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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Other Half of the Year

A recap of the entire 2015 would be so fitting on this New Years Eve. But seeing as I have failed to post for months, a fresh recap of the second half of the year is the next best thing.

Let's start way back in August...

I turned 23! Although there are no pictures to prove it, the event was celebrated with tacos and parking lot chats with friends, Italian dinner and ice cream cake with family, and donuts at work. It was low-key, just the way I like it.

Went to D23, a Disney convention, with coworker friends.

Our goals while there:
1. Track down all the freebies
2. Avoid all the lines

We were as successful as we could be, considering the best freebies had the longest lines, haha. Goal #2 was slightly more successful than Goal #1.

Enjoyed $1 pancakes with this frugal friend.

In September...

Celebrated a friend's birthday with brunch and polaroid pictures. We met at a darling little cafe called Stir Market.

Traveled to New York and had a blast.

In October...
After work, some friends and I drove down to visit Disneyland with just enough time to watch the parade, fireworks show, and ride Space Mountain. By the time I made it back home, it was 2am! For some odd reason, I've always wanted to go down to Disneyland just to watch the fireworks show, so this was an especially magical trip.

Also spent Halloween day at Disneyland. 
Olaf and two Minions on the Teacups.

We woke up bright and early, and when we arrived there were hardly any lines. 

I love sleeping in on the weekends. It's one of my favorite things. But getting through all of the big rides by noon is totally worth the sacrifice. I told my friends I might be a convert to early mornings at Disneyland.

In November...

Disneyland again! 

We celebrated thanksgiving with an extended family dinner.
Our small contribution to the feast was this shrimp and veggies platter. My mom made them and I arranged them on the plate, haha.

Our apple tree bared so much fruit this year. We are swimming in apples. 

I've made apple sauce, apple cider, apple wraps, apple oatmeal, and peeled tons of apples just to eat plain. I saw some apple rose tarts on pinterest and decided to try them out.

2 hours later...

They turned out ok, but not sure that I'd make them again.

Visited the Getty Villa. It's in the most gorgeous location right along the beach, near Santa Monica and has a stunning garden.

In December...

My team from work volunteered at the Children's Hospital's Star Wars event. We met some of the most precious little (and big) kids. It almost broke my heart, but I walked away so humbled. An event like that puts the fragility of life into perspective.

No pictures of the kiddos were allowed, but these characters weren't shy around the cameras.
Mark Hamill (a.k.a. Mr. Luke Skywalker) was there and we got to meet him in between the event sessions. He was really sweet and friendly and did not act like a celebrity. He even put his arms around everyone when posing for pictures. I'm ashamed but just have to admit that my coworker and I googled "Mark Hamill" before the event. *face palm* Now we know and love him.

I passed the CPA ethics exam and am finally qualified for licensure. Hooray! 

My mom, grandma, and I whipped up hundreds of cookies for Christmas in our annual baking extravaganza. It's one of my favorite traditions! Grandma also announced that she's retiring from Christmas baking once she turns 80, haha, so I'm soaking up these next few years before mom and I are on our own.

A holiday event at work isn't complete without fancy donuts and Minnie Mouse.

Celebrated Christmas with family presents in the morning, big family dinner & presents at my grandparents house, and then cookies and presents with the other side of the family at our house.

*   *   *

As I look back, the year has been marked with many sweet memories...the most noteworthy probably being travels to the Midwest and East Coast, but also in the little things like slow Sundays re-watching entire seasons of 24 with my brother, or couple-hour spurts at Disneyland with precious friends. The Lord has been so very gracious and I am thankful! 

Onward to 2016!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bright Lights in the Big City

I feel like I hit a milestone of adulthood to say that I traveled for work

Yep, me, the one who has never, ever traveled alone before made it to New York and back, and loved every second.

This trip was all kinds of wonderful. 

I was able to fly in a couple days early and meet up with a friend from high school for the weekend. It has been years since I last saw her and we picked up right where we left off. 

The two of us used to take partner tests in Algebra together are now we're college graduates with full-time jobs. And she's living in New York!

She was so sweet to let me stay the night in her little apartment. I loved the old vintage feel of it, and the bellman and elevator made it feel very NewYork-esque.

She was also the best tour guide. All delicious food, explorations, and successful subway navigation is credited to her!

We went to a Peruvian restaurant called Pio Pio. This place was packed, and for good reason. I loved the dim, modern ambiance and flavorful food.

