Friday, December 24, 2010


I missed the lunar eclipse on Winter Solstice because the rain clouds obstructed my view. Bummer, indeed.

Winter Solstice has always appeared magical for me. Marking the longest night of the year, this event was believed by ancient tribes to signify the victory of light over darkness. In other traditions, you were urged to enjoy yourself as much as possible during the solstice and to surround yourself with as much "lightness."

With my cultural upbringing, this celebration attached itself to the holiday of Christmas. And so every year, no matter where I am (or will be), this holiday makes me want to journey back home, to my crazy family.

Today, I am cooking, cooking, cooking with my Mum and my grandma. Family and friends are coming over later tonight, and I am hoping we can finish the several bottles of wine that have been languishing.

I wish you and your kin a wonderful, warm holiday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ermie Lookbook

Confession: Design people/artists/people who create things seriously amaze me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Out and About (or, Culture shock, phase two.)

My week or so here has blurred. Time does that a lot these days. I took a few shots to document, to remember. Here goes:

Fallen leaves and rain, rain, rain in Los Angeles.

A day with Cherlou. She was right: Bld serves up some of the best breakfast hash and blueberry ricotta pancakes I have had in a while. Is there anything cozier than a delicious hot meal and a hot cup of coffee, shared with a dear friend, on a rainy Los Angeles day?

3rd Street and Magnolia Bakery: Yum. The peanut butter cake was something else.

Le Labo: I have mixed feelings about this place. Perhaps it was too soon and too much "Los Angeles" for me to handle at the time, but the thought of purchasing a bottle of oil "mixed on the spot for me" for $300 (standard size) seemed a bit ridiculous. Still, the Bergamote 22 scent lingers on my mind.

Monday, December 20, 2010


After two and a half hours of line-shuffling through immigration and customs, I walked out of LAX to a rainy and cold (to me) Los Angeles. A week and a few moments of adjustment /culture shock later, I'm continuing to enjoy time with family and friends. Everyone keeps asking me what it is I feel like doing, feel like eating while I'm back. I really don't know - just being here with people I know and care about is sufficient.

I am looking forward to spending a few weeks sitting at home with blankets and pets. And, going to the cinema. (I'm excited for Sofia Coppola's new movie, partly because it showcases some of my favorite tracks from Phoenix.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Culture shock, phase one.

I'm in Seoul, enjoying the free internet at the airport. It is a cold day in South Korea, so cold I could see my breath as I stepped outside, so cold that the windows on the bus glazed over with a thick fog as we traveled the hour and a half from the airport into the city center, so cold that my leggings and sandals weren't quite suitable attire. No images to share today; no fully formed thoughts either.

An extended layover provided me with an opportunity to explore the city, and I accidentally ending up in one of city's main shopping areas. Today, as I watched the life on the streets, I felt a similar sensation to that when I traveled through central Russia and finally made it to Moscow. It's how I felt wandering through the city--one stocked with high-heeled women who could (amazingly) do stilettos on ice/snow--in the grubby travel gear that sustained me through the Siberian winter: out of place and wayyyy under-dressed, an outsider.

This morning, I sat and just stared for what felt like hours. Fine, I stared in appreciation at all the great shoes and coats women wore. I noticed how well-kept they appeared. I noticed how the streets were clean, how movement was orderly. I noticed the seatbelts in the bus (wow). I noticed how much more expensive food and transport were. And it became really evident to me that I've been living in a third world country, without much of the modernity and creature comforts to which I had grown accustomed, for a good chunk of the year. And I will continue to do so next year.

I wonder how Los Angeles will feel. My plane boards in 30 minutes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane

In less than 48 hours, I will be leaving for Los Angeles, in a sense circling back to the journey I started 7+ months ago, when with two suitcases packed full of dresses, shampoo and other "necessities," I made the move to Cambodia.

I'm not, however, staying in Los Angeles. I've signed another contract that will keep me in Phnom Penh for a bit longer. Opportunities that I could not have foreseen at the time of my move just popped up. And simply, I fell in love with the work. There's no other way to say it.

Nonetheless, a heady dose of excitement and fear accompanied my decision. But for now, I won't entertain that din because I am going home to see my family and friends. OMG.


via WSJ

Over the past few months, WSJ has written two articles (that I know of) about the forced eviction issue/populations in Cambodia:

Another resource for urban growth issues and sustainable architecture in Cambodia:

Wee sweaters

So it has finally hit me that Christmas is looming close. These wee sweaters - I'm a fan of the mustard and persimmon above- make me think of friends and their little ones, namely Rene's Evangeline and Cherlou's Little Jocy.

: Little Jocy would really dig one of these, don't you think?

Prints and Patterns

Some interesting finds at Japanese Thrift (yes, a thrift store stocked only with donations from Japan) and Lunch Box (my favorite new vintage dress shop).

Unrelated: Happy belated birthday, Dad! (Not that you read this, even though you are technically obligated to do so.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kep and Rabbit Island, pt. 3

Kep and Rabbit Island Top 6 Moments.

