Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beautiful Tiered-tulled Dresses

Have you seen the the recent BCBG Maxazaria catalog detailing the feminine, tiered tulled dresses? Yep, ever since flipping through that, I just found myself engrossed in that sense of style-- the "feminine shapes, soft hues and luxurious embellishments". I wear a lot of BCBG clothes, mostly because their style and cut are very suitable for my taste and preferences.

Oh guess what? Today, I learned from Urban Dictionary, that BCBG means "Bon Chic Bon Genre", which is a French term meaning good taste or style, referring to clothing.  So does that make me a BCBG girl? :D
Tied-tulled dress from BCBG

More beautiful tiered-tulled dresses:
I wouldn't want my wedding dress to look like, but I do love this dress, because it's very feminine looking and really beautiful.  From Bonny Wedding Dress-- it's a Tulle V Shape Straps with tiered ruffle sequined.

I'm not sure how I feel about the half apron on top of the tulled layers, but I like how the model wore it at least. I love the bow at the waist and the exquisite color of the dress.

This dress is from ASOS--it's LUXE Prom Tulle Dress goes for only 75 pounds... good deal!

This is a little bit too pink and too over-the-edge for me to wear on a regular basis, but I like it how it's bold and really catches everyone's attention. 

And this one... is a really sexy way of turning something feminine and soft into sexy and independent!

And now, a few impractical but still beautiful tiered tulled dresses  from the runway:

Yea, I just think tied-tulled dresses can be so beautiful (maybe that's why I like ballet so much), but it's also important not to overdo the puffs and ruffles...otherwise, we'll get this. 

The model is beautiful, but the dress reminds me of a fat chicken.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Yes. We Hate Snow When It's Not Christmas.

I wished for a white Christmas and does that happen, no, of course not. Christmas Day was cloudy and gloomy. It wasn't until the next morning did the snow start to fall. What good will that do? The mid-day train back to NYC was crowded as everyone realized that it's get back to the city now or get snowed in forever. The blizzard came down down hard but I managed to get back to my apartment in one piece. Meh. Snow is only good if it's Christmas.

The next morning--today--Monday. Snow = BAD. And what do we get? A LOT of BADness. This is what it looked like for the most part:
So, there I am trying to figure out how to get to work-- no bus apparently since that is stuck on the street---
Oh! Walking... 

So I trudge along, bracing the cold, but trying to enjoy the view...
of Park Avenue...

Just as I turned around, sliiippppp, SMACK! Down I go. Ouch!

To make it worse, a dude, obviously on his commute as well, passes. Instead of helping me, he looked at me and laughed. Pshhh. Fiinnne. Glad I can provide someone with comic relief on this dismal Monday morning. 

People really need to shovel their sidewalks, because by the time I got to work, I was wet and freezing!
Either that, or I need to invest in a nice pair of boots.

I read in the NY Daily News today that we got 18-20 inches of snow. And that a subway carrying passengers was apparently stuck in its path for 6 hours. I am grateful that I'm not there with them, but still, Mr. Snow-- do you have to fall on the days AFTER Christmas and make everyone's life difficult??? Was it so hard to figure out that we really just welcome you on Christmas? Gosh, even Atlanta had snow on Christmas! What's up with that? Geez!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Reflections: Thought Question #4

This weekend I have been in the most pensive moods, especially since Christmas--a holiday typically spent with the entire family is characterized by our spending it separately in two different states and countries. Though we are sometimes the family that lacks tradition and structure in our holiday routines, it's still really hard for me to pass this year's Christmas without feeling a little bit sad and lonely.

In the last three years, my family has traveled together to some random places. Each year, we usually pick a city that we haven't been to. Most recently, it was Lake Ozark, Missouri. Lake Ozark is a beautiful place, complete with lakes, rolling hills and wonderful selection of produce; however, many people ask me, why my family always choose to go to a random place in the middle of nowhere, why not choose somewhere more exciting--like Cancun or the Bahamas? In truth, I think when my family travels together, it's not so much that we want to see the scenery or walk the historical trails, it's more about spending time with each other. 

When we travel, we often take a break from our laptops, work and school. Instead, we spend more time with each other--debating about issues in the economy (yep, nerdy family), arguing about Obama's recent policies and its impact or simply hanging out. My favorite family game is a card game called Sheng Ji. It's a really fun game, though the competitive members of my family tend to take it a little bit too serious at time. The games often take hours at times since no one wants to lose!

