Everything IS bigger in Texas!

Cuz I am bitten by the travel bug, I made the husband and I go to Dallas for a short trip (Sat 10/21 to Wed 10/25). I wanted to try out a budget airline called Spirit and it only cost us $101/pp for nonstop roundtrip tickets from SJC to DFW. We, of course, had breakfast at SJC The Club with priority pass. I didn’t mind the flight even though you couldn’t recline. I didn’t want to pay more for seat selection, and we still were sat together (aisle and middle seat). You’re also allowed one personal item, and both our backpacks could fit underneath the chairs. When we arrived at DFW, we tried out the Plaza Premium Lounge (it was right next to our gate), and I was surprised at the small but yummy selection of hot food (mashed potatoes, soup, chicken, turkey wraps, etc)

We then were shuttled down to the rental car pickup area and were surprised that we were given an EV (no more manager’s special please) and had to pay for a toll plate ($15/day). We drove to our hotel and I was a little apprehensive with their freeways. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Dallas Park Central Northeast for about 50k IHG points for four days. We received points, got 2 free items from their food pantry, and were upgraded to a nicer room that had two separate rooms: one bedroom and one living room.

On Sunday after our free breakfast at the hotel, we went up to Plano to go to Go Ape, an adventure park up in the trees…I don’t know why I was the one who suggested it…I thought I was gonna plunge to my death (there were safety harnesses, but it was just pretty scary being 30 ft up in the air). I was only able to finish 60% of the course, but Anson had a great time and even was allowed to repeat some parts. We wanted to charge our EV for a little bit, so we brought our car to a work campus and ate at the nearby 99 ranch. 2 hours later…24 miles charged -_-

On Monday, we went to the Dallas Farmers Market and had jerk chicken for lunch. We saw the Giant Eyeball, JFK Memorial Plaza, and Pioneer Plaza. I get how EVs are more popular now, but it is NOT conducive to a good vacation experience. It felt like part of the time, we were just trying to find a charging station and the app is useless. Fast chargers are only for Tesla, we went to one place and it was in an apartment structure and wasn’t on, we couldn’t charge at another one since we were beaten to it, and others that were on the app, we couldn’t find even though we were driving around. You kinda get range anxiety cuz you don’t know if you’ll be able to find one in time. We finally gave up and just were reserved to pay the rental company to charge it when we brought it back (thankfully, they never did!)

On Tuesday, it was raining pretty hard, so we ended up just working from the hotel. I didn’t mind since I would have been doing this at home. Plus, Anson’s been having some fun times at work and this vacation wasn’t exactly at the best time. On Wednesday, after I got us breakfast 2 mins before they closed the dining area, we packed up and headed to the Fort Worth Stockyards. As I am cheap, we parked a little further and walked in. We saw some of the longhorns (my fav was the beige one named Gus!). After walking around the downtown area, we headed to DFW airport where we went to the Capital One Lounge (the best lounge ever!). They had amazing food like this meatball slider, mac n cheese, soba noodles, cauliflower rice, baklava, and so much more! (This was probably my favorite part of the trip lol)

All in all, I think this trip was kind of a letdown having to deal with the rain, driving in Dallas, the EV, fearing for my life at Go Ape, and it being an inopportune time to travel. I’m just writing this since the husband is making me….I’ll be much more happier blogging when we got to Japan…again…next March 🙂 🙂 🙂

Work work work…was that an echo?

I’ve been at Cityteam for 2 years now. Time sure flies by! I’m not sure how I thought my work life would turn out, and I’m also not entirely sure this was how I wanted things to become, but I know that I have no reason to complain and that where ever I am, I should glorify God in my work.

Jada texted me recently to let me know that my previous position at BWC had an opening. It made me contemplate on how my life has changed after leaving the company. I miss my former coworkers since I had a good working relationship with them. I loved that BWC was 2 miles away from work. I was salaried and had a generous PTO policy. Work was tough, but I would normally get off at a reasonable time and only worked a couple weekends a year.

