30 May 2014

To Texas and Back

A big part of getting ready to move, for us anyway, has been figuring out what to do with our stuff and saying goodbye to friends and family. This past week we headed out on a road trip to Texas to accomplish both of those tasks for Angel. We loaded the car up with Angel's tools, which he bequeathed to his younger brother, Angel's mementos (it turns out that his parents are a little more attached to all of his running medals than he is), and headed out. This time, we accomplished both 18-hour treks with only necessary stops, and no overnights anywhere (because who wants to pay for a motel when you could just drive all night?).

We were in Texas for 5 days, and of course we packed a few adventures in!

Bear in Car

The Bear hung out in the back seat. I kept checking on him, but even though it was an 18 hour trip, he never slept!

Bear Selfie

Once we arrived, Angel's mom had to take a selfie with the Bear, of course. I mean, wouldn't you?

Lake Mineral Wells State Park

Angel got to try out hiking with a baby in tow, carrying our 6 month old nephew Noah in the baby carrier as we explored Lake Mineral Wells State Park.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park

I love this picture, because I look clumsy, Brittany looks worried, and Angel looks like, "Watch Rachel fall!"

Lake Mineral Wells State Park

We went kayaking, and Angel caught an (already dead) fish in his hands and was very proud of himself. Boys!

The Alamo

We also took a day trip to San Antonio, to check out the Alamo and the famous Riverwalk. It was a 4 hour drive there and 4 hour drive back, but Nestor did all the driving. Noah, Angel, and I slept a good chunk of the way.

See? This is my answer to Angel's instagram captioned: "Rachel was sleeping while I woke up!"


Many conchas were eaten. Not by me however. I don't like conchas. I also don't like donuts. You can probably tell by Angel's smile that he does not feel the same way.

We also got to go to a 1st Communion party, eat Angel's Dad's steak, and play Just Dance until we were all worn out. Now we're back in Michigan, here to stay until July 23--our leave date! No biggie, just less than 8 weeks away already...
28 May 2014

Grocery Store Shopping Haul

Have you heard of this "Shopping Haul" phenomenon on Youtube? You probably have. I figure most people are more internet-aware than I am. However, because my family reads this blog and they only watch NigaHiga and Kid Snippets on Youtube, I should explain the context: Apparently, these days, whenever you go shopping, the appropriate thing to do is to make a Youtube video and show all of the stuff you bought to your webcam.

*Even though in the video I claim that I'm not mocking this phenomenon, I totally am.

**Craziness. Did you notice strawberry yogurt makes two appearances in this 1:30 video? I wonder if there's a secret message behind that. Possibly it means that my nickname should be "One-Shot Vlog Rachel" because if a vlog can't be done in one shot, I'm not doing it.
26 May 2014

Sunglasses and Fame

It was a Friday. I was wearing sunglasses. I was dressed like I am in the photo above:

Now, you need to know that when I do wear my sunglasses, I pretty much wear them for the whole day, because they are prescription, and therefore both rather expensive (I don't want to lose them by putting them down somewhere) and also rather useful--if I take them off when I go inside a building, I feel like I can't see at all.

All that to say, if I'm wearing my sunglasses for the day, I'm probably going to wear them inside. You may judge me for that, that's your choice. People always seem to get a little snotty about folks who wear sunglasses inside, and I agree, it can look pretty funny!

It just so happened, as it frequently does, that on this particular day, I stopped to use a public restroom, and upon exiting the stall, I was accosted by two teenage girls by the sinks who said, "You're not famous are you?!! You really look like you could be someone famous and you're trying to hide your identity with those glasses. Are you sure you're not someone famous? Come on, you can tell us!"

I just laughed, and shook my head at all possible theories involving fame, and when I was done washing my hands they told me, "Bye! It was really nice meeting you!" as I left the restroom.

It was hilarious.

Now, looking back on the incident, I realize I had three possible ways to respond to the accusation of fame:

1) Tell them that yes, actually, I am famous, I am _____, with the blank being filled in by the name of an A-lister who I could vaguely resemble. Although I can't think of anyone. Anyone have suggestions of a petite, pale-skinned, brunette with brown eyes star who I could slightly believably claim to be next time? The benefit to this response is that for the rest of their lives, these two girls would have a story to tell of the time they met _____ in a public bathroom--and I do love a good story, don't you?

