Thursday, May 28, 2015

Writing practice

Last night I wrote a Lang-8 post. I received a few corrections and rewrote my post based on the suggestions. My writing is still fairly simple but I am learning a lot. Hopefully I will keep improving. Here's what I wrote:

今天晚飯我做壽司了. 非常喜歡壽司. 壽司當作晚飯是最好的.
晚飯後, 我跟我的先生去吃冰淇淋. 我吃了巧克力冰淇淋. 好吃!
明天早上我要去圖書館. 我得還幾本書. 圖書館是我最喜歡的地方.

Tonight’s meal
Tonight, I made sushi for dinner. I love sushi! Sushi is my favorite meal.
After dinner, my husband and I went to eat ice cream. I ate chocolate ice cream. It was delicious!
Tomorrow morning I want to go to the library. I need to return a few books. The library is my favorite place.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Chinese milestone reached!

I just finished the Intermediate Course at Yoyo Chinese. I am incredibly proud of myself! It took a long time but I have learned so much. I highly recommend the website for anyone who wants to learn Chinese.

Since I love numbers, I crunched a few.

Beginner level course
Started - February 4, 2014
Finished - September 6, 2014

Intermediate level course
Started - September 7, 2014
Finished - May 27, 2015

Anki vocabulary deck
Cards: 2,789 (roughly 1,300 words and phrases)
Total: 58,825 reviews
Average for days studied: 108.3 cards/day
Total study time: 76 hours
Due tomorrow: 106 cards

Anki sentences deck
Cards: 1,890 (roughly 900 unique sentences)
Total: 19,481 reviews
Average for days studied: 39.8 cards/day
Total study time: 61 hours
Due tomorrow: 45 cards

Total study time: 316.4 hours

This study time total includes Anki, grammar lessons, writing practice, watching Mandarin television (only logged in 1/2 time since it's not active), etc. This is EVERYTHING I have done to study Chinese in the past 15 months.

Note - it is said that it takes 10,000 hours to reach full academic fluency in another language. At this point, I am only aiming for conversational fluency, not academic fluency. I have a long, long way to go...

All of the vocab and sentences for the last few lessons have been entered into Anki, but I still have to learn a number of them. I have a feeling it will take awhile before my Daily Due numbers decrease. However, I have many, many more vocabulary words to learn in order to become fluent!

I'm not yet sure what I will tackle next. I know that I need to continue watching Mandarin shows in order to gain listening practice. I also need to start writing regular entries on Lang-8 to practice my writing and reinforce the vocab and grammar I have learned.

I will probably start following a Taiwanese blogger (native Mandarin speaker). I already have several blogs bookmarked and need to pick one. That way I can get a feel for the writer's voice, learn the vocab words they use regularly, and get practice reading. I also need to find a way to start speaking Mandarin.

At some point, I need to find a grammar book that picks up where Yoyo Chinese left off. I have no idea which grammar book to use.

I am thrilled that I have come this far and can't wait to see how long it takes to reach conversational fluency. Another year or two? Hopefully my soon-to-be-daughter wants to keep her native language and will talk to me in Mandarin. We shall see!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May Nightstand - full of books!

What's On Your Nightstand

It has been ages since I've participated in a Nightstand post but I finally remembered to write up a post on the correct day!

I have two shelves full of library books. The top shelf is mostly adult books whereas the second shelf is full of kids' books that I am previewing for my future daughter. I'm slowly starting to build up a personal library of children's books but want to make sure they are quality books.

This first book is one I am most excited about - Dinotopia. I'm not familiar with it but a friend recommended it. We've flipped through it and the artwork is fantastic! I can't wait to read the story.

Kisses from Katie has been on my to-read list for ages and I finally borrowed it from the library. Hopefully I can finish it before it's due next week.

This last book is one I definitely need to buy. You're Loved No Matter What has been powerful and I'm only 50 pages in. I have struggled to feel worthy of love as far back as I can remember. I'm still trying to find my worth as a daughter of the King and hope that this book helps a bit.

Last but not least, I'm working my way through Christy, this month's Reading to Know bookclub selection. I definitely won't be finishing it by the end of the month but I'm glad for the chance to reread it.

