Category Archives: Southern

Happy Holidays – Year in Review 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

It has been a long time since I’ve posted on our blog!  It’s not for lack of interesting material but more about lack of time!  Simon and Iris are very busy little people so it has been easier to just post on Instagram or Facebook.

However, we do not even get to posting pictures on those sites everyday and not everyone has access to those sites so thought we would do a YEAR IN REVIEW for everyone like we used to do in years before kids  😛

I won’t be offended if you don’t read this entire post (it is long!) so here’s a quick wish to you all for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to you and yours!

So without further ado…


We rang in the New Year in Lake Tahoe with some friends.  Simon went to ski school for the first time and although it was frustrating for him, he toughed it out and completed the whole day and learned a lot.  Iris and I played with the other little girl with us, just in the snow bank in the parking lot while the other adults went to ski.  They said it was beautiful.

Snow in the mountains meant rain in the Bay Area.

Simon had his first sleepover.  He was a bit anxious at first since the only other time he slept away from home without us was that Grandpa’s house.  He had a good time and especially enjoyed the story telling time.

Iris went ice skating for the first time at a birthday party at Oakland Ice Center. They both loved it.


We are lucky to celebrate Chinese New Year multiple times. The kids dressed up for their school performance and we had dinner with family.  The first two photos below are the elaborate costumes they wore for their performance.  Simon did a wonderful job remembering his lines and wowed the crowd.

We spent Valentine’s Day at the beach in Alameda and had a picnic lunch with takeout from Sushi House.

These two have disagreements often but still really enjoy each other’s company. And love new sweet drinks!  They really like the double seated shopping carts at Costco.

The kids had their first visit to Six Flags in Vallejo, thanks to our friends who have membership.

MARCH 2016

Simon celebrated his 6th birthday at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach.  They have awesome pinball machines, arcade games, and carnival games.  Even with the scary clown, kids (and adults) had fun.

We had a lovely visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium even though Iris had a fever, she didn’t want to miss out on all the fun.

Putting our memberships to good use, we also visited the Oakland Zoo.  There’s something about face/body painting that the kids love.  Iris got the chance to try the merry-go-round for the first time.

We also started our own little vegetable garden. Ron made this planter box in our front yard and we sprouted the plants indoors before transferring them to the planter box.

On the Saturday before Easter, we prepared Easter eggs for friends who were coming for a hunt at our house on Easter Sunday. I had them count out ten jelly beans to wrap in plastic wrap to place into each egg.   The next day, the  Easter bunny paid us a visit in the early morning with special golden eggs.


APRIL 2016

We spent spring break in Taiwan. We were there for two weeks and travelled almost all the way around the island. We decided to go this year for the annual tomb sweeping event to expose the kids to this tradition and meet up with family.  We visited Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, Kenting, Hualien, and Nantou (Sun Moon Lake).

We took the early morning flight from SFO and arrived early morning in Taipei.  We couldn’t check in so early to our hotel so did some wandering around the area before we could go back and take a nap.

They were introduced to Taiwanese style shaved ice.  Can you tell that they like it?

At this point, I honestly cannot remember all the names of the places we visited.  We did visit a few amusement parks throughout Taiwan.  There was hardly any crowds so the kids could ride the rides multiple times without waiting.  We also visited Sun Moon Lake and took the ferry in the pouring rain.

We visited the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village.

We visited our nanny Annie in Kaoshiung and played at the beach and explored around town. There were art exhibits, a mini train ride, and a museum.

We did a sleepover at the aquarium in Kenting.  It was a very interesting experience for all of us.  They provide sleeping mats and blankets and pillows and we slept next to the penguin exhibit.  They provide a nighttime behind the scenes tour and also a seaside tour in the morning.  Meals are provided and there are also locker rooms to shower and brush your teeth, etc.


We visited family in Hualien but first stopped by the Farglory Amusement Park.

Then back to Taipei for Hello Kitty Shabu Shabu and Hello Kitty sweets cafe.

Then time to head home…


Back home and wide awake…

Jet lag was challenging and it took about a week to get back on schedule.

