Eight Years and Counting…

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Before we know it, it may be “38 years and counting”…

Tomorrow, we will celebrate our eight-years wedding anniversary. We plan to return to San Francisco City Hall where we married to revisit that beautiful, fateful date.

Being together for eight years, one of the keys is to learn to go with the flow. I’m a closeted control freak. Over the years, I have came out and seen the other side (once in a while). We have a hotel reservation at Omni, but we don’t have a slew of activities booked. Truth: I have looked and have thought of about booking dinner reservation or show tickets. Finally, I let it go (someone please give me a high five) We will go on the fly.

We have an idea of HOW things may be, but there isn’t a schedule to follow. That itself is an accomplishment on my part. I’m slowly learning the art of go with the flow. For example, Vlad and I had an awesome time last night just chilling and not necessarily plan out a “date night”. It’s the HOW and not the what … And more importantly, it is the FEELING for each other that can feel like rekindling the romance. It felt like we were back in the earlier days of dating.

On my birthday, Vlad gave me an Amazon echo. Sweet thought. It was all about the music part. There IS always music whenever/whereever I am. Echo basically can play music from pandora, controlled vocally, much like a siri. The first few days, we were like “Alexa, this” “Alexa, that” I jokingly said: “with Alexa in the house, we will not be talking to each other, instead, we will be talking to Alexa”

Last night, after laughing through few episodes of Sex and the City, Vlad was falling asleep, partly because it was SATC and partly because I was giving him a head rub/massage. Then, out of nowhere, I decided that I wanted to listen to spice girls on Pandora. Pretty soon, I was humming to tunes of backstreet boys and TLC, laughing so hard of how much lyrics I remembered.Even more hilarious, Vlad admitted he knew a good number of songs.

Next thing, we moved on to the 2000’s hip hop when we were in college. 50 cents in da house, yo! Before we knew it, we were dancing as if we first started dating and jamming to “Get Ur Freak On” So. Much. Fun. and So. Entertaining.

Who knew Echo/Alexa can be a time machine?

This is the advantage of being born only couple years apart and being together for a good amount of our 20s. We shared similar musical “rite of passage”. It was such an ordinary but super fun night, because of the person I was with. The mood was playful. The atmosphere was intimate (candlelight for the 90s music!). The person was perfectly right!

It is not WHAT to do, but choosing the HOW to do it and with WHOM to be with. I’m really excited for what the next 38 years of the HOW and the WHO with the love of my life.

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On the Eve of my Birthday…

Turning 33 is accepting, accepting that there are things that are beautiful in life when I take moments to appreciate them and that there are things that are just outside of my control. As I “age”, hopefully, like a fine wine, I’m still working on the latter. Over the years, I’m getting better, slowly but surely in realizing that control is simply an illusion. I’m also accepting that I will always have that part of me to cherish, borderline need to control.

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On this eve, I’m particularly feeling beautiful both inside and out. There are many times that people say “it’s important to be beautiful inside as the outside will eventually change” The so-called age gracefully. Ah, always perfect as a quote but never something I dwell on. Feeling beautiful isn’t just about the appearance, but an attitude to cherish everything and everyone that comes in my life.

For example, lately, I’m feeling really in touched with ‘youth’ again with going back to hip hop dancing through this class, Groov3. It reminds me of the college days and more importantly, feeling beautiful with each beat of the music and every move of the choreograph. Dance like no one is watching and dance with each heartbeat and not caring if my techniques are there. It’s teaching me to let go of what is supposed to be right and keep what feels right!

 

For the upcoming year, I want to continue to grow. I want to conquer things that I may find fearful. One of the biggest things I have overcame this year is fear of water by surfing in open ocean in Cabos . I cannot say that the fear is completely gone, however, I can live with that trepidation of water while enjoying some part of it. That’s one step closer.

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There are other things on my list to conquer and for the sake of not jinxing it, I will keep this list private. The concept is the same – the desire to live with as little fear as possible and living life as fully as possible. “Go after it” will be my motto for 2016!

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In less than 10 hours, I will turn 33. Go after it like no one is watching, especially when I go for that second slice of birthday cake!

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Morgan Hill Half Marathon: Closing the 13.1-mile Chapter of My Journey

5am. The alarm went off. I rose out up bed thinking “am I really doing this?”

6am. I dressed in the tech shirt I received at my very first 5-K race in September 2013. I put on my favorite ‘Running is Cheaper than Therapy’ cap. I taped up my knee and ankle. I laced up my blue Mizuno ascend running shoes. Out I went, navigating in the still-dark streets, to my last 13.1 mile race in Morgan Hill.

