Happy birthday mom!

Happy 52nd birthday mom!!

Her actual birthday was August 20th but we celebrated on August 15th 🙂

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Even though we celebrated a few days early, I was really happy our whole family was able to spend her birthday together!

Thanks mum for being our biggest support throughout our entire lives and for always encouraging us to be the best we can be doing whatever it is that would make us happiest. We love you!

My sister ordered a key lime cake with buttercream icing. Beautiful scroll work and sugar flowers – they looked so real!

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Mommy with Benny – her favourite now

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Proper and complete family photo!

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I don’t… know how my brother does it

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I think the best part of this photo is Franklin, the turtle

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My favourite 🙂

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Cutting the cake!

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Haha, I swear, we can normal

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So sweet!

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Franklin wants in too!

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Yum, so much icing!

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Presents and cards for mom!

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Surprise week in Ottawa

Aside from my brother and sister, no one in my family knew I had an additional week in Ottawa from August 9 to 15, 2014. Boy was I excited for an extra week with family and friends!

Thank you to my siblings for picking me up at the airport Saturday morning! My mom was working so she had no idea I was home… 🙂

Got home, showered, and then went over to surprise my grandparents. My grandfather was out, but luckily, I had pre-written up 4 pages (he is deaf, so I communicate via writing) with an update on a number of topics including: getting a job and my elective experience in Nanaimo. My grandma was home so I had the chance to catch up with her and leave my letter for my grandpa and visit later.

Elvin picked me up for… you guessed it, lunch at Shawarma Palace, our favourite. What made it even better? The company 🙂 Thanks Elvin, Jenn, Ruixi, Vinh and Tina for joining me for a delicious lunch! Always so nice to see you guys and catch up.

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At the end of our lunch, my siblings texted to say my mom was done work and they were going to pick her up. Of course, I needed to come too in order to surprise her! Elvin drove me to my mom’s work in order to meet my siblings. But eek! When Elvin turned in, my mom was already standing outside waiting for my siblings. We did a half duck and hoped my mom didn’t notice us. Phew, she didn’t! We ended up turning around and meeting my siblings in a nearby parking lot. I crouched down behind the passenger side and waited for her to notice. She didn’t. I started tickling her, she thought I was my brother even though he was sitting on the opposite side of the car. Finally, I just started laughing and gave myself away. I told her why I was home and how I had to pay an additional $400 for the flight change. Worth it.

Dinner that night? Poutine from Spud’s. A family size ‘Sugar Shack’ – fries, cheese curds, beer gravy, bacon, sausage and maple syrup – delicious!

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Here are some random moments over the week! There are a few special occasions not mentioned here because they will have a post of their own! 😀

Loved getting to spend more time with this guy!

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My sister brought a ton of Asian treats back from Vancouver, including Green Tea Aero chocolate – yum.

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With Asian items always comes Engrish

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Everyone was craving my mom’s famous ‘Banh Mi’ (Vietnamese subs). She made BBQ pork and we had BBQ pork banh mi! So delicious, I think we all had subs for days!

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Enjoyed grape tomatoes, fresh from the garden.

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Mum made coconut sticky rice which was thoroughly enjoyed with sweet ripe mango.

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Wake up guys!

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Can I have some meat with this taco bowl?

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Made blueberry white chocolate scones for the family

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My siblings like to sneak selfies on my cell phone 😛

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But all like to take selfies too right?

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Lunch at Art Is In with the family and Janet! Sorry about the terrible backdrop but you can read more about Art Is In here!

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Yummy, green tea ginger ale

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And buffet lunch another day at Eclipse! My lovely siblings 😉

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I had a very special opportunity with the family this week – shopping for a wedding dress with my mom, sister and brother! Although I can’t say I’ve found THE dress, I have now certainly found THE style of dress. Yay! I was very glad to have shared the experience with my family because I honestly don’t know if I’ll have another chance again, especially being in Australia!

After looking at wedding dresses, we went to get donuts at Suzy Q. Same donut with different toppings, not bad but to be honest, I still prefer Tim Hortons donuts. They could certainly do with a facelift!

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DHAL: July 13-19, 2014 – Ottawa for a week!

One week home in Ottawa, been looking forward to this for weeks! 🙂

Michael and I aren’t planning on going home for over summer/Christmas holidays, since our graduation date isn’t until December 20th and we expect to be moving and preparing for a job rural at the end of the year, hopefully! This rotation is our opportunity to spend some time in Canada… so who knows when we will be back next!

Spent some quality time with the family!

Got to eat one of my favourite Vietnamese meals – Bo Bia! Fresh rolls with Chinese sausage, sauteed turnip, egg and veggies including Thai basil dipped in a hoison peanut sauce – thanks mum!

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A meal selfie!

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My mom’s famous deboned, stuffed, and breaded chicken wings! Delicious! And some homemade samosas

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And with my grandparents!

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Trying out my grandpa’s first batch of banana lime liqueur – coming along well!

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We enjoyed quite a few different taste testings, haha!

