Monday, March 30, 2009

Layered Strawberry Cheesecake Recipe

Several people have asked about the recipe for the Layered Strawberry Cheesecake Sarah made in the post below. So, here it is ..... (and if you'd like a copy emailed to you so you can print it out, just let me know).

Layered Strawberry Cheesecake Bowl
(as printed in Kraft's "Food & Family" magazine, Spring 2009 issue)

3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 packages (8 oz EACH) Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 cups cold milk
1 package (3.4 oz) Jell-O vanilla instant pudding
2 cups thawed Cool Whip Lite Whipped Topping, divided
2 cups frozen pound cake cubes (1 inch each)
1 square Baker's semi-sweet chocolate

1. Combine berries and sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use. Beat cream cheese with mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in milk.

2. Add pudding mix; mix well.

3. Blend in 1-1/2 cups Cool Whip. Spoon half into 2-1/2 quart bowl.

4. Top with cake, berries and remaining cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate 4 hours.

5. Melt chocolate; drizzle over dessert. Top with remaining Cool Whip.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Layered Strawberry Cheesecake

Sarah spied a dessert on the cover of one of my cooking magazines and wanted to make it. She did a great job! So great that we ate one batch and then a few days later she wanted to make another one. Of course, not wanting to hurt her feelings we HAD to eat the second one too!!! We're just good people like that!!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Translators & New Concept English Books

Since my previous post about older child adoption we've received some awesome emails! Some are simply encouraging (which we always appreciate!) and some are encouraging with a few questions added. Please feel free to keep emailing! A few different people asked about translators and books so that will be today's topic.

1. Electronic Translator (& Pinyin).
The electronic translators are much less expensive in China and there is a much greater selection. The translator can go from Chinese to English and from English to Chinese. To use it, the Chinese pinyin is entered using the keyboard (so the kiddo must be able to write in pinyin) OR the English is typed in and then translated. Think it like a giant electronic dictionary.

Regarding pinyin, here is a neat website where you can click on some pinyin and hear a native speaker say the word. Note the same word can be said up to four different ways depending on TONE.

First off, I must say that Sarah HATED the translator from the get-go! But, I don't think that's always the case as I've heard of other kids who use it so much the lettering starts to wear off the keys. As with everything, I think it just depends on the kid.

To buy the translator, we asked our guide to take us to a large electronics store and to help us talk with the salespeople regarding the item. I don't know if we could have done this without his help. And everyone asks which translator Sarah has. Her model is a smaller white colored one with gold lettering on the front. In Chinese, the name is 文曲星 .

2. English Books.
Several people who read back on our blog about our trip to China asked about the English language study books we purchased while in China. Before traveling to China we had arranged with a visiting professor at the local college to tutor Sarah a few hours a week. This woman asked us to pick up these books while in China. The professor was only in the US for about 3 months after Sarah arrived so their study sessions together were limited. After she left, we had no way to use the books because they teach English via Chinese so we were unable to help anymore. Guess what I'm saying is don't get these books if for homeschooling unless you know Chinese as well.

But, if you have a Chinese teacher these books may be a great way to help your older child learn English. One note, they are done in "UK English" so you'll get things like "mum" instead of "mom". And they are a bit antiquated! My favorite lesson from the book was when Sarah was learning "professions" and one profession was "keyboard operator." Also, the next lesson asked the student to match a word with a profession. The "correct" (according to the book!) match for "housewife" was "lazy"!

Anyway, these books are called "New Concept English" and come in four volumes with four matching workbooks. In Chinese, the book title is 新概念英语 . We purchased them in Guangzhou when our guide wrote down the Chinese name and address of a bookstore on a card, told us to grab a cab, give the card to the driver and he'd take us to the bookstore. She gave us another card with the address of the White Swan Hotel on it for us to give to the driver on the way back.

On a side note, it was our experience in two different large multi-level bookstores in China that when you select an item, you take that item to the counter on the floor you are on and the sales person will stamp the item (inside the back cover, for example). Then you take your stamped items to the bottom level to pay.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Branson or Bust!

We're winding down Spring Break week. We stayed home the first several days and then took a quick 3 day trip down to Branson. Branson is less than 2 hours away so it's a great quick trip. Now we are being L-A-Z-Y!

Our first day in Branson we visited the Butterfly Palace. You watch a quick 3-D movie and then head into a big room filled with trees, plants, birds and butterflies. I'm still not sure I understand the whole birds and butterflies in the same location, but it seems to work! Butterflies land on you and they flitter around -- quite amusing.

After a bit of shopping we had dinner at Joe's Crab Shack. Sarah spied a steamer bucket photo on the menu which came with two kinds of crab, shrimp, corn on the cob and potatoes! She picked a spicy version and even she said it was spicy -- which is saying a lot! When they came to put the "bib" on her she laughed so hard!

