Thursday, December 26, 2013

What's up?

Am having so much activities (read: fun) that I could barely catch my breath. After a whirlwind 2 weeks back home to see our families, with birthday and Christmas celebrations snuck in between, we are finally back in FC!

Well, I wish we could say we are back to our quiet lives but looking at what we have done the past month, I don't think so...

Those old bones still rock!

The Leows made full use of their freedom (little L was in HK) and organised an epic clubbing night last month! I never imagine Panda and I going to a night club with transgender dancers but I must say the 'girls' at AsiaSF impressed me with their antics!

I especially loved our waitress - I shall call her Big Mama - who got Panda so red in the face with her teasing and flirting. When I told her hey that's my husband you are touching, Big Mama stage whispered in a manly voice: "Don't worry, I won't get pregnant!"

The most spontaneous award has to go to April, who led the pack on the 'blow jobs' - place your hands on their chest and get the shot glass out from their thighs or cleavage. I sent my sister a photo on that and she went "Eeeeeeeeee!" But actually, it was quite hilarious.

Big thanks to the Leows for that fun night out, which by the way, ended off at a KTV where everyone was almost ready to collapse from exhaustion. Old age.

Dainty, dainty! Tea and pastries!

The next day, Jo and I ditched our party clothes, left the boys at home, and headed down to Satori Tea Company to meet the ladies. It's such an exquisite place that I wished I had donned something prettier, lady-er. They had a whole wall lined with tea choices and a small cabinet filled with mismatched teapots and cups. I felt the urge to put on my best behaviour in such a quiet, feminine setting. But it was so hard because HY was about to leave US for good and I just couldn't stop talking. And it didn't help that the place was quite small! Luckily there weren't many customers.

The ambience was great but the menu was a tad too pricy for its quantity - at least for my current state of housewife-ness. Or maybe it was because I woke up late and I was looking for something to fill my poor starving stomach. The sandwiches did give me enough energy to move my toes home...

Did someone say shop and ski?

I was desperate for some action during the Thanksgiving weekend, so Panda and I had a grand plan - shop till we drop for the Black Friday sale, then head right up to Squaw Valley.

Based on our experience, parking would be a nightmare as it gets late into the night, so we got to Livermore REALLY early. And we weren't the first... at 4pm, queues were starting to form. Temperature was freezing and it got colder as the sun sets... but it didn't dampen people's shopping mood. Check out my frozen smile Kate Spade and Swarovski's line, even before they open!

We were quite glad that despite our tired bodies and the lack of sleep, we managed to get our butts to Squaw Valley. The drive was pretty pleasant and since it was the beginning of ski season, there weren't much snow on the ground though it was cold.

We rested for the night and woke up early to check out the place. I had mistakenly thought that ski lessons would be available in the afternoon (no one told me otherwise when I checked at the counter... boo!), so we took the aerial tram to High Camp in the morning. I had a blast ice-skating on the upper mountain. It was only when we got down and I wanted to pay for the ski lessons that we found out they were long over and the slopes were closing at 3pm! That left me with just an hour to try the easy slope.... it was quite depressing but I still went for it! :(

We stayed at Red Wolf Lodge, literally a stone's throw from the main village. Compared to where we've stayed at Northstar, the lodge was much simpler and smaller but the kitchenette was enough to prepare small meals. By now I'm quite good at packing ingredients that can be cooked in different ways - pasta, potatoes, carrots, some kind of meat, broccoli/lettuce, onion and garlic. Salt and pepper are normally provided but bring butter and sugar along. Condiments like ketchup, and herbs like dill or parsley, are good too!

What's for Christmas?

We got back to FC before Christmas eve and the gang had a superb dinner on Christmas day, thanks to Mr and Mrs Tan! Jo and Vic had to be the most hospitable couple I've ever seen - they spent so much effort preparing the sumptuous meal for us! I especially loved the devil eggs and chocolate dipped strawberries, and will try to attempt it one day! There was also an after-dinner song and dance session and we each took turns to jiggle our cellulite for disco music. We witnessed some really uproarious smooth moves but we are keeping those photos for personal consumption!

Next up...

It has been such an exciting year, thanks to our friends, and we are going to end it on high! Where will the gang be heading next? Well, I'm not telling yet, but stay tuned... for another episode of FC adventures is about to be unveiled!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

5 things I learned about Facebook writing

We've been packed with loads of activities after Sheena left! I will update in separate posts.

Actually, the reason why I haven't been writing is because I've received two more orders on Etsy (thanks to Lynn and Winifred, yay!) So I have been busy making the clips - it's more time-consuming that it looks.

And I've also been doing more work online and learning loads. See, in my previous jobs where press releases, speeches, and articles rule the day, I am so used to writing in the proper format. Introduction, main body (key points + anecdotes), conclusion. Thank you.

