Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Heavier Things

Last week the Mr.’s Grandfather died.

But, it’s not as sad as you’d think. I’d never even met him, despite the fact that I’ve lived 2 hours away from him for the last 7 years. The Mr. and him were not close. The Grandpa didn’t send birthday cards. He didn’t even RSVP, let alone come, to our wedding. You get the picture.

In fact his Grandpa, it seems, was not close to anyone. The most commonly used word I heard to describe the Grandpa was “private.”

Maybe that makes it sadder?

Ever since we went up to Santa Barbara over the weekend for the very “intimate” (read: small) funeral and to clean out/pack up the Grandpa’s house, a lot of heavy stuff has been weighing on my mind. Much of it cannot really be summed up in blog post, hence my lack of posting.

(The funeral at Santa Barbara Cemetery)

But what the heck, I'll give it a shot....

There’s nothing like death to make you re-examine your life.

What do I want the sum of my life to be? What do I want people to say at my funeral? What will be my legacy?

Do I want to be remembered as someone who had an amazing career? Who worked hard, was a great manager, and lead an organization to great things? Or do I want to be remembered as an incredible Mother? Who put her kids first and raised amazing people? Can I do both?

Do I want to be someone who was a good friend to many? Or a best friend to a few?

Do I want to make lots of money so I can be generous with it? Or do I want to be generous with my time and make less money?

When my life is over what will be left? Scrapbooks, pictures, and blogs? A close-knit family? A collection of something? Nothing at all?

I’ll tell you what was left from the Grandpa’s life.

Vinyl records.

In every closet we opened, records. He collected boxes and boxes of vinyl records. In fact, I think the Mr. and I boxed up about 40 (yes 4-0!) boxes of vinyl records.

It was heavy (both literally and figuratively).

Most importantly, what do I want God say to me at the end of my life? And based on the life I’m living, what do I think he’ll say?

Sorry for the heavy nature of this post. The title should have warned you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Top 5 Cleaning Tips

One thing that newlyweds can frequently argue about are household chores and cleaning duties. At least that seems to be a topic of occasional disagreement in our household. We can't be the only ones, right? Right?

Although I do have a passion for home organizing (more on that next week), I really don't love cleaning. And neither does the Mr.

But cleaning is necessity of life (until that magical day when we get a cleaning lady) and we've found ways to split chores when we do our Saturday morning cleaning sprees. So in honor of spring cleaning and Kelly's Korner, I thought I'd share our Top 5 Cleaning Tips that have helped us to keep a happy, sane, clean home.

1. Use Bar Keepers Friend.

I've shared my love for Bar Keepers Friend before. I have no idea how we could deal with cleaning all of the modern stainless steel appliances in our condo without it.

We use it on stainless steel faucets/ sinks to get out water spots, on pots and pans to remove burn marks, on shower doors to remove residue, and (BEST of all) on our stainless steel fridge that always seems to get water marks and finger prints on it. Knowing how easy it is clean stainless steel with BKF has definitely helped us avoid fights. And the price (about $3) means we can use as much of this as we want.

2. Buy a Dyson vacuum.

We love our Dyson. It's so easy to use that it makes vacuuming fun. The attachments makes cleaning floors, ledges, couches, and more so easy. We don't even own a broom because of our Dyson. And emptying it is an absolute snap. We love our Dyson so much that on cleaning day we both want to vacuum. Ha!

3. Carry Tide Pens and keep Wine Away on hand

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I am a huge klutz. Mostly in the realm of spilling stuff on myself and others. It got so bad at one point that Mr. would make me stand/sit at least two feet away from him if I am drinking a colored liquid (such as wine).

That is why I always carry a Tide Pen in my purse and keep Wine Away on hand. They both do wonders for stains. With these I can nip a stain in the bud - which saves the Mr from yelling at me that moment and makes stain removal easier when we have do laundry.

4. Use a Magic Eraser to clean walls

This little foam pads really are magic. I guess the secret behind them material known as melamine foam. With just a little water, melamine foam can dig in and destroy stains that other products can't touch. Scuffs on the wall? Gone in seconds! No fighting about having to repaint. That is magic.

