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.