1. Evening. Floating in the ocean, in my purple ikat sarong (because I was told it would be inappropriate to just do a bikini), feeling the waves lap up and around me, swallowing me. Staring up at the velvet black sky and twinkling stars above.

2. Evening. Late late evening. Following my friends/colleagues out to the ocean, in darkness. Standing in chest-deep cold water, screaming. Watching the phosphorescence explode in lights and then slowly dissipate with each movement of my limbs, my hands, my fingers.

3. The two giant (and I mean, GIANT) karaoke speakers we lugged onto the small coconut boat. The startled faces of those on the island as we pulled those speakers out of the boat. And even better: the sunset serenade by our karaoke-obsessed colleague, as we jumped, danced, waded, attempted to swim in the distance.

4. Napping in the hammock after a good read.

5. 10+ kilos of crab at the Kep crab market. Corn waffles.

6. Getting lost in the bullet-riddled creepy mansion. (Kep was a major stomping ground for the Khmer Rouge.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mayle Pop-Up, West Coast

via Mayle

I still have tonight's dinner plaguing my thoughts, but I just received an email from the Mayle pop-up shop.

Must remember to breathe.

I may be in Los Angeles for the brick-and-mortar shop. Here's hoping.

Other thoughts: The idea of pants and/or a coat seems very novel to me right now, very otherworldly.

Stirring the Pot

source: The NYT

Last night, I made a bolognese sauce. Specifically, I spent an inordinate amount of time dicing/hacking/cursing vegetables to little bits, and then browning them, and then reducing the mixture in milk, and then stirring, stirring, stirring (fine, only occasionally), now and then throwing in some of the red wine I was drinking.

All of this work is for my Khmer colleagues, who I've invited for dinner tonight. I promised them a barang (foreigner) dinner, a spaghetti night actually, though by, the looks of the sauce (hearty, thick), a big rigatoni noodle would be a more suitable companion. I'm not much of a cook, so I laugh at how my good intentions always end up with stressful hijinks over the kitchen stove, late into the night. (I recall, very vividly, one night in undergrad spent making tabbouleh for 40 people. I did not own a food processor.)

I made the sauce last night, hoping the flavors would settle in by this evening. I hope I made enough. I must feed them more bread, just in case. Wish me luck.


5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3-4 tablespoons butter

1 carrot, finely diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 onion, diced

1 celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 pound beef, ground

1 pound pork, ground

1/4 pound pancetta, ground (Note: I used bacon, as pancetta isn't always on offer Phnom Penh.)

1/2 tube tomato paste

4 medium sized tomatoes, sliced

1 cup milk

1 cup dry red wine

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating


In a 6- to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion, celery and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the beef, pork and pancetta and stir into the vegetables. Add the meat over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together until browned.

Add the tomato paste, milk and wine and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from the heat.

When ready to use, cooked pasta should be added to a saucepan with the appropriate amount of hot Bolognese and tossed so the pasta is evenly coated. Serve topped with grated cheese.

Serves 4 to 6.

Recipe adapted from Mario Batali.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Another quick thought: I have lived and worked in a third world country for 6+ months now, in a field that is as meaningful and intellectually stimulating as it is emotionally challenging, doing advocacy and legal work that I could not have dreamed up before my move, with experiences that still floor me (and I am relatively numb to these things now), that make me laugh, shake my head in disbelief and, sometimes, in anger, in hope, in mind-boggling, eye-opening amazement.

That is where I stand today, incidentally in the only Mayle dress I brought along (not that others would find that very blogworthy, but I heart Mayle).

And in about a week, I go home to visit family and friends.

P.S. Actually, it has been 7+ months. Time flies.

the holidays in Phnom Penh

It's beginning to look like Christmas in Phnom Penh. As my bus came back from Battambang last week, I could not miss the lights strewn about, the Christmas trees, the silver tinsel in storefronts. Yesterday, at brunch with Alex, Sotheary, and Will at Java, I even had a gingerbread cookie.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


This feeling comes and goes. Now and then, it rears its head, only to be lost in the din of daily life, dissolving into forgetfulness. But I'm holding onto it for a minute more, and today, I am documenting it. To remember.

In our big meeting this morning with the "big" stakeholders, as I munched on buttery cake, I thought: All the pouring over documents, laws, and legal memos; all the drafting and re-drafting, the agonizing over one word; all the site visits to impoverished communities via bumpy bus rides, to communities where, when you sit still for a moment, a swarm of flies attacks, where the heat is unbearable, where you are fatigued so quickly; all the women crying to me with their stories, with their half-naked children in their arms; all the evidence gathering.

SOMETHING -- and I don't know the contours of that "something" yet -- has come out of this, grown from it, from my work.


These pictures are from my trip to Japan with Mami last year. We were in Kyoto, on a cold afternoon that was quickly turning to evening. I remember walking through the park that floated above the city, staring at the reddening trees, above and below.

Not related. But this is kind of sums up how I feel this afternoon.
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