Milestones and Marvel-marathons

I’m pleased to announce that the winter coats have finally been stowed away! After the last surprise snowstorm in the middle weeks of April, we have now swiftly transitioned into shorts, T-shirts, air-conditioning, and scattered thunderstorms.

In the calm before the end-of-the-school-year storm, we tried our best to take advantage of our weekends and free time to enjoy new experiences, celebrate milestones, and have fun with friends old and new. Though April 30th was the exact date of our 1-year wedding anniversary (and 5-year relationship anniversary), our prolonged “celebration” spanned many weeks and included our spring break trip to New York, the amazing broadway show Hamilton in Chicago, and a delicious Italian dinner in the Third Ward at Onesto.  It’s been a wonderful and challenging first year of marriage, and we are so thankful that God brought us together to journey through this life as a team.

Speaking of teams, we watched Avengers: Infinity War this past weekend after working hard to catch up with what we’ve missed in the Marvel universe since the 2012 first Avengers movie (yes, we were very, very behind). Inspired by many Marvel-loving friends and the release of Black Panther, we watched Guardians of the Galaxy 1, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Thor Ragnorak, and Doctor Strange in the past few weeks in preparation for the newest Avengers installment. It was a crazy movie full of unexpected twists, but definitely worth watching!

Recently, we have also watched a water polo match for the first time, almost escaped from an escape room, and finally went on the Lakefront Brewery tour when a friend from Detroit came to visit.

Of course, our adventures would not be complete without mention of the new forays in food and cooking that have occurred as of late. At our local Aldi, a German-origin supermarket that has not yet made it to Northern California, we picked up some frozen scallops and made a delicious pan seared scallops with lemon caper pasta dish. We also invited some friends over to try a recipe that sought to recreate the spicy cumin lamb noodles we ate at Xi’an Famous Foods in NYC and discovered that making thick, rustic hand-pulled noodles are not so complicated after all!

In closing, I’ve been inspired to become a better baker (likely due to the fact that I’m currently binge-watching the newest season of The Great British Bake Off), and we are so thankful to have friends nearby that have barbecue grills and love food just as much as we do! Looking forward to summer!

 

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Hello, Spring!

Though Spring has officially begun, we are still grabbing our down jackets every morning as Alexa cheerfully reminds us of the 20-30 degree temperatures outside and high chance of snow showers next week. Regardless, the slow changing of the season has definitely been noticeable – the sun is out more often, the nets on the tennis courts have finally been put back, and our much needed Spring Break a few weeks ago was fantastic!

Our spring break adventures started off in Irvine, where we ate delicious Taiwanese food, sampled ice cream in a puffle cone, caught up with college friends, and celebrated the lovely wedding of our dear friend Christine!

Since we no longer live within a days drive of Southern California, we also used the opportunity to visit my little brother Brandon at UCSD. He was a wonderful host, and we enjoyed some Mexican food, coastal views, and quality board game time (I’m really into Bohnanza right now, it’s an amazing game).

After our short SoCal stay, we flew out to New York City to play! Thanks to the 3+ itineraries and many suggestions we gathered from friends, our 4-day trip was packed with “must-sees” and “must-eats” as we wandered through the boroughs. We clocked in close to 10-miles a day on foot in the 30 degree weather, but it was totally worth it (and totally necessary to burn off the food we were eating…)!

Manhattan highlights: watching Chicago on Broadway, Juniors Cheesecake, lunch at Momofuku Ssam Bar, Joe’s Pizza, walking through Central Park, touring NY Public Library, Xi’an Famous Foods, Museum of Chinese in America, pizza and cannoli in Little Italy

Brooklyn highlights: bagels, Brooklyn bridge park

Harlem highlights: Levain Bakery cookies, lunch at Sylvia’s, Amateur night at the Apollo Theater

Queens highlights: Ramen Shack, Flushing!!

We came back pretty exhausted (especially me because I got some sort of stomach bug on the last night of our travels and barely made it on the plane back to Milwaukee), but it was so nice to have the stress-free week of not doing school things!

Overall, spring semester has been smoother than the fall, and we have been enjoying new experiences, having friends over frequently for dinner/game nights, growing closer to our neighborhood community church small group, finally seeing Black Panther, and making our apartment feel more like home. We are also celebrating our one year wedding anniversary at the end of this month, and we are so thankful for all the ways God has provided for us and blessed us beyond belief!

 

Happy (belated) Easter! He is Risen!

 

 

 

Back to Wisconsin for 2018

Happy 2018 to one and all!

