Vacation time – New York City!

So this is way overdue, but I’m still getting use to this blogging thing…

vā-ˈkā-shÉ™n, – a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday

And this is exactly what we did a couple weekends ago in the Big Apple!  Jason’s Christmas gift to me was a weekend exploring the city and celebrating Chinese New Year (also known as Tet for us Vietnamese folk).  This would also be the first real vacation we’ve taken since we gotten married, and the first time we’ve been to a city together.  And what a weekend it was – we ate, we explored, we were tourists, we slept, we left technology at home, we had FUN, we bonded, we vacationed. 

And here are the top 10 highlights of our trip:

The Plan

{1.  Planning is fun}: We had each day planned out, what mode of transportation to take, what we wanted to see/do and it worked out really well for us.

{2.  NYC has amazing FOOD!} (and you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to find it): Gourmet Mac n cheese, lychee sangria, Malaysian food, pizza, tofu desserts, nutella French toast – the food tour was delicious and it was  fun to play asian and take pictures of all our food (but now it’s back to the gym)  If there’s a long line, the food is probably worth the wait!  We loved doing a “restaurant crawl”.  We’d get an appetizer at one place, main dish at another place, and finish off with dessert at a 3rd place.  This kept things interesting and we got to try a lot more food!

{3.  Being a tourist is fun}: I didn’t think I’d enjoy just sightseeing, but we had so much fun going to all the tourist spots in the city and doing what tourists do best, take pictures of everything!  We went to Central Park, Chinatown, Rockefeller, Times Square, SoHo, East Village, Brooklyn Bridge, etc.

{4.  Well known cupcakeries are a hit or MISS}: Magnolia’s was a total let down – I’ll stick with my own cupcakes ;)  (

{5.  Top of the Rock is worth the money}(look for a coupon because there are plenty out there): it was sweet seeing a view of the whole city.  And of course, we got great pictures that look like we are on top of the city!

Top of Rockefeller Center
{6.  Going to a broadway show is a must!}:Buying broadway tickets online beforehand is not a bad idea – you avoid lines, you still get a discount, but just make sure you look at what ROW you are buying.  We bought our tickets to Jersey boys thinking we were in the middle of the theater, turns out, we were all the way in the back!  But we could still see everything and the show was awesome.

{7.  Happy Year of the dragon}: The whole point in going to NYC was to celebrate tet.  We showed early to the parade at 11a, only to find they were running on Asian time and the parade didn’t start till 1:00p!  FAIL.

{8.  We (I) really like taking pictures}: I had a blast taking over 600 pics to document our trip.  My goal is to do this on most vacations and then make photo books to relive the memories.

{9.  Taking walks  – one of our favorite activities}:
And how perfect this was for NYC because you walk EVERYWHERE!  We walked around Little Italy, SoHo, the streets of Chinatown, and even an early morning stroll over to Brooklyn.

{10.  Doing it together}
: All in all, exploring the big apple was great fun – but mainly because we did it together…awwww

On the way home we listened to Mark Driscoll’s sermon on “Real Marriage”, and his sermon focused on being friends with your spouse.  He described that there are three types of relationships,

  • back to back: when you’re at each other’s throats
  • shoulder to shoulder: when you’re good at doing projects together or doing tasks; and
  • face to face: where you are hanging out with each other, and you and your spouse are friends

Our trip was definitely geared towards building more face to face time for us.  Jason and I are great at being shoulder to shoulder, but when it comes to hanging out, we struggle.  We’re learning that a key ingredient for having a great marriage is really that you have a friendship with your spouse.  It’s really amazing to see how God has grown our relationship in just the past few months of marriage.  He really is my best friend.

Our next vacation adventure is off to Florida for a week to visit the grandparents!

Into the world of talent management I go – {the divine journey}

I’ve always known that my career calling is not to be an engineer.  But staying here was comfortable.  It was familiar.  And quite frankly, it was easy.  Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, but joy and peace are far better.   God expects and directs us to wisely use our time, treasure, and talent.  So I cannot avoid asking myself, “God, how am I using the talents you’ve given me?”  And the blatant answer was that: I wasn’t.  And thus began a long journey of prayer, introspection, networking, courage, and faith.

