Disney Christmas 2016

Christmas is my absolute favorite season, and Disneyland one of my favorite places at the moment. So of course, Christmas at Disneyland is pretty magical to me.

One of the perks of having an annual pass is having the time to leisurely stroll around the parks and experience all of the shows, parades, and rides.

These are some must-see things if you are planning to come to Disneyland & CA adventure during this time of year:

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Taking pictures with characters: Many of the characters, including Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, etc., are wearing Christmas outfits

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle: The castle looks really pretty at night and as the centerpiece of the fireworks show.

It’s a Small World Holiday: The ride itself is not too captivating, but the exterior of the ride is stunning at night time. Inside, the changes include Christmas songs and decorations. The outside lights up very colorfully and even has a mini show with projections and music every so often (I would say every 15-30 min or so). Lines can get long.

Haunted Mansion: This ride has had it’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” theme since September, but it is still a popular ride, especially at night. Fastpasses are usually available for the ride, even at night, so that’s the most efficient option. I would not recommend waiting in the normal line if you are able to get a fastpass.

Jingle Cruise: Yes, there is a new script that the skippers use, but honestly the humorous effect depends on the delivery of the puns/jokes. I’ve been on the ride a couple times where no one laughs and there’s awkward silence.. but there are Christmas lights & decorations on the ride worth seeing.

Shows & Parades

A Christmas Fantasy Parade: watching this parade is a one-time thing for me, as it appeals more to children. The parade itself is really slow and long because the floats are spaced apart. It starts at It’s a Small World and ends on Main Street. I’d recommend the earlier showing of the parade for better viewing spots. There are some benches on the steps of City Hall that are a great elevated view of the parade.img_9439

“Believe in Holiday Magic” Fireworks:  This is my favorite to watch during Christmas time. The fireworks last at least a good 10-15 minutes and end with “snow” falling from the sky and a pleasant gingerbread smell. Viewing areas get packed very early so for the best viewing, you might want to stake out a spot 1 hour before the show starts. The fireworks tend to be launched to the left side of the castle so make sure there isn’t a tree blocking your view of air above the left side of the castle, especially if you’re standing on main street. Best viewing spots are in front center of the castle and right behind the middle circle(??).

World of Color–Season of Light : This show is very different from the normal World of Color. It is almost all Christmas and very little Disney. Lots of Christmas carols and little narration

Paint the Night: This parade was last active during the 60th anniversary earlier this year, so if you missed it, it’s back!

Food: Pineapple Upside Down Funnel Cake @ the Hungry Bear Restaurant

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This eatery near Splash Mountain actually has some affordable and yummy fries. While getting our fries, my friend and I saw that this funnel cake was being sold and we decided to try it. It’s actually a good portion for the price (It came out to ~7.50) and could feed 2-3 people. The funnel cake has a nice texture, and the pineapple chunks and syrup on top complement the fried goodness.

 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

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LA Day Trip

I recently took advantage of Metrolink’s $10 weekend pass that allows you to use the trains and connecting public transportation(such as bus and subway). My former roommates and I decided to go to LA for the day and do some exploring. I’ve outlined an itinerary that I hope will be helpful to anyone in the future!

9:14am: board the train from Orange County

10:30am: arrive at Union Station in LA

Once you get to LA there are a variety of things you can do:

Grand Central Market: From Union Station take the purple line down 2 stops and walk a couple blocks to Grand Central Market. There’s a ton of food places and its always crowded, but popular places to eat include Eggslut, McConnell’s ice cream, and Ramen Hood.

The Last Bookstore: This bookstore is close to Grand Central Market and features 2 stories of books on books on books. There are arches made of books that are very Instagrammable and overall the bookstore is fun to explore, especially if you love to read.

Bradbury building: This building has an iconic interior that you might recognize from movies such as 500 Days of Summer or Blade Runner. You can only access the 1st floor but it’s a really nice photo op and interesting piece of history.

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The Broad: contemporary art museum. Need I say more? The line to get in without a reservation can be long, but when I went on a Sunday around 2:30pm, the line only took 30 minutes and then we were in!

