Friday, September 25, 2015

Sharing with Strangers

Sitting here typing, I can't help but notice my reflection on the laptop screen. You're so vain. That's right. So what if I am? I had a dermatologist remove a colorless mole yesterday, and a small bandage is shields the tiny wound on my right cheek.* Quinn points at it and claps. Olive tells me she is sad that I have an owie. And my husband? He points out that I now bear resemblance to Nelly. Thanks a lot, husband.

I suppose the timing could have been worse. Just last week, le huz and I flew to Hawaii with the munchkins to party with my parents. The "grands" live in Taiwan, so they thought it'd be a treat to spend quality time with my California girls in their dream environment - by the pool and on the beach in Maui.

Not to shabby.
The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. 
Bliss happens.

As you can imagine, there were many family photo ops while chillin' on this little slice of heaven. I was bandage-free in all of them. Yay! Could you imagine the bandaid tan? But my favorite shots from the trip are these two of our littlest one, living it up.

Unlike my parents, Quinn is a vacationing natural. Eat. Swim. Sleep. Repeat. Quinn got the memo. Check out her delectable sun-kissed legs, or as I like to call them, "brown pants." And that shot of her literally hanging out? That was snapped at 5am as I walked out of the bathroom. I let her grip on for dear life for a good minute so that I could get this shot because that's what any compassionate and responsible mother would do, right?

A four day getaway may seem short to most, but for us, it was the perfect duration. One can only soak in the kiddy pool for so long. Til next time, Aloha.** 

* My dermatologist thinks the mole is benign, but recommended that I remove it for testing. It's not as if I was attached to the darn thing anyway!
** I am fully aware that this blog entry is boring to the point of igniting yawns, but it's been a while since I've actually sat down to write. My mind is out-of-shape, and I'm desperately trying to warm it up. I'm like the chubby new student in a hip-hop dance class. Everyone sways left, and I sway right. UGH. I'll get my moves down soon. I promise.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

I Hit Pause

Mother's Beach. Kennebunkport, Maine

It's been a while, but really, who's keeping track?

Quinn is no longer a baby. She is a kind, but mischievous toddler with an appetite mirroring that of our dog, Beans. The sweet scent of milk and powder on her skin has been replaced with that of sour sweat and drool. And the faux-hawk on her head? It's been replaced with an exquisite mullet. Quinn dances like a middle-aged woman (genetics kicking in), and needless to say, I am obsessed with her.

Olive, on the other hand, is now an exuberant threenager with serious aspirations of becoming a "boss princess." You go, girl. She recites lyrics from 2Pac's California Love (clean-version) and often returns home from preK "married" to boys at school. Whaaaat?!? Yup. My thoughts exactly. 

My munchkins are growing, learning, and bettering themselves everyday. But I haven't been doing the same. The kids and my relationship with le huz aside, I feel as if all other passion and purpose in my life has faded. My renovation business has been good, but not as inspiring and fulfilling as I hoped it would be. I'm a work-in-progress that hasn't been progressing. And life's too short to be sitting around, wasting space. So, after much thought, I've decided to take a breather from work to ignite my decades-long goal of writing and illustrate a children's book. Remember all my blabbering about being brave? Art Center in Pasadena offers an evening course on writing and illustrating children's books, and guess who just registered?! All fingers pointing at yours truly. Like it or not, I will leave the course with a dummy manuscript. I'm cheesing hard as I type this entry, and totally want to insert an emoji. I'm excited. Watch me whip, folks! Watch me Nae Nae! Which isn't to say I'm not scared. I am. I'm scared of failure. But as the Chinese proverb goes, "One cannot refuse to eat just because there is a chance of choking."

In that case...

Friday, October 24, 2014


Quinn had her first taste of solid food today. A taste of mushed strawberry. Her eyes widened with excitement as she swallowed the puree; meanwhile a massive wave of sadness came over me as I watched my littlest achieve yet another milestone. My baby. My babies. They're growing up so quickly. 

