Saturday, December 29, 2018

Goodbye 2018, Be Nice 2019

Counting down 1 day before we bid goodbye to 2018. It's the time of the year again to reflect and recap on the past year before work busy season rolls in right after the break. 

Honestly, work had been pretty s**tty this year. I don't usually complain about work and try to look at the positive aspects but I'm definitely feeling burned out this year. Reviews after reviews, deadlines after deadlines, loads of admin/metrics nonsense, losing team members, and for the first time in 8 years, I'm feeling overwhelmed with my workload. I guess with more money comes more s**t. 所谓的能者多劳, 者多忙。Looking on the bright side, I was able to work from home quite a good bit this year, perks of being a telecommuter. As for work travels, they were all 'confined' within the Southeast this year:
  • January - Raleigh
  • March & April - Atlanta
  • September - Orlando, Charlotte
  • October & November - Tampa

So happy to see these familiar faces again in Orlando after 4 years! From Penang to the US, we’ve all come a long way!

Took 3 trips covering 3 continents and 3 new countries this year - traveled home to Malaysia in May, camper-vanned around Iceland in June, and traveled to Fiji & New Zealand in Nov/Dec to celebrate our 5th anniversary. Thanks to points & miles, we didn't break the bank and I'm happy with the total 'damages' for all these trips:

Between pre-trip planning (including strategizing the use of points & miles), the actual travels, and updating the blog post-trip with trip and expense reports, I was able to keep myself busy throughout the year with travel stuffs, which I enjoy a lot. =) I should seriously consider being a travel!

Summary of my travels for 2018 (work+leisure):
  • Number of hotel nights - 69 nights (SPG/Marriott-48; Hilton-15; IHG-6) 
  • Number of hotels - 30 hotels (SPG/Marriott-17; Hilton-10; IHG-3) 
  • Number of flights - 58 flights (Delta-43; United-3, ANA-3; Alaska-2; AA-3, Fiji-2; Jetstar-1; Scoot-1) 
  • Number of airlines - 8 airlines (Delta, American Airlines, United, Alaska Airlines, ANA, Fiji Airways, Scoot, Jetstar) 

New Experiences
Few new experiences this year - went to my first Alabama football game, was interviewed on ChooseFI podcast, and became an aunt for the first time!


After 3 years of gardening, we decided not to do any gardening this year. It's been fun and fruitful, but it's time for a break.

The number of blog updates on this site has reduced to just quarterly updates and trip reports as I've been spending more time working on my other site.

Thank you 2018 for the travels (not work). I'm ready to move on to 2019. Hope that work will get a lil' better next year! Happy New Year 2019!!

Friday, December 28, 2018

South Pacific Anniversary Adventure ✈ San Francisco

Our 5th anniversary adventure brought us through 4 seasons and 2 new countries within 2 weeks. Started our trip hanging out with friends in San Francisco, followed by a relaxing getaway in Fiji, and ended the trip with a 10-day road trip across New Zealand. I'll share more about our adventures in the next few posts. Follow along!

Trip Planning

I've been eyeing Alaska's award sweet spot to travel to New Zealand and Fiji for awhile, but the actual planning for this trip started in January 2018 (10 months ahead) after booking our flights. We changed our flights multiple times (thanks to Alaska's old rules and schedule changes) and only finalized our final routes in September, but it all worked out.

Gotta stay organized when the trip involved 8 flights, 8 hotels, 3 rental cars, and 3 pre-booked activities. I would consider this trip a big 'points & miles' win. =) 

Before and after of our packing process. Ain't easy packing for 4 seasons but we managed to fit everything into two backpacks and kept everything organized with packing cubes. =) 

We intentionally selected the flight route with a long layover in San Francisco because hubby's best friend lives in San Jose and the last time they met was 3 years ago so this was a good opportunity for a quick catch up. Besides, it has been 12 years since I last visited San Francisco in 2006, so I was hoping to revisit. We were supposed to spend only 1 night in San Francisco but due to Alaska's flight schedule change, we managed to switch to the flight a day earlier, and spent one extra night in San Francisco. 

Nov 21 (Wed): Nashville - San Francisco

Due to Alaska's award redemption restriction (only 1 partner airline allowed), we had to fly Alaska Airlines for our domestic leg before connecting on Fiji Airways to Fiji. Alaska Airlines doesn't fly to/from our home airport so we had to depart from Nashville instead. Thanks to Dad for giving us a ride to Nashville airport on one of the busiest travel day of the year (day before Thanksgiving). 

