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My goodness, these past couple of months have been a complete blur. I started writing my blog post about my beloved childhood books, but I got sidetracked by so many family events & activities, that I had to put my entire blog on hold. I had just begun writing my next blog post, & then…family happened.

One after another, my extended relatives came to visit & stay at our house, & of course since my mom still hasn’t fully recovered from her sciatica (which has evolved into full-on spinal stenosis), I was assigned the task of playing chauffeur/tour guide for  everyone. Plus, I’ve been kind of put in the role of round-the-clock personal assistant/sherpa for my mom, which has been a good way for me to really get to know my mom better in a deeper way. We have been able to talk more, & she has really opened up to me about stuff that I never knew before regarding my family.

So, we’ve been hosting a revolving door of guests at our house, & then we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to pay a visit to my 96-year old grand-aunt in Austin, Texas. This aunt, which I consider to be my second grandmother, had recently recovered from a broken wrist, & got her cast taken off. Her health hasn’t been the best in recent years (she’s lost a lot of weight, & her hearing loss has gotten worse), so my immediate family & I have been making a better effort to go & see her more often, you know, because we don’t know how much time we have left with her. We all love her so very much & are doing our best to keep her company & to make her feel as comfortable/happy as possible.

This quick trip to Austin was so much fun. My mom, Jian, & I got to spend some quality time with my grand aunt (which I refer to as 姨姥姥), & my mom’s two sibling cousins (one male, one female) who live with their mother, my grand aunt. We also got to explore the downtown Austin area, which Jian was more than happy to play tour guide for us. Jian has spent his fair share of time in Austin on business trips, & he’s also really great at memorizing directions, maps, & general city layouts. He was the perfect guide to show us all the cool shopping spots & hip eateries all around town.

Shortly after we came back from Austin, my mom had to get ready for her tour trip to Spain. I usually travel with my mom, especially when she goes overseas, to be her companion, & to help her when she doesn’t understand something, but also to take care of her & make sure she’s not aggrivating her sciatica. This time I wouldn’t be traveling with her, & that made my mom anxious for her trip. This would be one of the first trips she’d be taking without me constantly by her side, holding her hand when she needs walking assistance, or helping her carry heavy bags. So naturally, she was worried about me not being there to help her, but I was also worried that my mom would have to take care of herself in a country she hasn’t visited in over thirty plus years.

As I am writing this post, my mom has already returned from her trip to Spain, & she had a lovely time. She traveled with all but one of her siblings & their respective spouses. My youngest uncle also invited his daughter to go with them. Aside from experiencing a few (a few, meaning only two) mishaps during their tour, everyone had a fabulous time eating & walking their way through several cities throughout North-East Spain. My mom brought a walking cane with her on this trip, but her sciatica still flared up, & now she’s back at home recouperating from a long trip away.

I, on the other hand, jetted off to Vancouver, British Columbia again with Jian. Jian had a business trip in Vancouver to visit a few of his major customers that he just was not able to put off. Intially, when he first invited me to tag along, I felt unsure about going. Jian’s work trip was going to coincide with my mom’s trip to Spain, & being the superstitious worry-worts that we are, we as a family generally do not like the house to sit empty & unoccupied. I didn’t really want to let the house stay empty (even though my dad’s urn full of ashes & his spirit are always watching over our property), but I also really wanted to go back to Vancouver.

Jian barely had to twist my arm (as in, he didn’t twist my arm at all) to convince me to go with him. This was only going to be a quick 4-day work trip for Jian, & I would be by myself for a majority of the day. We chose to stay at the same hotel as the last time, the DOUGLAS (Autograph Collection) Hotel, & our room was pretty much the same as the one we had before in terms of décor & overall layout, except there was one king-sized bed instead of two full-sized beds, & the bench sofa was now against the window wall instead of incorporated into the desk/tv wall.

Here’s an example of our hotel room if you didn’t read my last Vancouver blog.

