Thursday, April 24, 2008

Leaving tomorrow for vacation...

Despite the Skybus fiasco of the past few weeks, we are departing tomorrow for vacation. We are flying to Jacksonville tomorrow evening to spend two nights at K's brother's house in southeast GA, and then driving across the Florida panhandle to spend the rest of the week with K's parents in coastal Alabama. Sophie is excited to meet her Uncle E, Aunt M, cousin D and her soon-to-be-hubby M in Georgia. And, while at Grandma and Pap-Pap H's, we hope to get to the zoo, the beach, and spend some quality time at the pool overlooking the bay. Oh, and we have a special dinner planned (more on that later) and I even think Grandma has a little surprise in store for EJ's upcoming birthday.

In honor of our pending departure, I have acquired quite a nasty cold. It was a sore and scratchy throat yesterday, but it has since erupted into full-blown sinus misery with sneezing, watering eyes, and coughing as well. Oh joy. Usually I get sick a day or two after traveling on the plane. I guess this time I'll be the one sharing it. Pity those sitting near me.

And please keep your fingers crossed that Sophie does well on the flight. Her last flight was a 13.5 hour one from Hong Kong to Chicago, chased by a 2 hour jaunt home from there. She did great on that one...slept for nearly 9 hours of it. But she wasn't mobile then. And now she is. And that about sums up my fears. Plus, it will be early evening, leading into dinner and warm milk and night-night time. It could get ugly. Very ugly. I'm packing lots of snacks and amusements. And JetBlue has TVs in the seats, so perhaps we can find some Elmo or Pooh to watch.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Great Children's Literature

EJ and I recently finished reading "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler". It was written more than 40 years ago and won the Newbery Medal in 1967. The description from "When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn't just want to run from somewhere she wants to run to somewhere--to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and preferably elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing that her younger brother, Jamie, has money and thus can help her with the serious cash flow problem she invites him along. Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at an auction for a bargain price of $250. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn't it? Claudia is determined to find out. This quest leads Claudia to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

I ordered this book for EJ a few months ago from the Scholastic book order at her school. She didn't think it looked interesting, but once we started it, we were addicted. What I found amazing about the book was that it's about two kids who runaway to the museum for a week, but the backstory of how the parents must be frantic in searching for them never comes into the book. If the book were a recent one, that would be the focus of the story!

Anyway, she asked if I could find some other books by this author, so today I picked up "The View From Saturday" and "Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth" to read while we're on vacation next week.

Last week, we started "Steal Away Home" by Lois Ruby. EJ really likes historical fiction, and this one is a page-turner. From Amazon: "Dana, 12, is helping her parents to restore an old house in Kansas as a bed-and-breakfast when she discovers a boarded-up room containing a human skeleton. With it, she finds the diary of Millicent Weaver, a Quaker and early resident of the house. She learns that the house was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and that runaway slaves were taken there by a former slave, Lizbet Charles. Of course, Miz Lizbet is Dana's skeleton, and the cause of her death at the age of 25 is finally revealed at the end of the novel. The story is told in alternating chapters, shifting between the present and 1856, when the events involving the long-dead young woman took place."

We're really enjoying this one, and we learned today that it has a sequel! EJ really enjoys learning about all aspects of American history, and this one tied in well with some of the American Girl Addy stories. We've also read several books from the Dear America series, including one called "So Far From Home" about a young girl who comes to America from Ireland and works in the textile mills in nearby Lowell, MA. There is a textile museum there that EJ would like to visit now that she's read the book. These are great books, as they're written in diary style through the eyes of the main character. Santa brought several of these books, and we still have a few more to read!

A Looooong Weekend

It's a long weekend here in the H house...well, for ME anyway! Tomorrow is Patriots Day in Massachusetts, so I'm off for the day. Patriots Day celebrates the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles in the American Revolutionary War. Most people, however, only think of Patriots Day as Boston Marathon Day! Anyway, I plan to spend the day packing, as we're on vacation next week.

It's been a beautiful weekend here - in the 70s Friday and the high 60s Saturday and today with lots of bright sunshine. Last night, K and I felt like such grown-ups. We went into Boston to meet up with four other couples for dinner at Maggiano's, and we had so much fun! It was a late night for us...we didn't get home until 12:15. Three weeks ago when the babysitter came, she arrived at 4 and we were back home by 9 PM!

