Everyday Inspirations

indoor herb garden
My little herb garden has oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil and cilantro
Being earth week and all (it's not officially Earth Day until Thursday, but who am I to complain if people want to extend their exaggerated earth-loving behavior for a whole week?), I figure it's a good time to write about my little herb garden. There's nothing quite like cooking with fresh herbs, but it can get rather expensive and wasteful if you're buying them from the grocery store. I definitely don't have a green thumb, but it's really quite simple and inexpensive to get it started and I love the way it brightens up my dining room window. I got these wooden plant boxes (complete with a tray to catch excess water) from Ikea and purchased the plants from a local market for about $3-$4 each. You can make it even cheaper if you are patient and grow them from seeds, but a month later, I am still anxiously awaiting my cilantro and it just started sprouting a week ago. The boxes are perfect because the plants are still individually potted so they are mobile if needed. Last night we made grilled chicken in a marinade of olive oil and red wine vinegar with fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, and garlic. Cooking fresh is so rewarding. 
statement necklace

I feel like I write about accessories a lot. It's just too easy! They complete a look without wasting time, money, or energy.

Now that warm weather has hit, I find myself craving simple clothes. Lightweight skirts, pants or capris, basic tees. The best way to take that look up a notch? Add a statement piece: a big, bold, beautiful necklace, earrings, belt or bracelet will add instant interest to your outfit. Just be sure to choose only one statement piece to avoid looking tacky. No woman wants to be that woman.

Keep your eyes open for unique accessories that scream YOU. This necklace was made for me by my brother's girlfriend's mom. There are no words for how much I adore it.
We've all been there--you're shopping or getting ready and your friend or significant other asks how they look in something. If the look isn't something you love, you're suddenly torn between being a good friend and telling them the ugly truth or being a good friend and telling them what they want to hear. Unfortunately there are several ways to go here and unless you have a Twix to delay your response with, you need to make a quick decision as to how you will respond.

Step 1: Survey their personality
Are they the type of person that wants to hear that truth or is it more likely that they are just asking for confirmation of what they think? I usually like to hear the actual truth and I don't ask this question unless I want a real answer for instance, but I know other people that ask this to hear they look good.

Step 2: Survey your relationship
Are you close enough with this person that you won't offend them? I'm not saying you should lie, but if you're not that close it may be more polite to tone down your response.

Step 3: Respond
Whether you've decided you can be openly honest or need to tone down your response, one great way of handling this situation is to suggest something else. You don't need to blatantly dis what they are wearing, instead suggest that you like a different outfit, color, style, pair of jeans, etc better on them. Or nicely suggest it's okay but not your favorite so maybe he or she should keep looking.

This tip really isn't black and white. You just have to tactfully respond based on the situation. That may mean being totally honest or simply telling them what they want to hear. But hopefully this will help you analyze what is appropriate. Good luck! 
My over-the-shoulder camera phone shot of the Salt Lake Marathon finish line. It wasn't easy to get a really good one when they kept you moving. :)

This morning I ran the half marathon I spent the last 10 weeks training for. Like any goal worth working toward, this accomplishment took a great deal of dedication, determination and perseverance. There were days I didn't want to get out of bed early to train. There were days I questioned why I had committed to a second half marathon. But then there were moments when I realized I was exactly where I needed to be--during amazing training runs or this morning when my heart was light, I had a grin on my face and I knew I was going to hit the goal time I had spend weeks focused on. I knew every ounce of dedication I put toward my goal taught me something new about myself.

I once read that the things we should focus on accomplishing are the ones that scare us the most. Think about it. If something is worth doing, it usually can't just be handed to you. You have to step outside your comfort zone, test yourself and learn who you are. The greatest experiences will challenge you and push you to new levels you may not have even thought possible. Life is full of these experiences, both small and large. If you take advantage of them, you will never stop growing as a person. You will be a well-rounded, more inspirational individual.

Don't fear that which challenges you. Embrace it. Each day, learn something new about yourself. Run the race. Take the class. Start the conversation. Ask the question. Jump.

You'll never know where the road will take you.
World travel
This time of year I always have a travel bug. Time to think about your summer travel plans. I love to travel and I'm a little obsessed with travel planning (I won't share all the ins and out of my insanity. I could totally be travel buddies with the Travelocity Roaming Gnome). I thought I'd share some of my favorite travel sites so you can get planning trips I will be jealous of.

Travelocity and Expedia
Travelocity.com and Expedia.com are pretty well known, but they are great for finding hotel, flight and/or car packages at discounts when you book everything together. I usually check both before booking anything, though I like the gnome so I'm slightly partial to Travelocity. They are great sites to go to if you want to go on a trip but you're not sure where and need ideas since you can search cheap packages from your location. Travelocity has last minute packages (so you have to go for flight and hotel) with a function that allows you to find last minute travel destinations from two locations if you want to plan a trip with someone that lives in another state. Expedia lets you narrow last minute travel by packages, flights, hotels, cars and cruises which gives you a few more options.

