Monday, June 23, 2014

Houston Vegan Eats Review: Aling's Indo-Chinese Cuisine

My husband recently received a raise at his job, and we decided to go out and celebrate. On the way home from work, I asked him to find a place to eat. By the time I walked in the door, he had already researched and found Aling's, a restaurant serving Indo-Chinese cuisine. I was intrigued and hadn't heard of this combination of food before. So, off we went to venture out to try a new style of food.

Upon arrival, a man came right up to us and took our drink order. He was cheerful and interested in what sort of food we were expecting and was quick to offer some suggestions that he thought we would like based on some quick questions he had asked us. There were many people working there, which was awesome, because they were completely packed. I just assumed this was one of the many busy employees taking orders and cleaning the tables. I wasn't wrong in guessing he did those things, but I was stunned to discover mid-way through our meal that he was, in fact, Gary Yan, an owner and chef of the restaurant.

He was accommodating of my vegan dietary restrictions and suggested the Vegetable Pakoras as an appetizer, the Chili Tofu (mild) for my dinner, a side of the vegetarian Aling's Fried Rice, and an Exotic Passion drink. We had a ton of food leftover and the dining experience was definitely something to remember.

As I watched Gary run from table to table, ensuring his customers were enjoying their meals, I had a deep sense of respect for the man. Each time I looked up, he was either in the kitchen (which I could see from our table), with a table offering suggestions for their food, or smiling and asking if we needed anything else. The custom spicing and strict attention to detail won me over, and we successfully celebrated my husband's new raise!

Exotic Passion drink.
Chili Tofu.
Aling's menu and history.
Vegetable Pakoras.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Houston Vegan Eats Review: Ninja Sushi

I am in love with suhsi. A veggie sushi roll healthy and eating sushi in general reminds me of our college days. Kendan and I would visit a restaurant right off of the SHSU campus. Although I wasn't vegan then, it became part of what we liked to do and it still is today.

After we moved to Pecan Grove in Richmond, TX, we found Ninja Sushi right outside of our neighborhood. When you walk in to Ninja Sushi, there is a cheerful energy that hits you like a brick wall. Everyone that works there is friendly and always has a smile on their face. I feel like they probably already know my face because I've been there so many times. Did I say I loved sushi already? Because I really do, and I don't think you understand how much I like it.

There are several options for me, however, I always stick to the same exact thing when we visit. I usually order three avocado rolls ($3 each), a cucumber salad ($4), and sometimes I'll also even order a miso soup. This is always enough food to fill me up, and the great food is what keeps me coming back, nearly weekly.

Aside from the food, the decor is quite nice and as I mentioned earlier, the ambiance is relaxing with cheery folks to ensure you're well taken care of while you're there. If you're ever looking for great sushi in the Richmond/Rosenberg area in South Houston, I highly recommend a trip to Ninja Sushi.

Cucumber Salad.

1800 FM 359 RD Suite 180
Richmond, TX 77406

Tues - Sun: 11AM - 10PM
Mon: Closed

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Joys of Donating + Tips for Keeping Your Closet in Check

I've always loved donating and all that it stands for. For a quick recap, once upon a time, I used to make very little money for the first few years out of college. I didn't have much, so I couldn't spend much. I thought it was crazy how one of my jobs required a dress code of khakis and solid plain colors for a top. I didn't have either and I was only making $8 an hour. So off to Goodwill I went! I appreciated the low prices, high-quality, gently worn clothing. Yes, you do have to dig. But the time spent is well worth it. That's probably the ONLY con I can think of when it comes to shopping second-hand. Now, let's chat about the pros!

1. Amazing prices. I'm talking $4 for a shirt or $7 for jeans. Or what about $8 for a dress? I knew that Goodwill would be good for my wallet since I had to purchase clothing and didn't want to pay department store prices.

2. You're putting people to work. Someone has to sort the donations, and Goodwill puts people to work to build this skill sets and help them train to gain valuable experience. 

3. Fashionable clothing. I know you probably think of your great grandmother's blouse or an ugly sweater when you hear Goodwill, but trust me, if you dig, you WILL find the gold. Nearly everything in my closet is from Goodwill and I receive compliments every other day on the items I wear.

4. You can afford to recycle your clothing. After you're tired of a shirt that you've worn endlessly for six months, you can let it go if you're ready. Wearing something 15-20 times that cost only $4 is not something you'll fret over if you're ready for a new look.

A few tips for keeping your closet in check

1. Keep a one in, one out rule. Exactly as stated, if you bring an item into your closet, be ready to let something else go. 

2. Consider what you love and wear often. See something you've only worn once in the last six months? Let it go.

3. Don't keep a shirt for memories. Make memories, but you don't need to keep your college shirt to remember the good times. It's ok to let things go, and it's great for you to detach from a material item. Live in the moment.

Here's my current closet. I often edit this weekly so I know I'm not hanging on to items that no longer fit well or are no longer something that is bringing joy (and color) into my life.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Houston Vegan Eats Review: Green Vegetarian Cuisine

After living in Houston for nearly two months, I had to find a vegan burger. I was so spoiled in Austin and could grab a vegan meal at any hour of the day there, no matter if it was a Saturday at 2 a.m. or 10 p.m. on a weeknight. I'm still exploring the city and have not found all of the vegan places just yet, but I've been finding some gems. When I found Green Vegetarian Cuisine, I was ecstatic to try out their food.

