Thursday, January 31, 2008 ;
6:27 AM
Jan 26

Hardware Ranch Elk

It's been quite some time since we last had a family drive and outing.
This Sat, since it was not snowing hard and the skies were blue, we set off for the Hardware Ranch.

It is near Logan, north of Utah, about 2 hours away from where we are. The distance is not that far, but because towards the ranch, there is a canyon and the roads up the mtns are narrow and very winding, so that took a longer time. Also, the roads there were not plowed and thus we had to be careful.

Scenery along the way: mtns at Hyrum, and Logan area.

The drive was truly scenic. Beautiful rock formations, mtn ranges, farms, trees and creeks. Below: nearing the ranch, the road meanders alongside this pristine creek. Lovely.

When we reached the ranch, we first went to the Visitor's Center to buy tickets for the sleigh ride and also view the exhibits there. Not bad, they had activities and worksheets for kids. There were stuffed animals, telescopes and a sand tray for kids to make animal tracks in. They had a real preserved elk foot there for the kids to handle. a bit scary looking to me, but the kids had a blast holding it and waving it around (the limb).

Below: the guys (dh, ds) walking down from the visitor's center.

At the foot of the hill, we boarded the sleigh. It is a horse-drawn sleigh. ds1 kept refering to it as Santa's sleigh, haha. ds2 thought it just looked like oversized skis.

Above Left: me and kids climbing up the sleigh.

Then we rode to the elk herds. We went right amongst them. Some were eating hay, some were just sitting around and "communicating" to each other. 2 bull elk were having their antlers locked together, but they didn't look too fierce, so I guess it is a "friendly match".

We just sat in our sleighs and watched them. For about 20min. The guide talked to us about elk management and conservation in this area. And about elk behavior.

The bull elk naturally attracted much more attention from us with their huge majestic antlers.

Above left: you can click to enlarge and see this one. so funny! He was sticking out his tongue. So cheeky.

Above right: then he licked his lips! Like, oooh yummy. Either that, or he was eyeing one of the females in the herd.

The kids were enthralled and they enjoyed the sleigh ride a lot, especially how it glided across the snow. ds2 kept watching the "ski" part moving on the snow.

However, ds1 fell into a huge puddle of muddy slushy snow on the way back to the car. I was walking in front of him. He got very angry at me for "leading" him through that way. Cos it was very slippery. And he doesn't like to be messy and dirty, so now, with his whole body (really! pants etc all soaked through) with muddy cold water, he was really upset and cried for the first part of the journey home.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

6:09 AM
Nov to Dec 2007

Miscellaneous activities at preschool.

1. Snacktime and storytime at school.
Can't remember what occasion it was that I went earlier to take pics of their snack and storytime. During their snack time and storytime, ds2 was allowed to play with their toys and puzzles. I was able to talk with the teacher during snack time and then take pics and listen in during storytime.

I am making a photo book for the teacher as a farewell gift, so will select some of these pics to place in the photobook.

2. Displays on the wall.

Left: paper cut outs of snowflakes/ winter decor

Right: pin up of ds1's drawing. his is the bottom rightmost one.

3. Dory's blog had a post about an advent calendar. Although the one she bought for Ryan was a Lego one. Very interesting, how the kids count down to Xmas by opening one box at a time, ending at Xmas day.

Anyway, the kids made paper chains in school. And though I didn't do the countdown with ds1, there was this idea that with 24 or 25 chains, you can hang it around the Xmas tree and have the child tear a chain off every day from Dec 1. On each chain, you can attach a small candy.

This is the paper chain ds1 made.

4. I like full schools. This school goes up to 12th grade. So the older boys and girls view the little ones as part of the family, and take good care of them. They have come to their class to read them stories, and they have made crayons in their science class and brought them to the preschool kids for them to try the crayons out.

Now, they have built a sandbox for the kids. This is their poster letter to the kids. So sweet. Unfortunately, ds1 will leave before getting to play in it. Sigh.

