The White Helmets

Written on Saturday, February 25th.

One news story, out of the many ridiculous ones going on these days, really stuck out to me today. The Academy Awards are this weekend, and one of the documentaries that was nominated was directed by a Syrian man. On his way to the awards ceremony, he was barred entry to LAX because he’s from Syria. As you may know, Syria is one of the seven countries that is on Trump’s executive order ban that was recently put on hold by a Washington State judge (yay WA!). However, for some reason, this man was still not allowed entry into the United States and no one knows why.

If the current events is confusing + infuriating you as much as me, then you’re probably so lost on how you can help. It feels like we’re so far removed from it all, but then something happens in your own backyard. What do we do?

First, I wanted to be educated on what’s actually going on in Syria. And what better way to do so than through the documentary by the Syrian director?! Turns out, it’s a Netflix documentary so it was really easy to find. The White Helmets is a 40 minute movie (as long as an episode of Grey’s Anatomy) that follows a few members of the volunteer-driven organization, the White Helmets, that rescues victims of air strikes and violence in Syria and neighboring countries. This movie gives you a direct view into civilians’ lives in Syria today, and shows the true selflessness of so many of its residents. The volunteers don’t care what side you’re on, what your politics or religion are, they are there to rescue + protect. Their selflessness and courage is truly mind-blowing, and it’s even more impactful when you realize that they all had “normal” jobs — tailor, blacksmith, etc. — before the civil war made it too difficult to lead a life other than survival.

Next time you turn on Netflix and are about to start another episode of Parks + Recreation, take a second and navigate to The White Helmets. I promise it will be the most informative, inspiring 40 minutes you will experience. And if you can and are willing to do so, please donate to this amazing organization so they can continue doing what we only wish we had the courage to do.

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What I Should’ve Said

I was looking forward to this dermatologist appointment because I had to wait over a month to even see the doctor. I was going in for a check-up on acne and scarring, nothing too serious but something I wanted to eradicate from my body – pretty routine stuff for most young people. I was seated in the patient room wearing a paper gown, talking to the doctor and assistant about why I came in. As part of filing out the medical forms (I assume), the doctor asked me what I do. I replied, “Software engineer”. He asked, “Where?”. I answered, “At Amazon,” with a slight laugh. A lot of people around Seattle are engineers, and a lot of those engineers work at Amazon, so I was probably one of his many patients.

I assumed that was it, but then I got that question that I really only expected to get from Uber drivers, “Where are you originally from?” I was kind of confused. I honestly only attributed this question to people who either recently immigrated to America, were South Asian themselves, or just not used to seeing non-white Americans enough that they felt compelled to ask me that question. I would naively categorize the latter as not very educated, because how else could you go through so much of your life only seeing one type of people in this vastly diverse country?

But no, it was my dermatologist from a super fancy and expensive clinic near the University of Washington asking me this question. I answered, “From here”. That wasn’t the answer he wanted, so he kept probing, “Where here? Seattle?”. I said, “Yes, I grew up here.” Now I would have expected that conversation to just end there or for him to make a remark about growing up and working in the same city. But instead, of course, he had to say, “Oh wow, Seattle’s just becoming this huge melting pot hasn’t it? A large part due to Amazon. They’re just bringing people in from all over the world.”

And that was it.

I didn’t say anything at the moment and continued with the appointment as if nothing had happened. But what I wish I said is something around this:

I don’t dress differently, I don’t talk differently, I have documentation showing that I am a working citizen, and the only difference I can see between me and yourself is the color of my skin. You asking me where I’m originally from means that you don’t believe that I belong here. I must have come from somewhere else. Put yourself in my shoes for a minute — what if every time you met someone new they asked you in casual conversation  where you were really from? They are asking you that because, for some reason, you look like an outsider. But you never get asked that because you’re white. And maybe you didn’t “mean” it that way, but if you think about why you asked me that question, it’s because you wanted to figure out where I came from and how I ended up here. You expect there to be an answer other than, “My family’s American. I’m an American.” And because I’m brown, it’s not an offensive question in most people’s eyes. But to me, it is. Because I’m an American, and I have shown no signs of being from any other place or country except for you assuming that my skin color isn’t “normal”. Also, Seattle, and America in general, isn’t just becoming a melting pot because of these big companies — the foundation of this nation has been to bring all types of people together from all over the world to live together under a free and just democracy. Just because your family came over at a different time than mine doesn’t make us any less American than you.

