Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Beginning of a New Chapter

Hi all! I'm sorry about the lack of activity these past few weeks. After much consideration, I have decided to stop Hello Stephni and create a new blog along with my twin sister, Joanna. The blog is called Opal & Opal (because our birth month is October and there's two of us, haha) and will feature food, health, beauty, and fashion!

Joanna and I have lived together, went to school together, and did almost everything together for the past 22 years. However, as graduation comes up (~three more weeks!), and we go our separate ways for grad school (Joanna to Seattle and me to Houston), we thought starting a blog together would be a great opportunity for us to remain connected despite being thousands of miles apart.

As we begin this new chapter of our lives, we would love to share with you guys and with each other our stories. Thank you!

Please visit Opal & Opal!

P.S. Can you tell who's who? 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Post-Cruise Sorrows: Missing the Food

Last week, I shared about my cruise to Ensenada, Mexico over Spring break. It was a super awesome experience and exactly what I needed between the busyness of school. Although this is long overdue, today's post is pretty much a photo dump of all the heartwarming, delicious food that I ate on this cruise. Look on:
Let me just say, the food on this cruise was really good! The pictures on this post came exclusively from the Spirit Dining Room, which was the ship's more sit-down, order and serve restaurant. Although the setting was more formal, we could nevertheless order whatever we wanted and however much we wanted.
Truth be told, by the time we arrived at the Spirit Dining Room, my friends and I have already gone to the buffets twice. Nevertheless, we still ordered two entrées per person as well as desserts and an extra to share. 
The food was so good, and we ate so much that praise the Lord we didn't get diabetes afterwards. Anyhow, happy Easter and I hope I've successfully convinced you to go on your own cruise!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Decaffeinate: Dandelion Root Tea

As you can tell from my previous posts, I love starting the day with some sort of warm beverage, especially a warm, caffeinated beverage. (Check out my green tea latte and beaten coffee recipes!) 

However, I recently realized just how much caffeine I was consuming with almost a daily cup of coffee and multiple rounds of green teas, black teas, etc. Thus, I've been trying really really hard these last couple weeks to decrease my caffeine consumption. Instead, I've taken to drinking more caffeine-free teas like mint tea or what I'm focusing on today: Dandelion Root Tea with Hibiscus & Cinnamon.
A couple weeks back, I received a sample of this tea from Kiss me Organics, the same company who sponsored me to review their Culinary Grade Organic Matcha (which is amazing by the way).

I've never had dandelion root tea before. However, the packaging suggests that this tea helps support healthy digestion and aids in liver and kidney detox, and of course to go along with what I was talking about earlier, caffeine free. Some basic research revealed many benefits:
  • Hibiscus - supports normal blood pressure
  • Cinnamon - helps regulate blood sugar levels
  • Dandelion root - helps improve digestion, upset stomach, inflammation
Although I can't say I've noticed a significant difference in my digestion, this tea is nevertheless a calming and flavorful way to escape the grasps of caffeine. Plus, with all of the herbal ingredients, it's a great source of many vitamins and nutrients.

If you're interested in trying the tea, visit their amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NFYLN18

sponsored post. personal review.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Where do people do during spring break? Apparently, Mexico!

Wahoo! So last week, I was able to go on a cruise with Carnival Imagination to Ensenada, Mexico. This was my first cruise ever, so I can't even begin to put into words how excited I was for this adventure! So much happened so good thing I took notes! Jkjk!

However, one thing to note ;) This post is going to focus mostly on my experiences and not what I ate during the cruise. I tried to combine everything together, but it was just impossible to fit all of the pictures in a reasonable amount of space! So, I'll do a cruise food post on another day!

Day 1
We arrived at the cruise terminal at around 3pm, but checking in took a while, so we didn't actually enter the ship until about 5. The first thing my friends and I were thinking about was FOOD! We were like lions with our eyes on the prey, haha. So we literally went to our room, dropped off our goods and headed out in search of food. The rest of our evening was spent browsing (and sampling) all of our food options!

Day 2
Catalina was our stop for today! Surprisingly, although it is nearing four year since I've lived in LA, I still hadn't gone to Catalina Island before. However, I'm happy to say I finally went! Catalina is incredibly beautiful, and my friends and I enjoyed a long leisurely walk around this peaceful, seaside town.
When we arrived back on ship, we on chilled on the top deck and watched the sunset! Of course, for dinner, we headed straight back to our chain of food options. Don't be surprised, but we visited all three of the major dining areas everyday, every dinner ;)

Day 3
Ensenada! My first time in Mexico! Ensenada was again a really beautiful and peaceful city. I enjoyed a trip to the local flea market and visited La Bufadora, one of the largest blowholes in North America!
 Sadly, the entire time I waited there were no major blow blasts of water :(
Anyhow, I had my first authentic Mexican taco and piña colada today as well! They were both delicious. Sadly, I don't know why, but I only got one taco. I know, let's hear the boos :(
Towards the end of our day in Mexico, we gazed into the endless waters on horseback! This was definitely my favorite part of the day. Not only were the horses adorable, the view was incredible as well! My conclusion for the day: Mexico has been such a sweetheart, and I want a horse!

Day 4
Today was an entire day on the ship with nowhere to go and nowhere to be! We woke up around noon, and just spent the afternoon chilling by pool on the upper deck. It was an incredible feeling seeing all the birds and seagulls fly above us. It seemed almost like they were swaying to the music that was playing on deck. 
We also watched one of the employees carve an ice sculpture (he took first place after his father in a national contest in Indonesia!), a hairy chest contest (interesting, right?), a music/dance performance (picture above), and of course, ate lots and lots of food~

Day 5
This was the last official day on the ship. The ship was actually already docked when we woke up. In fact, we woke up JUST in time to catch the last bit of breakfast. My last meal consisted of a bowl of oatmeal and fruits, some slices of smoked salmon, and coffee! Delicious way to end indeed.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Break Chillin' at Nature's Brew

I'm at Nature's Brew right now hoping to get some work done. It's located about a mile from the University of Southern California (the campus is small, but nevertheless beautiful if you haven't visited!).
It's spring break! And I just came back from a four-night cruise to Mexico with a couple friends, so my goal for today is to finish editing some photos and reflect on my travels, so I can share my experiences with you all!
I ordered the Vegan Sandwich, which features sweet and spicy yams, pickled beets, grilled bell pepper, red onions, roasted eggplant, and a house-made lemon garlic veganise for a perfect combination of sweet and tangy. I also got a quinoa salad, which is also delicious! The lemony and slight curry flavor left my tastebuds feeling absolutely delighted. Furthermore, the crunch of the water chestnut along with the grainy texture of the quinoa was delicious!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

[KLAIRS] Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil Review

Living in Los Angeles, my skin gets exposed to so much dirt and pollution in the air, so skincare has become something that I’ve been concerned over more and more. Since we only have one chance to take care of our skin, I recently decided to invest in better skincare products that are gentler and more natural. 

I mentioned in my WishTrend post that I had purchased the Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil. I’ve been using this product for the last few weeks, so I thought it’s about time to do a review on it!
The Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil contains an assortment of various oils that are great for your skin! These include:
  • Black bean oil - helps control sebum production, increases skin elasticity
  • Black sesame oil - prevents dehydration and aging of skin, has antioxidant effects
  • Black currant seed oil - helps keep skin moist, promotes skin cell regeneration
All of this information I found on WishTrend’s website, which is another reason I love this store. I learn so much about the product as well as what the benefits of various ingredients!

So... conclusion 
Would I buy recommend it? 

Yes!! I feel like my skin has become so much softer and smoother from using the cleanser these past few weeks. 

Furthermore, the cleansing oil is really fun to use! All you do is pump a small amount of the oil onto dry hands and massage it onto your face. When you rinse with lukewarm water, the oil transforms into a milky consistency! Love it!
Adding water.... !!!

So now that I've shared by thoughts on the oil cleanser, I have some March promotions for you from Wishtrend!
  1. Coupon code for 10% off! WISHMAR2015 Shopping cart order must be over $55 and can't be combined with any other discount or voucher.
  2. Special gift voucher code for 1 Full size IPOO Smell Cover Oil in Baby Powder scent WISHGIFTMAR2015

One consideration at the moment though—should I buy a regular cleanser as well? I’ve heard before that oil and regular cleansers clean your face differently… any suggestions?

Also! I haven’t done many beauty product reviews, but I’m hoping to do more in the future! Would you guys be interested in that? 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Year of the Goat: Baked Chinese New Year Cake Recipe

Chinese New Year was last Thursday, and for the most part, I spent the day pretty celebration-free. I did some social media work for my internship, visited my school’s Startup Career Fair, and called each of my relatives in China. I didn’t do much, but I'm thankful for a time to reflect and appreciate family and friends among many other blessings of the previous (lunar) year.
Although I wasn’t able to celebrate on Thursday, I did celebrate with some friends on Saturday. As college students, I was surprised by all the incredible dishes that everyone bought! We had such incredible goodies as dumplings, steamed fish, eggplant, curry, and niangao (me!).
Anyways, enough with what I've been eating! I’m here to share my mom's baked niangao recipe, which I brought to the potluck! Earlier last year (and half a year late), I shared the more traditional steamed niangao recipe, but I think this recipe is also really delicious! 

The niangao recipe is obvious not the most healthy recipe, but seeing as to how it's the new year, I don't see why we shouldn't enjoy ourselves a bit! You know the 80/20 rule?
Baked Niangao Recipe

  • 1 bag of glutinous rice flour (16oz)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups of milk (I used 2%)
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or 1 stick butter)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 365 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Combine all ingredients and mix very thoroughly. If you have an electric mixer, blend on high for a couple minutes. If you're like me and don't have one, combine the dry and wet ingredients separately and then slowly add the wet to the dry mixing thoroughly in between.
  3. Bake for 40-45 minutes until top is golden brown and center is cooked through.
This baked niangao is super delicious and has a mild sweetness to it. With the glutinous rice flour, it's also pretty filling! Try the recipe and let me know how it goes!

Hope you all have a great Year of the Goat!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

5 Things I've Been Loving

Hey guys! Hope you all had a lovely Valentine's day filled with chocolates and lots of love regardless of whether or not you're in a relationship!

My apartment-mate got chocolates for our whole apartment! Feeling so blessed :)

Anyhow, onto the 5 things I've been loving:

1. Overnight Chia Oatmeal 
I made a post on this a while ago, and it is simply delicious! Especially, since it's been so hot in LA recently, overnight oatmeal is a great choice! Super filling, full of fiber, and best of all, a refreshing start to the day~

2. Matcha Latte 
Especially since I've run out of instant coffee for my beaten coffee recipe (which in my opinion is just as good as the latte), I've been turning to this matcha latte recipe almost every morning! This latte is super delicious and great for a pre-workout energy boost!

3. Blogilates
Blogilates' videos are super challenging, but I've been really enjoying doing them recently. I'm exhausted afterwards, but I feel so strong too! What I like to do is choose a few of her challenge videos for each major muscle in the body and I'll work through them from legs to arms (biggest muscle to smallest). I learned in my weight training class at university that you should work the large muscles first and then the smaller muscles because the smaller muscles fatigue easier!

4. Grid Diary 
Grid Diary is an awesome diary/journaling app that I discovered a few months ago! Each day has a list of questions for you to answer such as "What am I grateful for?" "Did I exercise today?" "How can I make tomorrow better?" and so on. What's nice is that you can also edit, delete, and add your own questions. However, note the pro upgrade is $4.99, which is a little pricy for an app in my opinion.

Nevertheless, the Grid Diary has been super helpful for me to reflect on my day and remind me of all the things that I should be thankful for in my life!

Liar Game is a Japanese drama that I've obsessed over recently! It's about a really honest (and almost naive) girl named Kanzaki Nao who gets tricked into a game called the Liar Game (well duh :P). The secret organization behind this game forces participants to try to steal money from each other or risk being 100 million yen in debt! Since Kanzaki Nao is so honest, she gets the help of a mastermind swindler, Akiyama Shinichi, to help her in the game. And so goes their story!

I love love love Liar Game! Even though I'm typically not a big fan of Asian dramas, I just got totally stuck on this show. Furthermore, Matsuda Shota, the actor of Akiyama Shinichi is sooo cuute!  <3 Haha, this is definitely not the only reason I love Liar Game, although it is one factor :P
Look at his furrowed brows and intense but cool aura! Who can resist?!

Anyhow, even if you don't agree that Matsuda Shota is adorable... Liar Game is a super great psychological thriller that engages you and makes you reflect on the value of remaining truthful!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

DELICIOUS. Alcove Café & Bakery Review

Hey guys! I know this was a long while ago, but on Martin Luther King day, a couple friends and I went to Alcove Café & Bakery for brunch. Before I say anything else, let me just get this out there: It. Is. Heavenly. 

Not only did I really enjoyed the food, I loved the location, the outdoor seating, the ambiance, all of the energy, and oh my gosh, this is the perfect place to spend a cool, sunny morning. Everyone was just talking and cheerful, the sun was out, and even though we were sitting outside, the way Alcove was decorated just gives this full-of-life vibe!

When I was at Alcove, I felt like I had no worries in the world.

Sadly, I don't have any pictures to show what Alcove looks like! Nevertheless, I found a few from Yelp so that you guys get a sense of what the environment was like. Of course, credits go to the people who took these pictures.
Although there was a lot of people, the wait passed by pretty quickly. The way it works is a cashier will take your order at the front entrance, and then they'll seat you while you wait for your food. Most of the seating is outside, except for a small bar that they have inside.
Of course, I don't mind all of the outdoor seating when the weather is beautiful--haha, praise God, Los Angeles has beautiful weather :)

As for what I ordered, I got the Blackened Salmon Sandwich, which was delicious! One note though, the sandwich typically comes with a sesame brioche bun. However, I asked to replace the bun with sour dough bread, which in my opinion was a great choice!
My friends ordered the Shrimp + Crab Omelette...
And the (Kinda) Classic Benedict....
I haven't tried either of these, but my friends loved it, and both dishes looked delicious!

Since President's Day weekend is coming up, do you guys have any scrumptious plans?