Monday, July 30, 2007

In Memory of our Dad

Last Wednesday, after unpacking, doing the laundry, and repacking, we headed up to Lassen National Forest to spend a few days camping with Jason's family. It was a special time for us because the whole purpose was to explore as a family the area that Jason's dad used to go fishing and camping frequently before his accident thirty years ago. We got to see why he loved that area so much. It was beautiful- untouched and not touristy at all. We left Fresno on Wednesday morning and after 6 hours and a bumpy ride (we ended up on a dirt/gravel road for part of the trip), we arrived at the campsite in plenty of time to still go on a hike. Jennifer and her family drove up to the area earlier in the week to secure a campsite. Seeing that I'm 28 weeks pregnant, I am so grateful they brought their tent trailer! We camped at Big Pine campground and right beside our site ran Hat Creek.We hiked alongside the creek to various fishing holes. The next day, we drove to McArthur-Burney Falls State Park and spent pretty much the whole day on the beach at Lake Britton. While the kids played in the water and sand, I sat and read a book in the shade. Everyone else also took turns going out in the kayak that Jennifer and Mason had brought along with them. Later that afternoon, we went to see the actual falls. Amazing! We spent a good part of Friday trying to find good fishing spots. After lunch, we visited the Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery . Grace loved feeding the fish what she called, "fish cookies." It was very interesting to see and learn about how many lakes and rivers are stocked. Afterwards, we found a serene area further along Hat Creek to sit and remember Jason's dad and his amazing, inspiring life. We each took turns reading letters that we had written to him and scattered his ashes. The sound of gently running water was so calming and peaceful... It was an emotional time...

The next morning, we visited Subway Cave and spent time at some other fishing spots before packing up and heading home. Gracie did so well- she pretty much entertained herself for the whole trip home.

As our summer quickly comes to an end, we are able to look back and be grateful for the many memories that were made with our families. One of the things that we were reminded of this past week is how important it is to live each day to the fullest and to not take anything for granted... Please continue to pray for Jason's family...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Happy Anniversary... to us!

It's amazing how fast time has flown by... Today is our 8th anniversary!
We're grateful for the many people in our lives who have continued to support us through the many years. Thank you for blessing us with your friendship, encouragement, and prayers.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Til Next Year, Edmonton!

Gracie saying good bye to Ong
My 7th and last bubble tea... I definitely plan to take some Fresnans to try these out!

Well, we're back in Fresno... It's hot and muggy outside, but thank goodness we have a/c! Yesterday, we went to church in the morning and then to my mom's cafe for lunch. While Grace napped, we packed up our stuff. We came back with a lot more than what we went with! Since saying goodbye is so hard for me, I asked my parents and friends not to see us off. Only my sister came with us to the airport. We had no idea what a long day it would turn out to be. I really thought that customs would give us a hard time since I was traveling without a passport. It turned out that this was the easiest time we've ever had returning back to the States (I used my green card)! The flight from Edmonton to Seattle was fine- we are so grateful that we have a portable DVD player. Gracie watched Dora the Explorer and was very content. However, the flight from Seattle to Fresno kept getting delayed. We were scheduled to leave at 8:30pm, arriving in Fresno at 10:30pm. After the many announcements that the flight was delayed, we were finally told that our plane had mechanical problems and it couldn't be fixed in time to take us back to Fresno. The airline decided to fly us to Portland instead so that we could switch to a plane that would take us back to Fresno. By this time, it was 10:30pm. We got to Portland, switched planes, and arrived in Fresno at 1:15am. Grace was extremely hyper and could not get settled. During all of our time waiting and on our flights, she slept maybe a total of a half hour. She was definitely not herself, and it's not surprising- her usual bedtime is before 8:00pm! Anyway, despite the time and all the delays, our friend Jill still came to get us. We didn't get home until after 2:00am, and it wasn't until about 3:00am that we finally went to bed. Phew! What a day! Today, we slept in and have been taking it easy. Late in the afternoon, I went to get some things at Costco and FoodMaxx, which leads me to my next thought... Is it just me, or in this last month have businesses started being more "green?" At both stores today, I noticed displays for reusable shopping bags. I had to laugh to myself because seeing those displays reminds me of an incident that happened when I first moved to Fresno 8 years ago. It was my first trip to Vons and when it came time for the bagger to bag my groceries, I produced my own bags. The cashier and bagger made me feel so uncomfortable with their stares. One of them commented, "We do provide bags, you know." I was so embarrassed that I have never done that again in Fresno, even to places like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. In Edmonton, I had gotten in the habit of bringing my own bags to places. One of the grocery stores I shopped at most often (called "The Real Canadian Superstore") charges money for grocery bags. The first question they ask you is, "How many bags would you like?" and they ring it up- it is the first thing on your receipt. The purpose is to encourage people to bring their own bags or buy reusable bags. They even have plastic bins that fit inside the shopping cart so when you're done, all you do is put the bins in your car. Our friends, the Macks are one family in particular that comes to mind with all this "thinking/living green" stuff. I've decided to now go back to bringing my own bags when I go shopping. Maybe the Macks could somehow work that into a future "Green Idea of the Week!"

