We got a puppy! Meet little Miss Ella (short for Eleanor Harriet because human names for pets are the best).
I had to deploy my best advertising/marketing skills in order to get one, hence why I’m in the ad world! She’s a little Havanese pure breed, born on July 13. I’m in love!
I’ve been asking begging for a dog as long as I can remember. I grew up with all kinds of pets – dogs, cats, birds, turtles, guinea pigs, rabbits. You name it, my sister and I probably had it. On the opposite end, MG never had any animals growing up. In his mind, they are dependent and dirty (which isn’t all wrong technically). MG finally gave in to my request for our cat, Chubs, a few years ago. But in my heart, I knew, and he knew, that I would always still want a dog. That companionship cannot be compared to others!
One random day, I decided to go on Craigslist to check out available dogs. Lo and Behold! Pure bred puppies for sale! I never heard of the Havanese breed before so I did some researching and found out that 1) it’s a mild tempered dog, 2) perfect for apartments/townhouses since they don’t need much exercise, 3) medium sized and grow to be around 15 pounds, and 4) most importantly, hypoallergenic and doesn’t shed. This was the PERFECT storm. Now I know that Craigslist isn’t always the best place to purchase a dog, so I was weary of this fantastic opportunity. I brought a girl friend with me to go see the dog incase there were any red lights on the owners. I didn’t want to purchase from a puppy mill, and I needed to make sure that this owner raised her pets in a good environment. So before we went, we put together a checklist with a potential no in mind. But to my surprise, the owners owned both mom and dad, had all the papers required to show for the breed, and printed contracts to even provide financial security incase the adopted little one had health issues. And that was the night, we took our little baby home.
She’s been a handful. Puppies are definitely life changing, and it’s not overly stated at all. We have to get up every 2-3 hours to take her out to potty, we’ve been training her to learn commands, and LOTS of carpet mishaps, which we knew would be part of training. More importantly, a watchful eye as she plays outside of her pen so that she doesn’t make mistakes. It’s even more difficult right now since she’s not allowed outside yet without her third round of shots. Dreaming of the day that she’s allowed outside and potty trained. Almost there.
I’ve been taking a little break from blogging. Between work and personal life, I haven’t had much time to update. But I’m back!
Lately I’ve been really counting my blessings. I’m so grateful for the things I have in life – my family, my job, and instances where I can take an overseas vacation. My mom came up with the idea of going to Dubai, and I couldn’t say no. We packed our bags, and went to Dubai for 5 full days, with 2 days of traveling.
To simply describe Dubai – extravagance (at least in the modern areas of Dubai). Everything is grand, large, and beautiful. This city is continually being built as construction was everywhere. In 5 years, this city will be a different kind of beast.
If you’re thinking about going – definitely check it out. You don’t need more than a week in Dubai for tourist attractions. To be totally honest, I don’t necessarily think that Dubai should be a trip on it’s own, but it would be a fun pitstop if you’re on your way to Europe or Asia.
Here are some of the things we did on our trip. Feel free to use this list for your own vacation!
Shopping! The Mall of Emirates and Dubai Mall are some of the world’s largest shopping malls
Ski Dubai (this was my favorite activity)
Burj Khalifa – Tallest building in the world
Visited the public beach near the Burj al Arab
Walked the Souks (this is the marketplace) for gold, spices, and tourist goods
Private boat tour
Cruised in the sand dunes
Visited the Jumeirah Mosque
Went to the Palm Islands to walk around the Atlantis hotel
Hired a private driver to take us to Abu Dhabi to see the Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Incase I didn’t sell it enough, here are pictures to prove that this trip was amazing!
First off, this was the view from our apartment on the 43rd floor. Every morning we would wake up to the Burj Khalifa. Isn’t that awesome? We stayed in Downtown Dubai, right across from the Dubai mall. Is it recommended to stay here? Absolutely. It’s the center of town.
Inside the Dubai mall, you’ll find an ice rink, an indoor theme park (it’s an arcade and there are also rides!), and an aquarium. Right outside, there is a fountain show that occurs daily, every 30 minutes in the evening.