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My roomies and I at the Broad museum

Grand Park: Just one stop away from Union station,

Little Tokyo: Can be accessed by the Metro Gold Line. There’s plenty of cute shops and restaurants to explore here. I went to Cafe Dulce and got a milk tea which was kinda overpriced but the food and drinks here were all so cute.

Santa Monica Pier: If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take the Expo Line all the way to Santa Monica. Honestly it’s a little far, but SM is always poppin.

Hollywood: Very touristy place but definitely a must see if you haven’t been already. There’s plenty of shopping, the Walk of Fame, and the Chinese Theater.

4:40pm: board the train at Union Station to go back to OC

Taking public transportation is really nice because you don’t have to worry about parking or traffic(which gets pretty bad in LA), and the pricing of the weekend pass is affordable. The only con is that the last train from LA to OC is at 4:40pm so you can’t really explore LA at night. But all in all, this would be a good day trip for those who don’t want to drive in the horrible LA traffic.

Summer is almost over so get out there, explore, and make some memories! 🙂

Summer 2016 Favorites

Game: Pokemon Go! 

Ok, the hype has died down, but I’m still trying to hatch my 10km egg.

TV Show: Jane the Virgin

I freaking love this show.

Hiking/Running Trail: Sawyer Camp Trail (San Mateo, CA)IMG_8528.JPG

One of the most gorgeous trails I’ve ever been on. I visited my friend Christine in her hometown and she took me to this local trail surrounding a huge reservoir. We even saw a deer and baby deer on our walk 🙂

Music: Borns

Got to see Borns live at the Santa Monica Pier and it was AMAZING. My favorite song is Past Lives which I can’t get out of my head. The rest of the album is also really good and it’s gotten me back into indie pop type of music which I’ve been listening to nonstop while writing my secondaries.

Day Trip: LA

Metrolink in Southern California offers a $10 pass on Saturdays and Sundays that works for the trains as well as connecting lines such as the Metro subways in LA. So far I’ve taken two train day trips this summer and it’s been a blast; I’ll be doing another blog post about LA day trip suggestions.

Place: Disneyland!!

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I finally got my annual pass to the happiest place on Earth and I have to say, I have no regrets. The 60th anniversary ends this week so last chance to catch the Disneyland Forever fireworks and World of Color!

 

Summer has gone by so fast! What have you been up to this summer?

Spring blooms

Spring is here! It’s been so warm lately and the flowering trees on campus are blooming so beautifully.

For this past winter quarter, I’ve been obsessed with the botanical garden on campus. I always pass by it on my walk back to my apartment and sometimes I’ll take the time to go inside and walk around for a bit. Seriously, botanical gardens are underrated! It literally feels like a forest in there and it’s crazy that there’s this oasis of plants in the middle of a city.

A while ago, the cherry blossom tree was in full bloom and it was so incredibly beautiful. Since then, the flowers have fallen, but it was seriously so awesome to see while in bloom.

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Japanese Cherry Blossom at Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

Valentine’s Day 2k16

Happy belated Valentine’s Day everyone!

I didn’t really think of writing about Valentine’s Day until now, a couple days late. Honestly, Valentine’s Day was only a big deal during last year, my first Valentine’s Day with a boo. I told my boo that this year, I didn’t mind not celebrating Valentine’s Day as boo has 2 midterms this week. But you know what, a lot of people seem to celebrate Valentine’s Day(whether, single, taken, or somewhere in between) and it’s caught on to me I guess. Why pass on an opportunity to celebrate love? 😉

My Valentine’s Day was pretty simple but fun. As this weekend I came home to celebrate Lunar New Year, we invited 2 of my cousins over to celebrate Tet with us. We had a feast with banh tet, banh chung(and dua mon of course), cha gio(eggrolls), com chien(fried rice), banh bot loc, and lots of sweet like mut dua.

Food. Lots of food.

After such a satisfying meal, we couldn’t help but get even more full by going to 7 leaves, one of my favorite boba/milk tea places. It was a hot day so a mung bean milk tea with boba was pretty yummy(not to say that it wouldn’t be yummy in cold weather too haha).

