Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Extreme Home Makeover -- or just extreme

So, I'm now almost firmly resettled in what will be my home for the conceivable future in Arizona. Or if I ever move, it will still be tethered to me. These past few days have been really crazy and amazing. I feel like I've been on a wild ride since I closed on this condo-townhouse on July 31. But this past Friday-Sunday, thanks to some awesome friends (a luxury I never thought I'd find in Arizona), I not only moved in just about all my stuff including furniture--bed, desk, futon--but we painted the entire living room--the hardest room to complete! I use "we" loosely. It seems like everyone but me did some heavy-lifting.

So, here's the living room all barren and you can see part of the step ladder. Everything was white, of course.

Here's my lovely friend Meghanne applying misty violet paint around that same living room.

One of the few times I did the painting, it was for my "accent wall" (I love saying that). The color is raspberry mousse but it looks more like eggplant.

My friends Alyson and Kathleen (Meghanne's mom) try their best to clear the potential booby traps by organizing my kitchen ware.

The above pictures are all from Saturday. By Sunday afternoon we had accomplished this in the living room (you may not be able to see the misty violet in this lighting):

Accent wall (yah!):

I think it looks much better with black framed furniture. It's still barren because I haven't been able to shop, put out other furniture, etc. I plan to get an accent rug and some floor pillows. I want an area ready for entertaining, chatting and I don't want the TV to anchor the room. Anyway, now, it's onto the master bedroom, bathrooms and finding a new dining table set. Also I'm super excited that I have left a wall downstairs blank for a friend of mine in Tucson (thanks chica!) who has offered to paint me my own mural behind where the dining table would go. Not sure what it will be but the theme will be around something I love--eating and how good food tastes better with good friends and family.

I get moved every time I think about what my friends here have done for me--the time and energy they spent. My California friends and family should be reassured that I'm not as alone/lonely as I used to feel when I first moved out here. Anyway, I will be studying back issues of Real Simple, DIY (Do It Yourself) magazine and Nate Berkus' last book as I continue on my home decor journey. Finally, I think I've reached the "getting excited" part that homeowners keep talking about.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Vacation Diaries

Arrived back in Phoenix last night. Am now trying to recap my nine lovely days away from the heat before all the little details slip away like sand in my fingers. I'll try not to go on too long but there really were some highlights. Warning--there are some of an explicit nature, LOL.

So, I arrived in Toronto on a Friday night. Spent two hours in all at the airport, first trying to find my mom and Aunt Linda, then waiting for their luggage. It's lovely to travel with older relatives, HA. You get to see the adults interact as siblings more with the occasional eye-roll or cajoling.

Anywho, I got to reconnect with our distant relatives at my cousin Marcelo's wedding (our relationship is something like my grandma's dad and his grandpa's dad were brothers). My mom and I bonded with them when we vacationed in Sao Paulo, where they live, in 2007. Then Marcelo moved to Toronto shortly after and met his now-wife Iris, who is really cool. Some fun parts of my Toronto leg:

_ None of Marcelo's relatives came for his wedding because they either lived in Brazil or China. Marcelo's dad was soooo happy that the three of us came; he called us his honored guests (aw). At the night time wedding banquet, we were actually seated at the bride and groom's table (!) and introduced to the entire room. BTW, most efficient and intimate Chinese wedding banquet I've ever been to. They scaled it down to 50 guests spread over six tables. We started eating only half an hour late which is really good for one of these banquets!

_Their wedding cake:

_Hearing a bunch of Chinese Canadians say "aboot" instead of "about" and "eh?"
_Eating really good Chinese food almost daily including congee (rice porridge) with fried dough (mmm...). In Phoenix, I can count the decent Chinese restaurants on one hand. Toronto has a sizeable Chinatown as well as lots of Chinese restaurants in the surrounding suburbs, which is where we stayed. Having choice was really nice.
_Going to dim sum with Aunt Linda's in-laws. I met my Uncle (by marriage) Godfrey's relatives. It was cute to see Godfrey's brother Felix has the exact same laugh, LOL. Near the end of the meal, I saw some guy with glasses come over with a foam takeout container. I asked my mom "Why is Uncle Felix letting random people take our food?" "That's his son, Frances!!" Oops...we laughed about that for a while. I didn't realize the table next to us was all his kids and their significant others. I made my way over and introduced myself. It was kind of strange...I was basically meeting all of my cousin Alvin's cousins on his dad's side and he wasn't there. On the other hand...he wasn't there to stop me from talking about him, harhar. Kidding, I just told them the story about how Alvin and Jen met through me and started hanging out. And I heard numerous choruses from relatives who had met Jen how much they liked her and the two seemed like the perfect couple .
_Niagara on the Lake. If you go to Niagara Falls, set aside more time to go 20km away to Niagara on the Lake. Heavenly landscape on Earth. I seriously want to go back some day.
_Taking the ferry from downtown Toronto to Centre Island. There was seven of us _ me, Marcelo, Iris, Marcelo's sister Alexandra, mom, and Marcelo's parents. We split up into two quadraped bicycles. I got to steer. Apparently the Asian driver stereotype can be true for bikes too. I lost control and all Mom heard was "Ouch!Ouch!Ouch!OUCH!" before I crashed our bike into a bush. Sigh...

