My idea of the quintessential birthday party doesn’t necessarily mandate a towering 3-layer cake. Mainly because every time I try to bake one, all I seem to create is a very tasty mess of sorts. So, instead, I resort to marinating meat. Lots of it. Short ribs, the Korean way, to be exact.
Because my idea of the perfect birthday party consists of just 3 things: a family of friends, perfect weather, and a beach barbecue. All of which I happily had (and then some) at my birthday last week.
Life is a lot like running. In high school, I used to be my cross country team’s captain. At my school, the high school cross country team was open to middle school students and I remember running my very first 5km race in the cool Autumn breeze of the 8th grade. At the time, I was oblivious to the necessary training and immense mental strength primarily involved in finishing a race. I figured I was young, agile, and fit enough to instantly become one of the faster runners. Plus, I had my lucky pair of running shoes on. Sadly, I was terribly mistaken. I recall sprinting at the starting line to get a head start and consequently shifting between brisk walks, quick spurts, and sluggish jogs. When I finally reached the finish line, there weren’t many people there. I thought it was because I was one of the first to finish. In my exhausted state, I had been completely unaware of the people that had zoomed and zipped passed right in front of me. Finish time: 46 minutes. Wow, I thought, I must be fast. For all I knew, running was a cinch.
I was so wrong. To my later embarrassment and horror, I found out that I had been one of the stragglers – the slowpokes. But instead of getting discouraged and quitting, I continued going to practice 4 times a week and races every Saturday – even if it was only to get my face so red that it looked like a gleaming ripe tomato. Or, to get that adrenaline rush that made my legs numb at the sight of the awaiting crowd and finish line. Slowly, but surely, I improved. I became faster. I started running without needing to stop or take walking breaks. Over the next few years and after countless practices and very many races, I trimmed my 5km time down to a solid 23 minutes 34 seconds. I realized that running, like life, came down to persevering, putting mind over matter, and finding the right pace.Each year is like a race. Last year, I thought valiantly to myself, 2011 is going to be a great year. It’s going to be my year, my race. With a strong finish to the Fall semester of 2010 and an out-of-state, or off-island, vacation awaiting me at the finish line, I rushed into 2011 at a sprint. Needless to say, it wasn’t everything I’d predicted not to mention, everything I’d hoped for. My hasty beginning left me winded. It led me to struggle yet again between brisk walks, quick spurts, and sluggish jogs. But it was, without a doubt in my mind, monumental. 2011 was a year of many; 2011 was when my blog started getting more recognition from those around me, I got promoted to a job that highlights my strengths and strengthens my weaknesses, I went through a heartwrenching break up that eventually unfolded into a rare, once-in-a-lifetime kind of friendship, I moved into a new apartment with
2… 3… I mean, 4 fun-loving & amazing roommates, I ditched school religiously, I had my share of “drama,” I found love (which I’m admittedly still learning to accept) in what literally was a hopeless place, I quit my 3-year hostessing job at the same restaurant, I worked full-time in high-end, luxury retail, I moved again, I graduated with honors (miraculously), and then – for the first time in 4 years – I returned to Korea and was briefly reunited with my family. It was the race in which I stopped and stalled, time and time again. I even took a number of short-cuts and detours that only resulted in my delayed arrival at the finish line. I persevered, but crawled like a beginner, gasping and panting, to the end of 2011. Continue reading
The apartment is still a mess, albeit now deemed “home.”
All I really see are empty cardboard boxes lying around in a not-so-neat pile off to the corner, unopened garbage bags of who-knows-whose kitchenware, and wrinkled articles of clothing strewn over the vast beige carpet floor. It just wouldn’t be appropriate of me to humiliate myself (or my wonderful roommates) by publicly displaying photos of our self-inflicted, at-home chaos. At least, not yet. I do, however, have photos of my first meal cooked within my new kitchen! Despite the literal, physical clutter and mental, emotional disarray, I felt my first surge of untarnished happiness and elation. With the counter top cleaned and most of my ingredients mise en place, I stationed myself in front of the cutting board, knife in hand, to chop my first onion, making my eyes water. Though I don’t normally find onion-chopping nor tear-jerking moments (of any sort) very pleasurable, I embraced it joyfully. In that moment, being blinded by the streaming tears that stung my eyes was the most comfort I felt in days, weeks even. With all the changes any move brings, this one in particular held so many implications for me: a deepened sense of independence that I hold yet consistently yearn for, a reunion of old friends, new friends, and past roommates, and the often times heart-wrenching process of letting go to move on, to grow.
And to think, all this from one onion, eh? Continue reading
There’s something I find intoxicating about tomatoes in the summer. They’re supple, juicy, tender, vibrant, crisp, and everything a tomato should be. I’ve loved tomatoes for as long as I can remember. I adore them in sliced form, sweetly sandwiched between deli meats and cheeses, all bundled together within two layers of fresh bread. I rejoice in finding them within salads, nestled between the smooth and subtle ridges of iceberg lettuce. You’ll never see me resist from having a really hearty tomato soup or sauce. And you can bet that on a cool, but sunny summer day, a wonderfully roasted tomato bruschetta (with all its warm yet refreshing flavors) is something I pine for.
Especially when this summer day involves a whole lot of moving around! My previous roommate and I have decided once again that we belong under the same roof. In fact, we’ve also come to the conclusion that another coworker/friend was destined to live with us, too. So, amidst all the apartment-hunting, box-packing, and furniture-shopping, having a piece of crusty french bread topped with a savory tomato, basil, garlic, and parmesan bruschetta is the perfect breath of fresh air. Not to mention, so is the view from our gorgeous apartment. Pictures coming soon!
The good kind, that is. Actually, the negative connotations of that simple phrase momentarily eluded me until it was brought to my attention. Get your mind out of the gutter, kids.
Anyway, as I sort of mentioned in my first entry, I have an anxious compilation of pictures from my eating excursions as well as cooking combats (with my kitchen, at least) awaiting their debut. Hence, the next several blogs may not be in chronological order. Nevertheless, they will be as thorough and enticing as possible. The objective here is obviously to make your mouth water. Now this, this is a given. But, what I really want to get my readers to do is to become more conscious of their consumable surroundings regardless of city, state or country and to enjoy the simple joys of their very own kitchen.
Speaking of kitchen, mine is regularly messy because no matter how hard I try to maintain its cleanliness, the cooking (or eating) never seems to end. For instance, this Sloppy Joe (as pictured above) got me and my friends sloppy for seconds. Even though it wasn’t made from scratch, the adjustments that were made here and there made it undeniably good. I encourage you to try it!