Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cape Cod: 2012

Okay, here's the post you've all been waiting for: my update about my trip to Cape Cod! Well, I should specify that we were in Woods Hole, a certain part of the Cape. It's known for its marine biology labs, and a good number of people I met up there (including my friend) work in those labs. I went last year to visit this same friend, and it was so much fun, so we decided to do it again! Since I didn't have a blog last summer, I will start off with last year's trip.

These photos therefore are from June 2012. This is a picture of Eel Pond, where a lot of people keep their boats (rather than in the harbor). My first trip to Eel Pond was quite an adventure. My friend and I attempted to bring a row boat to the pond by putting the boat on top of our bikes...Yeah, that didn't work. But a nice man helped drive the boat to the pond. Then we had to motor her sailboat to the middle of the pond to its mooring, and rowed the the other boat (which had a hole in it, by the way), back to shore!
 Last year, my friend's car was broken (actually, it burst into flames maybe a month before I arrived), so we biked everywhere. I had not ridden a bike since I was 10 years old, but it came right back to me, just like the saying goes. We biked all around town and over 8 miles on Martha's Vineyard. So athletic!
 This was one of many amazing buildings on the Vineyard. They all had an old-school feel about them and were painted in all different colors. We didn't go to the Vineyard this summer, but I figured I had see most of it last year, so that was fine by me.
This was the backdrop from my last day at the Cape last year. We were lounging on a private beach (i.e. owned by someone else), but no one was around, so we made ourselves comfortable. It was pretty excluded, so we were topless (so risque!). A few other people showed up, and I kept waiting for someone to reprimand me for being half naked, but no one said a word! I guess no one is offended by perky little boobs that are barely noticeable when I'm laying in a supine position.

Obviously this was an awesome trip, hence the one in 2013!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Perspectives: How you spend your money

Everyone has the right to spend their hard-earned money the way they want to. I just find it interesting that everyone has his or her own idea about the best way to go about it. I usually spend money on necessities like rent, food, and electricity. And then there are the semi-regular purchases like gas and Brazilian waxes (the more regularly you get them, the less it hurts). And I occasionally splurge on Groupons/Living Social deals and clothes. And other people buy things that I have absolutely no interest in. Some people dye their hair or get manicures; others blow money on organic cereal ($6! I refuse to pay more than $2.50 on a box of cereal) and stuff for their cars. I think the main problem I have with purchases like this are that they do not fit within people's budgets. I have friends who have money problems, and yet they continue to pamper themselves with expensive beauty regimes and eat organic rhubarb for no good reason. People should live within their means. And if they don't, they shouldn't complain about the fact that they don't have much money.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Overstaying your welcome

So, due to the welcoming and accepting nature of Woods Hole, I think some people feel like they can ask people for anything as if they were family. My friend was staying in a summer home, and she had to find a place to stay while the family spent two weeks there on vacation. So she spent a week sleeping on her friend's couch for that time. But even when her friend left for Europe, and after the family left, she continued to stay at her friend's place. She was very upset when her friend's roommates told her should would have to start paying some rent for staying there. She just didn't understand why they would make her pay to stay there when her stay wasn't affecting the amount on rent or anything like that.

First of all, I would NEVER let anyone stay at my place for a week, let alone longer than that. I love having a friend stay over for a long weekend, just a nice visit before she has to go back to her own town. But a week or more? No. Get a hotel, stay with someone else, figure out something, because my home is not a shelter. And in return, I would never consider asking to stay with someone (other than my parents) for over a week. I find that would be a considerable inconvenience to whomever I was asking. No one really wants to have someone sleep in their living room; it makes everyone walk on eggshells because no one wants to disturb the sleeper. And chances are, the visitor is going to eat at least some of your food. It's just bound to happen.

Taking advantage of people, especially your friends, just isn't right. You should appreciate your friends, and their hospitality, but then you need to make sure you don't overstay your welcome. Otherwise, you're going to ruin the whole friendship, just because you're cheap and greedy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Boating People

While I was in Cape Cod, I met a lot of my friend's friends. That included her housemates, her co-workers, previous roommates, townies, etc. And they were brought together by the town of Woods Hole (or "Wo Ho" as they sometimes call it). It's this little town that's internationally known for its marine biology labs, but to those who live here, it's just a water town where everybody knows everybody. You always say hello and wave whenever you pass someone, and everyone is willing to give you the shirt off his back. Maybe that's why my friend didn't think it was strange to bunk at a friend's place without paying rent: it's normal to just squat in other people's homes. These are the type of people who don't mind if you just pop in without an invitation, or who tell you to come over for a BBQ and don't ask you to bring your own beer. Everyone is warm and welcoming, which was quite refreshing after living in a city for over a year and a half now. Rather than pretentious, "boating people" are modest, down-to-earth, and happy. One girl, Kimmy, described it perfectly: "We may be broke, but we know how to live." A lot of people here are unemployed, or are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, and they spend most of their money on alcohol and maintenance for their shitty boats. And yet they are so kind-hearted, and they spend their days relaxing on the water with the people they care about. They really have it good, even without six figure jobs and a cultured city. I am definitely a fan of boating people.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My personal flight from hell

Now that I am back from vacation, I will spend my next few posts telling you all about my adventures. We'll start from the beginning at BWI.

Other than a plane crash, my flight from Baltimore to Boston was my idea of a terrible flight. And no, it's not because there was a crying baby on board (I didn't see any children, actually). No, it all had to do with the two young women sitting next to me for the entirety of the flight (less than an hour and a half long, but even that was too long to be in their presence).

Now, I know I was in a sorority in college, but sororities up north, especially Ivy League/local ones, are quite different than the stereotype people imagine. Well, these girls fit the usual stereotype of bimbo sorority sisters. First of all, they were perfectly quaffed: dyed hair (dumb blonde jokes are welcome), curled at six in the morning, and looking beach-ready with their Lilly Pulitzer clothes and matching bags. They were also extremely chipper for such an early flight; they were super-smiley and giggly the whole way, and the bloody marys didn't help that situation. The first thing one of them said to me was, "It smells like Cheerios in here!" NOT a good sign.

