Friday, October 21, 2011

Day 366 - Hike

Thought of the day: I can't believe that today is already my birthday. A year flew past since I started my blog. I learned a lot by doing this blog and enjoyed it tremendously. Of course, there were days, and even weeks, when I had to force myself to keep going. It was particularly challenging when I was sick, busy or traveling. For the entire year, I had my backpack and camera next to me pretty much every day and I constantly reminded myself to pay attention to what was happening around me and to see and capture the extraordinary moments in the ordinary daily life. This year long journey has not only taught me to truly appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of our experiences on earth, it has also taught me something about patience and perseverance. Now, it's time for me to sign off and move on. A big hug and thank you to everybody who has followed my journey and sent me encouragements along the way!

Photo of the day:
Taking a hike with a few people this morning. There was no better way to celebrate a birthday than sitting on some big rocks, drinking coffee, eating a surprise birthday treat and looking out at the beautiful Boulder valley opening up in front of you. That was one of the most memorable moments that my wonderful friends helped me create throughout the day. There will be challenges and uncertainties, but I feel so grateful today to be living in this community, this world and on this day.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day 365 - Flower and Envelope

Thought of the day: This morning, when I am walking under the brilliant sun on the trail, surrounded by rocky mountains and fall colors, I feel intensely happy. With my birthday coming up tomorrow, I have a feeling that I am entering the prime time of my life. Everything is so perfect at this moment that it seems fleeting and fragile. Somehow happiness always manages to bring out melancholy in me. Perhaps it's time to look outside of my own little world more often. The best way to maintain true inner peace and equilibrium of mind is to change the focus to the world at large. I have been exploring different paths for a few years now and the right path remains elusive to me. Lately I have the luck of being recommended by multiple people a book called "Half the Sky" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book documents the plight of many women in the real world. It's a thoroughly researched and immensely touching and convincing book. It's one of those rare books that can move people into action, one that has the potential to shape and change the world. I don't know where it will lead me, but wherever it is, I will be there willingly.

Photo of the day:
A surprise gift from a friend. I have been told by many people that love and happiness are the essential ingredients of life and they are all you need. I don't know. I always feel like there's a third ingredient, a larger purpose of life. Without the third ingredient, I can't help feeling that something is amiss.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 364 - Kids Theater

Thought of the day: Jasmine loves her Wednesday afternoon theater class. The kids act and improvise on the stage with the help of a professional. While Jasmine is busy in her class, Lila loves to dance around and around in a room annexed to the theater fitted with walls of mirrors. I like the special ambience of a theater, perhaps any theater. The elevated stage, dark interior, sparse and interesting lighting make it a challenging yet fascinating place to photograph. I can't help feeling that this place has a sense of gravity. And people and movements bring life to it. It's a simple place but I feel drawn to it in a mysterious way.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine and her friends doing an improv while a boy watched on.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 363 - Vincent

Thought of the day: I talked to a couple of friends today about my quickly approaching birthday and my apprehension of passing another significant mark in life. They all had some jewels of wisdom to share. I feel very lucky to know people who I can talk to just about anything and always walk away a little wiser and more ready for the joyous adventure we call life.

Photo of the day:
A particularly cute dog of a friend. We took a walk this morning with her two dogs tagging along. At times I felt that we were the ones being walked by the dogs but they were really cute so I didn't mind:-)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day 362 - Knitter

Thought of the day: Jasmine had been practicing piano duets for an upcoming multi-piano festival. Her teacher made a CD with all her songs so she could practice with the music at home. One song was particularly challenging for her and she had been struggling with it for days. Today she finally got it through without making a single mistake. She was ecstatic! It was certainly a good thing that she could finally play this song as her audition was coming up soon. But a more important lesson she learned was that with persistent effort she could improve and achieve what might seem impossible just a moment ago. It was a lesson worth learning at any age.

Photo of the day:

I ran into a group of women outside of a cafe knitting and chatting under the sun. Apparently they do this every week. What a wonderful tradition to have! They all seemed to be pretty good at knitting - I guess it is one of those things you get better at with a lot of practice too.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Day 361 - Jasmine

Thought of the day: We had an easy day today - family hike, long naps, movies.  It was good to have a day in the week to have no obligations no schedules and simply relax and enjoy some down time with the family.

