Thursday, August 28, 2014

“I guess I can go anywhere I want. If only I knew where to go.” ― Layne Staley

I'm in a time of my life where I face a lot of uncertainty. Nothing out of the ordinary, really.

I found out a little over a month ago that my company is closing my site, and that my position as it stands now has been eliminated. Along with 1499 other positions, world wide.

In "regular" circumstances, that would just mean that I update my resume and start applying for jobs around the area. However, here, in Santa Barbara, that's just not going to happen. Industry doesn't exist out here. Sure, there are a few (um, about 3...) companies that are in the medical device industry, but realistically, ... ya... No. And you can forget about biotech and pharma!

They say that some people will be offered transition packages to our corporate HQ in the OC. Some people have already been receiving those offers. Some accept them quite happily, while others seem to want to say, "thanks for the offer, but SUCK IT!"

I haven't been offered anything (yet?) and that's ok. What I have received is a tremendous amount of support from my family, friends, and colleagues and for that, I'm SO grateful! It's part of why this transition is hard.

Even though I've griped about living here, I've learned to embrace it for all it is (see pictures), and isn't. And I've also made a few friends along the way, which always helps.

I'm not in a bad position, truth be told; I'm not married, I have no kids, I don't have a mortgage. I don't even have a car payment. I have nothing that binds me to this area, which basically means that possibilities are endless. (#FirstWorldProblems #WahWahWah)

As exciting as it can be, it's also a bit worrisome. I kind of fell into my position, and I love it. I love my boss, my team, the work. It's not something that can be easily found elsewhere, which, in my little world, really does suck.

I'm not one of those people who live to work and I've only had a few jobs in which I enjoy what I do and who I work with. Every single one of those, I just fell into. How lucky am I, huh?

I hope my streak continues...

And since I can't live off of hopes, dreams and wanderlust, I'll keep my head up and keep an ear to the ground for that next adventure.





Tuesday, July 8, 2014

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ― Haruki Murakami

The title quote is from Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" which has inspired me to get back on the exercise bandwagon. Funny enough, this same author inspired me to start my creative writing blog as well.

Brand new running shoes!
I was pretty good earlier this year, running 3-5 times a week. Then I went to Asia and have had a hard time getting back into the groove since I got back. It's been several months!

In that time, some of the weight I lost has come back, and now I'm just out of excuses. Can't complain of jet lag anymore; the days are longer (the amount of sunlight anyway, woo hoo!), and it's warmer out. Heck I live in CA, it's hard to complain about weather here.

Though... I do, sometimes...

It's what happens when you live in a place where it's pretty awesome about 94% of the year. I know, wah wah...

East Beach, Santa Barbara, CA
It's not even like I'm only talking about the weather... I live about a mile and a half away from the beach and I have some spectacular panoramic views of mountains and ocean.

Not surprisingly, the boardwalk is a regular running path and I take advantage as often as I can get my lazy butt up and out of the house.

I have come to really understand what William James meant when he said, "Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second."

Last year, I decided I wanted to start jogging again. I used to jog in San Diego a decent amount. It was moderately enjoyable, but it was when I felt strong, felt healthy and was able to keep my weight manageable.

Top of Stadium steps
Though it had been a while, I remember deciding, "I'm going to run 2 miles without stopping, I don't care how long it takes!" I was on the SBCC track, and remember just pushing myself until I got to my goal. Eight laps without stopping!

I had no more excuses. I found that I could will myself to do what I wanted to do even when my body wanted to wimp out and walk. My time was slow... like a fast walker could beat me slow, but I kept going.

SBCC Stadiums
I've never really been athletic, so my competition has always been me, myself, and I. I've actually never told anyone this, but when I was in grade school, I used to get anxiety in gym class, and felt so sick to my stomach that I had to go to the nurse. I loathed the idea of having to run and compete against other classmates. I was afraid of being the slowest or that I had horrible form and while I liked cheering for people from the sidelines, I found myself ill "just in time" to avoid the starting line.

Now, a few(ish) decades later, I'd like to say I couldn't care less. While for the most part, it's true, now a days, I tell myself, I just want to do whatever it is that brings me happiness and if I suck, then hopefully some decent entertainment. (Just ask my softball team!)

