Friday, March 23, 2012

Family Fridays: Busy Moving

We've been super busy around here. This weekend we are going to move over to our new apartment. Things are a bit messy around here right now, but we look forward to settling into our new place.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day

I decided rather last minute, like this afternoon, that I was actually going to try to make a special dinner for St. Patrick's Day. And since our day is ending when America's day is beginning, that means there is still more than enough time for you to decide to do so as well.

I had read some posts on Life as Mom that sounded like easy ideas, and when they actually still had good beef roast meat when I went to Walmart on Saturday afternoon, I thought why not. Patrick was quite an awesome guy, even if the modern associations of luck and drinking aren't so cool. I am a tiny bit Irish, and my husband is almost 1/4 Irish, which makes the boys about 1/8 Irish.

Also I vividly remember my mom giving us green milk on St. Patrick's Day as a kid, and thinking it was the most awesome thing ever, and that she was so cool to give us green milk. I think I'd like to be remembered that way someday too.

So, I made some Irish Stew, and even threw in the green peas, so it had orange, white, and green, all of the colors of the Irish Flag. Andrew loved, loved, loved this stew. He ate about 8, albeit small, helpings, and would have kept eating all night if we didn't put it away.
I made some Irish soda bread. I used all white flour, because I was out of whole wheat. It was great though, and it tasted like buttermilk biscuits. Nate thought this bread was amazing.
Then I let Aaron help me make mint chocolate chip cupcakes. Aaron thought it was awesome that blue and yellow made green in the batter. We need to do more with color mixing I guess. I also let him help add some chocolate chips which our sweet parents sent us from America and our gracious guest carried all the way here for us. I even let Aaron eat a few chocolate chips plain, another thing I always remember my mom doing when we made cookies. Andrew was napping, but he got to enjoy cupcakes later.

Then I let him mix turn some milk green too. Both the boys thought that was an amazing treat.
I picked some clover and put in on the table, and we talked a little bit about Patrick and the legend of his explanation of three in one using clover. There can't be a perfect picture of this concept on this earth, but it is a cool illustration.

This was a very fun, easy, and low key last minute celebration.

Family Fridays: Painting Progress

My sweet honey has been working so hard on the new house lately. He is trying to give all the walls a fresh coat of paint before we move in. He has gotten most of the dining room and living room done already. They look a lot nicer without the dirt stains, and the white brightens up the living areas a lot.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

DIY 2 Ingredient Crock Pot Strawberry Jam

So, after a couple different successful attempts at making strawberry sauce, I actually got around to trying what I really wanted to make, strawberry jam. I kept putting it off because I have no idea where to buy pectin here, and from what I've read it is more difficult to make without the pectin. But I kept wanting to try because strawberry jam is expensive here, but strawberries themselves are relatively cheap. Well, in the end I don't think I saved any money, but this is by far the best strawberry jam I've ever had! And it has no preservatives. It was quite easy too, so I may make it again, even if it doesn't save me money. If you use pectin to thicken your jam, I am sure you'll get a higher yield, but the concentrated strawberry flavor makes this an extra special treat.

Homemade Strawberry Jam Recipe

  • 3 quarts hulled strawberries
  • 4 cups sugar

  1. Put strawberries and sugar in a crock pot, and stir thoroughly. The sugar will bring out the natural juices in the strawberries.
  2. Turn crock pot on high, and bring to a boil.
  3. Remove lid, and mash strawberries with a potato masher.
  4. Allow to boil and reduce to the desired consistency, mashing intermittently. When my jam reduced to about 1 quart it was a great consistency.
  5. Allow to cool, and store in jars in the fridge or freezer.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 冷水 (Cold Water)

We recently had lunch with Chinese friends at a hot pot restaurant and had hot peanut milk. This made me remember just how rare it is to get cold water (lěng shuǐ, 冷水) or other cold drinks when you you eat out at restaurants.

This is because Chinese people believe that cold drinks are bad for your health. Specifically, drinking cold drinks is bad for your stomach. However, not drinking cold water in China is actually a good thing because you are much less likely to get sick from drinking hot tea than you are from drinking the tap water (which no one drinks unless its boiled). But it can also make you want to bring your own ice water in the summer.

