Monday, October 31, 2011

Spiderman pumpkin: this year's carving for Halloween

Tristan's favorite superhero is Spiderman. We have never watched any superhero flick with him yet but he seems to have a lot of interest in Spiderman. Maybe because Spiderman looks cool?! His recent fascination with Spiderman made this year's pumpkin design choice super easy :)

Happy Halloween!!! May you get all the treats (or tricks) you deserve :)
This took 1.5 hours to carve! Phew.

Highlights from our trip to Oahu

Yes, we went to Hawaii!!! We were in Oahu for five days and then Kauai for three days. It was everything you would expect from a tropical family vacation.

It has been over 10 years since Jean-Louis and I have been in Oahu. We lived on the Big Island of Hawaii for awhile and visited Oahu a few times. Our impression of Oahu at the time was that it was dirty and was way too busy and we had no idea why it was so popular. Waikiki was lame compared to the beautiful beaches we have been to on the Big Island and Kauai. There were beggars, prostitutes and it didn't feel safe to wander around in the city at night.

Now in our 30s with a toddler, our impression of Oahu is that it's actually a great place for a vacation. It has cleaned up quite nicely and there are so many new buildings and roads. The Waikiki area is lovely now. There's great shopping, entertainment, and I hardly saw litter on the streets. A lot has changed. We have also changed.

We stayed in Oahu for five nights, which we thought was plenty. Since I was so organized, we got to do a lot of stuff and when we left, we didn't feel like we missed out on much.

Here are the highlights from our trip:
  • We visited with a friend, who we haven't seen since our wedding.
  • Coffee & Tea has better bubble tea than in Vancouver. It's true!
  • Diamond Head State park is a long walk from Waikiki. Tristan walked all the way up and down on his own and the other hikers were impressed. That made us proud :)
  • We all enjoyed the Grand Circle Island tour. It gave us a look at the real Oahu, not just Waikiki. However, I got four nasty mosquito bites from that trip and Jean-Louis got stung my a bee on his foot.
  • Island Vintage Coffee on Waikiki rocked.
  • The Magic of Polynesia show was excellent. The dinner portion was just okay.
  • The Waikiki Aquarium was okay. The Vancouver Aquarium is way better.
  • The Ali`i Kai Catamaran dinner cruise was nice. Tristan partied really hard. It was kind of embarrassing since we normally don't dance and he had to drag us out for every song. He kind of threw a fit when we didn't let him dance out there.
  • Hit places we ate at: Padovani's Grill, Rainbow Drive In, Leonard's Bakery, Waiola's Shave Ice and Bakery
  • One of the Groupons we bought for ice cream, Hula Swirl, went out of business:( Luckily, Groupon refunds you in an event like this.
  • Surprise find: reliable wireless Internet was hard to come by. Many coffee shops didn't have WIFI or a bathroom. What the heck!
  • Everywhere I went, people thought I was a local resident since I was Asian and tanned
  • The weather was great! We only encountered a brief shower once.
  • No rain, no rainbow. Even though we weren't rained upon, we got to see two rainbows in Oahu.

Friday, October 28, 2011

HI: We're back :)

Guess where we vacationed this time?

Hint 1: Re-read the post title.

Hint 2: State fish: humu­humu­nuku­nuku­āpuaʻa

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Apple picking at Ma and Gong's house

Lots of apples = apple pie ...of course:)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Victoria half marathon was a success!

We did it! We were blessed with great weather and had a terrific run. In fact, Jean-Louis finished with a personal best time! We both achieved our target goal of under 2 hours. Not too shabby for our first race in over 3 years :)

Here are our results:

TimeFinal PlacePlace in SexPlace in Age Division

Jean-Louis and I ran together for the first kilometer or so and then we lost each other in the crowd. In the end he just smoked me, as my brother-in-law puts it! I had a feeling he would do well since he was in much better shape than I was and trained twice as much as I did. We used to be great pace buddies. A long time ago, that is. It's hard to think that I used to beat him in some of the longer races in the past. Not that I'm bummed by my own results. I more than reached my goal so I'm proud :)

After the race, we ate oranges, bananas, chocolate energy drinks, bagels, and cookies. There were also puddings, energy bars, and muffins. My favorite were the oranges. I couldn't get enough of those sweet oranges! Thank-you Thrifty Foods for breakfast :)

The Victoria marathon event, which also includes the half marathon, 8km road race, wheelchair competitions, and  kids run has been voted the best marathon in Western Canada. It is always well organized and we pretty much get everything we want out of a race. We have competed in maybe twenty races since 2002 and this race is one of our most highly rated ones! I get the feeling that the competitors in this race are overall faster compared to other races. Or maybe I'm just getting old :) Hey, next year I will be in a new age division! Wow.

