Thursday, December 25, 2014


We are so behind schedule. We should be setting up camp somewhere in Winslow AZ by now, but we barely just left Laughlin and have just crossed over into Arizona. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Primm, NV

Just crossed the first state line on my Road trip. We stopped at Primm, Nevada to get gas, but I noticed it was mostly dark at Buffalo Bill's. That's my favorite casino at state line! I love that roller coaster! It was the only roller coaster I've ever been on that gave me butterflies in my tummy. I loved that they had a huge lounge non-gamblers could sit at for hours, waiting for their gambler friends. I read there for hours. Oh, I hope they are just renovating. 

Baker, CA

It's now 57 degrees in Baker according to the big thermometer. 

The 15

Living in LA, I don't get to see many stars. I'm lucky if I see 10. This is the first time in 6 months I've looked up in the sky and it's filled with stars. I can barely make out constellations. I see Orion, bright and clear, but everything else is lost in the sea of lights. 

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Three Layer Pork Palo

I've been learning how to cook these past few years. Before this, I mostly reheated frozen meals and made instant ramen. Last night, I tried to make Three Layer Pork Palo and I'm happy to report I was successful, for the most part. I could probably use a little less star anise next time, but it did come out edible and tasting like it was generally supposed to. Yay!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

"Business Cards"

My new "business cards" just arrived. I'm so excited. Now, it's time to design something a little more traditional. 

2nd Chance

My friend takes walks in the afternoon and she told me how sometimes she finds old scratchers. She'll take them home and enter the 2nd Chance drawings. 

Since she told me about them, I've been stopping by the scratcher vending machine at my local supermarket to see if any were left behind. Usually I'll find one or two, but I totally scored this last trip! 

Who knows. I might win some free money this time. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wildfires to Wildflowers

My favorite campsite is located just outside of Yosemite in the Stanislaus National Forest. Last year the Rim Fire, California's third largest fire, burned over 250,000 acres around the area. The trees are still pretty brown and crispy, but the forest is definitely starting to recover. Wildflowers were growing all place and these are just the ones I was able to get to.

It'll probably take quite a few years for the place to become as green and lush as it used to be, but for now, it's interesting to see how a forest is reborn.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

6 Tips for Surviving Disneyland

I'm sore. Very sore. I groan when I get up, I groan when I sit down. I groan if I have to move too much. What caused this? Disneyland.

Even though I practically live down the street from Disneyland Resort, I rarely ever go. I wanted to make the most of my trip so I got the park hopper tickets and spent 16 hours going between California Adventure and Disneyland. My day felt a lot like the Lord of the Rings, there was a lot of walking, some eating, and I managed to squeeze in a lot of attractions along the way.

Here are 6 of my personal tips to make your trip to the Disneyland Resort more enjoyable:

1. Go on a week day.
It's just less crowded

2. Get the park hopper ticket.
Personally, I like California Adventure more than Disneyland. It's not as crowded, I like the rides more, and of course, they serve alcohol. I wouldn't recommend doing both parks if you only have one day because there's so much to see and do at each park. For someone who's been there a few times, I really recommend park hopper tickets so you have more options.

3. Download a ride app
There are a ton of free and paid apps out there that can tell you wait times for various attractions. This can help you plan your visit in real time. It even lets you know if rides close down for some reason. Lines for rides are shorter during dinner time and as people start gather for the parades, Fantasmic, and the fireworks show. These are probably the better times to go on the rides with longer wait times.

Use the FASTPASS system. It will save you hours of waiting in line. HOURS. Passes do run out so pick one up as soon as you can, then do other stuff in the mean time.

5. Make reservations before you go
If you're planning on dinning at a popular restaurant, make reservations online before you go. Even if you get there early, some places book up very quickly.

6. Get the Photo Pass+
You know I love taking pictures, but I didn't want to spend valuable time doing it, so I got the Photo Pass+. These can be used for pictures from rides and for the photographers located all around both parks. You can hand them your Photo Pass card and any photos taken can be viewed online, edited with fun boarders, and then you can either order a CD or download them. You can save almost $30 by ordering the Photo Pass+ at least 14 days before your visit or pay about $100 for it once you're there. Also make sure to ask for magic shots which will add a little surprise to your photos after they're taken.

