Happy Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, and Pancake Day to any and all who are observing!
Although I am not Catholic, I have been observing Lent in my own way for the past few years. Lent is the third time at the beginning of the year that I check in on how I am doing with my self-improvement (with my New Year’s resolutions and Chinese New Year reflections being the first two). I take a look at a bad habit that I really want to address and abstain from it. Completely.
In fact, giving up chips was a Lenten initiative a few years ago. (Before I sank into chip addiction and had to give it up without waiting for Lent to come back around.) Lent has been a great way for me to seriously tackle habits of mine. And it works. Really well.
I actually struggle to inhale chips the way I used to.
I don’t watch nearly as much television as I used to, and I am a child who was partially raised by television. I used to keep time based on when my shows were on. Luckily, I was too lazy to catch up on 6 weeks of shows for the multitude of shows that I was watching in 2015, and I haven’t caught up since. It’s a little crazy to think about how addicted I was to watching all of my shows and think about how lazy I am now with regards to television.
This year, I wasn’t sure what to give up for Lent until last week. I have been trying to work out and be more active. Along with that, I’m also trying to eat a bit healthier. But I did have a pretty bad day where I ate the leftovers of an appetizer sampler that consisted of mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, and onion rings.
Basically, I inhaled a bunch of deep-fried food. And I felt absolutely sick to my stomach afterwards. Regardless of how healthily you are or aren’t eating, I think that eating that much fried food in 2 minutes will make you want to throw up.
So I decided it wouldn’t be a terrible idea for me to give up fried food for Lent this year.
I don’t feel as apprehensive about Lent this year as I have in past years, like when I was giving up McDonald’s and chips, or when I gave up television but had to let myself have 3 shows to stay keep me company.
However, I do realize this will be a challenge. Many of my favorite foods are deep-fried:
Potato chips! (Goodbye again, my loves.)
Yeast doughnuts! (Cake ones are fine, but those fluffy yeast ones are where it’s at.)
Chicken McNuggets! (You know what’s better than 20 for $5? 40 for $9.)
French fries! (’nuff said.)
But I think that going without these deep-fried bits of deliciousness for 40 days and change (I didn’t know that Lent doesn’t include the Sundays when I started out) will be good for me.
I will also be abstaining from swear words during Lent. I prefer not to swear at all, and yet somehow I wind up doing more and more of it until the next year’s Lenten period rolls around. So this year, no swearing during Lent and hopefully none afterwards either!
Do you give up anything for Lent?
What’s a vice you need to cut back on, if you’re more of a moderation person?
Happy Valentine’s Day! I wanted to share how Ben and I celebrated early a few days ago, but please remember to love yourself, however you are able to best do that.
This is my 400th post on this blog, and I have officially been posting twice a week consistently for an entire calendar year. I’m really proud to have reached this point and may be taking a small hiatus in posting regularly while I pull myself together and refocus. (Might not, we’ll see how I feel!) Thank you so much for being with me this past year and these past 400 posts.
I have a lot of thoughts about the DC food scene, but I will admit that it is improving. (I’ll put up all my gripes about the DC food scene and places that have shown this improvement in the near future!) Last year, Washington DC was recognized as Bon Appetit magazine’s Restaurant City of the Year and also received its first-ever Michelin stars, and that is thanks to many great new restaurants and chefs that have made enough of a name for themselves to do fresh, bold things.
But we aren’t here to talk about the hot new places. Rose’s Luxury has been one of the most-hyped restaurants in the District since I started working in the area. It earned a Michelin star last year and can be reliably found on Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list year after year. I’ve only ever heard good things from friends who’ve visited the restaurant, citing that yes, it is worth the hype!
Where does most of the hype come from? 2 things:
Their most famous dish, a pork & lychee salad
The fact that they do not take reservations, so people have to start waiting in line at 3pm in order to get a table for dinner… 2.5 hours later.
They do take reservations for large parties (6 or more), but I couldn’t find that many friends so I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to eat at Rose’s.
