Surprise Birthday Celebration

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/4, 1/150 sec, ISO200
“Parents and Sons” Redondo Beach, 2019

こんばんは。For my mom’s 80th birthday, we decided to surprise her by having me fly to California to join the rest of the family for a birthday dinner. We had to coax her to come to my brother’s house for a barbecue because she wasn’t feeling 100%, but when she arrived, it was fun surprising her since she was not expecting me to be there. (She thought I was home in Texas)

After the surprise, we settled in for a nice dinner of ribs, sweet potatoes, beans, salads, and of course birthday cake! And we also enjoyed the beautiful sunset, which was unfortunately extra-colorful because of the wildfires in the state. 😕

I wasn’t sure if my mom would be happy to be surprised by me flying over, or if she would have preferred we save the airfare money, but she said she was very happy to see me. So, yay, it was a success! 😄 I have to say, it was nice for us three sons to be with my mom and dad on her birthday, just like old times.


Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/5.6, 1/100 sec, ISO1250
“Dinner Spread” Redondo Beach, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/5.6, 1/300 sec, ISO200
“California Sunset” Redondo Beach, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/5.6, 1/25 sec, ISO3200
“Wildfire Sky” Redondo Beach, 2019

Koa Performed with the Texas Youth Wind Symphony

"Wind Symphony" Austin, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-T10, 35mm, f/2.2, 1/125 sec, ISO640
“Wind Symphony” Austin, 2019

こんばんは。How’s it going?

Outside of school, Koa has been practicing with two music groups, the Austin Youth Orchestra and the Texas Youth Wind Symphony. Today the latter had their spring performance at Bates Recital Hall on the UT campus.

The recital hall is really awesome. Not only are the acoustics amazing, but it has stadium seating so you can pretty much see all the performers from an elevated position. In most general-purpose auditoriums, the stage is elevated, so you need to be in the middle/back rows in order to have a chance to see everyone’s face, and then you are pretty far from the stage. But at the Bates Recital Hall, everyone had a view of their student performer, even in the front rows.

Koa plays percussion, so he was moving around among the different instruments. My favorite was when he played the bass drum in “Of Our New Day Begun”. It was great! And LOUD!

There were a total of 4 pieces in several movements. Please enjoy the videos! (I just used my Fujifilm X-T10 and built-in mic, hand-held, so the quality is not the best. Also, I mainly just made sure Koa was in the videos, so apologies if you weren’t able to see your student)

Austin Youth Orchestra Spring Concert

"Austin Youth Orchestra" Austin, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-T10, 55mm, f/4, 1/150 sec, ISO3200
“Austin Youth Orchestra” Austin, 2019

For the past couple of months, Koa has been rehearsing (as a percussionist) with the Austin Youth Orchestra every week, and today they had their Spring concert. It was really fun to listen to the music today because most of the time, Koa doesn’t perform with strings. It’s a really nice change of pace!

There were three orchestras playing today, and Koa is listed as a member of the top group, but he was asked to play in the middle group as well. He said he had to do a lot of sight reading today since he didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the middle band. But to me, he sounded great. I’m so proud of him!

Percussion is a fun discipline in the band/orchestra because they have to learn many different instruments, such as marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, bells, triangle, cymbals, snare drum, and timpani. Then there are a few other specialty instruments like the rain stick. And today, Koa said he had to switch between bass drum, snare, and cymbals in one of the pieces. Some pieces, he’s very active, and some pieces he doesn’t even have a part in. It’s very interesting.

Anyway, it was great to listen to the Austin Youth Orchestra. All the kids work so hard, and it’s impressive to hear the fruits of their labor come to life in a live concert.

I hope you had a nice Sunday!


How We Do Burgers at Our House

"Burger and Chips" Cedar Park, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.2, 1/75 sec, ISO3200
“Burger and Chips” Cedar Park, 2019

こんばんは。How’s it going?

