Thursday, September 29, 2011

Two Weeks!

The CCAA has magically done 2 weeks worth of matches!!!

And yes, I know the number of families included in what seems like a very large batch is not much more than the usual. HOWEVER, we have not seen them match this many LID days since perhaps 2007. So regardless of whether this is technically a BIG batch, it moves everyone forward in giant lunging- make you gonna hurt the next day- steps. 

And most importantly 4 of my precious friends have been included in this batch when it was really a long shot for the CCAA to get to them in the September batch after only getting to the 14th last month.

So 3 cheers for two weeks!!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

1 Year Ago Today

I am sure the circumstances were terrible. Was there pressure from other family members? Was she alone? Did she hide herself for 9 months hoping someone wouldn't notice? Or was this a treasured pregnancy that in the end did not give her what she needed?

China is 12 hours ahead of us. I am sure that while we slept, a woman exactly half way across this great big world remembered a little girl today. A little girl she gave birth to and had to let go. I shudder at the thought of her pain. I would love to tell her that her daughter, my daughter, is being celebrated today in the biggest of ways. She will have cake and balloons and presents, and a big family who loves her.

So for her other mother, please know that the little girl you left in such a safe spot, was found quickly, and is a happy little girl. She has a big brother and sister who race home every day from school to see their boo boo. She dances to the sound of my mixer. She kisses our dog. She claps for nearly anything. She's got a funky little laugh and loves to blow raspberries. She does not like oranges or peaches or the feel of grass under her feet. And she is beautiful. I will never know how much of her personality is a product of you or our loving home. But her beauty is all your doing.

So Cici, today you turn 1. We are so lucky to be able to celebrate this day with you.  You are the gift of a lifetime.

Lets go finish that cake....

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pearls and other goodies!!!


Well I've been promising you all some details on where I went shopping for Pearls while we were in China and Hong Kong. I bought 1 very long strand of pearls on the front end of the trip in Hong Kong but wanted to see what we found in mainland before buying more. I did buy a few things in Guangzhou but felt the quality was better at my place in Hong Kong so on the back end of the trip we went back and bought MORE!

In HK my mother took me to a place called Rio Pearl, a place a friend of hers who lived in HK for many years buys her pearls. The VERY long strand of pearls I bought on the front end of the trip was a strand of fat oval fresh water pearls - and when I say very long I would say it hangs from my neck past my waist. It is the long strand on the form in the picture. It is double-looped in the photo. I planned to end up having it broken up into necklaces and bracelets for my two girls when they got older. It was $160.

Then while in GZ we went to the pearl market with our guide Jason which was a mall-sized building with shops only selling stones, beads, and pearls. Jason took us up to the top floor to a store in the back which I would NEVER have walked into on my own and had everyone buy pearls there. This was the one and ONLY time I questioned his judgement. I found the people there squirrely and the product to be expensive and not as good quality as Rio. It may have been a little less expensive than Rio but there was a lot less to choose from than at Rio and I think Rio's quality is higher. Just my own opinion. I bought a few things there and feel I was taken. I bought the necklace with large black beads which I was told was lava stone. I also got some small studs for the girls for when their ears are pierced.

I did buy a very cool necklace on the first floor of this building with really odd shaped pearls. It is the other white necklace on the form in the picture. The clasp is already turning green if this is any indication of things at the Guangzhou place. My clasps from Rio are not.

Then on the back end of the trip I went to Rio again and bought a gorgeous bracelet which they made for me right there. I was looking for a specific size pearl for a bracelet and they could only find it in a necklace so they restrung it into a bracelet for me and only charged me for the number of pearls they used. I also bought another odd shaped pearl piece. It is the pink bracelet. On this second trip to Rio I bought two bracelets for me, a pair of pearl studs, and 2 bracelets for the girls for when they are about 14. The bracelets for the girls were about $35. All these are on the red box.

The people at Rio are VERY helpful and the show room is gorgeous. My friend Anne bought an opal ring for her daughter as that is her birthstone. I am attaching a map of where Rio is in HK and it is within walking distance from the most of the big hotels in Kowloon if that is where you are staying. They are at 39 Mody Road on the 3rd floor. They also have a jade store across the hall but I didn't go in there.

If you go to RIO please please tell them Shannon/Trish/Victoria sent you as I promised I would send all my friends.  You can mention I was the one who went twice on the adoption trip, once in the beginning and once at the end with the baby.

