Summer Dreams 2014

coming soon

Granada Nicaragua

In Search or the Perfect Ceviche and other adventures out soon in my TravelOkcity column, Leisure+Adventure Magazine, and here.

Marshall Islands

Got Wasabi? (A deep sea fishing adventure in the Marshall Islands)

Prairie Dog Town

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Hefner Lake Park

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Huahin, Thailand

The warm hospitality of a boutique hotel in the beach resort town of royalty in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Our Greatest Journey - Winter 2014


Winter has been so kind to us this year. It has gifted us with many days of sun, days of blissful 70s weather occasionally gloomed by the “teens” (with a pretty dusting of snow as consolation) as if to remind us that winter is still very much present. But then we can’t complain. In a few days we are off to Tulum, Mexico for our yearly winter escape.
Wake me up when winter ends.
I know I’ve said this before, but every year, we decorate the foot of our Christmas tree with Christmas books before Santa comes in to replace them with presents. I’ve collected over a dozen Christmas books and was going to feature one of my son’s favorites. But at the last minute, I’ve chosen The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a children’s book, as the winter book for several reasons. First, I’ve been very pleased with how my son has taken to reading. We read every day, twice a day (before naptime and bedtime) at least two books every time. Sometimes he’d try to prolong going to sleep with an emphatic “one more” or “last one” until we’ve read about 4.
Our first Christmas in our new home.
There is always a favored one every week, one we’d read over and over again every day and one of them is The Very Hungry Caterpillar about  -you guessed it – a famished insect who ate through the whole week. Written and illustrated by Eric Carle, the picture book is a fun tale for toddlers that teaches them about what happens when one overeats while learning about the days of the week, counting, and different foods. I had gotten a small board book but it got waterlogged when I set it by the fish tank, so I moved the fish down to the kitchen, also because his bookshelf is starting to get really crowded (Because of the flurry of activities, I had failed to mention that we had gotten a dragon scale betta fish last spring for our son and had parked the little aquarium in his bookcase. The fish called Una is almost a year old now. We’re very surprised he survived this long).

One of our new Christmas books is The Night before Christmas

a Little Golden Book specially printed

by my husband’s company for the kids.

As replacement for the board book, I found this coloring book version of the Very Hungry Caterpillar. I thought it was perfect, because we’ve been staying indoors a lot this season. Christmas and winter are all about crafts, trying to keep an ever curious and restless toddler busy with paste, paints, and crayons. You will find the book on the banner, opened up to the butterfly page in anticipation of spring.
Christmas (and the entire winter) was all about crafts.

Also on the desk is a tulip, part of the Valentine bouquet from my husband, because Tulips are very significant to us. Many say that tulips are symbolic of perfect love and eternal life. This spring blossom is also a favorite flower of someone very dear to me, my angel, who was lifted up to heaven a long time ago.
Una is surviving winter.
Several years back, I had asked St. Therese for a sign to know if my boyfriend then (now my husband) is the one I will be spending my happy-ever-after with. And when I received a bouquet of roses (St. Therese’s sign of an answered prayer), it was wrapped in paper printed with Holland tulips. Call me nostalgic, superstitious, and a romantic fool, but I thought it was almost like my angel was telling me: “go and move forward. He’s the one.”  And so I walked down the aisle to meet my best friend with a bunch of burnt orange tulips held tight. I’ve never let go since.
My bridal bouquet of burnt orange tulips, heralds of spring.

On St. Valentine’s Day, we renewed our vows in a little chapel along with about a dozen couples, a majority of them were elderly couples, and we were probably the youngest pair. I found it meaningful, to be surrounded with older couples who still strive to strengthen their marriage even after all these years. The Rev. Bishop Patrick Zurek officiated the Celebration and Recommitment of Sacramental Love. For our marriage to be blessed by a bishop no less made the ceremony even more significant. He said that there is something liberating about committing to love, to one person. How ironic but true. It then occurred to me that on the day that I tied the knot, I was freed.
With my Valentine and Ever-After.

The place card on the desk is from the dinner after the service. Last year, we celebrated valentines on the beach, under the stars, with a Swiss couple. I hope our Valentine’s celebration next year will be another unique occasion (not that there is anything wrong with the usual wining and dining).