This past summer I hit a wall of frustration with my current job situation.  What was I doing with my life?  I knew my engineering job wasn’t the right position for me, but what was?  Frustration ensued as friends would ask me, “ what IS it that you want to do then?” and I responded with a blank stare.  “I don’t know God, what IS it that you would have me do?”  How do I even begin a job search if I don’t know what type of job I was looking for?  My frustration led to many nights in tears with my husband, depression, and feeling of hopelessness.  I got so frustrated one day I snapped and applied to 20 different jobs just to get out, but nothing.  I decided that I would not run away from my current situation, only to end up with a different job to hate, and end up exactly where I was.

You hear the cliché saying so frequently – “just pray about it”.  But usually I don’t pray because it doesn’t seem tangible.  But I had nowhere else to go, and so I did just that, I prayed (hours of quiet time).  I thought about where God has gifted me.  I read articles about how to find your calling.  I sought counsel from close people.  Through these steps of faith, God started to divinely intervene.

One morning, hope peaked over the horizon. My husband sent me an article about discerning your calling {divine timing} and how we should start with thinking about what “people needs” resonate with us first, then assess your gifts, then look at the opportunities available.  In my journaling, I explored things that bring me joy and where I feel alive and concluded with two simple words – talent management.  “Wow, where did that come from?”; I didn’t know what those words meant and hadn’t thought of such a career before.  God pressed me to find out more about this career field by networking.  Exactly what I did NOT want to do.  I don’t like going out and asking for a job.  I don’t like doing informal interviews.  I just wanted to sit at my cube, stay in isolation, and apply to jobs behind a computer screen – easy.

That same week, I attended a department meeting to help people hone their career path.  Usually I wouldn’t go to these things because well, I really don’t know how it’d benefit me.  But, God was intervening and leading me to go to the meeting and at least see what it was about.  Well lo and behold, our manager uttered the words talent management {divine appointments}, and this time, my heart moved.  The next 5 months was one step of obedience after the next.  Reaching out to the director of Talent Management.  Reaching out to executives to network.  I hadn’t a clue what I was doing.  What does an engineer know about HR?  How was I going to move into a job where I had NO experience?  But all along the way, God put people in my path who wanted to help me; I still don’t know why {divine favor}.  I remember one time getting invited to an impromptu meeting to go over the department’s career guide.  I sat down next to a lady, she introduced herself to me and asked me what role I was playing in this meeting and I explained to her that I just had an interest in talent management and that my manager invited me along so I could learn.  I barely spoke to this woman and within 30 seconds, she was already telling me all about the career field and how she worked directly for the director of Talent Management (the man I wanted to work for).  God then put two other high level people in my path, and just like with the lady, these two execs for whatever reason found a liking to me, my personality, and my excitement toward talent management.  Each of these people sent along a recommendation to the director of talent management without my request or knowledge.

So one glorious day, I was sitting at my desk when the director FINALLY called me.  He said, “You know, I don’t usually listen the first time, but when three people I respect tell me the same story, I know it’s time to listen.”  We scheduled a meeting for me to meet him.  I walked in to the meeting thinking I’d need plead my case so he’d hire me, but God had already done all the work.  I didn’t have to convince him of anything, he was ready to hire me (no resume or business case needed)!

Today I am in the process of making the career change into my dream job.   My story isn’t anything out of the ordinary.  People make career changes all the time.  But, 6 months ago I would have NEVER EVER even considered talent management nor did I even know the career field existed.  If anything, I was going to pursue a career as a wedding planner, or an event planner, or a business analyst, or ANYTHING else besides talent management.

