Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Recipe Inspiration

As those of you who follow me already know, I’m obsessed with Pinterest, and one of my most active boards is without a doubt Food & Drink, where I’ve stockpiled tons of new recipes I can’t wait to try.

But since the tasty options have started to stack up faster than we can possibly make them, Stephen and I are setting a goal to try at least two new recipes each week from now on. I’m excited to change things up a bit and also stay on track with our plan to save some green by cooking at home more often.

Here, a few of the recipes that are getting us started, including some you might even recognize from your own blog posts! 

Thai Chicken Curry in Coconut Milk 

Pesto Twice-Baked Potatoes

Source: via Heather on Pinterest

Black Bean & Rice Burgers 

Cheese Pepperoni Bites 

Thai Turkey Burgers

Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwich 

Fried Plantains & Black Bean Dip 

How often do you try out new recipes, and where do you get most of your inspiration? If you're on Pinterest, come say hi @

Friday, January 27, 2012

Be a Match @ National Marrow Donor Program

The following video, currently making the rounds throughout the blogosphere, is nothing short of heartbreaking.

Janet’s struggle to find a life-saving bone marrow donor within the remaining two-month timeframe has compelled me to visit the National Marrow Donor Program website to see what it takes to become a donor, along with other ways we can best help those in need.

Please take a moment to share Janet's story and help if you can. Thanks for caring, and I wish you all a safe and healthy weekend! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Writer’s Life: Motivation

This will be a relatively short ROW80 check-in, since my semester is definitely ramping up and the projects quickly building. But despite my busy schedule, the past week has been one of major breakthroughs and increased motivation when it comes to my work in progress.

Last week, in a welcome burst of inspiration, I decided to make some big changes to the plot structure and historical underpinnings of my story. Though I’m still sticking with the same basic time period, setting and main events I initially envisioned, the new changes bring the entire work together in a way that I feel is more uplifting and better suited to my style as a writer – something that I'm still working to definitively identify. These changes have not only made me more motivated to complete the story, but have also helped solve some of my research-related frustrations, since the new elements allow me to better focus on those aspects I’m already knowledgeable about.

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My confidence increased, I’ve since written 10 additional pages of material and am continuing to round out my research with extra components as needed. For the first time since I undertook this project, I have a real sense of things coming together and the belief that I can indeed succeed at this, though I still have quite a long way go.

Have you ever experienced a memorable “breakthough” moment that renewed your motivation to move ahead with a project? 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Summer Travel Wishes

It may still be the dead of winter, but I’m wasting no time in looking ahead to the brighter days of spring and summer, and especially to the May trip Stephen and I are planning to celebrate both the end of my days as a grad student and our second wedding anniversary.

While we haven’t made a definite decision yet about our destination, we’ve narrowed our options to three possibilities, for which we’ll be carefully examining the specifics, including the total costs and available dates, throughout the next couple weeks. I'll be sure to share more details once we've made our choice, but for now, here are the top contenders I'm busy daydreaming about. 

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1. Alaska 

While thoughts of Alaska might not do much to quell the winter doldrums, I've always dreamed of cruising this picturesque landscape that's home to some of the world's most stunning glaciers, wildlife and waterways. Though the early weeks of summer might surely still carry a chill in the air, the scenery, whale-watching, salmon-feasting and increased hours of daylight would more than make up for our having to bust out the cold-weather gear a final time. Plus, while some people are questioning the safety of cruises following the Costa disaster in Italy, I know that overall, cruising is still by far one of the safest forms of travel, not to mention lots of fun. 

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2. Puerto Rico & Virgin Islands 

Also high on our list of affordable options is a classic Caribbean cruise, especially one that includes stops in Puerto Rico, which has long held a place on my list of must-see island locales, and St. Thomas, where a dolphin-swim excursion awaits. Of course, another option is to choose just one island and make arrangements to stay for a few days, as we did last summer with our trip to St. Maarten. 

