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EATING OUR WAY AROUND THE WORLD WITHOUT LEAVING LOS ANGELES

Why do you travel? 

  • To get away from the daily grind?
  • To spend quality time with others?
  • To invest time in, and transform, yourself?
  • To learn about other cultures, flavors and traditions? 

My friends Christina, Marsha, Patty and I (and occasionally a special guest!) found a way to do all of the above during those in-between days while waiting for our vacation days to refill. We challenged ourselves to eat our way around the world without leaving Los Angeles! 

LA offers so many cultures living alongside each other. With our two-fold goal, we aim to learn about different parts of the world and different parts of LA at the same time. We drool in anticipation for each new restaurant, and also the quiet time to hang together.

We’ve filled a bowl with names of all the countries we could think of. We meet monthly to draw a piece of paper out to determine which country’s cuisine we will visit.  On occasion, we already know of a good spot. We often still do a bunch of research online if we need other suggestions.  

One of the best parts of travel comes from the anticipation of the upcoming trip! So it’s fun to look forward to our dinner for a few weeks before gathering for a wonderful meal together. In many cases, we just eat. A few times we paused long enough to wander around the neighborhood visiting nearby businesses, street vendors and open air markets! 

So far our itinerary has taken us to:

ITALY
Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Restaurant in Marina Del Rey
Marsha summed this spot up in one word: Sumptuous!  Truly a feast with so many courses – salad, pasta, shrimp and fish! We drank great wine and enjoyed the fantastic family pictures and local location!  We made mental notes to return with family!

PERU
El Pollo Inka in Hermosa Beach
Patty and I frequently visited this spot before we drew the name from the bowl. We loved the amazing grilled meats, Christina had a slow-cooked osso buco. The live music set the tone and the newly redone interior was beautiful!  

JAMAICA
Donna’s Home Caribbean Restaurant in Hawthorne
This cozy little spot felt like eating in the kitchen of a family relative. Though a small spot, the flavors were big! The jerk seasoning brought my favorite combinations of seasonings and the juices were delicious!

SOMALIA
Banadir Somali Restaurant in Inglewood
This restaurant, too, felt like we’d stepped into a friend’s home. When we arrived, a bunch of friends sat at a table watching a game. We asked the chef what he recommended and we eagerly upon a platter!  Patty pointed out how awesome it is that we four seem to be on the same page, often eager to try the same things, or a variety offering.  This platter of meats including chicken, beef, goat and lamp became Christina’s favorite! Great place to feed all of our growing teenaged (and older) kids!

KHAZAKHSTAN
Shamshiri Grill in Westwood
This spot had such a beautiful interior and the entertainment centered on a delicious view of the kabobs being fired on the grill! I surprised myself by liking goat – again – though I settled on shrimp curry. The cherries in the rice were an unexpected dimension for rice that I loved! 

DIM SUM
Ocean Seafood in Downtown LA
When we drew Dim Sum from the fish bowl all four of us were the most excited we’d been to date! We got there early and got right in, the carts began circling like chuck wagons and we covered the table in plates.  A few times Christina found herself saying “That looks interesting!” (We’ve all said that at some spot.) It was cool to try vegetarian options on a few
dishes

EL SALVADOR
Paseo San Miguel in Los Angeles
Marsha suggested this restaurant based on the crowds she saw anytime she drove by. Now that we’ve eaten there, we know why. This spot leaped into the leadership spot with many of us in the group! Patty even went back with her family the same weekend and I’m looking for the opportunity to do the same.  Again, like with the Somalian restaurant, they offered a large platter of food with fish, shrimp, sausage, chicken, and beef. We also ordered four different pupusas and a plate of plantains and beans. We ate so much we were stuffed – hurt so good!

We’ve only just embarked on this journey and we look forward to the next destination – that we will draw in a few weeks!  I’m looking forward to trying Ethiopian! I already know I love Spanish and Armenian food and can’t wait to share it with the gals.  Marsha looks forward to Korean food (as do I). Christina wants us to hurry up and get to Brazilian food – I may already know the perfect place!

This was a test run at work when they hosted an African buffet and we tried Chakalaka!

We’ve also made it our mission to try some American foods that may vary by region – Patty suggested starting with BBQ. Marsha can’t wait to sink her teeth into Memphis BBQ and I look forward to trying Texas BBQ!

I love that I might show up with the stress of the workweek or living with teenagers but between the food and friendship, they quickly point me in another direction and my stress melts away.  So, don’t wait! Gather a partner or a group and get an interest group or club started! Whether it’s for dining, crafts, travel or to start in on your bucket lists, as Marsha would say: Get out and get to it!  

What about you?
What book or film transported you the farthest?
Have you ever picked your next vacation destination based on how beautiful it looked on the big screen? Or from a dish you ate?
What bucket list item could you check off your list tomorrow?
What country has your favorite food or dish?
Do you belong to any clubs with your friends? Dining, Book, Travel, etc? 

#EatOurWayAroundTheWorldLA #yelpla #yelp #Girlfriends #GNO #losangeles #dinner #lunch #happyhour #eatourwayaroundtheworld #lafoodie #foodie #Africa #Italy #Peru #Jamaica #Italy #Khazakstan #Somali #restaurant #restaurantweek #makesmewander

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YOU WENT WHERE? MY FAVORITE COFFEE MEMORIES

Please note that the cityPASS links are afflinks meaning I’ll get paid a few pennies towards my next dream vacation at no extra cost to you. I am only including the pass for towns I’ve visited and would love to return to with a cityPASS

Some people’s favorite memories bubble to the surface after seeing an outfit worn, hearing music played, smelling a familiar scent or feeling a season come around again. Many of my favorite memories (no surprise) center around coffee! 

I am the reigning champion Most Caffeinated Mom of my domain. I absolutely drink coffee to ensure that I can stay up later than my teenagers. No falling asleep on the job here. However, I also legitimately love to try different coffee flavors like one might try and savor fine wines (that post coming soon…).

The best part proves to be the town I’m in, or the company I’m with, even if I’m alone. For some of the towns, I sipped while skimming cityPASS info – sizing up my options and discounts for other nearby activities!

