Chinese Hot Pot – Not only cure the winter blues

Last week, the Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot near UT campus opened. It’s the first chain store in Austin. This was good news for people who love Chinese hot pot. The Little Sheep is the Mongolian-style hot pot, which is famous for its flavorful broth, including ingredients like goji berries, jujubes, and a mix of herbs.

 

Actually, there are many regional versions of hot pot throughout China due to the variety of broth and the specific meats used. Lamb is a common choice in colder Northern China while fresh seafood like live shrimp, oysters, and squid are used in coastal cities like Guangdong. Chongqing is known for Sichuan peppercorns and other mouth-numbing ingredients.

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Escape to the Hamilton Pool Preserve

Graduate life becomes much busy and hectic near the end of this semester! But we wanted to do something different last weekend other than usually staying at home and working on projects. So we searched online, found this spot and decided to venture out there. The Hamilton Pool Preserve was just a breathtaking place when I visited it for the first time. The secluded swimming spot was about 45 minutes’ drive outside of Austin downtown area. On sweltering summer days in Austin, people flock here to escape the heat. Since it’s not quite peak season yet, we didn’t need to make a reservation in advance and didn’t wait long before getting in.

The pool was created when the dome of an underground river collapsed thousands of years ago, resulting in this kind of Karst landscape. Water trickles down from above the mossy dome, gradually forming stalactites, and run into the jade-toned pool.

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Qingming Festival

There are few festivals in China like Qingming, also called Tomb-sweeping Day, for which people have so many mixed feelings. It’s a festival full of sorrow and nostalgia – people mourn for the dead. But at the same time, it’s a lithesome time with spring brightness – everything is growing, full of the laughter of spring outing. The combination of sadness and happiness makes this traditional Chinese festival very unique. I feel a little bit regretful that I can’t go back to China to revisit the tombs of my ancestors in Qingming Festival. And I found that this kind of nostalgia grew more intense as I left my country.

Qingming is also one of the Chinese Twenty-four Solar Terms. There are many paintings and classic Chinese poems about Qingming. The most famous one is the Qingming scroll created by Zhang Zeduan. This ancient Chinese painting portrays the prosperous scene of Kaifeng city, the capital of the Song Dynasty during a Qingming festival.

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This is a painting about another famous poem written by Du Mu.

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Come let the river float your stress away!

Austin is a great place to go kayaking as the Colorado River runs through the city like a green silk belt. The water keeps running southeastward day and night, witnessing the rise of this city. James Graham says traveling aboard a kayak is the ultimate means of individual navigation. Spring has set in Austin and it’s a great time to go kayaking to feel the beauty of the warm spring water in the sunshine.

My boyfriend and I have long been dreaming of kayaking in the Colorado River since we came to UT Austin. This last weekend, we finally made it.  We searched for groupons for kayaking in Austin yesterday night. We woke up this morning and headed directly off to the Rowing Dock.

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The Pearl in the heart of Austin: Zilker Botanical Garden

Last Sunday was the first day of Calendar Spring. It’s called Spring Equinox in Chinese twenty-four solar terms, which remarks the equal length of day and night. So where to go to enjoy the last sunny afternoon of our first spring break in America? An afternoon in the sunshine and breeze, surrounded by the new buds and flowers, sounded like the perfect cure for my boyfriend lab fever … so we took off for Zilker Botanical Garden-the pearl in the heart of Austin!

This botanical garden is part of Zilker Metropolitan Park, also very near to Barton Springs. We spent a couple of hours there, enjoying the serenity and verdant setting of this garden. It has several gardens, like Prehistoric, Butterfly, Pioneer Village, Rose Garden, Japanese Garden and so on.

Road signs in Botanical Garden

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The Great Savior of Novice Chef-Tomato and Egg Stir-fry

It’s another rare cloudy day in Austin. Spring seems to be wakened by vernal rain this week. Temperature is gently climbing up. The exuberant colors of the early spring in Austin this year reminds me of a simple yet delicious Chinese comfort food dish-tomato and egg stir-fry. It is definitely my favorite dish amongst Chinese cuisine. Back in my undergrad life, winter in Wuhan is bone-chilling, smoggy, and depressing. But when I was scarfing down stir-fried tomato and eggs at the university cafeteria, I felt like being in the subtropical warmth.

Tomato and egg stir-fry is simple to cook: just oil and salt can make it really delicious. And it tastes especially fresh with very original flavor with rich nutrition. The most important point is that it saves thousands of cooking beginners from messing up their first cooking attempts, which should be awarded as “the Great Savior of Novice Chef”!

It is said that there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes. I wanna say that a thousand people can make a thousand different kinds of tomato and egg stir-fry dishes. There have always been disputes about whether to peel the tomatoes, whether to cook the egg tender or old, whether to add sugar, green onions/scallions, ketchup or starch. It can be added on top of rice, or eat with lo mein, or mix with spaghetti. There are just so many variations and flexibilities in this simple dish, thus making it most popular.

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Go Fly a Kite at Austin Zilker Park Kite Festival

If you’re looking for a unique outdoor event to participate in and kick off the springtime in Austin, the annual Zilker Park Kite Festival is one of the must-haves. I’ve heard about the kite festival and been dreaming of it since the UT orientation for international students last August.

The kite festival was on March 6th this year, my boyfriend and I went flying the kite and had a great time there. There were children of all ages, adults and dogs all over Zilker Park, and all kinds of kites. It attracted a huge crowd because there’s no entry fee and there’s a lot of fun to have: kite flying demonstrations, friendly contest for kite flyers, food vendors (support local nonprofits), face painters, moonwalks and music, the on-site booth for making kites, etc.
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