Sunday, December 30, 2007

What's Your New Year's Wish?

Ever dreamed of sharing your New Year's wishes with millions of people? The organizer's of New York's Times Square New Year's Eve celebration is giving those unable to make it the big apple or even those at the event to share their messages on little pieces of confetti that will be mixed with tons of colorful confetti scheduled to be dropped at midnight. This is the first time anyone cat get their message printed on confetti. So far messages left on the online "Wishing Wall" have been both silly and serious. What's your message?:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Healthy New Year!

With 2008 just around corner, newspapers and magazines are having a field day with articles on New Year's resolutions. This year, a popular theme seems to be financial resolutions, but health-related resolutions always garner plenty of attention. Rightfully so, as we should make a effort to live healthy lives. I came across an article in The New York Times on eight different ways to achieve healthy skin. "...many skin experts recommend practical steps to maintain skin as it ages and to mitigate external factors — like sun exposure and chronic stress — that could accelerate changes."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ever have one of those...

... weeks where you just keep having mini-accidents? Well I'm having one of those weeks, either that or I'm just plain clumsy. Yesterday I went over to my friend’s house, and when we were walking her two dogs (a pug and pekingese), I bent over to tie my shoelaces, and her pug freaked out over another dog and dragged his leash across my wrist. I knew it was bad because it stung like #%*! I looked down to assess the damages, and saw that I got "rope burn." The leash rubbed against my skin and took a small strip of it away. So now I have this white strip on the top of my wrist. I can tell people I got implanted with a microchip at cocktail parties. Ha!

Today, I burned my hand on pasta sauce. At the gym, I knocked my thigh against a stationary bike. Coming home from the gym, I slammed the side of my knee against my car door. That one hurt. It was raining pretty hard, and I was trying to get out of my car and into my house quick, so I guess I slammed the door against my leg. Now I'm sporting a bump and an extra large blueberry. I'm bracing myself for tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. I’ve received many presents this year for which I’m grateful. After having spent nearly three years in Casper, Wyoming, a new job has brought me back to San Francisco, California. Working in Wyoming was truly an unforgettable experience, and I will miss the people I met there. I’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime and I’ve learned lessons that will guide me a lifetime. I’m so grateful to spend the holidays with my family and friends. My relationship with my brother grew stronger this year, and I hope it continues, and I’ve gotten to spend more time with my sister and her two lovely dogs, Shadow and Guinness. Thanks for all the Christmas cards, greetings and adorable pictures. I hope everyone finds happiness in his or her corners of the world. Have a safe and wonderful Christmas/Hanukkah with family and friends. Now is the time to eat, drink (responsibly) and be merry.

Love and Peace,

Monday, December 24, 2007

Let's talk about sex

A study released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that sex education in schools delays sexual behavior among teenagers. The study surveyed more than 2,000 students between the ages of 15 and 19, and found that girls who received formal sex education were 59 percent less likely to have sex before the age of 15, and boys were 71 percent less likely to have sex before age 15.

The education came from schools, clinics, churches or community organizations. The study also found that formal sex education also leads to safer sex. (Males were three times more likely to use birth control for their first sexual encounter.)

I’ve always been supportive of sex ed in schools, believing that having open communication promotes healthier behaviors among teenagers. Other recent studies on sex ed show that teaching teens to make responsible decisions could reduce the more than 750,000 teen pregnancies and the more than 9 million cases of STDs that occur yearly among Americans aged 15 to 24.

When I was teaching in China, we weren’t allowed to talk about certain subjects in class. Although nothing was ever written in paper, it was understood that Mao, religion and sex were taboo.

Here was my dilemma. My core group of students was between the ages of 15 and 16 year old. It was inevitable that the topic of sex and relationships would come up in class. Many of them saw me as a “big sister” instead of a teacher, and knew that perhaps this American girl would shed some light on teenage love and angst. I think some of the teachers forgot that these were teenagers living not quite in the age of innocence, but rather in the age of discovery.

My friend who taught older students knew his students wanted also to talk about sex and relationships. Both of us knew it was important to acknowledge the topic, but we also didn’t want to disrespect the school and the school’s values and ethics. We mulled over this topic for months. I had my students keep a journal, and over the course of the semester, I found that a good number of students began hinting about relationships, talking about “true loves” and “showing love to each other.” Again, I had a difficult time with this because I wanted to respect the school; I reminded myself that I was a guest, a foreigner, a teacher hired to teach grammar and the English language. But I also knew that I needed to step aside and look at the students as any other teenager. Teenage pregnancies, illegal abortions and STDs exist in China, and although the government may not admit to it, the rates are high among teenage girls.

