Friday, February 27, 2009

About as easy as nailing Jell-O to the wall

Oh my goodness. I woke up this morning and my right arm felt like it was made from jello. I had my weekly tennis lesson last night and all I worked on with my coach for the entire hour was my slice backhand, which apparently took a toll on my muscles. My right arm feels like someone has drained it of all its muscle mass.

The slice is a new shot I'm learning and it's a super simple stroke, but it's incredibly hard because it's a stroke opposite of how I've hit my entire life. I'm having difficulty getting the stroke right, even though it's only my third lesson or so working on it specifically, but I'm a perfectionist by nature who always wants everything to come quickly. Perhaps this is God's way of humbling me, right?

The reason I want to learn such a difficult shot is because every year, I play in the county-wide corporate games that my company participates in. For two years in a row now, I've won the silver medal for women's singles tennis, but I've lost to the same person: a girl who slices every shot the entire time, which I'm not used to because it's not exactly proper tennis or an accepted thing to do for an entire game, and in some regards, it's a cheap way to play.

So this year, in preparation for the upcoming tournament, I thought I would give her a dose of her own medicine by learning the same shot she uses. Third time might be the charm for me if I'm able to beat her. The competition is in April so I have a couple of months left to learn everything.

Ok, so back to what I wanted to post about. I always go off on tangents when blogging for some reason...

I was getting ready for work this morning and putting on my makeup (and running late in typical fashion) when the tick-tock of the clock came to my attention, and for some reason, the poem Rikki Tikki Tavi immediately popped into my head...I don't know why. Perhaps word association? I think I read this poem in 8th grade but for some reason, I can still recall the name of it. All I can remember at the moment is that the poem was about a brave little mongoose and his tiff with a snake.

Happy Friday everyone! Only 3 weeks until my exam...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Am I Picasso or what?

As many of my friends know, I'm anti the iPhone. I refuse to acknowledge its greatness, bow down to it, follow the masses who have one, walk into an Apple store to ogle one, or even consider buying one. I'm a Blackberry girl all the way.

However, I must admit (shamefully) that the darn phone does have some nifty features. And those features come in the form of games. I've played with an iPhone recently that had a diverse bunch of games on it.

So far, my favorite game is one involving penguins where the objective is to launch penguins over a cliff using a catapult, thereby building an army of penguins in the process that then go on to kill the evil polar bear army and rescue other fellow penguins. Don't ask me what I love about games like these-- there is just something inherently funny to me about seeing little cartoon creatures (i.e., penguins) get launched and squished against a cliff when you fail. Yes, I know I'm weird like that.

I blame my weirdness and love for video games on the fact that I grew up with two brothers (I had no sisters to indulge me with Barbie stories or My Little Pony adventures) who loved video games, so naturally, I grew to love them as well. My favorites included 'Tetris' (which I still play to this day on my Nintendo DS when I'm really stressed), all the 'Zelda' games, any 'Mario Brothers' game (my favorite was the one where he turns into a raccoon and can fly), and 'Donkey Kong' (I always saved the princess from Kong's evil clutches).

Anyways, last night I became Picasso via the iPhone, which has this really cool application where you can sketch a picture using your hands. Behold my artistic creation below...is this not worthy of being at the Louvre? For those wonder what the heck it is (ok, so maybe it's not that good), it's a mouse named Alfred that I've drawn since I was about 12. Perhaps I should stick to the sciences instead of the arts, seeing that the latter may not be my forte.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Better than a thousand words

Sometimes, a picture truly *is* worth a thousand words (click picture to see in large format). I'm so fortunate to be able to live in beautiful California where the ocean is so readily accessible.

May you have a blessed Ash Wednesday.

"Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return." -Genesis 3:19

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras

Today is Mardi Gras, which translated from French to English means "Fat Tuesday." Traditionally, Mardi Gras is the last day of feasting before the Lenten season (Lent) begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday for Roman Catholics around the world. For Catholics in the Eastern Orthodox rite, the Lenten season began yesterday (known as 'Clean Monday').

Mardi Gras reminds us that this upcoming period of 40 days will be one of spiritual struggle and spiritual renewal, ending with the Resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. Sadly, here in the U.S., Mardi Gras is associated with New Orleans and some pretty hedonistic activities for those who do not understand the reason behind the day. The original purpose of the day was to serve as a reminder that we are about to enter a period of penance, and to allow us to reflect on our spiritual lives.

This year for my 40-day fast, I have decided to abstain from all meat as well as sweets (you're supposed to make a sacrifice by giving something up or by doing something extra through your everyday actions, i.e., visiting the elderly, volunteering at a soup kitchen, etc.).

A few years ago I gave up coffee and sweets, and let me tell you, I was a cranky monster. I was not a happy camper. My coworkers asked me to please never again give up coffee, since the combination of me not being a morning person AND not having coffee was not a pleasant sight. ;)

"Therefore I commended mirth, because there was no good for a man under the sun, but to eat, and drink, and be merry." (Ecclesiastes 8:15)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Heath Ledger Wins Posthumous Oscar

I did not watch the Oscars last night (I was out studying), and to be honest, I haven’t watched them in a couple of years now because life has become too busy and I often think that Hollywood is out of touch with reality and creates an artificial bubble that is so removed from everything happening in our world.

I was, however, happy to learn that the late Heath Ledger won for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for his role as the Joker (his final role before his untimely death) in The Dark Knight. Heath is only the second actor to ever win a posthumous Oscar and his win, ironically, came exactly 13 months after his death. His Oscar will go to his daughter when she turns 18.

