Sushi Chef.

Every time someone starts talking about winning the lottery and what they would do I always have two answers that come after buying my parents their house, paying off my loans, smart investments, etc. The second is to have a hair stylist do my hair whenever I want. The first is to have an on-call sushi chef. Legit, right?

Well, now I can check one of those off my list!

Brett surprised me and got together all the supplies for some at-home sushi making.

And it’s much easier and cheaper than you would think to make some of this delicious stuff yourself.

First, you’re going to want to make your sushi rice because you have to let it cool before making the rolls. I  just followed the recipe on the sushi rice bag but here’s a good recipe to use if you’d like. While it cools you can cut up all your other ingredients. Multi-tasking at its finest!

If you’re impatient, and hungry, you can use a fan to help cool down your rice…

Like so.

And now you can start adding your favorite fish, vegetables, and other accoutrements to your rolls.

Make sure if you get raw fish you want to make sure it’s sushi/sashimi grade–salmonella is not something you want to mess with. I got mine from Chelsea Market’s fish market. You can tell them how many rolls you want to make or how many people you plan on feeding and they can recommend how much you should get.

Salmon. Tuna. Cucumber. Avocado. Eel. Crab Stick.

Now that you have your cooled sushi rice, fish, and vegetables, you can start rolling!

I covered my bamboo mat with plastic wrap so that my rolls wouldn’t stick to it and get it dirty. You’ll want to lay down a sheet of seaweed and make a small ball of rice with your hands and put that on top.

You can eat the excess rice off your hands if you so please.

Construct your favorite combination and then roll away! I found that putting a dab of water on the very edge of the seaweed paper helps the roll stay together.

Now just run your knife under some warm water (to keep it from sticking/tearing your roll) and cut into bite-size pieces. It should end up looking something like this…

A. Masterpiece.

Now all there’s left to do is enjoy! And figure out my new number one frivolous service in case I win the lottery one day.

But for now, I’m just excited I can have sushi all day. Every day.



Filed under Recipes!

Money Monday$: Guest Blog–A Drop of Jewel

Happy Monday ladies and gents! I hope y’all had a fantastic weekend. I know I did. I headed up to Maine for Julia and Eric’s wedding and it was so lovely to see them and take part in their special day. It was a wedding straight out of Pinterest but still so reflective of who they are as individuals and as a couple.

In a tiny and fun little Fiat 500!

And here’s a car rental tip if you live in NYC or another large city:

When you’re researching a rental try using a pickup location just outside of the city. Instead of picking up our car in Manhattan, we got it at the Westchester airport instead which is a quick train ride ($7 each way) and bus ride ($2.25) away. It took us about the same amount of time to get to the Westchester airport that it would have taken to get the car out of the city and the rental was at least 30% less. Just because we changed locations! Try it out the next time you rent a car and let me know how it goes!

In other moola related news…

It’s an exciting day because Jewel from A Drop of Jewel will be guest blogging about some money saving tips and tricks for the recent grad…and pretty much anybody! She spent the entire month of June blogging about finances and budgeting so head on over and take a look for more tips!

“So college is over and you’re out on your own. You’ve traded in juggling books for juggling bills. I can bet that managing your personal finances was not part of the curriculum either. Student loans are knocking at your door waiting to be paid back along with the rest of your debts. If you’ve managed to land a good job, congratulations you’re ahead of the masses. My suggestion to you would be: Be confident in your position at work but never get too comfortable. Layoffs, downsizing, and unemployment for degree-holding graduates are at an all time high
just like everyone else.

That is why it is so important to save some of your earnings. No one ever wants to think they will be laid off from their job, but it certainly does happen. The question is how prepared will you be if that should occur? Sure, you may qualify for unemployment should you get let go but unemployment is barely enough to survive off of. If you’re not prepared, unexpected unemployment can easily cause a chain reaction in your life. When you lose your income, you can’t pay all your bills. When you can’t pay all your bills, you get late charges tacked on until it gets to the point where your bill is sent to collections. Once it gets to collections and you still can’t pay, it goes on your credit report. Your credit becomes all messed up making it harder for you to buy anything else on credit, harder for you to rent or buy a home, and ultimately harder to land another job (as most good jobs do credit checks these days).

