Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

It was a rollicking good time watching and laughing through VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs last night. Some of it was just so ridiculously silly that it actually became entertaining :) Do these people take their rock personae that seriously? And our favorite had to be The Darkness and their video for "I Believe in a Thing Called Love". In the words of MTV, the band struck enough classic and cliché heavy metal poses to make Mötley Crüe look like Oasis. I'm convinced I've heard the song on the radio before, but the video is a whole other crazy creature altogether. A spot-on parody of the glam-rock '70s, it's like a lovechild between Queen, David Bowie, and Van Halen. It is magnificent in its complete and utter ludicrousness :)

And we haven't stopped watching it since last night...



[when asked if they're a parody rock band]
"We're not a 'parody' of anything. Don't use that word...We're the fresh new sound of rock music."
- Justin Hawkins, frontman, The Darkness

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"You will never go hungry..."

...something Emilee & Rick failed to mention when they invited us to spend Christmas with Emilee's family in Wisconsin. Over the course of a week, there was *never* a moment when I was genuinely hungry. Peckish, maybe; greedy, for sure; but a real, honest-to-goodness level of starvation? Nope.

Monday
Lunch: Double mushroom-swiss burger at Culver's off the Oshtemo exit. Best Culver's I've tasted, worst Michigan town in terms of ploughing (or lack thereof).
Dinner: Homemade chicken pot-pie and biscuits (plus lots of holiday snacks strewn everywhere...)

Tuesday
Lunch: Mushroom-pepperoni pizza from Rocky Rococo and one-and-a-half pound of wings from Sentry, a Wisconsin-based grocery store.
Dinner: Sweet sour pork with fried rice. Did I mention the holiday snacks? Cranberry pretzels, white chocolate peppermint bark, red and green M&Ms?

Wednesday (this is when the holiday eating madness begins...)
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with bacon. One-and-a-half pounds of bacon, to be exact. Plus buttered toast. Of course.
Lunch: Fresh cheese curds and more wings from Sentry. If you haven't realized by now, Sentry has some fairly profound chicken wings.
Dinner: Homemade lasagne (yummmm...), garlic Texas Toast, Caesar salad.
Desserts (yes, plural): Homemade chocolate cake with mocha frosting and Grandma Wolfe's ridiculously addictive date bars.

Thursday
Breakfast: Skier's french toast and sausage fried in bacon grease. Because nothing says "Merry Christmas!" like complete abandon in the cholesterol-counting department.
Lunch: Really, lunch? I had room for lunch? I didn't but I had Brie and crackers anyway...
Dinner: Surf & turf Christmas dinner- steak, crab claws, scalloped potatoes (Rick using an Elise recipe is always foolproof and delicious!), and corn. And desserts from last night. Plus lots of Asti Spumante.

Friday
Breakfast: Oatmeal, bacon, eggs, toast, grapefruit. It was like being at an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, a.k.a., foodie heaven.
Lunch/Dinner: Friday fish fry at 4.30pm at the 5'O Clock Club, so it was something in between lunch and dinner. It was our first taste of the Wisconsin tradition and completely transformed my conception of seafood in the Midwest. Lake Perch- gooooood...
Supper: Watching the extended Fellowship of the Rings makes a person hungry, and makes five people even hungrier (don't question my logic!). It was 9.30, we had just finished watching the first disc and pizza was in order. Even if it meant placing the last order for the night and Beth having to drive to Rocky Rococo's to pick it up herself.

Saturday
Breakfast: English muffins. Yes, I know, how modest in comparison. But we had all set our alarms to wake up early to start The Two Towers and slack was not to be cut for breakfast. Although the smell of eggs and bacon sometime in the middle of Disc Two was magnificently distracting...
Lunch: More Culver's. Fried chicken. And ButterBurgers. Plus fries, cheese curds and coleslaw.
Dinner: Rader anniversary dinner. Rick & I made dinner of grilled pork tenderloin and mac & cheese. 3-quarts of mac and cheese to be precise. That's 12-cups, folks. Made with close to six cups of milk and four pounds of cheese. Black Diamond Cheddar rocks. More Asti Spumante.
Dessert: Homemade banana cream pie. Because Emilee's dad hadn't stopped asking for it. It was definitely pie worth waiting for.

Sunday
Breakfast: Homemade pancakes and more bacon than should be allowed on a breakfast table. And really good Trader Joe's maple syrup.
Lunch: Jude and I *had* to make a pit stop at La Pasadita in Chicago on our drive back to Ann Arbor. *Had* to. Yes, it is a physiological need, people. We could barely contain our excitement as we exited I-94E into the city. You'd understand if you've tasted their awesomest tacos...

Top that with a copious amount of Mario Karting (this is one area where mediocrity is okay with me...), the extended LOTR trilogy, lots of dog giddiness (we are now intimately acquainted with the routines and habits of the canine species), and tons of laughter and good cheer, and you have our wonderful Christmas holiday with the Raders. With the exception of going home to Singapore, I really can't think of a better way we could have celebrated Christmas :)

[click for photos]

1. Jude and dogs action shot, 2. Grandma Rader loving her white elephant present, 3. Serene wondering what's inside, 4. Sisters hiding, 5. Opening presents, 6. Table setting, 7. Present corner, 8. The Raders' beautiful home, 9. Christmas Eve dinner

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy, happy holidays!

As I type this, I'm watching whirling snow come down like powdered sugar over Emilee's parents' place in Wisconsin. They generously invited us to spend Christmas with them and we're glad we get to be with family-- even if it's our friends'-- rather than no family this holiday. And we're even more happy that we made it here before the insane snow storm Wisconsin is going to get today- 6 to 10 inches apparently. Driving through west Michigan was harrowing enough yesterday with stretches of unploughed freeway and being able to go only at 20/mph...

But we're indoors now in the Raders' beautiful home and are looking forward to a week of doing absolutely nothing except watching the four dogs drive each other giddy with playing, eating lots of good home-cooked food, playing cards, Taboo, and Scrabble with Emilee's grandmas, and watching the beautifully insane snow come down while keeping warm and dry.

Jude and I want to also wish all our blog-readers an equally wonderful Christmas and New Year! Here's our greeting card this year- it was Jude's awesome idea to create a video greeting on his website. Happy holidays to all!

[click for card]

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Guess what came through my fatwallet feed tonight?

Ever the consummate (and addicted) online shopper, I noticed the above ad that came through the fatwallet feeds tonight. All I can say is WOW! And notice the recommendations that come with this product ...

Movie quote meme update

1. Meet me... in Montauk. (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- guessed by Jude)
Every time we see this movie, I notice something new to love. It's just beautiful and wonderful and lovely. Jim Carrey at his heartbreaking best.

2. Shania hates mayo all right, and she can't eat chicken salad, that's no joke. We gave it to her once, she threw up in the limo - the lady hates chicken salad. (I Heart Huckabees- guessed by Stella)
One of the first blogposts I wrote in 2004 was about I Heart Huckabees and like I said to Stella, it's a polarizing film. You either love it, or hate it. Until today, I have a hard time justifying to my adviser why I think it was one of the best movies of 2004.

