Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My dad

There are stories that I wanted to make sure I didn't forget about my childhood, especially stories I don't remember but have heard my dad tell. My dad is one of those guys who keeps things in perspective. He never gets upset over stuff or petty matters because he had to endure so much in his life. If he got dealt the short stick, he would work with that short stick and make it wonderful if it meant providing for his family and keep us together.

Here's one that has always stayed with me and I wanted my boys to know. When I was about five, we escaped from my homeland country of Vietnam. While we were waiting in Hong Kong to be sponsored over to the United States by my mom's oldest brother, we lived in a small room of an apartment that held several families. At the time, we did not have my brother who was the baby. My grandfather, dad, and uncles carved these beautiful boats made out of wood to sell for money. The boats were replicias of boats the men would build to go fishing. I think my dad told me they sold them for $10 at the time in the late 1970's so that went a long way to help us eat and stay afloat (barely) before we made it to the U.S. We were really, really poor.

My dad told us he would walk us around Hong Kong for entainment but not ever being able to buy anything. He couldn't remember which one of us girls asked him for an apple that was on displayed along the roadside because we were so hungry, he couldn't get for us because he couldn't afford to buy us an apple. His wish was to go to America and be able to make enough money to one day buy his girls an apple. I can't imagine how my dad must have felt knowing his kids were hungry and he couldn't do anything about it. He must have been so scared but had to be brave. He escaped his country with no money, didn't speak Chinese or English, took his entire family (my mom was 7 months pregnant) and left everything we knew and started to start a better life in America.

Shortly, when we came to America, he couldn't believe it when he saw other people take a few bites out of an apple and just leave it unfinished. He told me that he would pick up the rest of the uneatened apple and cut away the brown half and saved it to share with us. When you're that poor, you just make do.

I was reminded of this story this afternoon when I cut an apple for my boys at lunch. They innocently ate their share of the apple and I ate the other half. My kids may never know how to go without but I hope they can appreciate what they have. I'm so grateful to live in a country where if you work hard enough and save that you can have a better life. That's the legency I want for my kids.


Goodness, I think I just hit the fabric jackpot. Someone left a box FULL of fabric for me at my doorstep. The boys and I had just returned from grocery shopping and there it was...I am so excited. There are some prints in there that are boys colors and some beautiful floral designs that I can use to practice making dresses for all the cute little girls we know. Getting this box of fabric to me is like how some women feel when they get a diamond ring. I love it. Thank you! Thank you!

Now having mentioned that I love fabric leads one to believe I'm at sewing. I'm not but I love making things with my hands and since I have an awesome sewing machine, I have been dabbling in quilts, clothes, upholstery pillows, and shopping bags. Growing up I was never interested in sewing other than to hem pants. My mom is an excellent sewer-I wish I can learn from her now that I'm ready to sew. I was an awful daughter and didn't want to do anything that was like my mom. Now I wish I can kidnap her and keep her at my house forever.

After many phone calls, I found out who left the fabric...your generosity will not go unrewarded my friend Mrs. B.

Friday, December 26, 2008

This past month of December, my son S.E. has been learning about Jesus and the story of his birth leading up to Christmas. He was asked the following questions and here's how he answered them:

Why did Jesus Come? "...because, um, so he could help people"

What did the angels do? "tell good news"

Where was Jesus born? Where did he sleep? "a barn"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


We were going to travel six hours this year to spend it with my parents and in-laws. However, we've had a ton of snow in our state, so we decided to stay home. I am making Lovely Husband's favorite soup that is a tradition in my family to make for Christmas. Several of neighbors have cancelled their plans to travel for Christmas, so they are coming over to spend it with us...yeah!! Entertaining without having to make a bed.

I wanted to thank God for sending his only son down here to live among us. I have two boys of my own and I can't barely stand to be away from them for a couple of hours let alone a lifetime-knowing there would be people who would not receive him. My Christmas wish is for everyone to stay warm, receive hugs from love ones, and there not be an empty tummy anywhere. May God protect you all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gingerbread Shacks

Ever the glutton-for-punishment kind of gal, I volunteered to make gingerbread houses for S.E.'s preschool class party. My first thought when I read about the need for volunteers was how amazing the teachers have been about all the arts and craft projects they've been doing with the kids and felt like I could help. Well...17 gingerbread houses later, we are set for a great Christmas party at school.

I grew NEVER making gingerbread houses...the only times I've attempted to make gingerbread houses in the past has been with graham crackers. The graham cracker houses would fall apart within two days due to the weight of the candies and icing piled on top of it.