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Michelle and I had a wonderful time during the holidays with our family and friends in the Bay Area. We enjoyed plenty of family time and dragged everyone we knew out to help us make our way through a long list of restaurants that we missed, of which Sweet Tomatoes topped the list. To our chagrin, Wisconsin’s closest substitute is apparently Panera… We took advantage of every opportunity to spend time doing what we couldn’t when we returned to Wisconsin including: taking a Zumba class with my mom, watching movies that we had missed, playing basketball outdoors, walking Kenji around the neighborhood, visiting Christian Layman Church, and hiking in Big Basin. Michelle even had the time/opportunity to binge-watch Season 1+2 of Stranger Things with her brother! After a busy semester, it was amazing to find solace in our friends and familiar comforts at home (the 50-degree weather was also a welcome reprieve from the single-digits and snow)!

When we returned to Wisconsin, we were determined to make time for what gave us joy even in the midst of a busy season. We celebrated Michelle’s 26th birthday (and her first day of school) with Thai food and Mississippi mud pie + coffee ice cream for dessert. We also cooked a delicious brisket using the sous vide method (shout out to Quess for the inspiration) for a potluck to celebrate 6 January birthdays in our small group.

Finally, we went with our friends JP and Misaye to the national snow sculpting competition in Lake Geneva this weekend. We had a lot of fun watching the artists put the final touches on their sculptures and sliding around on the frozen lake!

We know that God has amazing things in store for this year, and we feel challenged to love each other better, be bold in our relationships with our present community, and dig deeper into his specific calling for us in the academic season.

2018 has gotten off to a great start and we hope to keep you posted as we go!

Finally finished and feeling free

The semester is finally over, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the long-awaited break! As they always do in school, the weeks between Thanksgiving and the semester close flew by with non-stop culminating projects, research proposal deadlines, and final exams. We have spent many a recent day in our favorite local study cafe, Colectivo, and drinking too much coffee!

Over Thanksgiving break, we stayed around in Milwaukee and hosted a small Friendsgiving gathering at our apartment. It coincidentally turned out that everyone who attended was from California and couldn’t afford to go back home for so short a time. We had a great time, and I happily succeeded in making my first spatchcocked turkey along with some sticky rice stuffing and a pumpkin magic cake for dessert!

On Black Friday, we went to see a movie in the theater for the first time since La La Land. “Wonder” was definitely a tear-jerker (x5), and I highly recommend seeing it if you haven’t already! That weekend one of my classmates also invited us over to her home in Brookfield for a delicious dinner. We met her husband and children and giant German Shepherd, and the night really felt like “real life” in contrast to all the school-oriented tasks and activities that normally occupies our time.

In early December, Jonny had a medical volunteering event at a Hmong New Year celebration in Milwaukee (apparently Hmong Americans are the largest Asian ethnic group in the state of Wisconsin), and I decided to tag along to check it out. Good decision on my part, because the organization was very generous with the food vouchers for the medical student volunteers, and we ended up taking home a plethora of Hmong food for dinner…and lunch and dinner the next day too.

Since our last update back in early November, we’ve started attending a neighborhood community group through our church. Our group has a good mix of members in different life stages, and it’s great that one of Jonny’s classmates and his wife attend the group as well. We meet every Thursday night to discuss the previous Sunday’s sermon and bible passage, and once a month we have a potluck/fellowship night.

In other news, it’s really cold here and the snow has finally decided to stick around! It’s quite surreal seeing everything covered in snow, but so far it hasn’t been too much trouble (underground/covered parking will do that for you). It also make Christmas lights and decorations WAAY more beautiful, so that’s a plus!

While we are definitely glad to be settling in well here, we are excited for our time back in California to see all of our beloved friends and family!

 

 

 

Madison and Beef Bourguignon

To celebrate the completion of another block of exams, Michelle and I decided to spend our Saturday exploring Madison, the state capitol of Wisconsin. We began the day by exploring Dane County’s original Madison Farmer’s Market on the Square. The market was quite extensive, surrounding the entire capitol building in the middle of downtown Madison. Though it was raining lightly, the market was bustling and filled with vendors selling everything from pizza-flavored baked cheese to kohlrabi as it was the second to last farmer’s market for the season. We stocked up on vegetables and bread for the week and then proceeded to a local coffee shop, Ancora, to treat ourselves to a mocha.

