Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Mean Girls" we ever get passed it?

So I'm pretty sure most everyone (my hubby even watched it with me one day) has seen the movie, "Mean Girls". It came out in 2004- starring Lindsey Lohan and was quite a hit. I'm sure teenage girls are still watching it today...

Mean Girls movie.jpg

I'm laughing though as I write this because I've been reminded of the movie so many times in the last few weeks. I swear some girls never really get passed it, do they? And I'm also quite certain that we, at some point, are "mean girls". We judge before we know people, we categorize someone by what they're wearing, and sometimes just don't even open ourselves up to letting in new friends.

Jack started school up about a month ago and when I walk into the courtyard at school pick-up you can just see it. Little 'cliques' already set up, with women that have been at the school for awhile and know and feel comfortable with each other. Or, in my case, and as a new Mom at the school, I can honestly feel stares sometimes. So I'm thinking, well, is my outfit okay? Do I look like an outcast? Then I shuck it to the side, because honestly I'm quite over it. 

Seeing as this is our 3rd country to move to, I'm quite used to it. But it is funny to me. I know most of these mothers at some point have been "new" and it can be hard making new friends. I don't mind standing alone because I'm comfortable with myself, but I do often make a point to go up to someone and say hi. And it's always funny to me, because once I've done that, the barrier is broken. They're nice and the "wall" is down. Is it because I look mean? Or unapproachable? I don't think so. I just think sometimes women have a hard time of just saying "hi" and opening themselves up to new friends. 

But listen, I still do it sometimes and I try to catch myself. I look at outfits, shoes, hair, their kids, etc., and I will "judge" people as well. I do. I admit it. And I think everyone does sometimes. 

Here's what I love though- about taking these notions and knocking down the walls- you never know who you will meet. You never know what friend you could come to know, what person might need a friend to talk to at that very moment, all the experiences, backgrounds and cultural differences that could add to your life. 

I love all of my friends that I have and I think they all add a different "spice" and element to my life- in different ways- but there's always room for more. There's always room for love and friendship and opening ourselves up to just saying hello. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Cooking with Titi: Corn Cakes

Who's Titi? Well, she's fabulous that's what. She was my "helper" (and I hate that word- so nanny, etc.,) before we hired Tina. I actually found her through an ad online (that sounds bad but things are very safe here in Hong Kong). She ended up being fabulous, but she only needed/wanted a job part time and I need a little bit more help.

Anyway- she's Indonesian and as you can imagine, she's a fabulous cook. But what I love about her is her love and passion for cooking. It's her whole personality with anything. She is so bubbly and just has such a good outlook on life. I don't think I've ever really seen her sad or angry. She's just a really fun person to know.

We came to LOVE Titi's cooking so when our new nanny arrived, I told Titi she was going to have to come back and do cooking lessons with me. She can cook ANYTHING. ANYTHING. In fact, one night I told her we should make chicken parmigiana (because it's Jason's favorite) and she ended up making it better than I ever have before and it was HER FIRST TIME! She's just a natural in the kitchen.

So- I thought I would share some of Titi's recipes with you- maybe do it once a month? She really specializes in Indonesian and Thai- so the flavors are unreal.

Saturday she came and made butter chicken- if you've never had this, then you're missing out! BUT she also made us these crunchy, fabulous and savory corn cakes. They're Jason's favorite. You can eat them as an appetizer, put on the side with salad or I even have decided I"m going to make them the next time I do some chili! :) Yum!

So here's the recipe:

* 4 Fresh sweet corn- cleaned and shucked off the cob
* 5 garlic cloves- minced
* 1/2 sweet onion-sliced (or chopped)- preference really
* 2-3 kaffir limes- cut into thin slices
* 1 tsp salt & 1 tsp sugar
* 1 tsp coriander powder
* 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup chopped green onions
* 1 cup of fried powder mix (this will be near the flour, breadcrumbs, etc.,)
* 2 eggs
* 2 spoonfuls of fried onions
* 3/4-1 cup of shredded carrots
* 1/4 cup of shredded coconut