But I did with a lot of help from my husband, friends, and the internet. All the baking and construction was done in two days. My husband took care of the children so I could get the baking done and my friends P and C scaled down a larger model of a gingerbread house design we found on the internet. This way, I was able to make six houses out of one batch of dough instead of two...yeah!!!! When it came to assembling the actual house, C came over to help build a cardboard version of the house so I could attach house pieces together without collapsing. When I was done putting the houses together, I declared my kitchen countertops a subdivision of gingerbread shacks. The houses were structurally sound but they were really ugly to be frank. It made me feel better that there was going to be a ton of icing and candy to cover the unattractivenss of these houses.

Here are the dimensions if you want to make them.

Gingerbread dough recipe (from foodnetwork.com)

1 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/4 cup light or dark molasses

5 1/2 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 TBSP ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix 5 cups of flour, the ginger and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
Cream shortening and sugar in large bowl with mixer. Add molasses and lightly beaten eggs. Blend well. Gradually add dry ingredients. Knead in remaining flour, if necessary. Chill dough 1 hour for best rolling results.
Lightly grease cookie sheets. Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thick directly onto cookie sheets. Cut patterns, removing excess dough. Chill 10 minutes before baking. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes. Trim pieces with cut out.

Cement Icing(gingerbreadlane.com)

3 TBSP powder meringue powder
1 lb (3 3/4 cup) powdered sugar
4-6 TBSP water
Mix togther until thick. It should be thicker than store bought icing.

Gingerbread Disign( P.B. designed)

Front and Back: 2.5 x 3.0 x 4.0 inches

Roof: 2.5 x 4.25 inches

Sides: 2.5 x 3.5 inches

Monday, December 15, 2008

Snow...I love it...I hate it...

I have the most ADD relationship with snow. I get excited at the first drop of snow and plan the day around snowman building, shoveling, and generally going outside to play with the children. I love it. But when we can't make a snowman out of the huge abundance of snow on your lawn because it's TOO COLD for the snow to stick, my love affair with snow takes a dive. The love disappears the moment I have to run errands and haul large packages to and from my car or drive anywhere in a timely manner...hate it...thank goodness I don't have to leave the house much when it is snowing. Really, I am just irritated that it is such an inconvenience. Thank goodness for God who always manage to make it so I have to slow down and practice patience. He gives me a lot of opportunities and snow is definitely one.

On an up note, I am thankful that we have a nice heating system at home and last year when there was so much snow for sooooooo long, my husband and I gave each other a combined gift of a generator-very romantic huh?. So, if the power ever goes out-we'll be okay. How sexy is that?! Who says romance dies when you get married?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

S.E.'s progress report

My son S.E. started preschool this fall and his teacher had this to say at the end of his progress report: "My favorite thing about S.E. is how he expresses his thoughts. Often times I sit in amazement as I listen to his stories. His eagerness to share and learn inspires me to enjoy the smaller things in life." She was often amazed that his stories would ramble on and on and he would tie different stories together with "because" and "...and then". She is very nice and will take the time to listen to all of-not cutting him off. That's like a bartender who doesn't cut an alcoholic off. Now where could S.E. possibly get his chattiness....hmmmm...

Anyone who knows S.E. knows he is the king of talk. Larry King ain't got nothin' on S.E.'s talkativenss. A little history about our oldest son. He started saying clear words by the time he was 8 months and at his one year healthy child check-up he had over 50 words that he could say clearly (I guess the 20 words is the norm). Okay so he talked a lot. He's like a CD that you keeps playing on with the repeat button pressed. His favorite run on phrase are "...and then" and "because". Now mind you he can connect one topic to the next without any other transition other than those two words. The topics may be unrelated but his use of "...and then" leads the listener to believe they are and often it just leaves people totally confused listening to him. New house rule is he is only allowed to use two "...and then" when explaining or telling me a story.

Note on parenting: Whe S.E. was six months old, I took him to a sign language class taught by students at a neighboring town's high school. In all the baby books I read, they said if your baby can communicate via sign language, the baby would be less likely to throw fits because he can communicate what he wants before talking. So to show you how little I knew about parenting, I had S.E. (a.k.a. early talker) to sign language but the child who could really benefit from sign language younger brother Koo (didn't talk until way after one year old), did not even get taught one word. Didn't have to, S.E. said enough for both.

Friday, December 12, 2008

channeling June Cleaver?

For those of you who remembered watching "Leave it to Beaver" growing up, you remember the Beave's mom June Cleaver. She was a stay-at-home mom that always looked put together with the beautifully done coif and her never stained, perfectly pressed outfits, and clean house. And her disposition toward any crisis that the Beave would get into was like...butter. We all want this right? Wanting is one thing, trying to achieve this is nearly impossible in my household. What a nightmare to try to follow in. With that said, I think I share some similiar traits as Mrs. Cleaver. I stay at home with my two boys (check), keep a clean house (check), have nice hot meal ready for husband and kids (check), and try to do look put together. That's where the similarities end. Keeping up with June Cleaver makes me cranky, dirty, and spent by the end of the day. Can't do it...and frankly I don't want to.

