Monday, November 28, 2011

My First Snow!!!

                                                   (I was so happy with my first SNOW)

I feel bad because just now I am writing about my first snow experience, even though the snow happened almost a month ago. Seeing snow is definitely on my list of things I was really excited about when I move to America. I had never seen snow in my life before, because it never snows in Hanoi. The coldest winter I had ever experienced was 11 degree Celsius which is about 52 degree Fahrenheit. Despite everyone scaring me about the coldness in Winter in America, I was still very excited to see snow. And my wish came true about one month ago, which was the end of October, the first SNOW of the year came! My father-in-law always tells me whenever it is cold outside: Winter is coming. So he is my weather man who told me we will have snow on that day. I was so excited that I constantly looked out of our window to see if there was any snow. But in the morning, it was just raining. When it started snowing a little bit, I told Ben I wanted to go out. I had my winter coat, which my mother-in-law bought for me a month before so I was warm. We went outside of our house and took pictures in the snow. Actually it was really heavy, wet snow. Since the next day was our Wedding Brunch that Ben's parents prepared for us, so we went to buy a new shirt for Ben to wear for the next day. Right after we got out of the Mall, I was sooooo surprised to see all the cars coming had so much snow on the top of their roofs. Then as soon as we drove out of the parking lot, OH MY GOD, everything was  covered by SNOW. I scream so loud in the car: It is snowing! Oh my god it is so white! We are in the North Pole! Ben thought I was crazy. But that was really cool for me seeing snow the first time. It is so different from seeing snow in the movies.

I really enjoyed the snow all the way as we drove home. The town totally became white, I did not recognize it at all. I wanted to touch the snow so badly. When we got home, I took a full hand of snow and brought it in our house. Then Ben told me to give to his dad, so I smashed the whole snowball into my father-in-law's chest. In return, he smashed the snow back into my face. It was really cold and everyone laughed at me so badly.
                                                               (My snowball!!!)
I was so happy seeing snow for that whole afternoon and took a lot of pictures. Suddenly, we heard something fell down in our backyard; it was a branch from a tree. Then one branch after another kept falling down because the snow was too heavy. We all noticed that since it was still in October so all the trees had a lot of leaves, so all the snow stayed on the trees and made them very heavy. We had some relatives come over to say hi before the brunch the next day and they said there were so many trees on every street in Livingston. We started feeling worried when we heard from our relatives and neighbors that they lost their power. We were still lucky to have electricity until late that night, even though a big branch fell on the wire in front of our house that afternoon.
                                                  (Trees fell down in our neighborhood)

So my first snow experience was a big snow storm on October. It was worse that the place we planned to have our wedding brunch had no power and generator, so we had to cancelled our party. Ben and I both felt very sorry for Ben's mom because she prepared so much for our party. It was really unlucky that the next day was a beautiful and sunny day. We walked around our neighborhood, but it looked like a disaster: trees and wires were all over the road, everything was covered by snow. We even saw a tree which was separated in half and a huge tree on the ground. My excitement changed to be worried now. We really did not have power for the next 5 days. It was freezing in our house. I guess I was not used to coldness like that in my life.
                                            (This is our street, which was covered by trees)

I really hope next time I see snow, it will not be scary like that time. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black Friday

                                       (I am in Livingston Mall with our first shopping bag)

One of the other things that made me very curious about Thanksgiving was Black Friday. I heard about Black Friday when I was in Vietnam. As I remember, I had read an article about how crazy it was last year in Buffalo;  people ran and stood on each other trying to get into the shop first. That made me scared of going shopping on Black Friday. But I told Ben that I wanted to experience the shops on Black Friday even though I didn't want to buy anything. So we went to Livingston Mall on Black Friday. I was very surprised that the mall was not that busy. It was just so attractive that every shop had big promotional signs in front. We ended up buying some clothes with very good deals.

I never saw such a big discount for every store that we went to. I think it made me a little bit crazy because one of the price tags confused me when we went to the Macy's shoes department. Ben said he wanted to go and see the men's section. So I was walking around and found 2 pairs of boots that I liked with very good deals. Sadly they just had one pair my size. I tried them on and they fit me pretty well. When Ben came back, I showed them to him and he said they were nice. I was very excited and said: they are very cheap too! Ben asked: how much are they? I went to take the sample pair they put on the shelf with the price and said: they are only: $39.99! Immediately Ben turned to me and said: no, I think they are $139.99. I said no way, it had the sticker $39.99 over the old price which was $159, but the number 1 was only half covered. There were two more women approaching the boots and said the same thing as me: wow they are only $39.99! I felt I had a company now. So we all asked the store assistant how much they were? AND Ben was right, they were $139.99. I put them down and said: I am not that in love with those boots so we can go. That was my story and I don't know if any of you fall for stores strategies with their promotional tricks. Anyway, it was so much fun going shopping on Black Friday, which we totally do not have in Vietnam.

