Mother’s Day in Canada

May 08, 2016

Happy Mother’s Day!

We celebrated with the entire family, which is something I’ve missed while in Australia!

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Menu of the day consisted of egg noodles and lobster – delicious! (Courtesy of chef Uncles)

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Yay, all 3 of us girls home in Ottawa at the same time!

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My grandparents still looking great at 80+ years old!

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The tradition conditions with all of us presenting my grandmother with cards and gifts – from the offspring of her oldest to youngest children! My brother was working and unfortunately couldn’t make it.

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Family photos!

My grandparents and their 5 children

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With their 2 girls

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And with us!

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My aunt and mom!

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G-pa is wiped after dealing with all of us 😉 Love how he goes for the hammock despite a perfectly fine bed

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SEE ALL PHOTOS HERE

And of course, some late night selfies with our very own wonderful mother!

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None of us would be here today without her sacrifice, love, and dedication – we love you! ❤

Moments back in Ottawa

We had a few goals this time back in Ottawa:

  1. Spend time with family
  2. Plan our wedding
  3. Relax

Did we obtain our goals? Yes!

One of the things I was most excited about was seeing my grandfather. As some of you may know, my grandfather has been deaf my entire life. He had sudden loss of hearing shortly before I was born – I suspect the hearing loss was precipitated by a viral illness. He had contemplated a cochlear implant at that time but decided against it… until last year.

With the suggestion, help, and support of the family, my grandfather proceeded with a cochlear implant surgery on November 4, 2015. My mom sent me photo updates, including some very cute ones of my grandpa bundled up on the hospital bed before going into surgery. Unfortunately, I do not have those photos at this time.

I’m sure he was feeling quite anxious at the time, but what was even more prominent in his facial expression was optimism!

Yes, we are THAT family when a family member is at the hospital.

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Here are some photos of my grandpa after coming out of surgery – smiling and hopeful 🙂 And aside from ugly stitches, he experienced no complications!

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After a month of healing, his implant was then activated, tests were completed, and he started (and still continues) his audiological training, with help from my uncles. What started off as indiscriminate clicking noises and echoes eventually became recognisable sounds and words, yay!

Of course, there were frustrations. My grandpa described not being able to set the perfect program for his implant, often returning from his appointments with more background noise than before, sometimes feeling dejected and unwilling to train. The annoyance of having the external transmitter continuously fall off – the magnet is not as strong as you think! He has tried different methods of securing the transmitter but it remains an inconvenience.

Upon coming home, for the first in my life, I had (mostly) a verbal conversation with my grandfather! By speaking slower, enunciating well, and using shorter sentences, I was able to freely converse with him! My entire life I have always spoken to him via notes (piles of paper and books have amassed over my lifetime) which take considerable time to write – what a change! My written Vietnamese is at the higher level it is today thanks to the dedication of my grandparents to teach me and the numerous opportunities to put it to use when speaking with my grandpa. I am also quite lucky because my grandpa said my voice is easier for him to understand compared to other family members. Now we can just sit and talk, with an occasional written note, how awesome is that?

I’m surprised at the lack of photos from our trip back to Canada this time… but here are a few fun moments back in Canada!

Note: From March 05-12th, we went to Turks & Caicos for a one week vacation. It was amazing and will be have its own post!

Target was having their liquidation sales during our time home. The sales were actually terrible and the cash registers were always freezing. Here we are waiting in line forever!

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We came home just after lunar new year. One of my favourite Vietnamese new year’s treats is Banh Tet (savoury glutinous rice with mung bean + pork or sweet banana filling, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed). One of the best things to do with leftovers is panfry the savoury mung bean and pork ones until its nice and crispy… thanks mom for the treat!

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And belated new year red pockets from the family, thank you!

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Having this little one so very excited every time you walk in the door. And constantly following you around and begging you for food at every opportunity. I miss Benny!

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Forgetting how dry Canada is! Cracked, itchy, stinging skin even with moisturizer!

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Enjoying some things you can only get in Canada, like ketchup chips, one of my favourites!

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They have even come out with ketchup Doritos… although I am not a fan.

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Regular stops at my favourite shop – Tim Hortons. I don’t drink coffee but dang do I miss the cheap, delicious, variety of donuts, pastries, and bagels. Now I want a bagel…

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And of course, with Tim Hortons comes Rolllll up the rim to win! Probably one of the most Canadian photos I’ve ever taken…

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Visiting my favourite bakery in Ottawa, Macarons et Madeleines, now at a new location! The best croissants, caneles, and macarons in town. Expensive, but delicious!

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Officially asking these wonderful ladies to be a part of my bridal party!

When my sister agreed to be my maid of honour 🙂

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Had to ask my cousin Janet over Skype because she’s studying in London

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Catching up over food and having 2 of my best friends say yes to being my bridesmaids!

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My sister went to Japan over her Christmas holidays and was kind to bring back some Japanese chocolates for us to try!

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Limited free time but still catching up with friends! Sushi at Kiko Sushi Bar – expensive but tasty!

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A visit to another favourite with Mike and Julia – Art Is In – where my brother now works! Amazing food and great atmosphere!

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Ruixi took me to a hole in the wall (Hung Sum Restaurant) for the best dim sum I’ve ever had in Ottawa – literally!

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Visiting my dad at Beechwood Cemetery for the first time in a long time!

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My sister had bought my dad these ornamental dog figurines (representing us) for his garden when he was alive. We brought them out to his grave years ago and although a little faded, they are still around!

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While planning a wedding, still making time to go on dates with my love! We did get a bunch of wedding planning finalised, but I will save that for another post!

A skate on the Rideau Canal for the first time in many years, all 16km – how we’ve missed it!

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Waiting in line at one of these huts…

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For some Beavertails and hot chocolate – not a visit on the canal until you’ve had this!

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Of course, we had to have a lunch date at Play, one of our favourite restaurants in Ottawa.

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Mike’s newfound love for beef tartare meant he had to have it at Play!

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The food and service almost never disappoints!

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Lots of silly moments with my family

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Quality time with the family… delicious onion ring poutine and burgers at The Works!

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Mom’s Com Hen (basket clam rice) – delicious broth, eaten with rice, ginger, shallots, alfalfa, pineapple, peppers, starfruit, mango, and basket clams!

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My favourite brand (President’s Choice) of hors d’oeuvres! Just cannot find anything like that here

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Can’t visit home without a trip to all you can eat sushi – a family favourite!

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We didn’t have any family events when I was back home, but I did get a chance to stop by and see my Uncle 2’s family!

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I also had the chance to see most of my other family members at different opportunities, which was nice!

A weekend out on Buck Lake to be with Mike’s family… always indulgent and fun!

Focus of attention on the newest member of the Brown family – Rinoa

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She look like a doll or what?

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But their cat… their cat is always trying to kill me. One day, I will need an epipen…

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A last meal out with Mike’s parents, introducing them to play!

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Our last photo together at the airport heading back to Australia – unfortunately my brother felt unwell and stayed in the car! 😦

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Looking back now… what an unbelievably short trip 😦 Until next year!

Saying farewell to our parents

December 27, 2014

Forever grateful for the time our parents spent in Australia with us…

Our time together can summed into a few words – family, fun, laughter, and delicious food.

Some more moments of our time together…

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One of my new favourite meals to prepare – grilled fish with tropical salad – delicious and healthy!

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It was a bittersweet farewell. But we were pretty excited. Excited to start preparing for our move to Rockhampton and beginning our careers as doctors in the new year. Sad to say good bye to our parents but we would be back in Canada in Feb-March for our holidays!

No time to diddle daddle, lots to do!

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2014

I’m chuckling because I’m writing about our Christmas in April – better late than never?

My mom and I decided to stay home and relax on Christmas, but Michael and his parents braved the hoards to experience Christmas on the beach 😛 Weather was good and they had a fun time!

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How many Canadians can say they spent Christmas in this kind of weather?

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I was adamant I would be cooking Christmas dinner – letting my mom relax. Unfortunately, it was one of my biggest cooking fails – a raw meat loaf – so upsetting! The other dishes were good, including corn, potato wedges, prawn toast and salad.

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Our first Christmas tree in Australia

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Beautiful, love our colour scheme!

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Family photo!

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In previous years, our cousins have always had a bit of fun at family get togethers, like colour coordinating our outfits, wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, custom made t-shirts, etc. Imagine my delight when Mike’s mom produced these funky Dollarama light necklaces – complete with 3 different modes and extra batteries!

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Had a glitch with one of them – ah, expected of Dollarama!

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Blueberry pie for dessert, thanks Caroline!

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Some more family photos before opening presents

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I look sort of like a monster here

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My love!

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Let me share some of the wonderful presents I received 🙂

Gorgeous ruby (my birthstone) and diamond earrings from Michael that nicely match a necklace he gave for Christmas in 2011

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A beautiful Ivanka Trump dress from my mom. I’ve received many compliments wearing it already!

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A nice leather Coach clutch from my sister and some delicious chocolate bars! Can’t find those in Australia!

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Presents from my brother…

A wine making kit. I haven’t used it yet, will have to soon!

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And an electronic measuring cup and ceramic knives – now staples in my kitchen 🙂

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From Michael’s parents, goodies from Canada!

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And a few items from his mom! The candle holders fit nicely in our new home in Rockhampton!

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Michael was very happy with my Christmas present to him – adding to his collection 😉

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It’s long passed, but I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday with your loved ones!

Early Christmas Dinner with the family

December 23, 2014

My family from Perth were staying in Brisbane until Christmas Eve evening. That meant we definitely had to take the opportunity to have an early Christmas dinner with everyone present.