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3. Disney World

Though I always look forward to paying Disneyland a visit whenever I'm out in California, the high-volume holiday crowds kept me away this last time. But who needs Disneyland when a May trip to Disney World is also within reach, allowing me to get my fix while changing things up a bit? Plus, between airfare prices that are incredibly reasonable and a variety of week-long package deals to choose from, this may very well be the most wallet-friendly option of the bunch.

Do you have any spring or summer travel plans in the works, and have you visited any of the places we're considering? 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

11 Fun Facts About Me

Tag, I’m it! Special thanks to Dana at Sweeping Through Life for tagging me in the latest round of getting-to-know-you blog questionnaires. Take a quick glimpse at the rules, and then check out my answers below.


1. You must post these rules.
2. Each person must post 11 things about herself on her blog.
3. Answer the questions the "tagger" listed for you in her post, and create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
4. You must choose 11 people to tag and link to them in the post.
5. Go to each blogger’s page and mention that you have tagged her.

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1. What is your favorite song?

Imagine by John Lennon

2. How do you like to spend an evening with the hubby?

At least once a week, we like to eat out at a new or favorite restaurant, and otherwise enjoy relaxing at home with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

3. What is your favorite color?

Grape and plum shades of purple, though I also currently love turquoise and blush.

Image Source: Alex Neumann Photography 
4. What is your favorite ice cream?

Mint chocolate chip!

5. What do you do for a living?

From 2006-10, I was a congressional aide on Capitol Hill, where I worked in public relations and committee administration. Currently, I’m working toward completing my master’s degree in publishing and have also been active in coordinating weddings, editing a professional wedding blog and engaging in various types of writing throughout the past year.

6. What day of the week do you like the most?

Saturday, especially when I’ve gotten enough classwork and errands done during the week that I can actually take the day off to relax or head out for some fun!

7. Do you have a favorite TV show?

My all-time favorite is Gilmore Girls, which I still DVR in reruns on ABC Family to watch each evening while I unwind from my day. I especially love the show’s well-written dialogue, which is helping influence my own voice as an aspiring fiction writer.  

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8. Why do you blog?

For a creative release, to relieve stress, to connect with a likeminded community of friends, and most importantly, to have fun!

9. What is your favorite quote?

Be the change you want to see in the world. 
– Gandhi

10. Do you have a favorite food?

I like my food spicy and full of flavor, and though it’s hard to pinpoint just one specific item, I’ll never turn down the chance to nosh on Mexican, Indian or Thai dishes.

11. What beauty product can you not live without?

Blistex Raspberry Lemonade Blast Lip Protectant in SPF 15 to help keep the cold sores at bay, especially during the windy winter months.  

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And now, my own set of questions, which I'm opening up to all of my fabulous readers. In keeping with the above-noted rules, I’ve also gone ahead and specifically tagged 11 of my most active High Heels & Flip-Flops commenters, though this is not at all an exhaustive list. (If you each don’t have the chance to answer, no worries at all, since I know that while they’re fun, it can be hard to find the time to complete these types of Q&A posts. No pressure whatsoever!)

1) Who inspires you, whether historically, in your day-to-day life, or both?
2) Do you have a favorite season?
3) What’s your top goal to accomplish within the next five years?
4) What was the first job you ever had?
5) What’s your all-time favorite book?
6) What’s the most unique place you’ve traveled to so far in your lifetime?
7) If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
8) Which qualities do you love most about yourself?
9) If you could describe yourself in just one word, what would it be?
10) What’s your favorite type of workout routine?
11) What’s your favorite guilty pleasure meal or snack?  

Elle @ Elle Sees
Laura @ Saying I Do 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Writer’s Life: Research & Reading

It’s been exactly one week since I jumped on board with A Round of Words in 80 Days, and so far, things look pretty good, despite a couple notable frustrations. Here, a quick review of my goals and an update on my progress in each area.

Image Source: A Round of Words in 80 Days
1) Consistently write at least 2-3 High Heels & Flip-Flops blog posts each week.

