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After over seven years of posting on sonyalei.blogspot.com, I've finally made the decision to switch my blog over to my own domain! Thank you Blogger, you have been good to me and will always have a special place in my heart, but helllllo no more shitty image compression and complicated work-arounds :)

It's already been eight months since my last post in May of 2017 and a lot has happened! I know I promised myself to try to blog at least once a month, but clearly that did not happen - mainly because I've been journaling daily in my muji planner which has sort of taken the place of my blog :\ But in a way, that's actually pretty good! Now when I blog (and I will. 2018 new year new me amirite?), I can more easily narrow down how much content I write. Flipping through my journal (and honestly having a hard time deciphering my tiny handwriting) for a rundown of all that's happened in these past eight months!

 My muji journal that I've been using this year + a tomo latte from  Coffee Tomo  in Sawtelle LA - I've really developed a taste for espresso drinks this year @__@ 

My muji journal that I've been using this year + a tomo latte from Coffee Tomo in Sawtelle LA - I've really developed a taste for espresso drinks this year @__@ 

MAY Visited Boston - played alot of video games with ZBT bros, attended two figure drawing sessions w/ Ariana, caught up with various friends over many brunches, went to senior ball with Eric, and tried a delicious fusion tapas place in Central Square, Little Donkey. Completed Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi's Schoolism painting class on Color and Light which was an amazingly challenging/frustrating/rewarding experience and started Alex Woo's Gesture Drawing class. Started weekly Japanese conversation practice skypes with Yuta which are really fun but so frustrating since I have the speaking ability of a toddler. Went to city to do free portraits for people in Central Park with Ko and tried an amazing gelato place called Grom.  Family things - went to Kaylin's school for her school's art show, watched her dance recital, made katsudon and fresh lemonade for the first time, watched a lot of Harry Potter together, had a run in with crazy spicy thai food that put mom and I in a lot of pain, and parents celebrated 29th anniversary holy moly :o

 From Little Donkey - Razor clam ceviche

From Little Donkey - Razor clam ceviche

 Black pepper popovers w/ wagyu steak tartare

Black pepper popovers w/ wagyu steak tartare

 Manti - Istanbul meal ravioli 

Manti - Istanbul meal ravioli 

JUNE Went to Portland, ME with Eric and ate at so many delicious places - the most notable being Fore Street, a farm-to-table restaurant (we tasted possibly the most delicious mushroom that ever existed), and Vena's Fizz House, a craft cocktail bar. We also spent a fun afternoon zooming around on Peak's Island in a little golf cart taking in the beautiful scenery and pretending to be troops dispatching from moving vehicles lol. Discovered that I loved heist films when we watched Ocean's 11, 12, and 13. Attended more figure drawing sessions with Ariana and met Jessie in person for the first time. Watched Eric officially become an MIT graduate! Started going to Starbucks to do work with Emma who is also going to be home for the next while, was really great to catch up with her! Went on a day trip with fam to NYC and a long weekend trip to DC to see memorials, museums, tour the national mint and government buildings, eat delicious food, and see the zoo (which might've been my favorite part even though I'm morally against zoos and avoid them when I can :/)  Set up a compost bin with mom to try and be more green! Started learning how to paint with watercolors to try and apply to Studio Ghibli who announced that they were recruiting for Miyazaki's final film - so crazy!

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 Delicious breakfast options and nice ambience at A Baked Joint in D.C

Delicious breakfast options and nice ambience at A Baked Joint in D.C

 Yogurt topped with fresh fruit, honey, and granola

Yogurt topped with fresh fruit, honey, and granola

 One of the most beautiful places we visited - the Library of Congress!

One of the most beautiful places we visited - the Library of Congress!