I wouldn't have found their demeanor so annoying if it weren't for the girly drivel coming out of their mouths. Their main topic of choice was how they were trying to get pregnant. WONDERFUL. Just what I want to listen to. One of them already has a child, so she's telling the non-pregnant one ALL about it. It started with how she and her husband (the whole "we" even though pregnancy is only a woman thing) got pregnant sooner than they thought after she went of the Pill (Newsflash: if you and your partner are young and healthy, you will get knocked up, pronto. That's what biology wants you to do!). Then she goes into how she wasn't sure if the baby was okay until she could feel it kicking, onto how the second trimester didn't feel like she was pregnant except for her belly, and mentioned that a 42 pound weight gain is perfectly fine (pregnancy really is the scape goat for all fatties in the world). The idea of pregnancy/childbirth/children terrifies and disgusts me: this was not how I wanted my vacation to start.

Then the wedding talk started. They were clearly traveling to go to a friend's wedding, so then of course that gets them all reminiscent about their own weddings: who was in their bridal party, who was cheap with the wedding gifts, who didn't get invited, etc. It was Pinterest come to life. They just couldn't shut the hell up about wedding shit. And guess what? Soon after we started our descent into Boston, the conversation came full circle about getting prego again and how long of an age gap you should leave between siblings. Splendid.

It's women (and conversations) like these who make me wonder if Feminism ever happened. More women graduate from college than men now, we have several female astronauts now, and there are rampant female-focused debates happening internationally regarding abortion, female theologists, etc. And yet the only thing these girls could talk about were weddings and babies, the stereotypical things women are supposed to talk about. Ladies, look around you. There is a much bigger world out there besides rehearsal dinners and diapers. Make the world proud of American women, not embarrassed by them.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Jo Dee Messina song #3

Next up is "That's the Way" which is all about the ups and downs of life.

I can definitely relate to the first stanza. I was always walking the straight and narrow growing up: I was a good student, I did what I was told (most of the time...), and was never a "problem child." I easily was valedictorian of my high school graduating class, and though I was nervous about getting into college, with my grades and the fact that I was a legacy, I was practically a shoo in for Dartmouth. And then came a huge road block: no job. It hit me like a ton of bricks that, out of all people, I was the one who unemployed and living with my parents. NOT what I had planned.

"Everybody wants an easy ride on the merry-go-round that we call life
Take a drive on cruise control, then you wake to find it's a winding road
I had my dreams in view when the money ran out and the engine blew
Hung my tears out to dry, then my dreams fell outta the clear blue sky
And I, I was walking in the clouds feeling so safe and sound
'Til something else knocks me down"

The song's chorus then sort of tells you, "Well, you can't do anything about it. That's life. Deal."

"Oh and that's the way it is
You gotta roll with the punches
Oh and that's the way it goes
You gotta bend when the wind blows
You live, you learn
You crash, you burn
It's hit or miss
And that's the way it is"

The next stanza is about romance and how love is so complicated. It's a little literal for my taste, but here it is:

"One fine day you wake up, completely, hopelessly fallen in love
He's just what you're looking for, the only problem is that the man's not sure
Another guy will give you everything, the only problem is you don't feel a thing
Well I know from experience, nothing's ever gonna make perfect sense
Oh, one day you get what you want, but it's not what you think, then you get what you need"

You can plan out your life as much as you want, but things are going to come up when you least expect them. The only thing I can say is: Fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride of life!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Jo Dee Messina song #2

I also love the song "Burn" by Messina. This is one of those songs that my mom would probably have thought about when I was growing up. It's about going after your dreams and living your life to the fullest and making an impact in the world.

The song starts with the singer asking questions about what the listener may want to do with his or her life, like a parent asking a child, "So, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Do you wanna be a poet and write
Do you wanna be an actor up in lights
Do you wanna be a soldier and fight for love
Do you wanna travel the world
Do you wanna be a diver for pearls
Or climb a mountain and touch the clouds above

Then the parent says, "You can do anything you can set your mind to! Reach for the stars!"

Be anyone you want to be
Bring to life your fantasies
But I want something in return

I want you to burn
Burn for me baby
Like a candle in my night
Oh burn
Burn for me, burn for me

 And the parent admits that his or her child may not always make good decisions and won't be a perfect citizen:

Are you gonna be a gambler and deal
Are you gonna be a doctor and heal
Or go to heaven and touch God’s face
Are you gonna be a dreamer who sleeps
Are you gonna be a sinner who weeps
Or an angel under grace

I like to think that I am burning bright "like a candle" in my parents' night. I know they are proud of me for setting goals and achieving them, one at a time. I'm not settling, I'm not sitting back. They appreciate the hard work, because it lets them know they've done something right. Well, more like a million things right in raising me. This post is a pat on the back from me to my parents: GOOD JOB!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Jo Dee Messina song #1

Since I'm going on vacation (to the Cape, no less), blogging will not be happening. I will be too busy sunbathing, eating hand-scooped ice cream, and riding a bike around Martha's Vineyard (don't worry: I'll tell you all about it when I get back).

So to keep you occupied, you're going to have to read a couple of posts in a row about Jo Dee Messina songs. I was listening to her Greatest Hits album while driving to the airport, and I realized how many of her songs spoke to me. So here's the first one: Stand Beside Me.

