Monday, January 26, 2009

Calabash creek

Before John and Elizabeth (now age 7 and 4) came into our lives, we did a fair amount of traveling. Often we would take a few extra days either before or after a business trip and detour to a quaint bed and breakfast somewhere. It wasn't always a B&B, but when we would find one that that was a bit unusual then we would often find ourselves gravitating in that direction.

I thought it would be fun to dig up some of our favorites and return 'virtually' during the next few cold and somewhat dreary winter weeks!

This first one is located about 45 minutes north of San Francisco in the Sonoma/ Napa valley area. It is situated right on the main street in Glen Ellen Ca. hidden behind a row of impeccably manicured boxwoods carved to resemble sculptures. The grounds truly look as if each blade of grass has been hand trimmed. What impressed me most about this B&B was it's simplicity. Most of the rooms have fireplaces, granite soaking tubs and ours looked out over Calabash Creek. The rushing water and our own Japanese garden complete with a bamboo fountain made for a most relaxing and wonderful get away!

Just outside our door were lemon and orange trees! The lemons were so large and yellow they almost didn't look real. The pool also overlooked Calabash creek and we had it all to ourselves. Breakfast was served in the main house prepared by a gourmet chef. A little known fact about the tiny town of Glen Ellen (one red light) is that it housed some of the most famous restaurants in California. All in sleepy Glen Ellen! We could step out the front door of the Inn and walk a block or so and have so many choices of world famous chefs.

The Napa valley is filled with hidden treasures (other than wine) and there are amazing trails if you bike, or antique shops along the side of curvy roads and so many other fun things to do.

More eye candy can be found HERE if you want to continue this virtual vacation!

Next stop you don't want to miss!

Pack a virtual bag and join in! I'd love to hear about your favorite places either "off the beaten path" or right on it! Leave a comment with a link to your favorites!

She takes my breath away

Sometimes being a parent has it's moments (good and bad), and tonight was one of those moments you simply want to freeze in your memory. We had finished our nighttime ritual and were tucking piggy toes under warm blankets in bed when I reminded the children they had a big day tomorrow including a birthday party for a special friend at Chuck E Cheese.

Elizabeth squealed and jumped out from under the covers and grabbed my face between her hands tenderly and said "One more sleep until the party Mommy"??! Yes I replied, One more sleep. She threw her arms around me and said "Oh Mommy Thank you!!! You are the best Mommy in the whole world. I LOVE Chuck E Cheese"!!!

Wow, and I'm only the chauffeur :)

Chinese New Year's Eve traditions from a typical family in China and a Recipe..

Looking back it is hard to believe our first Chinese New Year celebration with our Elizabeth was 3 years ago! I look at these first Chinese New Year pictures of her (and John) and see just how far she has come!! Each year we seem to add a bit more to our repertoire of Chinese New Year traditions and this year is no different. I also find it facinating to learn about the traditions a typical family in China celebrate this major holiday in their homeland. Here's some of what I've learned..

New Year's Eve Dinner

On the night of New Year's Eve, Chinese families come together for a
celebration dinner. This custom is also called "surrounding the
hearth," from the custom in earlier times of eating dinner around
the family hearth.

Both children and adults eat together and dinner begins only after
all of the family members are present at the table. A table setting
is placed for those unable to come home for dinner on this day to
symbolize their presence though far away. As the nuclear family
becomes an increasingly scarce phenomenon in modern society, this
symbol of unity takes on increasing significance.

New Year's Eve dinner is best eaten slowly, savoring the flavor of
each dish. Several of the dishes served on this occasion have
auspicious meaning and are indispensable to the night's menu:

- "Long Year Vegetables" (mustard greens) to represent intelligence;

- "Whole Chicken," symbolizing wealth for the whole family
(since "chicken" and "family" rhyme in the Taiwanese dialect

- fish balls, shrimp balls, and meat balls are eaten to symbolize
the three top scores earned during the civil service examination in
ancient China and, by extension, success in educational pursuits.

The only dish not included in the cornucopia of food eaten on the
New Year's Eve dinner table is whole fish, which is intentionally
left off the menu so that "there will be more to come in future
years" (since the Chinese words for "fish" and "surplus" rhyme).

Some families will also prepare "jiaozi," Chinese dumplings stuffed
with meats and vegetables. Since the shape of the dumplings
resembles a gold ingot, eating jiaozi symbolizes the calling of
wealth into one's life, and some go even as far as to stuff real
money in the dumplings to insure that the coming year will bring


CNY Food: Dumpling ("Jiaozhi") ... with a Recipe!!