Photo of the day: 
Jasmine was very happy during the hike. We saw a lot of beautiful fall colors along the way as the season was at the peak. Both girls collected colorful leaves to decorate their rooms.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day 360 - Pumpkin Patch

Thought of the day: Boulder has a vibrant restaurant scene. There are many good restaurants in town drawing crowds all day long, all week long.  However, it’s also very competitive and we have seen many restaurants unfold, including ones that we really liked. For example, Orchid Pavilion used to be my favorite Chinese restaurant in town but it had been out of business for a while now. Its closure left a hole in Boulder food scene as there were really no other Chinese restaurants with the perfect combination of good location, nice ambiance and tasty food. Downtown’s Juanita’s used to serve affordable Mexican food with one of the best margaritas in town. It was closed to make space for an upscale restaurant. And today, I found out by surprise that Suki Thai Noodle House was also closed. Suki Thai made healthy noodle bowls and was a great place to grab a quick lunch with kids. There are many other closures that we know of and it is always sad to say goodbye to some of our favorite ones. Luckily, the vast majority of the restaurants we visit are still thriving and we hope it will remain the case for a while to come.

Photo of the day:
I visited Cottonwood Pumpkin Patch with three girls today. Kids had fun picking pumpkins, navigating the mazes and petting the farm animals. I love going to a pumpkin farm in this season as it's filled with vibrant colors, quaint equipments and happy kids - all of which make it a fun place to linger and photograph for a couple of hours. It's a visual feast that, hopefully, will never go out of business and one that I will enjoy year after year.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Day 359 - Snow Leopard

Thought of the day: Having photography as a hobby can be time consuming and sometimes distracting but above all it is a blessing. No matter where I am, what I do, I can never be bored. Be it a familiar place or a foreign land, a fancy restaurant or a dingy pub, a modern structure or an old barn - no matter where I am, there’s always something interesting to observe and photograph. Always. When I was in Chicago two weeks ago, I was overwhelmed by the sensation of being in an extraordinary place and overjoyed by all the photo opportunities. When I was in the zoo today with my girls, I found many special creatures and special moments to record even though we were certainly no strangers to the zoo. Even in the rare occasions when I don't have a camera handy, my eyes and my mind are seeing and recording images all the time - the world is a special place and I am lucky to be a witness to the grandness of it all. 

Photo of the day:
Snow leopard - caged in and looking sad.  What was he observing from inside his cage?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 358 - Sisters

Thought of the day: I stayed up very late last night and the consequence of that was clear - I was shrouded in drowsiness and had a minor headache all morning. In addition, I missed a morning bike ride and a hike with a group of friends, both of which I regretted a great deal and regretted even more as the day marched on. Indeed, it's not smart to walk through life half awake when there are so many experiences to be had and so many expectations to meet, both of which require one to be present and alert.  Arguably, self enforced sleep deprivation may not be as dangerous as drug or alcohol additions, but it does bring similar consequences and is definitely detrimental to one’s long term health. It's time for me to figure out a way to keep a better control of my schedule - however challenging it may be - and make it stick. 

Photo of the day:
Jasmine making a drawing as Lila watched on. I owed it to my girls, and myself, to maintain a healthy schedule.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day 357 - All Done!

Thought of the day: I spent the evening talking with a new friend on a tatami over some divine Japanese food. It was a lovely evening. On the wall facing me hung a large framed photograph of white cherry blossoms. The Japanese waitress was unbelievably friendly and she was dressed in an oversized beige silk blouse with orange floral prints on it. The ambience of this place made me feel very comfortable and I was momentarily transported to Japan - a country that had held my fascination for quite a while now even though I hadn't had a chance to visit yet.

Photo of the day:
"All done!"  Lila loved Dushanbe Teahouse's coconut rice pudding.  We were there for lunch to say goodbye to our house guests - they would be sorely missed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 356 - Magician

Thought of the day: I finally got around to organize the books I was reading this afternoon. It made such an impressive pile that I decided not to get any more books until I finished up the current pile. I was frequently irritated by the fact that Jasmine read multiple books at the same time and scattered them all around the house. Now I know where she got her habit from. Time and again, when I observe puzzling behaviors of my kids, I can often find the clue by merely looking in the mirror.

Photo of the day:
A magician playing fascinating tricks in a local restaurant. It's easier to uncover the secrets behind his tricks in books than watching his moves carefully as he is really good.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 355 - Bear!

Thought of the day: When I biked with Lila to her climbing class this morning, we rode past a prairie dog territory in the eastern plain of Boulder. Lila was beyond excited when she spotted the little furry creatures standing on their mounds. There's something about kids and animals. Jasmine is only interested in taking pictures of either people making silly faces or the animals. We are born with an insatiable curiosity in other living beings and we express our curiosity in different ways at different ages. I look forward to going to the zoo with jasmine this week and see what kind of images she would take with her camera there.

