Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ribs, Rice & Sweet Potatoes

When we met Sarah on that very first day over a year ago, she had very few things with her. One thing she did have was a Chinese cookbook. One thing she loves to make is a sweet potato and rice dish from her Chinese cookbook. It's actually a breakfast dish so usually it's a Sunday when she plans to make us breakfast. Sometimes I even wake up to a fresh pot of coffee that she's made for me before I've even rolled out of bed!

This morning, she wanted to make the sweet potato and rice dish for us as well as have me make waffles. Her cookbook is all in metric (and Chinese!) and uses weights instead of our American "cups" and "spoons" measurements. I only had a basic scale which wasn't able to handle the precise metric measurements she needs, so recently we ordered a jazzy new electronic scale that not only does metric but allows us to place a bowl or plate on first, zero the scale and then add the ingredients. This morning was it's first "trial run" and it passed with flying colors!

Sarah even wanted to make more than the recipe called for as she'd peeled extra sweet potatoes, so we used what she's learned in pre-algebra and made an algebraic equation to figure out how more we needed of other ingredients based on how much more sweet potatoes we had!

And, the sweet potatoes and rice were wonderful as always!

For lunch, we'll be having Kevin's homemade ribs! Sarah is a HUGE fan of ribs! Kevin starts the night before with preparing the meat with his own blend of herbs and spices. Then he uses his smoker to slow cook them. Usually, he makes homemade BBQ sauce too! So, if anyone is around here about lunch time, stop on by!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dance Class & Bragging

Sarah tried her first ballet class today. When I called to sign her up the teacher told me she would need a leotard and tights for class. When we arrived today, we found out she also needed shoes. Of course, we didn't have those. Sarah said, "Mom! Didn't you know I needed shoes too!?!?" Well, I won't win "Mother of the Year" today.

Also, I need to brag about our girl and my sweet husband. Sarah brought home her half-quarter school report and is doing AWESOME! For 7th and 8th grade she is being graded on a pass/fail system. However, if each teacher thinks she is doing above and beyond what is expected in class they can assign her a letter grade. Right now, she's getting all A's and B's! We are SO PROUD of her!

Kevin also has moved up to being a full professor. He started 13 years ago as lecturer, then moved up to Assistant Prof., then to Associate Prof. and now is a Full Prof.

Friday, September 26, 2008


It's a BIG day in our small town -- HOMECOMING! GO BULLDOGS!!

First, for those of you've who have never visited, we live in SMALL town. How small? Well, our town does not have one stop light. Yep, that's right. Not one single stop light. We do have a pizza parlor, a cafe, a take-out Chinese food restaurant, a grocery store, a Dollar General, a funeral home, a roller skating rink, a swimming pool, two gas stations and a children's clothing store. And a few other even smaller businesses. Plus, we have our own post office, a fire station, police station (with four squad cars!) and quite a few churches.

Our town actually is more of an off-shoot of the larger town close to us when sprawl spawned a large housing development that happened to be in the city limits of our small town. These newer houses led to more tax income for the city which was used to improve the schools. Better schools made even more people want to build homes here and the cycle continues. More students led to Sarah's new junior high which just opened this year and a new high school just a few years ago.

So today is Homecoming and Spirit Day! Kids have a shortened school day so they can watch the Homecoming parade snake its way through town and then the big game this weekend. There also is a chili feed at the high school tonight plus lots of other fun activities.

Last year Sarah had just arrived in the US when Homecoming hit. We tried to explain to her what a parade was but she had no context to understand it. Kevin and I both went to school early that day to try to find her in the crowds in case she was nervous or not sure what to do with fire trucks full of football players throwing candy at the kids lining the streets and the band jumping up and down as they marched. We found her with the ESL teacher nervously taking in all the action. She had a piece of candy in her hand that had been thrown off one of the floats and she looked at us like, "What the #$=!"

This year she's SPIRIT ready and excited! She picked out a new Bulldog shirt and has "Go Team!", dog footprints and red ribbons for her hair. And, don't forget the glittery make-up. What would Spirit Day be without that!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hamsters, Hiking & Cornbread

People have been asking how you give a hamster medicine, so here's a photo. Her medicine is a liquid so I have to scruff the back of her neck which opens her mouth, turn her over onto her back and then use the syringe to get the medicine in. She's figured out she can move her tongue around to push the syringe out so sometimes I wind up with more medicine on me than what gets into her mouth. And of course she wriggles around the tries to use her feet to push the syringe away. We call it the "medicine dance". At first I didn't think the medicine was working much, but yesterday and today she does seem better.

I was telling my neighbor about taking the hamster to the vet and how it cost $53. She just laughed and said she'd taken their bird to the vet and it cost $250. She told the bird he'd better get a job!

We've also had some folks wanting to know what Kevin and I have been doing lately. I know some of you who read the blog don't know much about Kevin and I and mostly we focus on Sarah, but us "old folks" do have a life too!

