Saturday, April 29, 2006

Freezer Food Friday--Chicken Nuggets

Happy Friday!

First off, a question: is it infringing on copyright laws to share a recipe from a cookbook if I site the author and the book?

I have a feeling it is, so today's freezer food is more of an idea than an actual recipe. Chicken nuggets. My kids love 'em. Most days my son Julio (5) is like a poster child AGAINST the Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, etc. He can sense when something has protein in it and instantly turns up his nose.

Me: Would you like a ham and cheese sandwich Julio?
Julio: Sure, but not with ham or cheese, just the bread and
But, he will eat chicken nuggets. And I hate the frozen ones you can buy. And the fast food variety. I can eat them if I don't actually look at them. So gross. Who knows what "parts" actually make up the nugget. Anyway, you can make your own, freeze them and then they are just as convenient as store-bought nuggets but better because you know they are made from an actual chicken breast and they are baked instead of fried.

I use a recipe out of "The Freezer Cooking Manual From 30 Day Gourmet: A Month a Meals Made Easy", a book that I highly recommend if you are interested in doing the freezer food thing. The recipe has you dip the chicken pieces in Ranch Dressing mixed with a little milk and then shake them around in a bag of bread crumbs. They are tasty. If you have a day when you are going to be around, you can easily make 5 or 6 batches and freeze them. It's kind of like making several batches of cookies, only with chicken.

I am sure you could use any chicken nugget recipe that you may already have. Here's one I found on that looks pretty good.

So, there you have it.

One more thing. A couple of weeks ago I did a post on Julio's love of making paper airplanes. Here is the most creative one I have see to date:

Any guesses as to what it is made of? (hint: it is Freezer Food Friday, wherein I talk about food and kitchen things)

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Best of Small Town Mexico-The Family Fun Center

Today's Best of Small Town Mexico is brought to you by a special "guest poster", my 5 year old son Julio. We have just returned to Small Town from Houston and it is always hard to come back; I can't think of anything really great about living here right now, so I will be relying on guest posters until the depression lifts.

Julio's favorite thing about Small Town Mexico is the "Family Fun Center". The Fun Center is a bowling alley with some video games, air hockey/pool tables, etc. They also have an indoor play area for kids. Julio loves to go there.

It opened about a year after we got here and there was much anticipation in our house as there just is not a lot to do here in Small Town with kids (or without kids for that matter). Bowling is not my favorite activity, but I can see how it would be more fun than say, playing Candyland 30 times in a row.

Exit, sweet, fun-loving Julio. Enter grouchy Gabriela.

We were pretty disappointed when it opened up and we saw the prices. Here's the prices PER PERSON, PER GAME (10 pesos=1 dollar):

So, for our family of 5 to bowl during prime bowing hours (after 1 pm) and play ONE game (with shoe rental), it would cost us FORTY DOLLARS. 4-0. Can anyone believe that??? I cannot. And if we go for bargain bowling? $35.00. PER GAME. It's bowling for Pete's sake! I don't think so. I have not and will not ever bowl here.

I am not sure who is using this so-called "Fun" center. An average, minimum wage, entry-level job here pays around $240 a month. A serious bowling habit could really take a hit at that.

Occasionally, when we are TOTALLY desperate for something to do, we will go and play the other games. Those are expensive too. between $0.60 and $1.00 per game. GRRRR.

Sorry, this is supposed to be the positive, uplifting, Best of Small Town. I'm just not there yet. Maybe next week.

Monday, April 24, 2006

I Can't Take It Any Longer!

Yesterday, I reported on my new "do". It was such an awesome style that it inspired Grammy to make some changes as well:

and the kids:

. . .even Grammy's dog Caleb decided he was ready for a change:

I can't take it any longer! I feel like I have breached blogger confidence.


Thank you to all of the sweet people who supported me in my fake hair style. I did get a haircut, but it was just my normal, boring cut, a trim with long layers. It's kind of bugging me because I think it looks like a slightly longer version of Ace Young's hair, may he rest in peace.

I am such a chicken with my hair, I could NEVER get a cut like that even if I wanted to. I did toy with the idea of bangs, but the stylist asked me if I would be willing to blow-dry every day (I got the feeling she already knew the answer to her question from how my hair looked when I showed up).

