A Van-tastic Christmas!












Rob and I’s eighth Christmas together! This year he got me a new camera lens so we can actually start documenting our life together.

A few tidbits:

+ This holiday, Kassie’s papa saw Santa. Apparently the television was in front of the fireplace so he had to move it so he could get down the chimney and deliver all of their presents.

+ Kevin and Kristopher’s inner boy scout came out and they created an indestructible rope using tissue paper and fishing knots. The result? An unbeatable game of tug of war against Kassie (see last photo).

+ My mom was excited to use the selfie stick that she got in the Philippines last month to get a family photo (second to last photo).

+ Rob and I learned how to make a Christmas ham! Expect this on all Van/Santos holiday tables from now on.

+ Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I’m pretty sure my dad’s favorite Christmas gift was a professional tournament-grade ping pong paddle. It’s kind of his new obsession and he wakes up my little brothers every day before school to play with them.

+ Andrew has proven to be a worthy addition to our family. His octopus ceviche knocked it out of the park and he gave everyone the sweetest potted plant that he created from one of his heirloom fern cuttings.


Let Freedom Ring!










“Mommy! I want to live in an apartment building!” – Kassie

This little one had a blast at Kimi and Uncle Rob’s apartment building this past Fourth of July. She oohed and ahhed over the balloons and red, white, and blue sprinkled cookies at the front desk, got tons of attention from the other residents in the building who probably have not seen a child in years, she explored the spray ground across the street, and even got to watch three fireworks shows (Capitol, National Harbor and Alexandria) right from our rooftop.

There was a buy one, get two free sale at the fireworks stand across the street which also allowed us to expand our nighttime amusement. Luckily, my sister and I were able to get over our childhood fear of holding sparklers just in time to join in on the backyard fun!



The V Family Annual Camping Trip

Rob and I did not go on a honeymoon unless you count a visit to Virginia Beach for our annual V Family camping trip at First Landing Park (see photos from last year here).

To tell you the truth, I actually don’t sleep in a tent. I stay for the crabs, company, swimming, and swings on our hammock but Rob has family who lives less than fifteen minutes away from the camp site so we always stay with them instead. The weather was perfect with a light breeze and I got to spend tons of time with my brothers (they are starting eighth grade this year — wowzers), Kassie, and my new nieces and nephews. We also got to experience the magic that is Jollibee, the McDonalds of the Philippines now on the East Coast! To Filipnos, nothing else says comfort food like a two piece Chicken Joy with a side of rice, spaghetti with hot dogs, a yum burger, mango pie and a big fat ube milkshake to wash it all down…And if we are really being honest, we also went to Sonic too!

I love my life.






A Trip to the Hospital

So I know you what you must be thinking….is this a Noxzema commercial or what? But I actually have a way normal life! – Cher from Clueless


With my blog, Facebook and Instagram it’s pretty easy to think that my life is a big hodge podge of macarons, trips to Anthropologie, rooftop parties, and nail painting sprees. I don’t like talking about sad stuff, it’s no fun and it puts me in a depressed mood. I wish my life WAS all glitter, sprinkles, and cupcakes but sometimes (most of the time) life hands you lemons. Exactly one month ago, Rob developed a high fever of 104 degrees and seizure like chills. He gets sick fairly easily so we assumed it would be gone in 24 hours and we would all go on our merry little way. Instead, he only got worse and needed round the clock care (In reality, I actually missed Kristina walk on graduation and her pinning ceremony. I was only able to step out to take the one photo in the image below and stepped out for two hours while Rob was knocked out on pain killers). We had to send him to the ER three times before he was finally admitted for a scary bacterial infection that had entered his bloodstream and had also affected his appendix. It was also kind of scary because he showed no symptoms of infection or appendicitis besides the fever so it was hard for the hospital to diagnose at first. Once they were able to pinpoint the problem they were able to treat him pretty quickly: a few IVs, a sugery, and two weeks of antibiotics he was finally home and feeling better.

Having being previously diagnosed with cancer, I always thought I would be the sick one in the relationship and I always felt guilty about the complications that might cause later down the road. While having Rob in the hospital was no peach, I felt like it taught me some very valuable lessons before we get married:

1) It is okay to not be able to do everything – I work from home so I luckily had the flexibility to give him the round the clock care that he needed. However after a while it got pretty exhausting! When he was at the hospital, even though I slept on a small couch (which I learned you can pull out the day we were discharged) I seriously had the best sleep of my life in years. Doctors were coming in at all hours of the night, drawing blood, asking questions and I had no idea — I was zonked out! Surprising because I can’t sleep anywhere without my special pillow and blankie (yes, I’m a five year old).

