Monday, May 12, 2014

How to Kinda Live Like a Hippy in China

Leaving California was not the easiest of decisions, especially since Ben and I had grown accustomed to certain habits and a way of life there. Thankfully, we have found small ways to retain this lifestyle through things like homemade vegetarian lasagna (using tofu instead of ricotta cheese) and recycling our bottles by giving them to the people who go through the trash cans each night.
Ben and Sweet Purple Potato Soup. Yum!

However, one of the most difficult things about being in China is the food. Don't get me wrong, I love Chinese food. But the oily, spicy, meat-y dishes often leave me and my digestive tract longing for my gentler California cuisine.

This year I have an increased interest in making more foods from scratch. At first this included lots of breads and cookies because carbs is something I always crave, but now I am branching out more.

My first MYO (make-your-own) venture was one of my favorite foods: peanut butter. Having finished my jar of natural peanut butter, I was stuck with the dining hall's Skippy pb. 

One day it dawned on me how easy it would be to make my own, and I was (partially) right. Peanuts here are sold for practically peanuts [hehe], and I found after some roasting and some blending, I could make a jar of all natural peanut butter in about an hour for about 20 cents. 

Peanut butter that deceptively looks like chocolate ice cream 

I will never go back to paying $ 5 a jar for ones in the States! 

Even better than the "real" thing! 

Now that imported milk is available in our town, I have enjoying milk much more. After learning how easy it is to make my own yogurt, I knew I had to give it a try, especially since plain yogurt is non-existent here.

Mine looks kinda similar, but I didn't have a good pic 
It take minutes to make, about 12 hours to incubate, and approximately two days for us to go through a whole carton. Super delicious and nutritious. I even tried straining it and making a Greek-style batch.

Super strange looking way to strain
I definitely foresee some delicious tahzaki dips and some sour cream substitutes in our future! 

The fermenting Process
(note the Radiator / Kombucha / Yogurt brewing Machine)
Next on my list was kombucha. I was a big fan of it in the States, and I know probiotics is always a good thing for China living. However, I didn't have a starter SCOBY, so I was stuck. 

Thankfully one of the other teachers got a hold of one, and I was gifted one of her "babies." It was love at first sight. So squishy and slimy. I began making kombucha immediately, and every week we have a fresh batch to drink. A combination of green, black, and jasmine teas with some fresh strawberries thrown in near the end of the week is our favorite way to enjoy this refreshing drink!

Strawberries and fermented tea - how can you go wrong?

This last one is not about food and actually might be even weirder than strange fungus growing drinks. Recently I have been experimenting with a DIY "shampoo." 

Sulfates and other stuff that is in shampoo is apparently bad for your hair (according to very official sources like Buzzfeed) So when I found a recipe to make your own shampoo and conditioner that only required baking soda, water, and vinegar; I thought, why not? 

Shampoo ingredients

Although it is a bit strange initially, I did feel like my hair became healthier and had less split ends. Just a word of caution though, do not try this in conjunction with coconut oil deep conditioning unless you enjoy nice coconut oily hair all day long (which is something an actual hippy just might do)! 
Roasting peanuts with my hippy hair

So there you have it! How to kinda live like a hippy in the middle of China.


If you are interested in some homemade goodness below are the links to the recipes I mostly follow:

Monday, March 31, 2014

Not April's Fools

I guess that renewed blog interest I had in December and January was not meant to last, but I’m back for now! And man, do we have a lot to catch up on.

Ben and I had an adventure-filled winter break in the Philippines complete with crazy souped-up motorcycle rides, swimming and water fall jumping deep inside caves, ATV-ing through massive mud pits, and of course, backpacking up a volcanic, sulfuric mountain for three days.

Trying not to die on this not-for-three-people motorcycle up at mountain
Backpacking up the volcano
After that relaxing vacation, we plunged into teaching and Chinese classes pretty hard, and now we have finally come up for air…sort of.

Last week and this week has been filled with visits from my amazing family! I will try to devote a whole post on that wonderful experience soon.
Eating scrumptious Chinese food with Ben, Hannah, and Sarah!

However, the real reason why I decided to break my blogging hiatus is that we have some exciting news:
We are returning to the States in June!

I say “exciting”, but it is actually more bittersweet. I got accepted into grad school at Monterey Institute of International Studies, where I will be studying International Education and (and sometimes in) Chinese! We are beyond happy to moving back closer to family and friends…yet, it means we are moving far away from our Sias family and friends.

The decision to leave our incredible community, job, home, and life here was a very difficult one, but we are confident that this is the right move for us. We also have the assurance that we will be back for visits and possibly work in the future.

This summer Ben will be studying for his Civil Engineering test and finding a job and apartment, while I will be in a Chinese immersion program in Vermont. We are excited to see what new opportunities and adventures await us in this next stage of our lives.

Ben and I with our friends on top of Mt. Apo

Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas in January

Yesterday on my way back from a run, I stopped by the school post office hoping and praying to God and China Post that the long-awaited package from my family had arrived. 

Having been denied for weeks, I was beginning to think the Pacific Ocean or custom officials had consumed it. However, much to my amazement, it was there! 

I grabbed it and sprinted home as fast as my tired legs could carry me. Unfortunately, Ben was on a man-date, so I had to wait an excruciatingly long hour before he returned. It took every ounce of my very limited willpower and patience to not tear into it.  

Victory Pose! 
 We knifed into the like a couple of children on Christmas Day who didn't have any adult supervision.

Isn't this how everyone opens boxes? 
Underneath the Trader Joe's brown paper bag (not tied up with string but still one of my favorite things!), I discovered a box from Auntie Faye! This may not seem that impressive except for the fact that my dear great aunt passed away about four years. 

What? How on earth? Actually, this is not a story about a miraculous post-mortem delivery, but more of a testament to the fact that my mother never throws anything away. Not even postal boxes from five years ago. 

Thank you, Auntie Faye and Family and... Jesus?

Inside this deceased women's box lay a veritable treasure chest of things to feed the soul and stomach. Every square inch was stuffed with teas and chocolates and deliciousness. It is like they knew exactly what we wanted (or perhaps, read my emailed wish list to them last month). We are so loved and so spoiled! 
Since all my willpower had been used up to not open the care package before Ben arrived, I succumbed to the delicious powers of dark chocolate and immediately tore some of the goodies. 

My preciouses 
Ben, the weirdo, was most excited about...pens. I had asked my parents to send him his favorite Zebra ballpoint, and he was over the moon. I will never understand him, but I guess I knew what I was getting into when I married him...mostly. 

Pure (nerdy) joy
Of course, the non-edible highlight were the letters from (most of) the family. They brought me smiles and sniffles as I read through them-- thank you, Mom, Dad, Sarah, and Bex....I could be wrong, but didn't I have a couple brothers over there, too? :) 

So much love 

The loot!

 And lastly, I'll leave you with one last picture. I call this one Chocolate Hot Flash.