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JULY Took two day trips with fam to NYC to visit the Met and the Museum of Natural History - managed to convince my parents to try their first kbbq at Jongro in Ktown and they loved it! Also did some more portraits in Central Park, but attempted with watercolor this time. Helped Eric move into Philly which involved a Uhaul adventure in which we lowkey dented the top of the vehicle from trying to go into a parking garage with clearance that was too low LOL. Also went on many Ikea adventures which was really fun! Officially completed and sent out my Ghibli app which included two large original paintings and a form filled out in Japanese (what a struggle oh man.) Went to my first OB/GYN appointment which was weird and even weirder when my OB, a 60-70 year old small indian man, gave me unexpected life advice when I was leaving - "Always listen to yourself!" Spent a wonderful week with family at Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod spent doing ALOT of walking, visiting many lighthouses (my mom insisted we see all of them..), and relaxing on the beach. My favorite part was probably walking in the ocean during lowtide in the morning - the shallow water stretched on forever over the flat sand - it was absolutely gorgeous.

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AUGUST Spent the month dog-sitting Buzz, a family friend's very energetic puppy which was a lot more work than I expected haha, and even though I lost a flipflop to Buzz's chewing and spent too much time trying to wrestle non-food items from his mouth (hello broken glass on sidewalks), I enjoyed morning runs, tummy rubs, and doing work while he slept on my feet hehe so cute ~ Finally started Wouter Tulp's Character Design Schoolism course and began compiling refs, fleshing out story ideas, and sketching characters to build a portfolio! Visited Eric in Philly and checked out Reading Terminal which was very charming! Watched a really dope short, Pear Cider and Cigarettes by Robert Valley, which gave me hope that animation can be so much more than children's entertainment. Also started some freelance vis dev and illustration work this month for a board game. 

SEPTEMBER Went on a fun day trip with fam to Asbury Park Beach on Labor Day - the weather was perfect for lounging, bobbing around in the waves, and walking around on the boardwalk eating junk food :D Kaykay went back to school as a 4th grader! They grow up so fast :') Went on many 7:30am weekend runs with Dad which I really enjoyed. Khanh came to visit for a week since she was interviewing in the area and we danced together a bit (man it made me miss dance so much @__@), did work, and caught up! She also tried to explain to me all of Game of Thrones which sounds like a very complicated and violent show haha. Started work on story paintings for my portfolio and made the difficult decision to do the whole thing in watercolor which I was scared would be very risky given how digital is the norm in the industry. Went to a fun housewarming in the city. Started a crazy workout plan with Emma that rendered me immobile on the second morning when I woke up.

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 Matching on the first day of school! So embarrassing lol

Matching on the first day of school! So embarrassing lol

OCTOBER Went apple picking with fam and Eric! Seeing Kaykay open up and goof around with Eric is really nice :) Found out that I can actually kind of juggle. Continued the crazy workout regimen with Emma and actually saw some changes in my body strength! Mostly spent the month just grinding out my portfolio which was really stressful and exciting to see it all slowly come together. At one point I hadn't gone outside in a long time and was shocked by the fact that all the leaves had turned color and took a bunch of pictures lol. Read Real, an amazing manga by Inuoe Takehiko. He is incredibly skilled at portraying such nuanced human emotions - I was really moved by his work T__T Went to a Titmouse industry party invited by my talented instagram friend, Yudi. It was really cool to talk to people who work in the industry for the first time! Spent some time with NYC friends, and ran into a lot of old familiar faces at the Starbucks in town. Got a custom domain name and set up my online portfolio! Designed and ordered business cards! Trick-or-treated for the first time in a very long time with Kaykay!

