31 July 2009

It’s a Hot, Hot Summer



We thought we’d escape the heat and humidity of Hong Kong, but we landed right in the middle of a heat wave. It’s 36oC today. Ugh.

The kids love to play in the garden, blowing bubbles, picking dandelions, playing with water guns, etc., but we usually have to wait almost until early evening before we go out to play in the backyard. Get them to run around, burn off energy, get all sweaty and hungry, and then shower them down after dinner, before packing them off to bed. With Josh sometimes protesting that it’s still bright outside so it’s not bedtime yet.
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The water straight from the tap is COLD, but because of the extreme heat we’ve been having, it’s actually quite refreshing. Zoë did not even flinch as she kept pouring water on herself.
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The little cousins crowding around the water bucket.
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Fun with sidewalk chalk.
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Bubble fun.

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It’s been really fun, though, despite the heat. It was great seeing the kids play together with their cousins.

A couple more weeks of this. A pity that we live so far away that we get to do this only a few weeks a year.

We are planning to go berry-picking during this visit, but are waiting until it’s not as hot. Hopefully, the weather cools down a bit before we leave.

30 July 2009

Masterpieces



This is one of our favorite activities for lazy afternoons when it’s too hot to go out or when it’s raining.

We get the paints and brushes out. Each one of them gets their own paints and brushes. Zoë inevitably always ends up using her fingers.

Josh’s paintings are less abstract now. Zoë, as you can see, is channeling Pollack.
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These two do KungKung proud.

28 July 2009

Walnuts Explained



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According to Josh, our resident 4-year old wise dude --

Walnuts are hard, because their shells are hard like walls. That’s why they’re called WALL-nuts.

Ah. I never knew. Makes sense, though. Don’t you think?

27 July 2009

Say It Loudly



Josh has yet to learn and master his indoor voice. He has quite a loud voice and sometimes it really booms.

I have to constantly, constantly remind him to use his "indoor voice," to speak more softly. When they turned the lights down in the plane, Josh was asking why they did that --in his usual loud voice and I was trying to tell him to use his "indoor voice" so that he didn't disturb the other passengers. I then dug around and pulled out one of the activity books that I'd bought at the airport. It was one with the modelling clay. When he saw it, he very loudly announced, "Oh, I love this one. I love arts and crafts. This is the best. Mommy!" I was trying to shush him when he added, "You're the best, Mommy!" in the same loud voice.

Now that is something I didn't mind him broadcasting to everyone.

26 July 2009

Journey: First Leg



You know how you prepare meticulously for something and only to have your plan thwarted at the last minute? Well, for weeks, I had put together activity books, toys, stickers, rub art, puzzles, etc. for the kids to take on the plane. We were going to be on a 12-hour plane ride and I needed all the help I could get to keep them occupied.

In the mad rush to get to the airport on time, we left behind Josh's Trunki, where I had packed all the plane goodies. We'd debated having the taxi turn around and go back, but we were already quite far, so we decided to just buy a few things at the airport instead.

