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Walk it Off

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Taken by me

Accidents happen as the saying goes. Everyone has heard this at least once or twice in their life and others have been warned against the dangers of driving distracted.

A regular weekday could have become a tragedy for the author. The car on top of the Corvette is mine. The van ahead of me was stopped at a yellow light turning red and I stopped once I saw the van. In the blink of an eye, I was pushed forward into the van by the Corvette and elevated at a 45 degree angle. The Corvette driver admitted they took their eyes off the road for a brief moment to retrieve something that had fallen on the floor of their car and before they knew it, their airbags had deployed and it was dark.

Everyone was fortunate to walk out of the accident in one piece. No one was younger than 26 in this accident – age has nothing to do with it. Regardless of age, no one should ever drive distracted.

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Ever Good Enough?

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My homepage suggested an article from Popular Science about a recent trend in consumerism, namely the craze behind bargain hunting and why people never stop looking for the best prices or deals. Curious, I took a look and mulled over the information presented.

The holidays always trigger a craze of people looking for the best deals on items, whether they are gifts for friends and family or a little something for ourselves. In recent years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday expanded to include days leading up to the designated “holidays” to give consumers a chance to shop with more time. I sense its because stores know that people want to think through their buys before forking over their money. There are still cases where the lure of a limited time frame or percentage can encourage people to shop in a frenzy, but the investment items require more thought and planning.

I encourage everyone to read the article from Popular Science to get the whole picture. In brief, it notes that our brains are trained to find the best bargains and we become fixated on what was saved, versus what drove us to buy the item in the first place. How many times have we bragged to people about how much something cost us? I know I’ve done it a few times, but I’m trying to share why I picked up said item and why I’m glad I bought it.

Take for example this dark chocolate crafted in the shape of a Day of the Dead skull I bought on Black Friday from a gourmet food market.

According to the gourmet market, it was made by a local artisan chocolate shop in Los Angeles for Day of the Dead. The item wasn’t expired or damaged, but it was no longer Day of the Dead and was on clearance for $2. Why did I buy it?

  1. The chocolate was 72%, which is one of my favorite percentages for dark chocolate.
  2. I have a fondness for skull items, especially consumable ones.
  3. I love buying unique chocolates and trying them out.

It’s long gone now, but I made sure to enjoy that skull. Very hard to eat – incredibly solid all the way through (no sunken or weak areas like in an Easter chocolate bunny). Flavor was deep, a little nutty, and a light hint of sweetness without being overpowering. Worth the $2? Yes because it was fun to look at and eat. I would have been hard-pressed to buy one full price since its a company I was unfamiliar with and the risk would have been disliking the chocolate.

What about you? Is Popular Science right about the never-ending chase of the bargains? Are you guilty of falling into this cycle? Share your thoughts below.

Oh How the Times are a Changin’

Taken by me

If you were to ask me about ‘change’ when I was younger, I would have scrunched my nose up and made an impressive disgruntled face about the concept. To me, it meant taking away something familiar, something comfortable that I could handle. Does that mean that I love change now? Yes and no.

I’m aware that to keep things the same means you’ll never grow or expand your horizons. Instead, one becomes complacent. With that in mind, I’ve come to terms that change can be good and bad – one needs to be on their toes and ready for whatever comes their way.

The picture at the top of this post is from my favorite San Diego Thai restaurant – as of three weeks ago, I will not be able to dine here again like a local resident. After 17 years, my folks have left sunny SoCal for the East Coast, due to work and future retirement plans. While I had lived close to work for almost 5 years now, it feels different telling friends that if I come it will be a short weekend visit or that I may not see them until San Diego Comic Con next summer.

Do I miss the house I’ve grown up in? Oddly it never felt like home – yes I was able to make my room look the way I wanted and I was fortunate to have the ability to create my own Japanese rock garden outside my window. But the neighborhood I lived in was isolated: houses were spaced out very far, neighbors often didn’t celebrate holidays with visual decorations, and it was rare anyone did get-togethers with fellow neighbors. I do hold memories of many pool parties with friends, a few sleepovers, and baking holiday cookies with my parents. (Cue a family assembly line of Mom making frosting and me and Dad decorating the cookies before stacking them to dry on the counter tops.)

If you were to ask me “What’s your hometown?” I will reply with “San Diego” because I’ve spent most of my youth growing up there and making memories. Some of my classmates used to joke about our small town in San Diego, saying that it was sleepy and if you craved adventure and excitement, you were better off moving as far away from our town as possible. I was always split between the comfort and serenity of my small suburban town I was raised in and the energy of the bigger cities further away. There had been a point where I wondered if I would take a job closer to home once I graduated but life is very unpredictable and sometimes you have to roll with the punches.

Lots of changes happening at once but I’m keeping my head up and looking ahead as best as I can. It’s all one can do in times like this.

Sipping Stars and Finding Soul

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Happy 2017 to my readers!

How many of you have heard music playing in coffee shops, pulled out your fancy smartphones, and used an app to determine the song playing? I’ve done it many times so I can hunt down the full song on YouTube or another platform for listening to the whole tune.

A quick stop into Starbucks this afternoon led me to hear the chorus for this gem, which resulted in a look up via SoundCloud to find the title for later.

A short snippet of piano hooks you in, later used as a foundation melody repeated in the background as more instruments build on it into the chorus. Instantly this small hook transported my mind to a smoky, seedy bar with neon lights flickering in the window with a handful of patrons – mostly locals. (Fitting as the first verse muses if the singer’s ex lover is out drinking and possibly free to hear her out one more time.)

