Clearing and Cleaning

We spent another weekend cleaning and organizing, but it feels like we’ve barely made a dent.

After Alex cut down the front trees last weekend, he put the chainsaw to good use again and finally cut down the overgrown bush in our backyard. It’s been bothering us ever since we saw the house for the first time.

We also cleaned the guest room and rearranged the position of Alex’s desk. Now that he’s working from home, we invested in a standing desk and standing mat. The guest room has served as our storage closet ever since we got back from Bali, so we finally cleared my wedding dress off the bed and put our luggage in the garage.

The other desk has been relocated to the foyer to serve as our charging station/“drop station” for keys and sunglasses, and display for our fancy ceramics from Gaya Ceramic in Ubud, Bali.

I also found time to make two loaves of bread. You can read about them more here.

And FINALLY, we put some of the cabinet doors back on. It’s taken us a while because some still need paint, others have missing screws, and there are been other priorities. Now that they’re back on the cabinets, our ongoing kitchen project is 80% complete since we started it last November. Can you tell that the dogs like to watch us as we putter around the house with our errands?

Majordomo

For almost a year, we’ve been trying to get a table at Majordomo. It’s fusion fine dining at its finest. Unpretentious yet premium. Approachable but still experimental. So last weekend, we headed over at 4:30 with our friends Ezequiel and Pastora to try our luck at the walk-in line.

When you drive up to Majordomo, you feel like Google Maps lied to you. There’s no possible way that this random corner of Chinatown is home to a restaurant owned and operated by David Chang. But then you remember it’s David Chang. And once you see the bright, colorful, eclectic murals that are so undeniably David Choe, you know that you’ve arrived.

Since it was 4:30 and the restaurant opens at 5:30, we sat outside and eavesdropped on the chef’s pre-service standup as they prepped for the night ahead. We watched everyone inside hustling in the final hour before the doors opened and watched the area light up with a buzzing energy. Some people showed up in fancy long dresses and heels, others with their cute Asian parents dressed up for a big night on the town.

After all the reservations were called, we were quickly welcomed inside and escorted to a table (it was reserved for 8:30). The interior is modern industrial: high ceilings with black exposed pipes and rich wooden walls and panels. We were seated inside toward the wine cellar and more murals. LOOK HOW HAPPY WE WERE.

As you’re looking at the menu, they serve you “water kimchi” — thin slices of Asian pear, apple, and daikon in a vinegar-y brine which they encourage you to drink. It’s refreshing and cleanses the palette for the goodies to come.

I asked the waiter to tell us his favorite dishes from the menu which helped guide a lot of our choices. We started with the Bing: Honey + Foie Gras, Ricotta, & Jam. It’s basically like a freshly made pita that you dip into different spreads. The combination of honey and butter was one of the most memorable flavor combos of the evening, and one that we’ll carry with us long after we left the restaurant.

Then our Bounty Bowl arrived: fresh, raw veggies served with a koji mascarpone sauce and spicy domojang sauce. It was so simple and memorable and another dish that really stuck with us. We were even inspired to pick up fresh veggies and dips from Trader Joe’s the next day.

The heartier entrees arrived next. The Crispy Rice was a showstopper — a medium-sized casserole filled with shrimp, corn, and bacon on top of a layer of crispy rice. Then they pour broth/gravy/meat juice over it tableside. We waited a couple minutes for the rice to soak up the juices, and then we stirred the glorious bowl together.

We also ordered the Boiled Whole Chicken which arrives two different ways. First, the breast meat is served over rice, nodding to Hainan chicken. Clean and simple. Then, another medium-sized casserole dish arrives filled with a rich chicken soup, hand torn noodles, and matsutake mushrooms. Definitely not your grandma’s chicken soup.

And for the grand finale, the 45-day dry-aged ribeye served with creamed spinach and seaweed. Ohmahgawd. A+. Pure meat butter.

Heres what we ordered, listed from our most favorite to least:

  • 45 Day Dry-Aged Holstein Ribeye

  • Crispy Rice

  • Bing: Honey + Foie Gras, Ricotta, & Jam

  • Bounty Bowl

  • The Zombie (look at the cute kitty cup!)