I recently started doing stadiums again at Santa Barbara City College. Each lane has 84 stairs that get increasingly taller as you go higher. I only did one set, 5 lanes up and 5 down. When I've tackled this in the past, I had been running 3+ miles and I barely was able to break two before I started this time.

My legs... my poor legs. Did I stretch? Yes. Did I cool down. You betcha, but holy cow, did I ache. For 2 days... pathetic! But, a few days later I did it again. And a few days after that? Well, I did 2 sets.

Sometimes, I wish I were one of those adrenaline junkies, and get a massive high from exercising.

But I will settle for some willpower and accept that while "pain in inevitable. Suffering is optional" and hopefully by the end of summer, I'll be in better shape than I was last year.




Monday, March 24, 2014

“The Wanderlust has got me... by the belly-aching fire” ― Robert W. Service

Bali

Uluwatu Temple
I didn't fully transitioned into "holiday mode" when we were in Hong KongIn the Philippines, only when we were on the boat to Taal Volcano did I finally felt like I was off on an adventure. I had seen so many pictures of Bali and was really excited about this leg of the trip. (I also learned how to use the panoramic view on my phone! woo hoo!)

We arrived in Bali at around midnight and got settled in around 1:45am. Instead of a regular hotel, we opted to find villas using airbnb.com. There were so many beautiful places to chose from, but we all decided on Case de Maria. Less than a 7 minute walk to the beach, it came with a pool, a complimentary breakfast of eggs, toast and fruit, super comfortable and big beds, wi-fi... in short, we could have been perfectly content to kick it pool side. 
Casa de Maria

But, we were SO close to the beach, so of course we'd have to go hang out there instead! (Duh!)

I've lived most of my adult life no more than 4 miles away from the ocean. (Even now, I'm only 1.5 miles away.) I love going to the beach. Sand between my toes, the soothing sound of the waves, potentially gorgeous sunrises or sunsets...

Beaches in this area of the world have the warmest water! And it was so clear! (I wish I could say "clean" as well, but there was a bit of garbage in the water, mostly plastic bags.)

Seminyak Beach
Unlike the beaches at home, there isn't much sea life to be seen in the water, though if you look closely enough in the sand, you can see tiny balls of sand that are formed by the even tinier crabs.

The waves were perfect for learning how to surf, and even better if you just wanted to dive in and get carried back to shore. When we weren't in the water, some of us sunbathed, haggled with local merchants, had a refreshing beverage, and/ or just read.

I'm currently obsessed with the Game of Throne series. I'm all caught up with the show on hbo, which is AWESOME, and I'm about 40% through A Clash of Kings. Can't wait for the next season to be on again. I am a bit behind the books (by a few seasons), but I still enjoy reading them when I know what happens. I'm just weird like that.

Ok, back to the vacation...

After spending several hours relaxing at the beach, we headed out to Uluwatu Temple. As a sign of respect, we all had to wear some type of sash and the boys had to drape purple skirts around their shorts. Signs told us that we should take off our sunglasses and people everywhere were trying to sell us bananas. I was puzzled. I didn't want to be disrespectful (regarding the sunglasses), and was just confused about the bananas, until we entered...


Monkeys! Who doesn't love monkeys? Or at least the idea of monkeys...

I knew we were scheduled to see monkeys the following day, so this was a pleasant surprise. All I was expecting to see was a temple! Goes to show, sometimes it's good to let loose, go with the flow and trust friends to want to do something cool. ;)

They were all around the entrance, enjoying the food that tourists like us would give them. (It was an "aha" moment. HA)

As our guide took us through, we were getting closer and closer to the ocean. There were some spectacular views and I couldn't stop taking pictures. Everywhere we looked was a photo op!

We decided to have dinner at Jukung Bali Seafood, right on the beach. The seafood is really fresh, where you can pick your dinner from aquariums in the front of the restaurant. I'm no stranger to fishing so this suited me just fine, but some of my friends felt a little guilt. I don't blame them, as it can be quite the experience to really understand that the food that is on your plate was alive only about 15-20 minutes beforehand.

My friend Prem and I shared an incredible meal that included fried calamari, prawns, clams, and red snapper. It was delicious! It was a bit expensive, too, but I think it was worth it!

