Bug Repellent

My skin is super sensitive to any bugs.  I have to put on large amount of bug repellent products before I head out every time.  I tried many different products.  I worry about the side effects those products have.

I have been searching for an effective and non-chemical bug repellent.  In 2012, I found lifestings from duggan sisters.  It is an organic lotion.  The ingredients are natural and easy on the skin.  The smell is very nice and light.  It simply works.  I can now enjoy outdoor activities without worrying about bug bites.

Can Exercise Be Easy?

The short answer is yes.  You might need to redefine the word exercise and change your knowledge of what are considered exercises.  With a brand new attitude towards exercises, it is easy.

Unlike typical oriental people, I am taller than average Asian female.  I have long legs.  When I was in the Junior High school, my physical teacher forced me to participate in the running competitions.  I hated exercises.  I told him that I was not good at any physical activities and I had very bad physical scores during my Elementary school years.  He disregarded my complaints and believed that my long legs could win any running competitions.  I was miserable.  I dreaded going to school because of all the training before and after school.  Finally, after two semesters, he decided that I was not trainable and released me from the team.  My bad experiences with exercises continued throughout all of my schooling years.

Then I moved to the Midwest U.S.A when I was 24.  Driving is almost the only option to get to anywhere, especially during the bitter winter.  Taiwan is different.  Public transportation is very advanced and convenient.   People walk to places easily because of the friendly short distance layout of the shops, markets and businesses.  I had to plan exercises to keep up with my health shortly after moving to the U.S.  I had to reassure myself that exercises weren’t scary.  Here is what I have learned.

Exercises are as simple as moving your body.  It could be walking stairs.  I make conscious decisions to park my car at the edge of the grocery stores or restaurants’ parking lots when the weather is nice.  I find fun activities to try, such as ballroom dancing and bicycling.   Vacationing in a big city is also another good method because big city like New York or Chicago provides more walking opportunities.  Exercises don’t need to be restricted to the set aside time or Gym.  Every movement is a start.  The first baby step is to start moving and to eliminate quiescence state.

When your mind and body are adapted to the concept and are active throughout the day, the final step is to set aside time to exercise for the minimum of half hour each time and at least three times a week.  I like to get my exercises done first thing in the morning.  I prefer the comfort of my home, and I favor the instructor lead cardio and weight lifting DVDs from Beachbody.

My best advice for the beginner people is to start easy.  Moving is exercising.  The more advanced or difficult exercise programs aren’t necessary better for you.  Be yourself.  Do not follow the crowd.  Find something that work exclusively for you.

Green Wagon Farm

My 77 years old aunt visited me in 2008 during my brother’s wedding.  I knew she had a big vegetable garden in her backyard in California.  We were chatting about food, vegetables and gardening.  She strongly recommended me to eat better for my health by choosing non-chemical produces.  She challenged me to eat more organic food.  I was surprised by her commitment on organics as an old Chinese lady.  I decided to give it a try.  I have joined local CSA farm groups yearly since 2009.

This year I chose Green Wagon Farm for my CSA share.  It has been a blessing.  Although this farm is relatively new and the farmers are young, the care they show to their vegetables and members is immense.  The price for a share is very reasonable and affordable.  The amount of one share easily feeds four adults for a week.  There are enough vegetable varieties.  The quality of the vegetable is very good.  They are successful farmers.    And the best of all is that they offer CSA winter shares for November and December.

Green Wagon Farm is the only farm I find in Grand Rapids Michigan that offers fresh vegetables for the last two months of the year.  Winter is long, cold and dark in the Midwest.  With both summer and winter shares, you can enjoy fresh locally grown vegetables for six months out of a year.  Winter seems less harsh when you have fresh vegetables on the dining table.  I am excited.


A New Turn In The South

I was attending a conference in Atlanta Georgia in June 2012.  I knew my flight would arrive in the early morning, so I planned for a breakfast restaurant. I found Empire State South restaurant.

My husband was with me, and we both loved the restaurant.  The restaurant is sectioned off in three parts, the courtyard, the coffee bar and the dining room. While we were waiting for our table at the coffee bar, we were lucky enough to meet chef Hugh, the author of A New Turn In The South cookbook.  He was witty and friendly.

