goals for 2009

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on November 30, 2009


  • Travel to Africa (countries visited: Namibia, South Africa)
  • Faux-hawk (bonus: donated 10+ inches of hair to Locks of Love)
  • Be a real tourist in DC (DC double-decker tour, National Cathedral, boat ride on Potomac River, National Museum of Medicine and Health)
  • Read 5 books (see Read and Read for titles)
  • Save money, spend less on unnecessary items (good progress, on-going)

Complete and with one month before 2009 ends too! Hooray!


I started updating/forwarding my mail to my California address last week. I moved out of my apartment yesterday. As I prepared to vacate my unit, apartment management said the following things:

  • “Judging by your character…I don’t have anything to worry about.” – apartment manager regarding move-out walk through procedures
  • “You’re a very nice, good person. I’ll miss you.” – elderly apartment handyman/groundskeeper
Very nice (and unexpected!) parting words. ūüôā Living¬†on my own¬†in a one-bedroom apartment has been growing experience.¬†Come to think of it, I can now check off another item¬†on¬†my list. Woohoo!
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Thanksgiving 2009

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It brings together my three favorite Fs: family, friends, and food.

The “week”¬†surrounding Thanksgiving has been and will continue to be¬†busy, to say the least. Work has been full of preparing staff for travel and my transition out of the office. In spite of all that, Thanksgiving lingers on my mind.

Pre-Thanksgiving – The Countdown

Food doesn’t taste the same in the days leading up to this year’s Thanksgiving feast. Ordinary dishes look boring and taste bland. Did I mention I’m moving out of my apartment this weekend and with that comes my efforts to clear out (eat) whatever food is left in my fridge?

On Thanksgiving Eve,¬†this Lose Weight During Thanksgiving Dinner article from Women’s Health appears in my inbox. Out of curiosity, I check it out. As expected, the tips are¬†aimed at¬†the weight- or uber health-conscious during this season.¬†In less than 5 minutes, I realize WH’s must’ve sent this to me by mistake. Or perhaps it’s a futile attempt to make me break with tradition. Obviously, WH is not aware of the special place Thanksgiving has in my heart stomach.

Here’s my game plan: I will follow tradition. Translation: I intend to eat exactly opposite of how WH’s advises.

  • Wine: This is a no-brainer. I hardly drink alcohol.¬†Maybe I’ll have a few¬†sips this year. Stay tuned to see what the beverage options are.
  • Applesauce: Not on the menu, but there’s a possible (healthy)¬†substitute: simple salad. Maybe I’ll get a few pieces of greem to wet my palate. Again, we’ll see…
  • Turkey: Slap on the dark meat and crispy skin!
  • Stuffing: Bummer, there’s only one kind on the menu this year and it’s not the regular bread stuffing. Oh darn, guess I’ll take one for the team.
  • Gravy: Add to mashed potatos¬†and turkey please!
  • Cranberry sauce: This might be the only item where I’ll eat less than recommended. Then again, maybe not…
  • Candied sweet potato: I actually asked friends to make this so not having any is out of the question.
  • Pumpkin pie: Don’t mind if I do! Add a slice of pecan pie¬†to the plate¬†while you’re at it. Is a la mode an option?

Clearly, these healthy tips were not intended for me on this holiday.

Note: I’m not encouraging anyone to binge-eat now or ever. I normally try to eat healthy throughout the rest of the year and treat myself to this, and a couple other, occasions. ūüôā

Thanksgiving 2009 – The Feast

Thanksgiving menu (click on photo for visually stunning descriptions and a larger image):


I spent much of the holiday cooking and eating in the company of great friends.

I cooked ham using my mom’s recipe and made a simple salad. During the day, I snacked on brie, chutney, crackers, and chips while other dishes were prepared. It was impressive to be in the kitchen as almost every dish was made from scratch (exceptions: bread and wine)! Did I stick to the plan laid out above for the feast? For the most part. I was so stuffed I only ate a couple bites of dessert. Not to worry, though, pies make for a great breakfast!

