Monday, March 30, 2015

Photos of Food We Ate (All of this deliciousness deserved its own space!)

Dim Sum with Gary's Family
(Sook Sook-Gary's Brother, MaMa -grandma, YeYe -grandpa, and PoPo - Gary's grandmother)

Since being back in the states, we have craved Chinese food - authentic, only available for the most part overseas, Chinese food. So, last night we had a wonderful meal cooked by hubby of curry, rice and egg {Kare Raisu}which we ate at the food court in his parents' building. The Kare Raisu we ate had an egg cooked- sort of like an omelette - in a pan with the ball of rice on top and then it was flipped over onto the plate with the curry. So, so yummy!!

This weekend (older post - we enjoyed our Dim Sum and our trip to IKEA this day) - weather permitting - we have planned a morning of Dim Sum at a restaurant a little further from our house and tea time at a local Asian buns and coffee house called Sweet Hut. Can't Wait!!! We have made a plan from now on to eat Dim Sum at least once a month and invite different friends along.

The day in Hong Kong begins like the day in most other places around the world with people getting out of the house to go to work. But, breakfast in Hong Kong looks very different there than in the States. You can get eggs and oatmeal and toast, but those aren't the most common items found. Our breakfast here wouldn't last long with all of the walking and moving one does in Hong Kong.

Breakfast of Noodles, Beef and Bok Choy with Egg

The most common breakfast at home or out will include Dim Sum, noodles, buns or Breakfast sets at restaurants. If I wanted eggs, I requested them at home or ordered them alongside noodles. You can find cereal and oatmeal in the grocery, but the "Americanized" food tends to be more pricey.

Dim Sum Common Dishes:
Dim Sum is the Chinese equivalent to our southern restaurants that serve food in dishes family style. The dishes are ordered and brought to the table where they are placed on a giant lazy Susan in the center of the table. This is a great way to eat if you are a Chinese food newbie since you will get to try a lot of different things. I love Dim Sum. It is a laid back way to eat, drink tea and visit with friends.

Dim Sum Table 

Chicken Feet
Pork Blood

I have actually tried most everything there is to try from Dim Sum, including the Pork Blood and Chicken Feet. I do not care for chicken feet as it really is all about the chewing and not really any meat. The Pork Blood actually tastes a lot like beef liver and has the consistency of Tofu. I like both tofu and beef liver so this wasn't a biggie for me.

Congee is a winter staple at our home and it is our equivalent to Chicken Soup when we are sick - Declan loves it! It is so easy and simple to make - only one cup of rice goes a long way. We often add chicken, mushrooms, ginger and scallions to our congee along with the water.

 Other Breakfast:
Buns are served as a Dim Sum dish as well as found as a take and go snack. This article tells a lot about the different types. {Buns}

We also often visited a Chinese Bakery for tea time or for a quick snack for Declan. This website has a lot of mouth watering photos of the bakery items we eat most. {Chinese Pastries}

My favorites are the Red Bean Pastries while Gary loves the Egg Custard Tarts. Declan often went for the Hot Dog or Sponge cake pastries. The Sweet Hut tea and pastry shop is where we find these in the Atlanta area.

Baked Goods (Chinese Buns)


Octopus Balls (Takoyaki)

Gai Daan Tsai (Waffles) 
Chinese Tea Eggs 

Hot Pot for Dinner:
Hot Pot refers to a way of cooking a lot of food in one pot with a boiling soup base. The water is kept boiling hot and items such as meat, fish balls, vegetables and other items are dropped into the pot where it cooks. You then take out what you want and eat it.

7 Layer Pot for Chinese New Year (Already cooked) Included Chicken, Veggies, Abalone)

We enjoyed Hot Pot for our Chinese New Year Meal with all of Gary's family. I will add more photos of family meals when I find them on the computer :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Upstairs Playroom/Schoolroom (OlioBoard)

We recently transitioned our son to his very own big boy bed!! I know - it is a happy moment knowing he is still our little boy, but he is getting so big so fast!!

Anyway, while shopping at IKEA for his bed (full post on that coming soon), I had somewhat of an epiphany. We were strolling - well not really strolling - but squeezing our way through IKEA on Family Day when we stopped in the section where the hide a beds were. Now, when we first purchased our home and saw the staircase and how hard it was to move furniture upstairs we vowed to NEVER EVER own a hide a bed or a sofa bed as they are called sometimes.

But, on this day - we thought why not? And, here is our reasoning.

