Day Forty: Less Time, More Rush

Again, another rushed post. I hope you guys don't mind that this may possibly be my pattern for the upcoming few months. There's way too much to focus on at the moment, and even I'm getting the feeling that this has become a side commitment for me. No kidding, it is a side commitment.

Breakfast: English muffin with egg and cheese
Lunch: Orange and sushi
Dinner: Chopt Avocado salad

Day Thirty-Nine: More Rushing

Here's a really rushed post. I know it's really making a bore out of this challenge for one hundred days, but bear with me guys! I'm doing my best!

Breakfast: Blueberry muffin and milk
Lunch: Orange and cereal
Dinner: Salad and chicken
Snacks: Guacamole with vegetable chips

Day Thirty-Eight: The Rush and the Madness

The city is just so rushed all the time. I'm telling you, it's like you would never have known. There's just so many places to be, so many people to see, so many things to do all of the time. I have never experienced anything like it and it's so refreshing to be around people who similarly feel the same way. Not the way where I feel overwhelmed, but the way where I can feel like I am doing something important. Like, somehow, somewhere, I actually count and that there is actually a purpose to my living here.

New York City is really more than just a city for me. Even though it's been less than a month since I've first moved here, it's become my new home in far less time. Somehow, I just find myself acclimating to everything that's ever defined it -- from the late night bodegas to the delis to the bagel stores to the old pizzerias, rusty shabby, their doors already falling off their hinges. I love the smell of the dew in Central Park, the sight of the majestic globe in Flushing Meadows, the chatter of hundreds of languages passing through Brooklyn, the sight of the skyscrapers and the beautiful High Bridge over the Bronx, the Staten Island ferry ambling its way across the river...

There's hope in this girl yet.

Breakfast: Fruit and yogurt parfait
Lunch: Chinese noodles
Dinner: Beef and various vegetables

Day Thirty-Seven: Time to Get Down to Business

I've got interview tomorrow and I'm really excited. I'm not quite sure what to expect, other than extreme anxiety, highlighted with a few dots of clever witty statements that could randomly pop up here and there throughout the interview. Or not. Depends on my lunch. Unfortunately, I don't have the best of luck from what I can tell.

Anyway, there are a lot of website telling me to get a good breakfast on the day of. My dad's planning on taking us to McDonald's for our breakfast, aka the most important meal of the day. That in itself makes me skeptical, but I love Mcdonald's fruit parfait (it's one of my guilty early morning pleasures ^.^) so there's nothing wrong right there. I just hope my nerves are able to calm down because it's almost midnight and I'm still up, pacing as urgently to finish my homework as ever.

One thing I've noticed about myself: I don't do time management. I mean, I can definitely finish every assignment you throw out at me, but when it comes to things like choosing homework or working on projects, I choose projects. When it comes to projects or Facebook, I choose Facebook. Of course, I'm at least good enough to pace the amount of time I spend on anything (no more than an hour a day, even though that in itself is quite a lot of time wasted on social media rather than spending it on my studies, like a good little Asian). Nevertheless, I'm just about as typical as any other teenager with way too much technology on their hands. What we need is more time, in a constantly rushed world full of priorities, deadlines, dues, and whatnot.

Breakfast: Greek yogurt
Lunch: Peaches and salad
Dinner: Pumpkin salad with enoki mushrooms 

Day Thirty-Six: Bodegas and Blasphemy

I was riding on the subway in Bronx for the first time today. I have to admit, compared to the stations in Queens and Manhattan (which are already pretty run-down in a lot of areas) most of the stations I saw were downright horrid. Now, don't get me wrong, I love NYC and almost every aspect of its hurried, incredibly rapid pace of life. However, there are quite a few things that get on my nerves and the disgusting state of the public facilities in the poorer sections of the city are some of them.

Some other things about the city that bother me:

Tourists calling it the "Big Apple"
I know it's the proper term and all, but I always get the feeling that they're mocking us, in some sort of subtle, convoluted way. I don't know, maybe it's just me. I always thought of it like when people intentionally slur "Beijing" and it comes out "BAY-tsing." Even I'm getting goosebumps hearing that in my head.

The length of time it takes to pave roads.
To be honest, these construction projects can stretch on for years. Literally. I've seen barely-miles of road in working process for over three years before.

How summers turn into winters.
The seasons have always fluctuated, but there's nothing like New York weather, especially when the school year's starting and you're already getting a cold.

People always ask me to say "coffee," "dog," "talk," and "walk." Oh, and occasionally "Staten Island."

Houston St. vs. Houston, Texas
There's actually a difference in pronunciation. Similar to the issue above, but now reversed. If only tourists would learn!

The price of food downtown
I love all of the sophisticated and chic eateries downtown, but the prices kill me. $10 for a lunch at Shake Shack actually sounds like a good deal, now.

Do you guys have any other anecdotes to share about pet peeves and whatnot? Leave a comment below and I'll be sure to get back to you!

The Day's Eats
Breakfast: Cream cheese bagel and orange juice
Lunch: Tuna salad wrap and bean salad
Dinner: Fish sandwich and melons

Day Thirty-Five: Exciting Weekend

I'm looking forward to this weekend. It holds promises of exciting people, places, and events I have never had the chance to experience. I am going to take part in my first prep school interview, which in itself is already a milestone for me. Taking part in the interview when it is on Columbia University's campus -- one of the premier universities in the world, as well as one of the Ivy League -- makes this all the better.

Anyway, I won't be able to post my usual articles on healthy eating, so I hope you guys remember all of the facts and figures I've been shooting out at you. I admit, this entire "no junk food" approach is becoming quite difficult to handle, especially when I was walking past the Shake Shack earlier this week. The deathly smell of the cheesy crinkle cut fries, of the Shack Burger, of the churning wheels out behind the counter stirring great vats of shakes, custards, and cements was making me salivate so much I hurried on past with my eyes averted. In other words, crisis averted.

But I wanted to end on a happy note. I've been feeling pretty good lately, and I don't know if it's actually this ban on fast food working or if it's just the natural high I get from my first week of high school. I have to admit, I'm loving my high school! It's so interesting to be in an environment where everyone craves learning, the teachers are genuinely passionate about their craft, and there's so many choices to pursue your interests. If only my entire educational life had been like this!

Breakfast: Sausage, waffles, fruit juice
Lunch: Tuna sandwich, chickpea salad
Dinner: Pumpkin salad
Snacks: Figs (our tree out back is starting to produce a skimpier harvest. I have a feeling the season's about to end. I sure am going to miss my supply of figs.)

Day Thirty-Four: Body Image in Ancient Rome

I've always heard stories about how Rome was so much better than we are at this entire deal with body imagine. After all, don't all of the famous classical paintings portray Roman women as voluptuous and -- shall we say -- thicker-skinned figures than the super models of today's society? Wasn't being larger and curvier cherished as a sign of wealth and fortune, because only the rich could afford to dine in gluttony? Wasn't there even a portrait of Venus -- the goddess of love and beauty -- emerging from the sea, a pleasantly plump figure with golden locks, the epitome of beauty?

This may be true, but surprisingly, historians have uncovered an unsettling fact: Early Romans did have an obsession with body image.

Yes, they may not have had a culture that was so obsessed over starving our women until they were more like drug-addicted alcoholics than the beautiful healthy women of a past era, but there is certainly evidence that men in ancient Rome weren't so nonchalant. They may have been the minority, but there was certainly a voice in the population that called for much of the same standards that people call for today.

