The Most Low Key New Year’s Eve

Happy 2017!!! That’s such a weird year number, but I can’t wait to see what it brings.

Saturday started with a fun stair workout to mix things up:

10-8-6-4-2 sets of stairs with two 5# dumbbells. This circuit in between each set:

I like this one a lot! After stretching and showering, I helped Madre prepare lunch for some family friends who I hadn’t seen since I was in diapers (so basically meeting them for the first time!). I made the salmon by baking it with a marinade of garlic salt, pepper, mustard, honey, and dried dill. It was one of the best salmons I’ve ever cooked!

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Madre did most of the cooking though. She made sautéed vegetables, brown rice, Chinese sausage, pork ribs, and pasta with meat sauce (“for the kids”). As always, everything was fantastic! Madre is amazing.

We ended the meal with her fried bananas, clementines, and some mint chip ice cream that was sitting in our freezer. We defy all common food combinations.

Once our house guests departed, we headed to vigil Mass. After that, I felt a wall of exhaustion hit me — the kind where I don’t want anyone to talk to me, because it takes too much energy to respond (or at least respond without sounding really grumpy). So I napped!

Soon after I woke up, we left for our 8pm dinner reservation at Seasons 52, a restaurant I had visited once before and wanted to return to while we were in Florida. They serve up a lot of delicious seasonal dishes that are sophisticated but not intimidating, healthy enough but not obnoxiously healthy.

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We all shared a braised short rib flatbread and blistered shishito peppers to start, which were both super tasty.

For me entree I ordered the caramelized sea scallops with leek and butternut squash risotto, broccolini, and lemon butter. I LOVE scallops and these were great!

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We like to share bites of all our dishes, so I had a bite of Madre’s roasted pork tenderloin with mashed sweet potatoes, Ben’s seafood paella, and Pop’s lamb shank. All got a big thumbs up!

Our last dessert of 2016 was a trio of the famous Seasons 52 “delights” — classic desserts in mini glasses. I got the pecan pie, Madre got the chocolate peanut butter torte (this was my favorite!), and Ben got the raspberry cannoli.

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With full and happy bellies, I drove us home for the New Year’s countdown. There were fireworks going off from every direction (I think Disney was setting off a show every hour), so we didn’t even have to go anywhere to experience the celebration. Good thing, because my whole family was in bed before midnight, haha.

I spent the first hours of 2017 FaceTiming Rachel! It was cozy and fun 🙂

On the first day of 2017, I spent the whole day chillin’ at home. I…

  • Slept in. I feel like my sleep deficit is finally catching up with me.
  • Moved and grooved. I stretched (oh so sore from Saturday’s workout), tried to learn a dance on Youtube (lol), had a dance party by myself, and did Colby’s first workout of her 10 day holiday workout challenge!
  • Blogged (2016 recap here!)
  • Caught up with a couple friends
  • Listened to a great podcast
  • Caught up on other people’s blogs
  • Made breakfast for dinner

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open faced egg, Canadian bacon, and cheese sandwich + sautéed spinach

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more bread for dessert — toast with butter, honey, and cinnamon (tastes like a cinnamon roll!)

I’m off to San Antonio tomorrow for SEEK, a Catholic college students’ conference, and I’m pumped!!

I also just want to say thank you for being you. For your support this past year, your kind words, your prayers, and your existence. Much love to you ♥︎

So tell me:

How did you spend NYE and the first day of the year?

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Adventure Awaits

I am trying to fit my life into a school backpack for ten days.

We finished finals for two of our classes, and now we are off on our ten-day, mid-semester break! I guess you could say that Megan and I will be backpacking through Europe, which is crazy. I think it didn’t really hit us until now that we are traveling through Europe by ourselves for ten days, because we’ve been in Ireland (sort of) by ourselves for so long already.

Traveling through Ireland is very different from traveling through Switzerland and Italy though. We don’t speak Swiss German, and I haven’t taken Italian in three years. Plus, we won’t have data, so Google translate won’t always come to our rescue.

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But what’s adventure without some tourist sign language and getting a little lost!?

I may or may not have spent 2.5 hours writing out all the directions and details for just one day of travel.

These past few days have been all about cleaning out the fridge. Lots of eggs, leftover rice and pasta, and overnight oats!