At CityTeam, it is a blessing and a curse to be able to work from home part of the time. It is hard to develop good working relationships when, at Zanker, most people were on the other side and far from my desk, so it was hard to have a good rapport even when I was in the office. My manager also works from home most of the time, so if I was in the office, it wouldn’t make much difference. We are also moving offices to Echo…echo…echo…

I am thankful that our accounting team is not moving with everyone else from Zanker to 13th St. Our lease at Zanker was up and they had to move HR, executive team, and marketing and development teams to an existing location: 13th st…which is, frankly, not in the best or safest neighborhood due to the nature of our work with the homeless and drug rehabilitation programs. Iraida, Leila, and I, instead, are moving to the Echo Executive Center which are the offices that are connected to Echo Church in San Jose. 

We’ve been settling down in our new office. It has a lot of light from the windows as it is a corner office. We all have standing desks and a fridge and coffee/small snacks (mostly provided by me becuz it’s my love language 🙂 At first, I didn’t know if the placement of my desk was the best since Leila would be able to see my screen, but I moved one of the monitors so that I could put my laptop on the desk, so it gives me a little more privacy. I also love that I have unrestricted access with my desk placed where it is and can wheel my chair to the fridge/printer 🙂 

Whenever I do go in to the office (either 1 or 2 times a week), the hubby and I can carpool since Pure moved to Santa Clara. I’ve enjoyed being able to get lunch and dinner at Great America during this summer. Now that summer is over though, need to check the schedule for when they are open…don’t think I’ll be renewing next year, so gotta take advantage!

Overall..I think I’m happy here. Work will always have its ups and downs. I believe in their mission to reach the lost for Christ in tangible and spiritual ways. I need to work on using my time in a way that God would be honored.

By-by-by-byeeee Corolla

For the July 4th weekend, Anson and I took both cars down. Wait, which cars? The Honda Civic and my Toyota Corolla. What are you talking about? What Honda Civic? In April, we went down for Anson’s GRIT event. My parents gave me their 2012 Honda Civic since they are downsizing to one car. They have shown love to us in many ways…we have received two cars from them: one at the beginning of our marriage and another now. Anyways, we were going to donate my old Toyota Corolla since it is 20 years old and needs a new catalytic converter and won’t pass smog check until it is replaced, but Aaron said that he actually wants it for his in-laws. So that is why we are driving both cars down to give them my-my-my-myyyy Corolla!

I left around 8:15 a.m. and met up with the husband at Harris Ranch. I am glad that I got a Starbucks coffee with my expiring Stars for free to help me stay awake for the 2nd half. We stayed at the Wongs’ house on Saturday and Sunday. Auntie Esther mom and Uncle Ken dad always make so much food. They made rice noodles, salad, and salmon for dinner. 

On Sunday, I went to CCAC and met up with Cindy Au and Gina to catch up. Cindy was my former discipler many years ago, and it was nice to see what has been happening in her life. The biggest thing is her trying to start up a mentoring program at the church. Anson went to Shepherd Church to watch Crescentia sing in the Risen choir. We then went to California Fish Grill for lunch where we met up with Gina, Weber, Cindy To, and Crescentia. Food is so expensive now. Entrees now are normally $16+ now.

We went to my parents place in San Gabriel for lunch on Monday. Auntie Esther mom gave us leftover noodles, salmon, and 2 tilapia. My mom always appreciates it because she doesn’t like to cook. For dinner, we went to our usual Kami Buffet. Anson helped my mom with a bunch of computer stuff as usual too. 

On tuesday, I went with my mom to do Chinese exercises in the park. They had stopped that when covid hit, but started up again a couple months ago. I’m glad that my mom is able to do this again everyday. I was the youngest person in the class:-) the day was kind of a blur since I don’t always know what to do with my parents. It’s kind of amalgamation of making them food with whatever is in their pantry and refrigerator and doing dishes and helping them with technology, but after dinner, we did see a fireworks show at 9pm. Their area is pretty popular and there were probably at least 3 different shows going on at the same time that we could see from our vantage point.