This song is about having a man who treats you like his equal. The chorus just about sums it up:

I want a man that stands beside me
Not in front of or behind me
Give me two arms that want to hold me not own me
And I'll give all the love in my heart
Stand beside me
Be true don't tell lies to me
I'm not lookin' for a fantasy
I want a man that who stands beside me

She doesn't want a man to overshadow her and keep her "seen but not heard." But she always doesn't want a meek, cowardly man who stays in the background. She needs someone who loves her and is affectionate, not controlling and manipulative. The lyrics even mention she's not "lookin' for a fantasy." I like the honesty of that line. While most girls my age have been brainwashed by Disney Princess movies, I have come to realize that relationships take work, there will be times that are annoying or just plain hard, and he's not going to fit your 100 category list. This song is saying just look for the basics: a good man who is honest and treats you with respect. It doesn't matter if he doesn't look like Prince Charming or if he's not a millionaire. This is reality, and you have to realize what's important in this life, not the story you have created in your head.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Another quote blog post...

I'm sorry if you're getting bored of my blog posts on quotes, but if I'm not feeling particularly inspired by something to write about it (an event I just went to, my new favorite food, etc.), I find a quote that will get the job done.This quote is about confidence, and seeing the name of my blog, I think this is quite appropriate for me to write about.

"Confidence is a habit that can be developed by acting as if you 
already had the confidence you desire to have." -Brian Tracy 

 I completely agree with this statement. It has definitely taken me years to reach the point of confidence that I am at now. Sometimes I think that if I hadn't been "the smart girl" in the beginning, I'd have no self-confidence at all. It started with brains, then I started getting pretty at the end of 8th grade, then in high school I really didn't care, in college I was hot/sexy, and now I'm a combination of it all, PLUS a great job and living in a cool city.

So it takes time, and it takes work. I was never the "cool" girl growing up, and when I think of myself today, "cool" is not an adjective I use to describe myself. Inside, I will always be that nerdy goody-goody who plays by the rules. But on the outside, I've definitely transformed myself. I think the easiest way to gain self-confidence is by changing your outward appearance. Now, sadly to say, this probably means conforming to society's idea of "beauty." You may think that making a statement with your piercings and Goth look are going to give you confidence because you're "sticking it to the Man," but you're really just digging yourself deeper into people judging you, and NOT in a good way. So, clothes and make-up can easily help (I swear, when I put on lipstick, blush, and a little mascara, I look 10 times better). Of course if you have a low self-esteem due to your weight, then exercise and dieting is in order (nothing extreme!). Once I had my braces off I felt better, and then when I got to college and started working out I felt really good, and now that I look the best I ever have, my self-confidence is through the roof. It feels good knowing that when you know you look good (like those days when you're wearing a great dress, sky-high heels, and make-up), you know that people are watching you walk down the street, even if you don't make eye contact with them. So, looks are the #1 way to feel better about yourself. Yes, it's a bit vain, but we live in a superficial society, so there you go. But really, when you look good, you feel good, period.

Then there's feeling like you have purpose. This could mean a million things, from having a meaningful job to being a good friend to raising children. If you are doing something that you like to do, and that makes you feel good, then you're on the right track. If you hate your job, or you've alienated all the people around you, and you feel lost, it's very difficult to have confidence. The summer after I graduated from college, I had no job, I was living at home, was heartbroken, and had no idea what I was doing with my life. My self-confidence was at an all-time low. I REALLY felt like a loser. So if that's how you feel, you need to make a change. A BIG one. For me, it was moving to New York City. For you, it could be taking a vacation to an exotic island, or switching careers into something you've secretly always wanted. If you're not happy, you can't be confident. The two go hand-in-hand.

While you are making these changes, both physically and lifestyle-wise, you're in a transition phase, and it might feel a little uncomfortable. Don't feel like you're being fake because you're trying to change who you are. You're not changing; you're transforming. I'd give you the caterpillar-butterfly metaphor but you all already know it. During this time, you may feel uneasy because you're doing something new and different, but if you act like you know exactly who you are, you will start to feel that way naturally. When I first started wearing make-up, I wore sparkly pink lipstick. Looking back on it now, it was not a good look, but back then, it made me feel pretty, and when I put it on, I felt better. You can do things as simply as walking taller with a longer stride, or smiling more; those easy moves will automatically make you feel better, even if that's not usually how you walk or act. If you have a new job, act like you know exactly what you're doing; you may have doubts, but if you let on that you're not sure of yourself, no one else will be. If you don't believe in yourself, love yourself, then how can anyone else? Confidence breeds confidence. If you have confidence in yourself, others will feel that for you, too.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another quote to ponder...

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
- Abraham Lincoln
I found this quote on the page of a fellow blogger on named Amelia*. I liked it so much that I decided I'd use it for one of my own posts. 

I think Lincoln's words are all too true. In my experience (of 24 years...I know that's not so long), I have found that most people fall into two main personality types: they are either mostly positive and optimistic, or they are Negative Nancies. Those in the former group (which includes me) are generally happy people, and make the conscious effort to be happy. They look on the bright side of things (usually...), they play the hand they're dealt, and they smile a lot. Those in the second group tend to complain frequently, always see the glass as half-empty, and are forever comparing themselves to others (either out of jealousy or just to put the other person down to make themselves feel better). But I don't think people have to stay in one group.

I definitely think it's possible for Debbie Downers to become happy people if they would simply set their minds to it. It's all about mind-set. For example, I went to school with many women who would complain about how the Dartmouth Greek system was male-dominated and how girls weren't safe at night; mainly they would just gripe about anything concerning the double standards between men and women. Now I'm not denying that those double standards exist: they do. But rather than bitch about it, I deal with it. Sure, frats are mainly places for young men to play beer pong and get drunk. But I never walked into one thinking I was going into someone's territory. I'm a confident, beautiful, young woman, and I'm going to be one no matter where I am; I'm not going to let some inebriated boy who tries to drunkenly dance with me ruin my night. And sure, women can't walk around alone late at night like a man can; is it really so difficult to go out with a friend (and wouldn't it be more fun to be together than alone anyway)? If people would stop complaining and instead think, "Hmm, this situation isn't ideal, but how can I make the best of it?" they would be a lot happier.

So stop with the nagging, gossiping, and bitchiness in general. Say your prayers, thank God for every day that He gives you, and greet each day with a smile on your face. You CAN choose to be happy, so why would you make any other choice?

