Monday, March 11, 2013

February 10th: Chinese New Year Dinner, Japanese Style

I'm not sure if many of you know, but February 10th was the Chinese New Year. And it was the Year of the Snake to be exact! So this year, it's Andi's year (even though we're the same age, but the Chinese New Year tends to switch between January and February new years).

I began by scouring a few towns for oriental markets. I ended up finding one a few exits north of me, so I got most of the things that we needed there. I of course got more common foods from Walmart (though once Will and I get our own place, we're never going to shop there).

There are some more items that are not pictured above, but what you CAN see is pork buns, sushi, beef tips, udon noodles, mochi paste, narutomaki and kameboko (it's basically surimi, the stuff you see in imitation crab), mini shrimp, and some red bean paste.

The first thing we tried to make was marumochi... it's basically just cooked rice pounded into a paste and mixed with some sugar. In oriental stores, they come as premade blocks or little round pucks. I was told you were supposed to bake them for five to ten minutes in the oven at 350 so you can later wrap them around ice cream, but... as you can see, my little mochi cake exploded. I'm not very happy about it either.

So since we failed at marumochi and having absolutely NO clue on how we were going to successfully make our Japanese desert, we moved on to rice balls, otherwise known as "onigiri" (oh-nee-gee-ree) in Japan.  Now... keep in mind that Andi and I have NEVER made any of these things, let alone onigiri. So we had to make sure we were doing this perfectly. And that included buying the correct type of rice (short or medium grain only!), which happened to be Calrose in Wal-Mart.

Calrose sticks together WONDERFULLY.

I was honestly afraid that I'd mess up the onigiri! But as you can see, it looks just fine.

And if you're wondering, what I used to make his adorable face is "nori," otherwise known as seaweed. It's the general wrapping that goes around your average rice ball and sushi.

Our next step was to create some red bean paste buns... And I have discovered that red bean paste is an acquired taste. While the bread is absolutely delicious, I don't think I'll put the paste in there next time. I'm thinking about a cream cheese filling, or just normal cheese... Will says I should put cheese and sausage in there for him. Then he walked away daydreaming about it, going "mmm."

The recipe for these delicious buns below is here. Now, the recipe is in grams, but I managed to convert the measurements into U.S. measurements. Unfortunately, it's not exactly accurate. At least with the flour. I can't remember how much more flour I had to put in, so you'll have to test it for yourself. But whenever I make these mouth-watering buns again, I'll be sure to post the recipe again with the correct flour measurements!

Below, you can see what is, of course, sushi! But there's no raw fish involved. It seems to be hard around here to buy sushi with the raw fish. But nonetheless, it was amazing (and it's honestly the only kind of sushi I'll touch).

My brother decided he'd try wasabi on these a few hours before dinner. I tried to warn him that it was hotter than anything he'd ever had before and that he needed only half a pea size or else his mouth would be on fire. He didn't listen. He put half a teaspoon on there, and needless to say... his mouth was on fire. His voice even went high-pitched before he chugged down a bunch of soda and water. Even ten minutes later, he was still complaining about how hot his mouth was.

So, lesson here is... listen to me when I say wasabi is super hot! My brother LOVES spicy things and is very used to those kinds of foods... But he's never had Japanese spicy.

I bet you're wondering what this is. Well, it's narutomaki and kameboko, two types of fish cakes made of surimi. Surimi is what they use in imitation crab, so if you like that, you'll like the narutomaki. The kameboko has a slightly odd taste to it, so it wasn't really for me. But putting narutomaki in your ramen or stir fry is absolutely amazing.

Once done with all of the hard stuff, we moved on to cooking the meat--orange chicken and barbecued beef tips. Now... barbecue isn't Japanese, but we thought it would taste great. Especially with narutomaki and shrimp fried rice involved.

That's Will below. He just got home from a 12 hour shift at work, so he's a bit tired! Nevertheless, he managed to help cut up the chicken for dinner. He's such a good man!

The recipe for the orange chicken was pretty easy. Just fry up some chicken in tempura and then pour the orange chicken sauce over it for some absolutely delicious chicken! Recipe for the sauce is right HERE

And on the table is all of our delicious foods! At the very top in the bowl is some barbecued beef tips. To the right of it is the same thing, but on skewers for easy eating. Below is shrimp filled rice balls, kamaboko and narutomaki, a big dish of shrimp fried rice, and orange chicken. Then finally, we have our pork steamed buns, tuna filled rice balls, red bean paste buns (though honestly, I think next time I'll just put cheese as the filling or leave them plain), and in the middle, we have our non-fish sushi, which actually wasn't that bad at all!

My delicious plate of food. Needless to say, I did NOT finish it all. Way too filling!

