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There is nothing like sharing dinner among friends on the night before CNY.   Jim and I had Karl, Kai Mei, Kipp and Beth,  Anh and Jim, Robbie and Kim over for a hot pot dinner.   What’s a hot pot you say???  Well, some might call it a firepot (that’s probably direct translation from Chinese, i’m not real sure).  The traditional hot pot is basically a pot with two levels.  The top level is where the broth goes and the bottom level has an opening where you would put red hot coals.    Well as you will see from my picture below, ours is made of a hotplate and a Cuisinart aluminium pot :-) .

What we do with the hot pot is basically put fresh food into the boiling broth.  Once it’s cooked, everyone dishes out their food with a little net to their bowl.  Traditional broth consist of pork broth with winter melon but ours is Thai Tom Yum soup with lemon grass.   Among the ingredients that we had were beef, mushrooms (oyster, straw, button), nappa cabbage, shrimp,  fishballs, squidballs, etc.   Those of you with gutter mind…..  fishballs are basically made out of fish fillets, tapioca flour, salt and spices.  The ingredients for the fishballs are mixed together, rolled into balls and steamed.

Anh brought over her delicious spring rolls and they were yummy appetizers.  The kids ate a whole lot of spring rolls and pot stickers while chugging down milk and orange juice.   Wished we had taken a picture of that but we missed it.

IMG_0969 by you.

We did prepare a few cheese and crackers for the faint hearted who are not familiar with scary looking food ;-) .


Happy Chinese New Year 2009

Dearest Friends ,

We wish you a very Happy Chinese New Year.   May the year of  Ox bring you and your family  joy  and happiness.


Angela & Jim

Original holiday card. (The music playing on every page load has gotten old!)


Meet My Nephew

Hello all,

I just wanted to share a picture of my nephew with you.   He is about 4 1/2 months old.  His name is Ivan Liong Wen Chiat.  (Liong is the last name).  I don’t think he cares to have the SLR camera pointed at him yet ;-) .   Ivan here loves to be held and carried around.  He is the first grandchild for both my mom and Chian Min’s parents,  so he gets a whole lot of  tender loving care (TLC).



Pumpkin, oh pumpkin in a can

It is Saturday morning (9am) and the temperature outside is 29.5F or -1.4C. All the leaves from our Maple and Ash trees have fallen to the ground. I’m wondering if we are still up to raking up the last of the leaves this weekend. I have just finished talking to a friend of mine from India; she was my guide when I was there in 2006 and we have kept in touch since.

Next week is Thanksgiving weekend, we are foregoing turkey this year for ham. I’m also going to have to dig up my pumpkin pie recipe. This reminds me of the year I made pumpkin pie in NZ. Just FYI, pumpkin puree comes conveniently in a can here but pumpkin puree in NZ is “pumpkin” the fruit. I had to make puree from it. Funny, I’m sure it’s all natural to many ladies out there on how to make puree, but it wasn’t for me. I had a laptop open with step by step instructions. I broke a sieve in the process, almost chop my fingers off (these are not the cute pumpkin you see during Halloween. If this pumpkin drops on your head, I’m positive you’ll suffer a concussion). The process involves, cutting the pumpkin into pieces, bake them and then mash the pieces through a sieve. It was funny how involve it became compared to opening a can ;-) .

Pumpkin in NZ

Pumpkin in US

Both are 100% pumpkin puree

Personally, I prefer the pumkin in the can for baking (yes, I’m sure Martha Stewart frowns upon it). It’s much more convenient and shortens the time it takes to make pumpkin bread or pie.  As for roast pumpkin, that will of course require a fresh pumpkin.  It’s kind of difficult to reform pumpkin pieces after it’s been mashed to a pulp ;-) .


Too much nature in the backyard?

