christmas time is here

We're heading out soon for candle light service at church.  I enjoy this quiet time at Christmas, a time to reflect on the year and be thankful for all He's done for us.  I must say while I enjoy candle service, a small part of me I also miss church Christmas production.  Our current church isn't into those kind of thing.  I'm sure there's a reason but I hope they consider it in the future.  Growing up I love singing in choir at Christmas time or play the shepherd or an animal at the manger.  The excitement of opening night and the relief of successfully doing your part.  It's nice to see the church come together, young and old, putting on a production.  I never seem to get bored of the manger scene, the King of the universe came to save me in the most humbling way.

We had some time so I took some pictures of the girls !







A baby shower for 2

My best friend and I are both pregnant and due about 2 weeks of each other !  It's quite a nice coincidence as we get to be both at home together and our kids will have each other to play with (like our first born, they were 3 months apart).


Over the weekend we had a shared baby shower at our place.  I went into baking mode the night before and was making cookies and cupcakes and more cookies and then burnt some and changed my mind on others and then on the morning off, went and made taro tapioca pudding !!!  My husband reminded me that my friends are not into western sweets like pastries and cakes and cookies, the kids like them, but our friends like asian dessert more.  He asked me "how many times do we ever finished a cake ?  even a small one ?", he's right, there's always so much left over cake.  I love it though, I would eat it for breakfast/lunch the next day :-)  No loss here.  But in this case, hubby meant that I shouldn't bake too much as it's a lot of effort with little yield.  And he's right, few cupcakes and cookies and eggrolls (purchased) went but the taro pudding went fast !  I made a huge pot and the bowl was scrape cleaned.  I must admit though, the taro roots I bought was good (luck of the picking as you can get not very tasty taro) so it was very nice with the coconut milk.  I highly enjoyed it.


I myself likes tea party !  As you can see from past photos, we do a lot of tea parties around here :-)  it's pretty to look at and fun and easy to set up !  Some sweets and/or some savories and some teas and you're set.  Anything goes !  So naturally I thought we should have a tea time after our meat heavy lunch.  While bestie, my kids and I sipped teas, our friends were distracted !  I think if it is a sans kids party, we all would be seating and sipping tea and giggles, but that's not the case with a full house !  Shortly after, I found myself refereeing 2 kids and then everyone else was attending to theirs.  It's normal and natural and expected.  But in the mist of all the busyness, we still managed to talk, to vent, to laugh and eat and drink !  Us women are queen multitaskers :-)  At the end of day, it was nice being in companies with friends while our kids get to run around and have their own fun.  Best part is after 7 hours together, the kids are all worn out and ready for sleep !

For me, I always have a great time with everyone over.  It warms my heart to hear people talking and laughing, kids yelling, and seeing emptied cupboards.  I like seeing my friends enjoying themselves, I like hosting and think it's helps that I have great friends who always lend a hand to clean up during and after the party.




32 weeks

Week 32, baby is the size of a jicama !

I'm tired.  So so tired.  I haven't been able to sleep much.  It's normal apparently.  I guess this is how our body is preparing for the arrival of baby, for sleepless day and night.  I used to be able to sleep 8-9 hours but lately it's between 3 hours or 4 hours.  Part of it is my aching back and restless legs.  There's so comfortable position to sleep in really.  Once I'm up my brain wasted no time to wind up ! I start planning about work, about what we need for baby, and worrying about adjustments between the kids and the new member !  I can't seem to stop all these anxiety.

Not only I can't sleep, the transit ride to work is tiring !  My blood pressure is low so I get dizzy and out of breath once or twice during the ride and I panic because I don't want to pass out !  I would try to stand right at the door to get some cold air when that happened.  Top up all these, my nausea is creeping back slowly.  I don't want to eat, no interest in food :-(  I hope baby will be ok.  Arggggh, I am so ready to go, I wish I can just take off work early but there's still much to do and a new staff to train.  I have vacations time to take too, aish !!!  I might work less days.  I know, first world problem here :-)


easy chocolate chips cookies



At home craving some sweets and there's no chocolate around.  I decided to make some cookies to satisfy this growing tummy !  I typed into google "easy chocolate chips cookies" and this one caught my eyes !  Over 7000 ratings can't be wrong right ?  I love ratings !  so I decided to try it out !

Here's the recipe and my remarks, as I didn't have all the ingredients on hand but it still turned out amazing good !

Original link:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/10813/best-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened 
  • 1 cup white sugar (I used only 1/2 as I didn't want it to be too sweet and plus I added Skor bits which will make the cookies sweeter, hence I thought to cut back on the sugar)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I didn't have any)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 2 teaspoons hot water 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I only have 1 and 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (I didn't have any so I added 1/4 cup of Skor bits)

Directions:

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

- Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and nuts.  Mix batter together by hand.  Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased pans.

- Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned.  

The cookies hold their shapes well, so if you drop it in a big round blob it will look 90% like that when baked !  I flattened my cookies out with a spatula (you can see the marks in the picture) !  