Now I don’t mean to come off as super aggressive or sensitive, which is mainly why I didn’t say anything to his face. But finding the right words to show that I’m uncomfortable by his question and for us to come to an understanding as to why is hard to do, especially in situations that you don’t expect. If you don’t think this happens that much and I’m overreacting, maybe I am. And to everyone, including myself, it’s important to catch yourself when you think that question about others — maybe you see someone at a mall, on the street, at work, driving your Uber. But instead of wondering, or asking, where they’re originally/really/actually from, remind yourself that even if the color of their skin, or their outfit, or their accent is different than yours, they belong here as much as you do.

Monday Motivation: November 14, 2016

Happy Monday! It’s been a while since I’ve been motivated to blog myself, some in part to the election last week. Enough crying, now it’s time to do something about it! Here’s some motivation to start off your week + get you energized to make the positive change that you want to see in the world. Let’s do it!

Have a wonderful week!

How I Fly For Free

If I could split up all my expenses into two categories it would be eating and traveling. Ok fine, we’ll throw shopping in there, too 😉 But looking at my Mint budget over the last 6 months (more on budgeting with Mint coming soon!), it’s easy to see that this where I spend the majority of my money, and I’m sure most people are in the same boat. If you think about it, eating and taking trips revolves around experiencing things with yourself or with other people — it’s how we make + keep relationships. So, it makes sense that I invest a lot of money in these two categories.

As a millennial + new(ish) member of the real world, I’m always on the lookout for how to get the best bang for my buck. Every credit card out there offers some type of reward, mostly by giving you back a percentage of your purchases in cash. I have a few of these cards myself (Citi Cash Rewards, Bank Of America) + while they’re dependable, good cards to have, I haven’t found a better rewards program than that of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. So much so that I feel that I have to share it with you.

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I just came back from an awesome, week-long trip to New York City + yesterday I booked a weekend away to Tucson, Arizona, both completely paid for by my Chase points. No, I did not spend a ton of extra money just to get points. Here’s how I racked up over 100,000 points in 6 months:

  • Chase rewards 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases, and for food + travel related expenses you get 2 points per dollar. I just moved my food + travel expenses over to my Chase card + the points started racking up.
  • If you refer someone to the Chase Sapphire card you both get 50,000 additional points (sometimes more, depending on the current deal). Thanks to a referral, I had over 60,000 points within 3-4 months of opening my account.
  • Chase has partnered with tons of retailers to award more points per dollar. For example, you can earn 5 points per dollar at Sephora, just by paying with your Chase card.

Now that you have all these points, how + where can you use them?

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Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Dashboard

  • I’ve used mine primarily on travel simply by booking through their Ultimate Rewards home. You can book any flights + hotels right from their dashboard, or transfer your points to one of the airline or hotel programs they partner with.
  • Buy gift cards or products
  • Get cash back!
  • Book experiences like private dinners, sports games, shows, etc. (I’m considering flying back to NYC for the Christmas Spectacular show at Madison Square Garden)

 

 

Phew! That’s a lot of info to take in, but if you take anything away from this post let it be that you need the Chase Sapphire Preferred card in your life. Might as well let your daily lunches + dinners pay for your next vacation! Not to mention that the card is heavy + so sleek, you immediately feel like a millionaire when you whip that baby out. I hope you’ll join me in the Chase family + let’s book our next (free) trip together!

(NOTE: This is not a sponsored post. I just really love Chase that much.)

Monday Motivation (on Wednesday): October 25, 2016

Happy Hump Day! This post is coming to you a bit later this week because I just got back from a week-long trip to New York. I had so much fun meeting up with friends, walking around the city + trying out so many restaurants! More on my trip later…for now, here’s some motivation get you through the rest of the week + to Halloween!

  • I recently ate at Delancey, a pizza restaurant in Ballard, and it was definitely worth the hype. If you’re in the Seattle area I highly recommend trying it out + make sure to get there early — they usually have about an hour long wait!
  • Found this rug through one of the many interior design blogs I follow. It’s on sale, too!
  • I’m a huge fan of Hamilton after seeing it on Broadway + was so excited to see Lin Manuel-Miranda hosting SNL. His monologue is a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

Have a wonderful start to your day + finish off this week strong!

Let’s Talk About Race

NOTE: This is a thought piece with no attempt at providing a solution. I’m sharing my experiences and thoughts with you in hopes of sparking positive conversation. 

