Sweet Potato Recipe from Kimberly Snyder – Yum!

Dreaming of Sweet Potatoes

Can’t wait to try this delicious-sounding Sweet Potato Red Onion and Jalapeno hash recipe from nutritionist Kimberly Snyder. Love the combination of healthy and delicious…this might be my new go-to lunch.

Anyone know where I can get real sweet potatoes in Hanoi?!

Shine on!

Fare You Well, Fitbit

Those of you who follow my blog might recall that I’ve become something of a Fitbit Fanatic. (As addictions go, it’s a positive one, but an addiction nevertheless.) So you can imagine my despair when — gasp! — I lost my beloved Fitbit last weekend.

I had traveled south to lovely Hoi An, Vietnam, a UNESCO World Heritage site full of ancient pagodas, lanterns, rice paddies, and beautiful river and ocean views, to enjoy a few days of R& R with my brother. It was one of my favorite kind of vacations – family, fitness, food, and frolicking – and the Fitbit was seeing lots of action.

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Our last hurrah. On Cua Dai beach in Hoi An, Vietnam (Fitbit attached to my shoe)

After a long day that included running, walking (11,000 steps by 9:00 am!), and biking (16,000 steps at lunch!), I decided to relax with a massage. I “forgot” to remove my Fitbit (can’t miss that extra step or two!) so halfway through, the masseuse removed it from my arm and left in on the table. I thought nothing of it, until I returned to my room and realized I had the bracelet, but no Fitbit. After a rather unpleasant ten minutes searching through used towels and sheets in the therapy room, I realized the Fitbit was gone. I nearly started crying – how could I lose my Fitbit? And on a banner steps day?!

But after a few days of reflection I’ve realized it’s merely a thing and it doesn’t matter if I can’t track my steps, I still know I’m active. Plus, I just ordered the new Fitbit Charge (an upgrade from my previous Fitbit Flex)…

As Jerry might have said, Fare You Well, Fitbit!

Shine on!

Taking Hanoi Fashion by Storm

Pret-a-porteaSweets, coffee, champagne, and fashion? Sounds like my kind of Saturday afternoon! Last week, I went to Pret-a-Portea at the Intercontinental Hotel Westlake. Each month, Chula – the whimsy fashion house preferred by Hanoi expats – partners with the Intercon to host an afternoon tea and fashion show featuring an up-and-coming Hanoi designer.

Last week, the event featured Wephobia Studio, a cool new line designed by two young and adorable Vietnamese women. It was the first time I’d heard of Wephobia and I loved it. Their clothes are chic, simple, menswear-inspired, with an Asian vibe. I loved everything. I especially loved the classic black and white, interchangeable pieces. When I spoke to the designers after the show, I was surprised to learn that their flagship store was in my neighborhood – conveniently located on my walk home from work. Needless to stay, I popped in after work last week and picked up a few items!

Wephobia    Photo credit: Wephobia

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After Wephobia, Chula displayed some of their latest creations. Chula is created by a Spanish couple, Laura and Diego, who make fun, eye-catching silk dresses that are more art than fashion. Each dress is unique and made to order. If you’re an expat in Hanoi, you’re sure to see Chula dresses galore throughout the city. I have two – one black dress with a skull and cross bone theme, and one turquoise dress with a wave. I absolutely love them – fun, completely unique, and comfortable to wear.

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In between the fashion shows, we enjoyed delicious, fashion-themed nibbles. From red chocolate lipstick, to a pink chocolate pump, the Intercon went above and beyond. The highlight? Midway through the event, the Hanoi sky erupted into a massive storm – thunder, high winds, palm trees blowing every which way. I was happy to be stuck inside the lovely Intercon with friends observing beautiful Hanoi fashion.

IMG_2432     The Spread

Shine on!

Cupcakes for Idiots (i.e. How to Look Like a Super Mom at Your Daughter’s 2nd Birthday Party)

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I love to cook but I’m no baker. I don’t like exact measurements. I’m not very good at remembering to set the kitchen timer. Needless to say, my attempts at baking usually end up misshapen, burned, or raw in the middle (or some combination thereof). I’m usually pretty impressed with myself if I can successful make brownies from a Duncan Hines mix. But this year, for some crazy reason, I decided I was going to be a super mom and make homemade cupcakes for my daughter’s second birthday. And not just any cupcakes. Elmo cupcakes!