As a fan of the Batman franchise that was resurrected and revamped by Christopher Nolan (he not only directly but co-wrote as well), I thought that Heath was the perfectly cast to play the Joker. While watching the film (I saw it three times), I did not once correlate the character to the actor. Instead, I saw the twisted, demented, crazed Joker before me the whole time. Now that is a sign of an excellent actor.

May he rest in peace.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My 1st-Ever Blog Award!

A big thank you to 'Can I Just Say' for my first ever blog award (the 'Lemonade Award'):


How exciting! It's nice to have people publicly acknowledge my blog, so thanks again to 'Can I Just Say' and all those who read it. :)

Please remember to introduce yourself by clicking here if you are a new reader or a follower of my blog...I love "meeting" new blog readers.

I'm new to awards and what to do, so apparently I'm supposed to do the following:

1. Thank the person who was so thoughtful for giving you this award by linking their blog to this post.
2. Put the logo on your blog or post.
3. Nominate 10 blogs which show great attitude/gratitude.
4. Link your nominees to your post.
5. Comment them to tell them about the award they've won.

Tag, You're It!

Here are the awesome blogs which show attitude and gratitude that I want to tag/highlight:

1. As I Was Saying: this blog is authored by my best friend Simone. Please stop by and visit, as she is a new blogger. Her Catholic perspective on issues is always refreshing and educational.

2. Suspended in Time: my good friend Nicole's blog is definitely a thinker's blog!

3. Blaaaaraagh: Harry has hilarious insight and great writing style, as well as funny anecdotes on everyday things that men go through. He's a new blogger as well so please visit his page and encourage him to keep blogging!

4. Gosling's Aerie: This guy knows how to write...he should be published! I love reading his blog because he makes me feel like I am right there. :)

5. Can I Just Say: Even though she gave me this award, I have to list her blog and give her props because I love reading it, especially the funny stories she shares about her adventures while teaching.

6. Elizabeth Esther: I've been following this blog for some time now. I love how she offers a glimpse into her (busy) life and the funny stories and pictures she shares of her children. They are adorable!

7. Tales of a Marathon Girl: my friend Becca is an avid marathon runner (she inspires me) and blogs about her many marathon adventures. Perhaps one day she'll be able to (fully) convince me to run a marathon...I got close!

8. Paul Ibrahim: Paul blogs about politics from a Republican perspective...I love catching up on what's happening in current events and in politics by following his blog.

9. Newlywed Stilettos: A blog I enjoy reading daily because it's fun, light, upbeat, and always happy!

Since I'm relatively new to public blogging, I only have 9 blogs to award instead of 10, but hopefully next time I have to do this, I will have more. Happy reading (and blogging) everyone. Don't forgot to tag others and pass on the award.

Have a fabulous Sunday everyone!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Purse Purge

I thought it would be cute to do a "purse purge." This idea came from Emily's blog post, which can be found by clicking here.

A purse purge basically involves what the name implies...purging your purse of all its contents for everyone to see. Brace yourself: my purse is quite large in size. It's partly due to the fact that I like big purses so I can fit all my work-related and personal items in them, and also because I hate changing purses during the week. I'm almost always madly dashing out the door in the morning because I'm running late, no matter how early I get up (read: Jasmin is not a morning person).

And so, here is a glimpse into my life, via my purse:

Here's my purse. This is what my younger brother calls my "bowling ball bag" because of its size and shape. Come to think of it, I don't think there's a single purse (and I have quite a lot...I blame this on my mom growing up and her love for shoes and handbags) that he likes or doesn't give an alternate name to.


Here's the inside, in all its messy glory:


My allergy medication, aka my Kryptonite...which I don't dare to take during the week anymore because of a recent incident.


My Starbucks' gum, because naturally, I love all things Starbucks.


My Blackberry, aka my "Crackberry," as my friends like to call it. It's basically my electronic leash. The first week I activated the phone (about 2 years ago), because it constantly kept buzzing every 5 minutes, I was seriously contemplating throwing it out the window. Now I'm used to it, sadly. A friend once challenged me to part with it for an hour to see what would happen, and in return, he would not smoke during that time (I'm trying to get him to quit). Let's just say the nicotine addiction won over the Crackberry addiction.


Since my life has been consumed with GRE studying as of late, I carry with me (at all times) the pocket reference guide that I'm supposed to be committing to memory, as well as the 200 flash cards of the most commonly used GRE vocabulary words. I will be quite happy when that darn test is done since it's been giving me so much anxiety. If anyone is seriously considering taking the GRE, please please please let me know and I'll be more than happy to provide you tips, advice, etc. because I would be more than happy to spare you a similar torture.


Here's the "mommy" section of my purse in terms of content, even though I'm not a mommy. It consists of my Tide-on-the-Go pen (for stains...I'm notorious for staining my clothes and this is not good when I'm at lunch during the week and have an afternoon work meeting or presentation to give), band aids (I'm a klutz), Ibuprofen, and hair bands and bobby pins (I now have bangs, which are cute but annoying at the same time because I have to pin them back every time I hit the gym or play tennis.


My business cards (I feel so professional when I get to whip these out and give them away at meetings and networking events...just one of the perks of being a grown-up).


My makeup and Kleenex (because what girl's purse would be complete without it, right?). To the left is what my brother calls my "James Bond" mirror because it also transforms into a hairbrush that pops out (I bought it at Sephora).


My hand lotion and chapstick. Seriously, Bath & Body Works makes the best hand lotion...nothing I've used is quite like it. You just need a dab and it's enough to moisturize even the driest hands. I sound like a commercial, huh? And it comes in all sorts of yummy scents. The one below that I particularly like is 'Sweet Pea.' The chapstick is Burt's Bees, which is another favorite of mine because it's all natural.