P.S. I'll admit that I'm a work-in-progress in this area. Yes, in general I think of myself as a happy, fun-loving girl who gets along with plenty of people. But I'll admit that I do complain sometimes, but mainly about those negative people and their bad attitudes, not my own lot in life.

*You can find Amelia's blog here:

Monday, August 19, 2013

American Visionary Art Museum

Yesterday I went to the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore with my parents. My mom had a Groupon to get in at a discounted rate, so I thought I'd go with them and see what this museum was all about.
The outside of the museum immediately grabbed my attention. It is covered in a mosaic of mirrors, glass, and other sparkly things. And it's not just the building: a school bus there was decorated the same way, along with a huge Fabergé-like egg and a tree. Inside there were a couple of similar pieces, including an incredible statue of Icarus with glass wings falling from the ceiling and down through the round staircase that went up the center of the museum.*
All of the art in the museum is very detailed, which is both amazing and mind-boggling. I mean, I started losing my patience just looking at every single little thing on one piece of art work, and I didn't even have to spend time making it! These included a model of the Titanic made of toothpicks, a throne made from beer bottle caps, fairy houses made from teensy tiny natural materials, and multiple statues created out of any old thing the artist could find (spoons, baby doll heads, pieces of paper, marbles, etc.). I just don't know who has the time to do things like that, and if they do have that kind of time on their hands, why would they spend it doing things that would make them want to pull their hair out?

Many of the exhibits (at least those up now) were rather dark in theme. There was a storyline made out of multiple large embroidery/fabric collages by Esther Krinitz that told her story of being a Jew in Europe during World War II; while the art was magnificent, the images and story itself were very sad. Frank Bruno created an exhibit called "A Life Devoted to THE END." His work was also very beautiful, with so many colors and shapes. But the pictures were disturbing, most of them featuring skeletons and fire, reminiscent of Hell. Other pieces throughout the museum were about domestic abuse or slavery, things like that. While I could appreciate the time and effort put into these works of art, it was difficult to enjoy myself when the messaging was so negative.

I preferred the happy pieces. Judy Tallwing made amazing paintings in reference to her Native American culture, including a painting of spirit bears catching fish from a river. And in a separate building, there were large float-like pieces that were used in a kinetic sculpture race. Fifi, the ginormous pink poodle, was my favorite, along with an old car that was completely covered with blue and green glass bottles. Pretty art makes me happy, and that's why I like going to art museums in the first place.

Finally, a word of caution about the gift shop: be prepared for mayhem. The shop is filled with random things, from Siamese twin baby dolls to little animal figurines to tuxedo jackets to statement necklaces you'd find at a street fair in New York City. You can even buy a bag filled with random crap, just hoping you'd like something in there! The book selection is better, though be wary of bringing your children in there, since many are sexual in theme (I mean, one book was called Breasts and was just images from paintings of boobs). Maybe I'm a prude, but I don't think an art museum that is relatively geared towards families should be selling sex books. There was nothing in the shop that I was tempted to buy. So my advice: just skip that part.

So, here's my take-away: I went to a museum and cultured myself for the day. Would I go back to the work of all these crazies? No.

*Andrew Logan created the egg and Icarus statues.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Madam's Organ

Last night I met up with some friends who were doing a bar crawl in DC. I found them in Adams Morgan, at a bar called Madam's Organ (love the play on words). I had been to the bar several times before, and every time I go, I have a great time. It was actually one of the first bars I ever went to when I moved to DC, and now it's a go-to when I'm in the mood to party until 3 in the morning. The main thing I love about it is that it has four levels, each with its own vibe. The first floor has live music, which is usually blues and soul (so good!), and seems to have the oldest crowd. The second floor is like a club: dark, loud Top Forty music, and packed with kids who look like they're still in college (probably because they still are...They make me feel old!). Move up another level, and you'll found a lounge that looks like a saloon (swinging doors, cowboy decor), and this room is perfect for taking a break and just chatting with your friends. Then there's the roof, which is nice for a cool breeze (not exactly fresh air with smokers) and getting a drink with a long bar down the length of the room. So no matter what mood you're in, there's a place for you in Madam's Organ!
*Sure looks different in the daytime...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tax Free Week

In case you didn't know, this week is tax free week. Well, this past week, so tomorrow is your last day to take advantage of it! Every summer, at least in Maryland (not sure about other states), there is a week where you can go shopping for clothes and school supplies and there is no sales tax! I guess if you live in Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana, Oregon, or Alaska then this isn't exciting because there's no sales tax there anyway. But I took advantage of it down here today. I went to Current Boutique in Bethesda for my tax-free shopping (plus a store-wide sale: 20% off!), and bought these three dresses. The blue one (which reminded me of Kate Middleton's engagement dress, just sleeveless) ended up being less than $20, and the one with the black Grecian top and khaki skirt was only $12! The one on the far left was definitely the most expensive, but I had seen it in the store for some time, and I always admired it; anything that accentuates my hour-glass figure gets an A+ from me!

These were my tax-free goodies. What were yours?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Velveeta Cheese

I'm writing about Velveeta cheese because I've been eating it for about, hmm, let's say the last three weeks. You may be asking yourself, "Why is this girl eating such quantities of fake orange cheese?" For starters, you have to buy it in one huge brick of 32 ounces. I have a Velveeta cookbook, so every once in a while I like to make a recipe from it, but once I've got the brick, I have to use it. A LOT.

The recipes I use are pretty easy, and most of them are casseroles, so that gives me a week's worth of lunches. And I wouldn't say they are healthy, but I get my carbs and meat from the dish and add a side-salad or side of spinach or broccoli, so I think this makes for a "balanced" meal. Here are two of my favorites:

Cheesy Italian Pasta Bake

1-1/2 cups pasta (any shape), uncooked

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 large carrot, shredded (about 1 cup)

1 large zucchini, shredded (about 1 cup)

1 red pepper, chopped

1 can (8 oz.) pizza sauce

1/2 lb. (8 oz.) Velveeta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

HEAT oven to 350ºF. Cook pasta as directed on package. Meanwhile, brown meat in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat; drain. Stir in vegetables and sauce; cook 5 min. or until vegetables are tender. Drain pasta. Add to meat mixture along with Velveeta; mix well.
SPOON into 8-inch square baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; sprinkle with Parmesan.
BAKE 15 to 20 min. or until heated through.