MAY 2016

Ron built us our own Free Little Library to put in our front yard so that people walking by can take a book or share a book with our neighbors. The kids decorated the roof and sides then Ron sealed it so it wouldn’t wash off.

There was a lot of celebrating done this month, first a Star Wars themed birthday for Simon’s friend.

Then we prepared for Iris’ 3rd birthday at our home with her friends from school and their families. We made these brown paper hats as a craft for the party.

We celebrated Mother’s Day a day early with dinner while the kids had a PJ party at school. One of the many reasons our school is so great, these great events to watch our kids so we can enjoy a night out.

Simon lost his first tooth.

Annual trip to Brentwood for cherry picking and also strawberry picking. Fruit directly from the orchards and fields are so much better than store bought plus the kids enjoy the experience.

Our first harvest from our planter box. Yummy carrots and turnips!

Time for Maker Faire in San Mateo. A treat for the kids and Ron.

Simon loves R2-D2.

Iris thinks R2-D2 is pretty awesome too.
JUNE 2016

Took the kids to vote at our local polling place.

Just hanging out in Downtown Berkeley with Three Twins ice cream.

Playing Duplos together.

End of the school year celebration. Simon will move on to First Grade in the Fall.

Simon started kung fu lessons at US Shaolin Kung Fu studio in Oakland Chinatown. He had been taking Kung Fu after school at GMIS and wanted to continue.  He really likes the after kung fu treats: ice cream or boba drinks.

Simon attended many different summer camps this summer: CAL Explorer, Sarah’s Science, CAMP 510, MOCHA, Lawrence Hall of Science, and Galileo.  Unfortunately, Iris is still too young for all those camps so she spent most of the summer at GMIS and with the nanny doing other activities.

We took a road trip to Solvang, San Diego, and Los Angeles area.

The Little Mermaid fountain in Solvang.

We went to Legoland in San Diego (Carlsbad) and of course both kids had the best time!  Iris was finally tall enough to ride some of the rides and she loved them.

JULY 2016

We spent two days at Legoland so visited the Aquarium on the second day.  Iris was also a bit star struck to meet Emmet from the Lego Movie.

After Legoland, we went to the Los Angeles area and I wanted to try the special meal at Plan Check with Sanrio characters Chococat and Purin.  The cookie was the favorite of the meal.  Afterwards we visited the Getty.  Iris slept through most of the visit but Simon seemed to take interest in some of the art.

After our trip, our summer continued with Simon at more camps, Iris started ballet class, and lots of birthday celebrations.

We attended the Hello Kitty themed Giants Game but only saw her from a distance. We will need to go earlier next time to find her to say hello!  Iris got to go up tot bat in the little kids corner.

We went camping in Chabot in Oakland. S’mores are the favorite part.

We went to the kite festival at the Berkeley Marina and some more random July pictures.  The kite festival always has the vendor with the delicious mango flowers.


Simon had a few more weeks of camp and these were his favorite at MOCHA where he could do art all day long.

Kids tried making pottery at a birthday party hosted at Kids N Clay. Here are some of their creations.  If you couldn’t tell, I helped Iris a bit.

Iris started gymnastics lessons at Head Over Heels in Emeryville. She much preferred this over ballet so we stopped ballet and will stick with gymnastics and swimming.

We went to Lake Merritt to watch the Dragon Boat Races, Simon started violin lessons, and other fun before school started again.

Look at Simon’s muscle!

Trying on our high heels together.

Simon was the ring bearer and Iris was the flower girl for my brother Tim & Callie’s wedding.

They both went back to school during the last week of August.


For Labor Day weekend we went back to Berkeley Marina to fly our own kites that we purchased at the festival.


The next day we went to San Francisco to the California Academy of Sciences. Discover & Go passes are wonderful things!  We wandered around the park and headed to Japantown for dinner. I forgot how awesome Kinokuniya bookstore is.

Simon earned a white belt in Kung Fu, had his first art exhibit, and fun a birthday parties.

Iris had a field trip to the Lawrence Hall of Science and one more camping trip for the year.


