thanksgiving & birthday weekend

[12:30pm] i love my birthday because it usually falls around thanksgiving weekend so the festive mood from the holiday continues on to my birthday. sometimes my birthday falls on thanksgiving day which makes it even more special.

this year, thanksgiving got off to a rocky start. i got into a car accident on wednesday evening. i was craving pasta so i ordered dinner for the family (including in-laws) from cheesecake factory and i drove by myself to pick it up. i wanted to drive because i looked forward to the quiet time i could get in the car. dennis was working until 10 that evening so i decided to drop off food for him.

what should have been a half hour ride turned into an hour because of the holiday traffic. i don’t think it would’ve been that bad had there not been two accidents on the highway. at one point, three out of four lanes were closed which caused much of the delay. by the time i picked up the food and was on my way to dennis’ pharmacy it was already 5:30. i texted my mil to tell her to feed penny whatever food we had at home for now since i was going to be late.

as i drove down the local roads of west hartford i felt annoyed that i was running behind because of the accidents on the highway. i noticed a man pushing a stroller up his front walk, and then i looked forward just in time to see a minivan had stopped in front of me. i cursed and slammed on the brakes, but i plowed into the car anyway. the man with the stroller whipped around at the noise of the impact but i was busy trying to salvage the containers of pasta that had flown out of the bag. thankfully no food had spilled onto the car floor but the damage was done to my car. the grill was snapped in half and broken bits were scattered everywhere.

i knew it was my fault and i braced myself for the other driver’s reaction. a young woman stepped out and walked over to my car. then she asked worriedly, “are you okay?” i hadn’t been crying before because i was in shock but her kindness and genuine concern started a waterfall of tears. i kept blubbering on about how i was sorry and that i’ve been so tired lately that i zoned out. she kept reassuring me that as long as we were both okay, that it was fine.

it was only after i stepped out to inspect the damage to both cars and took photos with my iphone that i realized i was nearly 5 months pregnant! i wasn’t in any physical pain and i wasn’t going fast enough for the air bags to be deployed, but i was still concerned for the baby and i shared this with the other woman. she was troubled by it and even told the police officer that had arrived to report the accident.

it took quite a while for the officer to do the paperwork, and while the woman and i stood out in the cold we talked about where we are from (she’s originally from west hartford but has been living in baltimore) and what our plans had been that evening. i told her how my family had recently visited maryland to visit my brother-in-law and his wife. i even recommended the restaurant founding farmers to her. clearly, it isn’t ever ideal to get into a car accident but i am so grateful that the other person involved had been so understanding and gracious. she was on her way to meet a friend for dinner and i had ruined those plans, but she was still so positive about everything. she explained that she had been in my shoes a few months ago and knew what it was like to have to worry about dealing with insurance and the other driver. i had been in accidents where the other person was at fault and though i certainly never screamed or lost my temper, i don’t think i was really that understanding.

after almost an hour after the collision, i continued on to dennis’ work. he was only a half mile away! he knew what had happened because during all of the chaos i had called him to let him know. after talking to him and dropping off the food i was finally on my way home where the entire family – including crystal and dan – greeted me anxiously. i was fine, i was fine, thank the lord; just relieved to be home with the family.

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thanksgiving day was spent cooking all day but it was worth it. initially we had planned on driving up to massachusetts to celebrate with my side of the family since we had not been able to do that last year. however, we reconsidered after thinking of the traffic (two years ago, it took us 3 hours to arrive at my cousin’s house) and how we would only spend two hours there and then have to drive back again for penny’s bedtime.

it was eight of us including penny and yuri – a relaxing evening in the comforts of our own home. i tried to be festive by making a thanksgiving banner and hanging up fall-themed artwork created by penny. although the food was delicious – crystal contributed by making mac & cheese and helping me with other tasks like flower arranging – it was really time spent with the family that i appreciated. we never get to see crystal and dan this often and it was great being able to see them in maryland and then here for three days the week after. we will see them next at our pastor’s wedding in february.

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the boys playing mortal combat x

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the spread!

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homemade pumpkin cheesecake pie

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macarons and mini cupcakes from baked by melissa

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praying for the meal

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we got chicken instead of turkey

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penny dancing while everyone cheers – this picture was from two days before thanksgiving

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having fun playing ping pong

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we went to a tree farm on saturday morning to get our christmas tree. it was easier when penny was 6 months old which is when we got our tree last year! since penny is mobile, she just wanted to walk and do her own thing. it took an hour to get a tree! i spent most of the time chasing penny and reining her in while dennis searched for a tree and cut it down. i did choose the final tree though!

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my birthday celebration on saturday evening was relatively low-key with dinner with close friends at a burger joint. i forgot to take a group photo  😦 alice, john, and grace couldn’t make it to the games portion of the night but most of us moved on to dave and buster’s. i had forgotten how fun that place can be although saturday nights are not the best day to go since there can be a wait for certain games. i even played pump (korean version of ddr) with my pregnant belly and all. i used to play with my brother when he was younger – he is like a pro – so i can dance to some of the harder modes but boy was i out of breath at the end!

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my sister brought a lovely assortment of cupcakes from boston

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raspberry mousse birthday cake from giuseppe’s in south windsor

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my brother (james) compared to my sister (jen)

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the highlight of that evening was definitely my sister and brother driving down from boston to spend the night. my brother actually lives in la now but flew home for thanksgiving weekend. it had been quite some time since the three of us had done something together so i was extremely happy that they had both made it. plus, they were able to see how much penny had grown and spent time with her as well.