Take time to brew a cup, warm up a friendship or simmer on memories! I appreciate you indulging me with a few of my coffee highlights…

BIRD ROCK COFFEE ROASTERS 
Del Mar
Sometimes Moms just need to get away. I rented an Air BnB for the first time and headed out for a solo weekend (sort of – my son and his pals were staying in a beach house so I stayed close in case of emergency and to throw food at them one night). Mentally, it helped me begin to admit that he’s about to leave home and gotten more independent! 

The vibe here felt peaceful starting with the barista’s gratitude journal that you’re encouraged to add to, to the amazing view of Los Penasquitos Lagoon and Torrey Pines State Reserve. The wide open spaces helped breed large ideas!

The SoCal cityPASS has multiple San Diego, Anaheim and Los Angeles attractions and so many various options for you to choose from to plan your perfect visit! 

CAFE DEMITASSE
Santa Monica
After a fast-paced morning playing cars with my friends – real friends and real cars – they raced off to their next amazing destination. Since I didn’t feel ready to downshift yet, I wandered around walking to the pier, down 3rd street Promenade and found this spot.

The specialty drinks drew me in with ingredients I don’t usually see in a latte. When they made my chamomile strawberry latte, the sprinkle of strawberry brightened my morning! I can’t wait to go back!

This beautiful latte is located in a town many people visit when touring SoCal cityPASS attractions!

THE COFFEE HOUSE AT DISNEYLAND HOTEL
Anaheim
Another sign that my kids continue to grow and mature – they now just need me for a ride to Disneyland Resort but don’t me to go with them. I remember walking in those shoes when I grew up so I gladly spent the day exploring Downtown Disney and the many resort hotels until they exhausted themselves.  I’ve been a huge believer in Disney magic ever since my first tour of the park when I worked there during college.

Many surprises hid in every corner of the Diesney properties.  I found the coffee house while wandering through the festive property trying to see what was new. The coffee satisfied my craving but the magic appeared in the themed Snow White’s apple pastry.

Yes! Even Disneyland is part of the SoCal cityPASS!

COPA VIDA
Pasadena
This place felt productive – like important and creative work and conversations took place daily. It felt important that I finally caught up with a friend of over 22 years! I could not remember the last time we caught up without our families.

I ordered a turmeric latte. Is that even coffee? I think so?! It mixed steamed milk with turmeric and espresso. It felt very smooth with just a bit of spice. The anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric made it good for me too.  

Though a little out of the way, you are able to visit this coffee shop when on your way to the Los Angeles stops of the SoCal cityPASS!

GRAND CENTRAL STATION
New York
We did a whirlwind trip to the East coast as my son narrowed down college choices. Not only did it feel fantastic to make it to and pass through such a famous, historic building, but we navigated the trainlines, got tickets and filled the remaining time in line to buy snacks and coffee.

The kids preferred to ride in their own section of the train leaving me in my own little world for our long 2-stop train ride.  We enjoyed that campus and the East coast vibe but he landed at a West coast school for college.

When visiting the City that doesn’t sleep, the New York cityPASS gives you the option of visiting the top 6 NYC attractions, or to choose 3 out of 11 attraction options!

HEARTHSTONE LOUNGE AT DISNEY’S GRAND CALIFORNIAN
Anaheim
I love the network of Korean adoptees (KADs) that I’ve found in recent years. A few of us met in Downtown Disney to discuss things like first trips back to our birth country, birth searches.  I met one gal in San Francisco at the AKA | IKAA conference and they met since they found out they were related. We’ve definitely opened cans of worms by doing DNA – I look forward to see who comes forth. 

The Grand Californian offered one of my favorite places to hang for a while. Feels relaxing sinking into their sturdy but comfortable chairs! The cast members quickly spotted us and took my order. The latte cup, and my company, filled me with warmth!

With the SoCal cityPASS you can choose 2-5 days at the Disneyland Resort and the more days, the less the tickets cost!

LOFTY COFFEE CO.
Encinitas
My childhood friend – well, family by friendship who fits in as our 4th sister in our family (she’d be the oldest and we’re all still 4 years apart) – came to visit!  Since it’d been many years since she last visited, she wrote a short bucketlist and I could not wait to travel as much as I could with her.

We started in Encinitas at my folks’ beach house. We started exploring the charming stores up and down PCH – beginning at the Lofty coffee shop!  It felt like the local hangout, the corner coffee shop where you would find all your fastest made friends.

Take a ride up the coast to drive from the San Diego Zoo to Carlsbad’s Legoland visiting the best SoCal cityPASS attractions! Fill your lungs with sea air and your heart with latte love!

SCALA’S BISTRO AT KIMPTONS SIR FRANCIS DRAKE HOTEL
San Francisco
I flew to to Northern California for a book reading of the anthology that I contributed a story to: Mixed Koreans: Our Stories. Though many of the Korean Adoptees stayed together, I chose to stay closer to where I feel my heart in San Francisco – Union Square.

First of all, they greeted me with free brewed coffee in Scala’s. Instantly won me over! As I stepped down into the cafe, I couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful, lofty ceilings with my mouth wide open.  It immediately set a classic but casual tone with amazing views of the city through its huge front windows! As I sat, sipping my coffee, it absolutely convinced me to come back to grab coffee and croissant for the next leg of my travel. Perhaps next time I’ll have enough time for a real meal.

Structured like the NYC version, the San Francisco cityPASS allows you to either choose the pass with all 5 top San Fran hot spots or you choose 3 out of 8 hot spots for slightly less.

SEARS FINE FOODS
San Francisco
This restaurant marks many milestones in my history. I’ve sat down for breakfast with my kids, with many teams of Team In Training athletes, and with friends. As I sat down once again, I immediately jumped back in time to my other visits and also to the time when this place was built! So much history here.
 

The coffee and comfort food arrived quickly and the portions exceed the plates. Have you tried Sears? You must. 

One of our favorite attractions is the Exploratorium and tickets are available through the San Francisco cityPASS!

