Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day

Happy Leap Day, everyone! With final projects due in two of my classes this week, including a monster group presentation we wrapped up last night, I unfortunately haven't been able to blog much. But now that it's Wednesday, there's definitely a light at the end of the tunnel, and I hope to be back on track next week with three new posts, including a ROW80 check-in and answers to all of your fabulous reader questions.

Today, even though I can't be with her out in California, I'm wishing a very happy Leap Day birthday to my Nana, who's celebrating her 20th! :)

Image Source: Alex Neumann Photography
Do you have any family members or friends celebrating a Leap Day birthday?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ask High Heels & Flip-Flops

Hello there, everyone! It's been another busy week here in my world, with much of it spent preparing final projects for my winter session classes that are wrapping up next week. I'm sorry to have missed my weekly ROW80 check-in on Wednesday, but hope to be back next week with more to report in the writing department.

Since I got so many great responses to my recent Love Story and 11 Fun Facts About Me posts, I thought I would continue the trend by opening the floor to any questions my readers might have for me, whether about weddings, marriage, my career experience, my personal story or other topics. One of my goals in blogging is to do a better job at helping my readers get to know and connect with me as a person, and this seems like a great way to stay on track. (Many thanks to one of my favorites blogs, From Match to Marriage, for giving me the idea!)

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Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section below, and I'll do my best to answer them by next week, with the obvious exception of anything I feel is inappropriate or too simply too personal to reveal. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend -- maybe one that is even  filled with some pleasant springlike weather, which we've definitely been enjoying here in the DC area throughout the past couple days!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Quick & Easy Beauty

I absolutely love wearing makeup and getting dressed up, but when it comes to my beauty and skincare routines, I’m also all about keeping things as fast and easy as possible. That’s why I’ve come to rely on a set of tried and true must-haves that help me keep things simple and streamlined on even my most hectic days. Here, a few standout staples I just can’t do without.

Image Source: Pond's

This set of Pond's facial cloths, infused with a cucumber-citrus scent for mornings and a lavender scent for evenings, are fast, easy and effective at refreshing my skin and removing makeup in a matter of seconds. 

Image Source: Mary Kay

I love Mary Kay cosmetics, and her mineral power foundation is just the thing I need to give me smooth, buildable coverage without a lot of time required.

Image Source: Mary Kay

Also by Mary Kay, this clay clarifying facial mask is simple to use in the shower just a couple times a week for skin that's soft and glowing. Plus, it's gentle enough that I can apply a medicated acne cream immediately afterward with no irritation.

Image Source: POPBeauty 

I won this POPBeauty Eye Cake palette for blue eyes in a giveaway and have since come to love it. I typically use the three left-hand shades together, though I'm planning to also try out the dark blue as a liner sometime soon. The colors work really well together, making it easy to get the right look quickly.

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I was gifted this rich and luxurious cream for Christmas and have been using it daily ever since to help rid my skin of winter dryness and chapping. Not only does it work great, but it really does have the perfect toasted marshmallow scent that is neither too strong nor sweet. I'll definitely be picking up another bottle once the holidays roll around again this year!

What are your top quick and easy beauty staples?

P.S. Janet Liang, whose story I shared a couple weeks ago, has still not found a bone marrow match. Can you help save Janet’s life? Please take a moment to read her story and do what you can. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Writer’s Life: When to First Share Details About Your Novel?

I’m thrilled to share the news that my article on 2012 wedding trends, featuring advice from top industry pros, has been published at TheFavour Shoppe. Please feel free to stop by and check it out!

An especially busy class schedule meant I wasn't quite as productive as desired when it came to my WIP this week, though I am definitely still on track with my goals to blog regularly and finish reading The Successful Novelist before this round concludes. I also happened upon an interesting issue that I've since been thinking about and am eager to share with the ROW80 community for feedback.  

In one of my publishing courses last week, our instructor shared the story of a fellow writer's group member who is completing the final draft of her first novel while working to secure an agent. The professor went on to reveal details about the book’s theme, plot and characters, and even ended by saying that during the previous semester, she’d brought in segments of the work for the entire class to critique.

