Cooking Abroad with Amanda Roberts {guest post}

[A Note from Meegs] You know that I love all things food, and you probably know that I love China too... so it was a perfect fit when Sage asked me to host a stop on the Crazy Dumplings Tour... check out what Amanda had to say: 

Before moving to China 3 years ago, I had lots of concerns. How hard will it be to communicate with people? What will the apartment be like? How will we deal with the limited internet access? One thing I didn’t worry about was the food. I love Chinese food. I was a regular at the Chinese buffet in my college town. People told me that authentic Chinese food wasn’t like Americanized Chinese food, but surely it would still be delicious, right?

While authentic Chinese food can be really good, I ended up in Hunan; the spicy food capital of China. It isn’t that I don’t like spicy food, but Hunan spicy food is far more spicy than anything you might find in America. I quickly found that there were many restaurants that I simply could not eat at because the food was just too spicy (even if I told them to make it bu la, not spicy).

Another problem with the food here is that Chinese food isn’t very diverse. In America we have American food, Chinese food, Italian food, Mexican food, and so on everywhere. In China you pretty much only have Chinese food. That can get old pretty fast.

Finally, sometimes you just miss a good old home cooked meal. Could you really live the rest of your life without another bowl of cheesy potato soup? I know I couldn’t.

After a couple of months I set my mind to learning how to cook all over again. I started with simply learning to cook local Chinese food so that I could at least make it less spicy. After that, I started trying to find ways to make simple American dishes. I was so proud of myself the first time I made chicken noodle soup (out of a whole chicken!).

I began toying with the idea of writing a cookbook just for people living abroad. But every time I got started, it would get a bit overwhelming. I have hundreds of ideas that all need to be broken down into individual steps and everything measured out exactly. I also didn’t know just how much of a need there was for something like that. Does every expat have the same struggles I did?

I finally decided just to start small with just dumplings to help get me into the frame of mind for writing a cookbook and to gauge the interest for a larger, but more targeted, work. Thus, Crazy Dumplings was born.

Crazy Dumplings is a food fusion cookbook. The outside is a traditional Chinese dumpling wrapper, but it is used as an amazing vehicle you can fill with whatever your heart desires. I have come up with ways to make curry dumplings, taco dumplings, cheesecake dumplings, burrito dumplings, and much more.

Dumpling Wrappers

3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup boiling water
Dash of salt
Flour for dusting
  1. Mix flour and salt together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Drizzle in water, mixing with a chopstick or fork.
  3. Leave in bowl, covered with plastic wrap for 15 minutes.
  4. Gather dough up into a ball and kneed on counter for a minute or two (until the dough is smooth)
  5. Pinch off small portion of dough and roll into a ball (about 1 inch in diameter). Roll out into a flat circle on the counter, dusting with flour to keep dough from sticking.
  6. Put small amount of preferred dumpling stuffing mixture into the middle of the flat dumpling wrapper. Pinch the dumpling closed.
  7. Cook dumplings.
    a. To fry dumpling, preheat oil for 30 second then lower heat. Cook dumpling on each side for only about one minute or until golden brown.
    b. To steam dumplings, place in a steamer or on an elevated plate in a wok over water for about 10 minutes.
    c. To boil dumplings, place in boiling water for about 5 minutes.
  8. Always cut a dumpling open to make sure it cooked through.
  9. Serve!

Creamy Chicken Dumplings

1 pound of cooked chicken, finely chopped
1 can cream of chicken condensed soup
1 cup of milk
½ tablespoon of garlic powder
½ tablespoon of onion powder
½ tablespoon of crushed Italian seasoning
½ tablespoon of paprika
12 dumpling wrappers
  1. Mix soup, milk, and seasonings into saucepan and cook on low heat until mixture boils.
  2. Mix chicken and 3 heaping tablespoons of soup mix in a bowl.
  3. Spoon chicken mixture into dumpling wrappers.
  4. Fry dumplings for approximately one minute on each side or until golden brown.
  5. Serve topped with remaining soup mixture.

You can find all these recipes and many, many more in Amanda Roberts’ new cookbook Crazy Dumplings, now funding on Kickstarter. 