STARBUCKS
New York
I leaped at the opportunity to shadow the footsteps of what would be a dream job for me! Grabbed a Venti triple latte and headed to Hearst! Sadly I cannot move to New York right now but I penciled it in as part of my 8-year plan!

To be honest, the tour of O, The Oprah Magazine gave me a pep in my step over the coffee that day but I still loved the holiday flavors.

I need a week to spend in New York. It’s been so long since I visited any of the attractions, they’d be brand new now.  So glad to get a break on so many stops with my NYC cityPASS!

STARBUCKS RESERVE
Palm Springs
While in the middle of my friend’s So Cal visit bucketlist guiding me through my first mid-Century Modern Architecture Tour of Palm Springs, we stumbled upon a huge Starbucks Reserve! I had to take pause from this memorable trip traveling back in time to graduate to Starbucks Reserve.

Starbucks Reserve’s huge store blew me away. They boasted a daily menu featuring special brews and a multitude of brewing methods. I chose Sun-dried Brazil Vale Verde Estate featuring hints of dried fruit and sugar – clover brewed: Full-immersion and vacuum filtration to yield exquisite balance and body (Their words). My thoughts: It tasted about the same as always. Still cool to visit and I’d love to do a flight of coffees!

Palm Springs is a little off the beaten path from the SoCal cityPASS but if you can fit it in, I recommend it. With mid-century modern art & architecture, this desert is a real escape!

TRULUCKS SEAFOOD, STEAK and CRAB HOUSE
La Jolla
Though I grew up in San Diego, I don’t visit as often as I used to. So when I dropped in for the weekend, I felt so grateful that two of my friends made it for happy hour!  They’ve been such a source of friendship, reason, conversations and balance.  I love that we’ve gotten to know each other even better than when we walked home from 8th grade!

We arrived during happy hour and enjoyed a variety of appetizers, delicious cocktails and smooth music. But the chocolate bag dessert and fully-loaded coffee were the most memorable and beautiful together.

It’s worth it to detour through La Jolla to see native Sea Lions and amazing ocean views and experience a restaurant like this between themeparks you found on SoCal cityPASS!

WICKED SNOW
(and a few other coffees that helped me during my first trip back to my birth country!)
Seoul, S. Korea
After spending an amazing day-in-the-life with generous Korean host families who spoiled and fed us so much Korean street food, they brought me and a friend to experience this amazing dessert Mango Bingsu! It tasted like a dreamy creamy cloud! I got a simple coffee to counter the cold of the Mango Bingsu and because I took advantage of any opportunity to get simple brewed coffee while in Korea!

Around the main picture you can see how I fed my caffeine addiction while in Korea. I felt like Korea’s insta-coffee technology was more advanced than I’m used to in the USA.

HONORABLE MENTION:
MY OFFICE
Los Angeles
Every morning my office-mate and I make ritual foam for our coffee and whether I brew my coffee in the office or I brought it with me, it becomes the best part of the morning.

Now that I see the added value of my coffee ritual, I may have to figure out a way to extend this! Meet up with my friends all over for conversations and their favorite coffee (or wine)!

What about you?
What sparks the most memories for you? Sights, sounds, scents, etc.?
Do you have a favorite coffee shop or cafe?
Do you stick with big chain coffee shops or seek out independent chains?
What coffee drink is your part of the world known for?
Do you get coffee for fuel or to spark conversations?
Does the foamy coffee or the tiny espresso from my office has more caffeine?
Does anyone here drink decaf?! Speak up, I’d love to meet you!
…or do you drink tea?

There are 14 cityPASS destinations in the USA and Canada! Use them to simplify planning for your next trip! Which cities have you visited with cityPASS?

#memories #butfirstcoffee #connections #communication #lattelove #bepresent #coffee #cafe #espresso #caffeine #highlycaffeinated #begrateful #shopsmall #Disney #afflink #Canada #Disneyland #makesmewander

YOU WENT WHERE? VEGAS! (WITH KIDS, COUSINS, & GRANDPARENTS?!)

When planning your family vacation, did the words Las Vegas ever cross your mind? Did it stay in your mind or did you immediately dismiss Sin City? Oprah Magazine just did a feature talking about Vegas attracting families hoping to see their favorite artists’ shows while in residency in Vegas. …But, what can the family do before and after the concerts?

Would you believe that my family roadtripped to Vegas with ages 5 to almost 75? We spent hours in the pool and more hours chasing adventure!  Some things we did together, sometimes we split up into smaller family groups, but we were pleasantly surprised with how many of the attractions fit the bill for all ages! 

Always chasing deals, I purchased things from Groupon or looked for specials on the ground in Vegas. MGM offered a 3 for $57* card with choices of a wide variety of attractions! Everyone in the group mixed and matched to fill in their bucket lists – we didn’t all stick to the same itinerary. So here are the top 10 (in alphabetical order) from our last trip to Vegas. For even more things to do in Vegas, check out what we did on our first trip to Vegas – just myself and my 2 kids.

ADVENTUREDOME at CIRCUS CIRCUS* – My t(w)eens’ easy first choice for the 3 for $57 card! Even though Circus Circus felt a little stuck between classic crooner Vegas and the new flashy resorts, it held SO MUCH fun under one Adventuredome for kids of all ages. Tons of games, rides and fanfare to enjoy many air-conditioned hours! My young niece chose to see Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage instead. 

BODIES … THE EXHIBIT* – After hearing so much about this exhibit we eagerly chose this as one of the 3 for $57. The t(w)eens did less cringing than expected and more studying of each display. The human bodies’ exhibited such intricacies and artistry that really drew our attention and awakened our fascination. Sorry, they did not allow photographs.  My 5 year old niece chose to do the Titanic exhibit instead – we just left out the ending of that story.

ETHEL M CHOCOLATES – When considering our favorite chocolates, everyone knows about M&M Mars, but did you know Ethel Mars?  Just 13 miles or so from the Vegas strip in Henderson, NV we found the factory store (that happens to be surrounded by a beautiful succulent garden)!  I looked closely for Lucille Ball operating a conveyer belt within the inner workings. The best part was creating our own custom assortment of flavors to take home – sharing not required!