-Mix all ingredients together. You can add the veggies (spring onions, carrots, etc.,) to your taste buds. It really doesn't matter. :)
-Heat a shallow pan and add cooking oil (we just used canola oil) - about 1/2 cup. (Thick enough to cover the pan but not to cover the entire patties).
-The mixture will be quite gooey, so once the pan is nice and hot, add in a big spoonful to the pan. (Depending on your pan size, but you can probably do 4-5 at once). T
-Cook through on one side and then flip to the other side. Usually only takes 2-3 minutes per side.
-Then set on a plate with paper towel (to get excess oil off) and they're ready! :)

Most of the ingredients- minus the eggs and powder

Titi busy at what she loves to do! :) 

Titi and I! :) And my TINY kitchen! 

You know these look delicious!

So these definitely aren't considered to be on "Light Cooking" but you know what, they're delicious and in my opinion, one should splurge here and there. Life is too short not too enjoy GOOD food! You know?!!? :) 


Friday, September 13, 2013

Come and Gone- 5 years of living as Expats

I keep thinking about this, here and there, and it still is a bit crazy to me. Actually, our 5 year anniversary of living abroad was in April. The date was April 12, 2008 when we took the big gigantic move from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Shanghai, China. I still remember leaving my Dad at the airport, the flight, arriving in Shanghai. ALL of it. It's like it was yesterday. I guess that's just one of those memorable times that you just don't forget.

Needless to say, it's changed our lives in more ways that I could have EVER imagined. I'll say that it's not always been easy but I wouldn't change it. I've loved our experiences, the friends that we've met (from all over the world), what we've learned, the places we've traveled, and probably most importantly how it's helped Jason and I to love, appreciate and respect each other. (Trust me- and as expats you know- you HAVE to rely on your spouse because everyone else is gone. Well, I'll say, it either makes or breaks you!)

Our move to Shanghai was only supposed to be 2 1/2 years, then we extended another year, THEN Jason took a new job which moved us to Sydney, Australia (for training purposes) for a year and a half, then transfer to Hong Kong. So in February, we moved to Hong Kong and in April it would have been 5 years of living abroad.

Here are some of the monumental things that have happened:
1. A new son, W. Henry
2. We had our french bulldog, Lou Lou, brought over from the States ( then taken back to the US)
3. We now have a boxer, Bosco, that we flew in from New Zealand
4. We drove in Sydney and now driving in HK- woo experience there- driving on the opposite side of the car and opposite side of the road!
5. We've traveled to Thailand (3 times), Bali, Singapore, Tokyo, Vietnam, Macau, and Beijing (Jason has done alot more with his business)
6. We have good friends from the U.K., New Zealand, Australia, India, Canada and the States
7. Jason lost one of his grandfathers and I lost one of mine while overseas- definitely one of the reasons it's so hard to be so far away
8. I got involved in the women's ministry in Shanghai- Women of Joy- as the Event Coordinator- one of the best "jobs"
9. I was offered interior design jobs through the Parkyard Hotel in Shanghai. I did Christmas and Chinese New Year decor as well as a full re-decorating project for their Cafe
10. Jason's Mom, Jan, has come over to visit ALL countries- in Sydney she actually came twice a year
11. My parents, my sister, Jason's Mom, Dad, sister, brother-in-law, cousin and Aunt and Uncle all came to visit at least one of the countries
12. I started a photography business in Sydney- went pretty well. :)

Hmmmm, I think that's it. I'm sure I"ll think of more later- or want to add some.

Here are some pictures from our first EXPAT home- Shanghai, China. We lived in 3 different places (one was only for 3 months!):
Two of my besties - Emily and Heidi- both from Tulsa. ALL of our hubbies worked together. And I never met them until I moved over! :) 

The Beijing Olympics started in August- just 4 1/2 months after we arrived! 

Our Beijing trip- photo op of course! 

I can't get this to rotate- but one of our favorite drivers, Steven

Family pic. Jack was just 1 1/2 when we moved. This is at Thumb Plaza

Olympic fun everywhere! 

Jason's Mom, their besties- Eva & T.C. and us

Fun girlfriends - from all over the world. And a prego belly for me! 

Celebrating Chinese New Year! 

Jack's Christmas present! Lady Toulouse- we brought her all the way in from the States!
Finally got both of my parents to visit (out of order in picture sequence!) 

