30 September 2009

My Little Chef



Since he was around 2.5 years old, Josh has never wavered from his stated ambition of becoming a chef. When we went to a studio for a shoot two years ago, he had a choice of costumes that he could pick from, but --surprise, surprise – guess what he picked?

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29 September 2009

Why I ♥ the Baby Signs® Program



BS Logo -the original - compressed

No, this is not a PR piece nor is it my intention to write this to help “boost” my business. (I am, after all, in a different part of the world from where most of you are. Heh.)
I was just reading my own profile and I noted that I wrote down that I am a Baby Signs® instructor, yet I never talk about here, on my own blog, something that is very close to my heart, something that I passionately believe in. I think it is high time I do.
My own Baby Signs® adventure started when Josh was eight months old. Every night, we would sign as we would read to him Goodnight Moon. In six weeks, Josh signed along to MOON when we were reading. Chris got so excited about this that he encouraged me to learn and teach Josh more signs and also eventually to get properly trained and certified to teach other families. This, from someone who was initially skeptical about it! To say that our experience with the Baby Signs® Program was amazing would be an understatement.
There are many proven scientific benefits to signing with your child, but for me, the best one of all is that signing opens up a window into your child’s world and being able to share in their discoveries –much, much earlier on than would be possible if we were simply to wait for our child to be able to “tell” us with words his/her feelings, interests, discoveries.
One of my best “signing” memories was this --
There is a fun, musical fountain in a shopping mall that we usually go to. It is a series of four urns that have water jetting out from one urn and arcing into another. We would always stop and watch. The kids are always fascinated by the water dance. We were standing there watching one time when Zoë started to excitedly say “Bo-bo. Bo-bo!” She was around 14 months at the time. I looked at her and she said it again, while watching with rapt attention at the water arcing from one urn to the other. I asked her, “Bo-bo?” She looked at me and then she made the sign for RAINBOW! I was so excited that she was able to relate the arcing of the water jets to a rainbow and that she was able to “tell” us about it.
What was so great about her using signs then was (1) that I didn’t know that she understood the concept of a rainbow, even though we had shown rainbows to her in books; (2) that she could liken the arcing of the water to a rainbow; and (3) that I might not have known what she meant by “Bo-bo” if she hadn’t clarified by making the sign for RAINBOW. How wonderful it was to share that moment of discovery with her. Without the sign, I might have just repeated, “Bo-bo? Bo-bo? Okay.” and asked her to say bye-bye to the fountain before moving along. But because she shared her amazing observation with us, we were able to acknowledge her brilliant discovery, stay at the fountain a bit longer than we normally would have, and share in her excitement and delight at being able to share her world with us. What a pity if we would have missed this beautiful opportunity.
Signing has allowed us to “talk” with both Josh and Zoë much sooner and share special moments that would not have been possible if they were not able to “tell” us with words.
Let me end with a video of Zoë at around 9 months, doing the sign for PLEASE and THANK YOU.

Those of you with little babies, if you are not already doing so, please do consider signing with your babies. I promise you, it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of being a parent. If you would like more information about the Baby Signs® Program, please click here. Happy signing!

28 September 2009

“I Tell You (a) Joke”



It is amazing how having an older sibling can make such a big difference on the things the younger child learns.

~~--~~


The other night, after lights-out, Zoë loudly whispered, “I tell you joke, Mommy, okay? Why did chicken cross road?”

Indulging her, I whispered back, “Why, Zoë?”

“Because want get other side road and eat watermelon! Get it?” *Giggle, giggle*

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Today.
Zoë: Who take all soap from bathroom, Mommy?
Me: I don’t know. Who took all the soap from the bathroom, Zoë?
Zoë: Rob-ber ducky! Get it? *Giggle, giggle* Funny, Mommy! *More giggles*
~~—~
These are a couple of the jokes that Josh has been telling lately and I guess Zoë must have been listening as Josh would tell them to us over and over again.

