July – National Watermelon Month

An article from health.com caught my attention because it is about my and many others’ favourite fruit in the summer – watermelon.

In the “5 things you didn’t know about watermelon”:

At 46 calories per cup, watermelon offers 20% of your daily intake of vitamin C and 17% vitamin A, according to the USDA.

It has more lycopene than raw tomatoes. That can stop free radicals from damaging your cells and immune system. But store it in room temperature to maximize its antioxidants before slicing, according to the nutritionist.

The juice can relieve muscle soreness because of the citrulline it contains, especially in the rind.

It’s a fruit AND a vegetable and can be traced back to the squash, pumpkin and cucumber family.

It is 91.5% water, said the USDA.

I should add that although watermelon is a sweet fruit and has a high glycemic Index of 72 (GI measures how fast the carbohydrate turns into sugar; over 70 is high), it has a glycemic load of only 4 (GL also takes into account how much of that carbohydrate is in a serving; below 10 is low.)

It is a superfood for everyone that is cool and tasty, too!

20140705-171309-61989970.jpg (photo courtesy of bingwallpaper.anerg.com)

Ways to Stand Out

Happy July 4th to America!

As I was walking around the City (the Bay Area residents refer to San Francisco as “the City”) in the past few days, I notice how non-uniform the buildings in the City is. They are a collection of eclectic shapes, colours, styles, and ages. Nonetheless, a few have always caught my eyes.

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(Cafe Niebaum-Coppola (yes the Director of Godfather), now called Cafe Zoetrope, on Columbus Avenue leading into the Italian town.)

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(The City’s landmark, the Transamerica Building.)

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(The Bloomingdale Mall in the Union Square, the shopping district.)

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(3 high rises in the Financial district – triangular, cone, round-shaped all standing next to each other.)

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(A clubhouse for a China village clan in Chinatown.)

20140712-152649-55609383.jpg(Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, shaped like a fire hose.)

 

Goodness from the Kitchen

purple lily

There are often recommendations that you should apply natural ingredients on the face and body, use no chemicals in house-cleaning, and eat non-processed and organic food rather than using their highly processed and chemical counterparts.  But, where do you get these organic and natural ingredients – aren’t they very expensive and difficult to find?

I draw some great ideas from two books I have recently read: The Organically Clean Home by Becky Rapinchuk and The Recipe for Radiance by Alexis Wolfer.

Look no further.  The ingredients may already be in your kitchen and refrigerator.  Here are a few DIY examples:

  • Want to do something about your fine lines round the eyes?  Try the Plump ‘Em Up Eye Mask, said Alexis.

         1/4 banana, ripe

1/4 cucumber, peeled

1 tablespoon raw honey

Puree in blender and let sit for 30 minutes; then apply a thin layer under your eyes for 15 minutes and rinse with warm water.

(If you have dark circles and puffy eyes, turn to your raw egg-shells.  Wipe your finger along the inside of the egg-shell and apply a thin layer under your eyes for about 15 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.  Egg white is excellent in tightening up your skin and fine lines.)

  • Want to wash the pesticides and germs off your produce?  Try Becky’s Fruit and Veggie Wash.

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup water

Mix ingredients in a spray bottle; spray on the produce and rinse with cold water.  The wash can be stored up to 1 month in the fridge.

  • How about an unknown spot in your carpet?  Try this natural carpet spot remover from Becky.

Enough distilled white vinegar to cover stain

Baking soda

Cover the stain with the white vinegar and sprinkle baking soda on top of the vinegar – you will see the stain bubble up from the carpet. You can let the mixture sit on the carpet until dry and then vacuum up the residue.

  • Want to restore your stainless steel to bling?  Just put some vinegar on a spray bottle, spray a little on your stainless steel, and wipe off the vinegar with a paper towel or a soft microfibre cloth in the direction of the grain (vertical or horizontal line on your appliance).  Then apply a little  olive oil on to your soft cloth and then wipe the cloth in the direction of the grain again. Viola! (See the Kitchn for more “How to” posts.)
  • Want to keep your hands smooth and nice?  Rub some virgin, organic, cold-pressed coconut oil all over your hands and fingers.  Just love this one, especially before I go to bed!

