Saturday, July 11, 2015

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Hello, blog are you there? It's me Marsha. I haven't been here for awhile, since I'm busy writing stories about teens over at Mom.me. I promise to get back here soon and tidy things up, but until then please visit me over there for riveting stories about teen angst, parties, tattoos and the odd celeb or two.

That Time My Teen Daughter Got a Tattoo

I remember watching a show years ago on MTV about extreme fans, and there was an episode that featured a 14-year-old that was obsessed with Gwen Stefani. One scene showed this girl's parents taking her to a salon to have her hair dyed pink, just like Gwen's. My daughters were toddlers at the time, and I recall thinking all sorts of judgmental thoughts about these parents—what kind of monsters let their kid do that to their hair? If I wasn't so busy making homemade baby food and washing my cloth diapers by hand, I would have called CPS immediately.  Read more...


14 Times I Was Paranoid About My Teens
I admit it. I might be just a little paranoid when it comes to parenting my two teens. Given even the most innocent of situations, I will almost always go to the worst-case, glass half-empty, psycho-with-the-chainsaw scenario. Surprisingly, my kids have turned out pretty good even though my daughter did think someone had planted a bomb in her teddy bear when she was 6. Of course, I cut that thing open just to make sure. Read more...



8 Teen Life Hacks Moms Could Use Right Now
In case you haven't noticed, your teen is an expert when it comes to figuring out ways to make life easier for themselves. While my first instinct is to get mad when I find out they're pretending not to know how to change the toilet paper roll, I've come to look at these acts as pure genius and have decided to try and use these to make my life easier, too. Read more...




How Do Your Kids Act When You're Not Around?
When my daughter was in kindergarten they had a weekly "share day" when each child could bring something to school—a book, stuffed animal, favorite toy—and spend a few minutes showing it off to their classmates. After one of the days I missed, I got a call from a parent who was there. She said she knew, as a mom, that we always wondered how our kids did when they weren't under the watchful eye of their parents, and she wanted to let me know how impressed she was with my kid's presentation that day. I was happy to hear it and a bit relieved—you never know what kind of mayhem can go down when a 5-year-old gets center stage. Read more...


17 Ways to Know You Were a Teen in the '80s
Do you find it impossible to part with your fur vest? Can't dance unless Parliament Funkadelic is on the turntable? Then you were probably a teen in the '80s. Sure, this is admitting you're kind of old, but think how jealous everyone is that you got to see the original "A-Team" on your television set—even if you did have to keep getting up to change the channel and adjust the foil on the antennae.

I'm not saying being a teen in the '80s was the best thing in the world, but we were the first ones to dance to Madonna's "Holiday" in a club. OK, maybe it really was the best thing in the world. Read more... 


Why Your Teen Broke Down Over Zayn Malik
Has your teen been crying more than usual in the past week? Unable to eat, clutching her pillow and sobbing "Come back come back" while "Story of My Life" plays on an endless loop in the background? She may just be reacting to the news that Zayn Malik has left One Direction. Yes, I know it's already been seven whole days since the horrible event, but when the entire Universe comes crashing down and the earth stops spinning on its axis, it takes a while to recover. Read more...


9 Reasons Teens Are Better Than Toddlers
Teens get such a bad rap, especially from people with young kids. I keep hearing friends say, "Ugh, I'm dreading the teen years," and they're usually saying this as they're wiping gobs of baby spit-up off of their arms.
Well, I'm here to tell you that teens are actually better than toddlers, and here are a few reasons why. Read more...



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Thursday, February 12, 2015

No pressure, Mindy Kaling, but my kids' future might depend on you

Speaking of Asians, we are big fans of Mindy Kaling over here. In fact, in one of my latest posts for mom.me I write about how I'd like for the actress to take over raising my kids if some catastrophe befalls me and my husband. (Just kidding. We all know that job will go straight to Oprah.)

We all love Mindy Kaling, and I think she’s a great role model. Not only is she the perfect combination of brains, beauty and kick-ass wit, but she’s incredibly stylish as well, which means my girls would not only welcome her, but her closet also with open arms. Here are a few other reasons why Mindy is the ideal person for my teen girls to look up to. Read more...

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Monday, February 09, 2015

I'm so Asian

(Yes, as a matter of fact I am singing the title of this post to the tune of "That's So Raven.")

Sometimes I feel more Asian than usual. Times when I don't feel like I blend into my world quite so seamlessly and am keenly aware that even though I was born and raised in this country, as were my parents, I'll always feel like a little bit of an outsider.