My bluetooth earpiece...since July 1st, 2008, California law requires anyone using a cell phone while driving to use a bluetooth earpiece or hands-free device.



My huge over-size sunglasses...here in sunny So Cal, these are a must!


My iPod Nano for the gym...I absolutely cannot workout at the gym without my music, especially when I'm running on a treadmill. In fact, I don't think I could run on a treadmill even if I tried without music. There's something about the beat of the music and rhythm that helps regulate not only my breathing and heart rate, but also my movement and aids in my endurance. I usually stick to upbeat pop and hip hop music when running (think Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Pussy Cat Dolls, Beyoncé, Rhianna, etc...yes, I know, some of these artists are not a good representation of all music, I go for beat/rhythm vs. quality when working out).


And last but not least, my wallet and checkbook.


Not pictured: my car keys...'cause I always misplace them so I have no idea where they were when I took these pictures.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Let her eat cake!

Ok, seriously, those who were complaining that Jessica Simpson had gained too much weight are insane! Look at this recent picture of her that was taken a few days ago while she was out shopping with her sister:



The girl looks fine. Recent pictures had surfaced that many deemed less than flattering, but I think it was just the camera angle...and honestly, she looks fine that way too. Leave the poor girl alone and let her eat, sheesh. Life is too short to be deprived, to look unhealthy, or to have to fit a certain look. Hollywood is nothing more than a fake, artifical bubble.

In fact, it's so much of a fake, artificial bubble that you end up having women who look like this think that they're the standard for beauty:



There aren't enough words I could use to describe how unhealthy that woman looks. And such malnourishment takes not only a toll on your body, but on your heart as well.

My older brother has always maintained that girls who are super skinny no longer look feminine because they lose their curves...and when they lose their curves, they end up having hips that rival a man's.

Being Middle Eastern, curves are a genetic given for me, although I used to hate them when I was younger. I now embrace them because they make me feel like a woman- and after all, that's what I am.

Happy Friday everyone! :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The power of bugs, crawly creatures, and all things similar...

Bugs have power over me. Seriously! They can control me as soon as I spot one invading my space. I freeze and my entire focus and attention shifts to them as I watch them, to make sure they don't escape or crawl off before someone is able to kill them for me. Now, I say someone because I, for one, refuse to kill bugs, spiders, crawly things, etc. You get the idea. I simply can't do it. If I absolutely have to and there's no one else around to do the dirty deed for me, I'll squish the intruder and leave him/her/it mushed for someone else to wipe up/bury/discharge of.

When I was little, my mother was my hero: she didn't even need to squish the poor sucker. She'd simply grab a Kleenex (and only 1 sheet at that, not like the 10 sheets I grab now if I have to wipe the guts up), and mush the intruder in the Kleenex, thereby killing it. I was in awe. This woman had no fear, no disgust, and no hesitation in doing this. I can't tell you how many weird, creepy crawly things we had visit our house when growing up: potato bugs in the pool, daddy long leg spiders, black widows, lizards, snakes, rats, mice, raccoons, bats, skunks, etc. And it was always mommy to the rescue.

My poor future husband...he's going to be in for quite a surprise when he realizes his future wife cannot kills bugs and that this will be part of his manly duty. And I also can't sew a button. God help him. ;)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Embarrassing Moments

We’ve all had them: embarrassing moments where we wish the earth would open up and swallow us whole. In honor of those memorable (yet painful) moments, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog post to such a topic. Special thanks to Harry, whose own post on this topic inspired mine (please visit his blog and say hello; he's a new blogger and I'm trying to encourage him to blog because he's quite insightful).

Without further delay, here are my embarrassing moments, in no particular order:

1. In the 2nd grade, I couldn’t quite make it to the bathroom on time…you get the picture. The worst part was that I was wearing white pants. And everyone knows that anything white + liquid = a see-through disaster worse than Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent fashion disaster. I ended up having to go to the nurse’s office and stay there until my mother picked me up.

*~*~**~*~**~*~**~*~**~*~*

2. In the 3rd grade, in an attempt to impress a boy I liked (I still remember his first and last name), I accepted his dare to do a back flip on the straight bars during recess ('cause after all, how hard could it be if he did it, right?). I ended up falling flat on my back on the ground and fracturing my back. The pain was so severe that I was screaming for him to call the yard duty, who called the paramedics.

The ambulance ended up coming out onto the field and the entire school (grades 1 through 6) came out onto the playground from the classrooms to watch me as I was carried away on a gurney. What a way to make an impression on my grade school crush, huh? Ironically, the guy I was trying to impress turned out to be gay (I found this out years later).

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3. During high school, I worked part time after school at a local Italian deli. I was always super polite to the customers, addressing them as m’am or sir. In one particular instance, the customer was waiting for the to-go order. In order to speed things up, I decided to ring the customer up.

“Is there anything else I can get you, sir?” I asked.

The customer froze.

“That’s M’am to you, not sir!”

I could have died. Literally. Truly. Totally. It was one of those ‘on-the-spot-I-want-to-die’ moments. The expression “ground open up and swallow me whole” meant nothing to me until that moment. In my defense, she really did look like a man. I hastily mumbled an apology and darted into the kitchen, where I didn’t emerge until after she left. Someone else ended up ringing her up. Every time after that when I’d see her come in to order, I’d dart into the kitchen to avoid helping her. I’m sure that today, if I saw her walking down the street, I’d probably cross to the other side to avoid her.