5. Gingerbread making session.

Went to school to take pics of their gingerbread making. Reached too late. The men were baking in the oven already. Took a pic of the finished product. Below are the creations of the whole class. The whole basement in the school smelt lovely that day, haha. Guess which one was made by ds1?

Answer: 3rd from left or right, top row. That's supposedly Gingerbread Ultraman, he said. Looks more like piglet in Winne the Pooh to me. But of course I didn't say that out loud, it'll hurt his feelings. :-)

6. Class picture

Received the class picture that the professional photographers took. Ahhh, the kids are all so adorable. This will serve to bring back fond memories for ds1 in future.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Sunday, January 27, 2008 ;
3:33 PM
Again on the topic of phonics and learning to read.

There are some good books in Spore and Msia too. Just that I didn't mention them because I don't have access to them here and thus did not have the chance to review them. Lye Kuan (teck's wife) had introduced me to some good ones.

Any one out there with the knowledge, help me with this one?

How do you teach a kid who is learning to read, who has just learnt all the sounds of consonants from A to Z using the BBC or Zoophonics this?

Ok, so he has learnt that the sound of "C" is "ke" as in CAR.

Now he sees the word CHAIR in books. So I explain, (without any background in phonics, so I am not sure if what I say is right...) that when 'c' is paired with 'h', as in "ch" then you pronounce it as "che" as in CHAIR or CHAIN or my maiden surname CHEW.

Then when he sees the word CHARACTER, how am I going to explain that now "ch" is pronounced as "ke".

And then, he writes to his godsister CHARLENE. Now, how do I explain the "ch" is pronounced as "sher".

For now, I told him, we just read as widely as possible, so that we can figure out all the exceptions, cos there are just too many exceptions in learning a language! :-)

Then what's the point in learning how how the letter sounds? (I guess he is referring to "phonics"). I say, it is a good guide, a good first step, general guideline, then for all the other words in English that have other origins, we just have to remember how different they are as we go along.... :-)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Friday, January 25, 2008 ;
9:57 AM
Today when I picked ds1 up from school, his teacher talked to me for a while. She was planning a CNY party in school and a whole week of chinese-related craft and projects and asked me about some stuff.

By the way, I just compiled another list of resources for celebrating Chinese New Year with kids, especially if you are not in your home country and it is difficult to experience the atmosphere.
Includes books, video clips, craft ideas and songs.

Here's the link:

Then the teacher also told me that ds1 had insisted that an "aggressive disobedient" dinosaur be put in the thinking chair today. It was this toy dino that is in the classroom. The teacher said he wanted her to talk to the dinosaur and made sure he learnt his lesson and not be aggressive again in future.

I asked ds1 about it in the car later, and he said the dino was fighting with other dinos, so he had to be punished and had to think about his actions in the thinking chair.


The other thing is, our Tianjin move has a tentative date now. We'll probably be flying there on the 18th of March. Thereabouts.

I have just applied to the Intl School. But for apartments, we are unable to to do much right now. We'd just have to go there and be homeless for the 1st week, look at apartments right away once we reach, and then hopefully be able to move in asap once we decided on one.

The area of the apartment will definitely be less than what we are living in right now, but that's just how most apartments in China's cities are, just like in Singapore. We still hope to get one that has a spare bedroom so that any of our family or friends can visit and stay with us.

I have viewed so many apartment floor plans in the past weeks, and it seems like, most kitchens are also very small, similar to the trend apartments in Spore follow. Being used to larger kitchens here (especially those I see in friends' houses), and actually liking it very much, I find myself trying to look for apartments with big kitchens too, but they are really too expensive.

As for packing, I have a heap of boxes at the corner of my larger bedroom now. My rooms and shelves are looking more and more spacious as I pack. Quite a nice feeling, and just in time for CNY, just like doing spring cleaning! :-)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 ;
10:30 AM
Some updates:

1. On the nursing front: yay! ds2 is officially weaned as of now.
It has been almost 3 years. I can't say I don't miss it at all, but I think both of us are benefitting from his newfound independence.

