Reflections of 2014

[Photo I took of Mt. Everest at Animal Kingdom in Orlando, FL]

This past year has been an extraordinary year of my life.  I've never had challenges as quite as this before.  I find that each year of my life gets more and more complex.  I've been running on empty for the past year. I just needed to take a break and press pause.

These are the reflections of my 2014 I wanted to share with you.  I hope the lessons I learned will help you in some small way.

  1. No matter how crazy life gets, hold onto your anchor.  In 2014, my anchor was Song and Nancy.  I would not have made it through the year without these two special ladies.  They were with me every step, every foot forward on this journey. Whenever I felt like I was floating away, they kept me strong.
  2. Every effort counts, no matter how small.  I started 2014 with a bang ... exercising at the YMCA every day from January to end of February and then I quit going. Everyday during that time, after work my family and I went to the White Bear YMCA, Woodbury YMCA, or Coon Rapids YMCA.  Oh how I miss going there so much now.  It was fun exercising as a whole family.
  3. Saying goodbye to my material possessions. My house finally sold in April since I moved to MN. As much as I was happy to get it sold, I was also sad to say goodbye to my home. I'm now mortgage free! I still miss my kitchen and my house, sometimes I still drive by it.  Most of my wardrobe I can pack up into two bags.
  4. Eat more fish.  Every time I ate some fresh sashimi and fish, I felt so good. Too bad I didn't get to go fishing much at all in 2014.  I will make a better effort to go more in 2015!
  5. Don't work yourself to exhaustion.  I am guilty of that. I worked myself to the point of exhaustion for many months.  I slept for 1-3 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some days when I rested my head, I thought that I would not wake up.  Never again will I ever put myself through so much agony.  That kind of suffering is not natural.
  6. Take a break. I went to Florida with my Vang family in August. It was our first vacation as a whole family (mom, dad, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, hubby, son) since 20 years ago.  We went to Disneyworld! Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, and Siesta Key Beach. In November, my husband and I went on an adventure driving down south. We visited Georgia and North Carolina.  I needed to see the world ... We didn't have a plan, just drove with the help of Google Maps.
  7. Add more color to your life.  I went through a MAC lipstick phase. Part of it was psychological, I knew I had to change. I needed to break free from the comforts of what I was accustomed to. I made bold choices in 2014.
  8. Hug more people. I didn't get to socialize much in 2014. I really missed my friends. Thanks so much to the friends who made it a special date to see me in 2014.  Sky & Donnie, Tasha & Matt, Aimee, Sarah, Valerie, Michele, Kayla, Ytevia, Macy, Nicki, and Molly.  You may not know this but in 2014 is the one year that I hardly socialized with anyone at all. Seeing your lovely faces, made me so happy. *tears*
  9. Bad things happen for a reason.  In 2014, I had no work life balance. The signs were there.  I suffered greatly because I am the type of person that braves through challenges.  Sometimes it takes us falling into darkness to realize we need to reshift, reclaim, and rebuild ourselves.
  10. It's okay to cry.  Yup, 2014 was a year I cried a lot. Sometimes we go through life never noticing other people's tears behind their smiles.  Everyone struggles in their own way.  Everyday we are trying to champion our daily life battles. Overall, I've been really tested in 2014 ... emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I was very lonely in 2014.

What do I have planned for 2015? 

  • Love.  Give more love to others.
  • Make more food tutorials
  • Write more technology blogs
  • Spend more time with family and friends

The House On the Rock

These are some pictures I took on my visit to the House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI back in October.  It's a very interesting place to visit.  There are 3 buildings that have various collections.  This will most likely take 4-5 hours to tour all 3 buildings.  It's fascinating. Wear comfortable shoes because you will be walking a lot.

The house was built on top of Deer Shelter Rock. 

Cost: $28.50 for adults

More details on their website:  


Trip down south

I went on a road trip to Georgia in November. It was a 12 hour drive from Wisconsin. My hubby and I drove through Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia.  On our way back, we stopped in North Carolina for a few days and drove back home through NC, TN, KY, OH, IN, IL, and WI.  So many thanks for my hubby's cousin Myndi and her hubby Vam Tsav for hosting us while we were in Georgia! 

My friend Nicki took me to this awesome vietnamese bakery called VN Tofu in Norcross, GA.  It has the most selection of vietnamese bakery goods I have ever seen in my entire life! 

This is a picture of my hubby's cousin Myndi, my friend Nicki and I. It was taken at the Hindi temple in the Atlanta suburbs.  This place is gorgeous! 

Hindi temple. Beautiful and majestic place. 

