Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Thank You 2015...Hello 2016!!

It's the time of the year again to reflect on the past year and do a quick recap of my our 2015 (gotta use 'our' now that we're married). =P Following 2008 & 2012, I must say 2015 has been yet another life-changing year...literally. Moved away from my home for 27 years to the other side of the world, officially started living together as a married couple (one year after our wedding), started working in a brand new environment (got demoted big time but still making more thanks to the strong USD), and discovered some of my 'hidden talents' (e.g. cooking & gardening)...haha!! =) Even though this had been a busy year, we're very blessed and thankful to be surrounded by supportive families who have helped make this transition a smooth sailing journey. Here are some highlights of my/our 2015:

I've been very blessed to have the opportunity to travel to 4 continents this year - North America, South America, Asia, and Europe. Went on a ski trip in Colorado in March, hiked up Machu Picchu in Peru in May, went on a family trip to Disneyworld Orlando in October, and ended the year with a trip back home and celebrated Christmas & New Year in Europe. Thanks hubby for accompanying me on my expensive hobby. :P As for work, I've also had the opportunity to travel to several cities in the US including Houston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Tampa, and New York


As mentioned above, moving to Alabama (with lots of land) and officially playing the role of a 'wife' have unleashed some of my hidden talents...hahaha! Having the garden was mainly hubby's and my idea to tap into all the readily available resources here to eat healthier and save more. :P Glad that our first year as 'farmers' was a successful one!

For those who know me well, I've never really cooked before so I'm pretty proud of myself to be able to make decent (and pretty healthy) daily meals for hubby and I. The good sign is he hasn't complained on my cooking...haha!

Made it through my first working year here and I'm very thankful that my work arrangements for the past year turned out to be way better than I expected. Absolutely glad to be able to work on a client near home and was able to work remotely for some other jobs, couldn't have asked for anything better. =) I've also been fortunate to work with a good team and bosses. 

Spent almost every nights and weekends for 3 months this year studying for CPA exams, and I thought I was done with exams 5 years ago. Apparently, ACCA is useless here. Honestly, I think CPA isn't as hard to pass as ACCA but it just hasn't been fun having to work during the day and study whenever I have time. Anyway, I'm just happy to be done with 2 exams this year. 2 more to go next year and hopefully I'll be able to finish everything by next Summer and have my free time back. =P

Last but not least, we just celebrated our 2nd anniversary 2 days ago and I must say I've enjoyed our first year living together as a married couple. In fact, I was a lil' worried before I moved here coz we haven't really lived together prior to this, but this year has proven that we are a pretty compatible couple. Our 5-year LDR has definitely taught us to cherish and appreciate each other's company even more. =P 

Thankful for a good 2015, looking forward to a better 2016! Happy New Years!!
Greetings from Vienna. =P

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Home Sweet Home

One year ago, I remember saying "see y'all next year" when I bidded goodbye at the airport. And as promised, I traveled back home this December for 2 weeks and spent some quality time with the family. 

Bought my flights for this trip earlier this year in March and managed to find a pretty good deal (for my budget) on Singapore Airlines. Hubby couldn't take off so many days from work so we decided to meet up in Europe for Christmas and New Years. Instead of booking a round trip from NY to PG for $899, I booked a multi-city flight with a stopover in Germany (in Munich, out Frankfurt) on the way back for $1,271. That's a premium of $371 but considering that we're traveling during the holiday season and combining 2 trips in one, it's actually not bad at all. Used another 12,750 rapid reward miles + $11.20 to book a round trip on Southwest from Nashville to NY, but realized that it's actually not the best use of our miles. Should have saved the miles for longer trips and paid $225 for the flights instead, but oh well, any savings now is better than none.

