March on and off Instagram

I know this sounds cheesy, but looking back through your photos over the past few months, your smile has changed and it’s for the better. It’s a very “at peace with yourself” kind of change and it’s physically showing.” – Friend

I see life as chapters and big changes. Moving, birthdays, births, deaths, break-ups, new relationships, job changes, all serve as chapter endings and beginnings. My last chapter or pivot point was in October with both a physical move and break-up and two deaths. So much can change in such a short amount of time that it feels like a life time ago. March was a good month. These instagrams show good food, good friends, and a couple of trips that involve two beaches in two different states and a canyon. There’s a hint and homage to a future trip being taken soon to Greece. Not pictured on instagram from March was my first crush in years. I’m skeptical the crush will blossom into a new relationship but it was such a lovely surprise to feel butterflies that I smile at the memory and experience. March, you were a gem.

You can find me on instagram doing the best I can to linger on the special moments in my life at curiousnotions.


Having Adventures Without Traveling

Local Turtle Pond

Local Turtle Pond

Some time ago a nomadic soul who recently planted roots asked me how I managed to keep the explorer in me fulfilled when I’m not traveling. There are infinite amount of experiences to be had which means you don’t necessarily have to get on a plane to start exploring. As much as I love traveling, it’s not always feasible to hop on a plane or jump in the car with an out of town destination.

Be a sponge for local news and events. I am always on the lookout for things to do in Austin and Houston, my home-bases. Even if my schedule isn’t free, I’ll mentally bookmark the local gems. Just last week I finally checked out a rooftop telescope that has been open to the public at the University of Texas for decades. I saw Jupiter and four of her moons. I’ve had access to this building for thirteen years and still just manage to experience its roof and peer at Jupiter for the first time. Examples of some of my local gems? In Houston there’s an obscure museum called the National Museum of Funeral History and in Austin we have the Cathedral of Junk. What does your town have? When was the last time you checked out your local tourist spots?

Be deliberate. I’ve been consciously looking for a new experience at least once a week since the summer of 2005. I have not missed a week and it comes so easily to me now. It can be as small as trying a new restaurant or cooking with a new ingredient or finally taking that dorky Segway tour of your city. Scan your Livingsocal and Groupon emails for new experiences in your town. That’s how I found myself taking a bee-keeping class and rolling down a hill strapped inside a plastic ball. All of these experiences required no booking of airfare or lodging.

Have friends with adventurous spirits. I recommend being friends (and dating) people who aren’t afraid of looking stupid. People who don’t mind making fools of themselves as they learn how to ride that Segway or who are brave enough to be in that plastic ball with you. These like-minded friends will also be in the know of all the unique nooks and crannies your town has that most locals take for granted.

Be open and say yes. I’m willing to bet that a lot of us are so comfortable with the familiar that we make excuses. Excuses are dangerous stories we tell ourselves on why we can’t have or do something. Adventures aren’t limited to faraway places. Be open. Next time something strikes your fancy, google it along with your city. See if your city has a sensory deprivation chamber after you hear about it on the Joe Rogan podcast. If your friend invites you to a reading party, even if it’s easier to just read in your pajamas at home and not suffer the social anxiety you get from meeting new people, say yes.

Traveling is an easy gateway into the feelings you’re bound to feel when your horizons are being stretched and you are seeing things for the first time. I get it. I can never get enough of travel. But it’s still possible to feel awestruck anywhere you happen to be.

Now that I have you here. I need your help fundraising for Make-A-Wish and fulfilling one of my local adventures. If I’m one of the first 200 people in Austin to raise $1500, I get to rappel off a 38 story building. Help me raise money for a good cause and scare myself silly?

Grand Canyon

I usually plan my trips around metropolitan destinations. However, I hadn’t spent time with Ashley Riordan, Nicole, and Ashley D as a foursome since we went to Vegas almost two years ago. I also never visited a National Park before and still need to scratch off Arizona on my 50 states list. So when Ashley Riordan expressed an interest in visiting the Grand Canyon, we all jumped aboard and had a reunion trip. I’ve never experienced nature so breathtaking in person. I landed back in Austin with such an ache in my heart. The views and backdrops of our weekend there were unreal and being around girls I love so much felt like finding a long lost beloved sweatshirt that still fits. I newly resolve to travel with them at the very least once a year.

If you want a more thorough recap of our trip, might I suggest Ashley Riordan’s? But first take a look at my favorite photos.

