Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Thankful for 2021, Hopeful for 2022

I guess we can all agree that 2021 didn't quite turn out as we hoped. It is unfortunate that we are now still dealing with the pandemic after almost 2 years. Just as we thought we were seeing the end of the tunnel, here comes Omicron throwing another curveball. As if the pandemic hasn't hurt enough, nature was also rubbing salt to the wound with tornadoes in the US and floods in Malaysia. These unfortunate events made me even more thankful that we've stayed safe and healthy in 2021. Similar to last year's recap, I don't want to sound tone-death to all the things going on in the world, but in a world of too much doom and gloom, I choose to focus on the positives for my 2021 recap. =)


As compared to the disappointing 2020, this year was a much better travel year as we managed to complete 2 international trips...Maldives and Canada. Traveling during the pandemic was definitely much more challenging and required a lot more flexibility. Looking back, we are thankful to be able to pull off these 2 trips and completed both trips safe and healthy. 

Apart from the 2 trips above, I also used my sabbatical leave to travel back to Malaysia for two months and spent some quality time with my family. It was certainly a good use of my sabbatical leave since I wasn't able to travel home last year. I had my first quarantine experience upon arrival in Malaysia and enjoyed the 10 days of isolation.

All in all, I took a total of 37 days off work to travel this year. And thanks to points & miles, the flights, hotels, and rental car for these 3 trips were almost free. The best part, I had the opportunity to stay at several 5-star hotels (according to Google) this year. Here's a summary of my travels for 2021:
  • 5-star hotels: Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, St. Regis KL, St. Regis Langkawi, Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa, Majestic Hotel KL, DoubleTree Resort Penang
  • Number of hotel nights: 44 nights (Marriott-22; Hilton-8; IHG-5; Others-9)
  • Number of hotels: 13 hotels (Marriott-6; Hilton-2; IHG-4; Others-1) 
  • Number of airlines: 8 airlines (AA, Qatar, Trans Maldivian Airways, MAS, Malindo, Korean Air, Delta, United)


Kicked off the year with my 10th work anniversary and 11th busy season. This was my first busy season working at home and it was great, mainly because of the people I worked with and also the jobs I had. Another thing that made me enjoy work a lot more this year was the opportunity to use my Google Sheets skills to design and build stuffs for work. This sounds totally nerdy but it brings me joy creating things in GSheets and coming up with solutions to help us all work more efficiently. Who knew I'd find something in audit that I'm passionate about after working for 10! And the icing on the cake for a good year at work...2 pay raises and a good bonus. =)


Despite having to spend 10 days and money for quarantine, I was thankful to be able to travel home this year. While the nieces and nephew are growing up quickly, the elders are regressing slowly. Dad now needs 24/7 care, caring for dad is taking a toll on mom's osteoporosis, and grandma is getting more forgetful. Such is life right? We get so focused on seeing the next generation growing up that we often forget that our parents are also growing old. This is why I want to try my best to spend time and make memories with them while I can. 

On the US side of the family, we had a new addition to the family in April this year so that makes us now uncle and aunty of 2 nieces and 2 nephews on both sides of the family. And before anyone asks the next question, no thank you. =P


We are thankful to be able to stay healthy, physically and mentally, and stay away from Covid. We're still avoiding social interactions as much as we could, but we're doing our best to balance between fear and living our lives by doing what all we can to stay safe and healthy like getting our vaccinations and boosters, wearing masks in public, and washing/sanitizing our hands frequently. I need to do a better job exercising, but I'll need a beach trip to be motivated. =P

After one year without travel, we went a bit crazy with our travel budget this year and splurged a lil'. The total 'damages' for these trips: Maldives ($1,000/pax); Malaysia ($790/pax); Canada ($690/pax). On an unrelated note, we hit a milestone on Feb 12 which was worth celebrating. =)


I'm not a good writer, I'm not a YouTuber, I don't make any money online, but I still continue to blog and make videos just because I enjoy creating things and documenting my experiences/thoughts. Most importantly, they serve as a good reminder to be thankful for all the good things we have in our lives. Thanks to the 3 trips we had, I completed more blog posts and edited more videos this year. In contrary, I consumed less K-dramas this year as compared to last year mainly because I spent a good bit of time trip-planning and blogging about our trips. This was productive year for travel contents:

Travel-related posts:

Work-related post:

Quarterly updates:

That's a wrap for 2021. We are thankful for a good year and I'm hopeful that things will get better for the world in 2022. Let's stay safe, stay healthy, and take care of each other.

