Halloween 2017

Happy Friday everybody! Can you believe this warm weather we’re having? Yesterday morning, I walked to the metro seeing my breath in the cold air, and I walked home in spring. I wish we could have crisp autumnal days but I’ll just take what I can get, I guess! Don’t forget Daylight Saving ends Sunday so get ready to fall back and get that hour back!

I hope you all had a fun Halloween! Halloween in the middle of the week always throws off the week a bit. At work, we all dressed up in costumes, and it was a fun and silly atmosphere in the office, but it was a Tuesday and there was work to be done. It felt weird to go back to work the next day… and the next day… and the next day…

Last year, my team at work did a group effort by showing up in adult onesies. This year, we split into 3 sub-teams, so we set out with the ambitious goal of having a large team-wide group costume with more specific sub-team costumes. (My original suggestion was we do a team-wide Harry Potter theme, with each sub-team choosing a different Hogwarts house or all being Death Eaters or Hogwarts professors, etc.)

Here’s the result:

Group Star Wars costume!

And for each sub-team, we split by trilogy! I claimed the sequel trilogy for my team, despite only one movie from that trilogy having been released. (Also, yes, one of my teammates trolled us by dressing as Spock from Star Trek. Classic troll.) (And on the far right is an Angry Birds Vader. The troll force is strong with this team.)

I originally had different plans for Halloween, and compared to my crazy lofty 3-costume goals from last year, I was very derailed and very off-schedule this year. My Rey costume, while seemingly easy enough to make, was just a costume-in-a-bag option that was pretty inexpensive but turned out, in my opinion, better than I thought! (Minus the belt+bag thing that was just… drawn on? In the future, I’ll be replacing that first.)

Rey costume
“I think I can handle myself.”

It was a bit of a relief to just get a cheap big store costume from a bag, and people still thought I put a lot of time and effort into putting together my look! (Which I still did as  my arms were so sore from attempting to get my hair to stay in Rey’s dumb triple hair loops with my hair being about twice as long as hers…)

Fun story: We went to dinner in costume on Tuesday night and found out the restaurant was actually hosting a costume contest about half an hour after we arrived. The manager stopped by to ask if we’d like to participate as one of the few parties in costume, but when the time came, we were – I believe – the only people who agreed to participate. So we won by default! I didn’t even have to get up and be judged by a restaurant full of strangers or stop watching the world series.

Did you dress up for Halloween? If so, what did you wear?
What were your favorite costumes you saw this year? I think I’m a sucker for a good meme costume, despite how poorly they age, because they just transport me back, you know? I also love crossover pun costumes. (E.g. “Dumbledora the Explorer” or “Edgar Allen Poe Dameron”, those are my FAVORITES)

Also, do you get trick-or-treaters? I’ve seen the number of kids at my house take a sharp decline to zero over the past few years. I heard that parents now take kids to shopping malls and centers for trick-or-treating now, but when did that become a thing? And why do stores still sell candy to us civilians then?

Ghosts of Halloween past: 2016 | 2014 | 2013

P.S. NaNoWriMo anyone?


Sailor Senshi Week 2017

Two years ago, we observed Halloween on a Friday, which gave me the idea to don Harry Potter house colors every day leading up to Halloween. I had so much fun doing so that last year, I did Hogwarts Spirit Week, where I wore business casual versions of my house colors during the workweek before Halloween.

This year, I changed things up slightly due to 2 factors:

  1. I received some amazing socks for my birthday. (I actually also received a few Harry Potter house socks, but not for all 4 houses. It seems very likely that I’ll go get those socks and revisit some Hogwarts house spirit in the near future.)
  2. My cousin handed me down some great blazers after Christmas. I used to really want to be the girl with cool blazers, and when my cousin gave me some colored blazers, the wheels in my head started furiously grinding away. I had enough blazers to do a blazers-only edition of Hogwarts Spirit Week, but with my new socks, I decided to take this frequently-used color palette and do something different.

And thus, Sailor Senshi Week was born!

Sailor Moon

The order I went with this year wasn’t ROYGBIV (although I was darn tempted) but the order that we are introduced to the scouts in the anime. (Also, I only did Inner Senshi because 5 days of the work week and I’ve actually never made it far enough into the anime to have met the Outer Senshi!) So of course, we begin with the titular meatball-head, Usagi.

