Why Chinese New Year is important to me as an Asian-American

Growing up in California, there was no shortage of culture to expose myself to. I grew up listening to ska music and loving tacos.  I felt like I was just a typical Californian-kid, but at the same time I was very aware that I was both Asian and American.  

On my father’s side, our family has lived in America since the late 1800s, living, for the most part, in northern California ever since.  On my mother’s side, my grandfather came to America in the early-mid 1900s, fought in World War II for America, then my grandmother and uncle came over to join him.  My mother’s family lived in Chicago, Mississippi, then eventually set roots in California where my mother grew up and fell in love with my dad.  I felt like I had the best of both worlds.  A family that was deeply rooted in both American and Chinese culture.  

For as long as my family has lived in America, I’m thankful I still grew up with a lot of Chinese tradition. To this day, I still can’t set a tea pot down if it’s pointing at someone (bad luck) or stick a pair of chopsticks in a bowl of rice (more bad luck).  While my parents and grandparents weren’t remotely superstitious, they instilled in me an appreciation of Chinese culture and traditions.  I have fond memories of Chinese holidays, learning about my heritage and celebrating in traditional ways.

I remember Chinese New Year the most of the holidays. Eating that scaring looking dish that looks like hair but tastes delicious (Jai) and stuffing my mouth with sweets like dried coconut strips covered in sugar, Chinese mochi (Tei), and those fried pastry looking things with sugar and nuts inside. I loved that everyone gave everyone else bags of oranges.  And, let’s be honest, I loved getting red envelopes, too.  

While I am American, it’s really important to me to hold on to my Chinese culture. Chinese New Year always reminded me of the importance of strong family bonds and my connection to my Chinese heritage, and that’s why I loved it so much.  I think it's incredible that after over a century in America, my family is still in touch with their Chinese culture.  If you talk to most families who've lived in America for a long time, you'll notice that the longer their family has been in America the further they are from their original culture. I'm thankful that's not the case with my family. 

Since marrying Lance and moving to Alabama, it’s become even more important to me to stay in touch with my Chinese roots. I'm not sure if or when Lance and I will ever move back to California or a diverse area, so I know it will become harder over the years to preserve my Chinese culture.  I don't want to ever lose that connection to either of my backgrounds.  When Lance and I have children, they’ll have an even harder time being a mix of Chinese and White.  For them I want to hold on to as much Chinese culture as possible so they will always know where they come from. So you can bet, even though I don’t know any Chinese people here, I’m celebrating in my own way (i.e. watching dragon & lion dances on youtube and hopefully acquiring some oranges at some point to feast on.) 

Happy Chinese New Year! Sun Nin Fai Lok! Gung Hay Faat Choy! 


Chinatown, New York. April 19, 2011 | Canon 5d markii

thankful thursday 23

Red Mountain Park Photography

Can you believe it's already February?  Oh how quickly time passes! It's about time I think about the things I can be thankful for.  My life as of late has been especially blessed. These three things have  So without further ado, here are some things I'm thankful for today.

our house. I really cannot express how grateful I am for this house and Lance's promotion.  It came out of nowhere and has surprised us beyond belief.  You just never know what God has in store for you.  Living in a house versus an apartment (in a residence hall) is such a blessing.  We don't have to look for a parking spot anymore; we can park right in our driveway! We don't have to walk to the dumpster to get rid of our trash. We don't have to worry about sharing walls/ceilings with loud neighbors.  We have a back porch! It's nice, quiet, and beautiful.  And I love it.

my health. I can't take health for granted anymore. I'm neither young or in shape, but yet I feel good and am in good health.  I so often forget how blessed I am to just simply be healthy. Many people don't have that luxury. 

a loving husband.  I am so thankful for Lance.  He's always there when I need him and such a great supporter of me, my business and my dreams.  He challenges me so much, and we have so much fun just being together.  I literally could not have imagined a better match for me than him. 

knowing that I am loved. Beyond Lance, my family, and my friends, I am so blessed to know that I am loved by God.  I was made in His image and am precious in His sight. In Him I have an overflowing, endless amount of love. I can depend on Him and know He'll never fail me.  God loves us all, and it breaks my heart that so many people forget this.  In my darkest moments I know that He will always care for me and love me.  I feel so at peace when I remember that. 


Red Mountain Park, Birmingham, AL. October 31, 2015 | Fuji x100s

How to Care for House Plants

One of the first things I did when we moved into our new house was buy some plants. I went down to our local plant shop, Sweet Peas Garden Shop. It's conveniently located by my fave coffee shop, and I'd been eyeing it ever since I moved to Birmingham.  Being that it's the middle of winter, they didn't have as much supply as they normally do, but I managed to snag some real beauties. 

Here I am, entering the world of plant-caretaking, and I have no idea what I'm doing. After a tiny bit of research and a long conversation with people at Sweet Peas, I figured out the obvious--that the plants need sun and water.  I learned my leafy plants need water every two weeks, my succulents every month, and my air plants every couple of months. Right now the plants are in a room with a lot of light. I'm hoping I don't kill them, but beyond the sun + water combo, I'm not sure how else to prevent them from dying. Because, let's be honest, I'm more concerned about them dying than them thriving.  I'll figure out how to keep them from dying... then I'll focus on how to make them thrive.

So here's my question to all you who are good with plants. How do you take care of plants? Should I be cutting off dead leaves or moving them to big pots or changing the dirt they came with? How much water is enough water?   

p.s. I bought these two pots from Amazon. A plastic six-inch white pot with drainage dish and a white metal pot (that came in a package of three). 


