Just another day in Paradise.

Just another day in Paradise.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

End of summer.

The end of summer brings about lots of work.  Undoing the garden is not as much fun as planting it.  Here are all of my tomato plants with the majority of the fruit still green and attached. It was a great ab workout uprooting them. 

Cruz helped me organize the fruit by color.  What to do with all of those green tomatoes...

Two techniques that I read about to ripen tomatoes - one is to hang the entire plant upside down and let them continue to  redden on the vine.  Problem - I had 6 vines, each over 5 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide and not enough space to hang them.  I put one in the garage (which Miles and the neighbor boy promptly took as an invitation to pick the growing tomatoes off and chuck at our brick wall).  The others I layered in paper in a box and kept them in the garage (up high).  They have been ripening, so I am happy about that.  And we have been making lots of salsa.  Speaking of which, a new recipe (thanks to Amber) that is similar to our fave Cuca's has been a hit recently:

One dried California chili
3 tomatoes
Half of a white onion
3-5 garlic cloves
Bunch of cilantro
Salt to taste
squeeze of lime (optional)

Boil chili in water to reconstitute, about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes to boiling water and the skins will come off.  Put chili, tomatoes and some of the cooking liquid into blender.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend away.

This reminds me of another recent recipe that is easy and amazing and reminiscent of  Cuca's chicken taco's.  Next time you get a rotisserie chicken, try this one:  

Corn tortillas
Grapeseed Oil
(I don't know why but I think it contributes to the flavor but any oil would work)
Flaky Salt

Heat about 1/2-1 inch of oil in a pan (I use one big enough to cook about 4 at once)
Assemble chicken and cheese in center of each tortilla, fold in half and hold together with tongs in the oil until it cooks enough to hold itself, then move on to assembling next taco.  Flip when golden and crispy on one side. Remove from pan, drain oil while holding with tongs, place on paper towels and salt immediately.  You can add lettuce and tomatoes is you like as Cuca's does.  Any way is delicious.  You can also use other fillings.

With some of the green tomatoes I made green tomato pickles.  I'll probably never use these, but again, I needed to use every last one for my own peace of mind.  

I also dried and preserved my hydrangeas.  
I have an illness - and it involves making too much work for myself for no apparent reason.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Math hurts your brain.

This is where it hurts.

I knew it!  See Ms. Wilkenson!  Doing math really is painful for some people.  I dislike it, I avoid it when possible, and math hurts.  Unless there are dollar signs in front of it...then it seems to come a bit easier.  At least I never hated finance or accounting classes.

University of Chicago study on math and pain here.

 I feel completely validated.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The other election day.

In the U.S., election fatigue has driven people to tears. In China, it’s a struggle to hear even a murmur from behind the closed doors of the . China Digital Times

China is in the midst of their "elections" too.  And it just may benefit us to keep an eye on the sweeping congressional changes that are taking place there, as party factions shift power with Xi Jinping taking over.  I suspect that there will be some progressive happenings with the Communist Party, which could take years, or could happen very quickly.  It depends on which virtues decide to take over.  If you witnessed the speed with which they majorly overhauled Beijing in preparation for the Olympic Games you wouldn't be surprised by lightening quick political reform. On the other hand, if you have sat teapot after teapot, ganbei after ganbei trying to establish some guanxi, you might also not be surprised that it takes a generation to get anything done there*.  So we can only wait and see what happens and see what  ideology the new general secretary of the CPC (or CCP or PRC) adheres to.   In the meantime, all pigeons must be caged, toy helicopters kept out of the sky, marathons canceled, windows and doors on taxi cabs are to be child locked and knives, pencil sharpeners forbidden to be sold.  No songs with the words, death, die or dead allowed to air on the radio or TV.  Should the weather fail to cooperate...measures have been in place to take care of that since 2008.  If you are a Chinese dissident  you can forget about leaving your house from August through the completion of the Congress.  And you are welcome to be alive.

I love the U.S., it's capitalism and it's freedoms of speech and rights to do nearly anything you might wish to do (including voting), and I really like China and feel that in general it's government cares for the well being of it's people their quality of life (the U.S. has wacky, absurd news too, just Google it).  And most all of the people I have met in China are very happy.  So here's to hoping that the best is yet to come for both countries.  Ganbei!

