Two Times Happier

Happy New Year everyone!

Here in Hong Kong it is 16 hours ahead of California, so I figured it out: I could actually celebrate New Years here and then hop right on a plane and go home and celebrate it there. It is a 14 hour flight so it would be cutting it close, but I could make it! However, I think instead I will watch the fireworks and maybe the ball drop in Times Square. That's Times Square, Hong Kong. Yes they have one too! So when it's 8 am, or 9 am or whatever time it is where you are from, think of me, bringing in the New Year.

A couple of interesting things about Hong Kong:

- when I see a Louis Vitton handbag or a North Face jacket, I assume it is fake. They do sell the real stuff, but why would you buy a 3000 dollar LV handbag when you can get the knock off for 300?

- they have an EXCELLENT transportation system here. You can even check your bags IN THE CITY and then take a fast train to the airport, turning a one hour taxi ride into a 20 minute train ride. The train opens up and you walk RIGHT INTO the correct terminal.

- they have mobile phone chargers in the train stations. With all the cords, not just an outlet. So even if you don't have your cord, its NO PROBLEM. They have it covered.

- You can almost walk around the entire city above ground. You know how Minneapolis has the skyways so you don't have to be cold when you are walking? They have the same thing here, but just to get you over the multi lanes of traffic. I still haven't figured it out though and sometimes I walk into a building hoping they have the overpass but instead just get looked at/followed by the security guy.

That's it so far! Happy New Year to all!


Escape: Successful

I made it safely to Hong Kong!! Its a gorgeous sunny day! Now I'm just
waiting for Mr Lovely who got stuck in the snow in Boston for two
days. Once he arrives, we head for China!

Ten on Tuesday (3)

This week I am linking up with Chelsea at rootsandrings.com for Ten on Tuesday.  

1. What was the number one item on your Christmas wishlist?
A printer that I could use to print out photos. One of my holiday time goals was to work on my photo albums. I got about halfway through. 

2. Did you get the number one item on your Christmas wishlist?
I bought it for myself because I couldn't wait until Christmas. 

3. How long has it been since you’ve had a pedicure?
Ummmmm... What's a pedicure. I clip my own toenails and do not paint them. 

4. How cold is it in your city today?
"My" city. In San Francisco it is about 50 degrees.  

5. How many pillows do you sleep with?
Two. Because one is not enough and three is too many. Unless they are really fat, then I only need one. 

6. Can you roll your tongue?

7. Do you always buy the same mascara or do you try new ones each tube?
I use whatever. I don't really care. I do like Clinic though; it's not clumpy at all, but it's too expensive. 

8. What’s your favorite cookbook?
Duh. Joy of Cooking 1960 edition. 

9. What was your first pet?
A black lab!! He was the best!! 

10. Do you wear jewelry on a daily basis?
One ring and earrings. The same ones every day; I never change them. 


Sharing is Caring

Grant & UJ playing with their toys.

Great Migration!

My Dad and I went for a drive the other day to see the migrating birds in the rice paddies between Chico and Yuba City. We couldn't have picked a better day. The weather was perfect, the waters were calm and clear and the reflections were beautiful! We got lucky because it had been overcast in the morning and it cleared up just in time for some photos!

up and away

nut orchard

big sky


Snack-a-Palooza & The City

Macy's shiny balls
I used to live in San Francisco. Every year  around Christmas time my family would come down to visit and we would walk around looking at the lights and store windows. It became a family tradition. Although I have not lived in the city for a while, my family still continues the tradition.

K, A & I at A La Turca
This year, we combined traditions. My friends and I like to wander around, eating one dish each from several restaurants until we are stuffed. This year, we only made it to two places (our eyes were pretty big at the first one) but we also went to the Tom and Jerry house on 21st St to see their wonderful decorations.

Mimie & Aila at Tom and Jerrys
The first place we went to eat is one of my favorites, A La Turca, where they have the best hummus in the city! It is a little hard to get to, as it is right on Geary and there is usually no parking, but we got a front row seat. That never happens!! Aila must be our good luck charm!

