Busch Gardens: A Self Discovery Story

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!! I'm going to take this time to talk about one thing I'm really thankful for in my life and that is the ability to travel. This is because one of the greatest things about travel is that through your journey, you learn something about yourself, even when you go somewhere you are familiar with. For my case, the destination was Busch Gardens in Tampa. The lesson that I learned was that somehow, over the years, I turned into a coward.

My sister took me and my brother to Busch Gardens when I was visiting them in Tampa last month.  If you are unfamiliar with the Busch, it's basically an animal conservatory mixed with pee-in-my-pants roller coasters. Now I've been on roller coasters before and not just the ones at Disney World. I've been on ones that flip, the ones that flip while you're legs are dangling, and the ones that flip while you're dangling and then spirals you downwards at 90 degrees. I did all of that before I even turned 18. 

Flash forward to present day and I'm strapped into a ride called the Cheetah Run. It goes from 0 to 60 in mere seconds (like it's namesake) and it definitely has hairpins and flips on it's route. Now, these things I've done before but yet I find myself really contemplating my life's achievements and wondering if the newspaper would remember to write it down when they report of my untimely demise on this contraption. 

Cheetah Run 
Since I am now recapping my time there, we all know I survive and to be honest I didn't think I was actually going to die. But in the first moments of being belted into the roller-coaster, I definitely tried to think about all the hypotheticals and my last minute options. 

Thankfully, my siblings didn't want to go on every ride and they also wanted to spend time looking at the animals. I mean, we do love our zoos... 

Of course, besides looking at animals, we ate some as well. Instead of the usual amusement park fare of hot dogs and burgers, we got some barbecue for lunch! The portions are ginormous and my siblings split a meal but since I wasn't planning on hopping back onto a roller coaster any time soon, I was happy to eat my brisket and baked beans.

Sight for these sore eyes...
My siblings and I jumped on some other rides but I opted out of a few that just looked too much for me to handle. Like this little puppy called the Shiekra, that plummets down at a 90 degree angle BUT NOT BEFORE HOLDING YOU UP THERE FOR 20 SECONDS. Yeah. The ride plays mind games on you and instead of just getting it over quickly, it stops and lets you really soak in the fact that you are suspended at a 90 degree angle and the things that are stopping you from meeting your maker are the structural integrity of the roller coaster and hope.  OH...and that happens on the ride twice.

First time

Second time
I must admit, that water part is pretty cool.
Now don't get me wrong, I had a blast at Busch Gardens and my siblings didn't mind me sitting out on some of the rides. I didn't want to hold them back either. I'm just saying that I don't have as much courage as I used to and when I'm on these rides, I'm suddenly very much aware of my own mortality. Can you imagine sitting next to me on a roller coaster ride? Talk about buzz kill. Nope, if you need me, I'll be at the gift shop, holding your bag for you, which is actually very nice of me and it saves you the trouble of using those lockers they have at the beginning of every ride.

Oh yeah, travel tip for going to Busch Gardens: Bring quarters. Tons of it.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm thankful for being able to travel because I learn more about myself and I'm also thankful to my family, for letting me be myself.

What are you most thankful for today???

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Thanksgiving Treats

Happy Week of Thanksgiving everyone!!! There's always something about Thanksgiving to me that screams "New York" and it's not because of the Macy's Day Parade. It's actually because I spent my first Thanksgiving in New York.

I was a freshman in college and since my family is in Taiwan, it didn't seem reasonable for me to fly back to Taipei for a 4x day holiday. Naturally, Thanksgiving became the day that my high school friends and I spent together, as all of them had parents in Asia as well. I would visit my friend Steph, who went to NYU. In our first Thanksgiving, we bought slabs of turkey breast and canned corn and just cooked it in her tiny dorm kitchen.

Flash forward to today (7x Thanksgivings later), could you blame me for still associating Thanksgiving with New York? This Thanksgiving I'm going to Tampa and spend it with my sister so I was determined to have just a little bit of Thanksgiving in New York. I was on a mission to find some Thanksgiving treats and I knew I'd be able to find it just in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

My first stop was Milk Bar. Owned by the Momofuku group, Milk Bar  has 6x locations in NYC as well as locations in Toronto. It's a very popular dessert shop but every year, around Thanksgiving, they make a savory Thanksgiving Croissant - filled with turkey (both dark and white), gravy, and cranberry sauce, it really is Thanksgiving in your mouth. Because the dough is made with celery salt, the vessel itself (croissant) tastes like stuffing. It's amazing!

Per Milk Bar's suggestion, I got the meal deal and got the Thanksgiving Croissant with a latte and a cookie of my choice (Compost Cookie) - $10

Thanksgiving Croissant up close and personal.