The journey from Nashville to Penang took about 36 hours in total, including a change of airport in NY, and transits in Frankfurt & Singapore. To help avoid jet lag, I tried to stay awake for the NY-Frankfurt leg and forced myself to sleep during the Frankfurt-SG leg. The journey was all good until I woke up to a passcode-locked phone before arriving SG. I know I just changed my phone passcode 2-3 weeks ago but I've been using touch id to unlock my phone so much that I absolutely forgotten what passcode I set. =.= I kept trying different combinations until my phone finally decided to restart and reset, yes wiped out everything like a brand new phone, and this happened right before I landed in Changi. Lesson learnt for not backing up my stuffs on iCloud, I pretty much lost all my contacts and messages but the good thing is I only lost the photos taken since I started the journey from Nashville, everything else has been backed up. I ended up spending my entire transit in Changi using the free wifi to set up my 'new' phone and reinstalling all the apps. =.=

Aight enough of words, now time for photos. P.S. The collages in this post is different from my usual style coz I only brought my not-for-personal-use work laptop this trip so had to use the phone's app instead of photoscape. Turned out ok though.

Dec 8 (Tues): JFK - Changi. The few photos I was able to recover coz I sent to hubby on fb messenger. Checked-in 2 bags and a backpack for carry-on. Didn't max out the weight allowance but all my bags were already as heavy as I am. 

Dec 10 (Thurs): Changi - Penang. Clear blue skies and happy parents welcoming my arrival, good to be back after one year! =)

First meal in Penang at 方源 restaurant. Grandma and grandaunt didn't know that I was coming back, kudos to the family for not keeping this surprise for 8! They weren't home when I got back so they only found out when they came back at night. =P

My big luggage was filled with gifts/purchases. Ain't easy packing for both summer and winter so I decided to pack very little for summer and most of my stuffs were all winter clothings for Europe. 

Dec 11 (Fri): First thing on my to-do list was to get a haircut. After a short 24 hours back home, I took the bus to KL on Friday evening to spend the weekend with some friends and families.

Dec 12 (Sat): One of the main reason for traveling to KL was to meet up with college buddies. This reunion was planned few months ahead and glad we made it happen. Enjoyed home-cooked food by Rae/Jon and Josh's mom, coconut ice-cream brought by Shal, and played Wii like kiddos...good times! 

Dec 12 (Sat): Coincidentally, 2nd aunt & uncle had their 30th anniversary party on the same weekend so I was able to join in for the celebration. Had a good time hanging out and catching up with cousins, aunts, and uncles.

Beautiful pearl-themed designs.

Yummylicious food for the dinner.

A night filled with love in the air.

Goofing around with aunt and cousin.

Dec 12-13 (Sat-Sun): I earned 3 Sheraton free weekend nights this year so after using 2 nights in New York, I still had one more free night that was expiring the weekend of Dec 13 so I decided to use it at Sheraton Imperial KL. Quite a nice room but too bad I didn't really get to spend much time enjoying it coz we were busy going around KL. =P

Didn't get a suite upgrade with my Platinum but at least got a club room and access to the lounge. The food in the lounge was really good and better still, with a view of KL tower.

Dec 13 (Sun): Thanks to 2nd aunt & uncle for the brunch treat at Grand Imperial Restaurant. =)

Dim Sum...yum yum yum!! 

Dec 15 (Tues): Visited big bro & SIL's new house and had lunch together with the fam.

Dec 15 (Tues): Cousin Carolyn and bf were back from Australia and came to Penang for a visit so we met up with them for another round of family dinner at 方源 restaurant.

Dec 17 (Thurs): Another family dinner at Eastern Wishes before sending cousin off to the airport. Lemon steamed squid & 菜旦 cravings fixed! =) 

Dec 18 (Fri): Met up with UGRADers Cayenne, Sean, and Yeong Ru for a quick catch up in Penang before the UGRAD baby arrived 3 days later. =) Once again congratulations Sean & YR on their baby girl! 

Dec 18 (Fri): Korean BBQ dinner at Ssambap restaurant with the batchmates/buddies. It's been 5 years since we started with the firm and to be honest, we didn't really expect all of us to stay on for this long but somehow we did. =P

Dec 19 (Sat): Got myself motivated and went the hiking competition for a fun hike. Haven't hiked for 2 years but still managed to complete the hike in good time. It's been awhile since I last sweated so much. =P

Dec 20 (Sun): Lunch at Eastern Wishes again before sending off bro to the bus station.

