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I love Christmastime. It’s one of my favorite times of the whole year. Christmas reminds me so much of my late father. He truly loved Christmas, making our house look festive & cheerful, & having friends & family gather around to celebrate together. Christmas was my dad’s most favorite time of year to get our whole family together: grandparents, parents, brothers & sisters, cousins, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, even in-laws. My dad loved having a house overflowing with happy people celebrating & sharing in the joys of family togetherness. Plus, my dad loved spoiling his loved ones with plenty of food, drinks, & gifts for all the little kiddos scampering around the house. That’s probably where I developed my love of giving to others & taking care of others…learning from my dad’s selfless generosity.

Each year at Christmastime, my dad loved having the house decorated, looking colorful & festive. My mom loved it too, but she always dreaded having to put away all of the decorations after the holidays were over. (Who doesn’t dread the massive holiday clean-up?) I also loved decorating the house for Christmas, but my all-time favorite was decorating the Christmas tree. The tree was always the main attraction at our house, & it still is, which brings me to the next topic in my 99 Things That Bring Me Joy journal.

One of my favorite childhood holiday memories was when I was in my teenage years, & my dad would make a big fuss over decorating the house for Christmas. He would load up our family (usually myself, my mom, my dad, & whichever cousin was boarding at our house at that given time) into his minivan, & we would drive to the wholesale flower market in San Francisco. Back then you didn’t need a wholesaler’s/decorator’s license to shop there (unless you wanted to get a discount on bulk items).  There were a few decorating supply warehouses that would be packed to the gills with every Christmas decoration & novelty item you could possibly think of.

My dad loved taking us to these shops during the holidays, so we could all pick out new ornaments for our tree & decorations to liven the house. There were a couple of Christmas holidays where we would buy entirely new sets of tree ornaments to create a different theme/color-scheme each year. One time we decorated the whole tree in plastic, metallic musical instruments (i.e. trumpets, saxophones, drums, guitars, etc.) & music notes. My cousin & I had a fun time decorating the tree in all of these wacky ornaments. The next year, my mom chose the theme of our Christmas tree, & she decorated the tree in a pastel Victorian theme with lots of ribbons/bows, angels, plastic violins & harps, along with papier mâché hearts.

Picking out tree ornaments was a big deal in our household. However, over the years, we stopped shopping for plastic ornaments at the wholesale flower market. We now prefer to pick & choose ornaments that are more durable/long-lasting, a higher quality, & have thoughtfulness & meaning. My parents are the super “bougie” kind of shoppers, & will only buy Christmas decorations (mainly tree ornaments & decorative candles) at places like BloomingdalesCrate and Barrel &/or William-Sonoma. As for myself, if I see a holiday tree ornament that I like, I will spend an unnecessary amount of time, pacing back & forth mulling over whether or not I will get it. Then, after a lot of complaining from Jian, & a lot more internal back-&-forth thoughts in my mind, I will end up buying said ornament.

I’m not quite sure exactly how many Christmas tree ornaments we actually have. I haven’t counted them all, but I can safely estimate that we have a crap load amount. I had to buy three jumbo sized ornament storage containers from The Container Store, & with my super amazing organization & compartmentalization skills, I’m pretty sure I’ve been able to fill each box with triple its designated capacity. Organizing & compartmentalizing (to the point where I often forget where I’ve stored things) is probably my biggest & proudest skill to date.

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an example of the storage containers we use for Christmas decorations

Since my dad’s passing, I’ve taken it upon myself to head up the Christmas decorating department. My dad always loved to shop for Christmas gifts & decorations around this big holiday season, & I suppose this trait has very much rubbed off onto me. I also love to give gifts & shop for Christmas decorations…mainly tree ornaments. It is a fun tradition that keeps me forever linked to the memory of my dad during the most festive & cheerful time of the year.

Oh, & just a little side note… our Christmas tree is fake. Yes, it’s a plastic fantastic (& metal) contraption that we have to make a big to-do about each year, but we love it nonetheless. It’s always a pain to set-up & take down our tree, but it’s just one way we’re doing our part as a family to conserve environmentally. Well, to be honest, we mainly decided to switch to a faux tree because my dad & I are both severely allergic to pine trees (especially freshly cut ones with tree sap & pine needles aplenty). My dad hated having to put the tree on a tree stand, which always made the tree crooked no matter how much adjusting we did, & that annoyed my mom, who liked everything in our home to look Architectural Digest Magazine-ready at all times, especially during the holidays when we hosted many parties. As for me, I hated always being delegated to keep the water tray on the tree stand full, which was an extremely difficult task for a child who was prone to spilling things & inadvertently making messes everywhere. Let’s just end this part by saying I got more water outside of the tray than inside, & that got me in trouble with my mom more often than not.

