Charleston, S.C.

I am sitting on a enclosed patio deck in a rocking chair sipping my favorite iced coffee, listening to music. Ash is curled up in a lawn chair next to me reading a gossip magazine and Nai Nai is to my other side playing with Emery. Yup we are on vacation!

We are in a beach home in Charleston, South Carolina this week and loving the relaxation. We traveled together with the Lo’s. They have a little daughter as well Eva, so Emery had another small person in company. We’ve been taking in sights, sounds and tastes of the south in our vacation getaway.

Charleston has a lot of rich history and we got to visit and old southern plantation call Boone Hall. It dated back to 1600s and had over 300 slaves at one point producing cotton, indigo, rice and bricks. It was raining the day we were there but still gorgeous and just like the one in Gone With the Wind.

We also had some great food while here. Did not know it is one of the great culinary cities in America. We ate southern cuisine many of which were local southern ingredients from the produce to the the seafood. Ash, being a seafood had a blast with tuna and shrimp everyday!

Best of all the vacation home rental at Folly Beach was awesome. We spent a lot of time just lounging at the house both inside and out. Here are some more photos from our trip.

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Babymoon in Montreal December 2009

Ray and I have yet to take our honeymoon.  But we decided that we’ll at least take a babymoon! We wanted to do a little traveling before our little one arrives. Although it’s still months and months away, it feels like time in closing up on us for the next… 18 years, at least! 🙂 Kidding.

We weren’t able to fly anywhere due to again, the much complained about morning sickness. Plus, we wanted to take our dogs with us. Ray didn’t have a lot of vacation so we can’t go too far.  We finally decided on going to Montreal, Canada, the first weekend in December. We figure it’s within driving distance (around 6 hours), can bring the dogs with us, and Montreal would be very different than visiting any other city in the U.S.  It felt like we were could’ve been in France. Old Montreal was especially beautiful. The brick-paved narrow streets and homey shops were well-preserved. When we visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, a glamorous wedding was about to take place.

We stayed at the Omni Hotel, a short walking distance to all the shops and restaurants.  The weather was really cold so we didn’t manage to walk too far, just around the downtown area and to the Old Montreal district.  Fortunately, there were many great restaurants nearby and Ray and I, in our opinions, managed to go to two of the best ones… the hotel concierge recommended a French restaurant called Europea and another one known for its bouillabaise, Cafe Ferrera. We were lucky to have gotten reservations for both within 2 short days.

Do you know what those were above?  Lollipops. Yeap, lollipops. But not the conventional ones that you would expect. They were goat cheese lollipops. What????? I had to pass on it and Ray happily took one for the team and ate both and loved them.  The ambiance of Europea was very romantic and the food (aside from the strange lollipop and lobster truffle), was absolutely delicious. The wait staff kept bringing over “complements from the chef” and what was expected to be a 3-course meal turned out to be more of a 9-course meal.  The dessert was one of the best. We tried macarones for the first time (no, not macaroons as I first thought) and we fell in love. Now, whenever we see them in New York, we had to try them. The ones we had at Europea were orange-flavored. Yummmmm…

At Cafe Ferrera, we had one of the most delicious bouillabaise ever! Although this was a portuguese restaurant and the bouillabaise was slightly improvised with added sausage to its broth, I have to say I’ve never had a better bouillabaise than this.  The seafood was fresh and the shrimps and scallops were huge! The broth was so flavorful and savoring. Ray and I sat pretty close to the open kitchen and I just wanted to walk up there and take another one that was prepared for someone else. Ray also got a saffron seafood dish served over rice and that was amazing too.

Despite the fine dining in Montreal, we don’t want to forget the wonderful breakfast(s)… yeap, twice, at the Eggspectation. We haven’t had such scrumptious and filling breakfasts in a long time….

Ray loved his eggs benedict.

All in all, our babymoon in Montreal was a lot of fun.  We were fortunate the hotel was nearby and we were able to take a lot of breaks in between the sightseeing and walking. I was near the end of my first trimester and the fatigue and morning sickness started to subside slightly so we were able to enjoy this trip a little more than we initially expected. This was definitely a memorable trip!!!