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I finally got to meet Benny! The dog my brother adopted earlier this year who is now considered the baby of the house and my mum’s favourite. He’s a cutie and (mostly) really well behaved but always gets a little too excited when new people come over that he pees on them.

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He’s a sweetheart and a whiner, always crying and looking out the window if you leave him behind.

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And he loves his balls and squeaky toys…

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Had the opportunity to go down to Perth Road Village to spend some quality time with Mike’s family on July 14th. Their property is by a lake and very cottage-like, so it was very nice and relaxing! Mike’s brother Matt and sister in law Jessica recently had their 2nd child – Rinoa, who’s super cute! Their oldest, Jasper has grown so much since I last saw him!

Some of my favourite photos, you can view all of them HERE.

Matt, Jessica and Jasper out on a canoe ride

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Matt & Jess’ dog Bubba – not feeling well today.

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Father son laughs

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Auntie and niece bonding time.

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Little Rinoa

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Tummy tickles!

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Like father like son

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Hanging out with Uncle Mike

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Indeed!

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A pair of loons and a baby! We tried to get as close as we could without being intrusive and they certainly kept an eye on us the whole time just in case!

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This dinosaur

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Got to satisfy a few of my cravings! Including McDonald’s McGriddle breakfast (mmm sweet and salty, maple syrup and sausage) and of course, Shawarma Palace with their awesome garlic sauce! Not shown: Stops at Tim Horton’s!

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Even had time to catch up with some of my best girls! Thanks for coming over on July 17th Atong, Julia and Hue!

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Julia loved Benny!

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Julia requested Cuttlefish snacks by Nong Shim, which apparently can’t be found in Ottawa anymore. They are delicious though, even Mike’s hooked on them.

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A lovely engagement gift from Julia & Atong 🙂 A family cookbook that even has room for photos!

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And perhaps most importantly, my mum held an unofficial engagement dinner with Michael’s parents so they could formally meet all of my family. This was on Friday, July 18th, the night before both Michael and I flew out to our respective electives. We decided to have dinner at Chu Shing and luckily, only a handful of family were missing. It was the usual family deal, chaotic but I think it went well! Thank you also very much to my grandparents and to Ong Tia Ba Y for their generous gifts!

Some of the photos!

Selfie at the dinner table

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With Mike’s parents, my mum, my grandparents, and my dad’s aunt and uncle.

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The elders!

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All my aunts and uncles (except for my 4th aunt who was in LA with her daughter Lilian) and a few of the cousins

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Some more cousins as well as Aunt Diane, Uncle Andrew (my great aunt and uncle’s daughter) and their 3 children.

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Group photo!

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With my dad’s side of the family

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Aren’t I lovely?

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With Michael’s family. Unfortunately, his sister Meaghan was not able to join us due to work. His brother has 2 small children on an early schedule and it’s a drive up from Kingston!

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Before heading home, we dropped by Phuket Royal, a restaurant where my cousin Kevin was working (couldn’t make it to our dinner) to say hi. He was just getting off work so we decided to go to My Sweet Tea to catch up over bubble tea. We didn’t get back until past midnight, and Mike and I still needed to pack! Needless to say, it was a late night.

Woke up at 4:30am the next morning to have breakfast together at Perkins with Di Nam before heading to the airport for my 7am flight to Vancouver. Good bye family and see you again soon!

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They’ve changed the format of the security line at the Ottawa Airport to be extremely inefficient, causing myself and a number of other passengers to almost miss our flight. At other airports, once passengers go through security, they may be pulled aside to a different station for an explosives scan, which is when they swab the outside and also open your bags to swab the inside and test for explosives. For whatever reason, Ottawa has decided to incorporate the explosives scan as part of their security line, before your bags go through the scanner. The ENTIRE security line gets held up when someone’s having their bag tested. Meaning nobody’s bags are being scanned and nobody is walking through the metal detectors. Completely inefficient, I don’t know what they were thinking, but they better change that.

My sister met me once I landed in Vancouver and we had time to grab a quick bite to eat before I had to start heading to Horseshoe Bay to catch my ferry to Nanaimo. It took a good 2 hours to get there from the airport via the SkyTrain into the city and then bus to the ferry terminal. More about Nanaimo in my next post!

Day 07: Singapore – Adventure Day on Pulau Ubin!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Today was Mike and Sandra day, and we were going on an adventure to Pulau Ubin!

Pulau means Island and Ubin means Granite (in Malay). Pulau Ubin = Granite Island

Makes sense! “Granite quarrying supported a few thousand settlers on Pulau Ubin in the 1960s, but only about a hundred villagers live there today. It is one of the last rural areas to be found in Singapore, preserved from urban development, concrete buildings and tarmac roads, with an abundance of natural flora and fauna.

We decided to visit Pulau Ubin for the day, to see a bit of nature and get away from the city.

To get there, take the MRT to Tenah Merah Station then transfer to Bus No. 02 to the Changi Bus Interchange. From there only a few minutes walk to the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, where you can catch a short 10 minute bumboat ride ($2.50) over to Ubin Island.