My friend and I grappled with this throughout the semester, and finally when we were finishing the term, we decided to hold open lectures and invited students to ask us anything. We were careful not to overstep boundaries, but we were candid and honest. Sex ed isn’t about teaching kids how to be better lovers or having them memorize the content of Cosmopolitan’s “Hot Sex Issue,” it’s about teaching kids how to better love themselves and their bodies and to respect their themselves and every bodies.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Can it be that I like Michael Buble?

That was the question I asked my friend last night. After a late-night Christmas shopping marathon session, I remained dubious that any holiday hymn or jingle would make me happy and cheery. But halt, I found myself listening to Michael Buble's version of "Let it Snow," and enjoying it. Once I got home, I went on iTunes and got his "Let It Snow" album, and have been listening to it. Could it be that I like the guy who's last name looks like "Bubble?" So I like his Christmas album, and that "Quando, Quando, Quando" song on his "It's Time" album. I'm not embarassed to say I like him. Hey, this is coming from the girl who is in the Yanni fan club -- 10 years and counting.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A movie recommendation...

"Atonement" is a beautiful movie based on Ian McEwan's novel Atonement. Good story, great acting, great cinematography. I'm a fan of James McAvoy (he was great in "The Last King of Scotland") and Keira Knightley is enthralling. The film is a love story, but it addresses war and there are plenty of moral themes in the movie.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Are You a News Junkie? ... Click on this link, once on the site, you'll be prompted to enter your email to sign up. Only in America will you see Lindsay Lohan share a banner with a president, a senator, a former world leader and a media mogul. Enjoy!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Choking On Growth

The New York Times has published a special eight-part series on China’s pollution crisis. Having lived and worked in China, I’ve experienced firsthand the environmental problems gripping the country. The Times did a good job reporting the different environmental impacts affecting China, and supplements its coverage with video and graphics. It's a great albeit troubling read.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A cuddle a day keeps the doctor away

There’s even more scientific research now that proves intimacy is good for your health mentally, emotionally and physically. I find this information refreshing. For too long, relationships have been rubber-stamped with warnings of heartaches, break-ups, and the dreaded gift that keeps on giving and the likes.

Fashion magazines are notorious for this. How many times have you stood in line at the grocery stores browsing magazines with headlines that read: “10 Signs He Cheating On You, ” “Relationship Killers,” “Oh No He Didn’t…He Did What?!?” Quite discouraging, if you ask me. Imagine what an alien from another planet would think if he she/he read these articles. (Read: “Wow, these humans have really messed up personal lives, I don’t see why anyone would want to be in a relationship.”)

I think we should proceed with caution when it comes to relationships, but we shouldn’t let fear take control. Enjoy being in a relationship, and once you feel the slightest worry, address it and move on. Keep it positive. Don’t pick up the fashion magazine to read what you should do, you’ll just agonize yourself even more.

Healthy relationships are good, and I’m not just talking about ones with significant others. Go ahead hold your dad’s hand, kiss your mom on the cheek, say hi to the stranger at the grocery store. Positive social interactions boost our bodies’ ability to heal itself. Researchers attribute this to an increase in a beneficial hormone called oxytocin, which plays a role in mother-baby bonding and feeding. People who have strong friendships, or happy, committed relationships, tend to produce higher levels of oxytocin than people who are single, isolated or insecure about their relationships.
So kiss your sweetheart, hug your friend, flirt with your crush. Trust me, you and your body will thank you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I'm finally addressing an issue that's been on my mind as of late. The holiday season has caused a spike in foot traffic every where I go: The bank, the gym, the grocery store. With an increase in foot traffic comes the higher chance of encountering an awkward social situation I like to call the "sidestep shuffle."

I'm sure you've all experienced this. You know you're walking one way, another person is walking the other way. And for some reason, the powers that be have you walk straight into each other. Then trying to avoid eye contact, you both move to the right, and then the left and back to the right. For these 15 seconds of interaction, one of you will either faintly touch the other's arm (as a means of guiding), or utter the phrase, "Shall we dance?" with the hopes of lessening the awkward encounter. I've never ask that question... at least I don't think I have.

This happened to me at the gym tonight. I was heading toward the water faucet and a man was walking away from the faucet. From my peripheral vision, I saw that he was coming in my direction, but I assumed that we'd avoid a collision. But lo and behold, we managed to walk into each other and do the shuffle, not once, not twice, but four times. I don't think I ever looked at him once, my eyes were set on the water faucet.

