Gift Guide: for the comfort and self-care loving female in your life

I started reading advent stories with my daughter yesterday (since it was Dec. 1) and now that she’s older, she appreciates the stories and understands the reason for Christmas with more awareness. We have been using the Jesus Storybook Bible for reading since she was a baby, but I recently discovered they have an Advent calendar reading plan and some printable coloring pages available for free online. Here is the link. It was so funny because the introduction starts with the question that asks the child, “What do you love most about Christmas?” and my daughter immediately responded, “Presents!” and the book continued, “Most of us say, PRESENTS! And all the grown-ups will laugh and want us to say something more spiritual.” Haha, I was laughing and thinking the same thing. The introduction continued, “That IS the best, most important thing about Christmas. Because, you see, Christmas is all about a present—a gift. The greatest, most magnificent gift there has ever been…”

With the daily reading and reminder, my daughter has been preparing gifts to give others as well by drawing something for everyone she knows. It’s fun to watch her thinking process and how she goes about her plans. I say she gets that trait from me; I love drawing and planning, and it’s no surprise I’m almost done with my Christmas shopping!

And for all the planners out there, here is a short list of practical gifts for the female person in your life that likes comfort and self-care. This is a funny list because most of the items are great for moms and grandmas and they are things I already own, tried and true items–things that I would 100% recommend because they’re really good compared to other products from different brands. I am a grandma, so I should know. ;)