Birmingham, AL. February 1, 2016 | Fuji x100s

Bonaventure Cemetery

Bonaventure Cemetery Savannah Georgia Photography

Over the holidays Lance and I visited his family in southern Georgia. While we were visiting they so sweetly took us on a day trip to Savannah so I could check out the city.  We walked around River Street, an older part of the city with little shops and restaurants along the riverfront.  Afterwards I suggested heading over the Bonaventure Cemetery for a bit of history (and of course, to see some spanish moss).  

Bonaventure Cemetery is located east of Savannah on 100 acres of land by the Wilmington River and is a registered historical landmark by the National Registry of Historical Places.  It was beautiful and fascinating to explore the grounds.  I don’t know why, but I love cemeteries like these.  They’re full of history and stories.  We wander through the graves, reading dedications and historical markers.  As a native Californian, I love to wander through cities like Savannah which are considerably older with longer histories.  If you’re ever in Savannah, check out Bonaventure Cemetery. They have tours, too!


Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia. November 27, 2015 | Fuji x100s


June was a relatively light month of reading for me. (I only read two books.) I was traveling for work, and Lance and I took a long vacation to the Smokey Mountains. It was a great month of relaxing.  Strangely enough, when you're hiking miles upon miles in the mountains, you're a little too tired to finish a book.  Instead of reading, I spent my days outside exploring.  It was an acceptable trade-off. :D 

What I didn't read in June, I made up for in the first couple weeks of July, which is also represented in this post.  Hope you enjoy reading my book reports.  Let me know what you thought of these books if you've read them, too!

Powerhouse Books New York Photography

Ruby by Cynthia Bond
Again, I had no idea what this book was about when I started reading, but the cover caught my attention. For some reason I thought it might be about robots or something futuristic.  (I couldn't have been further from the truth.) Ruby is unlike any book I usually read or pick for myself, so I'm glad I got a chance to read it.  Ruby is about a small town in Eastern Texas that is bound by its secrets and traditions, which are threatened by Ruby, who returns to the town after years of living in New York.  For me it was incredibly disturbing, with some of the characters experiencing an intense amount of sexual violence, but the author, who herself was a victim of human trafficking, added incredible insight into the despair of such trauma.  Her symbolism and creative language paints the story in such a compelling way.  This is the kind of book that makes you think.  I'm glad I read this book.

I'd recommend this to anyone who seeks to challenge the darkness in this world. 

Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
I really didn't like this sequel to the Rosie Project.  I thought Simsion did an amazing job with the first book, but this one just fell flat to me. In a way it almost ruined the first book for me.  This book was very random and had a very shallow plot not to mention there's a lot of deception and miscommunication which I didn't like.  The plot was slow and built up then at the very end of the book the conflict was resolved (in a kind of unresolved way) with its conclusion. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to ruin their enjoyment of the first book. 

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
I absolutely loved this book.  It took me a very long time to read it, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.  After reading Wild, I felt the urge to continue reading hiking-centric books.  The most logical next book was Into the Wild.  I watched the movie and expected the book to be much like it, but Jon Krakauer adds an interesting dimension to Chris McCandless' life that was left unseen in the movie.  The underlying story of Into the Wild is about McCandless who gives up most of his worldly possessions to live a nomadic life exploring the country, and ultimately hiking through the Alaska tundra where he meets his death.  In the book, Krakauer compares and contrasts McCandless with hikers who've tragically died and reflects on how his own life paralleled McCandless'. 

I really enjoyed Krakauer's personal insight and interviews with those who knew McCandless on his journey.  This was a very interesting read.

I'd recommend this to anyone with a thirst for thrilling adventure and the desire to live life by their own rules no matter how unconventional. 

Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang
I first saw this book in the Blogging for Books reading list.  The title sounded interesting enough so I checked it out from my local library.  I thought this was going to be just a book about tips and tricks to deal with rejection, but it was so much more than that.

Jiang writes in his book about his journey through 100 days of rejection where he purposely sought out rejection every day for 100 days.  What I didn't expect from the book was the lessons he learned and the research he gathered and includes in the book to explain what he learned.  At the end of chapters he always includes bulletted takeaways. 

This was such a great book that explored why we feel defeated when we are rejected and the possibilities that lay ahead when we learn to deal with rejection. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who's ever allowed rejection stop them from following their dreams.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
I loved Jenny's book To All the Boys I've Loved Before, so I decided to read her series that starts with The Summer I Turned Pretty.  This book and series was sooo good. I started the book thinking I'd just read a couple chapters before I went to bed, but I literally couldn't put it down.  I ended up reading this book in one sitting. This story describes most every teenage girl's fantasy... the boy you grew up having a crush on could possibly now be in love with you now that you're finally not a kid anymore.  Swoon.

Han just touches on everything you've got to love about teenage romance.  Unspoken love. Love triangles. Happy endings.  You've got to read this series.  I loved this first book!

I'd recommend this book to anyone who wishes they had a summer home where they could fall in love with their childhood sweetheart.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
After reading her first book in the series, To All the Boys I've Love Before, I was so anxious to read the sequel which was conveniently released soon after I finished the first. I loved this just as much as I loved the first.  It was a nice continuation of the first story while seamlessly adding more drama and teenage insecurity... exes and love triangle/squares.  Need I say more?

This was an enjoyable and easy read, but with the way Han leaves this second book, I suspect she'll have a third to wrap up the story.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who's ever been a teenage girl caught between the bad boy you know you shouldn't love and the good guy you know you should. 

Check out all the books I've read over the years here.