May 2009

While I was on vacation, Dodo got the best kittysitter ever: Vanessa!

Vanessa is the natural choice, because she and I were briefly roommates so she and Dodo were already familiar; she and I met in jujitsu so I know if/when shit hits the fan, she can defend Dodo with killer debilitating moves on any would-be (c)a(t)ssassin, she works very close to our house, she’s highly dependable, AND she’s easily bribeable with Yama Sushi (yes, that is the lakeside sushi joint I’m always blogging about). =D She came over the Friday evening before I left for Florida. Can you believe this is how Vanessa looks after a long day of work?! So unfair.

We had our sushi chef prepare an omakase premium sashimi platter — basically, whatever is the fresh recommended fish of the day, price is no object!

Here is the completed masterpiece, for about $100:

Ama-ebi (sweet shrimp), hamachi toro (yellowtail belly, the “filet mignon” of yellowtail cuts), ahi (yellowfin tuna, also in the “filet mignon” quality of cut), Tobiko red roe (flying fish caviar), black roe (can’t recall what fish these are from), hotate-gai (fresh scallops from Japan), ono (wahoo — the fish, not the involuntary scream of excitement nearly impossible to contain when one observes such a platter of delectations), hirame (halibut, which I understand is really “ohyo” in Japanese so I don’t know why every sushi restaurant I’ve been to says “hirame” [flounder] is “halibut”), and some other stuff I no longer remember and can’t identify from my cameraphone photo alone. Vanessa called this “some damn good sushi” in her post.

We asked the chef to pick a roll for us, something different, so he came up with this flash-fried rice-based roll with spicy sauce, avocado, fresh tomatoes, some spicy fish that I can’t even remember now.

It was my first time trying an oshi sushi roll (sushi made from rice pressed in a box or mold), and I just remember it was delicious.
Having seen photos of the quail egg sushi on my blog from my outing with Diana, Vanessa wanted to try quail egg for her first time, so we had this: salmon with masago (smelt caviar), topped with some chopped scallions and a quail egg. Plus special sauce.

Vanessa was very pleased, and showed her gratitude for dinner with excellent Dodo-sitting service. (I’m just kidding, Vanessa, I know you would’ve done it anyway, but the dinner was a thank-you.)

And that, ladies and gentleman, was the last good sushi meal I had before the absolute worse sushi meal I’ve ever, EVER had in my life, which horrible meal happened in Florida. (That’s called foreshadowing.) And unfortunately, I dragged a victim into the pits of raw fish sewage hell with me. Coming up soon.

I know I said I wasn’t gonna keep doing this, but I can’t help it. Sue me! No, don’t, I spend enough time in court as it is.

I got this photo text message yesterday from Nikki, who is apparently keeping me informed as to the ins and outs of herself and her little sister, Erin:

The photo came with the following message: “Erin got a bruse in school” (don’t you love kid-spellings?)

After some more communication with Nikki, I learned that Erin had gotten the scrape when she tripped in school. Looking at the adorable pout in the photo, as much as I feel pain for the little one’s boo-boo, I smiled imagining Nikki saying, “Stick your arm up, Erin, I’m gonna take a picture of this and send it to Aunt Cindy,” and Erin abiding piteously.

(as usual, rest mouse pointers over photos for captions)
Downtown Disney in Orlando kicks our Downtown Disney Anaheim’s ass.

For one, our Lego Store doesn’t have a life-size Loch Ness Monster/dragon made of Legos in the water. But theirs DOES.

At Jordan’s house. What’s THIS about? Stay tuned and see.

Look how close I got to Japan!

The only junk food I ate on vacation. Seriously.

You know how sometimes you look at a photo taken of you and you think, “Oh gaaaawd, I should’ve known better than to not wear makeup at the beach!” ?

Ziplining 1.5 miles was fun, but it would’ve been more fun if it were higher, faster, and longer.

I wish I were more interesting. Sorry. Maybe I’ll start making up stuff to post.

This blog has taken an uncharacteristic child-friendly turn lately. Okay, this is the last one for a bit, and I’ll post photos about vacation next. It just seems that every time I’m at home where the vacation photos are, I’m doing something else. Take this past long weekend, for example.

Saturday was my niece Nikki’s birthday party. (She officially turns 9 today.)