As they get older, I’m not really sure what kind of activities to do with them. In september, I am going to have to spend a whole week with my dad since my mom is going on a cruise to be their photographer/videographer for a mission’s conference. I haven’t lived with my dad for over 11 years, so I wonder how I am going to relate with him. I usually talk to my mom when we come down and my dad is usually just in the background. I need to learn how to love him better, so maybe this is actually a good thing in disguise.

On Wednesday, I did Chinese exercises with my mom again at the park, and then made potatoes and eggs for breakfast. We said our goodbyes and made a stop at the Wong’s house to pick up food. Anson being the resident IT specialist helped his dad with some computer stuff while we all ate an informal lunch, and then we headed off back home, arriving at 7:00 p.m. We weren’t able to see Aaron and his family this time around, but Aaron did call Anson multiple times about my, scratch that, their Corolla now. Aaron had gone to the DMV in order to register the car, but they wouldn’t let him until a smog check was done. He got the catalytic converter fixed, smog check passed, registered the car, and got insurance for it after getting it inspected. All in all, it was less than $1,000. I’m glad that he was able to sort it out in a few days time even though there were a few more hoops to jump through then we thought.

I am not that sentimental about this car, but I have had it since working at NTS, and for my whole marriage up to this point. It has been a reliable and consistent part of my life. Even though the top was shedding, I liked it so that it would deter thieves from ever stealing it. It is a little loud, but it has never broken down in my time in the Bay Area. It has treated me well, and I hope that it’s new owners will be able to have good memories with it too.

My unique personality

God has given me my personality and my talents. It is no good to compare what others have to what I have. I need to know my shortcomings and my strengths. What matters is how you use your talents and to not waste them. How can I use my life to help others that are in my sphere of influence? I am in the unique position of having more time than others, and I should not squander that opportunity. I want to be able to love others and not feel like I need something in return. The people that I mostly gravitate to are probably those who feel more on the fringe, those who don’t always fit in or have as many social graces. Perhaps that is because that is sometimes how I feel I am like. 

My dad’s side of the family has some issues with mental health. I think I can relate to it being that I can’t take too much pressure (examples are my breakdowns at Maxreal and BWC). It makes me feel inadequate. Why is it that others can stand the pressure and I cannot? In a way, it helps me recognize that I cannot stand on my own strength. I should still try to make use of time in a way that glorifies God. In the meantime, what I should try to do is be more in God’s word daily, read books, avoid entertainment that does not edify/wastes time, reach out to different friends down in LA or other church friends on my days off. Live this life well and live it for God. Easier said than done, but should just take it one step at a time. 

LA for mom’s 80th birthday

I went down to LA from Wed, 3/14 to Sat, 3/18 for my mom’s birthday. I also went down in January for my dad’s birthday. As they get older, I think it is a good excuse to visit them. I have the ability to see them because of the flexibility of my job, points from Southwest making it free(ish), and not having kids which gives me the time to do things others may find much harder to do because of other responsibilities. 

On Wednesday, Anson brought me to the SJC airport, and I was able to have lunch at one of the airport lounges. I love their new system in which they have QR codes on the tables, and you can order your food thru the phone and they will bring it right out to you in minutes. I had a cheese plate, a half deli sandwich, two sweet and sour meatballs over rice, avocado hummus with veggies, a Bloody Mary, and a cappuccino. I’ve missed going to lounges and I’m glad that I have the Capital One Venture X card to get free Priority Pass.