  • Boiled Whole Chicken

We left extremely satisfied, both with the price and our bellies. Well, the 45-day aged ribeye gave us a serious case of the meat sweats, but in the best possible way.

Adventures in Bread-Making: Sourdough Loaves #2, #3, & #4

For my second attempt at sourdough, I decided to try the path of least resistance with this No Knead Sourdough recipe by BAKED. It required significantly less steps than the first recipe I followed and produced an even better tasting bread. However, the rise was still not high enough

So I tried again. Same recipe, longer proofing period, more bubbly starter, and parchment paper to keep the bottom from getting too crunchy. The flavor was still amazing, the crust still incredible, the texture still chewy, but the rise was still too deflated.

And, you guessed it, I tried again. This time, with the proof in a plastic bowl and much more time spent shaping the dough to increase the surface tension. Definitely a little puffier, but I overworked the dough in my shaping attempt so the air bubbles deflated. The taste and crunch are still delicious though!

I’m not going to give up on this recipe yet, but I’m thinking maybe I should use some packaged yeast to give it a little boost? I’m also going to consult the bread masters of Breadit.

Adventures in Bread-Making: Sourdough Loaf #1

After my successful-ish first loaf of white bread, I decided to take on an intimidating challenge, far great than myself: sourdough bread. It’s been quite a process, and my loaf could use a lot more work, but the flavor and crust are spot-on. But first, the fails.

I absorbed myself in a very deep YouTube hole, watching lots of videos about sourdough starters and how to use the starter to make bread. Along the way, I became very aware (very quickly) of all the little details that could be misinterpreted along the way.

For example, I followed a recipe by The Kitchn for 5 days — weighing flour and water to feed my starter for 5 days. However, in her step-by-step, there is no mention of removing and discarding starter at every feeding. So, I followed what was written and just kept adding flour and water each day. Big mistake. My proportions were all wrong and although my starter was bubbly and sour-smelling, it lacked the proper consistency. I had to throw it all away and start over.

The following week, I spent 7 days cultivating my starter using Joshua Weissman’s extremely helpful video. He makes the entire process approachable and easy to follow, and before I knew it, I was ready to attempt my first sourdough loaf using his amazing YouTube video.

Like his timetable outlines, it took me the entire day plus another 4 hours the following day. It’s a very traditional recipe with many steps and moments of waiting in-between.

The result was good, but dense. I suspect that my starter was not as active as it should have been, and our fridge was on the colder side for the overnight proof. It was a solid B+, but there was a lot of room for improvement. So I tried again! See my results in this post.

Fall Weekend Cleanup

You know you’re an adult when you get excited about going to IKEA on a Saturday night.

But first, landscaping. We spent our Saturday morning uprooting tons of weeds in the yard.

Then we completely cleared out the garage and went through all of our clothes, pots, pans, and miscellaneous junk. We arranged almost 5 boxes of donation items and dropped them off at Goodwill.

Then we bought a dresser at IKEA! I’ve actually never had a dresser since my childhood bedroom so this was a very big deal for me.

We’re still organizing and clearing things out. In fact, yesterday we moved a floor lamp from the living room into our bedroom and hooked it up with a Wifi smart plug. Which means now we can turn the lights on by saying, “Alexa, turn on the bedroom lights.” Big, big day!

Before & After: Our $150 Interior Entryway Makeover

It was once a breakfast nook, then it become a shoe pile area, and now it’s an organized entryway!

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After scouring Pinterest for tons of inspiration photos, we finally had time last weekend to make 2 trips to Home Goods and 1 trip to Target to set the ambiance.

Source 1 / Source 2 / Source 3 / Source 4 unknown

At first, we toyed with the idea of making it a reading nook with small couch and lamp. But with the minimal direct sunlight and distractions from the stop sign outside, we were 99% sure that it wouldn’t make sense for us. After all, that’s what the living room is for. So instead, I focused on finding a nice entry bench where we could sit to put on our shoes and collect mail from the slot in a cute wire basket.

I knew I wanted a bench with clean lines with either a wood or white finish. I found a few options from Amazon, but we couldn’t pass up this bench for $100 from Home Goods.

I also knew I didn’t want a shoe rack, and I loved the look of large baskets to keep our shoes completely hidden. These were $20 each from the kids section at Target.

