I pin, therefore I am…inspired?

Source: weddingchicks.com via Joelle on Pinterest;
Beautiful ombre cake from KerissaBakes.com

After months of hearing people talk about Pinterest and seeing the endless stream of pretty images, quotes, fantastic looking party spreads, and DIY wedding tips, I was eager yet hesitant to peek into the Pinterest world for myself. Many jokingly complained about how much time they wasted on the site and how it could quickly become addicting. I don’t have many vices, but if I were to name a few, you could say I’m obsessed with pretty pictures…and images of cute animals…and party planning tips, recipes, etc…You get the idea. I worried that once I jumped into the Pinterest rabbit hole, I’d never find my way out.

Welllll, I finally gave in to curiosity and started exploring Pinterest. Within my first day of really taking a look around, I had my own Pinterest account and now I have several boards that I go to when I need a little artistic inspiration, when I want to laugh, or when I need to find that new cake ball recipe I’ve pinned (or essentially “bookmarked” for those of you unfamiliar with the pinning lingo). I admit that I’ve plopped down on the couch with my iPad and started scrolling through pin after pin, only to realize that several hours had passed and I hadn’t moved – transfixed by all that l I was discovering.

I think many of us would agree that there are good and bad ways to utilize Pinterest and that damage can be done if you start thinking your own life has to be as picture perfect as all the images we see flooding our feeds. If you get too caught up in the pretty fantasy and lose touch with your own reality and what makes you and your life unique, then it can be easy to think that you’re inferior or somehow less creative. What? You can’t DIY your own crafty Swarovski-covered-blinged-out and monogrammed iPhone case or whip up a gorgeous layer cake, complete with ombre frosting, displayed against the perfect table setting with matching party decorations and favors? Neither can I! (Clearly, KerissaBakes can and I am thoroughly impressed by her swoon-worthy cakes and other baked goodies.) I read an interesting article recently, questioning whether Pinterest was killing creativity and questioning whether weddings were getting too “pin-dictable.” Pinterest is overrun with images of weddings utilizing Mason jars, mustaches, photo booths, and specialty cocktails – so you begin to wonder why all weddings are starting to look the same.

But despite this constant exposure to the same trends I still can feel inspired by the endless stream of ideas and beautiful images Pinterest provides. I LOVE Pinterest! I’ve just found that I need to limit my pinning time, telling myself I’m only going to pin with intention (“Today, I will only look for pins related to pink macarons.”). Currently, my boards only display pins of photos and projects by others. But I have been so inspired by all that I’ve seen on Pinterest and some of the artsy experiences I’ve had lately that I hope to eventually have my own board that only contains images by me.

What is your relationship with Pinterest? What purpose does it serve you and/or your business? Do you tire of seeing the same trends posted over and over?

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Cherry Blossom Cocktail Party

If you live in Washington, DC or London and you like Asian food, chances are, you’ve had the pleasure of tasting some of Ping Pong Dim Sum’s “little steamed parcels of deliciousness.” A HUGE fan of Asian food, I was excited when they first opened their Chinatown location as it was located literally blocks from my former apartment. Not a traditional dim sum joint where the Chinese ladies offer you dishes off of carts that they push around the restaurant, Ping Pong is a modern take on dim sum. I was happily surprised to find that they still had several of my favorite traditional dim sum items on their menu – like sticky rice and shumai.

I could go on about the food but what really keeps me coming back are Ping Pong’s unique and colorful cocktails. It’s fun to see how they stick to the Asian theme of their menu but mix fresh fruits, herbs, and even flowers in their drinks! I love their take on the traditional mojito, made with muddled kumquats and plenty of mint!

Ping Pong of Chinatown – Washington, D.C.

But as the name of this post suggests, soon I will have the chance to try their seasonal special, a nod to the most famous blossoms of Washington, DC – the cherry blossom cocktail. See, last week, I noticed this post on Ping Pong’s Facebook page, urging fans to submit photos of themselves with the blossoms for a chance to win a cherry blossom cocktail party for six.

Earlier this year I won a $25 gift card to a popular pizza restaurant and two free tix to a Shakespeare production through another Facebook contest, so I thought this one was worth entering too. It just so happened that I had visited the Tidal Basin a couple days earlier (see those photos here) and got a great shot with one of my besties, Miss K.

I uploaded our photo and checked out the competition in the public album. With the support of literally dozens of friends who commented and “liked” our photo, I was pretty confident we’d win. But it was still a fun surprise to learn that Ping Pong had selected our photo as the winner last week! Thank you, Ping Pong! Now we just have to pick a date before the Cherry Blossom Festival wraps up in a few weeks and soon we’ll be sipping some very cherry cocktails!

avocado yumminess

Avocado smoothie, take one. So I’m pretty excited about having my very own blender for the first time in my life. I know, I get excited over the little things. ;) Just seeing the first two words of this post probably made some of you scrunch up your noses as you tried to imagine what this must taste like. Let me tell you: avocado smoothies are THE best! And this is coming from someone who absolutely used to hate avocados when she was young!