Matschi REALLY enjoyed the red bean buns the most!

As did Bee. So who do you think we fed all of the leftover buns to?

Family sitting for the meal. Will certainly looks ready to eat!

And now... we. Are. FULL.

Valentine's Day crafts and homemade peanut butter cups

I'm on a roll here, catching up with all of my posts. Or so I think. As you know, this month was Valentine's Day! As a toddler/preschool teacher, I got some cookies, suckers, a colorful pinwheel for the garden, and a yellow rose for an adorable two-year-old boy who is one day going to be a heartbreaker.

But here at home, I had Bee and Matschi make some Valentines for their dad and their step-mom Andi. I really couldn't help but share them with you!

 Now, I realize that Matschi's perfectly shaped cookie-cutter heart looks a bit cracked, but... that was before I knew that you couldn't bake store-bought play dough, that you need to make your own in order for it to work :( So while it looks pretty for the most part in this picture, I'm sad to say that it ended up getting thrown away.

BUT. Later on while Will was at work, I decided I'd surprise him and make him a bunch of white chocolate peanut butter cups! He LOVES white chocolate definitely more than regular, and he certainly loves peanut butter. You can get the recipe HERE, but honestly, all I did was melt a bunch of white chocolate, poured some into foil cupcake liners, filled it with peanut butter (after adding some butter and sugar to the desired consistency), then covered it with more chocolate and let them sit for an hour or so. They turned out perfect, I think.

And in the end? I made a heart (to the best of my ability) on the kitchen table for when Will came home. Needless to say, he gushed over them.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Signing Time

Just a short post about Signing Time. We got this in January and started watching it with the kids. They actually happen to like it, and though it took them two or three days, they were finally starting to sign along with the show and even started to use some of the signs in the kitchen! While they like the signing videos, they like the signing songs a lot more, especially the one about all the colors.

With Signing Time, I've heard that it builds a child's vocabulary, and that some even begin to read the words that are displayed on the screen. I can't say that Bee and Matschi are reading words, but they're definitely interested in them, and they're attempting to write letters now. Matschi is mostly obsessed with writing the letter H though, which is expected, as that's the first letter of his name. Bee tries, but they look more like scribbles. But at least she's trying, right?

All in all though, Signing Time is pretty fun for the kids, and it's something I recommend for young children. And babies too! It's an easy way to put words into their hands so they can tell you their needs instead of you getting frustrated while trying to figure out what they want!

And while Matschi and Bee can talk, of course, they're learning ASL for when the new baby comes in the middle of July. Plus it gives Andi time to interact with her step-children.

Journey Through The Snow

So last month, like I promised we would do, Andi and I took the kids to the park to have an adventure with the snow. To our surprise though, we stumbled upon a bunch of ducks. Growing up near fast-flowing creeks in a town far, far away from duck ponds and everything else, I have honestly never seen ducks during the winter. There happened to be a goose too though, sneaking around and trying to be a duck! He seemed to blend in pretty well. And the kids enjoyed seeing the ducks. Too bad we didn't bring any bread though for the ducks to feed off of.

There were a lot more ducks than there are pictured here... There were probably a good hundred more behind me, quacking away.

Bee, staring off into the distance. She's awfully brave when it comes to the ducks. Her brother doesn't try to pet them like she does. In fact, he stays away from a lot of "dangerous" situations. Sometimes, I'm glad that he does... because sometimes I'm afraid of Bee getting bit by a duck or hurting herself in some other way! But I have to let them explore, right? So I just bite my lip and let her do her thing...

By the way, in case you're wondering, I don't like to go near ducks... or big white farm geese. I've heard too many stories of them being mean. So the zoom is my best friend here!

After we spent a little time near the creek there in the park with the ducks, the kids decided that they wanted to go to the playground. Which was a good half a mile away. Through the snow. I'm sure we could've used the pathways to get there, but we thought this would be a good opportunity to teach them a lesson about perseverance and working to get things that you want--that not everything is easy! I know some are thinking that they're too young for this... but to be honest, they were very proud of themselves.

Matschi only fell down once. Bee... well, she fell down a lot. Probably because her legs are a bit shorter than her brother's. He made it to the playground just fine, but it took Bee quite a bit of time. We had to keep encouraging her, and even when Matschi and I had reached the playground, he turned around and started shouting at her that she could do it, that she didn't have much farther to go. All that from a four-year-old boy!

And in the end, Bee pushed herself. She was very determined to finish and get to where her brother was. I must say that after all of this... they try whenever they do things now instead of complaining that they can't. Which is very good. We want them to think that they can do anything no matter what!

