Tomorrow is the first day of Autumn! It seemed appropriate to wish summer farewell by making Vietnamese inspired summer rolls to end the season. I’ll have to come up with another one to welcome the Fall! 🙂 This appetizer is a very popular one served in most Vietnamese restaurants. They are made with sheets of rice paper softened in water and used to wrap ingredients such as cooked shrimp, rice noodles, herbs, and vegetables. It’s easy to make after a little practice in rolling, but just so you know, this post is a version of my mom’s cooking. We like to eat them with homemade fish sauce as opposed to the traditional peanut sauce. If you’d like something closer to the original recipe, you can try Chowhound’s recipe with peanut sauce.
Happy first day to many educators and children! Getting ready for the school year is always so exciting yet so nerve-racking. Though school officially began with students today, teachers go in way before to get the classroom ready. You wouldn’t believe the amount of work that goes behind the scenes. Just look at this photo of my classroom with my new co-teacher. Those books and label bins took over 4 hours to sort and make it look good. We had to unpack all those boxes just to make counter space for the green and blue bins. We had to unroll and vacuum those 2 giant rugs for parallel teaching. Whew* They didn’t tell us this when we applied to become teachers! =P
Just last Tuesday, the Oculus and Westfield Mall at World Trade Center had their official grand opening. It was exciting as I watched the area change gradually over the last couple of years! Some say the Oculus is almost like walking into heaven because everything is so bright and white. I’d definitely agree it’s quite beautiful (though many wonder whether the amount of money spent is worth $4 billion…) I went a couple of times before and after the grand opening so I’ll tell you this – it looks very different today with completely bare space in the middle and no couches or seating areas as you may find in these photos below. The mall has many designer brand shops, but also some more popular places such as the Apple Store and Kate Spade. If you walk away from the Oculus and into the other side, you’ll find stores such as Under Armor, Banana Republic, and H&M. There aren’t too many food places nor children-friendly stores, but hopefully those will be built later on. Meanwhile, you can always go to Hudson Eats in Brookfield for food and seating, which is now connected under the World Trade Center.
“All you need is love and a coffee,” and that’s exactly what you’ll get at Coffee Project in the East Village. As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a friendly hello and some smiles by co-owners, Chi Sum Ngai and Kaleena Teoh (pictured below, respectively). Sum, who is Malaysian-Chinese, had completed her barista training in Portland. She learned to blend different beans together, creating flavors that were beyond just the popular coffee that comprises of nuts and chocolate notes. She moved to New York City five years ago and began her planning to open a shop with Kaleena.
I hope you all liked the story behind Mahalo New York Bakery in Queens! If you’d like a chance to win one of two $30 gift cards to their bakery, visit www.instagram.com/lilspirations and look for this photo for instructions! : )
Imagine a drive along the coast of a Hawaiian island. One minute you see sea turtles washing up on the shore of the beaches. Then you’re swerving left and right along the cliffs and passing by banana and guava trees. You decide to hop out of the car and jump into the most refreshing pond of water, swimming to the waterfall to let it crash over your head. Lastly you drive to see the sunset on top of the mountains. There seems to be nothing but beauty, nature, and relaxation. Hawaii is one of those places in the world where your breath gets taken away. It’s also one of those places where you will never forget how good their food tastes, and luckily, there are some people who have finally brought Hawaii’s exotic tastes to New York City.
Meet Mike and Sunita (Sue) Shiwdin, the couple who ownsMahalo New York Bakery. They met back in high school, when Sue was already dreaming of opening her own bakery one day. Back in Guyana where Sue grew up, there wasn’t much electricity, so you can imagine how having an oven to work with when coming over to the States meant exciting times to bake and make her own creations. After a trip to Hawaii for their honeymoon, she realized how much the food and culture there resonated with Guyana. Flavors such as guava, mango, and hibiscus, as well as friendly people saying hello were all very similar. She and Mike decided to open a bakery in New York City that spoke to this resonance. “We named it, Mahalo New York Bakery,” Mike explained, “which means thank you New York for giving us this opportunity to open this bakery.”