Happy As I Am

In between the two big relationships of my life which cumulatively lasted almost ten years, I was single for most of two years. I remember I really came into my own during this time. I actualized facets of my personality and my identity that laid dormant between the ages of 18 and 22. My sense of adventure and wanderlust no longer was hidden within me but became a manifestation of how I live my life. I cultivated gratitude, joy, and self-reliance. I learned so much and had so much fun doing it that I almost feel sorry for those who never get to experience the self actualization that comes with living on your own and as an untethered person. I have friends who have never been single in their adult lives and I can’t help but wonder how much they might have missed out on their self-knowledge.

This is who I am when there’s no one to come home to. This is who I am without the context of a romantic relationship. I am someone who likes to read and doesn’t like watching football. I am someone who can eat ramen three times a week because I much rather cook for people than just me. I plan things out and leave slots in my calendar to “rest” but when it’s time to rest I use those pockets to make spontaneous plans. I kill time at the library or book store when I don’t want to come home to an empty apartment. I love to travel. I’d love to do it with a significant other but if he is not around because he doesn’t want to be or because I’m not in a relationship, I will go without him. This is just a fraction of what I learned my first time as a single adult.

I’m not saying there isn’t a lot to learn when I’m in a relationship. I learned what kind of communicator I am and what my needs are from a partner. I learned about boundaries and nonnegotiable after testing them out in relationships. I reinforced my values within the context of being someone’s girlfriend and I know I will go through that again if ever I become someone’s wife or mother. I am just thankful for the time I’ve spent truly on my own. I value the security and connection and love that comes with romantic love, but if I never fulfill that again, I can be happy and fulfilled as I am.

And that feels like power.

Questions: What have you learned about yourself while you were single? While you were in relationships?

February on Instagram


A Walk Down Valentine Lane

Since childhood, Valentine’s Day has always been my favorite holiday. When I share this information, the most popular criticism I receive is, “It’s because you’re usually in a relationship.” Sure, since the age of 18, I’ve been in 2-3 relationships that lasted a cumulative ten years. Ironically, I chose men who didn’t share an inkling of my enthusiasm of red and pink candy and cheesy cards. I’ve managed to still carry on with my festivities with or without them. It was always a week of celebrating relationships with family and friends and spreading cheer. The last couple of years my enthusiasm for my favorite holiday started to die. I think intimately sharing a life with someone who couldn’t get behind a holiday that was invented by the greeting card industry finally took its toll.

This year I was going to take a break from my usual Valentine’s Day fanfare with intentions to throw heart-shaped confetti at my friends next year. Luckily for me, I have good friends who either share my past enthusiasm or play along for my enjoyment. Stephanie asked me to have a Valentine dinner with her on Friday and Anita came over last weekend and we crafted Valentine’s Day cards together. They inspired me to not completely ignore something I used to love. On that note, I am sharing my favorite Valentine memories.

♥ At my previous job, my coworkers knew my that it was my favorite holiday and that I have an obsession with chips. They taped bags of chips on my door and a computer print out of flowers.

♥ My brother and I had a Valentine Date at Build-A-Bear and crafted each other stuffed animals. I still sleep with the pink teddy bear he made me.

♥ My friend Thomas and I organized a card making party and made cards to personally deliver to the residents of a nursing home.

Cindy sending me flowers!

♥ Jennifer and I buying McDonalds for dinner and watching Love Actually. Our dessert was chocolate fondue.

♥ My high school made it mandatory that juniors and seniors left campus on Wednesdays to serve the community. One year Valentine’s Day fell on a Wednesday which was also the day the McDonalds on our street had 40 cent cheeseburgers. We were gifted candy from the school we were serving so my co-volunteers made Valentine’s Day lunches of cheeseburgers, fries, and candy for the homeless panhandlers.

♥ Instagramming Bob last year.

♥ I used to work in the medical field. We had a patient who liked to doodle on his urine sample cups. He brought in a red marker and drew hearts on his cup. I know this is gross but I find it kind of a funny memory.

♥ Wrapping presents to send in the mail for my parents and gal pals.

♥ Making Valentine’s Day cookies with a roommate and inadvertently using wax paper instead of parchment paper causing our apartment to smoke up and our heart-shaped cookies turn into broken heart cookies.

♥ The Valentine Week on Totes Awesome Channel where we were actually in the same city.

Okay this trip down memory lane is pulling me out of the Valentine funk. I hope if you’re feeling grumpy about this holiday that you are reminded that there are people around you who love you.

Question: What are your favorite lovey friendship memories?