With all the talk about race, especially with the upcoming election, I’ve honestly not wanted to get too involved in discussions about it. Sure, I’m aware of the Black Lives Matter movement + all of the horrible, horrible murders of innocent black men that lead to this massive push for change. I also very vocally oppose Donald Trump’s candidacy, mostly because of the hate-filled racist remarks he’s made throughout his campaign. Even though I feel sad or mad, I’ll push aside those feelings because the subject is so touchy. This past weekend, I finally got that push to write about it.

I just finished watching a new Netflix documentary, 13TH. Named after the 13th amendment that abolished slavery, the documentary looks into how race relations in America have progressed since slavery — the answer is, not much at all. It finds that at every new era, the policies change to fit the times. This gives us our current form of modern slavery, mass incarceration. I won’t get too into the details, but I highly recommend that you watch this movie. It moved me to tears, not just because of the terrifying stats and graphics, but also because of how little I am doing to make it better.

I feel like my first step to being able to do something about it is for me to see how racial inequality has affected my own life, and make it better from there. As a first-generation American, I am proud of my Indianness my family has fused with the Americanness I’ve grown up around. It wasn’t always easy, especially for my parents, to figure out how to balance the two vastly different cultures, but we’ve figured it out along with the millions of other first-generation Indian-American families. By growing up in Washington State, one of the most Democratic + progressive states in the country, I went the majority of my life without facing any obvious racial discrimination or injustice. Joining Indian groups + surrounding myself with Indian friends definitely helped. Even now, living in downtown Seattle, I see so much diversity that I sometimes forget that there’s any difference between me and the person walking next to me on the street.

And yet, I’m always reminded that I’m not a full American by none other than Uber drivers. Even as an American-born citizen who has grown up in this country my entire life, I get asked, “Where are you from?”. I’m sure none of my white friends has ever been asked this question. I usually respond with, “Here. I grew up in Seattle.” Instead of leaving it at that, they’ll continue, “No, but where are you really from?”. It’s as if there is no way that I could actually be from America because of the color of my skin. At this point, I know what they’re getting at but continue answering with the truth, “I’m from America. I was born + brought up here.” Then, the driver will usually chuckle or have a slight smile, acknowledging that I’m a silly first-generation child who chooses not to identify by their race. “Ok then, where is your family from?”. And finally, they get their answer, “My parents moved here from India.” The conversation will rest, with the driver getting the answer he wanted and expected.

Now, I’m not saying that I experienced any form of racial discrimination. I am not being treated differently because of the color of my skin (or so I hope). But what’s interesting about this exchange each time (yes, this happens multiple times with different drivers), is that regardless of where I was born, how good my American accent is, what I wear, how I act, I am not seen as an American. When we live in a country that boasts diversity + inclusion and is built on immigrants yet anyone that is not white is immediately recognized for not belonging, I find it very difficult to believe that any sort of progress will be made on demolishing racial injustice anytime soon. If this is what it feels like to be black in America, with not just Uber drivers but everyone pointing out that you’re different, I can’t even imagine living through that.

If you’ve watched the documentary, please share your thoughts. How much was new information to you? What are steps you or your community is taking to make it better? How can we help?

Monday Motivation: Oct 10, 2016

Happy Monday! This weekend turned out to be way busier than I expected. It’s the start of the Diwali season for Hindus, so there are always tons of events to go to. On top of that, I hosted a jewelry pop-up for Chloe+Isabel, a company I’ve been working with for 2 years, + that pretty much took up my entire Sunday. More on that later! For now, here’s some motivation to get your Monday going.

  • There’s a healthier + easier alternative to making popcorn than buying the butter-filled packets. I can’t wait to try it!
  • For my pop-up, I wanted to make a few fall dishes. Since I had tons of apples from apple picking last weekend, I made a few apple-based dishes including this baked apple brie. Delicious + quick, definitely making it again!
  • While I wait for my usual podcasts to release new episodes, I stumbled upon this list of good podcast episodes. I love this because you get a taste for the podcast + they really are awesome episodes! Give them a listen!
  • I’ve been working with interior designers to redo my place for a while (look for a few posts on that soon), + that’s made me peruse design websites non-stop. I found this line of cookware that is extremely good quality, comes in a bunch of colors, + is sold at Nordstrom — done!

Have a wonderful Monday! Stay tuned for a new post on budgeting coming this week!

Monday Motivation: Oct 3, 2016

Happy Monday, Happy October, + Happy Mean Girls Day!! I’m SO excited that it’s officially Fall. I actually prefer the gloomy weather to the intense heat of the summer — I know, I’m crazy. This past weekend we kicked off the season with a fun day on the farm, complete with apple picking, a corn maze, yummy fall treats + a tractor ride! Now that we’re heading into the work week, here’s some motivation to keep the Fall spirit alive.

