Over Easter break, the four of us hopped on a red eye flight to Boston, and took on a whirlwind week-long East Coast college tour.

Beautiful University campus

In 8 days, we drove a little over 2,000 miles,

East Coast college tour road trip

and visited 9 college campuses.

Campus tour

We felt a bit like rock stars, as we checked into a different hotel every night, and woke up in a different city every morning.

We saw enchanting campus that could rival the Hogwarts in Harry Potter,

Enchanting campus

as well as modern buildings with state of the art laboratories and research facilities.

Computer Science buidling

We got a good flavor of universities nested in bustling big cities, to small cities, as well as isolated college towns.

College campus tour


College dorm


Peaceful learning enviornment


Georgia Tech

The nine campuses we visited are all highly ranked universities in the country, and all impressed us with their ridiculously low acceptance rates. As my 16 year-old will enter her senior year in the fall, the task ahead seemed daunting. They all required excellent transcripts, high test scores, extracurricular, strong essays, all mixed in with a good measure of luck.

We returned home from our road trip exhausted, but our family had a lot of fun, and we learned a great deal from this experience.

The good news: My teen loved every campus we visited.

The really good news: We are already very proud of our teen for having earned the academic credentials to consider applying into these universities.

The super good news: While she will certainly make an effort to get into her top choices, there isn’t just one or two universities out there for her. In fact, there are many universities where she can learn and be happy at.

Soon to be college bound

Previous related posts:
When I Bring Home a C-

The Mile Run

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Move aside! Baby Girl.

My baby girl


I have got new twins to adore.

Baby Hummingbirds


While I have been spending time in my backyard attending my new herb garden, I unexpectedly spotted a pair of baby hummingbirds, nested comfortably in one of my rose bushes.

Hummingbird nest


Ahhh…so darn CUTE.

The cutest pair


I visited their nursery daily, and only once observed their mother bird feeding them. I saw them growing before my eyes, then one day, only one baby hummingbird sat in its nest.

The grow up fast

The very next morning, it left too.

These babies grow fast, from when I first discovered them until they both flew away was only 9 days!

They left me with a genuine empty nest.

Empty nest

Previous related posts:
Wildlife Reservation in our Backyard

The Do Nothing Pit

  • Share/Save/Bookmark
Category: Parents  Leave a Comment

I have done something totally wicked, and I am mighty proud of myself.

If you haven’t already, you must first read my previous post “The Do Nothing Pit”, to fully appreciate my triumph here.

It was week 4, and my avocado pit sat in its water cup, refusing to be productive.

My children took time out of their busy school schedule to make fun of my sorry pit, and suggested for me to toss the pit out.

I refused to give in. “Just need more time!” I would say. Then they laughed at me some more.

“I will give you $10 if your pit has root by Sunday. If no root, you give me $10!” my 16 year-old offered me a bet.

“You are on!” I was very stubborn.

My teen smirked, undoubtedly anticipating easy cash.

Last Friday, I glared at my do nothing pit, willing it to grow a root, and failing. This is hopeless.

To make myself feel better, I went outside to tend to my new herb garden.

Herb garden

I pulled some weeds from around my garden.

Weed


Hum…A devilish idea came to me. I am a freaking genius.

I cleaned out some roots.

Roots!


I took my pit out of its cup.

Do nothing pit


I used a toothpick, and pushed a chosen root into the bottom of the pit.

Just add root


Later that night, I showed off my newly improved pit to my kids, and watched their jaw drop! Ha, Ha, Ha.

Can you see the root!


Mom: $10 vs. Obnoxious kid: $0

Ten dollars for me


Hey, the bet is for the pit to have a root. No one said anything about it has to be the pit’s own root.

Previous related posts:
The Do Nothing Pit

My Un-Valentine

The Backyard Struggle

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Early Friday morning, I donned gloves, armed with a brand new shovel, and furiously dug holes in my backyard.

I was planting a herb garden in my backyard.

New Herb Garden


I do not enjoy gardening, and it does not enjoy me. But sometimes, a new inspiration will have me forget all about my bad history with gardening, and convince me to reinvest fresh energy into this business where I don’t really belong.