If you know my family, food is a priority. You will never attend a family event with us and leave hungry. NEVER. EVER.

Visiting another city and living in a serviced apartment? No problem! The Nguyens always deliver!

Preparing the food is all part of the fun!

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Sneaking in some more views from their apartment

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The… Christmas tree?

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Some of the food dishes… all homemade!

Inari – aburaage (deep fried tofu) bags filled with rice. Our addition – topped with seaweed – yum!

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Variety of sushi rolls

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Vietnamese cold meat – thit nguoi – one of the traditional meats seen in Viet subs

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Roasted leg of lamb

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Shrimp cocktail ring with traditional Viet garlic mayo. So much better than marinara sauce!

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Curry egg salad

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Couscous salad

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Ong Ba Ba!

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Michael and his mom

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Ong Ba Ut

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My future parents-in-law 🙂

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Ba Ut and I

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View of the spread

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And as always, family photos before eating!

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She who cooks, carves

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Self serve buffet

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He’s so cute.

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The following day, December 24, 2014, was all about relaxation and spending our last day together. We ate Christmas leftovers and hung out at the apartment. Michael and his parents climbed Mt Ngungun during the day and joined us at the apartment in the afternoon to see my family off.

Love my family! Don’t know when I’ll see them next 😦 Thank you so much for everything, can’t wait to see you again! ❤

Graduation presents

December 21, 2014

After lunch at Wagaya, our families came back to our house to visit – a first time for my family from Perth!

In addition, our families took that opportunity to give us amazing, generous, graduation gifts – thank you so very much!

My mom gave us our gifts from my grandparents first – as they are the oldest and couldn’t attend in person – thank you Ong Ba Ngoai! We will put the money towards our future and wedding planning!

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I received a nice watch and card from Ong Ba Ba

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Thank you to Ong Ba Ut for their generous gifts – we will put it towards our relocation and setting up a new life in Rockhampton!

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A very special gift to Michael from his parents, a laminated card that his mom has kept safely for many years

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My mom is the best, as always!

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With the best card 😛

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She gave us each a Pilot retractable fountain pen

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Michael also got a beautiful dark purple DKNY tie from my mom, and I received 2 Pandora beads – thank you mom!

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Thank you to Di Loan for your lottery tickets! We were really hoping to win, but alas!

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Also a very special thank you to Ong Ba Hai (Ong Ba Ut’s best friends) and Nghiem for sending me cards and gifts!

Some family photos

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I also want to share the graduation gifts from Michael’s family! We received them on December 11, 2014, during our beach getaway at Noosa with his family 🙂

Aunt Patsy and Uncle Dan gave us a generous gift to treat ourselves out to a celebratory graduation dinner – thank you! It was really too bad that our graduation date was changed to a week later this year compared to previous years. Unfortunately, they couldn’t attend but I’m sure they had a great time on their cruise!

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Uncle Rick and Aunt Wendy gave us the cutest Christmas ornaments. They definitely went on our tree and will be on our tree every year!

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Uncle Jim and Aunt Brenda gave us the novel “Breathless” written by Dr Todd – a thoracic surgeon who performed many of Canada’s early lung transplant operations.

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Thank you so much to everyone for all your love, gifts, and kind words! Treasured forever!

Graduation – Family Photos

December 21, 2014

With no other graduation ceremonies taking place, the University of Queensland campus was beautifully quiet for our family to take photos at a leisurely pace.

Campus is beautiful with sandstone and green back drops. For just one camera, a tripod and me running back and forth in heels to set up – I think the pictures turned out pretty good! What do you think?

Some of my favourites 🙂

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My pretty mom!

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Who knew this day would come?

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And always take the opportunities for pretty photos! That’s my rule 😉

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Everyone was ready for lunch by the time we were done taking photos – off to Wagaya for Japanese food!

We had a made a reservation and had our private room, which was nice!

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Sake for everyone, right mom? 😛

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Very happy everyone loved their food! It’s one of our favourite places and we were really happy to share with our families

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After lunch, we came back to our place… more about that in the next post!

MBBS Graduation – we’re doctors!

December 20, 2014

After a long journey, MIchael and I officially became doctors – yay!

Our graduation ceremony took place at the University of Queensland campus and attended by Michael’s parents, my mom, Ong Ba Ba, and Di Loan.

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Micheal receiving his “diploma” and being congratulated by the Chancellor. You actually receive an empty cylinder on stage and receive a packet of documents, including your diploma/testamur once you leave stage 🙂

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My turn 🙂 I didn’t faceplant on stage, success!

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As with every university graduation ceremony I’ve attended, the graduates are asked to turn around, face the audience, and give our family and friends a standing ovation. To thank them for their never ending love and support, for helping us achieve our dreams, and celebrating with us. This is a moment of happiness for many students, but a bittersweet moment for me. Happy to have succeeded but with tears stinging my eyes, remembering my father who’s no longer on this earth to see his daughter graduate. I know he would’ve been extremely happy and proud 🙂

My Ong Ba was quite exhausted after the long ceremony

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With a class of over 400 people, you can imagine how crowded the campus was!

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Family photo!

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My biggest support

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My other half, my meant to be!

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We decided not to hang around for long as it was quite crowded and hot, plus everyone was tired, but we were able to grab a few photos with our friends on the way out!

With the lovely Sarah 🙂

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Josiah and his family are amazing people – so warm and gracious – will never forget their hospitality!

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Will be working with Chuan in Rockhampton in 2015! Woo hoo for getting jobs!

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Can’t forget these 2, Fiona & Smiley, PBL 25 represent from Day 1. Missing Christine (elsewhere), James (on his honeymoon) and Kristen (with her baby girl)!

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And of course, Tom!

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While getting our diplomas framed, we ran into Lauren!

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Woo, we did it!

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Part of the reason why we were eager to leave was because we had already made plans. My Ong Ba Ut couldn’t attend our graduation (not enough tickets) so we had decided to come back the following day (Sunday) to take some family photos together. We would dress up again and come back to campus to take photos at our own leisure. It would work out perfectly because our graduation was the last ceremony of the year so campus would be completely empty.

So with that plan in mind, we went back to my family’s apartment to celebrate!

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Lots of toasts!

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Lots of “1-2-3-Voooooo!” (1-2-3 cheers!)

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Michael and I had wanted to take our families out to dinner to thank them. But everyone was tired and we decided to get McDonald’s takeaway instead. With wine. Ended the day super classy!

Thank you again to all my family and friends for your love and support! Couldn’t have made it to today without all of you!

Malaya Corner and meeting for the first time

December 19, 2014

Dinner out with my family from Perth, and they were meeting Michael and his family for the first time!

Michael and I suggested Malaya Corner for dinner as it has a lots of seating, and tasty, generous dishes for a very reasonable price.

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Unfortunately, some of my family members really didn’t like their dishes and jokingly vowed never to return 😛

Some of our dishes

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Even though the food may not have been the best, the company sure was!

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I don’t remember the last time I had a meal out together with both my Ong Ba Ba and Ong Ba Ut, making memories for a lifetime!

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Glad Michael and his parents had the chance to meet some of my family as well!

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We walked over to King George Square after dinner to enjoy the Christmas Lights Spectacular show

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Then walked my family back to their apartment. It was getting late and everyone was ready to call it a night.

We did, however, take a few more family photos!

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Thank you to Ong Ba Ba for treating us to our first family meal out together! ❤

Family arrives from Perth!

Around close to midnight on December 18, 2014, my mom and I greeted our family arriving from Perth. Welcome to Brisbane!

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My great aunt (grandma’s sister) and uncle Ut (Ong Ba Ut), my great uncle (grandma’s brother) and aunt Ba (Ong Ba Ba), and my Aunt Loan (Ong Ba’s daughter). Who’ve traveled to Brisbane in order to celebrate our graduation with us!

I helped them rent a 2 bedroom serviced apartment at Lexicon Oaks in the city, which they were really happy with. Spacious, had all the amenities, a gorgeous city view, and in great location. Consistently good customer service as well, would highly recommend if you’re looking for a place to stay in the city!

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It was already so late by the time we got back to their apartment, we called it a night with plans to catch up the next day.


December 19, 2014

How good is it to catch up with family?

Ong Ba has Alzheimer’s disease. Although he may have difficulties remembering the conversations we just had (sometimes starting with, “Who are you again?” haha), he is such a delight with his humour and stories! Although he doesn’t remember me as he wasn’t around when I was growing up, he fondly remembers my mom! And my grandparents, aunts and uncles back in Canada.

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My Ba Ut, who has always supported me and my decision to come to Australia to study. She is eerily similar to my grandma in some ways – especially her cadence 😛

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Us with Ong Ba Ba – Ba Ba is well known in the family for her style and loud hospitality with guests

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My mom made a very simple (yet delicious) lunch of pumpkin soup and ginger chicken with rice. It was really nice to have a large sit down, family meal which conversing in Viet – something I’ve missed!

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Family photo 🙂 The only person I haven’t mentioned yet, Ong Ut! Always ready with a joke and a laugh!

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With full tummies after lunch, it was decided that we would go out for dinner later that day, to officially meet Michael and his parents… dun dun dun 🙂

Mike & Meaghan’s birthday!

September 15, 2014

After a fiasco with booking our bus tickets to Kingston, we had to resort to asking Mike’s dad to drive up to Ottawa and get us. Thank goodness for him!

Today was a special family day, an early joint birthday celebration for Michael and and his sister Meaghan! Mike was turning 35 on Sept 21st and the first time he’s been home to celebrate with his family in over a decade. And Meaghan was turning the big 30 on Sept 26th.