At home, even with our living under the same roof, it's seldom that we get to spend more than one hour with each other. There is always something to do, someone to call or some exams to study for and so we often never get the chance to play together, to talk about something, watch a movie... In our busiest time, we often don't even have time to eat together. When we travel, however, we are forced to stay with each other and so we don't choose a really noisy place because we really don't want that to distract us from our family time with each other. :)

As Anthony Brandt quotes, "Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family."

Friday, December 24, 2010

12 Things I Want By (next) Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas! Each Christmas Eve, I often make a list of what I "want(ed)" for Christmas but mostly, it becomes a list of what I expect or want by next Christmas!

Anyway, let me unmask this year's 12 things I want by (next) Christmas!

1. Prada Boyfriend Shirtdress - I don't think I've ever owned a shirtdress before...ever... and this one actually brings out the figure rather than hides it. I think it looks quite chic. Also, I like it how there is a bow on that dress. The dress below is designed by Prada and can be found in Goodman Bergdorf for $775.00. Yikes!

2. Afternoon high tea @ the Plaza Hotel - I've been wanting to have afternoon tea there, because I love tea and I love to eat daintily prepared hors d'oeuvres. Apparently, getting a seat there is difficult since I would need to reserve a space ahead of time. Once you've been to the Palm Court in the Plaza Hotel, you'll realize that the trouble should be all worth it!

3. Grey Pink Stripes USB Warmer Mitten Glove - $14.99. Believe it or not, my office is always freezing. Working in a freezing room only has two consequences--- 1. I fall asleep because I'm dying of cold or 2. My fingers fall off because I cannot type. So, with these warmer, I simply plug them into the computer and warmth will reach my fingers. Creative, huh?

4. Swan Lake @ the New York City Ballet. My one and only Christmas tradition every year is watching and enjoying the Nutcracker Ballet, only that tradition is broken this year. Oh well, Nutcracker will still always be my favorite and the one show that I will always look forward to, but there are others. One show I've been eyeing for awhile now is Swan Lake. I saw this when I was young and I was mesmerized by it. There are shows in February--only 8 shows! 

5. I love berets. It's probably one of the few hats out there that looks fabulous on me. I also like it because it's so French (though when I was in Paris, few Parisians wore it). In any case, my collection of berets are still quiet limited, though I do have a wide range of colors. My favorite one is still the purple colored one, because it goes really well with my purple UGG boots when I wear the two together. Recently, I've seen some berets with bows in them and I have to admit that they look really cute. The one below is nice, though the bow is a little bit big. Perhaps, I just need time to get used to it.  ^_^

6. New York City Half Marathon - March 20, 2011. This is not a tangible thing, but it's something that I'd love to do and have on my "personal" resume. Plus it's motivation to train for something and see results almost immediately. Anyone else out there into running and training? Half marathon is only 13 miles... it doesn't sound so bad, does it?

7. Yep yep. My newest interests are mineral gemstones. I want to learn about each mineral and gem, know what it looks like, where it's found and everything that has to do with it. Call it a phase or obsession, I just know that a visit to the Astro Gallery of Gems is in order. I'm definitely excited!

8. Edmundo Castillo L.E.D. sandals --  $1,650 -- it's seldom that I get to mix chic with geek. This L.E.D. sandal looks chunky and probably walks chunkily, but I don't care, because it can light up! L.E.D. lighting is the next sparkle! It's always cool to see something geeky applied to something fashionable.
9. Flower bouquet every month - People know me as a flower lover. I especially love bouquets and flower arrangement. A bouquet a month will surely brighten my days!

10. Become a white wine connoisseur. I've always told people that I hate the taste of alcohol and in truth, alcohol tastes bad. Recently, however, I've discovered that I love the taste of white wine.When I went to Madison & Vine recently, I had a glass of Sancerre Domaine La Croix Saint Laurent (2009?) and I loved every drop of it. White wine drinkers are often looked down upon, it seems, at least by real wine connoisseurs, but it doesn't matter, because I would very much like to learn more about the beauty and taste of white wine. :P

11. Be conversant with a French native. Again, not a tangible wish item, but definitely tangible in many aspects. J'aime la langue française. Je voudrais bien parler français et être confiant dans mon discours. Another trip to Paris? I also want to visit south of France this time around.

Last, but not least....

12.  I hope that in each and everyday of my life, I can be big hearted, content in who I am and and happy every day. After all, everyone is endowed with 24 hours, you can either spend it worrying about something trivial or you can smile and brighten yours and someone else's day. Be happy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just For Today

I've been taking a class at Universal Class on clutter. There are many classes listed there, some more interesting than others, but I'm taking this class on clutter control because I really want to start the new year off on the right foot. While I think my way of organization is not bad, but I always think that things can be better. Some quotes for "just for today" that I thought could be really useful for everyone--

Just For Today

(Adapted from the original credo of Al-Anon by Dear Abby)
Just For Today:  I will live through this day only.  I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow.  I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once.

I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just For Today:  I will be happy.  I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me.  If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.

Just For today:  I will improve my mind.  I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.  I will not be a mental loafer.

Just For Today:  I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable.  I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I'll not speak ill of others.  I will improve my appearance, speak softly, and not interrupt when some else is talking.

Just For Today:  I will refrain from improving anybody but myself.

Just For Today:  I will do something positive to improve my health.  If I'm a smoker, I'll quit.  If I am overweight, I will eat healthfully -- if only just for today.  And not only that, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the block.

Just For Today:  I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Godiva Chocolatier

I love sweets a lot and I consume a lot of chocolate on a monthly basis. Surprisingly, however, I have never had a piece of Godiva chocolate until today! Isn't that amazing?

I went into a Godiva store today to buy a gift. The lady at the check out counter asked me if I wanted to join the Godiva rewards club and I said, "what rewards?" Turns out, we get a piece of chocolate every month. That's a pretty sweet deal I think. Since it really keeps me looking forward to the next month of chocolate, but it also limits my sugar intake.

Here, I have a French Vanilla truffle... mmm it really taste delicious. First bite, I only managed to gnaw off the outer layer of chocolate, which was dark chocolate (one of my favorites). The inner filling is smooth and melted immediately on my tongue. The combination of French vanilla filling and the outer dark chocolate layer is intense, to say the least. It's definitely very rich in flavor. Though the truffle is small in size, I feel satisfied and happy. Perhaps, Godiva truffles are really worth their price! Mmm, amazing indeed. :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Movie review: Defending one's honor and family

This is my second time watching this film but it definitely doesn't get old. This film has got to be my favorite martial arts themed film. Not only are the characters relate-able, but the story line riveting. This is the film about what it means to defend one's country, honor one's beliefs and respect one's wife. In this film, Master Ip Man is a modest martial artist who practice Wing Chun. Though he is the best in his hometown, Fo Shan, he is very down-to-earth and prefer the every-day living with his beloved wife and son.

3 Things I Love About the Movie

1. The respect and love that Master Ip Man has for his wife. At one point, he is taunted as a wuss, basically because he is "scared" of his wife. Instead of feeling insulted, Master Ip Man says that a true man is someone who respects his wife. When she was sick, he made porridge for her and fed her.

2. The modesty Master Ip Man showed throughout the movie. It made me think about how people are always finding ways to advance themselves in the world. Yet, those who are really good or those who really made it are those who are humble and down to earth.

3. The strength and femininity of Mrs Ip Man. I love it that she was elegant and classy. When she felt the need to speak up for her husband, she did. I love the part when she said, "As long as you, me and Quan (the son) are together, everything is going to be alright." Despite the war and the derelict living situation, Mrs. Ip Man was always gentle and had a smile on her face. "I am happy now."

In this movie, the antagonists are the Japanese, who invaded China in 1937 and caused havoc for the villagers. One particular actor in the movie, a Hiroyuki Ikeuchi-- the general who insisted on fighting Ip Man in the final duel and ended up losing-- well, was a not-so-evil but evil-by-default character. And I have to admit, he is very cute.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Movie review: A beautiful film on friendship

This is a most wonderful film. The acting is first rate, the direction is well paced and the New York backdrop is a joy to see.

The story may appear contrived to some, but to me it was believable. Coming from a strong ethnic background (although not as strong as Jewish Orthodoxy or Observant Muslim), I understood the conflicts "typical" American culture and values place on those that are a little different. While we in America (especially the media) are tolerant of, accommodate and even promote, gays, lesbians, PETA, and most other non-mainstream groups, we don't tend to tolerate religious conservatives. This movie shows that such people are real people. Of course they are lucky to live in America where they can freely practice their beliefs.

The movie works on many planes. The father-daughter relationships are charming. The relationship between the young women and their principal, and with their siblings is also well done. The happy "Jane Austin" ending may not be totally realistic, but it makes most of us feel good inside.

It is both serious and funny. The plethora of ill-suited suitors is very funny; reminds me of the suitors the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding invites to dinner.

