Saturday, December 22, 2007


Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays,
'Cause no matter how far away you roam

When you pine for the sunshine

Of a friendly face

For the holidays, you can't beat

Home, sweet home

It was more than a friendly face and sunshine, I had a great time watching my #1 nephew JL during his Tae Kwon Do class (photo above). I learned that Tae means to kick, Kwon means to strike with the hand and Do means discipline. Taken together, Tae Kwon Do means the art of kicking and punching, similar to my kickboxing class. JL went through all the exercises, but fell down towards the end when he tried to deliver the jumping front kick. I was standing nearby and had to stop myself from rushing over as the instructor already checking to make sure that JL was not injured. JL was able to continue afterward and received a gold star for his efforts.

The photo below shows JL with Polly, the Squawkers Macaw, a great Christmas gift from my sister, CH, who was promoted to #1 Aunt that evening. JL was so excited when he opened the present and proclaimed, "It was exactly what I wanted"! Later, diplomatically JL said to CH, "You shouldn't have" and the whole family burst into laughter, amazed at JL communication skills at such young age. The next day, JL continued to enjoy the bright parrot, playing the phrases and silly sound effects and really had fun with the recorder. JL surprised Grandma when he recorded a phrase in Chinese and Grandma thought the parrot knew how to speak Chinese.

The photo above was taken at Grand Central Station. I thought of the servicemen and women who are serving overseas, away from their families. I hope and prayed they would all soon be safely home to celebrate the holidays with their loved one.
As we were walking around town, I commented to my husband that the store (photo above) had the same signs, Going Out of Business, Closing Sale, Everything must be Sold, just as almost 20 years ago when I was working at the building nearby. Personally I would never purchase any electronic items when I am out of town, let alone out of the country. I wonder about the foreign tourists who thought they got a good deal out of the sale items in this store, only to learn that the items they purchased 6,000 miles away, no longer worked properly when they arrived home.

Each time we visited NYC, it has been a tradition that my husband and I must go to the United Nations and spend time in its coffee shop. It was the place we met in July 1987 and after more than 20 years, my husband still loves to tell our greatest love story to anyone who asks the question, "How did you two meet?".

I saw this building 505 Fifth at 42nd Street (photo below) but not sure if this CIT was the same company I worked for in early 1982-mid 1983. The location I worked at was around 56th street and Madison. The company later moved to Livingston, New Jersey. (To this day, more than 25 years later, I stayed in touch with my supervisor, Mrs. MB. She was kind to me and always encouraging.) I attended LaGuardia Community College during the day and worked as Data Entry Operator from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Back then I was young and had a lot of energy to endure the schedule of classes at 8:00 a.m. in the morning, after a quick lunch, then rush to work. Homeworks were done in between classes, on the subway to work or even on the way home at almost midnight. Many times I would skip dinners and used the break to catch up with homework or final exams.
There was a young man named Thomas who graduated at the same time with me from Chinatown Manpowers (a training and employment agency on Mulberry Street in Chinatown). Out of the kindness of his heart, in addition to bringing dinners from home, Thomas also packed a small container for me. We were good friends but never went beyond movies or lunch in Chinatown. Whether because of his shy nature being Asian American, Thomas never made an advance or even expressed any romantic interest towards me. Or could be that I was too busy to notice. We lost touch after I left CIT to work for an insurance company at 666 Fifth Avenue. Wherever you are, Thomas, thanks for all the dinners and for being a good friend.

Believe it or not, taking the subway made me feel at home too. My husband complimented me that I was able to make connections, getting off at stations to transfer to different trains without looking at the subway map. When I told my friend, MW that I would take the subway and meet her in Flushing. MW was surprised that I remembered how to transfer to the #7 train from midtown. I am out of New York, but New York is always within my heart and mind.
Oh there's no place like home
For the holidays, 'cause no matter
How far away you roam
If you want to be happy in a million ways
For the holidays, you can't beat
Home, sweet home


I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

I'll be home for Christmas
Where the love light gleams
Below is the view from my window as the airplane was approaching New York City. I finally am able to put together the photos and to begin sharing with my adoring fans my celebration of Christmas in New York and my husband's 49th birthday. We left St. Louis on Sunday, December 23rd and came back on January 2nd. We had a wonderful time with the family and really enjoyed many finer things New York City has to offer. We treated ourselves to a night stay at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, a show at Radio City, and a hockey game NY Rangers v. Montreal Canadiens. Just walking around NYC, the familiar places brought back all the wonderful memories of living and working in this fast-pace city.