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sunday morning before church – penny liked the small basketball we got for her from d & b’s

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penny likes watching us cook

on my actual birthday, i was scheduled for a 10am ultrasound and anatomy scan. dennis and i found out we are having a B O Y! the technician asked us if we wanted to know and dennis blurted out that he could see the penis so there was no denying it! thanks to genie, we had decided on popping a balloon filled with appropriately-colored confetti to reveal the sex. i even brought scissors, tissue paper and ziploc bags with me so i could continue cutting the confetti. of course i stopped cutting pink ones after we found out the results. by the way, i had done research about the confetti-balloon reveal and many women recommended cutting up confetti using tissue paper because it’s light enough that it’ll float nicely for the photos. the store-bought ones are too heavy and would probably just fall instead of flying around for a greater effect.

after the appointment we stopped by party city and the employees stuffed two black 24-inch balloons with sky blue and royal blue confetti; then they filled them with helium. we also got a regular white balloon for penny to play with. when we arrived home, penny was napping and we ate lunch with my mil. we were going to do the reveal after penny woke up so mil went home for a few hours and we rested. a little before 3pm, both parents came over and we went onto the field to take a the first round of photos. we filled two balloons in case the first photo shoot didn’t come out well. we also had mil practice taking pictures by holding down the shutter button on the iphone so she could take consecutive pictures rapidly.

the pictures on the field came out nice enough – especially our reactions – but it was too bright so the color of the confetti was difficult to see. we changed locations to our driveway where the shade and the white doors of the garage made for better photos. i ended up holding penny because it’s difficult to get a toddler to participate in photo shoots, really.

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the photo collage we used for our announcement

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we really would not have minded if we were going to have another girl but having a boy is wonderful too! so many of our friends and family commented that we are lucky to have one of each – which i suppose we are – but we all know health is #1. when i met with my ob after the ultrasound she said everything looked great which is not something she gets to say often (usually only once a day). she said nowadays that any little thing can be considered a “high-risk pregnancy” so to give us good news was great for her as well.

that evening, dennis and i enjoyed a quiet dinner at market grille. we ordered a bunch of apps from the happy hour menu and i indulged in a blackberry-pomegranate-ginger soda. we had planned on going to the movies afterwards to watch arrival but we were both tired (and wanted to watch the missed episode of the walking dead) and felt bad that we would be coming home late since mil was watching penny as usual. we ended up stopping by dave & buster’s to play a few games ( we ended up with over 1,000 tickets) and kept the tickets so we can save up to get a really good prize for penny. 🙂

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sorry for the terrible quality – snapchat photo

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it’s no wonder after that eventful week that i’ve been tired… tired enough where i can actually fall asleep during penny’s nap like i did yesterday. i thought i would close my eyes for a half hour and i ended up falling asleep for an hour! i sat upright immediately after realizing it was 3:30 and penny was still sleeping (almost 3 hours!) so i got up to wake her. let’s see if i can squeeze in some shut-eye now…

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fourth of july weekend

happy birthday, usa!

the us celebrated its 240th birthday on monday.  july 4, 1776 – when the united states achieved independence from the tea-sipping brits. it’s actually quite surprising how relatively young our country is (although it really has been around for many, many years). i’m proud to be raising penny in the states where it is still seen as the land of opportunity and the land of hope. the world is moving at at even faster pace with life-changing inventions and innovations. it’s an amazing time to be alive, and i can’t wait for penny to take full advantage of what life has to offer us.

with that said, i was eagerly anticipating this year’s 4th of july because we had planned a family outing to elizabeth park in hartford. the rose garden, a very popular spot for pictures and picnics, is still very much in bloom, and penny is currently loving to touch everything particularly flowers, leaves, and pine needles.

after penny’s last nap, we drove down to hartford with the in-laws to have dinner at ichiban, a korean-japanese restaurant. penny did well (for a while) sitting in the high chair because she was busy looking around to check out other people and the restaurant itself. when she got fidgety, my mil took her to look at the fish in the fish tank and that kept her preoccupied while the rest of us finished our dinner. it takes a village!

afterwards, we went to elizabeth park to walk around and take pictures. we tried to recreate a picture of dennis and his brother, dan, (when they were around 2 and 4 years old)  sitting in front of the flowers by placing penny in the same spot but she wasn’t in the mood to take pictures. we had to sing a few songs to get her attention but she didn’t really smile. oh well.

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she did, however, enjoy walking around (with our assistance) and even ran a few times. she also surprised us by standing on her own for about ten seconds or more on a few occasions. she was afraid though so we helped her sit down. xD after walking around the rose garden, we enjoyed watermelon and cantaloupe before checking out the ducks in the pond. penny started getting fussy so we knew she was tired.

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after we got home and penny was in bed, the rest of us enjoyed cake that i made for my fil’s birthday. his actual birthday is on the 8th but we decided to celebrate it early since my mil works that day until 6pm. in korean culture, the 70th birthday is a huge milestone. (it used to be 60 but since life expectancy is longer than ever before, the age changed to 70.) my fil is more of a private person and keeps to himself so he definitely didn’t want a fancy gala – he just wanted a low-key dinner with us. we are hoping dan and crystal will be able to come up from maryland this upcoming weekend to help celebrate his actual birthday together. we know it’s tough for them to take time out of their schedule to come visit (even though they wish they could!) since crystal is taking two summer classes and dan is busy with church, but we hope we see them, at least, once this summer!

