Thursday, March 11, 2021

chinese new year 2021.

Chinese New Year was very different for our family this year (and for lots of other people, too). We stayed in Beijing to celebrate because we weren't able to travel to Tony's hometown in Henan to see his family like usual.

It's the Year of the Ox.

Mabel is old enough to remember past celebrations, and she kept talking about seeing family members. She also talked a lot about the hongbao she got from her teacher last year filled with chocolate coins and the dragon dance they did at school. Since we couldn't see family, and school had moved online for the two weeks prior to the CNY holiday, we tried to ensure she and Clarke would have special memories from this year, too. 

T and I bought special outfits for the kids. Normally they would wear more traditional clothes to school for the CNY celebration, but we decided to go with something more "fun" and that they could wear regularly throughout the year. I want to remember that we almost didn't buy the red headband for Mabel but I'm so glad we did because she was most excited for that. I also want to remember that for days after we gave them the clothes, Mabel would ask if she could wear her "Chinese New Year clothes" and Clarke was so happy to be the "same" as Jiějiě ("big sister" and what we often call Mabel). 





We put up special decorations to bring good luck. I want to remember that Mabel showed the ox on their doors to anyone who came over and that Clarke wasn’t interested in hanging the decoration until he realized it meant climbing on a stool. 






We made dumplings with friends. The kids loved it, especially Mabel! But even after all her hard work, she only ate one. I was surprised, because normally she eats a lot of dumplings, but I think it was because she was more interested in running around and playing hide and seek than eating.


T's older brother and parents would usually give the kids hongbao (red envelopes with money) and they still did, but digitally, by transferring money through WeChat. So for the first time, T and I gave the kids hongbao from us. Mabel didn't really care about the money, even after we told her she could use it to buy a toy; she kept talking about the hongbao with chocolate from her teacher. Luckily, I had told Auntie Jo, our best friend, and she made sure to bring the kids hongbao with chocolate coins. I want to remember that she also brought hongbao for Tony and I. His had money, and mine was empty but taped to a bottle of wine—such a funny and sweet gesture!


We ate hot pot for dinner, and then when the kids were in bed, the grownups drank champagne, enjoyed a charcuterie board, and played What Do You Meme? Tony was the winner! We also watched the CCTV New Year's Gala, which is tradition!

We FaceTimed with T's family and they sent us a photo of their dinner. I counted extra bowls and chopsticks and when we asked them about it, they said they set places for us. It was really touching. This was the first year T hadn't been with his family for the holiday. Hopefully next year we'll be there!

How did you celebrate your big holiday this year?

P.S. Chinese New Year 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Friday, March 05, 2021

happy friday!

Mabel took this photo and I kind of love it. It's interesting to think of how she sees me.

The first half of this week felt like it dragged by, but the second half feels like I blinked. Here are some of the things that made me happy: 

+ The whole family—me, T, Mabel, and Clarke—doing Just Dance videos in the living room. 

+ Clarke asking for a "cuddle" right before I put him in his crib for bedtime. (He always emphasizes the second syllable, "Cu-DDLE!")

+ Dinner out with friends. We ate at Amazing Thai. BJ friends, go there and order the seasonal curry and pineapple rice. 

+ This water bottle! I'm finally drinking water! 

+ A student saying, "Please don't go, Ms. Amanda. I want you to keep working with me."

+ We have bedside lamps that work now! (The lamps are built into our nightstands and haven't worked since we moved into our apartment 6 months ago. We swapped for ones that work and it's been a great reminder that little things can make a big difference.)

+ Mabel woke up yesterday morning at 6AM but then said, "I want to sleep more" and went back to bed. (Why can't this happen on weekends?) 

+ These library holds became available. 

+ An acquaintance won a 60 min massage but isn't able to use it so she gave it to me! I was so surprised and grateful. People can be so kind. 

What made you happy this week?

Monday, March 01, 2021

book report / january and february.

Every year I set a reading goal of 52 books. So far this year, I've read six books, which sounded pretty good until I realized I had read fourteen(!) by this time last year. I think this is a sign that I need to put my phone down and pick up a book...

Here are super short reviews of the books I've read so far: 

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel / It took me awhile to get into it and I kept wondering why so many people loved it. Now that I've finished it, woah. Intense, well-written, thriller-esque, and I thought about it for awhile afterwards.

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory / It was light and fun, but not my fave in the series.

*A Promised Land by Barack Obama / Happily listened to all 29 hours (at 1.5x speed) and am eagerly awaiting the second volume.

*The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo / I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a while. When I wasn't reading it, I wanted to be. The writing was exquisite; I wanted to highlight so many passages. Highly recommend if you love long family sagas.

*They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School by Bev Sellars / I recommend this to anyone, but especially my fellow Canadians. I learned a lot and kept thinking, 'Why wasn't I taught about any of this in school?' 

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite / I liked the premise but was left wanting more—more twists, more character development, and a more detailed plot.

Do you have any recommendations for me?

P.S. More book reports.

P.P.S. If you want more frequent updates about what I'm reading, I share every time I finish a book in my Instagram stories.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

book report / 2020 faves.


I read 60 books in 2020 (the most books I've read in years), which I was pleasantly surprised by because I remember periods where I did not feel like reading and really struggled to concentrate. I guess a global pandemic will do that to you.

