Happy Mother’s Day! A tribute to my mom

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Mom and I…Happy Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day and I hope you’re having a sweet day with your mom. I honor my mom everyday –especially when I am sick and want her soup, I call her and of course she makes it for me…(yes, even at this age), but today is Mother’s Day and I am very much so looking forward to sharing this day with my mom and my sisters (both moms too)! However way you’re celebrating, I hope your day is just perfect! I wanted to take a few minutes to share a little bit about my mom. I know you think your mom is the best, and I am sure she is. I’m certain my mom’s the best mom for me and for this, I am truly grateful.

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Family Photo: Mom, Dad and my siblings in North Carolina (1979). I was in her belly at this time.

Farmer’s daughter, sister, cousin, niece, aunt, wife, daughter-in-law, mom, refugee, immigrant, widow, seamstress, student, entrepreneur, grandmother, she’s been many things, but of all things, she’s the one I get to call my mom. Consistent, kind, fierce, reliable, strong, resilient, dedicated, self-less, she’s all of these things and she’s taught me this through the example she leads. I wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t share that she’s also damn crazy!

“Teacher, if Sammy no listen to you, you hit her!!!” Every year she’d always say this to my grade school teachers at each and every parent conference. Yes, every conference. Even my teachers would make fun of me. Yes, really! It was embarrassing and she didn’t care. I told her that if she kept saying that, someone would end up calling Child Protective Services…again, she didn’t care. I later asked why she’d do that and it made sense. She explained that she wanted me to know who is in charge when she was not around. A bit extreme, but I get it. She’s a strong personality and I’ve come to embrace this about her.

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1985 – Mom, my siblings and I at Almansor Park. We couldn’t get the tripod to work, so my brother had to take the photo. Mom wanted us to have a family photo.

When I am tested and have a bad day and pushed beyond my limits, I often think about my mom and I quickly get over it. By the time my mom was my current age of thirty-five, she’d left her home country, had five kids, and was a young widow. She never remarried and as a matter of fact, my paternal grandparents lived with us and she took care of them until the day they died. It wasn’t so much that it was her filial duties to “obey her father at birth, husband at marriage, and in-laws when a widow,” rather she wanted to ensure that her kids would be raised in a consistent, stable and safe upbringing; and we definitely had all of this. Though we didn’t have many fancy toys or clothes, we did have consistency and plenty of love to go around.

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Mom’s proudest title is Grandma. She’s got 7 grandchildren. Here she is with five of them.
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Just the girls. We love mom.

To make ends meet, she would sing us to sleep with her sewing machine. That machine was on 12-14 hours a day. She was a seamstress and later an entrepreneur, only to lose her business to the LA Riots. A true Opportunist and survivor, she was resourceful and the common theme of her journey is that she’s relentless, keeps going and just does. And as she keeps going, she goes with all heart. Her English is limited, but she’s got a few phrases down. These are her most common: “Hello,” “Please,” “Eat,” “Thank You,” and “I am Sorry” –I’ve seen first hand how these phrases go a long way. She’s always instilled the importance of acknowledging others, showing manners, expressing gratitude, and being accountable and saying sorry when you’re wrong. I am forever grateful for all that she’s taught me and for how she continues to teach me.

My mom, she’s the best mom for me and for this, I am truly grateful.

Thank you Mom!

 

 

The perfect Girlfriend Getaway

A few weekends ago, five of us girls got away. Not from any one person or anything, but just some quality time being girls. We laughed, explored, danced, ate, drank and had fun, and all on our own terms. It was a last minute idea and living in Los Angeles, if it’s one thing I can appreciate, it’s that it is SO easy to plan a getaway. As a matter of fact, we had such a great time that we started a list of new local getaways (Palm Springs, San Diego, Carmel, Malibu). We went to Santa Barbara and though it was just for the weekend, I’m still pumped! It’s amazing what getting away from the normal day to day can do for your mind, body and spirit.

There are few things to consider in planning the perfect girlfriend getaway. The conflicted Type A and free-spirit in me operates on this mantra, “Over plan and then just go with the flow.” A true opportunist, I don’t want to miss out on the best eats, events and offerings a different destination has to offer, BUT I also don’t want to be closed to my ideas and miss out on the spontaneity that a town has to offer…you know, meeting locals and just going with the flow rather than ensuring each item off the agenda was checked off…a fine line between compulsiveness and free spirited. One thing I like to do in advance is book reservations for a few of my favorite spots. Doing this ensures that there is a plan at a preferred place, but if you stumble across something else or if you’re not in the mood, you can always cancel your rezos.