One of those times are these months at the beginning of the year, when parents are in the process of choosing high schools and colleges for their kids. Without fail,  every year, I'll hear at least a few people make this comment about a school they're considering.

"That school is full of Asians."

To be fair, sometimes it's said with affection as in, "I love me some Asians. The math scores at that school are THROUGH THE ROOF," and I can concur with that person and also point out that the after-school Origami class is probably pretty killer, too.

But other times it's said with a bit more disapproval, as in,

"This muffin is full of raisins. I FUCKING HATE RAISINS."

Either way, I try and pretend that nothing happened. Because I'm so Asian like that.


The past week was another reason to feel my Asian-ness at full volume – it was the premiere of 'Fresh Off The Boat,' a new sitcom on ABC. The story centers around the Huang family – recent Taiwanese immigrants who have settled in Florida – and the culture clash they experience. It's the first TV show in 21 years to star an all-Asian cast; the last was 'All American Girl' starring Margaret Cho in 1994. Don't start sending me links to PBS documentaries about the royal family in Japan – those don't count.

I don't think I was prepared for what an impact this show would have on me. A show that was just CHOCK FULL OF RAISINS! I knew it was an important milestone but thanks to social media the night of the premiere was like being at one of my huge family gatherings, except without the fighting over the check and the pressure to take home leftovers.


JUST SO EXCITING.

All of my Asian peers watching at the same time, equally thrilled that we were seeing people who looked like us on TV. It was overwhelming and pretty emotional. Here were Asians that weren't cast in roles as the nerdy best friend, the sushi bar waitress or the dry cleaner owners. They were real, flawed, characters who looked and acted like people I know. Something that most of you take for granted, I'm sure, but an empowering, long-overdue moment for Asian Americans.

But then that excitement was dimmed a few days later. My friend and fellow blogger Grace Hwang Lynch posted a photo on Facebook that was taken during a press tour for 'Fresh Off The Boat.' The thing that stood out about the photo? Not one Asian face among the attendees. A press tour for an Asian show, one that is one of the most important things to happen to network TV in terms of Asian representation and NOT ONE ASIAN HAD BEEN INVITED. It stung.

I'm not that much of a blogger anymore. I wouldn't expect to be invited to an event like this, but there are plenty of Asian American bloggers who are active online and in the community who should have been at this press tour to represent and to weigh in on the show. For them not to be included felt deliberate and calculated. Was it deliberate and calculated? The jury's still out, but I can only say it felt exclusionary and insensitive. Kind of like how it felt to not be represented on network TV for the past 21 years.


And the backlash has been swift and harsh. A lot of people are saying that we're just jealous we weren't invited. That we're being too sensitive. That we shouldn't be making it about race. That we should just stop complaining, damnit. It surprised me that so many people couldn't step back, look at the situation and say, 'Hey, that's a mistake. There should have been Asians there," and to see the bigger picture – that Asian Americans have been fighting for a seat at the table for awhile, and this was just one more reminder of the exclusion we encounter on a regular basis.

People aren't used to hearing Asians speak out, and it makes them uncomfortable. We're supposed to be the silent minority and not rock the boat. I know many of my fellow Asian Americans can attest to the fact that we were brought up to be non-confrontational and passive. I think my 94-year-old Japanese mom would just expire on the spot if she knew I was venting on this blog. To the public. And using cuss words.

For me, Asians being excluded from the press tour was so much more than what it seems like on the surface. It meant that even after all these years, we're still invisible to some people. That our voices often don't count. That, in spite of our huge presence as consumers and influencers, so many doors remain closed to us. After all our hard work and striving to be heard, there still isn't a seat on the bus for us.

Thank you to everyone who has spoken up and supported the bloggers who are making our voices heard not just now, but in other arenas and other endeavors. Thank you for sharing our stories and leaving words of encouragement and for seeing us and not making us feel invisible.

Please read these posts by some of my fellow Asian American bloggers, who inspired me to write this post:
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Friday, January 23, 2015

For goodness sake, take the quiz!


Here's my latest post over on mom.me. Taking this enlightening quiz will require only 60 seconds of your time and can determine, once and for all, if you are indeed the parent of a teen or if you are in fact harboring a robot in your home. The more you know.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Things we're eating: Pasta Bar

Newsflash: Teenagers like to eat. A LOT. So what do you do when you've got fifty of them about to descend on your house for a party and your kids don't want to serve just pizza? Try a pasta bar.