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I was so incredibly excited to be able to explore the city all by myself. The other time we traveled to Vancouver for Jian’s work trip, my mom tagged along with us, & due to her sciatica, she wasn’t able to spend a lot of time outside. While I wanted to explore the many fascinating neighborhoods outside of our hotel’s neighborhood, my mom always had the two of us end the day early so she could go back to the hotel & rest. I didn’t have any complaints about that during our three-person trip back then, but I’ve never felt the kind of freedom I had when I was able to explore the city all by myself, completely alone. During this past trip to Vancouver, I amazed myself with the amount of pure walking I did, even in the pouring rain.

Oh, I almost forgot that it had been raining almost the entire time we stayed in Vancouver. It rained the hardest on Jian’s first full workday, but I still trekked outside, braved the rain with the trusty umbrella I packed, & went to get myself a luxurious manicure. Everyday I walked between five-and-a-half miles to nine miles all over town. I even learned how to navigate the SkyTrain transit system all by myself. Considering how unreliable I am at navigating through public transportation, I had to give myself a pat on the back for being able to take the subway without any mishaps.

The only mishap I’d say happened throughout this entire trip was the fact that I brought two pairs of water-resistant boots to protect my feet from the rain, while I should’ve brought an extra pair of walking shoes instead. My two pairs of boots, even though they could withstand light rain, still got soaked through & made my socks soggy. But even though my feet were wet, I still stayed out & did a little shopping before ultimately giving up & heading back to the hotel to put on some dry socks. Both pairs of boots, although they may be comfortable & somewhat stylish, are not very suitable for long walking excursions. My feet & my thighs were super sore by the end of our trip, but it was totally worth it! I love traveling to Vancouver so much, & wish I could visit more often. I’d love to try more restaurants, & explore more neighborhoods way outside of our usual hot spots.

I love traveling. I really do. However, I am kind of glad that I don’t have any other major travel plans for the rest of the year. I still think I will be going to Los Angeles for the Thanksgiving holiday, but I don’t think my family will be doing any Thanksgiving destination weekend trips like we used to do. This year, my ex-brother-in-law will have full custody of the kids for the entire Thanksgiving holiday, & those kids are the reason why we take annual Thanksgiving trips to Disneyland & San Diego, but since they won’t be spending that holiday with us, we won’t need to travel much. I’m so glad I get to finally settle down & get back to writing again. I’m in the process of putting together a few new graphics for my next blog post. Until then, 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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I think I may have slightly gained the upper hand in wrangling my self control. Every time I go on a trip, or anywhere for that matter, I have an impulse to want to buy things, gifts for friends or myself. I was much worse in my early 20s. I had no concept of saving & budgeting, & I was feeling very generous, always buying useless, meaningless things.

Now I am trying much harder to control my shopping impulses by reminding myself that I am trying to de-clutter my life & really clean up all the junk I’ve accumulated over the years. Oh, & I am also trying to stick to a budget & all that good practice stuff. I am slowly getting better at controling myself, or more accurately my wallet. On this past trip to Vancouver, I was very much relieved when I didn’t get much chance to do any souvenir shopping. It also helped that I didn’t approach this vacation with any desire to shop whatsoever.

I am happy to report that most of my moola was spent on taxi fare, food, coffee, & ice cream. Who can resist coffee or ice cream? Well, actually, there were one or two times when I gave in to my shopping impulses & bought a few trinkets. However, I try to justify those purchases by saying they’re only small items, & one of the items I bought was handmade by a local Vancouver artist, while another item was a comemorative item from a once-in-a-lifetime art exhibition.

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I got this super weird cute tooth necklace when I visited a fun shop on Granville Island. The shop assistant explained that it was handmade by a local artist from Vancouver. I thought this necklace was really cool, & I like quirky, odd, unique jewelry like this. This is a souvenir I will defintely cherish, & it will always remind me of Vancouver. I’ve already worn this necklace several times, & the best part is that I’ve worn it in the shower (accidentally), & the metal chain does not rust.

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Ok, I hauled a bunch of enamel pins. That’s not really big time news to anybody. I’ve said in the past that I am going to try to limit my collecting of various little things, but I feel like enamel pins can be justified because they’re making a comeback in the fashion world. Slapping enamel pins all over your oversized slouchy denim jacket is in style now. I feel like I’m already ahead of the curve, since I’ve been collecting pins since before they made a comeback as a hipster trend.