Got to spend some quality time with the family, including Mike’s parents (Greg & Caroline), his brother Matt with his wife Jessice and 2 children, Jasper and RInoa, Aunt Patsy & Uncle Dan, as well as Uncle Jim & Aunt Brenda 🙂

Started off the day with a delicious lunch, thanks Matt – you make awesome grilled cheese! My mom sent a coconut lemon poppy seed cake that was fantastic and a hit with the family as well.

For dinner, Mike’s mum made meatballs, beans, caesar salad, and biscuits from Aunt Patsy – yum!

After dinner came the cake and singing! Caroline made 2 cakes, chocolate for Mike and vanilla for Meaghan.

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The vanilla cake provided lots of good laughs! It was supposed to be a lady bug 😉 … a pretty cute one!

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Look at that smile!

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Happy early birthday guys! 🙂

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Great to catch up!

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Aunt Brenda & Uncle Jim

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The birthday siblings

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With Uncle Jim

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The cute nephew, Jasper!

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Uncle Dan & Aunt Patsy – see you soon in Australia!

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Mike’s dad and his youngest grandchild 🙂

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Jasper excited for cake!

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Matt and his son Jasper. Cake and ice cream, what better way to end the night?

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And finally, some family photos!

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My last opportunity to spend time with Mike’s family 😦 Thank you for having me and can’t wait until we see you again in Australia!

Good food and dressing well

September 13, 2014

An early flight back to Ottawa from Halifax, thanks Matt for driving us to the airport! We can’t wait to see your family in Adelaide next year!

We got back to my house around 11am and went to lunch with Ruixi and Chris! Similar to last year, we were all craving Perkins, so breakfast for lunch was perfect! It was so nice to see them and catch up, especially since so much has happened since we hung out with them at Perkins last year, including a wedding and honeymoon! 😉

When my mom got home from work that evening, we ordered Shawarma Palace (of course) and joined my grandparents for dinner.

Shawarma chicken and beef platters… how I miss you!

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My mum and grandpa

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Family minus Jenni!

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Enjoying some Jost Maple Ice Wine, thanks Dan! He and Mike had a sports bet and he lost. The prize? A nice Canadian bottle of ice wine, which we shared with family 🙂

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Chicken, beef, rice, potatoes, garlic sauce, pickles, hummus, bread, salad… mmm

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My lovely grandparents!

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Always fun having dinner with my grandparents 🙂

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Some of you might know or remember that I’ve kept a coin collection since I was young. A very amateur collection, spurred by the release of the 1999 Millenium coins. Even now, my grandma will save new/different/fancy coins she comes across for me to riffle through and pick ones to save.

Here’s the collection of quarters she’s kept for me! Just going through them to see which ones I don’t have and can add to my collection, thanks grandma!

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My brother makes the best faces and takes the best selfies!

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September 14, 2014

The following day, my brother, Mike and I went on an ambitious adventure. Andy was going to photograph some engagement photos for us. He had a few sites picked out to visit and we had lots of fun, although I can’t say many of the photos turned out 😛 But when they’re ready I’ll share!

One fun aspect, we got to dress up a bit! My mom and aunt were going to come along as well, but unfortunately she had a prior engagement so mum and I took a few photos together at home instead 🙂

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Can you tell what we did on our photo shoot? 😛 So serious!

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Check out my brother, the “pro”

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Two hands mama!

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And what did we finish the day with?

Delicious home made Phở Tái (Vietnamese noodle soup with beef cooked rare) before addition of herbs and garnishes, thank mum!

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And of course, who can forget Benny! So cute, but he’s so camera shy!

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Only $1, what a deal! I missed having these, brought back memories from childhood 🙂

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Happy 60th Wedding Anniversary to my Grandparents!

On August 16, 2014, our family threw a party to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. It was held in the Winter Room at the St Laurent complex – where we also held my grandpa’s 80th birthday lunch last year.

It wasn’t a surprise event, so my grandparents were able to look forward to celebrating with family and friends. Here is a photo of them arriving at the venue, aren’t they so cute?

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Sitting down to lunch with family and friends

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The grandchildren took care of decor and setting up the venue and each family provided at least a dish for a pot luck feast – so much good food!

Wall decals created and put up by my brother. The huge spread of food!

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My mom made self serve taco salad and ‘Banh Lot’ a Vietnamese pandan flavoured dessert served with syrup and coconut cream.

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Mo Hai made green papaya salad with beef jerky, steam buns and veggie samosas

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Di Nam made fried rice and a veggie platter

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Cau Ba made shrimp spring rolls and pickled green plums

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Cau Tu made fish maw soup

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The uncles chopping up the roasted pig

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My beautiful grandparents!

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Grandma with some of her friends

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My grandpa giving a thank you speech after my Cau Hai’s emotional welcome speech

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My grandparents’ friends giving their congratulatory speeches and gifts

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Some group photos before digging in! Grandparents with their family/friends

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Aww!

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My grandparents with their 5 children

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Children and their spouses

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Family photo!

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Table decor

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Even had some party favours

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Good food and good times with good people!

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Ong Tia Ba Y (my dad’s aunt and uncle) sharing a laugh with my grandparents

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Ah, so cute!

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Cousins photo!

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More recently, the grandchildren try to incorporate something unique with each family get together. For today, we have hats that say “Born ‘X’ years after grandparents’ wedding”

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Oscar selfie in the making

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The result!

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After lunch came more family photos, presents, and cake!

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My present! Painted by a street artist I met in Brisbane

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Big homemade birthday card

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Photo with all the grandchildren minus two!

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And a normal one

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Thank you so much to my grandparents for the opportunity to celebrate this day with them! Wishing them many more years of happiness together and with their family!

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There are SO MANY more photos, especially of my aunts and uncles’ families. Please CLICK HERE to see the full photo album!

New family photos!

These were taken back on August 16th (I’m quite behind on blogging, I know!) before heading to grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary party!

As usual, we are a silly silly family 🙂 I have to say this is our best family photo (minus my dad) to date!

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But I think we can clean up nicely when needed, right?

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Girls in the family

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Sisters! I love this photo 🙂

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Look how big we can make our butts

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We are pretty attractive 😛

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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 28, 2014 – My 27th birthday!

Thanks to my lovely sister for spending the past weekend and indulging with me! Unfortunately, it was back to the real world for me and back to Vancouver for her this morning!

On the other hand, happy 27th birthday to me! Gosh, makes me feel old! I spent my birthday in the hospital, working hard and coming home late, just like any other day because no one knew it was my birthday and I felt it unnecessary to share. Despite being alone, I received so much love from family and friends in the form of text messages, phone calls and Facebook messages – many thanks everyone!

Facebook message and photo from my sister

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Received these 2 Pandora beads from my sister. The left one is the Birthday Bloom charm for my birth month. The left is an engagement present and called Forever Entwined. I love them, thanks Jenni!

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Cards from Mike’s parents and my sister (telling me to cheer up)!

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Facebook message and photo from Mike

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Received part 1 of my birthday gift at the airport from Michael. I’ve been wanting a fitbit for a while – it’s a bracelet you wear that helps you track your activity as well as sleep, thanks love! I haven’t started using it yet because I have no one around to discuss it with at the moment. I’m also excited for part 2 of my gift – soon reunited!

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Facebook message and photo from my mum!

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Before I left Ottawa at the beginning of this year, my mum had already given me my birthday gift in advance – this gold heart Pandora charm. Perhaps she forgot about it and that’s why she has another present for me? 😛

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I even came home to a chocolate bar and well wishes from my housemate Lyndsay, thank you! 🙂

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My first birthday spent truly by myself away from family and friends, but I felt the love!

DHAL: July 27, 2014

Had a late start today!

Wasn’t until midday that my sister and I headed out. Today’s plan: Visit Newcastle Island. How? A 10 minute ferry ride that costs only $9 return.

Some sights along our walk to the ferry dock

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Revealed itself during the low tide

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Liked the reflection in the water

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Beautiful day with lots of boats in the water

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Didn’t take long until we got to Newcastle Island!

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A really beautiful island with lots of nice walking trails (approx 8km around the perimeter of the island), areas for picnics and places to swim. Click HERE for more information about the island.

Some photos during our hike!

One of the views off the island

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Christmas colours!

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Jenni’s not so much a big fan of hiking, so got bored a little too quickly

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Hello!

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Crystal tree droppings

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Lots of easy to walk trails

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More water and boats!

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Took a rest by the beach, and a selfie!

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Lots of pretty views

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And lots of people watching 🙂

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You could easily spend the whole day on Newcastle Island, but we had important things to do. Mainly: Buy Nanaimo bars and yummy pastries to eat before the shops closed.

After a few hours, we said farewell and hopped on the ferry back.

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Looking back towards Nanaimo

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From there, we proceeded to Mon Petit Choux Cafe & Bakery to pick up a few goodies for later this evening.

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We then headed back down to the water to enjoy a delicious late lunch/early dinner at Troller’s Fish & Chips. I got halibut and my sister got salmon, it came with fries, coleslaw & tartare sauce. The fish was delightful, such light and crispy batter, went great with the tartare sauce. The fries were good as well, but the coleslaw was so warm! We couldn’t tell if it was because of the temperature, but the coleslaw seemed to have iceberg lettuce in it as well, definitely not as good as it could’ve been.

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We called it an early day after eating and decided to head back to my place. Instead, we decided to watch some of our classic favourite movies: Freaky Friday and White Chicks. Don’t laugh, it was good fun! 😛

Selfie on the way home!