Credit lenders don’t care whether you have a job or not. They want their money either way. So to avoid this chain reaction, start saving NOW! The ideal amount to have saved up is about six months worth of your salary. This may sound like a lot and almost impossible to do, but it’s not. The following are just a few tips to help:

  • Pay Yourself First: I’m sure you’ve heard this expression before, but it’s such good advice I had to repeat. I hear friends say all the time that they can’t save because they have too many other financial obligations. Well…there are always going to be other financial obligations. Once you decide on a reasonable, comfortable amount for you to set aside each month for savings, just do it off the top. Before you pay anyone else, take the money out your check and put it in your savings. A lot of jobs these days allow you to link your direct deposit into two different accounts so you can have it transferred to your savings automatically. This is the best way because you don’t  even miss it. Really.
  • Take Baby Steps: Six months worth of salary is a lot. Whatever your salary may be; it may seem like it will take forever for you to save that amount of money. So start small. When I first started building my savings, I only saved $25 from each paycheck. Once I started paying off other debts and loans, I was able to increase the amount little by little. Whenever I got a pay raise, I would increase the amount again. You can do it too !
  • Get a High Yield Savings Account: This is something I’ve been looking into lately since American Express keeps sending me the advertisements for it (lol). This is a safe secure way to have your savings make money for you while you are still adding to it. American Express and ING Direct are two that I know of that are offering high interest on savings accounts. These rates are higher than your regular, traditional savings accounts and some of these high yield accounts have compounded interest. This is a small way to help get to your goal a little faster.
  • Don’t Touch!: Some of us are good at saving, yes. However, we sometimes find ourselves dipping into the stash. The best advice I can offer is to pretend the account doesn’t even exist. Of course there are some types of accounts where you can get penalized for withdrawing from the savings, but I don’t really care for those. I like having access to my money without any threats of penalty. However, if you know you don’t have the self-discipline not to touch, then this type of account might be good for you. Whatever you have to do to get control, do it and stop dipping into the savings.

So what is the overall takeaway from this? Start saving your money. By putting some money to the side, you will be able to save yourself in the event you should ever face difficult financial times.”

Thanks Jewel for the great post!

Leave a comment

Filed under Money Monday$

Thanks for F-O-X.

Every few weeks, for what has been the majority of my life, TNT or ABC Family or USA or Bravo or Lifetime has aired You’ve Got Mail. And I’m sure in the coming weeks this programming will just exponentially increase (alongside her other works–When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Julie & Julia–heard of them?) in the light of Nora Ephron’s passing.

Tangent: It always astounds me how quickly the NYT and its peers can turnaround such well written, fully fleshed out, and insightful obituaries about people like Ephron overnight. It makes me wonder if there are a few people tucked away somewhere in these big print companies who are solely tasked to write post-humous, pre-death articles to keep at the ready for notable people. I’m sure those measures are in place for big name heavies like the President but I wonder if there are pieces about Clint Eastwood, Jerry Seinfeld, Mark Zuckerberg, or Sophia Grace in case of untimely death?

In any case, although Ephron is most celebrated for When Harry Met Sally, the work that means most to me is You’ve Got Mail. I’m not sure when my first viewing was but I do know that the opening sequence kickstarted with an AOL Dial Up tone was totally relevant. I was well acquainted because of typing and internet classes (?!) at my elementary school. What I do know is that it resonated with me on some strange cosmic level because I didn’t really understand a lot of what was going on those first few times. I just knew that I liked it.

I liked it because Joe Fox’s Aunt Anabelle and brother Matt mirrored the age gap between me and my siblings. Because it’s funny to hear grown-ups trying to sing in a round. And because I completely subscribed to and still believe Kathleen Kelly’s belief that “when you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does…”

And a movie you love as a child, and then as a teenager, and as an adult becomes a part of your identity in a way that I can’t begin to tell you about.

Every year when I pass the Back to School section in Target I think about a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.

Every time the elevator stalls I think back to Patricia’s inane conversation and realize what I don’t want in a relationship.

Every time someone bogarts a part of seven-layer dip or scrapes additional topping onto their plate I think “That is a garnish.”

And now that I live in New York, and on the Upper West Side more specifically, I find myself living this story I love so much.

When I pass Cafe Lalo and grab the fence saying “She had to be. She had to be!”

On a nice fall day when I’m walking down to 72nd street, I feel like there’s not a sound on the city streets, just the beat of my own heart.

And when I stop into Zabar’s I’m always wary of the cash only line. “She has no cash. She has no cash? She has no cash.”

When I recount the days of the week, “Maunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday…”

When I run past the 79th St. Boast Basin and yell “HELLO NEW JERSEY!” (I really do do this. People smile and then politely run around me.)