Photo of the day:
Bear in our backyard! First the sighting of a mountain lion outside of Lila's preschool in the day, and now the sighting of a black bear cub in our backyard at dinner time. He plunged right back into the bush when I pointed the lens at him. He paid more visits to our backyard tonight. Apparently he was after the delicious apples in the apple tree. It was a cub so the mother was probably hiding in the bush nearby watching out for his safety. One of the threats, and rewards, of living close to open space is be the next door neighbor of wild animals of all kinds - coyotes, mountain lions and bears.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 354 - Lila

Thought of the day: Our house guests left today for a trip to Colorado Springs. We were left with a house that was strangely quiet and two girls again demanding our full attention. It was good to have the guests around as they offered generous help with our household chores. Even better, the girls always had company at home and they had probably played more games and puzzles in the past few days than ever before.  It would be good to have the guests back in two days and have the blessing of their company for a few more days!

Photo of the day:
Lila fooling around in her room before bed time.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 353 - Red Light

Thought of the day: It had been cold and raining today. It even snowed a little bit at some point. Of course, with such a warm ground temperature, the snow melted as soon as it reached the ground. We mostly stayed inside the house, played games and enjoyed the last few days of company of our house guests. It was a relaxing day and the kids loved having so many adults around to play with.

Photo of the day: 
Dinner at Carelli's.  The restaurant always has a nice ambiance. With its warm interior lighting and large fire places, it feels especially cozy and welcoming in a cold day like today.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 352 - Lila

Thought of the day: It was Friday - our regular hiking day.  Lila and I hiked for a good hour at Chautauqua with David's mom and cousin. We were also joined by Lila's friend Izzy and her mom. There were beautiful fall colors along the way and the trail was almost completely covered by fall foliage. Lila collected a bunch of leaves and branches along the way to make a collage at home.  She walked and ran all the way with her friend and in the last segment of the hike we were barely able to keep up with the two little girls! It's a day that will be remembered for many years hereafter, not in its full details, but as one of those days filled with luminous light and simple happiness.

Photo of the day:
Lila on the trail.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 351 - Lila

Thought of the day: Last night, I was shocked and saddened to learn that Steve Jobs just passed away. His 2005 commencement speech at Stanford was widely shared on Internet and it was an interesting speech to watch. During the speech, he said: "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." What an inspiring message! When I ran on the trail this morning and was about to turn around and head home, I thought of his message. Yes, I had a lot of chores to do at home, but if I were to die today, would they have really mattered that much to me? Wouldn't I be happier if I had spent more time instead in the forest in this beautiful autumn day? The answer was definitely a yes. So, instead of turning around, I kept on running and spent more time on the trail than I would have normally had. It felt great when I eventually headed home. Thank you, Steve Jobs, for your important message and for all the rest you have done for the humanity.

Photo of the day:
Lila with a friend doing artwork in her preschool.  She was wearing a shirt she just tie-died in school. I hope she enjoyed her day as much as I had enjoyed mine.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 350 - Dinner

Thought of the day: Today I played a game called "24" with Jasmine.  She loved it.  It's a fun mental math game that really gets you to exercise the brain for additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions. The game has different levels and Jasmine is currently playing at the easiest level while I play at the most difficult level. Jasmine enjoys getting through her challenges faster than me. We make a rule for the winner to gradually move up on the levels and for the loser to gradually move down.  Since Jasmine is so into this game, it won't surprise me if she will eventually pass me on the difficulty level. The question is only when.

Photo of the day:
Dinner in my favorite restaurant called "home". As in the past few Wednesdays, Jasmine stayed home with me to work on subjects including math, science, music, Chinese. Playing games and taking several "recesses" helped her stay focused and engaged. We spent a happy yet productive day together.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 349 - Jasmine

Thought of the day: Today was Jasmine’s birthday. We celebrated at the Med followed by birthday cake and presents at home. I couldn't believe that she was already nine and I got emotional when I realized that this would be her last birthday in the single digits! She is growing up soooo fast. Every day that we get to spend with her is precious and her birthday just reminded me of that.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine opening one of her birthday presents at home while Lila watched on.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 348 - Pool Chairs

Thought of the day: I went back to my regular routine today. I was told that Lila had missed me a lot when I was away. I could tell as she was almost giddy all day. She tired herself out so much during the day that she dropped into sleep almost instantly tonight. For me, it was good to get away and immerse in an entirely different environment once in a while. I felt that I had been gone for a long time but actually it was only a short three days. Coming back home was like stepping into a different time and space. We slip in and out of different universes all the time, within each we have a distinctive role or roles to play. This goes on for an entire life time and in some religions this goes on for many life times. Are we authentically ourselves in all the universes or are we most authentically ourselves in a specific one? I wonder about that often and I don't think I will ever find a definite answer. 