Sailor Mercury

Next up, Sailor Mercury, the most popular character in Japan because she is kind and gentle and crazy smart. Ami was the kind of girl I wished I could be but struggled a lot to be because I wasn’t as kind or hardworking!

Sailor Mars

After getting to be Sailor Mars for Halloween last year and at AwesomeCon, my love for Rei has only grown. (I’m trying to get more interpretations of Sailor Mars in the works for the future, so we’ll see how ambitious of a cosplayer I’ll end up being!) I always saw so much of myself in this fiery scout, not just because she was the only Inner Senshi with long dark hair.

Sailor Jupiter

If I saw a lot of myself in Mars and wished I could be more like Mercury growing up, Jupiter is the girl that I find myself admiring a lot more as an adult. She maneuvers being the most masculine and the most feminine member of the team seemingly with ease and doesn’t apologize for either side. I remember really struggling to figure out how girly or tomboyish was “appropriate” or that I was “supposed” to be, so seeing Makoto be domestic af while lifting men above her head is really inspiring now.

Sailor Venus

Unfortunately, I don’t have much of a connection with Minako, as the blonde idol who we are introduced to last and is famous as Sailor V already. But I grew to like her as an important member of the team, and as a fellow aspiring star who is seeing through my childhood aspirations.

Also, my cousin gave me so many blazers, I had just one more look to share yesterday:

Sailor Chibi Moon

No socks for this one but here’s a closer look at my convertible Luna purse. (I can wear it as a crossbody as an as backpack.) I’m glad I didn’t attempt to do the little bun-tails at work, they are a bit disastrous and definitely a look.

Wish me luck with my very-recognizable hair for Halloween at work today! I wonder if I’ll get as many weird looks on the metro as I did last year

Are you wearing any costumes for the Halloween season this year? I know I saw a lot of folks out this past weekend, but it was actually the first time I didn’t really do anything Halloween weekend. I attended a birthday party Friday night, but I went no where in costume over the weekend, it was a little sad. (I made up for it by scaring myself silly watching Stranger Things season 2.)

If you were to wear a full [work] week of themed outfits from one franchise, what would it be? Harry Potter and Sailor Moon were a lot of fun to do, and I’m sure I could easily do something Disney-related, but it’s a really fun creative challenge to do, especially since I set the rules myself! For example, doing the blazers this year was a fun added challenge. (I also challenged myself to do skirts the whole week in the spirit of the senshis school and scout uniforms, even though it got chilly last week and I started really wanting to wear pants.)

October 2017 Updates

Before I launch back into recap season, I thought I’d fill you in on what I’ve been up to since I started posting regularly again! I want to be better about keeping up with current goings-ons here on the blog, since it can take me weeks and weeks to finish recapping a vacation months after it happened. There aren’t many photos, so just close your eyes, picture what I describe (after reading it), and be grateful for a reprieve from photos since I have a heckuva lotta Paris photos coming after the latest flood of pictures.

[ Spirit of Autumn ] DC has an interactive digital art gallery called Artechouse (art + tech + house) that is currently exhibiting an installation called Spirit of Autumn. I went with some coworkers at the beginning of the month and it was a bit of a letdown, especially after hearing the hype about their previous installation, but it was still really cool to see this digital art and how artist are using technology to create immersive experiences. (I shared some of my experiences on Instagram.)

[ Whoopi Goldberg ] I had the opportunity to see the legendary Whoopi Goldberg perform a comedy set at the Kennedy Center and it was an experience. First of all, she swears so much. Second of all, she has inspired a love from her fans that I have never really seen before. People rushed to stand in line at the microphones to ask her questions and about a third of those people just wanted to say “Whoopi, I love you, I admire you, I’m such a fan.” And then they sat down! It was incredible. Also, she was so generous with her time. I took issue with how she spoke about the Harvey Weinstein scandal (and I touched on that on Instagram, too) but she is a legend for a reason, she’s hilarious and she knows how to reach people.

