Monday, December 24, 2012

Bun Bo Hue

Ba Noi's home cooking!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

'Tis the Season


This year, we got an extra weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And boy did we need it.  December of course has Liz's birthday, which this year we celebrated by stopping in at the Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel.  That place goes all out for Christmas! One of the highlights is a life size gingerbread house that they recreate every year with nothing but baked goods, suger and candy decorations.  The sweet spiced smell permeates the entire lobby and instantly puts you in the holiday spitit.  This year they had a little corner dedicated to the kiddies where they can write letters to Santa and stuff them in a little mailbox.  Huelan traced her hand about six times.

We also took Liz's birthday/Christmas as an excuse to throw a little shindig.  Great to see so many people who we don't get to see very much.  And their kids!  So many kids!  The youngest was three months and the oldest was about 7 yrs. It's to the point where they definitely are playing well together, especially Huelan and her "Purple Friend" Hannah Schroers.  Huelan loves older girls, and Hannah loves younger girls, so they were joined at the hip all afternoon. 

What a great start to the month with more than half yet to go!

some pics here
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Monday, December 3, 2012


She's not as fond of milk as she used to be, but this might be one way to get her to finish her glass.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December Kick Off

The first weekend of December was a wet one in the bay. Rained buckets, but mostly in waves that left a few windows that we took advantage of.

After staying out to hang with DJ Fig Newton Chen in Friday night, we checked out the Chick-fil-A in Walnut Creek with Cheryl, Ryan and SuHan. Verdict: 80% hype. Though the nuggets are solid, not much else worth waiting in line for. Service excellent though.

In-N-Out still holds the crown for regional fast food supremecy as far as I'm concerned. But Huelan would probably vote for Chick-Fil-A on the weight of their kids meal and play area, both of which were a revelation for her. Tough sell, but I'm certain she'll come around eventually.

Saturday we also hooked up two Christmas trees! This might be the earliest we've ever brought a tree home- hopefully we can keep them fresh for a few weeks.

Averted cabin fever today by going out to get some ramen, and decked the trees in the afternoon. Not a bad start to the month.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tiny Bit

She does this thing where she says "just a tiny bit?" She phrases it as both a question and a statement, such as, "you can play with me, just a tiny bit?" And, "I eat candy, just a tiny bit?"

When accompanied by her little fingers spaced just slightly apart and her looking through the little space at you with the other eye closed, there's just no way to resist. Not even a tiny bit.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

November Rain


November opened with rain and closes with rain, but in between we had some sweet fall weather, perfect for Thanksgiving.  We had clear skies and warm weather for our first Thanksgiving at the house, which was also our first time hosting Thanksgiving for the extended family.  When we were house shopping, the ability to host a Thanksgiving was a non-negotiable.  Andrew and Candy have hosted Thanksgiving and July 4th for years (don't know how you do it), and this was their first break in quite a while.   

I think a good time was had by all.... This was the first year that featured a smoked turkey, and with some coaching from Kevin, it turned out beautifully (I just make some smoked turkey soup yesterday and had a flashback).  David officiated the tequila tasting and no one broke any bones (though Barbara came the closest).  We had about 19 adults, three teens, and three kids (plus Patty, Anh, and Christine came for a post-nap dessert)- we'll need a few more mouths next year if we want to come closer to putting away the 40 lbs of turkey and about a ton of sides.

We also did an early B-Day for Liz with Patty at an Argentine tapas place in the Mission- pretty good, and we didn't get kicked out for a change.  That was a long weekend and we made good use of it. 

Usually I'd wonder where the time has gone, and how December/Christmas snuck up on us, but this year I don't feel that way for some reason.  It feels about right that Christmas is around the corner, even though we have almost four weeks.  Time to go and get a Christmas tree.

***Edited to update link to the correct album***
November pics here
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Bubble Beard

She says "I have a beard, like Chu Ti!" (that's uncle Anh)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Huelan Dem

She recently started counting (dem) to 10 in Vietnamese. Here she dem the number of cherry tomatoes she picked off our bush and ate:


A few weeks ago, Huelan got stung by a bee, right in the neck. We got the stinger out pretty quickly and it's good to know that she's not allergic. We've told that not all bees bite, and that there are lots of good bees; she's now just slighty traumatized. That should only last 70-80 years.