Having a little two year old involves having a lot of extra stuff - a lot needed, some probably not. But, as he grows, he takes up more space and so do the amount of items he needs.

He currently has 3 rooms in our home all to himself - his bedroom, his bathroom and our downstairs "dining room" which is his current playroom. Now, when he was a little tike - he was very easily entertained within the confines of the dining room space via baby gates. Now that he is a full head strong two year old, those baby gates are not doing their job. The result - toys EVERYWHERE downstairs. At the end of the day, most of the cars and trucks and trains have found their way into every room of the house.

Our extra bedroom is supposed to be our guest room, but we honestly have a bed in there and the rest is storage - clothes, baby bed and mattress, pictures we have no where to hang.  We have been purging and selling a ton and we still  have a ways to go, but we need to gain more control over our space.

We decided that we really don't need a fully devoted room just for guests (sorry family). We do occasionally have guests during the holidays, but that is pretty much the extent of it. So, getting back to that hide a bed. We decided we will sell the double bed and mattress and some other things we have in our guest room.

We will purchase an L-Shaped low profile sofa with a fold out double bed (whether from IKEA or somewhere else) and place it in the room. This will clear up sooooo much space. I will then move the trestle table and cubbies (hubby made these) from downstairs along with the cubby shelving (also built by hubby) into the room along with all of little D's art supplies, books, puzzles and toys.

If he wants to play downstairs, we will use the bucket system and he will be allowed to fill that bucket with toys to play with downstairs. At the end of the day, it will be filled back up and the toys will be taken back upstairs. This new toy room/activity room will also allow us to have a little quiet preschool area where we can work on learning activities and art activities. We may eventually hang a TV in there on the wall, but as for now TV is a limited commodity at our house.

Room Plans and Mood Board (via OlioBoard):

The above is my first attempt at using OlioBoard to create a Mood Board. I like it, but think using other tools can be somewhat faster unless you use all of the items from the downloaded brands they already have available. Some of the items shown here include:

  1. A cute little chalk board/art area for the corner as seen on and her roundup of spaces from the Utah Parade of Homes 2013 {Definitely DIY}
  2.  (2nd Option) Easel that can easily be for chalk or drawing 
  3. Industrial shelving as seen on Beneath My Heart {DIY LOVE LOVE LOVE this look}
  4. Floor Poufs - these have been popular for a while now, but I just haven't had the time to complete them - Summer project for sure using IKEA Signe Flatwoven rugs in various colors (I chose a red/sage stripe and a black/red stripe). These rugs were $2.99 each!! Of course, the stuffing will be pricey. I will save up my JoAnn's coupons for that. 
  5. Pottery Barn Stripe Rug - Pricey at $299 for a 5'x8', but this will be in the playroom so I want something cheap. I have been wanting to paint a canvas rug for a while. Add to my list of Things to Do. 
  6. Art Center- Love these rolling carts from IKEA at $30.00, but I already have a thrifted one from my favorite little spot. May repaint it a better color. 
  7. Love Love Love the Smart Store system from The Container Store. I will be purchasing a few of these and the Sterilite containers from Target to store his ever growing art supply pile
  8. To keep this room a little rustic and boyish, I am going to go for stripes, plaids and woodsey prints. I might even break down and take on the trend of paper mache animal heads on the wall. Maybe....
  9. Art will be kept to a minimum because I want this room to be mainly functional. There will be a chalkboard/art roll as well as a magnetic center for letters, numbers, etc. Other art will include family photos, pallet board art (DIY), and maybe some vintage airplane or car paintings. A few of my favorite sayings I have seen recently on DIY signs include, "You are our greatest adventure", "Why fit in when you were born to stand out", "Every good and perfect gift comes from above", "A Little boy is the only thing God can use to make a man", "It was always you." 

So, I am sure my readers are tired of seeing the ever changing "Playroom" Posts, but this home is ever changing. Ever since beginning Dave Ramsey and vowing to pay off all of our debt within the next few years (our house will take a little longer), we have decided to stay in this home for a while and just make it work for us where we are. We don't need more space, we just need less unnecessary items and a little more organization. 

Not quite sure what we will fill the empty dining room space with once we move little man upstairs, but it will either take on its previous dining room roll or will become a keeping/sitting room where we can read or I can paint. 

Thanks for reading. Hope to have some updates and photos soon. Blogging is always the easy part. Finding time to tackle these projects is what gets put on hold. I would much rather be at the part with little D. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Where do I Begin? (Decorating 101)

Where Do I Begin?

