Hey guys! I apologize for not uploading a blog post for the past couple days. My family and I spent an entire weekend celebrating Christmas! So today’s blog is gonna be a double-whammy Christmas special! Also, stay tuned for a regular Blogmas Day 9 later tonight!
I woke up at around 10 a.m. to Chris yelling at me to get up, as we had to leave soon for a family outing in San Francisco. So I got out of bed and did my usual morning routine. After breakfast, I finished the movie Amelie, which I have officially deemed one of my all-time favorites. By 11:30 a.m., my family was still not ready to get going, leaving me wondering why Chris had rushed me out of bed. At a little past noon, we all piled into the white van and headed to the city for a day of sight-seeing and eating! I fell asleep on the car ride to SF. Once we arrived, the first order of business was to find a restaurant to eat at, just to keep us mildly satiated before the big Christmas Eve dinner we’d be having that night. We walked around Fisherman’s Wharf in search for a not-too-crowded eatery. Austin and Dad led the crew, as they’ve always been the ones to make most of the executive decisions in the family. I’m trying harder to play a bigger role in decision-making and contributing my opinion when we have to make family decisions, instead of letting others call the shots and mindlessly following. Finally, we found this seafood restaurant that had no waiting time! For lunch, I had fish and chips, fried calamari with ketchup and tartar sauce, crab cake, and some clam chowder. I had originally not intended on eating such a large (and unhealthy) meal, as I wanted to save room for dinner, but alas! I couldn’t control myself!
After lunch, we walked around Fisherman’s Wharf and did some sight-seeing, took some pictures. If you knew my mom, you’d know that she’s obsessed with taking pictures. Everywhere. I swear, she was a photographer in her past life! Anywho, her picture-taking antics can be quite annoying at times, especially when she insists on taking a gazillion photos of me and my brothers– so much so that our faces hurt from artificially smiling at her Samsung smartphone! That’s why, for Christmas, my brothers and I got her an intro to photography book. But more on that later…
We drove to downtown SF, where my mom used to hang out when she was attending SF State University, back in the olden days. We arrived at this scenic area overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and got out of the car. My mom led us along a trail, where she claims she used to jog at night when she was a student. I asked her if she had to “bundle up” in warm clothes when she jogged (my mom always makes us wear lots of layers when there’s even the slightest breeze outside), but to my surprise, she said she usually didn’t! As I don’t know much about my mom and her college days, I really appreciated her sharing some old stories. She recalled how, some days, she would walk along Broadway Street with friends, and her friend Cindy would shout her name really loudly. Unbeknownst to her, a “short Italian man” working as a strip club bouncer soon caught on. Every time my mom passed by the strip club to get back to her apartment after class, this bouncer would call her by her name and attempt to converse/flirt with her! At first, my mom was polite and smiled back, but eventually, she became “annoyed and angry” at this man, whom she did not care to associate with. One day, she called him off, telling him, “Stop talking to me!” That, I must say, was pretty bad-ass of my mom.
At around 3:30 p.m., we headed back home to get ready for the Christmas Eve party at our family friends’ house. I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say that we were all exhausted from the few hours we spent in SF. Chris and I fell asleep the entire car ride home. I felt sorry for my dad, who had to drive us there and back, and was probably even more tired than us kids. But the thing is, my dad never complains, even when he comes home from a long and hectic day at the hospital. I really admire that about him.
Once we arrived home, we all got dressed and dolled-up for the Christmas Party, hosted by long-time family friends, Auntie Ella and Uncle Henry. I always love their annual Christmas parties! Uncle Henry is an amazing chef, and Auntie Ella is always the most welcoming host and charismatic M.C.
