Starving Baby Sea Lion

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I’m heartbroken. I found this baby sea lion pup, still alive but clearly starving at Point Dume in Malibu today. According to signs, the best thing to do is to leave them alone and call a wildlife center. I did it and left a message.

I’m not sure if this little guy made it. The centers have been swamped recently because there’s been a record number of pups stranded … probably because of rising sea temperatures. I say we all help out a little bit and donate to these wildlife organizations who are strapped for resources and volunteers.

I found a link: https://30583.thankyou4caring.org/donate

You can read more about the sea lion crisis here:
Pacific Sea Lion Pups Perishing by the Thousands
Malibu Sea Lion Crisis Continues
Dozens Of Dead Sea Lions Litter Malibu Beaches
Walter the sea lion pup is saved, but California rescuers are overwhelmed

How I Became A Food Writer

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I get the inevitable career question a lot. Why did you become a food writer? How do you become a food writer? For those who have asked me this in IRL, I probably told you something along the lines of…I interned a lot, started writing about food as a freelancer, and it took off from there.

It’s true. There were multiple factors and a lot of luck involved, but it boils down to this: I found a niche I was extremely passionate about. I remember sitting in my dorm room in senior year of college and every time I got a pitch approved, my heart rate would go up dramatically, in a good way. I got a natural high off of writing and seeing my byline on blogs was the most exciting thing.

This handmade Chinese noodle piece? I dragged my boyfriend of the time and his brother around and ate at every single stop in one day.

I don’t do stuff like that anymore.

So how do you have a career where you eat food and get paid to write about it?

1. You have to love the shit out of it.
Yes everyone loves to eat. But the love for food has to extend beyond eating it. For me, I like the cultural and historical facts behind food and how it can be used as a storytelling device. I love deciphering regional cuisines and tracing how certain ingredients came to be popular (i.e. rice in the South of China and wheat in the North). I get excited about the personalities behind hidden gems because I always love a good underdog story.

2. Develop a really strong niche.
There are hundreds of writers out there, millions of “foodies,” and folks who can do better than you. There are better writers, there are people who are way more knowledgable than you in all aspects of food. And so, hone in on something and focus on it. It can be weird. It can even be boba.

3. Sell your work
My income is dependent on the kind folks who buy my stuff. It’s a simple arrangement, but the hardest part is to get people to want to pay for your articles. Prove your worth. Develop a sizable following, have killer clips to show for it, and most importantly — BE NICE.

4. Network
Know that at all times, there are people smarter and more knowledgeable than you…even within your niche. Trying to mow these people down is counterintuitive. Food is all about community and gathering. I like to apply those same principles to my career. I help these folks, I’m friends with them, we work together, we get story ideas from each other.

5. Learn to take a decent photograph
Because everything is going digital these days and food is a very visual subject.

Is there anything else I’m missing? What else do you guys want to know?

$25 Altadena Farmers’ Market Challenge

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I’ve always been a big proponent for eating clean and local, and when I can, I like to cook solely from whatever I can get at the farmers’ market. I’ve been crushing on the Wednesday evening Altadena one. It’s quaint, it’s lovely, I like the people.

Today Altadena Farmers’ Market challenged me to cook a meal for four folks for $25. I’m a single lady, so cooking for four isn’t the best practice. I bought ingredients enough for four people though, so I guess I’ll have enough to last me half the week! Which is wonderful. $25 for nearly a half a week worth of food. Here’s the budget breakdown:

$4.25 1 lb short grain brown rice
$3 Two bunches dinosaur kale
$5 Can of pickled artichokes
$5 Bag of mushrooms
$2.83 Four eggs
$4 Two avocados

Total: $24.08

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I cooked 1/4 of all that I bought and this is what I made:

A brown rice bowl seasoned with furikake, topped with dinosaur kale sauteed and with a bit of bonito flakes. I added on half an avocado, diced. Plus half an artichoke, sliced. Topped with a fried egg and a drizzle of Sriracha. (The furikake, bonito, and Sriracha were pantry items.)

On the side: Gently poached mushrooms in a homemade broth (soy sauce, dashi broth, sugar, and water. All pantry items, for me.)

And there you go. An extremely filling meal for $6.25. I have three more of these I can make. :)

How To Get The Travel High Without Traveling Far

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Echo Mountain

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Boney Peak. First part of the trail.

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Echo Mountain .View from top.

Recently I’ve made a sort of breakthrough, a type of realization that’s so minute I barely even noticed I’ve been consciously doing it. But it’s a breakthrough that is slowly changing my life and allowing me to see the world with completely new perspectives. Most importantly, it’s making me feel completely alive.

I’ve been breaking my routine and slowly fragmenting it so that every week I’m doing something completely new.

One day, it was dragging my office to my backyard. The other day, it was hiking solo to Echo Mountain in Altadena during sunset. All of the photos in these posts were taken by my iPhone in Los Angeles County within the week.

I was compelled to write this post after reading a feature on traveler extraordinaire Alastair Humphreys in the New York Times, in where he extols the virtues of microadventures. “If you can’t climb a mountain, climb a hill,” he says. Drag out a mattress and sleep in your backyard, explore the city by moonlight.

And that’s what is at the core of this philosophy: being conscious of the possibilities around you. You don’t have to fly 3000 miles away to be in awe. Los Angeles, for example, is full of hidden gems. We have wonderful hiking trails, beautiful dive sites, and best of all — impeccable weather.

One of my favorite quotes is by Pico Iyer who wrote: “And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really ends.”

