Japan Adventures

Andrew and I just had our very first trip to Japan, and hopefully it will not be our last! There were so many memorable moments on this trip, I do not even know where to begin. But lets start from the beginning! We got many suggestions, advice, tips, and recommendations from many friends and family, so thank you to all of you for adding to our fantastic trip!

After landing in Narita from our direct flight from Calgary, we headed straight to Osaka via the Shinkansen (bullet train). The ride was so smooth and pleasant and there was even a person with a cart going down the aisle offering snacks and beverages for sale! Talk about great available service. Since we got in rather late, we raided the 7-11 at the train station for onigiri and other delicious foods. It was actually a bit overwhelming but we quickly became familiar with the 7-11 since we ended up going there or to a Lawson’s everyday. There were even hot beverages ready to go as well! Amazing!

Our first destination the next morning, bright and early was to Arashiyama where the infamous bamboo grove was located. This place was seriously magical and photos cannot do them justice. I highly recommend going early to beat the crowd. Anytime before 8:30am would be the best! We then headed back to Osaka and attended our first Japanese baseball game! The Buffaloes were playing the Eagles. Though the Buffaloes lost, the Eagles put on a good game and it was fun seeing subtle differences in the atmosphere of the Japanese game versus a North American game. Fans seem much more polite to each other by calmly clapping or waving their flags to show team spirit. We then Headed to Dotonburi and explored the night life there and ate tons of Takoyaki!

We visited the Osaka castle the next day which I also recommend visiting early (probably before 9am to avoid crowds). Afterwards we headed to do a self-guided tour at the Suntory Yamazaki distillery. We met some friends there and they were able to do a tasting of some of the whiskey as well. We had dinner back in Osaka at an Okonomiyaki restaurant in the Kiji Umeda Sky building. Locals were lined up here and they only serve about 30 people at a time. The flavors were very good, but we were pretty hungry and decided to do a second dinner down the hall at Coco Curry. This place did not disappoint for katsu and I was very pleased to have tried both of those places.

Next we headed to Hirsoshima early morning (once again) to see the beautiful Great Tori during a high tide at the Miyajima Island. We found many local deer there, some seemed very interested the street food that I bought. Afterwards we went to the city and visited the Peace Memorial Park. The next day consisted of the Fushimi-Inari Shrine and Nijo Castle. The Fushimi-Inari shrine was very packed with people by late morning. It is a pretty long hike to go through all the towers, but the congestion of people do decrease as you progress through the path.  We then checked into our traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) for one night where we enjoyed their traditional kaiseki dinner while wearing yukatas. Though their beds consisted of mattresses on the mat floor, they were surprisingly very comfortable! Early next morning (7am) we checked out Gion Tatsumi Bridge and Kiya-Machi Dori street to enjoy the vast cherry blossoms in full bloom.

We spent the last part of our trip in Tokyo where we spent a full day at DisneySea and enjoyed many sights and foods from throughout the city. DisneySea is a unique nautical themed park only found in Tokyo. The vibe is very different from traditional Disneyland, but for a Disney lover, it was still definitely a must. Duffy (Mickey’s huggable bear) was the most popular character that popped up at DisneySea and I may be wrong but I think you can only get Duffy merchandise at DisneySea. Everyone were carrying stuffies of Duffy and his girlfriend, Shellie May, so naturally I had to get one as well. =) We went on three rides, Flounder’s flying fish coaster, Indiana Jones, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. All were very fun. Indiana Jones was very similar to the American ride, but still equally enjoyable. Journey to the Center of the Earth was definitely worth checking out with a mix of leisure and thrill in the ride elements. We spent most of our time just taking in the vibrant atmosphere and tasting the delicious foods.

Tokyo was in full bloom with cherry blossoms at every park. Chidorigafuchi Park was one of the most notable parks, but I highly crowded. I actually preferred the quiet sidewalks of the Meguro-gawa canal. On an early morning, you can take in the beautifulness of the cherry blossom canopies with no crowds. We visited the Seaside Top World Trade Center (while using an online coupon) to get a 360 view of Tokyo. We made this visit particularly on a Saturday night and this is when the Tokyo tower has its special lights (Diamond Veil) during 8pm-8:30pm. During the rest of the time, the landmark lights also comes in two versions, summer and winter. We are still in the winter months so the lights are all orange, while the summer months would have orange and silver lights. So the Diamond Veil during our trip was Dream pink, representing Dream and Happiness. The tower was a beautiful purple and red color. This was the icing on top to end our trip and we could not be happier.