In the Mall of Emirates, you’ll find Ski Dubai! I’m not a snow activity type of person; I don’t know how to ski/snowboard. But I know basics for skiing, and Ski Dubai was perfect for me! It’s basically 1 slope which bends in the middle, and it has 2 levels of steepness. For about $50 USD, you can ski/board for 2 hours and the cost includes equipment and gear. We knew about this indoor ski arena but never thought to go, until we found out the cost. We can’t even ski in Tahoe for that amount! The snow is beautiful and perfectly groomed. It’s cold but consistent. And really fun to look up to see ceiling and lights. What a great experience!
My second favorite activity was the Burj Khalifa. The elevators will take you up to the 124 floor in 90 seconds. MG, my dad, and I all decided to go to the very top (because when are we ever going to do this again?); the very top is 148 and employees provide refreshments and snacks. We went in the evening, saw the day-view, saw the sunset, and then was able to capture the night-view as well.
MG and I also took an afternoon to enjoy the beach. The waters are crystal clear, and the sand is made with a million seashells scattered across the sand. One word, gorgeous.
One of the mornings, we visited the local mosque to experience the culture. We also walked the marketplace to do some local shopping too. Spices, fabrics, and gold oh my! Lots and lots of gold…
After walking around all day, we were tired and found a private boat to take us around for an hour so we could relax. For about $6 a person, this was totally worth it. However, you can easily get across the water on water taxis for $0.36 a person!
Some of the desert things that we did – camel riding. This was a lot of fun! I can now say I’ve been on an elephant in Bali, and now a camel in Dubai! We also rode a Land Cruiser and went off-roading in the desert. What’s amazing is the background. The view is miles and miles of desert. My parents really enjoyed this part of the trip.
On the very last full day of our trip, we were able to hire a private driver to take us to Abu Dhabi for a day trip (only $45 per person). It’s about a 1.5 hour long drive between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The most awe-inspiring part of the trip was the Mosque. It’s so grand and every detail is beautiful.
^^^ And yes, we had to wear hijabs into the Mosque and dress appropriately to enter (women had to cover up their shoulders and dress to cover up to their ankles/men must wear shorts below the knee).
^^^ This is the world’s second largest chandelier, made with Swarovski crystals.
^^^ See how there’s a man’s forehead next to my mom? The security was coming over to let us know to stand further apart. Displays of affection are frowned upon in a religious environment. Whoops!
And then the city line near the water in Abu Dhabi is breathtaking! I love water, and can’t ever get my toes quick enough into the sand.
Just some funny tidbits:
You know how in the US, you take a road trip and you see cows alongside the road? Here you see camels! Haha! Can you spot them?
This was also my first time smoking with my dad. Everyone does shisha there!
If you have to ask me about a downside of Dubai, I would say the food. There is no local food there. Dubai is a city of mixed nationalities. They flourish on having a bit of culture from everywhere. In that aspect, we were only able to eat Indian, Lebanese, and Syrian food. All very delicious, but I was hoping for something more “local.”
But my all time favorite thing about this trip – experiencing the difference in culture. Most of the city is of Muslim culture; prayer calls happen 5 times a day, and you can hear the reminder to pray throughout the city. Women are conservative, while men are more prominent. Men can have up to 4 wives, and for every wife you receive an apartment and 50,000 Dirhams. With government supporting their locals, we didn’t come across any crime or homelessness. It was a major culture shock! These kinds of things always prove to me that other countries in fact do live differently, and it’s always nice to be placed into a new environment and learn.
How is December flying by so quickly? It’s already mid-December. I can’t believe Christmas is next week! Are you done with your Christmas shopping yet?
I’ve been a bit MIA on the blog recently, due to lack of time because I’m working now and because the holiday season is always packed with adventures (what I actually mean is feasts). Activities lined up every single weekend until my parents come to town (yay, this weekend!). I’m especially excited about this year because we’re renting a cabin in Tahoe in between Christmas and New Years for my family and my in-laws. Don’t know if we’ll be skiing yet but there’ a high possibility!
Since my last post, I’ve had 3 holiday parties. One that consists of all you can eat Brazilian BBQ. And two other parties where I was one of the main head chefs (think pounds and pounds of prime rib). Here are some fun recaps from pics on my iPhone.
Here at Espetus in sequins and fur – my favorite combo!
And now for the church Christmas parties – here are the goods. The Costco employees even commented on how much food we had in our carts!