GORDON RAMSEY BURGER at the PLANET HOLLYWOOD – While I influence the foodie adventures, the kids recognized Gordon Ramsey from Hell’s Kitchen. They both stick to simpler choices in general, but instantly noticed the differences in textures and flavors while inhaling these delicious plain cheeseburgers and shakes!  

JABBAWOCKEEZ at the MGM GRAND – My kids don’t remember the Jabbawockeez as winners of the premiere season of America’s Best Dance Crew, though enjoyed them after I offered an extensive online video review. They absolutely appreciated and were inspired and energized by the moves they saw on stage.  The theatre offers great seats from every spot – plus the show and story goes beyond the fourth wall.   

JOHN MULL’S MEATS & ROAD KILL GRILL – Upon learning the name of this restaurant, I instantly wanted to freak my kids out and go.  It’s a short drive into a residential neighborhood but when you arrive, the smell pulls you from your car and brings you to the crowded door.  The barbeque options were tender and flavorful and a welcome change from the miles of buffets on the Strip! 

LUXOR – The Luxor offered a central location to so much of what we did in a magnificent pyramid!  The kids dug the Egyptian theme with the nightly pinnacle beam of light – perhaps a beacon for travelers from outer space! They gasped at how huge the interior felt with each level revealing more hidden treasures! My kids’ yearn to stay in every resort on the Strip!

MARVEL AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N. – We received an invitation to check this place out and what a fan favorite!  My kids know the Marvel Universe better than they know U.S. history and this offered an even more intimate look at the many characters and their stories.  Such an amazing interactive exhibit to let us walk a mile in their shoes and suits!

SHARK REEF AQUARIUM at the MANDALAY BAY* – The unanimous favorite for all ages, this exhibit fulfilled all of our deep-diving fantasies.  Next time I go, I want to fasttrack through the attractions and spend more time sitting in the hull of the ship just watching the sharks.  Take your time strolling because the jellies mesmerize and the aquariums made us fantasize. This was our last of the 3 for $57!  

lauren slotzilla

SLOTZILLA ZIP LINE at the FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE – I often try to find attractions uniquely special for each child. For my daughter’s first-time ziplining, I thought the rock-n-roll light show from the “ceiling” of the Fremont Street Experience fit perfectly. The course was fast enough to thrill but not scare us and Bon Jovi music left our hearts pumping! Downtown Vegas offers an older charm but the scene is changing and growing each year! 

ON THE ROAD HOME…
ALIEN FRESH JERKY
– Not going to lie – the idea that this jerky came from alien-abducted cows stayed in my head while we walked all over the store! Final verdict: The aliens know what they’re doing and you need to stop here! This shop offers the best in roadtrip snacks of all kinds (and happens to be across the street from a place offering the widest selection of sodas and pop!). Easy to spot from the highway, just look for the World’s tallest thermometer in Baker, CA!

What about you?
Did this change your mind that families can vacation in Vegas?
Need more convincing?
Where have you travelled with kids in Vegas?
Where should we go next?
Where do you find special deals?
What’s your favorite Vegas season?

#lasvegas #youwentwhere #familyfun #familyvacation #roadtrip #travel #travelwithkids #blogtober #Nevada #Baker #Henderson #EthelM #MGM #Luxor #Adventuredome #Slotzilla #FremontStreet #GordonRamsey #Burger #bbq #aquarium #makesmewander

HOW TO PREPARE FOR A TRIP TRAVELING FULL-CIRCLE

How does one prepare for a full-circle trip when one doesn’t know how much baggage there will be?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be granted the gift of a trip specifically catered to the mixed-Korean – often known as “Hapa” – adoptees (KADs) interested in returning to our birth-country to cement our existence in this foreign country. We’ll spend an amazing 10 days traveling through South Korea with the Hapa Mosaic Tour sponsored by Me & Korea. What a gift to learn first-hand about the culture and our shared and unique histories with other KADs.

As a single mom of two kids, I would never be able to afford this trip, nor have the time to research my past and coordinate everything for such a meaningful trip on my own so I’m incredibly grateful to Me & Korea for sponsoring this mind-bogglingly awesome opportunity. When I first put my desire out into the universe to take this trip last Fall, I never could have imagined that it’d be this soon. I’m a big believer in making our dreams known – it’s the first step to achieving them!

Me & Korea also hosts a full-Korean Mosaic Tour!

After a deposit to commit to this trip-of-a-lifetime, the one expense I needed to take care of – air transportation to Seoul. I figured, for my first trip to my birth country, I must go Korean Air! I love that the flight I booked allows travelers 2 bags so that I may bring a suitcase for my things and an extra for gifts (since they don’t tip in Korea, instead, they give gifts of appreciation) and souvenirs. My sturdy travel companion Lug bag will hold everything I need for my 13 hour direct flights and for the smaller trips where we go overnight to other parts of Korea.

During the flights I’ll spend plenty of time reviewing mental checklists and timelines while hoping that I packed everything I need. Meanwhile I don’t know if I can accurately anticipate the emotional baggage waiting to be unpacked.

CURRENCY ADAPTERS & CONNECTIVITY
Growing up I always felt a nervous vibration under my skin from the combination of being adopted, changing schools often and being an introvert. Too young to call upon words to express such complex emotions, and with no other shared or personal experiences to compare them to, I honestly didn’t believe anyone completely understood me. I just lived despite the feelings not really wrangling the skills to travel through them. Previously, I explained these emotions comparing them to Gwyneth Paltrow’s character living in a parallel existence in the film Sliding Doors knowing that I started life on one path and now existed on a very different one. However, unlike her character, my search focuses not on what I missed, rather figuring out what led up to me switching rails.

In this past year, as I’ve started to connect with other adoptees, and specifically hapa adoptees, that vibration seems so much less noticeable to the point that I don’t even recall exactly how it felt for the previous 40 plus years of my life. I don’t feel like it went away, more like I found other people whose vibrations matched mine. Social media proved its worth to me by taking my sparse landscape of KADs and filling it with 200,000+ others from those in the very first plane of adoptees departing from Korea to the most recent ones. Still, I’m sure that this trip will bring me face-to-face with stories in my head that I’ve dreamed up and those that I could never visualize.

