Monday, March 31, 2008

Big Boy Bed

I am banning Luke from the pet aisle in Walmart. I was innocently looking for some facial cleansers when he went to browse over at the next aisle - the pet aisle. Next thing I know, when I went over to meet him, he had put a bag of chicken jerky treats and a kitty (yes, kitty) bed in the shopping cart. Totally unnecessary, I told him. Pargo likes to lay on us and blankets, not in a little box. His comeback was that this little bed will travel with him - to my parents' or Lilo's, whenever they may babysit him.

Fast forward to a couple of hours later. As very evident by {sugarlens}, I spend an obscene number of hours on my computer and blogging. I really need to cut back and I am going to; now that spring is here and summer will arrive shortly, I am going to spend more time outside. However, for the time that I do spend on my computer, I can feel less guilty about it now. With this new bed, I can safely put Pargo on the table so he can be right next to me while I work. I get to kill two birds with one stone - I get to spend time with Pargo while browsing/blogging.

However, I still need to train him to sleep in his big boy bed. Minutes after I put him in the bed, he crawled out and insisted on curling up on my lap instead. And how do you say no to this adorable little face? Well, you don't.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Day Of Hanami

Living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., I always know that spring has officially arrived when the cherry blossom trees on the Tidal Basin bloom their delicate pink and white petals. They signal the coming of warmer weather. And every spring, people, locals and tourists alike, flock to DC for the annual cherry blossoms viewing (also known as hanami in Japanese). It's not hard to see why this is such a popular attraction. The cherry trees are pretty in pink and they make great photo opportunities, especially during sunrise and sunset.

This year, on the first day of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, my mom and I arrived in the city by 7:15am, our goal was to take pictures when there are less people and when the light is soft. On the way to the Tidal Basin, we walked past WWII Memorial and made that our first photo stop. We then spent 2 1/2 hours making our way around the Tidal Basin, stopping at the FDR Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. Afterwards, we walked around on the big grassy field in front of the Washington Monument for the 42nd Annual Kite Festival. We later made our way to the National Building Museum for the National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day (very boring!). Whew! What a busy day.

The WWI Memorial is located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. It's one of the newer architectures in DC, opened to the public in the spring time of 2004. I have been to the Memorial a number of times and to be honest, it's not one of my favorites. It's one of those places that I zoom through, snap a few pictures, and put a check next to it. In the summer time, the place is always flooded with people, dipping their feet in the pool. I took a number of pictures here, but in the interest of saving space, I picked few of my favorites that best depict the
Memorial and created a collage. I especially like the one with shadows of my mom and me, facing the Lincoln Memorial (first column, 2nd picture).

After a quick stop at the WWII Memorial, we trekked on to the Tidal Basin. I have too many favorites from the day, it was hard to narrow down to a few to post on {sugarlens}. In the end, I am probably still posting too many of the same thing, so please bear with me! :) I don't go see cherry blossoms every year, despite the convenience of living just 30 minutes away. Often times, the area is just too crowded with people and strollers and it takes the fun and enjoyment out of it. Very often, I end up spending more time people-dodging rather than viewing the flowers.

My mom and I decided to go at the crack of dawn this year. I am glad we did. We had no problems driving in and finding a space. It was a bit cold early in the morning (the weather warmed up later around 10am when the sun came out), but in the end, I am pretty happy with my pictures so it was well worth it!

I really like the next 2 pictures with the gorgeous reflection of light. Look closely and you will see the Jefferson Memorial in the first picture.

The trail around the Tidal Basin is roughly 2 miles. All around the trail are pink and white Yoshino cherry trees. Unfortunately, the trees around the Tidal Basin only have about a 50-year life span because visitors climb them, pluck their blossoms, and walk on the grass close to their trunks. In Japan, in a more cared environment, cherry trees can live to more than 100 years.

Here is a picture of the blossoms and the Washington Monument. It has been a while since I've been up on top. It's on my to-do list for the summer. Pretty picture, no?

Another shot of the Jefferson Memorial, a closer look. The Jefferson Memorial is very romantic in the evening because it lights up and gives a nice glow. A very popular location for proposals!

My mom took this picture of me taking pictures. Since we were there early, I was really able to take my time when taking pictures. No need to say "excuse me" all the time and have random people showing up in my pictures. I was really surprised to see that the few that came early just like us all had dSLR cameras. They are really a lot more common now. The one we were supposed to get in April won't actually be released until June now, so more waiting for us.

