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The Christmas season is upon us once again. Another year has passed us by, & so much has both happened & not happened. I am all at once excited & anxious for the next year to come. Hopefully things will be different in the new year.

I have said this quite a few times in my blog, but I will repeat myself once again. I love Christmas. I love spending time with my close friends & family, sharing good food with plenty of delicious drinks to keep our cheeks flushed until the new year. I also love dressing up the house with festive decorations & really making our yearly Christmas tree the main centerpiece.

Each year we put up less decorations than the previous one. It’s mostly because there’s only three people living in our house now, & we’re all so busy that we each don’t have time to pull out the decorations from storage, put them up, then store them away again. Plus, the three of us are all equally lazy people & just don’t want to bother, but justify our actions by saying we want to have a minimalist vibe for the holidays.

One thing’s for sure is that we will always have a Christmas tree extravaganza, per my dad’s annual tradition. Every year when I put up our faux Christmas tree & I start decorating it, I get a little melancholy reminiscing over holiday memories with my dad. More & more I wish he could still be with us to bring the family together. It’s feeling more\ like since he’s no longer with us, my family has become more deeply divided over the recent years. However, I’m not going to open that can of worms today. Besides, that part is not my story to reveal anyway.

Then again, regardless of whichever pot’s being stirred up, or whatever’s going on behind the scenes, I am still very much excited for the holiday festivities. This year, along with celebrating Christmas, my entire family (including aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, siblings) will be celebrating our grand uncle’s 90th birthday. This uncle is the foremost patriarch of our family, the glue that holds all of us together, & also unfortunately, the last remaining family member of his generation.

It’s been a long time, practically forever, since my entire family has all gathered together in Northern California. I’m extremely excited to be celebrating with all of them, & kind of excited to show off my most beloved & gloriously decorated Christmas tree. I can’t wait for the festivities to begin (which will be just a few short days away), but until then, here is just a little taste of my household’s holiday decorations:

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I love my Starbucks advent tree. I fill it each year with chocolate coins. My nephew & niece love discovering all of the chocolates inside.

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Per our American traditions, we put a festive wreath on our front door that lights up with LED lights. The Asian part of us has us scratching our heads as to why Americans put up decorations that represent funerals during a happy occasion?

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I got this pop-up Christmas card many years ago when I was in Japan. I never use it as a card. Instead I use it as simple decoration for our fireplace mantle. It’s also a nod to my nephew who loved Santa Claus when he was younger.

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I bought this laser cut village scene at Crate & Barrel, but it looked too plain just being bare wood. So I ended up bling-ing it out with plastic rhinestones from the craft store for some added color.

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This laser cut ‘NOEL’ sign was part of a Christmas card set I bought while I was in Japan. I also just use this mainly for decorating purposes. It’s not too big or small to fit right on the table next to our second front door.

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This year is the first year ever that we put up string lights on the front facade of our house. With our awkward Eichler home roofline & sloping driveway, plus our rickety ladder, it was a real b*tch to string up.

HERE IS THE PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE!!! THE TREE………

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I still continue to add new ornaments to the tree every year. However, each year I have to decide which ornaments of Christmas past have to stay in storage for one more holiday in order to keep the tree looking balanced & not overcrowded.

Well, that’s all I have to say about that. This is the end of my post, & I am now off to prepare for the onslaught of guests & holiday parties. Until the next post, Happy Holidays everyone!

Today’s song of the day:

 

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WHO: 99 Things That Bring Me Joy

WHAT: (19) Your all-time favorite meal, (20) Your go-to snacks


Finally I get to write again after going through a few days without power or mobile phone reception! Yes, I live in Northern California. Yes, I was affected by the mandatory rolling power outages, but, no, I do not live near any of the areas affected by the crazy wildfires. However, since I do live in the Bay Area, we are being affected by the wildfires with all of the smoke & haze blanketing our region from the major wildfire in the Sonoma-wine county area. This past weekend I had no cell signal, no power, but at least we had clean running water. In my city, we were supposed to experience a second rolling power outage this week, but thankfully the mandatory power outages are over. I can now get back to making lists about the foods I like to eat.

Thankfully these next two lists from the 99 Things That Bring Me Joy journal are the last food-related topics in the long line of lists. So, I have decided to squeeze them both into one blog post. Honestly, I don’t even know why I am even bothering to write about these next two food topics; they are so clichéd & redundant. However, because I like to do things in order, like not skipping pages of a book (in this case, a book of lists), I will not skip these two topics.


This next topic wants me to discuss my all-time favorite meal. How am I supposed to choose one favorite meal (of all-time)?! I know I can be real loosey-goosey on this topic & rattle off a small list of my top [Insert Numerical Quantity Here] favorite meals, but it’s difficult for me to even come up with a couple of favorites to throw into a randomized list. Now that I’ve learned to appreciate food flavors & have found a mild interest in cooking, I’ve grown to love many meals & dishes.

