First International Day of 2015

This Sunday we are going to do Japan. I am very excited. This one was a bit of a challenge to make a menu for because we eat a lot of Japanese food already and I try very hard to make sure that we are learning and trying new things. P was very unhappy to learn we would not be having sushi, but after a lot of searching I have put together what I feel is a very yummy day of new things ahead for us.

Breakfast: I am taking this right from a site called Japanese cooking 101

Steamed Rice, Miso Soup, Tamagoyaki (I have always wanted to try making this egg dish), and Houren No Gomaae

Lunch:

Rice balls in a couple different flavors, Kabocha no Fukumeni and Roasted and marinated pork in a Yuan sauce. I am also going to pick up some desserts from a Asian baker near here.

Dinner:

I think we will order some Japanese from from the restaurant down the street. So the kids can see a difference between ours and the restaurants. Wink Wink.

 

 

 

The start of Xmas traditions

Last Xmas weekend, we went to the DC zoo. It was a lovely day. This post is not about that day.

This weekend, we had a four day weekend thanks to some holiday on a Thursday. Due to various illnesses and holiday preparation work that needed to get done, everyone had a bit of cabin fever. It was time for a dose of cure.

The weather cooperated beautifully; we had a warm winter day for our trip. The sun helped everyone keep a good mood.

We started the day with a stop at a donut shop that I probably can’t name due to advertising copyrights or something. Picked up coffee, breakfast sandwiches for the adults, and munch….. donut holes for the Ps. We got settled into the truck for a few hours drive to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, to the Salisbury Zoo.

It’s a small zoo, but the entrance fee is zero (they accept donations in a box at the door, so we tossed a few bucks in). It has a giant playground attached which was just what was needed for the children. We play a smartphone GPS based game called Ingress. If you didn’t understand that sentence, please ignore the next three and just know that it was just what the adults needed. The place was a forest of unclaimed portals. It’s now linked and fielded full of level 6 green portals. I wonder how long we can keep them, perhaps 90 days?

We split up at first due to bladder size differences. Amber took p to deal with her issues, and I took P to start checking out animals. We spent some time looking at the small exhibits; asking p questions about the animals and asking P questions that she needed to read the displays for answers.

Once we got complaints about hunger, we broke into the excellent lunch of peanut butter and honey sandwiches prepared by Amber, with loads of different snacks. She even filled our water bottles and brought iced tea for me.

A few more animals remained until the other end of the park, then came the giant playground. It’s there as a memorial to a young boy that passed from a form of leukemia. The playground was just what they needed. They both got to play, and we all enjoyed some much-needed time outside.

Even though it’s tiny and none of the snack shops or guest services were open, the place is clean and nicely laid out. Some of the exhibit spaces are small, but overall the animals appear reasonably well cared for. I think that this is a nice stop overall for a laid back day with the family.

The drive home was quiet; P made a list of all the animals that we saw and drew pictures of some of them. p started a nap pretty much the minute we hit the highway. Amber got to soak her brain in a book. I got to drive through the last of the day’s sunlight and reflect on a fantastic family day.

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Ice Cream Accessories

This Christmas I decided that I did not have enough to do, so I came up with the idea to make a lot of our gifts for people. I won’t bore you with all of the different things we made, but now that the giving is all done I wanted to share a couple that I was very proud of.

First, every year my mom and I get together and make jewelry. This year P joined us and did a wonderful job making a few things. Not bad for a 6 year old. :)

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p was not to be outdone, so I headed off to the wonderful world of pinterest to find something a 3 year old could make. She happily made everyone a small jar of honey brown sugar scrub.

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Now what was I to make? I made some jewelry for coworkers and teachers. I made cookies for groups and even a few bakery boxes, but my crowning gift that I am most proud of was 3 Ice Cream Sundae Kits.

