uncle Hoa


All these talks about Mayweather and Pacquiao make me miss my uncle Hoa.  He would have love to watch it.  You see, uncle Hoa used to be a boxer in his younger days.  He was good, he told me, really good !  Whenever we're over for family gathering he would jokingly throwing punches at my husband, "can you handle this ?" he asked, trying to provoke him to play fight.  Uncle loves to watch boxing and any kind of one to one match.  Anyone who sits down with my uncle for a few min. can tell through his broad smile that he loves boxing and it makes him happy.

Another passion of uncle is his love for music.  He self taught himself piano and  guitar and would spend countless hours learning songs.  He can sing too.  His voice was deep, with a lot of vibrato.  It's warm and heartfelt.  I miss hearing him sing.  I miss his loud laugh and his eagerness to share the news he read.  "Chau biet khong..." (Did you know...) he would ask me and then went right on with the answer.  I can't believe it's almost 3 years since he went to be with the Lord.

It's interesting how when we remember people , we remember the things that make them happy.  It's infectious because my uncle's happiness allowed me to share the brief moment of joy with him.  We remember joy and laughter.  A reminder for me to do what makes me happy and to share happiness with the people around me.  Life is short.

easy meal : bun cha ca (fish cake noodles soup)



I was craving noodles so when I was talking to my mom at lunch, she told me she has Vietnamese fish cake (cha ca Hoang Yen brand) patties, I thought we should have "bun cha ca" (fish cake noodles soup) for dinner  !!!  Easy and light !

I made a chicken broth (from left over 1/2 roasted chicken I had in my fridge) and seared tomatoes (oil, minced scallion, and garlic cooked on high, add tomatoes, and cook until an orange liquid is release, pour into broth and cook for 10 min.).  I noticed we always cook fish with tomatoes.  It might be a northern Vietnamese thing, or just how my mom likes it.  It goes well together in soup.

While the broth is stewing, I cook thick vermicelli (bun giang tay) noodles, let it cool and divide into bowl.  Put the fish cakes into the broth to cook it, when done, take out and sliced.  I pan fried some eggs and thinly sliced them.  Topped the bowl of noodles with the sliced fish cakes, eggs and steamed rau muong (ong choy).  Ladle the rich tomatoes broth over then sprinkle generously with chopped dills and green onions !  I also topped my bowl with some bean sprouts and cilantro.  It was very tasty !  Our kids like it too, without all the greens, as expected !  Took me about 45 min. from kitchen to table (shorter if you have ready-made chicken broth).  

romantic gardener



How hard is it to grow vegetables ?  Good soil, sun and water is all that's needed right ?  Right !  or so I thought.

3 years a go I approached gardening like how I approached everything in life - FULL of optimism.  When the last seed and seedling was sown into the dark rich soil, I watched my garden eagerly.  I pictured warm early morning, the sun barely up, the dew still on the leaves, me out in my garden, filling my basket full of ripe fruits and crisp fresh green veggies.  I don't understand all the talks about mulching and turning of soil and fertilizing !  People complicated things too much.  Anyone can do this !  I'm doing it !  Anytime now, I will have spinach and snap peas to munch on !!!

Days and weeks in to this new gardening hobby, after countless watering and talking and singing to the plants, my little garden is littered with tiny green plants, full of life, full of leaves.  It's beautiful.  I can't wait to eat them.

One morning I went out to check on how the spinach is doing.  I bent over to look at the spinach patch and my heart sank at the sight.  All the green leaves I saw JUST yesterday, all the green lovely leaves I hope to put in my tummy, are now a field of stems and holey leaves !  There are holes on practically every single leaf.  What the cheerio is going on ?  I ran inside and consulted with my expert gardener, google, on this subject.  I typed "what's eating my spinach?" and got many answers.  It seems, there are many evil creatures in my garden that I'm unaware of.  Slugs, snails, beetles, to name a few.  Oh how I hate them !  This means war !

If it was indeed a "war" then them pests won and I lost terribly !  It was a surprise attack and I was cornered.  Those little buggers !  I didn't even know they were coming in troops and giving birth to more soldiers over night !  I looked for worms and snails everyday and killed many.  But I was just too too late in the game.  They multiplied over night.  HOW come I didn't see them coming ?  Was I blinded by all the greens and overlooked them tiny holes and slimy trails ?  Gardening is far from easy !!!! far FAR from it !

