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In my quest to discover 99 Things That Bring Me Joy, the next list in my journal asks me to describe one memorable family vacation, & there is one specific vacation that pops up in my mind vividly. I’ve been on many meaningful & fun family vacations throughout my life. Some of my favorite family trips were of my family along with my dad’s childhood & lifelong friends (including their respective families) going on summer camping trips in Lake Tahoe, up in Northern California. However, the most memorable trip I can fondly recall was an amazing road-trip my immediate family went on from way back in the mid-1990s.

My dad had taken a serious chunk of time off of work to take my mom, me & my younger cousin visiting from SoCal for the summer, on a really memorable road-trip in his modestly awesome Toyota Sienna minivan. We traveled from the Bay Area, up to & through Northern California, through Oregon & Washington, then ending all the way up to British Columbia in Canada. It was one of the best family road-trips I’ve ever been on, all thanks to the incredible planning by my late father.

Now, a lot of time has passed since then, & I don’t remember every little town we visited. I can only vaguely guess that my dad drove up Interstate 5 from California, through Oregon, then Washington, all the way up to British Columbia, Canada. Some of the little towns we drove through were really quaint & cute. Others were unique & fun. Back then, I was a teenager still going through puberty, & my cousin was barely even in her tween years, & those were the days before the technology boom of smartphones & tablets. So, naturally my cousin & I spent most of our time in the car either napping or playing the Cat’s Cradle string game. (Side note: We once tried to play with cards in my dad’s minivan, but quickly found out we all got carsick super fast & one of my cousins actually hurled into a plastic bag.)

Starting around San Francisco, we rode my dad’s above-average minivan up north, somewhere near Redding. We spent one night in an economy hotel, then continued up further up north, passing through Portland, Oregon & then on to Washington state. I remember one of our main stops along our road-trip being in Leavenworth, Washington. We stayed in a really cool hotel that had individual cottage style lodging. I specifically remember our cottage having an all-white color scheme. All of the wood furniture was light colored (like they were from IKEA or something), & the layout had a cute little kitchen & living room space, a master bedroom, & a separate smaller bedroom…the one my cousin & I shared. The only other time in my life where I had ever visited a Scandinavian-esque town was when my family would drive through the little town of Solvang in California on the way to visit family in Los Angeles. Let me tell you, Leavenworth is a whole other experience. It was a really cool & interesting touristy town.

My mom had a blast shopping for lots of little blue & white porcelain bric-a-brac to clutter up our house, as well as buying yards & yards full of delicate, handmade lace curtains to add just that little touch of gaudiness to our mid-century modern Eichler home. My dad loved sampling all of the delicious traditional German delicacies at the local restaurants. My cousin & I were so excited to have one unchaperoned night all to ourselves in our little hotel cottage, while my parents had a night to themselves to have an adult dinner.

Later that night as we went to bed, my cousin & I had to share one queen-sized bed in our small room. I remember the down comforter on the bed was the most fluffiest, & softest comforter I had ever slept on. It was super thick & pillowy. My cousin & I liked to stay up late (very late according to my parents’ standards) & chat. We tried to keep our voices low, thinking that my parents couldn’t hear us from two rooms away, but we could still hear my dad scolding us to go to sleep. How do you expect two giddy teenage girls to sleep when it’s barely dark outside? I mean, sometimes my dad’s bedtime hours were ridiculous.

After leaving the town of Leavenworth, we continued to travel north toward Canada. Our destination…The Buchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay, somewhat near Victoria. Here’s where my mind is getting a little fuzzy. I can’t remember which parts of Canada we drove through to get to the ferry that would take us to Brentwood Bay. The only part of this portion of our trip that I can clearly remember is the time we spent on the ferry & the time we spent at The Buchart Gardens. My mom easily gets seasick, & I remember there were parts of our ferry ride that wasn’t exactly the smoothest. My cousin & I were so bored on the 10+ hour ferry ride, by the time we got to our destination, we were ready to kiss the ground.

When we arrived at The Buchart Gardens, we were awestricken. The Buchart Gardens is one of my parents’ most favorite places in the world, & it was one of my dad’s goals to take his family there for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will admit here that my cousin & I didn’t appreciate the gardens as much as we should/could have. For two teenagers who were mostly interested in boys, TV, & hanging out with friends, in the beginning of our tour we weren’t as enthusiastic about looking at bushes & flowers for the entire day. However, as the day progressed, we took a bigger interest in the gardens. We all fell in love with the bright colors & grandeur of the gardens, & had such a memorable experience. I remember my dad taking a lot of photos of the three of us ladies: my mom, my cousin, & me.