A few key pins to make note of are the maple leaf pin, the YVR umbrella pin, & the Takashi Murakami pin. I don’t think I’ll become a ‘Canadiophile’ anytime soon, but I wanted some glaringly cheesy souvenirs to show I had actually visited Vancouver, BC, & I thought buying myself a refrigerator magnet was too boring. (Plus, I don’t stick things to my refrigerator, so there’s no use for a magnet.)

I really wanted to get a unique souvenir to commemorate my visit to the Takashi Murakami art exhibition, but most of his gift shop merchandise was your standard, you-can-get-it-anywhere pop art flower stuff like: pens, postcards, notepads, plushes, & other useless bric-a-brac. The museum gift shop was selling a cool coffee table book & framed art prints, but I was not about to lug those heavy items home in my dinky little suitcase (& run the risk of paying the overweight luggage penalty). So, I got this little pin instead. I find it so much more meaningful that I got something that I took careful consideration in selecting.

In the end, I think I did pretty well, only got a handful of items. I said in my last blog post that I’m going back to Vancouver again with Jian in a couple of months, & next time I’m going to try to focus more on eating, drinking, & adventuring. Until then, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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I found a heart-shaped grape.🍇 . . . . . . . . . . #grape #TheHolidays #grapes #muscat #heart #hearts #WhiteGrape #TableGrape #green #SoSweet #SoYummy #fruit #fruits #organic #HealthyEating #CityLiving #CityLife #delicious #SoCute #CoolFind #FoodieApp #FruitsOfInstagram @foodieapp.official
Let the neon light the way.💡 . . . . . . . . . . #NeonSign #TheHolidays #neon #lights #sign #HolidaySpirit #LightTheWay #colors #colorful #NeonLights #signs #NeonArt #StreetArt #art #CityLiving #CityLife #SF #DTSF #LineCamera #FoodieApp #LightsOfInstagram @linecamera_official @foodieapp.official
Always meeting new friends.🍦 . . . . . . . . . . #IceCream #TheHolidays #LickThat #NewFriend #BeardedSanta #HolidaySpirit #HaagenDazs #coffee #classic #SingleScoop #InACone #SugarCone #delicious #SweetTreat #CityLiving #CityLife #SM #Hillsdale #LineCamera #FoodieApp #IceCreamOfInstagram #FoodsOfInstagram #SweetsOfInstagram @linecamera_official @foodieapp.official @haagendazs_us @haagendazs_jp
Making more new friends.🍦 . . . . . . . . . . #IceCream #ManicMonday #TheHolidays #LickThat #sailor #HelloSailor #NewFriend #BenAndJerrys #vanilla #FlavorAlert#VanillaIsNotBoring #delicious #SweetTreat #CityLiving #CityLife #SF #UnionSquare #Macys #LineCamera #FoodieApp #IceCreamOfInstagram #FoodsOfInstagram #SweetsOfInstagram @linecamera_official @foodieapp.official @benandjerrys
Anesthesia at the dentist office. Tongue & mouth is numb. Feeling jittery, like I had too many espresso shots. But I’m still dreaming of this super delicious ラーメン. (🦷 + 👅 + 💉 = 🤪) (💭of 🍜) . . . . . . . . . . #ramen #WeekendMode #TheHolidays #noodles #SpicyMiso #TokyoStyle #RakkanRamen #TastyTuesday #楽観 #味噌 #ラーメン #delicious #LittleTokyo #CityLiving #CityLife #Japantown #DTLA #LA #SoCal #LineCamera #FoodieApp #NoodlesOfInstagram #FoodsOfInstagram @linecamera_official @foodieapp.official
I made a new friend. ☕️+🥃=🍦 . . . . . . . . . . #IceCream #WeekendMode #TheHolidays #LickThat #NewFriend #SaltAndStraw #TryNewFlavors #JamesCoffeeAndBourbon #FlavorAlert #delicious #SweetTreat #CityLiving #CityLife #ArtsDistrict #DTLA #LA #SoCal #LineCamera #FoodieApp #IceCreamOfInstagram #FoodsOfInstagram #SweetsOfInstagram @linecamera_official @foodieapp.official @saltandstraw

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