Truth at the Edge

In high school, I really enjoyed my bioethics class. So much I took it again for another year. Then I pursued both a biology and a philosophy degree in hopes to create a bioethics background by combining the two studies. I had my head down through college and pursued both degree plans. It wasn’t til my last semester of college that I blinked, looked up, and said to myself, “I actually don’t want this.” It took getting very close to graduating undergrad to realize I did not want to get a graduate degree in Medical Ethics.

Some years and two jobs ago, I walked away from a career without a back up plan. I had worked at it for so long with blind abandon. I found it fulfilling. I loved the relationships I was building with my patients as a clinical research coordinator. There was room to grow. But I ignored the gnawing that this wasn’t for me. After I finally was brave enough to acknowledge that three years was a good amount of time to know when something doesn’t feel right, I walked away without a back up plan. I exhaled, jumped, and flailed all the way down.

On my way down from that leap of faith, I grabbed the next job path that came to mind. I reflected that I liked my previous work during college as a program leader for a summer camp for at risk children. I did a great job commanding attention from the kids and thrived. So again, I put my head down, threw down money, and started to get certified to be a teacher in Austin. I studied, went to classes, tested, and got my certification. It wasn’t until then that I looked up and thought, “No, this isn’t it either.”

Sometimes it takes me getting to the very edge of something, my nose nearly touching that goal, before I finally open my eyes and acknowledge an inner truth. This isn’t it. Walk away. I’ve never regretted walking away. I’m not one who walks away lightly when it’s something I’ve actually committed myself to. I put blinders on in my commitments. I suspect it’s a mixture of love and dedication but also the fear of facing a scary truth. I didn’t want to look up during college, because if not bioethics then what? I didn’t want to look up mid-career because if not this career, then what? I didn’t want to leave my last relationship, because if not this man, then whom?

I’ve been hard on myself for not reading the signs in my life until I get to the very edge. But today, I decided to exhale. And be glad that I’ve always managed to walk away before losing myself. Even when it’s scary. Even after all I’ve invested. Maybe it’s okay to get as close as I can to the edge. Maybe that’s when the truth is the clearest.

photo credit: Thomas Chen Photography

2014 Resolutions

In 2008, I made 17 goals and completed 14.

In 2009, I made 17 goals and completed 7.

In 2010, I made 20 goals and completed 14.

In 2011, I made 18 goals and completed 13.

In 2012, I made 17 goals and completed 12.

In 2013, I made 16 goals and completed 8.

That’s an average of 17.5 goals a year. In the last 6 years, I’ve always had my goals mostly drafted up by November of the previous year. After ending such a long relationship, I’ve unmarried myself to so many projections of my future that I feel pretty rootless right now. It surprises me that I’m relearning who I am because one of the biggest facets of my personality is that I’m very goal driven. This free floating existence I’m living right now is surprising me.

This year, I’m going to strive towards only five. I hope to learn how to relax and how to breathe. I will channel the butterfly and see what pretty flowers I land on with the space I cleared out.

(In 2014, I resolve to go to Greece, visit four new states, save some money for parents’ retirement gift fund, pay down almost one half of my student loans, and read fifty books.)

photo credit: Thomas Chen Photography

Final 2013 Resolutions Progress Report

I lost a lot of steam in my pursuit of completing goals towards the end of the year due to life changes which resulted in more failed goals than usual. I think in 2014, I’ll trim my list of goals down and relax more.

photo credit

Personal Finance

  • Save $1,000 in the Gift Fund for my parents. Done! I focused on this financial goal first since it was the smallest goal. I put some of my Christmas gift money and a third of my tax refund into this account.
  • Make $3,000 outside from full-time job income. $934.04. 31% done. I’ve had this goal for three years now and have never achieved it. I’m dropping this in 2014. FAIL
  • Pay down $4,500 in principal of student loans. I’ve actually paid 1081 dollars over my goal. I threw all I had extra into this goal.
  • Open up a Roth IRA account with a new bank and deposit $2,000. 500/2000. FAIL


  • Try 10 more Vietnamese recipes. 7/10. I’ve learned one new Vietnamese dish since the last progress report. This is the third year I’ve had this goal so I now know how to make a grand total of 27 recipes. FAIL

    Dish 6: Vietnamese Crepes
  • Complete 10 sewing learning projects. 10/10. My last sewing project was my favorite sewing project.

  • Finish transcribing dad’s journal. FAIL
  • Read 50 books. 50/50.
  • Write 104 blog posts for my food blog. 43/104. FAIL
  • Write 174 blog posts for this blog. 121/174. I set the goal at 174 to mean an average of 3 posts a week and a post a day in November. FAIL
  • Finish Sketchbook Project 2013 in time. I uploaded a copy of the entire book to my Google+ account.
  • Visit two new states. 4/2. Oregon, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky.
  • SEE PARIS WITH KIM. Done! It was amazing.

