Archive for November, 2008

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas…

Christmas is a-coming early this year. I just pulled something of an overeager-shopping-mall faux pas and decorated my house for Christmas before Thanksgiving this year. But this is the first time in the last eight years that Mark and I are actually spending Christmas at home and not traveling so I’ve got some pent up decorating enthusiasm.

The first order of the day was getting the tree. We had originally planned on getting a real Christmas tree — we figured at the very least we should do it for Noah — but then we saw the price list and thought, “Uh…US$100 for a four foot tree? Yeah, I don’t think so.” That pine fresh scent is way overrated anyway (isn’t that what candles and scent diffusers are for?) and Noah’s seen real Christmas trees in the past (hooray for grandparents). So with our guilt somewhat alleviated, it was off to city’super for a fake tree.

Mark adamantly refused to let me buy a pink tree so we bypassed the pink, white, blue and purple tree section and drifted towards the green trees. We had one picked out when, lo and behold, what’s this beside the green tree? A black fiber optic tree? Sold. We picked up a couple tubes of ball ornaments, paid for everything and lugged it back home where Noah, Clarita and I started to put it together.

Here is Noah admiring our newly put together Christmas tree:

And putting ornaments up:

Ta-da!

The tree is awesome. Any disappoint over not having a real tree has been forgotten because the fiber optic lights look so cool (not to mention it’s saved us from actually having to buy tree lights):

Plus Mark and I have been having a blast taking pictures of it in the dark:

Of course, I still have a lot of decorating left to do but the big thing is out of the way and it feels that much more festive already.

November 23, 2008 at 9:17 pm 4 comments

Happy Birthday to Me

Yes, it’s a little narcissistic to title a post, “Happy Birthday to Me”, but on your birthday you’re allowed to have no imagination.

My day started off a little rocky.  I woke up still feeling a little sick — sick enough for me to skip out on meeting my trainer, Alex, for my workout appointment — and when I got up with Noah to get him fed and ready for school, at one point he started to beat on me thus earning himself a timeout within 10 minutes of waking up.  A new record for him I believe.  Clarita finished getting Noah ready for school after that so I could get dressed and get going.  I was determined to make my own birthday cake this year but had forgotten to pick up more sugar so I needed to make one last grocery run before I could start.  I ended up running into Alex on the bus into Central — thus blowing my whole “I’m too sick to work out” story — but he was nice enough to buy me a birthday latte anyway.  Yay for free coffee!

I got back in time to pick Noah up from the bus and he proceeded to treat me to one of the worst afternoon of tantrums I’ve ever experienced.  It seemed like anything and everything would set him off on a rage.  I got bitten, I got hit, and he got a couple more timeouts out of it.  I had originally planned on having him help me make the cake but Mark offered to take him off my hands in the afternoon. Clarita and Noah left to meet up with Mark so they could do a little birthday shopping which left me where I wanted to be — alone in the kitchen.

At some point in the year, I got it in my head that I wanted a red velvet cake for my birthday.  Don’t ask me why.  I’ve had red velvet maybe twice in my life and as far as cakes go, there a few that top it on my list of favorites, but boy they sure are pretty.  And so, red velvet it was.  The actually cake itself wasn’t that difficult to make.  The hardest part was finding a recipe for it since I wasn’t quite sure what exactly made for a good red velvet cake.  After days of research, I found the recipe I ultimately ended up using here.

Here is the batter after I poured in a whole bottle of red food coloring:

On some level, I realize that that much food coloring probably isn’t healthy, but I wanted a red cake and by god I was going to have a red cake.

Mmmmm. Anyone want to lick this? Yeah…didn’t think so…

One of the layers after baking. I had to slice the top off so I could have an even surface for icing/stacking:

And the cake after a crumb coat, a real coating of icing, and some really amateurish rosette-ish icing things. But this was my first time doing any extravagant cake decorating (a la the rosette-ish border thing) so overall, not a bad job if I do say so myself.

While I was making the icing, Mark, Noah and Clarita came home. Noah — in a good mood now — greeted me with, “Happy Birthday Mommy! We got you a present!” Followed by Mark hushing him, which only prompted him to add, “We got you a book Mommy!” This time followed by Mark loudly whispering, “Shhhhh Noah! It’s a secret!” And then Noah loudly whispering to me, “Mommy, we got you a secret!” hehe. For dinner we had decided to just do our regular pizza-and-a-movie night since I’d been craving a thin-crust cheese pizza for the longest time. Mark even let me open my presents early because the pizza was taking forever to arrive. As Noah had eloquently blurted out earlier I got two books — The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and What is the What. Two very excellent books…which I know because I already had them. Oops. At least Mark has good taste in books. He also picked up Photoshop CS4 for me since I’d been going on about wanting a photo editor for a while.

