Saturday, June 25, 2011

Picking Blueberry

School was over for two weeks, North Texans have seen a few 100F hot days' already, and children start to get restless inside. It was time to go outside and it was time to pick some blueberry.

Picking blueberry in early summer has become a family tradition for us in recent years. We went to blueberry picking every year at local berry farms - mostly with one of Justin and/or Nicholas' friends and his/her family. Last Saturday we went to Bailey's Berry Patch at Sadler, about 60 miles north of Dallas, with 4 other families.

As we walked close to the berry patch on this hot, windy Saturday morning, we saw that the west side of the patch had quite a few bare spots, and many berry trees were barely a foot tall comparing to the usually 6 foot tall trees. We went to the east side. Even there I could hardly see anything blue on the berry trees! Nevertheless we started searching for ripe blueberries, with a low target of picking 1 bucket of blueberries from the whole family for the morning. Under the sunny blue sky, with live country music from the farm's store, we looked for blueberries by walking around it, changing viewing angles by squatting by the tree, and we could find one or a few full ripe blueberries once for a while!! After about 90 minutes, we picked only about half bucket of blueberries. This is apparently not a good year - in previous years we could easily pick 2 buckets of large blueberries in 2 hours. It turned out that the hails this spring did much the damage. The change to less experienced owners did not help either.

We quit picking berry around 10am, and stopped at the store to enjoy the live music, chat with each other, and cold water or drinks. The four girls in our group each had a face or body painting there.

Despite the fact that picking blueberry this morning was more like panning gold, we enjoyed it - finding blueberries, breathing fresh country air, and listening to live country music.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sagrada Familia 2

Internal architecture of Sagrada Familia is as amazing as its external appearance.

As I walked into the church, the first thing amazed me is its ceiling height and the many tall columns - a column goes up ~100feet then splits into three branches, two branches would reach the lower ceiling, the other branch splits again into 3 more branches, the 3 secondary branches reached to the top ceiling. The ceiling itself is made of sunflower like decorations. I felt like I was in some exotic forest.

On the right, there is a cross under a golden umbrella, with Jesus on it. There is a skylight above the altar - I believe that it symbolizes the connection to God. There is an area of pews in front of the cross. On the left is the main hall with columns on both sides. There are balconies on both sides - for choir, large enough for 1100 people up there.

When I looked up, I saw sunlight from windows large and small; some windows have colored patterns on them, and what is unique is that the windows themselves are formed via patterns of flower petals.

I would say that the most unique feature of Sagrada Familia, as the national geographic article said, is its nature inspired architect - externally and interally. It is a must see if one visits Barcelona.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Memorial Day Remembrance

My one week business trip to Barcelona in mid May disrupted our family routine. We did not plan special activities for the Memorial Day long weekend. So the weekend was almost no difference from a regular weekend, until Memorial Day afternoon.

On Memorial Day afternoon, we worked on a small family project of reorganizing our family room via furniture rearrangement. This reminded me of my mother.

My mother liked to make changes to her home by rearranging furniture and decorations. I remember that we made changes to our two rooms in an apartment every year since my 4th or 5th grade. Mom would be an interior designer every time we made the change: she would draw her floor plan on a paper, the children would help to measure dimensions. Her main objectives of the re-arrangement were to make changes and to make the room appear open and large. She might change her mind a bit, or the children made small suggestions when furniture was roughly in new positions. We always tweaked furniture or decoration positions from floor plan until the room was felt right. Since none of us was strong, moving furniture around was actually a very big deal for us. It was worthwhile though - every time the move itself was an excitement, the effects were multiple - the rooms were refreshing and familiar at the same time; the changes actually made us feel a sense of renewal! and the room was cleaned thoroughly.

Lily initiated the Memorial Day project some time ago since she wanted to change TV's location from east wall to north wall of the family room. I started it by proposing to her to make the move that afternoon.

Our initial plan was to rotate furniture in the room by 90 degree - TV from east wall to north wall, love seat from south to east; large sofa from west to south. Justin and I moved the TV and sofas into their new position; every move revealed dirty carpet, and lost items. The carpet was vacuum cleaned and all the moved items were dusted off thoroughly. He then left for his friend's house for a project.

After the move, the family room felt crowded, smaller than before because west wall was empty and east wall was cramped. So Lily and I moved love seat from east wall to west wall; adjusted tea table orientation, moved end tables around. Now the room looked much better. Lily went back to her work. I stood there, looking at the new family room. There was still something not quite right - center of a picture frame and that of TV were not aligned, and then there was a large empty space at northwest corner. The alignment issue was easily resolved.

Still standing in the breakfast room, I was thinking about moving a plant at the front door entrance to the empty northwest corner. Lily suggested to place a big tree at the corner instead. A large green tree at the corner was like a final touch of a beautiful drawing, it made the family room look and feel ideal for me.

Lily liked the new family room very much. Justin marveled at the new family room when he came back from his excursion. When he came back to the house again after evening soccer play, he kept exclaiming that the family room was nice and cozy!!!

It was not an ordinary weekend after all: a pleasant remembrance of my mother, a great team work with Lily and Justin to make our home better.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


On the way home from Barcelona, May 20, I did not bring anything to read, instead I planned to clean up the 8G memory on my camera, which I stored almost all 2300+ photos taken since our Alaska trip in 2009. It took me two 1-hour stretches to go through all the photos and remove ~ 700 photos I did not want to store on the memory any more. While dozing off during the flight, twenty or so pictures of Lily and I kept flashing back:

It was Lily and I all bundled up on the deck of Cruise Rydam in front of Hubbard Glacier, held each other at waists.

It was Lily and I sitting on the scenic train from Denali to Anchorage, I leaned back on her.

We stood by Kunmin Lake at Summer Palace in Beijing

In Shanghai, People's square, I hugged Lily from back - hands expanded on top of hers - prominently displaying our 10 year anniversary ring and watch - both of us smiling.

Then on the trail of Caddo Bend at Lake Ouachita, we stood shoulder to shoulder .....

The photo of I hugging her from back reminded of a photo we had 17 years ago, at a 4th of July party, shortly after we were engaged. In the older photo, I was sitting on the lawn, one hand on my knee; Lily was kneeling right behind me, one hand on my shoulder, another holding my ringed hand. We showed off our $40 a pair engagement rings with wide smiles.

I smiled in my doze. I could not wait to be home with her.