2017 – year of the rooster

happy new year! from what i’ve seen on social media, 2016 was a terrible year for a lot of people. i’m not sure if they actually felt that way or thought the memes and gifs they shared were funny.. but it’s too bad because 2016 was one of the best years of my life. penny turned one year old and this past summer was more enjoyable and adventurous than the last one because we were able to do a lot more with her. she also reached many milestones such as walking, talking, and more teeth: never a dull moment! additionally, we found out in august that we would be having another baby! i feel like now that i have a child (soon-to-be two) every year can only get better and better.

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25 weeks!

new year’s eve was a relatively quiet event. we stayed in but we had our friends, katie and mike, come over for a potluck game night. they had recently purchased new board games so we tried those out along with classics like boggle. we were actually so into the games and talking that we missed the countdown even though the television was on! i’m not sure how that happened.. we did run to the fridge to pop open the champagne (sparkling cider for me) and did a belated cheers. i thought i wouldn’t be able to last until midnight but i didn’t go to bed until nearly 3am!

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3 ingredients: meatballs, grape jelly and bbq sauce!

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gross beer illustration

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the boys wrecked us at bounce-off

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i love this pic! we were looking for a missing piece from the game, blokus. mike looked under the couch, found a cheerio, and tossed it back. when i asked why he threw it back, katie could not stop laughing.

snapchat fun

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meanwhile…

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new year’s day was spent at home and then we headed over to the grandparents’ for traditional new year’s food: ddeok-gook (떡국). in korean culture we eat ddeok-gook, or a hearty rice cake soup with dumplings, eggs, scallions and nori, to celebrate the new year. really, ddeok-gook is good all year round but it’s important to eat on thanksgiving and new year’s day.

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due to the cold weather we haven’t been doing too much lately. yesterday was actually warm for a january in connecticut so we took a morning walk. dennis had assembled the radio flyer trike penny received for christmas and we had pushed her around on it in the basement but decided to give it a go outside. she didn’t last very long on it; i think she was excited to be outdoors because she wanted to walk around and look at everything. she saw me stepping on a frozen mound of snow and decided that’s what she wanted to do.

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normally on thursday mornings, penny has had her toddler class but the second session had ended the thursday before christmas. the next session starts the following thursday (1/12) so we haven’t had that to look forward to. this morning seemed to drag on and penny seemed bored so we went to our town library. we hadn’t been to that one in a while because the neighboring town, tolland, has a nicer play area for babies and young children – it’s enclosed in a room and has a lot more toys including a puppet theatre and a computer with games for toddlers. penny still had fun taking all of the trucks and cars out of the toy bin and playing in the barn. we also saw a friend from her toddler class there so that was a pleasant surprise. as usual, it was difficult getting her to leave so i had to keep telling her we had to go home to let yuri out and eat lunch.

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“reading” with the leapfrog reader

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so, so sweet

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she likes to wear sunglasses indoors like jack nicholson

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our baby boy’s nursery is finally beginning to come around.. sort of. dennis and i spent all of monday morning cleaning out the closet and wardrobe while grandma so watched penny. it’s unbelievable how many bags of clothes we decided to sell/donate. dennis will tell you i’m a hoarder (i say, i’m sentimental) so it was hard for me to part with some keepsakes but i knew it had to be done.. i mean, what am i going to do with a birthday card from my 20th birthday?!

i’m not sure if i shared the news on my blog yet but our son’s name is going to be ezra! we had chosen this name back in 2014 when we were going to start trying for a baby. his korean name will be ha-min, 하민. dennis came up with it: the ‘ha’ comes from penny’s korean name ‘ha-neul’ and ‘min’ comes from dennis’ korean name (he only has one character for his name).

ezra’s crib arrived almost a month ago and has been sitting in a box, unassembled, so we need to set that up soon. we also need to make an ikea trip for a dresser like the one penny has and some other nursery essentials. my friend, genie, sent out invitations for our baby shower a few days ago so i’m looking forward to that as well. i’m trying not to go overboard because we can definitely reuse items but i do want to get a new infant car seat since penny didn’t like the uppababy mesa. i’ve been eyeing the nuna pipa (a very light 7.7 lb and the canopy stretches to the baby’s feet) and it’s gotten rave reviews.. plus, it’s also compatible with the vista though we have to get the adapter. i just hope we’re able to sell the mesa and car bases.