Friday, November 25, 2011


                                               (Our family on Thanksgiving Dinner)
Experiencing my first Thanksgiving makes me more understanding of why Ben was very sad the past three years in Vietnam when he missed Thanksgiving. Actually last year, my brother Su and I made a special meal on Thanksgiving for Ben. At that time, I really wanted to make turkey for Ben for Thanksgiving, but it is very hard to buy and cook turkey in Vietnam. So I just made pumpkin and mashed potatoes. Since Ben had been talking about how much fun Thanksgiving is in America, I was so excited for Thanksgiving. And yesterday was my first THANKSGIVING! Actually I felt the Thanksgiving atmosphere from the beginning of this week because it was crazy busy everywhere in New York City.
                                                   (This was the reason why I slept a lot)

The first thing I noticed on Thanksgiving was that we had SO much food! As I've learned, every year my parents-in-law have their family and friends come over for dinner. And this year, we had about 25 people come over. It sounds pretty crazy, but my mother-in-law was amazing at organizing and preparing all the food. She cooked most of the food and some other people brought their own dishes. It was really a lot of fun that we spent time together cooking and setting up tables. Ben and I were in charge of cooking pumpkin with garlic, but sadly 3 out of 4 pumpkins we had were too hard, so we just cooked 1 small pumpkin for 25 people. Actually it was a good strategy because our dish was finished first.
                                                (Our turkey is COOKED!!!)

Even though I had turkey before I was very excited for our turkey because I saw turkey is cooked when the flag popped out. It was a huge turkey! It was interesting to see how our uncle Barry carved the turkey. He did a really beautiful job. I ate so much food that I slept almost 11 hours last night. I think turkey really made me sleepy. 

I really enjoyed my first Thanksgiving. It reminded me about Tet in Vietnam, when all family members get together and we always have a lot of food. Thanksgiving really makes me thankful for having such a great in-laws family. I love Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


(These trees are changing color in our back yard)

When I first came to America, many people asked me how are the seasons in Vietnam, and then they scared me by saying that in New York the summer is very hot and the winter is very cold. From my personal experience, even though summer in Hanoi is hotter than in New York (last summer it was around 115 Fahrenheit degree for quite a long time and very humid), but I still prefer summer in Hanoi. The reason is that when it is hot in Hanoi, almost the temperature is the same inside and outside (AC is not that common in Vietnam), but here in America, everywhere (in the house, on the bus, on the train, Metro, shops,.....) has air conditioner and it is always cold for me inside. So I always had to carry a sweater with me this summer.

That was my summer and I was very excited for fall here. And now fall happening! I really enjoy seeing all the trees changing colors and all the leaves are falling. Sometimes, I cannot feel fall in Hanoi because it happens too fast. I always love fall in Vietnam, the weather is the nicest time of the year. You can see leaves falling and feel the special cool breeze in autum in Hanoi, but you don't see color changing from the trees. This is such a new and great experience in my life, the first time seeing trees with different colors. Some trees are still green, some are yellow, some are very red and some even have no more leaves.

(More trees in our back yard)
To see how great fall looks in New York City, our friends Abby and David took us to the Cloisters Museum where everyone says it is beautiful during this time of the year. It was very nice to see another part of NY City which is totally different from the busy and crazy areas in NY City.
(David, me and Abby at the West side of the Cloisters Museum)

Not only because of the color changing on all the trees, I love fall also because there are so many fun things we do in fall.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Second Annual Cook-Off

                                          (That's me holding the menu for the cook-off)

I want to write this blog to say how amazing our friends Heidi and Seth are at cooking.  Before meeting Seth, Ben told me that he was the best cook among his college friends. When I first met Seth, he cooked dinner for us and it was a fantastic dinner. I had the best steak I've ever had;  I felt like I would need to have a lot of tips and skills to make it as good. Then when I met Heidi, Ben also said she is a very very good cook.

I was very happy and excited to be invited to be one of the judges at Seth and Heidi's Second Annual Greenmarket Cook-Off. At the beginning I thought it would not be that serious, but when we came to Heidi's place, the table was set very fancy. Especially when we just sat down, Heidi handed us menus and instructed us about their "five fork" grading system. It felt very serious.  Our role, being the judges, was to score the taste, the decoration, the originality and how true to the greenmarket each dish was.  Seth and Heidi had to go to the farmer's market in Union Square in the morning to buy all the ingredients for their dishes and they were not supposed to use ingredients from other places (well except salt, pepper and cooking oil).

Here were the appetizers:

          (Heidi's first course: Pear and autumn vegetable soup with pear "chips" and purple micro radish)
Side note: Heidi First course also included Stecca Loaves, which were the BEST fresh bread ever.

                                            (Autumnal stecca loaf with roasted garlic)
Here was Seth's appetizer:
 ( Poached pear with baby lettuce, goat cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds and pear-reisling vinaigrette)

My judgement: It was a very good combination of poached pear and goat cheese and the toasted pumpkin seeds really made it perfect. I loved the pumpkin seeds and I asked Seth how to cook them. In fact, I cooked them at home the week after, but it was burnt and could not compare to Seth's. Obviously, Seth is a much better cook than me!

