Monday, December 1, 2014

show me, don't tell me

Have no fear, you will find your way it is in your bones, it is in your soul. The little cutie, is my mom looking stylish with her fancy Mandarin-collar dress. My mom actually found this dress years later. I was able to get one photo of my daughter wearing it.

Life is a wild ride. Just trust your journey. At times, it seems like nothing makes sense. In some moments (and months) sense can not be made. Eventually things get back on track. It all works out.

Two things define you, your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything. This is one of my favorite photos of my mom. She looks so happy, pure joy. This photo was taken at the Lake Sarah cabin years and years before it would be remodeled.

Be sure you place your feet in the right place then stand firm. Adorable, look at my Grandpa's tie! Clearly this photo is from the 1970s. They were vacationing in Florida. My Grandparents were always renegades, trying new things, ideas and doing things they believed in. They helped start the Chinese American Association of Minnesota back in 1967.

Chinese American Association of Minnesota (CAAM) is the oldest and largest Chinese American community organization in Minnesota. Tracing its history to the Chinese American Club gatherings at Nankin Cafe dating back to the 1930s, CAAM was founded by Nankin Cafe’s owner, Walter James in 1951 and incorporated with his help in 1967. My Grandfather, Stanley Chong was the president of CAAM 1967-68. Both of my grandparents strongly believed in preserving a good public image for the Chinese community and providing cultural events and education for future generations.

After a good dinner one can forgive anyone, even family. I love this photo mostly for the large Afro hairstyle my uncle Gary is sporting. I am going to come clean and tell a secret family story. Ready? It's a good one. So back in my junior high days, I ended up with a tiny (or maybe not so tiny) hickie on my neck from a boyfriend (now super famous ex-boyfriend). We were visiting family in Iowa. I thought my mega-thick-long hair would cover up the evidence of teen love. I was so wrong. OMG, so wrong. The uncles found the evidence. Inspired by what they found. They decided it would be best to thoroughly shame me in front of the entire family, in my Grandma's crowded living room. (even the dog, Muffy got to witness this one).

At the time, Pretty Woman was a very popular movie. The uncles decided to change the lyrics from "Pretty Woman walking down the street" to "Hickie Woman walking down the street". I was red-hot with shame and anger. It's been decades and decades since this all went down however the uncles still like to remind me with that simple tune. Thank goodness there were not Smart Phones in 1990. If this happened today, there would have been an instant video posted to Vine, Instagram, Facebook and Youtube. The uncles could have made a killer profit with ad revenue on Youtube.

When you look at your life the greatest happinesses are family happinesses. The finely style gentleman in the middle is my Great Grandfather Bill Hukill. I loved how he wore a Bolo tie, made fresh homemade bread and had the best eyewear. Since I was the oldest Great-Grandchild, I was able to spend a fair amount of time with Great Grandpa Hukill. Maybe it was old age or his genuine personality, but he was always so calm and reassuring. I loved visiting with him. I am so grateful for my time with him. It makes me sad when I see this photo, all those sweet little babies never really got the chance to know him. Great Grandpa Hukill died about a year after this photo.

Cherish the times with your elders and your family. You never know when the end will come. And once they are gone, the sweet stories and gentle voices are gone. Put down your phones, shut your laptops during the holidays. Be present with your family, learn about those amazing stories, pull out old photos and ask questions. Time moves too fast.

Smart folks know that the kid table is the best table in the house. Yeah Grandma Winnie's kitchen with Grandma Winnie! This was after Grandma got a new table (sans the Paisley Patterned vinyl chairs and wild wallpaper). I love that she would eat with us at the kids' table. I have the best memories managing that table. I was the oldest cousin, so I often served at the sit-in-babysitter while the parents got liquor-filled drinks in the other room. No problem, I loved the giggly moments with the cousins.

This year was my first Thanksgiving without any Grandparents. I am living in denial.  I didn't go home to Iowa. I could not do it. The thought of Grandma Winnie not being there with all of us, was too heartbreaking. I know that no one can live forever, but sometimes you wish some people got special exemptions.

Three kids means that there are often cereal box walls at my kitchen table. For the love of Buddha "Speak only if you can improve the silence". My youngest makes me insane! He is amazing, witty, bright and fun but he really knows how to make me lose my cool. The other day I told him "just sit there and do nothing. I just need a minute".