When we arrived at Auntie Ella and Uncle Henry’s home, people were already filing in, and the kitchen was busy with preparation for the feast. Austin, Chris, my grandma and I got our own little table in corner of the house, while my parents sat at the large roundtable with other adults. Appetizers were already laid out– white grapes, little slices of sourdough bread and cool ranch flavored nacho chips with blue cheese dipping sauce. In the beginning, as not a lot of people were present yet, my brothers and I mingled amongst ourselves, nibbling on appetizers and trying to teach my grandma how to use the internet on her smartphone (a lost cause, as we soon discovered). My mom insisted on taking a plethora of photos, as the house was so beautifully decorated for Christmas. One thing that ticks off me and my brothers is my mom’s tendency to take FOREVER to snap a single photo on her phone. You would think that, with smartphones, it would take less than two seconds to take a picture. But no!! My mom has to get the lighting perfect before taking the photo. The problem is, you can only hold your smile for so long until the muscles in your face start to tire, and your smile because painfully fake. I’ve found that in such cases, when the muscles of my face start quivering with exhaustion and I feel like I can hold my smile no longer, squeezing the shirt hem of the person standing next to me (usually my brother) can help. Or, I just laugh at Chris’s loud grumbling that naturally follows when my mom is being slow. A third trick is to have someone, usually Austin, say something funny to make me laugh, so my smile is no longer so forced. Little things like that help a lot.
Later, as more guests arrived and familiar faces of people we see once every year at these Christmas parties appeared, I left our assigned table to work the room and mingle. Take that, social anxiety!
At nearly 8:00 p.m., the feast was ready. Boy, was it one heck of a dinner! Everything was cooked by Uncle Henry, whose birthday we were celebrating in addition to Christmas! Laid out buffet style were an assortment of salads, mushroom stew, corn bread, lobster, king crab, beef tenderloin, grilled vegetables, lobster soup, oysters, linguini, and lots lots more. Before lining up to fill our plates, Uncle Henry said a prayer, in Cantonese. The thing is, not everyone at the party understood Cantonese! So, mid-prayer, one lady said “Amen” prematurely. It was all I could do to stop myself from laughing out loud. I accidentally let a laugh or two escape from my mouth, and Austin, who was grinning himself, kicked me under the table. I feel bad that I would find something like that funny, instead of sympathizing with the poor woman, who must have felt quite embarrassed. Why couldn’t I have acted a little more maturely? Well, anyway, I asked my dad later if he found the incident funny, and he replied, “Kind of.” Which, if you know my dad, is saying A LOT, since he is very serious most of the time.
After the prayer, tables were called up randomly to get food. Despite eating a large lunch earlier in the day, I still went for two complete rounds of main course and one round of dessert. I tried pretty much everything, except the mushroom stew, since I’ve never liked mushrooms since as long as I can remember. I also stayed away from the seafood, since I’m not a huge fan of the creatures of the sea. Nonetheless, everything was so marvelously presented and tasted even better than it looked! It was so funny– before the masses were unleashed to have at the food, everyone crowded around the kitchen to take pictures of the incredible feast. It was like a freaking paparazzi party in the house! For dessert, I had fruit (good Belicia) and two slices of cake– tiramisu and chocolate (naughty Belicia). I tried Uncle Henry’s homemade orange cream soda, which tasted absolutely delicious!
After dinner was game time! In the past, game time (in any context) was always an ordeal for me, as it involved interacting with others and letting your personality loose, which I wasn’t always comfortable with doing. Tonight was testament to how far I’ve come in overcoming my social anxiety, as I didn’t find myself nearly as nervous as I used to be during game time! Sure, I did feel that momentary flurry of nerves during the raffle game, when Uncle Henry read out the winning ticket numbers. A part of me wanted to win a prize, while another (more familiar) part of me didn’t want to, as winning entailed walking in front of all those people and being the center of attention, if only for a single moment. In the end, no one in my family won a raffle prize! It was definitely a stark contrast to last year, when our family won several prizes between the five of us!
After games were over, we decided to check out for the night. It was a night of great food, great fun and great people. Christmas spirit was in the air, and I really appreciate Auntie Ella and Uncle Henry for their tremendous efforts to impart such joy to their friends each holiday season. I fell asleep on the ride home and was so tired that I decided to call it a night once I had changed into my pj’s and zoomed through my night routine.
