Saturday, September 21, 2013

Brahms Moves to UC Davis

My son now attends the University of California in Davis to take a double major:  Anthropology and International Agricultural Development. 

JB Agustin is his roommate who happened to be a son of someone from my hometown in Abulug.  I know he comes from a good family.  It is a good thing!  So far they are getting along quiet well.  

It was a rainy day when we brought him to his school for the first time.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lexy River Lewis: She was Loved

She was a delightful bunny.

Sunday, September 7, 2013 was a sad day for us - It was the day Lexi died.   Having to see life slip away from something dear to the family was very painful.  But it helped that I was holding her in my arms like a baby when she took her last breath.  I can't imagine how much harder it would have been had we found her already dead.  

We lost our sweet cuddly and fluffy bunny.  Miriam was very upset.  For two days, she cried whenever she remembered her.  Even I was very sad and upset.  She was the only pet we had that we could actually pet.  She loved it when we'd run our fingers on her head and in between her ears.  We will really miss her.

Tim and Brahms dug a grave for her in the same area where we buried Casey and Bob.  The following day I planted some echeveria on top of her grave.  That place now qualify as a pet cemetery.

We loved Lexy.  And we thank God for the many happy moments that she brought to our home.  Some of her memories are written in my blogs for posterity:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Becoming an Artist

Miriam is now taking art lessons from Adam Reeder.  Becky Carmichael, classmate and friend, has invited her before but she was not that interested back then.  Now she is excited not only to learn but also to spend more time with her good friend.

Miriam and Becky Carmichael

Miriam's increasing interest in art is likely to have been a result of her big-sister's influence.  Both girls love Anime.  In fact Miriam along with her brother recently attended the AnimeCon 2013 in Sacramento where she got to meet some of the artists that she follows.   I am not sure if it was Brahms' artistic inclinations or his interests for freebies that brought him there.  But who knows?

Posing with her favorite Anime-artist. (Image by Brahms Lewis)

While waiting for her to get done with her class today, I had to spend an hour and a half strolling along Sutter Street in the Historic Folsom District.  I enjoy antique-shopping but for some reason, the smell of the antique stores made me feel nauseous. (Could it be that my love for old second-hand stuff is waning?) So I walked towards Snooks and got me a cone of Almond Praline ice cream - it made me happy.

 For those who are willing to learn, there is always room for improvement. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ireland 2013: Powerscourt

From Dublin, we (Miriam, Brahms and I) traveled by train and bus to Enniskerry in the county of Wicklow to see the estate where scenes in the movie "Count of Monte Cristo" were shot - like the part where he arrives through an air balloon to introduce himself as Monte Cristo to his elite guests. 

Tim was not with us since he was attending the conference which is the reason we were in Ireland and of course Shannon was back in Irvine.  Wished the whole family was there but we took pictures to share.  But as I always say about places that we visit: who knows we may still have another chance to go back.

The Powerscourt is a very large estate.  As much as I was very interested to see all that it had to offer, I didn't have the energy to do just that.  We spent a lot of time sitting on benches - thank goodness they were many of them.

Something is supposed to be funny about this picture - something to do with traditional Chinese family portraits.

She was trying to pose for Brahms but I caught her in another angle.  

Taking a rest at the Japanese Gardens.

Aerial pose

They sat there while I inspected the roses.

The rose garden was situated against one side of the building.  

There is a tower in the garden with a small entrance and as you duck to get in, you see a sad-looking doll tucked in one of the alcoves.  A colorful object against the old stone brick wall is very unexpected which makes it spooky.  Whether it was part of the design or some girl forgot it there is not clear.  That, however, did not deter Miriam and Brahms to climb it all the way to the top.  

After our garden tour was over, Miriam and Brahms frolicked back to the cafeteria where we had lunch.  There are many gift shops but there was nothing that tempted me.  Everything seemed touristy.

Of course, there is always an ice cream at the end of every tour.

This is the entrance to the estate but to me it is more memorable as the place where my kids and I sat there for a long time waiting for the bus to come until we decided to walk to the village. We found out later that the bus was not scheduled to go to Powerscourt after a certain hour of the day. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Complete Home

The Lewis house was complete all of last week as Shannon was back for a while.  For us to be all together is something that I took for granted when the kids were all still at home.  Our children were always part of the things that Tim and I did.  Rarely did we leave them with babysitters - maybe a couple of hours at most.  Even our wedding anniversary celebrations were brightened with the presence the kids. There were only three occasions when our anniversary was without a child with us: two years before we had kids and the one year (nine years ago or so) when Tim surprised me with a trip to Seattle.  I thought we were going on a lunch date until we were already at the airport parking lot - I was helpless at that point.  I spent the whole first night in the beautiful Edgewater Hotel sleepless, staring at the water thinking about my children.  In other words, we love our kids and we like being with them.

