Back to Reality

It’s already September? What is it about September that signifies a big change in the year. People refer to it as the unofficial start of fall. Hello, we still have until September 22 this year. Or is it because all the “basic” chicks are ready for their pumpkin spice errrrythang. I’ve lifted my pumpkin ban this year, so I will be making pumpkin bread, and whoopie pies and all the things!! Just not drinking the lattes. Because there isn’t any pumpkin in it…fo real.

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To kick off fall and “end” summer,  we took a road trip to the lakeside cottage in Muskoka, Canada. Perfect weather, not a lot of mosquitoes (compared to the last time we were there in the month of June where we were eaten alive).  Baby is adventurous and loves the water. And boats. She was all about the boats! It was so cute to see her excitement. And it was awesome to catch up with family and unplug. Now I’m refreshed and ready to get cracking on all the side projects and hustles and life!

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I hope you left summer with a bang! I am ready for cooler weather (NOT SNOW. STAY AWAY.) and dressing the babe in layers. And sipping hot drinks and not sweating. Not sweating is important.

Pittsburgh Rick's

I like grilled cheese sandwiches. I think anyone who is American likes grilled cheese sandwiches. As a kid I would just make it with white bread, butter and slices of Kraft American in a skillet. I’ve since matured my palate and upgraded my kitchen tools, panini pressed sandwich anyone? So when my friend told me about a place near her, that Yelp says has THE BEST GRILLED CHEESE, I was intrigued.

On one my visits, we stopped in Old Town Leesburg and grabbed a bite (to go!) from Pittsburgh Rick’s. He allegedly has the best grilled cheese.

When you walk in, you walk straight into the counter, and who was there to take our order? None other than RICK himself. Pretty cool. He’s owned a few restaurants, and it was nice to see that he was there taking orders and talking to guests. He actually recognized that we were new there (how long as this place been open?) and made us feel welcomed.

Rick invited us to check out upstairs while we waited. There is a bar, and a tiny balcony overlooking the street below. Looks like it’d be a happening place in the summer. We definitely want to check it out when it gets warmer…wonder what the parking situation would be like then though.

We took the order home, because babies, so keep that in mind when I talk about the food. There were other type of sandwiches on the menu, but we were there with a purpose. I ordered the Loaded Grilled Cheese, which comes with bacon and 3 types of cheeses. All the sandwiches are topped with french fries, apple cider slaw and tomatoes. You also get this orange sauce on the side. Spicy, tangy and a favorite for my husband. I also got wings, because I LOVE WINGS.

When we got to her place the sandwiches were a little bit soggy. Maybe because of the ride home in styrofoam, or maybe because it was loaded with butter. It literally dripped when I picked it up. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, I personally didn’t think it was a bad thing, but then again I love butter, and I clearly don’t care about my weight or health. I started off with the wings, which were good, but they were wings, nothing special to write about. I forgot to ask for ranch, and I believe it comes with bleu cheese. Womp.

OH YEAH he ALSO FORGOT MY SIDE OF FRIES that I paid extra for. BOO.

The main event. Since I ate my wings, I could only down half of my sandwich. It wasn’t what I expected. Maybe because I don’t know what Pittsburgh style grilled cheese sandwiches are. The bread was only lightly charred with grill marks and the sandwich was barely toasted (again, maybe because it took a ride home with us). It was a BIG sandwich. Surprisingly though, I liked it. That’s saying a lot since, 1, I don’t like coleslaw, 2, I don’t like tomatoes in my hot sandwiches and 3 I like my bread super toasted. The flavors were definitely all there, and the crunch and tang of the coleslaw added another element to balance out the sogginess that it turned in to be (the fries were mushy too). It all tied together well with the sauce. You have to eat it with the sauce.

Altogether I’d like to give this place another shot, eat there, enjoy the view and have it come out at the right temperature and texture…as well as have my side of fries that I ordered and never got.

Bullet Journaling

Remember how I was obsessed with planners? Well I have a new planning obsession, and its definitely going to stick. You know why? Because it’s one notebook, undated, that has everything in it. It’s apparently a big thing, and it’s definitely not new. Actually some of my engineering friends have done it for years, on their own before it became a “thing”.

I decided to wait until I finished my first notebook before I wrote about it. Because knowing me, I’d get bored and try to buy another planner or something (which I’m known to do, don’t judge, I like pretty notebooks and paper). But nope, I stuck to it and am pretty reliant on it. It comes in very handy, since I can’t use my personal phone at my new job. So no more digital notes, or calendars at my fingertips.

Basically its a journal that you can just dump your brain into, and organize it the way you want to. And since its a blank notebook, you can also get creative with it, with all the space you allow yourself. Currently, mine is mostly black ink, because I’m on the move so much I don’t have time to doodle or color code. But seriously, its no pressure! I love it.