There is one meal that comes to mind that is the most memorable, but not exactly my all-time favorite. Whilst my dad was still around, I used to have a yearly birthday tradition of going to dinner with my parents at our favorite well known restaurant, & I would always order the same dish: Maine lobster tail with steamed vegetables & rice pilaf. I ordered this dish every single time we ate at this restaurant (birthday or not), & it became such a tradition for me that everyone in my family associated me & my love for eating lobster. The subject of eating this lobster dish pops up every year around my birthday, which makes it a very memorable & delicious meal.

Then again, I definitely have other non-bougie favorites as well. As for my basic all-time favorite meal, I would have to say it’s a sandwich. I grew up eating sandwiches for lunch when I was bringing brown bag, homemade lunches to school every day. So the sandwich has become a staple food on my overall favorites list. But what type of sandwich do I like best? A turkey, Swiss cheese & avocado sandwich is a tasty treat. I will also stuff a club sandwich into my pie hole (a.k.a. my mouth). I would partake in a warm & crispy reuben sandwich as well.

However, there are three sandwich types that are on my all-time top favorites list.

  1. Avocado & cream cheese on white bread sandwich: Yes, this sounds very fatty & creamy, but it’s also very simple & delicious AF! I can’t even begin to describe how delicious this basic 2 condiment sandwich is, but I just love the pairing of cream cheese & sliced avocados. I discovered this sandwich combo during my college days at a local delicatessen near my house. I once ate this exact sandwich combo every day for one whole week. It sounds disgusting, but it was a fantastic lunch week for me. This sandwich is both healthy (the avocado!) & unhealthy (the cream cheese!), & I don’t get to eat this that often, but when I do, I savor every single bite. I have made this sandwich at home a couple of times, but it’s just not the same as getting one from my local delicatessen.
  2. Roast beef on sourdough bread sandwich: This has to be my top sandwich combination. I will usually order this sandwich combo at whichever eating establishment sells sandwiches if it’s available. My favorite place to grab a roast beef sandwich is at the deli counter inside Whole Foods. When I’m there, I will load up my sandwich with lots of red onions, lots of mixed greens (sometimes I’ll add arugula too), a spread of garlic aioli (which is a fancy-schmancy term for garlic mayo), & extra Swiss cheese. It’s also gotta be on sliced sourdough bread. I’m from the San Francisco (adjacent) region of the Bay Area, so I have to give props to our world famous sourdough bread, & by the way, my go-to cheese in sandwiches is Swiss cheese. I prefer it over gruyere, jack, or cheddar. As you can see, I like to put things in my sandwiches that make my breath stink all day.
  3. French dip sandwich with au jus: This has got to be one of the more messier sandwiches I have ever eaten in my life, but it is totally worth it. I love the simplicity of this sandwich: lots of thinly sliced beef, a French roll, & a hearty bowl of au jus that tastes so good you’ll want to drink it like a soup. Dipping the savory sandwich in the au jus sauce is a must. For a meat lover such as myself, I thoroughly enjoy this meat extravaganza whenever I order this sandwich, but since I am also a “neat freak”, I simultaneously hate it when the dipping sauce drips all over my hands (especially when the roll gets soggy!). One of my favorite places to eat this French dip sandwich is at the world renowned Philippe The Original sandwich shop in Los Angeles, home of the original French dip sandwich recipe. I have only eaten at that shop once, but I am looking forward to eating at that shop again soon. Maybe I can try to convince Jian to take me there again when we visit Los Angeles again for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The next topic is about my go-to snacks. Recently, I have been trying to be more health conscious, so I am trying to not snack so much, especially between meals. However, I am very much like my mother in this category, & we both like to snack on little treats around the house. This is just one habit I cannot give up. It doesn’t help for the fact that my mom loves to buy tons of snack foods, & so we have a huge cupboard filled with crackers, chips/crisps, roasted nuts, a variety of Asian treats, chocolates, & lots of random cookies.

There was a time in recent years where my mom & I were addicted to snacking on roasted sunflower seeds. There was this Chinese brand of roasted sunflower seeds that we really liked & would practically stockpile during our grocery trips. Let me tell you, cracking the shells of sunflower seeds just to get to the teeny-tiny crunchy bit in the center is so mundane & repetitive, but it quickly becomes addictive, especially when you’re sitting in front of the telly with a piping hot cuppa tea or your favorite ice cold beverage.

When I was a kid, I didn’t like to eat candy or very many other junky foods. My favorite things to snack on were apple sauce & fruit strips. My favorite kind of fruit strips were called Fruit Roll-UpsFruit-by-the-Foot. My mom would buy these in bulk at the big box wholesale store, & I would pack one everyday in my lunch bag for school. Like I’ve said before, I was a very boring eater when I was a kid. Oh yeah, & I also loved eating pre-packaged fruit cups then drinking the very bad for you, nothing but high fructose corn syrup, juice in the fruit cup.