I have my cousins in Seattle to thank for introducing me to this refreshing take on the smoothie, which moves way beyond your basic strawberry and banana. In Seattle, there are dozens of bubble tea/boba/tapioca tea houses due to the huge Asian population. That’s where I first noticed the avocado shake appearing regularly on menus (Visit one of these cafes and you’ll see just how many interesting flavors they have, from taro root to aloe to stinky durian). I was skeptical about the taste at first, but it was love at first…slurp. And when you get a huge cup with a bright colored straw to suck up the tapioca pearls, it’s not just a drink, but a snack – which is why an avocado shake is a special treat in my book. Now, I wasn’t about to boil a whole batch of tapioca pearls so my first attempt at the avocado smoothie is sans tapioca.

I reviewed a few recipes on-line and then threw together what I had, combining an avocado, plain yogurt, milk, agave nectar, and a couple ice cubes. This first one was definitely a little more avocado-y than I prefer, but I’m definitely on the right track. After adding more agave nectar to increase the sweetness, it was quite delicious, if I do say so myself.

So what are your favorite smoothie recipes? And are you a fan of bubble teas and shakes? I’ll be sure to post future experiments with my shiny new blender but feel free to share any favorites you may have or ideas for new flavor combinations!

And just because I think my little mugs are so cute, here are a few photos of them for you to enjoy…

Pretty little “modernist mugs” from West Elm. Yeah, I was drawn to them for their colors, but guess what? They’re also made in Japan, so naturally, I’d be attracted. :) (Japan was my home for four years and the land from which I draw the hapa part of my heritage.)

pink n puffy

The blossoms are on full display around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, in all their puffy pink glory! 2012 is the centennial celebration of the gift of the prized trees from Japan to the U.S. and this past Tuesday kicked off the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Although the weather has been absolutely gorgeous as we’ve catapulted into spring with temps in the 70s and 80s since the beginning of March, these short-lived beauties will be long gone before the festival is barely underway. The fact that we never quite know when they’ll come to peak bloom until they’re here and the way they come and go so quickly all lends to their allure. We have to enjoy them while they’re here or be forced to wait another year when they grace us with their pink charm again. I have a special place in my heart for cherry blossoms as they are one of my ties to Japan – my home for four years..

I was tooling around with my new DSLR, which was a gift I “inherited” from my dear photographer friend, DVS. I am so glad I brought it along for the walk under the trees today because I was able to capture some great shots of the blossoms. Although the photos hardly do them justice, I hope you find them as beautiful as I did! sakura…sakura…

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New year…new home, new kitty

I’m back and I’m bringing a new furry friend with me. This time around, it’s me n Mimi. Mimi is my new feline roommate – petite and sweet and the perfect little snuggle bunny that I always wished for in a kitty. 2012 brought some major changes to my life. Two of the top most stressful events that you can experience, “they” say. Breaking up and moving. And I got to deal with both at the same time because one sort of made the other inevitable. Lucky me.

Sadly, after living in Washington, DC for a full decade, I can no longer call myself a resident of the District (but I will probably cheat and still say this). I have crossed the river into 703 territory. I am living in the Commonwealth of Vir-gin-I-A! While this move should reflect positively in my paycheck (you are taxed less in VA than in DC), I still miss DC and longingly look out the window of my new apartment towards the city, where I can see the glow of the Kennedy Center in the distance.

Now, I’m not really one to make my whole private life public, but I figured I should at least mention the basics if I’m going to be honest with my readers. Oh wait. I don’t think anyone really reads this blog. Well, hopefully someday in my future, there will be more people stopping by to check out Hapabella. Who knows if they’ll go digging into my archives to find this post, but just in case…

Ha. Who am I kidding? Writing this thing is probably more for me, as some cathartic method for me to get my thoughts out so they’re stressing me out less. They say keeping a journal is a good idea, right? I haven’t been able to keep a journal since junior high. My poor hands have gotten so used to typing that I can’t handwrite more than a page without my hand getting tired so I figured typing my thoughts out and putting them into a blog would be more productive. Reflect, give the stress an outlet, and produce a blog at the same time. ;) Sounds like a good plan to me.

