Feb 032013

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted.  Sorry about that.  It’s been a whirlwind of visiting home for the holidays and hectic craziness at work.  Last I wrote I was about to take off for the US for the holidays.  Mike and I spent 6 days in LA, 6 days in Chicago, and 1 night in DC for a wedding.  That last travel day was horrendous: DC to LA, 6 hour layover in LA, LA to London, 8 hour layover in London, London to Dar, 6 hour layover in Dar, then finally Dar to Nairobi.  Whew!  We were beat.

But here are some of the highlights from our visit home.

We got to spend a half day in NYC because we had to spend 1 night there due to our flight layover on the way back home.  This was really nice because it broke up our flights a bit and we got to see NYC at one of my favorite times: Christmas!  It was freezing and we didn’t have our cold weather gear with us, so we were lucky enough to borrow some things for the day since we were staying at my brother’s apartment.  Early morning, we took the subway to Grand Central and walked along 5th avenue to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and the beautiful windows at Bergdorf’s.  They always have the best windows!

Visiting the Tree

Visiting the Tree

Fantasmical Bergdorf Holiday Windows

Fantasmical Bergdorf Holiday Windows

It was funny that after being away for so long, we definitely had moments that lit us up, like: Starbucks!  Egg sandwiches with manchego and chorizo from the market!  Subways!  Oh New York, how I love thee.

Then it was off to LA, where the jet lag hit us pretty bad for about half the week.  LA is always busy packed because I have a lot of relatives and friends to see.  You can bet that every meal is planned!  It was all about what do we want to eat that we can’t get in Nairobi.  For us, that’s Asian food and sushi.  They have it here, but it’s nowhere close.  So we went to the usuals, Cho Dang for soon dubu (Korean tofu stew), Nozomi for the uni bowl (sea urchin sushi), Din Tai Fung for soup dumplings, and of course home cooked food for Christmas.

Mom and Eric Noshing on Korean BBQ

Mom and Eric Noshing on Korean BBQ

It was nice to walk around Hermosa Beach one night and we got to see an amazing sunset.  The ocean was jet black and the sun was already down, but the horizon was still lit up with orange.  It was surreal being at the end of the pier and staring into the blackness.  It was unusually clear that day, not a cloud in the sky.

Beautiful Hermosa Beach Pier After Sunset

Beautiful Hermosa Beach Pier After Sunset

After LA, we headed to Chicago to see Mike’s family.  Matt and Sue moved into a gorgeous new home so that was really fun to see and they a kitchen that is to die for.  We especially loved seeing our niece and nephew, Hailey and Mitchell.  Aren’t they the cutest?

Cutest Niece and Nephew Ever

Cutest Niece and Nephew Ever

Since it was freezing in Chicago, we didn’t much outdoors, but Mike and I went on mall walks with his mom and dad at the huge Gurnee Mills outlets.  It was pretty hilarious because Mike kept trying to cut corners.  New Year’s Eve, Matt and Sue had some friends over and we cooked a huge feast of lobsters and steak.  We saved the lobster shells to make some stock, and had some delicious lobster risotto the following day.  I used this recipe and added 1/3 cup cream and shredded Parmesan cheese at the end.  Also added asparagus and mushrooms to give it some good texture.  So yum.

Chicago Fam

Chicago Fam

One really fun activity we did was going to Hailey’s school to collect chicken eggs.  Her school has a farm on the grounds where the kids can volunteer to help take care of it.  Hailey loves egg collecting, so we were lucky to have her show us the ropes.  You go into the chicken coop and reach in to collect the eggs on the shelves.  Then there’s a whole process of how you clean the eggs and check for any cracks with a light.  Was such a unique experience and we brought home some freshly laid eggs.  In total, we packed 98 eggs into cartons!  And that was the second collection of the day too.

Farmer for a Day!

Farmer for a Day!

After Chicago, we did a whirlwind 24 hours in DC for one of Mike’s college friend’s wedding.  Was fun to see his William & Mary friends and of course we always love going to weddings.

After that, it was time to head on the plane for the long long journey back.  It was so nice to be home though and we miss our friends and family very much!