I ran too slow, then too fast, then super slow, then held steady to the end. I actually sprinted the last 500 meters. It was bad strategy on my part so if I were to race again soon, I know I could do better. It has been so long that I must have forgotten what it was like to race again. Overall, Jean-Louis and I both feel good about the half-marathon. It really wasn't so bad. After the race, Jean-Louis mentioned that the race was actually quite short. Brag, brag, brag. Not for me! The guy even tweeted while he ran! Obviously it was too easy for Jean-Louis :) Now that the half marathon is behind us, the full marathon seems a lot more reachable. The main problem is finding the time to train with Tristan and also finding someone to watch Tristan.

My parents babysat Tristan for the first time ever this weekend so we could both race. We were a bit stressed about it, especially since we left him early in the morning while he was still sleeping. In the end, he was perfectly fine. It was a couple of hours without us and it was just fine for everyone. I think it helped that I had told him about it for awhile now. He knew that we were running and that he would have to stay with his gong and ma. We planned for them to watch us along the route but unfortunately we totally missed each other :( Thankfully none of us got lost this year and we were able to meet up after wards. We even made Tristan a sign to hold while cheering us on! My parents said he was saying hi to everyone that ran by and they said hi back to him :) Oh well. Maybe we can use the sign again next year :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Durian coconut cream cake

My mom had a birthday this weekend so I ended up making her a birthday cake. I thought about what I could give her for awhile but in the end, I just couldn't get anything on time. I was hunting for bubble tea supplies in Vancouver for the longest time but when that failed, I had to come up with a plan B. On the upside I did find a good bubble tea supply store that only ships to the US so I'll think about using them next time for a Point Roberts order.

This is the first time I made a birthday cake for anyone either than myself or Jean-Louis. Normally, for my parents, we just order something nice and professionally done at Maxim's. I know my mom loves durian and we used to buy durian cakes from a lady who ran a home business in Victoria but that business is no longer in operation. I have looked into this before and none of the big Chinese bakeries here sell a durian version of their cream sponge cakes. Since I made durian cake once already and it turned out good, I wanted to try a different method and improve on it. Last time I made it, it tasted good, maybe a bit too creamy and it didn't look very pretty. It had tons of potential though :)

For my mom's durian coconut cake, I used the coconut chiffon cake recipe from Tartine and followed the Pastel de Tres Leches recipe. It's basically a coconut chiffon cake with pastry cream, coconut syrup and lots of cream. I started with this recipe and then added a thin layer of pureed durian fruit on top of each pastry cream layer. Then for the icing, I doubled the whipping cream so I could cover the entire cake. Decorating the cake was tricky but I chose a simple design and topped it with some homemade ruffle flowers. Yes, I make fondant now! It really is just like playdoh but you can eat these :) I read that fondant doesn't work well with cream cakes so I made sure to only put these on at the last minute. I also didn't bind all the flowers together so that I could easily separate and serve them with each slice of cake. The other problem is that cream cakes are not normally as sweet as buttercream cakes so the fondant really tasted super sweet in comparison.

I personally thought the cake turned out well. It was moist, flavorful, and even though the cake was slightly denser than typical Chinese sponge cakes, all the layers and cream made the cake a soft and light dessert. I didn't use all the coconut syrup since it looked like too much when I was assembling the cake but now that I think about it, it wouldn't have hurt to use it all up. I didn't put a lot of durian in the cake but the durian was so strong that you couldn't really taste that much coconut in the cake. I ended up using the leftover coconut syrup for lattes and that was actually really good! I might just have to make myself coconut syrup in the future just for coffees :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Conversations with a 2.5 year old

Tristan is at the age where we can have conversations together and engage in pretend play. It's funny, confusing, and entertaining! I am loving this age :)

Here is us walking home from daycare. I always ask him how his day was and what he did. Then I ask about his favorite friends.

Me: Was Christopher at daycare today?

Tristan: No, he went on vacation to China.

Me: China? Why?

Tristan: He went to buy Toy Story stickers.

When we stay home together, we get to have lots of conversations. It's getting to the point where it's too awesome to miss and I want to remember this forever so I have restarted recording videos of him again. My hard drive is going to hate me but oh well :)

Today I made banana chocolate chip muffin top cookies. I gave him one of the cookies after his lunch and asked him what kind of cookie it is and what is in it. I thought he could examine the cookie and tell me what was inside. His response: Hmmm.... baking powder, I think. Me: LOL.

