July 29, 2015

Spicy noodles, anyone?

I was craving Shin Ramyun the other day. If you are unfamiliar with Shin Ramyun, it is very spicy Korean instant noodles. Very spicy!

I was actually surprised to have this craving as I have never eaten a whole bowl of it before. In fact, I've never made a bowl for myself ever. I usually just pilfer noodles from my husband when he eats it. I typically eat one or two bites and give up because it's too pika for me, that is, it's too spicy. Nonetheless, I wanted a bowl to myself for lunch.

So I busted out a pot and it was on! I didn't just make Shin Ramyun, I made souped up Shin Ramyun. (Oh yes I did just write 'souped' up Shin Ramyun.)

It was so pika I had to take a sip of cold milk after every couple of bites. I couldn't finish the bowl, but I came very close.

Shin Ramyun with onions, carrots, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, water chestnuts, garlic, radishes, hot dogs, soy sauce, lime,  and cilantro. It was so good! And pika! (Also great in Shin Ramyun and other instant ramen: napa cabbage.) So good and so pika!

July 23, 2015

Two years in Washington

There's a summer scent to Washington state. I smelled it in my youth. It was distinct from any other state I had visited. California smelled of sunshine, eucalyptus, wooden doorways, and seawater by the Bay. Most Oregon visits were in passing, a transitory drive moving me from Washington to California and back. It's smells are lost on me, but Oregon will always exist in my mind as a bonfire surrounded by smiling islanders wearing jackets and pull-over hoodies. Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington DC mix in my memories with smells of horses and corn fields, grass on cool summer evenings, and cement warmed by bright sunshine. I can tell you what those eastern states smelled like because I know I felt that at the time, but I can't dig the scents out of memory. The smell of corn doesn't take me back there, warmed cement reminds me of Saipan as well as well as our nation's capital, horses smell like horses, not Amhurst. But the scents of Washington and California have carved out their own neural pathways, connecting my youth with my adulthood.

The summer scent of Washington will live with me forever. The smell of warm bark, of sprinklers washing over trimmed grass, the smell of earth and sweat and flowers in the air. Therein sweeps the soft, warm, changing air of Washington in summer. I smelled it in my youth. I smelled it when I stepped out of the rental car two years ago. I smell it today.

Today marks two full years of my family's time in Washington. We are here because God put us here. We'll leave when He moves us. It has been joyous and sad, plentiful and meager, it has been beautiful and heart wrenching.

July 10, 2014

Potato Salad

I made potato salad for the first time! And it was good. Yes, a thirty-something Saipanese woman made potato salad for the first time last week.

I only sort of like potato salad. And by sort of, I mean, I like potato salad, but I don't eat the potatoes. Why not? Because I don't like potatoes. Though I do like well-seasoned hashbrowns with over easy eggs. Also, I may, on occasion, snag a soggy fry from my kids' Happy Meals or have a few bites of really cheesy scalloped potatoes or crispy tater tots, but other than that I don't like potatoes. No, I don't even like them in chip form.

So why did I make potato salad? Because it was the Fourth of July and my husband asked me to. We had baked baby back ribs, hotdogs in King's Hawaiian buns, grapes (because the two-year-old can't get enough), and potato salad.

Potato Salad
It's not really a recipe, more like loose directions so just add amounts to your taste.
  • Peel, cut, and boil russet potatoes until fork tender or whatever toothsomeness you like 
  • Drain and cool potatoes (I stuck mine in the freezer) 
  • Mix with salt, black pepper, chopped olives, chopped parsley, finely minced onion, mayonnaise, and chopped hard boiled eggs (I used one egg for each medium potato)
  • Sprinkle with paprika and garnish with parsley and sliced olives

June 27, 2014


It was a lovely day today, despite it being overcast with the occasional drizzle.

We headed to the park in the afternoon where Jacob played with several kids who were just younger than himself.