He does still wake up at night, with eyes still closed and asking to nurse, but I'll just whisper (also half-asleep), "no more already, good boy, sleep... sleep...." And I pat his back.
Sometimes he still whines but he doesn't cry and protest loudly now. He'll also go back to sleep rather quickly.

2. About the medical bill for my elbow X-ray and consultation. The hospital has given me a discount to $297 now, and I am still eligible to apply for yet another subsidy, which I had already submitted. They mailed the forms to me.
Their service is really good, and I can't have any complaints.

I had heard before, that patients without medical insurance will not be treated the same as those who have. And that sometimes the hospitals would even turn you away. Apparently not so in Utah, I guess.

They didn't really bother if I had insurance or not and certainly treated me well. They even gave me all kinds of forms to apply for discounts. Let's see what the final bill will be. Dh says $297 is pretty reasonable already. :-)

I'd been delaying seeking dental checkups for both kids for so long, because I was afraid of high costs. Maybe I can try out the dentist around here soon. Ds1's teeth is quite alright, looks stable to me, but ds2's teeth looks like it might be having decays. I can see some erosion of the enamel at the side of his canine. Like a dent. And it's getting bigger despite my more enthusiastic brushing each night.

I get a lot of dentist adverts in the mail each day, will try one of the promising ones, he sees only kids. Will try and blog abt the experience. Ds1 has been to dentists (just for checkups) in Spore but this will be the first for ds2.

3. Medical insurance. Dh's prospective employers are rather caring. They've bought insurance for our whole family, so now we are covered. However, dental treatment is not included, only GP visits, emergency and other types of medical assistance. Prescriptions and other services also included, but with deductibles.

The funny thing is, we had to fill in forms while we were applying for it right? They had a 2 page blank rows for us to fill in all our doctor visits for the past year. We left them blank and put N.A. because we were already in USA and did not visit any doctors.

They called and emailed us back to ask if it was true that we never get sick.
So we emailed and said, yes we do get sick, but those minor colds were not serious enough to warrant a visit to a doctor.

After that, we got the insurance. :-) And yes, for the one of the most basic plans, it did cost Dh's employers about $500 a month.

4. Ds1 officially can read. Ok, I am not sure when does real reading begin. He doesn't read any book thrown to him of course.
But what he does now is read simple stories with some words that are memorised (common ones like he, she, I, are, and, is, it, we) and words that can be sounded out (like man, zoo, hat, moon, pizza).
Those level or step readers are best, because there won't be too many words he doesn't know in the book, and so the kid will build confidence and be happy that he can read the whole book by himself.

So now, each time we go to the library, I borrow 5 types of books --
1. for myself,
2. for ds2 (usually Curious George or Eric Carle board books),
3. books I read aloud to both of them
4. books that I and ds1 reads together (eg the "We Both Read" series, and the "You read to me and I'll read to you" series). These books have pages for the parent to read and words or pages for the child to read. I like some of the stories a lot, because they are really interesting and are not contrived.
5. books that ds1 can read by himself.
I don't really like the contrived books like:
"Pat. Pat can. Pat can read. Pat can read books. Pat can read books well. " that kind of story. because it is not exciting. Although some educators swear by them because they build up word by word and level by level so the kids learn to read very quickly and in a systematic manner.

So far, I think I like Starfall's Learn to Read and Now I'm Reading by Nora Gaydos. The biggest critic is ds1. And he likes these 2 types the best.

I didn't really teach phonics well, because I don't know phonics myself, have never gone through that. There were no such classes for kids in my time, and we certainly didn't learn that in school, at least, I have no such recollection. Seriously, I can't recall how I learnt to read, only that my mom read to us a lot.

So I just do the same for my kids. Bring them to library often, read to them a lot.... And the additional thing they have nowadays would be the computer/ internet. The BBC/ CBB website has phonics songs which they listen to. And I learnt how to sound the letters from there actually, haha, at my age. So sometimes I will guide ds1 along in sounding out new words that way, but then I get stuck when it comes to words that just can't be sounded out that way. I haven't learnt to that level. haha.

