Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Bears

Stuffed animals have a way of amassing until they eventually take over the toy shelf/room/home. So I am a fan of hiding stuffed animals away and rotating them. This is especially easy to do with any stuffed animals that are remotely holiday themed, for example, hiding the stuffed bunnies or ducks and then only bringing them out to play when you dig out the Easter decorations. Or hiding the stuffed turkey puppet until Thanksgiving time (yes, we are the proud owners of the most awesome turkey puppet). Ahem, I digress. Back to bears: Pictured here are some of our stuffed bears. My Great Aunt Sher collected bears, and when she passed away last year, we all got to pick a bear from her collection. Jerry and I both chose Christmas bears, so they get boxed away until the holiday comes around. On the couch there in the above photo is brownie bear, whom I chose from Aunt Sher's collection. Pictured below is polar bear, whom Jerry chose. Lo Lo especially likes to wrestle with the polar bear. =) And yes, that is a smile in the photo below, but he was scrunching up his face anticipating the camera flash.

Ready for more bears? Last Christmas that Lo was just a little guy. Here he is in his "first Christmas" outfit, and it has a wittow bear on the front. Can it get any cuter? Well, yes. Keep reading. =) We took photos of him last year next to his "Baby's First Christmas" teddy, and it was almost as big as him. This Christmas, I brought out the same old bear and could not even get our big boy to pose with it. He was having too much fun wrestling the stuffed animal. I had a "my baby is all grown up" moment. *sniffle*

I think it will become a new Christmas tradition to take photos of Lo next to his first Christmas bear and track his growth that way. Fun!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

We had such the happiest Christmas this year, despite having no family around us. I think there were plenty of "warm fuzzy" feelings because we truly made a special effort to focus on giving. I promise we aren't trying to toot our own horn here by listing these service opportunities, but we are just happy to share ideas (leave some of your own in the comment box if you wish) and illustrate how easy it is to give a lot during this season. Giving service is the perfect way to commemorate the birth of God's ultimate gift, the Savior Jesus Christ.

We did a sneaky Secret Santa gift to a person we know who lives alone, as well as some monetary donations that felt generous for our budget, and the aforementioned treat plates delivered to a bunch of lucky people. We also brought dinner to a sweet widow on Christmas Eve. But my favorite gifts were several that we gave at the last minute--unplanned and non-obligatory. One of these types of gifts we gave was to a family who already qualified for Salvation Army assistance. When we dropped off our humble offering to them, they turned around and gave us three times what we had given them! They handed us several bags of fun which I think they had just received from the Salvation Army: chocolates, Christmas decorations, toys, etc. which brightened our holiday immeasurably. It seemed like a gift to them that we allowed them to give back, if that makes sense. Not that all those material things make a Christmas special, but the fact that they were given out of such love and simple circumstances touched us. We also felt grateful for the way our church friends reached out to us. Since we could not be near family this Christmas, two other families in our congregation invited us to join their big, jolly holiday dinners.
We went to one dinner on Christmas Eve where that Lo enjoyed playing with other kids. That meal had an international feel to it, with French Dip sandwiches (*which are not really that French, we learned), wontons (made by yours truly), Mexican bean dip (okay, more American than Mexican, but play along with me here), and the classic raspberry sherbet punch as well as a whole table full of delectable desserts.

Dinner on Christmas Day was a more dignified affair: the classic roasted turkey consumed in company of missionaries and our former bishop/his family. We brought a cobbler and some sugar cookies to this meal. The cobbler was a great creation in which I used some of the pancake mix that has been a recent addition to our food storage. =) The week leading up to Christmas, we had lots of holiday fun of course. Here is Lo with Santa at the children's Christmas party put on by our apartment complex. Doesn't this Santa have the twinkliest eyes? He is actually one of our maintenance workers for his day job, and we smiled when his tatooed arm stuck out of his red suit for a minute. I was interested to see how that Lo would do on Santa's lap. Our Lo wasn't overly comfortable, as evidenced by his posture in the photo, but he wasn't distraught either. Just ready to get back down on the floor to run around. He had a great time pilfering the helium balloons that were supposed to be decorating the room. I'm pretty sure he even learned how to say "balloon" that night. Though he also calls them the same word he uses for "ball."

Here he is a couple weeks earlier, sitting on Santa's lap for the first time. Again, the uncomfortable face but still no tears. We figure a couple weeks in Hong Kong gave that Lo practice having contact with strangers so it helped him be more calm with Santa. Jerry is wearing a reindeer balloon hat. We waited in line for more than an hour to get that hat.

This post is feeling longish, so I'll just continue talking about our Christmas another day. Stay tuned. =)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What is it about Christmas and Trains?