My friend Nicki and I at an indian buffet.  Nicki is a sweetheart!  We met on Twitter and became friends.  This was the first time I had met her in person.  It's so wonderful knowing that we can talk as if we'd known each other our entire lives.  She's super cool and I enjoyed hanging out with her!  This place had the best pineapple juice/drink from a fountain I have ever tasted in my life. It was so refreshing and good that I kept going back for more.

Me, Myndi, and Nicki at the indian buffet.  I was hungry I forgot to take a picture of my plate.  

My good friend Molly and I in Winder, GA. We've known each other over 20 years.  I surprised her on her birthday! This was the first time in nearly 20 years since we last saw each other in Fresno. She's a sweetheart and a caring friend. 

Some yummy food my hubby and I made at Myndi and her hubby's house in Winder, GA.  Hubby made the fish dish. I made the blue crab. Myndi made the pork and greens.

VN Tofu bakery goods

VN Tofu bakery goods

VN Tofu bakery goods

This is Assi, a korean supermarket as large as Walmart.

Assi korean grocery store - asian pears!

Assi korean grocery store

Assi korean grocery store - snow crabs

Farmers Market - blue crabs

Farmers Market - peeled garlic, what a convenience! 

Farmers Market veggie stands

Some chinese grocery store, I forgot the name.

Chinese grocery store - ox tails, so beautiful

Picture of the Smoky Mountains.

Smoky Mountains

Picture of me in the Smoky Mountains.

Picture of me at the Biltmore Mansion gardens in Ashville, NC.

Picture of me at the Biltmore Mansion Winery in Ashville, NC.

Biltmore Mansion in Ashville, NC.  You should see it at least once in your life.  It's about a $50 fee per person and you get access to the mansion, winery (free wine tasting), gardens, and trails.  If you do plan to go, I suggest going early so that you can have enough time to view everything.  I went on a self guided tour but you can also pay for a guided tour which gives you access to more rooms in the mansion.  I went at my own pace and it took about 1.5 hours to walk through the entire house.  The views of the mountain are breathtaking. Gorgeous views...  You can take pictures everywhere except inside the mansion.  There's lockers nearby so you can place your items before you enter the mansion. Make sure to bring quarters for the lockers! 


From my Instagram photos of the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC:

5 Things You Can Do When You Are Having A Bad Day

I took this photo on my trip home from Door County in 2012.  I am reminded that we are beautiful inside even when we don't see it in ourselves.  

Whether you are having a bad day on the job or someone did something to upset your day, always remember that beyond today ... tomorrow will bring a better day.  Everyone has bad days.  These are the things I do for myself when I am having a bad day or bad week.

  1. Talk to a friend/loved one
    I instantly feel better when I am able to share a load with a good friend I trust.   


  2. Listen to your favorite songs
    Listening to your favorite songs can help put your mind at ease.  I love listening to instrumentals because they soothe my soul.  


  3. Hug
    Hug a friend, hug a pillow, hug a teddy bear!  The warmth of touch does something special to the soul.  Who says no to hugs?


  4. Write down one thing you love about yourself
    I write down one thing I love about myself.  Sometimes when I am feeling down or feel self doubt, I remind myself of the things I like about myself whether that be a hobby, skill, or attribute.  


  5. Go for a walk
    Going for a walk can help clear up your mind and relieve stress.  Just being outside breathing fresh air can help re-energize your body as well as your mind. 


Lotus Flower Wand for Sale and Powder Food Coloring for sale

I have some lotus flower wands and power food coloring for quick sale.  If you are interested, please send me a private message.
  • Lotus Flower Wand 
  • 4 powder food coloring 
I will accept PayPal payments and money order.
Contact me using my contact form. Click the link in the upper right hand corner to contact me.

Salt and Pepper Shrimp


  • 1 to 2 lb shrimp
  • 3 cup oil for frying
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup sliced jalapenos
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions

Quick Notes

  • if you don't have white pepper, you can skip it.  
  • garlic powder is optional too.
  • if you like five spice powder, pinch a little into the dried spices mix.


  1. Coat the shrimp in flour and dust off excess flour.
  2. Heat oil in a pan on high heat.
  3. Deep fry the shrimp until it starts to ooze out. Remove and place on paper towel.
  4. In another pan, add the shrimp infuzed oil you used to fry the shrimp.  
  5. Add the jalapeno and green onion and fry for a few seconds.
  6. Add the dried spices.
  7. Add the shrimp and toss quickly.
  8. Serve.


100 Days

[A picture I took of the tree outside my mom and dad's house.  The first thing I see when I go outside.]

Hello everyone!