BUT THEN! Towards the end of last year, Rose’s Luxury announced that they would be accepting reservations! For parties of 2! With the purchase of a gift card that could be used towards that meal!
TL;DR Rose’s Luxury does an impressive job of combining a lot of different flavors in a balanced and unexpectedly delicious way, all while injecting a bit of sassy personality along the way.
Despite the name, Rose’s Luxury is not a luxurious, pretentious, fancy restaurant. In fact, you might walk past it if you’re not paying attention.
Inside, the ambiance is similarly not-stuffy and, in fact, more on the hipster-trendy side. Rose’s has a lot of personality, and it shows in their decor. We were seated upstairs near the bar, and walked past my friends’ favorite seating area that is lit overhead by globe string lights.
Behind me was a shelf with books and fun knick-knacks. A certificate in dining from Hooter’s did not escape me among the otherwise very Pinterest-worthy collection. The servers were dressed casually and otherwise indistinguishable from guests, who were not dressed to the nines for their 9pm dinners. In the bathroom, behind a small mirror was a window that overlooked the dining area below and still had elements of the personality that was subtly embedded in the entire restaurant experience.
We had a gift certificate to blow on our 5th Valentine’s Day together, so let’s get into the food!
The meal kicked off with a soft potato brioche w/ bacon butter. This wasn’t particularly outstanding as far as breads go, but I liked the soft texture and the warmed, soft bacon butter a lot. I only wished it didn’t crumble so much because I want bread to go in my belly, not on the board.
We enjoyed these little bites, and they were a great way to prep us for what is, I believe, the core of the Rose’s Luxury experience: pulling off interesting, unexpected, and bold flavor combinations.
Stuffed dates w/ cultured butter & walnuts // Ben took a bit to warm up to these, but I really liked the sweet and soft dates, the savoriness and warmth of the butter, and the slight crunch and bitterness of the walnuts.
Foie gras tart w/ hazelnut, white chocolate, & Asian pear // This was the strangest of the little bites because of the white chocolate chips embedded in the not-sweet foie gras filling of the tart. But it still came together because of its creaminess and it complemented the sweet flavors of the chocolate and the pear. Kind of hated it when I first bit into it, but found myself liking it a lot by the time the bite was gone.
Sake & wasabi-marinated oysters w/ apple granita // I don’t usually like wasabi very much (sorry wasabi pea lovers!), but these oysters were great because of how the very different flavors and textures came together. It was a bit much for one slurp, but I liked how the frozen apple granita helped mollify the burn I would’ve felt from the wasabi and even from the sake, while still allowing some of flavor of the oyster to come through.
Pork sausage, habanero, peanuts, & lychee // Here we are. The most famous dish at Rose’s Luxury, cited in over 250 reviews on Yelp. At the bottom were herbs and on top was a dollop of coconut cream that, as you stirred the whole thing, would melt over the salad and act as the dressing. There were a lot of flavors happening in this small plate and I do think this is a good example of how Rose’s Luxury really pushes the envelope with combining flavors. Ben and I found this salad a bit too salty and not really worth the hype, to be honest. It was tasty and honestly, I do admire what Aaron Silverman did with this flavor combination, but it didn’t change my life and I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it again.
Fried brussels sprouts w/ benne tahini, eel sauce, & bonito // The prominent flavors in this one were brussels sprouts and tahini, both of which are very strong flavors. I felt this was maybe the least successful in terms of balancing the flavors of all the components, but it was still tasty because the sprouts and tahini were an interesting combination. I just didn’t think the other flavors had much of an effect in the quantity that they were used.
Crispy squid w/ Yemeni hot sauce, romaine, & sweet lemon puree // By the time this came out, Ben and I were starting to feel the effect of the food. We hadn’t really eaten that much, but I think we felt very satiated by the sheer quantity of flavors that we were consuming. The flavors were pretty well-balanced in this one, although I didn’t detect much heat from the hot sauce and I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. The squid itself was… prepared okay? Not that crispy, but it’s hard for me to find a calamari I don’t like.