*~*~**~*~**~*~**~*~**~*~*

4. Freshman year of college for Spring break, I visited Paris for the first time with a close friend I’d known since 7th grade and one of her college friends. We traveled from London to Paris via the Eurostar train and I ended up sleeping crooked on the train the entire time. I mention this because it plays a role in my story. I had a lot of luggage with me as well (I’m notorious for over-packing for any trip, no matter how long, because I have so many shoes), so I had to lug it around with me most of the trip (this is the only downside to public transportation, in my opinion). So, just to recap: weird sleeping position + heavy luggage lugging during the trip had ensued.

Whatever the case, the next day, I was in our hotel room and had just finished showering. I was wrapped in a towel and I sat on my bed to dry off. I then felt a strange sensation in my neck. Per my friend, what then followed was this: My eyes rolled into the back of my head, I had some convulsions, and I passed out cold on the bed and was out for about 10 seconds.

My friend was so freaked out that she ran downstairs to call a doctor, who arrived in minutes (in Europe, doctors make house visits vs. you going to the hospital). I also learned that in Europe, doctors are very fond of giving shots vs. prescribing pills to patients as they do here in the U.S. (we’re a pill-popping nation for some reason).

Turns out I had tweaked my neck muscles so badly that they had cramped (from sleeping incorrectly on the train or from lifting heavy luggage or from a combo of both). This led to decreased blood flow to my brain, and as a result, I passed out momentarily. Now the embarrassing part of this story, which you’re all probably waiting for, is what then transpired: the doctor flipped me over (mind you, I’m still in my towel), and gave me a shot…right in my butt…right in front of my two friends. Although the shot made me feel better, the fact that I had unwillingly mooned my friends did not.

*~*~**~*~**~*~**~*~**~*~*

5. A week before my college graduation, I was at Albertson’s, standing in line waiting to be rung up, when I felt super dizzy. I ended up passing out in the line and hit my head really hard on the floor. The next thing I knew, I had four sets of eyes staring down at me in concern. My mom was getting her hair cut a few shops down from the supermarket so the staff ran there to get her. She was so freaked out by what had happened since the cashier told her I’d hit my head that she dragged me to the emergency room to have a head x-ray.

Needless to say, I never went back to that store. I could just picture them thinking, 'Great, here comes the walking liability again' every time I'd enter. The one time I did go back, the cashier who rang me up was the same one as before and asked me if I was the “fainting girl." I might not make a good impression, but I make a lasting one, huh?

*~*~**~*~**~*~**~*~**~*~*

So there you have it: Jasmin in her less-than-finer moments. I'm sure I have a lot more, but I can't remember them at the moment, and some are not blog-appropriate.

Feel free to share your own stories or write a similar blog post...and let me know so I can read it, ha ha. :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

To sleep, perchance to dream

I’m having serious test anxiety. I realized yesterday that I’m taking my GRE exam in exactly one month (on March 16th). I’ve had strange dreams two nights in a row now regarding the test. It must be festering in my subconscious.

Saturday night I dreamt that I was in grad school taking an advanced molecular bio class and that I scored a 34% on my exam…a 34! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a 34% on anything in all my years of schooling so who knows why my subconscious thought that number was appropriate. Then, in my dream, I ended up telling the professor that maybe I wasn’t cut out for the life sciences after all, and I dropped his class and walked out before he could say anything.

Sunday night I dreamt that I missed the GRE class that covered the writing portion of the exam. The dream then fast-forwarded to the day of the exam. Halfway through the exam, I realized I was unfamiliar with the structure of the essay since I’d missed that class…so I simply walked out of the exam.

So…the moral of the story is, boys and girls: when in doubt, simply walk out. No, just kidding, ha. That seems to be what my fear is, though.

Then last night I had no dreams…but don't get too excited quite yet. It's because I took 2 Benadryl (for my allergies) at 1 am before going to sleep. The no dreams part was the only upside to this whole ordeal.

Um, let me just tell you: taking Benadryl so late at night is not a good idea. Benadryl is basically like at tranquilizer. You need at least 8 hours of sleep if you’re taking it because it knocks you out. It could knock out King Kong and Chuck Norris combined…and then have some effects left over to also knock out Goliath. I didn’t know this, however, until I told my coworker what I’d done since I looked a bit zombish this morning when I got to the office. Apparently my coworker’s friend took Benadryl once and slept for an entire day.

Anyway, the next thing I knew, my alarm was blaring and it was only 8 am, which means I only got 7 hours of sleep. I woke up feeling like I had cotton stuffed in my head and like my body was fashioned after Gumby. Everything is fuzzy and blurry. Not even my usual Starbucks coffee did the trick. Perhaps an IV drip of pure caffeine is a more suitable option for today. How I'm going to make it to the gym at 5 pm for my spin class is beyond me at this point.
"To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come." -William Shakespeare

Monday, February 16, 2009

25 Facts About Me

In the spirit of all those forwards that come around via email, I decided to actually participate in one on Facebook, so I thought I would also post it on my blog. It's basically 25 things about me that people who know me might not have known, and 25 things about me that strangers might find amusing. Please feel free to share your list as well. Happy Monday!

1. I have never lit a match in my life; it terrifies me.

2. I didn't eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich till I was in high school.

3. Earthquakes terrify me...I thought the world was ending during the '94 Northridge quake.

4. I crack my toes and ankles.

5. I've been playing tennis since I was about 12 years old. I played in high school, was going to play in college, and now play for my company.