I woke up around 10 a.m. to rays of sunlight seeping through the cracks of the curtains. After finishing my morning routine, I headed downstairs and saw my dad and two brothers already up and about. After wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, I sat down at the dining table and ate some cereal with almond milk. My mom was still upstairs, probably sleeping in.
After breakfast, I headed out to the living room for present-opening time! This year, we didn’t put up a Christmas tree. I’m pretty sure we discontinued the tradition a few years back. Our family is not super enthusiastic about Christmas, but we still celebrate. As usual, stockings hung above the fireplace, beckoning to be emptied. I spotted some presents from our Uncle Richard and Auntie Ruth sitting on the table. Being the impatient person I am, I decided to open my present first. Auntie Ruth got me these super comfy and fashionable Adidas sweat pants! I immediately put them on (well, I went back to my room first to put them on) and wore ’em for the rest of the day!
Once I had opened the first present, the others filed into the living room and followed in suit. From our Uncle and Auntie, Chris got this snazzy black bow tie (great for his piano recitals) while Austin got an equally snazzy skinny black tie. My dad usurped my mom’s role of photographer during this present-opening ritual. But where in the world was my mom?
Shortly after we started opening presents, my mom came rushing down in her nightgown and, without a word, started opening Macy’s boxes and digging out old Christmas-present bags. She later apologized for not having the presents ready on time. She was so tired the night before, she wait straight to bed without wrapping presents! We forgive you, Mom! Meanwhile, Austin, Chris and I all pitched in for Dad’s present– a Warrior’s hoodie! He put it on, and we were glad to see that it fit like a charm.
While Mom continued her last-minute wrapping of presents, I tried my hand at the baby grand piano sitting in the living room. I opened a hymn book and played the right hand melody of “Noel”. I started piano when I was six years old, but quit in 8th grade when gymnastics and school became too time-consuming. Chris was the only one of the three of us who continued, and look at where he is now! Anyway, the only two pieces I can play on piano now are Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata (first movement). My dad was pleasantly surprised that I could still play some. When Chris sight-read “Noel” from the hymn book, he could immediately do both hands at a decent tempo. Compared to Chris, my piano skills are nothing, lol.
Eventually, my mom brought out five large, present-filled bags into the living room’s center. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting any more presents besides the one from Uncle Richard and Auntie Ruth, just because I explicitly told my mom and dad that I didn’t want anything for Christmas this year. Going to UCLA in itself is the best present anyone could ask for. My mother disregarded my wishes (although, I am not complaining). Before we started opening more presents, we wanted our grandma to be with us for the ceremony, but she was in her room, asleep. My grandma has been feeling under the weather for the past few days, so we decided to not disturb her as she convalesced.
With each present we opened, my dad snapped a picture of us holding our respective gifts. Austin, Chris and I also pitched in to get our mom an intro to photography book, since she just LOVES taking pictures. She was very pleased when she opened her gift.
To my surprise, Austin had so lovingly gotten presents for both me and Chris! He got me this book-shaped desk organizer, since I love reading and my desk is pretty cluttered, with random pens and pencils and other stationary scattered every which way. He also got me this UCLA tote bag that he’d received for free during move-in weekend, lol. I felt kind of bad for not getting Austin anything this Christmas. I’m thinking of getting him and Chris a belated-Christmas present.
While material presents are wonderful, Christmas is about the spirit of giving, loving, and being together with those you care about. I honestly could not ask for a better Christmas. For once, my dad was not working on Christmas Day, so it was a treat just to have him spending the holiday with us this year. I really wish my grandmother wasn’t sick, so she could’ve been a part of the festivities.
After opening presents and throwing away the shreds of wrapping paper, Austin had the ingenious idea of watching the Christmas classic, Elf, as a family! So we gathered round the dining room tv and watched the movie while eating dim-sum leftovers for lunch. My mom brought out fresh black cherries and salted edamame as movie snacks. It was a great family bonding time.