It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in Peoria.  After returning from the Peoria Art Fair,  I thought I’d go to our backyard and finish staining the fence.  There are only 5 more fence panels to go.   So I started off staining the fence,  an hour later Jim came out to join me.  As he looks around the fence, he yelled out “Hey, did you see that?”.  I was busy painting and did not look up.  I yelled back “Look at what?”; “That!” he said.  “That” did not peak my interest so I went on until he said “A headless bird sitting on the fence post” pointing towards the fence post.  Ok, that did it…  a headless bird????.  Eeeuwhhhhh!!!!! Eeeeuwhhhh! Eeeuwwhhh!!! especially when 20 mins ago, I was 1 panel away away from that post.  It could have fallen on my head, as i was merrily painting away.   As my heads spins on what could happen should the headless bird had fallen on me ;-) , Jim removed the bird from the post.

After recovering from my “what ifs” and purging all the gross images from my head, he and I continued working on the fence.  About 2 hours later we were done.  I left to water the front lawn where I had put some seeds down.  Jim was cleaning out the stain sprayer.  Then I hear, “Angela come quick!!”.   He and I walked slowly into our backyard and saw sitting on the fence at the right corner was a full grown hawk.  So that should explain the headless bird on the fence post, it also explains why my bird feeder has been full for the past two weeks.   It’s pretty cool to have a hawk visit, but I am not sure if I want to find headless birds or parts of birds in my flower bed.  On the up side,  I’ve not seen those pesky little chipmunks around either,  so that’s great!


Do you Freecycle?

I like the “three r’s” campaign which expands recycling to:  reduce, reuse, recycle.  We’ve been recycling for years, but more recently I’ve been looking for ways to reuse.  “Borrow what you need, give what you have”, they say.  I’ve been looking for ways to give away the ton of unused–but not useless–stuff that we’ve accumulated.

For giving and getting books, I recommend BookMooch. This site provides a forum for listing your books and searching for others’.  If someone requests one of your books, you send it to them on your dime (about $2.50 via media mail for a normal size book), and get one point.  Send it overseas and get three points.  You can then spend those points on any of the other books that are offered by requesting them from the BookMooch site, which will forward the request to the owner (who will pay the shipping).   The site itself has no role in the trade beyond tracking points and providing a way to search.  It’s a very effective system for swapping certain types of books.

For giving and getting general merchandise, I can go to Goodwill, but I’ve never been very confident in the effectiveness of Goodwill.  Often times the drop-off location looks like a dump, and a dumpster is usually nearby.  I’m just not sure the things I drop off end up with someone who needs them.  Enter Freecycle.

Freecycle is a network of Yahoo Groups sites where you can post offers to give away just about anything.  The sites are set up around geographic areas: the Peoria site covers the city and surrounding counties.  The rules state that the recipient is responsible for picking up the item, and that there is to be no money involved in the transaction.  Why Freecycle and not eBay?  Mainly because it’s simpler and quicker.  You don’t need to post an elaborate ad, wait for the auction to expire, and handle the money and shipping issues.  Freecycle is a simple way to give things away to people in your area who want them now.  And it’s been very effective for me.  I’ve offered up an old scanner, computer, and an end table.  In each case there were many interested parties, and I just chose someone who was willing to pick the item up quickly and would accommodate my work schedule.  I’ve had no problems with any of the exchanges, and it’s very satisfying handing over some perfectly good item (that I don’t need anymore) to someone who can actually use it.

Give these two sites a try and help reduce the world’s junk.


Labor Day Weekend

We had a fun labor day weekend.  A lot had to do with both of us not going to work ;-) .   Christian visited us from Michigan and stayed over the weekend.   As a token of “thank you”, he kicked our butts in Ping Pong.   Thank goodness, Karl got him on golf first.  So I have to say Peoria 1,  Novi 1.

Well, we had dinner at Ponte Vecchio (Italian) the first night and the food was good.  On the second night we stopped at Kellerher’s after Mr. Sauerland’s defeat in golf.  I had Fish and Chips but it was nothing like the ones we used to get in NZ.  It was alright but not great as far as fish and chips standards go (if there is such a thing).  Jim and Kipp had hot pies/pot pies without the pie or the puff pastry.  It was more like a bowl of chicken pot pie filling and a bread roll.