Our carrots !  They were small...like baby carrot size !  It was fun to play with but too little to eat and doesn't taste very sweet.  Maybe we pulled them too early  ?  We'll try it again another time.

In my 2nd year of gardening, still high on hope, I decided to plant "stronger" vegetables.  I planted cucumbers, tomatoes (fruit ?), beets, carrots and brussel sprouts.  These bunch were easy going.  Sunlight and water did them well.  The cucumber and tomatoes were very fruitful.  I have more than our family can eat.  We even gave some away. 

What I was most excited about this year's gardening is the brussel sprouts.  Such interesting plant.  My brussels were doing well then one fine afternoon I noticed white web like stuff on a few of the leaves.  No matter now much I clean the leavers and spray it with my worm-killer mixture, the leaves had holes all over them.  Then the strong tough stems, one by one, went yellow and then ghastly whitish.  Life were drained from them.  We got lots of butterfly, which was a bad sign.  Them brussels did try, they did.  They fought for their lives but were dead vegetables within that week.   Mr. C had to pull them out because they were an unbearable sight.  I can't believe I was defeated again just like that.

I learned, the homemade pesticide I made wasn't strong enough to kill all those worms preying on my plants.  I didn't want to buy commercial pesticide and all the organic recipes I tried didn't work.  This is why there are organic pesticides (derived from natural sources, dissolved into the soil, isn't harmful to pet or plants) to help the plants.  I will consider them in the future.

Being the ever-optimistic person, I took my failure in stride.  I should have been more prepared, and read on each plant before I sow them.  There are so many resources and so many good tips, don't plant this with this, plant these together, water in morning only, etc. etc.  I must say though, I have a renewed appreciation for farmers.  Organic farming is NOT easy.  Gardening needs more than just good soil, sun and water !  The basic necessities are there to keep the plant going and help it grow, but it needs protection !  A lot of protection !  

Green beans !  Bee planted 2 next to each other !  why not !

Marigold to deter aphids !


A healthy growing garden is a testament of the dedication given to it by the gardener, all the attention and care and countless tending hours.  It won't surprise me if they camp out and sleep near their plants too !  Being blinded by the idea of having my very own garden, I expected sweet returns from it with little work.  I should have known !  nothing good is ever easy.  There's just no such thing.  Great reward comes from hard work and dedication and commitment !

I am gardening again this year !!!  My kids helped with the sowing and digging !  They had a lot of fun and together we will guard over this piece of land.  I spoke to the lady at the nursery and got some advices on destroying garden pests.  I planted marigolds and set up snails/slugs traps.  I also got dried egg shells scattered around the perimeter too !  I don't know which plant will survive and which will die, but the process, the whole planting and watching and waiting and tendering and watering process, it has given me so much joy, so I win either way.  Ever the optimistic me :-D

backyard tea party







The weather has been exceptionally warm.  I don't remember April to be this mild ever.  I should be concerning about global warming finally catching up to us here on the coast, but given the soggy gray winter we just walked out off, I welcomed the sun and warmth with open arms.  We're been out a lot so today after church we decided to do grocery shopping then some garden work !  We will be planting our 2nd fig tree in the yard, a lilac tree in the front near the gate of our drive way, the grape vine and bamboo trees will stay on the wait list as we haven't figure out where to put them yet.

The girls asked for a tea party outside.  Since it's beautiful out, I thought why not !  It doesn't take much effort to have one anyway !  I simply prepared a hot pot of tea (dip the green tea bag in for one second, just for show, for the girls to see they're having "real" tea !), filled the creamer with milk, and lay out some fruits and some cookies.  Our girls like this a lot, drinking from real cup (a break from their plastic ones) and eating snacks ! Come to think of it, who doesn't ?  I like it !  and so too my husband !  Except he has coffee in his cup.