The day started off disastrously when 2 hours before checking in to their $850/night pre-paid Princess Suite at Disneyland Hotel for their daughter Nikki’s birthday celebration, my cousin Olivia and her husband Eric found that the hotel had booked them for AUGUST, not Saturday. The girls’ father was on the phone with Disney Resorts much of the morning asking if there’s anything they could do, but the hotel said it was the parents’ fault for not checking that the room was booked for the correct month (despite the reservation having been made on the phone so clearly the Disney clerk made the error; why would the father tell her August instead of May?), that the hotel was booked solid, and there was no banquet room or other venue they could give out for the party in lieu of the Princess Suite. The father and I spent another frantic hour or two calling hotels local to Disneyland that had suites available at this short notice. Most places had no vacancy due to the long weekend. Olivia had started receiving calls from parents of guests who’d arrived at Downtown Disney wondering where the party was. Finally, a two-master-bedroom condo suite with full living room (w/fireplace!), kitchen and breakfast nook was booked across the street from Disneyland. That worked out more perfectly than Disneyland Hotel, I thought. The suite was bigger, wasn’t as overcrowded as Disney, and the suites were arranged in separated bungalows with ample parking. Soon I was in a sea of kidlets.

The kids burned out their sugar highs by swimming in the resort pool, then came back and split into groups. One did cookie-decorating in the living room (before a TV playing Hannah Montana or some other such show), another living room group beaded bracelets with the assistance of another parent, a younger group sat in one master bedroom watching Spongebob Squarepants, some fathers gathered in the second master bedroom watching the Lakers game, and I ran BeautySalon in the breakfast nook at the table with Olivia. Girls came by the Salon one at a time; Olivia polished their little nails as I took facepainting requests. The girls weren’t very daring; I painted probably 12-15 flowers (I tried to vary them by putting different gemstone stickers in the centers of flowers, and asking them to pick different colors for their petals), one butterfly, one heart, and one star.

After the party, Nikki said to me that the locket (which she wore immediately upon opening) was her favorite present. I choose to believe that it’s true. 🙂

I helped my cousins do cleanup duty, then as the family left for dinner, I drove off to Party #2: Mr. W’s best friend’s wife’s 40th birthday luau. I even changed to fit the luau theme complete with a plumeria pinning up my hair and a hemp ankle bracelet I’d gotten in Oahu. The two parties were obviously contrasting in every way. These are adult wine-loving people and I think I may have been the youngest adult there, with exception to the host’s children. I was also the only Asian there that I could recall, whereas at the kid party, I was the most Americanized Asian there with exception to the parent helping the kids bead bracelets.

Mr. W’s daughter performed a few songs on her new Fender electric acoustic guitar, which Mr. W bought for her Saturday as an early graduation present. They’d been out guitar shopping while I was on the phone kissing hotel ass trying to move the party venue. Despite my getting to Party #2 three hours late, it didn’t look like I’d missed much. Mr. W was there on time without me and said they mostly watched the Lakers game, drank alcohol, and ate. It was a very nice catered affair, however. I came in shortly before the birthday song, cake, and Daughter’s performance. I grabbed a few bites of food and an hour and a half later, we left.

Sunday, I invited my parents plus cousin Olivia and family over for barbecue and Lake fun. As the parents sat shivering under the shade of a tree in the grass (it was warmer in the sun, but they’re so paranoid of tanning), I played with Nikki and Erin in the water. They dug a hole in the sand, collected grass and other random things to throw in it, added lakewater, and Erin stirred the mess with a stick, claiming to be making vegetable soup. They later decided to test out the water. Nikki pranced in ahead of her younger sister, confident from her swimming lessons. Erin reached up to me with a tiny open hand. “Can you hold my hand? I’m scared I’m going to drown if I go in too far and the sand suddenly goes down.” Here’s a 6-year-old who knows what makes her uncomfortable, why she’s uncomfortable, what to do to cure it, and how to express it perfectly to an adult. That’s pretty cool. I held her hand and we went only as far as she was comfortable, which was mid-thigh. She learned a new word: thigh. I enjoyed that quality time with my nieces, just me and the two of them.

After we got the girls out of the water, we rented three kayaks. Daughter one-manned her own, I put Erin in the front of my two-man kayak, and Mr. W put Nikki in the front of his two-man. We paddled half a mile down the lake to another more private beach, where the girls melted sand clumps in the water, pointed out fish, made more sand-seaweed soup, and told stories about fish-bricks. An hour later, we paddled back. Erin asked questions from the front of the kayak the entire way out and the entire way back. Again, I answered everything I could (which thankfully was everything). Some questions were easy: “Is this the ocean? What’s that green stuff on the bottom? Is that one house? Do you want to live in a big house like that? How come they’re so much faster than us?” Some were less easy: “Where does the water come from? What makes you wet? How do you dry up?What’s ‘evaporate’? How come the lake doesn’t evaporate?”

