books + reading

2017 Book Goals via Maxine Hong Kingston


I was a junior English major at UC Berkeley and my husband, then-boyfriend, was a senior majoring in poli sci. He needed another class to finish out his year and decided to take a seminar led by author Maxine Hong Kingston.  I seethed with envy; I couldn’t take the class because I still had major pre-reqs to fulfill. Did my man even know what books she’d written? Could he understand her aura of literary magic?

It was an amazing class, said my guy.  And no, she didn’t teach it again until after I’d graduated. But you already figured that would happen, right?

So here I am, many years later, and can interact with Ms. Hong Kingston on Facebook. She is a true gem to follow, especially with her post-election commentary.

In a recent NYT article, she was asked to share the books she read over 2016. I was in awe at the sheer number of books she managed to consume. And I decided that for 2017,  I would try to read as many books on her list as possible. One caveat: I would swap out a few in place of those on my own list. Plus, I’d already read a few books she’d listed.

This list was first published in The New York Times, and later published via Maxine Hong Kingston on her Facebook page:

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” by Marie Kondo. 

“The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson,” edited by Brooks Atkinson.

“The Origin of Species,” by Charles Darwin.

“Notes of a Son and Brother,” by Henry James.

“Our Appointment With Life: Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone,” by Thich Nhat Hanh.

“The World as I See It,” by Albert Einstein.

“The Vagrants,” by Yiyun Li.

“The Heart of Haiku,” by Jane Hirshfield.

“On the Narrow Road to the Deep North,” by Lesley Downer.

“Encouraging Words: Zen Buddhist Teachings for Western Students,” by Robert Aitken.

“The Little Red Chairs,” by Edna O’Brien. (Didn’t finish. Stopped at torture scene.)

“Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart,” by Claire Harman.

“Our Souls at Night,” by Kent Haruf.

“In the Beauty of the Lilies,” by John Updike.

“Natural Opium,” by Diane Johnson.

“Flyover Lives,” by Diane Johnson.

“Le Mariage,” by Diane Johnson.

“Luck of the Draw,” by William Scott Morrison.

“The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression,” by Andrew Solomon.

“At the Kirks’,” by Mary Gordon.

“I Feel Bad About My Neck,” by Nora Ephron.

“The Woman in White,” by Wilkie Collins.

“If I Can Cook / You Know God Can,” by Ntozake Shange.

“The Sympathizer,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen. (Skipped some torture scenes.)

“Nothing Ever Dies,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen.

“Legacy of a Teapot,” by Barbara Quinn Benom.

“The Buried Giant,” by Kazuo Ishiguro.

“The Best American Short Stories 2013,” edited by Elizabeth Strout.

“My Father’s War,” by Phyllis Meshulam. (Forthcoming.)

“Thirteen Ways of Looking,” by Colum McCann.

“All the Pretty Horses,” by Cormac McCarthy. (Didn’t finish. Couldn’t take the suspense.)

“Finding Beauty in a Broken World,” by Terry Tempest Williams.

“When Women Were Birds,” by Terry Tempest Williams.

“The American Heiress,” by Daisy Goodwin.

“On That Day, Everybody Ate,” by Margaret Trost.

“Back on the Fire,” by Gary Snyder.

“Armor and Ashes,” by Miriam Marx.

“Mainlined,” by Gregory Ross. (Hard-to-find, self-published book.)

“In Whose Eyes,” by Tran Van Thuy and Le Thanh Dung.

“Justin Chin: Selected Works,” edited by Jennifer Joseph.

“Lolas’ House: Survivors of War Time Rape Camps,” by M. Evelina Galang. (Forthcoming. Skipped some torture scenes.)

“Old School,” by Tobias Wolff.

“Excursions in the Real World,” by William Trevor. (I was reading this when I heard that he died.)

“Upstream,” by Mary Oliver.

“Wherever You Go, There You Are,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

“One World,” by Gail Newman.

“Well Being,” by Clare Morris. (Hard-to-find, self-published book.)

home design, journalism, stories

Home is where the history is.



