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I am chugging along on my 99 Things That Bring Me Joy list train. This next stop brings me to the list of my oldest friend. Growing up, I didn’t have a large group of friends. I was an extremely shy child; so shy to the point where I spent a majority of my Kindergarten year of school cowering in the corner by the door of the classroom. I was so extremely shy & frightened to sit along with my classmates, that I spent the entire class period sitting in the corner between the front door & a table, doing & saying absolutely nothing the whole time. At the urging of my teacher (who was very gentle & kind), my parents tried to encourage me to engage with my fellow classmates, but like I always did when I was that scaredy-cat, little tyke, I bawled my eyes out. (I was an easy crier when I was a little kid.)

It wasn’t until I met a girl in my Kindergarten class who broke me out of my shell, & we became fast friends. Her family came all the way from Japan, & we were both two shy little girls with runny, sniffling noses who were both extremely into Hello Kitty & other cute Japanese things.

I don’t quite remember the details of how the two of us met or became such close friends in such a short amount of time, but we built a close friendship rather quickly. Since this girl came from one of the rare Japanese families to move into our neighborhood, both of our families bonded fast. I don’t know how, but my dad knew all of the Japanese speaking neighbors in our immediate neighborhood, & all of the moms got to know each other very well.

When we first met this family, my dad was thrilled to interact with a fellow neighbor who was also born & raised in Japan, someone he could freely speak Japanese to, who understood him. That’s how both of our dads became fast friends. Both of our moms also became good friends, with my mom teaching my friend’s mom how to speak English. My friend’s mom, in turn, taught my mom all about Japanese culture, & my mom was also able to pick up a few Japanese phrases here & there. I remember my friend had two older brothers who pretty much kept to themselves whenever I would hang out at their house, but like in true sibling nature, both brothers found us girls to be annoying (even though we never really bothered them).

I was super sad when my friend had announced after three years of living close by that her family was moving back to Japan. At that time, I had no idea what was going on or why my friend was all of a sudden moving back to Japan. Back in those days, especially when you’re a little kid, you never heard of the work-abroad program that was so popular in Japan. Big-time companies would send selected employees to work overseas for a maximum of three years, to build work experience & learn more about foreign business. My friend’s dad had come to the United States for his company’s work-abroad program, & the whole family moved to my neighborhood. I got to know this girl through school, & my parents got to know their family through all of the times we would spend at each other’s houses on play dates.

Ever since my friend had moved back to Japan, we have kept in touch over the years. We send each other greeting cards with letters written inside. I’ve traveled to Japan to visit her multiple times, & once stayed overnight at her parents’ (gorgeous & substantial) house in Tokyo. She has come back to visit the Bay Area a few times & take a walk down memory lane, checking out our old school grounds & passing by the house she once lived in.

A lot of time has passed between us, but we still keep in touch. My fondest memory was when my parents had planned a huge family reunion in Japan, & they had extended the invitation to my friend & her parents (her brothers were both studying & working abroad at the time). All of my extended family members came out, & we packed an entire Italian restaurant with our reunion group. My oldest brother (who is my dad’s first biological child) with his wife & two daughters were part of our travel group, along with my brother’s best friend (with wife & two daughters). My dad was extremely generous to invite my brother’s friend with his family to join us on our family reunion trip. It was so much fun interacting with my extended family & all of our friends.

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Here is a photo of my friend & I with our moms during my family’s huge reunion party circa 2006.

All in all, I am very thankful to call this girl my friend. We have both grown up so much from our days of sniffling noses & playing with Hello Kitty toys, but we’ve definitely stayed good friends throughout our time apart. There was another girl that I met in primary school after this friend had moved away, & we also became fast friends. We went through a shit ton of ups & downs (mostly downs), but I will leave that whole can of worms for a different blog post. I want this post to be happy & upbeat. So until the next time, cheers & T.G.I.F.!! (I really need a break this weekend.)

Today’s song of the day:

 

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Two weekends ago I took a weekend road-trip to Los Angeles for my cousin’s 40th birthday. Jian & I had a blast. We were able to equally split our time with our family, our friends, & take time out for ourselves to spend alone. All in all, it was a good day weekend. (Sorry…I couldn’t resist adding in that infamous Dr. Dre song lyric.)

This might come off as a little bougie to some, but over the weekend, Jian & I ended up staying at two different hotels. For the first leg of our Los Angeles extended weekend, we stayed at a hotel called The Jeremy. The hotel is located in a great location that’s close to all of the things Jian & I like to do when we’re there, but it’s still somewhat close to the area where a majority of my relatives live. We had never stayed at this hotel before, but whenever we travel to L.A., we always hang out around that West Hollywood neighborhood.

The last time we were in L.A., this hotel was still under a ton of construction. It was still under quite a bit of remodeling & reconfiguring during the weeekend we had stayed there. Yet, even though the hotel’s layout was a little confusing during all of the reconfiguring & remodeling of their main lobby, we still had a good experience staying at that hotel. One thing I could not believe was that this hotel (The Jeremy) was the most affordable hotel we could find for that weekend (the second weekend in March). It wasn’t super cheap, but it was still affordable, & typically hotels in the West Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles are expensive no matter what time of the year it is. Here, I’ve included photos of our hotel room. It was super spacious considering it was only the two of us (& we usually share a suitcase on short trips).