Soon everyone returned to our house for dinner. Mr. W barbecued carne asada, salmon burgers and vegetable skewers, we put out five-grain chips and guacamole and salsa, set the table with drinks and fruit as Daughter entertained on her new guitar. After food was the surprise dessert: the girls were gonna make their first chocolate-dipped strawberries and cherries!

Daughter got a kick out of their interactions as she helped them. Nikki would take charge sometimes, saying to Erin, “Don’t hold it like that! Look, you’re getting your hand in the chocolate!” Erin would reply good naturedly, licking her arm, “Okay, boss.”
Erin eating her chocolate-coated body parts as Daughter laughs.
Nikki called dibs on the prettiest and largest strawberries.

But of course it was the little one who figured out first that she has TWO hands…

Monday was all about Daughter coming over and Mr. W buying her more recording equipment including a very nifty professional microphone stand and pop guard, plus professional cables. She recorded three more songs yesterday; we’re getting close to registering another album for copyrighting.

I’ve been in daily contact with my cousin Olivia by phone and my 8-year-old niece Nikki by text message the last week. From Nikki yesterday, a picture message from her cell to mine:

“I really want to thank you :-)”
A few seconds later she sent: “And when i said i i ment erin and me”

I texted back: “you’re so very welcome! i love that picture, thanks!”

From Nikki: “Your very welcome :-)”

That kid has made it a mission to make me cry. In a good way. Today is her birthday party. I’d asked her what she wanted for her birthday, and after a long “Ummmm,” she said she doesn’t really need anything. I said I know that her parents are good with providing more than she needs, but is there anything she’s seen lately, maybe on TV or in a store, that she wants? A few seconds more of thinking, and her response was still negative. Then she said, “You’re already giving me a birthday present. You’re coming to my party and you’re going to facepaint for me and my friends!” (My cousin Olivia has already told me that the girls have been in school showing all their friends photos of their arm painting from the other day, and the friends’ parents have approached Olivia over the week to say how excited their girls were to meet me and get painted. Talk about pressure!) “You’re too practical,” I groaned, and she laughed.

Call me materialistic, but I want both girls to have a physical thing they can touch and say, “This is from my Aunt Cindy.” So yesterday after work, I bought Erin (can’t leave the little one out) a WebKinz panda and a mini panda sticker book. I bought Nikki a WebKinz white seal and a silver-edged see-through glass locket on a silver snake chain. In the locket I selected five charms for her: a blinged-out “N” (self-explanatory), a round “Happy Birthday” glittery one, two red overlapping hearts, a little girl with a green crystal on her middle (representing Nikki and May’s emerald birthstone), and a white-robed smiling guardian angel. Seeing the kind of girl Nikki is, I think the sentimental value of the piece would be high, and maybe bring her comfort if she wears it in the tough times ahead.

(shot over woodgrain to show transparency of heart)

I’m off to get ready for my first public day as Aunt Cindy at Disneyland Hotel. Cookie decorating, crafts, and colors (on cheeks), oh my!

Last week, I had the brilliant overly confident idea to hop on a mountain bike and ride 5 miles to a Borders Bookstore, purchase a specific fitness and nutrition book by Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier I’d been wanting, and ride back. 10 miles, no biggie.

It was blistering hot riding uphill to the bookstore in direct sunlight. I looked forward to what would mostly be downhills riding back home. Unfortunately, the book was not in stock at that particular store. And riding back, it was already dark, so the primarily downhill rides added a wind chill factor making my arms and legs numb with cold. Also, my crotch and butt felt bruised for days.

The bumpy trip was not a total loss, however. I did unexpectedly stumble upon a treasure I never knew existed:

Barney Stinson (played by Neil Patrick Harris) of the CBS sit-com “How I Met Your Mother” is constantly spewing out pearls of wisdom in dealing with women, social rules governing the chasing of tail, tricks to getting laid. But underneath it all, the other friends catch an occasional glimpse of a vulnerable boy with a hurt past, a real person something opposite of the mysteriously frivolous persona Barney usually wears in public. I love him, and not just because when he’s offended, he yells, “This is SO going into my BLOG!”

Well, according to his book The Bro Code, Barney’s blog is Today I decided to type that in, just to see. And oh…my…gawd, it EXISTS. I haven’t started reading yet, I’m delaying and savoring the anticipation while I blog about this discovery and add Barney’s Blog as a link in my sidebar, but I’m right about to dive in and start ignoring my 2-case simultaneous civil jury trial.