We got to Boston a little early and had time to stroll around the Public Garden and Newbury Street, all packed with tourists in town for the race. Dinner was fabulous...we did family style dining and had calamari, stuffed mushrooms, two kinds of salad, spaghetti with meat sauce, fettucine alfredo, chicken parmesan, and grilled salmon, all followed by chocolate cake and an apple tart for dessert. Delicious...we can't wait to go back! And it was great to catch up with our friends!

Of course, Miss Sophie jumped up in her crib when I went to check on her before going to bed. It took about 20 minutes to get her back to sleep. Then, she was awake from 1:30 to 3 so K brought her downstairs. And she was back awake at 6:20 this morning! Yikes. K slept in an extra hour or two and we both took naps this afternoon.

I'd love to watch some baseball this weekend, but alas, it's TV Turnoff Week at EJ's school. It started on Friday and ends this coming Friday. She voluntarily signed a contract saying she wouldn't watch TV all week (not too tough for her, although the weekend seems to be going slowly for her). She put little post-it notes on the TV to remind us too, as she seems to think that we're bound by the contract as well. I cheated a bit this morning between 6:30 and 7, while I kept Sophie occupied with Elmo on Sesame Street while I attempted to snooze for a few extra minutes.

Finally, I just had to take a few pictures at dinner tonight. We grilled some pork chops and potatoes, and I found some corn that looked pretty good at the grocery store. Sophie couldn't eat corn last teeth! But she jumped right in and chowed down...very cute! "KAHN!!!!" she declared!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Broccoli Cheese Dip

The theme for this week's recipe swap is Spreads and Dips. Here is a recipe for Broccoli Cheese Dip that I found online at a year or so ago. It's really easy to make. For other spreads and dips, click on the picture below to visit the sponsor of the recipe swap, Overwhelmed With Joy.


8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
10 oz pkg frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained
1 envelope Good Seasonings dressing mix (I use mild)
8 oz shredded cheddar

Mix 1.5 cups of the shredded cheddar with the remaining ingredients. Put in 9 inch dish and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Add remaining cheese and bake 5 more minutes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Weekend photos

This weekend, we took a little cruise out to Hampton Beach, NH. I know it wasn't exactly beach weather (note the parkas we're all wearing), but it was nice to just get out there and walk around. Sophie enjoyed her first trip to the beach, and didn't want to leave!

We thought we would grab lunch at the beach, but of course, nothing is open yet...except (thankfully!) the Blink's Fried Dough stand. This is a beach tradition for EJ, so we HAD to have some while we were there.
And here are a few shots of Sophie cruising around the family room this evening...don't get in her path!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dear Mr. President,

About two months ago, EJ got the idea to write a letter to President Bush. She wanted to know if he had any advice about how to become President, because she would like to be the President some day.

She came to me one day with written letter in hand, neatly printed and ready to mail. We looked up the formal mailing address online, and she dropped it in the mail. And then we all forgot about it. Until the large manila envelope arrived yesterday with "White House, Washington DC" as the return address.

EJ opened it up and found a reply from the President. AND instead of an autographed photo of himself, he sent along a photo of the First Family Dog, Miss Beazley, complete with a stamped pawprint. I can't seem to get the sizing right for you to read it here, but here's the text:

Thank you for writing. I always enjoy hearing from young Americans.

I hope you will continue to study hard, set high goals, and make good choices. Young people can make decisions every day that help build a better America.

I encourage you to take advantage of opportunities to learn something new each day. Your library has books about many topics, including our government, the history of our country, and current events. You can also visit the White House websites, and, to learn more. If you make learning a daily activity, you can reach your full potential.

Mrs. Bush and I send our best wishes for your future success.


George W. Bush

She was VERY excited and is now thinking of starting a collection of letters from other famous people. And she's waiting to see who wins this year's election so she know who to write to next!

Olympic Torch Relay

I'm sick of all the bad news around the relay of the Olympic torch. I think it's a shame that protesters are causing such a disruption. The Olympics are about sports and bringing people and nations together, NOT politics.

Anyway, please click here to read a great story about one of the 19,000+ people who will be carrying the Olympic torch. Jenny Bowan is one of only eight non-Chinese people to be carrying the torch on Chinese soil and she deserves to. She is the founder and director of Half The Sky, which provides aid and support to children in China.


