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This past summer I was extremely excited that I got to relive a favorite childhood experience with Jian. When I was growing up, my dad would take our whole family to go camping at Lake Tahoe. We always went camping with my dad’s childhood friends & their respective families. My dad would plan everything down to the last detail.

My dad would always book a camping site at one of the fancy-schmancy state-run campgrounds in Lake Tahoe, & when I say “fancy”, I mean the campground had public water spigots (for washing your cookout utensils, etc.) as well as proper locker room style showers & toilet stalls. Most outdoorsmen/women & true adventurists would say that’s considered cheating or glamping, but it was one modern comfort we had to have in order for all the moms to agree to go camping with our group.

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My dad & me at Lake Tahoe

My mom hated camping, but my dad loved it, ever since he learned to camp while being in the Eagle Scouts. When my dad was growing up in Japan, he joined one of the first International Boy Scouts troops, & his troop would often times hike up Mount Fuji & learn how to do outdoorsy survivalist things at the base camp there. That’s where my dad built up his passion for nature, camping, & the great outdoors. My mom, on the other hand, grew up in the heart of the big city in Taiwan & never developed a fondness for the wild outdoors. So in order for my dad to convince my mom to go camping every year, he’d have to find a campground with a few extra creature comforts (like proper toilets & coin-operated showers) so my mom wouldn’t be completely “roughing it”.

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My dad even took my cousins camping with our family friends.

In the very beginning when my dad first started taking our whole family camping, I hated it. I was too little (a.k.a. young) to do any of the things the older kids were doing, so I had to stay back at the campsite with my mom. On top of that, I was scared of getting bitten by bugs, & I hated being/getting dirty. Then, once I joined the Girl Scouts, I learned how to take care of myself & how to do lots of fun camping things with my Girl Scout troop. That’s when I truly started appreciating how much fun camping could be. Every summer after that I looked forward to my dad’s pre-planned camping trips.

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We always camped with the same family. All 3 dads were in the same Boy Scouts troop back in Japan.

Years later, after all of us kids had grown up & gone off to college, my parents stopped camping. Little-by-little my mom donated & gave away all of our deluxe camping gear (which have now become trendy collector’s items), & our yearly camping excursion became a long ago memory. My dad was disappointed that we stopped this yearly summer tradition, but everyone else lost interest in camping, even going to Lake Tahoe where we used to own a vacation cabin in the South Lake Tahoe area. We have since sold our vacation property, since it had become to difficult & complicated for my mom to manage after my dad had passed.

From the first time I had met Jian, I had been mentioning wanting to go on a camping trip, possibly with a big group of friends, or even going with just him. I annoyed regaled him with colorful stories about vacationing in Lake Tahoe & going camping in the great outdoors (managed by park rangers & run by the state of California’s Recs & Parks department). We occasionally talked about going camping with our friends, but we never actually planned it.

I would bring up the subject with Jian every so often during our conversations in our relationship, & we would often talk about making plans but never actually follow through. It wasn’t until this year when I finally was able to convince Jian to go camping with me. Jian was originally born in Canton, China & eventually immigrated to Midtown Manhattan in New York City before ultimately settling down in the California Bay Area. Needless to say he never had any opportunity to explore & camp in the great outdoors.

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One of the biggest mistakes we made was booking our campsite so late in the camping season, but we were still able to grab a sweet spot at the Tahoe State Recreation Area in Lake Tahoe. Ok, once you hear where this state-run campground is located, you’re going to laugh & call us “cheaters” & not authentic campers because our campground was located about a couple of hundred feet away from a shopping strip mall with a grocery store & a CVS Pharmacy as well as local shops & restaurants. Basically, we were located right on the outskirts of the city center, but hey, at least our campground was also right next to the lake with its own dock access.

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Despite not being at a real rugged campground, we both had a great time. The campground we stayed at was a perfect starter campsite for a beginner like Jian. I had the best time teaching Jian all about the ways of camping. I helped him pitch our tent & set up our camping gear. (To this day, Jian still doesn’t know hot to fold up our outdoor lawn chairs.) During the day, we took long hikes around the trails & had a relaxing time hanging out by the lake. In the evenings, we would have simple cookouts, though I wouldn’t call oxtail stew simple. We ate, explored the surrounding trails & popular attractions like Vikingsholm at the Emerald Bay State Park. We even tried our hand at making a campfire, though it didn’t turn out well because our logs kept smoking too much, & I am severely allergic to any kind of smoke (eg. cigarettes, fire, cigars, marijuana, etc.).