A letter to the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry published in 2000 reports the following entry:

Garner et al. (1985) wrote about the present unprecedented emphasis on thinness and dieting‚ which is one factor responsible for the increase in anorexic and bulimic disorders. It is generally believed that dieting in pursuit of a thinner shape and slimness as a standard for feminine beauty are modern attitudes. However, a clear account can be found in the ancient comedy Terence Eunuchus. 
Terence (Publius Terentius Afer) (c. 190-159 BC) was a Roman comic poet. His 6 surviving comedies are Greek in origin but describe the contemporary Roman society. Eunuchus was probably presented in 161 BC. In this comedy, a young man named Chaerea declares his love for a 16-year-old girl whom he depicts as looking different from other girls and he protests against the contemporary emphasis on thinness: 
"She is a girl who doesn't look like the girls of our day whose mothers strive to make them have sloping shoulders, a squeezed chest so that they look slim. If one is a little plumper, they say she is a boxer and they reduce her diet. Though she is well endowed by nature, this treatment makes her as thin as a bulrush. And men love them for that!"
 Then he describes the girl he loves: "Unusual looks . . . a natural complexion, a plump and firm body, full of vitality."
So he opposes vividly the typical thinness of the girls of these times to the blossomed body of the girl he loves.
This Roman pressure on girls to diet to meet the social expectations for thinness represents a clear precedent for the current emphasis on thinness. It is clear that in Ancient Rome, as in today's society, there were multiple factors related to the development of body image concerns which today are often a precursor to eating disorders. These include cultural pressures to strive to develop and maintain a particular body shape in order to be considered attractive and then valued as a woman. Here, Terence mentions Chaerea's preference for a plumper girl, while mothers usually wished their daughters to be thinner. Although the media influences that today are critical in influencing images of a perfect body were not present in Ancient Rome, it is clear from this part of the text that pressures concerning appearance existed long before the 20th century.

How unsettling is it that mothers would have expected their daughters to remain slender? I can only imagine the reaction of the men, who -- even today -- could not care less whether a girl was 120 or 125 lbs.

Breakfast: Kashi cereal, milk, peaches
Lunch: Turkey sandwich, pineapples
Dinner: Cucumber salad, figs

Day Thirty-Three: Timing is Best

Metabolism plays it's part well.

The human body has a history of starvation. Namely, primeval humans had to work for their foods, so the body eventually became equipped to difficult labor, coupled with a constant hunger for food. After all, when you don't know when your next meal is, your body is bound to start giving you signs.

However, these days there is hardly any work involved in feeding your body. Minimal work is needed to earn the money to buy food, and even for people who don't earn enough, there are volunteer and charity organizations to distribute food equally among all people of the population. Essentially, in most of the domesticated world, the hunger problem has been resolved.

However, there are still people who don't have regular eating schedules. People who are often busy, waking up at the brink of dawn and going to sleep late, haphazardly snatching naps throughout the day while working all night long, having no sleep for days on time -- these unnatural patterns can cause distress to the circadian rhythm of the natural body.

It's best to leave nature to do its own part, but when there is so little that you can possibly do in order fix up your life, the sad truth is that your metabolism is what pays. You may remember this from high school biology -- the way the body takes in nutrients and turns it into energy. This is where all of those calories you had consumed throughout the day go to do their work and show off how important they really are. This is where you find the strength to stay awake and basically perform all of the functions necessary for life.

So, what about people who don't have regular diet schedules? The best course of action is to develop a plan where you can have regular meals around 3-4 hour intervals. Otherwise, your body naturally sets itself in "starvation mode," essentially messing up your metabolic rates. The way the body processes energy is that the more it intakes, the more it outputs. When there is more regular meals, then it's able to function at its highest capability. On the other hand, feeding your body too much at a time is like stuffing a funnel with a thick, viscous liquid. Eventually, the opening jams and nothing comes out. 

Anyway, there's a lot of different ways to approach this issue. One way I've found to my liking is the "French Diet." Dubbed a mystery by many dietitians, it's based on the idea that although the French eat many carbs and sugars, i.e. croissants, brioche, crepes, they are able to maintain a relatively healthy diet. The main idea that has been thus theorized is that they eat regular meals and they don't snack in between. This way, their metabolisms are able to function at their best and thus process the food as a healthy body should.

I apologize if these ideas came as random spurts, but I've been having these thoughts for a while. There's a trend going on among over-achieving high school students to skip lunch and I was wondering just how terribly this could mess up an entire day's diet. Skipping a meal sets your body to believing that food is scarce, and thus it tries to retain its fat. This is essentially starving yourself, even though it may not seem so at the time, but there is evidence that not eating throughout the day can impact your performance -- negatively. Nevertheless, the lunch issues is definitely a debate that should remain internal to high school students. 

Breakfast: Coffee, cereal
Lunch: Broccoli, peaches
Dinner: Yams, pumpkin, cucumber salad

Day Thirty-Two: First Day of High School

Most people don't get to experience too much on their first days. Sure, it's new and exciting, and there's so much going on at once that you can hardly tell left from right. Fortunately, my adrenaline was coursing enough throughout the hectic day that even given all of my apprehension, I managed to survive to tell the tale.

Then again, the typical start of freshman year doesn't include a protest that attracts the mayor of the city:

It was both a frightening and invigorating experience. To see the upperclassmen -- the same kids who will undoubtedly be hazing us in future weeks -- protesting and holding up their rights is kind of amazing. I especially love how it completely derails the school's typical atmosphere as a compliant school of nerds and geeks. There's so much more hidden underneath the surface, and this is only a scraping of what is yet to come.

Anyway, I'm falling with exhaustion, but hopefully that's only my nerves. There's still an entire year left, and I couldn't be more excited to see what it has in store.

Breakfast: Hard boiled egg
Dinner: Mushroom salad and baked fish
Snacks: Melons and longans

Day Thirty-One: Why Salads Cost So Much

It's got to be some sort of conspiracy. Somehow, stores like 7-11 and Wawa have been able to make a huge profit even though the items they sell -- often foods and other convenience goods -- are completely overpriced. Not even bringing in the pricing of wholesale clubs, their yogurts often fetch prices twice as high as normal supermarket prices. It's not uncommon to see bananas sell for a dollar, when a pound at any regular supermarket could cost less than 50 cents. Why are these stores able to survive in such an economy?

I think the answer's hidden underneath the layers of conception. There's no reason people would go to a gas store to buy food -- unless they were in a rush. Imagine, for a moment, that you're cruising along a highway. There's nice weather, nice sunlight, and you decide to take a look at your gas meter. Suddenly, your blood goes cold -- the little arrow is pointing strikingly near the ominous empty area. You desperately look up, hoping to find a cheap gas station nearby.

While you make your pit stop, you eye the little convenience store. You know that everything inside is bound to be overpriced, but you take a look at the refreshing soft drinks displayed in the window. The tempting bags of chips. The mouthwatering hotdogs and pizzas looking so succulent in the laminated posters. Your stomach begins to grumble...

Before you even know it, you're walking out of the store, food in tow, and ten dollars poorer than you were going in. Such is the power of convenience.

One especially notorious example is the salad. Even at fast food places, salads often fetch higher prices than their unhealthier counterparts -- burgers and fries. Trust me, I've been through this dilemma plenty of times before. For instance, McDonalds offers the McDouble at a nice and friendly $1 off their Dollar Menu. Meanwhile, the last time I checked, the cheapest salad that wasn't a side salad cost about $5 including tax. There's so much wrong about this picture, that I was bound to do some research.

The unfortunate truth is that, despite the general consensus that meat ought to cost more than vegetables and other plant-derived foods, the opposite holds true in today's market. Lower grade dairy and meat products such as cheese, hamburgers, and hotdogs, have been steadily decreasing in price over the years. Meanwhile, vegetables and fruits -- the very same foods that the federal government has been so promoting -- have only been increasing.

Although this chart may be a few years behind in the statistics, there is an obvious trend. The unhealthier foods -- butter, beer, sodas, and meats -- are far cheaper to mass produce than fresh vegetables and fresh fruits. Why so, however, when basic science calls that vegetables and fruits provide so many more nutrients for our bodies?

Our government, unfortunately, has a bad history tied into the food industry. The truth is, they have been subsidizing the meat and dairy industry far more than the fresh produce. Only in recent years has there been a boom for healthier eating, and even hardly casts a shadow on our growing health problems in America.

Have you ever heard of how corn is literally in everything? Ever since corn had begun to be mass-produced, everything the food industry has thrived on originated from that humble plant source. From high fructose corn syrup to the cheap feed for livestock and poultry, most of our government's fundings in the food department have been going towards making more and cheaper goods for the population. Goods that do not necessarily translate into healthier lifestyles.

I guess in a middle class world, the awful health rates is largely due to the decisions we make ourselves. However, don't you think there ought to be something done about the pricing of salad?

Breakfast: Hard boiled egg and Bagel
Lunch: California roll sushi
Dinner: Korean kimchi salad

Day Thirty: Asian Bakeries

I know there's a lot of different places to visit while you're in Korean Town, but you can't deny that Asian bakeries are a conception sent straight from heaven. The intoxicating smell of bread, butter, sugar, and all of that cakey goodness always comes rushing straight towards me.

