Teaching and learning

I left teaching in February and it was probably one of the biggest decisions of my life. Like all big decisions, the consequences are huge. But as I reflect on my posts about food, I realized something else.

One of my teacher mentors, Ann, told me that to become a better teacher, she puts herself in the role of a learner a lot. For example, she takes yoga classes and thinks about how she would want the teacher to help her or push her. That has stayed with me. (Ann says so many wise things. She’s had a huge influence on me. Thank you Ann Wilson!!!!)

I’m no longer a teacher, but I still like to put myself in the role of the learner. It’s a little different from simply taking a bunch of classes or being a student. And I’m not doing it to earn a degree. I like when teaching and learning is very personal or in small groups.

Some of my favorite learning experiences as an adult:

  • Yoga class with Carrie. My instructor had a home studio, a garage that she converted. I loved it because it was so personal, the group classes consisted of regulars, and it was just the best yoga experience. It definitely made yoga into a practice for me.
  • Yoga via YouTube videos with Adrienne. I moved out of Carrie’s area, so I could no longer afford classes or find a yoga community (I was commuting and had no time for evening classes anymore.) I still wanted to practice yoga, and I’m able to do so
  • Cooking class at Hipcooks. I’ve been describing them in my food posts.
  • Painting classes at Paint and Sip. I loved the painting classes there! Justin is a great teacher. He is so kind and I really enjoyed painting there.
  • Crafting workshops at Paper Source. I love explicit and detailed instruction so this class is very fun! I learn to make my own greeting cards.

I realize that to be able to take all these classes is a huge luxury and privilege. Not every can afford it in terms of money and time. There is no way I would be able to indulge in these if I had a family to support or a really demanding job. However, I want to say that I am not making a lot of money, and I find ways to support these hobbies.

For example, practicing yoga through YouTube videos is free. You only need Internet connection, a screen, and space & yoga mat!

There are many workshops at local libraries too. They are free!

I’m able to take cooking classes by assisting the teacher and volunteering to wash dishes. I’ve been able to “take” classes for free by being there and assisting. Really, the amazing thing about the Internet is that there are so many podcasts, videos, and tutorials that are available if you really want to learn. I just want to say that learning doesn’t stop once you are out of school, but it is a huge time and money investment if you choose to take classes. One day, I might pick up adult music lessons too.

I’m a really big proponent of adult learning!


Jeweled rice!

Recently, I have been encountering a lot of Persian culture! I am not complaining about it because 1) Persian food is delicious; 2) the Persians in my life have been nice; and 3) I live in an area with a good Persian population.

My favorite Persian food is ice cream! Saffron and rose flavored ice cream. When I was in college, there was this ice cream called, quite literally, Saffron and Rose. I love the ice cream there because it was so unique, even though some people said it tastes like perfume.


Anyway, I loved this class. I think this is really what Hipcooks is about. I loved going to sushi and dim sum class, but since I’m familiar with the food, it was comforting. I know nothing about Persian cooking, so this was foreign in the best way possible. We made jeweled rice with pistachio, saffron, and barberry. We also made salad with meatballs and yogurt sauce.

My favorite was the ice cream with orange slices, pistachio, and rose petals! I am serving that at my wedding or the most important celebrations of my life. It is beautiful and fun to make and super tasty.

I realize that I can’t really share anything I learned about Persian cooking except that:

  • Persians know food. They make a lot of it. Proper Persian meals are a feast.
  • Saffron is the stamen of crocus flowers. It is painstaking to gather and that’s why it is so expensive!
  • Persian cooking is very involved and takes a very long time to prepare and cook. It probably involves ingredients you don’t have on hand. Truthfully, I probably won’t ever make it myself, except the ice cream. But going to this class made me appreciate Persian food a lot.

I can’t say enough good things about Hipcooks, the cooking class I’ve been going to. It’s been a big part of my life post-teaching because it helps me to be around strangers, people, and adults again. I’m learning how to assist the teacher, how to serve food, greet people, and make 3 hours a pleasant experience for all.

