Sunday, November 24, 2013

Recipe Share: Bulgogi

A few weekends ago I made Bulgogi for a big Sunday night dinner with friends.  It was a hit, so I've decided to immortalize the recipe online so that it is easier to share.  This is a recipe given to me by Yeonshin Lee, a Korean friend who came through Chapel Hill a few years ago while her husband was a visiting professor at Duke.  Enjoy!

Bulgogi (Korean Beef)


  • 2 lbs beef (steak beef sliced thinly works really well)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar (it's a sweet meat, but you can dial this back a little bit if you'd prefer)
  • 1/2 cup cooking wine, or any wine
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1 medium onion, grated
  • 2 Tbsps garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, minced
  • Pepper
  • 5 sticks green onion, chopped
  • (optional) sliced mushrooms, carrots or cabbage
Mix all of the ingredients except for the beef and vegetables.  Put the thinly sliced beef and vegetables into the sauce.  Refrigerate the marinade for at least 3 hours (you can store the mix for several days and cook a bit at a time).  Fry the bulgogi on the stovetop until cooked, or put it into a pyrex in the oven on 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Serve with rice and kimchi.  Feeds 6-8 people.

And since no post seems complete without a photo and I didn't think to take one of dinner when we had our friends over, I'll include this little gem.  It's getting to be holiday time over here!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Latest Struggle

My mom is a thoughtful gift-giver, and for my birthday (in October) she gave me the gift of a Photography class at our local Community College, in addition to watching Gigi and Orion for the three hours that I'm in class each week, for the eight weeks that the class runs.  It was the perfect gift, since we have had our D-SLR for almost a year now and I really didn't know how to use it very well.

But this has been such a hard, hard, hard and such a humbling experience.  After working for my friend Rebecca years ago when I was pregnant with Gigi, I have been picky about photography because Rebecca was so extraordinarily talented.  However, as much as my eyes may like good photography, I just can't get that to translate into any sort of skill on my part.  The first few weeks of class I felt like the teacher was speaking a foreign language.  On numerous occasions I was pretty sure that it was never going to make sense.  On one occasion I melted into a heap of hopelessness and tears on the couch while I was trying to understand how to use a gray card.  It has been so frustrating.

But by some miracle, things are starting to shift, and the language is becoming clear.  I am finally figuring out how to take photos with my subject predictably in focus, and I am learning that my composition isn't always terrible (sometimes it is terrible, but not always).  And I definitely have a deepened respect and awe for people who are talented in this area where I struggle so much.  It is such a cool talent to have.

And so, here's to a hopeful many happy years with my camera.  I've included a few photos I've taken for homework in the last few weeks - ones that I like for whatever reason.  I hope that we can work well together to capture these years of growing a family!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Full of Hot Air

There are a few things I find very romantic and wonderful.  One is Swiss railway journeys, which we crossed off my bucket list a few years back when Marcos and I went to Europe.  Another is hot air balloons.

So some months ago when I had a hankering for hot air balloons and did a quick search to see if there was anything exciting here in North Carolina, I was very happy to see that every year in October there is a North Carolina Hot Air Balloon Festival in Statesville, NC.  It is about two hours away from Chapel Hill, but nothing that we couldn't manage on a nice afternoon.

We met our friends the Hills there, and we were all so pleased that we had decided to brave the crowds and the drive!  As we arrived, the first of the Giants were waking up, one by one, bumping against each other as they soared up so peacefully.  It was magic against that blue sky.  

And of course we took family photos.  It would have been criminal not to, although good luck avoiding a balloon coming out of your head!

Gigi's sister friends Kinsey and Kaitlyn.  Love these three...

And, oh yes, our kids love each other as well!  Waaah!  Just kidding.  Kind of.  We're still working on giving Orion space.

For dinner we had corn dogs and gyros.  The NC State Fair is a really big deal that we always choose not to be a part of each fall, so it was good to have fair food to feel like we had reached our quota for the year.  

For people with a few hundred dollars for ballooning, they were able to sign up ahead of time to ride one of the hot air balloons that rose during the "Ascension" in the afternoon.  For those of us with ten dollars for ballooning, we were able to take a "tethered ride" in this beauty above.  We were packed in the basket with the Hills, and it took only about ten minutes to rise and fall, but it was a great experience.  The flame was incredibly loud and hot, so our kids were a little frightened, but it was very cool to get a view from above.  The pilot said that the air at the top of the balloon was 204 degrees.  Hot Air, indeed!