2) Tell them that I'm actually Rachel G., blogger of international fame, and hand them my business card. I'd say that I sometimes get recognized a little too often due to how many times my outfits are pinned on Pinterest, hence the sunglasses.

3) The final option is the most truthful, and the one I took. It involves a lot of smiling, laughing, saying, "Oh no, I'm no one famous, it's just really sunny outside, you know!"

Now you know, if you want to increase your fame, wear sunglasses, especially indoors.

P.S. The next day, Angel saw a dead ringer for Luke Bryan eating alone at Panda Express. He wanted to go tell the guy he looked like Luke Bryan (Is it weird for a guy to tell another guy that he looks like a man with a reputation for looking very attractive?) but I convinced him not to based on my recent experience with fame. Sometimes the celebrities just want to go to the bathroom or eat their fake Chinese food in peace, you know?
23 May 2014

How to Learn a Language

With our China move growing ever closer, Angel has immersed himself in studying the basics of Mandarin Chinese. I balance explaining the wondrous mystery that is the pronunciation of pinyin to Angel with some serious work on expanding my vocabulary in hopes of not being too stumped when I'm surrounded by native speakers.

Here is a list of tried and true ways to learn a language:

1. Be born into a family that speaks the language at home.
This is by far the easiest method. That's how I learned English, and how Angel learned Spanish.

2. Marry A native speaker.
Not to stereotype or anything, but a LOT of Spanish majors at my college were dating native Spanish speakers. No, I did not marry Angel for his language.

3. Live in a country where the language is spoken.
And once you get there, don't make friends with any ex-pats. You'll be forced to learn the language or starve to death trying.

4. Rosetta Stone/Other Computer Games
I find Rosetta Stone and other language-teaching computer games fun when I already have education in the language being taught. I'm not sure from experience how great they are when used on their own and with no other grammar resources. I like to use them for a little for practice.

5. Watch movies in the language.
I have friends who swear they learned Cantonese from watching Cantonese films. I have to believe there were a couple other factors at play, but seriously, watching films in the language you're trying to learn is a great opportunity to get "real life" listening experience. Your teacher and the educational tapes you listen to probably speak fairly slow--listening to fast-paced dialogue in movies can help.

6. Take college classes.
I learn well in a classroom setting. I recommend college-level classes because they are demanding, and therefore can teach you quite a bit in a relatively short amount of time. I studied Mandarin, Japanese, and Spanish at my college--and while I don't think that classes alone are enough, they offer a solid foundation for grammar and vocabulary that you can go out and practice in the real world.

7. Read a book.
It might not be the most relaxing book you've ever read. You may need to read it with a dictionary in one hand and a book in the other, but seeing the grammar patterns that you've seen used in textbooks used in real life is amazing. I have Spanish, Mandarin, and Bahasa Bibles (it's a little easier to play guessing games when you have a handle on what the text says in your own language).

8. Check out your local library
If you don't have money to devote to your language-learning cause, try searching your library catalog for language learning resources! We've found that sometimes the language resource books at the library are so little used that you can keep renewing and renewing them for as long as you'd like!

One language learning program that's new to me is Living Language. Angel borrowed a copy of the complete edition from our library. While the explanations might not be sufficiently thorough if you were starting out on a language with no experience and no one who spoke the language to explain subtleties, I like that the program includes audio cds, online flashcards and games using vocab from each lesson, and a special book explaining each stroke used in Chinese characters, along with workbooks. It's been very helpful to Angel and I've even been browsing the "advanced" workbook and picking up some new vocabulary and working through some of the language exercises in spots where I'm rusty.

What are your best strategies when it comes to studying languages?
22 May 2014

Answering All the Questions

My siblings would be quick to tell you that I have a habit of answering just about any question that is asked in my presence, whether I know the answer or not. My answer might range from the correct answer to an educated guess to a completely random answer drawn from nowhere, but will all be delivired with equal calm and conviction. It's probably a bad habit, but I like answering questions. Therefore, I decided to make a list of all of the recent questions that have shown us as Google searches that led to my blog. I hereby declare this blog post the one that contains all the answers to these queries:

"What are the disadvantages of marrying an older man?"

The answer to that is found in this post.