Simon had a field trip to see Seussical at the Bay Area Children’s Theater.

Ronald and I celebrated our birthdays this month.

On a warm day, I put the kids to work to clean the car and they loved it.  They had swim class later that morning so it was perfect for Iris to be wearing her swimsuit so it wouldn’t matter if she got wet.  Gotta keep that in mind for when it warms up again!

We made a trip out to Concord to check out the place called Round 1 in Sunvalley Mall.  They have lots of arcades and prize machines to play with.  A bit pricey but pretty fun and good quality prizes.

We went apple picking for the first time.  We drove to Sebastopol with some friends and the kids had a great time running around the orchard and using the apple picking poles.  We also picked pears and there was a pumpkin patch nearby so the kids picked their pumpkins too.

Mini Maker Faire occurs this month too and this was the first year that Ron and Simon went.

We went all out on Halloween costumes this year.  Simon said he wanted to be a storm trooper so I went online to search for how to DIY.  I was just going to make it out of foam but Ron took cover and went all out using a laser cutter for cardboard and glueing pieces together and spraying it with stuff to seal it, etc.  There are lots of plans online but it does take some expertise to figure out how to size it for kids since the plans are for adults.  As you can see, this is something that I couldn’t do myself so I am glad Ron decided to take over making Simon’s costume!  Instead, I made Iris’ which she was a princess fairy for Simon’s school carnival and I made her a rainbow unicorn costume for her own school carnival and for trick-or-treating.  Her costume is made from a jogging suit, felt, lots of glue, and blood, sweat, and tears! (kidding on the last items).

I will treasure these school pictures for many years to come.  I can’t believe how quickly these two are are growing up!


We discovered Snapchat this month and the hilarious filters.  I only downloaded it because I saw there was a Hello Kitty filter (probably for her birthday on November 1st) but now the kids keep on asking, can we take funny pictures? (They do not know it is called Snapchat.)

We call had out dental check-ups together at our favorite office: Contra Costa Dentistry.  It is so great that all of us can go at the same time and have our routine check-ups together.  Afterwards, we treated the kids to another trip to Round 1.

More Snapchat hilarity.

And yes, although I’m pretty serious most of the time, I love silly stuff like this!  (Ron has one to but refuses to wear it!)

We went ice skating at the Little Rink in Alameda.  Simon didn’t use the helper seal and Iris was able to go around by herself with the seal.  Much less backbreaking for us now that they are both so independent!

Uncle William and Anita’s wedding were married this month in San Mateo.  We had the pleasure of attending the ceremony and dinner.

Stella joined our family on November 19, 2016.  A neighbor on NextDoor had posted about finding her a new home and I was immediately smitten by this all white cat.  Majority of the cats in my life started out a white/cream color but as they aged, they turned gray.  Not that I loved them any less but I have always wanted to have a white cat.  After a few meetings with her and Simon and Ron were not showing anymore allergic symptoms, we brought her home with us.  I guess she is my very own Hello Kitty cat!  She is a little “sooty” in this picture since she spent the first two weeks hiding in the chimney so hence the bit of gray on her belly and paws.

Uncle Henry and Auntie Betty hosted Thanksgiving at their house so the kids helped me make a pumpkin pie.  It was nice year to have a bit less worry about preparing a Thanksgiving feast.

After Thanksgiving, we headed to South Lake Tahoe to play in the snow!  No skiing was done this time around but plenty of soft snow for sledding and building snowmen.


Iris’ school had the annual Winter Gala combined with a PJ party for the kids at school.  The kids got to wear their favorite pajamas while Ron and I had a night out with dinner and enjoying the company of other adults.

The kids were excited to get our Christmas tree up and decorated for Christmas.  We went to the Delancey St lot that we have been going to since we moved to Berkeley.


