elephants and cooking class

I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since I left for Thailand and I’m only half way through documenting the trip. Chiang Mai (after the very long train ride from Bangkok) was amazing! I loved it. Minus all of the mosquito bites I got. And here are the photos.


The elephant experience was amazing. I did a bit of research before heading to Thailand because I wanted to have more of an experience than just sitting on an elephant, so I found a place that actually does a lot in terms of elephant conservation. It was still a little crazy and there were moments it definitely felt a bit exploitative, but I would do it again.


And the mahout and guides were so great. One took my iPhone and just snapped tons of photos. So happy to have the photos.



Getting in the water with them was maybe a little questionable. I mean, the river itself was a little questionable…mostly because we’d been “white water” rafting (it was dry season…it was more like low water scraping) up the river earlier and there were so many people just hanging out in the river, eating, doing who knows what else…




After the river rafting and elephants, we went to this tribal village which was a little crazy. Kind of like a reservation back in the U.S., only these are Burmese tribes. And also a bit like a zoo, in that you go there to basically stare at these people. Kind of weird, but interesting, too.



And that night, after such a long crazy day, we got ice cream and it was awesome. I also got to go for a swim in a nice, clean chlorinated pool.


And the next day was our cooking class. One of the guys at work recommended this place and I have to say, it was awesome. This was probably my second favorite thing from the trip after scuba diving. No ambivalence here. Just awesome cooking. And some really interesting people. The inside jokes Maria and I now have from this day. Amazing. But I also have some great new recipes in my repertoire. I’m just sad now, looking at these photos, that I didn’t try and buy (or steal) the dishes. Talk about gorgeous.











So, in my original itinerary, I had planned on us taking the night train back to Bangkok and then hopping on a plane to Cambodia. But, after the one night and the unpredictable timing of arrivals and that we couldn’t get a private car, I asked Maria if she’d mind if we just stayed another night in Chiang Mai and flew to Bangkok and then connected to Cambodia. She was down with that, so we ended up staying another night and getting what was possibly the best foot massage I’ve ever had in my life. Amazing!


And then we were off. And I was covered in mosquito bites.


sunday in hkg

We spent Sunday morning exploring and doing a little shopping (mostly of the window variety). 

As previously mentioned, Asia apparently LOVES Christmas. It was quite interesting to see just how serious they are about their decorations. 

I did buy some new shoes. They’re no Louboutin’s, but I loved them and I needed them…poor planning on my part for walking up Victoria Peak left me a little blistered.
One of the most interesting parts of Sunday morning was a brief stop in Statue Square (I didn’t get any photos, apparently.) The guidebook I had (yes, I do use guidebooks) mentioned that on Sundays, Filipino women gather here to meet with each other. And it was totally accurate! So interesting to see other places and how foreigners live in them. And I have an entirely new empathy for such cultural cohesiveness. 
During lunch, I pulled out the map and book to plan the rest of our day and  Monday. Tanya was feeling too much pressure to make decisions because we didn’t have a plan. 😉

Tanya had done some great pre-trip planning and found a couple of restaurants for us to go to. So, I made reservations at one of them for Sunday evening. Because it was across the bay, we boarded a ferry and headed over a little early to want around and experience the area.

Well, Kowloon is a totally different experience from Central. I haven’t been to mainland China, but I imagine this is like China-light. Super crowded, but maybe a little nicer? Seriously, after the lovely streets of Central and the enjoyable strolls and window shopping, this was like enter a shark tank. It was INSANE.

Can you feel how crowded and claustrophobic it was?

That said, it was still super fun and interesting and we saw some fascinating things as we wandered around and did a little shopping.

Like this pink and purple camouflage sweat suit.

And this window display. Sorry if this offends anyone, but seriously, Tanya and I joked about this for the rest of her trip here. I wonder how many times we do things like this in America because we don’t understand. Although, I suppose we’re pretty multicultural, so maybe we don’t? (Wishful thinking?)

We like to refer to him as green, beatnik Jesus.

Wall of bears, anyone? 

It turns out this means something in Japanese (and it has nothing to do with clothes, but neither do lots of American store names). It’s an extinct freshwater killifish
So, after we wandered and window shopped and people watched for a bit, it was time for dinner. As mentioned, Tanya found this restaurant. It’s called Hutong (be warned, the site plays music upon opening) and was a recommendation in a NY Times article, both for the food and the view. It did not disappoint on either count.

Beautiful Hong Kong Island as seen from Kowloon. The photos do not do it justice!

I felt like I had to order the crispy duck. We were almost in China, after all. And it was amazing! 
After dinner we wandered around a bit more and hit up Temple Street Night Market. I didn’t get any photos, because I was too busy haggling (and still being swindled) over the price of some souvenirs. I did get some great bowls, but…I payed about $5 more than I should have. Which wouldn’t be so bad if what I had paid hadn’t been $10. Painful. But a fun story.