"What is Cosmetology?"

It is the study of hair, skin, and nails, and the processes and procedures involved in their appropriate beautification practices. Don't I sound all official?

"What is it like to go to Cosmetology school?"

In my own opinion, it's bad. But the details are found here.

"Why buy a rice cooker?"

Because rice is delicious.

"Why does Rachel on the Amazing Race wear pantyhose?"

I have no idea. I didn't even know that she did, honestly. Why are you staring at her legs?

I would be more likely to wear purple jeans when on the Amazing Race than pantyhose.
"Would you marry a man 7 years older?"

Yes, yes I would.

"Are mermaids real?"

I think it depends on your definition of real. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park says they are.

"Fake women are real so skinny women are fake?"

I'm not entirely sure I understand the structure of the question, but I'm leaning towards "no" as an answer.

"Is a family of 6 really huge?"

Do you mean a family of 6 with 2 parents and 4 children? Doesn't sound extreme to me.

"Is it wise to marry a guy 8 years older?"

Wouldn't it depend on the guy? I mean, as I've stated previously, I really think 7 years 4 days is the sweet spot, but whatever works for you.

"How to get rid of rachel haircut?'

Should I be offended by this question? 

"Pros and cons of marrying a guy 4 years younger?"

I wouldn't know anything about this, but, I mean, he'd currently be 18 so I don't think I'd consider it.

The moral to this story is that people have a lot of questions about the appropriate age gap between husband and wife, which is interesting, because I can't quite imagine turning to Google to research spousal age differences...
20 May 2014

"Around the World" Open House

No big deal, I just had 100 people at my house this weekend. LITERALLY. I counted.

Here's the story. Apparently due to my "party girl" reputation, my cousin asked me to host her high school graduation open house a few months ago. When she asked, I had a sudden attack of boring adulthood and did not instantly jump at the opportunity. However, I quickly got back to my normal party-loving self and accepted the challenge.

We came up with a theme that I like to call "Fly Away"/"Around the World", in honor of the graduate's plans to take a gap year and live overseas before starting her college career. (Is anyone getting jealous yet?)

Of course, this was a party on a budget, and I was determined to accomplish this party without buying anything new in the way of party gear (whereas, in the past, I would have used a party as an excuse to add something to my collection of useful items for a hostess of large get-togethers). All decorations were made out of stuff we already had on hand: an atlas that was falling apart, old road maps of the county, Angel's flag collection, scrapbook paper from my stash, toothpicks, Malaysian decor that I've had for as long as I can remember...

 Can you see, although it's blurry, the tablecloth was a bunch of maps taped together?

The menu was chosen primarily considering how easy would it be to make the food in humongous quantities. Tacos were the obvious choice. Cupcakes aren't necessarily easy to make in large quantities (when was the last time you baked 132 cupcakes in one day?) but they had the cute factor in their favor.

A last-minute addition to the party entertainment that went over very well was henna tattoos. When we were setting up the evening before, I came across my stash of tubes of henna which I won't be able to use up by myself before we move, so I decided I could offer henna temporary tattoos to whoever at the party wanted them. I didn't think they would be so popular, but I spent quite a bit of time at the party drawing patterns on the wrists or ankles of guests of all ages--from little girls to grandmothers, henna was quite popular. This was a bit of a risky move, as henna, the stuff that stains your skin, also stains just about anything, but thanks to lots of warnings there were no major stain tragedies. I didn't get any photos of this in action, or of my patterns for others, but this is the henna I was sporting for the day:

This was indeed an affair which required lots of family teamwork. Creative planning by me. Cooking, cleaning, and set up by Angel and I and my siblings along with Shannon and her family. Chairs and tables donated by uncles and grandparents. Isaac documented the party as official party photographer and also took her senior pictures.

Happy Graduation, Shannon!
19 May 2014

Sunshine at the Park

The other day, Angel shocked me. It was his day off, and in the morning he said, "How about we go have a picnic at the park for dinner?"

We'd never done such a thing before, but it sounded like bliss to me! We proceeded on to the chores of our day, which involved lawn-mowing and weed-whipping for him and a lot of sorting and packing of stuff for me. (Goodbye, beloved old clothes that I bequeathed to my sister. I still love you, but I simply can't take all of you to China...)