Vancouver and Alaska Trip with the Au’s Family August 2009

On the morning of August 14, Ray and I headed to Newark Airport to board our flight to Vancouver to meet up with my family.  The Au’s family planned a 10-day vacation to see Vancouver and Alaska. We were spending two days in Vancouver and then board a cruise ship to set sail to Alaska for the remaining seven days. My parents, both sisters, niece, nephew, Ray and I were all very excited. We haven’t had a family outing in many years. My family and I have been to Vancouver once, a long, long time ago.  Seeing Vancouver again and seeing some of the changes and as well as new things were eye-opening. Vancouver is such a beautiful and clean city.  As soon as we arrived at the airport, my family was there to meet us and we headed out to our first stop: Capilano Bridge.

I could tell my parents were having a great time already and Ray reacquainted with Meagan fairly quickly. They haven’t seen each since our wedding back in 2007. But as you can see, they became buddies right away. My dad spent the majority of the trip manhandling my nephew, Dylan. Boy, this kid was absolutely full of energy and no one could stop him. He was constantly moving, climbing, or doing things that made my parents unable to peel their eyes off him. Very fun to watch. I wish I could have that kind of energy!

The car rides throughout the two days in Vancouver were very cozy and rather pleasant.

My parents loved Vancouver. It met one of their main criteria of a good place to visit: good chinese food. We went to several restaurants that had the Hong-Kong flavor and my parents reminisced about the food and how they miss Hong Kong itself.

At noon on the 17th, we embarked the Island Princess cruise ship and were off to Alaska. Our agenda included landing on three major ports: Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau, along with passing by Glacier Bay National Parkand College Fjord. Our first stop in Alaska was Ketchikan. According to a local guide, Ketchikan was the actual destination for the “Bridge to Nowhere” made infamous during Sarah Palin’s campaign.  Ketchikan and pretty much everywhere we visited in Alaska had delicious canned salmon. They were extremely different than what we could find back in New York’s gourmet stores. Ray and I also took a walking tour around the quaint city and saw some amazing things, such as a bald eagle and an owl. That owl could turn its head 240 degrees within milliseconds. Crazy huh? They were presented by a local preservation group reaching out to educate the public about these fascinating creatures.

The cruise ship itself was pretty amazing. There were so many activities going on at any given hour. We all kept busy throughout the day, either getting off and exploring the different ports or stayed on the boat, relaxed and enjoyed the numerous activities offered, ranging from movies to shows to playing ping pong. My parents, especially my mom, love to play cards, and hadn’t had a chance to do that in some time. We took advantage of the card room and had a blast. My mom was very lucky and consistently won.

Ray even played some chinese chess with my dad. Loser drinks every time he lost a piece. Ray and I even teamed up against my dad, but my dad blew us into the water. He called us amateurs. 🙂 That’s okay, we made him drink his share of the wine we bought at one of the ports.

No matter what everyone did during the day, we always tried to meet up for dinner every night at one of the formal dining rooms. The dining experience on the boat was pretty good; well-presented dishes, great service and a respectable variety. We sat on the same table every night since they were reserved for us and we had the same two waiters throughout the entire cruise.

Meagan was ready to eat! She called me the week before the trip and gave me a heads up on what she intended to eat on the cruise. She is an experienced “cruiser”, having been on several cruises before, including the Disney cruise. She knew what kinds of food would be available on the boat and she literally named a laundry list of what she planned to consume. On top of that, she challenged that she would eat more than Uncle Ray. I can tell you that she lived up to her end of her claim… the girl can eat! Don’t let the little 5-year old frame fool you.

Dylan, on the other hand, was more interested in doing other things on the boat besides eating. He wanted to climb, climb and climb, and make everyone nervous that he would fall off somewhere. Thank goodness, he is very agile and strong and knew exactly what he was doing… not even one accident…

The main attraction on this cruise, of course, was to see glaciers. The views were breathtaking at any angle, anywhere on the ship.  I never knew this type of scenery truly existed until I witnessed it with my own eyes. We saw glaciers calving as we got up pretty close. It was beyond what words could describe.

At some point, we were getting so used to seeing the amazing scenery that we began to take it for granted. See Ray talking or checking his phone and ignoring the beautiful view behind him… (“Oh, it’s just some ginormous glacier….no big deal, we’ve been seeing this throughout the cruise”)….Get off the phone!

One of Ray’s and my favorite events throughout the cruise was visiting the Alaska Sled Dog and Musher’s Camp in Skagway.  It was pouring outside and the shuttle ride to the camp site was over an hour.  But! It was worth every minute! The sled dog and musher’s camp had over 300 dogs with each one having its own little dog house. These dogs were there to train to run in dog sled races.  Some races stretch over a 1,000 miles. Absolutely incredible. The dogs get anxious every time a van pulls up to the site because they knew that it may be an opportunity for them to pull the cart and get to run. Ray and I both agreed it was one of the most incredible experiences we’ve had. After the 1-mile run pulled by about 16 dogs, with a cart of about 7 people, we even had a chance to play with some of the pups.  SO MUCH FUNNNNNN!!!