I styled the bench with a newly potted Swiss cheese plant from our friend Kristy (it’s THRIVING) and a West Elm throw pillow that had been on the couch. We’re also using the bench to store our purses and backpacks until we install coat hooks.

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Adventures in Bread-Making: Attempt #1

We’ve been obsessed with the Great British Bake-off for quite some time now. After watching all the warm and toasty morsels they’ve made, I knew I wanted to expand my baking skills and try baking some loaves of my very own.

We recently received a Le Creuset from Alex’s Aunt Lena as a wedding gift. So when I saw the recipe for the Le Creuset bread with minimal kneading, I knew I needed it in my life.

I borrowed Alex’s mom’s KitchenAid stand mixer and set to work on Sunday morning. I had done lots and lots of research on Friday at work… watching YouTube videos of recipes like this one by Cutlery and More, reading blog posts like this one from The Kitchn about making a sourdough starter, and searching through photos of the most gorgeous baguettes. I decided to follow this recipe by Kitchen Joy because it seemed easy to follow and didn’t take over 24 hours to produce a final result.

I mixed together 4 cups of bread flour, 1 tsp. of salt, 1 tsp. active dry yeast, and 1.5 cups of warm water in the KitchenAid. The ball of dough formed (although in retrospect, I should have mixed it longer). Then, in my frenzy of getting out the door to see our friends at noon, I totally messed up and left the dough to rise… in the fridge. BIG MISTAKE.

When we came home almost 7 hours later, my dough didn’t double in size because the temperature slowed down the yeast. I took the dough ball out, rolled it around, and waited for it to reach room temperature. I also added a tablespoon of olive oil which gave the dough more elasticity and made it easier to roll.

After I let it rest at room temperature for about an hour, I put it in the Le Creuset and prayed to the bread gods. Keep in mind, it was about 8:30PM on Sunday night so I was eager to start baking even though I knew I should have let it rest and rise longer. I baked it for 30 mins. with the lid on, then removed the lid and baked for another 30 mins.

I was so nervous, but the result was glorious! Golden, crunchy, and aromatic! See it in action on our Instagram Story. :)

There’s definitely room for improvement, but like our homemade pasta, I’m so pleased with my first try. We’ve been eating a slice for breakfast every day this week and even toasting some with garlic and herbs to make croutons.

Notes for next time

  • Knead dough longer. Potentially add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.

  • More salt + add garlic to the pockets

Adventures in Pasta-Making: Attempt #1

On Friday night, our friends Adam and Katherine came over for our very first pasta night. We got the Marcato Atlas pasta maker from Crate & Barrel a week ago, and I was eager to try it out. We’ve only made pasta noodles once before so we didn’t really know what we were doing, but after doing some research on blogs, I was confident that we would figure it out with our foodie powers combined.

I used the Williams Sonoma egg pasta recipe. I wanted to be legit and handmade, so I made a nest out of 2.5 cups of all-purpose flour and cracked 4 eggs in the center. I beat it all together, forming the dough ball and letting it rest for 30 mins. Then we followed the instructions on the pasta maker, rolling the dough into a thin sheet and cutting the noodles with the knob set to 6.

We made two types of sauce: garlic butter (my favorite) and tomato basil. The noodles cooked for about 2 mins, and between the four of us, we actually ran out of noodles so we resorted to some dry packaged ones in our pantry. The texture of the noodles was very fresh, but a little bit doughy.

Notes for next time:

  • Use ½ all-purpose flour and ½ semolina flour for more texture in the noodles

  • Adjust egg yolk to egg white ratio for more golden-colored noodles

  • Make dough in Kitchenaid mixer for easier clean up

  • Flour the noodles more thoroughly so they don’t stick

6 DIY Halloween Costume Ideas

Happy October! This is the first year we’ll have trick-or-treaters at our house so we’ve started to get into the festive Halloween spirit. I also recently found these old pictures on my hard drive so let’s take a trip down memory lane!

We’re both big fans of DIY costumes so here are a few quick and easy ideas, just in time for Halloween and perfect for couples.

#1. Monsters Inc.

One of our first dates was at Disneyland for Alex’s birthday in January. I wanted to impress him so I made pretty adorable Sully and Boo hoodies for us. This was about 4 years ago so the details are fuzzy, but here’s a step-by-step.

