Everything I’m Into (August 2015)

Books:

  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
    Once again, Liane Moriarty had my body glued to the couch for three days straight. I would stare at Nick like he was crazy whenever he (rightfully) asked me for help with Josh because I could not put this book down. What I love about Moriarty is that she never leaves any knot untied. The ending to this book was unbelievably satisfying.
  • In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen
    So good. He sounds like a non-secularized Brene Brown (but he came first obviously). Nouwen has a way of stating things that are so simple, yet SO profound. This book was all about Christian Leadership and what the church and our world needs, more than anything, is people who are vulnerable and know Jesus intimately.

places:

  • JW Marriott in Palm Desert
    Nick and I picked this place for vacation because we wanted somewhere that was a close drive (ish) to LA and somewhere we could lounge by the pool all day and relax. Let me tell you, this hotel is unbelievably nice. And we had the BEST time (so much so, that we wonder if we should make it an annual trip). Here’s the view from our hotel balcony:

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ust so you know, this was one of their numerous pools.

  • Big Bear Lake
    Ok not gonna lie… I realized I don’t really like Big Bear. I’m not a skier. I’m not a mountain climber. And I certainly am no fan of long windy car rides that make me (& my son) want to throw up. BUT we had a wonderful time thanks to the fact that we were with friends we love (we came for one of Nick’s work conferences). Would I choose Big Bear over other vacation spots? Probably not (If I must get all cabin-y, I’m a Lake Tahoe girl). But I realized that when you’re with friends & family, it simply doesn’t matter where you are.

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Josh & I exploring Big Bear while Nick was in meetings

Experiences:

  • Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour
    First time seeing my TayTay live and it was everything I dreamed it would be. She is an incredible performer. Sheer talent. The best part was that she gave every single audience member a wrist band that lit up throughout the show (different colors for every song). It was so cool to see all 40,000 people in the audience lit up.

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s in front of the TayTay tour bus

  • Ultimate Girls Night
    lady friends. wine. fancy cheese. a chick flick. facials. nail polish. cookies. That is literally everything you need for the BEST. the ULTIMATE girls night. Needless to say, we will be having another one this weekend.

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Food & Korean Face Masks

Foodie:

  • Salt & Straw
    A famous L.A. ice cream spot located in Larchmont. Everyone was telling me to try this place. They had really unique ice cream flavors and a line that poured onto the street. We ended up getting: roasted strawberry macadamia nut, almond brittle with sea salt (Natalia) AND black olive goat cheese and something chocolate-y I can’t remember (Nick).

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  • Shinsengumi Ramen
    Our new favorite ramen place in West L.A. (well, mine… Nick still prefers Santouka). I love this place!

Music:

  • Shawn Mendes
    Thank you TayTay for having a phenomenal opening act, named Shawn Mendes. I’m sure I’m lumped in with all the 12 year old girls for loving this guy. But he is SO talented. Listen to his songs “Stitches” and “Weight” on Spotify. (the video is weird, but the song is ridiculous. so good.)
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Disneyworld: Animal Kingdom (in photographs)

The Kwok clan headed to Disneyworld for just one day! Of course we had to squeeze in both Animal Kingdom AND Epcot. This was our little trip to Animal Kingdom. We were only there from about 10 am- 3 pm, so it was a rather short trip, but we absolutely loved it. Here are a few things to look out for when you venture over to this beautiful green theme park!

Looking over the bridge and seeing (what surely must have been) the streets of a safari jungle on the coast of Africa….

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There were beautiful signs and tall buildings that made us feel like we were on another side of the world. This attention to detail is magnificent.

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One of the best parts of Animal Kingdom is bringing your little one… it is perfect for children. This is Nick & Josh taking a break from all that walking.

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If there is one word I would use to describe this part of Disneyworld, it’s GREEN. (or cultured.)

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We went on an animal safari, which is probably one of the best ones I’ve been on. This is no jungle cruise. We saw a giraffe and a baby elephant (just to name a few).

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Despite all the excitement, Joshua couldn’t stay awake, as per usual.(Can you blame the poor guy? We’re impeding on all his naps.)

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One more… because he’s so darn cute…

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We saw flamingo’s and crocodiles…

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And of course we had to ride “Expedition Everest”, which Nick and I both agreed is an AWESOME roller coaster. Definitely expect a few surprises in there 😉

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Shall we go to Africa or Asia?

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The “Tree of Life” is seriously AWESOME. It’s much bigger than the picture let’s on and the entire trunk is composed of animals.
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It was unfortunate we could not be there at nighttime, but we have no doubt it would have truly looked incredible with all the hanging lights and safari feel.

