May wrap-up / June goal

May’s 30 day challenge has not actually ended. Yes, May is over but I got a late start to my cheesemaking and it took longer than I expected. The cheese will be ready to taste-test on Wednesday. At that point, we’ll decide if it’s edible. If so, we’ll be making pizza with it.

I’ve been thinking about June’s challenge and I don’t think I can set one. We are still hoping to travel to Taiwan at the end of July, though if the judge doesn’t issue first ruling soon, we may not be traveling until August. I have an overambitious list of things I want to accomplish before travel. I don’t think it’s wise to concentrate on just one challenge this month. Instead, I’ll be working my way down my list.

Here’s what I am hoping to accomplish before travel.

Packing test run
Finish KonMarie’ing my house
Deep clean my house
Write up a menu for the first two weeks home
Grocery shopping for all non-perishables for the above menu
Summer clothes shopping for Jeff, Cin-Ru, and myself
Plan the actual trip
Finish blog design and launch my new blog

And, I want to make decent sized strides in my Chinese ability. I did join a June mini-challenge to read Chinese materials for at least half an hour each day. This means something written by native Chinese speakers for native Chinese speakers, not for those learning Chinese. There is a huge difference. This is in addition to my normal flashcards and my writing attempts.

Looking at my list, I’d better get busy!

Writing practice

Last night I wrote a Lang-8 post. I received a few corrections and rewrote my post based on the suggestions. My writing is still fairly simple but I am learning a lot. Hopefully I will keep improving. Here’s what I wrote:

今天晚飯我做壽司了. 非常喜歡壽司. 壽司當作晚飯是最好的.
晚飯後, 我跟我的先生去吃冰淇淋. 我吃了巧克力冰淇淋. 好吃!
明天早上我要去圖書館. 我得還幾本書. 圖書館是我最喜歡的地方.

Tonight’s meal
Tonight, I made sushi for dinner. I love sushi! Sushi is my favorite meal.
After dinner, my husband and I went to eat ice cream. I ate chocolate ice cream. It was delicious!
Tomorrow morning I want to go to the library. I need to return a few books. The library is my favorite place.

Chinese milestone reached!

I just finished the Intermediate Course at Yoyo Chinese. I am incredibly proud of myself! It took a long time but I have learned so much. I highly recommend the website for anyone who wants to learn Chinese.

Since I love numbers, I crunched a few.

Beginner level course
Started – February 4, 2014
Finished – September 6, 2014

Intermediate level course
Started – September 7, 2014
Finished – May 27, 2015

Anki vocabulary deck
Cards: 2,789 (roughly 1,300 words and phrases)
Total: 58,825 reviews
Average for days studied: 108.3 cards/day
Total study time: 76 hours
Due tomorrow: 106 cards

Anki sentences deck
Cards: 1,890 (roughly 900 unique sentences)
Total: 19,481 reviews
Average for days studied: 39.8 cards/day
Total study time: 61 hours
Due tomorrow: 45 cards

Total study time: 316.4 hours

This study time total includes Anki, grammar lessons, writing practice, watching Mandarin television (only logged in 1/2 time since it’s not active), etc. This is EVERYTHING I have done to study Chinese in the past 15 months.

Note – it is said that it takes 10,000 hours to reach full academic fluency in another language. At this point, I am only aiming for conversational fluency, not academic fluency. I have a long, long way to go…

All of the vocab and sentences for the last few lessons have been entered into Anki, but I still have to learn a number of them. I have a feeling it will take awhile before my Daily Due numbers decrease. However, I have many, many more vocabulary words to learn in order to become fluent!

I’m not yet sure what I will tackle next. I know that I need to continue watching Mandarin shows in order to gain listening practice. I also need to start writing regular entries on Lang-8 to practice my writing and reinforce the vocab and grammar I have learned.

I will probably start following a Taiwanese blogger (native Mandarin speaker). I already have several blogs bookmarked and need to pick one. That way I can get a feel for the writer’s voice, learn the vocab words they use regularly, and get practice reading. I also need to find a way to start speaking Mandarin.

At some point, I need to find a grammar book that picks up where Yoyo Chinese left off. I have no idea which grammar book to use.

I am thrilled that I have come this far and can’t wait to see how long it takes to reach conversational fluency. Another year or two? Hopefully my soon-to-be-daughter wants to keep her native language and will talk to me in Mandarin. We shall see!

May Nightstand – full of books!