Our lil' tiger- blessed us on Chinese New Year week. Feb 17, 2010

Celebrating 5 years of marriage at the Ritz in Shanghai!

A trip to Hangzhou! 

Out with friends - watching the Royal Wedding! 

Henry and our ayi, Ding Ding! 

My lil' sis, Olivia and my Mom coming to visit! 

Our besties in Shanghai- these kiddos spent alot of time together!

And our last night in Shanghai- with my dearest friends, Emily, Charlotte and Heidi! 
Then we were off to Sydney. IT was a quick move. We found out in June that we were going- Jason went to Hong Kong to sign the new work contract, then we went home to Tulsa two weeks later. We announced to all of our family. We were back in Shanghai the first of August and in Sydney by the end of August. TALK about a whirlwind!

We loved Sydney- it was hard at first because it's not an "expat" community like Shanghai, but the beauty and relaxed atmosphere is hard not to love.

It went by too fast really- a year and a half is nothing, especially when we took two trips home for Christmas. But we loved it. We made some amazing friends and enjoyed seeing the sights of Sydney. We went to the beach almost every weekend that we could. :)

Here are some pictures to wrap up our time there:

My two funny boys- how time has flown! Taken over a year ago. :) 

Jack's soccer group! What fun for ALL of us! 

Most of our time spent at the beach. :) 

This would have been Jan's 3rd trip to Sydney! :) 

Our Christmas card pictures- beach time, of course! 

These two are my beach boys! 

Cousins from Oklahoma- Amy and Brendan and their two girls came to see us. :) 

Our last beach time at Bondi! 

Our city! :) This was the first night we were there! 

And our first time to Bondi- not Jason's though! 

Our first trip out to Manly Beach. :) Look how lil' Henry is! 

This was the view from our apartment- 27th floor with spectacular views! 

Jan's 1st trip to Sydney- Opera House and all! 

The most gorgeous sunsets from our apartment! :) 

View from the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. :) 

Northbridge- our area! And where Jack went to school. :) 

Max & Kristie came to visit- now they live there! :) 

We got Jan and Mark to visit again for Henry and I's birthdays in February! 

The boys supporting me on my "Nike She Run's the Night" Run! 
And our last night in Sydney- spent with these great guys! :) 
Farewell to Sydney and off to Hong Kong! It was a great run- we will be back to visit. Now Im hoping to keep up with my blog and chronicle HONKERS! What a serious ride the last 5 years has been. Looking through these pictures it's so hard to believe how our family has expanded, the friendships we've gained, the experiences we've had and shared and the wonderful world that God has blessed upon us.

So looking forward to what the future holds for us....a "cheers" to more great years and more adventures- no matter where life may take us! :) 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mandarin Time

So I thought it only fitting that I do a post once a week on my Mandarin Lessons- since I go! :) It's entertaining for me because not only is it a mandarin lesson, which is always interesting, but I'm the only American (other than our Chinese teacher) amongst 7 other Aussie gals. We really do keep on track (most of the time) but we do have lunch during our lesson and we always (as gals do) get off track here and there. It's always funny to me what I learn from the lesson and from my friends "down Under". It's just a full round lesson- for all I'm sure.

I also thought this might be good for me because it'll make me look through my notes during the week. The bad thing about living in Hong Kong is that you don't really have to apply your mandarin. Most people- including taxi drivers, restaurants, take out, grocery stores, etc., speak English or know enough to understand. Where as when I lived in Shanghai- I had to speak it DAILY with my driver and my ayi (nanny). So I actually APPLIED my learning of the language. Which means now here in Hong Kong I'll have to study even more- and maybe find a Chinese friend to talk with??? Who knows!

Anyway- we went over and reviewed a worksheet from two weeks ago (we had a break)- basically that break down the different tones- there are four. And we're learning to apply a phrase we've learned, "Shenme yisi?" which means "What does it mean"

Here are the top 5 phrases I took away from this lesson:

1. "Ni hui shuo putonghua ma?" which means "Can you speak Mandarin?"
Your response could be "Wo hui shuo Zhongwen" which is "I can speak Chinese OR " Wo bu hui shuo Zhongwen" which is " I can't speak Chinese"
OR you could say "Wo hui shuo yidianr" which is "I can speak a little" (although when I have been asked that I just say "yidianr" which is just "a little"- ha! 
2. "Xing zai shuo yi bian" which means "Please say again once"- very important to know! 

