At the beginning of October, I said bye to my family in Beijing and flew back to Los Angeles. It had been exactly two years since I’ve set foot on home soil, so I was feeling equal parts nervous and excited.
What would it be like? Would I feel at home or would I feel like an outsider who no longer belonged? Would I pick up with my friends or would I be like a stranger now?
I said bye to my mom and family this morning as I left Beijing. I loved these past few days of family time and it felt too short. But for now – I'm enroute back to Los Angeles! I can't believe it's been about exactly 2 years since I last set foot on my home soil. It feels strange, because I'm not sure how to define "home" anymore. But I'm excited too!
The big reason I came back was for my best friend’s wedding. The day after I arrived, she picked me up at my sister’s place (where I was staying) to head off to her bachelorette weekend. As soon as I stepped outside and saw her, we jumped up and down and hugged, and just like that, we picked up where we left off like no time has passed. I’m glad to see that some things will always stay the same.
October started off on a great note with her bachelorette weekend and never slowed down from there. Since I’m super behind with my monthly re-caps, this month’s recap is a double. These two months, I hopped back and forth between a couple of cities in sunny SoCal, before flying to the chilly East Coast. Let’s get into the highlights!
Claire’s bachelorette weekend
For Claire‘s bachelorette weekend, 6 of us girls rented a cute little house in Hollywood, Los Angeles. We checked in on Friday afternoon and thus started our weekend of
debauchery (who am I kidding, we’re all old now) classy revelment and bonding. It was really fun! Major props to the maid of honor who did such a good job planning.
We started the weekend with a night at the amazing Magic Castle – a Los Angeles institution. It was SUCH a fantastical evening. We were all seriously mind-blown by the magic acts we saw that night. I’d say this needs to be on your LA list, except it’s by invite only and the wait list is a few months long. But it’s not too hard to find invitations and is definitely worth it!
The next day, we had a grand adventure at the Malibu Wine Safari. We rode on a fun animal-themed safari truck through the acres of the beautiful vineyard, making stops to sip on wine and feed llamas and zebras (who can forget their puntastic names like Barack O-llama and Justin Zieber!).
The highlight of the tour was meeting the star of the Safari – Stanley the Giraffe! He’s a retired Hollywood actor who has been in movies like Hangover 3. We took turns feeding him lettuce and posing for photos.
Afterwards, we relaxed a bit on the beach, before heading back to open presents and get ready for the Hollywood club crawl.
I had woken up the day before with a slight cough, but it didn’t seem too bad. Boy did I underestimate the LA flu. By Saturday evening, I felt absolutely dreadful. I managed to tough it out for the club crawl but was barely functional. When I woke up with a fever and body aches on Sunday, I had to call it a day and go back early.
For the whole next week, I huddled on my sister’s couch, hacking up my lungs and drinking copious amounts of ginger tea. I don’t think I’ve been that sick in a decade. But now, I should be all good for another 10 years. :P
An escape room birthday party
Thankfully by the next weekend, I felt well enough to go down to South Bay to my friend Kevin’s birthday party. Kevin is another one of my oldest friends. We always used to help plan each others’ birthdays. Now that we’re older, birthdays are tamer, consisting of games and a quiet dinner. I love this photo of our group after we conquered an escape room game!
If you haven’t tried an escape room yet, do it! It’s so fun!
A trip down to San Diego
I guess I can’t sit still for too long, because a couple of days later, I packed up a small case and rode the train down to San Diego. I stayed with Claire and her soon hubby-to-be for several days. It was really nice to spend some quality time with her before she gets married. They took me around to some of their favorite places in San Diego, and in between, I helped work on some of her DIY wedding decors – it was really fun to do some crafting and exercise my artistic side!
And since it’s Halloween season, we decided we had to do something for it. It’s literally been yeeeeears since I’ve done anything Halloween-y (I don’t think other countries care so much about this holiday as Americans), so I was excited to get to “do Halloween” this year.
I was in the mood for something scary, so we went to the famous San Diego Haunted Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter. It’s all done up with a scary walk-through maze where monsters from your worst nightmares jump out at you around every turn. Zombies, clowns, butchers, ghosts… It was a frighteningly good time. We screamed until our throats were sore.
