Thursday, September 15, 2016
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Towards the end of July, T and I went on a road trip to Nova Scotia. We planned two nights in Bridgewater to visit friends and three nights in Halifax to celebrate our first anniversary and visit more friends.
T and I make a great team. He's the navigator and I'm the driver. We rented a car and off we went (after a mandatory stop at Tim Hortons, of course).
I want to remember that even though I was nervous about driving in new places (I'd only visited Halifax once and never driven there), I did great. (I never used to be nervous about driving, but the combo of only driving once a year + rental car + new place, made me anxious.)
We arrived in Bridgewater late in the afternoon and were so excited to meet Tiffany and Nemanja's new baby girl, Una.
I want to remember that on the first night, I asked Tony if I could have a turn holding Una and he said no. I thought he was joking; he wasn't. So sweet to see my husband so enamoured with his best friend's baby.
We drove to Lunenburg and wandered around the waterfront before eating at a wonderful restaurant that I can't remember the name of now.
I want to remember how easy it was to catch up with our friends, even after a year. I want to remember that I felt so at ease, like releasing a big breath of air, ahhh.
The next morning, I finally got a turn to hold Una.
I want to remember that T was pretty comfortable with the baby, holding her and swinging her.
We visited Rissers Beach and even though it was a bit chilly, we enjoyed walking around. Plus, there was ice cream at the end!
Staying in Bridgewater with our friends and their parents was wonderful start to our vacation. We stayed up late talking, slept in, and just felt so relaxed and at home.
On our way to Halifax, we stopped at Peggy's Cove. I'd never been, so it was new for both Tony and I. I wondered if it would be worth it.
It was. So fun to wander around the big rocks, breathing in salty air, hair being whipped around. For souvenirs, T chose a magnet for our fridge and an ornament for our Christmas tree. (We try to get an ornament for every trip we take together, and T has a magnet collection.)
I want to remember that we laughed and smiled the whole time. I want to remember that we shared a big plate of mussels.
We stayed at the Delta Barrington right downtown in Halifax, which was perfect. We parked the car for the weekend and walked everywhere.
I want to remember that we had to drive around the hotel 3 times before we could find a spot to park, but neither one of us got stressed. I want to remember that after getting back to our hotel room that night, we were surprised with this small cheese plate and card.
We didn't realize that we'd be in Halifax for Pride until the night before we left, but I'm glad we were. It was our first Pride parade, and I was so happy to enjoy it with friends.
It was rainy for part of the afternoon, but then cleared and turned into a sunny day. We had beer and snacks on a patio, ate our first Beavertail, and enjoyed Cows ice cream.
In the evening we met up with Kate, one of my friends from university and talked and talked and talked. We ate at The Wooden Monkey and it was perfect—the food, the atmosphere, the company, even the waiter.
I want to remember sitting on the grass talking to Kate. I want to remember that we arrived at the restaurant just as a thunder and lighting storm started, and we watched the rain from our table by the window.
Our last full day in Halifax was our anniversary and we spent most of it with our friends, Julie and Sammie. We took the ferry to meet them in Dartmouth and then spent the afternoon at their apartment.
Julie's parents came over and we had donairs. Can you believe I'm from the east coast of Canada and had never had a donair?! Delicious!
Sammie and Julie surprised us with chocolate pie and a candle. So sweet!
We all talked and listened to music and watched music videos. Then we played washer toss. I discovered that Tony's pretty good at it, I'm really bad at it, and we both love it.
1 for our first anniversary!
Then we headed to a park and fed ducks! This was a first for Tony and so fun, like being a kid again.
I can't even tell you how fun and relaxed our time in Halifax was, especially this day with our friends. I think this is one of the best things about living abroad. You make friends from all over the world and no matter how much time passes in between visits, you feel at home with them.
Other highlights and things I want to remember:
+ We booked our stay at the Delta on their website instead of through Agoda. I checked it on a whim, and for the same price, we got a deal where breakfast was included each morning. We could order anything off the menu! Steak! Omelet! Homemade strawberry jam!
+ We visited the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and thoroughly enjoyed it. Tony especially found it interesting.
+ We also visited the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. I think this was my favourite museum of the two, because it was interactive and I was experiencing it from the point of view of the wife of a Chinese man who will most likely immigrate to Canada eventually. (Fun fact: We both took a practice version of the citizenship test and neither one of us passed. *embarrassed face emoji*)
Honestly, I don't remember very much. I just remember an overall feeling of "life is good"—always a sign of a great trip.