Other activities for this month so far: red egg and ginger party at Moonstar Buffett in Daly City for my cousin’s son,

Winter celebration at Iris’ school with songs and lots of cheer,

Still berries in winter? Yes, from Costco!,

making Star Wars gingerbread cookies,

making sure the kids stay healthy during this winter season by taking their vitamins,
Simon’s 1st violin recital where he played French Folk Song.  All the kids did great!,

at the Tilden Park Merry-Go-Round, we visited with Santa

First ride on the Merry-Go-Round in Tilden Park

Making graham cracker houses (next year, I’ll make gingerbread for the houses too, graham crackers are too brittle)

Iris and I went to Winter Wonderland at Children’s Fairyland in Oakland.  She loved it here and even sat through to watch the puppet show.  Her favorite part was the merry-go-round which she rode at least 15 times.  She was excited that she was tall enough (38″) and could get on and off without my assistance.

Simon and Ron watched the much anticipated Rogue One and loved it.

The kids are both out for break and not doing any camps so it is daddy daycare for two weeks.  So far they’ve been to mini golf, Lawrence Hall of Science, taken the ferry from Alameda to San Francisco, taken the cable car, seen the 2-story gingerbread house at the Fairmont, went to the Children’s Creativity Museum, and with more in store for the last few days of the year.

It has been lovely for me to have a few extra days off this weekend to spend with my family and to provide this update to you.  If you have gotten this far, thank you for reading!
We hope everyone is doing well and will enjoy this holiday season with family and friends!  It’s been a wonderful year full of love and laughter and we are looking forward to more of the same in 2017.  Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


Jen, Ron, Simon (6), Iris (3), and Stella (3)

Road Trip Home

Monday, November 4, 2013

Unfortunately, Mommy and Iris cannot deal with Daddy’s snoring so he had to share the room with Simon.

We had the buffet breakfast included with our hotel stay. Simon enjoying his food.

They even have a kid-sized buffet.

A princess was making her rounds in the restaurant and Simon really wanted to take a picture with her.

Iris and I took a walk to check out the pool which was unfortunately closed for cleaning. But there were plenty of lifeguards watching over the pool.

We had a pool view from our room so ventured out the first floor balcony.

Leaving our hotel to head back home, we took pictures with the larger than life Lego figures.

Farewell Legoland Hotel!

On the way home, we stopped by 85C in Irvine for some pastries and coffee. Iris was really interested in my iced coffee.

All of us enjoyed a little snack before we hit the road.

We made it back to the Bay Area around dinner time so stopped by my parents’ house to eat with them. Iris was showing off her rolling skills and how she can grab her feet.

The road trip home was difficult compared to the trip down. Iris wasn’t happy in the carseat so we had to stop a few times to let her stretch her legs. She fell asleep for the last two hours of the trip which made the drive easier. Maybe next time we will fly but not sure if that will be much better. We will see.

Legoland California

Sunday, November 3, 2013

As a treat for the weekend, we decided to visit Legoland and stay at their hotel for one night. In the morning, I slept in for a little while Ron played with the kids.

Then we went off to drive to Carlsbad. With the end of Daylight Savings, I think Iris’ schedule was a bit out of sync since she fell asleep in her carseat while still holding on to her toys.

We arrived at the hotel and did a preliminary check-in. There was a Lego concierge attendant and a cool Lego pit for the kids.

Our room wasn’t ready yet so we just left our luggage with the bell hop and the front desk would call me when our keys were ready. So we went to explore Legoland!

Simon was beaming and happily took pictures with the awesome Lego models throughout the park. Here is a camera touting tourist.

RTD2 and Chewbacca.

Darth Vader.
photo 3

A Star Wars pilot.
photo 4

Plus there were all the rides. Simon is now 40 inches tall! He still rode on most of the rides with Ron and was a little scared at first. Eventually he overcame his fears and enjoyed all the different rides.

We had a kids meals for lunch: chicken strips, hot dogs, fries, juice packs, and raisins. Plus various snacks like these delicious apple fries.


Ron took Simon around the rest of the park. Simon thinking.
photo 1

Simon as a knight on a horse.
photo 5

Simon driving.
photo 2

Sometime after lunch, our room was ready so I took Iris back for a nap while Ron and Simon continued to explore. To me, the room was pretty awesome. The kids have their own sleep area and the bathroom is kid friendly. The toilet has the special cover with an adaptor for kids and even has a step stool so the can get up to wash hands.