It's been 100 days since I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. It's been an eye opening experience.  I'm learning new things every day and staying busy.  I still travel back and forth to Madison, Wisconsin because my house has not sold yet and the transition has taken longer than expected.  I'm currently residing with my family so I haven't bought a new house yet.  Please pray for me and hopefully my house in Madison will get sold soon.

I haven't had the opportunity to cook up any recipes.  I really miss my kitchen.  I enjoy my mom's hospitality but truly--you can only have one queen of the house.  However, it's a pleasure eating my mom's home made food and her super simple easy khaub poob.  I long for my own kitchen and personal space.  It's been such a long time since I have lived with my parents and siblings.  I'm very happy to be close to them and see them every day.  Living in Madison was a bit lonely because I had no relatives nearby.  

When you move away, you really learn who cares and who doesn't care about you.  The ones who care about me follow up with me.  The ones who don't care never speak a word.

What has these 100 days been like?

Physically-- It's cold here in Minnesota (same as in Wisconsin).  Wish winter would just end! I am living in the most Hmong populated city in America yet I haven't really seen that many Hmong.  Guess I don't go out much. Mostly just work, home, grocery shopping, and YMCA.  I wish the rush hour traffic could improve, still getting used to the long commute.

Mentally-- I haven't been this challenged in quite a long time.  Over the course of these last 100 days, I have learned Groovy, Grails, Angular JS, C#, .NET, and WCF Web Services.  I'm a big tech geek so I really enjoy learning new programming languages.  It's very important to stay current and relevant with technology so it makes you marketable and competitive in the industry.  I feel gratification when I can solve problems and create eloquent code! 

Emotionally-- I miss my family and friends in Madison. I get to see them when I travel down to visit on weekends.  I am thankful to all the support from my MN family.  I love them!  

Spiritually-- I haven't gone to church in the last 100 days.  I am feeling a bit spiritually depleted.  I need to find a church here soon.  I've been traveling a lot so I have not made the time to visit a church and worship.  God, please forgive me! 

Deliciously-- The best food I have eaten since I arrived here has to be the chicken makhani I bought from India Palace.  I also love the food trucks in Minneapolis.  My brother's zuppa soup has been my favorite home cooked meal he's made for our family.  My husband also makes a delicious ox tail soup that I love, love, love!!!! 

Youtube and Facebook -- I've also been greeted with happiness and disappointment too.  Happy that I have 17,900+ subscribers on Youtube now.  Sad that I see my recipes on some blogs online and no credit or linkbacks to my site.  Also disappointed to see people crop out my name from my photos and try to pass on as their own photos.  Totally uncool ... In February someone made a fake Youtube account and uploaded all my videos from my Youtube channel to their fake channel.  With the support from my friends online, they helped me report the fake channel and Youtube suspended that account.  It was a victory but as soon as that one came down, two more came up.

Korean Dramas-- I haven't watched any in the last 100 days.

TV Dramas-- My sister and brother got me into Game of Thrones. I watched this during my christmas break in Madison.  My 3 faves are Tyrion, Arya, and Daenerys.  I'm also following the Walking Dead now that it's airing again.

Plans for the spring/summer-- I plan to take a vacation this summer. Not sure where I will go yet.  Maybe France ... It's always been a dream of mine to go there.  When I was a little girl, I was so infatuated with french culture that I studied french for years. Haven't spoken it in forever but I can read, comprehend, and write it.  Speaking french, I can but with not a lot of confidence anymore... Maybe a POTLUCK MEETUP this summer?  We shall see if there's any interest ... if you are in the MN area and are interested, leave me a comment below.





5 Lessons I Learned From Working in Corporate America

It's been about a few months since I left my corporate job in Madison, WI for a new career change in Minneapolis, MN.  I am a person who can easily adapt to new surroundings so my transition has been rather smooth despite having to move a state away.   The most important priority is taking care of yourself and be smart about taking advantage of opportunities. 

My background is web programming and today I am senior software engineer at a large advertising agency in Minneapolis.  I code and develop applications on the web that can be accessed via desktop, mobile, tablets, and devices of choice.

Have you ever wished you could turn back time and give the past you some words of advice?  Well, these are some words of advice I wish someone would have shared with me, then again ... maybe I just had to experience them in order to grow.

