August 22, 2014

#100daysleft

Today marks the first of the last 100 days of my 20s.

As you can imagine, I have a lot of thoughts in my head. I vacillate between these:

keepcalm
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But mostly, I feel like this:

via

I feel excited to live up these last 100 days before starting a whole new chapter of my life. Of course, I don't anticipate any crazy changes from November 29th to November 30th, but I'm excited to think of what my 30s will bring!

In my 20s, I've earned Bachelor's degree and gone to grad school. I've seen more of the country and the world than I did in my first two decades combined (though still not enough!). I've fallen in love -- and back out of love. I've set goals, and I've achieved them. I've set goals, and I've failed. I've made lifelong friends and kept up with old friends. I mastered the art of chocolate-chip cookie baking and learned how to make bread. I've gotten my hopes up, only to have them dashed to pieces. I've served a mission and experienced my testimony become... something tangible, the thing that continues to sustain me through life's troubles. I've gotten to know God and Jesus Christ personally, and I've gained the sure, doubtless knowledge that the Atonement was real. (This is probably my greatest life achievement so far, and I know this knowledge will serve me the rest of my life.) I've grown personally and professionally and shattered boundaries nobody in my family had before. In my 20s, I became me. Truly, I've been blessed in this last decade, and I think this decade, more than the two before it has shaped and impacted my life, mostly for the better.

In my 30s, I hope to continue my personal and professional growth. I want to love others, and I want to fall in loveMy greatest desire for this next decade is to marry and start my own family. I want to get out of debt. To travel and see the world! Read good books and buy a home. Start my own company. (Not sure what kind of company just yet, but I want to set myself up to have the flexibility to work on my own time.)  To be healthy and happy and to have enough money to help my family. And I want to keep learning and to save $$ and to do good in the world.

But for now, I'm going to live up my last days as a 29-year old. :) Cheers to my 20s and to having just #100daysleft!

August 21, 2014

Ashley's Birthday: A Painting Party

Remember how I mentioned my friend Ashley was the one who organized the scavenger hunt excursion at theNational Gallery of Art a few weekends ago?

That’s because she IS an artist! She’s an art teacher by profession, and for her birthday this summer, she chose to celebrate by teaching an art class to her friends. That’s right. She chose to celebrate her birthday by working, because she is just that giving and awesome. And talented! I mean just look at her! (Fun fact: she does a lot of her painting with her fingers instead of a brush.)

Ashley's birthday party!

And here we are, her fine pupils:

Ashley's birthday party!

Painting came a liiiiitle more naturally for some of us. Like these geniuses who totally blew me away!


Ashley's birthday party! Ashley's birthday party!

OK, Westin (top) is an architect, so I guess it wasn't a surprise that he's so artistically inclined. But Kevin? Dude, Kevin is a complete Renaissance man! He is on a break from medical school so he can get a Master's in... Something-Super-Science-y (it's a real degree)...  at Georgetown University, he rock climbs, he sings, he plays the cello, apparently he paints... The man is just full of surprises!

And then there were the rest of us...

Ashley's birthday party! Ashley's birthday party!Ashley's birthday party!
Ashley's birthday party!

Annnnd here's my finished product!

Ashley's birthday party!
Someone call the Smithsonian before this beauty gets snatched up! ;) jk jk

Best. birthday party. ever! Painting was so much fun, and it was surprisingly relaxing! Thanks for such a fun night, Ash! I'm sure glad you were born. :)

Ashley's birthday party!
Right: Another Ashley masterpiece, painted by -- yep, you guessed it -- her fingers!  **mind blown **

August 19, 2014

NYC: Post-Power Summit

*Note: this is a catch-up post from earlier this spring. More coming your way soon!*

Back in April, we held our first Power Summit conference of the year in NYC. I stayed a day and a half extra post-Power Summit and had myself some lovely little adventures.

Sunday started out with Church in Manhattan, where I joined Jasmine, one of my mission companions. It was Stake Conference, and while I didn't see any of my favorite bloggers, I did see an old high school friend, Allison and her sweet baby girl, Scout! (Awkward (me, at least) photo below.)

Manhattan LDS temple NYC churching

After church, I took a moment to enjoy this concert at Lincoln Square:

NYC

And then I met up with my friend Rachel! We enjoyed the most expensive Whole Foods picnic of all time while lounging in the sunshine (along with the rest of NYC) in Central Park. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of this part. :( I took a sweet 360 video, buuut I deleted it from my phone. :( :( :(

Post-picnic, I made my way over to Jamsine's apartment and joined her and her friends for a little Mormon YSA BBQ. :) It was fun to get to know some of her friends in such a relaxed setting and with such a great view.

NYC rooftop BBQ

Post-BBQ, we went back to Jas's place, where we only managed to take terrible photos that shan't be posted, painted our nails, and watched "Dancing With the Stars." We girl talked and hung out, and it was so, so fun! We haven't spent this much time together in a few years, and it was awesome to see that our conversation flowed as if no time had passed at all. (And aren't those the very best kinds of friendships?) You know, I think I've realized about myself that, unlike, many people, I don't have a solid group of core friends who are friends with each other. I have dear friends from many phases of my life, and they are each dear and unique to me in their own ways, but there isn't this one solid group, where we've all been friends forever and ever and are all equally friends with each other. I suppose the exception would be my OCVC sisters, but that's a special group and bond unlike any other. :)

Anyway, here's a photo of Jas before she left on her bike commute the next morning:

NYC photos

And then I took myself on a walk in the UWS.

NYC Central Park NYC Central Park 

First up? Levain Bakery, of course! I wanted to spend the morning in Central Park, and obviously, I needed New York's best chocolate-chip cookie to make the journey with me. :) I bought two cookies -- one for Jimmy (aka partner-in-crime) and one for myself to enjoy back in DC.