I also went shopping with my cousin at South Coast Plaza, which was as crowded as ever on this three day weekend. It was cool though ’cause at one of the info desks they were handing out single roses. For free! So of course I had to go get one amidst a huge flock of women who also wanted one. It was cool that there was a little water holder thing at the bottom of the rose stem. And people kept asking me where I got the rose.

Nordstrom rack was having a “clear the rack” sale so I ended up getting a pair of shoes(in brown) and high-waisted jeans.

Overall, a pretty good Valentine’s Day spent with my family (:

Lucky for me, boo took me on a random/unexpected Valentine’s Day dinner tonight to catch up after the long weekend. So no flowers or chocolate this year, but I couldn’t be happier with this really peaceful and happy Valentine’s Day.

Hope everyone has an amazing week. Always remember that you are so loved!

 

Chúc mừng năm mới!

Happy Lunar New Year!

The warmer weather really makes it feel like xuân(spring) is here. It’s interesting how Tết is usually in January or February but it’s considered spring… I guess maybe in Vietnam it is considered spring? Anyways, southern California is having a very warm week, with temperatures in the 80s, so it feels almost like spring or summer.

Tết is one of the most important holidays celebrated by the Vietnamese, according to my parents. It was a day where everyone got a new pair of clothes to wear, and many red envelopes(lì xì) were given to children by their elders(not without a warm wishing of good health, lots of money, a happy life, etc to your elders of course). It was like a national holiday, and people didn’t have to go to work or school for a couple days(or week? I don’t remember haha) so they could celebrate with their families and neighbors.

Tết holds a special place in my heart, and I have so so many memories from the past years. Fun fact, I actually wrote one of my college application essays about my Tết experience in San Jose.

What I love most about Tết is its vibrancy and traditions. I’m lucky to have grown up in Orange County, where there is a huge Vietnamese population and where Tết is celebrated largely. I also have lots of family in San Jose, where I’ve been lucky enough to go to celebrate this holiday. The cool thing about San Jose is the fact that they let you light firecrackers in your own home. I remember my uncles tying up the firecracker in front of my grandma’s house and lighting it to ring in the new year. The firecrackers are really loud and leave little red shrapnels and smoke behind, but it’s a really fun experience to have.

Next week, I will be going home to celebrate with my friends and family in Orange County. I’m looking forward to eating my favorite Tết foods, bánh tét and mứt dừa, as well as going to the festivals and seeing firecrackers and múa lân(lion dance).

I haven’t been keeping track, but apparently it is the Year of the Monkey this year. This is your year, people born in the year of the monkey 😉

Gracias Madre: Dine LA + Happy hour

At the end of this week, I went to Gracias Madre, a mexican vegan restaurant, for Dine LA and happy hour. We wanted to go for lunch which ended at 4pm and happy hour(3-6pm), so 3pm was an optimal time.

I’ve been to Gracias Madre once before and loved the food as well as the ambiance. The decor is very bright and inviting, and the food makes your tastebuds explode(literally). This is definitely my favorite vegan restaurant.

The Dine LA menu is $15 for lunch and allows you to pick 2 options out of quite a few, including appetizers and desserts. The 2 of us shared our 4 picks. The flautas de camote and winter empanadas were both warm, hearty dishes. The Coriflor frito was a smoky cauliflower with vegan cheese. Lastly, the fudge brownie dessert was too sweet in the brownie portion, but had more balance when paired with the ice cream on top. My favorite was the winter empanadas, and least favorite was the dessert(I’d probably try the Mexican wedding cookies next time; the brownie was just too sweet!).

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Flautas de camote & winter empanada 

From the happy hour menu we ordered nachos and 2 drinks–the Mezcal Mule and Purista Margarita. Nachos were a decent portion size which I enjoyed. Both of the drinks were a miss for me however. They were both very strong and bitter. Maybe because I don’t drink very much, I’m not sure how to assess these drinks but I’ve had much lighter and less strong drinks which suit me more. So if you drink, maybe these drinks will be more appreciated by you.

