Hogwarts Spirit Week 2016

Last year, Halloween fell on a Saturday, so we observed it during the workweek on Friday. I wanted the week leading up to Halloween to feel a little more special, so I dressed in business-casual outfits with color palettes inspired by each of the Hogwarts houses on each day: Gryffindor on Monday, Hufflepuff on Tuesday, Slytherin on Wednesday, and Ravenclaw on Thursday.

I had so much fun doing this little thing last year (and wearing very different colors every day) that I decided to do it again this year! With Halloween coming up on Monday, and only 4 houses, well… I had to get a little creative with Friday.

Happy Hogwarts Spirit Week 2016!

Where dwell the grave at heart…

I always like to kick off the week with Gryffindor because I tend to enjoy doing Hogwarts Spirit Week in ROYGBIV order. (Such is how I usually organize the colors in my life!) Red is also one of my favorite colors to wear, so it’s more a matter of where not to wear red, as I could very easily cover my entire body in scarlet and crimson hues.

True and unafraid of toil…

I never understood why Hufflepuff got so much flack as the leftovers house, or the weird house, or the lame house. It is one of the most admirable houses to me, because its students are literally known for kindness and being hardworking. Helga Hufflepuff accepted the students who were rejected by the other 3 Hogwarts founders and taught them everything she could. I only wish I could be as kind and hardworking to consider myself a Hufflepuff!

Those of great ambition…

I’ll be honest, when Pottermore’s Sorting Hat sorted me into Slytherin several years ago, I was a little indignant about it. Me? Bookish me, an evil Slytherin and not a nerdy Ravenclaw? But as I read more about my designated house, I realized how true it was, that I placed the pursuit of power above the pursuit of knowledge, aka I have always been very ambitious. Since finding myself in the emerald-loving house (I only wear green on St. Patrick’s Day and Slytherin Spirit day though…), I remain upset with JK Rowling’s depiction of Slytherins in the canon. It would have made for a richer story to have students whose ambition did not lead them down the dark path opposite the heroes of her story and to have them use their cunning and determination for a different cause over, say, loyalty to their friends and family whose ambition led them down a different path.

Wit before measure…

The house that I identified so much with but did not ultimately get placed in: Ravenclaw. I realized that I may not be a prototypical Ravenclaw upon realizing that they are the Einstein types who don’t do their homework because they were busy studying extra material. (I’m a little too rules-loving to dedicate myself to knowledge this much!)  That being said, it is my sister house. Ravenclaw and Slytherin are the pair that go together, and those who believe in hybrid houses may accept that this is the second house of which I am a blend of traits.

So there are only 4 houses at Hogwarts, but with Friday still being fair game this year…


Ended Hogwarts Spirit Week with a Death Eater look, because after all the color I wore this week , it was time to return to an all-black before Halloween. My decision to end the week as a Death Eater launched some interested conversations, including whether or not Dementors are evil. (Do they choose to suck the joy and happiness out of people? Or is that literally the only thing they are capable of doing outside of floating around? Are they even sentient? How much of a “choice” did they have in joining Voldemort and guarding Azkaban? Is something that is borne of evil inherently evil itself?)

I had a lot of fun with Hogwarts Spirit Week this year, and even got one of my coworkers to join me. (No one else in the office noticed until Slytherin day:

“Oh, Sara is wearing green today, too! You two match!”
“Welp. It’s not a coincidence!”
“Wait, wat”

I’ve got a busy busy busy Halloween weekend planned and will be going to work in a group costume with my coworkers. I have already gotten a chance to work a Yelp Halloween event as…


A DOUGHNUT! Oh man, doughnuts are one of my favorite foods of all time, so this was kind of a dream come true. I’ll also be at more Northern Virginia events if you are an active NoVa Yelper, as I moved from Maryland over a year ago and it doesn’t actually make sense for me to try to fight traffic to work Maryland events all the time!

What are your Halloween weekend plans?
Are you wearing a costume?
Are you going to wear a costume to work/class on Monday?
I’m kind of super pumped about our team costume for work. It’s going to be very embarrassing to wear on the metro (our subway), so I think that’s a sign that it’s a good one! Hint: It was very easy for me to put together and it is not a costume I will get cold in easily, which is a JOY as a girl who likes to cosplay for Halloween!

