Baby Shower Fun!

I’ve reached that age where my beloved friends and family members are either getting married or having children and it is a beautiful blessing to be part of each journey. Besides giving a gift and being part of their big days, I’ve been wanting to be a bit more creative since the idea of Lilspirations was bloomed last year. The timing couldn’t have been better when my friend’s aunt asked me and another friend to throw a baby shower!

Though our friend didn’t have a theme preference, we knew an all-around animal theme would be perfect.  Let it be farm, zoo, or safari, who doesn’t love cute animals decorated with icing or sketched onto onesies? (Her registry was filled with adorable items that had animals on them too).

Here were some of my favorite pictures from her shower.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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It’s always a beauty to see gorgeous flowers everywhere and snack on delicious sweets! Whether you have a Valentine or not, give someone a hug or send a message and tell them how much you appreciate them.  🙂 May you enjoy this holiday with your loved one(s)!

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A Taste of “the City of Love”

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The other day, a friend of mine drove me through Soho and my eyes WIDENED when I saw Ladurée.  I thought I imagined it, but after looking it up, I found that it had its opening for its 2nd NYC location just last week on February 4th (Miami folks – it’s opening there in 3 weeks!) If you are a big fan of the macaroon pastries, this is a must go-to spot. Though upscale and quite fancy, its desserts are all that it claims to be and more. Macaroons are incredibly hard to make, requiring specific temperature and a detailed process that few can master. It can easily become too sweet, breakable, or hard!  

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Chinese New Year Festivities

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It has officially been 1 week since the first day of the Chinese New Year. Chinatown, NYC has exploded with festivities during the first weekend! Lion Dancers and Chinese unicorns roamed the streets while visitors and celebrators took the day off and enjoyed the company of friends and family. Many also used this great opportunity to purchase and shoot confetti all over the streets before sanitation cleaned up at dusk.  I didn’t quite appreciate all this “craziness” until recently, when I realized how incredible the culture really is and how important it is to keep tradition for our future generations!

If you’re interested in seeing the last celebration of the New Year festivities, come out to Chinatown this Saturday!  Streets are blocked and Lion Dance groups and organizations come out to bless the stores with good luck and scare away the bad. I highly suggest public transportation because there will be no parking!

Here’s a few photos taken during the first weekend.

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 Gong Hay Fat Choy!  Happy Chinese New Year!  

2014 is the Year of the Horse. One of the most important night of the Chinese New Year celebrations is the Eve, which falls on January 30th of this year. On this night, families gather together to celebrate the end of the year and the beginning of a new year with an important feast. Though each family cooks different dishes, many of the foods included are symbolic of good fortune, prosperity, longetivity, promotion, health, and happiness. The pictures above are dishes that my mother and mother-in-law made. They were simply delicious!  Although I can’t translate the significance behind every food, I know that oranges and the tofu skin wrapped in vegetables represent gold & fortune.  The fish represents abundance and the shrimp means laughter and happiness.

Other traditions that occur on this eve include throwing out the garbage and cleaning before dinner (not after as to not sweep away the luck), rinsing with grapefruit water (to wash away the bad), bowing to the God of Wealth, and having flowers & paper decorations to put around the house. It can get quite busy, but after dinner, it’s all rest and hope for a wonderful year!

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Not the same old “fishy” town

I remember years ago, I used to hate Chinatown, NYC because it was crowded and smelled like fish. I don’t think that has changed much, but it has definitely increased in modernity and improved in cleanliness. You can now see new restaurants popping up, including those of different cuisines such as Bassanova, a famous ramen chain from Japan, and Aux Epices, an intimate fusion Malaysian and French restaurant.  Despite the rise in new eateries, I actually began discovering incredible and old hole-in-the-walls that have every reason to be as famous as they are. Two classics in this cultural neighborhood?