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For dinner (and an early birthday celebration), we had delicious pastries from Mon Petit Choux. Top left is a Marjolaine, originally invented by French chef Fernand Point – combining almond & hazelnut meringue layers with chocolate buttercream. Bottom is an Earl Grey Chocolate Mousse, which lost a bit of its shape in the heat during the walk home but retained all of its deliciousness. And lastly, a berry custard danish – yum! To top all of that off, we also nibbled on a Nanaimo Bar – so rich we couldn’t finish a slice together but certainly yummy!

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A fun weekend hanging out with my sister, a little sad that she will be leaving me tomorrow! 😦

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!

DHAL: July 12, 2014 – Back to Canada!

The day I flew back to Canada! And because of going back in time, 2 days in one!

This was my flight schedule:

Brisbane to Los Angeles (with Qantas) with approximately a 3 hour layover. First point of entry into USA so needed to take out and recheck in my luggage… even though I was only flying through. I don’t remember ever having to do this in other countries?

Los Angeles to Chicago (with Qantas) and only a 1 hr layover. As long as I could get my boarding for the next leg before arriving to Chicago, it should be okay.

Finally, Chicago to Ottawa (with United Airlines operated by Express Jet) arriving at 7pm on July 12.

The day immediately started off on the wrong foot when I dropped off my luggage at the Qantas counter in Brisbane. The lady was grumpy and raised her voice at me when I inquired about being unable to print a Chicago to Ottawa boarding pass after checking in online. She practically called me stupid for purchasing a flight with so little layover time and “kindly suggested” not doing it in the future. Knowing it was going to be a long day, I didn’t have it in me to deal with her. It wasn’t until I was boarding my flight later that I realised she never gave me my baggage tickets. If my baggage got lost, I wouldn’t have a reference number to locate it with.

Next was going through security. I had never seen the line up so long before, it was snaking around the entrance foyer twice. I guess good thing I arrived with plenty of time! When I finally reached the security scanner, I took out the usuals of my laptop and liquids in a clear plastic bag. Some airports also require that you take out your iPad as well. Noticing that the man in front of me had taken out his iPad, I took a step forward to ask the employee if he wanted me to take mine out as well. Before I could even open my mouth, he barked at me saying, “Get back and stay with your bags!” He thought I was trying to go through the metal detector, which I wasn’t and told him so. He said I didn’t have to take my iPad out and then sent me through the metal detector. Thinking finally, I’m through this line, can you guess what happened? They scanned my bag, the employee working the scanner said he needed to search my bag, took out my iPad and sent everything through the scanner again. In the meantime, people behind me are being held up as well. Unbelievable.

Finally through security, of course I was “randomly chosen” for an explosives scan. So used to it, I lifted my bags on the counter before the employee even asked. “You’ve done this before obviously!” he joked. Yep, I answered, every time!

After going through Customs and with all the airport procedures behind me, I headed to the gate early and settled down. Was able to chat with my mum and give Mike a call as well. I told them my concern of missing the connecting flight from Chicago to Ottawa and we all agreed that hopefully I’ll have time in LA to grab that boarding pass from United Airlines.

Flight from Brisbane to LA was around 13 hours long but felt more like 20. The airline food was actually delicious, I was quite impressed! I chose a lunch of chicken salad with aioli sauce that was quite filling and full of fresh crisp vegetables including peas, radicchio, and celery and cucumber. Hot breakfast was a spinach frittata with beans and sausage. I also realised halfway through the flight that there is a galley in the back filled with goodies for passengers. Fully lining a backlit wall were snacks of Anzac biscuits and savoury biscotti, as well as amenities including socks and toothbrush kits. Service was great and being in an aisle seat allowed me to get up and stretch whenever I wanted without disturbing fellow passengers.

I was pleasantly surprised when I landed in LA and had someone greet me at the gate with an express envelope allowing me access to priority lines through customs and security, as well as boarding passes for the remainder of my trip. I shouldn’t be missing any flights now!

Once I collected my bags, I was directed into the express line, where I waited… and waited. Watching all other passengers fly through the non-express lanes. Why? Because there were nearly 10 normal lines and 1 express. One customs agent was alternating between my line and a regular one next to me. After a while, he skipped our line all together. After a few passengers in the next line were called and we remained ignored, I asked the gentleman in the next lane if it would be alright for me to go next, he agreed. When the agent called out, “Next!” I thanked the man again and proceeded to push my luggage cart towards the desk when the agent quickly yelled at me saying, “I was calling this line, not you! Get back in line and wait for another agent to call you!” I was appalled. What is the point of having an express lane when it is moving slower than a regular lane, even worse, not moving at all? Luckily, I could afford the wait, but I’m sure there were other passengers behind me who were genuinely concerned, and may have even missed their flight.

Unfortunately, it was all in vain. The LA to Chicago flight ended up being delayed for over an hour, causing me to automatically miss my connecting flight to Ottawa. In the past when I’ve missed flights with other airlines, I have been automatically met at the arrival gate with new boarding passes for the next available flight. It was not the case this time. Before disembarking, we were told to talk to the agents at the gate, who directed us to a panel of phones, called the “Rebooking Centre” to rebook the flights ourselves. I looked around while being on hold for what seemed like ages at other passengers who like me, were tired and frustrated at such a slow process. Eventually, I was put on another flight later that evening but had to find the United Airlines desk to collect my boarding pass.

This was when I realised the Chicago O’Hare Intl Airport is humongous. I stopped to ask a man driving an airport buggy for directions to the United Airlines counter. He informed me it was in the next terminal which is quite a distance away and offered to drive me there. It was a small gesture, but appreciated nonetheless!

Eventually, I made my way to the United Airlines counter, got my boarding pass, and asked about ensuring my luggage would be put on the correct flight. If you remember, I was never given baggage tickets so there was no way to track my bags. I ended up having to give them a physical description of my bags and just cross my fingers that they make it back to Ottawa with me.

Soon I was finally boarding a teeny tiny plane back to Ottawa. The flight was short and I remember the elder man who sat next to me. He spent the flight completing Sudoku puzzles and looked very physically fit. Made me think, I hope I keep myself mentally and physically engaged like that in old age!

Landed in Ottawa to find out one of 2 of my luggage pieces made it to Ottawa. I wasn’t too concerned but had to wait in line to file a claim. When I was asked what was in my piece of missing luggage, I replied, “Inside the suitcase is a cardboard box, filled with ginger beer, candies, and biscuits… for real.” 😛 By the time I was done, I was the last person on the flight to walk out.

My mom, my brother, my aunt and Mike were the only people still waiting arriving passengers… finally home!! Finally reunited with Michael, and my family!

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DHAL: July 02-03, 2014

Lowlights:

  • Yesterday I experienced the worst lowlight since starting DHAL. I was feeling quite down and sad regarding the anniversary of my dad’s passing and being alone at home made it even worse, I’ve never been alone on this day before. I cried many tears. But writing yesterday’s blog definitely helped me deal with my emotions, even if it brought back many many memories. Thank you to all my friends who sent me their love, it was very much appreciated!

Highlights:

  • Ran into Mabel after finishing my shift the past 2 days in a row! Nice to stop for a chat and a few laughs!
  • The flowers Michael sent me bloomed and are gorgeous! Thanks love!

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  • Even though I’m on afternoon and evening shifts this week, it’s nice being in emergency theatre when the rest of the operating rooms are empty and there are only a handful of staff on duty. Just nice and quiet… 🙂 Also, the tea room is always stocked with fresh bread (white and whole wheat!), butter, vegemite, and jams to make toast. A good pick me up when you’re feeling low on energy! Of course there is always coffee, tea, milk, juice and also a basket of cookies for some extra calories whenever you need it.

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  • Since coming to Australia, we have been buying the large tubs of yoghurt thinking that it was the cheapest option, especially when they’re on sale. Recently I learned that was a lie. And that regular priced yoghurt in individual servings is cheaper than large tubs on sale! Never again will I be buying tubs when I can be buying something cheaper, with more variety, and easy to pack for lunch!

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I know, my life is SO EXCITING! 😛

5 years without my dad

July 02, 2009 (Ottawa, Canada)

Today marks the 5 year anniversary of my dad’s passing.

I understand that everyone’s struggles and losses are different and cannot be compared. I know I’m very lucky to have grown up with a father. One who loved his family and worked hard, sacrificing a lot in order to provide for us. One who brought us up to be good people, one who taught us many valuable lessons and skills.

However, as the years go by and I get older, it pains me more and more that I lost my dad so early. He wasn’t even 51 years old and I was turning only 22. I was still living at home, hadn’t truly grown up, with barely any life experience under my belt.

Now 5 years later, my life has changed significantly. I went from living at home to moving across the world and starting a new life on my own. I am months away from graduating medical school and becoming a doctor. I have met the love of my life and we are now engaged. And I am upset that my father has not been by my side to see any of this happen! He never had the chance to visit Australia, which is where he wanted to retire and why I even looked into going to school here. He did not get to see my siblings and I finish school, begin our careers, and start our families. He never had the chance to meet Michael, although I’m sure he would have accepted him like his own son. He won’t see us get married and when we have children, they will never get to meet their grandfather, who would’ve loved them and taught them so much. There was so much in life my father did not have a chance to experience!

Sometimes I feel quite bitter. Life isn’t fair. But it’s always a reminder to live life to the fullest. Enjoy life and fill it with as much love possible… I miss you dad…

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I wrote the following back in 2012 but wanted to repost it in order to share his story again with you:

3 years ago today, a great father left this world – mine.

This man fled Vietnam by boat and survived years in a refugee camp during which time he nearly died – more than once.

When he finally made it to Canada, he met his daughter for the first time – me.

With literally the clothes on his back, he endured hardship and racism in a new country – without speaking the language.