Thankfully, we made it through the flight and it went better than I'd anticipated given that we didn't have the original plane goodies that I'd prepared.

~~~--~~

To get to the airport, we had to go through a couple of tunnels and a big suspension bridge. As we got inside the first tunnel, Zoë announced, "No like tunnels." We asked why and she said, "'Cos dark-dark." At which point, Josh, who was sitting next to her, reached over and told her, ""You scared, Zoë? Here, hold my hand, okay?" She did and they held hands until we came out of the tunnel. When we got to the bridge, Zoë just reached over and grabbed Josh's hand and said, "Hold hands me, okay, KoKo?"

I melted.

24 July 2009

Hiatus



Starting today and over the coming three weeks, I will be taking a mini-break from my addiction obsession hobby. I have a few posts lined up to feed the beast, but I probably will not be able to visit too many of my favorite blogs and leave comments.

Let’s see how I’ll fare with very limited access to email and very little, if at all, time to blog. *Shudders*

But I’ll be back. With plenty of photos. And tales to tell.

23 July 2009

The {More} Traditional Bits





Okay, so I promised. (Sorry to disappoint those of you who were expecting to see some faces… Not brave enough. Sure, the photos could have been of anybody’s wedding, but trust me on this, okay? They’re mine.)


Despite our not-so-conventional wedding invitation, we did have some of the more traditional do’s at our wedding, but with our own eclectic twist:

Hair and Make-Up
I had my hair done, but I did my own make-up. After a few trial make-up sessions, I knew that I didn’t want to look like totally somebody else on my wedding day. I can look at my wedding photos and know that it was me in those photos.


The Wedding Gown
Nothing eclectic about this at all. My wedding gown was white (ecru, actually). I had a lovely veil, with scallop edges, trimmed in gold. I never dreamed that I would have any hint of lace in my wedding gown. I’m not a lace-y person. I always pictured myself wearing something much simpler, no lace, sleek, and modern. But look at what I ended up with… I’m hoping that Zoë will fall in love with this gown, too and will want to wear it at her own wedding.


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The Ceremony
We were married in a Catholic church. Fr. M, a priest that Chris’ family had known for over 30 years, officiated.

I had a maid-of-honor, a junior bridesmaid, and a flower girl. We did not have a ring bearer.
Both my parents walked me down the aisle.


My Bouquet
I had originally wanted calla lilies, in yellow or orange. I somehow ended up with yellow roses instead. Simple.


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The Tea Ceremony
Immediately after the wedding, we went back to my in-laws’ house where Chris and I changed into something more Chinese for the tea ceremony. He wore a blue silk jacket and I had on a red, silk cheongsam.

The tea ceremony was where we served tea to our older relatives (parents, aunts and uncles, older siblings/cousins, etc.), who, in turn, gave us red envelopes stuffed with cash (laisees or ang-pow or hung bao). The younger family members served us tea and we gave them red envelopes, too.

I’m not too sure of the significance of this ceremony, but I think it’s meant for the couple to meet all the family members. It was quite fun, especially with the older relatives cackling up as they recited witty blessings as they handed over the red envelopes –the bulk of which had to do with us “producing soon.”


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The Dinner Reception
We had tea lights at each table. Strewn over the table cloth were tiny seashells.
Our first dance was to Lauren Wood’s Fallen. The song had to do with how we met (another post). We had a few bottles of wedding bubbles at all the tables, so the guests were blowing bubbles at us when we did our dance.

Overall, both Chris and I were pretty happy with how the wedding went. We’re not fussy persons and while there were certain things that we insisted on, we were pretty much relaxed and stress-free during the entire planning process. That says a lot, considering that we were planning from overseas.


What was your wedding like?

22 July 2009

Note: This is not part of the wedding photos that I promised in my previous post. Those are coming tomorrow. These are just "fillers."


These are very common sights when it comes to wedding cars around here. No, our wedding car was nothing like these.


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W - Mickey Minnie

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Yes, it’s Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel. Bet you didn’t know that Hello Kitty’s partner is called Dear Daniel, did you? Glad to be of service.

These photos were taken at the car park of the Cotton Tree Drive marriage registry, next to Hong Kong Park. Many couples come to this particular marriage registry because it is right next to a beautiful park where they can take photos after the “ceremony” (if you can call a quick 5-minute signing of documents such). The marriage registry is also less than 10 minutes’ walk away from Pacific Place, where some would head to afterwards to “celebrate,” usually at one of the hotels there (Marriott, Conrad, or Shangri-la).

~~--~~

For more WW fun, check out 7 Clown Circus, 5 Minutes for Mom, and Ordinary and Awesome.

21 July 2009

Wedding Art



Not your traditional wedding invitation. Very non-wedding, actually. There is nothing about this that even whispers wedding at all, except perhaps the paper stock used. Except for the sheet of vellum upon which the actual invitation was printed, which was laid on top of this card, “attached” by that strip of ribbon.
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Yes, this was how our wedding invitation (and place cards and thank-you notes) looked. Credit for the design goes to my parents. My dad did the watercolor wash and my mom did the corals, sea weeds and the fish.