My favorite part of the day was the one-on-one conversations with everyone: Honest and heart-felt. So real.  Open-minded and unbiased. Love and understanding. Admiration and inspiration.

I am thankful for so much. I hope others are as blessed as I am.

Post-Thanksgiving – The Gluttony?

No way. There were a TON of leftovers. After a two-hour pilates session dedicated to sweating out turkey and ham fat – and not to forget heaps of sugar and butter that went into almost every dish – a few of us are rallying together for a post-feast meal. Or two. Or three.

Thanksgiving welcomed in the holiday season. Let’s be merry.

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education > war

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on November 22, 2009

The enemy is ignorance.

3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson is the story of one man’s mission to build schools¬†in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It starts off as Mortenson’s gift of gratitude to a remote village that helped him regain his strength after an attempt at climbing K2. As the events of September 11th unfold before his eyes, the story turns into a lesson that America can learn from: invest in education rather than war. By the way, check out More Schools, Not Troops, an Op-Ed piece weighing in on the discussion to send more troops to Afghanistan.

If the Taliban utilizes

The¬†Wahhabi strategy…bringing the brightest¬†madrassa students back to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for a decade of indoctrination, then encouraging them to take four wives when they came home and breed like rabbits

and the students they recruit come from low-income, under-privileged villages, it’s not surprising that the

Wahhabi madrassas…they’re churning out generation after generation of brainwashed students and thinking twenty, forty, even sixty years ahead to a time when their armies of extremism will have the numbers to swarm over Pakistan and the rest of the Islamic world.

Thinking about this makes me question America’s priorities on the home front – the low-income, under-served, under-privileged communities. If we can offer American children¬†a¬†“balanced education and the tools to pull themselves out of poverty”, society would reap the benefits: more open minds, higher educated population, fewer gangs, less violence. People would learn to communicate with words instead of weapons.

I especially agree with Mortenson on this point:

If we truly want a legacy of peace for our children, we need to understand that this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not with bombs.

A balanced education is the best strategy available to win the war on ignorance and even the War on Terror. Encourage young minds to think outside the box instead of brainwashing them with them with unlimited time in front of the television or radical Islamic fundamentalism.

I realize this is simple in principle but difficult in execution. Education is a long-term investment in which the gains don’t appear until years later. On the other hand, even if a war wages on for years, there’s at least some evidence to show in the interim, i.e., images of combat and weapons, destroyed communities, orphans and casualties.

Education has given me a lot of opportunities. Granted, the first 12 years were free and I’m paying back student loans from my undergraduate education, but I wouldn’t trade in those years of learning for anything else.¬†Money comes and goes and the current economy proves that job security is fragile. Education is one of those rare gifts no one can ever take away.

This book replenished me with hope. It offered an alternative picture of the Middle East that mainstream media doesn’t provide. I learned about another part of world, its people, and their culture and religion.

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it’s your body, your health, your life

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on November 20, 2009

Let me preface this entry by admitting I am not the healthiest or most athletic person. Trust me. Witnesses and plenty of evidence are available upon request.

[Sugar.] Where does it all end up? Yep, right in that jiggly jelly roll hanging over your jeans.

– Women’s Health magazine, November 2009

Since I am neither one of those, I consciously think about the items that go on my shopping list before I take my weekly trip to the grocery store.¬†For the most part,¬†I’m good about adhering to the list (e.g., fruits, vegetables, protein)¬†but sometimes I stray and impulsively purchase indulgences (e.g., ice cream, chips, cookies) too. On the whole, I try to do more good than harm to by body. After all, I’ve only got one.

Women’s Health magazine reports that the #1 weight-loss tip is to reduce your sugar consumption (click on above link¬†for¬†full¬†article). I’m not a doctor or nutritionalist,¬†nor do I have fancy letters behind my name,¬†so I won’t confirm or denythe information it provides. Instead, I will offer my personal experiences with food.