Blog Title Change & Will

Sometimes I wonder what it is that I should blog about. Yes, I love my niece and nephew, and we do lots of homeschooling here in our large household, but I want the blog to be more about than just the activities that we do. So I think I'm going to change the title of this blog to something more fitting... something that can be wrapped around all the fun and joy of kids, my brother and newest sister-in-law, my puppy, recipes, lunch boxes, my very random photography, and the love of my life, Will (and our journey through life together which has only just begun!).

I need to catch up first... I have lots of things to blog about. Especially my new adventures of making lunches! So you'll be seeing a lot more of that. And Will too!

Unfortunately, Will doesn't look too happy. But he's the one who made me cut his hair, so I'm not sure why he's so upset-looking about it! Maybe it's because he think he looks like a Nazi (his words, not mine!). But believe it or not, he's a quarter Mexican. Must be the Irish blood in him that makes him so white.

Here's our most recent photo of us together. But I cut my hair too, so I look a little bit different now as well! Will also needed a shave at the time of this. He likes to put it off for as long as possible, even though I try to tell him that he's prickly. I don't think he cares like a lot of men.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Christmas Recap

I'm really bad at blogging... There are lots of things that I forget... Like recapping Christmas. My mother, other brother and his son came over for the holiday. So that made a total of nine people sleeping in the house... thirteen if you count the four animals. I feel so lucky that our house is big enough for this though... Barely.

Anyway, the chitlins really enjoyed the holiday, but they still have yet to learn what it's really all about... I don't think they care about Santa too much either. They just think 'Oh boy! Presents!' And then sit down calmly... At least, that's what happened this Christmas. I guess my mother caught my two nephews just staring at the presents when she woke up... But they never bugged any of us to get up so they could open them. Is it weird that these children didn't do what most kids do??

Well... Matschi got some hotwheels tracks, some cars, a Buzz Lightyear toy, and... a nerf gun. And then pelted poor Solomon with all of the darts. The dog tried to eat them.

Bee got a jewelry box from my mom, a Merida doll from Brave, and a new puzzle. She also got a huge princess dollhouse. She refuses to leave her room now because she's so obsessed with it. I just wish she'd stop taking the thing apart, especially the minarets on the towers. She also is fascinated with taking all of her Barbies' clothes off. And it doesn't help that all of their hair is cut off. Most of them anyway. They used to be mine when I was little, and I thought the hair was annoying. So now they're butch barbies instead. Bee doesn't seem to care though.

I would also like to mention that... ANDI IS PREGNANT! They've been trying for a year now... And she's almost twelve weeks along :) She's hoping for a girl, but my brother wants another boy... I guess we'll see when the time comes.

Update: Crazy things, letter recognition, and SNOW

So it's been a while. I always feel so bad whenever I take this long to post something new. Lately, it's been crazy, and I've taken lots of pictures... but I feel like many of them would be irrelevant now that it's January 2013... Although, I took maybe three or four Christmas pictures. I should've taken more though, I know. But let me give an update as to what is happening right now, and then I can post a few pictures somewhere in between...

So about two months ago on November 9th, my boyfriend Will moved into the house, and my brother finally married Andi on December 12th. At the moment, that means that we have my brother, his wife Andi, the chitlins Bee and Matschi, Me, Will, Solomon, the old dog Matti, and the two fat cats running around this house... So things are a little crazy...

Recently, I got a new job. Only just a month ago. And THEN I got a promotion on the 10th! I am now officially a toddler teacher instead of a float, meaning I used to just go to different classrooms and help out with whatever they needed... It's nice to have a permanent position!

For Halloween, Bee was a cotton candy princess while Matschi was Iron Man. We all thought the mask was stupid though, so he had me paint it on him (though to be honest, I don't think I did a very good job... especially with his weird hairline).

December 17th was Bee's THIRD birthday. Already! Time sure does fly!! I still remember when she was just two weeks old...

We have also been doing some schooling, like I said we would, but the kids don't even realize they're learning. The other day, Matschi came up to us after having written a letter on his doodle pad. It was a PERFECT H. Thing is though... he didn't remember what letter it was, but he DID know that his name started with it! And he can write his name, though we first started out with using dotted lines for him to trace... Bee though... she's still a bit young, so she's not interested in writing her name. She likes writing the letter A though.

We've also been doing puzzles and letter recognition... which... the way that we're doing the recognition, I actually got it from another person's blog. It works for the most part, but we have yet to actually REALLY recognize the letters... So for now, we're just working on it a little at a time. 

We'll also be starting some Signing Time as well. I've heard from a lot of moms that it really encourages a great vocabulary and reading skills... We might start that tomorrow. Possibly.