 February 3, 2013  Posted by at 5:16 pm California, Chicago, Illinois, Los Angeles Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Sep 132012

It seems when you grow up somewhere, you don’t really appreciate the beauty of it until you come back after being gone for a long time.  For almost my entire childhood, I grew up next to amazing scenery and took it for granted.  But now, older and wiser, every time come back after running errands I’m oohing and aahing over the spectacular ocean views.

Oftentimes, Mike and I will go for a walk by the ocean, either by Terranea or by the Oceanfront neighborhood.  If you follow Hawthorne Blvd all the way to the ocean, Oceanfront is where you’ll end up.  There are a couple of lots and we’ll walk along the path to the lighthouse.  I love the smell of the native plants–it’s so familiar to me.  I like to call it “coastal shrubbery.” It’s got that faint hint of herbal citrus.

I just ordered a travel tripod so we went to test it out on the cliff views!  I was pretty excited since I had been wanting one for a long time and to get those super sharp photos, it’s better to have a tripod and a wireless remote shutter release.  I decided on the Slik Sprint Pro II Tripod, it’s lightweight and an affordable price.  So far I’ve taken it around a few times and everything works great.  The true test will be bringing it on an extended hike.

Here are some of the shots from our walk along the cliffs:

Palos Verdes Cliffs

Cliff Views Along Oceanfront Path

Palos Verdes Lighthouse

Palos Verdes Lighthouse

Palos Verdes Scenic Lookout

Scenic Viewpoint from Hawthorne Blvd

Sep 112012

My mom and Eric often go hiking in the Malibu Canyons on the weekend, so Mike and I went along with them one weekend on one of their favorite hikes: Solstice Canyon.  The trailhead and parking lot is located off of Corral Canyon Rd off of PCH 1 (make a right if you’re going north from LA).  The small parking lot fills up pretty quickly so we parked about a 5 min walk away when we arrived at 10:30am.  Not too bad.

The trail is pretty easy, there is a loop trail option, but we took the out-and-back Solstice Canyon trail since it was blazing hot and getting close to lunch time. 😉  Here’s a link to the trail map.

Hiking Up Solstice Canyon Trail

It wasn’t a very long hike, but we did stay for a while at the waterfall where you can scramble on some boulders.

Eric and Mike Climbing the Boulders

The waterfall is at the end up the stairs beyond the deserted Roberts Ranch (a really neat old burnt down mansion with some of the antique stoves still in place–Thermador brand, fancy stuff!).   There were a bunch of fruit trees growing around the home, including banana trees and lime trees.  We took a keepsake lime and had it in some beer later, shhh…

Old Fireplace/Kitchen of Roberts Ranch

It was a beautiful day with gorgeous blue skies and even better with NY style pizza slices at D’Amore’s afterwards.

What’s funny is after doing so many hikes/treks on our Asia Trip, Mike and I have noticed that we notice the little things a lot more now.  It could be an interesting plant, different animals, or just the smallest cool detail.  We’ve really found a great appreciation for the little things!

Gold Leaf Remains

Delicate Web

Aug 272012

Ever since I got back from our Asia trip, I’ve been reminiscing about all the delicious food we had in China.  One of our favorite spots was in Xian, where we ate almost every night in he Muslim Quarter.  They are known for a dish there called pao mo, which is a noodle soup, usually with lamb.  It includes tiny cubes of bread torn up to soak up with tasty lamb broth.  I had never had anything like it!

So now that we’re back in LA, I was on the hunt for some pao mo.  I searched on Yelp, and Shaanxi Gourmet came up in the results in Rosemead, about an hour northeast of us.   My mom wanted to check out the dragonboat races in nearby Whittier so I thought that was a perfect chance to hit up this place for lunch!

Shaanxi Gourmet was in a small strip mall plaza and parking was packed on that Saturday!  We couldn’t find a spot so we parked on the street half a block away.  The restaurant looked new and clean and was a decent size with two rooms for seating.  We ordered 2 bowls of pao mo, 1 lamb and 1 beef.  To start, we had ma la lian pi, which is a cold rice noodle with hot chili oil.  It came with some cubes of tofu and we devoured that.  SO GOOD.  Then we got the rou bao, which is a lamb meat bun.  That was good too, but not my favorite.  Then the massive bowls of pao mo came out.  And they were massive!  We couldn’t finish it all so we took some home.  It even came with a small plate of pickled garlic, just like in Xian.  The lamb and beef bowls were both good, but I preferred the lamb.  Great flavor and definitely pretty close to the real deal in Xian.  Will be a repeat for sure. In the end, it was one of those blistering hot days in LA, so with a belly full of pao mo, we ditched the dragonboat races and went home happy. =)

