to miss something that you never had. There is not a day that goes by where I don't find myself thinking of my family, of our people, and allow myself to acknowledge --- even if only for a fleeting moment --- that pang of loss that stems from a recognition of an absence in my life. I may not have ever met my grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins and others, but their absence has played a significant role in shaping who I am today.

But I digress. Back to the article. I'm pleased to see that the U.S. will provide some financial support to the ECCC, especially since the tribunal has made some steps to adhere to guidelines established by the international community (in an effort to combat corruption, etc). However, I'm still left with the question of whether this tribunal as a whole is simply too little, too late? Can justice truly be served decades after the commission of heinous crimes, after the main instigators of the crimes lived free to die of natural causes?

This is something I hope you'll contemplate. I have many more thoughts on this (no surprise), but I'll have to pause here for now. Bedtime calls, and an early day at the office awaits . . . .

Sunday, September 14, 2008

10 year high school reunion. yes, i'm that old!

Last weekend, Nick and I flew back home to the 'Couve for a 3-day weekend in order to attend my high school reunion. First, I can scarcely believe that 10 years have already passed since I graduated from high school. A lot has changed since then, but at the core I feel like the same person. The party was held in Troutdale, Oregon at McMenamins Edgefield. I thought the venue was pretty great. There was even a rockin' concert going on that night (Black Crowes?), but the focus for us was definitely the reunion.
Although the event was pretty well attended, with between 100 - 150 folks there, given the huge size of our class (600+), attendance was fairly low. I definitely wish that more folks had showed up, at least from a better cross-section of our school! But planning this sort of event is terribly difficult to do, and the organizers did a good job. I was especially happy to see folks in my core group of high school friends, most of whom I've known since junior high:

These folks were my oasis during high school. The most kind, funny, caring, supportive and smart folks you could ever dream of as friends. Seeing the group together over the weekend reminded me how lucky I was to have such amazing, well-rounded folks as my closest friends during high school. I'm glad that a small handful of us still keep in touch --- the girls' trip some of us took to Aruba last year was such fun, I can't wait to start planning the next one (Greece, maybe?). All I know is that I plan on keeping in touch with these folks; they're far too important to drift away from.

It was also nice seeing friends from back in the day that I've lost touch with. Everyone is so grown up now --- most are married, many have babies, all were nice to talk to, even after all of these years!
My best friend (who I will refer to as "Bestie" until or if she gives me permission to use her first name) is even more gorgeous than before (if that's even possible)! I made them do the old "prom '98" pose, which seemed fitting given the occasion. It's the closest I'll get to the prom for a long time.

I've known these two crazy kids since we were in the 7th grade and they both lived right down the street from my family. I can hardly believe that they're all grown and married to each other now. TY is truly one of the kindest souls you'll ever meet, and EY is a great fit for him. JV is one of the sweetest women I know from high school. I hope to keep in better contact with her from now on. Thank goodness for MySpace (or Facebook, which I am still hesitant to join).
Just a small sampling of pictures. I also wanted an excuse to post the picture directly above. J-town looks ridiculously cute (as always!) and Jenn looks like she's having way too much fun!

All in all, Nick and I had a fabulous time. He was especially stoked to meet many of the people I talk about as being a pivotal part of my life back in the day. And they love meeting him too (how could they not?). The organizers did a great job, especially considering how much work goes into that kind of event and the number of people they had to try to get to attend the event.

The next day, my family, Nick and I went for a quick trip to the Rose Gardens in Portland. The flowers were still in full bloom, and absolutely gorgeous!
A close family friend was visiting from Cambodia, and she was astounded by the flowers --- given Cambodia's tropical climate, roses are something she has rarely seen. It was sweet to see how excited she was about something as simple as flowers.

Later that day, Nick and I joined the core group of high school folks for lunch at Panera Bread (I miss suburban food chains sometimes --- it's in my roots!). Given all of the folks who were at the reunion the night before, it was a nice to sit down and catch up in a quieter environment. Me, being the sentimental cheeseball that I am, made everyone (+ significant others, where applicable) pose for a picture outside of the restaurant.
After visiting another friend at her baby boy's second birthday party, we cleaned up and joined my family, Bestie and Mr. Bestie, and about 200 folks from the Portland/Vancouver Cambodian community for a party honoring a dear family friend due to his retirement from Costco. As per Khmer tradition, there was tons of food, plenty of Hennesee, and enthusiastic dancing for hours and hours.
Taking a break from eating for a quick picture.Mr. Bestie was a little too excited about winning one of the Hannah Montana door prizes.
My parents cutting a rug, which is one of their favorite things to do.

The next morning, Nick and I (and our bleary eyes) flew out of PDX around 6 am. The weekend was a whirlwind, and I'm terribly pleased that we were able to make it back for the short visit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

my first blog, my first post!

I love the fall season --- the crisp air in the mornings, leaves changing colors overhead, an extra layer of clothes to start the day . . . Maybe it's because it I'm still pretty fresh out of school, but this time of year symbolizes a fresh start to me even moreso than the beginning of a new calendar year. With that in mind, I decided it was about time I finally committed to starting a blog. I've had lots and ups and downs over the past few years, and for the first time in a long time my life is feeling settled enough where I can take the time to collect my thoughts and share what's going on with me. I know the whole idea is a bit self-indulgent, but I do think it's a pretty good way to keep in touch!

I hope to post fairly frequently, maybe once a week? That may be a lofty goal, but one that I will try to accomplish. We'll see how well I do, especially with work getting busier and busier now that summer is over. I'll probably do a bunch in the next few days to recap some recent events.

Anyway, I'm happy to finally start doing this and hope to have at least a few folks read my posts. Thanks for indulging me! : )