We've served this at more than a few parties now, and it's always a big hit. Much like our popular ramen bar, it's all about giving them choices – let them choose the toppings for their pasta and they'll feel like they can conquer the world. Well, at least the dance floor.

Start by cooking the pasta the night before, and store it in ziploc bags in the refrigerator. I used penne since it's easy to serve up with a spoon but any similar pasta like fusilli or farfalle will do. I suggest you estimate how much you'll need, laugh at that paltry amount and then cook way, way more if you're serving a party of teenagers.

For example, when we were expecting fifty kids I used the 'two-ounce per person' rule and figured that came out to a little more than six-pounds of uncooked pasta. Just to be safe I bought ten pounds of penne, which proved to be a grave underestimation. Halfway through the party we ran out of pasta and some of the kids started eating the sauce by itself, which was both sad and disgusting.

The day of the party, keep the pasta warm in a chafing dish on the table. I suggest putting out two pans of pasta at a time for easy serving since teenagers tend to stampede when they're hungry and you don't want any fistfights breaking out over the penne.

I used jarred sauce, but if you're fancy and masochistic you can make your own the night before. I served both marinara and Alfredo sauces, and also put out a small bowl of pesto for the rebels. Keep the marinara and Alfredo sauces warm in separate chafing dishes.

For the toppings, use your imagination. I put out another chafing dish of grilled chicken breast strips along with bowls of parmesan cheese, sundried tomatoes, chili flakes, fresh tomatoes, olives, chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts and mushrooms. Again, put out way more than you think any humans could possibly eat in an evening and I guarantee you it won't be enough.


I rounded out the meal with lots of sliced french bread, a platter of fruit and bagged Caesar salad. (Buy a lot of salad. Also surprising: Teens love salad!) At the end of the evening, I kid you not – there was not a crumb of bread or even a single grape left on the table. You would think they wouldn't be able to eat any more after that, but then how would you explain 75 cupcakes disappearing in five minutes.


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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sleeping Beauty And Her Winter Knight: Everybody panto now


Let me just start off by saying SLEEPING BEAUTY AND HER WINTER KNIGHT at the Pasadena Playhouse is not for everybody. If you like your theater and its music unadulterated and stick-to-the-script you might be better off seeking out a more traditional telling of this classic tale. The one where the princess gets her kiss, gets her prince, and then gets to sing that song.

However, if you're looking for an invigorating, unpredictable production that is a real kick-in-the-pants with catchy top-40 tunes, big doses of humor and some names your teens will swoon over – I suggest you definitely check out SLEEPING BEAUTY AND HER WINTER KNIGHT at the Pasadena Playhouse. Don't worry – the princess still gets the prince in the end of this production, too. She just gets to sing a John Legend song while it's happening.

From the production:
An updated version of the classic Grimm fairytale, in the style of a traditional British family Panto, SLEEPING BEAUTY and Her Winter Knight is a singing and soaring winter adventure that features family- friendly magic, with a comedic twist, dancing (with 'So You Think You Can Dance' alumni), interaction with the audience and contemporary music from Jessie J's 'Domino' to John Legend's 'All Of Me,' Pharrell Williams 'Happy' to Survivor's 'Eye of The Tiger' and more. 


I had my first introduction to panto last year at the Playhouse's Aladdin And His Winter Wish. It took a little getting used to, but I now see it's such a celebratory, exciting form of interactive theater. The audience – especially the kids - are so enthusiastic about participating with the actors on stage, and the contemporary music is especially enticing for tweens and teens. This production had a great cast – Disney Recording Artist Olivia Holt, Garret Clayton (Disney's Teen Beach Movie) and Tamyra Gray (American Idol) that my teens were familiar with. And while they described Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) as 'before their time,' they agreed she made a great Maleficent.


One of the things that makes this production special is the Winter Wonderland event that takes place in The Playhouse’s Engemann Family Courtyard before every performance. Guests and their families can enjoy – free of charge – crafts, activities, games, Santa Claus (on select dates) and photo opportunities. (There is also face painting for a nominal fee.) For the adults, there's a no-host bar in the courtyard provided by the adjacent restaurant, redwhite+bluezz – they'll even give you a cup with a lid so you can have a little wine with your panto.

If you want to take your family to a unique, family friendly, all ages show this holiday, definitely check out SLEEPING BEAUTY AND HER WINTER KNIGHT at the Pasadena Playhouse. Performances run through January 4 and you can click here to purchase tickets. There are also a couple of special experiences your kids can take part in, like Golden Tickets (a special on-stage sing-a-long experience during the show) and Character Breakfasts.