3 Northern Virginia Ramen Spots

Ah yes, the cooler months have finally arrived (after a second summer heat wave…), so you know that means I will be all over that noodles in hot broth game. I have been living in Northern Virginia for a little bit, so I thought I’d take some time to talk to you about the ramen options you have in this region. And we’re not talking about ramen the instant noodle, but rather that picturesque big ol’ bowl of noodles, an umami-licious broth, and yummy toppings. (Not knocking the instant variety of ramen!)

MARUMEN // 3250 Old Pickett Rd Fairfax, VA 22031 // (703) 352-6278


Marumen is one of our go-to spots when we are craving ramen. It is not the most expensive option of the ones in the area, the broth is always on point, and they give all the toppings I want in bowl of ramen. Taste-wise and value-wise, this is the spot I most recommend to folks. They also do tsukemen (dipping-style) ramen, with fun names: Astro Boy, Ultraman, and Godzilla. Bonus: Complimentary edamame at the beginning of your meal and free iced/hot black tea.

JINYA // 2911 District Ave Suite 140 Fairfax, VA, 22031 // (703) 992-7705


Jinya is one of the newer ramen joints in the area and is the first DMV location of the trendy California chain. When you walk in, all the servers in their plaid shirts shout… something. (I still don’t know what this is.) I really like the flavors of their ramen bowls here. They have some unique flavors and will give you a jar of garlic cloves and a garlic press – free of charge – if you want to add some freshly-pressed garlic puree to your bowl. I also like their combos, although we’ve had some issues with the appetizer part of the combo coming out before our ramen. They also have an extensive drink menu and are in the poppin’ Mosaic District in Fairfax.

KIZUNA // 8221 Leesburg Pike Vienna, VA 22182 // (703) 442-7888


Kizuna was the most convenient option for us to visit and their happy hour often appealed to us. You can get sushi, a sake tasting, and just a plethora of options, really. There is also a super lovely outdoor seating area when the weather is nice! However, I’ve found their bowls to be very hit-or-miss. My first visit here almost made me not want to come back. We visited several times after, but then one of the last times I went, the ramen simply didn’t taste good. I’m also a little salty that they don’t include the egg with a standard bowl; I don’t think this is an optional topping! Still, you can’t beat their happy hour options.

I haven’t tried all the options in DC yet, but I am making my way through a few of them.

What DMV ramen spots are your favorite that I should try?

Weekend + Wedding in Roanoke

Back in May, my friend Yufeng asked me for my mailing address. Yufeng is one of my oldest summer camp friends. We met back in 2005 and I’ve seen him a few times during my visits back to New York. He got engaged back in December, so me and our mutual friend Barry (who was at summer camp with us, in New York when I visited the both of them, and actually shares an alma mater with Yufeng) were 99.9% sure that we were going to receive wedding save-the-dates. Hurray!

About a week later, Barry informed me that he received an invite! For a July wedding! Ohmygosh so soon! And I waited and waited and… started wondering if maybe I wasn’t actually invited? If maybe Yufeng and his [now] wife decided to remove me from the guestlist? Barry offered to bring me as his +1 but I thought that would be pretty awkward if I was explicitly not invited. Luckily for everyone, I got an email with more details about the wedding and found out that the postal service randomly returned my invite to the bride’s parents. With that, we booked our July 4th weekend in Roanoke and prepared to celebrate Yufeng’s big day!

(Note all photos are by Pat Cori unless otherwise indicated.)

After my first ever Cracker Barrel visit (I can’t believe it took me so long to go! I had a great meal and love the little general store!), we arrived in Roanoke and checked into our hotel, buzzing and ready for the wedding.

One of mine: a shot of St. Andrew’s that does not do it justice in the slightest

The ceremony was late Saturday morning at the absolutely stunning St. Andrew’s Catholic Church. (Random fact: This is also the childhood church of one of my coworkers, who is from Roanoke!) Gorgeous stained glass windows, an amazing altar, beautiful statues. We took a few photos with my friend Barry and I got my first-ever in-person look at the bride. You see, before the wedding day, I had actually never met Deirdre before!

A sneak peek at the couple and the beautiful church

First of all, it needs to be said here that the singer was magnificent. Her voice was so clear and pure but strong, she had excellent breath and tone control… I mean, this congregation is so lucky to have her! Such a lovely voice.

