Monday, May 23, 2022

Horseshoe Bend and my experience with Antelope Canyon tour

Happy Monday, everyone! This is a continuation of our spring break trip back in March. I know this post is super delayed but better late than never. We left Zion National Park and drove to Bend, AZ for our next adventure. Woke up early the next day and had breakfast at our hotel. Tour the Upper Antelope Canyon and visit the Horseshoe Bend were on our agenda for the day. We purchased 3 tickets via Viator since the date we needed wasn't available on the Navajo Tours site. I believe we paid almost double (cost $627 for the 3 of us). The tour started at 11:00 a.m. We'd need to check in at 10:15 a.m. There are several tour companies available for both Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. Since the Canyon is located on the Navajo Reservation, it does not have a physical address. All check-in locations are off-road. Also, the hotel where we stayed is near a border between time zones. My phone kept switching back and forth between MST and MDT. We weren't sure which time zone we were supposed to follow. Long story short, we got to the check-in location 20 minutes before the tour started instead of 45 minutes. They refused to let us get on the tractor even though there were tourists still waiting around for the tour to start. The bottom line is they overbooked the tour. Since we checked-in 25 minutes later than expected, they decided to keep our money and sold our tickets to other people that were on the waiting list. They weren't trying to help us find the next available tour nor weren't trying to compensate anything. As the matter of fact, they kind of laughed about the fact that we weren't able to make the tour. The whole experience rubbed me the wrong way. It was a joke and the way they handled the situation was very unprofessional. Thankfully, I filed a dispute with PayPal and was able to get all my $$ back. If you plan to do the tour, make sure you pay attention to where you're supposed to be and the right timezone. I was super bummed as I was looking forward to this the most but there was nothing that we can do at that moment. We got in the car and drove to Horseshoe Bend (only 10 mins away from the canyon). You only need to pay $10 per vehicle to get in. It's worth checking out at least once. After one mile hike from the parking lot, you end up with the most spectacular view overlooking the Colorado River below. We truly enjoyed its beauty! Next stop - Grand Canyon, AZ.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Junior Prom 2022

Happy Friday, ladies! It's a beautiful day in central Ohio and I am so looking forward to the weekend. The kids will be done with school in a couple of weeks. This year is definitely flying by. Wanted to share a few pictures of Courtney in her prom dress. I am thrilled that prom happened this year for her. It's such an exciting and memorable moment for high schoolers and I am thankful that I was able to experience that with my daughter. As mentioned in this post, I had no ideas how expensive prom dresses are (especially for something that they only wear for a few hours). The practical side of me would never pay that much for a dress. The Mom side wants to spoil my kids. If you know Courtney in person, you'd agree that she deserves nothing but the best. Prom is the time for the kids to make unforgettable memories before they all leave for college. I want her to feel and look the best. Prom dress shopping was a bit challenging as there isn't too many specialty stores around us. Also, since prom didn't happen for the past 2 years, kids went crazy this year. Options are very limited. I wanted to stay under $500 but it was difficult. We ended up ordering this gorgeous Sherri Hill dress from their Spring 2022 collection. She did try on this dress in a different color/size on the first visit and literally fell in love with it the first time. She tried on a bunch of other dresses during several visits but nothing stood out. I love that she went with a bold color. Red is my favorite color. For someone who rarely wears colors, I am glad she stepped out of her comfort zone. We ordered this dress, paid in full without seeing it or trying it on in person. Of course, the sale is final. If the dress does not fit, we'll stuck with a $850 dress lol. Thankfully, everything went smoothly and she looked beautiful in it. The length was long on her (which was expected). She made it work by wearing these 6" heels. We didn't have to alter the dress at all. It was super cold and snowy that day so I didn't get too many pictures. Thankfully, the weather turned out nicer the next day and I was able to capture a few more pictures. I teared up a little seeing her in her prom dress. Courtney is a reserved and quiet kid but I could tell she walked out the door that night feeling beautiful and confident. My baby is no longer a baby. I've watched her grow into the most loving, kind-hearted, confident, motivated, beautiful young lady and I couldn't be prouder.
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Tuesday, May 3, 2022