Relationships and Well-Being

  • Work out 156 times for at least 30 minutes each session. 105/156. FAIL

  • Cook 24 vegetarian dinners. 16/24. This goal was set to mean an average of 2 times a month. FAIL

  • Send Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day cards. I sent a few cards for Thanksgiving and Valentine’s but I’m still behind on a few thank you for being awesome cards.

Question: How did you fare in 2013 with your goals?

2013 in Review

It was a monumental year. I turned the dreaded Thirty, ended a long term relationship, fell in love with Paris, and faced tiny and giant fears.


I rang in the New Year with Alan and the same friends I’ve celebrated New Year with for the last 6 years. I treasure traditions. Little did I know this would have been the last year of our six year streak. More on that when you get to December.


Sometimes being a food blogger affords me some awesome opportunities. In February I had the opportunity to be a tasting judge for That Takes the Cake for the second consecutive year. I also visited the little rescue zoo in Austin for the first time with my little from Big Brothers and Big Sisters.


Alan and I celebrated five years together. We did not make it to the end of the year. Our relationship has shaped a lot of who I am today and for that I’m grateful.


I celebrated being matched with my little from Big Brothers and Big Sisters for five years by going to the new racetracks in Austin and watching the MotoGP Races. I can’t believe it’s been almost six years with this not so little little of mine. I worry about her a lot because I find growing up in today’s society is a lot harder for young people now than it was before technology has changed how we interact. That said, it has also been a pleasure to see her become a young lady. I realize I’m talking like an old person.


May was such a life changing treasure. I visited Europe for the first time since high school. Kim and I spent almost a week in Paris, a couple of days in Amsterdam, a day in Brussels, and a night in Istanbul. When I think about this experience my heart aches with bittersweet longing.


I spent a lot of this month acting as a silent auction chair for a charity event that the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance hosted in July. It was a lesson in rejection as I cold called businesses requesting donations. When I skim my Instagram feed in June I see a lot of food. I went to a lot of restaurant tastings, cooked and plated many dinners, and tried 16 pizzas from four restaurants in just a day.


I scratched off Oregon on my states goal by spending the weekend in Portland at the World Domination Summit with Anita, Treavor, and Jennifer. It was a magical and inspiring weekend that still makes me smile when I think of it. We had one of the best Thai meals I’ve ever had and delightful cupcakes and saw so many great speakers. I ended the month by celebrating my 30th with a birthday potluck party centered around ball shaped foods. It was a ball!


We had a Cookbook Book Club meeting and actually cooked. We are all busy women so our Cookbook Book Club meets more like every two-three months and every other meeting is so late on a week night we sometimes opt to eat at a restaurant instead of cooking. I have loved getting to know these ladies over good food.


I spent a weekend in the country outside of Dallas with Kim and her friends. Anita and Treavor joined us during the day. We rented a darling cabin and roasted marshmallows over an open fire. It was romantic and evoked feelings of autumn nostalgia. I then spent just a day in Miami painting my friend’s new house for hours and hours on end. I did manage to steal ten minutes of beach time on the way to the airport. It made me think of my dad.


A month of loss. I lost two friends to illnesses and with a heavy heart walked away from my almost six year relationship with Alan. October was also the first month of a new year of attempted monthly projects. For October I took at least 10 shots with my new DLSR.


I blogged every day in November. It was a difficult month. I moved out of the apartment I shared with Alan and cried for hours on end for days straight. It started to look up when I self-medicated with lots of dates with friends, including a third annual Thanksgiving potluck picnic pictured below.


I called December my Fear Factor December and I tackled my fears almost daily. I took a bee keeping class, spent an hour in a sensory deprivation chamber, started to release anger I’ve hung on to for four years, used a blow torch, boiled a live lobster, donated blood, and went on a police ride-along all in an effort to face my fears. December was hard, fun, and amazing. I scratched out three new states in two days and met a couple of my Internet friends. For the first time in six years I will not be spending my New Year’s in downtown Austin dolled up. I decided to honor the life changes that occurred toward the end of this year with a change of scenery. Instead of of heels and sparkles, I’m going for comfort and sparkles with a night in with my best friend, Kimmy. We will have our New Year’s tradition on the actual first day of the year for the first time in a few years.

In short, 2013 was both so hard and so lovely and I don’t know what to expect of 2014. But I’m ready.

Previous years: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Question: What are five highlights and one “lowlight” from your year?