Daily blow drying? Ummmmm, no. NEVER going to happen. So, I look pretty much the same as when I left Small Town last week.

I promise you my blog is not a blog of lies.

I just couldn't let the chance pass me by to get a little revenge on my sweet, funny, husband Guapo. You see, last month when I just started blogging I was complaining about not getting any comments. Low and behold, 4 showed up one after another, all from him using fake names. One was just slightly disturbing. Here's the link to the post; check out Antonio's comment.

I had several hours of picturing Antonio, the 51 year old-American-born-turned-Mexican-child-predator catching a flight to our little town to seek out my children!! I was SO relieved when he finally told me that he was Antonio that I wasn't even upset.

I'm pretty sure that's how he felt when I got off the plane today!

My New Do

I feel fairly confident now telling people I am fluent in Spanish. Not perfect by any means, but I can get by just fine. Except in certain circumstances. Like getting my hair cut. I don't know the translations for words like "bangs", "layers", "texturize", "split-ends", "bob", "ionizing blow dryer", etc. So, I usually go months on end without getting my hair cut out of pure fear of how it will end up.

I am still in Houston and went for a cut a couple of days ago. I have had pretty much the same haircut since I was 16: long, no bangs, sometimes long layers, sometimes no layers. I have been dying to try something new and exciting. Grammy gave me the push that I needed to make the change. Here's to no more clogging up the shower with my long locks:

Guapo will be shocked!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Freezer Food Friday-Live from Houston

Well, I skipped "Not So Best of Small Town Mexico" this week because I am not there and I really don't want to sit and waste time thinking about Small Town. I am in Houston at Grammy's house. We are having a great time. Highlights so far:

  • Fearlessly drinking water directly from the faucet
  • Drinking real milk (from a glass, not the container. I do mind my manners when I am not at my parents' house)
  • Jogging outside
  • Spending time with my great friend Grammy
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Marshalls
  • Gap
  • Old Navy
  • Chuck E. Cheese (ok, this was more of a highlight for the kids)
  • Sitting in the hot tub
  • Going to a movie that was neither dubbed nor sub-titled

And some more things to come before we leave:

  • Houston Aquarium
  • BBQ with old friends from Venezuela
  • Church in English
  • Banana splits
  • Blueberry muffins
  • More hot tub
  • Shopping
  • Probably a little more shopping (so sorry Guapo!)

Anyway, in honor of Grammy, I am going to share one of her best recipes (with her permission of course) that I freeze often and is a huge hit with Guapo and the kids. It is her famous BBQ Beef and it is as follows:

5-6 lb roast

Marinate 1 hour in:

2 cups Water
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp. BBQ Sauce
1 Tbsp. Liquid Smoke

Bake in marinade for 5-6 hours at 350 degrees covered. Turn each hour

Cool-Pour off marinade-shred beef by hand

1/4 cup butter
3 Tbsp. Liquid smoke
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
26 oz. Ketchup

Simmer 1 hour. Pour over shredded beef. Bake 1/2 hour at 250 degrees.

This makes delicious BBQ beef. And pork. Whenever I ask for "roast beef" in Mexico they always give me a beef tenderloin so, I go with pork instead. They sell that prepackaged and I don't have to ask anyone for it. Grammy says that Nantie Meg has also done it with turkey. I'm pretty sure it would be great with chicken too. The recipe is easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc.

I don't mean to mess with perfection, but there are a couple of things I do differently. First, because I am lazier than Grammy, I cook the meat in the crock-pot until it is tender. And second, I have a bigger sweet tooth than Grammy, so I always throw a little brown sugar into the sauce. Not sure how much. Enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Freeze the extra that you have in Ziploc freezer bags. You can move a bag from the freezer to the fridge the morning that you are going to serve it; buy some buns, chips, serve raw veggies and dip and voila! Dinner is served in a matter of minutes.

Try it! You will love it, I promise.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Best of Small Town Mexico-Exploring the Yucatan

I really hate to put you through another episode of "Come on over and check out our slides of the Grand Canyon!" but this week's Best of Small Town Mexico has to do with our recent trip to Palenque. One of the very best things about living in our small town is that it is smack dab in the middle of Mayan Ruin Central.