Peak bloom is when 70 percent of the blossoms of the cherry trees are open and lasts three to four days. We were there during the peak bloom days and saw full bloom trees such as the ones below. My personally prediction is that the trees will be at their prettiest early this week (3/31 - 4/2), and by this weekend may be a bit too late (4/5-4/6).

We also saw buds on some trees such as these. They made really nice photos, nevertheless.

Next up: *FDR, Jefferson & More Blossoms* and *Kite Festival & The Rest*

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spring Planting: More Growth

Part I and II

Time for another update! These pictures were taken at Day 26, but as you can see, my herbs are sprouting! I am a bit concerned about the cilantros because they growing taller and falling to the sides. The basils, on the other hand, are doing fantastically well. I can seriously smell the yummy goodness already! The pot is a bit crowded, but it doesn't seem to be stunting their growth so I am keeping my fingers crossed. With the warming weather, I hope they will grow faster and my next update will be titled "Spring Planting: Harvest Time!".

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Power of FatWallet

Hi, my name is Sugarlens and I am a Star-aholic.

Go ahead and tsk tsk me. I will embarrassingly admit that I have just started receiving this magazine in the mail. It's so nice to be in the loop on celebrity gossips again. I mean, when did Suri and Shiloh get to be so big? And what? Angelina is pregnant, with twins? Where have I been? I hope to redeem myself, though, by saying that I didn't pay for the subscription. That's right, I paid $0 for it. I got it for free.

So, my purpose for this post isn't to tell you what I just learned from the magazine (although I desperately want to know your thoughts on the love triangle between Jen, Kate & Owen). Instead, I want to share with you the awesomeness of FatWallet.

Luke and I both peruse FatWallet on a daily basis, although I think he does it a bit more frequently than me. Using FatWallet, we have found such sweet deals, often free stuff. We have received free photo prints, free sample size sundries, free food (including dog food for Pargo), free magazines (not just Star), free t-shirts, and the list goes on. While I would love to post such deals I find on {sugarlens}, I don't want to make my blog less personal. Therefore, if you love a good bargain or free stuff, I strongly encourage you to browse FatWallet every so often. It's really worth it!

Now, more importantly, is Brit and K-Fed back on for real?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My (Late) Discovery

I recently learned about Picasa. I am sure this Google application has been around for quite a while now, but I have just discovered it and since then I've been amazed by its capabilities and how it is integrated with all other Google apps. I have a crazy number of photos on my computer and Picasa is an invaluable tool to get organized! I *love* Google.

Once I downloaded the software and installed the application, Picasa instantly located and organized ALL the picture files on my computer by date. This is a one time scan. Afterwards, it will only scan the folders I specify. Since I store my pictures in a folder other than the default (ie, My Pictures or My Documents), I went to File>Add Folder To Picasa and added my folder (in my case, F:\PHOTOS\) to the Watched Folder list. This way, whenever I add new pictures to my PHOTOS folder, they will automatically be scanned by Picasa.

Picasa has a very clean and user-friendly interface. I can't gush enough about it! It makes a minimalist like me very happy.

Picasa has many neat options, such as minor editing. Without using Photoshop, I can now crop, auto color, auto contrast, turn photos to B&W, and a lot more. This is great for someone who doesn't have access to Photoshop.

Since I have a Gmail account, I can click on the Email button and send pictures to others using Picasa. It's so easy. I no longer have to open a new window, log into Gmail, and attach photos one by one. I can easily highlight the pictures I want to send, click on the Email button, and voila, done.

Similarly, I can select photos, click on the Blog This! button, and blog away. This makes life a lot simpler for bloggers like myself.

I can also upload my pictures to the Web Album and share them online with friends. I haven't tried it yet though. In fact, I am still playing with the application and learning. I am sure it can do so much more than what I listed. I am looking forward in getting more organized by utilizing this tool!

Do you have a method for organizing your pictures? Is there a tool that you use? Share with me!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

privatized profits and socialized losses

by Guest
Joyce commented the other day that I had not posted anything in a while. My reply was simple, almost all the stuff I want to post about would lead to long rants with lots of cursing about the world around us. For some background, my favorite economist these past few years is Nouriel Roubini and my idea of required readings are The Economist and Asia Times. Also, I've been criss-crossing the country lately and all of that has been grating on me as well. I do have somewhat of a respite this week, so I figured I'd throw a post up. So here are some short quips that have passed through my head:

-I've been waiting for the economy to go all to hell but I didn't expect the Fed to be so asinine as to keep dropping rates and killing the dollar along the way. This hit me square between the eyes a few weeks ago when I had to take my watch in for repairs. I had stripped the threads on the stem so I couldn't get the winding nub to seal. Well, the part that used to only cost $60 a few months ago was now gonna run me $120!! Thanks a lot Ben. I mean, cmon man, this is a not a liquidity problem, it's about solvency.