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our now famous Xmas tree

I love keeping my dad’s tradition alive every year by adding something new to our overly-decorated Christmas tree. Both my mom AND Jian think I go overboard on decorating our tree each year, but I think it’s quite lovely & definitely necessary. Our annual Christmas tree is an absolute statement piece whenever someone  new walks into our home, or during the time when we host our annual Christmas party extravaganza. Yes, it’s a huge pain in the ass to carefully pack away all of the decorations at the end of the year, but it is all worthwhile as long as I get to keep my dad’s memory & tradition going for all of the family to enjoy together. We’ll just have to wait & see how our tree will be decorated this year. Until next time, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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The title of this blog post has more than one meaning. Immediately after going to Disneyland with my family, I ended up getting really sick. I believe this is the third time this year that I’ve fallen ill right after I get back from a trip. I’m usually quite prepared when it comes to my personal well-being & overall health, as well as maintaining a good & thorough hand-washing regimen. However, the allergy & cold game is especially strong this year. I can feel a disturbance in the force… (A cheesy & clichéd Star Wars reference from a very Non Star Wars person.) That’s a big reason why I’ve been MIA from my blog. Plus, I’ve been singlehandedly decorating my house for the upcoming Christmas holiday, & helping my mom prepare the house for incoming houseguests.

So, I had a very bad cold & slight fever when I got back from my Southern California vacation. I’m so lucky that I didn’t get any symptoms until my vacation ended. The last few times my family visited Disneyland for the Thanksgiving holiday, at least one person either threw out their back (…my brother…) or got severely ill (usually myself or my nephew). I’m very glad this trip went off with minimal glitches. Everyone had a fun time, & the best part was that my nephew & niece thoroughly enjoyed themselves, & they went home with so many incredible memories to treasure for years to come.

my niece

 

Both kids cried so hard at the end of our trip. One child didn’t want to go home at all, & the other child wanted to hurry up & get the hell out of Disneyland on our last night. My sister had invited a close friend & her two daughters to meet up with us on one of our days at Disneyland. The daughters of said friend are good friends with my niece & nephew (they are all close in age). Having girl friends hang out with my niece made her so happy. My nephew, who is incredibly sentimental, was over the moon to have all of his favorite people surrounding him & letting him decide what rides we should go on. All of the grown ups really spoiled the kids so much at Disneyland…lots of individual attention to each child, lots of leniency, lots of sweet treats (but not a lot of souvenirs or presents).

 

 

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Left to Right: Jian, niece, brother

Throughout the entire weekend, we jumped between both theme parks (Disneyland & California Adventure). My nephew (who is usually too stubborn to try new things) tried a few new rides, & even went on a few of the more adventurous rides for older kids. My niece also tried out a few new rides, & got her hair done at the Frozen-themed hair salon complete with glitter hairspray & clip-on colored hair extensions. I’m usually very skeptical about buying souvenirs &/or toys for my nephew & niece. They have a tendency of not taking good care of their belongings, & either end up breaking their things or losing them. Last year, I got “burned” by a bad experience that left a sour memory. I had gone out of my way to buy my niece some memorable (& expensive) souvenirs, & then she lost all of it. Even though her lost gifts got replaced for free by our hotel, that whole experience left me wary of buying the kids any more presents. But of course, me being the doting aunt, I always cave in & end up buying more gifts for my nephew & niece. This year, I only bought them each one souvenir. I got them monogrammed Mickey & Minnie hats. They each got hats with their names stitched on them, & I was more than surprised, I was utterly shocked that they politely wore their hats for the entire day we were at Disneyland. They really appreciated their gifts, & that made it worthwhile for me.

niece, nephew

Overall, this trip to Disneyland was probably our family’s most memorable vacation to-date. None of the kids fussed, complained, cried (until late at night on our last day), or got sick. My brother’s back pain was not acting up, & my sister was not acting like “diva mom” very much. Even my mom had a great time with all of these hyperactive kids bouncing around her. Her feet got stepped on several times by a few inconsiderate tourists, but she was fine in the end. Jian & I got to spend quality time together as well, & we each bonded even more with my niece & nephew. I swear, my nephew & I are so in sync. We get sick together, we like the same things, eat the same foods, & we are similar in other ways. This is how we’ve been able to remain extremely close since he was born. I’m just now starting to understand my niece’s personality, & she can look up to me because we are both girls. She is really finding her own voice & is able to speak up, which helps us understand her better. My sister’s kids will forever be my little sweethearts, even when I have children of my own. We had a blast with Mickey & his friends, & have plans to go back next year. Cheers!

Left to Right: niece, Jian, me, nephew

Today’s song of the day:

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