Crazy Dumplings Info

Crazy Dumplings will contain 30 of my original dumpling recipes plus 5 dumpling recipes submitted by backers, the dumpling wrapper recipe, and several original sauce and dip recipes such as buffalo sauce, guacamole, and salsa. There are dumpling recipes for appetizers, main courses, and desserts. You could even prepare a whole Thanksgiving dinner totally out of dumplings with this book!

Kickstarter info

I am self-publishing this book, but cookbooks (largely due to the cost of a photographer and testing recipes) are far more expensive to produce than regular books. This is why I am turning to Kickstarter for help. There are some great reward levels including a digital copy of the book at only the $10 level, a physical copy of the book at only the $15 level, and the awesome dumpling dumplinger at only the $20 level (the most popular level for this campaign). But at the $50 level, backers can even submit their own awesome dumpling ideas to be included in the book.

Author Bio

Amanda Roberts moved to China in 2010 to live out her dream of becoming an English teacher. Little did she know that the hardest adjustment to life in a new country would be the food! After three years, Amanda is ready to release her first cookbook, Crazy Dumplings!

Find out more at • http://www.twoamericansinchina.com



Honestly, thank goodness for pre-scheduled posts (yesterdays), or this week would just have been full of radio silence. Good blogging fail! But today is a little slower, at least enough that I can pop on here to say Hi before Gwen and Trav come into the city to join me for lunch. Yay! Girl has off for Good Friday, and Trav took the day. It will be a nice Friday interruption.

Last weekend, after I booked our camping trip for this summer (July people, July! because that's when we already had off, but holy hell its going to be hot!), I thought about how poorly things went last year with us all sharing 2 sleeping bags, and decided it was time to get Gwen one of her own. She helped me pick it out, it arrived yesterday, and I'd say it was a hit:

She played in it the whole time Trav and I were getting dinner ready.  


Even ran upstairs to get stuffed animals from her crib to put in it with her. 

Girl is ready to go camping.

I mentioned we firmed up our plans for Cape Cod, but after that they fell apart again and had to be replanned. This is the first time in the 10 years I've been going there that we've had so much trouble working with everyone's schedule. Thankfully, the outcome is pretty great. Trav's aunt isn't leaving the house until Tuesday, so we're driving up to my Aunt's house in New Hampshire on Saturday, visiting there through Monday, then heading down to the Cape Tuesday. We'll have the rest of the week at the Cape. So, all is well that ends well.

And I just got the call that they are almost here for lunch, so off I go!


CM: Simple Change, Big Results

My most recent piece from Connected Mom.


I've written recently about the tribulations of age 3. I didn't content myself with complaining though, seeing as that helps no one! So I hit up some of my favorite parenting websites, revisited some of my old favorites in terms of books and articles, and came up with a few small adjustments that we've been working on in the Meegs household. We've seen some pretty big results.

The first step for me what identifying what times/issues were giving us the most stress, and breaking it down from there.

The first for us is transitions. Honestly, I didn't even identify this one until I was reading about developmentally appropriate behaviors for this age, but as soon as I saw this one it clicked. Developmentally they are learning about control; control of their bodies, control of their actions, control of their life. Big or small, they want control... so when you say we're done doing x to do y instead, well, it can be very frustrating for all. This however, turned out to be one of the simplest changes to implement, with some of the best and fastest results. We've started giving advanced notice of "mandatory" transitions, letting her know from the start if she only has a few minutes and letting her know what is coming next, warning her at the 1 minute mark, then counting down the last ten seconds. This gives her ample opportunity to adjustment to the idea of moving on, and lets her feel informed instead of forced. And if the transition isn't mandatory (ie. I'm going to do something upstairs, but she's welcome to keep playing downstairs) then I leave the choice up to her.

Such a simple change, its no hardship for me to give her warning, but our end of activity screaming tantrums have all but ended.

The second thing for us, which has been a little bit harder to implement, is addressing the mornings and our expectations for each other. Gwen's sleep has always been varied in the morning, but especially since the DST adjustment she might wake up anywhere between 5:50 and 7am. Obviously this changes whether we have time for some Sesame Street in the morning, or even whether she eats breakfast at home or in the car. Most of the time its her wake up is around 6:30, but even when she wakes up exactly then she'll change her mind daily about who she wants to get her ready, or even whether she wants to get ready or not. Then when she finally is ready, she doesn't understand why she doesn't have time to play before leaving.