Our hotel was nice; simple but clean. We reserved, and paid for in advance, I might add, a pool-view 2 double-bed room. We were given a room with one double bed and a view of the adjoining business's parking lot. They were nice enough to give us two roll aways (free of charge!) and us each a cup of juice (?!?). Oh well, no big deal, it's all about spending quality time together, right?

So Friday we were off to explore the ruins of Palenque. It was very cool. It is probably the biggest group of ruins we have seen in this area of Mexico and is situated in a lush green jungle.

I will not try to impress you here with my knowledge of Mayan architecture or their social structure or even when the darn buildings were erected because it's pretty limited. That's Guapo's department. If I would let him, he would stop and read every dang informational sign he could find. If you want to know more, I am sure Google can point you in the right direction.

My department takes care of things like keeping everyone lathered in sunscreen, fully hydrated and saying things like: "Ohhhh, wow! That's beautiful/big/interesting/unique."

Or, more often: "JULIO, GET BACK DOWN HERE!!!! Stop climbing the pyramids without me or your dad."

One major difference between Palenque and other sites we have visited was that at Palenque we were actually allowed to go inside a few of the buildings whereas at other ruins we were only allowed to climb around on the outside. That was really cool. We were able to see some beds where people slept and even saw some ancient potties.

The next day we went to a place called Agua Azul (Blue Water) a group of waterfalls about an hour from Palenque. Here's a little travel tip: Don't travel in Latin America during "Semana Santa" (Holy Week) unless you really like crowds. This lesson we learned in Venezuela but somehow pushed it to the back of our minds when we were planning this trip. This was the scene when we arrived at Agua Azul:

Not too inviting. The problem was, to keep the kids behaving all day at the ruins we had to constantly reminded them that the following day they would be frolicking in waterfalls. There was no way Margarita (8) was going to take pictures and leave; and who could tell poor little Julio (5) who threw up on the way there because the road was so curvy, that swimming was cancelled?

Someone had to take them in to the very crowded, very cold water.

Have I mentioned lately what a great husband and dad Guapo is? He had absolultely no desire to hop in the waterfall water, but did so anyway while I sat, fully clothed, and took pictures (well, someone had to watch our stuff).

And finally, here's a funny sign:

That was right next to this waterfall:

All and all it was a fantastic trip. Mexico is an incredible country with so much to see and do.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I'm "It"

Hi! I hope everyone had a nice Easter and is now enjoying those deviled eggs.

I have been tagged by Lei over at My Many Colored Days to share 6 things about myself that I think are weird.

Hmmm, ok, here it goes:

1. I actually look forward to going to the dentist. I have had the same dentist since I was in 3rd grade; we took a field trip to his office and he was so nice that those positive feelings have just always stuck around.

2. I love flat, somewhat firm pillows. I usually sleep with one on top of my head, or with my head sandwiched between two of them.

3. I am OC about having my kids toys organized. It really bothers me if I find action figures mixed in with the blocks. The rest of the house can be headed to heck in a handbasket for all I care, as long as the toys are ship-shape.

4. I get the feeling I'm weird when I hear other people talking about "the good old days" before they got married. They reminisce about dating, going out with friends, etc. The one thing I really miss from "the good old days" is the freedom to go to the library and study until they lock the doors. I am a nerd at heart. Love school and everything about it. Tests, textbooks, school supplies, study groups, testing centers, libraries, syllabi, etc.

5. I HATE to swim in lakes. The muddy bottom really, really creeps me out. (Guapo likes to point out that I did swim in a lake once before we got married just to give him the impression I was adventurous)

6. I am currently reading the Old Testament and enjoying it! That's weird isn't it? I mean, sure, there are some mind-numbingly boring spots, but there are some great stories, and some really, really weird stuff in there. I just felt it was time stop relying on Bob and Larry for my OT smarts. Maybe this one falls under #4. For those of you who think it does, I will share one more:

7. I have trouble driving in reverse. I'm doing ok right now because my mini-van is equipped with this beeper thing that lets me know when I am closing in on some poor, unsuspecting object. But, it's really a two edged sword because when I go to the States and rent a car, guess what? No beep.