The next place we went was Mimies pick - Marnie Thai. It is down off of 9th and Irving. I had never been there before so it was a nice addition to my city restaurant tour. We had the sweet cakes, which are like coconut corn fritter things and are cooked one of those pans with multiple sections; these were round and delicious.

After that we went to Tom and Jerrys. These guys have been decorating the huge tree in front of their house as well as placing huge fake presents under it, for as long as I can remember. They have to get a building permit and no parking is allowed near it, it is that serious!

Next I met up with the Fam at Macy's where we looked at all the decorations and then wandered around the city before meeting up with my brother for some ramen in Japan Town.

All in all it was a wonderful time and an awesome Snackapalooza!


A Very Happy Soul

Originally uploaded by kyria!
Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope everyone is having a wonderful day!


I Listed a Little (Halfway Point)

A while back I wrote a post about what I was going to do while I was home. I wrote the first half of this post about a month ago, when I had completed half the items. Now, it is 3 days left before we head BACK on the road (yikes and yay!) so I am here to see if I completed what I said I would.

1.  Make cookies with my Mom. And Banana Bread. And…. I did this. I also made pies, turkeys and turkey pies. It has been very fun. I still have not gotten the nesting feeling out of my system.
2.   Get the BIG CAMERA (yay!) out of hiding and USE IT. I did this! To see some of the photos that have been the result of this, you can GO HERE.
3.   Cook a Thanksgiving turkey (actually, it will be my first time) Yes! A great Thanksgiving! A non dry turkey breast. Life is good.
4.   Meet K’s new baby A (and see K and A of course) see photos and details HERE.
5.   Have a couple of glasses of wine with my brother done!
9.  Chop down a Christmas tree (it’s a family tradition) We tried, really we did. But it snowed, REALLY hard and we couldn't make it up the road. So we stopped and bought one from the boy scouts instead.
13. Have lunch with Grandma B and dinner, and breakfast, and coffee, and more lunch! and great conversation!
14. Go to the Pig Roast in Acushnet (last year’s photos are HERE) Much pig was eaten, many stories were told. Much talk about the Patriots was to be had.
17. Make/send Christmas cards Call me obsessive, but I finished them before Thanksgiving!  Yay!
18.  Meet N’s new baby (C) and see her new house So colorful -the house. So calm - the baby. We looked through old photos of childhood -- it was a lot of fun!
25. Help Dad with the “winter” cleaning Sheet rock. Check. Window washing. Check. Shelf building. Check. I am becoming an expert with the screw gun. **Added - fix the roof, check! Caulk is my friend! (hehe)
26. Beat my parents at Rummikub. Hopefully. Beaten, they were. Play them again, I will. (I lost to my brother in ping pong though -- there WILL be a rematch!)
27.  Go see The Moth in NYC So FUN! If you ever get the chance to go, do! If you like funny stories told by real people, you would love it! 
28.   Visit my East Coast Family breakfast with Aunt and Grandma! A fabulous time!
As of today, December 24:
6.     Go to the Mission district in San Francisco and EAT a BURRITO. Yum. Went to the Mission but did not eat a burrito. Instead ate Thai, Turkish and Japanese...yum.
7.    Do a photo walk around Tobin (The Muses are doing a “where I live” series I am looking forward to contributing to) I did do this, but have not posted it online yet
8.    Make a snowman NOT YET!!! I am dreaming of a white Christmas!
10.   Drive from Quincy to Des Moines - a beautiful drive! See photos here.
11.   See Lea’s new house - so cozy! and I had a wonderful time!
12. Go to Target to re-up my travel supplies (and to gawk…I havent been to Target in ages!) I love Target!
15. Organize all my travel photos (eeek) halfway done. I did make a slideshow, does that count?
16. Finish my journal (or at least TRY to catch up) got up to August 4th...I guess I am still behind!
19. Day After Christmas breakfast with the girls In the works!
20. Take a walk on the beach on both the East and West coasts. Did it on the East but not the West.
21. Fix the roof of my house (dread) Not as bad as I thought it would be
22. Autograph Sara’s favorite photo Just did it now!
23. Read some books (I have been slacking lately) I read ONE. Review coming up.
24. Try to finally complete one of Katrinas Photo Walks (even though I am months late)

I had a wonderful few weeks at home/visiting friends etc!! Now its time to make like a tree and leave. In three days, I fly back to China for a contination of the adventure!