recent penny news: her molars are fully out so she officially has 7 teeth; her upper lateral incisors are taking forever to make their appearance though they’ve been threatening to poke through for the past few months.

new words: she is also trying to say the colors “brown” and “green.” “blue”, “purple”, and “yellow” she has been saying already although the latter is more like “neh-no” because she’s having trouble with the ‘y’ sound. lately she is repeating everything we say so her vocabulary is growing at a faster rate every day. yesterday she started saying “thank you” on her own (after months of us telling her to say “thank you” when receiving a cup of milk or other items).
some other words she says are “bee” (and she’ll point to a picture of a bumblebee) and “apple.”

whew~~ it’s tough to try to keep track of all this.. but i do attempt it! ever since penny was born i’ve been logging notes on my iphone by continually adding onto a, now, very long list. soon i’ll have to do that for ezra!

 

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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boston, you’re my home

we are at the tail end of a heat wave. the low-to-mid 90-degree weather has been occurring since last thursday and today should be the last day before thunderstorms supposedly arrive on friday. it’s not the heat that drives me insane as summer is my favorite season; it’s the humidity. penny’s constantly asking to go outside and yuri has to go out twice a day so we’re out there fairly often. it’s rough when the air feels like a brick wall on your chest and you just stepped outside..

lately, we’ve been forgoing the lunchtime walk because it’s unbearable and unsafe… but that means we have to pass the time doing something else. penny’s been on-the-go the past few months and she’s getting tired of all her toys. we don’t want to keep buying more toys that she will get bored with after a few weeks but there isn’t much to do to pass the time. she does like to use push toys and walkers but now she only uses it for a few minutes before moving onto something else. most recently, she’s been pushing the ikea high chair around the house.

ever since we brought penny to the bounce house and found that she loved playing with the push car, we bought her one from once upon a child, a baby consignment store. dennis purchased a fisher price elephant push car for $15 (retail price: $45)! he also chose a dump truck that makes noises, a crane, and a fisher price toy car. i’m glad he picked those toys out because i want penny’s toys to be well-rounded: cars and trucks aren’t just for boys! plus, she shows no interest in dolls just stuffed animals.

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trying out her push car for the first time at the lee grandparents’ house

my mil and i brought penny and yuri to henry park tuesday afternoon to play in the splash pad and playground. usually water & walking keep penny happy and yesterday was no exception. it’s funny though because we bought penny a water table — one that’s a best-seller on amazon — and she barely uses it. same with the plastic pool (and she has one at the grandparents’ house too). for penny to truly enjoy water play, she has to be in an actual swimming pool (not even in a float) or be under a sprinkler. this is why she loves the splash pad and she also enjoyed being in a wading pool this past weekend. hopefully she grows to like the water table as it was expensive…

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she absolutely loved being in the kiddie pool at henry park. there’s a separate pool for babies and young children (it’s about a 1.5 foot high) and penny kept wanting to be in the swimming position (on her belly) but it was difficult for us to bend over and keep her that way. she threw a fit when we stood her upright. we had to leave after ten minutes anyway because yuri was with us – no dogs allowed. so.. next time at least one of us will wear a swimsuit and we’ll leave yuri at home.

so, i started trying the one-nap method again on tuesday after penny skipped her afternoon nap on monday. she had woken up at 6:30am after sleeping for 12 hours. she made it to 11am for her nap without a meltdown BUT only slept for just over an hour like the last attempt.. ahh.. so, she had a long awake time before bed last night but she slept 6:50pm-6am. on wednesday, she went down for her nap at 11am – again, without a meltdown – so that’s a good sign that she’s ready for the one-nap transition. i just have to keep in mind that it’s a painful and slow process so i need to slowly push the nap without making miss p overtired. i’ve also been feeding her a snack/early small lunch before her 11am nap so her stomach is full since i hope for her to sleep until 1pm.

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this past weekend, we went to boston and brought penny to the museum of science. we purchased a membership which means we can get discounted or free admission to over 400 museums/science centers/zoos all over the world! the lutz children’s museum is one of them.. sadly (and surprisingly) the science museum in west hartford is not. it made sense to get a membership too since even going twice a year will make up for the $90 cost for two people.