Anyway, here are my fave books from last year (all of the ones I gave 5 stars on Goodreads): 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb / One of my fave memoirs of the many I've read! Interesting and felt like a breath of fresh air. Made me want to see a therapist. I listened and the narration was excellent too.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett / I absolutely loved this sprawling story about a house and a family spanning decades. I had never listened to a novel before, but kept seeing rave reviews of this one narrated by Tom Hanks, so I figured if I was ever going to, this would be a good one to try. I loved it! I found myself going for walks just so I could listen to more.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson / An important, heartbreaking book. I saw a NYT review that said it "will make you upset and it will make you hopeful"—that's true. (If you're interested, there's a young adult version too.)

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball / I thoroughly enjoyed this—so much so that I volunteered to do bedtime with Mabel on nights when it wasn't my turn so I could have more time to listen. Before listening, I wouldn't have said I was interested in farming (but I'm always interested in learning how other people live their lives), and now I'm 50% "I want to be a farmer!" and 50% "I could never be a farmer!" A truly fascinating memoir and the narration was perfect. (I listened to the sequel as well last year and enjoyed it almost as much.)

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett / Loved, loved, loved. It was beautifully written; I found myself highlighting so many sentences. And it had plot points I wasn't expecting which is always a plus for someone like me who is good at predicting what will happen.

All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson / Some books should be required reading for everyone; this is one of them.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller / A beautifully written book that shouldn't have needed to be written, but should most definitely be read. (I recommend listening to it as it is read by Chanel.)

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand / One of my fave Elin novels to date! It made me smile, it made me angry, and it made me cry.

What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer / Beautiful and relatable. I'll be anxiously awaiting Kate's next book of poems. 

What were your fave books of 2020?


P.P.S. If you want more frequent updates about what I'm reading this year, you can follow me on Goodreads or Instagram.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

currently.

currently
I'm cheating a bit because this photo is actually from December.

drinking a lukewarm caramel macchiato that has already been reheated once.

feeling anxious; I'm not sure why. 

growing my hair out. 

looking forward to the opening of my friend Dani's art exhibit tonight at Zarah

wondering if I'll actually get back into blogging.

trying to remember how to blog. 

navigating the new (to me) Blogger layout and wondering if I should switch to Wordpress.

thinking about the bed and bookshelf from IKEA that we ordered and then cancelled. 

wishing I was better at decorating and making decisions.

reading magazines on my new iPad with my free Apple News+ trial. 

spending more time on TikTok than I want to admit. 

taking deep breaths.

making a to do list in my head. 

wanting to do more decluttering.

What are you doing currently? And do you read magazines? Which ones?

Friday, April 03, 2020

mabel says.


One of my favourite parts of being a mom is listening to and talking with Mabel. She is so funny and so sweet. Here are some of the best things she's said lately:

When singing the alphabet, instead of singing, "Now I know my ABCs," she sings, "Oh my, oh my, ABCs."

***

Mabel: "What does a penguin say?"
Me and Tony: ...
Mabel: "Wobble wobble!"

***

Mabel: "I want to be a boy."
Me: "Why?"
Mabel: "I want to be a girl."
Me: "Why?"
Mabel: "I don’t know."
Me: "You can be a boy or a girl. You can be whatever you want to be."
Mabel: "I want to be a Mabel!"
Me: "I think that’s great!"

***

She calls the restaurant McDonald's "Old McDonald's"—like the song.

***

When I was tucking her into bed, she told me, “I love me daddy and me mommy and me baby. I love me friends. And I love me!”

***

She calls her Mr. Potato Head toy "Sweet Potato." She'll say, "Where's Sweet Potato?" or "I want to sleep with Sweet Potato!"

***

I was just finishing cleaning the bathroom and she came in and asked me, “Whatchu doin’, Mama?”
I told her I was cleaning the bathroom; she asked, "What?"
I replied, "I scrubbed the sink, toilets, and bathtub."
She threw her arms around me in a hug and said, “Thank you, Mama!”

Thursday, April 02, 2020

march book report.

I read seven books in March; here are my really quick takes on them.


Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson / An important, heartbreaking book. I saw a NYT review that said it "will make you upset and it will make you hopeful"—that's true. (If you're interested, there's a young adult version too!)

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood / I didn't like the main character and felt the plot was lacking. Only finished because I was reading it for a book club.

Open Book by Jessica Simpson / I listened to this after seeing a lot of hype. It was fascinating to learn about Simpson's life, but there were cringey moments—celebrity extravagance, some of the anecdotes, the occasional cheesy self-help-type lines (and I like self-help books!).

Don't Overthink It by Anne Bogel / I don't feel like I learned anything new, but it's nice to have it all in one resource. The author's personal anecdotes were a nice touch. I got the audiobook for free when I pre-ordered the physical copy. I'm looking forward to paging through the physical copy.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce / I was more interested in Harold's backstory (and that of Maureen and Queenie) than his pilgrimage and the people he met. I liked it but not enough to read the sequel.

Inside Out by Demi Moore / I love a celebrity memoir and this was a good one.

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey / Predictable, light, and cheesy—exactly what's needed at a time like this. If you like rom-coms, you might like this.

What have you read lately?
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