7am. Crowds of enthusiastic and excited runners blasted off the start line. I thought to myself “okay I’m really doing this”

The journey of running began more than two years ago in the spring of 2013. I was that person who hated running but chose to do it to continue the change-of-lifestyle adventure I had began fall of 2012. To this date, I still didn’t know why I chose running. Maybe it was the easiest thing to do at a relatively inexpensive cost where no gym membership or fancy equipment was required. Maybe it was about conquering what I hate. Either way, I have no regrets even as I have struggled with the idea of walking 13.1 miles today at my last half marathon at Morgan Hill.

Tackling 13.1 miles in any fashion requires effort. The idea of being out there WALKING it has been a tough one for me to swallow. Call it pride. Call it ego. Call it crazy. But at the end, I wanted to finish this chapter of my journey in any fashion I could. I registered for the Morgan Hill Half (MHH) last year as my goal to PR. Unfortunately, I injured my right ankle and knee while training hard. I had to postpone, which to my gratitude, the race organizer allowed it!

Fast forward to 2015, I never really recovered, flopping few races and finally decided that 5-10K was the more reasonable distance for my body. I had completely forgot about MHH until end of August when the e-mail showed up about the race! I thought ‘maybe I could still train?’ Then, I had to deal with allergy that totally overtook my life. I barely had enough energy to stay active, let alone train a half marathon.

I finally decided 1) postponing for another year made no sense 2) getting out there was the ultimate goal. As I  cheered for my friends during this year’s SJRnR half marathon in September, it felt nostalgic. So I set the bar really low – ‘go out and just start’ If I had to DNF, so be it. At least I finally could say I made the effort and closing out the half marathon chapter with sincere effort.

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I finished. In smiles. The second part was the more glorifying part because the smiles came from meeting two walkers at mile 5. They were angels. As droves of runners passed me, I was left behind as the sole walker. I had to admit that was hard – the feeling of being all alone out there. Having two new friends who shared similar story of injury-turn-walker made me feel totally in good company. We shared stories. We laughed at the ‘mile12’ jokes/conversations. It was totally awesome!

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I’m grateful to the two new friends. I’m grateful to close out the half marathon chapter, in smiles. I’m grateful to my friends who have come for support. I’m grateful for the journey thus far. I will continue running in some fashion, perhaps shorter distances, and definitely with trail running.

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Now onto recovery…

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Time Machine: One, Two Steps back to College Days

This week, I discovered ‘Groov3‘ at a local dance studio. Ever since I’m dialing back from running training, I’m itching to go back to dancing. It’s actually one of those activities that I love! I just haven’t really found a place/style I am excited about.

My friend and I checked out K-Pop at the dance studio. It was my first visit to this dance studio as well as first time attempting K-Pop (Korean Pop). The studio was fine, however, I did not ‘feel’ K-pop. It was possibly because of the choreograph that focused heavily on team formation. Another reason was I learned that the teacher was literally re-creating moves from the MV. There was nothing wrong with modeling after what I’d imagine very awesome dancers/choreography, but I was just more excited with original choreography. Plus, it was a turn off for me when the teacher kept going back to the video to recreate it. It killed the rhythm. To dance well, just like everything else, practice makes it perfect. You just keep going/practicing. The stop and go was distracting.

Luckily, I went back to dancing with the intent to try styles of dance that I have not done (which was why I tried K-pop). I then discovered ‘Groov3’ this week! It instantly brought me back to college days when I took a year of hip hop with Jossie. For one, the DJ was spinning music that reminded me of the 90s hip hop (yes, LIVE DJ!!) Second, it was the EXACT feeling I was searching – high intensity, higher energy, fun, and somewhat easy choreography to learn but welcomes individualization of the moves.

According to the website, Groov3 is targeted toward people who may have danced in the past and are looking to get back into it. It also serves the ‘beginner’ level too. I would agree with both although a beginner may feel out of place the very first time. The friendly, energetic crowd and teacher totally makes up for it. As long as you’re down to having fun and not caring you’re a beat or two behind, you will grow into it. I was definitely off beat the first class.

What makes Groov3 slightly different from Zumba or UJam is that you learn a set of choreography with DJ playing LIVE songs (to the same beat/count). Part of the ‘experience’ with dancing hip hop from back in the days was learning choreography and putting it together. Zumba focuses on latin moves and it just does basic moves with different songs. UJam is also hip hop but does not emphasize on choreography. I have done and enjoyed Zumba and UJam, but I definitely LOVE Groov3’s party atmosphere so much more!

I’m excited to return next week for the Halloween special dancing/choreo to Michael’s Jackson’s ‘Thriller’! Next on the list is also to try ‘House’ dancing style.

Best hike this year: Mt. Tamalpais State Park

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I recently hiked this trail at Mt. Tam when the Bay Area was still basking in summer temperatures in September. I learned about the Dipsea Trail from Brazen Racing. I had actually registered to race this event, but after deciding to stop running/training, I transferred the registration to my brother-in-law. I definitely still wanted to check it out for myself, especially knowing the ‘legend’ associated with the Dipsea Trail!