What have you been reading lately? I'll be taking a flight to Taiwan later this summer and am in need of a good book, something engaging but that doesn't require a lot of thought. It's a 12 hour flight so a thick book would be great! Anything you'd highly recommend?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Cheesemaking progress

We are plowing forward in our efforts to make feta cheese. After three days of drying, the cheese was finally ready for the next step. It's a good thing I read the directions online instead of relying on the pamphlet in the kit. The pamphlet said that the cheese should dry for two days; the online directions said it could take up to three days to dry. Mine took three full days.

Close up of this beautiful but stinky cheese

Jarred and in a light brine solution. These are going in the fridge to ripen for another 7-10 days and then we'll do a taste test.

Speaking of cheese, we discovered a very happy announcement at the mall.

Beecher's is coming to our local mall! Woohoo! I adore their fresh mac&cheese but we have to visit Pike Place Market in order to partake. Soon there will be a restaurant 15 minutes from our house!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Travel research

I've been poking around at travel websites, trying to get an idea for how much money our Taiwan trip will cost. We're going to aim high so that we don't have to worry about money while in Taiwan. I am getting really, really excited now! Only a couple more months!

Friday, May 22, 2015

I need to hear from you!

Because I am soon going to be a mom (I love saying that!), I've been nesting. As part of my nesting, I desperately want to overhaul my blog design. I have considered switching to WordPress as I know WordPress allows a lot more customization. However, I'm a complete newbie at blog design so I wonder if WordPress would be too complicated for me.

So if you follow my blog, could you leave me a comment and let me know how you follow me? Do you use an RSS reader? Google Friend Connect? Something else entirely?

Please let me know! :)

My goal is to have a new blog design before we leave for Taiwan as I know my life is about to change dramatically. I cannot wait!!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Adventures in Cheesemaking

I finally dove into my cheesemaking yesterday. I didn't mean to wait until so late in the month but stuff kept happening and I couldn't find an entire day to devote to the process.

Starting off with whole milk from Whole Foods.

Using the thermometer from the kit...

only to discover that ours works so much better!

At the end of step one, the milk was starting to change form.

I did a really messy job turning it into curds.


Draining some more.

Starting the drying process.

Drying while covered in cheesecloth.

I started the process yesterday morning around 10. I think it was 11PM or so when it was finally ready to add the ingredients for the brine. This morning I had to get up early and lay it all out so that it could dry flat. I've been rotating the cheese every couple of hours today so that it will dry on all sides. I have to do the same tomorrow and then Sabbath morning it finally starts the ripening process. It will be another week before it's ready to eat.

What have I learned? This takes a lot of time and way more patience than I possess. I had SUCH a hard time keeping the milk at the right temperature. It was supposed to be heated indirectly so I placed the pan on top of my frying pan. The frying pan was filled with water and heated, which then heated my pan and the milk. Even with that, I couldn't get it hot enough and then I way overshot the target temperature. To be honest, I might have ruined it. It smells like cheese but it's pungent. It's supposed to ripen into feta cheese, which I know has a strong smell. But this is slightly different. I'm not sure if it's normal or if I ruined the cheese when I heated the milk too hot. We're going to wait until tomorrow to see if the smell changes and decide if we're going to keep the process going or toss it out and try again some other time.

Either way, if I end up with trash or cheese, it has definitely been a learning experience. I had no idea cheesemaking is so HARD!

Friday, May 15, 2015

First court hearing

Tonight was our seventh Skype call with Cin-Ru and it was the best one yet. Why? Because we were told that we had our first court hearing on May 8th. At that court hearing, Cin-Ru, her social worker, and the agency director stood in front of the judge as he or she reviewed our adoption petition. The judge asked Cin-Ru if she wants to come to America and if she wants to be adopted.

She said YES!!!!!

If everything goes well, this beautiful child will be my daughter very soon. We have to wait for the judge to issue a ruling on our adoption petition and then there are several other steps to make the adoption final. But the agency thinks we will be traveling to meet Cin-Ru in either July or August. I cannot wait!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Small projects make a big difference

Today I wrapped up several small projects. First, I finally retrieved my CD out of my husband's retired laptop. His old laptop is the only CD drive left in the house and I accidentally left the CD in the computer when I played it a week ago.

Then I scanned the photo that my grandma mailed to me last week. I'm sending the hard copy to my mom but wanted a scanned version for my photo albums.

This is me at 13 months' of age. I actually rather like this photo!

Finally, I decluttered and rearranged the bookshelf in our dining room.



I decluttered KonMarie style. (Which reminds me that I really need to write up a blog post about the book itself...) I pulled every item off the shelf and asked myself, "does this bring me joy?" If so, I put it back. If not, out it went. Sort of. I now have a growing pile downstairs of stuff that needs to be physically removed from my house.