The Pasadena Playhouse
39 South El Molino Avenue,
Pasadena CA 91101

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Things to do besides shopping: SLEEPING BEAUTY AND HER WINTER KNIGHT at the Pasadena Playhouse

It's December so now you've shifted into holiday season overdrive, running yourself ragged with shopping and family obligations. You might already be decorating like a crazy person. You've definitely cried at least once.

Here's a suggestion: Take a break and head out for an evening of live theater. Statistics* show that people who attend live theater during the holiday season are 95% more likely to refrain from drinking too much and fighting with family at the annual holiday party.

(*I made that statistic up. Nothing can keep you from drinking too much and fighting with your family.)

To start you off, I have FREE tickets to give away to Sleeping Beauty And Her Winter Knight at the Pasadena Playhouse. Great casting: Disney Recording Artist Olivia Holt, Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) and – for the teens and tweens in the audience – Garret Clayton (Disney's Teen Beach Movie).

See how peaceful she looks? She's finished with all her holiday shopping.
Even better – before every performance, all Playhouse guests and their families are invited to enjoy a 'Winter Wonderland' event in The Playhouse’s Engemann Family Courtyard free of charge, complete with crafts, activities, games, Santa Claus (on select dates) and photo opps.

I went to last year's holiday show at the Pasadena Playhouse and my girls and I loved it. The production was first rate, and the activities in the courtyard got us out of our funk and into the holiday spirit. (And that was before they met Neil Patrick Harris in the lobby.)

From the production: An updated version of the classic Grimm fairytale, in the style of a traditional British family Panto, SLEEPING BEAUTY and Her Winter Knight is a singing and soaring winter adventure that features family- friendly magic, with a comedic twist, dancing (with 'So You Think You Can Dance' alumni), interaction with the audience and contemporary music from Jessie J's 'Domino' to John Legend's 'All Of Me,' Pharrell Williams 'Happy' to Survivor's 'Eye of The Tiger' and more. 

So get out and see some live theater this holiday season – the mall will still be there when you're done.

What: 'Family PacK' of 4 tickets to Sleeping Beauty And Her Winter Knight for Wednesday, December 10 at 7:30pm.

How: Leave a comment here no later than 11:30pm Sunday night (December 7) telling me your favorite live performance you've seen. I'll use random.org to draw a winner from the entries. One comment per person, but you can share on Facebook or Twitter for additional entries. Please don't forget to leave a valid email address.

The Pasadena Playhouse
39 South El Molino Street, Pasadena
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Things we're eating: Ramen Bar

One of our favorite meals around here is something I call Ramen Bar. All I have to do is call out, "Ramen Bar" around dinnertime, and everyone stops what they're doing and comes running. And by 'come running' I mean they actually put their cell phones down and make their way to the kitchen.

When I've mentioned to people that I'm making ramen for dinner, I've gotten some judgy questions: "Is a 25¢ block of noodles really a sufficient meal?" "What about all that sodium? " "You're Asian, isn't ramen for dinner just a cop-out and a cliché?"

Once I've given them some serious side-eye, I explain that this isn't your dorm-room ramen. These are fresh noodles that you purchase from an Asian market, and with a bunch of different toppings – all fresh ingredients – laid out that everyone can choose themselves. My teens and their friends seem to especially like this – it's about time we let them make their own decisions, and there's nothing like being the boss of your soup.


Start with fresh noodles - you can find these in the refrigerated section of most Asian markets. Each package has two servings. Or only one if you want a larger portion. Our local ramen shop offers a 'large order' that comes in a bowl the size of a child's wading pool.


They usually have three different flavors available: Shoyu (soy sauce), Miso and Spicy Sesame. The  flavor refers to the broth packet that comes in the package, but this isn't the usual powder that comes in a foil packet that comes with Top Ramen – it's a liquid, slightly oily paste that you mix with boiling water to make your broth. If you're a purist you can even make your own (here's a good recipe from momofuku) but honestly I've been-there-done-that and the broth that comes with these fresh noodles is really good, so why bother? Use the extra time for sipping some cold saké.