So how does one avoid the "sidestep shuffle"? After some research on Google, I came across these etiquette tips:

1. When approaching someone head on, both people should pass to the right of each other.

2. When approaching another person from a near 90 degree angle, the person coming from the right has the right-of-way. If someone is approaching from your right, change course to the right to pass behind them.

3. When overtaking a slower pedestrian, pass on his or her left. (Thought I include this one too.)

4. Use the same rules as if you were driving a car.

5. Keep a steady course: If you hesitate, the other person will likely hesitate and you will both encounter an uncomfortable situation. Choose a path and stay with it.

I like tip #5, it sounds like a fortune cookie or my horoscope on Monday.

Monday, December 10, 2007

You learn something new every day

I thought that the Guinness Book of World Records was just for tallest man, shortest woman, longest fingernails, oldest person, biggest pancake, etc. Check this out:

The Associated Press
updated 2:05 p.m. PT, Sat., Dec. 8, 2007
CONNELLSVILLE, Pennsylvania - Matthew McKnight hopes nobody manages to top his feat in the Guinness Book of World Records.

That's because McKnight holds the record for "Greatest Distance Thrown in a Car Accident" in the book's 2008 edition.

The 29-year-old record-holder lived to tell about being thrown 118 feet by a car that hit him while traveling about 70 mph. He was struck on Oct. 26, 2001, while trying to help accident victims along Interstate 376 in Monroeville, about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh.

He suffered two dislocated shoulders plus a broken shoulder, pelvis, leg and tailbone. He spent two weeks in the hospital and 80 days in rehab before returning to work in April 2002. McKnight is a volunteer firefighter and paramedic, though he was not on duty when he stopped to help the accident victims. He works full-time as a communications specialist at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh.

McKnight's emergency room physician, Dr. Eric Brader, submitted paperwork for the record, which Guinness recognized in 2003. It was not listed in the book until the 2008 edition, however.

Friday, December 7, 2007

It's Time for Mavericks

This weekend, all eyes are on Half Moon Bay -- the stage for the majestic Mavericks surf contest. On just 24 hours notice between today and March 31, 2008, 24 legendary big-wave surfers will gather along the coastline, south of San Francisco, to test their skills and vie for the invite-only Mavericks Surf Contest title. What's in store for them? The bone-chilling Pacific and 40-foot waves. A strong storm season as pushed up the date for the contest window, which officially opened today. Contest directors and meteorologists are now glued to storm charts and NOAA reports to see what mother nature will do. And if it's anything like this past week, then the surfers are in for some challenging heats. On Tuesday, waves crested at 70 feet -- the biggest so far this year.
Here's a some footage of Tuesday's waves. If you've never seen giant waves, take a look at this. It's a common misperception that surfing is best in the summertime....really, the best swells are in the fall and early winter. There's also a link to an interview with big-wave surfer Grant Washburn on NPR. (There's an ad that plays at the start with loud music, but then it gets to the actual clip.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The fattest cat in China

Okay, so I had some requests to show the cat "in action." This isn't the actual news report, but a follow-up interview.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Jamie!

Last weekend, we celebrated my cousin's birthday. Jamie celebrated turning the big 2 by wearing a beautiful dress and running around the house with balloons and plenty of cake and tiramisu. I can't believe how much she's grown in the past year. I was surrounded by kids of all ages, and I had a blast being a kid once again. Who doesn't like playing with toys and eating cake all day?

Mi Familia, Ma Famille

Here are some of my beautiful cousins with the birthday girl, who by the way rocked that dress. I'm sure anyone who's photographed children know that it can -- at times -- be difficult. My cousin Jan was also taking photos next to me, so you can see that some several of the little ones were a bit distracted in some shots.

(From left to right: Elaine, Shirley, Jimmy, Jamie and Winnie), two, three...and we have the proverbial arm in the shot.

My favorite picture.
The three sisters (Elaine, Shirley and Winnie) in the red, yellow and pink sweaters, respectively, are absolutely precious...mostly because they're so polite and sweet.

Friday, November 30, 2007

My new hobby

It's terribly addicting. You really can't stop playing. I like this game because it refreshes my rusty world geography.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


A bit stressed this past week. Aside from running and going to gym, I find happiness in pictures of animals. I don't condone overfeeding your pets, but I came across this story of a really fat cat in China. I saved a jpeg from the clip, and every now and then look at it for some chuckles.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Waiting for my real life...

