Monthly Archives: February 2008

Yawny

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Hi! I know I haven’t written in a while, but I’m fine. I’m good! I’ve actually been really busy doing a lot of…well…not much! And it’s nice to do not much. We had a lazy weekend. We went to the Urban Planning Museum, which Momm and Dad saw when they were here and Dad felt it was rather more like an “Urban Propaganda Museum”. We agree, with the added comment that it gave us much cause for yawning. Not that it was all that boring (it was definitely not that exciting, mind you), but it had that “museum air” that I remember from working at OMSI. Something to do with recycled air, maybe less oxygen, the same thing happens in a big mall, I think. I definitely do not find shopping boring, but it is yawny.

I have spent a good amount of time on the phone the past few weeks, catching up with some friends, finally. I’m terrible at keeping in contact with people and I’m lucky that my friends aren’t so great at it either, because they don’t fault me for it. I can get on the phone with Emily or Mary or Heidi after not speaking to them for a year plus and it’s no problem. We all hope one day to live close enough that we don’t have to rely on email/phone type communication and can just get together now and again. If anybody wondered, they are all well.

I also have very exciting news in the form of BIG PLANS being made and plane tickets bought for assorted visitors planning to come to Shanghai. So far, the plan is Heidi in April, Erin and Adam in May, and Nick and Abby in June. There may also be a cousin or two in there somewhere. I feel so lucky!

OK, I’ve got to go out a get a little something to make for dinner. I am still reading and plan on updating my 52 books list soon. I’m a bit afraid to find out how behind I am.

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Daddy, This One’s For You

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We had an absolutely gorgeous day today! It must have been over 50, clear blue skies (very unusual in Shanghai) with a gentle, springy breeze. Ahhhhh! And I got to spend it all with my sweetie! Jesse is still spoiling me, though it’s post-birthday now, so we spent the day completely relaxing. We walked a bit, sat around a lot, read our books, and sipped hot beverages most of the day. Now he’s studying Chinese next to me while I tippity-tap a bit on my computer. I wish every day were the weekend.

I’m 31 now, which seems just a bit old for someone who still claps her hands in excitement and likes exotically flavored chap sticks. But you know what? It’s OK! I don’t mind at all being a bit older. I’m pretty happy with all I’ve done thus far in life, and I’m sure glad I wasn’t in too much of a hurry to enjoy it. I’m pleased with the five years I invested in a career at OMSI, and I’m also glad I left and have had the opportunity to see so much more. Our year in Japan was amazing and eye-opening and sometimes, I miss it so very much. My students were sweet and so crazy, Hachinohe was beautiful and we made fantastic friends.

Our short but sweet months in Spain we so very awesome. Living and studying in Europe! With your love! It was, far and away, the most romantic months of my life. Once we’d moved home to Portland, Jesse and I both felt a bit at odds with ourselves, what to do now? We got random jobs, took an embarrassingly long time to move out of Erin and Adam’s apartment and, ultimately, both ended up back in school. Jesse got a second Bachelor’s and I had a fantastic time learning Chemistry (Biology, Microbiology, A & P) and working my butt off to learn it well. We had so much fun hanging out with my expanding family and reconnecting with old friends.

And now here we are taking it to the next level, folks, living in crazy Shanghai, loving and learning even more about each other every day. CHEERS! To living my life to it’s fullest! I can’t wait to take it to the next level and see where we go from here.

I was talking to Momm and Daddy today and he told me how very much he enjoys reading my updates. He said I write in my voice and he can hear me laughing when he reads them. That makes me feel so good! This one’s for you, Daddy.

Snort!

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Sniff. Sigh. Oh, hi. I don’t feel good. Yes, please feel sorry for me. I got a cold last night, I’m so very stuffed up, headachy, bodyachy, chilled, and my stomach is a bit out of sorts, too. While I’m at it, I’m also hungry, tired, and Jesse had the gall to go out shopping without me (I didn’t want to go) for my birthday (yay)!

Sniffle. Things here are going along as normal. The new year celebrations were crazy and loud – it sort of sounds like the end of the world, or maybe the beginning. For at least 20 minutes, 10 before midnight and 10 after, there was steady, deafening explosions from firecrackers all over the city. It was wild. We did go out for our little piece of good luck and Jesse set off a long string of firecrackers. Mostly we watched, though.

Jeez, I’m so wiped out. Snort! (stuck kleenex up nose) I think I’m going to move over to the couch and feel sorry for myself while watching some Alias. Love to all!

Happy New Year Again

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I got myself some perfectly annoying little burns while making risotto the other day. I grabbed the handle of a hot pan and seared a little half inch section along the middle and ring fingers of my right hand. I dabble a bit in cooking here and there and normally count a burn as a bit of a short lived trophy for whatever I’d made. These ones, though, are a pain in the butt. They are right where I’d rest a spoon, grip a pencil and, most notable for current events, grasp my chopsticks.

The Chinese New Year is this week, which means it’s party time. Jesse had a fancy work dinner last night and I knew I’d have to figure out how to get my hands back in the game. I decided to paste on some band-aids, which worked swell for making it easier, though still not quite painless, to pick up, for example, a spare-rib. The problem is that I’ve always loved band-aids with character – why choose something skin-colored when you can choose a cartoon! Before coming to China I made a small first-aid kit consisting of a box of band-aids with a tube of neosporin stuck in it. This is the third time it’s come in handy – China is dirty, even a very small cut gets grody.

