Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Back Home

Well we are back home again.  And as usual I think I'm going to spend the next two or three days trying to get back in the groove of things.  It is always good to get away, the 10 days in the sunshine did wonders for my moral.  I think I was starting to sink again--even though it had only been 2 months since I got back from my last vacation... although is visiting family really a vacation?  Especially when you are visiting in-laws? I'm not saying it's not enjoyable, but it IS work....
I definitely like Thailand more than I liked Bali.  Bali was nice, but...  I don't know it was somehow less.  At least on Koh Phangan the beaches were prettier than Bali's.  I can't say much about Thailand though, we literally spent 7 days at the beach, and did little more than eat, sleep, and swim (ok I knit too, but I did that while soaking up the sun and watching the little one swim).  I will say that I did not find the Thais to be overly friendly.  They were polite, and professional, but not the overwhelming friendliness that everyone always talks about.  I actually think Malaysians are nicer (or maybe more laid back?). 
But it was beautiful, clear blue skies, clear blue waters, green green jungle, and a string of rosy sunsets to fortify the spirit..... 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Anniversary

Today is our 10 year wedding anniversary.  10 Years!  Can you believe it?  No, neither can I. 
I have done a lot of thinking recently, wondering if I knew then what I know now if I would still go through with it, and yes I definitely would.   I can't say it's been easy. Marriage is hard.  Not hard in the way that I thought it would be.  The hardness creeps up on you, almost in cycles.  There are good times, and they are so very good, and then slowly, very slowly, almost like a mist difficulties begin to seep in through the cracks.  At least for me, I don't always recognize that things are hard right away, you are living your life, in your routine and the days get longer, you're a little more tired at night, a little more irritated during the day, and suddenly you realize that the good days are gone, and the hard times are here.  But the hard times leave in the same way.  You realize that times are hard, and you put in a little more effort, a smile here, a touch there, a special dessert with some wine after dinner.  Little by little you are able to inch your way out of that hole and stand in the sunshine again. 
I can say with certainty though, the success of our marriage has everything to do with my partner. I know I don't tell him often enough, but he is a good man.  I know we women like to complain about our husbands, but I try not to.  Because really, what do I have to complain about, he's a good father, a thoughtful husband, ambitious but not at the expense of his family, a careful planner, and a great travel companion.  He loves to eat what I cook and listens patiently when I ramble on about knitting.  I have found the one in whom my heart delights.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hello from Thailand

Hello from Thailand. I can't believe that I've finally made it here. After spending twelve years on and out of Asia I was starting to think that Thailand was going to be that one place that I'd never get to that everyone else had been to. And I have to say that it is as beautiful as everyone says it is. Right now I'm sitting in the "lobby" of our hotel listening to the waves as the surf rolls in to our little cove. I'd forgotten how many shades of blue that you can see staring at the sky and water. I could go on but I think I'll go down to the beach instead.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

Purim

This past weekend was Purim.  In an effort to expose Babes to all of her heritage her dad makes sure to do something on all of the big holidays.  Not being Jewish myself, so I don't have a Purim cookie recipe passed down to me, I did a web search and found a great tutorial here on the cupcake project.  The cookies turned out great, I halved the recipe since there are only four of us and Honeydog doesn't eat cookies. 
Babes had a great time making the cookies, dressing up like Queen Esther (we even watched the veggie tales version of the story) and of course, we had cookies for dinner (shhhh... don't tell my mamma!).





Saturday, March 10, 2012

Crafting update

I haven't been knitting that much lately.  After I finished my sister's sweater for Christmas (OK I didn't make it in time for Xmas, but I got it to her before I left the US) I didn't really feel like making anything big.  So I've spent my time knitting a bunch of little projects that I have had on my list, but didn't get to.  I made a pair of socks, some fingerless mittens, and two doll dresses for Babes' doll.
The socks were not my favorite project, the yarn Crystal Palace Mini Mochi was very hard to work with, it was fuzzy, and didn't really hold together well.  A lot of people mentioned that it broke easily, and while I didn't have that problem, it was a mess to work with.  But the socks are pretty crazy.  Take a look:

