Friday, June 27, 2008

Anniversary Weekend Ideas

So our 2 year anniversary is coming up at the end of October. A few months away, I know, but I'm trying to get a head start on thinking about what to do.

Cuong & I agreed that we would switch off every year coming up with our anniversary weekend plans. Last year it was his turn and we went to Palm Desert. We ended up spending more money than anticipated.

This year it's my turn. I'm trying to come up with something cool, but not super expensive. We've basically been bleeding out money ever since we moved into the new house.

So my first thoughts were: Santa Barbara, San Diego area, Temecula area. Somewhere close enough to drive to (and that doesn't take TOO long). Chances are we'd be leaving on a Friday night or early Saturday morning...spending the night and then coming back home on Sunday.

Any ideas or suggestions??

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Art of Giving

In February one of my co-workers was laid off. She is single and in her mid-50’s. It’s probably one of the worst times to be laid off in the construction industry and her status and age are not factors that will help her.

It is now the end of June. She has been out of work for 4 months now. She has been diligently looking for a job. Since she is the only person in her household, she needs to be able to make enough money to cover all of her expenses on her own. Many of the job opportunities out there are entry-level positions without much pay.

Unfortunately the money that she receives from unemployment each month does not cover her bills. She is now forced to dip into her retirement reserves, which is not good to do at her age.

She is a very proud and strong woman. She was a single mother who raised her daughter alone. She refuses to take “hand outs” from people who feel sorry for her.

Without a job for this long, I began to realize that now was probably the time that we should do something regardless of how she feels about taking something from us.
Last week I organized something at work in order for people to donate money or canned goods. By the end of the week, we had raised about $900 plus 4 big bags full of groceries! I was so surprised at the response that I had gotten!

Seeing a friend in need, knowing it’s the right thing to do, and previously being involved in philanthropic work really got me thinking that we needed to do something for her.

I stopped by her house on Friday after work. Cuong and I only live about 4-5 miles from her. I was only able to carry one bag of groceries (they were SO heavy!) and I made my way up to her door. I had told her earlier in the day that I found a few things in her desk that belong to her and I wanted to return them to her.

She had no idea what I was bringing up to her house.

I sat down with her and gave her the card that everyone signed. Inside the card were the $300 grocery gift cards and the remaining cash. As soon as she opened the card and saw everything, she burst into tears. She was totally overwhelmed and surprised. She expressed me that she didn't think anyone would ever do anything like that for her and that she's so grateful for having friends that still care about her.

I know that the grocery gift cards and extra cash will definitely help her.

I spent about 2 hours with her talking about her job search, talking about life in general and trying to brainstorm any other ideas of things she can do. Living alone and not having a high quality relationship with her daughter, it’s not often that she has someone to sit down and talk to.
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I try to take in as much wisdom as I can from other people. Although I wouldn’t say this person is the wisest person I know (they’ll remain nameless, hehe)…I remember learning that everyone needs human contact and someone to talk to every now and then. People, myself included, sometimes forget that the homeless person on the street is a human being too. There are some of them who are sane people and would love to sit down and talk to someone in a normal conversation and feel like they actually exist instead of being looked down on.
Life can definitely teach you how to be a better person, a better friend, etc. Through mistakes you’ve made and other people’s examples of compassion and true friendship, you can definitely see how you can be a good friend and live life a little less unselfishly.

Birthday Party Weekend

This weekend we had 2 birthday celebrations. On Saturday we drove down to Oceanside. Saturday evening we took Cuong’s dad out for a late Father’s Day dinner. We didn’t have a chance to see them on Father’s Day weekend, so we had to make up for that. We went out with his parents and Connie’s family to a Korean/Japanese restaurant.

The next morning we got up and started getting ready for Kaila’s 8th birthday party! I can’t believe how big she is now. So grown up!
Lots of mini cupcakes, tons of yummy food, and cute decorations. By 1:30, the house was full of the usual suspects, which is always fun.

Unfortunately we had to leave a little bit early….it was time for another Birthday celebration! We headed north up to Buena Park to meet up with everyone for Yolanda’s Birthday dinner. Karuta’s has become the happening dinner spot for birthdays lately. It’s like Benihana’s, but with a buy 1 get 1 free coupon! Yes! I got my usual, filet & shrimp. It was so yummy! Of course I can never finish all of the food, so it will make for some good leftovers.

After dinner, we all headed back to the Palacio de Mendoza (Paul & Yolanda’s house) for some cake. They had red velvet cake. Yolanda is against pictures….but I was able to snap two pictures! Woohoo!

Major Gardening

We’ve been in our house for about 2 months now. For our trash service, we have three different bins: Recycling, Green Waste and Trash.
I think our Green Waste bin has been filled up every single week since we’ve moved in. The previous owner just let things go wild. Trees were overgrown and needed to be trimmed, bushes needed to be trimmed and shaped and weeds needed to be pulled.
So we’ve been trimming, seeding, weeding and planting almost every weekend (and some weekdays).

The backyard is starting to take shape. I’ll have to find some “before” pictures and compare them to the latest set of pictures. We’re still not done, but we’re taking our time in hopes of not getting too burned out.

One of the parts of the backyard that I like are the hydrangea plants. When we moved in you could see that they were getting ready to bloom, and they are been ever since. Just last weekend I decided that I should snip some off and put them in a vase. That way we are able to enjoy them inside and see them more often while they are still in bloom.