The movie ended around 3:30 p.m. We had about an hour before we needed to get ready for another Christmas party at a family friend’s home! I used that hour to take a nap. After waking to the sound of Chris yelling at me to get ready, I scrolled through my closet in search of a festive outfit for the party. I eventually settled for a bright red top and black pants. I put on my new dangling golden earrings from Forever 21. For makeup, I kept it really really simple. Pretty much left it at lip gloss. Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of make up. I have acne, so piling foundation on top of my face just clogs up my pores and causes more breakouts. Plus, I’m a believer in natural beauty. Sometimes, I find that I look better fresh-faced without an ounce of makeup on my face, than I do with makeup on!
At around 5:30 p.m., we finally left the house. My grandmother, who originally did not want to go to the party because of her cough, decided last-minute that she was strong enough to go.
We arrived at Uncle Peter and Auntie Eva’s home at around 6:15 p.m. Also present were Uncle Peter and Auntie Eva’s son, Justin; Uncle Peter’s sisters, Auntie Theresa, Auntie Mary (who is my godmother), and Auntie Moi; Auntie Theresa’s husband, Uncle Ken, and their son and daughter, Mark and Michelle; Peter, Theresa, Mary, and Moi’s father; Auntie Mary’s Pomeranian, Cream, and Uncle Peter’s Pomeranian, Beanie. It was indeed a full house.
We were greeted with joy and Christmas spirit. Everyone was wearing Santa hats and ugly sweaters and red and green clothing! There was a Christmas tree at the corner of the house with presents piled underneath. The dinner was hot-pot style, so there were two dining tables set up, each with a pot of boiling soup base at the center. The set-up of the tables was amazing! The big plates and wooden chopsticks were designated for holding raw food, while the little black plate and red chopsticks were for cooked food. The utensils were wrapped really nicely in festive cloth napkins. In the kitchen were raw meats, veggies, fish balls and tofu that we put on our plates, brought back to the table, and placed in the hot pots for cooking. Also in the kitchen was a sauce-making station where we could mix soy sauce and other spices and oils together to dip our boiled meats and veggies in.
While I did have my reservations about how conducting a hot pot dinner with so many people would play out, I have to say, this dinner was marvelously organized and ran very smoothly! The only hiccup of the night had nothing to do with the dinner itself. Towards the beginning of the evening, when we had just arrived and taken off our shoes and coats, my grandmother missed a step and fell down on her back, crashing into some chairs in the process. Because of her illness, she was more disoriented than usual, and thus was less aware of her surroundings. During her fall, she grabbed onto the nearest object, which happened to be Austin. Austin was unable to fully catch her, but he did break her fall significantly. My grandma’s fall was further cushioned by the puffy black jacket she was wearing. The incident was scary, unexpected, and caught everyone off guard, but thankfully, my grandmother emerged unscathed.
For dessert, we had homemade tiramisu cake, courtesy of Uncle Ken! There were two cakes, actually– one with rum and one without. The one without rum was circular in shape with “Lady Finger” cookies lining the circumference. I helped myself to 2 servings, since it was THAT good! Also for dessert was homemade fruit salad, which was equally delicious and just a tad healthier.
Uncle Peter and Auntie Eva got the three of us these awesome mug-bowl fusions that are perfect for college students. Will definitely be putting mine to good use once I head back to school!
At around 9-something p.m., it was time to say our goodbyes. I really enjoyed spending my Christmas with some wonderful and kind-hearted people. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep on the car ride home (I do that a lot nowadays). Either that, or I listened to Katy Perry’s Rise on repeat whilst doing some mental dance choreography. Once we got home, I did my night routine and started writing this Christmas-extravaganza blog post! At around midnight, I decided to call it a night, after a weekend of fun and celebration!
- my family
- our family friends
- my godmother
- the wonderful memories of this past weekend that I can hold on to forever
- my Christmas presents
- good food!!!
Thanks for reading this super long Christmas Blogmas Special, and have a great last few days of 2016!
*RIP George Michael. A talented soul departed too soon.