*edit – dan and crystal ARE coming up this weekend~ hooray!

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a former colleague shared a recipe for blueberry zucchini cake with lemon buttercream (from a blog) and i decided to make that. i LOVE lemon and it sounded like a perfect summer cake. it turned out even better than i had expected – the recipe is definitely a keeper! i hope you enjoy it as much as we did 🙂

 

diy cake smash photo shoot

when you have a baby, the costs keep adding up. there are the necessary everyday items like diapers, but then there are also optional luxuries such as having professional photos done for your child. like many parents, we opted to do the newborn photo shoot because 1) we wanted high-quality images of penny, and 2) we didn’t mind splurging for our first child. (i’d like to think we’d be as generous with our subsequent children.)

dennis and i didn’t truly appreciate the work that photographers go through for the newborn photo shoot until we were at the studio. i mean, how hard could it be taking pictures of a sleeping newborn? thing is, newborns don’t sleep all the time and they have to be asleep for certain poses. our photographer cranked the heat up in the studio and was constantly feeding penny so she’d be sleepy and full. also, babies are diaperless during these photos so you can imagine what a lot of milk and no diapers can do during picture time!

as much as we love the newborn photos and now know how much work goes into baby photo shoots, we still couldn’t justify paying upwards of $700+ for the cake smash session. a baby’s first birthday is a significant occasion in general but in the korean culture, it is a huge deal. with the big guest list, traditional tie-ins such as the doljabi and hanbok, entertainment for the younger crowd, favors, and food the final total can go into the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands (eek!) in the end, we asked our friend, john, who has a really nice canon to take family photos and pictures of penny for her cake smash. that left dennis and i to arrange the “home studio.”

we chose the basement aka penny’s playroom for the space because it’s spacious and has a lot of natural light. fyi, natural light is your best friend. it’s okay to use both natural and artificial light but, if possible, you want to take photos near big picture windows to ensure the photos come out their absolute best. we chose to have penny’s photo session take place around 3:30pm (after her last nap so she has a long window of awake time). we also decided to use the wall facing the windows for optimal light since the sun sets in that direction.

word of advice: have, at least, one other person present during the photo shoot. i recommend two people though. while the photographer (could be you) is taking pictures of the baby, there needs to be someone distracting the baby by making noises and trying to make them smile and face the camera. also, when you’re doing multiple outfit changes it helps to have extra hands to do the job super quick. while john took the photos, his wife, alice, helped set up the different backdrops. remember: your baby will get agitated sooner or later so you have to make sure you allow plenty of time, but also give yourselves a break! we stopped for a short while so penny could have some milk – don’t forget, they’ll be hungry so have snacks and milk ready!

also, the photo shoot could take more than one day. i ended up taking pictures of penny with my iphone 6 a few days later so i could have more pictures of her, smiling. during the original photo shoot whenever dennis and i made noises for her to smile, she’d end up looking at us. thankfully, dennis’ mom came over to help with wardrobe changes and using props to get penny’s attention. these pictures turned out great too! i was worried about the quality of the iphone photos but i think the natural light helped immensely. all of the photos of her smiling were taken with my iphone!

okay, onto to the preparation of the home studio. i did a lot of research and saw that people purchased a big roll of bulletin board paper or craft paper for the backdrop. some used white (blank canvas and makes the photos super bright) while others opted for colored backgrounds. dennis and i went to jo-ann fabrics to see what we could find and we were pumped to see that they had a faux wood bulletin board paper! the ones that some people were using were 52 inches wide and ours was 48. just a few inches short but the width does make a difference because it determines how close/far you can take your pictures since you don’t want the wall to show. try to make sure you can find a width that’s 48 inches or more.

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make sure you tape the backdrop up high and without cutting it, roll it out so the floor is covered too.

i made the ‘one’ banner and hung it low so it would show in the picture. have a few decorations and/or banners on hand so you can have a variety of “looks.” i saved a fringe banner from last year’s baby shower, made the ‘one’ banner, bought balloons, and saved paper fans from my baby shower and penny’s 100th day celebration.

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how it looks close-up

 

for the smash cake, i decided to make a giant cupcake. i purchased a giant cupcake pan from amazon and it’s around $15.

i referred to this blog post, and it was really helpful. the only thing i have to gripe about is how much cake batter was left over. the ingredients ask for 2 boxes of yellow cake mix and you end up using about half, maybe a little more. i suppose you could just make more cake or cupcakes with it but after spending all morning making and prepping the smash cake i didn’t even want to eat the remnants.

anyway, if you don’t feel like opening up another link i’ll post the ingredients here:

ingredients and supplies

  • 2 Boxes of Yellow Cake Mix
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 Package Jello-O Vanilla Pudding Mix
  • 1 c. oil
  • 2 c. water
  • giant cupcake mold
  • cooking spray
  • glass bowl
  • hand mixer
  • 1 lb. candy melts
  • long knife
  • 2 cans of frosting or homemade buttercream frosting (i opted to make frosting – recipe in included in post.)
  • *food coloring (only if you’re making the frosting – i used wilton)

i poured 2.5 cups of batter in the cone portion (left side) and 3.5 cups in the bottom part of the cupcake (right side).

when it’s done, let them cool in pan for 15 minutes and transfer over to a wire rack to cool completely.