I know it's important to live in the moment and savor the fact that my girls still want and need me, but my crazy mind can't help but fast forward to the future to the day they no longer think it's cool to hang with their mama. Oh, the heartbreak...

I must find a way to bonsai my children.

Pictured: My little sous chef Olive taste-testing the chocolate cake she helped bake and decorate for her old man.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


There's power in looking silly and not caring that you do. - Amy Poehler

The girls have been retiring to bed at a reasonable hour and my renovation workload has been easing up. I find myself juggling the precious commodity that is time (9pm-midnight) to work on the children's book I've long dreamed of writing and illustrating. Alas, I've been uncharacteristically unproductive. I stare helplessly at a blank computer screen, and it's not for lack of ideas that this is so. I type lots. I delete lots. I spend much time repeating this destructive behavior of typing and deleting. Paralyzed by the fear of failure - the fear of having my creation be on display, judged, and ultimately found in the bargain bin of say, an Albertson's or CVS - I refuse to commit to any of them. Like a sad wallflower, I crouch on the sidelines watching others pass me by, paralyzed by insecurity. 

Luckily, I can look to my girls for a fresh perspective. Olive and Quinn, being so new to the world, are such courageous little beings. I delight in watching Quinn stare at herself in reflective surfaces (my confident baby girl smiles and coos at herself, for she likes what she sees). I find inspiration in watching Olive unveil her masterpieces. The kid puts marker to paper like it's nobody's business and never hesitates to make a bold mark. She never compromises her vision based on what others think, and her marked up hands and face suggest that she enjoys the process. Olive is living proof that, "an artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one."* She creates "pictures for Mama" with such enormous pride that I too, aspire to be so strong and brave when pursuing my own artistic endeavors. 

So what if all I have to offer to the world are shit nuggets? Filtering out the turd is part of the process. Practice will make perfect, er, "good enough." Even child prodigy Olive worked to master her potato-heads and stingrays.** See here:

"You can't be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it."*** Second-guessing myself with my type-and-delete behavior hasn't taken me far. So starting tomorrow, NO, starting today, instead of opening up my laptop, I will open up a notebook. Non-electronic. Think Mead. Think spiral! Putting actual ink to paper will allow my insecurity to bleed out... Oy.

Be brave. My mantra for the rest of 2014.
And if that proves difficult, I sure as heck am going to try my very best to fake it.

* Observations of famed American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley.
** Munchkin is not actually a prodigy. Like any good parent, I'm biased and think my own kid is da' bomb.
*** Pearls of wisdom uttered by Tina Fey in "Bossypants."

Monday, July 21, 2014


My firstborn. Pooped. 

Carrying, delivering, and then raising a child is changes a broad. Take one look at my mug and bod and you'd see the transformative effects of the perfect storm that is motherhood.

Source: Pinterest

Two pregnancies have left me with a belly button resembling a doggy asshole, nipples the size of tea cup saucers, and hair like that of Helena Bonham Carter (unintentionally so). I fart uncontrollably and complain constantly. I look tired because I am tired. How lovely it would be to go on vacay and escape (if only temporarily) my current state of exhaustion. But with two nuggets under our wings - Olive the toddler and Quinn the newborn - an overseas trip couldn't possibly be enjoyable. But a trip stateside, say, to peaceful, tranquil Maine? That I could do...

Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Roughly two years ago, le huz and I ventured to coastal Maine with Olive. We had such a magical time we decided to make it a family tradition to spend a week of every summer vacationing in the idyllic state. Remember THISTHIS, and THIS? Picturesque scenery, friendly folks (I "heart" senior citizens), delightful New England cuisine (lobster rolls and whoopie pie)...

The Cabot Cove Cottages in Kennebunkport continues to be our lodging of choice. They're freestanding (so our kiddos shouldn't be putting a damper on folks attempting to pull off a romantic weekend), beautifully decorated (each cottage sports a unique look), and situated right by the water (killer sunset view). Moreover, the "resort" is situated within walking distance to Dock Square where one can access the most amazing homemade blueberry ice-cream at Aunt Marie's, old-fashioned toy and candy shops, and one our personal must-eats, The Clam Shack...