I love it a lot. I’m really thankful it exists because I’m learning so much there. Thank you Suzana!

Have you ever had Persian food? Would you try saffron and rose ice cream?



Kidlit rules!

I really love good old-fashioned kid lit! There are more fantasy and high drama books for kids now, and I’m glad more books are respectful of children as intelligent readers with life experience, and able to handle mature topics. But it’s so refreshing to read a chapter book where the MC is just that– a second or third grader navigating elementary school.

Kevin Henkes is really a pro at this because his novels are all realistic and very quiet. #quietMG ? A classmate’s death lurks in the background of Olive’s Ocean, but it isn’t a mystery and it’s more about how Olive is going through an uncertain time in her life. In fact, all three of the novels, Junonia, The Year of Billy Miller, and Olive’s Ocean are about a time when the kid is going through a lot of changes, even if they might be subtle. Billy is just adorable. The little illustrations!!!!!! I like how the book is divided into four parts for Mom, Dad, Teacher, and Sister. The bat diorama is super cute. Love Billy <3. There is actually something dark about Olive and Junonia because there is a hint of betrayal and the girl starting to see that the world isn’t what it seems. That is everything on the cusp of of becoming a teen. The world no longer feels trustworthy. I’m reading everything written by Kevin Henkes.

I LOVED Patti Kim’s I’m OK. Instant favorite for me. OK Lee is everything to me. He comes up with a business plan to braid hair to get money. He enters a talent show to win $100. He camps out on his own in a vacant house that his dad had wanted. He is just the best and Patti Kim’s writing is laugh-out-loud funny in some parts. I recommend everyone to read I’m OK because it captures what it means to be an Asian boy in today’s elementary school pretty well. School is cruel, kids are mean and a mess, and life is hard. Does ANYTHING change??! All my life I am OK. Good to know I’m not alone.

Lastly, I’ve always been a fan of chapter/early reader books with girls and their shenanigans. My Happy Life is just that! Dani is happy even though her life goes off the rails, with a mom who passes away from sickness and a best friend who moves away. But she is happy and I continued reading the other books!

BONUS: These books match perfectly with the bow meals I was having:

Kidlit rules because it’s realistic.

Kidlit rules because it’s funny.

Kidlit rules because it speaks to kids and adults.

Kidlit rules because it’s hopeful.

Kidlit rules because children deserve a refuge.

I loved all of these books.

Dim sum!

I have been going to this cooking class called Hipcooks in Santa Ana. It is very fun! I am so glad I found it. I had been looking for cooking classes and I only knew of ones at Sur La Table or William Sonoma, but those are too expensive for me. Then I searched on Yelp for cooking classes and found Hipcooks and I signed up right away because I was looking for group cooking classes and a variety of food. Plus they have an assistant program where you can volunteer in exchange for free classes. It is perfect for me!

One thing I’ve wanted to learn was how to cook Chinese food. I eat it all the time and I am Chinese but I know nothing about how it is made. I like regional Chinese food too such as the the pickled flavors and lamb of northern China, jianbao and spicy flavors of southern China. I think you could limit yourself to eating Chinese food and still get every flavor profile there is. It’s just delicious.

The thing about Hipcooks is that they have classes on all sorts of cuisines. I’ve been to Persian, Chinese, Japanese, and pasta! But it is not exactly authentic because there’s always a twist to it. The takeaway from this class is that Chinese food always has three ingredients: green onion, garlic, and ginger. Knowing that, I could make a lot of dishes taste Chinese, as long as I add those seasoning and have some kind of salt or umami to go with it, such as soy sauce or fish sauce.

During class, we made two rounds of food. (That’s another thing I learned from Hipcooks. If I am ever hosting a dinner party, I will be sure to serve my food in rounds and not all at once.) In the first round we wrapped dumplings and made scallion pancake from scratch. You only need hot water and flour to make the dough. No eggs or salt! I also learned how to make the swirl pattern. I loooove scallion pancakes, they are delicious. Dumplings and the cabbage wrap are nice because you can put anything your heart desires in it.