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white rice, beef, tikka masala sauce + an egg on top

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avocado egg toast! ♥︎ 

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white rice, spicy tomato sauce, beef

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It says “end-of-life” on my paper because I was studying end-of-life issues for ethics, just FYI.

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whole wheat pasta with spicy tomato sauce, beef, and some goat cheese that a friend was trying to get rid of

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overnight oats never get old

Megan and I decided to rent the first Harry Potter book from the library to read during our travels, since neither of us have ever read the books.

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I am genuinely excited.

I am also currently eating bunches of spinach with my fingers dipped in hummus, so that’s where we’re at. Nothing out of the ordinary though.

Hopefully, I can keep you guys updated on the big trip as we go from city to city. I’m not bringing my laptop, so we’ll see how well posting works on my phone. If not, we’ll have a heck of a lot to catch up on when I return! If any of you have recommendations for places to eat or things to see in Zurich, Padua, Assisi, or Rome, hit me up 🙂

Have a fantastic weekend, whatever you’re doing and wherever you go. Pick up an old book that you’ve always wanted to read.

So tell me:

Have you ever backpacked through Europe?

What is one thing you’ve been eating repetitively this week?

Have you ever hopped on a book bandwagon extremely late?

I Feel Like I Should Have Learned This A While Ago

I am currently watching a video for my ethics in healthcare class, and so far I’ve seen a C-section, prostate surgery and throat surgery in the past 15 minutes.

I’m not that faint of heart, but this is making my vision a little blurry.

Good morning! What a way to start this post, eh? Here’s a picture of an appealing breakfast to counteract those thoughts.

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Sorry if you don’t think Greek yogurt, banana, and peanut butter are appealing.

I am only a week into this Dublin study abroad program, but I am already wondering: “Why did I ever not want to do this??”

Believe it or not, I really did not want to study abroad for a while. The main reason was FOMO— I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun and friendships back at Boston University. I also didn’t feel a strong tug to study abroad, so I wrote it off as “not for me.”

In the end (obviously), I chose to study abroad in order to challenge myself. To learn about other people. To travel. To get outside of my cushy, mushy comfort zone of friends, family, and familiarity.

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although cheese toast with eggs and sriracha for lunch is pretty familiar 🙂

My reasons for coming to Dublin are not quite unique, but I know that my experience here is unique. Who will I meet? What will I learn? How will I grow? Will I even gain anything?

I won’t reflect too extensively today, but two things I have learned this week are that:

  • Sharing a kitchen with over 10 people is both an art and a labor of love.
  • Education should be driven by a desire to learn and become a better person, not merely by a desire to “do well.” I always knew this one, but I have only recently realized that I get so nervous for school because I feel pressure to primarily do well. Retain information, apply my knowledge after the course, etc.— all those were secondary thoughts to me. It’s sad, but it’s true.

I feel like I should have learned that latter point such a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always loved learning, but only selectively and usually outside of a classroom setting, where the thought of grades wasn’t oppressing me.

I still break a tiny sweat when I think of learning and writing about something completely out of my comfort zone, but that’s where the growth happens. And, as Fr. Mike Schmitz said, if I am motivated by gratitude (for the gift of learning) rather than fear (of not doing well in the course), then I can be free.

Free to think. Free to question. Free to innovate.

And on the kitchen topic, I actually enjoy the kitchen parties. Minus the dirty dishes and questionable amount of smoke that we produce in the kitchen. I contributed to the smoky room with my Irish grass-fed beef burgers (am I trendy yet!?).

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on multigrain sourdough toast with ketchup, mustard, sautéed onions, white cheddar and spinach + cherry tomatoes on the side

Lookit!

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Plus this classic thanks to Madre hauling over dried figs for me in her Mary Poppins bag.

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dried figs with Greek yogurt

All we need in this dorm is the laundry machines to be up and running. Patience is virtue, but dirty laundry is gross.

Lastly, I want to wish Madre a very happy birthday! I’m sure this lady is feeling twenty twoooooo ooo ooo! I love you, mama!

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So tell me:

Have you always been motivated by a desire to learn in school? Or have you had desires to “just do well”?

Have you ever had to share a space with many people? My four-person-family life at home is a premium.

If you’ve ever studied abroad, what was your main reason for going?

Ireland: Where the Grass Is Greener

They don’t kid when they say Ireland is green.