Another piece of shopping advice I would like to share with all the families about to travel is to consider doing some children's book shopping in Hong Kong. As you know English is an official language there and as expected there is a good selection of Asian themed books.  I was able to get Cici lots of books with Chinese illustrations and story-lines that are NOT adoption related. I think it is important for her to be able to flip through books and see her face reflected back on the pages. But I don't want the majority of those books to be about adoption. I just want her to have a good fun story to read. I found a great bookstore in one of the malls in HK called DYMOCKS and you can click here for a link directly to a list of their HK store locations.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Macarons Citron et Framboise

Many years ago I was standing in the kitchen of my friend's New York City apartment when she offered me one of, what she claimed were, her favorite cookies in the world. She looked around to make sure there were no children about who might ask for one too as she reached into her cupboard and pulled out a mint green box with gold embossed lettering. She opened the box and showed me the vibrant colors of beautifully perfect round sandwiched cookies and told me that her husband had brought them home for her from a recent trip to Paris. A macaron she called them. I can't remember what flavor I tried but it was incroyable!

During one of our summers in Paris, I was given Laduree's Sucré book as a gift and since they seem to be one of the big players in the Macaron market, I figured I'd give it a try. I am pleased to report that my lemon macarons with a raspberry filling were delicious. I should also admit that it took not only the Ladurée cookbook but two other sources for me to wrap my head around the process.

Using the ingredient list from Ladurée as well as some of the instructions, some of the step-by-step photo instructions from i ♥ macarons (a book written by a Japanese pastry chef and sent to me by my wonderful sister-in-law) and some inspirational suggestions from Cannelle et Vanille, a blog I read, I was able to tackle these elegant and tasty cookies. The cookies were actually not that difficult. I think arming myself with all this information reduced my chances of failure. Oh, but there were little failures along the way but in the end I got a beautiful cookie with a crispy outer shell and a soft center, that tasted of lemons, sugar, and raspberries. What could be better?

I am not going to provide a recipe or instructions because nearly every source indicates something different. I will, however point you to the pieces of information I found particularly helpful.

Most sources point toward a butter cream filling, but I wanted something more fruity and Ladurée's Confiture de Framboises fit the bill perfectly.
All sources will tell you to tap the cookie pan on the counter after you pipe the cookies to help form the pied. As you can see, I got a great pied on my cookies!
Spelling out differences between Macaronnage and Macaronner in i ♥ macarons was very helpful. Macaronnage is the French term for mixing flour and meringue to make macarons. Macaronner is the verb for mixing the batter until firm and dripping slowly. Too much macaronnage can lead to oil staining on the cookie and this book spells out exactly how many times to beat the batter.
Cannelle et Vanille, aside from the beautiful pictures, gave me a gram measurement for the eggs which was helpful since I had some whites sitting in the fridge from another baking project and also made two key suggestions. 1. use old eggs, separate them and leave them in the fridge uncovered for a few days. 2. Leave the piped cookies out in the air to dry for more like 30 minutes instead of 15 as suggested in other sources.

So there you have it. Macarons are definitely worth a try and I will be incorporating them into my regular repertoire around here. My daughter loved them and took one to school to show her friends...and of course for a sweet bite after lunch.

PS. Those little mistakes I mentioned earlier? The ones I will try to fix for next time... are shown here....

Thursday, September 15, 2011

1 Month Ago Today

One month ago today, I got up, showered, blew dry my hair (probably for the last time), got my two kids dressed and went down to the largest breakfast buffet I'd ever seen. I wish I took a picture of the buffet at the China Hotel. It was krazy. That's right, crazy with a K. Of course all the fresh fruit was off limits. I didn't eat anything that couldn't be pealed or wasn't cooked. SweetPea and Buddy went nuts. We had to give them their own table so they could pile up all their dishes. 

One by one, our fellow travel-mates filed into the buffet and looked at the spread of food with a mixture of bewilderment and nausea. One month ago today we were preparing to drive over to the Civil Affairs office in Guangzhou at 2:00 pm to get our babies. There were lots of people in the dining room with babies in highchairs who were getting ready for their consulate appointment. They knew the congregation of American parents without little babies were off to get their children that day because babies and parents are united once a week in Guangzhou, on Mondays. They came over with knowing smiles and gave us a wink and a nod wishing us luck for our happy day. The following week, we would be those parents with babies in highchairs wishing the bewildered parents well on their HUGE HUGE day.

