Category Archives: photography

Pennsylvania Road Trip

Am I a weirdo for dedicating a blog post to a trip I haven’t gone on yet? If I am, yay for the weirdos! My best friend and I have been texting back and forth about our trip to Hershey, PA. I did a lot of research about flights, hotels, food, entertainment, etc. The cheapest route for us would be for me to fly to Nebraska and meet her there, drive to Pennsylvania, visit Hershey, drive back to Nebraska, and then fly home. The drive from Omaha to Hershey is approximately 17 hours long. I’m usually not a big fan of road trips BUT my bestie makes an excellent travel buddy. We have the craziest stories and the best moments happen when we’re driving so why not? 🙂 We plan on driving through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio before we hit Pennsylvania. Being the micromanaging planner that I am, I’ve complied a list of all the places I want to go in each state. Sadly Iowa and Indiana don’t have any places that I know of. Does anyone know of any cool spots or good food in those two states? Help a sister out will ya?

I’m definitely going food crazy in Illinois and Ohio. For Illinois I want to inhale any type of Chicago style food that I can get my hands on. Portillo’s stands at #1 for me but I’m open to all suggestions. If anyone has them, let me know! We’ll be real close to the Chicago area. In Ohio, I plan on indulging any type of cassata cake as well as paying a visit to the Chocolate Bar and Lola’s. I’m really excited to visit Lola’s since it’s owned by Iron Chef Michael Symon. He is a beast..and rightly so. We’ll be close to the Cleveland area. I believe we’ll also be in Pittsburgh before we hit Hershey so a Roethlisburger is a must. I’m not a Steelers fan BUT it looked really good in the pictures. Yes, I’m super lame. I’m perfectly content with that though!

I’m still racking my brain trying to find places in Iowa and Indiana. I came up with nada. Seriously, someone help! I can’t wait for this road trip. It’s going to be awesome. We’re going to Chocolate World, Hershey Park, and the Chocolate Spa. We’re also going to inhale all the good food in between. The year needs to hurry up already cause I’m ready to go.

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

Baking The Blues Away

Ever since the funeral, my family has been kind of in a slump. Everyone seems a little down so I decided to utilize my #1 self-care method. You’re right, it’s baking! I had been meaning to thank the veterans at the VA for helping get into the fellowship program I recently graduated from. Nothing says thanks and happy holidays like a tin of yummy PW cinnamon rolls!
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Three of the five tins
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My own pan! Or my moms…I woke up the next morning and half of it was gone.
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Stockings on the fireplace. Please excuse the grapefruits. My dad wouldn’t let me take them off the fireplace.
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The lights my dad puts up every year.
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An updated version of my Christmas tree! 🙂
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And last but not least, PW mocha brownies. Deliciously sinful. I’ve been meaning to bake some more this week. I’ll be baking some cookies and bite size brownies for family.

I’m glad I got to go to the VA today and see the vets. They were super excited when they heard I was coming in. Because I usually bring goodies of course. They were excited about the cinnamon rolls and dark chocolate almond clusters. I also wrote them Christmas cards to go with the goodies. I didn’t realize it but the cards were a huge gesture to them. A lot of them made jokes about receiving only that card or just a few cards but I know some of them don’t have family. It tugged at my heart quite a bit when we were talking about that since they’re like my second family. They taught me a lot and embraced me for my weirdness. They also talk freely about any topic when I’m around when they used to censor themselves. Apparently I’ve been in the trenches with them before so they don’t mind being themselves.

That’s all for now! I’ll do a post about how I packaged the cinnamon rolls. Happy Holidays!

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

A Merry Christmas?

Every year around Christmas time my mom’s side of the family all come together to visit my grandfather, great-grandmother, grand aunt, and grand uncle’s grave sites at Rose Hills Memorial Park. There’s a Chinese holiday that’s behind the visit but I can’t translate it into English where it makes sense (I apologize). Every visit we’ve made, I always see funeral processions taking place. I’ve always thought to myself, wow that must really be brutal to have a loved one pass away during this time of the year. This year, I was that person. My uncle’s mother passed away a few days after Thanksgiving from a stroke. I wasn’t super close with her but every time I saw her she was always happy and excited to engage me in conversation. While attending her services today, I noticed two military funerals taking place. It really tore me up inside.

I think today was a test of character for me. During the service for my uncle’s mother, my aunt completely lost it and broke down crying. In my culture, the son always takes care of the mother when the father isn’t present. My uncle got onto the podium to thank everyone for coming to the service and my cousins just sat there while my aunt lost it. I felt really bad because my aunt was crying really hard and leaned on her oldest son for comfort. Every single person in that chapel heard her. I asked my sister what we should do because someone should go up to her row and comfort her. My sister told me, “okay, go. I’ll watch your purse.” So I went. At first I was hesitant but then I told myself I should live up to the standards that I hold others to. My aunt and I have had a lot of rough patches and while growing up we never got along/saw eye to eye. When she realized it was my arm around her and my hand reaching out, she thanked me. It’s safe to say that family always comes first.

