Monday, January 23, 2012

More China fun than last year.

2012, Year of the Dragon

Happy Chinese New Year!

We celebrate Chinese New Year because we like Chinese food. Particularly fortune cookies. Which is funny since they aren't even Chinese. But we still enjoy the celebration. Being new in town this year, we took a chance on our neighbourhood Chinese restaurant and were very pleased to discover it was delicious.

Goodbye China Fun in Michigan, Hello Burnaby Palace in BC.

This year I also took a chance on making my own fortune cookies. After watching several You Tube videos, I determined I was skilled enough to attempt the endeavor. I chose the recipe over at When you get there, do a search for Chinese New Year Rainbow Fortune Cookies. It's a pretty straight forward recipe and I had all the ingredients. Nothing fancy. All the recipes I looked at were fairly similar to it. I modified this one by adding 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract. This recipe made exactly 20 cookies.

Some tips I gleaned from a morning of watching YouTube videos on how to make fortune cookies:
  • Don't use cooking spray, use butter or shortening to grease the pan.
  • Turn your cookie sheet over and use the bottom so the lip of the pan doesn't get in the way.
  • Use a metal spatula. (I don't have one, so I used a cheese slicer and it worked fine)
  • Add a little water to your batter if it is too thick. It should be like a thin pancake batter.
  • Spoon the batter onto the pan by tablespoons and then using the back of your spoon make a 3 to 4 inch circle with the batter.
  • When the cookies are done don't take the pan out of the oven. Remove the cookies one at a time directly from the oven, keeping the oven door open until you have removed them all.
  • Work fast.
  • Expect the tips of your fingers to get a little burned.
  • Reapply shortening between batches.
  • Don't bake more than four at a time.
  • Bake the cookies for long enough that they are brown around the edges, about 7 minutes at 350 degrees. If you don't then the cookie will be chewy and not crispy, however, it will still be pretty.
  • When you remove the cookie from the pan, transfer it to wax paper for the folding part.
  • After you have shaped the cookie, place it in one of the cups of a muffin tin to hold the corners together.

Some pictures:

I went with three colors that best symbolized the dragon - red, orange and yellow. Except my red was more pink, so I guess it's a girl dragon.

Freshly baked and ready to be removed.

The next batch ready to go in the oven.

The fortunes all ready to go in the cookies. The fortunes I used/wrote are included at the bottom of this post.

I found that the larger muffin tin was too big and didn't hold the corners of the cookie close together enough, so I used a mini muffin tin. It worked a lot better.

A hot cookie ready to be folded around a fortune. And honestly, in the time it took me to take this picture, the cookie had cooled enough that it wasn't perfectly pliable.

This is a different cookie, folded in half.

And yet another cookie, folded over the edge of a glass.

A pretty palette of fortune cookies.

We ordered Ginger Beef, Spicy Pork Green Beans, Steamed Dumplings and Orange Chicken.

真鲜! (Delicious!)

Here are the fortunes I used. I wanted them to be original and funny, but I'm not so clever that I could come up with legit fortunes on my own. I found a site with lists of them and then just added a little something to the ones I wanted to use. The italics are those additions. Enjoy!

A thrilling time is in your immediate future. 'Cause guess what? You’re doing the dishes! (Except, guess who got this one. Yah, me. Not what I had hoped for.)
Your everlasting patience will be rewarded sooner or later. But probably later, so it’s a good thing you’re patient.
Something you lost will soon turn up. Right where you put it so you wouldn’t lose it.
Excitement and intrigue follow you closely wherever you go! (So turn around very slowly, they’re right behind you)
A pleasant surprise is in store for you. I’m not sure which store, so you’re on your own as to finding it.
May life throw you a pleasant curve. And may your brakes not fail when it does.
As the purse is emptied the heart is filled. Unless it’s my purse and in that case I want my money back.
Be mischievous and you will not be lonesome. Because you'll be in detention, and there will probably be a teacher in the room.
Your many hidden talents will become obvious to those around you. Especially when you sneak up behind them and shout, “Surprise, my talents aren’t hiding anymore!”
Fame, riches, and romance are yours for the asking. Really, it’s that easy. I don’t know why you haven’t done it already.
Someone is speaking well of you. Can you hear them? Shhh, be very quiet. Quieter. Do you hear that? No? Ah well, you’ll have to take my word for it.
A member of your family will soon do something that will make you proud. The Uchtdorf approved proud, not the other kind.
Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause. They also indicate that your mother is really mad.
A quiet evening with friends is the best tonic for a long day. So is chocolate. And a good Cary Grant movie. Also snuggly blankets. OK, never mind about the quiet evening with friends.
A single word will keep one warm for years. As will a coat. But also the word thing.
Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals. No pressure.
If your desires are not extravagant they will be granted. Go ahead, ask for that 20,000 dollar raise. And when you do, tell your boss, “Hey, I’m not asking for 40,000.”
Let there be magic in your smile and firmness in your handshake. Let your mouth be closed when you chew and your zipper always up.
Nature, time and patience are the three best physicians. Dr. Deprez was pretty good too.
Happy news is on its way to you. And when it gets here you better share it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