So, I was pretty sad when I had to say goodbye to everyone after spending so much time with them. Luckily, it's really hard to dwell on stuff when you are in NYC. Once upon a time, I lived there and this was the first time I'd been there since 2002. I wish I had known someone like my friend Bao then. He was an awesome host. He made me take his bed in his tiny Manhattan studio in the Village and he slept on the floor. A culinary school grad as of two months ago, he knew all the best places to eat. We sometimes hit three different restaurants in one evening. I've never eaten like that.

Out of my five days in New York, these are some of the memories that will stick out:

_Accidentally stumbling upon Baked by Melissa. Melissa is this woman who sells mini cupcakes out of a window on a street in Soho. They are all elaborate flavors like S'mores, PB & Jelly, Reeses and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. It's like the universe knew what I'd like, LOL.

_Eating on average a cupcake a day.
_Getting a hug from the owner of BabyCakes NYC, a bakery that sells gluten free cupcakes. I had interviewed her for my frosting shots story last year.
_Eating steamed pork buns, soft boiled egg, mussels and Foccacia bread made with diced pieces of lop churn (Chinese sausage) at Momofuku Ssam Bar. Following this meal with dessert at Chikalicious which included an amuse (dessert starter) of orange sorbet with caramel gelee, then corn ice cream in cherry soup with corn meal pound cake and petit fours. Then following that--keep in mind this is still the same night--with splitting lamb short ribs, Beaujolais sausage on lentils and Yankee burger at DBGB.
_Seeing Drew Barrymore and Justin Long all cozy in a secluded booth at DBGB.
_Going to dinner with Bao and three of his friends. Here's a key difference hanging out with gay guys v. straight guys. I brought a slice of banana cake with hazelnuts and gianduja fudge for dessert to share. The piece was halfway gone and I said "Who's going to help me finish it?" Nobody raised one fork.
"Oh sure, leave it to the straight girl!"
So, Bao let out a big sigh and picked up his fork and took a little bite and that was it. His friend started laughing really hard, "What was that? Like the gay charity bite?"
_After post-dinner drinks at a sake and Boba place, we split up and Bao and I went to meet one of his other friends, a producer at NBC Nightly News and two of his NBC colleagues at a gay bar called, ironically, The Phoenix. After 25 minutes, Bao's friend decided it was time to move on to another gay bar. As a straight woman, I decided to go with the flow and look at it as an exchange student observing another culture. We go to this gay bar called The Hose . Bao, BTW, was nice enough to pay my cover charge. He thought it was unfair I was getting dragged into a gay bar. We walk in and the first things I see are a guy wearing only a G-string with his butt cheeks hanging out dancing around a pole and he's got plenty of bills stuffed in already and a hardcore gay porn movie being projected on the wall behind him. I turned to Bao and said "OK, officially my gayest night. Ever."
One of the NBC guys, a producer for "Dateline," was all worried about me being exposed to this. I guess I still look like some little innocent girl, LOL. He offered me his bar stool so that my back would be to all of that stuff. I just said "Warn me if something flops out behind me." It gets better...some guy in nothing but very tight briefs who is supposedly an actor in the movie being screened is helping to hand out promotional DVDs complete with a complimentary key chain that contains a very long tape measure. This guy was weird. He was being touchy-feely with a lot of people--including me. He acted like I was the weird one when I tried to swat him away from getting thisclose to me. I'm like "Dude, I'm not even your type, LOL." Anyway, he finally left me alone. Weirdo.
Before we left, Bao's friend pleaded with me to take the DVD home to give to his pal who is a reporter at The Arizona Republic. For a split second, I considered it as a gag gift for a gay couple I know in Phoenix. But then I immediately excised the idea. I could just picture my baggage getting picked for a random check at the airport. And how fricking mortifying would it be for a TSA screener to find "Straight, Hot and Broke: Vol. 1" in my luggage?
_Walking with Bao to his salon appointment. When we get there, I look around the street..."Is that a fire station across the street?"
"Oh, I guess it is."
"I'll be going for a walk while you get your hair cut."
It was an impressive firehouse--four stories at least. Nobody was there. So, I walked around the West Village. Then when I came back to meet Bao, I saw a fire captain and a couple of guys standing outside talking. I couldn't not try to say hi...

_Eating at Doughnut Plant. Yes, the theme here is eating or rather...Terry needs to go back to normal eating. But I don't know of any doughnut place where you can get creme brulee, tres leches or lavender doughnuts. Mmm...Homer Simpson would be in heaven.
_Falling back in love with New York--except for the cost of living, LOL. Actually am glad to be back in Phoenix. Vacationing is awesome but it's not a realistic lifestyle for most of us. Just a break from what is real.