Once downstairs in the yard, I filled 1/5 of the girls' tea cup with tea, leaving plenty of room for milk.  They had about 3 cups of "tea", ate some raspberries then ran off to see their dad planting the fig tree !  They came back for more raspberries, took a sip of tea and wanted to play on the grass !  That's a signal to me that tea party is over.  Tea time is never that long with the girls, 15-20 min. and off they go.  If I leave it out, they will run back for the snacks but I don't like to mix playing and eating together !  Their hands touch everything in our yard, from grass to dirt to snails to worms to ants, so yeah, I try to limit their daily "yucky stuff" intake :-)

It was nice just to be out, planting, checking on our garden and seeing little green spouts poking through the dark soil.  We have lots to look forward to this summer !  I hope our little garden will thrive.  I just can't wait to eat them figs !!!






mommy on social media

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aaron-gouveia/the-11-most-annoying-kinds-of-parents-on-facebook_b_5076834.html

I read it and giggle !  I see a bit of myself in all the types he listed !  He's got it spot on.  There's a bit of it in all of us, some more, some less.  It is what it is, and you just laugh about it.  I try not to post too much, and when I do it's about my girls !  I can't help it but I'm amongst friends so forbearance is expected from all :)  If you look at any mom and dad's fb page, there's surely a picture of their children !!!  We love our kids !  We like to share about them.  If it is too much, then there's always the hide button :-)  and if it's just unbearable then there's the "unfriend" button !  No one should feel upset over someone because they're posting too much.  It's their prerogative.  You have control over your page so you choose what you want to see more and what you want to see less and who you don't want to see.  In the same feeling, don't get offended or upset if you discovered you've been unfriended.  It's a social page, don't take it personally or too seriously.

If someone added me on FB I would take it as them wanting to be apart of my life journey with me.  As I am with them, in their many activities such as getting a new hair cut, new shoes, new car, new house, their favorite food, their favorite restaurant, their favorite band, their latest cake, their modeling pose, their love for hashtags, last night's dinner, selfie, the map of their run, work out pose, their beloved cat, dog,  fish, turtle, their dislike of traffic, their love for books, their thoughts on the world around them, their rants, their regrets, their dating life, their marriage, their kids, and everything else under the glorious sun.  Through their len I get a glimpse of the person, of their interests, their passions and rejoice in their life milestones.

The thing with social media is that everyone on it has an opinion and everyone "think" they're right :)  Pick and choose your battle.  Anything and EVERYTHING can be taken out of context.  A friend often nag me, "you're not responsible for people's feeling".  While it is true, I still think it's good to be considerate of others.  So there you have it, my take on social media, do what you like, what's comfortable to you, don't seek approval or acceptance, and keep it classy !  Social media is a good pass time if you use it sparingly, take it with a grain of salt, read with a sense of humor and most of all, be thoughtful of others. 

embrace the outdoors


As mom of 5 and 2, I learned a few things about what makes kids happy.  One of them is that kids love to be outside and exploring all things big and small !  Little explorers are what they are !  Park, woodland forest, beach, open field or your own backyard are great places to take them.  I love seeing my kids digging into the sand or dirt, picking out leaves, rolling down the grassy hill, swinging, chasing birds, searching for clam shells, searching for worms, playing with sticks and rocks or just run around and around !  This is also great time to teach them about the world around them.  How wild flowers get planted where they are, the functions of bees, why the tides come in and out, why plants need sun and water, etc.  The kids also learn to count by counting rocks, leaves, birds, etc.  There are so many things to do and so many things to talk about to keep them and you busy !


When the rain is at bay here on the coast, we go the park or beach at least once week and out in our yard everyday, except when raining.  We started gardening again now that the weather is warmer and got both kids involved.  They both love it, mostly the digging and watering :)  My OCD kicked in a few times !  It's hard watching the kiddos planted seeds in crooked lines and all over the place !  I am so obsess with making sure everything is straight and even so them kids are helping me to slowly overcome it :)  I can't wait to see what will become of our garden this year.  Come summer we'll have beans, tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and zucchini.  Come late summer we'll have spaghetti squash and figs !!!!  I counted, we have 46 baby figs so far !  46 baby !