We ate tons of good foods there, my most notable would be Pablo’s cheesecake, Abura Soba Noodles, Coco Curry, and 24/7 Coffee&Roasters Pancakes! We brought back a variety of goodies including different flavor Kit-Kats, Toyko bananas, Royce matcha chocolate, and soda candies. I also feel blessed to be able to share all these moments with Andrew. He was very patient with me on all our morning trips and helped navigate way to all of our favorite food adventures. I could go on all day about our trip, but this blog would be way too long, so I will end with our video recap. I hope to be back again sometime in the future. Thank you for the memories, Japan! Until next time…

      “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

2016 Year Review

I feel like I start these yearly reviews almost always the same way… by saying that “it was a challenging year, but also an amazing one.” Isn’t that how life is though? I know for so so many around me [including myself], there were a number of challenges faced. So much sadness, heartbreak, and tragedies. But with that, there were new beginnings, enlightenment, and self discoveries. There is no good without the bad, and no rewards without the work. [Could I be more vague?] It is easy for us to dwell on what pains us, but you won’t see any of that here, nor in my videos. Instead, I like to focus on the positive because those are the things we easily forget. They are what keeps us going and remind us of how blessed we really are.

I am thankful for my family and friends, near and far. It is amazing seeing all the little ones grow year after year, and staying connected to those dear to me regardless of where we are in our path of life. I am grateful to see the beauty that surrounds us in this world we live in. Life is so amazing if we just open our eyes and hearts to let it in. My nephew, Leo, celebrated his very first birthday this year, and his sister, Lily, turned 4 the day after. My sister-in-law got in engaged and they adopted the fluffiest and cutest Scottish fold kitten [Kira].

This year, I took inspiration from my friend [Alex] and decided to be more active. I went outside my comfort zone and ran more, exercised more, and explored more. With Andrew’s help, I completed my first 10k run, 8k run, and a total of three 5k runs and a 2k walk. Andrew and I vacationed for the first time in Cancun, Mexico, and I got to witness my closest friend’s surprise baby shower for her family. We explored together the beauty of Jasper national park and all the landmarks in between. Andrew took me ice skating on an actual frozen lake for the very first time. I was beside myself on how amazing the feeling was. I love exploring what Calgary has to offer, and trying new things. I am forever grateful to have Andrew as my partner in life. Thus, most memorably, we celebrated our fifth year of marriage.

People I meet often ask me, “Why Canada?… why not stay in sunny Southern California?” That is a loaded question, and my initial answer is always “My husband lives here.” However, after 4 years of being a permanent resident here, I am able and lucky enough to confidently call this place [a second] home. In fact, I’m becoming more surprised by that question, in thinking… “why not?” Sure, weather is drastically different, but nature is breathtakingly beautiful here and people are kind. I do have my occasional grumbles about the cold and conditions, but the biggest thing I miss most is my family and close friends, and not the weather. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I believe it. I have made good friends here in Calgary that I would not give up for the world, but I also appreciate my loved ones back home and cherish the brief moments I get with them per year. I often hear from friends the excuse of us starting a family before making a visit to us in the Great White North. I get that. But truth is, that might not be in God’s plans. Time will tell. However, what I do appreciate, is the time spent connecting with all my family and friends, regardless of the miles and borders between us. Be it traveling, or personal messages via email/messenger. I used to feel alone, but I know end of the day that my heart is full, and that keeps me warmest even on the coldest of wintry days.

2017 is a new year, and it will not be without yet its own set of new challenges. But I believe we all will get through it, and thus have another year full of great memories and blessings to come. Happy New Years, and cheers to many more.

“Help me to walk in your light, and live my life in faith and glory.”

JASPER

To my husband: I know this is cliché but I couldn’t be more blessed to have your friendship for the last ten years, and now we celebrate year 5 of marriage in the beautiful woodsy scenery of Mother Nature in Jasper. Thank you for being my everything.

Here is a brief video diary of the beautiful sights we witnessed during our short weekend excursion up to Jasper. The traditional gift for year five is “wood” so we decided to take advantage of living in Alberta and taking a drive up to explore more of what it has to offer. I felt like we had the special “early winter” edition of all these scenic places unlike the common photos we have seen of them. Enjoy!

October 7-10, 2016

 

Love is not how much you say ‘I Love You,’ but how much you can prove that it’s true.

LARCH VALLEY & SENTINEL PASS

During autumn, the beautiful larch trees in Alberta turn gold for a very brief time period of roughly 2-3 weeks before all their leaves shed to the ground. This year, on September 17, 2016, some special friends planned a trip for the four of us to do this hike and see the beauty nature has to offer. It was sprinkling and a bit cold up especially up at the top. I have to admit, I want panting quite a bit, and after awhile… I couldn’t tell if I was sweating from the work out of I was just wet from the sprinkling rain. Either way, the hours of hard work paid off and the view was definitely priceless. We even made it up to Sentinel Pass and was greeted with a rainbow. Here is our video log of the journey.