But he laboured hard, lived meagerly and sacrificed – he made a living.

He embraced a new culture and nourished a growing family – built a strong foundation for a new beginning.

He bought a car and soon he bought a house. He educated his children well and took his family on vacations – accomplishments many take for granted.

Everything was going well. Then came life-changing news – the diagnosis of liver cancer.

Five years followed. Happy moments. Hard times. Surgery. Chemotherapy. Pain. Relapses. Hope. Family.

The father once so reserved now spent hours a day just talking with his children – he wanted more time with his family.

The dad who preferred staying in to save money now encouraged his children to enjoy the pleasures of life as often as possible – he had regrets.

The man who never liked being the subject of photography now wanted to be in as many pictures with family as he could – he didn’t want to be forgotten.

The husband who seemed so strong now often spilled his fears as well as tears – he was afraid to die.

The man who told us to share with him all that was in our hearts because he was going to die in 3 days – he foretold his death.  

The man who hugged us, who kissed us, who cried with us and wished he didn’t have to leave us – he accepted his fate.

The man who had to remain sedated until he passed away – hopefully he knew no pain.

The man whose breathing slowed until he took his last breath – died surrounded by a stronger, more loving family.

The man who has shaped the person I am today – my father.

Dad, I will forever miss you and love you. My memories of you and your teachings will have a permanent place in my heart.

Thank you for taking your time to read this post.

And thank you to all my friends who continue to give me their love and support. The meaning of friendship became most clear to me in the days leading up to and the weeks following my dad’s death. You were my pillars of support and I truly would not have been able to be there for my family if you had not been there for me. I love you guys.

Below are links to posts from previous years, I’m putting them all here so I can easily look back on them in the future:

Date with Abigail

February 8, 2014

Mike and I went to visit Matt, Kristen and their baby girl this past Sunday… and I remembered to take photos!

Only been a few weeks since we last saw them but Abbey has grown so much already, how cute is she? Nearly 8 weeks old!

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My first baby shoot. Haha, not really, just some opportunistic fun shots!

Proud parents

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Family photo

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Uncle Mike smells mommy!

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Even cute when she’s crying

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She loves this position, we learned something new today!

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Family moment

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Mother and daughter

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Pensive

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Resting on mommy

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Keeping a close eye on mum

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Pretty smiles

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And of course, we had to get a picture ourselves!

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A last few get togethers in Canada

January 3, 2014

With my sister returning to BC the following day, we invited all the cousins over for an evening of food, board games, laughs and fun! Would also be the last time I get to see them before I head off on the 7th as well.

So happy all you cousins could make it! 😀

Enjoying the movie Ip Man first while having pizza and snacks!

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Board games!

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January 4, 2014

Lunch with Colette and her husband, Pete, long-term friends of my mum! A lovely Korean meal at Mu Goong Hwa, great food and wonderful service! So nice to finally have the opportunity to spend time together and catch up!

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And in the evening, my grandparents joined us in seeing my sister off back to BC!

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January 7, 2014

Our families finally enjoyed a meal together! Michael chose Perkins as he hadn’t had the chance to go this vacation, last breakfast in Canada!

Then back to our house for tea and some quick dessert before heading off to the airport.

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Time went by so quickly, soon we had to go to the airport 😦

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Last shot with my mum!

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My family watching us head off after passing through security

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Group photo!

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Thank you for seeing us off family! We miss you all so much already!

Last batch of random moments in Canada!

I made macarons that tasted like the ones you get at the store! Their feet weren’t as pretty but white chocolate green tea… how delicious does that sound? Unfortunately, I was only able to make them successfully 1 out of the 3 times I attempted this break.

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Some of the chocolate truffles I made this year as Christmas presents for family and friends. Flavours were: Cocoa covered dark chocolate wasabi, sprinkle coated hazelnut milk chocolate, and Toasted almond orange white chocolate.

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Shawarma Palace with Mike on Boxing Day! Could not believe that I ran into Jason and Max there as well, exactly one year ago I was in the same place having shawarma with them (and Amin)!

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“This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

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Walked out of my driveway one day to hear something hissing at me from above. I was concerned it might jump down and eat my face like a zombie.

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My mom made deeelicious deep fried choux rolled in butter and dipped in a mixture of salt and sugar. Haven’t had these since 2007!

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And later she also made choux crème. Baked with a custard filling, yummy!

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Mike and I got matching Sunskis! We are quite happy with the quality and service and can’t wait to rock them at the beach! Check out their Facebook page HERE

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My sister got me some amazing wild mushrooms from West Coast Wild Foods for Christmas. I used them and altered the recipe it came with (didn’t have all the ingredients it called for) to make some delicious cream of mushroom soup. So tasty!

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Blackberries with freshly whipped cream! And they were so sweet!

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I got my nails done for the first time, with my sister! Shellac, I quite like this… too bad I can’t afford doing this all the time!

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Promised I would make a quiche and I actually did! With mushrooms, bacon and onion… not bad, got the stamp of approval from my brother!

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Mmm, McDonald’s McGriddles for breakfast, I will miss you! Delicious combination of maple syrup pancake sweetness sandwiching egg and the saltiness of cheese and sausage!

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Saying farewell to Franklin who’s going to be living with Anthony for a few months! My mom will miss her ‘grandson’ quite a bit!

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The day after New Year’s, our furnace died, on one of the coldest days! The temperature in our house quickly dropped to a frigid 13.5C before we finally got running again. Apparently our flame sensor needed replacing – ugh!

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This bird has been sitting by our kitchen window for as long as I can remember. My dad brought it home one day and I thought a real bird had flown in and perched on our window the first time I saw it. Dang, it’s an ugly bird! But, memories 🙂

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And that’s the last of my random moments in Canada… I believe! 🙂

 

 

Opening presents!

We have always opened our presents on Christmas night, as opposed to Christmas Eve night or Christmas morning like many of our other friends. Our rationale is that it allows us to collect all our presents in accordance with our get-togethers and we can open all our presents together at the end of the day.

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Family photo in onesies!

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It was really lovely to have Michael be able to join our entire family for the day, and then with us at home while we exchanged and opened gifts. ❤

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Friends and family were more than generous this year, thank you so much! Adults have always given the children ‘lucky red pockets’ so I received one from each of my mom’s 4 siblings.

And now opening presents!

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My mom is the oldest so she gets to open presents first 🙂

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Ou, Pandora beads!

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Hugs!

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Me too, me too!!

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My siblings pitched together to get me a great camera tripod, something I’ve been needing and wanting to buy for years. Additionally, they got me a whole bunch of other gifts! Thanks guys!

Yay,  a charm to add to my Pandora bracelet from my sister. Her note reads: In Celtic culture, ivy is symbolic of growth, renewal, connection, friendship, and opportunity.

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Have you ever tried chocolate flavoured cola? Because let me tell you, it’s pretty horrific. Don’t be fooled by the empty bottle, it’s because the syrupy liquid ended up down the drain!

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Mike and I always watch videos from the YouTube channel called RRCherrypie. We love watching them put together these Japanese mini edible meals and find the sound of mixing powder so soothing against the plastic tray. You will only understand this if you are familiar with the product and the videos, don’t laugh at us! Can’t wait to try this out! And in the realm of Japanese food, I also received some mini green tea and passion fruit KitKats! I would love to one day try all the KitKat flavours available in Japan, but for now, I can cross 2 off my list! They were nice, but I still prefer the chocolate one more.

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Received soooo many sweets like you wouldn’t believe. Including these Purdy ‘s Truffles and Goji Berry bar, also from my sister! Apparently, Purdy’s is a brand well known for its quality of chocolate but is not available outside the West coast, I will enjoy these!

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Caffeinated chocolate bars from my bro. Chocolate and caffeine, what more does a med student need?

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My mommy gave me a lovely fuchsia dress from Tommy Hilfiger, a nice addition to my clinical wardrobe! Also, a super comfy pair of black pants that I actually wore onto the flight home!

Michael gave me a Wilton piping set, something I’ve been wanting for a long time, thanks my dear! He also gave me a camera accessories kit but we decided to return it as it too came with a tripod, which my siblings already covered.

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Teavana teas from my cousins Janet and Kevin, will enjoy trying them and adding them to my tea collection! They also gave me a French Press which I didn’t take a picture of.

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Colette and her husbane Pete are old friends of my mom, look at the gorgeous card we received from them. Not to mention gifts!

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She even gave me gifts! A Burt’s Bees gift set with a lovely travel bag that I’m actually using for my flight bag. It’s cute, small and fits everything I need! Also a bracelet from Twilight Jewelry.

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Michael’s parents gave me a bagful of goodies, including a long and light snake-print scarf that I used repeatedly on the flight home! I think it will be perfect for Brisbane’s mild winter – Thanks Caroline and Greg!

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Every gift I receive, big and small, is valuable and sentimental to me. I hope you don’t mind, but I am not blogging about them to show off but to document these memories so that I may look back and read about it in the future. ^_^

This year’s Christmas was super special to me, in many ways, which perhaps I will elaborate on in a separate post. The time I got to spend with my family and friends, although short was very much treasured, especially because I may not be back in Canada for next Christmas. Thank you everyone for your love, time and generosity!

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I hope that wherever you were and the company you kept left you with joy and happiness!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

December 25, 2013

For as long as I can remember, the entire family has gathered at my grandparents for Christmas day. We always have lunch, complete with 2 turkeys and a plethora of side dishes and dessert. Food is followed by a large break filled with napping or catching up or board games with many laughs. Then evening rolls around and we have our second turkey meal of the day – leftovers from lunch!

