Qui Austin

This year, Clay and I spent the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day in Austin, Texas with his family. While there, I was able to cross off an item from my 30 Before 30 list, #15: Eat at a Top Chefโ€™s restaurant. Not only was it a Top Chef, but it was one of my very favorites: Paul Qui from Top Chef Texas.

They graciously accommodated our party of 14 for a 3-hour meal. The menu was exciting and the service was unbelievable. Every course came with unique flatware, locally-designed plates, and table-side presentations. Paul even served and explained a few dishes to our table.

I was already so excited and then I saw calimocho on the menu. I make my own basic version by adding red wine to Diet Coke, but theirs was, expectedly, soooo much better. It included some spices I can’t remember and orange peel. And it came in this really neat spouted carafe. Amazing.

Qui serves family-style so we were able to try most of the food from the menu. We started with an “ode to Michel Bras”: chilled turnip dashi over a selction of vegetables from Austin farmers, and kinilaw: amberjack filipino ceviche (one of my favorite dishes of the night).

Next we had chicken adobo rice, kare kare: filipino peanut curry vegetables, cabbage with crispy chicken skin and spiced yogurt, and sea urchin pasta (not pictured). The kare kare was the best thing I ate. It was a new flavor and so delicious; it didn’t even need meat.

Next we tried dinuguan: pork and blood gnocchi, three preparations of rabbit, and chicken inasal. I couldn’t get good pictures of these courses, but they were all phenomenal. My mother-in-law even said it was the best chicken she’d ever had. After dinner they brought us crackers with a foam topping, meant to taste just like Ritz crackers and cheese. This was an exciting Top Chef kind of moment for me. I haven’t eaten much foam anything, let alone cheese-flavored foam.

For dessert we tried halo halo and a cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich. Both were delicious and so different than anything I’ve ever tasted.

All in all, it was an unforgettable experience. Now Clay and I are talking about traveling the country to eat at more Top Chef’s restaurants. And I can’t wait!

Walk, Don’t Run

I’m stretching this a little bit, but it’s my list so who cares! I’m crossing off another item on my 30 Before 30 list, #26: Run every day for a month. Just replace “Run” with “Walk a shit ton.”

Last month we had a FitBit walking competition. The person with the most steps in 4 weeks would walk away the winner. I decided to go all out and win by as many steps as I possibly could. Before the competition I averaged around 5,000 steps per day. And during, I averaged about 30,000. In 4 weeks I racked up 830,631 steps and took first place!

Even though it wasn’t running, I definitely pushed myself. I spent most of my free time walking and even walked the 9 miles to work a few times. It was exhausting and my feet weren’t happy with me, but it was really fun. I’ve been taking the past week off, but I’m excited to get going again!

Road Trippin’

Clay and I are finally settled at home after spending a week crossing off another item on my 30 Before 30 list, #14: Take a road trip.

We drove up through the middle of California to the Pacific Northwest. After a few amazing days in Portland and Seattle, we drove back to Phoenix by way of Boise and eastern Nevada. We didn’t have many plans and although I was a little anxious, it worked out wonderfully. We made sure to stop at silly roadside attractions and to relax when we wanted to. We also enjoyed amazing food in every city we visited.

Here is a whole bunch of photos from the road!

Back in the Black

I am literally jumping for joy to be crossing off another item on my 30 Before 30 list, #3: Eliminate my private debt.

I’ll start this post by saying how unbelievably lucky I’ve been. I grew up in a home where life was more than comfortable. I didn’t need to worry about money. And after I was “grown up”, I was still blessed with generous parents to help me when I needed it.

Five years ago I found myself buying a house, a car, and planning a wedding all in the span of a few short months. My parents were able to give me some additional cash to make the transition not only less frightening, but secure even. We didn’t talk about a payment plan or timeline. They were willing to give and I gratefully accepted.

After they had shown me such generosity with no questions asked, I knew I needed to pay them back as quickly as was reasonable. While offering money is easy, asking for it back isn’t.

And so, as of this morning, my balance has officially dropped to $0.00. It’s a weight lifted off my shoulders and I’m sure off my parents’ shoulders too. They’ve supported me (monetarily and otherwise) my whole life and I’m very thankful.

You’re a Wizard, Harry

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been busy completing another item on my 30 Before 30 list, #8: Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Clay and I took a week trip to Orlando to visit Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. We were both so excited to see the Harry Potter themed attractions, and I’m happy to say they did not disappoint. Tucked away in Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park is the cozy village of Hogsmeade. Take your picture by the Hogwarts Express, delight in the treats at Honeydukes, and experience the wand selection process at Ollivander’s. It really does transport you.

We took some time to rest at the Three Broomsticks pub and had a couple butterbeers. While it was incredibly fun, I didn’t love the flavor: a little too sweet for me!

After riding a hippogriff and taking the Dragon Challenge twice, we came upon the real highlight of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogwarts. It’s incredible to look at and even more exciting to walk through. It’s the kind of line you want to wait in, just to take in everything. See the talking paintings, visit Dumbledore in his office, help Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the classroom, and chat with the famous sorting hat. Oh, and the actual ride is awesome too.

Every fan of the movies and/or books should definitely see it. Even non-fans will find the rides exciting and well done. It was really a magical place and I can’t wait to visit again.

Oh, Rubik’s Cube

Crossing off another item on my 30 Before 30 list, #20: Learn to solve a Rubikโ€™s cube.