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this is my friend, Kevin, loving life

I’m here in Dublin!! My red eye flight on Aer Lingus was pleasant and a lot quicker than I imagined it would be. Sitting for 6+ hours still made my legs want to shrivel up and fall off, but at least I got to sleep and eat the good airplane food (← never thought I’d say that!).

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fresh veggies AND fresh fruit!? AND KERRYGOLD BUTTER?

I listened to the inflight music selection, which included Adele, Ben Howard, and “Irish Pulse”. I did not actually listen to Irish Pulse, but I wish I did in retrospect. Like, electro-Celtic perhaps?

‘Twas especially sunny in Dublin when we arrived on Tuesday morning, which helped us to feel more alive after traveling overnight.

We also got a mini sweat session just by hauling our 50+lb. luggages around the airport, on and off the bus, and up a couple flights of stairs.
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Our campus is gorgeous!

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We had our information and orientation sessions, with a much-needed lunch in between at their dining hall.

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smoked colley (?), mashed carrots and parsnips, peas, potatoes, veggies, and an apple cobbler thing drowned in custard sauce

There really are lots of potatoes here. The dining halls serve them both mashed and roasted/fried. I can deal with that.

But since we have a nice kitchen in our dorm, we’ll all be cooking throughout the semester (yay!). We went to the grocery store in the afternoon, and I got two huge bags of groceries. Most people only bought one bag, and one girl told me, “You went HAM in there.”

Listen, I am good to go with what I have, and I only spent 60 euros for a lot of food + staples that will last a while. I’ll take “HAM” as a compliment.

I have yet to drink any booze here yet. My friends at home are probably screaming at me right now, but I just haven’t yet! I’m definitely planning on going out for some drinks and having some Irish whiskey, don’t worry. I just…napped through the first night when people went out to a pub for dinner. Whoops.

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Post nap: “I don’t know where the heck everyone is but I got dressed up anyway.”

I conked out at 5pm and slept through my 5:35 alarm until 7:40. I wasn’t mad about it, but dinner was a little weird, since I was lazy and not too hungry.

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spinach and (fantastic!) tomatoes with hummus

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a roll and kerrygold butter that I got off the plane haha

Our wifi doesn’t work in the dorms yet, so I went outside in front of another building to FaceTime Madre and do some other internet things before heading to bed at around midnight.

I wanted to move and groove yesterday morning, so I put on my gear and went outside to find a potential spot to work out, but there were too many people walking outside, and I didn’t want to be weird, so I just did an indoor HIIT workout.

{side note: I’m typing this in a sketchy dark corner outside to get wifi, and there’s a friendly man who keeps walking by, and I don’t know if he wants me to leave or not, but I’ll just stay until he kicks me off this bench}

Pre-workout breakfast (since I was a little hungry when I woke up) was a banana and more toast with another knob of kerrygold butter from the airplane packet.

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I am a big fan of this.

Post-workout breakfast was Greek-style Irish yogurt, which was a little thinner than what I’m used to, but still very good! I had it with raspberry preserves and peanut butter that my new friend lent me, since Madre is actually visiting this weekend and bringing me all my peanut butter then 😀 #spoiled.

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We had more touring and orientation things until 1 pm, when I was READY for lunch.

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We ate at a dining hall again since we weren’t anywhere close to our dorms. This whole plate was only 5.50 euros, and it was everything I needed. Simple, tasty, and filling.

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Then we had a scavenger hunt around the city centre (what they call downtown) of Dublin. Rachel told me that the Dublin transit system is horrendous, and she was right. I’m already terrible with public transit on the subways back in Boston and NY, but the Dublin Bus system makes me want to weep inside just a little bit.

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Maybe by the end of October I’ll be able to understand it. They’re double decker buses though, which is cool.

My scavenger hunt group found a guy on the sidewalk selling these beautiful-looking strawberries for 3 euros, so we bought them to share. Our reactions: “HOLY **** THESE ARE THE BEST STRAWBERRIES I’VE EVER EATEN.”

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So tender, sweet, flavorful, and fresh. I even ate the leaves because a) they were so small that I could barely hold onto the leaves, b) I didn’t feel like holding juicy leaves in my fingers, c) they can’t hurt, right?

Of course, we also chatted with handsome Irish musicians on the street. And they actually have angelic voices.

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Also, many people drop the f-bomb here very frequently.

