Symmetry – Weekly Photo Challenge

This weeks Weekly Photo Challenge BY , is Symmetry. The following picture was taken by my 14-year-old daughter using a Nokia 1520 camera phone. She used an Android APP called Camera 360.

The photos were taken at a local thrift shop while looking for albums. Yes, albums seem to be the rage with some kids. If we could find a turn table we’d be in business.



Photo credit to: Mari Madrigal


Photo credit to Mari Madrigal


Photo credit to: Mari Madrigal

Please allow me to introduce my daughter, the youngest of 5, a young lady full of life and dreams. She is aspiring to become an International Nurse (she wants to travel abroad), a photographer, and an extreme sports woman. For her 15th birthday, she’d like to give me a 2nd heart attack (not really) and go sky diving. 🙂

This is Mari, she is aspiring to become an International Nurse (she wants to travel abroad), a photographer, and an extreme sports woman.

New Student and A Not So New Book

Our oldest daughter graduated from high school in 2009. Our second daughter is now attending the same high school the older siblings attended. While this is probably no big deal and I’m sure it happens all the time, we thought it was funny and quite a coincidence that 6 years later, our second daughter is using the exact same book as her oldest sister. Alex was the first to use this book.

How many times does this happen and has it happened to you or your children?

IMG_4799[1] IMG_4800[1]

First Stop In The USA

Our first full day in the USA and our first stop was a toiletry stop at Kroger’s. What’s the big deal you might ask? Well, it seems that at 7:13 in the morning there are no cashiers available. We were told we must use the Self Scan machine, followed by the question,”Do you need help using it?”

What’s happening to our world? Why is cash not acceptable for renting a car? Why can’t I have a cheerful friendly cashier ring up my order?

I’m driving 5 miles over the speed limit yet people are passing me and looking at me as if I’ve done something wrong.

Ha! I’m ranting and don’t mean to be. We are a family of 4 who has had very little sleep in the last 24 hours.

We’ve been in China for a full year with no breaks in between. We are all looking forward to these will be blissful 30 days.

Our month long vacation/journey begins now!!


Dear Family & Friends – I’ve Missed You.

It’s been a while since I posted anything on this blog. I’m sorry I’ve not been around for about a month and a few days. Life has been busy and I’ve been a bit under the weather. I’ve had a cold/ cough for about 7 weeks now. I’ve been to the doctor in Shanghai and was given some cough medicine and 2 different types of inhalers. I think I’m finally starting to feel better and this cough is starting to subside a bit.

I’ll admit I’ve tried every wives tale out in existence or so I think to rid myself of this cough. Vicks on the feet and chest followed by covering my feet with thick socks. I’ve tried a variety of combinations with honey from honey with cinnamon, lemon, and even apple cider vinegar. I’ve tried a variety of tea’s. Alcohol between the toes and even slept with a wet towel next to my head. Ha! Nothing was working. However, maybe it’s the combination of all the wives tales and medicine that is finally, finally giving me some relief.

I had to chuckle at my girlfriend who suggested I was perhaps allergic to mildew or mold. If that’s the case I’m living in the wrong country. I don’t know of any apartment in this area that doesn’t have some sort of mold or mildew. The building practices here are different from the western world.

Since April 1st, I’ve had a slew of tasks for both personal and school related. We had Easter to prepare for, parents night, and spring break. While it doesn’t sound like much, the tasks relating to each item was to say the least daunting especially when not feeling 100%. On a positive side, we have 6 weeks of instructional time left at school with 1 1/2 weeks of wrap up and clean up work remaining.

Yes! I’m on a countdown as I’m so looking forward for a little R&R and family time back in the USA!

I’ll be sharing some photo’s in the next day or so, for now I leave you with this magnificent view at the top of Moganshan Mountain. This photo was taken the end of April, during a hiking trip to Moganshan Mountain. Yes, even though I was not feeling the best, I had to take the girls on the already planned outing. I’ll share more soon. For now, just know that standing on that mountain top after a long hike, was so very worth it. A magnificent view that pictures just do not justify.

Mountain Top View





For The Love of Coca & Natural Weeds – Grenada

I have to laugh at my feeble attempt at humor with the title of my post. What can I say, I love the aroma of coca and herbs in different dishes and baked goods. My friend Tim & his lovely wife Dianne went to Grenada and brought me back some, “goodies”, spices!

I’ve had the spices sitting up on the shelf with my other trophies (a variety of delicious wine bottles) waiting to be used in the, “perfect”, dish. I haven’t found the perfect dish to make yet; but, I wanted to share my goodies with you. The decorative coconut shell was filled with bay leaves, saffron, crushed bay leaf, mace, curry, turmeric, & paprika.