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin. – Anthony Robbins

WOMEN FOR MEN’S HEALTH

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So many of us know of someone or is someone who is fighting their battle against cancer. On Saturday March 5, 2016, my Eye Health Centres team and I were spinning for the cause to help raise awareness and fund research for “Women for Men’s Health” with the Prostate Cancer Centre. You can read more about the mission HERE. I am so proud of my hard working team for exceeding our goal and raising $2,290 for the cause, and for YYC Cycle for collectively raising over $70k.

I have been going to spin classes regularly since the end of 2013. However, regardless of how many sessions I have gone to, each class is always a challenging and fun experience where I learn more about myself, push myself more, feel stronger, and grow. So when the opportunity to spin for the cause was introduced to me by my teammate and team Captain, Kenda, you would think this would be a walk in the park for me. On the contrary. Each class is always as challenging as the last. However, when I think about the challenges those with cancer face everyday, to put it simply, riding a bike a high intensity setting is the least I could do to show my support.

Many of us have been affected by the evils of cancer in one way or another. I do not want to want for cancer to affect me more directly to fight it. I have seen one too many people I love have to stand up to cancer to say f*ck you. Every year, every month, everyday… We have the opportunity to make a change. We do not need any other reason to fight, than to simply do. I believe in paying it forward, and spreading postivity. I believe there exists good, kindness, and generosity in this evil ridden world.

I want to thank all my family and friends for your support during this event, and for simply your thoughts and prayers for all those fighting this war. We all have a story, and we all have a journey, I believe that together, we can truly make a difference.

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One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11:24–25

 

CANCUN, MEXICO ADVENTURES

It has been awhile since the husband and I have gone on a true get-away together, so we felt a beachy sunny setting would be the perfect winter escape plan. We had the most amazing time spending the week leading up to Valentine’s Day at the Finest Playa Mujeres in Cancun, Mexico. This was my first time ever in Mexico. There was plenty of rest and relaxation and of course, getting a good dose of Vitamin D. This all inclusive resort was so clean and the hospitality staff was so friendly and accommodating. We were about to do a bike tour to a bird sanctuary and meet some Macaw birds. We had a mini rifle lesson (I got second place in the shoot out, whoo hoo! Andrew wasn’t too far behind in third.) There was plenty of food and entertainment. Most of all, we simply enjoyed each other’s company. Here is a little summary video of our trip. I cannot wait to see what adventures we have next. Until next time….!

 

“Follow your bliss, and doors will open for you that you never knew existed. Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” – Joseph Campbell

DEAREST LUNA

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Dearest Luna,

It has been 6 days since your passing, and my heart is still aching. However I feel I can finally sit down and write you a letter to heaven to express how much you have meant 1909797_570355366136_7167_nto me. You came into this world on September 20, 2007 and into my sister’s arms two months later. Luna, you were the first furbaby my sister ever had, and just like any close knit family, you quickly became the family furbaby. My mom never wanted a dog, but that quickly changed with you, Luna. You were beyond adorable and everyone could not help but fall in love with your spunky and happy personality. I was always excited to video chat with my sister and see you playing in the background. Sometimes we would have a more intimate one on one video chat with me as well. When I visited home from Boston during Christmas breaks, you would wag your tail when you saw me because you remembered your Auntie Jen. To my pleasure, my parents warmed up to you quickly as well and always had gifts for you. Too many actually, your Mama, aka my sister, had to cut back how many treats they were constantly sneaking in for you.

When I moved back home from Boston, I was fortunate enough to live with your Mama for a good half year. Your Mama was so dedicated in teaching you new tricks, and you were so well acclimated to their living lifestyle. You loved to follow my sister around, even to the bathroom. I was only working part-timIMAG0258e when I moved back and so I spent many of my days just with you, Luna and me. So soon enough, you started to follow me around too, including into the bathroom. It was awkward at first, but one quickly gets over that. We took nice long walks and enjoyed soaking in the SoCal sun poolside. I would run with you in circles jusIMAG0283t for the heck of it just because you were doing it. You inspired me to pursue a new hobby in photography and videography which led to me document most of the important events in my life and those around me. My first video ever was bath time with you seen HERE. You would always bark at strangers which could be a little intimidating, but that was part of your protective nature. You would bark anytime the doorbell rang, or even with the sounds of subtle footsteps at the door. Whenever it was me at the door, I would call your name through the door and you would bark much less knowing I was there. You were always so excited to see me and go on your hind legs to reach for me for massive belly rubs and hugs. Now that you are gone, I realize all the things and more that I miss most about you. It was not ideal that you would bark at every doorbell encounter, but now my heart saddens to know you will not be there on the other side wagging your tail to see me when I come back to visit.