My second stop was Zucker Bakery, this small bakery tucked along the corner of E 9th St and Ave A. As soon as you walk in, it feels like home. Mostly because it's decorated like someone's living room with couches and coffee tables lined around the shop.

They have quite a selection for Thanksgiving themed donuts - Cranberry turkey donuts (with a pumpkin dough base), Turkey Gravy Donuts (also  (with a pumpkin dough base), Cranberry Donuts, and Sweet Potato Donuts with Marshmallow filling. (Sidenote, believe it or not, donuts are not my favorite dessert but for some reason, for this vlog, I always end up eating one.)

Thanksgiving Donuts & Their Sticky Buns (which they call "Roses") on the Cake Stand.

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FMM: My Kind of Holiday

If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then link back to your post on the comment section at www.alltheweigh.com so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. :) Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

 The Holidays and More: Part 2

1.  What state/country do you live in?  New York, NY

2.  Where were you born?  Were you raised there?
Oh boy...Let's just keep it simple and say I was born in Los Angeles, CA and was not raised there. Here's the long story.

3.  How do you feel about stores like Wal-mart opening on Thanksgiving Day for pre-Black Friday sales?  Will you participate? 
Meh, I feel like that's just businesses taking advantage of the holiday season and finding ways to profit. I'm not saying it as a bad thing. It's just businesses being businesses. I will not participate, however, but not because of any moral reasons. It's more of the "I'm too lazy and I don't really have anything I want to buy" reason.

4.  Have you ever participated in a Turkey Trot?  Will you do one this year?
Never participated in a Turkey Trot. To be honest, I didn't even know what that was until I just wiki'd it. Thus, won't be doing one this year. But there's always the future...:)

5.  What was your favorite toy as a child? 
Does the TV count? If not, I would probably say Peler Beads. My sister and I used spend hours to make so many different patterns and then watch joyously as my mom takes the iron out and seal our creation for us to display.

6.  Will you count points/calories on Thanksgiving Day?
I won't count points or calories but I am determined to portion control. I've realized that stuffing yourself until you are full is not actually a good thing for your body and you'll actually feel a lot better in the long run if you just pace yourself.

7.  Will you watch football Thursday?
YES! There's a Penn State game on (vs Nebraska) so I'll def be watching that. I'm going to my sister's place for Thanksgiving and her, myself, and her boyfriend all went to Penn State so it's going to be fun. Her boyfriend is also a big sports person so I'm sure other football games will be playing as well through out the day.

8.  Do you decorate inside/outside of your home for the holidays?
I live in an apartment in NYC so I don't think I'm allowed to decorate outside of my home. I do try to decorate inside though and make it somewhat festive. I have a blackboard door in my apartment so last year this is how I decorated. It's easy clean-up and I was travelling around for the holidays so putting up too much decoration would be overboard since I'll be the only one to enjoy it.

9.  Do you have allergies that prevent you from eating traditional holiday meals?
I'm allergic to soy and raw stone fruit. Thankfully, if the fruit is baked into a pie, though, I'm good! This also means I cannot enjoy any vegan or vegetarian based holiday meal since soy is a big component in their diet.

10.  Is it snowing where you live?
Yes. The first snow in New York was last week but it was sparse. It hasn't snowed since but it will soon and I'm so excited for it! There's nothing like snow to get you into the holiday spirit!

Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions.  Don’t forget to go to www.alltheweigh.com and link up in the comments.  Happy Monday, friends!
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Little Havana (Florida Road Trip Part 5)

The last and final stop of my Florida adventure is Little Havana in Miami. (Can you believe this whole trip only lasted for 2x days? We did some serious eating travelling! Kudos, Chang Gang!)

Dining at El Exquisito made me feel like a local. The people eating around me were a blend of families, regulars, and even some businessmen who were there on a lunch break.  From the modern decor of Ice Box to the down to earth feel of El Exquisto, I definitely felt like I saw two different sides to Miami.

Typical...the girls want to take pictures, the boys just want to order.
 A little embarrassed to say but I don't quite remember what everyone orderred. I definitely got the Ropa Vieja (shredded beef stew) and I believe Grace got the Arroz con Polo (rice with chicken)...And there's definitely a cuban sandwich involved...but I can't seem to figure out the rest. WHOOPS :P I should really write this down next time...

Guess what came after lunch? YEP! Dessert!!! We went right across the street to Azucar Ice Cream Company, where they hand make cuban ice cream!

Azucar changes their flavors on a daily basis and they're always thinking up creative new flavors to add onto their menu. Their most popular flavor is the Abuela Maria, which is what I got. If I find the chance to go back again, I definitely want to try more flavors (like Beam Me Up, Elvis, and the Godfather). 

