the book report 2

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The Room by Jonas Karlsson
I’ll admit that I chose this book based on it’s cover having no idea what it was about. When I started reading I was immediately intrigued. Bjorn has just transferred to a new job when the story behinds.  He’s navigating his department’s social hierarchy (ultimately deciding he’s superior to his peers in every way) when he stumbles on a curious room.  He finds relief and heightened efficiency in his work in this room, but the book continues as his reality of the room clashes with his coworkers.  At some point I started to wonder whether his stark confidence was based on reality or if he was just completely delusional.

The Room is complex and smart and a wonderful departure from some of the books I normally read. I loved how Karlsson leads you through the book believing one thing and slowly makes you question everything you’ve just read.  The Room blurred the line between reality and dream-life and explored the extent to which ones goes to escape the stresses of life.  What would you do to escape?

I’d recommend this to anyone who’s ever worked in a cubicle and felt like the guy in Office Space.   

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Read my other book reports and check out all the books I’ve read over the years.



*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

California to Alabama

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These past three and a half months flew by. I can’t believe how little I blogged while so many exciting things happened in my life.  I got engaged and wedding planning took up most of my time.  Then the best thing happened when Lance and I got married.  Then shortly after (i.e. five days later), I moved to Birmingham.  Now here I am, happy as a clam! I want to share all these wonderful moments on my blog, but it’ll have to be out of order.  I want to share my transition to Birmingham first because it’s been weighing heavily on my heart these past few months.

When I moved to Birmingham, I knew needed to adjust to a new culture, but I wasn’t too worried. I knew my diverse group of friends, including some very awesome southerners, and traveling would help me settle in. Not to mention that I had Lance; he is a great sort of interpreter of southern culture. While I occasionally slip up and refer to California as home, I do whole-heartedly feel at home here.

So when people can’t believe I’m already acclimated it makes me laugh. In many aspects of life, Alabama is vastly different from California. I’m not blind to that. Sometimes I really feel the depth of racial ignorance in people here. Sometimes I wish Asian foods weren’t so expensive. Sometimes I wish I could be surrounded by hipster people. Sometimes I get excited when I see minorities. Those are all to be expected. But what I’m saying is that I’m not falling apart. I’m not shell-shocked. I’m not overwhelmed. This wasn’t a culture-shock. For some reason I noticed people can’t accept that I’m settled in and love my life here.  They’ll add in “well, you’ll see” or “not yet”, as if they’re waiting for me to fall apart because of some secret awfulness in Birmingham that I haven’t discovered yet.  But I’d like to tell them I know what I lost when I left California, but I also know what I gained by living here.

When you switch your focus from what’s missing to what’s present, it really can tip the scale to how you adjust to any given situation. And that’s what my mindset is here. Instead of wallowing in these changes and the differences between California and Alabama, I embrace it. I miss my family, but I relish in seeing pictures of them and talking to them on the phone. I miss the ocean, but I love all the hiking out here. There’s so much about Birmingham that I already love. I love how there’s trees everywhere. I’m starting to find my own little tribe of likeminded friends. And I’m even finding coffee shops that I absolutely love. And really, when you’ve been to places like Haiti or China, you realize that California and Alabama aren’t that different.

So to end my little PSA…. I love Birmingham and am very happy to be living life here with Lance. Life is great.


Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. December 30, 2014 | Fuji x100s

thankful thursday 21

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I have so many things to be thankful for, but these things have especially been weighing on my heart this past week.

I’m so thankful for…

a wonderful home & husband. Everyday being married to Lance is such a blessing. I know I couldn’t be the person I am today without him.  He’s constantly supporting me and encouraging me.  And I’m so thankful he got us this great apartment… the perfect little starter for us newlyweds.  It’s just the right size and has everything we need.  We spend our time in our home talking and reading and spending time together.  What more could I ask for?

a healthy new niece. After all the births I’ve witnessed, I’m so grateful for my sister and new niece’s health.  Some families aren’t so lucky.  I’m so thankful both are doing well. I can’t wait for some baby snuggles and a million pictures to last me when I get home.

the library. I’ve been missing out for years.  Now I know the glory that is the library. I love it. Lance and I may have gone to the library several times already.

phone calls and skype. I’m not much a fan of phone calls. I blame my awkwardness and introversion.  But despite all that, when I get the courage to talk on the phone I savor it.  In the past weeks I’ve had more than a handful of phone and skype calls that lifted my spirit in so many ways.  I’m so happy to catch up, share deep conversations and talk to my friends again.  It’s such a blessing.


Birmingham Botanical Gardens. April 02, 2015 | Fuji x100s


the book report 1

I love exchanging book recommendations with friends. Learning about the books someone loves tells me so much about that person.  It shares how their mind thinks, what makes them happy, what intrigues them, and ultimately, how we can connect. A person’s preference in books and the ones they would recommend to me ultimately tell me what kind of friends we will be.

So in that spirit, I’m writing some quick book reports about the books I read in 2015.  I’d love to share what kind of books I read and which ones I loved.  Maybe you’ll see a different side of me or maybe you’ll see just how similar we are.  Whatever it is, be sure to check out some of these books because a lot of them are winners.

book report 1

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This book is amazing. It was so good I bought another copy when I left my first at a Starbucks.  I forget where I first heard of this book, but I think I read an article about it.  But this book is now everywhere in the blogosphere.  I started reading this book right before I got married and made the great move to Alabama from California.  Such perfect timing!

This is the kind of book you read over and over.  Marie describes her journey of learning how to tidy and teaches how anyone can easily integrate her method into their life.  At my house in California I began to purge and clean and pack according to some of her principles.  She’s frank about the reality of clutter.  We have so much and yet we don’t need most of it.  Oddly enough, this was revolutionary for me.  Now I saw all these useless things I’d spent money on that I had to pack and cram into a small U-Haul box and fit in our tiny apartment.  Whoa was that a reality check.

By incorporating her principles into my daily life I’ve learned the feasibility of living minimally. I definitely have hoarding tendencies, so to be able to cut myself off from the attachment to these objects changed how I viewed everything.  I really can live off a limited number of clothes and items. Most of my belongings live in storage containers and hidden away boxes anyway, so it’s become easier for me to purge and rid myself of excess.  Her teaching in accumulating and buying also changed my life.  Now I’m much more selective in the things I bring into my home and keep.

I’d recommend this to anyone who owns anything or lives somewhere. This book is life-changing.

Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord
After watching this movie (Simon Pegg, you’re the best!), I decided to buy this book.  Francois Lelord is a psychiatrist and writes this book as a way to communicate a self-help message through storytelling.  Hector goes on a journey in search of happiness and how to obtain it.  He meets several characters along the way and gleans rules from his many experiences.  Like the movie, Hector and the Search for Happiness is a lighthearted, silly and profound at times.

I’d recommend this to anyone in the search of their own happiness.

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us Allby David Kelley

This book also made the rounds in the blogosphere.  I was seduced by it’s pretty cover, so I thought, “Why not?” This book took me forever to read. Forever. Like a couple of months. Creative Confidence is not about what I thought it was about.  I thought it was creativity strictly in the context of creatives and artists… how to make art. The real topic is about cultivating a mindset and culture of creative thinking in terms of problem solving and goal reaching. AHHHmazing. yes.  It took me so long to read this book because it was so good.  I caught myself often taking notes and writing down quotes.  Tom & David Kelley are brilliant. Their writing style is upbeat and easy to devour.

I’d recommend this to anyone running a business or employed by a business or employed by themselves and wants to bring change into their lives and/or the world.

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Read my other book reports and check out all the books I’ve read over the years.


10 things in Birmingham that don’t exist in the Bay Area

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Birmingham is different from California.  That’s obvious.  But living here is a breath of fresh air in some regard. I love Birmingham.  Here’s a little of list treasures in Birmingham that don’t (exactly) exist in the Bay Area.

1. takeaway cups for drinks.  You know when you’re eating at a restaurant and they let you take your food home?  Well, at some sit-down restaurants I’ve been to in Birmingham they’ll also ask if you’d like to take home your drink in a takeaway cup. How genius is that?!  Awesome. I always like drinks to go.

2. short trips. The nice thing about Birmingham is that you can drive to many places in a short amount of time, unlike in California.  We could drive to the next state in under two hours.  We can also drive to all our amenities in under 10 minutes.  Fifteen to twenty minutes is a long drive here.  But it’s a strange concept.  I wouldn’t think twice about driving an hour in California to visit my friends in the South Bay or an hour & a half to Santa Cruz.  But here, you’re in a whole other world when you drive that far… I’d even consider it a road trip.

3. low gas prices.  Thankfully gas prices are very low here.  When I first arrived it was around $1.95/gallon for unleaded.  Now it’s around $2.12/gallon.  I think that’s about a dollar cheaper than California prices.

4. plastic bags. I had just gotten used to bringing reusable bags everywhere in California when I moved here.  It’s bizarre enough that they don’t charge for bags, but even more jarring that they use plastic bags.  While I do like using reusable bags, it’s nice to have plastic bags to reuse as garbage bags for the car and what not. And it’s really great and convenient to not be charged for bags if you forget yours.

5. trees. The Bay Area has its forests like Muir Woods and Big Sur which I miss, but Birmingham doesn’t just have trees in parks, they’re everywhere.  The trees line the freeways and cover the mountains and shelter communities.  The trees in Birmingham are undisturbed parts of nature that communities built around, unlike the Bay Area.  Everywhere you look here there are trees. You see more trees than buildings sometimes. It’s so beautiful.

6. Styrofoam. I can’t remember the last time I saw Styrofoam cups in California. It seems so archaic now to get them at restaurants. Styrofoam is everywhere here. They’re great insulators, but so bad for the environment.  But my fingers do thank the styrofoam for protection from cold drinks.

7. four seasons and lots of rain. In the time I’ve lived here it’s rained a lot.  Maybe my point of reference is off because I’m used to the drought in California and forgotten what El Nino was like when I was a kid, but it does rain pretty often here. And now I fully understand why the kids were scared in Sound of Music; thunderstorms are no joke here. Birmingham definitely has distinct seasons.  It may not snow regularly, but winter is very cold for me.  Spring is beautiful.  Summer is deadly (I hear). And fall is perfect.

8. creative parking.  I don’t know what it is but people are horrible drivers here.  Parking spaces are huge, yet they’ll park askew or too close to lines.  But what tops it all is the fact that people literally park everywhere.  In a parking lot, if they can’t find a space, they’ll parallel park in the driving lanes. They’ll pick a spot and just park there.  On campus, people park on the grass medians.  Even in residential areas, they’ll park facing the opposite direction. So if you can’t find a parking space here, you can just make one!

9. a sense of safety. I feel relatively safe here. Granted, I live in a very wealthy neighborhood. But people leave their purses and wallets around on tables in public and no one thinks twice.  When I’m at a coffee shop in California I’m very aware of where all my belongings are.  Either my purse is tethered to something or it’s between me and a wall.  I’m always on guard. Here I’m still conscious of my belongings, but the looming threat of someone stealing my stuff is low.  Also, in California I wouldn’t leave anything of worth in my car for fear my car be broken into.  Where I live now there’s much less reason for that.  People are much friendlier and the crime rate is considerably lower here.  (I still don’t leave valuables in the car. But I like the idea that I could if I wanted to.)  With all that said, this could be a false sense of safety.  Who knows.

10. good southern food and sweet tea.  Everywhere you turn there’s southern food. Sounds pretty obvious that Birmingham would have a lot of southern food, but literally, it’s everywhere.  Some of it’s really good like turnip greens and barbecue and some of it’s not… (i.e. too much fried food.) In addition to the southern food, there’s sweet tea everywhere.  In California I can only seem to find sweet tea at McDonalds.  Here’s it’s at practically every restaurant, fast food place and anywhere that’ll serve a beverage. Southern food is comfort food for sure. And, as an added bonus I finally have access to Cracker Barrel.  I love Cracker Barrel. It’s definitely not healthy, and I definitely don’t eat there all the time, but I just love it.  I love the good ole country food and the decor and the old timey candies and the rocking chairs and the breakfast.  Yum. California, you’re missing out on this one.


Oak Mountain State Park. February 4, 2015 | Fuji x100s


octane coffee


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Octane Coffee reminds me a bit of my life back in California.  A coffee shop with a bit of edgy, hipster attitude complimented by industrial styling.  It was love at-first-rolling-steel-shutters, reminiscent of that time I visited acclaimed architect, Barton Myers’, Montecito home.  To top it off, it even has a bar, complete with bearded, hipster men (possibly hiding tattoo sleeves under their chambray shirts) serving up microbrews and speakeasy-worthy cocktails.

Octane is a little breath of fresh air amongst the college atmosphere I’m accustomed to.  Instead, you might find the reader, the creative and the occasional diligent studier.  And, ironically, I’ve not seen so many Asian Americans in my total time living here than I did that one time I went to Octane. So pretty much, I’ve found my Birmingham “Secret Headquarters of Magical Thinking” (a nod to all those who may follow me on instagram).

p.s. Their Chai Latte is fantastic… the best I’ve had in Birmingham so far.
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Octane Coffee. 2821 Central Ave #105, Homewood, AL 35209. March 21, 2015 | Fuji x100s & iPhone 6

the mom mini sessions

In April I’ll be offering Mom Mini Sessions, and it’s so very special to my heart.

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Ever since my mom passed away I’ve felt passionate about photographing moms & their children. I loved my mom so much, and I cherish every photo I have of her.  But I wish I had had more pictures of her and me.  There’s a picture of me, my mother and my grandmother that I love.  I was 18 and someone just suggested we all take a picture together.  It was taken in passing and wasn’t anything fancy, but it’s been framed on display for over the past 10 years.

So when I’m back in California to visit my sister & her new baby, I thought it only fitting to finally offer these Mom Mini Sessions. I hear too often from my girlfriends that they have so many pictures of their husbands and their children, but hardly any of themselves. So with Mother’s Day quickly approaching, I wanted to offer these sessions to all the moms and grandmothers who want to remember these cherished times.  Bring your mothers, grandmothers, children, grandchildren, buns in your ovens & let’s create some memories.

*As an added bonus Kim Wakatsuki of Flowerstory will be offering flowers and flowers crowns for the session.

Lake Chabot Maternity Session Lake Chabot Maternity Session


drop on by!


My event at Pottery Barn Kids is coming up quick!  Don’t forget to contact your local PBK to reserve your spot.  If you’re in the New York area, come visit me at the Upper East Store on East 69th Street and 2nd Avenue.  We’ll have two time slots at 11:00am and 11:30am for your kids to make Handmade Charlotte crafts.  Reserve your spot at my event by calling (212) 879-4746.

Come by and make a craft with me! And if you’re not in New York, don’t worry. These craft events are happening at every Pottery Barn Kids store across the country. Even if you’re not local to my area, click here to find a store near you!