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Places I Want to Visit Again

September 4, 2017
Are there just some places that you could revisit again and again? For me, there are. Most of the places I want to go back to are based on personal reasons and/or because I have ties or sentimental attachments to those places. Still, I feel there is a lot to gain from revisiting somewhere you've been to before. Maybe you'll get to see an old friend again, or maybe you'll have more of a chance to get off the beaten path and do something you haven't done the first time around. Places change and with that change is more opportunity to explore.

Below are a few places I'd really love to return to!

1) Seoul, South Korea

Why I Want to Go Back: I lived in Seoul from 2003-2004 and then again from 2006-2008, so I spent three years living there in my 20's. I have not been back to Seoul since 2008 and now that I'm living in Shanghai, a trip to Seoul can easily be done on a weekend. In fact, many of my co-workers have been over the last two years. Instead, I opted to travel to places within China that I hadn't been to before such as: Yangshuo, Harbin, and Xi'an. Since I have already been to most of the places I wanted to go to in China, now I feel like it's finally time for me to head back to Korea. My friend Lauren worked in Korea, too, and we always talk about the food, culture, and our times teaching over there. She has expressed interest in going back to Seoul again, so I think it would be cool for the two of us to go over there together. One of my friends from China moved there, and I still have some friends living over there from when I was there! I'm curious to see how Seoul has changed over the past 9 years, as I'm sure it has. In fact, I heard that parts of it will be unrecognizable based off what I remember.

What I Want to See/Do: 1) I'd like to go back to a lot of my favorite places in Seoul like Myeong Dong, Insa Dong, and Hongdae. 2) The Hello Kitty Cafe is a must, especially because they closed the one near me in Shanghai before I ever got a chance to go! 3) Visit the Trick Eye Museum because it looks like a fun time with plenty of chances for photo ops. 4) Eat all the Korean food that I can, especially Korean barbecue and tuna kimbap.

2) Newfoundland, Canada

Why I Want to Go Back: The locals were so friendly here and many parts of Newfoundland were pristine and beautiful. The main reason I'd like to return is because three of my dear friends live in Newfoundland and they're all there right now. The first time I visited, I was only able to see one of my friends. Now that all three of them are back, I feel like I want to go soon because we all haven't seen each other in such a long time.

What I Want to See/Do: 1) Get screeched in. I technically did not get screeched in "officially" when I first visited. To get screeched in is a Newfie tradition involving guests to the island. You are supposed to have some Screech (rum with a high alcohol content), kiss a cod, and then learn some local slang. This is done to welcome visitors, and some places even give you a certificate. 2) Go out into the water and see icebergs. 3) Go on a road trip and stop at charming fishing villages such as Dildo. Yes, you read that right.

3) Italy

Why I Want to Go Back: Do I really need to explain this? I think most people WOULD want to go back to Italy. I miss speaking Italian and am completely out of practice. I miss the warmth of the people in Southern Italy and eating freshly prepared Italian food for almost every meal. I also have some ties there and want to see the family I nannied for years ago. Even though I lived in Italy for a year, I feel like I just barely scratched the surface of everything I wanted to see and do there.

What I Want to See/Do: 1) Go to Verona and see "Juliet's" balcony. 2) Revisit Tuscany. I did get to visit Siena, Firenze, and Cortona, but there are so many other towns in Tuscany that I'd love to get to such as: Lucca, San Gimignago, Viterbo, Montepulciano, etc. 3) Go to Cinque Terre for those gorgeous views and coastal villages on the Italian Riveria.

4) Iceland

Why I Want to Go Back: My friend Scott and I were going to go on a road trip through Iceland the summer before last, but I ended up hospitalized, so we had to cancel our whole trip. This is still something I'd very much like to do together! I've traveled a lot with Scott, but I just feel like Iceland would be "his thing."

What I Want to See/Do: 1) Go to the Silfra Fissure to snorkel between two tectonic plates. This has been something I've always regretted not doing. 2) Go to some more hot springs besides the two I visited last time (the Blue Lagoon and Secret Lagoon). 3) Explore the northern part of Iceland since last time our trip focused on the South.

5) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

Picture via 
Why I Want to Go Back: I grew up in Pittsburgh and have not been back since I was 18 years old. If you're noticing the whole "I used to live here" theme in places I want to go back to, you're right. I've never been to a single bar in Pittsburgh and never got to experience the nightlife. I've barely even driven around it since I moved when I was 15, one year before I got my driver's license. My dad has been back and told me that it has changed for the better. Being back there would be surreal in a sense and would also be very "Sliding Doors" in a way.

What I Want to See/Do: 1) Ride on the incline for views of the city. 2) Eat at Conflict Kitchen. 3) Visit the Andy Warhol museum. 4) Go to a Pirates game. 5) Take a trip to Kennywood, my favorite amusement park from my childhood.

What are some places that you just didn't get your fill of the first time around? Or, what are some places you feel you feel tied to because of your past?


August 25, 2017
When my pal Rachael and I went to Iceland a few years back, Rachael said she thought it would be a good idea to start a hashtag to document our trip on Instagram. We also wanted to encourage others to use it to document anything adventurous that they decided to do. The hashtag "the adventurous way" comes from combining the names of both of our blogs: Adventures of a Dream Catcher + The Rachael Way. Rachael thought of it and asked me if it would be okay--I happily agreed, thinking it was pretty clever.

While the hashtag isn't HUGE, I was pumped to see that there were over 1,000 posts, so I wanted to do a little feature of some of my favorite posts that I felt showcased something truly adventurous. I still use the hashtag fairly often myself but have to say that my life hasn't been too adventurous since my spinal fusion. While I'm not able to do any zip lining or adventure sports, adventure to me can just mean trying out a new food or doing something outside of your comfort zone. I hope the pictures below inspire you to live life the adventurous way!

1) I love this photo because it captures adventure in two ways--both the photographer and the child are being adventurous. User didersmith snapped this shot of a child on a reindeer while he was staying with reindeer herders in Mongolia. Read his detailed caption for more exciting information about his trip.