I'm happy with the results! The top shelf holds my sponsorship notebooks where I keep all of the letters from the children we sponsor, my library books, and review books that I am in the middle of reading and reviewing. The second shelf now holds our Bibles and a row of children's books. The first couple books are ones that we purchased for Cin-Ru. The rest are library books that I will be reading to better discern what we should actually buy.

The bottom shelf now holds some of Cin-Ru's toys that require a table to be used. We intentionally chose not to purchase a desk or table for her bedroom. This way, she'll be encouraged to spend time upstairs with the rest of the family instead of hiding out in her room. I thought it would be a good idea to move these types of toys upstairs so that she can pull something out and play at the dining room table with us instead of in her room without us. I still need to sort through the toys downstairs as I am sure there are more that I can bring upstairs. I'll leave the dolls and some of the books downstairs.

I'm happy with my progress today! Now off to study Chinese so that I can actually talk to my daughter once we meet her in Taiwan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Scripture Memory Songs - a review

Adams Group sent out an email asking if people were interested in reviewing a newly released CD titled Scripture Memory Songs. I jumped at the chance! This CD is by the same writer who wrote the book Life Not Typical, which I reviewed here. This CD includes 30 Scripture songs which are word for word from the NIV, plus nine original tracks that remind me of VBS theme songs.

I requested this CD with the hope of helping Cin-Ru memorize Bible texts. I remember learning Scripture songs as a child and enjoyed them. I can still sing a number of them even though I haven't heard them in years. I'm not sure if Cin-Ru will be interested in this style of music, as most of the songs were reminiscent of 80's children's music. She listens to Taiwanese pop, which is a far cry from this CD!

I carefully listened to every single track on the CD and liked 8 of the 39 songs. When I replayed these eight songs, I realized that most of them were stylistically different from the rest of the CD. Most of the CD is piano music with Jennifer and a small children's choir singing. The songs I liked had drums or an acoustic guitar along with the piano. This is probably a reflection of my taste in music as I mostly listen to Air1 radio.

My husband was a bit more vocal in his opinion and asked that I please not give the CD to Cin-Ru. He does not enjoy listening to children sing, especially when they are not very talented. The children on this CD are not bad singers but they are also not talented. Ms. Shaw has a beautiful voice and I felt like the CD would have been better had she been the only one singing. Jeff also found the scripture references at the end of each song rather jarring.

Overall, I think I will keep the eight songs that I really liked and create my own playlist. I think the album is a great idea but it wasn't my taste in music and felt dated. Hopefully it will appeal to children but I'm not sure it will appeal to my 13 year old who is coming from a secular background and is accustomed to Taiwanese and Chinese pop music.

You can preview the CD here if you want to see if your children would be interested in this style of music! Track 11 was my favorite!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Upcoming Skype call - what to do?

We are preparing for our Skype call on Friday and are running into a bit of a dilemma. We're not sure what to prepare! Cin-Ru is really shy with us. She will answer our questions but has only asked a couple of her own, even when prompted. I can tell that Cin-Ru is a hands-on kiddo and not really one for conversation with strangers (I don't blame her!).

So far, we have:

asked her a bunch of questions
showed her Mandarin books
showed Taiwanese snacks available here
toured the house
held up a few outfits for her
watched her open two care packages
decorated cookies
showed her a birthday cake we baked for her
played with the cat
showed off toys like puzzles, sticker books, art supplies

I'm not sure what else to do! We have a ton more questions we can ask and will continue working our way down the list. I have a fun picture book to read her. I still haven't been able to read the paragraph I wrote in Chinese, due to the audio issues during the last two calls. What else?

We walked around the toy and craft departments at Fred Meyer tonight, trying to come up with ideas of something we could do that she'd be interested in watching. We left with the store with nothing. The closest we came to buying something was a travel sized version of this game:

Unfortunately, it seemed like a dumbed down version of the game I played as a child. I don't know if the newer ones are all like that, but it played a really annoying song between each game and never gave us more than four beats to repeat. I remember going up to 8 or 10 in the pattern but this one seemed really simple.

We have three days to come up with something. If you have any ideas, please let me know! When I posted on Facebook asking for ideas, almost everyone had talkative kids. We can't rely on conversation alone to carry us through a 30 to 45 minute long call. So what worked for them definitely won't work for us!

