Monday, July 21, 2014

[travels]: Winter Traveling in Japan 2013 -- Packing List

All this ramen talk makes me yearn for Japan...  Last December on a whim, I bought a ticket to Tokyo to travel solo and then meet up with my brother to explore Kyushu.  I had a little over 2 weeks to figure out my entire itinerary and packing list.  It was extremely difficult to figure out what to pack, because Japanese people are very fashionable, the cold winter wear wear in my closet was not fashionable, and I wanted to fit everything into a carry-on suitcase and backpack.  I saved precious room by wearing the larger items during transit (i.e. the wool coat and boots).  Try to pack light especially if you are traveling around.... you don't want to lug a heavy suitcase around a train station!

12 Days in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagasaki, Fukuoka, and Kobe.
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

At the top of Mount Inasa, using the Nagasaki Ropeway


  • Tom's hemp botas shoe (fleece lined hemp sneakers)
  • Brown riding boots

  • 1 blue skinny jean
  • 1 grey skinny jean
  • 2 fleece lined tights  **I wore tights underneath my pants every day**

  • Wool coat
  • Black Denali Northface fleece
  • 2 Sweaters, orange and grey
  • 2 long sleeve shirts, white and red
  • 1 thick 3/4 sleeve shirt
  • Black 3/4 sleeve jacket
  • Black sleeveless top
  • 3 camisoles 

  • JR Rail Pass, good for 2 weeks to ride the bullet train all over Japan -- well worth the money!!!
  • Grey fleece-lined headband (Target)
  • 2 pairs of touch-phone sensitive gloves (Target)
  • 2 infinity scarves - brown and black   **So wonderful for warmth!**
  • Small cross body bag
  • 2 pendant necklaces

Sensoji, Asakusa Kannon Temple

Stay tuned for my next travel post --  Winter Traveling in Japan 2013 -- Itinerary 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

[eats] Ramen Festival Guide 2014, San Francisco

The Ramen Yokocho Association is putting together "Ramen Street" in San Francisco's Japantown this weekend, and of course I have to go... This event has been on my calendar for weeks, and quite frankly I salivate at the very thought of ramen ever since I ate my way through Japan 7 months ago.  Actually, I've loved ramen since childhood when I was introduced to the instant packets at the tender age of 6.  Real ramen is drastically different though, and it's a remarkable combination of savory, slurpy, and smoothness.

The event features 6 different ramen vendors, serving up all sorts of delicious broths including tonkatsu, miso, shoyu, and even a ramen burger.  That's right, a ramen burger with a crispy noodle bun!  Just a little information nugget-- Keizo of Go Ramen stakes his claim on inventing the first ramen burger.

The line up for July 19-20, 2014 in SF:

  1. Monta Japanese Noodle House serving Tonkotsu Ramen
  2. Men Oh serving Tokushima Ramen
  3. Fujin Ramen serving the Miso Ramen Burger
  4. Tatsunoya serving Tonkotsu Ramen
  5. Mattou Seimen serving Black Shoyu Ramen and Spicy Ramen
  6. Horaiya serving Miso Ramen and Spicy Miso Ramen

Here's the lowdown on each vendor:

Monta Japanese Noodle House

  • Has 2 locations--  both in Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Menu offers Tonkatsu, Shoyu, Tonkotsu-Shoyu, and Miso broth
  • Solid 4 stars on Yelp
  • Serves "Kurume" style ramen, which is original tonkatsu ramen made from pork bones and imported soy sauce, served with thin noodles

Men Oh 

  • Based in Tokushima, Shikoku
  • 12 locations in Japan
  • 3.5 stars on Yelp 
  • Has 2 locations in Northern California -- Union City and San Francisco
  • Serves "Tokushima" style ramen, known for it's rich and savory pork based broth
  • Menu offers Tokushima , Tokushima Tonkotsu, Spicy Tonkotsu, Chicken Shoyu, Tonkotsu Miso, Men Oh Deluxe, and Teppan Yakimeshi (this sounds excellent)
Teppan Yakimeshi

