I truly could not have imagined a more wonderful afternoon with the most dearest girls that God has placed in my life. I have so much gratitude for my amazing bridesmaids and lovely girl friends for throwing me the ultimate alice in wonderland shower! Everything was more than I could ever have dreamed of: all the crazily creative decorations, the extraordinary wonderland-themed table centerpiece, the homemade photo booth props + backdrop, the delightful afternoon tea party, the fun and fitting bites to eat (those purple cupcakes!), the games with just the right amount of silly (Alice Coop!), the once-in-a-lifetime experience of playing backyard croquet with flamingos, the generous gifts and cards, the much-needed prayer in the form of a beautiful fabric bunting, and most of all...just being surrounded by so many of my favorite faces. I was so tremendously blessed by the presence of each and every one of my lady friends who have done so well to encourage me in my relationship with Clay the past 3+ years and to share in all my excitement for this next stage of married life with him.
Also, a BIG thank you to my talented photographer friend, Ronnie, for helping me capture my experience in wonderland! You can see more of her wonderful photography work here! :)
Just got back from a pretty amazing weekend with my awesome Breakaway ladies who threw me quite the celebration!
We spent the first half of our trip in the lovely little beach city of Carmel, near Monterey. Their downtown neighborhoods and main plaza are great if you're looking to eat at a nice restaurant or do some shopping. Here are the spots we visited:
-The Cheese Shop: If you appreciate cheese, this is a great place to go! They carry a good variety of cheese (from gouda to comte to manchego) that come from many different countries as well as by different milk types. They're very generous with letting customers sample their cheeses. There are also a ton of different specialty products to look at/ buy on their shelves.
-Salumeria Luca: Afterwards, we went to an Italian deli to sample and pick up some salami for later. This place is also a bakery - I saw quite a few delectable-looking pastries on display and panini options on their menu.
-Anthropologie: This Anthro is located on the second floor of Carmel Plaza and it's huge! As usual, it was fun to browse through the store, but the clothing (dresses) were much too expensive for me to even begin thinking about purchasing :P
-Janie & Jack: Adorable baby's / children's clothing - don't know much in this arena, so can't say much ;)
-Andre's Bouchee: For lunch, we went to a small French restaurant that really did remind me of my summer studying abroad in Paris. I enjoyed everything I ordered there, including their dessert wine, French onion soup, and Croque Madame. This quaint restaurant is definitely very fitting for a girl's day out or a fancy date night.
After lunch, we drove about 20-25 minutes over to Kayak Connection at Moss Landing, which is just off Highway 1. We all decided to rent sit-in canoes (my first time!) to use during our 45-minutes out on the water (the place closes at 5:30PM and we arrived pretty late). After signing a release, you have to watch a video. Then you get to pick up a wet suit/dry suit/jacket and a life jacket. After a brief and basic paddle lesson, everyone gets sent off in their canoes out on Elkhorn Slough. Not far from the dock, we were able to see several different birds out on the water (even swimming birds), seals, and a good number of sea otters (so fun!!). I would totally recommend kayaking there, especially since the water is quite calm and there is plenty of wildlife to see at the reserve. The only thing I would make sure to do is to arrive earlier so you get to go further away and get more time on the kayak!
The rest of the trip, we stayed in Gilroy at the Fong's, which really was the perfect option for us! It was a ton of fun to come back to a giant colorful blanket fort that some of the girls had built in the living room! I loved how it was decorated with Christmas lights and lined with cushions/pillows, which made it feel so festive and cozy :) Anyway, other than the slumber party that took place back back at home, we went out to a nearby Chevy's for dinner and The Westside Grill for brunch the next day. They were both about 5 minutes away from the Fong's and it was nice to enjoy good food and company somewhere nearby with all my girls. It was a good reminder that you really don't need to go too far or fancy for a memorable dining experience. You can probably tell from one of the pictures above that I very much so enjoyed wearing my Chevy's sombrero (thanks Debs!) and drinking my green Pirate Punch.
I am so thankful for the time that I got to spend with this truly unique group of girls. They seriously made me laugh so hard during the sleepover countless times and I was totally free to let loose and be my silly, crazy self. I am definitely feeling tremendously blessed by all the hilarious moments we were able to share and all the new Breakaway bachelorette memories that we were able to create together.
Last weekend, Catherine and some of my bridesmaids (my dear long-time friends since middle school: Joyce, Julianna, and Nancy) took me on a bachelorette party / weekend getaway trip to the city of Avalon, located on Catalina Island. This was our first time visiting the Channel Islands of California!
We started the weekend off by driving to Long Beach and taking a 1- hour long ferry ride on the Catalina Express over to the island. Once we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised by how wonderfully different Catalina Island was, especially for being a destination that was so close to home. Looking back on the trip, I would say that Catalina Island is very much like a a Californian version of Hawaii. As a small resort community (in the month of July), you get all the warm beach-y vacation vibes: people sunbathing out on the sand, vacationers walking around the streets in their swimsuits, ice cream melting within minutes under the hot sun, live music playing from the restaurants, and souvenir shops selling glittery bath bombs. Though it isn't tropical, you still get lovely views all along the coast, like sailboats covering the harbor and palm trees lining the bay. The small city of Avalon is quite lively both in the daytime and at night, bustling with both travelers and locals. It is very quaint, with its colorful little neighborhoods full of tiny houses and their popular use of golf-carts (which seemed like the main vehicle of transportation there other than the Garibaldi Bus). Even though we were only in town for one full day, I would say that my girl friends and I thoroughly enjoyed our first Catalina experience together. Our short stay felt dreamlike, but the reality was: this island was the perfect place for us to spend a weekend together celebrating my last days as an unmarried woman! More info on where we stayed, food we ate, and activities we did below (note: my bridesmaids planned the whole itinerary and I did zero research for this trip):
Catalina Canyon Resort & Spa: As described on their website, it really is a very tranquil hotel tucked away in the peaceful Catalina Island foothills. And it really does have an "architectural style that evokes thoughts of an exclusive Mediterranean resort," haha. Since it is slightly removed from the main activities, they do provide a shuttle system to get you into town/ back to the ferry. Otherwise, it's about a 10 to 15 minute walk from all the restaurants and shops located on the waterfront. We all enjoyed the rooms (which were simple clean and comfortable), as well as the amenities provided in the garden courtyard: swimming pool, hot tub, courtyard tables & chairs (and bistro lights!). They even had a pingpong table and small restaurant in the courtyard.