So I gave up and just read to ds1 by volume. After reading to him a lot, gradually he just picked it up (word recognition). Some words in the stories can be guessed from the picture or context too, so he just moves along the story that way.

Today we ordered pizza from Pizza Hut. When the pizza guy came with the boxes, ds1 read the words "America's Favorite Pizza" out aloud from the words printed on the side of the box. At first I laughed and praised him that he got it right! Then I thought, hmm, did he just guess it cos he heard the commercial of Pizza Hut before?!? haha

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Monday, January 21, 2008 ;
7:56 AM
Jan 9

Snow was so heavy, the tree was weighed down:

And snow just blanketed everything. I couldn't tell there the road started and where the lawn was. Where there were steps or bumps or kerbs.

Above left: my trash bin (and the opposite neighbor's as well) was trapped outside. To bring it in, I had the choice of dragging it a distance through the snow, which was like impossible, since the snow would just keep piling higher, building a higher obstacle to the movement of the trash bin. Or I could shovel a pathway for the trash bin, which is arggh, such a waste of my time.

But I still did it, because I need to dump things in my trash bin throughout the day, and i can't keep going way out there to throw stuff.

Above right: the church building, and the road that led out of the carpark. It was totally covered with snow. That's why Bible class that night was cancelled. There was no way the cars could have gone into the car park. Ok, they can, but the cars would be slip sliding around. :-) Or get stuck and can't move or forth.

Ahh, but what is inconvenience to the adults is pure fun for the kids. They dived into the snow. Made snow balls, threw snow balls and made snow angels (above). It was so soft and powdery.

As I was shovelling away, someone had a lot of fun doing something forbidden. He was eating all the snow he could!!!
Left: he had more trouble trudging through the snow because he is shorter, and the snow went up to his knees, totally. haha. In the end, he mostly just sat in it, rather than try moving around too much.

This pic shows ds1 making snowballs to throw at ds2. ds2 didn't care, he was having too much fun eating more snow.

This pic above also shows my garage door. The snow covering my whole driveway right up to the road. And to make it worse, the snow plow on the main road shoved up a huge wall of ice and snow against the opening of my driveway. So with my tiny shovel, I really spent a LOT of time getting snow off such that I could drive the car out.

Above left: This was taken on another day. Sunday actually, 13th Jan. Dh still not back yet at that time. We were back from church. Steve Daniels kindly shovelled a pathway through the thick snow for us. As we walked home, past the thick snow blanket. What did ds2 do again?

Wasn't aware of it at first. Because I went on ahead to open the door with my keys. Turned around and saw his face. Proof, evidence! So I snapped a pic. Because, upon asking, he claimed that he did not never ever eat the snow (just like how Lola says it in "Charlie and Lola").

Above right: i said ok... and turned my back to him again. Right away, the fellow stooped down to eat somemore... SO i snapped another pic and showed it to him. WHAT were you doing huh??!?

Really wonder, how come he didn't get a few days of diarrhoea, because some parts of the snow he chose to eat from are yellowish brownish muddy snow! Yucks!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

7:26 AM
Past 2 weeks of pictures:
Recall I told myself to take more pics of them enjoying themselves together?

1. This was a day we didn't need to go out at all. No school, no church, no outing. So kids were in their PJs the whole day and were cosying up together on the couch to watch "Land Before Time" after lunch.
ds1 even brought his pillow out to lean on it. They both like the smell of this pillowcase.

At first they were just sitting together, arms around each other. Then they were laughing and playing with each other (below right). After that, they just lay straight, half of the body on the couch, half on the coffee table (left). You probably cannot see it clearly, but there's gap between the couch and table. I wondered if they're actually comfortable like that. Weird.

2. Early morning. Dh and I were up already. We saw them snuggled together in a hug while sleeping. Such a sweet picture.

3. Both of them were playing with glasses filled with different amounts of water that day. I took videos of it but am too lazy to upload now. Takes too long and I am going for evening service at church soon.