Not only did I stay on track by writing three new blog posts last week, including my ROW80 update, but I’m also on track to publish another three this week. It definitely feels great to blog regularly again, and although I do miss the days when my schedule allowed me to post five times a week, I’ll do what I can for the time being.

2) Finish reading at least 1-2 novelist advice books to help refine my technique and focus.

Success! Last week, with an incredibly light class reading schedule, I managed to complete Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt and am continuing to make good progress on The Successful Novelist by David Morrell. For those just getting started creating a work of fiction, I strongly recommend Story Structure Architect as a great way to familiarize yourself with the master plot structures and dramatic situations commonly explored. This book is a fabulous resource I will surely keep close at hand as I write.

3) Complete the remaining historical research necessary to flush out my plotlines and ensure their accuracy.

Even though I did make progress with my research, I also managed to frustrate myself, since lately it seems that with every key question I manage to answer, another 10 pop up in its wake, each more detailed and specific than the last. Though I know it’s ultimately helpful to consider things on such a minute level, the time and effort I’m putting into these findings – time I’m not spending actually writing the novel itself – often makes me question whether I truly have the expertise necessary to write about this particular time period at all. 

And while my romance/drama certainly isn’t intended to double as the ultimate historical guide to the time in question, it’s sometimes difficult to gauge whether my research efforts have been satisfactory or still need further development. All in all, I feel I could spend months or years simply doing more historical research without uncovering everything that might possibly add more detail and depth to the story. Sigh... 

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4) Complete 50 pages of solid opening content by the March 22 deadline.

Given the frustrations mentioned above, the past week hasn’t included much progress when it comes to writing story content itself, but I’m hoping to pick up the pace again over the next few days. Special thanks to ROW80 member and blog friend Ghenet Myrthil, who’s encouraged me to fight the desire to revise as I go along and instead just focus on getting a rough draft of the story down on paper. Though the editor in me at times struggles to rebel, I know she’s 100 percent right, and I’m going to try my best to take her advice to heart as I continue.

Have you ever written historical fiction, and if so, do you have any helpful guidelines to share regarding research and how to avoid getting indefinitely bogged down during this stage?  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fashion Focus: Sleek & Chic Headbands

While necklaces, earrings and bracelets all have their place in my collection, it’s the headband that’s hands down become my favorite accessory over the years. Just how much do I love these stylish and functional pieces? So much that you might typically find me sporting one no matter what I'm up to. 

For instance, I just love a headband while enjoying a summer's afternoon of wine tasting...

Or admiring the fall foliage in DC's Rock Creek Park...

Or taking in the sights and sounds of a peaceful Caribbean butterfly farm... 

Or posing for springtime engagement photos at the Old Town waterfront...

Image Source: Damien Smith Photography
...or partaking in countless other activities I could easily include but won't, since I'm sure you get the picture! All in all, I've got headbands at the ready in tons of different textures and fabrics, each one a unique and welcome touch to not only help keep my long hair out of my face, but also add a little something extra to my look. And while my styles are undoubtedly pretty casual, I'd love to someday rock a more formal band just like the lovely picks seen at last weekend's Golden Globes. 

Image Source: The Huffington Post 
Image Source: People 
Image Source: People
What's your signature accessory, and what did you think of the stars' sleek and chic headbands?  

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Year's Goal: A Fashion-Forward 2012

Happy Friday, everyone! I don’t know about you, but throughout the past year, I've lapsed into somewhat of a fashion rut, especially when things get hectic. Perhaps my work-and-study from home regimen is partly to blame, but whatever the reason, I continuously find myself reaching for the same tried and true staples again and again with little motivation to change things up.

Well, no more!  After a thorough cleaning of my clothing, jewelry and makeup collections last week, it’s my goal this year to be much more mindful of just how many options I have in all of these areas and, most importantly, actually put them to use.  

Between generous gifts from friends and family members, plus plenty of shopping trips with my mom and sister in Southern California, the holiday season definitely added more than a few new pieces to my rotation, helping me get excited about trying different looks and styles throughout the coming months.