A beautiful Spring day

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My girlfriend and I took advantage of the beautiful weather we had last weekend and visited the Cox Arboretum MetroPark. I've been hearing about this park for awhile and finally made it there. We wasn't sure about the condition of the tulips since it has been raining quite a bit recently. I am glad we decided to take a chance because the tulips are still blooming and beautiful. Tulips are my favorite flowers. Summertime is upon us. Very much looking forward to spending time with friends and family, hanging out at the lake and enjoying more outdoor adventures. Outfit details: Ann Taylor pants | H&M denim jacket | Louis Vuitton Pochette Metis bag
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Sunday, April 17, 2022

Happy Easter!

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Happy Easter to you and your family! The girls opened their baskets this morning. No matter how old my daughters are, I will always make Easter baskets for them. As they get older, the contents change slightly but it is always filled with love. This year, I got Courtney a new bottle of perfume (she loves vanilla scents), false lashes (I've heard these are Kim K's favorite), candies and a gift card. For Madelyn, I got her a Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series, a pack of Apple watch bands and a pair of stud earrings. She kept losing them =( I wore this outfit to church this morning. The sun is out but it's still pretty cool. May you enjoy this day surrounded by loved ones. Outfit details: House of Harlow dress | Chanel 19 bag

Friday, April 8, 2022

Spring Break Recap :: Zion National Park

We came back from our Spring Break trip a week ago and had an amazing time. I wanted to do a recap just in case you're thinking about doing the same trip. Visiting National Parks was on our list for a while but the timing was never right. We were supposed to go with friends but they couldn't make it at the last minute. I am glad we went anyway. It was definitely a memorial trip. All photos were taken with my new Canon EOS R5 camera and the Canon Ultra-Wide EF 16-35mm F/2.8L lens.
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We flew into Las Vegas. It was a 3.5 hour direct flight from Columbus, OH. From there, we rented a car and drove to Utah. The drive was 2.5 hours. We stayed at Wild Flower Resort the first night. I love camping but don't like the idea of sleeping in the tent so glamping is perfect for me =) We stayed in a covered wagon and Madelyn had so much fun. Such a cool experience!
We were ready to explore Zion the next morning. Two famous hiking trails were on the agenda: Angel's Landing and the Narrows. We got up super early, stopped by Sol Foods Supermarket to grab breakfast, snacks and water. Got to the Visitor Center at 6:45 a.m. and had no issue getting a parking spot. I would highly recommend going as early as possible. Parking spot fills up very quickly. We were in the first shuttle. Started at the trailhead around 7:30 a.m. Zion charges $35 per vehicle but you don't need to pay for anything else. The hike up the West Rim to Scout Lookout is no joke! Be prepared. It's breathtakingly beautiful but strenuous. Uphill the entire way. Scout Lookout was a nice rest stop before the chains section which is the most dangerous part of the hike. I debated on whether to climb the final part of the hike. We knew that we absolutely will not take Madelyn. It's one of the most dangerous hikes in the U.S.  According to one of the workers, about one hiker a year dies on the hike. Seasonal lottery opened 4/1 to limit the number of people hiking the chain section of the hike. It was basically my only chance to finish the hike without a permit. After much thought and consideration, I decided to go for it. Hubby stayed with Madelyn Scout Lookout and off I went. It was scary but as long as you stay focused and plan every step, you should be fine. I made it to the top in 30 minutes. The views are absolutely amazing! Pictures will never do Zion justice. Seeing it person is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Coming down was a lot harder but everyone was super mindful, patient and courteous though. Took me 1.5 hour to finish this portion of the hike. I am so glad I did it.
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We were done with Angel's Landing around 1:00 p.m. Had lunch then took the shuttle to the Narrows. If you're not familiar with the Narrows, it's a hike that takes you into the Virgin River surrounded by sheer rock walls and amazing beauty. The hike from the shutter to the start of the Narrows is about 1 mile then the entire hike is in the river. We wanted to check it out first before deciding if we should rent the gear for the hike. The water was extremely cold. In order to rent the gear, we would have to hike back, take the shuttle, get the gear, back to the park, hike to the start of the Narrows then continue from there. We were all getting tired after hiking Angel's Landing so we decided to hike without the gear for a little bit and see what happens. Like I mentioned, the water was absolutely freezing. My toes were numb as soon as they touched the water. We were able to go for 10 mins and decided that it was time to turn around. I am glad we got to experience the Narrows a little bit. One of the greatest experiences for sure.