The weather was great! We were excited to see blue skies and the sun out but also realized one thing… we didn’t have insect repellant. Knowing my luck and the fact that there was a Dengue outbreak in Singapore at the time, I was going to die… argh!

But it was too late, and we were already on the bumboat trip over and were docking…

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Welcome to Pulau Ubin!

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I had read that there was a fish spa available on the island, which is why we specifically decided to rent bikes from Celestial Resort: $10 for all day bike rental and a 1 hr fish spa. Unfortunately, the bike only had one gear… 😛

Heading in! As you can see, many shops offer bikes for hire at differing qualities and prices. You could definitely pay more and get a much better bike than we did. Actually, we recommend getting a better bike because otherwise you’ll be pushing it up the hills like we did!

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Just simple, quiet, serene views all around the island, untouched by industrialization and technology.

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Riding the bike through shaded trails, so tranquil!

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Zombie Sandra after Mike!

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It was REALLY hot. We bought a lot of water, but if you forget to bring some, there are a few places around the island you can purchase cold drinks from.

At one point during our ride, I wailed, “This is the worst part of our trip!” because of the 20+ mosquito bite welts that had appeared almost magically. For those who are sensitive like me, the suffering! The suffering is so bad!

There are a number of tame wild boars you might run into! We encountered them twice 🙂

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I find the females quite dainty looking, does that even make sense?

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Haha, one of them chased after Mike and kept nudging him (getting snot and mud over his shorts) for the fried banana he was carrying. Eventually he had to loudly shoo her away.

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Took a rest by the water.

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So many mosquito bites! And lots of planes in the background 🙂

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Mike pointing out Malaysia, which you can see in the distance!

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Lots of friendly dogs 🙂

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We met a nice couple at the Visitor Centre who wanted a picture in front of it because the house is old and unique. In return, he offered to take one of us, how could we say no? Too bad they barely got the house in the shot…

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The house from further away

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Enjoying the nice views

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Look, a boat from Vietnam!

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We passed by a Muslim Cemetery, which I had never seen before. Don’t know if this is what they normally look like?

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We climbed up the Jejawi Tower to check out the view! Saw lots of planes (up close!) taking off and landing at Changi Airport across the water 🙂

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Mike’s pretty face!

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By now, we had been biking for a couple of hours and we were hot (I was dying from itch) and sweaty. What better time to go for the fish spa?

Before heading in, we enjoyed a nice cold orange drink, included in the $10.

The fish spa was a long pond that wrapped around a corner in a shaded area to one side of the resort. There was another couple and a Vietnamese family that came in with us at the same time. The other 2 groups settled each at one end of the pond and Mike and I sat in the middle.

For the first 10 minutes, there were non-stop shrieks and giggles from the awful tickling sensation of the fish. We expected a pond with a couple fish nibbling here and there. NO. Not this place, this pond had enough fish to COMPLETELY BLANKET your feet. There were little fish that were ticklish enough and then there were bigger fish that were more ticklish.

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It was hilarious. Don’t worry, I took videos so you can partake in the laughter too!

After a while, everyone got used to the buzzing, vibrating sensation of the fish and settled down for a relaxing nibble.

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Mosquitos were still swarming me, but by now I had given up to the Dengue god and couldn’t care less. At least I had experience what it was like to have hundreds of little minion exfoliate my feet by eating my dead skin. 😛

And that marked the end of our Pulau Ubin adventure! After this, we headed back to Singapore and then back to our hotel.

But not before stopping for food! We stopped at Tekka Market in Little India close to our hotel to have some Briyani! Looks messy but I assure you it was tasty!

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We got back to the hotel in time to enjoy happy hour and of course, shower!

Tonight, we were on a mission: To have dinner at Tim Ho Wan, one of the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, known for their amazing dim sum.

It was 8pm by the time we got into the city and to Plaza Singapura, but the line was already closed! They are still so popular that even at 8pm, the queue was at its limits before closing. SAD FACE. Broken heart.

So, with heavy hearts, we walked around Orchard Rd and checked out a few of their endless shopping centres and even grabbed a tasty kebab to eat on the streets.

Eventually, we made it back to the hotel, but again, not before stopping for more food… naan bread in Little India, what do you expect?

Haha, we called it an earlier night than usual – 11pm bedtime, woo hoo!

And that’s the end of Day 07! Our last sleep in Singapore!

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL PULAU UBIN ALBUM

Photo #309: Keeping Dad Company

January 02, 2013

My siblings and I went to visit my dad at the cemetery today. There was so much snow that his headstone was half buried, not to mention it was SO COLD. Years ago, my sister got these 3 dogs as a small gift for my dad, they represented his three children since he was born the year of the dog. Today, we marked them with our Viet names and brought them out to keep my dad company in the snow.

Photo #94: Black Lit Dogs

June 01, 2012

Little white dogs (and some elephants) under black light in a store at Universal Studios Singapore. Thought it was really neat (especially because I wasn’t expecting it) that the camera was able to capture the lighting effect!