3. "Xing shuo man dian" which means "Please speak slowly"- another very important phrase to know! 

4. "Shenme jia qian" which means "What price is it?" or you could also say "Duo shao qian" that means "How much" ( so same thing really)

5. "Ni dong le ma" which means "Do you understand" and you can reply with "Dongle. Xiexie" which means "Understand, thank you". 

Here is a picture of our characters that we learned this week- I'll just say that I know NONE. It is important to know but I chose not to in Shanghai so now I need to play catch up! 

Anyway- lesson over! 

I will add that we were having a discussion over Thanksgiving (I told you that we veered off here and there) because I had brought over pumpkin muffins. We were talking about how most Americans are used to pumpkin more as a sweet than a savoury dish. Most of my Australian friends ( from Sydney) had NEVER tasted pumpkin pie! Crazy I know. So then I asked them if they had ever tasked sweet potato casserole- you know with the marshmallows on top?- a Thanksgiving MUST and CLASSIC! Nope- they thought I was a bit cooky. SO- I'll have to show them what they're missing, right?

Anyway, my friend Sandra said, so you make "turducken" right. I look at her with a very blank expression and puzzled look. "What?" "No" "Never heard of it". Has anyone else? Alright- I did ask my US friends on Facebook and one friend has (but she's on the west coast and I don't think she counts). I can promise you that NONE of my southern Oklahoma or Texas friends have it on their Thanksgiving table! 

Here is the link she sent me- it made for a hilarious conversation- I mean to begin with, it's just a funny word!

and now apparently they are coming out with a vegan turkdurken so here's a picture of it:

Friday, September 6, 2013

Summer Vacation, my favorite Thailand- Part 2

Even though I was terribly sad that we had to leave our beautiful resort, we were headed for Bangkok and there is nothing more fun sometimes than a big bustling city. We've been to Bangkok twice before as well, but each time we've done different things.

We arrived about 5ish in Bangkok (short 45 minute flight from Phuket), but due to the time and heavy traffic our flight and travel to our hotel ended up being about the same time. Go figure. :) We stayed, of course, at another Starwood Hotel, the Sheraton Grande.

With that being said, you know when you travel with kiddos that somethings are bound to happen. Henry started complaining of his ear hurting on the flight and was quite a miserable little thing. We were supposed to meet my sorority sister and her husband (whom I went to OU with and are doing an expat assignment there) for dinner but we had to cancel. We ended up just getting to our room, ordering room service and passing out. Isn't it funny how you go on vacation but sometimes can be quite exhausting (I guess that's the kids right?). 

Jason actually had work in Bangkok so we didn't see him much - a big conference (3 of his co-workers flew in- from Sydney and Hong Kong). BUT, the boys and I had plenty of fun and lots to see in Bangkok.

First thing was first, was taking lil' Henry to the doctor. I found an international clinic through the concierge (the staff and service in Thailand is literally one of the best!). Took us no time at all and we were on our way. Our hotel was nice because it had a bridge that connected it to the skytram (the train system) but there is a walkway that goes all along the highway and leads you to numerous shopping malls, etc., 

So we ventured into one of the malls, Terminal 21, and had a coffee and did a bit of shopping. By the time we went to the doctor, shopped around a bit, then found a nice little grocery store for lunch. We headed back to the room and had lunch then had a small nap for the boys. We then went and saw the movie, Turbo, about the snails. We really wanted to see Monsters University but it wasn't showing yet. :( Cute movie though.

Our night (as Jason was caught up with dinner and sorts) was spent by the BEAUTIFUL and relaxing pool. I had a glass of wine, we ordered pizza and thai chicken and beef skewers and then the boys swam. :) 

The next day we met up with my friend, Emily Allam (who's living in Bangkok) and we took the kids to a big playground area. She has twins (only a year and a half) but nonetheless, the kids all had a fun time and it was fun hearing about Emily's experience in Bangkok and catching up with her. 