Through prayer, God literally placed a desire in my heart.  Without any doubt, I know this is where I am supposed to be.  How incredible it feels to KNOW that I am fulfilling God’s purpose and to not anxious about where I am suppose to be or what I should be doing.  This dream is not my desire alone, but His calling on my life right now.  And how do I know?  Well, scripture says God gives you the desires of your heart {Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.}.  If you think through that verse, He gives you those desires because He will literally place those desires in your heart.  I never had this desire before.  The journey, while long, was effortless.  I get to keep my engineering salary (super sweet), stay with my company (no disruptions), and transfer into this new position.  Oh, and did I mention that HR has never done something like this before? And, we all know how the government usually responds to things that are new.  I’m not qualified for this job; I have zero experience for this job.  And yet, here I am, about to get out of engineering and into a dream I’ve been pursuing for the past 7 years.

Am I scared?  You bet I am.  This career change is so much bigger than me.  The theme of 2012 for Jason and I is “faith, change, and peace: in the midst of uncertainty.”  This job situation aligns perfectly with where I believe God will take us this year – a testing of our faith.   James 1:3-4 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

I start in February– how absolutely awesome :)

RIP Target: 21 years as a faithful feline friend

Target has been my faithful feline friend for most of my life. I picked her from a litter of kittens from another local farmer when I was 8 years old. She has been my responsibility and faithful feline friend for the past 21 years seeing me through grade school, middle school, high school, college, my move to Arlington, and my marriage to my beautiful Ngoc.

Today (Dec. 8, 2011), Target passed with both Ngoc and I present at 5:10pm. I expected her to pass earlier, but I always believed that God would keep Target in my life until I was with the mate He had destined for me. I’ve held this conviction for many years that He would grant this as a sign for me of hope, excitement, responsibility, and joy. God is so good; for Ngoc is my wonderful soul mate.

Target had notified us that she was ready to go by eating her last meal two weeks ago (Nov. 22, 2011). She continued to drink water every day, but refused to eat. When brought to the vet, we were told that she looked healthier than many 5-year old cats because nearly everything about her health checked out to be top shape (dental, organs, etc.).

Target’s attitude even until the moment she passed was positive and friendly. Here are a few memories that made her a faithful feline friend.

  1. Target and I shared a bed-time ritual for as long as I can remember. I would lay down each night and she would crawl onto my chest to sit there while I petted her and scratched her back and then her chin. She would turn around and lay on my legs as we went to sleep.
  2. Target wasn’t judgmental. Many times I would have friends over and she would be sure to meet anybody who stopped in (even in the frat house). I remember many weeks where I held Bible studies, feasts, parties, or other events at The Embassy where she would greet everybody with a friendly purr.
  3. Target loved to be nearby, particularly settling down on some paper. For many years, she would sit (or stand) between me and the monitor or settled on a nice cozy stack of papers. Of course, if I would get up for even a moment, she would jump into the chair to claim it as her own.
  4. Since being married, Target was faithful to help us rise in the morning. Around 5am she would arise, sit near Ngoc’s face, and watch intently until Ngoc moved. If she got impatient she would gradually purr louder and louder until Ngoc moved. Once Ngoc moved, she would purr louder, lick her face, and then walk over top of her and do the same for me. Ngoc thought it a joy to be awoken around 5am each morning. Maybe that’s why Ngoc so much enjoyed getting her back throughout the day (see video).

I’m sad to see my feline friend gone, but it’s been a great 21 years full of memories.  It was much harder for me to say goodbye today than I expected, but I’m glad that I was there until the very end.  And while she was only a cat, she was my feline friend.  Ngoc asked me if we should get another pet because making these decisions and losing something we love is hard – my answer is an emphatic yes, because love is absolutely worth the heartache.

We’ll miss target, but we celebrate her life and the joy she brought us.

[jwplayer mediaid=”938″]

Choux à la crème

Growing up, my mom always made us Choux à la crème – the fancy french version of cream puffs.  In fact, I’m pretty sure my mom was eating them throughout her pregnancy.  One day she thought she was having cramps from eating these delectable mini puffs, but turns out, they were contractions.  No wonder I adore them, I was eating them in my mother’s tummy!