The adjustments here have been multifaceted: talks with Gwen about our expectations of her and her level of cooperation, but also adjusting our reactions when she doesn't cooperate as we had hoped. First, we starting having simple, short discussions with Gwen during non-charged moments, about how mornings are easier if everyone helps and cooperates. We told her that when she cooperates and lets Daddy get her dressed, that we have time to watch some Elmo or play before leaving. Then we adjusted our reactions... getting rid of the raised voices (which we all hate), and instead talking calmly about the natural consequences of her choices and actions. ie. Gwen you may chose whether you want Daddy to help you get ready or wait for Mommy to get out of the shower, but if you wait then there will be no time for playing after you are ready, it will be time to leave right away. This one has taken some more time and effort for all of us, but we are seeing results here as well.

With this second item, for me the results are two-fold: not only are we having more pleasant interactions, but we are recommitting to this AP lifestyle we've chosen, recommitting to how we want to parent our daughter, not just as a helpless baby, but as a preschooler and beyond. We are seeing how things like natural consequences, and age appropriate expectations and conversations, can work towards a more harmonious household where we all feel respected.

Do we still have our unhappy, irritated and angry moments? Of course! I'm no expert on parenting; maybe there is no such thing. But this has worked to make our house a lot more peaceful, and I wanted to share.

Now if anyone has a suggestion for "the witching hour" at the end of the day (right around dinner time), when she's tired and cranky, and everything is a big deal... I'm happy for you to share what's worked for you too!


golf balls and sleeping bags and musicals, oh my!

This weekend turned out pretty great. Here's some random blurbs about why:

- Last night Gwen woke around 11 going, "Ow, ow, owie!" I headed into her room to see what was up. I rubbed her back and belly, and did a few "shh, shh, shhs." I was getting ready to leave since she was settling again when she sleepily goes, " Mama, can you get the balls out of my back?" (I believe you know about my daughter's odd love of golf balls, and that she sleeps with a few of them.) I assumed she had rolled over on one, and started feeling around underneath her, only to determine that she had in fact stuffed all 4 golf balls into her PJs. One was stuck in her armpit! Crazy kid. I had to hold my breath to keep from laughing until I got back to bed.

- Date night on Saturday. We were given tickets to see the Addams Family (Broadway show) in Philly, so my mom came down and we made a night of it.

Insane avocado salad...

Sushi dinner first, then drinks with Apoc.

Then down to see the show.

Our seats were pretty awesome...

The musical itself was great. Trav is not a big musical guy, but even he loved it. Its funny, a little campy, and the songs are catchy. The voices were amazing too.

Afterwards we got ourselves a sweet treat from Wendy's before heading home on the train. It was a great night and I hope we can do it again.

- Finally got a date all settled for Cape Cod (August), and booked a camping trip too (July, hot damn). Gwen's excited, especially since we ordered her a sleeping bag of her very own.

- Last night I roasted up a bunch of stuff similar to the Roasted Root Veggie side I made before. I used fennel, carrots, onion, garlic slices, and sage leaves. I could eat it by the bowl full, so good!

What made your weekend fun?


walking the food walk

A little update, 2 weeks in, on how my little food changes are going. The first ones I wanted to work on right away were:
- I need to up my water intake. So 1 glass of milk in the morning before work, 1 hot drink from the kuerig first thing at work, then water water water for the rest of the work day. A glass of milk with dinner, then once I finish that... water for the rest of the night. (Added bonus, this should save us some milk money!)
Done, and easier then I thought it would be. 
- I'm also going to try to add in one serving of veggies a day. I'll grab a bag of mixed greens to eat with my lunches, and I have frozen edamame at work to defrost for an easy snack. Maybe I'll grab some baby carrots to eat with hummus too.
Done, and again, so much easier then I thought it would be. Breakfast has been spinach sauteed with garlic, sesame seeds, and an egg (plus a little cheese, goat cheese is the best!) or a green smoothy (favorite is kale, mango, spearmint, and greek yogurt; also good kale, 1/2 banana, small tart green apple, spearmint, and greek yogurt). I've also been having salads with/for lunch, and baby carrots or edamame for snacks. Trav is grabbing veggies for us to roast up and add to our normal rotation of green beans and peas, and I just tried a new (super easy, super tasty) recipe for asparagus. So on average I've added 2 - 3 servings of veggies I wasn't getting before. 