They both took turns to make melodies. They fight a lot about taking turns, so when they are nice about it, I must quickly take the chance to praise them.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

7:09 AM
Jan 19

After the family concert, we drove back home at once, because there was a church gathering at 6pm. It is a Hawaiian Luau organised by the Grays.

Everyone needed to bring a dish and wear something Hawaiian. I cooked pineapple fried rice. Pineapple cos its kind of Hawaiian. I did put it in a nice casserole dish, and decorate the rice with olives and more pineapple on top.

I didn't bring my loud Hawaiian shirts! And it was too late to ask my mom to send it over.
So we just tried to wear our most colorful clothes.
The kids had their bumwear batik shirts, I had a red skirt and i wore my flower brooch on my hair. Can you believe dh's most colorful top is this sweater?!? His wardrobe is full of solid beige, black, blue, white... that's all. He does have a red shirt and a purple one, but those are stiff long sleeve shirts and he doesn't like them.

When we reached, we took a family pic at their banner.

Almost everyone wore Hawaiian shirts or had their own leis. We were each given a plastic lei when we arrived too. Beth had a Hawaiian dress!
After a hearty dinner and wonderful chats with those sitting around us (the Crills, Tami Waller, and Sun Cha), we went home and took some crazy family pics. Here are 2 of them:
left: we were supposed to laugh wildly but ds2 didn't do it in time. he was still "gong gong" until after we laughed madly, then he begun, but the camera clicked already.
right: supposed to be fierce and do fighting pose. ds2 again... don't know what he is doing...

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

6:34 AM
Jan 19

We went for a family concert with the SL Symphony.

Title: The Musical Menagerie
(all about animals)

Narrator: Roland Steadham (who read poetry and made funny comments throughout)

Piano duo: Lu Ning and Lu Jie (bro sis combo)

Venue: Libby Gardner Concert Hall (at U of U)

Music director/ conductor: Robert Baldwin

This will be our last concert. There is another Utah Symphony lollipops concert with insturment petting zoo that we loved a lot last year, but it is at the end of March, by which time we'd be in Tianjin already. So we'll miss that.

Once again they had a good program line up and it was great fun. Kids were suitably engaged throughout, and we also saw many babes in arms. We sat in the 6th row, center. It was free seating so we went early and got good seats. For kids that is important, because their attention is better held when they can see the players up close, where all the action is.

Before the concert:

Concert program:

1. Creatures of Prometheus by Beethoven.

2. Themes from "Jurassic Park" by John Williams, arranged by Calvin Custer.

3. Musical animals (just challenges thrown by the narrator to the orchestra)

He'll name an animal and a player or a few will try and mimick the sound of that animal. Some animal sounds played were horses, bears, dogs, birds and horses on a hot summer afternoon.

4. Carnival of the animals by Saint-Saens (all the 14 parts)

The piano duo were good. Full of expression. The narrator will read poetry at appropriate parts, related to the animals. Some were really hilarious (the rhymes he read).

5. The Waltzing Cat by Leroy Anderson

The percussionists did the vocal "meowing" parts throughout the piece. This had an audience interactive segment where we had to bark loudly like a dog when the conductor turned and pointed at us. After the dogs (us) barked, the cats were in a frenzy (the orchestra). It was fun.
The violinists did a good job mimicking the cat purrs and snarls too (not vocal, using instruments, haha).

6. Disney's The Lion King Orchestral Suite (music: Elton John, score: Hans Zimmer, arr: Brad Kelley).

I enjoyed the Prometheus, Carnival and Waltzing Cat best. The kids like Jurassic Park (because it really sounded like dinosaurs were roaming the concert hall). In fact, the Utah Museum of Natural History is just opposite the Gardner Hall, so the conductor joked that when the Utah raptors (in the nat hist museum) hear the music, they'll come and join in the fun too.

I have the Carnival CD at home, and the kids already have their usual favorites. They have always not liked Tortoises very much, because they find it too slow. They like the Lion, Elephant and Characters with Long Ears (due to the hee-haws). My fav is The Swan, because it is just so lovely, but I also like the finale and the pianists (funny). I like the Fossils in the CD but they didn't play it that well yesterday.

