Travel theme: New

I’ll admit that I had a bit of a hard time with this week’s Travel Theme! In the most literal sense, I had plenty of new things – my husband and I had gone a little crazy with Black Friday and the various Christmas sales, but somehow that didn’t seem to fit the theme. Besides, who wants to see pictures of the ties I got him?! Not exactly thrilling subject matter. Although they are nice ties, hmm.

So it made me think about new and what that meant to me. The new places we had traveled to, new recipes we tried out, just things that were different from our same old… and lo and behold there were quite a few photos to choose from after all!

Wishing you all a happy and joyful New Year!

Greeting a new day in a new country during  our trip to Puerto Rico. It was truly blissful to wake up every day and see this gorgeous scene from our balcony. The days were warm, the breezes were soft, and the company was great during our trip. I would definitely love to go back to Puerto Rico and explore even more – we only got to sample a fraction of the island’s offerings!

In a complete about-face, here we are after fresh new snow in Green Lakes Park in Fayetteville, NY! I’ve actually never been here during wintertime and the snow adds a pure beauty to the setting. As I found out, the lake is beautiful in all seasons!

IMG_4321The hallway of the new pharmacy school at the University of Buffalo, NY. When I was in school, they promised our class this building would be finished before we graduated and that we would be taking classes in a new, high-tech facility (and with a TIM HORTON’S inside!). Of course, they finished two years after we graduated! Still, it’s a beautiful building and I hope later generations of students enjoy it!

Sometimes, you don’t realize how much you miss a dish until you taste it again – and this was the case for white-cut chicken (bok cheet gai) with ginger and scallion oil. For a quick dinner, my parents used buy this and roast pork from a Chinese restaurant and heat it up with rice. The tender, flavorful chicken and the slight spiciness of the ginger-scallion oil go great together! We finally tried to cook this at home and three chickens later I think we’ve gotten the hang of it!

Another classic Chinese dish that’s fairly easy to make and so good! Scallion pancakes (chong yow bang) are delicious and filled with scallion goodness. We also put in cilantro, plenty of garlic and finely chopped onions too… Not sure if that’s traditional but the more the merrier. A new dish to add to our repertoire!

I did get one gift that I had to put a picture up of – a new camera! Well, technically it is refurbished but it’s new to me and I’m still working out the differences between this camera and my current one. I still love my Canon Rebel T3i (great entry camera) but I’m excited to see the capabilities of a full-frame camera.


Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

An end of the year photographic round-up of 2012? Can we say HECK YEAH?! This week’s challenge from the Daily Post was only a challenge in so much as trying to narrow down what pictures to use… I started out with 30 so I managed to cut it down to half that, but still not that the 12 they suggested haha. Excess is in my nature I suppose.

Looking back through my photos, 2012 was quite an eventful year –  full of trips big and small, with my mother-in-law coming to live with us, and of course with my wedding. This year seems like the start of my friends getting married – 3 this year and 6 and counting next year! Weddings are a pricey business, for guests as well as the bride and groom, but I do love a great party! I’ll be looking forward to 2013 and everything it has to bring!

Travel theme: Festive

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” – Now that we’ve been hit with snow, it really is starting to look a lot like Christmas (the music has been playing at work nonstop since Thanksgiving, all the holiday classics are lodged firmly in my brain!). Honestly I don’t really mind a green Christmas that much either (more like brown and barren, but I guess green sounds better!), but snow does make everything seem more… festive! This week’s theme at Where’s my backpack? is festive indeed, and it’s fitting that today we got to visit Skaneateles (pronounced skinny-atlas!), where they have an annual Dickens Christmas festival every weekend from Thanksgiving til Christmas.

This weekend we finally got a chance to go, thankfully since it is the last weekend, and we were hit by a lot of snow so all the shops were charmingly covered with snow. Not so charmingly covered with snow were the roads, which are twisty, turny and hilly and require a bit of careful maneuvering to get from Syracuse to Skaneateles. On the way there we passed by a car that had flipped into the ditch… a little scary. When we were on our way back, they were just towing the car out! And that was a good 4 hours time difference. Stay safe when driving out there people! Drive slow if you must and screw all the tailgaters!

Anyway, we had a great time at the festival despite it being cold and windy! People go around dressed in Dickens era garb, and there is a re-enactment of the classic Dicken’s Christmas Carol (also the only Dicken’s book I’ve read!). Free roasted chestnuts, free hot cider, and lots of festivities abound. I only wish I’d come more often!

And to end it here’s a little video of the Dicken’s Christmas carolers singing Jingle Bells!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

Surprise! We’re all still here! I’m sure most people weren’t expecting the world to end but it did give me a good reason to pig out – after all, if the world is ending I will be eating one more fajita bowl from Chipotle, please, before I go. The other big surprise was that overnight Syracuse became a wintry wonderland! We awoke to snow falling steadily throughout the morning, transforming the whole yard into a fluffy white playground for the neighborhood kids. This is the first big snowfall of the year and I doubt it will be the last. It definitely made for some interesting driving conditions since the plows had not been out too much yet. But I love snow and lots of it when I don’t have to drive!

Happy Holidays!

We’ll be having a white Christmas here!


Travel theme: Transportation

For rather obvious reasons, traveling would be pretty darned difficult without transportation – so here is a little photographic ode to the different methods of transportation I’ve experienced over the years, inspired by Where’s my backpack? It’s shameful but I don’t even have a picture of the NYC subway even though it was integral when I was growing up. I guess I just took it so much for granted that I never thought to take a picture of it… unless if it was of a freakishly huge rat or something. In any case, prepare to be… transported.


From the window of our airplane as it circled above Cancun, before heading in for landing. The narrow, heavily developed strip of land is the main touristy area of Cancun with all the fancy hotels and beaches. On one side is the turquoise Caribbean Sea with foamy waves washing up  on picture perfect beaches and the other side is the more peaceful Nichupte Lagoon. From up above, it already lookes postcard-perfect!


Do you know about bike shares? I don’t think they’re as big in the US but perhaps more common in Europe and also apparently in Ottawa, where we saw these bikes. Basically bike-shares are stations where public bikes are offered – you pay to get a bike (and sometimes a helmet) and then can return it to another station. Usually payment is based on the amount of time used. It’s a pretty cool idea and quite green – the bike-share program in Ottawa is called Bixi and consists of these cheerful bright red bikes, plastered with advertising but you gotta pay for it somehow right?


This is definitely a fun and speedy way to get around in the water – jet-ski! This guy was jet-skiing around the Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands region of NY – and he wasn’t alone, plenty of other people were out enjoying the water on Labor Day and soaking in the summer sun.


The most basic and reliable way to get around, if a little slower – your two feet! Here I snapped a friend as we were walking through the damp streets of Paris. A beautiful city, in the rain and in drier weather as well.


One of my favorite places in NYC and one that I love to take out-of-towners to – Grand Central Station. It’s always lively and bustling – and now that they have the Apple store I have a place to charge my iPhone if it’s running low while I’m out and about. I’ve honestly never taken a train here and I find it a bit bewildering!


No pictures of NYC subway but I had to get one of the Paris metro! In fact I realize that I have photos of many other city subway systems (Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and other Chinese cities) but not NYC! In any case, I love the Art Nouveau style of the station.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

I love Fridays – not because they’re the end of the work week because I’m still working this weekend (ugh!)  but because they mean new photo challenges! And of course that means rooting through  my old photos for something suitable or snapping some new shots to fit the theme. This week I had plenty of photos to choose from for the Daily Post’s weekly challenge. I love taking pictures of flowers and nature – the sheer variety and innate grace of nature is just so wonderful to photograph. Even the smallest,  over-looked little pinecone can reveal beautiful symmetry and complexity when you focus on it.


Travel theme: Circles

When I read these week’s travel theme at Where’s my backpack? …. Immediately the “Circle of Life” song from the Lion King got stuck in my head – and now it’s playing on repeat. Damn it Elton John! Great movie of course… I miss the golden age of Disney!

Circles are everywhere – and when I look through my pictures, especially prevalent when I’m eating because of all the plates! So I had to make a conscious effort not to put any food pictures, although my mouse finger was itchy from it. I decided to restrict myself to circles from one particular trip, and therefore I present to you…

Various Circles of JAPAN!


On an epic trip through Asia, one of our stops was Japan, where my best friend and I would spend 1.5 weeks shinkansen-ing it to various cities. Our first stop was to Tokyo, where we stayed in the Asakusa area. While we were exploring the area, I was struck by the really cool and pretty manhole covers – such a change from the extremely industrial and gritty covers of NYC.  Little did I know, this would be a theme of our Japan trip. And that is my shoe in the bottom – I managed to wear flats every day of our six week trip – minus the day that I wore sneakers for the Great Wall. Phew.


In Tokyo, there’s an artificial island called Odaiba where they have all sorts of cool stuff, like this colorful Ferris wheel. I loved the pretty rainbow colors of the little cars… they also had these “Crystal” containers where the whole car was made of glass or really strong clear plastic – scary! We were fine in our normal one. In Odaiba they also had a huge Gundam statue! Which we sadly did not see. We did however get to relax at the onsen – Oedo Onsen Monogatari, where we got to don Yukata and live out our Japanese anime girl fantasies.


Another city, another totally awesome manhole cover! This was in Osaka – and as a disclaimer, not all the manhole covers are this intricate. Most of them are not colored – but this was just special. For tourists?


And of course in Osaka, you MUST visit the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum. Yes you did read that correctly… they have a RAMEN MUSEUM! This is worth a trip to Japan by itself, because within this wondrous building you get to create your own Cup-A-Noodle, complete with decorating the cup and choosing which toppings to put in. Afterwards they even put it through a machine to seal it into a puffed up bag so it doesn’t get crushed in your suitcase when you travel back home. The Japanese think of everything! We also got to make our own ramen and walk through the tunnel timeline of ramen. It was trascendent.


Here we are in Nara – with the in?famous Nara deer depicted on the manhole cover. For those of you who are unaware, the deer in Nara are protected and therefore are super bold and will come up to you if they think you have food. All the souvenirs in Nara are deer related – deer keychains, phonestraps, and delicious mochi that are playfully called deer droppings. At least I thought it was mochi…


This is for Himeji – a city famous for its beautiful white castle which is often called White Egret castle because it looks like white birds about to take flight. Therefore the birds on the  manhole cover! While I can’t say that the castle looked like it would be flying off anytime soon, it was definitely a beautiful construction and had a gorgeous garden for meandering through.


At Himeji Castle, a tower depicts many of the crests of the clans within the area. I would love to have a crest for myself!