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Last Full Day in Edmonton

We've been here almost an entire month! It has gone by really quickly. Waking up this morning, we knew there were things that absolutely had to be done today since it would be our last full day in Edmonton. There were two main things: I really wanted to go for Dim Sum (since the last time I had it was a year ago), and Jason really wanted to play volleyball (aside from coaching at his school, we don't really know people who play volleyball for fun in Fresno). We joined my sister, Sarah, Binh (my closest and oldest- not by age- friend) and her husband, Neil for Dim Sum. Click on the link if you'd like to know more about what dim sum is. Only certain Chinese restaurants serve dim sum. Basically, all of the servers walk around with carts filled with a variety of Chinese dishes. Some of them are in small bamboo steamers, while others are on plates. When they come to your table, you have the choice of whether or not to take the dish. If you do take the dish, it is placed in the middle of the table, and since the whole meal is served family-style, everyone can eat what they want. I know tons of people who are reluctant to try dim sum because sometimes, the dishes can be quite "interesting." For example, one of the things that we (this excludes Jason) really enjoy is chicken feet. I know, most people are pretty grossed out by the thought- It's actually quite tasty!
That's me holding chicken feet! You can't really tell in this picture,
but Gracie had chicken feet, too!

After Dim Sum, we went to see my mom at her work so she could spend a little time with Grace. She works at the
Muttart Conservatory, which is a tourist attraction here in Edmonton. It consists of four glass pyramids, each with a different climate for growing plants. There is a temperate pyramid, arid pyramid, tropical pyramid, and a show pyramid (for seasonal displays). My mom runs the Valley Cafe. She serves coffee, beverages, desserts, sandwiches, etc.

In the evening, we were able to go to James and Ann Siebert's home for dinner. They're still getting settled into their new home, but as always, were so welcoming. It's hard to believe that it'll be another year before we see them again. I wonder what the girls will be like in a year! The day ended off with us joining some of our friends at Hawrelak Park. We weren't able to be there for their barbecue, but there was no way that Jason would miss out on playing volleyball! The sun doesn't set until pretty late over here, so even though we didn't show up until 8pm, there was still plenty of sunlight left in the day. Grace and I couldn't stay very long, but Jason stayed for another two hours.
Every year, I am grateful that we're able to spend so much time up here. This year in particular, we've been able to reconnect with so many friends. It deeply saddens me that I'll be leaving here tomorrow. It's hard to describe to people why I get so emotional about leaving. After all, it's not really saying good bye since I know I'll be back next year. It's incredibly difficult for me to have to leave behind such a big part of who I am, leave behind my family, my community, and a place I love so very much (snow and all). It's like a whole other side of me that I have to let go of until I come back to uncover again next year. I am content in Fresno- I know I am blessed and I am definitely settled, but there will always be a part of me that yearns to be here. Tomorrow is going to be a really hard day. Please remember us in your prayers!

Mmm mmm Good!