What kills me, though, is that Zoë would squeak “Get it?” after she gives the answer each time, thinking herself so clever. I’m utterly beside myself with her cuteness when she does that!

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I wish you all a little child like Zoë in your life and the refreshing joy that she brings.

I ♥ Faces – Week 38 : Blue



This week’s theme is “Blue,” where the color blue has to feature strongly in the photo.

Going through my files, I saw that I do have plenty of “blue” photos, except that they are mostly of the sea, the beach… and not many of them have clearly visible faces. Either that or there were too many faces that none of them were distinctly interesting enough to count.

This one, however, seems to fit the bill. Some of you might have seen this photo of Josh before, taken when we were at Science World this summer. Josh in blue, trying to figure out a giant blue numerical puzzle.

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Do head on over to I ♥ Faces for what will be a lot of interesting “Blue” photos.


25 September 2009

Mango Salsa… Like None Other



This is a recipe from my mother-in-law.

To give you an idea of how yummy this is, you will have to know that I am no fan of salsa nor of tortilla chips. While I cannot resist potato chips (my happy food!), you can have a huge bag of tortilla chips in front of me and you will get no reaction from me whatsoever.

This was true --until this summer. After dinner one night, my brother-in-law broke open a bag of tortilla chips and was dipping (more like scooping, really!) the chips in Mom’s mango salsa, all the while raving how yummy it was. My sisters-in-law joined in and everyone agreed that it tasted really great. They looked at me, Ms. Chips herself, and asked me to try.  

I asked what’s in the salsa and found out that Mom used mangoes and cilantro –two of my favorite foods ever. I dipped. I tasted. I dipped some more (with a new chip, of course). I was hooked.

It was very refreshing, just the right amount of tartness, and just plain yummy. I immediately asked for the recipe and was surprised at how easy it is to make the salsa.

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You will just need:


1 mango, semi-ripe, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 white (or red) onion
Cilantro (as much as you like!)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
Sugar, to taste
Ketchup
White sesame seeds (optional)


    ALL you have to do is just mix everything up! That’s it. Easy-peasy.


    Seriously, it’s the best-tasting salsa ever. I can even just take it straight, no chips. The cilantro is what gives it its refreshing taste… and I put in loads and loads of cilantro. It’s best served chilled.

    Go ahead, make this and I promise you’ll never look at salsa the same way ever. Ever.

    24 September 2009

    Pillow Talk



    Chris had a conference call the other night; he couldn’t tuck in Josh at bedtime, so I promised Josh that as soon as Zoë was asleep, I would go lie down with him for a bit.


    I’d missed doing that. I used to be the one who would lie down next to him, but we’ve since been doing the mommy-daughter, father-son thing since Zoë was born. We used to spoon and I would sing to Josh until he would fall asleep. I would take in the smell of him, all sweet and soft against me.


    That night, when I slid in next to him, he turned to me and asked, “How much do you love me, Mommy? Tell me.”
    Me: I love you SO, SO, SO, SOOOO much, Josh.
    Josh: But I love you more than you love me, Mommy.
    Me: Oh, really? Do you know how much I love you?
    Josh: Tell me, Mommy. What’s the number?
    Me: A trillion gazillion!
    Josh: But I love you TWO trillion gazillion, eight thousand, six hundred thousand, three gazillion!!
    Me: Well, I love you SO much that they haven’t even invented the name of the number for how much I love you.
    Josh: Well, they haven’t invented the name of the number for how much I love you either!
    Me: Okay then. Let’s just say we love each other VERY much, okay?
    Josh: Okay, Mommy. ‘Night.


    A little moment to wrap up in a piece of fine silk, to be tucked away somewhere close, to be taken out whenever I would need a pick-me-up… or just whenever I would need a “You are so blessed, believe it!” moment.


    23 September 2009

    Sipadan (Malaysia)



    2004. That’s when I last was at a dive resort. This was where we went. The Sipadan-Mabul Resort in Sabah (Malaysia). Sipadan is famous among divers and is a must-go for those seeking world-class diving and rare diving experiences, e.g. swimming with large schools of barracuda, hammerhead sharks, green turtles, etc.