This trip was incredible.  On the morning of the 24th, we disembarked in Whittier, Alaska and took a bus to the airport.  I think this was one of the best vacations we have ever been on so far.

Hawaii April 2009

Our good friend, Jimmy Chang and his wife, Kat, got married in Hawaii in April. Ray and I wouldn’t miss that opportunity to attend the wedding as well as visit family and friends back home. The wedding was absolutely beautiful and Jimmy and Kat were a stunning couple. We were also able to see some friends from college at the wedding and it was a nice reunion.

During our 10-day trip, we were able to do a bunch of things, including spending some precious time with my parents and my popo (grandma). We had really good food, starting from eating Pok’e (raw fish with seasonings) for breakfast, to dim sum for lunch, to eating at Roy’s for dinner. Of course, these were on different days, but every meal throughout the trip was savored.

Shave Ice at Waiola’s was a must! We had the azuki bean, mochi balls, with condensed milk shave ice bowl.  Holy moly!!! We also went to the local institution, Zippy’s a couple of times. You haven’t been to Hawaii without going to Zippy’s. Zippy’s is a franchise in Hawaii that has all sorts of local food, ranging from its infamous chili to its plate lunches (always two scoops rice, one scoop macaroni salad).

Ray and I even spent a day on the Big Island, also named Hawaii. It was a short flight from Honolulu. We took a tour from HIlo to Kona and visited the volcano park and other various sites on the island. Ray was such a fun traveling partner. How can you not laugh when he does silly things such as the picture below?

Back on the island of O’ahu, we spent some time with my grandma popo and drove around a lot to do sightseeing. We went to do a little snorkeling one afternoon at Hanauma Bay but my snorkels were broken, so only Ray was able to explore in the water and find some interesting creatures.

During one of nights cruising around, we stopped at Kahala Mall to buy some things at Whole Foods. A few doors down, there was a smashing party going on and we walked over to see what was going on. There were cameras everywhere outside the door, as if people were waiting for some celebrity to come in and out of the joint. As it turns out, it was a party that included guests from the TV show, “Lost”, which was filmed on the islands.  Ray couldn’t resist the temptation and waited along with other bystanders.  His patience paid off, when Ben, from the show, came out for some fresh air.

The trip was great. Ten days were too little to do what we wanted and we hope to go back again soon. It was a nice little break from New York and everything in Hawaii was very laid back.

Boston

In Mid October, Ash and I went back home to visit my parents in Newton, this time we went together and stayed there for a week!  Since we were there for a week, we had the opportunity to do a lot more things than usual, spending a whole day in downtown Boston enjoying the city.  With the Big Dig done, what was once construction and yellow tape turned to gardens and plazas.  The city has really changed giving it the beauty of old American charm with a modern design.  Here’s some snaps:


My dad and I walking through downtown Boston.


Dad had a ping pong tournament that week.
Here’s him using his tricky back handed slice serve


My mom and I watching Dad play.


Bean eating the famous Hay Market Pizza.  Best pizza in Boston, at least we think so…


Out in South Boston with some of the bros, Jimmy, Simon and Brian (from left).


@BU Hockey, Terriers vs. Merrimac, (From Right) Shirin, Arang, Steve, Amanda, Danny, Ween, Stein


October is also the brother brithday month, a great excuse to have two birthday cakes in a row!


What’s Bean wishing for?  Driving Permit, iPod Touch, or Susan Lucci to win Dancing with the Stars?


Of course dad is ever enhancing the house with basic upgrades like an outdoor kitcken.  Here we are taking a picture of the recent achievements. 🙂

No trip home would not have been complete with some great cooking from Mom.


Steamed Fish with ginger and scallion


Dry Marinated Beef


My favorite, a dish only my Mom and Grandma makes, Fried Casserole.

Speaking of Mom, she has been continuing on her quest to become the next Michelle Quan.  Mom skates 3 or more times a week at 2 to 3 hours each session sometime longer.  She started from ground zero literally shuffling across the ice clutching the sideboards.  This time we went, Mom was skating backwards, do spins and looking very comfortable!  Ash brought her skates this time too and here’s her and mom fooling around at Walter Brown Arena.