Until recently I’d never even tried to solve a Rubik’s Cube. It kind of scared me and, after looking at one, didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I wish I could say I’m one of those people that could just see one and instantly understand how to solve it. Even when following directions, I had some trouble. But, after about two weeks of constantly working at it, I can consistently (and excitedly) solve a Rubik’s cube every time I try.

For those also not naturally Rubik’s Cube gifted, here is the tutorial I used: How to Solve a Rubik’s Cube. It had the easiest notation and was the simplest to follow.

To prove I could actually do this, I thought about putting up a video of me completing the Cube. But since it takes me an average of 3 minutes, I figured it might be a bit boring. So instead, here’s a video of the world record at 5.66 seconds.

A Weekend Sale

The anti-hoarder in me is cheering as I cross off another item on my 30 Before 30 list, #10: Host a yard sale.

I regularly try to purge my home of things we’ve outgrown or never use. While donating items can be great for the spirit and for filing taxes, it’s nice to occasionally get some extra cash. For the past few months I’ve been filtering items out of storage and placing them aside for our garage sale. My guest bedroom was a wreck, but I knew it’d be worth it!

We also invited my parents to join us, as my dad has been working to clear out some of the piles in his garage up in Scottsdale. After a day off work to set up and price everything out, we were good to go! The sale went very well and we came out the other end with about $600 between us.

There are a lot of yard sale posts around the web, but I thought I’d share what I learned from our Saturday garage sale:

Don’t ignore curb appeal.
We had plenty of drive-bys, as people assessed our items without even stepping out of the car. One lady pulled up to the driveway and looked out her window for a good three minutes before deciding to drive off. Put big ticket and visually appealing items out where they can be seen from the road.

If it’s free, people will take it.
We marked a few items as free just to get them out of our hair. I wasn’t sure anyone would take our beat-up old shelf or nasty fireplace tools, but sure enough, out they went. The word “free” is like the Pied Piper of garage sale patrons.

Don’t expect people to bargain with you.
Some items were underpriced and some over, and that’s to be expected. But if the price isn’t close, people will just skim over it. Some items I purposefully priced high: ones I’d be happy to keep if no one could meet it. However, if you want the item gone, price it low!

Label and price everything.
Some may have thought I went overboard with labeling and pricing every single item, but it really made a difference. Trust me, it’ll be a much more enjoyable sale if you aren’t being asked “What is this?” or “How much is this?” every three seconds.

I’d encourage people to host a yard sale if they’re looking to clean house or to get some extra cash. It wasn’t a huge effort and was a lot of fun!

Inbox Zero

I never thought I’d finish this one, but I’m thrilled to cross off another item on my 30 Before 30 list, #25: Organize my email inbox.

In my offline life, I’m pretty organized. I’m the opposite of a hoarder, always trying to find things to get rid of and spaces to declutter. For whatever reason, I can’t seem to carry that mentality over to my email inbox. At the beginning of this effort, I had thousands of random email messages from several years, not categorized or labeled in any way. I just needed to sit down and power through it.

So, after a few hours of deleting, folder organization, and laughing at silly emails from years past, I am excited to see this message for the first time ever:

Now my new goal is to keep it this way forever and not let my email hoarding tendency come back!

The U.S. Constitution

I’m happy to cross off the first item on my 30 Before 30 list I created in April, #22: Re-read the U.S. Constitution.

Every day I am thankful to be living and working in the United States. I wasn’t born here, but I don’t ever question belonging in this great nation. I’ve been meaning to learn more about American history, and what better place to begin than the U.S. Constitution? While the language can be a little dry, the document is really incredible and inspiring. The Preamble is my absolute favorite part. If a more clear and important mission statement was ever written, I don’t know what it is.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I’ve posted this video before, but it’s one I love. Penn and Teller can describe it like no others.

30 Before 30

My birthday snuck up on me this year. Yesterday I turned 27 and boy, do I feel old. With my next milestone being the big 3-0, I figured it’d be good to start up another list of things I’d love to do before then. While I didn’t come close to completing my 26 before 26 list, it was a fun process and finally motivated me to cross off items on my ever-growing backlog. I have three years to complete this one and I’m ready to get started.

  1. Learn how to properly use my camera
  2. Learn conversational French
  3. Eliminate my private debtDone!
  4. Paint the bathroom cabinets — Done!
  5. Paint a picture for myself
  6. Learn how to change a tire
  7. Take a city tour of Phoenix
  8. Visit the Wizarding World of Harry PotterDone!
  9. Watch an actor’s entire filmography — Done!
  10. Host a yard saleDone!
  11. Memorize the U.S. Presidents in order
  12. Read the Bible
  13. Take Clay to Paris
  14. Take a road tripDone!
  15. Eat at a Top Chef’s restaurantDone!
  16. Give only handmade gifts for Christmas
  17. Start a real retirement plan — Done!
  18. Sell a piece of artwork
  19. Learn to juggle
  20. Learn to solve a Rubik’s cubeDone!
  21. Host a get-together at the house
  22. Re-read the U.S. ConstitutionDone!
  23. Face a major fear
  24. Bake a cake from scratch
  25. Organize my email inboxDone!
  26. Run every day for a monthDone!
  27. Print something by hand
  28. Meet a hero in person
  29. Read an author’s entire catalog