Sunday, February 27, 2011

Soda bread

I thought I would share a staple recipe that is in purple mouse.

First you take a cup of milk and add 1 teaspoon of vinegar.  You let them sit a while (10 min, at most) and the milk will start to curdle.  Cool, Science!! The milk in China is different, and I wondered if this will work here.  It does.  You will probably have larger curds if you do this in the US, but I am not sure.  I will try it out this summer.  You could probably use Chinese vinegar too, but I just use this since I have it.

You mix together 2 cups of flour,  1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.  In China, baking soda is called Su da fen (second tone, second tone).  We bought our at a market.  We bought a jin (500g) it has lasted for more than a year.  I have seen some arm & Hammer baking soda at our market near our place.

Sometimes I use bread flour (high glutton) and sometimes I use regular flour.
 Then you add the milk mixture to the flour and stir it up, after it is mostly stirred, I scrape the bowl out onto the counter, or in this case a clean tray with flour.  I knead it some to incorporate all the flour.  Many times I add some herbs at this point.  I like to add rosemary or Italian seasoning.   I don't usually measure it, but I guess it is about 2 teaspoons of herbs.

 Then you shape the bread into a squished ball.
If you want to be traditional, you can cut a cross (or x) on the top of the bread.
 I have started spraying the pan with a little Pam, you could butter or oil it a  little.  When I don't grease the pan, the bread sticks a little.

Put it in a 400 degree oven, or if you are in China about 200 degrees C.

 The recipe calls for it to be cooked for 15 minutes.  I usually just watch it, and smell to see when it is done.  For a while it stays pretty flat.  Then it puffs up!
 I did not notice at first, but someone had turned off the top element in our oven, so the top did not get done when it should.  I switched on the top element and got the top browned. 



Yummy, yummy fresh bread!
This bread makes fantastic toast!  I have been experimenting with adding raisin, and dried cranberries.  I like the way it  smells when I add cinnamon, but when I add sugar, to the bread, I have trouble getting it to cook all the way through.  The kids love this and I never really have any leftovers.

Try it, what works for you?

A journey and a Map

We have recently discovered a really great place here in Hangzhou.  It is a mall, called the MixC mall.  It is huge.  It is beautiful.  There are many, many nice stores here. They even have an ice skating ring.   Most of the stores are too expensive for us, but we do enjoy window shopping here.  They do have a Toys R Us and a Best Buy.  More importantly, they also have an awesome foreign super market.  They even had some Dr Pepper (it is all gone now, and has sadly not been restocked). 

The mall is way on the North side of town.  It takes a good while to get there.  It is a journey, but it worth the hassle. 

We went to the mall last Friday.  We had plans to meet Jon there.  Jon was subbing at the international school that day.  I had been told that it was easy to get to the mall from the school.  Just take the B6 bus a few stops after the #3 bridge and then walk about 10 minutes.  I had the name of the bus stop and even the address of the mall.  I gave Jon all this info and told him I would meet him there. 

As Jon and I were traveling to the mall, I kept thinking about how the situation is like our journey through life.

The kids and I took different buses because we were on different roads.  We used to take a 502 bus and then a 156. (the numbers aren't that important to you).  However, the 502 bus is no longer running.  So we have to take a B2 bus.  This bus is really uncomfortable.  It is extremely crowded!
After a little bit, I really felt that we should get off the bus.  The kids were getting squished and it was a little hot, no one was happy.  I told the kids that if we got off the bus we would have to walk, and I did not know how long it would be until we reached the place where we could catch the next bus.  They were OK with that.  We got off the bus and started walking.  We walked for about 30 minutes before we reached the bus stop.
We did find our stop and got seats on the next bus and just rode it until the end.

Sometimes in life, we make great plans, but our plans are not always God's plans.  We planned to take a 502, but could not.  Even the B2 was not the bus for us.  But in the end, it all worked out.

Jon's journey was not as easy.  He really did not know the way to go.  Someone told him the way to go, but he only partly understood the directions.  He took the right bus...he started out good.  However when he got off the bus, he was really lost.  He was not even sure he was on the correct road.  No one around him seemed to even know about that road.  His problem?  He did not have map.  If he had a map, or looked at a map, then maybe he could have gotten on the right road.  He walked around for about an hour.  He felt lost the whole time.  Eventually he did get a taxi, and he made it to the mall.  Of course his journey was more expensive than mine.
In life, sometimes we listen to people who do not really know what they are talking about.  We do not check the map for ourselves (the Bible).  When we end up on the wrong road, there are consequences (paying a taxi fare).  However, there is still hope and if we do correct our ways and get back on the right road, we can reach our destination. 
Then we can join our loved ones and have a nice time together. 

Jon did make it to the mall in time for us to eat dinner together.  We were happy to see him.

How is your journey?  Are you trying to do it all by yourself, or are you checking the map and making sure you are on the right road?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hospitality

A friend of mine, Becky,  is teaching a lesson on hospitality and asked for some stories, recipes or thoughts on the subject.  This is really something I have thought a lot about.  Hospitality is one of those things that I CAN do.  I am not a great leader, I don't sing well, and I am not even a great conversation starter.  However, I can be hospitable. 

I think that being hospitable could also be defined as being welcoming.  Some of the details are different, but it is the same in most cultures. It is often the small things that really matter.  The small things are the details that are different in other cultures.  We pay attention to what has been done to us, and keep an open mind. 

I have actually gone to a different Bible class in the past because no one said anything to me when I came to the class.  I am not blaming anyone, because I could have been more out going and I was not exactly a new face...but if I was a new person or if I were visiting, I would not have felt welcome. 

I remember Valerie Watrous introducing herself to someone, and she saying, " I don't think I have met you yet".  That way she  even the person was not new...no biggie.  She had not met them before!  I have used that line many times, now.

Here in China, we meet on Sundays in our home.  Sometimes folks come for the first time.  It is important to make people feel welcome and a part of the "family" here.  The culture does not really support what we do, so we have to make them feel a part of a family.  If they do not feel comfortable in my home, I might not be able to develop a relationship with them, and then I will not have a chance to share Greater things with them.

We don't wear our shoes in the house, so we have slippers available for our guests. On Sunday mornings we lay all the slippers out near the door, so friends can just slip into a pair.

I make sure there is extra toilet paper out where folks can see it in the bathroom.  (no one wants to dig around looking for toilet paper).

I make sure there are a couple of boxes of tissues available in the living room. Someone always has to blow or wipe their nose.


We always make tea and sometimes coffee on Sunday morning.  Jon will actually pour cups of tea for our guests even if they have turned down our initial offer for tea.  (This is a Chinese thing).  Sometimes he does not even ask if they want tea, he just hands them a cup.  
 
A few weeks ago we had a new sister over for dinner.  I made pot roast with vegetables, it was not what we would call Chinese food.  We ate with forks, but I asked her if she would prefer chopsticks.  She did.  I made her feel more comfortable. 
 
I don't think hospitality is difficult.  A simple smile or hello can go a long way.  The biggest part of hospitality is to be thoughtful of others.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I really hope this works.  Instead of just writing and showing you a few pictures, I put together a short video describing some of the things we see around here at this time of the year.  Enjoy!
video

This song is played everywhere!  We catch our selves singing it at random times too.  It is very catchy....
Now you can sing it with us:
gong xi, gong xi, gong xi ni....