Dec 22 (Tues): Beautiful weather during the drive back to Tambun.

Seafood dinner at 義成 with mom and dad.

Dec 23 (Wed): Seafood dinner treat from big bro and SIL at Hai Boey restaurant.


Beautiful sunset on my last evening in Penang for this trip.


Challenge for my return journey  was to pack everything into just one backpack. Couldn't bring back too many things as I was still gonna travel around Europe on the way back.

Aight that's all for this long post. It has been a short but good 2 weeks back home. Glad to be able to spend some quality time with family and friends, and loaded up on a whole lot of yummy food. Take care y'all! Till we meet again next year!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Happy Shopping November

This has been a very productive week for my blog, 10 posts within a week after a 2-month hiatus...haha! I'm such a seasonal blogger. =P November flew by just like that and it's already the last month of the year. After returning from the New York, I spent the rest of the month studying for CPA, work, did some Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping, and finished the itinerary for our upcoming Europe trip.

Studying for exam = no fun, no life. It's annoying having to work during the day and spend whatever extra time I've got studying. This paper wasn't easy either coz US Tax was something new for me. I just wanted to pass and get it over with.

Checked my results during the transit in Frankfurt and was more than happy that I passed! 2 down, 2 more to go. I'm taking a break this month and work's gonna be crazy for the next 2 months so I'll probably resume my miserable study life only after next February. 

Perfect timing to finish my exam the day before Thanksgiving. I was able to focus on Black Friday shopping, good timing to get Christmas presents...haha! We did most of our shopping online and the only shop we went was Bath & Body Works at Bridge Street. Got some pretty good deals with the Buy 3 Free 3 offer. =)

My early Christmas present from Dad Rick. Got some warm clothings from Duluth in preparation for our Europe trip end of this month coz it's gonna be so cold!

Apparently, most of my shopping this year was from Uniqlo. I'm a cold body and I've been wanting to get some Heattech stuff from Uniqlo coz I heard they are real good. So I bought one undershirt from the store in New York, tried it out and liked it. Then I saw that Uniqlo had free shipping for all orders and $15 off for $100 for their Black Friday sales so I ended up buying a whole lot of stuffs from Uniqlo, including a couple of Heattech stuffs...very happy with the Christmas presents I got for myself. =) With all these Heattech outfits and Duluth's jacket, I'm officially ready for winter in Europe!! 

Merry 'Uniqlo' Christmas. Got most of the Christmas presents from Uniqlo...I'm promoting this Japanese brand to our family in the US. =P

The damage done for Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year...whoops! Bought most of these stuffs to bring back home to Malaysia with me and my luggages were as heavy as myself.

Also helped dad to buy this Cloudbook for mom's birthday.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

New York Work Trip

It's been a year since I started working here and I must say this first year has been great. In fact, way better than what I expected. I've been very fortunate to be able to be based in Huntsville, work with a nice team of people, and traveled a pretty good bit. After Houston, Philly, Chicago, and Tampa, my last work trip of the year happened to be in New York City. This may not mean anything, but I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to 'work' in our HQ office in New York since I started with the firm in Penang 5 years ago. 

Nov 1-8: 3rd visit to New York

Nov 1 (Sun): My original flight was delayed, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I was rebooked on the next flight and got upgraded to 1st class, with dinner served. =) Arrived New York late but it was pretty cool to see all the lights from the plane.

My accommodation for the week at Westin Grand Central. Glimpse of Empire State Building from my corner room. Chose this hotel coz it's SPG and only 10 minutes walk to the office.

The view from the office...for just an hour...

before we got moved to the basement (no windows no view) for the rest of the week. =.=

Morning walk to the office.

Evening walk back from the office.

Walk to K-town for dinner.