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I had planned to follow Jane’s suggestion from Bay Area hiker, starting at Stinson Beach and hiked the loop, leaving the Dipsea portion towards the end. Driving from San Jose, it took almost 90 minutes to get to Stinson Beach. Thankfully, the drive through Mill Valley was very scenic and enjoyable. Once I got to the town of Stinson Beach (my first time there), I had a bit of trouble finding the start of Matt Davis trail. But, after I embarked on the journey, I was immediately taken away by the beauty of the dense woods with a running (small) creek. It was very different from the usually bare landscape of the San Jose scenery. The first 1-1.5 miles was gradual ascend, somewhat requiring physical effort. While near the ‘top’, I heard waves. I thought I was hearing the sound from Stinson Beach, but after stopping few times, I realized it was the wind ruffled through the leaves on the trees! It was one the most magical moment of this hike. I stopped few times and really listened to the sound of the woods.

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The “magic” did not stop here. Because of my usual lack of sense of direction and being alone that day, I didn’t trek fast. I had to check and re-check the direction and carefully making turns at junctions. I definitely had moments of “should i keep going”? I was glad that I trusted myself and continued. The second most magical moment of the hike came when I entered Steep Ravine. It was THE BEST hike I’ve done in the Bay Area. I felt like I was on the set of Lord of the Rings with a mystical feeling with giant redwoods standing tall, majestic in front of me while the cool and moist atmosphere kissed my skin. It was such a mesmerizing trail that I would definitely come back again and again!

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Coming out of Steep Ravine, shortly, I came to the sign towards Dipsea Trail. By this point, I was at least 5-6 miles into the hike, definitely feeling tired. I was excited to finally get to Dipsea Trail, and in all honesty to return to Stinson Beach soon. For some reason, Jane’s loop/website said the entire loop was about 7.3 miles, but with my Strava GPS, the recording was suggesting more. It was very possible that I may have taken a slight different turn? Any way, the sign towards Dipsea was a welcome sign!

Pretty soon after being on the Dipsea Trail, I gasped at the sight and the beauty of Stinson Beach. I was also talking to myself “holy mack, this COULD BE RAN?” This thought kept coming to me, especially, the closer I moved towards the town of Stinson Beach with the stairs/steps! Not only was the “stairs” a challenge, the narrowness of the trail helped me realize why Brazen banned headphone use. All runners need to be super present to be safe! A wrong step, a runner could take few down with him/her!

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At the end, my GPS registered 9.1 miles with 2187 feet of elevation gain. It took me 3 hours and 49 minutes. I was really proud of myself, not just about actually trekking through a moderate difficulty trail, but more about taking on the task on my own. My sense of direction always gave me slight hesitation in going “into the woods”, especially, I had gotten lost few times before. With this hike, I just ended up with two extra miles, but made it back without much incident. While on this hike because of the narrowness of the trail as well as the change of elevation, I did not use headphone with music. I really spent 9 miles with some quiet “self-talk”. Some points, I was questioning myself of hiking so out-of-the-way. Some points, I was day dreaming about the hot cocoa I could be drinking (instead of hiking). Some points, I was just blank, puffing through dirt. It was interesting to observe myself like that. I can see why some people enjoy “getting lost in the woods”. With all the technology and the fast pace, it is rare that we get quiet moments to ourselves. Hiking is one way to slow down and listen.

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My Very First Cooking Class at Savory Kitchen, San Jose, CA

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Last night, I attended my very first cooking class at Savory Kitchen. I had a very good time learning about cooking and enjoying the company of new friends who shared similar interest! Savory Kitchen is located near San Jose downtown, which is a major plus, as it is close by. I don’t have to drive too far.

When I first entered the Kitchen, I immediately noticed the beautiful table set up and was greeted by a staff member. She immediately offered drinks. I passed because I was really hungry. Drinking on an empty stomach while handling cooking/cutting would not be a smart idea! Next thing I noticed was the food/ingredients set up on separate stations. Overall, I sensed a good vibe and had a good first impression.

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Chef Chad and Aimee started the class about 15 minutes into the session, after everyone was settled with drinks and checked in. The entire class had twenty people, mostly consisted of couples on date night/celebration or group of friends. It was a good mix of people there. Chad and Aimee explained the process/recipe of each dish and asked us to pick whatever station we chose to work. The menu was one of the reasons I signed up for the class. How do I resist this?

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I was closest to the duck abondigas, so I stayed there and began working on the dish. I was surprised that there was no “recipe” posted. Chad and Aimee basically floated between the four stations and guided us “free style”. It was a very casual environment. I had envisioned a “formal” class with the teachers in the front ‘lecturing’ with the students following. Frankly, I liked the freestyle better as we would get to chat and know fellow learning chefs.