3. The shit hath hitith the fan... ith. (10 Things I Hate About You- guessed by Alfie)
C'mon, you have to admit that that's funny! I remember laughing sooo hard when I first heard it :) And in a movie that succeeds at being both a great teen movie and an inspired take on Shakespeare.

4. Um, this is Zeus. I'm not home right now, but you can leave a message and I'll get back to you. Please start speaking at the tone. (Mighty Aphrodite- guessed by no one)
An underrated Woody Allen film if you ask me. I love the nudge-nudge-wink-wink theatricality of it all, and the Greek Chorus totally sealed it for me :)

5. Sushi? Sushi? You think this is about sushi? (Monsters Inc- guessed by no one)
I'm actually surprised no one got this one. Until Wall-E, this was my favorite Pixar film. Plus it was one of the last animated movie I watched with Sam I think, so it has a very special place in my heart.

6. Liking both Marvin Gaye and Art Garfunkel is like supporting both the Israelis and the Palestinians. (High Fidelity- guessed by Rick)
I still think the book's better but the movie was saved by John Cusack and Jack Black. Which means completely watchable over and over and over again. The quote I really wanted to put was "Autobiographical." from my favorite part of the book and movie. But I thought that would have been too obvious ;)

7. I have to help Wayne with his bogo pogo. (Strictly Ballroom- guessed by Matt)
I thought no one would guess this one but it was Matt Bietz to the rescue :) I'm almost sure I was the only person in my neighborhood who rented the movie from the video store, which also means I'm totally responsible for wearing the VHS tape down. If you loved Moulin Rouge, you need to watch this to see how it all started. [Comment from Matt: "I love it too - and I realized what it was when I couldn't say "bogo pogo" without the accent. :)" ]

8. They say taupe is very soothing. (Ocean's 11- guessed by Alfie)
While I love many movies, there are few I can almost completely recite by heart- You've Got Mail, The Matrix, Love Actually, Jerry Maguire, and.. Ocean's 11.

9. We're gonna bring this party up to a nice respectable level. Don't worry, we're not gonna hurt anyone. We're not even gonna touch 'em. We're just gonna make 'em cry a little, just by lookin' at 'em. (Some Kind of Wonderful- guessed by Jenn)
Only our favorite 80s movie ever! I wanted to marry Eric Stolz and have him give me a pair of diamond earrings too. And another movie I've only ever seen on VHS or as a re-run on TV.

10. You can feel it. This desk set wants to fly! (Dead Poets Society- guessed by Olivier)
*sniff* The ending still gets me every time...

11. A Mo-Jo, it's a very high-tech machine that transmits pages over the telephone! It only takes eighteen minutes a page! (Almost Famous- guessed by Elaine)
This is actually not my favorite quote from the movie, but it was one I thought was the lest of a giveaway. The greatest lines are spoken by Frances McDormand: "This is not some apron-wearing mother you're talking to. I know about your Valhalla of Decadence, and I shouldn't have let him go. He is not ready for your world of compromised values, and diminished brain cells that you throw away like confetti. Am I speaking clearly to you?... If you break his spirit, harm him in any way, keep him from his chosen profession-- which is law, something you may not value but I do-- you will meet the voice on the other end of this telephone. And it will not be pretty. Do we understand each other?... I didn't ask for this role, but I'll play it. Now go do your best. "Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid." Goethe said that. It's not too late for you to be a person of substance, Russell. Get my son home safely. You know, I'm glad we spoke."

12. Cows! I hate cows worse than coppers! (O Brother Where Art Thou?- guessed by Alfie)
I remember watching this at Jude's place one night when he was having a stomach flu. It was not the best conditions under which to see the movie, but I think it helped to make him feel better. And for that, I thank the Coen brothers :)

13. Michael Jackson didn't come over to my house to use the bathroom. He was about to. But his sister did. (The Goonies- guessed by no one)
A definite favorite from primary school :) It was either this or a quote from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

14. I used to eat there. Really good noodles. (The Matrix- guessed by Jenn)
I chose the most un-Matrix line of the whole movie just to make things a little interesting. Jenn had the best comment for this: " It's one of my favorite quotes because it's totally the essence of Keanu Reeves."

15. And in conclusion may I please remind you it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty. (Clueless- guessed by Alfie)
Jude doesn't understand why I will watch this over and over again, no matter how many times it re-runs on Comedy Central or VH1. It's more than 10 years old but seems ageless to me. I love it for the same reason I love #3- witty teen movie meets literary classic. And the clever screenplay predates movies like Juno and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. [Other favorite quote from Clueless: "Mel: What the hell is that? Cher: A dress. Mel: Says who? Cher: Calvin Klein."]

Thanks to everyone who played- this was awesome!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Movie quotes meme

Via srah

1. Pick 15 of your favorite movies.
2. Go to IMDb and find a quote from each movie.
3. Post them here for everyone to guess.
4. Strike it out when someone guesses correctly, and put who guessed it and the movie.
5. NO GOOGLING/using IMDb search or other search functions

1. Meet me... in Montauk. (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- guessed by Jude)
2. Shania hates mayo all right, and she can't eat chicken salad, that's no joke. We gave it to her once, she threw up in the limo - the lady hates chicken salad. (I Heart Huckabees- guessed by Stella)
3. The shit hath hitith the fan... ith. (10 Things I Hate About You- guessed by Alfie)
4. Um, this is Zeus. I'm not home right now, but you can leave a message and I'll get back to you. Please start speaking at the tone.
5. Sushi? Sushi? You think this is about sushi?
6. Liking both Marvin Gaye and Art Garfunkel is like supporting both the Israelis and the Palestinians. (High Fidelity- guessed by Rick)
7. I have to help Wayne with his bogo pogo. (Strictly Ballroom- guessed by Matt)
8. They say taupe is very soothing. (Ocean's 11- guessed by Alfie)
9. We're gonna bring this party up to a nice respectable level. Don't worry, we're not gonna hurt anyone. We're not even gonna touch 'em. We're just gonna make 'em cry a little, just by lookin' at 'em. (Some Kind of Wonderful- guessed by Jenn)
10. You can feel it. This desk set wants to fly! (Dead Poets Society- guessed by Olivier)
11. A Mo-Jo, it's a very high-tech machine that transmits pages over the telephone! It only takes eighteen minutes a page! (Almost Famous- guessed by Elaine)
12. Cows! I hate cows worse than coppers! (O Brother Where Art Thou?- guessed by Alfie)
13. Michael Jackson didn't come over to my house to use the bathroom. He was about to. But his sister did.
14. I used to eat there. Really good noodles. (The Matrix- guessed by Jenn)
15. And in conclusion may I please remind you it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty. (Clueless- guessed by Alfie)

[I double-posted this on my Facebook so some are going to get struck-out because people got them correct there.]

What has Jude been up to lately?

So some of you, dear blog readers, might be wondering - what the hell is Jude up to these days?

Well, in case you were wondering, I can tell you that he's been plenty busy, thank you :)

And just what has he been busy with?