Yes, this kid is riding a reindeer! @radical_buddhist and I spent the past 9 days on an expedition to a very remote region of northern Mongolia to stay with one of the few remaining families of reindeer herders. Called the Dukha people, they've lived in a symbiotic relationship with their reindeer for centuries. Unfortunately, there is only a handful of families remaining today. To get to their village, we had to put together a full support team (as the people are nomadic, it would have been impossible to even find them otherwise), then ride off-road for two days until the terrain became impassable. Then, we ditched the bikes and continued on horseback for another two days, until we finally arrived at the high mountain valley where the people had made their summer home. I'll release more details in the coming days - for now it's time to hit the road again. Staying with these people and their reindeer was an incredible experience I'll never forget. #roundtheworld #exploretheplanet #adventuretourism #adventuretravel #goplaces #itsbetteroutside #madeforadventure #lovetheoutdoors #outdoorsy #gooutsideandplay #adventurous #ontheroadagain #itsamazingoutthere #doyourbest #selfbelief #keepmovingforward #mindsetiseverything #takeaction | #thetimeisnow #youcan #keepmoving #anythingispossible #chaseyourdreams #roadtosuccess #fearnothing #theadventurousway #wearewanderlusters #trueadventure #rtwtrip #rtwtravel
A post shared by Didier Smith, Adventure Rider (@didiersmith) on

2) The next photo was posted by my friend Steven (stevenonthego). It fascinates me because I know I could never do a pose like this! Steven quit his job teaching to pursue his dream of teaching yoga. He trained in India and is now hoping to teach yoga full-time. Check out his account for more yoga poses along with some fabulous travel pictures.

A post shared by Steven Conville (@stevenonthego) on

3) I may be a bit biased in choosing the next picture, but I just LOVE the shot my friend Chris (cjphennessey) took while we were together in Macau. It shows the famous Ruins of St. Paul in the background. There's nothing more adventurous than taking a weekend trip to a new place and going exploring!

4) The next shot has the most gorgeous sunrise that user Upwardhiking posted before a hike in Hawaii. To me, hiking is always an adventure because you never know what you might encounter along the way: fellow travelers, new scenery, animals, etc. I think it's one of the best ways to explore a new place.

5) I can't think of adventure and not think of zip lining. This photo by Parkerlennon stood out to me because of the person zip lining right between the couple--such a neat shot! Of course being in the rain forest also helps raise up the adventure points.

I hope you consider joining in and using #theadventurousway the next time you explore!

What's your favorite picture with theadventurousway hashtag?

Ohio for the Summer

August 21, 2017
If you follow me on Instagram, you know already that I made it to Ohio this summer. When I flew out from Shanghai, it was only 11 days after my myomectomy surgery, so I was on edge about the trip. I also hadn't been on a long-haul international flight in economy class since the summer of 2015 due to my back surgery. I was still in pain from my recent surgery and sitting for too long (more than a few hours) always gives me back pain now, so I was wondering how I was even going to tolerate the flight. I looked into buying Business class flights so that I could lie down, but they were more than $4,000 round trip, so it was just too pricey for me. I decided that even if I was in pain for 10 hours, that would be better than not getting to see my friends and family. I flew Shanghai-Los Angeles, and that flight was about 12 hours long and the one I was the most worried about. I ended up having some unbelievable luck, though! The whole flight was full, except for the seat next to me. I'm sure that's because I booked so late and was all the way in the back of the plane by the bathrooms, but having that vacant seat next to me was such a blessing. If my back hurt too much, I could just lie down on the seat and while it was not comfortable by any means, it was still getting pressure off of my spine. When I arrived in LA, it was awful because I had to collect my bags. They were only about 20 pounds because I had planned on doing a lot of shopping in the States, but I was on a 10-pound lifting restriction after my surgery, so dealing with my bags was a pain (literally). They ran out of baggage carts, so I had to lug my bags, which was annoying, but hey...somehow I was able to manage. Once I went through security and got my bags re-checked, I felt a lot better and was just loving the simple fact that I had made it back to America! It was so weird being able to understand most people's conversations once again. I'm still not used to it and eavesdrop all the time. Once I boarded my flight from LA to Columbus, I knew I was in the home stretch. After landing in Columbus, my dad met me at Baggage Claim. It had been two years since I had seen him. I know he was relieved to see me in one piece after going through some painful procedures in China. My dad drove us back to my parents' house and had me stay in my sister's old bedroom, which was all ready for me.

For the first few days after coming back to the States, I just decided to stay at home, hang out with my parents, and rest mostly. My dad had read one of my previous blog posts in which I said that I missed Bob Evans restaurants, so he invited my mom and me to join him for a meal there. I got the banana bread I'd been so desperately craving in China. Nothing beats Bob Evan's banana bread! When I told some fellow Ohioans that I'd been missing Bob Evans, they laughed at me and said, "That's almost as embarrassing as Rachael missing Applebee's!" Hey, we like what we like! No shame. It turned out that the Ohio obsession with Bob Evan's worked in my favor, as my sister also suggested we go to one, and there is even one in the Columbus airport (which of course I ate at).

Besides getting my Bob Evan's fix, after a few days of rest, I did a lot of shopping. I may have overdone it, but I was just SO sick of my current wardrobe that it was worth it to me. Just going to Target for the first time in two years was an experience! Of course, I spent more than intended, but now I have some staple pieces that I can wear for a long time.  Besides Target, I ended up making purchases at Ulta, Old Navy, Torrid, Zale's, and Maurices. I even ordered my first Stitch Fix. Come to think of it, it was probably the biggest shopping spree I had ever been on in my life! Why is it so fun spending money?

The first person in Ohio that I wanted to see was my friend Scott who worked with me in China my first year there. I figured he would be a great person to see because he knew exactly what it was like over there, and we just had a lot to catch up on. The last time Scott saw me, I had just gotten out of the hospital and could barely walk, so it was awesome showing him my progress. We met for sushi, got iced coffees, and then spent the afternoon in some beautiful gardens laughing and reminiscing.

I also got to visit one of my favorite locally owned restaurants, which serves Greek food. My dad took me to the downtown location, and I have to say that the downtown area of the town my parents live nearest to is looking better and better these days. I remember when it was just a bunch of vacant buildings with a few businesses, but now there is a coffee shop, salons, more restaurants and bars, a (legit looking) tattoo parlor, a children's museum, specialty shops, and some art studios. While there are still some empty buildings, there's no denying that improvements have been made. Walking around downtown now is "a thing" and the overall vibe is much better.

The next people I decided to visit were my friends Amanda and Courtney. We worked at the movie theater together for years, so we had SO many crazy stories to share about our past experiences. Some day I think I should write a tell-all post about some of the insane people I had to deal with in customer service. At least the crazies always give me good stories to tell, even though some of them sound like lies because they are that extreme. The three of us went to Bingo. We all lost the main games but had fun regardless. Then Amanda asked me to go see 47 Meters Down with her. The movie was just okay, but I enjoyed just being in a movie theater again since I had only gone once in two years in China. As for other movies, I was able to see Wonder Woman and Dunkirk. I would have gone to see more movies, but I just didn't have enough time. Three movies in a theater in a month and a half isn't too shabby, though!