We headed out to the park in late afternoon, with food, our camping "loveseat" (double-chair), books, and, of course, a camera to document our adventure.

We had a blast, but we pretty much acted like old people at the park, barely getting out of our chair. We ate, and Angel studied Chinese while I read books. We watched youngsters doing backflips and driving remote control cars all over the place while Angel cheered for a crash. I got out the camera to take a picture, and upon turning it on, it gave me the bad news: "No memory remaining"

Where was the SD card that ought to be in my camera?? Chillin' in the SD card slot in my laptop at home, of course. So no pictures were taken of this evening at the park. Oh well. I swear it happened, even if there's no photographic evidence.

When we got back in our car to go home, we were amazed to find out that 3 hours had sped by. I guess time flies when you're basking in too-long-delayed sunshine.

These pictures were clearly taken at home, not at the park. And Angel wanted a cameo appearance in this post:

Now that's we've tried it once, we think we want to have a few more picnics in the park before we move. Where's your favorite place to eat in the summer?

And why is it so hard to remember to put the SD card back in my camera after taking pictures?
16 May 2014

Emptying the House

 If you have no idea why we're getting rid of stuff, you may have missed the big news: We're Moving to China

Ever wondered how much stuff fits into a couple of suitcases? It seems to hang on a fine balance between "not much" and "enough."

Right now, as I watch my house gradually becoming emptier as pieces of furniture find new homes, I have two warring factions within side that wants to enjoy all of my stuff for as long as possible while I still have it...and the other side that very logically tells me it's a good idea to get this chore done as quickly as possible. There's benefit on both sides of the equation.

A stack of books, fresh from the printer in 2009.

On the subject of slimming down our possessions and emptying shelves, I'd like to put an opportunity out there for you guys. Some of you know that I self-published a book of short stories titled The Random Writings of Rachel in 2009. I originally printed 300 copies, and very quickly sold off the first 250, while the rest have slowly trickled out of my possession one by one ever since. I now have about two dozen copies left, and I was wondering if any of my readers would be interested in purchasing one of the few remaining copies of my very first book?

The Random Writings of Rachel is very much like the blog it inspired, as far as randomness and a quirky writing style goes. It's slightly more fictional, with some stories being entirely made up and other ones being wholly inspired by dreams. There's even a poem. The poem is not to be taken seriously, however, have no fear, I do not consider myself a lyricist.

If you're interested in buying a copy, shoot me an email with the address you'd like me to send your copy to at randomlyrachels @ and if you live anywhere in the 50 United States I'll mail you one for the very fair price of $8 through paypal (that email address is my paypal address). If you live overseas you can also buy a copy, but I have to look at the shipping, the price will probably be more like $10. I'll sign the book, if you want me to, but if you think that author's signatures are horribly pretentious, I won't sign it at all. I'm flexible like that.

I see this as a win-win situation. I empty my bookshelf, you fill yours a little more, and for a very inexpensive price you get the chance to own and read stories that very few have ever had the chance to read, and support young authors at the same time!

(If it sounds like your style, better jump on that...Only 25 copies left!)

Our Spring cleaning this year has turned out to be rather extreme. How's your Spring cleaning coming?
15 May 2014

Waffles vs. Pancakes

There are two kinds of people in  this world: Waffle eaters and Pancake eaters.

First, there are the Waffle folks. Although the two are made with the same kind of batter, and often topped with precisely the same toppings, these people invariably prefer waffles. Either because waffles look more exciting, or because they're crunchier, I can't tell, but for whatever reason, they prefer waffles to pancakes. These people are the dreamers.

Then, there are the Pancake People. They'll eat waffles, but when given the choice, they prefer pancakes. Why? Because they recognize that waffles and pancakes are basically the same thing...and they also recognize that pancakes are much easier to make and require less clean up because all you need is a skillet. No need to drag out the heavy belgian wafflemaker from the pantry in the first place, and no need to figure out how in the world to fit it in the kitchen sink when clean up time comes. Pancakes are practical, they require less energy expenditure, and for that reason alone they are superior.

In case it wasn't completely obvious from the way I so equally portrayed both sides, Angel's a Waffle kind of guy, and I'm a Pancake girl. Which are you?