It's more of a nostalgic feeling than anything else. I'm sure there's something coursing through my veins that sings angelic tunes whenever I push open the double doors to a Fayda or Sun and Mary. A crow of wonder that sounds as I enter Paris Baguette. A magical fanfare for the Chinese inside me when I meet face to face with a rack full of steaming, fresh red bean buns.

It's nothing like a boring western bakery. Even French patisseries have something to stand up to when they are compared to a typical Korean bakery at its busiest hour. The macarons, rolls, buns, and loaves of bread are no match for anyone with a weak heart.

Breakfast: Bagel with cream cheese
Lunch: Bean burrito and edamame
Dinner: Banchan and tofu seafood soup

Day Twenty-Nine: Freezing Fruits

Did you know that flash freezing fruits preserves most of their nutrients? You can actually retain most of the health of fruits and vegetables by freezing them properly, plus you get the benefit of being able to access all of those delicious fruits even when they're out of season!

Lately I've been on a crusade to freeze all of the figs growing outside. Did you know that fig trees actually have the best root systems for weather in hurricanes? My sister did a science project last year comparing the various root systems of trees in New Jersey, and she was especially interested in the reason our trees kept toppling over. Evidently, maples are really weak. Fig trees are the hardiest. Now just imagine that - a town full of figs trees. That would be enough fruit for everyone to pick off the trees.

Breakfast: jam and toast with a latte
Lunch: turkey sandwich
Dinner: fruit salad and rice

Day Twenty-Eight: When Situations are Tight

It's actually been a pet peeve of mine. Things not getting your way. Actually, in hindsight, I'm willing to bet that it's a pet peeve of everyone. I'm sure no one appreciates their efforts being wasted, especially when there's so much to be done all the time.

In case my explanation had been too vague, I was referring to my Bites and Blogs situation. I've been giving myself a lot of leeway lately, and trying to say that since it's an anti-fast-food campaign, it's perfectly fine to indulge every now and then. Unfortunately, this creates some pretty dramatic scenes for myself, and these don't usually play out very well.

For instance, today I was in a situation where dinner's only option was pizza. It was either eat the cheesy dough or skip a meal. Since I really didn't want this entire campaign getting out of hand, I ate the pizza. And it was delicious, so no regrets there. It's just that I get apprehensive -- what if I'm ever faced in a situation where there really is no other choice? For instance, I'm lost in the city during my 100 days and there's only fast food restaurants everywhere I go? Or I only have enough money for a fast food restaurant, which happens to be the only option I have for lunch that day? Do I skip or do I take the food?

Yes, I'm making this far too big of a deal, but I'd like to analyze this situation more in the future. The best way out of a situation like that is to simply choose not to take the food and to eat beforehand. I've heard of vegans doing this whenever they go out to eat at a restaurant that's not known to cater vegan dishes, as most restaurants happen to be. Ignoring the reason why a vegan would be at a restaurant if they couldn't eat anything there, perhaps the best idea would be to simply ask the server to bring something more to their tastes. Then, of course, there's the awkward situation where you have no idea how rude you may be portraying yourself. It's a clever conundrum, indeed.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this. When situations are tight, do you suck things up, get your way, or take the middle road and prepare for the worst? If I know anything, though, it's that Murphy's Law is pretty reliable: If there's anything that can go wrong, it will go wrong.

Breakfast: Hard-boiled egg, Greek yogurt with cinnamon and nutmeg
Lunch: Turkey and lettuce wrap, grapefruits
Dinner: Pizza (It wasn't fast food, so I'm still on track.)

Day Twenty-Seven: Food Poisoning is Bad!

So we all know what food poisoning is. If not, here's a quick infographic to inform you about the facts and stats of these awful germs.

Recently, I've been reading a book called Microbe Hunters and it deals extensively with these germs and bacteria. To be honest, it was actually a summer reading selection -- one of two -- and I was required to read and write a report on it. It turned out to be more interesting than I'd originally presumed, especially since there was such a huge waiting list for it at practically every public library I checked. Anyway, that got me thinking about how there's a lot of things about life in general that we take for granted.

For instance, don't you hate when there's an ice pack in your lunch box? You don't have an ice pack? Not too many people do. I'm not going to give a fake number, like a lot of publicists enjoy doing to market their blogs/books/articles. The fact is, though, ice packs are gross and sticky. And they only get worse when you stick them in a warm lunchbag for hours, let them thaw, and then open them up. All the moisture may have kept your food cold, but it's a pain to smell the stench wafting up every time you open your bag.

I remember one time when I was in elementary school, back when we still used "lunch crates." These were big recycling boxes that we would fill up with our lunch bags. There were always two "lunch crate monitors" who would literally have to bring all of the lunch bags downstairs to the cafeteria, because our classroom was upstairs that year. Anyway, one day I remember removing my lunch bag, starving for my lunch, and noticing an odd smell. And when we checked the rest of the lunch bags, it was discovered that smell was originating from a particular lunch bag. Which happened to be soaked. In spilled ice pack gel. 

And ever since then I've had this odd repulsion towards ice packs. 

Anyway, ice packs are still a necessity of life. It's they who keep your food cool enough to not succumb to food poisoning. But couldn't they make them smell nicer?

Breakfast: Greek yogurt, egg
Lunch: Granola and turkey wrap
Dinner: Salad and rice
Snacks: Frozen cantaloupe

Day Twenty-Six: When Not to Be Sweet

So I've lately fallen heads over heels for Nectresse. It's one of those new organic, natural sweetners and the best part is that it's calorie free! I mean, that is if you're on a diet -- I personally just love how its flavor is so much sweeter than sugar and yet it has this strange sort of satisfactory flavor. When I sprinkle some into my morning coffee, I don't actually get a sugar high like I do over cream and sugar. Instead, I just feel this warm pulsing inside, telling me that this is really good.

I'm really hoping that's just me. Anyway, the only downside I've been able to find about this sweetner is the expense. It's made from the concentration of monk fruit, which is a fruit I've only been able to find dried and even that's only in obscure herbal medicine houses in Chinatown. It's basically like a melon, but it's supersweet and delicious. My family, all native to Fuzhou, has this tradition of boiling it into a soup and then drinking it whenever they're sick. That's something funny about China. Here in America, we have soups, bisques, stews, you name it. In China, though, soups are usually for medical purposes. They have clean-colon soup, low-sodium soup, soups that supposedly help ail your progression through a cold, etc. And the combinations they put in are really exotic, from starfruit and pig's feet to monkfruit and wolfberry. You don't eat the ingredients, either. Per tradition, the juices sort of seep into the boiling water and that's where all the magic happens.

I'm not really one to criticize, though, so I'll continue on my ode to sugars. There's so much variety in the world -- I'm sure everyone's fed up by now by all of the colored sugar packets. What do they mean anyway? I've gathered a pretty good understanding and although my list is far from comprehensive, here's what I know so far:

White Sugar -- This is the processed, refined sugars you usually see. It's commonly used in baking it's the white packet
Brown Sugar -- This is the less processed version of white sugar. It's kind of sticky, and goes great with oatmeal!
Raw Sugar, aka Sugar in the Raw -- If it's available, it's in the brown packets. It's the completely non-processed sugar and the best for organic foodies.
Molasses -- This is a bit different from regular sugar. It's like honey in thickness, but it's usually made from sugarcane.
Corn Syrup -- Obviously, this comes from the sugars of sweet corn. It's usually best in moderation.
High Fructose Corn Syrup -- Worse than regular corn syrup, but it's often used in manufacturing
Saccharin, aka Sweet n Low -- Research has shown that this low-calorie chemical sweetener may be a cancer-causing carcinogen. Proceed with caution.
Sucrose, aka Splenda -- Contrary to popular belief, Splenda actually contains calories. What's more, it may trigger responses from the body to consume more, which could be detrimental in the long run.
Aspartame, aka Equal -- This is also a nasty carcinogen, with side affects including nausea and stomachaches. Avoid this sweetener.
Sugar alcohols -- Including xylitol and sorbitol, these are in liquid form and found in manufactured products. They're usually safe to consume.
Honey -- This is the digested nectar and foodstuff of bees. It's also really healthy and unprocessed.
Agave Nectar -- Recently, its low calorie count has been noted in the media. It's also a natural sugar.
Stevia -- Coming from the stevia plant, it's a zero-calorie sweetner.
Nectresse -- Comes from the monk fruit and it's also zero-calorie.