My friends decided to have some beer with their meal and I opted for a coconut. It is the biggest coconut I've ever seen!

As Prem and I were eating, the server came by and asked if we were on our honeymoon. I was sitting between Prem and his girlfriend! LOL! I actually said, "Um, actually THEY (pointing at them) are together, we are just sharing food. :) Um, AWKWARD! We all laughed it off, though.

After all, we were in Bali, enjoying a great meal with awesome friends!

We got very VERY lucky. We had just finished eating and were about to ask for the check. I felt a wet drop on my back and for a second, I thought that one friend had laughed so hard at something another friend said, that she spit up a little on me.

Then, I felt another one.

Right then, it started down pouring! We all scrambled to get our stuff and get under the awning before we got soaked. We were SO LUCKY! Did I mention lucky? I think we would have all been a bit disappointed if our dinner was washed a sea by the flash flood!

Ok, so maybe I exaggerated. The rain was done by the time we got back to our villa, which was about 30 minutes away.

Mount Batur and Crater Lake








Our next excursion was probably my favorite of the whole trip. That's saying something considering everything we did!

The Bali Eco and Cycling Tour was really amazing. Local guides took us to a coffee plantation where we sampled a variety of flavored coffee and teas and tried some infamous Kopi Luwak aka "cat poop coffee".
Roasting coffee beans

We learned that the Asian palm civet that they have to digest the coffee are not treated as badly as you might think (according to our guide). The coffee farmers don't hold them captive for too long as they don't want to stress out the animal. Seems reasonable.

It was pretty smooth, but not sure it's worth the hype to get it abroad. Or maybe I'm just not a coffee connoisseur... ok, there is no maybe in that.

I started drinking coffee after trying coffee ice cream and Coffee Bean's ice blended drinks. (Some refer to them as "milkshakes", which I can't really argue with! I'll take one Dark Chocolate Ice Blended please!)  Before that it had no appeal and when I realized it could taste so good, I was all over it!

I digress!

After coffee tasting, we headed to breakfast with a beautiful view overlooking Mount Batur and Crater Lake. Then, we were off to the downhill cycling part of the tour to Ubud.

Even though this was one of the best days, it was actually one of my most unlucky. I'm a bit anxious on a bike. Part of that is that several of my friends have been struck by cars. Well, that's the biggest part of it.

Let me just tell you upfront, I was not hit by a car. No one on this tour was injured by any vehicle. So don't worry!

But let me just tell you the first of some of the unluckiness I endured...

I selected a bike that was good for my glorious 5'1 1/2" frame (yes, I'm counting halves like a 4 year old, what of it?!). But as soon as I slid on the bike, I heard a "Rrriippppp!" My shorts ripped right below my crotch area. Thankfully, even though I told one of my friends, it wasn't noticeable. But I didn't bring a change of clothes and just prayed that it would not be too embarrassing!
Rice paddy fields

Shortly after that, we were on our way. I quickly forgot about the shorts and concentrated on staying on the bike and not running anyone or myself off the road.

We encountered many local children, who rushed over to say hi and give us high 5s. It was really awesome and I even made contact with a few of them without falling off the bike! (woo hoo's all around!)

We got to walk through rice fields, visited Bali homes where they were raising pigs (they jokingly called pigs their "ATM" since they were able to charge a decent price for a roasted pig), and weaving bamboo floor mats and roof tops.

Well, naturally, there is more unluckiness or I wouldn't have mentioned it...

So... I was minding my own business, rolling down the street, sippin on gin and juice, oh wait... no drink in hand, but we were cruising along, minimally avoiding cars, when I tried to do some hand motion and lost control of my bike and crashed along side of the road.

I got up rather quickly, more embarrassed than anything. The Ozzies stopped behind me to see if I was ok. Overall, I was fine. I got some bruises from the bike and impacting the side of the road, but the biggest bummer was the gash that I got on my right palm. It was bleeding a decent amount, and the bandaid they got wasn't quite doing the trick. (No pictures will be posted since I don't want to gross anyone out, but I did see some of the fat tissue on my hand, GROSS!!)

