Slideshow of quilts

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sunshine in every bite!

 27, No, it can’t be!

My son, pictured at left, recently turned 27.  When did I get to be so old? Wait, I am only …. and that’s not all that old.  He is visiting us in China so we were able to spend his birthday with him. We have tradition in our family of requesting your birthday dinner.  For his dinner, he requested Lasagna and for his “cake” he requested Lemon Meringue Pie.

Lasagna and Lemon Meringue Pie, are they even possible to make here in China? Well, it’s more difficult but they are possible.  We were able to purchase some hamburger, 500 g for 96 rmb. Metro, a local store here (think small Walmart Superstore) carries Lasagna noodles, tomato paste, cottage cheese and canned tomatoes. The noodles and tomatoes could have been made if absolutely necessary but fortunately it wasn’t.  My recipe for Lasagna, has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember.  My mom made wonderful Lasagna, so it’s not surprising that her grandson would request it for his birthday. The recipe is simple:

12 Lasagna noodles cooked
1/4 # sharp cheddar
1# Mozzarella

Meat Sauce:
1 1/2 to 2 # ground beef
1 T basil
2 1/2 c cooked or canned tomatoes
1 clove or garlic, minced
1 T parsley
1 1/2 t salt
12 ounces of tomato paste.

Cottage Cheese Mixture:
6 c cottage cheese
2 large eggs beaten
1/2 t pepper
1/2 c parmesan cheese
2 t salt

2 T Parsley Flakes

I was all set to begin making dinner.  Not only do you have to gather all the ingredients but then you have to make it. Turns out I don’t have a pan large enough to boil pasta in. The noodles glued together and became one with each other, there was no separating them.  I ended up having to boil each of the 12 noodles individually. It worked, just took a long time.  While waiting for the noodles to cook, I made the meat sauce, and combined the cheese mixture.  One mistake I think many people make in creating lasagna is not enough cheese. I love lots of cheese in my lasagna. The bite of the sharp cheddar combined with mozzarella is a wonderful combination.  So, I hand grated the mozzarella, the parmesan and sharp cheddar. All was ready to assemble into a yummy dish for the coming birthday party.  Now for the lemon pie!

We don't have a lot of prepared foods here in China, so I sent my son to purchase 4 lemons for me.  There is something about fresh squeezed lemon juice and grated lemon rind that remind me of sunshine.  My kitchen smelled delightful. The pie was amazing.  Usually, when I make the pie I use Real Lemon, lemon juice and let me just say, there is a big difference, convenience just isn't worth it.  From now on I will always use fresh squeezed juice, unless lemons just aren't available.

Another difference cooking here are the eggs.  The yolks are so yellow, a deep yellow orange. They provided a wonderful color to the lemon pudding.  Nothing artificial added.  And the little oven did a great job of browning the meringue for me.

The best part was everyone's reactions as they ate the pie. It was tart and sweet, a wonderful combination.  Sunshine in every bite!

Lemon Meringue Pie:
1 1/2 c of sugar
1/3 c of cornstarch
1 1/2 c water

Place the sugar and the cornstarch in a saucepan and slowly add the water so that the mixture is smooth. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and boils.  Boil one minute. Remove from heat. 

Separate 3 eggs and save the egg whites for making the meringue. ( I prepare this before I even begin cooking)  Using a folk, mix up the yolks. I begin to add some of the hot sugar mixture a quarter cup at a time, meanwhile beating with a folk constantly, (so the egg doesn’t cook solid), when I have a good sized cereal bowl full, I stir it into the rest of the hot mixture. I boil for an additional minute then blend in 3 T butter. 4 T lemon juice and 1 1/2 T grated lemon rind.

I pour it into a baked pie shell cover with the meringue, make sure to seal the meringue to the crust so it doesn’t shrink away from the sides of the pie. bake at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes until the meringue is a nice golden color.

3 egg whites (saved from the 3 eggs you separated earlier)
1/4 t cream of tartar
6 T of sugar
1/2 t vanilla
Beat the eggs and the cream of tartar until frothy (foamy), gradually add sugar about a tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until stiff and glossy. 
( I always beat until the tracks of the beaters stay in the meringue)

As you can see even in China, it's possible to make a lovely pie.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Zion's People

Tim, Liz, Daniel, Tricia and Cecilia after Tim was set apart 

Recently, during a sunday school class, the teacher was discussing how he didn't know how to be of one heart or one mind, (Moses 7:18) he had been married 30 years and didn't even approach that with his wife. In the mean time, I was sitting there thinking about Christmas 2013.
Our first day at the beach
 Our family had gathered together in Destin, Florida of a holiday celebration.  We had rented a condo in Destin so that we could spend time with Dave's folks, Allan and Judy Koespell. It was a 4 bedroom condo about a block from the beach.  All of our children except Tim (who was on a mission) and David (who was in China watching my silly dog) were with us, as well as our two wonderful sons-in-law, 2 beautiful grand daughters and Dave's folks.

