Give something that means something

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American Red Cross Blood Drive at Old St. Patrick’s Church Chicago

Did you know that during the holiday season there is a decline in blood donations? Usually this decline occurs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. While we all get busy with holiday travel, unfortunately patients don’t get a break from needing transfusions. According to the American Red Cross, every 2 seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. Next Tuesday, November 28, 2017 is #GivingTuesday, a global movement where you can help others through the gift of your time, donations, goods or voice.

For the past few years, I have been going to Blood Drives and donating to the American Red Cross. It only takes about half an hour and they usually have juice, treats, and sometimes gift cards just a thank you for taking the time to donate. To make an appointment at an upcoming blood drive visit, redcrossblood.org or call 800-RED-CROSS.

This year, I wanted to do something else to get involved in my community. I am thankful to have my immediate family to celebrate the holidays with but do miss my big ohana & friends back home in California.

At Filipino parties, food is the star of the party, next is the dancing and sometimes karaoke. My Lola used to make trays of lumpia (Filipino eggrolls) and more for the family. It also made me think of how my sister and cousins used to visit our Lola and take her out for sushi so she wouldn’t feel lonely.

I will be volunteering Thanksgiving morning at Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, Chicago Chapter. Their mission is to relieve isolation and loneliness among the elderly. They are a non-profit volunteer based organization where they host countless social gatherings, celebrations and holidays for the elderly.

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RIP Lola Lydia. Love & miss you.

“Our motto, flowers before bread, expresses our philosophy that people need the special pleasures in life in addition to the basic necessities. Love, dignity and beauty in life are as essential to life as physical needs.” -Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly

 

Getting ready for Thanksgiving

Countdown to Thanksgiving! Just a few more days until Thanksgiving Day & I’m in full prep-mode for the holiday! Growing up I’ve always loved watching Martha Stewart and would get excited about coming up with different crafts and ways to set the table for the holidays.

thankful tree

I saved the leaves from a craft I made as a kid for one of our Thanksgiving family parties. I drew a bare tree with branches and had everyone write on a leaf & share what they were thankful for.

Now living in Chicago, we’ve been hosting Thanksgiving for my ohana for the past few years. I got married last year in November and it was the first time I hosted Thanksgiving for my ohana plus my in-laws. I leave the turkey & ham up to my parents while I prepare all the sides!

Here’s how I prepare for Thanksgiving:

  • First, start with the menu & check with the ohana what items they will be bringing (my Polish ohana will be bringing some pierogi & roasted sweet potatoes; Mom & Dad will bring the ham & turkey!)
  • I write out my menu & make a list of ingredients & check the fridge and pantry for items I already have
  • Make a couple trips to the store: Last week I picked-up all the shelf stable items during one trip and today I picked up the floral, produce & dairy
  • Prepare sides ahead of time, will get started on some of the sides tomorrow night & Wednesday so that way I won’t have to prepare everything day of 🙂

I put together all the floral arrangements tonight in just under one hour (probably could have done it even faster but I was simultaneously arranging while watching the Real Housewives of Orange County Reunion..if you watch are you Team Shannon? or Team Vicki? lol) All you need are a couple of bouquets and vessels to create some beautiful arrangements! I grabbed a large bouquet of mums, winterberry twigs, cranberries & of course a pineapple. Mums are great because they are quintessential of fall and they last for more than a few days! It’s also much more cost-effective to create your own arrangement. I made three separate arrangements (including the pineapple) for a total of $24.95 by just using one large mum bouquet and winterberry twigs.

What are some of your Thanksgiving prep tips? Favorite recipes? Share in the comments below! 🙂

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Table runner: Threshold for Target

Floral & pineapple: www.marianos.com

Pumpkins: $1 spot at Target!

 

 

Holiday Dip: Beet Dip with Roasted Cauliflower & Delicata Squash Chips

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Last week I got to meet some of my Instagram friends in real life at The #TipsySassyGoodLife Fall Dip Party! From the Bloody Mary bar to Dip Pong, it was fun getting some holiday inspiration from all the Instagrammers who attended the event.

I wanted to make a dip that felt warm with lots of color. It’s an easy dip that can be prepared even a night or two before!

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 red beets, roasted
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon juice

Directions:
1. Blend all ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze half a lemon to brighten up!
2. Serve with delicata squash chips. To make the chips, slice squash using a mandolin and
toss in olive oil with salt and pepper. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350F continually turning
chips until crispy. Save the seeds & roast to add some texture to the dip!
3. Top dip with squash seeds, goat cheese crumbles (I used Cypress Grove Purple Haze; the lavender & pollen add another layer of flavor) & parsley for garnish.