The audience seemed to love the Waltzing Cat. Everyone laughed to see the percussionists "meowing" together.

After the concert, we went on stage for dh to meet up with his friends. He stopped playing with them a month ago already, in view of our impending departure. And both ds went to play with the percussion. Ds1 met up with his drums teacher and they played awhile on the timpanis together. His drum teacher is the principal percussionist, and does the timpani most of the time.

We'll miss his drum teacher. He was very nice and patient with ds1. We called it the last lesson last week already, because we're getting very busy touring Utah and packing up. We have 2 trips coming up soon, a road trip to St George and Zion National Park, and then the Mexico trip.

On the way home, I took a pic of the State Capitol Building. Should've done so in summer when the skies are so blue. But I don't have anymore summers here. :-(

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Tuesday, January 15, 2008 ;
7:26 AM
Recently I have been brushing up on my Chinese reading and writing skills a lot more.

In a bid to find out what I should bring to Tianjin and what I can buy easily there, so I can pack easier, I had to do a lot of surfing on CHinese sites. I also had to search for apartments on Chinese newspaper classifieds online.

I also got in touch with several mummies in Tianjin through an expat site, and also Facebook, and am corresponding with church contacts there. 3 of them write in Chinese.

I just realised Yahoo is 雅虎 in Chinese. What a nice name. haha. And I have been searching for kids stuff and furniture on the chinese Google too. There's no Ikea in Tianjin, nearest one is in Beijing. But there's a Zara in Tianjin apparently, either that, or opening soon.

I still read Chinese characters at a slow rate, but it is improving now. To think, every single sign and instruction list will be in Chinese characters.. That's going to be in 2 month's time! Still a bit apprehensive, and in disbelief mode. Will still wait till I see the air tickets to really have the mindset that I am going.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

6:50 AM

1. I am getting current and up to date on my blog. Soon, at least. And then I can tick that off my New Year Resolutions checklist.

2. Dh is back, finally! last night.

He gave updates that everything was finally discussed and settled, so it is confirmed that we are going end of March or first week of April already.

As for apartments, he only managed to view one. So we decided not to be hasty and go to Tianjin, stay in hotel first, view enough apartments then pick one. The only disadvantage about that is, when we ship all of our stuff over in Feb, we don't have a house address to ship to. Prob have to ship to the factory first.

As for schools, we were considering between the Tianjin Rego INternational School, or the International School of Tianjin. There are about 4 international schools in Tianjin, none of them Spore ones. The Spore Intl schools are in Shanghai and Suzhou, if I am not wrong.

After studying the websites of the 4 intl schools, we liked these 2 better. Rego is a UK intl school, which means they follow the British system, something like what I read from Dory's blog before. Having reception, then Year 1 and so on till Year 13. They take the GCSE O and A levels. That will make returning to Spore very easy later on.

IST is an IB school, following the Intl Baccalaureate curriculum.

Facilities-wise, both seemed the same. Rego kids looked very very smart cos their school uniform is so cool, with a navy vest and all. You know, when I watched Jay Chou's 不能说的秘密 on YouTube, seeing the students in their uniform also made me think, how pretty the girls are and how charming the boys look!
IST doesn't have a uniform.

Then I reminded myself not to be so superficial and look at such a minor point. I consulted a friend (ex colleague from hc) who is teaching at the Spore Intl School at Shanghai now. She gave me a lot of helpful advice. In the end, we decided the IB would be more suitable for our kids. We'll worry about the transition back to Spore curriculum in the future. Right now, I think our kids will do better doing more breadth than depth.

The Spore Intl School at Shanghai also follows the IB curriculum, even though they use some Spore textbooks, but they don't cover all the chapters, because they give more time for hands-on learning and project presentations.

So I'll be busy submitting applications soon, hopefully they have vacancies.