  1. HUE Women’s Hidden Cotton No Show 4 pack socks: $11.20. I’ve tried so many no-show socks from so many brands, but these are the ones, ya’ll. There’s one at Macy’s that’s not cotton but a nylon-type material and it does not fall off your feet even when you’re taking off your shoes (which happens all the time with no-show socks)! They’re amazing and comfortable.
  2. Sweese 2102 Porcelain Tea Mug with Infuser and Lid, 15oz.: $18.99. Practical in design so that you can rest your tea infuser, then cover the mug when you’re not drinking the tea. Brilliant! And it’s a large size. There are 7 other colors available.
  3. WarmCrystal, High Borosilicate Glass Teapot with glass infuser set and lid (20oz): $17.99. I love a good teapot.
  4. Real Simple 1-year magazine subscription: ~$18 I love magazines about home-making and lifestyle. Other options: Martha Stewert’s Living, Better Homes and Gardens, The Magnolia Journal (quarterly issues), Parents.
  5. Hanyul: (a) Face Moisturizing Cream $19.99, (b) Rice Essential Skin Moisture Cream $34.76 : Like the “no-show socks”, I have been on a long journey trying to find the perfect moisturizing cream. It had to be moisturizing enough so that I didn’t have to apply it every 30 minutes and it had to be very gentle so that it didn’t sting (because my face is extremely dry and sensitive). I’ve tried many brands from varying prices and although I have found a few others that work just as well as the Hanyul cream, Hanyul beats them all because it works so well and it won’t break the bank.  Other brands that have worked for dry, sensitive skin:  Sulwhasoo products (I used their lotions and essence and they are excellent. I heard this serum is liquid gold; I’d recommend it to gift mothers) and La Mer products. But again, they’re pricey and Hanyul has great results for such a good price.
  6. Crabtree & Evelyn 6-piece mini hand lotion gift set: $16.99 I purchased this set to gift because it’s an essential, everyday item that people like teachers, nurses, and people whose jobs require them to wash their hands constantly would appreciate. I always carry around hand lotion and I would assume almost every female I know does too.
  7. Cafellissimo Paperless Pour Over Coffee Maker ($16.94) OR this one ($14.97): This one is especially for my mother who breaks every coffee-making related product made of fragile material. In the past two years, she has broken 2 ceramic pour-over coffee makers and 2 glass French press coffee makers. This Christmas, I am getting her this one made of stainless steel! If she somehow breaks this, I… can’t.
  8. Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly: $28. This product absorbs well unlike other lotion/moisturizing products that have creamy consistencies and sometimes sits on top of my face or leaves a white streak/residue. I use this product throughout the day when I need a quick touch-up on dry spots and they also sell a smaller tube so that it can fit in small purses so that you can carry it around everywhere.
  9. Chocolove Salted Almond Butter in Dark Chocolate Bar (2 for $5) OR the Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups ($1.99). I found these at Sprouts, but I’m sure you can find them around your local Whole Foods-like grocery store. I’ve been trying to consume dark chocolate instead of other sweets to satisfy my sweet tooth, and since I’m always low on magnesium and it just so happens that dark chocolate and almonds contain magnesium, it seems too good to be true that I can eat “candy.” They also taste amazing–much better than Reese’s peanut butter cups. *gasp* (and I love Reese’s peanut butter cups)
  10. UNIQLO’s Heattech extra warm scoop neck shirt: $19.90. Great for PJs, great for loungewear, great for yoga because it’s clings to the body instead of sliding towards your chest during downward dog and other upside down exercises, great for layering under sweaters on cold days, great for wearing by itself on slightly chilly days. Great great great. Can’t find anything else like it.
  11. Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb: $48. Moderate price for eye cream that thoroughly moisturizes, is lightweight, and doesn’t sting the sensitive skin around your eyes. Again, my skin has become so sensitive that products I used to love, e.g., Shiseido’s eye creams, cause too much pain now. Also, I think Belif’s Moisturizing Eye Bomb carries more product than other eye creams, so it lasts longer.
  12. InnoGear 200ml Essential Oil Diffuser: $21.99. I didn’t think I’d be an essential oil-user, but I tried it and have enjoyed using it while sleeping. Certain oil-combinations have helped with lessening stress/anxiety.
  13. UNIQLO plaid flannel pants: $14.90. During warmer seasons, I like to wear these, but my sister thinks they look like elderly-country-women (Korean ahjumma) pants and refuses to even try them on despite my testimonies of them being the most comfortable pants in the world! haha. Well, here are flannel ones that look more “hip” but still has the elastic waistband and wide legs, so they’re a thumbs up from me.
  14. Oral-B Black Pro 1000 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush Powered by Braun. $39.94. We own the Philips Sonicare ones, but the Oral-B electric toothbrushes have great reviews and they are also on sale.
  15. Tile Mate with Replaceable Battery: $24.99. For those who misplace everything and never know where to look.
  16. Essential Oils: $15.95 for this set. Other than the basics that you’ll need, I have been loving the vanilla oil from Gya Labs.

There you have it: the ultimate comfort and self-care loving person’s gift guide.

Joined at the Hip

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I am, more frequently than not, a terrible mother. Sometimes I lash out at people without apparent reason, including at my poor daughter, and I soon regret my words and actions which puts me in a deeper state of misery and anger.

In Beauty and the Beast, I didn’t understand why becoming a beast would make the prince so angry. Sadness–I would understand, but anger? He slashed his portrait and turned over furniture. He was ill-tempered and treated his servants with contempt, and he spent most of his day hidden away in a dark chamber. He was angry because he wasn’t beautiful anymore, and as vain and foolish as it may seem, his altered physical identity made him mad. I, too, judged him for his vanity, but now I understand the significance of his anger. Something was wrong with him and there was nothing he could do to fix it. I think that’s why I get angry at times: something’s wrong with me, whether it’s how I look or how I feel, and sometimes I feel so hopeless/helpless. I know there’s always hope and help in the Lord, but the reality is, as some say, “the struggle is real.”
picture from

Do you remember the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when the characters need to choose the “Holy Grail” cup and the man (I forget his name and role) chooses the wrong cup and he is suddenly shown decaying down to his skeletal state. It’s such a traumatic scene, especially for those of us who saw the film when we were children (what were our parents thinking?!).