The second round is my favorite because 1) green beans, 2) noodles!, and 3) pork in puff pastry. I love green beans with garlic. I think it just hits the spot and I don’t mind eating greens that way at all. I also like the scallop lo mein because NOODLES. ARE. LIFE!

Lastly, the pork in puff pastry was a yummy snack that is not authentic but tasty nonetheless. Red pork is a really Chinese way of cooking pork and it’s pretty delicious. It’s most often in buns but in puff pastry it becomes a fun finger food/appetizer. Very lastly, we ended class with dessert which was walnut, date & orange stuffed wonton! Dusted with powder sugar, it is such a treat.

What is your favorite kind of Chinese food? Dim Sum?

Sources / Chinese cooking blogs;

TED talk #1: Being a woman

There have been a lot of conversations about gender, feminism, sexual misconduct, and toxic masculinity. While I am glad that perpetrators are finally being called out, I think those terms don’t begin to describe what it’s really like to live as a woman. I don’t like the term ‘sexual misconduct’ because to me, it sounds like ‘zero-tolerance policy’ or not following an ‘expectation’ at school. As teacher and students know, nothing really happens for breaking a rule at school except a slap on the wrist.

I would like to talk about:

  • What it’s like living in a female body
  • What it’s like to feel invalidated by both men and women
  • What it’s like making yourself vs. other people making you

The amount of criticism directed at women for having a non-perfect body is just astounding. It’s like people get offended when a woman doesn’t look good. How dare she not manage herself?? She looks terrible in that. Has she gained weight? Those are just the verbal ones. They hurt but with enough time and practice, you can learn to ignore.

But, I think the more sneaky and powerful criticism are actually compliments for women who do pass the test, who do meet the beauty standards. Nothing makes you feel as bad as not feeling good enough. When you hear things like She looks like a Barbie. Her eyes are so big and bright. She has such nice skin.  What you really hear is that You are not good enough. There are beautiful women, and there is you. Growing up, this has always been the thing nagging at me. My family criticized me plenty for not taking care of myself, not brushing my hair, etc, but what hurt me the most is when they complimented other girls and women. Even if they weren’t saying it to me or it doesn’t have anything to do with me at all, I was hearing these comments and feeling like, wow, I am so sub-par. I am so ugly and plain!!! Clearly, these women are a different class than myself.

All of this is to say that, I grew up thinking that I am not right. My body, my face and my looks aren’t right. There are much better looks out there.

I have a lot of encouraging women in my life, thankfully, but some of the people who’ve hurt me the most in my life are women. They’ve explicitly told me that I need to look better and manage myself, otherwise I’m not going to attract any guys. I think the biggest thing is for women to support each other. Men have such an easy time picking women apart because some women already do it to each other. That makes me feel really sad.

With men, I often feel that I don’t please them and that they are frustrated with me. They talk to me like I am stupid and I completely missed their point. I’m not stupid– I am smart, and they are frustrated because they are not getting or hearing what they want from me. I’m not going to apologize for that–I never have and I never will. I guess guys will just have to continue thinking I am stupid or I don’t get their point. *flips hair*

Which brings me to the last point: I am done letting other people make me, and I am starting to make myself. People can continue thinking I don’t look good enough, or that I don’t get what they are saying. But I KNOW myself, and I know that I am smart, and beautiful. I’m not smart because I have a PhD and a good job; I am not beautiful because what show up in the mirror or a picture.

I am smart and beautiful because I am me, and I am making myself.

Thank you for coming to my first TED talk <3. I love you all!

Some references;

#NunsToo are speaking out

“These nuns believe they’re the guilty ones for having seduced that holy man into committing sin,” she says, “because that’s what they’ve always been taught.”

Adding to the trauma, she says, raped nuns who get pregnant become outcasts from their orders.

