life.exe

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy, hence the slowdown of posts here.

I think it’s probably easier to show you what I’ve been up to rather than to write about it, so here goes:

I’m still drinking a pile of coffee. Not much of a surprise there.

A macchiato at Hopper and Burr in Santa Ana.

Post-coffee wandering around downtown Santa Ana. Those cutoffs are getting some serious mileage.

Typical Kristina portrait. Poor friends get pressed into snapping my picture when out and about.

Still eating like a teenager, but with none of that youthful metabolism:

Loaded hot dogs, fresh tater tots and potato chips from Joe Schmoe’s.

Attempting to rectify said metabolism with bouts of exercise:

I sent my first V1 (equivalent 5.10 c-d) earlier this month!!! WOOOOOO

More bouts of exercise part 2: night bouldering in the San Bernardino National Forest with people from my climbing gym. Didn’t climb anything because we hit boulders with routes/problems beyond my grade (everything we hit waas V3+). Still had tons of fun shooting photos of the climbers and taking in the views during the hike out, which was probably the most strenuous I’ve ever been on. We got to the campsite at 5 pm and hiked/climbed until 2 am (hehe!)

Early part of the hike (6:30ish pm) so still pretty stoked about nature at this point. At midnight, we took a break to lay on the crash pads to look at the stars. It is something I’d like to see again soon.

Last week I attended the Workhorse Rye x Little Sparrow Cafe event featuring specialty cocktails made with bitters from WHR.

Took home the small bottle of India Pear bitters courtesy of WHR’s Rob Easter. This will be fun to bring to share at my friend’s house later this month.

I chose the “Arabikakozu”: India Pear Bitters, cold brew Four Barrel coffee, Takara Organic Nama Sake, Gran Classico. I would say sake and coffee is an interesting blend. Not something I would normally think would go together, but when done like this it reminded me of a very lime-forward, bitter-lemonade. As with much of my food explorations, these tastes are all very new to me still, so my observations will be disjointed at best.

Finally, my local craft bakery/coffee/beer/eatery Bakers and Baristas celebrated their grand opening last weekend. I went to have brunch at opening and ordered this gourmet twist on a classic Filipino breakfast: skirt steak tapsilog. Tapa is usually cured meat, typically a bit harder and drier, but the chefs decided to play with that interpretation and served up a juicy, tender, medium-rare steak.

skirt steak, garlic fried rice, pickled carrots, poached egg. I love that the chefs are incorporating heritage and experience into the rotating menu. Apparently congee (rice porridge) might be in the works for brunch.

With all this activity, I’ve almost reached my limit of functioning normally (usually, by this point I’d be sick.) Thankfully (or unfortunately) all I’ve had so far is a scratchy throat and a low-grade headache. I think I accepted every social invitation there was to accept, so now I’m craving some normalcy and quiet so I can regroup.

For those of you coming by and reading the blog at this juncture, it’s probably pretty weird to see all these food and coffee posts, isn’t it? (all three or four of you reading out there, haha.) I do have some odd thoughts here and there about fashion, specifically shoes; maybe I’ll write that later on its own.

Hope everyone is having an excellent end to their August! Let me know how you all are doing.

Bakers and Baristas

It’s always nice to hear that a new shop is in town: Bakers and Baristas, a bakery/cafe/restaurant just opened up near my area. Conveniently located minutes away from Cerritos Mall, in the city of Artesia, California, Bakers and Baristas has an ambitious plan to serve coffee, weekend brunch, desserts, pastries, craft beer, wine, and a small bar menu. This is their first week on soft opening, so yesterday I went with my family to try some of the baked goods and most importantly, the coffee.

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At the entrance.

The concept of the restaurant is “fast-casual:” order at the register, pick up your pastries and drinks, or if ordering dinner, the staff brings the food to you. The restaurant space has many seating options and there is a plan to build a patio outside of the restaurant for outdoor dining.

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Bakery display, register, and coffee area.
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Coffees from SF roasters Four Barrel and De La Paz.

Bakers and Baristas is currently serving San Francisco roaster Four Barrel Coffee, which owns side project De La Paz. Four Barrel focuses on single-origin coffees while De La Paz is a way for the company to play with blends. I think it is a great way for us Southern California folks to get a little taste of SF locally–Blacktop Coffee in Los Angeles serves Sightglass Coffee, for example. Or Blue Bottle in DTLA; Philz in Santa Monica.

The bakery items are from Candlelight Bakery‘s menu:  yesterday we tried the vanilla doughnut and a Valrhona chocolate croissant. I really like the fluffy-airy texture of the donut and you can’t go wrong with chocolate and flaky pastry, truly. The doughnut flavors seem to rotate daily.

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The bakery selection is impressive: cookies, pastries, doughnuts, tarts, cakes and cake slices, whole loaves (also used in the cafe’s sandwiches), as well as these ever-popular macarons at $2 a pop.

I’m most interested (for now) in Bakers and Baristas’ coffee potential. Their hours are conducive to after-work treats and weekend hangs: they project to be open 8 am to 12 am, Monday thru Sunday.

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Coffee area.

Espresso, batch brew, and pour over options (Kalita and Siphon) are available. I ordered a macchiato, latte, and a Siphon-made cup of Four Barrel’s Ethiopia Aroresa to go along with our snacks.

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A closer look at the siphon set-up. Burners on the bottom. Coffee grounds go into the top chamber.
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Quintessential top down shot.

I’m still learning a lot about coffee, so I can’t really say I taste every subtlety and nuance from roaster to roaster, cup to cup. I am learning, however, that in general I prefer:

1. drinking espresso-based coffees made with beans from South American countries (Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, etc.)
2. I like nutty, caramel, and sweetness in my brewed coffee as opposed to floral, bright, acidic/tea-like notes

That’s not to say I won’t try other things; I have to drink everything to know what I like. But it makes me giggle that as I drink more coffee and accompany my friends or family on these little adventures, that I notice some patterns in preferences. It makes me happy to learn them, because now I’ll know where to bring guests if I know they like xyz characteristic or a certain style of coffee.

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Some of the retail coffee available near the register.

Back to the drinks. I don’t have all the correct terminology for this, but I liked that Four Barrel’s take on this coffee is approachable. I often find the acidity of African-hailing coffees aggressive and a bit more sour than I’d like. There is also the aspect of the milk interacting with those tasting notes that can sometimes make the overall drink “worse.” Very subjective here. We all agreed that the macchiato and the brewed coffee were better than the latte, where the mildness of this particular roast got lost in the milk. I’ll have to return a few more times as more Four Barrel roasts get featured to learn more about the roaster’s style. We’re not even talking yet about the baristas’ job in translating the raw product into a drink–I’m quickly learning that every step of the process (from “farm to cup”) has a great potential in affecting the quality of brew we gulp down.

Overall, I’m very pleased at the addition of this space to the SoCal food and drink map! They’ve barely begun (only two days open at this point) but I look forward to the roll out of the full food and drink menu later in August.

Bakers and Baristas
11700 South St
Artesia, CA 90701

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Cropped

A trim became a lop. I haven’t had a cut this short in the past four years I’ve been trying to grow this hair. A vague stirring turned into indecision and then finally this at the salon yesterday. I’m ecstatic about the shortened drying time and the swingy-ness of less mass. In time I will return to being a dark-haired mermaid, but for now, this.

*full disclosure: this was a happy medium between completely lopping it off into a chin-length bob but it is still short enough to where it differed from my waist-grazing length. The ends were super dead and broken on my previous hair, and at that length it was whipping around my shoulders and back while running and getting stuck on my arms.

I also wish I were strong enough to say I won’t panic and regret this in a few weeks, but in the spirit of growth and maturity: it is hair, it will grow again, and I am fortunate to have a dense mane on my head.

Do you have any style tips or inspiration for looks for this length? I hardly do anything to my mop, maybe it’s time to try something new.

Effort expended

Coast Modern in Seal Beach, CA.

Dori who writes over at Dorigamii brought up some points in her recent post about shopping that made me think back on my own evolving values. I found the exercise interesting. She talks about the price vs. quality conundrum while shopping (“…how hard it is for me to come to grasps with dropping a lot of money on nicer clothing”), avoiding using specific items because of cleaning costs or fear of damage,  and a desire to pinpoint weak areas of her wardrobe to be addressed in future purchases. These are all things I have done and still touch upon sometimes when I shop.

I think a good reason why this post interests me is how it calls to mind the changes I’ve undergone with regards to my own shopping habits. I’m not at all “enlightened” or have become some minimalist minion touting restrictions left and right. But I’ve cut down on a lot of extraneous browsing “just looking!” window-shopping trips. I’ve also used my somewhat detailed (read: obsessive) research of items more efficiently–the time spent trying everything on those browsing trips showed me where to shop first for a higher rate of fit/quality/price success; a steady stream of promotional emails means a sale is ALWAYS around the corner, and I’m practicing daily on that mental fortitude needed not to impulse buy. If I do slip up and pull the trigger on something, I try to figure out why. It’s almost always an emotional reason. Feelings of inadequacy is a frequent one.

I would even hazard to say that even as we “bloggers” (really, regular people over here) write our own wardrobe philosophies, it does not neatly apply to everyone. I started with goals to look professional and appropriate and “me.” But that last variable, me, is still rapidly changing! How can I effectively shop for a me I haven’t met? Luckily, most of what I bought when I first started my now full-time career is still a favorite and still fits. There were a few items that faded poorly and a few sizing mistakes that became apparent with weight loss (they were non-salvageable–I’m not going to spend half the cost to tailor a wool coat I can donate. Chalk it up as a lesson.) It’s hard to preach any one specific school of thought with regards to how to edit and replenish your wardrobe. So much can happen. Needs change, bodies change, circumstances change. There is no universal “wardrobe staple.”

The last thought fragment I want to discuss is the growing awareness of the effort it takes to shop. I noticed that I came home from browsing trips less happy, and more somber (because inadequacy: “I can’t afford it” or “It didn’t look good on me.”) I also knew for a while that the euphoric feeling after new purchases grew shorter and shorter. Why such little payoff from so much money and effort expended? Looked online because you saw a sale. Spotted a potentially cute shirt with enticing 30% off code. Made plans after work to check out the shirt. Drove 15 miles to the mall, parked the car, walked half a mile to where the specific store is. Found the item on the rack, tried it on in the dressing room, mulled it over for fifteen minutes. Lined up at the counter, paid for it, walked back to the car and drove home. By the time I got home and hung up the new shirt I’d already lost the excitement of new item!!! and it had visibly and mentally joined the pile in my closet.

In some ways I kind of want that shopping high back, like yeah! I bought the thing. The thing in the nice color and cut I always wanted. But if it means that the importance of material objects is diminishing, back to its proper place (IMO, to where 1. the item serves its purpose and is the best at doing so 2. ideally it also satisfies the aesthetic I want to project) then I’m OK with that too. It’s just funny that it used to be such a thing–yay new stuff because new stuff. Now it’s yay new stuff, now I can go to work feeling comfy AND on fleek in these new black sneaks (I am waiting to acquire said black sneaks. Another story, another time.)

I hope that wasn’t too convoluted to follow. Nothing I’m saying above is revolutionary; to me, however, it feels somewhat cathartic as well as a sort of way-marker for the person that I am in this point in time. It is also possible, as one of my dear friends likes to remind me, that I am overthinking things as usual (isn’t that what a blog is for? I can just blahg ad nauseam to my little heart’s desire.) What is the most you’ve ever done to shop for or buy something? Was it worth the effort? What (if any) sort of experience do new purchases give you?

Flying

 

Hueman x Madsteez piece at Pow!Wow! Long Beach.

I haven’t had much time to write in the last two weeks–I have photos to share; I always do. But there hasn’t been much time for self-reflection as life calls me to other places.  I had a quiet start to the year, but there are a bunch of social engagements lined up for the summer. It’s a good time to mingle and reconnect with friends and family–I am exhausted, but I welcome it. All too soon I am sure I will retreat into my shell, for self-preservation, but for now, the oyster is here to play.

The only new item I’ve invested in for the summer (so far) is this jersey trapeze dress which is actually a close dupe of this Brandy Melville Alena dress. Both are made from a good-draping, opaque jersey, but I’ll say that the Brandy Melville one is a bit thicker and heavier than the Forever21 version. At any rate–it is hopefully my one and only indulgent summer purchase; I don’t really want to accumulate any more light knits to take up space in the closet.

In the meantime, I hope you are all having a good summer (or winter/spring?) Where have you gone off to (or are planning to go?)

burnt

Summer is here. With a vengeance. It went from muggy and cloudy to clear, dry and hot like an oven. Despite the threat of awkward tan lines, I can’t currently stomach the thought of wearing more than shorts and a tank:

too hot either way

Top: old Uniqlo men’s chambray buttondown
Tank: old Zella workout racer back tank
Shorts: DIY Levi’s cut offs

But sun-safe and sun-smart me knows I should probably at least cover my shoulders and chest up. Just say no to melanomas, you guys. Skin cancer concerns are real for everyone, even for those who don’t get sunburned. Also, I live in a very sun-happy capital, where year-round tans are possible, but not necessarily wise.

I’m still trying not to get carried away with buying too many clothes but this is the time of year where I am susceptible to black cotton tops. I have quite a few of them (v-neck tees, short tanks, long tanks) so I don’t really need more. We’ll see how well I resist temptation this year. I’d rather get more sneakers; I need a new black pair anyway.

What’s on your sartorial radar this summer?

Steelhead Coffee / California Heights

In case you couldn’t tell or it wasn’t obvious I have become quite enthralled with coffee this year. Thanks to some coffee-loving family and friends, I think I’ve firmly joined Camp Caffeine–though only time will tell if I chose wisely :D The energy and time I spent debating clothes is now split with researching new coffee shops and subsequently being exposed to coffee culture and history, which is extremely exciting to me. Or is it the rapid heartbeat talking?

Fortunately, there is no shortage of coffee shops in Southern California, and most especially in the city of Long Beach, which is a short drive away from North Orange County. It is home to quite a few coffee shops and coffee roasters who have contributed greatly to the city having a specialty coffee scene. One of those newcomers is Steelhead Coffee in the historic neighborhood of California Heights in Long Beach. I found out about them through–you guessed it–social media, as suddenly my favorite coffee accounts started to post and tag the shop. I decided to go into Cal Heights to see and taste the place for myself.

On the corner of Wardlow Road and Orange Avenue.
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First glance into the shop upon entry.

Steelhead Coffee owners John and Rany Aguirre, a husband-and-wife team, were interviewed by the Long Beach Post shortly after they opened, and are already garnering attention from foodie databases such as dineLA. The combination of a clean, bright interior, local coffee from Rose Park Roasters and bottled cold brew from Lord Windsor Roasters, and a rotating list of featured coffees from around the country make Steelhead Coffee a very welcome addition to the neighborhood, which has long needed a space for people to congregate and interact with others.

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The most-photographed area of the shop even has its own hashtag: #thatsteelheadwall

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A macchiato.

The fire-engine red of a custom-painted La Marzocco 3-group espresso machine, and the register area.

Behind the bar, and glassware from nonNeutral.

Steelhead typically uses Rose Park Roasters coffees but also rotates other coffees/coffee roasters. In this shot on the far left shelf are some coffees from Huckleberry Roasters from Denver, CO. On the right shelf are two boxes of bagged teas from Rishi Tea, Milwaukee, WI. The coffees may be featured in espresso-based drinks or as brewed coffee or pour-overs.

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Baked goods display case.

The pastry and sweets collection is modest, but does feature local bakers such as The Caffeinated Kitchen (donuts) and also pies and quiches from Scratch Baked Goods.

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Vegan donuts from The Caffeinated Kitchen.
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Wall opposite the register displays the seasonal roasters available.

As mentioned before, Steelhead also carries fellow Long Beach shop Lord Windsor Roasters‘ bottled cold brew:

The tea offerings from Mad Monk change with new stock. A local leatherwork shop called Anvil Handcrafted has selected products (wallets, keychains, candles) available for purchase at Steelhead.

Additional seating toward the front of the cafe.

What I like the most about Steelhead Coffee are the people. The owners and baristas are friendly and approachable, and almost everyone that comes in picks up on that mood and responds accordingly. Then again, I find that on the whole people are a bit more open in Long Beach as opposed to Los Angeles proper or even Orange County–there’s enough grit for a city/urban feel in LB, but there is also a focus on community and connectedness that is easier to reach.

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Where would Kristina be sans mocha?

For a new shop (less than 6 months) and such notice as it has already received, I have little doubt that Steelhead Coffee will soon be charging its way to the front of the Southern California coffee scene.

Steelhead Coffee (hours and contact info on Yelp)
1208 E Wardlow Rd
Long Beach, CA 90807