Cracking the Unicorn code- DIY Starbuck Unicorn Frappuchino

If someone asked does white chocolate, sour powder and mango juice go together, I would say absolutely not! However, there was a recent whimsical frappuccino out there combining all these ingredients together, proving once again that Starbuck’s cult following is a real thing.  On April 19 Starbucks debuted the Unicorn Frappuccino becoming the internet and social media sensation overnight. And within a few days, this drink instantly disappeared. It’s obvious why the magenta and turquoise drink is so captivating- it looks like a galaxy in a cup and it is not only sweet but it has hints of sour notes from its funky color powder laced throughout the drink.

I’ve never liked eating anything colorful like sprinkles on sweet goods so the fact that everyone was going nutty over this colorful drink was fascinating, leading me to read countless articles concerning this magical drink. What I found were vague articles about the drink, mainly old press releases of the drink and not too many DIY or copycat recipes of the drink. So today I attempted to crack the unicorn code, and I think this DIY is pretty darn close to the short-lived Starbuck’s drink. & just for all your unicorn lovers, I actually scaled the ingredients so you all can make it at home.

Let’s get down to this unicorn business. (Recipe is listed below) and this drink is a three step process. Let’s start with the line -up of ingredients.

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Here is the line-up of the ingredients!

STEP 1: Make the blue, white chocolate sauce

Melt 7 Lindt white chocolate balls that have been crumbled and splash 2 t of milk. Microwave for 30 secs. 

Mix in the blue powder and food dye. (Be very careful when adding dye) the dye goes a long way. Mix until you achieve a turquoise color. 

Place all the blue white chocolate sauce into a Ziploc bag and squeeze all the sauce onto one side of the bag. It will be functioning as a small piping bag.

STEP 2: Make the frappuccino

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Pour in the mango juice, chunks of ice cream, pink baby bottle powder, and ice. Pulse the drink. 

Now for the tricky part, keep adding drops of red and blue dye until you’ve achieved the magenta color, using the pulse function to mix. Side note: I completely lost track of how much dye I used, it took 20 something drops to get the right color. The general rule of thumb, I used the ratio 2 drops of red dye to 1 drop of blue dye. 

STEP 3: The FUN part: Assembling the whimsical drink  

Snip the end of the Ziploc bag and start squeezing the white blue chocolate sauce around the cup, making streak like motions around the cup. Now pour the

Now pour the frappuccino mixture into the cup.

Next, top it off with a generous portion of whipped cream.

Using a small sifter, or in my case, a tea strainer, place the remaining pink and blue powder and sprinkle on the top of the whipped cream.

Finished Product 

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Alright loves, here it is! For the right measurements, the ingredient list is below! Honestly, feel free to add less ice cream or more ice cream. What really counts is achieving the right color scheme! Hope you all liked this one & send me photos of all your DIY unicorn drink. It has been a pleasure!

Sam,

Blue White Chocolate Sauce

7 Lindt White Chocolate balls

2-3 teaspoon of milk

2/3 amount of the blue powder from the baby bottle pop

1.5 drops of the blue food dye

Frappuccino Mixture

1 1/4 cup of vanilla ice cream

1/4 cup of mango juice 

1/4 cup of ice

2/3 amount of the pink powder from the baby bottle pop

pink and blue dye ( adjust accordingly) 

Additional ingredients 

Bottle of Whipped Cream

Turkish Manti’s Made from Scratch

Today I conquered my fear- I made my own dough to make Turkish mantis. If there is one thing I’ve always strayed away from doing in the kitchen, it would be making doughs from scratch. I am terrified of making doughs – a fear that stems all the way back from my childhood. And I can admit I am a horrible baker cause I never follow any recipes to a tee. But thankfully, this dough used in the Turkish manti was fairly easy, even for a freestyler cook like me.