I was also able to see a few people that I studied Early Childhood Education with at OSU. Four of us met for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. It was great to hear how their lives are now and fun to compare teaching experiences. I don't envy them having to complete RESA though. I heard it is a nightmarish mentoring program that teachers with initial licensure have to pass in order to receive their professional teaching license. If I ever decide to come back to Ohio to teach, I might have to go through that, too. There have already been talks of this program getting replaced, so you never know. I've learned very quickly that when it comes to education and teaching requirements that nothing is set in stone. So many changes have already happened since I graduated in 2013.

I met my buddy Autumn one day at the Olive Garden for dinner, too. We are both fans of the soup, salad, and breadsticks. Although I didn't have a lot of time to see people, I do have to say that I DID get to see everyone that I wanted to see the most! I was also able to make it down to Columbus to meet with my college friends and got to go to Cleveland to see my friends I met in Seoul.

One of the best days I had all summer was with my friends Dre and Gregg! They requested the day off work to hang out with me, and we went to some fun and beautiful places in Ohio. Our first stop was Brandywine Falls, which is part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We also stopped at The Signal Tree, at Gregg's suggestion. Apparently, Native Americans used oddly shaped trees as meeting points, and this was one of them.

Our next stop was to go to the Hard Rock Rocksino where we had a light lunch and decided to try our hand at the slot machines. Dre and I decided that we would spend $20 max and see what happened. First, I tried the Wonka machine but lost. Dre mentioned that she wanted to play the Walking Dead slot machines because last time she won $100. When I played, I ended up winning 25 free spins, which was awesome because I just watched myself keep on earning a few bucks here and there. I also got a chance to pop character's faces to see which prize I would win. At one point, I had popped two mini prizes and two grand prizes. If I popped another grand prize, I would have gotten almost $10,000! Can you believe that? I couldn't imagine leaving a casino $10,000 richer, could you? My heart was pounding, but of course, I popped the mini and got $60. At least I came away with extra money, but I felt I was really close to getting the $10,000, or at least they made it so I would think that! I can see why people become addicted to gambling because it was really hard to make myself cash out while I was still ahead. I haven't been to a casino many times in my life, but this was my third time winning which I think is pretty good.

There is also a race track where you can watch horse racing, but it wasn't going on the day we went. We were able to see a horse outside training, though.

Next, we went to the Fannie May Harry London Chocolate Factory in Canton, Ohio. We got there a little before the tour started, so we browsed the gift shop and were offered some Buckeyes and a selection of various types of chocolates including the Mint Meltaways that I picked. Once the tour started, we watched a video explaining the history of the two companies that are now in business together. Then we went upstairs and saw a huge tank full of chocolate. It gets shipped in from a secret spot and then is used to make all kinds of delicious truffles, chocolate-covered strawberries, butter creams, etc. We got to see the workers producing various kinds of chocolate in the factory. Funnily enough, production had just started on their Christmas chocolates, and we saw them making red and green chocolate-covered pretzels. We learned that there are people who are official taste testers who check for quality control. Any mess ups are bagged up and sold at a cheaper price in the gift shop or else are given to employees. At the end of the tour, we were offered two more chocolates from a tray to try. The salted caramel one was the best! To finish off the tour, we were taken to the gift shop and sampled a small scoop of chocolate ice cream. The tour was free and I got to try so many different kinds of chocolate, which was a great way to spend an afternoon. I would 100% order some chocolates from this company in the future.

After the chocolate factory tour, we drove out to Gervasi Vineyard. I have been to many wineries in Ohio but never heard of this one until a few years ago. I have to say that it is the most beautiful vineyard I've ever been to. The grounds are so beautiful so I can see why so many people opt to get married here. Not that I even have a boyfriend, but add me to that list because it's absolutely gorgeous. For dinner, Gregg made a reservation for us at The Bistro. There was a noticeable Italian theme to the place. We were greeted with a "Ciao" when we entered, and all of the wines were named in Italian. Dre and I wanted to try a flight of them. My favorite one was a Riesling called Piove (rain), and I would have tried more but I had to drive home so I couldn't. One day, I'd love to stay in one of their villas! Not only could I try all the wine I wanted, but they look luxurious even from the outside.

This summer, I also became addicted to Whit's Frozen Custard. Omg...Delicious! I gained 10 pounds, and I think 9 of those pounds are from Whit's. Not even upset about the weight gain because I lost some weight before this trip and already figured I would gain some back. When I go back to China, I know I'll be better about watching what I eat. But back to Whit's. What really gets me are the different flavors that they change out every week or so. The next time I go in, I see that the following week has another flavor that I want to try. The best ones I had were the lemon, Key Lime, and peach. It is so good that a friend of mine who is lactose intolerant goes there anyway and deals with the consequences, ha ha.

Once I wasn't in so much pain, I did start to become more active by walking the bike trail and some other local trails. I was just glad to be outside and moving again. Who doesn't like being outside when the weather is nice?

One day I also made it up to Cleveland to go to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I hadn't been since about 2004, so it was like going to a completely new museum. The person I went with hadn't been before and he said, "That was the most non-boring museum I've ever experienced." We both liked that so many parts of the museum were not just visual and they played music on tv or through speakers. You can go into a theater and watch a collection of snippets of some musicians really rocking out. It was intense and one of the highlights of the whole day! There are exhibits that focus on the history of rock and roll, an Elvis Presley exhibit, and one called Cities and Sounds (think Seattle grunge, London punk, etc.). Admiring all of the costumes and artifacts that they've collected is amazing, too.

After the museum, we drove through downtown Cleveland and stopped to take in this marvelous view before driving home.

To be honest, I think I took a risk flying over here with my health problems. It turned out to be the right call, though. Looking back, I don't think I could have worked a third year in China without going home in between at all. Maybe some people can, but I'm not one of them. I'm just so relieved that everything worked out the way it did and that I could recover at home and also see people who are important to me. When I think about it, even though my summer started out lame with me having to recover from a painful surgery, it went uphill from there and just kept getting better and better. This has been a summer full of laughter, new memories, and just plain relief. I feel like I'm finally starting to get back to normal again, but there's no way that could have happened without this trip home. Sometimes there's just no place like it!

August: The Blended Blog Asks

August 8, 2017
I saw this post floating around on several blogs and wanted to join in! The prompts remind me of those e-mail surveys my friends and I used to fill out in college (showing my age here!) and forward to each other. This came at the right time because my last post was kind of heavy, so let's keep this one light and fun.

1) Pool, lake, or ocean? This one is hard! I like all of them for different reasons, but since I hardly ever go to lakes (which is weird because I'm not too far Lake Erie), I've narrowed it down to ocean and pool. I guess for the overall experience, I would choose the ocean. I like lying down on the sand with a book, people-watching, looking for shells, and not being confined to a small area like the pool.  Then there are the sunsets and walks along the beach. Even though the beach is the winner for me, I do like SWIMMING more in a pool just because I get scared of all of the ocean animals that could potentially be around me out there. In a pool I don't have to worry about being stung by a jellyfish.

2) Camping, cottage, or hotel? Hmmm...not really sure I ever stayed in a cottage besides this one time I visited my friend in Toronto and she called her place a cottage. I guess I'm going to have to go with hotel just because I like all of the amenities. With my back issues, I don't know how comfortable camping would be for me these days, but I wouldn't rule out glamping!

3) Favorite ice cream flavor? Does frozen custard count? The other day I tried some lemon flavored custard at Whit's and it was up there for me. There were whole cookies in the custard! If we're talking strictly ice cream, then I guess I'd have to go with chocolate peanut butter, but only the kind that actually has real peanut butter chunks in it; not the kinds that are blended together.

4) PJ's, nightgown, t-shirt/shorts, or birthday suit? I usually wear a t-shirt and shorts, but my friend Lauren got me a nightie when I was in the hospital and I'm obsessed with that thing. It's from Marks and Spencer and it's made from the softest material--I cannot stop wearing it!

5) Favorite summer beverage? I love a nice glass of chilled white wine in the summer.

6) Would you rather be hot or cold? I'd rather be hot because all these other people who got spinal fusions wrote in my support group that cold weather really hurts their back. Thank goodness I haven't had to experience a brutal Ohio winter yet and just have enjoyed the mild winters in Shanghai. I don't want to have more pain, so I'll do my best to avoid the very cold temperatures.

7) Sandals with heels or flats? Flats. They are more comfortable and at 6'0" already, I feel more comfortable in them.

8) Shorts or skirts? I just realized I don't think I've worn a skirt in years, so I'm going to have to go with shorts on this one. I tend to just wear shorts or dresses and apparently pass on the skirt option.

9) Sit in the sun or shade? Definitely the shade! I am very pale and it doesn't take much for me to get burned. Also, I do care about skincare and want to avoid prolonged sun exposure and the wrinkles that come along with that.

10) Water, tea, or soda?  Water because it actually quenches my thirst and since I don't want to be dehydrated, I drink it the most often. I will have soda from time to time as a treat, though.

11) Favorite summer fruit or vegetable? Strawberries! Including chocolate covered ones, too. :)

12) Sunrise or sunset? I am not an early morning person, so I've definitely seen and enjoyed more sunsets in my life.

13) Bike ride or walk? Walking! I love walking around in cities that I visit or even cities I live in. I find it is the best way for me to explore. On a bike I feel like I might pass things by.

14) Winery or brewery?  Wineries all the way! I was lucky enough to just try out an excellent wintery in Ohio called Gervasi in Canton, Ohio. I HIGHLY recommend it.

15) Garden or no garden? I don't have a garden and probably never will, but applaud people who do.

16) Big summer concert or music in the park? Music in the park. I'd rather do something chill and concerts aren't as fun for me because I don't like crowds of sweaty people and getting shoved, ha ha...When I was younger, I totally would have said big summer concert.

17) Favorite cookout food? Corn on the cob. I'm showing my Pennsylvania/Ohio roots with this one.

18) Dine indoors or patio? Weather permitting, I prefer the patio. I guess in Shanghai, I'd have to say pollution permitting, too.

19) Favorite summer destination? I'm just going to go with the whole continent of Europe with this one. I'd love to do some more exploring there next summer.

20) Big theme park or local carnival? Hmm...well seeing as how someone just died in Columbus from a fair ride, I'll choose big theme park. I would really like to revisit Shanghai Disney this year!

21) Drinks blended or on the rocks? I like both and don't have a major preference for this one.

22) Popsicle flavor of choice? Cherry

23) Hot dog or hamburger? Hamburger. This just made me want to go to a cookout.

I do love summer, especially being a teacher and getting that time off. What are some of your summer favorites?

My 1st Ever Stitch Fix

I'll assume by now you more or less know what Stitch Fix is, so I'm not going to go into great detail on that. In case you don't know, you fill out a style profile on what type of clothing/accessories you like, are sent about 5 items, and can decide what to keep and send back. It's $20 no matter what. If you buy something, the $20 styling fee can go toward your first item.

I had been wanting to try Stitch Fix for ages, but I was in China for the last two years and couldn't. Since I was able to come back this summer, one of the first things I did was to sign up and order myself a box. I thought maybe that a stylist would send me items I wouldn't think to try for myself.

So, let's see how it worked out for me! I do want to mention that in the notes section, I wrote that I had a banquet coming up for my school and needed a dress to wear, but that it didn't have to look "teacher-y" because no students would be present. Here's what my stylist sent for my first piece...

Piece 1: Honey Punch Daniella Faux Wrap Maxi Dress $78.00

This was the dress that my stylist suggested I wear to my school's banquet with wedges or heels.  I put in my style profile that I never wore wedges or heels, so that comment made me think she didn't read my profile that well. Honestly, the dress is just not something I would wear for a night out. While I'm not going to be wearing it to the banquet, I think it's a pretty cute casual dress and wouldn't mind wearing it for a day out in Shanghai or even to teach in. I've never owned a wrap dress that you tie before, so this was a new style for me to try. I have to say, I liked that the wrap dress seemed to cover up my problem areas. Sometimes I have trouble finding flattering dressses, but this one seemed to work! It made me wish I had tried wrap dresses like this sooner.

I do love floral prints and the color red, so for me this one is a winner.

Pieces 2 and 3: French Grey Hortense Cutout Detail Knit Top $38.00
Kut From the Kloth Dayna Skinny Jean $88.00

Okay, so for the top, wow...It's so soft and comfy and I do love the cut out element. It is a bit heavy, which means I probably wouldn't be able to wear it until about October in Shanghai just because I feel like it would be too hot. I want to love this top, but I guess the bigger issue is that I'm broad shouldered and I feel like it makes my shoulders look bigger than they actually are. My pose in the picture doesn't make them look too bad, but just imagine that both of my arms are down...I'm not sure the shirt does me any favors.

The jeans are great, and the color and cut are my style. They fit almost perfectly. They could be maybe 1 inch longer on the bottom, but I know I have a ridiculously long inseam, so I don't care that they are a teeny bit shorter than I would like. I don't usually spend $88.00 on jeans, but since I wear jeans ALL the time (even to work!), I'm going to give this pair a try.

Pieces 4 and 5: Romolo Kiri Stone Lariat $28.00
Collective Concepts Bailin Crochet Detail Blouse $48.00

The necklace that they sent is adorable, but I asked to not really be sent jewelry. I am pretty good at buying jewelry, but not so good at actually remembering to wear it. Plus, I don't know if the necklace is really worth the $28.00 price tag. Still, it's cute and I have trouble saying no to jewelry which is why I put down that I didn't want jewelry, ha ha.... But apparently I DO want it because I'm going to keep it. I could never do Rocksbox (jewelry subscripton service). I would keep everything and be bankrupt.

Onto the blouse. As I said, I love floral prints and think this one is gorgeous. What I do not like is that it doesn't have sleeves because my upper arms are a problem area. I wore cap sleeves once in China and two people commented on how fat my arms were, so in my style profile I put down that I wanted to keep my upper arms covered. Again, that made me question whether or not my stylist read my profile, although she must have looked at my Instagram account that I linked for her because on that I said I loved florals.

The Verdict: What I want to do is keep the jeans, dress, and necklace because I do really love those pieces. The sleeveless shirt is pretty, but I wish it had sleeves, so I wanted to send it back. The gray top made me look too big up top, so I wanted to return that, too. When I did the math though, it didn't seem worth it to return the two shirts. If you keep all 5 pieces, Stitch Fix rewards you with 25% off. Twenty-five percent off of all of my items is $70.00. The total price of the two shirts is $86.00, so to return those two shirts, I'd only be getting $16.00 back. Would I rather keep the two shirts for the price of $16? They're not perfect, but for $8.00 each? Well, I think that I would. Stitch Fix really got me there.

I won't be getting Stitch Fixes anytime soon because I have to go back to China, but this was a fun way to treat myself. If I come home next summer, I'd like to try it out again. I don't think I could stay subscribed to a clothing subscription box like this long-term because I would probably want to keep almost everything all the time!

What do you think of my first Stich Fix? Which pieces are the best and which ones are flops?

Surgery #2 in China

August 7, 2017
Unbelievably, I found out in mid-April that I needed to have a second surgery in China. Instead of for back related issues, this surgery was for a tumor in my uterus. I was told this news at a private clinic, and the doctor told me that they did not perform surgeries there so I would have to look elsewhere to get it done. Next, I went to a private hospital in Shanghai and met with a gynecologist who confirmed what the first doctor told me: surgery was inevitable. It's true that sometimes tumors can be left alone, but the position of my tumor along with its size and growth rate made two separate doctors think it was in my best interest to get it removed. At the private clinic, the doctor and translator told me that I should try to get it taken out with a hysteroscope. This type of procedure is minimally invasive and wouldn't require any big incisions. The recovery time is short compared to other options, so this is what I told the doctor I wanted. Unfortunately, I was ineligible for this procedure because of the where the tumor was located. The gyno at the hospital told me he could perform an open myomectomy to remove the tumor. When I looked into that type of surgery, it seemed that the recovery time was the most painful choice with the longest recovery time. I joined a support group on Facebook for women with fibroids and found out that I should try to get a laporoscopic myomectomy if I could. It's less invasive than a regular myomectomy and it's supposed to be less painful. I messaged my doctor and asked if a laporoscopic myomectomy could be an option for me, and he informed me that this type of operation was not performed at his hospital. That is understandable since I went to a general hospital, and not one that specializes in women's health. I am VERY, VERY glad that I decided to do research on my own and found out about the laporoscopic option that the doctor at the second hopsital did not mention. At that point, I was a little nervous because I was worried about which hospitals in Shanghai had the right equipment to perform the surgery. Not only that, but the hospitals absolutely HAD to be covered by my insurance because I could not afford to pay out of pocket.

Luckily, my boss recommended a very reputable hospital for women and children that was covered by my insurance. I went in for a consultation and found out right away that my doctor could perform the surgery, but that he would need to check me himself beforehand just to make sure. I was relieved because I heard only good things about this hospital and actually a lot of my co-workers went there for their annual check ups. Some of my students had gone to that hospital as well, so that made me feel better, too.

The doctor told me that my tumor was about the size of a tennis ball and that I should appear about three months pregnant. For the first time in my life, I was glad to be curvy so that the "bump" didn't show too much. I would have been mortified if I had been asked if I was pregnant only to have to say, "Nope, it's just a tumor!" 

I had to have many appointments and check ups at the hospital ahead of time. It seemed like I was going in about every other weekend up until my surgery date. My surgery date was scheduled for June 24, and my friend Chris graciously offered to sign for me on that day. Let me explain "sign for me" since some people I've told this to are unaware. Since I had to be put under, I was required to have someone there to make decisions for me since I would not be conscious. Without someone to sign for me, I would be unable to have the surgery. 

I picked June 24 as the date for my surgery because although I would miss some office hours and the final parent-teacher conference, I would not be missing any days with my students. This was very important to me since the previous year I had to miss 2 full months of teaching. 

About two weeks before my surgery, my doctor messaged me and told me that maybe it wasn't the best idea to have the surgery on June 24. That fell on a Saturday, and all of the fees would be higher on a weekend. That stressed me out because I had already arranged the 24th with my school. To change the date, I had to message so many people and contact the person signing for me to see if he was still available then. It also gave me one less day to get everything done. Since it was the end of the semester, I had to write more than two hundred comments about the students and have all of my grades in ahead of time. I worked ahead on the comments, but couldn't work ahead on the grading since the students hadn't taken the exams yet. I also had to pack up my classroom AND since I was moving to another apartment, I had to move all of my stuff over there. That ended up being super time consuming and took much longer than expected. Needless to say, I was getting very anxious about the surgery. I was also upset because I was told it was a moderate surgery and I would still need about 2 months to fully recover. At that point, I thought that meant I couldn't fly home and would be stuck in Shanghai in pain all alone for the second summer in a row. More on that later. 

My doctor did mention that the operation could only be performed at certain stages of my cycle, so he gave me pills to take so that I wouldn't get my period. They worked...right up until the very night before my surgery! I messaged him right away, and he told me that there was no way he would perform the surgery until later. Again, I had to change the surgery dates around. SO STRESSFUL. He had to check to see which days the operation room would be free and to see when the anesthesiologist could come. I had to again tell everyone at my work what had happened and why. So humiliating. I was also very concerned because the day that my doctor scheduled my surgery for was the day of parent-teacher conferences. I knew that the administrators at my school wouldn't mind if I had the day off, but that left the lingering question of who was going to sign for me because they wouldn't let the other teachers miss their conferences, too! Almost all of my friends and contacts in China work at my school! Another problem was that my school covers my health insurance through the end of June and does not cover us at all for the month of July since we don't work there at all in July. With my surgery being pushed back until June 29, I was going to have to be in the hospital at the beginning of July even if I had a very successful surgery with no complications.

Luckily, all of these problems got resolved. A friend who works at another school told me that her parent-teacher conferences were not on the 29th, so she volunteered to come in and sign for me. One of my bosses called the health insurance company and asked for special permission to get my health insurance extended for a few days, and so we were able to do that.

On the 29th, I went in for the surgery. This next part is such a "Lisa" moment. When I got to the 10th floor, there was no one there, so I took a closer look at the note the doctor gave me. The 0 looked like a 4, so I thought that maybe he meant the 14th floor. I took the elevator to try to get to the 14th floor, but there was no button for it. In China, some elevators only go to certain floors, so I took the elevator back down to the first floor and then asked the woman at the reception which elevator went to the 14th floor. She pointed at the first one, but when I went in that one there was no 14th floor again! Then I went in two other elevators until a Chinese woman told me there was no 14th floor. (Guess the receptionist did not understand me!) Sometimes in China they don't have 4th or 14th floors in their buildings because the number 4 is considered very unlucky, kind of like the number 13 for us. I went back up to the 10th floor and there was still no one at reception, but there was a hallway behind a locked door and a bell to ring, so I decided to try my luck. Sure enough, the nurses let me in and brought me to another reception area where there were actually people working. They were expecting me and took me to my room. On my way down the hallway, I couldn't help but laugh. The rooms didn't have actual numbers, and most rooms were named after a Disney princess! I passed a "Little Prince" room before arriving at "The Cupid Room," which turned out to be mine. Let me just say that the room was luxurious compared to my room at the public hospital I had my spinal fusion at, but since it was a private hospital, I kind of expected that. My room was very clean and there were supplies there for me like a big jug of water, toilet paper (at the other hospital I had to supply my own), tissues, toothpaste and toothbrushes, etc. It was nice not to have to worry about that stuff. On the wall of the room, there was a picture of a mother and a baby. There was also a crib in the room with some Huggies underneath since the rooms are usually used for new mothers. I didn't really want to see a crib or that photograph since if my surgery went wrong, it could ruin my chances at ever having children, but I tried not to think about that.

I only had about 5 minutes to myself before the nurses came in and asked me to change into a gown and started taking my blood/putting in an IV. My friend arrived, and we chatted and told stories while the nurses were doing more tests. That helped get my mind off of things a bit. My surgeon came in and explained the whole procedure in way too much detail. My friend started to get mad and told him not to tell me that kind of stuff. At one point, he told me that I could need a blood transfusion, but that the blood might contain a disease. He said, "If you're lucky you'll just get something like Hepatitis. If you're unlucky, you could get HIV." Yeah, he did not need to remind me of that. He was a good doctor, but sometimes just a little TOO thorough. Spoiler alert: I did not need a blood transfusion, so I do not need to worry about contracting anything.

The anesthesiologist came and asked me tons of questions. I told him about a very minor valve problem in my heart, and he told me he wanted medical records with my diagnosis on it. When I told him that I got diagnosed as a young child and did not have any records of it, he told me that he wanted to cancel my surgery. At that point, I was freaking out because I basically had to have my surgery then for all of the reasons I mentioned before. I brought up how I had a spinal fusion at another Chinese hospital which was a much longer surgery and that the anesthesiologist and other doctors there didn't seem to think it was a big issue. My doctor went and talked to the anesthesiologist and had to convince him to do it. Thankfully, he agreed to do it.

I got wheeled into the operating room and once I got up on the operating table, my IV stopped working. Figures. The nurses were fiddling with that, and I was told that my surgery was going to start. Then, all of a sudden, I was informed that the anesthesiologist wanted to run more tests on me. I had to roll off of the operating table and back onto a gurney. I was wheeled to another room where they did a sonogram of my liver and kidneys. They were okay, so I was allowed to have the surgery. I get that they have to run tests, but I was getting very irritated with all of the drama at that point. They should have done tests like that one of the many times I came in beforehand! I was wheeled back into the operating room, and the last thing my surgeon said to me was, "We usually give epidurals for this type of surgery, but we can't give you one because of your back surgery. When you wake up, you will probably be in severe pain."

When I woke up, low and behold, I was in the worst pain of my life. It was even worse than when I had my back surgery, and that was awful. I got wheeled back to my room and tried to sleep, but I couldn't. The nurse kept coming in and I kept crying and telling her I couldn't sleep and was in pain. Finally, after what seemed like hours and her 17th time in my room, she offered me a shot for the pain. I gladly accepted, and it put me right to sleep for a few hours. When I woke up again, the pain was back. I probably only woke up because the painkiller wore off. I asked for more painkillers and was only given Tylenol. The next day I was allowed to have another shot, but mostly I was just given Tylenol or Ibuprofen to deal with the pain of an open surgery. To put it in perspective, many people compare a myomectomy to a c-section. So imagine just getting Tylenol for the c-section most of the time. Chinese hospitals in general are very stingy with painkillers, especially compared to American hospitals, so I knew I was just going to have to try to deal with it. My surgeon came in and I complained to him about it, but he told me that I was doing very well. It probably wasn't true, but it did boost my morale to hear him say that. In addition to the pain from the operation, my whole right side felt weird. With every breath, I felt sharp pain on my right hand side near my ribs. The surgeon assured me that was normal because they filled me with gas during the operation and that with time, it would go away. He told me that my surgery went well but that he had to make a bigger incision than expected and apologized. I told him that he had to do what he had to do to remove the tumor and that I didn't mind. He kept stopping by to see how I was doing, and at one point he held my hand and told me how strong I was for going through this alone. That was kind of awkward, but I appreciated the gesture. All in all, my surgeon was very attentive and later on, he answered all of my questions about post-op care promptly through We Chat. I do have to say that if I (god forbid) have any future problems I will go to him again.

The nurses at the hospital I was at were all lovely to deal with, too. All of them spoke English besides the last one I had. That definitely helped matters. They were really sweet, and one of them even added me on We Chat in case I had any questions or needed any help. They kept telling me to get up and to try to walk around, but I just felt so dizzy so I told them I thought I'd better wait. After they removed the catheter, I had no choice but to get up to go to the bathroom. Of course it was during a raging thunderstorm, so that added to the bad vibe I was currenty feeling. I felt so badly on my way back from the bathroom, that I just fainted. I knew I was fainting, so I told the nurse and she helped me get down to the ground slowly, which was important because of my back injury. When I came to, two nurses were surrounding me and trying to get me to drink hot chocolate and eat a cookie. I gladly welcomed the cookie since I was on a liquid diet and not technically allowed to have solid foods. I guess fainting was the exception to that since they were worried about my blood sugar. After fainting, I was very worried about having to leave the hospital and being on my own in my apartment, so I wanted to extend my stay there. I found out it would be $700 per night and that I maxed out my insurance coverage already. The nurses were kind enough to ask if I could do a very late check out the next day, which helped a lot.

While in the hospital, my friend Lauren visited for a bit and brought me some treats. Later on, another friend visited me, and it was perfect timing because they wanted me to check out. The hospital provided a driver (and nice car) so that I didn't have to worry about finding a taxi on the street. I was in so much pain, walked at a snail's pace, and could barely move, so I was very pleased that they offered me this service. My friend helped me carry my suitcase and just made sure I didn't fall or injure myself. Thank goodness for that!

I spent the next few days just reading and watching tv. I tried to keep on getting up and walking around as recommended by the doctor. Even though it was beyond painful, I kept trying to push myself. I also had some restrictions. Some were obvious (I'm sure you can imagine what those are), but I woudn't have been able to guess some of them. I had to continue to only have soft foods for awhile. My co-teacher's dad found out about my surgery and brought over homemade mashed potatoes. How sweet! I also had to avoid carbonated beverages because other ladies in the support group said consuming them messed with the gas they put in during the operation and they experienced painful side effects. I was also unable to shower for a week because of the stitches, but they gave me waterproof stickers to put over the stitches for when I wanted to shower the next week. My doctor also told me to avoid chicken, honey, and flower tea for the rest of my life/as long as I have a uterus. I never actually realized how much I ate chicken before. I don't even consume much meat, but when I do, chicken is usually what I go for. Since forever is a long time to not have chicken, I might have this once in a great while. I assume organic chicken would be okay, too. The flower and honey tea thing struck me as a bit strange. My Chinese friend informed me that her doctor at a completely different hospital told her the exact same thing. She said it was because flowers have female parts and that can affect our hormones. Her doctor mentioned to her that honey is made from flowers so it would also negatively affect us. This might be an Eastern medicine thing, but just in case I'm going to avoid those things. Another limitation that kind of stunk was that I can't go swimming yet. Yeah, it makes sense as to why, but I had to turn down some invitations to the beach. Oh well, better to be safe than to be sorry.

The next seven days were all pretty bad pain-wise for me. I couldn't really do much and was getting frustrated at the lack of improvement. I was lonely because my friends all left Shanghai, although my Chinese friend did visit me twice and Tara kept me company, too. I didn't know how I would be able to spend a second summer all alone recovering because it takes a huge mental toll. Amazingly, I did not have to! I had a follow up apointment about a week later. Getting there was awful. It was 100 degrees and there were NO taxis. I waited for an hour, Chinese people that came after me "stole" the taxis, and I was late to my appointment. I got so frustrated that I was crying in the street like a crazy person. I was just still kind of weak and was in pain and was sweating all over my stitches which the doctor told me to try not to do. At that point, I just knew I HAD to go home. Once I finally met with my doctor, he removed my stitches so that I didn't have to worry about those anymore and then cleared me to fly which was the best news ever. Initially, I thought that there was going to be no way I could go home. I waited a few more days before booking the flights, but finally I started to feel better and in less pain. I ended up flying home on July 10 and arrived on July 12! It was so incredible to be home for the first time in two years after going through two different surgeries.

Right now, I'm about 5 weeks post surgery. I am almost completely back to normal. Sometimes I will have some slight pain, but it's really nothing compared to what it was before. The four incisions are looking a lot better and are starting to turn into scars instead of open wounds. I just got the biopsy results back and my tumor was not malignant. It's kind of strange because it turned out to be a rare type of tumor and not a fibroid or a myoma like I was originally told. (Does that mean I even technically had a myomectomy if they removed a different kind of tumor?) My doctor just told me that the cells were different than a myoma, but the symptoms were more or less the same. If left alone, the type of tumor that I had could have possibly turned into cancer, so I'm just glad it's out! What's even better news is that there's less of chance more tumors will grow, unlike with myomas which my doctor said have a high recurrence rate.

Surgeries can be daunting and stressful, so I'm thankful that everything turned out okay. I'm pretty ecstatic that this is all behind me now, too. If I could go a year without needing another surgery, that would be fantastic!

Have you ever had to have a surgery? How did it go? 

Three Things

August 2, 2017
I thought I'd ease my way back into blogging with this fun prompt I saw on Steph's blog and Jana's blog, but I did modify it a little bit. Thank you for the good idea, ladies!

Three Books I've Loved This Year

1) Into the Water by Paula Hawkins--I liked this more than The Girl on the Train! The spooky elements combined with multiple mysteries made it an excellent and fast-paced read. The different characters' backstories were interesting because they were told from the characters' own perspectives. As the story progresses, you will be able to see why this is significant. I won't spoil it for you, but I was very satisfied with the ending and felt like the characters stayed true to themselves. 

2) The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne- Someone gave this book to me when I was in the hospital last year, and I decided to give it a read. I wasn't expecting much since I'd never heard of the book, but the story quickly intrigued me. Basically, there are identical twins and one dies. Much of the mystery centers around the parents trying to figure out which twin actually died, but there are many layers to the story. My attention span lately has been pretty terrible, but this was a quick read for me.

3) And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini- Not surprisingly, I LOVED this book, but I felt the same way about all of the other books written by this author. (A Thousand Splendid Suns is one of my ultimate favorites.) Hosseini is a talented storyteller and knows how to write page-turners.  And the Mountains Echoed was beautifully written--the characters feel like your friends and you find yourself rooting for them along the way. 

Three Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading

1) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

2) What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding Although I've heard mixed reviews on this one, I'd like to see for myself! Curious.

3) The Glass Castle- This has been on my to-read list forever, but since the movie is coming out soon, it's the perfect time to start this book. 

Three Current Shows I Love

1) Game of Thrones--I even just signed up for HBO Now just to be able to watch the newest episodes!

2) The Walking Dead

3) Orange is the New Black, but I've yet to see the latest season. (China problems.)

Three Past Series I Love

1) Six Feet Under

2) The Killing

3) Breaking Bad

Three Things I'm Glad I've Done This Year

1) Traveled to Morocco

2) Got a surgery on my uterus (Okay, no one is glad to have to have a surgery, but I needed it and it's a relief knowing the problem is gone.) 

3) Stayed with my class from first to second grade- I just wasn't ready to give my students up yet! 

Three Things I'm Currently Grateful For

1) Improved health

2) Clean air

3) Summers off to relax

Three Upcoming Trips

1) New Jersey for a family reunion 

2) Eastern PA to visit my friend Nanci who I used to work with in South Carolina. 

3) Michigan- My sister Melissa invited me up there to see her new house. 

Three of my Latest Purchases

2) Urban Decay's Naked Heat Palette

3) This hoodie from Old Navy

Three Events I'm Looking Forward To

1) Seeing part of my old Education cohort tomorrow for dinner. It's been years since most of us have seen each other, so we are looking forward to catching up.

2) Driving to Columbus to see my old college friends this weekend. Our lives have all changed a lot since the last time we were able to meet.

3) Going to Gervasi Vineyard with friends I've been friends with for almost 20 years! 

Goals for this Year

1) Cook more and eat more meals at home.

2) Travel somewhere amazing during the Chinese New Year holiday (Hawaii? Turkey?)

3) Save more money (I don't think this will ever NOT be a goal.)

What are some books or tv shows you recommend? 

May and June Recap

July 10, 2017
The last month before school ended was pretty eventful for me. There were birthday brunches, going away parties for non-returning teachers, and plenty of opportunities to socialize. My first year in Shanghai, I was more into exploring the city and just having a few close friends. I was wary of the atmosphere at our school because it can get pretty gossipy, so I tried to stay closed off and just stick to those I knew. Plus, I came to Shanghai with my close friend Scott who was so entertaining that I just simply preferred his company to others.

By the end of the year this year, I decided to go out a lot more. I feel like in the last few months, I was able to become better friends with so many more people. Besides that, I got to know other teachers who are actually really cool. I'm relieved that I ended the year with a strong finish because at the beginning of the year, I was not very social. Not on purpose, but because I needed to heal from my surgery. 

Here is a recap of how I spent my the last 1.5 months of my second year in Shanghai...

*I moved from living on my school's campus to going to off-campus housing in a more residential area. I was worried about the whole moving process, but my friend's Chinese wife graciously offered to organize for movers to meet me. Thank goodness she arranged that for me just because I wouldn't have known how/been able to communicate that in Chinese. I ended up paying over $100 to move, but it was worth it to not have to do it myself. It's not like I could have lifted my couch, anyway. I didn't have the movers take all of my stuff because I was staying on campus for the last week of school. Long story short, I ended up leaving more behind than I needed to and caused myself to make four trips from campus to my new apartment in a taxi with a suitcase full of what I'd left behind. It seemed my friends did the same thing to themselves, so at least I was able to commiserate with them and split a taxi. It was pretty miserable going out in very hot and sticky weather trying to lift heavy suitcases with a bad back. At least that's over with and now I can just enjoy my new place. I'm SO much happier here! I feel more like an adult and can get food directly delivered to my door. 

* I got to try out a new themed bar that opened up in Shanghai called Wonderland. I'm sure you can guess what the theme entails based on the name of the bar. There's a bar area inside as well as comfy couches and a table all set up for tea. Additionally, there is outside seating, but Tara and I didn't want to sit there because we preferred to admire the decor inside. The back of the bar has a mural with the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, Tweedle Dee, mushrooms, teacups, etc. At the bar, the lights are surrounded by decorated hats, and you have the option to have alcohol served to you in a teapot, which you can then pour into tea cups. I'm a sucker for themed bars, and this one had a fun atmosphere. I will be back!

* My co-teacher took me to Suzhou. We had fun, but we both agreed that we would never leave Shanghai again during a Chinese National Holiday unless we were leaving China altogether. Suzhou was madness and was so packed with people that we couldn't actually do anything we intended to do! We spent an hour driving around before we could even find a parking space. The only place we saw parking was at a hotel, so we went back there to park the car, but that meant we had to eat there, too. Luckily, the restaurant was rather nice and there was even live music. Since we wasted so much time getting to Suzhou because of the traffic and then trying to find a parking spot, after we ate, we only had time to walk around for a little bit. I got to see some Suzhou silk shops, stalls full of snacks and local specialties, souvenir shops selling fans and tea, etc. 

Like I said, we still enjoyed ourselves because we made the most of it, but I would like to go back to Suzhou in the fall on just a regular weekend so that I can experience the museum (a 2 hour wait when we went) and the gardens (so full of tourists that it didn't look pleasant). At any rate, it was so nice of my co-teacher to offer to take me to Suzhou just because I said I hadn't been before.

*At the last minute, I decided to go to a concert. The artist Benjamin Francis Leftwich was coming to Shanghai, and a bunch of teachers from my school were planning on seeing him live. I never bought a ticket beforehand because I had never heard of this artist, but then one of my friends couldn't go, so I decided to just buy her ticket, go, and check him out. I wasn't expecting much, but I ended up loving the music. He's such a cool, down-to-earth guy who spent awhile after the show engaging with his fans, and his voice...amazing! My last concert before this one was years ago (Lady Gaga), so it was nice to be out listening to live music again!

* I finally got to try Liquid Laundry's brunch, and it was just as great as everyone said! I opted for the Artichoke-Spinach-Dill Benedict and wasn't disappointed. Of course I had to save room for a cinnamon roll for dessert...to-die-for good. A group of us also tried another place for our friend's birthday brunch called Kafer. It was so posh in there that even though we were wearing dresses we felt underdressed. Some people were there getting their wedding photos, so you can imagine how nice it was. It was 400 RMB for a free flow and all-you-can-eat brunch. Yeah, it seems like a lot of money, but we had prosecco, mimosas, tons of cold dishes, cheese (harder to come by in Shanghai), and desserts. There was also a menu of entrees and we were allowed to order anything we wanted from the menu as well! Last but not least, there's a good view of the Bund and Huangpu River from the restaurant. I liked it so much that I would take someone visiting Shanghai there for one of their meals.

Tara and I also made it out to try Goose Island Brewhouse. They had more than 10 different kinds of beer on tap and a menu with typical bar food like nachos, wings, cheese fries, etc. With how many different restaurants I've gotten to try over the past few years, I still feel like I've barely scratched the surface of all the ones I'd love to try in Shanghai.

I also had a chance to visit one of my favorite coffeeshops in Shanghai--Lanna Coffee. They import their coffee beans from Yunnan Province! It would be my favorite place, but sometimes it gets too crowded, as it is a popular spot. Look at how cute it is on the inside, though! Luckily, when I went the last time, I was able to snag a seat.

I also was sure to set aside plenty of time for manicures, pedicures, and massages, as those seem to no longer be a treat, but more like part of my spoiled lifestyle here in Shanghai. Hey, when it's affordable, why not? Also, those massages helped me to destress a lot because I was feeling tons of anxiety about my upcoming surgery. For massages, I mostly went to Dragonfly, which caters to foreigners. While I will go to the small massage places on the street for a foot massage, I appreciate the cleanliness of Dragonfly and don't mind to pay a bit more for that.

What was last month like for you?