Sunday, March 10, 2013

Padma Honor

Helen earned a special Buddhist badge for her Brownie vest by going through “Padma” training for several weeks.  Girl Scout Sunday was extra special with a ceremony honoring this achievement.

Fiddler Friends

Fiddler Friends by Chris & Kelly
Fiddler Friends, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
Sunrise; sunset... If I were a rich man... Matchmaker, Matchmaker... Thanks to Elle, Helen has become a Fiddler on the Roof fanatic!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Snowboard Trial Run

During winter break, Helen helped Peri celebrate her birthday with a first ever “boarding” excursion for these two friends.  By the end of the second day, both girls happily turned in their snowboards and went back to skies.  As fun as snowboarding looked, they didn’t want to give up the speed and skills that they have developed so well up to this point.

The Snow Shoe Shuffle

Snow Shoe Shuffle by Chris & Kelly
Snow Shoe Shuffle, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
For day 3, we went “off-road” and explored the Tahoe tundra with snow shoes.

Two Helens in Teal

Two Helens in Teal by Chris & Kelly
Two Helens in Teal, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
Tahoe time equals Gigi time -- always treasured.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Riding in the Year of the Snake on a Dragon

Between Helen’s Birthday, and Chinese New Year, February seems even shorter than it already is.  The number of celebrations crammed into a 2-week period is simply stunning.  It’s been a while since we’ve been to a CNY event put on by FCC, but a new south bay group put on a great “right-sized” event at the right time for us attend.  Helen had the unusual experience of being one of the older kids, and it was fun to see her experience the event through the eyes of the younger ones.

Red Drums on Red Ribbon

Red Drums on Red Ribbon by Chris & Kelly
Red Drums on Red Ribbon, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
The Chinese School party kicked off the season with a perfect blend of food, and do-it-yourself parade fun.

Chinese New Year Dinner 2013

We revived our own somewhat-traditional “new year’s eve dinner” with the McNab family.  Yum!

2013 CNY Parade Crew

The McNab’s also accompanied us to the Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco. Goodbye year of the Dragon, and hello Snake!

Red Lanterns in Union Square

It was fun staying the night and waking up to a beautiful San Francisco day complete with red lanterns in Union Square.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Nine Birthday Balloons

Nine balloons.  Nine friends.  Nine amazing years.  What a fun celebration for Helen’s special day, and even more cool – with her birthday falling on a Saturday, it was Helen-focused all day long.

Winchester Birthday Tour

These pre-teen years are full of mystery and intrigue, so where better to spend a birthday than at the Winchester Mystery House? Helen has long harbored a fascination about this attraction, and decided long ago that this would be her birthday destination of choice.

Winchester Mystery House Fountain Photo

It’s interesting that most kids and parents hadn’t ever taken this tour in spite of it being right in the middle of San Jose’s prime shopping area. Although I visited the mansion as a kid, the sheer size of the house, and the quirkiness of its design (or lack thereof) never ceases to amaze me.

Birthday Orange

Birthday Orange Aflame by Chris & Kelly
Birthday Orange Aflame, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.

Birthday dinner was at Minato’s of course!


Helen’s first science paper/project was a success. Titled “Jupiter: Big and Old” Helen did a nice job researching, collecting and arranging facts, and writing a cohesive 1-page summary of this multi-mooned planet. She then created a model out of paper mache, painted it, and placed it in its own cardboard box galaxy. She didn’t stay up late, and we didn’t help too much. Not bad for 3rd grade!

Symphonic Convergence

Nob Hill Trio by Chris & Kelly
Nob Hill Trio, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
Our favorite Chicago friends were in town for a special San Francisco Symphony performance, providing a wonderful opportunity to spend a gorgeous afternoon together. Their status as Chicago friends is rapidly coming to an end since they will soon be “Portland” friends – hooray for Portlandia and west coast living!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ru Cousins at Hogwarts

Potter Mania continued into 2013 thanks to Maxine’s birthday celebration at “Whimsic Alley”.  The MLK weekend was spent in magician mode as our Hubei girls recreated Hogwarts in a fantasy party worthy of their 9-year-old imaginations.