*Kodiak pancake mix is my all-time favorite mix. Made-from-scratch pancakes with just the right recipe could possibly be better, but I've never made those.
13 May 2014

15 Un-Recipes

 Pretending to be a creepy housewife who forces you to eat.

I cook almost every day. I think I'm a good cook, probably because I only make food that I love to eat. I also don't look up recipes...because, well, cooking is not actually my favorite thing and why would I want to spend more time on dinner prep actually following a recipe? Besides, washing measuring cups and spoons is not fun, and I rarely have the exact same ingredients that a recipe might require on hand. Sometimes I make something up, and it's not really a hit, and I don't make it again. But I've got a collection of go-to "recipes" that Angel asks for often.

*Warning*: Not all of these are healthy or whole-food friendly. But they are all tasty, if you have the same idea of tasty food as I do.

Here they are:

Chicken Fried Rice
Pan-fry chicken with onions, garlic, and assorted spices (chilies, cayenne pepper, black pepper, etc.) and soy sauce until fully cooked. Add cold, cooked white rice (slightly on the dry side is best if you don't want the rice to be mushy). If you didn't have enough sauce with the chicken for the rice you added, add more soy sauce till it seems sufficient. Make a hole in the center of the rice and drop a couple eggs in. Stir eggs into rice, chop green onions into rice, the meal is done when the egg is thoroughly cooked.

Deluxe Scrambled Eggs
Fry chopped onions and spinach in a little butter. When onions are tender, pour a scrambled egg mixture (eggs mixed with milk) into the pan and mix with veggies. Top with cheese while still in pan so that the cheese melts. Top with chopped tomato and avocado. WAY easier than omelets.

Chicken Fajitas
Chopped chicken breast in a skillet with onions, zesty italian salad dressing, Frank's red hot sauce, cayenne pepper, pepper. Cook till all liquid is gone, chicken is thoroughly cooked and slightly browned. Serve with tortillas and any and all fajita/taco toppings

Vitamin Stew
(This soup is so hearty that even my meat-loving husband doesn't think any meat needs to go with it).
Chop up about 10 different kinds of vegetables (i.e. cabbage, kale, spinach, tomato, potato, corn, zucchini, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, onion), throw them in a pot with garlic, pepper, and cayenne, and as much water as you deem necessary for broth, and cook till done. Add 1 can of tomato sauce or paste if desired, otherwise you can just add a little salt.

Cream of Broccoli Soup
Boil broccoli, celery, onions, and garlic in chicken broth, or if you don't have that, water with a some salt and pepper added. When soft, put the veggies in a blender with a little of the broth, blend, pour into a different pot, add cream or milk, heat but don't boil, and serve. Topped with cheese, it's pretty amazing.

Chicken and Bean Soup
Prepare dry beans by boiling them for hours. In the meantime, put chopped onions and chicken breasts in the crock pot. Pull apart chicken breasts when fully cooked. Dump beans (usually either pinto or kidney or black beans) into crockpot, along with 1 can of enchilada sauce, 1 can of cream of chicken, and a handful of cheddar cheese. Done when all ingredients are mixed together and hot.

Beef roast in the crock pot for forever. Sprinkle 1 packet dry onion soup mix on top. When fully cooked, pull apart with a knife and fork, stir in 1 or 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup (depending on the size of the roast), and cook until hot and tasty. Served with mashed potatoes, you'll get lots of compliments and inquiries for your recipe!

Fruit Crisp
Prepare the fruit. If it's a dry fruit, make a sauce, but certain apples and most berries don't need it. (You can add orange juice if your apples aren't juicy!) Mix oatmeal, ground flax, a little flour, cinnamon, brown sugar together with enough melted butter to make it crumble. Bake at 350 or thereabouts till done.

Breakfast casserole
Put frozen hashbrowns or fresh diced potatoes in casserole dish and place in a heating oven to thaw/cook while you mix together enough eggs, milk, and pepper to wet them all down. Pour egg mixture all over the hashbrowns, top with chopped ham (heavenly!) or sausage (also good!). Cook till nearly done, and sprinkle cheese on top for the last 10-15 minutes.

Best Veggie Side Dish
Baby bok choy pan fried with a little oil and whatever spices I feel like. Or zucchini, same thing. Or green beans or cabbage, but those are best fried with turmeric, garlic, and chilis. And I usually add a little water to help my veggies tender up. Neon yellow (due to the turmeric) veggies are the best kind!