Lizzy and I, at the Harbor, in Destin
It was an amazing time for me.  We had just gone though all the stressful events of Cecilia's birth, nearly losing Tricia to drug induced Lupus (caused by Macobid) and were desperately in need of a vacation. We cooked

together, did the dishes together, if a baby needed anything, someone was there to change, cuddle, sing to it. We explored the Destin area, with Grandma and Grandpa taking us to some of their favorite spots. This experience give me a glimpse of Zion and also a glimpse of just what the Celestial Kingdom will be like. Everyone working together, striving together to bring joy and happiness to those around them.

Grandpa with Liz , KC and Audrey

We spent many happy hours shopping at an amazing outlet mall, playing on the beach, listening to Mike and Liz sing. And eating great food, that's the thing about going home, you just miss the food you grew up eating.  China has some great food but it's not the stuff I grew up eating so when I get a chance to eat "real" food it makes me very happy.
Mike singing his Super hero's song.

I even found a yarn shop.  My kids thought it was funny that even on vacation I could find a yarn shop!  It's called "Destin Yarn Shop" and was on the way to the outlet mall, how could an avid knitter miss something like that? They had an awesome selection of yarn.  I was able to pick up some to knit my mother-in-law some knee warmers.  I also picked up some yarn and patterns for knitting my grand daughters some sweaters. I recommend stopping in when you are in Destin.
4 generations together!

But the best was seeing Grandma and Grandpa with their great grand children.  It was a priceless time for me.  They are such caring and wonderful people.  I am so blessed in both sets of my in-laws, but then I guess when you marry a man like Dave that is only to be expected, he had to learn it from someone.  We attended Christmas Eve services with Grandma and Grandpa, it was a magical night.  There was a BELL CHOIR!  So beautiful.

Christmas Morning, Presents!

Christmas morning was a special treat for me.  I was able to hold Audrey and snuggle her.  I don't get to spend much time with her since I live in China so the time I am able to spend with either of my grand daughters is extra special to me.
Mike and Grandpa

Grandpa and Cecelia 

Grandma and Stephanie


I read something this past Sunday, "The family is the most important organization in time or in eternity."(Joseph Fielding Smith) Moments like the week of Christmas 2013 help me to realize that the true joy in life comes from spending time with our families. Nothing else I have experience in my life has brought me the same level of joy.

Joseph Fielding Smith also said, "Far more important than the question of occupation or wealth of people is the question of how their family life is conducted. All other things are of minor consequence..."
Audrey in her Christmas jammies. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sabbath Day

"if thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then salt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." 
Isaiah 58:13-14

Hot Chocolate from the Ryma Cafe in Hangzhou, China
     An important day for me to rest from the cares of the world, study the word of the Lord and renew my covenants by attending church. By keeping the sabbath day holy, my life is refreshed and it gives me the strength to endure. Endure what you might ask? The daily events in my life that causes me to reach to the very depths of my soul to see the events though to their completion.  It can be as simple as finding the courage to move to a new land and learning how to function in a foreign society to watching your beautiful, brave daughter struggle to breathe and to live.
     I enjoy the beautiful hymns sung in church. They lift my soul to Heaven and instill in me a belief that this struggle is worth the effort. They also bring me peace and joy. I find a life without peace and joy a very depressing thought.
     I love watching the children at church. I wish I had,been more appreciative of my children's joy and innocence at church when my own children were young.  I was so overburdened with callings, responsibilities, trying to learn the gospel and "fit" the mold of a good LDS woman.  If I had it to do over again I wouldn't have allowed myself to be burdened down with the expectations of others. I would have cherished the moments in my life with my children at church.  I write this so my beautiful daughters may learn from me, cherish and rejoice with your children as you enjoy the great blessing of the sabbath.  I love the gospel, I love the things of the Spirit and so often I wasn't able to convey that to my children
    How I miss sitting with my beautiful babies! I loved our family nights when we would sing song after song. We would each choose a song for singing time, that meant we would sing at least 9 songs during singing time for family home evening.  "Nephi's Courage", "Follow the Prophet", "Book of Mormon Stories"were some of my very favorite songs. The children would sing these so enthusiastically, using hand gestures, they would pump their arm into the air with "I will go, I will do, the things the Lord commands" (in fact, one time during sacrament meeting, for some reason we sang "Nephi's Courage" and there was Dave, up on the stand with the bishopric, singing along, pumping his arm in the air!). 
    One particular family home evening, when Tricia was twelve years old, she taught the lesson. I still remember sitting on our king size bed, all the children gathered around, KC had just had surgery, so she was snuggled up against her mom and the Spirit filled the room surrounding us with all the warmth and joy associated with it.  These are such excellent memories and ones I hope will be recreated for my grandchildren.   