For all the #TipsySassyGoodlife dips, head over to The TipsyHousewife’s blog: https://thetipsyhousewife.org/holiday-dips/.

Photo by @angelagarbotphotography

#AlohaPopz, One year later

It’s been one year since the best day ever, my wedding day!! I can’t believe an entire year has flown by. Smoochies and I got married on 11/11/16 in Palm Springs, California where we exchanged our vows together with our families and friends. It was the perfect day and it would not have been possible without our amazing ohana and friends.

Philadelphia, Contigo Photography

Philadelphia, Contigo Photography

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Our wedding was truly a reflection of us, incorporating traditions from our cultures and celebrating our love for each other.

Hawaiian traditions: Ti Leaf and lava rock rite represents the union of two people and an eternal commitment. Lava rock represents the commitment of the bride and groom to each other. The purpose of Ti leaf and lava rock ritual is that it strengthens and blesses the union of the bride and groom.

Philadelphia, Contigo Photography

Filipino Traditions:

The Wedding Coins, also known as Arras, symbolize the prosperity that will be shared by the new couple. The Wedding Coins symbolize the couple’s commitment to mutually contributing to their relationship, their children, and their community.

The Wedding Veil, represents everything and everyone who will protect them, their home, and their families.

The Wedding Cord, in the shape of a figure 8 (infinity) is a symbol of their intimate union and a sign of their bond to each other and their inseparable unity.

Polish Wedding Tradition – Bread, Salt & Vodka

With the bread, the family wishes that the bride & groom will never go hungry. The salt reminds the couple that their life may be difficult at times and they must learn to persevere.

One glass is  filled with water and the other with vodka. Whomever chooses the vodka will be the head of the household. (I got the water shot lol).

#AlohaPopz: Cake Topper-California Lustre; Wedding Cake-Over the Rainbow Desserts

Philadelphia, Contigo Photography

Growing up in Southern California, my sister and I used to be part of a Halau (hula school) in our hometown and also part of Hawaii Club in college at UC Irvine. I wanted to do something special for Smoochies, so I surprised him by performing “E Pili Mai,” which means Sweetheart mine, come to me. I secretly took lessons from Lanialoha Lee at the Aloha Center in Chicago. 🙂

Happy Anniversary Smoochies, one year down & forever to go.

Philadelphia, Contigo Photography

Philadelphia, Contigo PhotographyPhiladelphia, Contigo Photography

Philadelphia, Contigo Photography

Wedding gown: BHLDN, 8 E. Walton; Bhldn.com  // Shoes: Kate Spade, 56 E. Oak; Katespade.com // Hair & makeup: Chelsea Nicole Makeup & Hair; Chelseanicolemakeup.com // Groom’s & groomsmen’s attire: The Black Tux, 918 W. Armitage; Theblacktux.com // Bridesmaids’ dresses: Vow To Be Chic; Vowtobechic.com // Wedding planner: Abby Lee Events; Abbyleeevents.com // Cake: Over the Rainbow Cupcakes and Desserts; Romanblas.com // Sweets: tropical glazed doughnuts, Chicago Cubs groom’s cake, Chicago mix popcorn and s’mores // Photographer: Florescio Films; floresciofilms.com/weddings // Entertainment: DJ belTRON, Soundcloud.com/beltron; Halau Hula a Kawika Laua ‘o Leinani Hoike, Kawikaleinani.com // Hula Lessons: Aloha Center Chicago, 1626 W. Lawrence; Facebook.com/alohacenterchicago // Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas; Weddingpaperdivas.com // Calligraphy: Calligraphy Chick; Instagram.com/calligraphychick

Moments at the museum

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is visit the local art museum. So I thought I’d share a few tips on how to fully enjoy moments at the museum.

Buy tickets online or get there early!

If there’s a particular exhibit/museum you want to see buy tickets ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in line, or risk not getting into the museum at all.

The Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibition is currently at The Broad in LA. I was lucky enough to catch it on my trip to Seattle this summer at the Seattle Art museum. We didn’t have any tickets but woke up early and got in line about an hour & a half before the museum opened to get day-of tickets.

Also keep in mind discount days or Free days at the museum! Bank of America offers free general admission on the first full weekend of every month. (If you’re not big on crowds, try to avoid weekends & discount days)

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Infinite Kusama: Seattle Art Museum

Make a list of what you want to see.

Try not to spend your entire day at the museum. At the Art Institute of Chicago there are thousands of pieces of artwork on display, to be honest it can be a bit overwhelming! Find out what exhibits/pieces are currently on display and make a list of what you have to see. Plus, after spending a few hours walking around I usually start to get a little tired & hungry (but then again I am always hungry…just don’t go to the museum when you’re hangry).

