Happy Blog-iversary!

As of today, I have been blogging for an entire year! I’ve had a couple of blogs in the past, but none that have lasted this long or had any sort of following whatsoever, so this is quite exciting. I’ve been able to unpack thoughts on this blog, as well as share fun facts about my life and travels.

What does the future hold for Perfect Harmonies? Since this is purely a hobby for me, I don’t plan on trying to make any significant income from it. However, it is a very fun hobby and I’d love to grow my content and readership, so I do plan on making some improvements and implementing some new ideas around here. Look for fun changes over the next few months!

To celebrate Perfect Harmonies’ first birthday, here are some of my favorite and most significant posts from the past year.

The realization that my life struggles happen for a reason.

A solo trip to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studios in London.

How I view my role as a wife, and what’s awesome about being married to T.

Top five things I’ve learned from working at a dental office.

One of the most life-changing decisions I’ve ever made.

Why every kid needs cousins, and why we will eventually give our nephew some of his own.

The story behind my right-hand ring.

Traveling to Brazil? Here are some of my observations about the Portuguese language.

How I overcame one of my biggest fears.

25 days of Christmas music.

The greatest trip of my life.

How to be awesome at public transportation.

I hope you enjoy reading Perfect Harmonies as much as I enjoy writing it! What are some of your favorite posts?

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2014: Looking Back

What a year it’s been for us. 2014 took off running and never slowed down. I feel like every time we got through one major thing, something else major came up. Here are the highlights (and some lowlights as well).

Travel: T and I went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February, to visit friends. It was my first time in South America and T’s first international trip ever, and the language barrier was quite a challenge. I also went to England and France with my grad school chamber choir, where I explored Oxford, nerded out at Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studios, attended an Evensong service at Westminster Abbey, took in tons of champagne and World War-era history in Reims, and admired the Paris Opera House, drank incredibly thick hot chocolate, and stood in awe of the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Finally, I spent a month in Weimar, Germany for a summer opera program.

T and me with Christ the Redeemer in Rio.

T and me with Christ the Redeemer in Rio.

Work: I started two new jobs, one at the dental office and the other as the director of our church choir. T made great strides in his job as well, getting promoted and working towards some certification tests.

Family: Three new babies were born into our family, which has been a huge blessing. My dad got married, and my mom sold her house, bought a new one, and moved just yesterday. Multiple family relationships have been stretched thin and subsequently healed this year, and I hope for further strengthening over the next year.

Baby T and me at Christmas.

Baby T and me at Christmas.

Friends: Two of our best friends got married in July in a wonderful celebration. Three weeks later, one of them was diagnosed with cancer. It was a big shock to everyone, and it definitely caused T and me to think about our own health and lives. After surgery and chemo, our friend is now cancer-free. In the midst of all this, we’ve continued to strengthen the bond we have with our friends and learn to trust in God for His mercy and healing.

Singing: I made the difficult but absolutely right decision to quit my pursuit of singing as a career and instead focus on the things that truly matter to me. It was a long, hard, painful process, but I know it’s where God has been leading me for a long time. I will continue singing as a hobby and a passion, but from now on my career choices will be ones that contribute to our current and future family. On a positive note, I did get to sing one of my favorite roles for the second time, as well as add a couple of new roles to my resumé, and I will be starting rehearsals for a new show next week.

Church: Our church had been going through a process over the past couple years of determining whether or not to leave our denomination, Presbyterian Church (USA), because of some faith-based issues arising in the upper levels of PC(USA). After months of discussion and debate, a straw poll in June, and more months of discussion and debate (and lots of fragmentation and division within the church), our church body voted earlier this month to leave PC(USA) and move our church to a different Presbyterian denomination, ECO. None of it was easy or pleasant, but seeking the will of God and following His direction is ultimately more important than anything else.

Personal: I achieved many of my monthly and yearly goals, including saving money consistently and adding at least one new role to my resumé (see above). I also overcame one of my biggest fears, and I made the extremely important decision to quit the business of singing and focus on creating a future for my family.

And now, my goals for 2015!

  • Look to God’s will for my life and use it above all else to determine my choices.
  • Create a solid savings account that will go towards a down payment on a house.
  • Develop a healthier lifestyle, whether that means cooking at home more often or being more physically active.
  • Figure out what sort of career path I might want and take steps to get there.

Happy New Year, everyone! May God bless you in the coming year.

(More) Brazilian Candy Acquired!

While we were in Rio, we asked our friends what kinds of food and goodies we should bring home. Instead of simply giving us a list, they handed us a bag full of candy that they had personally picked out. Naturally, all of them were ridiculously yummy and addicting, and some of them disappeared before we even landed back in San Francisco.

One of my favorites was the Bis, a wafer covered in chocolate similar to a Kit-Kat bar, but not being from the US, it was of course better. We brought back four of them, and three were gone within about two days of us coming home (I’m not ashamed). So T, tired of me hoarding all the chocolate, found these Bis bars on Amazon and ordered them. And look what already arrived this morning:

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Yummmmmmmmmmm. It’s going to be hard to save some for T, but I’ll do my best.

Interested in what else we loved about Rio? Check out two of our favorite spots: Pão de Açúcar and Cristo Redentor.