This is the third funeral I’ve ever been to and I don’t know what it’s like for other cultures but in my culture we always have a “memorial meal” after the burial. Usually it’s at some sort of Chinese restaurant. Today we went to NBC Seafood Restaurant in Monterey Park, CA. It’s been a while since all of us have gotten together to eat out but I wish it was under different circumstances. I did take some pictures of the food we ate and the awesome egg tart my mom got me after we left the restaurant.
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In this picture there’s a bowl of rice, a bowl of crab/seafood soup (it’s expensive for we usually only have it for special occasions), a glass of Pepsi, and a plate of honey walnut shrimp and stir fry veggies.
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This plate has sweet and sour ribs, stir fry fish fillets with bok choy, and salted soy chicken with shrimp chips (usually they have the chips with Peking Duck).
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A better picture of my third round of food. The plate was super small or else I would only have one round.
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The delicious egg tart from Jim’s Bakery. It’s so so good! Eggy, sweet, and creamy on the inside and flaky on the outside. That’s exactly what an egg tart should taste like.

While today was bittersweet, I hope that I will remember to put family first above all else. I think that was the biggest lesson for me today. Keep your loved ones close and let them know that you love them.

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

Fake or Real?

For as long as I’ve been grown enough to know the difference, I’ve always heard people argue about a fake or a real Christmas tree. Some people like the fake kind better while others are vice versa. This year I decided to get a fake tree at Target. I was actually looking at some cards because I have a huge list to send to and I caved. I began inching towards the trees and admiring each one. At first I was just looking but then I found a 6ft tree for $25. It was a pretty sweet deal considering they were selling 3ft fake trees for the same price. Anyway, I got some ornaments and two strings of garland for the tree. I went with a gold theme so the ornaments are gold and silver and the garland is the same colors. In the mist of my excitement, I forgot to get the star. Who does that?! I always thought it was the most important part of the tree. I also needed some new lights because the ones my dad bought forever ago are different colors. My sister laughed at me when I told her she needs to get the star and some lights.
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This is the tree half way done. I still need to put on more ornaments, lights, and the star. More pictures to come when I do that!

I graduated from my fellowship program today! I’m officially certified as a mental health rehabilitation specialist. It was pretty awesome. One of my fellow classmates has his own baking business and he made cupcakes for our graduation. There were three flavors, oreo, vanilla, and red velvet. The oreo one was legit and the red velvet was also delicious. I’ve never been a vanilla cupcake lover so that one never wows me.
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I can’t wait to see what’s next. My internship is over. I graduated my fellowship program. Next up, is job hunting. I’m still waiting on getting a call back for an interview I went to. Hopefully they’ll call me soon. I get super anxious about that kind of stuff. It’ll be really weird not going to class anymore. I felt like my classmates and I really bonded over the last 12 weeks. It was a hell of a ride. I’m glad we’re done but it’s bittersweet. I’ll miss all the residents I had the pleasure of getting to know. I’m looking forward to quality family time this holiday season. I’m going to try my best to go visit Christmas Tree Lane up in Altadena. I always say I’ll go every year but I end up not going. I want to see the decorations this year.

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

Different Kind of Turkey Day

I hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving filled with love, laughter, family, and lots of yummy food. This year was a different kind of Thanksgiving than I’m normally used to. Usually all of my relatives from my mom’s side come and celebrate. Sometimes my dad’s side jumps into the mix as well. Yesterday, it was just the four of us. It was a quiet day but still interesting. I think this year was the only year that I actually cared about setting the table. I know, shame on me. But when you have like 20 people trying to get food at the same time it doesn’t make sense to do it. For those of you who can keep them away until every dish is ready, I commend you. Teach me your secrets. The big sis and I split the cooking duties. My parents slept in and hung out watching the Thanksgiving parade on tv. They also drank WAY too much wine but that’s a story for another time.

Because it was just the four of us, my sister and I wanted to keep it simple. Leave it to my mom to make it crazy. I made the turkey and my sister made the ham. We split the sides consisting of spinach and feta salad, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Oh and lots of alcohol for my parents.
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That’s my turkey. 3 1/2 hours at 350 and voila. Perfection! It was delicious and juicy.
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Sweet potato casserole. The top layer is a delicious reminder of butter pecan ice cream. One of my favorites 🙂
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My semi-ready table. The ham took too long so we started eating without it.
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My first helping of everything but ham.
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Thick slices of delicious and juicy ham! It was so good!!
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Fluffy mashed potatoes. A Thanksgiving staple at my house. I can have Thanksgiving without a turkey but not without mashed potatoes. Thanks daddy, haha.
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The best spinach and feta salad ever!

For once, there was no dessert. There wasn’t any room left in my tummy for it anyway but I didn’t mind. I usually make pumpkin pie year around regardless. So while people camped out and woke up crazy early for Black Friday, I’m chilling at home with my blanket and a cup of hot apple cider. Christmas baking begins tomorrow with blackberry shortbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and white chocolate cranberry pecan cookies. Happy Holidays!