From the USA office of my adoption agency

MAPS & TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
Requesting my adoption paperwork from the Korean and US offices of my adoption agency from almost 5 decades ago felt futile. Surprisingly, it only took them 2 weeks to travel back 47 years to pinpoint and send me photos of my American adoption files. Surprisingly, I moved the pinpoint for the start of my Seoul search 200 miles south as I realized that my birthplace originated closer to Busan – a southern beach town in Korea.

I devoured the information as though I’d discovered a treasure map with hidden paths, mysterious clues and a possible buried treasure. Through tears, I read notes detailing ingrained behaviors, spoken words and eating habits as an infant. It warmed my heart to read the words that someone cared enough to write. I’d never known that I’d stayed with a foster mom with older “siblings!” Before now, I imagined a very sterile vision of my first few months assuming I’d been one of many in a rows of cribs in an orphanage. For the first time, my past reached out to comfort me.

LOST IN TRANSLATION (THOUGH TRANSMITTING LOUD AND CLEAR)
I take everything I read and see in my files with a grain of salt. I don’t read or speak the Korean language. I’ve heard many accounts of adoptees finding a thin lining of distraction in their files – though clarification may be offered when visiting the Korean office of their adoption agency. During peak transnational adoption years, some detail fell away as adoptions were “streamlined” to help get more babies adopted. According to one chart, between the time I was born in 1970 to the time I flew to America in 1971, the number of babies Korea sent away grew from 37 babies/week to 52 babies/week with a peak of 170 babies/week being reached in the mid 1980s before it started to slow down.

To this day, the feelings surrounding these statistics shroud some Koreans in a delicate veil, detailed with bureaucratic formalities and mild mea culpas. I never expected the Korean Consulate General to attend a mixed-Korean event in Los Angeles to issue a formal apology to mixed Koreans and adoptees for sending us away, admitting their errors, offering the improvements and extending their warm, formal invitation to come visit Korea. Personally, I can tell by reading the English-written parts of my file (though I have translators working on a full Korean translation) that perhaps the agency fast-tracked me through the system quickly to parents where one was a doctor so I could receive excellent care for the extensive health issues I had as an infant. For this, I’m grateful.

I am grateful that this tour allows me to retrace my steps!

MY FIRST KOREAN ITINERARY
Though I existed for 8 months before being adopted, the opening scene in my mental reel about my life began at 8 months old. In my mind, someone found, processed and adopted me out within a month. Receiving my Korean adoption files recalibrated that timeline. The paperwork shed light on the landmarks I traveled during my first journey through Korea.

When I had children of my own, I remember looking at them at 8 months old, acknowledging that someone in my past faced an excruciating decision that I couldn’t even bring myself to simmer in for a few minutes. Learning that this actually happened at 2 months old, my mind immediately tried to guess whether this age made it easier or harder. There is no good answer regarding timing or reasons. Second guessing does no good now. I’m grateful for my life, for my unique path and, now, the ability to revisit it.

BEST TIME TO VISIT
Why now? To be honest, the universe knew the right time. Before, I didn’t have the resources or knowledge to navigate such a distant culture and unknown language, nor did I have the money to do a tour that provides such guidance. I felt taking such a large trip would be selfish and, again, the cost prohibitive. I lacked direction! As an abandoned infant, I thought searches for information would be inconclusive.
I needed to get a better grasp of who I am so that my Self isn’t as fluid while on this journey. Every week since learning I’d join this trip presents moments where I’m hurtling towards boundaries that once I cross them, there’s no pulling back. My story and history have the potential of blowing up in the most exhilarating way and it’s important to know that while this does impact me, it (most likely – fingers crossed, knock on wood) shouldn’t change my foundation.

A full list of resources I found helpful coming soon!

TOUR GUIDES
Thanks to computers, I’m fortunate to have KAD mentors – the “Twinsters” film, working a fundraiser for KindredAdoption.org, AKA Dan’s youtube series, reading books, doing DNA tests to learn my other half, joining facebook KAD groups and attending AKA|IKAA events. After finding a welcome place and ongoing dialogues in these groups, I heard enough stories that caused me to ask “What if?”

Meeting adoptees older than me who successfully retraced their steps, I asked “Why not me? Why not now?” Though the process of applying and receiving notice I’d received the grant for this trip took place during a quick window of time, I’ve actually been preparing for this trip for 4 years.

So how does one prepare for this full-circle trip-of-a-lifetime when I still can’t wrap my head around it? After stops in Seoul, I’ll visit the region where it’s estimated I’m from, based on where police found me. Then we get a personal visit where I’ll visit the first location where I stayed before moving to Seoul, others may revisit their childhood home, or meet birth families if they found them. I’ll visit the Korean offices of my adoption agency to see if more information exists. We’ll participate in Korean culture visiting families and learning delicious Korean cultural skills. We’ll visit a Camptown home where many female employees of these camptowns now reside – honestly, these could be many of our birth mothers.

A gift from a friend and fellow #OMagInsider – I take it everywhere to keep copious notes!

Hopefully I’ll return with my children someday soon, but since it took me 48 years to get here to begin with, I want this trip to stand on its own and I want to remember all of the details. I’ll prepare with a fresh journal. I’ll take time every day, sometimes in particular moments and take in every sense – what I hear, smell, taste, see and feel. I’ll take tons of pictures and tons of notes and hope that others do too.

To follow along while I unravel the mystery that is my history, follow my social media!

To help support trips like this or to apply for next year’s trips visit me&korea

What about you:

  • Have you found surprises in your history?
  • Are you adopted?
  • Did you find biological family?
  • Any resources that helped you out?
  • Are you a domestic or international adoptee?
  • Did you adopt?

#2018HapaMosaicTour #meandkorea #325Kamra #KoreanAdoptee #seoulsearch #MindfulMidlife #myhistoryisamystery #halfbutwhole #researchingmystory #Korea #KAD #Hapa #liveyourtruth #sharedexperiences #anthology #connect #personaljourney #lovechicos #omaginsiders #Makesmewander

YOU WENT WHERE? SAN FRANCISCO (With Kids)

During the toddler years, my family’s cranky moods  (mine included) disappeared with some creative distraction and a change of venue – if severe. Now that the tween and teen years dictate the mood in the house, when the bickering levels get intolerable, Mom offers a proportional change up – Roadtrip adventure!

MB transamerica-pyramid_san-francisco

Photo courtesy of megabus.com

I’ve been dreaming of a trip to San Francisco since the last time we’d been almost 13 years ago. My teen son only remembers riding in a limo at 3 ½ years old (over riding his first cable car) and my tween daughter simply made it through that trip to her due date!  I love the energy of the city with its cool modern minimalistic hotels next to classic historic hotels with warm solid mahogany bars in the lobby. I love that everywhere you turn, distinct neighborhoods welcome you with their distinct charm, as do the piers decorating the waterfront!  So the three of us set out on an adventure blending history, new experiences, old favorites and of course something weird!

32 hrs in San Fran (with kids)!

DA, DA, DA – ANOTHER ONE RIDES THE MEGABUS
Always up for an adventure, the wheels in my head started turning immediately (The wheels on the bus go round and round)!  When you put things out into the universe, the universe responds! Amazingly, we received the opportunity to try Megabus.com for free in exchange for our honest opinion.  I immediately responded, “Yes, Please!” after a great first-hand testimonial from my office mate who used this bus line recently during her East Coast holiday adventure.

Planning a weekend getaway limited our time in San Francisco, so the idea of showing up only 30 min. early, getting on a bus with reclining seats and sleeping my way to San Francisco – then waking up refreshed at my destination – cemented the decision for me! The night we left, California disappeared under the rainstorm that my generation will retell vividly for generations to come. The Megabus travelled securely on the roads, unfazed by the elements. In fact, for both directions of the trip, energetic and helpful employees kept us on track. Their rates remain reasonable, only additional charge should you wish to reserve seats!  Check their site often for their $1 sales! I wish I’d known about this when I was a college kid – weekenders would have educated me! For a full review click here.


YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE FOR A FIRST IMPRESSION
As we crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge, the sun shone on the waking city and almost converted me to a morning person (Hah, you know how unlikely that’d be). The bus dropped us at the Caltrain station and Uber picked us up before we even stretched out our rested bodies! Everything feels closeby in San Francisco and in minutes we arrived at the Hilton SF Union Square – a hotel I’m super familiar with thanks to my Team In Training (TNT) years.  Though they aren’t the most hipster or historic place in town to rest your head, they consistently provide a comfortable experience that seems upgraded from the price paid (especially with their renovated rooms). Feels like dropping in for a visit with a long-time friend!  What cinched our future return was letting us check in 8 hours early! Thank you!

hotel

Despite our welcome middle of the night snack from the roadside rest stop, we arrived to San Francisco hungry for adventure …and breakfast!  Wanting to set the tone for the weekend, and to fuel us for the day, we chose another favorite from my TNT days, Sear’s Fine Food

The moment you enter, you step into your grandparents’ era for some unconditional love delivered in a heaping serving of delicious warm food. With our bellies and hearts filled up, we left for our first adventure… except nothing was open yet. So we went to the hotel to plot our course, unpack, watch TV…

Two_hours_later_in_Squidtastic_Voyage

THRILL OF A NEW RIDE
While the kids power napped, I navigated and doubled back cross-checking the Cable Car routes to deliver us to all of our desired locations. We opted for a single-day pass immediately opening up our access to the city. I purchased our tickets while the kids watched the city’s tradition of re-directing the cable car at the turn about.  We hoofed it 2 blocks to the next stop up from there (where 10 people stood in line vs. 100s at the turntable). For the first leg of our trip we jumped onto the outside of a crowded cable car and held on!  My daughter told me later that she got nervous – not that she’d fall off – that other people wouldn’t get out of the way.

One of the most memorable visuals of the city flashed briefly at the change between the Powell-Hyde and California lines as we looked downhill through the city.

Alcatraz is first on our list for next time!

OFF TO EXPLORE – AH, TOUR – EE, YUM!
One parental benefit allows us to run alongside our kids, watching the world through their curious eyes, bright with wonder.  At the Exploratorium, everyone’s minds expanded and repeatedly blew as we flew from exhibit to exhibit, squealing like loudly deflating balloons!  Each new stop offered fascinating exhibits where you learn by interacting with the exhibit! This museum encouraged touching or climbing into and through exhibits!  My daughter’s and my favorite experience deprived us of our sight as we traversed through a maze in complete darkness. As a pair, we relied primarily on touch and sound while traveling through the Tactile Dome (slight additional, but highly recommended fee).  She turned out to be an amazing leader providing step-by-step directions as to what challenge I would find next.  My son’s favorite challenged him to learn Morse Code – harder than it looked considering it’s only dashes and dots! Totally exhausted though only getting a fraction of the experience done, we finally broke for dinner!

PEPPER MEAL WITH HISTORY
As a divorced mom, I haven’t shared a lot of their Dad’s and my history. At first I lacked an age-appropriate answer for their innocent questions, “So if you had fun, why’d you break up?” Later, out of respect for his new wife, and largely because I’d boxed them all away, wrapped in impenetrable box in my self. 11 years later, I realize that the generic statement “Even though we’re no longer together, you were created from love.” doesn’t carry weight if I don’t sometimes share proof.  Their Dad and I enjoyed The Stinking Rose restaurant a few times both here and the one in LA. One thing we actually agreed on was that only the SF one seasons the experience with a mythical bohemian feel – being that it’s the original location.  Also, honestly, this restaurant wouldn’t have teased my palate without his family’s cooking. The first time they opened their door, a rush of garlic took my breath away! The rest is history.


WALK RIGHT DOWN THE STREET
After dinner, though absolutely stuffed, we desired something light but sweet.  We calculated the distance we needed to walk to make enough room for Gelateria Naia (who are we kidding – there’s always room for gelato)! My kids stuck with classic flavors of mango, coffee and chocolate chip (though not all together).  They featured a whiskey flavor I’d never encountered before that blended smoothly with chocolate – the recipe for the perfect evening nightcap. 