Following design trends is like trying to follow fashion trends – they change constantly! Should you follow trends? Yes, If they suit your overall style. But, what are the basic design rules to follow that don’t necessarily rely only on trends? How can you have a home that looks like a million bucks without spending a fortune and without changing your d├ęcor every season?

      Take your time:
Decorating is an expensive business. Having an overall vision for the space (and, more importantly – a budget) before beginning is a good way to save money in the long run. There are a variety of means available to pre-plan for a space. One popular way to do this is by creating a Design Board using Pinterest or by using other Internet resources such as Olioboard to create a Mood Board. Magazines and photographs can also help create a Mood Board or collage if you are a more hands on kind of planner. Cut clippings from magazines when you see something that inspires you and create a photo collage. All of these will help you to see your vision. If you are still feeling overwhelmed, hire a designer to help. There is nothing worse than choosing items for your home only to hate them when you see them in the space. Some items can’t be returned and who wants the hassle anyway?

Other ways to take your time include shopping for signature pieces that make a statement. Frequent vintage and resale shops until you find the pieces that speak to you and your overall design vision. By shopping vintage and resale, you can save money a lot of times and the pieces will have character. If you do find the perfect piece, don’t snag it just because it is the perfect price. Also think about what you might need to do to it once you bring it home – repaint, reupholster, fix drawers. If you need to refinish, count the cost of paint and supplies. If the piece needs to be reupholstered, add $300-$400 to the sale price. Also remember that wherever you decide to shop, price doesn’t always negate quality. Hiring someone to refinish or reupholster a piece for you will sometimes produce better results than purchasing an expensive piece from the mass produced market.

 Measure and measure again:
Unless you are able to knock walls down in order to expand you space, measuring is a necessity when it comes to designing a space. If it won’t fit, it won’t fit. Remember to keep scale and proportion of objects, of furnishings and of furniture in mind as well as overall square footage of the space. You want to choose pieces that fit well proportionally in the space as well as look proportional to each other. A small chair will look out of place in a large room while it will look just right in a smaller room.

Focus on function:
Some rooms are a no brainer when it comes to function. A bathroom has a very specific function as well as a kitchen. But, what function do other rooms in your home have? Some rooms can function in several ways especially when you have children or when you work from home. That spare bedroom which would normally be just for guest can double as an office or playroom. How often you need a guest room may also lead to different furniture purchases and more functions for the space. If you choose to add a bed, the space is limited for other functions. But, what if you did a sofa with a fold out bed? Your space just increased as did the room’s overall functions.

The one rule to avoid though is to have your office inside your bedroom. Mixing work and sleep could have repercussions on how well you sleep. If you do have to have a workspace in your sleeping space, try to make it as inconspicuous as possible with room dividers, great organization and minimal office furniture.

Acknowledge ALL of the surfaces in a room:
Many of us tend to choose a paint color, flooring, draperies and furnishings but neglect the sixth side of a room – the ceiling. Make a statement with the ceiling by using wallpaper, beams, wooden planks, or paint it a contrasting color to make a huge statement. If you aren’t into making a huge statement, purchase a gallon of white paint and have it tinted with the wall color you are using in the space.

Keep it clean and organized:
No matter what your design style or which trends you decide to follow, keep your space clean, organized and clutter free. Purge or store anything you don’t need on a regular basis and don’t go overboard with items that will clutter the space. Baskets and bins are a great investment to hide unwanted clutter especially in the office area or if your children’s toys share the living space.

Remember that having a home where YOU feel comfortable is your main goal. Trends do have their place in moderation, but remember that you are not decorating for your neighbors or friends. You want your home to feel welcoming when you entertain visitors, but the overall design style should be reflection of your tastes. You want to love coming home!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What We Packed: Toddler Carryon and Backpack

Marrying someone from another country means it is inevitable that you will travel at some point with kids. This is my first post of many documenting our trip to Hong Kong ~ our first with little man {he was 2 years 4 months at the time}. This was my third trip.

When we first decided to travel home for Chinese New Year, my teacher brain began to plan. I am the OCD, rule following, must have a plan part of this marriage!

This post will show what we packed and how we packed (Part 1 for Declan)

Little Man's BackPack 

The books chosen were ones on topics he loves right now (transportation vehicles). A huge plus to these books is that they are interactive and he can spend a while on one page lifting the flaps and naming items. The airplane book was read to him before our trip to help get him ready. 