Once all of the flowers are gone, we’ll need to trim the plants back and await the next bloom!!

Chef Lauren

When I left my parent’s house when I got married, I would say that I had about zero cooking skills. I could make spaghetti, sloppy joes, grilled cheese and I could cook chicken (if it was cut up in little pieces). You know, college type cooking!

I was a little worried that now having to cook dinner every night would be a horrible punishment! Luckily, it hasn’t been too bad. Within the past year and ½ of being married, we’ve maybe had one or two nights where the recipe I use is just horrible, but I think that’s not bad…considering my skill level! I had been so worried about not knowing what to cook that I began collecting TONS of recipes. Now I’m glad I have them…but I have SO many!

Each month (or so) I get FOOD – Martha Stewart and Cooking Pleasure magazine in the mail. Plus I get the daily recipe in my email inbox. is always a good place to look for recipes (by meal type, or by ingredient).

I’ve been finding some pretty good recipes lately! I figured, why not try to make them look especially yummy and take pictures!! So here you go!

Sesame Shrimp (YUM!)

Pork Chops with a mushroom wine sauce (not too bad)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My Scrapbook Room

We finally got my Scrapbook Room into decent shape! After removing the mirrors from the wall from the previous owner's work out has now become a girly girl scrapbook room! :)

I took my $5 can of "Oops" paint that I bought at Lowe's. When I bought it, Cuong kept telling me that it was a big mistake and he thought it was a stupid idea to buy. He's eating his words now! Best $5 I ever spent on paint! It turned out really cute!

So it's a light pink on top with tan on the bottom and a white chair rail.

We bought the furniture at Ikea a few weeks ago. So almost every night we've been painting, doing the chair rail or putting furniture together.

I'm really pleased with how it all turned out. I still need to put up a little tool/paper scrap holder that I got at Ikea also. Stay tuned for that.

Here is a view from the doorway looking toward the back of the house/end of the room. I have my desk with my Clip It Up on top. We currently have an old tv that you can see on the bottom left of the picture, but that will be coming out of the room.

Here are my 2 matching bookcase/cabinets. I really like the closed area, the open area and the glass cabinet portions.Close up of the cabinet

This is the paper holder that I bought on Ebay for a mere $50. The people were located in Brea, so it wasn't too far of a drive. The guy said that his niece has a scrapbook store up in Big Bear, but she's down sizing and needed to get rid of a few items. He had another rack, but it was twice as tall as this....and I just couldn't imagine it fitting into the back of my Scion!Behind my desk, in the corner, I got this little cabinet/stand for my printer. That way it doesn't have to take up room on the desk, but is close enough if I need to plug in my laptop to print out some journaling!

Hope you like it! Now I just need to put some finishing touches on it. I have some wall rub ons that I've been holding onto for about 2 years, so I think it's time to put those up somewhere!

My Herb "Garden"

In Norwalk we were able to have a little herb garden on the side of the house, and things grew pretty well there.

Now living in Orange, I'd love to have another one....but the rabbits are eating everything! In an effort to start growing something, we made a stop at Walmart to pick up some little pots and some seeds.

Here they are on the day I planted the seeds. We have Rosemary, Dill, Mint and Basil. On the package it said that it would take about 14 days to germinate. Well only 7 days later, we started to see little sprouts....and only a few days after that.....

Now I need to take even more recent pictures. Within the last 3 days or so, the dill has completely sprung up and looks like grass! The basil has come up a tad bit more. You can see really tiny sprouts in the mint.

The rosemary isn't doing too well. I'm going to blame it on the seeds. When I opened the package they were all stuck together, as well as stuck to the package. Maybe they got wet and are no good anymore. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but I wouldn't be too sad if I needed to go buy another 79 cent package of rosemary.


My brother graduated from Yavapai College in Arizona last week and then came to California for a little break. Without to my parents, my brother’s girlfriend bought him a puppy for a graduation gift. She was only 6 weeks old when they bought her. She’s a Chi-Wiener. A mix between a Chihuahua and a Dachshund. She was so cute.

Since he was coming to California for almost a week, he had to bring her along; but since she’s a secret from my parents, he had to leave her at our house.

We immediately began reading our puppy book to try and prepare for her arrival. We learned about puppy bladders, feedings, crate training, etc.

My brother arrived with her late Monday night with her and took care of her for the night. He basically just slept on our couch and she apparently did too! The next few nights my brother stayed at my parents’ house. That meant we were fully in charge of taking care of Bella. During the day she was confined to our master bathroom space. We would try to put her to sleep and lay her in her crate before we left for work. That way we didn’t hear her crying as we left for our 8+ hour workdays.

We’re assuming she cried all day long. She was crying when we got home from work also. She was so happy to see someone at the end of the day. She was really cute but SO much work. It was almost like having a baby. She constantly needed attention and you couldn’t let her out of your sight. She could run RIGHT under our couch without ducking almost!! Plus you always needed to pay attention to when she needed to go to the bathroom. She had her little pee-pee pad that she was learning to go on. When she successfully went on it, you were supposed to give her a treat right away.

We didn’t get much sleep during those nights that we took care of her. She would cry when she was in the crate because she didn’t know where you were. You had to put your hand down near the door to the crate so she could see/smell you. Plus she would walk up every 2-3 hours to go to the bathroom and once during the night to eat.
She was definitely cute, but I think that experience helped us to see that we’re probably not ready for a dog right now!