international Artist Trading Card swap

This is the first time I have ever heard of an ATC swap - but I would highly recommend doing this with your children if you have the opportunity. I am sure you could find them going on at any given time. Basically, Asia created her own unique piece of art for 6 small trading cards - and sent them to 6 children all over the globe. Most of her cards were sent to places in the US and one was sent to Australia!

For her cards, she cut up colored tissue paper, and glued them into a mosaic. Then we cut them into the right size and mounted them on the card. Each card is different: with colors of pink, purple, blue, green, red & magenta. They are quite colorful. She had such a great time painting the glue onto each mosaic piece - and covering the entire page. She was so tedious and precise with each placement and color. I am so glad we joined the group - over 900 kids were involved in this ATC swap!! We love to encourage her creativity - and the sharing of art with kids around the world makes it even more special.

Here are her finished masterpieces! (she took this picture herself too)


we love you Nana!!

Happy Birthday Mom!!
We hope you have a wonderful birthday and that you know how much we love you!!

It's so great to see you as a grandma...using your creativity to express your love to your granddaughters, and to love them like they were your own.

We are so grateful for you, and the way you have loved us (whether near or far)! We feel your love across the globe!

Enjoy these picts of our favorite times with you this past year:

beach visits at sunset...
making bears at home...
making cupcakes and messes...
painting toes pink...

going to visit Fairyland...
playing guitar by the fire...
blowing bubbles outside...
riding bikes for hours...
reading books...
going to the park...

Nana - we love that you are kind & fun, generous & beautiful! We miss you very much and we love you too!
Love Asia, Eden & Sydney

We hope this year is full of life, joy, and new adventures (China is full of adventures)! XOXOXOXOXO


a fresh snow

When the snow is fresh & clean, we take advantage of it and bundle up to play outside. The girls enjoyed exploring, stomping, throwing, and making "snowballs" on our little patio (8 floors up). It was about 12 degrees F outside, so they didn't stay out long. I am so glad we have this contained area...it doesn't require as much corraling as when we venture outside along the streets. This is basically my backyard, and I can keep it "clean!"

This was Eden's definition of a snowball.
Eden's pink cheeks, after 20 minutes in the snow.
They had so much fun!!

before & after: CARROTS

This may not interest you in the slightest. But for some reason today, I thought it would be funny to share with you before & after pictures of my Market-bought carrots. We buy them by the kilo at the outdoor veggie stall. This is what they look like when we pick them out, straight from the garden:
We scrub them well, and this is the AFTER photo:

Aren't they HUGE and really dark orange?? We peel most of our veggies, just to be sure we are kept healthy. We eat carrots quite often in our home! But sometimes I really miss those convenient bags of baby carrots for $1.99 at Safeway.


have a LOVEly day!!

We hope your weekend was LOVEly and that you got to spread some love extravagantly! The girls enjoyed dressing up in PINK (like most days) and we decorated sugar cookies with friends. My heart is full of love, and I am so grateful for everything that I have been given.


Happy Lantern Festival 09!!

Today marks the end of the Chinese Spring Festival - the fifteenth day of the celebrations, culminating on a full moon. I have written previously about the significance of this day, so I won't write it again. Today is called "The Lantern Festival" so we made lantern crafts, and had a fun candlelit dinner together while fireworks lit up the sky. Rarely a quiet moment during CNY. Thankfully, the kids slept thru it all again! Xin nian kuai le!! 新年快乐!


a meal with friends

Chinese people are so hospitable!! When we are invited into their homes, they serve us with all that is within them. Chinese New Year is a time when families invite their friends over to share a meal, and spend time together during the Spring Festival break. Even when our friends have so little (monetarily), they give above and beyond their abilities!

It was a very cold day: every surface was frosted with snow, and it was beautiful. The girls shook the trees, and pretended it was really snowing! Then we caught a taxi to the other end of town to be welcomed into the home of our friends. Their home consisted of an entry way/kitchen, and one room (2 beds, 1 couch, TV). It was the smallest home I have seen yet. This picture isn't the greatest, but it really is a small place!

When we arrive, we take off our shoes & jackets, and we are seated around a low table arrayed with all kinds of sweets, cookies, nuts & breads. Then we are served hot flower tea. Yum! The biggest challenge is keeping curious fingers out of the massive candy dish. Luckily - the girls love cracking open peanuts. The father was constantly offering Coke to the kids, but (thankfully) they don't like carbonated drinks.

We sit and wait while delicious smells waft from the kitchen... The mother made SIX different dishes for our little family! We are given a bowl of rice with chopsticks, and all the dishes are spread across the short table. We all sit around the table and take from the different plates, much like in a Chinese restaurant (but tasting much better!).