These days, with my more refined & matured pallet, I’ve outgrown these childish snacks & have upgraded to more sophisticated snacks like marcona almonds, sea salt & vinegar crisps/chips, & artisan cheeses. I will occasionally indulge in sweeter snacks like cookies (my two favorite brands at the moment are DounsemorBiscoff) & chocolate squares. However, I am trying to be more health conscious, & I am actively trying to not snack so much between meals. I used to snack on little things here & there all the time, & it just made me feel hungrier than if I were to restrict myself from filling my stomach with wasted junk calories.

I think I am doing a pretty good job at restricting myself from snacking in between meals. I am eating better & healthier during my main meals, & it has been curbing my cravings for nibbling on junk food. I have also stopped filling my kitchen pantry with random snacks & junk. It’s hard to transition to this healthier lifestyle, especially for a person like myself who has a major sweet tooth & a ravenous appetite for carb-filled foods, but once you build up a routine, then it just becomes like a natural habit to stay away from the junky snacks.

have gone back to eating fruit strips again, but I don’t buy the big box labels with the high sugar content anymore. I have learned to look at the labels & read the ingredients. I try to buy the brands that contain less sugar & more natural/organic ingredients, & even though I have gone back to buying one of my childhood favorite treats, I have noticed that I don’t reach for it as often as I used to. Those snacks are still there in my pantry cupboard, but I am not constantly reaching for it, which I take as a small sign of positive progress.

So, there you have it. I have concluded my blog posts about food. Even though I have talked so much about favorite foods & flavors & go-to snacks, I don’t feel that hungry. In fact, I am ready to move on to the next topic. Well, until next time, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

wet-def

It’s been raining more than a lot in my city. It’s not just rain, but full on storms with bouts of hail, lightning, thunder, & gusty winds. Even though many of the cities around me are experiencing nasty sinkholes, landslides, flooding & falling trees, I’m still glad &/or grateful that I’m not living anywhere east of the Colorado Rockies. I’m much more accustomed to braving the torrential rain & chilly wind rather than the snow & artic temperatures.

Even though this winter’s rainy season (due to a Pineapple Express weather system) is completely soaking my region & making my area waterlogged, I’m really enjoying the weather. The days are wet & soggy. The nights are absolutely frosty cold (but certainly not as cold as the mid-west), but I’m happy as a clam sitting indoors by my cozy fireplace with a nice hot cup of coffee.

This brings me to my newly chosen favorite word. As you can clearly see, I’ve chosen the word ‘wet’ in homage to the weather forecast in my area. Hey guys, guess what? California is not always full of sunny days, with skimpy bikini-clad women lounging on a palm tree-lined beach. We can have very cold & gloomy days too.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve had to use an electric heating device to warm up my bed at night. When I was a kid & had to share a bedroom with my sister, we even shared a bed (it was a queen size). I vividly remember we used to have a powder blue electric blanket on our bed, & I liked to play with the temperature control buttons on the cord. I loved that electric blanket so much. When you turned the setting all the way up to the highest setting (the red button), it really made the bed super hot, so we could only use the low & medium settings (the yellow & orange buttons). That shows how powerful our electric blanket from the 1980s really was.

I also remember that my dad didn’t like it when we used the electric part of the blanket because in those days, the electric wires were sewn into the blanket (you could feel the wires zig-zagging throughout the blanket) in between the layers, & the blanket itself was made of material that, in today’s standard, would be considered highly flammable. My dad was always paranoid that we would leave the electric blanket on all night, & it would short circuit & catch fire while we were sleeping. Every time we used the electric blanket, my dad would get upset & lecture us on the dangers of flammable objects. We finally got rid of that electric blanket when it once-and-for-all died on us in the late 90s.

These days I use an old lady’s heating pad that I bought at Walgreens to heat up my bed, or should I say only my side of the bed. I wouldn’t dare use an entire heating blanket. That would roast Jian (the very warm-blooded person) alive. Any small temperature spike, & Jian will feel overly warm & uncomfortable. That’s one of the main reasons why he likes to drink iced beverages, even in these 40-ish degree (farenheit) weather. It’s also another reason why I never ask him advice on what weather-appropriate clothes to wear when we go out. Jian’s standard reply whenever I ask him whether or not I should wear a warmer jacket is always, “It’s not really cold outside. You don’t need a thick jacket. You could just wear a vest & be warm enough.” Then, I stupidly take his advice, grabbing a thinner jacket & end up freezing my buns off, regretting not wearing the warmer jacket I was debating on wearing in the first place. So, I basically wrote all of this inconsiquential, unimportant nonsense just to say that I heat up my side of the bed with a small old lady’s heating pad so that Jian’s side of the bed doesn’t get too hot for his comfort.

It’s still raining on-&-off as I’m writing this blog post. I’ve got my jazz playlist on Spotify turned on, & I just finished my large cup of coffee. It’s super wet outside, & I’m toasty warm, dry, & cozy inside my house. I’m excited that my second brother has come home for the weekend to celebrate my mom’s birthday. My oldest brother & his family is coming over later today for a hot pot party. It’s time for me to go & get ready for all the fun festivities… & food! Until next time, cheers!

P.S. Please, please, pretty please follow me &/or my playlists on Spotify.

Today’s song of the day:

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