Smile #200 – Goodbye 2016

Another year has flown by.  In just a few more minutes, I will be caught up to other parts of the world and celebrate the arrival of 2017.

In the meantime, I’ll be watching all those stunning firework shows from my around the world and reflecting on the past 365 days.  Here is a short recap:

Cheered to 2016 with Bubble and Lil Sis.  Officially started the wedding preparation. Climbed to the top of a rock wall like a monkey, with a harness, of course.  Traveled to Vietnam.  Shot my first bullet and screamed about it.  Crawl through the narrowest tunnel, Cu Chi Tunnels.  Learned about the Vietnam War from a Vietnam War Veteran.  Rode through Mekong Delta on a traditional row-boat.  Pampered myself at a full body massage.  Tried Korean BBQ.  Traveled to Hong Kong.  Reunited with the family and friends.  Toured Hong Kong at speed of lighting, 1 week is definitely not enough.  Sat between a room full of housewives at Real Housewives of Charlotte.  Relived childhood memories at Junie B. Jones the Musical.  Survived spider in-car incident.  Saw Rachel Platton perform in live concert.  Visited the Body World exhibit.  Laughed so hard at Michael Yo’s comedy show.  Saw Once the Musical in theater.  Hiked from Uptown Charlotte to Davidson at Open Street 704.  Crossed the Mile-High swinging bridge.  Traveled to Denver, Colorado.  Stood a mile above sea level.  Awed at Red Rocks and Garden of Gods.  Ascended Pikes Peak with the world’s highway cog railway.   Ate the best proclaimed donuts from Voodoo Doughnuts.  Traveled to Canada.  Dipped my fingers at a hot spring.  Hunted for Sasquatches.  Survived a month without Mom.  Zipped over the Catawba River.  Got addicted to Podcasts.  Burned like a lobster at Myrtle Beach.  Dined with Medieval Times.  Attended in a timeshare presentation.  Parasailed above the Atlantic Ocean.  Traveled to Oslo, Norway.  Rode the Flam Railway.  Appreciated the beauty of Naeroyfjord.  Traveled to Bergen, Norway.  Hiked at the peak of Bergen to nowhere and turned around.  Admired the stunning sunset with a double rainbow on a fjord tour.  Drank water from a waterfall.  Ate whale for lunch.  Spent our dollars on real sheep with authentic sheep smelling scarf.  Searched the famous angry child and influenced a group of tourist to call it Angry Baby instead.  Hunted for trolls around Norway.  Traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark.  Ordered smorrebrod.  Took a photo with the Little Mermaid statue.  Traveled to Stockholm, Sweden.  Found both end of a double rainbow.  Tasted the best Swedish meatball.  Cruised to the Swedish Archipelago.  Accomplished 25 countries before 25 goal.  Upgraded to Global Entry status.  Became a mystery shopper.  Sampled wine at a treehouse.  Celebrated 1 year engagement anniversary.  Traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  Admired at local handcrafted work at Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community.  Sampled the strongest alcohol at 128 proof.  Got lost in a corn maze.  Traveled to Panama.  Toured Panama with a local.  Tried Peruvian Food.  Rode the Panama Canal Railway parallel to the old Panama Canal.  Observed how a vessel pass through the new Panama Canal.  Purchased the cheapest and freshest lobster.  Stood in the middle of the ocean’s natural pool.  Held a live starfish.  Met the president (kinda…just a few feet away).  Celebrate my 25th at the fanciest bar in town.  Voted and never felt so defeated.  Tried Russian cuisine.  Said Yes to a dress and then Said Yes to a dress again.  Cheered to my first job promotion.  Celebrated 6 years anniversary.  Discovered a new Christmas favorite song at Speedway Christmas.  Won tickets from a radio show.  Spoiled with a new North Face jacket and new bottles of nail polish.

2016, what a wonderful year it was!  I am extremely thankful for all the new and old experiences.  🙂  But I have a feeling 2017 will be the best one yet to be.

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Smile #199 – Tix at 6 Winner

If I leave work at exactly at 5:50, by the time I get downstairs and to my car, it would be at 5:58pm.  Just enough time to pull out my phone and dial in to Kiss 95.1 radio station’s Tix at 6 contest.  Of course, more likely than not, I miss it by a few minutes.

Once in a while I get lucky and listen in right on time.  It is the perfect entertainment while I sit among the sea of red tail lights (Rush hour never endssss!).  It doesn’t matter what the prize is, I love the adrenaline of dialing in.  The whole call takes 3 steps – dialing the number, busy signal and redial again.  Except a few times, I managed to get through and a voice replied “Number XX, try again.”  But during those few seconds, it is quite exciting to think my call could be the next winner.

Today I left work just in time to dial in. Like usual, I dialed in, expecting a busy signal.  Instead, a lady host picked up!  She announced I am caller #9!  Thanks 95.1, Lil Sis and I’ll be heading to see Jake Miller in concert in February!  Until then, I’ll continue to dial in and test my chances.  🙂

Smile #198 – Speedway Christmas

Christmas is the most magical time of the year.  I remember every Christmas when we lived in Hong Kong, my parents and I would go see Christmas lights.  We’d spend a few hours strolling through the festively lit Victoria Harbor. After we moved to the US, we typically spent evenings cruising through neighborhoods to hunt for beautifully decorated houses.