Of course, since I had been bitten by a crazy bug I decided to make all the things that would go into the box from scratch. Simple right? NO not even a little bit. I started with homemade sprinkles. I will not post tons of pictures of lines of icing but I will say if you are going to make them or are about to start making them STOP NOW and go buy a Multi-Opening Decorating Tip. I wish I had. They were not too bad to make (well except the chocolate, which was too thick and by the end my hands were killing me) but having that tip would have made making them a bit less time consuming and tedious. I made plain, cinnamon, and chocolate. They were wonderful. I wish I had made more so that I still had some around to eat myself.

I then moved on to marshmallows. I tried to make these once before and failed for some reason. I can’t image why? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I don’t have a candy thermometer, and I probably did not wait 24 hours like you’re supposed to.  All that said, this time it was a success and well worth the work and effort. They came out well even though I still don’t have a candy thermometer. I did wait 24 hours this time. The kids even pitched in and helped out.

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Now for the part that gave me the most trouble: sugar cookie bowls. Every recipe I found said to just turn a muffin tin upside down, put cookie dough on it, and all would be good. This was a LIE.

For the first batch, I used a drop sugar cookie recipe but it was too thick. It just made cookies, so I crushed them up and added them to the box – since who does not love cookies on ice cream? The second time, I used the recipe I always use for chocolate chip cookies (minus the chips) but it was too thin and ran down the muffin tin ending up on the bottom of my oven. So I thickened the batch, added a bit of baking powder, and tried just one this time instead of a whole tray. FAIL. OK, I added more flour and tried one more time. NOPE. More flour and this time IT WORKED and they tasted amazing and looked very very cool. If I do say so myself –  and I do.

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I then made up jars of chocolate and salted caramel sauce. I have to tell you I have made these before and if you do you will never buy sauces again.

The only thing left to do was to put it all together. I also added some crushed up chocolate cake because it sounded like it would be good on ice cream. The kids decorated the boxes.

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I will tell you I did not have any sprinkles left, but I did have a little bit of everything else leftover. We all had a bowl of ice cream using the cookie bowls and both sauces. “OH WOW!” ,as the p’s say,  “BEST THING EVER”.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Solstice,Happy Hanukkah, or just have a wonderful day.

Third and final birthday cake in December

YES I made it. That was a lot of cakes for me for one month.
The last and final cake was for my wonderful friend who turned 40 this year. Last year I made her a dice cake. It was a bit crooked but I did make sure the numbers matched a real set of dice. It tasted good which is what really matters.

dice 2 dice

This year I remembered she has a great love of Penguins. Not that I could ever forget. ;). So I tried my hand at making a penguin, and lucky for me that cake pan I used for the dragon worked really well to make one. Well after I cut off a couple ears and arms. OH and making jet black butter cream is very hard to do. I ended up having to add cocoa powder to get the icing from gray to black.

I have a face feet all done all done 2the back end

He looks very angry(I never should have given him eyebrows) but he was well received. Although she was a little violent with the cutting.

cutting 1 cutting 2 cutting 3the end

All in all it was loved and devoured.

death of a penguin

Now what will I make her next year?

Second birthday cake in December

Tomorrow is one of the more important birthdays of the year, my mom’s, and every year I try to make sure we have a special night and cake for her. I asked her to pick whatever she wanted to eat, and she picked grilled cheese and tomato soup. You have to love it. I asked her what kind of cake she would like, and the answer was anything chocolate. So I made a dark chocolate cake with a plain butter cream icing.

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Doesn’t it look like a gummy bear? But wait, what will it become?

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A DRAGON. I am really happy and proud of him. I think it looks a bit like one of the pocket dragons.

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The birthday girl really loved it, which is what really matters.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM love you

First birthday cake for Dec

Last year for our friend Allison’s birthday I made her a Tardis cake

. 60 again 60

I learned from this cake that the chocolate cake that I normally make is not good for stacking, but it did survive a 45 minute drive and being carried into two different restaurants. ( since we got the wrong place at first) So not too badly done and it seemed to make her very happy. :)

There was no way I was going to be able to out do last year, so I went with simpler. There is a game that a lot of our friends play called Ingress. (Which I highly recommend that you start playing, just make sure you pick the green team.) Since she really loves the game I decide to make the cake with the symbol for the green team on it.

allison b-day cake allison b-day cake filled in

I think it kind of looked better before I filled it in, but ah well she loved it and it tasted great, so who cares right?

