Friday, December 28, 2007

San Francisco for Christmas

I was so looking forward to being back in sunny warm California for Christmas! Although most of the trip was cold and dreary (even colder than New York!) it was great to see family and friends, and to drive again!!

Paul and I spent some time at my old haunts in the Mission and SOMA. (Of course, we had to get Mexican food... mmmmmmmmmmmm.)

We spent a long time at one of my favorite stores, Paxton Gate and bought an air plant .

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Peking Duck House Banquet

A big Chinese feast, complete with Peking Duck was enjoyed in the company of good friends for Paul's 30-something birthday...

The banquet menu:
-Soup: Assorted sizzling rice soup

-4 appetizers:
fantail shrimp
chicken soon (??)
vegetable spring rolls
steamed dumplings

-7 Entrees:
2 Peking ducks
twin lobsters with ginger and scallions
house steak
prawns w/ chili sauce
chicken w/ orange flavor
mixed vegetables
homemade noodles (long life noodles!)

-Dessert: fried bananas w/ walnuts

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nothing To Declare

Not that I'm not busy enough, but I have also started writing for a webzine Nothing To Declare started by Jacki, a former coworker of mine. Ironically, I took over for her when she moved to Spain to teach and write, and then I moved to Japan to teach... They used to joke that desk was cursed... wonder how long my replacement lasted after me?!?

The mission statement: Nothing to Declare is a webzine started in November 2007 in Madrid, Spain. It is inspired by the unique experiences that occur when one is traveling or living away from one’s home. We look for original voices to bring these experiences to the masses.

My first and second postings.

Check them out!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Speaking of crafty....

It's a cardboard safari- a laser-cut cardboard deer puzzle!

(Are antlers still in?)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Crafty Christmas

I am no scrooge or grinch, but after coming back from Japan, I've realized that I don't "need" a lot of things to make me happy... Not that I didn't know that before, but living without a flushing toilet and heat and "diversity" really made me rethink my "needs" vs. "wants".

This past Christmas season was very difficult for me to digest- there was so much hoopla with all the shopping and gifting and receiving that I was almost disgusted, disappointed with what the holiday season really means. In New York, there were the standard holiday tourists (it seemed like there were so much more- maybe because foreigners can get so much for the low dollar) and the streets were clogged with shopping bags and chaotic frenzy.

My sense of "Christmas" came back when Vel suggested that a small group of us have a "Crafty Christmas" party- we all picked names secretly and each one of us had to "craft" a present for their chosen person. With all of our busy schedules, coming up with a creative present that we HAD to make ourselves seemed daunting... so we were given the option of buying something that the other person could make on their own. All of us impressively came through!

On a mid-December evening, we got together for the "Crafty Christmas Party". Even the dinner was crafty- Vel cooked my Corona Turkey, while the rest of us provided homemade appetizers, sides, and desserts. I was blown away by the awesome things that each person gave/made/created. It sounds corny, but with such good friends (and good food), it was probably one of the BEST times I have had in New York, possibly top 5 in my life!

Suraj hand-sewed this super cool handbag for Beena:

Beena's first several attempts at being crafty didn't work out, so she ended up getting me a white ceramic bowl and gift card to Color Me Mine so that we could be crafty together while painting our own pieces.

I made Vel a pair of gold earrings and since she had recently taken a bag/purse making class, I got her wooden purse handles for her to make a new bag.

Vel made probably my favorite present of all- a huggable sushi- shaped pillow for Wendy! The funny thing is Wendy's last name "Meguro" is similar to the "maguro" tuna that was on the sushi!

Wendy's sewing skills impressed us all with her colorful printed bag for Kim:

Kim made a really beautiful necklace for Giuli:

Despite being 8 1/2 months pregnant, Giuli made it out and etched a wine glass and mirror for Liza:

Liza's gift card for Suraj was solely for him to buy a crafty book from Barnes and Noble...

Funnily enough, Paul and Han got each other- Paul painstakingly made one of his awesome quirky "robot" drawings for robot-fan Han, with a hidden message inside:

Han's gift is forthcoming for Paul- since he's working on the new Trump highrise in Soho, he has promised to make a concrete bowl made out of the "Trump concrete"!! Can't wait to see it!!!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

New Museum!