Edited to add: I want to remember what I shared on Instagram the day after our university:
We had the best day yesterday celebrating our first anniversary—exploring, eating, spending time with friends, feeding ducks. And then right before we were supposed to go out for a lobster dinner, I ended up on the floor in our hotel room, puking into the toilet. T was beside me the whole time, rubbing my back. Instead of enjoying lobster, we spent the evening in bed, watching OITNB. All I could think was, if this isn't exactly what marriage is—good times and bad, sickness and health, ups and downs—I don't know what is. Sure, I would have rather been eating lobster than hugging a toilet bowl, but as long as Tony is with me, I'm golden. It really was the best day celebrating our first year married, puke and all.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
In lieu of my semi-usual happy Friday post, I'm writing on a Sunday! This is the first time in a few weeks that I've had both the time and the desire to write something in this space, so I figured I should jump on it. Hope you're ready for some stream of consciousness style writing...
When school finished in June, I had grand plans for summer. I made two lists (goals and things to do for fun) and I planned on blogging a lot. Some things got done and some didn't...more about those lists later, but you obviously know I didn't blog much. I read a lot of books though! So I published book reports for June and July!
T and I landed back in Beijing two weeks ago and then he worked every day for the next 12 days. I eased back in, popping into work a couple times before I had to, and then returning officially on the 12th. We settled back into being home by unpacking, eating at a few of our fave spots, and sleeping a lot (except in the mornings; thanks, jet lag). I'm always amazed at how I forget things like which way I'm supposed to turn the taps to turn off the water in just a few weeks. Why is it so easy to forget those little aspects of a home? We have a new bathtub that I've yet to take a bath in, but I plan to rectify that some day soon, maybe even tonight.
I met most of my new kiddos on Wednesday when school started. I have 25 this year (woah), but I'm feeling a bit more laid back about everything (or trying to). I have my alarm set for 5:30 on weekdays to ensure I get the quiet time I crave and all of last week I woke up on my own sometime between 5:16 and 5:29. Keep it up, body.
I'm addicted to my new Fitbit. (I bought the Alta.) I had a Fitbit Flex a few years ago and loved it. It really motivates me! I've been taking the stairs more often and forcing Tony to walk with me when we would maybe have taken a taxi before. When I sometimes walk in place while waiting for a light to change, T laughs at me. Another foreigner watched me doing this and then she started doing it too. I pointed her out to Tony and said, "See! I'm inspiring people!" and he replied right away, "She's making fun of you." I don't know if she was or not; her face didn't look like she was, but maybe.
We're still not quite in a groove yet, partly because the beginning of the school year is hectic for both of us, partly because I've been battling middle and outer ear infections, partly because it just takes time, but I'm looking forward to getting back into it. We walked to get groceries today, and then walked to brunch (okay, we walked partway, took a taxi the rest of the way because Tony complained he was too hot, but then we walked back the whole way), and now I'm settled on the couch with iced tea (using my new iced tea press from David's Tea!).
We'll see what the rest of Sunday brings. Definitely leftover Indian; maybe a bath; hopefully an episode or two of Criminal Minds, beginning a new book, and an early bedtime.
Friday, August 05, 2016
The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips / I couldn't put this book down. It's written from the point of view of a young black teenage girl, living in Georgia in 1958. She has 9 brothers and sisters and her mom is abusive. It was incredibly detailed, sometimes painfully so, and when Tony told me, "It's only a book," I was quick to remind him that racism and lynching and abuse really did happen and still does happen. A powerful and worthwhile read. I wish that I had someone to discuss it with, so please read it and let me know!
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella / I've read all of Sophie Kinsella's novels and there hasn't been one I didn't like yet, so I was excited to read this YA story about a teenager with an anxiety disorder. It was a cute story and while I thought the climax and the end was a bit abrupt, I'd recommend it, especially if you're a Kinsella fan.
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain / This was a fantastic book! In fact, I gave it its own post here. (I also really liked The Paris Wife so I've added her first novel, A Ticket to Ride, to my to-read list.)