His response "I can't do nothing. Sitting is not nothing, it's sitting. See I am still doing something, I'm sitting. Hello, you are not looking at me".

Or the time that his was smacking his older brother in the backseat while I was attempting to drive. I threw one arm back there to break up the fight and heart this classic statement "Are you giving me a high-five?"


Wonder where this all started? click here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

show me, don't tell me

Do not rush and never settle. If it is meant to be, it will be. My Great Aunt Grace was a world traveler, spoke several languages, amazing photographer, seamstress with a killer sense of style. I wish I could have met her. I am certain her stories would be glorious. She was more feisty in the 1940s than gals I know today. 

Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is the best thing for you. This photo is from the 1940's in Loring Park, Minnesota. My Mother in her latest Winter Snowsuit with my Grandfather, Stanley.

Old ways will not open new doors. My mom, Great Aunt Grace and my Grandmother, Marvel all fancy in their Winter coats and furs. Most likely, Great Aunt Grace made her coat. I have a few of her handmade coats, they fit me perfectly.

See the light in others and treat them as if that is all you see. It is good advice, a bit hard to follow sometimes. Try it for a whole day or even a week. Find something good about everyone around you and treat them as if that is all you see. Your change might create a greater change.

I find this photo a bit odd. It is my mom, but she is allergic to cats. But really, who can resist an adorable tiny kitten? No one! I love the wallpaper pattern and the TV.

The world will break your heart ten ways till Sunday, that's guaranteed. The quote is from "Silver Linings Playbook". If you have not seen that movie yet, do it. I won't over-promise how good it will be, because then you will expect too much from it. Just watch it.

In my Chinese family, food was and is LOVE. I could always count on large family dinners with many extended "family members". I looked forward to those long dinners. Sometimes I only ate the vegetable garnishes and white rice because I was going through a no-meat phase. I also dislike most seafood, which is criminal in a Chinese family. If I was served seafood by accident by an elder, it was considered rude to throw a fit or not eat the seafood. I would quietly sneak the seafood into my mom's rice bowl. We didn't talk about nitty gritty drama or messy life details. Comfort came from making food, talking about food, eating food and sometimes taking photos of food. I can't tell you how many rolls of film where of only food. The original instagram foodies from the 1940s.

I am still trying to track down the origins of this photo. I love the wallpaper and wish the photo was in color. My Grandmother is the beautiful woman on the right. My mom is peering over the chair at the end of the table. Look at that adorable bow in her hair.

The lady in the middle is my Great Aunt Grace and to the right, is Bitty, her husband. I am not sure who the man is on the left. Man oh man, do they have style. Grace made that outfit too!
Yep, we all have that one sister. And if you don't have that one "sister" than you have that one "aunt" or "friend". Yes, it's Grace again making gestures. It's okay, my mom (the little cutie on the left) doesn't seem to notice.

Do you wonder where this all started from? click here

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Handpainted Globes

Yes! Score! I have been scouring thrift stores for over a year, looking for a globe. I do look for other things and generally enjoy digging in thrift stores. I did buy another awesome globe a year ago via Craigslist. That globe was even sweeter. It had a stand too. I painted that one already, soft pink and black. I promise to wrap up the gold lettering before the new year.

I found the globe at the Hopkins, Goodwill on my way home from a photoshoot at BlueOx. Look at their adorable salt and pepper shakers. 

Over a year ago, I was inspired by 1canoe2 and their lovely painted globes.  Back in 2013 the only way to get your mitts on these pretty ladies was to win an auction. But now in 2014, you can purchase one through anthropologie! Right now, they are not yet available in the United States. But I hear they are coming soon.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

winter wonderland

 Every winter my kids and I completely cover the large window in our main room with watercolor snowflakes. Right now, we only have twenty or so snowflakes. Once spring comes, we tear them down like the Tasmanian Devil in celebration of pending green grass and sandal season attire. I honestly don't mind the cold, snow or slush. The season brings a new wardrobe (boots and tights) and the changing of seasons helps mark the transitions in life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ax Man

Ax-man Surplus Store is a favorite of mine. It's full of all sorts of random bits, trinkets, boxes, tape, vases, mannequin heads and legs and awesome hand-scripted signing. Hello, designer's dream. In college for a 3D sculpture class we had to spend under $20 and had less than an hour to shop the store for sculpture inspiration/parts. It was just like Project Runway only before "two-screen watching", instagram and twitter. Back then, we took photos of our project with a camera that had film in it. GASP! 