I now have a bottle of pure vanilla also from Grenada. I’m saving this one for my wonderful husband who will be making homemade ice cream. Can you hear the angels sing? I’m hoping my husband can hear them sing when I ask him to make the ice cream. It’s a long drawn out process. The end result is pure deliciousness!


Moving on to the coca. From the delicious rich fragrance I can only guess that these will be the most delicious chocolate balls we’ll ever have! My husband will love them… The hot chocolate aroma that will come from our kitchen will be heavenly! Can’t wait for winter. 🙂


Have you ever had lamb or do you like lamb? A well prepared lamb rack is absolutely divine with just the right amount of nutmeg. Even without any cooking going on at the moment, I can smell the aroma of some good ol cooking!


Grenada is well known as the Land of Spices due to the large number of spices grown on the island. The informative leaflet inserted in the spice filled coconut had some information I had not heard of before, it says: Ginger is used in preserves  curries, chutneys, pickles, vinegar, soups, sauces, gravies, stews, in ginger beer, as a hot spicy tea for gas(carminative), and for fevers (sudorific). It flavors puddings, cakes, soups, pumpkin pies, fruit sauces, stew, pot, roast, & barbecue dressings. And here I thought ginger was only good as that tangy horseradish like flavoring pickled and served at the Japanese house with sushi. hmmm


I love spices! This gift traveled from Grenada to America to China to my trophy shelf. 🙂 What’s your favorite spice and what do you use it in? Have you ever tried ginger beer? Enjoy!

Family Day –> Sunday –> Fun Day, It’s not just another day!

If we were in America, our Sunday’s would consist of big breakfast, Church, visiting, playing games, and really not doing much of anything else including chores. Sunday’s are reserved for, “Family Time”.

Here in China, we try to keep up with, “Family Time”, although it doesn’t always work out, we do have those special Sunday’s when it does. This past Sunday was one of those great family days! We usually look up a different recipe to try to introduce to the kids. Yes, even at 12 & 14, we have some of the pickiest eaters and I still cater to them very much. Shame on me I know; but, they are my last two babies at home. ha ha

Our Sunday's almost always start off with pancakes. They are a family favorite and when dad makes them, they are especially good.

Our Sunday’s almost always start off with pancakes. They are a family favorite and when daddy makes them, they are especially good. Real maple syrup is yet to be found here, so a little honey or Country Kitchen syrup is our topping. Fresh fruit on the side because heaven forbid it touch the pancakes… ha ha

Mike was blessed with his mother’s aptitude in the kitchen. I’m so grateful to her for teaching Mike all that she did. This Sunday, the new meal of choice was a minestrone soup and pita bread. The pita bread recipe he used was from a site called The Fresh Loaf . This recipe is easy and great to use with kids! Loved it. Oh that yeasty smell was my favorite!

The work area to roll out is pretty small so there was not enough room for both of us to roll out the Pita's. :)

The work area to roll out is pretty small so there wasn’t enough room for both of us to roll out the Pita’s. 🙂

Ooh yeah! Fresh Pita's are delicious! They smelled so good too... num num num

Ooh yeah! Fresh Pita’s are delicious! They smelled so good too… num num num


Can you say that 10 times without fail? Peanut Butter Pita Bread. Ha! Those of you who know Mike, won’t be surprised to learn that Mike added peanut butter to the pita too. ha ha.. My husband loves his peanut butter.

The minestrone soup recipe was taken from Pasta Recipe’s by Italians, of course we had to make a little change to suit the pallet of the kids. Not much was changed though. This turned out to be so delicious and it was made with fresh local veggies and chicken.

Once all the vegetables were sauteed to perfection they were add to the stock. Hmm the aroma was just as delicious as the meal.

Once all the vegetables were sautéed to perfection they were add to the stock. Hmm the aroma was just as delicious as the meal.

Greatness in progress.

Of course for dessert he made a caramel type of pop corn which we were too busy eating to take a picture. Maybe we should change the name from Family Day to Fat Day as it seems that’s all we do is cook and enjoy throughout the day. Yesterday, the girls did say they wished we had our monopoly game here. hint hint… lol

With a little creativity and thinking outside the box, anything is possible whether your home in the States or home in China, it’s all a matter of what we make of it. Life is good and we are very blessed!

The Smyth’s


Only the best popcorn ever!

It's so delicious it melts in your mouth... ok, not quite but oh it's delicious!

It’s so delicious it melts in your mouth… ok, not quite but oh it’s delicious!

I’ve been craving popcorn and remembered I had this picture to share as well. The lines we saw at times were as long as the whole block. On this particular cold morning, the lines were stretched to the next street. The kids were a bit too cold to stand in line so we moved on. ::snap:: If you’ve never had the popcorn I can assure you, you are missing out. Love me some good Garret Popcorn!