locally grown

dc greens - lesley siu

Growing up: signing up to volunteer as your birthday activity. I spent the evening volunteering with a nonprofit at their local urban farm. It’s interesting getting into the weeds (literally) of food access and education in DC. I will also be at farmers markets throughout the summer to help low-income community members access fresh produce. With all of the conflict and negativity in the world right now, how could I sit at home waiting for change? I’m looking forward to continuing to take action in my community. Baby steps.

room for a birthday celebration

columbia room dc - lesley siu

For my birthday this year, I went to Columbia Room for drinks with a few friends. Tucked away in Blagden Alley, the cocktail bar has a nice punch garden perfect for enjoying the outdoors before the summer heat really sinks in. The drink list is aptly named “This is Not a Wine List” with cocktails inspired by wines. 

columbia room punch garden dc - lesley siu

Complete with Georgetown Cupcakes (thank you, Claire!) and a quick dinner at Le Diplomate, my birthday was low key and enjoyable. My goals for this year include volunteering more in my community, acing taking the GMAT, and traveling to at least three new countries. Easy, right? 

16 places I traveled to in 2016

In terms of travel, 2015 was tough to beat. This year included traveling to Africa for work, planning a group trip to Peru, and returning to Paris on my annual another solo trip. A new job even led to a few opportunities for business travel. Five continents, seven countries, and 40 flights later, 2016 was quite an adventure.

1. Tokyo

“Hey mom, do you want to go to Japan in three days?” It was her first trip outside of the U.S. and Canada! We ate a lot of ramen and sushi as soon as we got there.

tokyo ramen

2. Kyoto

Beautiful temples, the bamboo park, Fushimi Inari Shrine, and my squad at the Arashiyama Monkey Park. Kyoto is my favorite city in Japan.

arashiyama bamboo park

arashiyama bamboo park

3. Hakone

Hello, Mount Fuji! What a view from the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) en route to Hakone’s hot springs.

mt. fuji - lesley siu

4. Chicago

Is your first trip to the windy city complete without this picture?

chicago - lesley siu

5. Honolulu

My annual trip to the homeland included a quick hike to Manoa Falls.

manoa falls - lesley siu

6. Malawi

A visit to the “warm heart of Africa” and fulfilling my professional goal of Snapchatting traveling abroad for work. Here’s the 5:30 a.m. sunrise at Lake Malawi.

lake malawi

7. Amsterdam

When you have a long layover here, you go into the city on a quest for stroopwafels.

amsterdam - lesley siu

8. Las Vegas

My favorite part was renting a car and driving out to Red Rock Canyon.

las vegas red rock canyon - places traveled 2016

9. Lima

The ceviche and sunshine make up for a terrifying non-taxi experience and having to purchase a new flight to Cusco (note to self: never fly Copa Airlines again).

lima peru - lesley siu

10. Cusco

We took a cooking class and made pisco sours, walked around the Maras salt mines, wandered through the markets, and met the best driver, César.

pisco sours - lesley siu

maras salt mines - lesley siu

11. Aguas Calientes

Pro tip: take the bus up to Machu Picchu. Always take the bus.

peru machu picchu -- places traveled 2016

12. New York

I always stop by Maison Kayser for a little taste of Paris, even on a 24-hour trip to NYC to shoot a video.

maison kayser new york - lesley siu

13. Paris

Then I actually went to Paris, because, you know… It’s Paris. Galeries Lafayette was dressed up for Christmas!

galeries lafayette - lesley siu

14. London

Crossed the Tower Bridge and another thing off my London bucket list.

london tower bridge - lesley siu

15. Oxford

I’ve missed the history and charm and studying in the UK.

oxford - lesley siu

16. Austin

A conference, UX class, and coffee at Dominican Joe.

dominican joe austin - lesley siu

 

Cheers to more adventures in 2017! Where should I go next?

hosting afternoon tea

afternoon_tea

What to do when you return from Paris and London? Invite your closest friends over for “a casual yet proper afternoon tea.”

