Archive for July, 2011

Happy Birthday, Nia! Part II

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Nia’s birthday celebration did not end at the restaurant. We had our own celebration in San Gabriel the next evening (early evening). Actually, we had already been planning the menu a few weeks before. Wens and I were so excited to prepare the meal. Here are the babies for a little group shot.

reunion

While the babies were downstairs, the four boys were upstairs playing together. It was really nice to see Aiden and Jackson get along so well, even including Aldridge in their game. Ever the assertive one, Avery got in the action as well. When they weren’t on the iPad, they were sharing toy cars and playing together. What a nice group of boys!

boys' club

While Nia is now standing on her own, Allister is still learning how to crawl. Even though Allister is half a year younger than Nia, he already weighs as much as her! All that chubby legs and baby fat count for a lot. Here, they are checking each other out. It was so cute to see them interact!

Nia and Allister

We really went all-out for this meal. If brunch is between breakfast and lunch, what is the time between lunch and dinner? We ate this meal at around 2:30 p.m. The menu consisted of lamb chops, lobster, meat balls, crab, homemade noodles, and lemon iced tea. We really feasted that night!

home-cooked meal

It was tricky to eat all at the same time with babies and all, but we did begin by praying together as a family, thanking God for a time to celebrate our togetherness.

one side of the table ...

Then, the juggling act began — eating, feeding the babies, and making sure the boys were actually eating and not just playing at the other table while they watched He-Man on TV.

... and the other

Here are the boys in their little table. I guess Avery is just not big enough to join them yet.

Kids' Table

With so many boys and nephews in the family, I just had to get a shot of my special little nieces, Trinity and Nia. I don’t care what people say, I do think that little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice …

my two nieces and their moms

What is a Chinese family gathering without a family picture? I looked through many different copies before I decided on this one. We were all thinking about Tony and Kim as we sat for this shot. We wish they were there to celebrate another family gathering! Someday soon, I hope!

we miss TKNJ!

Happy Birthday, Nia!

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

My niece turned one! What a blessed, precious gift to our family. Most of all, she is a miracle to her parents who did not expect such a blessing! Here is the beautiful family in front of — where else — Golden Soup.

family picture

I am particularly proud of this outfit that Nia is sporting. When I first saw it in Shanghai, I knew I had to get it for her. The intricate embroidery was exquisite and people kept commenting on its unique Asian style. I thought Nia looked perfect. Her mom matched the outfit with a fitting hair bow and pink shoes.

birthday suit

There were four tables in the room we reserved for Nia’s party. Family and friends were grouped in different tables. In many ways, it was like the coming together of SoCal people related to Nia in various ways. And what better occasion to be together than to celebrate her birthday?

Golden Soup Suite

Kong Kong and Ama joined in as Nia blew out her candle. Well, actually, Jackson did it for her. There were flashes of camera all-around, paparazzi style. Can’t expect anything less!

blowing the candle

Before she left, we caught up with Ama and got a generation shot. To think that Ama is actually Nia’s great-grandmother! Wow. There’s Jackson, looking goofy.

with Ama

And here’s me again with the birthday girl. Awww ….

one more with the birthday girl

Relaxing …

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Another one of our little experiments was to make coffee ice cream. Indeed, coffee seems to be the theme of the week! The ice cream bowl had already been in the freezer for four weeks and just waiting to be used. The recipe called for a custard-based cream, so I took the time to stir the custard in the pot until it was thick and creamy. The result was this yummy, yummy ice cream!

creamy ...

Yes, there was coffee in the ice cream. Oh, but there’s more! We put chocolate chips and rum — yes, real alcoholic rum that Kristen found hidden in her pantry. It was just about the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Why buy from the store when you can make your own?

coffee chocolate chip rum ice cream

One of the things I learned is how Jackson is given chores to do. Here he is sorting the utensils and organizing them in the drawer.

sorting utensils

I’m not sure what Nia’s chores would be but her mom says she likes climbing into the dishwasher a lot. Hmmm ….

doing the dishes?

One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to the Victoria Rose, a tea house that serves finger foods and, of course, tea. Kristen took the kids to their grandparents’ house and we treated ourselves to a girly meal. I enjoyed the food immensely; the ambiance of the place didn’t hurt either. There’s something charming about using porcelain and dainty little tea cups.

Victoria Rose

As it turns out, her brother is the owner and head chef of Victoria Rose. Nathan came out of the kitchen to hang out and talk to us. I’ve been to several fine restaurants all over the world and sometimes wished I could pay my compliments to the chef. This is the first time I was able to do so. I know it’s cheesy, but I felt honored to meet someone who created such art!

meeting the head chef

Staying Cool

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

We couldn’t wait to taste the coffee the next morning! Even though it was already chilled, we still added the ice plus some other decadent stuff, like sweetened condensed milk. Yes, it tasted as refreshing as it looks!

best iced coffee

In the afternoon, we went for a swim at Pipa’s place. Here’s Allen and Jackson with their noodle tubes. I used it myself to tread into the deep end. Really nice.