As for my's certainly been interesting. I'm actually looking forward to seeing my new high school this coming week. I hope your first days back are smooth, too!

Breakfast: Greek yogurt and hard boiled egg
Lunch: Turkey lettuce wrap
Dinner: Mango salad
Snacks: Frozen figs, saltine crackers and swiss cheese

Day Twenty-Five: A Playdate with Nature

So I had always been somewhat ashamed of that fact that I lived by the Jersey Shore and yet I never visited the shoreline in the summer. There was the exception of last summer, when I had been frequenting visits to the beach as part of a summer camp, but otherwise we never voluntarily went fishing, LBI (Long Beach Island, a popular vacation spot around here), crabbing, motorboating, or anything of the sort. For instance, we're one of the only families in our area who still haven't gone fishing, not that there would be any need for instructors, since pretty much everyone around here has grown up beside the shoreline.

My parents figured a little culturing couldn't do us any harm. I wasn't sure what happened next, but I was soon on the Keyport Promenade, watching an elderly couple fling over some crabbing wire cages and another couple setting off into the distance on their high speed motorboats (I can only hope those were environmentally sound, especially since the Jersey  Shore is such a vulnerable area for pollution).

Actually, there is a lot of things I found out that I don't know about the Jersey Shore. One thing, for instance, is our severe lack of improvement following Superstorm Sandy. The towns along the coast have been so optimistic about the recent recovery that I completely forgot about those few communities without the budget for repairs. I was seeing broken homes, broken families, broken boats and yet feeling a strange sort of optimism because these same people figured it would be a good idea to spend their Labor Day out on the coast as opposed to inside their homes. That's the thing about Jersey, we don't let small things get to us. We take everything like the ocean -- with strength, determination, and a singular focus.

So, my Labor Day was pretty relaxing. Afterwards, we went to the Hudson Trail for about two hours running and walking. My mom didn't feel like driving over with our bikes, so my brother was pretty upset the entire way through. At any rate, there was great wildlife -- some deer, a turtle, and adorable baby bunnies. The communities around here are so lax, so warm, and so adorable. It seems like the perfect place to retire -- by the shore, where the seagulls never stop soaring.

Breakfast: Oatmeal, hard boiled egg
Lunch: BLT wrap on whole wheat (we went to Cheeburger Cheeburger, but luckily there was something that didn't count against me as "fast food")
Dinner: Salad, poached bass, grilled chicken
Snack: Frozen banana pops!

Day Twenty-Four: Yet Another Quickie

I seriously have to get better at this daily blogging business. Look at me, it's almost midnight and I'm still not able to cram in even a small paragraph. We're biking the Hudson Trail tomorrow as part of our Labor Day activities for this year, though, so I'm pretty excited! Maybe I'll finally get those pictures I promised uploaded!

Breakfast: Cantaloupe, coffee, and a hardboiled egg
Lunch: Berries and yogurt
Dinner: Pickled vegetables and salad
Snack: Frozen figs

Day Twenty-Three: Quickies and Hopeful

This is going to be another really quick post. It's about time to go to bed and my parents have set this system in our house where the Internet shuts down around 11PM to encourage us to go to sleep earlier. Of course, this works, but it certainly also causes huge complications on days like this when all I've been doing all day is working and night is the only time I get to have to myself. At any rate, school starts for us next week and I've gotten my schedule already, so I'm excited!

On the negatory side, I have also forgotten to finish my summer assignments, which just means another thing to cram in right before the fall term. I'm hoping they don't count these packets of math, biology, and reading too much in our final grades, but with all summer to work on it (excepting students like me who are too busy pursuing more interesting and important interests...) you can never be sure. I promise to update soon!

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with cinnamon, Soft boiled egg
Lunch: Salad and peaches
Dinner: Fruit salad, rice
Snacks: Melons and peaches

Day Twenty-Two: Healthy Eating vs. Eating Healthy

I'm sure you've all heard by now of the numerous controversies surrounding weight loss. There's people advocating crash diets, with their incredibly low calorie counts, simple meal plans, and reliability. There's the calorie management plans, which allow you to eat whatever you want, but in moderation. There's also the orthorexic approach where you eat only certain foods for a certain number of days until you lose the desired amount of weight.

The immediate problem with all of these, as I've said plenty of times before, is how they approach the food problem. Rather than solve the weight issue separately from the food issue, they implant a permanent stigma in the mind that food=bad. This is counterproductive and can lead to a future of eating disorders. Unfortunately, for the majority of women and even some men, this is already their lifestyle. 

There is much to be learned about our bodies, but toying with it in such a manner is definitely not a good idea. Bad relationships with something so crucial to our well-being can lead to eating disorders, which only exemplify the problem. 

There's even been a professor named Mark Haub, who decided to lose weight on a diet where he ate mainly Hostess Products. You may have heard of it.

Although there were no conclusions from his study (or, at least, no absolute conclusive theories), there isn't much to remark on it other than to show that no matter how you approach it, weight loss is cutting down what you eat. You may eat all of the healthy foods you want, but that doesn't mean you're not overeating.

Breakfast: Greek yogurt and banana
Lunch: Salad and turkey
Dinner: White rice and salad with bass
Snacks: Figs!

Day Twenty-One: High School Bragging Rights

I hope I'm not the only one who notices that high schools often brag about themselves ceaselessly in an attempt to get more kids to attend their schools. This makes sense for private schools and prep schools such as Andover, Exeter, Lawrenceville, Deerfield, etc. who actually make money from students who attend their academies. Similarly, for day school and parochial schools, bragging about recent accomplishments whether in athletics, academics, or simply from the amount of scholarships available (since money is a very effective motivator), is a well-known and well-worn strategy for conjuring more students, and thus more income.

However, there's been a trend going on for public schools and magnet schools to brag about their worth. I understand that the better schools with better kids get more government benefits, especially when former President Bush passed the No Child Left Behind Act. However, the intense competition is the entire issue I'm against.

Schools have a economic benefit from being successful. They make more money from the government, which comes in the form of tax payers' money. They, in turn, can pay the staff more, purchase better equipment for the students, invest in better facilities, educate the teachers, etc. All of that is made possible by some convoluted laws that the government decided to institute quite a while ago.

And yet, all of this is only making things worse. We already have kids worrying about their college applications. I've heard elementary-age children complain that they have nothing yet to slap onto their college resumes -- as if any colleges would wish to look at elementary-school qualifications! (With the current trend of schooling, however, I wouldn't be overly surprised to find colleges adopting that as the norm in a few decades.) There is just so much more competition and it's making everyone antsy.

Growing up in a Chinese family, I can advocate that tiger parenting does produce better children in the end. By teaching your kids that the world is hard, and only the best survive, they will learn from the start to fend for themselves. That's pretty much how my own life was lived. I was taught to be a maverick, to be independent and take my own lead, and to not listen to what other people told me (so long as it was in the negative sense.) My parents did manage to raise me pretty well, which is why I can send off these nasty vibes to the competition of schools.

In my state of New Jersey, there is an annual report that grades the public schools in the state by qualifications. Matriculation rates, student-teacher ratios, satisfaction, and standardized test scores all determine which schools emerge at the top. My school has routinely been nominated to a Blue Ribbon School (a high-ranked school often receives rewards, which translate to benefits later on.) They never fail to remind us of this fact at every school function we attend. It drives me insane.

Why can't people learn to just let things pass? So long as teachers are dedicated and students are learning, not everything should depend on rankings and scores. Schools are a place for learning, and each child should have the right to pick their school based on the quality of education they will receive, not the amount of awards the school has garnered over the years.

Breakfast: Banana, Toast, Hardboiled egg
Lunch: Salad and Greek yogurt with cinammon
Dinner: White rice, salad, grilled chicken
Snack: Figs

Observations: I noticed that I haven't been too detailed about the stuff I eat lately. That's because I enjoy privacy. These are about as vague as I could make my meal plans sound without totally going out and saying "I had food for breakfast, food for lunch, and food for dinner. Oh, and more food for snack." Now that I think of it, that does sound a bit suspicious. Anyway, all I have to say is that I'm onto my twenty-first day without fast food, junk food, and the like.

The main problem I've been encountering is the distinction between junk and good food. If ice cream is sugar-free and non-fat, is it still junk? You would think so, but what if its nutrients rival that of yogurt, which also has the added disadvantage of a higher calorie count? Then there's the fact that granola bars have loads of sugar yet everyone advocates them as health food.