There you have it. Now I have to tag 6 of my blogging friends and they have to share 6 weird things about themselves.

  1. Nutella
  2. Southern Blonde Belle
  3. Grammy
  4. Itybtyfrog ideas
  5. No Cool Story
  6. Nantie Meg

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Freezer Food Friday-Tacos

I know, I know, it's only Thursday. But we are going out to explore the ruins of Palenque for a couple of days, so I thought I'd do Freezer Food Friday today.

My family loves tacos! American tacos. We also love all the different kinds of Mexican tacos we have tried here, but I haven't tried to freeze any of them yet. I am talking about the ground beef with a Taco Mix Packet variety. And then you have your shell of choice (we like soft flour tortillas), shredded cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce, sour cream and maybe a little MILD salsa. My kids eat them up.

And here's the thing, you can freeze the prepared meat. I know, you're thinking, "But tacos don't take that long to prepare anyway, why would I freeze the meat?" It makes tacos even faster. Seriously, you can have the whole thing on the table in like 6 1/2 minutes and not have a pan to wash. Cut up a cantaloupe or watermelon and voilá. Dinner is served.

So, the next time you make tacos, instead of preparing 1 lb. of ground beef, do 5 or 6 lbs. and freeze it. You can also make it go further and add some anti-oxidants by throwing in a couple of cans of diced tomatoes.

Here are my other ideas regarding tacos:

  1. cut up fresh spinach instead of lettuce
  2. fresh cilanto-yum yum
  3. in addition to the meat, add refried beans as well

I'd love to hear what your family does with tacos!

And now, here is a picture of my favorite kind of Mexican taco I have tried here:

I can't remember what they are called (maybe No Cool Story can help me out here, except for that I know the food in Mexico is totally regional and she is from Veracruz which is nowhere near Small Town). You start with a fresh corn tortilla, fry it in a little oil; top it with some fresh tomato sauce (just tomatoes boiled in water and then blended up in the blender), top that with some shredded roast beef meat, then diced onions and then some kind of stinky white cheese that crumbles easily (Help me out here No Cool Story!). They are delicious in spite of the stinky cheese. I can eat about 6 in a row if I'm not careful.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter weekend! I'll report on Palenque soon.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Best of Small Town Mexico-Hermano Pech

Today's "Best of Small Town Mexico" is a man from our church called Hermano Pech, or "Brother Pech". I don't know how old he is, no one really does, but he is old. The poor little guy can barely see, he moves so slowly, and his mind is not what it once was. He lives in a little house by himself and different families from church take turns taking him food and looking out for him.

The first time I took food to his house, I was so shocked that I cried. I was not prepared to see someone living how he lives. As far as Americans go, we are as white and as middle-class as they come; I grew up with very little exposure to poverty or how other cultures lived. In Venezuela, because of security issues, we lived among the richest and didn't venture out into neighborhoods where "average" Venezuelans lived. But here in Mexico we have the chance to see how all different classes of people live.

It was disturbing to me to see a little old man living alone in a house that we would consider unacceptable. I am grateful for the chance I have had to take my kids to see Brother Pech. Although they sometimes complain about accompanying me, I know that it will stick with them. They are learning about respecting the elderly, providing service to those in need, and are gaining a wider view of the world than I did. When we visit Brother Pech he is always cheerful. He loves whatever food we bring, saying hello and trying to have a conversation with my three kids, and chatting about whatever is on his mind. When I ask him how he's feeling, he tells me, "Fine, thanks to our Father in Heaven." He is such a great example to me of the need to be grateful for the blessings that we do have.

Sometimes I wonder why the Lord doesn't let poor Brother Pech move on in his spiritual journey. That sounds kind-of harsh, but the poor little guy spends most of his day alone trying to nap or sitting on his porch step trying to stay cool with no air-conditioning or even a fan. One thought that I have had is that he provides the opportunity for many, who may not otherwise do so, to offer service. I really believe people are at their very best when they are serving someone else.