At Roosevelt Island for my friend's friend's rooftop birthday party. The view was unreal.

Flushing in Queens, which my friend referred to as the "Asian ghetto." Haha.

My coworker joined us for some dim sum! I laugh at this picture because it looks like a we're ready to eat this entire feast. 

This was food for five, not two :).

Loved Chelsea Market. This archway of lights was begging for a picture.

While we ate our way through the city, we walked through it too, hopefully burning off some of the many calories we inhaled. At least that's what I tell myself.

A view from walking the high line.

When in New York...one must see Broadway!

Hustling and bustling in Times Square.

Pretty apartments on the way to Levain Bakery.

Enjoying my chocolate brioche in Central Park. What a perfect afternoon.

That big, black bag holds a large pop-up sign that we use for work events. It's fairly heavy. This is what it feels like to lug the big, black bag all around town.

The friend to my left insisted that the men behind us were part of the UN conference that was taking place this week. So we took this picture. 

I'm convinced they're normal people dressed in nice suits.

His expression. Those eyes! And that knife. 

Our waiters were the best.

On the set of Good Morning America! During breaks, George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts would be busy checking their phones/computer. 

Ahhhh, a Cindy Crawford selfie! Ms. Crawford was the guest for ths morning's show.

And then my manager sent a picture of us on TV. We were on TV!

The Plaza. 
This hotel was just stunning. It had walls of marble and feels like a place fit for royalty.

Breakfast at Sarabeths.

A quick visit to the Soho district and a stop at Laudree. 

Pizza at Lombardis. 
Guess who happened to be eating here at the same time as us? 
Candace Cameron, DJ from Full House!!! 
That's the back of her head. She is the one with the perfect, blonde bun. 
We stopped by to say hi, but this was the best picture we got.

Over and over, my coworker and I would repeat what an amazing trip this was. 

In his words, it was out of this world.

So very thankful for these experiences and memories. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Chicago in the Summer

Every summer, my family likes to do some traveling. Sometimes it's local, such as venturing a couple hours to the coast. Other times, we'll fly to another state and explore new cities. 

For this year's summer vacation, we flew into Chicago and then road-tripped through the Midwest.

My dad recently decided his new life goal is to travel to all 50 states of America. So naturally, we had to visit as many states as possible. He planned the whole trip (and all the stops along the way), which was fine by the rest of us-- we're just along for the ride.

Plus, if we had taken on the planning, we'd probably not get past the airport. The one and only stop I planned for the trip was a complete bust. If you're curious, it was the German Village in Ohio. No need to visit, haha.

Day 1
Flew to Chicago

My first impression, "gosh it's chilly here!" Coming from 80 degree CA weather, the rain and wind was a bit shocking to my summer state of mind.

Look at the overcast and sea of ponchos!

Our first stop, Wrigley Field. We were supposed to watch the Cubs play, but as soon as we parked we were informed that the game was rained out. So instead of watching the game, we took a quick tour of the park and grabbed a bite to eat from the one of the ballpark restaurants. All the while, it was absolutely freezing-- like wind + rain + can't feel my hands freezing. 

Wind so fierce, it's holding my umbrella up. I'm easily impressed.

Day 2
Touring Chicago

We drove from the suburbs to downtown Chicago. Along the way, we stopped by Wheaton College.

Can you spot the tiny photobomber?

Once downtown, we walked to the Navy Pier and got a glimpse of the city via river cruise. 
Apparently it was too cold to uncover our hands, or smile.

We topped off the day with deep dish pizza. My first ever. It was amazing. 

Day 3
Touring Chicago (again)

This day, we were the epitome of tourists. We ran around the city and hit up all the major attractions from a list we found on the internet.

We woke up bright and early to head to the John Hancock Center, known for it's 360 degree views.

Then we bussed ourselves over to the Field Museum. 

After learning about gems, DNA, and dinosaurs, we visited the Willis Sky Deck. 
Standing on a see-through floor that hangs over 90 stories high...eeps!

Onto our final stop of the day, the bean!
It's kind of odd that this huge bean sits in the middle of a park, but it is quite impressive and artfully beautiful. 

City scenes from our walk back to the hotel. 

We ended the night with dinner at 11pm. A pretty typical vacation dinner time for us. Deep dish pizza again. This time at Ginno's East. We had to try another restaurant to compare. 

The verdict: Giordanos. Hands down.

After enjoying our last deep dish, we headed north to Michigan.