Sophie does some absolutely adorable things right now. She is at a really fun age for learning. She's such a little sponge and she's soaking up as much as she can. Here are some recent accomplishments:
  • Singing. Oh, the girl loves to sing. Actually, she loves for anyone else to sing. She gets a few words in here and there, but if you sing a song she knows (and we discover more of them every day), her little face lights up. At daycare, they teach hand motions for all the songs and she knows them all. Some of her favorites are Row Row Row Your Boat (she sits on my lap and pretends to row), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (where she always sings along with "up above the world so high"), and Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee.
  • Climbing the stairs. She doesn't seem to bother them, but when it's time to go up them, she shows off her climbing skills. And she's fast.
  • Speaking of going up the stairs, she gives us no trouble at all going to bed. As soon as you change her diaper in the evening and put on the pajamas, she knows it's coming. She asks for her baba (her warm milk) and chugs it. She's not happy unless she's holding "DeeDee" (her way of saying "Dolly"). When she's done, we say "Night-night. Time for beddy bye" and she grabs that doll and practically runs for the steps.
  • Sitting in your lap. Oh, she's spoiled, this little cutie. She has the teachers at school wrapped around her finger. I've been told that she spends most of the day on someone's lap and then I wonder why she's hanging on me while I'm trying to cook dinner! But you know what? That's why she's going to daycare where her sister went...we know she is LOVED! Those ABCs and colors and shapes will come along some day, but you can't beat a full day of good lovin' from your teacher. If you're sitting on the floor, she grabs a book from her toybox and comes over announcing "book, book!" and then she turns around and backs up until she plops into your lap.
  • Talking. I'd say she easily has 60 words. You might not recognize the "kirk" means drink or "puhpuh" means "purple" but I know what they mean! She doesn't know her colors yet, but she knows the words and tries to guess. We were coloring last week and I had about 6 crayons out and would ask for certain colors. I made a really big deal out of it when she got one right. I think I need to back it down to 2-3 colors to work on them.
  • And now when I say "I love you" she says "Aye luh oooo" back. Melts my heart.

Chicken Barley Casserole

This week's recipe is one I haven't made in a while but I'm hungry for it. I don't really remember where I found this recipe...somewhere online, but I just don't remember so I can't give proper credit.

If you'd like to see more recipes, click on this logo to visit the blog that sponsors the weekly recipe swap, Overwhelmed with Joy:

4 slices bacon, fat removed and meat finely chopped
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, diced
12 button mushrooms, quartered
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup barley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf, crushed
ground black pepper to taste
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 dark meat chicken pieces (we prefer white meat, so I usually use breasts that are cut in half)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large skillet, fry bacon until browned. Reserve bacon fat for sautéing chicken later. Add onions and carrots to skillet and sauté 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, stock, barley, thyme, marjoram, parsley, bay leaf and pepper to taste.
  3. Mix all together and spread mixture in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Add green bell pepper on top and stir to settle.
  4. Heat reserved bacon fat in skillet and brown chicken. Place browned chicken on top of barley mixture, cover baking dish and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sophie - one year later

So, here's her referral photo from a year ago. Actually, this pic was probably taken in Jan or Feb of 2007 when her paperwork was being prepared:

And here she is today...all smiles and giggles:

She's seriously into wearing her big sister's shoes these days:

Today, I bought her the cutest little pair of lavender Crocs (well, not real Crocs - The Children's Place knock-offs). She loves 'em!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

One year ago today...

...we saw sweet Sophie's face for the first time! It was the day we got the magical call from our adoption agency, China Adoption with Love (still the best!). You can read all about it here.

In honor of her one year celebration, she decided she wanted to party all night last night. Well, not all night...just between 1 and 4 AM. That was fun. And so, I'm off to bed to try to recover a few lost hours. I was hoping to put a photo up here today, but never got a chance to take it.

I need my sleep - my friend D and I have a big day planned for tomorrow. We're taking a day off of work and heading to the outlets in Kittery, Maine for a little retail therapy. Just tryin' to help out the economy, you know?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Early College Financing

EJ's school PTA hosted a workshop this past Wednesday night to talk about planning for your child's college education even at this young (elementary school) age. The workshop was very helpful...for example, I found out that our state offers wonderful resources for assisting with the college application and financing/financial aid process.

The numbers, however, are staggering. I mean, a state school costs $20k a year NOW. Imagine what it will be in 10 years when EJ is ready to go or in 17 when Sophie is ready. And sheesh, I'll be about ready for retirement by then!

