Category Archives: Novel Experiences

Comfort Zone!

One of my constant goals is to do things outside of my comfort zone (as long as I don’t compromise my morals and beliefs). The past few months I have made small, yet significant strides, in this respect. I baked new recipes for people for the first time without testing them myself first. I had conversations with strangers I happened to come across in public. Heck, I even accepted a job outside my comfort zone (I don’t think I’m ever going to be 100% comfortable that I could be physically attacked by mentally ill adolescent boys any day).

Last night, I went to the holiday music program at my old high school where my little sister sang in the choir. During her four years at the school (our time there never overlapped), I went to many holiday programs. For the last song, White Christmas, the choral director always asks for any alumni in the audience to come join the choir on the rafters to sing along. Every year, I slink down in my seat and hide behind a camera lens because I feel somehow silly or self-conscious walking up there by myself without any other young alumni. This time, I did the usual. I heard the announcement for alums to come to the stage, I slunk down into my chair, and I took a picture. But then, I realized that this would probably be my last high school holiday concert because my little sister graduates in June. So…why not? Why not go up? I am 100% positive that my joining the high school choir students had absolutely no significance to anyone except me. Well, and maybe the handful of students who recognized me as their substitute teacher. 😉

In any case, it felt great to let go of a silly anxiety. I look forward to this being the first of many times I suck in my self-consciousness and just…do things. Without thinking about them so much. Without thinking about other people. After all, I think that self-consciousness is somewhat egocentric and that it is a feeling that does not do any good for anybody. Out of anything on my list of goals, this may be the hardest and also the most important for me to overcome.

comfort zone magic


NaNoWriMo ’13

How can it already be November 3rd? Although I’m not sure I will be able to reach the 50,000 word minimum to write an entire novel in one month, I have decided that I am going to try. I have tried with very little success to write a “novel” for National Novel Writing Month every single year since my senior year of high school. I figure that the year before turning 24 will put me on track to my ideal self, so I’m going to finally take a crack at it. 

And I know exactly what my topic will be. I’m not going to give up much about it here until I have actually gotten some writing done, but I’m sure I’ll have an update post or two about my progress. I have taken three creative non-fiction writing classes and I will be drawing from what I learned along the way in my latest writing venture, which will be non-fiction.

Good luck to everyone participating! Feel free to follow me. We can support each other!

The Sunshine Award

sunshine awardThere was no better way to start my Sunday morning after completing my very first grown-up 40-hour work week than to log onto WordPress to discover that the wonderful Kate of the blog A Hundred Affections had nominated me for an award! I started my blog in early July because I realized that I was less than six months away from my 24th birthday. 24 is my favorite number and I realized that I wanted to make sure, in whatever way possible, that 24 would be an absolutely incredible year for me. What better way to ensure that than by improving myself now, as a 23-year-old? So far, I have blogged about my journey, covering topics such as how to win sweepstakes (okay, I still haven’t won one), healthy recipes, and progress on individual fitness goals. It makes me feel happy that I can be a little ray of sunshine through my “ideal me” journey for someone else!

“The Sunshine Award recognizes bloggers whose writings “light up the dark corners of our minds” The rules are simple and provided below: (1) Thank the person who gave you the award in your blog post. (2) Do the Q&A below. (3) Pass on the award to 10 – 12 deserving and inspiring bloggers, inform them and link to their blogs.”

Having thanked Kate, I’ll get to answering those just-for-fun questions!

Favorite color? I always cite a tie between purple and blue. Blue is certainly my favorite color to wear, probably due to my light blue eyes!

Favorite animal? Dolphins are my favorite. I love how they look happy all the time and have that gleeful chattering sound they make.

Favorite number? 24! It’s funny that is a question on here given its significance to this blog.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink? I drink good ole-fashioned water more than anything else, but my go-to drinks otherwise are unsweetened green tea, mango smoothies (!), and hot chocolate during fall and winter.

Favorite alcoholic drink? So, I don’t drink. I have taken a few teeny tiny sips of drinks because I’m really curious about what they taste like. So far, all I’ve figured out is that I really, really don’t like top shelf whiskey.

Facebook or Twitter? Definitely Facebook. I created a Twitter account a few years ago, but I never really figured out how to use it. I only tweet occasionally if I need to share something for a giveaway.

My passions? Helping other people, working with kids (especially those who need help the most), reading, writing, spending time in the great outdoors, meeting new people, trying new things, living a healthy lifestyle, playing the violin, seeing performances in the arts, etc. Overall, I enjoy spending my time in such a way so that at the end of the day I think, “Wow. I really took advantage of the fact that I’m alive today.”

Now, here are my nominations! This was tough as I enjoy a lot of wonderful blogs here on WordPress.

25 before I’m 25

The Shut Down Runner

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities

278 to Boston

100 Days of Evelyn

GRIT by Brit

Project Light to Life

Ajaytau 2010

Honk If You’re Vegan


Conquer the world.