It all started a few weeks ago. A very kind soul shipped me a huge box of organic avocados from her farm.

Box of Avocados


I love avocados, and these were some of the biggest avocados I have ever seen.

Huge Avocado


Inspired. I wiped up a guacamole, and put out a cheese platter, and chips, and started a party all by myself.

Gaucamole Party


These are the creamiest and tastiest avocados I have ever tasted.

“I should grow it into my own avocado tree!” I shouted to my children, so excited.

My teen burst into a laughter, “Ha, Ha….you can’t even grow an avocado tree from a young tree! You killed three of them already. What makes you think you can grow an avocado tree from a pit.”

That wasn’t a question. It was a statement. Rude.

Offended, I went googling, and came up with this plan.

Growing my avocado pit


The kids laughed at my medieval pit torture chamber.

Three weeks or so passed. No roots came out from the bottom, and no sprouts came out of the top. This pit is still just a pit.

“Nothing is going on here, mom.” one of these children said to me.

“Well, it is possible that I put this pit upside down.” me, then added, “How do I know which ends of the pit is supposed to be the top, and which is the bottom.”

The kids laughed at me some more. Clearly, they view my attempt at growing an avocado tree nothing more than providing them with comic relief.

I am still waiting for my pit to grow. But in case it doesn’t, I had the sudden inspiration to plant herbs. I heard that herbs are easy to grow. Who needs avocados when you can have Rosemary!

Young Rosemary plant

Previous related posts: The Backyard Struggle

Our Apple Tree

  • Share/Save/Bookmark
Category: Parents  One Comment

There was a charming organic farm adjacent to the small 16 room hotel we stayed at during our visit to Peru’s Sacred Valley.

An Organic Pervian Farm


This organic farm advertised an organic farm lunch that sounded enticing. I did not hesitate to sign us up for it.

Lunch at an organic farm


We arrived at the appointed hour, and were delighted to learn that this lunch will be cooked according to their ancient Inca tradition, straight on the rocks!!

Marinated meats cooked on hot rocks


The heat from the rocks prompted us to stand back. As we observed, the cooks placed potatoes, corns, various farm vegetables, marinated chicken, pork ribs, and lamb chops on the rocks.

Everything cooked in rocks all together


They had all the food completely covered under the rocks, then added heavenly scented herbs on top of the rocks,

Fresh farm herbs covered the hot rocks

covered everything with tarp, then top it off with dirt.

Everything under tarp and dirt


“Everything will be cooked to perfection in about 20 minutes!” our lunch host announced to us proudly.

He then led us to a tour of the farm. Peru is rich in corn and potatoes. In addition to these two main crops, this farm grow a huge variety of vegetables. We got to touch, feel, and smell a number of unfamiliar vegetables and herbs.

Meet Buckwheat grain

Since one member of our family must eat gluten free, we were excited to finally meet Quinoa in its most natural form.

Quinoa field


The farm raised farm animals too, as we saw chicken coop, pig pens, and lambs on the farm.

Chicken house


One of several pig pens


20 minutes went by fast, and we were lead back to their Inca oven.

The staff unveiled the food that has been cooked on the rocks, and filled the air with this incredible smell that made my mouth water.

Lunch is ready


Everything was cooked to perfection in 20 minutes!!

A variety of potatoes and sweet potatoes


Sweet corn


The meats were juicy and tender.

Chicken and pork rib with salad, and purple corn juice

I had not expected dessert on a farm lunch, but then our host delivered us this!

Dessert with homemade alcohol


The dessert came with 4 shot glasses of homemade traditional Peruvian alcohol.

“We gave you small glasses because they are very, very strong!” said our host, “but very good. You must try it.”

“Children can drink alcohol in Peru?” I pointed at my two children.

“If parents allow it, sure, they can drink alcohol here.” host said with a wide smile.

I took a sip first. I don’t like most strong alcohol, but this sip went down smooth. I would guess that this was probably a 40% proof alcohol, but it had a refreshing and a hint of sweet fruitiness after taste.

I don’t know if it is legal for young Americans to drink alcohol overseas, so I am not providing further details here.