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When the food was cooking and all the fragrance started to permeate the room, I was getting really hungry! Because of the menu, I came prepared, aka, hungry! But I didn’t realize how long it would take to cook four dishes for 20 people! It took us about 90 minutes to really finish and started with the duck meatball, the appetizer. It was about 8:30pm when we started with the duck. It was worth the wait, everything was perfect, especially accentuated by the wine pairing! The plating was gorgeous, which I learned was really important to make ‘gourmet’ food. The presentation instantly elevated the appetite, not that I needed it, but it was just gorgeous to look at!

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The best part of the experience was really sitting down with fellow learning chefs. Even though people came with friends/family/spouse, everyone was really engaging with each other, asking questions, sharing experiences, and just providing a very memorable dining experience that you would not find at a typical restaurant. Everyone came from different walks of life but shared some level of interest with cooking. Some were passionate; some were novice, but all were very wonderful to enjoy a delicious four-course meal with. The party ended around 10pm with the perfectly made chocolate cake! The caramel was to die-for!!

I would love to come back for another class or even celebrate a birthday with friends!

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Into the Wild: Some Thoughts

Middle of August, we had the opportunity to visit Portland, OR for the first time. I had just came back from Taiwan, still severely jet lagged. Some of Portland was hazy though most was memorable, including a stop at Powell Bookstore. It is the largest independent bookstore in the U.S. – it is the size of a city block with 4-5 floors and a section of rare collection of books. It was an ultimate “treasure” cove for a bookworm like me. We had many items on the itinerary and limited time in Portland. We only had about an hour to visit Powell, which was definitely too short. However, as I strolled past isles, isles and isles of books. I came upon “Into Thin Air”. The cover of the book got my attention.

air_Then I read the summary and it was about Everest 1996 disaster from a personal account. I read few paragraphs and then this piqued my interest:

“it was early in the afternoon of May 10, 1996. I hadn’t slept for fifty-seven hours. The only food I had been able to force down over the preceding three days was a bowel of ramen soup and a handful of peanut M&M’s. Weeds of violent coughing had left me with two separate ribs that made ordinary breathing an excruciating trial. At 29,028 feet up in the troposphere, so little oxygen was reading my brain that my mental capacity was that of a slow child” (pg. 6 “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer)

I was hooked. The description was vivid as I could see and feel the pain that Krakauer’s words painted. Sold. I walked out of the door with this book – and gladly so. It has been ages since I bought an actual book from a bookstore. Amazon has creep into almost every aspect of our shopping life.

This was the beginning of my love affair with reading about Everest and few mountaineer’s biography. However, this post was actually about the most recent book I read by the same author: “Into the Wild” This book definitely got me even more perplexed at first and then into a more reflective mode by the end of the book. “Into Thin Air” was superbly written and I equally loved it. “Into the Wild” had more impact because it was very unimaginable to me that Chris McCandless, a young man shortly after graduating from college embarked on the journey and adventure of his life that ultimately took his life away.

When I finished reading “Into Thin Air”, I was very impressed with Kaukauer’s writing that I picked up “Into the Wild”. When I was reading the summary, I was perplexed that the story seemed so simple and the ending was right there – there was a young man who ventured into Alaska and died there. On surface, I could not really identify with the story line – I was thinking – someone wrote a book about this? At least with “Into Thin Air”, I could see the “drama” and “ambitions” of climbing Everest.

Into_the_Wild_(book)_coverBecause Kaukauer is such a good writer who can paint picture with words as well as invoke feelings and sympathy from readers, Chris becomes a real person and almost a hero. The most memorable part of the book for me was the different (real) people with whom Chris had encountered during his nomad traveling/hitch hiking. Through the descriptions, I could see Chris was a  passionate about truth, nature, and had an independent spirit. For the lack of better words, I felt that everyone Chris came in contact with “loved” him and had real impact on them. One of them was this older man named Ron who began to treat Chris like the grandson he never had. Ron was genuinely devastated when he found out that Chris had perished in Alaska.

As I closed the book (haunting ending of how Kaukauer described Chris’s end), I was very impressed with the courage that Chris took to leap into the wild, into the adventure, and into what he believed was the right thing to do for himself. Some people criticized that Chris was “just a stupid kid” who was “arrogant” and ill-prepared for the Wild West of Alaska. I could almost sympathize with this point of view, however, one could not help but to at least admire the courage. Chris did what 99% of people would not do, in the larger sense, to pursue the dream at the ultimate price. That conviction has earned my respect for Chris. It was very unfortunate that he did not get to tell his side of the story.

I definitely want to watch the film adaptation of “Into the Wild” directed and written by Sean Penn. Visually, even though Kaukauer has painted a good picture, seeing the movie will complete the full circle. “Into the Wild” is a classic and I highly recommend it!