5. The easiest way to clean granite is with gentle dish soap and water.

We used to waste money buying expensive granite cleaner because you can't use harsh cleaners on granite. Then we found out that you can just use our regular gentle dish soap and water. It's inexpensive, easy, and actually makes the granite look great. That's one less product that we have to spend money on, which means more money left in our fun budget!

What are your "must have" Spring Cleaning products? What cleaning tips do you have?

Note: None of the products or companies that I shared about in the post provided me with any monetary or non-monitory compensation. I have no professional or personal ties to any of these companies or products. The products simply are my favorite products for keeping a clean and happy home.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adventures Wine Blogging Together

For a while I've contemplated launching a second blog dedicated to a hobby that I love.

Now, I'm not fashionista, so I couldn't start a clothing blog (see Kate's amazing example here).

And not (yet) an armature chef or foodie, so I couldn't start a cooking blog like some of my blogging friends (examples here and here)

Then one night while drinking wine on the couch with the Mr. it hit me. What's something that we both love? Love talking and sharing about? And would love to keep a record of?


So, I'm happy to announce that the Mr. and I have started a new joint blog called, "It's Wine O'Clock."

Together we'll share about our favorite wines, our adventures in wine drinking, and much more at:

Don't worry, I'll still be blogging regularly at Newlyweds Next Door. This is just a new fun blog for us to enjoy together!

You can see our first Wine O'Clock post here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Whatcha got cookin?

Long time readers of my blog may have noticed, that I'm not exaccctttlly the next Barefoot Contessa (see here).

I have a litany of excuses as to why I don't cook....

I travel too much. I work too late. I don't have time to go the grocery store. I never learned how. I'm not good at it. Blah blah blah.

It's a character flaw.

But recently I decided that the only way I'm going to become better cook is by actually cooking!

So last week I planned out all of my meals, went to three grocery stores to get everything (Whole Foods, Albertsons, and Costco), and then cooked up a storm!

Also, I've realized that I'm a visual learner, so when someone blogs a recipe and shows how to do each step, it really helps me out. So I took most of my recipes from a few of my favorite cooking blogs.

Here is a list of what I made, how it turned out, and what I learned.

Saturday: Homemade Pizza
Recipe from: My head (I just bought dough, sauce and toppings and baked it)
My cooking grade: B
What I learned: You need to pre-heat the crust when you bake on pizza stone.
Next time I make this I will: make my own dough (see recipe here) instead of using the processed Pillsbury dough for a tastier crust.

(Photo from Pioneer Woman)

Sunday: Chicken Spaghetti Casserole
Recipe from: The Pioneer Woman Cooks
My cooking grade: A
What I learned: Casseroles are delicious and great to make for later. I was able to bake half of the recipe in small dish for dinner immediately and freeze the other half in another small dish for a later time.
Next time I make this I will: add more chicken and veggies and less pasta for a healthier dish.

(Photo from Pioneer Woman)

Monday: Green Bean and Tofu Stir Fry
Recipe from: Made it up
My cooking grade: C+
What I learned: This dish is really bland unless you add a ton of sauce (which I ended up doing)
Next time I make this I will: Invest in rice cooker so I don't have nasty soggy rice that took over an hour to make.

(Photo by me)

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Recipe from: Finding Thyme to Cook
My cooking grade: A+
What I learned: It's actually really easy to make a delicious pot roast.
Next time I make this I will: Repeat the recipe exactly! The Mr and both LOVED this.

(Photo by me)

Wednesday: Blondies! (Well that and Pot Roast leftovers)
Recipe from: Finding Thyme to Cook
My cooking grade: A
What I learned: Blondies are a fun alternative to the typical brownies and are a lot easier than brownies to make from scratch.
Next time I make this I will: Add more pralines for a nuttier bar.

(Photo by me)

Thursday: Simple Lemon Chicken
Recipe from: Finding Thyme to Cook
My cooking grade: A-
What I learned: This recipe called for chicken cutlet, I used chicken breasts, which meant it took a lot longer to cook through. Broccoli tastes amazing with this dish.
Next time I make this I will: Make some basmati rice to go along with it.