Vietnamese chicken ragu with potatoes and carrots (Ga Ragu) recipe



When the weather turns cold, hot soupy meal is one I long for.  It's been pouring rain here lately and the temperature also dropped a few celsius.  Sick at home with nothing to do but napping and wandering around from front to back of the house, I told my mom I want to make something soupy.  She mentioned some beef stew she had and I thought of chicken ragu !  It's perfect for today.

This dish is quite easy to make, doesn't consume too much time other than prepping really.  Here's the recipe:

Vietnamese Chicken Ragu
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
- 16 chicken drums sticks, cut in half (or if you use breast or thigh meat, about 2.5-3 pounds of meat)
- 4 cups of homemade chicken stock (or 1 carton of organic chicken broth)
- 3 cups of water (my mom suggested 1 cup of coconut water but I don't have any.  The coconut water will tenderize the meat, use it if you have coconut water around)
- 6 medium russet potatoes
- 8-10 baby carrots (the type that comes in a bunch with stems intact) OR 4 medium carrots
- 1 can of Hunts tomato sauce (12oz)
- 2 stalks of lemon grass (use the white part), bruised with the back of your knife
- 5 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
- 3 bulbs of scallion, finely chopped
- 1/2 medium white onion, chopped coarsely
- 1 teaspoon of raw cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon of mandras curry powder (or curry power if you have any)
- 1/2 teaspoon of five spices powder
- 2 teaspoons spoon of sea salt
- a bunch of green onions
- a bunch of cilantro
- fish sauce for marinate and seasoning
- black pepper for marinate and taste

Marinate:
- Clean and cut the drumsticks into 2 pieces
- Put chicken pieces into a pot, put in 2 table spoon of fish sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of pepper (less if you like), minced garlic and scallions, mix well and let sit for 30 min.

* while the chicken is marinating, peel and cut potatoes into big chunk (I cut mine into 8), clean the baby carrot and cut into 2" size pieces.  If using the larger carrot, cut into 1 inch bite size.

Cooking instructions:
- In a hot pan, drizzle some oil and sear the chicken pieces.  Since it's a lot of chicken, I have to divide the chicken into 2 and sear them in 2 batches.  When the chicken is seared, pour in half of the Hunt's tomato sauce and coat the chicken in it.  Do the same with the second batch of chicken.

- Put all the tomato covered chicken pieces into a big pot, pour in the chicken broth, the water, and the lemongrass.

- Bring the pot up the boil and let it simmer on low for 25 min.

- Add in the potatoes and let it cook for 15 min.

- Add in the carrots and white onions and let cook for 10 min.

- Add in the paprika, curry powder, five spices, raw sugar, sea salt and 1/2 tablespoon of good fish sauce.

- Bring the pot back to boil for 5 min., taste the broth to see if it's to your liking.  Season more with fish sauce if desired.

- Serve stew in a deep dish or bowl, garnish with chopped green onions and cilantro, and a plate of sliced french bread or baguette for dipping.  My mom likes to eat it over rice !  Enjoy !













vietnamese canh chua sour fish soup recipe



One of my favorite dish to make !  Even though it's a sour fish soup, you can substitute the fish with prawn and it will work just as well.

There are a few ways to make it, the Southern and Northern style.  I found the Southern style a bit more on the sweet side.  Also, in the north we use dill for flavoring and garnishing.

So here's the recipe:

- 8 cups of water (or chicken bone broth (home made not can or carton)
- 3-4 fish fillet (you can also sub. with 1 1/2 lb of prawns, or use whole fish or fish heads)
- 1/2 cup of fresh pineapples, diced, more less to your liking (canned pineappl is ok too)
- 1 cup of bean sprouts (more less to your liking)
- 3-4 stalks of taro stems, peeled and sliced diagonally

Taro stems - sponge like - peel the outer green skin off with the edge of knife

- 3 med. tomatoes, quartered
- 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 stalk of lemon grass, smashed
- 1 small chunk of rock sugar or 1/2 table spoon of cane sugar
- 1 of 1 inch square of frozen tamarind pulp or 1/2 table spoon of tamarind powder
- fish sauce

*Additional ingredients:  You can add any of the below ingredients to this soup, more less to your liking, adjust soup broth (add more water) if soup is too thick.
- 1/4 cup baby clams
- 1/4 cup baby shrimps
- 1 tofu cut into small chunks
- baby enoki mushrooms

Flavoring herbs (this is what gives canh chua the flavor):

Thinly slice:
- green onions
- ngo om
- ngo gai
- rau ram

Ngo Om - rice paddy herb - lemony citrus sweet cumin flavor
Ngo Gai - long coriander, thorny coriander, saw -leaf herb - taste close to cilantro

Rau Ram - vietnamese coriander, blade like leaves - peppery flavor

IF you can't find any of the above herbs then use green onions (thinly sliced) and dills (chopped).