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after they cool, level the raised parts of both the cone and the bottom portion of the cupcake. the bottom photo was taken before i did that. notice how the cone isn’t perfect? i used frosting later on to cover it up and faced that part away from the camera.

with the knife, you also want to slice off the ridges of the bottom part so that it fits into the candy mold later on. you will see what i’m talking about in the next picture.

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this candy mold for the bottom part of the cupcake is optional but it has a much better presentation than if the cupcake was just shown with the cake bottom.

the blog post says to put the candy melts (most of the bag) in a microwaveable bowl and melt the candy for 30 seconds in 3 intervals. i found that two times sufficed for me because the candy was too watery the third time around and wouldn’t coat the sides of the pan to create a thick shell.

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i purchased these from party city

after the candy is melted, pour it into the bottom part of the cupcake mold and make sure to coat the sides. if it looks too thin, you may need to harden the candy and try melting it again. i learned that the hard way. after refrigerating the shell for 40 minutes, i saw that it was way too thin to even take out of the mold so i had to scrape the shell off and redo it.

okay, so after the melted candy is in the mold put it in the fridge for, at least, 40 minutes so that it’s solid. then, turn the mold upside down and gently tap it… it should slide out easily!

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see how the candy walls are thick?

then, gently place the bottom part of the cupcake (with the ridges sliced off) into the mold. i had to keep taking the cupcake out to trim it even more because it was too big to fit into the mold. keep playing around with it.

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ta-da! it finally fit! see how much better the cupcake looks with a candy mold???

after i finished making the frosting, i put in one drop of the pink food coloring. the color i desired was a light pink so i wanted to start off slowly. be aware that food coloring can deepen over time so you want to start with one drop and then slowly add more. you can always make the frosting darker but you would need to add (and then make more) frosting to make it lighter. i only ended up using two drops!

here is the recipe for the frosting, borders & writing (if you’re into all that). i got it from my baking instructor.

icing

  • 1/2 c. crisco
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 4 tb. warm water
  • 1 lb. domino 10x confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbs. corn starch

mix everything but sugar and corn starch.

add sugar slowly, and then corn starch. mix until smooth.

add food coloring drop by drop.

 

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IMG_6036and, viola! i took a cake decorating class at jo-ann fabrics a few years ago. sadly, i forget most of the techniques but the rosette is not hard to do at all. i just practiced a few of them on the plastic pad that i got with my decorating kit.

*note: if you want bigger rosettes, you want to use a bigger tip. mine took a while to do and the frosting was hard to squeeze out because i had used a lot of powdered sugar. more sugar, more stiffness.

please give yourself plenty of time to bake the cake, make the frosting, and set it up. ideally, it would be best to do the photo shoot in the afternoon so your child is well-rested and you have more time to get ready. dennis took care of penny in the morning but i still got up around 7am to prep and bake the cake. i was still working on it three hours later! i also didn’t put the frosting on until a half hour before the shoot, and we took pictures of it during penny’s nap.

it’s kind of sad to see your hard work get destroyed, but hey, it’s a cake smash! i admit, it was fun to see penny get mystified by the cake and then hesitantly touch it. she didn’t go all out as we had hoped but we still got some good pictures!

remember to have fun… and relax!

enjoy the pictures!

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let go, and let God

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d-18 until penny’s party! i think it’s safe to say that the majority of 2016 was spent agonizing over the details of penny’s first birthday. for the most part, i’ve completed the dol towers – all 3 of them – but i still need to do the tops. i need a break from those for now, and there are other pressing matters that i need to attend to.

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for instance, this saturday my friend, mouy, and i were going to make a day trip up to boston to drop some decor off at my parents’ house. dennis and i already have so much to bring up (i.e pack and play, stroller, etc.) the day before the party so we wanted to make sure we have enough room in the car. i had to postpone this trip because i realized that my idea for a backdrop isn’t going to work because it’ll be too big to transport even in an suv. so, i was left scrambling for alternative ideas. genie assisted in helping narrow down the options, and saturday will be spent (hopefully) starting and completing the backdrop with the help of two friends!

a lot has happened since the last post. penny’s first tooth is finally trying to break through! we can see, and feel, the top of a tooth on her bottom gum. she’s been fussy during the daytime lately but usually during mealtimes. she’d rather play than sit in a high chair… she’s still sleeping very well at night so we haven’t noticed any changes (thank goodness).

penny had also outgrown her car seat a while ago but we kept putting off purchasing a convertible seat because we figured she would be okay until her first birthday. but then we noticed her feet were sticking out from the car seat more than they had been, and we read an article that a fellow parent had shared in a parenthood group on facebook about switching to convertible seats sooner rather than later. dennis had taken a picture from the newest edition of the baby bargains book and the britax boulevard clicktight was the best-rated of the bunch, so we went with that. it arrived yesterday and we can tell penny is already much more comfortable in it. we already took her to the pool for a family swim, cheesecake factory for dinner, and to the grocery store.


our friends, esther and william, came down from massachusetts with baby olivia (aka ollie) to visit us a few weeks ago. this is olivia k., not olivia g. (genie’s “olivia.” 😀 – a very popular name this year!) it was super sweet of them to make that drive to come see us and we all had a wonderful time. we joked that the boys seemed to enjoy the play date the most but in all seriousness i think they did. they played table tennis, ps4, and basketball while esther and i … played with the babies -_- no, but still, i’m glad dennis had fun because he doesn’t really get to “play” much and i enjoyed my time with esther just having girl talk.