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Our main objective while in Los Angeles was to attend my female cousin’s big 40th birthday party. However, we were able to take time out for ourselves to swing by all of our routine L.A. haunts, as well as checking out some new hot spots that Jian discovered while browsing the internet. Jian has a fun time window shopping at his favorite licensed Japanese clothing brand retailers (like UNION Los Angeles, VISVIM Exposition, etc.). At the same time, I have a good time of my own browsing through all the various stationery/office supply/gift shops for lots of cute Japanese branded goods. You know, I feel like since Los Angeles has a larger Japanese population there’s a much higher retail demand for Japanese branded products in those shops, compared to similar shops in the Bay Area city where I live. So, I have a much easier time finding things that catch my interest in the shops down in Los Angeles, & I like that because it saves me from having to plan a big trip abroad back to Japan or Taiwan just to satisfy my meaningless retail hunger.

[I AM JUST GOING TO INSERT A LINK OF MY SHOPPING HAUL HERE BECAUSE YOU DON’T NEED ME TO EXPLAIN IT TWICE.]

Now, as I am typing this blog post & thinking about the layout & format of my post, I am kind of, sort of regretting not taking more pictures of the delicious food we ate during our trip. I’d have a good amount of cool food pics to show you, but I ended up not taking very many photos of what we ate/drank. Part of the reason why is because I get in a lazy rut sometimes & just don’t feel like taking photos of anything, but mostly it’s because Jian has been complaining a lot lately that I spend too much time on my mobile phone taking & editing photos (especially of food & drinks) when we go out.

So, lately I have really been putting in effort to not fiddle around on my phone every three minutes while we’re out & about, especially at restaurants. If I complain about those Insta-posers who take carefully staged/posed photos of their food to get more Instagram ‘likes’, then I shouldn’t contribute to the problem by whipping out my mobile phone everytime I’m about to devour something delicious. Therefore, I’ve got nothing of interest or substance to show you in this section of my post. However, I do have a couple of rare food snapshots from a new seafood joint we discovered for the first time, located in a really cool, up-&-coming hipster shopping district called The Row DTLA. The place was called Rappahannock Oyster Bar, & it was a good Happy Hour spot for both of us to rest our feet & whet our whistles.


Here comes the par-tay! For my cousin’s birthday, her husband first took her out for a fun, intimate dinner near their house. Then, they invited all of their closest friends & family to join them at a rented music recording studio space for a laid back & casual dance party, complete with a bartender slinging simple drinks, catered food, & a really cool DJ spinning some of the best song mixes of both today & yesterday’s hits.

Aside from my cousin, the one person who was living the absolute most bestest life ever was our little 2-year old niece. This little munchkin loves to dance every chance she gets, no matter where she is. As soon as she arrived & heard the loud music, she made a beeline straight for the dance area. She could not stop running around the event space & following her mom everywhere. This girl seriously cannot live without her mom (not even dad can corral this little spitfire). She was the cutest little thing the whole night.

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Yup! That’ s my niece playing the bongos!

Jian & I had so much fun dancing the night away, & Jian actually spent the entire night nursing one margarita, while I was surprisingly chugging beers all night without feeling even one ounce of tipsiness or tiredness like I typically do if I even consume half a bottle of beer on an average day. I had such a blast singing along with most of the songs throughout the night, & Jian kept trying to sneak away to grab snacks at the catered food stand, even though we had a pretty hearty dinner right before going to the party. (I warned him not to eat too much, or else he’d get indigestion when we got back to our hotel, but he didn’t listen…as usual.) By the time we got back to our hotel room, our feet were throbbing, our thighs were feeling tight, & we were both ready to each take a super hot shower to soak our overworked (yet underused) muscles. It was all worth it though, just to see my cousin having the time of her life.


On the very last leg of our whirlwind weekend, we very quickly stayed overnight, for one night only, in my brother & sister’s southern L.A. beach neighborhood. We were both extremely disappointed that we were not able to visit & spend time with my niece & nephew, whom we are both very close to. It would have been great to spend a little time with them, especially when my niece’s birthday is coming up in one week. We knew they would’ve both loved to see us, but we were told that everyone would be busy that weekend, & it would be a huge inconvenience for her if we tried to meet up with the kids.

We had decided to switch hotels on the last days of our trip because we were planning on visiting our best friends who live in Irvine, & we didn’t want to actually stay overnight in Irvine & have to drive back to northern California from so far south. So, we thought spending one night in my siblings’ neighborhood would be a good compromise. It was a good resting point between visiting our friends, & driving home early in the morning. For our hotel choice, we decided to book a room at the same hotel we usually stay at when  we visit my siblings.