The translucent vellum sheet set on top of this print gives the whole scene an even more underwater feel.

Both Chris and I scuba-dive, you see. And no, before you ask, we didn't don our wet suits or our fins on our wedding day and we didn't have an underwater wedding. Everything else was fairly traditional. I promise some photos in my next post...

20 July 2009

Michael This, Michael That



We were in the car and out of nowhere, Josh asked, “Mommy, what are the names of the dead people?”

Me: (Thinking to myself, What dead people?!) Uh, they all have different names.

Josh: Is Jillian Michael [sic] dead?

Me: (What?!) Huh? Who?

Josh: Jillian Michael [sic]. Is she dead?

Me: No, she’s not. Do you even know who she is?

Josh: No. So she’s not dead? Who died?

Then it hit me. There had been some mention of Michael Jackson around the house when he died a few weeks ago. Josh must have overheard us talking about it and had confused Michael Jackson with Jillian Michaels, whom he has heard me mention in relation to the 30-Day Shred.

Me: Michael Jackson died. Jillian Michaels did NOT die. She’s the one that’s in the Shred DVD, remember?

Josh: Ah. I thought it was Jillian Michaels. So, Michael Jackson died?

Me: Yes, he did.

Thankfully, he didn’t pursue it further. I am not sure if I am ready to discuss death yet.

~~--~~

It’s funny the information that sticks. Yet another reminder to really watch what we say around the kids.

I ♥ Faces – Week 28: Feet



We have a small reflexology foot path down from where we live. I don’t go there often, but I reckon that it’s mostly the senior citizens who make full use of this foot path. I’d tried to walk barefoot on this, but had found it painful even only after a few steps.

But Zoë… she runs up and down this foot path with no problem. Hmmph, maybe being tens of kilos lighter helps.

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18 July 2009

Fix-It Friday: Little Miss



I decided to try my hand at I Faces’ Fix-It Friday. Although technically, it’s already Saturday here…

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We’re supposed to take the featured photo and try to “fix it” as best we can. In this original photo, we have a very busy background…

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These are a couple of the results of my editing using Picasa 3:

I cropped, edited out the stroller wheels, played around with soft focus, “warmified,” and sharpened a bit.


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Here, I tinkered around with focal BW.


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Which one do you like more?

Check out all other edits on I ♥ Faces.

Kids Know



I swear, kids somehow know and come through for us when it counts.
I had to do a 5am (!) conference call a couple of days ago. I wouldn’t have minded staying up well past midnight to do the call, because I usually go to bed late anyway, but we had other parties calling in from the US, from different parts of Europe, Australia, and Asia that that was the best time that could be arranged.
Anyway, I was worried that Zoë might wake up in the middle of the night and crawl into bed with us OR worse, ask me to sleep with her on her bed. She does sleep through the night, in her room, on her own bed –about 3-4 times a week. Other nights, she wants me –only me, –to sleep with her.
I’d set the alarm for 4:45am. I was worried that if I’d had to sleep with her that the alarm would wake her up, too and then I wouldn’t have been able to do the telecon in peace. I needed my wits about me for this super early call; it was all I could do to even be awake when it was pitch black outside.
Well, what do you know, she slept through! So I had a proper good night’s sleep. Not only that –-Zoë didn’t wake up until my telecon finished at 7am! She normally wakes up between 6-6:30am.
Maybe it was just luck. But maybe she knew.
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17 July 2009

View - Peak
View from The Peak.


The buildings in the foreground are part of Hong Kong Island. You'll see the famous Bank of China Tower, the International Finance Centre (IFC), Central Plaza, and other commercial and residential buildings --from Central (on the left) all the way to North Point and beyond. Across the water is Kowloon.

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On clear days, The Peak is one of the best spots in Hong Kong to get stunning shots of Hong Kong and Victoria Harbour. When we have guests from overseas, we usually take them up to The Peak. It's almost a must-go-to destination for first-time visitors --for sightseeing, shopping, dining. This photo was taken on one such day, when we were taking one of Chris’ overseas colleagues for a look-see around Hong Kong.

Have you been to Hong Kong? What do you like best about the place?

~~--~~



Please head on to Ashley's blog for this week's In a Yellow House Photo Challenge to check out more "Urban" entries.

16 July 2009

Sweet Talk



Part of the blessing of having more than one child is watching them look out for each other and be, well, just be sweet with each other.

Zoë, for some reason, did not want to change out of her pajamas this morning. She absolutely refused and threw a fit. Then she boldly and angrily announced, “Bye bye!” and proceeded to close the door to the hallway. Quite a little firecracker we have here.

Josh went after her and this is what Chris and I heard from the living room --

Josh (in a very gentle and patient tone): Zoë, come out now, okay?

Zoë: NO! No, no, no!

Josh: You just want to stay here all by yourself?

Zoë: Yes.

Josh: But if you don’t come out, then you won’t be able to come with us and you won’t see your cousins. So come out now, okay?

Zoë: ‘Kay.

And she calmly came out.

Chris and I were both smiling throughout this short exchange.

15 July 2009

Seen in Hong Kong #1: Diver



This is the first of a series of photos that I will be sharing from time to time about, well, what I see here in Hong Kong. The photos will feature people, views, food, and other sights that I think would be interesting to share.

