12 tips for a healthier, happier life

**This post was originally published on NMO Diaries and has been slightly edited for this blog.

Many who have watched me on “MasterChef” or listened to me speak or follow me on social media often wonder what’s my secret to life. Unfortunately, like any other human being (except for maybe the Dalai Lama), I have no key to the universe. I don’t know what the hell is going on half the time, and the other half, I spend wondering how I’m going to make it through the hour, day, week, or year.

In spite of never having complete control over my life (which, if you are human, chances are you don’t either), I’ve been doing my best to control what I can. That is, I’ve been on a steady (albeit slow) path towards healthier living for almost two years now, and here are twelve tips I’ve picked up along the way. I must insert a caveat first: I am not going to pretend I have it all together and follow all twelve rules 100% of the time. But I do try to follow them to the best of my ability given the particular circumstance at any given moment. I’m no sage when it comes to enlightenment—even though we know what we should do, we often don’t do it—but these are twelve things I’ve been giving more thought to ever since: (1) being healthy got trendy, (2) I realized I wasn’t getting any younger, and (3) I became more proactive at improving my standard of living.
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Everything you ever wanted to know about cutting boards

Having first learned to cook as a college student with very limited funds, I’ve had my fair share of crappy cutting boards. Moreover, as a novice cook, I did not know how to take care of these cutting boards, thereby contributing to their crappiness. My first cutting board was wooden, and although I knew not to run it through the dishwasher—oh wait, my first college apartment didn’t have a dishwasher—I had no idea wooden boards needed to be oiled to keep from splitting.

So for a long time, I used these dry, cracked wooden boards, ignoring the idea of bacteria teeming from within. I sliced raw beef on the same board I’d use to chop spinach. I left the board sitting in the wet sink until my roommates and I had our weekly argument about whose turn it was to do the dishes.
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Eating Saigon 3.0: Love the Lunch Lady & hanging with my pops

For now, this is the last in my Saigon series, covering my most recent trip to HCMC in January. (Read about my eats from early July 2014 and late July 2014.) This time, as usual, I ate more street food, but I also ventured to less traditional places and had lunch outings with my pops, who has since moved back to Vietnam after retirement.
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Eating Saigon 2.0: So much crab, I got hives + one of my favorite street foods in Vietnam

Following my early July 2014 trip to Vietnam where I attended the KOTO fundraising gala, I returned to Saigon just a few weeks later to do another guest appearance on MasterChef Vietnam season 2 and work with the show’s sponsor, Knorr Vietnam. You know I can’t go to Vietnam without eating Saigon, so here’s what I had this time around.
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Reflections on the 2014 KOTO Taste the Stories gala in Vietnam

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about eating Saigon. I love coming to Vietnam, if not to eat, then to at least see my pops and get hella cheap spa treatments. (A 60-minute full-body massage runs about $25 USD, and that’s some of the nicer places.)

I also love coming to Vietnam and meeting interesting people. From the locals to the ex-pats, everyone’s got a story.
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Blind Life episode 8: How the Blind Snowboard

We took a trip to Colorado in January where I snowboarded and rode on a snowmobile (as a passenger, not a driver–don’t worry!). I strapped a GoPro to my helmet when I took to the slopes, and the hubs wore the camera on the snowmobile.
Here’s footage from our snowy adventures from Peak 9 and the Continental Divide in Blind Life episode 8: How the Blind Snowboard.
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Eating Saigon 1.0: 3 different regions, 1 city in Vietnam

Happy new year (again)! In continuing the closer look we’re taking at Vietnamese traditions, like those of lunar new year, today I’m actually taking you back to Vietnam.

I was born in California and didn’t visit the country of my heritage until I was 18. It would be another 16 years after that first pilgrimage before I’d returned to Vietnam again. Consequently, this second trip was after MasterChef, and I was going to Vietnam to appear in the inaugural season of “MasterChef” Vietnam as a celebrity guest judge. Since then, I’ve been back to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City an additional three times, and on each trip, I eat to my stomach’s content.

Food in Vietnam, especially the “street food,”* is delicious and inexpensive—it’s my absolute favorite stuff to eat over there.

And so in the spirit of street food’s no frills, no nonsense attitude, I’ll get right down to business and deliver the goods.
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Furikake crusted yellowfin tuna with wasabi mayo

We have a friend who loves to fish. I mean, he’s one serious fisherman. He drives to our neighboring state of Louisiana on the weekends to go deep-sea fishing. He went halfsies on a boat with his dad so they could take fishing trips together. He’s getting married this summer, and for his bachelor trip, he’s going to Costa Rica on—you guessed it—a fishing trip. (I’ve been told by the hubs there are other activities on the agenda, but we’ll see what really happens when you put the old man in a new sea. Will he finally catch his white whale? Sorry, the writer in me couldn’t help throw in those puns.)
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Happy year of the goat!

**Please excuse the many misspelled Vietnamese words in the following entry, as I don’t have the software to write proper Vietnamese, accents and all.

This Thursday marks the lunar new year, or Tê’t, as we call it in Vietnamese. Growing up, the red envelopes containing minted bills (or—like xì—were my most anticipated new year tradition. It meant I was that much closer to that Super Mario game or, when I was in high school, that Green Day CD.

Another fond memory of Tê’t was the banh chung my grandmother made not only for us but all the extended family members that visited over the week-long holiday. Bánh chung (or banh Tê’t as they’re known in the Vietnamese South) are glutinous rice cakes filled with pork and mung bean and wrapped in banana leaves prior to steaming. The leaves impart a hint of green and earthiness on to the rice, which is why it’s no surprise they are meant to symbolize the earth. My grandmother and aunt made dozens of them, and sometimes I would help tie the red decorative ribbons around the massive cakes before stacking them on to the dining table. There they rested like stacks of sandbags, waiting to be gifted to our relatives.
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Help! I’m a blind Mac user in search of accessibility assistance with Apple’s Yosemite OS X.

I can’t be the only one shouting those words into cyberspace, can I?

At the urging of the hubs, I upgraded the operating system on my Macbook last week to Yosemite, also known as OS X. While software upgrades are intended to make user experiences more efficient, they also often come with frustrating learning curves. This is especially true for the blind user, as so much of today’s technological innovations are focused on vamping up visuals. Sure, this is awesome for sighted users, but what about the rest of us blind folk?

My recent OS upgrade has put me in such a sour mood lately that I’m inclined to believe Yosemite was named after Yosemite Sam, the raging red-bearded cartoon tyrant of the Wild West (pictured below) because that’s exactly how I feel about the latest OS X.
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