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One last family portrait before heading off to Epcot.

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We had an incredible time and I really wish we could have stayed longer. I don’t feel as though I got to truly experience the park… but all the more reason to come back! Also, something we enjoyed that is not pictured here is the Lion King show, which was an incredible time and filled with extraordinarily talented singers and dancers. It is fun for all ages and Joshua got very into it.

That’s all for now… Until next time, Disney world 🙂

Disneyworld: Our EPCOT trip in photographs

Nick & I spent a full day at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida! We went to Animal Kingdom and Epcot. I loved both, but could not possibly fit it into one post, so I am splitting it up into two.

I decided to start with Epcot because it is my favorite.

Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love other countries and learning different languages (I speak four (ish)!). Epcot was an ideal place for me. There weren’t that many rides, unfortunately . But there’s really really no room for complaint. I only wish we could have spent another day there.

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ere’s the well-known Epcot ball. It was ENORMOUS and reminded me (surprisingly) of the Chicago bean.

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Here’s Joshua, ready for a fun day in the sun at Epcot! (how cute is his mohawk?)

Mexico: The first place we went to; Felt so real and pristinely done. My favorite part was this replica of the Mayan Ruins. When you go inside, you feel, truly as if you are on the streets of downtown Puerto Vallarta (or any Spanish-speaking country). The coolest part, for me, was a restaurant inside the “Mayan Ruins” that felt so romantic, the San Angelo Inn Restaurant (the second picture below).

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Norway: Norway was intriguing; there was a cafe selling Norwegian coffee, which is what this section was known for. However, what stuck out to me was a sweet little museum like store that depicted all of the inspiration for “Frozen”. Little did I know that they used real life landscapes, churches & scenes from Norway landmarks in order to create the fictional town of Arendelle.

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IMG_5867Queen Else & Princess Anna

China: China was beautiful, colorful and reminded me so much of my husband’s family, who moved here from Hong Kong before he was born. I kept thinking how much they would love it.

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Germany: Germany was one of my favorites. They had bratwurst, of course, and they also sold beer steins (that were astonishingly expensive).

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Japan: I felt surprisingly peaceful in Japan. It was so unbelievably beautiful with it’s lush koi garden. (Bonus: they sold sushi & mochi here)

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France: Without question, my favorite country spot. It was breath-taking and reminded me so much of Paris (which I have not been too in 11 years). There was a stunning French restaurant, crepes, & this beautiful fountain, which Nick and I posed in front of.

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Concluding Thoughts:

Our family loved Epcot. Joshua is still too young to really enjoy it, but we love taking him anyway. We loved our time together. Thank you, Disney, for an awesome visit 🙂

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Our Journey to Find the Best Ice Cream in LA

We did it!

This summer, Nick and I decided to try all the top dessert/ice cream places in West LA. We went to 8 different dessert places in the course of 3 months (excessive?) and have narrowed it down to our top 5.

Nick and I don’t agree on the order perfectly, but we definitely agreed on #1 & #2!

Here’s our take on the Top Ice Cream joints in West Los Angeles:

Honorable Mentions: Scoops, Blockheads Shavery, Beard Papa’s

5. Sweet Rose Creamery– all homemade, organic ice cream. Their flavors change daily. It was stowed away in a cute little pocket of Brentwood. When we got there, it was a small, friendly establishment, with plenty of outside seating and tons of families with kids everywhere (which we loved). It reminded us so much of our hometown up in the Bay Area.
price– $$$ (expensive for ice cream)
flavors we got– salted caramel, mint, & mascarpone
overall opinion- the flavors truly tasted fresh and the ice cream was very creamy. I’m not sure it was worth the price (we paid $11 for 3 scoops), but definitely worth trying.

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4. Milk- macaroon ice cream sandwiches! Very unique and very delicious. You have to be careful though… some of the macaroons are a tad stale. In this case, the blueberry was a bit stale, but the mint was perfect. After we had our macaroon sandwiches, we didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of heaviness or sugar guilt. It was just right.
price- $$
flavors we got- mint chocolate chip & blueberry white chocolate

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3. Diddy Riese- a UCLA staple at the heart of Westwood known for their very well priced ice cream sandwiches. Without question, the best bang for your buck. I have never seen the line stay within the actual store… it’s always spilling out. Shows how awesome the ice cream sandwiches are.
price- $
flavors we got- mint chocolate chip ice cream with chocolate chip cookies

2. Coolhaus- another place known for their ice cream sandwiches, located in the Culver City arts district. very unique flavors, such as sweet potato & candied bacon. Be sure to get the coffee oreo… it was incredible.
price– $$$
flavors we got– coffee oreo w/smore cookies and sweet potato marshy w/smore cookies.