The lifestyle of Leah and the women's fellow teachers is a real picture of today's young people. They drink, smoke dope and "hook-up" without a second thought that there may be something wrong with such a life style.

This movie is all about freedom of choice. Freedom of choice means more than the freedom to make the choices in their lives. The two women have both made the choice to live a religious life. It is not a choice I would make, but it is a choice.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I laughed when it was funny and teared up when it was heart-warming, and came away looking forward to see it again. I highly recommend it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Revelation

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for many things. One of which is that I am endowed with the smarts and a natural sense of curiosity which has allowed me to be adventurous. I am thankful of my family who has stood by me all these years supporting me in my goals and dreams. I realized that the reason for my accomplishments today is for many parts the direct consequence of having knowledge and the desire to seek knowledge. I realized, through talking to many of my peers, that the prospect of knowledge seeking decreases as one ages. That is, once the memory of school fades behind you, as work intensifies and responsibilities amps up, people often find that the search for advanced education and knowledge becomes a luxury. But it shouldn't be!

In my revelation during this holiday, I've decided to utilize my love of blogging and my desire to be more knowledgeable and cultured, to spend some time each day seeking interesting things that I can learn from. I have a whole list of documentary films that I want to watch, museum exhibits I want to view, lectures to attend and people to talk to. I really believe that we must NOT live a mindless life, that is, we just go through all the motions of life--eating, drinking, dating, getting married, finding a job, having kids, pay the mortgage, and finally sleeping---but that we should be mindful of ourselves, our behaviors, our surroundings and most importantly, our thoughts. No matter where we are in life, what we are doing, whatever our emotional state, I think that every individual should aim to improve themselves through seeking knowledge.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

To Forgive Is To Heal

Someone recently asked me if I were someone who trust people and can forgive them when wronged or if I were someone who trust people until they prove me wrong and then I find it hard to trust again. I thought about it and I realized that I am the latter. I realized that I am someone who really trust all people and can easily accept a new person into my inner circle of friends and access to my thoughts, and as a result, I have often been hurt, used or taken advantage of. To protect myself, I'd hold an indefinite grudge against that person. I used to have a personal motto, "I might forgive you, but I don't forget." If someone were to wrong me, I find myself consciously being "careful" around that person and more often than not, I come cold and unapproachable.

I attended the Calvary Baptist Church today and for the first time in a long time, I felt really close to God. Everyone at the church was friendly and they were so enthusiastic about giving praise. Reverend Dave said that God doesn't give us burdens we can't bear, He doesn't expect us to do anything for Him in return for His love, all we need to do is to praise him, worship him and love him. To love someone with all one's heart is to have the ability to put down all anger, resentment and dissatisfaction and allow the purity of love envelope us, and that in itself is real and dependable.

I've been hurt in my life, often by friends who either turned out to be the biggest jerks or those I felt had betrayed my trust. It's hard for me to navigate through these negative emotions. I, too, want to hurt them like they had once hurt me. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving that is rapidly approaching upon us, I am forced to think about what it truly means to forgive someone. In Ephesians 4:31-32, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you", I know that to reach real peace in my heart, I must let go all this hurt and resentment, I must learn how to forgive others, only then can I truly heal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Living Simply

One of my favorite "stanza" of verses is from Luke 12:22-34, titled "Do Not Worry", NIV. I like it because Jesus spelled it out clearly for us. He tells us that there is no need in worrying about what food we'll eat or clothes we'll wear because God will provide that for us. All we need to do is to live each day glorifying him, being generous to the people around us and God will see to it that we are full and dressed in splendor, (like the crows and lilies, respectively).

v. 25: Who of you can by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
This is so true! I find that as I grow older each day, I start to worry more and more. I worry about everything. My skin-- am I using enough moisturizer? My exams-- will I pass all and receive the necessary certifications? My career-- will I fulfill my dreams? My spouse-- will I find the one? Yet, no matter how I worry there is nothing I can do about anything, other than live each day-- my given 24 hours and hope that tomorrow I can have more answers to my questions. I think that is what Jesus wants for us too. He wants us to live a fulfilled life-one that we can live mindfully and completely invested in what He has to offer to us.

v. 29: And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.
Eating, drinking (and shelter) are necessities to life. If Jesus tells us that we need not to concern ourselves with these necessities, then we shouldn't. I can pinpoint all the times now in my life in which I had worried, stayed up at night, cried over things that all turned out the way it's supposed to in time. Of course, I think *some* Christians don't try very hard in life; they give "everything" to God, literally. They think that if they just bum around, God will give them everything. I think when Jesus tells us not to worry about the necessities in life, he's simply telling us the frame of mind we should endorse--peace in heart-- but by no means is He giving us the green light to just chill out and do nothing.