Thanks for having amazing, inspirational, fun-to-read blogs, everyone! 😀

Thank You, Yelp!

carolyn yelpyIn February, I had just moved back home after finishing student teaching. One day, I checked Yelp for reviews of a restaurant I was thinking of dining at with a friend and it clicked that all those reviews are written by actual people! It dawned on me that I could easily write reviews on the places I ate and also about anything from the local grocery store to concert venues to my alma maters. I started reviewing up a storm and eventually I applied to become an “Elite” for 2013. My application was approved and since then, I have met a ton of incredible people and tried a ton of incredible food all thanks to complimentary Yelp Elite events.  One of my goals to maintain is to try a lot of new food, which Yelp has really enabled me to do. For example, through Yelp I have tried vegetarian sushi and Afghan cuisine, just to name a few new dishes I may not have tried. Additionally, Yelp has been incredible in helping me get out of my comfort zone when it comes to socializing. I’ll never forget my very first event. I took the L train with three different transfers when I had scarcely ever ridden that train alone before, let alone figured out transferring train lines. Once I arrived, I learned that there were going to be about fifty people there. I took a deep breath and started introducing myself. I ended up making some great friends and I even got to roll my own sushi for the first time!

But more than anything else, Yelp has taught me to really value and pay attention to what I eat. I find that I am much more observant and thoughtful about the food I eat because I know that I will write a review later. This has also transferred to my everyday eating, which contributes to my being mindful of what foods I put into my body. So, in a roundabout way, Yelp has inspired me to be healthy. In my quest to improving myself in a number of ways before my 24th birthday (and beyond!), I’m happy to say that Yelp has been and continues to be an important part of the journey.

The Best Moment Award

best-moment-awardWow! I can’t believe that I have been nominated for my very first blog award, the Best Moment Award by the wonderful 278 to Boston. I encourage you to check out his blog where he details his journey to running a marathon (ultimately leading to the Boston Marathon). If you need inspiration to run, then look no further; you won’t believe that he’s in his fifties, used to be 278 pounds, and probably runs more than you! This nomination really helps keeps me motivated to continue trying my very best in my own journey toward my ideal self. So, thank you so much for the thoughtful nomination; it means a lot.

Here are the rules:

1. Display the logo. 
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. State seven things about yourself. 

1. I got serious about getting fit and healthy when I realized I was too weak to pick up a four-year-old boy at my summer job.
2. I am a classically trained violinist and I have been playing since I was four years old.
3. I am a certified middle and high school English teacher in search of a job (preferably in the Chicago area) after completing student teaching.
4. My absolute two favorite foods in the world are pizza and smoothies.
5. I have been dating my boyfriend for over two years and I sometimes forget that we are different races (he’s Vietnamese). As far as I’m concerned, we and are both compassionate human beings and that’s all that matters!
6. I had absolutely no desire to wear a pair of pants until I was in third grade and even now I still prefer dresses.
7. The only book that I have ever started to read without ever finishing is In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust.

4. Nominate 15 bloggers (or however many you can) for the award. I haven’t been around WordPress for very long, so I’ll nominate my some of my favorite blogs with which I’ve come into contact since I started (not including 278 to Boston, of course!). I would love to get to know all of you even better. 🙂 These are in no particular order.

100 Days of Evelyn
Honk If You’re Vegan
Life at Le Rheims
A Hundred Affections
Project Light to Life
Joshua S. Nye
Not the fat kid in gym class anymore
25 before I’m 25
Ten Thousand Dancing Stars
Grace Got Healthy
kaftan to bikini
hiking to healthy
Fit for a year
learning moderation

Sweepstakes Advice from a Newbie

didnt win 12 10One of my goals to reach before I turn 24 is to win some kind of contest, sweepstakes, or giveaway. I don’t want to win just anything, though. I want to win something that I actually really want or need that is of a great enough value that I would not be able to afford purchasing myself. I have a feeling that winning any of the items I desire might be one of the hardest things on my list because it has more to do with luck than actual skill or ability. That being said, even if it has nothing to do with a personal accomplishment, my entire year would be made by winning something! Part of it may also be that I need to convince myself that I’m not unlucky. What better way to prove that than by entering contests? As you can see in the picture, I entered to win a tablet but failed. Interestingly, this giveaway goes every day until my end date, December 10, 2013, so I may just have to enter again…and again!

Here is what I have learned so far about entering sweepstakes:

1. Create a designated email address solely for entrances in various sweepstakes.
2. On a related note, be sure to regularly check the spam folder, because you never know when a win notification could be hiding in there.
3. Only spend time entering sweepstakes that you are VERY interested in. For me, that’s for prizes that are trips, smart phones, tablets, cash/gift cards to places where I actually shop, concert tickets for bands I like,  workout gear, and certain kitchen appliances.
4. If there is a certain item you desperately want, then do Google searches to help you find and enter as many sweepstakes as possible offering that item.
5. Dedicate a certain minimum amount of time each day to entering sweeps. This could be five minutes or it could be two hours.
6. Check out websites that features sweepstakes. The first one I ever found was, but there are plenty of others out there!
7. Know that certain sweeps allow you to enter more than once. For those, consider using a free software or app that lets you enter info into the fields very quickly.
8. Don’t spend a ridiculous amount of time on the computer trying to win something. In most cases, you’re probably better off using that time to work or build your resume so you can make enough money to pay for the items you’re trying to win.

I still have a LOT to learn about entering sweepstakes, but I think that the main thing is to enter as many as possible to increase your likelihood of winning. Have you ever won anything? Do you have any advice or tips to add to the list?

May the odds be ever in your favor!