Until I left Edmonton, I grew up in Edmonton's Vietnamese Alliance Church. My pastor, who I call Muc Su, is still pastoring the Vietnamese ministries there (there are English ministries for English-speakers). Anyway, we were treated to a special lunch today at his house. He made a traditional Vietnamese meal called
Banh Xeo, also known as Vietnamese Pancakes, or Saigon Crepes. It has been at least eight years since I've had them. I'm including a link of the closest recipe I could find to what Muc Su made. It was delicious! Here are some pictures of Muc Su showing us how to make Banh Xeo.

The end result!

In the evening, we met up with some friends at A Taste of Edmonton. Basically, Sir Winston Churchill Square is packed with over 35 restaurants, each one with different menu items. Tickets are used to purchase the items. Let's see... Some of the things we tried: Creole Jambalaya, Calamari, Pad Thai, Wasabi Beef on a Bun, Lobster & Shrimp Rotini, Sweet Potato Fries, Ginger Beef, Pork Dumplings, Alberta Beef Mini Burgers, Green Papaya Salad, and Lemongrass Beef Skewer. The desserts were to die for! Crepes with Icecream and Chocolate, Mocha Pie, Green Tea Icecream, Chocolate Mango Raspberry Cake, Belgian Chocolate Pear, and Tiramisu. Hopefully, you can see why this festival is one we look forward to every year!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Capital Ex

We had a really busy day yesterday! Early in the morning, we hurried to get downtown in time to find a great spot to catch Edmonton's Capital Ex Parade. The Capital Ex is Edmonton's yearly fair, and the parade kicks off the whole thing. While Jason and Gracie saved our spot, I went off to find the nearest Tim Hortons. In case you didn't know, Tim Hortons is kind of like America's Krispy Kreme, except that it's also known for its coffee and lunches. You know how we always joke that there's a Starbucks on every corner? Well, the same could be said about Tim Hortons up here. The closest one that I went to yesterday morning had about 30 people in line. Yes, I was crazy enough to stand and wait my turn! The parade was ok- it was much better than last year, but there were so many long gaps between some of the floats that people started leaving because they thought it was over. On the whole, Gracie enjoyed seeing all of the horses and seeing the marching bands. By the end, she was really tired and ready for her nap.
Later in the evening, we went with my mom to Capital Ex. Gracie went on a few rides by herself, and Jason joined her on the ones where she was still too small. Before leaving, we were able to go into the Global Connections exhibit hall to view some of the cultural displays, including a Russian dance. We were also able to catch a part of the Peking Acrobats show. Yikes, it creeped me out to see what those people were able to do with their bodies! Seeing these two shows made Jason and I bummed out that this year, we're missing out on our favorite festival! Edmonton has what's called the Heritage Festival every August. Over 60 cultures participate- they each have their own pavilion with food samples, cultural shows, crafts/clothes/artwork and displays about their country. I always leave with a great appreciation for the diversity that exists here. It's a great way to learn more about other people's heritages. Anyway, we're off to Taste of Edmonton later tonight, so I'll share more about that festival when I get a chance.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Edmonton Valley Zoo

Every time that we've visited the Fresno Zoo, we've often felt bad for some of the animals after seeing their habitats... You should know that the things could be worse. We visited the Edmonton Valley Zoo today. I left feeling so bad for those animals. I imagine that it must be really hard for the Valley Zoo! Edmonton is snow-covered for so much of the year. My question is, where do those animals go when it gets to be freezing cold? Maybe that's why there isn't really a variety of animals, and why their habitats are so depressing. Anyway, it was still an enjoyable experience for Gracie. We took Sam, our friends' daughter with us. In these last few days, Gracie's been really hyper and rambunctious. I think Gracie's getting tired of being with us all the time. Either that or we're back in our terrible two's phase. It was nice to have someone else she could spend time with. On another note: I haven't had bubble tea in a week! How did that happen?
Anyways, here's my 6th bubble tea!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Peter's Birthday