Second of all, this was easily the most-Catholic wedding ceremony I have ever sat through. There was much singing, to the chagrin of me, Ben, and Barry, who missed a cue to refer to the book of hymnals. I felt so awkward and embarrassed that I just started giggling uncontrollably, and it was very difficult to keep it in. While I do appreciate the ritual and ceremony of the Catholic Church, it is very easy to feel out of the loop if you haven’t learned all of them. However, I later learned that the ceremony was modified to accommodate folks who were unfamiliar with Catholic ceremonies and that everyone was kind of playing it by ear and just following the priest’s lead. For example, he made an unexpected joke about double happiness, which is traditionally used in China for weddings, that took Yufeng and his family by surprise.

Random fact: I was happy to see that the rehearsal dinner was actually done with the bride and groom in traditional Chinese dress!


After the lovely (if sometimes stressful-for-me) ceremony, we broke for a little recess. The families had set up an excursion up Mill Mountain to hike, look out over Roanoke, and enjoy a delicious lunch of biscuit sandwiches! It was a nice view and we got to meet some of Yufeng’s high school friends, who marveled at the fact that he had invited two of his summer camp buds to his wedding years and years later.

But the best thing about the excursion up was the Mill Mountain Star, the largest freestanding man-made illuminated star! (Citation needed…)

One of mine: not pictured, me looking around wondering why complete strangers didn’t understand why Starr was so excited about the giant star

This was the star of many of the Roanoke Snapchat filters. (Yufeng had his own Snapchat filter for the wedding!) (Also, let me make this confession now: I was very confused when I realized Roanoke, Virginia was not Roanoke the Lost Colony.) While we were enjoying the mountain air, the bride and groom were taking photos with the wedding party.

14680825_10154575257737114_1260532255936933526_oAnd then it was time for the reception! Luckily for us, while we knew no one at the wedding but Barry before the mountain hike, we were seated with our new Mill Mountain friends! The food was yummy (and even worth the huge oil splatter I got on my dress), the dancing was great, and everyone had a wonderful time.


Yufeng’s younger brother did a great lion dance!14633206_10154575269367114_5704007812831381321_o

And of course, the moment of fear when I stand at the very back of a crowd of women with my hands firmly behind my back.



It was a really lovely wedding and I couldn’t be happier for Yufeng and Deirdre.


The next morning, there was a lovely brunch at the  Maridor Bed & Breakfast, where we got to send off the couple one last time.

2015-09-28 22.24.00
And now

Until next time! Thank you for inviting us to your wedding, Yufeng, we truly had a wonderful time and are so happy for you both. I am so grateful to have been able to call you my friend for the past 11 years and could not have imagined, back in 2005, being able to see you marry the love of your life.

Congratulations again!

October Weekend Recap

Brushing aside what I have said in the past about slowing down, I stayed busy again this weekend. Despite that, I didn’t feel like my schedule was jam-packed. The activities I did were really relaxing, and I was able to feel very present in the moments that I was enjoying. This is kind of an ideal way to experience these memories – not rushing through them but savoring them.

RENNFEST // I finally had my first-ever Maryland Renaissance Festival visit on Saturday! While my initial impression of the RennFest was that it was for super nerds, I later came to realize that I am a super nerd and these are my people. The best decision I made was attending in costume, because I felt too cool for school with my red cloak billowing behind me and the butterflies in my hair made me feel like a little fall fae. Also, the weather was so perfect that I often found myself just standing there, breathing in the crisp air, feeling the wind in my cloak and my butterflies, soaking it all in.

Do not put your faith in a cape and a hood,
They will not protect you the way that they should…

It was actually the 40th anniversary of the Maryland RennFest! We didn’t eat as much as I thought we would! Just a turkey leg (fun to wield but actually really annoying to eat because it’s tough and tendon-y) and a berry tart. We got to see Danger Committee (a comedic stunts show that makes you laugh and gasp and was featured on America’s Got Talent), Puke and Snot (some of finest and fastest wordplay I have ever heard, from an act that has been around for over 40 years!), and a great jousting match. Did you know the state sport of Maryland is jousting? Some folks think it was modernized to be lacrosse, but lacrosse is only the state team sport. Jousting remains the official state sport.

Commemorative 40th anniversary tankard: “Let Merriment Abound!”

