It feels like time goes by so much faster in Hong Kong! I can’t believe it has been over 2 years since I moved here. 2014 was marked with new challenges, new travels, and a constant reminder that the only thing that matters in life are your friends and family. At least that’s how I saw it. What were you reminded of as 2014 came to a close?

Here are some snapshots of my year:

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It’s the view from the Ku De Tahhh, dahling

 

Despite the atrocious heat, I survived my first visit to Singapore for a tech event my company was participating in. I got to visit an old friend who showed us some of Singapore’s more vibrant neighborhoods. We also explored the sprawling city center, getting a glimpse of what life is like in Hong Kong’s “sister city”.

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Just some friends, ridin’ round in a donut

 

In April, two of my favorite people came to visit me in Hong Kong! When we weren’t roaming the city, we were dancing all night and eating all day. Then we embarked on one of the most memorable trip to Chiang Mai – ever. Let’s just say we should be so glad we made it out alive.

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Puppy. Cafe. Full stop.

Finally: a visit to South Korea! I’ve been meaning to visit Korea for years and finally ticked that off my list. My college days were pretty much defined by my introduction to Korean culture, Korean bbq, Korean ramen, Korean alcohol and plenty of Korean and Korean-American friends. So by default, Seoul was a blast. We ate pancakes, visited a puppy cafe (bury me there, plz), drank coffee til we peed caffeine, spent hours in Aland (it’s like Korea’s American Apparel mixed with Urban Outfitters, but way better?), and bike rode around Hongdae. I cannot wait to go back for another visit!

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All about them gainz. Well, trying to be.

 

This one is a bit personal so I won’t spare any details. For the longest time, I thought I could stay in shape on my own but let’s be real: “on my own” was really code for watching an 8-minute ab video, once or twice a week. I needed to get in better shape so in July I joined a gym.

My lower back problems, which have been bothering me for years, were exacerbated by walking around everywhere in cheap flats with 0 shock absorption. Plus I was sleeping on a fairly small couch for the good part of a year, which did not help. I remember feeling like my back could give out if I so much as sneezed really hard. That’s a scary feeling. As if that wasn’t enough, my weight was also fluctuating a bit due to poor eating habits like skipping meals when work got busy or snacking instead of eating a proper meal.

So once I joined the gym, my boyfriend, who has been weight training for years, began to get me into a routine. It took some time — a bit of reluctance from me, and some well-deserved scolding from him — for me to realize that being half-assed about my gym workouts was a waste of my money, a waste of my time, and really, not doing anything to improve my health. Fast forward to today: I’ve put on, and more importantly, kept on, almost 10 pounds. It’s an accomplishment for someone who has always been underweight. As for my lower back, I don’t think its ever felt better. Weight training gives me focus at the gym. It has also led to improved physical strength and stability I haven’t felt since high school.

Feeling strong is a new and awesome feeling for me. I really can’t thank my boyfriend enough for showing me the importance of this type of exercise. If you struggle with lower back problems or weight gain, a balanced diet and weight training could be just what you need!

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Can’t believe she’s hitched!

 

 

You always think you’ll be young forever and then your little sister gets married. Time really flies as you get older. My youngest sister got married in October and since it was the first wedding in my immediate family, a huge celebration was in order! It was a beautiful day and a fantastic wedding weekend. Going home for 2 lovely weeks meant maid of honor duties, family dinners, a few Taco Bell runs (of course), catching up with friends and cousins I’ve missed, and a special, long overdue trip to LA.

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You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

 

When I returned from my trip, Hong Kong was a different place. A small but determined gathering of students had swelled into a full blown movement. I will never forget how quickly things escalated during that period of time. From televised protests to nighttime walks home, I felt very close and sympathetic to what was happening yet as an expat, very displaced at the same time. To this day I often think of what Hong Kong will be like in the near future. Ultimately, I cannot help but feel sad that despite the efforts of the Umbrella Movement, Hong Kong is still very much under China’s grip.

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That beef noodle broth tho

 

A short but full trip to Taiwan during Christmas provided some much needed respite from long days and frenzied nights in Hong Kong. We made good use of Taipei’s metro system, visiting a number of night markets and less-than-tourist-y areas. We also tried the bike share program (unbelievably cheap and very convenient) and feasted on as many street foods as we could! If you visit Taipei, don’t forget to check out Eslite – it has to be one of the most beautiful bookstores in Asia.

Already 2015 holds a brand new set of adventures and challenges! I can’t wait to travel around Asia more, and see what else the year has in store. What are you looking forward to most this year?