Disappearing Chip Dip
This is the chip dip that I've caught friends eating as if it were a casserole. One layer of refried beans, topped with a layer of cooked ground beef, topped with a layer of that cheesy salsa from a can, topped with sour cream, topped with chopped tomatoes and green onions.

Carne Asada Tacos
Tell Angel, "Let's have carne asada." He makes it happen.

Best Hamburgers
Ground beef mixed with Worcestershire sauce mixed with black pepper mixed with tiny chopped onions (yes, onions cooked into the meat).

Veggie Hash
Chop potatoes, leave skins on, and begin frying for hash. Add summer squash, zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes (any hard vegetable that fries well). When those are mostly soft, add onions...when everything is mostly done, add spinach or other desired green leafy vegetable, cook till spinach is tender. When the veggies are done, crack a couple eggs on top of everything, stir, and eat when the eggs are fully cooked. I didn't mention it, but it goes without saying, throw in plenty of spices, especially pepper, along the way. If you like meat in your hash you can add pre-cooked sausage or ham when you add the eggs, but I prefer meatless hash.

Baked Fish Filet
Salmon, cod, or tilapia filets, laid out on a baking sheet, sprinkled with all the spices I can think of, orange juice drizzled on top, baked at 450 till done. I chop onions into eighths and let them roast alongside the fish because Angel loves roasted onions. Can be served with brown rice--or whatever you feel like. I often put sweet potatoes in the oven about 45 min to an hour before I put the fish in, then I have an efficient and complete dinner just using the oven.

My cooking philosophy is always go overboard on the garlic.

No, wait, it's always add onions if I'm unsure whether Angel will like what's for dinner.

No, that's not it.

My cooking philosophy is straight from Pirates of the Caribbean 

"Recipes are more like guidelines than actual rules."

*Fine. I know they weren't talking about recipes, they were talking about the pirate code, but it's practically the same thing...
12 May 2014

The Sewing Machine Strikes Again

I've been on a bit of a sewing spree lately, most likely because I figure I better enjoy my sewing machine while I still have it! I came up with a scheme that I wanted to use one of my batik tablecloths from Malaysia and make it into a tunic similar to the eShakti tunic I wore in this post.

When people found out that I liked these batik cloths and used them, they started giving them to me frequently, so I've amassed a good supply over the years. I usually use them as tablecloths or as cloths to protect the wood finish on other pieces of furniture. Occasionally I make them into clothes. This was one of those occasions.

I cut out pieces for the front and back of the tunic and the sleeves by laying out the tunic I already had on the fabric. I decided to skip the keyhole that's in the original tunic for simplicity and also because I didn't want to have to wear a tank top under this one.

I recently came across the technique called french seams for finished seams without a serger. This was the first garment that I used french seams in and I loved the result of no raw edges of fabric anywhere on the inside--I highly recommend such seams!

All in all, after wearing this tunic, I'd have to say it places among my top favorite sewing projects I've ever completed. I was pretty proud of myself for making the pattern match on both sleeves (which, it seems you can't really see in the photos, you'll just have to trust me!)

Have you been indulging in any of your hobbies lately?
09 May 2014

We're Moving to China


I've been dropping hints for a while now--last fall's "Summer Vacation Changed My Life" and, more recently "Contentment and Faithfulness" contained some pretty significant clues.

But now's when the truth finally comes out. Angel and I are moving to ShenZhen, China, in late July, to get our TEFL certifications and begin work as ESL teachers. Our leave date is less than 3 months away at this point.

And sometimes I myself can't believe that statement.

The months since last August have been a whirlwind of applications, letters of recommendation, research, phone calls, emails, and learning quite a bit about the visa application process in a number of different countries.

At some points I was tempted to doubt that we would actually meet our goal of moving overseas by this summer. At other points I was tempted to doubt that moving overseas was really what we ought to do in the first place.

Now that we've bought the plane tickets, now that we've made the commitment--sometimes I feel like I'm bursting with joy at the thought of getting to work with children and language education and getting to study and really use a language I've invested so much of my life into learning. Other times, I feel somewhat overwhelmed at the reality of moving to a country with no one else I know except my husband, and having to cling desperately to my 8 semesters of college language classes in order to figure out in real life how to take a taxi and buy groceries at market.