It was my brother's birthday on Friday, and he flew up from Calgary yesterday so we could celebrate with a BBQ. Growing up, our family was very close to the Tran family. Over the years, we have been able to maintain our bonds and have remained close. We've been through a lot together, that's for sure! I don't remember ever being without them in my life. They're practically family. Here are us six "kids": Sarah, Binh, Linda, Peter, Thao, Jane (look at how huge I have gotten!)
For Peter's birthday, the guys decided to go golfing (his favorite thing to do) on Monday. Instead of the regular 18 holes, they're actually going for 36 holes. To get a head start, they decided to take some practice shots in the backyard after dinner. It turned into a competition... Jason and competitions! The things guys will do to keep themselves entertained. I think it's funny that the last time Jason golfed was here in Edmonton last summer. In fact, last summer, he went about 6 times during our month long visit. He's only been twice this year. After it got too dark for the guys to see the golf balls, we played Scrabble in teams. Jason and I ended up playing together. Wouldn't you know it, we won! For those of you who don't know, Jason and I can get really competitive, so it was probably for the best that we were on the same team!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

International Street Performers Festival

Edmonton is well-known for its many festivals throughout the summer. In fact, it is nicknamed, Festival City. It seems as if there's a new festival of some sort every week. Sir Winston Churchill Square is the location of most of the festivals. It is across the street from Edmonton's City Hall. The one thing I really like about the City Hall is that it really feels as if it's for the community. In the winter, the front is transformed into a public skating rink. In the summer, it's a huge wading pool and every so often, fountains turn on. We're thinking of taking Gracie there later this week. It can get pretty crowded, so we'll see. On Friday, we dropped by downtown for the International Street Performers Festival. We only saw two acts because it was too hot outside to just stand around. To cool off, we found some shade in the Kids World area that was set up to entertain younger kids.

Here's a street performer who got a guy in the audience to join his act

City Hall in the background

The fountains cooling everyone off

Friday, July 13, 2007

Grace passed!

Today was Gracie's last day of swimming lessons at the local rec center. Okay, technically, I guess they're not "swimming" lessons since her whole class was centered around doing things that would help the kids feel comfortable in the water. Sorry, there was restricted camera use allowed at the pool. I was only given a brief moment to take a few pictures and they didn't really turn out. Anyway, after a really rough start, she has made progress every day and today she got her very first report card. She passed the "Duck" level! Yay for Gracie!!! The next level is "Sea Turtle," but since we're actually going to be leaving Edmonton next Sunday (hard to believe!), we won't be able to enroll in that class. It has been fun watching Grace gain confidence in the water. Hopefully, this will transfer to our pool when we get back. Also, it's back to bath time in the bathtub... Remember how two weeks ago, she suddenly developed this intense fear of taking baths?! Hopefully, she has gotten over that and bath time will return to being a fun time!

Gracie's showing off her report card!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Spending Time with Friends

I never in a million years would have thought that someday, someone that I knew in Fresno would end up in Edmonton... Well, it's happened! Our friends, James and Ann Siebert moved in June from Fresno to Edmonton and today, we got a chance to meet up with each other. I have to admit that it's a little strange. Their new home is in the same area as my parents' home. Isn't that funny? Anyway, it was a gorgeous day here in Edmonton, so we decided to take our girls for a picnic in Kinsmen Park. This park is in Edmonton's river valley and aside from the actual playground, also houses one of Edmonton's biggest recreation centers. I used to go play volleyball there quite frequently in my university days. The girls had a wonderful time playing together, and it was nice to spend some time with James and Ann. This past weekend, we went to watch Sam, our friends' daughter play soccer. Well, Jason and I watched the game. Gracie ended up spending most of the game blowing bubbles with "Uncle Peter" (Okay kind of confusing, but I know two Peters: one is my brother, and one is a friend. This Uncle Peter isn't my brother... Actually, we're teaching Gracie to call my brother Peter, Cau Son. We've decided that all of my family members are going to be addressed in Vietnamese. Hey, the girl's gotta learn some Vietnamese somehow!). Anyway, here are some pictures I forgot to post earlier. My 5th bubble tea