This year was slightly different from previous ones. We had THREE turkeys. And a non-family member, Michael, joined the family festivities for the first time.

3 turkeys!

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Plating up the side dishes

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Uncles carving the turkeys

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Almost there

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Yay, eating time!

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In the past few years, as we get older, the cousins have been trying to do something a little different for special family occasions. You might remember at my grandpa’s birthday a few weeks ago, all the kids had lanyards stating their name and birth order. Other occasions have included colour coordinating outfits.

This year, my sister designed t-shirts for all the kids, including Mike. I think they turned out well, what about you? And surprisingly, all the cousins wore their t-shirts the entire day, as opposed to changing out of them once photos were taken. Thanks guys!

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Trying to replicate our faces

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Silly faces

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Isn’t Mike such a lucky man? 😛

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Playing games as soon as we finished eating!

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So much laughter and craziness playing ‘Heads Up’, Ellen Degeneres’ game that we played similar to charades.

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My grandparents! Probably watching our shenanigans!

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When it comes time for presents, the grandparents always receive theirs presents and cards from the grandchildren first.

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Then my grandparents will give children either a lucky red pocket with money inside, or a small gift each. This year, however, my grandpa decided to do something different – 2 raffle prizes for the kids. Each prize box contained tons of edible goodies with specific instructions to share with the other kids. Win win for all!

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And of course, my grandpa always arranges prize draws for the adults. Sadly, our family (the 6s) has never won one of my grandpa’s raffles! The 2 family were, again, the lucky winners!

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All the cousins participated in a gift exchange this year! Since we are all poor, we agreed to the challenge of buying one item from Dollarama for this gift exchange, with the option to steal presents. Worked out nicely and provided a bunch of fun!

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And some of the cousins participated in our first cookie exchange! Such a great idea and so many cookies to munch on for days. Can’t wait to do this again!

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There were 9 cousins who participated in total and we decided to do batches of 5 cookies as opposed to the traditional dozen. Good idea, because we would’ve had A LOT of cookies to eat.

Kim with her cookies. She attempted to make cookies which included fresh pomegranate syrup but they didn’t quite turn out, mainly because she didn’t use a recipe! She decided to make up for it with cute little bags, thanks Kim!

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Christine with her colourful and tasty pinwheel short bread cookies!

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Janet with fortune cookies!

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Jenni with her shortbread and sugar cookies, with super fancy packaging

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Andy going with the traditional chocolate chip cookies

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Flora and her decadent peanut butter cookies!

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I made some orange cinnamon cookies with cranberries and white chocolate chips!

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Mike and his triple chocolate candy cane cookies – so chocolatey

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Lilian with her impressive and massive red velvet cookies with cream cheese frosting

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So many cookies!

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The haul!

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When our tummies finally made some room, we had dessert! Blueberry and cherry no-bake cheesecake made by my mom and Vietnamese Creme Caramel (flan) made by my Aunt 2! Yum yum!

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And of course, finally as always, some family photos.

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More Christmas photos HERE

This is quite late, but I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas with their loved ones as well! ❤

Happy Holidays

Hello friends!

I hope each and everyone of you had wonderful holiday celebrations with your loved ones! And may this new year bless you with much laughter, surround you with love, and leave you with unforgettable moments of happiness!

I felt very lucky not only to be able to spend Christmas and New Years home in Ottawa but also because it was filled with so much love and generosity from family and friends.

Unfortunately, my laptop has died on me, and even though my brother and I have been trying very hard… I don’t think we’ll be able to salvage it.

And so, I was already behind on blogging and posting photos but now it is even worse because well… I don’t have a computer at the moment!

What’s going on in the next few days?

– My sister is flying back to Vancouver this evening. She is starting a placement in Victoria on Monday so will have very little time to pack up and fly out to her next destination.

– Mike and I are flying out Tuesday night, Jan 7th. The holidays have flown by and although we are excited to begin our final year of med school, we have not been able to study for our Canadian exam (MCCEE) as much as we have wanted. And that exam is at the end of February. Starting to freak out a little.

– Need to finish packing.

– Hopefully see some friends but time is running out and still so busy.

– Back in Brisbane on the 10th. Have the weekend to settle in and get ready for a busy year ahead starting Monday.

Will try to keep you updated more, thanks for reading! 🙂

AYCE Sushi fix at Banc Sushi

November 30, 2013

All you can eat sushi with the cousins! Yay, I finally get my sushi fix!

We decided on Banc Sushi as it is pretty tasty and in a convenient location for everyone.

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For my friends who don’t know how AYCE sushi works, you are given a menu and ordering sheets. You write down the quantity of each item you want and they bring it straight to your table… how easy can it get!

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It costs $23 for dinner on Fridays and weekends, prices for lunch and weekdays are more cheaper.

Check out the extensive menu:

And of course, photos!

Only missing 2 cousins: My sister and Kien

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The other half’s first bit of food arrives…

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The girls

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Our side of the table was waiting so long for food… then realized we never handed in the order. Fail!

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Always with the nipple touching Khang

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Finally, our first dish arrives – seaweed salad!

And more food!

Tuna

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Unagi/eel – this was so tasty!

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The Lover’s Roll… in the shape of a penis. Many laughs and instagram-ing occured at the table

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The most tender beef rolls (enoki mushrooms inside) I’ve ever had!

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So much dessert! Ice cream and fried banana for everyone! Haven’t had mango ice cream in so long – yum!

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Kevin so happy with his 6 scoops of ice cream 😛

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Happy with bursting bellies!

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Let’s do this again before I leave! 😀

Grandpa’s 80th Birthday lunch!

November 24, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDPA! CHUC MUNG SINH NHAT ONG NGOAI!

Background: Our whole family thought it would be lovely to throw my grandpa a surprise 80th birthday party! Tasks were divided up in order to get everything organised for the big day. Everyone put a lot of time into the event, which turned out successful, yay! We rented a smaller room at the St Laurent Complex with tables, chairs and a screen and projector to work with. I made a slideshow with old photos from each family as I knew my grandpa loved looking at them, especially those of his family. The chosen theme colours were royal blue and silver. A lot of work was put into not only the food, but also the decor! The cranes on the centrepieces were each folded, then spray painted before being strung onto the branches. In the vases, we also put ribbon and tulle that matched the theme colours. Thank you to everyone for their time, especially the grandchildren! Couldn’t have done it without you guys. ❤

I have so many photos, so will only share a select few to help me tell the story 😀

The grandchildren (my siblings + cousins) arrived 2 hours early to set everything up, yay us!

Making sure we sign the card before the adults arrive

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My brother Andy and Justin putting up the vinyl mural he made – a portrait of my grandpa!

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Closer look at the mural, pretty sweet.

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Due to the space, we decided on two long rows of tables on either side, as opposed to individual tables spread across the room, which worked well! We had an assembly line going as soon as the tablecloths and dinnerware arrived (we rented these),and things were laid out in no time!

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Dining area set up beautifully, ready to go!

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My sister, Jenni, also made party favours for everyone

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There were also 3 tables set up for all the delicious food! Everything but the roasted pig and bread rolls were hand-prepared by a family

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The 2 Family made: Fried wontons, crispy garlic chicken wings, steam buns, flan and also brought an assortment of other things like cucumber, bread rolls, and chocolate.

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The 3 Family made: A fruit platter, Vietnamese pork roll shaped into 80s, deviled eggs, and sweet egg desserts made with agar with a mung bean egg yolk. He also took care of a few vegetarian dishes for my grandma’s friends who attended, as well as the symbolic bowl of 80 clementines!

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The 4 Family made: Seafood soup, water and canned drinks

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The 5 Family made: A veggie platter and a sandwich platter, also bringing along coffee and tea for dessert.

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The 6 Family (us) made: Quinoa salad, pandan and Vietnamese coffee flavoured coconut jelly. I made cupcakes!

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It was a feast! Definitely lots of food leftover that we took home with us 🙂

Grandchildren, assemble! In order to greet my grandpa when he walks in the door!

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We hope he was surprised, especially because my sister wasn’t supposed to be making it but eventually decided to fly in for the weekend!

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Some of my grandma’s guests

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Photo with all the grandchildren + Mike

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Photo with all five children

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We also took individual family photos, here is ours

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My grandma’s friends were not told in advance that the event was for my grandpa’s birthday. Here they are just apologizing for that and giving gifts anyway!

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Grandpa giving us a thank you speech before eating lunch, thank you grandpa!

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Soup assembly line, haha!

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Ready to eat

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Kids table

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Birthday cake! A nice, fluffy green, pandan flavoured cake

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Oh, don’t be shy grandpa

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Make a wish!

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Cutting the cake

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Check out the paparazzi!

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Being the one who made a special trip home for his birthday, Jenni had the honour of presenting the hand-made card!

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Giving our presents! In case you didn’t see in a previous post, our family got him a number of interesting goodies to try and share with family and friends 🙂

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There are A LOT more photos, especially the ones including all the other families. I couldn’t possibly bore you with all of them! 😛 PLEASE CLICK HERE if you would like to see the complete album.

Otherwise, our-what’s-now-becoming-a-tradition: Cousins’ Photoshoot

All 13 grandchildren lined up by age, with 2 outliers – Michael and Martin, an honourary grandchild for the day.

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Quality’s not the best, but this one is my favourite!

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The serious, just got arrested look

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And lastly, a few family photos!

With Janet and her dad (part of the 5 Family)

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The girlies!

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Us!

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There will never be a family photo of us without a silly one first…

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Or two silly photos…

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Look how pretty the 5 Family looks!

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The afternoon passed by so quickly, it was soon time to start cleaning up in order to return the room.

