Friday, 24 July 2015

Summer Celebration

The thing about summer is that there is so much to do!  And not enough time to do them all. 

Take two weekends ago for example.  There was the Summer Celebration - two days of festivities, including a parade, boat rides, a festival/carnival/fairgrounds, fireworks etc.

However, we also had a birthday party to attend, and a Day Out with Thomas.

 
We managed to see the parade on Saturday before going to the birthday party for lunch.  Unfortunately, we were all to tired out to make it to the park for festivities and fireworks when we got back.

On Sunday, we managed to stop by for a Norwegian Pancake breakfast.  Yummy crepes cooked on a barbeque topped with your choice of jam, honey and sugars (normal, cinnamon or powdered).  There was a fairground with lots of inflatables, rides, entertainment and even more food.

Unfortunately, we had to rush of to attend the Day Out With Thomas at Snoqualmie, so we could not stop to play just then.  We promised to make a day out of it and go back after we were done with Thomas, but by the time we got back, they were done for the day (and summer!). So the children could not play on any of the inflatables or rides.  They were really good about it, and enjoyed themselves on the playground, though.

Next year, I'll need to plan better and ensure that the fun stuff that we want to do don't clash.  :)





Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Blueberries!

It's summer here in the Pacific North West. And apparently, something that one must do in summer is pick your own fruit!  There are many farms which cater for people to go and pick their own fruit, known as "U-Pick".  There are U-Pick for all kinds of berries, even peaches and cherries!  We had already picked strawberries. We gave raspberries a miss and didn't realise there U-Pick cherries and peaches were available. Anyway, the U-Pick farms for cherries and peaches are rather far away, with cherry season over by the time I realised they were an option.

We arranged to pick blueberries with a friend this weekend, and discovered that there is a farm not far from our place, Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm.  It was established in the 1940s, and is owned and managed by the Bellevue Parks and Community Services Department to preserve the agricultural heritage of Bellevue.

Walking to the blueberry bushes with their pails.  We brought our own pails simply because we had two small ones, just right for them.  Blueberry bushes are taller than strawberry plants.  Which is less back-breaking for the adults.

Having fun picking blueberries.  There were still quite a bit of small, unripe blueberries on the plants, which means that we're not at the end of blueberry season yet.  The big, blue ones are the sweetest.  The purple ones still rather tart.   Some plants were rather bare, but the less accessible plants were still full of berries, so you just have to hunt for them. 

The little rascals soon discovered a quicker way to fill their pails with blueberries - by taking them out of my bucket.
 
So, what to do with the blueberries we picked?  Obvious choices would be blueberry muffins and blueberry pancake. However, I don't really like muffins, and the children don't  like stuff in their pancakes. 

So, I searched the internet for ideas and these five called out to me:
3) Blueberry Lemon Popsicles (hmm... it seems blueberry and lemon pair well together)

I'll try some of these out and let you know how it goes.  If I don't finish the blueberries first, that is. I find myself grabbing a handful whenever I walk past the kitchen counter.


Thursday, 16 July 2015

Day Out With Thomas


Little Man and Little Lady both love Thomas the Tank Engine.  So when I found out, shortly after moving here, that there would be a Thomas event at the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, I knew we could not miss it, and bought the tickets online, about four months ahead. 
 
We were supposed to be there an hour before our scheduled train ride, but I left the tickets on the dining table and only realised it when we were almost there.  By the time we got there with the tickets, we were just in time to join the queue to board the train. Phew!

It was a short ride - just from the Snoqualmie Depot up to the Snoqualmie Falls and back.  Each child received a Junior Engineer certificate after the ride.

One cool thing about Thomas was that his eyes move and his face changes!

The grounds around the were open only to ticket holders, and there were many other activities available. The children were given a map with four stations to visit and collect stamps from.  They met and had a picture taken with Sir Topham Hatt, played with trains at one of the numerous train tables, had temporary tattoos done, played with sand, bounced in an inflatable bouncy castle and had a ride on a track maintenance car.  There was a stage where local performers sang and entertained the crowd.


There was even a Punch and Judy show, which is so quintessentially British.  It was nice to hear some British vocabulary.  The show was rather violent -  Little Lady didn't enjoy it much, but Little Man was very amused. 
 
Day Out With Thomas is not specific to Snoqualmie, but is an annual national tour organized by HiT Entertainment.  If you're in the States, or will visit it soon, check out the schedule if you'd like to catch Thomas.
 