Here, a glimpse at some of the fresh additions, which I hope you’ll see again in the more frequent outfit and fashion-focused posts I’m aiming to put together. In any event, here’s to a fashion-forward 2012!

This classically styled dress, purchased on sale for $20 at JC Penney, is versatile enough to wear on its own during the warmer months or paired with a cover-up when things get cool.  

 I just love the too-cute cat print accenting this lightweight frock, and especially loved its $26 price tag at thrift chain Buffalo Exchange. 

 Another bargain find, this A-line jean skirt on clearance for just $7 at H&M will be the perfect casual weekend piece throughout the summer. 

A chunky bracelet in some of my favorite colors can help punch up just about any basic style. 

I'll be New Year's Eve-ready come next December with the help of a twinkly necklace and earring gift set. 

A multicolored beaded clutch offers a welcome change from my standard black patent purse. 

Lightweight scarves in pretty patterns will carry me right through into spring. 

Though it wasn't on sale, I simply couldn't resist snapping up this $70 top at Anthropologie. With its neutral shades and eye-catching pattern, I'm sure I'll get enough use out of it to more than make up for the price! 

Fingerless gloves are just what I need to stay warm and stylish when facing down winter's chill. 

Last but not least, a Bobbi Brown bronze highlighter pen, NXY light blue liner and shimmery Stila Rhapsody palette allow for a variety of looks to best complement all the different styles I'll be wearing. 

Are you good about using all of the clothes, jewelry and makeup in your collections, or do you have a tendency to lapse into the same routine, like me? Did you come upon any great holiday bargains this season? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Writer’s Life: Back to My Roots

From news articles and press releases to blog posts and research papers, non-fiction writing of all forms has been a continuous part of my life throughout the past 10 years. But what many people don’t know, especially those who have only met me during this specific timeframe, is that fiction was my first and foremost passion long before I ever took my first undergraduate journalism course or accepted my first position as an editor.

From as early as I could put pencil to paper during my elementary years, I’d love to let my imagination run wild, constantly concocting new tales based upon characters and settings from my favorite books or TV shows, or rooted in my own original daydreams. Throughout middle school and high school, I avidly wrote poetry and short stories for publication in the school’s literary journal, and even began work on my first novel. While this was a project that took off with a great deal of energy and passion, it somehow fell by the wayside once I started college and found myself overwhelmed in a world bursting with new insights, relationships and directives.

Here within this dramatically altered reality, my childhood musings suddenly seemed immaturely silly, and rather than simply allowing my story concepts to grow and mature as I did, I found myself casting them aside for the more practical and reliable stability found in factual writing. Safe within this realm, I could pursue my passion without pouring my own heart and soul onto the page for all to critique and judge as they wished. 

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This new path was rewarding and inspiring in its own way, and over the years, I’ve been proud to fulfill many of the goals I set out to accomplish. But still, no matter how much time may have gone by, my dream of becoming a novelist is one that simply hasn’t died and has only grown stronger since I began my master’s in publishing program, where I’ve found myself thoroughly consumed by the ins-and-outs of the business. Like long-lost friends who just won’t give up on the chance to reconnect, my characters are alive and well inside my head, constantly filling my mind with new ideas and roadmaps to make their story richer as they strive to spill out of my thoughts and into print.

That’s why last November, with renewed ambition, I once again started writing my historical novel, beginning back at square one with a concept loosely based upon the initial idea I had so long ago, but one that is now much better-developed and more thoroughly takes into account the life experiences I’ve had throughout the past decade. Though the fears of failure and criticism still at times terrify and threaten to paralyze me, I ultimately realize that it’s far better to try and fail than to avoid trying at all. 

Image Source: A Round of Words in 80 Days
So, what’s the point of all this? To stay on track and make sure I take reasonable steps toward pursuing my goal, I’m linking up with A Round of Words in 80 Days, an online community of writers who set measurable goals for themselves throughout a series of 80-day sessions each year. While things may get frantic given the three graduate classes I’m currently enrolled in, it’s my hope that by joining this group and setting these goals, I’ll be better compelled to give my personal writing the same attention I would a work or class assignment.