Next, we joined a tour of the state capitol building to learn more about the history of our new home state.  The tour guide explained that the state is commonly referred to as the “badger state” because Wisconsin ore miners used to dig temporary underground shelters for themselves, similar to badgers. Thus, there seems to be statues of badgers everywhere in Wisconsin (including the doorframe of every main hall in the capitol). She also pointed out unique aspects of the architecture such as the fossils embedded in the rock walls and floors of the building.

After the state capitol, we hightailed it to the local Asian bakery to load up on Asian pastries that we have dearly missed since moving to the Wauwatosa. We may have gone a bit overboard, but we were so excited to see the comforting sight of taro, bbq pork, and red bean buns. Then, it was time for lunch. Since we couldn’t settle on a single lunch spot (we really get a kick our of sampling all of the local foods we can when we visit a new city), we chose to go to two locations: Paul’s Pel’meni and Ian’s Pizza.  At Paul’s we had our first pel’meni, a Russian dumpling filled with potatoes or meat (and subsequently doused in yellow curry sauce, cilantro, and sour cream), and were impressed by the flavor. Apparently pel’meni was a common, portable, and easily-prepared food item for travelers to carry during long winter journey’s in Russia and Siberia. At Ian’s Pizza, we got a “smoked brisket and tots” pizza, which was also delicious. Technically the Mac n’ Cheese pizza gets all the hype at Ian’s, but we just couldn’t see ourselves finishing an entire slice…

In order to walk off the huge amount of calories we just ingested, we chose to wander through the University of Wisconsin Madison’s campus. The campus was beautiful and vibrant with school pride as a Badgers football game was ongoing, reminding us of the fervor of Berkeley’s campus. We were impressed by both the beauty of the campus with docks that led into Lake Mendota, as well as their on-campus diary manufacturing plant, Babcock Hall. We ended up strolling about 2 miles to visit Henry Vilas Zoo, a free zoo in Madison with awesome animals like flamingos, a polar bear, and a real live badger! We ended the day with a lovely Laotian dinner and boba with our new friends Matthew and Sharon.

The following day I (Jonny) spent the greater portion of an afternoon cooking Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. It had been a few weeks since we had cooked anything out of the norm, and we were inspired by the movie Julie and Julia. Boeuf Bourguignon (or beef burgundy) was originally a peasant dish that is now a staple of haute cuisine. It’s a beef-based stew that is braised in burgundy wine for hours and served with a generous side of sautéed mushrooms and pearl onions over butter egg noodles. Our efforts were rewarded when we shared this meal (along with a homemade pumpkin pie that Michelle baked in the toaster oven because the real oven was occupied all day with the stew) with our friends JP, Misaye, Suhas, and Francis!

Fall Break

I am pleased to announce that we are more than halfway done with our first semester in our respective PA/medical school programs! Getting back into the routine of attending class, studying, and taking tests has definitely been a challenge, but we are finally hitting our stride and finding efficient and effective ways to approach the material being thrown at us. We’ve even started study marathons at local cafes on the weekends again (throwback to college…)!

Over the past month, we have also been intentionally trying to enjoy the fall season in Wisconsin and take advantage of the nice weather while it is still here. Recently, we helped out at a small Harvest Festival at our church (hosting a game where children had to eat donuts off of a string) and went apple picking at The Elegant Farmer with some friends from MCW (the chicken pot pie and the “apple pie baked in a paper bag” were both delicious)! We sampled over nine varieties of apples while we tromped through the orchard with our basket, and Jonny even climbed a tree or two to snag the specific apples that I wanted.

Later that week, I made some of the apples into an apple crisp which we brought over to our friends’ apartment when they had us over for a cider and cheese night! We had a lovely night of conversation, great food, and Mexican poker with JP and Misaye.

Also, last weekend we were blessed to host our first non-family visitor in Milwaukee! Mimia was in Chicago for a conference and graciously agreed to take the train up to Milwaukee on Friday evening to hang out with us. We went out for perch fish fry and lobster at St. Paul Fish Company in Milwaukee Public Market followed by fried cheese curds and custard for dessert at Gilles Frozen Custard. Unfortunately it was raining on Saturday morning, so Mimia and I hung out/studied at Colectivo Coffee while Jonny went to volunteer at a health fair. On the 1.5 hour drive back down to the Chicago airport, we stopped at Portillo’s for a lunch of Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian Beef Sandwiches. It was there that we also unfortunately found out that Mimia’s flight had been cancelled due to an approaching thunderstorm. Since we were en route to Chicago, we decided to head into town anyway for an evening of unexpected downpour and dining choices before heading back to Milwaukee. Though it was a long weekend with lots of driving, it was great to catch up and fellowship with an old friend, and it definitely reminded us of the loving and supportive community that we have back at home.