We arrived on a Sunday for an early lunch. They were PACKED. This is a good sign. We waited only a minute or so before being seated since we had just two at our table. When I looked over the menu, I began to bounce my eyes from one item to the next. Did I want the Artichoke & Portabella Quesadilla? A Falafel Burrito? Those sounded tasty, but once I ran across THE BIG NASTY BURGER, I knew that was the clear winner. A veggie patty decked with avocado, lettuce, tomato, and vegan chipotle mayo, this sucker was topped with even more goodies: melted cheddar, grilled onions, fakin’ bacon, and grilled mushrooms. YES PLEASE!!!

I did a double-take on the price ($12), but I hadn't eaten a veggie burger in over two months. This had to happen. It was happening. We ordered some fried mushrooms and my husband ordered the Cece's Stir Fry. It was settled. When the food was brought to our table, I was stunned at the magnificence of the Big Nasty Burger, in all of its glory. I polished it off so fast that this picture below is actually from my SECOND visit to Green Vegetarian Cuisine. Also not pictured: The Hostess-like creme-filled chocolate cupcake that I inhaled within a minute of receiving it. Sorry guys, but you'll just have to visit this one for yourselves to experience it.

Can't wait to go back!

Cece’s Stir Fry.
Fried mushrooms with vegan gravy.
The Big Nasty Burger.

Green Downtown at Pearl Brewery
Full Goods Building
200 E Grayson St
Suite 120
San Antonio, TX 78215

Green at Alon
10003 NW Military Suite 2115 (Corner of Wurzbach and NW Military)
San Antonio, TX 78230

Green – Houston
6720 Chimney Rock, Suite Y (Corner of Chimney Rock & Bellaire)
Houston, TX 77081
(832) 649-4184

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Monday, June 9, 2014

New Camera for the Hubby to Celebrate Student Debt Payoff

After paying off our student debt ($17,000 in less than 18 months!!), we began to start saving up for the next big goal: a down payment for a house. Aside from this, I knew my husband had been dreaming of a new camera for several years. We've never made the money we're now making after our move to Houston earlier this year. So dreaming about a camera was as far as we could get. Since we paid off the student debt, I figured we may as well celebrate with another big purchase. Our finances are in order and are shaping up quite nicely, so it couldn't hurt!

My husband recently looked at me while I was working on some content for The Little Red Journal and asked, "How did you get back into your blog?" I knew he was looking for some inspiration to get back into photography, and I wanted to help him just as much as I want to help and inspire all of you! I thought about it for a moment and said, "Well, you just have to figure out what is important to you and what brings you joy. Then, you just have to start somewhere."

I had no clue what I was doing when I first started this little blog. Now it's grown and I've really been going through some growing pains as far as where to take it next. However, my husband had been out of the photography game for a few years now since his nine year old camera had pretty much bit the dust. He was looking for his next spark, and I knew he needed the right tools to get him started. I quickly logged onto our account and crunched some numbers to make sure we could pull it off. I told him to go ahead and check out some new cameras and tell me some numbers. He showed me some for $500 and $600, but I knew if we were considering that much, we may as well spend a few hundred more and get something he really loved.

He settled on a Pentax K5IIS with a 50 mm F/1.8 from BH Photo. They even tossed in a free 32GB memory card! So, all in all, he's super psyched and he's been taking TONS of photos with it. It's so fancy, it records video in HD (1080 dpi). What really sold me is that he said he can use it to take photos of our family (which we have yet to start). I quickly was swayed and told him to purchase it that night.

Lesson of the day: invest in your dreams and what makes you truly happy. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

DIY Lace Wedding Stationary Programs & Invitations

With my recent post about the baby announcement design I created for my niece, I thought about digging up some of my own wedding stationary that I created about four years ago. If I'm being completely honest, I actually designed most of this a year and half before my husband actually proposed. We're going to be together a total of ten years in August 2014, so by then I had already known we were going to be married at some point.

I worked at a print shop during my engagement, and I was able to print over 150 invitations, 32 namecards, and 75 programs, all for the low cost of $40 total! I also printed some signage that I designed, although I need to look for these files on another computer. DIY invitations can be done, and you can save hundreds on couture, designer invitations. I used an old copy of Adobe InDesign for this, but I do these now in Paint.NET, which is free to download and not too hard to master.

Here's some of the designs that I created for our special day!

Wedding invitation design.
Front of the wedding program.

Inside left of the wedding program.
Inside right of the wedding program.
Back of the wedding program.
Namecard for bride.
Namecard for groom.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Framed Baby Birth Announcement for My New Niece

I have always enjoyed creating beautiful designs for family events, whether it's my own wedding stationary or an invitation for a wedding or baby shower. My latest inspiration was the birth of my niece. I used Paint.NET, which is basically a free, lighter version of Adobe Photoshop to create a unique design and gift to commemorate the birth of the first baby in my husband's family. I designed the baby shower invitations for the shower in April, as well, and used some of the same design elements to carry over the theme. I found some great ideas on Pinterest and worked for about an hour using a different font for every item on the design.

Here's some designs that I've created in the last couple of years.

The baby shower invitation.
The baby birth announcement poster.