Over Summer 2008, he had the great fortune of being able to go back to Singapore on an NSF fellowship to work at the Communications and New Media Dept. in NUS. While there, he worked with Giorgos Cheliotis and the great folks from the Participatory Media Lab. A project that kept him busy most of his time in Singapore was a study of participation patterns found in ccMixter, an online community focused on the remixing of Creative Commons licensed music.

Well, that was Summer. In November, Jude was back in Singapore for 2 weddings. But in between the weddings, he managed to squeeze in more work at the Participatory Media Lab. And what you see below is the culmination of all those months of effort :)

Yesterday, we finally submitted the paper you see here for the 2009 Communities and Technologies conference at Penn State University in June. There will be a couple more papers coming out of this same project, so watch out for them :)

*UPDATE*
A librarian friend from the antipodes advised me to take the paper down since it hasn't been published yet. Please feel free to email me if you would like to view a copy of the paper.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Let there be light

So during today's dark, rainy, pre-winter solstice evening, instead of cursing the darkness, Jude and I lit candles.* Well, made candles, actually, and with the Cooks and Cooneys. I have to say, it was one of the most soul-satisfying experiences I've had; there was something about hand-making one's own source of light (although we're not sure if we'd use our candles anytime soon- right now, they're too precious...) that moved me very deeply. And the significance of us doing this during the last few longest nights of the year was not lost on me.

Regular beeswax candles are expensive (I calculated, Jude and I now have the equivalent of about $100 worth of beeswax candles) but Dan managed to score a great deal on raw beeswax at a local farm and so we had 16 pounds of beeswax to work with today. I now understand why these candles are so coveted- for one, the smell of melting beeeswax is awesome- like a cross between honey and sunshine :) And they're supposed to burn brighter and longer too.

Making candles must be one of the most painstaking tasks in the world- the dipping of each individual layer of wax, dripping, waiting, dipping some more. Until what starts off looking like Pocky slowly evolves into this sturdy light-bearing vessel, full of promise and brilliance. Surrounded by good friends, good food, the sounds of laughing children doing all the wonderful things that children do, it was one of the most inspiring and rewarding ways anyone could choose to spend a gray and dreary winter afternoon :)

* From Adlai Stevenson's eulogy of Eleanor Roosevelt: "She would rather light candles than curse the darkness and her glow has warmed the world."

[Photos here.]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas presents 2008

[click for album]

Two dozen eggs, four cans of coconut milk, six (or more) cups of sugar, a dozen half-pint mason jars, colored and raw twine, and twigs from our backyard. Christmas present 2008, all done! I quadrupled the quantity I made last week and tweaked the recipe a little by adding some caramelized sugar at the end. Jude tasted a little as the vat was cooling down and pronounced, "Yup, that's kaya." :)
Not only are homemade gifts less expensive, they also capture the spirit of holiday giving in a way that purchased gifts simply can't. And if you consider the ubiquitous traffic and holiday crowds, a leisurely morning spent baking breadsticks or whipping up a batch of homemade marshmallows seems positively Zen-like by comparison.
-L.A. Times, "50 ways to make your holiday gifts homemade"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A dog's life

1. Frisbee fun, 2. My favorite photo of Ursus, 3. Caught it!, 4. Tugging at the same frisbee

Rick and Emilee are in Paris and we're dog-sitting Ursus for them. Jenn's got Kumo so we thought it would be a good idea to have the brothers hang out for a bit at the dog park in case they missed each other.

Our camera-- thanks to a new lens-- captured some great moments :)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Writing spaces

So last night, we stumbled upon the BBC's cool slideshow featuring Eamonn McCabe's photographs of writers' rooms. It's a fascinating insight into the working environments of writers like Beryl Bainbridge and Roald Dahl. Some are austere (like V.S. Naipal), others are more genteel (like Margaret Drabble), and then there are those whose rooms are exactly how you would imagine them to be- Roald Dahl's, for one... Can't you just picture him writing while sinking into that comfy old armchair, surrounded by quirky odds and ends? :) My favorites, though, are Seamus Heaney's and Martin Amis'. For no other reason than the flood of natural light that comes in through their skylight.

While we aren't writers in the purest sense of the word, as graduate students, writing has become a huge part of our lives. And until that slideshow, I hadn't really thought about my writing space very much. It's just a place where I work and because it's also in our bedroom, it's not like it has some independent identity of its own like a real study room. But I should probably take more pride in my writing corner- it is after all a space of labor and thought, a space of creation, even if the product is a mundane dissertation.

Jude's writing space is in the smaller of our two rooms and while he does have a larger table, he shares the table with our printer, and the room with our guest futon and three huge shelves of all our books combined.

One day, we will have a large room devoted just to our books and our writing. It will have built-in shelves, generous working tables facing each other, a corner-to-corner-floor-to-ceiling white board wall, and preferably a skylight to let in as much natural light as possible. Yes, one day... :)

What does your writing space look like?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Homemade kaya

It's that time of the year again when I start planning Christmas gifts for our friends. For the past few years, we've done cranberry hootycreeks and hot chocolate in jars, and chocolate truffles. This year, for some reason, I thought maybe we'd do something a little more reminiscent of home- kaya. It's an egg custard jam popular in Southeast Asia made from coconut milk, eggs and sugar. Perfect on crisp buttered toast and a cup of black coffee, places that sell kaya are now a dime and dozen all over Singapore. But here, the only kind of kaya comes in a can and as any self-respecting Singaporean knows, those aren't nearly close to being in the same vicinity as real kaya.

And so this afternoon, I embarked on my first kaya-making attempt. I figured I'll make a small batch and try out the recipe first before making a whole lot to give away. Kaya is humble food and the ingredients are as simple as they come- sugar, eggs, coconut milk, and pandan (screwpine) leaves for that extra flavor. It would have been ideal to have freshly squeezed coconut milk of course, but this is Michigan- who are we kidding?...

Making kaya is a labor of love. It has to cook slowly over low heat and requires constant stirring so that the eggs don't curdle or scramble. Which also means it was an exercise in patience for me, standing over the double-boiler for 45 minutes doing nothing else but stirring. And listening to Jude play around with his iTunes playlist.

You can see here that the kaya is thickening up, reward for all the care you're taking. It transforms from what was a runny, eggy yellow mixture into a lovely pale golden curd.

After 45 minutes, the kaya is ready. A faintly sweet pandan scent hits you as you decant the kaya out of the pot. The texture is almost voluptuous, fuller than I what I'm used to, but in a good way- thick, luscious, but not heavy, like a lovechild between custard and pudding. And it has beautiful flavor. You can taste each and every ingredient so distinctly because it's just so fresh. The only thing though is that I would have liked it to be a deeper color. I might add some caramelized sugar to it when I make my next batch.

To complete the experience, Jude and I spread some kaya over buttered toast for tea. I'm happy to say, it was like I was home :)

[Recipe modified from here.]