Recent vid discussing bees:

Thursday, November 15, 2012



I mentioned to someone a few weeks ago that it really felt like the holiday season had kicked off because we were seeing lots of friends and eating a ton of good food.  Well, if those are the main criteria, then the holidays are in full swing. 

Roxanna led the charge by setting up a date on everyone's calendar- one of the trickiest details this time of year.  We wanted to get the girls together before everyone's dance card was full for Thanksgiving and Christmas and all that.  Rox and Kevin also hosted, and of course they did it up as per usual.  Delicous dip, cheese, bread-thingy, and the crown jewel a smoked turkey (Kevin is my turkey mentor, though if our Thanksgiving is ruined I am laying the blame at his doorstep).  We ate and drank, the girls exchanged gifts, and there was general merriment.  Sydney and Stella have absolute angel faces.

A near perfect, crisp November day (except for the Cal game) that I hope we can turn into an annual gateway to the holidays- call it Pre-ChristGivingMas? I also like ThanksGifting and Festivus.  Eh, we 're still working on a name- thoughts?

Then to top the weekend off, we met David in Vacaville for his birthday lunch, and some good friends stopped in for dinner Sunday night.  Yes, it's celebration time.

some pics here
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Saturday, November 3, 2012


Warining: thus post is not for the weak stomached.

These pics were taken moments before a massive poop explosion that made an early night of the Oakland Art Murmur. We were all having a blast dancing and singing and eating, but when we stopped for a few mins to grub in between two food trucks, Huelan reached back and grabbed a handful of doodie. At first Liz and I were confused by what we were looking at, kind of like when you bump into someone you know in a foreign city and your brain does not compute right away, but the realization hit us just soon enough to prevent smearing. Credit to Liz who swooped in true momma style.

Pull ups don't have the same capacity as regular diapers. Now we know. Imagine muffintop of poo.

The funniest thing was that there were these three twenty-something, obviously single girls, witnessesing the whole affair, speechless but trying to be cool and pretend to not notice. I just laughed as I wrapped her up in my hoodie and carried her four blocks back to the car for a toweling down before our getaway.

Also funny, Huelan was still down to party and couldn't understand why we had to leave while people were still hanging out.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012



When I was four years old living in Kentucky, I had an extremely good idea. It was the epitome of innovative thinking and entrepeneurship. I remember it vividly- it was around Arpil or May, and I needed candy.  I recruited one of the neighbor kids- Janetta- and we put on some excuse for costumes and went door to door asking the neighbors for candy.  I figured it had worked so beautifully just a short while ago, it's bound to work again.  Why isn't everyone doing this every week?!

Being a little after Easter, we were able to score some decent loot.  That was probably the beginning of my career in sales.

I'm not going to tell Huelan that story for a while, but if she comes up with the idea on her own, I might not try to stop her.

We spent today at a kids concert at Whole Foods, where Huelan's music sing-a-long leader/our long-time friend Stephanie and her trio played a gig.  They led the kids on parade through the store, which was hilarious because Huelan kept looking at all the food like we don't feed her at home, and there was a pretty good turn out of kids in costumes.  And some food samples for the dads.

Trick or treating was just a few houses up the block and a few houses down the block, but that did the trick and Huelan ended up with half a bucket of treats that's now a little lighter than when we came home.  Liz has the unenviable duty of trying to put her to sleep as I write this. 

Here are some pics of tonight as well as some left over ones from earlier this month. (including some pics of the SF Downtown Halloween Parade where some SF Giants showed up for some reason- man this town really likes Halloween)
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

World Series Sunday

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Sunday was action packed.  We lazed a tiny bit in the morning, but then hit up a nearby pumpkin patch that was also loaded with mini-carnival rides.  We got her dressed up in her costume and she was game to pose for some pictures. 

Then the rides.  The slide was first, mainly because I wanted to go on it.  We went three times I think.  Huelan said that she was scared at first, but by our last trip she was totally into it.  And she could not get enough of the swing either, and has been talking about both ever since.  I think we've got a thill seeker on our hands.

After the pumpkin patch, we headed to SF where we dropped of Huelan with Laurie and Sophia while we met a few friends at a brewpub to watch the Giants sweep for the World Series.  After the last pitch, Liz went out to join the mob on the streets of the Mission while I went back to Sunset to pick up Huelan.  To my surprise, Huelan was still awake and stayed awake all the way back to the Mission.  Maybe she could feel the excitement in the city.  Maybe it was the thousands of people out partying and smashing MUNI busses. 

Since she was still awake when we got to the Mission, we decided to meet Liz and the mob at Jason's fire station, where Huelan got to drive the fire truck.  She had an awesome day, and finally fell asleep in the car on the way home.

Anyway, at least Liz and Nicole had fun....

Halloween Teaser

This is from the obligatory pumpkin patch outing. Cliche but so much fun.

For those who are uninitiated into the Dinosaur Train culture, she's dressed up as Tiny Pteranadon, the more prominent of the Pteranadon Family sisters.

Group photo

Of some of the Surprises she got during potty training. Some friends not pictured.

Today she did Number Two (triple size, according to Grandma- so is that a Number Six?) on the potty so she got a Big Surprise. A play mixer that she's been using to make play cupcake batter.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Potty Update

We get serious with the potty training almost two weeks ago, and, at the risk of spraining my shoulder, I've got to give ourselves a pat on our collective back. We started in earnest on a Saturday, and by Sunday night Huelan got the idea. And a bunch of Dinosaur Train friends. Then we moved on to stickers and jellybeans, and by mid-week I say she was 80% there with just one or two mishaps.

Now, two weeks in, she gives us ample warning when she needs the potty and hasn't had an accident in a long while. She's pretty proud if herself and likes her My Little Pony underpants.

One caveat though- we haven't been successful with Number Two yet. I'm not sure where lds learn this from, but she's always been embarrassed by poop. She'll go off in a corner to do her business, and if you look at her you'll get a dirty look back. So we still have that bridge to cross.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I swear Liz dresses her like this just to rub it in.

Big Game Weekend

Friday night, we went to So Noodles to so Liz could hang with the girls- I was there for Huelan duty, which was easy since Huelan loves hanging with Sienna.

Saturday morning, Mike came up for the Big Game, and we got an early start. Sam met us on campus before the game, and Sasha met up with us after. Liz was kind enough taxi us around, even as far as Vlad and Rachel's engagement party in Foster City, and an afterparty at Sam's. After a busy Saturday, we had a sunny outdoor lunch at Jupiter and fit in a. Nap. Perfect.

Monday, October 15, 2012

First Fall

If you've ever lived in the bay area, you know that this is absolutely the best time of year.  The sun traces a slightly lower arc each day, bathing the bay in the a lazy, sideways light as it makes its way toward the Golden Gate.  Temperatures are perfect in our little east bay microclimate, and, though the sunsets inch earlier each evening, we are frequently treated to shows like this.  Every now and again, we even get to take a few deep breaths of autumn air.
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Sunday, October 14, 2012


Video Link Here

I think that it happens to most parents at some point, and this isn't our first foray by a longshot, but it IS our first effort at conscious, systematic, unadulterated bribery.  Potty training will do that to you.

We tried for a weekend about 3 months ago, but it didn't take.  This time, we think we have a better battle plan and have come properly armed.  The plan is do away with the mini potty in favor of a seat adaptor that goes on the regular (big girl) potty.  We are diaper-free all waking hours, and every 30-40 minutes, a timer goes off and we sit her on the potty whether she needs it or not.  Sometimes up to 10 mintues.  And if she successfully conducts her business, she gets a SURPRISE that's hidden somewhere in the kitchen. So far, we've had 4-5 missions accomplished, with minimal collateral damage.

The thing is, we are basically chained to the house while we're training.  And I'm almost out of surprises. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012



Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Huelan's rendering of Ba. For some reason everyone she draws is sticking out his tongue.

Monday, October 8, 2012


There is a kind of irrational, gutteral, relentless cry that only Mommy can fix.