And look at these awesome veggie trees – you simply buy a styrofoam cone, wrap it in plastic wrap to keep it from crumbling, and skewer veggies onto the cone with toothpicks. I carved stars from pineapple as toppers (remember to soak your pineapple in salt water so it doesn’t brown).
Crab cakes galore! I definitely made over 100 crab cakes.
And here’s my little sweetheart guarding the presents. “You shall not open the presentz!”
I’m also taking my parents to The Christmas Story musical on Christmas Eve. Each year, Neighborhood church in Castro Valley hosts a broadway-like musical for only $5 per ticket. It’s such a great form of entertainment and good price too! Tickets are going fast so order ahead, and constantly check their site to see if there are new musicals on the horizon – totally worth the cost.
What are you most excited for during this Christmas season?
This past weekend was the Lam-Luu annual tree chop weekend! It’s a little tradition of ours now to go to a tree farm, pick out a tree, and chop it yourself to bring home. It’s fun to do now, so I imagine it to be even more fun with kids.
Well… the Luus brought their new kid, fur-kid that is, to the party this year! Meet Casey – he was adopted about a week ago, such a cute little guy! So happy that I have a little puppy to play with now.
Saturday was a gloomy and rainy day, but it felt perfect for a winter day to go tree shopping. It set the mood. This year we tried a new place in Los Gatos called Summit Tree Farms. This place was amazing, definitely better than the last few places we’ve been to! First off, it’s a huge lot with plenty of trees. And most importantly, all the trees were perfectly shaped triangles. After about 30 minutes of strolling the farm, we finally picked out our trees.
^^^ My manly man!
Now that the tree was home, it was a decorating weekend! One of my favorite things to do during this season, I love digging through the stuff that I have, with each piece providing a little piece of my memory. I’m also reminded of the things I purchased post-Christmas and haven’t seen for a whole year! I’m all about those post-holiday sales.
With this little guy as my helper, I was determined to finish decorating the house to get into that Christmas spirit.
Ta-Da! All decorated in gold and silver with a little rustic burlap skirt (it’s the same burlap from my wedding!). Now I need those presents!
Often times, there are little branches that need to be trimmed from the tree. Those don’t go to waste in this house! I put them in vases and placed them around the house as well. They are such cute little editions to the home.
Wanna know something funny? MG and I bought our first real tree 2 years ago, back in 2012. We wanted to pick the fattest tree we could possibly find at the farm. Challenge accepted and succeeded. I present to thee, the Christmas bush. This is from my old iPhone since I didn’t even have a fancy camera yet. Notice how we still have blinds and white walls! In 2 years so much has changed.
Not even gonna lie, I miss the Christmas bush. It gave so many people lots of laughs! What are some of your friend/family traditions for this time of year? What gets you into the holiday spirit?
So what’s OCC? It’s a program by Samaritan’s Purse that encourages people to pack shoeboxes filled with items for children. These boxes are sent all over the world during the holiday season to provide a way to share the Good News of Jesus. It’s a simple thing we can do as follows for the greater purpose of God.
To personalize the box, we write little postcards to our kids that are receiving the box. We also added a group picture of the church. But the most important part of packing these boxes, praying for the kids receiving this gift. Though this is a physical gift, pray that the kids receive an eternal gift from God.
My boxes were for little gifts 5-7. MG made boxes for boys.
We made three boxes each among me and MG.
^^^ oh, hai!
A total count of 222 boxes from our church!
My heart fills with joy when I look around the room and find that so many people are packing boxes, together as a congregation. It’s just so cool that such a small gesture from us can be part of a bigger story.
Have you participated in OCC before? If so, what kinds of things do you pack? And isn’t toy shopping so fun even as an adult?
How was your Halloween? I’d love to hear some of your costume ideas and what you did on this special occasion!
For my Friday, I hosted a Halloween Potluck at my house. I’m not usually a fan of potlucks, but for Halloween, I make an exception. I love to encourage people to use their noodle to come up with something creative, in this case, imagination with food.
Everyone had to bring a Halloween-themed food to the party. In the end, we had a lot of good food, and some too creepy to eat. Take a look!
Here are the amazing appetizers:
And the delicious main courses:
^^^ Pumpkin fried in salty egg yolk (It’s a Chinese dish)
And no meal is complete without dessert, and we had plenty!