Here is our friend - sharing her food with Sydney.

Sydney ate everything! She even loves spicy foods. She insisted on using the chopsticks for everything. She's a little Chinese girl-at-heart. Here are some of the dishes we ate below: Dapanji (chicken+potatoes), Hulu (squash), and Niurou Qiezi (beef+eggplant)...plus others you can't see. It was the best Chinese food we have ever eaten, hands down. The family was so generous & sacrificial. I can't believe they spent so much time & energy to prepare such a feast!

After lunch, they brought out their rabbit (tuzi) for the girls to play with. A&E were terrified, but mom & Sydney had fun with him. I live vicariously thru others who have pets.

It was a wonderful day spent with friends we cherish here!


giddy with delight

I was inspired today by another foreign friend - who speaks much better Chinese than I. She showed me how to find all the ingredients to make Hummus! I have craved this deliciousness for years - and all along, its been under my nose! We learned the word for "sesame paste" (芝麻酱 zhī ma jiàng) and found it so easily. Doh! After making Hummus, we had to make gyro meat and pita bread too. It ended up being quite the production, but we were so giddy - it didn't matter!

Here's the details:
1 can chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini/sesame paste
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
dash of cumin/cayenne
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper to taste
water/olive oil to make creamier
Blend all ingredients well! Garnish with parsley or chili pepper.

Pita Bread
1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
Combine first 4 ingredients, add 1 cup flour + yeast. Mix well. Add 2 cups flour and knead into a soft dough. You can also use a bread machine for this step! Then, Oil the top of the dough & cover while it rises for 1 hour (in a warm place). With a knife cut into 8 equal pieces and roll into balls. On a floured surface, roll into 7+ inch flat circles (not too thin). Set aside & cover with a towel. They will continue to rise! Bake (1-2 at a time) on a wire rack in the middle of the oven (500 degrees) for 3-4 minutes, until puffy and slightly browned. You want to take them out before they get too dry/browned. Remove & cover to soften & cool. Cut in half & fill as desired! (fill with any combo of: meat, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, hummus)

Gyro Meat
1 lb meat (lamb, beef or chicken) chopped fine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp onion powder/garlic powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
Fry in oil on med heat, add spices while cooking!

My new craving is for Cucumber Raita sauce.
And I am more motivated to learn Chinese too!


I am not a good sick person

When I am sick, I mostly just want my mom.
Its been over three weeks of being sick. I think I got a sinus infection after the flight, and its been tough to fight off since. I had a crazy-powerful cough for a few weeks in there too, which actually resulted in a cracked rib. I didn't think that was possible, but the ongoing symptoms suggest that it really cracked. Crazy, huh? This week, the sickness has morphed into a painful sore throat - so bad that it hurts to talk and swallow. I don't mean to sound complain-y, but the story gets better....

Justin has done a great job taking care of me, the kids, the house, etc, etc....but this is getting old for both of us! Today we found a girl to watch the kids, and we ventured off to the hospital for a doctor visit. That means we are serious!

The snowflakes outside were beautiful, but the roads were mushy (the late winter coal/snow slush). The hospital we go to is across town (20 kuai by taxi = $2.94). I am always reluctant to go to the doctor here, and I try my hardest to leave the kids at home. Its just not clean, and we are surrounded by sick people. We wait in "line" for awhile, laughing at the English translations for all the different wards (Demorphed Infrared Anal & Intestinal Department?), watching people shove their way to the front without a clue that a "line" exists. We smile and wait. Finally, we speak to the clerk, pay our entrance fee, and begin the hike up to the 4th floor to find an Ear-Nose & Throat doctor (Erbihou 耳鼻喉).

When a white person walks thru a sea of Asians, its hard not to stare - I have accepted that. What drives me nuts is when I am given preference over others because I am white. Now, this doesn't happen often - unless you are in the hospital. Someone could have a way-worse ailment than you, been waiting for hours, and STILL the white person goes to the front of the que. I tried to protest, but it never works. I haven't accepted this very well. I just feel really horrible.

Once in the doctors cubicle - she begins to ask me lots of questions, and look down my throat. During this time, no less than 5 people are peering over/around the cubicle walls to see the foreigner's sick throat. I have come to accept this fact, too - since I had 7 months of prenatal visits a few years ago that ruined my concept of privacy. I guess my sore throat (or prego belly) can be an educational opportunity for others, why not??

In the end, we didn't get a concrete diagnosis - only because I didn't get the blood test, or want to come back for further inhaler/breathing treatments. I don't think my sickness is bacterial, so I don't want antibiotics. I opted for the throat spray & traditional Chinese medicine drink, which have intense smells. Let's hope I am on the road to recovery soon!