The boys and I had lunch in the mall we were in (it was about 15 minutes from the hotel) then had ice cream at the wonderful and fabulous Swensen's (does anyone remember these?). I told the boys about how my parents would take me to the one in Utica Square and how much I loved getting the little kid's sundaes. It brought back nice memories. 

Our afternoon was spent relaxing (with some new DVD's) we had found, then we went strolling along the streets near our hotel and then ordered room service again. It is funny, I think because of all the traveling and constant going that we do, sometimes the boys just want to "stay in". Jack always says, "Mom, can we just stay in and relax tonight". Hard to convince tired children though that you're in an amazing and exciting city. Ah well! 

Like I said, Jason was hard at work (someone has to support and pay for these trips!) and so we took our next morning and went to the Aquarium there. It really was one of the best- and trust me, we've been to alot! It was Siam Ocean World, and we loved it! 

We took a little boat ride over the sharks (kinda cool- the boys loved it) and took home big souvenirs. I told the boys they could pick out one thing from the gift shop- well, of course, they both chose the biggest things. Jack chose a big stuffed turtle and Henry chose a big stuffed shark. Those were fun carrying around the mall. We had lunch at the glorious Ruby Tuesdays- ha ha! I don't think I've EVER eaten at ANY in the States, but sometimes you need a little bit of "home". 

I usually like to bring home some sort of "keepsake" or item from our trips. So I found a bookstore and picked out a nice Thai cookbook. In love! Thai food is one of my favorites- I cannot tell you how much I love the flavors. It's so intoxicating really....okay, I'm going to get off tangent here. I'll have to do some posts on some of the recipes I've made so far. They don't disappoint- that's all I'll say! 

That night Jason had off (it was Friday I mean!) so he met us at the hotel so we could venture out (finally!) for a night out. I had some recommendations from the concierge for some yummy and Authentic thai food. We found the place, called Baan Khanitha, and it was of course, fabulous. We ordered the appetizer plate- full of spring rolls, shrimp cakes, prawn crackers and thai chicken satay skewers. Then we had beautiful green chicken curry (my favorite! I don't opt for the red in Thailand because everything is always so much spicer when you're in the homeland, right!?), pandan chicken and oyster beef. Needless to say, we did not leave unhappy! I loved the setting of the place too. 

We were so full that we took a taxi back- which was sad because I'm pretty sure it was only a 10 minute walk. I think we were all so tired from the trip though. The next morning we were off back home. We spent another wonderful morning at the buffet breakfast then went to the pool and relaxed there for awhile and had lunch before quickly packing our bags and heading to the hotel.

Another wonderful vacation in Thailand but we were happy to get back to Bosco- he missed us! I would highly recommend Thailand to anyone- I will go back over and over again! 

Here are some pictures from our trip:

Siam Ocean World- inside of a HUGE mall

This is what I get when I want to take a picture!

Attack of the giant crabs! 

Lil' fun with our penguin friend

Our lil' boat ride above the sharks....bit nervous I was! 

Touching tanks- Jack didn't want to touch the silly starfish. We all did though!

See the sharks?

Yep- there they are! My worst nightmare!

I thought this was so cute- a tuk tuk with an aquarium built in

After the aquarium we took our own tuk tuk home. Remember- negotiate the price BEFORE you take off in it. They always try and stiff you! 

Food court! How nice is this?

They're souvenirs from the trip! 

Thai food for the whole family! 

Walking along the was bloody hot!

ha ha! See how close those other cars are...a bit of a crazy ride!

Does he look hot and bothered? This big man was ready for some A/C and bed! 

Our hotel's gorgeous pool layout...dreamy isn't it. A little oasis in the midst of the bustling city!

These boys are such travelers! I love iPad's though...they help! 

The cinema- and it was actually pretty cheap! 

UMMMM yes please! My favorite and it's in Thailand! But...with that being said, it never quite tastes the same as back home, but who cares!?!? :) 

The mall- Terminal 21 has different sections- San Francisco, London, Chinatown, etc., It's really neat!

And that's our vacation- in a nutshell! I'm ready to go back...