2) We are starting a family together – During this whole ordeal, Rob’s parents were on a three week European cruise vacation without any access to phone or internet. The first week I tried doing everything myself but my mom (who is a nurse) worried about Rob so she ended up checking on him while I was at a meeting and deciding immediately that he should go to the hospital (again) for additional blood work. Her quick thinking and concern was the reason they were able to diagnose the blood infection. She was also able to reach out to his aunties, his brother, and my sisters who were all able to watch over Rob when I had to cover two events that weekend. I have always been in the immature mind set thinking that it was HIS family and MY family and there was a big separation but for the first time I realized that we were in this together and now I have an extra big network of people who now love and care for us now. Also for the first time Rob called my parents “Mom” and “Dad.” Also, I think that is kind of weird because I still call them Mommy and Daddy (again, I am five years old). I honestly would not have been able to get through the three weeks he was sick without the help of family. While I sometimes dream of moving away to a far off city where nobody knows my name, it’s the though of my family that keeps me here.

3) We are in an equal relationship – For better or for worse. As I mentioned earlier, I have a lot of guilt for having had cancer and all the complications that it will cause later in my life. With Rob being sick, I realized that we are both equal partners and we both have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow. As long as we both stay grounded and understand that we love each other we will be good.

Welp, thats enough of me being emo. I promise the next entry will be about unicorns, glitter, and rainbows again!

*The photo above was taken when Rob was finally admitted in the hospital overnight. He has a fever of 104 degrees and just finished a crazy bout of chills but he is still smiling for the camera (he was miserable but I begged him to). Even though he is super sick in this photo, I still think he is so handsome. I am so lucky to be marrying him!


Graduation Day!

This morning, my youngest sister Kristina graduated from George Mason University’s nursing program with honors! This kid is amazing, for her internships she actually CHOSE to work at a prison and a mental institution. She is the only person I know who can talk about enlarged scrotums with fascination and intrigue. She is going to be a fantastic nurse!

Three kids down…two more to go. I am pretty sure my parents are relieved that they won’t have to pay college tuition for another five years.


Because I have to make everything about me: I got kind of emo when taking photos by Mason pond with my family afterwards. Seven years ago, Rob and I graduated from Mason together. We were dating at the time but I honestly did not think anything of our relationship. I assumed that after that summer I would never see him again. I can’t believe we are getting married in three months.

Celebrating the Year of the Snake

When I was younger, all I wanted to be a blue-eyed, blonde haired American girl like one of the Wakefield twins from Sweet Valley High. They were young, tan, and lived by the beach. Their mom was an interior decorator and their dad’s name was Ned! Instead, I was more like Claudia Kishi’s dorky older sister Jeanine. Lame-o!

Growing up, celebrating “Tet” or Vietnamese/Chinese New Year was not of much importance to me. I hated the smell of incense and the sound of a gong ringing in my ears. I did not care for sticky rice cakes or coconut candy, although those red envelopes were always a plus for me! I didn’t really pay attention to any of the customs because I was too busy playing in the basement with my cousins.

Since my twin brothers are WAY younger than me, I have been re-living my childhood through them. My parents put together family celebrations and takes extra time to explain the meaning behind everything so they will understand. I don’t think they realize how much I am benefit from it as well!

A few things I learned about Tet and my family in general include:
* Lucky money should be given in multiples of two.* An alter of five different fruits should be set out to honor the deceased.
* My father’s dad came from a rich Chinese Buddhist family. He converted to Catholicism to marry my grandmother.
* When my dad left Vietnam to escape the war, his father was so heartbroken he stopped speaking to most people.

It was really interesting to learn about my family and even more fun to share the traditions with Kassie and Rob! Both of them learned how to say “Chúc mừng năm mới” to greet elders and Rob killed it in the crab, squid, and gourd gambling game. In fact he made so much money, I don’t have to pay for my next three laundry loads! Woop, woop!

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And since my American New Year’s resolution did not work out (not even sure what it was) I decided to make a new resolution and that is to surround myself with people who truly love me and accept me for who I am (which is not perfect).

Happy New Year!


Happy Thanksgiving!

As a nurse, my mother is required to work one holiday a year.  For as long as I can remember she always has chosen Thanksgiving as her holiday.  One year, when I was about 11 or 12, my family got kind of lazy to whip up a big meal so they decided to purchase a “Thanksgiving in a Box” meal from our local Giant. It was terrible.  I made a vow to never have a gross Thanksgiving day dinner again and have been cooking for my family ever since (except the turkey — that is my dad’s pièce de résistance!).  I was always an odd child and spent a lot of my Saturday mornings watching Julia Child on PBS instead of cartoons like other normal children so I took on the challenge with gutso!

I was introduced to the magic of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup at an early age and was able to turn it into an integral part of my Thanksgiving side dishes.  But I am older and wiser now and I worry about things like sodium and preservatives so I now make all of my meals from scratch.