And as the evening fell and the big grassy hill started to chill, we heard bagpipes off in the distance, which sounded so incredible that I was drawn to the stage where the Scottish band Albannach was just getting warmed up.  There was a line of fans at the front of the stage, swinging their hair and moving to the music, and by a few songs in, I had half a mind to let my hair down and join the groupies!  Marcos jokes that he will never take me to Scotland because I might not ever come home after hearing all the men with their Scottish accents, but play me a bit of Scottish music and that may do the trick as well.  It was so good it was moving.

And we rounded off the night with Funnel Cake and an Amish Doughnut.  It was the perfect ending to a really amazing day.  If you live close and like Hot Air Balloons, make a note that next October in Statesville the Hot Air Balloon Festival will be going strong!  Maybe we'll see you there!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Interview at Three and a Half

Me: Gigi, how old are you now?
Gigi: Three and a Half.

M: What kind of art do you like?
G: Jackson Pollock!
M: If you could go to a museum and look at anyone's art, who would you choose?
G: Degas.
M: What do you like about Degas?
G: The ballerinas.  I want to be a ballerina!
(Yes, we love the book Olivia).

M: Gigi, what kind of music do you like?
G: Michael Jackson.

M: What kind of food do you like?
G: Smoothies.... and fish.
M: If you could learn how to cook anything in the world, what would you choose?
G: Maybe some kind of Russian soup.

M: What is your favorite type of dancing?
G: Ballet!

M: What is your favorite language?
G: Português!

M: What is your favorite color?
G: Pink, magenta, turquoise and pink.

M: What do you want to be when you grow up?
G: A super hero.
M: Which one?
G: Wonder Woman.
M: If you could have any super power, what would it be?
G: When it's dark, I don't go to sleep.  Only when it's light I go to sleep.

M: Who are some of your best friends?
G: Ezra, Lily and Tyler.
M: What do you like to do with your friends?
G: Go to preschool! (These are her preschool buddies).

M: If you could have a perfect day, what would you choose to do?
G: I don't know.  Maybe have a birthday party.
M: What would you do at the birthday party?
G: I would celebrate somebody.

M: Gigi, what are some of your talents?
G: I have a billion that I can't tell you.
M: Can you tell me three of them?
G: Maybe tomorrow.  Not tonight.

M: What is your favorite holiday?
G: Christmas!
M: What are you excited to do at Christmas?
G: Be with my cousins and speak Portuguese!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall Girls Retreat

At the beginning of October, I went on a Girl's Retreat at Hanging Rock State Park, which is about two hours away from Chapel Hill.  My close friend Becca (below left) has a talent for bringing people together, and including good food and the great outdoors in her plans.  She takes the time and energy to rally our friends to join her on adventures, and I so admire her for it.

From Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon we were up at the state park, and Becca had reserved a cabin months and months in advance so that we could stay at one of the nice, newer ones.  I could not get over how much I enjoyed being there, and how beautiful and clean it was.  I was the only person bringing a baby even though most of us are mommies, and I was nervous about many aspects of the trip, but most of all about the lodging and whether or not it would work with Orion and his running all over the place.  Fortunately, the cabins were simple, sturdy, and the furniture was functional and decor was spare.  Orion was in heaven exploring the sun porch, running all over with the balls I had brought for him, and playing with our shoes.  But the best part of the cabin was the wall of windows and the sun porch that looked out on the forest.  These photos do the scene no justice because my camera was adjusting for indoor light, but it was like living in a tree house.  Magical!

One of the things that cracked me up about our Girls Retreat is that the friends who came are exactly the friends who are doing a Health Challenge with me, so we were all trying to stay away from sugar, and basically anything unhealthy.  Since we all signed up to prepare one meal for the entire group, at one point in the week prior to the retreat someone asked for a general menu so that she wouldn't plan a meal that repeated another friend's menu.  The responses we all emailed back were things like, "One Pot Farrow", "Quinoa Stew" and "Kale Salad".  What kind of Girls Retreat was this going to be?!  But the awesomest of awesome Retreats, is how it turned out.  I've never eaten so much good and healthy and tasty food in one weekend.  And luckily, we all took one free day while we were together and Becca made molten lava chocolate cake, with fresh raspberries and blackberries from Jamie's stash.  Basically, it was perfection.

And the rest of the time we spent hiking!  Here we are: Orion and I, Jamie, Abby and Allison.  Hanging Rock State Park has all kinds of different trails, so we chose a relatively easy one for Friday afternoon, a 6-miler for Saturday when we had more time, and another shorter trail for Sunday morning.  Orion was the best hiking companion I could have asked for.  He happily rode in the carrier, and quietly fell asleep against my shoulders when it was nap time.  I am so thankful that he was peaceful, and calm.  For all of the worry I had about bringing Orion, everything ran so smoothly.  Having four close friends with helpful hands around was such a big help.