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NOVEMBER This was a crazy month! Finished up my CTNx portfolio and spent most of the first week doing preparation for the convention. Received my MOO printed business cards and was soso excited. Visited Eric in Philly and got my first bubble tea in over four months (I had banned myself from drinking it until I finished my portfolio) but surprisingly it wasn't the delicious victory I expected but just tasted sickeningly sweet. Went to Rich Chigga concert which was laughably short (I think he rapped for a total of 25 minutes?) but cool to see the top of his hair over the sea of tall people in front of us. Started watching Avatar the Last Airbender with the fam everyday after dinner. It was such a special show to me when I was younger and it's so exciting to see my whole family enjoying it together. Took a trip to San Francisco with Eric to celebrate our three year anniversary!! Had a lot of fun exploring SF for the first time - I found the colorful architecture really charming, the hispanic food absolutely delicious, the ramen and tsukemen to die for, Boba Guys very overhyped, and the hills very unwalkable lol. We had a wonderful anniversary dinner at Mourad, a modern Moroccan restaurant, and also my first Michelin-star restaurant. It was such a new experience - the food was inventive and honestly didn't look like food - but it was so delicious, and there were even servers who walked around to thoroughly explain exactly what flavors you were experiencing and why. Mind blown. Also spent time catching up with friends I haven't seen in a long time - went to a Korean spa with PJ and Kristin and got my body demolished in my first professional message. Visited the Airbnb office (it was gorgeous) and ate with Gabe, Matt, and Nolan. Went out to karaoke with Eric Sarah, Ktian, Weiwei, and Izzo (got my first hangover the next day :o) Got the grand tour of Facebook headquarters from Weiwei which resembled Disneyland's Mainstreet America haha. Flew down to sunny Los Angeles and walked along the beach with Eunice and Michael while eating ice cream... IN NOVEMBER. How is that fair? Attended CTNx in Burbank with Jessie (honestly wouldn't have accomplished half of the things I did during the trip if it wasn't for her pushing me and cheering me on)! Was a really humbling and inspiring weekend surrounded by such talented individuals, sat in on some really amazing talks/panels, got my portfolio reviewed by several studios, but more importantly, left with the sense that I can do this! I don't know if it will be in a year or two or more, but I know that I will get there if I keep working on it. And what's more, there's so many different ways to get there. Spent the rest of November following up with people post-CTNx, documenting all the things I'd learned, and relaxing with the fam. We had a delicious hotpot Thanksgiving, watched Coco which was gorgeously made, and set up the Christmas tree! 

 Kanpachi - watermelon, padron pepper, avocado, serpent cucumber (the little mini watermelons!) It doesn't even look like food, but tasted incredible. Iphone camera doesn't do it justice :(

Kanpachi - watermelon, padron pepper, avocado, serpent cucumber (the little mini watermelons!) It doesn't even look like food, but tasted incredible. Iphone camera doesn't do it justice :(

 Honey & Almond - orange blossom,   beeswax  , and icy granita - my favorite of the night! It was like ice cream but so light and fluffy I could eat it forever *__*

Honey & Almond - orange blossom, beeswax, and icy granita - my favorite of the night! It was like ice cream but so light and fluffy I could eat it forever *__*

  Jessie and I at CTNx! Stole this one from her  blog  :P  

Jessie and I at CTNx! Stole this one from her blog :P 

DECEMBER Did some commissions this month to try and slightly offset all the money I spent on my CTNx trip! Opened up commissions on Facebook and was really touched by how much support I received T__T Also started working with gouache, which is basically an opaque watercolor and really fun to work with! One of my favorite artists who works in gouache is Peter Chan, his still lifes are so beautiful, realistic and abstract at the same time *__* Celebrated Eric's birthday and explored NYC together - I love the city during the holiday season, it's so lively and festive! We grabbed lunch at Cafe China, a Michelin-star Chinese place in Midtown which was very authentic & a e s t h e t i c. Went last minute Christmas shopping with Mok and Weiwei on the 24th :o Watched my sister perform the Nutcracker! Had a wonderful week with the family during Christmas break - watched a lot of Avatar, played Horizon: Zero Dawn all together, made pizza from scratch, folded a billion dumplings, went bowling, went ice skating, watched the Greatest Showman, and did some shopping. Also caught up with Nicole and Narindra who were in town! Chopped off all my hair that I'd been growing out for the past year and a half. Watched Victor and Dan perform at an open mic night and caught up with them too! Grudgingly played board games with Nolan, Brian, and Matt, but ended up really getting into the game haha. Met up with Khanh and Sarah in the city for delicious coffee and treats at Grace Street Cafe. Rang in the New Year at an Asian party with my family, playing many many hours of Zhao Pengyou. 

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Reflecting back on 2017, it was a wonderful, but challenging, year and also a very necessary step I needed to take for myself. I finally worked towards something I believed in, and took the time to connect with my family and friends who I've fallen out of touch with during college. I was truly touched by all the support I received from family and friends (and even strangers!) this year, and although most of you will probably never read this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the encouragement and perseverance you gave me. I will keep fighting the good fight in 2018!!!