Thai-marinated pork blade steak w/ nahm prik slaw // Again, by the time this came out, Ben and I weren’t as eager about the food anymore. I was also really sleepy by this point in the evening, as we were seated for dinner at close to 9:30pm and I have been getting sleepy very early because I’ve been attempting exercise in the mornings. As a result, I don’t really have any thoughts about this pork dish, it didn’t stand out as particularly good or bad.
If you’re thinking that maybe we were regretting ordering a pasta… you’d be right. I was nodding off at this point in the meal and my belly was trying to come to terms with how many flavors and ingredients it had met over the past hour. We ordered the farro reginetti w/ garlic, kale, & mustard greens and… it was okay.
The two of us, personally, do not like our pasta cooked very al dente, so the bite-y pasta was a bit of a struggle when 10:30, 11 was rolling around. The taste was fine but… pretty ordinary, to be really honest. A touch of sauce didn’t really help how overwhelmingly al dente this pasta was, and I wasn’t super excited about the leftovers I brought to lunch the next day.
However, our server, Janine, sent a “gift” of a little bit of their Martelli spaghetti w/ tomato, chili, basil, & Parmesan and that was coated in maybe the best pasta sauce I have ever tasted in my entire life? I like my tomato sauces to be a bit sweet, and this was the perfect amount of sweetness that I could tell wasn’t the result of the sloppy addition of sugar. We only were able to take some of this home because we were so done with the meal already, and having those two bites to enjoy over the weekend was nothing short of glorious. I really want the recipe for this tomato sauce, it was the highlight of the entire meal for me and we didn’t even order it! Thank you so much, Janine!
Listen, I know I said that I was basically passed out and unable to eat but I didn’t come all this way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and not eat dessert. You just gotta open up that dessert compartment in your stomach and you’re good to go. Based on Janine’s recommendation, we got the coconut ice cream with burnt caramel coconut and kiwi.
I didn’t love this, unfortunately. The ice cream was tasty, but I think it felt weird to have more coconut after the coconut cream from the pork & lychee salad during a meal where my mouth was constantly being surprised by different flavors and how they were combined. A repeat performance by coconut was like, “Hey… what are you doing back here?” Also, I did not like the burnt caramel coconut. It was sticky in that unpleasant way that lent it a kind of poor mouthfeel and I found the bitterness to just not really work at this point in the evening. And kiwi was a fun choice but I’m not sure I loved the tartness of the kiwi with the sweet and creamy ice cream. I know that people really love this dessert, but I think I just wasn’t in the mood for more coconut or for a flavor to come from burnt-ness.
At the end of the meal, our receipt was brought out to us with a sesame brittle and little touches that made us smile.
I enjoyed my time at Rose’s Luxury but I’m glad I never had to wait hours to eat here. I don’t think it’s worth that kind of wait, and as a result I don’t think it’s worth the level of hype it has achieved. That being said, Aaron Silverman and his team are doing some incredible things with food and flavor that I think DC needs more of. Even the small plates format – which I normally loathe here in DC – works for this because you are getting small punches of these crazy flavors.
February is primarily known for one big commercial holiday and that is, of course, Valentine’s Day. People’s attitudes towards Valentine’s Day changes as time goes on, from anticipating getting all those little cards featuring your favorite TV cartoon holding lollipops from everyone in your class to the promotions you get in your email inbox featuring all things pink and flowers and chocolate.
At this point, I think many of us don’t think too much of Valentine’s Day, regardless of relationship status. February 15 discounts on heart-shaped candy aside, some people don’t think there’s much to get excited about. And maybe there isn’t.
But I think that a month and a half after the start of the new year — another arbitrary marker of the passing of time, yes I know, go with it — it’s nice to reflect on the goals we made for 2017 but also to take some time to be consciously kind to ourselves.
Whether you love this day or hate it, have someone to share romantic feelings with or not, Valentine’s Day is a good time to check in with yourself and make sure you feel some love. Why not take the day (or the weekend before the day) to treat yo self?