I hope everyone had a great time and enjoyed the atmosphere and the food, especially my grandpa! I hope you enjoyed the slideshow too! Thank you again to the whole family for making this day possible! 🙂

Random moments since being home!

This post is just as it sounds, enjoy!

There were ripe bananas at home so made some banana chocolate muffins

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How silly is this? Beechwood Cemetery sent this addressed to my dad (who is buried there) inviting him to join for a Memorial Candlelight Service.

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Birthday present from my mom! Belated because she kept it in Ottawa until I got back 🙂 Even matches my birthstone, thanks mommy!

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Shawarma Palace is my absolutely favourite shawarma shop and now they have a fancy new location – thank you Elvin for the treat! 🙂 So nice to catch up with him and Vinh!

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On Nov 27, it snowed. A lot. It’s not even winter yet.

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This is really yummy if you’ve never had! I don’t think they have this kind of Greek/fruit yoghurt in Brisbane so I will enjoy all I can while I’m here, haha! 😉

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My brother got a bike trainer so he can still ride his bike during the winter 😛

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CINNABON. Best cinnamon bun ever. Always look forward to having this when I’m back in Ottawa, thanks bro for buying me one! 🙂

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Ambitious project going on… I’m trying to digitize all our photos

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Face squishies!

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My brother made kale chips, tasty! But I don’t really think they’re worth the money.

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Delicious green tea chocolate by La Chocolaterie – so creamy and rich in matcha flavour

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Dinner one night at home: thit kho (braised pork) with bamboo and egg, greens and a mixture of different kinds of rice – very yummy!

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Look how easy it is to do a bowel cancer screening test now, from the comfort of your own home with prepaid postage. Everyone over the age of 50, please get screened at least every 2 years! Very easy to get a kit, just ask your family doctor for one the next time you visit!

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Couldn’t resist trying Domino’s pizza here… nice size, nice crust, BUT WHERE MY CHEESE AT?

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Good crunchy lava cake though!

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Made dumplings… lots and lots of dumplings…

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Mum brought home some macarons from work, yay! Although they were really lacking in flavour, it was hard to make out what most of the flavours were.

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More to come soon I’m sure! 😉

Preparations for my Grandpa’s 80th Birthday

Hello friends!

My grandpa turned 80 years old last Sunday (Nov 24)! Our entire family thought it would be appropriate to throw him a surprise party and tasks were divided up in order to get everything organised for the big day.

My responsibilities included being in charge of decorations and making a big card for everyone to sign. This is pretty hard to do when you’re on the other side of the world, with exams, and haven’t seen what the rented room looks like or how many people will be attending, etc. But no worries, the cousins united once I got back in Ottawa to get things done!

We all met up at my house on Friday, Nov 22, to work on the decor and to make the giant birthday card – which featured hand-print trees from all 13 grandchildren.

Yes, my sister flew home just for the weekend for my grandpa, yay!

Some photos of us hard at work 😛

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The ooo’s and the aah’s that came after each person lifted their hand to reveal a perfect print was pretty hilarious. Who knew we had such mad skills!

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Getting there!

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I also decided to bake some mini cupcakes the next day – apple cinnamon with orange frosting and chocolate caramel with peanut butter frosting. Had to bake these at my cousin Janet’s house because our oven is too old and temperamental for baking.

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And our family present to my Grandpa! It was decided that every family would have their own present as opposed to pitching in for one large gift. As my grandpa really enjoys trying new foods, we decided to buy an assortment of interesting goodies for him to try and share with family and friends. Some items have personal notes on them as well 😀

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I’ll be posting photos of the actual birthday party soon! ^_^

Back in Ottawa!

November 20, 2013

After an uneventful short-but-felt-like-forever flight, we made it to Ottawa just after midnight. And of course, greeted by both our families! ❤

She must be holding my hand because she missed me so much, right mommy?

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Even my grandparents came out to pick me up even though it was so late, thank you! 🙂

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My bro, always has his eyes closed in photos, “My eyes, they’re so sensitive!”

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And a picture with Mike’s parents before they headed off with a 2 hour drive ahead of them.

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Yay, finally home!

Vancouver: Day 02

November 18, 2013

What a good night’s sleep, most definitely needed it! Unfortunately, we woke up to a very gloomy sky. 😦 But that was okay right? Hopefully!

Started off with a delicious breakfast at home with BAGELS: something they really need to start selling in Brisbane because we miss them dearly when not in Canada.

Soon we were heading out and starting the day.

First stop, Stanley Park (huge, 1001 acres) with the hope of riding bikes if it didn’t start to rain. It was looking good! But unfortunately, it started to rain as soon as we got off the bus. So no biking but a little bit of walking around to see what the park had to offer.

Look how pretty it is!

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Lots of seagulls and ducks

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Some fam shots!

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We missed all the wild blackberries! 😦

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We barely made it into the park but it was wet and cold…

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Since it was raining, we thought of going to Science World as it was indoors and would be fun. But alas, they were closed on Monday.

So sad, so my sister decided to show us Granville Island next. A peninsula and hotspot for Vancouver tourism and entertainment, this shopping district includes a large public market, a marina, performance arts theatres, fine art galleries, craft studios (glassblowing, printmaking, jewellers, etc), and much more!

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Oh my gosh, berries so cheap! Australia, why you no have good price like this?

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The public market was bustling with amazing delights like baked goods and fresh fruit. Every stall was appealing in its own way, but particularly because most, if not all, were offering local products including artisan cottage-industry foods and hand-made crafts.

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We also had lunch at the market: perogies, sausages and dessert of cheesecake and macarons – all yum!

Also got some flavoured honey sticks, 4 for $1 – haven’t tried mine (honey lime) yet though!

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The Umbrella Shop. It was hilarious to hear the employee say something along the lines of, “Now, the important thing is that you need to open the umbrella all the way out to dry.” Never heard umbrellas being taken so seriously before!

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The Crystal Ark – had a great time in here just looking at everything. Yes, I like collecting rocks/minerals! And even bought a few items as Christmas presents! 😉

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So many polished stones to choose from!

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My sister greeting some ducks on our way out!

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We decided to head to the University of British Columbia with 2 intentions: To see the Walter’s Harvard Lab (from the show Fringe!) and to get a tour of my sister’s study area on campus at UBC Hospital. We also wanted to go to their Museum of Anthropology, but that was closed on Monday too, so many fails!

And yes, the rain has not let up at all. By now, we (but especially me) were all feeling chilled to the bone and miserable.

So it turns out that what Michael believed to be was Walter’s Lab was a FAIL! Because we had a completely wrong building! I’m pretty sure this is the Iona Building, School of Theology

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The one we really wanted to see was this Chemistry Building. Aieya, I guess next time! Photo credit: As linked

We got a quick tour of the OT area at UBC Hospital and chilled out in their student lounge for a bit. So miserable with the rain and cold! If you know me, I can take anything but rain, I detest rain!

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Soon we headed home in order to meet my sister’s friend for sushi dinner! The sushi restaurant was decent, the company definitely made it better. It was an uneventful evening as we just headed home and hung out after dinner – sorry no pictures!

And that’s the end of Day 02!

Happy birthday Fi!

September 28, 2013

A small BBQ gathering to catch up with friends and more importantly, celebrate Fiona’s birthday! She’s only turned “24” this year guys 😉

Blowing out the candles! It took many laughs and a lot of effort 😛

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And a few random pictures! Sorry Christine and Mike, somehow I missed you guys!

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Happy birthday again!

Another year older…

Thought I should finally blog about my 26th birthday which was last month on July 28 – ah, I’m getting so old!

My birthday was very uneventful. I stayed at home all day and lounged on the couch, which was really just what I needed! 😀

For dinner, Mike made yummy chicken Kiev with potatoes and vegetables and chocolate cupcakes! I didn’t plan an event or do anything with friends, but perhaps next year!

Wasn’t expecting anything, but I even got presents…

Really cute wrapping from Mike, he was very impressed at his handiwork. Even the bow was handmade 😛

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Mike added 3 charms to my Pandora bracelet: Suitcase + Aeroplane, both representing each other’s travel buddy, the travels we’ve done together so far, and the places we’ll see together in the future. He also gifted me the Medical charm, also known as the Caduceus charm. Yes, we are both aware that the Rod of Asclepius (and not the Caduceus symbol) is the proper symbol of medicine!

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My sister sent me a package from Ottawa that contained a dinosaur card in an envelope that roared (sounding very much like my brother) when you opened it.

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Inside the card were my presents! Awesome gift certificates, you should take a look!

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In addition, I also received a bunch of Reese peanut butter cups! Delicious and not easily available, or cheap, in Australia.

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Unfortunately, they were all squished and looked like this!

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My brother ordered me a set of ceramic knives – nice! I’ve always wanted a few of these, and now I have some! He even gave me the “never sharpen ceramic knives” speech 😛 Yes bro, of course I know that already! 😉

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Thanks family!

And as a bonus, some gifts from Kristen! Cute heart-shaped silicone cupcake liners and a paper set with little decorations! Also a lovely brown skinny belt with a gold feather buckle and a turquoise clutch/wallet. Thank you my dear!

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Oh, did I mention my family back home had a party on my behalf? Thanks guys! Although I think you used my birthday as an excuse to eat cake 😛 Just kidding! Thanks for remembering me and including me in the family!

Here are some pictures from the “party”:

Me with my cake!

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With mum and the siblings

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And Di Nam (mum’s sister)

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And altogether!

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Siblings and Janet

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Cutting my cake

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Even get to eat cake!

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Bonus:

My siblings, their pets, and cousin Janet

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We’re having a baaaall!

