Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Niece's 1st Birthday

"I'm wishing you another year
Of laughter, joy and fun,
Surprises, love and happiness,
And when your birthday's done,
I hope you feel deep in your heart,
As your birthdays come and go,
How very much you mean to me,
More than you can know."
(Joanna Fuchs)

Sunday of Labor Day weekend, 2 weeks ago, we celebrated my niece Ellie's 1st birthday. Peter, my nephew, turned 4 at the end of July, and I could hardly believe it had been 3 years since we celebrated his 1st birthday -- aka dol (or dohl) in Korean -- with a buffet lunch in the community room of my sister's building; the same place of her baby shower approximately 1 year earlier.

Handmade pillars, personalized M&Ms, and doljabi items from Peter's 1st birthday

For Ellie's dol, my sister wanted to avoid us having to deal with the food and most of the set-up, so she and my brother-in-law booked a room with multi-course dinner at a Korean restaurant in NJ called PoongLim. Overall, it went well and everyone had a good time... Everyone, that is, except the birthday girl herself! Ironically, Peter was a pretty fussy baby who was perfect during his 1st birthday party, but Ellie, the sweetest, most laidback little girl, wasn't feeling well and cried during much of her party.

I don't have good photos from the actual party -- one of my sister's friends, who has the combination of photography skills and a fancy camera, took pictures that he is going to share with them -- but below are shots of some DIY elements, as well as how things turned out.

Silk Flower Pens

We made handcrafted silk flower pens out of, you guessed it, silk flowers and pens. They are pretty and easy to make, and the only other supplies needed are scissors, a glue gun, and floral tape or decorative ribbon. Although the dinner tables were decorated with fresh flower arrangements ordered from Whole Foods, vases of silk flower pens were placed at the table where the doljabi poster and guessing cards were located, and guests were encouraged to take a pen to use and then keep.

Various pink and white faux flowers with green leaves
Working on the floor of my sister's place
I liked the large, fluffy flowers the most, but they all looked nice together
Basic ballpoint pens wrapped with floral tape
Several completed pens in a glass
One of the flower pen arrangements next to Ellie's doljabi board

The best part about this craft project is that you can use your favorite colors or kinds of flowers to make them suitable for any occasion or holiday... or even just to have a pretty pen to use at home or bring to work!

Dol Pillars

When I helped with Peter's 1st birthday party, I made pillars or towers -- aka dol goim -- using M&Ms, pillow mints, and licorice to commemorate the occasion and the year he was born (see photo at top). For Ellie's birthday, I wanted to do the same, but we decided to make them more neutral rather than bright and to use dried beans instead of candies.

Large, medium, and small beans in white, green, and red/pink
My freehand dragon from an image found online
Impressed by Peter's own dragon sketch
Bean pillars made it to the party
Chook dol (happy 1st birthday), born in the Year of the Dragon, and Ellie's Korean name

It was almost a miracle that these came together in the end. Unlike when I made the ones for Peter, this time, I left everything at my sister's place in NJ -- which is harder for me to get to now that I live in Brooklyn versus the Upper West Side of Manhattan -- and she tried to continue working on them, but quit after she burned herself with hot glue. The day of Ellie's birthday party, my brother-in-law and I were literally hot-gluing beans until right before they had to leave for the restaurant and I had pick-up the centerpieces! I'm glad we didn't give up.

Ellie, Future Doctor?

A fun part of the Korean 1st birthday tradition is the doljabi, when the child is set in front of several objects, and whichever item is chosen is said to help predict his or her future. Ellie chose a stethoscope, so she just might follow in her parents' footsteps. (Peter chose money, which is what everyone secretly or not-so-secretly wants their child to pick!)

It's doljabi time

More Party Takeaways

The flower pens did triple-duty as decor, writing tool, and favor, but in addition to those, guests could also enjoy wrapped chocolate bars, and kids took home goody bags full of fun things. There were tons of children at the party, and my sister's sister-in-law set-up a craft table to help keep them occupied when they weren't eating.

Trader Joe's chocolate bars underneath
Goody bags for kiddies
Craft table

It was on September 1, but this party rounded out a big birthday month for our family: mine on August 1, my sister-in-law Grace's on August 2, our other niece Christina's on August 12, and Ellie's on August 27!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

End-of-Summer Vacation in Washington, DC and Virginia Beach

"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."
(Henry James)

My husband and I took some time off during the final week of August, during which we took in a baseball game at Citi Field, drove down to Washington, DC to visit our friend Robyn, and then to Virginia Beach to enjoy the last few peaceful days of summer.

New York Mets vs. Detroit Tigers

Although the Mets and Tigers are in different divisions, they still play each other once in a while. We went to the game on Saturday, August 24, during a gorgeous summer afternoon. Sam, being from Michigan, was happy to see his team do well and also to visit Citi Field for the first time, and we both enjoyed the ballpark food.

Citi Field in Queens
Perfect summer afternoon at the game
Box Frites garlic parmesan fries, El Verano Taqueria chicken tacos,
Catch of the Day grilled shrimp po'boy, Blue Smoke chipotle chicken wings,
Carvel swirl soft serve with sprinkles
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera (aka Miggy) at bat

Zoo Animals and Paddle Boating in Washington, DC

We were only in Washington, DC for about 24 hours, from Monday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon. We stayed at The Normandy, a boutique hotel in the Kalorama area of the city, where most of the embassies are located. We wanted to see the new baby panda at the National Zoo, but the day we visited was shortly after its birth, and baby and mom were not out in public. We went paddle boating along the Tidal Basin the next morning, and in between those 2 activities, we enjoyed some good meals.

Black and white toile room at The Normandy Hotel
Entrance to the Smithsonian National Zoo
Sam, me, and Robyn
Asian elephants
Washington Monument is having some work done
Ducks we saw on the Tidal Basin after paddle boating

Beach, Boardwalk, and Bicycling in Virginia Beach

After a pretty long drive from Washington, DC -- and almost getting our rental car towed in front of our eyes as we picked up lunch in Falls Church, VA -- we arrived at Sheraton Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hotel on the northern end of the boardwalk. Neither of us had ever been to Virginia Beach before, and we had a nice, relaxing time; it's much more peaceful and quiet than places we've been to in Jersey or Maryland, and we had very satisfying food experiences.

Cheery room d├ęcor at Sheraton Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hotel
Me and Sam in front of King Neptune statue
Great seafood dinner at Catch 31
Pocahontas Pancakes, Food Network's best in Virginia Beach
"You + Me" and our footprints
Relaxing by the pool in my trusty black onesie
Pedaling along the boardwalk on a surrey with a fringe on top
Another great meal at Fusion
Crab omelet at Belvedere Coffee Shop

Now that Labor Day has passed, we're unofficially in the autumn season already. I'm a little behind on some updates, including my niece Ellie's 1st birthday party, and a recap of summer recipes and restaurants. Stay tuned...