"A second home for collectors, crafters, artists, and those who love to tinker; Ax-Man Surplus has been a fixture in the Twin Cities for over 50 years. Can't find that thing-a-ma-jig? Try Ax-man. Need a new whatz-it? Try Ax-Man. Fresh out of doo-dads? Try Ax-Man.

Home to pretty much everything you never knew you couldn't live without, the friendly staff at each of our 4 metro locations is always happy to help you find almost-exactly what you were looking for. Whether it's a single googley-eye or 1,500 12-volt pager-motors, we're a step in the right direction.

Remember: Ax-man ALWAYS offers you 13 of any one thing for the price of 12, we call it the Ax-Man Dozen, you'll call it one heck of a deal!

Ax-Man is also in the business of buying and selling your precious crap! Got to much of something? Maybe we'd like to take it off your hands, check out our Your Surplus and Whole-Sale pages for more info"

show me, don't tell me

A girl shall be two things, who and what she wants. This is my mom in the 1950s. Dang, she is working that "look". Even in this photo, I can see her strong personality coming through. She always told us girls "do it right, or don't do it at all" or the classic Golden Rule "Do onto others as you'd have done to you". The general vibe was, if you want it... get it. No one is going to do it for you.
 Joy happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. My mom was an only child and her parents would have done anything for her. My grandparents didn't have an easy simple childhood and therefore they did anything they could to ensure joy in their daughter's life. Sometimes we all just need to take a moment to accept when life is really good.
My mom is in the photo above, just right of the triangle shape. I was also a girl scout in the 1980s. I loved getting together to make crafts, learn things, sing a few songs and drink some orange fruit drink (never allowed at our house). I also loved getting new badges! 

Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.

A circle is round,
it has no end.
That's how long,
I will be your friend.

Did you know that Girls Scouts began in 1912? Click here to read all about the founder Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low. She has a remarkable story. The first Girl Scout meeting of 18 girls was on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia. The sale of cookies began as a way to finance troop activities began as early as 1917 when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria as a service project. By 1920, there were nearly 70,000 Girl Scouts nationwide, including the territory of Hawaii.
 Eventually everything connects. How adorable is this? My mom in her first snowsuit. They lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota therefore a snowsuit is a total must-have item. I love that she is sitting in a tiny little kid chair too. So adorable.
Okay, Aunt Betsy just back off... the majority of the Macfarlane cousins absolutely loved Grandma Winnie's wacky pattern sense in her kitchen. I know I did. I loved that kitchen. Look at the paisley patterned vinyl chairs paired with the lattice floral wallpaper and the dark wood. You cannot see it in this photo, but the carpet had a "crazy-quilt" like pattern with even more colors. It was that carpet that looked like it belonged in a casino hotel hallway. It had a low pile height which was perfect for driving Hot Wheel cars and throwing treats to Grandma's dog, Muffy.

That pattern play is long gone. Aunt Betsy now owns grandma's house and that wallpaper is toast. C'est la vie. A very kind family member did find some old rolls of Grandma's wallpaper in the basement and gave them to me. I bounced around and immediately brought them to my car for safe keeping. That will be a craft project someday.
My favorite place in the world growing up was at my Grandparent's lake house, Lake Sarah. They had one glorious willow tree right near the beach. My sister and I would dance beneath the long branches in a secret willow tree world. Swimsuits, sand, sunfish and Grandma's geraniums. Taking mandatory naps (I think it was the only way Grandma could survive us) and eating Eskimo pies from the vintage white freezer.
Whoa baby. 1980s style hot tub on a truck, in your driveway kind of a party documented above. What were my parents thinking? Does anyone even do hot tub trucks anymore? I am not even sure who the fellow is next to me in the photo. This was taken long before the Movember movement. I am fairly certain the yellow mug in the upper left says "DeLorean". I do remember thinking that my parents were super awesome, ran around all night in my bikini jumping in the hot tub, chasing fireflies with my sister and negotiating a later and later bedtime.