Well, we wrapped up the holiday on Monday when Christian left for Michigan.   We settled back to our normal routine of doing laundry, pick up around the house,  and other misc before the work week began.   All in all, it was a good break, nice to have a friend visit,  and play catchup on news.    Hope all of you had a great Labor Day.

….PS:… I’m listening to the Republican Convention in the background while typing this blog.   Sarah Palin is scheduled to speak tonight.  I am curious to see how well she presents her own story.


Spam Strikes

That invasive pest ‘spam’ has struck this meager blog (and its cousin at NZ Life).  I’m finding all sorts of annoying or rude spam comments posted across the site.  To combat this I’ve installed a captcha.  You know what these look like:

You’ll see this when you try to post a comment.  I think the audio version () is pretty much indecipherable, but it’s entertaining to listen to once.

In addition to proving you are a member of the human race, you’re also helping to digitize books when you enter the test words.  More on that at the Recaptcha site.  Give it a try on this post!

I am tired of listening to all this subprime mortagage news especially with regards to having the government do more to bail out “victims”.   For the past 3-6 months, the news media have  been making the issue that the government is not doing enough to protect middle class citizens.  Presumably the  government is also not doing enough with laws to prevent loan companies from having the ability to provide shady loan contracts.  I am not saying the lenders are not at fault,  I do however believe that the fault is not all theirs.

Subprime loans consist of various types of arrangement – 2 year fix and remaining at adjustable rates, interest only payments, etc (For more go to

With the amount of media focused on how much lenders are “scamming” victims and how little government is protecting the victims, it makes me wonder if “so call victims” have any responsibilities at all.  How do one consciously signs up for a 30 year loan when they only know of the fix rate interest for the first 2 years? what about the next 28 years?…  How could one who claimed they cannot read the contract, can trust themselves in speculating that the interest rate will decrease or maintain the same after the first 2 years?

Whatever happened to the idea of “Living beneath ones means”?   What happen to “Earn a dollar and save a dime”.  I rarely hear about savings anymore, all I hear is credit cards and credit limits.  Do people not understand what the word “Credit” mean?

I have no problems placing blame on businesses (lenders, banks, etc) or the government, but equal blame needs to go to those people who signed up for these loans. The media needs to stop portraying the lenders and government as evil entities and the borrowers as the helpless victims.   People need to have some self responsibilities.   The media rarely mention the borrowers being at fault, probably because that will cause a stir.   Can’t imagine many who want to watch much of the show if the host refers to the viewers as “dumbasses”.  I know I won’t want to watch it….   it’s difficult to handle the truth… it’s easier just to blame someone/something else.

If you can’t tell that I am venting,  “I AM VENTING”.    I should have never watched Lou Dobbs, mind you I did not watch the whole show, I just watched enough to set me off!  If it’s not the freaking fence, it is the subprime mortgage.


Welcome Back

Almost three years ago I created my first and only blog, NZ Life.  Its purpose was to provide an easy way to update friends and family about our experience in New Zealand, and it succeeded in that and more.  I found it not only much better than email for general broadcasts (e.g. people could come by once in a while and catch up), but it was personally very satisfying.  What formed was a diary that I probably would not have otherwise written, and even in the short time since I’ve been back I’ve referred to it on numerous occasions.

Upon my return in Oct 2007, I had all intentions of jumping right into a Peoria blog.  For lots of lame reasons (laziness chief among them) that is only now happening.  This blog will carry on the tone of the last–random things from our lives–though having now ditched the “NZ” theme the topics should open up a bit.  I can now post all those tech and politics stories that no one cares about (or those who do have already read elsewhere), Angela can post interesting things about food and gardens, and the world can become rapt by the tales of home improvement.

Mostly it will be fun to have a diary again, and I look forward to seeing the occasional comment.

Enjoy, and subscribe now!

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