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I took this photo of my friend's shirt. He wore this one time when we went scuba-diving and everybody had a good laugh over what was written on his shirt. This was taken quite a few years back, um, maybe six years ago...


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Ironically, he is an investment banker and has just recently gotten married. I don't know if he still wears or even has that shirt now.



For more WW fun, check out 7 Clown Circus, 5 Minutes for Mom, and Ordinary and Awesome.

14 July 2009

Brown Hair, Black Hair



Josh’s hair is a dark shade of brown now, but much lighter when he was younger.
Zoë’s hair is a lighter shade than Josh’s, with beautiful coppery highlights. Its shade is not as light as you see here on the photo below, but definitely brown.
I once had the following conversation with one of the security guards downstairs:
SG: What color is your son’s hair?
Me: Brown. (Thinking to myself, What a weird question.)
SG: No, I meant the name of the color of his hair.
Me: (Still not getting it) What do you mean the name of the color of his hair?
SG: So that when I’ll have my hair colored, I can tell the stylist the name of that color.
Ahhh. Sorry, his hair is naturally that color, so, umm, Mysterious Brown? How does that sound? Considering that my hair is jet black and so is Chris’.
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You just gotta love the smile on her face!

13 July 2009

Okay, so Marcia is not really your regular pet. Marcia is an orangutan and lives in a zoo in Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia).

Of all the animals, I think I am the most fascinated with primates. They’re such intelligent creatures. I picture little thought balloons whenever I see them or watch them in action.

~~--~~

This photo was taken last November when we had a short family vacation to Kota Kinabalu.

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Do head on over to I ♥ Faces for other “pets” in this week’s entries.

One of this week’s themes over at I ♥ Faces is Sports in Action. I don’t have many action shots of Josh playing sports, but the photo below is one of the few that I really like. It shows Josh concentrating hard, in full protective gear, pumping his short little legs as hard as he could.

We got him a bike for his third birthday. At the time, his legs were barely long enough to push the pedals all the way around, but he was dogged in learning. Now he “races” and he’s all business when it comes to his races. Mommy, I have to go now; I have a very important race!

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Do head on over to I ♥ Faces for other interesting and beautiful faces!

11 July 2009

Untitled



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This photo is one of my favorites. It captures the personalities of these two tikesters perfectly: Zoë’s sweetness and Josh’s curiosity. Despite agreeing to pose with Zoë, he couldn’t be bothered to look at the camera, but was busy looking for ants and snails.

Do stop by and join Communal Global's Tuesdays Around the World.
Today's theme is "At the park, or on a walk." Share your day with us! Where do you like to walk? Do you have a favorite park, and why do you love it so? We want to know!
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P.S. Don't forget to vote (and vote and vote) for your favorite "Today!" The Top Ten have been posted.

Yes, it was rather unfair of me to just throw questions out there without sharing my personal perspective on the subject. I don’t have the answers to the questions that I’d listed in my previous post. At any rate, here goes an attempt at dissecting my thoughts and actions when it comes to “competitiveness”:

Even though I am competitive by nature, for the most part, I’m all about making everything “fun” for the kids. They are kids after all. I am a believer in the “learn through play” philosophy (broadly speaking), but I am very conscious about the fact that life is not just all fun, that most of the time, we do need to put in an effort, to work hard.

Anything new that I’m introducing, I try to present it as something fun. I do my share of “Well done’s” and “Good job’s,” but you’ll often hear me say, “That was fun, wasn’t it?” Because at this stage, it is still about having fun. When I get an affirmative from the kids, I feel that we’re definitely on the right track and that that activity is worthwhile.

That said, what about those times when the fun factor has been established, but then somewhere midstream, it ceases to be “fun” because a task gets to be slightly beyond their ability or because others could do certain things better? Are these opportunities to explore motivation, teach about perseverance?

On most days, I am very happy that Josh is competitive, but not aggressive. He wants to be the “mostest” at many things, but he also easily moves on and does not dwell if he does not succeed at a task. He is fairly laid back that way and I absolutely love that about him. There are moments, however, where I question if maybe he should feel a bit of annoyance (just a bit, mind you) and if maybe that could make him push himself more.

And then at his worst, we have seen Josh just throw in the towel, because “it’s too tough.” With him, in those instances, there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. He sees a task as either something he’s good at or something in which he does not excel. This is where I struggle. When he gives up, obviously it’s not fun for him anymore. I’ve done the “Yes, I know it’s tough, but that’s why we have to try / practice, so that it’ll get easier”; I’ve also tried the “Okay, let’s take a break for now and try again in a little bit”; I’ve been guilty of pulling the “Just do it. Look, everybody else is doing it. Do you want to be known as the boy who did not want to try?” Oh, also the corny “You know, when I was your age, I thought it was tough, too, but I practiced and I tried…”