Sidenote: While you're at the Asian market you should really pick up some of these to reward yourelf for all of your hard work:


Back to our ramen: Next, lay out a bunch of toppings. I've used slices of chicken, hard-boiled or fried eggs, tofu, cilantro, basil, sliced jalapeño, shredded cabbage, green onions and lime. This is probably more of a ramen/pho mashup of toppings – more traditional ramen toppings would be bean sprouts, sliced shiitake mushrooms, spinach, nori (seaweed), kamaboko (fish cake) and char siu (barbecued pork.) Really, the sky's the limit – just don't do anything weird like french fries or Oreos because then I'll have to send the Asian police to your door.

The broth concentrate goes into your bowl and covered with boiling water. Meanwhile, cook your noodles for 2 minutes, drain, and serve up into the broth with the toppings nearby. Yell out, "Ramen Bar" and watch your hungry family stampede over. Sort of.


(Not to imply that those store-bought, hard bricks of noodles don't have their place. This video of Hayao Miyazaki making ramen for his staff is one of my favorites. If Top Ramen is good enough for the director of 'Totoro', it's good enough for me.)

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I signed up to do NaBloPoMo (short for National Blog Posting Month) which is an online event where bloggers are challenged to post every single day of the month. This is only my third post out of twelve days, which is bad no matter how you do the math.



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Friday, November 07, 2014

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

What's on my mind tonight? Fantasy vs. reality. Mainly, this big box of lies:


I bought this for one of the girls' sleepovers, because what could be more genius than food that comes in its own serving container? Can you imagine the possibilities? What if you could buy a big, juicy steak that came on its own plate and then after you were done stuffing your face with that big animal carcass you could just dump the whole thing in the trash? Isn't that the definition of heaven?

My illusions were shattered, though, when I popped up one of these lying liars and it came out like this:


When I followed the instructions and pulled off the top, the bag ripped and popcorn went flying. Also, if you look at the picture on the box the popcorn is bursting out the bowl, but in reality it is barely 1/3 full. They need to rename this Straight Up Lies Bowl.

Did I eat it? YOU BET YOUR BUTTER-SOAKED FINGERS I DID.



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I just signed up to do NaBloPoMo (short for National Blog Posting Month) which is an online event where bloggers are challenged to post every single day of the month. I started late, but I intend to finish. Only 23 more days to go! Grab some popcorn and pull up a chair.


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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Don't come at me with your technology fasts

Don't be frightened children – it's just a cellphone from the '90's.
A few days ago I was trying to send a photo to a friend via text, and my phone died. My phone is old so this has been happening a lot, and I proceeded to do what I do every other time this happened – curse at it, threaten to throw it out the window (because it feels threatened when I say this) and then eat a handful of potato chips to ease my suffering.

Of course, then I had my kumbaya moment where I realize how fortunate I am to be able to take a picture with my phone and then somehow miraculously send it through space to my friend's phone fifty miles away, and I took a step back and just praised science. Then I had another handful of potato chips to calm myself down.

Technology has been daunting to me lately – my phone dies, my computer crashes, my FitBit keeps telling me I'm a lazy bitch – and a friend suggested I join her in a tech fast that she was embarking on. This inhumane endeavor consisted of going three days – cold turkey – without any computer or phone use, except for work or essential activities. This meant no posting on Facebook, sharing pictures on Instagram, conversing on Twitter or texting photos of my cocktail to Rigel.

This sounded like a hell I wanted no part of. Who would validate my feelings about life if I couldn't share them on Facebook? How would I know about world events without my Twitter feed? And without photographing my lunch and then enhancing it with a pleasing filter, DOES FOOD EVEN EXIST AT ALL?

I politely declined to participate in this heinous exercise in self-torture, and it got me thinking about how we all love to demonize technology, although I think there are very few of us who could go without it. Is this just a fad? I can't imagine a farmer in the 1800's declaring that he was going to go on a plow fast, or our parents defiantly announcing that they would go without their toaster oven for an entire seventy-two hours. Come to think of it, I don't remember any one of my friends ever bemoaning the fact that they were becoming overly-dependent on their pager, either.

I'm still going to curse at my phone and threaten to cut my computer if it shows me that goddamn spinning beachball again, and yell – at no one in particular and on a daily basis – "They can put a man on the moon but I can't get a decent WiFi signal in my bathroom?!" But I won't be giving up my technology anytime soon. Come to think of it, not my potato chips, either.
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I just signed up to do NaBloPoMo (short for National Blog Posting Month) which is an online event where bloggers are challenged to post every single day of the month. I joined in around six days in, which means I've already failed before I even started. On the upside, you can come back here everyday for thrilling stories, like this one about my phone.

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