Supplies for Sully Hoodie

Step by Step | Time Needed: 2 hours

  1. Using mason jars and bowls of various sizes, trace circles in the purple velvet and cut.

  2. Glue to front and back of hoodie. (Bonus points: I put three circles together on the back left to make a Hidden Mickey)

  3. Draw horns on cardboard and cut.

  4. Use the cardboard as a template and trace on gray felt with a 1” seam allowance. Cut and repeat with opposite sides. You should have 4 total pieces.

  5. With opposite sides facing in, sew together but leave about 3 inches open and turn inside out. Before you close the seam, insert the cardboard and cotton balls/stuffing. This will give the horns shape and help them stand up when the hood is worn.

  6. Sew horns onto hoodie. Rawr!


Supplies for Boo Hoodie

Step by Step | Time Needed: 2 hours

  1. Use a mason jar as a template for the eyeball pupil. Trace onto black felt and cut. (2 pieces)

  2. Now find a mason jar that’s about 1-2 in. wider. Trace onto white felt and cut (2 pieces). Repeat on black felt and cut (2 pieces).

  3. Glue the pupils onto the white circles.

  4. With the right sides facing in, sew the white circle to the black circle. Leave about 2 in. to turn inside out and fill with cotton balls/stuffing.

  5. To make the eyeball “bases,” cut approx. 4”x6” pieces from the black felt. Fold and sew into little tubes and attach to the main eyeballs. They should kind of look like lollipops. Eyeball lollipops. Does this even make sense lol.

  6. Sew the entire eyeball situation to the hood. They’ll be a little top-heavy, but that’s ok. It’ll look super cute and floppy.

  7. To make the teeth, draw a rounded rectangle onto the cardboard. Use this as a template and trace onto white felt with a 1/2” seam allowance. Repeat so you have 8 total pieces.

  8. With the right sides facing in, sew the perimeter and turn into out. You’ll end up with 4 teeth total. Sew onto the front of the hood.

  9. To make the “hair,” cut about 10” long strands of gray yarn. Gather about 20 strands and tie together in the middle. Now sew this bundle around the eyeball lollipop base.

  10. Repeat as needed to achieve a mop-like effect. Lol. I think I did it 5 times.

  11. Be cute and make Boo proud!

#2. Star Wars

A few months later, we dressed up as Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper for Yuri’s Night at the California Science Center. This was a super easy costume, and we got so many compliments.

Supplies for Darth Vader


Supplies for Stormtrooper

  • Stormtrooper Helmet

  • Black and white top (I found my crop top on sale at Charlotte Russe for $10)

  • White tutu (I made mine from tulle and an elastic headband, but this tutu would also work great. I also wore this knee-length tutu for our wedding reception).

#3. Unicorn

Same tutu, different costume. I planned this costume the night before Halloween in a frenzy to wear something cute to the office costume party the next day.

Unicorn Supplies

#4. Penguin

This was a spontaneous buy from the CVS in Vegas. It’s a very safe office costume for those moments when you’re not sure how committed your coworkers are going to be on Halloween. Amazon doesn’t have the vest, but they do have this cozy robe.

#5. Tinkerbell

Also a relatively safe go-to that involves yet another tutu.

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Tinkerbell Supplies

#6. Grandma

I wore this “costume” for my friend Sharon’s murder mystery holiday party. All you need is glasses, baggy clothes, a walking cane, and a cranky attitude.

Happy Halloween!

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Before & After: Our $200 Exterior Entryway Makeover

After many morning runs around the neighborhood and seeing our neighbors’ landscaping, we knew we needed to step up our game. And with Halloween and the holidays right around the corner, we wanted our home to be a little more presentable. We’ve been talking about it since we moved in May, but now that things have slowed down a bit after the wedding, we finally brought the vision to life.

This was what the entryway looked like when we bought it, during renovations, and post move-in. Not cute.

Our budget was $150. I wanted to keep it modern and low maintenance: a container garden with lush, low-light plants in black pots and white gravel (in anticipation that we’ll be eventually painting the exterior of the house gray).

Pinterest gave me a couple ideas [source 1, source 2 unknown]

Our first haul from Home Depot cost $160. This included 9 bags of white marble chips, 7 low-light plants, 1 large bag of potting soil, and 5 containers.