We chose this past Saturday specifically to see a gathering of Game of Thrones cosplayers, but there were so many people at RennFest (they sold out shortly after we arrived!) that we weren’t able to find them among the masses. We did see several cosplayers on their own: Daenerys, Sansa, Melisandre, Joffrey, Robert, Cersei… it would’ve been nice to have seen all of them together though. (Especially when Cu Dubh played the show theme song for them!) I still had a really lovely time with my friends and look forward to coming back many more times in the coming years.

FLEET WEEK // Maryland Fleet Week ended yesterday with US and Canadian Navy ships leaving Baltimore’s harbor. My family went out on Sunday to have a peek at the newest naval destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, which was actually commissioned in Baltimore on Saturday. It looks very different from the other ships and is claimed to be the most technologically advanced surface combatant in the world. While we couldn’t get a closer look, we did get a chance to quickly tour the deck of the USS Letye Gulf.

See how different the USS Zumwalt looks?
Super different design, super different tech and strategy

While an air show roared overhead. Yep, while we waited in line to board, we got to see the Blue Angels do their stuff (deafeningly) above us.


We wrapped the evening with a seafood dinner. Successful visit back home with my brother, and still very relaxing to boot!

ROCKET LAUNCH // NASA launched an Antares rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia last night! I didn’t know about this until yesterday morning, so I went to the Marine Corps Memorial to watch the launch with a coworkers in the evening. This was the first launch of an Antares rocket since 2014, with a failed launch, so it was very exciting for everyone. The livestream on NASAtv proved to be a little bit delayed because before we even saw liftoff on the video, we could already see the light from the rocket shooting up into the sky. While it’s not as ~cool~ as watching the footage of the explosive force that sends the rocket into the atmosphere, it was still pretty phenomenal to watch a manmade rocket go up… up… and away. The fact that we were still able to see it as it reached 180,000 ft altitude was a testament to just how bright and explosive the rocket must have been. I’ve never seen a rocket launch in person before, so this was really surreal to experience!

Also, is anyone watching Westworld? I didn’t love this week’s episode, but I think I like the show. I am a little bit in love with James Marsden’s face, so that doesn’t hurt at all. Plus, science fiction has been one of my favorite genres of everything since I learned to read.

Okay, I really am going to take it a little easier from here on out… until Halloween, of course!

East Coast friends, were any of you able to spot the rocket launch? It looked like a little red star for us a few miles away, but with its speed, you would’ve noticed a bright point in the sky going up, up, up, and then disappearing into the atmosphere.

Have you seen an air show before? I never thought about how much my dad probably enjoys them but we’ve seen the Blue Angels a few times over the past few years (Fort McHenry is a popular spot for them because of its historical significance) and I have a very early memory of seeing an air show with him… probably the Blue Angels!

Would something like the Renaissance Festival be your type of thing? You know I looooove dressing up, but I also really liked the historical aspect of the festival and just the… festival aspect! The shows were top-notch, the crafts were beautifully-made, and the people were all there to have a great time together.

P.S. Get hyped for peak costume season with me by looking back at an old Halloween Costume Reveal. Also, can you believe that disastrous Craig Robinson show I watched was 2 years ago?

Spoopy Catch-Up

Can you believe we’re almost halfway through October already?

It seems like just yesterday that I was sweating through the end of September and wondering when it would feel like fall. I could see my breath when I went out this morning, and I’ve started contemplating posting a cover of “Sweater Weather” up (don’t worry, I won’t), so it really is that time of year already!

Spoopy time!


The spoopy season is upon us, and it kicks off 3 months of festive fun, but I feel like I’ve barely had the chance to settle into October. Remember how I was supposed to “cool down for fall“? I’m not great at it, but I am getting better!

So let’s do a quick catch up of what I’ve been doing instead of taking it easy since I resolved to do just that…

DEVFESTDC // Maybe I wrote that post because I was staring down the barrel at a packed itinerary, because that Saturday I attended Day 2 of DevfestDC, a Google Developer Group mini-conference. I found out that my friend Yufeng (still waiting on your wedding photos, friend!) was one of the speakers, and with the venue so close to home, I had to go! It was nice to learn about machine learning and Google’s software (in advance of their big hardware announcement shortly after). It was especially nice to get to spend time with Yufeng, who I haven’t seen since his wedding. And seeing him twice in one year is like a new record!

SEEING RED // I dyed my hair!