Cooking Instructions:

- in a pan, add it a bit of oil, add in 1/2 amount of garlic, stir until fragrant
- add in the quartered tomatoes, stir around 2-3 times, until orange liquid is released, put a aside

- in a heavy pot, add a bit of oil, then add the last 1/2 amount garlic and shallot and stir until fragrant
- add in the fish fillets
- pour in the cooked tomatoes
- put in the smashed lemon grass stalk
- add in the water or broth
- bring pot to boil then turn stove down to medium, to simmer

*then add in any additional ingredients you would like to add
- add in the chunk of rock sugar and tamarind
- add in the bean sprout and taro stem slices

Simmer all for 15-20 minutes, bring back up to boil, season it with fish sauce and you're done !

(I seasoned mine with a table spoon of 3 Crabs brand fish sauce, each brand's sodium content is different so season sparingly)

Spoon the soup into a big bowl, then add in handfuls of the thinly sliced herbs.  If this is your first time eating this, add in a bit of the herbs at a time as it is very pungent in flavor.  Serve with rice.


little miss picky eater: kindergarten's lunch



Bee doesn't like to eat lunch.  She would rather be outside in the playground with her peers than sitting inside and eatting her lunch alone.  It seems no one is eating lunch in kindergarten.

I spoke with other moms and they told me, on a good day their kid finished half, but generally, most day lunch is 75% untouched.  One mom told me, her son takes 1, yes 1, bite of the sandwich and he's done.  For many of us parents, we are patience and persistent :) and a little afraid our little bigger will starve :) so we consistently make and pack snacks and lunch for our kid (s) each day.  We pray and hope to see those lunch bag come home empty.

C & I were a bit stressed that Bee's not eating her lunch but upon hearing from other parents, we feel so so much better about lunch time.  Vince's mom told me that around grade 2 is when they will finish their lunch and snacks !  Speaking from her own experience with her elder kid.  Here's to hoping and praying it will be earlier or same for us.

Bee wants to be with other kids at the 1st lunch warning bell (we're on the West Coast lunch schedule, there are 2 bells, first one is 15 min. into lunch, if you're done you can go outside, the 2nd one is at 30 min into lunch, and this one is where EVERYONE has to be outside, whether you finish your lunch or not, you have to be outside).  Most kids are out at the 1st bell, Bee said.  She wants to be with all her friends so she packs up after 15.  Being a slow eater, she often finished only 1/3 or 1/4 of her lunch.

2 months now into kindergarten, I learned a bit about Bee's habit, she doesn't want to be last out and too much food overwhelms her (too many choices).  I also learned not to fuss over it, the more attention I gave the more apprehensive she gets, and then our walk home isn't fun anymore.  Instead I ask her, if she enjoys the lunch C or I packed her, and often she would tell me what she likes and don't like and the occasions "you packed too much!".  We decided to give her a smaller lunch and play around with what's convenience to pack and what she can finish in short time so she can be out with other kids at 1st bell !

While I like to exchange ideas and seek advices from other parents, I take them all in stride.  Reasons are our kids are different and our parenting style are different.  I prefer talking things out rather than force.  I know parents who forced their kids to eat, it's not for me or hubby.  We also don't tell our kids "eat or be hungry" and we avoid hand feeding them most of the time.  Instead we would play food stealing games to get Bee to eat while we eat our meal.  We are not the most patience people either so if by the time we're done our meal, if she's not done, she can choose to stay and eat or clean up with us.  We are lucky that generally there's something on the table that she wants to eat.  She has her off day 1 or 2 times a week but she makes it up by eating cucumbers or broccoli or fruits and drinking more milk.

I've read articles on picky eaters and none of it really applies to Bee or our personalities so I walk away with the overall knowledge:  get to know your kid !  and then use that knowledge and find solutions that works for both of you.  Bee is a selective eater and also a slow eater too.  She generally likes most fruits and for veggies, she prefers cucumber and broccoli most.  She used to love mixed food but now prefers them separate, not touching each other.  Maybe it's just a phrase but while she's going through it, it's good to be considerate of that and let her be.

To make our life easy, for lunch, we pack all the tried and true food we know she would eat.  I wouldn't start introducing new food at lunch, that's more like a dinner thing.   Right now, I pack mostly her favorite fruits for snacks, and she doesn't like sandwiches (because we don't normally eat them) or anything with sauce (pasta, etc) or anything mixed (like mixed noodled or fried rice) so I try to pack her something that is filling.  This probably is the most challenging and trying part for me !!!

For this week and last week, lunch menu is home made breakfast sausage (recipe here), or mini pancakes (1 egg, 2 table spoons of flour, bit of cane sugar, bit of mashed up banana or grated sweet potato mixed with water), or croissants with turkey ham, or mini chicken wieners with rice balls.  The ham and wieners are either free range or made with organic meat and are locally made.  Even so, I don't want her to start liking processed meat products so I try to limit it to 1 a week or 1 every 2 weeks.

One mom told me her boy likes cereal so she packed cereal and milk for lunch.  Another packed pancakes for the whole week.  I think it's great that they do whatever works for them and the kid !!!  It makes it less stressful for everyone.  

I found baby cubes are great for packing small snacks.
They are just the right size, take little space and easy to open and clean.

