Thursday, January 29, 2015

a ski trip (yep!)

Matt's been dreaming of a little ski trip.... we got a taste of mountains and snow the day after Christmas and he was ready to go back!  I'm a big fan of him taking a day off work (yay Matt!) and hanging out with friends and spending good time with his Dad, so the trip sounded like a solid win to me too!

[Only a slight bummer that I would have loved to see the blue skies and smelled the mountain air and gazed on those beautiful peaks.  I'm not much of a skier, but I'm thinking it might be worth the drive regardless.]

This area is called "nine peaks mountain".  I'm thinking the name came from the mountain dominating the background of this photo?

Seems the day was full of fun and friends and decent skiing.

Luther enjoyed himself too.  Sat on the deck of the ski lodge in sunshine and crisp air and took photographs of the people and places around him.

Grandma and I held down the fort here at home.  Not quite as exciting but plenty of fun here :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

to make a donut

As a child Matt loved eating his Grandma Ruth's donuts.  Well, he still loves eating them as an adult!  Grandma Ruth is out of the donut making business these days, but Grandma (Matt's mom) is helping carry on the tradition... she learned how to make Grandma Ruth's donuts, then brought the recipe and know-how with her on this trip.

Like most every recipe, there's a bit of behind the scenes work before you can actually get started on the recipe.  This time we needed to make our own animal lard.  Those of you who know me well can imagine how this settled with me :)  He he!  I was excited to eat donuts, and thankful Matt could learn the recipe, but rendering lard is not gonna become a treasured hobby.

First up, purchasing some animal fat.  Pig is the meat of choice around here, and my house helper headed off to the market with Grandma, Grandpa and the kiddos.

They brought home an enormous bag of pig fat and got to work.  Luckily, ayi (my helper) knew exactly what she was doing.  Rinse the fat, cut it into smaller pieces, plop it in the wok and turn on the heat.

As the fat liquified it turned yellow and crispy chunks of cracklin bits floated to the top.  Ayi delicately picked out the bits and we dumped the liquid lard into a soup pot.

The process was fairly simple.  The smell was atrocious.  Thinking that this very lard was going to be used in the donut making process ..... my stomach churned.  (to spoil the ending of this story, the donuts were delicious!  despite the queasy stomach while rendering lard.)

Sunday morning we were expecting a nice crowd of folks.... seemed like the perfect time to fry up some donuts!  So Matt and Jan got to work.  [Part of our kitchen cabinetry is missing from the pic - Matt and Luther halfway through some repairs when the picture was taken.]

Frying up yumminess!

Julianna and Lydia got in on the donut-making as well.  And in the end?  Well, we had a big pile of donuts!

We polished off many dozens that morning, and stored the rest in the freezer (disappearing quickly too!)

Just one of the many fun things we've been up to with Grandma and Grandpa in town!

Monday, January 26, 2015

gray skies (what pollution does to a skyline)

This winter our AQI (air quality index) numbers are gross.  Just. plain. gross.  There are some days (many days?) when I wish I didn't know the number.  But it's not like the number is my only clue.  Anyone can look at this sky and realize that something is bad wrong with the air.

Grossly high AQI numbers make me grateful for our air purifiers.  At least we spend most of our time most of our days inside a home where the air is clean.  (Matt also runs a smaller unit in his office, and wears a mask when he bikes.  We haven't taken the plunge into masks for the kids.  yet.  but we do try to limit - somewhat - outdoor activity on bad days.)

On the worst days you can smell the air - it smells like burning chemicals!  (told you it was gross!)

This isn't the happiest post, but if this blog is a place where I record bits and pieces of our lives... well, this can't be left out.  It's not our favorite, but it's part of our reality.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

winter break

The girls are officially done with the fall semester at local school!

Even though we've been school-ies in the local system for a while this feels like a big achievement to me!  We did it!  One entire semester of local elementary school!

The mantra continues to be: not easy, but worth it.  We - not just the girls, but me, the rest of the family - we all learn so very much from our foray into the local school system.  In recent years it has been, without a doubt, the biggest hardest learning curve for me, and it continues to give me glimpses into life and culture that I'm not sure I would have gotten elsewhere.

So we'll press onward.  The spring semester starts up on March 2nd, and we will be there, uniform on, backpack full, ready for whatever the spring holds.  We're gearing up for Isaac enrolling in first grade this fall at the elementary school, and starting to talk to the preschool administration about starting the little boys a few mornings a week in March.

And for now?  It's winter break!  Still homeschooling, but with more time to cover our bases since the afternoons are free.