Do you wonder where this all started from? click here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Swimming adventures

My kids are all competitive swimmers which means we are poolside 6-7 days a week. If it's a swim meet weekend, we are at a pool usually before 7am. I am cool with it, as long as they love it. However, after an entire day of yelling (not me- the kids can't hear us), heat, sweat, walking tacos and too many kids I need a sensory deprivation tank. I also find it uber entertaining when I see swim briefs like the one below. Agh! I wish one of my boys would wear that pair. Too funny.

from here

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Minnesota RollerGirls

I took my Daughter and two of her friends to the Minnesota RollerGirls second bout, Silence of the James. I think this may become a "thing" for us. I love seeing women out there having fun, taking control, kicking ass and doing what they love. I will always support that.

My trio of watchers were really digging the fine moves of Second Hand Smoke, Fannie Tanner and Terror Swift. If you have not gone yet, get going! Next bout is Dec 13 2014 at Roy Wilkens! Tickets start at $13 and kids 9 and under get in free with the purchase of an adult ticket.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Show me don't tell me

Never place your key to happiness in someone Else's pocket. Look at the dapper dudes in the fancy suits above. The young man on the far left, is my Grandfather Stanley, in the middle is his brother Andy and on the right is his other brother Alan. The all look so different and had such unique personalities. They each had a very adventurous life and even better stories.
Classic saying that my Grandpa Stanley always told us "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". I am pretty certain my mom chopped her hair mega short not long after this summer photo. Look at my sister with her tiny sandals and knock-knees! I loved that boat, burnt orange faux leather seats.
This photo was taken May 22, 1943 at Fort Oglethorpe, GA. According to (yes, I am aware that information is not stellar on wikipedia but it is a place to start). My Great-Aunt Grace is in the third row, second from the right. I am still gathering her story. I know it is a good one and want to be sure I have it right before I share it.

"During World War I and World War II, the area served as a war-time induction and processing center, and also housed German prisoners of war. Fort Oglethorpe was a major training center for the Women's Army Corps during World War II. The post was declared surplus in 1947 and sold to civilians, forming the nucleus for a city that was incorporated in 1949."
Deep down you already know the truth. Before my sister was born, my parents went on one last trip to Jamaica. I guess this trip should have been a hint of the adventurous spirit within my mother. Pregnant and with a toddler she still wanted to fly and see things. I would have wanted a nap.
Yep, crazy curly hair and a dress... it's me. You don't want to know how many dresses I have as an adult.
Here is a family photo with my Great Grandparents, Sam and Stella Chong. They married on May 9th, 1904. They had five boys, only three lived into adulthood. Stanley (my grandfather) is on the far left, Andy is sitting on the steps with his wife Clara in the background with Alan behind her. They are all so fancy in their suits and coats.

In Chinese families, the eldest male has a strong voice. He may not even use it. In the case of my Grandfather Stanley, he rarely yelled but instead gave you a very serious blank look that was often more terrifying. I wasn't afraid of him but I knew that I should listen to him. As kids, my sister and I went to countless Chinese family dinners and banquets that would last for hours upon hours. We were treated to Shirley Temple drinks with maraschino cherries and tiny triangle shaped orange slices but we were also expected to sit nicely at the table without kicking off our shoes or fussing about having to eat chicken feet or fish cheeks (considered a delicacy).

In some ways, there is no way to truly please a Chinese elder. They always expect more from you. As children you are trained to constantly do better, so when you see a raised eyebrow, you fret. It's a tricky relationship of expectation.
Sister, sister why so serious? I find this photo funny. Typically I had the crazy hair and my sister the silly smile. Surprise, switch-a-roo! I spent most of my summers and long weekends at Lake Sarah in Minnesota. I loved those orange life-jackets because it meant we were going on the burnt-orange boat soon! 

Do you wonder where this all started from? click here

Snow Rookie

So Minnesota had a Winter Wall descend upon us courtesy of Typhoon Nuri. The snowfall totals are stacking up with 16.5″ reported at Cambridge and St. Augusta. I am happy to share that Minneapolis only received around 3" so far. I was a Winter Rookie today, forgetting my snow scraper in the garage at home. During my swift departure in the morning, I managed to only snag a pair of basic mittens from my daughter's stash.

