Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Formula for Danger, by Camy Tang

Camy Tang's latest release, Formula for Danger, takes place in the Napa Valley wine country of California. The mystery suspense novel focuses on Rachel Grant, dermatologist, and her formula for a breakthrough scar-reduction cream. Rachel is the sister of Naomi Grant, protagonist of the previous book, Deadly Intent.

Someone is trying to kill Rachel and steal her formula. Every chapter has non-stop action and keeps you guessing who the culprit is. At the same time, Rachel falls in love with a man who seems to push her away emotionally, but shows up when she needs him most.

An intriguing subplot revolves around Rachel's relationship to her father and her need to please him. Rachel's deceased mother was Japanese, and her father is Caucasian, yet some of his attitudes are typically associated with Asian males. I think one of the strong points of Camy's fiction in that she writes from an Asian American perspective, yet doesn't make it obvious.

The official release month of the book is September, but I was able to obtain an advance copy. It's a quick read that can be enjoyed any time of the year and would make a great gift for the Christian suspense or Camy Tang fan.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dining on a Budget at South Lake Tahoe

Vacation wouldn't be a vacation without dining out. Who wants to cook? Here are some places we found great deals:

1) Embassy Suites Hotel: All guests enjoy complimentary made-to-order and/or buffet-style full breakfasts. I loved the scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, aromatic country potatoes, fluffy French toast and pancakes. Baked goods, cereal, yogurt, and fresh fruit were also available for the taking along with a variety of beverages. My favorite drink was the fruit punch. Very sweet, but I added ice. Who can resist a free breakfast?

2) Echo Restaurant in the Embassy Suites: We found a $35 coupon online from for this pricey establishment. Some of our dishes were better than others. My husband's steak and garlic potatoes were scrumptious. I wasn't too hungry and only ordered basil tomato soup and a scallops appetizer. The soup was great, but the three tiny scallops were overcooked and came with an overly sweet and salty soy sauce. The coupon would have been worth more if we had a smaller party.

3) Lakeside Inn's Timber Room: This restaurant in a small casino at the end of the Strip was surprisingly uncrowded. We had eaten here two years ago and had to wait an hour to be seated. Prices are reasonable and the quality good. I ordered a hamburger with avocado and grilled mushrooms for $7.50 and my husband had the tri-tip special for $8.50. Both were delicious.

4) Harrah's Forest Buffet: Instead of going here on Father's Day Sunday, we waited till Monday and arrived a little before 5:00 when it opened for dinner for two reasons: one, it would have been more crowded on Father's Day and two, weekdays are less expensive than weekends. Adult dinners are $18.95 on weekdays. We were seated fairly quickly and went to town on the international smaogasbord: fresh sushi, steaming pizza, hand-cut roast beef, steamed shrimp, Chinese food, Mexican dishes, American. But my favorite area was the desserts: mini chocolate eclairs bursting with Bavarian cream, tiny fruit tarts with custard, lemon cake, chocolate cream pie--yum-yum!

5) Fenton's Ice Creamery: Located in Vacaville in the new Nut Tree shopping area, we stopped off here on the way back to the Bay Area. If you like the one in Oakland, you'll like this one even better. The clean, air-conditioned eatery welcomed us from the heat of the day. Besides frozen concoctions, they serve soups, salads, and sandwiches. I ordered half a crab sandwich with chicken gumbo soup. The sandwich was made with REAL crab. I was saving my stomach for dessert, but ended up sharing a chocolate shake with hubby. Prices are reasonable.

A Tahoe vacation has become a family tradition we look forward to every year. We treasure the time we can spend with our extended family to forge even closer ties. As the teens get older and everyone is busy, purposeful time spent together will help us stay close.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Heavenly Gondolas at South Lake Tahoe

Although our family is on a budget, it doesn't mean we can't spend money. Three activites we were deciding between were the Heavenly Gondolas ($32/adults, $26/teens), MS Dixie Paddlewheeler ($35 w/AAA discount), and renting a speedboat for two hours ($340/ten people or $34 each). While none of these was cheap, we chose the Heavenly Gondolas not only because it was the least exepnsive, but because most of us had not gone on these particular gondolas before in good weather.