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Shadow Art Fair

We love the Shadow Art Fair. Started in July 2006 as a prequel-- and tongue-in-cheek competitor-- to Ann Arbor's over-hyped, overcrowded, and overpriced art fairs, the SAF in Ypsilanti-- the town next to us (some call it Ann Arbor's poorer cousin)-- is now pulling its own weight and drawing a loyal group of followers to the Corner Brewery twice a year. An eclectic mix of local and regional artists and designers doing their own wonderfully whimsical thing, I love the SAF for its unpretentious indie vibe and the awesome coziness of just a bunch of people happily cramped into a pub rather than the sprawling monstrosity that is the Ann Arbor art fair which not only disrupts the whole town every summer, but doesn't even really sell much art (no one can convince me that sunglasses or toaster ovens constitute art).

And so today, Jude, Jenn, and I braved the gnarly snow and spent the afternoon at the SAF. It was like being at an etsy sale- handknit winter hats and mittens, $1 haikus, quilted shopping bags, handpainted "art cakes", handprinted tees- I thoroughly enjoyed everything :) It helped that I got to sip some delicious hand-roasted coffee (and made a couple of new acquaintances in the process while waiting for my latte- some guy told me how much he loves my name and how he might just name his future daughter "Serene" now, plus I got a crash course in how to make those lovely milk foam patterns...), fell in love with what has to be the world's cleverest and most adorable "foodie" greeting cards, and bought some hand-appliquéd tea towels from Handmade Detroit for Christmas presents. But my favorite purchase today has to be Jude's choice of this illustrated print from Kill Taupe:

It's just so sweet and delightfully strange (especially in the context of the rest of his work) that I can't wait to frame it up so that we can put it up on our wall with the rest of the prints we've been collecting :)

Some photos of our haul here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

In Florida


In Florida
Originally uploaded by ghetto of our mind
I'm in strip mall hell. Surrounded by a Harley Davidson store, a Walgreens, McDonald's (with a giant lit-up pack of fries up front), Popeye's, two gas stations, the world's largest Checkers restaurant (apparently), and a place called Bargain World which according to some tourist website, sells discounted Floridian apparel (what Floridian apparel is, I don't know...) I'm also just off the freeway and two exits away from Universal Studios.

Yikes...

I'm in Orlando for a conference for two days and looking at my surroundings, it looks like I'm going to be staying in the resort the whole time. Jude helpfully informed me that there's actually a mall two miles away, but honestly, trying to get there would probably be too much effort. Not that staying on-site would be any better. The resort I'm in is kind of weird- lots of fountains and pools you can't swim in, I had to get driven in a buggy to get from the lobby to my room, it actually looks like some kind of motel-- the kind you drive up to-- and in the middle of nowhere, there's suddenly an ice-cream parlor. Plus, I also had the WORST possible dinner ever at the hotel restaurant- some sad excuse for grilled salmon and saffron risotto. No good ever comes out of dry fish and gummy, gloppy rice.

The only saving grace is that the room is more than adequate and they have good coffee. So it looks like the next two days will be spent session-hopping, sitting in my room, sipping coffee, and doing work. Or if the weather gets warmer, sitting by the pool, sipping coffee, and doing work. Let's hope it's the latter.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Christian the Lion

How could I have not known about this? Apparently, it was quite the phenomenon earlier this year, with 17 million people having watched the clip on YouTube already. But until this morning, I had no idea. I was catching up on last week's Screens Issue of the NYT Magazine when I came upon a section where they got an eclectic bunch of bloggers, celebrities and media personalities to write about their favorite screen moments of the past year. Starlee Kine, my new radio idol next to Ira Glass, called hers "the most solid reason for why the Internet should exist..."
Christian the Lion was a little lion cub that two young guys saw on sale at Harrods in London in 1969, back when department stores sold these kinds of things. They took him back to their flat, where he got into their sock drawers and played with balls of string. They befriended a vicar who let them use a local churchyard as a playground for the cub, and at the beginning of the video (which someone pulled out of an old British documentary and posted on YouTube last summer) there’s Super 8 footage of them frolicking about. Then text appears on the screen explaining that once Christian got too big, the boys had to take him to Africa to be with his own kind.

A year later they decided to go visit him, even though they were warned that Christian had become a full-grown lion with a pride of his own and wouldn’t remember them and would perhaps attack them if they went. They went anyway, these two tall, floppy-haired guys whom I admit I am seriously crushed out on, and the next thing you see is this grainy footage of them standing in the African sand, calling Christian’s name silently, because there’s no sound. Oh, and I’m sorry, did I forget to mention that Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” is playing in the background, and that as you see Christian appear and are still unsure what’s going to happen (my friend Heather was convinced she was going to witness the two boys’ deaths; she couldn’t understand why else I was freaking out so much when I made her watch it) you hear Whitney sing, “I wish you joy and happiness, but above all this, I wish you lo-uh-ove,” and then Christian is running toward the boys, leaping onto his hind legs (“Watch out!” Heather screamed at this part) and the music is all, “And I will alll-ways love you,” and you see that Christian not only remembers them but that he loves them, dearly, desperately, he is hugging them with his enormous lion paws? And one of the guys, who looks a lot like a young Roger Daltrey, actually, has this huge smile on his face and you can see him choke back a sob. It’s just the most solid reason I’ve seen yet for why the Internet should exist. By the way, the video isn’t nearly as effective without the Whitney Houston song. I’ve tried watching it both ways and, really, you need the song in order to experience the full-blown effect.
- Starlee Kine, NYT Magazine, November 23, 2008



I challenge you to not choke up at the display of pure, unadulterated love and happiness... It's wonderful.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our first Christmas tree

In Ann Arbor, that is. Until last year, we've been blessed to have always been with family for Christmas since we moved here in 2003. That first Christmas was spent in Florida with Jude's aunt, the following year in Montreal with his uncle, and 2005 and 2006 were the best because we actually got to go home for Christmas.

Christmas is a big deal for my family. And putting up the tree is a huge part of that. For as long as I can remember, putting up the Christmas tree has been sort of a ritual in my house: everyone gathers in the living room- my dad's in charge of setting the tree up and laying out the lights, my mom carefully unwraps all the precious trimmings she had painstakingly wrapped in tissue the year before, warning my sisters and I to be careful as we pick out our favorite decoration to hang up. And there's *always* some kind of Christmas music playing in the background.

And so this year, as we spend our second Christmas in a row in Ann Arbor, we decided maybe we should get a tree for ourselves. University housing doesn't allow real trees, so we got a small 3-ft one from Target instead. It was an oddly emotional experience shopping for the tree and decorations yesterday. I think it's the whole mix of not being home for Christmas again, missing the whole tree ritual thing, and adopting this tradition which I've only associated with home for ourselves for the first time. It felt strange and almost a little sad. So there I was, standing in Aisle 23 at Target, holding a $9.99 tree in my arms and literally fighting back the tears...

Putting up a Christmas tree shouldn't be a sad affair and so I mustered all the Christmas spirit I could, put on my favorite Christmas album- A Charlie Brown Christmas- and spent the afternoon trimming the tree with Jude. It's a modest tree, and we didn't buy that many decorations so it's still a little bare. But this is our first tree, and so just like it took years for my family to accumulate and collect the different pieces of trimming for their huge beautiful tree, this is only the first of many trees and Christmas decorations that Jude and I will put up together. And that was the happy thought that put me in a whole better mood for Christmas :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Once a year...

