two new drinks in our city

Let me introduce you to some new varieties of drinks that are now available at my local XiaoMaiBu (小卖部 tiny convenient store, downstairs!): Badam Nut Drink and Victory Vitamin!

BADAM NUT DRINK: This tasty drink comes in a glass bottle, which is nice. Its very nutty in flavor, kinda like a watery almond milk - but pretty sweet. A little earthy too.

VITAMIN WATER: I am still not sure of the actual flavor or this light pink drink - but it tasted like a twist of the Vitamin Water (in the States) and a strong Lemonade. A slightly watery lemonade - with some extra vitamins to make you feel better. There are lots of flavors/colors to choose from.

Anyhow, its nice to have some new flavors to choose from!!


welcome home!!

Yes!! We made it!! It feels like Christmas as the girls remember their rooms and toys and books. They are enthralled with being home again, which is so lovely. And, we are SO tired & groggy. More like exhausted. We can barely stay awake during the day, and wide-eyed at 2am. I can't seem to adjust to this new (opposite) time zone. Also, we re-inherited our orange kitty - Sushi!! Our local friend decided she couldn't take care of her anymore. That was unexpected. We also came back to a dusty apartment....in desperate need of some deep cleaning! Fun!

Eden was in heaven with Sushi back again. Even with her slight cat allergies - she wants to be holding Susu any chance she gets. I (on the other hand) am ready to find her another new home since she attacks my feet in the middle of the night, when I wish I was sleeping. Crazy cat.

The weather outside is freezing cold, and it's snowing again today. Beautiful white flakes that show the intricate designs of each flake when it lands. Huge flakes. This weather doesn't really bother me, since I love the chance to get cozy indoors, unpack, get organized, and figure out a new rhythm for life here. It takes awhile to remember how to cook from scratch again, stock my pantry, and get utilities back up and running smoothly. The dust needs wiping too. But the snow just makes it peaceful. Like I can ease back into normal life without all the rush. Just enjoy the moment and watch the flakes fall.

Off to make some hot chai with honey & milk. Home.


travels: just 36 hours. easy-peasy.

After goodbyes are over...traveling isn't so bad. With more practice, it keeps getting easier. Plus - the girls each got a new carry-on, filled with their own special items for the flight(s). They were so proud (and giddy) to wheel their own stuff around the terminals.

On the first flight we even got comments from people sitting around us, that our kids were such easy-going travelers. We were so amazed ourselves! They are world travelers, so I think they are just used to long, cramped flights: not anything special we have done. But it doesn't hurt to be prepared with games, toys, snacks and surprises. This was by far, our best family traveling experience to date.

Asia was quite entertained by her new Journal (a gift) that taught her how to draw Mehndi Art. She literally drew for a hour. Lots of squiggles, curly-ques and swirly lines. I had no idea she could learn it (and love it) so fast. Thank you Dawn+Ella!

The girls also slept for a good chunk of time, sprawling wherever they could ...we all got some needed shut eye. :)

We stayed overnight in Beijing since we got in so late, and had to catch the next flight in the morning. In the morning we had the buffet breakfast - which consisted of tofu, spicy veggies, white rice, tuna dumplings and over-hard boiled eggs. We weren't so daring, but opted for toast and rice. We were all laughing when we realized there was toast, but no knives to spread the butter. The next best thing: a chopstick of course!! Yes, we are back in China!!

Here we are, waiting for our shuttle to the airport (for flight #2) - bright and early. I was scolded a few times for letting the girls take off their bulky winter attire. Not enough layers. :) Yes, we are back in China!!

In the terminal, we used our new-to-us iphone to call uncle Jason on skype for the first time overseas!! It worked!! Now I just need to find a way to unlock it so I can use it in China!!

And since I know you were dying to see what kinds of meals are served on flights in our beloved country....I took a picture for ya. They were out of the "beef dish" so we got some sort of seafood+veggie stir fry with rice, as well as red bean paste in a bun, plain yogurt, melon, and some gelatinous meat dish over cold noodles. Let me just say, I am so glad we brought our own snacks. Justin was the only daring one. :)

But we finally made it!! ...all 8 pieces of luggage, all our layers and happy to be HOME! Now if only jet-lag were this easy!! :)


goodbye america

the view from the house we stayed @ in Santa Cruz for 6 weeks!
Yes, that is the ocean!

Yup, that time has come. We are mostly packed, doing last minute errands, cleaning, and spending every waking moment with loved ones...before we board that huge airplane and fly across the Pacific. It doesn't feel completely real yet, but I can tell that my emotions are often guarded, or the other extreme: RAW! I am tired of saying goodbye. I think we have said more 'goodbyes' than any normal person has done in their lifetime...and I'm young!! This is most likely the hardest part of living overseas. I love my life, but it has its hard parts too. Just keeping it real!

the view of the terraced garden! = so peaceful!