^^^ Jello ^^^
^^^ It’s red bean paste from Japan
^^^ My favorite item of the night because how cute are they!?!
After we filled our bellies, we watched Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (oh, that’s how the Emancipation Proclamation came to be) and Hocus Pocus (classic). As you can tell, we weren’t scary movie people at all, rephrase, just the girls, including me. Best part, I have some leftovers in my fridge that I’m still eating. Yay!
What are some of the potluck items that catch your eye? What are some other food ideas I can use for next year?
Now it’s November, and I’m already thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love this season!
Hong Kong was the last leg of our trip to Asia. We spent 2 full days and 3 nights here, primarily because our flight had a layover in Hong Kong before coming back to San Francisco. So we stopped for a bit.
To be honest, Hong Kong is never a place that is in the top of my travel list. Perhaps I’ve been too many times (3-4 times now in my lifetime). I go because my parents grew up here. I go because I can find Cantonese comfort food around every corner. I go because it brings me back to my roots. Hong Kong is just never that memorable to me… until now.
MG still has family members in HK. They took us around to some delicious restaurants and showed us places that were good for shopping. This part of the trip was mainly for visiting family/friends over meals and lots of shopping.
We ate at Chinese cafes for breakfast. You all get smashed into one small table, order food and tea, and quickly eat and move along. These places are the best for late night meals too!
On one of the nights, we walked through the city and took the Peak tram up to see the view.
If you’ve been following the news, there have been protests in Hong Kong for full democracy. We were not in any areas with immediate danger, but the area near the tram was occupied by protestors. We went on a little adventure to go see how the situation was – fortunately for us, it was calm and peaceful where we walked. I became the butt of the joke, and everyone said I was going to get us arrested for taking pictures of the protest.
They made stairs to walk over the barricades! So smart!
This was the scene at 11pm on a weeknight.
And one thing now crossed off my bucket list – eating Chinese mitten crab, aka hairy crab. As a little girl, I’ve always heard about these little delicacies, but it’s only edible in Asia. It’s basically a small crab filled with sweet, sweet roe. It’s prime season in October in Hong Kong, so when we decided to come here, I knew this was my must-do. And my in-laws satisfied my need (they are so good to me!).
^^^ Look at all that orangey goodness!
And the absolutely best part about this trip? MG spoiled me with a new two-toned rosegold watch. I’m not allowed another gift for 2 years, but this lump sum gift was well worth it. Thanks love!
Have you been to Hong Kong before? If so, what are your favorite things to do?
I don’t have another overseas trip planned anytime soon, but I want to go somewhere else! The travel bug has bitten me. Where should I go next? Any recs?
Tokyo was the highlight of my trip – it’s the big city! Packed with people, shops, and food – that’s my kinda place!
With over 13MM people living here, there’s always people everywhere. Shops open late in the morning at 11am and do not close until late into the night. I took charge as tour guide in Tokyo because there were many must-see items on my to-do list.
We took the bullet train from Hokkaido to Tokyo. Once we dropped off our luggage and checked into the hotel room, we set off to find food and shops. We headed over to the Shibuya district to do some night time shopping and dinner.
Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest crosswalks in the world. All lights turn red and pedestrians flow into the street. It’s almost chaos!
We had dinner at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant nearby the crossing, which was the coolest restaurant we’ve been to! Basically you sit down, order your nigiri sushi on a tablet, and they shoot out plates of sushi to where you sit. To feed 7 adults here was only $60. Can’t beat that!
After dinner, we shopped a bit at Shibuya 109, a large mall with over 100 boutique shops with the latest trends (basically one huge Urban Outfitters). And on the way home, I had to take a picture with the Hachiko statue. This faithful dog greeted his owner after work, everyday at the subway station. The owner died at work but the dog continually went to the station to greet his owner everyday for 9 years after his death. I can’t get myself to watch the story of Hachiko but it warms my heart.
The next day was an epic one!
We woke up, got breakfast, and headed over to (it’s my dream come true), a cat cafe!!! More well known cat cafes in Japan have 30-50 cats, and you can enjoy a light snack. There’s a small entrance fee to get in, but once you do, it’s basically heaven.