A three-year-old girl was quite curious about Francesca. And it seemed the two wanted to communicate and play with each other, but they didn't quite know how.

Katelyn lost a tooth tonight while fiddling with it when she was already in bed. I helped her rinse it off and told her to put it under her pillow. She chuckled and looked at me with raised eyebrows. She humored me. Maybe it was for me or maybe it was for the money.

She's known who the tooth fairy is for some years now. When do they reach the age of just outright exchanging the tooth for a buck?

June 18, 2014

It can be difficult to tell exactly when things change.

Sometimes finding that first gray hair is easy. "Oh my gosh, my first gray hair. When did this happen?"

But then you keep searching and find another. And another still. And you realize that you really have no idea which one was the first one.

Some years ago I realized that you boast differently as you grow up. I don't know when it happened. One day you're young and eager to show you're friends your new whatever-it-was. And the next day you're showing off the baseball cap you "rescued" from a dumpster.

When we were young it was all about the newest and best.

"Check out my new bag. It cost $125." 

"Only ten pairs of these shoes were made. Sure, now I have bunions, but look at how cute they are! By the way, I'm having surgery next week."

"This dress is made of unicorn hairs, woven by fairies under the light of a blue moon."

Now it's like,

"I got this bag for twenty cents at the thrift shop! It has a scratch on the side, but I just colored it in with permanent marker."

"I love my [insert ugly shoe name]! They're so comfortable!."

"Dude, check out my jeans. I'm using a safety pin because the button popped off last month, the back pocket is ripping off, I patched a huge hole in the crotch, and I have to use WD40 to get the zipper to work. I love these jeans!"

PS: I have never spent $125 on a bag.

PPS: I know I've said this before, but I'm going to try harder to post more.)

May 20, 2014

Music That Made Me

It's nearly the end of May and I haven't done my before post. I thought I might take this time to share with you just a few of the songs that made my childhood great.

Christopher Robin by the Stonemans:

Lookin' Back To See - as performed by Buck Owens and Susan Raye - this was one of my favorites

Dance with a Dolly by Bill Haley

MTA by The Kingston Trio - I pretty much love everything by The Kingston Trio

Reverend Mr. Black by the Kingston Trio

All I Have To Do Is Dream by The Everly Brothers

The Work of the Weavers by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

The Wild Rover by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

The British Army by The Dubliners

April 02, 2014


Five years ago, my brilliant and talented nephew turned twelve, my amazing son turned two, and my lovely niece was born; I launched a new blog, which I have since discontinued at its own domain, but still exits at blogger; I shared a Flame Tree Festival booth with my friends Lynn and Geraldine; I made some things; I made food, we dyed eggs, we had fun; I took pictures of lizards and a frog; and I made some yummy vegetables and other food. This was April before.

Four years ago, I was a self proclaimed TV consultant, I was irritated by the chicken tree and crappy driving; we watched Fantastic Mr. Fox for the first time, and although you can't tell from the post, it was nearly a life changing event, I LOVE that movie; I failed, yet I was forgiven; and I was sunburned.

Three years ago, I wrote two posts. Count 'em, two: here's one about being pooped and the pooper and here's the other about me not giving up anything for lent.

Two years ago, I was always hot (and now I'm always cold, by the way); I found gender neutral baby clothes; we had a great time dyeing eggs and decorating cookies with my sister and her kids; and I created a daily fridge calendar

One year ago, we took a quick visit to Managaha after I shared with you that we would be moving to the states

March 23, 2014

On Libraries and Books

I was in elementary school when the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library opened on Saipan. There was a time when I visited it after school fairly often as it was just a short walk from my elementary/junior high school. I had a library card, but I hardly ever checked out books. Instead, I spent my time chatting, perusing shelves, and reading magazines on soft curved chairs. It was a place to unwind and meet boys, I mean kids, from other schools.