And then we head back to our island, enjoying some incredible views of the city as we went.

The buildings are always lit up, I understand, but this time of year they were lit up for Christmas. And while I know it’s mainly a commercial thing here, it still made me feel a little more Christmasy!

Loved the reflections in the water (even if the photo is a bit blurry). 

And thus ends day two in HKG. So much more to come of my cute cousin’s first trip to Asia! 

back in the us of a (part 2 – utah)

With my trip back to the States, I felt like I needed to make a quick trip up to Utah to see my grandma, so I decided to spend 23 hours in the state. I’m so glad I did. I got in Monday night. Sarah picked me up and we headed to her new house. I was so excited to see it, but more excited to catch up with my bestie. It had been way too long. We stayed up way too late talking, so getting up the next morning was slightly painful, but with so little time, there wasn’t any to waste.

Nev and I headed to breakfast at Magleby’s Fresh (because that’s what we do) and then I headed to my old stomping grounds to have a chat with the head of the OB/HR track in my MBA program. I don’t think I’d actually been back to the Tanner Building since I graduated and it was kind of strange. Two and a half years later, I’m living half-way around the world doing exactly what I was hoping to do while sitting in my International HR class. It was great to catch up!

I then met Sarah for lunch at Noodles. Yes, I said Noodles. Then what is the picture J Dawgs about? Well, when you only have 23 hours in a state that has so many of your favorite restaurants, sometimes you have to get your Hobbit on and have second lunch. We split a dawg. Totally worth it.

And then we went shopping. Well, I went shopping and Sarah helped me pick things out. She is a great shopping coach (that’s what I’m calling her) and I found some fantastic stuff. Blog post of the new outfits is coming.

When we finished, our food had settled just enough that we were able to make a quick stop at The Cocoa Bean where they have my most favorite cupcakes ever. Yes. Ever. I like them better than Sprinkles or Magnolia or Crumbs or Baked by Melissa. Which makes me kind of sad only because the name of their place and their logo both make me want to vomit. Seriously. And who has a dot-net website anymore. I digress. Best. Cupcakes. Ever. (In my opinion…)

And that was it for my time in P-town. It was time to head up to SLC to have dinner at Pei-Wei with my grandma and my cousins. I got to enjoy the drive up chatting about Japan with my grandma and here all of these stories I had never heard before about her time in Yokohama. She also gave me my birthday present: an book on ikebana. Specifically one of her old books on ikebana. Along with some cash to take an ikebana class and a promise to leave me her ikebana containers when she dies. (Do you hear that cousins? They are mine. 🙂

And then we met up with my darling cousins and I got to meet the newest addition to the Goesch clan, my cousin’s equally darling new husband. They started dating after I left Utah and we’d just never connected.

And then it was back to the airport and back to Arizona for a few days with a lot less going on before I had to head back to Japan.

dear you…inspired by the events of the last month (a whole month sans blogging? wthh)

Amanda, our waiter, Kelly, me, and Sarah J. at Graham Elliot
in Chicago for Kelly’s birthday!

Dear besties (all of you),
Thank you for being amazing friends. Thank you for being the types of friends I can see after a week, a month, a year, or a decade, and being able to pick right up like no time had passed. Thank you for not judging my choices. Thank you for always being supportive and having my back. Thank you for listening to get excited about a new boy (and then understanding when I need to talk about why it didn’t work out). Thank you for giving me so many fun memories throughout my life.
P.S. the rest of this post is not so sappy.

Dear Girl Scout cookies (particularly Samoas and Tagalongs),
With much regret for the number of you I’ve consumed in the past two days,
My arse
Dear Delta Airlines,
I understand why it takes so many trips/miles to get Medallion status, but that doesn’t mean you should board your planes in the MOST backward way possible. It’s faster for everyone if you just board the plane from back to front. Also, your terminal at JFK sucks. I mean, water catches and hoses to deal with a leaky roof? If I make Medallion status this year, it will be worth it, but only by a little. 
P.S. I’m only doing this because I’m hoping to move far away in the very near future and think it will be worth it since my company uses your airline.
P.P.S. Do your flight attendants really let people paint their nails on the plane and then ask me if I’ve said anything to the woman when I complain about the smell? Isn’t that what they are paid to do?

Dear lady painting your nails on the plane,
Seriously? Il y a des limites, quand même.
A girl who takes personal maintenance seriously, but realizes there are limits

Dear college band on my flight Sunday,
Was it really necessary to travel in your matching outfits on a red-eye? A RED-EYE?! And your outfits…not super attractive. And why were you all so chatty? Thank goodness for noise canceling headphones and Tylenol PM.
With hopes that you don’t bug other people as much as you bugged me,
A normally pleasant traveler (okay, maybe not lately, but Delta and their stupid boarding and ghetto JFK terminal make me mad!)