Levain Bakery

Central Park! Central Park! Central Park!

I call the above my "collection of NYC clichés" gallery. Hot dog? Check. Central Park check? Picture of my feet while I lounge? Check.

Being raised by an avid Beatles fan, of course I had to stop by "Strawberry Fields," the Central Park memorial to John Lennon, near the site of his death.

NYC Central Park Central Park! NYC NYC NYC

On my way back to Jas's apartment to get my luggage, I passed a taco truck AND Gray's Papaya, so of course, I had to stop at both. (Don't judge! I needed something for dinner on the train back to DC!)

Gray's Papaya NYC taco truck

I got dizzy as I passed the Trump Tower.

Trump Tower NYC

And then I underestimated NYC traffic and missed my train. :( The worst part was that in my rush, I spilled my Gray's piña colada all over my hot dogs. :( The second worst part was I had to pay $80 to change my train ticket. :(

NYC NY & PA

On the bright side, I still had my Levain cookie! And it was still a fun, super relaxing excursion. As stressful as work can be sometimes, I feel really blessed to have so many opportunities to travel because of my job, and I look forward to exploring more cities in 2014. :)

August 17, 2014

Moab!

When I was home last month, I convinced my mother to take a quick road trip to... Moab! It's one of my very favorite places, and it was really fun to be there with the fam. (Or most of them, at least. My sister couldn't get off work, and well, obviously when your parents are divorced, family trips usually only include one parent.)

This trip was a bit of a compromise with my mother. She's slightly (ha.) more high maintenance than the rest of us, and her idea of a great vacation doesn't usually involve hiking, sweating, or rigorous physical activity. We originally wanted to go camping (we = my brothers and me), but we settled for staying at a hotel in town and still doing the hiking and nature-ing.

Our trip interfered with the USA vs. Belgium game of the World Cup, but thanks to the ESPN app, we were still able to catch most of the game on my iPhone. From our car in the middle of nowhere, we joined Americans everywhere in awe of U.S. goalkeeper, Tim Howard. The BEST was when some brilliant person changed this entry on Wikipedia. Lol!

Moab

We stayed the first night at the Kokopelli Suites. The customer service from the manager was horrendous, but the price was a steal, so I think I'd still come back here. It's basically like renting a furnished apartment, incl. 2 queen beds, a futon, living room, fully stocked kitchen, patio area, hot tub, etc. Nothing too fancy, but definitely comfortable.

We took it easy our first night and had dinner at the Moab Diner on Main Street (try the Kokopelli Chicken dinner. It includes their "famous green chili" and is quite good!) and walked around the shops in town. It was fun to see al the Western-themed boutiques and souvenirs.

Moab
I'd totally wear those red boots, a la Ted Mosby!
Moab

The next day, the hiking was ON! Our goal? Delicate Arch. But first, we took some seflies!

Moab Moab

Arches National Park is like nowhere else on earth. I've only been there one other time, but it left quite an impact on me and really is one of my very favorite places.

Moab Moab

The hike to Delicate Arch isn't too far (distance), but it's basically uphill for a good portion. My mom had never done a hike like this before, and I was proud of her and of all of us for making it. I kept telling everyone that the hike was a metaphor for life. At some points, maybe the thought,
I'm not gonna make it. I can't possibly take on more step." may cross our minds, but it's absolutely worth it to keep going, and we definitely have the strength to carry on. It was really nice how everyone coming back down would tell us, "Just a little bit further." Or, "You're almost there!" And isn't that just like the people God places in our path to encourage us and to lift us up when we think we can't go on anymore? :)

Moab

Sometimes, we'd see the top of a hill, and we'd think, There it is! We're nearly there! But when we'd get to the top, we'd realize we still had quite a ways to go. At any point, we could've called it a day and just gone back. What we'd already seen was beautiful and amazing, and it wouldn't have been a total loss. But we knew we hadn't reached our goal, so we kept going.

And finally, we rounded a corner, and we had made it!

Moab
She did it!! :) So proud.
Moab
Moab
This one's one of my favorites!
Moab

We rested for a minute, ate our lunches, and then took some more photos. Because what's the point of making it all the way there, if we didn't ACTUALLY make it to touch the arch?? Can you see how tiny we look there at the bottom? Also, I'm kind of bummed that the guy who took our photo didn't get the whole arch. This one was the best of all the takes.

Moab

Naturally, I turned some cartwheels, because duh.

Moab

Ahhhh, it was so fun to be there! The hike back down was a breeze in comparison. Until we got to the parking lot, and I realized I had lost our car keys somewhere along the hike. I remember I had them the first time we stopped for a break, and I didn't remember having them after that. Unfortunately, I had no idea WHERE we'd taken our break.

I said a desperate prayer, and my brother got the idea to go check the car, just in case someone had found our keys. Lo and behold, someone HAD. I was absolutely blown away by how quickly and specifically my prayer had been answered. How blessed we felt! Such a tender mercy! I wiped tear from my cheek as I said a most sincere prayer, and we were on our way.

We ordered Chinese take-out for dinner (Jason ordered in Chinese!), and we stayed in and watched a movie. The next morning, my mom and the boys enjoyed some pool time. (I'm afraid of water, remember?

Moab
The BEST part of this picture is Jason's ridiculous RM tan line! Look how much darker his face is than the rest of his body! LOL!
We took our sweet time getting ready and had a very relaxed morning. This was a vacation, after all. We lounged and packed and got some more Chinese takeout for lunch, and then we explored the town some more.

Moab

And then we drove home. (Where our car overheated and we had to pull over and get some coolant, but no matter. We made it!)

Moab Moab

Thanks for such a lovely time, Moab!