He represents to me the kind of service we have been able to give here. In my life in the States, a lot of the service I was involved in was so removed from the people I was helping. I would give clothes to an organization like the Salvation Army or the D.I., would take canned goods to a food drive, or would provide a Christmas gift for a child whom I never laid eyes on. Here, I actually see the needs with my own two eyes; I see people who are hungry, or that only have 2 changes of clothes, or who will not have money to buy anything for their kids for Christmas. And I can do something about it. For this, I am so grateful for the time we have been able to spend here in Small Town Mexico.

***(On a much, much lighter note, last year Juan Carlos (then 2 years old) kept saying something that sounded like "Donkeybitch." We could not for the life of us figure it out. It did keep us in stitches though. Finally, one day we were driving by Pech's house and he said it! The whole time he had been talking about "Brother Pech". So cute.)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Easy Easter Lesson for Kids

In the spirit of teaching kids the true meaning of Easter, I wanted to share an easy, quick Easter lesson that my friend Grammy did with us last year for a Family Home Evening lesson while we were visiting her. I asked her if I could share the lesson on my blog and she, being the nice person that she is, said yes (and gave the credit to a Methodist Sunday school teacher).

Speaking of teaching the true meaning of Easter, don't worry about us, it is not a problem this year. Mexicans have not discovered the financial possibilities of commercializing yet another holiday. Or the addictiveness of mini-Cadbury eggs. Or the Easter Bunny. Or all things fluffy, cute and pastel. THERE ARE NO PEEPS HERE FOR PETE'S SAKE. (Does anyone else love peeps that are just a little bit stale?) No Robin Eggs. No baskets shaped like fire trucks or bunnies or anything because there are no baskets! Oh well. Right about now I could really go for my favorite Easter candy: the Reese's Peanut Butter Egg.

I am afraid my kids may be on to us when they see their lame Easter baskets this year. Mexican candy is gross. (Sorry to my Mexican readers (if I have any) for my lack of political correctness, but for someone not accustomed to eating chile on every single thing that enters my system, it is not appealing).

Anyway, here is the activity:

You need 12 plastic eggs; print out the 12 scriptures below and collect the small objects that correspond to the scriptural references.

Place the scripture along with its object in an egg. Keep the eggs in order in an egg carton; open them one at a time starting with #1; share the scripture and let your kids hold the object. You can store the eggs in an egg carton and save them for next year.

#1 "And He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." Matthew 26:39 (sacrament cup or other small cup)

#2 "Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, 'What will you give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?' And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver." Matthew 26:14-15. (3 dimes)

#3 "When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death: And when they had bound Him, they led Him away, and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor." Matthew 27:1-2 (knotted twine)

#4 "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, his blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified." Mathew 27:24-26. (chunk of hand soap)

#5 "And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon Him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head." Matthew 27:28-30 (square of red velvet)

#6 "And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear His cross." Matthew 27:31-32 "And he was crucified. . . nailed to the cross" (toothpick cross, tiny nail)

#7 "And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet. . .And sitting down they watched him there" Matthew 27:35-36. (small pair of dice)

#8 "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;. . .Now when the centurion and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, 'Truly this was the Son of God'." Matthew 27:50-51, 54 (tiny bag of crushed rock or potting soil)

#9 " Joseph... a rich man, went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb which he ad hewn out in the rock" Matthew 27:57-60 (strip of white cloth)

#10 "And he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed. Pilate said unto them (the chief priests and Pharisees), Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch." Matthew 27:60, 65-66 (a small stone)

#11 "And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. And the angel... said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified." Mark 16:1, Matthew 28:2,5 (bay leaf or other herb)

#12 "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said." Matthew 28:6 (EMPTY)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Look What I Made!

Here's what I spent an hour of my afternoon on yesterday:


It started as some quality play time with Julio (5) and a set of sea creature Lego's that he got for Christmas. As hard as I have tried to keep them separated from the 1000's of other Lego's we own, sadly, my kids don't share my love of organization. Julio soon tired of looking for the little pieces and I was left on my own to seek out the 50-some odd shark-pieces in this mess:

He was kind enough to check on my progress every few minutes.

I only have myself to blame as I was the one who chose the present.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Freezer Food Friday- Oriental Chicken

Yay! It's Friday.

