Chinese New Year Parade

Last weekend was the first time I attended the Chinese New Year Parade. I’ve always watched it on TV for many years, so it was especially exciting to see it person to enjoy the festivities. The Parade along with the Community Street Fair wrapped up a 2-week celebration of Chinese New Year. While Chinatown is always crowded, it was especially packed due to visitors for the Chinese New Year events. So getting there a few hours before the parade is a definite must. In doing so, you’ll also get to enjoy the street fair as well.

The parade started in Downtown at 5:15pm and makes its way to Chinatown, ending around 8pm. I viewed it at the end of the route and waited an hour for the first group to come our way.  This year is the Year of the Sheep/Ram/Goat. There are sightings of our local politicians, school marching bands, floats, dragons, lions dancers, and lots of sheep. It is good idea to protect young kids’ ears from the noise of firecrackers and drums. Overall, the spectacles were a blast! My favorite parts were seeing the kids dressed in sheep costumes and grand finale. At the end of the parade, all the loin dancers came out, performing stunt on vertical poles, and a 201 feet long Golden Dragon wrapped around the street with smoke, firecrackers, and confetti!

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For more information: http://www.chineseparade.com/
http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com/events/chinesenewyearparade.html

Warm Dry Winter

Hello, it’s been a long long time. A year in transition — job change, moving, and growing. Overall, things are good.

Let me ease myself back into the blog by venturing into the safe topic about the weather. Yes this year has began with some crazy weather everywhere. The east coast have been hit with a freezing storm, while here in California it’s been a very warm winter. Sound great when we have nice sun and fresh air, except we are in a drought.

Last weekend, Yip and I went to Folsom Lake. The water level is at a historical low. It is striking to see — just imagining where the water once cover and now we are walking on dry land. Due the low water levels, the old Gold Rush town underneath the lake has emerged. There are some foundations and relics revealed. We haven’t found much time to hike lately, so this was an interesting site to go on a walk.

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Lassen National Park – Camping

Lassen is now my favorite place to camp! The drive from our home was very smooth, no traffic and no inkling of feeling lost. There is really a bit of everything here. Whether you like trees, lakes or waterfall; there are wildflowers, mountains, and yes volcanoes! Lassen offers some unique hikes. One of Lassen most popular places to visit is their hydrothermal sites. Once we arrived, we decided to do the Bumpass Hell hike. This is like entering a steamy cauldron of smelly sulfur. A nice boardwalk takes you along to see mudpots, boiling pools, and steaming ground. Such a different side of nature, but still beautiful in its own way.

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The next day was quite an adventure to the Cinder Cone. I was excited to see this, but also nervous about the hike to the top. Firstly to get to the area, you’ll drive on an unpaved road. (It is a nice dirt road, drive slowly if you are concern.) At the start of the hike, there is a mile long sandy trail. You’ll see the Fantastic Lava Beds along the way to the volcano. Once the trees clear, the sight of the Cinder Cone stands alone and is just impressive and perfectly sculpted. Now the daunting part is to hike 700 ft up a steep angle path with no resting stop and nothing to grab on to. A few small children pass us and went up like it’s nothing. Two elderly women headed up as well. So me, healthy 20-something should stop being chicken and work it like everyone else. Sigh! It was so tough. Every two steps forward is a step back due to the loose gravel. Good thing, I found a walking stick on my way to the Cinder Cone because without it, I don’t know how I can manage to reach the top. I just look down at my feet and gave myself pep talks. I simply kept going and tried not to stop. This way I won’t get scare and freeze up.

At the top, you’ll see a magnificent landscape of wonderfully animated Painted Dunes, lava beds, and the devastation area — all created by the eruption of the volcano. You can even hike down inside the crater of the volcano too. We meet the elderly group from Washington and the East Coast who visits a different National Park every year! We enjoy a small packed lunch and walk around the rim before calling it a day. You’ll be glad to know that the going  down the Cinder Cone is much faster and easier. Some people even have fun sliding down. For me, I like to take it slow and steady. This is definitely the most unique hikes I’ve ever done.

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Summer Homemade Ice Cream- Fresh Mint

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Summer is coming to an end, but that’s okay because I got an ice cream maker! My wonderful co-worker, Charlotte, gave me this amazing Cuisinart Ice-20 machine. Oh the possibilities of ice cream flavors are endless! And have I mentioned how much I love ice cream! Of course being impatient, I’ve made a few rookie mistakes like not having pureed my fruit thoroughly, resulting in icy bits of fruit. And for best results, the canister should be completely frozen.