Sleeps With The Fishes

I have had many people ask me…where do you stay when you are on the road? I, along with my trusty notebook (where I [naturally] keep all my lists) am here to give you a few examples. FYI, we generally do not make any reservations; we just take what we find once we decide where we are going.

- Usually we stay in hostels. They are generally the cheapest option and almost always have an availible bed. For usually about 10 US dollars each, you get a dorm bed. Yes, you have to share a room with other people sometimes. But normally it is only a couple other people and for the amount of time we spend at “home”, we are not there enough for them to bug us. In fact, you oftentimes end up making friends with the people in your room and usually get along with them well enough to even hang out the next day! If nothing else, you get great travel advice this way.

- We also did a lot of camping. Unfortunately, we ended up going to a few countries where even the hostels were too expensive, so we traded a Europe guidebook for a tent (thanks S&R!!) and this is how we lived for a couple of months. The camping facilities where we were (Zambia, Namibia and South Africa) were wonderful usually. They mostly had great views, were in nice locations and were anywhere from $5 USD to $10 USD each.

- Guesthouses in some of the cheaper countries, such as India and Nepal (and Southeast Asia), are definitely the way to go! You get your own room WITH a bathroom (Hallelujah! In most hostels you have to share) for only about $1.50 USD - $5 USD. If you feel like splurging, you can get a room for (gasp) $8.

- Thanks to my job, which forces me to stay in a hotel about 9/10 of the year, we have hotel points**. Although using them is about 1,000 times faster than gaining them, we did get a few free nights at a nice hotel, which we saved for special treats OR places like Venice, where a simple hostel is about 25 Euros each!! (that’s about 32 dollars…EACH!) **if I have not blogged about these before, which I am sure I have, let me suggest that even if you only stay in a hotel a couple nights a year, make sure you sign up for these programs! You will eventually get a nice reward out of it.

- One time we slept in a car, which fortunately we had, becuase we were staying in a tent and it was pouring rain and everything was soaking wet. This was not the most comfortable night, but it was an adventure!

- Lastly, although we would not pick this on purpose, once or twice we could not get accommodation (like I said, we do it all on the fly, without reservations) and we had to pay for a night in a regular old hotel. We saw it as a treat, although that was not our first choice.

So, this is where I sleep. Some of the places are nice; some are not. None of them were downright scary, but some definitely were not super clean. All of these are great places to find out about the area, meet other travelers and hopefully get some laundry done.

Where do you stay when you travel? Do you splurge on accomodation? Or do you sleep in your car on the side of the road? What is important to you? A clean bathroom? A pool?


Crafts and Creations!

Come and visit us over on the Holiday Pals website, where we are blogging about crafts and food!!! Also, if you have a great recipe or craft idea, we always want to hear it!

Happy Holidays!

For All The Whos Down in Whoville

According to Entertainment Magazine these are the top nine (I don’t know why it’s nine and not ten) Christmas movies.

1. A Christmas Story
2. Love Actually
3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
4. It’s a Wonderful Life
5. Elf
6. The Muppet Christmas Carol
7. Miracle on 34th Street
8. Die Hard
9. Scrooged

What is this world coming to? I mean, lets start at the top. Why is Love Actually a Christmas movie? Is it because it has a scene where there is a Christmas play involved or because Hugh Grant opens a Christmas card from the hot assistant? Maybe I have a bad memory, but my overall memory of the movie was not Christmas related.

Next, don’t even get me started on the next one. Really? Can a National Lampoon really be number THREE? What about all the others? This really tops Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life? Who is voting for these movies? 12 year olds? (I apologize if you voted for or really love these movies. I just believe there are tons of movies that are better than these.) This also goes for Elf (I am not really a Farrell fan, except when he was the cheerleader on SNL) and Die Hard. Really? DIE HARD? Excuse me if I don’t understand.