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Travel Back Thursday: The Yin and the Yang (Day 4)

All my pictures and posts thus far have been about food. Let's face it - my life revolves around food. I love to eat. I can't help it. Besides eating, I got to spend some quality family time too. It had been around 2 years since our whole family was together. There was always someone missing in the last 2 years, either my sister and brother were back in Tampa or I was stuck in NYC. Because of work and school, it's been tough trying to find time for everyone to visit my parents at the same time. It's even harder to get both my parents, me, and my siblings in one area in the States! Haven't tried that one yet though.

My fourth day in Taiwan happens to fall on a Sunday and Sundays are my dad's day off. (He works on Saturday mornings and afternoon. I'm sure I got the workaholic gene from him.) To spend some quality time with him, my siblings and I got up bright and early to hike up a mountain with him. Ever since I was little, my dad loved taking us to different mountains around Taipei. My sister and I once climbed 4 mountains in one day with my parents and their friends. Did I mention we were less than 10 years old?

 The family that sweats together, stays together.
 View from the top
After the hike, we went back home to rest and got ready for lunch! My mom did not join us for the hike (she's not an outdoorsy kinda gal) so lunch was a mom activity. We went to this place that served amazing duck. They prepared it in three different ways for us but my favorite is the classic peking style duck.

 All gathered together ready for the feast.
Sliced roast duck w/ their crispy skin. YUMMMMM

After lunch, since it was so hot out, we decided to go to this newly opened shaved ice shop for dessert. Shaved ice in Taiwan is usually covered with condensed milk and plethora of toppings that range from jellies to fruits to even mung beans! I got the summer classic - shaved ice with mango. My sister and dad went the traditional route and split a mung bean based shaved ice with jellies. My mom got the red bean based shaved ice, which is also traditional. My brother got an unique flavor combo of lavender tea and lemon! My parents did not care for it and found it odd. I loved it, though, and so did my brother! 

 My parents - Happy that they have a full nest...and happy to dig into their dessert!
The assortment of shaved ice we got for the table!
The day was a good balance of work and play. We pushed ourselves to the top of the mountain (and verbally pushed my brother, who needed extra motivation) and then rewarded ourselves with peking duck and shaved ice.

(Related Links: More on my Taipei Trip last year: Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3)
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FMM - Holidays & Days to Come

I spent this past weekend being super productive. Emphasis on the super. I managed to read an entire book (from start to finish) in one sitting. It's so rare for me to actually find time to read these days so just the fact that I did makes me super happy. (Sidenote: This is the book I read.  It's quite entertaining and the characters are just like your family members, you want to hug and strangle them at the same time.)

Not only did I also find time to hang out with friends (and not be anti-social and spend the entire weekend in my jammies) but I also had time to shoot a great Thanksgiving-themed episode AND finish editing 3x videos.  I KNOW!!! I can't wait to show you all the episodes, especially the Thanksgiving one. I love Thanksgiving. It's a holiday dedicated to gluttony!!! But speaking of holidays....

If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then link back to your post on the comment section at www.alltheweigh.com so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. :) Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

1.  What are you plans for Thanksgiving this year?
I'm going to be spending it with my brother & sister in Tampa, with my dog in tow! It's becoming a tradition, actually, since I did the same thing last year. Last year, it was the first time I flew with my pet and it went swimmingly! Hopefully she'll do just as well this year.

My dog at last year's Thanksgiving festivity
2.  At what point do you being celebrating the Christmas season?
Well, at the very early stages, I start listening to Xmas jingles on the 1st of November...It makes me happy. I don't really start shopping for presents and thinking about decorations until after Thanksgiving, though.

3.  Do you celebrate Christmas, or do you celebrate another holiday?
I celebrate the "Holidays", as in the present swapping, friends and family gatherings, and taking time off of work to relax and feast.

4.  If you could have one present (you know, a material good, not love or world peace) what would you want?
A hard-wood floor steam cleaner for my apartment. This answer will probably change depending on the state of my life. Next week I'll probably say a GoPro camera. I don't know. I want nothing and everything at the same time.

5.  Share an idea or two that you can plan to do for someone who may need to feel loved throughout the holiday season.
Give them an advent basket - like an advent calendar but 25 small boxes in a basket, which he/she could open one every night. It'll be a daily reminder that she is loved and it could range from small things (like a piece of chocolate) to something funny (like an inside joke you two share).

6.  Would you rather spend the holiday season on the beach or in the snow?
In the snow. I'm like Kevin McCalister but with snow instead of xmas tree. It's just not Christmas unless there is snow!

7. What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?
STUFFING!!! I love stuffing. The bread, the seasoning, the variety of things you can put in it to spice it up, the way it soaks up the gravy, OH GOD WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE ABOUT STUFFING?!

8.  Will you participate in Black Friday shopping?
I really hope I don't because I really need to conserve my money...And I'm thinking some homemade goods for Xmas presents this year so there's not something that  I need to get someone on discount...