^^^ This one is located in the Shinjuku district. It’s two stories, and you can sit and play with cats for an hour. After an hour, you pay for each additional 15 minutes.
Japanese people love their cats! We saw some cats going for $10k at a pet shop. Lots of Scottish Folds, and I even learned about a new breed called a Munchkin cat. Muchkin cats are characterized by little short legs. Think corgi but for a cat!
Don’t laugh but I want to say that this was one of the highlights of the trip!
We did a bit of shopping at Harajuku. This is where you’ll find people dressed up in cosplay and some extreme fashion styles!
Then we looked for beauty supplies – isn’t this a crazy shop?
And we went to Akihabara to look at gadgets. It’s an entire district filled with all kinds of technology – you can literally find anything tech-related here.
To top off the night, we went to a Yakini restaurant (DIY BBQ). Little did we know, we would come across wagyu beef. We ate ourselves silly with 4 plates of Wagyu, 2 plates of pork, 1 plate of lamb. It was by far the best meal during our entire trip.
^^^^ Just look at that marbling!
^ Grillmaster MG ^
The next day was the big typhoon. Lots of news publications said it was going to the best worst typhoon based on the last 14 years, but fortunately for us, it died down and it was only a half day of rain. We kept it safe by shopping at the malls near our hotel. That stormy and rainy night meant that I needed a warm bowl of ramen for dinner.
We found a place nearby, where locals line up for food. My in-laws (they really are the best) said they were fine with standing in the rainstorm for ramen, and so we did!
The waiters pass you menus in line and take your order while you’re standing. Once you get into this tiny shop (basically can hold only 20 people), they place your food in front of you, and you slurp your noodles quickly. Japanese people eat so fast! As we’re eating, two groups have already gotten up and left. I would say that we ate fast, but clearly not as quickly as the locals. So much pressure to eat quickly!
But OMG… this was the best ramen I’ve ever had. Period.
Aren’t you craving a big bowl of noodles now?
The food in Tokyo is amazing. Any little shop that you find will have quality food. If you love shopping, this is also the place to be! There are so many shops and so many different fashion styles. People-watching, alone, is a great reason to come to this city.
Have you been to Tokyo before? If so, what did you do? If not, what is your must-see?
I’m back from my trip to Asia! I love traveling but those long flights are pretty killer… Our total travel time to get to Sapporo was 23 hours, ouch. It’s worth it to see how cultures are different in different countries.
Over the next three days, I’m going to be posting about my trip. We started out in Sapporo and slowly made our way south via a tour bus. Then we took a bullet train to Tokyo and ended in Hong Kong before coming home. Today will be all about Hokkaido.
Hokkaido is in northern Japan, with Sapporo as its capital. It gets cold, with snow in the winters, and this prefecture is also known for produce and meat. It’s where a lot of good seafood comes from! This is going to be a major photo dump – here we go!
^^^ Otaru is a beautiful little town. It really reminded me of Europe. Isn’t this a cute family pic?
Japan has some awesome handmade trinkets – specifically this tourist town was known for glass and music boxes
We shopped at many outdoor and underground malls
We went to a ski jump museum on the tour.
Look at this amazing view! Looks so scary though – Don’t think I’ll be trying ski jumping ever…
We also went to see the Ainu people, an indigenous people of Japan. We learned about their culture and way of life. They are bear hunters and also have Shiba Inu dogs to help them hunt.
We also went to a Hot Springs area while the sun was setting to end the day. Such a beautiful view.
Hokkaido is known for their hot springs and public baths. And incase you’re wondering, yes, you have to go naked! Basically you have to shower there for a good 15 minutes or longer before you can soak into the public baths. They are typically gender separated, and all you get to cover up is a little face towel. The baths are filled with mineral water, at the hottest temperature of 43ºC which translates to 109.4ºF. So hot!!! You literally soak in for a few minutes and then immediately go into a cold water bath. All this helps with your circulation and increases blood flow so it’s beneficial for your body. Awkward at first, but it gets easier!
The next day we ventured to Lake Toya, a volcanic lake in Hokkaido.
And then we got on a boat!
Look at this amazing view!
Later that evening, we went to the top of Hakodate to watch the sun set and the city come to life.
We went to Towada-Hachimantai National Park to see the Fall colors. We missed the changing of the leaves to red by one week but we got to see a few Fall leaves.