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dennis’ 31st birthday was on the 17th and he spent the day golfing with his buddies. he ended up being late for a family dinner but he had had a great day, so that’s all that matters.

after an enjoyable weekend with friends, dennis and i realized how we need to take more time to take care of ourselves, and have fun too. as much as penny is the light of our lives, we can’t forgot to “treat” ourselves and go out once in a while without her. yes, we’ve been on a few vacations since penny was born but a date night needs to happen more often. being home with penny all day, i sometimes forget how deprived i am of adult interaction. thankfully, my in-laws live nearby so usually they can take care of penny if i have dates with friends.

i was able to catch up with two friends that i worked with a few years ago. one recently got married and the other is getting married in july. we went out for happy hour and just laughed and laughed about our teaching experiences.. while also griping about the education system.

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i guess i’ll make light of it even though it’s a heavy topic but i got laid off recently. connecticut, like all of the other states, has had a major cut in their budgets for schools so teachers are getting laid off and schools are closing. the town that i’m working in laid off 17 teachers (it actually became 15 because 2 resigned) and may even close one elementary school. it’s all by seniority and i missed the cut-off date by two months. truthfully, i was upset (and shocked) and even cried although i had been feeling ambivalent about returning in the fall. it’s more of a pride thing, you know?

so many friends, and of course dennis above all, have been sending love and offered encouraging words like how i get to spend even more time with penny. plus, i can always work somewhere else. two teachers have been rehired in the meantime and i’m actually third in line to be called back so there’s a possibility. i fervently believe everything happens for a reason so i’m letting go, and letting God.

oh! another important event occurred that weekend: penny’s cake smash! i’ll actually not go into too much detail here because it’ll end up being a l o n g post with a plethora of pictures.. so i’ll save that for the next post, but.. it went well and i’m glad it’s done and over with! i’ll share a few pictures here for those that were not able to view them on facebook. again, i’ll go into specifics in the next post and share how i created a “home studio” and made a giant cupcake. we saved a lot of money this way!

until then, enjoy these adorable pictures 🙂

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10 months and counting!

IMG_5295we’ve reached the double digits for months – just two more and she’ll be a year old :-O

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it hasn’t yet been a week since my last post but so much has happened since then. and, i don’t want the following entry to be super long because it’s crammed with everything that has been going on. i’m trying to whip this post out while penny naps because after she wakes up, i’m taking her to michael’s crafts store to buy more spray paint and other items for sprucing up her new ikea furniture.

we took a family outing (grandparents included) to ikea on monday to buy “a few items” for penny’s playroom and ended up spending over $500.. how…?! it’s so easy to spend money… my gosh, but these are all things we need for her playroom.. for the most part. as a first birthday gift, the so grandparents got penny a play kitchen along with pots/pans/colander and plush produce. the kitchen comes in a standard white-and-wood color but i wanted to spruce it up. same with the latt table and chair set. i already began glamming it up by spray painting the kitchen fixtures gold. one of the chairs i spray painted a petal pink color, and i want to buy 4 more colors today. (i ran out of the gold, too.) i have painter’s tape all over the furniture because i am going to do color-blocking for the tables and chairs.

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instead of getting started on the dol towers, i’m putting my energy into her furniture.. well, i still have 2 months left to do those and i don’t want the unassembled furniture sitting around in the boxes because penny will keep trying to play with them. we are also aiming to paint the walls so we’ll have to get started before hanging things like shelves, penny’s growth chart, and artwork.

thankfully penny’s playroom is our walk-out basement so even if i’m alone i manage to work on these projects. i step outside for a few minutes to spray paint while penny and yuri peer through the glass door. then i leave the pieces out on craft paper to dry and i keep painting as needed. i also have her nap times and bedtime to work on them as well.

i’ll be sure to show the finished products in a future post!

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neil’s donuts!

random doughnut picture, but neil’s donuts in wallingford, ct has the best doughnuts.. and my friend, grace, drove there to get a box for her and got some for dennis and me as well! ❤

it’s amazing how much language penny acquires on any given day. although we speak a mixture of english and korean to her, we use a lot of korean phrases so it’s not a surprise that her first words are all in korean! and, she can say a total of 4 of them: 맘마 (food), 엄마 (mom), 아빠 (dad), and 까까 (crackers). the last one is fairly recent and she doesn’t really enunciate it as well as the other 3 words but we know what she means.

some other cute things she does is to give us kisses when we say 뽀뽀 (kiss). we lean in and she puts her wet mouth on our cheeks, haha. she also shakes her head back and forth when we say 도리도리. i’m not quite sure of the meaning on that one but it sounds similar to 돌다 which means “to turn around.” however the other phrase is spelled differently and my mil thinks it has a japanese origin from back when korea was under japanese rule.

when you go back and forth between languages, things get lost in translation. sometimes there aren’t words to adequately describe or define what it is you’re talking. this is so true of the korean language. for instance, the word 애교. simply put, it means to act in a cute manner but even that doesn’t capture the true meaning of the word. however, it applies to girls acting all cutesy mostly for attention. penny definitely knows how to put on a show because when we say 아이고~ 이뻐라! (oh, so pretty!) she tilts her head to the side. it’s so adorable and we all get a kick out of it. when my parents saw it for the first time they couldn’t stop laughing.

speaking of my parents, i was so happy that they drove down from boston – with a ton of korean food nonetheless – last friday. even though they only live a little less than two hours away, we don’t get to see them often because of the restaurant business. in my last post i mentioned how my parents had sold one of their restaurants. they had 3 and now they’re down to 1 which means more free time! my parents are looking forward to taking a long-overdue and well-deserved vacation this summer. and hopefully that means more visits as well.