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While I suppose there does certainly come a time when it’s all right to open your work up to outside opinion, I was a bit surprised that this author would reveal her book to such a wide audience without having yet secured an agent or finalized the piece. I could, however, be entirely incorrect, and since I am still in the early stages of my first draft, I must say that I honestly haven’t yet revealed many details about my novel to even my husband or closest friends.

What do you think? Am I completely off-base in my assessment, and how do you truly know when the time is right to reveal the details of your work, whether to family, friends, a critique group or other fellow writers? 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Love Story

Happy Valentine’s week! In honor of tomorrow’s holiday, I’m sharing the love story blog questionnaire that’s been making the rounds this month.

In other goings-on, I’m also thrilled to share the news that my 2012 wedding trends article, featuring advice from top industry pros, has been published at The Favour Shoppe. Please feel free to stop by and check it out! 

And now, without further ado, our story. 

How long have you and your significant other been together?

We started dating six years ago in September 2006.

How did you meet?

Stephen went to college with one of my best friends, and while I remember meeting him a couple times back then, he doesn’t! Nevertheless, we both ended up in Washington DC post-graduation, along with our mutual connection, and started spending time together as friends for a few weeks before going on our first dates. The very first was to a congressional meet-and-greet function for CSU alumni and the second, more "official" date, was to dinner at a fun Asian fusion restaurant.

If married, how long?

We were married on June 4, 2010, which I can’t believe is now almost two years ago!

Image Source: Alex Neumann Photography 
If you are married, where did you get married? Big or small wedding? 

Our wedding was held in my hometown of Thousand Oaks, California. The ceremony took place at a local Catholic church and the reception at a beautiful golf course nearby. We invited just 75 guests for a small and personal celebration.  

Do you have any nicknames for one another?

Honestly, we don’t. Nicknames, cutesy or otherwise, aren’t really our thing.

Name 3 things you love most about your honey.

He’s a genuine, driven and truly compassionate man.

Image Source: Alex Neumann Photography
Tell us how he proposed.

Stephen planned to propose down at the DC Tidal Basin during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, but the hordes of tourists and lack of parking thwarted his plan. Instead, he took me out to dinner, picked up some cake and champagne, and then asked me at home. Since I had picked out my own ring and we’d already mutually decided we wanted to get married, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to begin with.

Is he a flowers and teddy bear kind of guy for V-Day, or strawberries, champagne and rose petals?

Last year, when I was incredibly stressed about work projects on Valentine’s Day, my husband surprised me with chocolate fondue, strawberries, marshmallows, brownies and a delicious raspberry dessert wine. We kept the tradition alive this year over the weekend.

Are you a sunset dinner on the beach kind of girl, or pop a movie in and relax on the couch?

I do like going out and planning special occasions, but when I’m especially busy and exhausted, I truly love to just relax at home while sipping a glass of wine in my PJs.

Last year's fondue Valentine. 
Tell us one thing you'd like to do with your significant other one day, if you could do anything and go anywhere.

I’d love to cruise around the world, exploring new places and sharing fabulous adventures.

Tell us what you plan on doing this Valentine's Day.

On the actual day itself, I plan to attend class for three hours and continue to work my butt off toward completing this crazy master’s program. As he always does, my husband will have a delicious dinner waiting for me when I get home, unless we both decide we want Chipotle or Potbelly instead, which is always a good deal in my book.

Give us one piece of advice for keeping a relationship strong and full of love.


Show us a picture of what love means to you.

Image Source: Alex Neumann Photography 
What's your love story? 

Friday, February 10, 2012

What’s In a Job Title?

Every semester without fail, my classmates and I begin each new graduate course in much the same way  by taking turns sharing information about our professional backgrounds as they relate to that particular class and the master’s program as a whole. While this is a helpful and appropriate way for our professors to get to know us, I’ve also recently found myself in social situations where friends and relatives are instantly judged, for better or worse, primarily on the basis of their job titles and professional roles.