When Shannon went to college, it was the beginning and the end of many things.  Not only Shannon will be gone again but come September 22, 2013, Brahms will also be out of the house. What's the world coming to!  How will the three of us (Tim, Miriam and I) make this huge house feel lived-in?  Already Shannon's room feels like a ghost-room and soon Brahms' will be too.

Miriam worries about not having her siblings with her.  The thing is she is not remaining young or small - in fact she's also growing up.  Earlier this month she traveled alone as a young adult to go visit her sister in Irvine.  Soon she'll also be able to go see her brother alone in the not-so-far-away Davis. What will Tim and I do when they will all be gone?  But we're not there yet. Whew!

In the meantime, we thank God and celebrate the less-frequent times when we are all together in one place sharing jokes and stories that we all can groan or laugh at.  With the few times that we are all together I feel warm in my heart.  We play games, eat comfort food and fast food, watch old episode of Warehouse 13, murder mysteries, and even Adventure Time.  This time Tim also played Jedi Outcast with the kids when he succeeded in having the four computers to talk to each other.

Yesterday, we drove once more to the airport to drop her off.  Now we will once again set the table with four, not five, place settings.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Old and Grand St. Patrick's Cathedral

An Irish taxi driver once told us that in Ireland there are two things that are plentiful: churches and pubs. We didn't have to do anything but open our eyes to see that this was true.  Both churches and pubs were easy to spot.  The churches come in tall gray stone buildings while the pubs are lined along the streets in dark strong colors usually with hanging beautiful flower baskets.  As if Ireland intended it to provide both the worldly and and spiritual avenues in life.   

To me Saint Patrick's Cathedral would have been an ordinary old cathedral were it not for the history that passed through its gates.  And although it is now a tourist destination, it remains a functional cathedral to this day.  

The floors tiles have very intricate designs - very Irish!  I'm not sure whether they are the original tiles but they sure look old and classic.

One of the things that surprised me in terms of furniture are the chairs or pews.  They are made of wood; they are not padded at all and they have straight backs.  The seat and the back rest are at 90-degree angle.  There is no slouching in these chairs.

The most prominent person buried in this cathedral is probably Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver's Travels).  Several important people in history have either visited or served in this cathedral - Cromwell, William of Orange, King James I, etc.  The one that surprised me the most is that Robert Boyle (founder of Boyle's Law)once served as a priest in this cathedral.  It makes complete sense because churches in the early days were not only a place of worship but also the seat of education.

For anybody visiting Dublin, I highly recommend visiting Saint Patrick's Cathedral. My opinion about Saint Patrick and the color of Saint Patrick's Day has changed. The color green will just be one of the many colors that I will think of come March 17.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A New Teenager

My little baby turned thirteen this year.  It's hard to imagine that it has been that long ago since she was born on that one hot summer day.  She remains to be the sweet little girl that she has always been - just smarter and now taller than me!   

Thirteen candles on a Lemon Meringue Pie

This year, her birthday celebration was spread over the course of a week.  First, she had some of her friends over - they played games and went to see a movie.  The next day she got her requested breakfast (crepes and bacon) made by her daddy and received a bunch of balloons from the Lippuner family. Then we got her an airline ticket so she could to travel to Irvine to see her sister.  Traveling alone for the first time as unaccompanied adult was surely an appropriate way to punctuate her arrival to teenage-life.   

Lots of love from the Lippuners!

Gestures with friends.

Her sister, Shannon, continued the celebration by surprising her with a red velvet cake upon her arrival.  The two of them spent such a special time bonding away from the walls of the home where they have parents and a brother.  And during that whole extended weekend they spent together, Miriam experienced things like living in a college dorm, mingling with them playing games, watching TV, eating, eating out or just hanging out.  I was so glad we thought of doing this thing for her.

Strawberries and watermelon prior to her choice of food: In & Out Hamburgers and Fries.

Opening presents is always fun.

Miriam with her friends: Will Leszinske; Jane Bonnell; and Becky Carmichael.  Not in the picture is Sharon Cha.

