May 31, 2013

Zavala's Take DC: The First Night (+ a Failed Camping Trip)

As I mentioned before, my family came to visit me in DC for graduation! They stayed for a week and a half, and I'm pretty sure I wore them out. :) When we weren't busy with school/graduation things, I made sure they got in some very full days of DC sight-seeing.

But first! A bit about a failed camping trip. Since I'd spent the week before my family's arrival stressin' about finals, I put it into my mind that I wanted to celebrate that Friday, and that I wanted to celebrate with s'mores. Recently, my pal Nils had suggested we have a BBQ. I suggested we take it up a notch with a... BONFIRE! He took it up several notches by suggesting an overnight CAMPING TRIP! And even though I would've had to get up at the crack of dawn to go serve at the temple the next morning, I was down. Because I'm all about carpe-ing the diem, friends. Unfortunately, our carefully orchestrated plan failed due to Mother Nature's mood swings. The second we lit our beautiful bonfire, the skies decided to dump on us, and we quickly ran for cover! A bunch of us ended up back at my house, playing Catch Phrase and making s'mores over my gas stove. No rain was going to stop me from my s'mores celebration, dangitt!

Saturday morning, I woke up and went to serve at the temple.

When my shift ended at 1pm, I spent a few frantic hours making last-minute purchases, finishing laundry, and cleaning my house to prepare for my family's arrival. I left in a rush and was super late to get my family thanks to a crazy storm while I was on the Beltway. The most bizarre thing about the storm is that while it was basically FLOODING from the sky in Montgomery County, the District and Virginia had sunshine and blue skies. You can see in this photo that the difference could not have been more pronounced.

So crazy!!
I was excited to see everyone (Mom, Dad, and my two youngest brothers) and to be honest, I was also a little anxious for what lay in store for us over the next eleven days. I took the scenic route home and showed them "my town." We drove past the monuments, the Capitol, the White House, my office, my old 'hood in Dupont Circle, etc. etc. I asked them what they wanted to do. I told them we could go sight-seeing right then OR we could go drop off the luggage at home and eat pupusas!

And OF COURSE, being the good Salvadorian family that we are, we went for the pupusas! In case you're looking for a good pupusa (best. food. EVERRR!) in DC, try Doña Azucena. Best pupusas in the DC area! They have a couple of locations, but the one closest to me is in Silver Spring. Utah doesn't have many Salvadorian restaurants, so having a pupuseria so close to my house was a real treat for the fam. We may have gone a li'l crazy and even ordered some extra food and tamales to take home for Sunday breakfast. :)

Since they'd all been up since the crack of dawn (Utah time), we took it easy the rest of the night. It really made me laugh that they chose pupusas as the FIRST thing they did after arriving in DC, but pupusas are my FAVORITE food (literally. not hyperbolically.), so no complaints from me! :)

I'm pretty sure my brother would die if he saw this. Good thing he doesn't read my blog! ;)

Photo updates of the rest of our touristing coming soon to a screen near you! 

May 29, 2013

"Day to Serve" Reception in Annapolis

In the LDS Church, we have a lay clergy. This means that no one gets paid for their church service, and all of us receive "callings" (or assignments) that allow us to contribute in some way to our congregations or to the church in general. 

One of my callings is to help with public affairs work for the church in the DC area. I recently attended a reception in Annapolis about last year's "Day to Serve." Day to Serve is an opportunity for members of the community and those of various faiths to come together to feed the hungry and heal the planet. (You might recall our "Pack the Pantries" activity for "Day to Serve" 2012.) The event spans the states of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and we are fortunate to have the support of the governors of the three states and the mayor of DC. This year, Day to Serve projects will take place from September 15th to September 29th. You can learn more at :)

Now back to the actual reception! It was the kick-off for a special exhibit about last year's Day to Serve that is currently on display in the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis. There were remarks and acknowledgments by the governor and various faith/community leaders (including Elder Jack Gerard, our Area Authority 70 (aka an LDS Church bigwig, in layman's terms) and Coach Ken Niumatalolo, head football coach of the U.S. Naval Academy and member of the LDS Church).

Below are a few photos from the event:

Walking through the exhibit with Governor O'Malley
Before the remarks, Colours, a group of young singers/dancers, entertained us.
And then they scared us all by dragging us out to dance with them!
Getting serenaded.
Not even the governor was safe.
L-R: President & Sister Matsumori of the Washington DC North Mission,  Governor O'Malley, Elder Gerard (our Area Authority 70)
Governor O'Malley with Coach Niumatalolo

I'll definitely share more updates as the time gets closer. For now, be sure you clear your calendar now to be part of this great effort in September! :)

*All photos shared under a Creative Commons license and are courtesy of the Executive Office of the Governor.*

May 27, 2013

True Meaning of Memorial Day (+ Sales!)

