As usual, this month has been filled with delightful gatherings, dinners, and parties. I have loved this time of year since I was a child, whether in the form of wintry, white Christmases in rural Virginia, or sunny holidays in southern California, set to Christmas music by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and David Brubeck. Christmas with a baby brings a new twist, because she is seeing everything for the first time, including Christmas lights, sparkly ornaments, candles, glowing decorations, etc. After having celebrated Christmas annually for over 3 decades, it’s fun to see how see a little person experiences the festive details as a newcomer to this planet.

This year has been no less busy than before, and we even had a wedding to attend in Los Angeles, among the other usual festivities. My boss was excited I can drink again, and we took a shot together at the company party (tequila for me, Fireball for him). I was offered the Fireball, but had to refuse. Fireball spells downfall for me; the sugar in that “whiskey” is death in liquid form. I don’t think I’ve ever had a shot of Fireball and not had severe regrets. On the other hand, bottom shelf house tequila never tasted so sweet, after an extended absence.

This is indeed the time of year to enjoy a nice glass of Cabernet, along with a winter-flavored Belgian, and new IPA’s. Still, I’m careful not to get too drunk because taking care of a baby while hungover sounds like total hell. Speaking of hell, Vale will go to church for the first time on Christmas Eve, and we hope she does not catch fire at the threshold.

This is not to say this holiday season has been without its bumps in the road. I was graced with mastitis round 3, more antibiotics, and all the accompanying frustrations. While Vale has slightly backed down from her insistence on eating only while lying down, the combination of this predilection, along with a distaste for the bottle, and dislike of eating with a cover draped over her face, makes feeding her in public or at social functions somewhat of a nightmare. For this reason, I’m sadly inclined to pass on a visit to Irvine, and a night out at Korean BBQ, and instead will opt to indulge at home, where wine is plentiful, and breastfeeding is easy.

Another first for this holiday season: This is the first time in 11 years we have not gone to get a tree together (Vale was a milk monster and we were running out of time, so Kyle had to go get it himself).

Sunset Boulevard II

She misjudged, flooded her burning unrestrained veins, and while she fearfully fantasized she would fall in love to a symphony of bad songs again, her quiet friend in the corner was feeling a secret silence creep in from the corners of the diner. The flash of lights and obscene billboards of Sunset Strip beat against the surreal levity of everything else, melting into a smooth bleeding in their favorite wasteland.

The three of them fell asleep in bed together, in the room at the end of a small hallway of mirrors, an unfinished bottle of Hennessy left on the nightstand

One of them whispered but I want to continue my amphetamine romance as she drifted off to gray beach mists steaming around, a quiet, solitary expanse, and white breasts catching warm sun rays on a Mexican beach

When she heard her mother’s name called she opened eyelids to sunshine piercing its way through heavy blinds, spilling across the wall panes of glass

Irvine II

she was walking and the paper bag was ready to tear out of her hand from the weight of the hard rain and daydreaming she absorbed the whole cosmos of the winter day into the folds of her brain, streams of hot hatred searing through sulci and gyri until she walked through the double doors of home

found her place before her computer and received communications in cold flashes from an old high school friend who had killed over 50 people in Iraq. because of the lack of tone she could not tell if he was bragging or repenting but she suspected he enjoyed it and thought of his nondescript, beady eyes, slightly pock-marked face, slender frame, easy demeanor, as she knew him before, and shuddered until she closed the laptop lid and infused into a quiet suburban memory.

she had stars and moons in her pocket and a dull tomorrow which promised to lose itself in a mad Los Angeles rush, broken light slipping through cracks of graceless nights, vanishing with feckless abandon and levity into the thinnest dust on its final course

and he had dead bodies rotting eye sockets and a putrid childhood left in a foreign land.

