Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Help a fellow human

Photograph by Meg Bitton

When I was in college I went on a ski trip with a huge group of friends. Being college students we rented a cabin and all 20+ of us planned to cram in for the weekend. The rental office caught on and asked us to trim the numbers. Four friends and I were the last to arrive at the house so we agreed to find another place to stay.

I'm dating myself but this was before the Internet and cell phones so we... flipped through the Yellow Pages. It was night time so luckily we found a hotel with vacancy and planned to drive over. We were in 2 separate cars so our car headed down the hill to an open area near a condo complex to wait for our friends in the other car to pack up so we could caravan to the hotel.

While we waited in the car a woman approached us asking for help. She was waiting for the rest of her party to arrive but she asked if we could help her put snow chains on her car. It was already dark out but we were in no hurry so we were game. It took all 5 of us about half an hour and the rest of her family and friends arrived as we finished putting on her chains.

She asked where we were headed and we told her we were on our way to find a place to stay. She asked us to wait a moment while she discussed something with her family. She returned after 5 minutes and asked us if we'd like to stay with her and her 2 kids in her condo. She had extra loft space that slept 5 and a separate bathroom for us. It was the least she could do since we helped her with her chains. We were floored and we happily accepted.

She didn't have an extra set of keys so she left them in a safe place so we could come and go as we pleased. We stayed with her for 2 nights and she refused to let us pay for lodging. On our last night we treated her and her kids to pie and ice cream we picked up at the local grocery store.

I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't interact much with our host or her kids so I don't know her story. At the time I was shy and wary of strangers so I kept to myself or people I knew. I hadn't yet traveled much or interacted with a lot of people. My present day self would've taken the the time to get to know the kind stranger who opened up her home and turned what could've been an undesirable lodging situation into a beautiful experience. I may not know many details but more than a decade later I still remember all the positive emotions I felt. Looking back I'm amazed and thankful that we were brought together. There are good people in this world who will help each other out just because. Knowing that keeps me going and makes me smile.

I love hearing stories so please feel free to share yours about the kindness of strangers! Thanks!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Laugh at yourself

Glad to see Russia has a sense of humor during the closing ceremony!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Easy recipe: marinated chicken for stir-fry

I lived in the dorms my first 2 years at UCLA so I never worried about cooking. Freshman 15? Try Freshman 25. When I moved to an apartment Junior and Senior year I had to start cooking - this simple marinated chicken recipe got me through the rest of college. I'd fly Southwest back to UCLA with a bag full of frozen tubs of marinated chicken that my mom prepared. I've since learned how to do it myself and it's still one of my staples to this day.

This recipe yields chicken that is tender and lightly seasoned and can be added to any veggie stir-fry. It only requires 5 ingredients, including the chicken! Total prep and cook time for the chicken: about 20 minutes (10 minutes alone just to prep and cut the chicken).

I use 2 pieces of organic boneless and skinless thigh meat. Trim the fat and dice the chicken into bite-size pieces. Cut against the grain of the meat to make it more tender. Cutting the chicken is the most time-consuming part of this process.

Add soy sauce and toss to coat

Add Chinese cooking wine and toss to coat

Add a spoon of corn starch - this makes the meat more tender

Mix in corn starch well

Add a little canola oil and mix well

That's it! Here are the ingredients I used (not including canola oil)

You don't need to let the chicken marinate - you can cook it immediately. Sauté the chicken until just done (should only take a few minutes). I like to cook it on one side until it develops a nice brown crust and then flip and toss it to cook thoroughly. After you're done sauteing, put the chicken in a separate bowl while you saute your other items.

Stir-fry your other veggies and when the veggies are cooked, add the chicken back in. At this point you're just warming up the chicken because it's already cooked. Add flavoring/sauce. You're done!

Serve and enjoy the dish over a bed of rice.

Monday, February 10, 2014

My Tiger Mom has turned into a cub

I'm an Asian-American kid who grew up in the Bay Area. I had a pretty typical childhood and upbringing - for ABC kids. I guess you could say I had a Tiger Mom when I was growing up. She was strict, lectured me a lot, and she had high expectations.

Now that I'm an adult my mom has mellowed out a lot. Either that or in her older age she just doesn't give a @#*$& anymore.