Pipa's Pool

Nia got in the pool, too. She got into this spring float and played with the rest of us. Most of the time, she was with her Pipa, though. Grandpa’s little girl, indeed.

Nia Afloat

It was a hot summer day. As tempting as it was to dive in, I tried to keep myself dry from the head up because it is such a hassle to have to shampoo my hair that night. But it was a lot of fun to just play around in the pool with the kids.

swim fun

Another part of the fun was to wash and rinse off Nia in the sink afterward. Yes, she fit right in there. I got to shampoo her hair and towel her dry. Can’t say it enough. What a cutie pie!

rinsing off in the sink

The Grizzlies

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

I was welcomed in Fresno with a good ol’ summer minor league baseball game. As it turned out, the Fresno Grizzlies were playing the Bees — the Angels Triple A team! I was conflicted as to which team to cheer on! I caved and rooted for the home team. When in Rome …

Nothing like a warm and relaxing evening out in the ballpark. And nothing like (almost) catching a foul ball along the first base line! Twice, foul balls came our way! Allen let one slide off his fingers before someone else caught it. The second one came right in front of Jackson and the man who caught it eventually gave it to him. This is Jackson, proudly holding up his ball.

caught a foul ball (almost)

One funny anecdote was that the man introduced himself as Larry. Jackson then said that he knows a cartoon character named Larry (Veggie Tales). The guy didn’t know what he was talking about. “Nice to meet you, Action Jackson!”

Here’s me with my cute niece, Nia. She was very good the whole time. When not looking for food, she was content to be held and even watched some of the game!

watching the game

Unbeknownst to me, the Grizzlies do not win regularly. So, when they led by a few points early on, I heard comments that this was an unusual night. I’d like to think I brought the “win”! :-) We ended up leaving early and assuming they’d won the game. Either way, what a way to start my Fresno experience!

Grizzlies Won!

Kristen said she had been craving this iced coffee recipe. Though we were both non-coffee drinkers, we decided to give it a go! After all, she bought a whole bag of ground coffee just for this recipe. We poured it on!

Fresh Ground Coffee

The recipe called for overnight brewing (8 hours). She had this neat little container with a cute dispenser spout and we filled it up with water to be chilled in the fridge. We were excited for what it would taste like the next day!

Brewing Overnight

More Trinity

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

There’s something about seeing a father with his baby daughter that captures the imagination. In this picture, the little girl can hold her own as she stares back with that same look.

what are you looking at?

I picked up this cute shirt that says, “I love my Auntie.” I know it’s shameless and self-serving, but I couldn’t help it. I was delighted when I saw her that night wearing it. It was just too cute. It was perfect on her!

I love my Auntie!

The next morning, I got to babysit some more when I was given the responsibility of feeding her first thing in the morning. I even put her next to me in bed while I held the bottle. So nice to snuggle with a three-month old, especially when she smiles a lot and make little noises. I really like it when she sticks out her tongue out like this … love that dimple!!

tongue action

She is such a good baby — happy, healthy, and easy to please. I love holding her. She’s already beginning to respond to tickling, too. I think she will be a beautiful girl when she grows up!

one more time

Algee in Anaheim

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

I’d been wanting to go the beach since I came back to So. Cal. and what better place than Newport? I tagged along with Yeegee when she visited her office (scored on parking near the beach!) and I got to spend time (babysit) Trinity for that time. But first, we had lunch at this seafood restaurant at the end of the pier. It was overcast so we opted to eat outside, but I could tell the sun was out in full force because I got darker — at least it evened out my tan lines!

Newport Beach

I got to walk with Trinity along the beach while her mother took care of business in the office. I pushed Trinity in this sporty stroller while enjoying the cool weather and beach scenery. She was so quiet and so good the whole time. She was content just sucking her fingers.

walk along the beach

At one point, when I was peering into the stroller, she gave me this look that reminded me of her father. Her eyebrows would be knitted together as though she were communicating some kind of displeasure. It was the cutest thing! I just had to capture the look with my camera.

her father's look

That night, I tried to hold her as much as I could. Before she went to bed, though, she needed to be washed. Apparently, there is this bathing song that her mother likes to sing during bath time. It starts out with the words, “Cleaning Trinity …” It was a catchy tune and I think it stayed with me throughout the night.

cleaning Trinity ...

I stayed overnight in Anaheim and I fell asleep to the sound of Trinity crying, but I didn’t mind at all. I couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning so I could hold her again.

3GVL313

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Yes, the time actually came to part with my baby. I brought it into the shop and I called it the “last ride.” Some mechanic actually agreed to buy my car way above the Kelly blue book value. Of course, my parents jumped on it, though I really think the buyers are planning to gut the parts which are probably more valuable than the whole car itself. It’s not as though I’m attached to it, but since this was my first major purchase right out of college, it does hold sentimental value.