I'm being honest here, moments come when I'm utterly terrified of what we're about to do, when I second guess myself and start to think about the comfortable suburban American lifestyle we could have had. But those are merely moments. I'm not in this for the moments, I'm in it for the long haul, and when I doubt myself for a second, I take time to remember why we wanted to go in the first place, and I get excited all over again. I don't want the suburban life, not really, even if it looks pretty fun while I'm standing right here.

So, that's the news, as far as we know right now. It's so hard to ever say the future, so I revert back to the flippant "Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise" statement, which sounds slightly irreverent, but it tells the truth. We hold the future lightly, but this is what we're dreaming of and working towards. We have some very, very busy weeks ahead of us as we tackle the to-do list that comes with moving to the other side of the world with a grand total of 2 suitcases, 2 carry-ons, and 2 backpacks to our name. (I've already found out that it's so much more complicated to move overseas as an adult than it is when your parents just bring you along!) I hope that you all will stick around to read the adventures of Angel and Rachel on the other side of the world.

I'm not really the blog series type, but clearly this is a bigger-than-everyday kind of life change, so I'm going to give once-weekly "Moving to China" themed posts and updates a go for most Fridays till we get there. Maybe. We'll see.
08 May 2014

Bear Wedding

I normally am not very responsive when people ask me to post about specific things on my blog. I like my freedom, ya'll! But it's well known that I have a soft spot for my little sisters, and I know most of you must have a soft spot for bears if you have been reading this blog for a while, so when Sarah asked me if I would blog about the Bear Wedding that she recently organized for Snowball and Valentina, I figured I had to write the post.

Sarah concocted an elaborate wedding ceremony for these two love-bears, with MaryGrace's help on technical matters.

Valentina's wedding look was composed of tissues, fresh flowers, and a tiara.

There was an elaborate ceremony, which included Sarah delivering a short lesson on wedding traditions inherent to bear culture, including the fact that male bears receive wedding necklaces instead of wedding rings. The vows that Snowball and Valentina spoke to each other included the line, "I vow to love you in sickness and in madness and in stressness and sadness."

The unity candle ceremony is very important in bear weddings, we also learned.

Sarah also led the traditional toast: "Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaam SIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing"
(Performed at every Chinese Malaysian wedding we've attended, and also, of course, performed at my own wedding)

The wedding cake consisted of slices of white bread, buttered and sugared and rolled up, formed into a pile, covered with sprinkles and an Ariel figurine on top. I'm not sure anyone was actually brave enough to taste the concoction, so I have yet to hear any reviews on its taste.

The newlywed couple rode off in their specially decorated getaway car, as portrayed by "Roast Beef", our family's rocking horse. And, no, I don't know why it's called Roast Beef, but it's been in the family for probably 8 or 9 years and it's always been called Roast Beef, so we must accept it.

And Snowball and Valentina lived happily ever after.


When I was a kid, all of the performances that I put on for my family either involved Bible stories, evil genius inventors, or pirates. I can't remember ever putting on a wedding!

Did you or your siblings every put on shows for your parents when you were growing up?
06 May 2014

Heart Language

 Just Angel being Angel.

Today, I've got a real life illustration about the power of one's heart language. I know, I know, random topic for a random blog. I've mentioned many times my interests in linguistics and language education. When it comes to studying languages and the effects of learning multiple languages, you'll sometimes come across the idea of "heart language"--the concept that one's native language has a special importance--that it's easier to learn and understand and truly comprehend deep truths in your native language than in any other, that no matter how well-educated in that language you might be, your heart language tends to always play a special role for you.

I can see this playing out in my own life. I'm a native English speaker, who only started studying Mandarin and Spanish as an adult. I may love those languages and I may eventually become very skillful in those languages, but I know I'll never have the same relationship with those languages that I have with English. For me, I'm still at the point where a day completely immersed in a community that doesn't speak English is extremely draining--a complete contrast from the comfort I experience when I'm surrounded by English.