It was a really fun day out with the kids.  There was just enough to do, not too little and not too much.  I think it is most suitable for toddlers and pre-schoolers.  Older children might find the activities a little childish.  I'm glad that we sprang for the tickets.  It is one of the few activities where Little Lady really enjoyed herself.  While she is content to follow her brother and do whatever he does, she does not always have fun, so I'm glad she genuinely enjoyed herself this time.
 
 
 
 


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Friday, 10 July 2015

Turmeric Chicken and Basmati Pilaf


Moving to the US has meant that I cook every day.  Eating out is a lot more expensive than back home, as the option of hawker food is not available.  Being here also means that I can no longer rely on Yati to cook for us.  Neither can we run to my Mum's or my Mum-in-law's place for a meal.  So I cook.

Strangely, I hardly cook Western dishes now that I'm here.  Back in Singapore, I used to do both Eastern and Western.  I think subconsciously I must be wanting to hang on to my roots. I guess it is similar to how I used to speak more dialect when travelling.  I remember on a trip to the Middle East with my Dad way back when, we conversed mainly in Teochew, even though my command of the language was rather sucky.  I can't do that here because Mr Cuppa is not Teochew and does not understand it. :(

One day, we ran out of Jasmine rice.  Fortunately, I had a packet of Basmati rice on hand, and so I decided to make a pilaf.  A pilaf is basically a savory rice dish where the rice is browned in oil or butter before it is cooked in liquid. This makes the grains distinct and separate. It originates in India, but is found all over Asia and the Middle East.  Depending on where it is from, you can find pilafs with vegetables, dried fruit and nuts, fish and meat.

My version is with chicken, because I am lazy and like to cook one dish meals. Actually, if you add in the dried fruit, nuts and chopped capsicum, it would be a one dish meal.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't have any of these ingredients on hand when I cooked it for the first time.  Good thing is, the kids loved it!  The rice is fluffy and fragrant, and I did not have to remind anyone to eat when I cooked it.  The second time I cooked it, I had dried fruit and nuts, but I still didn't add them in as I didn't want to run the risk of the kids not eating it with all the additions.  I still provided them, but as optional extras to add at the table.  Little Man tried some, but Little Lady wanted nothing to do with the extras. :)

Ok, long story later, here is the recipe (at last).


Turmeric Chicken with Basmati Pilaf
(serves 6-8)

Tumeric Chicken

8 pieces of chicken (drumsticks / thighs)
1 tbsp ground tumeric (or more – make sure the chicken has a nice colour)
1 tsp salt
  1. Season chicken pieces with salt and tumeric.
  2. Mix well and leave to marinate while preparing the rice.

Basmati Pilaf

4 cups basmati rice
1½ medium yellow onions, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground black pepper
salt for seasoning
½ cup dried fruit (chopped dried apricot / cranberries / raisins) *Optional
½ cup toasted almond slivers. *Optional
oil
3 tbsp unsalted butter (more or less)
water or chicken stock to cook the rice (sorry, can't give a quantity as I eyeballed it – basically I used the same amount of water to cook normal Jasmine rice)

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  2. Wash basmati rice until water runs clear. Drain well and set aside. (I put into a strainer and left it to drain while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.)
  3. Heat oil into a pot/pan and brown the chicken, skin side down first.
  4. When skin is golden brown, brown the other side. Chicken does not have to be fully cooked, since it will continue cooking in the oven.
  5. Take out chicken pieces and set aside.
  6. Lower heat and add butter to oil.
  7. Add onion and fry till fragrant and translucent.
  8. Add the garlic, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon and fry till fragrant. (maybe half a minute)
  9. Add rice, salt and pepper and mix well. (To be honest, I didn't add any salt at all.)
  10. Add water or stock. (I used up some leftover stock, but didn't have enough, so topped up with water.)
  11. Arrange chicken pieces on top of rice.
  12. Cover pot and place in oven for about 30 minutes.
  13. Remove lid and bake for about 10 more minutes if you wish to for more colour.
  14. Remove from oven and serve.
  15. Enjoy!

Note: The dried fruit and nuts can be added to the rice at the table, after removing the chicken, then mixed in. I didn't as my children don't like it, but they were available for others at the table.

Postscript:
Many apologies for the lack of photos. I know it makes for a boring blog post, but I'm still not used to taking photos of everything.  I just do, you know?  Got hungry tummies waiting.  Cannot waste time taking the perfect shot. First time I cooked this, I didn't even get pictures of the finished product!  Luckily I remembered this time. :P



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