Friday, February 14, 2014

Frustrating Day in China

my Tomato over
      Today, as I watched The Pioneer Woman,  Ree Drummond, on, I was frustrated.  I love her blog, I love watching her with her family but when I try to recreate anything I find on the internet,  I find it is meiyo (not available). I have a large toaster oven that sits on my dryer for baking.  I use, said oven, to make my family's bread, cookies, casseroles. It is a great blessing in my life but by it's very nature is limiting in what it allows me to do.  I have a Phillips hand mixer which I use for mixing up frosting. I only it use it for frosting because it won't handle cookie dough or quick bread doughs etc.  I have the great joy of having the beaters pop off in the middle of whatever I am making, no matter how well I seat them before I begin. I brought my measuring cups, measuring spoons and spatulas from America when I moved here.  Every trip I take home I bring back a suitcase full of things to make my life just a little easier in the kitchen. You know the little things, like real vanilla, the imitation stuff just isn't the same. Not that I have found it for sale here in Hangzhou either but I have found a surprising amount of things available and it does grow more each month. A fact for which I am very grateful. It's almost as if the buyers for the stores here, get to peek into the suitcases of the incoming expat's and then stock it on the shelves at usually double or triple what I would have to pay at home.  A very small box of Post Cereal sells for $10 USD, So, it's always a game to me, how much can I cram into a suitcase, and have it only weight 50 pounds! This time I brought my Lodge cast iron, dutch oven.  It didn't leave a lot of weight for other things but is such a blessing to me.  I have two gas burners in the kitchen, there is a high flame setting and higher flame setting. Simmer really isn't a good option. It's great for stir fry and wok cooking but not for much else.  The pans here are usually thin as well, so having a cast iron pot is a large step up for me.

My best tool for cooking here is my electric pressure cooker, it's my crock pot that tenderizes meat!  I love it for making beans and soups, in 30 minutes my meat is tender and we could eat or it will "simmer" for hours like a crock pot. It isn't a good option though for cooking chicken and dumplings!  You really can't boil without building pressure and the pressure ruins the dumplings.  So for those I start in the pressure cooker and finish up carefully on the gas burner with my dutch oven.

As you can see from the picture, my oven sits atop my wonderful Bosch dryer.  The dryer is in my kitchen and washing machine sits on my balcony.  The dryer collects the water in a tank that must be emptied with every load.  It is surprising to me how much water each load of laundry has.  I am very grateful to Bosch for developing a dryer that doesn't have to have a vent to the outside.  There is no way that I could do that here in China conveniently. The dryer was 6500 rmb or about $1100 USD.  Expensive but so helpful, when it rains here there is no drying the clothes.

Today, we have a high of 45 degrees, with a low of 32. Over the past week and a half we have averaged a high of 39 degrees, during this time our heater has only worked sporadically. When it first began to fail, we found out about it from our downstairs neighbors.  I guess it was making quite a bit of noise and they wanted us to turn it off because the noise bothered them. (This China where it is never quiet, horns are always beeping, people talk very loudly, fireworks go off day and night, and did I mention this was the week of Chinese New Year where fireworks go off more than normal?) They came to demand that we turn our heat off at 10 pm. We told them sorry, we weren't going to go without heat overnight but that we would do our best to have it fixed first thing in the morning. First thing in the morning, David goes down with our friend Kimber to see about getting the heater fixed. Our neighbor is there ahead of him, demanding that management cut the heat to our apartment (good thing Kimber speaks Chinese or of course we wouldn't know any of this). Dave requests management send up their maintenance man to repair our heater.  Turns out the maintenance man has been given 3 weeks off for Chinese New Year and won't be returning until the 15 of February.  Oh Joy! Manager promises Dave that he will find someone else to repair it and not to leave our apartment so they can get in to fix it.  We miss church to stay home a wait for the repair man to show.  During one of trips to walk my dog (my 26 and 24 year old sons were waiting in the apartment for repair man). We come back to find said manager and downstairs neighbor turning off the power to our apartment! That did not go well, we spent the next three hours arguing with our neighbors and the apartment manager about "living the Chinese way" in other words, having no heat in a concrete box with high winds and thin panes of glass.  Because after all, better that we freeze than they have to listen to noise.

Suddenly, the neighbor remembers that he knows a man who can repair our furnace. 100 rmb later, the noise stops, oh joy, neighbor leaves, they are happy, the noise has stop, we are freezing and do so for the next four days, while my husband's company tries to track down a repair man for our heater.  Yesterday, a repairman does show up, 350 rmb later one of the heaters is working, the house actually begins to warm up, but I am realizing I may be cold for the rest of my life... Once you get that chilled it's very difficult to get rid of, only to wake up this morning to find that our heater has once again stopped working.  What I have learned from this experience.

  1. Don't trust your Chinese neighbor to find a repair man for you, he only cares about getting his needs met. It doesn't bother him at all that you are freezing.
  2. Repair men here will only do the bare minimum to repair said problem, they won't bring proper tools and their response to everything is meiyo. (I am so hating that word)
  3. Live on the ground floor, that way you won't panic when sons and husband try to fix the problem.
My life is definitely an adventure.  I am so grateful for heating blankets, the only source of heat I have had for the last week.