Saturday, November 19, 2016

Exploring San Diego's Nijiya Market-a Foodie's Paradise!

I absolutely adore this Japanese grocery store called Nijiya Market located in Kearney Mesa. It is a foodie's paradise, hahaha! Japanese food is one of my favorite cuisines.  Obviously, you can find all the ingredients necessary to prepare a Japanese meal, but I love coming here for other reasons too!  I come here for...
  • Samples!  On this day they were giving samples of a hot green tea! On another day, they had samples of dumplings and seaweed!

  • Cute displays! This was a cartoon video being played near one of their refrigerated sections. I don't know any other grocery store that has this!
  • Hello Kitty items! Nijiya not only sells food, but they sell all sorts of cute things! They also sell little toys, which make perfect fillers for a party treat bag!

  • Desserts!  They have a whole refrigerated selection of whole cakes and individual dessert items as well. Sometimes they will have special items for sale, especially if it is a Japanese holiday. On this day, there were boxes of cookies for sale and some packages of cute mochi!

  • Snacks!  I love the fun packaging that they come in. Their snacks are great for your child's lunch boxWhen I host a meeting at school, I bring in something new for everyone to try. 

  • Hawaiian drinks! They carry a great selection of these yummy fruity drinks!
  • Prepared food!  The selection of prepared food is awesome! The entire back wall is filled with ready-to-eat food! We have come here to pick up items for lunch for the week, easy dinners and even long plane rides! The food looks like the person who made it did it with much care! You'll find sandwiches, wraps, sushi, and bento meals! They also have some hot food available too, mostly fried goodness. There is a microwave and utensils near the checkout registers and some tables outside if you want to enjoy your food right away. 

  • Bread!  They seem to have frequent deliveries from their Japanese bread supplier that keep their shelves stocked. Bread loaves and pastries all around! If you like brick toast, they sell a whole loaf so that you can slice to your desired thickness at home!

  • Seafood! You can find octopus, squid, shrimp, and all kinds of fish here!  On this day, someone was filleting a fish out in the aisle and packaging it for sale right there on the table!

I hope my pictures have done the little market justice! Parking can be tough at peak meal times because the shared lots also is used for several restaurants in the same strip mall.  If you go, be prepared to spend some time going up and down the aisles! I love this place and hope you do too!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Turning the Tide: A New Look at What Colleges Want! Making Caring Common!

Fall is "College Application Time"! Having been a university application reader for a few years now, I am always interested in changes regarding the college application process. I have written pieces before on suggestions for getting students in the college of their choice, but reality is the competitive nature of the whole college application process just isn't good for students' mental health nor can it really be fair to those from underprivileged backgrounds. Our students are stressed, sleep-deprived, and filled with anxiety over padding their resumes with lists of activities and accomplishments, which may be misleading as to a student's true potential.

I am pleased to inform you that in January of 2016, a project sponsored by the Harvard School of Education entitled Making Caring Common released a report, "Turning the Tide, Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through the College Admissions".  In a nutshell, the report focused on the shared vision of how to improve the role of the college admissions process in promoting ethical and intellectual engagement. Several admissions officers from high ranking colleges and universities (Harvard of course, MIT, Yale, Princeton and many more)  pledged to utilize a lens of depth and demonstration of caring in student contributions listed in  the application. This is a completely new focus from past practice of looking at a list of a student's personal success.

The report offered recommendations in reshaping the admissions process in three areas:

#1: Promoting more meaningful contributions to others, community service and engagement with the public good.

Participation in meaningful sustained community service with a emphasis on whether students immersed themselves in an experience will be encouraged in hopes that students benefit from the emotional and ethical awareness and skills generated by that experience.  In addition, colleges are looking for service that involves a community connection. The hope is that students who participate in problem solving of local issues and contribution will most likely lead to a greater understanding of and investment in the common good. Another factor that will be considered is whether a student participated in authentic meaningful experiences with diversity, so that students can work together and learn from one another. Finally, the report encouraged community involvement that appreciates the contributions of generations before them to develop a sense of gratitude.

#2: Assessing students’ ethical engagement and contributions to others in ways that reflect varying types of family and community contributions across race, culture and class.

The report recommended that colleges pay more attention to student contributions to their own family, i.e. a student who had to watch younger siblings nightly because his single mother worked two jobs. The report also stated that the admissions process should assess whether students are demonstrating responsibility and concern for others and their communities in their daily lives . That students’ day-to-day conduct should be weighed more heavily in admissions than the nature of the community service performed.

#3:  Redefining achievement in ways that both level the playing field for economically diverse students and reduce excessive achievement pressure.

The report also stated that college admissions should encourage students to share two or three meaningful experiences rather than a long "brag sheet." The key word being meaningful. Secondly, admissions offices should also try to change the perception that students are penalized in the admissions process if they don't take a heavy load of AP/IB courses. In addition, another recommendation to admission offices is to place more weight on an authentic student voice in the application, that it shouldn't appear to be coached. Next, the report also questioned the validity of taking SAT/ACT tests and encouraged colleges to work to relieve undue pressure associated with these tests. Some suggestions to colleges included: making these tests optional, clearly describing to applicants how much these tests actually “count”, and discouraging students from taking an admissions test more than twice. The last recommendation was for college admission offices to dispel the perception  that there are only a handful of excellent colleges and that only these colleges are vital to job success.