[Inspired by NYT's live Thanksgiving blog]

Wednesday:
2:00 p.m. Bake two cornbreads for cornbread stuffing. Leave to cool.
4:00 p.m. Boil green beans for green bean casserole. Drain and dry.
4:30p.m. Cleaned mushrooms for sauce for green bean casserole. Make sauce. Assemble casserole.
5:00 p.m. New food processor attachment for birthday mixer arrives. Use it to make topping for casserole.
5:30 p.m. Freeze all ingredients necessary for pie-crust: butter, flour, food processor blade.
6:30 p.m. Put pie-crust ingredients together in food processor. Pulse 10 times. Not coming together. Dump onto counter and work by hand. Open kitchen window to let cold air in. Mutter a short prayer. Refrigerate dough.

Thursday:
9:00 a.m. Make large cup of coffee (note to self: need fortification for long day ahead). Eat large bowl of cereal. Will be only sustenance for next 6 hours.
9:30 a.m. Preheat oven to 350F. Take refrigerated pie dough out.
9:45 a.m. Opened kitchen window to let cold air in. Roll out pie dough. Impressed with self at pie-crust rolling prowess. Unimpressed at inability to roll to right size. Might have overworked dough. *Shoots*
9:55 a.m. Freeze pie pan.
10:00 a.m. Chop ingredients for stuffing: onions, celery, red peppers, green onions. Cube cornbread. Set aside.
10:30 a.m. Blind-bake pie crust with pie weights (rice actually)
10:45 a.m. Remove rice and continue baking.
11:00 a.m. Remove pie crust. Notes that it has shrunk. Second *shoots* of the day. Let cool. Turn oven down to 300F.
11:05 a.m. Make custard for pie. Love smell of fresh nutmeg and boiling maple syrup.
11: 20 a.m. Pour custard into pie crust. Some custard overflows behind crust because of shrinkage. Third *shoots*. First homemade pie crust might not be success. Panic.
11:25 a.m. Bake pie.
11:30 a.m. Saute andouille sausages for stuffing. Add veggies. Sweat (the veggies, not me.)
11:45 a.m. Add cornbread to veggies. Add broth. Transfer to impressively buttered large baking dish. Stuffing looks gorgeous and smells amazing.
11:50 a.m. Jude tastes stuffing. Concurs with me.
12:15 p.m. Pack everything to leave for Rick and Emilee's- green bean casserole, topping for green bean casserole, apricot ale, Grand Cru beer, stuffing. Wait for pie.
12:25 p.m. Take pie out. Bubbly and buttery. Very buttery. Custard looks good. More crust shrinkage. Don't say it...
12:40 p.m. Leave for Rick and Emilee's.
1:10 p.m. Arrive at destination. Stuffing goes in oven with foil. Watch Rick prep turkey.
1:30 p.m. Remove foil. Bake stuffing till crusty top.
2:00 p.m. Turkey goes into oil.
2:00 p.m. Stuffing comes out of oven. Turn up to 425F.
2:15 p.m. Green beans go in oven without topping.
2:10 p.m. Jason and Molly arrive with two pies, mashed potato, creamy baked potato and gravy. Yes, the carb brigade.
2:20 p.m. Rick preps prime rib.
2:30 p.m. Rick makes cranberry sauce. Kitchen smells amazing from ginger.
2:35 p.m. Green beans come out. Molly's creamy potatoes go in.
2:45 p.m. Rick adds pinot noir to cranberries. Kitchen smells impossibly better. Hunger now unbearable.
2:55 p.m. Turkey emerges. Have no words.
3:00 p.m. Prime rib goes in oil. Beautiful sight.
3:10 p.m. Set table. Sweet potatoes and stuffing go in oven to warm up.
3:15 p.m. Rick carves turkey. Sneak a bite. Swoon.
3:20 p.m. Rick slices prime rib. Needs some time in oven.
3:25 p.m. Prime rib ready.
3.30 p.m. WE EAT. Everything is deliriously good...

4:30 p.m. Burp. Finish eating a meal that took more than 24-hours to prepare. Jason crashes on couch before he even finishes chewing his last bite of turkey.
4:45 p.m. Clean up.
5:15 p.m. Wii Bloom Blox. Some attempt at activity to stimulate digestion.
5:45 p.m. Eat pies. Sweet potato pie is delicious. Custard for nutmeg-maple pie is creamy but light. A definite success. Handmade Piecrust #1, not so much. Too tough. *Shoots* #5. Will persevere.
6:30 p.m. There is talk of a movie. Slow digestion hinders motivation. More Boom Blox.
7:30 p.m. Discussion moves to videos instead. Attempt to watch Hot Fuzz not successful. Not widescreen.
7:45 p.m. Raid Wash-Rader movie library. Molly impressed by alphabetized cataloging.
8.00 p.m. Between High Fidelity and Roxanne, crowd goes with Steve Martin and big nose.
9.45 p.m. Movie was great. Laughs were big. Darryl Hannah's hair bigger. '80s David Foster pre-Kenny-G soundtrack tickled.
10:00 p.m. Collect insane amount of leftovers. Head home.
10:20 p.m. Pack leftovers in fridge. Too full to sleep.
11:00 p.m. Switches on computer for first time all day. Upload photos.
12.00 a.m. Still too full to sleep. Watch TV.
2.00 a.m. Finally comfortable enough to lie down.

Friday:
Do NOTHING. Well, except sit in front of the TV watching the No Reservations marathon. I prepared two plates of leftovers for lunch us and honestly. I couldn't touch mine. I took one bite and had to put the plate aside. There was just something about turkey, potatoes and gravy so soon again after yesterday's gorge-fest that my body physically reacted against. The smell of turkey stock simmering all afternoon probably wasn't helping. Instead, I had a slice of leftover sweet potato pie and coffee.

[I know it seems like I was very conscious of the time all throughout the day, but honestly, once we were done eating (everything before that was indeed meticulously planned out- see Rick's schedule here), it all became just one tryptophan/carb-induced blur...]

1. Going in, 2. Thanksgiving schedule , 3. Turkey emerging, 4. Sweet potato pies, 5. Bountiful table, 6. "Let me at it!", 7. LEFTOVERS!, 8. Two desserts, 9. Playing Boom Blox

Thursday, November 27, 2008

To friends...

The green bean casserole has been in the fridge since last night, my first made-from-scratch pie crust is blind-baking for my nutmeg-maple cream tart, and all the ingredients for the andouille-cornbread stuffing have been chopped. We'll be off to Rick and Emilee's in a couple of hours where deep-fried turkey and prime-rib and all sorts of delicious coma-inducing carbs await. I love Thanksgiving :)

Thanksgiving's my favorite U.S. holiday. Not only because it's just one huge excuse to cook and eating masquerading as a national holiday, but because I associate it solidly with our experience here and here alone. It has no connection to home and all the emotions that comes with missing family. Christmas is always hard for me here because it makes me sad that I'm not back home. And that's saying a lot because Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. But because I've only known Thanksgiving in the U.S.-- and we've always had the good fortune of sharing it with the best of friends-- I enjoy it with no wistfulness nor yearning.