For example, I remember coming back for a visit from China about 2-3 years ago. I was driving the car along the 10 Freeway when I saw smoke coming from the hood. I exited Peck Road. It sputtered two times before it died completely (thankfully, just after I parked on a curb), coincidentally, a block away from the car dealership where I bought it. It’s as though my Corolla found its resting place. It was then that I had given up on it, taking it as a sign that I won’t be using/needing a car in CA anymore. Alas, it was revived when the parts were replaced and the car was given a new lease on life. It lived a few more years.

last ride

Another memory is when I proudly displayed my UCB alumni license plate frame and sticker in the back of the car the day after I bought it. Though the letters have faded somewhat, it was the stamp of ownership that has made it distinct for 17 years. My brother once said that it’s easy to remember my license plate because GVL makes him think of the words “give love.” From then on, that’s how I remembered it.

bye baby

I must acknowledge the knot in my stomach when I handed the keys and ownership slip to the mechanic wearing the blue overalls. “This was my first major purchase,” I said to him, as if asking him to take care of it. He merely gave me a glance like he didn’t hear me; he just seemed more interested in the keys.

All good things must come to an end, even those things I’ve taken for granted. Passing the car on to another reminds me once again of life’s changing seasons. Let go, let live, and let God. Dying begets new birth, and I look forward to many more new beginnings.

6th Month Birthday Celebration

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Maybe we were just looking for a reason to celebrate, but we found one very easily: Allister’s 6th month birthday. The thing is, we’d been wanting to try cooking a live lobster that also just happens to be on sale. Our plans got away with us and we ended up with a full-blown dinner, complete with chilled martinelli!

This is our jumbo lobster, pinchers (snapped shut with a rubber band) and all!

live lobster

We were genuinely sorry to see the lobster cooked alive inside the wok. Yes, we did apologize as it was cooking. Aiden wanted to give it a name when we first got it … it’s a good thing we didn’t or else we’d feel even worse.

sorry, lobster!

We got a little carried away with the table setting, breaking out the nice table wares with matching white plates and plastic goblets (reusable). It didn’t even really matter that all the utensils were not matching. At least our meals were scrumptiously presented (of course, our pasta was homemade fresh!).

table setting

Allister is probably not going to remember how much we made out of his 6th month birthday, including singing him a birthday song and “graduating” him from the bouncer to the table. I must say, though, that he looked mighty cute in his booster chair. He looked very comfortable, too.

allister's graduation

My philosophy has always been to “create those memories”! This is certainly one of those times when we went out of our way to celebrate something for the sake of celebrating it. We will not forget a nicely-dressed table on a Wednesday night! And there’s always something special about family gatherings to celebrate someone’s milestone.

happy 6th month birthday, allister!

What was Allister’s first meal at the big table? I think it was something from a Gerber bottle — I forgot which flavor. In any case, he washed it down with a bottle of milk anyway. We tried to give him a sippy cup of water but he wouldn’t take it. I don’t think he likes the consistency yet and how it goes down his throat. Well, I’m sure he’ll get used to it in time.

welcome to the big table

It only took him a few minutes after his meal, then he started getting restless; we had to pick him up after a while because he started crying. I tried to comfort him and hold him, all the while saying, “Welcome to the big table, little guy. Your life won’t be the same anymore. It’s all just the beginning …”

The Magic Castle

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Today, we got to go to a magic show in the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood. We were guests of members of this exclusive club who decided to give their tickets to us for this weekend. I’ve heard a lot about this place, especially when I worked in Hollywood many moons ago.

Before the magic show, we were treated to a brunch buffet which included prime rib, smoked salmon, all kinds of cheeses, waffles, seasoned potatoes, crispy bacon, as well as an assortment of chocolate desserts. It was a wonderful meal! Thankfully, though I was very full, I did not overeat like I usually do in these kinds of settings. After the brunch, we proceeded to the parlor for the magic show. The kids loved it and really got into it! I think that’s a big part of the fun for me. Because we were so close to the magicians, we could see their quick sleight-of-hand moves. I personally did not see some tricks that were not as well-executed but I listened as some of my family members caught a hanging string, a hidden pocket, and a peeping bird behind the coat.

the parlor

We could not take pictures inside the castle so I got these photos online. Right before we left, we sat around this room where Irma, the piano-playing ghost took song requests. It was basically the piano keyboards moving on their own without anyone playing them. The kids asked for songs from Elmo’s World and Veggie Tales. We asked for “Sound of Music.” She/He was pretty good … whoever was playing in the backroom. As we were heading out, she/he gave us a treat and followed us with “So Long, Farewell” from the Sound of Music.

Irma the ghost piano player