There were very convincing arguments for saving NOW if you haven't started, and for saving what you can. The one slide that I completely disagreed with was the one that listed "dipping into your retirement savings" as an option for paying for college. I don't think so. And although I'm just CERTAIN that both girls will receive FULL scholarships to the schools of their choice, I suppose my Plan B (yes, there already is a college savings account) should be getting a little more action.

The woman who ran the seminar talked about how she has a fund set up that does not require regular contributions, but she makes them whenever she can. Like, she'll be considering buying her daughter a pair of $20 shoes and then think...this $20 would be better served in her education account. You can look at a website like WealthBlocks to calculate what the difference in savings is to you. If you put that $20 into an account every month for 18 years, there's $7k to start with. Not much for college, but's something.

Gee, I just used the WealthBlocks CALC-U-LATER to determine that if I cut back on my weekly lunch budget from $25/week to $10/week, and invest the extra money in stocks averaging 10% return, I'll have another $13k by the time EJ starts school. Hmmm...I don't think I'll start this week. Maybe next?

Yummy Cranberry Snacks!!!

We have some good friends who live on the Cape. D works for a division of a cranberry company that provides healthy ingredients (made from superfruits, like cranberries, blueberries, and pomegranates) for other products. They have introduced a new product line called Fruitaceuticals.

We ordered the Pomacrans (you can get them from Amazon!) and they are delicious!!! They are dried cranberries infused with pomegranate concentrate. The kids love them, and what a great healthy snack! I put some in my rice pilaf last week and they were yummy. Try them here to order.

The Skybus Fiasco, take 2

Remember this rant from two weeks ago? You know, the one where the new discount airline cancelled one leg of my return flight, but not the other, and then we had to find new tickets home for our upcoming vacation? THANK GOODNESS that our replacement tickets for the way home gets us all the way home, as Skybus went out of business yesterday.

However, the new panic was that we had a ticket home on another airline, but not a ticket to our destination! And of course, we're only three weeks from departure, we're traveling (as is most of NH) for school vacation week, and everyone else with a Skybus ticket now needed a replacement.

So, let's recap. Originally, the flights were about $2000 on USAir. We chose to go with Skybus, who could do the trip for $1100. Now, we've paid $1600 for replacement tix AND we might be out all $1100 for the Skybus tix. We were supposed to be refunded for the one leg of the return trip within 30-60 days, but since they've declared bankruptcy, who knows? They are not processing refunds, the announcment on the now-defunct website says to apply for a refund with your credit card company. The refund center for mine is not open until tomorrow morning.

Now, here's my next question...why, 3-5 weeks before my vacation, can I now get tickets for $1600, when back in February they were $2000?

Ugh. I hate air travel.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hooray! More CAWLI babies are matched!

What exciting news today! A few folks who I only know online were FINALLY referred their babies! Actually, I have met one of them at the CAWLI Chinese New Years party this year. The others I've been cyber-stalking since before I returned home from China...but that's okay, 'cause we adoptive parents have squeaky clean records, you know!

I mentioned this last month, but these families have been waiting SO LONG to see the cute little faces that will soon be in their family portraits. They "got on the list" in China just 70 days after us, and they didn't "meet" their kids (on paper) until today, almost a year behind us.

Please peek at their blogs this weekend to check out any cute photos and blubbering emotions...and then keep watching while they travel to China to bring their daughters home.

My Answered Prayers
Lookin' for Number Four
Baby Grace
Zoe Chronicles

I'm so happy for them!

Hawk Attack at Fenway Park

How weird is this story? And in the strangest of coincidences, the victim's name is Alexa Rodriguez, as in Alex Rodriguez, as in A-Rod, hated third baseman for the Yankees.

Oreo Cookie Freakout

This week's recipe exchange, sponsored by Overwhelmed With Joy, is the dessert edition...yummy! Click on the pic above to link to other recipes for this week.

This recipe is really easy to make and great for kids and family-friendly events. My mother-in-law gave me this recipe YEARS ago...not sure of its original source.

1 large package Oreo cookies
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
1 can Hershey's syrup
1 can cocktail peanuts
1 container Cool Whip

  1. Crush the Oreo cookies and line a 13x9 galss dish with the crumbs, saving a few for the topping.
  2. Spoon the softened ice cream on top of the cookie crumbs and smooth out.
  3. Pour on the chocolate syrup and sprinkle with nuts.
  4. Freeze several hours until firm.
  5. Add Cool Whip on top and sprinkle with remaining cookies.

You need to keep this frozen until a little before you serve it. Enjoy!