Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Artist is Present

There was an art exhibit at the MoMa in 2010 called ‘The Artist is Present’ performed by Marina Abramovic.  This exhibit was a 736-hour and 30-minute static, silent piece, in which she sat immobile in the museum’s atrium, while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her.  Take the time to check out this small article and video clip that goes more in depth on this exhibit and when Marina Abramovic sits across her past love.  It’s worth the 5 minutes, trust me!

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It struck a chord with me and it makes me you think about relationships and memories.

There also is a movie titled, ‘Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present’ which is suppose to be exceptional.  I can’t wait to see it!

My Grandma Sue

Grandma wrapping homemade rice cakes

Grandma wrapping homemade rice cakes

My maternal grandmother turned 80 this past December. We lived in the same city when I was growing up, and my childhood memories are filled with her and my grandfather.  After he passed away, she came to live with my parents when I left for Chicago in 2005.

Since then, every time I would visit home in Irvine, she was the first face I would see when I walked through the door and the first one to hug. We would sit in my old bedroom, now hers, and visit with each other and trade updates. She would always ask about my health, and Nick, and non-too-subtly eye my midsection, looking for any signs of a baby. Every morning on those weekends, I would get up and look out the kitchen window, knowing that she would already be well into her morning exercises, walking laps around our backyard in her white cap, or praying in front of her makeshift altar (she is a devout Buddhist).

I love my Grandma Sue. Everyone who meets her loves her. She has endured so many obstacles in her life but has kept her wicked sense of humor and spirit, even though she seems sweet and docile on the outside. She’s a special lady.

She has been in our hearts, thoughts, and prayers even more lately, and while she is still with us, I’d like to write down all that she means to us in our memories. I reached out to my cousins and below is a compilation of our memories of our “Ba Ngoai” or Grandma Sue. She has 5 children, 15 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren (one more on the way). These recollections are just the tip of the iceberg.

Our family

Our family

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

My Grandma:

 

  1. Her love for sweets and chocolate is endless. She loves ice cream especially. Rum raisin is her favorite flavor. She craved massive amounts of nougat when she was expecting her first child.
  2. She has always been active and used to walk around the lake daily with my grandpa. At our house, she would do laps around our backyard in the mornings.
  3. In her later years, she stays busy playing Sudoku, watching Korean soap dramas and writing emails. She loved jigsaw puzzles when her eyes were better. She also keeps a diary of her daily activities and news of the family.
  4. She knitted some pretty awesome sweater vests and gloves and scarves for all of us when we were younger.

    Proudly displaying her knitwear

    Proudly displaying her knitwear

  5. I love her smell. Her favorite perfumes are Tresor and Chanel No. 5 (on special occasions). She currently wears Givenchy.
  6. My grandma loves chicken wings.
  7. We used to pluck her gray hairs for her when we were young.
  8. Her specialty is making xoi, (Vietnamese sweet rice)
  9. She loves to tease her grandchildren and remembers every one of our birthdays.
  10. My grandma has great skin, in part to her genes, lifestyle, and her Clinique moisturizer.
  11. She has the loveliest handwriting. I wish it could be made into a font.
  12. She used to work for Bank of America and everyone called her Sue
  13. When my Grandma was 16 years old and underage, she and her sister once secretly started a school for the younger, poor kids in the town.
  14. She first met my grandpa when she saw him fishing one day. He was a city boy trying to be a country boy. He flipped the rod and it came up empty and he ended up splashing himself. She thought it was funny.
  15. She needs to sleep on hard surfaces and sleeps on a boxspring. Yet she loved soft blankets, especially her electric blanket.
  16. She and Grandpa always kept Almond Roca in their refrigerator. To this day, I have to have Almond Roca cold.
  17. She has the dearest frown, and the best laugh
  18. Her hands are incredibly soft, but strong.
  19. She was born on December 14, 1932
  20. She isn’t afraid of technology, always has her laptop with her, and even joined Facebook.
  21. She is fiercely independent and takes the bus to her doctor’s appointments….although she misses driving
  22. Grandma used to make our mothers chaperone each other on dates when they were younger.
  23. Every time Nick comes home to visit, she says hello and inevitably comments worriedly on how thin and pale he is (Asian grandmas).
  24. She always reminds us to be good girls to our husbands.
  25. She is the most beautiful soul.
Grandma's notes

Grandma’s notes

My Cousin Christina’s Grandma:

  1. She was a tomboy as a child and liked to climb trees and play with boys. She made her mom exasperated and therefore never learned to cook/clean/be a lady as much as was expected. However, she excelled in school and was her dad’s favorite (as she tells it!)
  2. Sniff kisses (all of our mothers, her daughters, now do it)
  3. She is known for her ruou niep (rice wine) and loved making it for our cousin Nicole
  4. She loves to garden. We will always remember the rose bushes she kept at my grandparent’s house when we were younger.