My after that steps were:
- Cut out three servings of simple carbs a week. Hummus with carrots instead of crackers, quinoa instead of pasta with dinner, fruit for an evening snack instead of goldfish crackers or cookies. There is three right there!
I'd say I've already cut out a serving or two a week, simply because I've been a lot better about that evening snack of mine. I'm getting better about thinking of alternatives to simple carbs, but its still something I have to think about, a lot.
- Cut way down on my sugar intake. No candy, I just don't need it. One treat a day, not after each meal. Pastries, cookies, cakes, etc - only if I make them myself. Exchange one serving of fruit for a veggie.
Errr, this one needs to be next on my list. I've been doing better, but not great.
- A veggie or two with every meal. Green smoothie (no sweeteners added) for breakfast. Salad with carrots and avocado and radish with lunch. Two veggies with dinner.
Thumbs up here! I'm not always getting two veggies with dinner, but otherwise, spot on with this one so far!
- Cut out as much of my use of table sugar as possible. Honey for most sweetening, subs where possible when baking.
I haven't baked yet, but so far, this has been easier then I thought. I little honey in my tea (only about 1/2 of what I used to use), but have skipped all table sugar and fake sugar substitutes for the past 2 weeks! 
- A least one serving of fish a week. No more then one serving of red meat.
Work in progress... 

So there you go! I'd say that's a pretty good start. I'm feeling really good about myself and these changes. I can't wait to keep pushing through.


not as morose as it seems

I'm not as morose as these make me seem. I just really love Shel's way with words. razz


DC Bound

DC bound for the day, typing this up on the blogger app so excuse any weird formatting.

Gwen had quite the night last night, of which, I think no nap played a big part. After dinner, I thought we could all use some fresh air, so we got her all ready for bed, then I strapped Gwen on my back in the Mei Tai, Trav clipped on Daisy's leash, and off we went. We were finally able to exhale, laugh, and enjoy each others company.

Sometimes you need a little reboot.

Wishing Trav luck with solo bedtime tonight.

Happy Spring all!


things about 3 that are blowing my mind

Its like Gwen is growing up on fast forward these past few weeks. Here are a few of the things about 3 years old, that are blowing my mind:

- We packed away her booster seat/high chair. She's now just sitting on a regular dining room chair.

- She calls me Mom instead of Mama, or Mommy.  Wah!

- Calls Trav, Dad or Travis! (I guess I shouldn't complain about Mom!) 

- She knows, and enjoys telling us, her full name. Hearing her say "Gwen-ee-vere Mae H*****" is one of the cutest things ever.

- She tells me I look, or things look, cute. She occasionally tells me I can't wear something and will pick a new shirt for me.

- She has conversations with me, like last night, leaning back on one elbow against my lap: "Yeah, it was a quiet day at school, Mom. We just talked about homework, and the letter I." ::shrugs:: "You know, it was quiet."

- She loves to sing.

- She can (sometimes) be reasoned with, and will accept changes that are explained to her!

- She appears to be starting to wean herself. More on that another time.


changing plans

Our weekend ended up being completely different then what we had planned, but worked out in the long run.

We were supposed to go to Chuckie Cheese on Saturday to use a gift card Gwen got from a neighbor for her birthday. She was having a super off morning though and ended up losing that trip because she just. could. not. listen. I sent Trav off to get work done at his grandfather's because we all needed a break from each other!

Gwen and I ended up having a really nice lunch together, then we went for a drive and she fell asleep in the car (as I had hoped).

Green grilled cheese for St. Paddy's day weekend!
(Pesto Gouda! So yummy.)

Trav was home after that and in a good mood, so Gwen and Trav played together while I made lemon rosemary chicken thighs, lobster raviolis with homemade lemon cream sauce (made with real cream since I had some leftover from a recipe.... holy yum), and roasted brussels sprouts.

