Philly Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

We attended the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia (aka Sakura Fest) this past Sunday again this year!

The link for more info:

Per tradition, Megan made her beautiful bento boxes and yummy Japanese inspired food. This time I was an assistant to an Iron Chef! We woke up at the crack of dawn (aka 6am) to make the food as fresh as possible and allowing for cooling time.

One of the tasks I was given was to make flower-shaped cucumbers. Megan, who is also a Japanese minor, is writing her final Senior project for her language minor requirements about the “Science of Bento.” She told me that they often use cookie-cutters to make cute shapes with food. There is also a particular meat to veggie ratio and emphasis of color & display in a good bento.

Step 1: First I washed, peeled, and sliced the cucumbers.

Step 2: Center a cookie cutter on top of a slice of cucumber. Push down & pull off excess.

Step 3: Viola! An adorable flower shape!

Here is the bento all tied up, along side some extra food and fried plantains!

After meeting up with some more friends, we took the earliest shuttle down to the Horicultural Center by Fairmount Park. With ticket and transportation, it was only $20 plus a SEPTA token! When we arrived at the festival, the first thing we did was take a tour of the Japanese house.

Our tour guide was fantastic. First of all the rules were “shoes on rock, socks on wood,” therefore we were asked to removed our shoes when we entered the house. Our guide explained how Japanese houses were built to admire & revere nature. The house and garden were not meant to be separate units, as thought of in Western culture, but rather one integrative unit.

The pathway to the tea ceremony area was built purposely rocky so that people would walking carefully and cautiously on the stone slabs. It was really amazing to see how colorful and rich in texture each of the gardens of the Japanese house were.

A unique feature of the house we saw was that it had a tea house and bath house right next to each other. According to our tour guide, this was not a typical house layout, however, for purposes of the exhibit it was built that way.

On the way out of the tour, we saw one of the few cherry blossom trees in full bloom at the park. Sadly, because of the weird weather fluctuations of extreme warm weather followed by a freeze shock, most of the trees had lost their pretty flowers. Last year, we were graced with rows upon rows of pink & white flowered trees. Unfortunately, that was no the case this year. Thanks a lot global warming.

Afterwards, we had a lot of fun looking through the shop booths and getting free stuff!

We also watched many of the events during the festival, such as the kids martial arts demo and the prettiest pet in pink competition.

Of course we also participated in the events they hosted! Some of use made fish kites while others did some calligraphy! Sadly I stained my dress with ink (and it’s stuck there permanently), but nothing horribly noticeable, I think.

Some finished products!

Most importantly, we found a flowering cherry blossom tree (one of the few!) to sit under and have a picnic lunch! We tied our fishes to the tree to claim our territory!

Megan was the main preparer of the food, I helped as an assistant chef, while Kim brought some delish strawberries 🙂

We were so full afterwards! Look at those happy faces 🙂

Eventually, it actually got too hot & sunny to stay in the park (which was the total opposite of the doom and gloom rainy cloudy forecast for the day). We eventually retreated home and decided to end the entire night at a hibachi restaurant (discounted for the festival!). John’s parents and Aniket decided to join along 🙂

‘Twas an excellent Sunday, dubbed MegaDAYUM for the rest of the ages (aka Megan’s Damn Awesome Day).


Philadelphia Science Fest 2011 – Recap

So the glorious 2 week gala that was the Philadelphia Science Festival of April 2011 has finally come to an end! I am so sad that I’m working full time at GSK during this fest’s premiere and could not go to many events, but I did my best. Not many photos, but quite a few memories 🙂

Friday – April 15, 2011 – The Big Jump

Granted I am officially a 21 year old, and this event was created for probably gradeschool and middleschool science classes (if high schools and colleges were cool, they would have participated, too), I thought this was a really fun idea. On Friday, April 16 the PhillySciFest website at 11am did a seismograph reading for 1 minute. In that time, classrooms of children, teachers, and people across Philadelphia were invited to jump to see if we could get an elevated reading, sort of like a mini earthquake with a joint effort.

Lesson learned, it would take hundreds of thousands of people to make even a small impact on the seismograph, but it was a good exercise to bring awareness to the magnitude of the Richter scale as well as be an inquisitive scientist! Temple University’s recordings from The Big Jump are seen below:

You can bet on that day, at that very strike of 11am, I ran to the bathroom before my meeting and jumped for 60 seconds. Judge me.

Saturday – April 16, 2011 – The Carnival on the Parkway!

This event actually broke my heart in half. It was so WONDERFUL. So much preparation and dedication by the people setting up the events at each tents and decoration. Truly a conglomeration of knowledge and fun for kids. It was like the world’s largest and free science experiment, ranging from DNA extractions, “body cavity” examinations, chemical art, free plants for environmental awareness, and more!Sadly, it literally rained on this parade. Naomi was nice enough to go with me to the event after her ridiculous MCATs, even though it was raining cats and dogs and the streets began flooding. It was located by all the grand museums in Logan’s Circle.

Despite the crap weather, the two of us still had fun.

We were able to make a painting together using shaving cream and food coloring at the American Chemical Society table. Inspired by the Japanese art style sumi nagashi, hydrophobic and hydrophilic reactions were the basis of this beautiful abstract image.

I was also able to grab a free plant before the Horicultural people left for the day. I lovingly clenched to my plant in a cup and stuck my hand out of the umbrella the entire time we were walking so that the rain could water it. I appropriately named the plant “Tempest.”

Unfortunately we never found the photobooth or the DNA building blocks keychains, but we left soaking wet and with nutella banana cupcakes :)To commemorate my 21 birthday and the start of the Sci Fest, we later partied and took shots from colorful test tubes. Scientists love their ethanol.

Sunday – April 17 – Academy/Anatomy

I am soooo glad we were able to make this event!! It was the last day of the Academy/Anatomy exhibit at the Penn. Fine Arts. Again, photos were not allowed, but it was a great day. Sunny and beautiful, what lovely weather for girls in dresses!As for the actual exhibit, it was fantastic. Truly gives you an appreciation of educators and medical doctors before our time.

It was so behumbling to see the pioneers of the medical world. Their findings and contributions that are the foundations of science now. And to see their notes and drawings are so similar to mine, but hundreds of years older sends chills down my spine! As aspiring scientists and contributors to medicine, we truly stand on the shoulders of giants as my cell bio prof once said.

All it in all I think it was a really good idea. I hope Philadelphia supports this to become an annual festival because I would love to participate more next year! It’s already announced a 2012 reappearance and it’s own official beer: E=MC BEERED by Yards, Aniket’s favorite beer brand from a Philadelphia brewery.

A good way to wrap this fest wrap-up is Kirsten’s post card from the Brain Exhibit from the Museum of Natural History!

Sakura Sunday – A Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Festival

I’m so behind on my blogging! But it’s nice that I have a huge surplus of topics to write about lately.This past Sunday, my dear friend and former roomie (but now current apartment mate) Megan had volunteered at the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia as a Crafts Assistant.
It’s actually been running from March 4 to April 15. However two of their main events, the 5K Run and Sakura Sunday occurred on April 9-10. The event is hosted at the Horicultural Center, a 20-25 minute bus ride away from University City. Just $10 for entrance and your transportation fare.

Quite honestly when Megs asked me and John to arrive in the morning at the opening at 10:30 am, we were skeptical. What were we going to do for almost 6 hours in a small outdoor area?

The answer was a pleasant surprise.

First of all, just looking at all the different varieties of cherry blossoms took up a huge chuck of time & was ever so enjoyable. Some science behind the beautiful flower bearing trees:  The ones referred to as “sakura” trees are from the genus Prunus. According to the site there were over 10 different species of cherry blossoms there.

Besides gazing & photo taking fun, there were a ton of vendors selling Asian and Japanese merchandise or themed items. I came out with a slightly aching wallet, but a lot of loot. I’ve posted a few below, and the rest you will see in a month or so after a certain someone’s birthday  ;D

John got a plant and a practice sword we couldn’t stop playing with haha.

Also, there were many donation sites for Relief in Japan from the earthquakes. In one of charity booths, there was a really cool display of giant origami.

John was also able to participate in his very own origami as well. Meet Dilbert aka Dilly the crane.

Of course we went over to visit the crafting goddess, Megan. She was at the calligraphy table. Me and John tried our hand at the ancient art of brush strokes.

John’s says Samurai, Hope, & Japan I think. My paper says Samurai & Ninja. Hopefully our blotchy characters don’t translate to something offensive.

My favorite craft of all was the fish paper kites we got do. Hosted by the Philadelphia Art Museum, their booth was a huge hit. I waited like a creep til the last minute to do a fishy because A) I was slightly embarassed and more importantly B) I wanted as many kids to make theirs before supplies ran out. Lucky for the three of us, there were plenty of templates left!

Meet my darling Tuna Can, who I revamped after the Sakura Sunday to look like an Olympics mascot (by accident). And here is Megan’s swirly Miss Salmon! Finally, John & Bob, the flower-filled eye hole fish!

There were also a lot of events I couldn’t take photos of because I was too short and it was crowded: like drums & dance presentations, martial art expositions, a Harujuku inspired fashion show I sadly missed. I was able to see some cosplayers and  a few really well dressed sweet lolitas, however. I sadly didn’t catch my favorite group on  film because I didn’t want to disturb their lunch time XD

But the main event was one from home!

Megan’s homemade bentos! Not only did this girl go and give her time to volunteer on a Sunday morning, but she woke up at 6am to cook these up.

Absolutely delicious, made from love, and tots free! I’ll let the beautiful pics do the talking! Fruits, veggies, onigiri, shrimp, egg and sweet egg (tamago) and dinosaur shaped chicken and a rabbit shaped apple!

A wonderful display that was great to consume & look at. Love this girl.

So all in all, a superb Sakura Sunday!

Philadelphia Science Fest

No words can describe how excited I am for the Philadelphia Science Festival.

It’s a two week celebration in various locations around the city of Philly, exploring science with the community through a variety of activities, exhibits, debates, lectures, and informational goodness throughout April15 – 28. It’s open to all ages and it’s FREE.

Scientists, engineers, museums, universities, and schools — everyone is participating to put this thing together! It’s really targeted for kids in school from Kindergarten to 12th grade high school, but as a lover of science education, I cannot wait to at least observe or volunteer in one of the many events. I had found out about the Philly Sci Fest via one of my current volunteer institutes, the Academy of Natural Sciences.

This weekend is the kickoff of this 14 day long crazy science party. On April 16th, the festival’s first big event is: the first ever Science Carnival on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is being held! There are a TON of great booths to participate in, some of which I think are cool include:

  • American Chemical Society: Painting with shaving cream also known in Japan as “sumi nagashi,”  uses principles of hydrophobic and hydrophilic reactions.
  • Association of Women in Forensic Science – Crime scene to solve!
  • Chemical Heritage Foundation: The Chemistry of J-E-L-L-O!
  • Chestnut Hill Academy: Building Your Own Robot
  • Coriell Institute for Medical Research: DNA Detectives- Discover your Building Blocks!
    • I can build my name for a keychain using DNA block AND learn about the human genome? *Geekout*
  • Drexel University Society of Physics Students: Hollywood Physics
    • Drexel is doing somethign cool?
  • Mad Science: Slime Making!
  • Penn Museum: The Science of Mummification
  • University of Pennsylvania Genetics and Gene Regulation: Discover DNA!
    • “Take your genome home! Extract DNA from your cheek cells using household items” → I just died of happiness
  • The list goes on!

Coincidentally, it’s also the same day as Naomi’s MCATS. I take it as a good omen. I hope to wake up early to wish her luck on her exam, then maybe sleep a bit, and go the Parkway with any friends who want to accompany me later in the morning. The event is rain or shine, so even though it’s probably going to be a wet Saturday, the show shall go on!

I want to blog and update throughout the 15 – 28, reporting events I am able to attend from the Philly Sci Fest. I predict a jolly good time with my fellow scientists, young and old 🙂

So what are you waiting for? Drag your parents along or if you are old enough come on down with some friends and join in this fun. It’s an opportunity of pure awesome & science.

Location: Logan Circle
19th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19103