Just a couple of weeks later, it was time for her Big Day! Once again, I went down to San Diego. I went a few days earlier to help her with the last minute details. Since I was so far away during her entire wedding planning process, it was nice to be able to help in some way.
I met Claire on the first day of classes of our freshman year in college. I saw her in class and thought, “she looks like someone I can be friends with.” So afterwards, I struck up a conversation as we walked to our next class. We’ve been friends ever since. Over the past 13 years, we’ve been there for each other through all sorts of all nighters, relationship ups and downs, and life’s twists and turns. And now, I was so happy to be able to stand by her side as she said “I do.”
Her wedding was at a beautiful historic castle in San Diego. The venue was absolutely gorgeous and all the DIY decor made it so special. The bride was radiant and the groom was jubilant. The drinks were flowing and the dance floor was popping. I got to catch up with a lot of friends I haven’t seen in a while. It was a fabulously fun evening.
Somewhere in there, my birthday happened! It was the day before the wedding. That was a hectic day as all the bridesmaids gathered at Claire’s apartment to help make the wedding flower arrangements, followed by rehearsal + dinner. The girls were so sweet and got me a cake for the occassion. It was really nice to spend it surrounded by friends. It’s also been years since I’ve celebrated a birthday with friends!
Annnnnd….. I went to New York!!
This is the travel highlight of the season! A week after the wedding, I packed another bag – this time, full of winter clothes – and flew to New York!
Ray and Carmela of No Wrong Turns (whom I met earlier this year in Penang) are also back stateside this fall and kindly invited me to visit them in Jersey/New York. I have never been to NYC before so I was suuuuuper excited!
I’m so grateful for Ray’s family (who we’re all staying with) to let me crash at their place and invite me into their family. I had been feeling apprehensive about the upcoming holidays, as unresolved family issues means there’s no family for me to spend the holidays with. But Ray and Carmela invited me in without question. Sometimes, I still can’t believe that blogging has allowed me to make friendships like this. I can’t be any more grateful.
Thanksgiving was amazing with a ton of delicious Filipino dishes (both homemade and catered), as well as the classic Amerian turkey and pies. I’ve been meaning to do a post on it, but is it too late now?
I hope all my American friends had a great thanksgiving! Here in New Jersey, I spent it with Ray & Carmela's (@nowrongturns) families. I had my first big crazy Filipino thanksgiving! There was a ton of delicious Filipino dishes and desserts, as well as a huge turkey and pies. And we ended the night with silly games up to 3 am. It was a great day and I'm thankful to have the loveliest people to celebrate with. :)
Oh man, what HAVEN’T we been doing. In between squeezing in work time and seeing their friends/family, we’ve been taking as many trips into NYC as possible. I was the most excited about eating all the famous New York food (*surprise surprise*).
Ray and Carmela are both major foodies as well so they’ve been bringing me to the best places. It has literally been 2 weeks of non-stop eating with wild abandon. And I can honestly say that I’ve had some of the BEST FOOD OF MY LIFE. I can literally see my thighs and waistline expanding but it’s all been so worth it.
Confession: pizza is one of my biggest guilty pleasures. But I'm super picky about it. And New York definitely doesn't disappoint. It seriously has the BEST pizzas – possibly in the world. We're on a mission to try as many of the famous pizzas as possible. Pictured here is the legendary Di Fara in Brooklyn, where the same old guy has been making every single pie himself since 1965. This is the best pizza I've ever had! I'm practically drooling thinking about it.
I’m gonna be doing a ton of separate posts on my New York experience, so I’m going to hold off on the details until then. I’m already so excited to share all that I’ve been doing… errr… eating here!
What’s going on in December
I had a flight ticket already booked to fly back to LA at the very beginning of December, but the day came and I didn’t feel ready to go. I was also urged on by Ray & Carmela, who kept on thinking of sneaky ways for me to “miss my flight”. So we decided that I wasn’t going to the airport and I bought another ticket to leave in a week instead. Best decision ever!
We’re gonna make the best of my extra week here. As for the rest of the month, I’m not too sure yet. I wanted to go somewhere new over Christmas, but flight tickets are just way too expensive that time of the year. So we’ll see!
What are your plans this holiday season?