We went to story time at the library today. Occasionally,  a parent would leave the room with their child during story time. Tristan would then ask "where are they going?" Me: I don't know. Maybe they have to go home. Him: Maybe they are going on vacation to China.

What is up with China?? It used to be Mexico but now everything is China. There was a little boy at daycare who went away to China for vacation. He was apparently gone a long long time so Tristan and probably everyone else at daycare was aware that the little boy went to China. Tristan obviously still remembers.

A couple of months ago, Jean-Louis accidentally stepped on dog poop on the grass by where we parked our car. He made a big scene over it and spend some time cleaning it off before he went back in the car. Now every time there is poop on the grass, and Tristan sees it, he thinks that only Daddy can step on it.

Us: Be careful when you walk on the grass. Sometimes there is dog poop there. We don't want to get our shoe dirty and smelly.
Tristan: Oh. Only daddy can step on it?
Us: Nobody step on it! When daddy stepped on it, it was an accident! Just an accident.

Sometimes Tristan and I have lovely conversations during breakfast. While he was having his milk one morning, he asks me about his milk.

Tristan: This is cow's milk?
Me: Yes.
Tristan: When I was a baby, I used to drink Mommy's milk. Now that I'm a big boy, I drink cow's milk.
Me: Yes.

Later that evening or the next evening, he tried to make the same correlation using yogurt! He said "I am a big boy and I eat yogurt. When I was a baby I used to eat Mommy's yogurt." Me: Noooooo.

Tristan has great memory too. One day I was singing "Down by the Bay" with him and he sang along but only to parts of it. It was obvious he didn't know the whole song. Two or three days later, I heard him singing the song when he woke up. I was surprised to hear the entire song. He knew it all! Well, not all since you can go on and on forever but he knew all the parts that we sang together a few days earlier. It was as though he was rehearsing but we haven't sang it for days and I never heard him sing it without me.

I'm sure there are tons of other examples too but I can't possibly list them all here. From conversations I have had with other moms as well, it seems the 2 to 3 year old range is a very cute age for speech. Toddlers in this age range are learning one to two new words every day and are able to string a lot of new sentences together. Their vocabulary and speech is just exploding! For Tristan, he loves to sing and knows so many songs by heart now. He even teaches us new songs :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Training for the Victoria Half Marathon

Jean-Louis and I are both racing in the Victoria Half Marathon this coming weekend. That's in 5 days!!! This will be our first race in over 3 years. Basically since I was pregnant with Tristan. I'm both nervous and excited.

The Victoria Half Marathon always occurs during Thanksgiving long weekend, which is one more reason for us to ferry over to Victoria and spend time with the family. At the same time, it's my mom's birthday too! Good thing it's a long weekend :)

We've ran the Victoria Half Marathon twice already back in 2005 and 2006. It's a beautiful scenic route and I would recommend this race based on just that fact. It turns out that the race also hands out excellent long sleeve New Balance technical shirts to participants, rather than your typical running white t-shirts. Another plus. Being staged in October means that we get the nice summer weather to train for it. Another plus! We've ran the Vancouver Half Marathon once and it just pales in comparison. I mean the route is also very lovely and the biggest bonus is that it's in town so we don't have to travel to get to it. But it's in May and training needs to start in the winter and that means running in the cold and rain :( But it's also the little things. The Victoria race has better snacks and food for after the race since they are sponsored by Thrifty Foods. Overall it seems you get more and it's $5 cheaper than the Vancouver half marathon. Man, I suddenly feel like a promoter for the Victoria Half Marathon :) But honestly, if you are a half marathon runner, you should run the race in Victoria. It's totally awesome and it's my hometown! :)

Are we ready for our race? We are as ready as we can ever be, being parents of a 2.5 year old toddler. Poor Tristan has to sit in the jogging stroller for one hour at a time when we go running together now. He's been doing pretty well. We try to time it during is naps but he barely naps anymore. We run with him in the stroller only twice a week. Jean-Louis and I run together while Tristan is in daycare twice a week. We basically run once Jean-Louis gets home from work and then we run straight to daycare to pick Tristan up. The daycare staff is used to seeing us both all sweaty and gross :) If we're not prepared now, it's hopeless. This week we're taking it a bit easy. We have two more runs left to do before race day. One 10KM and one 5KM and that's it! Running these short distances is probably not the best way to train for the race but we just don't have time to be running a half-marathon in the day. I already feel bad that Tristan is stuck in the stroller for one hour.

5 days left! Sunday around 9:30AM, I'm going to be one happy sore runner :)
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