When I mentally psyche myself up because I’m a lone reed. Standing tall. Waving boldly. And then promptly punch the air in true Meg Ryan fashion.

And when I walk through Riverside Park, listening to dog collars jingle, I think of Brinkley.

But more than all the perfectly timed quips–and there are a lot of them–it makes me feel like everything will be alright. And I know how ridiculous of a statement that must sound like but it’s true. Sometimes I write not because I want a response but just to send something out to that void. And when I wonder about my life, I’m comforted in the knowledge that I lead a small but valuable life. And when you find that life has stood you up, boycotted your company, and you’re living in your boat, closing down your mother’s bookshop, or entering the Over Thirty Chat Room, is that things can and will turn out better.

In Nora Ephron’s Commencement Speech to Wellesley grads:

“What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands. And this is something else I want to tell you, one of the hundreds of things I didn’t know when I was sitting here so many years ago: you are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever.

Did I say it was hard? Yes, but let me say it again so that none of you can ever say the words, nobody said it was so hard. But it’s also incredibly interesting. You are so lucky to have that life as an option.”

When life found me on another coast, in a new job, missing CA friends & family or after a less than pleasant wedding experience it also found me curling up in sheets and visiting with NY152 and Shopgirl.

Thanks Nora.


Filed under Uncategorized

Money Monday$: Post-Grad Life

Happy Monday all!

I hope all your weekends went well. I spent mine working and then spending time with the Spigelman/Surfaro clan. Most recently, at a Mets vs. Yankees game.

Let’s not talk about the game though…le sigh.

What we can talk about is what seems like an unending conversation about the dim and grim situations us twenty-something college grads have found ourselves in.

When I was 18 and first started college, I originally thought I was going to be a doctor. I took science course after science course in conjunction with math classes that I hated. And after a while, I decided that this was not the path I wanted to take. Instead I subscribed to that wonderful part of college that said “Take classes that interest you! Take part in great moral discussions! Learn for the sake of learning!” Which, of course, is fantastic. What wasn’t so fantastic was the fact that I had no balance or guidance to also mention that I should consider double majoring so that I could learn about what I wanted AND get a second degree at the same time.

If there was one thing I could tell college freshman–aside from “Beware the student loan monster and apply for internships and network and be true to who you are while simultaneously not being afraid to try out new things” it would be to…


 And here’s where you might be thinking “Duyen, what does this have to do with money?” Well, if you’re going to a four year university as a full-time student the cost of tuition is going to be about the same whether you take the minimum number of credits or 20 credits more than that. So the more classes you take, the more bang for your buck.

If we’re going to have to pay through the nose to get a degree, wouldn’t it make sense to get two if you can? This also would allow you to pursue a degree in something you love, like say English Literature or History or Music Theory, and in something with a more pragmatic function like Mathematics or Communication.

Of course, a degree or two is not a guarantee for job or financial security. As evidence by this recent article in The Atlantic. But it’s a start.

And if you’re out of school, like me, going back to school might seem like a tempting option to avoid the dismal job market. But before breaking out the GRE and LSAT and MCAT book it might be worth looking into getting a Certificate for a particular skill. Schools and post-grads and employers are catching on to the value of such programs as noted in this recent NYT article.

So before enrolling in grad school full time, thus incurring more debt, I would strongly consider taking a course to advance a particularly desirable skill set. Most colleges offer things like this in their continuing education programs and there are plenty of free (or really cheap) courses available online too.

Here are some resources I found:



Straighter Line

Khan Academy


Saylor Foundation

And ultimately, you have to have a sense of humor about these things. Sarah Shanfield writes about what it means to be 25 today. And one of the takeaways is that “We can’t control the economy or our entry into grad school, but we can laugh with one another and slowly pay off our credit cards.”

Here’s to being a post-grad right?

Leave a comment

Filed under Money Monday$

Summer Skittles

Oh hello there! The heat is definitely hot today in NYC and I love looking around and seeing people in shorts, skirts, and bright colors. It’s about time. I thought I would share what I’m sporting today since it is an amalgamation of all things summer (at least in my mind.)

Some sweet gladiator sandals. Polka dot skirt. Breezy t-shirt.
Ombre nails.They remind me of skittles.

Here are some Friday findings for you to peruse this hot, hot day. Hopefully, wherever you are is not quite as humid as it is here!

Enjoy your weekend and see you on the flipside. Holla!

Leave a comment

Filed under Friday Fun

Summer Wednesday!