[ Death of a Salesman ] My friend Annie got tickets to see Death of a Salesman at Ford’s Theatre (the same theater where Lincoln was assassinated; we could see his box seats from ours) and I have actually never seen the play nor have I read it! I’ve also never seen a show at the Ford’s Theatre so I was happy to go. While I didn’t love the play (I found the start of the first act not engaging and a bit awkward given how the dialogue has aged), I found the subject matter to be heartbreakingly real to grapple with. It was a lot of issues that I see in my own life and in my friends’ lives: aging parents who don’t really know who you are, unmet expectations of grandeur and success, the disappointment of working hard and not getting what you think you deserve. It was a hard play to watch but I’m really glad I got to see it.

[ Rennfest ] I went back to the Maryland Renaissance Festival this year, my second time ever! We went during closing weekend because of some timing issues trying to go earlier and I had an awesome time. We got great seats for the joust this year, during which time Ben learned that I get really into live sporting events and will lose my voice shouting. (“BOOOOO! You lack honor!”) We saw falconry, ate scotch eggs, and just enjoyed so much merriment. The Rennfest is one of my favorite things to do in the fall now and I hope it remains and annual tradition.

[ When You Wish Upon a Bar ] I did Harry Potter trivia through Geeks Who Drink with my friend Logan a few months ago and my team won first place! (Although I still feel guilty, to this day, about taking home an equal share of the cash prize given that I only knew the answer to one question…) Logan invited me out to a Disney trivia night that Geeks Who Drink was hosting and I was thrilled to be able to pull my weight, although I spent all of the day leading up to the quiz worrying about the breadth of the Disney knowledge (Disney Channel TV shows? Marvel? Star Wars? ESPN?!) and the depth (there are so many obscure movies I haven’t seen… and characters whose names I don’t know…) so I was really relieved to arrive and actually be able to pull my weight on a team full of former Jeopardy contestants and people who have been doing quiz bowl trivia since high school. Unfortunately, we got 2nd place but it was still a lot of fun!

How is your month going?
Are you ready for Halloween and the rest of the year-end festive season??

Whole30 Reflections

Surprise! I completed a Whole30 recently, very belatedly completing one of last year’s resolutions in doing so. I’m sure you have a lot of questions, so let me just start from the beginning.


Whole30 is a nutrition plan, aka a diet, that is intended to be a 30-day reset for your nutrition and digestion. The way I see it, the big picture goal of Whole30 isn’t necessarily weight loss. Rather, it’s for identifying if you have any digestive triggers that you may not have known about prior. For example, let’s say you frequently end meals with a stomachache, nothing major enough to have seen a doctor about and even minor enough that you just kind of accept that you eat too much or too fast and will have a bellyache afterwards. If you do Whole30, where you eliminate most major trigger food groups, and discover that you no longer have that feeling after you eat, you may have an adverse reaction, even if it’s minor, to one of the foods you eliminated. After the 30 days, you gradually reintroduce the foods group-by-group to see what elicits the bad reactions.

Yes, Whole30 is an elimination diet, first and foremost. The rules are about what you cannot have, and what you can’t have are:

  • Any added sugar. This means no cane sugar, of course, but also no stevia, honey, agave, maple syrup, Splenda, nada. The only sugar you can consume is whatever is naturally found in fruits and vegetables.
  • Any grains. This includes wheat, rice, corn, quinoa, etc. and anything that includes any grain products like cornstarch, etc.
  • Any legumes. No beans whatsoever, including soy, and no peanuts, and this includes soybean oil and peanut oil and any other products like soy lecithin (often used as a stabilizing agent).
  • Any dairy.
  • Any alcohol.
  • Carrageean, MSG, or sulfites.
  • Baked goods, junk food, or treats that are technically “compliant”. That means things like my 3-ingredient pancakes are out.

One final rule that wasn’t related to what you ate was no weighing yourself for the duration of the 30 days. The goal here isn’t weight loss.