My eating habits is best described as “in phases.” Past examples, all of which I’ve stopped:

  • every morning for at least 6 months: stop into Starbucks for a tall cup of Pike’s Place. Prior to that,¬†I’d pick up¬†daily grande chai lattes.
  • late spring into summer: fresh, home-made salads for dinner
  • late-summer to mid-autumn: baked frozen pizza (sometimes accompanied with salad or greens) for dinner

I snack a lot – cookies, chips, popcorn, nachos, candy, and the list goes on and on. On occasion, I have an insatiable appetite/bottomless stomach. I can eat a full meal and still have room for a “snack” afterwards. Impressive, I know ;), but such cravings do not result in smart or healthy decisions, I know¬†ūüė¶ .

On a whim, I picked up a copy of Women’s Health at the airport before my trip to Africa. I’ve read other health and fitness magazines in the past- as in flipped through at doctors’ offices and if friends subscribed – so I’m not sure why I¬†felt compelled to purchase this one.

After I returned from Africa, I started paying attention to what went into my body and how it made me feel. I thought about what I was doing while eating. I considered my lifestyle and how I spent the hours in a day and week.

My steps towards a healthier lifestyle:

  • I decided I didn’t need a daily dose of caffeine anymore so I stopped drinking coffee. Starbucks adds up, even if you’re only ordering a cup of black coffee.
  • I swapped my daily visits to Starbucks for a monthly¬†gym membership. Great decision.
  • I exercised at the gym immediately after work. The gym was conveniently between my office and the metro station. I had no excuse no to work out before I went home.
  • I stopped eating pizza on a near-daily basis. Rather, I planned meals in (semi-)advance. This also helped me appreciate real (fresh made, not frozen, not carry-out) pizza more.
  • I cook more.
  • I snack smarter. I munch on fruit in addition to junk food. If I eat chips, I also eat an apple.
  • I drink more water.
  • I still eat slow.

I was lucky enough to be raised on home-cooked meals. No matter how busy her day was or how early it started, my mom always made sure there was food on the table or in the refrigerator. Even when she wasn’t home. My dad was the same way whenever I visited him.

Breakfast is the most important meal. My mom always made sure my brother and I ate every morning before she dropped us off at the bus stop and/or to school. Milk, juice, and water were always available; soda hardly ever. Fresh fruits were snacks. Junk food was in the house but not a staple.

Now, every time I want to be healthier, I revert back to home-cooked meals (and not just salads). As a self-proclaimed foodie, I like to have options.

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with banana and crushed walnuts, add soy milk to make it less thick. Multigrain waffles with nutella spread and banana. Cereal with banana and soy milk. (I opt for soy milk because 1) it lasts longer than regular milk in the fridge and¬†2) I like the texture and flavor.) Beverage: tea, juice, or smoothies.
  • Late morning snack: optional.
  • Lunch:¬†Varies a lot.¬†On Sunday night, I usually cook in¬†large quantities and pack them into smaller portions for the work week. Sometimes I’ll cook the night before. Sometimes this is my biggest meal of the day since I’ll have more time to digest and/or expend the extra energy working out that day.
  • Afternoon snack: Large fruits – apples, grapes, peaches –¬†are filling! I like them pre-cut so I prepare¬†this snack in the morning.
  • Dinner: Varies a lot. Depends on my apetite, where I am, who I’m with, what I’m doing.
  • Dessert: optional.

Granted, my simple meals aren’t nearly as delicious and flavorful as the dishes that¬†come out of my mom’s kitchen, but they are healthier more nutritious than frozen pre-made, fast-food, and carry-out meals. They’re also more filling yet contain less sodium and oil.

I drank plenty of soda during high school and college but I¬†hardly¬†touch the stuff now. I noticed the sugar highs and crashes after a can of soda and decided this was something else I could do without.¬†I might¬†purchase a bottle of Dr. Pepper every couple months, but the heavy taste of syrup keeps me away for another few months. I’ll drink Sprite when I’m sick. It’s probably to my benefit that I have an extremely low-tolerance to alcohol too.

Recently, someone asked me to do her a favor. When I opened the top drawer of her desk, I was shocked (and slightly gross out) to find several full-size chocolate bars stashed there. This person is not physically active or in shape, to say the least. This person is also a parent of a few kids. One of the most irresponsible things you can do as a parent is set a bad example for your children because, consciously or unconsciously, they will learn from you.