Ironically, eating ice cream is considered very healthy in the summer though, so I am not sure why ice water is still unhealthy. Ice cream and anything else cold is of course considered practically lethal in the winter, and almost disappears from some local stores here during colder months.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Family Fridays: New Apartment

Our current landlord doesn't wish to rent to us again next year (he said he wants to give it to his parents), so we had to find a new apartment. Thankfully, we found another one we liked in the same apartment complex, so it won't be a very far move. It's pretty similar to our current place, but it has three bedrooms instead of two. Here are the before pictures.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

DIY Whole Strawberry Sauce

I like this pureed version of strawberry sauce a lot, but this time I wanted to make one with whole strawberries. It tastes just as delicious, just with a different texture. It is great with these hearty pancakes or in homemade yogurt. I am sure it would be great on ice cream as well.

Homemade Whole Strawberry Sauce Recipe

  • Four cups hulled strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  1. In a medium saucepan, pour the sugar over the hulled strawberries, and let sit 15–60 minutes. This allows the strawberries to macerate and brings out their natural juices.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with cold water, and stir until smooth.
  3. Add cornstarch mixture into the strawberries and stir well. Turn on heat, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens.
  4. Remove from heat. Serve hot or cold. The sauce will thicken more when chilled.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 太贵了(Too expensive)

Meat Market
Both my husband and I recently had Mandarin lessons that covered bartering in the market for fruit, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about bartering here today.

This type of language is really one of the first things that you have to learn here. "How much is this?" (duō shǎo qián?, 多少钱) is one of my most used mandarin phrases, possibly even more than hello, but less than they are not twins.

When shopping in any open air market or relatively small shop, the prices may be negotiable. If the shop keeper gives you a price that is too expensive (tài guìle, 太贵了) you just say so, and they will either give you a counter offer, ask you how much you want to give them for the item, or tell you no this is really cheap. The last means they won't lower the price, and you can take it or leave it.

Often food sellers here won't lower their prices unless you are a Kunming native or have developed a good relationship with a particular seller. So in one nearby market, we often have to ask several people for the price of something like tomatoes, until someone gives us a good deal, or go consistently to the same seller who usually gives us a fair price.

Coming back from buying fruit
But really, we don't really want to spend a lot of time bartering for a few cents off of vegetables anyway, so if we aren't finding good deals that day we'll usually just pay a little bit more or head to Walmart. You don't barter at Walmart, department stores, or KFC in case you're wondering. And yes, it would be weird if you tried to.

Things we do barter for are bigger items like furniture from the used furniture market or a rental prices on apartments. Some people will go down a significant amount on some of these things, and you can actually save real money. And sometimes simply walking away or acting disinterested will make the seller want to lower the price all on their own. This silent method of bartering is one of our favorites, as the seller is lowering the price of their own volition and would never tell you a price that they couldn't still make a profit off of.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Family Fridays: Week in Pictures

Aaron reading Thomas books to Andrew

Qiqi comes to play

Friends over

Chocolate boy Jr. returns

Andrew "doing" dishes

Aaron beating his record for hanging up laundry

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Easy Chocolate Truffles

I love chocolate ganache. The extremely simple combination of good dark chocolate and real cream taste pure and elegant. These chocolate ganache truffles are quite easy. I found this method and ratio of chocolate to cream to work the best for shaping into balls. It doesn't melt all over your hands, but is still soft and pliable. These are great for a party, gift, or anytime.

Homemade Chocolate Ganache Truffle Recipe

  • 8 oz chocolate chopped or chips (use whatever % of cacao that you prefer to eat plain because there is no additional sweetener in this recipe, I used half 62% dark chocolate chopped and half semisweet chocolate chips, and we all really liked them)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • cocoa powder or chocolate for covering the truffles
  1. Chop the chocolate and place in a heat safe mixing bowl.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the cream to just simmering, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Once the edges begin to bubble, pour over chocolate.
  3. Let is sit a few minutes so the chocolate begins to melt, and then stir until well combined and smooth.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator a few hours or over night.
  5. When the mixture is very firm, but still pliable, scoop out rounded teaspoons full, and use your clean hands to roll them into round balls.
  6. At this point, you can either roll them in cocoa powder right away, or return to the fridge or freezer to chill a little more before dipping them in melted chocolate.
  7. Store in the refrigerator.
Makes about 2 dozen. 


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