Photo of the day:
Pool chairs and swim ring.  Jasmine was taking an outdoor swim lesson while Lila played in the play pool. Now that I was back in my regular routine, it was hard to believe that I was in a very different place in the company of very different people doing very different things only yesterday.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 347 - Train Station

Thought of the day: Almost everybody who came to the reunion was in the hotel last night. We gathered in the large yet cozy family room of the hotel and talked for a long time, all the way into the wee hours of the morning, accompanied by beers, wine and a flickering fireplace. I had not seen many of my classmates for more than twenty years and I was truly amazed by how little everybody had changed. They talked in exactly the same way as before - same voices, same facial expressions, same hand gestures. When I closed my eyes, I couldn't sense the gap of twenty years at all. Of course, when I opened my eyes, I could see clearly that the wheel of time had left its marks. We had all matured, in a good way. Character and personality traits that were obscure and not fully developed yet when we were young had been cultivated and nurtured over the years by life's inevitable ups and downs and they were now hard to miss. I felt like I got to know many of my classmates more now than ever before. It was a blessing to have this opportunity to meet and reconnect with many of them. In the same way that history gave meaning to architecture, meeting my former classmates in Chicago gave the city a new meaning for me. I was very happy that I made this trip.

Photo of the day:
In train station waiting for the train to Chicago Midway Airport.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Day 346 - FLower Girls

Thought of the day: This afternoon, we took a boat tour to see the famed architecture along the Chicago River. The tour was operated by the Chicago Architectural Foundation whose mission was to educate the public on and help preserve the historical Chicago architecture. The close-up view of the buildings along the river was breathtaking.  The narrator on the boat gave us the history behind many of the buildings. Architecture seemed to convey more meaning when it was associated with people.  For example, when we got to know the intention of the architect or the vision of the original owner, a building became more interesting. In any case, through the narrations of our tour guide, the buildings and the histories behind them came alive in front of our eyes.  The tour also offered a great many opportunities for us to take close-up pictures of bridges and architecture. It was too bad that I didn't have time to take a lake cruise and see the Chicago skyline from distance.  If I ever need a reason to visit Chicago again, this would be a good one - and the other one would be the Chicago Art Institute which I didn't have a chance to step into at all. 

Photo of the day:
One famous place that I did get to visit was the Bean (a.k.a Cloud Gate) in the Millennium Park. A wedding party was there taking photos which gave me a chance to snap this photo of the flower girls.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Day 345 - Chicago River

Thought of the day: I think I am in love with this city. The people, interesting; The street scenes, entertaining; The architecture, fascinating; The evening lights, dazzling. It’s a heaven for photographers of all kinds - portrait, architecture, street, night, and even wedding photographers can all find something to point their lenses at. After getting used to a place as quiet as Boulder, the vibrant night scenes of Chicago are particularly striking to me. The neon sign of Chicago Theater, the live broadcast of 7 News that can be viewed from outside of the tall glass walls, the watery reflections of skyscrapers on Chicago River, the magnificent night view of the entire city from the top of Skydeck of Willis (formerly known as Sears) Tower - all of these created an indelible memory not only on my camera, but also in my mind. I think one of the many benefits of living in a town like Boulder is that I can be completely in awe of a big city like Chicago whenever I have a chance to visit. Boulder provides a solid home base for me to explore and appreciate the magnificence of the rest of the world - it’s as indispensable as the rice in a Chinese meal or the bread in a western fare. At this moment I’m enjoying Chicago, thoroughly and without reservation, as I know that I will be happy when I get home too.

Photo of the day:
Night reflections on Chicago River.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 344 - Homeless Man

Thought of the day: I flew into Chicago today for a 20-year class reunion. Even though I missed my family already, it was liberating to be able to do something on my own once in a while. There was a great many things that I took for granted before having a family - reading a book without interruptions, wandering about in a strange place without any particular direction, falling into sleep without any thoughts for tomorrow - simple, yet not insignificant, things that you noticed only after you didn't have them any more. When I had them back, at least for this short while, I found that I still missed them after all these years. So, after all, I really haven't changed much, have I? Do people ever change over time? When the opportunities arise, do we fall back into our old behaviors and habits as readily as snow flakes drift effortlessly onto the ground? Are we the drops of water in an ocean that evaporate, form a cloud, come down in a shower, flow into a river, return to the sea after a long journey and end up being exactly the same drops of water that we were many years ago and many continents away? I guess I shall find out in the next few days - a reunion after 20 years of absence shall at least shed some lights to these questions.

