ONA x 100cameras

It was time for a new camera bag—I gave my old one a great deal of love and wore it down. So naturally, I perused ONA, and The Prince Street captured my attention forthwith. Slim, pragmatic, and spruce with a touch of vintage—matte black waxed canvas, detailed with full grain Italian leather and solid brass hardware. It comfortably houses an 11-inch laptop or tablet, a camera, two lenses, and small personal items. It embodies style and functionality; being a light traveler and one who embraces living minimally, the carry-all suits my personality well.

Those who know me well are quite familiar with my passion in supporting children's education. It is not only design and practicality that distinguishes this ONA bag from others. Profits from this camera bag support 100cameras, which is a New York City-based organisation that empowers children through photography by giving those living in marginalised communities the tools to artfully communicate and express. Their unique stories are transformed into sellable products that directly fund medical supplies, educational resources, and lifeline necessities. "100cameras envisions a world where kids are empowered to share their stories and create impact."

The 100cameras custom photojournalism curriculum coaches on personal development coupled with fundamental photojournalism skills. The organisation strongly aspires to consolidate artistic education and community development seamlessly, enlightening students to realise that they possess the skills and power to transform the world around them. The mission is impressive thus far, and their students are pleased to directly serve their communities via creative expression and sharing their stories.

Each project melds into global network of 100cameras staff, supporters, and volunteers. Proceeds and contributions are much greater than monetary—100cameras' youth have learned the power of their perspective, and by sharing their work, they have honed their abilities to positively impact right from their own homes. And that is the goal: to empower young individuals to realise they have a voice—that they can initiate tangible change and continue the cycle by sharing their stories to the world, one community at a time, no matter their background or circumstance.

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100cameras.org


Revelations I

It always seems impossible until it is done. — Nelson Mandela

Find the thing in you that is different, that's as sharp as a diamond and jagged as a razor. Hone that, because that's the thing with which you'll cut the world. — Clayton Cubitt

Facing the unknown is daunting. It's so much easier to let things be, even when you know you shouldn't. When you feel that resistance—that almost overpowering, bone-crushing force—you have to push back...that is when you really find yourself and figure out where you're supposed to go. — Alison Sudol

...your only real responsibility as an artist is to get lost in and follow your obsessions as far as they go, because anything besides that is copying someone else or doing something that's not true to yourself. — Sam Beam

I'm not currently satisfied because that would mean I'm not hungry, and you have to be hungry to make interesting work. — Alison Sudol

As photographers, we always want to travel and go to exotic places...but sometimes there is so much magic happening right in front of you. — Andre Wagner

What I'm doing is not a sprint: it's a marathon. I'd rather focus on what's meant to be, what's organic and real. — Clayton Cubitt

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you. — Maya Angelou


The Gates Key West

We were greeted by blithe palm trees decorated with crystalline dew, encircled by the Gulf of Mexico in a tiny pocket of paradise, The Gates Key West Hotel. Its concept was inspired by the island's lush and diverse past, from Bahamian conchs to Cuban revolutionaries and literary legendaries. It is the rich, intricate history that makes Key West so special.

For an ephemeral moment, we escaped reality. 

It was a weekend getaway to unlock the keys and savor the last bit of warmth before returning to the imminent long and bitter winter season in New York. We were welcomed with a palette of creamy whites and neutral hues punctuated with color accents, eco-friendly and reclaimed details of exposed whitewashed beams and custom platform beds of hand-washed pine. The hotel amenities were designed for the discerning traveler, incorporating luxurious bedding, plush towels and bathrobes from Turkish Towel Company, and key lime bath essentials from Key West Aloe. Each room also displays original work by award-winning local photographer Jorge de la Torriente of Key West’s De La Gallery.

In the center of the hotel, rests a food truck called The Blind Pig and we must admit that we were a bit skeptical. However, the fish was grilled to an excellent medium, the soft-shell tacos were splendidly spiced, and the tortilla crisps and fresh guacamole were perfectly salted and slightly tart—a unique “Conch fusion” menu inspired by Key West’s Cuban, Bahamian, Caribbean, and Floridian roots. The fare smelled too delicious and instantly satisfied our palettes, it did not make it in any photos. We finished the trip with the perfect mojitos from The Rum Row—refreshing and sweet. The people were just so cordial and warm, I surely will return in the future.