We also took a little hike – Hokkaido is so green
^^^ Waterfall selfie
And now Lake Tazawa. Legend has it that a princess desired eternal beauty. A god told her to drink from these waters but she drank so much of the water that the Goddess Kannon cursed her and turned her into a water dragon. Then a prince caught a large fish from these waters and developed an unquenchable thirst. He continually drank the water and was also turned into a dragon. Eventually these dragons fell in love and their passionate love prevents the lake from freezing during the winter months. Also, the princess gets jealous of couples that takes pictures at this lake, which ends relationships…
We took the chance anyway!
Those were some of the main places that we visited. Here are some fun shots from the Hokkaido portion of the trip.
The sewer tops at the fish market were so cute! Lots of great seafood comes from Hokkaido – scallops, cuttlefish, crab, fish.
Remember when I said that produce is a big thing in Hokkaido? Look at the size of this apple!
Some of the hotels we stayed in were Wester style (your typical hotel), but there were a few that were Tatami style. It’s a traditional Japanese-style room with straw-like mats and no shoes allowed.
While you go out for dinner, employees come and make the beds for you:
^^^^ Traditional Japanese meal in our kimonos
We wore kimonos every night to dinner – look how cute my little Mingus is!
This is what a traditional meal would look like – all prepped for you. Coolest thing? Look at that ice dome that holds my sashimi!!!
We also ate at a lot of buffets for breakfast and for dinner.
Look at my breakfast tray! Ahem husband… I expect this caliber of breakfast every morning!
Then there are these adorable pancakes that you can pick from during dinner. How could you eat such artwork?
We found a little shop that made fresh mochi – one of MG’s favorite desserts so we had to buy one. You pick a skewer and then add your own paste (miso or black sesame, or red bean). Just for fun, if you choose a skewer with a red tip, you get another free stick! Of course MG gets lucky. He had two servings of these things! You should have seen how happy he was when he found out he won.
The roasted mochi from the temple was my favorite dessert!
We also went to a traditional Japanese tea house where they served green tea and a sweet cake.
And one of our last snacks… grilled cow tongue. My in-laws are the cutest!
Hokkaido is a rural area of Japan, definitely not a city-life feel. Lots of greenery, lots of farms, and not much to do after 8pm. It was such a fun experience to see differences in lifestyle and learn about the Japanese culture.
Have you been to Hokkaido before? What did you do? Is this on your bucket list?
Come back for Tokyo tomorrow!
We took a tour by Signet Tours through Hokkaido
The thing I’m looking forward to the most – sashimi and sushi. I can’t wait to eat myself silly! I’m also ecstatic about shopping in Japan. I packed light but brought a huge suitcase to fit all my potential purchases (that’s the way to do it!).
Follow me on Instagram (user jayscup) if you want to see pictures while I’m on vacation. I will not be posting on my blog until I return so if you want to see what I’m up to or what I’m eating, follow me on IG!
Remember when I did the packing light list for the summer? I got some great feedback from you all, so here’s my Fall edition! It’s a great list for 2 weeks, weather ranging from 45 -65 °F. Such a range calls for lots of layers!
I’m obsessed with Madewell jeans as of lately (swooooon at the fit and quality). I’m also very fond of ankle boots right now! Just a tip, a girl should always have a chunky necklace to dress up any outfit. Now here’s my 2 week packing list:
Don’t forget your undies, socks, sleepwear, toiletries, chargers, technology, and flight entertainment (tablets, books, snacks, pillow). These differ for every person so pack what you must!
When packing keep in mind a few key rules:
1. Pack neutrals – They are classic and never go out of style. Plus, they match with everything!
2. Each piece of clothing should be able to stand on its own or match with something else. Chambray is best for this! I can wear it as a button-up shirt, a cover-up with a tshirt underneath, a sweater over with the collar out, or as a shirt underneath my vest. That’s 4 outfits with 1 shirt!
3. It’s not the time for a fashion show. I get it! You got these cute printed pants that match with your chic sandals. But let’s be honest here. That’s one outfit… Show that off when you get back home. Packing light means packing smart!
Now if only I could pack these guys since they are already in the suitcase voluntarily anyway…
What do you think? Am I missing anything? Are you going anywhere for vacation during the cooler months? If so, where?