About the kids:
ds1 is having a big chess obsession now. Ever since I first bought a chess board (those flimsy foldable paper kind) and cheapo chess pieces, and taught him the basics, he has been bugging me to play it with him 5-6 times a day. The problem is, he thinks for a looooong time for each move. He is too afraid to lose or get eaten up by me. It takes up a lot of my time, and I have less time for ds2 or chores. Or blogging. :-)

So I found this great website. Sorry lah, have to ask computer to stand in for me. But this site has free online board games for kids to play, against the computer. So there are games like Battleship, checkers, Taipei mahjong, and international chess.


After that, he bugs me less, but still likes to play the real life 3D board game with me, only 1 or 2x a day. He kept losing to the computer at first, but now has got the hang of it, and sometimes win the computer. Today he won the computer in 11 moves (5 for comp, 6 for him)! Seeing his look of triumph and happiness, I cannot help but smile too.

They have now found the other games interesting too. Both also like Battleship a lot, cos the music is very "war-like" and the boys love this kind of "fighting" music. ds2 even likes the Taipei Mahjong. He likes the Chinese characters!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Monday, January 14, 2008 ;
6:31 AM
It's kind of funny. We complained a lot about not being able to find a lot of ingredients to prepare what we most like to eat back home right?

It is true that Utah has less diversity and is less cosmopolitan than a lot of other big cities, but then actually there are a couple of well-stocked Asian marts in SLC. It's just that, it took us 1 year to find a good one.

haha, so this one happens to be near ds1's school. It's called South China House/ Market.
There we could find almost everything. Except Prima pastes and Tao Kae Noi seaweed lah. Not sure if they will have meat floss or bak kwa, we'll see since CNY is round the corner.

But, I managed to buy kang kong, bean sprouts, xiao bai cai... Very very happy.
So in Nov and Dec, I cooked a lot of familiar dishes. Now that we've gotten over the "missing and yearning", I think I should actually prepare some Mexican and American stuff already, since we won't be able to have that in Tianjin that easily!

Tried some sweet potato fries at Rumbi and liked them, so bought some and tried it myself. Healthier alternative to potato ones? Then had lots of other sweet potato left, so made soup and sweet potato rice too.

Left: pho for kids. Bought Viet pho at the Asian mart, and wanted to make beef pho for the adults, but the kids don't like beef much, so I just gave them semi-dry pho.

Right: cooking our own pho means we can have more beef than pho! haha. went a bit crazy with the sliced beef.

Above: minced Elk meat that Treutleins gave us. Chuck Sr hunted the elk down. He does all the cleaning and prep of the meat himself! I just put some xian zhacai I bought from Asian mart, and the Thai chilli to fry together. Then I use it for fried rice or spaghetti sauce.

We love mushrooms a lot. We did miss Narcissus button mushrooms, but only for awhile, cos the brown and white fresh mushrooms are not expensive and very nice. Once in a while, we eat portobello mushrooms too. When they are cheap. :-)

This was one of those one-dish meals. i.e. there was nothing else on the table. we just ate rice and this. there's chicken breast in there, so it came out quite a balanced meal still. Best thing, I need to wash much fewer dishes. :-)

The Thai chillies came in a packet. I couldn't use up so many at a time, yet didn't want them to spoil or dry up. So I made my own chilli sauce. It was nice to me, esp since it was so long since we had chilli sauce. But dh dislikes garlic. Next time I gotta use less garlic. For now, it is mine to enjoy alone. I made a container's worth.

The shop also sold Taiwanese "cong you bing" which is like roti prata. I couldn't resist, so I bought one packet. :-) They also sell you tiao and ham chin peng! Non-frozen type you know! But I didn't buy all those. We don't miss those that much yet.

Dong Zhi or winter solstice came about, so I bought some frozen tangyuan. Could've made some actually. Cos it wasn't that nice to eat. The kids refused to try it until I submerged them in some milk and condensed milk. That's why the soup looks milky, haha. I agree it looks kind of disgusting. :-)

I also bought some pau and mantou from the same store. The lady boss at the store was so pleased to have such a delightful and suddenly frequent customer that she gave me a very beautiful 2008 lunar calendar in a form of a scroll, and also gave a discount on the kids' snacks I bought.
Bean sprouts with chilli and xiancai. Ok, the bean sprouts took almost forever to have the roots plucked off, so I might not cook it so often, so far had it 4x only.