So what is a non-baker to do?

Step 1. Order Elmo baking cups and icing decorations from Amazon.

Step 2. Order even more obnoxious Elmo-themed decorations to distract from the quality of homemade baked goods.

Step 3. Google “perfect simple vanilla cupcakes.”

Step 4. Buy ingredients in advance to avoid winging it the day of (“Do I really need baking powder? Baking soda’s fine, right?”

Step 5. Try not to swear too loudly in front of children while baking cupcakes.

Step 6. Listen for kitchen timer and don’t get creative.

Step 7. Actually let cupcakes cool before impatiently spreading frosting on top.

Step 8. Put Elmo icing decoration on top to look like Super Mom-professional baker.

Step 9. Serve bubbles to parents (kids don’t care as long as there’s lots of sugar).

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Seriously though, this Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes recipe from Glorious Treats ROCKED. And the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting was to die for.

At the end of the day, all that matters is my little pumpkin liked her Elmo birthday party and blew out her two candles. And for now, she thinks I’m a super mom no matter what.

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Shine on!

Way to go, Facebook!

#Facebook #like

I was psyched to see Sheryl Sandberg’s announcement that Facebook now has new standards on benefits for its largest contractors and vendors, including paid parental leave:

Today, I am pleased to announce that we are implementing a new set of standards on benefits for contractors and vendors who support Facebook in the US and do a substantial amount of work with us. These benefits include a $15 minimum wage, minimum 15 paid days off for holidays, sick time and vacation, and for those workers who don’t receive paid parental leave, a $4,000 new child benefit for new parents. This will give both women and men the flexibility to take paid parental leave, an important step for stronger families and healthier children. 

Why is this so important? Because, according to this report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “The United States is the only high-income country, and one of only eight countries in the world (Heymann and McNeill 2013), that does not mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns.” I won’t go into paternity leave or shared parental leave, but suffice it to say, it’s no better.

It’s great to see a U.S. company leading the charge on changing parental work policies – not because they’re forced to, but because it’s good for their employees AND for their business.

Bravo! Shine on!

And I Bid You Goodnight…

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Thanks to the genius advice of a friend, our new bedtime routine has been drastically improved as of late. After we read a book and say prayers, we watch this video:

It makes me so happy because it brings me back to my Grateful Dead fueled high school days (lucky for all of you I don’t have any high school pics here in Hanoi). Better yet, it reminds me of my dad every night. He loved talking about his 17 live Dead shows and transferring his love of music – but especially the Dead – to his kids. I hope to give the same to my girls.

Shine on!

Tory Tell All

Tory Burch

I enjoyed this Harper’s Bazaar interview with Tory Burch. I love her personal “preppy-boho” style, which is embodied in her eponymous brand. I also think it’s pretty amazing that she was able to build a billion dollar company in less than a decade. Some Sunday morning inspiration from Ms. Burch:

Why do you think you’ve managed to be so successful? Did you ever doubt that it would happen?

It was completely unexpected. I think it comes down to having a great idea and an amazing team and being willing to work incredibly hard. There’s no such thing as an overnight success.

Do you have a mantra or a phrase that you live by?

Negativity is noise.

We need a Tory for Target. Who’s with me? You heard it here first!

Shine on!

Lilly for Target Madness

So, I’d love to tell you I spent the past weekend reading the latest issue of The Economist cover-to-cover. But the truth is, I was otherwise engaged in the floral frenzy online. I’m a sucker for that pastel Floridian palette.

First thing’s first: I’m a long-time Lilly fan. My grandparents rocked it back in the 70s. I wore it in high school. I even made my bridesmaids wear Lilly (and most of these girls were first-and-last time Lilly wearers).

Lilly Bridesmaids

Second: I was pumped to learn Lilly was doing a Target collection. I loved the 2011 Missoni for Target collection and the Target + Neiman Marcus Holiday Collection a few years later. And I just knew I was going to love Lilly for Target.