A little greeting from my cupid.
I usually feature a travel item/gear and for this season, it’s my favorite winter tote. It’s an oldie from Michael Korrs, a metallic silver tote with leather straps. It’s light and roomy enough for my personal effects, my camera, and diapers (which I hope to be rid of in the next few weeks). And because it’s silver, it’s a great accessory to brighten up my outfits this winter.
This metallic MK tote brightens up my winter wardrobe.
And finally, the paisley notebook is my journal for 2013 as I say farewell to another beautiful year. It sits on the National Geographic magazine to welcome Our Greatest Journey yet: 2014.

Here's a to a blessed and beautiful year ahead!


As the seasons change, so will my desktop banner. I will be adding little touches to it, moving the items around, and customizing it for the season. I will archive its transformation on My Desk. 

Read more about how I put the banner together and how my real writer's desk looks like at My Desk. And tell me how your desk looks like, and I will tell you who you are.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Better Blocks in OKC

From my TravelOKCity Column

Living in the city, I have always been drawn to creative dynamic districts. Instead of going to the hippest nightspot, I prefer places alive not with blaring Lady GaGa but with folksy local tunes. I love places of diversity where owners of pop-up businesses can share artisan coffee with conglomerates and talk about homegrown art. A thriving place that offers a wide variety of options for the craving palate and the hungry soul seeking self-expression and stimulation. A green society that creatively benefits from the environment without taking advantage of it.

Better Block OKC is in the process of building these communities, street by street, block by block.  A city movement, Better Block OKC is a community revitalization project initiated by Urban Land Oklahoma Institute (ULI), an organization that advocates the responsible use of land and supports in creating and sustaining thriving communities. In alignment with ULI’s commitment, Better Block OKC aims to change the way we live in an urban landscape by temporarily demonstrating how to improve an area with pedestrian and public infrastructure combined with art, culture, pop-up businesses, and street life. I’ve heard a few call it the dream of the Millennials, a place similar to the plazas and markets in Europe where people can lounge, commune, and be inspired. 

Indeed, wouldn’t it be wonderful to step out of your home into a block party or a town fiesta? Or to have a buzzing market with fresh produce and affordable crafts just a walking distance away? I’d like to have a used bookstore and a café just next-door where I can take a break from my writing without breaking the bank.

Last month, I stepped into this aspired world at NW7th and Hudson where Better Block OKC launched its first project, transforming an area that would have been otherwise just another region in the city into a hub of activity.

Trucks lined the streets selling all sorts of food fare from waffles to eggrolls.  Establishments took their café tables and chairs out to join the party. Makeshift stalls sold fresh fruits and vegetables. Shops like OUI showcased handmade and one of a kind jewelry, paper garlands, weavings, and ceramics from independent artists and designers from LA, NY, and OKC.

A pop-up flower shop bloomed with rainforest-certified, free-trade roses from Ecuador. Farm-direct flowers like ranunculus, jumbo hydrangeas, Starfighters, and white Oriental lilies filled the air with the smell of spring and the promise of a blossoming summer.Art installations also decorated the sidewalk, adding to the festivities.  Recycled bottles were used as planters and hung in strings forming a “green” curtain against a brick wall.
Add caption

While lining up for Belgian waffles, I witnessed street art in the works. Two young men busied themselves with spray paint, one balancing on a small ladder, the other on a bicycle. Their masterpiece expressed the sentiment of the entire state: a bright yellow thunder rumbling over the opposing team.   

The whole process was art itself, including the spectators taking it all in with their eyes and their camera phones. They gathered around in an almost perfect half circle as the artists moved, in sync to the music, sometimes in unison, sometimes in response to each other’s movement as if they were in a standoff. Their agile bodies swayed this way and that, stretching their arms as far as they could reach to bring forth color.

Better Block OKC was also Better Bark OKC. The 2 day event encouraged furry friends to come by as long as they were on leashes.

 Everything inspired creativity and community to urge the people to get more involved.  An interactive chalk wall encouraged revelers to share their thoughts about community building or simply have fun by making up their own once-upon-a-time –stories by filling in the blanks.

Little notebooks were handed out for visionaries to write their ideas and suggestions for the city.   “Think big and broad. Now and later. Detailed and big picture. But most of all, remember that your ideas matter,” encourages the first page.  “Be a player in your neighborhood; champion its needs, and help us build a better OKC.” Pages are like worksheets or activity sheets where people can draw, doodle, or simply dream.

I don’t know when the next Better Block party is, but soon as I hear about it, I’ll let you know and we’ll have a party.