I was just wondering how trains got to be part of the Christmas tradition. Is it because of books like the Polar Express? Or did a model trainset used to be the most wished-for toy of children everywhere? Anyway, at Jerry's work Christmas party recently there was a cute train for the kids to ride. The operator seriously was insisting Lo Lo ride all by himself--um, he would climb out the window in about 2 seconds. Finally she consented to let me ride, but seemed pretty concerned about my weight. heh.
Lo Lo is wearing the Santa hat given him by his Hong Kong Grandma. And also note the ball in his hands, which he kept stealing from friend Claire. The kids all got to pick toys, and Lo Lo really wanted to pick a ball, but we forced him to choose something different because we already have 10 balls at home. I kind of felt guilty about it after seeing how much he wanted Claire's ball!

And here I am sneaking in some more Hong Kong trip photos--bwa ha ha--and you thought I was done! Ocean Park has a train ride for the kids. While we stood in line for it, Lo got pretty excited. He tried to climb through the fence to go jump on board the train before it was our turn.

When we finally got to ride it, he seemed to enjoy himself. Thanks Henry for having the awesome camera that could take these photos--it was actually totally dark and after sundown, but somehow the lights from the ride and other park street lamps were sufficient for the camera to pick up some great color!

When we made him get out of the train, that Lo was pretty sad and threw a mini tantrum wanting to ride again. If the line wasn't so long we might have tried it...but it will be good to leave something to look forward to for the next trip.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Treats

As we are still in the early stages of married life, Jerry and I keep musing over what traditions to create for our family. We have a goal that our children will see Christmas as a time of GIVING rather than receiving, so one way to teach that is through giving often during this season. We hope to have goodies to deliver to myriad friends, neighbors, and acquaintences each year. To kick off the tradition, this year we brought treats to 14 friends/neighbors. Some of the treats were plates of mostly candy (as shown above), which it makes sense to do for when giving to people we don't know as well. Sometimes people get nervous eating baked goods unless they know the people who made the treat. Or am I the only one who thinks that way.

Other lucky recipients got to experience my first attempts at creating Christmas candies. Shown above is a peppermint truffle. They turned out great and will likely become a staple for years to come.

But my favorite thing to bake was the sugar cookies. I feel so entertained decorating them with sprinkles, licorice, M&M's, sugar crystals, etc. Jerry wasn't too keen on it at first when I told him we were decorating cookies for our Family Home Evening activity. "Can I just go to bed?" he suggested. To which I replied/commanded: "Just decorate ONE cookie!" Two batches of cookies later, Jerry was begging me to keep baking more so that he could decorate all the ideas in his head.

And it was so much fun, I found myself decorating a plate to take to a Twilight Party thrown by my friend Kristen. I realize their artistic merit leaves something to be desired, but hey--I had fun. And even though I'm not the biggest fan of the Twilight books, our girl's night watching Eclipse was so good for me! I felt like I was back in my freshman year of college again, lounging around with a bunch of buddies, talking and laughing, so carefree. Thanks to my sweet husband for being willing to stay home all alone (er, I guess Lo was with him, but slept the whole time).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Monkey Mountain

No, we are not just talking about that little Lo-Lo-Monkey taking a hike in the hills of Hong Kong... We went to a "monkey sanctuary" of sorts, where wild rhesus monkeys live by the hundreds. Steep fines discourage people from feeding the monkeys, but it would have been easy to do since they saunter right up next to people who venture into their territory.

And here we have three--er, two monkeys and one Brandon making a monkey face. I am not sure what the cage is in the background. Perhaps scientists use it for periodic trapping/tracking monkeys to check for disease, etc. is my guess.

I'm not sure I want to eat off a picnic table that monkeys have used for their napping place. Note the red face and genital area. This was a female monkey, so she wasn't as vibrant, but we saw a large male monkey who had a flaming red backside. I think it is mating season; he kept showing off his strength and picking fights with other monkeys.

Needless to say I felt nervous at times and kept a tight grip on that Lo, ready at any moment to whisk him away to safety in case of monkey attack. One monkey bared her teeth at us and leaped toward us when Jerry accidentally walked toward her. (he was just going to grab the stroller, but she didn't know that I suppose and assumed he was a threat).

Here I am keeping Lo a safer distance away. There were signs posted warning people to avoid making eye contact with the monkeys. Of course Lo Lo, not yet being able to read such signs, made all the threatening eye contact he could. yikes.
It was totally fascinating seeing all these monkeys so up close and in their own environment--different than seeing them through glass or bars at the zoo.

As we walked back, a whole pack of monkeys lined the road and we felt nervous walking through them to get back to the main road. I made Brandon and Jerry walk on either side of me, and I held Lo in the middle of all of us to protect him better. Maybe it seems silly to be scared of something as cute and small as a monkey, but seriously if ya'll had seen the fangs on these guys you'd be wanting body guards too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Biggest Buddha

Jerry alluded to the fact that I may or may not be getting weary of posting about the Hong Kong trip. Actually, I enjoy getting to relive these good times of our vacation there--but it is CHRISTMASTIME! We have so many current holiday posts that I want to do as well that I feel a bit stressed about the backlogged blogging. So I am just going to do a few more Hong Kong posts during this week, and then we are moving on to tell about our holiday fun. How's that. Can you tell this Buddha is a bit on the large side? Do you spot us in the photo below??
He could hold our whole family in the palm of his hand! At first I wasn't too excited to see this site, but words cannot describe how it feels to see such an impressive monument in person. Seems like too much a buzzword, but I have to say it: this statue really is breathtaking.