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    *I just want to add that beautiful as this place is, it is great only if you are really into diving and snorkeling. There really is not much else to do. At least, not when we were there five years ago.

    22 September 2009

    My Time Is Up



    I have come to rely on our good ol’ digital timer to do the talking for me these days.

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    Because I don’t want to say ‘No’ all the time, I compromise. I let Josh and Zoë watch TV –but only for 30 minutes a day. Josh could choose: Either 30 minutes of TV or 30 minutes of computer time, or 15 minutes of each.

    Sometimes I set the timer when I want to ‘nudge’ Josh into finishing up his meals or tidying up. Whatever is left unfinished or left not tidied up by the time the buzzer rings goes to the bin. Yes, I am a bit of a Nazi mom this way.

    The thing is, you only get ‘tested’ once and after that, once they have established that you mean business, your timer is your best friend.

    Or your worst enemy. As I found out one time.

    Josh wanted me to help him build something. I was editing some photos and told him that I’d help him when I finish. Josh walked over to where we keep the timer. I could hear him pressing the buttons and could hear the “beep, beep, beep” as the minutes piled up. Then he walked over to me and said, “Mommy, when the timer rings, you should close your computer and come help me."

    Not that what I was doing couldn’t wait, but having the tables turned on me by a 4-year old? Hmm, though I was a bit amused, I was not really liking it so much. But fair's fair. And I have to be thankful that instead of whining, Josh was resourceful. Too resourceful.

    A couple of months ago, we had a photo shoot with Tomoko Hara. She is a producer with NHK and does documentary films. Tomoko used to be based in New York. Now having moved to Hong Kong, she wants to branch out and do photography. With her background in making documentaries, she is very good at capturing moments that "tell a story."

    We had a most fun time with her! She came over and she started shooting away. She works with natural light and, as you can see below, her photos are nowhere near over-processed, which many studios here tend to do. The photos all came out very natural, simple, very crisp and clean --just the way I like them!
    Singwa43

    It was a very hot day, as evidenced by how sweaty both Josh and Zoë are in the photos. Yet, it was just after a rain shower… see the puddles on the ground? Zoë couldn’t resist taking off her shoes and jumping in the puddles! Josh finally joined in after seeing how much Zoë seemed to be enjoying herself, but he was stepping ever so gingerly, almost on tippy-toes.
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    Singwa1

    This one below is one of my favorites of the shots that Tomoko took: Josh looking out for Zoë, making sure she didn’t go too fast.
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    There are countless other favorites, too. It was a long session (around 2 hours) --and Tomoko took many, many photos. But the time flew by very quickly, but it didn’t feel long at all. Tomoko let both Josh and Zoë play and just be themselves, instead of making them pose for photos. She talked to them, made them feel comfortable. They totally ignored her camera clicking away and that really goes to show how good Tomoko is (or how thick-skinned my children can be!).

    Wouldn’t you want to get your own set of wonderful photos by Tomoko? Go check out Tomoko’s website/blog ("Life with Kids" by Tomoko) for more samples of her beautiful work.

    She will be in New York between September 29th and October 8th and will be willing to take bookings for shoots. Please contact her at bytomoko@gmail.com. For more details about her New York trip and fees, please click here.

    21 September 2009

    “Moony” for Snack



    It has become our every day ritual when Zoë comes home from school for me to ask how her day went, if she had fun, what she did, what she had for a snack at school.


    Her answers don’t vary much. Our after-school conversations generally go like this:


    Did you have fun at school?
    Yes.
    What did you do today?
    Uhm, play.

    Whom did you play with?
    Boys and gehls.
    What did you have for a snack today?
    Ah, bread (or crackers). And water (or milk or OJ).