**It helps if your friends are incredibly talented in cooking and baking.**

We had homemade treats including scones, palmiers, and a Pinterest-worthy pink champagne cake. Add dainty cucumber sandwiches a variety of the finest Twinings tea, and you have the perfect afternoon staying in and catching up.

tea party

I scored the three-tiered stand at Miss Pixie’s the morning before the event. Fate.

hosting an afternoon tea party

homemade chocolate chip scones

afternoon tea party

the sunflower garden

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A day trip to Maryland calls for sunflowers and wine tasting. We ventured to The Sunflower Garden in Westminster to frolic through the field and pick some fresh blooms. Oh, and a quick photoshoot to experiment with my 50mm lens. Then we headed to Linganore Winecellars for a tasting and downtown Frederick for dinner. The perfect weekend activity.

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choose your own adventure

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After living in DC for a few years, it’s easy to keep going out to the same places. But sometimes you have to mix it up. A Choose Your Own Adventure night, to be exact.

Claire and I came up with a list of places we wanted to try and a few old favorites outside of our neighborhood. Then we organized everything into three phases: dinner, activity and a bar. We came up with clues for each place, and I wrote them on index cards.

We told the group where to meet at 7:00 p.m. to decide where we would eat.

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Dinner

The restaurant options included a mix of new and nostalgic places that we thought everyone would like and wouldn’t need a reservation for. We printed a map wrote a list of locations that represented the type of cuisine or theme and had the group guess the corresponding restaurants:

After a solid discussion about Texas, Mexico and Tex-Mex, we identified all of the places and each voted on where we wanted to go. We decided to head to… Japan! Or, Raku by the National Cathedral.

choose your own adventure - washington dc

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We also prepared a list of challenges to do throughout the night during each phase and in transit. The idea was to rotate through and each complete one in order until we finished the list, but sometimes we (*cough* most of us *cough*) ended up all completing the one at hand. At Raku, the challenge was: Text a friend from high school and express how much you value your friendship. Leave voicemail if the person does not pick up. Basically, we spread some love to our friends back home. Everyone can use some extra love, right?!

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Activity

After finishing dinner, I revealed the cards for the next group activity. Clues were all song lyrics or albums:

  • Quit playin’ games with my heart
  • They got a brand new dance (come on) / You gotta move your muscle
    • Shuffleboard at Buffalo Billiards (throwback to the time we were all on a shuffleboard team)
  • It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday / The regular crowd shuffles in
  • Red velvet, vanilla, chocolate in my life / I keep on hoping we’ll eat cake by the ocean
    • Dessert at The CakeRoom (because eating cake obviously counts as an activity)
  • 21 (Adele)
  • Oh, I wanna dance (and sing) with somebody

I wrote the neighborhoods on the back of each card just in case they couldn’t guess it based on the songs, but the extra clue was only needed for Black Jack, where we ultimately decided to go. The result: a highly competitive game of bocce.

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The winning team:

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Congratulations to Claire, who completed this bar challenge: Hold eye contact with a guy across the bar for 10 seconds, then wink at him (if you can’t wink, blow a kiss). A+

Bar

For the last part of “Choose Your Own Adventure” night, we had to choose what bar to go to. The bar clues included a mix of riddles, memories and general hints:

  • Jack, will you accept this ____? (for Jack Rose — and the Bachelorette fans)
  • The name of this 14th street bar has two words. One of them is “bar.” How original. (Bar Pilar)
  • Kelsey went on a date here and dropped her drink. Ok, it “slid off the table.” (McClellan’s Retreat)
  • Retractable glass roof + views of U street. Kelsey and Beth reallllly know how to dance it out here. (Hawthorne)
  • Rooftop beer garden in Shaw. (Takoda)

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There was also a wild card with five new spots we hadn’t been to. If this card was chosen, we had to pick a number from one to five without knowing the list of options:

  1. Alfie’s
  2. Archipelago
  3. Columbia Room
  4. Quarter + Glory
  5. The Sovereign

We went with the wild card. The number four was chosen, so we headed to Quarter + Glory. It was a great choice since none of us had been there. It was also on 14th street, so it was a quick walk from Black Jack. The space is open yet cozy, and we all agreed it’s worth coming back to.

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The choices and challenges created a fun activity that encouraged us to explore new spots. Who knows what adventure we’ll choose next?

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