So, let’s talk about really good Christmas movies. In our family, Christmas movie watching is a sport. We usually have one on in the background at all times. My Mom especially is a Holiday movie aficionado. Here are a few movies (in no particular order) that I believe should have made the list (this list is supplemented by both of my parents as well).

1. Rudolph
2. White Christmas
3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
4. Santa Claus the Movie
5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the original, cartoon version)
6. Charlie Brown’s Christmas
The above, along with numbers 1, 4, 6 and 7 above, would constitute our top 10 list of Christmas movies.

Photo Credit
What are YOUR favorite Christmas movies? Do you agree with the Entertainment Weekly list? Are you tired of A Christmas Story or can you never tire of repeating, “IT’S A LAMP!” and “Fragile, must be Italian” and “Help Me God, he had YELLOW teeth!”?


Oldies But Goodies

I have been home for the last week and on my to do list for probably the last 5 years (or so) has been to "scan old photos". I finally got around to doing a few of them! The quality is not great, but here are a few anyway!

Letter to Santa 1982
My Two Moms 1988

Girls Soccer 1993

How I Feel About My Brother 1984

Rock and Roll

I have so much to say that I don’t even know where to start. It’s been two weeks since my last confession.

In case you don’t know, it is not always easy for me to get on the internet. You take for granted your smart phones and your high speed internet. I do as well, at times. However, now, today, I do not. I am staying with my parents for the holidays. They do not have cell service. They do not have broadband. They have a land line, which works most of the time (more about that later) and they have….bum, bun, buhhhh…..dial-up. Yep. Dial-up. You thought that most people in the world had high speed internet? Well, you are wrong.

When I am not at my parents, I am usually traveling. While most places do have faster internet than my parents (imagine that. Africa – Medium Speed. California – Internet like a turtle) it is not always easy to find a computer, or one that has the internet. Needless to say, I am not one of those bloggers who blog every day. Some people I follow even blog multiple times per day! How do they do it!? I don’t know.

Here in California, in the mountains, in the “civilized” world, we can’t look at photos; we can’t check our Google reader; we can’t do much. So we just don’t do anything which includes the internet. It is too frustrating to try to get online. So we try to find other things to do instead. You would be amazed at what is exciting in these parts.

First off: Rocks.

My parents live on a very windy road. In case you don’t know it, it is in the Mountains near Sacramento. Think of Lake Tahoe. If you have been there, you know it is beautiful. There are endless spans of green pine, cedar and fir trees. There are peaked snowy mountains. There are windy mountain roads along gushing rivers. There are tiny mountain towns. People ski and snowmobile for fun. They sometimes have to do this to get to their houses because the roads are not plowed. It is the boonies. I love it. I think it is beautiful.

However, with beauty (and boonies!) comes danger. Snow creates accidents. Windy mountain roads are slippery. Mountains are full of…you guessed it. Rocks. Now you know where I am going with this story. Last Friday a rock came down on the highway and a lady ran into it and died. Yes, I said A ROCK. One rock! Here is a photo from the local newspaper.

On Tuesday my parents went “to town” (yup, we say that. We live that far out of “town”) to run errands. About 30 minutes after they left (and in the middle of a batch of cookies! Luckily the stove is gas!) the power went out. With it went the phones. This is the phone I was talking about before: the one and only phone, the land line. So I sat in the dark with no phone and no TV, trying to read my book with the light of two candles.

Yesterday (today is Thursday the 16th, who knows when this will actually be posted) there was another rock slide. This actually closed the highway. The big rock in the photo above was huge, but “luckily” only covered half of the highway. Mind you, there is not really a way around. If this highway is closed, you are SOL. Unless you have a 4WD vehicle, know your way around the mountains and are prepared to drive in snow, you have to wait. They said the road would be closed for about 3 hours. It was still closed today, 24 hours later.

So, we are on a roll. In the week I’ve been home we’ve had two rock slides, one causing a death, the other closing the one-and-only highway for at least 24 hours. We’ve had a power outage; we’ve lost our phones; we’ve had an unusual amount of rain. We’ve tried to trap a skunk (as of yet unsuccessful) and we’ve almost run over dozens of deer (without any luck).