Bee doesn't like cold food so with a recommendation from another mom, I bought a kid thermos at London Drugs.  So far it's a great investment ! we use it everyday !  It keeps food warm for 5 hours and cold food for 7 hours.  We don't tighten it too tight, just enough so Bee can open by herself.  Price is around $15 so it's not so bad.

There's no candy or juice or milk in Bee's lunch bag.  She has a bottle of water!  We also pack her a 4-5 ritz crackers or 15 gold fish crackers (because her friends are eating them and she asked me if she can have it too).  I don't like crackers as I feel they are loaded with salt and are just filler food.  But they are easy to pack and easy to eat when hungry or just need something to tie over.  The crackers come home most day though, untouched, but we continue to pack them just in case she's still hungry after lunch.

We're getting the hang of making lunch for Bee.  It just takes some time to figure out what works and what doesn't and takes a bit of effort in prepping.  Now a few times a week (2 or 3) we get "I finished my lunch" and it's encouraging for us.  It seems food is forever a battle for us parents !!!  We don't spoil our kids, but we do compromise with them on some things, mostly with Bee, as she's vocal enough to let us know her preferences.  If something is a struggle for us then we sit down and discuss as family and negotiate !!!  At the end of the day, while we listen and hear the kids out, we make sure they know we are the king and queen and we rule this place called home :-)  we get to have the last word !  for now anyways !

Bee loves grapes and cantaloupe cubes !  She like croissants and the mini hot dog (organic all meat with no preservatives)

First time packing this for Bee and she ate everything but the corned beef slices.  We don't eat cold cuts at home so it doesn't surprise me that she didn't eat it.  I remember liking corned beef so I bought it, hoping she likes it.  Oh well !

Mini chicken wiener bites (organic all meat with no preservatives) !  Bee likes to eat it with rice :-)  we're so asian :-)

Everything was eaten except the beans and chicken  :-(  She likes beans at home but not at school, she told me !  We will forego cold cuts as she doesn't like it at all.



restructuring

I have very few friends at work, 2 to be exact.  Over the years, I learned the less friends and the less you talk at work is beneficial in the long run.  When you keep everything professional and focus on your work, there's less drama and distractions.  I happened to like my job and like to spend time working !  Strange I know :-)  I try not to share too much about my personal life, where I live, what car I drive, what dwelling I live in, what my husband do for a living, etc.  I noticed the more you share the more criticism you will draw to yourself.  I always remind myself to keep those personal conversations to companies of few.

What I know I learned from experience off course !  There was a colleague whom I talked to often and naturally over the years we gotten to know more details of each other's lives.  It was great to know their hobbies, their up bringing, their opinions, their dreams.  Then one day another colleague kinda make a comment to me, about something I know I didn't tell them.  I found out later the trusted colleague whom I talked to, often share about me with some other colleagues.  That was un-necessary.  And I know, when a convo is repeated from another's, it's never 100% of what was said.  That was my first brush with office gossips.

What will come will come, it's inevitable.  Everyone is replaceable.  It's not over until it's over so don't go making useless assumptions.  I try to stay away from fear mongers  !  We all need to work, we don't know who's going through what, or what other burdens they have, so we all need to kind and thoughtful in times like this.  Know that it's not personal, it's all business.  There will be casualties, it's inevitable.

Morale wise, I feel everyone is down and there's a sense of instability.  I've never been through it so this is very new for me.  The environment is a little different, I don't know how to say it, but there's a change in the air.  Good or bad I've yet to know.  I'm also off on mat leave soon so I won't be able to see how all these will pan out.  But for sure, after 1 year when I'm back things will be different from now.

sleep sharing

woke up one morning to find the kids sandwiched between us and one set of eyes staring at me !

I love cosleeping with the kids.  I love having them holding tightly on me and me holding them tightly back.  I like reading to them, I like listening to C reading to them.  we love bed times around here, when we all snuggle up next to each other, the kids would tuck tightly under our arm pit, while one of us reading to them.  When "the end" are announced, they are either both asleep by then or need another 5-10 to fall asleep.  They both are very easy sleeper, something I feel very blessed for.

When the kids are in deep sleep we sometime move Bee to her bed and she most always would crawl in with us in the wee morning.  Our bed settings is like this, up against the headboard is Lovebug, me and then C.  Bee would either be in her room or in a toddler bed at the corner of our bed room.  When she's up would quietly say "mommy om" (meaning "hug me mommy") and magically I'm up (I don't know how I can hear it in my sleep but I do) , then we would hug, I can feel her breathing on me and I can feel my breathing above her head, we would stay like that until sleep alludes us away.

I'm usually the first one up.  I take this time to reflect on things and one of the thing I love most is, looking at my kids peaceful face, the moment is so beautiful.  They are growing up ! I noticed their features are changing, they still look the same but a bit different at the same time.  I see their faces everyday, but only when they sleep would they stay still for me to have a close up view of them.  Lovebug lost most of her baby cheeks.  I can see her cheek bones now.  I noticed Bee got a tiny mold on her upper shoulder.  That's new.  To much sun this summer maybe.