Magician Cousins

Magician Cousins by Chris & Kelly
Magician Cousins, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
Since Helen and Maxine both dressed up as Hermione this year for Halloween, they were well prepared for this birthday outing.

Art Gallery Gazing

Art Gallery Gazing by Chris & Kelly
Art Gallery Gazing, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
It was especially sweet to see these Gryffindor cousins enjoying the art at LACMA.

Potions Class

Helen in Potions Class by Chris & Kelly
Helen in Potions Class, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
The party itself was cleverly constructed starting with the sorting hat, a spell casting competition, and a potions class (which included a large dosage of pop rocks).

MLK Ru Girls 2013

MLK Ru Girls 2013 by Chris & Kelly
MLK Ru Girls 2013, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
We enjoyed a series of Ru gatherings including swimming at the Green’s (since it’s never too cold to swim in LA.)

We Are Family...

Ru Birthday Cake 2013 by Chris & Kelly
Ru Birthday Cake 2013, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
Our celebratory cake featured the a simple and melodic sentiment – “We Are Family – I’ve got all my sisters with me!”

Movie Screening and Microwave Popcorn

We had our very own “Cinderella Moon” Screening – a movie made by Half the Sky Founder, Dick Bowen. HTS is a beneficiary of a generous portion of the profits from this film.

Grandma's Birthday 2013

In other birthday news, we celebrated the 1-year anniversary of Grandma’s broken arm by doing what we intended to do last year but couldn’t – an intensive day of shopping at Ikea!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Welcoming 2013

I can’t remember the last time we spent a New Year’s Eve at home – 15 years, or maybe more?  For Helen, it was the kind of New Year’s that I remember from my childhood.  There was great food, endless games, and the ball drop in the background.  

Fondue with Friends and Fixin’s

Chris cooked a traditional Japanese dinner including ozoni soup, and Margaret and Steve brought a fondue pot and all the fixin’s. They also brought a very fun card game called “Scopa”.

Turning 14 years old in 2013

Chula, who is ever the party girl despite her creaking bones, promised to hang in there for another year.

Helen Stays up for the New Year

Helen Stays up for 2013 by Chris & Kelly
Helen Stays up for 2013, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
Helen had no problem staying up until well after midnight, thanks to the stimulating games and good company. We tried to get the ball drop, or at least “2013” in the background, but instead we captured a televised kiss!

Visiting Gigi and Tahoe Trip

In the few days between Christmas and heading back to work and school, we were able to visit Gigi on our way to Tahoe. Here she is modeling her new coat! We skied for two days at Sierra at Tahoe and Helen got right up to speed. She breezed through her first mogul run, which although not entirely intentional, was handled with much finesse.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Santa Brought a Zucca

Santa brought a Zucca.  A Zucca?  Yes, a rolling hard-sided carrier for students with sore backs...  which is all the fashion in third grade and beyond.  

Reindeer Food Toss 2012

Reindeer Food Toss 2012 by Chris & Kelly
Reindeer Food Toss 2012, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
Santa’s delivery was all but assured thanks to the annual reindeer food toss, which occurred with much gusto.

Christmas Dinner 2012

Christmas Dinner 2012 by Chris & Kelly
Christmas Dinner 2012, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
The reindeer weren’t the only well-fed creatures on Christmas – our chef team was in top form, producing a beef roulade, assorted veggies, and “bread muffins”.

Christmas Eve Presents 2012

Xmas Eve Presents 2012 by Chris & Kelly
Xmas Eve Presents 2012, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
As per our family tradition, gifts not brought by Santa are opened in Christmas Eve. There were many fun surprises – an iTouch for Helen, new coats for Kelly and Ken, Japanese fabric for Marilee, and new clothes for Chris.

Christmas Eve Dinner 2012

By popular demand, we continued the delectable dinner tradition of having Clam Chowder on Christmas Eve.