However, this is a problem I keep coming across. This problem arises whenever I am invited to a friend's home. At some point in the evening, my kind and wonderful host will take me aside and confess that she was anxious about having me over because she was afraid I would not like her cooking or that think their housekeeping was not up to par with mine. Really?! No really?!! I am always shocked to hear this because I would hate to make anyone feel like they were inferior to me-at anything.

I LOVE, LOVE being invited to someone else's home to eat (one of my favorite things to do in life) and to share conversation. My favorite food is potluck-food prepared by anyone else other than me. I love going out to eat-my husband, not so much, but I love eating food not prepared by me.

Although, I often can be found cooking up a storm and invite friends over share it with us.
I come from a large family and my mom made everything in Costco-sized portions. If anyone dropped by our house during meal-times (or not), they were forced to sit down and eat with us whether they were hungry or not. There were a few regulars that would pop in during dinner to take advantage of this policy. I don't know how to stop this style of cooking. If you live within walking distance of my house, I have probably had my cooking because I will on occasion send food your way. Cooking is a stress reliever for me and a way for me to express what little creativity was given to me. If I am extremely stressed over something major, my husband can come home to a five-course meal...for lunch. My worst fear when hosting a party is not having enough food for everyone or food that everyone can eat. I show my affection for my friends and family by whipping up massive quantities of food and having you eat it all...

Now back to the issue at hand, besides the food, cleanliness of my house has caused some people to be hesitant about inviting me to their homes. I know for myself I think and function better if my house is not cluttered and cleaned. However, it does not stress me out or make me break into hives if I am somewhere else that is not perceived as clean as my house. I like to clean and cleaning house is a way to work out my thoughts. Since my house is my place of work, I like to create an environment that works best for me. A clean work environment balances out an area in my life that I am terrible about-organizing. Writing this word down causes discomfort in me.

I am not a very organized person. This is my house-keeping kryptonite. I am horrible about keeping any drawer, filing system, dresser organized. Some homes have a designated one messy drawer. In my home, EVERY drawer is messy. The stuff inside may be clean but still very messy. I am a shover of things into drawers so I don't have to look at clutter. IF you are staying overnight at my house, please be aware that you are taking your life in your own hands if you open a door that I can shove stuff inside. The fear of overnight visitors is what keep me on top of my messy drawer problem. I don't want anyone to get hurt visiting us. Imagine the nightmare I am living with having two little boys and the endless piles of toys scattered everywhere. HUGE NIGHTMARE for an anti-clutter person like yours truly.

So, invite me over if you want and don't do a thing different because I'm coming. June Cleaver is a fictional character but if you need proof, just ask for a pen and piece of paper at my house and take a look inside my messy drawers.

SAF Instant yeast

Oprah Winfrey has a TV talk show that features called "Oprah's favorite things". She gives away these chosen favorite things to her audience. I can barely watch it because I've always wanted to be in the audience on that particular day. But where this is going is it got me thinking about all of my favorite things that make my life great and I'd like to share it.

As I was making a batch of cinnamon rolls this morning, I was reminded how far I have come in the area of yeast baked goods. When I was starting out in my twenties, I could not get the yeast package work properly enough to get my dough to rise and therefore any rolls, bread, or pizza dough I made tasted like hard rubber. I wanted the light, airy, soft, and chewy texture I loved biting into. After finishing college, I went to work for a local Pacific Northwest dry mix baked goods company and was introduced to a product called SAF instant yeast. Not to be mistaken with the active dry yeast sold in little packets where you add warm water and sugar, then wait while the yeast start the fermentation process before you can even add it to your dry ingredients. On the other hand, instant yeast does not require any coddling or worry prior to making the dough-it's nearly foolproof. You just add it to your dry ingredients and when you add water and mix, the yeast goes to work...instantly producing a dough that rises and voila you are on your way to making cinnamon rolls that would make Cinnabon shareholders nervous.

This favorite ingredient has taken away the guess work and fear that many of us have of baking yeast-leavened products. So, look for it in your supermarket and if they don't have it-keep looking it's worth it. It usually comes in a vacuum sealed bag at room temperature. Once opened, put the bag inside a ziplock bag and store it in the freezer. Here is the substitution for your recipes: for every 3 to 3 1/2 cups of flour, add 1 tsp instant yeast. There you go-have at it, you're going to love it.

Happy baking!!!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Introducing the LOVES of my life...

Being new to the blog-o-sphere world, I have been tossing over how much information to give regarding my family. However, I can't talk about coffeemakers all day and not talk about the loves of my life: my lovely husband and our sons (S.E. and Koo). They are the a la mode on my pie, the pep in my step, the caramel center of a Milky Way candy bar, the reason I get up each day and try harder (you get the idea). I am totally over the moon about my husband and boys.