11 favorite pics from '11

Love her smile.

He's a keeper.


A hot August night at the fair.

Our Michigan home.

Like Charlie Chaplin, only better.

My peonies.

Effigy Mounds National Park in Iowa overlooking the Mississippi River

An ancestor never to be forgotten.

A cell - the only one in his class not made out of a Styrofoam ball.

Sadly, the shoes never recovered.

You know. For elves.

Today is New Year's Day, and we all know what that means, right? Yep, it's time to open the gingerbread houses! Awesome.

The making of a gingerbread house is a merry way of celebrating the Christmas season. The tradition goes back many centuries, originating in Germany and coming to America during colonial times. The Grimm brother's tale of Hansel and Gretel popularized the idea of building houses of gingerbread, especially ones decorated with sweet treats on which to nibble.

Queen Victoria and her prince-charming Albert popularized the tradition of building gingerbread houses for the Christmas holiday. Our family's Christmas tradition of gingerbread building has devolved into graham cracker houses - and this year, pretzels - but the candy is the key and with enough chocolate, royal icing, and gumdrops, it's easy to cover up the difference. Besides, it's not what's happening on the outside, but what's happening inside the house that really matters.

Elves enjoy a good vacation after the rush and bustle of Christmas. So keep that in mind when you're creating your gingerbread (or graham cracker) masterpiece - the better looking your house the more talented your vacationing elf. You see gingerbread houses are where elves holiday the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Don't disappoint the elves with shoddy construction, or worse, skimp on the application of candy. Be sure to allow for the comfort of your elf. Elves want a place to feel at home, a place where they can put their feet up, relax and enjoy a little peace and quiet.

New Year's Day is the culmination of the gingerbread house season. Building your gingerbread house can be done anytime during December before Christmas Day, but opening your house can only be done after the elves have all left. So no peeking before the clock strikes 12 on New Year's Eve - elves are fickle that way and you don't want to open an empty house. If you have treated your elf well, he or she will have left a trinket or gift expressing their gratitude for your gracious hospitality. If they're feeling exceedingly generous and their gift doesn't fit inside the house, than a note is left directing you to the location of your gift.

May you never look at your gingerbread house again, without also wondering about the elf that is enjoying the candies of your labor. Here's how our gingerbread house building, demolishing, devouring and rejoicing went this year:

The supplies: Lots of chocolate and candy, enough royal icing so you don't have to stop and make more, graham crackers (or gingerbread if your ambitious) and a platform for your house.

We also included three cute kids, just for grins and giggles. The middle one's elvish grin is befitting considering where a lot of the candy ended up.

Namely in his mouth. And obviously by the handful.

Some of it managed to end up on the house. This is what I meant when I said if you throw enough candy on the outside, you can't tell if gingerbread or graham crackers were used. I feared collapse, but the royal icing kept the walls secured.

A geometric architectural choice. Notice the octagonal shape of the walls. She built supports inside to hold up the roof. Genius.

The roof on this beauty would have caved into the middle if not for the gumdrops counteracting the weight of the graham cracker roof.

A mod pod.

I would live here if I could.

A smashing good time. The note read:

Your candy castle delight
Was such a lovely sight!
My after Christmas stay
(in each and every way)
Exceeded expectation,
so I made a gift - a token of my appreciation.
(Psst, it's in a table, run if you're able)
Love, Your Elf

He found that after finding this:

This little elf just wants to say -
Thanks for the awesome house you built for my stay!

A gift I have made you -
It's on a kitchen shelf.

I hope that you like it.

Signed, One Grateful Elf

His gift actually fit in his house. But the elf left a note anyway.

A phone for you,
Call your father.
Really, I promise
It isn't a bother.

A phone for you,
Call your mother.
No, really.
Call your mother.

From, Your Elf

Happy New Year!