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Mezcal Mule & happy hour nachos; purista margarita in the background

All in all, I really enjoyed my dining experience at Gracias Madre. We spent about 1 and a half hours at the restaurant, but I really liked how spaced out the food was in terms of when it was served. It gave me a chance to digest and enjoy each plate. Because this restaurant is more on the pricy side, I would only come back during Dine LA or happy hour. The food is amazing though, trust me. I’m waiting for the next time Dine LA comes around 😉

Dine LA round 1: TLT

Dine LA is happening right now! I’ve always wanted to go try a new place during the Dine LA restaurant week, and this was my first time going.

This week my apartment mates and I went to TLT food, a casual Asian fusion place in Westwood. For Dine LA lunch, I got the beef short rib quesadilla, Waldorf salad, and lime panna cotta dessert. These were all new items I had never tried.

The quesadilla was delicious, with a creamy sauce drizzled on top and plenty of beef inside. The salad was alright, but not something I would get again(in retrospect I probably should’ve tried the chimi wings instead). Lastly, the dessert was a custard-like, lime-flavored panna cotta with whipped cream on top.

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First ever Dine LA experience 

I’m no food critic, but TLT was pretty decent for Dine LA, at a reasonable price of $15. Bought separately, the items would have cost a total of $19, so we saved $4. That’s not a huge amount, but it was nice trying 3 new items that I probably wouldn’t have ordered if not for Dine LA. I was also really full after eating the entire quesadilla and part of the salad, which I had leftovers to bring home.

Next on my Dine LA list is Gracias Madre, my favorite vegan restaurant of all time! Stay tuned for that (:

Saturday hike: Temescal Canyon

Happy Sunday!

Yesterday I went on my first ever hike in LA! My friend, boyfriend, and I drove out to Pacific Palisades to Temescal Canyon. Parking was free on Temescal Canyon Rd, across from the high school. Paid parking is $7 and starts you closer to the trailhead.

We hiked a loop including the Temescal Canyon Trail and Viewpoint Trail. At the top of the hike, we saw views of downtown LA, Santa Monica Pier, and the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, it was foggy and we couldn’t see the view clearly, but I’m sure on a clear day the view would be gorgeous! I would characterize this as an intermediate hike(we definitely broke a sweat on the inclines), but definitely worth the views! Can’t wait to check it out again on a clear day.

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The fog turned the background white, but using the Instax mini outside was definitely better!

After the hike was girls brunch at Huckleberry, a bakery and brunch place in Santa Monica. Food was definitely pricy and the wait was long, so I probably wouldn’t come back for brunch.

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Beef brisket hash and poached eggs over vegetables

The conversations we had were great though and for that I’m thankful. It was so nice to catch up and hang out with a good, down-to-earth friend.

That wraps it up for now! Hope everyone’s having a great weekend!

 

Uncertainty

I’m about to graduate from college. Just 6 more months(plus summer school). Just 6 more months until the title of “college student” is taken away from me, to be replaced with “college graduate”. The comforting idea of college is taken away from me. The apartment that I live in, my roommates, the organizations I’m involved in–all that is taken away. Being a college student has become part of my identity, giving me a temporary goal for the future. I don’t have to do much deciding; the classes I can take for my major are outlined for me and I keep going, quarter after quarter, studying and working for that degree.

But with “college graduate” comes responsibility; responsibility for figuring out my life, for making a living, for providing for myself. I no longer have a schedule determined by school, and no longer know what my immediate future will be. No more classes to sign up for next quarter. No more college to go to. And with that comes uncertainty. Will I find a job? Will I get into medical school? Will I have a career that is fulfilling for my soul but also provides for me? Will I achieve my dreams?

Sometimes I’ve felt alone in this feeling of uncertainty. But after talking to my friends, acquaintances, old friends I reconnect with… I find the same feeling. And I realize I’m not actually alone. In a way, life is uncertain for everyone. No matter how successful or happy someone may appear, they will sometimes experience that feeling of uncertainty. No one’s got it all figured out. Instead, why don’t we trust? Trust that things will work themselves out, trust that no matter how hard of a time we’re going through right now, we will make it out stronger and better.

I hope that I’ll be able to embrace uncertainty one day. To not run away and hide from this fear of mine, but to embrace my fears and trust in wherever this road takes me.