Santa

Santa was a big decision in our house. Chuck did not really want to do the whole Santa thing, but I did. We finally agreed to do the Santa thing but down play it a lot. So in our house, Santa comes and fills the stockings, eats the cookies and milk (the reindeer get a carrot) and he leaves each kid one book. I like this, it is not as much work for us, the kids are not as invested in a lie, I don’t have to try as hard to keep up the lie (which I suck at) and they learn that the rest of the gifts come from family and friends.
I will say that it has caused some interesting interactions with other kids recently. P meet Santa by chance at Home Depot the other day (I gave up pretty quick on the whole photo with Santa thing. If it happens by chance fine but I am not waiting on line for it.) Santa, of course, asked what she wanted for Christmas P told him that he only brings books everything else comes from her mom and dad. Luckily he laughed and played along. p on the other hand got into an argument with another 3 year old over whether or not Santa was magical. The other kids said he was p says he is not, that he is just some guy who brings books.
I don’t see a problem with these things and actually think that they were both very funny incidents. However, I told a couple people about these events and the answer from all of them were the same; that we were making it hard on the other parents and kids. I had to stop and think about that for a bit. We were making other parents jobs harder. We were ruining Santa and maybe Christmas for other kids. WOW. I don’t think I realized until recently how much everyone expects you to conform to how they see the world. I wonder what happens to kids who are raised that there is not a Santa. I know some Jewish families who tell their kids there is not a Santa but don’t tell the other kids it could ruin it for them. I have come to the conclusion that whereas I feel sorry for making things harder on other parents and their kids, that is not my circus and those are not my monkeys.
I would love to hear how some other families have done Santa.

We’re not that.

So, I’ve seen a few things advertised that are selling a similar idea to our international days.

Would I like to turn this idea into something marketable some day? Sure! But, we’re not that now.

I also see a lot of blogs where everything is perfect and orderly, photos look very professional, and not a thing is out of place. Yeah… we’re not that, either.

Well – maybe to do something like this, we have to be rich and buy a lot of weird ingredients! Nope. While some of the ingredients that we have used in recipes have been a bit difficult to find, nothing has been stupid expensive. Here’s one option, substitute ingredients. It may not be “authentic” or “rustic” or “perfect”, but it will be “good enough”.

If we just take a bit of time to learn about someone else’s culture or food, perhaps we’ll be less willing to accept propaganda designed to dehumanize.

It doesn’t take loads of resources to do this – you’re already using a web browser.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. We’re doing this with and for kids.

I guess where this random collection of sentences is leading is to this; it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be sincere and as accurate as you can make it.

I have heard rumors that some other families want to do something like this, or maybe already have. I’d love to hear some stories.

Sources and Ideas

I’ve had a few thoughts about putting “International Day” out into the public for review and scrutiny. I wonder if we’re getting something about a country wrong. I wonder if someone from a country is going to call us out on it – maybe angrily.

We use mostly web resources to figure out some local foods and get a bit of information about a place. We haven’t gone very deep into governments, history, conflicts, or anything. The closest language study is basically the streaming media we’re able to pull up based on a 45 second Google search. I have started to explore using some of P’s school resources to make sure that we’re going close to age-appropriate for the topics we touch.

Mostly, the days have been food-centric, and with good reason. Everybody has to eat.

One idea I bounced around without actually discussing it with anyone was maybe trying to learn one word or phrase from the native/local language of the place we’re “visiting”. Maybe “bathroom”, “I love you”, or “Can I please go dancing at the library with a porpise, Officer?” This might be a bit over the top for now, but maybe we can work it in.

Keeping an entire day entertaining for 3 and 6 can be a challenge; it’s a challenge sometimes for me to stay interested. If we can just keep adding places around the world that they have heard about, I think that’s a pretty good foundation.