v.32-33: ...Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor...
As a businessperson, I've heard this phrase a lot in my life: you must give first in order to get. When a car salesman wants to sell a car in his showroom, he must first give excellent service before he can get the sales. Before an investment banker can close a $1 billion deal, he must first provide information. And even in restaurants, chefs must ensure their patrons eat a delightful and delicious meal before they can get paid for their work. Everything is a give then get relationship so you can see that it even more so needs to be in the Kingdom of God. In fact, God has already promised us his kingdom, he is "pleased" to give that to us. So why be so stingy with our pocketbooks and possessions? Instead, God wants us to sell our things and give to the poor, because what we'll receive in return will greatly surpass what we give.

v. 34: For where your treasure be, your heart will be also.
I love this verse, because it is very true! There were many times when I put my treasure in people and places, only to have my heart broken and torn apart. If I can put my treasure in God's kingdom, I know He will always guard it with love, "where no thief will come near and no moth will destroy."

I think the point of today's devotional is that life is actually very simple. Live each day to the fullest, obey the word of God, do not worry about anything, give back to the people around you and God will provide.


Thank you, God, that you are our great provider. Help us to be content with what we have so that we can give more. Amen.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo!!! --- It's finally here!

The very much anticipated National Novel Writing Month is finally here! Each year in November, thousands of aspiring and veteran novelist gather across the world to participate in the challenge of completing a novel in a month. You can check out their website for additional rules and guidelines.

I am eager to participate in their challenge. Actually, it's not my first year knowing of their existence. When I was only a junior in college, I had stumbled on this website, but at that time, I wasn't so confident, a novel in a month, seriously? The second time I came across it when I was a senior... but I managed to convince myself that I was way to busy preparing for grad school to indulge this. Last year, I had forgotten about NaNoWriMo until it was Thanksgiving and by that time, it was too late to join in the fun. But this year---I think, maybe just this year is going to be the year that my dream to be a novelist will come true! (Fingers crossed.)

Now, all I need a novel idea. ^_^

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October 20th: Love Your Body Day

Do you love what you see when you look at yourself in the mirror? I do!

Yes, I do see the imperfections and sometimes I can't help but point out the blemishes, but for the most part, I have come to accept my body and appearances. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a well-balanced young woman with high goals and aspirations, someone who is beautiful in her own way and of course with a really good figure! (I'd like to add for my own vanity).

In celebration of this holiday, I just want to take a moment and say--- "Hey body! Thanks for all of your hard work over the years!!!!"

20 Ways To Love Your Body (Compiled by Margo Maine, Ph.D.)

1. Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams. Honor it. Respect it. Fuel it.
2. Create a list of all the things your body lets you do. Read it and add to it often.
3. Become aware of what your body can do each day. Remember it is the instrument of your life, not just an ornament.
4. Create a list of people you admire: people who have contributed to your life, your community, or the
world. Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments.
5. Walk with your head held high, supported by pride and confidence in yourself as a person.
6. Don’t let your weight or shape keep you from activities that you enjoy.
7. Wear comfortable clothes that you like, that express your personal style, and that feel good to your
8. Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
9. Think about all the things you could accomplish with the time and energy you currently spend
worrying about your body and appearance. Try one!
10. Be your body’s friend and supporter, not its enemy.
11. Consider this: your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, your liver every six weeks, and your skeleton every three months. Your body is extraordinary--begin to respect and appreciate it.
12. Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can
enjoy the day.
13. Every evening when you go to bed, tell your body how much you appreciate what it has allowed you to do throughout the day.
14. Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly. Don’t exercise to lose weight or to fight your body. Do it to make your body healthy and strong and because it makes you feel good. Exercise for the Three F’s: Fun, Fitness, and Friendship.
15. Think back to a time in your life when you felt good about your body. Tell yourself you can feel like that again, even in this body at this age.
16. Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself--without mentioning your appearance. Add to it!
17. Put a sign on each of your mirrors saying, “I’m beautiful inside and out.”
18. Choose to find the beauty in the world and in yourself.
19. Start saying to yourself, “Life is too short to waste my time hating my body this way.”
20. Eat when you are hungry. Rest when you are tired. Surround yourself with people that remind you of your inner strength and beauty.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I miss Him

I don't like to talk to other people about God, because I don't know how. Sometimes I feel like I don't even talk to God enough so it makes me feel weird to talk about Him to other people. It's kind of like the idea of gossiping. If I don't even talk to that person, is it alright for me to talk about that person?