My first attempt at the chou pastry was a huge fail.  They turned out dense, didn’t puff up, and just entertainment for me and my girlfriends.  Turns out, I was doing it all wrong until I found the recipe from Joy of Baking and hooray!  They turned out beautifully and just as delicious as they look.  I can’t wait to pass down the tradition of Choux à la crème to my kids one day :)

Choux à la crème

Choux Pastry


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup (4TBS) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 TSP granulated sugar
  • 1/8 TSP salt
  • 2~3 eggs, lightly beaten


  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. On heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine water and butter over medium heat. When the mixture starts bubbling, remove from heat and add all the sifted flour, sugar, and salt.
  3. Stir with wooden spoon – the mixture should come together pretty easily into a dough.
  4. Over medium heat, stir the mixture until the dough forms into a ball. Transfer dough to a bowl and use the wooden spoon or hand mixer to release the steam and cool the dough.
  5. When the dough is lukewarm, start adding the eggs little by little.  At first, the mixture might seem to separate, but keep stirring and the it’ll turn into a batter.  The mixture should be a thick, smooth paste with slight elasticity. When you scoop up the batter, it should slowly ooze and drop back into the bowl in a “tear shape.”  Use two eggs at first, if the batter seems to dry, whisk up a third egg and slowly add to the batter until you get the right consistency.
  6. Pour the batter in a piping bag (or a heavy duty ziplock bag and cut off the corner) and pipe on the pans.
  7. Brush on some leftover egg on the surface.
  8. Put in the oven. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes.  The will end up puffing up!
  9. Lower the temperature to 350F and bake for an extra 30~40 minutes, until the outside becomes a nice amber color.
  10. Leave the oven door slightly open and let the choux dry out for 10~15 minutes. Then put the choux on cooling racks to completely cool.

Crème Filling

You can fill your cream puffs with whip cream, but I grew up eating them with a custard filling.


  • 3 cups (750 ml) milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 ml) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. (15 ml) cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp. butter (25 ml)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla (7 ml)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) whipping cream


  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat milk until it starts steaming. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, flour and cornstarch; gradually pour in milk in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Return mixture to a clean pan. Cook over medium heat, whisking until the mixture thickens into a custard cream. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla.
  2. Pour into bowl; place waxed paper (I just used saran wrap) directly on surface to prevent skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool (at least 4 hours). Whip cream, gently fold into pastry cream with spatula just until combined.


Cut the choux pastry in half and fill with the crème filling.  Sounds like a lot of work, but truly, it’s not and they are oh so delicious.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

In honor of our 6 month anniversary…

So if you know me, you know that I heart cupcakes – so much that I started a side business Cupcake Delight.  My most popular flavor has always been the Pumpkin Spice Cupcake:  a pumpkin infused cupcake topped with cream cheese frosting and then the my own special twist, pumpkin pie filling; all made with love of course.  How can anyone resist?!  In fact, I’d say the Pumpkin Spice cupcake is credited as one of the ingredients that started my relationship with my now hubbs.  See, two years ago, he asked me to make cupcakes for his mom’s “Celebrate Strength” party.  I couldn’t turn down the offer, people loved the cupcakes, and then suddenly, he’d randomly start asking me about my cupcakes, dropping by for dinner, and fast forward to today, we are celebrating 6 months of beautiful marriage.  One way into a man’s heart really is through his stomach.

I’ve had numerous people ask me about the recipe, so here it is!  Nom nom nom…

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Pumpkin Pie Filling


  • 1 pkg Dream Whip
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 pkg Jello instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (Libby’s Pure Pumpkin or Pie Mix both work)
  • ¾ tsp pumpkin pie spice


  1. Prepare Dream Whipe with ½ up milk and vanilla as directed on package
  2. Combine 1 cup Dream Whip with Jello Pudding, 2/3 cup milk, canned pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice
  3. Beat slowly just until well mixed (about 1 minute)
  4. Chill in refrigerator for about an hour

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Yields 32 cupcakes


  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbs plus 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs ground ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices
  3. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffly.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  4. Reduce speed to low.  Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until just combined.
  5. Add pumpkin puree; beat until just combined.
  6. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes.

