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Monthly Archives: January 2013

As some of you know, I recently moved into a new place with my roommate and now that I’ve unpacked (for the most part) and gotten semi-situated, I’ve started the process of styling and decorating the space.
I wanted to start by reorganizing my bulletin board, which has more-or-less acted as a dumping ground for two-years worth of ticket stubs, receipts, photos, coupons, business cards, etc. Not only does it look messy and cluttered, but the pile-up ultimately buried valuable items like gift certificates and coupons, and also photos or cool images I originally wanted to display.
The biggest challenge was thinking up innovative ways to keep and display some of the things I collect. Since I’m a big fan of live music, I’ve grown very proud of the concert ticket stubs, wristbands and music festival collateral that I’ve collected over the years, but I’ve never been able to think of a tasteful way to display them. I was inspired by our friends at Young House Love and their creative ideas for making sentimental art. Here were some of my favorite ideas from Sherry and John:

Sending yourself post cards from your travels and display them in a tall vase via Young House Love

Collecting strips from photo booths in a glass via Young House Love

Saving keys from places you’ve lived via Young House Love

Solution #1: Paint Cans 
For my ticket stubs, I decided to store them in clear, plastic paint canisters that I bought at Michael’s for a few bucks. It’s an easy, neat way to collect and display my growing collection. I bought one paint can for all of my concert ticket stubs and another for tickets with more dynamic imagery. For example, some big sporting events print collectible or limited edition tickets that I wanted to highlight.
Solution #2: Frames
I also found a dual frame that was perfect for displaying pamphlets I kept from Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011 and 2012. I also incorporated the wristbands from each festival into the design.
Solution #3: Gift boxes
I also needed a solution for other memorable items that I wanted to keep, such as wedding announcements and invitations. These are obviously very sentimental and big moments in the lives of my loved ones, and I anticipate the collection will continue growing as I get older. Since a lot of these paper goods are double-sided, I thought it’d be a shame to collect them in a scrapbook or photo album. The same applies to music festival pamphlets and playbills from musicals that are fun to thumb through. My solution was simple – store them in a cute, tasteful gift box. This non-overt solution gives you the freedom to look through them whenever you want. So after a few months of being displayed on my fridge, baby announcements, Christmas cards and other memorable collectibles of that nature are still kept, cherished, but stored and out of the way.

Now my bulletin board is decluttered and can finally serve its original purpose of displaying colorful photos, stickers, business cards and a few commemorative concert/sporting event tickets. I’m pretty pleased with how my projects turned out. How do you like to display your sentimental memories?

One interesting fact that you might not know about me is that I have a huge girl crush on smokin’ hot Sports Illustrated model Chrissy Teigen. Not only is she gorgeous (which is what ignited my initial attraction to her), but Teigen is interesting, smart and a hilarious person to follow on Twitter and Instagram.
Fun fact: Chrissy Tiegen retweeted me once and it was probably the biggest social media interaction I’ve ever had with a celebrity (I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a few from the likes of iconic rapper Bun B and my favorite producer Diplo).
Anyway, in addition to her constant (yet entertaining) social media activity, Chrissy Teigen also has a mouthwatering food blog where she chronicles her adventures in culinary school and different recipes she and her fiance John Legend love to cook. I’m not sure how Teigen manages to maintain her bikini-ready physique with some of her dietary choices, but I certainly admire a model who openly says that it’s okay to treat yourself and love food. It’s so refreshing compared to the rail thin runway models who survive on celery or Kate Moss’ ass backwards “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” mentality.
Anyway, Chrissy Teigen is inspiring to me in more ways than one – this year, she and John Legend decided to spend their holidays in Tokyo and essentially ate nothing but Japanese-style ramen noodles for a full week. It can’t be a coincidence that I too am constantly eating ramen and tirelessly trying to unearth new spots in Austin that serve this flavorful noodle dish.
As you can tell from my favorable reviews of Ramen Tatsu-ya and East Side King, I have a soft spot for Japanese noodles. Last week alone, I tried 3 different ramen dishes in the span of 5 days. Something is wrong with me.

Squid ink curry ramen from East Side King

Miso Not Ramen from Ramen Tatsu-ya

A lot of my peers asked if I’d tried Kome ramen yet, saying it was comparable to Ramen Tatsu-ya, some even making bold statements claiming that it was better. Acclaimed for its sushi and only serving ramen during lunch, I was excited to try this place out on one of my Friday lunch breaks.
Turns out the reviews were right – it was just as good, better in some ways. I can’t determine which dish I prefer since they’re both so delicious, but I will point out some advantages that I really appreciated about my dining experience at Kome.
Tonkatsu Ramen from Kome

Tonkatsu Ramen from Kome

Food – Both dishes were comparable in taste, but Kome definitely put more ramen and toppings in the bowl. Ramen Tatsu-ya makes you pay extra for corn, hot sauce, even extra noodles. I simply got more value out of my Kome ramen.
Ambience – I got seated right away at Kome and didn’t feel crowded or stuffy. One of the drawbacks about Ramen Tatsu-ya is their seating model. The little restaurant is always cramped and crowded – I realize they don’t have much room to sit and high demand which is why there’s always a long line of patrons waiting to order and get seated. But the line files through the middle of the restaurant, right between the main tables where the majority of customers sit and dine. People who are already seated and trying to enjoy their meals are eye level with the belt loops of other customers waiting in line, which is a tad uncomfortable. Plus, there is always the risk of a waiter carrying heavy bowls of steaming hot soup tripping or running into you as they weave their way around people waiting in line.