Anyway, these are the attractions I managed to squeeze in in 16 hours.

California Adventure
Silly Symphony Swings
Redwood Creek Challenge Tail
California Screamin'
Sonoma Terrace (had some wine)
The Bakery Tour
Corn Dog Castle (had a hot-link corn dog combo)
It's Tough to be a Bug - Maleficent
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Soarin' Over California

Jungle Cruise
Pirates of the Caribbean
Blue Bayou (had the jambalaya and rack of lamb)
Haunted Mansion
Enchanted Tiki Room
Disneyland Railroad
It's a Small World
Indiana Jones Adventure
Splash Mountain
Winnie the Pooh
Star Tours - The Adventure Continues
Captain EO - Tribute

Sunday, June 01, 2014

For the Love of Reading

I LOVE reading and I think there are two things in my life that influenced that: my dad and Reading Rainbow with Levar Burton.

When I was in elementary school, we used to get Scholastic book order forms each month. My dad would let me order whatever I wanted from them. He never told me which books he wanted me to read nor would he ever tell me I wasn't allowed to read certain books. This resulted in hundreds  of Baby Sitter's Club books, Bad News Ballet books, and horror books all over the house. Yes, I loved horror. My favorite authors were Christopher Pike, Betty Ren Wright, R.L. Stine, and Stephen King. Some of my favorite books are still Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright and The Stand by Stephen King. I was never forced to read something I didn't enjoy (and sometimes that included text books). I know too many people who hate reading because they were forced to read something they didn't care about and associate reading with boredom and even pain.

My second influence was Reading Rainbow. I watched almost religiously as a kid and well into adulthood. I can still sing the entire theme song. The show was entertaining and made reading entertaining. I loved Levar Burton so much I even started watch Star Trek: TNG and now I'm a Trekkie, but that's another story. In 2009, Reading Rainbow went off the air after nearly 30 years.

This month, Levar Burton has a Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign to raise money to bring it back for everyone. This won't bring back the TV show, but will bring it back on other platforms. Please help support this project! Even Data makes an appearance at the end of this video. :)

While the original theme song is still my favorite, this cover by Jimmy Fallon as Jim Morrison is pretty awesome too.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Summer Reading - Raise the Bar

The semester is over, I'm pretty sure I've aced every single class, and I'm looking forward to catching up on a lot of sleep. However, there are a lot of books I've been meaning to read during the break.

I use the summer to catch up on a lot of reading I've put off and the very first book I want to read is "Raise the Bar" by Jon Taffer. I've been WAITING for this book. I watch Bar Rescue almost religiously. The show is both entertaining and teaches a lot about business and marketing. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

LeVar Burton

I watched Reading Rainbow as a kid (and adult) so when I found out LeVar Burton was going to be at the Festival of Books doing Reading Rainbow LIVE on the Children's Stage, I had to go see him. 

Apparently, I wasn't the only one who felt this way. Shortly after he arrived on stage, he commented, "Somehow, I expected more kids."

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Goodbye Dear Friend

Goodbye dear friend. You've had a relatively long life and I'm really sad to see you go. I can remember how happy I was the day you came into my life. You helped me accomplish so much. You helped me with school work. You saw me through three different jobs. You helped me stay organized. You moved to Las Vegas with me and when I wanted to come back to California, you came back with me too. We've been through a lot together.

Over the last year I saw you slow down a lot, but it was okay. You were still there for me. We still did things together, but I knew time was drawing near that you wouldn't be with me anymore. Today, you died and I mourn your loss. I don't know how I could ever replace you. I mean, really, new macs are expensive.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Go Ahead and Worry

