New York: The United Nations

I actually had not planned to visit the United Nations on the first day. It was supposed to be one of the “B-List” places that I had written down. But I guess I lost my bearing around midtown Manhattan and somehow ended up walking in the east ward direction. Before I knew it, I see all kind of people of different nationalities all attired in suits and national costumes … and for some reason I could not figure out, all of them were carrying big, big piles of files.

I checked the street I was on against the map … and found that I was just half a block away from the United Nations. Oh well, since I am already here, I went on to visit the United Nations.

Unlike all over Manhattan where every square foot of land are built up with skyscrapers, the United Nations complex is located on a very spacious ground. The UN complex consists of a 38 stories Secretariat tower and the General Assembly Building.


The grounds around the complex had quite a number of outdoor sculptures donated by nations around the world. Perhaps the most poignant sculpture to me was the knotted gun (below). This one graced the visitor entrance to the UN.

There is also a section of the Berlin Wall on display too. Another one that I really admire is the gift from Japan … a simple Peace Bell which is cast from coins collected by children all over the world … and this coming from a defeated country during the second world war.


I signed up for the Guided Tour. I can’t remember exactly how much but I think it’s about $13 or so. We were brought on a tour around the General Assembly building.


We got to see the Security Council. The Security Council is perhaps the most powerful body of the UN. This is where their main task is to deliberate on peace and security. The Security Council is made up of 5 permanent members (victors of WWII) and 10 temporary seats. Can you name which countries that made up the 5 permanent seats? Continue reading

New York: Getting Around Manhattan

New York is a really expensive city. I spent a whole week scouring the internet for hotels and the best I could come up with was a $150 rundown hotel room in Manhattan. I finally got a motel room in New Jersey (North Bergen) that costs only $89. It was a pretty good sized room but the best thing is that it takes just 15 minutes to get from the hotel doorstep to the Port Authority Bus terminal.

The moment I got out of the station, I spotted the Chrysler Building — it was pretty exciting to me. Can’t believe I was finally in New York!

Before I came to NYC, I had been quite fearful of crime, especially when I had planned to lug all my camera gear in a backpack with the tripod that juts out — a dead giveaway that I have camera in my bag. You know what … my fears were totally unfounded. I had never felt more safer in any American city than in NYC. There were so many police cars and police men on EVERY block.


The first morning I ended up in Manhattan was pretty overwhelming. A short 3 minutes walk from Port Authority brought me up to Times Square. It was exactly how I imagined it to be — very busy and lots of animated digital advertisements all over the place. They are bright even in the morning.

I remember it took me quite a while to get myself oriented. My first stop was the visitor center to get some info. For this trip, I had planned not to go for a Broadway show but would definitely want to get into the David Letterman’s Late Night Show (more about that later).


I also got myself a bunch of free maps. These maps were simply indispensable. I used them so much that they did not last more than 3 days, they were all torn up. Anyway, they were available in lots of places, so finding a replacement was easy.

The ones I use a lot (the yellow one on the left), is the subway map. Traveling via the subway is often the best option. The purple one in the middle is the bus map. The last one on the right is the Manhattan street map which shows street names in greater detail. Generally, if I wanted to travel north-south, I would use the subway … and then if I wanted to travel east-west, I used the bus. NYC has a very efficient public transportation. It is so efficient that I heard NYC has the lowest percentage of people owning drivers licenses.

NYC is big, but not that big. By that, I mean NYC is very much walkable as it is flat and a lot of attractions are close to one another. So, sometimes I don’t bother to take the subway or buses and just walk … it’s a great way to see the city.

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New York: Flying Continental from YVR to EWR

This is the first time I flew with Continental. I must fess up regarding the $110 flight ticket … there are no direct flights from Vancouver to New York. The connection is in Houston. Thaaaaat’s right … instead of just fly east-west directly, I fly way south and then up north.

But I must say I am most pleasantly surprise with Continental. Like I said, never flew with them before. I had always thought that United and Delta was the best but Continental is better to me. I will tell you why further down the blog.


My destination is the Newark airport in New Jersey. Despite that Newark is in NJ, it is basically a New York area airport. As a matter of fact, Newark is closer to NYC than JFK.

The stopover in Houston was good with just an hour wait before the connecting flight. My “Plan B” in case I don’t get on to New York was to stay a night in Houston and visit the city. It was not necessary because both Houston and Newark are Continental hubs and there are hourly flights between them … lots of empty seats on my connection flight.


It is on flights that I try drinks that I had never tried before. This is not overly exciting I know … Seagram’s Ginger Ale? Well, heard of it but never tried it. How does it taste … well, all pop tastes the same to me.


This is what I like about Continental the best … they provide food … for FREE! It was nothing to shout about but considering that all other American airlines who provides free peanut packs or sells snack boxes, this is simply awesome. The box includes a surprisingly nice moist & soft muffin, some Cheerios (with milk!) and a small pack of raisins. I am happy.


Continental does come by quite often asking if anyone wanted more drinks … Continue reading

New York: Going to New York

Hey all … I had a great time in New York last month. I spent a full week in the Big Apple by myself … that’s right … I traveled by myself. As some of you have know, I had been travelling alone and as odd as some of you may think, I greatly enjoy it … especially the opportunity to take as long as I like making pictures.

BTW, I had never knew why New York is called the Big Apple. I asked friends and no one seems to really know the answer. NN told me that it’s called the Big Apple because New York is big enough to offer everyone a bite of. I think NN is just BS’ing.

I love that shot of the Empire State Building below and thought it should grace the first picture of this blog series. It’s taken from the old vibrating Brooklyn Bridge and with a extra long zoom (200mm with 1.4x extender!!). It came up tack sharp.


A month prior to this trip, I raided the Richmond Public Library for all the travel books related to New York. I ended up with using this book for the entire trip. It is a series called the Eyewitness Travel Guides. What I like about this book is that this book “shows” me what other books only “tells” me.

There are a lot of colorful pictures on every page with 3D maps. The size is just perfect for me … I hate lugging around 2″ thick books or a book so small that I can hardly read the prints. Next time you need a travel book, you should check this series out. I had used the same book for my solo trip around Europe earlier this year. After a week, the book does get worn out. Oh, I must have been taking the book in and out of my bag like 50 times a day!


You can buy the book off Amazon here:

I had been asked many times before … does Ben work … where does he find so much time to travel. I remember someone commenting on this blog that all I ever do is eat and travel. Well, some of you knows that I work for the aviation industry. Basically, I manage aviation systems development projects which gives me a lot of opportunity to travel. The company I work for has offices in every country where there is an airport or airline. My business unit, which deals with everything to do with “airfares”, has major offices in Vancouver, Atlanta and London. So, I do most of my travel between these cities.

The biggest perk of the company which I love so much is the number of leave I get each year (4 weeks) and the fact my family and I can travel on staff prices in most airlines. For example, the flight tickets for this trip to New York from Vancouver, BC just costs me $50 bucks … that’s right, there is no typo … it’s just fifty bucks. Well, tack in the taxes of $60 and all I paid is just $110. It is so ridiculously cheap that often I pay more for the cab ride from the airport to the city.


So, with 2.5 weeks of vacation days left to clear before the end of the year, I decided to make use of my once a year travel opportunity on Continental Airlines. I read that the best time to travel to New York is in fall. NY could be a very humid and hot city in summer. Another impetus to travel now is that the Canadian Dollar is so strong against the USD. Continue reading

Caring Place Potluck 2007

The Caring Place Community Kitchen sessions for 2007 ended early this year on 15th November. This is because the kitchen is fully booked for Christmas-related events even five weeks before the Christmas. You know, I feel that Christmas starts earlier every year.


We had a potluck, as usual, to celebrate the closing of this year’s program. It is always great to enjoy each other’s food and chit chat about everything under the sky. I am going to miss meeting the ladies for the next couple of months. Anyway, here is what we had brought to share for the potluck.


Stella made some Banana Apple Walnut Muffins. The large pieces of walnuts studded from the top of the muffins make it very interesting.


Minoo made Lubria Polo which she had demonstrated in the Gilmore Park Church Community Kitchen. Continue reading

Red Bean Bun

Julie also made some Red Bean Bun which is great for snacking. I know it looks so much like hamburgers (a full meal even) but it is actually light despite the size. This is actually a simplified version of those Japanese Red Bean Pancake (Dorayaki). Julie used store bought bun to substitute the pancake.


However, the red bean paste, Julie made her own. She preferred a coarser texture red bean paste than those smooth one from the store. She did not show us how to do this though as it takes time to make it.


To assemble this, just warm up the bun using the oven or microwave and fill the bun the red bean paste.


The Red Bean Bun makes an excellent snack. It is best eaten warm.


Ha ha … this is not much of a recipe huh? I hope to get Julie to show me how she makes her red bean paste someday.

Szechuan Pepper Chicken Cold Dish

We had Julie demonstrating in the South Arm Community Kitchen again. Julie, who works as a Chinese Language teacher, told us that her students always ask her when her dish will appear in chowtimes again. For us, we still have not quite gotten over it that there are people actually looking forward to our postings.


At this time, Julie showed us a Cold Chicken Dish. This Szechuan pepper Chicken Cold Dish is good especially as snacks with beer. This is also great for potluck. One thing for sure, the colors are just perfect for the coming Christmas season.

  • Chicken drumsticks, deboned keeping the skin intact
  • Szechuan Pepper Corn powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Chinese cooking wine
  • Japanese cucumber, slice in coin shape
  • Strawberry or Cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
  • Kitchen string
  • Toothpicks


Click on the link below for the instructions.

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Caffe Artigiano on West 41st, Vancouver

Polly and I went to Caffe Artigiano for our cake meet. We have no idea that Caffe Artigiano is the home of the Canadian Barista Championships from 2003 to 2006 until I checked their website after I came home. Artigiano also had several medals from the World Barista Championship medals. Not quite gold but silver and bronze … pretty cool.

Caffe Artigiano has 5 outlets in Vancouver in all. They are located on Pender St, Hornby St, West Hasting St, Park Royal in West Vancouver and Kerrisdale. We went to the one in Kerrisdale.


Caffe Artigiano is a very busy caffe as there were many customers come and go while we were there. I wondered why they are called a caffe and not cafe … you have any idea why?


We were quite disappointed in the beginning as we did not find any cheese cake in their buffet. However, there were scones, biscotti, bars, sandwiches and wrap.


We ordered two scones and a biscotti to share. This is the blueberry scones. The serving is quite large. We enjoyed it with some jam.


We liked the second scone better, it’s made with nut and dried fruit. This scones is more crunchy and has lots of nuts and dried fruit in it. The biscotti is not what I expected. This is more cakey like instead of the crunchy type. The scones were $2.95 each while the biscotti was $1.95.


The best is the coffee. I ordered the Caffe Mocha for $3.39. It is very smooth and creamy. The cream formation is so creative.


Polly had the Caffe Latte for $2.99. This is the best coffee we had ever had since our cake meet. For the true coffee lover, you must visit Caffe Artigiano.

Click the link below for more coffee art. You will like some of the prettiest coffee art I have ever seen. Note that the ones below are not from Artigiano’s.

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Soft Pretzel

Nanzaro’s class had a Halloween party on Halloween Day. I volunteered to help his class in making Soft Pretzels for the party. I went to the school early in the morning at 9 am. Nanzaro’s teacher, Ms T divided the class into small groups of 5 to 6 people and assigned the first 2 groups for the first session of making the Soft Pretzels.

It was fun working with the kids especially on Halloween Day because a lot of them were in costumes. Here is a pair dressed up like Siamese twins where their clothes are joined together.


Here is one injured patient working on the dough.



  • 1 package of yeast
  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 cups flour, more for kneading
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • coarse salt for sprinkling, optional

This is a really fun project for the kids. They get to work on the dough and form the dough into any shape imaginable. This brings out the creativity in the kids.


  • Measure the warm water into a large mixing bowl
  • Sprinkle in the yeast and sugar and stir until it looks cloudy.
  • Add the salt and flour and mix with a wooden spoon.
  • Bring the dough together with your hand and knead the dough on a floured surface until it’s soft.
  • Divide the dough into small portions and give one to each kid.
  • Let the kid roll and twist the dough into letters, numerals, snakes and anything they like.
  • Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • Lay the shaped dough on the cookie sheets.
  • Brush with beaten eggs and sprinkle with coarse salt if desired.
  • Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 12 to 15 minutes.

Kneading the dough.


Shaping the dough.

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Pear Cobbler

At the Caring Place Community Kitchen, Minoo shared a Pear Cobbler recipe. She was away at Sunshine Coast for the weekend and she picked some pears from her girl friend’s neighbour’s pear tree. You may replace the pear with apple.


The Pear Cobbler is best served warm with ice-cream. I love the cinnamon in it.



  • 1 stick butter (1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup honey or Maple syrup
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  • 8 large pears, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup honey or Maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon mace (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated orange or lemon rind


Click on the link below for the instructions.

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