It’s a lot more subtle than I was going for, but I am still happy to have red in my hair for autumn! And to be honest, maybe it’s safer for work that my hair isn’t as vibrant of a red as I was going for?

TWO YELPER PARTIES // I worked at not one but two Yelper parties, one week apart! You know I’m a sucker for a good themed party, so for the famous rivalry theme, I quickly donned an Ursula getup and convinced Ben to do an Eric Disneybound.


And at the DC Halloween bash, I gave Little Red a little test drive. (You’ll be seeing her again later!)

(And of course, I ate a lot of great food.)

HOMECOMING // I went back to my alma mater for yet another rainy homecoming. It feels very different now, when I go back to campus. I feel super out of touch with the campus community as the neighborhood changes.  The student involvement suite – where I used to spend hours of my week running different clubs and meetings – had been completely redone and I was invited to the ribbon-cutting. It is so new and snazzy now, and I am really excited for the student orgs who are going to get to use that space. The homecoming leadership reception – which I’ve attended for the past 4 years – was held in a different building than usual because the old building… is not there anymore. They are redoing it. I remember feeling super tethered to my alma mater as my first job after graduating was research on campus, but I definitely do not feel that anymore.

I’ll be honest: part of the reason I come back for homecoming is the delicious food they feed me.

TREVOR NOAH // I got to see Trevor Noah, who currently hosts The Daily Show, perform standup at the Kennedy Center while he promotes his upcoming book, Born Illegal. He was really funny, and I didn’t know that he did so many great impressions and accents! I appreciated his commitment to his one-man skits, which less-bold comics would not sustain the way he did. And then, because my friend Krystal is going to marry him and got the chance to get a photo with him… and bring some friends… I got to meet him!

I like to think he’s laughing because when Annie and Krystal walked up, he exclaimed “Oh, you guys are tiny, I love that!” and then I approached him and said, “I see how it is, no love for a tall girl?” He then performed a 10:30 show about 5 minutes after this photo.

SETH MEYERS //  Late Night with Seth Meyers is filming in DC this week, and I was able to attend Tuesday’s taping! It was very stressful because even though I left work quite early, Metro was hell-bent on making me late. When I escaped from underground and decided to bike over instead, the first three Capital Bikeshare hubs I got to were full! No where to park my bike! This was one of the rare times I ran in the streets and I immediately stopped when I saw the line wrapping around the block. My friends already had their wristbands to sit in the orchestra section, and I was sure I wasn’t going to make it because there were hundreds of people in line in front of me. But I made it!!! Here’s the episode I watched them film, with guests Lena Dunham and John Mulaney and Nick Kroll as their characters from their Broadway show, Oh, Hello. It was fun to get to see them film live, and I liked seeing Seth Meyers again. (I saw him perform standup in college, shortly before he hosted the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2011.)

CIRQUE DE LA SYMPHONIE // I just saw this last night: it’s the NSO Pops performing Cirque de la Symphonie:  classic Halloween instrumentals to accompany some incredible circus acts. I’m talking aerial artists, strongmen, a juggling clown, a contortionist. There was a woman doing these amazing fast changes! It was awesome, and the set list included a lot of my favorite orchestral Halloween pieces. To top it all off, the weather is beautiful, so we walked to and fro the Kennedy Center and thoroughly enjoyed the stroll.

#FALLINTODISNEYSTYLE // I’ve been occasionally participating in Disney Style’s fall  Instagram challenge, and I have been getting to know a lot of really cool Disney Instagrammers through it!


I’m not as hardcore as most of the community is, but it’s still a really fun community to get to know.

Screen Shot 2016-10-13 at 11.19.41 PM.png
Otherwise very unaccustomed to posting photos of my socks or my desk!

Believe it or not, this is actually a slightly slowed-down few weeks for me. I have been very consciously giving myself days at home to cook dinner, clean, and prepare for future activities. (Halloween is rapidly approaching and then the holiday season will be upon us before we know it!)

What have you been up to lately as fall kicks into full gear?
What are your favorite politically-minded comedy shows?
I don’t really watch a lot of TV anymore, and I definitely don’t stay up late to watch them, so I actually don’t watch much of The Daily Show or Late Night with Seth Meyers.

P.S. Are you in the spoopy mood yet? Get in it with Required Halloween Viewing and laughing at my resolution to Cool Down for Fall.
P.P.S. I quickly set up a Facebook page if that’s your preferred way to read blogs!