We were able to accomplish what we set out to do. Angel's Landing and the Narrows are classed as strenuous. We were exhausted at the end of the day but it was totally worth it. Next stop - Arizona! Stay tuned =)

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Recent purchases

Happy Sunday, ladies! Sharing a few of my recent purchases including my dream shoes =)
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Clothing items:
Drop Shoulder Colorblock Sweater: I love this sweater so much. The knit is thick and warm. Looks and feels expensive even though it's only $20. I got a size small but if you want a loser fit, I'd suggest going up a size.
Half zip striped sweater: I've always love a half-zip pullover and this one is great. It's quite cropped. If you're taller than 5'2", I'd skip this. It's lightweight and perfect for those Spring days.
Button up cardigan: I love this cardigan. So chunky and warm. Looks great with black jeans or leather leggings. It's 70% off right now.
A few pieces I purchased for our upcoming Spring break trip:
7/8 leggings: These leggings are incredibly soft and comfortable to wear. I got a size XS petite so the length was absolutely perfect on me. I've been very impressed with Old Navy clothing items lately.
Oversized puffer: I needed a puffer jacket for the trip and am drawn to the color of this one. As the name suggests, it's very oversized. I got a size XXS and still have plenty of room for layering. 2 large front pockets are great for storing essentials.
We're going to be in Las Vegas for a day so I picked up 2 dresses (one dressy and one casual for the occasion)
One shoulder cutout dress: This dress is so flattering. It fits so well. Fabric is stretchy and wrinkle-free. If you're looking for a fun and affordable dress, get this one. You won't be disappointed. Available in 16 colors and it's only $35.
Floral dress: This is my casual option for Vegas. The print is so pretty. The quality is decent. I love a good floral maxi dress and this one is perfect.

A couple of non-clothing items:
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GHD Platinum flat iron: This was an unexpected purchase. My T3 flat iron broke after 3 years. I've had it since 2019. I was thinking about getting the Dyson Corrale but the reviews weren't that great. Also, I have the Dyson hair dryer and I wasn't impressed. I spent some time researching and decided to go with the GHD flat iron. So far so good. It heats up quickly and gets to the right temperature without over-drying. My hair is shiny and healthy-looking when done. Although, I try to avoid using it every day. I only use hot tools on days that I am going to the office. When I am working from home, I give my hair a break.
Manolo Blahnik Hangisi pumps: I save the best purchase for last. After 2 years of contemplating, I finally pulled the trigger on my dream shoes!! I purchased these last month when Saks offered $200 off your $800 purchase. I also had a $250 gift card when I purchased my Chanel 19. I basically got the shoes for 45% off which was a steal. I went with the 70mm version. They're so absolutely beautiful and comfortable in person.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Monthly Recap (Jan & Feb)

I honestly haven't had time to catch my breath since the beginning of the year. The past couple of months have been a crazy whirlwind. However, I still want to capture/share the moments here so that later, I can look back and reminisce.
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Hightlights:

  • Madelyn's competition season started the first week of Jan and it's been non-stop. We travel basically every other weekend to her meets. 5 down, 2 more to go. Ohio State meet will be the last one. She's doing amazing. Lots of practice and hard work, long hours at the gym. I am very proud of her wonderful achievement and dedication.
  • Celebrated Lunar New Year with our dear friends: Very grateful to have these ladies in my life. They are good people with kind hearts. We hosted at our place. Each family brought a dish to share. It was crazy with 25 people in the house but the kids had fun playing together and the adults had a great time catching up.
  • Madelyn's braces are off: After one full year of wearing braces, they're finally off! What a big difference. She still has to go through another round of braces in a few years to correct her overbite.
  • Courtney's prom dress shopping: She's going to prom this year!! We started looking for dresses a few weeks ago and let me tell you, I was shocked. I had no idea how expensive prom dresses are. Talking about $500 - $1500 for a dress that she only wears for a few hours. Since prom didn't happen for the past 2 years, kids are going crazy this year with prom dress shopping. They grab whatever available. I wanted to stay around $400 but it was difficult. At last, she said yes to the dress (not pictured)! She looks beautiful in it. Sharing a few dresses that she liked but did not get.
  • Our annual ski trip: We went on our annual ski trip with friends and had a blast. I got this ski suit right before the trip and wasn't sure what to expect. The suit turned out amazing! I was outside for 8 hours and it kept me warm the entire time. Highly recommend this shop if you're looking for a high quality snow suit. They're taking a break right now due to what's happening in Ukraine =( Similar suits available here.
  • Valentine's Day is not something we typically celebrate but I wanted to mention it here because Madelyn made me an amazing gift. I teared up when she gave me a handmade book. It's called "100 reasons why I love you". This is the most precious gift a Mom could ever ask for. It will treasure it for the rest of my life.
  • Trip to Boston: Courtney and I took the first mother-daughter trip to Boson

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Looking forward to:

  • Celebrate my Mom's birthday: My Mom will be 67 this month. We are looking forward to celebrate her
  • Our spring break trip: Very much looking forward to our Spring break trip out West. Can't wait to connect with nature in its most majestic forms.
  • Our floor remodeling starts next week: It's been a long process working/interviewing different contractors. We finally signed the contract and ordered the material. The contractors will start next week!
PromDresses2022_SydneysFashionDiary {Orange gown *my favorite dress on her but she would never wear an orange dress*} PromDresses2022_SydneysFashionDiary (1) PromDresses2022_SydneysFashionDiary (3)

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Officially back to the office

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After 2 full years of working from home, I am officially back to the office today. However, I am on a hybrid schedule for only 2 days a week permanently. It's an ideal schedule for me. I don't necessarily want to commute 5 days a week but I don't want to be working from home 5 days a week, either. Hybrid schedule allows human interaction with my team yet provides flexible work hours when I need to be home with my kids. It really is the best of both worlds. I am excited to dust off my work clothes that I haven't worn for 2 years =) The pandemic has changed the way we approach our daily lives. Although life might not get back to the normal we once had, I want to share 5 things that I am grateful for the time at home.

1. I got to walk the little one to/from the bus stop every single day. Before the pandemic, I never had the chance to do so. She hugs me every morning before getting on the bus. I will always treasure those sweet moments.

2. I was able to fully train my dog. Before the pandemic, he was only 8 months old. I worried about him every day at work. Now, he's fully trained and can be on his own during the day without us.

3. Costs associated with commuting whether it's gas money or car maintenance has reduced quite a bit. I used to spent $75 per week on gas.

4. Time is a big factor. Working from home saves me so much time. I was able to eliminate the daily commute (between 1 - 1.5 hour a day). I got to sleep in until 6:30 every day

5. I was able to run errands, do laundry or walk my boy during lunch. It was great.

It'll be an adjustment going back to the office after 2 full years but I am looking forward to in-person meetings, interacting with my team and enjoying downtown vibe again.