I SPY… SOMETHING GOLDEN
The next morning, after we slept in a bit, we hunted for a meal large enough to rush us through the day and sustain us until we got on the bus to relax for the ride home to Los Angeles.  Originally, we went fishing for a fish and chips truck, but, they weren’t open when our stomachs started growling at us. The mist of the heavy fog led us straight to Tarantino’s Restaurant on the pier promising a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the top floor (talk about multi-tasking when on a limited timeframe).  The kids laughed at the names of boats in their slips, communicated telepathically with seagulls begging for the kids’ fries through the scenic glass window, and squinted to find the bridge through the fog. We raved about the crispy golden seafood (lightly battered and fried, without any recognizable fish features).  


LIKE KIDS IN A CANDY STORE
As we exited the restaurant, the bright red logo of Rocket Fizz served as a beacon from across the street.  My son’s sentimental side insisted that we go “support the company” so that they don’t go out of business (I doubt there’s any danger of that, he’s still sore we lost the location in Westchester). Your sweet tooth compels you to stop the next time you pass near this store. It offers many childhood or jumbo-sized favorites and hard-to-find imported candies.

WTF: WEIRD, TOTALLY FUN!
Headed towards the Pier, we pulled inside a doorway to briefly to plot our course …and never left.  We’d stepped through a door into the most fantastically freakish place – Musée Mécanique!  This features the personal collection of Edward Zelinsky’s arcade games, and other mechanical wonders, collected from 1933 on (though some originated from decades earlier).  This collection felt slightly unsettling only because we had no idea what to expect (or was it the large clown at the entrance). Uneasiness immediately yields to exponential levels of excitement as you discover each new relic from a player piano, to old-time picture machines, to Space Invaders and a steam motorcycle.  We completely fell into this parallel universe, lost track of time, and wish we could have stayed longer.
 

MY NEW PERSPECTIVE
After a relaxing and a more spacious ride home (less people on the bus so each person could take a row of seats), we returned home from vacation refreshed, a little exhausted from our adventures, and with new perspective.  Our Three-thumb review is 3 tired thumbs up.  My tween daughter loved the unique challenge of the Tactile Dome and a new appreciation for her vision. My teen son left for San Francisco believing that one beach town resembles the next one. He returned with an appreciation for the history and the varied terrain (and we didn’t even visit the largest or curviest hills) of Northern California.

I caught a glimpse of my children and how they treat each other when mom’s not around thanks to the water fountain experiment in the Exploratorium. It featured back-to-back water fountains and two buttons on each side: SIP or SQUIRT. Each sibling simply pressed one button and if they match, it happens, if it doesn’t match, it cancels each other and nothing happens.  I fully expected to need to buy new dry clothes, or that they’d cancel each other out.  My heart grew when I witnessed my kids gently lowering their heads (and dare I say they were both a little bit surprised) to get a sip of water.

I found out AFTER we got back that if we purchased a CityPASS for our trip it would have reduced my time researching fun destinations AND saved us money! San Francisco’s CityPASS offers two options: 1 booklet of 5 attractions, or one booket where you choose 3 out of 8 attraction choices.  (Note: This is an affiliate link which means if you purchase the CityPASS not only will I be super excited for your upcoming adventure, but I earn a little bit of change towards my next CityPASS purchase – at no extra cost to you!)

If you want even more detailed reviews on each place we visited, check out the Yelp Reviews. Plus subscribe to check back when we update the list after future roadtrips!

Follow the blog to see where we go next!

What about you?
What is your favorite San Francisco gem?
What do you do to save your sanity on trips?
How do you remain present and not skip ahead to the next destination?
What changes in perspective do you encounter while traveling?
How often do you travel with your kids vs. on your own?
Where are you off to next?
Where should we go next?

DON’T TAKE MOMZILLA ON VACATION

The power of 3 showed it’s magic this month when in one week, I suddenly received my first 3 invitations to wander off to destinations in our closest neighboring state: Northern California (OK Fine! Same state but so vastly different)! My tween daughter pleaded to join me. My teen son surprised me by stating that he would love to visit these destinations too. We compromised with them tagging along for 2 adventures, and I’m attending one alone, creating a one-woman writing retreat. Even though we’ve worked out a peaceful solution – someone threatens to rear her ugly head and ruin my vacation vibe – Momzilla!


The minute I commit to taking a vacation, preparation floods my consciousness:

  • Transportation
  • Packing
  • Lodging
  • Itinerary
  • Budget
  • Contacting friends in that area to meet up
  • Cleaning the house (so if something happens, your neighbors and family won’t know about your paper piles)

My mind feels even crazier than (hopefully) yours since I think in a spirograph pattern. Plus, I didn’t even take into account what I have to do with work before I can walk away from my desk with a clear conscience:

  • Emptying the In-Box
  • Reading/answering all unopened emails
  • Training a replacement (if applicable)
  • Cleaning your desk (so if something happens your co-workers won’t know about your… wait, they already know).

Now I don’t have the perfect process, but here’s one skill I’ve learned from my brief time as a manager – Delegate! With 3 trips coming up, I need the kids to take on more responsibility for themselves. You’ll see on my social media if it went well or not.

Great prices, comfy with free wifi!

TRANSPORTATION:
We’re trying something new! For this first road trip, we’re riding a Megabus to San Francisco! I’ve always had a goal to take the kids up the coast to explore northern California. As a passenger, I get to take in the gorgeous view on the way home! On the way up, I’m saving a hotel night by taking a red eye bus! We leave Los Angeles in the evening after work, sleep on the bus and wake up refreshed in San Francisco ready to hit the payment. Whenever I’m in San Francisco I always am inspired to walk everywhere anyway, plus uber can help with longer treks or late-night rides back to the hotel.