My dad normally drives and my mom helps navigate on the GPS. I usually drive back. I’m thankful that there wasn’t too much rain as I am worried for them in their older age. We had Yoshinoya for dinner. On Thursday, I worked a little, my mom’s friend, Joanne, brought her some bread and Costco chicken for lunch, I walked to Smart & Final to get her roses and hid them behind the couch, we had some sushi, yakisoba, and potato croquette from Mitsuwa for dinner, and I rewatched Top Gun: Maverick since I had been meaning to (such a good movie that I bought it with my Google Play Credits) with my mom and had to kind of explain what was happening to her, but I know she hasn’t really watched a movie in a long time, so it was nice to love on her in this way.

On Friday, I made Trader Joe’s pumpkin pancakes for breakfast and Anson was on the call when we sang happy birthday to my mom when I gave her the flowers. I’m glad she was surprised since there were a couple times when I thought she would see them. I did a little work again while my mom went to the Asian Youth Center and got some fresh vegetables and food (it is nice that non profit organizations try to reach out to the community in this way. I just wish there wasn’t as much waste in our society). I helped them with some technology questions and also took their tax documents so that I could work on their return. As “payment”, my mom gave me a $25 Amazon gift card that she received from someone else at church. For dinner, we went to Kami Buffet in Rosemead. I ate so much sashimi (feels like that is the only way to make it worth it).

Saturday is my flight back to the Bay Area. I made the Trader Joe’s pancakes again for breakfast and had a good talk with my mom. There are times when I feel like I don’t always know what to say to my mom, but it was a good, deep conversation about the past, our present and future life. I sometimes feel like we are pretty different and I am more like my dad. She is what I aspire to be in how she is able to make different friends and serve in the church. 

Walk for Life 5k 2023

Anson and I participated in this year’s walk for life hosted by Real Options. We do this as an annual thing. In 2020, we did this right before the world shut down from the pandemic. In 2021, we participated, but more in a socially distanced setting (hosted by the Kwok’s) and went around a school’s field near their house. I remembered talking to Sharon for most of the walk. In 2022, we weren’t able to make it because of Anson’s Spartan event in LA, but this year, we are back into the swing of things!

There were a bunch of people who came this time from our church. I probably did not have to register at the event since they already had all our money from FundEasy online, and I declined the wristband and shirt since I know I probably won’t wear them again. We were fed our customary Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuit for breakfast (my favorite part of this whole event). I walked and talked with Emily, Vivian, Janine, Kelly, and Julie, while Anson ran and placed 2nd overall!. His mile time was under 7 mins. I think that’s a pretty cool feat! We also had some pretty good runners as Jojo and Conner both got first in their age groups. Overall, we raised $1000 as a couple and over $16k as a church. 

Thurs, 2/16/23, Day 11: Narita Express excellence, iPhone fiasco, ANA lounge lunacy, and Tokyo Banana Bananas!

To think that I woke up feeling at ease today 🙂 After I took a shower, we ate the rest of our food (natto, onigiris, cucumber, and tomato) and took a short walk near our hotel to admire the grand Tokyo Bay. We then packed “everything” and took the Yamanote line to Tokyo Station and got on the Narita Express to the airport. Even though we reserved a ticket for the 12:02pm train, we boarded the 11:30am, and when the attendant came to check our tickets, we just let him know. The Narita Express normally costs $23, but it is included on the JR pass.

Checking in went smoothly (they weighed our bags and both were less than 15lbs each. At security, that was when I noticed to my horror that I couldn’t find the iPhone -__- I used the iPad to locate it and it was still at the Intercontinental Tokyo Bay. We called from a pay phone to the hotel and they confirmed that it was there. We’ll have to have them ship it internationally…which negates some of the cost savings that I hold so dear (but shouldn’t). I could have sworn that I hadn’t taken the iPhone out since going to Odaiba the night before and it would have still been in the top compartment of my backpack. This isn’t the worst thing that could have happened, but it does show that I need to be more careful and really look when we are verifying that we have everything before we leave a certain area. 