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it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

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brewing homemade jujube tea

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삼계탕, or cornish hen stew

olivia g.’s 1st birthday is in two-and-a-half weeks!! genie has been spending most of her free time finishing up decor and finalizing all the details for her party. it’s sheer madness how much emphasis, money and time is spent on the first birthday especially since it’s a huge ordeal in the asian culture. obviously it’s for the parents and pictures than for the little one, but..particularly as first-time parents we can’t really help but go all out. plus, with social media and pinterest displaying all the latest trends and cute details it’s easy to go overboard.

last saturday, genie and i drove down to new jersey for the day. although it was a baby-free day, nearly everything we did was for the babies. i set my alarm for 5am so i could get dressed and pump just before leaving the house. genie and i hit the road a few minutes before 7am and got to new jersey around 9. first stop: hmart (a korean supermarket). we expected it to be busy on a saturday morning but it seems as if they had just opened because it was fairly quiet and everyone else had a few decades on us. 😛

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the cooler was filled to the top

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view from kuppi cafe

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first birthday rice cake

although i mostly got snacks and a few necessities, genie’s sole purpose was to buy ingredients for olivia’s birthday lunch since she and her mom are making korean food for the party! as we stood in the check-out line, a 할머니 (grandma) placed her hands on our cart and started leaning on it. startled, we looked at her and she said that she was using it to help her stand up. we let her, of course, but we wondered if she was going to take it; we had a lot of bags to carry to the car along with a bag of ice. as we were paying, i tentatively made a move to get the cart and she asked if we needed it, and we said, “yes…” but then i quickly told her it was okay and genie ran out of the supermarket to find another cart. we didn’t mind helping her out but it was so bizarre that she zeroed in on our cart when there were so many around. maybe she thought we didn’t need it because we’re young..?

other stops we made were paris baguette where we each left with a giant bag of pastries and milk bread. then, yedang (a korean rice cake shop) to inquire about ordering a rice cake for a first birthday party, and then…pumping in the car -__- the main reason we took dennis’ suv down to jersey is because it has tinted windows, shades, and an outlet in the back row. we still had to take turns pumping (and the engine was running for a half hour) so i’m sure passers-by were wondering what was going on…

we met up with our friends, rob and almex, for lunch at a ramen shop. it was good but the sodium made me feel nauseous later on and i was hanging my head out the window like a dog :-X afterwards, we went to a coffee shop on the waterfront. it was funny because almex remarked how the name of the shop is weird (he pronounced it: coo-pee), and then i saw the sign: kuppi. right away i told him “it’s cup-pee” (which is how you say “coffee” in korean).;-)

lastly, we went to rose bedding & interiors to check out hanbok, a traditional korean clothing. there were so many pretty designs and they all cost over $100 for the baby ones. an outfit they will only wear once… eesh. we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the specialty ones – these are the ones that are made in-house- but genie stealthily snapped a photo while the shop owner assisted me with the water cooler. 😛

despite an early start to the day, it flew by quickly. we couldn’t believe it was already time to go home. we took turns driving so the other could pump in the front seat – oh man, we are so looking forward to weaning!!! – and made a pit stop at a diner in southern connecticut. as we made our way to the bathroom, we both exclaimed, “oh my god!” at the sound of britney belting out “baby, one more time…” turns out, there was a high school dance party going on in one of the banquet rooms and we wondered aloud if we would be able to get away with crashing it. alas, we were wearing jeans and the kids were dressed up.

i’m happy with my life right now, but sometimes… sometimes i get wistful and think how if i had the chance to go back and relive from 17 on, i’d “live it up” a little more. i was always so insecure and shy, and it took me until my 30s to truly start to embrace myself. but, hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? just because i have a baby now doesn’t mean i can’t have fun.. it’s just a different kind of fun, i suppose. it’s not too late to check off all the things on my ever-growing bucket list, and i need to slowly get a move on that. i’m a different person today than when i was in high school, and i really am grateful about that.

 

hurry up & slow down

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penny is nearing her 10th month. 10! we are closing in on the double-digits here. she spends most of her awake time crawling and is ready to pass out by the time her nap time rolls around. now that she’s more mobile and burning more calories, she’s getting tired earlier. i tried to keep her up on a few occasions so she wouldn’t be taking naps so soon but then she ends up being grouchy and taking short naps.

this morning she woke up around 5:45am (ugh) but slept 11 hours straight last night so she was totally ready for the day. dennis got up with her and i slept a little longer after pumping. she was ready to sleep around 8am but we tried feeding her solids again (she hasn’t been receptive to breakfast lately) and she only took a few bites. after a short naptime routine in her nursery, she fell asleep around 8:40. *fingers crossed she sleeps longer than an hour*

as penny becomes more and more like a mini adult, i find myself caught in a mixture of emotions. as eager as i am to discover penny’s new-found skills, i also feel a twinge of sadness at her progress: she’s leaving the infant stage behind and becoming a toddler. 😥 it’s quite the paradox, isn’t it?

it’s getting increasingly difficult to change her diapers, give her baths, and feed her because she wants to go, go, go! we rarely cradle her anymore but when we do we are amazed at how tall she is. i never really thought i’d be this wistful of her wee newborn days, but she was so little then and there seemed to be all the time in the world for her to grow up.