That heightened state of awareness is what I crave, because for me, sitting behind the computer for most of the day dulls my soul. Awareness means suddenly noticing the poppies on the side of the road, realizing your lawn is covered with clovers, becoming fascinated with the pair of blue jays outside of your house.

I like nooks and crannies, small towns and villages, hills and mountains, oceans and lakes. Nature is where I’m most awake and clocking in at near second place, when I’m engrossed in conversation with fascinating strangers.

It comes down to peeling away from my comfort zone. It felt weird working in my backyard with a bunch of birds flying around, and to be honest, I was a bit nervous hiking by myself. But these experiences make me feel aware and they pull me out of my tendency towards routine.

You don’t have to be on vacation to have a vacation, is my philosophy. You don’t have to take two weeks away from work to feel alive and in awe of how small and temporary we are.

Routine has this effect on folks: it strips away the beauty from day-to-day living. You get bored, you get restless, you feel compelled to travel far and wide for that travel high. Take a cue from children, who can spend all day in their backyards coming up with worlds and universes and elaborate plot lines. They’re more present and aware than some adults who spend thousands of dollars to hang out in resorts with their laptops and phones.

Adventure isn’t expensive. All you need to do is grab a sleeping bag and sleep outside. Or right now, take your chair and plant it outside. Stay there for a while and you’ll see what I mean. The world isn’t just a plane ride away. It’s right in front of you.


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Boney Peak trail.

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Boney Peak. View from top.

bag of stones

Negativity is like a heavy stone. It slows you down, and weighs down the soul. You’re tired and tense, and full of don’ts. You scream, you’re scared, and everyone and everything and every second seems out to get you.

Sometimes, I find, the best thing to do is be quiet and let discomfort in. Listen to it, let it melt. And soon you’ll find, that there’s nothing there. It’s just you, alone. Armed with a heavy bag of stones.

My SGV Asian Food Primer

In recent months, an influx of folks have contacted me, purely regarding the San Gabriel Valley and its growing Asian food scene. The same questions come into rotation: when did the food scene start, why is it so unique, where do I eat, who are the customers, who are the major players, who are the restaurant owners? With all these questions, there’s an least an article or two that can be written in response. And believe me, I can go on for hours. It’s been my thing for the last three years.

But if you’re new to it all and overwhelmed, no worries. Here’s a list of pieces I’ve penned, to give you a background:

How Los Angeles Became A Powerhouse For Chinese Food (First We Feast)

Regional Chinese Food Guide To Los Angeles (KCET)

San Gabriel Valley’s Chinese Food Scene Is Moving Far East (LA Weekly)

A Guiding Force Behind Los Angeles’ Japanese Food Scene — Our Chinese Community (LA Weekly)

Database of Boba (LA Weekly)

10 Best Chinese Restaurants in Los Angeles (LA Weekly)

Chihuo, LA’s Most Popular Chinese Language Food Site (LA Weekly)

Lollicup — A Boba School (LA Times)

David R. Chan, The Man Who Has Eaten At 6000+ Chinese Restaurants (LA Weekly)

A Guide To Chinese Liquor in Los Angeles (KCET)

A Guide To Tea in Los Angeles (KCET)

with confidence

I was inspired to write this after hearing the story of a friend, who seriously almost followed a woman into a cab. Dabbling with different writing styles these days.


He’d have fiery dreams of those who hurt him, and flaming memories of those who left. Every evening before he slept, he’d habitually counted his scars. For he saw himself as a victim, surely a vehicle for bad luck.

One day he saw a woman at a bar, with stormy blue eyes and a sparkling soul that matched. They chatted until their fingers wove, so naturally intertwined. Then things came up and she gave him her number. She had to go and he escorted her out, so entranced, he almost followed her into her cab.

That evening, with habit, he replayed his past and recounted his scars. But then he thought of stormy blue and allowed his mind to wander. He thought of how he’d properly ask her out, and maybe take her to dinner. He’d get her a flower and finally get himself a good dress shirt and ironed trousers. They’d spend actual hours talking, exchanging words and whispers, reverberating off each other.

Then he remembered she lived far out across town and said she hated flowers. And wait, that time they met, maybe her eyes had glossed over.

He took her number out of his pocket, neatly folded, gently etched in dark blue. And with one quick breath, he smothered it. The digits crumbled on top of each other, their edges began to tear. He ripped their ligaments apart with confidence, because surely, yes, he remembered, her eyes did gloss over.

Across the town the sparkling souled woman, had closed her blinds and pulled up a blanket. In habit she lit a candle, fingers warm in the memory of meeting that gentle, amber eyed man.

She would never see him again. So thank goodness, she in time convinced herself, with confidence, she didn’t get too attached.

unrealistic nostalgia

A world without phones is lovely.

I correspond with my faraway, dearest friends via letter. And when one of us visits, we have lifetime of stories to share, and serious banter to weather.

Love has once again become an action. My lover has to knock to see me, and if he misses me, he must make that effort. And when we get together, we’ll go to the city, stopping often for new friends and directions.

I catch up with my girlfriends over the dinner table, and sometimes someone will bring up a strange topic. Like, when is twilight? Before sunset or after?

We’ll spend the next hour laughing, sort of curious but too lazy to gather the proper answer. The conversation will segue to sunsets and when the last time any of us got up to hear it — the still hum of early morning, unadulterated by footsteps, and tires, and clothes, the grumpy weights of obligation.

And in the evening when I’m asleep, I have quiet, flowy dreams — instead of steady beeps and fluorescent screens and cold, unconnected chatter.