(Photo by Finding Thyme to Cook)

Friday: Mediterranean Style Chicken in a Foil Pouch
Recipe from: Culinary Disaster
My cooking grade: A-
What I learned: This is a great way to make tender chicken breast that don't get dried out. Don't double wrap the chicken pouches in foil, it will take twice as long to cook. Also, these taste great with couscous.
Next time I make this I will: check to make sure that the onion I have at home isn't rotten so I can be sure my pouches have onion in them!

(Photo by Culinary Disaster)

A whole weeks worth of cooking! I never would have thought I could have done it! I'm so proud of myself!

What are your favorite every-day recipes? Favorite step-by-step cooking blogs?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Flowers, Kitchen Upgrade, & Bloggy Friends

It's 78 degrees outside and I feel like Spring has sprung in Los Angeles!

My Mom was in town on Friday and she took me on shopping trip to The Home Depot to buy the us some spring flowers for our balcony patio in honor of spring time.

Don't they brighten the place up a lot?!

The Mr. even brought me small bouquet of flowers home from the grocery store. So sweet!

Also, I'm happy to inform you that we are proceeding along with our "Kitchen Upgrade Project".

After shopping for tile at three stores, and bringing home five tile samples, this is the tile for the backsplash that the Mr. and I decided on and ordered!

It matches our granite, tile, and cabinetry perfectly! I love it! Here's a closeup...

As part of our big "Kitchen Upgrade Project" we are also installing some new kitchen lighting and redoing our living room and entry-way paint. Lots more details to come soon!

Lastly, Danica from Chic Runner and I are both Long Beach girls and have been bloggy friends for a while. We've hung out several times but this time we FINALLY managed to get picture.

Here we are before heading out to dinner at George's Greek in downtown Long Beach.

And here is Danica with Judah. We can her Judah's "blogmother." I think he looks pretty happy about that.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Doing a bit of shopping...

Something about Spring always makes me want to go shopping -- maybe it's the bright happy colors in the stores, or the fact that it's so fun to enjoy the California outdoor malls in the sunny weathers.

Whatever it is, I've been doing a bit of shopping!

First for our Europe trip I bought...

This jersey maxi dress from Old Navy.

I thought it would be great for touring, day or night - dress up or down with belts and scarves.

This Kenneth Cole Reaction Luggage from TJ Maxx.

We needed a new piece of mid-sized luggage for our journeys.

And this sweater from Macy's in black.

I have so many cute sundresses, but this little sweater will help them to be more modest for touring churches, etc.

Question for you all -- what cute shoes do you recommend for walking around and touring all day? I don't want to look all grubby in my running shoes, but I don't think I can walk all day in my stylish sandals. Advice is needed!

Also, for work....

I bought this Calvin Klein dress at TJ Maxx (50% off!)

And for around the house...

The nice people at Playful Threads gave me this adorable cami/boy-short sleepwear set!

A definite improvement over my winter sleepwear!

You can read more Playful Threads and their collection of sleepwear, dresses, lingerie, and more on my Reviews and Giveaways site.

What items are on your list for this Spring?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Happy Birthday Judah!

Dear Judah/Jude/Judes/Sweet Judes/Sweet Beast/Beast,

Happy 1st Birthday! I can't believe you are already one! You have brought so much joy and laughter to our lives, it's hard to remember what life was like before you. I'm sure it was horribly boring and completely devoid of rascal feline antics. You've changed our lives for the better and I'm so glad that you're our kitten/cat.


And now a Judah retrospective...









Monday, March 08, 2010

Tax Refund: Dreams & Reality

This year instead of owing money to the IRS, the Mr. and I actually going to get a pretty decent tax refund. Woo hoo!

If I was a single, non-home-owning, spendthrift, 20-something gal this is what I'd buying with my tax refund...

Top row:
White Dress from Nordstrom, Yellow Dress from Nordstrom, Work Outfit from Banana Republic, Coral Dress from J. Crew, Juicy Swimsuit,
Second row:
Marc Jacobs Wallet, Joan and David Shoe, Betsy Johnson Sunglasses, Tori Burch Sandals

That's right, I'd be going on a huge shopping spree for me!

But instead I'm a married, home-owning, decently-frugal, 20-something gal.

So this is what we're doing with our refund...