even now, i find myself thinking, “i can’t wait until she’s older so we can ____.” there are future disney vacations (maybe one next year), beach outings, day trips, and jet-setting around the world to be had when her naps aren’t in the way of life. still, even when she is old enough, there’s the possibility that she’ll have siblings which makes it even more tough to travel.

but, for now, there’s just penny… and i want to take her all in and enjoy having just her for as long as we can. try not to look so far ahead. the future will happen. enjoy now; enjoy this moment.

penny and i went grocery shopping recently. what’s so special about that? well, dennis and i usually go grocery shopping together so one is pushing the stroller and the other is handling the cart. however, we needed some items that day (particularly fresh produce for baby food) so i took penny. it was her first time sitting in the shopping cart and she did well!

i don’t have a shopping cart seat cover so i used a thick blanket to pad the area for her. i also used a muslin swaddle blanket to cushion her legs and chest. i noticed that she jerks forward whenever i push the cart so the blanket helped her from teetering back and forth.

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observing other customers

penny was fairly quiet during the entire trip. she liked being free from the constraints of a hot car seat and she had a 360-degree view of the world.

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checking out the grocery list


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i made her laugh 🙂


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checking out the light fixtures and sprinklers


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she loves to read, like mommy! she’s checking out bridal magazines though.. too soon, too soon!


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she was getting hungry and tired.. this is after we purchased the groceries. passers-by were remarking how cute penny was when she started lying down.

penny’s finally attempting to hold the bottle on her own. she always could; she just never wanted to because she wants to play with toys. even now, she’s easily distracted but she’s starting to become a little more independent. she also started to “read” books during mealtimes. she loves the book “100 first word”: she squeals and smiles whenever she sees the book, and she flips through the pages on her own.

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i’m still making the majority of penny’s food. one easy recipe i tried recently is pastina. i got this recipe from a baby food cookbook and it only requires two ingredients: pastina and low-sodium chicken broth. pastina means “little pasta” and these are star-shaped (adorable).

lovely little pasta soup

1 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth

2 tbs. pastina

bring broth to a gentle boil and add pastina. stir occasionally and let cook for 7~8 minutes or until tender. serve warm. when reheating, add a little bit of water to the pastina. makes about 4 servings.

i didn’t think 2 tablespoons of pastina would be a lot but i was surprised how much there was after it was done cooking. the recipe says 4 servings but i definitely stretched to 6; it depends how much your baby wants to eat it. penny really liked it but i like offering her a variety of foods at mealtimes so she doesn’t get bored.

grace and i went to the mall last sunday to look for a wedding outfit. we are going to a friend’s wedding on 3/26 and have “nothing to wear.” we really wanted to find midi or maxi skirts but couldn’t find any we liked. i may have to buy an outfit online…

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enjoying godiva cones and breaking in grace’s new selfie stick


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i like macarons but i rarely eat them because they are so expensive. my favorite of the bunch was lemon poppy.

the northeast has been fortunate to have beautiful, warm weather this week! yesterday peaked at 75 degrees! it’s actually raining right now (boo) but the temperature is still 70. i’m glad we went out for a family walk around lunchtime because it looks as if i won’t be able to take penny and yuri out later. we are going to the library though after penny’s last nap.

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it was a little windy so dennis’ mom wrapped a scarf around her.


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looking like a little babushka


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selfie with mommy


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the playground is literally in our backyard. an elementary school is behind our neighborhood so we’ll be coming here often this summer!

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the photos below were taken yesterday when i took penny and yuri out for an early evening walk.

she’s so adorable with the sunglasses but like most babies, she’s not a fan. she actually took them off the first time (3rd photo, right after i took the picture). i bribed her with crackers and she kept them on after that but i felt bad so i took them off after a few minutes.

the middle picture is where she’s busy shoving a cracker in her mouth and it looks like she’s giving me the finger 😛

looking forward to this weekend! my parents are visiting for the day tomorrow with a ton of food from their restaurant (yay!!) and my friend’s birthday dinner is that night. then on saturday morning, genie and i are heading to new jersey for the day to shop, eat and meet up with friends 🙂

i’ve been taking a hiatus on making crafts for penny’s birthday but the invitations went out last week and guests are slowly sending in their rsvp’s. i can’t believe the party will be in 2 months!! i’m hoping to resume party planning next week; there are a lot of things that i need to make… onward ho!

baby food

penny loves food!

we had a bit of a rough start at 5 months but she wasn’t ready for solids then. and her first food was avocado which is a hit-or-miss because of its texture. since she didn’t take too well with solids we opted to wait until she was 6 months to try again.

she was more curious and receptive this time. before we reintroduced solids, i would have penny sit in her inglesina chair and play with a spoon to have her get used to mealtimes. some babies really hate being spoonfed but penny loves it. she also likes to feed herself and i put a little yogurt on the spoon and have her try it out.

she loves food so much that she yells with impatience sometimes when we don’t feed her fast enough! recently, she began saying, “맘마!” (or, mam-ma) which is a cute korean term for saying “food.”

she also makes noises and flails her hands when she wants water from her sippy cup.

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nuk sippy cup 

i’m glad she takes well to a sippy cup but she isn’t drinking on her own yet. she’ll hold the handles and lift the cup up to her mouth but doesn’t yet know that she has to tilt her head back to help get the water out.

since she likes to feed herself, we also give her a variety of crackers and yogurt melts to munch on as 간식, or snack.