This year everybody’s favorite side dishes were John Legend’s Macaroni and Cheese and Alton Brown’s Green Bean Casserole.  Thanks to Chrissy Tiegan from Sodelushious for the ideas!

This year I am thankful for so many things: the ability to watch my little brothers grow into wonderful young adults, Kassie for keeping me on my toes and just giving me the opportunity to feel so loved, two sisters that I can talk to any time of the day, a new baby niece who smiled at me for the first time last week, my parents for always supporting me, not one but two awesome jobs to support my Anthropologie and nail polish addiction, Nintendo for making sure that I am never bored again, and of course my wonderful fiance Rob who reminds me how blessed I am every single day.


Double the Nintendo, Double the Fun

Hola Amigos!

It’s definitely been awhile and I apologize for that. Between balancing two demanding jobs as well as planning a wedding, I have little to no time to update my poor little bloggy-blog let alone have a personal life on top of that. Luckily for me, the folks at Brand About Town sent me on not one but TWO Nintendo adventures in the past month. I am so thankful to them because it really gave me a chance to re-connect and spend time with the three loves of my life, my fiance Rob and my two little brothers Kevin and Kris.

Adventure 1: The Wii U Experience

Night one started off with cocktail hour at one of my favorite DC area restaurants, Lincoln (check out my Yelp review here). At the event I got to finally meet the fabulous Justine and Danit from Brand About Town as well as some other really cool mommy bloggers like Thien from I’m Not the Nanny and my fellow non-mommy blogger Lexi from Crumpets with Jam. There was lots of laughs to be had between bites of delicious mouth watering pork belly and sips of excellent Prohibition era period cocktails.

The next day, Rob, Kevin, Kris and I headed down to the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington for an exclusive sneak preview of the Wii U, which is the next generation of video game consoles that will be released by Nintendo during the next holiday season. When we arrived there, we all went our separate ways and went BUCK WILD! Rob at the Batman: Arkham City room, me in the Just Dance booth, and the twins spent a good hour schoolin’ everybody at the Super Mario Brothers U station. Rob and I easily decided that our new favorite game was Ray Man Origins. The dual screen controller was a lot of fun to use and I liked that it allowed me to be an interactive “helper”.  Even though I love Nintendo, my gaming skills just aren’t up to par to Rob’s so this allowed me to interact in the game without totally being left in the dust.

We all left, exhilarated and happy and Rob ended up counting this day as one of the top highlights in his life! Thank you Nintendo for making me the coolest fiance ever!

Adventure 2: Mario Kart Race Party

To wind down summer, Brand About Town also sent me a Mario Kart party kit so I can have fun with all of the little munchkins in my life. The party consisted of: my little brothers and their two friends, Kassie, my sister’s niece and nephew from her husband’s side, and Rob’s three little cousins. It was an eclectic mix but I was so glad to have a chance to get my new growing family together. I usually throw a lot of events but they are more adult oriented so it was nice to let these young grasshoppers know that they were loved as well.

Kassie was most excited about the balloons but all of the other kids became insta-friends with the help of Mario, Luigi, Bowser and Toad. Rob’s grandma even got in on the fun and by the end of the night she was dodging banana peels and throwing turtle shells like a pro. I also felt quite honored to help my brother-in-law’s niece learn how to play her first Nintendo game. She was shy at first but then she snuggled up next to me so I can show her how to play and at the end of the party she gave me the biggest hug ever. It was the best feeling in the world!

Needless to say, everybody had tons of fun and I hope I cemented my little brother’s middle school popularity by hosting this party.

I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own!

Our Engagement Party

My family threw Rob and I an engagement party at Paradise Springs Winery last weekend and it could have not been more perfect.  A large storm hit the Virginia area a few days beforehand leaving my parents and myself without power.  But with a little bit of ingenuity and hard work we were able to make it work out!

Rob is a huge fan of pies so his mother ordered an assortment of twelve different pies from Mom’s Apple Pie Company  to create the pie bar of his dreams!  Everybody enjoyed all of the different flavors but it seems like their chocolate pecan pie was the resounding winner.

My mom’s homemade bean salad was a big hit with all of the vegetarians and gluten-free people attendance while all of the carnivores DEVOURED her jalapeno chicken meatballs with the quickness.  Kat’s homemade paper fans provided a welcome breeze in the 100 degree weather and Kristina’s sweet burlap sign brought the whole rustic theme together.

Simply put, my family rocks.




My Not So Little Brothers

My little brothers are not so little anymore!  They graduated from the sixth grade and are heading to middle school next September!  I couldn’t be more proud of them — they are growing up to be such sweet, darling, funny young men.

Pre-school graduation

Sixth grade graduation!

Summer haircuts!  12 years later they still have the same mischievous looks on their faces that they when they were kids.

I am absolutely obsessed with my brothers and I am not afraid to show it!


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