On our second day we visited "Ripley's Believe It or Not" which is a museum full of goodies. It was actually much more fun than Kevin and I expected it to be and Sarah really seemed to enjoy it. Plus there was another butterfly exhibit! There was a machine from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a "painting" made entirely out of jelly beans, a real shrunken head (!) and tons of other oddities like the "stomach contents" of a shark that had been caught (which included a 100+ pound boat anchor, over 100+ pounds of metal pieces like screws and bolts, a watch, a leg bone from a mule and two swimming suits)!??!

For dinner on our second night we went to a place called "Mel's Hard Luck Diner" where your server not only takes your order and brings your food, but he/she SINGS! One of the guys working was a top 44 finalist from American Idol (season 4).

Friday morning we were up early to take Kevin and drop him off for a guided fly fishing trip. While he was fishing Sarah and I spent some time shopping and then hanging out at a coffee shop. While shopping Sarah found "the perfect" dress to wear to our neighbor's wedding plus two new pairs of school shoes, a new wallet and two shirts from Hollister. All in all, a good shopping trip indeed!

After we picked Kev up from fishing we were off to Springfield for a lunch of Chipotle and then home for a BIG nap!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Who Doesn't Like Pie?!?!?!?

Okay, so in the post below I talk a bit about how the language barrier can, at times, be frustrating. To be quite frank, most of the time when we have language issues I put them off as Sarah not quite getting the language yet. Sometimes I need to stop and realize I AM THE PROBLEM!!! Well, was I put in my place -- and rightly so!

On Monday Sarah came home from school saying her art class was going to have treats on Friday and her pre-algebra teacher had said they'd be celebrating "pie day" on Friday too.

So she's telling me what kind of treats she'd like to bring for art -- maybe bags of chips or Little Debbie's brownies. Then she says that for pre-algebra the teacher said the kids can bring something like the big decorated cookie you buy at the mall OR a pizza pan OR a lid from a butter dish. HUH!?!?!? What does a pizza pan or a butter lid have to do with "treats" or "pie day"? So, I'm asking her again and she's looking at me like I'm from another planet. She explains it again the same way. So, of course I'm KNOWING she's not understanding what the teacher wants so I say, "How about I email the pre-algebra teacher?" She rolls her eyes.

Apparently, March 14th is "National PI Day" -- you know, "PI" which sounds like "pie" and is the mathematical symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. The teacher told the kids they needed to bring something round to measure so they could use "PI". If they want to, they can bring a round FOOD as long as they have enough to share with the class. Don't I feel stupid! So I told Sarah she was exactly right with what she had told me and I was sorry I hadn't listened better. She rolled her eyes again -- and this time I deserved it!

Today Sarah packed up her "round" treats for each kid in pre-algebra plus her snacks for art class. I may just have to make my own kind of "pie" -- you know, the kind you can eat!

So "Happy National PI Day" even though the official celebration day isn't until tomorrow (March 14)!!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Our Rose & Cotton Candy Life

Awhile back we added a link to this blog where folks could email us. We've "met" some awesome people since then and have been invited to share in the joy of other families pursuing adoptions which is WONDERFUL! As I'm sure you can tell, we are big proponents of older child adoption and want to make ourselves available to help if we can.

Along the way we've been asked quite a few questions as well and hope we've been able to answer them. One family who contacted us commented that they know others who read our blog and were wanting to ask us questions but who "didn't want to bother us" by doing so. Please don't feel it's a bother to ask questions as I remember back to how much information we craved and how few places were available to find answers. We'll help with what we can as long as people understand that we are not and do not claim to be experts at ANYTHING!!! LOL.

So, I thought maybe I'd just list a few of the questions we've been asked and post some answers. I'll do a few today and try to do some more over the next few days. These are in no particular order.

1. On your blog your life seems like "roses and cotton candy" all the time! Is your life really that GREAT?

Yes and no! The purpose of our blog is to "burst with joy" about our daughter! As most of our family is in another state, we use the blog as a way to update family and friends on some of the more interesting and fun things going on in our lives. In a small way, we also hope that by giving a glimpse into the life of a family with an older adopted child that maybe others will find that adopting an older child might be a great fit for their family as well.

One thing we are trying to do as parents is to emphasize that life has it's ups and downs -- and always will. But we (all three of us!) are working on ways to minimize the impact stresses have on our lives in order to have more "flower and candy" days. Do we have days that we struggle with life, cry our eyes out, stress-out, flip-out, wig-out and generally freak-out? You betcha, baby! But, I'm not going to put that stuff on the blog. It's private and it's stuff every family goes through.

2. Was the language barrier a problem?

If I had to pick a "yes" or "no" answer to this question I'd have to pick "yes" -- but not to the point that it was an insurmountable problem. There were so many things we wanted to ask her, to make sure she was comfortable, to see if she was sleepy or hungry or scared. But with the language barrier we weren't able to do that with certainty and it weighed on us.

When we met Sarah, she knew just a handful of English words such as "water, mom, dad, number." Communication was through lots of hand gestures, facial expressions and "trial and error." It wasn't until much later that we realized how much Sarah was "reading" from our body language and interpreting from the tone of people's voices, the "look" in their eyes, etc. Because she didn't have the luxury of language she used other means to try and understand what was going on. So while your child may not "get your words" he/she is getting your meaning (whether you want him/her to or not!)