Hearty Pao Mo Noodles



Aug 262012

After 3 awesome weeks in Chicago, we returned home to LA. And it definitely was not fun returning to the scene of the crime when we picked up our rental car…

Anyway, Mike has gotten into running in the past year.  Actually, he was inspired after we saw our amazing friend run the NYC marathon and we ran after her with signs and cheered here on at 3 different points in the race.  He then ran a 10K in Central Park in preparation for his first big race last October, the half marathon in Central Park.  As luck would have it, it snowed early in October and he ran the whole thing in freezing snow while I cheered him on in my full snowboarding gear.

It was tough to do much training in Chicago since it was so hot and humid, so Mike wasn’t in top shape for this race.  It was a small race, only 12 people for a 10K in Sunset Beach, which is just north of Huntington Beach.  It was a really gorgeous day ending with an even more beautiful sunset (how apropos).  I got to read on the beach while Mike ran his 50 min race.  He finished 2nd!  And even got a medal (everybody got a medal). He’s looking for his next run but I don’t think there are any before we leave in October. =/

Beautiful Run on the Beach

Run, Mike, Run!

Glowing Sunset

Jul 202012

Back in LA, we’ve been making the rounds and visiting old friends.  I guess we’re at that age now where everyone is settling down and buying homes and starting families.  Since Mike and I haven’t gotten quite there yet, I always like to joke to my home-owning friends that they are “real adults” now.  Ha!  No, but it’s so nice to experience that with your friends and support their new families.  We visited last weekend with one of my old dance friends (can you believe I was once in a real deal hip hop group?).  And it just so happened that our old artistic director was visiting in town from NYC as well (funny how so many people I know end up there).  It was really fun catching up on everyone’s latest adventures.  Very inspiring and everyone seemed really happy.  It was a great afternoon in Eagle Rock and I caught some fun pics as the sun was setting.  My friend did an amazing job remodeling her home and I can’t believe her patience in the 1.5 years it took to go through contractors and really complete her vision!  What patience it must have took.  Here’s to growing up and passing life’s milestones!

CultureShock LA Fam

Treat Time

 July 20, 2012  Posted by at 9:05 pm California, Los Angeles Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
Jul 202012

Every time I’m home I try to surf at El Porto in Manhattan Beach, which I guess I consider my “home break.”  It’s a pretty mellow beach break and very consistent. Even when it’s small, it’s still pretty fun.  Usually the first time someone comes, the first thing they see are the Chevron refinery pipe stacks next door and get freaked out. I guess since I’ve been coming for a while, they never really bother me.     It’s just so nice being in the water and I almost always see dolphins.  As I’ve gotten older, I’m a little less die-hard about going surfing all the time.  I used to try to go every day no matter what.  Now…I make excuses like well, it looks gloomy, or it looks choppy.  But once I’m in the water, I always am so glad I paddled out.  I guess getting older either makes you more complacent or lazy or maybe I just don’t like wiping out as much? =)  I was talking with my friend and she hit the nail on the head.  Since I don’t really get to go consistently anymore (having lived in Chicago and then NYC for the last 6 years), every time I go it’s a re-learning process and constantly sucking.  It’s tough.  Surfing is one of those sports where you could surf for years and never be any good.

Luckily, one of my surf buddies was in town (she lives in NYC now too) so it made it that much easier to go out.  It was a gorgeous day and we had such a good time catching up in the water.

Post Surf at El Porto


Jul 172012

The standout place that we’ve eaten at since we’ve been in LA is Nozomi (Carson and Western next to Mitsuwa in Torrance). Why, you ask?  Because they have a huge bowl of uni over rice!!  We love uni so this is the best thing ever.  Usually one piece of uni nigiri (sushi) can run you $7-9, and at Nozomi you can get a huge bowl of it for $20 and it comes with miso soup and ice cream.  Not bad.

Big Bowl of Uni Heaven

The uni was super fresh and tasted amazing.  Mike and I finished our entire bowl.  We will definitely be coming back for more!!

 July 17, 2012  Posted by at 6:15 pm California, Food, Los Angeles Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »