New Year, New Changes and a Baby Picture of Me

The New Year brings with it new changes that I’m incredibly excited about.

The first is a new job.  Before I go into details, I’d like to share a little background information.  For 13 years, I worked as a television news producer.  Nine of those years at KARE 11, the NBC affiliate in the Twin Cities.  I left in August of 2016 when my contract ended to pursue new challenges.  I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer more, meet new people, and check some items off of my bucket list like working in a flower shop.  (In case you’re wondering, yes, Hollywood does glamorize the florist industry.  No, you are not prancing around in cute dresses and sky-high heels arranging flowers every day.  There are a lot of buckets, bleach and sweeping.  Rubber-soled shoes are a must unless the thought of slipping on wet floors and flower stems appeal to you.  That said, the flowers.  Oh the flowers.  Going in every day was a feast for the senses.  Plus, it gave me a creative outlet.)  During this time, I did try to find a full-time gig.  Despite numerous comments about how intriguing my resume is and tons of interviews, nothing materialized.

After talking with the fella last fall, I decided to give television news another try.  I honestly miss news.  I miss being in the know.  I miss the buzz of the newsroom on a big news day.  I miss the writing.  I miss the excitement.

This coming Monday, I start at FOX 9 as a morning show producer and I cannot be more thrilled.  The people I’ve met there so far are great and I love their commitment to the community.

And that’s not all.  A week from today, I start teaching again at my alma mater, St. Cloud State University.  News Producing 101.  Well, technically, it’s COMM 379, but I’ll be teaching a room of students what I did for 13 years.  I taught for a semester in 2016 after I left KARE 11, but it was a temporary position.  I was filling in for my old college professor while he was on sabbatical.  This time around I’m filling in for him while he’s on leave.  It’s a shorter gig this time — just 9 weeks or so — but I’m really looking forward to it.

Another milestone I hope to hit in 2018 is to become a U.S. citizen.  People are surprised when I tell them that I am a legal resident, but not a U.S. citizen.  My parents and I immigrated to the United States when I was 16 months old.  We are Hmong.  During the Vietnam War, the Hmong helped the U.S. fight communism.  After the war, communist soldiers in Laos started targeting Hmong people.  Many Hmong, like my parents, made the dangerous escape to Thailand, where they lived in refugee camps.  That’s where my parents met, married and had me.

baby panhia
Baby Me

By this time, many Hmong people were being sponsored to the United States.  My parents and I arrived in 1982 after relatives in the U.S. sponsored us.

Since our arrival, five more biological and four adopted siblings joined our family.  My parents eventually became U.S. citizens.  The sad thing is, I am the only person in my immediate family who is not a citizen.  I just never got around to it.  The big reasons, it’s expensive and I just never made it a priority, until now.  That changes this year.  I plan to become a U.S. citizen so I can be like other Americans and get called up for jury duty and vote.

Other plans for 2018 include opening an Etsy shop, devoting more time to this blog, and being the best me I can be.  Read: no slacking in 2018.  Are you excited?  I sure am!

Here’s to 2018!

DIY · Tutorial

DIY Leather Key Fob

The past month has been crazy busy as I prepare for my first solo craft show.  I’ll be selling my wares at Handmade Harvest in Lincoln, NE on November 17 and 18.  A good friend of mine is one of the organizers and asked me to participate earlier this summer, but life got away from me.  When she asked again a month ago, I said yes, despite having little product.  Sure, I had left over merchandise from when another friend and I did a craft show in April.  That time I had someone to share a booth with.  This time around, it’s just me.

So like I said, I’ve been crazy busy making things to sell.  My craft room has taken over the living room.  At least my dear husband has been wonderful and not given me grief over the mess.  One of his many great attributes.

Along with baby bibs, zippered pouches and felt needle books, I’ll be selling leather key fobs.  They are super handy and super easy to make.


I inherited a ton of leather samples from a friend who works at an interior design house.  I’m talking super soft — you might even say supple — leather from Hancock & Moore, Baker and Coach.  And the colors.  Oh the colors.  Deep reds, dark blues, and luxurious browns.


I’m a huge fan of upcycling, so I knew I had to make something out of all this leather.  For this project at least, it had to be efficient and that’s how the idea of making leather key fobs was born.



I ordered 1-inch swivel clasps and double cap rivets from Amazon and got to work.  I chose double cap rivets because they look great from either side of the fob.



Using my rotary cutter and mat, I cut a strip of leather 12 inches long and 3/4 of an inch wide.  (Please ignore the black paint on my cutting mat.  It’s the residue from a previous project.) I initially cut the strip of leather an inch wide, but I didn’t like how it looked when I threaded it through the D-ring.


You can fold the leather any way you want through the D-ring.  I chose to overlap the ends just below the D-ring so there was a nice loop that you can put around your wrist.


Using the hole punch tool that came with the rivets and a hammer, I made a hole through the three layers of leather.

Then I grabbed the post and threaded it through the holes I just made.  Once this is done, put the cap on the post.


You will feel it click in place, however, you’re not quite done yet.

Place the rivet on the concave side of the anvil.  Then put the curved part of the setting tool straight up on the top cap.  If it’s at an angle, your rivet could end up crooked.  Next, gently tap the top of the setting tool and gently tap the tool with a hammer.  (You don’t want to hit it too hard because — again — your rivet could end up crooked.)

And that’s it.  You’re done. Easy peasy, right?  I was able to whip up 50 of these babies in a few hours.  My next project is to make cord tacos and they are harder than they sound.  Despite practicing for an hour today, I have yet to master metal snaps.  It’s proving to be a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.  Wish me luck!



Garden · Uncategorized

Succulents are Having a Moment


Succulents are totally the It plant right now.  It doesn’t matter which social media platform you use, they’re everywhere — from wedding bouquets and boutonnieres to terrariums and wall art.  Seriously, everywhere.

A friend of mine recently gifted me some leaves that had broken off of her plants and urged me to propagate my own — and its incredibly easy.

If you don’t have a generous friend with unwanted succulent leaves, you’ll need to remove leaves from a healthy plant.  Gently wiggle it back and forth until the entire leaf breaks off.  (You need the entire leaf, or the magic won’t work.)

drying out


Next, leave the leaves out to dry for a couple of days so the end where it attached to the stalk can scab up.  I left mine on a paper towel well away from the determined paws of our curious kitty, Lillith.  (Probably should have unclumped them, but details, details.)


After a few days, take the leaves and lay them on a bed of soil.  Miracle Grow makes a cactus potting mix that’s also perfect for succulents.  You want soil that drains well.  Root rot is not fun.

I then mist the leaves with a spray bottle.  You’ll want to do this whenever the top of the soil dries out.  After about a week you’ll start to see tiny roots sprout from the end of the leaf that was attached to the plant.  In a couple more weeks you’ll notice tiny leaves spout up.

Then comes the waiting game.  Succulents grow slowly.  I started these guys about six months ago and they’re still tiny.  I have yet to experience it, but I heard that it could take up to a year (or more) for that leaf to reach full size.




I just started these guys this week, so it will likely be a while before anything major happens.  I am starting to see some minuscule roots, but I try not to disturb them too much.




Here are some I propagated about six months ago.  They are about an inch and a half tall.  They’re a bit stretchy, so it’s likely they need more sun.  (Still learning as I go.)






These plants actually started from the stump of a succulent I decapitated after it got too leggy.



You can re-pot them once they get bigger or just leave them as is.  I can’t decide quite yet what I’m going to do with them.  I do love the succulents in a tray thing.  I just want to find the right container for them.  I also want to try succulent kokedama since you can hang them.  That way they will be out of the reach of Lillith’s grabby paws.  (Maybe I should start calling her Jabberwocky — you know, “the jaws that bite, the claws that catch.”)


I’ll keep you guys posted on what happens with this new batch of leaves.


P.S. My florist friend has put her foot down on making boutonnieres with succulents.  Those juicy leaves break very easily.  You practically have to handle them with kid gloves.  Actually — even more gently than kid gloves.  What’s more gentle than kid gloves?  Baby gloves?  I digress.  Expect to pay a ton of money for that trendy boutonniere.  On the plus side, it’s a good excuse to avoid all those hugs from Aunt Mildred.


A Quick Anniversary Getaway


The fella and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary this month with a trip up north.  Our goal was to keep it short — less than two days — and inexpensive.  Once we decided which direction we wanted to go and how far we wanted to drive, everything else pretty much fell into place.

Doesn’t he take the best pictures?

With a full tank of gas in Connor, my rusty, but trusty 2003 Toyota Highlander, we left Minneapolis around 6:00 a.m. Friday and headed north on Interstate 35.  While our goal was to drive to our northern most destination and then gradually make our way back south, we had to stop in Hinckley.  More specifically, Tobies.  Its tradition.  Their caramel, cinnamon and pecan rolls are positively sinful.  The fella and I had breakfast — and got our pecan rolls to go.


I have lived in Minnesota for most of my life, but there are still so many places in the state that I have never visited.  One of those spots is Split Rock Lighthouse.  It’s one of the most photographed landmarks in Minnesota.  So iconic that it’s even on our driver’s license.  (I learned that little tidbit from our tour guide.)

Split Rock Lighthouse sits on the North Shore of Lake Superior atop a rocky cliff.  It was built in 1910 after a catastrophic storm in November of 1905 destroyed dozens of steel freighters.  The lighthouse and accompanying fog signal were in service for a half century until new technology like Long Range Navigation, radar and GPS rendered them obsolete.

The skies were cloudy that day and it was very windy, but it did give the fella a great opportunity to do his own take on The Cure’s Staring at the Sea.

staring sea

Once you’ve explored the lighthouse and surrounding buildings, I highly recommend you take the trail to the tram house and go down the stairs to the lake.  This is where you’ll find the most stunning views of the lighthouse and of the North Shore.  The stairs run alongside the ruins of the old tramway, which was used to hoist supplies from ships on the lake.

Going down the stairs was great.  The thought of going back up — not so much.  Instead, we took the Two Harbors path back to the visitor center.


From Split Rock Lighthouse, we drove seven miles south to Gooseberry Falls.  Growing up, I’ve heard a lot about Gooseberry Falls and how it’s a must-see destination.  I must say, it’s impressive.

gooseberry falls

There are spots along the Gooseberry River where you can get into the water and play among the falls.  We decided to leave that for a future camping trip to the Falls.

Our next stop was for a late lunch in Duluth at my favorite sushi restaurant, Hanabi.  I remember my first time there.  I had just spoken to a group of students at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.  As a thank you, they treated me to Hanabi for lunch.  I got hooked.

North Shore roll on the left. Kiss of Fire roll on the right. Both equally delicious.

The thing I love about their sushi is the sheer creativity that goes into each roll.  Each dish is a work of art.

My favorite is the North Shore Roll.  It’s like the supreme pizza of sushi rolls.  There’s tuna, avocado, salmon, seaweed salad, five different kinds of caviar and topped with spicy mayo and eel sauce.  The good news is that when I have a craving for the North Shore roll, I don’t have to drive two hours north to Duluth.  The owners of Hanabi also have a restaurant in Blaine called Hajime.

After lunch, we decided to go check out Canal Park along Duluth’s waterfront.  The wind had really picked up by the time we got there.  We watched wave after wave crash along the lakewalk.


We also drove over the Aerial Lift Bridge to Park Point because we had spotted some kite surfers in the distance and wanted a closer look.  By the time we got to the beach, they had already packed up and left, but there was still one brave soul out in the lake windsurfing.  We must have watched him for 15 minutes zip back and forth across the water with three massive freighters as a backdrop.

Our last stop was at Black Bear Casino in Carlton.  We splurged and got a room for the night.  But let’s be honest, I did not want to attempt to drive the two hours back home after gorging myself on their seafood buffet.  I know the fella didn’t want to either.


Our 36-hour trip was a great way to recharge our batteries and reconnect as a couple.  It’s easy to let the stress and activities of day-to-day life impact our relationship and this short trip really gave us some much needed one-on-one time.

We had so much fun and really like the idea of day trips.  We’re now looking at other places to do for a short getaway.  I’d love to take the fella to southeastern Minnesota.  I know we’d have a ball in Red Wing and Lake City.  I think he’d get a kick out of LARK Toys in Kellogg.  I’ll keep you guys posted.




A Long Time Coming

I’ve dreamed of this day for the past — forever it seems.  My first blog post.  I don’t know why I haven’t gotten around to starting a blog until now.  My loved ones have been encouraging me to do it for years.  I love to write.  I love sharing knowledge with others. So I did it today.

First off, here’s me:


As you can see by the picture, I have two thumbs.  What you can’t see is my love for my family.  I am Hmong.  In my culture family is huge.  In my case literally and figuratively.  I am the oldest of ten siblings.  I am married to a wonderful guy who believes himself to be rough and gruff, but has a big heart.  (Quick story: The other morning he got up early to put the garbage on the curb.  He didn’t stop there.  Our neighbors had hauled out two mattresses and two box springs and had just left them in their driveway a week ago.  So what does he do?  He hauls them to the curb.  What a guy.  I would have let them be, but that’s just me.)

I can’t write about myself without mentioning our cats.  They are delightful.

I adopted Madelyn 13 years ago from a shelter in Lincoln, NE.  She is my snuggle bug.  Clementine came to us from the human society in Coon Rapids, MN.  This quirky girl loves to search for spots of sun around the house.  My husband found Lillith several years ago on the engine of his tow truck during the polar vortex.  Her eyes were still closed and she still had her umbilical cord scar.  He brought her home and we bottle raised her.  Lillith fancies herself a farmer.  My houseplants bear many signs of her efforts.  We also have neighborhood cats stop by the house.  They get a treat and a food name.  So far we have Frijoles, Gnocchi, Ghee and Kishka.

I worked as a television news producer for 13 years and had the opportunity to work with some of the best journalists in the country.  (The picture above was taken in one of the newsrooms.)  My career took me to Lincoln, NE and Flint, MI where I met many incredible people and made some wonderful friends.  I recently had the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine.  I filled in for my old college professor while he was on sabbatical and taught news producing.  I’d love to go back to teaching someday.  Professor Panhia does have a lovely ring to it.  I’m currently doing freelance media relations and social media.  I also moonlight as a florist every now and then.

So why did I start this blog?  As I mentioned earlier, I love to write and have been yearning for an outlet since leaving television news where I wrote a lot.  I love being creative.  I cook, craft, sew, knit, crochet, and can among other things.  I also love new experiences — whether it’s checking out a new restaurant in town or a new city.  And as I mentioned earlier, I love sharing my knowledge.  So on my blog, you will see Panhia cook.  You will see Panhia craft.  You will see Panhia sew.  You will see Panhia explore.  I hope to share these experiences with you.

One last thing, in case you were wondering, while reading this inaugural entry, how to pronounce my name, it’s Panhia, like Tanya, but with a P.  It means “Silver Flower” in Hmong.