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

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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

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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

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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?

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Salads: An Update

It feels a little weird to just toss out a salad post (see what I did there) when I have a backlog of recaps I still owe. There’s my friend’s wedding I attended at the beginning of the month (waiting on photos from the official photographer, so waiting for the couple to return from their honeymoon) and my annual trip to New York (which I just want to wait because, chronologically, it happened after the wedding).

So I want to talk a little bit about salads real quick.

Yep, I, too, can sometimes be a woman laughing alone with salad.

Back on my old blog (RIP Xanga), I wrote an entire post about how I construct salads and what my favorite restaurant salads were. I don’t think that ever made it here, but in light of how many salads I’ve been eating during DC’s recent heat bubble, I figured it was a good time to revisit salads.

While some people may think of summer as cookout time, a time to eat copious fried foods and barbecued meats, I always think about the fresh, raw foods I crave in the summer. It gets to the point where I am almost offended when someone invites me to eat salad or sushi in the winter. (Are you saying my winter coat of blubber doesn’t look good???) On days when you get covered in a layer of sweat or the moisture in the air or both within seconds of walking outside, a beautiful, crisp salad really hits the spot. The things I look for when I am glancing over salad menus are textures, flavors, and colors. I also take into consideration heaviness/freshness, which is hard to describe but I think you probably understand it? Citrus adds freshness. Avocado and bacon add heaviness.

Here’s my process, in order, of when I construct my own salads…Read More »

Summer 2015 Favorites

I’m trying to ease my way back into my regular schedule… or at least posting at all… it’s obviously not going great. (As per usual, my roadblock in getting Florida posts up is the photo editing/uploading. LE SIGH.)

Before I even realized what was happening, July ended, and then August skipped by? Whoa. It’s been yet another crazy summer for me, so I thought I’d share a few things that have helped me through the chaos.

Sense8

I first heard about this new Netflix Original Series at the beginning of June and was instantly interested. The trailer was super cool and I was immediately drawn in by the premise of these 8 people in 8 different cities who are emotionally and mentally connected.

This is maybe my new favorite show to push other people to watch. It is really unlike most other shows that I’ve seen. First of all, the characters are incredibly interesting. They’re so different from each other and have amazing depth to each and every one. You really feel very committed and invested in all 8 of them and their individual stories. But what is even more interesting is how the show links the characters together. Two characters on opposite sides of the world may be facing completely different circumstances, but they share a core dilemma and that brings them together. The show also deals with a lot of issues that more mainstream shows shy away from. The emotional stakes are really high, and even though the overarching story of the season doesn’t really kick off until episode 9 (it’s ridiculous, I know), I promise you it’s worth that slow burn.

PLUS the show is gorgeous. The cinematography is beautiful. You have this wanderlust from visiting Berlin and Mumbai and Nairobi and Iceland and Chicago and Mexico City and more. And it’s a really cool blend of different cinematic styles. You want a Bollywood dance sequence? Done. Excessive action sequence? Okay. Buddy cop? There’s a bit of that. Comedy? EDM? Done, done. Whatever you want, this show HAS IT. God, it’s such a good show. I’m tempted every day to rewatch the season.

New Phone Apps

When I downloaded these apps at the beginning of the summer, I had planned on doing a post about them but that’s one of many drafts that I started this summer and never got out. I think it was actually meant to be one of the monthly favorites, oops. (Let me know if this is one of the posts you still want me to publish?) Essentially, I decided to shake up some of most-used apps by switching to better-looking ones that had better features.

  • Sunrise Calendar: This is a really great-looking calendar app that has great external app integration (in fact, Sunrise is what led me to get Wunderlist) and a superb Android widget
  • Wunderlist: Even though I’ve been using the same to-do website/app for over 10 years, it was time to move on to one that better suited my needs. Wunderlist has a great user interface and features that I regularly use like repeating tasks, separate reminders and due dates, and more.
  • 1Weather: In the midst of switching apps, I decided I needed a better-looking weather app also and was led to 1Weather by the folks at Lifehacker. 1Weather is simple but looks so good and tells me everything I need and more without inundating my screen with meteorological data. Icons for Sunrise Calendar, Wunderlist, and 1Weather

Ant-Man Promo

Honestly, even if you have no interest in watching Ant-Man (which I would recommend you do watch, it was a fun movie), you should just watch this trailer. It’s 15 seconds of your life that you won’t want back, featuring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. Enjoy.