It'll be Quinn's first time on a plane (she'll be a little under three months of age when we go); here's hoping she's as good a traveler as her jet-setting sister, Olive. And if she's not, hopefully a mouthful of boob will do the trick.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Best Friends

June 15th. Olive's last evening as an only child.

Up until Quinn's delivery date, Olive clearly understood that a baby was residing in Big Mama's tummy. When asked where the baby was, she'd point at my belly. When asked what the baby's name was, she'd confidently answer, "Quim." My munchkin showered her unborn sister (whom I promised her would be the greatest of buddies) with kisses daily, and seeing Olive exhibit so much care for sibling she had yet to meet melted my frosty heart.

June 17th. Sisters meet and greet for the first time.

My first visitor the day after my C-section was Olive. Well, sort of. She arrived at the hospital accompanied by her designated drivers and chaperones, my huz, mom and nanny, Jassell.) Here she is, in the arms of her Jassell. Olive was initially uncertain about Quinn... as if to think THAT was in your tummy? My thoughts exactly, Olive... But then I offered to take selfies of us entertaining Quinn. Clearly, Olive enjoys a good selfie. Here's the nut offering her sister an Easter egg.

Hi Quinn. Unfortunately for you, we are related.

I thought everything was under control (feelings-wise on Olive's end), until I was told by Josh that Olive had been telling him back at home, "Lost my best friend. Lost Mama." Once I checked out of the hospital, I tried to be as attentive towards her as possible, but it was difficult, seeing that I had a hard time getting out of bed due to the surgery wound, was avoiding stairs during my first week back (Olive's room is on a different floor from mine), and was pretty much a slave to Quinn's feeding schedule. Newborn was practically attached to my boobs.

NOT a strange digital compilation. This is an actual photo of the two in our breakfast nook. 
Olive took one look at Quinn (who's donning a Woombie) and pointed out, "Very Hungry Caterpillar!"
Kid is right on the money.

Though it was difficult for her to accept all the changes happening around her, Olive put on a happy face for us that first week. She really did try.

It ain't easy sharing the love and affection of one's parents.

But the huz and I made sure we snuck in quality time with our two and a half year-old.

During my first weekend back, I had the following conversation with Olive. One that involved nose pinching and speaking through our pinched noses. She likes the nasal tone.

Me: "Who's mama's best friend?"
Me: "No, it's Olive."
Olive: *two hands palming her chest* "OLIVE?!" *ear to ear grin*

NOTE: Olive pronounces her own name as "August"

Baby girl, Quinn may be my breast friend, but you will always be my best friend.

Olive's been in good spirits ever since the issue of best friends was discussed. (It also helps that two and a half weeks later, I'm also mobile and able to walk her to her bedroom and play with her.) I'm proud to share that she sings "Happy Bird-Day" to Quinn daily (Olive is an incredible older sister), and is quick to tell me she loves me everyday. I'm the luckiest Mama in the world...

Thursday, July 03, 2014


My girl crush.

Given the choice of befriending a public figure, dead or alive, I will always choose Tina Fey. The "ordinary working mom who scarfs down Kit Kats in her sweatpants"* is anything but ordinary; Little does she know that I look to her for a daily dosage of life advice. Her knowledge knows no bounds, and her views are always colorful and refreshing.

"Without nipples, boobs would be pointless."

Having recently given birth to Quinn, my mind has pretty much been consumed with everything boob-related. And yes, the charming T-Fey covers the topic of boobs impeccably well.** She was once quoted as having said in an interview: 

The advice I always try to give for a mom is… 
Whatever you do breastfeeding-wise – great
Great. Whatever

Supportive without passing judgment. 
Ahh, the world needs more mamas, more women, like Tina.