Happy New Year 2022!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Fall 2021 - From Delta to Omicron

It's hard to believe that 2021 is almost over already, the year seemed to have flown by. Just as we thought things were getting better with countries starting to loosen travel restrictions, this new variant, Omicron, is now all over the news. I feel like most people don't care anymore at this point, especially here in the south. We're certainly the outliers who are still wearing masks. We've also gotten our booster shots so we're just doing all we can to stay safe and healthy. Fortunately, we managed to squeeze in another trip to Canada in September, and came back safe and healthy. 

Family Time

Oct 16 (Sat): Visited Tate Farms pumpkin patch with the family. The DINK couple (with matching!) was photographer for the day.

Nov 27 (Sat): Thanksgiving lunch at MIL's. 

Nov 14 (Sun): Virtual celebration for Mom's birthday

Dec 25 (Sat): Christmas with the family...1st Christmas for lil' Cooper!

Work Time

Sept 30 (Thurs): Wine and Charcuterie Board tasting for work connectivity event. It was fun and I much prefer this type of virtual 'socializing' and getting all these goodies shipped to the house. =)

Nov 3 (Wed): Another virtual connectivity event with the team...canvas painting. Auditors being artsy at! I know I've said this multiple times, but I LOVE WFH, and this anti-social way of socializing is perfect for me. =D

More goodies from work! Thank you boss!

To be honest, I much rather work with the offshore staffs than the angmohs here. Their level of dedication and work ethics are so much better. Now you know why so many companies are moving work offshore...cheaper and better. =P

I was eligible for phone upgrade at work so got myself a new iPhone Mini 13 for $50. My iPhone collections over the past 7 years...iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone 7plus, iPhone 11, iPhone 13 mini.

Leisure Projects

Spent a few weeks working on Shutterfly for these gifts for the family. 

MIL gave us her extra sofa bed so we moved the futon downstairs. 

Meal Preps

I know I'm years behind the hype but we finally bought an Instant Pot when it was on sale at Target for $60. I've been using it to cook almost everything since getting it. While it didn't really save much time (I was already too efficient with my stove cooking) but it does help avoid making the kitchen oily and greasy and hubby only has one pot to clean so he's happy. :P

MIL has been giving us lots of fresh eggs (from her chickens) so I tried out some egg-y recipes.

Lots of peppers from MIL's small garden too!

Sept 19 & 26 (Sun): Meatball pasta, chow mien with mussels, egg sandwich, chicken herbal soup, baked bbq chicken, broccoli and carrot salad.

Oct 3 & 10 (Sun): Pasta with pork fillet, stir-fry veggies, chow mien with mussels, egg sandwich, baked bbq chicken, broccoli and carrot salad.

Oct 17 & 24 (Sun): Noodles with veggies and mussels, pasta with pork fillet, korean egg roll, stir-fry veggies, egg sandwich, baked bbq chicken, broccoli and carrot salad.

Oct 31 & Nov 7 (Sun): Tomyum noodles with veggies and mussels, potato omelet, pan-fried pork fillet, chicken chili, chicken quesadilla, broccoli and carrot salad.

Nov 14 & 21 (Sun): Chicken herbal soup, steamed veggies, korean egg roll, meatball pasta, baked potato casserole, lu rou fan (braised pork rice), broccoli and carrot salad.

Nov 28 & Dec 5 (Sun): Bakuteh, meatball pasta, steamed veggies, chow mien with veggies, bbq chicken with seasoned rice, broccoli and carrot salad.

Dec 12 & 19 (Sun): Bbq pork and ribs with potatoes and carrots, potato omelet, chicken herbal soup, meatball pasta, steamed veggies, broccoli and carrot salad.