I want to be this close to them for as long as I possibly can.  Until they have enough of us.  Funny how before we have kids, C and I used to think it's so weird that parents sleep with their kids.  Kids should be in their room, sleeping in their own beds, and be independent or learn to be independent of their parents.  Until we have our own kids, we then realized why.  One look at Bee and then Lovebug, I knew I can't be apart from them.  C said he feel safe at night knowing we're all in one room.  I like this cozyness feeling of all of us snuggling and sleeping together.  I love it.



some thoughts on Halloween

The question comes up often when the pumpkins are growing orange in the field.  As Christians, do we or do we not carve pumpkin and dress up and go trick or treating ?

Here's the back history of this night:  http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-Halloween




I know many Christians opt out, and many goes to children's program at church, and many dress up and go out like us.

The issue here is not black and white and it's more in the gray area.  It's all personal choice and where you stand in front of God.  The short answer is, everything in this world belongs to Him and Him alone.  A man-made event or holiday doesn't make it a "bad" or "satanic" day.  Telling me I'm sinning for carving pumpkin and giving out candies or taking my kids out trick or treating is not going to change me or my salvation.  No one has that right but Christ alone.  I often pray and rely on my intuition when unsure of things.  When something is off or wrong, my heart is not at peace and I know right away the holy spirit is caution or warning me.  I don't feel any uneasiness with Halloween.

In the end, we all are free to make decission on such day without fear of people judging us :-)  I believe Christ love us just the same as yesterday and tomorrow.  I view it as a fun day for the kids to be with their friends, to parade around school, to be with other kids, to visit neighbors.  I remember my childhood with fond memories of halloween with families and friends.  Our families would gather together and my aunt Ninh used to put all of us kids in a garbage bag !  Yup black garbage bag with a slit cut out on the bottom and sides and we put it on like a shirt.  Then when older, I would be in pyjamas and use pillow case to use as bag.  Even if it's raining, my friends and I are out there drenched in the wet cold weather, trying to out number each other on candies collection.  It was fun times.  Maybe it was the era or the people I was friends with, but there was no booze or drug on halloween, not even fire crackers.



pumpkin carving and seeds separating !

trick or treating at the mall !  Cupcake store gives our mini cupcakes !  yum !

our lovely neighbor Marie packed a huge goodies bag for the kids and a sweet card for us !

excited to go trick or treating and showing off their costumes to our neighbors 

10 houses, they went to 10 houses, not even a complete block, and asked to go home.
Bee said she gathered enough candies.   It's good to know when it's enough and stop I guess !  

Today our family do the pumpkin patch visit, pumpkin carving, dressing up and go trick or treating.  We've always make it a family non-scary event.  I never like the scary aspect of halloween and it seems many parents, christians and non-christians alike, opt for the fun/cute/silly version too.  I see all super heroes, princesses, and other characters, but no witches or creepy monsters on the street or any that came to our door.

There is no loss or gain if you participate in Halloween or not.  You are not more or less of a Christian.  I am neutral about it, much like Valentine, an event with lots of sweet too !  It is just a day like every other day, the sun rise the sun set.  You choose to the make the best decission for your family and we for ours.  For our house, we serve the Lord, we meet our neighbors, we hand out candies to kids, check out their costumes and happy faces.  It's happy times all around.

easy homemade breakfast turkey sausage


I like McDonald's breakfast sausage but limit myself to it only a few times a year.  The other day it came to me, why don't I make them at home ?  why haven't I thought of this before ???  They are healthy, without preservatives and easy to make !  ans they taste good too !

Here's the recipe written by literary mom for food.com, I tweaked it a bit:

1 lb ground turkey (or pork or mix of both, I found lean turkey are a bit too dry)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sage
1 teaspoon fennel seed > I grind this on a pestle for even distribution in the meat
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper > I used only half when I make it for the kids
1⁄2 teaspoon white pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne
1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg
1⁄8 teaspoon allspice

I also add:
- 1/2 tablespoon of brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of marjoram
- 1/4 teaspoon of rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (omit if making for kids)

Mixed all the dry ingredients together, then add to the ground meat.  Mix well with hands and form into thin patties (1/4 of an inch).  Pan fry on medium high, 3-5 min on each side.  Enjoy !


Why I stopped saying "my daughter is shy"

Right behind me is where Bee likes to be whenever we're in a new environment.  She would hold onto me hand, freeze on the spot, and peer out at the other kids from my side.  Other moms and kids would smile at her, some approached her and said "hi".  I would nudge her to say "hi" back but nothing came from her.  I would respond to them in her place, "she's a little shy" and they nodded back at me as if understood.

English is my 2nd language, shy in Vietnamese can be taken as "quiet, cautious" and the other meaning is "embarrass".  To me it doesn't have a negative connotation.  However, after repeating it a few times, I realized I accidentally labeled my daughter, just so I can explain to other why she doesn't respond to them.  I unintentionally gave Bee a "disorder" :-(  I feel horrible.  Bee has no issue.  She just need time to warm up to people.  She's cautious of her surrounding, of who's around.  She likes to observe people before opening herself up to them.  Which is a very good trait to have.  She told me she doesn't want to talk to people she doesn't know.  She said "I don't know them, they are strangers !"  Another excellent point !  and this is where I fail her :-(

I taught Bee about strangers, to avoid them, don't talk to them, and then here I am, unintentionally making her talk to people she deemed "strangers".  They aren't my friends or family so yes they are strangers to us.  She's too young to understand that it's ok to have a conversation with someone at the playground or on the transit or in a line up.  It all depends on the situation.  For now I rather her treat them as strangers and stay away.