Those who follow this blog know that my experience with teat-feeding Olive was a complete and utter nightmare. I gave it my all, but it takes two to tango. Baby girl was born with an insatiable appetite, but her appetite was inconveniently paired with an inability to latch. I spent much of my first month and a half postpartum floating about the house with engorged, melons-for-tits (technical term: engorgement) topped off with clogged ducts and ravaged nipples. My lactation consultant told me breastfeeding would get easier by the second week. It did not. Soaring anxiety led to the declaration that my tits were off limits to Olive. Week two onwards, I'd pump. And so, we rented a hospital-grade breast pump resembling a WWII torture-device. See here:

"The Bomb"

 I was hooked up to this contraption every hour and forty-five minutes in order to maintain milk supply. I obediently consumed pig feet soup, chicken feet soups and Fenugreek pills to stimulate milk flow. All effort aside, I still struggled to produce a single bottle for Olive. Supplemental meals of formula became a necessity; and as I prepped her bottles of water and powder, I'd cry out of guilt. "Breast is best," the hospital teat-Nazis had told me, and there I was, trying my best, yet unable to provide the best for my first born. I breastfed Olive for two months and spent another half month weaning her. When the boob feeding came to an end, I felt incredibly relieved. Olive too was happy for a diet of formula meant her tummy would always be full, that I could hold her close to my chest again, and ooh, longer lashes?! (Olive's old nanny was convinced longer, fuller lashes were a positive side-effect of formula-feeding.) Who knew formula feeding had so many perks? 

Formula-fed Olive.

Breast friend, Quinn

Fast forward to the day Quinn was born. I'm at the hospital, and the nurses are asking, "Do you plan to breastfeed?" I've just been sliced open (second c-section), am drugged and hormonal. "Breast is best" echoes through my mind. Dammit. Rhymes are so effective. I answer, "Yes," and the discomfort begins. I am determined to be a better performing cow this time around, and though I grimace at the start of each feeding, Quinn and I as a team have survived the first two weeks of breastfeeding. Sure, she claws at my raw nipples and veiny breast with her newborn talons, and sure, her gums are harboring some freaky baby teeth, but seeing her goofy, drunken, face of satisfaction after each grub-fest is priceless.

So there you have it. There's more than one way to skin a cat. Both formula and breast milk have worked just fine for my girls, so mamas, choose what works best for you. To those who disagree with your decisions: Whatever.

* Tina as described in an interview for O Magazine.
** Read Bossypants. The title of her chapter on breastfeeding: There's a Drunk Midget in my House

Friday, June 27, 2014

Yeah, Baby!

Olive's future tormentor, er, best friend, has arrived!

Kisses for the baby taquito. 

Quinn Clementine Huang was delivered via c-section in the early morning of June 16th. 8 pounds, 20 inches of fuzzy goodness. (Our healthy little girl entered the world with a light coat of shoulder hair!) Josh, Olive and I could not be more grateful. 

And baby makes FOUR!

Though some shots taken at the hospital (see below) may suggest otherwise... 

You take the good, you take the bad... 

Aside from the occasional tantrum thrown due to hunger, Quinn is a very reasonable baby. The nurses at Good Samaritan hospital were amused by our continuous reference to our little one as "reasonable," but there's no better way to describe her demeanor. Her cries are usually for good reason (burp, hunger, diaper change), and once said issue is resolved, she is quick to quiet down. 

Quinn's also proven to be a good feeder (which isn't to say that the first week of breastfeeding wasn't challenging) and a deep sleeper (I find myself tickling her feet to keep her awake during feedings). Giving birth to an all-around easy-going tot is like landing a golden ticket. Quinn is - dare I say it - the unicorn of babies! A closer look at our the pipsqueak here... 

One week old. In a state of drunken stupor. I am Quinn's cow. 

She is the perfect arrangement of atoms, is she not? 

