Year Of The Horse

新年快乐! Happy Chinese New Year to everyone!

Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year and the ways of celebrating are day and night compared to the New Years we know.

If you are born in 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954 or 1942, this is your year! Your Chinese zodiac sign is the Horse; they are known for being hard-working, motivating and clever.

The Chinese are all about being prosperous, good fortune and health. There are little traditions we do to ensure that the new year treats us well.

Starting the festivities is usually a parade filled with fire crackers, lion dancing and children dressed in silk robes and garments.
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I missed the lion dancing when I went to the fair last weekend, which sucks because it is actually my favorite part of the holidays ever since I was a little nugget. Legend has it that the echoing of the drums and the clangs of the cymbals are suppose to help scare away bad spirits.

(the lions take a few minutes to wake up but it is definitely worth checking out!)

(this one is really intense, I never seen them go on pedestals before)

Red envelopes (lai see) are one of the most recognized traditions of Chinese New Year. Children and unmarried young adults will tell their elders Gong Hay Fat Choi! and collect the lucky money. People you are not really close to will give you two dollars or so, but your family will give you anywhere from $20-$100 in the envelopes. I used to get so many when I was younger, you can see how I am not letting go of the one in my little hands in the picture below.

Also note how I am decked out in almost every shade of red possible, I think it is clear that red is the lucky color of Chinese culture.

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CNY is not all fun and games, no sir. We have to start the new year fresh, so we clean the whole house the day before to sweep away bad fortune, wear new clothes and get a haircut. That way we are entering with all the bad luck gone and more space for good.

Finally, the most important tradition is to spend time with your family and enjoy a great meal together.

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The CNY dinner involves pretty much everyone in your family, your closest friends and every other Asian person down your block. There are a lot of meats, hot pot, potstickers and clementines.

Some might say that this was just an excuse for me to post pictures of when I was younger and I will plead the fifth. If I could start a successful blog where I post a #tbt of myself everyday, then game over. There are so many more cultural traditions, folktales and little things to do during Chinese New Year, but I want this to be an on-going documentation for the following years.

Remember to wear red today!

Does your culture have any special activities for the new year?

Any questions you have about how we celebrate?

Where To Start…

I am going to rename my blog to ‘posts in dash form with food sometimes’. It might have to do with me being a little distracted by the red carpet…or the fact that Beyonce is performing in less than fifteen minutes.

-Home grounded meatballs

I finally used my new meat grinder on Thursday and life has officially changed. Picking two different meats to combine was a bit overwhelming, but I ultimately decided on a half chuck and half brisket mixture. I made the meatballs on Friday and they came out perfect. I hardly had to season them besides salt, pepper and herbs de provence.

You really cannot go wrong with a home made pasta sauce made with Roma tomatoes and white wine either. Thank you, Alton Brown.

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-Dim sum in Chinatown

Abby and I try to see each other as often as possible and we both had a window open on Saturday for lunch. I promised her dim sum for her late birthday present and made it all the way to her side of town, only to remember that it was the Chinese New Year Fair in Chinatown.

Telling you it was crowded is an understatement. I will just show you instead.

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In the midst of the crowds was Chinatown’s own local celebrity. He plays his erhu in the beginning of the movie Pursuit of Happyness (starring Will Smith).

Yes, that is a Santa hat and you better believe he was rockin’ out to Jingle Bells. I did not have the heart to tell him that he was a little too late.

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2014 is the Year Of The Horse. Chinese New Year will probably be explained in my next post, as it falls on the 31st this year. There are so many customs, traditions and celebration involved and I want to share a piece of my culture with you.

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Abs wanted to show off her jellyfish eating skills.

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I wanted to show off all the delicious things we ordered. I love taking my friends to dim sum because they get to try dishes out of their comfort zone. Come to San Francisco and it will be mind blowing, I promise.

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-Weekly cleaning

The kind people at Zabada Clean sent me a few pieces of bathroom cleaning supplies to test out and report back to you. Although household supplies is not a normal topic on my blog, I found these interesting because you do not need to use any of your normal cleaners with them- only water.

Part of living a healthy lifestyle is being responsible for your environment and trying to be sustainable. I drink out of glass water bottles instead of plastic, bring my reusable bags to the grocery store and compost as much as possible. My one vice is cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, I use so many paper towels that is it truly embarrassing. The Zabada cleaning supplies makes it easy for you to wash in their laundry bag and reuse; thus, reducing waste.

From their website:

While the water goes to work on loosening the dirt, Zabada’s ultra-fine and unique thick-pile fibers replace the whole yucky chemical process to achieve an unbeatable result – removing up to 100% of bacteria. Without getting too nerdy, it’s a deep-cleaning mechanical process that shaves off and traps the dirt, grease and bacteria deep in the fiber, and only releases them when the fibers are washed.”

My review is that I am surprised at how well they worked without using any store bought cleaners. I followed the video instructions found on their website, put a little water on one edge and went to work. Shiny clean! However, I cannot speak for heavy duty stains and cleaning jobs since I already do a light cleaning every week and only had surface stains. You can probably get it out with a little elbow grease, though.