Had dinner at the airport and had to pose with the Fiji water before we make it to Fiji for some 'real' Fiji water. =P

Our 5-hour flight from Nashville to San Francisco was a legacy Virgin America flight with the cool lighting. I was happy to find The Greatest Showman onboard as I've been wanting to watch this movie since I stumbled upon the soundtrack few months back.

Arrived San Francisco at 11.30pm (an hour delay). Thanks Kedar and Trupti for picking us up from the airport and hosting us at their brand new crib that they just moved in the weekend before we arrived. We were definitely honored to be their very first guest!

Nov 22 (Thurs): Thanksgiving in San Francisco

We were extremely lucky with our timing because the bay area was covered in smog for 2 weeks due to wildfires, and the rain cleared all the smog right before we arrived. We had clear blue skies and no rain, perfect for sightseeing!

Apparently it's a bad idea to eat out on Thanksgiving day. Everywhere we went was closed so we ended up having brunch at IHOP.

First stop - Lands Ends Lookout overlooking the ruins of Sutro Baths and the Pacific Ocean.

The park was a nice place for a stroll, offering great views of the ocean on one side and the Golden Gate Bridge to the other side.

Drove across the Golden Gate Bridge

Thanks Kedar for bringing us to Hawk Hill for spectacular bird's-eye view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city. =)

Next stop...Ghirardelli Square for yummilicious desserts!

Walked to Fisherman's Wharf from Ghirardelli Square.

Freshly baked sourdough bread at Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe. The bread smelt so good we decided to try some sandwich even though we were still full from the desserts.

Sea lions at Pier 39

Our last stop for the day...'rollercoaster' drive down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. Ended the day with Thanksgiving dinner with Kedar and Trupti's friends and family.

Nov 23 (Fri): San Francisco - Los Angeles - Fiji

After a lazy morning, Kedar and Trupti brought us to Ramen Dojo for some amazing ramen. This was a small little restaurant but the ramen was so good, better than the ones we had at Ichiran in Japan. 

Quick photo stops at Facebook and Google before heading to the airport.

That's all for our 2-days in San Francisco. Even though it was a short visit, I think we did good catching up with friends, seeing all the touristy sights, and enjoyed some good food. Massive thanks to Kedar and Trupti for the great hospitality hosting us at their beautiful new home, treating us to good food, and bringing us all around San Francisco & San Jose!! 

Next destination...Fiji!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Fall 2018

This Fall has been colder than normal but I got to enjoy my last bit of summer in Tampa traveling back and forth over the last 6 weeks (Oct 6 - Nov 16). With the days getting dark earlier coupled with the colder weather, and never-ending work, I feel like my busy season started 3 months depressing. =( Too much crap going on with work now I desperately need a break before I continue dealing with more of them. Gonna go into exile for the next 2 weeks (hopefully), so here's a quick update of my uneventful Fall.

Enjoyed my Platinum perks (free upgrades) before I lose them in January. My lil' trick of not having to put my laptop away during take off and landing...flip it over into a tablet. =P

One of the many reasons why I enjoy flying

Spent a good number of nights hotel hopping...

...and countless meals in front of the laptop (working).

Oct 14 & 21 (Sun): Hotdog fried rice, stir-fried veggies, lo-mien with hotdog and fry egg.

Oct 28 & Nov 4 (Sun): Pasta with meatball, stir-fry pork & veggies, Campbell's wicked Thai soup, pasta with tomyum tomato sauce.

Nov 11 & 18 (Sun): Teriyaki beef and rice, egg sandwich, fried rice with pork and mixed veggies, and China buffet. 

His toys...her toy...

Roll Tide - 1st Bama Game

After being in Alabama for 4 years, I finally made it to my very first Bama football game on Oct 13, 2018 - Alabama vs. Missouri. =P Even though I'm not a big 'American' football fan, it was quite a good experience and I enjoyed it! Passionate fans, great atmosphere, the Million Dollar Band (brought back memories of high school band days), Dixieland Delight sing-a-long (felt like we were at a concert), and of course Alabama won the game. =)

Walked around the campus before the game. We were lucky to find a decent parking spot.

View of the stadium from our seat.

We had pretty good seats...thanks cuz!!

Saw the players warming up...

...and the Million Dollar Band performing before the game.