“Don’t worry.” “Worrying doesn’t solve anything.” Well, that’s stupid. If there’s a problem, I’m going to worry about. I’m going to THINK about it. I’m going to try to figure out a way to solve the problem. I get it. People are just trying to be helpful. They want to make you feel better, but I don’t see how telling someone to avoiding think about how to solve a problem is very good advice. Okay, so there may be times you don't think there is much of a problem. That's why you tell the person not to worry about it, but the person worrying may have plenty of other reasons to think it is. You just don't know about them. If you really want to be helpful, ask the person what they are worried about and help them figure out a way to solve their problem. Don't tell them to stop thinking about it. The internet abounds with articles about how to stop worrying. People tend to perceive worrying in a negative way, but it can be a good thing. It's is a process in which mental attempts are made to avoid anticipated potential threats. It can be a very productive function when it leads to constructive action to solve the issue causing the concern. If your worrying is an attempt figure out a way to solve a problem, go ahead and do it. If you can't figure out a way to solve the problem by yourself, talk to someone. Maybe they can think of a solution you can't. Not thinking about a problem doesn't solve anything.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Academic Titles

I've been in college for a long time. This semester I have an instructor who wants me to call her by her first name, another wants me to address him as Professor [last name] and another prefers Mr. [last name].

For most of my college career, almost all the instructors I've had have preferred to be called by their first name. I liked that. It somehow made me feel like they were more approachable. I understand the social need for formality and can respect their wishes to be called whatever they want, but I do have a difficult time addressing people as "Professor" if they haven't earned the title. While I understand the term "professor" has been accepted for general use, there is a little academic snob in me.

Colleges and universities often have academic ranking and if an institution has them, I'd prefer if the people who instructed there respected those titles if they are, in turn, going to demand a degree of respect by requiring students to address them by those titles.

Anyhow, I'm  not going to loose any sleep over this. I'll call them whatever they want as long as they can teach me something and so far, all look promising and I think I'm going to enjoy them very, very much.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Learning Online

I'm constantly trying to learn new things. I take classes, read books, ask people to teach me things, but I learn a lot of stuff online these days. I like online courses because I can usually learn at my pace. I can skip topics I already know or repeat videos as often as I like for me to get a concept. Most of them are even free. Today, I want to share my favorite sites with you and if you're an educator, maybe you can use some of these resources to provide a flipped classroom.
Cost: $25/month or $250/year or $350/year
This is where to I go to learn software, anything from Photoshop to Microsoft Office applications and more. I also learn design skills, business skills, and watch the occasional inspirational video. The software training videos are usually more in-depth than what I find in traditional classrooms.

Here is a sample video about proactively managing your career.

Cost: free
I can find videos on just about any topic I want, although I usually watch cooking videos. Food Travel TV English and Bruno Albouze are my two favorites. I learn how to cook traditional Thai food with Food Travel TV. Bruno, well, aside from his food looking super tasty, I just swoon at his accent.

Here is a video for some fried shrimp wontons I think anyone can make and makes a great appetizer for any occasion... unless you're Jewish. The video is in Thai, but there are English subtitles.

One of my favorite dishes is ratatouille and Bruno makes one that makes me want to lick the screen. One day, when I get an oven, I'll even try to make this dish.

Cost: free
I watch these videos to learn new ideas about technology, entertainment, and design. I also learn about education and watch performances that sometimes just leave me with my jaw on the floor.

Here's a video from TED featuring Malcolm Gladwell about choice, happiness, and spaghetti sauce. I like this talk because it clearly illustrates that sometimes, a one size fits all approach isn't the answer.

Cost: free
I'm using this site to learn Spanish and Italian. I live in Southern California and knowing Spanish will be extremely useful. Italian is just interesting to me. As an added bonus, I'm also helping to translate the world's knowledge. To find out more about Duolingo, check out this TED video:

Code Academy
Cost: free
I wanted to learn how to make my own website. I tried to learn Dreamweaver, but I still couldn't get it to look the way I wanted. I knew I had to learn how to code. I poured over's tutorials and learned basic coding, but Code Academy has exercises. I could type something and see what happened.   I think everyone needs to learn some coding in this day and age. If you can't find what you need, create it yourself.

This video is about, but it still explains why it's important for all of us to learn how to code. Whether you use, Code Academy, or, just take a few minutes each day to learn how to code something.