Our understanding is that the older a person is, the harder it is to acquire a new language. For Sarah, spoken English came first. Now, reading and writing are coming along -- with reading coming along faster than writing. And she's maintaining her Chinese as well so in her brain it's kind of a fight between Chinese and English!

Last year and the start of this year when I would sit with her and help with math homework, she would talk with me in English but when she was doing the math problem and more "in her own world trying to figure the math out" she would be saying the numbers in Chinese. A few months back it "clicked" over and now she says everything is in English -- even to the point of saying "of fudge!" when she drops her pencil! So I think in a way her brain is transitioning to putting Chinese in the background and English is taking up the foreground.

Also, when she talks with friends in China I hear so many English words peppering her speech now that sometimes I can tell the person on the other end of the phone has said something like, "what the heck are you saying?" because she'll get all flustered and then go back and say the phrase in Chinese.

3. What does Sarah think about US food?

Now, Sarah loves US food! She digs Lean Pockets, hot dogs, onion rings, Pringles, pizza and Easter Peeps! At the beginning, not so much!!! When we first came home, she pretty much wanted Chinese rice, meat, eggs and noodles.

For rice, she loves the Cal-rose rice. And you don't need a rice cooker to make it. Simply use a non-stick saucepan or pot, put 3 cups rice, 4 cups water and a dash of salt in. Put a lid on the pot, bring it to boil over high heat and as soon as the bubbles are showing turn the heat to medium-low and let it cook with the lid on and undisturbed for 20 minutes. That means no stirring and no peeking under the lid!!! Sarah actually likes me to cook it a bit longer sometimes as she loves there to be a thin crunchy layer on the bottom!

For noodles, it was nothing fancy. The block-style ramen noodles were very familiar to her. I did order some online to get an extra spicy version as she loves spicy food. Her favorite way to eat them was for me to boil the water, add the noodle block and then along the outside of the pan away from the noodle block I would break two eggs into the water. I wouldn't stir the noodles or anything until the eggs had firmed and then I added the seasoning packet. She stopped eating these after about a year and hasn't wanted them since.

About eggs, Kevin and I both like over-easy eggs where the center is runny. The first time I made these her eyes became huge and she absolutely wanted nothing to do with them! She wanted to make eggs and so she cracked them into the pan and cooked those eggs until they were browned on both sides! When they were done she pointed to them and smiled at me and I got the idea! Since them I've called them "crunchy eggs" and to this day she say, "Mom will you make me crunchy eggs?" But, she also likes runny middles now too! And she loves hard boiled eggs.

Also, we had several kinds of chop-sticks and Sarah always picked the cheapo bamboo kind that you can get in bulk packages at any Asian grocery store. She wanted nothing to do with the fancier ones because she just wasn't used to them. And for the older children, they may not have used a fork and knife before because in China most of the food is made in bite-sized pieces so chopsticks can be used or eaten by hand. She won't mind me telling you that we laugh now about the first few times we had pizza because she kept trying to pick it up with her chopsticks until finally she gave in and just used her hands! And now the chopsticks are packed away in a drawer because nobody uses them anymore.

Enough rambling for today! If this is helpful to anyone, please let me know and I'll gladly add some more similar info in a future post!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Doodle Dice & Driving!

(Playing Doodle Dice -- and down to the hardest purple cards!)

First off, I keep forgetting to post about a game called "Doodle Dice." This game is pretty neat and doesn't require one speck of English to play so it's GREAT for the older kids just coming home from China or to take to play during time in China. You can check it out on and it's only $7.99. (While you are there feel free to buy me a Kindle 2 and drop it off at my front door! THANKS!)

ALSO ...... ahem ....... there's only one more week of school and then Spring Break. We've told Sarah that we'll start teaching her to drive during Spring Break. Did I mention that's only one week away!!! Oh .... my ...... goodness! Our little girl will be driving soon!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Snowy Weekend

So, what do we do on weekends?!?!? Basically we're lazy. Let's let Romeo show you! Here he is relaxing on his kitty throne with Sarah's Hello Kitty pj top to keep his little kitty butt warm. Hey, there's snow on the ground and a guy has to have his priorities!

Okay, so we did do a few things this weekend. I had a recipe contest I was working on that required grilling so I stood out in the freezing cold and snow. After creating, freezing and cooking, the recipe was a total "goose egg"! Oh, well. Maybe next time.

Sarah and I did whip up a dessert on Saturday. Here she is learning to make meringue.

Last night we had a rousing game of pink Monopoly. Today we are getting some photos and small goodies ready to mail to China. Then it's on to a bit of "girl shopping" and then home to work on Sarah's art project. Her project is to design a church. The class is working on architecture and each student pulled a piece of paper out of a hat to see what building they would be designing. Sarah pulled out the only slip of paper that read "church" while many kids are doing houses, restaurants, etc.

Many people have asked what Sarah thinks of her age regression photos. She LOVES the 3 year old version and is "okay" with the other two. I think she really would like for us to go back and do a 1 year and 2 year version as well. That's for a future project!