Bird is the Word

Even the birds know that winter in NYC is finally over and are joining the Spring fling that’s in full swing.  Bird migration season is here and Central Park is teeming with these incredible little animals!

This past Sunday alone (5/3) we saw 4 new birds we’ve never seen before just with a few hours of “casual” birding: Yellow Rumped Warbler, Blue Headed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, and the Prairie Warbler. Not to mention other visitors & favorite regulars: Black and White Warbler, American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, House Finch, White-Throated Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, Titmouse, Brown Creeper, Pine Warbler, Red Winged Blackbird, Cowbird etc. etc etc.

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Nashville Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Blue Headed Vireo

Blue Headed Vireo

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

I never used to care about birds, a sparrow’s a sparrow and a pigeon’s just a flying rat, right? Well partially right, pigeons ARE indeed flying rats but a sparrow is definitely not just a sparrow.  In North America alone, there are at least 35 species of sparrows and now that I’ve been birding for a few years, being able to identify different kinds of sparrows have become somewhat of a holy grail.

Nerdy, I know, but bird watching truly brought about a whole new perspective on life for me.  It’s a great activity that will bring you outdoors, make you look up, and realize that NYC is not just about people and the latest restaurants.  It allows for the appreciation of the details in life that distinguish the “little dots” in the sky with incredible beauty.

Some tips for first time birders:

  • Get out there! Start with the birds that are easy to find in your area. In NYC those would be: Cardinals, Robins, Blue JaysEuropean Starlings, Grackles
  • Once you get the hang of identifying the more abundant birds and get familiar with their favorite hangouts, start listening to their songs!
  • When you’re ready to take your birding to the next level (bird nerds unite) get a pair of binoculars and check out this great video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Download the free Merlin Bird ID app to help identify birds and ask what birds birders around you are seeing. We’re nice peeps!
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Perfect Chinese Dumplings – For The New Year & Beyond

Happy Lunar New Year of the Sheep! Chinese New Year is one of my favorite holidays growing up in Hong Kong. A celebration of Spring’s impending arrival, we would fill our homes with fresh flowers (boy, do I miss the sweet scent of the Narcissus bulb!), see friends and family, and eat a lot of food that typically only gets served during this festive time of year.

While these precious gatherings are harder to come by these days, I hope to carry on this great tradition by making the foods that remind me most of home. Turnip cake is a solid staple, while it does take a bit of work, it’s so worth it to make your own – check out my recipe (and menu) here. This year, I’m going to dive into another gold star staple, the Chinese dumpling!

Ready to wrap and roll!

Ready to wrap and roll!

Our household favorite savory dumpling recipe features some unusual ingredients like bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms (for crunch), and Chinese chives (more garlicky than regular chives). You can omit or substitute those ingredients and the dumpling would still be delish – this recipe is pretty forgiving. To learn more about wrapping, serving, and storing your dumplings, check out this great noshon.it post:

Ingredients (makes 50 dumplings):

– 7 – 10 Shitake Mushrooms chopped

– 10 – 15 pieces Wood Ear Mushrooms chopped

– 1 small can Bamboo Shoots chopped

– 2 small Carrots chopped

– 5 – 6 Napa Cabbage (or 10-12 green cabbage) leaves chopped

– 8-12 stalks of Chinese chives (or 2-3 stalks of spring onions if unavailable) chopped

– 1 pound Raw shrimp (as binding agent for the vegetable mix) grounded into a paste using a food processor

– Soy sauce to season dumpling mix

– 50 Dumpling Skins (should be able to find Nasoya brand at Wholefoods or local grocery store)

– Soy sauce or Citrus dumpling sauce with a drop of seasame oil for dipping

Instructions:

1. Chop all listed ingredients

2. Mix all ingredients well with soy sauce

3. Wrap a small spoonful of mix in a dumpling skin

4, Steam, Pan fry, or Boil your dumplings and serve hot with dipping sauce on the side

5. Have a dumpling party!

Chinese Dumplings

Wrapped up and ready to go!

Gift Great Hair – A DIY Last Minute Gift (for the super procrastinator)

Happy holidays everyone!!!  I can’t believe the end of 2014 is nigh.  This has been a seminal year for me and the husband as it signifies our first marital Christmahanakwanzika together!  In lieu of buying material things for the holidays (and in general), we have made the conscious decision to shed the clutter in our lives and minds.

But… gifting can be fun.  Which brings me to my perfect procrastinator, yet super practical, 5 minute (no joke) gift idea – a gift of great hair.  Who would say no to that?

Homemade Shampoo and Conditioner

Homemade Shampoo and Conditioner

I came across this homemade solution a few months ago when I was desperate for hair products that are organic yet effective.  Since I had all the ingredients readily available, I figure, why not?

Shampoo Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 Cup of Water

Conditioner Ingredients:

Other Materials:

  • Ketchup / Mustard squeeze bottle or perhaps an old shampoo bottle?
  • Essential oils, if you’d like. Here’s some guidance on properties of essential oils for hair

Directions:

  • Mix Shampoo / Conditioner ingredients together in 2 separate bottles
  • To use shampoo: Pour baking soda solution on scalp, massage and let sit for a few minutes. Rinse
  • To use conditioner: Pour vinegar solution on hair, massage and rinse. For extra shine, rinse with cold water (closes hair cuticles)
  • Do a happy dance. VOILA. It is THAT SIMPLE

Now you may think this is weird, I get it. I also know that the solution doesn’t foam like commercial products out there, but here’s my “why not” logic:

1. Baking soda is a known cleaning agent. It’s a mild abrasive and attractant (picks up dirt), and it is also alkali, which deodorizes. No brainer! In fact, after you apply the baking soda “shampoo”, you’ll notice that your hair is SQUEAKY CLEAN.

2. Apple cider vinegar has the same acidity as your hair, thereby restoring the alkali environment that the baking soda shampoo created. It also works to naturally de-tangle your hair and binds closely to your hair cuticle.  Ooooo, SILKY AND SHINY hair.

3. It’s works! It’s natural! It’s magic!

I have been using this solution for a few months now and have experimented on my husband (lol), we have both noticed a big difference in the health of our hair.  I have received more compliments on how bouncy, voluminous, and shiny my hair is over the past few months than I have in past years (even my hair stylist said so, therefore it must be true)!

This has since been recommended and passed onto many friends and family of ours and we’ve heard some pretty great feedback.  Now, this solution shouldn’t be used every day as it is pretty potent, so definitely listen to your scalp and adjust as needed. And try not to get the vinegar in your eyes, it WILL burn.

On that note, HAPPY OWLIDAYS and see you all in 2015!

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