Vanilla Milk Alternatives

This seems very specific, but basically I really liked vanilla-flavored soy and almond milks, and I feel like I would probably like other vanilla-flavored products as well? (I know I’ve seen cashew and coconut milk in the same section.) I don’t like milk very much at all, but I tried some vanilla soy creamer at the beginning of the summer and really loved it with:

  1. Twinings Earl Grey decaf tea, for a London Fog-style treat in the evening
  2. Javazen Original, cold-brewed, for a delicious iced coffee

Buying a big ol’ carton just to flavor tea or iced coffee seemed a bit silly, but so did repeatedly buying the tiny cartons of creamer. So, I now have a big ol’ carton and am able to drink it straight up or use it for…

Chia Pudding

Basically, I’ve been really curious about this “super food” trend for a while now because it seemed like the gelatinous form that chia seeds take on in puddings would be yummy. I bought a bag when it was on sale and it was the perfect time to use my new milk alternatives. This is a super winner in my book as a breakfast, dessert, snack, whatever. It feels healthy, it tastes great, it keeps me filled… what’s not to love? I am still working on the right ratio of seeds to milk, but I’ve been really enjoying chia pudding the past few weeks with my vanilla milk alternatives and chocolate soy milk, which I am really happy to be able to find as a lot of stores have stopped stocking the one I always get.

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The IT Crowd

This is another show that is available on Netflix. I first heard about it on Tumblr from folks who were complaining that The Big Bang Theory was actually mocking the nerds rather than celebrating them through comedy, which I really can’t disagree with. Plus, Tumblr is a huge fan of Richard Ayoade, one of the stars of the show. His character, Moss, can be likened to Sheldon on BBT, except he’s a lot more clever and a lot funnier, to me. (I love Richard Ayoade.)

Even though I started the show a long while back, it wasn’t until this summer that I finished it, laughing aloud through most of the episodes. I highly recommend this as a lighthearted comedy about the workplace and how dumb the workplace can be. You get a fun dose of British humor while you’re at it, as well. (Also, about the struggles that IT people face when people don’t have their computers plugged in.)

Game of Thrones

OKAY INTERNET, YOU WIN. I finally watched Game of Thrones. After having most of the show spoiled rotten for me, I’ve decided to get some context on events like the Red Wedding and now I have it. I think I’m more interested in reading the books now, if anything, because I’m really drawn in by the world that George R. R. Martin has created, but I also really have to commend the cast for their portrayals of these characters and the crew for literally building this world. I love fantasy as a genre and obviously GoT is a great fantasy series. I am glad that this show is no longer a blind spot when it comes to nerdy and/or television trivia. Really excited for season 6, as the show has now caught up with (and in some cases, eclipsed) the book series. No one knows what’s coming next and a lot of storylines are building up to some exciting climaxes!


And that’s just a few of the things that have been keeping me sane and generally in good spirits this summer. Sometimes the summer seems so short, but then I realize I finished Game of Thrones 2 weeks ago and finished Sense8 2 months ago and it seems like such a long time…

I’m looking forward to a lot of fall favorites to come!

What kept you happy this summer?
Have you watched any of the shows I mentioned? Or should I watch something different?

{See also: Summer 2015 Recap}

Chip Rehabilitation (+ Favorites!)

I don’t consider myself to be a person of many vices at all. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t gamble.

What do I do instead?
I eat chips. Or at least I used to.

Hi. My name is Starr and I’m a recovering chip addict. If you could take a pause from laughing at me for a moment, I’ll explain my sad story. (Cue violin music.)

I’ve always loved chips. They’re crunchy, they’re crispy, they have this amazing savoriness, even a bit of umami-ness. I love the taste and texture and how they never let me down.

The funny thing is, I actually gave up chips for Lent a few years ago. It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, but I pulled through without too much issue and resumed eating chips after Easter, finding that I had regained self-control in the presence of chips. I still loved them, but I no longer felt like I needed to inhale every snack-sized bag that reached my grubby hands. I could eat one bag, or even share one with a friend!

Evidently, I lost this self-control somewhere along the way. I know exactly when. It was a little over a year ago, and I was at a really stressful job. I had a snack drawer at my cubicle and there was always a bag of chips in there. At the peak of my burn-out that would eventually lead to me leaving that company, I was eating an entire family-sized bag of chips every day. FAMILY-SIZED. I was not a family. I was — and remain — one single person. In fact, I was eating so many chips every day that I started gaining weight. I’m lucky enough to not really gain weight very easily at all, but I starting putting on pounds during those last few weeks at that company with all the chips I was eating. No matter how much I love chips, they are no where near as good for your body as they are for your soul, and they are really quite bad for you when you eat enough to supply a weekend barbecue with friends.

With the weight gain and the realization that I could probably eat two full-sized bags of Doritos every day if I let myself buy that many chips, I decided to quit cold turkey. I figured it’d be like when I stopped eating chips during Lent. When I found myself craving chips, I ate some cereal to satisfy my crunchy craving and sate my hunger. But I still wanted chips. Okay, I decided to have some roasted seawood to satisfy my salty craving. I figured chip craving = crunchy craving + salty craving, at the end of the day, and as long as I could fulfill those two, I didn’t need chips. But I was wrong. In fact, I ate through most of my snack foods that day, and even though I knew I wasn’t hungry, I still desperately wanted chips.