Here were the main courses:

      ( Seth's Main course: Maple seared scallops, autumn squash two ways and bacon crumble)
You can see how beautiful the dish was decorated, and it tasted fantastic!

 (Heidi's main course: Ricotta squash gnocchi with duck bacon roasted brussels sprouts and apples in honey-apple vinaigrette)
Can you believe that Heidi made gnocchi by herself? It was amazing!

You might think that our judges had a hard job of eating everything in two courses, but everything was sooooooooooooooo GOOD that all of us finished everything, except the dessert because they served a lot:

(We were having dessert. Seth's dessert:  pretzel-crusted sweet potato pie with butter pecan ice cream. Heidi's dessert: Roasted autumn fruit gingerbread truffle with apple-spiced custard and caramel sauce)
(NOTE: I could not finish my desserts, but they were so good, so I wrapped my leftover and took it home.)

After we finished eating, I felt that it was such a tough decision because I needed to judge whose dishes were better while all of the dishes were very very good. Finally, we had a result for the winner of the Second Annual Greenmarket Cook-off:

             (I think you can guess who was the winner from our blurry picture!)                                       

SETH WAS THE WINNER!!! Congratulations again Seth! I think both Heidi and Seth were amazing at their dinners. As everyone told me that Heidi won the First Annual Greenmarket Cook-off, so I thought it was fare for Seth being the winner this time! I will never forget that it was one of my best eating nights!

Thank you again Heidi and Seth for giving us such an honor to be ones of the judges!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Apple and Pumpkin Picking

(We were next the an old tractor ready for apple picking)
As soon as Fall started to come, my parents-in-laws began talking about apple picking. So two weeks ago, on a nice Saturday afternoon, we went apple picking. It was so much fun because I got to see actual apple trees for the first time and I got to go on a tractor for the first time. We were all very excited and we ended up picking too many apples which we had to eat for the whole next week.
(This is our second basket of apples)

I was very excited and wanted to go to the pumpkin field. I was shocked to see pumpkins there which were giant! They were much much bigger than Vietnamese pumpkins. I think almost everything from farming products in America is bigger than in Vietnam.
(I could not lift this pumpkin.)

After going apple and pumpkin picking, I thought we should have something like that for tourists in Vietnam. I think it would be so much fun to see how we plant and harvest rice. I still remember how much fun it was when my family went harvesting for sweet potatoes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Philadelphia Museum of Art

                                            (Ben in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art)        
When I was in Vietnam, I was not interested in going to museums because I thought museums were very boring and I didn't know much about art. But since being in America, a lot of people have told me that museums are very nice and interesting here which has made me more interested in going to museums. Two weekends ago we were in Philadelphia for Ben's friend's wedding. One of Ben's friends said that Philadelphia is very famous for its Museum of Art. So Ben and I both said we will definitely go to visit it. It was very nice to visit the museum because it was free for the 1st Sunday in October.

Before we went inside, Ben told me that I needed to take a picture with the Rocky statue. I turned to him and asked: "Who is Rocky? Was he an American hero?"  Again, I have a very poor knowledge about history and art. However, Ben told me that Rocky was a very famous, fictitious boxer played by Sylvester Stallone. The sculpture is now a real-life monument to a celluloid hero.
                                             (I am in front of The Rocky Statue)

My first impression about the museum was that the museum was HUGE! The building itself has such beautiful architecture with tall white poles and organized exhibition sections. The museum design makes it very easy for people to visit. To be honest, I have no idea what are the differences between different kinds of art. I just might be able to tell only Asian Art from other parts of the world. Sometimes I just felt some art was very weird looking and made no sense. On the contrast, Ben has much more knowledge about art. He pointed out to me a lot of famous paintings and explained to me about some of the famous painters such as Picasso, Van Gogh and Jackson Pollack. To me, the most interesting part of the museum was the Asian Art. I total felt like I was in Asia when we visited this area. The museum even has whole Japanese houses.
                                                      (Ben in front of Japanese house)

Ben's favorite area was the Arms and Armor. It looks pretty crazy to see the outfits used by European princes, kings and knights. I felt like a kid experiencing a movie about ancient time in European.
                                                      (This is Arm and Armor Area)

The weirdest part for me was the Modern Art section, which Ben was really interested in seeing. Every time I saw a modern artwork, I turned to Ben and said: "What this is ART? I think I can do that too." I saw a painting with just stripes with different colors and it did not look special or artistic at all to me. Modern art is weird because I think it exhibits super normal and non artistic subjects. I saw a bottle of Coca-cola in the museum with somebody's handwriting on it (whom I even don't know). Ben laughed at me a lot whenever I reacted to a modern art work. On the other hand, he loves modern art. So I think that is why they have those kinds of works here.

                                       (Please tell me what are the artistic ideas from above artworks)

Besides the Modern Art part, I really loved Philadelphia Museum of Art. After visiting the museum, I think that things we study at schools in Vietnam are so different from here in America. I did not learn at all about any specific artists at school, and this is my excuse when I say I don't know who the artists are. But I think it is really good thing to learn and understand about art. So I highly recommend if you are in Philadelphia, go to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art.