So this Thanksgiving, we want to give thanks to all the friends we've ever spent Thanksgiving with in Ann Arbor, whether it's Jude's MSI classmates in 2003 and 2004, my friend, Julie, who so generously invited me to her family's Thanksgiving in 2005 when Jude wasn't around, and for the last 3 years, Rick and Emilee with their deliriously awesome fried turkeys. Thank you, guys, for making our Thanksgivings here always something to look forward to every year! :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lost Season 5!

Official Season 5 poster:


and Season 5 scenes in the new The Fray video:

Thanksgiving grocery shopping list

(for Thursday at Rick and Emilee's)
Cornmeal
Celery
Red bell peppers
1 lb andouille sausages
Fresh thyme
Sage
Green beans
Cremini mushrooms
Chicken stock
Half and half
Fried onions
Panko bread crumbs
Maple syrup
Cream

Andouille Sausage and Corn Bread Stuffing
Green bean casserole
Nutmeg-maple cream pie

Tentative (in case we have guests on Friday)
Chicken
Fennel
Sweet potato
Yeast
Brussels sprouts
Pine nuts
Potatoes

Roast chicken (best recipe ever!)
Sweet potato rolls
Pan-browned brussels sprouts
Creamy mashed potatoes

So very excited... :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

The perfect cookie

Take it from me, this is *the* Platonic chocolate chip cookie. The kind of chocolate chip cookie all industrially manufactured soulless mass-produced chocolate cookies wish they could be but never will. This cookie will make all other cookies shrivel up in disgust at their own inadequacy. Make this cookie once and you'll never use another chocolate chip cookie recipe again.

All those close and dear to me have heard me wax lyrical about this recipe for a while now. Three things set it apart: 1) bittersweet chocolate chips, 2) sprinkled coarse salt before baking, and 3) letting the dough sit for at least 24 hours, if not 36. It seems counter-intuitive that salt would make such a huge difference to something sweet, but it does. It imparts an unusual depth and complexity made even more extraordinary by the fact that one doesn't usually think of chocolate chip cookies as particularly sophisticated baked goods-- in fact, there are few things as simple or elemental-- but trust me on this one, it's all about the salt.

I've used this recipe twice but today was the first time we could "empirically" test whether or not letting the dough sit longer actually makes the cookies taste better. We baked up the first batch yesterday for the dismal Michigan-OSU football game and the other half for Finn's fourth birthday today. While they already tasted awesome yesterday, there a definite difference to today's cookies. A richer, almost toffee-like flavor, for sure. And a fuller mouthfeel, if that makes any sense. Jenn asked whether perfection could be perfected some more, and I say, Yup, it sure can :)

I suspect part of it also has to do with the size of these things. Because they are so big, the edges and outside get all crunchy and toasty while leaving the center still chewy and gooey from the crazy amount of chocolate chips. Like how the perfect chocolate chip cookie should be. If this post doesn't make you run out and make these cookies right this minute, read the original NYT article. You will :)

[P/S: The recipe makes several very large cookies so be prepared to share. I'm the last person to advocate restraint when it comes to anything chocolate and no one will begrudge you for wanting to hoard these cookies for yourself, but something this wonderful should also be generously shared, so go ahead, spread the love!]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The body doth protest too much, methinks...

I think falling sick is a body's form of protest, and man is my body protesting... I'm sick for the first time this year, and it literally hit me like a ton of bricks. I probably caught something at the tail end of our trip to NY and since we've been back, I'm been coughing, sniffing, coughing some more, wheezing, and more coughing. Residual jetlag plus the weather hasn't helped either, the weather in particular- I really don't remember it being this cold this time last year. Today was in the twenties (around -5C) and even though I'm resisting busting out the heavy wool coat before December, I think I might not have a choice.

A lot of it probably has to do with my body not having rested very well the past couple of months in general. Between training for the Half in September and October and then the hectic 2 weeks at home, I haven't slept properly and my body hasn't really had a chance to just be at rest. I had to skip yoga yesterday (which made me kind of sad) and I can't go to the gym with Jude later today either. Maybe I should give myself till after Thanksgiving to just be still and get better. Try to sleep in a little, take less caffeine, and be better to my body in general. Waiting till after Thanksgiving will also mean greater motivation to hit the gym after all the indulgent, mindless eating that's in store- deep-fried prime rib, here we come! :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

New York, New York...

1. Jude enjoying his eggs, 2. Sarabeth's at Central Park South, 3. Serene and her oyster, 4. Us, 5. Uniting painting, 6. Singapore Consulate, 7. Queensboro bridge, 8. Grand Central ceiling detail, 9. View from Mitchel's apartment by night

We're back from our whirlwind trip home, only to find Ann Arbor blanketed in fog, rain, and today, snow. It's a little dismal, but I have to say, I kind of like it. Ask me again in February and I'm sure I'll have something else to say, but the period before and just after Thanksgiving, the whole first snow, cusp-of-winter thing, I can deal.

Jude and I had a little preview of the sad weather when we stopped over in New York for a couple of days. Apparently, the entire eastern seaboard was embattled with fog and rain. It wasn't the best weather to be seeing the city, but we got lucky and either stayed indoors (Grand Central Station), or it was fairly nice outside when we didn't (SoHo). Between oysters at the Station and colour-coded shopping at the awesome Uniqlo, Jude and I made the two days count. We had fun, the city was great, but in spite of it all, we ask ourselves if it's a city we could really live in.

Maybe it has to do with being in tiny Ann Arbor too long or having lost our hearts to Chicago a long time ago, but I don't think I love NY enough to want to live there. The history and culture of the place is unparalleled of course, and it's vibrant and exciting like few other cities in the world. But it's just not me. Not when the people walk just that little bit faster, the cars honk that much louder, and the rent, ridiculously, exorbitantly higher. Have I been spoiled by the Midwest? I dunno... Until we find out, we're making the best out of the 6 month long winters, our 3-storey townhouse for under $1K, and slightly more civilized driving...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sweet, happy day!

In the end, it was a wedding less defined by the handmade invitations, or the thoughtful favours, or the gorgeous flowers, or the amazing attention to detail in every aspect of the celebration; what made it the lovely wedding that it was, was heart. It was the love and affection that went into every surprise planned (!!), every speech spoken, every thanks given, and every congratulations shared that gave it real depth and meaning.

My dear sister got married this weekend. And it was beautiful... :)

1. Reception table flowers, 2. 5am in the morning, 3. Helping Jill with her hair, 4. The bridesmaids, 5. Fixing the flower girl's garland, 6. Wedding vows, 7. Dad & the happy bride, 8. Giving my speech, 9. "You may now kiss the bride", 10. Poppers surprise!, 11. Kekex surprise :), 12. Profiterole tower, 13. Dad and Mom as I've never seen them before, 14. Champagne pouring, 15. Teary Mom, 16. Us

Highlights of the church ceremony here:


Piao Zhou & Sherri from Bernard Teo on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election by Facebook

Serene is up early to prepare for the election returns. 7:57pm
I had actually woken up at 7.00 Singapore time (6pm EST) and opened up the laptop in eagerness. Then I realized that polls probably hadn't even closed yet and promptly went back to sleep. It was fitful sleep though and I woke up half an hour later, had a proper breakfast, made myself a large mug of coffee, open up the laptop again, and planted myself in front of the TV for CNN 'live'. This was the beginning of a rapturous 5 hours.