We’re at the tail-end of a home renovation project but at the start, I began to research the history of our home. It all led to a few other stories, including a nice spread in the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday magazine. My story focuses on a few self-made home historians in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood.

For me, opening the newspaper and seeing my byline and story still gives me the same glee as it did the very first time I was published. Hope that never goes away.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

DIY, Fashion

Clean your silver jewels.

DIY silver cleanerPacking up and moving into new digs is a drag. Unpacking your jewelry … not so bad. Except when said jewels are silver and all dirtied up. I used to polish them with some chemical-laden liquid that sat under the kitchen sink. It got tossed as part of our cleanup for the remodel. So when these lovely baubles needed some shining, I wanted to go natural: baking soda and water paste can clean almost anything. Mix two parts baking soda to one part water. You’ll get a thick paste in seconds. If not, add baking soda until you do! Take an old toothbrush and scrub, scrub, scrub your silver, staying away from any precious stones. Make sure you do this over a sink because the dank, dirty goop that falls from your jewels will amaze. When your baubles are clean, just rinse them with warm water and set them on a paper or soft towel to dry. Ahhh, pretty, shiny silver.


Wishing it were…Rome.

Rome 2014.

What is it they say about re-entry to routine after the holidays? Oh yes, something about it being difficult.

I’m still stuck on one year ago, when we returned from Rome after a long, leisure-filled winter vacation. Walking around our own neighborhood isn’t as exciting as the luminous, festive streets of Italy during the holidays. I’ve been flipping through these photos often, ready to cement a date for a return trip.


When life gives you lemons.


It’s an unsettled feeling, cleaning out your home so it can receive the tender, loving care it deserves because of all the tender, loving care it provides to you. The nervous excitement mixed with pure anxiety over unanswered questions can overwhelm.

And then one afternoon as you pack up more boxes, you find a bounty of lemons in your front console, hand-picked by your young son who tells you: it is time to make lemonade.

Beauty, Tips

Clean makeup brushes.

Clean those make-up brushes!

Bienvenido 2015!

And hello to clean makeup brushes!

The first day of the new year (and a fresh month) seemed a sensical day to give my makeup brushes a little scrub scrub. With the holidays, our move and serious prep for our remodel, their neglect was easy.

I sourced this tip from Pinterest a few years ago but the original post where I got the tip is no longer. It’s simple enough to recap:

Grab a widemouth glass jar and fill it with a tablespoon or two of white vinegar and a cup of hot water. If you don’t have white vinegar, you can use a gentle cleanser and jet make is sudsy. Place the brushes into the solution and let them sit for a good hour. Take the brushes out, rough up the bristles to get the gunky makeup out while rinsing them under hot water. Then rinse the brushes under cold water. Blot the brushes on paper towels to remove the excess water and then leave them out to dry.

Wash the brushes in the early evening and they’ll be ready for you the next morning.

Go on now.

Get crafty

Get crafty: Felt art (and oh! Love Thursday!)

365 Day 52: 12th anniversary (and felt art)

I've been participating in an online craft workshop hosted by the ladies of Red Velvet Art. We're supposed to make 30 projects over eight weeks (heh). I signed up looking two reasons: one, for inspiration to create art for our home and two, to find ideas for gifts.

So far, I've only completed one project. The above photo is something I made for the hubs to celebrate our wedding anniversary. As part of the project, you are supposed to design felt art that symbolizes someone or something in your life. I chose an aspect of our relationshop; we are always on a quest for really smooth, really rich coffee. And my favorite moments are when, after the kids are dropped off at school, we meet at a coffee shop for a quiet moment to enjoy each other's company before we rush off to our respective jobs.

I loved this project because it forced me to sketch my design. I have never shown a strength in drawing. But this time, I forced myself to put the mental image to paper and then make it real with felt.

It is hand stitched with embroidery thread and certain pieces are also attached with super strong craft glue. The next step is finding a nice vintage red frame to hold it on a wall in the kitchen.

Next on my list is a cute small picnic quilt. I'm not quite sure when I'll get to it, but I like that I'm thinking about it.

You can see what other members of this workshop are crafting up over at the Red Velvet Art Flickr photo pool. Also? Check out this adorable DIY buttercup bag.