I recently read something along the lines of the majority of Americans believe it is important to have a public library in their community even if they don't use it themselves. (It may have been from an NPR article about the recent PEW study about libraries in communities, but I couldn't find the blurb I was looking for.) I agree. Public libraries are very important. I'm glad the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library exits, even if I haven't checked out a book there in who knows how many years. Here in Washington, I'm so incredibly happy that our local public library exists.

I take my children to our library at least once a week. Although it isn't a very big library, it is part of the King County Library System, which not only gives us access to a great many e-books, it also gives us access to physical books at all of the libraries in the system. And I don't just mean that I can borrow from any of the system libraries, I mean that I can request for a book that isn't at my library and it will be delivered there for me. Perhaps you know all about this, but coming from Saipan, this is pretty awesome to me.

Most of the books I check out are e-books, though not all the books at the library are available in electronic form. I like that I can request a book through their website or app and simply go pick it up or download it when it's available.

Francesca enjoys our weekly library visit if only to meet other little girls who dote on her. Katelyn enjoys it too; she seems so comfortable there. Although she doesn't exactly read all of the books she checks out, she becomes absolutely engrossed in the process of choosing and checking out books, magazines, and DVDs - for bother herself and her brother. While Jacob does like perusing the children's graphic novels, he mostly enjoys going to the library to use the computers. He trusts his sister to select his books so he doesn't have to lose an of his precious computer time. I tell you, if there's one thing Katelyn actually enjoys doing for her brother, it's choosing his library books.

I wouldn't be able to read as much as I do without our library. I suppose that isn't quite right, I'd still be able to read as much, I just wouldn't have the selection that I do. There is only one small, and I mean small, bookstore on Saipan. I would visit it about once a month, but I didn't buy very often. I ordered most of my books from Amazon. I started using the kindle app in November 2012, which made browsing and buying e-books very convenient. We were already a one income family by then, so I mostly read free kindle books, which, other than the classics, were sort of hit or miss. It feels like such a luxury to have access to all these library books now.

Beginning in 2012, I started keeping an annual list of the books I read. So far, this year I've read (these are by no means reviews or synopses, they're hardly even opinions, really):

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - This was a really nice book. Fun but with a very serious premise. It doesn't necessarily explore the issues that are presented, but it gets you to want to think about them. It also makes you laugh. Well, it made me laugh. I would be happy to read the author's other books.

Andrew's Brain by E.L. Doctorow -  I didn't enjoy it and at times I couldn't quite tell whether or not I was bored. But I kept reading it because he is an acclaimed author and although I wasn't captivated by the story, I did enjoy his words. I don't recommend it, yet, because I have read such great things about his other books, I will likely read more by E.L. Doctorow. Someday. Perhaps.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - Loved it. Loved it like I loved The Kite Runner, though it didn't haunt me as long afterward as The Kite Runner did. A Thousand Splendid Suns was absolutely beautiful and moving. Khaled Hosseini is my favorite author. He just pulls me right into his world. I have placed his third novel, And The Mountains Echoed, on hold.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - Would you believe I had never read this before? This wasn't required reading in high school for me. If you've read this blog for a while, you know I didn't go to a normal high school - everyone who graduated from Northern Marianas Academy in the 90's pretty much skipped high school. We basically went straight from junior high to Northern Marianas College, where Mr. Bingham had us read D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers. (Which, by the way, somehow I never completed. I started re-reading it a few years ago and again did not finish it. But I just downloaded it to my kindle app, so perhaps one day I'll finally read it through. Now back to Of Mice and Men.) Wow! Have you read it? You probably have. Isn't it amazing? Such a powerful story and such beautiful writing.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green - I enjoyed this book, basically in the same way I enjoyed Me Before You. John Green has quite an ability to bring teenagers to life. I actually started it in December last year. I liked it from the beginning, but for whatever reason I was distracted and stopped. I decided to check it out again when I found out it will be out as a movie this year. After reading this book, I immediately read two more of John Green's books.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green - I liked this a lot too. It didn't have the same kind of conflict as The Fault in Our Stars, but it was still a nice read.