Though someone’s chosen career path is often a good reflection of her interests, talents and ambitions, judging someone’s worth primary on the basis of an arbitrary title or job position strikes me as being undoubtedly short-sighted. For one thing, in today’s economy, many skilled and determined people are either unemployed or underemployed at best. Furthermore, I’ve come to know plenty of individuals who may boast lofty titles and seemingly admirable qualifications when it comes to the work world, but who have demonstrated an incredible immaturity and cluelessness when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

Someone's profession is only one piece of the puzzle defining who they really are.
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As a case in point, while some of those I interacted with on Capitol Hill and elsewhere surely relished their high-ranking positions, they were also very often the first to treat their employees dismally, suffer severe dysfunction in their marriages, and battle ongoing problems like alcohol abuse. Are these the people we as a society want to uphold as having achieved an ideal we should all strive toward? On the flipside, I’ve known others, including lawyers and lobbyists, who have been far too quickly pigeonholed by their peers into fitting the classic stereotypes of their professions, which couldn’t be farther from the truth in these particular cases.

In the end, I believe that someone’s professional status is only a single puzzle piece representing who he or she really is. That's why, when I meet someone new rather than automatically jumping to the old standby, “And what do you do?”  I try to focus on posing questions and engaging in a conversation that will help me really get to know the person as a whole. By trying to be less quick to judge, I often find that it’s those whose surface qualifications may not be the most prestigious who actually have the most compelling stories and inspiring ambitions to share, although those ambitions may fall outside the realm of a person’s daily 9-to-5 activities.

What do you think? Is it accurate to judge someone’s character based largely upon his or her professional identity, or is this something we as a society have a tendency to rely upon too heavily? 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Writer’s Life: Balancing Act

I hereby interrupt what has unexpectedly become a whirlwind day to bring you my weekly ROW80 update.

When it comes to my work in progress, the past couple weeks have been pleasingly productive. By setting aside at least a few uninterrupted hours each Friday to work on my fiction piece, I’ve gotten into a good work pattern and am entirely confident I’ll be able to reach my goal of 50 pages or more by the March 22 deadline. Still, with major projects, exams and papers looming in all three grad classes, I’m worried that my much-loved uninterrupted writing time is about to become…well, not only interrupted, but potentially eliminated between now and the end of February.

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Truthfully, as personally important as my WIP, blog posts, reading-for-pleasure time, and so on are, I know that I ultimately do have to prioritize my responsibilities and obligations instead. And while I’m fortunate that the majority of my required obligations are things I feel passionate about, I definitely get hit with the occasional “busy work” assignment or project that is lacking in long-term value. This reality can be frustrating, but at the same time, I know that if my WIP truly is that important to me, it’s up to me to make the time for it, no matter how tired, burnt out or stressed I might otherwise feel.

I’ll keep you posted, crossing my fingers that the old saying, “When there’s a will, there’s a way,” holds true throughout the coming weeks! And now, back to my regularly scheduled indexing assignment. 

How do you find the right balance between what you absolutely must do and what you love to do? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Future Home: Dream Office

As far as home office space goes, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got right now, even if it is a far cry from my former digs on Capitol Hill, which were definitely nice, but truth be told, also a bit over the top.

Still, while my basic L-shaped desk (purchased on sale for just $70!) and standard Ikea shelving are more than enough to meet my needs for the time being, that hasn’t stopped me from daydreaming about what I might someday do once we have a house of our own and a hopefully expanded budget.

Here, a few of my favorite design and decor inspirations thus far from – where else? – Pinterest. 

Fun, functional, feminine and sophisticated, this office's furniture, color scheme and decor all make me swoon.

Source: via Heather on Pinterest

Growing up, one of my friends had a wall of shelves just like this in her room, and I was always quite envious, since this type of open layout provides for so many creative storage and decor options.

Corner shelving units also strike my fancy, and I just love the color-blocking with books seen in this image.

This desk, a twist on the one I have now, would allow for plenty of work and storage space, given the wide desktop and two sets of drawers on each side. The room's color scheme is also calm and relaxing, which is just what I need to help keep me on track when things get stressful.

The chic chandelier and pretty ceiling patterns are just my style, as are the classic and sophisticated colors seen throughout the room.

Of course, in the end, I guess it's also fair to say that my ultimate dream office would actually look something a little more like this... :)

What's your vision for a dream home office?