Though not quite a kodak moment, I still took a picture to send to the bf. Honestly, I was a bit worried I would need stitches, but I kept my hand elevated and couldn't really use it because any movement not only hurt a bit, but it also wouldn't let the area heal. In fact, it's been almost a month and it's not fully back to normal yet (though I've gained full recovery in motor function, just in case you were worried!) Slathering on neosporin did the trick! (Thanks F!)

The tour guide said we were five minutes away from the end, (5 minutes!) so I just hopped back on and finished. If only I could have held on another 5 minutes!
Delicious Balinese food!

Lunch was next!

Our lunch was amazing. Like I still have dreams about it amazing. It was probably on the top 5 list of best meals while on this vacation. The tour site advertised that some patrons called it one of the best meals on the island, and seriously... they weren't kidding.

Everything was good. Mie goreng (friend noodle), sweet soya bean cake, Tofu with peanut sauce, smoked duck, smoked chicken, Gado Gado, spicy sambal and some Balinese veggies. Holy deliciousness!!

The last part of our tour included the Ubud Monkey Forest. As we were driving back, it started to downpour. My friends and I debated if we wanted to go, and even called our driver to cancel our requested pick up, since the rain wasn't relenting.

About 5 minutes after that, the rain stopped. Ubud is at least an hour away from Seminyak (depends on traffic), and since it stopped, we decided to see if our driver was still available (which he was).

Our tour guides dropped us off and into the forest we went. We were warned by the Ozzy tourists that these monkeys were aggressive and that we could easily see them in the shopping area.
Ubud Monkey Forest and Temple

Did we listen? Nope. We decided to go there and see them anyway. After all, when would we be back?

We looked around, and saw that the sculptures were a little freaky looking. (I was still nursing an injured hand so I didn't take any pictures, but rest assured, they were creepy!)

We got about halfway through the forest and were heading to a temple when it started down pouring. (Unlucky stroke #3!) Cats and dogs wasn't even remotely accurate to describe it. Within minutes, the area we were in was flooded up to my knees. A few of us went back to the entrance, and the rest of us found shelter under a small hut.

After a few minutes, ants started dropping on us and biting. They have some strong jaws and it was getting to painful to be there, so those of us who were under the small hut made our way over to the entrance, where there was a larger platform to shield us from the rain.

Monkeys aren't dumb animals. They were under the shelter too. And several of them were playing tag, happily sliding around, using people's legs as leverage as they chose. Some tourists coaxed a few of them on their backs as they fed them. They are much braver than I. No monkeys on my back, thank you very much!

Seminyak Beach
Several times, we all retreated as they came by. Many of them were getting agitated and were becoming increasingly aggressive. I think it's safe for me to say that we are all set for viewing wild monkeys for a while.

Our last night in Bali, we finally caught a sunset. I think I alone took a couple hundred pictures of it. This one of the boys high-fiving is my favorite.

Awesome trip and nice planning guys! Can't wait until our next adventure!


Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Mabuhay" said Manila. And I said "Salamat" back. - Prem

Next Stop: Philippines


Congrats JB and Frances!
As Justina Chen says, "Getting lost is just another way of saying 'going exploring.'"

And what better "excuse" to go exploring halfway around the world than to celebrate friends getting married? After all, this amazing event is what triggered the whole trip in the first place. Thanks guys! 

(Check out their amazing video if you want to see more! It's quite extraordinary what their team put together in a few hours and since the bride and groom are gorgeous, it looked like a commercial for cars, watches, wedding dresses...)

I helped plan the Hong Kong leg, so I had no idea what we were going to do in the Philippines aside from the wedding. 

Intramuros
I must say, mis amigos didn't disappoint! First stop was Intramuros, a walled city that was once used as a fort. Now it is a historic center and Manila's oldest district.  One thing that seemed to be a reoccurring theme was that many of the cities churches and buildings were rebuilt because there were many earthquakes that made previous structures tumble down. And if it wasn't an earthquake, it was another natural disaster. 
View from Taal Volcano


Taking a break from the lovely city of Alabang (the Philippines Bel Air), we headed to Taal Volcano in Batangas. According to wikipedia, "the crater lake on Volcano island is the largest lake on an island in a lake on an island in the world." [I'm sure you can see why I didn't try to paraphrase that description...] I kind of think of it like a turducken, but in this case, I've dubbed it #volakano

Taal Lake
After a 25 ish minute boat ride across the fresh water lake to the volcano, we took a 45 minute hike to the top. It was a clear, hot day and we took our time, stopping to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful views. It's an active volcano and it has been designated a Decade Volcano because of its destruction potential. (It's active and near a large population.) Currently, only 15 other volcanoes have that designation.
 View from Leslie's

Aside from the wedding, this was my favorite part of visiting the Philippines. I don't know if I'll ever see anything like it again, and since it was when it really hit me that I was on a real vacation!