Every Friday I share a recipe that a) everyone in my family will eat happily, b) is easily freezable. I have about 45 minutes to get dinner ready, and preparing some things ahead of time and freezing them has helped me a lot.

Today's recipe is kind-of a pain to make because of so many ingredients, but if you make 5 batches instead of one and freeze 4 it is well worth it. I found the original recipe in A Taste of Home magazine. Submitted by a Dave Farrington from Midwest City, Oklahoma, it was originally called "Oriental Chicken Thighs. " I have since changed the recipe a bit and use more than just thighs, so we'll call it "Oriental Chicken." It makes a really tasty dish that both my kids and Guapo love. First I will give the recipe for a single batch.

10 pieces bone-in chicken, skin removed (I use legs and thighs because my kids LOVE chicken legs. If you were going to use bone in breasts, you'd problaby want to only use 4 or 5pieces)
3 T olive oil

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the chicken in oil for about 15 minutes or until juices run clear. Meanwhile, mix the following ingredients in a something that you can shake it up in (like a jar with a tight fitting lid):

2/3 c warm water
1/2 packed brown sugar
1/4 c orange juice
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c ketchup
2 T white vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder (this has a very distinct flavor; the dish can be prepared without it and has a different flavor that is still very good)
~ 1 T or 1 inch fresh ginger (peeled and minced or washed and sliced into slices)

Shake until sugar is dissolved. Pour over the chicken. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is tender. Combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth; gradually stir into skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

When I am going to freeze this recipe, I multiple the sauce times 5, use 1/5 of it the day I make it and with what remains, divide it into 4 and put each part into a Ziploc freezer bag. When I am going to use it, I'll move one from the freezer to the fridge and it will be thawed by lunch time. So here is the sauce portion of the above recipe X5:

3 1/3 c warm water
2 1/2 packed brown sugar
1 1/4 c orange juice
1 1/4 c soy sauce
1 1/4 c ketchup
1/2 c + 2T white vinegar
30 cloves garlic, minced
5 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
Several inches of fresh ginger

So, there it is. It really is tasty and it smells so good as you are cooking it. I prepared it last weekend for a dinner with my friend Rita and her family. They are from the Philipines and therfore, from what I have learned thus far about Filipinos, are food connoisseurs. They really liked the chicken (or at least were very good liars).

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Julio's Latest Love

One thing I love about my son Julio (5/12), is his strong personality and zest for life. It has given me lots of headaches, but also lots of joy. The child laughed before he turned 2 months old. Not smiled. Not cooed. We're talking full-on belly laugh. Check out this picture of him at 10 1/2 months in our bidet in Venezuela (don't worry, we didn't actually use it for its intended purpose). It is a perfect depiction of his character as a baby.

When he has an interest, it becomes the center of his little life. First it was Hot Wheels cars. The kid LOVES cars. When he was really little, like 15 months, I used to get a sort of "poltergeisty" feeling when I would walk into a room that he had been in and see all of his little cars, arranged in a perfectly straight line, all facing the same direction.

Next came the "puzzler" phase; and who could forget the Spiderman phase? Yep, those are underwear on his head.

When he was about 3 his Lego's phase started and is still going on strong. Completely symmetrical aircraft are his specialty. Guapo is convinced that he is going to be some kind of engineer when he grows up.

His latest obsession is paper airplanes.

I am going crazy because I can't keep any kind of white paper out or it will be folded up faster than you can say "deforestation". I did not know this, but apparently, if the paper "has words on the back", it cannot be used in the making of paper airplanes. Last week I bought myself a nice new ream of white copy paper and I hid it on the top shelf of a cupboard in my closet; later that day I entered the closet to find a footstool in front of the open cupboard and the ream on a more obtainable level. (As I write this it is under a pile of clothes in a drawer in my closet.)

So, here are a couple of photos to show you what my house is looking like these days. The first is a photo of airplanes that I collected in ONE day. Just one day. And this has been going on for weeks.