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Jeff Koons: The Broad LA

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Takashi Murakami: The Broad LA

Take some time away from the lenses.

Yes, I know that is me taking a selfie. After trying to snapchat & take a photo in the first installation I learned quickly that the 30 seconds goes by faster than you know. Also, at other museums I’ve found myself elbow to elbow with other visitors trying to fight to get a good shot. In those moments I try to remind myself to fully enjoy the experience without getting caught up in capturing the most insta-worthy shot.

Have fun!

When there are exhibits that are immersive, take it all in & have fun with it.

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Dalí Theatre and Museum

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Room of Obliteration: Infinite Kusama; Seattle Art Museum

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Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

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Dali Museum & Theatre

Do you have any tips on enjoying moments at the museum? What are your favorite museums?

8 Travel Essentials

It’s #TravelTuesday & I’m super excited because I’m headed to Barcelona this week with Smoochies! It will be my second time in Barcelona, I traveled there 10 years ago on a Mediterranean cruise with my family. I’m looking forward to enjoying delicious tapas, revisiting La Boqueria, Gaudí’s works and visiting the Dali Museum.

I’m almost done packing & wanted to share 8 of my favorite travel essentials!

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  1. lululemon vinyasa scarf: I always get cold on the plane, and sometimes even a hoodie won’t cut it. I love the vinyasa scarf because it’s super versatile & can be worn many ways but it keeps me warm (not hot) on the plane without fussing with a blanket that usually ends up on the floor. It’s breathable, sweat-wicking, soft and cozy.
  2. J-Pillow Travel Pillow: From 4 hour to 10 hour flights, I swear by this pillow. It is so much more comfortable than those donut neck pillows. I could be sitting in the middle row & this pillow supports my neck. The pillow is also ultra hygienic, you can throw the entire pillow in the washing machine, not just the cover.
  3. Kiehl’s Cactus Flower & Tibetan Ginseng Hydrating Mist: The air is always dry on the plane, this spray is cooling & detoxifying and revives my skin. It smells great  with soothing plant extracts & lavender, geranium & rosemary essential oils. You can spray it over makeup too so you can get off the plane being like #iwokeuplikedis.
  4. Flight 001 Spacepaks: My sis introduced me to Flight 001, (she’s crazy organized & clean…basically the Monica Gellar of the ohana) & I’m glad she did because packing has become so much easier with these spacepaks. I tend to overpack, but these spacepaks streamline packing…and unpacking by organizing items by category.
  5. Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray: I hate styling my hair but this spray makes styling easy. It’s a great alternative to dry shampoo, which doesn’t really work for me since I have black hair. This dry spray not only smells good, it builds volume and texture & absorbs oils at the roots.
  6. Totally B. Right skincare set: I’m obsessed with Benefit Cosmetics. I’ve been going to the boutique in Bucktown for years now. This pack of minis is reasonably priced & perfect for travel. The triple performing facial emulsions one of my favorite products. It’s oil-free and has SPF 15!
  7. Comfy shoes: I just got some new Hush Puppies that are crazy comfortable. I plan to do a lot of walking in the city and want to have comfy shoes while looking cute! These boots are light, water-resistant and have leather linings for extra comfort.
  8. Nut Allergy Translation card: I’m allergic to all nuts (except donuts) & unfortunately had to go to the ER while I was in Tokyo because I wasn’t careful enough when asking about ingredients. Having a severe nut allergy is super annoying and can definitely get lost in translation. I carry an epi-pen with me at all times, but having a card or a screenshot saved on my phone is a great way to let others know about my allergy so I can avoid a trip to the hospital.

 Follow my travel adventures in Barcelona on Instagram @roxypopzchicago. Let me know if you have any recommendations on sights/places to eat in Barcelona & share what are your favorite travel essentials!

Taco Tuesday

If you know me, then you know that I have an obsession with all things pineapple. One of my favorite taco spots in Chicago is Big Star. I love the tacos al pastor and the “Ensalada de Big Star.” The tacos are perfectly marinated and have little pieces of pineapple. I decided to try making my own version of the tacos & salad at home.