The much hyped about New Museum finally opened in the Lower East Side on Dec. 1!! I was really excited because my firm who I had worked with before going to Japan had built it, and it was a really interesting project by SANAA architects. Actually, it's the first art museum ever constructed from the ground up in downtown Manhattan! There is a pretty cool time lapse video of the building construction on the New Museum's website.

Standing in the depths of the foundation pouring a couple years ago...

It's also about 3 blocks away from my apartment, in the "gritty" Lower East Side. When I first moved to New York, the area was still emerging as this hip, underground area, lots of dirty little bars and small boutiques and cafes (and pretty much the only neighborhood I could afford). Now it's inundated with bars, expensive restaurants and loud drunk kids on the weekends. I'm not opposed to change- but I guess it's weird to be part of such a drastically changing neighborhood. This building is supposed to symbolize this change- a new growth in the formerly rough and tumble neighborhood of kitchen supply stores and colorful residents.

Admission to the museum on opening day was free for like 24 hours, but you had to apply for tickets online beforehand so that they could stagger the guests on half hour intervals. Wendy, Sean, Midori, Ahmed, Paul and I went to brunch before at Cafe Charbon- the wonderful little French bistro across the street from my house (and downstairs from Wendy) and trooped over the museum as the architect/design geeks that we are. It was packed with other architect/design geeks, and not surprisingly, I ran into several other people I had gone to architecture school with in California!

From far away, it looks like a bunch of gray boxes stacked on top of each other, but when you get up close, you realize that there is a layer of sharp aluminum mesh screen covering the building. Seeing the neighborhood through the screen was pretty wild- like a super slick chain link fence.

One of the highlights was that the top floor, an event space with 270 degree views of downtown Manhattan, had been transformed into a pumping music, neon lighted, candy station for all (sponsored by Target). There were piles of white paper bags for guests to fill from the drawers overflowing with candy! I think the sugar was to fuel us for the grueling 7 stories we were walking up and down in the emergency stairs to all the galleries (the museum was so packed that there was a long wait for the elevators)!

* s * n * o * w *

They warned us, they told us to stay in...

They said we'd get a foot of snow overnight.

Stay off the roads! BEWARE!!!

I was excited to look out of Paul's window in the morning...

It barely snowed.


Friday, November 30, 2007


This year, Thanksgiving was pretty mellow. I was busy with my new job and my side job, so the whole long weekend was devoted to working. :(

But Paul and I took a quick day trip away to Norwalk, Connecticut to visit his parents on turkey day. His twin sister, husband, and dogs were also joining us for the afternoon/evening meal which was great. Because Paul's mom had recently suffered a stroke, it was definitely a time of being thankful for good health, good family, and good food. Barb's speech and agility has been steadily improving and Jim is fantastic at taking care of her, when she needs it!

Paul's family members are such "foodies"- it was hilarious to watch all of them putter around the kitchen with all their utensils of choice and crafting these delicious dishes and suggestions & tips to each other. I am really comfortable with them and so excited to spend many more meals around their table!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Corona- Queens, not the beer...

During my desperate unemployed days, I was answering ads for focus groups and random little things like that. Paul's friend, Nikki, knew I had just returned from teaching abroad and teaches English at a night school in Corona, Queens. She was going to be gone during Thanksgiving week, so she asked me back in October if I would sub for her adult night class on Tuesday before Thanksgiving at a local community center.

Of course, I said yes since it was a two hour gig that didn't seem too difficult, and it sounded like a fun way to pass an evening. Of course, I didn't think I would be working a full time job AND a part time job, so I was pretty screwed. Thankfully the class started at 6pm and I get off work at 5, so I had JUST enough time to get on the 7 train and ride the hour out to the primarily Hispanic neighborhood in Corona. Before then, I never really knew where Corona was (isn't that a beer?) and realized afterwards that even Simon and Garfunkel sang about Corona!
Goodbye to Rosie, the queen of Corona,
Seein' me and Julio down by the schoolyard

Armed with vague directions and a loose lesson plan, I walked down from the elevated train tracks and found myself standing between 41st Avenue and 41st Avenue, looking for the "grocery store with lots of signs and the stairs that go up next to it". I was confused enough about the two streets with the same name and couldn't figure out which direction to go when I felt a heavy wet drop on my head.