You used to spend many nights in my bed. Most of the time you would take up the whole bed. I do not know how such a small mammal requires so much surface area. Not only that, you had to be in contact with me the whole time like a magnet or paper weight. But I know it was because you just wanted to be close to me. When I was feeling down, you just knew, and would just sit with me, and cuddle. Much like my sister, not many words were needed to express that we were always there for each other, for comfort and support. Likewise, simply, not much was needed to express how much we cared for and loved each other as well. Luna, you were very much like your Mama. I hope you knew how much I cared about you through all these years even though I was not always physically present.

12039260_10104903386790386_5674305212439136505_nAndrew in particular loved taking you for extra long walks whenever we stayed to visit with my sister and her husband. He grew quite the bond with you, Luna, as well. We always talked about stealing you up to Canada. You just understood us perfectly. But we both knew you were right were you belonged, with your Mama and Papa. You were loved in the best way you could possibly be loved. My sister never forgot a birthday of yours and always made sure you had a special treat. You warmed up the hearts of my sister and her husband in priceless ways. You welcomed home their first human baby, and their second, Lily and Leo. You’ve taught all of us what unconditional love really means. My heart aches so much now that you are gone after 8 years. It was too soon. I was not able to say goodbye, but I am glad I was able to give you a hug and see you one last time two weeks prior. I miss you so so much and the countless memories I have with you are priceless, they will forever remain in my heart. You have enriched all of our lives in ways we could not have imagined possible. What stills my heart now is knowing that you are at peace and will continue to be well taken care of. I love you, Luna. Always. We will be together again one day. Until then, be still my heart…IMG_5784

Rest in peace Dearest, Luna
September 20, 2007 – January 9, 2016

2015 YEAR REVIEW

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2015 was a challenging year, but also an amazing one. It is through these challenges that God shows us He is good. I have been very blessed and fortunate this past year to maintain friendships the best way I can, and to spend quality time with my family. I have witnessed much joy including the arrival of my new nephew, and made some new friends along the way. I took the plunge and was able to donate 16 inches of my hair to Locks of Love. My husband and I have been able to explore new areas of our “neck of the woods” and try new foods and see some amazing sights. We have settled more into our new house and have started to feel more grounded. For this new year of 2016, I wish everyone much peace, love, happiness, and good health (especially to my mother-in-law for a speedy and full recovery from an end of the year injury). 2016 has just begun, and I know this year will be an even better one! I cannot wait to see what exciting adventures this New Year brings. Cheers!

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THE BIG CUT

For as long as I could remember, I have always had long hair (except for that spontaneous weekend in the third grade where i chopped it all off to my chin level… but lets reminisce on that too much). Maybe it was a security blanket, maybe it was all I knew, but for whatever reason, I kept it that way. This year it has reached it’s maximum length, reaching all the way down past my belly button to my beltline. I never “trimmed” more than 4-5 inches whenever I get my yearly/biyearly haircuts, but I decided for whatever reason to take a bigger plunge this year. I have been thinking and wanting to make this big cut for awhile, and with the warmer weather (50F… haha) in sight, I decided now is the time. I honestly could not be happier. It is quite liberating to have a fresh new start. Here are the results:

 

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Hair is just hair, it will grow back, for some. It was not as traumatizing as I anticipated it could have been. I think I was more excited for the benefit that some else in need could have with my hair. Although I like my new do, I realized that my attachment to my hair was not much of an attachment at all. But If i hadn’t taken the plunge, I would have never known that. With that in mind, I plan to make this a cycle: grow out my hair and do a minimum 10-12 cut. I underestimated how much I had and ended up with a whooping 16 inches!

To pay it forward, my 16 inches of hair was donated to “Locks of Love” which is a non-profit organization that “that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.” If you’d like to do the same, you can find more information on their website here: Locks of Love. Happy May everyone!

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. – Desmond Tutu

2014 Year Review

2014 has definitely been an incredible year. It was not without its trials and tribulations along the way, but it was also full of blessings and joy that I would not trade for anything. This year was definitely a year of traveling not only for the husband and I, but to see many of our good friends and family. It takes work to maintain friendships and relationships, and I feel so fortunate to call these friends and family mine. When times get tough or even heartbreaking, it is so hard to stay positive and focus on the blessings we currently have, and to completely throw your trust and faith in God’s hands. I know so many around me have suffered and I only wish they find peace and joy once again. 2015 will have challenges that we will all have to face, but I wish for a 2015 that is filled with even more triumph and joy than we can possibly imagine. Cheers to another year… and another beginning!

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