We didn’t stay in Canada for very long. Shortly after our day in The Buchart Gardens, we headed back down south in my dad’s trusty minivan. We passed through Seattle, Washington, & I was super excited to be able to see the iconic Space Needle as we drove through the city. We then, took another drive through downtown Portland in Oregon, & I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t stop to look around for a bit. Then, as we passed through Northern California again, we stopped at a little town where we saw a shop selling handmade wooden furniture made by Quakers. My parents ended up buying a wooden China cabinet/hutch for our kitchen that we had shipped to our house. That China cabinet is still sitting in our kitchen, & it still looks as new as the day we brought it into our home.

My  absolute most memorable experiences from this entire road-trip was when we stopped at a cute little toy shop while strolling the downtown area of this town who’s name I can’t remember. My dad let my cousin & I each pick out one souvenir to buy, & I vividly remember picking an alarm clock. Well, it wasn’t just any plain old alarm clock. No. This alarm clock was shaped like a puffer fish. It creeped me out at first because the teeth of the puffer fish represented the numbers on a traditional clock, but the design eventually won my heart over with the little rotating clown fish that represented the second hand of the clock. Let me show you an example of this clock for your reference.

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My dad thought I was absolutely nuts for choosing something so unattractive & weird as my souvenir, & my mom tried to get me to pick something else, but I was determined to get this alarm clock. Ever since I first saw it in the display window at the shop I was completely drawn to it. No matter what else I saw at the store, my eyes kept darting back to this ridiculous alarm clock. I just fell in love with it, & had no regrets ever since buying it. This alarm clock lasted for nearly 10+ years before it finally “clocked out” for good. (Pun intended.)

I initially thought I would get a scare every time I would walk into my room & see this creature staring straight at me, with it’s mouth gaping open & baring its sharp teeth, but it didn’t bother me at all. It took me a couple of weeks to get adjusted to having such a large object, especially a clock, occupying so much valuable space on my small nightstand, but it was a pretty smooth adjustment.

This alarm clock may look kitschy & like a cheap novelty toy (it was not very cheap), but it served its purpose well. I used the alarm function of this clock every day for school, & it worked great until one day it just stopped working & I almost was late for school. I had tried changing the battery, but that didn’t work, & I knew then that the clock was busted & broken. It would’ve cost me more money to repair the clock than it was actually worth, so I ended up tossing it out.

Now, I wish I still had that clock today, even in its non-working condition. It would’ve been nice to keep it just as a sentimental keepsake of our amazing & unforgettable road-trip as a little family. I loved telling strangers that my little cousin was my sister. I never had any younger siblings growing up, & I had always dreamed of having younger siblings. Back in those days, I hated being the youngest child, always getting yelled at or picked on by my older siblings, & being overbearingly over-protected by my parents.

Having my younger cousin around during the summer holidays when we were growing up was so much fun. We made so many great memories together, playing, talking, & learning about life together. Now she’s a mother of two & living her best life. I am currently in the process of expanding & adding parts to my already-in-progress best life ever. So, let’s get on to the next post. Until next time, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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In my continued quest of documenting “99 Things That Bring Me Joy“, the next stop in my journal brings us to childhood activities I don’t want to outgrow. I don’t believe I am experiencing a “Peter Pan syndrome”, but I do still feel very young-at-heart even though I am rapidly approaching my late thirties & my early thirties have come & gone in a blink of an eye. Actually, I’m not really sure how to exactly describe myself. I can relate, get along with, & easily talk to all sorts of generations. I can chat with older adults about 1960s culture, reminisce with my own generation about our carefree youth in the 1980s & the grungey 90s, & when the kids of the next generation spit out slang lingo I can talk to them without checking the Urban Dictionary every 5 minutes.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have built up a lot of my current collections by adding on to things I’ve kept since my youth. Even though I am learing how to let go of items I once thought were sentimental on the basis of decluttering my home, I still keep some of my treasured childhood objects & collectible items. I use some of those items as a starter/base in building my collections. A few of my other childhood collectibles are still able to be used in my arts & crafts projects. (For example, I have a few rubber stamps from the mid-90s that I’m still using in my craft projects today.)

Aside from collectible objects, there are a few childhood activities that I continue to engage in, even as an adult. They’re not really exciting or unique, but they make me happy, no matter what age I am. Let me give you a few examples.


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I wrote in an old post about the London Bus LEGO set that I had completed, & within that post I had provided a full list (as of 2017) of all the LEGO sets I owned. I’ve been playing with LEGO building blocks for as long as I can remember. My experience with LEGO blocks began with a simple tub of miscellaneous blocks that my mom bought for me at the Toys ‘R Us store when I was a little kid. There was a long span of my life (meaning my teenage years) where I stopped playing with LEGOs.