Previous related post:

Kotofuku V
The Big 8
Death by Salad
Mother’s Day Madness

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

This was such a great idea 8 months ago. A grand adventure, one amazing experience, the mystic, and the bragging rights…

Endless Inca Trail stairs


But as I stood at the bottom of these rock stairs, catching up on my breath, I was filled with trepidation.

This was day two of our 4 day Inca Trail trek to the iconic Machu Picchu. We had been forewarned that this was going to be the most challenging day of this difficult hike.

By challenging, they meant insane.

The porters woke us up from our tents at 5AM. They wanted us to hike 11 hours that day.

By 6AM, we had eaten our breakfast and packed our day bag. The porters stayed behind to dismantle the tents and pack up the camp.

Packed up the camp site to move forward.


“Okay. Team. Now, we are going to climb up to reach the summit of this trail. This will take you about 6 hours.” our young mountain guide told us with a straight face, “It is all up, some parts will be very steep. You will need to watch your steps and use your poles.”

Our guide then added encouragingly, “You can do it! Anything is possible.”

This was not simply 6 hours on the stairmaster. These were uneven rock stairs. Lots and lots and lots of them. Some were very steep, all of varying height, and varying depth.

Then there was the murderous high altitude. There wasn’t enough air in our lungs just for standstill breathing!

Dead Woman's Pass at 13,800 ft on the Inca Trail.


We were climbing from 11,000 feet to the summit of 13,800 feet. To add to our joy, the mountain gods showered us with rain nearly all day. But there was one positive. The high altitude and rain made day two super cold. We were advised to not rest for longer than 2 minutes. We had to keep moving to stay warm. Awesome.

We reached the summit, a.k.a. Dead Woman’s Pass in under 6 hours. We were greeted with cheers and applause. Our mountain guide high fived us, as porters handed us hot coca tea and snack.

The summit of the Inca Trail.


I’d like them to rename this pass to Awesome Super Woman’s pass instead. I felt like an Awesome Super woman standing at the top of the summit.

Thrilled to have reached the summit of Dead Woman's Pass.


15 minutes later, our guide gathered us to continue our hike.

“We still have about 5 hours of hike to go. The first 3 hours, you will have some up, some down, and some flat. The next 2 hours are all down hill.” said our mountain guide.

We were so sick and tired of climbing up on the stairs, we cheered upon hearing the hike down.

It wasn’t long when I concluded that I didn’t much like the down hike either.

Endless stairs down the mountain.


The rain had made the rocks slippery. Many hikers slipped and fell while climbing down. My 13 year-old fell down the stairs 4 times. We were fortunate and no hikers were seriously hurt on these rocky steps. The hike down required a great deal of mental concentration, and careful footing.

I just like the flat terrains.

It's flat!

But these were scarce on the Inca Trail.

On Day 3, we only had to hike 6 hours. They said easy day, all downhill! You already know how I feel about downhill.

Our sore and shaky legs kept on the rocky descent.

Day 3 - mostly all downhill.

As we neared Machu Picchu, we could hear the whistles from the trains and can see the Machu Picchu town deep down in the valley. We also came across Llama traffic on our narrow path.

LLama traffic


LLama standing on an Inca ruin wall.


Day 4, they woke us at 3:30AM. We hiked with our troop with our headlamps on. They wanted us to arrive the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu before the masses arrive by train.

We arrived at the Sun Gate around 6AM, and found the Sun Gate covered in dense fog.

Dense fog at the Sun Gate.

We couldn’t see the Machu Picchu! No one was surprised. During our 4 day hike, we noticed that the fog came and went as it pleased on these mountains.

We sat and waited. 20 minutes later, the fog began to lift, unveiling the majestic Machu Picchu like magic.

Machu Picchu appeared as fog lifted.


We had arrived at Machu Picchu on a beautiful Christmas Day, feeling triumphed.

Merry Christmas ! We did it!!


The journey itself was the destination, and this was our grand finale.

Machu Picchu on a beautiful and sunny Christmas day.