Sunday Gwen slept in until almost 7. Then Trav let me sleep in more. We were supposed to go to hang out with Ro & Pat, but they had too much left to do for their move. Gwen was having a much better morning, so we went to Chuckie Cheese and had a lot of fun playing a million games.

Then we hit up Wayback Burger, since Trav had a gc for it, then back home where I chilled in the car while Gwen slept (again. its the only place she naps for us), and he made the corned beef, cabbage, and boiled potatoes.

Gwen and I went next door to drop off a thank you card, and were invited in to play with the neighbor's granddaughter, who is only a month older then Gwen. They decorated cup cakes and played for a while, until it was time to head home for dinner.

On a super cute note, when we stepped inside, the granddaughter ran over and grabbed Gwen's hand yelling, "I want to have a playdate Gwenie!" So sweet.

Our neighbor Joe came over to corned beef and cabbage with us later, which thrilled Gwen (and Daisy!) to no end.

While not what we were expecting, the weekend ended up being really nice.


normal and exciting

Life continues with its normal and its exciting. The normal is busy work, crazy kid, better eating, yoga escape, repeat repeat repeat. The exciting things I not ready/able to share yet, but its fun to know that the words I put out there are being read and responded to!

St. Patrick's Day this weekend and we're again celebrating with Pat, Ro, and the girls by eating corned beef, cabbage, and boiled potatoes. This time while helping to pack boxes in prep for their move.

I am so grateful that its the weekend. I hope yours is restful and rejuvenating!


CM: Nursing My 3-Year Old

Below is my most recent post from Connected Mom


If there is one thing that parenthood has taught me, its to take all my expectations and throw them out the window! Another, everyone has an opinion about how you're doing it wrong. Both of those are certainly true in regards to Gwen's and my nursing relationship as well.

I never thought I would be here, almost a month past celebrating my daughter's 3rd birthday, still nursing twice a day. I'm surprised, delighted, a little nursed-out, but still with the warmest of feelings towards this amazing journey that we've taken together.

I'm also finding myself slightly more wary to talk about this beautiful thing we share. That makes me sad. Something that is so normal, something with so many benefits (to mama and baby), should be celebrated, not stigmatized. Yet because my baby is 3, and not a baby anymore, I get judgement from many. "She's too old, you're stunting her independence."  "Its not nutritional anymore!"  "Its clearly only for you at this stage, let her grow up."

Thankfully, for every naysayer I've encountered, I've also found a supporter. Expected sources, like my family, who know that there is still some good nutrients in breastmilk, despite Gwen's age. Like my husband, who expressed how he hopes I'm still planning to let her self wean, since she gets so much comfort and joy from her nursing sessions. Like the doctor who said that nursing while I had a minor illness was a great way to pass on some antibodies to keep Gwen from getting it as well. Some expected sources as well, like the mother of one of Gwen's former classmates, who asked if we were still nursing, and told me what an awesome thing it was!

My 3-year old is a healthy, happy, thriving, very independent and spirited girl. We have an amazing bond, which is strengthened by this special thing we share. I'm making less milk now, and I know our days are numbered, but I'm going to try and enjoy every one that we have left. And I invite anyone to keep their mind open, and there judgement to themselves!

Just a note to say that I am a big supporter of breastfeeding, but also a big supporter of doing what is best for your individual family. If you were unable to or chose not to breastfeed, or chose to wean at an earlier age, please don't take the above as an indictment. I only ask that you extend the same non-judgement to me, as I do to you.

For more information about ages of weaning, what primate physiology tells us about weaning, and other breastfeeding statistics, check out these resources:


Greenwoman Blog Tour: A Review

I was contacted a few weeks ago by the awesome Sage, who wanted to know if I would be interested in taking part in a Blog Tour featuring Greenwoman Magazine. The name and description intrigued me. I'm only a fledgling gardener, but the daughter of an avid one, and an enjoyer of all things literary. This magazine sounded right up my alley.

I'm so glad I said yes! This magazine is unique, and a true treat to read. Its fun, lush, vibrant, and sensual in a way that only plants and food and ground can be.