My Sister Darlene’s Grandma:

With "Barbie" the stuffed dog Darlene gave her

With “Barbie” the stuffed dog Darlene gave her

  1. Whenever she and Grandpa would pick me up from pre-school, she would always check to see if my fingernails were long and she would cut them for me during the car ride home.
  2. I think I remember taking naps on the floor with Grandma after pre-school and she said it was supposed to be better for your back.
  3. She appreciates all the little things and remembers all the simple gestures from anyone
  4. If I invited my friends over to the house, Grandma loved talking to my friends and she was always offering them food. My friends would always compliment her and said she was a kind, generous, very intelligent grandmother who spoke English so well!
  5. I remember she liked knitting and tried teaching me one time
  6. She is so generous to everyone but never lavishly spends money on herself.
  7. Whenever someone is sick, she goes out of her way to help them recover
  8. She’s always trying to be most helpful around our house whenever she can such as cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry, and folding our clothes
  9. She would listen to the radio at night before sleeping

My Cousin-In-Law Michael’s Grandma:

Michael with Grandma and Melissa

Michael with Grandma and Melissa

  1. The first time I met Grandma I didn’t know to hug her or shake her hand. So I did the latter. I said hello and slightly bowed and the first words she said to me, ever, were “You have such soft hands, like a lady.” I knew we would get along after that. She’s always been extraordinarily kind, and awkwardly honest with me. I love her for that.
  2. I once saw her pour a packet of sugar onto an avocado and eat the whole thing in three bites. When I asked her what happened to the avocados she said “I don’t know,” but I could see she still had a mouthful of avocado hiding in her cheek. Then she turned her back to me (I guess thinking that made her invisible) and started devouring the other half to hide the evidence. God she loved avocados.

My Cousin Angela’s Grandma:

Grandma with Melissa and Angela

Grandma with Melissa and Angela

  1. She and Grandpa used to babysit us and I always remember their walks each morning around Irvine lake.
  2. They always had Quaker oats granola with raisins as their cereal of choice for breakfast
  3. We used to always stop by Grandma’s room when she lived with us to say goodnight as have a daily chat
  4. Grandma loves reruns of  ‘I love Lucy’ and the Golden Girls, Everyone loves Raymond, and Wheel of Fortune. She loves reading anything by Mary Higgins Clark and Nicholas Sparks.
  5. She loves meditating in the backyard and used to do tai chi every morning
  6. She is the best story teller: hearing childhood stories of what a tomboy she was growing up in Vietnam are so fascinating
  7. Watching her interact with Becca has been priceless, the way her face lights up when she smiles at her or watching Grandma watch Becca walk/crawl around the house is so amazing
  8. She was born in the year of the monkey
Grandma playing Sudoku, the board and numbers are crafted from old medical files from my Dad's office.

Grandma playing Sudoku. She crafted the board and game numbers from old medical files.

Update 3/22/13: After a long, hard-fought battle, our sweet grandmother passed away peacefully today. We will love and remember her always.

Pier 39

Last weekend we decided to go into the city and show Nola the sea lions at Pier 39.  We often have this misconception that trekking into the city is too much with a baby.  But we were pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t bad with parking and Nola rocked it.  In fact it went so well we hope to make this a regular activity.

We parked near the Bay Bridge and walked to Pier 39, which there and back is a nice 4 mile walk.  On our way to Pier 39 we also hit up the Ferry Building.  The Ferry Building has an awesome farmer’s market on Saturday’s and inside they have the greatest shops and restaurants.  This place has this energy filled with people getting excited about food and I really love that.  The Ferry Building is probably one of my most favorite places.

Once we got to Pier 39 we got donuts from Trish’s Mini Donuts, and they were warm and delicious and melt in your mouth.  I warn you, however, that the bucket of 32 mini donuts is too much for 2 people and resulted in a not so good rest of the day for me, with food sadly I have no self control.  :(  Regardless we had a great day and the bucket is now Nola’s favorite new toy.

nola checking out the sea lions!

nola checking out the sea lions!

my buddies!

my buddies!

trish's yummy donuts!

trish’s yummy donuts!