  • This recipe comes from the same blog as last week’s coconut kale stir fry, + it was just as good! Required a little more preparation with the cauliflower, but I absolutely loved it. Definitely bookmarking future recipes from this blog!
  • Fall calls for blanket scarves! I found this article for tons of ways to wear one.
  • If you’re like me, you’ve been following fashion week through all the social media. And in the midst of all the runways, there’s one that stood out — the first collection with hijabs!
  • Recently, I’ve been really into trying new recipes + stumbled upon these funny GIFs of the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten!

Hope you have a wonderful start to Fall!

Weekend Trip: Eating Our Way Through Boston

Recently, I visited one of my best friends in Boston for a weekend. It was during the peak summer heat, so we tried to stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as we could. Hence, the trip mostly revolved around restaurants + bars, which we didn’t mind at all. Everything was so good, I had to share!

Jugos

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This juice bar is a less than 5 minute walk from my friend’s place, so it was an obvious destination. On top of that, it’s delicious! I’m the last person to crave a bunch of fruits + vegetables that have been ground up into liquid form, but damn it was good! I don’t remember exactly what I ordered, but you can’t really go wrong here. We also each ordered a slice of avocado toast which was surprisingly huge and expectedly delicious!

Max Brenner’s Chocolate Restaurant

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I had heard so much about this restaurant from friends who’ve dined at this location + the one in New York,  + was so excited to finally try it myself! We hit this up for brunch so I didn’t expect that much chocolate on the menu, but they still found a way to sneak it in everywhere! I got the hot chocolate (obvi) + eggs with a side of fruit + milk chocolate. The food itself wasn’t spectacular, but the experience + chocolate was so worth it!

The Thinking Cup

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My friend was telling me how this is a famous spot on Newbury Street (Boston’s popular street for shopping + restaurants), so we decided to stop by for some coffee. I also picked up a bahn-mi sandwich to eat on my way to the airport. The coffee was good, the sandwich not so much. I now regret not getting any of the desserts they had displayed, but the environment of the place was super relaxed + cool. I could imagine going there to do some work and people watch if it was less crowded.

Georgetown Cupcake

I know this isn’t a new place for many of you but how can you not go to one of the most famous cupcake bakeries in the world?! We each got a carrot cake cupcake, the vegan choice of the day — SO. GOOD. The cream cheese frosting never disappoints.

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Estragon Tapas

Apparently tapas bars are all the rage in Boston. As vegetarians, we usually have a hard time finding good food at tapas restaurants but Estragon had almost too many options! We ended up ordering a pitcher of sangria (duh) and so. many. tapas. The only thing stopping us from ordering more was that we literally couldn’t eat any more without getting sick. The leeks were surprisingly yummy, as were the brussel sprouts and potatoes. Oh, just get everything on the menu.

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Harpoon Brewery

You may not think this counts as food, but wait! Firstly, the brewery tours were all booked up by the time we got there (around 1pm) so if you’re interested in that, get there early! It was a little difficult finding a spot to sit, but we did eventually get a seat + ordered a few of their pre-curated beer flights. This brewery is also very famous for their stuffed pretzels, so we ordered one — and believe me, it was enough. These pretzels are huge + so filling. Definitely tasty, but be prepared for more than a snack!

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If this is just a sampling of what Boston has to offer, then I can’t wait for my next trip! Know of any other places I should check out when I’m there? Let me know!

Monday Motivation: Sept 26, 2016

Happy Monday! This weekend was so much fun a. Because it wasn’t surrounding a trip I came back from or was starting on and b. Because the weather just so beautiful! It was the epitome of perfect Seattle fall weekends. I took advantage of the weather on Saturday and spent the day on Bainbridge Island — it’s only a 30 minute ferry ride from the city + it feels like a whole different world! Definitely heading back soon + will write a post about it! I spent Sunday watching some football, attending family events + catching up on errands. All in all a great weekend! I hope yours was exactly what you needed. Here’s some motivation to start off your last week of September (what?!).

  • I just made this with my brother last week + it was SO delicious. Plus, the only weird ingredient here is coconut flakes + those last for months. So worth it!
  • Chrome users, checkout this list of free Chrome extensions that will make your life better. I’ve heard of a few of them before, but these are all pretty cool additions.

And, since I dropped the ball on a second post last week you’ll be getting two new posts this week! Follow this page (button at the bottom of the screen) to be notified as soon as a new post goes up. Have a wonderful week!