Monday, June 27, 2016

Temporarily Separated

When Lily was away at Lisbon, Portugal for her solo adventure, I filled in her roles at home.

Mommy roles

The main worries I had that week was about Justin's Solo drive to Austin, and Nicholas' final exams.

The day Lily left for Lisbon was the day Justin came home from his first independent vacation to California with a couple of friends. He would leave home in two days again, driving solo to Austin for his summer research fellowship. He drove long distance quite a few times already with passengers, so I was not worried about his driving. The main concern was that he might fall asleep behind the wheel due to lack of sleep the night before. So in that two days I kept telling him about driving safety - no cell phone call and no texting while driving, sleep well the night before the drive and take breaks during the trip ... I reminded him one more time before I went to bed the night before, "you will drive long distance tomorrow, don't go to bed too late, ok?" , "ok, ok".  Finally after a Sunday dim sum branch, he was on his way .... no more safety reminder this time from me, " Be safe! let me know when you arrive at your apartment please." "Yes".

As for Nicholas' final exam week, my main responsibility was to make sure he got up on time, had a good breakfast, and left home on time on the exam days. Nicholas could do all these by himself. But my talking to him before he went to sleep, my waking him up in the mornings instead of alarm clocks, and the fact that I made the breakfast for him instead of doing it himself, made him feel at home, cared for and not missing his mom too much.

The other thing I did for Nicholas that week was to attend Jasper band parent meeting.


Lily and I  do almost everything together. Seven day separation without communication would be very hard for us, especially me. Luckily she had WiFi at her hotel there. She texted me and suggested using Skype to have video calls!

I installed Skype on my laptop right away. The first time I saw her via Skype and talked to her, I was so happy and pleased! That week I had daily video call with her, reporting what happened at home and listening to her stories of adventure in Portugal.

Other Activities

On Friday afternoon that week, while Nicholas was at the School party after the finals, I went to a crawl fish cook-out party at a colleague's lake front house. I enjoyed the Cajun flavored crawl fish, shrimps and other delicious food,  got to know Stephen's cooking talent, listened to Pete's story about the 2015 flood at Lake Lewisville .....I had a great time. I also brought home some leftover for Nicholas to enjoy :).

On Saturday, I sent Nicholas to Jasper High School for a band day camp, and then went to volunteer for CIE Math Comp/Math Fun event. I was the event organizer in 2015, and this year I was an individual contributor.

Lily would return home that night. With all these out of house activities to distract me, time flew, and the waiting was not bad. She landed at DFW at 9pm, we were in each other's arms shortly afterwards.

Lily had a good time during her Lisbon adventure,  I did well at home as a single parent. But nothing beats being together. No place is better than home. The short separation makes us cherish each other more.

Crawl fish broil
Crawl fish, shrimps, sausage, potato ,,,,on a table

with my successors at MCMF

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Fairyland of Sintra - by Lily

Visiting Lisbon - Day 3

I didn’t plan to go to Sintra until the night before. With more than a half day free at hand before my meeting starts, I decided to search up another place. And I was glad I did. After reading some reviews and pictures online, I felt Sintra is a place I must go. So I was up early in the morning and took another train to Sintra.

There are many places to go once I arrived at Sintra. I followed the signs and went uphill. The Sintra National Palace was in view right away because of its distinct snow-white twin peaks. But up on top of the mountain, among the greens and behind a veil of morning fog, there stood the Moorish Castle. A few more turns along the uphill road, I spotted a rather hidden small gate on the left side of the road. That was the head of the hiking trail. Jocelyn, a girl from Canada travelling alone, happened to be at the gate at the same time. So we headed up together chatting a bit. She had explored quite some places all over the world by herself!

Sintra National Palace
Sintra National Palace

Moorish Castle

The trail was steep at places, but it was in shade and the air was crisp with cool morning breeze. We arrived at the Moorish Castle ahead of major tourist groups. The castle spread its walls along the hill top. From above high it looked like a miniature great wall. We  spent a good hour of time exploring the castle, looking up to view the Pena Palace and looking down to see the green hill extends all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

After that, Jocelyn went up the hill to Pena Palace while I headed down hill to Quinta da Regaleira, a magic and exquisite estate. The trail has become sunny and noisy with lines of school kids heading up for picnic. I took my time and enjoyed the wild flowers blooming in the sun.

Pena Palace

Moorish Castle

Moorish Castle

The Unfinished Well

The Initiation Well

Regaleira Palace

Regaleira Palace

Inside Regaleira Palace

Inside Regaleira Palace

Quinta da Regaleira consists a romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park that features lakes, wells, fountains, and sculptures. Looking at the map I didn’t understand why the layout states 1st floor, 2nd floor, 3rd floor, etc for the park. Walking into it I realized all the places are interconnected not only by the main trail, but also by many hidden stairways, “trenches” on the hill, and underground tunnels. The fun part is going behind the curtain of waterfall and through the pitch dark tunnel reaching the wells, and then climbing up the wells. The park is filled with lush green and decorated with various sculptures and constructions. The Regaleira Palace is as royal as it can be, rich color and delicate carving everywhere.