Well, if there was another image I could conjure up of my current state of being, it would be that man in his speedy decay. Every bit of moisture being sucked out, leaving me with skin so dry it feels like sandpaper, and the layers of oil/lotion that I lather on my face every hour dries up again within the next hour. Lines and wrinkles have become so deep and visible in the light, I want to hide in darkness. Lines and wrinkles I didn’t think I’d see until I was at least fifty years old.

The Beast, the decaying man, is me. And I feel like tearing up my portrait, if I had one.

I hide it well during the day with layers of make-up and moisturizer, and if you stand far enough away I look rather normal. But I am at my most vulnerable state when you are talking to me face to face or in the morning, when the hours of the night have dried up the oils and all you can see is my protruding eyes on a surface of red, bumpy, flakey skin, with no eyelashes or eyebrows (because they fell out some time ago). I envision myself as a thing of nightmares.

But this daughter of mine comes to me and hugs me sometimes in the morning when she’s not so consumed by the thought of breakfast. When I dare look in her direction and make eye-contact, she looks straight into my eyes and smiles. It’s as though she doesn’t see any of my insecurities. She doesn’t see a monster.

She sees her mama.

Fall/Winter Bucket List

I can’t believe it’s already almost mid-October! Our local pumpkin patches bustle with kids running around and stores are decorated with orange and yellow foliage with crates bursting with colorful varieties of pumpkin. Although trees around our neighborhood are still hanging onto their greenery, mornings are chilly and stores with their festive decor remind me that holidays (and birthdays! we have a few fall/winter birthdays) are near. I saw heirloom pumpkins at Trader Joe’s that looked like monsters in the making, and it seems God has a sense of humor. And to one’s surprise, the “ugly” produce tend to be more flavorful (e.g., heirloom tomatoes, sumo citrus). I have yet to try and eat an heirloom pumpkin.

photo from Roger’s Gardens (located in Corona del Mar)

I’ve been meaning to make a list of things I wanted to do this fall/winter and some sites I wanted to visit. It may seem like the usual and typical, but sometimes it’s nice to have an ongoing list from which to refer for planning’s sake. Here’s my ongoing list:

  • Pumpkin patch: If you live in SoCal, I’ve bookmarked some fun-looking places: Pumpkin Station (in San Diego), Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch (in L.A.), Children’s Nature Retreat (in San Diego), Live Oak Canyon Pumpkin Patch (in Redlands), Mila & Emma’s Pumpkin Patch (in L.A.), Pumpkin City’s Pumpkin Farm (in Laguna Hills), Pumpkin Fest (in Pomona), and Riley’s Farm U-Pick (in Oak Glen). Tomorrow we’re heading to Heritage Farm in La Verne with our church small group.
  • Bake pumpkin bread/muffins. Here’s a potential healthy recipe I might use. (+ maybe maple butter)
  • Make Korean pumpkin porridge (호박죽). Recipe 1 (by MyKoreanKitchen), Recipe 2 (by Maangchi), or buy some at a local Korean supermarket. haha. ;) Just a note: it’s mildly savory and pretty bland, so it’s not to everyone’s liking. I like it, though.
  • Visit an apple orchard. Our go-to for the past two years has been Snow-Line Orchard in Yucaipa. Elaine’s been to Riley’s Farm for field trips and she’s had a lot of fun meeting Johnny Appleseed and learning about colonial life and the gold rush.
  • Make pumpkin juice.
  • Take Christmas family photos. We’ve been taking “studio” photos for the past two years, but this year I might want to change it up and take one outdoors.
  • Speaking of photos, I plan to make a photo calendar for the grandparents using Elaine’s photos. This will be part of their Christmas presents.
  • Go hiking, for once. I’ve had too many failed attempts. Maybe this year will be the year.
  • Read 2 more books before the end of the year. This year was a reading-fail. I must have chosen the wrong books because I’ve been stuck on a few since the beginning of the year. I feel the need to reread some of my favorites to be able to finish at least two more by the end of December.
  • Make hand-made gifts and cards with Elaine. Since she can’t purchase gifts, I’ll help her make some.
  • Work on photo albums to recap the year. (I am three years behind. haha..) Time to work on 2016. Oh dear.
  • Christmas movie marathon. Maybe on the weekends after Thanksgiving.
  • Make a wreath or leaf art with Elaine.
  • Rearrange closet and drawers — take out an warm clothing. Create a capsule wardrobe, maybe?
  • Ice-skating
  • Sledding
  • Day-trip somewhere. (maybe one the pumpkin patches in San Diego, tree farm, Solvang, Ojai, Santa Barbara)
  • Enchanted Forest @ Descanso Garden (tickets go on sale Monday, 10/15)