There are so many things I miss about Boston, about MIT. I miss my ABSK brothers and sisters. No, they are not perfect, but when I was with them, I was close to God. Everyday, no matter where I was, what I was doing, God was in my action, in my thought and in my heart. He is real to me and I felt comfort and hope. When God led me away from ABSK and BBC into another state and town, He graciously put me in the presence of a Christian sister who became my roommate and one of my best friends. Through her, He taught me to make faith my own, to not compare other's gifts with my weaknesses, to be happy with who I am. Yet along the way, I lost my way. Away from my Christian brothers and sisters, I don't know how to behave anymore. With no one to set the bar for me, I find myself unsure of what I want and what I should look for in others. I want Him back in my drivers seat and take me where He wants me to go. I want to trust Him to make a masterpiece on my canvas of life. I want Him back in my life. I want peace in my heart. I miss Him.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Curbing Cravings

How to have a healthy lifestyle will differ from person to person. Over the years, I've read numerous accounts and tried to follow different dietary plans, all for the sake of leading a healthier lifestyle. I've found, however, that it is IMPOSSIBLE to follow any particular plan to the letter, because let's face it, cultural differences and food preferences will push us toward certain food items and not others. Maybe you can relate? Here I'd like to talk about an uncontrollable craving of mine and how I learned to deal with this gnawing irritation. Maybe it will prove helpful for you as well!

As some of you know might have picked up from my previous posts on desserts, you'll know that I have a sweet tooth. I love desserts, chocolate, candy, everything! Walking into a candy store is like a dream come true. Spending the day in a chocolate factory in Switzerland is like heaven. Over the years I've learned some tricks and know how to control my cravings a little bit better. Here's what worked for me.

My Sweet Tooth Solution
  1. Restriction. This is the worst part and also the hardest to enforce. The trick is to limit yourself access to the object of your craving. How? There are many ways--including practicing a little self-discipline, asking someone to be your enforcer, convincing yourself to stop due to health reasons, imagining some future pain like visiting the dentists due to toothaches, etc.
  2. Don't buy any snacks, especially not in bulk or large packages. Having food readily available in the cupboard is a sure disaster for self discipline and control. By not having the food or snack in your direct line of vision, you'd be forced to deal with your cravings in other ways, rather than immediately satisfying these desires on the spot.
  3. Express your craving. In other words, never suppress or ignore it, because it will always bite you in the end. This could be one reason why some people can follow a diet to the letter but later binge and end up worse than where they started. If you are craving something, express it, either in words, in writing or over the Internet (using Twitter, Facebook or Blogging, etc.) For those of you who read my tweets, you will remember that I have cravings all the time. The verbalization and actually seeing the pictures of the food that I crave can lessen the strength of that craving a whole lot. Sometimes we put things into our mouth by habit. Often when we express the things that we desire, half of the thrill will have been consumed by the efforts we put into expressing that desire, and consequently the urgency to consume now decreases.
  4. If a particular craving persists, satisfy it. I think it'd be abusive if you were to deny yourself all the pleasures in life, especially something that you love. So if you find that even after writing down or verbalizing your cravings, it persists, then the right way of action is to satisfy yourself. 
  5. Plan and anticipate. By making a plan and giving yourself plenty of time to anticipate it will increase the amount of satisfaction you will derive from the entire experience. A concrete example of this is when I had a huge craving for a delicious home-made cupcake--especially the kind found at Crumbs Baked Goods. I tweeted and tweeted but alas I could not get the image of a sumptuous cupcake out of my mind, so finally I made a plan. I will go to a Crumbs store and get that cupcake! I checked the website and read reviews, finally, I planned that I will get the Caramel Apple cupcake. Because I have a concrete plan of when I plan to satisfy this craving, all other encounters of sweets and desserts were not able to tempt me to deviate from my plan (i.e. I didn't want any other cupcake except the one that I had planned on getting!) I was able to stave myself off by telling myself that the best is yet to come. Finally, when I got to enjoy my delicious Crumbs cupcake, it was the most delicious moment, I felt so satisfied afterward and really didn't have any more intense cravings of cupcakes or any other sweets at least five days later.
The important thing is to live like there is no tomorrow, but eat like the more delicious food is yet to come. So don't sell yourself short by putting any sweets or craving into your mouth, pick and choose the one that you want, then plan and consume it with the gusto and anticipation that it deserves to receive. Not only will you be happier, your body will thank you in the long run!