My camera cannot fully capture what I saw and felt. But check out this website to experience the magic yourself.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Visiting Lisbon - Day 2 - by Lily

Day 2 – Belém and Cascais

Going to Belém and Cascais would require taking the train. Luckily most of the office workers can speak and understand some English, even if not, people on the street are willing to help. I had an old lady explaining to me how to buy the train ticket at kiosk three times in Portuguese! So I got on the right train without much hassle. 

25 de Abril Bridge
Belém was just a few stops outside downtown Lisbon. It was by Rio Tejo. Getting off the train I took the sky bridge to the river side. Walking along the river side I saw the 25 de Abril Bridge across the Tagus River and Christ the King on the east side, and the monument Padrão dos Descobrimentos on the west side. I headed toward the west to get an up close look at the monument. Along the way there were marinas filled with parked yachts. Further west stood the Belém tower (Torre de Belém). The tower was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Manueline style architecture. It played an important role in Portuguese maritime discoveries in the 16th-18th century. On the ground of the square by the tower there is a giant world map with Portuguese ships marked in many continents. Portugal was once a world power with colonies all over the world!

Taking the next sky bridge across the road I headed back. The other side of the road is where the Jerónimos Monastery resides. The building is expansive with complex sculptural themes and the ornate south portal is rich with intricate carving. Quite a master piece!

Grabbing some tasty pastry from a local shop I hopped back on to the train to go further west to Cascais, a small town by the Atlantic coast. It was a colorful little town with lazy beaches. Many people were sun bathing, others were playing with the ocean, swimming or paddle boarding. Local café displayed fresh fish and cooked to the order. After a nice stroll along the beach, I headed back to the city.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Torre de Belém

Torre de Belém

Jerónimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery

South Portal of Jerónimos Monastery



Fish at a local cafe


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Visiting Lisbon - Day 1 - by Lily

Lisbon, Portugal is not on my list of city to go yet, but opportunity calls, so here I am J

The day before I left home I started to panic. I realized that I had not traveled and toured all by myself ever, and I had no time to plan it yet. The day I left was the day Justin returned home from his 2-week tour in California, with a couple of his friends, without a car. My brave son set an example for me, so off I went, with a 15-page tour information on Lisbon downloaded on my phone.
Praça da Figueira
I glanced through the information and picked out a few places, a couple near downtown and a couple in longer distance. But knowing that I’d be arriving in Lisbon early in the morning, I forced myself to sleep as much as possible on the plane. It was a smooth run getting through the custom and checking in at the hotel. With a city map and metro map in hand, I was off exploring the city by 11am.

Terreiro do Paço

Santa Justa Elevator

Praça da Figueira

I took the subway to Rossio station to explore Lisbon downtown area (Baixa). The minute I stepped out of Rossio station, I saw Praça da Figueira (Square of the Fig Tree) in front of me. Following the crowd led me to the Terreiro do Paço (Commerce Square) near the Tagus River (Rio Tejo). The statue of King José I is in front of the Arch facing the Tagus River, glistening in the sunlight and looking grand. There are lot of activities on the square, music, performers, and of course food, a lot of food! Along the way I spotted the Santa Justa Elevator, there was a line of people waiting to get on to have a good view of the surrounding area. I decided to head uphill as I saw the tips of the towers there as I remembered from the tour brochure.

Terreiro do Paço

The winding roads uphill are much like San Francisco, there are also stairways to cut through the buildings, as long as you know the general direction you are heading. When in doubt, I just followed the tourists or tour bus route (tram track) J Sé Cathedral is in Romanesque style and solemn looking, the service was on and the music was touching. The National Pantheon was originally Church of Santa Engrácia, and currently entombed many of the illustrious Portuguese. The design was simply ingenious and magnificent. Reaching to the terrace on the 4th floor I had spectacular view of the city, from hilltop to the river. São Jorge’s Castle required some time to explore, the forte was extensive and intricate.

Sé Cathedral

Inside Sé Cathedral

Inside National Pantheon
Inside National Pantheon

Inside São Jorge’s Castle
São Jorge’s Castle

Heading down hill, I passed through the Alfama area, where street arts, café, and Fado music are everywhere. It reminded me the hutong in old Beijing J
Back to the Commerce Square, I had my meal of the day, egg tart and sausage sandwich, two famous items in Portugal.

The city spread from hill top to Tagus River

São Jorge’s Castle

A city packed with red roof tops

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Two Love Songs

 "Thinking out loud - people fall in love in mysterious way",

"Because you loved me",

These are two relative old songs I heard during watching NBC show Voice competitions, which resonated with me. I dedicate them to my love.

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I'll be forever thankful
You're the one who held me up
You're the one who saw me through through it all

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you love me

You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love I had it all
I'm grateful for each day you gave me
Maybe I don't know that much
But I know this much is true
I am blessed because I am loved by you

You were always there for me
The tender wind that carried me
A light in the dark shining your love into my life
You've been my inspiration
Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you

I'm everything I am
Because you love me

We find love where we are.

I am everything I am because you love me.

We will grow old together.

Note  - excerpted is partial lyrics of the song "because you loved me", changed some grammars and words for this post to fit my purpose