Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A new season

I had such a relaxing break in December! It was so good. We spent a lot of time at home, being very domestic. We've been staying in our condo for one year now, and it's nice to feel settled in, to be comfortable enough to hang up more pictures on the walls, and to feel like the "seniors" whenever we see new residents around the development.

The sun is finally shining, mighty and proud! Our bamboo seemed to dry up almost overnight after a day (or two) of non-stop sunshine. I was worried at first and virtually drowned the bamboo watering it, until Richard told me that the bamboo was just changing its leaves for the season, like an autumn molt. Well, I'm not sure that's true (as there is plenty of bamboo around the estate which is still green) but the change in perspective opened my eyes to the beauty of the brown and gold leaves, and my mood changed instantly. My irritation at having to pick up the dried leaves that flew into our living room evaporated instantly. I was happy. It's amazing how putting on a different pair of eyes can make all the difference.

With the change in the weather, it was back to outdoor activities, like swimming!

We did a lot of cooking over the holidays - stoved chicken, spaghetti bolognese, fried noodles, some simple Chinese dishes, etc. I kept forgetting to take photos because most of the dishes are dishes which we've been making for years now so they seem pretty ordinary to us. I did manage to snap these few shots of the last couple of dishes (using my phone) to share with you.  

This is the stoved chicken mid-preparation.

There is a bed of potato slices at the bottom, then there is diced carrot and sliced onion, plus some bacon. Some herbs go in too, plus seasoning. The browned chicken pieces go in next (there were more pieces than just the three you see in the photo) and then more carrot and onion. The potato slices get layered on top of all that until the whole thing is covered (the second photo here was taken while I was halfway done with the potato layer). Add chicken stock or stout, depending on your preference. Smear some of the bacon fat on the top, and the whole casserole goes into the oven. It can also go on a fire on the hob like a stew, in which case the chicken should be cooked through first before going into the casserole. We like this dish a lot and have made it many times.

This one is a simple Chinese dish - chicken with lots of ginger, chilli and spring onion. The original recipe was a Western recipe with honey, I modified it by replacing the honey with oyster sauce. We eat it with noodles. A messy picture, couldn't be bothered to clean up - was hungry!

We had friends over for mahjong a few times. The routine is that Richard and I will take turns to play while the other accompanies Ryan. A mahjong session (3 rounds) takes an average of 6 hours or more, so there's a lot of time to fill. We play with him in his playroom, sit with him and watch a video, and sometimes Richard will drive him out to have something to eat. Sometimes, we will stay in the living room and hang around the mahjong table (because the accompanying parent wants to watch the action!). Sometimes, Ryan will want the attention of the parent who is playing, so he will ask to sit on the parent's lap while the game is going on. He's been very well behaved at the table - he doesn't fling the tiles around or mess things up, so he's always welcome. He even participates in shuffling, stacking and arranging the tiles!

These shots were taken two or three mahjong sessions ago. Ryan took my shawl and spread it out like a picnic blanket, set up the iPad and lounged around. He only lasted a few minutes though - he much preferred to sit with me so he came over to where I was and climbed onto my lap, leaving his picnic behind.

Anyway, a new year and a new season is truly upon us now and I've run out of excuses to keep the Christmas decorations up. Chinese New Year is fast approaching so I need to shake off the rabbit and welcome the dragon!


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