Here are a few of the best ones (pretty good for a 5 year old, don't you think?):

And here's one I found just this morning made out of a George Washington (I guess he hasn't discovered the stash of paper yet)

Any obsessions going on in your home?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Not So Best of Small Town Mexico-My Treadmill

I like to stay in shape. I am not a fanatic or anything, but I like to work out. My exercise of choice is running. I vacillate anywhere between a recreational and an avid runner. Right now I am very, very recreational. I credit my mom for instilling in me my "love" of running. She is going to turn 58 this year and is a marathoner. It is hard to be a couch potato when your mom is off training for a marathon.

Anyway, back to my "Not So Best of Small Town Mexico". I prefer to run outside; I like to have the variety of scenery that doesn't come running inside a gym. Unfortunately, my running options are seriously limited here. Running outside is not really an option because:

  1. Too many dogs
  2. Too many bad smells
  3. Way too hot
  4. Too many holes/cracks in the sidewalk
  5. Too many men with too much time on their hands and too many comments (an exercising woman, or man for that matter, is not a common sight here)
Instead I run on my treadmill. Here it is:

We went all out and spent the big bucks on this baby last year. We spent an extra $1000 or so to get the heart monitor thingy. I think I have monitored my heart maybe 5 times.

Here is a list of just a few of the things that that I will do in order to avoid getting on the beast:

  1. pluck my eyebrows
  2. clean out my nightstand
  3. start the laundry
  4. organize my closet
  5. organize my kids' closets
  6. alphabetize my books/dvds/cds
  7. dust my room
  8. wash dishes

You get the idea. Once I finally get my ipod and hop on the machine here is an example of my thought process:

Ok, don't look at the time. That's right. We're doing fine. What? 2 minutes and 14 seconds???? That's it? It's ok, it's always the hardest at the beginning. Ok, I won't look again until the chorus of this song. 3 minutes. Ok, I will not look this entire song. Ok, 6 minutes. 1/5 of the way done. Now we're getting somewhere. Let's see, I'll count to 100 and then look. Whoops, I peeked. Is the phone/doorbell ringing? Ok, I will try not to look for 0.5 miles. Only 0.3?? Crap. Ok. Picture Forrest Gump, he ran accross the country, you can run for a half hour. 10 minutes. I am 1/3 of the way done...

And on and on and on. I go through this process 3 or 4 times a week. I drive myself nuts on that thing.

On the positive side, I can stick the two older kids on it when they're crawling the walls. Margarita (8 yrs) once ran 3 miles. And Juan Carlos loves to use it as a jungle gym:

Got to go. The beast calls.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Best of Small Town Mexico-The Chicken Store

I come from the land of "super-sizing". I know it's a generalization, but I think it's fair to say as Americans we tend super-size everything, our fries, our cars, our homes and our stores. We love the convenience of one-stop shopping like Super Wal-Mart, Super Target, etc. I am not bashing it; I enjoy it very much (as would attest my credit card companies).

But, living here we have experienced a different kind-of shopping that is also nice. Our town has several larger grocery stores and as of yet they have not run out of business the many smaller stores. Some of these "stores" are simply a table on the sidewalk in front of a home with fruits and veggies on it. Others are larger and not apart of the owner's home. Today's "Best of Small Town Mexico" is the chicken store that we go to. It is a short walk from our house and Juan Carlos and I often go there in the morning to buy chicken.

In a town where there's not much to do, going to the chicken store, or the meat or fruit store gives us an activity. It's nice for the kids because it's a lot more personal experience than going to a larger store; the storeowners always remember them. And, being a regular in a few of these places has helped in obtaining normal prices instead of the "special" Gringo rates.

Anyway, the chicken store is clean, the workers are friendly and the chicken is tasty. They will give you are chicken any way you want it. Whole, parts, skin on, skin off, bone-in, bone-out, whatever! I like to prepare a whole chicken every now and again and I love this store because they will take out the nasty inside parts for me so I never have to touch them. They always ask me if I want to keep the feet, which are commonly eaten here. I always decline.

Here's a picture of the owner, the man on the right, and two guys that work there. Notice all of the tools on the wall. If you ask for a demonstration, they are always happy to oblige.

Check out these scissors!

And now for the grand finale, Julio and Juan Carlos's favorite part (it is NOT my favorite part) of each visit, a peek into the freezer full of chickens: