Aruba - January 2019

When: January 11-19, 2019
Where: Oranjestad, Aruba
Stayed: Renaissance Ocean Suites

Day 1 - Jan 11

We took a morning flight from Minneapolis to Aruba (with a quick 45 minute layover in Atlanta) and arrived late afternoon. We flew Delta and they said the only do one flight a day. We got a customs card on the plane and it was simple to fill out. You go through automated customs kiosks then through to baggage claim. We took a 10 minute taxi ride from the airport to our hotel, Renaissance Ocean Suites, and ventured out for an early dinner. We had two adjoining rooms facing the parking lot and actually ended up getting a free upgrade to adjoining rooms facing the pool (but only because our parent’s room had a leaky shower). We ate at Casa Tua in the Renaissance Marketplace. It was mediocre with fairly expensive prices. I wouldn’t recommend unless you want something quick and close to the hotel.

Day 2 - Jan 12

We slept in a bit then headed out to the Renaissance Private Island aka Flamingo Island. If you aren’t a hotel guest they charge $100/person per day. This was one of the best perks of staying at the Renaissance, “free” access to the island (I mean, it’s included in your price per night, but it feels free). Remember, each person (even if they are staying in the same hotel room) needs a room key to get to the island. It was a quick 7 minute boat ride then we set up camp at Iguana Island (family friendly side) since it was larger and had more open spots. The other side of the island is Flamingo Island (adult only) which is smaller and had less huts/shade. We personally liked Iguana Island better since it had shaded huts (if you go earlier enough) and was larger.

Day 3 - Jan 13

Since we didn’t know what to expect the first day we went to Flamingo Island we didn’t get the greatest spots. We were a few rows back from the beachfront but wanted to try and get one of the huts to setup camp and have quick access to the water. We woke up early to catch the 8 am (the first boat leaves at 7:30 am) boat and snag a hut. It was worth it as we were one of the first 10 people there and had our pick of the huts. We liked the huts with quick access to the shallow water so we could take a dip whenever we were too hot. We stayed until early afternoon then headed back to the hotel. After relaxing for a bit we walked 7 minutes to eat dinner at Driftwood. It’s an amazing local spot that catch their fish daily and can prepare any of their fresh catches in five different ways. Their fresh catches were barracuda and wahoo. I chose the wahoo prepared in garlic sauce and it was delicious. It’s expensive (about $30/person) but so worth it for the freshness. I would highly recommend eating at Driftwood.

Day 4 - Jan 14

We knew we wanted to SUP, kayak, or canoe at least once while in Aruba and during my research I found clear kayak rentals at the tip of Palm Beach. We rented two kayaks from Island Cabana ($35/kayak for 1 hour) and each kayak fit two people. It ended up being a great option, though a very windy one, and the owner was very chill and relaxed. We didn’t feel rushed or on a time clock, so we were able to enjoy ourselves. We didn’t get to see much of Palm Beach since the rentals were so far at the end so it wasn’t a good location to lay out and grab some sun. Though it is right next to the Ritz Carlton Hotel, so if you’re a guest there, it would be a short walk to get some rentals.

Day 5 - Jan 15

We woke up bright and early to grab a quick breakfast then be picked up by ABC Tours (we chose the “Rugged Natural Pools Safari” tour). This is a pricey excursion as it was $120/person and we had a family of six. But, as soon as we started the tour, we knew it was well worth our money. Our Land Rover fit 8 people comfortably and they had cushy seats so your butt wasn’t uncomfortable. The main reason for the cushy seats was that the tour was very rugged/rocky/bumpy. If you didn’t have your seat belt on you would have hit your head on the ceiling or fallen out of the car. We had Zouly as our driver and she was excellent. She knew what she was doing and was very knowledgeable. The spots we hit were The Natural Bridge, Arikok Natural Park, Andicuri Beach, and the Natural Pool at Conchi.

  • The Natural Bridge: Cool, but since it’s collapsed, there isn’t too much to easy. Nice spot to take photos.

  • Arikok National Park: So cool and hard to access by yourself, we originally thought we could rent a car and drive around, but the tour proved otherwise, it was very rugged and hard to get to places. It was very beautiful and had unique terrain.

  • Andicuri Beach: Our favorite beach of the whole trip! There was virtually no shade, other than the rocks on the outside, and the water was constantly crashing waves. It was beautiful and we already want to go back.

  • Natural Pool at Conchi: This was cool as it’s a pool built into the side of rocks but it was very crowded and busy when we went. Multiple tours were there so there wasn’t much space to explore the already small pool.

We finished up our tour and headed back for lunch, which was BBQ ribs (included in the ticket price). After lunch we were driven back to our hotel and the safari was over. After hanging at the pool after our tour we decided to try out The West Deck. We got the BBQ ribs (sounds weird at a seafood place but they were so good), coconut shrimp, garlic shrimp, mixed seafood platter, seafood chowder. Also, some delicious margs.

Day 6 - Jan 16

Us siblings (#KaoQuad) splurged and decided to go on a private snorkeling tour with Strea Charters and we would highly recommend. It’s a small business owned by John and Esther, John is the boat’s captain and Esther handles all the booking/details. We got on at 9:30 am and headed for Mangel Halto for some snorkeling. Robert was our snorkel guide and he was great and knew all the great spots. It took about 45 minutes to get from Orjanestad to Mangel Halto and we spent about an hour snorkeling, another half hour chilling on the boat before heading back to the dock.

Day 7 - Jan 17

My sisters and I were craving acai bowls the whole trip and we had heard good things about Eduardo’s Beach Shack. We decided to head back to Palm Beach (different area than before) to grab breakfast and see more of the beach. We got the Mermaid Bowl and the Raw Acai Bowl, both were delicious. We laid out on the beach for a bit but it was fairly crowded so we didn’t stay for long. My brother had to head back to Minneapolis early so we said bye to him and headed to the hotel pool. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, Fresco, and it was delicious Italian food. My sister and I split the lobster risotto and it was melt in your mouth yummy.

Day 8 - Jan 18

My dad wasn’t feeling well so my sisters, mom, and I grabbed a taxi to Eagle Beach (3rd best beach in the world) and it did not disappoint. There’s long stretches to walk and the water is so clear and blue. We rented an umbrella ($25 for the day) that was five steps from the water and it was the perfect reprise from the sun. We stayed at Eagle Beach for a few hours then headed back to hotel to chill by the pool.

For our last dinner we knew we wanted to go back to The West Deck. Unfortunately, they were short staffed so the service wasn’t as good as the first time but the food was still delicious. We reordered all our favorites and savored our last dinner in Aruba.

Day 9 - Jan 19

For our last day, we wanted to enjoy Flamingo Island one last time so we woke up early and caught the 8 am boat to the island. We got our favorite huts and relaxed in the sun for a few hours. We didn’t have to check out till 1 pm so we had time to pack our stuff, eat lunch, then head to the airport (10 minute drive from our hotel). I will warn you that customs back into the US from Aruba is not efficient. We went through both security and customs twice (no idea why) and it took about 45 minutes.

2019 Reads

  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (re-read)

  • One Day in December by Josie Silver

  • Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

  • The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

  • The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

  • A. Lincoln by

  • The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

  • Fight or Flight by Samantha Young

  • The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

A Look Back at 2018

  • Hosted a 4REAL Girl’s Worship Night with Anna

  • Unknowingly went to my last Youth Truebridge Retreat

  • Ben resigned as Youth Pastor, which ultimately sped up the process of most of the youth staff leaving

  • Winter Olympics

  • Visited Grandma and Grandpa in Taiwan

  • Tried to visit Keziah in Vietnam but had the wrong visas

  • Probert’s bought their house!

  • Had my wisdom teeth removed

  • Holly had her wisdom teeth removed (see videos)

  • We had a mini family reunion on my Dad’s side for my cousin’s high school graduation in Ann Arbor, MI

  • The Shold’s officially moved to Cape Town, SA for 2 years

  • Went back to Vancouver for 2 weeks in the summer

  • Took a family trip to Banff, AB

  • Ana got engaged!

  • My mom visited MN for a week

  • Heidi visited MN for a week

  • Us sisters surprised my mom with a weekend trip to San Fran

  • Annual Friendship Retreat at Cuyuna Bike House

  • The Royal Wedding of Meghan and Harry happened

  • Annual Nativity Party #BabyJesusForever hosted by Allie

  • Officially 5 years at MTL!

San Francisco - September 2018

When: September 2018
Where: San Francisco, CA
Stayed: San Francisco Marriot Marquis

My sisters and I managed to keep my Mom’s birthday weekend in San Francisco a surprise for 6 months!! We could hardly contain ourselves. Be warned, this was mainly an eating weekend (as almost all our trips are, ha). I chose to focus on being together instead of getting the best photos — enjoy!

Day 1: We got in Friday morning, checked into the hotel, then walked 15 minutes to Sightglass Coffee. I had a delicious Iced Vanilla Cold Brew and an Everything Croissant. We then took an Uber to Boba Guys & Sunday Bird. We walked our lunch off and made our way to Alamo Square/The Painted Ladies to take in the view and relax. We had dinner at Delarosa’s (highly recommend their pizza and chocolate torte cake) since it was close to our hotel.

Day 2: The whole reason we went to San Francisco was to take my Mom to Everlane. We went for breakfast at Samovar Tea then headed to our “Cut The Line” appointment at 10 am.

We had lunch at Chowder’s at the Fisherman’s Wharf. We saw the seals lounging on the docks, then walked around for a bit. The weekend crowds started to get a bit crazy so we ducked out and headed to Crissy Fields.

We couldn’t leave San Francisco without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, so we walked around and enjoyed the view. We ate dinner at Beretta to celebrate my Mom’s birthday (thankfully only a 30 minute wait). We turned in for the night and Uber Eats some bubble tea to our hotel room.

Day 3: Holly and I woke up at 4 am to Lyft back to SFO and catch our flight to MSP.

All in all, a quick but fun weekend. Cheers to surprising your loved ones and spending quality time together.

Banff

When: July 2018
Where: Banff, AB, Canada
Stayed: Holiday Inn Canmore

Day 1

We flew into Calgary from Vancouver then drove 1.5 hours to Canmore (just outside of Banff and way more affordable). After grabbing our rental car, checking into the hotel, we dropped our bags and went to explore Johnston Canyon.

Day 2 

We visited Golden, BC, a town a few hours away that my mom grew up in. No photos here, since we spent time reminiscing and seeing all the different places my mom wanted to show us. 

On our way back from Golden we decided to do the classic stop at Lake Louise. It was very crowded and took us twice to get up to the parking lot to find a spot. Once we were there we were able to enjoy the view of hundreds of our closest friends. It's worth going to at least once, but not the prettiest or most ideal spot (especially in the afternoon). 

Day 3

We convinced our parents (who were driving and therefore in charge of the car) to get to Moraine Lake to do a sunrise hike (Rockpile Trail). It was fairly chilly and we weren't prepared but decided to do it anyways since we were committed to seeing the sunrise. It was a beautiful view and worth doing! I can see why people get up at sunrise to see spots like this. 

After warming up in the car for an hour we ventured out again to go canoeing on Moraine Lake. It was glistening after being warmed up by the sun and we were one of the first ones out on the lake. This was one of my favorite activities of the trip and very relaxing. It was a small lake so my limited canoeing skills ended up being just fine. 

We grabbed a quick lunch after canoeing then headed to Peyto Lake for more hiking. We hiked past the normal lookout spot to two beyond and were rewarded with less tourist and amazing views. 

Day 4

No photos from rafting since we were on the water the whole day. We went with Chinook Rafting and they were fantastic. Very friendly and completely safe. We did the easier level 2-3 rapids on the Kananaski River but would love to try level 4 on the Kicking Horse River next time. 

Day 5

YYC to YVR - Drove from Canmore back to Calgary, dropped off our rental car, then headed to the airport to go home to Vancouver. 

 

Changing Seasons

DSCF0061.JPG

This week I made the decision not to return to a commitment that I've held for the past 5 years. It was hard, sad, discouraging, relieving and every emotion in between. Through it all, I'm praying that God will be faithful. Faithful to me in this season of transition, faithful to the youth through the chaos. 

I thought this would be a good time to reflect on my past five years on staff. My prayer is that the countless hours spent praying, thinking, drinking coffee, and sitting with these youth has pointed them towards Jesus. It has been my immense joy and privilege to watch the youth discover who Jesus is and share that with others. Right now, I can't imagine not being at youth on a Wed night. I can't think of not knowing what's actually going on in their lives. 

Everyone always said that youth ministry is a marathon not a sprint. Never have I looked back and felt that was more true than now. I've been faithfully running without a hand off in sight. But, now it's time for my part in the relay to be over. I'm not off the team forever, but in this new season, I believe that there's more for me ahead. 

We often marvel at stories of people who are confront with a big life transitions and wonder how they conquered it so fearlessly. It is in these small moments before the "big moment" that we are faced with the challenge of leaning into the uncertainty and relying on the faithfulness of our God. As I look ahead to this new season, I reflect on all the little and big times the Lord came through for me. His faithfulness met me at every turn. So, my prayer, as hard as it is, is that faithfulness would be the guiding force in these next few months. 

 

Upcoming Travel

taipei_danshui_fishermans_wharf_sophia_hsin-5.jpg

Over the weekend my sisters and I booked flights to Vietnam and Taiwan! We are so excited and can't wait to visit. Our main purpose is to visit family and friends as our grandparents live in Taiwan and our good family friend just moved to Vietnam. 

Any recommendations? We plan to hit the beaches of Vietnam and all the food in Taiwan! I also expect to have the best Pho of my entire life in Vietnam, so stay tuned on if all my dreams come true. 

Photo source: Sopha Hsin

 

2017 Reads

In no particular order..

  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

  • The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

  • Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

  • The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower

  • The Royal We by Heather Cocks

  • Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

  • Cold Tangerine by Shauna Niequist

  • Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Merry Christmas

Treehotel-Sweden-16.jpg

MERRY CHRISTMAS

I'm currently in Vancouver finishing out the week working remote before signing off for vacation. I'm grateful to have a job that lets me work remote a few weeks a year to be close to family and friends. As everything slows down for this holiday season may we remember the reason for celebration. We celebrate because of the first Christmas that happened all those years ago in Bethlehem. Wishing everyone a safe and joy-filled holiday season. See you in 2018!

Image via The Londoner (Treehotel in Sweden)

A Look Back on 2017

  • My sister, Heidi, and I went to Paris for a week #DeltaFareSale
  • Hive Cafe opened in September
  • My little brother graduated from high school, so now the #KaoQuad (a term us siblings have given ourselves) is officially done!
  • Two best friends got married
    • My best friend from Vancouver got married in early August, it was beautiful and made me so thankful for the friendships I've maintained since the time I moved away
    • One of my best friends from college also got married in August! Now 5/7 of us are married, so I have a 50% chance of being next ;)
  • My sister, Holly, took a job in the Twin Cities so we became roommates!
  • Did a short stint as a social media manager for my church 
  • In an attempt to meet Chip and Joanna Gaines, we booked a spontaneous trip to Waco, TX to visit the Magnolia Silos 
  • 4th Annual Friendship Retreat at The Shire (no joke, it's actually called that) 
  • My brother moved here for college in August now 50% of us are in Minnesota
  • My sister persuaded me to do Whole30 with her #Whole30Survivor
  • Our family vacation this year was a Baltic Cruise (Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany) and now we're all trying to figure out how to get back to Scandinavia.
  • 5th Annual Nativity Party - I was Baby Jesus (it's tradition) until one of our friends has a baby
  • Officially 4 years at my job! 

I survived Whole30

Guys, I did Whole30. I didn't do it for any particular reason other than my sister wanted someone to do it with. Overall, it wasn't too bad except for the prep. So. Much. Prep. I've never cooked more consistently in my life than I have over the last 30 days. Also, I have never eaten so many eggs or avocados in my entire life. No joke we went through an 18 pack of eggs every 4 days. Target was our best friend (shoutout to those 67 cent eggs!). To be honest, they tell you not to eat these "pancakes" (that by the way are made from compliant ingredients, just eggs and bananas), but we totally did. Every single day we had them and we didn't feel one bit guilty because WE NEEDED THEM. Other than that I would say we didn't cheat. 

BUT I DID IT. I COMPLETED WHOLE30. 

My favorite (repeated) meal was probably Spiralized Zucchini with pan friend shrimp, and roasted veggies. Let me know if you're interested in the recipe, it's super easy and is a meal I'll probably eat now that I'm off Whole30. 

 

Custom Console

Ever since I moved into my house, I've been looking for the perfect console for my house. Everything I've liked is either too expensive or not the right size. Enter the solution: a custom console. The only reason I'm able to make a custom console is because my friend is making it for me. I'm thinking simple, functional, clean lines, and modern. Here's a look at the inspiration behind my custom piece. Is it weird that I'm already excited to style it? 

Image sources: CB2 + Pinterest

A Look Back on 2016

A quick recap of 2016, in no particular order..

  • Bought my very first house in June!
  • Fourth year on youth staff
  • Had one of my best friends from Vancouver visit me in Minneapolis
  • Visited Taiwan with my family to see my grandparents
  • Had some of my best friends get married this spring and summer
  • I've been at my job for 3 years now! 
  • Donald Trump got elected President of the United States 
  • Said no to more things than I ever have this year (which was a goal from last year)
  • Received confirmation for something that has been in my heart for a very long time. Not ready to fully share what this is right now, but maybe sometime down the road I will.
  • Networked with creatives in Minneapolis
  • PRAISE REPORT! Finally saw the release of Kevin and Julia Garratt, family friends from Vancouver, who were imprisoned in China for the past 2 years. If you google 'Kevin Julia Garratt' you can find their story from various major news outlets. Thankful to have them safely back on Canadian soil. 
  • Hive City Storefront 
    • Every since my family moved to Vancouver in 2003 it's been our dream to open a creative and community-focused outreach initiative. This year we saw our dreams come to life in Hive City Storefront and Cafe. 
  • I visited some of my good friends in Toronto over a May long weekend
  • My sister, Heidi, graduated from college! 
  • Best Friends Visit Vancouver
    • Every since we became friends at Bethel my friends and I have been talking about visit Vancouver (where my family lives) and this year we set aside a week to adventure and travel together. It was so amazing to show them my second home and all my favorite spots. It was a trip to remember and we're already hoping to round 2!
  • Rio Olympics - I debated taking PTO to watch the Olympics, that's how serious I am about them. Shoutout to Michael Phelps, the Final Five, and beach/indoor volleyball for making sure I never left my couch during those 2 weeks. 
  • Took my one and only work trip to St. Louis, MO this year, only to have it be on the 1 day a year where Delta's computers go down. It was a nightmare to say the least. 
  • We had our annual friendship retreat and the most fittingly named location 'Camp Friendship'

My theme word for 2017 is 'be'. This year will have been something, is being written, and can be something right now. 

What a year. Thankful for everyone who was apart of it. Looking up and onward to 2017. 

Owning a Home at 24

This may come as a surprise to some people, but at at 24 years old, I became a homeowner. That's right, I am officially responsible for a mortgage and everything else that comes along with owning a house. 

Here's a little background..
After renting in three different locations, I decided to make the investment and buy a house. But, let me tell you, it was no easy task. I started my search in January 2016 and didn't close on my house until June 2016! I looked high and low for a good 4-5 months and didn't find anything I loved. The first house I really loved was the one I ended up with in the end. (I know this is not common for most people, so I count this as one of my many blessings.) I walked in and immediately knew I loved it, which was both scary and exciting. I put in my offer the next day knowing that there was two other bids on the table. The next day I paced around my apartment all day long waiting to hear from my realtor. When I finally got the call, I was overwhelmed with excitement, I had purchased my first house! After the dust settled, it was time to get real about owning a home. Here's a few things I've learned.

  1. Always keep money on hand for house emergencies, such as, a tree in your yard getting struck by lighting then splitting it in half. I most definitely didn't expect that to happen within 2 months of me living there. Moral of the story, have an emergency fund!

  2. Ask your friends for help. I am so grateful to be surrounded by so many home-owning friends that helped me with things every step of the way. Like when I thought my washer and dryer came "turned on" when I bought the house. I soon found out that was NOT THE CASE.

  3. Decor thoughtfully. This is the hardest part of the whole process. I had a few big pieces I knew I wanted to get right away but other than that I resisted the urge to buy stuff just to fill the space. I wanted to be intentional about what I bought and thoughtful in the way I decorated.

HAPPY WEEKEND

I'm taking off early this week because I'm moving into my new house!! More details soon but for now, here's some links I've been enjoying. Happy weekend!

  • Embracing Thorns by Jennie Allen - such a good read!
  • Home Sweet Damsel's remodel journey
  • My brother had a easy semester so he spent his spare time making a portfolio site - he's pretty awesome
  • I love Anh's easy weekend look
  • The newest college graduate in the family has her website up, she's a mega talented artist and is now based in Vancouver, B.C., Canada
  • Bookkeeping and Money Management by the lovely Bre of Rowan Made
  • Are you good enough to be a tennis line judge? Take this quiz
  • This rug DIY looks easy enough, I'm hoping to try it out in my new house!

What links have you been loving this week? Let me know in the comments!