So excited to get started, I purchased the book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. I made two desserts from her book and both came out excellent! This mint ice cream has a very strong, fresh herb flavor. It may seem a bit weird being that has an earthy and even grassy taste. However, I find the ice cream to be quite refreshing for the summer. It is best to mix in small bits of chocolate to balance the strong mint. I do really enjoy this mint ice cream and will make it again!

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Backyard Mint Ice Cream
Recipe from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

2 cups whole milk
1 Tb + 1 tsp cornstarch
3 Tb cream cheese, soften
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
1¼ cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tb light corn syrup
A large handful of fresh mint
2 trays of ice cubes
Optional: chocolate bits

Directions:

1. Mix 2 Tb milk with cornstarch to make a slurry.
2. Whisk cream cheese and salt in medium bowl until smooth.
3. In a saucepan, combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup and bring to a rolling boil over med-high heat. Boil for 4 more minutes.
4. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in slurry. Bring mixture back to boil and stir until slightly thicken, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
5. Gradually whisk the hot mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.
6. Roughly tear the mint leaves into small pieces and add to the mixture.
7. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
8. Pour the ice cream mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge into the ice bath. Let stand until cold, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate to steep for 4 to 12 hours.
9. Strain out the mint leaves.
10. Pour ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy, about 25 minutes. Add chocolate into the mix during the last 5 minutes.
11. Pack ice cream into storage container and put in freezer until firm. Makes about 1 quart.

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Spring Time Hike — North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve

Spring is around the corner! Last year during April, we went on an awesome hike in Oroville. Yip knows how I love fields of wildflowers (my fantasy of twirling like the Sound of Music). He found an amazing spot for us to explore called North Table Mountain. On the other side of Lake Oroville, the snow had not yet melted. But on the North Table Mountain, it was sure spring time and even felt like summer! A nice drive led up to the top of the plateau filled with many different wildflowers, cattle grazing, little critters, plus waterfalls! What appeared to be flat terrain, actually had rolling hills, volcanic rocks, and small canyons. Being out in the wide open field with no shades in hot weather did not make this an easy hike. However, the sight of waterfall next to wildflowers and sea of yellow and green was just so pretty. Peak wildflower blooming season is March and April.

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Snow Day with My Cat

Having hibernated through the winter season, we finally got off our butts to do some outdoor activities. While still cold, but with sunshine, we headed north to enjoy some snow! This time, we decided to take our cat Yun Yun on a road trip with us. I’ve always wanted to go on trips with the pets. Although dogs may be more ideal, right now I only have cats, therefore my perfect candidate is Yun Yun for her sense of adventure. We left Bumbe to snooze contently at home, knowing well that any disturbance in his rountine will stress him completely.

On our drive, we saw a turnout at Eldorado National Forest and decided to take a look. Yun Yun was most excited being out of the car and on solid grounds. We attached a leash on her and she immediately took charge exploring her environment. Suddenly the shock underneath her paws were cold and wet and Yun Yun just froze in one place. I held her and she quickly accepted and wanted my warmth and protection. I felt so needed and loved:) Yun Yun perched on our shoulders as we stroll around the winter park. I gave her the detachable furry part of my hood to wear. She looked ever so precious and glamorous. We ended the trip making a snow-kitty. After a day of new experiences, Yun Yun fell asleep on my lap all the way back home.

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My Cat is a Bus — Short Clip

Here is something for the fans of Yun Yun. Live action Catbus! Our cat Yun Yun’s favorite activity is to be outdoors. She will wait by the door and meows continuously to go out and play. I usually give in to her cute persistence and let her have some outside time. Thanks to the overwhelming responses to Yun Yun as the Catbus, we have decided to make a short film of our little star, following her adventure. In her famous costume and our backyard serving as a Totoro enchanted forest, Yun Yun roams through the garden, magically appearing and mysteriously vanishes. She is definitely calling all the shots. A very short while of filming, her wardrobe malfunctions and that is the halt of production. Watch it here: https://vimeo.com/58519325 Hope you enjoy this clip! I wonder where this Catbus will take us to next!

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Thank you 2012, Hello New Year

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Thank you 2012 for all the wonderful memories! Early in 2012, we went on an amazing Asia trip and came back with our busiest year of weddings ever. It was sure worth all the hard work because our film of Tony and Kevin’s Tahoe wedding went viral and is featured on BuzzFeed’s “16 of the Most Beautiful Weddings of the Year”. It even got subtitled in Chinese and English by super international fans! We are so happy everyone is sharing this message of love and hope.