 

Overall, we had such an amazing time at our modest little campsite. Jian had such a wonderful first-time experience that he wished we could have stayed at least one more day. He vowed that when we go camping again next year, we will definitely plan much earlier in advance & book more days at the campground. My only gripe about camping this year was that I got mosquito bites all over my arms despite practically drenching myself in extra strength bug repellent. Jian barely sprayed any bug repellent on himself, & he didn’t get any mosquito bites whatsoever. (So unfair!) Then again, a few bug bites won’t deter me from camping again. Next time I hope we can go camping with our friends. It turns out a lot of our friends have never been camping before, & they are eager for me to show them the ropes. How exciting! Until next time, cheers…& I shall leave you with some photos of our camping excursion down below.


Today’s song of the day:

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WHO: 99 Things That Bring Me Joy

WHAT: (19) Your all-time favorite meal, (20) Your go-to snacks


Finally I get to write again after going through a few days without power or mobile phone reception! Yes, I live in Northern California. Yes, I was affected by the mandatory rolling power outages, but, no, I do not live near any of the areas affected by the crazy wildfires. However, since I do live in the Bay Area, we are being affected by the wildfires with all of the smoke & haze blanketing our region from the major wildfire in the Sonoma-wine county area. This past weekend I had no cell signal, no power, but at least we had clean running water. In my city, we were supposed to experience a second rolling power outage this week, but thankfully the mandatory power outages are over. I can now get back to making lists about the foods I like to eat.

Thankfully these next two lists from the 99 Things That Bring Me Joy journal are the last food-related topics in the long line of lists. So, I have decided to squeeze them both into one blog post. Honestly, I don’t even know why I am even bothering to write about these next two food topics; they are so clichéd & redundant. However, because I like to do things in order, like not skipping pages of a book (in this case, a book of lists), I will not skip these two topics.


This next topic wants me to discuss my all-time favorite meal. How am I supposed to choose one favorite meal (of all-time)?! I know I can be real loosey-goosey on this topic & rattle off a small list of my top [Insert Numerical Quantity Here] favorite meals, but it’s difficult for me to even come up with a couple of favorites to throw into a randomized list. Now that I’ve learned to appreciate food flavors & have found a mild interest in cooking, I’ve grown to love many meals & dishes.

There is one meal that comes to mind that is the most memorable, but not exactly my all-time favorite. Whilst my dad was still around, I used to have a yearly birthday tradition of going to dinner with my parents at our favorite well known restaurant, & I would always order the same dish: Maine lobster tail with steamed vegetables & rice pilaf. I ordered this dish every single time we ate at this restaurant (birthday or not), & it became such a tradition for me that everyone in my family associated me & my love for eating lobster. The subject of eating this lobster dish pops up every year around my birthday, which makes it a very memorable & delicious meal.

Then again, I definitely have other non-bougie favorites as well. As for my basic all-time favorite meal, I would have to say it’s a sandwich. I grew up eating sandwiches for lunch when I was bringing brown bag, homemade lunches to school every day. So the sandwich has become a staple food on my overall favorites list. But what type of sandwich do I like best? A turkey, Swiss cheese & avocado sandwich is a tasty treat. I will also stuff a club sandwich into my pie hole (a.k.a. my mouth). I would partake in a warm & crispy reuben sandwich as well.

However, there are three sandwich types that are on my all-time top favorites list.