Looking for Alaska by John Green - I don't try to figure out what is going to happen in a novel. Movies, yes. But not with books. I just like to read and let the stories unfold. I suppose if I did try to figure out what would happen, I could have seen parts of this one coming. (Though, now that I think about it, there were moments in The Fault In Our Stars and An Abundance of Katherines where I consciously knew what came next.) Anyway, I liked this book more than the other two. I liked seeing these kids in their boarding school and I liked wondering how I would have behaved if I had gone to that school - though not necessarily at the same time as the characters.

I am currently reading:
  • The Bible in World History by Stephen Leston - I really like it. I have always struggled to place events in the bible within history. I think a big part of it is that I was never very interested in history and I just didn't retain most of what I learned in school, so dates and events are very isolated to me.
  • Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Dana -  I read about it some time ago while I was still on Saipan in an Amazon editor's picks email, but I forgot about it until last month. And what do you know, a week ago I passed it on my way to a self-checkout kiosk. It was just sitting there on the shelf, featured for the month. I snatched it up without missing a step. I am really enjoying it. I suppose I would enjoy it even more if I was Jewish and/or ever lived in New York. I know it's a memoir, but I wish it was a fictional story that I had written. Sometimes I feel like Rebecca is just sitting in my living room telling me this story over Diet Cokes and pizza.
  • Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt - I like it so far. But because I own it, it is going to have to take a backseat to the library books which have due dates. 
  • The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult - I'm not very far in yet. And I do enjoy it, but I'm just too into Jujitsu Rabbi right now. I'll probably start on it again in a few days. But I like it so far.

There are several other books I started this year but didn't finish:
  • Cameron And The Girls by Edward Avarett - Although it was interesting, it just didn't hold my interest. Yet, at the same time, I still want to read it someday. Perhaps.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth - What few chapters I got through, I got through painfully. Waiting for better writing, waiting for a better story, better reasoning, waiting for better character development. I gave up. After The Night Circus and Andrew's Brain, I won't force myself to finish books I don't like. I will watch the movie though.
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - I think I'll read this one day. I just don't think I was in the mood when I had it. My sister is the one who recommended it to me and I have other friends who like the author, so I think it is worth reading. I'll probably place it on hold again soon.
  • Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck - I read a good portion of this. I don't really know how I feel about it. I do want to finish it one day though. But I'm not in a rush.
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck - I think I read one or two pages of this. Maybe one day....
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce - I read a sample of this book some time ago. I thought I wanted to read it. I got pretty far into this one too, but it was just too slow. I felt like I was wasting my time, being strung along.
Early last year, a friend of mine turned me on to Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches. I was a bit uneasy about reading a book with the word witches in the title, but once I started it, I just couldn't put it down. So good! It is in the very early stages of being made into a movie. Woo hoo! Immediately after I read it, I bought the second book, Shadow of Night. Ah, so fun. The third book, The Book of Life, is set to be released in July of this year. I have already placed it on hold with the library.

What are you reading, friend?

March 16, 2014

Saving money with coupons.

Before I moved to the states, my dear friend, Mona, gave me advice about how and where to shop to save money. It was so helpful! Managing a family of five on one income takes a lot of financial planning and responsibility. It means finding the best deals, buying at the right times, and saying no to splurging. A big part of accomplishing that is keeping tabs on prices at our local grocery stores and using coupons.

I clip coupons whenever possible, but I don't go out of my way to get them. I just clip the ones that I get in the mail and in the paper (whenever I get a free one from my library or buy one for a buck at the dollar store). I also print coupons from the Internet and add e-coupons to my store shopper cards (Safeway club, QFC advantage, etc.). There are some stores I shop at that don't take coupons and there are some stores that would give me great prices with coupons, but I don't shop at them because they are farther away than I want to drive. Couponing for me is simple. I tailor it to my family's needs and my comfort level. Even though I'm nothing close to an extreme couponer, I'm still able to save lots of money each week.