We were right 8 months ago. A grand adventure, one amazing experience, the mystic, and the bragging rights…

Previous related posts:
Yosemite – A Family Day Hike
A Day Trip to Huanglong
Back to Jiazhaigu Valley
Mount Rainier

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

A while back……

“Mom! The Rolling Stones are having a concert on Oct 19th!!!!!” my 16 year-old.

These guys are still alive?!

It is an utter mystery why my teenage daughter would have the music taste of a male who might start to pay attention to the benefits of AARP.

“Mom! They are my favorite band. Please can we go? PLEASEEEE.” the teen.

“Are they coming to town?” me, with a deep frown to tamper with her enthusiasm.

“It’s in Las Vegas!” teen, unfazed by my troubling facial expression.

I cast an even deeper frown aimed sharply at my teen.

“The only problem might be that it is on a Wednesday night.” teen, still dreamy and walking on clouds.

She thought this was the ONLY problem!

This problem was good enough to latch on for a refusal. We are not retired people like most of the Rolling Stones’ fans. A flight to Vegas on a weekday would mean missing school and work.

I went ahead and broke the poor girl’s heart. I added how sorry I was that this concert wasn’t on a weekend.

“I know you love the Stones. If this concert had been on a weekend, I would totally take you.” I was laughing on the inside.

Two or three weeks after that…..

“MOM!!!! Rolling Stones is adding a second show in Vegas! On Oct 22nd. It is a SATURDAYYY!!!” teen, pumping both fists.

She had to be messing with me. But no! The Rolling Stones did announce adding a second show in Vegas, on a Saturday. UNBELIEVEABLE!!!

Last Saturday, the two of us touched down at the Vegas airport just before noon.

In honor of our Rock and Roll weekend, as soon as we dropped off our bags at our hotel, we took a taxi to Hard Rock cafe for lunch.

Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas


Ah, their Pineapple and Coconut Mojito was amazing, nothing puts me in the mood for vacation better than a mid-day cocktail.

After lunch, we leisurely walked the strip and visited the big casinos. We shopped, ate snacks, and were wowed by each casino’s over-the-top extravagant decor.

We made our way to the newly built T-Mobile Arena about an hour before the show time, and joined thousands of fans already congregating there in eager anticipation of the show.

Rolling Stones playing at the T-Mobile Arena Las Vegas


The Rolling Stones rocked the arena for two full hours. I danced alongside my teen to the music.

The Rolling Stones


At around 11PM, we poured out of the arena with tens of thousands of satisfied fans. A mad maze of neon lights enticed us back to the busy strip, and we went on shopping.

Vegas at night


At midnight, we decided a burger sounded good. We sat down at a cafe for a second dinner, and reminisced about the highlights of the concert.

My daughter smiled ear to ear the whole weekend. It was priceless.

Previous related posts:
Dirty Talk

I Feel Your Pain

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

I want to announce that I survived my teen’s first driving lesson with me 2 weeks ago, but it was survived in a most unremarkable way.

“You can step on it more.” I said to the teen gently.

“Oh”, then the car picked up a bit more speed.

A short while later.

“You can drive a little faster.” me.

“How fast should I go?” teen.

“Well, this is an empty lot. You can go 15- 20 miles per hour.” me.

Empty lot good for driving lesson


“Oh!”, the car picked up speed, only to slow down again shortly after.

I had not expected this driving lesson to test my patience, which is often in short supply.

I turned to look at my teen, who was tensely looking ahead, with both hands tightly holding on to the wheel.

“Should I get out of the car, and push it from behind for you?” me.

The teen laughed, then protested with, “I am scared of going too fast.”

“You are going at 5 miles per hour! You need to drive faster, if we want to try driving on a real road later.” me.

“I am afraid of your car! It is so huge and expensive!” teen.

My mind momentarily went back to the mid 1980’s, when I was 16 years old, learning to drive in an empty parking lot with my uncle. My father was working 6 days a week far away from home, and I wanted to learn to drive. So my uncle offered to give me lessons. In his old beat up Pinto.

Pinto had been discontinued in 1980, and those who know the Pinto might remember it as a laughable car whose best selling feature was being cheap. But this car had been my uncle’s first car since arriving to America. He was mighty proud of it.