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

Omaha, Nebraska trip!

I want to finish my Catalina posts but somehow my pictures got deleted from my photo account so I have to upload everything all over again. I’m too lazy for that at the moment so I’ll go ahead with my Nebraska post. About two weeks ago I went to visit my best friend in Omaha, Nebraska. It was my first flight by myself and it was weird. I flew out of John Wayne airport (probably the nicest and smallest I’ve seen so far). The pilot that flew me from OC to Denver was awesome. I had a great flight. The pilot that flew me from Denver to Omaha, not so much. The plane kept shaking and I seriously thought we were going to crash. That and my ears kept popping and in the end, my right ear was fine but my left ear wouldn’t go back to normal which irritated me. The flight back was fine. The pilots weren’t horrible but they were okay. The first one was the best. When we landed in Denver, I didn’t feel a thing. No bump or skid. He was a pro.
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That’s the best friend and I sitting in her truck outside of Wenninghoff’s. It’s a indoor farmers market in Omaha. It was pretty neat to see all the veggies they grow there. The tomatoes were huge! We bought raspberry cider, honey, zucchinis, green beans, and some corn.
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This is a small corn field we drove past on the fwy.
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Mr Cigar ice cream from Ted & Wallys. It taste like mocha with chocolate chips and possibly tobacco. It was pretty tasty.
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Dinner that my best friend and her hubby made. Her hubby grilled the steak and corn and she made bacon wrapped scallops and stir fried zucchini. It was freakin delicious!
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After our steak dinner we baked for her hubby and his friends. We made mini banana chocolate chip muffins, mini pumpkin cream cheese muffins, white chocolate blueberry cookies, and chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.
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The goodies before they were cooked.
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Goodies to take back home. I got some jerky from the meat market (Nebraska jerky is excellent!) and some honey and jam for my mom and sister.
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The sign outside the meat market! 🙂 They had everything in there. All sorts of bacon, jerky, ribs, pork chops, chicken, duck, alligator, scallops, shrimp, steak, and etc.
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My fruit bowl from Wheatfield’s.
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My best friend made us french toast with berries, whipped cream, and cinnamon for breakfast. It was freakin delicious!! 🙂
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They have his and hers steaks. How freakin awesome is that?! I totally want one now that I’m writing about it. The meat and corn definitely taste more fresh.
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The guest bedroom where I slept 🙂
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My best friend inside Wenninghoff’s.
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Kiko the poker. She got really excited when I first met her. She pawed me in the ribs and gave me a good size bruise.
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New York strip with fries and arugula salad from Upstream Brewery. It was my first meal in Nebraska after they picked me up from the airport.
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Humugo tomatoes!
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Two lane fwys with no traffic. Completely unheard of in California..or at least where I live.
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Best friends breakfast from Wheatfield’s.

Overall it was a great trip! I’m really glad I went even though in the beginning I was a bit hesitant. Nebraska is so much more quiet and laid back then California. It was definitely a breath of fresh air. I will most likely go back for another trip but I’m not sure when that will happen. I’m not down to go during snow season! I’m still thinking about the steak, bacon wrapped scallops, and jerky. The jerky is delicious. My mom loves the honey too. I’ve been making peanut butter and honey sandwiches with wheat bread. It’s delish! The midwest isn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. Except for the tornadoes. I’m not down for that either! Toodles.

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

FSP: Operation Bright – Airmen at Offutt AFB

I’m taking a break from my Catalina Island posts and writing about my baking project with my best friend. One of my best friends from college married an airmen and moved to Nebraska. She asked me to visit her and at first I was a bit hesitate because we’re both SoCal girls. You can totally tell just by looking at us. It was a fun visit. I actually miss Nebraska (Yes Kara, you got me. It really wasn’t that bad lol). Both of us are bakers so I knew we would definitely do some baking. Before I went to visit her we talked about possibly doing a baking project for the airmen there. We ended up baking mini pumpkin cream cheese muffins, mini banana chocolate chip muffins, white chocolate blueberry cookies, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. We packed them into gallon size ziploc bags or plastic boxes and sent them to work with her hubby. Hopefully that brought a smile to the faces of all the airmen.
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One of my friends once told me I was biased against other branches of the military because the big bro is a marine. As you can see, that’s not true. I love all branches. AND I bake for all branches. Actually…I bake for anyone who wants to eat. I think we did a pretty awesome job if I do say so myself. I didn’t get a picture of the banana muffins because I was either too tired or too busy mixing away. We went on base and went to the PX. Since I’ve never been in one it was a bit awkward. There were people just staring but I just assumed they were as curious about me as I was of them. Definitely a different atmosphere then Pendleton where everyone keeps staring. They did have some really good sales. And I made away like a bandit. I got a new sweater that says Offutt Air Force Base. I think my USMC sweater will be fighting for closet space.

If I get the chance to go back I think I’ll be doing a cooking project next. Enchiladas? haha 🙂 Toodles!

Fail Sweetly,
Justina