Basically, I'm making my own intuitive decisions about this. Now that convenience is gone, eating intuitively has been quite a challenge. Anyway, compared to the rest of my family, I now find that there's really a big difference between fast food eaters and healthy eaters. There's a reason they call it fast food. These days, I have to spend an uncanny amount of time preparing meals and it's really eating at me. Well, there's still about seventy-nine days to go!

Day Twenty: Compulsive Eating

I've had some thought about the reasons why people tend to overeat. Often it's when you're around other people and you feel socially inadequate if you limit your intake of food. In other cases, however, it may be when you're alone and you simply can't handle how it feels to be totally lonely and bored. And the food's there in the kitchen. Waiting. For. You. To. Eat. It.

It's annoying and unless you have the will power to stop yourself from reaching for those foods, it's an awful way to gain weight. Especially at night, when you're totally tired out and you're body's a wreck from an entire day of stress, you tend to lose control of yourself, spinning off on tangents and even beginning to wonder whether you trust your judgement. Believe me, it's happened to me before. That's why I feel like compulsive eating is such a nuisance.

I imagine it not as a mental disorder, but as a tiny little gnome resting in the nape of your neck, pulling it towards food. "There's something to eat, go grab it!" it cries. But do you have the strength to say no?

Breakfast: Peanut butter on toast
Lunch: Tuna sandwich and salad
Dinner: Salad, white rice, and perch
Snack: Nutrigrain bar

Day Nineteen: Poverty and Sustainability

So I was checking out some of the food my mom had bought from the grocery store yesterday this morning, trying to figure out what to eat for breakfast. As I was trying to plan out the day's menu, my mind slipped a bit and I began fingering the door to the refrigerator, already ravenous for something to bite down on. Eventually, I managed to open it and stood there, my agape, staring at the giant messed up hole in the wall that was our family's refrigerator. (As a side note, I do not recommend trying this at home. Standing in front of a refrigerator wastes precious energy, and everyone knows that energy waste leads to carbon dioxide production which leads to global warming. No kidding. So, kids, make sure you stay green and pick your poison before you open the fridge!)

What startled me wasn't a lack of food -- in fact, it was quite the opposite. I just couldn't wrap my head around was how much food my mother had managed to stuff in our fridge -- yet again. My family has this weird obsession with making sure that our kitchen constantly has food. I mean, it's great that we're so able to bask in the comfort of a first world life, but I always felt like this was overdoing it just a little. For instance, why do we really need to have all of this constant streaming of spending, taking, getting, receiving, and just about every other synonym that I can't think of while my brain is dead tired?

In Chinese culture, there is a saying that says that having leftovers promises wealth. In ancient China, in fact, obesity was seen as a virtue, and a trait only obtainable to the truly rich. This makes sense, because while wealth was much coveted, only a select few could obtain it. In the old days, the middle class was essentially nonexistent. You were either rich and waited on by multitudes of servants, or you were poor and breaking your back working on a farm.

It's always been the poor farmers who burned their calories throughout the day, were malnourished on a diet of grains and whatever cheap foods they managed to scrap up to scrape past the day, and who lived more plainly. The rich, on the other hand, could afford lavish foods that fattened up their sedentary bodies, expensive makeup to dress their voluptuous curves, and fancy clothing to hide it all from the views of the public.

Yet, in today's culture we can see that the complete opposite is now true. Society admires women, especially, who fit the description for the working class of an earlier time. Tan, slim, muscular bodies are admired while fat, pale, and flimsy bodies are chagrined. There's reasoning to stand behind this, because humans are naturally built to be hunter-gatherers (the entire basis of the paleo diet) but generally speaking, this shows just how subjective humans are to the ways of the days.

Going back to my initial reaction following the opening of my fridge, I began to wonder why I was so upset. There was quite literally no end to my choices for foods to consume within the next hour or so. My fridge, pantry, and counter were filled with options that only a rich family would have been able to afford at an earlier time period. It's really first-world-problems as food for thought.

Would a poor child be angry that their parents bought too much food?
Would a poor child have trouble deciding what to make for breakfast?
Would a poor child even have the privilege to be annoyed at the overstuffing of their fridge?
Would a poor child even have a fridge?

As these thoughts slowly sank into my mind, I realized how much of a spoiled, bratty, snobbish, middle-class life I've been living. I've never had to suffer from disease, starvation, or poverty. I've never suffered the loss of a home, of a family, of everything and anything that had ever mattered to me. Most importantly, I never had to feel the pain that so many lives before and after me have felt and have yet to feel.

And so, I closed the refrigerator door after an absurd amount of energy had been wasted, realizing I still didn't know what to eat for breakfast yet. I settled on finishing a cup of yogurt we'd bought some time ago.

Breakfast: Yogurt with cinnamon, banana
Lunch: Egg salad sandwich
Dinner: White rice, spare ribs, homegrown tomatoes in a garden salad
Snacks: Ube mousse, dinosaur egg plums

Day Eighteen: Summer Reading

I haven't been focusing too much on the summer homework I was assigned almost three months ago. Blame it on summer camp, hanging out with friends, procrastination, vacation, or any other combination of follies, but I'd like to try associating it with the natural circadian rhythm of the human body. As hunter gatherers, summer was ripe time for slacking off. There was plenty of food, water, shelter, and nice weather to boot. Ask any animal prancing around through the grass to name a better season.

Speaking of summer reading, I decided to start this week. I'e actually managed to finish the assignments for my class and began checking out recommended titles for the upperclassmen. I should've known from the start that looking on the regular English book list as opposed to the AP list would garner up more casual reads. Who knows, maybe it was my slacker mind trying to get out of mental exertion. At any rate, some great titles I've been reading are Freakonomics, Water for Elephants, The Night Circus, The Handmaid's Tale, and Girl in Translation. I actually picked up a trend going on at my school. Apparently the higher you go in your English ability per se, the more racy and mature the themes get. If you've ever read The Handmaid's Tale, you know what I'm talking about.

The one topic I've been obsessing over lately is freakonomics. The book claims that it's a new breed of economics, focusing ob the causations and correlations of everyday events and problems such as crime and corruption. As Levitt, one of the authors, had claimed at one point, reading it is less like reading one of those documentary novels detailing the history of cod, the misuse of punctuation, or the real cause of global warming and more about a delve into the wonders of the universe. Anyway, I just find it a hilarious and thrilling read about subjects I've always been intrinsically curious but never bothered to explore.

Breakfast: Whole grain cereal with milk, soft boiled egg, banana, black coffee
Lunch: Korean taco
Dinner: White rice and garden salad
Snack: Dragon fruit and dinosaur egg plum

Day Seventeen: Why Pay for Diet Plans?

Flashing signs. Annoying ads that refuse to be blocked. Random blinking notifications on the sidebars of your favorite website. We all know (hopefully, but unfortunately), about the spam that bombards us every day of our lives. It's there, breeding and growing ever larger with each new member of the spamming family multiplying its influence. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but I hate when companies think that annoying notices to buy their product or try out a diet diet that cuts down belly flab will get you to click on their link. Years of SEO and marketing research have already proven that such advertising strategies as Google Adsense don't make as much profit as they seem. Sure, they do generate a fair amount of money for the company, but on the large scale it's Google and the other ad providers who are making more money than the actual person trying to sell their product.

For instance, earlier I was trying to log into my Facebook account and on the sidebar of a Flash gaming website, I noticed something flashing that looked pretty similar to the notification bar of my Facebook account. Being on a website that is usually bombarded with messages from sponsors, I should've immediately known that this was some ad, and that my friends were not actually trying to contact me in vain. But, naturally, I was too gullible to discriminate this from the truth and thus clicked on the link, which prompted me to some website advertising a new shake that would help women lose weight as well as download viruses onto their computer. It was out of sheer luck that my brother had already installed an anti-virus software onto my computer. I'm far too n00bish in terms of technology to know when those messages are fake.

Speaking of which, I've been saying a lot about those advertisements that promise quick weight loss plans. Maybe it's targeted towards fiances who wish to fit into a bridal gown or towards girls who need to look good for an upcoming screening event. Whatever the reason, there are always companies trying to promise quick weight loss plans. Having seen these for myself, they all seem to be a bunch of junk. Not to say that there aren't some e-books with reliable plans, but the main thing comes down to how you eat and how you handle your lifestyle. If you're healthy and balance your intake of food with your daily exercise, you'll be healthy and not overweight to begin with.