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26 years old… gosh time is going by too quickly! I wonder what this year will hold? 🙂

July 02, 2009

It’s been 4 years already… We miss you dad.

We’ve all grown up a little bit more in our own ways, pursuing our dreams and taking advantage of what life has to offer. I even met a wonderful man I’m sure you would approve – his Viet pronounciation is quite excellent. 😛

If you are looking down on us, I hope it is with a smile on your face and pride in your heart.

A breath away is not far to where you are… that’s how close you are to our hearts.

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Celebrating James & Kim’s Engagement

Last weekend, on February 9th, we were invited to the Toowong Bowls Club to share in the celebration of James and Kim’s engagement.

It was a gorgeous day and very lovely to see everyone, not mention our first time playing barefoot bowls!

Presents 🙂

Touching speeches from the couple and their families

Family and friends mingling

Group picture ❤

So happy for Kim and James! 😀

Some of my Christmas presents :)

I mentioned that I would share some of my Christmas presents in an earlier post – I’m finally getting around to it!

Christmas with the family was really lovely this year, thank you again for all the gifts!

16 tupperware containers (so compact!) and a hand food processor from my mom and sister. A silicone mat from Mike’s mom, Caroline, and a Crustache (which I am definitely going to use as a cookie cutter) from his sister, Meaghan.

A Pandora bracelet from my brother and charms from my mom and sister!

A Calvin Klein shoulder bag (that I can use in the hospital!) from my mom and a bottle of nail polish from my cousin Janet!

Funny t-shirts from my siblings

‘I miss my wonderful family :'(‘ t-shirt from my sister – I will wear it proudly

50 Shades of Chicken cookbook (lol) from my cousin Janet and a 32GB USB from my brother. The USB is so tiny, I’m afraid I will lose it soon…

There were other gifts as well, including yummy edibles and red envelopes filled with $$ 😀 Looking forward to next Christmas!

 

Last day in Ottawa with the family

January 03, 2013

Today was my last full day in Ottawa and it turned out to very full and busy!

We invited my grandparents and my cousin Janet to lunch at Play (as you can tell by now, I really like that place). Most people had never been there before and I thought it would be a good experience.

We had reservations for 12pm and asked specifically to be seated upstairs because I find it nicer. 😉

Once everyone arrived, it took us a while but we eventually decided on our 2 dishes each. There were a number of repeats at our table, including the hanger steak, sweetbreads, Walleye, scallops and clam linguine

My brother, grandpa and I had sweetbreads (thymus of a calf/lamb) for the first time. Unfortunately, it’s not on the current menu so I can’t give the full dish description. I didn’t know what to expect and I’m glad I can say I’ve tried something new, although I didn’t love it. The taste and texture was a mix of really soft chicken plus mild liver (and I don’t like liver, unless it’s pate). The blend of flavours was good though!

My mom and grandpa ordered the scallops / cider / cauliflower / raisin / bacon / brussels, which were quite tasty, although I don’t have a picture of them. 😦

My grandma and sister ordered the Walleye / chorizo / beans / grapefruit / fennel / brown butter. Like myself the other day, they found the dish too bitter and the beans too crunchy for their taste.

My mom and Janet had the little neck clams / linguine / parmesan / chili / soffritto /garlic. The portion was enormous, but apparently the dish was just way too bland. Very disappointing!

My grandma and brother got the frog legs / polenta / truffle / eggplant / radicchio / caper. I think both were underwhelmed with the dish, especially my brother who wished he had chosen something else.

Janet and I also got the grilled hanger steak / mushroom / frites / aioli. Yum! Unlike Mike’s steak from the other day, this one was super tasty and I was really glad I chose this dish.

Lastly, my sister’s second dish was the beef slider / cabbage / bacon / cream cheese / matchsticks. I don’t think she fully enjoyed this dish, especially because there was a spread similar to tuna on her beef slider. The matchsticks were also not as good as having actual frites.

It was still a fun experience though!

For dessert, we went back into Byward Market for baked goods at Moulin de Provence – one of my favourite bakeries in Ottawa and also home of the famous Obama cookies.

Doesn’t this amazing selection make your mouth water? And all for such good prices too!

“I don’t know what I’m doing!”

Trying to smile with food in her mouth…

We walked through the market before saying good bye to our grandparents who were going home first.

The rest of us went shopping at Rideau Mall for a while until our stomachs had enough room for… Beavertails! For those who don’t know, they are delicious fried dough pastries, a Canadian treat! Waiting in line for our order…

Some shots in the market as we wait…

Mmm! I got the Kilaloe Sunrise – which is the classic cinnamon & sugar beavertail with a spritz of lemon juice – delicious!

We didn’t get home til after 5pm, which is when my cousin Flora, invited us to go skating with her siblings. There’s an outdoor rink outside City Hall called the Rink of Dreams, that is apparently gorgeous at night. How could I say no? Janet went home to grab her skates and belongings since she planned to stay over. We would meet her at the rink instead. My sister also decided that it would be a good idea to invite the rest of our other cousins to come over afterwards for my last night in town.

The cousins who went skating!

Some footage of the pretty Rink of Dreams and of my sister falling! 😀

Heading home!

The cousins came over shortly after we got back from skating. We had a few good solid hours of boardgames, food and laughs. Thank you so much for coming guys! I hope we do it again soon!

I stayed up late to finish packing, but finally called it a night and went to bed around 3am!

FYI: On the day I left Ottawa, 40cm/16″ of snow (should be more since some melted and compacted) had fallen!

Visiting Dad & Cha Ca La Vong

January 02, 2013

My siblings and I finally went to visit my dad today at Beechwood Cemetery. Gosh, it was so cold! It had also snowed so much this season that my dad’s headstone was half buried.

As mentioned in an earlier photo of the day, we brought out my dad’s little dog statues to keep him company. My sister had given my dad these dogs a few years back, they represented his 3 children since he was born the year of the dog.

My sister then took us to try a bakery in Orleans… but too bad it was closed! Instead, we went grocery shopping before I headed back to my grandparents’ house to meet up with my cousin, Christine, to learn how to make Banh Bo.

It was a lot easier than I had anticipated, and in the end, it turned out nice! Thanks Christine! I will try to make some here in Brisbane when I can find all the ingredients.

That evening, my mom made her version of a Northern Vietnamese dish called “Cha Ca La Vong” and it was delicious! Definitely one of my favourite dishes 🙂 The combination of salmon, dish, fermented shrimp sauce, onions and peanuts is amazing – you must try it if you get the chance!

And in unrelated news, I tried a sapodilla fruit (sapoche) for the first time today! It was tasty and despite my apprehension, I wasn’t allergic! The taste reminded me of persimmons and be careful not to choke on the hooked seeds!

And in more unrelated food news, I had a pretty artful lollipop 🙂

Happy New Year!

Michael stayed to celebrate new year’s with my family, which consisted of champagne (okay, sparkling wine), snacks and board games. Hurray!

My mom didn’t stay up late with us because she had work the next day. Instead, we celebrated with an early breakfast at Perkins before taking her to work 🙂

Like previous years, our entire family was supposed to celebrate New Year’s on the 1st at my grandparents. Unfortunately, the majority of my relatives were really sick, so our family festivities were cancelled!

I hope you all had a wonderful time with your family and friends – either out partying or just having a good time relaxing! 🙂

Noel, Noel, Noel!

Christmas festivities at my grandparents with the entire family!

Some of the goodies our family made:

We made butter ‘bark’ cookies

I made Hors d’Oeuvres (ricotta & spinach, potato & mushroom, 3 cheese & olive)

My mom made Nem Chua (pink – cured fermented pork) and Cha Lua (white – Vietnamese ham/cold meat)

My mom also made scalloped potatoes and my grandpa provided a turkey, cooked by Cau Hai’s family!

Canh Ga Chien – Crispy garlic chicken wings from Cau Hai’s family. And salad from Cau Ba’s family in the background.

Banh Mi Chien – Deep fried baguette toast with shrimp paste from Di Nam’s family

Goi Du Du – Papaya salad with beef jerky from Cau Tu’s family

Soo much food!

All the kids

With Di Nam and my mom!

There are way too many pictures of our grandparents reading cards and opening presents from all the kids to post, so here’s a few!

All the kids received wrapped boxes of chocolate from my grandparents and the adults received gifts from them as well.

We then played boardgames… for hours and hours. And ate another meal during boardgames… and played some more until everyone had to go home.

Christmas was a great day. The kids even had an ugly Christmas sweater themed photo shoot, but more on that later…

FULL CHRISTMAS ALBUM HERE!

Christmas Eve with the Grandparents

Our pretty Christmas tree with presents!

We went to church tonight and also cooked up a yummy turkey dinner to have with our grandparents!

But before that, we took some family pictures. You’ve already seen the “proper” family photo in a previous ‘photo of the day’, here are the better looking ones 😛

I love turkey soo much, seriously.

The spread

Family picture!

Time to eat!

My mom after a drink, her face suddenly matches the colour of her sweater 😛

A family photo courtesy of my grandpa

My grandma was also in the middle of baking and filling many many Banh Xu (aka Choux-Crème)… these are super delicious and a hit with anyone who tries one!

We ended the night back at our house opening presents. I received such lovely presents, will have to write a separate post about them once I’m back in Australia and have taken pictures of them! 🙂

Photo #301: First Cousins Portrait

December 25, 2012

Can you believe that we’re all grown up but today was the first time all 13 of us took a picture together?! Yea, me neither. Obviously we are quite special though.

Although I took many pictures today, this photo shoot (photo cred: Andy Nguy) was my favourite! Not bad for a first ugly Christmas sweater attempt?