Thursday, January 27, 2011

Not a good day

We were going to have Chili tonight, and I wanted some cheese to go on top of it.  The main and closest store that I buy that kind of cheese at, did not have any last time I was there.  I decided to go further downtown to Carefore.  I don't know a good way to take a bus down there, so I usually take a taxi. 

I decided to take Liam with me.  It is his week (each kid has 1 week a month that is "their week).  I really don't  get to spend one-on-one time with Liam that often.  I sometimes worry about him being the "middle child". 

Liam gets carsick sometimes.  He has since he was just a toddler.  Usually we can calm him down and help him feel better....but not always.  Today was a - not always day. 

Yep! He threw up in a taxi.  Not good.  The driver was not happy at all.  He wanted to know why he didn't throw up out the window.  He fussed at me and a Liam.  Seriously!? He is 7. 

I wanted to get out of the cab right then, but I could not think of how to tell the driver.  He just kept driving us to the store. When we got there,  I let Liam out and the guy started to yell at me.  I tried to pay him extra money.  The fare was 25, and I gave him 55.  But he kept yelling at me.  I did not know what he wanted.  I tried to say sorry.  At one point he said something that I did not understand... I guess most of what he said, I did not understand.  I asked him,"what" in Chinese, he just mumbled, I said what again, and then he just stared at me.  It was a little scary. 

 There happened to be a young guy standing by, and I asked him if he understood.  Thankfully, he could speak a little English.  He said that the driver wanted me to clean it up. 
So I took out the mat and dumped it ,and then wiped it off the best I could with tissues.  I also wiped down the seat cover.

All taxis have a white seat cover covering all the seats.  It can be taken off and washed easily.  I wonder who decided to make it white!
There were a few people starting to gather around at this point.  The guy started to fuss at me again.  The guy translating said something about him not being able to do business.  He wanted me to pay him more.  He wanted 44 more on top of the charge for the fare.   I paid it gladly and went into the building as quickly as I could.  I sat down in McDonald's to try to compose myself.  I called Jon and cried and told him the story.  (When I mentioned that to Liam later, he did not know that I had cried.  Liam and Eryn have said that they have never seen me cry.)

I understand the driver being upset.  And I really wanted to make things right, but  he was really ugly about it.  While I was wiping the seat, I heard the translator guy ask Liam something.  Liam answered, We are from America and Tennessee.  I threw up in the taxi and now that guy keeps fussing at my mamma.  That just broke my heart. 

It was frustrating because we could not understand each other.  I was embarrassed and worried for Liam.  Did I mention that it was cold and spitting rain?

I have been studying Chinese all semester, but it doesn't seem to stick in high stress situations.

We had to take a taxi home, and Liam started to feel sick again.  It was really warm in that cab.  We got the driver to roll down the window, and then Liam stuck his head out the window.  When he started feeling really bad, I got him to stop.  We stopped about 3 blocks from home and walked the rest of the way.  I really did not want to have a repeat performance.

I am not sure when I will get in a taxi with Liam again!  I am very thankful that the young guy was standing by the road when we pulled up.  I am also very thankful that Liam is not really sick.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A chilly morning

Last Sunday evening, we were relaxing in the living room. It was about 9:30 and the kids were already in bed. Our American friend Benjamin was staying the night. We decided to watch a video and then the lights went out. We have plenty of windows and light outside so it was not too dark. We checked around and the electricity was not out in the building, just in our apartment. Jon looked at the breaker box and the breaker was pretty warm, but it was not thrown. After trying to get the electricity to come back on for a few minutes we realized that we were going to be out of power all night. It was too late to call anyone. The bedroom heaters and bed heaters had been on for a little while, so it was not as bad as it could have been. We gave Benjamin some extra blankets for the couch and went to bed. Our bed was not toasty warm, but it was not freezing either. We snuggled down in the covers and went to sleep. The kids did not even notice anything was wrong until the next morning. We had hot tea and oatmeal for breakfast (we have a gas stove). It was quite chilly. We could even see our breath inside! We called Margaret (a Chinese sister) and she called someone to come look at it for us.


"Right here is the problem" Jon is on the phone with Margaret who was our translator. This guy left to go buy the part and I took pics of what was wrong.

ooooh, I don't think that is supposed to look like that! The electrician said that the breaker was really too small. He bought one a little bigger and replaced it for us.
Including going to buy the part, he was probably finished in about an hour. The cost for this repair, parts and labor? 80 yuan! That is about $15.

We were very thankful to have electricity that evening!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Apple Butter

I promised that I would share one of our "Purple mouse" recipes.  We made this Saturday night.  We made Apple butter.  First we peeled, cored and sliced the apples.  We bought this contraption last year when we were planning on making applesauce.  We have not made any apple sauce this year.  It makes things go much faster. 

 Each of the kids got a chance to help.

We had a crock pot full of apples.  Then I added the sugar and spices and mixed it all up. 

You cook the apples on high for an hour. 

This is the apples after about an hour.  Then you let them cook on low for 9-11 hours.  I guess most people do this overnight.  We started the apples in the late afternoon, so they had been cooking several hours by bed time.  I was afraid to let them cook overnight, so I turned my crock pot to the "keep warm" setting.

In the morning they looked like this.  They are a little wet, so you should let them cook with the top off the crock pot for about an hour. 

We run our apple butter through the blender to make it all smooth.

Viola! Apple butter.  We ate some for breakfast (while it was still warm) on some toasted cranberry bread I baked.  Yum yum!

I found this recipe on

Apple Butter

5 1/2 lbs apples peeled, cored and chopped
4 Cups of sugar (this is way too much! 
 I used about 1/2 cup of white sugar and a little less than one cup of brown sugar, you could use even less)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp salt

Cook  in crock pot on high for 1 hour.  Reduce to lo for 9-11 hours.  Uncover and cook 1 hr longer.  Mix to smooth.

Purple mouse

This is Purple mouse.  In case you can't remember, the words "purple mouse" are on the cover of this photo album three times!  It is pretty common to find totally random English words or phrases on notebooks and photo albums ( and lots of other things). This Purple mouse is a very important item in our house.  Really it is just a small photo album, but we use it for our recipe book. 

It is filled with recipes that I use nearly every week. 

Cooking in China can be very tricky.  There are many ingredients we do not have and some things we just can't do here.  I do have an oven, but it is really just a large toaster oven.  We have learned to make lots of things from scratch and sometimes we just have to be creative.  I do get a feeling of satisfaction when I make things that are tasty for my family, 

When we moved to China two and a half years ago (can you believe it has been that long?) we had very limited space to bring all we would need.  I did not bring a recipe book.  I did however, copy some of my favorite recipes on some 3 x 5 index cards and tuck them in my suitcase.  Over the years I have added to my stash with recipes I have found online or other places.  I love  I can look up specific recipes or recipes that use certain ingredients.  Other people review the recipes and add comments and from that, I can get ideas of substitutions that work for the recipe.  I found a great recipe for some cookies that don't use butter, or shortening.  I made 4 batches of them this holiday season. 
(I'll share the recipe another time).  Some of the recipes in Purple Mouse are cornbread, dinner rolls, pizza crust, different kinds of cookies, banana bread, boiled custard, apple butter, pancake syrup, dressing,potato soup, and muffins.
When we find a recipe, we try it out and if it meets our approval, it goes into Purple mouse. 

I guess we could call this book our recipe book, but it is more fun to call it Purple mouse.  Next blog, I will share a recipe we have in Purple mouse.