So while I have been absent from the blogosphere for almost a year (hey, at least I’m here again before 366 days – it’s a leap year! – passed us by), what matters is that I haven’t given up. I am back, with changes. I would like to say I’m back and better than before, but only time will tell if that’s the case. I am still settling into my new digs. For now, my furry roommate and I are focusing on getting to know each other and I am working to find comfort and confidence in my new independence. I’ll check in with you all later down the road…

The scent of happiness

I plan to post often about happiness here – what makes me happy, how to find more happiness, what makes others happy, etc…But today, I thought I’d post a quick tribute to the scent that I am currently obsessed with, the scent that makes me the happiest. That scent is my beloved Avocado and Mint candle from Anthropologie. Just one sniff and I’m transported to a happy place. The combination isn’t one you come across too often, but having a special place in my heart for both avocado and mint, it’s the perfect combination, in my mind. Mixed with some lime and sweet sugarcane, it’s pure deliciousness.

The fresh, yummy scent has me dreaming of mojitos and tropical fantasies. And it’s not one of those impostor candles that lures you in with its scent, only to have that very scent disappear the moment you light it. No, no. My Avocado and Mint lovely fills the entire house! And it’s so cute, in its tin can with a little lid to help keep it from getting dusty between uses. (Not that much time goes between burnings with this one!) When I realized how much I loved the scent and the way it spread throughout the house, I wasted no time stocking up on another during my next stop at Anthropologie. I couldn’t resist!

This afternoon, as I enjoyed the comforts of working from home, the little tin glowed next to me, scent of avocado and mint adding a bit of joy to my work. (If only I had the luxury of working from home regularly…Unfortunately, it was a doctor’s appointment that kept me away from the office today.) I’ve always thought I was a sucker for things with lovely scents – candles, shower gels, hair products, even sweetly scented lip glosses – and this candle definitely proves that. But more than being a testament to my love for yummy scents, I am reminded that even small things such as a candle in a metal tin can bring about big happiness.

What little things bring happiness to your day?

Miss Daisy

Although I have yet to formally introduce myself, I thought I might get the words flowing by first introducing a special little girl who brings much happiness and laughter to my life. This sweet little cat is Daisy – the other lady of the house. Although I can’t claim her as my very own, you could say I inherited her, as she was part of the package deal with the boyfriend. Daisy should be a petite kitty, but a penchant for snacking and a love of lounging has caused her to develop quite a little muffin top. She can often be found sprawling out on the couch or the bed like a languid sunbather, her fluffy belly on display for all to see.

Quite the curious cat, I often wonder if she thinks she’s a puppy – what with the way she wags her tail, follows me around, and gazes up at me and begs when I’m eating. She keeps me company in the mornings as I get ready for work, sitting pretty on the vanity as if she, too, were primping for the day ahead. Miss Daisy can always be counted on to keep me warm as we cuddle on the couch, but she can have her moments of odd behavior too. We’ve coined terms to describe some of her silly habits – “sloth,” “making dough,” “hearing voices,” and “loving the pillow.” You’ll have to stay tuned to see video footage of these antics. ;)

What cute critters do you share your life with?

Second time’s the…charm?

Dear blog, are you still there? It’s me, Joelle, your long-lost friend. It’s true, this is not my very first blog post ever. I admit that I first attempted the whole blogging thing about two years ago. Cautiously optimistic from the beginning, I set out with the modest goal of posting at least once a week, nothing crazy like once a day (or multiple times per day – how do frequent posters have endless oodles of time to do that?!). Ha! Well, I obviously failed miserably at that attempt after posting a grand total of maybe 10 or so random musings and several installments of what I called “Things That Make Me Smile.” (However, if I am successful in this second go-round of blogging, perhaps you will be lucky enough to witness that fun feature’s return.)

Over the last year, I have become more frequently reminded of blogging and considered resurrecting the original “hapabella.” Living with a social media happy boyfriend hasn’t hurt either. Said boyfriend was shocked to learn that I once had a blog, after several months into our relationship. Frequently updating his blog on DC nightlife and his website which overflows with photo galleries of DJs, urban architecture and other fun events, he is never far from his Droid or laptop and manages to tweet throughout the day – sometimes to my chagrin, as I don’t necessarily think that the whole world needs to know which fabulous restaurant we’re checking into for our dinner date (but I digress. That’s a whole different topic…). However I will credit the boy with giving me a little push to try this again. It will be fun – we can have “blog dates,” where we set up camp in a cute cafe and tap away on our Macs, waxing poetic on our respective blogs.

The original happabella blog was private; I only shared the URL with a few close friends. But this time around, I’ve decided that I’m going to take the plunge and expose myself, er, make my blog public for the first time. Yes, it’s a little scary putting yourself out there, but having recently read an article inspiring readers to make 2011 the year of living fearlessly (Whole Living, Jan. 2011), I figured this was a good place to start. I don’t profess to write life-changing words of wisdom or eventually turn my blog into a book, then a movie, a la “Julie & Julia,” but I do hope that you enjoy what you find here. I’d like to hope that I can make others smile at my silliness, or through sharing things that make me smile. Feel free to comment and let me know what makes you smile too!

So although the saying may be “the third time’s the charm,” here’s to hoping that “the second time’s the charm!”