They have products for your bathroom, kitchen and living room. It seemed a little pricy when I checked their website but you kind of have to think of the supplies as investment pieces.

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-Acme & taleggio

Nothing like a Acme baguette and taleggio cheese to celebrate the last day of freedom before school starts. I am already dreading waking up tomorrow.

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-Giveaway

Congrats to Amy H. for winning FAOT’s first giveaway! I hope to have another one for you coming soon.

What is your favorite cheese? I want to take a cheese class and expand my knowledge. Get out of my comfort zone, you know?

A Year In Review

I have been looking forward to writing this post since the day I decided to start blogging. Is that crazy?

Although I am not quite at the one year mark yet (my first post was somewhere in mid-Jan), it is amazing how fast time flies and it has been such a treat to re-read (literally) every single post that I have written so I can compile this post. Now that I have went through all of them, I am amazed at how much more comfortable my writing has become, how much has changed in my personal life and how (dare I say) awesome this blog is now.

A ton of my friends came up to San Francisco to bring in the new year and a few in particular told me that they really enjoyed reading this teeny-tiny blog. It then hit me that people actually take time of their day to see what is going on with my life. I am so appreciative of these people.

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It is really hard for a blog writer to find the fine-line between what is appropriate to post on the internet for everyone in the world to see. This may seem a little bat-shit crazy, but I am really shy in real life and very protective over my privacy. I have went through periods where I felt that overexploiting my life will only be detrimental to my future education and career plans. However, while doing my yearly re-read, I like to think that I did a good job at sharing enough where it is still very light and I still have a thin veil that allows me to keep some things a mystery.

Without further ado, I would like to recap something awesome that happened each month this year. The first few months are kind of rough, but I promise that they get better the more you read down, trust me. 🙂

JANUARY

What would this recap be without my very first post? It might not have been the best, but I only had three to choose from so here you go! Toma had just opened and it was a very exciting time in our circle of friends. This year started off really slow and did not really pick up until June or July.

Runner-up: An eco-friendly day around town with one of my good friends, Jacque.

FEBRUARY

Lunch at one of my favorite Chinese restaurants ever. Can you just imagine eating all that hot oil? Before my Asia trip, I would eat here at least once a month because it reminded me when my mom and I would have mid-day lunches here whenever she was in town. Spices is not a place I would bring guests who are looking for a ‘San Francisco dining experience’, but it is one that feels like home.

Runner-up: My grandpa seeing his younger brother for the first time in years. There is nothing more amazing then seeing your grandparents genuinely happy.

MARCH

Visiting the Asian Art museum to see the : Warriors was very special to me. The first time I saw them was in Xi’an, China in 2010 and it was absolutely breath-taking to stand at the excavation site and see them lined up in all their glory. Being able to see them in my hometown made me realize how privileged I am and very humble to be able to do half the things I have done/will done.

Runner-up: A Farmer’s Market kind of day with Abby. I remember that I was highly stressed in school during this time and just having a day to unwind with one of my best friends, surrounded by food, really helped me recharged.

APRIL

I do not post very often about these two special girls, but they have been my best friends for over 10 years now. It is one of those friendships where we can not talk for months and pick things up like we just saw each other the day before.

April is also the month that I found out I got accepted to every school (but one) that I applied too!

Runner-up: The first and only time I have ever completed a a week of meal-planning. I felt so accomplished at the end and will have to do it again the week before school starts. Also as a nice plus is my delicious turkey stuffed bell peppers in the link above.

MAY

My very first steak tartare. Absolutely magical. Phenomenal, even. I do not know how I lived without trying it before. Now that I am a seasoned tartare diner, I notice that a lot of places add horseradish. Perhaps the reason I thoroughly enjoyed Marlowe’s version is because there was not any.

May was also a great month because I was finished with school and had a chance to enjoy my summer for the first time since I started college.

Runner-up: A write-up on Toma restaurant, one of the best in the city! A lot has changed since then, but I still support it 100% and think it is a necessity to go and eat some delicious and non-greasy Mexican food.

JUNE

Mexican breakfast burritos will always be one of my favorite breakfast foods. There is something about the chorizo, potatoes mixed with the taste of fresh cilantro and raw onion. I order this version many times out but they always have to add salsa or the ratio of egg to potatoes never is perfect. Mine is.

Runner-up: Making potstickers with my grandparents! They had such a blast and it was such a generational thing I really wanted to do with them. I have tried recipes around the web and they never taste the same like these.

JULY

I think this is unanimous, but my Asia trip was one of the best things that happened to me this year. My mom and I, while close, do not see each other very often and both know without saying that this was one of the last big traveling we will do where it is just us two. In the future is serious boyfriends, husbands and kids added to the mix, which leaves me feeling bittersweet. I love her so much and am so thankful while reviewing all these pictures again.

Links for Guangzhou (where my family is from), Chengdu & Jiuzhaigou (one of the wonders of the world), Leshan & Mount Emei (biggest Buddha in the world) and Japan (one of the most badass countries I have ever visited).