9.  Will you travel for the holidays or stay at home?  If you’re traveling, are you flying or driving or making alternate plans?
I'm travelling to Tampa for Thanksgiving and then going back to Taiwan for Xmas and New Years. Even though I love snow (see answer to 6 above), it's also not quite the holidays without people that you love. I'm visiting my parents in Taipei and my siblings are flying home too. My family is not big on Xmas but this is going to be very special because this is the first Xmas where we all spent it together in a very long time.

10.  List at least 5 things for which you are currently thankful.
I'm going to list material things because I am thankful to everyone in my life in very different ways and it would take a separate list (or even a book) to write down everything for everyone.

  1. My rode mic - This little shotgun mic saved my 3 year old camcorder from being replaced by a new one because although the video quality is not bad, the internal camera mic is just sucky. 
  2. Roku - For helping me cut costs by reducing my need for multiple dvrs and just have a Roku set up in the bedroom for some late night TV watching. 
  3. Twitter - For allowing me to connect with fellow travellers and getting insight/tips from such inspiring people.
  4. The MTA - Although all New Yorkers have a love-hate relationship with the subway system, I am fully aware how heavily I rely on the public transportation and am thankful for it's existence because it does make my life easier to get around.
  5. Portable iPhone Charger - I'm still rocking an iPhone 4. Not in a rush to upgrade my phone since my phone works just fine. The battery just drains a little bit faster than it used to but with this new charger, which is for all USB charging devices, not just for iPhone, I can be mobile for longer!
One last thing before I go! If you're wondering what my family is like, check out my recent adventures with them! I can't wait to travel back to Taiwan with them because you never know what to expect from my family (especially my mom)! 
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The Brunch and the Beach (Florida Road Trip Part 4)

The Floridian Saga continues!!! (Here are the links to the previous parts of my road trip with my family: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)

On my 2nd day in Miami, my siblings + Jason (sister's significant other) took me to Ice Box Cafe (located in South Beach) for brunch! If that place sounds familiar to you, that's because it's been mentioned by the like of Gayle King (Oprah's bestie) and Rachael Ray.

Chang siblings are ready for brunch & the beach!
Don't you love the decor? It's so clean yet still feels cozy.
Clockwise from Top Left: Grace's Eggbox, My Shrimp & Grits, Timmy's Sopes, and Jason's Guava filled French Toast

Are you at all surprised at this point that I finish every meal with dessert during my Florida road trip???
From top to bottom: Oreo Cookie Cream Cake, Almond Pistachio Cake, Key Lime Pie
This was our last day in Miami so of course we couldn't leave without visiting the beach! It was a quick 10 minute drive Ice Box Cafe. Lucky for us, we found parking fairly quickly along the street.

You could get a tan just by looking at this picture!
Family fun time!

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Hotel Review: InterContinental Miami

During my Florida trip, my family and I stayed overnight at the InterContinental hotel in downtown Miami. It's a 15 minute drive from the beach and is more catered towards the business people, convention attendees, and stadium go-ers. Since my family are not really drinkers (plus we were travelling with a 13 year old), we didn't really need to be near the beach and clubs of South Beach.

The price of this 4 star hotel is comparable to the price of a 3 star hotel on South Beach so it's really up to you on whether you'd rather sacrifice budget or proximity to the ocean. Not to say that there's no night life in downtown Miami. Since it is so close to business and convention centers, obviously there's going to be some watering holes sprinkled around.

As for the hotel itself and it's amenities...Well, I'll let myself speak for itself:

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Versailles + Hotel + Dessert = Miami? (Florida Road Trip Part 3)

So here's what you missed on Glee Without a License: Part 1 and Part 2!
I flew down to Tampa, where my siblings live, and we embarked on a road trip to Miami. We drove from Tampa to Sarasota (for breakfast) to Fort Lauderdale (lunch) and then to Miami. We stopped at the zoo to work off our breakfast and lunch. Now we are ready for dinner at Versailles! Nono, I didn't fly over to France. It's a restaurant! The world's most famous Cuban restaurant, apparently. Here is the last part of my Florida Road Trip Day 1!

It's been a full day hasn't it?

I must say, for the record, that the dessert at Michael's Genuine is mind-blowing! No wonder it was presented by multiple chefs on Best Things I Ever Ate. Their apple fritters were the best fritters I've ever had! They managed to preserve the taste of the apple but have the crunchy outside and the soft, melt in your mouth inside that you only dream a fritter would be. SO GOOD.
Decor. Really low lighting.

Apologies on the exposure. Had to use flash because the restaurant's mood lighting.

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Zoo Miami (Extended Episode!)

Didn't get enough of Zoo Miami from my last episode? No worries! Here's a more in-depth look of my time there! Plus more Fun Facts with Timothy Chang!!!

Can you tell just how much my brother loves animals? It really rubs off on you and you get excited about the different creatures that walk on this earth.

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