Smile #101 – 2015 Report Card

Before I start jogging down more resolutions, now it is a good time to reflect on my progress of my 2015 resolutions.

Resolutions 2015:

 1.  Read – 50 books challenge 
Not quite.  Total books read: 26.  Although I didn’t meet the goal, this challenge did motivate me to read more.  The awful traffic hour in Charlotte also helped.  Repeated radio playlist or an exciting story.  I’ll take the latter.  🙂

2.  Exercise – do challenges/gym 2x a week.  
I did enroll in a gym membership.  But like I mentioned in Smile #47, my commitment with the gym seems to cycle up and down.  Some weeks, going to the gym energizes me…other days, gym is a synonym for plague.

3.  Travel 
YES!  My bank account can validated the dent traveling has made.  But every cents spent for new experiences is worth it in my opinion.  Check out Nice to Meet You page for all my travel spots.  🙂

4.  Connect with friends and family
DONE!  I managed to keep up with most friends and family!  Skype sessions, dinner dates, movie nights and even a meet up in Dubai!  🙂

5.  Invest 
About that…the year started off successfully, I stayed within budget…for about two months.  Then  I gradually moved towards to the deficit side.  Oops.

6.  Learn
This was quite an ambitious goal.  For 6 months, I managed to take at least one course weekly.  I learned a variety of topics, from investments and personal finances to sustainability and greening the economy.  Then my laziness and the world of internet invited me to the dark side…

7.  Write
Totally!  Well, I didn’t keep up with the bi-weekly schedule, but happiness is tough to calculate.  I am so proud to say that I reached 100 smiles within this year!  That’s 100 posts!  🙂

8.  Try out new recipes monthly
Regret to say…this was a failed.  Bubble and I only managed to try out one or two recipes…

9.  Network
DONE!  I managed to push myself out of the door (literally) to networking events at least 2x a month!  I even joined Toastmasters and began working on my public speaking skills.

10.  Practice a new language
Another failed mission unfortunately.  I admit I totally should have tried harder on this one.

In conclusion, I say I did relatively decent on my goals.  While I didn’t complete everything I wanted to, I am pleased with the progress I made.

Bruce Lee said it perfectly:



Smile #100 – Goodbye 2015!

A lot can happen in one year!  2015 was definitely an unforgettable year.  With a few minutes left of 2015, let’s take a retrospective look at all the adventures!

  • Found new favorite food spots, perfect for a foodie like me!
  • Committed to a gym membership
  • Learned history from our country’s first capital
  • Sold my first stock…plus a couple more!
  • Visited two of the new7Wonders of the world – Chichen Itza + Colossium
  • Crossed the first item of my Mark My Footprint list!  Harry Potter World!
  • Learned to be a Witch/Wizard while sipping on Butterbeer, pumpkin juice, and gellywater!
  • Rode a hot air balloon!  …almost
  • Celebrated 1 year working anniversary
  • Chase Rice Concert
  • Rascal Flatts Concert…who knew I would ever go to a country concert?!
  • Trained new employee at work
  • Visited my first Middle East country
  • Witnessed the true definition of rich
  • Been on top the tallest building in the world
  • Experienced the hottest temperature of my life – 118 degrees
  • Wore the tradition wear, burka
  • Visited my first desert and saw the beautiful sunset
  • New iPhone user…I have submitted myself to the dark side!
  • Went on an across Italy trip with Bubble
  • Hiked the most beautiful trail
  • Picked apples at an Orchard
  • Cider tasting
  • Discovered a new recipe
  • Painted like Vin Gogh
  • Donuts binge
  • Visited tigers camouflaged in a residential area
  • Cheered on our Hornets…even though we didn’t win
  • Enjoyed the outdoor a bit more
  • Toured a cave
  • Discovered a favorite beach
  • Committed myself to Toastmaster
  • Gave a speech voluntarily!
  • Presented to senior executives including our regional VP!
  • Lunch with our global CEO and a chitchat with our global COO
  • Dinner with clients
  • Met colleagues globally
  • Spoiled myself with the biggest travel budget
  • Splurged on my first name-branded jacket
  • Reached the last year of my pre-adult years (25 is the new official adult year)
  • New relationship status:  Engaged
  • Officially reached 5 years in our relationship
  • Cooked with a professional chef!
  • Greatest commitment to self:  100 Smiles 🙂

I’d say I earned quite a few stripes for my professional and personal records!  🙂

Cheers, darling! Bring on the new adventures!

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Smile #99 – Cooking New Year Celebration

On a whim, Bubble and I signed up for a cooking class – “Date Night: New Year Celebration” at Sur La Table.  We figured it was perfect since I honestly need to learn cooking skills and it would be a new experience for us.  Let’s get learning!  🙂

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The classroom situated at the back of the shop is a full chef kitchen equipped with all sorts of kitchen aids.  Upon our arrival, we were informed tonight is BYOB (Bring Your Own Beer) Night.  So off we went to next door, Whole Food, for drinks.  The night is always better with a drink!

Our chef, Robyn Moore warmly welcomed us.  Fun fact: she was a past contestant on Chopped.  How cool is that!  She and her assistants, Chef Travis and Mike were around to guide us through each step to prepare our fancy meal.