PACKING:
After the first summer packing a week’s worth of clothes for my son’s sleep-over camp, only to have him return in the same outfit he left in (albeit with clean undergarments), I retired from packing for my kids. Somehow the teen, who regularly produces 2x the laundry that his sister and I do, manages to get by on very little when travelling. Vacation miracle! My daughter still needs to fine-tune her packing but fortunately so far, every destination we’ve been to isn’t too far from a Target or cheesy touristy T-shirt shop.

CLEANING THE HOUSE & EMPTYING THE IN-BOX:
People, just do your best, zip up the suitcase, walk out and shut the door behind you. A very wise man once told me


Meaning, don’t kill yourself to finish everything (or to perfectly stage your home before your trip). 10 things will hit your inbox as soon as you read the last email, 10 more papers will land in your mail slot, and we all know how crazy it is to leave on a trip so yeah, there could be a small tornado that occurred in your home during that preparation time. Just get your home to the point that it will welcome you when you get home then hightail it out of there!

Now I only touched on 3 things here, because when planning agenda and lodging, I am like a Hungry Hungry Hippo not wanting to miss any tips, savings, coupons and reviews that roll into view.

Now, our trip is more simple than say a cross-country or international trip. I’d love to hear what you do to streamline your travel preparations and outrun your internal Momzilla. Please share your biggest travel prep gem in the comments!

Where are traveling next?
When are you leaving?
Traveling alone or with others?
Share your tips to staying sane!

 

#Travel #RoadTrip #Bus #Journey #Megabus #LosAngeles #SanFrancisco #FamilyVacation #WeekendGetaway #Momzilla #Organization #Sponsored #Blogger #MakesMeWander

PRICELESS COLLECTION!

With two children being promoted to new schools (one starting Middle School, one moving to High School) I spent the whole last semester lamenting how quickly years pass. My teenage son fans those fears stating “I’ll only be living with you for 4 more years!” He’ll already be eligible for a learner’s permit two months into his freshman year! Just. Not. Ready. Breathe! THEN my baby left the Elementary School that anchored us into our new normal when I got a divorce. Time marches on!

You ever notice just how much crap you accumulate in that time? Or is it just me? Before, during, after and in between moving I go through stuff streamlining and purging so my family will stop watching Hoarders waiting for me to star in an episode. While my collection of books extends past their bookshelves, overall I am not a huge collector because a) I get distracted easily and b) the minute I miss one, I stop since I won’t have a perfect set, plus I waver on getting 1 or 2 of everything (only to wind up at zero) so if they become valuable, neither child will feel slighted (the thrifty side of OCD).

So color me crazy, but I return with renewed energy to collecting rituals, adventures, or favorites that we can do together. “Experts agree” that we should collect experiences, not things!  The most logical argument pointed out that iThings are exciting at first until the next version comes out or you see your neighbor with the latest innovation. Then you are less excited til you get the next “best” thing. Experiences, on the other hand, grow fonder in our minds the more time passes. With time, the small issues (such as a snoring roommate you hope to leave in international waters) dissipate leaving you either able to laugh about mishaps or forgetting it overall since you were in an exotic locale when it happened.

The clock is ticking! When the kids leave I can only hope they have bags overflowing with amazing childhood adventures and the desire to return home for new ones.

Fortunately for me, social media keeps better records than my travel diaries did.

Vegas Road Trip!

A WORD A WEEK CHALLENGE: CLOUDS

HAIKU, DO YOU TOO?

1/1/13

A festive New Year
Rocking and rolling along
Cruising the deep sea

1/2/13

Old and new crossed paths
Elders and youngsters break bread
in Puerto Rico

1/3/13

Do I want to be
Anywhere else besides the
Sunny fun at sea?

1/4/13

An exclusive spot
We are fortunate to find
A shared memory

1/5/13

We return to land
In time to leave Earth behind
On a Rocket Ship

1/6/13

My favorite view
The oval plane window yields
Thick clouds! Play with me!

1/7/13

Vacation to work
24 hours or less
Monday was berzerk!

There you go, I’m caught up! Haiku a day for 365 days!
Feeling inspired or just plain think you can bring haiku more poetic justice?  Share your haikus below!

cloud

SCHOOLGIRL CRUSH ON SPAIN

My desire for everything Spanish grew to such proportions that I thought my ethnic other half might be Spanish. I didn’t know how else to explain the strong pull that the country had on me. I curiously sifted through my youth to see what I could explain it.

BOOKS: The story of Ferdinand the Bull, a bull who doesn’t realize his own strength and who prefers loving over fighting, taught me the lessons about towns uniting over traditions and being true to yourself, following your passion. Through the black and white drawings, I saw colorful flags flying at the bullfight, smelled the flowers in the lady’s hair, and felt shiny metal swords and even buttons on the matador’s coats.

One of my kids and my favorite books - to this day!

MUSIC: Bugs Bunny first introduced me to the Barber of Seville with humor, but the fact that Bugs took on such a strong presence while massaging the scalp of Elmer Fudd made an impression. The powerful exchange and pace of the music coupled with their large antics made it my immediate favorite – and I watched hours of Bugs Bunny on Saturday mornings, probably hoping to re-live one favorite clip.

I can't pick a favorite part of this cartoon symphony!

FASHION: I’ve long been obsessed with the colors, fluidity and movement of Flamenco dresses, and matador fashions. Having the men show up for their national pastime in beautifully embroidered shoulder pads, with tailored silhouettes presents a whole new sport than the NFL shoulder pads I was accustomed to. The women’s intentional dance steps emphasized by flashes of color and flowing rich fabrics raised my heartbeat!

The ultimate, multi-level twirling skirts!

MEN:In college, a last minute fix-up to go to a concert, pinned me against the wall with one arm, looked deep into my eyes and in his amazingly seductive accent whispered “So… do you want to make luffff?!” For a split second I was transported to Spain imagining that the chill I felt up my spine was from new romance born against the ancient bricks of a medieval castle, not me scraping my back down cheap cinderblock trying to escape. In a different time and place, new doors of opportunity may open!

Is it the spicy food or something else, I feel a little flustered!

Thanks for wandering with me through my ultimate destination. What tops your list of the places you must visit?

YOU should start a blog too…

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