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (From my family's trip to Arlington Cemetery a week and a half ago.)


This post will cover both the true meaning of Memorial Day and... the superficial meaning.

My friend Chase shared a quote in church yesterday about the reason behind Memorial Day. The following quote is from President Harry S. Truman's Prayer for Peace on Memorial Day 1948.

"Memorial Day each year provides a fitting occasion upon which American citizens, who have ever been devoted to the ways of peace, may direct their attention to the human losses resulting from the ravages of war.

From the sacred memory of beloved friends and relatives who were sacrificed in the ordeal of battle, we may derive inspiration for renewed prayers and redoubled exertions in a mighty striving for peace.

Although the months and years after the end of hostilities in the world's most tragic war are steadily passing, mankind has not yet found the long-sought basis of an unbreakable, righteous peace. In all humility we wish to acknowledge our need for divine guidance.

Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, pursuant to a resolution of Congress approved May 28, 1948, do hereby call upon the people of the United States to observe Sunday, May 30, 1948, as Memorial Day by praying to Almighty God, each in accordance with his religious faith, that permanent peace may prevail among men."

May we remember that today is more than a day off; it's a chance for us to honor those who have served their country and those who have fought for peace across the world.


In addition to being a reverent day, Memorial Day also happens to be a really great shopping day. My sister gets married next month, and I need to buy a dress! (If you see anything while you're out, it has to be yellow, turquoise, or lime green + must have sleeves, please!) I forwarded an e-mail about a Gap sale to my friend Caitlin (She's been wanting a particular dress, and it's discounted today! Go get it, C!), and I decided I may as well share a few other finds here, too.

  • 50% off EVERYTHING!! No code required. Priced as marked. (Maybe I'll buy this dress for my sister's wedding?? And could THESE be the perfect nude wedges I've been searching for for so long???! Camille, why are you at the beach today?!!)
  • 30% off Sale items with code: "HELLOSTYLE"
  • $5 shipping!
  • Free returns on all orders

  • Take an extra 35% off with code "BRDIVEIN." (Mom! This sale is for you!)
  • Free shipping on orders over $50
  • Free returns on all orders
  • Certain items marked up to 40% off
  • Extra 20% off your order with code "GAPGIFT"
Lime Ricki Swimwear (modest suits for women & men!)
  • Take 25% off your order with code "MEMDAY25"
  • Shipping is always just $5
These sales are good today only, so hurry up! As for me, I'm off to my local J. Crew to try on sizes before buying online. :) Happy Memorial Day, y'all!

GSPM Class of 2013 Pre-Graduation Party

Mom, me, Dad
So... It's been a couple of weeks since my last post. That's because I've been busy graduating and having my family in town! I have a couple of summer classes to finish up, but it was still really exciting to walk with my classmates last week. Grad school has been one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I had a lot of emotions throughout commencement weekend.

On a lighter note, I also have a LOT of photos and fun things to share from graduation and the week and a half my family was in town! For now, I'll leave you with a few shots from our pre-graduation party last Friday at 201 Bar on Capitol Hill

Parents + me + GSPM Director Former Congressman Mark Kennedy (R-MN) 
Jay + Jay's parents + me + my parents
me, Alex, David

So, it turns out the Former President of Mexico (Felipe Calderón) was at our party! His sister graduated with a Master's degree from one of the other programs, so he was there to celebrate. Unfortunately for the poor man, he got bombarded by shameless people like us wanting to be photographed with him. Sadly, the first photo, with my dad in it, didn't turn out. :(

me, Lupita, sister, Pres. Calderón, Mom
I got to bring +3 to the party: my best friend, Lupe (who flew in from Utah!), and my two DC friends, Stephanie and Andrea. 

Our end of the night supermodel shot. ;)
Unfortunately for us, we hadn't eaten dinner before the party. (We thought there would be real food there, but alas... All we found were little chicken bites on sticks.) So we peaced out of the party a little early and went over to Silver Diner in Rockville for some late-night eatin'.

So good!