Thursday, February 24, 2022

Our first mother-daughter trip to Boston

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Courtney and I had a great time touring Boston University this past weekend. Wanted to tour Northeastern University as well but we couldn't fit both in one weekend. I know most of you probably have no interest in college planning but I am capturing my thoughts here for memories. When Courtney was 11, someone asked "what does she want to be when she grows up?". I replied - I think she wants to be an anesthesiologist. That person said "Is that what she wants or what you want?" I chuckled. Becoming a doctor requires lifelong commitment, dedication, passion and certainly, sacrifices. It's not something that can be forced on a child. Fast forward 4 years later, her interest hasn't changed. I knew I had to nurture and support her dreams and goals. As mentioned in this post, we signed a contract with a college planning firm last year to start guiding her through the chaotic college admission process. College is an investment and I want to do it right. She spent the last 6 months focusing on career development. She explored different specialties (neurology, emergency medicine, pediatric..) but always goes back to anesthesiology. After multiple rounds of research, Courtney loves the career even more. I am glad the career development has confirmed her interest. We narrowed down a list of colleges that she is going to to apply (listed in order of interest). She plans to study a pre-med track in biological science with the goal to eventually head into medicine and become an anesthesiologist. 
  • Boston University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of San Diego
  • University of Santa Barbara
  • Northeastern University
  • Ohio State University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • University of Cincinnati 
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BU is #1 on her list. After the orientation, she is falling deeper and deeper in love with BU. Here are some of my notes:

  • Campus safety: The BUPD is located in the heart of campus. We had no concerns walking around at night. Public transportation is great and easy to navigate.
  • Diversity: BU is a diverse institution that caters to the needs of students from all over the world. 24% international students for the class of 2021. 450+ clubs allow a creation of smaller groups with the larger community
  • The opportunities are spread over many different colleges and majors and this is probably the best thing about Boston University. Internships with local hospitals are integrated in pre-med tracks.
  • First-Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP): Provides first-year students with the education, connections, and resources to responsibly navigate the transitions.
  • With the acceptance rate of 20% and the cost of $80K per year (including room and board), it's a reach school for Courtney (both academically and financially). I told her up front that we just simply cannot afford the sticker price. Definitely chasing after merit but how much? I have no idea.
  • High-achieving college = higher rates of stress and anxiety. Perusing a medical career is a rocky and full of challenges journey. I don't necessarily want her to compete with a group of high achievers. I want her to have the best college experience while persuing her career.

Lots to consider, lots to think about – One school down, seven more to go =)

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Where we stayed: We stayed at Boston Marriott Copley Place, located in Back Bay. I really love the location. It's so convenient and close to everything. We were on the 22nd floor. The room was a decent size and really quiet. Our room has amazing views. The hotel connected to Copley Shopping Center and the Prudential Mall. There are tons of high end stores (Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Christian Louboutin) as well as department stores (Neiman Marcus and Saks). If you like to shop, this is the place to be. I had a chance to try on the Prada Re-Edition 2005 and the Dior book tote. Love both bags but I couldn't justify another bag right now. There is a grocery store right across the street and endless restaurants. I would definitely stay here again when we're in Boston.

What we did: I had a list of places that I like to explore but unfortunately, the weather was brutally cold that we didn't want to spend much time outside. We did visit the Boston Public Library (10-minute walk from the hotel), visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, did some shopping on Newbury St, Chinatown, Beacon Hill, Seaport area. Did not make it to the Boston Public Garden nor walk the iconic Freedom Trail. Courtney and I really love the city. We felt safe taking public transportation and walking everywhere. Can't wait to go back in the summer so we can enjoy the outdoors more.

Where we ate: There are endless places to eat if you're in Chinatown. We tried Coco Leaf (boba tea place - che Halo Halo was amazing), Shabu Zen (hot pot), Spring Shabu Shabu (all you can eat hot pot), Hei La Moon (dim sum). A few small places in Chinatown that I honestly don't remember the names.

It was a quick but memorable trip for us. I am so thankful for the time I had with Courtney. I want to spend as much time as I could with her before she's off to college.

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{Outfit details: Everlane jeans | Sweater *the quality is amazing, runs small*| Speedy 25B bag | Gucci belt | Teddy coat}
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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Designer Sale

It's been awhile since I've done one of these posts so I thought I'd share a rare promotion today.  These beauties below are currently on sale. Take a look if you're interested (no code needed).
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All Saint Laurent bags
Chloe Drew bag *56% off* 
Valentino shoes *50% off*