{source: Martha Stewart}

Assembly: After the cupcakes are cooled, fill the cupcakes with the pumpkin pie filling, top with a frosting of your choice, and be ready for a cupcake explosion – YUMMM!

40 days – Until I’m Married

40 days, there’s something significant about the 40 days before a change. The number 40 is used throughout the Bible to indicate a period of probation or trial. The Israelites wandered for 40 years (Deut. 8:2-5). Moses was on the mount for 40 days (Exodus 24:18); 40 days of Jonah and Nineveh (Jonah 3:4). Jesus was tempted for 40 days (Matt. 4:2).

Nowadays, we remember Christ’s resurrection with Lent – a 40 day period of fasting and preparation before Easter. In following with the tradition to fast during Lent so that we can further focus on our Lord, Ngoc and I have chosen to fast from making out. While there is nothing wrong with making out, we’ve chosen this because we believe that it honors God and each other and is in alignment with the parameters which God had directed (see 1 Corinthians 7:5).

Additionally, while talking to a friend, mentor, and pastor, Pete Bullette, he provided a perspective that flies in the face of the sexual/intimate temptations couples face even more so as they get closer to their marriage. He gave the simple analogy of a bank account. Each time that we want to be physically/sexually intimate before marriage we have a choice – are we going to make a deposit into our marriage “bank account” by abstaining or are we going to draw against whatever is in the “bank account” and go into debt before we’re married? Personally, I think this analogy is very powerful for me because I can grasp the perils of debt and the freedom of compound interest.

So, as Ngoc and I enter the final 40 days before our wedding day, we are excited to continue to make deposits into our marriage “bank account” that we’re hoping lead to many healthy, fun, fulfilling, and God-honoring both sexual and non-sexual experiences through our marriage. Through this final period of 40-days, I will specifically practice various ways to love well – to love Ngoc well.

It’s not easy to love well (at least for me). How do I put aside my own interests for her? How do I regard her perspective above my own (see Philippians 2:3-4)? How do I forgive her again (see Matthew 18:21-35)? How do I have compassion and care for her even when I’m tired, frustrated, or have my own needs (see Matthew 14:13-14)? How do I lead her into who Christ calls her to be – since God will ultimately hold me accountable for her (see Ephesians 5:23-24)?

What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage)

Engaged by God’s Goodness

2010 has been another year of life lessons where God regularly humbles me with reminders that I’m not in control of very much at all. Several key changes serve as the reminder — I transitioned to a new role and environment at work; my small group for 4+ years, The God Lab, moved on; several friends moved away; I began my dating relationship with Ngoc; I am fundraising for Jesus Christ and clean water while prepping to climb a mountain; and I had some changes in my financial situation.

I’m reminded that God is sovereign and puts everything together according to His plan and His timing. I don’t realize His handiwork at the time, but when I look back on 2010 I can see His goodness shine through each life event. In particular, I’m reminded of the word “favor” that shows up throughout the Scriptures. For no good reason, God shows me favor; He grants goodness in my life.

Most notably this year, God has poured out his favor on me through Ngoc. Ngoc is everything I desire in a partner. Most importantly, everything about her compels me even more toward my savior, Jesus Christ. She is wonderfully trusting; she covers the many areas where I am lacking; she models love so beautifully; she is playful and doesn’t get upset when I make messes and break things; she loves God first; she’s pretty; she has noble and admirable character; and most of all she is with me.

Her and I spent the weekend before Christmas in Williamsburg where I proposed. Ngoc and I are ENGAGED! We’re excited about a lifetime together filled with many more stories of God’s goodness. We both know that God has divinely built us for each other and has now brought us together in His perfect timing. I’m happy to share the first story with you, A Sweet Beginning, with a collage of our engagement.

I look forward to sharing many more stories of dreams and visions fulfilled.

Jason & Ngoc - Engaged!