We had meetings. We tried to eat lunch. At 2:00 pm we boarded our bus and the 20 minute drive to the office was friggin strange. It was so weird taking a bus to meet my child. It was so weird to just calmly walk into a waiting room and be handed forms to fill out all the while being told to make sure everything was right and not to make any mistakes! Were they under the disillusionment that I was operating on more than half a brain cell?

And then it all happened so fast.....
1month later I get a daily thrill to see her thriving and growing. She is learning new things every day and it is wild to see a baby blossom so fast. We are starting to love all kinds of food - even with weird textures and flavors. Just a few days ago I would have said she was going to have to go to college surviving on Cheerios. But now we are eating yogurts, pastas, avocado, banana, oranges in addition to a huge selection of baby foods. She's pulling up on stuff all the time and standing for nearly 5 minutes. She's able to do the pincer finger some of the time which is also a huge improvement. Last week at this time she was still hoovering cheerios off her tray. She figured out if she just put her face to the food she could avoid those stinkin hands that don't work so well. She is 80th percentile for height and 25th for weight. Hum. I'd like those stats thankyouverymuch!

And best of all, she is starting to call me mama! She's been a babbler since day one but now she is really directing her words. Na means bottle which we figured out after SJ's cantonese friend told him that Na means milk and babies will say it for their bottle. But two days ago she really started saying Mama a lot and yesterday and today she's been saying it when I pick her up or if she is trying to get my attention. She also says Da when either fun daddy or the dog is around. So much fun!!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Two weeks home

My first time at the plate in the raising-a-baby game was so much different. So much of it was a blur and I blame that on the fact that I had two babies in two years so between being pregnant, delivering, and nurturing newborns I was in the thick of it for 3 straight years. I don't remember it being difficult but then again, I don't remember being able to revel in every little moment.

I am sure you can imagine how much fun I am having focusing on one baby at a time with Cici. She is doing so well since we've been home. Every day, and I mean every single day, we see a new side of her. We see her open up and become more comfortable with her new family and her surroundings. From day one she was a fantastic sleeper but during the day when she was not napping, she really wanted to be held ALL.THE.TIME. Oh and part of the requirements of being held were that you were moving. Forget about sitting down. Not allowed. Once we got home, we started off the first few days with those rules. We also had to add in the handicap of jet lag, a massive hurricane, and older kids starting school. so that was wicked fun. But after about 7-8 days that particular version of fun was over and we really started to feel like she was finding her groove here.

She no longer screams at us when we use a 3 or a 5 point harness. I swear she was tossing out obscenities in very high decibels that first week when we put her in the highchair, stroller or car seat. We can now put her down on the floor to happily play with her new toys or to crawl like mad around the house. She never even flinched at the dog. She will push him out of the way when she needs to and is never phased when he is looming over her with great curiosity. She is also eating pretty well considering when she came to us it was clear she had never been given anything but liquids. Anything solid was completely rejected. It seemed to be a textural thing- you could just tell the food was uncomfortable in her mouth. But now we are exploring new things with some success. She loves her cheerios and is finding some love for noodles. She DOES NOT like forks though so we've been using chop sticks. It is very cute!

Every day we are having more and more fun together. I can't get enough of her. And as much as I would love to be showing you pictures of how cute her smile is or how long her hair is getting. I am either spending too much time playing to pick up the camera or she's moving too fast and all I can capture is this...

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Big Brother. Finally.

The one person who never faltered in our wait for Cici was Buddy. He never got jaded. He never lost hope. He just waited.  

and waited. 

and waited.

Over the many, many years of waiting, we'd often be going about our day running errands or shuttling to or from school when I'd hear Buddy say from the backseat, when Cici comes are we going to....? 

He never really questioned whether she was going to join our family but often questioned when she was going to join our family. And now at the ripe old age of 8 and 1/2 he has finally become a BIG BROTHER.
He is always there to hold her hand in the car and I often hear him telling her how much he loves her. Last night he was remarking about how weird it felt to be someone's big brother. It was cute.

Today he starts 3rd grade. The last stop in our elementary school. He and his buds are the kings of the castle this year and I can't believe that time has gone by this fast. I am so proud of my caring, sweet, generous, little boy who is quickly turning into a big kid. I tried to give him a hug and a kiss goodbye this morning and he wriggled right out of my arms and turned his head so I could only kiss his hair as I went to leave the school.

I love you my sweet boy. Never change. You are simply the best.