For the future of our youth's mental health and general good will of society, I see this as a good thing!
What do you think?  Please leave me a comment below.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Remembering our Grandma Luz

My mother-in-law, Grandma Luz, was the Filipina Martha Stewart.  Every holiday, she would decorate her house, meticulously design her dining table and execute a perfect mix of Filipino and American dishes.  I always told her that her tablescape and food could be featured on Bon App├ętit!  Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday.
Being the oldest of three brothers and a sister, Mom took on the caretaker role early as they lost their parents at a young age.  I learned from her brother that when Mom and him worked summer jobs during their youth they ate rice and eggs for lunch for days as that's all they had.  That gave me some perspective as to why  Mom cooked with painstaking care on everyone's birthdays and holidays, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  Perhaps the times that she experienced going without resonated with her and made her resolve that if she could help it, she would not have that happen to her loved ones. Seeing us and her guests eat her food and come back for seconds always filled her with joy. She beamed with happiness and pride when someone commented they always accepted an invitation to her home because of the delicious food she served. 

No matter the formality of the occasion, she always served a hearty meal when the family was together, even for a regular Sunday supper.  Mom would order the prime rib from the commissary a week ahead.   Then Mom and Dad would drive to a certain bakery to pick up a caked that we liked. Then they would make another trip to a different store/bakery to pick up dinner rolls that Mom knew was a favorite of my daughter's.  For a big party, Mom would plan her menu days, even weeks ahead.  Mom  would make the itinerary of places to stop and Dad was the designated driver.  Two days ahead, she would prepare her pecan tarts. The day before she would make her signature bibingka, chop up her vegetables for her vegetable lumpia and pancit.  Hours and hours would be spent in the kitchen.
It has been a little over a year since Mom went home to God.  We definitely felt her absence during the holidays as there was no paella, lumpia, pecan tarts or bibingka.  I spent each one eating half-heartedly with a lump in my throat and a hole in my heart especially in the immediate months following her passing. Celebrations have just not been the same.

On July 9th, 2016 we had family and friends over to pray a rosary in her honor and celebrate her life.  Dad made sure her standards were met.  Dad made a huge roast beef and lechon kawali. Mom's balae's (in-laws) also made beef mechado. There was a dish each featuring chicken, beef,  pork, seafood  and noodles.  Mom would have wanted it that way. Dad also did his best to make her famous pineapple upside down cake.
Months ago I found Mom's leche flan recipe written in her own hand. I have made it a couple of times at family get-togethers.  One day I hope to find more of her recipes and try them. I promised myself though, that not until I can dedicate and replicate wholeheartedly the time, effort and love she put into cooking would I attempt one of her signature dishes.  I am lucky that Mom passed on her cooking skills to her son Eric, my husband.  As the saying goes, "Like Mother, Like Son," Eric spends a lot of time in the kitchen.  He also makes special trips to out of the way places to bring home his kids' favorite foods. He spoils us with the meals he makes.  Through him, Grandma Luz's legacy of love through food will continue.  It is evident that every day, he lives the love he received from his mother's kitchen. Every day, we remember our Grandma Luz.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Sugar Spa - Chula Vista, CA!

The Sugar Spa is a new Do It Yourself (DIY) beauty spa specializing in teeth whitening and facial treatments.They have been opened since August 2016. The franchise originated in Miami, FLA and the concept was created by the CEO when he realized there was a lack of beauty spas that focused on affordable DIY treatments with the help of a trained technician. The name comes from the bubbly nature of treatments available at the spa. 

The location is a bit hidden as it is in the back of an industrial building in east Chula Vista, but I soon realized that this is actually helpful to the tranquil atmosphere.  As you enjoy your treatment, you can relax and listen to the soothing music being played without the distraction of noisy traffic or pedestrians. This is what the entrance looks like.

It has a modern, minimalist look.  It is also a shared space, there are no private rooms, just lounge chair beds separated by curtains. 

These are the products they have on the side table for customers to use.

I enjoyed the 24K gold facial treatment which infuses collagen into your skin.  The mask was cool to the touch when applied.This mask is paired with the red LED light treatment. 

I sat under the light for about 35-40 minutes.  Afterwards, I did notice my skin was much softer and felt very refreshed!  The manager asked me how everything went and even applied sunscreen to my skin before I left for the day.

They recommend coming in every 3 weeks or so to really see the optimum effects of the treatments. Although the cost of the masks may be high to some, I was told these are about half of the price sold in other spas simply because they cut out the middle man and you do it yourself.  

Everyone was friendly and helpful.  If you want to treat yourself to your skin and teeth looking better, please arrange a visit with them!

The Sugar Spa is located at 881 Kuhn Drive, Suite 105 Chula Vista, CA 91914. Follow them on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram @thesugarspa 

Disclosure: I was given a complimentary treatment in exchange for this post.

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