But I've learnt that doing online content, especially Facebook, is very different. You only have that small space to capture attention before people decide if it's worth clicking to read further. Especially now that you are not posting as a person but an organisation, people tend to be sceptical and dismiss it as advertisement without even glancing at it.

So here are 5 things I learned:

1. Put the fun stuff first: If you start off with "We are pleased to announce xxx...", that's an instant death. Even "Want to try our new xxx?" is not ideal. So far, starting with an insider tip to something seem to work. Give them the useful/fun stuff first, then talk about your products. It's always them first, then you.

2. Write like how you'd say it: Let your personality shine! Don't be so stiff! Talk like humans to humans!

3. Think small: When it comes to photos, think of those that are bright and colourful and impactful, even when it's viewed on a small screen! Details that look nice on a laptop may be as invisible as a speck of dust on an iPhone screen.

4. Timing: This is a tough one... media consumption habits differ. But I'm guessing people normally check their social media stuff while commuting to and fro work, and during lunch?

5. KISS: It's an age-long principle, but even more so in the online context.  Keep it short and succinct, and don't write a grandmother story unless you are really one!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

10 days of chilling at FC

Time flies and before we know it, Sheena has come and gone! This trip was rather unplanned, in a nice way too because we didn't have to rush from attractions to attractions, place to place. No long road trips, just short excursions to nearby places for food and coffee.

Since it's her second time here (ahem, in half a year) and knew exactly how she wants to spend her time, we just jotted down a list of to-eat and to-do. The highlights are:

1. New eating places!

Silver Lake is along El Camino Real and we went there on Panda's recommendation (his colleagues brought him there for lunch). At $18.90 for a set of three main dishes and $1 per pax for rice, we couldn't ask for a more value for money lunch. We especially loved the salt and pepper ribs, and tofu rod cod pot!

We stopped by Soho Café on our way to Livermore Premium Outlet - it's just one exit away. Even though the reviews on Yelp are average, we liked the food there and I think it helps if you place your order in Cantonese! I tried their satay mee and it was yums.

Sheena is a ramen lover, like me! We had a girls lunch at Ramen Parlour because it's one of the best around, together with Ramen Dojo and Santa Ramen. I chose the garlic lobster pork soup base - thick and fragrant. The ramen also came with half a soft shell crab! Verdict for us: I think it's as good as Ramen Dojo (I love thick soup bases) but Sheena still ranks Hotaru's curry ramen as her favourite.

Spicy Empire, omg... I've been craving for Sze Chuan food for ages and Sheena gave me the perfect excuse to go because Panda doesn't take spicy food! We asked Vic to bring us there for lunch since he loves spicy food. I'm so in love with the 水煮鱼 and 蒜泥白肉. Will. Be. Back. Burp.

We sort of decided on King of Thai Noodle House at the last minute because we didn't know what to eat while we were in the city. It's a convenient choice since it's located near Union Square. The portions are just right. Their pad thai is better than their fried rice. And oh, Hoi Jor is good too.

Panda and I got a bit worried when Sheena disappeared for the longest time at the Great Mall food court. Turns out, she was queuing up for Great Khan's Mongolian BBQ. So you pile your bowl with as much food and condiments as you can, then someone will dump a pile of noodles on your bowl, and the chef will then cook them all up for you. How it taste is all up to you! But I must say it looks fun... trust Sheena to find this!

2. New gallivanting places!

We have no long road trips this time around, so we mainly hang around nearby places. I took Sheena to Philz Coffee at Palo Alto, and she liked it so much that we went back for a second time with Panda. (Actually, we went to the Facebook HQ branch without knowing that it's only for employees. Oops!)

Anyway, back at Palo Alto, we took a stroll along University Avenue. Love the Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop, which sells all sorts of quirky soda and candies, and Paris Baguette because their café mocha roll is so good! Cream, which sells ice-cream sandwiched between two cookies at only $2.50, smells lovely and there was no queue! A pity that our tummies were too full!

For our city tour, we skipped the pier because we've been there, done that. Took a walk along Chinatown instead, partly because we haven't really check out Chinatown before, partly because I wanted to look for good lup cheong! We didn't know all the good bakeries are along Stockton Street, since we went by Grant Avenue. We will save our tummies for next time!

3. New recipes!

Well, not exactly new new. Sheena tried Jo's guacamole dip in her last trip, so this time round she tried her hand at making it, under the supervision of Chef Jo. We also made many bags of potstickers, and baked shepherd's pie at home for the first time. I love it when we have simple home-cooked dinners!

For breakfast, Sheena also made us frittatas with bacon. It's quite yummy and the recipe sounds simple! I will try to make some in future too.

4. New shopping places!

Other than the usual outlets and malls, I brought Sheena to the Nike Clearance at San Leandro. We also shopped in the city for the first time. Among her goodies are two new pairs of TOMS from Sports Basement, and one new pair of boots at Skechers (I think she looks awesome in them!)