6. My brother broke my leg when I was a baby by strategically dropping me.

7. I refuse to kill bugs or spiders...it's disgusting. I only do it if I absolutely have to and there's no one else around to do it. Stay tuned for a blog entry on this entire topic.

8. Slow drivers in the left lane annoy me.

9. I can easily sleep for 14 hours every day if I didn't have responsibilities.

10. I love 80s music.

11. I was born 3 months premature.

12. Christmas used to terrify me when I was little because my dad would provide our neighbor (who dressed up as Santa and visited us) with a list of all the bad things my older brother and I had done throughout the year, and we'd have to answer to Santa before we received gifts. I would start crying every year the minute Santa walked through the door. Luckily, my dad used to have Santa visit on December 6th (St. Nicklaus Day) so it didn't really affect my long-term view of Christmas on the 25th.

13. I'm terrified of big dogs but used to play with them endlessly when I was a toddler.

14. I have a gigantic family (à la 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'). My mom is one of 17 and my dad is one of 6.

15. There is truly nothing like having grandma cook a meal for you.

16. I love reading - I read the entire Nancy Drew series as a kid.

17. I can type super fast (around 105 wpm) provided my nails aren't long.

18. I've broken an arm, a leg, and fractured my back.

19. I'm blessed to have wonderful girlfriends.

20. Simone and I have an interesting habit of calling each other at exactly the same time, even though she's all the way on the other side of the U.S. (come home already!).

21. I sleep with three layers on my bed - I hate the cold. (Yes, I'm such a Californian).

22. I'm a neat freak (refer to previous blog entry on my weird quirks).

23. I hate anything grape flavored because it reminds me of cough medicine when I was younger. I also can't stand the smell of grape flavored 'bubble yum bubble gum.'

24. I have a strange fascination with NYC...and a feeling I'll live there at some point in my life.

25. German was my first language, followed by Arabic, then English, and then French.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thank You Fellow Blog Readers!

Thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog! I've noticed a few more comments trickling in every few days from people who have stumbled across my blog...so thank you! :)

If you haven't already done so, please introduce yourself by clicking here. I'd love to know a little about you and your own blog, where you're from, what you enjoy, etc. It's always amazing to me how the Internet has shrunk the world.

Hope everyone has a wonderful and blessed Sunday!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

St. Valentine's Day

I am not a fan of Valentine's Day. I am, however, a fan of Saint Valentine's Day. The holiday has become so commercial-- it suckers poor men into buying overpriced flowers, chocolates, gifts, and cards, while shelling out a ton of money to eat at a fancy restaurant that has poor service and rushes you out so quickly because they're trying to get more patrons in. I don't think you really need Valentine's Day to show the one in your life that you care-- you can do this with simple, everyday gestures and actions.

So, who exactly was St. Valentine? It's not all together clear and still remains unknown. At least three different Saint Valentines are mentioned in the early list of martyrs for February 14th. One was a priest in Rome during the Roman Empire who helped persecuted Christians during the reign of Claudius II. He was later thrown in jail and beheaded. Another was a bishop of Terni, who was also beheaded during the same reign. It was also said that St. Valentine secretly married couples during a time when marriage was banned, and later wrote letters to his jailer's daughter, which is where the custom of sending cards or letters on this day comes from.

For those interested on the Catholic roots of the day, below is a blurb from americancatholic.org:

Although the mid-February holiday celebrating love and lovers remains wildly popular,the confusion over its origins led the Catholic Church, in 1969, to drop St. Valentine's Day from the Roman calendar of official, worldwide Catholic feasts. (Those highly sought-after days are reserved for saints with more clear historical record. After all, the saints are real individuals for us to imitate.) Some parishes, however, observe the feast of St. Valentine.

The roots of St. Valentine's Day lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on Feb. 15. For 800 years the Romans had dedicated this day to the god Lupercus. On Lupercalia, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and would then keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year.

Pope Gelasius I was, understandably, less than thrilled with this custom. So he changed the lottery to have both young men and women draw the names of saints whom they would then emulate for the year (a change that no doubt disappointed a few young men). Instead of Lupercus, the patron of the feast became Valentine. For Roman men, the day continued to be an occasion to seek the affections of women, and it became a tradition to give out handwritten messages of admiration that included Valentine's name.

There was also a conventional belief in Europe during the Middle Ages that birds chose their partners in the middle of February. Thus the day was dedicated to love, and people observed it by writing love letters and sending small gifts to their beloved. Legend has it that Charles, duke of Orleans, sent the first real Valentine card to his wife in 1415, when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. (He, however, was not beheaded, and died a half-century later of old age.)


Just a little something to think about the next time you're snacking on chocolates and conversation hearts. ;)

Enjoy Valentine's Day everyone!

xoxo

Friday, February 13, 2009

Coffee Shops Offering Free (and not so free) WiFi

Since I have been studying via laptop lately at coffee shops, I decided to post a list of places that offer free wifi (see #1 through #4) and not-so-free wifi (#5 and #6). I find it easier to study at a public place rather than at home, where I usually tend get distracted easily. And public libraries, well, forget about it...it's so quiet that I feel like I'm the only one in there studying.

Below is a list of spots that offer WiFi (WiFi allows for wireless Internet connection through a wireless card). It's always nice to get a little free stuff, especially when you will soon be a poor grad student like myself. :P

1. Starbucks

Starbucks, in conjunction with AT&T, has 2 free hours of wifi daily if you register your Starbucks gift card online and sign up on the AT&T wifi website. I usually study at a Starbucks because I receive so many gifts card every year for Christmas and my birthday. The only stipulation is that your gift card has to be used at least once every 30 days in order for your account to remain active.

2. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

For all my west coast friends who have access to a CBTL, they offer 2 free hours of wifi daily as well. All you have to do is ask for the code while you're there and you'll be on your way. It's a 5-digit number that is usually found on the lower left corner of the TV screen they have set up there. Super easy and no registration necessary.

3. Peet's Coffee

Peet's is similar to CBTL: you have to ask the cashier for the code to get 2 free hours of wifi. Peet's is my favorite of all the places I have listed because their coffee is amazing! It's a tad strong though if you're used to lighter coffees.

4. Caribou Coffee

This coffee chain is found mainly in the mid-west and on the east coast. Unfortunately, there's no shops out here on the west cost, but hey, we get Coffee Bean instead. ;) Caribou offers free wifi as well. The website doesn't specify if you need a code but no registration is necessary.

5. Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble does not offer free wifi, which is a shame because I love studying there and they have many locations all over the U.S. I've used their wifi before but it's a bit pricey ($3.99 for two hours of use). There's different packages available to choose from (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.).

6. Border's Books and Music

Border's also does not offer free wifi...what is up with all the bookstores, huh? They need to jump on the free wifi bandwagon. To use their wifi, you have to purchase a T-Mobile day pass.

Lastly, if none of these places are to your liking and you shun big, corporate-run coffee shops, you can find a list of free wifi spots here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

To dye or not to dye, that is the question

So I'm bored with my hair again (what else is new?) and therefore contemplating dying it dark. A coworker of mine recently dyed hers really dark (almost black) and it looks fantastic on her.

I used to get highlights a couple of years ago. I started out really cautiously (red highlights only) because I was nervous about having them look horrid. I see so many girls with fake looking highlights and I didn't want to become one of them.

After I adjusted to subtle highlights, I added more...and more...and more...until my hair looked like a mess. As a result, I dyed it really dark (which is also my natural hair color) and kept doing so until all the highlights grew out. I'm now contemplating getting highlights again...but maybe in red? Red is such a hard color to maintain though; it washes out really quickly. Right now my hair is a dark brown color.

Any thoughts?
I thought it would be fun to take a vote to see what readers think so I created a poll (top left corner).

Here's a pic of me sporting highlights and another one of me with dark hair.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

I was driving home tonight after studying at Starbucks (sadly, no Movefone man sighting like last time), and I couldn't believe how unbelievably cold it was. I not only had my seat warmers on while driving home, but I was also blasting the heat at 90°F (the highest possible temperature setting for some reason...seriously, what do people in Alaska do who drive during the cold night?).

Yes it's true: we Californians can't take the cold (and rain is like our kryptonite, especially when it comes to driving). I'm especially bad when temperatures change because I'm always cold no matter what in the winter, and I'm always warm no matter what in the summer. It's like my body temperature is slightly off from everyone else and what feels normal. 50°F is cold to me, so anything hovering around 30°F, well, I consider freeeeeeezing. So freezing it was indeed, since my car announced that it was exactly 39°F.

I think my car will double as an igloo in the morning. Of course, I can't complain too much; we're spoiled year-round with (almost) perfect weather and abundant sunshine...and I have friends who live back east and are probably hating me right now for posting this. I send you all warm thoughts from chilly Cali.

Beirut in Global Culture

The New York Times recently posted a list of the '44 Places to Go in 2009.' First on the list was Beirut, Lebanon, which made me so proud! Lebanon has gone through so much but still survive and comes out on top. I love visiting and I love hearing that those of who are not of Middle Eastern descent love visiting as well.

Here's the blurb on Beirut from the article:
(click on article to enlarge for better viewing)


Lonely Planet also listed Beirut as one of the 'Top 10 Liveliest Cities of 2009' per the following article:

Introducing Lebanon
Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

I leave you with some pictures of Lebanon:









Saturday, February 7, 2009

Yet Another Reason Why I Love Starbucks

For some reason, strange things always seem to abound when I'm at a Starbucks (see previous post). It's probably because I've been spending so much time there lately since that's become my study place of choice. Not only are they open late, but if you register a Starbucks card online, you get two free hours of WiFi daily...it's pretty cool!

So I'm studying there last night and I decide to order two drinks. I plan on getting a tea and a caramel macchiato for a friend. I get up there to order and ask for the tea first.

Cashier: Do you want one tea bag or two?

Me: Do you charge by tea bag or by drink size?

Cashier: By tea bag.

Me: Okay, can I have two please, but only put one in the drink for now. I'll use the other one after I finish my first one and just come back and ask for more hot water...can you do that or will you charge me again for water? Because last time I was given two tea bags at the same time without being asked and the tea was way too strong for me and I don't like strong tea. And then I forgot to come back for more hot water.

There is a moment of silence. The cashier blinks a few times and then says, "You're a very complicated woman, aren't you?" (This was more of a statement on his part rather than a question).

That immediately brought to mind the famous cafe scene in "Sleepless in Seattle" where Meg Ryan is ordering her food but being uber picky.

Me: No, not really...usually my drink is pretty straightforward.

At this point, the barista who's standing a few feet away from the cashier leans over and asks me what my second drink is so he can start preparing it.

Me: Do you have 2% milk?

Barista: Yes.

Me: I'd like a 2% caramel macchiato please.

Barista: You know, 2% is what we normally use by default for our drinks.

Apparently I'm ignorant of the Starbuckian way of life and what's considered standard.

Me: Oh, well you know, at the other Starbucks I go to by my work, I usually get nonfat so I say nonfat, but lately I've been getting soy. I didn't realize 2% was the norm.

The barista is now looking at me like I'm diseased.