Fujin Ramen

  • 1 location in Southern California -- West Covina
  • 3.5 stars on Yelp
  • Serves "Tokyo Tonkotsu" style ramen
  • Menu offers Shio/Shoyu, Tomato/Clam, Miso, Negi-Miso, Miso Corn, Chashu Trio, Ton-Toro Chashu Men, Spicy Champon, Spicy Tsuke-men, Hakata Tonkotsu ramen


  • Hails from Kyushu, Japan.. for reals... they make trips out to the United States every once in awhile.
  • By the way, Kyushu is the mecca of Tonkotsu (pork based) broth
  • Makes annual appearance at the Mitsuwa Japanese grocery store in Torrance, California
  • Blogged about by Go Ramen by Keizo
  • Influenced by "Hakata and Kurume" styles.... which means pork, pork, and more pork based broth!

Mattou Seimen

  • From Japan
  • Rumors of delicious Szcheuan style Black Mapo ramen served in the April 2014 Yokocho Festival in LA.
  • Read on about the LA Yokocho Festival here and this recap too


  • From Japan
  • Rumors of miso based broth with wontons.... wontons?!
  • Read more about this blogger's recap of the Yokocho Festival 2014 here

As for me?  My list includes Tatsunoya, Mattou Seimen, and Horaiya.  Stay tuned for a blog update on this long awaited meal!


The Tatsunoya line was the most popular by a landslide.....the people at the front of the  line had been there since 7:00 am.  That's some noodle devotion!  Men Oh appeared to have generated quite a buzz as well, with another long line (but not quite as long as Tatsunoya).  I arrived at 10:00 am and was able to get into the Mattou Seimen line for the black Shoyu ramen and got my ramen by 10:50 am.  I saw an old friend in line for Mattou's spicy ramen, and we agreed to trade 2 bowls to get some variety.

The verdict? 
  • Come for the experience but don't expect top notch ramen
  • Mattou's shoyu broth was mediocre, chashu was thinly sliced and cooked brilliantly
  • Mattou's spicy broth was flavorful and worth trying-- noodles were thick and chewy
  •  If you are serious about trying ramen within a reasonable wait time, plan to come early!  
  • Divide and conquer with friends-- split off in different lines and swap bowls 

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Monday, July 14, 2014

[diy] Photobooth Props

With the proliferation of the wedding photobooth, having customized props is a 'Must Have' for any event!  This is a quick and easy project.

Supplies (Michael's craft store)

  • Wooden letter "D" and "M"
  • Wooden cup cutout
  • Metallic Spray Paint - Brass Gold 
  • Recollections brand Black Sticker Letters 
  • Mod podge (optional)

Follow the instructions on the spray can-- evenly spray your cut outs gold.  It's always better to do many light passes and multiple coats to prevent runny paint.

The bride wanted to make sure her guests were using their special hashtag for the wedding.  The #fongers photobooth prop was a HIT and used by most of the guests!

Using basic black sticker letters, embellish your props as you see fit!  If you are worried about the stickers peeling, you can always finish the piece with a layer of mod podge to seal it all in.

For more Gold Spray Paint Projects......see these:

Spray Painting Weeknight Gold

Friday, July 11, 2014

[diy] Spray Painting Weeknight Hack... in Gold

I've had a can of brass gold spray paint in my possession for awhile now, and there are just so many fun projects to use it for!  The possibilities really are endless... this weeknight hack began after I received a West Elm bedspread I had ordered during one of their  sales.  The guest room previously had a dark and (bit gloomy) bedspread that had come from my fiance's apartment a few years ago... Giving some TLC to this guest room has been on my 2014 goal list. 

After dressing the bed and letting the quality assurance crew (Loki and Gizmo) test the tensile strength of the fabric, I scanned the room to see if there were any other opportunities to re-vamp.... bingo!  I was already using / had all of these materials on hand.  Here were a few I narrowed in on.

- Desk accent vase
- Pen Holder
- Desk Handles

Remember to tape off areas you do not want to paint over.  I find that leaving a clear top portion adds a nice element of interest to the piece.  Use an old cardboard box... to contain the paint. I ended up using the shipping box the bedspread came in :)

Spray painting tip:  It is always better to make light, small passes so prevent dripping.  I did one coat before dinner, and one coat after dinner.  Boom!