Occasionally I'll publish things my mom says. I hope you get a kick out of it!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Tough Mudder advice

I did Tough Mudder in Tahoe in 2012 and it was one of those experiences I loved and hated at the same time. Some obstacles were so challenging that I couldn't wait for it to be over but as soon as I finished the race I wanted to do it again! Ahhh, memories. I’ve had friends ask me for advice so I thought I’d share…

Tough Mudder Tahoe 2012
Getting ready for Tough Mudder Tahoe! Drifit, long sleeves, 
capris, gloves, wrist sweat band, and energy bars. Check!

Everest at Tough Mudder Tahoe
Everest at Tough Mudder Tahoe. Teamwork!

Everest at Tough Mudder Tahoe
Everest at Tough Mudder Tahoe. Love how all these Tough Mudders 
are hanging out on top just waiting to help out a fellow Mudder.

  1. Wear drifit so it dries faster. Dry clothes keep you warm. Compression will just stay cold, wet, and pressed up against your skin.
  2. Wear capris and long sleeves to avoid scraping elbows and knees. You're crawling through mud/dirt under barbwire or inside tubes and tunnels. There are tiny rocks in the mud which will shred up your knees.
  3. Tuck your shirt into your capris so you have a clean surface to wipe your eyes if needed. You’ll look like a dork but you’ll be a smart dork. I also wore a wrist sweat band - it got muddy and wet but I flipped it inside out and used the clean surface when I wanted to wipe my eyes.
  4. Carry energy bars with you - it’s a long 12-mile course.
  5. Wear gloves for protection and a better grip - logs, bars, etc. You can always take them off for certain obstacles.
  6. If you fall into the water below during an obstacle… BEND YOUR KNEES when you hit the water!!!  I misjudged the depth and landed on a straight leg from 7 feet up. I sprained my knee and fractured my tibia. But I still finished Tough Mudder!! I did this 4 miles in and walked the rest of the course.
  7. Don’t wear bobby pins in your hair - you’re running through live electric wires for a few obstacles. Let’s just say I got shocked a few times. On my head.
  8. Chernobyl Jacuzzi or Arctic Enema is a shipping container filled with water and ICE. There was a wooden board halfway down the container, blocking the path - the only way to get past it was to swim under it. Ugh. The best way to attack this obstacle is to just jam as fast as you can to the other side. I ran with my arms over my head for 2 reasons, (1) for less resistance - my arms in the icy water didn't help me get through it any faster and (2) so I could keep as much of my body out of the freezing water as I could. Some people grab onto the side to push them through but there was so much ice pushed up against it that I just went through the middle. There was a huge build up of ice at the other end so you have to bust through it or climb out on top of it. 
  9. Train to do pull-ups. You’ll need a lot of upper body strength for a bunch of obstacles. Funky Monkey are greased and spinning monkey bars. They’re designed to make you fail!! The best way to get across this is to keep your arms bent at 90 degrees and use your body momentum to propel you forward.
  10. Walk the Plank is a 12 ft jump into 30 degree water. I was so scared of this obstacle and I knew I'd start to freak out if I thought about it too much so I just jumped as soon as I got up to the platform. I shut my eyes and plugged my nose. The anticipation of hitting the water was THE WORST.
  11. Everest is a 15 foot tall quarter pipe wall near the end of the course. Sometimes it’s made of a slippery material or coated with grease to make it slippery. If you’re going to need help conquering it, find a Mudder who’s camped out at the top, make eye contact to make sure he knows you’re targeting him, and run full-speed toward him. When you hit the point where you can no longer run straight ahead (you’ve reached the upward curve), lean back a little so you’re not running into the wall. At the same time leap up and grab for his outstretched hands. Wrists are even better. Once connected, try to pull yourself up - hook on to the top ledge with your feet if you have to. Use everything you’ve got. I needed help from 3 people to get me over and I only weigh 115 lbs. I was just so exhausted at that point but it was the last obstacle so I should’ve tried harder.
  12. It’s okay to skip obstacles. No one will judge you. Trust your gut if you’re scared.
  13. Help others and be helped. Everest is one of the hardest obstacles and I couldn’t have done it without the help of a bunch of strangers. Everyone becomes your teammate. It’s a beautiful thing.
  14. Don’t be concerned with time. Enjoy yourself, interact with others, and take it all in!