We had a blast, and our tummies sure were happy! I really enjoyed getting to celebrate with my parents, classmates, and good girlfriends. :) I can truly say I wouldn't have made it through this program without support from my family and friends. From listening to my frustrations to encouraging me when I felt utterly overwhelmed... Thanks for everything, guys!! I sure do love you! :)

(And now, stay tuned for more graduation/vacation photos coming soon!! And I promise they won't ALL be such terrible iPhone quality photos!)

May 08, 2013

How to Buy Saltwater Sandals (and How to Shop Kids' Shoes)

Saltwater sandals

I've gotten a lot of questions about where I bought my fuschia Salt Water sandals, so I thought I'd write up a little post on tips for your Salt Water buying.

I've seen Saltwaters a lot online and had been thinking of getting them, but what tipped me over the edge was when I was at Camille's house one Friday night and saw her TWO NEW PAIRS!! Red and pale pink! And they were so cute, I wanted to take them home! Especially the piiiink ones! (C and I are pretty much the same size in shoes, so it totally would've worked!) I went home and looked them up online, and Camille was sweet and even sent me the link to where she bought her two pairs from Zappo's ($42 + free shipping).

BUT! In my online searching, I had discovered a few things.

1- They were $36.95 at Nordstrom! (ie- cheaper + free shipping and free returns)

2- They were $20-something on Amazon! (ie- even cheaper + free shipping with Amazon Prime!)

3- They came in HOT PINK!! (OK, fuschia, technically...)

Obviously, I bought the pink ones. From Amazon, of course. :) I bought them online late Saturday night, and they arrived on Tuesday. I was one HAPPY customer!

Now a word on BUYING KIDS' SHOES (when you're NOT a kid)... 

I wear a size 6 in women's, but before I buy certain pairs of shoes (obv not shoes, like, high heels, you know?), I look in the kids' section to see if they have a similar version. Kids' shoes are usually significantly cheaper. Both of my pairs of Toms are from the kids' section, and they were $15 cheaper than their identical adult counterparts. I don't get it. But hey, I'm not complaining! Often, a brand will make adult/kids shoes that are EXACTLY the same. If that's the case, I'll buy the cheaper kids' version.

Other times, the shoes may LOOK identical, but the construction is NOT. Sperry's are an excellent example. (Also running shoes. Do NOT buy kids' running shoes. They have zero support! Learn from my mistakes...) The kids' Sperry's look just like the adult Sperry's, but they don't have the CUSHION and ARCH SUPPORT that the adult shoes have. THAT is worth paying more for! My Sperry's are one of the few pairs of shoes I haven't bought on sale, but they are also ridiculously comfortable, and I wore them practically every day last summer, so I still think the $90 was worth it. (btw Camille and I both have the Angelfish Sperry's! Great minds have similar taste in shoes! ;) Hers are gold, mine are rose gold. Like this.)

If you decide to buy the kids' shoes, you can calculate your correct size by subtracting 2 from your women's shoe size.

For example, I wear a size 6 in women's shoes. Subtract 2, and you get my kids' shoe size, which is 4 in kids' shoes. Magic! Same shoes, but cheaper!

May 07, 2013

Finished With Finals!!!

Yesterday at 9pm I had one of the world's greatest feelings. Like letting your breath out after holding it in for five minutes. Or coming up from the bottom of a pool after being underwater for who knows HOW long (AND you're afraid of water...) and finally being able to gasp for air!

end of finals!

Yesterday at 9pm, I finished my last final for the semester! It's not nearly as exciting as all of my classmates, with whom I started my grad program nearly two years ago, who took their very LAST final of grad school EVER last Wednesday! Not gonna lie: I'm pretty jealous! But I have a few short months and a few more classes to plug through, and pretty soon, I'll join them on the other side!

After our exam last Wednesday, our awesome professor (whom we all LOVED) took us to Elephant and Castle for a round of drinks on him (thanks for the mint limeade virgin mojito, David!).

And now, a few fuzzy iPhone shots of our celebration!

The Digital Advertising gang. Alas, our professor left before we took photos. :(
Drew is such a punk. He kept photobombing our girls photos, so I left in his evil eyes. Heh heh! ;)

I'm really excited and proud of everyone. I can't wait to wear my cap, circus tent gown, and hood (guys, I get a hood!!) with all y'all in a few weeks! #RaiseHigh #GSPMforLife!