Twincredibles at 32 - 35 months...getting more mischievous and cheeky.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Canada Road Trip 2021 ✈ Driving from Canada to US

When Canada finally reopened its border on 9 Aug 2021 (after 17-months), we wasted no time rebooking our Canada trip that had been cancelled twice prior to this. We opted to drive to Canada from the US (instead of flying directly into Canada). We started our road trip in Spokane, spent a few days in Banff National Park, and ended our trip in Seattle. Thank you Canada for reopening the borders to fully vaccinated travelers!

This was our 2nd international trip this year, and we're absolutely aware of the risks we were taking to travel during a pandemic. As we were renting a car and visiting national parks where we could easily avoid crowds, Canada was a rather safe and ideal travel destination. To be clear, we have been and are still taking the pandemic seriously. We're both fully vaccinated (hubby had his booster shot), we wear our KN95/KF94 masks whenever we're out in public, and we're still avoiding people. =P

Canada Road Trip 2021:

After a wrapping up 3 successful days of sightseeing at Banff National Park, it was time to continue our journey to our next destination in Canada...Vancouver. We chose to cross the border back to the US  from Vancouver as we wanted to tag on a visit to Seattle on this trip. We definitely fully utilized our rental car to cover a whole lot of miles in both US and Canada within 7 days. 

16 Sept 2021 (Thurs): Canmore - Vancouver

We had a long day of driving ahead of us so we checked out of the hotel and departed at 6.15am. Fortunately, we didn't need to execute our last resort of visiting Lake Moraine right before leaving Banff (thanks to the beautiful weather the day before), else we would have had to depart even earlier. 

The route we drove from Banff to Vancouver was an easy one along the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1), with a detour through Whistler before ended our day in Vancouver. The total journey was about 900km (560 miles) and took us about 14 hours without any sightseeing stops...certainly a long day of driving but we gained 1 hour going from Mountain to Pacific time zone. Thanks to hubby for driving the entire day! =) The following are some random photos I took along our long drive...

First 1.5 hours of our drive took us from Alberta province to British Columbia province (Banff National Park - Yoho National Park - Golden). There were quite a number of constructions along the way which slowed us down a lil'.

Foggy drive through Canada's Glacier National Park and Mount Revelstoke National Park for the next 1 hour. We made a stop at the town of Revelstoke to fill up our gas and got breakfast at Tim Horton's.

Cute lil' resort close to Revelstoke - Three Valley Lake Chateau.

5 hours into our drive and we were about half way through our drive at the town of Kamloops. We had a quick lunch break around 1.30pm at a small town called Cache Creek and filled up our gas again before taking the turn off Highway 1 into British Columbia Highway 97 and 99. The first part of BC-99 Highway along Fraser River, close to the town of Lillooet, had some interesting landscapes and canyons.

The rest of our drive in the afternoon was actually kinda boring. We passed by Whistler, a popular ski area around 4.30pm but didn't stop in the town coz there weren't much to see. The main reason we took the route through Whistler was to drive through the Sea-to-Sky Highway (Sky-to-Sea for us as we were going the other way). This 163km (101 miles) route between Vancouver and Whistler is known for its awe-inspiring scenery and we had a few stops pinned along the way. However, after 3 days of amazing drive in Banff, we weren't impressed by the Sea-to-Sky Highway at all, partly because it was cloudy and we've had a long day of driving. The cloudy weather also killed our mood for more sightseeing in the city of Vancouver so we ended up not making any stops and headed straight to our hotel.

It was around 6pm when we entered Vancouver and we were welcomed by rush hour traffic. =.= Welcome back to the city and thanks for the reminder that I don't miss traffic at all. After being stuck in slow traffic for about an hour, we finally made it to Holiday Inn Express Surrey at 7pm where we spent the night before driving back to the US. Phew...what a long day!! I went to a Korean supermarket near our hotel to grab some ready-made food for dinner. This hotel would have costs $137/night but we redeemed 12,500 IHG points for our stay so this was another free stay.

17 Sept 2021 (Fri): Vancouver - Seattle
After a restful night and filling ourselves with free breakfast at the hotel, we checked out of the hotel at 9.45am and started our drive back to the US. There are several border crossings between Vancouver and Washington, and the one closest to our hotel was the Blaine Port of Entry, about 30min from our hotel. At the time of our travel, the US border was still not opened to Canadians yet so the border entering the US wasn't busy at all. I thought about using our Global Entry but since there weren't any other cars, we just pulled up to the counter without any wait. We handed our passport and my green card to the officer, he scanned through it briefly and asked what we were doing in Canada. We said vacation, and he said we were good to go...fastest border crossing ever in less than 1!! 

Even though the US requires a negative Covid test to enter the country, this rule only applies for people flying into the US, not for people entering via land. So driving across the border was definitely a good choice as it saved us from having to find and pay for a test. =P

Hubby wanted to check out a video game store at Lynnwood (2 hours from the border) and coincidentally, there was a H Mart right next to it so it worked out perfect. I stocked up some Asian food & snacks, and bought kimbap and makgeolli for lunch before continuing our drive to Seattle. 

We arrived Seattle at about 1.30pm and made another stop at Pink Gorilla video game store before starting our sightseeing in Seattle. Our first photo stop was Gas Works Park, the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company "gasification" plant, with a view of downtown Seattle.

2nd photo stop was Kerry Park, a very small public park in a neighborhood with great view of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle.

3rd photo stop was Pike Place Market, where the original Starbucks was located. We thought about trying some food here initially, but when we saw all the people there, we lost interest in being in crowded areas and left after taking some photos.

Quick drive-through Amazon Spheres and Seattle Chinatown before heading to our hotel.

Checked into Holiday Inn Express Seattle Sea-Tac Airport at 4pm. The suite we got was spacious. This hotel costs $161/night and same as all other hotels we stayed throughout this trip, we used our IHG credit card free night certificate for the stay. We chose to stay close to the airport because the we had to return the car that night and picked up another rental car for our last day in Seattle. 

After dropping our luggage, we drove 10min to the Westfield Southcenter Mall to pick up Din Tai Fung for dinner. Hubby loves DTF's xiao long pao and since we don't have any DTF close to us, we made a point to enjoy it while we were in Seattle.

After dinner, we drove to the airport to return our 7-day rental car and picked up another new 1-day rental car for our last day in Seattle. National only allows free rental redemption of up to 7-days, which explains why we had to 'break' our rental into 2 separate reservations. I was able to choose any car from the Executive Elite aisle but we decided to go with a Toyota Camry for fuel efficiency. =)

18 & 19 Sept 2021 (Sat & Sun): Seattle - Nashville - Huntsville

We didn't have much planned for the last day of our trip so we just chilled and hang out in the hotel until 2pm (I requested for late checkout). We were trying to rest more before taking the red-eye flight back to Huntsville. 

After a chillaxing morning, we drove to Redmond where Nintendo America's HQ and Microsoft's HQ were located. Hubby loves these two companies so this photo stop (of the buildings) was for him. =P It was Saturday and nobody was working so the place was quiet.

After making another stop at the Westfield Southcenter Mall to check out the Uniqlo and Daiso stores, we made it to the airport at 6.45pm to return our rental car and catch our flight home. Seattle airport was pretty empty and everything went smoothly and quickly. I used my United Travel Bank cash to book our flights from Seattle to Nashville for $116/person. My United Travel Bank was funded with the $250 airline credit from my Hilton Aspire credit card so our flights were technically free.

Went to The Club lounge using my Priority Pass to have some snacks while we waited to board our flight to Chicago at 11.30pm.

We were upgraded to 1st Class for our flight from Seattle to Chicago thanks to my United Silver status. I was surprised that they served a meal for this 4-hour flight. =) Our 2nd flight from Chicago to Nashville was quite full but luckily it was only a 1.5 hour flight. 

We arrived Nashville at 9am and picked up another rental car and drove 2 hours to our home. This one-way rental from Nashville to Huntsville was yet another National free rental day redemption. =)

That's a wrap for our US/Canada Road Trip, another successful pandemic travel for 2021. We are glad that everything went smoothly and we were able to stay safe and healthy throughout the trip. I'm certainly not taking for granted the opportunity and ability to travel safely and freely during the pandemic. Let's hope 2022 will be a better year for travels. 

Daily maps of our road trip.

9 rental days and 2,283 miles (3,674kms) for a total of $43 (RM181). =)