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we get the happybaby brand but they’re all similar

penny initially didn’t like the yogurt melts because the freeze-dried snacks have a distinct texture. i tried them and when they brush against my teeth, i get a small shiver like i’d get from nails on a chalkboard. i’m sure my analogy really doesn’t help the case for the yogurt snacks but they are good!

here are some other snacks that penny likes to eat on her own:

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she used to LOVE the puffs (and the star shape makes it easy for babies to pick them up) but ever since she began snacking on lil crunchies and the teething wafers, she doesn’t like the puffs as much anymore. she’ll eat them if you place them in her mouth but she won’t pick them up on her own usually.

the lil crunchies and the wafers, she’ll grab without hesitation and stick them in her mouth! the wafers are big so i break them up into smaller pieces.

here’s a comprehensive list of all the foods penny has tried so far:

fruits

  • pears (anjou and korean)
  • apple
  • apricot
  • banana
  • avocado
  • honeydew melon
  • peach
  • pineapple
  • prunes

vegetables

  • zucchini
  • yellow squash
  • butternut squash
  • sweet potato (korean and american)
  • peas
  • carrots
  • broccoli
  • green beans

meats

  • beef
  • chicken

grains

  • macaroni and cheese
  • bread
  • apple cinnamon cheerios
  • rice, 누룽지 (scorched rice), and 닭죽 (chicken rice porridge)
  • oatmeal cereal

other

  • egg
  • cheese
  • peanut butter
  • yogurt: banana, mango, apple, blueberry, and apple/sweet potato
  • prune juice diluted with water or breast milk

penny is a very good eater but even she has favorites. her all-time favorite for fruits is pear especially anjou pear, and apple (golden delicious) is a close second. i mix pear or apple with new veggies so she’ll get used to the taste since babies tend to like fruit more than veggies as they’re sweeter.

she also has a great appetite for yogurt – all flavors!

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yogurt!

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yum! annie’s mac & cheese!

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she tried broccoli for the first time yesterday and i mixed in a little pear puree. for her second serving at dinner later that day, i gave it to her straight up and she devoured it. one food she doesn’t really like, besides the avocado, is green beans because it has a strong taste. i definitely mix in fruit when i give her green beans as she will only take a few bites by itself. another is bananas but, again, it could’ve been the texture. i followed a recipe from a baby recipe book and it said to mash the banana and saute it in butter. since penny doesn’t have teeth yet it was hard for her to eat and she didn’t seem too fond of it.

since penny is eating more solids, she gets constipated now and then even with breast milk and water. i aim to give penny, at least, 24 oz of breast milk a day along with 3-4 oz water. it seems as if she’s been going through a growth spurt lately (hunger + sleepiness) so she’s eating a lot more solids and milk. for constipation per a friend’s advice i mix in about half an ounce to an ounce of prune juice with her milk. i tried mixing juice with her water and she hated it. other that that, i don’t offer juice at all – too much sugar.

this is the baby food maker that i use, and i love it! i got it as a gift from one of my showers.

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you can have both sides steaming food at the same time, but only the right side can puree. you can see the blade in the above photo.

it’s so convenient! i chop up food, pour water into the reservoir, press the steam button (cloud), and it’s done in 15-20 minutes! then i use the spatula to lift up the food basket, dump the contents into the pitcher and turn the silver button to the right (note the arrow) to puree. the water from the steaming process drips out into the bottom of the pitcher so you can leave as much as needed for your food when you blend.

slide the spatula through the slots of the basket to lift it up. this helps so the steam doesn’t burn you! tilt the basket to empty the contents into the pitcher to blend.

notice the hole on the food maker? that’s the reservoir. the pitcher has markings 1, 2, and 3. you pour water up to 1 to reheat food, 2 is for fruits, and 3 is for veggies. (i heat up baby food using the microwave as it’s faster.) then you pour the water into the reservoir for the steaming process.

meal times are a long process – it basically takes up her entire wake time when she first awakes in the morning, but it’s also fun seeing her reaction when she eats. she’s so happy!! also, it gives me a chance to eat alongside her at a normal pace instead of shoving food into my mouth any chance i get (which i recall doing for the first half of her life).

currently, i offer 5 oz. of breast milk when she wakes up but she doesn’t usually drink it all in one sitting. then, she eats 2 cubes of fruit + veggie, 2 T of yogurt, and 1 T of oatmeal cereal. i don’t offer the yogurt or cereal every day now because of constipation; i substitute yogurt and/or cereal with helpings of other fruits + veggies. i also offer finger snacks so she can keep practicing her fine motor skills (and because she’s so ravenous first thing in the morning).

before her first nap, i offer 4 oz. of breast milk with whatever milk was left over from the previous feed. she doesn’t drink the same amount every day so i offer her milk throughout the day.

after the first nap, she’s offered 5 oz again. then an hour later she’ll have lunch: 2 cubes of fruit + veggies and snacks. before her last nap, she’s offered 4 oz. of milk.

after her last nap, she’s offered 4 oz. of milk. sometimes she isn’t hungry right after waking up so we keep offering it to her during playtime. about two hours after wake-up we offer about 3-4 oz and then have dinner (2T of meat + veggies or 2 T of veggies, 1 T of fruit, and snacks. depending on hunger cues, we’ll up her servings by a tablespoon.)

before bedtime, she will have 5-6 oz of milk and then it’s lights out.

i just try to keep her full by attempting to reach the minimum daily intake of 24 oz of milk along with solids. this, i think, helps her sleep well too for naps and bedtime.

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penny’s reaction when she’s about to eat