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gateshotelkeywest.com


Plum Rose Tarts

As a gastronomist, I have made it a tradition to bake a special dessert that I have never created before at the start of a new semester at university to symbolise the next chapter in life. The fruit tart is my favourite pastry, so I decided to design one with a striking flair—rustic plum rose and rice pudding tart—that is intricate and illuminates detail like an anatomical illustration.


Tea Solemnity

When I brew tea, it is much more than to hydrate or to have an alternative to coffee. It is a period of reflection—I envisage the past, the present, the future, and being at home within myself is restored. It is a rumination of self-improvement, contemplation, and quietude. To achieve the correct flavour, the correct colour, the correct consistency, the act of brewing tea requires artistry, patience, technique, and a precise scope of practise—it is an art. 

Loose leaf tea flavors are authentic; the petals and leaves are less processed and bear such transcendental beauty. From the moment my eyes fall upon their intricate textures and I inhale deeply, filling my lungs with their ambrosial redolence, I am carried away to another world and I fall gently into a field with tall grass, graceful flowers, and balletic leaves that dance with the wind.

A beguiling synthesis of Japanese Sencha and the enticing spirit of rose, accented with an embellishment of rose petals. It possesses a breath of grace and mystery. The chartreuse leaves of Sencha, fragile with accents of oceanic and verdant notes, harmonise with the lush fragrance of rose. // An exhilarant tropical brew of Chinese green and subtle Jasmine teas swathed within a haze of lush rose, marigold, and passionfruit. Reminiscent of an afternoon rain and the fever experienced with the rush of young love. // A refined and distinguished concoction of white peony tea and French lavender with revitalising notes of bright grapefruit. At once casual yet opulent, it dons its derivation lightly, floating delicately from morning until night. // A beautiful, herbal amalgam evocative of a summer grassland. Lemongrass and verbena mingle blissfully with lavender, rose petals, mint, and sage. Airy and inspiriting.

Each tea tells a story. Each one is a circadian reprieve of peace amongst the chaos—my solemnity.


Le Labo

When I first discovered Le Labo one year ago, I was drawn in—tout de suite. The design and encasings of the formulations are minimal, yet dignified and refined. Each bottle of fragrance is conscientiously compounded using precise measurements of laboratory glassware, meticulously labeled, and personalised with the utmost care by hand. To attain the apotheosis of freshness, every creation is artfully amalgamated and coalesced by an au fait chemist right before the receiver using the finest ingredients sourced from Grasse, France. When one collects a crafted, well-balanced fragrance from Le Labo, it is said to be an everlasting emotional connection to the brand. 

Wandering to a Le Labo parfumerie is like a serendipity at a classic apothecary that has transmogrified into a polished, contemporary lab. The spaces are charming with a touch of vintage flair and I shall be returning to document them in the future. As a scientist, I cannot help but beam with joie de vivre when I stumble upon commodities codified with a scientific method foundation. Upon opening just one bottle, one will be greeted with deep, soulful scents—sultry fusions of bergamot, jasmine, patchouli, and rose.

The City Exclusives collection is composed of 9 sui generis fragrances and each scent is available exclusively in the city it belongs to, nowhere else. This means that one must venture to a Le Labo boutique in the city designated to the scent. However, Le Labo has allowed each city to be obtainable to the world for a limited time. Sample vials to experience each city before committing will be present starting on August 1st and the full bottles will be available for 4 weeks starting on September 1st, 2015.


