Tuesday, September 13, 2016

AT on KW of the West

This is Kaye. 

She is determined, endlessly curious, a seasoned botanist, a true woman of the West, has a photographic memory, and a true Christian and loving heart. She would also win the Hunger Games without blinking an eye. 

Kaye met my mom at Utah State in Logan in the 70s. Their chance meeting is one of the many polished stories Kaye loves to tell over and over again. Fei was sitting in the front row of the class furiously trying to take notes while the professor only lectured in a low voice facing the board. At the end of class, Fei turned around with tears running down her face, muttering, "I no can do." Kaye offered to let her borrow her notes after each class and their friendship began. 

Their college stories cover all the best-of topics that a newly immigrated FOB could learn from a true American: lime jello with bananas, how to celebrate Thanksgiving, learning to go to the university cheese factory to collect free cheese samples and then recruiting all the foreign Chinese students to do the same, demanding a copy of that "golden Mormon bible" from across the classroom, and surviving the cemetery as a shortcut without ancestor ghosts following them out (so we think).

Fei loves to ask questions and Kaye loves to give answers. Neither of them can ever stop talking, and sometimes that leaves both of them talking without anyone to listen to them, except me. The simultaneous monologue is not the kind that merits or asks for a response -- a scientific tour guide of all the names of the wildlife we're passing from Kaye, and commentary on how fascinating that baby trees can grow on the sides of rocks from Fei. They talk just as easily as most people breathe, or fart and then leave you to deal with it. 

I've had almost two full weeks to spend with them this year, and I've nearly gone crazy from it. But at the same time, they are hilarious to observe and it's very precious to see how a friendship can continue to give 40 years later. 

Kaye, we are lucky to benefit from your endless love, and District 13 proudly supports you in the Hunger Games. We know that you will return our victor without a doubt. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

AT on UT

I've spent the last couple of days trekking across the great west with the dynamic duo of Kaye and Fei, Joy, and a cooler that fed us in Melodie's stead. 

In short, it was tiring and scenic. Unstoppable Kaye drove over 400 miles over the 4 days between driving from St George, Utah to Logan, Salt Lake City, Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Cedar Breaks, and Kolob Canyon. That was just day 1. Day 2 included Pioneer Park, Zion National Park, and then Kanab. Day 3 was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon with several stops along different outlook points. Here are some highlights from each day. 

Night 1
We arrived in SLC and were scheduled to pick up food from Whole Foods and bring it to the Woolfs for dinner. Mom kept asking me where everything was in the Whole Foods and seemed surprised every time I told her I actually hadn't been to the Whole Foods in Draper, Utah before. 

We stopped at Kaye's son's house on the way to say hi and get a full tour of their basement renovations and garden boxes. Their 4 kids were delighted to show us around and pick all of their mom's vegetables to give to us. 
Pumpkin, Cucumbers, Peppers, Green Peppers, Tomatoes, Beets, Mom...just a few things in their garden.
The Woolfs were just as gracious and kind as I remember them. They're also just as old as I remember them...it's just like they froze in time. There just weren't any butter toffee or cocker spaniels this time. 
I made some friends at the Woolfs.
Day 1
Kaye picked us up at 6 am and we rolled out at 630 am so we could start our ambitious national park trek before rush hour traffic. That lady can drive. I can sleep. We used our fortes to multi-task. 

Our first stop was the Red Canyons, gateway to Bryce Canyon National Park. Here we learned about our favorite tree the whole trip: the ponderosa pine. It has reddish bark and the pine needles grow in groups of 3 in each piney growth. The best part is that the bark smells like butterscotch and vanilla. The connection to food really drove home with us. 
Kaye teaching Joy about Ponderosa Pines.
At Bryce Canyon National Park, we went to Sunset Point to the lookout point and then the Navajo Loop Trail. Kaye guided Fei to only go down a couple switchbacks so that she could also make the walk back up the incline. Fei kept wanting to go further down but Kaye kept her in check. Reports are that going back up 4 back and forth was plenty hard so it was the right decision. 
View down into the Navajo Trail.
Fei and Kaye

Joy and I continued through the Navajo Trail which is just a good 1.3 miles, though with a fairly steep incline on the way back. We loved it - the trail takes you through a deep crevasse and then around and back up to Sunset Point. What's really cool is how quiet it is as you go down, even if there are 2 tour buses of Japanese school boys right behind you. 
Made it to the rock where everyone takes photos!