This past weekend was Marquette’s Fall Break, and I was grateful to have an extra two days off to decompress a bit. We decided to drive up to Door County for a speedy 24-hour getaway, and it was amazing. The fall colors were truly incredible (I took so many pictures of trees, it’s kind of ridiculous), and we enjoyed two lovely hikes in the state parks along the Lake Michigan coast. On Friday afternoon, we explored the Eagle Trail in Peninsula State Park, and on Saturday morning we hiked the Black Trail in Whitefish Dunes State Park/Cave Point County Park.

We also enjoyed a delicious meal at the famed and historic Door County Fish Boil at Old Post Office Restaurant. A fish boil is an old tradition dating back to the 1800s when Scandinavian immigrants fed their entire logging/fishing community with potatoes, onions, and locally caught fish boiled in large kettle of water and salt. Our experience at the fish boil was a historical demonstration as much as it was a meal, and the food was simple and delicious from the local Lake Michigan whitefish to the handmade cherry pie. To our surprise, we were seated at the same table with two strangers that ended up being Class of 2009 Berkeley grads randomly visiting Wisconsin from the Bay Area. What a small world.

We definitely did not have enough time to explore all the things in Door County, but we did have the chance to stroll around town, explore the local Farmer’s Market in Sturgeon Bay (we sampled the best caramel corn ever), and a visit a small-scale working Dairy farm (where we saw cows being milked and petted baby cows and miniature ponies).

 

End of the First Block of Exams

While it’s only been a month since our last post, it feels like so much time has passed. School has ramped up into full gear, but Michelle and I have still fortunately been able to explore more of Milwaukee in our bits of free time. We’ve hosted Michelle’s family when they visited from the Bay Area, gone on the 7 bridges hike, and ate at a pretzel Milwaukee style.

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Photos by Joshua Tsui

 

Additionally, we saw hundreds of people at Bradford beach, sampled a mystery chili (combined from 20+ entries in a chili competition), fed some goats at a petting zoo, met R2D2, and witnessed a lumberjack competition.

 

 

Prior to starting medical school, I had often heard learning in medical school being described as “drinking from a fire hose”.  While I took this description to heart, I didn’t fully comprehend it’s meaning until I began my studies. Between the numerous clinical correlations in biochemistry and cadaver dissections in anatomy, I’ll admit that there had been moments when I felt inadequate. Thankfully, Michelle was always there to encourage me and support me in whatever way she could. I successfully finished my first block of medical school exams this past Friday and am grateful when I think about the privilege I have of studying to become a physician.

 

 

This past weekend, we were able to go on a retreat with CMDA at Lake Mills. An alumnus of CDMA was kind of enough to let our group use their lakeside cabin for a weekend of fellowship and relaxation. During this retreat, we were reminded that our God is faithful as we wrote down our hopes for the year on a lantern and cast it off over the lake.

 

Michelle and I also received a lovely care package from our close friends at home (shout out YAGs at CLC), reminding us of how much we are loved and missed by our community back at home.

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YAG love

 

Befores and Afters

It’s been three weeks since we arrived in Wisconsin and I can now confidently say that we are “all settled in” to our new home. It was a lot of fun (and work!) to set up our new apartment, and we are very happy with how it all turned out in the end. We have a sizable kitchen and dining room, a spacious living room, a master bedroom with two sinks (yay!), and a second bedroom that we converted into our study…and home gym!

Jonny has wanted a home gym for a long time now, and we agreed that if we found a good priced 2 bedroom apartment in Wisconsin, we would try to make his dream come true (it is also his quarter century birthday present!). We figured that it was a good investment for our health and efficiency, as we probably won’t feel up to going to our school gyms that often in the cold, snowy winter weather.

This past week was also Jonny’s first week of medical school at MCW. It was packed full of class lectures, anatomy labs, introductions, and free club lunches but he made it through alive! He’s glad to be back in the swing of things, learning material he finds interesting and relevant, but it’s definitely a stressful challenge as well. We’ve accumulated some extra reference textbooks and mounted some whiteboards in our office in efforts to make our home very comfortable for the long hours of studying to come for both of us.

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Walking to school!

On Monday, we attended the first gathering of MCW’s Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA) and met some new friends and fellow believers. It was a little weird for me at first, as I was the only one there who does not attend MCW, but I was welcomed warmly to the group. It’s also nice that most of the members attend Meadowbrook, the neighborhood church that we have been checking out.