Dad's 69th Birthday at Dry Creek Grill

I’d put up Chris’ Clam Chowder against any meal, although Dry Creek Grill performed well on Dad’s 69th Birthday. We started the celebration with The Rep’s production of “The Christmas Carol” an enchanting version full of caroling and live music from all of the actors (featuring a wide array of instruments from the recorder to the accordion). The morphing of the Nutcracker into other holiday outings is becoming more and more fun.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Family Wreath 2012

The challenge this year with picking our tree was to find a time when it wasn’t a total downpour.  

Family Tree 2012

Family Tree 2012 by Chris & Kelly
Family Tree 2012, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
December was particularly wet, and adding to the difficulty, the trees at our usual tree farm were a bit picked over. In spite of these challenges, we probably found our most perfect tree ever.

Tree Trimming 2012

Tree Trimming 2012 by Chris & Kelly
Tree Trimming 2012, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
The decorating team also expanded ranks, and we filled the tree in record time.

The Littlest Tree Trimmers

Claire added some zest to the festivities. Not having seen my ornament stash before, she was incredulous as hundreds of baubles emerged from endless boxes. The effect of her enthusiasm wore off on Helen, who finally participated fully in the exercise.

Holiday Dance Performance 2012

After two years of being dressed as a reindeer, Helen’s dance group graduated to different holiday costumes for their three performances, including Christmas in the Park. Ironically it was a reindeer hat directly in front of Helen that kept us from getting any photos of Helen at her holiday concert from school! Oh well, the memories of the lovely singing are firmly imprinted in our memory.

Brownie Troop Court of Awards '12

At the Brownie’s Annual Court of Awards event, the girls exchanged books, and received their next batch of earned badges.

Favorite Activities: Bake Sale, and Counting Money!

Before receiving their loot, each Brownie talked about what badge activities they enjoyed the most. Helen, ever consistent in her passions, was most enthused about the Bake Sale, and Counting Money – a perfect combination if there ever was one.

Mochisuki 2012

Mochisuki 2012 by Chris & Kelly
Mochisuki 2012, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
Helen was ready for Mochisuki this year, fresh from her street food experiences in Japan.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving in Japan, 2012

Chris’ work brought him to Japan the week before Thanksgiving, creating the perfect opportunity for us to meet him there over the following holiday week.  Featured in “Lost in Translation” – the Hyatt oozes cosmopolitan sophistication, and was the most wonderful introduction to Tokyo that one could ever imagine.  From the traditional “Japanese Breakfast” to the doting concierge service, this was the perfect launch pad for our week-long adventure.

Helen at Meiji Shrine

Helen at Meiji Shrine by Chris & Kelly
Helen at Meiji Shrine, a photo by Chris & Kelly on Flickr.
Our first Tokyo stop was in walking distance from the Park Hyatt – the beautiful Meiji Shrine in Shinjuku. The shrine is located in the middle of an urban forest (about 175 acres).

Meiji Wedding Procession

By visiting over the shrine over the weekend, we not only saw wedding processions, but coincidentally aligned with “Children’s Shrine-Visiting Day” for 3 and 7-year-old girls, and 3 and 5 year-old boys.

Weekend Shopping in Shinjuku

Weekends also mean that the already robust shopping environment becomes even more dynamic with street closures for pedestrians.

Shibuya Crossing -- Ready, Set, SCRAMBLE!!

Life in Japan is so orderly that one almost forgets the sheer density at play. However, a trip to Shibuya crossing is a jaw-dropping example that the number of people moving this is city is simply staggering. When the traffic light halts the cars, pedestrians can cross the street in any direction, including diagonally. During rush hour, 2,500 people will do the “scramble”.

Hachikō Statue

While at Shibuya, we paid a visit to “Hachiko” a statue memorializing a loyal dog that obediently awaited his master at the train station every night, even after the master’s death.

View from Westin Miyako Kyoto

From Tokyo, we took the high-speed Shinkansen train to Kyoto. At 200+ miles per hour, this is a pretty quick trip. Our hotel was in a beautiful setting, nestled next the Higashiyama Mountains, and within walking distance to galleries and great shopping.