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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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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:

First of all, I want to say that I’m so excited to be going on another vacation at the end of this month. Although I have proclaimed many times in the past that I’m a lover of traveling, I am getting a little burnt out from all of this back-&-forth flying & packing/unpacking. I am extremely appreciative & grateful that I am able to travel (regardless if it’s near or far), I’d just like to say that here & now. I love what I do, & I want to express my sincerest & humblest of gratitude & appreciation.

During this past long weekend, when most Americans were celebrating Fourth of July/Independence Day (also jokingly referred to as #Amexit on the Internet), Jian surprised me with an impromptu road trip to Los Angeles. He was somehow itching to go on a long drive, & he was throwing out random ideas like driving to Portland, Oregon or perhaps Las Vegas, Nevada. While I was all for driving to Portland, I didn’t want to spend too much time driving & not enough time exploring the city. So, I threw out the random idea of driving to Los Angeles. It’s far without being too far. Jian absolutely loved the idea, & we pretty much pulled this hair-brained idea out of our derrièrs at the absolute last minute.

Once we had our weekend mapped out, we pretty much had one goal in mind, well, actually two goals: 1. to revisit all of our favorite hang-out spots from our college days, & 2. to visit the California location of Lady M Café. Yes, our minds were pretty much blown away when we found out Lady M Café opened a location in Los Angeles. Our minds were blown even more (if that’s even possible) when we found out that this shop was only 5 blocks down the street from our hotel. Needless to say, being a huge cake lover, I made several trips to this shop, & I do not feel one bit guilty for eating so much cake.

What makes Lady M so special? Well, they specialize in various delicate cakes, but their absolute specialty & signature cake is the infamous Mille Crêpe Cake…a cake so delicate & delicious that I would do just about anything for a slice of this creamy crêpe heaven.

What is Mille Crêpe cake? Well, it’s a French invention, but has been popularized around the world by the Japanese. It’s basically a stack of thin crêpe sheets with thin layers of soft cream in between the sheets of crêpes. These cakes, in more recent years, have expanded from the traditional vanilla flavor to other flavors (i.e. matcha, coconut, chocolate, etc.). My favorite flavor will always be the classic vanilla flavor.

lady m los angeles

This is a sample of the various cakes we bought for our friends. From Top Left: coconut crêpe flavor, Courrone du Chocolat, matcha crêpe flavor, strawberry Mille Feuille. Bottom Right: signature flavor.

Over the years, Jian & I have tried various forms of this cake, but we could never find anything as comparable to the first place we ever experienced this golden unicorn of cakes.

la voie crepe cake

Café la Voie in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo is where we first encountered this cake. It is so beautiful & delicious, I nearly burst into tears every time I eat Mille Crêpe cake at this café.

harbs choco crepe cake

HARBS is also another famous high-end cake shop in Tokyo that has their own crêpe cake recipe. I tried this chocolate explosion just to compare the flavor to the original. This one is very, very sweet, so proceed with caution if you’re not a sweets fan. This cake was also particularly dense, which I was not used to.

We’ve had various crêpe cakes from here to there & everywhere in between. Some of the the chain coffee shops in Tokyo have Mille Crêpe cakes that are also as delicious as the high-end cake shops. Chain shops like DoutorExcelsior (which are like the Starbucks & Peet’s equivalent in Japan) have some of the best inexpensive crêpe cakes.

Back in the States, I’ve had my fair share of ups & downs with this elusive cake. Many years ago, there was a Japanese restaurant that had opened in Japantown. The pastry chef that worked at that place specialized in Mille Crêpe cake. Jian & I were so ecstatic that there was finally a place near us where we could eat this cake again. Sadly, after 2 years this restaurant closed & the pastry chef moved on.

There have been other American restaurants all over the city that have attempted to serve their version of the Mille Crêpe cake (eg. Café des Amis, Cockscomb, & Hog&Rocks), but somehow they weren’t able to quite grasp the light, airy, soft texture of the cake. Some of the cakes were just too dense, too hard, too sweet, too dry, &/or too over-the-top in avant grade flavor for such a delicate cake recipe. I just cannot wait until I go back to Japan at the end of this month & will be able to try the original cake recipe once again. Yessssss!
In other news, like I’ve said in my previous blog, I’ve decided to decorate my new backpack, & I’ve already begun the process. So far, I’ve only added two things to my backpack, a keychain & a pin, but I’m in love with the progress.

hellolulu chain

I chose this Rilakkuma bird keychain because it fit with the yellow color scheme of my backpack. Also, I liked how it was a small discreet size without being too tiny to notice.

hellolulu pink

I chose this Victory V hand emoji pin because I using this emoji often on all of my social media accounts. It’s my favorite emoji icon to use.

Well that’s just about all I have to say for now. I’m sorting through all of my things to pack for my next trip. Three weeks will really sneak up on you fast. Cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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