So, I’ve just returned from what was apparently my second trip to Mexico ever — I say apparently because according to my dad, I went to Mexico when I was two, and returned “all sunburned and constipated.” Oh, dads — always there to remind you that you were once as helpless as a sea cucumber and about as intelligent as one too.

At any rate, the Lees included me in their unorthodox Christmas plans of going south of the border, which I found delightful.

At the border, we stopped off to buy Mexican car insurance at a drive-thru insurance place. I don’t really understand how it is that drive-thru insurance is more legitimate than Geico in Mexico, but I suppose one has to make allowances for cultural differences.

After that, we entered Mexico through the extremely stringent border crossing (unmanned toll plaza for cars, revolving gates for pedestrians.)

Even if you didn’t have a huge sign letting you know you had left the country, you’d know from the surroundings as soon as you set foot in Mexico. I was actually really surprised by the immediate and apparent poverty when we crossed the border. Of course, China is also very poor in many areas, but their poverty and Mexican poverty are markedly different. In Mexico, poverty is linked with drugs, crime and large swaths of unemployed folks, whereas China’s poverty is mostly rural, and doesn’t seem to really breed crime. It was pretty interesting to drive through Tiajuana and see the similarities and differences it had to other third world countries I’ve been.

Thankfully, TJ wasn’t our destination — we were headed to Newport, a small lobster village between Rosarita and Ensenada. We arrived at our villa quickly, and it was just lovely! It was right on the edge of the sea cliff, with uninterrupted ocean views where we could watch pelicans, seagulls and dolphins to our hearts’ content.

Shortly after we arrived, we walked to the two-block town for dinner, which was the town’s signature lobster tacos. It was, of course, delicious, and after downing tacos, tortilla soup, chips, beans, rice and margaritas, we retired to relax, sans internet.

The next morning was Christmas. Though the Lees aren’t big Christmas celebrators, I in truth love Christmas and felt a little homesick. So, I fashioned myself a little tree and gave Jeff his presents.

I didn’t have too much time to bemoan the loss of a “real” Christmas though, because we had a busy day of nothing to do.

We wandered into town to peruse the little trinket stalls, and bought some candies at the liquor store. For future reference, don’t eat Jose Cuervo tequila chocolates if you’ve drunk Jose Cuervo before. You will have flashbacks, and for most of us, tequila is a memory we’d rather forget. In fairness, Jeff’s mom thought they were tasty, but consider yourself warned.

The town, though small, was really quirky. I don’t know what sharks and fans have to do with each other, but this was the only statue in town. Did you know that if they stop moving, sharks will die? Something to do with needing air to run through their gills, and I guess that’s kind of like air running through fan blades. Yeah, the statue makes total sense.

This was some graffiti in the town, and I thought it was kind of cute. Can’t you just imagine some thug painting that for his little brother?

Also, this is the logo for the liquor store in town — a man whose beer belly is so large, he has to carry it in a wheel barrow. Seems more American than Mexican to me.

After we exhausted the entertainment value of the town, Jeff, Dave and I walked back to the hotel along the beach, which was adventurous. The town and surrounding areas on set on a cliff that at the lowest point is 20 feet above the beach, so we had to climb down like mountain goats to actually reach the beach. Then, we had a long walk on very slippery, perfectly round, ankle-twisting stones.

All the rocks were perfectly round, great for skipping.

The beach didn’t have too much trash on it, and at least this trash looked like it could be in the MOMA.

Because the beach is so difficult to reach, I found tons of gorgeous sea shells to take home. It was pretty awesome.

After we got home we drove to Ensenada, which was filled with other white people and lots of things to buy. We had a tasty lunch, bought some things, and visited the fish market, which was remarkably odorous. Then we drove home, ready for more dinner and relaxing.

It was a short stay in paradise, but definitely worth the drive. I wish I could wake up to this view every day!

Linus the bandit

These two photos make me happy, because they remind me that even the meekest of creatures can still have his share of wily tricks.

This one is from one of my preferred random photo sites, That dog is totally scoping out eats to steal from the table.

And this is a photo of the Lee family dog Linus, who had in fact stolen a cookie and was reluctant to give it up even after being apprehended.

Of facial hair and flights of fancy

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about facial hair. Not really for myself, but more because Jeff has decided to grow out an imperialist mustache, sort of like this one:

Of course, until he really gets a big handlebar mustache, he has to keep a beard, or he will look like a child molester (see: molestache). After that, he has promised to shave the beard and keep the mustache.