We had one of the best southern breakfast we ever had.  Instead of oily and heavy, the dishes were well prepared with local sourced ingredients in the season.  We immediately bought the cookbook because we would like to reproduce these delicious dishes.

The cookbook has many good creative southern recipes with simple ingredients and some chef Hugh’s cooking notes with personally stories.  It contains enough beautiful photos to inspire an amateur.    You will also find two useful howtos, “how to cut a mango” and “how to cook a global artichoke”.


If you are driving into Chicago from the east, Nana is a great dining choice.  The location of Nana is easy to drive to and is right before hitting Chicago downtown traffic jam.  Although it is situated at the south side of Chicago, near the corner of 33rd street and Halsted street, the area feels very safe, and parking on streets is very easy.  You can just take 35th street exit off highway I-90/94(Dan Ryan Expressway).  It takes less than 10 minutes off the highway.

Nana serves local, sustainable and organic dishes in the American comfort food style.  I love breakfast and Sunday evening fried chicken there.  It is a great place to take a break before you head into downtown Chicago or before you leave Chicago.


In spring 2012, after eyeing on a Vitamix blender for several months, I received a surprised birthday gift from my husband.  It was a Vitamix 5200.  Although I consider kitchen appliances the most unromantic gifts on earth, I am very happy to own my Vitamix 5200.

I have several other blenders from various manufactures.  I make juices from fresh and frozen fruits frequently.  When I made my first cup of juice with the exact same usual ingredients from Vitamix 5200, I immediately tasted the difference.  The juice was very smooth and delicious.   I would not have considered my juices from other blenders coarse and tasteless if I have never had juices from Vitamix blender.

It is amazing how sharp the blades are.  Every blending takes less than 30 seconds.  Cleaning the unit is super easy and takes less than 1 minute.   I have own my Vitamix for over a year.  I am still very happy with it.  Even though the price tag is high, it is worth of the investment.  It helps me to eat more whole fruits because Vitamix makes it so easy to make delicious juices.


I love this restaurant. Everything is always perfectly prepared. The dishes are clean, simple and creative. The presentation of every dish is usually very pleasing to the eyes. The tastes are refresh and overly delicious. You definitely want to go for the “Taste Of Grove”. It gives you the three-course choices from each course section of the entire menu. It is always hard to make the decisions for the three courses.  You just have to visit the restaurant again for the dishes you’ve missed.

Grove uses locally grown products whenever is possible.  The chef is very conscious of seasons.  The menu changes based on the availability of different produces seasonally.  The attention to the details on cooking and preparing dishes makes this restaurant the best in Grand Rapids Michigan.

Rakowski Family Farms

Another good source for free range, non-chemical eggs is Rakowski Family Farms.  This farm now has a permanent indoor shop at the Fulton Street Farmers Market.  When I have no time to drive out to Grassfields Farm, I purchase my meats here.

Grassfields Farm

Grassfields LLC is located about 25 miles west of Grand Rapids.  It is a fifth generation, family owned and operated farm.  It is the best source for organic meats, eggs, milk and cheeses in Grand Rapids area.  Although not everything is certified organics, the animals are free range and no extra chemicals are used.  I love to visit their farm store on Saturdays.   When you pull up to the dirt road driveway, you can often see ducks leisurely taking a walk.  I usually order my Thanksgiving turkey and half pig in summer.  When you have tasted a naturally well cared turkey, you will never go back to eat another mass raised enterprise birds.

You can get Grassfields’ eggs and some frozen meats from the Horrocks Market store on Breton road right off 44th street.

Organic blueberry

As my usual Saturday morning routine, I headed to the Fulton Street Farmers Market after breakfast.  I was really happy to see the first crop of the organic blueberries available at the Blueberry Heritage Farms stand.  My husband loves blueberries.  I bought a two-pound box.  It was very fresh and delicious.  Although organic blueberries are not cheap, the benefits of the blueberries are worthy.  Blueberry is one of the best nature immune system boosters.

This year Blueberry Heritage Farms charges $11 for two pounds of blueberries and $40 for ten pounds of blueberries.  I usually purchase and freeze at least 20 pounds of blueberries annually.  It is quite a treat during the bitter and cold winter days.  Another good source of getting organic blueberries is from any Meijer grocery store.  Right now, a pint size box of the organic blueberries costs less than $4, and it is about 3/4 pounds.