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Penny’s favorite book at the moment is Goodnight, Moon so we had to take a picture of this!

my parents spent the entire saturday with us which was wonderful. we brought penny to a wading pool near my parents’ house which of course she enjoyed. she especially loved touching the water spray and having the water splash her in the face. that afternoon we all went to the museum of science. i was surprised to hear that my parents had never been before saturday and they have lived in massachusetts for over 30 years. it made me sad that they’ve been so busy with work, so i’m really pleased we were able to take my parents with us. my dad particularly had a great time – he enjoyed looking at all of the exhibits especially the animal ones and a huge stone with amethyst crystals inside.

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oh, you know, just a typical breakfast

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gotta love snapchat! mom aka sia

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unfortunately we didn’t see my brother or sister at all that weekend which was a major disappointment. sad to say,  i wasn’t that surprised. we also tried to meet up with a few cousins but they already had plans. i’m glad we were able to visit my grandma – she’s at a nursing home for the time being. we brought penny’s new push car with her and she was walking with it up and down the hallway, charming all of the residents and staff.

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precious

 

lastly, we were able to finally watch the movie spotlight with our friends, ben and alf (they’re brothers). ben, alf, and i, particularly ben and i, are cinephiles so we were waiting to watch spotlight (the 2016 best picture winner) together. we supplied dinner from my parents’ restaurant and the byun brothers brought doughnuts – yum! i love doing simple activities such as watching movies and playing board games – the latter which we also did with friends last week.

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our dear friend, alice, sent us 100 mini cupcakes and macarons!

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before i close up, i wanted to share that penny is becoming more brave at standing on her own. when she does it on her own (told hold/play with an object) or does it without realizing, she stands for a while. but it’s when we force it up on her that she puts up a fight. at henry park, my mil let go of penny and encouraged her to walk and she walked 3 steps! yesterday while i was cooking, she took about 5 steps for dennis and his parents. she took a few steps today too. that’s a great start! hoping she walks before her 15-month checkup, but we really hope she walks before our friends’ wedding in october since she’ll be a flower girl.

 

summertime shenanigans

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last saturday, dennis and i attended a wedding in norwalk, ct. he was able to get the day off so we could go, but he still had to work the next day… which was really unfortunate since it was a 1.5 hour drive each way. we left the party around 10:30 and came home at midnight.

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yikes, the selfie image came out way too pixelated

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close buds – dennis and andy (not the groom)

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we had a lovely time celebrating victoria and andrew. as many of you may know, i love to take pictures. the only reason why i don’t have many photos from the wedding (particularly of the married couple) is because there was no ceremony. the mr. and mrs. decided to do a civil ceremony and then celebrate with their family in england where the bride’s family resides. the party on saturday was just a reception for family and friends.

instead of a standard photo booth, theirs printed out 4×6 images which was unique! we glued some onto the guest book and kept the copies. there were even clear sleeves to protect the photos. in addition, there was a cigar bar. dennis and i had considered this for our wedding too but we ended up nixing it because the costs kept mounting for our big day…

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recently, i found out that the park near us has a baby-friendly playground and a splash pad. sure, we live next to an elementary school with two playgrounds that we visit on a daily basis but it’s awesome to have another one to go to.. and with, again, a splash pad for a girl who adores water!

i befriended another mommy that goes to story hour at jack & allie’s. it turns out she lives about a 3-minute drive from us! she has a 17-month-old son who is absolutely adorable. we met up once at the park and we are looking to go tomorrow as well.

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after we figured out this was a splash pad, i began taking penny here!

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as you can see, penny’s been standing on her own more and more. she still needs assistance to stand on her own and often uses nearby objects as well. once she does that, i’m guessing she’ll start taking some steps.. so, we wait.

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playdate at olivia’s

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they love water crackers

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she tried hot dogs for the first time!

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homemade sweet potato fries

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july 17th was national ice cream day so penny and i went to carvel for bogo soft serve!