Khan Academy
Cost: free
I feel like the only Asian who is bad at math. Khan Academy is helping to solve that nagging problem. Actually, something clicked in college, I'm fine with math these days, but I still use Khan Academy to practice my math skills and learn new concepts.

Here is talk present by Sal Khan about how he started Khan Academy and flipped classrooms, the latest rage in education. It's insightful and funny.

Academic Earth
Cost: free
I've always dreamed of going to Standford or Harvard or Yale, and now I can, sort of. Lectures are presented by professors from some of the top academic institutions in the country on subjects ranging from art history to calculus to chemistry to mechanical engineering. Now you can hear the same lectures people pay good money for. Watch videos at your own pace.

Cost: free
Pretty similar to Academic Earth, but classes have beginning and end dates and due dates for assignments. You'll get to participate with students who are learning what you are, when you are. Participating schools use us as Guinea pigs for research on education and use that information to improve retention, course completion, and learning outcomes in traditional courses.

Want to find out more about it? Take the edX Demonstration Course.

Cost: free/pay
This site is similar to edX. Okay, I haven't really checked out much of this site yet, but I know you can have access to lectures for free. For a small fee you can sign up for the course and get certified if you successfully complete the course.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cleaning my Kitchen

My kitchen was a mess. I'd be embarrassed if anyone came over. It was time to clean, but because I was bored, I decided to make a time lapse of the event.

I don't know why anyone would want to watch me or anyone cleaning a kitchen, but after uploading the video to YouTube I realized a lot of people time lapse kitchen cleanings. One video even has over 50,000 views. I don't even know why. She kind of looks cute from what I can make out in the video, but she isn't even naked or anything. Nothing special happens in the video. It's just a girl cleaning. Really? 50,000 views?

Anyway, here's me!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Twinkie Diet Helped Me Loose 40 Pounds

I used to weigh 180 pounds. I decided I didn't want to feel fat anymore so I started working out. I jogged 3 -5 miles a day and worked out in the gym three times a week for two months but barely dropped 5 pounds. Yes, I was a little bit thinner, but I wanted more results. It wasn't until I changed my diet that the weight loss happened and my body started getting thinner and more toned. It was the Twinkie diet that changed everything.

I HATE the word diet. I associate it with depriving myself of food I love. I love meat, my life would be miserable without carbs, I almost never eat vegetables. I thought exercising  alone would be enough, but it wasn't. I searched online for ways that would speed up my weight loss and came across the story about the Twinkie diet. Mark Haub, a human nutrition professor at Kansas State University tried to prove to his students that, in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what mattered most. He limited his diet to 1800 calories a day, eating mostly Twinkies and junk food, to prove his point. He dropped almost 30 pounds in two months WITHOUT any additional exercise.

I kept a food diary for a month and found I was eating, on average, 5000 calories a day. I decided to try out his calorie counting technique, although I kept working out. I limited my diet to around 1400 calories a day, although there were some days I went over this amount. I didn't just eat Twinkies and junk food though. I also didn't eradicate carbs from my diet, become a vegetarian, or eat only raw foods. I still ate what I normally would eat, just less of it. 4 months later, I was down to 140 pounds. I felt great! I liked my body more than I had in years and I had more energy than when I started.

I felt hungry for the first few days, then I started substituting food that had the same volume, just less calories. I drank 2% milk instead of half and half (yes, I drank half and half). I switched from 5 regular sodas a day to one regular soda, diet soda, water, and unsweetened iced tea. I ate small french fries instead of large and I had the small ice cream at Cold Stone instead of the large. I started eating more fruit and less potato chips. I drank a little extra water instead of having that extra cup of rice. Eventually, I didn't feel hungry anymore. There were days went I would feel full and satisfied before I reached my 1400 calorie limit so I'd treat myself to cookies.

I can't say it was the calorie counting alone. I was working out. I drank more water because I had read that staying properly hydrated helps metabolism. I spread out those 1400 calories throughout the day as much as possible (300 calories here, 50 calories there) because I read that eating smaller meals through out the day helped. I took multi vitamins to help me get the right nutrition.