I LOVED the Evenstar fingerless mitts pattern.  They were super fun to knit up, the pattern was easy to follow, and they are GORGEOUS!  I wear them everywhere.  I'm going to unravel one, because it's funky looking, but I love them:


The two doll dresses I am very proud of because I personally adapted the patterns from other patterns to make them the right size for the dolls.  One of the dresses came from here and the other one is sort of this one.  (I say sort of because I modified the original pattern to fit Babes' princess tastes).  {I just realized that I already did a post on these dresses, so I'll just post a picture of her doll in one of them, and leave it at that.}



Friday, March 09, 2012

Opera vs Sichuan Opera

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of attending a musical cultural exchange. The US consulate set up a musical tour for an Opera singer (Carla Dirlikov) from the US to expose Chinese people to Western Opera.  At the same time, at least here in Sichuan, they arranged for some singers of Sichuan Opera to perform to educate the Western Audience about their Opera.  It was a very interesting evening.  Ms. Dirlikov was, of course, fantastic.  It's been such a long time since I've been able to go to an opera that I think my ears were starved for culture.  I was dreading the Sichuan opera part of the evening, but as it turns out, while I didn't love it, the Sichuan opera parts were very interesting.  The female singers are still a little too high pitched and nasally for me, but the male parts sound a great deal like American folk art singers.  Think George Clooney in O Brother Where Art Thou. Which leads me to believe that the musical traditions are not so different as we might think.
There were only two things that spoiled my enjoyment of the evening.  The first had to do with my seat, I was in the second row, which is awesome, but....  I was sitting with the photographers, and they were basically sitting in my lap to get their pictures.  The sound of their shutters, their cameras in my lap, and the constant standing and sitting were HIGHLY annoying.  Also I was right next to the speaker, which I hate in a theater performance anyway (if the theater is made correctly you shouldn't need speakers, especially not for Opera--OMG that just sounded snobby).  It was okay for Ms. Dirlikov because she stepped away from the microphone when she wanted to belt out a note, but the Sichuan Opera singers were piercingly high pitched.  My ears are still sensitive. 
The second thing was the audience.  I know it's like this in the US too, but I think it's really rude for people to answer phones during a performance of any kind.  If someone is making the effort to perform, or a give a speech, the least you can do is turn off your cell phone, or go outside to take your call.  Don't answer your phone in the theater and then have a conversation about what you want for dinner.  Please.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Making Chocolate Chips-or how to cover your kitchen in chocolate

In what I think might be my last kitchen experiment until after we move (it might not be I still have a couple of months after all) I decided to make chocolate chips.  Why, you might ask, would I make chocolate chips?  Well, it's like this.... When we came here I debate bringing chocolate chips, I like them and use them all the time, but, as you may know, chocolate doesn't transport well.  We moved in the summer, we did our consumables shipment in the summer, I didn't want a big lump of chocolate where I used to have chips.  So I've been making due.  When the urge for chocolate chip cookies gets too strong I buy the gourmet chocolate drops that dove makes spending an absurd amount of money for them.  Then this past Thanksgiving, when I was buying my turkey at the fish market (yes you read that right) I bought a GIANT 2kg bar of chocolate thinking "WOW what can I do with this?" Well, as it turns out, this bar of chocolate sat in my freezer for months and finally yesterday I said "I'm making chocolate chips!"  I said this thinking it would only take an hour or so.  But I was WRONG! 
I started off yesterday, with my GIANT bar of chocolate, my screwdriver, and hammer, a bowl to melt the chocolate in, my icing bag, and an aluminum foil covered cookie sheet. And a little help from semi sweetie
The screwdriver and hammer were there to cut the chocolate, I've already broken a knife on a stick of butter, I wasn't about to try one of my knives on the GIANT bar of chocolate. 