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um, yes.. i’m playing pokemon go

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this picture is from today. look how tan penny’s feet are! 

it’s going to be busy the next few days! our town’s summer carnival kicked off tonight but we are stopping by tomorrow evening after dinner to check out the rides. we are hoping to take penny on the ferris wheel, carousel, and some other baby-friendly rides. also, we are going up to boston from friday-sunday. we are supposed to have a heat wave starting tomorrow so i assume it’ll feel suffocatingly hot in the city with all the buildings blocking the wind. we plan on going to boston common to go on the swan boat and bring penny to the splash pad at frog pond!

hopefully things work out.. penny skipped her afternoon nap today after having taken two naps since the june 29th incident. she has been taking a long time to fall asleep for her afternoon one though. lately she’s falling asleep around 3pm or even later.. and it’s taking her a half hour-hour to fall asleep! today, she finally just skipped it entirely and i got her at 3:30. i’m contemplating pushing her morning nap to 11am tomorrow to see how she does with one nap. the goal is to be at 12:30/1pm for the one-nap schedule.. i’m actually really nervous to start trying this before our boston trip. i guess i’ll just see how she does tonight and tomorrow morning!

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 🙂

 

#AboutThatLife

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gotta love nap time. penny’s on her second nap so i’m trying to whip out a blog post while pumping (-_-) and hopefully will be able to grab a bite to eat.

there is a cute children’s book store called jack & allie’s in my town, and it’s about a 5-minute drive from our house. they have camps, classes, and a lot of fun activities for babies, toddlers, children, and parents. genie told me last night that she planned on bringing olivia to story time today. the time is perfect: 11:15-12:15 because penny usually wakes up from her first nap between 10:30-11:30am. i had to wake her up from her nap as usual and then drove us over to the bookstore.

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after hearing a story about martha, the talking dog (a funny story that i’ve read before), the children participated in a coloring activity. it was penny and olivia’s first attempt at coloring. penny didn’t color but i’m glad she didn’t stick the crayons in her mouth. olivia, however, did color a bit!

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she loved this rocking chair!

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penny was really excited to see other babies – she kept smiling and looking around – and she also loved exploring jack & allie’s. we had been there a few times before to purchase books but that was before she was mobile.

now that penny is nearing the toddler stage, life has become even more eventful and exhausting! she loves trying to walk but it’s hard on our backs since we have to hunch over to support her. stair-climbing is also another assisted activity that she loves. thankfully we have carpeted stairs and we stand behind her. since she’s moving around a lot more she actually gets tired faster. sometimes she wants to nap after only being awake for 2 hours or so and i stretch it out so she can make it close to the 3-hour mark.

penny’s schedule: 5/24/16

6:30am:  wake up/milk/play/eat/take a walk

9:30am – 10:58am: first nap (had to wake her)

11:15am-12:15pm: story hour @ jack & allie’s

12:30-1pm: lunch

1pm-1:30pm: walk outside

2pm-3:30pm: second nap (hopefully)

3:30-6:30pm: milk/play/take a walk/dinner/bath time

7:30pm: bedtime

this is what our typical day looks like. of course, the daily activities differ depending what we’re doing or where we’re going, but it’s great knowing what to expect. i hope she takes two naps for a while! usually babies transition from two naps to one anywhere between 14~18 months with a rare amount transitioning earlier.

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mealtimes have been tough as penny hates sitting still so we have to offer a variety of food. some days she’ll want to chomp on a banana and other days she won’t even take a bite! the temper tantrums are fierce! she wants everything her way…

these reusable pouches that i ordered from amazon are amazing. you can put basically anything in there. yogurt used to be our go-to food but she doesn’t really like it anymore. who knows why? i still offer it to her in the pouch and she’ll eat it that way, if at all. i also put in fruit and veggie purees… she doesn’t like being spoon-fed too much anymore so having her hold on to the pouches helps us too.

she also really loves pizza. we had pizza for dinner last night and didn’t pick up the pie until penny had already eaten dinner. then she saw us eating pizza and naturally wanted some. she ended up eating an entire slice sans the crust. o.O

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last saturday, i attended my childhood friend, christina’s wedding in providence, rhode island. it was held at roger williams botanical garden and the venue was gorgeous! dennis had to work last weekend so i drove up solo and my sister met me at the hotel. it was fun going as sisters and getting some bonding time in.

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we used to hang out often in middle school and high school because we grew up in the same church. it became few and far between once all of us were in college but we still usually got together during the holidays especially for a christmas eve dinner at christina’s, or yuge (her korean name is yujin), mom’s house. finally, she moved out to los angeles to pursue a career in the television industry. she’s made cameos and worked on shows like pretty little liars and night shift, and is currently an associate producer on the middle.

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yuge’s brother, justin

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yuge’s brother, justin

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congratulations to yuge & abi!

 

 

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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