Being the girlfriend of someone with a lot of unruly facial hair can sometimes be a nuisance. Also, the face I fell in love with was hairless and lovely, and I miss it. So, I decided to google the phrase “why facial hair is awesome” to cheer myself up.

Naturally, I came across a website devoted to the World Beard and Moustache Championships. Before we get into the really hairy parts of this genre, let me just show you the USA Beard Team logo:

AMAZING, right?

Anyway, every year a bunch of crazy guys get together and show off their ridiculous beards and mustaches.

Here is a snippet from their website:

The United States is the world’s new facial hair super power, having captured twelve world championship titles out of eighteen categories plus overall at the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Anchorage, Alaska on May 23, 2009. Possessing home field advantage, the USA was able to dethrone Germany which had dominated this competition since its inception.

Hometown favorite and Beard Team USA member David Traver was crowned overall champ, having styled his beard to resemble an Alaska snowshoe which earned him top honors in the freestle full beard category. Meanwhile Germany’s Karl-Heinz Hille’s elaborate moustache earned him second. San Franciscan Jack Passion placed third with his long, red natural beard. The winners took home engraved gold pans.

To me, the ability to grow a large or unique beard isn’t so impressive. In fact, it reminds me of Meg’s power in the Family Guy episode in which the Griffins all get super powers. So now I’m a little curious — what makes these titans of mustache-growing tick?

I suppose one advantage is the $5,000 prize at the championships. Plus, it’s free to join the USA Beard Team, so that’s pretty prestigious. It’s practically the Olympics!

Membership is Beard Team USA is open to everyone.  There are no dues, no applications, and no acceptance process. You don’t even need to have a beard or moustache to join. In fact, there are no known disadvantages to membership.

And, when you think about it, outrageous beards and mustaches have a long and rich history:

President Taft sports a modest yet robust handle-bar mustache.

President Martin Van Buren goes whole-hog with the mutton chops.

Acclaimed director John Waters sports a thin mustache, bordering on molestache.

Artist Salvador Dali shows off his meticulously groomed imperialist mustache.

Insanely hot Hugh Jackman remains hot (gets even hotter?) as wolverine with mutton chops.

If you go to the National Beard Registry, you can learn more.

Many famous and well-known men wore full beards. How did it happen? What does the term ‘clean-shaven’ really mean? Are full beards ‘dirty’? Are we ashamed of our beards? These great men were not ashamed.

All beards are beautiful and worthy of registration. But the majestic and magnificent full and aged beard is the ultimate quest of The National Beard Registry. Like a fingerprint, a year or more of full growth on a man’s face produces a one-of-a-kind appearance that defies trend, pop culture, and media driven conformity. It is a very natural and beautiful symbol of individualism, and honors the self-expressed essence within each man.

I have to say, these mustache enthusiasts make some good points. I hate to admit it, but I’m excited to see how far Jeff decides to take this new facial venture of his.

Hide and Seek

This weekend I indulged finally in an activity I’ve been dreaming about for years — geocaching. Geocaching is basically a treasure hunt game played by geeks with GPS devices, the internet, and a healthy inner child. What you do is go onto a geocaching website and get the coordinates of a treasure someone else had previously hidden. Then, as inconspicuously as possible, you find the treasure using GPS, and log your find online.

Previously, I had dismissed my chances of playing this marvelous game because I don’t have a GPS device, and they are quite expensive. But it suddenly occurred to me that the newer iPhones have GPS, so I commandeered Jeff and his phone for a little trial run on Friday.

To tell the truth, we were quite terrible at finding the treasures, and failed miserably. I think perhaps it works better with a more accurate GPS device, and you also have to consider when the treasures were hidden. But despite my epic fail, I am still irreparably in love with geocaching.

If anyone wants to donate a GPS device/new iPhone to me, I’m totally open to it.

Catching up with iPhone pics

In September I attended my first wedding ever, and it was in Seaside, Oregon, where The Goonies was filmed. Sadly, I didn’t see any pirates, but as a consolation prize, I got to eat a restaurant called Pig N Pancake. It’s like they named it just for me!

We stayed right near the beach in a town of about 30, and we had a rollicking good time.

This is the beach from the last scene of The Goonies, but there wasn’t a ghost pirate ship in real life. There were some tide pools though.

My dad’s birthday was also in September, and unfortunately we had Walmart-quality candles, and some maimed ballerinas and camels for decoration. The candles were extinguished on the way from the kitchen to the dining room. It was pretty pathetic, but I don’t think anyone has laughed that hard through the Birthday Song in the history of birthdays.

