December 29, 2014

Momo for Christmas!

My MIL Shari, who the kids call Momo, surprised them with a Christmas visit!
Daniel prepared a PVC-pipe frame for her and then wrapped her up. The kids opened this "package" and it was the cutest thing!

We've had a WONDERFUL Christmas - our first spent with Momo in seven years.

She baked us her famous tea cookies.
This island was my Christmas gift! Somehow Daniel squeezed it into my teeny-tiny kitchen. Good guy.

We went sledding at Snow Mountain.
Riding the gondola up the mountain.
Good thing I remembered the carrot and raisins!

We had the Greenes for dinner, and the fellas fried another turkey. Men and fire, I tell ya.

Momo and I armed the kids with gingerbread houses, icing, and candies and set them loose.
These two houses are Jubi's (left) and Brave's (right). Daniel says it looks like a candy factory blew up.

Happy New Year, everyone!

December 16, 2014

He knows how

Back when we said, "You can't have sleepovers until you're ten," we thought we were buying ourselves an eternity before having to deal with it.

But then we blinked our eyes and our oldest became nine-and-a-half and his best friend is a wonderful kid with wonderful parents and we ran out of reasons not to let him spend the night at Reister's.

So here he is, backpack on his back containing a toothbrush, a change of clothes, and a stuffed Toucan named Taco.

Later that evening I got THE BEST text message from Reister's mom Michelle. It read, "Gene said to me, 'I might have to poop while I'm here but it's ok, I know how.'"

December 11, 2014

(never) hung out to dry

We've all had those days. 

It's the stuff of Country Western songs. I slept in too late. My jeans were too tight. There was nothing in the house for breakfast, and the kids just could not get along. None of us could get in gear in the home school room, and we all ended up griping at each other over stupid stuff. I had gotten a hurtful comment on my blog that week that I just could not shake. The pollution was so thick outside that I could taste it on my tongue, and the Christmas cookie ornaments that I kept pulling from the oven looked like nondescript blobs (thanks to cheap butter that won't hold up at high temperatures). 

And then around mid-morning, the dryer broke. Really?!

At that point I abandoned home school altogether and succumbed to a full-fledged pity party on the couch, warning any approaching children that I needed space and must not be messed with. My pity party turned into a fitful nap, during which the hand I was using as a pillow went completely asleep.

But when I woke up...

Oh sweet L0RD, when I woke up...

My precious children had built a clothes line for me in the living room, on which to hang our load of soaking wet clothes.

They weighed-down the chairs with pans of water and popcorn kernels.
Gene tied the knots, learned from his Klutz Book of Knots (I highly recommend the book for parents of boys).
Instantly, my pity party was over. I scooped up my four little ones and asked for their forgiveness for my bad attitude. They forgave me, of course. Kids are the best forgivers of all. And I went to bed that night thankful, because even though life is full of broken dryers and hurtful comments, none of us has to tread this earth alone. Praise G0D for family.

December 09, 2014

In college at 34

I am grossly out of place at my school.

First of all, I am not Asian, of course. But even among the foreign students, I stand out. I am not European. I am not young, hip, or available. I do not smoke cigarettes or curse like a sailor. I do not have tattoos behind my ears (the new place for tattoos???) and I am not trying to earn a Chinese degree.

In fact, I have kids at home and a husband of 12 years. I still wear pants to class that I wore to class at Hope College 15 years ago. And my motives for studying the language are...slightly complicated;)

But old, outdated, and mysterious as I am, I park my bike beside the cool kids three days a week and sit in class for 2.5 hours, trying, TRYING to learn this distressingly difficult language.
Our second-floor courtyard.
Our snack bar. Warms the belly on a cold day.
Our bookstore. I bought a used Sichuan travel guide here that I love!
For all your school supply needs!
The lady from whom I buy my breaktime snack (cashews and tea)

December 08, 2014

We Heart Hong Kong

Not since we started having kids have Daniel and I been away just the two of us (unless you count a night at a hotel a few blocks from home). Now, thanks to John and Alisa, all that has changed.

Our destination? Hong Kong, where they celebrate Christmas, speak English, and serve gluten-free food in their restaurants!

And there is beautiful nature to enjoy, too. Where else the in the world can one eat breakfast among 7-million people in the morning,
(it's gluten-free and vegan)
and then eat lunch among winter surfers at a remote beach where the only sound is the wind?
(he ordered caesar salad)
The tiny surfing village of Big Wave Bay.

To get to the surfing village, we had to hike! (a privelege rarely afforded this mother-of-four-who-used-to-be-a-trail-rat).
Hiking the Dragon's Back.
British-run for long years, Hong Kong is a quirky cultural casserole, made up of a sprinkling of small mountainous islands, a big mountainous island, and a mainland port. The streets are old and narrow, and climb up and down very steeply, but are laid-out impressively well by the British who colonized it. Modernization has turned Hong Kong into city-planet - like something out of Star Wars - with enclosed walkways, buildings, lifts, and trams all connected and labeled by their level.  Completely surrounded by water and full of history, ambition, and good food, Hong Kong is literally crammed with people, places, and things.

Unlike anywhere I've ever been.
Everything is narrow. Everything. Even the nicest of hotel rooms are like glitzy closets.
On the ferry.
View from The Peak.

December 02, 2014

Writing, waiting, giving, and butterscotch

My book is sitting at a certain publisher, and though it hasn't been rejected, it hasn't been accepted. More than likely it has yet to be reviewed at all. Good thing I don't plan to quit my day job! ;)

But where I do have the privilege of writing on a regular basis is at the wonderful blog community for women serving overseas called Velvet Ashes. Whether you are a woman serving overseas or not, do give it a look. I think any and all can find some serious encouragement there. And right now, VA is running a very cool Eggs & Tires giving project to benefit children and families in Haiti. Check it out!

Meanwhile we are preparing for Christmas over here, along with most of the rest of the world. We dug up our Christmas tree from two years ago, which has been growing happily on our roof beside my sage garden (it was supposed to be an herb garden but only the sage took). We plunked the poor tree in a pot in our bay window and trimmed it. Post kids-in-bed, Daddy chillaxed with a mug of hot homemade eggnog and the last wedge of butterscotch pie.

The paper chain from six years ago is fading badly but we can't part with it.
It goes around and around our meager tree every year.

I have posted my eggnog recipe several times, but the butterscotch pie, a conglomeration of several recipes I've recently clipped, is a new and dazzling addition to my dessert repertoire. Enjoy!

  • Baked pie shell
  • 1 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 t. cornstarch
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 3 egg yolks/4 egg whites
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • Directions

    • 1
      In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter; cook and stir over low heat until butter melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.
    • 2
      In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar, flour, and cornstarch. Add to butter mixture and stir until combined.
    • 3
      Gradually stir in whipping cream. Return to heat and cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; reduce heat and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
    • 4
      In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks. Gradually stir about 1 cup of the hot filling into the yolks. Add yolk mixture back into the pan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring. Reduce heat and and cook and stir 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and pour into pie shell. Set aside.
    • 5
      To make the meringue, beat the 4 egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, pinch of salt, and pinch of cream of tartar; beat until glossy and thick (peaks will fall over). Spread over the pie sealing to the edges and bake pie in a 350° oven 15 minutes or until meringue is golden brown. Set out to cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve.
    • p.s. You can serve the pie at room temperature, if you prefer your pudding pies warm.