Lately I've just let her be.  She doesn't have to say "hi" if she doesn't want to.  When she doesn't respond to others, I don't feel the need to answer others or say anything to Bee.  I need to respect her choice, the little control she has in her life.  Sometime someone will say to us "oh she's shy", I would just smile and say "she doesn't know you".  It's been working well for us.  She doesn't feel she needs to answer them or me.  Wish I figure it out sooner !

IKEA Kura bed makeover project (house facade)

An uneventful afternoon at home and I was in the that "nesting" mood where I feel the need to get the house in order while I am still able, before I get too big with this baby.  

I was cleaning the kids room and realized pretty soon the girls will need to sleep in here and no longer with us.  The Kura bed we have will need to be flipped over to a bunk bed !  I called C in and told him my plan.  And he's like "right now" and I told him why not ?  We're just lounging around anyways, if we get it done now it's one thing less to do later on.  

He grudgingly agreed and within minutes we flipped the bed over !  He did the moving, I did the unscrewing of all the planks, etc and together we put it all back together.  That was easily accomplished !  

The Kura bed is probably the lowest bunk bed in the sea of bunk beds.  Still, a part of me feel uneasy about the girls up there playing.  I pictured them playing and fighting over toys and one accidentally pushed the other off :-O  it didn't sit well with me so I decided to google up ideas to raised the front side of the bed (the other sides are up against the wall).  I typed in "Kura bed makeover" and oh my, there were so many ideas !  I discovered the world of ikea hacks - when people modified the original ikea furniture into something else.  

After hours of browsing (there're so many cool designs), I thought a boat look with circle fish eye windows would be cool for the girls !  I shared the idea with C but he said we don't have the tools to do it.  I asked him what would be easy to do and he said maybe a tree house, as we need the side high enough to block the kids in.  Beggar can't be chooser so I said to him "let's do it!".  Again he asked me, "right now?" :) I looked at him and said, "well, our baby is coming in about 4 months and we need time to train the girls to sleep in their room".  And I added he can sleep in there too if he wants a good night of sleep !  He looked at me and said "You're always up to something !  You can't just rest can't you ?".  I would if I'm now not stuck with this idea, of what the bunk bed can become :-)
C drew a rough plan and we changed it like 10 times to make it easily achievable, because we (mostly I :-) want to finish it that afternoon.  I'm most impatient when it comes to projects.  If it can't be done within the day then I wouldn't do it.  For this project, we will not have a full on tree house, no fancy fence, fancy windows, green planters, slanted roof, and cute doors.  We're just going to put up a facade of a house.  After agreeing on the final look, C then left for Home Depot to pick up wood planks and nails.  We have a wood cutter, sander and cordless electric screwdriver already so that helped speed up the work.

C called from the store and asked what type of wood I want.  I told him untreated and preferrable cheapest as we've never done anything like this before.  Just in case it doesn't turned out the way we planned, we can salvage the wood for something else and not waste money.

We bought:

Wood type:  Pine
Front coverage:  1" x 6" by 8 feet high planks (about $8 for 1 plank, we bought 13, you might need more or less depending on area of coverage and design)
Trimming: 1" x 3" (C uses this to make the frame and keep the pieces together)
Nails - 2 types,  1 about 1 3/4" long to keep the frame together and 1 that's about 2 3/4" long to screw the frame onto the Kura bed frame.  C kept all his nails about 2" apart.

After an hour of measuring and cutting and another hour or so of nailing and smoothing out any uneven areas and putting pieces together in the garage to see how they all fit together, C happily announced we can now try to install it to the bed.  I was more excited than the kids !  And the kids were screaming with joy.  I had to move them to another room because they wanted to help with everything and were in our way so much.  

Here is the semi finished look.  It's semi because the next part is to paint it (we should have paint each plank first but I was way way too excited, I can't wait for that).  



Once up, C thought of putting a roof on top but I feel it might darken the space so we forego it. We raised the front railing by twice the Kura's height and covered half of the other side of the bed with planks so that we can put in storage shelves (inside) for Bee because she likes spaces for toys and books.  We used Ikea's wood spice racks as book shelves.

The house facade serves nicely as a safety barrier for our kids !  Our 2 1/2 year old can climb up to the top bed easily and the side is high enough that she can't falls over. So far it serves it's purpose and very sturdy.  C did an excellent job :-)  He said he would make a cooler tree house if I didn't rush him.  I told him it's nice as is and most importantly, the kids love it.

The girls play house on it often and use the windows as a drive through restaurant.  The bottom bed is their "food preparation" area and the top is their store front.  We read in here, play in here and when the girls are upset, they buried their head in their blanket crying.  It's their place of refuge !  As for sleeping, they do sleep in here, but not everyday.  Mind you, I am not encouraging it enough :)  I only have a few more months snuggling with them before baby come so I want to soak in as much of them as possible.  