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Final Countdown

Baby Quinn's official eviction date is June 16th, but womb mates have minds of their own. They emerge whenever they feel like emerging. Take Olive, for example:


Kiddo lived rent-free in my belly for an extra week. You just never know. Considering the unexpected, I've been doing some quality online shopping in preparation for rug-rat number two. Having run the gauntlet once, I know good and well that there really isn't a point in fretting too much over what I pack into my hospital bag. The following are my bare necessities.

1) A good baby straight jacket.

The one pictured is a Woombie and was recommended by my doc. Will your baby look ridiculous in this zipper swaddle? Why, YES! But my obgyn swears by this invention. Seeing that Olive was a horrendous sleeper (we swaddled her with Aden + Anais blankets, but she'd routinely Houdini herself out of our attempts at bondage), le huz and I are determined to start this second baby off on the right foot - even if it means she will look like a mental patient.

2) Sexy mesh knickers

My entire stay at Good Samaritan upon Olive's delivery was spent wearing the hospital's breezy backless smocks paired with mesh granny knickers and disposable hotel slippers. I had hoped to break in some new Hanky Pankys, but the low-riding underwear I usually wear rubbed against my surgery wound, and weren't nearly as roomy as these sexy babies. For those who've been there, done that, you'd know that post-delivery, us mamas wear massive pads (sometimes two) in case of bleeding. Your hospital should provide you with these practical knickers, but it never hurts to have a few extras on hand.

3) Nipple cream

Babies aren't robots. They're all different. Fortunately and unfortunately. Olive the newborn was a total barracuda and insisted on feeding every 45 minutes. Needless to say, my nipples ended up dried, cracked and bleeding. LOVELY! I took huge comfort in applying nipple cream to my sad nips and resorted to using a breast pump to express milk while

I tried Motherlove as well as Lansinoh and preferred the latter. Order here.

4) Munchies.

Breastfeeding a newborn every 45 minutes left me with little time to sleep, let alone enjoy a movie off an iPad. It also left me feeling a tad hungry. Having snacks within arm's reach can't hurt. If I don't eat them, I'm pretty sure my littlest visitor, Olive, will. We both have been really into Skinny Pop popcorn lately. I like that it's not too salty.

5) Fashionable duds for the little one.

Upon our departure from the hospital, le huz and I didn't even bother changing Olive into one of the outfits I had so-thoughtfully selected for her out of fear that it'd lead to unnecessary waterworks. She was a mega-crybaby and resembled Garfield when she cried:

Olive left the hospital in a very practical hospital grade onesie and beanie. Should Quinn's disposition differ from her sister's, I hope to squeeze her into the above-pictured little polka-dotted J.Crew wonder. Order here.

6) Attractive departure outfit for mama.

So I'm no supermodel. My genes are completely unlike Miranda Kerr or Gisele Bundchen. I breastfed Olive with little, next to NO ease, and it took months of Crossfit training and a half-marathon before I could get into my old jeans. Needless to say, I still sported a sizeable soft gut after Olive's deliver, and if memory serves me well, I left wearing non-trendy tapered sweatpants to accommodate my jiggly gut and a baggy sweatshirt to accommodate my lactating, free-hanging breasts.

Depressing much? Well, this second time around, I am determined to reemerge into the world looking slightly more presentable.

I've been wearing a version of this awesome dress from HATCH through out my pregnancy. (I'm obsessed with Ariane Goldman's collection.) This baby-doll gem has the potential to hide a world of flaws without looking too maternity; more importantly, my postpartum belly will have no problem fitting in it. Paired with a wireless bra and nursing pads, I'll leave the hospital looking and feeling human.

7) Massive tote

Hospitals provide lots of freebies should you choose to take them. Diapers, bottles, formula, swaddles, sexy mesh knickers, and so forth. Le huz and I didn't know this the first time around, so we left the hospital with our free gear housed in a massive clear garbage bag. How very Jersey Shore. In an effort to appear classy and human this second time around, I plan to pack a foldable extra-large tote in my delivery bag. The one pictured above is by Herve Chapelier (I've owned it for over eight years and it makes for a fantastic travel companion). Order here.