Then there's the argument that some people have naturally occurring fast metabolisms. Unfortunately, this is true and not all people are blessed with the ability to maintain a healthy weight low enough for the standards of today's society. Thus, the weight-loss plans were born.

Most of the fast ones are really, in respect, crash-and-burn diets. They rely on extremely low calories, the minimum needed to survive, and promise up to 10 lbs lost in a week or less. Naturally, this is impossible to sustain, as going back to a regular diet is nearly impossible unless you're fine with gaining back all of the weight you had lost in the first place. With countless celebrities endorsing these diets, e.g. Beyonce and the lemon juice cleanse, there's bound to be followers. And thus, an industry is born.

I personally checked out one called the Military Diet, or the 3-Day Diet. It's basically a food regime that's cheap, easy-to-prepare, and most importantly promise quick results. After looking over the health aspect, which is surprisingly well balanced, I noticed an important aspect of this diet. It relies on calorie counting more than anything. All of the substitutions, though they seem at first to have solid scientific backing, are really just excuses. The main point of the diet is to starve the body into burning fat, because the human body cannot burn fat and store fat at the same time. Overdo your intake of food? Fat stored. Starving your body of nutrients? Fat loss.

But although weight loss is assured by such programs, the majority of the loss weight is in water weight. These pounds are literally the weight of the food digesting in your body, so ridding yourself of that does take a considerable amount off your stomach. To say the least, trust your gut. If a diet's too good to be true, it probably is. And besides, starving yourself is never a good idea, unless undernourishment is your goal.

Breakfast: Peanut butter on whole wheat toast and grapefruit
Lunch: Grilled chicken, seaweed salad, and tea egg (I was invited to a Chinese potluck today and the food was absolutely delicious! I'm actually forgetting about fast food these days, preferring to eat more natural things.)
Dinner: Grilled chicken salad

Day Sixteen: How Buffets Work

So you start off walking into this nice looking restaurant with flashy signs that advertise "All-You-Can-Eat!" or the newer trend "All-You-Care-to-Eat!" You look around, and a friendly waiter asks for the number in your party. Then you're finally guided to your seats, where you will be reporting for the next hour or so. At long last, the waiters lets you free and you are able to wander as you please, picking out your favorite pieces from various prepared dishes in the enormous room of food. It's basically a free for all, but with lots of food and lots of energy.

At first glance, you would wonder how a buffet would mange to make money from this. What about all of the food waste going on? Even with all of the signs put warning customers not to take more than they can eat, there's always people trying to stuff their faces and get their money's worth.

On the flip side, how are customers so easily tricked into these advertisements that convince them to buy food that is obviously low quality costs the restaurants next to nothing, and is probably terrible for there health?

It seems as though the entire business based on a conundrum, just like our society as a whole. If everyone was acting rationally, then no one would have to succumb to such obvious ripoffs. Unfortunately, we are prone to using our instincts as opposed to our rationality when making such decisions and it is often difficult to tell when to trust our inner voices and when to disregard them.

Breakfast: egg white omelet
Lunch: turkey salad
Dinner: fruit salad, chicken

Day Fifteen: Frantic Rantings

It's been a hectic day, from the MCCSC summer camp (redundant, I know) closing ceremony to all of the rounding up of the kids to the rest of the day. Let's just say ivve had a heck of a week and with schedules coming out today, it only makes it more apparent how soon I'll have to start focusing again. At any rate, there's no need to bore you yet with the happenings of the day, so cheerio!

Breakfast: pumpkin bun and soft boiled egg
Lunch: figs, peaches, hummus chips
Dinner: Hawaiian chicken wrap

Day Fourteen: I'm Bad at Origami

Never would I have admitted it, but I had always been under the assumption that my love for math translated to an expertise in origami. Seriously, what could be better than having a supremacy in building these shapes? For one thing, origami is literally nothing more than a bunch of geometric shapes morphing into other geometric shapes. It's all Euclidean, guys!

But today, one of the teachers -- the crafts teacher at our summer camp -- was trying to teach a class of 11-15-year-olds how to fold these complicated origami structures, similar to the one I have above. It's technically some sort of polyhedra, as one of the TAs was so kind to inform me, but as of yet I still have no idea which one exactly. Anyway, it appears to be complicated, but it's actually constructed from a bunch of smaller strips of paper folded and tucked together in such a way as to form a puzzle. Like a puzzle globe, you piece it together to form the final product.

Then there's me. I was literally stuck with a poor camper for about an hour, fiddling with the paper strips until I realized some of them had been folded wrong. Then I pretty much flailed my way trial and error through the making of the polyhedra. At the end, my origami resembled something more like this:

So it came to be known that my powers of deduction are not near the level I had previously assumed them to be. I guess it's all in a day's work, though.

Breakfast: Pumpkin bun, Greek yogurt, Soft-boiled egg
Lunch: Turkey sandwich
Dinner: Fruit salad, white rice, chicken
Snacks: Wheat thins, melons, grapes, figs 

Day Thirteen: Baby Elephants

Remember how I was talking about how I'm assisting in a Chinese school camp this week? The class I'm TAing -- arts -- has the most adorable and hilarious teacher, in my opinion. She literally bombards the kids with the most random art projects, but even though they're all weird and quirky (detergent bottle creatures, tin can robots, cardboard elephants, tiles with hamburgers, coffee bean dinosaur bones, puzzle hearts, etc.) they're definitely creative. In fact, I have a feeling some other teachers have been sneaking into our classroom just to take a look at the students' projects, out of envy for our supreme artistic skills.

Anyway, I was just remembering an incident that occurred in our classroom a few days ago. No, no one got hurt and no, none of the kids were upset. It's just too funny to pass up. Our class was working on building cardboard elephants and painting them to look like the type of elephants ridden in India and Africa to carry water for tribal folks. We even had a little clothespin for each kids to decorate to make their own mini rider, which was adorable. The teacher wanted to entertain them, since this was the class with all of the 4- and 5-year-olds.

Thus, she began to describe a picture she'd seen on Google. She began by telling the class about how there was once a baby elephant and how it was eventually caught in the middle of a drought. Its mommy elephant didn't want to die, so it took the baby on a long walk through the desert to the watering hole. The baby was already very tired, so when it saw a pretty butterfly in the distance, it ran off. Now, there was a mommy nearby who was able to save her baby elephant and bring him to the watering hole. However, this baby ran away so far that the mommy was no longer able to find him, and had to continue without him, leaving him to die in a sandstorm. Moral of the story: Listen to your parents or else you'll die in a sandstorm.

Aside from classes, I found that our camp could have many slight improvements. For instance, they've been serving the kids McDonald's for lunch. Not to say that McDonald's McDoubles aren't totally balanced as a meal -- compared to French fries, they actually contain quite a few important vitamins and minerals -- but in terms of health and young children, I just felt strange feeding them this sort of...junk. To say the least, shouldn't young children, especially, be receiving high quality food from the administration?

They were content enough, though, so who am I to criticize?

Breakfast: Soft boiled egg, yogurt, banana
Lunch: Turkey sandwich, figs, Wheat Thins
Dinner: White rice, flounder, cucumber and tomatoes, shrimp
Snack: Figs, melons

Day Twelve: Fine Dining and Nooks and Crannies

Ever since my early childhood, fine dining has been a necessity of my culinary life. Chinese families love eating out, especially at places that serve odd Asian specialties such as shark's fin soup and duck tongues. My family was no exception, so I've had my share of the quirky Asian family reunions, highlighted by the visits from my favorite cousins and relatives.

Whenever there was a need for a banquet -- whether it was to celebrate a baby shower, a birthday, a marriage, a graduation, or anything else that our elders would deem worthy of celebration -- a banquet hall was obviously needed. Lucky for my family, most of our relations resided in the New York City area, so Chinatown and Flushing were never short of business. From halls owned by Fujianese families to fancy wine halls that catered to more delicate tastes, I've seen my fair share of the range of fine dining that exists for Asian preferences.