That’s all I can think of right now and I’m sure there’s more to be added. It’s still quite a handful, so let the festivities begin!

Favorite Films for Fall


I love all seasons: spring because of the gradual warmth in the air and flowers abloom, summer because of beach trips, its long sunlit hours and sleeping with the windows open to let in the evening breeze, fall because of the crisp air and everything pumpkin and apples, winter because of Christmas (the best birthday celebration), all the peppermints and gingerbreads, and then my birthday.

And for every season, I have a list of films I enjoy watching. Here is my list of my favorite films to watch in the fall in no particular order:

  • Harry Potter 1, 2, 3: The first three films (and books) set a certain excitement and mood for fall: the beginning of school and seeing familiar faces, back-to-school shopping at Diagon Alley, the train station and Hogwarts, the great feast, pumpkin juice, etc. The 4th one is more Christmas-y, and the 5-7th ones orient around Voldemort, therefore not so festive.
  • Good Will Hunting: They’re in school, fall foliage; basically, school.
  • You’ve Got Mail: 90% of this film is fall.
  • When Harry Met Sally: I would consider this is a perfect winter/New Year’s Eve movie. Sure, the film begins with Harry and Sally setting off for New York in the fall and there are many scenes that take place in the fall, so it can be a fall film, but I’d say it is 40% fall. haha.
  • Pride and Prejudice (film and BBC TV series): Honestly, this can fit into every season. :)
  • Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel: Anne working as a school teacher, school picnics and plays, apple-picking, and that last scene with fall foliage in the background. ;)
  • Hocus Pocus: a classic and clean-ish 90s Halloween movie even though I don’t celebrate Halloween. It’s still pretty funny.
  • Love Story: I watched it for the first time a couple years ago and it was SO cheesy I couldn’t bear it, but I remember Ali MacGraw’s outfits being so chic and perfect for fall. I wouldn’t watch it again, but it’s almost quintessentially fall and it would be wrong to leave it out of the list.
  • Garden State: the soundtrack
  • Godfather I: somber in mood, scenes take place at the end of summer, then fall and so on, but I’d say the main events occur in the the fall and winter. (This is one of very few violent films I can handle).
  • Dan in Real Life: a family reunion in the middle of the school year, sometime in the fall, and it’s heartwarming. Also, the soundtrack.
  • Chocolat: the color scheme and tones, warmth emanating from food, and all the chocolate reminds me of Halloween
  • About a Boy: a boy in his school year, “Santa’s Super Sleigh” and the scene where Hugh Grant’s character is shopping in a supermarket and hears it playing and he says, “November the sodding 19th… Six weeks before Christmas and already they were playing the bloody thing.” This film can also fit into my winter category.
  • Ratatouille: Paris in the fall
  • Lord of the Rings: end of summer–ready for adventure kind of feel
  • Coco: obviously, Dia de los Muertos. That scene at the end though: if you didn’t cry, are you even human? ;)
  • The Royal Tenenbaums: color scheme and tones. I haven’t watched Fantastic Mr. Fox, but supposedly that’s also fit for fall.

What would be on your favorite fall films list? Anything to add? Take away? Watch for the first time?