Photo of the day:
A homeless man near Chicago's Magnificent Mile. On his left lies a bible and on his right sits a cardboard that says "God Is Good". Amid buzz of the city, he seems remarkably calm. He is one of the fascinating characters I ran into while wandering aimlessly in Chicago downtown.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 343 - Play

Thought of the day: Our chiropractor is a pretty amazing person. She has not only a reservoir of knowledge of her field, but also of other related fields as well. She is well connected to the local homeopathic community and is often able to introduce families to a variety of practitioners ranged from doulas to massage therapists. She is a go-to person you can trust. Today I found out that she has a good heart as well. There is a very unfortunate local family that lost their house in the Fourmile Canyon Fire last year and then suffered an even worse blow this summer - a drunk driver hit them, left the father dead and his toddler girl severely injured. Our chiropractor went to the memorial service of the father and was so moved by the desperate situation of the family that she and her colleagues decided to do something for them. They donated an entire day of their work for the benefit of the little girl. I am glad to be part of it and I am grateful to belong to a community that's so generous in heart.

Photo of the day:
Izzy playing with blocks on the floor of a theater. The injured girl is even younger than her. I hope the little girl will be able to fully recover and enjoy a normal life soon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day 342 - Lila

Thought of the day: The best time of my day was when I picked up Lila from preschool in the afternoon. Other kids had already left so we were the only ones there. The ground of the preschool was small but it was nice and peaceful so we hung out a bit outside. Lila showed me a collection of painted rocks in the garden, climbed the trees and relished in the opportunity to run about freely. We watched the moving shadows casted by the late afternoon sun while devouring delicious apples Lila collected from the trees. It was fun for Lila and relaxing for me. With two active kids, I have come to enjoy and appreciate these slow and simple moments more ever day.

Photo of the day:
Lila basking in the afternoon sun.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 341 - Pink

Thought of the day: Aspen was a great place to visit once in a while but it didn't feel like home to me. Since the town was pretty small, the choice of stores was pretty limited. I left part of my camera battery charger at home and I had been shopping around for the replacement part all around town but couldn't find one.  The only camera store in town didn't carry it either.  It was pretty costly to live here, too. I think I would feel stranded living in a town like this, even one as beautiful as Aspen, for a long time. In any case, after a couple of days of visit, I was happy to return home to Boulder today.

Photo of the day:
Lila holding a pink umbrella on a lawn in Boulder. She was happy to be back home again too.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 340 - Maroon Bells

Thought of the day: Maroon Bells. So that's where people go when they visit Aspen in the fall.  It's hardly surprising that this is the most photographed place in Colorado. The mountains are decorated by layers of colors at the base.  In the stillness of an early morning, the mountains and forests are reflected on the lake in their full glory. It's an irresistible place for hikers and photographers alike. We have never been disappointed when we visited here and I know that we'll be back again and again.

Photo of the day:
Lila walking towards the Maroon Bells.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 339 - Gallery

Thought of the day: We took a hike in the forest today. It had been hard to predict the best days to visit Aspen in the fall. We had been here last year when the fall colors were in the prime. This year we picked the same weekend to visit but the reds were not quite here yet. We did get an abundance of yellow, green and many shades and colors in between. To our surprise, throughout the day, we didn't see any other hikers in the forest.  Indeed, other than the occasional booming sound made by all terrain vehicles nearby, the only sounds we could hear were the rustling of the leaves and the chirping of the birds. It was good to be here.

Photo of the day:
A couple having dinner in a restaurant in Aspen downtown near an art gallery.  There were some nice autumn paintings on display behind the windows.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 338 - Independence Pass

Thought of the day: It is a beautiful day to drive up Aspen.  Fall is my favorite season to visit Aspen. At this time of the year, the sky is crystal clear, the air is cool and fresh, the light is brilliant and the fall colors are plentiful.  In addition, there are not as many tourists as in the peak seasons of winter and summer. All of that make it a perfect time to pay our annual pilgrimage to Aspen. 