Here are 5 suggestions for how to be your own Valentine this year:
Take a bath / Soak your feet
Taking a bath is one of those things that has become cliché in its association with self-care and self-indulgence but for good reason! It just feels so nice, even if you don’t add in all the little extras like bubbles and rose petals and bath bombs etc. etc. etc. Submerging your body in warm/hot water is just a physically relaxing sensation for your muscles and nerves.
HOWEVER. Maybe you don’t have a bit ol’ bathtub. Maybe you do but the prospect of making it clean enough for a bath is giving you a headache? (Guilty here!) In that case, just do a nice little foot soak. I do this in one of those wide, shallow plastic bowls (they always have a stack of these colorful things in Asian groceries) but sometimes I’ll also just do it in my bathroom sink if I have room to sit my butt on the counter beside it.
There’s no need to buy anything extra for a bath or foot soak. You can literally just soak in warm-to-hot water, or add in some soap/body wash to add some soapy cleaning power to the water. If you’d like to buy yourself a little somethin’, look into:
And make sure to use a lotion you love afterwards! It locks in the good feeling you got in the bath for a little longer, and it’s like a little massage for yourself.
(And fellas, you treat yourselves to a bath, too, or at least a foot soak.)
Have a dance party (for one)
If you have a space to yourself, either put on some earbuds/headphones or turn up your speakers, and rock out to your favorite groove-able music for a bit! If you don’t but you don’t mind sharing your dance party with others, then invite your roommates, family members, whoever to join you in the dancing!
You got your favorite music. You got dancing, which feels good because something something exercise and also music! And you’re dancing for the sake of dancing. You’re not going out, buying drinks, paying cover, getting jostled by sweaty people, losing your friends, finding a ride, etc. etc. etc.
It’s just dancing. Wear whatever you want. Dance however you want. To whatever music you want. Enjoy it!
Eat a nice meal (for one)
You can do this by either a) cooking a beautiful meal for yourself or b) taking yourself on a solo date but you deserve to have some lovely food for yourself.
If you enjoy cooking, then why not make yourself a spectacular meal at home? Make your favorite meal, or make something a little special that maybe you normally wouldn’t spend the time on for just yourself. You deserve it, you really do. (Apologize to future self for the dishes.)
If you enjoy eating out a lot more, take yourself out to eat. This is a little scary, but it’s not as weird as it seems. Bring a book, sit at the bar if one is available, and finally eat at the spot you want to without working so hard to find someone who is free and wants to eat the same thing.
The solo date feels a bit weird, even if you do it at home, but I think it’s important to treat yourself like the important person in your life that you are. And to be able to enjoy your own company and treat that time like the, well, treat that it is. (Yes, even us extroverts!)
PLUS you get to eat whatever you want! Breakfast for dinner? Food combinations that your loved ones judge you for liking? That restaurant that your friends don’t like because the food is too “weird” but you love so much? Go. Eat. Be merry.
I understand that this can be limited by budget, so feel free to also scale this idea back and just indulge in some of your favorite snacks or junk food — in moderation. Junk food will make you feel pretty crummy inside if you eat too much of it, so feel free to indulge in chocolate or chips or fries or pizza… just not too much! And do it mindfully. Don’t just demolish a bag of popcorn while binge-watching. Just sit with a small bowl of your food, and enjoy it and nothing else.
Go to a museum / art gallery / aquarium / zoo
If you have free admission to any of these institutions in your area (thank you, Smithsonian, for existing), I definitely recommend trying this out one of these days. If not, I would still suggest trying to visit one near you and to visit alone. These outings can be really fun with friends as a social activity, but I get the most out of the museum/gallery itself when I visit alone.
This is because I am able to go at my own pace, read every single placard, visit every nook and cranny. I can also just sit in one spot for a while, people-watching, painting-watching, fish-watching, monkey-watching… it’s nice to just slow down and take it all in.
I do feel like I get more of an educational value from museums and galleries and aquariums and zoos when I go alone, even if I go on a “free day” that the place is hosting and there are a lot of people swarming the joint.