Pizza finally arrived 90 minutes(!!) after I ordered it. We were starving by then so we went through it pretty fast. Noah had been going on and on about the cake ever since he got home and saw it — even going so far as to invite his friends from the playground over so they could have cake too — so he ate the minimum requisite amount of pizza for him to get dessert. Here he is helping me with the candles:

And yes, there are fewer than 31 candles on that cake. Only because I forgot to pick up some more on my grocery run earlier. There are 11 candles, so sue me. And for anyone wondering how the cake turned out, it was awesome — a beautiful shade of red, moist, and chocolaty with a nice, not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. I would definitely recommend the recipe for anyone curious to try it.

November 21, 2008 at 9:35 pm 11 comments

Birthday Stuff

Last year for my birthday, we splurged quite a bit and went to Thailand for the weekend. But now that the big 3-0 has come and gone, it’s back to low-key birthdays for me. I’ve gotten a few calls/emails asking what I want for my birthday so I started up a gift registry to make it easier on people. You can find it here:

http://www.heifer.org/myregistry/csmhk

Lately I’ve been telling people not to get me a gift and to give it to charity instead but that never seems to happen, so I’m hoping this year a registry might make it easier (and more believable). I don’t need anything and Heifer International is one of my favorite charities.  I have a lot respect for their mission — working to end world hunger through the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices — and really, who doesn’t want to give someone a cow for their birthday?  And no, I’m not doing this for the tax refund either (Dennis!) so I don’t care if the donation isn’t under my name.  Anyway, even if you don’t give a donation at the very least I hope this encourages you take a look at a very worthy cause.  Thanks!

November 20, 2008 at 9:58 am 4 comments

School Trip

On Friday, Noah had a school trip to the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. They’ve been learning about different types of animals all fall term so the school trip was a way to tie everything together. They needed parent volunteers so I came along as well.

Noah had been a little reluctant to go to school all week. Partly I think it was because he was having so much fun at home playing with Grandma and Grandpa before the school bus came that he didn’t want to stop and go to school. And partly I think it was because he had been coming down with a cold all week long. Friday turned out to be the worst day of his cold but Mark and I had talked up the zoo trip so much that we couldn’t let Noah miss it. He woke up that morning in a good mood and I reminded him that it was the day of the school trip and that we were going to the zoo that day. His downhearted response was, “I’m going to the zoo but Nevan is not there. Nevan is in Australia. He can’t go to the zoo with me.” Oh-kay random boy.

At school I, along with nine other parent volunteers, watched as Ms. Kiri and Ms. Eileen called the register using the Mandarin names they’d assigned each child. Noah, of course, didn’t respond when they called out his Chinese name, Nuò ā, and looked around blankly until Ms. Eileen prodded him to stand up. Oh well — he’ll get it one day. Afterward they paired up the kids with their zoo buddies. I was in charge of Noah and Antoine — Noah’s classmate who had switched from the afternoon class to the morning class around the same time Noah did. They knew each other but I knew they weren’t great friends. But I also knew that Antoine was quiet and wouldn’t make trouble so I wasn’t complaining. Then we all piled onto the bus along with the other morning kindergarten class and went on our way.

It turns out that Friday is the day that every school in Hong Kong decides to go to the zoo. They place was crawling with children. We had the youngest group of kids there so a lot of the time I was just trying to make sure the kids didn’t get trampled by the much bigger kids running around. Plus all of Ms. Eileen’s careful matching up of zoo buddies went completely to pieces once we actually got to the zoo. Friends ran off/dawdled/screamed/joked around with their favorite friends — mothers be damned. With 30+ toddlers there, it was a mess at the zoo. But at least they had fun. Especially considering the HK zoo is pretty weak. Aside from the stinky flamingos we saw a couple of orangutans, a few monkeys and a couple species of lemurs and that was pretty much it. After a snack and more walking around, we made our way up to the playground for about 20 minutes before hopping back onto the bus to go back.

I don’t know if Noah really cared so much that the zoo was a little lame — I think he enjoyed just being able to run around with his friends — but I was feeling gypped for him so once we got home I popped Madagascar in the dvd player. Not the most realistic animal movie, yes, but it had Noah’s favorite type of animal — the animated kind.

Noah sits down for a snack at the zoo:

Class picture — The Diamond Class:

(To the right of Noah is Bradley — one of Noah’s best friend’s at school. Charlie — front row, third from the right — is another good friend and Ruby — front row, first on the right — used to be his best friend who he now avoids like a leper.)

Good friends:

(left to right: Bradley, Christian, Chloe, Noah, Olivia, Jonathan, Emma. Noah kept grabbing Chloe’s hand and putting it on his knee. Weird and just slightly pervy.)