I eventually went back to my old ways, stopped counting calories, but continued to work out and yes, I started gaining the weight back. A few days ago I heard about the McDonalds diet in which John Cisna, a science teacher from Iowa ate nothing but McDonalds. He limited his diet to 2000 calories a day, lost 37 pounds in three months, and lowered his cholesterol from 249 to 170.

It's the new year and I've decided I want to loose some weight again. I'll be working out and counting calories. I'm not saying calorie counting alone will do the trick, but I do think it helps. It's free! You don't have to buy special meals or join Weight Watchers and figure out their point system. Nutrition labels can be found on plenty of food products, chain restaurants now provide calorie count right in the menu, and if you still can't find it, google usually works.

If you guys are planning to loose weight or have tips on how you lost weight, leave me a comment. I'd love to know how you did it.  Hopefully this will help someone with their New Year's Resolutions for weight loss or just getting healthier.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Being Myself

We’re not taught to tell the truth when we’re seeking new clients or job-hunting. We’re told to be whoever we think the client or employer wants us to be. We’re coached to grovel, beg, and kiss whatever ass appears in front of us, playing the part of a person who has our experience and talents but none of our quirks, idiosyncrasies, and certainly none of our authentic selves!

10 years ago I worked for a company called Pictage. There, I met Jeff Jochum. He was the VP of Marketing and although I seldom saw him, we would exchange pleasant greetings as we passed each other between cubicles. Through the years we ran into each other at various events and maintained our acquaintance. Jeff is now a business coach for photographers and other creative entrepreneurs. He launched a community for them (us), Somehow, I was privileged enough to get invited into his community.

I’ve been exposed to his “Work Happily Ever-After” philosophy for some time. Something about it resonated with me. At first, I was skeptical of some of the things he said because it conflicted with the conventional wisdom I had read about in business and marketing books. Somehow, something about it felt right. His approach is about being true to yourself, even if that means (gently) turning away paying clients who aren’t right for you. While more and more businesses are adopting this way of thinking, there are still plenty of them that stick to old business models instead of adapting to the new-millennium market.

I was afraid to be myself (I still am, a little), but less so with Jeff’s guidance. Not everyone will get me. Not everyone will like me, but some will and those are the ones I want to work with and hopefully, they will want to work with me.

Friday, January 03, 2014

25 Signs You Went to an International School

I was born and raised in the United States, but when I was 14 I moved to Thailand and was sent to Ruamrudee Internatioal School. Since then I’ve come across a lot of “You know you were an international school kid if…” emails and posts. Here is a selection of the ones I can relate to.

1. You never learned to do regular chores like laundry, cooking, or ironing. 
This I pretty true. I had live in maids (yes, plural). And a cook, and a driver. I didn’t do laundry because my maids did them. Our cook either made us food or bought food for us daily from the local market. I had a driver for when I needed to go somewhere or took a taxi. Driving your own car to prom and not getting chauffeured was the cooler way to go. 

2.You don’t understand why you can’t jaywalk.
Okay, so living in the Southern California for most of my life, I get this one, but when I was in Thailand, it was the quickest way to cross a street. Sometimes, it was the only way.

3. You get disproportionately excited when you meet someone from the same country as you.
There is nothing like having someone who gets your cultural references.

4. You learn to accommodate for the fact that your hair dried differently in different countries.
Another truth. My hair dries far more quickly here in Southern California than it did back in Thailand. Sometimes it would take my hair hours to dry in Bangkok because of the humidity.

5. You miss having been “legal” for at least 6 years when you first get to college. What is the law?
I started drinking alcohol when I was 15. I probably could have done it sooner, but it didn’t occur to me try. I bought bottles of whisky at 7-11s, bars, clubs, etcetera and no one batted in eye. We weren't sneaking out to do this. There, it was socially acceptable. I asked a police officer to light my cigarette when I was 15 and he didn’t flinch. He just happily obliged. It was a different time and a different place. 

6. You’ve been graded down for spelling the British way instead of the American way (or vice versa).
Color/colour. Since I grew up in the U.S. and RiS was an American curriculum based school, this wasn’t much of an issue, but I did have instructors who studied or were train in the British system and occasionally this was an issue.