I can't wait to see Cin-Ru and find out how she's doing! I just hope she doesn't find us boring.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

Ah, Mother's Day...

Last year my mom sent me a beautiful card with a note about how I was going to soon be a mother. I loved that card and was so grateful that my mom thought of me, even though our adoption was still in process. We thought for sure that we would be celebrating Mother's Day 2015 as a family of three.

But then in October, our dreams for Zih-Ting came crashing down when she refused to join our family.

We immediately started Cin-Ru's adoption, as we already knew that we wanted to adopt her. For months, I mourned the loss of Zih-Ting even while I slowly started to open my heart to Cin-Ru. Older adoption is scary and not just because of the trauma the child has already faced. Older children have to agree to the adoption. After being denied once, it was really hard for me to risk my heart again.

So I debated... should I celebrate Mother's Day this year or skip it? All indicators point toward Cin-Ru telling the judge that she wants to be adopted by our family. But there is always a chance that she'll get scared when the time comes to say yes or no.

My husband made the decision for me, telling me that he wanted to take me out for a nice meal to affirm the hard work I've done thus far to prepare for motherhood. I am married to such a sweet, sweet man. We went to the Teapot Vegetarian House, a favorite restaurant of ours. It's nice that we can eat anything off the menu as it's all vegan. I ordered spicy and sweet eggplant, which I absolutely loved.

Then for dessert, we split a slice of vegan cheesecake. It was fantastic!

I am still hoping that next Mother's Day, we will finally be a family of three. I don't know if Cin-Ru will be able to embrace Mother's Day or if it will be yet another reminder of the biological family she lost. Either way, if Mother's Day is a traumaversary for her or a celebration of a new mother, I'll still be grateful for the chance to love this beautiful 13 year old girl that I have started to think of as my daughter.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Such a beautiful day!

Bruno enjoying our walkway

Since it was such a beautiful day, we went for a drive. Because it was a fairly last minute decision, we didn't plan it out. Instead, we just drove around Lake Sammamish.

We didn't stop to take pictures of the lake, but I did take a quick photo of the distant hills.

These flowers are in our complex.

I'd love to grow the pink ones in our yard someday when we buy a house.

Friday, May 8, 2015

My week in photos

I thought it would be fun to post a few snippets of my week, captured in photos.

making okonomiyaki for the first time

avocado tree getting taller

new growth - two brand new leaves!

my next KonMarie project

beautiful condolence card from our vet

a bit overwhelmed with all the kids' books!

trying to find good books for Cin-Ru

what my puzzle should have looked like

how it looked when I finally gave up

trying a new pizza place

karahi paneer veggie pizza - yum!

This is a fun way to post. Maybe I'll have to try it again in the future!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


As part of my Chinese studies, I have started watching a Taiwanese television show titled "The Patisserie With No Name." I stumbled across this show and was delighted to discover that not only does it have English subtitles, it has Mandarin subtitles! This means I can listen, test my comprehension, and look up words if I wasn't able to catch what was said (this happens a lot because I have a hard time following speakers at native speed).

In tonight's episode, I heard some familiar words but wasn't sure what they meant when used together. I know what each of these words means individually but have never heard them used as a phrase. 吃吃看吧 - After digging around in the dictionary, I discovered it basically means "give it a taste!" when offering someone a new-to-them dish. So I searched to see if it's a commonly used phrase and found a blog I have to follow and learn how to read. This recent post looks like a review of a pastry shop in Taipei. I am drooling!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Making cheese - the prep work

Tomorrow I head to the store to buy the ingredients for making feta cheese!

These directions are seriously intimidating... heat milk with indirect heat. Hold exactly at 86 degrees for an hour. Stir. Allow to set for another half hour, maintaining 86 degree temperature. Eek! Well, we shall see what happens!

Friday, May 1, 2015

May 30 Day Challenge

To help keep me busy while we wait and wait and wait for the court process, I thought it would be fun to pick a project for the month of May. There are several I could have picked from, most of which consist of finishing knitting and quilting projects that are in various stages of completion. But I thought it would be more fun to do something related to cooking - making cheese.

My mother-in-law bought me a cheesemaking kit for Christmas and I am so excited to get started!

I have two cheesemaking books. One is for dairy cheeses...

And the other is for vegan cheeses...

This weekend I will flip through both books, decide what type of cheese I want to attempt, and make a shopping list in preparation for grocery shopping on Monday. I can't wait!