ITA Software
ITAsoftware.com is a great travel search engine that allows you to find the cheapest flights from all airlines. You don't book through ITA, just narrow which flight is cheapest. My favorite aspect of their site is that it allows you to do a month-long search so if your dates are flexible, it will simply show you the price of different departure dates. When I'm searching on other travel sites, I always double check prices and dates on ITA before booking. If you don't want to sign up you can log in as a guest.

Venere.com is a hotel and B&B site mostly focused on international travel, particularly in Europe. You will see some of the same hotels you would find on other travel sites but they have many more options in addition and sometimes better deals.

Eurail.com has train passes all over Europe that you can buy by country or region.

Travel Zoo
TravelZoo.com has their weekly top 20 travel deals that I regularly drool at, pretend to book, and then cancel since I can't actually go. Oh wait, I wasn't going to share my insanity...

Travel Channel
Somewhere romantic? Family vacation? Luxury spa weekend? Don't know where to go? TravelChannel.com has a feature to help you find where you'd like to go by looking at travel videos narrowed by categories like "art, music and culture," "beaches," "road trips and national parks," and "romance and honeymoons."

Bon voyage!

A couple weeks ago my family celebrated my boyfriend's birthday with a Sunday BBQ (you may also remember our champagne risotto celebration). I was in charge of salsa, so naturally I made my family's favorite variety. My mom and I first had this salsa at a baby shower years ago and fell in love with it. It's unique because it's not as liquid-y as other salsas--it's full of chunky, delicious ingredients, including cilantro. I have a deep love for anything that contains cilantro.

Plus, aren't the colors just gorgeous? Enjoy this salsa as a perfect addition to your next outdoor meal.

Cilantro, Black Bean & Corn Salsa

1 (15 oz.) can yellow corn, drained
1 (15 oz.) can white corn, drained
2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 (14.5 oz) can Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained (you can also substitute Roma tomatoes, if you prefer)
1 bunch finely chopped cilantro
5 green onions, finely sliced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup lime juice
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
Olive oil, to taste
Salt, to taste

Stir the yellow and white corn, black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, green onion, red onion, bell pepper and garlic in a large bowl. Gently mix in the lime juice and avocado. Drizzle with olive oil to serve. Season with salt if desired.
When we think of living healthy we often get caught up in eating right and exercising, forgetting one of the most important components—mental health. Stress and chaos can really throw off your balance and hold back personal growth. One of the best things to deal with stress is meditation. This can be a variety of things: yoga, running, painting, fishing, hiking or reading for example. Or if you have more mental control than I do, you can even just close your eyes and tune out the world and your thoughts. Do whatever gets you into a state of emptiness where you are solely focused on being in a blank state of calm. For me my two favorite things that get me in the zen zone are dancing and making pastels. For Ash it's running. How do you get in your zen zone?


I don't know about you, but there is something about messy drawers that just eats at my brain. I can know exactly where something is in clutter, but seeing all that chaos still bothers me. When I'm ready to do some in-depth, let's-seriously-get-down-to-business cleaning, I start with drawer organization. Because really, can you complain when you open a drawer and everything is neat and in its proper place? Didn't think so.

Best part is, you can organize drawers without spending a dime. Look around your home for old containers--a box from a holiday gift or a glass jar--and use those items to sort your belongings. You'll love the difference they make.
Jingu Ice Messengers Grace 2010 Synchronized Skating Worlds
As you may have seen in my previous post, I just got back from the Synchronized Skating World Championships. There were a lot of incredible things happening out there on the ice, but in addition to it all, my friends and I certainly did enjoy analyzing all the fashions. Now in my personal blog I say skating is more than just rhinestones and twizzles, which I still stand by. Skating is a very intense sport, but that doesn't mean that pretty costumes aren't a benefit of being a skater. Featured above are the ladies from Jingu Ice Messengers Grace representing Japan at official practice. These may just be practice outfits but we all wanted these shirts just for a night out on the town. And of course, I'd love to be able to do this lift.

Friday afternoon facial, brunch with my sweetie... the weekend is full of tipping opportunities. I figure it never hurts to brush up on tip-related etiquette. Here is a list of some common tipping situations.
  • Sit-down restaurant: Generally 10–20%, depending on service, but I recommend tipping 15–20% unless the experience was horrible. And on behalf of wait staff everywhere, keep in mind that it's fine to tip higher if your experience was exceptional.
  • Coffee shop: Tip jars are optional, but I think it's good karma to help out the friendly barista who's getting your morning started on the right foot. You usually don't need to tip more than 5–10%.
  • Hair salon: You should be fine tipping 15–20%. You can always tip higher if you had a great experience or the stylist took extra time on a more complicated style or color.
  • Facial/massage/body treatment: Tip 15–20% (or higher based on your experience).