Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Twilight Saga and Me

About a year ago I got on an airplane to come home for the holidays, and my in-flight entertainment was a book that I had heard of and found at Costco for $6.99. That book was Twilight. It took me the five-hour plane ride to tear through Twilight; and when my sister picked me up from the airport I nearly demanded to be taken to the mall so I could find the rest of the books. This was on December 24, 2008. The next three days were spent reading, shunning conversation, and doing my best to never leave the house--quite amazing considering it was Christmas. I even read Eclipse during the island-wide blackout on December 26.

Since then, I jumped, quite shamelessly, into the young adult world of Twilight through movies, merchandise, blogs and podcasts. I even took a trip to Forks this summer with my sisters, and went to my first Comic-Con. Best of all, my love for reading has been reignited, and I have read several wonderful books this year.

Thank you, Stephenie Meyer, for creating this foggy, green world of nicer vampires in Forks. I have thoroughly enjoyed my reunion with books and my local library, and look forward to more of this in the years to come.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

When Friends Move Away

It is a real bummer when friends move away. I know it's selfish of me, but I really can't help it. At least when the Sarmientos, Imaokas and Kims moved, they moved back to Hawaii, so it's relatively easy for me to see them when I go home. Then there's the Contreraseses (sorry, had to do that for my own comic relief). They are moving East, and now Seth and I are bummed out that we just had our last football season with them in the Bay. Of course this is a good thing for them, but we will still miss them! I also just realized that we did not get a chance to go to the Vietnamese restaurant in Walnut Creek before their move. They will just have to visit.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

In Search of Great Customer Service

My best friend prefers not to shop at Nordstrom because the workers constantly ask you if you need help. I, on the other hand, love shopping at Nordstrom for precisely this reason. Yes, I realize that they are paid on commission, but this fosters what is usually an environment in which I can easily find a willingly helpful salesperson.

For me, great customer service is not about me, the customer, always being right. Great customer service is a pleasant greeting, knowledge of your wares, and a willingness to help. This plays a large role in where I choose to shop.

If the service is not up-to-par, especially in a place where I expect it to be good, or in a place that prides itself on its high level of service, I will often change my mind about a purchase and leave. I did just that tonight at an unexpected place, Whole Foods.

Normally, the employees at Whole Foods are helpful and nice, but the man behind the coffee counter tonight was a grouch. Staring back at me with a disdainful expression on your face in response to my, "Excuse me," is a poor form of communication, and does not convey that you heard me. I actually have tried the tea sparkler I asked about, but his grouchy stare and the lack of verbal response made me choose to leave Whole Foods, even after I got my answer.

In all fairness, this is not my usual experience at Whole Foods, but I am disappointed because I know this man's behavior is not what this company is about; not when one of its core values is "Satisfying and delighting our customers."

Now that I have bemoaned this topic, I think it would nice to share some better examples of people who demonstrate great customer service. Unfortunately, I cannot remember their names, but there are two women at Nordstrom who have been fabulous recently. One works in the TBD area and the other in Brass Plum, both at the Broadway Plaza location. They rock, and I recognize them on sight, so I seek them out whenever I have a purchase. Oh, and Kay at the fine jewelry section of the Neiman Marcus in Honolulu is almost too good.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chewier Peanut Butter-Cup Cookies

The first time I made these cookies, they came out chewy (yum), but every batch after was crispy (still yum, but not quite right). I finally wised up and turned to the internet for some recommendations on how to bake a chewy cookie. So, I made some changes to the original recipe, and tonight's batch came out of the oven just right.

I think my pops would really enjoy these. Maybe I'll bake him some for Christmas. And then I'll make the rest of my family their own batch, because when it comes to chocolate, it's a race with my dad to see if you can even get one piece.

Here is the recipe:

Chewier Peanut Butter-Cup Cookies


1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (somewhat packed)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 12-oz. package small peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  • In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar until creamy. It still looks grainy, but if you stir a bit with a spatula, the mix smooths out. Add the egg and vanilla and beat. Gradually add the flour mixture, and mix with a spatula until just blended. The batter will be quite thick and more difficult to stir. Carefully fold in the peanut butter cups.
  • Using a tablespoon, place mounds of dough two-inches apart onto the parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. In the oven, the cookies should appear fluffy (flat cookies equal crispy cookies). Once removed from the oven, let them sit on the cookie sheet for several minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Contrary to what my family may believe, I do miss my home-home, Hawaii. Beyond the lilikoi iced tea, Island Manapua and W&M Drive-In, I miss my family. Then there are those only-in-Hawaii moments: a fan of shoes outside the front door; the ice-cold slush of your sort-of frozen, sort-of melted can of juice; and the surf phone tree.

I experienced a little bit of the surf phone tree yesterday when my dad called to tell me that the Eddie Aikau was on and there was a live-feed online. It was a sweet way to end the day, watching pro surfers drop-in on some ginormous waves. I loved hearing names like Sunny Garcia, Bruce Irons and Shane Dorian called out. It took me back to high school, and I am always amazed to see that that those guys are all still competitively surfing.

The moment when Greg Nolan went on his 100-point ride sticks out most in my mind. The way the camera shot him dropping in reminded me of the footage of Greg Noll taking on Waimea Bay in Riding Giants. Chicken skin.

I was so proud yesterday to see my home-home, and I was glad to see all those people on the beach playing hookie. The Eddie has been around for 25 years, but because the wave-face has to consistently hit 40 feet, this was only the eighth running of the contest. How often do you get to experience a day like the Eddie?

I can't help but think the Eddie Aikau is so much cooler than Mavericks. Considering that I live in Nor Cal, it's surf blasphemy, I know. But I can't help it. Waimea Bay is beautiful, the temps were near 80 yesterday, and sunshine beats fog any day in my world.

Monday, December 7, 2009

December is Here, as Indicated by Bad Behavior in a Parking Lot

Where have all the turn signals gone? The California Driver Handbook states, "Always use turn signals," in reference to right and left turns and goes on to give several more examples of when drivers should be using their signals--i.e. merging into traffic, making U-turns, acknowledging a law enforcement stop, etc. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten how to use their signals.

It happens without fail every morning during my commute to work, and it is pretty annoying to be waiting to make a left turn (with blinker on) only to have a car make a right turn (with blinker off) into the lane next to me. But, the most annoying moment occurs when a driver goes sans-signal and becomes irrationally irate because other drivers cannot tell what he/she is trying to do.

Specifically, I am talking about the older man driving the silver Honda Civic tonight in the Target parking lot. He had no signal on and stopped right in front of the empty parking stall I planned to pull into, as indicated my left turn blinker, which blinked away. While I waited for him to get out of the way, he began to gesticulate wildly, and futilely yelled at me from behind his rolled-up windows. All the while his wife sat in the passenger seat and covered her face. At first I thought maybe my car blocked the way to a parking space he sought, but that was a fleeting thought as he suddenly jerked the Civic into a haphazard turn and then crooked stop into the space my signal pointed.

Funny thing is, there were several other spaces available, and this strange battle need not have been fought. Especially when I would have immediately understood the parking plan had Mr. Silver Civic bothered to use his turn signal.

As far as holiday parking sparring goes, this was a lame exercise. Maybe for Christmas the general public will decide to make the use of turn signals and more regularly practiced driving habit.