Oh yeah... it also snowed. The 10th and the 11th. And the storm was named... Gandolf. Not even kidding. So now that the storm is over, all of us have a snow day planned at the park. After that, it may be time for some hot cocoa, a bit of Signing Time, and most likely some sort of winter project.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Antelope Island & Homeschooling

So we've decided to start homeschooling. Mostly because we believe that we can teach the kids far more than the school system can, and not in a prison-like system either. I enjoyed school as a kid, but I had lived in a small town then, and the teachers were all pretty laid back, and we did a lot of hands-on or outdoor activities, which is rare for your usual public school. Especially a high school. But looking at the school system now, we don't exactly want the chitlins going... So we'll be starting Monday. I'm kind of nervous to see how this goes. Mostly because Andi and I don't exactly have a defined method of teaching. It's really a mixture of Montessori and unschooling, which probably doesn't make much sense. Eh... I suppose it'll just be our own awesome style.

Not too long ago, we took the kids on an adventure to Antelope Island. I hadn't been since 1997, and the rest of the family had never been period. So, it was definitely a fun experience, and the kids (despite being 2 1/2 and 4) managed to hike up the hill with us. No complaints either. Just some silly faces!

I will admit though... the trek up the trail went a LOT slower than I would've liked... Especially with Bee's tiny legs. Her brother was running up and down though, jumping over rocks like the typical boy, and honestly... with that much energy, I wasn't gonna stop him. Though, I did warn him that he might hurt himself. Every time I say this, his response is always, "Nooooo!"

He never listens...

But hey... what kind of kid doesn't get hurt? Children are generally clumsy, and none of us are ones to baby them. He's a tough kid though. He started laughing after this picture was taken and started to reenact what happened. Laughter is his usual response after two or three minutes of shock and crying... And his hugs and kisses.

All in all though, everyone had fun. We'd like to go back, though nobody really appreciated the salty smell of the great lake. I honestly had forgotten the odor that came off of it... Yikes... I think seeing some bison made up for it though... 


Quick! Family photo!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I've returned!

Things have been hectic lately, especially now that we've all moved to Utah. But things have settled down, and I'm back to share all the adventures with my giggling, sometimes crazy niece and nephew, their father, his fiance, our two cats, and our two dogs.

There's lots to say about our trips to Antelope Island, Waterfall Canyon, and our fun with caterpillars and other sorts of nature ;) For now, I'll leave you with the two little rambunctious, and always curious ones on a calm day.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bee!

So, my little Bee is finally two years old. She was born on December 14th, 2009--just in time for Christmas.

Here's my mom holding the little bundle of joy who never cried, but instead only whimpered, to the relief of her parents.


Bee, amazingly, hasn't really had any tantrums... except for that one ice cream escapade last June. Other than that, she's been as sweet as ever. And while there are difficulties with putting her to bed (as well as with her brother) and her separation issues with her Daddy, she's just a little ball of sunshine that I absolutely adore :)

Happy 2nd Birthday, Bee.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Late Wordless Wednesday

Nonetheless, it is still a wordless moment *insert awesome heart here*


Cloth Diaper Love

"Hello! Guess what I got?"




That I've been wanting to get since April. APRIL! At the time, I wanted a one-size, but those things sure do go pretty fast. When I was finally able to get my hands on one about a month ago, the only size that was really available was the medium, and honestly... I only wanted this limited edition diaper simply because I wanted it. Bee just happens to be wearing it because I put it on her =P

But... does it look cute? Does it? Man, I wish I could a wear a cloth diaper. Kidding. But because they're lined with fleece, they're super soft. That's why I got cloth pads from the same company I got the diaper (Charlie Banana). But that topic is for another post another day :) For now, I'm gonna enjoy Bee's cute, little, cloth-covered bum.

More Kids, More Tears

Look, leaves!


"One leaf," Matschi says. *sigh* I tried playing a counting game with him, and just when I thought he was getting the hang of it... well, it's obvious that he didn't. I'm concerned with the fact that he doesn't know how much one or two is, or even what letter his first name starts with. Should I be concerned? Or am I just worrying too much? I think I am...

Well... while I was with my brother, we went to the park to play. Staying cooped up inside just isn't my thing. I love nature too much, and the kids love the playground as if it's the air that they breathe.

See? Look at that grin!


Despite grins and giggles though... Matschi ran into a bar. It seemed like something off of America's Funniest Home Videos with the way that flipped backwards. I was of course concerned though! Don't get me wrong. I'm not THAT mean. But at least I now know that he's truly related to me.

I'm a klutz, and well... Matschi is just about as accident prone as I was when I was a kid. People used to think my parents beat me because I had bruises and cuts everywhere, but let's just say I wobbled into too many wall corners and tripped over too much air!

Matschi though... bars and curbs seem to be attracted to him. Hopefully we won't be as clumsy when he gets older. Though I will admit... I find myself tripping more often than I'd like these days.