Meatless Fridays

We’re in the middle of the season of Lent, which means, that as Catholics, Nick and I forgo meat on Fridays until Easter. Ever since I was a kid, I associated fish and chips with Lent, mainly because it’s an easy go-to for Friday night dinners. When we lived in Chicago, good fish and chips (this includes fresh tartar sauce) was hard to find and limited to Irish pubs. Imagine my elation when we returned to the West Coast and discovered Seattle Fish Company, a fish market that offered fresh fish and varied and affordable seafood less than a mile from our home.

Seattle Fish Company

Seattle Fish Company

When I want to try a new seafood recipe, like Thai crab salad, clam linguini, or cioppino, or if it’s summer and we simply want to find a salmon or halibut fillet to grill, I drive the small distance and peruse the counter to see what is in season and what the knowledgeable fish mongers recommend. (We also came here to find out what the fuss was about of the infamous Copper River Salmon, what everyone in the Pacific Northwest goes gaga over each May when they are in season. After tasting the buttery fish, we have to agree, it really is kind of fantastic and worth the hype.)

Inside

Inside

Goodies

Goodies

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Assorted condiments

Assorted condiments

And wine!

And wine!

I mentioned fish and chips. Seattle Fish Company, formerly just a fish market, recently opened up a small restaurant grill in their retail space. You order your meal at the counter, just as if you were ordering a fish fillet or a pound of dungeness crab to go, and they bring the food to you. Ever since it opened last year, it has become a favorite local spot in West Seattle. Their menu offers fairly straightforward and simple dishes, such as fish and chips, chowders, grilled fish, and steamers, but everything is delicious. Tonight was a Lent Friday, and therefore a great excuse to go for a casual dinner at Seattle Fish. We ordered their cod fish and chips (they also offer halibut) and fish tacos and ate at the counter, perfect for sidewalk people-watching.

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Counter

Counter

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Just another typical Seattle evening!

surfin safari

Recently our little family took a much needed weekend trip.  After doing some research I came across this place called Safari West that has wild animals and you can sleep in tents.  Now I know that many of our family and friends are campers and we think all of you are awesome, but after our last camping experience we realized we like the finer things in life and all that really means is a bed.  So when I told CJ we were camping he surprisingly seemed to be fine with it.  I’m not quite sure if it’s because he wasn’t really listening to me or just going with the flow, he’s good at both of those things :).

Since Safari West is in wine country we decided to hit up a winery beforehand.  CJ and I love love wine country and been there a handful of times.  After visiting a lot of the bigger wineries we are starting to visit smaller family owned one’s and loving them a lot!  We went to Vincent Arroyo Winery and got a private tasting and small tour of the winery.  Our tour guide was charismatic and a lot of fun to talk to and it started our little getaway on the right foot.  We also left with a delicious bottle of port.

Next we ate at a Calistoga and hit up a candy store to find chocolate to go with our Port for later that evening.  While scooping things out I saw these handmade popsicles and anything handmade I’m a sucker for these days.  They also had mini popsicles and after reading the ingredients I naively thought Nola should get one too.  It was such a mess and the popsicle was a deep purple color.  I should tell you I have a pet peeve for dirty fingers, etc. and having a baby is teaching me to let go.  Coincidentally we realized afterwards the popsicle that got all over Nola also looked like wine and being in wine country…well that made us feel a little unsettled.

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Now CJ still wasn’t quite sure what to expect when getting to Safari West, but soon found out that our tent was far from the standard camping experience.  I was going to let him sweat it out until he saw the place :).  People, if we ever go camping this is the way to go!  It was pretty much a hotel room w/ tent walls.  They had a space heater, the most comfortable bed, along with a full bathroom, it was lovely!!  We took a family nap where we got this beautiful breeze, we could hear the animals and it really was a moment where I wanted to freeze in time.

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The next day we got to go on a guided hike around the grounds and to see more of the animals and the beautiful countryside.  Safari West also gives jeep tours, but they don’t recommend children under 4 years, so we will need to wait a bit to do that.  But if you do have kids who are older I think it would be an amazing experience.  I wish we could teletransport our nephew and niece because we know they would love it!

Overall this was an awesome short little trip and we made a lot of special memories!  Goodness I love my family so!

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