My school list for kindergarten



Bee will be in kindergarten in a week's time !  I didn't realize my little little girl needs so many stuff for school  :-O   here's a short list that I made up while waiting to Mr. Sleep to waltz me away:

Outerwear:

- light jacket
- thin jacket
- warm winter jacket
- rain coat

Headwear:

- hat for sunny days
- knitted hat for cold days

Footwear:

- indoor slip-on shoes (school's requirement, to wear in class)
- runners for everyday wear
- dress shoes for special events
- casual shoes
- casual boots for cool days
- rainboots for the rain
- winter boots for the snow

*Mittens & snow gloves !

School gear:

- back pack
- lunch bag
- water bottle
- lunch containers
- snacks containers

Over the summer Bee pretty much worn through many of her clothes !  Most of her leggings are worn at the knees and she grew out of most of her shirts.  Strangely, 3 months ago she has more than enough to wear and now it seems she has little choices :-/  I find myself this month replacing many items in her worn out wardrobe, like tights, pants, leggings, socks, t-shirts, long sleeves shirts, sweaters, dress tops, skirts, dresses, and cardigans !

We can break our little bank getting her set up for school !  and this is just kindergarten :-O

Oregon Coast | Our 1st family road trip

We started our trip early in the morning, 8am, with the kids all eager to go on their first road trip.  According to google, our trip to Seaside Oregon will be approximately 7 hours.  It's a bit longer than I remembered but google map takes in consideration border waits and traffics.  We're dividing this trip into 2 parts.  I read somewhere that long ride in car can be bad for kids so we will be making a stop with 2 nights stay near Seattle on the way there and 1 night on the way back.

One hour in on the road and Bee started to ask "Are we there yet?".  I saw it on TV countless times and I really thought they are just exaggerating, but nope, they're right on point with this :-(  she asked that question EVERY 3 min.  After the 5th times we reminded her of her plan, that she's going "to sleep so the trip is shorter". She remembered the plan alright but said that her tummy is too excited she can't sleep !!!

I printed a map of our trip and prepped some snacks and water for the kids for the ride.  When Bee wants to know where we are, I would point her to where we are on the map, and get a long reply of groans from her :-/ map was not a good idea.  She's too excited, too eager and filled with so much anticipations, that she can't handle that we're no were near there !  Lovebug did us a favor and ripped up the map :)

We decided to put on the Frozen movie on the ipad (we bought an adjustable ipad holder and installed it on the back of our seat) for the girls to watch.  It was meant to be played way later on in our trip but oh well.  Lovebug passed out after 30 min. while Bee continued til the credits were rolling in end.  "The movie is done, are we there yet?" she asked, "We should go somewhere closer, this is tooooooo long !  I'm a kid!!!" she whined.

Being 16 weeks pregnant, my patience is running very thin.  I've been avoiding people for my sanity and for theirs :-)  the kids and C are the only exceptions but they are walking on egg shells with this cranky mama !  So when Bee whined about "Are we there yet ?" for the hundredth time, I gave her two options.  I asked her if she wants me to drop her off on the side of the road or stay with us.  She chose the latter and mumbled about how she does not like this trip at all, then fell asleep shortly after.  

Candies and movie to keep them occupied and entertained.

FIRST STOP

So here we are, on the road in a packed car with 2 kids !  Our first stop is at Hampton Inn in Lynnwood, 15 min. from downtown Seattle. It was a good move on our part to stop here, to have a bit of break for us and the kiddos.  We spent the day shopping (our hotel is next to Nordstrom Rack, great selection of shoes and bags, and we're 2 min. away from Alderwood mall) and then swimming at our hotel at night.  The next day, after buffet breakfast at hotel, we explored Seattle, ate some good grubs and back at hotel in the evening for swimming again.






We continued on with our other half on the trip the day after, when we all are refreshed and full.  I like the hot buffet breakfast at this hotel (we been here a few times) because they have variety of options (eggs, sausages, oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, juices, variety of baked bread and baked goodies, fresh fruits, and waffle)).  When travel, we all wake up at different time so buffet breakfast works well for us :-) no stress.

Traffic on the i5 to Oregon was so bad that our estimated 3 hr drive extended close to 5 hours.  Lovebug either sleep or watch Frozen or sing on the top of her lung, she's a gem !  Bee continues to whine but much much less on this ride.  She seems to understand that we can't speed up any faster.

DESTINATION SEASIDE


View from the balcony of our inn

Once at Oregon, seeing miles and miles of sand meeting a wide body of water makes the drive all worth it !  We quickly checked in at the Hi-tide Inn.  The only place on the promenade (walking path) that can accommodate us for the week.  I actually lucked out as practically the whole town was booked.  I called every other day to see if there's a cancellation and finally came across an ocean front room here and it's close to "downtown".  Downtown here just a small area, with one main street, Broadway .  You want to be near this area because it's where food are :)  Restaurants, coffee, and grocery shop.  Price we paid for hotel was $159 USD a night, which was quite reasonable comparing to other lodging around here.  If going again I would make reservation at least 2 months in advance.