This sort of summarises Sheena's 10-day long break at FC. With an extremely relaxed and flexible itinerary, I hope she feels refreshed, satisfied (tummy-wise) and happy with her loot. Because I do, with my own shopping and eating craves fulfilled! Heehee!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I'm back after a week of silence

Oops. Why the silence since Halloween? 

I've been busy with the usual - preparing for Sunday School, going for French gatherings, trying to read etc. On top of that, I'm starting to prepare for my visa extension, and expanding the scope of the online part-time job. Work will be more regular in the weeks to come! Yay!

Have also been working on Wendy's 'order' of five clips for her friends' daughters. She's pretty open to new ideas so I tried a flower design. Instead of sewing the name on the leaf, like what I did with the apple, I placed the name on the stem instead. Was quite pleased with the results!

One more to go!
And I've decided to extend the 3rd month promotion to free international shipping. For the month of November, from my Etsy shop:

"Happy Holidays PROMO!! Receive FREE shipping with your purchase from now till 30 Nov.
For US: Please enter code 'OCT13SHIP' - no minimum purchase is required.
For other countries: Please enter code 'OCT13SHIP2INT' - minimum purchase of $20 is required.
It's the season to be jolly! Happy shopping!"
Let's see how this goes!
Another major update: Sheena has arrived in US yesterday! Her 2nd trip in half a year. She's out shopping at Livermore with Panda now while I stay home and prepare dinner. I woke up this morning with a slight sore throat and much lethargy, despite popping 2 Nyquil last night. I decided I should do the right thing and not to go for Veterans' Day sale. Yes, it required every ounce of willpower, but I think it's more important to listen to your body!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Spooky, spooky! It's our first Halloween!


We had a fabulous time bringing little Z out for his first trick-or-treat at Taylor Street, Millbrae yesterday! The houses along this stretch were known to be kids-friendly at Halloween, and they were indeed nicely done up with lights, tombstones, cobwebs, witches and ghosts. Families were just sitting on their steps, distributing sweets to hordes of kids.

The atmosphere got better after 6.30pm, as the skies turned dark and older kids started to arrive. One of the houses erected a giant enclosed black tent on the front lawn (supposedly a haunted house), and loads of kids were heard screaming inside. I peeped in and saw skeletons and gory masks accentuated by green light. No wonder this stretch of road attracts so many kids at Halloween - applaud these folks for their efforts!

(Side track: Halfway through our Halloween walk, Mom called and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was with my friend, bringing her kid out to get candies. Mom asked if I told him the real meaning behind Halloween - that we shouldn't be celebrating ghosts/witches/evil souls. I said he is too young to understand but his mom will explain to him that there's nothing to be afraid of, since it's all fake! Judging by Z's reaction, however, he was indeed a little scared. On second thoughts, it was fun for us to watch little Z in his airplane suit, walking up timidly to get his treat. But I couldn't tell if he found it fun or frightening or confusing. Whoops.)

We retreated to Wendy's place for dinner, where we were joined by a drag queen KTV papasan, a Japanese soldier, a minecraft, and... a basketball player. Panda was so sad that we didn't consider him for the group photo. We rejected his basketball player costume, because that was what he wore yesterday to watch the warriors games! He was appealing to us the entire evening, saying he wore track pants and brought a basketball. But we happily grouped him with Wendy (carrot/pumpkin wannabe) and Lawrence (just home clothes). 

Oh! I forgot to mention that I was quite proud of myself, for throwing together the leopard costume at the last minute! I only decided to dress up around 4 plus, and barely had 45 minutes to get ready. Rummaged through the wardrobe for clothes, made felt ears and tail, put on make-up. All in less than an hour.

The effect was worth the effort. And worth having my hair hot glue-gunned to the felt accidentally, in my hurry to get the ears done. Talk about a craft mess! Jo and Wendy said I looked more like Aki Mat Yoyo from their childhood Malay programme. Oh well, they are cute too!

The day before we had a pumpkin carving session at Jo and Vic's place. They were the 'experts', having a grand total of one carving experience when none of us had any. So they taught us how to dig out the seeds, scrape the insides till it's smooth and 1-inch thin, and design the funny face before poking the knife in. It's fun but it's also hard work. I can't imagine kids doing this all alone! I had to hold the heavy pumpkin with one hand and wiggle the knife with the other. All the time I was thinking I might slash my wrist by accident, and we would have a really bloody Halloween. 

Fortunately, no humans or animals were hurt during the process, and we had decent looking Jack-O-Lanterns at the end of the day. Cutest award goes to Wendy's Mr. Potato/Pumpkin head!

So we accomplished much for our first Halloween event - carved pumpkin lanterns, dressed up in costumes, went for trick-or treat. As usual, I'm really thankful for the fun-loving friends around us.

Happy Halloween to us!