Really make your bed and sleep in / take a nap
Wash your sheets, with your favorite scented laundry products if you can. (Sorry. Just do it, you’ll thank yourself later.) While you wait for your bed linens to wash and dry, get yourself ready. Brush your teeth, wash your face, go through a full skincare routine if you’d like (another great way to treat yourself on its own!). Take a shower (or a bath!) if you typically shower before you sleep. Put on your coziest pajamas, or your softest T-shirt, or get ready to sleep in your birthday suit — whatever you sleep in to maximize feeling good in your bed.
Make your bed with your favorite sheets, make it real nice. Smooth it out, fluff up your pillows, actually tuck your comforter into the cover. Maybe spritz it with a nice calming scent. (Apparently they make sprays just for the bed!) Go ahead and invite your cuddliest stuffed animal to your bed if you don’t want to sleep completely alone.
Climb into your warm, fresh-smelling bed. Put on a little eye mask if you are sleeping during the day or just need to shut out any distracting lights. (I use one of those free ones that I get on planes or from hotels.) Maybe play some white noise or some quiet, calm instrumental music or some nature sounds like ocean waves, rain falling, rivers flowing.
If you’re taking a nap, set an alarm so that you’re waking up at the end of a sleep cycle and so that you don’t accidentally take a 4-hour nap in the middle of the day. (Oops, I can’t be the only one?)
If you are sleeping in and are able to, turn off all your alarms and turn off your phone notifications. Maybe set your phone to silent. Maybe put your phone far from your bed.
Definitely do not look at your phone before you fall asleep. Don’t check social media. Don’t check the news. Don’t watch a video. The most you should be doing it setting alarms, if necessary, and maybe playing any sleep sounds.
Enjoy your sleep the best you can.
These suggestions are meant to make you feel better afterwards. Indulging in a lot of alcohol and junk food and “bad television” might feel good when you’re doing it, but you usually don’t feel good after. I want the good feelings leftover from treating yourself to linger on afterwards.
I also tried to think of things you could do without spending a ton of money on yourself, or spending none at all if possible. Sure, it’d be great if we could all just take ourselves on a fly vacation, but that’s not an option for most of us. You don’t need to spend money to treat yourself well. (Sarah over at YesAndYes.org has a great list of things you can do for yourself that don’t involve eating or buying.)
What are your favorite ways to treat yourself? I like to go through my maximum skincare routine, masks and serums and all, and then enjoy a nice cup of decaf Earl Grey with some vanilla milk-alternative and some kind of little cookie or pastry. (Got some frozen mini eclairs in the freezer that can thaw while I do my face!)
Do you have any fun Valentine’s Day plans? I know that there are a lot of activities going on in the DC area and I have a fairly packed Saturday so I will try to take Sunday as a day to treat myself.
Somehow, my mom started telling folks in China that I came to Beijing wanting to just seem the museums!!! Even though I didn’t know about any museums that weren’t the Forbidden City, really. However, as a person who reads every word on every placard in any museum, gallery, aquarium, zoo, what have you, I did really enjoy visiting 2 amazing and free (!!!) museums in Beijing with my aunts. Because I was maybe the only person interested in the exhibits, we didn’t spend an awful lot of time in either museum, so I’ll have to go back someday soon and see the rest! The first one I want to talk about is:
National Museum of China (中国国家博物馆)
The National Museum (国家博物馆) is an easy stop if you will be visiting Tiananmen Square, as it’s directly across the street, and is a great stop to get an expansive look at China’s history.
You can start with prehistoric times by looking at the oldest human fossils found in China and go all the way through to the Qing dynasty, the last dynasty before the Communist Revolution.
While I was able to visit the Forbidden City and its accompanying museum, many imperial artifacts are actually kept here in the National Museum, such as the furniture and accoutrements of the various rooms that would otherwise be left exposed to tourists and the elements.
The museum is huge. We only had a few hours and did not get to see all the exhibits, including a waxwork exhibit of key figures in Chinese history. I’m glad we were able to stop by a section that was devoted to statues of important historical people. If you don’t know any important people from China’s history, go up to the top floor of the National Museum and learn about the people who are depicted in statue up there.