Donating the "first fruits" to our local Church

Installing a tile backsplash in our kitchen

(I'm hoping this is actually an "investment" and ends up paying us back when we sell our condo.)

And paying down some higher interested school loans we have.

Pretty boring and practical, huh?

But don't worry there are a couple of fun things that we're going to buy...

Like an Apple iPad!

(I'm so excited to bring this to Europe with us!)

This swimsuit from Victoria's Secret

This dress (or a similar one) from Nordstrom to wear to my friend's wedding

This is our first tax refund we've ever gotten as a couple, so it's kind of fun discussing how we'll spend the money together -- balancing priorities, etc.

Are you getting a tax refund this year? If so, how are you going to spend it? Or will you save it? If married, are you and your hubby on the same page as to what to do with your refund?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

What I'm Up to This Weekend

Two or three times a year, in my job as a consultant, I have to work at my client site over the weekend for a project launch. We launch a lot of projects over the weekend because many them have an IT component, and the IT teams have to do their system downtime over the weekend.

So I'm going to be at work in San Jose on Saturday night and Sunday Day.

So since I had to stay in the bay area for the weekend I decided to take advantage of the time and go to one of my favorite cities in the world, San Francisco.

Last night I met a good friend/former co-worker for an amazing dinner at Mamacita.

(Image from Mamacita's website)

Then we went back to my suite at the Westin in San Francisco (I got upgraded for free becuase I'm platnum at Starwood. Yay!) to split a bottle of wine and chat the night away.

(Image from

This morning I ordered room service and enjoyed breakfast in my heavenly bed looking out at this view...

(Image from my cell phone... that's SF Bay in the distance)

Now I'm going to go out and do a little shopping in Union Square before heading back to the office in San Jose.

Hope you all are having a great weekend!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Consultant on the Road

As you may have read in my earlier posts, I work as a "Consultant" in middle managment role in the Management Consulting division of "Large Consulting Firm."

That's me at work.

You've seen my Travel Tips and many of you have asked about what it's like to work in consulting.

Since Kelly at Kelly's Korner is having everyone do "a day in the life" for her weekly "Show us how you live" blog carnival, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into my average day at work when I'm on the road at the client site.

5:45 AM - Alarm goes off. Hit the snooze bar once.

5:50 AM - Out of bed. Get ready for work in my hotel room while listing to NBC news. Put on favorite business casual outfit - Express editor pants and a belted sweater from Banana Republic.

6:30 AM - Breakfast at the Sheraton Club Lounge. Oatmeal, yum! Read USA Today. Get coffee to go.

7:00 AM - Arrive at client site. Conference call with Europe Team. Love those accents!

8:00 AM - Read and respond to emails from clients and team members. Create today's "to-do" list.

9:00 AM - Compile project stakeholder analysis. Send to my Sr. Manager.

10:00 AM - Update team's Microsoft Projct Plan. Fill out weekly status report.

11:00 AM - Project team status call with the clients and team members.

12:00 AM - Lunch at local salad/sandwich place. Read blogs/tweet with extra time.

1:00 PM - Meet with my boss to talk about opportunities to renew or sell more work at our current client.

2:00 PM - Finish up some process documentation for the project. Call out key areas for process improvement.

2:45 PM - Ad hoc conversation with client about current project risks/issues.

3:00 PM - Read and respond to more emails from clients and team members. Prep for upcoming presentation.

3:30 PM - Present process documentation and process improvement ideas to client team lead for approval and project sign-off.

4:30 PM - 1:1 with one of the team members that reports to me. Review deliverables, discuss upcoming milestones, provide feedback.

5:30 PM - Finalize project strategy presentation for tomorrow's meeting and send to my boss for review.

6:30 PM - Read and respond to final emails from clients and team members.

7:00 PM - Sushi dinner with project team members.

8:30 PM - Blog and answer personal email from hotel while watching TV.

9:30 PM - Call the Mr. to talk and say goodnight.

10:00 PM - Read.

10:30 PM - Lights out.

Wow, sorry if I just made my job look really boring. If you're still reading, I'm sorry (and amazed). It's just hard to talk about my job without getting into specific project goals and specific project deliverables, ya know? But I really do love my job!

I hope this gave you a better look into what my average day is like. I can't wait to read everyone else's day in the life!

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