Big brother lights the candles.

 God, let her light shine brightly.

Another year has passed...I want to thank God, now and always, for the way He has protected this gift that He has added to our family.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ireland 2013: Eating Away from Home

While Tim attended the Linaro Connect 2013 Conference in Dublin, the kids (Miriam and Brahms) and I went around the city just being tourists.  Sight-seeing, shopping, eating and just observing what people did.  Dublin is a very cosmopolitan city that thrives on tourism.  Everything significant catered to tourists.  Shops that sell t-shirts, mugs, tea towels with green-shamrock prints, mugs and sweatshirts with Guinness labels, Ireland baseball caps (as if they played baseball in Ireland), cheap jewelry pieces that bear the markings found in one of the many ruined monuments, and little tiny woolen-sheep toys are everywhere.  But I was looking for something Irish - something that the nationals like more than what tourists like.   

Without prior information, the only way to tell that a restaurant is good is the busyness of the place.  People always swarm around places that serve good food at a reasonable price. That was the basis of our choice of places to eat.  When it comes to eating it appears that my kids and I are more adventurous when their father is not with us.  Tim always stick to those that are "proven and tried" but we are more willing to discover new ones.  It is those that we try for the first time that will linger in our memories and which will always give depth to the experience of a given culture.  Last year when we went to Taipei, my kids and I found this family-run restaurant in a corner of a street.  We could not read the menu nor the people in the restaurant understood English but we ordered based on the pictures of food on the wall.  It turned out we had the best food and cultural experience there.  We will always remember how the owners of the restaurant had us sit next to the table where they were eating.  

During our time in Dublin one of the places we tried is Zaytoon, a Persian restaurant located on Parliament Street.  The food we had brought back memories of Turkey.  On another night, we had Greek food at Corfu Greek Restaurant.  This was recommended by my former hall mate, Thomae Kakouli-Duarte.  The Kleftiko - lamb that was wrapped in foil was so tender and delicious.  Brahms had Greek Burger -Bifteki, Miriam tried the Souvlaki chicken kabobs while Tim had a Mixed Grilled Platter.  It was like experiencing Greece in Ireland!

Since we stayed in a self-catering apartment we had the opportunity to try what Dublin folks eat on a regular basis.  Lewis tradition says that the grocery store tells a lot about a certain culture. I cannot name a country that we've visited where we did not go to the local grocery store.  We had a several types of the Irish sausages made of real Irish beef.  I was tempted to buy blood pudding but I resisted, maintaining the sanity of my family.  We deliberately chose those that occupied large spaces on the shelves and are not common in US grocery stores.  Between restaurant food and those we prepared, we ate a lot of lamb.  

The kids never got tired of Fish and Chips. On the tour to the Cliffs of Moher, they both had Fish and Chips (for the last time on this trip) at the Monks Seafood and Restaurant Bar.  Tim and I both had a bowl of their famous Fish Chowder with freshly baked bread.  It might sound weird to most people but I had to have some Irish oysters.  They are really good.  

Every night in Dublin, we watched Murdoch Mysteries while we ate Jaffa Cakes.  Tim and I drank more tea than coffee although every morning Tim would walk to the place called "The Art of Coffee" to buy us some latte.  My coffee experience in Ireland made me appreciate our own espresso maker at home.  During the course of the week, the kids and I, when we were feeling tired of the food we were eating, went back to something familiar to remind us of home - Burger King!  In Limerick, we tried the Irish version of McDonald's which is the Super Mac.  The significant difference is fried chicken.  Not only do they serve hamburgers made of Irish beef, they also have Irish fried chicken served with lots and lots of chips (French fries).

When it comes to sweets, there was always a new type of cookie to try.  We were even pleasantly surprised to find this British delicacy (which we love) so common in the grocery stores.  Ice cream places that are marked by a huge ice cream cone are prevalent in Ireland - it was hard to miss their existence. It was comforting to see the sign at the end of every tour we took.  There was even one at the Hill of Tara!  We also sampled Tesco's Tiramisu and Creme Brulee making some of evenings in Limerick memorable.  When we traveled to Adare, we got fancy desserts at the Adare Manor.

Almost every time you say Ireland, people think of beer.  Unfortunately, we are not a beer-drinking family.  Tim, along with all the participants of the conference, even had a tour of the Guinness Storehouse where they had a dinner.  But he skipped his pint.  :)