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure / A story about an unsympathetic architect that ends up building hiding spaces for Jews. I've read a lot of WWII books lately, and while this one had potential, I thought it was just okay. I think mostly because the writing just wasn't very good. (WWII novels I would highly recommend: All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and Secrets of a Charmed Life.)
Girl at War by Sara Nović / Set in Croatia during the War of Independence and ten years later in New York, this novel is told mainly from the point of view of a ten-year-old Croatian girl. It's haunting and sad, and really well written. I read it almost three weeks ago and I still think of it almost every day. I knew nothing about the Yugoslavian wars but after reading this and talking to a friend from Serbia, I'm eager to learn more.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert / I listened to this one, as I do most non-fiction lately, and it was good. Gilbert had some good gems of advice re: creativity and writing. I loved that she's both "the creative process is magical" and also "you've gotta do the work." Inspiring. (If you're into podcasts, The Girl Next Door has a book club episode about Big Magic. Fun!)
The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson / Turns out I'm a big Jandy Nelson fan and I'm sad that she only has two novels published. This is her first, and it's about a seventeen-year-old girl whose older sister dies suddenly and she's left to figure things out. It's a coming of age/love story. Highly recommend.
Will I Ever Be Good Enough? by Karyl McBride / Another non-fiction book, but this one I actually read. It was recommended to me by a friend, whose therapist had recommended it to her. (Hooray for not being alone in having rocky relationships with our mothers?) Although I don't think my mom and I are an exact fit for the scenarios in this book, I still found it valuable. I loved that the author emphasized not blaming anyone, recognizing the problem/pattern, and healing. It gave me a better understanding of some things, and hopefully will help me to have at least a slightly better relationship with my mom, a better mindset, and to not repeat the same pattern with my future kiddos.
So, that's what I read in the month of July. I love summer vacation! Since I'm going back to work next week, I have a feeling my reading will slow way down, but I'm always happy to have recommendations. What have you read lately and loved?
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain was such a great story. I devoured it! And there were a few sections that really got me. I didn't think to highlight all of them, but here are the ones I did:
"People interest me so much. They're such wonderful puzzles. Think of it. Half the time we've no idea what we're doing, but we live anyway."
"I've never travelled," I told her.
"Oh, you absolutely should," she insisted, "if only so that you can come home and really see it for what it is. That's my favourite part."
"Honestly, I couldn't even say. To care less, maybe. She was away for so long, I didn't imagine she could still do harm, but now..." I let my voice trail off.
"My father died when I was young. We all thought it was rather fortunate at first. It simplified all sorts of things. But over time... well. Let's just say I've developed a theory that only the vanished truly leave their mark. And I still don't feel I've sorted it out. Maybe we never do survive our families."
P.S. My monthly "book reports."
Tuesday, July 05, 2016
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb / Malala's story is fascinating and inspiring. It took me longer than usual to read, but I'm chalking that up to it being the last month of school, plus I usually take longer to read non-fiction than fiction. Of course, I already knew the basic facts about Malala, but reading her words, learning about Pakistan and her life before being shot, was so interesting.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown / This is the second book by Brené that I've listened to (have I mentioned I love audiobooks?). I know I'm an odd man out, but I haven't loved them. A lot of material was covered in this book and there were some gems of insight and advice though. Maybe I should try actually reading the next one, instead of listening to it?
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight / I don't remember where I heard about this novel, but I think it must have been from someone whose taste in books I trust, because this isn't usually the kind of story I go for. It's young adult/adult fiction/thriller/mystery and it's really well written, so I think almost anyone would like it. I think part of why I liked it so much is because I didn't predict the ending, which I'm usually able to do.
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner / I've read a lot of good books lately, but this one was the first in a long time that I couldn't put down. I read it in about a day! It's set during WWII, about two sisters living in London, their evacuation, and the Blitz. I don't know what else to tell you other than you should read it! I've already added Meissner's other novels to my to-read list.
What have you read lately?
(Art print by Evie Seo)
Monday, July 04, 2016
// I think I've shared this before, but Tony and I made it last week and it was delicious! Spicy Asian salmon noodle salad.
// Crazy photo coincidence. (As someone who lives in China: woah!)
// How Privileged Are You? It wasn't really eye-opening for me; I already know I'm very privileged, but maybe it would be eye-opening to some?
// A hair tutorial I wasn't too intimidated to try!
// "How to Be Less Controlling" (but really, it's just how to be less anxious).