Happy packing. Happy birthing.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

When Life Gives you Lemons

Illustration by moi.

I'm due to deliver Baby Quinn anytime between now and June 16th, but that doesn't mean my other baby, Project Maltman, the duplex project I began a while back, is on the back-burner. NOPE. My team of contractors are chugging along... full-force ahead. It's important to acknowledge that I'm used to getting in and out of projects rather quickly (think 3 months max), but this particular renovation has kept me busy for nearly 9 months to date! What came to me as a cosmetic fixer turned out to be a total rebuild. We're talking major water damage, termite damage, asbestos findings, foundation issues... But as the saying goes, "When life give you lemons..." KEEP THEM. BECAUSE HEY, FREE LEMONS.

Well, good things come to those who wait, and the guts of this place will soon be flawless. With that said, I am now focusing on beautifying the joint, but as you can imagine, the cost of reframing, rewiring, replumbing, not to mention the cost of new flooring, new HVAC, new water heaters, and new decks have left me with little wiggle room for the good stuff. Finishes. But constraints can be a blessing. (I'm trying to think positively here!) There's no shame in installing simple subway tile. When combined with black and nickel or chrome hardware, classic subway tile can be totally refreshing.

"I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony." 
- Coco Chanel

"Bright and airy. Lots of white with touches of charcoal for contrast. Open, modern, relaxed with an industrial and vintage twist." That's what I scribbled in my notebook while brainstorming "the look" at my neighborhood Starbucks. Heaven knows how this project will turn out. It's been incubating longer than my second child...

A peek at what's been cooking in the kitchens. Both upper and lower units. 

Let's start with the upper: 

Pictured to the right of the kitchen is the entryway. More on that space later.

The kitchen's orignal layout was an L with an island. Remember THIS POST? Well, I have since reframed the entry way to the kitchen and have also centered the only window in the space. The kitchen's new formation will be a galley, but the square footage remains the same. 8.5 wide' and 14.5' long. SKINNY! Layout drawings of the two sides of the space here:

It took a while to convince my millworks guy that an offset range looks rad. I showed him inspiration pics like these:

Fresh, yeah?! Now one nice thing about this configuration is that the project can save on tiling. Because we're only tiling up to the floating walnut shelf, I suggested we go with a dramatic glossy black Heath tile for a crisp look like this:


When used in moderation, black subway tile can look incredibly fab. Just enough drama. And hey, if it's good enough for Olivia Pope (I'm a die-hard Scandal fan, and her kitchen backsplash is black), I say it's good enough for everybody.

Back to the entryway. How happy would you be if you were greeted with this Tom Dixon pendant on your way in? 
Instead of this:

You'd be greeted with this:

He comes in several finishes, but at the moment, I'm totally in love with the copper. Decisions, decisions.

Moving on... The lower unit is currently looking like this. 

Demolished and reframed.

This is wall unto which much of the lower unit kitchen will be installed:

The kitchen will be open to the living room and will feature a small island that can seat two. The layout has yet to be finalized, but it will likely look something like this (the island will sit in front of the wall, not next to it):

Because the lower unit does not capture as much natural light as the upper unit (upper unit balconies block a good deal of the sun shining down below), the cabinets will be some shade of white. The island, however, may either get painted a shade of off-black and topped off with a slab of carrara or encased in wood for warmth. Goodness, I can't decide. Some inspiration images:

To save on tiling expense, the strip of backsplash behind the range will likely be stainless steel. I've never installed stainless steel as a backsplash before, so this will be a first. Hoping it looks good. But if I opt to top the island off in butcher block, how beautiful would a slab of natural stone be?

And how cool would it be to have this Brass T fixture hanging above the little island?

I haven't ordered the fixture yet out of fear that I may change my mind and want to go for two small milk pendants... Thoughts?
This project is scheduled for completion mid-July. Hopefully I'll find time to post more updates. But between Quinn and Maltman (name of the duplex), and Olive, I'm juggling more than enough babies!


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