The hotel is in an extremely convenient location, approximately a five-minute drive from each of my sibling’s places, & it had recently been remodeled & re-branded under a new name, but still under the Marriott hotel chain. The new hotel name is called WestDrift, & the newly remodeled hotel rooms were roomy & comfortable as well. Surprisingly, our room’s couch was larger at the WestDrift compared to the one at The Jeremy even though this new room we were staying in was smaller, & our new room didn’t have any cheesy, skeezy hotel carpet. Hooray for hardwood floors! Here’s a peek at what our new room looked like.

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We met up with our friends on the last full day of our trip. We love spending quality time with our friends & their fun pets, just hanging out at their house, chilling on their couch & chatting while something Netflix-y is playing on the TV in the background. Our friends took us to one of their favorite sushi spots down in Irvine/Costa Mesa, & it was a cool experience. I mean, I’ve never had a piece of nigiri sushi topped with fresh garlic & a dollop of chili sauce. It was something I never expected from a traditional sushi restaurant, yet it tasted really good.

We definitely ended our trip on a high note by spending quality time with our close friends, & Jian got to bromance with his best friend. It was a great ending to a wonderfully action-packed, yet relaxing weekend. We had so much fun blending family time with personal time, & meeting up with friends from afar. Now is the time for us to buckle down at home & not travel for a while. We’ve got lots of home maintenace projects lined up for the forseeable future, so we’re going to have to put our traveling & big activities on hold temporarily, but that’s okay. We truly enjoy spending quiet time at home too. Until next time, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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Several weekends ago I went to Las Vegas to attend my first Amazing Comic Con. I was there to support my good friend who was showcasing his self-made comic book at the convention & representing the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance. This wasn’t my first comic book/animation convention, but it was definitely the smallest that I’ve been to in a long time. It was a very fun & intense weekend filled with friends, food, & severely hot wind.

I was so proud of my friend (who happens to be the brother of one of my closest girlfriends, & the cousin of Jian’s best friend). He’s a high school art teacher by day, but a full-fledged comic book illustrater/writer by night. My friend is highly talented in any artistic field he’s thrown into, & he takes his art seriously. I truly applaud my friend for pursing his passions all on his own, of course with the support of his family & friends. So, naturally, I had to support my friend’s budding art career & bought an autographed copy of his comic book The Keepers. Hopefully one day his autograph will be worth tons of collector’s money. (Tee-hee!)

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Why did Amazing Comic Con have to fall on one of the hottest weekends of the summer, in the middle of the desert? Seriously, the temperatures in Las Vegas were over 100 degrees farenheit every day. The weather reports on TV weren’t joking when they reported that it was like being in an oven. On top of that, if you dare to walk outside (which is not recommended, at all), there’s a fairly strong wind blowing, but it’s such a hot wind that it feels as though you’re constantly being blown in the face by a hair dryer on high. The weather that weekend was no joke, & I’ll tell you that I’ve never consumed so much liquid nourishment in my entire life. I don’t normally drink a lot of water, which I know is not very beneficial to my overall health, but on that particular weekend, I drank so much water I could practically fill an inflatable kiddie pool with the amount of water I drank.

Jian & I thought we were so smart buying cheap airline tickets with early morning departures. Well the tickets were practically free, since my mom let us use her credit card mileage points, & all we had to pay were the baggage & service fees. Oh boy, did we make a minor mistake by doing this. Yes, we were lucky to get super cheap airline tickets for one extended weekend, but arriving in Las Vegas so early in the morning with nothing to do & leaving at the crack of dawn the day after partying the night away was not very good planning on our part. We both thought we could handle early morning flight times, but it really took a toll on our bodies. I don’t think I’ll be doing another rushed trip to Las Vegas again anytime soon.

Going to Las Vegas to support our friend at a convention was the highlight of our entire trip. We had originally planned on getting tickets to a show while there, but we weren’t interested in any of the shows or musical acts performing that weekend. (By the way, it was super annoying seeing Gwen Stefani‘s billboard everywhere we went. After her band No Doubt‘s album Tragic Kingdom, I completely lost interest in her as an artist. She’s not as good solo as she was with her band.) Then, I thought we’d spend all of our time gorging ourselves silly on extravagant/flashy “Vegas” food, but surprisingly, we were somewhat sensible with our eating habits, & only splurged on one day.

Las Vegas is not quite my favorite place to vacation. I try to avoid that town as much as possible, which is often difficult because my mom’s side of my family LOVE going to Las Vegas whenever they get a chance. I’m not a gambler; I’m not a club goer. I’m not even a 20 ounce specialty steak flown in from some exotic-place-you’ve-never-heard-of eater either. However, I had fun on this trip. I enjoyed the company of my close circle of friends. We ate good (reasonable) food. We stayed at a smoke-free, gambling-free hotel in the heart of the Strip. Jian & I even squeezed in a few hours each day for some Fifa World Cup viewing. (Sorry, I’d much rather watch sports than bet on a game.) Other than the extremely exhausting day of flying back home, it was a fun way to spend a quick weekend out of town. Cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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