Although banquet nights were often long and tiring, involving long bouts of boredom punctuated by the occasional switching of the loud Chinese folk song blaring from the speakers, I'll never forget my experiences in them. They normally begin with a checking-in, where families sign their names and pick up corsages or some other courtesy of the host to identify themselves as party guests. Then, once invitations have been collected, we are shown to our seats and we meet up with the host, who promptly gives us a courteous and well-mannered introduction to some other obscure relatives who have also conveniently been invited to the same social event. After this, the adults performed some sort of ritual largely ignored by the younger generations, who would then sit tight and pretend to have something important to do while watching the other tables fill up

Day Eleven: Teacher's Assistant

This week is going to be pretty interesting. Earlier, I had signed up for my local Chinese school's summer camp as a teacher's assistant for the arts class. It's strange, because rather than having Chinese language and culture classes, our local summer camp is more like a daytime babysitting service, with dancing, arts, crafts (don't ask me why they don't make it into a single class), fun and games, and more. The best part is probably the constant stream of kids and energy flooding the halls every day. The downside is the constant stream of kids and energy flooding the halls every day -- but I love it either way.

Our arts class is pretty much like Camp Invention, if you've ever been to it. We basically give the kids recyclable material along with an assignment to design and create something out of it. In due time, they present their works of art and we display them for all to see. It's a pretty fun routine and I have to admit I love watching the kids make the most adorable creations out of straws and foam board. For some unknown reason, the crafts class is basically painting rocks -- which they're planning to do for a few classes. So, in other words, arts does crafts and crafts does art.

Most of the materials we use are recyclable, so they're basically junk materials. When you think about it, upcycling trash is actually a pretty good way to find a use for them, especially when those pieces of trash would have gone unappreciated. Making funky animals out of them, on the other hands, stands to judgement. Perhaps you can use the excuse that appreciating the junk right before disposing of it is a pretty solid method of using it. It's like what a friend of mine once told me, using paper for drawing doesn't waste paper -- it prevents it from being turned into a paper airplane. Since the material's going to be used anyway, might as well use it for a good purpose as opposed to subjecting it to destiny.

Did I mention how interesting my job's turned out to be? Eight hours a day of taping bottle caps onto tin cans for kids can prove to be more exhilarating than it seems at first -- those bottle caps are really difficult to maneuver!

Breakfast: Yogurt, Melons
Lunch: Turkey sandwich
Dinner: White rice, grilled chicken, cucumbers and broccoli casserole
Snack: Pineapple, fig jam and almond butter on a seasoned bagel

Day Ten: Golfing in the Rain

Earlier today, we were out golfing. Yes, I understand that it was raining out in our area earlier and the sky was dark and cloudy, but for a mid-August evening it was actually quite enjoyable. The moist grass cast a pleasant smell to my nostrils (which sounds weird, but it's no weirder than the fact that the sweet smell of freshly cut grass is actually a chemical compound released by the plants as a distress signal). The clouds overhead were nice and smooth in their shape, more friendly than menacing, like butterscotch pudding.

I have a thing about butterscotch. For some reason, I've always associated it with the English, just like Scottish puppies, sweater vests, and blancmange. Maybe it's the Monty Python influence, but I have an innate love for Great Britain. Seriously, they're the ones who produce the best television shows -- substance for intellectuals, not like the junk that's force fed to us here in the United States. While the English are watching Dr.Who, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, and their other cultured television series, we're watching Real Housewives, Honey Boo Boo, and Jersey Shore. It's a bit upsetting, not to mention appalling, how we treat the denizens of one of the most influential nations in the world.

But getting back to the topic, my parents had signed my siblings and me up for some golfing lessons. Since we were never athletically inclined (I run everyday, along with my brother and sister, but that's about the extent of my family's exercise regimen), they decided that including a four-hour long golfing session every week would be beneficial to our health, not to mention give us an extra thing to talk about around our friends.

It's funny, because that's not how things are with a lot of Chinese parents. Most tiger parents either want you to do something to the point of perfection, or else they would shamelessly tell you how much you suck until you finally gave up of your own accord and subjected yourself to their demands, often involving long hours of practice punctuated by the odd Chinese curse. My parents just want us to "have fun." It's one of the things that makes them awesome.

Except, of course, when it doesn't. Like today, when the light drizzle and friendly clouds morphed into fire breathing tigers that sent whiplashes driving into the trajectories of your shots, sending the balls flying miles off course. Like days when you've walked for miles through the mud, your caddy and clubs coated in an unrelenting sheen of mud, your clothes damp with a mixture of rainwater and sweat, your stomach rumbling from lunch. Like times when you feel like screaming at the ball for not realizing that its path to the hole is the one thing keeping you out on the course when every sensible person has gone to seek shelter.

It's simple joys like these that the mass consumerism of the US has taken away from us. Rather than going out into the rain to play a round of golf with friends, all you ever see are people moping around their televisions, complaining about lacking a life. Maybe if they'd let their eyes wander off the flickering screens, their feet lead them out the door, their heads turn towards the sky, they might see what they've been missing.

Breakfast: Pumpkin bun, oatmeal
Lunch: Turkey sandwich, grapes
Dinner: Turkey wrap, salad
Snacks: Bananas, veggie straws

Day Nine: Variety is Key

I've heard of some people spreading around the idea that a diet of only raw foods -- veggies, nuts, fruits -- is the key to health. Apparently it's based on the idea that our primeval selves did not cook food. Nor do animals, in fact. Thus, it only makes sense that the healthiest food for our bodies would be in their raw states, chock full of vitamins and minerals without the drainage that cooking causes.

However, as much as we love to worship the health benefits of fruit-based diets, it stands that fruits are chock full of sugar. Sure, natural sugars are better than the loaded refined and processed sugars that go into almost every packaged product you can buy, but people preaching having half a cantaloupe as a snack don't really know much about moderation and variety -- which are really the main keys to a healthy diet. I think I'm sounding a bit too preachy myself, but I hate watching people brag about how they eat only a single food and how healthy their bodies are as a result. The cabbage soup diet, the peanut butter diet, the banana and milk diet -- they're all fads that promise weight loss, but only in water weight. For long term health benefit, it's evident that more than a single food is necessary.

Not that I don't promote raw foodism. I personally actually prefer that to the paleo diets that many people enjoy raving about, simply because of how natural the foods are. Unlike most other people, my taste buds are abnormally sensitive, so eating plain raw salad minus the dressing has never been a real issue to me. If you think about it, there's a reason why carrots are like candy to rabbits. Try it out sometime, after you've cleansed your palate of that bread, butter, cookies, or whatever sugary carbs you happen to have in there. Carrots, lettuce, celery -- they're all full of sugars after all!

Anyway, the only reason I can vouch for this is because I actually underwent about two weeks of this raw foodism myself, and I can honestly say that I never felt more energized or ready to take on the world. I wasn't ever hungry because eating vegetables and fruits fills you up with water more than anything, and I was never dehydrated. Of course, having a two week stint like that is hardly evidence enough to promise that a raw lifestyle is ideal, but judging by all of the happy faces of the raw foodist community, it seems as though such a diet may be possible for our human bodies to handle after all!

But that's not what the main point is. The diet of a raw foodist seems a bit limited at first, especially since almost all carbs are cut out (with the exception of easily digestible oats and other grains). However, just take a look at the Google Images search results when you type in "raw food recipes." I promise you nothing less than a colorful rainbow utopia of health and wellness! It's practically a hipster's dream!

By adding natural sugars from dates and raisins, you can make a variety of creative dishes from raw foods. For instance, using walnuts, dates, and cocoa powder, you can make a deliciously fudgy cupcake that practically resembles a regular chocolate fudge cake! Here's a convenient recipe for you daredevils out there:

But with anything, variety in nutrients is important. The difference between raw food diets and fruit-based diets is the subtle (not really...) wording. One promotes a broad category of foods with various proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and minerals to fill up and healthify a body. The other promotes a slim category of foods with barely enough nutrients to sustain oneself healthily for very long.

On that note, I had a very varied day today. My dad had been invited to his coworker's house to eat, and I managed to keep myself under control even (or especially) in the presence of company.

Breakfast: Egg white omelet, pumpkin bun
Lunch: Celery, cucumbers, carrot sticks, grapes, melons, steamed Turkish rice
Dinner: White rice, kidney beans, lettuce, pickled cucumbers, sour cream
Snacks: Figs (our tree is finally making fruit!), melons

Day Eight: Fake Labels

I get so fed up with labels sometimes, and the people who obsess over them. Ever since the Nutrition Facts were required on food products in the late 20th century, people have been overly keen to check up on their "calorie counts" or their "sodium intake," with some fanatics counting down to the very calorie to find out where they stand in their dietary needs. In fact, research has shown that although restricting daily caloric intake may be the best way to lose weight in the long run, the fact remains that healthy foods are always better than those fake, chemical-filled "health foods" that promise lower calories than conventional food items.