Photo of the day:
We took a brief stop at the Independence Pass on the way to Aspen this afternoon. It was chilly but the view was great.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 337 - Making Music

Thought of the day: I have missed a few excellent photo opportunities today. I missed a shot of two very dear dogs of my friend when I had coffee in her house this morning. They really snuggled up on me and made me feel all warm and fuzzy. I missed a shot of autumn light when I ran on a trail later in the morning. The light gave everything a soft, delicate and airy touch. In the afternoon, when I was at Jasmine's school to pick her up, I saw a woman and a dog waiting patiently outside for a child to show up. Inexplicably, I didn't have a camera with me again so I could only frame a picture in my mind but didn't actually take a shot. A photographer friend of mine once said that the shots he missed were the best ones and they lived in his mind forever. Perhaps that was not a bad thing - if he had actually taken those shots, they might not have turned out as he had expected and they might have been quickly forgotten. Instead, now he had a reservoir of beautiful and interesting images in his mind. Perhaps, those "missing" images made him the photographer that he was as much as the images he actually took made him. So, I do regret but do not feel bad about missing all those shots today. The important thing is to open my eyes and my mind to see and behold amazing images I encounter every day - at least I have done that today.

Photo of the day:
I finally got to take a few photos when it was already dark outside. Here Lila was "playing" piano for our house guests after dinner. She was not really playing a tune yet but her passion for forcing some interesting sounds out of these black and white keys were both cute and admirable.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day 336 - Making Cake

Thought of the day: I spent some time in the climbing gym today and watched the climbers working their magic on the walls. There were many talented climbers there, but none of them impressed me as much as a young boy who was probably not much older than eight. He moved with such ease and agility that it was hard to take my eyes off him. It was a pure joy to watch him. Everybody is gifted with certain talents and this boy clearly has a gift and he is lucky to have found it so early in life.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine and Lila helped make a zucchini cake in preparation for the arrival of a few house guests.  In the background, the girls watched on in a photo taken on Pearl St. There are many things that Jasmine is good at but it's still too early for her to settle down on any one particular thing yet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 335 - Symmetry

Thought of the day: This morning I watched a slide show from New York Times about MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity), an environmental disease that has been plaguing an increasingly larger group of people, including the photographer who shot the mesmerizing and poignant photos in the slide show. MCS is typically caused by exposures to synthetic, toxic chemicals which are getting more and more prevalent in the modern world. This condition can be debilitating. The affected people live at the margin of the modern civilization as they need to stay clear of environmental toxins routinely used in pesticides, building materials, cleaning products, cosmetics, etc. They have to navigate the modern world like a soldier navigating a mine field - if they are not careful, they can easily step onto something that will have serious consequences on their health. I know that this condition is very real as a good friend of mine is suffering from it every day. It's painful to watch her go through ordeals unimaginable by an unaffected person. These people are paying a heavy price for our unhealthy dependence on toxic chemicals and our disrespect for the environment and even for our own bodies. Many more of our children and grandchildren will suffer if we don't not pay attention to the root cause of this and other environmental diseases and change the way we live.

Photo of the day:
A lamp in a restaurant where I had lunch.  The shape was intricate, harmonious and beautiful. Perhaps one day we will be able to develop an intricate, harmonious and beautiful relationship with the environment around us. That's our only hope for the future.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 334 - Playground

Thought of the day: Lila made a "train" tonight by connecting her paintings and drawing made at home and in her preschool. I was impressed by the length of her train. She had done a lot more than I had at her age. The world is getting a lot more competitive over the past few decades and children are quickly adapting or are made to adapt quickly. As long as she is enjoying her experience and is not overwhelmed or overstimulated, it's not necessarily a bad thing. With choices and opportunities abound, it's the duty, burden and pleasure of the parents to help them navigate through the maze of early life.  It's a long and arduous process but, at the end, there's no greater pleasure for any parents than seeing their children emerge as wholesome and well-rounded individuals ready for the world at large.

Photo of the day:
Lila in a playground in Boulder. With so many walls to climb on, it's no wonder that she developed an interest in climbing so early. I don't think I have seen a climbing wall of any kind until I was already well into my twenties!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 333 - Bikes

Thought of the day: The caliber of photographers on Google+ is simply amazing. Indeed, many of them are professionals doing that for a living. I am following a number of them and the photos showing up in my stream really made me pause before I dared to post anything of my own. My past experience on Facebook was the exact opposite - the quality of most of the photos there were so poor that I felt out of place to post anything with an artistic touch. Similar things may be happening to the non-photo posts as well - the posts on Google+ are often thought provoking and interesting while most posts on Facebook are none of that. It can become self-enforcing after a while - Google+ gets the great shots and profound thoughts while Facebook gets the average, mom-and-pop style shots and random posts. In an ideal world, people would move to one social network - Google+, of course:-), because it's open and less sinister - and use Circles to maintain separate public and private images. You can share your great shots and interesting thoughts with the public and your fuzzy shots and not-so-inspiring thoughts with family and friends as they are the ones who would welcome anything from you. Sadly, the real world doesn't work like that as it's easier not to struggle with something new and it's far less work to just share whatever comes into your mind with whoever is listening and most people would probably do just that. Unless Facebook messes up badly, I'm not seeing people migrate en-masse to Google+ in the near future.