At the playground:

November 17, 2008 at 3:01 pm 7 comments

Weekend Sightseeing

On Saturday, Mark hired a car and driver and with six of us in tow — Grandma, Grandpa, Mark, Clarita, Noah and me — we took off for Sai Kung, a former fishing village in the New Territories:

Here are Grandma, Mark and Noah at the pier:

One of the seafood vendors at the floating market:

A woman cleaning octopus on the boat:

After walking along the pier, we headed to one of the numerous seaside restaurants for lunch. Here are Mark and his dad, picking out our lunch:

Grandma and Grandpa testing out their chopstick skills:

Happy after a huge lunch of fish, crabs and shrimp:

After lunch we made the long drive back onto Hong Kong island and went straight to Victoria Peak. While Grandpa, Grandma and Mark went up to the observation tower, Clarita and I stayed behind at the playground with Noah:

Here is Noah’s new (and painful) way of going down slides:

After our busy Saturday, we decided that Sunday should just be a laid back sightseeing day. So I’m not quite sure what in the world we were thinking in taking his parents over to Stanley market that day. The market was swarming with people — locals and tourists alike. The restaurants were also spilling over with customers but we managed to find a seat at one of the Italian restaurants along the seaside for a quick lunch of burgers and pizza. After lunch we were ready to brave the market again. We bribed Noah with a toy to keep him cooperative but a toy will only keep a three-year-old occupied for so long so Mark, Noah and I headed out to the promenade while Grandma and Grandpa finished up their shopping.

Here are Mark and Noah enjoying the view:

And Noah running back to me after playing on the rocks with Mark:

November 11, 2008 at 11:26 am 7 comments

Grandma and Grandpa’s Visit — Week One

Mark’s parents are in Hong Kong. His dad came to visit us last year with Mark’s aunt, but this is his mom’s first time in Hong Kong. After 24 hours of flying(!!), they finally arrived safe and sound (albeit on the tired side) late Tuesday evening. I woke up early on Wednesday to make homemade biscuits and gravy for breakfast. From scratch (which were yummy thank you very much). And since Wednesday morning in HK meant it was still election night in the US we spent the rest of the morning glued to CNN watching election returns:

It was noon when CNN called the election for Obama and we finally left for lunch an hour later. Mark and I took them to Beirut, a Lebanese restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong, and afterwards we took a stroll through the nearby Graham Street market, one of the last street markets in Hong Kong.

The next day, Thursday, they were still pretty jet-lagged so we took it easy for most of the day. Mark had bought tickets for us to Cirque du Soleil’s Zaiaat the Venetian so later that afternoon we took a ferry to Macau for dinner and a circus. It turned out the Venetian was also hosting the 2008 Miss International beauty pageant so we caught a glimpse of the contestants on our way to the theater:

Naturally, they didn’t allow photographs inside the theater but it was a great show. Like all Cirque shows, visually it was absolutely breathtaking — with vibrant costumes and richly detailed and imaginative backdrops. Mark managed to score seats three rows from the stage so we had a great view of the action. Afterward we walked through the Grand Canal shops at the Venetian before catching a ferry back home.

November 11, 2008 at 10:59 am 1 comment

Catching Up: The Last Day

After taking a full week to recover from jet-lag, the rest of my time in CA just flew by. After Marine World, Monday saw a trip to Zachary’s Pizza — the best pizza ever and therefore a noteworthy event in itself; Tuesday I had lunch with a couple of friends from high school, and before I knew it, it was our last day in CA already.

It was just me and Noah on Wednesday so I semi-planned a day full of visits to some of my favorite haunts in the Bay Area. We woke up to a beautiful, misty morning:

and after a small breakfast, drove straight to Fourth Street in Berkeley. Our first stop was The Pasta Shop for a little specialty grocery shopping:

We picked up some baking supplies to take back to HK with us. I also picked up some chocolate that I wanted to send to my friend Kristin (because they were vegan and one of the chocolates was shaped like a Buddha) but Mark ate them when we got to HK. Sorry K. But it’s the thought that counts, right?

Then we hit my favorite taqueria next door, Tacubaya:

There are few things that will take the chill out of a chilly morning better than a hot bowl of chicken tortilla soup. Mmmmmm.

Noah, naturally, refused to eat either the soup or the quesadillas, but at least he liked the horchata. Afterward I bribed Noah with a toy and got him to come quietly to my favorite shop in the area, Anthropologie:

Unfortunately a remote control triceratops toy only bought me enough good behaviour to find a new wallet but it was better than nothing. Noah fell asleep once I got to Bay Street in Emeryville so I had a nice hour of quiet shopping. Of course we made the obligatory cupcake stop before we left:

When we got home, my mom had a surprise for us — one of my favorite foods. Ever:

Noah refuses to eat crabs but he likes playing with them so it was a win-win situation all the way around.

So that about sums up my visit. It was way too short, but I’m glad we got to spend a lot of time with my family this time around.

November 4, 2008 at 6:04 pm 6 comments

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