For the official site and structured information on how to do it, visit BulletJournal.com. Then after you understand how it works conceptually, check out pinterest for more inspirations and collections you can use with it. The possibilities are endless. I write everything in my bullet journal…quotes I come across, meal plan, things to do, blog topics, random notes and numbers, keep track of bills, questions for the pediatrician… EVERYTHING. I also have a separate one that I use for work that keeps track of projects, and meetings and notes.

The best part is that you can use whatever notebook you want. So now I can go through and use up all the pretty journals I’ve been hoarding. Plus if you keep them, you can always look back and memories and notes for those days! I love paper and pens and this method is perfect. It can be anything you want it to be. There’s really no wrong way to do it. I even tape business cards or other pieces of paper related to that day in there to keep track of it.

Some of my “collections” aka brain dumps are things like.. books to read, movies to watch, brainstorms, event plans, home renovations, expense tracking etc. The index is helpful because now you know exactly where you dumped all your thoughts on a certain subject.

How about you? Have you tried it? Are you using it? What are some other planning methods you are doing to keep track of LIFE?

7

Shrimp Quinoa Bowl

My husband loves the chicken citrus quinoa bowl I make him. I personally don’t, don’t ask me why, I’m weird. So I decided to make one for myself, that I’d like to have for lunch, and decided to go with a lemon-y shrimp one.

There are not enough quinoa bowls in my life. They are so simple. Quinoa, veggies of your choice, dressing, protein. BAM.

For my bowl, I had a base of the same quinoa, cooked in chicken broth. Then I added sweet corn, avocado, red onion, cucumbers, oranges, and cilantro. Tossed it all together with a lemon vinaigrette then topped it with cajun seasoned shrimp. So easy there really isn’t a need for a recipe. But here’s one for the lemony vinaigrette!

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons olive oil
2 lemons worth of juice
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
honey to taste
salt and pepper

Directions
Whisk all the ingredients together. Pour over bowl when ready to eat! I eat it cold and its a perfect no heat lunch.

Leftover Crab Bisque

I’ve made this before with lump crab that costs like a million dollars at the grocery store. After eating as many crabs as I could stuff myself, I decided to not let it go to waste, and used my crab picking skills to pull out my own lump crab meat and made a yummy bisque. There aren’t any measurements because I make this to taste!

Ingredients:
1 can (10.5oz) of Condensed tomato soup
1 can (10.5oz) of Cream of mushroom
Lump cooked crabmeat
Whole milk
Salt
Pepper
Curry Powder

Directions:
In a pot whisk together the tomato soup and cream of mushroom. Add one can of milk to start. Whisk until well mixed. Add crabmeat, make sure not to add too much. You want it to be a good amount of crab per bite, not too much, not too little. Stir till well mixed, turn on the heat to medium. Bring it to steaming, NEVER LET IT BOIL. Stir frequently so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Once hot, taste it. And add black pepper, salt, and curry to taste. If it’s still too salty, add milk to make it creamy.

Untitled Book Project

Some of you have been pushing me to write a cookbook. Some of you have been asking me when said cookbook will be done. Some of you have asked me straight up, can I send you some recipes.

Some of you have no idea what I am talking about.

When my mom was sick, and it was clear she wasn’t going to have much longer to live, a few things came to my mind. If I have children, they would never know their strong, beautiful grandmother, who was the best cook. Yeah, I was definitely one of those kids that thought my mom made every thing better. Even her jar spaghetti. How will my kid know the tastes of Laos? How will they know the labor and love that is traditional Lao food? That’s when I realized I needed to get all my favorite recipes from my mom before she passed. Sound selfish right? But not really.

Growing up I was always in the kitchen with her. I’d be holding the bowl while she was kneading the dough for thick rice noodles. Or tasting the papaya salad when she needed someone else to taste it after pounding it in the mortar pestle. I was the one pouring the sauces into the eggroll mixture because her hands were all meaty and gross from mixing it. I was her little sous chef as soon as she trusted me to use the knife. I prepared and cooked the sticky rice. I loved being with her in the kitchen. And I hope that my future kid will feel the same way.

In her last months, we spent our time together in the kitchen. Me, writing down and making all my favorite dishes with her in the kitchen. Her, telling me exactly how to do it. Savoring all the flavors together one last time.

Fast forward a few years. I helped a local chef with her two restaurants, submerging myself in both front of house and back of house activities and promoting the flavors of Laos. Then I had a baby. And started another blog. Then I got lazy because now there are two Lao restaurants around to fulfill my cravings, instead of putting in the effort myself. I stopped working on my mother’s recipes.