Who says life is not exciting in the boonies without internet!?


On Procrastinating

I just wanted to say really quickly that if you haven't made your Christmas cards yet, you are in luck.

Kim at What am I Going To be When I Grow Up tipped me off on a great deal. Shutterfly is giving away 50 free holiday cards to bloggers! I already made my cards unfortunately, but maybe I will get started with next years' cards! Wink, Wink!

Anyway, even though I am probably not taking advantage of this great deal, I though you may want to! Good luck, Happy Blogging and Happy Holidays!

By the way, if you are a friend or family that normally receives a card from me and you haven't gotten it yet, please email me! They should have been there by now!

Road Trip: Day Five (aka Last Day)

Oh the last day of a road trip! You just want to get to your destination, so you don't stop to take photos or go to the Wizard of Oz museum because it is 30 miles off the highway and you don't want to spend another half an hour on the road.

Today's trip: Salina, KS to Des Moines, IA

Have you ever taken a road trip? We used to take them as kids. My dad had a 1970s era motorhome that was orange and white. I remember going to the Grand Canyon. I remember asking him, "how much gas mileage does this thing get?" (I think the answer was about 8 mpg.) I think asked him, "and how much does gas cost?" Then I would figure out how many miles we had to go and how much the entire trip would cost us. That was fun for me.

We would also play the license plate game, which is where you try to find as many different states' license plates as you can. My brother and I had a contest to see who could get the most. I honestly can't tell you who won those games. However, I still play that game, even when I am by myself. I found so many different plates on this drive!

The License Plate Game:
Farthest away plates: Alaska, Maine, Florida
Most common plate (other than states I was in): Minnesota

On this trip, I went through a total of 7 states. California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa. 
Here are some of the stats:
Flattest state: Colorado (I did not go through the Rockies in CO)
Snowiest state: California
Coldest state: Nevada
Warmest state: Kansas

I have to say, call me biased, that the most beautiful state of all the states that I went through was, you guessed it, California. I like trees, preferably green ones that smell like pine. And mountains. If you can have both, that is even better. Although all the other states were beautiful in their own way, I still love California the best!

So, I guess what I am trying to say is that no matter how far you roam, "There's no place like home!"

Which state do think is the most beautiful? and why? 

Highway 70, California


Santas Little Blog Helpers

I follow a lot of blogs. There are several reasons for this. I can relate to a lot of the things that other people say, whether it is a problem, an opinion or a joy. I find lists that I didn't know I needed to make yet. I learn how to take better photos.

And taking better photos is what Katrina Kennedy does. I have been following her blog for a while and she has given me so many good tips! She is teaching an online class this month to help other people learn how to make the most of their holiday photos. If you are interested, you can find her info HERE. 

She is also doing a giveaway for a free class, which I believe ends this Friday, so put your name in the hat now! You can find that HERE

She also does a photowalk most months. She is from Sacramento and I'm sure would love your company. Or, if not, you can find her list online and do your own at home (that is what I will do, since I am in Iowa this weekend!) It is a good way to keep your photographic eye sharp!

Road Trip: Day Four

Country music is funny. Today on the radio, since I could not get any other stations, I listened to these songs:

1. All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan
2. Pretty Good at Drinking Beer

After that I turned it off. I don't mind country, if there is nothing else, and I will definitely pick it over Christian rock, but how silly can you get? Speaking of driving through Kansas, I have found out a few things about Kansans:

1. They LOVE Jesus
2. They HATE abortion (there are tons of signs on the side of the road to prove both of these)
3. They make their bales in rolls. I like the rolls better than the cubes. (see photo at bottom)
4. Their BBQ is okay, but not "the best BBQ in the country". Sorry, Kansas. Actually Iowa so far has been the best I have eaten.

Today's journey: Denver, CO to Salina, KS.

Agate, CO

Agate, CO

Genoa, CO

near Grinnell, KS
Tomorrow is the last day. I will travel from here to Des Moines, which is about 350 more miles. There I will get to see my HS best friend and some old work buddies (in case you didn't know, I worked in Iowa for about 7 months and I learned a lot about corn while I was there).