I realized that I had been standing under a huge tree full of burbling pigeons and the ground around me was pickled with white pigeon poop! Argh!!! what luck!! I finally saw a set of stairs wedged in between a McDonald's (that would've been a great landmark) and a deli with a bunch of signs written in English and Spanish (ahhh, the "grocery store"). I ran up the stairs as the 6:00 bells started ringing and burst into the little community room. There were about 6 or 7 people already there and they turned around to see me rush in, wiping bird poop out of my hair.

I broke the ice by telling them the bird poop story and we all got a good laugh. The community center was kind of run down and old but seemed adequate and safe. I set my bag down next to a table that looked like it was covered with wet mylar balloons or something and wrote my name on the whiteboard. Nobody really called me "Laurie" the whole night anyway- I was always referred to as "Teacher".

Anyway, although this was an adult English class, their level was not much different from my Japanese high school students. The class is pretty dry- we were teaching them the basics of English grammar, practicing the "subject, verb, object" pattern of sentence structure, but there were a few students who just blew me away. The class is offered free to the community for recent immigrants and I was amazed to see how motivated they were to be participating. They were wedged into those little desks with the built-in armrests and everyone was eager to call out answers. It looked like many people had just come from work- at one point, a dude walked in wearing a sombrero and a guitar slung over his shoulder. Couldn't figure out if he came in from a gig on the subway or a restaurant or something?!?

The director stopped the class about a half hour before the class was to end to announce that there was going to be a turkey raffle because it was Thanksgiving week! He pointed to the table of "mylar balloons" (oh, didn't I feel stupid- I have never seen a whole frozen turkey) and said that we were all going to get a chance to win one of the turkeys! He passed around these raffle tickets and insisted on giving me one but I resisted, feeling that I wasn't really a part of this community... Then the whole class got in and insisted that I join because I was the teacher and I had come all the way out there to teach their class. So I gave in and took a ticket. Then they had me pick the first winning ticket out of a bag. The trepidation and excitement on everyone's faces was contagious- I practiced my Spanish and read out the numbers... As I read out the last number, one of the guys shouted in and everyone cheered and clapped.

I passed the bag to him and told him to choose the next winner, and so it went for the next 4 turkeys. But, the crazy thing was, I WON one of them! I really felt bad because at that point, I was like, hey, it's just me, and these people all have families and aren't doing that well- I feel terrible. When they had picked all the winners, the director snapped a bunch of photos of us, and then steered us to the table of frozen turkeys. He handed the largest turkey to me, "the Teacher" but I put my foot down. If I was to join in this raffle, I would get the smallest turkey because I live alone and don't deserve a huge turkey. They conceded and so that's how I ended up carrying a 12 pound frozen turkey on the train home that night. Maybe what they say about getting pooped on is true... maybe it is good luck!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tiffany & Jason's Wedding

Well, the first of the Five Families (of the Iron Fist) daughters got married in November... Tiffany and Jason, high school sweethearts for 12 years, finally got hitched!

The other daughters of the Five Families (me, my sister, Nikki, and Chrissi) + Jessica (Jason's sister) were the bridesmaids. It was the most beautiful, extravagant wedding I've ever been to... the whole ceremony & reception was at San Francisco's City Hall. We were shuttled around in a stretch Rolls Royce, photographed at the Ferry Building, and pampered with all kinds of special treatment that day. I was a bit frazzled with all the "beauty" products that all the girls... (manicures and getting my hair "did"? fake eyelashes? all the **bling!** The fabulous dinner! The lion dance! The great silly photo booth! The open bar!

It was a crazy whirlwind 36 hours. My first day on my new job started on Monday and then I took off Thursday and Friday for the wedding! The nerve....

Congratulations Tiff & Jason!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Ok, so I have been seriously lacking on the blogging front.

I apologize to everyone.