This weekend we also visited the Wauwatosa Farmer’s Market, hosted a very enjoyable spaghetti and meatballs dinner party for some of Jonny’s classmates, attended Meadowbrook’s annual church picnic, and played some tennis at the local park. I’m trying to enjoy my last days of freedom before my PA program starts, but as much as I enjoy watching the many episodes of “The Great British Bake Off” (I’m currently halfway through season 2), I’m looking forward to having some structure back in my days. My orientation is on Friday and classes start next Monday!

 

First week challenges and celebrations

Tomorrow, a week will have passed since we moved into our new apartment in Wauwatosa, and it’s finally starting to feel like a home (rather than a huge cluttered mess)! I cannot count the number of trips we have made to stores and strangers’ houses to accumulate the conglomeration of new and used furniture/appliances that now furnish our apartment.

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Our first meal in the apartment. Hooray for Chick-fil-A being open late!

Definitely the most challenging process of the week was installing the washer and dryer set that we purchased off Craigslist from a nice man in Greenfield. You’d think it’s a fairly simple ordeal, but our experience included Jonny getting soaked by a leaking water hose, a mild electrocution (everyone is okay), multiple trips to Home Depot, and hours spent trying to attach the two sides of a disagreeable dryer vent hose.

There is a huge amount of construction going on in the streets surrounding our complex right now, so it’s usually pretty difficult to get in and out. People have said that because there are such long, snowy winters in Wisconsin, all construction gets condensed into the few short summer months of the year. On more than one occasion, I have literally driven laps around the neighborhood trying to find an accessible way into our parking garage!

This week, Jonny also started his orientation at MCW. He’s been making lots of new friends and sitting through all sorts of fun presentations, panels, and preparation activities. Each evening, there has also been optional community building outings, and on Tuesday night we went to the Wisconsin State Fair with some of Jonny’s medical school classmates! We watched some pig racing, stopped to let competition cows cross the road, enjoyed eating the enormous and iconic Wisconsin State Fair cream puffs, and searched unsuccessfully for hurricane potatoes.

While Jonny has been at orientation, I have been making trips all over town in order to stock our kitchen with food and necessities, but mostly food. In addition to the much-needed Costco and Trader Joe’s (the sweetest cashier at TJs gifted me a “welcome to the neighborhood bouquet!), I visited two Asian grocery stores in the area. The first was appropriately named “Asian International Market” and was a small store that carried mostly Vietnamese groceries but also included Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai specialty ingredients. The second store was slightly larger, and I found myself comforted by the familiar smells in the air and sound of Chinese music as I browsed the aisles.

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Our first home-cooked dinner in the apartment! …obviously nothing much has changed.

Today we also celebrated Jonny’s “White Coat Ceremony” and his official beginning as a student doctor and medical student. His family arrived last night for the occasion, and so far it seems that they like Milwaukee much more than they thought they would!

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Moving yet again!

Today we cancelled our extended stay hotel reservation… because we are moving into our new apartment tomorrow!

By God’s provision, we actually signed the lease for our beautiful 2 bedroom apartment three days ago on August 2nd, our second day of being in Wisconsin. It was a painfully stressful day with logistic complications, typos, endless phone calls, and electronic signing of the lease in the Costco food court, but praise the Lord we got the place!

We will be living in a very safe neighborhood near “The Village“, a lively area of town with restaurants, stores, and plenty of cafes. Jonny and I will both have fairly short commutes to school, and the church we are interested in checking out is also very close.

For the past few days, we’ve been keeping ourselves plenty busy accumulating stuff for our new home. We’ve visited Costco 3 times in the past 3 days, and yesterday, we drove almost 2 hours to make an IKEA run (the closest store is in Schaumburg, IL). We meant to only decide on the furniture we wanted and then have it delivered, but we ended up piling everything successfully into the back of our compact SUV. It was quite a puzzle to accomplish. We also used our newly acquired craigslist/letGo skills (from our summer of selling our stuff) to purchase some affordable and great quality desk chairs and dining chairs, and a Dyson vacuum!

 

When we were transferring our desk chairs into the building to clear up space in the car, we had to explain ourselves to the very confused hotel front desk person and make sure she understood that we were not stealing their property. You’d be surprised how much stuff can fit into an extended stay hotel room. We probably have about 2.5 car loads now.

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There’s more than it looks like there is…

We will be picking up a U-haul tomorrow at 7:30am and should be moving done by the afternoon. It’s rushed, but it’s exciting, and we’ve never moved any other way!

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Happy husband with his hard-earned bowl of ramen