Honestly, I believe parents set the example for their children when it comes to eating habits. If kids don’t learn at a young age, imagine how much damage they can do to themselves when they’re older and living on their own because they don’t know any better? Stock your home with healthy options that are accessible to kids. Prepackaged individual servings of fruit comes to mind. If kids want to eat junk food, they must also be active. Sign them up on sport teams, take them to the park, let them run around. Play and be active with them!

Finally, I understand why doctors and nutritionists mean when they advise parents to help their children develop healthy eating habits early!

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training heels and discount fashion for a cause

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on November 19, 2009

Soon after I could walk, I¬†began what I like to¬†call Training Heels Academy . My mom’s shoe collection traces back as far as my memory goes. Boxes and boxes stacked against the wall. I distinctly remember eyeing one pair of slip-on heels – black velvet lined with silver with shiny, glittery metallic pieces that adorned the strap. This was¬†my favorite pair. My training began with this pair. I’d slip them on¬†and practice walking in them. Left, right. Left, right. Needless to say, my dress up days served me well.¬†I wanted to wear heels then and I still¬†enjoy wearing¬†them now.¬†That first pair of¬†heels¬†is long gone, but now I can¬†walk around¬†in heels all day and dance in them all night.

In three weeks, one day in DC will stand between me¬†and California. In preparation for the move from East to West Coast, I¬†purged my closets – yes, two – one¬†bedroom, one¬†walk-in hallway. Since I arrived, I haven’t been¬†completely satisfied with DC’s style.

DC’s style is preppy, conversative,¬†and can be, quite frankly, bland. LA’s style is laid back and trendy. Stylists assemble outfits almost effortlessly. New York’s style is¬†bold fashion. Designers are willing to take risks and experiment with designs, fabrics, prints, etc.

Whilest clearing out my closet and apartment, I created two piles: to keep and to donate. I shipped most of my keepers to California. Things I no longer want are going to:

  • Soles4Souls¬†received 10 pairs of assorted footwear (i.e., boots, flats, shoes). I chose this organization because they accept any type of shoe. I¬†took my shoes¬†to a store where S4S has a drop-off box. The store offered an on-the-spot¬†$25 discount on any purchase made that day.
  • Goodwill will get clothes and random items from my apartment. Even better, donation centers accept old bras! This is more for the ladies – how many of you have old bras you no longer wear that are taking up space in your drawer?
  • Craigslist visitors are purchasing my old furniture. Thank you for participating in my income-generation project!
  • Flipswap¬†received 3 old cell phones – 2 weren’t worth any monetary value so trees were planted for them. 1 was worth $9.08 – cha-ching! Free shipping label available too.
  • Bestbuy¬†gave me $10 for recycling my old bulky, overheated, broken-screen laptop.
  • Some family/friends, too! They get apartment stuff and clothes that I no longer wear and would be great additions to their closets.

In the process, I found and reclaimed my inner fashionista.

Fashion tip: For any ladies looking to expand their wardrobe¬†(without shrinking your wallet), consider this: convert your dresses into tops. It’s more common to¬†convert tops into dresses¬† – just add a belt –¬†but the reverse is possible too. Add a new look to your closet without spending a pretty penny.

I regularly wear dresses I’d normally wear to go out with friends to work but I add a skirt over it for a new look (and propriety, of course).¬†It’s fun because the complete outfits look good (compliments!) yet no one knows my tops¬†are actually dresses unless I tell. Common sense tells me this¬†goes without saying, but just to be safe: not every dress is appropriate to wear as a top and vice versa. Not every dress-converted-to-top is appropriate to wear to work.¬†

Now that the clutter is (nearly) out, the burden of moving is gone. I couldn’t have asked for a better occasion to slip into my skinny jeans and strap on my booties. I’ve decided to live (or walk) in these and various¬†pumps until I report for Staging. My feet have the next two years to wear flats.

As a thanks for reading my blog, I invite you to sign up for Beyond the Rack, an invite-only discount designer shopping site. Shop and spend wisely!

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