Btw, the manti is boiled meat dumplings topped with a yogurt and a tomato brown butter sauce. My only gripe with ordering this dish is that it’s always overpriced for something as simple as dough and meat. But after making it today, I can assure you all you are paying purely for the labor that goes into making these tiny pockets of love.

I can’t wait to show you all what I’ve been doing for the last few hours. So let’s let the photos speak for itself.

Step 1: Make dumpling dough

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The dough is fairly simple. A cup and 2 T of flour, one egg, and add water and oil as needed

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Once all the ingredients are combined, you will need to knead for five minutes.
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The dough after five minutes, and let it rest for an hour.

Step 2: Make the Meat Filling 

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This mixture is  1/2 lb of ground beef and 1/3lb of ground lamb meat. Add a teaspoon of salt and black pepper, minced garlic and a random herb mix I found at the house.

Step 3: Make Yogurt Sauce

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The yogurt sauce ingredients include minced garlic, olive oil and a sprinkle of S&P.

 

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Mix & Viola!

 

Step 4: Make the Brown Butter Tomato Sauce

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Melt the butter until you smell a deeper smoky flavor devlop.
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Next add paprika and mix.
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Add the tomato paste and garlic. In my case, I used some of my sundried tomato pesto for a deeper and richer flavor. Read my last post for the sundried tomato pesto recipe 🙂
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The finished product, and set it aside.

Step 5: Make dumpling wrap 

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Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut them into squares.
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Distribute the meat onto each square wrapper
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Pinch both sides of the dumpling wrapper and it should look like this

Step 6: Boil the dumplings IMG_2635

Step 7: Plate & Eat 

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Spread over the brown butter tomato sauce and yogurt over the warm dumpling and it is ready to be devoured.

Thanks for reading today!

With love,

Sam

 

 

Rekindling with the Red Sauce: The Red Pesto

 

Recently, I rekindled with one of my long -lost sauces: the red pesto. About a decade ago, I first discovered this sauce at an Italian restaurant close by my mom’s work. What sets the restaurant apart from many other Italian restaurants is their killer red pesto served along with crusty pieces of bread, basically the best precursor, before the meal.

A quick disclaimer about this sauce is to proceed with caution for it is beyond addicting.Not even exaggerating but I might have eaten a whole baguette in one sitting. I can have that red pesto over any fancy, top-of-the-line green pesto any day. Lately, I was thinking about this sauce (truthfully for about a month now) and I finally got around to doing it.

Making it was awfully easy-  kinda made me wonder why it’s taken me all these years to actually make the red pesto. Anyways, here are some photos of me rekindling my red pesto flame back in the kitchen.

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Here are all the ingredients needed to make this sauce. In the photo, there is three jar of sundried tomatoes strips in olive oil, hence the red color of the sauce. There is a handful of fresh basil leaves and next to it is a bowl of olive oil. Traditional green pesto uses pine nuts but I like to use walnuts. I find that the walnuts produces a grittier consistency and earthier flavor in the sauce. Maintaining a gritty theme, I added shredded parmesan cheese oppose to powdered parmesan cheese. 

 

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Normally to make a pesto, I would recommend using a food processor, but I was too lazy to find it so I used my Vitamix. So basically I ground the sundried tomato into a paste like consistency and blended in the cheese, basil, nuts, and basil afterward. I only used the pulse function otherwise, the pesto sauce would have turned into a tarnished sundried tomato smoothie. During the pulsating process, I added a good amount of oil and slashed some occasional balsamic vinegar. Again, I did not follow a recipe. The great thing about this sauce is that you can keep adjusting based on you taste buds and preference. 

 

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And Viola! Here is the finished product of the red pesto. I serve this alongside crusty baguette bread. 

 

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It’s a great dip to bring for a potluck or in my case a housewarming party. 

 

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The rest of the remaining red pesto, I stored it in four original jars of the store-bought sundried tomatoes. As you can see, the sauce looks a bit oily. I drizzled extra olive oil before storing the sauce. The oil help retains the freshness of the sauce and keeps it nice and spreadable, and it has to be stored in the fridge. Also, these sauces are great artisanal gifts. 

Hope my pursuit of rekindling an old food flame inspires you to reignite your former food flames as well! Thanks again for reading!

Hungry as always,

Sam

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Traditional Chinese New Year must-have foods

In the honor of Chinese New Years and year of the Rooster, I thought it would be extra fun to share my thoughts on the six dishes that are usually associated with CNY. Meanwhile, I’ll provide some commentary below of each photo explaining the symbolism attached to the dish and describing what each dish tastes like. Depending what part of china a family comes from, each dish will slightly differ in preference of both looks and taste. Since my family identifies themselves as Cantonese, (from the coastal area in Southern China) the foods that I will be sharing will most likely reflect a Cantonese palette. Nevertheless, the goal of this post is to share some insight of what it’s like to eat at my family’s table during this holiday.

Let’s start with the noodles(Miàn)…

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AKA the Longevity noodle this time of the year. Basically, long noodle= long life. When we usually order this at restaurants we usually ask for the lobster mian (noodles). Each chewy thread of noodle is usually coated with oil, garlic, and syrup sweet soy sauce, and occasionally its tangled with a wilted piece of stir-fry napa lettuce. 

Moving on to the dumplings (Jiǎozi)…

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These are actually potstickers. The general rule of thumb of what’s the difference between a potsticker, dumplings are typically boiled, while potstickers are pan fried. Usually, in Cantonese restaurants, all of the dumplings are pan-fried. Potstickers symbolize wealth. The Chinese name for the dumpling means change and the shape of the dumpling resembles a tael that was used as a currency in China at one point. 

Y’all know these spring rolls (chūnjuǎn) …

 

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These crispy spring roll babies are another CNY must-have dishes. It is also eaten during the Spring festival, hence the name. These spring rolls resembled golds bars so the meaning of eating the spring rolls is to be said to bring prosperity. At a young age, my grandma taught me the ropes of becoming an informal dim sum connoisseur. If an egg roll wrapper was thin, that meant that the Chef has bars and it is a golden rule for us Cantonese people when we rate a good spring roll. Most spring rolls have grated veggies and mushrooms. Sometimes they also are plumped up with chicken, pork and even crab. 

 

Now onto the fish (yú)

 

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I said it. It’s a whole fish, heads eyeballs, gills and tail. So you don’t eat the gills, but I have seen people fight over to eat an eyeball which apparently to some are a delicacy. This steamed fish is usually a whole fish sitting in a pool of warm sweet soy sauce, with liberal amounts of cilantro, chunks of ginger and green onions. The fish is very soft and has bones still intact. It’s personally not my favorite. I recommend being extra careful when eating this fish, the little bones are sneaky. 

 

Rice cakes (niángāo)

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This is actually a finished product. Most nian gao are sold separately in grocery stores and restaurants in foil cake tins. These rice cakes are usually then cut into rectangles and are pan fried in an egg batter. What gives this rice cake it’s chewy texture is from using the rice flour which makes it extra glutenous. Cantonese style rice cakes usually are made with brown sugar, giving it a caramelized taste and look. The significance of eating this dish applies to getting a promotion or prosperity in the upcoming year. The word nian means year. Apparently, this cake was an offering to the Kitchen God’s. Nevertheless, it’s a tasty treat and in my house and consumed for breakfast anytime during the 2 week span holiday. 

Moving onto these little balls of gush (tāngyuán )

 

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Growing up I don’t remember having this as a must-have on the menu for CNY but it is a common CNY  or celebratory dessert. It’s homemade rice flour balls stuffed with either toasted ground sesame paste, red bean filling or smooth peanut butter. When these little balls are simmered in the broth and bitten into like a smooth lava paste. The sesame paste tastes slightly nutty and gritty. If the grittiness is weird, there are peanut butter tang yuan. The broth is usually a sweet ginger-infused broth. If you don’t want the hassle of making these rice balls by hand, they also sell them in dozens at the freezer aisles of many Asian markets. These little balls mean reunion and symbolizing connecting family members together. Besides CNY these are also eaten during Spring Festival. 

 

Most of the dishes I introduced today are some of the most agreed upon traditional dishes in many Chinese household. Eating huge platters of fruit is also very customary during CNY for it symbolizes good fortune and wealth, but yet again which dish for CNY doesn’t associate with Chinese new year doesn’t symbolize good fortune or wealth. Eating poultry such as duck and chicken is also very popular for CNY. I had the pleasure of talking to my grandma last week when she revealed to me that it was only during CNY farmers would eat poultry. In fact, this holiday was one that farmers in parts of China would take two weeks off, buy a new set of clothing and shoes for each of their immediate family members and spend the next two weeks rotating hosting dinner in each of their homes for their community. It was a huge deal!

I had the pleasure of talking to my grandma last week when she revealed to me that it was only during CNY time when farmers would eat poultry. In fact, this holiday was one that gave farmers in parts of China a two weeks break from toiling in the fields and an opportunity to buy a new set of clothing and shoes for each of their immediate family members and families would spend the next two weeks rotating hosting dinner in each of their homes for their community. It was a huge deal! Therefore, the meals during this time were symbolic for the hope of the new year.

I admit I am probably not thinking of each significance of every dish when I am eating the traditional foods for CNY. Nonetheless, all the symbolism of CNY sheds new insights of the importance of eating CNY meal together as a family. I hope everyone has a wonderful CNY, if your not celebrating it this year, make sure you get adopted to a Chinese family by next year. Until then, thanks for reading !

Love,

Sam

 

 

 

Photos link

https://www.google.com/search?q=chinese+new+year+noodles&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwimrcyqvuPRAhWKwiYKHYycDq8Q_AUICCgB&biw=1178&bih=672

https://www.google.com/search q=chinese+new+year+noodles&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwimrcyqvuPRAhWKwiYKHYycDq8Q_AUICCgB&biw=1178&bih=672#safe=strict&tbm=isch&q=spring+rolls

https://www.google.com/search?q=mein+tou+noodles&safe=strict&biw=1178&bih=672&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjx-6OXvuPRAhUE7SYKHf83B4wQ_AUICCgD#safe=strict&tbm=isch&q=tangyuan

https://www.google.com/search?q=nian+gao&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjVm5OSv-PRAhWF2SYKHQLLBZgQ_AUICCgB&biw=1178&bih=672

https://www.google.com/search?q=mein+tou+noodles&safe=strict&biw=1178&bih=672&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjx-6OXvuPRAhUE7SYKHf83B4wQ_AUICCgD#safe=strict&tbm=isch&q=steamed+chinese+fish

https://www.google.com/search?q=chinese+dumplings&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj61MLfv-PRAhUM8CYKHe4QAHgQ_AUICCgB&biw=1178&bih=672

 

 

 

2016 Thanksgiving Gobble Spread

Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. As much as I wanted to make Thanksgiving meal last year, it would have cost me a leg and an arm to buy a turkey in China, let alone search high and low for all the other foreign ingredients, so I opted out. So when this year rolled around, I was adamant about not skipping another year, especially because my whole family was present (including my brother, his wife and his in-laws from HK) and all of my immediate family.

Below are some photos from this year Thanksgiving spread and the process that goes along with making the festive dishes.

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Last minute grocery run during the morning of Thanksgiving. As you can see, I was a bit unprepared.
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Aren’t those the most darling pieces of carrots you ever seen? They are ombre carrots.
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The one time a year I try to put an effort on my knife cuts.
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Boiling down the cranberry sauce. It simply fresh cranberries, and mango juice and a star anise. Why mango juice? I ran out of orange juice. It’s done once the cranberries pop and becomes like jelly.
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The secret to a juicy turkey is the brine, and this is the start to making that brine. Here are the dry ingredients. Equal parts sugar and salt. To make it extra fancy I added lavender salt from Maui. Oranges, onions, green onions, and chunks of garlic.
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For the brine, I get as much acid as I can into the brine. I used oranges, white balsamic vinegar, and red wine. The rest of the liquid is water.
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Bath time!
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I strongly recommend using these oven bags. It keeps your turkey nice and moist -it also gives your turkey a nice golden brown color on the skin as long as you shake up the oven bag with flour. If not the skin will get caught onto the bag, and we all don’t like a skinless turkey.

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This is a lavender maple herb butter to juicing up my turkey throughout the cooking process. I just smooshed a bunch of herbs and seasonings together to form a thin paste to massage all over the turkey skin.
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I use the Jiffy Cornbread mix to make the cornbread stuffing. On top is brown sugar. I like my cornbread a bit sweet.

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It’s all in the prep work.

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I usually make stuffing a few hours before dinner. I usually pour sparingly half and half over the stuffing so it stays nice and moist.

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Eek clam juice?? Seriously though, to achieve the sea taste in the chowder, the clam juice is a non-negotiable for clam chowder. The bacon on the right is microwaveable bacon. I was a skeptic at first, but the bacon was phenomenal!  I also added two chopped medium sized potatoes (not in the photo).
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The best clam chowder has rendered bacon in it …

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After sauteing the veggies I make a basic roux, which is equal parts butter and flour to form a thick paste. Once the flour is nicely incorporated without lumps, it is ready for the half and half and clam juice.
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This photo is straight fugly, but this was the finished product. It taste better than it looks 😉

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I normally make sweet potato mash but my brother specially requested that I made my sweet potatoes in chunks. I layered each layer with butter, brown sugar and maple syrup.

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Looks so heavenly!
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I didn’t pay attention to the marshmallows and one side of the marshmallow had it’s mind of it own and left the pan. I ended up taking most of the marshmallows off because it looked horrible. It ended up being my favorite dish though. They tasted like candied sweet potatoes.
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At some point of the day, I grew lazy and started to drink wine and stop taking photos of the progression. My apologies. Taking center stage is the garlic mashed potatoes. I used Yukon potatoes so I could avoid peeling. Once boiled, I added half and half, tons of butter, garlic, bacon crumbles, and scallions. I salted and peppered these potatoes like there was no tomorrow.
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We never open the Merlot btw. It was too fancy for our taste.
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Finished spread … okay so the roast pork in front was bought but the rest is homemade.

This concludes the blog for today. I want to take the time to thank you all those who have supported me in my passion and love for food! More than anything, I love sharing and learning about food through others. Feel free to leave me a comment or message me about your Thanksgivings dinners!

From one foodie to another,

Sam

Talk like a Food Expert

Believe me, if I could just talk about food all day, I would. I love to eat something and go into details upon details about what I like and what I don’t like. So today, I want to share some of my favorite food vocabularies with you guys & the good news is that none of these words came naturally to me, but trust me when I can say that these words can become part of your word economy with some diligent practice! If you can go beyond saying something is tasty and why, you will go far and impress people along the way. 

So below is a list of food vocabularies categorized by the flavor profiles found in food. Read through some of these words and make it a point to try to use it the next time you get an opportunity. I threw in two other food categories that are also extremely important when describing the texture of  certain foods and the overall experience or encounter with a particular food experience. 

flavor-profile

Sour  acidic, tangy, lemony, tart, pickled, briny, vinegary, zesty, citrusy, 

Sweet syrupy, fruity, honey, caramelized, candied 

Salty savory, if something salty, just say that it’s salty….   

Bitter pungent, dark, sharp, deep, burnt, blackened, overpowering 

Spicy zingy, gingery, fiery, strong, peppery

Texture seared, crunchy, light, heavy, fluffy, sticky, stale spongy, crispy, smooth, runny, whipped, toasted, buttery, chewy, creamy, raw, tender, greasy, crusty

Experiential words aromatic, lip smacking, oozing, succulent, wholesome, yummy, orgasmic, mouth-watering, bland 

Alright folks, don’t forget to consciously try adopting some of these vocabularies next time you encounter a food experience. Before you know it, you’ll become the food expert among your friends and family!

Till next time,

Sam

A Friendship Challenge – Sending Three Text Messages a Day.

I have always prized on having friends that we can go without talking or keeping in contact with each other but later reconnecting as if we had never stopped talking. I think everyone has a deep desire for those types of solid friendships but sometimes a friendship that is left unattended, can slip through the cracks without notice. I’m learning this lesson first-hand. And since returning home, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a friend. Like what are some qualities I desire in a friend, qualities such as being caring, truthful, supportive, trustworthy, and consistent. And the last one consistency, by far has been the hardest for me to give in a friendship.

So the combination of sincere guilt and fear of letting another friendship slip made me seriously think about a solution for inconsistency. So I started compiling a list of immediate friends and family on my journal and categorizing them by affiliation. For example, I grouped everyone into categories such as family, university, mentors, and etc. That list quickly filled the page and it was shocking. Side Note: now I know why they say it’s hard keeping a cap on the guest count for weddings. I was shocked when I soon realized that I have only kept in contact with only a dozen of the people on the list, which means that the rest of the people on the list that I claim that have a special place in my heart are not being tended to.

Next, I wanted to do something pragmatic. So I challenged myself last week to text at least three people that crossed my mind that day. Something as simple as “Hey____, hope you are doing well and thinking of you. “ Little did I know, that dedication to this process every day last week would lead to some deep conversations and endless possibilities of reuniting with old connections.

The first example is connecting to my dear friend Jajaida. Jajaida was one of my summer roomies from my graduate program. During our summer time together we had a respectful and mutual understanding. We both valued our alone time, but we also loved taking long walks together around the school to get a break from our large load of grad work. During the walks, we shared about our life long dreams and goals. She was my voice of reason. In many ways, she is more than a friend but a mentor- this mentorship continued to be a solid support to lean on during some of my toughest times in Shanghai.

Anyways, she crossed my mind this week and I sent her a text this week. The text message lead to conversations about jobs that at one point I wrote, “I’m itching to go somewhere.” To my surprise, she sends me a casual text to come visit her in Chicago. Immediately, I was on Skyscanner, looking at flights and booked a pair of tickets to Chicago, and guys, I will be flying out tomorrow morning!

Speaking of spontaneous events, the second event of a surprise reunion through texting three friends  a day is the example of my reunion with Chaai. I met her in Shanghai while I was working at Scholastic. From the first time we met, we just clicked. I quickly noticed that she had many admirable qualities that I looked up too. She’s confident, yet down-to-earth, and capable of what she sets her mind too.

On Friday morning, I saw that she was on FB messenger, and I sent her a message. The next thing you know she sends me an image of her New York to San Francisco boarding pass. She was coming down for the weekend. This lead to an opportunity for us to hang out this Sunday. So many events have changed both of our lives, and it was great to have the time of just recapping the last few months, and being genuinely happy for each other’s growth since then.

These two examples highlight some of the craziest opportunities that were opened through the commitment of simply texting three people who had crossed my mind that day. Reconnecting with familiar faces is not only nostalgic, but it is also powerful when your friends are able to reaffirm the strength that they clearly can see in you and encourage you to keep going when it’s tough. I mean who doesn’t need a pick-me-upper every now and then (insert the emoji girl with the raised hand).

As I wrap up this post, I challenge you all to try to text three people that have crossed your mind during the day and watch the world of possibilities it leads too. Please also send me messages about your own personal stories of trying this challenges! Thanks again for reading.

With love,

Sam

friendship

Photo from : http://www.lovethispic.com