    Last Friday was no different, except that Zoë told me, “Dwink owange juice and eat ‘moony.’   I asked her a couple more times to make sure I heard right. Both times she said “Moony” clearly and without hesitation. Then I asked her again what she ate. She started to say “Moon..” but stopped and then looked at me. “I don’t know, Mommy.” Aw, Mommy, get off my back. How many times do I have to repeat myself?

    I decided to let it drop. I had thought that she might be referring to mooncakes, considering that the Mid-Autumn Festival is fast-approaching, but quickly discarded the idea, because: (1) Mooncakes are not cheap; (2) They’re not exactly healthy and not the type of food that nurseries would be giving out as snacks.


    Mooncake
    Image: Wikipedia


    In the afternoon, I called up the school and talked to her classroom teacher to ask about some other things, but before we put down the phone, I decided to find out what “Moony” was. I asked her what they had for snacks. Note: This entire conversation was in Cantonese. So when Ms. L told me tung fan, it didn’t immediately click.

    When I finally realized that tung fan was macaroni, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing! Yeah, Zoë loves her mac-and-cheese, but she insisted that her “moony” at school did not have cheese.

    I taught her to say macaroni properly and she got it after two tries. So, when Chris came home, I asked her to tell him what she had at school, she proudly said, “Mac-a-roneee and owange juice!”

    I ♥ Faces – Week 37 : Candid



    “Candid” = A spur-of-the-moment, completely candid, non-posed capture.

    I have decided that for this week’s theme, there is no better photo in my files than this one here.

    This has got to be one of my all-time favorites from all my photos. When my parents are visiting, the camera is out all the time and I was snapping away as usual when I managed to catch this look shared between Zoë and her KungKung. Corny phrases come to mind, but there is no mistaking the special bond that these two share. It makes me melt each time I see this.

    KungKung and Zoe

    This week’s entries are sure to be very interesting, so do head on over to I ♥ Faces for other “candid” photos!


    18 September 2009

    Fix-It Friday: Girl Child



    It’s Friday again and it’s fix-it time! I wanted to play around with this photo. I tried cropping; I tried toying with black-and-white or sepia tones or soft focus, but because this photo is already so beautiful that there really is not much to be done to make it even better!


    The original photo

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    Fix-It #1: Sharpened, warmified, brightened

    No glow



    Fix-It #2: From Fix-It #1, added glow

    bright



    Check out all other edits on I ♥ Faces.

    FacesFixIt


    Concert Time!



    I just realized that I hadn’t posted anything about the kiddos for almost a week now. So to satisfy PoPo’s craving for anything and everything Josh and Zoë do, here are two short clips:

    This first one is of Zoë singing Rock-a-Bye Baby. She was singing and cradling her doll and she asked me to “Take a pitch-er, Mommy.” I thought a video would be more interesting….



    This one here is of the both of them singing the song that Josh wrote for my birthday. Both of them were trying to out-sing each other!




    Happy Friday!

    17 September 2009

    Fallen, Literally – Part 2



    (If you’d missed the first part, you can read about it here.)

     

    A picture of my future flashed before my eyes. Bye-bye to life as I knew it. I’d be spending time behind bars. My conscience would forever be weighted down by the knowledge that I’d taken a life. I’d be past my “use by” date by the time I get out. My parents might never have grandchildren.

    The other climbers started to crowd around us. A couple of the facility staff came over to check on Chris, did their stuff. I don’t know how many minutes went by, but Chris started to stir. He flexed his legs, slowly sat up. He seemed okay.

    By then, I’d retreated to the couch at the side of the gym. I sat there all alone, conscious of the looks that the other climbers were giving me. Yeah, that’s her. Lucky she didn’t kill him, but steer clear of her. You wouldn’t want her for a climbing partner. I felt this small.

    Chris went up again, this time with C as his partner. He made it down okay. Then I saw him make his way over to me.

    Uh oh. What do I say? “I’m sorry” is so lame; it just won’t cut it. Is he angry? I seriously had no idea what to say to him or what he would want to say to me.