All of the above have worked differently on different occasions --depending on my mood and his. We’ve had some power struggles and we’ve also had some peaceful resolution. Most of the time, I don’t know what to expect and right there in the moment, I’m scrambling for the right thing to say and do.

It really bugs me that I am constantly second-guessing myself when it comes to parenting. It bugs me all the more that I am so unsure when the stakes are so much higher than anything else I’ve ever done.

10 July 2009

{I can’t tell you how many drafts I have with the title “Seeking Balance.” I never could find the right words to say all I want to say on the subject, so I’ve decided to tackle this bit by bit.}

If somebody is to ask me what the hardest thing about being a parent is, I would, without hesitation, say that it is about finding that perfect balance. The perfect balance –giving your children all you can but stopping short of the point where they might get a improper sense of entitlement, helping them but also knowing when to let them help themselves, how much is too much, what is just enough, am I overdoing / not doing enough, etc.

I muddle through. Hoping, praying that I don’t drop the ball when it really counts.

~~--~~

At Josh’s and Zoë’s Socatots classes, I had a chance to observe different approaches to competitiveness.

There are parents who quietly encourage. There are parents who enthusiastically and loudly cheer. There are those who just let their children be. There are grandmothers who hover and point out how the other kids are doing vs. their own.

Sometimes when a child comes crying because he failed to score a goal, there are some parents who patiently urge their children to go back and try again. There are those who just tell their kids to suck it up and get back in there. Others would comfort and hold the child until he feels comfortable enough to rejoin the class.

How do you teach a child about striving to be the best that they can be without turning him into an aggressive, overly competitive little beast?

Is “I may not be the best, but I’m good” good enough or might that set them up for a life of complacent “settling”?

How much encouragement from you and how much “discover the joy yourself and feel the pride”? Do you tirelessly cheer them on? When do you just sit back and let them be?

Honesty to what degree? Brutal as in, “No, you’ll never be good at this sport”? Possibly falsely (?) encouraging as in, “You’ll just have to try harder. It’s never easy at the beginning, but you’ll soon get the hang of it” even though you can clearly see that your child might be better off trying his hand at something else?

How do you draw comparisons or point out peers’ performance or non-performance without sending the wrong message that his worth / abilities should always be measured against others’?

Lots of questions here. I would love to hear your thoughts about these.

09 July 2009

My Plants



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Before Josh and Zoë, Chris and I were into orchids. Every year, there is a Flower Show at Victoria Park and Chris and I would go and check out the plants, but we were particularly on the look-out for orchids. When we would go on trips in Southeast Asia, we would try to visit markets or nurseries, just to see if we could get some special ones that we couldn’t get here in Hong Kong.

We still love orchids, but had decided to give them up –temporarily. We’d had to give them up, because we’d seen some tiny bugs flying around, which we suspected were there because of the plants.

I placed an ad on a website here announcing ‘Free orchids and other plants to the first person’ to come by to pick them up. Less than half a day and the plants were gone. The lady who came by gave me a small box of Mrs. Fields cookies. As soon as she left, I gobbled them all up.

I miss my plants. I hope they’re thriving.


Paphiopedilum. Slipper orchids are so elegant.
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This was the one and only time we had twin blooms in a slipper orchid. Aren’t they just lovely? I miss these guys.
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Our very first phalaenopsis orchid. The petals were the most beautiful pale yellow. We had more phalaenopsis orchids than any other kind, mainly because these were rather hardy and easy to care for.
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More phalaenopsis orchids. We had a few of these in different colors and patterns.
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This one is another phalaenopsis orchid, but its blooms are much smaller. This was a “miniature” phalaenopsis plant.
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Cymbidium. I love cymbids. The blooms are so generous, so pure in their beauty. Of all the orchids that we’ve had, we found the cymbids to be most challenging to care for. We hardly were able to get them to flower beyond the first year. But just look at this beauty.
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I think this one we actually brought back with us from Bali. I’m not entirely sure which specie this is, but it might be an odontoglossum. We just called this the ‘spider’ orchid.
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My mom calls these the “Dancing Lady” orchids (oncidium). Those yellow petals do conjure up images of ladies waltzing around in big poufy ball gowns. These are so pretty.
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Another type of oncidium orchids.
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And this cute little baby? We just called it our pitcher plant. We’ve seen the same type of plants, but with the “jugs” much, much bigger than the ones here. Ours only came out with these baby “jugs.” Either the one we had was a special type, or we just weren’t caring for it properly.

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One day, I hope to surround myself with indoor plants again.
Which one do you like best?
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