Laurie Halse Anderson shouts

My secret hope is that if people enjoy it that they’ll find an older relative of theirs and share it with them. … Although we are beginning to create the ability to speak up, I think it’s a younger generation phenomena and I know how many millions of … older people who have their own stories to tell — their old wounds that are still seeping.

Sex scandals shake K-pop

“This time, because Korea has been directly grappling with issues like MeToo, spy cams, and women’s rights in general, there’s no way they will let these crimes go so easily. The things these men have allegedly done hit right at the heart of the biggest societal divisions in Korea right now.”


I have always wanted to learn how to make sushi ever since I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi. 

  • I love the craft that goes into making sushi.
  • I love how delicious it is, but raw fish is an acquired taste for me too.
  • I like the variety of rolls! Philadelphia, California, crunchy… I love Americanized rolls as well as traditional Japanese sashimi.

But the real reason I love sushi is that it is very personal and dear to my heart. I met my ex-boyfriend at the sushi restaurant where he was working and he taught me how to make sushi! Sushi was a big part of our relationship because we went out for sushi many times. Sushi kind of stayed with me, and it’s become a dream to learn to make it.

Did I mention that I love fish??

When I took this class, we made appetizers and the rest was a sushi making workshop. We made hand rolls, maki rolls, and different kinds with rice on the inside vs. outside. All of it is very fun! Sushi is actually not intimidating at all. Once you master how to make sushi rice, you could do anything. You could add toppings, textures, and anything you want inside rolls. For example, my favorite non-fish ingredients are mango and cucumber. I love sweet/sour flavors. And garlic and crushed wasabi peas for texture!

My takeaways from this class:

  • You need a very sharp knife to make sushi, ideally a serrated knife to cut rolls.
  • Rice is the ingredient that makes the sushi. Use rice vinegar, but when mixing, don’t crush the rice, otherwise you will end up with paste.
  • Play with texture and color in your sushi! Since you are using fresh ingredients, it comes naturally. Sushi does tend to be slimy and tongue-y, so it helps to add some crunch such as crushed wasabi, bean sprouts, or panko (the breaded stuff.)
  • It’s very easy to do dishes when you are making sushi–no grease!
  • Pre-cut all the ingredients into strips. Then, when you are making sushi, you can do it Chipotle-style and just take what you need into your rolls.

I hope you try making sushi someday! What is your favorite roll?

Research projects


I’m very fortunate to be able to have a lot of downtime at my job (which is the opposite of teaching– ZERO downtime!) This is perfect for me because 1) I needed to recover from the chaos of teaching, 2) I love reading, and 3) I get to start pursuing the projects I’ve never forgotten about. By the way, I’m currently a receptionist. I’d like to think I’m a grown-up Mia Tang from Front Desk! One of these is little research projects.

I made a list of possible topics I’d like to research. Basically, these are just topics I want to know more about. I’ve always been interested in writing reports/mega-posts/Ted talks. But I don’t have an audience or purpose to talk about chickens or Hawaiian food. But now, I do have a purpose:

  • To practice informational writing
  • To practice research and fact-finding
  • To further knowledge in a topic

I wrote the topics I’d like to research on a little slip at work. I will be doing that from time to time. Other things on my To-Do list:

  • Organize the greeting cards and gifts I’ve received and write thank-you notes
  • Start spring cleaning and paring down my belongings (more on this later)
  • Start saving aggressively!!!!!!! I need to get some frozen meals from TJ’s
  • Start my mailing project

International Women’s Day, pt. 1

International Women’s Day is super important to me because 1) I am a woman, 2) my friends are women, 3) I really appreciate the work that women do, and 4) I love upsetting men. (Just kidding. I only love upsetting awful men.)

One genre I have loved reading lately is memoirs, especially written by women. I’m at a time in my life when I feel feel very deeply that I am making life happen, and life is happening to me. It’s affirming to find that other people feel the same. I think the two memoirs I read recently really spoke to me. Obviously I have not been in a movie and I am not Steve Jobs’s first daughter, but I relate so deeply to Gabby Sidibe and Lisa Brennan’s experiences. As different as they are from each other and I am from them, I find that we all share so much in common. (Yes, I’m speaking like Gabourey Sidibe, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, and myself are all friends.)