Sunset Boulevard

It was an aimless time in the rain whiskey burning in the veins and someone whispered please sleep but sleep bribes with the most useless promises and giving in is the most undignified part of the day, when forced ripples of unconsciousness threaten to be continuous so they used small, orange dolls to force wakefulness with a torrent of fire and abandon. Sunset Boulevard would not die so the four of them took a booth at Denny’s and she tugged her hair, sighed, and he turned to look at her, his expression asking what am I doing here but she only smiled, because she did not have the answer. She closed her eyes and thought those liquid-slate eyes are the most fleeting of all, unstoppable, and when she opened her eyes she felt she had miscalculated and was spinning in confusion at her own error. When the sun rose she drove to the airport, crying at the drab hideousness of the 405 and its ceaseless droning, and she did not know why, but her friend, leaning her head against the passenger seat window, was secretly pleased with her tears.


she worked daily to make him but a smear in her thoughts

when she is drinking iced tea

he appears on the patio sometimes, softened by sunlight and appearing innocuous

when the night air is falling and rippling around her vague intent to conquer and

the Los Angeles concrete is fluid, snaking brightly in the dark

her steps are flight and he is not even a stain on her immediacy

only a crimson shadow in her kingdom of vanity, if he is there at all

but in her sleep

she fears he is the colour of her blood.

A Weekend Of Beer And Wine

Had a beautiful weekend in Malibu. Stayed at a charming bed and breakfast called the Topanga Canyon Inn. This place had a lovely view and was reminiscent of the Italian countryside. The inn is run by a family, and their daughters greeted us and checked us in. We hiked up to Eagle Rock and enjoyed the view from up there too. Later in the day, we had a couple of Chainbreaker White IPA’s by Deschutes:

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I don’t recall the Chainbreaker being as tart it was on this occasion, and wondered if it’d gone slightly bad in the heat. It’s been extraordinarily hot, and it was like 98 degrees most of the day (even during our hike – slightly painful, but the view was worth it).

Later on in the day, we stopped by Malibu Family Wines and shared a bottle of Saddlerock Sauvignon Blanc while listening to some live music. At night, we had dinner at Moonshadows and shared a bottle of Saddlerock Cabernet Sauvignon. Moonshadows is a restaurant that can only be described as magical: you can feel the waves crashing underneath the restaurant as you eat, and the seagulls glow a bright fluorescent white in the ocean night.


Get In My Beer Belly

Went up to LA for the weekend, and my dear friend took me to this cute little gastropub in K-Town called Beer Belly. They had a decent beer selection, though I wish they offered more IPAs in pint-sized servings:

She started with a Seafarer by Three Weavers Brewing, a Kolsch, and I ordered the East to West IPA by Ballast Point (I know, so original of me – San Diego resident goes to LA for the weekend, and first pick is a San Diego beer). The East to West IPA was fresh, hoppy, floral, light, and citrusy, like IPAs tend to be (pictured above, in the goblet-style glass). It is also a very typical quality for Ballast point – well-balanced, smooth, satisfying. Ballast Point rarely disappoints, of course.

When the Seafarer came, I grew curious, because it was an amber color. I don’t usually get very excited about Kolsch beers, so this unusual color (for a Kolsch) caught my eye. I tasted it and rather enjoyed it. It was malty, fresh, nutty, and had a smoky aftertaste. My friend thought it was actually a bit floral. Well, turns out it wasn’t a Kolsch. Our server brought the Vapor, a California Common by Faction Brewing instead.  So the Seafarer ended up being her second beer, and I got the Vapor the second time around. The Vapor is the darker one on the left, and the Seafarer is to its right:

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The food is also worth mentioning. We indulged in all kinds of health items including duck fat fries, and pork belly chips. No regrets. We ordered two types of wings: buffalo and volcano. Volcano was the spiciest, and my preference, though both were really good. By far the most interesting was the kimchi ragu, which was a kimchi tomato stew that topped with meatballs and an egg in a little skillet. Very interesting and delicious.This place is listed on Yelp as “American,” but it is located in K-Town after all, so I suppose they had to get with the program. This isn’t a food blog, but this one is totally worth mentioning, especially when paired with an IPA (or even the Kolsch, since the flavors in this dish are so strong already).