After we were had taken in the volcano and its beauty, we headed back into town for lunch. Our driver was a very nice gentleman, by the name of Rommel if I remember right. We knew we wanted to have lunch but didn't know where. He recommended Leslie's, along with their a Filipino special Bulalo.

Bulalo
This beef shank soup was delicious! It was the first time many of my friends had tried bone marrow, which I'm a huge fan of. Yum! We had some garlic rice and some tempura like veggies as well.
The weather here wasn't quite what I expected. Considering its location, I expected heat and humidity and to be sweating most of the time. Definitely not the case. It was quite mild and after our Taal Volcano excursion, we even got a little chilly. It's all relative, of course.

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial
As we landed into Manila, my friend and I saw the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial from the plane. More than 17,000 World War II soldiers rest here.

It is humbling to stand in front of the walls that list thousands of names of soldiers that fought for our country.

To end our time in Manila, we all decided to splurge and get hour + long massages. It's ridiculous how inexpensive massages are here. $10USD got me an hour long deep tissue massage! Since it was at a pretty nice spa, that included some piping hot ginger tea as well. If I knew it was SO affordable, I would have done it everyday!

Can't really complain though. It was great and it was the perfect way to relax before heading over to Bali.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

“Not all those who wander are lost.” - J. R. R. Tolkien (Part 1)

Sometimes, those who wander were just too busy with work and life to help plan a vacation.

Instead those said people rely on good friends to plan out parts of the holiday so that said people know awesome things await without having to know all the details...

I've had the pleasure to travel abroad (Guatemala and India) with my fellow companions in the not so recent past, so I knew I was in good hands.
My travel companions

We packed in three destinations in a short, less than 2 week trip, spending 3-4 days in each locale. It was an AWESOME vacation. So good that the other day, I fell asleep right after I got off work, woke up in pitch darkness and wondered, "Where am I? What country am I in?" So yeah I'm a bit jet lagged, but it was worth it!

Just a little background:

I basically tagged along on this trip. Two of my grad school classmates were getting married and two of my other classmates were determined to go to the wedding. They set up the general itinerary and then convinced a handful of us to go. (Yeah, you can see the scars on my arm from having them twist it... um, not so much...) I had not been to any of the destinations and a chance to hang out with this crew, count me in!

First stop: Hong Kong


Hong Kong Island Skyline
 I have a friend that lives here as an ex-pat. She was super helpful and gave me advice on how to get to the hotel from the airport. My friends arrived together from New York about 4 hours earlier, while I got in from LA around 11pm. With my friend's advice, I took a local bus to the hotel.

MTR subway
My friends thought I was quite brave to navigate the city alone around midnight, but I had faith in my ex-pat pal. She surely wouldn't have allowed me to roam around the streets in the middle of the night if she thought it was a bad neighborhood! :)

I felt a little like I was on my own mini version of Amazing Race. I had no idea what I was doing but figured things out. (Thank goodness that a lot of the signs are in English as well!)

We stayed at Eaton Hotel in Kowloon. Great location, close to a few MTR (subway) stops and lots of great places to eat! For help on that, I looked up Anthony Bourdain's excursions and a few other food blogs.

The MTR is an awesome subway system. It's very clean, the trains are seemingly endless and when you are in the station, they have well labelled exits to help you figure out where you need to go.

When we were looking at places in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST to the locals), I remembered this from Russell Peters:


That guy cracks me up! Ok, I digress...

We took a series of walking tours and different neighborhoods. While we were in Central, we stopped off at Kau Kee for some beef brisket noodles.

We had a core group of 5, but were lucky enough to have others join us at varying points of each leg to even us out to 6. Our Taiwanese friend joined us on our first tour of HK.