The kids went nuts with the sand, as if they never seen it before.  They put sand on their body, on their hair, in each other's pants, they make sand angels, they crawl on them and roll on the sand.  And they did that the whole week we were there.  Bee also want to go swimming every afternoon !  It's expected because I know she loves water !  hence when travel, I only book hotel with pool.

Every day, C would dig a huge pit in the sand, until it hits the water.  He said it was enjoyable and relaxing for him.  Each night the tides would come in and fill it and he would start a new one the next day.  He also would make a walk way down for the girls and that pit would keep them entertained the whole day.  Many kids came by and many dads came by to see how it's done.  Some even told C that he made them look bad because their kids want them to dig one too but they're too lazy to do it.





When not playing in the pit or with the sand, the girls are chasing birds and waves.  The beach water is nice and cool to play and soak our feet in, but it is the pacific ocean after all, so it's brrrrrrrr cold !!!  For us whimps anyways, because many others were swimming in there.  So what did I do all day here ?  I sit and snack and read and play  :-)  I don't remember if there's wifi there but we didn't "connect".

At night it can get a bit chilly on the coast.  A few nights we put on our sweats and go for a walk on the beach.  We also bought some wood and lit a bond fire.  It was nice being out at night, listening to the waves crashing in, watching the stars twinkling up high and being warmed by the fire.  We brought snacks along to munch on.  At some point we also took a bunch of long tall dry grass and lit one stick of grass at at time and try to write our initials with them in the air.  The kids were entertained, watching the grass and wood burn.

Seaside is all about seafood and sweets !  Candies and ice cream shops are everywhere.  We ate gelato every day.  Pretty much all restaurants serves clam chowder and seafood from the steamer.  Norma's and Dooger's Seafood are good and kids friendly.  We frequented Pig'N Pancake for breakfast (typical breakfast fares).  I couldn't eat too much seafood due to mercury intake (16 wks pregnant) so hot wings and pizza was my other stables.  The kids' meal consisted mostly of popcorn shrimps, mac/cheese and chicken strips.  They didn't want to try anything else except the one time they tried and finished more than half of a lobster.  C and I found everything is so heavily salted in the States (except for steamed seafood).  They have excellent food here but just on the salty end.

As for entertainment, there's a small aquarium, Funland games, a go-cart place and a miniature golf park !  we spent some time at Funland, playing games and collecting tickets to buy things.  Someone hacked the Jurrasic Park game so we sat there and finished the whole game (over an hour of shooting).  We also discovered that the Fruit Ninja game give out the most ticket so we played at that station for a long time too.  All tickets were used toward the purchase of candies !!!


Mid week we went and visited Canon beach to show the girls the haystack rock (a 235-foot (72-meter) sea stack).  After hanging out at the beach, we went for a stroll around the little town, bought bags of salt water taffy (they can be found everywhere), had lunch, explore the town a bit more and then headed back to Seaside for dinner.  I don't think we ever spent a full day here.  There's just little to do.  Seaside is small too but it seems to be more vibrant in my opinion and more family/kids friendly.




If you're not a small town and beach loving person, you probably won't enjoy it here as much as we do.  At 9pm the town gets pretty quiet but the beach is noisy !  I think most people are out at the beach for bond fire.  C and I like small town as well as big city feel !  We both like to talk so no matter where we are we have each other for company :)  if you like activities and seeing attractions then small town might put you to sleep !!!  We love the ocean so we can be at the beach for a week or more and not be bored !!!  As for our kids, when we're not playing with them, they are capable ofentertaining themselves.  They have so much to play with here and are quite creative so we didn't have to worry about them.  When not digging the pit, C and I would lay under our beach canopy and talk about all things between heaven and earth.  It's just very chill and relaxing for us.  I am happy just to be with my little family, with the sun above me and the waves licking the sand.


We dressed up for Sunday brunch

Jumping over waves !










C called this his man cave :D  He can nap in here as it blocked out all the noises.



Jelly fish !!!


Good bye Seaside !  We'll see you again !


HOME

We didn't want to go home, we wanted to stay longer but there's no accommodation at all in this whole town.  I think another day would be nice, to make it a full 7 days 7 nights there.  We reluctantly pack our car and two unhappy kids for home.  They really want to stay !  Oh well, sooner or later we still have to leave and the kids will pout then too.  Lucky for them, they still have another place to look forward to !  A night stop over at Holiday Inn in downtown Tacoma, with swimming pool !

We got to the hotel late in the afternoon, checked in, changed, and went straight to the pool !  We woke up early the next morning for breakfast together and headed out at 9am.  We wanted to do some shopping at the outlet in Tulalip before home.  At this point I was ready for home.  I miss my bed, my kitchen, my garden, my house.



All in all, it was a very good road trip.  Bee didn't complain much on the way home, she slept most of the time, so was Love. They asked to go back Seaside again next year. I would totally do this again but not next year.  Maybe when the baby can walk.  I can't imagine driving this long of a distance with a new born !