So, there I was, driving the old Pinto painfully slow in the empty lot. I had a real excuse for not wanting to go fast. The Pinto had no power brakes!! I bet most of you have no idea what that even means.

It means when you want to slow down or stop the car, you have to step on it with the force of your full body weight like Fred Flintstone!!!

“Okay, so this is a big car. But it drives smoothly. Haven’t you noticed, you pressed down on the gas pedal lightly, the car immediately responds with speed, you press down on the brake lightly, it immediately slows down or stops.” me.

“That is true! This car does drive nice.” teen.

“So don’t be afraid. Trust yourself, and trust the car. Now, let’s drive.” me.

After many more rounds in the parking lot, I instructed my 16 year-old to take the car onto the real road.

Open road


“Wow! I am going 40 (mph)!” teen.

Previous related posts:
A Long Journey to the DMV Office

The Nook Color, the Ipad, and the Way Things Used To Be

A Blast to the Past

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

We picked out a beautiful day to visit San Francisco.

Golden Gate bridge


It was sunny, clear, and warm.

We had another reason for driving north on Saturday. I found this 100% gluten-free restaurant in Sausalito, a town just north of San Francisco.

Crossing the Golden Gate to Sausalito


Sausalito is an upscale seaside town full of tourists, bikers, outdoor cafes, ice cream parlors, bakeries, and countless boutique stores and art galleries.

Sausalito


Sausalito on a Saturday morning


The trouble with 100% gluten free restaurants is that I always order too much food. At most regular restaurants, my celiac child often only has 2 meals to choose from, so at Copita, I set my baby loose to eat everything.

By the end of the meal, we still had 2 full plates that were hardly touched.

24 hour carnitas


Half roasted Chicken


But we still saved room for their amazing gf desserts. And we had to ordered an extra dessert to go.

1 left as soon as this dessert arrived at our table


After lunch, we headed to Pier 39, a.k.a. Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco's Pier 39


Apparently a whole lot of people had the same idea. The Pier was packed with visitors.

We joined the crowd, sipped on drinks, bought snacks, fruits, and window shopped.

Pier 39's Mini donuts


Pier 39's fruit stand


We enjoy an outing to San Francisco every couple of months or so. We always have fun there.

Previous related posts:
Summer is Here!
Yosemite – A Family Day Hike
A Family Outing

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

In plotting my baby’s road map to college, it occurred to me that she could use a backup sport. This kid may not make it on our high school’s highly competitive volleyball team.

I decided on golf. Why? Because it is better than badminton or bowling.

I offered golf lessons to the baby.

“Golf!? Is that even a real sport? I don’t think it is a real sport.” said the baby, totally unimpressed.

“Of course it is a real sport! It is even a big sport! They play these games on TV all the time.” me, defensive of the choice I made for her benefit.

“It is so boring to watch!” baby.

“It must be much more fun to play than to watch. Lots of people play golf.” me.

“Hey, how about we learn to play golf together?” me, fixated on achieving my goal.

Learning to golf


“You are on! I am going to kick your butt at golf!” baby, obnoxiously approving the plan.

The baby and I signed up for a package of 5 semi private lessons at a local golf course.

Two lessons and two rounds of driving ranging practices later, I was the undisputed better golfer.

The mommy golfer


The baby was not pleased, but not surrendering, and waved a fist at me, “NEXT time!… I will kick your butt.”

Last Sunday, after hitting 3 buckets of golf balls with the baby at a driving ranging, I was nursing the sore muscle on my right arm, and a new callus on my left hand.

“And you don’t think golf is a real sport…my arm is so sore.” me.

The baby popped up from the sofa, arms on her waist, chin pointed at me, and said, “ What is wrong with you! I did rock climbing for 2 hours yesterday, then volleyball for 2 hours, then played golf with you today, and I am not sore at all.”

The baby golfer


Whoever said that girls are all sugar and spice, neglected to add that this blend of sugar and spice turned into a bag of sassy when aged.

I wobbled my arms at her, “I have these noodle arms!”

Previous related posts:
The Mile Run
Kid Meets Real World
Who Needs a Coach When You Have Google

  • Share/Save/Bookmark