Kau Kee
As a party of 6, there were not enough seats for all of us, so we initially sat apart with other diners. This is quite typical in these smaller places, but when the table opened up, we got the guys to come over.

Even though the bowls looked small (especially compared to American standards), it was a hearty meal and delicious! The noodles started off a bit al dente, but the warm and savory broth softened them to a perfect texture. I'm craving a bowl right now!

Lunar New Year Lantern Display
Chinese New Year (aka Tet for my peeps) was at the end of January this year and lucky for us, we caught the tail end of the light display at the Cultural Center in TST. We took the Star Ferry over and got great views of the Hong Kong skyline (see above) and got to see the Symphony of Lights. Frankly, the skyline itself was more impressive, especially if you've seen things like the fountain show at Bellagio in Las Vegas. Just sayin!

The lanterns had a Love theme, showcasing various wedding related things, which seemed appropriate, since our next adventure would take us to our friend's wedding in Manila.

Tian Tan Buddha
But before that, we took a ride on a glass bottom gondola to see the Big Buddha. My recommendation would be to go up on a regular gondola and go down on a glass bottom cable car. We ended up waiting in a long line and if we reversed it, we would have been golden! You can also take a hike up to the top, but after seeing the path from above, I wouldn't recommend it unless you had a good half a day to get up.

It's totally worth it to traverse those extra 250+ steps to get to the top. The views are beautiful and it's not as bad as you might think! (Unless you have joint problems that is!)

Hong Kong is such an interesting place with a rich history. It's very humbling to walk around with the hundreds of skyscrapers looming over us. It seemed like temples were around random corners and much of the historic sites seemed to have been replaced by newer buildings.

In the Hong Kong Monetary Authority Center there is a library and free museum on the 55th floor that displays  a picture of HK in 1895 where the tallest building was about 3 stories high. What a difference several decades make!

Victoria's Peak
One of the best views of the city is at Victoria's Peak. Even with the fog that rolled in, we were still able to capture beautiful views. There are several trails around the peak as well as a mall where my friends were able to pick up some souvenirs. If we had enough time, it would have been an amazing to see the view at night.

We had the company of another friend who has been working there for several years and introduced us to another side of Hong Kong: Lan Kwai Fong (aka LKF).
LKF

We had done most of our sight seeing during the day and had yet to explore the night life. Filled with foreigners (like us), loud music and drinking on the streets, we were determined to live it up on our last night in HK. Such the party animals, we made it past midnight! =)


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones. - John Wooden

And in my world, "new" is a book that I haven't read yet!

Last Christmas I got a Kindle Paperwhite. It truly is a wonderful invention. I admit, I had a hard time converting, especially since, at times, just the weight of a book is comforting (unless it's a textbook!).

I didn't read as much as I wanted to, but I still got over a dozen. Not too bad, considering one was 800+ pages. :) Thank goodness for goodreads for helping me keep this all straight!
  1. The Honest Trust About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone - Especially Ourselves - Dan Ariely
  2. The Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides
  3. Beyond Illusions: A Novel - Duong Thu Huong
  4. The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins
  5. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
  6. Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
  7. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Other's Don't - Jim Collins
  8. One Day - David Nicholls
  9. Ru - Kim Thuy
  10. Running with Scissors - Augusten Burroughs
  11. The Elephant Vanishes - Haruki Murakami
  12. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
  13. Wonder - R.J. Palacio
  14. A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin
  15. Bossypants - Tina Fey
If you compare to last year, you'll see I have some repeat authors (#2 and #11)

I think I slowed down a little because I started dabbling in my own creative writing. I've gotten a little behind on that because I started a food blog.

Why did I start all these side projects? The question really is, "why not?!"

Saturday, January 4, 2014

"Time is precious, waste it wisely" - Jan Jansen

There is no better way to start a New Year than by showing gratitude for the past year. Fortunately for me, it was filled with family, friends, travel, and good food.

And in no particular order...

Disneyland
I rang in the Year of the Snake with my brother and cousin at the "Happiest Place on Earth!"

Living in SoCal for most of my life, I was definitely not a stranger to Disneyland. After this trip, I foresee cousin reunions draped in Mickey Mouse ears and standing in long lines waiting for rides reminiscing about the days of old, when we would be standing in long lines waiting for rides.