After our hike and picnic, we headed to Cedar Breaks. It's called Cedar breaks because of cedar...and breaks refer to how the rocks break...away....I did read that informational panel Kaye led me to. I was too cold at this point that was 10,350 feet up so I promptly ran back inside after we took a photo with a ranger who excitedly took a picture with us instead of for us. I wore her hat anyway to humor her. 

The last stop was Kolob Canyon. At this point I was pretty tired and jaded by nature, even though I recognized it was pretty. Then Unstoppable Kaye charged us to her home to St George. She suggested we go to see the cactus garden, and I told her I would like to eat. 

Day 2
On day 2, I learned about the many climates of the West and especially the desert. It was cold when we got up, and then it was instantly hot. And it was so. Hot. I haven't really remembered feeling hot since moving to Chicago but a handful of times, so it was pretty rough. I tried to be a good sport but my body just kept shutting off instead and I'd go to sleep. Luckily, Joy was awake and cool enough to play with their granddaughter Natalie who ran around Pioneer Park showing us all her favorite holes in the red rock formations. They were pretty awesome. And she was pretty adorable. 
Cute Natalie
Joy and I tried out all the rocks.
Then we all went on to Zion National Park -- adventurers + Dave and Natalie. I fell asleep some more. We stopped to see ostriches on the way because I guess that's something you can do in Utah, raise ostriches just because they're ostriches. One came to say hi to us. 

At Zion National Park, we spent the first hour trying to find each other because we'd driven to different parking lots. This taught me that mind speak is not possible even if you've been married for 40 years. 

We had lunch and then got ready to take the shuttle up to the hiking areas. When I learned that our shuttle stop was 40 minutes away, I laid back to conserve myself and not have a fit from overheating. So my mom yelled at me all the way up the mountain to wake up because I was missing the nature with my eyes closed. Luckily Kaye was there to discipline her. 

At the top, there was a nice stop by the river to enjoy shade and hang out. Then I felt more human. I laid on a rock to look up at the cliffs above, and then Fei's face hovered over my pleasant view. 

"What are you doing?! Are you okay!"
"I'm being peaceful!!"
Kaye then shooed her away. 

Kaye, Joy, and I went on a short hike to see the start of the Narrows which is a popular hike. We got to the end and took some photos for mom, and then we stopped and laid on a rock to soak up the scenery. I fell asleep. Twice. 

From Zion, Kaye had picked another hike at Checkerboard Mesa for us explore but recognized we were too tired so we skipped it. It's too bad though, because it seemed like the cooler hike between that and the Narrows hike. But it was for the better to just drive, stop, and take photos for everyone. This is mom's favorite way to enjoy nature anyhow. 
I'm trying to smile.
Joy really enjoyed this stop.

We drove on through the tunnel that connects Zion with the other side (don't know which exactly) and onto Kanab. In Kanab, population of Best Friends society and Grand Canyon tourists, we visited both grocery stores to see the sights. The visits were fruitful though because we continued to congratulate ourselves on how we were feeding 4 people for 3 meals for only $53 for the rest of the trip. 

Afterwards, we tried to go see stars on a secluded hill but it was too cloudy. But the clouds wee really beautiful glowing in the moonlight and we enjoyed those too -- in silence, which we had to keep reminding Fei was one of the instructions. 

Day 3
On the last full day, we walked across the parking lot to the church and attended sacrament meeting. It was at this time that I also discovered that I did not, in fact, pack a skirt. They let me in anyway. 

Then it was onto the Grand Canyon. The first stop was Jacob's Lake with a cute gift shop and bakery.  When Kaye told us about Jacob's Lake the night before, she told us there was a nice bakery at this stop that made a lot of homemade yummies. "Ooh!" was our collective response. There was no response when she followed with "North Rim Grand Canyon."  
Here's the bread, mom!