    Chris asked me, “Uh, would you want to belay me again? So that you’d get over your fear of ever belaying somebody again?”

    Is this guy for real? I mean, I almost killed him and here he stands asking if I would like try to kill belay him again... because I might be so traumatized that I would not ever belay anybody again!

    I decided right there and then that he just had to be the most generous-spirited person I know. (And he is. I still think that.) He admitted to me later on that he was really nervous about asking me to belay him again, wondering if I could just be so bad and drop him again.

    ~~—~~

    That, my friends, was how we met. It’s become a joke between us that he fell for me the very first time we met. Although in reality, romance was far from our minds that night with all the drama there was. It wasn’t until much later, over a hundred climbs or so later, that we really 'fell.' Heh.

    How apt is it that the music to our first dance was Lauren Wood’s Fallen?


    16 September 2009


    It's amazing what people will pay for property here.

    This was on one of the news sites today...
    A one-bedroom apartment in Hong Kong's Kowloon district was bought by a local businessman for HK$30,025 (US$3,874) a square foot, a record price for properties of that type in the city, Centaline Property Agency Ltd. said.

    The fully-furnished home was used as a show apartment at the Masterpiece development and has space of 816 square feet (75 square meters), Thomas Lee, senior sales director at Centaline, said by telephone today. The broker sold the property for HK$24.5 million (US$3.2 million). (Complete article here.)

    Why would anybody fork out that amount of money for a tiny, tiny flat?

    Well, because they can.


    DSC03060 The LV flagship store in Central


    For more WW fun, check out 7 Clown Circus, 5 Minutes for Mom, and Ordinary and Awesome.


    15 September 2009

    Fallen, Literally – Part 1



    When I posted some wedding photos and our wedding invite, a couple of months ago, I’d promised that I would share how Chris and I met.

    ~~--~~

     

    A mutual friend, C, got a group of us together to go wall-climbing. I hadn’t climbed in over two years since my climbing partners relocated to Taiwan. So understandably I was a bit rusty on techniques and whatnot.

    Chris was my partner that night. Up I went with him belaying me. I came down and it was his turn to go up. He made it to the top, (about a couple of storeys high) and he signaled to me that he was ready to make his descent. I slowly eased back the Grigri to let him some rope so that he could begin swinging down. One hand was on the Grigri, while my other hand was holding on to the rope.

    wall climbing Image credit: Olivier Bernard

     

    Like I mentioned, I was a bit rusty. I must have eased back the Grigri a bit too much, because the rope was letting too quickly and it was causing a burn on my other hand. About halfway down*, Chris started to free fall. In my panic, I’d pulled the lever all the way back instead of just simply letting it go so that the auto-lock would kick in.

    Next thing I knew, Chris landed on the wooden floor with a loud thud. He was flat on his back, not moving.

    Omigosh, I just killed someone! Even if he comes to, he might have broken bones or worse. How would I face his family and explain to them why somebody who their son/brother just met that night could kill him? What do I do? What do I do? I swear I will not go climbing again for as long as I live. Please let him be okay. Please let him be okay. Please...

    (To be continued…)

    *Chris claims that he was actually near the top when he started falling.

    14 September 2009

    For this week’s entry, I had to dig through some really old photos. Folder after folder yielded no photo that was even close to “contemplative.” Until this one. This was taken during our trip to Rome in 2004. Chris and I were strolling along the Vatican grounds, with me having just started on one of Dan Brown’s novels, Angels and Demons, when I saw this priest walking across the square, deep in thought. My overactive imagination revved up, although your guess is as good as mine as to what he was plotting thinking as he purposefully crossed the square. What? Blame the direction of my thoughts at the time on the novel.

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    …and in my dig through old photos, I came across this one of a dog swimming back, tennis ball in mouth. So, here’s the entry for this week’s Pets category. This was taken in 2003, near Yaletown in downtown Vancouver. The dog would tirelessly jump into the water and swim out each time, happily retrieving the ball for its master. What a dog!