Ladies room in Ramen Tatsu-Ya

Ladies room in Kome

Bathrooms – Both restaurants have awesome bathrooms. Who wouldn’t like this schizophrenic graffiti in Ramen Tatsu-ya? However, Kome took the minimalist design approach. I think the toilet paper wrapped in Japanese newspaper was a subtle, but nice attention to detail.

Best chopsticks I’ve ever used

Chopsticks – Kome’s utensils are the sharpest and most balanced chopsticks I’ve ever eaten with. Unbelievably easy to use.
Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll ever kick my ramen kick. Possibly when the weather warms up a little, but for now I’m eating it on a weekly basis and it’s wonderful.

via Willco

via Willco

At approximately 4:30 am on Saturday morning, I finished one of the best books I’ve ever read. The usual disappointment that overcomes me when a story I love comes to its inevitable close was deepened by the fact that all of the subsequent books I will read this year probably won’t meet the lofty expectations and standard this book has set for all of my future literary conquests.
The Pulitzer-winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon certainly lived up to its embellished title and revered accolades. Though I’m over a decade late in discovering this terrific work of fiction, I’m so glad I discovered Chabon at arguably his best and certainly look forward to delving into the rest of his repertoire.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay was as daring and provocative as it sounds; though the title almost comes across as childish or campy, it perfectly encapsulates the two equally likable protagonists – the kind, charming man-of-many talents, Josef Kavalier, and his impossibly smart and quick-witted cohort Sammy Klayman. These two young Jewish heroes tirelessly work in the business of superheroes at the height of its popularity – the Golden Age of comics, a time when political sentiments were especially sensitive as the U.S. remained anxiously neutral while other nations were in the midst of the second World War.
When I initially heard of Kavalier & Clay, I immediately thought of a hero of some sort and his trusty best friend or sidekick. This certainly aligns with the comic book plot line and overarching themes of camaraderie and teamwork that’s woven through the pages of this book. But I wouldn’t say either Kavalier or Clay takes more of the spotlight in the novel – their characters – cliche as it sounds – were quite the dynamic duo. Both possess different talents (powers, if you will) and share equally tragic personal experiences that define who they are. Despite their conflicting talents, skill sets and personalities, the combined power of the two was a force to be reckoned with. In addition to that, the relationship between these two characters is one of the most heartwarming and touching friendships in all of fiction.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because this action-packed novel was such a joy to read. There were certainly a handful of other significant characters and as one would expect, this book about comic books was quite frankly, about much more than comic books. The lighter subject matter regarding comic books and magic made Kavalier & Clay a deliciously fun book to read, but since it takes place during the worst World War of our time, the story was equally sobering. Painful even.
As you can tell from this shining review, I highly recommend The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. You don’t have to be a comic book aficionado to appreciate that component of the book; it’s more of a history lesson about the industry at its pinnacle in the 40’s. As I was reading, I kept thinking, “Why haven’t they made this into a movie yet?” Turns out they’ve tried and failed a few times over the years, but there are talks about a potential HBO mini-series, which would be badass. In the meantime, I’ll be catching up on lost time and exploring more fantastic tales that originated from Michael Chabon’s beautiful mind.

via Etsy

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As a follow-up to my Year in Live Music infographic, I created a similar graphic detailing my reading activity over the course of 2012. I’m ultimately pleased by the number of books I read (29), but was also disappointed that my reading activity declined over the second half of the year. The usual excuse always involves a shortage of time – there’s just never enough time to read, but what New Years resolutions have taught me is – there will never be enough time to read. Nor will there be enough time to exercise, reorganize your closet, redecorate your home or keep in touch with friends. You have to make time for it, and in 2013 I plan to do just that. Reading brings me so much joy, and it’s frankly silly to deprive myself of that. In fact, to ensure that I continue reading this year, my friend Adam and I devised a book club for the year, strategically planning our selections based on variety and our personal preferences – feel free to join!
Without further a do, my literary year in review:
Longest Book: Moby Dick at 608 pages
The novel was terribly slow, difficult and took me about a month to finish, but I’m ultimately glad that I conquered one of the most iconic books in the Western canon. It’s totally a book that can be read over the course of a year – the chapters are short and digestible, but they don’t detract from the epic nature of the story.
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038Most popular author: Jonathan Franzen, 3 books
It took me two years to finally pick up Freedom, which dominated all of the “Best of” lists in 2010 and boy, was I missing out on a terrific piece of fiction. It was such a beautifully and creatively written novel and I fell in love with several of the characters despite their overt flaws and shortcomings. In addition to Freedom, I also read Franzen’s short and charming memoir, The Discomfort Zone, and The Corrections (which turned out to be quite appropriate since a large portion of the novel takes place on a cruise ship and that just happened to be my selected reading for the cruise I went on in August-complete coincidence)