This year, we decided to pile in the car and headed to see the Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  Each year, the speedway sparkes with millions of lights.  Perhaps it is Monday, the line was moving surprisingly quick.  We started driving on the track and weaved our ways through the 3.75 mile course.  Hundreds of displays glow to the synchronized music on the radio.  I found my new holiday favorite – Joy to the World by Go Fish.  This cheerful remix to a familiar tune had us singing and dancing in the car.



In addition to the lights, a Christmas Village is set up in the infield with even more family friendly fun.


At the Bethlehem village, it was like time had turned back a couple centuries.  Mary and Joseph kneeled beside baby Jesus in a manger.  The three kings also stood guard beside the newborn king.

The smell of food lured us inside the Christmas Village. A selection of delicious mouthwatering snacks, including funnel cake, mini donuts and Lil Sis’s favorite, cotton candy.  Of course, a Christmas Village would not be complete without Santa … and Elsa from Frozen.

Dad was fascinated by the petting zoo.  It featured a variety of animals, including sheep, cows, goats and a few exotic animals (exotic in my opinion) like an Alpaca and Bambi.  All the animals were giddy for attention.


Look at this baby goat!  It is too cute to handle!  They were born just 3 days earlier.


Although the weather is quite mild in comparison to earlier of the week, our ears are starting to hurt.  AKA our body’s alarm calling us back to the car.

We thought we have seen it all, but little did we know, the best is yet to come.  We went through tunnels of lights.  It is soo pretty!  At times, we felt like we were in a game of Mario Kart, just speeding along the track among the glistening lights.


What a fun evening out!   Nothing captures the holidays spirit quite like sparkling lights and ornaments.  🙂

Smile #197 – Meet Teddy

Christmas came early this year.  EC came over and bought over my new favorite!  AHHH!  Meet my son – Huang Fu (Very obviously named by his father, Bubble).

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For reference, we also put Lil Sis’s Penna next to Huang Fu for size comparison.  Awwh, look at at how sweet they are together.  🙂

To welcome him to the family, we decided to have a full bear photoshoot.  He is the spotlight in our life.  We spent at least 30 mins posing with him.  HAHAH!

Smile #193 – An Extra Inch of Food

Charlotte’s portfolio of restaurant has been growing rapidly in the recent years. Just when I think I tried everything, a new place pops on my radar.

Rise Biscuit Donuts is a popular breakfast and lunch food chain in the Raleigh-Durham region.  They finally open their first location in Charlotte today!  The news of a new donut shop opening captured my attention immediately.  More donuts for meeeee, YES PLEASE!  Plus, it is located dangerously too close to home.

Since it is South Charlotte, I figured the crowd would be minimal.  Quite the contrary, the line was out the door and overflowed onto the sidewalk.  The donut shelves were almost emptied.  The staff were spinning around the kitchen in attempts to keep up with demand.

Their menu is impressive with both traditional and unique offerings.  The donut menu features an assortment of old school favors like classic glazed and chocolate icing and new school favors like cranberry orange and pineapple basil with pistachios.  The biscuit menu offers fillings country ham, bacon, sausage and fried chicken and option to add eggs, cheeses and spreads.

I had a long internal battle on what to order.  I finally decided on the Jane Dough’s Famous Potato Hash Cake.  I also ordered a Chocolate Icing donut for Bubble.  One bite and I knew I was in trouble.  The crispy shell with a savory cheesy inside, ohhh goodness!  The chocolate icing donut was decadent and rich.  I have a feeling we’ll be stopping again in very near future.

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Next stop of our new food adventure is Bahushkas Pierogi.  An editor from Charlotte Agenda just did a piece on this new restaurant, calling it the real deal.  I immediately forwarded the link to Bubble and we both agreed we have to try it out.

At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the restaurant was still packed with patrons.  Considering it is our first encounter with Russian food, we had to google most of the menu.  We ordered two popular Russian dishes, Siberian pelmeni and the chicken pelmeni with butter and chive sauce.  It look and tasted similar to Mom’s dumplings.  Hmmm!


We also shared a bowl of Solyanka soup.  It was loaded with variety of meats, tomatoes, olives and a slice of lemon.


This was a great introduction to Russian food.  Authentic Russian food all freshly made, nevertheless.  We will certainly be back soon to sample their chicken cutlet, cabbage rolls and honey cake.

For dinner, we paid a visit to Mellow Mushroom.  No, Mellow Mushroom is not a new restaurant.  Bubble and I have frequent this joint since our college years.  However we rarely ever order anything new from the menu.  Their Holy Shiitake Pizza is our favorite pizza of ALL time.  A blend of Shiitake mushroom on an olive oil and garlic base with mozzarella and Italian MontAmore cheese drizzled with garlic aioli and a spritz of black truffle oil.  Just the delicious aroma made us salivate.

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But to continue our trends of new food, we also ordered a small Philosopher’s Pie to share.  Another olive oil and garlic base with all natural grilled steak, portobello mushroom, artichoke hearts, provolone, feta and mozzarella cheeses without olives.  It was delicious, but hard to compete against Holy Shiitake.

One day, 3 different eateries, probably an extra inch on my waist, but totally worth every calorie!  🙂