Anyhoo, the band-aids I brought are Clifford-the-big-red-dog printed (they’re so cute!) and resulted in far too many questions about my fingers.

I’m sitting in a cafe feeling really darn sleepy. I ran out of work to do and suppose I should get off my lazy arse and give this table over to somebody who wants to buy a $5 glass of juice.

Jesse’s fabulous friend Brendan is in town again for the new year (he’s been in a different city nearly since I introduced him on the night of the spending of a lot of money) and he’s invited us to his family’s house for New Year’s festivities. This is such a big deal in China. It’s like Christmas and Easter in one. I’m imagining that there will be a great deal of weird food, firecrackers, and a certain type of dangerously strong vodka-like liquor called baijiou (white alcohol) that is just about as gross as alcohol can possible taste. I think I’ll have juice.

Gooey Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

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I decided to make a gooey butter cake of sorts. This phenomenon, the transformation of a cake mix into something heart-attackingly decadent, was pointed out to me by All & Sundry and her commenters. It sounded too good to pass up. As you well know, I can’t see a dessert and not try it.

I had a few obstacles, as there always are in expat life. First off, there’s the missing cake mix (see the original recipe here). I wanted to do a chocolate peanut butter version, so found an easy peasy Devil’s Food recipe online and changed it’s fluids a bit to resemble the altered state of the cake mixes in those recipes. I also changed some amounts to generally make it more to my liking (more chocolate). Then there’s the space issue. Everything in our apartment (everything in Shanghai, really) is sized down to squish into our 2-bedroom, 500 square foot apartment. This means small oven, small bowl, small cake pan, no mixer, etc. So I halved the recipe, which means it fits better in our oven and in our only two stomachs.

My third, and I hate admitting it, obstacle is my desire not to gain 10 pounds after a night with this cake. It is made with a cup of butter, a package of cream cheese and 4 eggs. That adds up to (hang on while I get out the calculator) +/- 290 grams of fat. And I was going to add peanut butter! Crap. So first, by halving the recipe, I cut that number in half! Wahoo! Then I took 3 of the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter out. Gone, just like that. Sorry butter. I used half-the-fat cream cheese and low-fat milk (not no-fat milk, the Chinese don’t appear to believe in this). I did, however, use 3 eggs, because splitting those 4 eggs in the recipe in half doesn’t really make sense for the composition of the cake. You want the lower half to be less cakey ( so less egg, only 1) and the top half to be a bit custardy (more egg, so 3). I didn’t really want to be trying to put ¼ of 2 eggs into one batch of goo and the other ¾ in the other batch of goo. So I put one egg in my bottom layer and 2 in my top, hoping for a peanut butter cheesecake kind of consistency for that top layer. My final count is +/- 120 grams of fat for my half-sized cake. Dang, that still sounds like a lot (spoken with mouth full of cake). I did add all that stupid peanut butter, though.

Now, a few helpful hints to avoid the problems I had. Don’t put your plastic measuring cup in the oven to melt your butter. Plastic melts, dummy, take your head into the kitchen with you next time. Also, don’t underestimate the cooking time, gooey is good, slimy is not.

Here’s the recipe: Oven 350-ish; pan 8×8 or 9×9 or whatever

Bottom:
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
4 tablespoons melted butter (with no plastic in)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
½ cup milk

Top:
½ package light cream cheese
2 eggs
½ cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup powdered sugar

Grease that pan. Mix together all the stuff for the bottom part and sqooge it down into the pan. Don’t wash the bowl because you are lazy. In same bowl, mix together the stuff for the top part (and bring your damn muscles if you don’t have a mixer) and pour it over the top. Bake it for somewhere between 25 and 40 minutes. If 25 minutes, then you will take it out and dig into a corner, think it’s delicious, let it cool a bit, dig a bit more out and realize it’s not done in the middle but is tasty and slimy. If you put it back in at this point for another 10 minutes, you will take it out and find that your cursed oven has given it a dark brown toasted top. Maybe you liked it better slimy.

Now, this is a cake to be served to a kitchen full of family right when it comes out of the oven. A husband who you have deprived of dinner in order to experiment with cake will do in a pinch.

Spring Festival, Zero Degrees

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I started my day off right this morning by adding curry powder to my oatmeal instead of cinnamon. I think I’ll have to have a bit of ice cream to make up for that.

Tonight I’m making chicken noodle soup with a carcass from a chicken we ate the other night. If you’ve had my momm’s noodle soup, you know it’s the best cold weather treat EVER with chunky homemade noodles. Jesse loves it.

It’s snowing again which is just…unreal. I lost my umbrella the other day in Starbucks. Not so much lost, really, as had it taken right out from under my chair when reading my book. Jeez, who takes a fellow patron’s umbrella?

Next week is “Spring Festival” here in China, which means a week-long celebration of the Chinese new year. It’s tradition to go home and be with family and instead, huge crowds of people are stuck in airports and train stations. It’s sad. Jesse will have a few extra days off next week and, as the bad weather is slated to continue for another week, we are planning on vegging on the couch. I bet I’ll make cookies.

Jesse says on the night of the new year it’s dangerous to go outside because you’ll get hit in the head with a firecracker. On the other hand, we’ve also been told it’s bad luck for the next year if you don’t light one. That’s a hard choice to make – bad luck for a year or speared with a firework? I guess we’ll see.