Every morning on my way to work, when I get out of the subway there’s a man handing out AM New York and Metro papers. Some days he’ll talk about the major headline like Obama’s validation of gay marriage or Bloomberg’s super-size soda ban. Other days he’ll pick something fun like Justin Bieber’s free poster. Or he’ll yell out “Happy Monday, excited to get the week started!”

But every day he counts down to summer.

112 days till summer! (My internal monologue: Really, right now? It’s February.)

93 days till summer…

41 days till summer… (But it’s still Monday.)

25 days till summer! Almost there. (Yeah! It’s going to be warm and nice soon!)

15 days till summer, just around the corner. (

And most days, I give him a nice smile and take a paper.

But today IS the first day of summer.

And this is how I feel about that.

Photo Cred: Brett Spigelman @NeonTurbine

So on this 20th of June, I hope you have the loveliest long day.

Some songs that remind me of summer.

And LFO with some choice lyrics.


Filed under Uncategorized

Money Monday$: Budgeting

Hello! I hope you had a nice weekend and enjoyed yourselves. I played some PAC-12 Alumni softball and only managed to strike out once…and made a trip to Target–one of my favorite places. We brought home a new storage unit and a DIY project that may or may not make an appearance depending on how well it goes.

Insane Money Origami

It seems that since last Monday there has been some moving and shaking in the world of college affordability and financial transparency.

On Tuesday, Veep Biden met with 10 college presidents to include a “shopping sheet” as part of college admissions packages that “simplify the current process of comparing colleges. It would clearly state the cost of a year of classes, the student’s net cost after grants and scholarships, financial aid options to pay that cost and estimated monthly payments for federal loans. It would also provide information about the colleges’ retention and graduation rates and the share of graduates who default on their student loans.”

Hopefully, other schools which catch on and make things like this standard practice.

And I can pretty safely agree with Thomas F. Cooley when he says “Clearly the best way to protect consumers is to educate them.”

That’s what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created to do. If you have access to a phone or the internet you can receive financial advice, information, and clarification on anything from banking fees to mortgage payments and credit card debt.

Now that there are some resources there, how do you go about promoting financial literacy? How many teenagers and young adults and older adults really want to sit down and take a hard look at their finances? I mean, it’s a tough thing to look at and realize that getting that Big-Gulp sized coffee every morning is costing you more each month than your monthly commute. It’s hard to create a budget, in the first place, and  then stick to it.

But, I think that’s the first step.

I found these templates from Nelnet and Google Docs that can help get you started. First, keep track of what you normally spend. And the most important thing is to be honest with yourself. You have to be willing to record those impulse buys and hold yourself accountable otherwise you’ll never really know what and, more importantly, where you’re spending your hard-earned moola.

Once you get a look at what your money is going towards you can start prioritizing what to spend on.

Of course you have fixed expenses like your rent/mortgage, utilities, and insurance but then there are those expenses that can vary greatly from month to month like your groceries or gas/transportation. Then there are your “wants” like clothing,travel, entertainment, booze, eating out, TV/Cable, etc. After tallying your monthly totals, here are few things to consider:

1. You should be spending less than what you’re earning. If you’re in the red each month, you should take a look at your budget and start making some adjustments. Even the smallest change like eating out one night less a week can make a big difference in your budget.

  • Tip: Try to pay for things with cash or your debit card. It’ll force you to rethink your purchases. It’s always tempting to swipe your CC because it may seem like you’re spending less but it will continue to add to your debt that you’ll have to pay interest on. And who wants to pay interest on the at $3 block of cheese you bought?

2. If you are spending less than what you’re earning you have a few options. You can put it in your savings or you can pay more than the minimum on your credit card or student loans payments thus saving you some money in the long-term by reducing the amount of interest you’re paying over the life of the loan. Or a mix of both.

3. Be flexible. A budget is meant to be a guideline not a live-or-die by standard. Some months you’ll splurge on a new outfit or a trip (Although, it cannot be called “splurging” if you do it every week. That’s called “denial.”) but as long as you’re being mindful of your spending, paying down your debt–not adding  to it–and putting something away for a rainy day, everything will turn out alright.

What budgets have worked for you? What advice would you give someone just starting out? What do you wish someone had told you about budgeting?

Comment below or email or tweet @doogencreates

*Note: I’m not a professional financial planner. These are things that I have culled from my own experience and learning. Take what you will, leave what you don’t want.*


Filed under Money Monday$