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I think I see Valentine’s Day this way because of the way it portrayed to me by my own parents. Growing up, neither of my parents were never very romantic with one another. (It’s always made me insanely curious to know what they must have been like while they were dating — I’m almost 100% sure it was the opposite.) Throughout high school, every time Valentine’s Day rolled around, my dad would leave for work and peck my mom on the cheek — if he remembered what day it was. “Oh great, the one time a year I get any affection,” my mom would retort, thrusting his boxed lunch at him. Sometimes he’d already be getting into the car when either my sister or I would remind him what day it was. Already in work-mode, he’d tell us, somewhat begrudgingly, to get Mom so he could deliver the peck while he was halfway in the car. Then as the day would end, my sister or I would call him to ask if he had gotten anything for her before dashing off to the store to buy some overpriced flowers and a card that he could sign in the garage.

In my head, as I got older and learned that love can be showed in other ways than holding down a job or paying the mortgage (no small feats!), I told myself I’d try my best to find that balance between the love I was shown at home through my parents and the love I knew existed through the media and my White friends — that outward, unprovoked physical demonstration of love. I thought it would be cool if one day I could be still so in love with someone after years of child-rearing and housekeeping that I’d still want to show everyone around me just that — we were still in love. I wanted to make my kids feel just a little bit uncomfortable about how much their parents liked each other and teach them that being affectionate both physically and verbally is natural and healthy.

Then, as I got even older, I learned more about love from my own experiences. That love can make no sense and feel great, but it can also not make sense and feel really awful. It can be a fickle and unreciprocated. It can feel weird and empty. It can disappear. I slackened my expectations of myself and resolved to just try my best never to get divorced.

My dad’s way of showing his love for my mom is and probably always will be through provisions — paying utility bills, for doctor’s visits, car repairs, vacations. And probably because we’re an Asian family, of the progeny that’s never placed a high value on hugs, kisses or audible ILYs, I knew well that other displays of love could be expected, but really, what’s more more important than having a partner who can provide for you?

I don’t blame my parents for showing me marital love the way the only way they know how. They’ve taught me what consistency, companionship, stability and living a moralistic life can look like. They’ve also nurtured one of the best families I’ve ever known (totally biased, of course). I have a lot to learn from their relationship, even if I’d made some tweaks of my own.

For first time in a long time, I went out on Valentine’s Day evening and walked around some of Hong Kong’s busiest districts, seeing young and old with giant bouquets and silly grins spread across their faces. I loved that I was in Hong Kong, in Asia, amongst people who are too quickly typecasted as “submissive”, “emotionless”, “non-demonstrative” — sometimes even “prudish” or “not sexy”. Not tonight. It was fun and cute and heartwarming in a way my overly cynical self would have gagged at a few years ago. I hope I never go back to cringing visible acts of love and happiness (unless it really deserves to be cringed at).

I wanted to share some stories on love that I found in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Most of them I read forgetting that Valentine’s Day was at the end of this week — I merely came across them as expressions the type of affection, gratitude and appreciation we should strive toward everyday. I like being reminded of how to better love people, whether it’s romantically or in the interest of being a better human being.

Every week month time I can… I plan to post a few interesting reads I find worth sharing with others. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Cheers to being in love and learning how to love better.

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Photo: Nicholas Nixon

“A Lot of Love (and a Little Out of Control)”  – An intimate series of portraits entitled “Bebe and I”, chronicling the love between photographer Nicholas Nixon and his wife, Bebe.

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“Remembering a Folk Art Visionary” – My visit to Calipatria was very hot and very stuffy but memorable because you don’t find art like this everyday. If you ever find yourself in Southern California, I hiiighly recommend a visit to this unique section of Slab City! Even if you don’t believe in God, it’s a good place to think about universal love. RIP Mr. Knight and long live folk art!

“Can Marriage Cure Poverty?” – Less about love and romance than marriage, politics and poverty. Still, a read that ought to make us think about our reasons for getting married and pressuring others to do the same.

Washington Post journalist Ezra Klein writing on getting married (to NYT’s Annie Lowrey, author of the aforementioned article). It’s (super) sweet.

“Seduced By A Gift That Broke The Rules” – This one is a year old but I come back to it from time to time because it’s hilarious, heartwarming and makes me wonder if I have Asperger’s.

“Before the Web, Hearts Grew Silent” – Another warm and fuzzy from NYT’s Modern Love column. It’s about long distance love, life before Facebook and real-life reckless adoration. So good.