  1. Avocado & cream cheese on white bread sandwich: Yes, this sounds very fatty & creamy, but it’s also very simple & delicious AF! I can’t even begin to describe how delicious this basic 2 condiment sandwich is, but I just love the pairing of cream cheese & sliced avocados. I discovered this sandwich combo during my college days at a local delicatessen near my house. I once ate this exact sandwich combo every day for one whole week. It sounds disgusting, but it was a fantastic lunch week for me. This sandwich is both healthy (the avocado!) & unhealthy (the cream cheese!), & I don’t get to eat this that often, but when I do, I savor every single bite. I have made this sandwich at home a couple of times, but it’s just not the same as getting one from my local delicatessen.
  2. Roast beef on sourdough bread sandwich: This has to be my top sandwich combination. I will usually order this sandwich combo at whichever eating establishment sells sandwiches if it’s available. My favorite place to grab a roast beef sandwich is at the deli counter inside Whole Foods. When I’m there, I will load up my sandwich with lots of red onions, lots of mixed greens (sometimes I’ll add arugula too), a spread of garlic aioli (which is a fancy-schmancy term for garlic mayo), & extra Swiss cheese. It’s also gotta be on sliced sourdough bread. I’m from the San Francisco (adjacent) region of the Bay Area, so I have to give props to our world famous sourdough bread, & by the way, my go-to cheese in sandwiches is Swiss cheese. I prefer it over gruyere, jack, or cheddar. As you can see, I like to put things in my sandwiches that make my breath stink all day.
  3. French dip sandwich with au jus: This has got to be one of the more messier sandwiches I have ever eaten in my life, but it is totally worth it. I love the simplicity of this sandwich: lots of thinly sliced beef, a French roll, & a hearty bowl of au jus that tastes so good you’ll want to drink it like a soup. Dipping the savory sandwich in the au jus sauce is a must. For a meat lover such as myself, I thoroughly enjoy this meat extravaganza whenever I order this sandwich, but since I am also a “neat freak”, I simultaneously hate it when the dipping sauce drips all over my hands (especially when the roll gets soggy!). One of my favorite places to eat this French dip sandwich is at the world renowned Philippe The Original sandwich shop in Los Angeles, home of the original French dip sandwich recipe. I have only eaten at that shop once, but I am looking forward to eating at that shop again soon. Maybe I can try to convince Jian to take me there again when we visit Los Angeles again for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The next topic is about my go-to snacks. Recently, I have been trying to be more health conscious, so I am trying to not snack so much, especially between meals. However, I am very much like my mother in this category, & we both like to snack on little treats around the house. This is just one habit I cannot give up. It doesn’t help for the fact that my mom loves to buy tons of snack foods, & so we have a huge cupboard filled with crackers, chips/crisps, roasted nuts, a variety of Asian treats, chocolates, & lots of random cookies.

There was a time in recent years where my mom & I were addicted to snacking on roasted sunflower seeds. There was this Chinese brand of roasted sunflower seeds that we really liked & would practically stockpile during our grocery trips. Let me tell you, cracking the shells of sunflower seeds just to get to the teeny-tiny crunchy bit in the center is so mundane & repetitive, but it quickly becomes addictive, especially when you’re sitting in front of the telly with a piping hot cuppa tea or your favorite ice cold beverage.

When I was a kid, I didn’t like to eat candy or very many other junky foods. My favorite things to snack on were apple sauce & fruit strips. My favorite kind of fruit strips were called Fruit Roll-UpsFruit-by-the-Foot. My mom would buy these in bulk at the big box wholesale store, & I would pack one everyday in my lunch bag for school. Like I’ve said before, I was a very boring eater when I was a kid. Oh yeah, & I also loved eating pre-packaged fruit cups then drinking the very bad for you, nothing but high fructose corn syrup, juice in the fruit cup.

These days, with my more refined & matured pallet, I’ve outgrown these childish snacks & have upgraded to more sophisticated snacks like marcona almonds, sea salt & vinegar crisps/chips, & artisan cheeses. I will occasionally indulge in sweeter snacks like cookies (my two favorite brands at the moment are DounsemorBiscoff) & chocolate squares. However, I am trying to be more health conscious, & I am actively trying to not snack so much between meals. I used to snack on little things here & there all the time, & it just made me feel hungrier than if I were to restrict myself from filling my stomach with wasted junk calories.

I think I am doing a pretty good job at restricting myself from snacking in between meals. I am eating better & healthier during my main meals, & it has been curbing my cravings for nibbling on junk food. I have also stopped filling my kitchen pantry with random snacks & junk. It’s hard to transition to this healthier lifestyle, especially for a person like myself who has a major sweet tooth & a ravenous appetite for carb-filled foods, but once you build up a routine, then it just becomes like a natural habit to stay away from the junky snacks.

have gone back to eating fruit strips again, but I don’t buy the big box labels with the high sugar content anymore. I have learned to look at the labels & read the ingredients. I try to buy the brands that contain less sugar & more natural/organic ingredients, & even though I have gone back to buying one of my childhood favorite treats, I have noticed that I don’t reach for it as often as I used to. Those snacks are still there in my pantry cupboard, but I am not constantly reaching for it, which I take as a small sign of positive progress.

So, there you have it. I have concluded my blog posts about food. Even though I have talked so much about favorite foods & flavors & go-to snacks, I don’t feel that hungry. In fact, I am ready to move on to the next topic. Well, until next time, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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WHO: 99 THINGS THAT BRING ME JOY

WHAT: A COMBINATION OF FLAVORS YOU LOVE


I have not always been a fan of food, or a foodie. I do not even consider myself to be a foodie today. I do enjoy eating good food, more so now than I did as a child, & I do post pictures of certain foods on my Instagram account. However, I do not consider myself to be a foodie or any sort of connoisseur.