The haunting vocals crooning this song of failed relationships and reminiscing about the good times belongs to fresh-faced LÉON, who hails from Stockholm, Sweden. In addition to this single, she has an EP titled Treasure out now and a full album on the way.

The combination of her delivery and instrumental music is refreshing for me in an era of electronica, fast-paced music, and heavy synthesizers. Something tells me that her star is going to grow brighter in the near future…

Time Flies by When You’re Telling a Story

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Last week marked the 5th anniversary of Your Smile is Priceless – who knew that a blog analyzing the blogger’s life in a society struggling to pull itself out of the recession combined with literature would grow from an audience of her classmates to beyond?

I wish to extend a huge thank you to all of my followers and readers for coming and staying on for the ride – it has been a pleasure sharing glimpses of my life, the small nuggets of success, and the occasional drabble with you.

In addition to work, I promised myself to make the most out of my time at San Diego Comic Con this summer. Previously in 2015, I spent many days camping out for hours to stake my place in Hall H for several panels from Lionsgate, BBC, and 20th Century Fox with good friends. Don’t get me wrong readers – my friends and I had some good times waiting in line but my dad commented that I missed many of the smaller panels or experiences taking place on the floor. This time, most of the panels I attended were smaller and I was fortunate to immerse myself in the floor activity and some of the outside offerings (Vote for Snoopy and Suicide Squad x Samsung Experience to name a few).

stan-lee-2Photo taken by Susan K.

Save for walking around the convention floor, I did get in a long line to draw a ticket for a limited autograph session for MARVEL legend and early founder Stan Lee. It was rumored that this was Mr. Lee’s final appearance at SDCC, due to age and stamina. Like me, many were clamoring to be one of a hundred fans who got a coveted wristband. My mom and I stepped up to the ticket drawing bags and were fortunate to draw winning tickets for the signing. No pictures with Stan or conversations were permitted, but you could try to slip in a selfie from the waiting area of the line.

stan-leePhoto taken by Susan K.

Everyone expected a huge group of security surrounding him when he was scheduled to start the signing but instead, he walked up from a backstage elevator by himself, smile on his face and waving at everyone in line. My mom snapped this picture of him smiling at me after he returned my signed print of Spider-man before I was ushered out of the signing area. A living legend and a truly memorable moment.

To all of my readers out there, I want to hear your priceless and memorable moments that you’ve had recently. Feel free to share down in the comments.

Define Happy

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Hey, where in the world has the author been? It’s almost been two months since we last saw her!

Instead of pleading the Fifth, how about I share with you some snapshots of my life while I was away from this wonderful blogging space:

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13040838_10153589706207963_1316372428640684390_oTaken by Chrissy Ives

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Yes, multiple visits to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood were made during the months of April and May with good friends. Contrary to my expression in the first picture, I did try Butterbeer and thought it was interesting, but I preferred the Gillywater. 🙂

Early May was Spring Dapper Day at the Disneyland Resort and there was no shortage of Dapper Disneybounders like myself. It’s a no brainer for me to channel my favorite Lucky Rabbit.

I guess you could say that the month of April and May were spent trying to reconnect with old friends and making new memories. Many of these people I haven’t seen in almost a year and now that many of us are working, getting married, or studying graduate or doctorate degrees, we hardly have time to hang out and just have fun without the worries. These three images are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of time spent with friends and family, but I like to think that in those months, I said yes to more fun times than ever.

All right gang, how about you? Any exciting, magical events take place while I was gone?

Flash! They’re Gone or Are They?

Remember when people were crazy about flash sale sites? I’m talking about Gilt, Hautelook, Beyond the Rack – did you ever shop from there? Why were they so hot back then?

Yes, I used a past tense for that last sentence. While the sites haven’t been shut down, many of them have changed ownership, now being bought out by bigger companies and merging with existing store discount initiatives. Hautelook being bought out by Nordstroms, now lumped with Nordstroms Rack easily comes to mind when one thinks about the fate of flash sale sites. Now Saks Fifth Avenue is looking to make Gilt their version of Hautelook to rival Nordstroms.

Going back to the question of why flash sites were the cheese to someone’s macaroni for sometime, I suspect a lot of it had to do with the thrill. It’s no secret that the goal of many retail stores, whether it be clothing or home decor want people to spend money at the end of their visit. Sales are alluring to many who don’t want to pay full price, especially if there’s the threat of a store being out of your size.

Video posted by Tucker Michaels

This old Gilt ad illustrates it very well – two shoppers eye an item, but there’s only one in their size. It’s down to speed and luck to secure the coveted item they want before someone else snags it. Many times we buy things because we convince ourselves “It’s my size”, “It’s on sale”, or “If I don’t get it, I’m gonna regret it.” Making shoppers fight to get the items they want heightens the thrill of shopping, in some cases it results in buyer’s remorse.

Years later, people aren’t willing to fight it out anymore or they are simply interested in different stores and brands, especially if there is an easy return policy. Sometimes it just makes more sense to drive to the closest store, return what you’re not keeping, and call it a day, versus packing the item up and paying return shipping in some cases.

While all of these flash sites hearkened to the budding trend of people preferring to shop online, it appears that many of them couldn’t adapt on their own to meet new demands from online shoppers. After all, while it can be fun getting a great deal, the return policy and process can look more like a hassle if its shipping returns only.