Tubereuse 40 (New York) - Tuberose, bergamot, tangerine, and orange flower.
Vanille 44 (Paris) - Subtle amber and wood notes with undertones of vanilla.
Poivre 23 (London) - Warm, spicy, oriental, with true Bourbon pepper.
Musc 25 (Los Angeles) - Angelic, musky, aldehydic, and luminous with a dark core.
Baie Rose 24 (Chicago) - Spicy, woody, yet fresh. "Pure refinement and memorability."
Limette 37 (San Francisco) - Bergamot, jasmine, and petit grain, with vetiver and tonka bean base notes.
Gaiac 10 (Tokyo) - Gaiac wood with 4 different types of musks, cedar, and olibanum.
Benjoin 19 (Moscow) - Mosaic of olibanum, amber, cedar, and musks.
Cuir 28 (Dubai) - Animalic tar version of vanilla with leathery oriental undertones.


Wythe Hotel

Just walking into the room was a breath of fresh air. The Wythe Hotel is a haven which I frequently escape to for a staycation or short retreat and I am almost hesitant to share photos since it holds a special nook in my heart. It still remains one of my most treasured hotels and I have been waiting for the right moment to document it. From the outside, it may appear analogous to all of the old neighboring warehouses in Williamsburg with rustic brick walls and vintage industrial features, however, the inside is classic-modern, chic, and tastefully minimal with urban character. 

A former barrel and cask cooperage, circa 1901, the Wythe Hotel began with the uncovering of a factory on the Williamsburg, Brooklyn waterfront. It has now been refurbished into a 70-room hotel by trio Australian hotelier Peter Lawrence, local property developer Jed Walentas (of Two Trees) and celebrated restaurateur Andrew Tarlow (of Diner and Marlow & Sons).

With floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase glorious views of the Manhattan skyline and a standalone pedestal tub, the hotel is of ebullient industrial charm—the original bare bricks, arched windows, and impressive cast iron columns have all been artfully preserved, while the bucolic pine ceilings were reconditioned into bed frames.

The hotel’s rooftop bar, The Ides, rests in a new glass box extension above the old warehouse, while the restaurant, Reynard, serves a menu that changes nearly every day with seasonal fare, wood-fired dishes created by Tarlow, and the finest handmade desserts with gourmet flavours.

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wythehotel.com


Noguchi Museum

One of my cherished perks of being a Columbia University student is that admission to NYC museums and galleries is complimentary. I am quite partial to scoping out and venturing to underrated gems, so naturally, The Noguchi Museum was at the top of my must-see list of museums. I was bestowed a small fraction of personal time, so I took the occasion to completely immerse myself in zen and augment my knowledge in art (and celebrate another year on Earth). However, I am ecstatic to be returning to the laboratory, utterly enthralled, to conduct research at Columbia University Medical Center to continue on the odyssey and life goal to mitigate cancer. But for now, let us take a glimpse into Noguchi's art and legacy. 

The Noguchi Museum was created and designed by internationally and critically acclaimed, Japanese-American sculptor, Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), for the installation of masterpieces he deemed to be characteristic archetypes of his life’s vision.

Opened in 1985, the Museum is housed in a reconstructed industrial building, connected to a building and interior garden of Noguchi’s design. Located in the vibrant neighborhood of Long Island City, Queens, the Museum is considered in itself to be one of the artist’s greatest works. In building a museum, Noguchi was an early pioneer who led the metamorphosis of the Long Island City area into the arts district it is today, home to cultural institutions such as Socrates Sculpture Park, SculptureCenter, MoMA PS1, and Museum of the Moving Image, among others (Noguchi Museum, 2015).

Noguchi constructed the Museum conglomerate as an open-air sculpture garden ensconced within architecture that encloses ten galleries. In its entirety, the Museum emanates a visceral, meditative amplitude in which to appreciate Noguchi's sculpture and design, accomplishing a central leitmotif that Noguchi considered indispensable to his life's cultivation. Visitors enter the two-level, estimating 27,000-square-foot, Museum through the distinguished sculpture garden. While the ground-level galleries and garden contain a perpetual display of Noguchi's work, elected from his own collection (circa 2004), the Museum routinely showcases transitory exhibitions that manifests a rich, contextualised view of Noguchi's work in the upper galleries.

An international focus point for the study and interpretation of Noguchi’s work, one can feel the dedication of the Museum to illuminating the artist’s vision, his wisdom with sculpture and public spaces, and the legacy of his work in later artists. However, just seeing the tranquil garden with Noguchi's sculptures, weeping cherry trees and bamboo, are worth the trip alone. His work is unmatched, enigmatic, and thought-provoking.

Upon entering, I was transported to a tranquil and harmonious haven that induced a feeling as if I was not in the city. The intimacy of Noguchi’s design of the Museum is an elemental and extraordinary part of the experience. It remains a place for the exploration of individual artistic endeavor and creative collaboration through exposure to Noguchi's eclectic practice. The relevance of underscoring the character of The Noguchi Museum, even as it grows in programming capacity and in public recognition, simply cannot be over-hyperbolised.


Paris in a New Light

I aimed to capture Paris in another light—to arouse another feeling, to conjure a peculiar emotion that wanders from the stereotypical whimsical photos of Paris—arcane, bold, yet wistful and still. When I traveled to France, it was mid-winter—there were no leaves or blooming flora—it was as if the city had shed its feathers into a deep slumber. I was lured to the shadows and dark elegiac light of mystérieux exposing the striking skeleton of Paris.

...your only responsibility as an artist is to get lost in and follow your obsessions as far as they go, because anything besides that is copying someone else or doing something that's not true to yourself. — Sam Beam

It is easy to go to the same location to emulate a photo that one may have seen. One may be inclined to photograph that particular place in an analogous fashion, or one may have predisposed thoughts that the way another captures a photo is the only perspective, the right approach. However, one would surely be mistaken; there are virtually endless angles and aspects—all brilliant and sui generis. Make the photo your own, your art, your voice. Create from within.


Mütter Museum

My trip to The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians Of Philadelphia is undeniably a highlight this semester. Being that I am a future physician, this place made my heart sing and tops my list of favourite anatomical museums. Mütter houses a phenomenal collection of 139 skulls showing anatomic variation among ethnic groups in central and eastern Europe, bizarre medical oddities, and an extensive library of pathological specimens. The moment I stepped onto the burgundy carpet, my heart fluttered with utter excitement and my eyes opened wide like a curious child.

I was not able to photograph too much since security was high and I did not dare to expose my bulky camera, however, I am quite content with my sneaky iPhone photos. The second to last photo features the stunning world-famous cast and livers of the original "Siamese" twins, Chang and Eng Bunker. These conjoined twins were born and amazingly survived in what is now Thailand in 1811. They came to the United States in 1829 as touring performers and speakers. Eventually, they retired, married sisters, and bought adjacent farms in North Carolina in the early 1840s. How fascinating! The legacy of the Bunkers is a topic of contemplation and is an ongoing medical interest regarding pathways leading to fetal abnormalities. The last photo showcases the full embryonic development of bone (left) and the impressive skeleton of a 7-foot, 6-inch giant from Kentucky (right).

Before heading home to New York, I took some time to wander through the streets of Philadelphia and stopped by The Philadelphia Science Festival, a delicious lineup of food trucks, and a charming coffee shop for a refreshing cold Japanese brew.


London +

I realise it has been a while since my last blog post. I went on an eventful, yet rewarding hiatus for a few weeks after my solo trip abroad due to university, lab research, photo shoots, and work at the hospital. As one who lives every aspect of life wholeheartedly, I was saving my next entry for a time when I was not consumed with exams on respiratory acidosis, buried in a 30-page research paper on quantum mechanics, extracting DNA, streak plating thousands of unicellular flagellates, and taking care of sundowning patients who curiously become cantankerous while telling bizarre stories of the 6th dimension and pocketbooks and batting everything in sight—all simultaneously—so that I could devote my full attention to writing. Needless to say, every day at the hospital has been truly exhilarating and my patients have shown me invaluable wisdom that has opened my eyes to a new world.

While many are attracted to the equator for the salvation of warmth, I find myself gravitating toward the poles of the Earth. A few weeks ago, I began my Spring Holiday trip in London visiting family and continued to Paris and Oslo. London is one of my favourite cities I have traveled to thus far and dare I say, I adore London more than Paris. London is trim, polished, and the brisk, chilly climate is one that I fancy—the city just suits my personality. Paris is lovely, however, I feel that Paris is unduly romanticised and that the allure and crisp elegance of London is quite often underrated.

My days began at 3am. As I stepped out the door, my lungs would fill with wintry zephyr. It felt energising and restorative. The beautiful fog loomed over the city—the stillness and lull was spellbinding. I rode the Tube to explore iconic sites like the London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament Square, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, and a few art galleries. I also gave Dippy the Diplodocus a visit at the Natural History Museum. I was warned by previous UK visitors that the food was mediocre in its essence, however, I had a different experience and delighted in the cuisine of the restaurants and cafés. My favourite was at a dapper Japanese-inspired coffee shop where I took great pleasure in a shrimp katsu sandwich, iced coffee, and matcha strawberry cake for dessert while reading the latest Monocle. As I sit here, typing and retyping descriptions to my photographs, I realise that there are no words good enough, expressive enough, just enough, and that they must be left wordless, unadulterated, and left to the imagination. 

It is invigorating to travel solo. You realise how small you are and you just feel so free. Limitless.


Spring Travels

It's Spring Holiday—I am quite excited since I am visiting family and this is the first time I am setting foot in Europe solo. Pictured above are a few essentials that always journey with me: Leather back writer to hold my passport and small notebook, Aēsop hand balm, ASKA Collection Loyd flats (favourite flats thus far), Maison Kitsuné Paris print button down shirt, Top Man bow tie from my good friend Jane, Larsson & Jennings watch, Nikomat film camera, and of course Kinfolk Magazine, my favourite read for the plane ride.


City Kitchen

I am ecstatic to introduce City Kitchen, a new trendy food market that curated the best restaurants in NYC under one roof, conveniently nestled in the heart of Times Square next to Row NYC. It just launched last week on March 5th! It is a one-stop for all, featuring off-the-grid restauranteurs' most crave-worthy fare from every NYC neighbourhood from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side and everywhere in between. As a foodie, I am incredibly thrilled to share photographs to tantalise your taste buds. With sushi, tacos, burgers, and doughnuts for days, I can say without a doubt that I will be a regular at City Kitchen. I hope you revel in your City Kitchen adventures! It is best seen and tasted in person.


THE VENDORS

Azuki: For all your sushi, sashimi, shumai, gyoza, and kani salad cravings, the sushi chefs make all the sushi fresh right in front of you. They also have Thai iced tea! My favourite is the Azuki roll.

Dough - @doughdoughnut: Often rated as the best doughnuts in the country, Dough brings unique and unexpected flavors inspired by European and Latin American desserts. My favourites are dulche de leche and passion fruit.

Gabriela’s - @gabrielasnyc: Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Gabriela's provides scrumptious tacos of every flavor, shrimp rellenos, empanadas, seafood ceviches (my favourite), and of course guacamole and chips.

ilili Box - @ililibox: With take-away Lebanese dishes combined with modern Mediterranean influence, ilili Box serves Duck Shawarma, Falafel Korean, Manoushe Bil Jibne, and you name it. I always return for their Green Lemonade, made with mint and cucumber - so refreshing!

Kuro Obi: A brand-new ramen offshoot from Ippudo, Kuro Obi offers brand-new ramen flavors made specifically to stand up to takeout. The ramen is so savory and served pipping hot. We all know those long waits at ramen houses, so here is a new place.

Luke’s Lobster - @lukeslobster: Super delicious and quality lobster rolls, shrimp rolls, and crab rolls. Enough said.

Sigmund's Pretzel - @sigmundpretzels: With soft pretzels hand-twisted daily and always freshly baked in house, Sigmund's serves gourmet flavors of: salted classic, truffle cheddar, churro, everything, and feta olive.

Whitmans - @whitmansnyc: Grilling to perfection, Whitmans serves appetising juicy burgers featuring the Upstate Burger, Cheesesteak, and PB&B Burger, with beer and wines.

Wooly’s - @woolysnyc: Serving shaved 'snow', Wooly's features original, canned coffee, and matcha green tea shaved snow with endless toppings including various fruit, mochi, Pocky, and seasalt leche. This is one of my favourite vendors.

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Deconstructed Rose Study

White flowers embody purity, innocence, humility, deep reverence, and signify a fresh start, a beginning. This photo set features roses from a beautiful twelve rose bouquet given to me by Ren at the start of 2015. I was touched and utterly taken by surprise. As one who fancies preserving flowers, I saved the roses for a fairly long time and it was when I was sipping at a cup of mango green tea and my eyes fell on the delicately wilted roses that it dawned upon me the inspiration for this small study.

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Omakase ソーシャル

I was graciously invited to an exquisite omakase sushi ソーシャル (social). The event was hosted in a Nomad loft space that was metamorphosed into a charming modern Japanese garden. For this set, I photographed using only an iPhone.

For the very first time, the notorious New York Times 3-star Sushi Yasuda took the restaurant out of its natural haven and displayed a rare and intricate experience guided by master sushi chefs Mitsuru Tamura and Tatsuya Sekiguchi in the art of sushi and its elegant tradition. To stimulate our palates, we were greeted with a sea bass, subtlety braised and punctuated with a small radish pickle. Various sushi plates were then gracefully ushered in one by one featuring tuna, ebi, yellowtail, salmon, fluke, mackarel, scallop, uni, fatty tuna with scallion, and sardine. The omakase was accented by a noodle dish with a light fish broth and genmaicha 玄米茶 (brown rice tea). My personal favourite of the day was the sea bass; it was decadent and savory.

The rice, feather-light and delicate with a sweetness and perfect stickiness, is transcendental. — Haidee Granger

The drinks were curated by Chizuko Niikawa (formerly of Sakagura) and provided a delicate balance to the delectable fare. The custom cocktails were mixed by 13th Street Cocktail Company and complimented the ambience and dishes well, leaving a lingering freshness after each sip. My favourite was the Josetsu 如拙, a perfect amalgam of green tea infused sake, cinnamon, shiso leaf, lime, cucumber juice, and 13th Street Cocktail kumquat bitters. This could easily be my ultimate favourite thus far. We were gifted with a lovely succulent terrarium and a beautifully illustrated "Japan-ophile's" New York City guide as a token to remember the occasion.

Thank you Sosh and Melting Butter for presenting such a charismatic and delicious event. 


Lime Pesto Farfalle Salad

In this recipe, I combined ingredients that are not typically served together to create a fusion of Italian and Asian essence. To me, it worked interestingly well—it generated a new earthy and stimulating flavor. Pesto is my favourite type of sauce to have on pasta, so I decided to experiment with other personal beloved constituents.


Farfalle Pasta
Bring water and a pinch of salt to boil in a medium saucepan, then add 1 cup of farfalle pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Lime Pesto
1 cup fresh basil
1 clove garlic
1/8 cup pine nuts
1/8 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt + pepper, to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and lime juice in a food processor, and pulse until coursely chopped. Add half of the oil and blend until smooth. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto into a mixing bowl and hand-mix in the cheese. Add the farfalle pasta and mix thoroughly to ensure even coating.

Pickled Cucumber
1 Persian cucumber
1 tsp white vinegar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Wash and cut the cucumber into thin slices. Combine the cucumber, vinegar, salt, and garlic, and mix well in a bowl. Set aside for 10-15 minutes. Before serving, mix in the sesame oil.

The Salad
1 cup artisan lettuce/fresh spinach
1/4 avocado farfalle with pesto pickled cucumber
1 tsp pomegranate seeds
roasted sesame seeds, pinch

Combine all aforementioned ingredients, drizzle extra-virgin olive oil or any left-over pesto, and serve.


Duane Street Hotel

Old New York meets European sensibility at Duane Street Hotel, a classy monochromatic boutique hotel in Tribeca, New York. I settled in the Executive King room for a couple of days and it was a delightful experience. The décor is bold, intelligent, modern, and chic, accented with a bit of savoir-vivre. I was quite fond of the interior design as it was spruce and not overly ornate.