Velveeta Italian Sausage Bake

1-1/2 cups pasta (any shape), uncooked

1 lb. Italian sausage

3 cups halved zucchini slices

1 red pepper, chopped

1 can (8 oz.) pizza sauce

1/2 lb. (8 oz.) Velveeta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup  grated Parmesan cheese

HEAT oven to 350°F.
COOK pasta as directed on package, omitting salt. Meanwhile, brown sausage in large deep skillet on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to break up sausage. Drain; return sausage to skillet. Stir in zucchini, peppers and pizza sauce; cook 5 to 6 min. or until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.
DRAIN pasta. Add to sausage mixture with Velveeta; mix lightly. Spoon into 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; top with Parmesan.
BAKE 15 to 20 min. or until heated through.

Okay, after writing this, I realize these recipes are almost identical. Well, still, they're both great for something fast and easy. I can always count on Velveeta recipes to get me through the work week!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Smoking cigarettes

I have never smoked a cigarette, so please keep in mind that this post is coming from not only a non-smoker but a never-smoker.

I have never seen the appeal of smoking cigarettes. For one, I've known my whole life (as has the generation before me) that it's bad for you. It can cause all types of cancers, from your lungs to your throat to your mouth...ew. And not only is your body gross on the inside: it's nasty on the outside, too! Your teeth get stained, your skin looks dull, even your hair doesn't have a nice natural sheen to it. And now that you look bad, you smell, too. Your breath (obviously), but even your clothes, apartment (if you smoke inside), and car can smell like smoke, and I'm not even sure how you go about getting rid of that smell once it's there. And cigarettes are expensive! Depending on which state you live, they can cost anywhere from $4 to $12 per pack; if you smoke a pack a day, that's anywhere from
around $1500 to $4400 every year! Quite frankly, I have better things to spend my money on than little sticks of tobacco leaves that are easily disposable.

So to close: Your appearance is failing, you reek to high heavens, you're broke, and you're slowly killing yourself (and others around you with your second-hand smoke). Um...where's the appeal?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My favorite drinks

I'm not a big drinker. At 5'3", ~125lbs, three drinks is enough to last me the whole night. So when I drink, it's usually not to get tipsy: I just want something tasty to help me relax! Here are some of my favs:

1. Gin & Tonic: Or "G&T" if you will. These are my favorite summer drink. To me, this is the hard liquor version of a Corona. It's light and refreshing, and it tastes better with a lime in it. I prefer Tanqueray (I'm such a liquor snob), but these taste pretty good with a rail gin as well.These are also great for black light pong: the quinine in the tonic water glows in the ultraviolet light!

2. Sex on the Beach: This one's a little trickier since the name doesn't list the ingredients. Here's the recipe I use:

1 shot vodka (no flavor or some sort of citrus flavor)
1 shot peach schnapps
Splash of OJ
Fill glass with cranberry juice

This is pretty much the girliest drink you can get. It is super-sweet and so yummy. Plus, you feel a little naughty ordering it by name at a bar...

3. Muscato wine: I didn't really start drinking wine until after college. I never liked it before, but muscato is definitely a good "gateway wine." It's very sweet, almost like grape juice. You can get it with or without carbonation, but both ways are divine. It's kind of like champagne: it makes you feel happy instantly. A little bit goes a long way!

4. Cosmopolitan: This is a drink I actually like making rather than drinking. I got my bar-tending license a couple of months after graduating from college (a back-up plan in case I never got a real job). Although I have never had to use it, one thing I do remember is how to make a great Cosmo.

1 shot vodka (no flavor or some sort of citrus flavor)
1 shot Triple Sec
1 shot lime juice
Enough cranberry juice to turn the drink pink (NOT red)
Lemon rind garnish

I remember how to make this by thinking of a rainbow. The cranberry juice is red, Triple Sec is orange flavored, the lemon garnish is yellow, and the lime juice is green. Just add the vodka, and there you go!

5. Amaretto Sour: I had never even heard of this drink until the summer of 2011. One of the girls who works for my dad introduced me to this cocktail, and since then I order it every once in a while. This too is a very sweet drink. They go down so easily, so you have to be careful. They're like liquid candy! Not for those allergic to nuts! (or at least almonds...)

6. Alcoholic Milkshakes: These are the best dessert ever!I only discovered them my junior year of college, and I couldn't believe I hadn't come up with the idea myself! There are many combinations you could use, like Kahlua or Bailey's Irish Cream with chocolate ice cream, or peppermint or butterscotch schnapps in vanilla ice cream. Combine your after-work drink and after-dinner dessert all in one!

What are your go-to drinks? Or are there any drinks you can't stand?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

I know Silver Linings Playbook came out a while ago, but I only just got around to seeing it this past weekend (thanks for the free DVD rental, Redbox!). I was hesitant because I knew that the two main characters were dysfunctional, and in general I don't like movies with protagonists like that. But the movie won several awards, and Bradley Cooper is super cute and Jennifer Lawrence is my girl-crush, so I was at least a little curious.

The dysfunction part definitely got to me. Not only is Cooper's character just out of a mental hospital, but you learn his father (played by Robert De Niro) has OCD and anger issues as well. So the scenes where the family members are fighting, both verbally and physically, were disturbing to watch. It's hard to imagine growing up in a family like that when I have been so blessed!

But I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of humor in the movie. The film was advertised as a romantic comedy, but because of the serious issues the movie touches upon, I really didn't think it would be very funny. But there were several moments when I laughed out loud! This was usually when Cooper's character would blurt out inappropriate things because he had no filter.