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Our menu for this evening were:

  • Blini with gravlax and creme fraiche
  • Pan seared steak with Brandy-dijon cream (Steak Diane)
  • Truffled mashed potatoes
  • Dark chocolate souffle with cocoa nib cream

Each table was set up with individual cooking stations with cutting board, a super sharp chef’s knife and a scrape shovel.

Let’s avoid a trip to the ER by starting with how to properly hold a knife.  The proper way of holding a knife is to use our thumb and index finger to grip the blade and our hand will hold the handle.  So I learned tonight I have been holding a knife wrong for forever….

The first course we prepared was the desserts.  That works for me since that is my favorite part of any meal!  Chef Robyn demonstrated how to whisk the cream and techniques to use in mixing.  Noted, not everything should be stirred like Sunday morning pancakes.  She poured the smooth chocolate mixture in the previously buttered souffle cups and let it cool in the refrigerator.

We put our knife skills to work by dicing potatoes for our mashed potatoes.  I was extra careful to avoid any chance of cutting myself.  She added in some truffle oils and truffle salt for flavor and let it cook in the large pot.

In the mean time, we started on our appetizer.  Blini is basically a product of pancake and crepes.  After two groups helped make the batter of yeast, mike, flour eggs, milk, sugar and butter, we each took a turn at the stove.  I was a bit terrify of the oil splashing from the skillet. It also didn’t help when the first guy set the skillet on fire because he added too much oil to the pan…. Good thing Chef Robyn was right by my side.  My blini came out perfectly!  🙂

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Rolled up the blini with a spoonful of herbed creme fraiche and a strip of smoked salmon = delicious!  🙂

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After all of us licked our fingers clean, we moved on to making our main course – pan seared steak.  We generously seasoned our steak with salt and pepper.  Our table-mate volunteered to cook the steaks.  Steak is added to the pan clockwise starting at 12 o’clock.  This method ensures each steak will have even amount of heat.  At medium brown, steak is removed to cool.  Dijon mustard is then spread on the steak before placing in the oven to finish.

While we wait, Chef Robyn shared with us that medium rare is the best temperature for any steak.  If you prefer well-done, then order the filet mignon because that can withstand the heat without sacrificing the meat.  Good tip!

We returned to our cooking station and Bubble took control of the skillet.  He added mushrooms, Cognac, beef broth, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard with the cream.  Stirred it all up over low heat to create the perfect sauce!

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Just in time, our mashed potatoes are ready.  Did you there is a thing called a mashed potato masher?!  Chef Travis helped stir in the warmed milk and adjusted seasoning with truffle salt.

The aroma from all the food filled the room!  Everyone’s mouth were watering!

Dinner is served!  🙂

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The steak was on par with restaurant quality.  It was tender and juicy!  The sauce was fantastic.  I hope Bubble took notes so we can recreate this sauce!  I was so full from the steak and mashed potatoes that I almost forgot about our desserts.

Since we already prepared all the ingredients, Chef Robyn quickly popped our souffle into the oven.  She added cream to a bowl and began whipping the cream with mini chocolate chips for our souffles.  Souffles rose in the cup due to heat; therefore, its beauty only last a few minutes before it deflates.  Regardless, it was delicious!  🙂

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The past three hours passed by quickly.  I can’t believe I am saying this…but I had a fun time learning how to cook.  Our chef was informative and had a sense of humor.  This class is great for cooks with all levels….if I can keep up, everyone else can too!  What a unique date night idea! 🙂

Smile #98 – Merry & Bright

Christmas would be incomplete without our annual drive in search for twinkly Christmas lights.  🙂

We drove through many nearby neighborhoods.  At our small neighborhood, Olaf is a very popular man!

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This is my favorite house.

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Bright lights lined the perimeter of the house.  Inflatables and decorations covered the yard.  There was also holiday music blaring from speakers on the roof.  As an added bonus, the RV behind the house was also decorated too!

I squealed with joy!  🙂  What a colorful explosion of Christmas spirit!  We were surprised there were no lines of traffic past this home.  Lucky for us then, we go enjoy this magical sight in peace.  🙂



Smile #97 – Broke the Ice!

Since Smile #83, I had taken on a few roles from the Leadership Competent workbook.  That’s great and all, but the clock is ticking for my Competent Communicator.

Ahh, pressure is on!  Let’s get on to the first speech!


Every idea/story can be a speech!  Thanks to my Toastmasters mentor, I was able to narrow down my speech topic.

The first speech project is the Icebreaker.  The objectives are to begin speaking before an audience, to discover speaking skills you already have and skills that need attention and most importantly, to introduce myself.

My nerves were raving until I headed up to the front of the room and began delivering my speech.

Here is my speech – My Travel Addiction


Even though I had practice enough times that I memorized every word, the final speech still varied from the original.  I guess there are no perfect speech like Dale Carnegie once said “there are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”  He couldn’t have said it any better!

The exciting part comes at evaluation.  I got nice notes from several members.  My speech evaluator gave me great encouragement and new pointers to focus on.  Focus points for me are speech rate and body movements.  Speaking faster has always been an issue, especially when I am nervous.  But I was surprised to learn that I rock back and forth when I am speaking.  I had no idea!  Hmm!

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Just like that, I broke the ice!  I gave my first speech!  🙂

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