I know I haven't blogged/updated since Halloween so it's unfair of me to "postdate" this back to November (considering it's actually January 2008!!) but I have to do this to make things chronologically accurate with photos and all that.

First off, the short story is that I went from "back-from-Japan / enjoy-New York-while-unemployed" to realizing that I NEEDED a job... STAT. My rent in NYC is 3 times the amount I paid in Japan, and EVERYTHING here is expensive! For a few reasons too complicated to explain, I didn't go back to the firm I was with before I left Japan- plus I thought I had a few promising leads thinking that I wouldn't have to go through the painful interview process again. Unfortunately, things didn't work out that way. So, all of October I was furiously (and frustratingly) interviewing at architecture and construction firms... looking for the very obscure job position that somewhat straddled the line between construction and design.It was a very difficult time- I met a lot of different people, and was impressed by many, and especially disappointed when things don't follow through the way I expected or wanted.

One day, my friend Pam (who is also a broker) hooked me up with a friend of hers who bought a loft from her earlier in 2007. He was looking for an architect-ey/ designer-ly type who could help him re-design/renovate his place in the East Village/Alphabet City. It turned out to be a cool design project and he was really cool, so I figured it would be a great little job to float me through winter. Or at least another month.

Turns out that I got an offer from a small high-end general contractor the day after I signed the contract with Ian! It was a great offer, and a great opportunity, so I took it. So in one day, I went from 0 hours to 80+ hours a week of working. And I have been trying to stay afloat since then.

I love having the design project as a creative outlet to offset the semi-dry construction management though- just wish I had a bit more time for sleep, and socializing!

I have photos of other things that have popped up like weddings and Christmas and stuff... stay tuned!

Friday, November 02, 2007


I love Halloween! Unfortunately, this year we didn't get the full effect of the big Saturday night dress up party before since we were up in Massachusetts the weekend before, but NYC still celebrated, despite it being a chilly Wednesday night.

Paul and I wrestled with all kinds of coordinating "couple-y" costumes but in the end, we just figured to go with fun and cheap- cowboy and cowgirl! There was no reason to go out and spend lots of money on an elaborate superheroes costumes or something for just a couple of hours. And good thing, because we saw sooooo many Supermen & Wonder Women!

Ahmed joined us for the parade watching on 6th Avenue and then we joined the mobs of people in the West Village looking for food and drinks afterwards.

The funniest part of the night was when this black girl ran up to another group of black girls and asked in a loud voice: "Y'ALL GAY?!?!?"

One of the girls was like, "Um, what?!"

"I SAY, Y'ALL GAY?!?!?"

"Um, no."

"DAAAAAAAMMMMMMNNN!!!!" and she ran off to ask another bunch of girls walking down the street.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New England Foliage

Last weekend, Paul and I drove through New England to view the gorgeous autumn leaves- aka "leaf peeping". We rested our heads at Michael & Mary's (Paul's oldest sister) amazing purple Victorian home in Williamstown, Massachusetts, near the Vermont/New York border.

The colors of the weekend were bright and rusty, deep reds and flaming oranges and golden yellows... it was like you turned up the "saturation" level in Photoshop. (OK that was nerdy.) More photos here.

It was an "authentic" New England experience, complete with baking apple pies, picking vegetables from an organic farm, walking Mary's black lab, driving down country roads, seeing lots of red barns, and watching the World Series. We drove through Massachusetts and Vermont enjoying all kinds of wholesome hearty food like shepherd's pie, lots of sandwiches and burgers, and chicken soup. With the temperatures dropping down to the 30's and 40's at night, we were getting an early taste of what winter was going to be like!

It was nice to squeeze in some artsy fartsy stuff too. We drove out to the next town over, North Adams to visit Mass MOCA, with its beautiful renovated brick buildings and awesome exhibits like the upside down trees. We also went to an art auction that Mary (Paul's sister) helped organize. Originally we were there to nibble on the free food and drink the free wine, but ended up bidding (and winning!) this beautiful piece... delicately made with human hair...

Lots of fleece, down vests, and wool hats... Oh, and a trip to the outlets in Manchester, Vermont scored Paul and me some new clothes... (Thank you Paul for my new clothes!!!)

It was as American as... well, apple pie!