What's On Your Nightstand
It has been ages since I’ve participated in a Nightstand post but I finally remembered to write up a post on the correct day!

I have two shelves full of library books. The top shelf is mostly adult books whereas the second shelf is full of kids’ books that I am previewing for my future daughter. I’m slowly starting to build up a personal library of children’s books but want to make sure they are quality books.

This first book is one I am most excited about – Dinotopia. I’m not familiar with it but a friend recommended it. We’ve flipped through it and the artwork is fantastic! I can’t wait to read the story.

Kisses from Katie has been on my to-read list for ages and I finally borrowed it from the library. Hopefully I can finish it before it’s due next week.

This last book is one I definitely need to buy. You’re Loved No Matter What has been powerful and I’m only 50 pages in. I have struggled to feel worthy of love as far back as I can remember. I’m still trying to find my worth as a daughter of the King and hope that this book helps a bit.

Last but not least, I’m working my way through Christy, this month’s Reading to Know bookclub selection. I definitely won’t be finishing it by the end of the month but I’m glad for the chance to reread it.

What have you been reading lately? I’ll be taking a flight to Taiwan later this summer and am in need of a good book, something engaging but that doesn’t require a lot of thought. It’s a 12 hour flight so a thick book would be great! Anything you’d highly recommend?

Cheesemaking progress

We are plowing forward in our efforts to make feta cheese. After three days of drying, the cheese was finally ready for the next step. It’s a good thing I read the directions online instead of relying on the pamphlet in the kit. The pamphlet said that the cheese should dry for two days; the online directions said it could take up to three days to dry. Mine took three full days.

Close up of this beautiful but stinky cheese

Jarred and in a light brine solution. These are going in the fridge to ripen for another 7-10 days and then we’ll do a taste test.

Speaking of cheese, we discovered a very happy announcement at the mall.

Beecher’s is coming to our local mall! Woohoo! I adore their fresh mac&cheese but we have to visit Pike Place Market in order to partake. Soon there will be a restaurant 15 minutes from our house!

Travel research

I’ve been poking around at travel websites, trying to get an idea for how much money our Taiwan trip will cost. We’re going to aim high so that we don’t have to worry about money while in Taiwan. I am getting really, really excited now! Only a couple more months!

I need to hear from you!

Because I am soon going to be a mom (I love saying that!), I’ve been nesting. As part of my nesting, I desperately want to overhaul my blog design. I have considered switching to WordPress as I know WordPress allows a lot more customization. However, I’m a complete newbie at blog design so I wonder if WordPress would be too complicated for me.

So if you follow my blog, could you leave me a comment and let me know how you follow me? Do you use an RSS reader? Google Friend Connect? Something else entirely?

Please let me know! 🙂

My goal is to have a new blog design before we leave for Taiwan as I know my life is about to change dramatically. I cannot wait!!

Adventures in Cheesemaking

I finally dove into my cheesemaking yesterday. I didn’t mean to wait until so late in the month but stuff kept happening and I couldn’t find an entire day to devote to the process.

Starting off with whole milk from Whole Foods.

Using the thermometer from the kit…

only to discover that ours works so much better!

At the end of step one, the milk was starting to change form.

I did a really messy job turning it into curds.


Draining some more.

Starting the drying process.

Drying while covered in cheesecloth.

I started the process yesterday morning around 10. I think it was 11PM or so when it was finally ready to add the ingredients for the brine. This morning I had to get up early and lay it all out so that it could dry flat. I’ve been rotating the cheese every couple of hours today so that it will dry on all sides. I have to do the same tomorrow and then Sabbath morning it finally starts the ripening process. It will be another week before it’s ready to eat.

What have I learned? This takes a lot of time and way more patience than I possess. I had SUCH a hard time keeping the milk at the right temperature. It was supposed to be heated indirectly so I placed the pan on top of my frying pan. The frying pan was filled with water and heated, which then heated my pan and the milk. Even with that, I couldn’t get it hot enough and then I way overshot the target temperature. To be honest, I might have ruined it. It smells like cheese but it’s pungent. It’s supposed to ripen into feta cheese, which I know has a strong smell. But this is slightly different. I’m not sure if it’s normal or if I ruined the cheese when I heated the milk too hot. We’re going to wait until tomorrow to see if the smell changes and decide if we’re going to keep the process going or toss it out and try again some other time.

Either way, if I end up with trash or cheese, it has definitely been a learning experience. I had no idea cheesemaking is so HARD!