Back in the 1990s, in the high school parking lot we would scrap ice and snow off our cars with cassette tape cases and school IDs. Today I dug around for an empty lunch container lid. I got home safe, that is all that matters. Statewide 5am-4pm Minnesota troopers responded to 393 crashes and 559 vehicles off road/spin-outs.

Travel safe folks, tomorrow is round two.

Monday, November 3, 2014

show me, don't tell me

If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave. Plain and simple.
All of the what ifs and should haves will eat your brains. Witches and brains make for a good Halloween theme of advice.
Surround yourself with others who make you hungry for life and touch your heart and nourish your soul. My mom is in the middle, so adorable. I love the capture of my Grandma Marvel laughing. This photo is a good reminder to surround yourself with others who bring out the best in you.
My Grandpa Stanley loved photography. He was always testing new ideas, thus the double exposure above. Look at my wild hair with those knobby pony tail holders. My mom has stick straight Asian hair. She had and has no idea how to wrangle curly hair. 

I should have known that I was a designer in First Grade. I used to admire how lovely that couch paired with Chinese scroll painting on the wall. The mix of patterns and colors were perfect-o. And the texture of the wallpaper was divine. It's easy to look back and see everything clearly. But as the quote states "I have never dealt with anything more difficult than my own soul". Progress is a back and fourth between ignorance and discovery.

Well hello there, this is kindergartner Kym with her BFF Ben. He lived across the street with his two brothers. That trio drove their poor mother insane. Once I woke up to Ben and his brothers running through the front yard sprinklers in only their birthday suits. His mother was screaming up a storm. I bet she is happy that Instagram and Facebook didn't exist back then.

Ben also managed to pack a rock into a snowball and chuck it at my forehead. That is why I have bangs in this photo. My mom cut me bangs after that incident because the gash looked so terrible. Thanks Ben, that's awesome. We moved away not long after this photo. I always wonder what happened to Ben, his brothers and his worn-down mother.

Ben if you find this, we lived in Brooklyn Park in the early 1980s and went to Winnetka Elementary. I would love to hear from you. BTW I have bangs again, but this time it's not because of a snow-rock-ball.

The wise looking woman in the middle is my Great-Great Grandmother Jun Lee and the lady to the right is my Great Grandmother Stella. The woman to the left is my Great Grandmother's sister, Rita. Stella only lived to be 55 but Rita lived till she was 92. I love that I have photos like this. Amazing! I wish I could have had the chance to interview all of these ladies. Imagine the stories they would have to share.
Within this trio of boys is my Grandfather Stanley (the tallest one) and his brothers Andy and Alan with their mother Stella. My Grandfather Stanley was the second oldest of five boys, born on Valentine's Day 1912. He was "given" to his mother's sister's family because they had no boys. The two families lived in the same duplex, in Yakima, WA. They had a tough life living through the 1918 Flu Pandemic. Stella's oldest son, Albert died at the age of 12 and her youngest son, Lester died at the age of 9 months. 

Wonder where this all started? Click here

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Chinese Bakery : Keefer Court

I have been going to Keefer Court Chinese Bakery for what seems like, my whole life (I just checked online. They officially opened in 1983). Now I take my kids there too. This last weekend we stopped by the bakery after the morning swim meet only to find some awesome new graffiti artists at work. I naturally had countless questions. They have been working on the wall for three weeks and plan for one more week of work till completion. I love it. The building feels more like an official landmark with this new dragon on the corner!
Amazing, they are not smacking each other, their eyes are open and one of them is smiling. Of course it's the one that really wants a few coconut buns, immediately. He knows the quicker he takes a good photo, the sooner he can eat that coconut bun. Get in my belly, coconut bun. NOW.

The Coconut Custard bun is my all time favorite. When I was little, I called them coconut footballs. There is a white stripe of coconut on each end, which makes it look just like a football. I also love the egg tarts, sticky rice balls, sesame balls and coconut tarts.

Keefer court also makes amazing cakes with fresh fruit on them. Don't make the mistake of going there on Tuesdays because they are closed. I wish liquor stores were closed on Tuesdays and opened all weekend. Keefer Court knows what they are doing.

Oh one more thing, no credit cards. Cash or check only. They have an ATM machine in the building too.