God knew exactly what I needed when he decided to bless my with my LOVES to teach me about patience, love, not living on a set schedule or plan, and gives me a dose of "God got me back" whenever I think I'm in control. Why did I put Patience first-because that's the character trait that I lack the most. In my world, everything can be done quicker. I will know that God will truly get me back if I get to be paired up with a slug in heaven. Can't I get to this blog page faster?!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Razzle-Dazzle coffeemaker

So I know why I dislike the new coffeemakers with all the bells and whistles...
I am barely functional when I wake up and need coffee to get going and when I had old trusty, it was a no brainer-add water, change filter, add coffee, press on switch and magic happens-coffee is made. Now, with the Dazzle-maker, you have two different settings JUST TO BREW the coffee. It beeps at you when it's done and you have to clean it thoroughly because there's the grinder to clean, etc., etc., etc...
TOO MUCH thinking for me in the morning. Again, wonderful and lovely husband has been kind enough to make the coffee until I can get over this phase. Lord I love him.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Breaking up is hard to do...

Anyone who knows me knows I don't do well with changes. I have kept the same basic routine since I was in elementary school. One of my routine is very common-wake up in the morning and make coffee. When I moved out of my parents home to attend college, I purchased a Mr. Coffee coffeemaker. It's been over 13 years and I'm still making coffee the same way. I just like coffee-no fancy cover-up-my-coffee Starbucks drinks with sizes I still don't understand or ordered in correct Starbucks lingo-otherwise face embarrassing yourself in front of the cashier(oops...barista) as she tries to decipher what you want. Just coffee. I love my coffee. One perfect cup in the morning and if I am able to drink my coffee and it's still HOT 'til the last drop-I'm having a good day-no great...that means I wasn't multi-tasking trying to get my family ready for the day.

My husband never drank coffee before we had our our second child. Now that he drinks coffee on a daily basis (really a hard-core coffee drinker, frequenting Starbucks weekly in addition to making gourmet coffee drinks at home). From time to time, my lovely husband would suggest we chuck my oldie but goodie standard coffee maker for one that has all the bells and whistles(i.e. grinds the beans and time delay which can make the coffee while you are getting ready in the morning). What?! Get rid of an appliance that does exactly what it is suppose to do?! That's just crazy talk. No way we are getting rid of old trusty. Well, I've been able to fend him off the subject until this past Thanksgiving when safety concern developed with old trusty. The plastic handle started to separate from the glass container...

Needless to say, I chucked my oldie but goodie in the garbage and have been sad over the loss of my awesome coffeemaker. i loved that coffeemaker. So many memories were made while drinking coffee made from old trusty. I hate changes.

So, with a fresh, hot cup of coffee brewed from my new fancy coffeemaker, I wonder if anyone else feels this way about stuff.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

communication meltdown

So I go through spurts of frustration when I can't seem to communicate correctly with my husband. I understand everyone married has this problem so I shouldn't be shocked. However, this usually happens when I am already in a state of irritation over some other issue , so the little miscommunication becomes a mountain. Here's what usually follows: scold myself silently, next I get angry over the stupid argument, and last I proceed to make it go away by zoning out and eating. The feelings causes my stomach to get all tangled up and it feels like an upset stomach. That's when I squash it with food. HORRIBLE!!!!!!!!!! Better way to deal with this? I'm hoping to change this by just not starting a conversation when I'm not grumpy.

The same feeling came back this morning when I became frustrated with my son S.E. because once again he has lost some toy and became tragic until it was found (gee, I wonder where he got this?!). It wasn't as if he was being defiant-he was just being himself. However, I was still in a grumpy mood, so I didn't see the situation clearly. I could have helped him look for the missing item but I didn't want to always be his retriever. So, I sent him to his room to take a break and again that feeling of knotted stomachache came back. I recognized this and decided to walk away from the kitchen.

I am working on being patient just as God is patient with me. This blog stuff is so new to me and I am learning that I have to not write so much when I'm grumpy.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Weight

I have been inspired reading blogs regarding weight loss and how it made me feel. I wanted to express some of my thoughts down regarding my weight and I was tired of starting notebooks of journaling just to have my little boys rip out the pages and doodle on them. Hence, I figured I would get my thoughts down somewhere that I can hold myself accountable to how I felt at the time and why I can't stop the horrible cycle of my weight loss. Here's what I know so far about my relationship with food:
  • It is my source of expressing my love or generosity to others
  • It's part of my self-worth because I get compliments on my cooking. I take pride in it
  • I love to cook to relieve stress or boredom
  • I eat when I want to feel something-happiness, sadness, and every other emotion I feel that I can ignore feel better about
  • My work in the past has all related to food
  • My reward

Now, I'm sure I'm leaving out a lot of other points but for right now that's what is going on in my head.