Serene is getting emotional watching election returns and she can't even vote. She can't imagine if she had voting rights. 8:53pm
I think there was just something about watching CNN's projections, parts of maps turning blue and red, percentages going one way or another that got to me. Plus watching it with Jude's mom and talking to her about what we were seeing made me realize that Jude and I have been more invested in this elections that I had thought.

Serene says "Go Ohio!!". 9:34pm
Ohio goes blue! This made me so indescribably happy, I literally yelped! srah's status, "You're welcome!" made me smile even more :)

Serene is becoming intimately acquainted with U.S. geography. 9:44pm
Between watching John King's fancy gigantic interactive touch-screen map and the many different maps I had open on the laptop, it was like I was receiving a crash course in American geography. Eric put it best when he commented, "Nothing like a highly contested election to get you familiar with county names in states you've never visited in person!"

Serene thinks we might see Obama sailing past 300 electoral votes. 10:04pm
With PA, OH, and NY in the bag, and none of the West Coast votes even counted yet, it didn't take a genius to do the math and realize that once you throw CA into the mix, 270 would be a cinch, and 300 an almost sure thing. Final electoral vote count for Obama: 349.

Serene never thought she'd hear the words, "Coming to us via hologram..." in a real-life non-ironic context. 10:51pm
It was a bizarre Star Trek moment when we saw will-i-am "beamed" into the CNN newsroom via hologram. Fancy interactive touch-screen map I dig, hologram on the other hand, now that was a little freeeaky...

Serene is tearing... Long-distance euphoria! 11:07pm
CNN calls it! I literally started weeping. I think I updated and deleted my status several times until I felt I captured the right emotion. And still I don't think words were capable of expressing the true euphoria. No one was at home for me to shriek at/to/with so I ended up just sitting there, starring at the screen in a puddle of happy tears.

Serene Everything about that was wondeful, from the speech to how loving they are to their wives. And a puppy!! 12:20am
It was a beautiful speech. Moving, gracious, humble; that call to service, rousing. And every man should describe their wives the way he talked about Michelle Obama. And a puppy for the girls! Come on... When Joe Biden came out at the end with the two wives, it was a wonderful picture of promise and hope. And if there was ever such a thing as political happiness, I think I felt it then :)

[Compare this all to our sentiments exactly four years ago.]

And because this deserves to be played over and over again:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes you did!

[click for the defining video made for this campaign]

Enough said :)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Up with people!!!



Up With People - Lambchop


As Election Day finally approaches tomorrow in the U.S., we thought this might be an appropriate song to play for all our friends out there who are voting. As newcomers to the U.S., we sometimes don't feel comfortable speaking out about politics in person or in electronic form. But we do strongly believe that these are critical times and it's an important decision and right that the folks in the U.S. are exercising.

And so since we're not in the thick of things right now, we thought this might be an appropriate track to dedicate to all you voting folks out there. We think Lamchop's slightly obscure lyrics do not betray partisanship; rather, it's an uplifting track with chant-able lines like "Up our lives today!!" and "Come on progeny!!".

So as we count down to tomorrow, we know you guys will vote wisely, thoughtfully, and justly. Come on progeny... up our lives today! :)

-Jude & Serene

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Home again

It's like we never left. I think it's because we were back for almost two full months in July/August and it's only been another two months since, it feels like we just went on vacation.

The journey home was thankfully uneventful, and the only notable experience was probably the fact that I now know how geese feel when they're being forced-fed to fatten their livers. The thing about SQ is that they love feeding you. Every two hours on the hour and I get either a glass of water/apple juice/orange juice thrust under my face, or a packet of pretzel sticks, or a salami sandwich. While I'm asleep. I appreciate the thoughtful service-- and technically, I'm really not complaining-- but knowing how hard it is to fall asleep on the plane, I'd rather not be woken up for rice pudding, thank you very much.

I did get to watch a whole slew of movies and TV shows and that always makes me happy on a 35-hour long journey: Wanted, Baby Mama, I've Loved You For So Long, Mama Mia (I love Meryl Streep, but I couldn't sit through this after 15 minutes... It was excruciating.) 30 Rock, Californication, Mad Men, The Office, Entourage. Some were better than others, of course (again, why, Meryl, why??) but at the end of the day, as long as they distract me from the tedium of long distance travel, quality becomes secondary.
"See that girl! Watch that scene!" "If you change your mind, I’m the first in line." "Mamma Mia, here I go again." Like me, you may have spent the last 30 years struggling to get lines like those out of your head — and wondering what they were doing there in the first place — but you might as well have been trying to compost Styrofoam. Those shimmery, layered arrangements, those lyrics in a language uncannily like English, those symmetrical Nordic voices — they all add up to something alarmingly permanent, a marshmallow monument on the cultural landscape. When our species dies out, leaving the planet to roaches and robots, the insects will beat their little wings to the tune of “Waterloo” as Wall-E and Eve warble along. And the darn thing still won’t make any sense. Nor does “Mamma Mia!."
-NYT review

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A great way to fly...

So I'm typing this as we're sitting in The Oasis airport lounge in JFK. We have a 6-hour wait before our Singapore Airlines flight back home via Frankfurt and sitting in a Burger King with three huge bags, two backpacks, and two laptops trying to do work during that time was just going to be too hard. So we sucked it in and paid for a day-pass to the airport lounge and suddenly, we now have full access to complimentary wine, coffee (from a very exciting cappuccino machine), snacks (all the Milano cookies I could possibly want!), cheese & crackers, a hot bar, sandwiches, scones, a "library", comfy couches, shower facilities, and most importantly, free wi-fi :) Jude's got a bunch of reviews to finish and I have 60 audio files to transcribe, so yes, I think we will be very busy here in the airport...

On top of that, by some quirk of the airline karma, Jude and I actually found ourselves bumped up to first class on our Northwest flight in here from Detroit. I was quite sure we paid for coach tickets, but when we got priority tags on our bags and the seat numbers on our boarding passes didn't match the seats I had chosen yesterday, we almost thought we had accidentally bought first class tickets. But no, I suspect the flight was overbooked and they bumped all Northwest frequent-flyers up to first class to make space. I'm not complaining of course and I got my orange juice in a proper glass instead of a plastic cup, which is always nice.

So our journey home so far has been a galaxy away from my last trip back alone- touch wood, but no errant birds in sight... And I'm really glad I'm not traveling alone. Having Jude's company makes all the difference in the world :)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thoughts on turning 32

For one, not being embarrassed about saying that I am 32. There's something so cliché about a woman feigning outrage/ acting coy when asked about her age, or half-pretending she's only 21 every time her birthday rolls around. As if being 40, 50 or 60 somehow makes you less of a woman than a twentysomething with flawless skin and a bikini figure. Own it, I say. Embrace your age and all the joys and heartbreaks you've picked up over the years.