Barista: You're what I call one of our "special needs" customers.

I'm trying so hard not to burst out laughing. Special needs, for reals? Seriously, who comes up with this stuff?

Me:
You make me sound like I'm handicapped or something. Usually I just order a soy caramel macchiato...how complicated is that?

Barista: (ponders) I guess you're not a special needs customer then.

Well thank goodness for that assessment; my life is now complete. He then gets suspicious because he's fixing a second drink for me that's clearly not soy.

Barista: If that's not for you, then who is it for?

Me: (I point to the far table) It's for my friend who's sitting over there.

The cashier then rings me up for my two drinks...but while sounding like the guy from Moviefone the whole time (i.e., "Hellooo and Welcome to Moviefone!").

[Moviefone voice]: "And hereeeeeeeeeeeeee's your teaaaaaaaaa. That will be five twenty oneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Thank you for shopping aaaaaaaaaat Starbuckssssssssssss."

It was crazy...he sounded JUST like Mr. Moviefone. I asked him if he was a voice actor. It was hilarious. Mr. Moviefone then announced that my other drink was ready too.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why that particular Starbucks is now my favorite one to study at...it's open late and Mr. Moviefone works there!

I think the next time I go there, I will order a 'double tall, nonfat, no-whip, sugar-free white chocolate mocha with two pumps of syrup, no foam, and extra hot' just to show them exactly what it really means to be complicated. ;)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Quirky Habits

Upon explaining one of my quirky habits yesterday (#6, to be specific), I was told this topic would make a great blog post, so here I am, blogging about my weird habits.

1. I have to meticulously balance my checkbook for every penny spent...not knowing how much I have in my account at any moment is very foreign to me.

2. I scalp my bread. I take out the soft, doughy inside and only butter what's left of it, the inside of the crust. I think it's because I have an affinity for crunchy textures. The first time I scalped around a group of coworkers during a lunch meeting, they looked at me like I was from another planet. Then they helped themselves to my "scalpings," so peace was restored.

3. Cleaning is uber therapeutic for me: when I'm stressed or have a lot going on, I start cleaning. My favs include vacuuming, dusting, and organizing the closet. It brings me peace.

4. I floss religiously every night. I have a teeth fetish...I can't stand bad teeth.

5. I can't sleep unless all the drawers in my bedroom are closed and the closet door is slid shut.

6. I have to take off all my jewelry and watch as soon as I get home from work. And I have to change into comfy sweats and pull my hair off my face. I start itching to do this the minute I walk through the door. At the same time, it's weird if I'm not wearing a watch during the day while working.

7. I hate reality shows but love watching the 'Bachelor' and the 'Bachelorette.'

8. My car doors have to be locked from the inside before I drive anywhere.

9. I have to shower in the evening (I can't stand going to bed dirty) but if I get home super late and I'm exhausted, I have to, at a minimum, wash my feet. I can't remember the last time I went to bed with dirty feet. Dirty feet + clean sheets = grossness.

10. I can't sleep unless I put on chapstick and apply hand lotion.

11. I love to drown my burgers in ketchup. And I mean drown, as in, I'm using the burger as a mechanism for getting the ketchup in my mouth.

12. I have a strange way of memorizing things. For my upcoming GRE exam, I have committed to memory 200 words so far, but the way I remember them is a bit weird. I don't do it in typical fashion where you just memorize robotically for the sake of memorizing. No, my friends, there is truly a method to this madness! I try to memorize in a way that will help me remember what I've learned even after taking the exam.

For example:

Cogent: well-mannered and convincing
To memorize this, I think: gent is for gentleman or gentle, and someone who is a gentleman or gentle will most likely be well-mannered or convincing.

Laconic: using few wordsFor some reason this word reminded me of the 90s video game 'Sonic the Hedgehog.' So I think about my younger brother and how whenever he'd be playing it or any other video game and I'd ask him a question, he'd be so engrossed that he'd answer back using few words.
13. I always assume the worst-case scenario. Hey, it helps to be prepared, right?

14. I can't get up in the morning without hitting the snooze button at least twice. It's like my body is not programmed to physically move until it's heard snooze being hit twice.

15. I have a really annoying habit (which I'm trying to break) of starting multiple books at the same time. For example, I am currently reading two books simultaneously (J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Khalil Gibran's The Prophet).

16. My work area has to be immaculate and orderly at all times before I'm able to be productive. I know instantly if someone has been in my office if my stapler is not perfectly aligned with the paper clip holder, if my pens are in the wrong place, if my chair is not tucked in, etc. I probably border on OCD, ha. I can just picture my future little munchkins rolling their eyes and thinking, "Mom's having another OCD episode!"

Where I spend 8 hours of my life daily on weekdays:


What Love Means: Touching words from the mouth of babes

This was too cute so I had to share. A group of professionals posed a question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds and asked, 'What does love mean?' The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. Take a looksie below:

'When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.' Rebecca- age 8

'When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.' Billy - age 4

'Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.' Karl - age 5

'Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.' Chrissy - age 6

'Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.' Terri - age 4

'Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.' Danny - age 7

'Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss' Emily - age 8

'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.' Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)

'If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,' Nikka - age 6 (We need a few million more Nikka's on this planet, don't you think?)

'Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.' Noelle - age 7

'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.' Tommy - age 6

'During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared.. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.' Cindy - age 8

'My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.' Clare - age 6

'Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.' Elaine-age 5 (Aww, so cute!)

'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.' Chris - age 7 (Haha! This one is my absolute favorite...I hope my future husband loves the sight of me after the gym)

'Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.' Mary Ann - age 4

'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.' Lauren - age 4

'When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.' Karen - age 7 (what an image)

'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross.' Mark - age 6 (This reminded me of a scene from the movie 'Fools Rush In.')