Third: I was right. One previously unknown benefit of living 12 hours ahead of CST (Target HQ) is access to early morning online launches. While everyone back home was staying up until 4:00 am pressing refresh on the Target browser, I was enjoying peace and quiet (and compulsively clicking refresh) while my children napped.

Despite multiple crashes and a few lost items, I succeeded in landing my top items: the Pouf – Boom Boom, Women’s Satin Jumpsuit – Boom Boom (I hope it fits!), and a bevy of insanely cute–and equally unnecessary–toddler outfits (see photos below).

Fourth: This is a genetic affliction. And I’m pretty sure my awesome mom won the Lilly for Target launch. She fought it out in not one but two Target stores. She was in line for one opening at 8:00 am then drove downtown and was first in line for the 10:00 am opening of the downtown Minneapolis store featured in this article. She’s an awesome Mimi – check out the goods below!

Lilly for Target 1 Lilly for Target 3

Hope you all had lovely weekends! Shine on (perhaps in floral)!

Kicking the cold (even when it’s warm outside)

Even though the sun is finally shining in Hanoi, everyone around me is sick. Husband, kids, co-workers: coughing, feverish, and contagious. And here’s me, Doña Purell, using antibiotic hand gel like it’s going out of style.

In an effort to stay healthy, I’m chugging vitamin C like it’s my job. Watermelon and apple smoothie for breakfast, lemon ginger tea, and apple/ginger/carrot juice for lunch. Which got me thinking, maybe y’all could use some Vitamin C and comforting recipes in your life.

Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite cold-fighting potions. Achoo!

  • Fresh ginger tea – slice fresh ginger, add fresh lemons and local organic honey. Steep. Enjoy!
  • Emergen-C – chug this stuff the minute you start feeling sick.

pho gaHanoi style phở gà

Feel better soon. Shine on!

Leaning in, Girlie-style

Loved this Vanessa Friedman piece in last Monday’s NYTimes about Michelle Obama’s “girlie” style. The author raises such a good point: why do we have a double standard about how powerful women should dress? It’s 2015, people. I love a great business suit, but it’s not the only game in town.

As Friedman wrote, “How do you erase a stereotype? You confront it, and force others to confront their own preconceptions about it, and then you own it. And in doing so you denude it of its power.”

When I first moved to D.C., I pretty much wore suits every day. Boring suits. Boring pumps (yes, pumps). Boring pearls. I thought that to be taken seriously as a young, female professional, I had to dress the part.

Slowly, I realized that I could ditch that drab suit but still dress professionally, “cute,” and me. And that didn’t mean people wouldn’t take me seriously. On the contrary, I think that adding a splash of style and personality tended to leave more of an impression.

I was so excited when Condoleezza Rice wore knee-high boots in 2005. I thought, If the Secretary of State can get away with wearing knee boots to the office, I certainly can! But here’s the point, why did I have to “get away” with it? Condi looked great  – classic, conservative suit and a nice pair of black, knee-high boots. She was showcasing her own style, and I loved it (still do!).

Madame Secretary at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield, February 23, 2005

A few years later, when the Obamas moved into the White House, I appreciated the First Lady’s independent style. One day, she ventured across the street to visit the OMB career staff, and I was so excited I wore a magenta dress inspired by her Vogue Cover (granted, my dress wasn’t Jason Wu, but I think I still looked pretty good).

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I tend to speak my mind. So when Mrs. Obama shook my hand, I couldn’t help but blurt out: “This is my Michelle Obama on the cover of Vogue dress!” My colleagues looked at me with horror, but the First Lady laughed and laughed and repeated, “Cover of Vogue dress!” She seemed to get a kick out of it. By the time I’d made it up ten floors to my office, the story had already made it back to my boss.

Michelle ObamaBefore the handshake

My embarrassing stories aside, I agree with Ms. Friedman’s closing point: “Think of [Michelle Obama’s style] as a twist on Gloria Steinem’s wake-up call to 40: That is what a successful, well-educated woman looks like. Carnations, acacia blossoms, full skirts and all. It’s probably about time we learned.” Bring it on.