My Favourite Maya Angelou Quotes

It is rare for an individual (who is not a statesman, a country’s president, a religious leader) to receive such out-pour of gratitude, respect, and admiration from all walks of life – young girls, politicians, business people, sportsmen, media, poets, writers, actors/actresses, academia, etc.  She was Maya Angelou, a poet, writer, night-club dancer, singer, honorable doctors, and a true inspiration for many; she died on May 28, 2014.  Maya was invited to write a poem in honour of the 2008 Beijing Olympics – “Amazement Awaits”:

…We are here at the portal of the world we had wished for
At the lintel of the world we most need.
We are here roaring and singing.
We prove that we can not only make peace, we can bring it with us.
With respect for the world and its people,
We can compete passionately without hatred.
With respect for the world and its people,
We can take pride in the achievement of strangers.
With respect for the world and its people,
We can share openly in the success of friends.
Here then is the Amazement
Against the odds of impending war
In the mouth of bloody greed
Human grace and human spirit can still conquer.
Ah … We discover, we ourselves
Are the Amazement which awaits
We are ourselves Amazement.

Do rest in peace.

Here are a celebration of a few of my favourite quotes of hers:

Maya_ForgetMaya_ChangeMaya_gratitudeMaya_CourageMaya_SuccessMaya_LoveMaya_Amazing

Day and Night of Las Vegas

A conference took me to the City of “never sleep”, Las Vegas, last week.

While this is a city that shines at night, it has a certain charm during the day as well. It is not just a “sin city” but also a city that is energetic and is truly suitable for tourists – shopping, eating, drinking, gambling, sports betting, partying, strolling, clubbing, conferencing, relaxing, going to spa, attending grand shows and musicals, touring the Grand Canyon, and even getting married. Even for Americans, it has always been their fantastic, fun and leisure spot.  Every year, more than 90,000 people get married in Vegas.

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Want to Know More about the Science of Happiness

I have been on the emailing list of the UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Centre, which combines science and practice to explore the science of a happy and meaningful life –  the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior.

Even better, they are offering a free online course in September to learn about the roots of happiness.  Research suggests that up to 40 percent of happiness depends on our habits and activities, and so happiness is not purely due to genetics. Each week, students in this course will learn a new research-tested practice that fosters social and emotional well-being—and the course will help them track their progress along the way.  What an enlightening course!

If you are interested, you can find more information here.  I am all for it.  Radiate happiness!

Radiance

Just Do It

Recently I have been loving these series of exercises relating to high-intensity training in intervals.  They do make me sweat and feel good afterwards.

This 7-minute workout came from the May-June 2013 issue of the American College of Sports Medicines Health and Fitness Journal.  These 12 exercises of 30 seconds each and 10 seconds of rest in between have similar impact as a long run combined with weight-training, but all in 7 minutes. Whether this exercise is intense enough depends on how hard you push yourself, and the exercises are for anyone, especially those who are worried that they sit too much and have too little time for regular long workouts.  You don’t even need to get out of the house.

From reading user experiences, these types of workouts are best done 2-4 times a week, or in 2 rounds with a brief resting interval in between, and in combination of longer workouts.  But with any exercise, just by doing it already results in beneficial molecular changes in your body.

You can watch a video here or download apps here and here.  No more excuses, right?  Let’s do it!

Courtesy of New York Time blog

Courtesy of New York Times blog

 

Turning the Corners

As I walked to my breakfast meeting at Union Square (downtown shopping district) via the financial district during one beautiful morning in San Francisco, I began to take notice of the different colours, architecture, and shapes of the buildings around me. What a mishmash of colours and styles. The camera in the phone is one of the best mobile ideas. You can’t help but notice more beauty (and carry them always with you) with the help of the lenses.  Walking also makes you to slow down and notice things.

The corners of these buildings fascinate me. They are not the end but an invitation for the passerby to notice their beauties!

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Her First, and Last, Book

This article from The New York Times has moved me to tears. What is the meaning of life? How should one react to tragedy? I even ponder the way the title of this article is punctuated-Her first, and last, book rather than Her first and last book.