For the first time since moving away, I finally was able to let go of my guilt for abandoning my family. I was excited thinking of my #1 nephew, JL, Mom, sister and brothers and look forward to being in the same house, not 1,000 miles away. I realized that my sister and brothers are capable to taking care of themselves, in the case of my brother, the Qaptain, with his own family. The sad feeling is still with me that my Dad will not be around during my visit. But I no longer let that be the reason that I would not be happy seeing Mom and everyone else. Below is the Christmas tree my brother put together prior to our arrival and later my husband and my nephew worked together to put more ornaments on the tree. Just watching CP and JL decorated the tree was one of the highlights of my visit or when JL kept checking the presents to see how many with his name on the packages.

I took this photo of the Brooklyn Bridge from the window of the car service on our ride from VL's home in Brooklyn into Manhattan. With its 276-foot towers, 5,989 foot span over the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge was the largest steel-wire suspension bridge ever when it opened in 1883. The bridge on the left side in the photo is Manhattan Bridge. I sure love my Sony Cyber-shot camera. I tried to capture images around me and constantly taking snapshots at images that others thought were silly and not worthy. My husband and my brother started to tease me by pointing at the ground and said, "There is a piece of gum, take a picture of it!".

On Monday, Christmas Eve, after checking into the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, we walked over to Radio City Music Hall for a 4:30 p.m. performance. We purchased tickets in adance so there was only about 10 minutes of waiting in line to get inside. The Christmas Spectacular show with the Rockettes was really spectacular! Our tickets were in orchestra seats but way in the back. Luckily, the people in front of me were not tall and did not constantly moving, so I had a great view of the stage. It was also special as the show celebrated its 75 years of entertainment. When this lavish showplace opened in 1932, it was the nation's largest theater.

Below are more photos from Rockefeller Center, at night and during the day, both looking so beautiful with Christmas decoration. It was very crowded since everyone pointed their cameras trying to capture the famous Christmas tree and the golden status above the ice rink (the first two photos in this entry were taken by my husband as a short person like me would not be able to do in the sea of people).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007





Monday, December 17, 2007


Both of the above items were purchased after Christmas last year (2006). We paid $10 for the wreath and only $5 for Santa on the sleigh. The photo on the box showed that there were eight raindeer (sold separately) pulling the sleigh. The item was on sale because the store ran out of the reindeer. My husband spend the following 11 months searching for the reindeer on Ebay. The reindeer are available in a set of two, at a cost of $20 each, plus shipping. For a sale item that cost only $5, adding the complete set of 8 reindeer, the total came to be more than $100. Santa needed his reindeer to deliver the toys, otherwise, all the good children would be so disappointed without a visit from Santa!

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,

Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Tis the season to be jolly,

Fa la la la la, la la la la.

We purchased the above nativity when we were in Alaska. It was our first cruise on the Princess Line. I was concern that my motion sickness would cause problems while we were at sea. Luckily, there was no major incidents that a couple of Dramamine and an expensive relief band could not take care of. We cushioned the nativity with our clothes in the luggage and were pleased that the whole set safety arrived without a crack, all the way from Anchorage to St. Louis.

Fast away the old year passes,

Fa la la la la, la la la la,

Hail the new, ya lads and lasses,

Fa la la la la, la la la la.