I have two weeks of vacation to blog about and post photos from. There’re also a few things since then that I’d considered blogging about. However, the wave of real life crashed over me and took me under for a moment. I’m not fully in control, yet, but I need to start treading to keep my BLOG from being abandoned by my readers. =)

This week has been largely about my cousin Olivia’s two young daughters, Nikki (8) and Erin (6). Having faced tremendous adversity this weekend, the two girls march bravely forward with their lives, preparing for the long painful battle only just beginning for them. I haven’t been very close to them before now, but having come running this weekend when our family unified to support the girls, I can’t see myself being distant from them again. Nikki carries the weight of the world on her shoulders; she is the protector of her mother and younger sister, mediary between father and family, and she raises her family members as much as they raise her. I forget sometimes that she’s just a kid when I’m talking with her, but when I remember, I wish I could give her a childhood back. Erin is vivacious, clever, and full of questions. So far I’ve answered all of them, hoping she never loses her curiosity or her desire for learning.

I think both are doing very well, considering…

Nikki has a birthday next week, and a pre-planned birthday party on Saturday. Their mother, my cousin Olivia, asked for help. Only an exigent circumstance could force me to turn that down, so the girls jumped up and down and cheered as I started making plans with their mother. Twenty little girls will be gathered in a princess suite at Disneyland Hotel on Saturday afternoon, so we’re doing cookie decorating, bracelet making, and a beauty salon theme. I thought I’d put my high school Key Club volunteer experience working the facepainting booth at a local fair to use; Olivia will do hair; another person will do manicures. The girls will rotate station to station until they’re prettied up to explore Downtown Disney, an afternoon on the town. Olivia bought a cream facepainting kit yesterday, which I was unfamiliar with having used only the watercolor palette type with a paintbrush (I painted SO MANY Ninja Turtles that year on little boy cheeks), so I went over after work yesterday to experiment.

This was my first one, a flower and bee on Erin’s teeny hand.

I thought it looked a little awkward, and I wasn’t used to the paint consistency. I used Q-tips to apply colors, and the cotton tips fell apart on me. Both girls were thankfully easily impressed.
My second attempt, Erin asked for a Panda. It’s her favorite animal, so much so that she’d once requested her mother change her (Erin’s) legal Chinese name to Panda Bear.

Ain’t she adorable?

“Thank you for sitting so still,” I told her.
“You’re welcome!” returned the little sprite.

Nikki is a baby seal fiend. I tried my best, but again, wasn’t happy with the result. I just couldn’t get the precision I wanted applying sticky globs of paint with a big Q-tip on a small hand. Nikki was more than forgiving; she gasped, crooned about how cuuuute the seal is, jumped up and down, declared aloud, “I am the LUCKIEST girl in the WHOLE WORLD!” I added a ribbon of blue for water, and applied glitter over the water.

Nikki asked for a flower on her other hand, and now that I was more comfortable with the paints, I got a little more daring, using up her entire forearm for a design.

“I wish this were a tattoo so this never comes off,” Nikki declared.
“No no no,” I laughed, “You do NOT want a tattoo.”
“I want THIS one,” she insisted, looking at the white seal. =P

The girls’ father is on a business trip in China, so I emailed these photos to his work account through my cameraphone. Ah, technology.

While I was in the kitchen getting ready to leave, I overheard Nikki ask her mom, “Can I not take a shower tonight? I wanna show my friends this in school tomorrow.”
Her mother offered mockingly, “Want me to tie plastic bags over your arms?”
“I don’t wanna shower, either,” the little one piped in.
“I never want to shower again,” the older one said hopefully.
I looked at my cousin apologetically. “Your kids are gonna stop showering, and it’s all my fault.”

After helping Nikki take photos of her arms on her own cameraphone so that she could send picture messages to her friends with cell phones, the three of them walked me out to my car and I drove the hour home with a smile on my face. Some minutes after I got home, I received a recorded voice message from Nikki on my cell phone (which I don’t even know how to do). It looks like a text message, except when I open it, Nikki’s clear voice says, “I’m sorry Aunt Cindy, I’m just making sure you got home safe.” I texted her back that I did, thanked her for checking up on me. Looks like she’s picked up another person to be guardian angel for.

They’re tears, cheers, joys, and fillets
Dancing on toes, smiling with dimples
That’s how it is, girls will be girls

(best recollection of a poem printed on the cover of my childhood diary)

Some people (me) have tanlines…

…and some people don’t.

I’m home, brown as a berry. But after examining the photos, I’m surprised at how even my tan is not. I guess this is why people lay out naked from day 1, and not from day 5 like I did. Maybe I’ll post a photo of me that caught a topless sunbather in the background, because I’m kind to my friends James and Dwaine like that.

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