-Then there was this whole thing in Congress with Roger Clemens and his use of steroids. Who the hell cares? Isn't there more pressing issues in this country than some ballplayer using drugs? Sure, someone should probably be addressing this, but Congress? Last I checked, there was a war going on somewhere that the US started, right?

-And we have the motherload, the whole subprime bailout story. Part of which is the rebate check crap. I believe there are serious problems with this country, both in the short and long term, and not just on the financial front. Regardless, the thought of some stupid rebate check fixing things is beyond my comprehension. But what really lit my ass on fire was the fact that Joyce and I wouldn't get a penny of it. So basically, we've been working hard and saving our pennies to buy a place when the price is right, but because of those that did the complete opposite and bought stuff they couldn't afford, the wise Govvy decided to give the masses more cash (cash that the US Government doesn't even have) to throw around. The concept of negative and positive reinforcement is completely lost on the people in Washington. The stimulus package never should've passed, but since it did, it should've been a blanket across all segments of the population.


I could go on and on about each of these (I didn't even bring up Tibet and Darfur), but that last one segues into our little adventure last nite, TAXES. What an exercise in futility! Joyce and I spent hours dicking around with our taxes to whittle down the amount owed. We tried filing both separately and jointly and was able to knock a few grand off the final total, but we'll still have to fork out a big chunk of change. We've been using TaxSlayer for several years now and highly recommend it. You can use it for free and it holds your hand throughout the whole process, much like the other more expensive options like TurboTax or TaxCut. In the end, you are provided a 1040 form from which you can use to fill out your own hard copy to mail in. Or, you can opt to pay TaxSlayer $10 bucks to have it filed electronically. This may be our last year using this tool as we'll most likely seek out an accountant in the future. With no plans to buy into this insane housing market or desires to have any little Joyces and Lukes running around, we need someone to help keep the damn Govvy from robbing us blind. Then again, I hear most accountants are good at doing that as well...

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Letter To Pargo

Dearest Pargo,

You fill our days with joy and laughter. You show us unconditional love. You make our hearts melt with your big brown eyes. Thank you for being so cuddly, so cute, and so strange. Can't wait to spend many many many more years with you. Happy 2 years.

ai ni oh,
Mommy & Daddy

PS. We promise to find a little brother or sister for you soon.

-----
Note: Today marks our 2 year anniversary with Pargo. On this very day 2 years ago, we took a trip to Maryland and our lives were forever changed. :)

Photo taken shortly after Pargo's 1st birthday, in Fall 2006

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, March 24, 2008

O Is For Orchids

*Warning: This is a picture-heavy post*

This past weekend I went to the US Botanic Garden in DC. The exhibit on display, Alphabet Garden of Orchids, featured hundreds of exquisite and exotic orchids. I was really excited to go. When I was planning my wedding, I was really drawn to the beauty of cymbidium orchids. At more than $200 for 10 stems (each stem has several blooms), it was more than what I was willing to pay...so I didn't use them. Anyway, I was really looking forward in taking some pretty pictures!

We arrived well before 10am and found street parking without any problems. It was a cloudy day, but not too terribly cold. We parked a few blocks away and Pargo had fun walking. He received so much attention.

The Botanic Garden is located right next to the US Capitol. It's really convenient and you can totally spend a day in this little corner of DC.

The exhibit takes the visitors through all 26 alphabets, each explaining and celebrating the diversity of orchids. O is for Orchids!

Trying to be a bit creative, I took pictures of J, O, Y, C, and E. Using this tool I blogged about before, I made this collage! Pretty, if I do say so myself. :)

Different varieties of orchids....

Cymbidium orchids are absolutely my favorite! The moms wore them as corsages on wedding day, so at least I got to incorporate them a little bit. :)

While my mom and I walked around, taking pictures like crazy, Ken and Lilo sat on a bench and took care of Pargo the whole time (thanks guys!). I stopped by to say hello and took a picture with them.

My mom. She likes to take pictures more than me. Her picture collection is abundant and amazing! This was her second visit to the exhibit already.

And we can't forget about Pargo. He got more attention than the orchids. Seriously.

I will end this post with a few words of wisdom.