Then as an older adult, I started playing with them again, or should I say building sets again. I guess I jumped back on the LEGO bandwagon at the time when it was trendy for adults to go back to doing childhood things, like coloring & painting, in order to relieve stress. (What did they call the trend…”zen coloring for adults”??? LOL!). Now that LEGOs are back in style, & have become trendy for people of all ages, I’ve really thrown myself into building what LEGO calls “creator sets”.

My collecting of these large LEGO sets have really taken over my house to the point where I could easily turn my house into a small toy store. Thank goodness my collecting hasn’t taken over my life so much to the point where I will buy every new collectible set that’s released. I only buy the sets that interest me, but it’s still becoming an overwhelming collection that I hope to one day pass on to my future child. In the meantime, here is an updated list of the LEGO sets I have so far…

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If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, then you know all about my sticker collecting. I mean, I basically won’t shut up about it & write about my sticker collecting in practically every other post. I have been collecting (& using) stickers since I was around 10-years old. I still even have a few of my old stickers from way back when. I won’t go in to too much detail about my boring sticker collecting, just know that I’ve been collecting stickers nearly my entire life.

Do you remember when I introduced my sticker storage box (named Trevor)? Well, he’s overflowing now.

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This photo of Trevor taken circa July 2012.

This is Trevor now. He is a super hot mess.

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Even my craft washi tape collection got so overwhelming that Pierre spilled out, & we now have his little brother named Jean-Luc.


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I’m not an avid coloring book artist these days, but I still color like a kid from time to time using a coloring page app on my tablet. When I was a little kid, I loved coloring in school. I couldn’t freestyle/hand draw to save my life, but I loved coloring. I still can’t draw (barely stick figures & crude symbols), but I still enjoy coloring from time to time.

I remember when I was a teenager & I discovered tracing paper for the first time. I had this beautiful hardcover art book from the artist Mary Engelbreit, who was my favorite artist at the time. I would spend hours in my room, sitting on my bed, painstakingly re-tracing all of my favorite prints from that book. Then I would take my treasured deluxe box of colored pencils & color in all of my traced pages, trying to copy Mary’s artwork. I had so much fun tracing those artworks & getting to color them in at the end.

Today, I don’t exactly color in actual paper coloring books with coloring pencils & crayons, but I do have a coloring app on my tablet called Lake Coloring, & whenever the mood strikes or if I’m feeling a little out of sorts, I’ll whip out my tablet (which I have named Richard), & just color away to clear my headspace, with my only worry being which color to choose. I wouldn’t exactly say that this type of coloring is a stress reliever, but it does actually distract me (in a good way) & helps me to temporarily forget about whatever was on my mind to make me feel moody.


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I didn’t read comic books & graphic novels when I was very young. However, I remember one of my older female cousins was really into reading Archie Comics. I had another male cousin who loved to collect MAD magazines. He even had the board game that was a spin-off of the comic magazine.

I didn’t really start learing about comic books myself until I became a young teenager & my parents allowed me to walk to the grocery store without a chaperone. I started by reading the cheap 99¢ cents comics at the grocery store. Then when I was old enough to drive, I would spend my after school time hanging out at my local bookstore near the shopping mall. That was the time when I  was introduced to the magical world of Japanese manga (graphic novels).

Let me tell you one thing, when I immerse myself in a hobby or something I’m passionate about, I will invest a lot of time & effort (& money) into it. For example, when I started reading Japanese manga (I was more into manga rather than watching anime shows), I would read two or three series at a a time. I was always searching for a new series to dive into, which actually worked out for me because it always took at least a month, sometimes longer, to properly translate one Japanese comic book into English. It’s not easy to translate sound effects, & Japanese subtlety. To show you what I mean, let me insert a photo here.

mini manga library

I found these while cleaning out the storage closet, & miraculously they were NOT moisture damaged or warped!

I am not sure if you can clearly read the titles in this photo or not. I will list all of the titles, so you don’t have to zoom-in & sqint. Just a fair warning, I was really into the magical girl romance genre back in those days. I also dabbled in a little of the fantasy/sci-fi genre, & of course…the traditional romance genre as well.

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I haven’t quite gotten back in to reading graphic novels. Well, at least not since I graduated college, but I’m slowly dipping my foot back in to that giant pool, testing out the water again to see if I’m still willing to shell out the mucho dinero for one book every other month. I still do read, though. However, I have slowed down my reading of hardcopy books in favor of e-books on my treasured tablet, Richard. You know, it is kind of sad to say this, but… you know when someone asks the trivia question “what three items would you bring with you to a remote island”? Two of the three items I’d probably bring with me is: 1. Richard, my tablet, & 2. a power source so I may keep Richard charged at all times. (Also, item number three would probably be a hunting knife.)