Planning a Girlfriend Getaway is simple and I’d like to share two simple tips to consider.  Just ask yourself, will everyone jive and have fun?

Jive. Will everyone jive? Yes, you have lots of friends, but they’re all different. While differences make for fun, they can also start drama. Will your Foodie friend who wants to try the French Laundry jive well with your friend whose idea of the perfect meal is a granola bar and a smoothie? Momo may not care for Paint the Town Sally, right? One friend may only do 5 star luxury hotels while another appreciates something a bit more quaint and personable offered at boutique hotel.

Think about those you want to invite and ask yourself, Will we all jive well? Having a group of like-minded people is a great idea and a sure fire way to ensure that you’re managing fun versus personalities!

Idea of FUN “What do you consider fun?!?! Fun, natural fun!” Fun is natural and it’s also different for everyone. We all have different ideas of it.

Understanding expectations is SO important! I once went on a getaway with friends who just slept in. Not my idea of f-u-n…but that’s because they were new moms and were chasing sleep. Yeah…well, while I get it…that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do with my time or money. While they were tucked away at 10PM, I kept myself entertained playing Words on my iPhone.

This is your getaway just as much as it is everyone else’s. It’s important to ensure that you all share the same idea of fun! What kind of a trip is this going to be? A shopping spree? Trying new hike trails? A foodie’s excursion? Arts and Museums? Wine Tasting? Bar Hopping? Exploring with the locals? Spa and golf?

Once we have an idea of the kind of trip this is going to be, this easily allows us to budget. Everyone has a different relationship with money and things they value, so setting the expectation allows for everyone to budget accordingly. Let go and have fun!!! This is the MOST important attitude to have. Attitude is everything, so make sure it’s properly adjusted and fine-tuned by all.

What are some of your favorite Girlfriend Weekend Getaway tips? What’s worked for you? I hope my tips helped you. Here are some tidbits of our trip. Even though it rained, that didn’t stop us…our mission was to have fun and we sure did!

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The rain was coming in, but that didn’t stop us from having fun…what a gorgeous scene.
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Great Beats and rambling about everything make for pleasant drive & bonding time.
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Look at this little gem I spotted. Super cute! 
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The start of wine tasting and trying a new spot
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Appreciating simple details…the re-purposed pallets caught my eye…something I may just have to DIY.
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More wine, pizza and salad por favor! Another spontaneous spot!
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What a cute little store in an RV! I love locally sourced suppliers and we got a hat and a few other finds here.  Check them out http://www.stabilessantabarbara.com 
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So many tasting rooms, so little time…
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Our stay…we opted for a bed & breakfast, The Hotel Upham
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Yes, these are real!
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Just Lounging about…
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Cheers!
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Mas Mimosas y Oysters Please!!! All day happy hour at Lure’s!
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Thank you, Santa Barbara. Enjoying the gorgeous drive…oh and rushing to do some more shopping!

 

 

 

 

 

Today is Qingming Festival: Beyond Tomb Sweeping

Today is Qingming (or Ching Ming) Festival. Ching Ming literally translates to “clean and bright/ intelligent,” and in Western culture it’s known as the Chinese holiday where Asians go and clean tombs. It’s a public holiday in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and some Southeast Asian countries. And yes, while weeding the tomb area, applying cleaning solution, removing bird poop and making it as pretty as possible is something I do, it’s more than just that. With age, this ritualized holiday (which once represented an embarrassing chore that differentiated me from others) has become one of my most valued customs and favorite holidays.

Growing up, this meant that I’d be given a free pass. I’d be taken out of school so that we can visit my dad. My mom and grandma would prep the ceremonial offerings (chicken, pork, sticky rice, tea, wine). My grandpa would gather the faux money, incense, paper replicas of cars, homes, jewelry, all things that we’d burn while at the cemetery. The paper replicas represent how we want to ensure that we still want them to be “taken care of.” Once we arrive to the cemetery, we start by cleaning the tomb…weeding it, polishing it, and adding floral arrangements.  Once we are done detailing the tomb stone, it’s time to burn the paper replicas, light incense and start with prayer and when the prayer is completed, we share a few bites and picnic there. This process is representative of how we still honor the deceased and how we think of them and continue to have well wishes for them.