Auntie Abby and Orion, when we paused at one of the scenic vistas to have snacks and stretch our legs.

By mile five of day two, my shoulders started to ache something terrible!  My son is heavy!

So that night we did yoga and swapped massages, ate snacks and chatted until late, to limber up for our hiking on day three.

And it was so wonderful to be outdoors.  The day really aced autumnal perfection, and it was warm and gorgeous.  It was the perfect weekend off from my day to day life, to recharge my batteries and jump back into my world, refreshed and ready to take the bull by the horns.

Thanks Becca, for a fabulous adventure!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Happy Birthday Orion!

It is really hard for us to believe that one year has already flown by!  Today is Orion's first birthday and we are pretty smitten by this independent, happy little boy.  His birth a year ago was also the time that I stopped working to be home full time with the kids, and about the time we started watching old episodes of The West Wing to get us through the first four months of him being a very colicky baby into the wee hours of the morning.  I always wondered how parents of colicky babies kept their sanity, and after living through it and being in the trenches every night, most of that chapter now seems like a very distant memory.  (Although the jury is still out on whether or not we came out of it with our sanity intact!).  Yet when I consider how difficult those first few months were, all I can think about is how much Orion adds to our family.  My terrible memory really comes in handy sometimes.

At a year old, Orion is blossoming in so many ways.  It seems like he has become ten times more sophisticated just in the last week.  He says wow, mama, baba (Papai), olha ("look" in Portuguese), nana (banana), uh-oh and ball.  He walks and runs, and is fast and furious, but also cautious enough for us not to have baby gates at our staircase.  He loves balls, and putting things into containers, and family band practice.  He loves drumming, and making noise, laughing, leaning in for open-mouthed kisses and clicking his tongue.  He waves, and claps, shakes his head no and dances to any music with a beat.  He's social, and a ham, and our little love.

For this birthday boy, I coached myself through being okay with simple even though Gigi's first birthday was a big to-do.  A family dinner of Japanese curry with rice and salad, and fresh berries over vanilla ice cream for dessert.  Then it was time to open presents!  A decorated food storage can with a slot to push milk lids through was a toy from Gigi, a first toothbrush from Marcos and me, rubber balls from Tutu, and a sweet wooden push along tractor set from Auntie Katy.  What a happy boy with all of his new toys!

And that was Orion's welcome into the world of being one year old.  We are so rich because he is in our family.  Gigi has learned so much being his older sister, and we have learned so much being his parents.  Thank you, Orion, for choosing us!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloweenie!

Happy Halloween!  I'm a bit behind in posting, but wanted to share some photos from our Halloween Day.

In the morning Gigi had coop preschool and my friend Jenny was hosting this week, but at each holiday we do a group effort holiday party.  It is always fun, low key, and not stressful for anyone since we're sharing the work.  There was some dancing to the Monster Mash and the Skeleton Dance, Halloween stories of course, and I brought some great Halloween poems I found.  Here are the kids at the very beginning of the party.  The four on the right are our preschool bunch, and the two on the left are younger sibs.

Jenny did a Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin game, and we had very themed Halloween snacks.  No sugar, believe it or not!  We knew they would get enough tonight.

This photo of Tyler getting wrapped is one of my favorites from the party.  It was mummy time, and it was pretty hysterical.  Guenieve and Kim had also prepared crafts.  Ezra demonstrates his ninja moves below at craft time.

And then it was pick up Tutu and then home for the afternoon.  When Papai came home from UNC, he took the kids outside and played in the leaves.  I have photos from prior years when Gigi was wearing big coats over her costume to keep her warm and dry on Halloween Day, and today it was in the mid 70s, warm and perfect in every way.

After an early dinner we went to the Carrboro Halloween Carnival, which has been our tradition for the past three years.  Lots of games, little prizes, and pretty much zero sugar.  Marcos bought popcorn and hot cocoa for fifty cents, but this event stays largely candy free, and I love it for that.

Gigi's buddies Emerson and Olivia playing games, and below Gigi poses with her Wonder Woman "lasso".  (Any tips on how to help a child to smile naturally into the camera?  My word...)

And then it was off for Trick or Treating with Emerson and Livy and little Achilles in a nearby Carrboro neighborhood.  Gigi really got into Trick or Treating this year.  She ran door to door, she loved talking to the people who came to the door, and apparently she really loved collecting candy.  At one point I overheard a woman at a door saying, "Okay Wonder Woman, that's enough now".  So mortifying.  But surprisingly, when we got home, she ate about three pieces, and was much more interested in divvying her pile up into a pile of Papai's favorites for Papai, Tutu's favorites for Tutu, etc.  We all scored, and we didn't even have to be sneaky about it! 

Happy Halloween everyone!