Well, that pretty much sums up some of my childhood that I’ve carried with me into full adulthood. Some of these things I believe I can still carry with me throughout my childhood & not feel like I’ve outgrown them. I also feel like I can pass down some of these activities with my future offspring. At least I hope so… That’s all I’ve got to say on this subject. Until next time, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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One thing I remember very vividly from my childhood was playing board games with my siblings & cousins. We were all pretty close in age, so we enjoyed spending time together. We loved playing games & making home movies (which would be a good topic for a separate post).

I look back now & realize that I sucked at playing games. I never read the instructions. I never wanted to follow the game rules. My older brother was super patient & nice, always offering to teach me how to play one of his more grown-up board games (like Risk, Monopoly, Stratego). I never realized back then that he would cheat a little by not teaching me all the rules, but I also just plain sucked at playing games. I never had a sharp mind for strategy & was easily impulsive when it was my turn.

Even though I wasn’t very good at playing games (board games, card games, puzzle games, & video games especially), I enjoyed playing them. There were a few that I really liked to play, & it took me quite a while to think far back in my old memories to come up with this shortened list.


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One of the very first board games that I learned to play & really liked was the iconic game Candyland. Even though I didn’t eat a lot of candy when I was a little kid, I still loved to play this sugary, candy-coated, confectionery themed board game. I think one of the reasons why I liked to play this game so much was: 1. it reminded me a lot of my favorite cartoon character of the 1980s Strawberry Shortcake, & 2. the game was easy to play due to the simple instructions.

I thought the illustrations on the board game were cute, & I’d examine all the candies & sweets. My mom wouldn’t really let me eat sugary treats that often when I was a kid. Well, I never really was interested in eating candies & sweets anyway, but I still enjoyed playing a colorful game centered around them.


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I remember there was a girl who lived on my street, & we were in the same grade together. We became fast friends, & I would spend nearly every day at her house  after school, listening to her mom’s classic vinyl records from the 1960s & playing tons of board games. This girl had a really fun geography game called Where In The World?, & when we played the game, we would never really follow the instructions.

When we played this game together, we’d just take the geography cards & use them to guess each country the other person was describing. There were of course many other pieces & game boards that came along with the game, along with 2 variations on how to play the game, but my school friend & I would just make up our own guessing game with the geography cards. We just had so much childish fun making up our own games & playing together after school.


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Another board game I like to play when I was a little kid was Clue. It wasn’t until I became a teenager when I finally saw the Clue movie starring actor Tim Curry, but I still had fun playing this mystery, who-done-it game. I had hours of fun playing this board game, & of course every kid loved to use the secret passages on the board to move from room to room on their turns.

My school friend once let me borrow her Clue board game, which had the original packaging from 1963 (the pea green box with the big fingerprint & characters lined up on the box top), but after borrowing the game, she had moved away without giving her new address, & we both had totally forgotten that I had borrowed the board game from her. It wasn’t until a long time later, when my parents were cleaning out a storage closet, when they stumbled upon it & asked me if I still wanted to keep it. I had no way to return this board game back to this schoolmate, as we had not only lost contact, but also had grown apart & our friendship was broken up (to a point of unsalvageable, but I’ll save that for another post). I think playing this board game played a part in my future interest in solving logic puzzles (you know the ones from those cheap $1.99 magazines at the grocery store).


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Ok, so I didn’t learn about this murder-myster party game until I was a much older teenager, but when I first saw this game at the toy store, I knew it would be so much fun to play. I loved dressing up in costumes back then, & I thought it would be fun to play a role-playing mystery game with all of my high school friends.

I even planned my sweet 16th birthday around one of these party games. I tried to decorate my house in the theme of the game, & sent out invitations to all my friends asking them to dress up in costume (but none of them decided to dress up, which I didn’t mind). We had a great time guessing the mystery of the game’s story & having fun snacks. It made my birthday quite fun & memorable.


As I’m writing this blog post I’m also simultaneously watching the movie Pirate Radio again for the umpteenth time. I think I’ve already watched this movie three times in the past month or so. This movie is one of my favorites, & I’ll never get tired of watching it. It’s gotten to the point where I can practically recite parts of the movie’s dialogue right along with the movie.

Jian, of course, finds my movie watching habits boring (& sometimes predictable), but I don’t mind one bit. I like rewatching my favorite movies over & over & over…without any shame or embarassment. As a matter of fact, I’m going to end this post & finish watching the end of this movie (which is one of my favorite scenes). Until next time, cheers, mates!

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