These 4 uncles sitting in front of us were very serious about the game...matching hats! All in all, it was a good game. =D

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Summer 2018

Time for another quarterly update. Life had been pretty much all work no play over the last three months, with human-created deadlines after deadlines. As boring as life had been, I still managed to accumulate a good bit of photos on my phone. Time for a quarterly spring cleaning with a 'Summer' blog update. =)

Sept 12-14 (Wed-Fri): 3d2n Conference in Orlando
This was my first time attending this conference so I was definitely excited to travel to Orlando, and most importantly, seeing some familiar faces.

Everything was pre-arrange with a shuttle bus picking us up from Orlando airport. 

The conference was held at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. There were probably more than 1000 of us at the conference and everyone had a room to ourselves so you can imagine how huge this hotel is. Pool and golf course view from my room but the only time I spent in the room was to sleep.

Spent most of our 3 days freezing in this room.

Fortunately the contents were quite interesting...

...with snack and coffee breaks to keep us awake

Dinner in the hotel on the first evening...

...followed by more drinks at the lobby/bar till midnight. Auditors are well-trained to stay up late.

2nd dinner was at Universal Studios City Walk (but only finger food)...'Private Event'. =P

Visiting Universal Studios after park hours - Checked. Visiting a flooded Universal Studios - Checked. Having the park to ourselves - Checked. 

Free rides on Transformers and Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon with a bunch of auditors.

Minion was getting lonely (and dancing alone) so I decided to get a photo. Taking a photo with minion in Universal Studios without standing in line, I'll take it. =P

Private event finally ended at 11pm. 

Personally, best part of this conference was to see all these familiar faces. From Penang to the US, we've all come a long way. =)

Celebrated our Birthdays

Aug 19 (Sun): Celebrated our birthdays with the family. Thanks SIL and BIL for the food and presents, and MIL for the cake!

Aug 20 (Mon): Part two of birthday celebrations.

Traveled for Work

Aug 22 (Wed): Sheraton Suites Galleria - Atlanta

Aug 23 (Thurs): Presidential Suite @ Sheraton Birmingham, Hotel

Aug 28 (Tues): W Atlanta Midtown

Sept 20 (Thurs): Hilton Charlotte Center City

Post-Audit & Review Party

Aug 27 (Mon): Atlanta Braves baseball game with the Atlanta team

Meal Prep Continues

Weekly shopping routine...healthy cart vs. naughty cart.

Aug 19 & 26 (Sun): Fried rice with Spam and peas, stir-fry veggies, pan-fried potatoes, beef & potato stew, sweet & sour pork, and egg sandwich.

Sept 2 & 9 (Sun): Mussels and mushrooms in tomato and tomyum soup, stir-fry veggies, potato cake, spaghetti and meatball, egg sandwich.

Sept 16 & 23 (Sun): Stir-fry veggies, pan-fried potatoes, bakuteh, beef stew, egg sandwich.

Sept 30 & Oct 7 (Sun): Seafood mussels soup, stir-fry veggies, pan-fried potatoes, beef stew, egg sandwich, Campbell's wicked thai soup.

When it rains, it pours
Sept 5 (Wed): Went to the client's site for a meeting and got stuck in the elevator when I was leaving, had to use a ladder to get off the elevator.

Sept 8 (Sat): Found out I had a flat tire when I was going grocery shopping. Took 30 minutes to change it all by myself and unfortunately the damage wasn't patch-able. 

Sept 10 (Mon): Decided to change all 4 tires because the old ones are 6 years old and are worn out already. Bye bye $427.

Sept 4: Hubby realized a small wet patch on the ceiling, plumber came and found out that the sink pipe had a minor leak so we decided to fix it. Bye bye $811.
Sept 19: Had our annual HVAC check and was told the water pressure in our house was way too high, probably resulted in the previous leak so we decided to install a water pressure regulator. Bye bye $435.
Sept 23: Noticed the water wouldn't stop flowing into the toilet bowl and figured it was the due to the old toilet valve. Went to Lowes and bought a new one for $8 to replace. 

As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. All these unexpected expenses happened back-to-back within one month costing total 'damage' of $1,680. =.= Looking on the bright side, I was able to meet my new credit card minimum spend much earlier and was able to get a higher sign-up bonus for spending $1,000 more than the original minimum spend required.

Can't help but to pick up some stuffs on sale when Uniqlo had free shipping. =P

Gotta be more thrifty and save some money now that we're 'broke'! =P

Last one before I wrap up this 'summer' post, self-reminder not to 'kill' myself for work. =P