Now I am back, and ready to start writing, testing, retesting, cooking, tasting and shooting these recipes. Time to collect it all together with the found memories and make a book. Because now I have a daughter, and I’d want her to learn about her grandmother through the food. Technically it would be categorized as a cookbook, but really it’d be a journal of memories and recipes.

Wish me luck.

Tieks

Tieks. Foldable italian leather ballet flats. With a hefty price tag. You might recognize them by their blue bottoms. For my birthday, I decided that I’ve been a good girl. I deserve a “treat yo self” moment. After asking friends that have had them, and reading blog posts…I did it.

First thoughts. They came really fast, and packaged cutely in a little box with a flower band. It came with a bag for the flats, and a bag for your shoes (for when you kick off your heels and switch to the flats). Nice little perks. Eye candy.

The leather is so nice. I think this is my first real leather shoes because whatever my other shoes were made of are not the same as this. Putting them on at first is super snug. They say if you are a half size, order the next size down (they only have whole sizes). I totally understand why.

They were snug at first. Nothing terrible. Just stiff. After wearing them all day at work, my dogs were definitely ready to be free by the time I got home. After about a weekend in them in Vegas, they softened up and molded around my feet. Oddly enough my feet didn’t stink. Let’s be real ladies, don’t act like your flats don’t stink. Unless you spray alcohol in them at the end of the day (which works, thanks for the trick Nginn sisters!) which I don’t. I was like, wow this is magic unicorn shoes!

Well it has been about 3 months. The flats are super, amazing, comfortable. I haven’t folded them up at all though, because I wear them so much. And they are starting to stink a little (to me) but nothing over bearing, which is kind of a reality check. Definitely will start spraying them with alcohol…hope that doesn’t ruin the inside. Wish me luck. They are still holding strong and don’t look worn down at all. My normal flats, whether from target or nine west always end up looking busted by the 3 month mark and have to get tossed. So far, I think they are worth their price. I’ll check in again once they get WRECKED. If that happens.

Photographer: Vina Sananikone

I love snail mail. I love sending out cards, thank you cards, holiday cards birthday cards etc. I like receiving and getting photo cards because I feel like its two in one. Usually greeting cards get tossed after a year, because who likes clutter? Not me after reading Marie Kondo’s book. Lol. But if I get a photo card it’s fun because I get the sweet sentiment you sent, but I also get a picture to stick on my fridge (stick because my stupid fridge isn’t magnetic 🙁 but yay for for washi tape)).

Since I’m not a selfie queen or a skilled photographer, I turn to my friend Vina who is an AMAZING photographer. She does weddings, portraits and events. BUT HER REAL HUSTLE? Food. And she’s GREAT at it.

She’s done…

our engagement photos, maternity photos, captured special moments and most recently our daughter’s first birthday!

Whenever there is something special to capture, I call her first because she knows how to capture great shots without any awkward posing or stress. I hate being in front of the camera and she really puts us at ease! Our photo shoots are literally just a day at the park.

If you are looking for someone to capture the best moments from your special day, or events, I’d definitely recommend her. Her pictures always come out so full of emotion and well composed. It all comes together with a very natural un-posed vibe. I love it.

If you are looking for a photography I highly recommend her. She is located in the DC/VA area, and not opposed to traveling. Did I also mention that she is a graphic designer, and an instructor at the lemon bowl dc? What can she NOT do?

If you are looking for punny captions and yummy eye candy follow her instagram.

Life with Bawse: Dog Walking Etiquette

I know, I know, it’s been awhile since we updated on life with Bawse. He’s a grown up now so nothing new, just the same ol’ same ol’. He’s a big brother, and so he’s been very busy minding over his little sister and …attempting to keep her out of trouble.

We still occasionally go on family adventures where we bust out the stroller and go for a nice walk at the park. Yes, we know he’s a pitbull. Yes, we know the stigma around them. But we’ve raised him since he was a tiny, goofy pup and know his nature. Yes, if you don’t know him he can look intimidating at times, especially if you’ve already have a preconceived notion that pitbulls are “vicious”.

As a pitbull parent, I feel like I am much more strict on dog walking etiquette than others with more “friendly” breeds. I was recently inspired by the dog-walking service, Rover to write about some dog walking etiquette that I follow, and hope other people follow.

Keep Your Dog on a Leash

Bawse is always on his leash in a public setting. He is always asked to walk by our side, or behind us, and told to keep eye contact. We’ve come across plenty of people who just let their small dogs run around off leash. And there are countless times where they would run STRAIGHT up on Bawse. This angers me because if anyone or anything runs up on you that you don’t know, you would be on guard, so Bawse has every right to take a protective stance. He is a lot stronger than me, so if something like this happens I ask him to sit and wait patiently, hoping that whoever owns that dog would stop or grab their dog before Bawse loses his patience. Because you know that as soon as he even sniffs another dog, the owner will be quick to act like he’s about to attack their dog, when clearly they are at fault.