May 05, 2013

May (Thus Far)

I know, I know. We're only five days into May, but here's some stuff from the last few days:

>>> My friend Jason got engaged this weekend! Back in September, we had a conversation about how much he liked this girl, but he was afraid to ask her out, etc. etc.. She was really nice to everyone, so he couldn't tell if she actually LIKE liked him, or if she was just being her usual nice, friendly self. I told him to not be a chicken and just ask her out! The worst that could happen was she'd say no, etc., and he did it! He asked her out! And guess what?? She LIKE liked him! And now they're engaged!! The moral of this story? 

"When in doubt, ask her(/him?) out!"

Remember this adorable picture of me with them from this post??

>>> Camille and I wore our Saltwaters! It was a hard decision choosing to buy the fuschia pair (mostly because I'm afraid of looking like I'm six years old), but I love the color, so whatevs! Who cares if I meet a six-year old with the same shoes, right? (Right??)

For reference, I wear a size 6 shoe, but the size 4 kids fits great! If you wear up to a size 7 in women's and are interested in buying a pair of these sandals, let me HIGHLY suggest you buy the kids' sizes. They're usually cheaper, and they look exactly the same! Also, AMAZON has Saltwaters for cheaper than anywhere else I've seen! (I paid just over $20 for mine!) This is the link I used. (Don't worry; it has adult sizes in a few colors!) You can see the price has gone up from when I bought mine, but they're still a pretty good deal!

>>> Steph and I rode our bikes to church again! (And this time, we rode them back, too!) In hindsight, it probably wasn't the smartest idea to ride 13 miles roundtrip on Fast Sunday (I may have had a few sips of water when I got home... Ooops.), but it was so fun! I look forward to many such bike to church outings this summer!

Guys, I rode in a PENCIL SKIRT! High fives for all! (photo by Steph)
(photo by Steph)

>>> I watched my friend Ali's little girl for a few hours one morning. Ali just had a brand new baby boy, and I wanted to give her a few hours off from double-baby duty. But this woman, I tell you, she is definitely an overachiever. What did she do with her morning off? Did she take a nap? Relax? Take some me-time? Nope! She painted her front door! Crazy girl...

Isn't her daughter adorable?? Such a cute, smart kid!

>>> I finished a paper for one of my  classes that literally took every ounce of courage and faith and energy I had to finish... I even resorted to googling "Grad school inspiration," because I felt SO demotivated... What I found was actually pretty amazing. There's a website called, and I did a little trickery to find the puppy version of it! Essentially, there's a space for you to type your paper, and every time you write another 100 words, the website shows you a new photo of an adorable puppy! So brilliant! That and Spotify (and God? praying? Gah!) are what helped get me through one of the hardest, most frustrating papers of my grad school career...

>>> The CES Fireside tonight (CES = Church Educational System. These "firesides" are 1-hour broadcasts targeted to young single Mormons. The speaker usually picks a topic (such as faith, etc.) and gives a talk about it.) was A- awesome. B- about President Monson. (Pres. Monson is the current Prophet and President of the LDS Church.) My favorite part was when Elder Walker said President Monson is a lot like Nephi. Why? Well, you may or may not know that Nephi is my BoM (Book of Mormon) "crush." (I know... That's SUCH a nerdy Mormon thing to have!) Nephi is just the greatest! He's faithful and obedient, he likes to learn and asks questions, he's ever the optimist, he's "large in stature" (I maybe like tall men? Yes, I know I'm 5 feet tall...), what's not to love?? President Monson is equally amazing. And let's not forget he's a UTE! ICYMI or want to watch it again, the broadcast is available online here.

Aren't President Monson and his wife just the cutest??  (via)
Speaking of everyone's favorite spiritual crushes, how adorable is this photo of young President Uchtdorf?? (Pres. Uchtdorf is another LDS Church leader.)


>>> I got hit on at the public library on Friday (where I spent the ENTIRE day. 10am-6pm...). A guy came up to me and asked if I'd watch his laptop while he ran out to his car. I said sure. Then he handed me a note that said, "Hello, I couldn't help noticing you, because I found you quite beautiful. By the way, my name is  (something illegible that starts with an A?), and if possible, I'd love for us to get to know each other and possibly exchange contact info. Regards, A?)" It was all very unusual. Unfortunately, I was NOT interested, but I made sure to be kind and gracious in my response, because it takes a lot of guts to walk up to a stranger and say that... Also, it made me wish Mormon men would be as assertive as non-Mormon men. Confidence is attractive, fellas! Try it some time!

And with that, I'm off to bed. I'm working for a few hours in the morning and then studying for my LAST FINAL OF THE SEMESTER!!! Think of me at 7pm and say a li'l prayer for me?