We then went airport lounge hunting. The first lounge (ANA lounge satellite 4) had permanently closed but Google never updated that. The second lounge (ANA lounge satellite 5) didn’t accept priority pass because they said that it was too congested…sigh, and at this point, I just felt pretty dejected after all that had happened. Thankfully, the third time’s the charm. ANA lounge satellite 2 did accept priority pass. I was at first skeptical of this lounge since the reviews were pretty bad. Those were mostly because PP members couldn’t get in, but they did accept this time! The lounge had ramen, udon, soba, yakisoba, curry and rice, salad, sandwiches, drinks, etc. The noodles could be ordered either via online or at the counter. I got two ramen and one udon while husband got two soba noodles. I was so happy that we finally got ramen and udon noodles on this trip and didn’t even have to pay for them 🙂

We left the lounge around 3:15pm to buy Tokyo Bananas at the duty free shop…and they were sold out 🙁 We tried to check another shop but they were also out. We didn’t want to miss our flight, so we just got Tokyo Banana pies and a bunch of different flavored Kit Kats totaling 5100 yen to finish off our foreign currency. At the end, we didn’t actually have to rush so hard as our flight was delayed and boarding didn’t even start till 4:20pm. Seemed like a lot of things went not as expected today. It wasn’t the worst thing since we didn’t miss our flight and no one got hurt. My friend has said that if a problem can be solved by money, it’s not that bad of a problem. Our trip went a little sideways at the end, but I’m still glad for it…and glad that we will be home soon. In the meantime as I am writing this, the little blessings are that we have a whole row to ourselves again on the flight back and I was able to pack us some food from the lounge. It’ll be 8:30am when we land…back to reality.

Cost: ship iPhone $31 (thankful it wasn’t too expensive) + Duty free items 5100 yen ~$39 = total $70

Wed, 2/15/23, Day 10: Intercontinental Tokyo Bay, Rainbow Bridge, and Odaiba

When we woke up today, white flakes of snow were coming down. It was beautiful, but I am glad that today was a travel day. We had 5 days in Kyoto, but our round trip flight is based in Tokyo. We bought some food at the train platform for 331 yen and took the Shinkansen to Shinagawa station and then took the local JR Yamanote line 3 stops to our hotel: Intercontinental Tokyo Bay. We got this as a free night courtesy of the IHG credit card (free for first year and 150k sign up bonus for $3k spend, then downgraded the card to $0 annual fee). It was a fancy hotel that we probably wouldn’t have stayed in if not for the credit card. Our window had a beautiful view of Tokyo Bay. We checked in around 1:30pm even though check in was supposed to be at 3pm, so I think we interrupted their cleaning schedule 🙁

We went out to explore and walked over the Rainbow Bridge to Daiba Park and had our last dinner at Yoshinoya (again) for 1888 yen. We went to Odaiba Seaside Park where we got another vending machine drink for 140 yen and looked at their Statue of Liberty. We were about to cross the Rainbow Bridge to get back to our hotel, but it closed to pedestrians at 5:30 (it was 5:34). We bought a little more food at the supermarket for 692 yen before taking the monorail for 330 yen each back to our hotel.

Anson still wanted to walk a little more, so we went out and explored a lighted up area before working out at their very small gym (it was just two rooms that they probably tore down the wall in between and put a couple machines and weights in. It wasn’t even on the elevator map and we had to search for it on the 8th floor. Afterwards, I took a bath for the first time in years! It was relaxing and a good way to end the trip for our last night in Japan (ohh, how the next day was much less enjoyable than I expected…)

Cost: train platform food 331 yen, Yoshinoya 1888 yen, vending machine lemon drink 140 yen, supermarket 692 yen, monorail 660 yen = 3711 yen (~$28)

Tues, 2/14/23, Day 9: Nishiki Market, Pig Cafe, and Kiyomizu-Dera

This was the first morning in Kyoto that I did not go to the convenience store to get food for the day. We paid 220 yen each to take the local subway which was not covered by the JR pass to central Kyoto. I made a 10am reservation at Mipig Cafe where these cute little micro pigs just swarmed us and laid down on us for 30 mins. I think they just wanted us for body heat. There were many other animal cafes to choose from and some were probably cheaper, but I wanted to go to a cafe where the animals really wanted to be near you. It may have been a little overpriced at 3520 yen total (~$27) and it didn’t come with a drink as advertised, but I LOVED this!