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Sunday Reflections: Thought Question #3

    One thing I really miss is my childhood-- those carefree times when I really didn't have responsibilities nor any real pressure to be one way or another. I regret not living my childhood to the fullest. While growing up, I remembered that I spent the majority of my time worrying about the future or being upset that I wasn't this or that. Why couldn't I have just lived my life more like how a young child should?-- full of wonders and pursuing simple pleasures?

    When I close my eyes and think of my (very short but normal at this time) childhood, I think of Jerry and Mary. They are brother and sister who live next door to us in Ridgewood, NJ where I grew up. The four of us (including my younger sister), we'd play together everyday. We built time capsules, created project adventure courses, made magic spells and tried to cast them on another neighbor, did science experiments on our pavements, sold vegetables that we took out from our fridge... There was not a worry in the world, we just played from sunrise to sundown, and it was the most amazing time I've lived through. That changed when Jerry and Mary's parents had to move out of state to Pennsylvania and I was left with no neighbors to play with.

    The thing with childhood is that the possibilities are endless and I have the time to pursue anything that I possibly wanted to do. I remember taken the SAT for the first time in 7th grade and receiving an award that basically told my parents that I was intellectually advanced and talented for my age, as a result, I was invited to attend some college courses with other geeky kids my age. Since I was young and my parents were still clueless, I just picked a class that I was interested in. In retrospect, I wish I had picked a more technical course like graphic design or computer programming, but at the time, I cannot tell you how happy I was to take an English Literature class. Let's just say that this was one of the last time that I took a real literature class, not counting mandatory English courses in school.

    About two years ago, I was sitting in a cafe in NYC perusing a magazine, I came across an article that provided advice on how one should live. There was one piece of advice that really caught my eye. It said:
     "Seize each day. Live each day as if it's your last. Leave the past behind and do not anticipate the future. Be present and enjoy the moment."
     I guess it's one thing that we look back into our life and realized the many things we miss, but it's another to live everyday in regret. We can't change our past nor have the time to around regretting our decisions, but we can choose how we live today.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    French Pastries

    When I was living in France, I supported a pastry-a-day addiction. It’s a wonder I didn’t come back to the States 20 pounds heavier (Thank God for my subsequent travels to China where I endured more than bearable hot days, sweating off calories and staving off hunger).

     With delicious patisseries beckoning me around every corner in Paris, it was just too hard to resist not getting my daily fix for a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth delicious pastry. I loved to pick out a new treat every day and take it to a neighboring cafe and eat it while I sipped my cappuccino. For those not familiar with the many varieties of pastries, I have compiled a comprehensive list of my favorite types of pastries found in France. While all patisseries will have their own variations and unique creations, there is definitely a standard array of flaky, buttery treats you are sure to find at most pastry shops around France. I would also highly recommend asking the patissier which pastry he or she thinks is best that day–as sometimes different specialties are made on different days of the week. 

    My Favorite French Pastries

    Here is a list of some of my favorite pastries and those most commonly found at patisseries across France. The list is comprehensive, but not exhaustive, as the French have about as many types of pastries as the Eskimos have for the word snow.

    Croissant: The old standard, you can never go wrong with this crescent shaped, buttery and flaky pastry. The perfect balance of sweetness and puffiness, crispiness and softness, a well made croissant will melt in your mouth and have you craving another as soon as you finish the first. The original French pastry, it is rumored the croissant first appeared in French cuisine after the Muslim defeat by the French at the Battle of Tours in 732. The pastry was given its shape to represent the Islamic crescent.

    Pain au Chocolat: Cousin to the croissant and my personal favorite French pastry, a pain au chocolat is basically a croissant-type puff pastry containing strips of chocolate (usually dark chocolate). Literally translated as “chocolate bread” pains aux chocolates are a favorite in France and are best when served hot with the chocolate melting into the pastry in the middle. Just imagining the chocolate  oozy from the butter, flaky pastry makes me swoon. Yum.

    Éclair: A variant from the donut type dough used in many American versions of this French favorite, éclairs are a long, thin pastry made from choux pastry (which literally translates as “cabbage” pastry because of its appearance when made) and is filled with cream and topped with icing (usually chocolate). In France, éclairs are made by baking the oblong choux until crisp and hollow and then filling it with coffee or chocolate flavored pastry cream. Other favorite fillings are custard or freshly whipped cream, rum-flavored custard (my favorite), almond or chestnut puree or fruit fillings. Éclairs will vary from patisserie to patisserie, but are almost always delicious.