During my visit, there was a collaboration exhibit with the museum and Qatar museums on pearls. They had a lot of stunning pearl work, from intricate pearl beading found in imperial costumes to items from Elizabeth Taylor’s personal collection. They also had really cool items like an oyster shell that trapped a fish beneath layers of mother-of-pearl.
I didn’t take many photos, contrary to how many you see here, because I was furiously reading signs and trying to take in as much information as I could. To think that there were entire wings of the museum that I didn’t get to see, while I was speedwalking through the ones I did get to browse, blows my mind.
I can’t wait to come back and explore the rest of the museum and their new exhibits!
Admission: FREE – citizens need their ID and non-nationals need to bring a passport Security: Do not bring large bags, as they will not be permitted. A thorough security check is required before entering the museum, so be prepared to have your bag scanned and to be patted down. Lighters are prohibited, as evidenced by the giant basket of ’em at the security checkpoint. Photos are permitted, as you can see, but not in all exhibits.
What is your favorite history museum? I don’t think I can choose a favorite history museum, since those are my favorites. And really, aren’t all museums history museums? I definitely love when they are free, though! Free access to history is something I really take for granted, as someone who is a hop, skip, and jump away from so many Smithsonian institutions.
How much would you say you know about Chinese history? I know… some. My dad bought me a documentary set that covered literally every era of Chinese history, from prehistoric times through all the dynasties and wars through to the Communist Revolution. A lot of information has since leaked out of my brain, but I try to refresh bits and pieces of it every now and then and this museum visit helped a lot!
I am just a few days away from being on-schedule for one full calendar year! If you had told me in February of 2016 that I would be posting Tuesday/Friday every week (except for the weeks where I attempted Monday/Thursday) for an entire year, I would’ve laughed because I have never been that regular with blog posting in my long blogging life.
There are a lot of posts I have brewing in my head, and I want to share them with you so badly. There are many more China travel posts, the Europe posts I swear to everything are in my head ready to be put to keyboard soon, more general posts, etc.
But I’m experiencing a bit of burnout.
I’m not sure why. I don’t think work has been particularly stressful or high-pressure. I was with my family for 2 weeks in China before coming back.
And yet, ever since getting back, I’ve felt very off. The simplest way for me to describe it is that I’m mentally exhausted. The current political climate does not help at all, but I just desperately want to turn off my brain. I actually started working out in January, and I think I’ve been throwing myself into that because I can do something that feels productive without thinking much at all. Then I go to work sore, unmotivated, unable to concentrate, unwilling to eat.
Even when I socialize with people, the textbook extrovert I tend to be, I’m only half there. I hear how fake my laugh sounds. Whereas I always have a hard time ending a conversation, I find myself wondering how much longer I can keep one up before I just stop being able to. I feel like it shows in my face, that the conversations are wearing me down from my already worn-down state.
My head hurts often and so does my belly. I’m lethargic and sleepy, and I don’t think it’s just because of how early I’m waking up to work out. I’m breaking out. I’m gaining weight. I’m taking a long time to recover from exercise.
So I will make it to one calendar year, but I will need to take a break after that post. Blogging on schedule has been really great for me and for this blog. NOt only do I have that great aesthetic pattern on my WordPress calendar but it’s good to write twice a week. Nowadays, though, I’ve been scrambling to put together low-quality posts the morning of my deadlines and I hate putting out these bad posts for you. I hate that this has become a burden and not a fun outlet.
I’ll be taking a little break very soon, and I hope I find my way back to normal soon and can finish sharing all the things I was so excited to share with you all just a few weeks ago.
I apologize in advance if post quality continues to be lower over the next few posts, but I hope the break will fix that.
Do you have any tips for burnout?
Also, I really want to stress that it’s important to stay active and woke and call your representatives and remember that you are a part of history regardless of what you do or don’t do but you can help make history if you are active about it. This applies no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I encourage even those of you whose views differ from mine to stay informed and stay active. I will always defend your right to do so.