And the view from the monastery isn't bad either. Being in this rural area felt so refreshing after a week in the bustling city.

In order to get to the feet of this Buddha, we had to tromp up all those stairs (wish I'd have counted how many)--but since we had our eyes on the prize ahead, I didn't even notice how far we had gone. The way down was where I found the journey surprisingly long.

Some beautiful architecture outside the Po Lin monastery. I felt a little sorry to be a tourist on what amounts to holy ground for some, but I suppose they opened their doors to it when they started allowing collection cups and souvenier shops around the area...

This Buddha's hands are in such an interesting pose, though it isn't really visible from any angles of the photos we took. But it really made me think a lot about the commonalities among religions, and that's all I'll say about that.

Lo Lo is the cutest little Emperor there ever was.
AAAND more gift shops along the path to the Buddha. I bought some nice silk shirts here. They seemed higher quality than the ones we saw at Ladies Market, but probably some of that impression is just in my head. Yes, that is a Subway sandwich shop there to our right.

To get to the Buddha, we could have either taken a winding bus ride around the mountainside, OR this lovely scenic cable car route. So we did the cable cars! It was fun! I especially liked how we could see the Buddha growing larger and larger in the distance as we got closer to our destination.

Family photo with the lovely Lantau Island background. Actually, since it is fall season, even the lush tropical Hong Kong looks a bit brownish in this shot. But it was still so beautiful to me!

And another shot inside our cable car, just to look at how cute that Lo's smile is. Thanks Brandon for being our photographer! And thanks for making us all laugh the whole way up envisioning every disaster that could befall. Brandon kept saying, "What if our cable car got stuck/fell/was hit by a plane/etc." Good memories.
And doesn't that view make you shudder just thinking about falling?? This was one of my favorite site-seeing times of the trip to Hong Kong.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hong Kong #6 - Work in Hong Kong / Poor Pig / Photos for Boise Fam

(This is Jerry's writing.) During our HK trip, I spent a normal work day in HK networking with the Avery folks there and trying to increase my understanding of how our business is run there.

I had two addresses for the Avery locations in HK; however, since having left HK for almost 10 years, plus my poor sense of direction, I really didn’t know how to get to these two places any more. So, I showed the addresses to my brother, Henry, and asked him how. Henry then pointed to one of them and said, “Here is where I work.”

Later, Henry realized that the two companies we currently work for are right next to each other on the elevator buttons. (Henry works for DB SCHENKER; yes, I’m still working for Avery Dennison :) ). Ironically, the logo colours are the same—red on the left and black on the right.
After seeing the Avery people, I went to Henry's office. All of his co-workers asked me, "where is the baby?"Here is another crazy food-related cultural difference. (Well, for me..., it was really yummy.)

So, Hong Kong people eat BBQ pork all the time, but this time it was really special.... This pig was barbaqued on the spot, meaning they don't make it until you order it. Ah... Yeah..., we had to wait for the long 45 mins for it. But, it was yummily worth it.

Right when the pig was done, the chef himself took the whole pig out on the table to "show" you.
Poor little pig.... It was actually a little pig. For the tenderness of the meat, people there like the young ones. After showing us the "original-cooking" pig, the chef "skillfully" sliced the pig. You can tell the chef was trying so so so hard to keep its "original look." Poor little pig.... I apologize. I know, for some of you, the pig may look gross; but to me, it was literally the best BBQ pig I'd ever had. I mean, it was fresh and hot. Well, just compare it to fresh baked homemade cookies or something.But the rest of the stuff looks good, right? The fried crab on the right was really yummy too. As you can tell, the whole was quite expensive. Thanks to my Aunt and Uncle who took us for that dinner.

They are my Aunt and Uncle who let us stay with them the whole time while we were in Hong Kong, since they had a three-bedroom flat. They are super nice. She is my mom's older sister.
LoLo sometimes does things like an adult. Look at how he held on to the handle, immitating me.

Well, here it comes to the end of our trip. Since our flight was at 12:50am, we were at the airport at around 9:30 at night. It was LoLo's bedtime.

Farewell pictures.This is Henry's girlfriend's brother. He works at the HK airport. We just came across him. For sure, there are still a lot to talk about HK, but I don't know if my wife still have some posts for the Hong Kong trip, or if she is sick of it already, or if she has the time to do so. But, if not..., this would be a good ending of the HK trip, since it ends up at the airport--the last place we visited in HK. (If you have further questions, feel free to hit the "comment" button and ask.)