In short, I realized I was addicted to chips. I wanted something very specific and I wasn’t able to substitute other things for it.

That moment, coupled with me actually tearing up in the chips aisle of my grocery store, woke me up to a pretty bad problem. Not eating chips was going to take a lot of willpower. Would I ever be able to eat chips again?? I told myself I would start eating chips again when I started a new job, but when my first day approached, I realized I just wasn’t ready.

Today marks me being one-year clean of chips. The last time I had a potato chip was August 20, 2014. (Incidentally, it wasn’t the first day I went chip-free. That was a relapse. Originally, I had quit chips about a week prior.) I have had, on hand, a bag of Captain America Cool Ranch Doritos (Cool Ranch or bust!) ready for this day, but we are not together today. I’m going to ease into chips with those and the Fritos (see below) because I’m not even sure I can handle a potato chip just yet.

Because bae should be there when I have chips

I’m not going to eat the whole bag. I’m trying to really practice healthy portion control with chips, and that’ll be the biggest struggle of all.

Let me walk you through the chips that have tormented me the most:

There are going to be a lot of kettle cooked chips in my future. Nothing beats that amazing crunch!

Ben introduced me to these and I now LUST for jalapeno kettle-cooked chips.

These aren’t potato-based BUT they’re really addicting. My roommate and I used to have to confiscate the bag from each other. They were buy one, get one free yesterday and I’m just such a sucker for deals in the chip aisle.

These are my TOPS. I basically always buy one of those 3 bags (maybe all 3, if I’m feeling really naughty). But you know, in my obsession with these 3, I forgot about other great ones that I rediscovered right before I stopped eating chips.

Sour cream and onion! I missed you. (Until I ate a family-sized bag in one sitting, that was a low.)

BBQ chips are all fine and well but honey BBQ? Oooooooh yes. Also, did not know that Utz was a local(ish) brand!

I have a lot of fears.What if chips aren’t as amazing as I remember them being? What if my body rejects them? (Oh god…) What if a year of hyping them up has just set me up for epic disappointment?

But this has been a really good exercise in self-control. I don’t actually NEED chips. I want them, really badly, but I can live without them. It’s been oddly empowering, and I kind of want to experiment more with these year-long abstinences rather than just my annual Lenten one.

Tell me about your favorite chips please!! 

Favorite Cute Animal Videos

I would never claim to be an expert in anything. I wouldn’t even call myself particularly passionate about any single thing.

Instead, I refer to myself as an enthusiast of many things. I get very enthused about many things.
One of these things is cute animal videos.

Let’s just cut to the chase, okay? I’m not here to waste your time. I’m here to show you my surefire, go-to cute animal videos and what I call them.

Official title: 2 Rabbits 2 Cups コップにはいった子うさぎ 漫才編
Also known as: “Bunnies in Cups!!!”
Video length: 1 minute
Featured animal(s): 2 adorable little bunnies that do the thing that bunnies do with their noses for a full minute – instant classic

Original: https://vine.co/v/ME16mjEaPEY
Official title: Prancing through the grass 🐷😭😻 #piggy #piglet #cute#baby
Also known as: “Tiny pig in grass that’s bigger than it!”
Video length: 6 seconds
Featured animal(s): A teeny pig that is smaller than the blades of grass it runs through and that makes a tiny, precious oinking sound

Official title: baby monkey nala gets a bath
Also known as: “Teeny monkey gets a bath!!!”
Video length: 2 minutes 19 seconds
Featured animal(s): Baby monkey hugging a little plush toy as it gets washed in a sink under a faucet while also making adorable squeaking noises

Official title: Ducks blown off their feet by wind
Also known as: “OMG duckies getting blown across a roof!!!”
Video length: 45 seconds
Featured animal(s): Mama Duck and her ducklings tumbling across a roof after a few strong gusts get them

Official title: Ducklings vs. Stairs
Also known as: “Duckies trying sooooo hard to climb the stairs!!!”
Video length: 2 minutes 31 seconds
Featured animal(s): Mama Duck waiting for her dozen cheep-cheep-ing ducklings to hop up the stairs to her

Official title: Surprised Kitty (Original)
Also known as: “AW the kitty is surprised!”
Video length: 16 seconds
Featured animal(s): Small kitten that is playing with owner and makes an adorable gesture+face in doing so – another classic

Official title: Cat mom hugs baby kitten
Also known as: Mommy squeeeeezes baby kitteh squee~
Video length: 1 minute
Featured animal: Baby kitten sleeping next to mama cat, making little sounds and movements, being pulled into a hug


I know I don’t have any puppy videos… this time. This is probably not the last you’ve heard from me regarding cute videos of animals, but I figured that our hearts could only take so much cute in one dose, ya know?

What are you favorite cute animal videos? Please share, I can’t get enough.