It wasn’t until about fifteen years after my dad’s death that my mom would come with us. My grandparents took leadership and had this down. Us kids, we’d know to do our part and followed their orders. I remember being sixteen when my mom decided to come and join us. There was no announcement, nothing said. She just came and I was very…I don’t know the right words, but I was relieved to know that she can participate too! To me, this meant that my mom was in a stronger position and able to accept my dad’s passing.

This past weekend, we visited my dad and grandparents at the cemetery. Now that my grandparents are deceased, mom prepares the ceremonial offerings. My siblings and I, we all have different tasks. One gathers all the paper replicas, the other gathers all the incense, I bring the flowers, gardening tools, and cleaning solution. All of the nieces and nephews, they gather and are excited and follow orders. My fifteen year old niece, Crystal, she said that she doesn’t understand all these rituals (the paper burning, the incense, the chicken). I completely get it. She reluctantly follows the orders. She reminds me a lot of me when I was her age. It wasn’t the right place or time to get into the conversation about what this means. With age, she’ll get it.

My mom led the prayer. Tony asked me what she said. So I had to do my best to translate:

She said, “Today is Qingming. We have not and we do not forget about you. We think of you each and every day. You should be happy and would be very proud of all that you created. Look at your grandkids. They’re all here. Everyone, we are all here to honor you. We are all here to light incense in honor of you. We brought you food and hope you enjoy the tea and rice wine. Be sure to continue to watch over all of us (your kids, your grandkids). Keep them healthy, safe and secure and ensure that they continue to be good people. The same way that they do for you.”

Beyond the sweeping of the tomb, Qingming is about honoring the lives of our loved ones and remembering our ancestors. In a selfish way, it’s also a reminder of how fortunate we are that they’re watching over us and how we have the opportunity to live the life that we want to live. I cannot help but think who would be there to honor me one day? Who would be there to remember me? What would be said? What would my legacy be?

It’s Spring!

We survived the first week of daylight savings and this weekend marks the start of Spring. What’s got you feeling fabulous this Friday? The excitement of Spring has got me feeling fabulous this Friday! The weather is warmer, grass is greener, and flowers are incredibly vibrant. I especially appreciate the longer days which allow me to squeeze in just a bit more fun in the sun. I seriously love what the new season has to bring us.

With the weather warming up and the fear of El Nino past us, what are some ways that you embrace the spring season? This past weekend, I got a head start and took a walk with my nieces, Ava and Sophie. We picked flowers from around my garden and we brought the outdoors in by making some dainty floral pieces using vases I got from TJ Maxx. Not only do I get to enjoy looking at these pretty Bougainvillea flowers, I get to bask in the smell of the fresh Jasmine. Mmmmmm…….

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After picking some flowers, we put them in some vases and let them dance for us all week!

There’s just so many different things I’d like to do with the extra sunlight, here’s some of my spring goals I’d like to make happen.

  • take hikes with Ace
  • enjoy the sunset at the beach
  • make a birdhouse
  • take advantage of the events at the Barnsdall Art Park
  • ride my bike
  • wine tasting with girlfriends
  • go to the Hollywood Bowl
  • host a soiree
  • check out what’s at the Huntington Library and walk the gardens
  • take the Metro with a friend and explore LA
  • sip mimosas and have brunch with my girls
  • enjoy meals at outdoor cafes
  • take my time at the Farmer’s Market
  • have a picnic
  • perfect my patio space
  • go kite flying with the nieces and nephews
  • explore a new neighborhood
  • take the scenic route more often
  • enjoy a damn good beer at the Dodgers game

Beyond Kitchen Curiosities

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Image Source: Lily & Val

I never really understood that saying, “Cooking is my therapy.” Until now…Now, I get it. Cooking is my therapy. This wasn’t always the case. Though it has many positive effects on others, it varies from person to person. I didn’t really do much in the kitchen until about 7 years ago. After I was home recouping from a surgery, cooking was one of the few productive things I could do. I played with some recipes, experimented, and here I am. Chasing my kitchen curiosities has led me brought me so much gratification and joy. Sure there have been many failed recipes, burnt steaks, and messed up lobster…but it’s all been worth it.

When someone I care for is sick, I prepare their favorite dish and throughout the entire process, I think of them, hope they get better and visualize that they’re all better. Very similar to prayer, it’s not forced and is a very natural process where I receive joy in knowing that they will enjoy my dish and will get better soon.  From thinking up the recipe, prepping, praying, cleaning to receiving the message that they’re all better.From start to finish, I enjoy the entire process.