Kevin loves pro-football and enjoys NASCAR. He combines this with playing fantasy sports for both and prior to our trip to China he was the grand prize winner in a fantasy NASCAR game which netted him a $10,000 prize! So, whenever he wants to hop on the computer to play fantasy sports, I say "I'm there for ya baby! Go!" Here's a photo he took while at a NASCAR race in Kansas City.
He also likes hiking and is working his way up the Appalachian Trail is a little bit at a time. His trail name is "20 Year Plan" as he takes a few weeks each summer to hike a little further up the trail. He didn't hike this summer as he didn't want to be away from Sarah, but sometime he'll get back to it. Right now he's enjoying the outdoors by going bike riding and fishing with Sarah.

(Two photos above are Kevin on the Appalachian Trail)

I like to enter cooking and recipe contests and having been doing this for about 10 years now. It was because of a cooking contest that we actually "met" Sarah on our agency's waiting children's list and became her parents!

"How is that?" you ask? Well, I was a finalist at the Martha White National Cornbread Cook-off in 2007. Kevin had planned to head out to the trail to hike a few days prior to the cook-off but when they notified me that I was a finalist we decided he would postpone his trip by a few days, ride out with me to the cook-off and then I'd drop him off at the trail before I headed back home. The day of the cook-off our agency posted the new waiting children's list so when we got back to the hotel after the cook-off we logged on to see the list. There was our Sarah! So instead of dropping Kevin off the next day to start hiking we stayed in the hotel an extra day to work on our request letter to adopt Sarah. If I had not been a finalist at the cook-off, Kevin would have been out in the wild for a few weeks and I would have been at home alone when the list came out and we would not have been together to talk about the list and to send in our request! So, THANK YOU Martha White National Cornbread Cook-off! I didn't win a prize at your contest, but you gave us the best surprise ever -- we became parents!!!

(Photo above is me at the Sutter Home Winery Build A Better Burger Cook-off in Napa, CA)

I stopped entering contests for about the past year, but have just started getting back to it. Most of my ingredient stash has expired so it's time to clean out my contest closet and get new stuff to mess with. And my backlog of cooking magazines literally spans 14 to 16 months -- most are still encased in the plastic wrap they arrived in. (Once we found out we were going to be parents our priorities changed a bit! Go figure!) But now with Sarah in school I have some time for me so I'll get back to the fun of messing in the kitchen and hoping for the call that I'm a finalist. I can't wait to take Sarah to a few cook-offs to show her new places and so she can see her mom in action. I'd been fortunate to travel to Hollywood, Napa Valley, Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland and South Pittsburgh, Tennessee all courtesy of cook-offs.

We watched one of the old Food TV rerun shows I was on and she said, "Is that really you Mom?" "Yep," I said. "Scary, huh?" She just shook her head. I'm still not sure she believes that person on the tv is the same person who burns her breakfast from time to time!

(At the Pillsbury Million Dollar Bake-Off in Hollywood, CA)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dreamin' of a Cell Phone!

Romeo and Sarah are dreaming of having a cell phone! Right now they are stuck with land lines -- oh, the horror!

Sarah's birthday will be here soon! What she wants more than anything is a cell phone! She's been telling us for months now that it's okay if we go ahead and buy it for her NOW. Her reasoning is that it's really for safety so if she's early getting out of art club she can call me to pick her up (even though her art teacher has a phone) -- or if terrorists break into the house while I'm away at Wal-mart she can let me know -- or some other really good reason. There is a line from the movie "Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael" that Kevin and I have repeated for years -- "It's good to want things." In the movie, a boy wants a girl to kiss him and she doesn't but instead says "It's good to want things." So, Sarah keeps hearing that line and just shakes her head and says "yeah, yeah."

Here are Sarah's two most recent cakes. The first cake she made in cake class. The writing on top in purple says "Happy" in Chinese and then "Happy Day." She took the cake to school the next day for the teachers to enjoy. The LOVED it! The second one she made today for her dad. He LOVES it too! We only have one class left and then have to decide if we want to take the second class.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Weird Week

So, it's been a weird week here. Our van was about to hit the 36,000 mile mark (when the warranty runs out) and started being fussy, so we took it which meant sharing one car and shuttling Kevin back and forth to school which takes about 2 hours. Then the blade fell off the riding mower so it needs fixed, we have a frog living in our garage that we can't get out and Sarah was home sick on Tuesday. And tonight is cake night so I'm working on baking two cakes and making a truckload of butter cream frosting. And then there was .....

For those of you who need a little comedy for the day, feel free to laugh at me! Yesterday I spent $53 and took our hamster to the vet -- and now for the next ten days I have to give her twice a day oral antibiotics which means I have to get her out of the cage, hold her by the scruff which forces her mouth open, inject the liquid medicine and make sure she swallows it! And try not to get bit or scratched.