So, I recommend this movie. I probably won't buy the DVD, but if a friend wanted to watch it, I'd see it again.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Arlington County Fair

Yesterday, some friends and I went to the Arlington County Fair. Although I live in Maryland, it was very easy to get to the fairgrounds; I took the red line on the metro to Ballston, where there was a shuttle waiting to go directly to the fair. How convenient!

This first thing we did was watch the piglet races. Piglets are so cute, so I wanted to see them in action! The first few laps they did were quite fun, and the pigs seemed to be enjoying themselves. But then the race organizers made the pigs jump in a pool of cold water, and you could tell the piglets did NOT want to go in there. They were very hesitant and stood just at the edge of the pool; they only jumped in when their "owner" scared them into the water. It was cruel to watch these 12-week old pigs being made to swim in frigid water. Would you watch the same thing happen to a human baby? I think not. I already made a complaint to the fair and to PETA, so hopefully next year they will get rid of the pool or the piglet races entirely.

But I did not let that ruin my day! Next we hit the Ferris wheel, the only ride I was really interested in (I'm not a big rides person to begin with, but the rest were definitely targeted for little kids, so this was really the only option). It was fun seeing the whole fair from above, and I hadn't been on a Ferris wheel in years, so it definitely brought back childhood memories!

After that we watched some guys from the Harlem Wizards (similar to the Harlem Globetrotters) play cute games with the little kids. At one point two children had to put on adult-sized basketball clothes and then dribble down the court to make a basket: it was SO funny! My friends and I played one of the games, but we were soon eliminated (all the "grown ups" were out first!). We then headed to the indoor gymnasium.

Inside there were vendors selling their wares, local groups talking about their causes, and booths to check out the photography contest's entries and winners. I bought myself a little unicorn figurine as a souvenir (surprise!). There were a lot of cool things to check out, from jewelry to wood workings to clothes, etc.!

After a lunch of chicken tenders and french fries ($10! What a rip-off!), I watched my friends do a little outdoor Zumba on the soccer field. I didn't dance along because 1. My idea of a work-out is boot-camp, not doing the Cha-Cha and 2. I was hot just sitting outside, let alone jumping around. So I watched from the comforts of the misting tent while my friends sweated it out.

We didn't play any games since the prizes weren't that enticing (besides another stuffed unicorn, which I didn't need and cost as much as my lunch), but I was pleased to see that most of the games were "winner every time" types, which is great for kids (and me!).

Besides the piglets, I think my only other issue was the lack of variety in the food trucks. There were SO many serving Asian food, but I'm allergic to MSG, so I couldn't eat any of that. I would have liked to see more pulled-pork sandwiches or something like that.

Otherwise, I had a great time, and I can't wait to go next year!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

"Who I Am" by Jessica Andrews

I have always liked this song, and I heard it on the radio the other day, so I thought I'd share it with all of you. It's a song that's all about one of the most important things in life: family.

The song starts of with a list of goals that may not come to fruition:

If I live to be a hundred
And never see the Seven Wonders
That'll be alright
If I don't make it to the big leagues
If I never win a Grammy
I'm gonna be just fine
'Cause I know exactly who I am

Then the chorus contains a more meaningful list: the people in her life who have made her who she is:

I am Rosemary's granddaughter
The spitting image of my father
And when the day is done
My momma's still my biggest fan
Sometimes I'm clueless and I'm clumsy
But I've got friends who love me
And they know just where I stand
It's all a part of me
And that's who I am

This song lets me know that I've got my priorities straight. Yes, I would love to travel the world or have enough money to buy nice things, but I don't think about those on a daily basis, and will probably be on the back-burner for a long time. But my family is  essential to my happiness. They have made me "who I am"! They taught me my values and always encouraged me throughout life so that I would become to confident woman who I am today. And they support me through everything, and my friends do, too. The people in my life allow me to stay true to who I am, and they stand behind me 100%, no matter what:

So when I make a big mistake
And when I fall flat on my face
I know I'll be alright
Should my tender heart be broken
I will cry those teardrops knowing
I will be just fine
'Cause nothing changes who I am

If I take a misstep, or if someone hurts me, I know the people who really care about me will be there to pick me back up and set me back on track. Even though I consider myself a pretty independent, self-motivated person, I've only become that way because of the support system I have had throughout my entire life. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Handling Criticism

I've always taken criticism poorly. I'm just touchy when people comment on a personality flaw of mine or if I've made some sort of mistake, no matter how small. I do think I've gotten better about taking criticism: the older you get, the more comfortable you are in your own skin, and you don't take as many comments personally as you may have growing up. But I still get annoyed when people make fun of me for really small, unimportant things. This morning I was playing tennis with a Meet-Up group, and I had to play with these two guys I already knew I didn't enjoy playing with. They either take the game too seriously (I'm just there to have fun), or they're Beta males trying to act like Alphas (fellas, get over yourselves. Life is too short to worry about being cool). But to be a good sport I played with them anyway. And of course, they immediately start annoying me, commenting on my clothes and things like that. When they started shouting out the score on my serve, I told them, "I know what the score is. The server keeps track of the score." One guy retorted, "Well, the server gets the ball in the court, too." Of course I flip him the bird, and I could no longer enjoy the game. Later the guys apologized and said they were just playing around, but for me, once you've crossed me, you're not going to get back on my good side.

Now I'll admit I shouldn't have let them get into my head, but it just shows their own insecurities if they are willing to pick on someone they barely know. I know I should take the high road rather than stooping to their level, and I realize I did the exact opposite and matched their immaturity. It's definitely easier said than done to take criticism in a healthy way, but I am working on it, especially in my athletic side of life. I should beat them with my game, not with my words or bad attitude.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dressing up for happy hour

Now, I don't usually go to happy hours after work (my office is not downtown, so it's not really conducive to getting drinks with co-workers after 5). But last night I went to a charity happy hour with a Meet-Up group in DC since it was for a good cause, and I'm friends with the organizer. Since I already knew I'd only be there for about an hour, I didn't go all out on my outfit: I wore a cute dress, put some make-up on, and voila.