I first heard this song last year, and was immediately drawn to it. Perhaps it was my emotional state at the time. I’d been in Wyoming for over a year and was beginning to really acclimate to my environment – meeting new friends, establishing new relationships but also looking forward to the next step in my career. Work was stressful as ever, but I was happy, excited about what was on the horizon in my personal and professional life.

I started listening to this song again the week before I left Wyoming. This time around, it was my move that was stressful, but I was happy…and sad. Suffice to say, it was on repeat on my iPod.

The song popped up again, this time on the night before my 16-hour drive back to San Francisco. My friend and I had been sitting in his car for hours talking and listening to music. I found this song on his iPod. We sat there, silent, listening to the song. I assessed my life from the moment I first heard Colin Hay’s song to the present, and knew much had changed. I was moving and saying good-bye to Casper, to my friends. My “wait for my real life to begin” was coming to an end.

During my stay in Wyoming, I met people from other states who said living in Wyoming was like living on another planet, that their lives were put on hold. For me, my 2.5-plus years in Casper weren’t inconsequential. I experienced some real living and emotions –intimacy, elation, hurt – in Wyoming. I never put my life on hold. I may wait for the next chapter in my life, but I’ve waited all my life – and will wait – for my real life to continue: Real life, parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ad infinitum.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

My beautiful cousins

I spent today hanging out with my uncle, aunt and cousins. I haven't seen them since last Christmas. The little one is Jamie (she turns 2 next week!) and Jan is 18. Jamie was so good at dinner tonight, she ate all by herself and she even made time to blow kisses to everyone. She's excited about her birthday party next week, she's even singing -- well half singing -- "Happy Birthday." It was a great afternoon/evening watching everyone together again, eating and laughing.

Some holiday cheer

I have to thank Marj for sharing this link with me. I plugged some of my friends into it, and it's hilarious.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Shadow and Guinness

Thanksgiving at Kit's

Here are some pictures of Thanksgiving dinner. I'm in love with my sister's dogs. Shadow is 11 and is German Shorthair/ Black Lab, Guinness is 2 and a Siberian Husky. They kept us company during dinner. Shadow ate a lot, and he salivated as he watch my sister carve the turkey. Both Shadow and Guinness enjoy pumpkin pie and Haagen-Daz Light and Creamy Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. (A very delicious ice cream for humans and dogs.) I lunched and nibbled on leftovers all day. I'm craving more turkey, and I'm looking forward to more on Christmas. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanskgiving.

Thursday, November 22, 2007 you celebrate Thanksgiving?

I'm an ABC. American Born Chinese. I was the first person in my family to be born in the United States. And growing up American with traditional Chinese parents was hard at times. There were awkward moments in school when classmates talked about their Thanksgiving plans and dishes. Here I was, the Chinese girl who had Thanksgiving dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Instead of a table lined with runners and centerpieces, ours was lined with newspaper and mismatch chipped rice bowls. I didn’t understand why we were different, or in the mind of an adolescent, “weird.”
We did cook a turkey, and I think my parents did that for my siblings and me so we could experience a western holiday. I still get emotional thinking about how much my parents did to let us experience what everyone around was experiencing. It’s easy for me to say now that food doesn’t make Thanksgiving, but I’m pretty sure as a kid, I wasn’t that understanding.

As a kid, I thought turkey=Thanksgiving. To sum up Peppermint Pattie: "You can't have Thanksgiving without turkey." And when I told people that our family ate turkey and apple pie, they were surprised. It's funny, how in 2007, there are still some people who, when I say I'm eating Thanksgiving dinner, look at me funnily and ask the question that I dread the most. This is from a recent conversation.

Person: "So, Thanksgiving dinner. are you guys going to eat....(pause)

Me: "Yes, we're going to eat."

Person: "Do you guys celebrate Thanksgiving? Do you eat like, regular stuff?"

Me: "Yes, turkey and all the sides and desserts."

Person: "Wow. Outstanding."

I wanted to share a Thanksgiving column I wrote back in 2005 for AsianWeek. It's pretty self-explanatory. I hope you enjoy it.

Have Yourself a Feast of Good Feelings, November 25, 2005

You can be guaranteed satisfaction if you make the best of every situation. Granted, it can be somewhat difficult when it all seems like Murphy’s Law is working overtime just for you. But over the years, I’ve learned to try and live by what my father says is one of the keys to living a happy life: Being thankful for what you have also goes along with making the best of every situation.

My first Thanksgiving away from home was when I was living in New York City during graduate school. My roommate and I decided to cook Thanksgiving together in our apartment in Morningside Heights. We ended up cooking a fabulous feast for two.