It is not the years in your life that count, it is the life in your years…

OP-ED COLUMNIST
Her First, and Last, Book
By NICHOLAS KRISTOF
April 5, 2014
TWO years ago, Marina Keegan’s life brimmed with promise. She was graduating with high honors from Yale University, already a precocious writer about to take up a job at The New Yorker.

She had a play that was about to be produced. She had sparked a national conversation about whether graduates should seek meaning or money.

In keeping with that early promise, Keegan’s first book, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” is scheduled to be published in a few days. The title comes from an essay that she wrote in the graduation issue of the Yale newspaper; it was viewed online more than one million times.

The book is a triumph, but also a tragedy — for it’s posthumous.

“I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short,” Keegan wrote in one of her poems. As a senior, she wrote an aching protest on the website of The New York Times about the rush of students into well-paying jobs on Wall Street — not because of innate interest but because that route was lucrative and practical. One-quarter of Yale graduates entering the job market were going into finance or consulting, and Keegan saw this as a surrender of youthful talents and dreams to the altar of practicality.

“Standing outside a freshman dorm, I couldn’t find a single student aspiring to be a banker, but at commencement this May, there’s a 50 percent chance I’ll be sitting next to one,” she wrote. “This strikes me as incredibly sad.”

Keegan recalled being paid $100 to attend a recruiting session at Yale by a hedge fund: “I got this uneasy feeling that the man in the beautiful suit was going to take my Hopes and Dreams back to some lab to figure out the best way to crush them.”

For my part (and Keegan probably would have agreed), I think that we need bankers and management consultants as well as writers and teachers, and there’s something to be said for being practical. Some financiers find fulfillment, and it’s also true that such a person may be able to finance far more good work than a person who becomes an aid worker. Life is complicated.

Yet Keegan was right to prod us all to reflect on what we seek from life, to ask these questions, to recognize the importance of passions as well as paychecks — even if there are no easy answers.

A young man named Adam Braun struggles with similar issues in another new book that complements Keegan’s. Braun began working at a hedge fund the summer when he was 16, charging unthinkingly toward finance, and after graduation from Brown University he joined Bain Consulting.

Yet Braun found that although he had “made it,” his heart just wasn’t in his work. He kept thinking of a boy, a beggar who had never been to school, whom he had met on a trip to India. Braun asked the boy what he wanted most in the world.

The boy replied, “a pencil.”

Braun quit his job to found Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit that builds schools around the world. His new book, “The Promise of a Pencil,” recounts “how an ordinary person can create extraordinary change.”

I hope this year’s graduates will remember the message in the books by Keegan and Braun about seeking fulfillment, zest and passion in life. This search for purpose in life is an elemental human quest — yet one we tend to put off. And we never know when time will run out.

For Marina Keegan, that was just five days after graduation. Her boyfriend was driving her to her father’s 55th birthday party on Cape Cod. Though he was neither speeding nor drinking, he fell asleep at the wheel. They both were wearing seatbelts, but her seat was fully reclined so that the seatbelt was less effective.

The car hit a guard rail and rolled over twice. The boyfriend was unhurt; Keegan was killed.

Her mother, Tracy Keegan, combed the wreckage. Marina’s laptop had been smashed, but the hard drive was extracted to mine the writings so important to her — and now preserved in her book.

After the crash, Marina’s parents immediately forgave and comforted her boyfriend, who faced criminal charges in her death. They asked that he not be prosecuted for vehicular homicide — for that, they said, would have broken their daughter’s heart. Charges were dropped, and the boyfriend sat by her parents at the memorial service.

The book has been lovingly edited by Anne Fadiman, who taught Keegan writing at Yale. “Every aspect of her life,” Fadiman says, “was a way of answering that question: how do you find meaning in your life?”

Fadiman says that Marina would be “beyond thrilled” at having a book published, but would add: “Please pay attention to my ideas. Don’t read this book just because I’m dead.”
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Liking the Older Parts of Hong Kong

An entrance to a village in Shatin, used to be the countryside of Hong Kong, now a very modern town.

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Travel takes me back to Hong Kong, my birthplace.  While the city is symbolized by the amazing skyline, dashing lights, beautiful harbour, and modern buildings, the old Hong Kong fascinates me even more.  Taking a walk along bits of the places of … Continue reading