    Profiterole (aka a Cream Puff): Choux pastry is baked into small round puffs, which when cooled become hollow in the middle and are served with whipped cream or custard in the center. You will commonly see this garnished with a hardened caramel sauce (my favorite). Stacked profiteroles called croquenbouche are often served at weddings in France.

    Beignet: The French version of a doughnut, beignets are a deep-fried pastry often served garnished with powdered sugar. In France, beignet is an umbrella term for a variety of different pastries that can be either sweet or savory. In fact, you will sometimes find beignets filled with potatoes, mushroom or meat. Unlike American doughnuts, however, beignets tend to be very light and airy and are often hollow in the center. They are of course best when served hot.

    Mille-feuille (My favorite of the favorites!!!): This pastry’s name literally translates as “thousand sheets” and is a pastry made from several layers of puff pastry alternating with a sweet filling (usually pastry cream, whipped cream or custard). Every patisserie in France will have its own version of this pastry, including differently flavored creams and topped with different icings. You will typically find mille-feuilles topped with drizzles of chocolate and a light vanilla icing.

    Tarte: The French answer to American pies, you will find a huge variety of tartes in all shapes and size with all kinds of fillings. They are usually made with a thin, flat layer of puff pastry and then are topped with fruit. You will sometimes see a layer of custard in between the pastry and the fruit, but French tartes are always open faced. One of my personal favorite is an apple tart, which usually manages to have the finest slices of apples layer over the pastry. You will find tartes of all sizes and fillings and you can almost never go wrong with a well made tarte.

    Brioche: Although more of a bread than a pastry, because of its sometimes sweet flavor, I’ll put brioche on this list. Brioche is a bread made with high butter and egg content, which gives it a sweet, rich flavor and tender consistency. It is often topped with an egg wash before baking, giving it a flaky, deep golden crust. A brioche a tete, which translates as “brioche with head” (as pictured) adds a small roll of the dough on top and are baked in muffin-like tins to achieve their small, rounded shape.

    Madeleines: These little cakes have a distinctive shell-like shape and have the consistency of a very light pound cake. They often also have a pronounced butter and lemon taste and are often made with almonds as well. You will find these little cake-like cookies across France and they are a favorite treat among children.

    Palmiers: Another one of my favorites (yes, I have a lot of favorite pastries), palmiers are crispy and delicate leaf-shaped cookies made from puff pastry. They are made by rolling out pastry dough, sprinkling it with sugar and then folding it several times. The two sides of the pastry are then rolled inwards to meet at the center and the cookie is baked until crispy and caramelized. These are the perfect balance of crispy and flaky and always see to be just sweet enough.

    Langues de Chat: This simple, yet delicious cookie which translates literally as “Cat’s tongues” was another standard treat of my childhood. They are a simple cookie made from butter, sugar, flour and eggs and have a light yet crispy texture. They get their name for their long , tongue-like shape. They are a classic French cookie and another treat popular among children.

    Macarons: These delightful little cookies from northeastern France are not much like their American cousin the Macaroon, which are dense cookies made with coconut. The cookie is made from egg whites, almond powder and icing sugar. They are sandwich-like pastries made with two thin cookies with a thin layer of flavored icing in the center, making a hamburger shaped result. Macarons are delicately crunchy on the outside and are moist, chewy and flavorful on the inside. They are very light and come in every flavor under the sun. If you find yourself in Paris, you should not resist the temptation to get a bag of macarons where they were first invented at the Ladurée pastry shop on the Champs Elysées, where 15,000 of these delightful little cookies are sold each day.

    Delicious Shrimp Dishes

    I am a huge fan of seafood, especially shrimp. So here, I'll list a few of favorite shrimp dishes:

    Cocktail shrimp. The first time I had cocktail shrimp, it gave me a stomachache, but subsequent eating of this dish makes it a very simple and delicious snack.
    Spicy Shrimp Lettuce Wrap: Asian-style lettuce wraps filled with a sweet and spicy mixture of shrimp, cabbage, carrots and red bell pepper. So delicious!

    Stir fry shrimp. This is one of the first dish I learned how to make. When this dish is stir fryed in a wok, the taste is even more delicious!
    I wouldn't consider myself an Indian food fan, unless we are talking about shrimp curry, then I'm all in.

    Shrimp tempura role is one of my sushi favorites. The crunchy bite and the delicious combination of cucumbers and avocado can be super delicious!