The rooms are a reflection of New York City with 11-foot ceilings, ceiling-high windows, hardwood floors, and handsome black tufted headboards. Amenities are luxurious with bed linens by Bellino, plush terry bathrobes by Scandia, and bath products by L'Occitane. Duane Street Hotel is also pet-friendly, a cute and pleasant feature.

Duane Street Hotel resides amidst Tibeca's classic cast-iron façades and revolutionised industrial-era warehouses, emanating a vogue loft feeling, quintessential for a creative living in New York City who has a penchant for style. One will discover cobblestone streets, fashion boutiques, a Michelin restaurant, and independent art galleries. It makes for an impeccable urban hideaway.

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duanestreethotel.com


Dona Chai

I will concede that I never quite fancied chai tea—that is—until I discovered Dona Chai. Upon arriving home from working overtime at the hospital on the medical-surgical floor, I winded down with a cup of chai with soy milk and the first sip was remarkably divine.

Dona Chai's slow brewing method exudes a dynamic harmony of flavors. There is a plethora of notes: cinnamon bark, cardamom, vanilla bean, clove, black peppercorn, cold-pressed ginger, and organic loose-leaf black tea. Dona Chai is beautifully formulated using fresh ginger that is cold pressed—a distinct process that conserves the purity of the ginger root. Not only does cold pressing instigate the retention of raw vitamins, minerals, and live enzymes, it also abates oxidation which maintains a bold and fresh brew to augment flavor, depth, and integrity.

I appreciate and respect when companies are transparent and value sustainability, so it was lovely to learn that after each batch of chai is brewed, all of Dona Chai's ingredients are composted locally at the Brooklyn Grange.

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donachai.com


Christmas + Ren

This Christmas is unequivocally memorable. It was the first time I could spend it with my best friend, who I have known since high school. We do not see each other often, so we were ecstatic to celebrate—we both know that every time we spend time together, it will always be brimming with culinary adventures. 

We began our Christmas day sharing hot cocoa with homemade cloud marshmallows and a touch of peppermint while exchanging gifts. Ren utterly surprised me by bestowing the handsome Kickstarter limited edition Lomo'Instant camera. It is described as "the world's most creative instant camera system" and since I am an avid camera collector, I was beyond rhapsodic.


Bluestone Lane Coffee - This café is absolutely charming. It serves artisanal coffee and fresh Australian-influenced wholesome fare—truly delectable. The granola with yogurt and fruit, smashed avocado on toast, pumpkin fritter with smoked salmon, pickled beet root and arugula were delightful. The friendly service, in particular, is what won us over—the servers and baristas were so amiable, one of them was practically dancing around our table. This place definitely took us by surprise.

Breather - We escaped the cold for a bit and took a "breather" in this quiet and lovely space admist the chaos of the city. We enjoyed the minimalistic décor and their quirky books. I will surely return to explore more of their spaces.

Totto Ramen - I wanted to take Ren to an authentic ramen shop because he has never had authentic ramen before and I knew Totto would be open on Christmas. Sure enough, there was a seemingly never-ending line when we arrived; our wait was approximately an hour (in the cold), but it was worth it—so savory. Ramen shops are my favourite places to eat, especially in the heart of winter. Ren had a blast and noted that it was the best Christmas he ever had which was incredibly heartwarming and made me smile. I did not bring a camera, so I hope this iPhone shot will suffice.

Wollman Rink - It was so wonderful ice skating in Central Park with all the city lights at night. I have been skating for a while, however this is the second official time Ren went ice skating so it definitely was a fun experience. He was even sneaking a "how to ice skate" search on his phone, which he tried to hide from me. We sure had a good laugh.

The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory - For some late-night dessert, we chose the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for their award-winning green tea ice cream on sugar cones. It is a popular tourist attraction so we just wanted to try it out. We had ample green tea ice cream in the past, but their green tea flavor is certainly unique; we loved it. I did not bring a camera so here is a quick iPhone snap.

Sometimes, it is best to immerse yourself in the moment and cherish it with your heart instead of a camera.