Was pleasantly surprised by our seemingly serious and stern partner when he brought the team to this live music bar. Amazing performance by the house band! 

This is what happens when you're bored in the!!

Load up on Asian/Korean food every time I travel for work. =)

Coincidentally, Ali was in town for some personal errands so we met up for lunch. Also made a trip to New Jersey to visit team Hennifer from China Rush and met their cute twins!

Nov 7 (Sat): Hubby flew up to NY for the weekend. Thanks to my 3-week work trip in Tampa last August, I received 3 free weekend nights in Sheraton so we were able to use 2 nights at Sheraton New York Times Square this time. 

The hotel was conveniently located close to Times Square, Central Park, and 5th Avenue. Best of all, these 2 nights would have costed us $672 but we paid $0! =)

We walked a whole lot around NYC during our previous visits in 2008 (countdown for New Years at Times Square) and 2009. This time we decided to be lazy and bought the City Sightseeing 2-day hop-on-hop-off bus for $42/pax. We didn't mind paying for this tour coz it included hop-on-hop-off tours for Downtown, Uptown, Brooklyn, and Bronx, Night tour, Ferry tour, and also entrance tickets to the 9/11 Tribute Center, and Museum of the City of New York or New York Historical Society Museum. We didn't actually go for all the tours nor utilized it for 2-day but we saw all we wanted so it was all good.

Started our day with the downtown tour. Unfortunately, it was gloomy all day on Saturday so the photos didn't turn out very pretty.

Visited the 9/11 Tribute Center. This entire area was still under construction when we came in 2008 so it was something new for us this trip. It was kinda sad reading the stories and seeing the exhibits there.

Back in 2008, this area was still called Ground Zero but it's now known as the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. The Memorial consists of two reflecting pools, which lie within the footprints of where the Twin Towers once stood.

One World Trade Center, 6th tallest building in the world and the current landmark of NY.

We then hopped on the ferry from the World Financial Center to Dumbo/Brooklyn. Nice skylines of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey City.

The ferry went through Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. We also learnt on the ferry ride that Dumbo (not the elephant) stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan view from the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The main reason we went to Brooklyn was for pizza. The 2 famous pizzerias within walking distance from the Brooklyn Bridge is Grimaldi's and Juliana's. We picked Juliana's coz the reviews were pretty good and the lines were shorter. =P 

We sat at the booth and got to watch our pizzas being made. We ordered a small pizza (yes that was small) and tried a Brooklyn beer.

I was looking at the old photos I took when we ate at Grimaldi's in 2009 and noticed that the building that Juliana's is currently located used to be Grimaldi's. I suppose Grimaldi's business was so good that they upgraded to the bigger building next door.  

Hopped back on to the bus for the Brooklyn tour. To be honest, Brooklyn is more of just residential area with nothing much to see. Worse still, there weren't any tall buildings to block the winds so it was so windy and cold sitting on the top of the double decker bus. I stupidly decided not to bring a jacket during the day thinking that it wouldn't be cold. =.=

Finally got back to downtown and went back to our hotel for a quick pit-stop. We both desperately needed to wrap and layer ourselves up before the night tour.

We pretty much went through the exact same route as we did during the day, but NY is much prettier when it's lit up at night. The bus drove through Manhattan bridge to Brooklyn and it was actually pretty scary sitting on the right side of the bus coz it felt like you could fall off the bus and the bridge as you can't see the railings from the upper deck. =P

Nov 8 (Sun): Central Park was only a few blocks away from the hotel so we decided to ditch the bus and went for a walk in the park. Love the autumn colors!! This was my 3rd visit to Central Park. Winter 2008, Spring 2009, and Fall more Summer and my four seasons compilation will be!! 

Walked through 5th Avenue along the way back to our hotel and stopped by the Microsoft store (for hubby) and Uniqlo (for me). =)

We saw a lot of people queueing for this every time we pass by so we decided tapao this gyros meal for lunch and ate at the Sheraton Club lounge. 

Goodbye NYC! Till we meet again!