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1. Saffron & Rose- persian ice cream right in the middle of persian square. The texture was perfect (like gelato), the flavors so unique & rich, and the service was fun (I get to practice my Farsi). This place is small and also packed if you go in the evening. It’s owned by Persians, so you know you’re getting the real stuff. Nick & I both agreed, without hesitation, that this ice cream was by far the best.
price– $$
flavors we got– saffron pistachio & white rose (pictured: saffron pistachio)

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Disneyland: Why it’s the best, even with a baby!

If you know me (& my husband), you know that we are Disney crazies. Really, we are. And so you can imagine how hard it was to wait eight whole months after having a baby before we got our season passes again.

We waited… and waited…. and waited some more… Then the day finally came! We packed our diaper bag chalk full of anything we could possibly need and off we went to our beloved Disneyland.

And let me tell you… It was incredible. Even with a baby! And dare I say… it was even more fun with a baby? I know you’re thinking “that’s crazy!”… but we truly had the best time.

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For convenience sake, I’ve created a short list of tips, tricks & simple “musts” in Disneyland, some for parents of little ones and some for everyone.

Enjoy 🙂
PARENTS: what’s awesome about Disney with a baby

  • You get to go on way more rides than you’re aware of– trust me on this one… I thought for sure there were maybe 2 or 3 rides that were available to us. But boy was I wrong! First of all, there are over 20 rides in Disneyland alone that you can go on with a baby. Even our little family went on 4 rides in 3 hours (including stops to feed and nap!) So you will NOT be short of rides.
  • Enjoy the mommy room– did you know this exists? Right by the corn dogs at the end of main street there’s a beautiful mommy room, where you can nurse your baby, change your baby, heat up bottles… they even have formula, diapers, wipes, you name it! And the staff there is so sweet. Did I mention it’s air conditioned? It makes doing all the “take care of baby” stuff way more fun.
  • Take your time!- we did not realize how rushed we normally feel at Disneyland… running around trying to make it to bunch of rides. But this time we really just relaxed and took our time. You sort of have to due to the frequent stops for feeding and nap time. We absolutely loved making our trip more leisurely.
  • Ask the Disney crew to take pictures for you- this ones for anyone, but definitely for families. Nick and I always get sheepish running around, asking others to take pictures for us. But did you realize there’s a disney crew member by all the “landmarks” you would want to take a picture at? Like in front of main street? In front of sleeping beauty’s castle? Right by the characters? Even though they have their huge professional cameras, just hand them yours and they’ll take it with yours instead 🙂

And here’s a few for everyone:

  • Get that Dole Whip, y’all… my husband tried it for the first time when we went. As you can see, he got a pin that says “My first Dole Whip!” (they have a pin for everything in Disneyland…) He LOVED it. And Nick is a very tough man to please. Especially when he pays $4 for a cup of soft serve. But in the end he claimed he would definitely get it again 🙂

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  • World of Color- it’s really worth the sitting around and waiting for an hour, you guys. We watched it for maybe the 20th time last night and once again said “it’s still so good”. There were people standing near us asking, “is this really worth the standing and waiting for almost two hours??”… yes. yes, it is.
  • If you only go once a year, go in the fall/winter– is there anything more joyful and FUN than Disneyland in the fall/winter because of all the magical decor? I think not…
  • Minnie Ears– get those minnie ears, girls. I finally caved. And I’m obsessed.

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#FlashbackFriday

As a practice in gratitude, I will post a #FlashbackFriday on various Fridays of the month of a treasured memory.

This one has been close to my heart recently b/c it contains everything I love: Europe + Travel + Best Friend

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 photo I took from the top of a church in Geneva

God blessed me with the rare opportunity to spend summer 2010 in Switzerland with one of my best & dearest friends. We both went to Italy (I went for the first half of summer, she went for the second), but decided to meet in Geneva for a week as I was heading back to the US & she was heading into Italy. I love looking back on this trip because it’s truly one of those experiences that I would say is “like a dream”. We talk about it sporadically and still laugh about the ridiculously fun(ny) adventures we had while we were there. We got to practice our Italian & I got to practice my French. We spent many sunny AND rainy days walking around the city and exploring together. What a blessing!