Okay, so it started by Sarah cleaning the cage on Sunday and noticing a small spot of blood on the underside of the hamster. I told her that since the hamster is a girl that probably she was just having her period. Then, for some unknown reason, on Tuesday night I looked on the Internet only to find out that hamsters don't menstruate. So, the blood was something else -- and there was more of it. I looked around a bit and from reading various posts it looked like the problem might be "wet tail" which does have an over-the-counter medicine but apparently it doesn't work that great. I told Sarah about what I had found and she said "Call the doctor!" I told her that vets don't work on hamsters and she said "why not?" To make her happy, I told her I'd call the vet to double check and sure enough he said "bring her in!" (Which really made me say "seriously?" I'm sure the lady thought, "why did you call then?") Long story short, after two trips into the vet, $53 and a bit of my sanity gone, the hamster has a urinary track infection but is responding quite nicely to the medicine and improving. Whew!

And I've been lax about posting for the past few days, so wanted to share a few photos from the weekend. Sarah got some new polish so she did both of our toes -- quite pink and fashionable! Then, we went bowling. And, there's always lots of playing with the kitty cat! Now that he's feeling better he's quite "all boy" and getting into lots of trouble. Sarah just says, "kittens do that!"

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cake Time!

Sarah and I are half way through taking a Wilton cake decorating class. Last night we each learned to do a shaped pan cake with multiple colored frosting.

I've wanted to take one of these classes for years and just never had done it. We watched a movie called "The Bucket List" and we started talking about the things each of us wants to do in our lives before we "kick the bucket". We decided the one thing wrong with the movie was that it was sad, so we decided we would think about the things we want to do with our life instead of thinking so much about the end of our lives. Kevin decided a better name would be to call it our "non-bucket list!" So I can tick the first thing off my "non-bucket list."

So, Sarah said she'd take the class with me. It's been a great mom/daughter activity! We stop by Starbucks before class and each get a latte. When we are in Starbucks it reminds me how young and full of energy she is as she loves the atmosphere there with the college students and their laptops buzzing away. It's times like these that I'm so excited to see the path her life takes and the wonderful road she has to travel. And mostly I'm wonderfully happy that she's so excited about her life.

For this week's assignment, Sarah picked a purse shaped pan and I made a butterfly. Yes, it's a pink purse! Next week we are making sheet cakes with flowers and clowns on them. I'm not real sure about the clowns as they kind of freak me out, but the teacher said I can leave the heads off! So, I'll probably have clown bodies without heads!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Cat Named Sue!

One of the very first things Sarah ever asked about having was a kitty cat. She really wanted a cute little girl kitty that she could put a pink collar on and call a cute little girl name. So on Monday when we went to Petsmart to pick out a kitty, we asked a store employee to show us the female kittens that had already been spayed as Sarah didn't want to have to take her to the vet and worry about her surgery. When Sarah picked one, we said to the man, "Now, this one is a girl kitty, right, and she's been spayed?" He kind of hesitated and said "I think so." So we kindly asked if he could get another employee to verify that indeed the kitty was a girl that had been spayed. Another employee said, "Yep, that's a spayed female." So, we brought her home, put on her pink collar and pink engraved name plate with her cute little girl kitty name of "Juliet."

Then on Friday I took Juliet to the doctor. Other than a little cold, she's very healthy which is great. Her paperwork said she had been spayed very recently but we did not see any type of shaving of her fur or surgery marks, so I asked the nurse about it. The nurse looked, did not see any kind of scar either and felt her stomach. "I don't feel any kind of scar of firmness that we feel after spaying," she said, "so I'll call the lady who raised her and see what's going on. My guess is that she hasn't been spayed yet." Ug. My heart sank as I didn't want Sarah to worry while Juliet was at the vet for surgery.

Then the doctor comes in. He takes one look at cute little Juliet with her pink collar and laughs. "Well, you don't see any marks from spaying because this is a MALE kitty!" Oh, my! So, we had to tell Sarah after school that her cute little girl kitty was actually a BOY! She kept saying, "I don't believe it! She's a GIRL!" We kept saying, "No, honey. HE'S a BOY."

After it all sunk in, we headed back to Petsmart with all the pink goodies we had bought and explained to them what had happened and they let Sarah pick out all new non-pink items. After the shock wore off, Sarah and "Romeo" are the best of buds! So the kitty who once was named "Juliet" is now a "Romeo."

Actually, we should have known Romeo was a boy all along .... he was happy to watch football with Kevin on Thursday night and he hogs the tv remote (see below)!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

1 Year Anniversary -- FAMILY Day!

"Oh, MY! It's family day!!! HA!! Ha!!"

(Sarah getting ready to hit the treadmill -- only she is wearing my sports bra like underwear! She's quite a funny kid!!!)

It's hard to believe that today is the one year anniversary of the day we met Sarah and Sarah met us! Our "technical" anniversary is tomorrow as that is when the papers were signed/dated and we became Sarah's parents and she became our daughter, but TODAY is the day we met. Wow! Time has flown by! Look at us then --

Sarah has picked Whiskey Creek restaurant (a steak joint) for our celebration dinner. We aren't sure if we'll go tonight or Friday. You see, Sarah didn't get much sleep last night -- she has a new kitty named "Juliet" and Juliet decided to sleep with Sarah last night and was a little tornado! Juliet has only been with us for two days so she's still learning about us and us about her, but she is unbelievably sweet little kitty.

In honor of Family Day, here are a few photos how we are NOW (including our newest family member Juliet)!