Jeff and I have had many a Saturdate, though there aren’t any photos to prove it so you’ll have to trust me on this one. We got to see our all-time favorite singer, Ingrid Michaelson. It was amazing! She’s great in concert, and her music is beautiful to sing along to.

We also went to the Academy of Sciences, which has been on my list for a while. If you haven’t gone, GO! It was pricey, but we got to see a 3D movie about bugs, get whisked around the universe by Whoopi Goldberg’s voice in the planetarium, walk through a rain forest, get stung by electric eels, watch a shark feeding, stare at the depressed albino alligator and of course watch the pendulum knock over pins using the rotation of the earth. Ah, what a day.

We also got to see the King Tut exhibit at the De Young museum, but in all honesty it wasn’t that cool. They had a lot of jewelery and coffins and such, but we were both expecting and hoping to see some dead mummy. I mean, when you tour a tomb in China, you see a cadaver, so this was a bit underwhelming. Also, the costumes exhibit was closed… bah!

Let’s look at more random pictures!

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make it worth living, like when you get to pin down a dish for an extra good licking.

It was my brother Kieran’s 30th birthday in November, and we all wore party hats for our gourmet dinner — stuffed tomatoes with tofu or tuna, polenta, squash soup with garlic croutons, beet salad and cake. So delish!

My birthday also passed in November, making me a sage old 22. I got some great gifts, including two books on cupcakes. One for making cute decorative cupcakes, and a slightly stuffier Martha Stewart cupcake book. I have to admit that I don’t really enjoy sweets as much since living in China, so I mostly love making cupcakes for the artistry. It’s just as well, I’m already getting chunkier eating US food.

For my birthday, Jeff’s family took me to the CUTEST restaurant. It used to be a stage coach stop in the 1800s, so it looked like this tiny village of cabins in the mountains, and the interior had fireplaces and antiques. Plus the food was rib-sticking mountain food. I spent lots of time watching falling stars in the hot tub and sunsets on the beach, plus I got really good deals at the Nordstrom Rack. It was a great birthday weekend in Santa Barbara.

We had the opportunity to use the cupcake books at Thanksgiving. We actually invited ourselves to Devin and Kate’s house since our oven was full of turkey, and I didn’t want turkey cupcakes. It was lucky too, because we were ill-prepared to make things with marzipan and had to borrow lots of supplies from Kate.

But our little pumpkin-topped cupcakes came out alright in the end.

A few days later we made some chocolate cupcakes with little penguins. In truth, I think that marzipan is gross to eat, so I just threw out my little penguin. I suppose he thought he’d found a sweet little iceberg on top of my cupcake, but soon he discovered how harsh the realities of global warming were — global warming in my tummy!

This weekend Devin, Kate and I went to Malibu Grand Prix for mini golf. It was a significant day for me, because the last time I was there, it was Devin’s birthday, and I was not only an unwelcome guest at his party, but also too young and short to play on any rides. I’m pretty sure I cried.

This time was much happier. I played quite badly at golf — 66 (plus I cheated on one hole, so I actually deserved a 67). We also played arcade games and pooled our tickets for some sweet prizes.

Earlier in the day, I’d noticed that Devin had some rather Edward Cullen-inspired marks on his neck. [See exhibit A below]

So we used our tickets from skeeball to buy Kate some defense equipment:

But we didn’t even come close to this guy and his kid, who won 2500 tickets from a luck shot in a game.

The funny thing was that they didn’t seem too pleased about the big win, while everyone else around them was super excited. The poor kid just looked anxious and distracted while the arcade machine spewed tickets out for ten minutes straight. Perhaps he was thinking about the ruined lives of lottery winners, or the fact that his portion of tickets wouldn’t actually buy him anything worthy of such an unlikely win.


Ok, I haven’t posted in a million years, and I’ll tell you why, in a roundabout way.

I once had a summer internship at a publishing house, and I learned a few very valuable lessons there. Specifically, my job was to read through the unsolicited manuscripts and determine if they would be rejected, and then call the authors with the news.

My first day on the job, I was somewhat awed at the awesome responsibility. I looked at the stack of a dozen or so manuscripts and imagined poring over them for days before making a decision.

But the reality was, it only took about ten minutes to reject a manuscript. The reason being, people are not snowflakes. The vast majority of us have nothing to say that hasn’t been said before, and nobody wants yesterday’s news. [Tell me you noticed the cliche trifecta there.]

So, since coming back from China, the truth is that my life hasn’t been too interesting. I’m eating and watching and doing the same things most of you are, but I suppose there have been a few interesting happenings of late. Read on, in my mundane, Americanized life!