I find myself taking lots of pictures, wanting to capture those last moments just sitting around, being together. I definitely feel surrounded by incredible love and encouragement and support. Then my mind is racing with thoughts of items I still haven't purchased to stock up on... but I need to just relax. It will all come together with time to spare, right?? Being with people is most important. :)

So many people have gone out of their way for us this trip! Gift cards, food, gas money, a beautiful home, a minivan to borrow, hand-me-downs, homemade gifts!, chiropractic visits - just to mention a few! Thank you to a community of friends that are really family. I will miss you dear friends: for seeking to know me deeply, asking hard questions, and taking the time to be real. I will miss you too, California: your fresh ocean air, healthy foods, variety, green open spaces, sandy beach, and so much more. But I shall see you ALL again in a few years. (sniff sniff)


day o' love 2011

For the love of all holidays and celebration: we (as in Ali, the momma) tend to go all out: for the memories, for the traditions, for the pure joy of celebration. The girls love it too. We made 21 Valentines for other kids. We drew, cut, wrote loving notes, and drew pictures all morning. It was fun! We chose our favorite party clothes in all shades of pink...for a sweet Valentine Party with friends.

The girls loved every moment. The strawberries, the cupcakes, the crafts & fruit loop necklaces, the book exchange, the Valentine mailboxes....every detail was so perfectly planned.

Thank you Jana (and Matt for planning the man-date) for such a special day!! As we get nearer to our departure, we try to bask in each moment with friends - not wanting to miss anything. Only 5 days before we depart....and we are so FULL with love for our amazing friends. We miss you already.

(and now we must start packing!!)


bowling with buddies

I like bowling mostly for the shoes. :)

.....AND it was fun to take the girls to the Boardwalk Bowl where I have bowled many a game over the years. The girls used the bumper's which makes it more encouraging. They all enjoyed rolling their huge balls down the alley, except E. She was not happy about it one bit. Bowling might not be her favorite sport, but everything changes so fast when you are five. At least she tried!!

Even with all their effort and nifty bumpers....the littlest one won!! Here's the proof:

When we first started bowling - A said, "I'm really good at bowling cuz I've done it since I was three." :) Actually, the first time she ever bowled....she was three. I don't think she has done it since....well, maybe once. Time flies!!


the dentist!!

Why do dental cleanings get put off till the last minute?? Ahhh...

Thankfully, we have an incredible dentist who understands our time constraints and is so helpful to get all three girls in together. They all get a bit nervous but our dentist is so patient, calm and talkative with the girls as they sit in her chair. She explains everything before she does it, which really helps! We are very thankful!

Sydney had a small cavity in one of her teeth that had chipped last year. It was so small that the dentist drilled it out without any Novocaine, and filled it so fast. Sydney was holding her breath and squeezing daddy's hand...but she stayed so still & calm during the entire thing. It was amazing to see such a little girl being so brave in that huge chair, with equipment being shoved into her tiny mouth. She's a trooper!

All the girls got to take home new toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss of course! Ever since the visit, Asia reminds us ALL to floss almost daily. She is our little rule-keeper and reminder of all things important. She is wonderful. They all are...and now they have clean-cavity-free teeth for at least 2 years. :)

We love you Dr. Torres!!


big slides @ Oceanview Park!!

Yes....that is little Sydney up at the top. I was so nervous she would hit the bumps and fly off. But she made it safe. She must have gone down about 20 times....even with some wax paper to speed up the ride.

She loved it.
As did Eden, Asia, mommy, daddy & Jamma.
It was just too fun to miss!

These slides have been here since I was little, maybe even older than me?? This is one of our favorite parks to play at - so peaceful with shade, trees to climb, swings, wonderful climbing structures...and grass all around. Maybe next visit we will make a goal to visit every park in Santa Cruz, and choose our top five. I am pretty sure this would make the cut!!



The girls loved spending half a day at this lovely art studio downtown, where you can paint pottery any way you please. It was actually very therapeutic...sitting quietly with our paints, creating masterpieces. Another peaceful day in Santa Cruz!!

Syd painted a butterfly for Jamma
Asia painted a small heart box for Nana
Eden painted a shark with jewelry for Poppa.

I loved watching the girls create their own treasures...carefully choosing paints, brushes, and learning to be steady & consistent as they had to paint 3 coats! This takes a long attention span for most 4 year olds!! Also - Tuesdays are half off for all studio fees!!

I painted a bright bowl for a birthday gift.
Now our pieces are off to be glazed & fired in the kiln @ 1800 degrees!
...and everything is more fun when Jamma is around!!


thankful for friends.

Too many to count : we are so blessed.