We then proceeded to Nishiki Market where we got squid on a stick for 200 yen, soy bean cream croquette for 350 yen, tamagoyaki for 450 yen (I was thinking of going to place advertised online, but those sold for 780 yen and I didn’t know how long it had been out), and a beef and potato croquette for 300 yen. We then found a Lawson and got some more food for the day for 903 yen. 

We walked thru Hanamikoji Street to Maruyama Park where it started snowing! This was my first time being in snow fall, and it was beautiful (and cold). We then went over to the Gion District where many people dressed up in kimonos and yakutas and we even spotted a geisha. We paid 400 yen each to go to Kiyomizu-Dera. Being that we went around 2pm, this place was pretty crowded. Near the end, there was a restaurant that served udon/buckwheat noodles and we were able to sit on tatami mats. We shared a buckwheat noodle w/ fried tofu bowl for 800 yen. It was nice to be able to sit down and have something hot.

We ended the night by walking back to the hotel and only went out again (so cold!) to get more food from Lawson (I got another 3pk of natto) and spent 1527 yen. We were debating on whether we wanted to stop in Nagoya tomorrow on the way back to Tokyo, but decided we can just go early back to Tokyo to explore. Our vacation is almost coming to an end!

Cost: Subway 440 yen, Mipig Cafe 3520 yen, Nishiki Market 1300 yen, Lawson 903 yen, Kiyumizu-Dera 800 yen, Soba lunch 800 yen, Lawson 1527 yen = 9290 yen (~$71)

Mon, 2/13/23, Day 8: Conveyor Belt Sushi and Fushimi Inari Taisha

Since we are visiting Japan during the winter time, a thing we have to be mindful of is rain/snow. Thankfully, the only day that it rained a good amount has been on our travel day from Tokyo to Kyoto. I have been constantly checking the weather report. It rained a little in the morning, but it “should” be clear the rest of the day. 

In the morning, we did some much needed laundry (300 yen for washing and 100 yen for drying). I bought 3 onigiris, a sandwich, and natto (yes, I’m a fan!) from Lawson. We had our leftover onigiris and some veggies for breakfast (we wanted to fill up a little so that we didn’t spend too much) before having brunch at Sushi No Musashi at 10:45am. This was our first experience at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. The plates are different colors which indicate the price. Blue with white centers were 160 yen and red with white centers were 257 yen. There were others, but those were too rich for our tastes 🙂 We had 17 plates (14 blue and 3 red) which totaled to 3020 yen (~$23). This is soooo much cheaper than in the states where the cheapest plate is $3.50!

We stayed at the hotel for a few hours. I took advantage of the free coffee at reception while catching up on 2.5 days of blogging. We then headed out on the Nara line to Fushimi Inari and got there around 4pm. We wanted to avoid the crowds and do a night hike…though there were still a good amount of people there. The place was beautiful with the 1000 orange torii leading up to the top. The loop was 2.8 miles, and we of course wanted to complete the whole thing, though I think we made a detour into a residential area where I finally got a drink (Sparkling Peach drink for 100 yen) from the countless vending machines all over Japan. We decided to walk back to the hotel and were able to catch a glimpse of the local areas of Kyoto. We got groceries (they actually accepted card) at KOHYO, and headed back to the hotel. I found out that I got a blister on my right pinky toe =/ tomorrow is gonna be fun…

Cost: Laundry 400 yen, Lawson 1231 yen, Conveyer belt sushi 3020 yen, vending machine drink 100 yen, KOHYO groceries 1034 yen = 5785 yen (~$44.16)