I love where my 32 years has brought me and all that I possess right now. I have health and I have happiness. That's got to mean something in the larger scheme of things. After all these years, I think I might have finally come to terms with the width of my hips. And they look just fine, thank you. And while I may not be rich, I have my work, and it's work that belongs to me and only me, my contribution to the ether that did not exist before. I'd like to think that I hold my own in an intelligent conversation without coming off ignorant or boring someone to death. And I roast a pretty mean chicken. Oh, and then there's that little thing about waking up everyday next to someone who makes my heart sing. Which I wish for everyone, regardless of their age.

And so yes, 32 awesome years. They rocked! :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Surprise, surprise!...


Mystery box
Originally uploaded by ghetto of our mind
Last year, I blogged about a mystery present I had received in the mail a week before my birthday. Turns out, it was my sister who had sent me the beautiful scarf from Anthropologie and just forgot to attach a card. This year- well, last week, specifically, I come home from the half-marathon to find a giant box lying in our living room.
Apparently, the night before when I had stayed over in Detroit, Jude had gone and gotten me my birthday present. And so it's just been sitting there this past week, taunting me, every time I walk by it as I come in and out of the house... Everyone's been asking me about it since I posted the picture onto Flickr, and even Jude's been tempting me to open it. But Serene Koh, ever the paragon of self-control and restraint, resisted ;) Although, I did nudge it to make sure it wasn't just a huge box hiding a smaller present (it's heavy), tried shaking it to see if it had moving parts (no), and even thought to hold my ear against it to see if it made a sound (I never did...). It was just there, and I just kept staring at it.

Finally, at the stroke of midnight tonight, I trotted downstairs, Jude behind me, and eagerly ripped my present apart. And it's beautiful! I LOVE it!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Starlee Kine talks Lost!

I can't deal with this whole waiting 9 months thing with Lost :( Catching Season 1 again on the Sci Fi Channel (it's still my favorite season really, and Exodus Part I being one of my all-time favorite episodes...) just makes me realize how much I miss the series.

Which is why I got so excited when I saw this on the Facebook sidebar. Starlee Kine of This American Life! Talking about the Lost Season 4 finale! On a post-it! Woot!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Yet more music - The Temper Trap: "Sweet Disposition"

The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition


Gorgeous stuff. I can't decide whether I love the original version better or the remix below:



Sweet Disposition (Curtis Vodka Remix) - The Temper Trap


Anyone know anything about this band? All I could find out was that they are from Melbourne, Aust. But apart from that ... do they have an album out?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Can I Kick it?

Love this remake of A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It?" by Lykke Li. Two videos juxtaposed here for how different her interpretation of the track is.



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Song of the week: Adele - Chasing Pavements



Chasing Pavements - Adele


Like a cross between Lily Allen and a tortured Amy Winehouse (oh wait, she's *already* tortured...), Adele describes her songs as "heartbroken soul". Doesn't she remind you of a latter day Lauryn Hill at her torchy best?

Apparently Adele's been causing waves across the Atlantic by having her album "19" nominated for a Mercury music prize. Something to keep you going through those long nights of work ...

Oh oh, the video for this song is pretty inspired as well. It's really well done. Check it out:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Radio on the TV


It was a weekend pretty much defined by This American Life. Jude and I finally finished watching Season 1 of the TV series on DVD and today, on my last long run before the Half, I thought it might be interesting to listen to podcasts of the radio show to see if it'll be better than just random mixes of music of 2 hours. And it was. For the most part.

On the one hand, because you're listening to the stories so intently and because you somehow get emotionally invested in these people- as one invariably does every time you watch or listen to the show- your mind doesn't think about the pain and tedium of the run as much. But on the other, precisely because you're so focused on the pain and pleasures of these ordinary folk, and their simple, funny, poignant predicaments that could have so easily been yours, you find yourself wanting to laugh or even cry along, and that's hard to do when you're hot, sweaty and at Mile 7 of an 11-mile run. Like at the story of the mom who had to make a life-changing decision on behalf of her Down Syndrome daughter, or the dad whose six-year-old son wanted him to “pinky promise, to seriously and forever promise,” that he and his partner will always love each other and stay together. At so many points during the three shows I listened to, my body hurt from literally- as in physically- choking back tears or stifling laughter. All this while running.

I adore Ira Glass- me, and every other NPR-listening woman who wants him as their radio boyfriend. But really, the show- TV or radio- is about stories. Stories we tell ourselves, stories we have to tell other people. Or just stories we need to hear so we know we're not the only crazy, fallible, lovable, and human people out there. Two of our recent favorites and absolute must-listens, #328: What I Learned from Television and #339: Break-Up.

This American Life? Is that that show by those hipster know-it-alls who talk about how fascinating ordinary people are?
-Summer (Rachel Bilson), The O.C.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Playing dress-up

OK- so after almost three agonizing months of shopping- both online and otherwise, I've finally found my two outfits for my dear sister's wedding in November. For some reason, this was actually harder than finding my dresses for our wedding- I mean, it's hard striking a balance between looking appropriately joyous- I *am* the sister of the bride, without standing out- I'm not the focus of the day, and not taking the attention away from the bridal party either- i.e. no pink or purples. In the end, turquoise and blues ruled the day and it came down to a 1930s-inspired silk dress from Banana Republic for the church ceremony:

It was actually Jude's keen eye that spotted it first when we walked into the store. It wasn't something that I loved immediately but after I tried it on, the vintage feel grew on me and I've come to really like the soft, floaty feel of the whole thing. It's not an intuitive choice for a celebration dress, but with the right kind of accesories, I could just pull this off :) In terms of shoes, turquoise is a tricky color to match, but I think I'll go with the peep-toe pumps I bought for my best friend's wedding a couple of years ago:

Picking the dress for dinner was a lot harder. Because there's an Oriental theme of sorts, I was tempted to get myself a traditional cheong-sam, but that could go so wrong so quickly that unless I was sure I could really pull it off, it wasn't a risk I was willing to take. Plus, I was hoping to find something on our trip to California, but since that didn't happen, it was JCrew.com to the rescue:

I fell in love with the dress the moment I saw it in the mail catalog but it was just too expensive and I couldn't justify buying it for any reason. And then it went on sale and I did secretly hope that I wouldn't find anything else just so I could get this instead :) It's a darling of a dress- sweet, simple, and vibrant enough without being garish. Just for that extra pop, I think I'll look for a pair of pink pumps just like these:

I'm excited :) It's just under a month away, the bride and groom seem all prepared, I know at least one of the three bridesmaids who's beside herself with excitement at the prospect of being a bridesmaid- again (she insists she was too young when Jude and I got married to really embrace the gravity of the experience...), and I tried to combat insomnia by writing my wedding speech at three in the morning the other day. I have yet to decide whether sleep deprivation did the speech good or bad- the happy couple will have to decide for themselves come November 8... :)