No runner-up to cloud the epicness of Eastern Asia.

AUGUST

August left me in a bit of a daze. There was a rough transition for me from a change in July, but I met great people and it holds the best thing that happened to me all year. The Nespresso: Grand Chef Rendezvous event is one of the fanciest, delicious and astonishing event I have ever been invited to and I got to meet Thomas Keller. If that is not big news, then I do not know what is.

Runner-up: The celebration of Jacq and Michael having to spend the rest of their lives together. This would have won if it was any other month, so I will call this an extra honorable mention.

SEPTEMBER

Receiving my Nespresso Gran Maestria made me feel like I have ‘made it’ as a blogger. (I know I have a long way to go, but having fresh espressos does not hurt the journey either). It was so humbling to receive this token of appreciation. Blogging started as a hobby to document my dining escapades and now it has turned to much more then that.

Runner-up: Labor Day Weekend was really fun with all the friends in town. I love days where I can just lay at Dolores Park all day and not have a care in the world.

OCTOBER

Sriracha broccoli wins the prize for October because it is my most viewed post, by far. Somehow it caught the Pinterest bug and I am just riding it for as long as I can. Other then the cruciferous veggie, I really started setting into my new school and this is when I was confident that I can pull in all As for the semester.

Runner-up: The day I found out that the Creme Brûlée Cart opened a brick and mortar store. If I had a top 10 happy moments list, this would be on there for sure.

NOVEMBER

Um, would it be weird if I chose a post that did not recap my birthday? I spent it at the LACMA, which is a great museum and there was nothing else I wanted to do that day besides look at famous paintings and hidden gems.

Runner-up: Eating at Park Tavern with Abby for my birthday. I think I would be really disappointed in myself if caviar-topped, soft boiled egg was not on this list. (Yes, that really happened).

DECEMBER

December was a little slow on the blog, I regret not focusing on it but I would not change a thing because every second I was not on the blog means I was working hard during school. The month came and went a little too quickly than I wanted, but what are you going to do?

I think we can all agree on breathing the same air as Beyonce aka Queen B aka Bow Down was another top 10 moment of the year. She is so perfect I just can not even.

Runner-up: My cheesy smile and brand new Kitchenaid sitting on my lap. Do not ask me if I opened it yet, or I will have to lie to you. Still waiting until the perfect moment.

And that is it! I hope you enjoyed hanging out with me all year as much as I was fond of checking in and writing this blog. 2014 is going to be a great year, I know it.

TL;DR me the highlight reel of your year in the comments, please!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! I am not the most religious person, but I like to think of it as a joyful day where good karma gets passed around. Plus, it is a great excuse to listen to croony old Christmas carols. Will you judge me if my Pandora is still churning out the holiday tunes after the New Year?

School is done until the end of next month! I am happy with my progress and can not wait for final grades to be released. Although…there is an A- that is hanging over my shoulders and I need to see the end result as soon as possible.

Without further ado, I just wanted to show off some big and little things received for Christmas/happy really late birthday/good job in school.

Could not find a Christmas hat in time, so the 49ers beanie had to make do! This picture was actually taken on Saturday right before Taylor and I did last minute Christmas shopping (more about that on Friday).

You probably saw this picture on my Instagram already, but if you do not have me added, here it is!

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Can we talk abut my new KitchenAid?! I am the most excited girl in the whole world. I still have not taken it out of the box due to how perfect and beautiful it is. If possible, please link up your favorite recipes that need a stand mixer so I can feel like a 50s housewife. 🙂

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My sister is the sneakiest snake and surprised me with this complete collection of all of Thomas Keller’s Napa creations. The books are heavier than the KitchenAid! Friends, you are in for a real recipe treat when I get the courage to take the books out of the plastic.

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Anyone that knows me in real life knows that I have been talking non-stop about this food grinder attachment. I even obsessed over it on my Holiday Gift Guide for Food Lovers, which looking back might have been a subconscious wish list of my own thoughts. I think it is pretty funny how I wanted this before I even found out I was getting a KitchenAid.

Ground meat and from-scratch pizzas from here on out, mark my words.

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Isn’t this teapot a beauty? She is made from cast-iron and will come out only on special occasions. I was just telling my friend the other day that I wanted to start drinking more tea, this could not of come at a more perfect time.

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And finally, the award for the most thoughtful gift goes to my patient, Bob! He goes to NYC once every two months because he loves the jazz clubs and the vibe of the concrete jungle. We have gotten to know each other for over five years now, so he feels more like family than just a patient. He just came back from another trip and dropped off a little care package on Saturday for me because I told him that I was going in mid-Jan. He included his favorite jazz clubs, a subway map “that always works even when cellphone don’t”, a Metrocard with the cutest little cardholder, t-shirt and a magazine of fun things to do.

Although it was all small things, I almost teared up because of the sincerity; thinking about it again makes me happy.

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Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you got everything you wanted plus more. I am just relaxing with family for the day and will see you on Friday. 🙂

What cool things did you get?

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, what are your NYE plans?