I love this picture of Lydia running towards Grandpa on the last day of school!  She always runs to me, curls flying and backpack bouncing!

common views

Steamy restaurant kitchens.

Sidewalk restaurants.  Sidewalk kitchens.

Roasted sweet potatoes.  The best way to warm up cold hands.  

The roasting barrel, perched on a three wheeled trike, parked in the shadow of multi-million dollar commercial development.

How's that for a view?  We live three or four blocks on the other side the overpass. This is our 'neighborhood'.  Today we ate lunch in the basement cafeteria of the big mall on the left. (those are office building high rises towering above the mall.)

This gorgeous building is not quite open ... notice the construction wall.  It's right by the girls' school and we think it's such a great blend of western and eastern architecture styles.  Still haven't been able to figure out what the building is for.

and blue skies!  this winter has had particularly bad pollution days, too many hours of too many days where we hover in the 'very unhealthy' and 'hazardous' range.  but the day of this picture (Sunday) was just beautiful!

Walking home.  This green area is set back from the sidewalks and stretches almost all the way to our apartment.

And another walk, on a different day.  Matt dropping Isaac off at school.

These are common views, things I see often, but sometimes don't think to photograph!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

new camera eyes

Grandpa's got a new camera.  It's new to him, and gets nice clear shots with a  big zoom.  It's also new to us, since he captures scenes that we would never think to photograph.  It's definitely safe to say that Grandpa's camera sees the neighborhood with different eyes than I do - in a really cool way!  [Some of those photos coming in another post.]

But in the meantime, here are a few of my favorites he took of the children our first few days together....

Isaac at his school gate.  He wears this jacket, hood up, all the time.  I look at this picture and think "that is totally Isaac".

I love this next one for lots of reasons, but especially because Grandpa caught Luke with his arm slung around Isaac's neck.   A classic Luke pose!  He'll wrap that arm around your neck in a heartbeat, especially if he cries out in the middle of the night and you go to comfort him..... he'll hook that elbow over your neck and never let go!

And this next series is just plain fun.  The girls asked for a shot of them jumping...    and John Paul wanted in on the action.

This sequence is just good for the laugh -

girls on the upward journey (John Paul pre-launch)

girls at the peak (little bro almost ready)

girls heading back down (and John Paul is soooo close!)

and he's finally airborne! Just as the girls feet touch the ground! 

We continue to enjoy our days together.  Today (Wednesday) we played hooky from home school and Chinese school so we could visit a nearby mall.  A great indoor play land and western food lunch - everybody happy :)  And sleeping well tonight!  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

our first days

Grandma and Grandpa are here!  They arrived safely Friday night and it's been barrels of fun since they walked off the airplane!  The girls were thrilled to 'stay up late' and meet them at the airport.  The boys had to settle for sleep and a warm hello Saturday morning.  

Grandma's sewing machine was busy getting ready for this trip!  She sewed GORGEOUS Elsa dresses for the girls!  

Just unbelievably beautiful!

And for the boys? Superhero capes and masks!  

The suitcases also revealed new UND gear for all :) 

We went for a lunchtime walk and did a quick tour of the girls school (empty, since it was a Saturday).  

We've done a lot of walking.... Sunday for a little tour of all the crazy commercial development in our neighborhood!  

A little playground antics and attempts at the "jumping pose" rounded out the afternoon.  

Yesterday and this morning (Tuesday) Grandma and Grandpa visited Isaac's school.  Grandma no longer thinks I'm crazy for leaving the little boys at home with the girls while I run Isaac to school in the morning!  

So so grateful for this time together and these memories!  

Friday, January 16, 2015

the end of the week

Wednesday morning my neighbor Ashlei and I decided to shake things up a bit and take our combined 8 children downtown on the subway for a visit to the Science Museum.

With Matt's full confidence (ha! he said "you are going to take who where on what?" when I told him our plans!) we headed out..... and it was a smashing success!  Thank goodness our subway system is really quite user friendly.  And the "shock and awe" factor of loading 8 white children onto a subway car tends to stun passengers into voluntarily giving up their seats so our kiddos can ride safely.

We met another friend there and the building was EMPTY!  Yay for homeschooling!  We can go to the museum when everyone else is in school!

Our children are becoming more familiar with this sweet spot in the city as we return again and again.    The water area is a big hit :)

And then I spent most of yesterday at a seminar on Third Culture Kids.  It was fascinating.  I learned so much about my children!  So so grateful for the opportunity to be there!

Well I'm off..... it seems that a few internet moments is all I can grab these days.