'You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.' Jessica - age 8 (I agree completely)

And the final one: The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”
And how cute is this?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Introducing Simone

I had just logged into my Facebook account when I saw it. It came in all caps. Big, dark, bold caps for, well, everything, and not just the beginning of the sentence. This does not bode well, I thought.



So to safeguard my behind, I call her. A little background info: Simone has been my best friend since we met sophomore year of high school. Now without revealing my age, let's just say that we've been friends for over a decade. We have an uncanny knack of calling each other at the same time, having the same sense of humor, and understanding each other without having to say anything because we've been friends for so long.

Which is exactly why she was angry.

Simone: You've had a blog since 2006 and you never told me?! (imagine squealing sounds, with the pitch getting progressively higher towards the end of the sentence)

Me: Um, yea, I kinda started it because I was tired of writing in a paper journal and thought online would be a better way to go...you know, before blogging was an actual word in the dictionary and before it was cool and trendy.

Simone: But I'm your best friend. I've slept in your bed. I've known you for xx years. And not one blog post dedicated to me?! And here I thought that my blog had inspired you to start your own. I thought I was the inspiration!

I've always loved Simone's dramatic flair.


Me: I'm sorry...I just started it to put my thoughts on paper, not to advertise that I had one. How about I dedicate an entire post to you tomorrow to make up for it?

Simone:
Well...ok. But I need POMP. And I need circumstance. And I need fireworks. And and and and....

...and I can't remember what else she said, lol.

So here I am, dedicating this post to my soul sister, as I frequently refer to her. She is my inspiration (she's currently in grad school back east pursuing a master's in Catholic theology), a wonderful, faithful friend, and an awesome woman. And she has a blog, so I will shamelessly plug it here and encourage all of you to visit her site to read it...but be warned: it is deep, it is heavy, and it is quite brilliant in thought. It makes my blog seem superficial: while I drone on and on about my love of coffee and sleep, she writes about philosophy and theology.

And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I leave you this:

My Bucket List

A friend of mine recently sent me a forward that listed her Bucket List. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it came about from a movie released in 2007 starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. It's basically a list of things you want to do or accomplish before you "kick the bucket," i.e., pass away.



So, without further ado, here is my Bucket List:

1. Walk along the Great Wall of China
2. Visit the pyramids in Egypt
3. Learn any musical instrument (since I have zero musical talent)
4. Name a star (I would name it Mr. Sparkle Pants)
5. Bungee jump (if I'm really really REALLY brave)
6. Eat something I consider brave (i.e., sushi, monkey brains, etc...okay maybe not now that I see it in writing)
7. Ride in a hot air balloon
8. Take a first class flight
9. Read War and Peace
10. Own a house
11. Work in the field of nutrition
12. Live in NYC and/or Paris
13. Go up the Eiffel Tower (sadly, the one time I was going to do this I was dizzy and on pain meds from having fainted the day before...long story)
14. Get my master's degree (in process!)
15. Work with Habitat for Humanity and help construct a house
16. Learn to cook a gourmet meal or take a fabulous cooking course
17. Learn Italian
18. Learn to read and write basic Arabic
19. Go on a cruise and/or a vacation somewhere tropical where I sit, vege, and happily consume fruity drinks with cute little umbrellas in them and chunks of fruit wedged in the side of the cup (my vacations are never the restful type, for some reason)
20. Go to Greece
21. Go to Jerusalem and on a Biblical tour of the Middle East
22. Attend the U.S. Open tennis final (preferably when Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer are playing...I may go this year)
23. Attend Roland Garros and Wimbledon
24. Ride a horse
25. See the inside of the White House
26. Swim with dolphins
27. Attend the Winter Olympics
28. View a World Cup soccer match live
29. Witness the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain
30. Run a full marathon (26.2 miles)

What would your bucket list be? Please post! :) I'd love to read it. I leave you with a quote I read today and liked:
"The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are." -Stephen R. Covey

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Blast from the Past!

So I'm sitting in Starbucks last night studying for my upcoming GRE exam (I'm taking it on March 16th, keep your fingers crossed for me!) when a guy randomly asks me, "Did you go to ******** elementary school?" Turns out he remembered my face from 6th grade! Can you believe it? I don't think I look *anything* like I did back then (see below), but he says he never forgets a face.

What's sad is that even after he told me his name (which sounded uber familiar), I still couldn't tie the 6th grade face to it! I told him I'd look him up in my yearbook when I got home...and I did. And let me tell you: as soon as I saw the picture, I totally knew who he was! Isn't that weird? It's like we freeze people who we meet in the past and we can remember them when we see an old photograph, but not make the connection in terms of features when we see them years later.

How on earth he recognized me is beyond me, given that:
(a) it's been over 15 years
(b) I was stinky, sweaty, and uber tired because I'd come from the gym, and
(c) it's so weird! haha

I feel like finding him now to tell him I remember him because now it's all coming back to me. He was a really nice guy who was friendly to everyone. Perhaps he's on Facebook, but that would seem a bit stalker-ish if I found and sent him a message, no?

I leave you with a past and present picture of myself so you can understand why I'm scratching my head over him remembering me. Guess I made some sort of impression, ha.



As you can see, my mom was a fan of the "bowl" cut...or as my coworker said this morning, my hair helmet, lol.

UPDATE: So I just searched for him on Facebook and there's a million results that come up because his name is so common...oh well. Till my next Starbucks encounter with him, I suppose.
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