Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Memorial Birthday

Despite the emphasis our culture places on things like money and status, it’s being nice and caring for others that actually changes lives. Thank you, Nana, for teaching me these values and demonstrating that even in today’s competitive world, it is still possible to live with integrity, decency and compassion.  

My grandparents, Pat and Mary, on their wedding day in June 1952. 
Cancer may indeed have stolen your life and prevented you from being here to celebrate this, your 81st birthday, but it did not take away the love I feel for you, nor the legacy that such a beautiful and classy lady has left behind for the rest of us to carry on. Cancer loses, and we win, every single time we remember you.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Recipe Recap: Misoba Salad

Happy last week of February! After allowing myself to indulge in far too many sweet and savory treats ever since Valentine's Day, I'm eager to get back on track with my healthy eating plan.

Luckily, Sweetgreen, my go-to DC salad place, has impressed me yet again with what might very well be my favorite salad to date. You can bet I’ll definitely be ordering this time and time again, along with replicating it at home. Try this vegan delight for yourself, and get ready for some major yum!

Misoba Salad


Mesclun lettuce
Soba noodles
Raw corn
Seed mix
Miso sesame ginger vinaigrette
Sriracha sauce


Combine and eat! It really doesn't get much easier than that. 

Do you love a good salad, even during the winter? Check out another one of my top picks, Sweetgreen's Guacamole Greens Salad

Thursday, February 21, 2013

All Women Stalk Roundup: February 21, 2013

After having a chance to get into the swing of things and start sharing my advice with readers, I think it’s fair to say that I absolutely love my new weekly writing gig at All Women Stalk, where I've been busy posting up a storm lately!

In case you’re interested in any of the topics I’ve written about, here's a quick roundup linking to my recent articles. Please feel free to stop by and say hello or even just share suggestions for future posts, since I’m always looking for new ideas!

Image Source: All Women Stalk

7 Must-Have LUSH Products


7 Tips for Traveling in Style


7 Thought-Provoking Broadway Musicals

7 Wine-Themed Decor Ideas for Your Home




Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New Couch Quandaries

As our current couch and loveseat became increasingly worn, I tried to come up with temporary solutions to extend their lifespan, like buying a set of covers and positioning throw blankets over the back cushions. But when springs suddenly started breaking through a couple weeks back, I knew it was time to put the temporary fixes aside and start thinking about replacing the set altogether.

This time, instead of buying a separate couch and loveseat, Stephen and I are looking at corner couch models, including the following two contenders from Ikea. (I’m very disappointed that our current set from JC Penney has lasted less than three years.)

EKTORP Corner Sofa. Image Source: Ikea
KARLSTAD Corner Sofa. Image Source: Ikea
After checking them both out in person, I think we’re leaning a bit more toward the second one, since it seems to be slightly more spacious and comfortable, and also has a great crawl space underneath where Molly and Twix could play without any risk of getting “stuck” or losing their toys.

We still haven’t made a final decision, but one thing I definitely love about both of these couches is our ability to buy replaceable covers should the original fabric become worn or damaged. Have you ever purchased a couch from Ikea before, and which of these do you like best? I’ll be sure to let you know what we decide! 

P.S. Thanks so much for all of your helpful advice about the Writer's Digest Conference. While I didn't sign up in time to get the early bird discount, I still have more time to think about it and make a decision in the coming weeks. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! In a world where far too many men (and women) are unfaithful, abusive and more, I’m forever grateful to have a husband like Stephen, a man who is smart, loyal, sincere, respectful, determined and so many other wonderful things. I also send a huge thank you to his parents for raising such a kind, caring and decent person. 

Image Source: Damien Smith Photography
I love you, Stephen, and I definitely can’t wait to celebrate our third wedding anniversary this June. Thank you for helping me dream big and supporting me in everything I do. Our world absolutely needs more people like you. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Writer’s Digest Conference: Decisions, Decisions

Happy Valentine's week! I hope you've perhaps got some fun plans lined up, even if, like us, you're not spending a lot of money on gifts or going out this year. Yes, with some major expenses on the horizon, including attending my sister-in-law's wedding in Hawaii (if anyone knows where I can magically find airfare from DC for less than the ridiculous rate of around $1,000 per person, please let me know), replacing our damaged couch and saving for a home if and when we finally move, we've been trying to cut back in other areas lately.

Speaking of cutting back, I’ve been hoping to attend this spring’s Writer’s Digest Conference in New York for quite some time, but with the early bird registration deadline now looming just a couple days away, I’m torn about whether to actually go or skip it. The main reason? Yup, you guessed it – the expense.

With so many other big financial obligations and goals on the table this year, plus the fact that I'm still eager to increase my workload and income, I’m hesitant to spend close to another $1,000 to travel to NYC, attend the conference and stay in a hotel. This is especially true because my novel is not yet finished, and I’m therefore not ready to actually start pitching my work to agents.  

My favorite editor. 
That said, I do feel like I’m making progress, however, and that attending the various panels and training sessions at the conference might help me better know what to expect once I am ready, not to mention begin to assess what I’m doing right and what I need to improve upon as I continue moving forward. 

I also have the option of skipping the NYC conference and holding out for the fall West Coast conference. If it's held in L.A. again, I would even be able to stay with family and save on hotel costs. But that’s still an unknown right now, too, and it's hard to help but feel frustrated that there are so many things I want to do and make happen, but so many other obligations to be considered at the same time. Sigh...

What would you do if you were in my shoes? How do you usually determine whether something is worth the expense or better off postponed? 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Winter Food Love: Sichuan Hot Pot

Who needs football when you've got a day filled with writing, the Puppy Bowl and delicious Sichuan cuisine? Yes, I’ll admit that while I did manage to catch the last half of Sunday’s Superbowl showdown, the highlight of my weekend was definitely our visit to Mala Tang in Arlington for Chinese hot pot.

For those who have never tried it before, hot pot is similar to fondue, except that you cook meats and veggies in a spicy “mala” broth. Plus, since Mala Tang gave us each our own mini pots, the broth itself even became a delicious soup we could close out the meal with after feasting on everything from shrimp to beef to lamb. (I decided to once again forego my on-again-off-again vegetarianism in the presence of so much tasty food.)
A hot pot filled with peppers and spicy "mala" broth.
In addition to the amazing hot pot portion of the meal, Mala Tang also served up some of the best appetizers I’ve ever eaten, including mapo tofu and spicy wontons. In fact, even if we had skipped the hot pot experience altogether and simply filled up on small bites like these, I know I still would have left feeling very happy and full.

Have you ever eaten Sichuan hot pot? If not, I highly recommend it, especially if you can go with a group of about 5-6 people like we did, which makes it easy to share entrees and sample lots of different things all in one visit. It’s definitely the perfect way to warm up on a cold winter’s night!