At least I'm hoping for it!

Portland, OR

Another cousin moved up to OR about 4 years ago. Finally, after all this time I was able to get up there and visit her in Portland. 

(Side note, when she told her mom she was moving, her mom thought she was moving to Poland! Another side note, my dad actually moved to Poland for a while... go figure.)
Goonies House, Astoria, OR

While we were in the beautiful state of Oregon, we also took a road trip to get in touch with our inner Goonie.

Seriously, they don't make movies like that anymore. (sniff, sniff) Heck, hardly anyone lets their kids play outside unsupervised and who can blame them? I digress...

Seattle, WA
On to the Seattle area, where we met up with some of my grad school friends for some great grub.  Some people may consider me a "foodie" because I LOVE food and even started a food blog. Some might poke fun and call me a "fattie" if it weren't un-PC. Let me put it like this, my goal is to be healthy because life it just too darn short NOT to eat. So skinny jeans be damned! I'm going to EAT and just exercise to balance it out.

Speaking of exercise... we ended up snow shoeing in Snoqualmie.

If you have never done this before, it sounds easy. Strap on a contraption with spikes on your own shoes and away you go... In theory that's exactly what happened. I even got to test these suckers on a mini hill before we went up a bigger one. (I lacked faith...)

Snoqualmie, WA
It was definitely a bit more challenging that I thought it was. Part of that was probably because the only "waterproof" shoes I had were some Puma sneakers. Appropriate footwear is key! (And I didn't have it... fail!)

We had fun none-the-less, although, truth be told, we were shown up by several 6 year olds that went down a pretty darn steep cliff. My inexperience made me very wary of climbing down a mountain backwards, especially when there was a tree waiting there to "catch my fall"... I wasn't alone in not wanting to go that way, which helped my ego a bit. :)

Now if I were on a snowboard... I still wouldn't have gone down that hill. Just sayin...

Washington D.C., Cherry Blossoms
In April, we visited the nation's capitol. I have never been in a city where duck fat was so prevalent. Not that I'm necessarily complaining because I definitely had some! Duck fat fries, duck fat mussels, oh my! I seriously believe the "DC" stands for DuckFat City...

We were SO lucky. The last day we were there, all the Cherry Blossoms bloomed around the Basin. It is truly a site and I'm glad we were fortunate enough to see it in person.

Catalina Island
One of my good friends owns a boat and in May, she decided that she wanted to move said boat back down to San Diego from Marina Del Rey. Our "crew" consisted of Amy, me and her Mini Pin, Capt'n Louie.

We were going to take our time and take about 5 days to get down, stopping by Catalina, Dana Point and wherever else we felt like on our way to San Diego.

Capt'n Louie
I used to sail with her quite a bit back in the day. Before this trip, I could happily brag that I had never gotten sea sick. Let me just say, we can deeply sympathize with the Gilligan's Island theme song... What should have been a relatively easy trip from Marina Del Rey to Catalina was filled with 30 knot winds and "cresting mother-fing waves" to quote the Captain!

It was a relaxing trip, mostly away from all things tech related (although I got a little cell signal) but it put me off sailing for a bit. (I'm ready to go now if the opportunity presents itself, don't get me wrong!) Once I was back on land again, it took me a little time to get my land legs again.

San Diego
I didn't get down to San Diego as much as I would have liked, but every time I was there, it still felt like home. And how could it not? I am lucky enough to still have a lot of great friends that have made a life there and welcome me every time I am back.

There never seems to be enough time in a weekend to see everyone, so maybe this year I'll resume my once a month excursion down the coast. Most of these wonderful people I've known for over 13 years now, so there are many new additions to the family. (You should see all the family Christmas cards that are on my fridge!) :)

Mini Reunion, Boston, MA
Another place that will always be near and dear to my heart is Beantown.

Where, if you walk into Cornwall's, the bartender may not know your name, but he'll definitely know your drink!

Where clam chowda is freakin amazing even in some work cafeterias!

Where I've just been so incredibly lucky to have met some amazing people.

Cornwall's, Boston, MA

I'm looking forward to what 2014 has to offer.