But we did actually ooh and aah when we got to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was spectacular! The Grand Canyon lodge provides a wonderful nature viewing room with rows of couches that just look out into the canyon. This was mom's perfect way to enjoy nature, I thought. 
Windows to nature...

We walked out to the easy lookout point and enjoyed the views of the canyon on both sides which were both different and beautiful. I think the Grand Canyon was my favorite. It was both grand and canyon. 

We felt energized from the grandeur of the canyon and told Kaye we wanted her to keep driving so we could see all the lookout points. So we went. "Where's the bread?!" my mom kept asking as we looked at the map of the Grand Canyon, not realizing Jacob's Lake was the bakery Kaye mentioned and still wondering when we would get to eat bread. 

We stopped at all the pull out areas on the way to Cape Royal at the end of the winding road. Our favorites were Vista Encantada, Woolhalla, and an unofficial stop close to Cape Royal (it was too late to go on the hike by the time we got there). Roosevelt Point was underwhelming in comparison. 
Vantage point from Cape Royal
Finally back to St. George to Kaye's home. We arrived around 9 pm, and then mom invited an old friend she'd rediscovered through another friend who now lives close to Kaye to come over. We visited for a while and glossed over what had happened to our families respectively over the last 29 years. 

They finally left and I melted down and went to sleep. 

Day 4
Joy and I chose flights out of Vegas since Kaye said a 2 hour drive is short for her and it made for better flight itineraries. We loaded out early and drove to Vegas. Don't worry, we stopped to take a photo at the St. George post office before we left for Vegas. 

We got to Vegas early so we stopped by the Bellagio to pee. Earlier in the car, Fei said she wanted to see the chocolate shop in the Bellagio but Kaye told her the Ethel M's chocolate was better so they didn't need to. As soon as we peed, Fei started mumbling in Chinese that she wanted to see the chocolate so she broke off to go ask the concierge where the chocolate shop is. She did this while Kaye was orating about the different displays the Bellagio sets up in the garden, and then when she turned around and saw Fei doing her own thing, she went and grabbed her over to listen about the garden. Fei said, "Garden?" And then we were allowed to visit the chocolate. Now the two 65-year old are on the loose tearing Vegas apart I'm sure (aka eating all the chocolate samples).

So ends the epic adventures across the Wild West. Or perhaps more aptly named, Mobile Nature Picnic with Fei and Kaye. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Very Sister Weekend

The great rainstorm on the way to Spoke & Bird

Harold Washington Library - winter garden
Secret Life of Pets matinee
Learning to engage our posterior chain doing cleans
Snack plate and Joy bday party

Late night Antique Taco

Rainstorm and lazy tv morning
Snaggletooth fish fat and the cute fishmonger

The walk to nowhere

Pilsen Fest on accident

Foraging dinner continues at La Casa del Pueblo grocery store

Goat dinner at La Birreria de Oaxacatlan

The feast of the foragers
All Olympics all night long

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ginza 2016 Day 1

Today was such a good Ginza day. I washed rice and steamed rice, sold corn and shucked corn and grilled corn, scraped out chicken grease and caramelized teriyaki sugar from a giant wok, and rode the chicken juice cart to the dumpster. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

We are Maamiff

Melodie and I recently discovered that we are a pair of Instagram cats called Maamiff. I am Brown Cat (Michan) and she is White Cat (Fuchan). https://www.instagram.com/maamiff/

One of our many favorite ways to correspond is via cat captions. It's like a constant game of "caption this" which turns out to be incredibly easy when you speak Cat. Here are some of my recent favorites. Sometimes their captions are also very fitting as well.

This one was particularly delightful to me since I actually did have a stye when they posted this one. 

And also like me and Melodie, Brown Cat and White Cat are always together, and Brown Cat seeks out more attention. They also have excellent taste in food.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Who's the one that loves to play?

(Hi Tiana)

I just love the movie Inside Out. I've watched it 3 times in its entirety, and parts of it several other times between falling asleep on planes.