Why did I do this?
Even I was a little bit shocked that I was doing the Whole30, if I’m going to be honest. My reasons were not for weight loss or even to identify trigger foods. My reasons were two-fold:

  1. In the weeks leading up to our vacation, Ben and I were eating out a lot. Way too much time would pass between cooked meals, and I was simply spending a lot of money (and time) eating out. I wanted to force myself to cook more of my meals.
  2. When we finally were on vacation, I wasn’t eating particularly healthily. Carbs on carbs on delicious carbs, but not a particular abundance of fruits and vegetables. I wanted to force myself to reduce my carb intake and eat healthier.

There are easier ways to get myself to eat healthier and eat out less, but I know what it takes for me to form habits, so I require some pretty severe changes to implement better habits.

Here are a few things I learned and felt during my Whole30:

I really like free food. Similar to other times that I’ve abstained from entire foods or food groups, one of the hardest parts of saying no to foods is when the foods are offered for free. It’s that inner college kid wanting to eat all that the world is offering to me without my having to hurt my wallet for it. The problem with this is that free food is rarely healthy. I said no to doughnuts, cake, chocolates, cookies, so many baked goods… I also said no to happy hour offerings like fries and tater tots and wings. (There was a reason I had to give up fried foods for Lent last year…) I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have cultivated a life where I have access to so much free food until I was turning it down.

I am weirdly satisfied by smelling the foods I can’t have… This weirded out my coworkers a lot but when they would offer me food I couldn’t eat, I would take a deep inhale and then move on. It seemed torturous to them, but I really did just like the smell. At one point, I purchased doughnuts myself to celebrate the autumnal equinox and I ate none of those doughnuts, I just breathed them in. But that brings me to my next point…

I may have set myself up for a weird mindset regarding my willpower. Exercises like this remind me that I have more willpower than I think I do, when it comes to food. Think about all the food I smelled and didn’t eat! (Once when Ben was sick, I made a McDonald’s run for him and had to smell that deliciousness in my car… I almost broke that day, to be honest.) But am I going to be that moron in the future who will go “Well, I know that I am capable of not eating this cake, but why put myself through more torture I’m going to eat all this cake”? I hope not!

Chinese restaurant obligations… really ruined me. You are not supposed to cheat on Whole30, as with any diet, but if you do, you are supposed to start over from day 1. I didn’t do this, so technically my Whole30 was ruined about halfway through and I did something more akin to two separate Whole15s. But I was celebrating with family at our favorite Chinese restaurant, a place where everything is cooked with soy and sugar and starch and rice, and I was heavily socially obligated to eat certain dishes as it was me that we were celebrating. I abstained where I could, for example, not eating any rice or noodles, but those meals were definitely not compliant.

I love cooking at home. I really really love cooking. I think I might love cooking more than I love eating the food I cook. There were nights when I would come home and just cook and cook and cook for hours and by the end of it, I was barely hungry. I felt so satisfied just cooking and cleaning up.

Compliant stuff can get so expensive. One thing I really dislike about Whole30 is they have this real about no pancakes and foods that are technically compliant but not in the “spirit” of Whole30, but the recipes and ingredients that the Whole30 folks endorse are often substituting veggies for pasta and doing things like using coconut aminos, which is soy sauce made from coconut nectar?? I don’t know how that’s so different from making pancakes with bananas and eggs, to be honest, but it is a great way to get people to purchase very expensive products. “Make your own almond milk!” they would say, but are you kidding me. Even making my own mayonnaise at home got cumbersome the few times I did it. I wanted to make my own ranch dressing, but I gave up when my mayo split and went to buy some compliant ranch. I felt like a quitter and didn’t feel like I was getting any particular benefits doing this.

I didn’t experience any of the extreme feelings that people online talked about. I did a lot of research prior to this Whole30, in addition to when I attempted Whole30 at the beginning of 2016. I expected to experience sugar withdrawal the first few days and then some kind of “tiger blood” sensation about halfway to three-quarters of the way through.
But I felt nothing. I didn’t feel better than before or worse than before. I still got migraines, I still had fatigue.

I didn’t feel any difference except in my goals to eat at home more and eat healthier. I really didn’t feel any of the health benefits that are purported with Whole30. I just felt like a lot of my time was going to preparing food and I was saying no to a lot of food I would have otherwise eaten. Otherwise… my life was the same, which was disappointing.