My husband said we would be looking like Santa and Mrs. Clause in our golden years with our snow white hair and still holding hands. We were in Williamsburg, Virginia last summer and saw a store that carry Christmas items all year around. As mentioned before that my husband loves knick knack, especially Christmas items. CMP was like a kid in the candy store (just like I was at the Hockey Hall of Fame) as he spent more than an hour walking around, looking at every items on the first floor and also the second floor of the store. I patiently waited for CMP to finish his viewing. Lately, CMP loves to get Christmas ornaments that also serve as picture frames. I took a photo of our Christmas tree but could not post in this blog as there are too many ornaments showing my chubby face!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
But as long as you love me so,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

We had our first snow fall this weekend. It started on Friday night and kept coming down throughout the day on Saturday. The above photo shows the nativity which used to belong to my husband's parents. After Pa WP passed away in 2000 and when Ma JP finally had to be moved into a nursing home in 2004, the brothers and sisters decided that each person should take an item that has the most meaning as keepsakes of the parents. We asked for the nativity and a recliner which was Pa WP favorite chair. I would love to see the looks of the drivers driving behind CP on interstate 94 with Mary, Joseph and three wise men in the back of his Ford Ranger. We spent the weekend putting on fresh paint and purchased a new baby Jesus. Now we carry on the tradition of displaying the nativity in front of our house.

This is the view looking out the backyard from the window of my home office. The blanket of snow looks so beautiful. You could tell how much snow we got from the way the branches are pulled down toward the ground. The snow also filled up the barrel that I planted the peppermint in the summer. Somewhere underneath all the snow, the peppermint patiently waiting for the right time to grow and fill the barrel again, without any help from me!

From inside the house, the bench looks so pretty with the snow covering and the little Christmas tree next to it.

This year we purchased a new mail box, so CP drilled a hole and made a birdhouse out of the mailbox we had the last 12 years. We have not seen any bird moving in yet. Perhaps because of the slow housing market or the birds all went to Florida, Arizona or somewhere warm.

The photo above was taken on Sunday morning after a lot of snow came down on Saturday compared to the photo below when the snow just started. You could tell from the snow covering the wall that we got at least a couple of inches of snow. CP spent the entire summer building this retaining wall, all by himself (well, I helped a little) and he is very proud of it. Next summer, he plans to build the same retaining wall for the front of the house.

I took these photos at a nearby park on Saturday morning. I already took a lot of photos of the park in the fall. I hope by next spring and summer I will have photos of the park in various seasons.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Last Saturday we attended a Christmas party where participants were asked to bring toys to be distributed to disadvantage children in the St. Louis area. There were almost 300 toys collected and some people even donated a couple of bicycles. Someone told me that the organization used to have gifts exchange among guests who attended the party. Each couple was supposed to bring a nice but inexpensive gift and all the ladies put their names in a basket. At the end of the evening, the names were randomly picked from the basket and the person would go up and choose an item from the tables. Somehow someone did not bring a gift and also people whose names were picked later complained about the left over items . It was so comical that these were the people who could afford to spend thousand of dollars on luxury items and yet so greedy when it comes to what was supposed to be fun and meaningless exchange.

It was then that the organization decided to discontinue the exchange among its guests. Instead everyone was to bring toys to the party and be given to inner city social agencies where most of the children were from families with limited income. This year, guests were encouraged to check for items that were considered unsafe and monetary donations were most encouraged.

The item (photo below) was not among the toys donated. The soda bottle caps reminded me of the wonderful childhood memories with my little brother, VL growing up in Viet Nam. I don't remember exactly why and how we started to collect the soda caps or what the value was, whether to trade with other kids for something else or in our naive minds the soda caps represented a simple form of wealth. I purchased the item from a Fair Trade Market sponsored by a local church. The event was geared towards socially responsible shoppers who have been reminded (or pressured) to be mindful of items that were products of sweatshops or were produced by abusive child labor. At this Fair Trade Market, there were items that were supposed to offer viable employment to workers and artisans in developing countries.

Shopping is no longer a simple matter of going to the malls or stores and purchased what you need or items that were of good deals. Shoppers are lectured that we should be environmentally and socially responsible by focusing on elevating poverty, unfair trade practices and eliminate unhealthy working conditions, gender inequality, dictatorships or warlords (i.e. blood diamonds). This is one more reason for me to dislike shopping!

This item is a fork rattle, made by Akamba (Kenya) craftsmen using bottlecaps, barb wire and wood. Shaking back and forth produces pleasant sounds (like rattle snakes) and is used in village festivals. I am not sending it to my brother and definitely would not want my nephew to play with it as the wire (as well as the bottle caps) is very sharp and I am unsure of the lead in the paint. The fork rattle shows how simple a toy can be when there is not much available compared to all the toys in the stores.


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