Trip to the Bay: Day 3-4: San Francisco & Berkeley

Trip to the Bay: Day 3-4: San Francisco & Berkeley

I’m finally getting around to posting the last bit of our Bay Area trip from almost a month ago. Our final full day was our actual anniversary, so we indulged in many foods and sentimental sites.

We walked across the street from our hotel to Rick & Ann’s for breakfast. I’ve been to many a breakfast joints in my somewhat adventurous life, but I would say that Rick & Ann’s is one of my favorites, if not my favorite. The location is charming, somewhat hidden in a neighborhood block, and on an early Monday morning, you will find locals walking their dogs, sipping coffee from Peet’s and munching on a pastry from Fournée Bakery while reading the newspaper (yes, newspaper) or a book seated on a bench. On weekends, I imagine a crowded and hectic space, but our Monday morning was peaceful and we were seated immediately at the restaurant. Everything on their menu is fresh and so good.


Then we headed into the city. Our first stop was City Lights Bookstore. It was one of our engagement photoshoot locations and I wanted to find a place to walk off our breakfast stomachs. Back when I was into beatnik poetry and literature, which sprouted from my fascination with Jack Kerouac’s writing style, I used to visit the bookstore and neighborhood thinking how cool it was to be stepping into part of American literature and history.  I soon realized my naïveté about their whole movement so I grew out of it quickly, but the bookstore holds a meticulous collection of poetry and it’s sometimes fun to open a book of poems and read some profound nonsense. ;)

We wanted Elaine to have fun too, so we had her run around and play at Mission Dolores Park. On the way there, we made a quick stop by our wedding church. We couldn’t find a leisurely pedestrian to take a photo of us, so Elaine obliged and did her best to capture a photo of Mommy and Daddy.

Elaine had so much fun at the park she didn’t want to leave. When we convinced her by bribing her with some ice cream at Bi-Rite, she wanted to go back to the park to play as soon as she finished her ice cream.

By this point it was mid-afternoon and we hadn’t eaten lunch. Our stomachs were still full from ice cream and Elaine was getting crankier by the minute. We needed to find a quiet space so that Elaine could nap while ate something light. Tartine was nearby and it turned out to be the perfect location. While waiting for a table, I browsed through Heath Ceramics next door and it was a good thing our table was ready quickly because I might have purchased dinnerware sets that would’ve taken money out of our savings. haha. My one of many weaknesses: kitchen/tableware.


We then drove to Embarcadero, walked around, I bought a jar of jam, Y had Blue Bottle iced coffee, as always, and we still had time before our dinner reservation.

Dinner was Sotto Mare, which was supposedly where Y took me on a date once (I didn’t remember). Since we had some time before our reservation, we walked around the neighborhood and found another one of our engagement photoshoot locations: 101 Music. We took photos, walked through the basement with over 50,000 LPs, regretting that I didn’t buy one, (why didn’t I think of Nina Simone!), btw, I don’t even have a record player, so only a little regret.

Sotto Mare’s cioppino, though. My other weakness: good seafood.

While we were at Bi-Rite, I bought Elaine a souvenir coloring book of S.F. Most of the places we visited were in the coloring book and I thought our last stop before heading back to the hotel should be another landmark.

Our little one was cranky by this point and all she wanted to do was go back to the hotel and play, which was why she wouldn’t look at the camera for photos. The unabashed moods of a toddler! Never a compromise.

Well, that’s it. The next morning, I grabbed several pastries and a loaf of corn grits and seeds bread from Fournée Bakery to take home as my other food souvenir, we met with my siblings for breakfast at La Note, and we ended our trip with a long drive home. Some time in-between roaming the city over the weekend, we managed to fit in two visits to Boba Guys. It well-exceeded our expectations: Y loved the muscat oolong iced tea so much that he ordered it on both visits, and Elaine had her very first boba experience with strawberry rice milk. So spoiled; her first boba experience was Boba Guys.

(So happy Tartine is coming to L.A. and Boba Guys can also be found in Culver City)