Are you still reading? If so, here’s a quick glimpse at my goals for the first round of ROW80.

1) Consistently write at least 2-3 High Heels & Flip-Flops blog posts each week. Though it may be hard to justify this priority when the going gets tough, the simple fact that blogging helps me relax, offers a creative release and allows me to connect with a like-minded, supportive community makes it well worth the effort. And while every post might not represent the height of great writing, it is writing nonetheless, and a chance to continue pressing onward in whatever small way that might be.

2) Finish reading at least 1-2 novelist advice books to help refine my technique and focus. Considering that I've got two of these already in progress, this goal should be very achievable. 

3) Complete the remaining historical research necessary to flesh out my plotlines and ensure their accuracy. I’ve made good progress with this goal throughout the past couple months, while I’ve simultaneously devoted a great deal of time to outlining my various story structures and sections. I know without a doubt that the stronger my historical knowledge base is going in, the faster I’ll be able to complete my first draft with confidence.

4) Complete 50 pages of solid opening content by the March 22 deadline. Depending upon how busy things get once my courses are in full swing, this goal may end up being either too ambitious or not ambitious enough. I'll play it by ear and revise the goal as needed, taking into account the fact that my progress on the opening chapters has thus far been quite slow. As you can imagine, I'm putting a lot of thought into how I can best introduce my characters and establish their personalities, and while moving along so slowly may not be the ideal, it’s certainly better than not moving along at all.

And there you have it, my renewed mission for the first several months of 2012. What are your goals and dreams as you move forward this year, and do you have any advice or insight to help an aspiring writer?   

Monday, January 9, 2012

Holiday Flashbacks & New Year's Greetings

Winter’s greetings, and a belated happy New Year! After two glorious weeks spent basking in the California sunshine, plus a few extra days devoted to catching up and fighting off the inevitable post-holiday blues, I’m back and excited to kick off a 2012 that is certain to bring new challenges and accomplishments alike.

First and foremost, today marks the start of my final 16 weeks as a grad student, and I’m very much looking forward to continuing my training and research in areas including online publishing strategies, sales and marketing techniques, and editorial management. Cliché though it may sound, the past two years have simply rushed right on by, and I can hardly believe that in just a few short months, I’ll be donning a cap and gown for what may very well be the last time.

Before forging ahead with the new, however, I think it’s well-worth bidding a final farewell to a fabulous holiday season that was filled with friends, family, food, fun and some much-needed relaxation. 

Initially delayed in Denver by a winter whiteout on our way out to California, it took a hearty supply of gummi bears, wasabi party mix and fashion magazines to sustain me, but I somehow successfully managed to keep my patience throughout at least the first couple hours of waiting. Luckily, after a thorough deicing and clearing of the runways, we were able to fly out before the worst hit. 

Meeting my sister-in-law Ellen's newly adopted three-month-old rescue kittens Wellington and Paisley following our 2 a.m. arrival more than made up for the frustration. 

Though the weather in Sacramento was colder than average throughout the week we spent visiting Stephen's family, red chowder and tasty crab sandwiches from Bodega Bay's Spud Point Crab Co. offered a welcome relief. After checking out my in-laws' beach house, we made our way down south to the beautiful Point Reyes Lighthouse, where we admired wildlife, worked our legs climbing the site's 300-plus-step staircase and took in absolutely stunning views of the Pacific. 

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day brought the chance to share good food and conversation with family and friends. Not to be left out, the beloved family dachshund Mokka was quick to get in on the action. Even though she wasn't quite lucky enough to score a taste from the assortment of cheeses we'd bought in Point Reyes at the famed Cowgirl Creamery, Mokka definitely had a busy Christmas testing out her new toys and going for walks on her newly gifted leash. 

All in all, the week flew by in a flash, and before I knew it, I was headed down to Southern California, where I also had a great time visiting my family and getting in some quality shopping time with my mom and sister. Stay tuned for a glimpse later this week of a few fun new additions to my closet and jewelry collection!