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Steak Tacos with Grilled Pineapple

  • Hard taco shells
  • Red cabbage, chopped
  • Avocado slices
  • Red Onion, thinly sliced
  • Cilantro
  • Skirt Steak
  • Pineapple slices, grilled ( I grabbed cored pineapple from the refrigerated section of produce to save some time too)

First I grilled the pineapple slices on the stovetop (I use a grill pan that I purchased from the Korean market & put on top of my gas grill) with some olive oil. Once the pineapples have some nice grill marks you can dice them up & set them aside.  I grilled the meat next so that the steak could soak up some of the pineapple flavor from the grill. Season the skirt steak with salt & pepper, then grill to your desired temp. Let the steak rest and assemble the remaining taco ingredients.

skirt steak

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Fish Tacos with Avocado Sauce

  • Tilapia Fillets (you can use any white fish, like cod or Mahi Mahi too)
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Red Cabbage
  • Cilantro
  • Queso Fresco
  • Tortillas

for the avocado sauce

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 limes
  • Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • cilantro
  • 2 cloves of garlic

To cook the fish, I coated the fillets in a little bit of cornstarch, then dredged in the egg wash, followed by coating with panko bread crumbs. Grill in a non-stick pan with a little EVOO, grill both sides just until the fish gets flaky. Use a spatula or fork to break up the fish.

For the sauce, I grabbed a handful of cilantro, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 ripe avocado, lime juice, half a container of a small sized greek yogurt and olive oil then blend. The sauce gets pretty thick, so you can thin it out with some water or more lime juice. I honestly just kept adding in a combo of water, EVOO & lime juice until the consistency and taste was just right. 🙂 You can make the sauce ahead of time too and keep in the fridge.

Once you’re ready to assemble the tacos, just add the fish and top with some veggies, queso fresco & the avocado sauce.

Salad

  • Bag of romaine lettuce
  • pumpkin seeds
  • queso fresco
  • radish, thinly sliced
  • black beans (which I totally forgot to throw in! lol)
  • avocado, diced
  • pepitas/pumpkin seeds

dressing

  • mayo
  • greek yogurt or sour cream (I used the leftover greek yogurt from the avocado sauce)
  • chipotle hot sauce
  • EVOO
  • lime juice

For the dressing, blend all ingredients until smooth. You can add more EVOO if it’s too thick. Throw all the ingredients into a bowl and add as much dressing as you like! Enjoy!

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cooking for my ohana

Growing up, eating dinner together as a family has always been a priority.  While I do love stuffing my face with donuts, burgers & sushi … I do love cooking at home too! When I was in junior high I was obsessed with the Food Network, I loved watching Martha Stewart. (my cooking hashtag #weiweimarthastewart) I basically taught myself how to cook from watching cooking shows, with inspiration from my Dad & Lola in the kitchen too. While some kids learned to bake cookies with their grandparents, I learned how to roll lumpia while watching the Price is Right with mine.

I decided to prepare a home-cooked meal for the ohana because it was my sister’s first night home with their newborn baby! (Baby Jojo was born #71017 Follow her on Instagram @essentialohana to learn more about her birth story)

I prepared Korean-style Buddha bowls. I love using colorful veggies whenever I’m cooking, and there are some great summer veggies currently in season. Here’s what I used:

Vegetables

  • sweet potatoes, cubed & roasted in olive oil
  • red cabbage, grilled in olive oil — grilling red cabbage adds a nice depth of flavor
  • zucchini, grilled
  • purple cauliflower, roughly chopped & sauteed
  • broccoli, sauteed in sesame oil
  • bell pepper, sauteed
  • bok choy, sauteed
  • snap peas, blanched
  • purple radish, sliced thin

all veggies were sauteed/grilled with salt & pepper

Ground Beef

  • 2 lbs. of 90% lean ground beef
  • soy sauce
  • sesame oil
  • garlic powder (i forgot to buy garlic, would recommend chopped garlic over powder)
  • green onion

I browned the ground beef with a little olive oil, then added soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and green onion.

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Arranging the bowls was super easy. After you sautee/grill all the veggies, you can assemble the bowls pretty quick! If you’re in a hurry, you can totally just throw all the veggies together and saute/grill at the same time. I did it separately for plating purposes, I wanted to make it look extra pretty! 🙂

At the base of the bowl, I added 1/3 cup of brown rice. I usually cheat too and just buy a frozen bag of brown rice & microwave it, because it’s quicker than busting out the rice cooker.

Next step was arranging all the cooked veggies and topping with the ground beef. I added some more thinly sliced green onion on top, then finished with some fresh Thai basil & roasted sesame seeds. I also set aside some gochujang for anyone who wanted to add some spice & sesame dressing for more flavor. The ohana loved dinner & my sis  appreciated the home cooked meal since we were on a pizza kick before the baby arrived.

I love having foodventures with my ohana, enjoying & discovering restaurants in Chicago. But there’s always something special about making dinner at home for my own.

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Thanks for reading my first of many blog posts!

Will work on creating a more detailed recipes for future posts with measurements, 😉