This desk went from a ho-hum stock look, to a piece with some allure!

Of course, a matching pen holder is in order too....

I used the larger vase to hold various desk knick knacks on the top shelf of the desk.  Cheers to weeknight projects and instant gratification!! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

[musings]: Baby Shower Themes that are Delicate and Delightful

Once again I find myself in the throes of baby shower planning for my dear cousin, and I couldn't be happier.  Our world is full of creative talents that simply make my heart soar.  I found these themes particularly exciting and thought I must share them with you:

"Floral and Fauna" themes with silly gold animals, moose shapes, and imperfectly frosted cakes...
By Kelli Murray -- simply heartwarming!

Or how about this light fox themed birthday party?  Subtle nods to our friend the fox, but not overwhelming....  this is a great approach.

From the talented Alex Michele, and featured on 100 layercakelet

This theme evokes a smile as soon as you hear it: "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"... and my imagination runs wild!  Think of all the soft champagne glitter projects, satin ribbon, and pillowed cotton....!

Shannon Rocha featured on Hostess with the Mostess

I used to love playing "market" as a young girl.  Can you imagine a fresh marketplace theme?  Maybe playing with a farmers market look by using galvanized buckets, wooden crates, and chalkboard signs?

Thank you for sharing, Kojo-designs!

My shower decor plans aren't solidified quite yet, but I'm thinking of going with a slumber, snoozey, dreamland theme, complete with golden "Z"'s, as a nod to baby Zoe's name.  Stay tuned for more planning, pictures, and projects!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

[celebrates] Bachelorette Party Cocktail - The Paloma

For my sister's bachelorette party, we took a trip to Cancun for an amazing 4 day weekend of all inclusive fine dining, yummy drinks, pristine white sand, and clear blue ocean water.  While we were there, we soon discovered an AMAZING drink called the Paloma.  I have never been much of a tequila drinker, but this drink had me converted!

It's light, has subtle grapefruit tones, and fizzy... PERFECT!!

  • 2 oz. Don Julio Blanco Tequila 
  • 6 oz. Grapefruit soda  **Squirt soda and Grapefruit Juice works too**
  • Squirt of lime juice
  • Pinch of salt for rimming (optional)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

[diy]: Intriguing Floral Centerpieces

It seems these spring and summer months are just BLOOMING with events that need floral centerpieces!  I just cannot resist the fresh flowers...  Here is an arrangement a friend and I put together for a wedding rehearsal dinner party.  Although red is not a popular summer color, we wanted to incorporate it because red and gold are considered 'lucky' in the Vietnamese culture.


  • 3 bunches of Hypericum (yellow and peach) - $4.99 each
  • 18 Red Roses - $12.99

  • 3 Tea Leaves - $1.99

Trader Joe's:
  • 2 bunches of Lisianthus - $4.99 each
  • 1 bunch of Snapdragons - $3.99 each
  • 1 bunch of Gerber Daisies - $4.99
  • 1 Assorted Summer Bouquet  - $3.99

Michael's Craft Store / Self Provided:
  • Gold ribbon - $2.99
  • Scotch tape
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Assorted clear vases

Purchase flowers 1-2 days before the event

Cut the stems off the tea leaves -- The leaf is stiff, so you may need to cut 2-3 inches from the base of the leaf

Prune leaves off the stems and separate flowers/foliage into piles depending on color.  If you'd like your centerpieces to look the same, redistribute the flowers evenly into piles for each vase.

Fill the vases with water, and create a scotch tape grid (see this DIY about making grids).  Hot glue the ribbon onto vase, using small dots.  Arrange the flowers by starting with the big blooms that have rich color first, so the color is evenly distributed.  Fill in with the remaining white/green flowers.

Even Gizmo and Loki loved being a part of the flower arranging!  The tea leaves add a nice finished look to the overall vase and the ribbon is just the right touch of gold that we needed for good luck :)