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The Kam Hing Coffee Shop has some serious die-hard sponge cakes to be tried! Apparently I had it more than 10 years ago according to my mom but where have I been these last 10 years?!?  Their $1 sponge cakes are small but melt in your mouth after every bite. They’re incredibly fresh and soft to eat, even after buying a couple extra for your snack or breakfast.  They now have flavored sponge cakes, including green tea, cinnamon chocolate, chocolate chip, and strawberry. I still think the original is the best, but nothing beats trying out flavorful sponge cakes that no one else makes!

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Then there’s the old Mei Li Wah Bakery right on Bayard Street, the street famous for Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and  Great NY Noodle Town.  If you’re a fan of roast pork buns, this is the place to go!  Although fatty in many ways, it is flavorful with an abundant amount of meat inside a sweet and freshly baked bun. They also have a plain sweet bun that is also less than $1 and completely satisfying. When you go inside, it’s almost like you went back in time with the elder servers and the classic seating and walls!  The best part is, you can buy an entire box for less than $15 and enjoy a feast with your buddies. 🙂

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Elena Shumilova is a Russian photographer who took some of the most incredible photographs I have ever seen. For her, capturing photos of her children and the animals on the farm she runs is something she does everyday so she doesn’t miss any moments. As I looked through these photos and read about its purpose, with cameras on even our phones nowadays, we don’t need any excuses on missing out any second in our lives! Though the quality of the images may not be as stunning as these, the captured moments will be just as beautiful and cherished! I just HAD to share her talent and food for thought.

To see more of her photos, go on to Bored Panda. Get ready to drop those jaws 🙂

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Click!

This past weekend, I attended an open house at the 92nd Street YMCA. I have always heard wonderful things about the place from a colleague, but it was beyond what I expected. They offered free classes from photography, watercolor, oil painting, and jewelry-design to hula dancing for 2 hours, so I took the 2 hour photography session and brought my husband’s SLR camera.  If I could, I would have stayed from opening to closing…

A special thanks to Jim Beecher. He made it extremely clear what all the camera functions do and provided many scenarios of when you would use those functions! His website also includes everything you need to know from knowing how to use fill flash to using the focal lens for different purposes. I couldn’t wait to try everything I learned, so I took a walk to Central Park!

My first attempt was at the Reservoir – I played with the exposure compensation in these first 3 pictures.

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How many ways can I draw … “ME”?

In the school that I work at, a monthly requirement (a rather fun one) is to have students create a self-portrait. I wondered how many ways a child can make a picture of him or herself without getting tired or bored and the more I thought about it, the more exciting it became. To see the growth of each student’s piece is jaw-dropping especially in a span of 9 months. There are some materials and methods of work that I love re-using every year, but every group of kids is different. This year, I took several “AH-HA!” moments and embedded them into each portrait session.  I also challenged myself in using materials that I rarely ever used before. Turns out that with specific instructions, felt is not hard to cut at all!  … Here are 3 portraits from one of my students.

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(Top left): “Me With My Winter Gear” – pencil, Sharpie, crayons, multicultural crayons, felt, white chalk
(Top right): “Simple Portrait” – crayons, thick Sharpie
(Bottom): “Me In Action! – color pencils, thick Sharpie

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Nom nom from mornin’ to noon

A couple years ago, my best friend and I decided to try something called “brunch.” At that time, I don’t think it was as popular as it is nowadays but since that afternoon that we went to Sarabeth’s in Central Park South, I became hooked and started creating my own brunch menus at home. Yelping restaurants that serve brunch also became a daily ritual. Who knew that my love for this meal would now spread to my lovely husband?One of my favorite dishes is indeed the classic Eggs Benedict. Since my husband and I started trying out more brunch places, he felt inspired to make it himself. WIth the right amount of smoothness to the hollandaise and crispiness for the English muffin, it came out perfectly! 

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Want to give it a try? Here’s a great recipe from Gordon Ramsay, one of my favorite chefs in the business. 

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