People from north and south have different habits of the food they
eat on this special day.

In Northern China, people usually eat "jiaozi" (or dumpling), which
is shaped like a crescent moon. It is said that dumplings were first
known in China some 1,600 years ago.

The Chinese pronunciation of "jiaozi" means "midnight" or "the end
and the beginning of time."

According to historical records, in ancient times people from both
north and south ate dumplings on Chinese New Year's Day. Perhaps
because Southern China produced more rice than any other areas,
gradually, southerners had more other choices on New Year's Day.

The shape of jiaozi resembles that of ancient gold and silver ingots
or a crescent moon, and symbolizes the hope for a year of plenty.

In some places, people stuff jiaozi with sugar to wish for a sweet
life; others put one or two clean coins in jiaozi -- if you happen
to come across one with a coin inside, it means you will enjoy good

Many families in China usually prepare enough jiaozi to last several
days during the Spring Festival.


1 lb. ground pork (or beef)
6 t. sesame oil
2 t. sugar
0.75 t. salt
0.25 t. pepper
0.25 lb. cabbage (with extra 1 t. salt)
0.25 lb. chopped green onions

3 c. flour
0.75 c. cold water
0.5 c. flour (to prevent sticking during kneading)


1. Filling: Mix ground pork, oil, sugar, salt and pepper well. Chop
cabbage until fine. Mix the cabbage with 1 t. salt and let sit for
10 minutes; squeeze out the excess water. Mix the cabbage, ground
pork, and green onions well.

2. Skin: In a bowl, add water to the flour and knead into smooth
dough; let it stand for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into a long baton-
like roll, and cut it into 50 pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll each
piece to a thin circle.

3. Place 1 portion of filling in the center of a dough circle. Fold
the circle in half and moisten the edges with water. Use index
finger and thumb to bring the sides together. Pleat one edge while
keeping the other edge smooth. The smooth edge will conform to the
decreased length of the pleated edge. Pinch the pleats together then
pinch to seal. Repeat procedure for the other dumplings.

4. Boil 10 cups of water and add dumplings; stir to prevent
dumplings from sticking together. Bring to a boil; turn the heat to
low and cook for 6 minutes. Remove. When serving, use vinegar, soy
sauce, sesame oil, hot bean paste, etc. as dipping sauces.

The boiled dumplings also can be lighty pan fried ("pot stickers")
for a different taste consitency.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Questionable post

I debated for a while about whether to make this post but thought it might help others in the same situation so here you go..

My husband has "been invited" and decided to participate in a clinical trial for those with IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome). I don't think he reads this so he will have no clue why people (who have seen this) are smiling and chuckling at him the next time he sees them! The theory is that IBS is of a bacterial origin and a very common medicine used to treat travelers diarrhea in a much higher dose will "cure" the problem. To date there appears to be about an 80%+ success rate.

Participants will undergo a "free" colonoscopy -_-_-_HEY a bargain's a bargain right? After the colonoscopy they will keep a journal for approx. 2 weeks of their diet and then finally the drug (or placebo).

I'll post the results upon his completion of the study.

So today and tonight my sweetheart 'enjoys' a clear liquid diet along with the infamous 'prep' for the procedure and has the distinct honor of getting his *free* colonoscopy in the morning.

Cheers dear!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hot Carob, Inauguration, Snow, and Chinese New Year

We woke to a beautiful blanket of snow and even though it wasn't deep, it at least covered the ground. It was just enough to close the schools and below freezing temps. kept it on the ground all day. Obviously the first thing the children wanted to do was "go play in it".. forget breakfast, dressing for the Arctic, and brushing teeth,, just let me OUT MOM!!!

Out they went and enjoyed every second in the frozen tundra of our backyard. A short time later little red nose prints appeared at the door and it was time for a warm up of hot carob, honey, vanilla and some extra marshmallows. It was approaching the noon hour by this time and we turned on the Inauguration coverage.

I huddled John and E'beth together on my lap with our fire going and we snuggled under a large cozy blanket and prayed with them about our nation. I explained again why we don't agree with most of Mr. Obama's ideas and agenda. John spoke up before I had the chance and exclaimed that we still need to pray for him since he will be the leader of our country even if we don't agree. A very intuitive child. Yes. We prayed that Mr. Obama would open his heart and let God lead in decisions that will affect the families of our nation for generations to come. We talked about how blessed we are to live in a country that has a peaceful transition of power and leadership etc.

About that time President Bush entered the Inaugural area. I was quite disturbed to hear THIS as our sitting President walked in. In my opinion this was beyond disrespectful during such a public and historic occasion from those that speak of tolerance. I had to attempt an explanation to our children why (after just talking about the importance of praying for our new leader and honoring the office of Presidency) the crowds of Obama supporters were so disrespectful (especially at that moment) to the only President our children have ever known.

On a much more upbeat note we have started to decorate our home each year to celebrate Chinese New Year. After the Christmas tree is taken down, I have some cherry blossom branches that John and Elizabeth decorate with ornaments and string lanterns over the fireplace. Elizabeth sings what little she remembers from some Chinese new year songs (thanks to our friend Donna S :) Sadly, this Mommy isn't much help with the memory of Mandarin!

After this it was full circle and time to go outside again now that the mittens were dry! Around dinner time (how convenient) once more the little red noses appeared on the breakfast room window.. Then, DADDY CAME HOME and took them OUT AGAIN for nighttime sleigh riding! Can you just imagine the look on their faces when Daddy said 'lets go out after dark and I'll take you sleigh riding! We certainly made the most of our inch of snow~!

Friday, January 16, 2009

the gift

We gathered our family this evening and told them the story of the fire at'aplacecalledsimplicity' and how tonight there are no familiar jammies to wear, no special blankies to hold, no favorite stuffed animals to cuddle with, an unfamiliar bed, etc.. we watched our children's eyes grow wider and wider. Then, our 4 year old Elizabeth started to cry. She went to her room and began to sift through her things and got a box to mail them. Our son joined in and took scotch tape from a drawer to 'tape' the box. The items in the box would probably be so insignificant as far as every day use but the fire has touched our children's hearts in a way we never could.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Fire and now their son is in the ER

UPDATE: Their son is in surgery.
More hardship hits this family today as we are hearing from Lori. Apparently they are rushing their son Graham to the ER with a possible appendicitis attack.

Updates continue about the fire (see the below post) and this "Mom of many" details what happened yesterday in the wee early morning as she raced to get her children out of the house. If there was ever a lesson about the importance of multiple smoke detectors and escape routes it is documented in her story.

There is an effort to help re-build their home and Lori shares the specifics on her site.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

With a heavy heart

A fire early this morning destroyed the home of this amazing mom of 9 children. She just returned from Uganda several weeks ago and after coming back with their 2 newest additions this family's home is now gone. Thankfully, all children escaped with the clothes on their back, and my friend Linny without a coat. Please uphold this dear family in prayer. Updates and pictures of the fire as well as ways to help can be found HERE and HERE.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Boss

We are cracking down on some rules in our home for both children. The house can't be all Mommy's responsibility and so even though all along we have expected certain things we are now requiring more chores from both John and Elizabeth.

I asked John (now 7 yrs. old) to pick up all the things on his floor and I would come inspect when he was finished. When I went in, he had picked up most of it, but there were obvious items "overlooked".

I explained that when he grew up and had a boss that he would need to follow instructions carefully or he could loose his job.

John's reply... "Mom, Don't worry, I will BE the boss".

Thursday, January 8, 2009

If you think it's **CoLd** where you are ..

you ain't seen nothin' yet baby.... most of us will never experience weather as cold as this. Here's someone that lives it daily.
You won't believe this.
(make sure you scroll down for the pics)

Monday, January 5, 2009


there is an ancient parable about a young man on a journey. He came upon a raging river and needed a raft to cross. He built the raft and safely made it to the other side. He decided to bring the raft with him for the rest of the journey just in case he would need it again someday. He ended up carrying the raft on his shoulders with him the rest of his life never using it again.

Can I ever relate to the above! I look around my house and see all the things I *might* need or use again someday! Do I REALLY need to save that empty gourmet lemon curd jar?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Imagine living like this?

We have been concerned for some friends living in Israel and got this from them tonight...

... "At the moment we are safe because I live in the center of Israel, next to Tel Aviv, which is nicknamed "the bubble" because geographically and mentally it is disconnected from the line of fire in our borders. This is really a little naïve because actually missiles launched by the Hamas are falling 25 minutes drive from here... Also, our soldiers have entered Gaza tonight which was inevitable in order to clear all terrorist activity, but that itself is so dangerous. Unfortunately this has become a part of our daily life routine, but nothing has really changed in the past 3000 years and probably will not change anytime soon".

We were thankful to hear they are ok. Our prayers are with them and Israel as a nation.

Thursday, January 1, 2009