At the end of the scavenger hunt, a few of us ventured to get some new SIM cards for our time here in Ireland (data usage, huzzah!). And then I was again starving for dinner, which I made back at the dorm.

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I snacked on a KIND bar while cooking up some chicken breasts, which I had on top of toast with white cheddar. Plus a salad and an unpictured peanut butter chocolate chip cookie that I brought from NY  (thanks, Aunt Tina!).

Confession: A lot of people are out at a club right now because our tour guide could get us all in for free this one night, but I didn’t want to pay for transportation for the fourth time in one day and I know I will have plenty of time to go out when I truly want to (not just because it’s free to get in. still need those dollas for booze ya know). PLUS, it was good to stay in with a couple of friends and help one of them out with room lockout issues.

I really want to do a wine and cheese night. Mostly for the cheese, but wine is good too.

Thank you to those who made suggestions for places to visit! I am very grateful for this experience. Dublin is seriously stunning and charming, and the people are so kind. I’m also meeting lots of new friends! I’m excited for what’s ahead.

So tell me:

When do you say “no” to going out?

Where are the best hidden gems in Europe? I’m trying to make travel plans and would love some input!

In and Out of Canada {Take 2}

Another year, another jaunt to Canada for the weekend.

Toronto, Canada. The land in which I undoubtedly consume an inordinate amount of carbohydrates and sodium. But goodness gracious, how can you say no to the fried rice and crispy noodles?

The food wasn’t nearly as important as the occasion and the company of course. My family took a little trek to Toronto this weekend to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th anniversary! How beautiful, eh? (← had to)

Friday

Early wakeup to leave the house at 6AM! I definitely should not have stayed up until midnight to watch gymnastics/procrastinated laundry the night before. But Simone and Aly were worth it.

Nectarine banana overnight oats as per travel tradition.

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I was also nearly half deaf on Friday because my right ear has issues (I was born with two ear holes instead of one in that ear), so I’m prone to infection and having too much stuff in my ear. One of the more gross facts that you didn’t need to know about me. But not being able to hear that well out of even one ear really made me appreciate the gift of hearing!

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some morning double rainbow action

Madre had been up in Toronto since Tuesday, since she was the executive party planner. Pop, Ben and I took Friday off of work to drive up, and it took wayyyy too long. A road trip that usually takes 9 hours took almost 12 hours. But we made it safe and sound, which matters most.

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Salad dipped in guac. All I can hear is Rachel saying to me, “Be better. Or at least be less weird.”

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so much of this

We rolled into our cousins’ place at around 6pm. We were staying with the fit family again 🙂 Obviously that meant doing handstands and cartwheels in the basement with my cousin Amy upon arrival.

My family took off again soon after for dinner with other relatives at Congee Queen.

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congee = rice porridge with lots of good stuff inside

Pro: it’s cheap, delicious food. Con: it’s cheap, delicious food.

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best fried rice ever with [fake] crab, roe, and eel!

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I am positive that I ate more at this dinner than I do at Thanksgiving.

Back at home, I showered, and my cousin and I stretched while watching the Olympics with our parents. Only at their house can I enjoy a big stretching mat and foam rollers in front of the television!

Saturday

I slept in until 8ish and headed to the basement to warmup and do Jen’s 1000 Rep Workout.

My legs were insanely tight from sitting all day Friday, so this workout was great for loosening them up, but I could feel that there was lots of lactic acid in my body (not soreness but all around fatigue/tightness/heaviness). All I wanted was to foam roll and drink water until the cows came home.

After showering (and getting my right ear to hear again!), I helped Amy make avocado egg toast for her and her dad. She saw on my blog that I ate it once 25793 times before and bought the ingredients to make it while I was visiting.

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I’m always a proponent of spreading the avo-egg toast love, and I’m happy that they love it!

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For myself, I ate some quick banana oatmeal with protein powder and almond butter.

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While Madre, Pop and Ben were setting up the hall for the anniversary party the next day, I got to hang out with Amy. We played “Just Dance” and a Mario Party “board game” on the Wii after breakfast.

Working out + Just Dance made me pretty hungry again in no time. I ate leftovers for lunch with my cousin’s family before they left for Kung Fu practice (NBD). As for me, I laid horizontally on their couch (I had a stomachache for a bit), foam rolled, and caught up on blogs and reading.