    Lionel's Place - Dog swimming

    Do head on over to I ♥ Faces for other “Contemplative” pics and Pets photos.


    13 September 2009

    Sushi, Anyone?



    Zoë loves sushi. She just pops them in her mouth, piece after piece. So I took a sushi-making class this week and learned how to make sushi myself.

    I didn’t realize that it was so easy… and so much fun. I thought I’d share. The class was for hand rolls, nigirizushi, (sushi rice with some topping draped over it), makizushi (rolled sushi), rice balls, tamago, and miso soup. The instructions below are for making makizushi., the more traditional rolled sushi that you see everywhere.
    The ingredients:
    Nori (seaweed)
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    For sushi rice
    Pearl rice
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    White vinegar

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    Sugar
    For the fillings - You don’t have to have all; just pick and choose what you like.
    Crab sticks
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    Cucumber
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    Mango
    mango -cropped
    Japanese pickled radish
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    Fish roe
    fish roeAvocado
    Eggs
    Sashimi (salmon, fatty tuna, kingfish, lemon fish, tiger prawns, etc.)
    Smoked salmon
    Unagi (eel)
    Wasabi and mayonnaise (optional, but highly recommended).
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    Other things that you will need:
    A sushi mat
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    Cling wrap to wrap around the sushi mat (optional). This is so that it’s easier to clean the mat afterwards, without the rice sticking in between the slats.DSC02994
    A wet towel
    A bowl of water in which to dip your fingers

    Okay, to make the rice:
    1. Use about 1.25 cups of water to every cup of rice. Each cup of rice makes about two rolls of sushi.
    2. Cook the rice. Once the rice is cooked, leave in the rice cooker for an additional 5-10 minutes.
    3. Take out the rice and put into a big wooden bowl --preferably; although glass or plastic will do as well.

    4. Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 tablespoon of sugar to every cup of cooked rice. Gently mix/fold.
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    • Allow the rice to cool to room temperature. To hasten the cooling process, you can keep on gently folding the rice, while standing in front of a fan. Or if you want to just leave it to cool by itself, please make sure that you throw a wet towel to cover so that it doesn’t get too dry.
    Once the rice is ready, the fun part begins!


    Put a sheet of seaweed on your sushi mat.
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    • Scoop a layer of rice onto the seaweed, leaving about an inch off the top and bottom edges.
    • Dip your fingers into the bowl of water so that the rice will not stick and then even out the rice with your fingers, gently tamping down.
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    • Now you lay out the fillings cross-wise on the rice. You can put as little or as much as you want. Just remember that how much you put in will affect how big your sushi roll will get.
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    • You can choose to add a dollop of wasabi/mayonnaise before (or after) you add the fillings. I was a bit skeptical about the taste of this, but was pleasantly surprised at how yummy it was! Using the mayo in the sushi rolls is optional, but it does add to the overall yumminess and prevents the sushi from being a bit too dry.
    DSC02992Time to roll! Two thumbs under the mat, start rolling the mat, using the other four fingers of both hands to hold the rice/fillings in place as you gently push and roll the mat, until your sheet of rice is all nicely rolled up all the way around. You give it a hard squeeze all around before easing the mat off.

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    Et voila!
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    You then use a sharp knife (a bread knife works great!) to cut up the roll into bite-size pieces.

    What we had for lunch today, ta-da!
    plateful of sushi
    I had some extra strips of mango and salmon sashimi left over, so I just added them on top. I attempted to make a version of the California roll (the ones with the seaweed on the inside and the rice/fish roe on the outside) and bungled it. You can see that the roll did not come out evenly. I had a hard time getting the fish roe to coat the roll evenly and then an even harder time cutting up the roll into bite-size pieces without dislodging the roe too much. I’ll need to practice some more.

    The kids got theirs served on a special sushi platter that I found at a Japanese store. It would have been a nice touch if I had one of those fake green leaves to serve as a mat under the sushi.
    sushi rolls
    Now, sake anyone?
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