The enclosed tram took us up 9000 feet to an observation platform. We experienced spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains. Blue skies reflected in the lake and we could clearly see boats, Tahoe Keys, and the casinos at Stateline. We enjoyed posing for a professional group photo ($20 for four photos of various sizes in a keepsake folder), petting a baby raccoon, browsing the gift shop and drinking hot chocolate at the snack bar.

We reboarded the gondolas and traveled further up the mountain to Adventure Peak. During the winter, skiers disembark here for intermediate and advanced downhill skiing. But in the summer, visitors can hike the trails, as well as climb a rock wall ($10), or eat at the Adventure Grill. Some of us took naps in the sunshine on comfortable Adirondack-style chairs while others hiked to a point overlooking Carson Valley. In the middle of June, snow still covered some of the trails. If our teens were younger, they would have enjoyed climbing a net maze to glide down a giant slide (free for kids 12 and under).

Traveling to the top of the mountain on the gondolas was the highlight of our trip. The great weather and scenic beauty combined with friendly rangers and amenities made for a great family outing.

Next: Dining on a Budget at South Lake Tahoe

Friday, June 25, 2010

Eight Free or Inexpensive Family Summer Activities in South Lake Tahoe

My extended family just returned from a short vacation in beautiful South Lake Tahoe. Our group included teenagers, adults and one senior. As with many families during these tough economic times, we searched for free or inexpensive activities all could enjoy. Here is a partial list of what we did or wanted to do, but didn't have time for (not in any particular order):

1) Tallac Historic Site: I never knew this existed until this year. Three estates within a short walking distance from each other are free to explore on the outside. $5 ($3 for kids) tours of the Pope Estate are given every day except Tuesdays during the summer. Picturesque ponds, gardens and historic vehicles are on display. Paved flat paths are easy even for small children. Parking is free.

2) Kiva Beach: Parking is free. We didn't go here, but saw the parking lot was fairly full.

3) Baldwin Beach: Parking is $7. We go here every time we visit Tahoe. It is our favorite beach because it is quiet, clean, and the bathrooms are close by. Pope Beach is also $7 for parking. You can puchase one parking pass and visit both beaches on the same day.

4) Watched a movie in our hotel room. We stayed at the Embassy Suites and eight of us watched Date Night for $12.99. That's $1.62 each! We also ate a free full breakfast every morning. Yum!

5) Harrah's Arcade: We found coupons near the concierge desk at our hotel for $10 worth of arcade tokens for $5. Some of us took the teenagers to the arcade while other adults gambled. I think they went through the tokens in about half an hour, then took another fifteen minutes deciding what they wanted to exchange their tickets for.

6) Explore Tahoe Interpretive Center: Between our hotel and the Heavenly Gondolas is a roundish building with a colored sidewalk leading up to it. The Interpretive Center is geared mainly for younger children, but our teens enjoyed reading and playing with the exhibits. A scale model of Lake Tahoe with points of interest lights up when you press buttons. Floor puzzles and coloring can keep young ones busy. Admission is free.

7) Cascade Falls: Near Cascade Lake. We didn't go here, but will save it for next time. A short, moderate hike leads up to a series of waterfalls. Free.

8) Taylor Creek Visitor Center/Rainbow Trail: Another interpretive center and easy, flat, paved trail. We will save for next time. Free.

Directions and other info to all these places can be found on the Internet.

Travel articles are not the usual topics of my blog, but I thought reviews of the different places we visited would be helpful for families planning a trip to South Lake Tahoe this summer. We went when it was relatively uncrowded, but as the summer wears on, the number of visitors will increase.
Next: The Heavenly Gondolas: Not Cheap, but Relatively Inexpensive

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Karate Kid Is Kicking

When I first heard they were remaking The Karate Kid starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, I thought, how can they call it Karate Kid when Jackie Chan does kung fu? I wasn't planning to see it, but got to view it for free when my nephew's kung fu academy performed before a showing.

I thought the opening scene was a good way to show backstory without telling it. Young Dre (Jaden Smith) stares at a growth chart marked on the wall. Milestones in his life and the dates are penciled in. In 2007, his daddy died. He measures himself and writes "Moved to China." That's all you need to know at the beginning.