I enjoyed so many of the pieces in this edition (everything from poems to short stories, essay to diary entries, along with pictures and paintings), but this one by Dan Murphy was one of my favorites:

The Seed, the Radicle, and the Revolution

Many people are familiar with the “one straw revolution” proposed by (the late) Japanese rice farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, but what about the simple, revolutionary powerhouse that is the seed? Seeds have often been referred to metaphorically when discussing revolutions, new movements, new beginnings, social change, and spiritual awakenings. It only makes sense that the first thing to emerge from a seed during germination is the embryonic root known as the radicle (pronounced “radical”).

It has been said that it only takes one individual to start a revolution. It only takes one seed to start a forest.

The process may be slow, but the potential is there. A tiny seed finds its way into a small crack in the sidewalk. The radicle emerges. Before you know it, a plant strong enough to push apart two concrete slabs has grown. A radical radicle pushes headlong through a pile of dirt and muck that has collected in a rain gutter on a rooftop. Up sprouts a renegade plant, adamant about making a human-made structure its home.

Devastation can come in the form of a seed; ruins can be made of structures that were ignorantly thought of as eternal. Radicals rise up as radicles force themselves downward, rooting in new lives, and readying themselves for battle. Yes, the seed is revolutionary.

Words are like seeds, and their influence can cause a social sea change as the message spreads. The Juniper zine is microscopic proof of that. The Juniper is my tiny eco-zine—a meager cut-n-paste publication printed on a copy machine and sent out around the world to interested folks—promoting the small, simple, slow life and encouraging the masses to grow it from seed and get here by bike. As letters have trickled in to the Juniper’s mailbox, this editor has noticed a thriving (albeit grassroots) social movement as readers have recounted their stories of gardening, biking, and going back to the land.

Rusty bikes have been retrieved from dusty storage areas, tuned up, and taken for a ride. Derelict areas of backyard lawn have been turned over, and gardens have sprouted up. The slow life is spreading just as fast as the seeds can germinate, and off we sprint toward ecotopia. Spring is for sowing seeds and encouraging growth. Love is in the air, and heaven knows that the revolution needs much more of that. Cynicism can be brushed away for a while. Spring cleaning allows us to pull some of our skeletons out of their hiding spots and send them packing. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed while we’re at it.

Certainly a seed recognizes the pressure that lies on its tiny self to thrive, flourish, and produce. But there is potential in all of us; potential that will not be compromised: neither blacked-out by black hearts nor whited-out by whitewash.

The subversive seed and its radical roots will be our mascot. Let’s make our gardens grow. Let’s not rot in the soil, but instead sprout and rise up. Your neighborhood will be your seedbed. That’s where the movement starts.

If you enjoy writing of any kind, and love the outdoors/gardening, then you definitely want to check out this read. I already have a few people on my list for gift subscriptions! 

Find Greenwoman Magazine on Facebook or on their website


beautiful weekend

Late, picture heavy post. A busy Monday kept me away, but I couldn't not share. It was a beautiful weekend in so many ways.

Beautiful flowers from my two loves.

It started off with a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie...

Everyone of those dots is a bird...
I got out of my car and couldn't believe the racket! Apparently every bird had just arrived in town to herald the warm weather.

Saturday Gwen and I spent the day at my parents. We also made an appt Gwen's first hair trim! My baby!

Sunday we headed out for a full day. First Longwood Gardens for their amazing flower show. The whole conservatory smelled amazing! 

I wanted to bottle the scent!

The grounds were gorgeous too. Already starting to come alive.

After that we headed to a local place for some amazing homemade ice cream. It was Mexican owned, and they had some wonderfully unique flavors. Avocado (dying to try that next time), mango and chile, and the ones I did try:

On the bottom, toasted coconut; on the top, CORN!

We hit up Trader Joe's on the way home, after which Gwen was pretty amped up.  :-)

Due to no nap and a busy day of running around, daylight savings time didn't effect bedtime badly at all.

This morning I tried something new to start off my day... my first green smoothie! 

I had Trav pick up some kale for me, which I mixed with frozen mango, coconut greek yogurt, and spearmint (frozen, from my garden!). A dollop of milk to thin it out, and blend the crap out of it. It was amazingly (beyond my expectations) good!

Tonight ended on a great note too. A visit from Uncle Apoc, whom we hadn't seen in ages. Gwen took right to him!

They do have a history though:

1 week  /  8.5 months

Now, its on to another busy week!