Especially since we have discovered how aspartame, sucrose, and other fake sugar alcohols have adverse effects on the human body, a lot of dietitians have been pointing their thumbs down at eating such foods. They contain artificial chemicals, which are never a good sign. Especially since I have been trying to promote a junk-food free lifestyle, it seems to be causing more negative than positive effects, this obsession with "light" and "fat-free" food. In fact, fat-free foods may actually cause weight gain, since the fats are what tell your body that there is food to burn. In the meantime, high-carb diets can spike your blood sugar, since what most people eat to fill up their daily carb limits are simple carbs that are essentially sugars, in the way the body processes them. They provide quick energy -- which is great for athletes, but not so great when all your body has to do with them is convert them to storage fat.

Anyway, I couldn't help but treat myself to a slice of Margherita pizza today. It's technically not fast food, and so I'm sliding on the border of my own personal goal, but I'll let one day slide. In the meantime, see you around!

Breakfast: Peas and Beans
Lunch: Margherita pizza
Dinner: Roasted papaya, figs, potatoes
Snacks: Cantaloupe, light ice cream (again, going against my own word...I'm definitely a hypocrite, and it's unfortunately so)

Day Seven: Manhattanite!

I love Manhattan. The exhilaration as you feel as the cars go rushing by on the streets, honking and expelling bouts of smoke into your face. The shouts and screams of families, tourists, couples, and city-goers trying to walk to their destination. The pedaling and recession of the bicycle wheels that greet you along the side of the road, with their colorful blurs as they rush away into the distance. The magnificent cityscape of towering skyscrapers that almost touch the heavens, their spindly antennae-like spires literally reaching for the clouds as their gleaming windows shine like newly polished brass. The adoring crowds that gather around street performers, cheering on random strangers who happen to have some free time on their hands and a need for a bit of cash. The little children rushing out of line from a sweetly tinkling ice cream truck as their parents furtively push bills into their wallets behind. The changing of the pedestrian crossing signals, ignored by many jaywalkers who seek convenience over laws and thrill over monotony. The tourists who carry maps, sitting on city benches, just wondering where, when, and why they are lounging around when the rest of the city is up and about. The delicious aromas wafting off the delicately perched lines of food vendors, their greasy paper hats like playful crowns dotting the crowds as they whip up glorious entrees from juicy hotdogs to spicy kebabs and fresh and tangy chicken gyros. The old Chinese man who sits on a park bench dropping bread crumbs in front of him to curious pigeons.

Need I say more? There's a reason I have this undying love for the city, and it has nothing to do with how I happen to change my mood very often. Despite being a suburban girl, I pretty much lived my life in Queens, with my grandparents. Because my siblings and I were born so close together, my parents had little time between our family, work, and the other adult business that they had to attend to at the time. Thus, when I was a toddler, the easy solution was to leave me with my grandparents for weeks at a time until their business was finished. If this seems rough, it's nothing compared to my baby brother, who lived with my aunt and grandparents in their apartment in Queens until he was about four-years-old and about to attend school. Just to illustrate how much of his early childhood had been spent in the city, he attended preschool at a nearby daycare in Flushing.

Nevertheless, even with all of the wonderful aspects of the Big Apple, their schools have not been hailed as the epitome of education. Though the private schools may be some of the best in the country, not all parents can afford to send their kids off to preppy schools that charge exorbitant tuition rates. To say the least, my parents were probably not willing to ditch their comfortable home in the suburbs either, especially without a good reason. My dad worked in the city, however, and many of my relatives resided around the Flushing area, so it became second-nature to associate New York City as our second home.

While my friends would go to China, Taiwan, or Japan to visit their relatives, I relished in the fact that our family reunions took place "right next door," in the city. Early on, I learned that this was a sort of anomaly, since most people -- as much as they loved Chinatown -- weren't frequent flyers to the area. It became a secret life for me, these outings to the big city, only dreamed of by my more suburban friends and neighbors.

That's why it shames me so much that I really don't know the city as well as I think. I've always told myself that there was so much I had in common with the average Manhattanite -- knowing how and where to get the best dollar slice, being able to block out the annoying racket on a subway, knowing how to ride a subway. Turns out, there's more to being a city-goer than I'd ever thought.

It's a bit late, though, and I'll post more about my adventures tomorrow. In the meantime, here's my menu for the day:

Breakfast: Red bean bun, melons
Lunch: Falafel sandwich from Sam's Falafel (not fast food, and pretty healthy!)
Dinner: Rice, steamed fish, longan, cauliflower
Snack: Cherries, blueberries, melon

Day Six: Going Places

Hey, so this is a really quick post right before we leave. My brother and I are going on a self-guided walking tour of Lower Manhattan tomorrow and I'm really excited! Even though I've practically been living in NYC for most of my life, I've never actually done an in-depth tour of the city on my own. Not that my brother doesn't count, but he's kind of the type of person who prefers to follow, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I'm looking forward to re-discovering some old highlights of the Big Apple and I'll keep you posted on my venturings!

On the flip side, my sister and I recently baked the most adorable little pretzel buddies! She was kind of bored and down from her recent appointment at the optometrist, and those new night lenses aren't helping after all. They are pretty awful to wear on the first nights, according to my sister, but they sure do have a nice bubbling effect while they're soaking in the cleaning solution!

The silence before the storm :)
Here's my little bunny before baking...

...and after :/


It's almost a dinosaur egg!

Too adorable to eat!

Anyway, I had a pretty good day today. Despite feeling a bit lethargic (I wonder if the "fast food fast" has anything to do with that?) I didn't run into any difficulties.

Breakfast: Greek yogurt, mangoes
Lunch: Turkey sandwich
Dinner: Rice, Steamed fish, cabbage
Snacks: Cherries, blueberries

Day Five: Craving are a Sign

Did you ever feel that serious craving for some specific food, but you can't seem to grasp exactly why? I'm not talking about that random need to eat chocolate chip cookies at 11PM or when you smell bacon and begin salivating. I'm talking about serious cravings, when your body begins to wrack and you get the shivers. If you know what I'm referring to, them I have good news for you. Those craving aren't a sign of mental illness after all! (Woohoo!)

According to Web MD, there's actually an explanation. So long as your cravings are not the "junk food addiction" sort as our poor friend in the photograph above, there might be health benefits to hailing to your body's demands. For instance, if you crave something salty, your body might be telling you it's missing minerals. Or if you get the need to eat some good, dark chocolate in the middle of the day, your body might need a refuel of antioxidants, which are present in dark chocolate.

Here are some good steps to take to curb those food cravings:

Your body is basically craving the magnesium and serotonin present in cocoa. By eating the least processed sort -- either cocoa powder or dark chocolate -- you can spare yourself those extra refined sugars and calories and still be set.

Try snacking on healthy foods rich in salts, such as seaweed, kelp powder, and celery. As a plus, stay away from table salt, which is too processed to satisfy anyway and will only get you hooked on and ready to eat more. Sea salt is a much better option for getting rid of that mineral deprivation.

Okay, if you are craving caffeine, you are definitely in a whole heap of trouble. Your body is addicted, and that's obviously not a good sign. What can you do about it? Try drinking decaffeinated green tea or coffee for the next few weeks. Hopefully, weaning yourself off the caffeine will actually end up doing your body more good.

According to all of the supporkers of the Atkins diet and those other "paleo diets," the reasons we crave carbs (donuts, bagels, muffin, oh my!) is because of their ability to spike our blood sugars and give us a quick boost of energy. Unfortunately, most of us don't need that extra boost. When the cravings come for "bad carbs" such as refined grains, stock up on whole grains and complex carbohydrates, which take longer to digest and thus keep you full longer. Remember, fueling those carby cravings will only make them stronger!

Anyway, I managed to control my cravings pretty well today. I found a frightening video on Youtube: It's called Fast Food Babies and it's about toddlers whose parents have raised them on a diet of fast food. It's scary to watch.

Breakfast: Greek yogurt and banana
Lunch: Pumpkin bun and vegetable chips with pico de gallo
Dinner: White rice, cauliflower in curry sauce, lamb
Snack: Carrot juice, pears, cantaloupe