Jaden's Dre is a very likeable character. At twelve years old, he is still a very sweet-looking boy. Dre is bullied by bigger boys who know kung fu. He persuades Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) to teach him kung fu so he won't be afraid of them. I had no problem with the bullies being Chinese, after all, they are in China.

If you've seen the original Karate Kid, you might remember catching flies with chopsticks, "wax on, wax off," and the crane position. The new version pays homage to these scenes in humorous ways.

I thought the movie was good. I wasn't sure if my teenage daughter would like it since she's not into martial arts movies, but she really enjoyed it, partly because there were lots of Chinese people in it.

I can understand from a marketing viewpoint that the name Karate Kid was kept to reboot the franchise and draw people in. There was one line in the movie drawing attention to the fact that karate and kung fu are not the same. But hopefully, the majority of viewers will be made aware there's a difference.

All in all, The Karate Kid is a good family movie. There's not a lot of blood, but some of the violence may be too much for younger viewers. My husband wants to buy the DVD when it comes out.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tim Be Told Releases a New Video: Analyze

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. Life gets busy. Anyway, Tim Be Told, an Asian American Christian rock band, just released a new music video. You can watch it here and even download it for free from their website:

I had heard of the band several months ago and a friend even recommended I check them out. I like their sound and appreciate the fact that they use people of various nationalities in their video.

Their talent agency, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, is one of the top agencies in the world. I am glad for Tim Be Told that someone at that agency believes in them and that their audience is large enough to be worth spending time and manpower to promote.

Here is their press release:

Tim Be Told Releases “Analyze” Music Video and Announces Free Music Download

On May 5, 2010, Tim Be Told released a brand new music video for their song, “Analyze,” off the critically acclaimed “From the Inside” EP. Watch the video now at, where you can download the single for free and visit the newly relaunched Tim Be Told store. Using real people rather than actors, “Analyze” highlights the internal struggles we all face and the battles waged between discouragement and hope. The video, directed by Jonathan Moy, projects the band’s positive outlook, with hope winning in the end. Tim Be Told’s uplifting music has earned them a legion of fans across the country. They have been touring relentlessly as a client of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and, in between the dates, the band is spending some time in the studio working on a new record!

For those of you that want to see Tim Be Told perform at your university next year, the band has a limited number of shows that it will be playing at college campuses. Therefore, send a booking email request ASAP to reserve a spot. Don’t miss out!

See the band on tour live in a city near you and stay tuned to for the latest news and updates:

May 6 - Columbus, OH - BoMA
May 7 - Cincinnati, OH - Mainstay Rock Bar
May 8 - Los Angeles, CA - Panel at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
May 12 - Denver, CO - University of Denver
May 18 - Campbell, CA - World Mission Baptist Church
May 22 - Seattle, WA - APA Heritage Bash @ Ibiza Nightclub
May 28 - Wheaton, IL - WCAC Church
June 25 - Mineral City, OH - Alive Festival
June 26 - Nashville, TN - Lipscomb University

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ginseng Radio Launches New Asian American Programming

Ginseng Radio is an online radio station that focuses on North American East-Asian culture. It features music from Taiwan, China, Korea, and Japan; call-in shows regarding important cultural issues; entertainment shows focusing on anime, dramas, and import cars; and unique Christian programming. Instead of airing shows using radio waves, all content is accessed via its website and can be downloaded or listened to from your computer. Based in Toronto, Canada, the non-profit organization is a program of Youth Unlimited for Christ.

I eagerly awaited the launch of their programs the week of January 11th. So far, I am able to access three: "Brown Rice and the Boss, " "Bento Box," and "Mandate." Each show is about 50-80 minutes long and consists of the hosts conversing with one another on various cultural or spiritual topics interspersed with music. My favorite conversation dealt with Jackie Chan movies and Sammo Hung's television show, Martial Law, with Arsenio Hall. Another interesting topic was about how J-pop, or Japanese pop music, has gone mainstream with the rise of anime, which has fans from many divergent cultures.

The station is also sponsoring an Ugly Jacket Contest. Send in a picture of a really ugly jacket by February 14th and you could win a prize! They have cool tee shirts, caps and other Ginseng Radio merchandise for sale, too.

As far as I know, Ginseng Radio is a unique Christian organization producing content in English aimed at North American Asians. I look forward to more new shows in the future.