I came across this quote and it really got me thinking. Here’s the thing: for the past year, all I can really think about is what next? If I’m not teaching for the rest of my life, what next? I absolutely love my job and still can’t believe how far along I’ve come since the day I stepped foot into the classroom, but my curious mind gets me wondering … if this is not what I’m doing in 3 years, what will it be? For the last 2 years, I decided to explore and bring out my adventurous side that I never knew until recently. I discovered a lot of interests and only need to narrow them down to something more sustainable, tangible, and possible. Truthfully, none of them fall in any of these categories, but it has to start somewhere right? So perhaps the bottom of the rock it is. It’s time I try because as they say… If you can’t stop thinking about it, it’s probably worth going after.
Ahhh it’s that time of the year again! As you may or may not know, I LOVE featuring some incredible founders / artists every summer. If you know anyone who would love to be featured, please contact me and I’ll be glad to share their story! It’s incredibly inspiring to hear what happens behind the creation of a particular product, company or store. For the next month, you’ll learn about 3 founders that I met who are incredible human beings with such a strong passion about what they do.
First, I’m thrilled to introduce Mark Fang, the witty and humble co-founder and teacher of the Wine O Club. Co-founded with Jabin Kim, the two have created a club that customizes to people’s personal tastes and provides classes to teach the basics of identifying, tasting, and pairing wines. It’s up to you what wines you get, when you get them, and how often. What makes this company stand out for me was that the 2-hour wine tasting session was classy without being pretentious and provided a really fun and comfortable way of learning the different kinds of wines and what to look and smell for. If you think your sense of smell is strong, you may be surprised (I sure was!).
So to find out a little more about the story behind this company, I was fortunate to have a one-on-one interview with Mark at Wine O Club’s new event space in an elegant but casual atmosphere in Midtown. If only you can hear the chuckles and the sense of humor behind the scenes with him, but you’ll definitely know what I mean by that if you sign up for the class as Mark is often the teacher! When you’re done, be sure to read below for a little surprise just for YOU!
Vacation flies by fast. Four days fly by even faster, but Montreal was a nice quick getaway that wasn’t too costly and quite memorable. I did not know much about the place beforehand so it was all a pleasant surprise. They say Montreal is a foodie city as well as a bike-friendly city and the city of festivals. All of that is most definitely true. As you walk through the streets, you’ll notice bike lanes all around and bikes chained to poles made specifically for the vehicle. You’ll notice advertisements of the festivals coming up, and that week we caught the “Just for Laughs” festival, one that was perfect for us as we played games, ate, and laughed through different performances. But most of all, their food is diverse and full of flavor. Though I didn’t find anything particularly amazing, the food was pretty good overall. Here’s a peek at some of the places we tried!
Boris Bistro –
A little gem we accidentally walked into outside of Old Montreal. While the rest of the streets were quiet, you suddenly past this bustling patio filled with diners, trees, and candle-lit tables. It looks quite popular so you walk inside. Well, the food was actually fantastic though service was a little slow. This salmon tartare was quite delicious with the crisp baguette and a side salad!
Just last week, I made a last minute decision to fly to Montreal with a good high school friend and get away from the city for 4 days. I came back and got incredibly busy with some write-ups and upcoming work work this week, so I’ll be back by Wednesday with a new post (and a giveaway next week). Thanks for popping by, and check in then!
In the meantime, here’s a picture I took at the Chalet du Mont Royal. It was actually an accident finding this place … we wanted to explore the Mont Royal Park, a park designed by the same person who created Central Park – Frederick Law Olmsted. Without Internet or any specific points to hit at the park, we walked around endlessly and wound up following this path that seemed never-ending… UPHILL! Coming across tons of tourists all of a sudden, we climbed these stairs (also never ending) until we got to the top and saw this spectacular view. If I had my fitbit on, I would say I walked at least 50,000 steps, but hey, it was so worth it! Here it is .. take a breath!