my 2 cents

Eating Houston 1.3: Tacos, Southern, steaks, and Gulf seafood; the institutions edition

I’m back after my two-week hiatus! I was on holiday in the UK and Ireland—it was the first international vacation I’d taken in three years and long overdue. As expected, I consumed voraciously, but that will all come in another entry.

Today, I’m continuing my suggestions for Houston eats. My first entry on this series logged where I took my pops when he was visiting, and the most recent entry focused on Vietnamese and Chinese food on Bellaire. In this third part of the Houston series, we’re eating more dishes Houston is known for: tacos, Southern, steaks, and Gulf seafood.
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Eating Houston 1.2: Some of the best Vietnamese and Chinese foods in America, the Bellaire edition

As promised, this week, I’m delving into foods my hometown of Houston is known for. Of course, being Asian-American and having grown up near an abundance of local Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants (also known as Bellaire Blvd.), I have to talk about the wide variety and quality of east Asian cuisine we’re lucky to call our own.

First, a short history of the Vietnamese diaspora: in the 1980s, the first Vietnamese to settle in this city made the area near Hobby airport in south Houston their home. That’s where you’ll still find the famous original Pho Binh Trailer (which, I’m happy to report, has just recently opened their latest outpost in my stomping grounds of the Heights–in fact, that’s there bowl of soup pictured above). The first Little Saigon sprouted in what we now call Midtown, and this is where my first memories of eating pho and banh mi thit with my parents were made. We did our ethnic grocery shopping in midtown, stocking up on 20-lb bags of jasmine rice, fresh Gulf shrimp, bottles of Squid brand fish sauce.
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Eating Houston 1.1: Where I took my dad, the Father’s Day edition

I write about my mama a lot, but this Sunday is Father’s Day, and I can’t forget about my pops, nor my hometown. Reflecting on my dad’s recent stateside visit a few weeks ago, I share here things we ate together.

Since retiring, my pops relocated back to Vietnam. I’ve flown to Saigon a handful of times and hung out with my pops, but it’s not often he comes back to the U.S. This means when he does, we try to pack as much American —particularly Texan—foods into his belly as we can.

This is also a good list for all you potential visitors and/or residents of Houston; hit up these spots or take your out-of-town guests to these places, and you’ll get a great cross-section of Houston cultural cuisine. These are some of the places I always suggest when asked, “Where should I eat in Houston?”
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Eating SF 2.2: Napa

I guess technically this entry should’ve been titled “Eating Napa,” but there’s going to be a little bit of SF in it, too–namely the airport. Did you know the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is working towards becoming accessible for blind travelers by using localization technology? These days, technology has granted so many visually impaired people more independence. When I travel alone, I depend on guidance and assistance from airport employees, but will take travel to another level for those with vision loss.

Until then, let’s get back to talking about some of life’s pleasures that currently do exists: food, drink, and fellowship.

In recent posts, I wrote about my trip to the Bay area, during which we spent a couple of days in wine country. I co-hosted the Guide Dogs for the Blind dinner with the GDB chef, David Wilson, and Joan Boyd of Boyd Family Vineyards. Joan’s kitchen housed a massive woodburning oven, and her patio where we dined had a gorgeous view of Napa Valley’s sunset (as told to me by the hubs). Even though I couldn’t enjoy the visual beauty, I could absorb the peaceful natural surroundings as we sat around the table and sipped on some Boyd wines over spicy salads and masalas. This is the stuff life is made of.
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Eating SF 2.1: Comfort foods

I visited the Bay area last year to host a fun, interactive dinner on behalf of the Guide Dogs for the Blind. During my trip, I got to walk with a guide dog and play with the puppies—catch my GDB adventures in Blind Life episode 9.

As always, my not-so-secret agenda with all travels is to EAT. Because the GDB is located in San Raffael, a township to where I’ve never been, I was looking forward to trying something new. The hubs and I asked our favorite food friend from SF for recommendations, and his suggestion did not disappoint.
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3 things I do to stay, feel, be young

I turned 36 Saturday. I still consider 36 mid-thirties, but the hubs likes to annoy me and say I’m in my upper thirties now. When I was young, 36 sounded so grown-up. Now that I’m actually a grown-up, I don’t feel much like an adult at all. Example: I still shudder when someone refers to me or my girlfriends as women.

“You mean us girls?” I’d say.

At family weddings, I’ll ask, “Where’s the kids table?” because I still classify myself separately from the adults/parents.

Age is often a state of mind. I’m happier now than I was in my twenties because I am more grounded and self aware. Even so, aging does concern me. I actually think I might be better off blind since I’ll never know how many wrinkles have formed. The downside is if I miraculously regain vision one day, I’m in for a total shocker.

But because I want to be young as long as possible, there are a few pillars to my “youth.” (Like how I put that word in quotes?)
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LookTel Money Reader, KNFB Reader & Be My Eyes: Apps that help the blind

Without asking a sighted person, how does a blind individual differentiate between a $1 bill and a $100? How does a visually impaired person read their prescription labels?

No, this is not one of those Singaporean logic problems that recently took the world by storm. They’re common questions I and other visually impaired people get whenever we meet sighted people who are curious about how we go about our mundane everyday tasks.

I say, thank God for technology.

Technology is a big part of our lives, and perhaps those of us without sight depend on it even more. I use my Macbook to write, email, create recipes, and curate menus. I use JAWS to post blog entries and conduct web research, among other work. I use my iPhone to post on social media, communicate (obviously), and read the news. I also utilize a few specialized apps designed with the blind in mind. Life ain’t easy when you’re blind, but it’s made just a tad easier with the help of certain technologies.
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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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