Plants purchased included a snake plant, ivy, and croton petra, to name a few.

We started by shoveling the layers of dust and debris into the garbage can. And let me tell you, it was dusty. We had to wear goggles and face masks. In the process, we unearthed nails, glass, and seashells — remnants of the previous owners’ attempt at landscaping.

Then we leveled the dirt with a rake and Alex power washed the dusty sides of the house and walkways. After it dried, he placed a layer of cardboard over the dirt to keep the dust a little more controlled. And then he poured all nine bags of gravel over it. It only covered half of the entryway area so it was time for another Home Depot run! This second trip cost about $60 (9 more bags of gravel, another bag of potting soil, and 4 more plant containers). So in total, we spent just a little over $200 and 3 hours.

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About a third of the plants were ones we already owned and propagated, like the succulents and Queen of the Night leaves that my dad gave me in July. We still need more gravel for a tiny bit of the walkway and the curb area, but we’re so happy with the improvement!

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Post-DestinationWedding Advice

We’re still glowing from our wedding and honeymoon in Bali! Everything went mostly according to plan, we received several cuts from our videographer, and we’re still waiting for the professional photos. We couldn’t be happier! Since my last post, we also learned a few things about the destination wedding planning process.

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#1. Expect to Play Host

Of course, the amount of your involvement is completely up to you. But since our guests had traveled so far and so long to be with us, we felt that it was the least we could do. The night before our wedding, I even sent out a spreadsheet to help arrange and coordinate shuttle rides home for our guests —a small extra gesture to show our appreciation. We also arranged massages by the beach for our family members who stayed with us at Villa Taman Ahimsa.

#2. The Unexpected is Inevitable

If you’re the type of person who dreams of their wedding going a certain way, I’m sorry to say that a destination wedding is not for you. We put in a ton of time and research to find an amazing coordinator to help minimize any surprises (big hugs to Adria Chew from Avavi Weddings!). But even then, there are some things that are just out of everyone’s control. Like waking up to a mosquito bite on my left eyelid just three days before the wedding (luckily, the swelling went down after I placed a cold water bottle on it for a couple hours). Or vomiting and having a fever just two days before the wedding (likely from a bit of food poisoning). And to top it all off, getting a little sunburnt on my face and sleeping with an ill-fitting eye mask that put a little too much pressure on my eyes the day before the wedding. There’s an expectation that everything needs to be perfect, but if you go into it with the right mindset, everything will be awesome no matter what happens.

#3. Pack Light

I stuffed my wedding dress, reception skirt, tea ceremony dress, and wedding shoes into my carry on. We checked in two bags: one which had Alex’s suit and miscellaneous wedding things (signs, welcome bags, hand fans) and another with our clothes and toiletries. The less you have to bring, the more you can focus on enjoying your big day instead of trying to manage a million little things and inevitably forgetting to repack something.

4. Make Time to Hang Out with Everyone after the Wedding

We made sure to grab our guests’ itineraries so we could be aware of everyone’s travel plans. We were able to squeeze in one more meal with some of our friends after the wedding, and they were some of the highlights of our trip!

5. Hire a Videographer

This was actually a point of debate between Alex and me. However, we were able to meet in the middle and create a custom package with our videographer for 5 hours (plus add-on hours if needed) instead of the usual 8 hours minimum. This allowed us to capture the parts that really mattered to us: moments before the first look, the vows, speeches, and dances. Our videographer Adi from Filomena/Aki Photograph was phenomenal, and we’re so happy with the results. The day flew by so fast! Within two weeks, Adi sent us a 5-minute wedding highlights reel and a one-hour wedding documentation video. We’re so happy that we can also share the video with friends and family who could not attend, and we’ll treasure the captured memories forever.

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Glimpses of Married Life

Our first week back home after our destination wedding in Bali involved grocery shopping at Costco, purchasing a Roomba, baking snickerdoodles, reading new books, making arepas with Venezuelan friends, and celebrating Kristy’s birthday.

We’re also decluttering our closets, tending to neglected plants, starting to plant new seedlings after I accidentally over-fertilized our first batch from the summer, and preparing to experiment with pasta making!

New tabs on the blog for recipes, travel, and landscaping to come!