Photo of the day:
Ready to leave - this is not an interesting photo for the public consumption, but this is one of the only photos I took today...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Day 332 - Denver Museum

Thought of the day: We visited Denver Museum of Nature and Science today. One of the most interesting exhibitions was Expedition Health which gave us the opportunity to learn some amazing facts about human body through creatively designed activities and games. My favorite game was the brain wave game where two players sat at the opposite ends of a table trying to push a marble towards the opponent using brain waves. When you are more relaxed, the brain generates alpha waves which will put the marble in motion. Both David and I did a competition with Jasmine and we both lost spectacularly. The result was not too surprising as children are mentally more relaxed than adults. Their minds are not as cluttered and confused as ours. That partly explains why children are capable of learning fast and effortlessly as a relaxed brain is also more open, alert and focused, all of which are good traits for learning. That may also explain why they tend to be more creative as a relaxed brain also tend to be more creative. I learn something new of children all the time and my experience today have certainly increased my respect for them even more. 

Photo of the day:
Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  The "T-Rex Encounter" exhibit is very cool - it looks so real that we had to carry Lila out of the exhibit screaming because she got so scared by one of the mean-looking dinosaurs! I guess they are too much for a toddler brain to handle.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 331 - Restaurant

Thought of the day: Sadly, we haven’t camped for a single time this summer. With the weather getting colder, the chance of going camping this season is getting slimmer as the light is getting softer every day. Camping trips in the summer are like ski vacations in the winter - missing them is like missing some of the essence of summer. Sure, we have done a lot of other interesting activities, but I wish we had given a higher priority to camping.

Photo of the day:
One thing we have done a lot during the summer is eating out.  There are a lot of good restaurants in Boulder to choose from, including this Mexican restaurant where we spent the evening at.  It had a great ambiance and good food.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day 330 - Hot Tub

Thought of the day: A friend pointed me to an online enneagram test today. The test identified my dominant personality type. It was pretty fascinating for me as I had never given much thought to personality types and how much impact they might have on our behaviors, actions and emotions. With enneagram, some things that didn’t make much sense to me before started to make sense. In many ways, we ended up where we are, doing what we are doing because of who we are and our personalities have a lot to do with it. Enneagram can be an invaluable tool for one to understand his elusive self and subsequently to rise beyond himself.  There are also some neat theories on how personalities evolve over time and through experiences in life. Another interesting aspect is the compatibility and interactions between people of different personality types. It’s a tool employed by therapists to work out issues in relationships. In any case, I am excited to learn something new - new for me at least - and is eager to learn more about it.

Photo of the day:
Lila in the hot tub while I took a photo from the top.  I am sure enneagram has something to do with me being here at this particular time and taking this particular photo at this particular spot. If I had a different type of personality, I don't know what my life history would have been but I'm pretty sure that this photo would not have been on this blog - in fact, this blog probably wouldn't have existed in the first place.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Day 329 - Energy Monitor

Thought of the day: I volunteered in the annual vision screening event in Jasmine's school today. All day long, kids lined up grade by grade and had their eyesight tested by volunteers. It was my first time doing this and it had been an eye opening experience for me. I got to observe the remarkable physical and behavioral differences between kids from different grades. It's amazing how much difference a single year of age difference can make at this early stage of life. An idea just popped into my head: I want to make a photo book for Jasmine's 10th birthday so she, and we, can see how she has changed from year to year. Our minds mostly live in the present moment and it's easy for us to forget how we or our loved ones once were. "Old" photos will help us recall memories buried deep inside us and help us see the whole person and how her present self came into being. Just like annual vision charts record the vision history, photos record the life history. It would be a pretty interesting and meaningful project to reconstruct a life using photos.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine's climbing gym employs an 100kW solar system to offset a quarter of the electricity usage in the building.  It has one of David's energy monitoring devices installed and the real-time energy information is prominently displayed on the wall near the entrance. The device has a detailed memory of 30 years so you can reconstruct your energy usage history over a long span of time. Hopefully, your usage will trend down over time as you learn more about energy efficiency, pay more attention to your footprint and take steps to reduce it. So, in a way, the device captures your history of becoming a green citizen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Day 328 - Reflection

Thought of the day: Lila appears to be a natural climber. She just had her first climbing lesson yesterday and it was as if she had woken up and discovered a whole new world in front of her. I have been taking her to a climbing gym twice a week for Jasmine's climbing lessons and Lila loved one of the easier routes there. Today she somehow figured it all out and free climbed all the way to the top. She was so excited about her new accomplishment that she kept doing that over and over and over again. I had to literally peel her off the wall so she won't overexert herself.  The way things are heading right now, I am spending more and more time in the climbing gyms with the girls and it won't be long before I might be motivated enough to sign up for climbing lessons myself!