But other girls were dressed to the nines! Many were in rather fancy cocktail dresses with big jewelry, and had on so much make-up (bright red lipstick included) it made me wonder what their natural faces looked like. I mean, do they not understand that happy hour is simply meant to be a time to relax after work? You're not supposed to go home, get all dolled up (as if you were going out on a date), and show up at a bar at 6pm just to stand around with a bunch of strangers. And don't even get me started on the fact that they waddled in their heels (clearly they don't actually wear them to the office...).

Happy hour is supposed to be relaxed and chill. Don't show up looking like a snob expecting to meet the man of your life when everyone there is just going for the $4 beers.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Hair Cuts

Obviously this post was inspired by Beyonce's new do.

Now, I'm the kind of person who resists change (BIG surprise, right?). I like things how I've always like them, and I like to keep them that way. I had essentially the same hair cut since 7th grade: long and straight with layers. I have only changed that twice since then. The first time was when I cut it and donated it to Locks of Love my sophomore year of high school (it was shorter but essentially the same). The second time was near Christmas of 2011. I had graduated from college sixth months earlier, and I was in my "unemployed-living with my parents-depression" phase. I wanted a change, so I went and took my hair that was down to my chest and cut it all the way to well above my shoulders. Needless to say, I hated it. I couldn't believe what I had just done. I was thinking, "You already know what you like, so why did you change it? And men love long hair, and now you've ruined your chances!" and things like that. I wore it in a pony tail (or what was left to fit up in one) for a while trying to deny what I had done. But eventually I learned how to wear it so I liked it: I'd shower and then immediately put a medium hold spray in it so that my hair would stay wavy. That was way easier than when I had it long and was blow-drying it straight (and better for my hair, too!). Now I can say this is the style I prefer: it's professional yet flirty, mature yet youthful, pretty but not fussy.

Sexy bed-head all the time? Hell yeah.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A quote for all you young professionals out there...

“Success in your 20's is more about setting the table than enjoying the feast.” –Paul Angone

I found this quote on, and seeing as I am in my 20's, it's very relevant to my life right now. Granted, I think I've always lived my life with this type of attitude. In middle school and high school, when other students would talk about going to parties or getting drunk or doing drugs, I remember thinking, "Why are they wasting their time on 'fun' now when the fun in the future will be so much better?" I thought of it like this: I can either go to my friend's house and drink the liquor stolen from her parents' cabinet with a bunch of people I don't like, or I can focus on my studies right now, and when I'm rich and successful, I'll do fun things like ride on yachts and go shopping on Fifth Avenue in New York City" (I had big dreams, okay?). The latter sounded a lot better to me.

I still live by a similar ethic, though I've loosened up a bit (yes, I actually drink now). I go out to dinner with friends and treat myself to some new clothes every once in a while, but I don't let myself go crazy. I know that it's important to work hard and save money (i.e. "setting the table") so that I can reap the benefits in the future ("enjoying the feast"). I've always felt that self-deprivation is a better way to live than hedonism; I prefer to compare happiness and success to a fishery with sustainable yield issues. And "success" is more than just money. I'm establishing and fostering friendships now that I hope will last well into the future; I'm taking care of my body now so that I'm still healthy when I'm 80. I know that my generation is known for feeling entitled and wanting instant gratification, but if my peers listened to Paul Angone (and me, of course), I think they would see that there is more to life than "me, me, me" and "now, now, now."


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Yoga Etiquette

I realize that yoga is trendy and cool right now, but that doesn't mean you're allowed to do whatever you want in yoga class. It's a very disciplined activity, and lately I have been disappointed by the behaviors I have seen in my class. Here are a couple of issues I would like to discuss:

1. Cell phones: PLEASE, for the love of God, turn your ringer off in class! Is it really that difficult to put your phone on vibrate or silent for the hour you're in yoga class? Are you expecting an emergency to happen between 7:30 and 8:30 on a Monday or Tuesday night? I don't even bring my cell phone to class. Yoga is all about focus and concentration, and how am I (and everyone else, for that matter) supposed to concentrate when your stupid phone is ringing? And if it does start ringing, get up and turn it off IMMEDIATELY. Someone last night just let it ring and ring until it stopped, and then it started ringing again. SO RUDE! Lesson learned: leave your cell at home, in your car, or in your locker, so as not to disturb class for the hundredth time.

2. Flatulence: I realize it's a natural action of the body, but in general, it is controllable. Everyone (including the guilty party) is embarrassed when the room is silent except for that tale-tell sound. If you feel that feeling (you know exactly what I'm talking about), stop whatever pose you are in and just let the feeling pass; if you try to move into the next pose, you will have less bodily control, and you're gonna let one rip. And, in general, it's not a smell thing. It's a sound thing like the cell phone: it breaks my focus. Keep your bodily noises to yourself! Everyone knows the art of releasing a silent fart. Please do so in class.

3. Over-achievers: Yoga, just like many other work out exercises, has many variations. There are hard exercises (i.e. poses) that can be modified in order to fit your skill or strength level. If you need to use a block in order to keep you balance, use it; if you're feeling really worn out, take a break in child's pose. Don't push yourself to do poses that you know you cannot do. There is an older gentleman in my class who is always huffing and puffing (clearly is not focusing on his breathing) while trying to do difficult poses (which the instructor isn't even doing, mind you); he regularly falls over, he makes a bunch of noise...he's disruptive. It makes the class less enjoyable, especially when it's quite obvious he's one of those creepers who is trying to impress young girls in the class, but really, he's just embarrassing himself and ruining the class for everyone. My advice: only do what you can. I myself skip poses that I know may lead to me tipping over, and I will never attempt a headstand. I know my limits, and you should know yours.