Although this meal prep is probably typical of American households, I thought I’d write about how we do a hamburger dinner at our house. Who knows, someone might find this post 50 years from now, and it will be a fascinating read! 😄

For the hamburger patties, we’ll go for and 80-20 mix of ground chuck, and I’ll sometimes mix in some seasonings, for instance, tonight I put in some Japanese Worchestershire and Dijon mustard. Some burger purists would say you should just go with salt and pepper (which I usually do), but my family really likes the extra flavor so I went with the sauce and mustard.

These days I will make a total of six patties, at 1/3-lb. per patty. One burger each for Mariko and I, then two each for the kids. Since Mariko has the food scale handy for her baking, I can measure out exact amounts. I’ve come to rely more on measurement tools rather than eyeballing everything!

To cook, we’ll put them on the outside grill (I used the gas grill for convenience last night) seasoning each side with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and garlic powder. When the juices start to form on top of the patty (usually around the four-minute mark), I’ll flip them over and season the other side.

Instead of relying on time or firmness to indicate when the burgers are at our preferred medium-rare, I’ll use an instant-read food thermometer to make sure I pull the burgers off the grill at 145° F. It’s often dark outside at the time I grill and hard to tell visually if the burgers are done, so the thermometer is great.

We love our burgers with cheese but I don’t put the cheese onto the patty while it’s on the grill. Instead, I will put the patties straight from the grill into a warm casserole dish, then put the cheese on and cover the dish with foil to let the burgers rest and the cheese melt. This is great because the grill doesn’t get all cheesy and messy.

Speaking of cheese, the kids prefer American cheese, I would go for cheddar, and Mariko likes anything except American. On this evening, the kids and I all went for double American cheese and Mariko went with shredded Mozzarella. Yum!!!

For condiments, we like the basic lettuce (Iceberg or Romaine), tomato, onion, and pickles (I never liked pickles on my burgers until a couple of years ago). Not as common are jalapeños, but I will always add them if I have them on hand. And lastly, ketchup, mustard, mayo, and sometimes samourai sauce to round it all out.

All of this is assembled onto buns, which are frequently homemade since Mariko is an amazing baker. Just look!

"Homemade Buns" Cedar Park, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.2, 1/90 sec, ISO6400
“Homemade Buns” Cedar Park, 2019

For sides, we’ll at least have potato chips (plain salted is the best) but potato or macaroni salad would be a definite upgrade. Sometimes we’ll have oven fries, but that’s very rare.

Anyway, that’s our typical burger evening. 🍔

I hope you had a nice day!


"Burger Dinner" Cedar Park, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.2, 1/50 sec, ISO3200
“Burger Dinner” Cedar Park, 2019

Third Wedding this Year

"Ceremony" San Antonio, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.6, 1/210 sec, ISO200
“Ceremony” San Antonio, 2019

こんばんは。How’s it going?

Do you know that period of time when you are about 30 and many of your friends around you are getting married? Well, that was 20 years for us, and since then we haven’t gone to many weddings. However, just within the past half year, we’ve gone to three! And the ages of the couples has varied quite a bit. First, my brother (six years my elder) got married, then some friends (10 years younger than me) got married, and lastly, my nephew (23 years younger) got married.

And the types of weddings were also quite different. California beachside with Mexican food, Hill Country with Texas barbecue, and historic San Antonio with chicken, steak, etc. None of these were at a church and thinking about it, I guess church weddings aren’t as popular as the used to be. But one thing is always the same: weddings are perhaps the most emotional occasion for the newlyweds, so it is an honor to be part of them. And they are always fun!

This latest wedding for my nephew was great. The food was excellent, with a nice bar (Suntory Toki whiskey!). There were oysters on the half-shell, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, Beef Wellington, and jalapeño poppers. And those were just the appetizers! It was also really nice to see my extended family, some of whom I only see at family reunions. I have to say that family weddings are the best since we get to welcome new members into our crazy Leesang/Fujimoto clans.

"First Dance" San Antonio, 2019
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/90 sec, ISO6400
“First Dance” San Antonio, 2019

I hope you had a great day!