I cry every time -- every time when Bing Bong realizes that Riley doesn't need him anymore, when Bing Bong sacrifices himself, when Sadness helps Bing Bong feel better unknowingly, when Joy realizes the purpose of Sadness, when all of Riley's islands crumble beneath her, and when they all rebuild and her memories come back as more multi-colored and complex.

I cry when I feel like I'm 11 years old, learning about the world and being forced to change. I want my islands to stay the same forever and for Bing Bong to fly me to the moon on his song-powered rainbow wagon.

But I guess if Disney wanted me to learn a lesson, it's this -- that we can grow more islands without losing the original ones, that more colors are good colors, and that Bing Bong's always got your back.

Who's your friend who likes to play?
Bing Bong, Bing Bong
His rocket makes you yell "Hooray!"
Bing Bong, Bing Bong
Who's the best in every way, and wants to sing this song to say
Bing Bong, Bing Bong!

Also, that it's OK to cry.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Fourth of July 2016

This past weekend was one of the most weekend-y weekends I've had in a long time. A bunch of Mark's friends came into town, coupled with a nice string of other events, and it turned out to the loveliest of lovely weekends.

On Friday, Tyler's band, Tyler Imbrey and the Ghost Review, played the opening set at House of Blues. They were really good! I see their inspiration as Counting Crows x Dave Matthews Band, though I haven't confirmed that with the actual members. The best part to me was how much fun they were having -- they were clearly loving their own pieces and the stage time. It's fun to watch other people have fun.

Saturday morning, I had another morning swim date with Glen. We went to the Ping Tom pool, and by the time we got there and got checked in there were only 20 minutes of lap swim time left but we crammed in a few laps so it was worth it. Then we went to Spoke & Bird for a nice outdoor cafe brunch. I'm waiting for the rest of the South Loop to catch up to its cuteness.

Then Melodie had people over to grill, and we did our usual of a feast fit for 20 people for a party of...less than 20 people. We had pork ribs, chicken wings, pork bratwurst, portobello mushrooms, purple onions, slaw, pea mash a la Melodie, watermelon, berries, and strawberry rhubarb pie by Rachel. We are good at winning summer.

After that, Rachel and I headed to meet Tiana at Summer Dance where they were teaching Two Step. It's the easiest dance in the world, and the sun and slow instructions made it kind of boring, so...

Cut to Magic Berry tasting! We've been talking about eating magic berries to see the difference it makes in the taste of stuff for over 2 years, so we finally got the berries to try it. It makes everything sour taste sweet, so we tasted lemons and limes and oranges and watermelon and cheese and apple cider vinegar and berries...I think I ate 4 lemons. They tasted like candy.

I thought about a nap, but then I remembered a greater mission we had for the Fourth weekend -- to write our hit summer single Summer Flame, a song about finding your summer love by the grill. Rachel and I scrubbed up a few lyrics we'd started earlier in the week and had a not-so-bad-if-i-say-so-myself song in about 2 hours. She plays the guitar, I play the lentil jar, and we both sing. Here are the lyrics:

Summer Flame <-- click to play
by Rachel and Alexa

Verse 1
Ooh girl, when I saw you by the grill
I got a summer chill
watchin' you as I flip burgers

Ooh girl, I'll have to take a pill
to cool this summer grill
My corn cob's on the burner

Hey bae, you're my summer flame
and I don't want this light to go out
May-bay, you make me go insane
you've sparked the match of love, no doubt
Cray cray, you've got my head all dizzy
making me turn cirlces on the ro-ti-sserie
You --- my summer flame

Verse 2
Ooh girl, I saw you from afar
Checkin' out my burger char
and you got out of the pool

Ooh girl, you walked up to the bar
super smokin' hot you are
Like hot peppers, make me drool

Hey bae, you're my summer flame
and I don't want this light to go out
May-bay, you make me go insane
you've sparked the match of love, no doubt
Cray cray, you've got my head all dizzy
making me turn cirlces on the ro-ti-sserie
You --- my summer flame

And the rest of the weekend after that doesn't even matter. Happy Fourth of July, everyone!