Angel's a different story. He started learning English in kindergarten and has attended English schools and lived in a primarily English-speaking country his entire life. To speak to him in English, you wouldn't be able to guess that he wasn't a native speaker. However, he's also a native and educated Spanish speaker--and every once in a while I notice hints about the identity of his heart language. It's telling that the songs he believes are the most powerful and stirring and romantic are all Spanish and that some of the books he looks back on as the most memorable books he's read in a lifetime are written in Spanish.

But recently, I had a very little moment with him that, to me, epitomized what "heart language" really means.

I was reading The Reptile Room in Spanish while Angel was sitting on the other side of the couch reading a different book. I love Lemony Snicket, with an almost illogical kind of love. He's one of the biggest inspirations to me as a writer. On more than one occasion I've tried to convince Angel of his genius, and I've even looked up websites listing all of the famous "Dear Beatrice" dedications from the beginnings of all 13 books in the Unfortunate Events series and read them to him so that he can know how brilliant Lemony Snicket is. I've never really gotten any response to my attempts to convince him, though, mostly he's just like, "Yeah, whatever, that's mildly amusing...." , so as I was reading this book and occasionally asking Angel the meaning of a word or two that stumped me, I had an idea. I turned to the dedication page. "Listen to this," I said, and read aloud, "Para Beatrice, mi amor por ti vivira para siempre. Tu, sin embargo, no lo hiciste." [I believe the English is: For Beatrice, my love for you will live forever, you, however, did not."]

The difference in reaction was drastic and immediate. His eyes lit up as I finished reading that sentence, and he threw back his head and started laughing out loud. "Oh man, that's hilarious! I have to take a picture of that!" he said, grabbing his iPod. He took a photo of the dedication and posted it on his Facebook page, with the caption, "Chistoso!"

I was never able to get my husband to understand why I loved the Snicket books so much until I read him a single line in Spanish, and that was when everything clicked.

There's something special about that heart language. And here's my plea: When you hear other people speaking their heart language to each other, don't reject them or tell them that they ought to converse in your heart language instead. I support multi-lingual education and I think great things could happen if more of us spoke 2 or 7 languages...but I also believe that great things can happen when people are allowed to learn, become literate, and experience the most precious aspects of life in their heart language.
05 May 2014

These Pictures Almost Didn't Get Taken

Probably every blogger who has ever attempted to take outfit photos has had a day where they absolutely loved their outfit...but they looked outside at the windy, rainy, sucky weather and said, "Nope, there's no way I'm taking pictures out there."

So this outfit almost went undocumented. Except it just so happened that Angel really, really loved this outfit, and after he'd said, "It's too bad you don't want to take outfit photos..." one too many times I said, "Fine! We'll take them on the porch!"

So we did. Because this outfit is made up of a whole bunch of pieces that are special to me, I'm glad it did get photographed.


Dress: Angel bought this Shabby Apple dress off of eBay for me without even asking if I liked it first. It was a total surprise, but it fit perfectly, it's precisely my idea of the classic LBD, and I've worn it countless times, primarily when I was in beauty school and had to wear solid black clothing. This is probably the best SURPRISE gift Angel's ever given me.

Sash: I made it recently because I decided I needed more sashes to tie into large bows. Who doesn't?

Shoes: A Kohl's purchase from a couple years ago. I was magnetically attracted to them. I've never seen any pumps I loved more than these. They are often called "Dorothy Shoes" and I wear them with pride.

Tights: I have absolutely no idea. I suspect that I never actually buy tights, they are simply drawn to my closet because they know they will be loved.

Pendant: made by ME! In my aunt's glass studio. Remember when I made the mosaic rainbow? She mailed me the two pieces I made after they were finished in the kiln, and this pendant was perfect for an outfit involving accents of primary colors.
02 May 2014

Photos that Made Me Smile

I recently took on the daunting task of going through all the photos on my computer, organizing them and deleting the unusable ones. It's no secret that Angel's snap-happy when he has a camera in his hand, so we get a lot of photos that don't need to be kept. Along the way, I stumbled across some random shots that made my day, and I decided ya'll would be missing out if I didn't share them.

Photobomb: Sarah Level

 An extremely helpful book. (Note: "Is this your bear friend?")

Frankenstein, as portrayed in a game of Guesstures on Thanksgiving. I'm terrifying.

The Amazing Floating Burger Flipper
Playing catch in the backyard.

Just a little math to send you off into the weekend.