sunday evening

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Kelly Street, Half Moon Bay

I love spending Sundays in this coastside city, with the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other. Yesterday evening the mountains appeared so much closer than they actually were, the moon is almost full, and I couldn't resist pulling over and snapping this photo. I wondered briefly about the people who live in these quiet houses. How do spend this time of the day, do they go about their errands and getting ready for the week ahead, or are they like me, daydreaming while watching the waves crash in the distance?

The voice of young Bruce Springsteen on my mp3 player and I sing along while driving.
"Everybody's got a hungry heart. Everybody needs a place to rest. 
Everybody wants to have a home." (listen here)

I'm writing stories again. Actually, it's more like I take mental pictures of people and places, moments and overheard conversations that I tuck away in my mind. Like the girl sitting next to me at the breakfast bar in Berkeley, brown wavy hair and oversized sweater, pouring over a reading with her multiple highlighters. Her boyfriend, who works at the restaurant, kept stealing glances at her and at one point he came over and introduced their young and handsome chef. I had to smile at how candid and open they all were and decided that I want to create that day at the breakfast joint in full detail, give them names and fictional lives.

A part of me, the one who keeps procrastinating and doubting, is afraid that I'll never put it all together on paper. That I will just keep on dabbling with these rough sketches and that's all they'll ever be. At the same time, it's rather exciting to think of the possibilities, all these characters and their imagined stories coming to life on a written page.

film friday: warm bodies

WARM BODIES
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Ah, Warm Bodies. How much do I adore this film? I knew very little about it but randomly picked this movie at the theater and boy was I surprised when I found myself grinning from ear to ear and totally smitten. At first glance, the story is a simple tale of star-crossed lovers and yet I think it's so much more than that. It is witty and filled with wry humor and it also offers a satirical look at modern society without taking itself too seriously.

Nicholas Hoult, who plays a zombie named R, is so perfect for his role that I can't see anyone else playing this character. His R is sarcastic, self-deprecating, and very likeable despite being "dead" on the outside. You will laugh at his inner monologue and feel for him as he struggles to make sense of his existence. The object of R's affection, Julie (played by Teresa Palmer), is also a heroine you'd want to root for. She's strong, independent, and is not afraid to speak her mind. And despite R's limited ability to talk, their chemistry is still believable and very endearing.

What really captured my heart in this film is the soundtrack. It was like someone made a mixtape for me that I never knew I needed, a combination of iconic songs from the 80's and some of my current favorite artists including Bruce Springsteen, Feist, Bon Iver, and The National. I actually felt a collective sigh inside the theater when R played this song from his vinyl collection. It's such a familiar and beloved song from my childhood that I can't help but feel warm and happy inside.  

Indiewire has a list of all the songs and you can listen to them here.

Has any of you seen Warm Bodies? If so, what do you think of this movie?

(Film stills via Summit Entertainment)

book spaces

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As you can see in my recent Instagram photos, I've been spending a lot of time inside bookstores. I can't help it, the more hectic my life gets, the more I seek out books and places with books. My friend Mai calls it "sweet misery", to be surrounded by all these books and not have time to read them all. I've actually started downloading e-books for convenience but I still prefer reading a real, printed book. There's nothing like holding a new/old book in your hands, smelling it's pages, writing notes along the margins, and at times, even holding it close to your heart.

Some inspiring book spaces in the photos above:

Point Reyes Books - hardwood floors, such beautiful natural light, great selection of poetry and natural science literature. Plus, look at that gorgeous installation of flying books! It's also located in Point Reyes, which is hands down, one of my favorite places on earth. And if that's not enough to convince you, right next door is a bakery and a little community garden which makes it so perfect for impromptu read-aloud picnics with your friends.

Mrs. Dalloway's -  how can you not love this bookstore by it's namesake alone? They even gave Virginia Woolf a shelf of her own! I stumbled upon this little gem last year and have been coming back since then. The staff is awesome, they give great recommendations but also know when to leave you alone. It's also close to UC Berkeley, which is makes me a bit nostalgic for the student and grad school life, in a good way.

One of the staff members from Mrs. Dalloway's recommended this YA series and I just started reading the first one. It has my name written all over it - a strong female protagonist turned undercover spy in Victorian London, how awesome is that? It reminds me of Nancy Drew with a touch of Downton Abbey. I'll probably write about it soon when I finish all 3 books.

How about you, what are you reading lately?

john steinbeck on falling in love

steinbeck and wife

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share this beautiful letter by the Nobel Prize winner and famous author John Steinbeck to his eldest son, Thom, in 1958. So perfect and tender and full of wisdom, I wish everyone can read it and remember his advice. I especially love this:

"If it is right, it happens -- The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away."

Read the full text of his letter here.

And a lovely song from a favorite movie. Have a listen here.

(Photo of John Steinbeck and his wife Elaine, 1963 via)

lunar new year

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These photos were taken from my walk around the neighborhood yesterday. We had the day off for Lunar New Year and it seemed like the first in a long time that I felt so relaxed and free for an entire day. It was so good to be outside again, not thinking about a to-do list or trying to be somewhere at a certain time. It reminded me of those days when I first moved here, when I'd go around wandering with no plan in mind, taking pictures, sitting down whenever I feel like it, sometimes scribbling on a piece of paper, but mostly just walking and taking it all in - the people, the hills, the snippets of overheard conversations.

There wasn't a lot of people around yesterday so it seemed perfectly fine to walk with my journal in hand and read some poetry out loud. I saw construction workers on their lunch break (they smiled and said hola, I said hola back) and ran into a former colleague whom I haven't seen in years. We chatted for a bit and I cooed over his beautiful baby. It's funny how you never picture certain people outside of work and suddenly you see them somewhere else and you're caught off guard at how different they look.

Much, much later during the night, I thought about the first weeks of 2013, how kind and gentle this year has been so far, and how I hope to keep it this way. It's not easy breezy, nothing ever is, but I am making choices and looking ahead. The words that I wrote at the back of a postcard in December: here in this ocean scene / where I re-arrange my dreams once / again.

Big hugs, my friends.

inspirations du jour

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Watch: Like Crazy
This movie was a Sundance hit and I can see why. It's heartfelt, raw, and very well-acted. I really liked it's portrayal of the uncertainty of relationships and how it doesn't always turn out the way we expected it to be just because two people are crazy in love with each other. Felicity Jones is luminous and I hope to see more of her in the future.

Read: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
So very good that I find myself wanting to slow down so I can savor it. And as someone who also immigrated to another country, the stories here feel so familiar to me. They're honest and gritty and I'm pretty sure you won't regret getting to know these characters and their difficult loves.

sunset on russian hill

sunset on russian hill

what matters most is / how well you / walk through the / fire.
-- Charles Bukowski, excerpt from How Is Your Heart?

Happy February, my friends.