I also like to thank you everyone for making Yun Yun’s Catbus so loved! She now has her own Facebook page, like it here. There will be an update on her soon:)

With our busy year of work, I am grateful for the time to spend with my lovely friends, family, and cats. All the delicious meals, fun day trips, and great stories, I hope will continue. In 2013, we want to simmer down the wedding workload and focus on our personal interests and career. So hopefully, more time to blog for me:) Most of all, I want to thank my sweet boyfriend for completely spoiling me, cooking and packing me lunch every single day! This year my resolution is to cook a lot more and …. get my wisdom teeth pull out.

My cat gone viral

Do you often check your viewer stats on wordpress? Occasionally, I’ll glance at the bar graph knowing that it is pretty consistent. So recently, I became aware of a sudden huge spike over Thanksgiving weekend, increasing to thousands number of visitors for my cat Yun Yun’s Catbus costume. From the looks of it, my pictures are being massively shared on Facebook, Tumblr, and Plurk, with most traffic coming from Taiwan! Whoa, my cat went viral and an international cat sensation! You can read my original post: My Cat is a Bus

There are so many sites sharing, that it’s hard to keep track. Here are a few screenshots where I’m getting all this attention:

people2.com.tw facebook page – Over 7K likes and 4K shares!

http://hak-ka.tumblr.com – Lovely layout of my photos:)

It’s so crazy seeing her cute face everywhere when I go on Google search. And even more crazy how information can spread so fast through the wild world wide web. Here I’m thinking, it’s just me and my computer talking. Anyways, I am overwhelmed and ecstatic for the all the likes, spreading the joy, and thank you for all those who credited me for my work because that is very important to me. Enjoying the 15 minutes!

Also in other good internet news, my company Ipomoea Films is featured on Style Me Pretty California. During springtime, we filmed an absolutely beautiful DIY wedding in Sonora, California at the Union Hill Inn. Our bride and groom are really the best people you’ll ever meet and I am so happy to see their wonderful wedding featured. See their lovely wedding pictures by En Pointe Photography and our sweet wedding video highlight here: http://www.stylemepretty.com/california-weddings/2012/11/27/sonora-wedding-at-union-hill-inn-from-en-pointe-photography/

As for Yun Yun, we are keeping her humble and not letting that inner diva get over her pretty little head:) Again thank you all for liking my work!

Fall Camping — Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is one my favorite place to camp. It is absolutely breathtaking and amazing being surrounded by the tallest and biggest trees ever. My bf and I went camping in the fall time and the weather was cool as the park sat along the coastline, yet moist. We experienced some rainfall, but being deep inside the woods, all the gigantic trees gave us good coverage.

We stayed at the Jedediah Smith Campground. Since this trip was off season, there was no reservation taken and our host allowed us to circle around the campground to find the site we liked. We decided to be nearby the river and set up tent between two huge trees to shield us from the rain. The camp site was beautiful, spacious, and peaceful. It had a nice cobblestone wall separating each campsites and acted as our front door to the home sweet home for the next few days. There were hardly any other campers around, which gave us lots of privacy and the whole park to ourselves. Our “backyard” with the river view had lots to explore like cute little frogs.

Hiking in the redwoods was such an unbelievable feeling. It was completely shocking, quiet, and time just about stopped for a while. Simply just you and nature. I came realized how small I am in comparison to this world. Some of the hiking trails were closed for the season, so we basically wandered around the lush woods, thinking we were following a trail and losing it again. I was hoping, “Let’s not get lost … let’s not go too deep.” Worried about my lack of survival skills, despite a marathon of watching Man, Woman, Wild, we were swallowed by the forest and not a person in sight. Yip would say, “Let’s walk for a little more” and a little became hours. Definitely quite an adventure, and we made it back to camp happy and hungry.

Our other favorite thing about camping aside from wondrous scenes nature offers is Camp Food! I love Yip’s cooking and so thankful he does it all. During our trip, he cooked a whole chicken, eggs and bacon for breakfast, steak and rice stew, plus perfectly baked potatoes. I contributed by making s’mores:) Plus leftovers on the ride back home were super delicious!

Our tent set up kept us perfectly dry! We really want to go back again because there is so much of this beautiful park to explore.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!