I didn’t do the gradual reintroduction. I took it easy the first 2 days but then tossed caution to the wind and ate as I liked.

I’m glad I did this because I enjoy preparing my own food so much, and I am glad I don’t need to use grains and sugars as crutches when I cook. I still make a lot of compliant meals for myself and for my family, but it’s nice to know I don’t have to.

Also, I’ll be sharing some recipes I loved making while I was on Whole30 really soon after I finish travel recaps, so stick around for those! I didn’t take photos of the food I made while I was on Whole30, but I did make an effort to make my food look good so that I would enjoy eating it more.

Would I recommend Whole30? ONLY if you suspect that maybe a food isn’t sitting quite well with your gut. Honestly, though, it was a huge inconvenience and I don’t understand how people felt such a big change and I felt… nothing. I think eliminating some of these food groups isn’t bad but Whole30 was really restrictive and it felt needless. I am also not actually a huge fan of some aspects of the community, so I did my Whole30 alone and on the down-low.

Do you have any food sensitivities that you’ve discovered? I know I have an issue with large amounts of lactose (so while I’ve never had whole milk, I probably shouldn’t start drinking it…) (I don’t like milk anyway so I’m not upset about it) but other than that I’m not really sure. I think if I eat a ton of carbs I get bloat-y, but I think everyone does?

Have you tried any diets and liked them? I don’t know that I like diets, but I like exercising some willpower over myself and trying new recipes. I really like the feeling of accomplishment and achievement when I deny myself delicious things, as masochistic as that sounds.

Pour L’Art et Les Vues | Paris 2017

Previously, on Paris 2017, we arrived fresh off a red-eye flight from New York, settled into our hotel in Le Marais, and went straight to eating before exploring our neighborhood. The real exploration, though, was about to begin…

Warning: A lot of photos incoming!

While planning the previous day, we decided that our first full day in Paris would be dedicated to the most famous and oldest art museum in the world: Le Louvre. We’d spend as much time as possible in the museum, not worry about seeing any “famous” pieces that we weren’t personally interested in (no Mona Lisa for us!), and just taking it all in, nice and steady.

That morning, we decided to walk to the Louvre and get breakfast on our way. It is a longer walk, with a grey and drizzly sky overhead. (Spoiler alert: It rained every single day that we were in Paris. Paris is beautiful in the rain but I don’t know how many places are beautiful when the sky can’t commit to really raining… Still, it was hard to be upset!) After getting a great head start on our steps, we stopped by La Couleur des Blés for coffee (thank you, time difference) and pastries. I later learned that this is a really popular shop, but there was only one man in the teeny tiny shop when we stopped by. We walked away with some croissants and a little hot coffee for Ben.

Etiquette tip: When you enter a shop, make sure to greet whoever is working with a “Bonjour!”  Also, make sure to say “Merci” on your way out; saying hello and thank you are very important and it’s considered rude not to. 

Ordering tip: Ordering “un café” is not the same as a regular drip coffee in the United States. It’s more like ordering an espresso, and it will come in a teeny cup. Asking for a “café alongée” will get you an Americano: espresso with hot water added. 

From the boulangerie, we walked about 2 blocks to the Louvre and parked ourselves on some benches to dig into our croissants. (The only problem with them was that we didn’t have more of them!) And then it was time.

Louvre courtyard
Our view from breakfast
Not pictured: Crumbs all over my face and coat

Because we purchased the Paris Pass before our trip, we were able to wait in the shorter line for pass holders and didn’t have to wait in an additional line to purchase tickets to the museum. Time and time again, the Paris Pass proved to be a real timesaver for us, even without considering the value of the tickets that we would have otherwise purchased without it. After descending down the escalator below the famous glass pyramids….


… we arrived. Please enjoy some of my favorite photos from our visit interspersed with fun facts about the Louvre.

Nintendo Audioguide
The Louvre’s audioguide is provided on Nintendo 3DS XLs. You can also download the free museum app.
I have so many photos of the ornate ceilings and mouldings at the Louvre. Always remember to look up. (But take breaks or your neck will cramp up.)
Me in a Nook
After walking around this enormous museum, I frequently found solace in little nooks between gallery walls
Some of the art was delightfully weird…

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