Rio de Janeiro: Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf) and Final Thoughts

On our final day in Rio, we ventured up to Pão de Açúcar, the mountain formation in the bay that is almost as iconic a sight as Cristo Redentor. This was a somewhat frightening adventure for me, since I’m terrified of cable cars, but I managed to survive FOUR different ones and make it all the way to the top of the upper mountain! There’s not a lot to say about it, other than the views are fantastic and it’s an absolute must if you’re ever in Rio.

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View from the lower mountain.

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Looking up towards the upper mountain.

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Corcovado, where Cristo Redentor resides (you can just barely see him).

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Can you say “terrifying” in Portuguese?

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Looking back down the cables at the end of the upward journey.

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On the backside of the upper mountain are several hiking trails. They looked tough, so we didn’t go far, but it was beautiful.

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Incredible, no?

There were tons of other little things we enjoyed about Rio that didn’t warrant their own posts.* I could tell you about the sucos (juices) that you can buy on every street corner, the fresh pão de queijo (cheese bread) that makes my mouth water just thinking about it, the dinner we had in a Brazilian steakhouse where a German tourist group kept bursting into spontaneous song, the hippie fair in Ipanema that was the best arts and crafts fair ever… the list goes on and on.

*For more details about what to do in Rio, check out Julie’s blog, Alone With My Tea. She lives there, after all.

All in all, T and I both felt like we got as much out of our time in Rio as we possibly could. To be honest, if we had been choosing anywhere in the world to go on vacation, we probably would have chosen somewhere like Germany, or maybe Hawaii. I don’t think we would have ventured to Brazil if we hadn’t had friends living there who probably won’t be living there in another six months or so. But in the end, we’re so glad we did!

Can’t get enough of Rio? Read about how we managed to get ourselves there and coped with the language barrier, and the various sights we saw: Christ the Redeemer, downtown Rio, and the glorious beaches.

Rio de Janeiro: Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)

All you have to do is type the words “Rio de Janeiro” into a Google image search, and the first many photos will be Cristo Redentor. It makes sense, being that it’s a massive statue of Jesus overlooking a gorgeous bay. There was no way we weren’t going to head up to Corcovado to check it out.

To be completely honest, I’m not sure how we got there exactly. The four of us got in a taxi and got out on a random street corner, where we bought train tickets at a little unsuspecting kiosk. We hopped on for a half-hour ride up the rainforest mountainside, which provided us with some beautiful views… but nothing like what we would get at the top.

Views from the train ride up.

Views from the train ride up.

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At the top of the mountain, we got off the train below the base of the statue and climbed another couple of flights of stairs to get to the base. There was a lower platform with a gift shop at the back of the statue, one more flight of stairs, and then… there he was.

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So much bigger than I expected.

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There were also some incredible views from the front of the statue.

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It was hard not to feel the presence of Jesus in that place, and not just because of his size. The way he looks over the city with his arms outspread makes it seem as though he is constantly watching and protecting the world. As a Christian, I know that’s the truth, and as silly as it may sound, seeing a representation of Jesus larger than life brought it a little closer to home for me.

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As Julie said, “Husband, friends, and Jesus. What else do you need?”

Check out another one of Rio’s major landmarks, Sugarloaf, and the important words we needed to know to get to all these cool places.

Rio de Janeiro: Exploring Downtown Rio

By the middle of our trip, T and I were off on our own and feeling confident that we could navigate around the city a little bit. We took the metro from Copacabana into Centro, the downtown area of Rio, and checked out some of the sights recommended by Peter and Julie.

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Me in front of the Municipal Theatre, because duh.

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The Lapa aqueduct.

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The beautiful Lapa mosaic steps.

Me and T on the Lapa steps.

Me and T on the Lapa steps.

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Loved the little shout-out to Will Smith in the middle of Centro.

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Confeitaria Colombo, an unsuspecting-from-the-street but huge and beautiful café.

After several hours of walking, it was time to head back to the beach… but not before stopping to buy T a nice, squishy pair of Havianas.

Wondering what else to do in Rio? I recommend Cristo Redentor, Pão de Açúcar, or simply chilling on the beach.

Rio de Janeiro: Beach Time

If you read my first post about Rio, you know that everything leading up to us actually touching ground in Brazil was a total nightmare. Once we landed, though, everything turned around (literally, since we were suddenly in the southern hemisphere and experiencing the exact opposite weather from what we had just escaped). From the minute we saw the faces of our friends Peter and Julie waiting for us outside customs, our time in Rio was fantastic.

One of the biggest draws of Rio is, of course, the beach (or praia). Peter and Julie live near Praia Barra da Tijuca, which we walked to several times during our visit. It’s much less crowded than the other, more popular, touristy beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana, where we spent the latter half of our trip.

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Praia Barra da Tijuca.

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Happily reunited with the lovely Julie of Alone With My Tea!

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T and me on Praia Barra da Tijuca, on our first day there. The perfect cure for jet lag, especially when you land at 3 AM local time.

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A pre-storm sunset on Praia Barra da Tijuca.

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Bubbles in the surf.

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Copacabana, where we spent a few days in the latter part of our trip.

Relaxing on the beach was just one of the highlights of our time in Rio. Some of my other favorite spots in the city were centro, or downtown, Christ the Redeemer, and Sugarloaf. Also, here are the language basics that will help you get to all those places.