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.