4. Hygiene: If you are borrowing a yoga mat from the gym/studio you go to, make sure to wipe it down before putting it back into its pile. Someone else is going to have to use that mat, and they would very much appreciate not to have to deal with your body odor/sweat/etc. So be thoughtful and clean your mat after you've used it. If you're too lazy to do so, buy your own mat. Then you can be as filthy as you'd like.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Watching TV shows online

If you have cable, I guess this post doesn't apply to you. But for those of us who do not, we must rely on the internet to watch our favorite shows. And some people may be willing to pay for Hulu Plus or a smart TV, but the reason I don't have cable is to save money, so I'm not about to pay for something else.

So instead, I watch my favorite shows on the websites of their networks. The Bachelorette is on, America's Next Top Model and Breaking Pointe are on the CW network, and Project Runway is on Though you still have to watch commercials, they are limited, and sometimes if you watch the show during non-peak online hours, you won't have to watch commercials at all!

Perhaps this is something only recent college graduates do. Let's be honest: if I weren't living on a budget, I'd have satellite TV along with HBO, Showtime, and a DVR. But at this point in my life, watching shows on my laptop will just have to do.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Do you ever have one of those perfect days? Where you just feel so good and so happy and completely revel in it? Well, today was one of those days for me.

First of all, I woke up well-rested and ready to start my day. I got packed for tennis, and as soon as I left my building, I knew it would be a glorious day: the sun was shining, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the humidity was to a minimum. I went to my tennis Meet-Up, and played for 3 hours (without breaking a sweat!) with a fun group of players. Starting the day off with exercise like that always makes me feel good. Then I got to relax sunbathing for an hour in a half, reading my book and eating Trader Joe's mango sorbet, all of which brought to mind words like "divine," "luxurious," "heaven," and even "sinful" (it almost feels wrong and naughty to feel so good). Beautiful weather + exercise + sunbathing = happy me.

I am so thankful that I've been having a lot of great days lately: work is good, I've been seeing lots of friends, doing fun things...Life could not be better. I hope that many others have blessed days like this, and don't take them for granted. It's wonderful days like this that reinforce my belief that there is a God: if there isn't, how could things be so right?!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

ANTM Cycle 20: Boys vs. Girls

So, I've watched most (if not all) of the cycles of America's Next Top Model (ANTM). The show, which was Tyra Banks' brainchild, has been  around for 10 years, so I've watched a lot of ANTM. But Cycle 20, which premiered last night, is the first season to feature both male and female [potential] models.

I'm torn between this idea. In a way, it definitely makes things more interesting, and I think it's about time that male models get more chances like that to put themselves on the map (For example: can  you name three male supermodels? Didn't think so. But lady top models? I'm sure you can name several.). But I do believe that fashion modelling will always be a female-dominated realm: women's fashion is forever-changing and transforming, while men have been wearing pants, shirts with buttons, and something around their necks for centuries. I can appreciate the beauty of both the male and female forms, so I'm looking forward to pair photographs. Androgyny is also something that is visually intriguing (see this photo of a runway show from an episode of Project Runway), so I hope that's incorporated into a lot of the photo shoots this season. I guess we'll just have to see who wins: Boys or Girls?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Favorite Smartphone Games

I must qualify this post by saying that I have an Android, not an iPhone, so there are some awesome games that are not available to me. But here we go:

1. Scramble: This is like Boggle for your phone. I grew up playing Boggle with my grandma, and I still play every time I see her, so this game is nostalgic for me. Plus, since I love Boggle, I am destined to hate Scrabble, so I do not play Words with Friends.

2. Jewels Star: It's essentially Bejeweled for your cell phone. I tend to play this game when I'm waiting for the metro (or while I'm on the metro if I forgot to bring a book or sudoku with me). I like this game because I don't need another player; I can advance as quickly as I want.

3. Text Twist: Another fun word game. I only have the demo version, but it still entertains me, and I usually learn a new word (or rediscover one of those words I haven't seen since I took the SAT) each time I play.

4. Flow Free: My sister introduced me to this game. While fun (and pretty easy) in the beginning, once I reached the harder levels, I sort of gave up. Brain-teasers are only good until the point that they are impossible to figure out. Then I just choose a different game to play. 

5. Draw Free: It took me a long time to succumb to this game, so long that by the time I downloaded the app, no one played it anymore. So, as long as you have someone to play with, it's as good as Pictionary. But if you don't have a partner, you can't play. And that's lame.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Silly things old flames say

I know I've already gone into "I wish you all the best" but here are some others:

1. "You look great." Perhaps because I've been pretty since 8th grade (once I got my braces off) and hot since college (when I had a "free" gym membership on campus), this one never made sense to me. Of course I look great! When have you seen me not look great (unless I'm sick)? If I'm out in public, I'm probably looking good because other people (maybe an ex!) will see me! I'm at an event for work (want to look professional), out with my friends (want to make sure we look like a cute gaggle of girls), or on my way to a date (need I say more?), it doesn't matter the situation: I'm going to look good, so don't sound so surprised when you see me and your fantasy of me becoming fat and ugly hasn't come true.

2. "I'm happy for you." This sort of goes along with the "wishing you all the best" thing. I don't really care if you're happy for me. I'm happy for me, and that's all that matters. And as for whether I'm happy for you, I'm pretty apathetic about the whole thing. You're no longer a part of my life, so it doesn't really matter to me if you're happy or not. It's none of my concern, none of my business. So I'm not sure why you have any joyous feelings for me...They aren't reciprocated.

3. "Are you seeing anyone?" How is that any of your business? We're not together anymore, which means you don't get to know about my personal life. We can talk about our jobs, the weather, a local sports team. But my love life is off limits. Plus, why does it matter to you? If you're trying to get back with me, you can kiss that dream good-bye: I don't believe in second chances. And if you're just curious, you clearly need to grow up and move on. I'm not interested about if or who you're dating: I'll mind my own bees' wax. Plus, there's no way you upgraded, so you're the one with the short end of the stick, not me.

Anything an ex has ever said to you that boggles your brain?