Top image: my own, taken in San Diego after visiting Salvation Mountain.

It’s been a long time… cue Aaliyah + Timbaland.

Well, I have a fat backlog of posts I’ve started (three months worth now… yikes) that I never finished but I resolve to finish them ALL. In due time.

I’ll ease into it with a Creepy Happy Feelings post. Folks I bring you true objects of desire: leather goods by Mansur Gavriel.

If you like to huff leather fumes like I do, this site will make you want to scratch and sniff your computer screen.

Brace yourself, leather fiends:

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Oh you fainted? Me too. I’ll wait while you pick yourself up off the floor.

Aren’t they beautiful?! Rachel and Floriana cover all my bases in terms of leather accessory needs. These Italian vegetable tanned leather babies are simple, well-crafted and classic–with just a touch of quirk (look at all those colors. Swoon!). They do 4-5 things and they do them well.

In my blogging absence, one thing I have been doing faithfully is purging my closet. In this process I’ve sat with each article of clothing I own and whittled away the excess: anything I haven’t worn recently or could be more useful to someone else. It’s easy to accumulate a lot of stuff only to donate it and buy more again but I think from here on out, I’m going to try diligently to exist on less yet be exceedingly intentional with what I buy and how I invest my hard earned clothing budget. It’s challenging when you consume fashion in various mediums on a daily basis but it’s possible and it’s worth it, dammit.

So on that note, I do think it’d be in my best interest to stave off any fast-fashion needs for an MG bucket bag or tote. I mean look at the lines of that bucket bag. So strong yet so refined. So handsomely understated. I got goosebumps as I watched the homepage load and wondered if I was still thinking about a bag or something else.

Some of my favorites from the collection:

1.) Bucket Bag — Black with Flamma

This is like a pair of Louboutins but in bag form which means way more functional. And affordable. So pretty. I just want to pet it.

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Heaven, must be like this.

2.) Large Tote — Cammello With Sun

Okay, tell me you would not drop anything and everything if one of your gfs showed up to brunch with this bad girl resting on her arm. I love that the interior is coated in a completely different color. I’d put stuff into my bag just to take it back out just to stare at the insides of this bag. (Similar feelings felt for this lovely pool of Royal).

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3.) Medium Wallet — Brandy

I’m partial to the Cammello but this color is just too sexy not to include.

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I heart leather, big time.

What are some of your favorite leather good brands?

Images: Mansur Gavriel

taco bell chalupa

Chili cheese dog from Weinerschnitzel. A #5 combo from Del Taco plus two chicken soft tacos with a Sprite. Beef Chalupa Supreme with a Baja Blast and cinnamon twists. A #2 from In N Out with grilled onions and either a 1/2 chocolate, 1/2 vanilla shake or a lemonade with Sprite and animal style fries (with ketchup and pepper) and yellow pepperchinis on the side. Wendy’s chicken nuggets (no less than 10 pieces, pls), a baked potato with bacon and sour cream, a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, plus fries and the largest sized Frosty they are legally capable of selling. Popeye’s chicken strips with the following Signature Sides: mac n’ cheese, cajun fries with ranch, green beans, red beans and rice and a Dr. Pepper or a Sweeet Tea. A Costco polish dog with mustard and Sprite mixed with Minute Maid Lemonade. A Chipotle barbacoa burrito with black beans, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro-lime rice and onions, with chips and guac and a Sprite. Four al pastor tacos with green sauce and extra radish from the King Taco off E. 3rd St., plus a large horchata. A 5 Guys chili cheese dog with onions and fries. A #6 combo from Weinerschnitzel or just any corn dog with mustard from anywhere.

I don’t always know what to catalogue but when I do, it’s my favorite fast food.

In case you didn’t know, I am not good with hair. Aside from mastering The Bun, The Ponytail and the basic functions of a curling iron, I can’t do much else with my mane. Actually, the other day a stylish friend told me I should try parting my hair on the opposite side of my head. I looked at him with the amount of amazement that should only be reserved for things like the end of world poverty or discovering a cure for cancer.

So you’re saying I can wear my hair… on the other side of my face??

Sad how limited my imagination is when it comes to hair. I guess it’s just never been my thing.

I’ve temporarily banned myself from buying any new clothes (more on this later) and thought it would be great to spruce up other aspects of my daily attire.  As the title of this post wrongly implies, there are no braids or DIY dye jobs, yet–but scarves, bows, and hats? I can manage that.

Check out some of the cute things I’ve been noticing in the headwear department–easy enough for someone who never knows what to do with her hair or her head.

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