If we are not at a dog park, keep your dog on a leash. Sometimes I feel like people intentionally try to get a rise out of Bawse just so that they can say something bad about pitbulls. Luckily for us, he is very patient, probably more so than my husband and I because we would be the first to yell at you about keeping your dog on a leash. One time a lady saw us walking Bawse and intentionally UNLEASHED her poodle who ran straight up into Bawse’s face. Bawse immediately sat down and looked at us like “What the hell Mom?!” and basically waited for us to handle it. My husbanad quickly yelled at the lady to get her dog.

If you can, cross the street.

I don’t know your dog, you don’t know mine. We aren’t looking to make new puppy friends. If we did, we would go to the dog park. When we are walking in the neighborhood, or hiking at a local park we are on a mission. Usually if we see other people with dogs we try to walk away from them, or cross the street because we know dogs are curious and will want to sniff each other. If we are on a small path and see another dog coming, we have him sit, and wait to the side until they walk by if there isn’t enough room for both of us. There has been an instance where the owners just let their dog get in Bawse’s face. Move your dog, and keep walking. Clearly we got out of YOUR way to be polite. So please take your dog and move quickly. We don’t want to talk to you, get your dog out of our dog’s face. This is not okay.

Pick up after your dog. Obviously.

This is a no brainer.

Ask the owner first before you pet someone’s dog. 

Bawse loves people. He loves kids. He gives kisses. He’s super friendly, and doesn’t realize how big he is. Some people’s dog are skittish and don’t like people. Don’t just roll up on someone’s animal and try to touch them without asking first. Bawse loves attention. But he needs to be introduced properly or he will jump and lick all over you. If we ask him to sit, and wait, he will sit and let you love on him as much as you want, but if you give him an inch he will take a mile…meaning he will knock you over and lick all over your face. Be careful what you wish for.

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This is the obvious, most respectful thing you can do when it comes to walking your dog. Are there other things I’m missing, or something that you think would be good dog walking etiquette?

Yona

It’s obvious I love ramen. From hopping around to ramen shops to hosting “Ramen Day” at my house, I could ALWAYS eat ramen. And lucky me, there’s a ramen shop walking distance from my office. Yet, it has so much more to offer than your average bowl of ramen. (How many times have I typed the word ramen already?)

So let’s NOT talk about the ramen, (though the king crab ramen with uni butter? omg) let’s talk about all the other delicious bites you can find there. Not only do they serve traditional style ramen, they have small plates that are both Japanese and Korean flavors.

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One of my favorites, so simple yet so delicious, the snap pea goma-e. I am always iffy about having snap peas at restaurants because you never know if they are going to prepare it properly. I hate when I have to sit there peeling the strings off, definitely takes me away from enjoying my food. Here, they are perfect. And I really get to enjoy the slight crunch and the salty-sweet marinade. These are also perfect for me to snack on later (if I order it when I’m at work).

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Bean Sprout Salad, minty, with a little tiny kick in white soy. I’m a texture eater and there’s a nice crunch added with the Marcona almonds.

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Dumplings. Little pouches of deliciousness. As an avid dim sum-er, I’ve had many kinds of dumplings in my life. These weren’t anything super special. Probably wouldn’t order it again (on my own anyway).

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Ermergerd. I don’t remember what this was called. I wanna guess that it’s the tuna poke. I usually don’t like tuna poke (I prefer salmon), but this was amazing. It’s got these little crunchy rice pearls and the sauce is delicious. It’s cut really thin and melts in your mouth. I’m really particular about what raw things I eat, and I basically ate this whole dish myself.

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Guys. This is the uni waffle. Two things I’ve never had before. Caviar, and uni. AND THEN I GO AND HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER AT ONCE.

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It was really intimidating. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t even know how to take on this first bite. I just went for it. It was a little messy (ok a lot) but wow. It just hits you. The toppings are cold, but the waffle is fluffy and warm. It was like getting knocked over by a wave you weren’t ready for. I could really only handle two bites before I had to take a break. But I did find myself wanting to have it again later. And think about it, a lot. If I eat this again, it would have to be shared with a friend!

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And of course, you can’t go wrong with the buns! My favorite is the oxtail. It’s a nice crunch to the softness of the bun. I always get it. Don’t worry, my daughter just took a bite of the bun.

If you get the chance check it out! I love it because it’s convenient and I don’t have to find parking in DC. Win-win for me!