I don't have a massive stockpile in my pantry like those extreme couponers on TV, but I will stock up on a good deal from time to time if I have the money. Spend a little more now and save overall or spend less now and end up paying more to buy the item at a higher price in the future? Most of the time I don't have a choice, but when my budget allows me to stock up on an essential item, I will. Like toilet paper or soap. Or SPAM. Six-seven-ohhhh!

I don't have a coupon binder or a spreadsheet on my tablet to guide my shopping trips, but I do spend some time each week comparing sale prices from the different store mailers and matching coupons with the sale items. I do my best not to buy anything that I can't get some sort of deal on. And I don't buy things just because I have coupons for them. I only use coupons for items we already want/need. Also, I always remind myself that if a particular item is on sale for a great price now, that item will come back on sale another time in the future, so I don't worry too much if I'm not able to buy as many of it as I'd like to right then.

I keep my coupons in a small plastic accordion folder (you can see it in the photo below) that I bought for a dollar. It is small enough to fit in any of my purses. I always have one or more kids with me when I shop, so I like to make the process as simple and as non-bulky as possible - a list and my coupon folder, and a snack for the baby. I separate the coupons that are planned for that shopping trip, but I bring my entire coupon folder with me.

My folder has six pockets, therefore I separate my coupons into six major categories: Food, Bath and Beauty, Vitamins and Medicine, Household, Restaurants, and Stores. They are pretty self-explanatory, but in case you are wondering, Stores is for the coupons that can only be redeemed at particular stores. Within each category, I paperclip the coupons into smaller sub-categories. For example, in the Food category, some of the sub-categories are frozen foods, dairy, meat, etc. (See the photo above - six groups with paperclipped sub-groups.)

I make my shopping lists and pull out the coupons for the lists. Even if my shopping trips to the different stores will be spread out over a few days, I still make my lists for all the stores at the same time. And on the lists I include the sale prices plus any coupon values for each item. That way if there is an item that I listed to buy at one store, but I see the item at another store and it seems like it is cheaper, I'll know whether it really is cheaper because I wrote down the sale price and coupon value. Also, next to each coupon value, I list whether it is an e-coupon (EC) or a paper coupon (PC) - that way I don't freak out when I get to the register and think I have a coupon but can't find it in my coupon folder.

Here's the savings portion of a receipt from a recent shopping trip to Safeway:

 The Card Savings shows the savings I got from choosing items that gave me a better deal because I have a Safeway club card: reduced prices and BOGOs. The Just for U Savings are electronic coupons that I had pre-loaded on my Safeway club card. The Basket Savings was actually a paper coupon I had for $10 off of $50 or more. Paper Coupons are, obviously, paper coupons I used. Clearly, I spent a lot in that trip, but you can see how much more it would have been without the coupons. And I was able to bring home quite a big haul from that shopping trip.

In addition to coupons, I know which store brands I like for what products. On Saipan, if I wanted a generic or store brand, I basically had Western Family or Kirkland Signature. Out here, each store seems to have their own brand and their other preferred generic brands. And they are not all created equal. So let's say I have a coupon for a brand name multivitamin. I know that I like the Rite Aid brand multivitamins because they are basically equal to the brand name, but are cheaper - even with a coupon. So I'll go for the Rite Aid. Plus, for this particular product, I get a discount with my card and it is frequently sold B1G1Free. However, I really don't like the Rite Aid brand dental floss. For floss, I go brand name. And for a food example: I don't like the Safeway Select brand of instant oatmeal, but I do like the Kroger brand - though I haven't bought it for a while anyway, because the quick cooking oats I get from Grocery Outlet are cheaper and healthier and I can use them for baking too. I buy store brand bread from QFC and I buy oranges from H-Mart. I basically keep a mental note of where I prefer what. You get the idea.

Couponing does take time, but it doesn't have to take a lot of time to give you good results.


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