Dear 55+ year olds currently hitting on me online,
You are all old enough to actually have sired me. Yes. That word is gross. And that’s why I’m using it. It’s gross that you are hitting on me. You have children old enough to be my siblings and none of you have enough money to make me consider marrying you for it. What I’m trying to understand is how it is you think that I would actually be interested? Especially since I’ve clearly stated on my profile what the upper end of my age limit is in terms of a potential future spouse, and you are well outside that range. You like to say that age doesn’t matter, but when was the last time you went out with a 76+ year old woman? And I think I’ve made my point.
Thanks but no thanks,
A woman who still feels anything over a six year age difference is inappropriate
P.S. For those of you paying attention, there was a boy…there no longer is a boy (by mutual decision)…so it’s back to the drawing board (or internet, as it were).

Dear Spotify,
I’m pretty sure I’ve written you a letter before, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to adequately express to you just how much I love you. I LOVE YOU!

Dear Broadway,
Thank you for giving me a reason to love you once again. Seriously, it’s been a very dry year, but a few weeks ago, when the lovely Sarah J. (Sare, that’s your new nickname, btw) and Co. were in town, I got to see both Newsies and Once. I realize that Newsies is kind of a silly show, but oh how I loved it. So entertaining. And so fun to see some of the great Broadway dancers from SYTYCD. And then there was Once. I was worried I would not love it as much as the movie. I was worried that no one could be as good as Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. I had no reason to worry. Wow. Just wow. I can’t wait until I can see it again. 
With a song in my heart and a smile on my lips just thinking about you,
there are a number of things I would change,
but not bad for two hours start to finish

Dear Art Studio NY,
For many, many years I have believed that I have very little artistic ability, so finally, I decided to conquer my fear and just take a painting class. And while I definitely don’t think I’ll be winning any art competitions any time soon (are those even a thing?) or selling a painting, I had a fabulous time learning a little bit about painting and feel pretty good about my two hour painting. Hopefully I can find the money to take some more classes in the near future.
The girl who is so happy she manages to find 20 seconds of courage to sign up for things that scare her

best pea soup ever

Dear Graham Elliot (and Kelly),
Thank you for what was probably the most amazing dining experience of my life. I knew I was in for something special for Kelly’s birthday dinner, but I had no idea just how amazing it would be. And with the best company in the world (Kelly, Sarah, and Amanda) how could it not be enjoyable. But the food. Oh, the food. Fourteen glorious courses and several adult beverages (mine were of the virgin variety, but still pretty special) and I am forever changed. 
With much love (and much higher expectations for future tasting menu experiences),
A wannabe foodie

randomness (aka jobs, baking, and spending habits)

I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but when I first started working as an esthetician I had four jobs. Yes. Four. I only had 25 hours a week at the salon and I was building my clientele, so I had to figure out how to pay the bills. Which meant I was working 25 hours a week at the salon, 10-15 hours a week at Williams-Sonoma, 1 day a week as an esthetician in a chiropractic office in Globe, AZ, and whatever nights I was needed to stock at Bath & Body Works. (Obviously, I don’t have pride issues when it comes to working. A job is a job…especially when you need money.)

It was insane. But I loved it. It was just so fun and chaotic. And the discounts were amazing! I was getting all of my personal care needs met for pennies at the salon. I enjoyed the benefits of the B&BW discounts for all the bridal shower gifts I was purchasing at that point in my life, and oh how I LOVED the Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn discounts.

When I finally had enough hours and enough clients to support myself with my main job at the salon, I quit B&BW and the chiropractic office, but I just couldn’t give up the Williams-Sonoma discount, so I continued to work a total 50-70 hours a week (depending on the season) to keep the discount. And the extra income from Williams-Sonoma was also my spending money for it. It was rare that I ever took home money from that job, but it was totally worth it. Eventually, I transfered to Pottery Barn for a little variety, but the discount remained.

The problem with this is that I got used to being able to purchase whatever I wanted from those two stores. And now I think that I should still be able to do that. But I really can’t. That said, I recently saw this amazing tartlet pan when I was window shopping. For those of you who know me, I kind of love making tarts. I like eating them, too. But I love making them more. So, I bought the pan. And for about a month it just sat in a box. Staring at me. Making me feeling guilty for purchasing something so frivolous. Something I really didn’t need. Something I hadn’t even used yet.

Yeah…the hot pads are from Williams-Sonoma, too…but they were purchased during my discount days. 🙂

And then I finally busted it out and I’ll tell you what…the guilt is gone. This pan is my new favorite. What could be better than bite sized tarts or quiches? I’ve discovered a new favorite recipe for pancetta, leek and goat cheese tartlets. And on Sunday I made my favorite tart in tartlet form. Both have been a total hit.

Such deliciousness.

So, basically what I’m saying is that frivolous, impulse buys are awesome. Or maybe what I’m really saying is that sometimes it’s worth investing in good equipment for the hobbies that you love. In any case, if you ever want to try one of these, just invite me to a potluck and I’ll be happy to bake them for you!