* My mom recently sent me this quote by Michael Schuman of Time clipped out of The Week magazine and it is so true - One of the most persistent – and persistently bewildering – conversations I’m forced to endure with international businessmen (and especially Americans) is about their view on the marvels of Chinese efficiency. They paint China as a wonderland of quick transport, quick decision making, and quick-witted government officials. If only the U.S. operated like China, the argument goes, all of America’s problems could get solved.
My response to this is: Live here for a while. I can imagine pampered visitors thinking China is something it is not. If you fly into the nifty airports in Beijing or Shanghai, get whisked by a waiting driver to your snazzy hotel, have a few meetings, and then get escorted out again, China might appear to be a sparkling vision of modernity. But spend any time here, or try to really do anything, and the notion that China is an efficient place is rudely exposed as a myth.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

Well election day has come and is going.  And unless I can figure out some way to get my absentee ballot from Washington to California by 7pm, I will have missed my opportunity to cast my vote yet again.  Part of me feels bad about this, but the bigger part of me feels that I can enjoy my right not to vote just as much as someone else does the opposite.  Reasons why I did not vote:

1. I don't enjoy our political system or at least as far as I understand it.
2. I really really don't enjoy the media coverage.
3. I feel like my vote doesn't count, at least in the states that I have lived in to this point.
4. I did one of those who should you vote for based on the issues sites and they said I should vote for Gary Johnson.  I don't know who that is.
5. I didn't have time to study the issues enough to make good choices.
6. Of the two main guys running for president, I like them both and I think that they both have the best intentions for our country.
7. Whoever wins, I think I will still be okay.  I may end up paying a little more in taxes, or having a few less freedoms, but I'm okay with that. And if someone else feels more strongly that their lives will be better off by voting one way or another, then I don't want my ambivalent vote to counteract their need.
8. Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.  Being one impeachment, assassination or one heart attack away from having these guys be our commander in chief is actually really scary.  I wouldn't mind hitting the gym with Ryan or having Biden over for spaghetti but I can't confidently say that I would feel safe, or respected as a country with one of these guys at the helm.

What ticket would compel me to vote?  Obama/Romney... as in Michelle/Ann.  Hillary can keep her job and I'd like to see Laura Bush with a fantastic appointment as well.  Oh and Jill Biden too. I am a fan of all of these ladies.

(just of interest Michelle's outfit Michael Kors ($3290), Ann's Oscar De La Renta ($1690))

Things about the election season that I did enjoy:

1. PBS Frontline's documentary on the candidates: The Choice
2. The Alfred Smith Foundation's Catholic charity dinner and the speeches/roasts given by Romney and Obama. If you can find the whole thing in its entirety, it's worth a watch.  
3. Obama's line about the fewer horses and bayonets.  It didn't exactly speak to what Romney was saying, but it was funny. 
4. That Billy Graham influenced the decision to take Mormons off of the cult list on it's website. If for political reasons or whatever it's a good move.  

I don't think I will be apolitical my whole life.  Someday I will make more time for the issues and for activism.  In fact, next year I will be old enough to run for president myself if I want to.  But I will never want to.  Maybe mayor of a small town, but never president. And I did vote for our hometown school board last year.  That is important to me. 

As far as other people in the household...I know Ben didn't vote because his ballot is in a stack of miscellany next to the bed, and I think he feels neutral as I do.  Avery, on the other hand reported that she "voted" for Romney today in her class vote.  I was actually quite surprised since she has probably never heard Ben or I speak in defense of one candidate or the other.  I thought maybe she had heard that Romney was Mormon and identified with him somehow that way.  Nope.  Her reasoning - because "I think everyone should get a chance to be president if they want to."  


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Pics

I like that the kids still share a bed.  I'm surprised that no one has wanted to move up to the top bunk.  Wouldn't this picture have been cuter if taken with Instagram?  But my phone disqualifies me from Instagram.  And my iPad doesn't have a camera.  Poor poor me.  

In this photo Avery is reading a book about Beatrix Potter.  Cruz is studying up on the ways of the Big Bad Wolf and Miles is playing the GameBoy that his friend lent him for 'eleven days'.  Ben told him he couldn't play on it since it was bedtime, but I overrode that since they were being so good and so quiet and every time he would look up at me he would flash me a little dimpled smile.  Miles helped justify  the decision by saying that I am the boss of dad since I'm older.  This is true. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sugar Skulls

Not being able to resist the promise of mariachi music, we took the kids to the Dia de los Muertos celebration held at the local mortuary/memorial park, where they ate their share (and then some) of pan dulce and decorated sugar skulls and enjoyed the music.  We have decided that we can have our own mariachi band someday with Avery on the violin, Miles on the trumpet, Ben on the guitar and vocals and Cruz on the guitarrĂ³n. I will be their agent.

(The pasta skeleton above is a remnant of our October Activity Girls lesson where we wrote creepy poetry and made related art)