via Etsy

Best Classic: To Kill A Mockingbird
The first and only time I read this classic was in my 9th grade English class when I was more concerned about memorizing vocabulary words than I was with simply reading and enjoying a literary, Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece. In 2010, one of the most intelligent and well-read friends I know told me To Kill A Mockingbird was her all time favorite book; she even named her dog Harper. I gave it a second pass a few months ago, and the charming, humorous and touching novel was totally worth the second shot.
Best Non-Fiction: Friday Night Lights
For a non-fiction book about sports, this one was incredibly human. In Friday Night Lights, H. G. Bissinger combined sharp journalism with elaborate storytelling and I can’t wait to read his follow-up tale, After Friday Night Lights, that details the unexpected friendship that blossomed between him and one of the football players that resulted from his time in Odessa.
 
Ultimate Favorite: The Art of Fielding
I know both of these books came out in 2011, but they’re neck and neck for best book I read in 2012. They were both considerably long, they were both told from different points of view, and they both made me cry. The characters and story lines in both novels were incredibly well-developed and as Jonathan Franzen candidly described The Art of Fielding, “It’s left a little hole in my life the way a really good book will,” I have a special place in my heart that only Henry Skrimshander and Mitchell Grammaticus can fill. I highly recommend both.

Chefs Paul Qui and Moto Utsunomiya at new East Side King at Hole in the Wall via Thrillist

Hands down, the best food I’ve discovered this year is Paul Qui’s series of East Side King food trucks. Rightfully earning the title of Top Chef Texas and demonstrating excellence in Asian cuisine, Qui has been rapidly expanding his culinary portfolio. In the short time since he won the competition, Qui has certainly left quite an imprint on the city of Austin. Qui’s food trucks are among the top recommendations I give Austin newbies who want to try something local or check out the flourishing food cart scene in our weird city.
If you follow me on any of my social networks, you have likely been inundated with mouthwatering photos of East Side King’s Asian-inspired street food. The dishes are flavorful, unique and it’s not uncommon for my friends and I to drop $50 or more and ravenously feast (Of note, the menu items are totally affordable – we just collectively order a large variety of dishes and share). There’s something for everyone; there are items appropriate for either a full meal or a light snack at the bar depending on your varying degrees of hunger. There are plenty of vegetarian options as well.
Here are a few photos of my favorite East Side King delicacies:

Chicken karaage and Liberty Rice at the Liberty location

Pho Buns and Fried Rice Balls from the Shangri-La location

Before & After (from Left to Right): Shrimp Ebi Ebi Tacos, Pho Buns, Fried Rice Balls, Spicy Edameme and Chicken Skin Buns at Shangri-La location

Another Before & After shot from the Shangri-La location

Paul Qui finally opened a brick-and-mortar East Side King location on the UT Campus and my friends and I finally tried it out last night. Featuring a full service bar, similar menu items from his food trucks and the addition of a few Ramen noodle dishes, the new East Side King restaurant lived up to my expectations! The ambiance of the restaurant is hip, fun and inviting – perfect for late night cravings for UT students and grown adults who want to enjoy a pitcher of beer and good food. The restaurant is connected to the Hole In the Wall dive bar off the main campus drag, and as a faithful alumni who’s extremely familiar with the UT campus – I can honestly say that I’ve never been to that establishment. But with East Side King out back and its pinball machines, cool artwork, pitchers of Sapporo beer and savory Ramen noodles – I have a feeling I might stop in for a drink one of these days.

East Side King at Hole in the Wall

 

Personal favorite dishes at all East Side King locations. Try them out – you will thank me later.
Food truck at Shangri-La
  • Spicy Edamame
  • Ebi Ebi Tacos
  • Pho Buns
Food truck at The Liberty
  • Poor Qui’s Buns
  • Tongue Buns
  • Tori Meshi
Restaurant at Hole in the Wall
  • Tori Meshi
  • SapporoBeerBacon MisoRamen
  • Squid Ink Curry Ramen

Me and Paul Qui at The Grackle

One day, I was fortunate enough to run into Top Chef Texas himself. In spite of all of his talent and success, he’s probably the friendliest, humblest and most unassuming entrepreneur/reality show TV star/famous chef you’ll ever meet.