CC Gallagher: If you want a light Japanese, Asian Fusion-style dinner, CC Gallagher is the place to go! They have sushi rolls, salmon dinner plates, panini sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, and a cafe that serves a variety of beverages. You can even get gelato/sorbet for dessert afterwards.
Maggie's Blue Rose: If you want some light Mexican-style food that isn't too heavy/greasy, this is the place to go! I ordered a steak enchilada plate with cilantro rice and spanish rice (I love rice). My sister said the black beans were good and my friends all seemed to enjoy the tortilla chips with salsa/guac.
Scoops Homemade Ice Cream: After a 2-hour snorkeling trip, my two scoops of strawberry and pistachio ice cream totally hit the spot! Their ice cream is handmade from scratch without any preservatives or artificial flavors. And it really was smooth & creamy, flavorful & fresh - a delightful summer treat!
Steve's Steakhouse: This was where we had dinner on our last girls' night out. We actually decided to come here because we found out that Steve's and Maggie's are a husband-wife owned restaurant right next door to each other. Steve's is a little more fancy and located on the second floor. The food tasted great and we were able to enjoy our dinner with an open view of the water right in front of us!
Chi Chi Club: Where you can go for drinks (pina coladas ;), some digital photo booth fun, and dancing!
Garden to Sky Hike: In order to do this hike, you have to take the Garibaldi Bus (which comes every 45 minutes) up to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden. To get to the start of the trail, you have to walk straight through the garden past different cacti to William Wrigley Jr.'s Memorial. The entrance is through a gate located on the right of the memorial. The hike was 1.2 miles up to the top, where it really does feel like the land meets the sky, and also where you can see the water on the other side of the island. The hike for the most part is dry, without shade, and uphill, but you do get a different view of the island's terrain.
Snorkeling Catalina: I was really impressed that my girl friends scheduled a 2-hour boat trip to go snorkeling along the coast of the island - especially since two of them had never even snorkeled before! Of course, they all ended up doing great and we had an adventure looking for bright orange garibaldi, the California state fish. Even though it was 72 degrees, the water still felt cold and we ended up wearing wet suits. Our boat driver took us to a couple spots where he felt like the views would be best and we ended the excursion at Lover's Cove, which was where we saw the most fish!
I am genuinely so thankful for such a thoughtfully planned out trip and an overall amazing weekend with these girls. I very much cherish the time we got to spend with each other and all the ways we got acquainted with Catalina Island (it really did feel like home by the the last night of the trip!). I truly couldn't have asked for more : )
Ever since I was little, my family never really traveled too much. People are usually surprised to hear that I have not been to Taiwan before, where my dad was born and where most of his family still resides. My parents never took us on any big vacation. I have never been to Hawaii, Alaska, boarded any type of cruise, or been part of one of those big Asian tours in Europe.
But growing up, one thing our family did share together was our family camping trips. When my sister and I were younger, my dad would pitch a tent up in our backyard for us to play in and we would think it was the funnest thing ever. When we were older, my dad started collecting gear and booking reservations for campsites in Yosemite. One year, he even invested in a big inflatable raft so my mom, my sister, and I could float down the rivers at Yosemite. (I actually have a funny story about this: Once I got out of the raft midway to play on an island and totally got left behind, because the river currents were so strong they just carried my mom and sister away as the raft continued to flow forward...That's how I came to learn that rivers flow one direction :P) Anyway, whether it was Yosemite or Lake Tahoe, my dad would always plan everything - the reservations, the food for the meals, and the packing of camping essentials. It was unfortunate that it got to a point where I took these small family camping trips for granted. I didn't acknowledge all the hard work being put into the planning and the physical work my parents exerted over the long hours spent driving and hiking, just so my sister and I could get a taste of the great outdoors...or simply so we could all share time together as a family. I don't think I had the chance to realize what these trips truly meant to me until recently, after Clay and I started this camping-once-a-month project.
That's why this past weekend was a very special camping trip for me. It was the first trip that I planned (with Clay) for my family. Clay booked the campsite at Butano and I told them that we would do all the meal planning, take care of the usual logistics, and that all they had to bring was themselves! It ended up being an amazing time for all of us. Both of my parents were so excited, it was so cute. They enjoyed all the meals we cooked (including the caramelized pork belly pasta pictured above) and I super enjoyed spoiling them. They got to try out Clay's new parachute hammock and loved it. The state park itself treated us first-time visitors so well. Right beside our campsite was this small lake with a huge log floating in the middle of it. Clay named it 酱油湖 (Soy Sauce Lake), because the water was so dark that it gave a perfect reflection! We only had time to hike the Six Bridges Trail, but it was so gorgeous with its breath-taking redwoods. The trail brought us to a little wooden amphitheater and then lead us down to Butano Creek. The whole camp, tucked away in a canyon, was very family-friendly. It was the perfect place for me to continue our family tradition and express a small token of my appreciation to my parents for all the past camping trips I've been blessed to have growing up.
Just capturing as I go.