7. You blamed American obesity on their huge portion sizes.
Growing up in the US, I’m pretty much accustomed to the portion sizes here. The only time I would notice how big our portion sizes where was when friends from outside the country would visit and comment on it.

8. The image every else has of your country is 99% wrong.
Okay, maybe not 99%, more like 80%. This goes for both stereotypes about U.S. and Thailand. I’d tell you the tale, but that’s an entirely different post.

9. You hear people complaining about traveling and you think to yourself “12 hour flight? Only?”
It took at about 20 hours to travel to Thailand or back the U.S. taking in consideration flight time and layovers. 12 hours is nothing. NOTHING.

10. You can honestly say you have friends from all over the world.
Yup, I have friends from every continent except Antarctica – that I’ve met IN PERSON, not just online.

11. It doesn’t phase you when you overhear conversations in different languages.
Living in Southern California, this didn’t phase me to begin with, but walking 50 feet down the school hallway would expose me to at least 6 different language.

12. Missing school to get a visa or passport is normal.
I’ve only had to do this once, missing school to get my passport renewed, but it was as common as getting a cold.

13. You can’t answer the question “where are you from?”
I’m from the U.S., but I have plenty of friends who have trouble answering this question. They have moved from country to country from the time they were babies.

14. You speak two or more languages
I can only think of two people from my entire time in international school who only spoke one language. Everyone was, at least, bilingual. Many people were trilingual and there were a few who spoke 4 or more.

15. You flew before you could walk.
Well, I don't know if this is true or not, I can't remember that far back, but I'm sure my first plane trip was around that time.

16. You have a time zone map and an international calling card next to your telephone.
Yup. Sort of. These days I use an app on my phone to tell me the time difference and we Skype each other.

17. You realize it really is a small world after all.
I knew it was small world two week into attending RIS. We were in line for assembly when I saw someone I thought I knew from the U.S. “James Wong?” I asked him? "Yes." It was someone I had gone to elementry school with in California - over 8000 miles away.

18. Your high school memories include those days that school was cancelled due to bomb threats, tear gas, riots, demonstrations, or flooding.
It was flooding for me.

19. You have a name in at least two different languages and it’s not the same one.
In the U.S. most people know me as Grace. In Thailand, most people know me as (Gade Gaaw).

20. You automatically take off your shoes as soon as you get home.
Frankly, I didn’t think this was because I was an international school school kid, but because I was Thai and we don’t wear shoes in the house.

21. You and your highs school friends can speak in a different language to each other when you don’t want anyone to listen.
Most of my friends both speak both English and Thai and so we tend to speak a hybrid of both to each. Most of the time this isn’t because I don’t want anyone to understand us, it’s because some words just fit more accurately in another language. This also brings us to the fact that we also speak in many different broken languages when we're drunk. 

22. At least one of your friends had diplomat parents. 
I had two.

23. Class reunions are not at your school - not even on the same continent. 
I went to a class reunion once. It was in Anaheim, CA, nowhere near Bangkok Thailand.

24. You have unreasonable strong opinions about different airports. 
Naritia. I can never figure out my way in that place.

25. When you talk to non-international school kids you realize how ridiculous the stuff you got to do at school was.
Sometimes I'll tell people about the stuff I did in high school and I'm pretty sure my non-international school friends don't believe me. 

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A New Year and the Changes to Come

2013 was not the best year for me. It was a year of life changing events, but I know it’ll all work out for the better in the end.

I’m looking forward to the new year and the changes it’ll bring. This week I’ll take stock of where my life is and where I want it to go. I’ll be setting goals and updating everyone on the progress. I’m going to work on getting healthier both physically and emotionally. I’ll be working on financial goals and spending more time on ME! I’ll be learning how to cook (and hopefully not injure myself while doing it). I’ll learn new skills and get more organized. I’ll spend more time with friends and less time in front of the TV.

So far my accomplishment this year has been to make a sandwich with a can of chicken meat my roommate, Michael LaNoue, left here nearly a year ago – and I didn’t hurt myself while doing it. Baby steps.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a bigger leap.

Weight: 170