The trick is to get the chocolate melted so that it's sludge like.  Not drizzly, but more like slightly runny icing.  The problem is that chocolate only stays at that stage for oh about 30 seconds, before that you've got runny chocolate everywhere, and after that you've got something that is like squishing poop out of a bag (sorry for the graphic nature of that comment, but I've changed diapers, and I have a labrador... this is the best thing I could think of).  I also found that my fancy schmancy Wilton icing bag didn't work at all!  After getting chocolate everywhere and nowhere I finally gave up and snipped a tiny corner off a plastic bag which worked 100 times better.  And while they don't look like Nestle's chips I did manage to get some chocolate onto the cookie sheet into a chip-like shape. 

Having done it, I don't know if I would do it again.  I managed to coat most of the counter, most of myself, most of the fridge/freezer, and most of the microwave in chocolate.  It took forever, although a lot of that was the learning curve... But if you'd like to try it; Melt your chocolate only slightly, like I said you want a slightly runny icing consistency.  Take one spoonful and put it into a bag with a small corner cut off, and squeeze tiny drops of the chocolate onto a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil.  If your chocolate is too runny pop it in the fridge for a little while, too stiff?  Place your plastic bag in a little hot water and let the chocolate soften a little.  Once the chips have hardened pop them off the foil and put them in a plastic bag (this part is the easiest part). 

Monday, March 05, 2012

Thank you Disney!

As a mother of a daughter I read a lot about the evils of Disney.  How the princess thing is destroying feminism and setting us all back... etc...
BUT has anyone stopped to think about the good messages Disney is sending to our little ones?  One of my favorite Disney movies for teaching Babes the importance of intimacy is the The Princess and the Frog.  (No, I do NOT use the word intimacy with my 4 year old).  In the Disney version of this story Tiana (our heroine) gives a frog a kiss, and what happens, she turns into a frog!



 At this point I turn to Babes and tell her, "you know you have to be careful who you kiss, if you kiss a frog, you'll turn into a frog".  And this has been a good starting point for a discussion (that a 4 yr old can understand) about being careful who you hang out with.  It has also led to discussions about kissing, and being in love with the person you kiss.
I know it's early to start this discussion, BUT, I'm trying to plant these seeds early so that when she gets older and begins to think about these things they are in the back of her mind.  I *hope* that I do not get up on a religious high road and start teaching her abstinence, which is what I was taught.  Abstinence is a beautiful theory, but when you're a teenager and you're faced with the choices of have sex with whomever and whenever, or ABSTAIN OR DIE! ... well...  yeah.  I'd like for her to have a third choice... wait for someone worth waiting for (and hopefully she won't be a teenager when "someone" shows up).
Here are some other great conversations starters from other Disney Movies:
Beauty and the Beast - Don't judge a person by how he/she looks on the outside
Tangled - Don't let someone tell you what you can't do AND you sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone
Finding Nemo - See what happens when you don't listen to your parents?
The Princess and the Frog - You have to work hard to get what you want (also you have to balance hard work with family and life)
Also, if Babes ever asks me what it's like to fall in love I'm going to point her to the final waltz scene in Enchanted.  

I think the dance scene is one of the best video descriptions of what it's like to fall in love.... The initial wonder of a touch, the first few timid steps, then slowly the crowd falls away and it's just the two of you, and the unrestrained joy of the dance.... 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

what is this?

I finally got back in touch with our organic vegetable farmer and we're back to the "What on earth is this?" weekly exercise.  Actually that's not true, for the most part I've been getting a ton of various types of cabbage (I can't say we don't eat enough green leafy vegetables, If I never see another Qin Cai after we leave here it will be too soon) and root vegetables.  The past two weeks have seen a bumper crop of carrots and radishes.  Tell me internets what do you do with a pound of radishes?  Especially since DH and Babes aren't too fond of them.  I might have some pickling in my future....
Anyway, we've also received these things, which kind of look like broccoli, kind of look like cabbage, and kind of look like Brussels sprouts.






Not knowing what to do with them, and since they look too fat to stir fry (I stir fry just about everything I get in that green bag) I roasted them.



Roasting works well for Brussels sprouts, but not for whatever this was... or maybe I roasted them too long.  I'm going to try steaming next, and also the Google image search to see if I can't figure out what they are.