  1. Start every day of your job as if it was your first day; continuously learning and having a positive attitude.
    Remember your first day and how exciting it was to be at a new place! Yes, it can be a scary thought because you are the new kid on the block.  There's so much to learn and people to get to know.  If you are like me, you are driven and determined to make a difference! You are fresh and the passion is on fire, you are ready to take on any challenge!  Then as time goes on, even though you work hard, you are met with disappointments and perhaps even rejection.  That fire isn't burning quite as fierce as before.  Fear not, never lose faith.  Just remember, you have purpose and never let anyone get you down.  Your attitude can change everything.  When you are met with disappointment, remember how far you have come. There is hope!  Stay hungry for knowledge.  Continue to grow your skills and talents. 


  2. Give credit and thanks to others who have helped you; we are a team.
    My favorite top 5 teammates who have always stood by me since day 1 of our career / friendship ...  shoutout goes to Michele P, Ryan P, Mike P, Lori M, and Ally D.

    No one ever made it to the top without the help of others.  As the saying goes, be nice to those on your way to the top because you will be passing them all on your way back down.  In my younger years, whenever someone asked me for help my reply was always, "yes."  I went the extra mile to help a teammate because that's just the way I was taught.  I never questioned whether or not I would benefit, I helped because I wanted the team to achieve our goals.  What I've learned is that not everyone will give credit when it's due and sometimes they will even take all credit and you are kicked to the wayside.  Yes, being thrown under the bus feels horrible.  What I've learned is to not be like them.  You do good work because it's your work ethic.  Good work doesn't go unnoticed.  Fakers will eventually miss their shot.  Give praise and credit to those who help you.  Some people play only to win and they will sacrifice their team members to achieve it, others play to help their team win.  Which one are you?

  3. Stay eager and keep trying even when others say it cannot be done. 
    The greatest pleasure in life is successfully doing the things other people swear you can't do. WHY? Because you are fully capable! Giving up is not an option.  Have you ever been pigeon-holed because someone didn't know how capable you are?  Or maybe you are surrounded by people who don't support your dreams and goals because where you want to grow, doesn't fit in their vision?  If you aren't stretching, you aren't growing.  If you can't grow in your current position, find other ways to grow outside your job.  For me, I found great solace in taking the extra initiative in learning new programming languages to stay competitive in my field.  Sometimes a corporate job can get comfortable in the old way of doing things because the company only does things one way, which can lead to long solutions that take forever to achieve.  If you open your mind to other technologies and other ways of doing things, there's so many possible solutions!
  4. The competition is outside, not inside.
    So many things I can say about this, but I think it's self explanatory.  Rule of thumb: Take care of you first, because corporations work like corporations, they are not your family.
  5. Someday you will realize that every time you thought you were being rejected from something good, you were just being pointed toward something better.
    I got a special song for this (click play below).
    You are exactly where you should be.  There are lessons to be learned. Nothing is a waste of time.  No matter how much it hurt back then, today I look back and realize my struggles changed my life for the better.  Thank you Song Vang for the song recommendation today.  It really made my day! Sometimes when there's no road that can take you anywhere, make your own path. 



Transition to Minnesota

Hi everyone!

It's been a while since I last updated this blog.  I've been busy moving and started my new job as a senior software engineer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I'm still adjusting to big city life.  Everything is so fast paced here, so very different than Madison, Wisconsin.  My new commute is now 20-60 minutes depending on traffic and weather conditions.  My old commute in Madison was a mere 5-10 minutes.  I was so spoiled back then!  However, I do love the city life here in the Twin Cities and there's so much more offerings that are not available in Madison.

I'm still in process of selling my house in Madison.  If you know of anyone who is looking for a good home on Madison's east side, please leave me a comment and I can forward you my house listing and MLS number!  Once my house sells, I plan to look for some land up here.  My son wants to garden and raise animals so I need to find a home with a few acres.

These days I'm up early by 6 am and I go to bed around 9 pm. My old routine I was up at 7 am and in bed by 12 am.  Crazy, right? Well it's cold here now and nothing much to do except cuddle up in a warm bed and sleep! LOL.  Plus I don't watch cable anymore so that's a main reason why I'm not up so late anymore.

I have yet to venture around the many awesome restaurants in town.  Just haven't found the time to do so after work.  In the big city it feels like by the time I get home, I just want to eat dinner and relax and then go to bed.  On the weekends, I'm still traveling to Madison so I haven't had any sight seeing time here in St. Paul.

So far this is all I've done since moving to St. Paul:

  • Visited Mall of America
  • Visited Hmong International Market
  • Visited Hmong Village
  • Eat at the local restaurants where I work in Minneapolis (Darby's, The Loon)
  • Ate food from the food trucks that stopped in front of my workplace but now they don't come anymore because it's cold (boo hoo!)
  • Shopped at Target, Walmart, Sams Club, and Cub Foods

So many more things I want to do! Just gotta find more time to do it. :-)