I have been in the DC area for nearly 20 years now, yet there are many places I haven't been to. This summer, Luke and I aren't planning any long trips so I am going to make an effort to visit more of DC and its neighborhoods. Look for more posts on DC travel in the near future!

I took a brief video. The garden had just opened, but already crowded with people.

video

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Deal!

I love online shopping. Gone are the days of driving to the mall and going through the sale racks while trying to balance my heavy coat and bags. Hello to the days of shopping in my jammies while playing with Pargo, and boxes delivered to my front door days later. What's even better about online shopping is when you find an incredible coupon code that's only good online. Here is the scoop.

Luke found a coupon code today for Ann Taylor via Slickdeals - $50 off $100. There is also a promotion currently for free shipping on any purchase order. Combine this with the coupon code, it's an awesome deal. Click click click and all of the sudden, 4 shirts were ordered! My workplace is business casual so these shirts fit right in with pencil skirts or pants. But I love that they can totally go casual too with a pair of jeans and flats.

Just in time for spring too! At first I was hesitant because I didn't really need new clothes, but Luke said this deal is too good to pass up. He loves a good deal and would actually get upset if I didn't buy anything. So I gave in and now these shirts are on their way to me!

Happy shopping to you!

Ann Taylor $50 off $100 Coupon good for 3/23 - 4/5
For a limited time enjoy free shipping too

Use Coupon Code 83500001

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday = Happy Birthday

Friday after work, I stopped by Sichuan Village in Chantilly to pick up some take-outs before going home. The occasion: my dad's birthday! I absolutely loooooove Sichuan Village. I adore their spicy dishes. They are yummy-licious! The restaurant is your typical Chinese restaurant, with fish tanks, sticky floors, and red lanterns. However, they offer two different menus, depending on if you speak Chinese or not. If not, they give you the menu with items such as orange chicken and beef broccoli. If you greet them in Chinese when you walk in, you are offered a sheet of laminated menu, in simplified Chinese, listing authentic Sichuan dishes. That is the menu I order off of. This is a restaurant I come back to again and again when I am craving for spicy foods. We haven't yet tried the buffet option at the restaurant, but it seems like the typical "Americanized" Chinese buffet, which I am not too interested in.

Besides the 2 veggie dishes my mom cooked, all others were from Sichuan Village. Each dish was spicier than the next. We all got hot while eating. I don't usually drink anything else besides water, but I was chugging down ice tea like a mad woman.

Afterward dinner, we had chocolate cake from Whole Foods and took some pictures (above). I worked hard all morning, while Luke snoozed away next to me, and came up with the design using Photoshop. I am pretty please with it! What do you think?

Happy Birthday, 老爸!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Visit to Chincoteague Island

Last year in the summer months prior to the wedding, Luke discovered Chincoteague Island. Chincotegue Island is located on Virginia's Eastern Shore (approximately a 4-hour drive from DC). Many people describe it as a charming island and a hidden gem! It's a place to relax, unwind, and enjoy the nature and wildlife. Last year, with my days cluttered with wedding planning tasks, I wasn't up for a weekend gateway. This year, however, my calendar is wide open.

While Luke had read all about the island last year, I was clueless about it. So to get myself up to speed, I spent some time reading the threads on TripAdvisor, perusing the Chincoteague Island's Official Tourist site, and browsing the photos on a personal website. What I learned was that Chincoteague is a place where people revisit year after year for its friendly locals and small town charm.

Assateague Island is located near Chincotegue. In fact, the entrance to Assateague is through Chincoteague on the Virginia side (there is a Maryland entrance too). Assateague offers hiking trails, sandy beaches, camping grounds, biking trails, and opportunities to see wildlife. We will, of course, be paying a visit to Assateague as well. I hope to see ponies!

Oddly enough, the place I picked for our stay at Chincoteague happens to be the one that Luke liked from last year when he was researching! We have reserved a waterfront room at the family-owned Waterside Inn for the last weekend of May. I am so looking forward in visiting this quaint and picturesque island!

To prep myself for the trip, I even borrowed Misty of Chincoteague, a children's book, from the library. This book was written by Marguerite Henry who actually stayed on the island when she wrote the book. Read more details here.

Photos from Travels with the Johnsons

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Where In The World Have I Been?

I have seen this idea executed a dozen of times, but this one here is actually not an eye sore. I like how they took a simple idea and made it nice by mounting it on a foam core board and putting a frame around it. It's a great wall decoration and a conversation piece. I am filing this away for the future.

For those who are unfamiliar, it goes like this: a pin for every place you have visited. It's that easy.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!