Here is the kids’ “room”.


The bathroom.



The parents’ “room”.


All the awesome Lego models throughout the room. The Lego person head is actually just the ice bucket. Underneath the frog is a treasure chest. There is a mini scavenger hunt to unlock the code for the lock and there are a few gifts inside for the kids.








The door has a mini viewer for the kids too.


Iris taking a nap. Although she had a hard time with all the hallway noises. She eventually slept three 15 minute naps.

After her naps, we went to meet up with Ron and Simon. They were mostly already through the park so I didn’t get to see the rest but met up with them in the Duplo section. Simon loves tow trucks!

We had a late afternoon snack of ramen.

And a few more pictures with some Lego models. A lion.
photo 3

An elephant.
photo 4

A dinosaur.
photo 5

Then shopping at the Lego store. Iris trying on some kittyfied sunglasses.

Then a pre dinner treat of soft serve. Mine is green apple, Simon’s is chocolate and Ron’s is raspberry. Iris looks like she really wants some.
photo 1

Our family with a Lego pirate. An awesome idea for Halloween costumes for next year.

Ron with a Lego knight.
photo 2

A totally tiring but fun day. Simon had two big temper tantrums during the day probably from being overtired and not wanting to nap. The park only opens until 5pm so we wanted to make sure to see all of it before they closed. But he missed his afternoon nap so was very fussy in the evening and didn’t want to do what we asked. After a good night’s rest, we should all go back to normal.

Road Trip to Southern California

Saturday, November 2, 2013

We headed out around 6am for the long drive to Long Beach, CA. Our first long road trip with Iris. We had to get there by 2pm for our friend’s wedding ceremony in the Queen Mary. We had to wake up the kids early so they were tired but at least we had a beautiful sunrise.

Iris napped very well and drank from the bottle well during the trip.

Simon was a little bored and a little tired but didn’t nap much. What did parents do before the iPad? Playing games and watching videos kept him entertained. But at the beginning of the trip, he wasn’t quite awake yet so wasn’t in the mood for playing, just chillin’.

We barely made it in time for the 2pm scheduled start of the ceremony. We hit some traffic and had to checkin to our hotel to change clothes and to have lunch. The ceremony ended up being delayed because some guests were stranded at their airports or delayed at LAX due to the shooting there on Friday. So we didn’t miss a thing and watched to short but sweet ceremony. Iris attended her first wedding!
Simon trying on Iris’ hat.

Afterwards, we explored a bit of the Queen Mary. They have these old style telephone booths on board.

Simon posing for a picture on deck.

Our family.

The Queen Mary.

The dinner banquet was in Cerritos so we decided to drive there. Iris napped while Simon and Ron explored the shopping plaza where the restaurant was located. They ran into Minnie Mouse!

The happy newlywed Lisa and Will!

Silly Simon squeezing between the chairs.

We had a lot of babies at our table who all were getting tired by the end of the dinner. Parents with their Ergobaby carriers.

It was worth the long drive to see our friends get happily married and to see my UOP classmates. So we had a mini reunion, it’s been 10 years since graduation!

First Flu Shot

Day 224

We brought back half a dozen mini cupcakes from when we were in Pasadena. The place is called Dots Cupcakes. Cute box huh?

I was pleasantly surprised they made it back all in one piece and were still pretty tasty. From the one with the carrot going clockwise: carrot, chocolate caramel (?), lemon, dulce de leche, chocobutter, and red velvet.

Simon is becoming more independent these days, he’s holding his own bottle more and more. When he’s tired (or just feeling lazy), he still prefers that we hold it for him.

Since it’s influenza season, Ron took Simon to get his first flu shot. Simon needs to get two shots this year since this is first time getting vaccinated. Here is is anxiously waiting in line.

Simon got his shot and Ron said he only cried out for a few seconds then calmed down right away. What a good boy!

Simon really likes to stand up so still hasn’t really started to crawl yet. He prefers to prop himself against the piano and play there. At least he is content for a short while playing by himself so that daddy Ron can have some time to do some work.