When I was a child, I was probably the most pickiest eater you would have ever met. Everything I ate had to be plain & boring; a bowl of white rice, all other food on my plate had to be separate & could not touch the rice. I would eat a bologna & cheese sandwich on plain white bread with no mayo or spread of any kind. Yeah, I was that kid who would eat pasta noodles straight from the strainer, no butter, no sauce.

As I got older, I had been so inexperienced in trying new foods, plus add on that I was a little chickenshit scaredy-cat, which meant that I was still a picky eater. Well, I guess I was more of a stubborn eater, only eating the foods I was familiar with. It was a good thing my mom introduced me to eating different kinds of Chinese food dishes, so I wasn’t completely living on an island of bland & boring foods.

My parents had always tried to introduce me to new cuisines & new food experiences, but I was just too stubborn to get out of my comfort zone. I didn’t travel far from the lemon-butter-garlic-herb-blah-blah-blah flavor categories, but at least by then I was now eating pasta with actual sauces. It wasn’t until I met Jian, & that was when my culinary experience really cracked wide open like an earthquake fault line.

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Image courtesy of: Google Images & Disney Pixar

When Jian & I first met, I was trying so hard to impress him, so I made myself become more culinarily explorative. Jian loved (& still loves) to eat all kinds of foods, & I was desperately trying to win his heart & hand. Therefore, I forced myself to expand my boring food pallet, & it literally changed my life & unfortunately my waistline (no exaggeration). Whenever Jian wanted to try a new restaurant or eat a different type of cuisine, I would always go along with him, & it really opened my eyes to new tastes & flavors that I deprived myself of during those years in my early twenties when I should’ve been more explorative & imaginative in the food category.

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Image courtesy of: Google Images & Disney Pixar

Since having Jian in my life, I’ve gone from eating chicken nuggets & plain french fries to eating foods I can’t even pronounce with Google Translate. I used to consider myself an American-Chinese girl who grew up eating classic American comfort foods (eg. meatloaf, hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, etc.) & the limited Chinese dishes my mom knew how to cook at home (eg. scrambled egg fried rice, rice porridge, steamed ground pork with salt cured duck eggs, etc.). However, Jian changed me & my taste buds, & now I can say that I am a Chinese-American woman who loves Southern Chinese food from Jian’s hometown, & I have stepped out of my Italian-American-Bucca-di-Beppo comfort zone to try foods from so many different regions.

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Image courtesy of: Julia Kuo, Google Images & Disney Pixar

This 99 Things That Bring Me Joy journal has asked me to list a combination of flavors I love. It’s hard to pin down which flavors I love the most, but I’ll try to list a couple of flavors that pop into mind first:

  • Ice Cream on a sugar cone: There’s just no other ice cream cone for me! The plain cone tastes like cardboard, & the waffle cone is just too sweet & turns soggy/soft way too fast.
  • Black Tea with lemon: Sorry, Brits & Hong Kongers (a.k.a. Hongkies). I’m not a tea with milk/cream type of person. I like my black or red tea with lemon. If it’s in iced form, I will sometimes add sugar, but rarely.
  • Yogurt with honey: My favorite types of yogurt are Greek & French. A little dollop of honey sweetens up the plain yogurt better than fruit preserves.
  • Seafood with those oh-so-famous lemon-butter-garlic-herb flavors: As much as I am seriously allergic to shellfish, I still love to eat it (all of it except crab). All I gotta do is pop an allergy pill beforehand & no more seized up throat. I could never stay away from my beloved lobster!
  • Chicken with the Asian garlic-ginger-oil dipping sauce, or the South African peri-peri spicy sauce: Both sauces take your mouth on a permanent vacation to flavor town!

I still won’t eat french fries with ketchup, or a hamburger with whatever restaurant’s special made sauce, but I’m more adventurous in trying new foods now. Some of my current favorite dishes come all the way from France, & one of my favorite Bay Area restaurants serves parts of an animal you wouldn’t even want to think about let alone see on your plate.

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So as I end this blog post, I am reminded of these past couple of days, when I was glued to my bed in the throes of mild food poisoning. It was my own stupidity that led me to get sick from eating improperly cooked food…food that was supposed to be of the heat-in-the-microwave-&-serve variety no less! I have finally regained my appetite after two & a half days of dry heaving & tossing my salad into the porcelain mixing bowl called a toilet. It is now time for me to officially end this post, & satisfy my newly regained ravenous appetite. Until the next meal blog post, cheers!


Oh, & P.S…. I wanted to really end this post with a beautifully delicious illustration drawn by Polish artist Elżbieta Moyski on Tumblr. Please check out her Tumblr page, & show her some love!

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Today’s song of the day:

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