The more we're outdoor the more I appreciate all those years in science class, learning about how nature works.  I do have to brush up on stuff now and then through google, but school did give me a good foundation to start.  When I explain to Bee how certain thing works, she would look up at and and say "you know so much mamas ", it makes me feel pretty awesome  :)  like I am superwoman !

When we take the kids out, the goal is for them to have fun, to enjoy themselves.  The great things about being outdoor is that, kids learn while having fun.  Everything is fun and amazing for them and everything you do and see is an opportunity to talk, to share, to educate.  Often, as I watch my kids playing in the glorious sun, I am also brought closer to nature, to our Lord, to this amazing feeling of wonder.  And the more we're outside, the more I see the desperate need to be good steward of the earth.

Around here, we are blessed with so many beautiful parks and beaches and green spaces.  Many of them are accessible by transit too so there's no excuse not to go :)  The weather is warming up so I hope you find time to get out there and soak in all the beauty around you.  I find myself in awe often when in the presence of vast ocean or never ending sky littered with stars, nature does that to us, it make us humble.  And that's a very good thing !









clean house and home



As I walk under clouds of pink blossoms I really wished my street has these lovely trees.   I have this obsession with living on a tall lined tree street.  The city we're currently living in aren't that old so our trees are still in their "young" stage, no old grown oak or walnut trees to cover the street.  Oh how nice it must be in the fall when leaves change their colors to many shades of yellow, orange, red and brown.  My husband would say "thank God we don't live on such street, I can't imagine ranking the leaves !"

Talking about dwelling, I thought of our house, I feel our house say a lot of about us.  It gives people a glimpse into the lives of the inhabitants.  Do they care or not ?  do they make it a home or just a place to tie over til the next ?  is it a place where memories are made ?  laughter are shared ?  booboos are made better ?  I've been to house where it looks like a storage space, people don't actually "live" there.  I've also been to ones that's filled with history, with love, happiness, memories.  There's this old old house down my street, and despite the aged exteriors, the renters made it into a lovely place.  Planters of flowers dotted the front entrance, clean cut lawn, groomed brushes.  It's obvious they are proud of the place they called home.

Growing up we have had our shares of rental homes.  Some are really old, some has slight moldy spots all over.  They were not very nice when we moved in, but boy, within days my mom would turn it around. She cleaned out the moldy areas, scrubbed the sink shiny silver, all cabinets are lined with pretty paper, all windows have custom made curtains, plants and flowers everywhere.  My mom appreciate everything and can turn anything from plain into something wonderful.  Our home were always clean and welcoming and warm and safe.  There's truly no place like home.

commitment



As I was swaying between walking to work or take the bus, wasting precious time going back and forth, I finally decided to walk.  During my walk I had sometime to ponder and came up with some observations.

Commitment is a good quality to have.  You make a decission and stick to it.  Save you and other from wasted time.  There are a few times where you will need to heed the advices of those closest to you, but many of times, we're on our own.

When we think "commitment", the first thought for many is, relationship commitment, but many areas in our lives require us to be loyal and dedicated.  Commitment to me is like asking "are you a trustworthy person?"

Last I checked, we don't just wake up one morning and became a committed person.  It's the results of practicing to be that, a reliable person.  When we're kids, our parents would model and teach us to keep our words.  We would watch and learn and practice !  We take baby steps at learning how to be committed.  In living out what we said, learning to keep our words, being true to who we are, what we valued and stick to our promises.  As we are steadfast to who we are, the results show themselves in us to the people around us.  We will be a trusted friend to someone, a dependable employee, a loyal partner, and a reliable parent.
 
Naturally, for many of us, I think it's easier to take the convenience route, to try to get out of something we said in the heat of the moment.  We may get away with it a few times but one too many and people will noticed it and no longer trust us.  When trust is gone, it takes a long time to gain it back.  Words are just words, there's no binding contract, but words are all we got to share with people around us.  Words to people who are close to us aren't cheap.  They mean a lot and to kids, they are everything.  When we value our words, our actions follow.  They're always together.  If your words and your actions doesn't match up, then all is false.

Commitment is a good quality to flex and exercise every day !  Yes some day we will fail, we are but human friends, but don't stay there, get up and give it another go.  To keep trying in itself is commitment :)