Photo of the day:
A wall display inside a cafe with the reflection overlaying the original image. I keep returning to cafes just like Lila keeps returning to the climbing wall. Her temptation is riskier but much healthier than mine.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 327 - Climbing

Thought of the day: Jasmine has recently started doing her piano practices in the morning instead of in the evening.  It's amazing how much difference such a small change in her schedule makes.  Practicing piano in the evening had always been a bit of a struggle for us because she was already pretty tired after a day of school and was really not eager to do more stuff. Now that there's no more piano practice after dinner, everybody can relax and rewind during the quiet time in the evening. Of course, getting up early every morning to help Jasmine with her practice is by no means an easy task for a night owl like me, but it's a small price to pay for more peace and harmony in the house. Change is not always good, but sometimes it can be. In fact, I believe that not being afraid of making changes is a secret ingredient for happiness and the change of Jasmine's practice time proved it!

Photo of the day:
Lila in the climbing gym getting her first climbing lesson today. Jasmine didn't start climbing until she was quite a bit older, but we are doing it differently for Lila because I think she is ready for it. I hope this change will work out well.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 326 - Brunch

Thought of the day: Today is the mid-autumn festival in China. That's an important festival when the families are supposed to sit together at a round table in a quiet courtyard under the brightest moon of the year and appreciate the delicacy of moon cakes. With my immediate family scattered across the globe, I can't recall the last time when we spent the festival together. Indeed, other than my parents, I don't think any of us even celebrates the festival any more. This is one of the lost traditions that I do miss. It makes me sad to realize that some of the special things that I grew up with will probably never be experienced by my children or at least not be experienced in the same way. Of course, they will grow up with their own set of experiences that I would not even have dreamed of as a child. They will be shaped by their own environment and memories just like I was shaped by mine.

Photo of the day:
We had Sunday brunch with a friend at the Teahouse again - it's one of our favorite spots for brunch. I wonder how Jasmine and Lila will remember our many visits to the Teahouse many years from now.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Day 325 - Les Misérables

Thought of the day: We went to the famed musical Les Misérables in Denver today. Since we don't come to the city very often, the night scenes of Denver left quite a dazzling impression on me. So many cars, so many lights, so many people - I felt like a country bumpkin enjoying a rare night out in the city. Of course, Boulder is not exactly the countryside, but it's infinitely calmer and quieter. It would not surprise me if the clocks ticked slightly slower in Boulder than in the city. The show was amazing and had an overpowering effect especially towards the end. I don't believe there was a single pair of dry eyes leaving the theater.  All in all, it was an interesting evening and was definitely worth the 45 minute drive each way.

Photo of the day:
At the end of the show, the main actor came out to receive a round of wild applause and standing ovation.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 324 - Happy Dance

Thought of the day: We spent a happy morning with our friends hiking at Chautauqua followed by a lunch picnic in the park.  We used to do that every Friday morning but stopped because we got busy with other activities. This morning’s hike and picnic reminded me of how important it is to firmly incorporate fun and meaningful activities into the regular schedule because it’s so easy for them to slip through the cracks and disappear into memories of the past. There are always other little things waiting to fill into the space and it's so important to get our priorities straight and put the things that are really meaningful to us first. In the long run, being able to prioritize can make the difference between a life that’s satisfying and fulfilling and a life that’s lost and aimless.

Photo of the day:
Izzy doing a happy dance after the hike.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 323 - Cafe

Thought of the day: Jasmine's swim team is having an outdoor lesson today.  She loves it, in spite of the air that is already getting a little chilly. We're so lucky to have perfect weather today and I'm glad that we can spend a couple of hours outdoors and enjoy the last bit of the summer warmth and have some good fun in the sun.

Photo of the day:
Inside a cafe this morning. It's good to be able to take a break there for a couple of hours during the day when both girls are in school. The cafe keeps changing the wall exhibitions and the theme of this month is T-shirts with prints. Changing of interior decorations keep the space interesting, just like changing of seasons and rhythms keep life interesting.