When I’m the sick one,  I crave my late grandma’s home cooking. When I was younger and in the hospital, she cooked me my favorite pork and tomato broth and nothing ever tasted that good. When I’m sick, the process of recreating my grandma’s recipe and thought of her, immediately brings back wonderful memories. Sometimes, I hear her voice guiding me in the kitchen and she’s more present than ever. My grandma was an amazing cook and when she was alive, my kitchen curiosities were not present. How I wish I can pick her brain and share just another minute with her. Recreating her dishes finds a way to my heart and when the final dish is complete, it’s as if she’s there too. It brings truth to the saying, “It’s funny when you’re dead how people start listening.”

When I miss someone, cooking does the trick. Be it my friend, Judy’s amazing torte recipe or my cousin Pat’s famous banana bread recipe, cooking brings me closer to them. I think of them through the process and when the end product is completed, I like to think that they’re proud of me.

Recipes are that powerful. Cooking has the ability to connect people; ignite palettes and bridge generations of love. It percolates the creative juices, can connect you to loved ones and manages find a way to warm up hearts and souls.

What does cooking do for you? Put food on the table? Express love? Is it more than just a chore? I’d love to hear from you.

Last Weekend before Spring has me giddy

The smell of Jasmine, flirtatious birds, bright flowers, and longer days, you’d think that Spring is already here. It’s the last weekend before Spring is officially here. What’s got you feeling fabulous this Friday?

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I just love the smell of Jasmine. A kind reminder that Spring is almost here!

The anticipation of this weekend is what’s got my step springing and feeling fabulous this Friday. Weekends are the perfect opportunity for me to take my time. Take my time to try a new recipe, have a dinner date, share coffee with my friends, hike with my sisters, play new tricks with Ace, take a new meditation class, a new project, write to my friends or just take my time to take a breath and breathe. Yes, breathe.

I have a whole list of things I am looking forward to exploring this weekend and you know what? It’s absolutely okay if I don’t explore a single thing and just go with the flow. May your last winter weekend be exactly as you wish, starting with this fabulous Friday. Make it a great one.

Meet The Morts

“Sammy, The Morts are here for you,” said one of the hostesses. They were customers who became my regulars and are now dear friends of mine. Our friendship started many moons ago (16+ years ago) when I waited tables in college. How does a waitress become life-time friends with customers who just want pizza and beer? The Morts weren’t like most other patrons. I’d end up going on outings with them and we’ve been in touch over the years.

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Meet the Mortimers (this is how I remember them when we first met)
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A recent holiday dinner with Keith & Dana (from regulars to friends)

Waiting tables, I’d get to to see all types of families, and there was something so special about this one. Meet the Morts. They’re one of the most open, honest, tell-it-like-it-is, all heart, damn funny families I have ever met.  At the time, Samantha was eight, Ryan was about fourteen and their parents Dana and Keith were very involved in their lives. They were consistent parents. They’d laugh and carry open, honest conversations with their kids; and I think that’s what really set them apart. It never felt that information was being filtered and their children were encouraged to follow their hearts. They knew their shortcomings and would joke about them openly, and most of all, there was a mutual understanding and unconditional love and support. Judgement was not ever around.

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Samantha & Ryan then..(now grown up and no braces)

Samantha (now a teacher) and Ryan (a savvy Marketing Director) continue to be fine adults and they make me proud. A true testament to Dana and Keith’s parenting. Funny thing! WE are all engaged (no, not to each other) but at the same time! Last night, Samantha and Ryan shared something that I had never known! Their dad, Keith, has been writing and playing music pretty much his whole life!  They posted his music and I was so touched and inspired. For as long as I have known Keith, he’s never talked about this gift of his. Ever!!! But, that’s Keith for you. Look up humility and you’re sure to find his name. I have always known him for his other gift to the world, his ability to connect with the kids he coaches and this was definitely a surprise. This inspired me and got me thinking.

Not everyone can write and sing music but what’s your gift to the world? Is there a gift that you have? Have you tended to it or neglected it? Is your gift to the world something as simple as smiling or listening well? Can it be your ability to cook or bring people together?  Organizational skills? A business concept? Poetry? If you know what it is, I hope you tend to it and make time for it. If you don’t know what it is, I hope that you start or continue to chase your curiosities. Thank you, Keith for inspiring us to never forget to tend to our talents. We owe it to ourselves and to the universe.  May you enjoy the rest of your weekend, and I hope that you find time tend to yourself.

Oh, and I thought I’d share his track with you guys…enjoy!