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I did some handstands too. Amy believed that I could do a one-armed handstand facing the wall (after seeing my failure last week), and I could! The power of encouragement, man.

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When my family got back home, we headed to 5pm Mass. This parish we visited had the most beautiful-sounding music ministry. I cried.

Then for my favorite meal of the trip at my favorite restaurant in Toronto— Ten Ren’s Tea House! Everything here is cooked with tea, and they obviously sell a million kinds of tea beverages.

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p.s. More often than not in Toronto, we share everything family style. #justAsianthings

I actually skipped a tea beverage this time because I wanted a tea dessert, and I’m not really a dessert-sharer, so…. I ordered a green tea soft serve in a waffle cone for myself, which was fantastic.

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I also had a couple bites of “brick toast” for the first time ever. It’s what it sounds like— toast the size of a brick that’s caramelized and topped with something yummy. Our table shared a sweet milk custard one and a peanut butter (!) one.

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We’re pretty sure it was natural peanut butter because LOOK AT THE WAY IT MELTS. It also wasn’t too sweet. The sweet milk custard one was even better though, honestly. Imagine creme brûlée on top of toast….Yeah.

I also had a few bites of this snow ice dessert.

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It’s shaved ice topped with coconut milk and four toppings. We got tapioca, taro, lychee jelly, and red beans. Tasty and refreshing!

I think the rest of the night involved more stretching and Just Dance. We didn’t throw knives this time around, darn it.

Sunday

The big day! My family headed to the hall to prep for the anniversary party all morning.

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Sidenote: I was tweezing my brows in the car (I was NOT driving) on the way to the hall, which I do not recommend for effectiveness, accuracy, or safety.

We did some rehearsing, some decorating, and LOTS of food scooping into trays. As we were transferring all the food (that Congee Queen catered) into smaller trays, all I could think was, “these noodles are perpetual…this fried rice could feed an army and a half…this is all the General Tso’s chicken in Canada.”

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Needless to say, many people had many meals to take home at the end of the party.

There were several heartfelt speeches, many songs, lots of laughs, a couple baby screams, and almost three hundred people celebrating my grandparents’ inspiring 50 years of marriage. I sang “La Vie en Rose” for them with my brother accompanying on the piano!

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DSC_2657Pop and his bros singing + Ben on the keys + pad thai 
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twins!

I wore spiky, pointy-toed heels for 3 minutes before calling it quits and switching to sandals.

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So many people worked very hard to plan, set up, and attend this celebration. Special shoutout to my mom and her family and friends, who were indispensable contributors to the setup and cleanup of the party. They’re amazing! Everyone on both sides of the family who helped and came out to the celebration are just remarkable.

Cheers to everyone and to my Mah Mah and Yeh Yeh!

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We were utterly exhausted after running around all day. To think that Pop, Ben and I had originally planned on driving home to New York overnight immediately after the party makes me want to die inside. Thank God we were all able to get Monday off work.

I did go on a walk with my cousin, aunt and uncle after dinner because the weather outside was perfect and the sky looked like cotton candy!

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homemade jello made by Amy, naturally sweetened with honey and lemon — so refreshing!

But after watching the 100m men’s track final at night, I went to bed at 10 and passed. out.

Monday

Pop took one of our cars to go back home early with his aunt, and the rest of us slept in a little bit before we hit the road with our other car. I ate some breakfast cookie dough cereal before saying goodbyes, and then we were off!

First though, some road trip snacks from the Asian supermarket.

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cart-basket contraption

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“meat floss” seems neither appealing nor helpful in any way

Lunch on the road:

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pork bun

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cold Taiwanese noodles

Also, we bought ketchup chips in unhealthy and healthier form.

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A Canada classic that makes ketchup lovers rejoice and ketchup haters question humanity.

The trip home was a lot better than the trip to Toronto, thankfully. We even got some good views of Niagara Falls at the border!

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Our last hurrah was dinner at a Japanese restaurant with my dad’s aunt. I shared an eel avocado roll with my mom and ordered steamed chicken and vegetables with brown rice for myself. I was honestly craving as little salt and oil as possible. I love those two things, but Toronto serves it on a whole ‘nother level.

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It was a fun mini vacation with my beloved family, but I’m excited to go back to work and not have as much acne on my face 😀

So tell me:

What did you do this weekend?

Have you ever tried brick toast or Taiwanese snow ice?

How has someone encouraged you recently?