This one was really on a whim. Saw the Super brand milk tea sachets and the dried tapioca pearls. Both were very reasonably priced. So made my own bubble tea at home. The pearls were tricky though. I could've bought the ready-made pearls that were refrigerated. These dried ones needed a lot of control of the heat, in case they became too gooey, or in case they were not cooked thoroughly. So I was kiasu, and my pearls turned out uneven in consistency. Some were perfectly clear already, but some still had that opaque white in the center. Gave the kids all the good ones and ate all the others myself. Was fun, though not something I would do everyday.

Kangkong... My fav... Dh's fav too. We had this many times since. Sometimes with xiancai and chilli (left), sometimes just with chilli and garlic, sometimes with chicken and chilli (right)... whatever.... It always tasted so good and reminded us of home.

Besides home as in my mom and his mom (who cooked this dish really nice), but also of all the times we ate with friends. Like when Mary, meizan, Yilong and me went all the way to JB to eat seafood and kangkong together during our Uni days. At Mersing too, with Prof Shawn Lum and the rest of our coursemates. And how in Sydney we cooked this too, just cos we missed home.

Oh this one. This was an overgrown onion that I forgot. It was sprouting already and since I bought new onions, I let this continue growing in a plastic cup. Served many purposes.

1. Allowed me to show both ds the regeneration of plants from not just seeds, and allowed them to chart plant growth.

2. Allowed me to have spring onion (the leaves) whenever I needed them, fresh and organic ones! haha Came in handy below, for the carrot cake.

American friends would scratch their heads when they see this is referred to as carrot cake. Sun Cha, our Korean church friend gave her another load of white radishes (as they are really called). We used some to cook soup, and then there were a lot left, so we decided, why not make some luobo gao (commonly called carrot cake in spore).

Dh called his mom for the recipe, and it was rather challenging, cos my mom in law described everything to me over the phone, using Chinese terms and without specific measurements. Cos for her, she just prepares it with experience. She'll know how much time to stir or steam, and how much flour to add etc, without a recipe. So it was hard for her to tell me how much too. But anyway, we tried it.

The steamed cake itself came out harder than I would like, so I think must be too little water or too much flour. But after frying it with eggs, spring onion, chai poh (also bought from the Asian mart) and olive vegetable, it tasted like the hawker center variety (above left). And we were contented.

Dh later wanted the black kind, so we fried it with black sauce (above right).

Back to Western cuisine. Beth from church shared her cheese and garlic biscuit recipe with me, and we loved it. I did some for ourselves, shared some with friends, then when ds1's Winter Fest PArty came, I baked a batch for the kids too. I omitted most of the garlic for the kids.

ds1's classmate River ate so many, and even wanted to bring the rest home. I told his mom to go ahead. So he did. His mom said he loves cheese.

This was dh's farewell dinner. The last supper before he flew to Tianjin. Ok seriously, he was due to go for so long, and he'd be having northern chinese cuisine for so many days. Recalling my trip to China with my parents and sis back in 2000, we were really pining for Burger King or steak at the end of the tour. We're funny creatures, missing CHinese food when there's none and then missing Western food when it can't be found too.

So for the dinner just before he left, we had steak, with portobello mushroom sauce and topping. I know we're kind of crazy with mushrooms too. The portobellos came in a pack of 2. So they overwhelmed the steak. You can't even see the tiny steak from the pic. It was drowning under the mushrooms.

Dh was still giam siap (stingy. thrifty). He was the one who bought the beef, and he bought a lousy cut. So I had the challenge of getting it to be tender yet tasty. Ended up marinating it for hours, so that I can just sizzle it for a short period over really hot flames. Dh said it was good, so ok! But next time, I'd still prefer to get a better cut, even sirloin would be better than this slab of don't know what.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

about us ;
-{dear-hubby}- dh
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