  • Our fathers were there but not really present in our lives. They were not supportive in the ways that we needed them to be.
  • We felt not beautiful, despite that fact all three of us ARE very beautiful.
  • We have experience with awful men. Thankfully they were not awful experiences, but they were with men who are not good for our self-esteem or mental health.
  • We are smart and hard-working.
  • We’ve done a bunch of different jobs (and we are good at them!)
  • We’ve been in nurturing or care-taking roles for significant periods in our lives.
  • We are working women who are embracing and living our best lives.

These two memoirs spoke so deeply to me that it was therapeutic to read them and to discuss them with my therapist. OH YEAH!!!! Another commonality between all 3 of us is that we speak/have spoken to therapists. Can you see why we might?? I’ve added both of these books to my ‘Favorites’ pile. I am so happy these books exist.

I also finished reading Freak ‘N’ Gorgeous by a new YA author, Sebastian J. Plata. Pretty good debut! I really like the gender reversal and the accuracy about high school life. reminds me of Your Own Worst Enemy. It’s fun to branch out to unknown authors and read debut novels.

I have yet to read That Kind of Mother, which is also a new novel for me! Once in a while I will go shopping for books and veer off my TBR list and pick out any new writer or book, including the backlist!

Do you go “shopping for books” and try unknown authors?

Soothing books

I love books with drama, history, turmoil, and war as much as the next person. But I also love really soothing books where maybe not a lot happens or the story takes place over a few days. Not every story needs to be a sprawling generational drama spanning two continents. (But those are really good too!)

The writer with the most soothing voice might be Jacqueline Woodson. If one word could describe her writing it would be gentle. Hush is about a young girl whose dad was an African-American cop. He had witnessed two of his white colleagues shoot a black teen, and as a whistle-blower, he and his family entered the witness protection program. It was very hard to read because it seems like it could happen today. It’s easy to say do the right thing, because clearly it is to take a stance against injustice. But I could feel what an extremely difficult situation he had to make– there is an unspoken rule that you don’t break the bond between police officers–surely, within their profession, rapport is stronger than any type of social justice.  But he did. I think the father’s story and dilemma hit me far harder than the girl’s. We are frustrated by the lack of change within the police force and “blue lives,” and reading this book made me realize why almost no change will occur. Police officers will never speak out against each other. What a heartbreaking thing for both their profession and for the people they serve and protect.

Another heartbreaking book I read is Echo by Paul Mosier. What stood out to me about this book is that 1) it’s from the older sister’s perspective and 2) it’s based on the author’s daughters. And 3) the cover is beautiful. I like that Echo is super adorable and funny. El is the ultimate big sister who nonetheless is vulnerable. The book was very realistic about how being around someone with cancer can feel like you don’t have any excuse to be sad, ever. Life is already SO unfair, how could someone without cancer be sad? But they can be. There are no qualifications to being sad or happy except that you have to be human <3. Wonderful book, Paul Mosier!

I loved Holes and was excited to find that there is a sequel! It is Small Steps and it is about Armpit and X-Ray. You could say it;s a spin-off rather than a sequel. I actually loved that it’s about Armpit. Armpit x X-Ray = buddies for life. Armpit x Ginny = best duo ever. Ginny is really the stand out of this book. Landscape architecture is a close second. When I was reading I got the feeling that Kiara DeLeon is supposed to be Rhianna. LOL. “Red Alert” is TOTALLY a song Rhianna would’ve put out in 2006!

Best line in the whole book = “My body went to red alert.” – Ginny

If I was making a self-care book list, I’d put Essential Glow and Feathers on it. I went to a workshop for making homemade household products and we made toothpaste and mouth wash. The recipes were from this book where you could also make your own deodorant and so many other products!!! I loved it! It was pretty wonderful. And always, for a gentle and quiet voice to salve your heart, read Jacqueline Woodson.

What books would you put in a self-care kit?