  1. Slide and Find - Trucks by Roger Priddy 
  2. Busy, Busy Thomas (Thomas & Friends) Nifty Lift-and-Look Board Book by Rev. W. Awdry 
  3. The Noisy Airplane Ride by Mike Downs and David Gordon 
I picked up several zippered pencil cases from Wal-Mart one day. My goal was to fill them with items that would keep our little man entertained during our very long flight. Movies usually cause him to get a little rowdy because he is sitting still so long. 

Pouch 1: Coloring 
  • Disney Planes Play Pack Grab & Go {Included two sticker sheets, one coloring pad and 4 crayons} 
  • Crayola Coloring Pad Disney Pixar Cars (picked up for $1.00)
  • 1 My First Crayola Triangular Crayons 8 ct
***I removed the crayons from the Grab and Go and just put in the triangular ones since they don't roll. Huge plus with a tray table and confined space. 

Pouch 2: Valentines Craft  ***Since we were traveling on February 12, this was the perfect craft. 
  • White cardstock hearts cut using a template 
  • Red construction paper strips {for the accordion legs and arms}
  • Valentines Stickers Chosen by Declan himself (Target)
  • Googly Eyes {Self-adhesive is best}
  • Glue stick 
Pouch 3: 
  • Popsicle Sticks with Velcro attached to the ends 
  • Matching Wooden Circles {Transportation Memory Game} I got the idea from here and used the wooden circles (Michael's), but I printed photos of vehicles using my computer's clip art. On one side, there are emergency vehicles (firetruck, ambulance, police car) and the other side has construction vehicle such as dump truck and excavator. 
Pouch 4: 
Felt Button Snake  {Button Snake}
Lace and Learn Shapes ~ Farm Theme {Birthday Gift}

Car Roll Mat with 3 cars and 3 trains {Car Mat Tutorial} I liked this one best. I followed it mainly, but added an extra piece of fabric behind the road to create an extra wide pocket. In this pocket, I inserted a Train Track sewn onto felt and a felt Dumptruck page with buttons. {Dump Truck With Button Up Tires"

Sippy Cup {One that doesn't leak!!}
Snacks {Box of raisins, 1 package Dehydrated fruit (Costco), Annie's Cheddar Snack Mix, 1 Peter Rabbit Organic Fruit Pouch}

Extras ~ You know, Just in Case

I wanted to have something to surprise him with when he got anxious or fussy. These were based on his likes at the time. 

Disney Planes Racing Dusty Crophopper Die Cast Plane
18 Wheel Truck with a car that goes inside a trailer {He loved the one our neighbor had}


  • 1 Pack size 5 Super dry diapers
  • 1 Huggies Designer Tub {Full - Came Free in a box of diapers from Costco}

    • 1 Huggies Natural Care Clutch 'n' Clean Refillable wipes holder with arm strap - great for airport and walking around Hong Kong {Free in box of Costco diapers, but can be found at Wal-mart}

    • Small soft blanket (From a dear friend's mom for Declan's baby shower)
    • Summer Infant ChangeAway Changing Pad (with two diapers inside for ease of getting to the airplane bathroom)
    • A zippered pouch for night time items ~ comfy 2 piece PJs, Disney Cars Softee Fuzzy Socks, Lavender Stick, My First Blankie, The First Years GumDrop Teething Pacifier, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown{We decided that since the flight was 16 hours and we would be getting up so early to get to the airport that we would follow the same bedtime routine on the plane} 
    • One extra set of comfy clothes like drawstring pants and a loose T-Shirt {Our poor little man is prone to car sickness}
    • Headphones and Leap Frog {Loaned to us by generous friends}
    • Memory Foam Pillow 
    Reflections on the airplane ride:

    The best thing we did for this trip was keep little man on his schedule the day before and he had a great night of sleep. 

    The second best advice found in my research was to follow bedtime routine on the airplane. This worked like a charm on the way over to Hong Kong. We took Declan to the airplane bathroom at his normal bedtime. We changed his diaper, brushed his teeth, and put on his PJs. We then went back to our seat and read his favorite bedtime story, rubbed his forehead with Lavender, gave him his lovey and blanket and after he got comfortable on the seat between daddy and I he fell fast asleep lulled by the sound of the airplane's engine. 

    The third best advice was to pack a couple of new toys for him to open during flight. This worked great for when he was getting restless and we had to keep our seatbelts on. We opened the new truck and he spent a long time just rolling it along the tray table. 

    Something I did that probably was overkill- all of the pouches of activities. We did use the crayons and stickers and he loved the Valentine's activity. The rest we never opened!