Let me rewind just a bit. I wouldn’t say that my family celebrated Thanksgiving like other American families celebrated the holiday. So not being home for Thanksgiving wasn’t such a big deal for me.

Up until we closed our Chinese restaurant, we were open every Thanksgiving. And yes, we would get several orders. But most of the time my dad would cook up some rice and chow mein for the cop that worked the night shift, or the family that didn’t have quite enough for a turkey that year.

My dad would marinate a turkey the night before (using Asian ingredients), my mom would buy potatoes, sweet potatoes, bread and Jell-O. Every year I’d make orange and strawberry Jell-O. Sometimes we’d invite our uncles and aunts, but most of the time Thanksgiving was a day I got a chance to help my dad clean the restaurant. Of course, I was happy that I didn’t have to go to school for two days, but what I was most happy about was that my dad could sleep in a few more hours.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving in New York with my roommate: Although I missed being with my family, I knew they were a phone call away. The following Thanksgiving, I spent away from family as well. This time, it was more than 5,000 miles away.

I was living in Sichuan, China. Two months had past since the 9/11 attacks, and though my friends and I were coping with being away from family and friends who were in New York, we were also trying to make the best of our situation.

Here we were, four young Americans at a communist boarding school, teaching thousands of Chinese students the words to “Over the River.” My headmaster told us to spend a week teaching students about pilgrims, Native Americans and Thanksgiving.

The day before Thanksgiving, I went to the school cafeteria early and asked the cooks if they could prepare something special for the teachers. I knew my friends were homesick with 9/11 still heavy on their minds.

In between my broken Mandarin and gesticulations, I gave a brief history of Thanksgiving and what Americans ate on this day. In Chinese, gan en jie means Thanksgiving. The cooks had smiles and confused looks on their faces when I told them about bread stuffed in turkey and cranberry sauce. The staff was obliging and, though they couldn’t find a turkey, they gave us lunch for which we were all thankful and grateful.

We ate in the cafeteria with the rest of the students, and our table was filled with steaming plates of food. We had steamed chicken, roast duck, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cabbage, rice and man tou (Chinese steamed bread). We were all moved and we all said our thanks before the meal.

The mashed potatoes weren’t made with butter and milk, but with Sichuan peppercorns and lard. The pumpkin wasn't pureed but cubed and cooked in a sugar syrup, and the chicken and duck were both served with their head and feet intact.

With tears in our eyes, we began our Thanksgiving feast with chopsticks in hand. It was probably one of the best and unforgettable meals I’ve ever had. It’s not the food that makes Thanksgiving, it’s the feeling of gratitude and humility.

Tryptophan and Tears

Today was a minimally stress-free day. Yes, it's Thanksgiving, but for the first time in three years, I wasn't stomaching the stress of fighting crazy airports and five pounds of mashed potatoes. This year, I didn't have to fly home for dinner. We spent it at my sister's. On the menu: two brined Diestel turkeys, stuffing, mashed potatoes, potato salad, cornbread and plenty of sweet fare (I made lemon bars, apple cobbler, pumpkin pie from scratch and cornbread.)

After an early dinner with my sister's dogs, Shadow and Guinness, begging at the table, we went for a nice stroll near Ocean Beach. I knew the turkey was kicking in on the drive home from my sister's. I was ready to call it night, when I remembered that it was Thursday night and Grey's was on. I was never really a Grey's fan, but I started watching this season and am a bit hooked. It wasn't that I hated Grey's, it was because my work schedule precluded me from watching the show.

I thought the producers of the show would play a re-run of some past holiday show, but it was a new episode. And in all its Grey's glory it managed to get the waterworks going. I don't know if it was the level of tryptophan in my system, but I cried at almost every scene that didn't include jokes or a happy relationship moment. Some of tonight's themes included: A black surgeon and Asian surgeon having to operate on a white supremicist and two paramedics trapped in a car dying, but trying to save each other's lives. It was an evening of tryptophan and tears.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Huan Yin

Welcome to my first post on my "personal blog." I created another blog a few years back that had to do with food. I called it "xiao chi" which means "little bites" in Chinese. I've been really bad at keeping up with my posts, since I haven't posted in several years. But I'm starting a new blog and I hope to maintain my food blog as well.

I was living in Casper, Wyoming for the past 2.5-plus years for work. I'm kicking myself for not blogging about my experiences there, but I'm sure I'll reminisce about my Wild West experiences here.