Reach & Read: The Dim Sum Field Guide by Carolyn Phillips

Cute little book that if paired with a gift card or IOU to a tasty local Chinese restaurant or bakery would make a great gift. The content of the book was tested with the hubs and some friends of Asian descent: first we would try to guess based on the illustration which common dim sum item was depicted. Sadly, despite us all routinely consuming food, we missed them all except chicken feet, because feet are pretty obviously. Photographs with a filter to match the overall feel and theme of the book would have been more valuable. The descriptions are helpful, chockfull of colorful descriptors and near poetic, to the point that some of them, if read out loud begin to suggest something more than a snack (approximate interpretation of Cantonese word).

Each of ‘snack’ is described in terms of ‘genus’, identification, basic filling, sauce, ‘nesting habits’, origins and species (related snacks). While quite thorough, this information would not substitute for asking if allergic/intolerant to ubiquitous ingredients like shrimp, gluten, pork or adventure nor will pulling out the book assist in ordering, in fact both of these actions might net you nada….. My recommendation is to consider this book as a fun invitation to commune with friends but not a complete reference on dim sum matters. Besides when you truly are enjoying a dim sum experience you are ordering with your eyes and nose as the servers roll by, pushing (literally and figuratively) their delectable wares.


I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated, nor required to say something positive, in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my experience and observations while reading this book.

Potato stamp Thank You cards for Veterans

Making and sending thank you or other occasion cards to our veterans, service members and their families are a simple but meaning way to engage our children of all ages in showing respect and gratitude. This is the first year we have made cards to send and I wanted to keep it simple for my toddler, who still seems to eat more crayon than gets places on paper, so I tried my hand at making a potato stamp in the shape of a poppy.


Make a potato stamp!

Supplies needed are a potato, a knife, some paint and some sort of plan. I selected a smaller potato to fit in little hands but any size really. The knife should be sharp and best an ‘adult’ task. Carve the design into the potato, make it raised by about 1/8 to a 1/4 inch and then either stamp it in paint or paint on the paint then stamp paper. I carved in both parts, more for practice and anticipation of nibbles. Here is a link to another great tutorial on more detailed potato stamps. The sky is really the limit.

For this group of cards, we kept the supplies simple: colored dot stickers (from our potty enthusiasm collection), scribbled with a crayon or two, used the paint dauber markers (love these!) and of course the potato stamp. I try reallllly hard to not over orchestrate the crafts, especially given the little guys age. So the only real theme was red and blue with white paper. I think the cards turned out great, mess was made (a good sign IMHO) and only two small bites were taken from the potato. Which, while it ended their utility, was more perplexing than anything – you will take a bit out a raw potato covered in red paint but not a cherry tomato or yam?

Next steps are writing thoughtful messages inside, note creation details on the back and then send them on their way to a Veteran.  There are lots of organizations to support this type of project. check out, and, among so many.  This year’s batch of cards will be staying local as a group at work is collecting and delivering to an area group.

Why the poppy? Originally, wearing a poppy was designed for Memorial Day celebrations in May but now is worn in November for Veterans Day as well. The poppy was selected as a symbol of war veterans after World War I after observations of poppies blooming in war torn fields were reported. A famous poem was penned title In Flanders Fields by John McCrae and a few years later used as inspiration by Moina Michael for a fundraiser to support related charities.  Check out for more information.

Excerpt:   In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below

Other Toddler Card Making Ideas:

Share your ways to celebrate Veterans and/or Potato Stamp ideas!

Bonus! Just some more fun with paint daubers. Trace picture outlines, maybe glue a felt embellishment on and let them loose! This set of pictures were for some friends that lived in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle (Hat and Boots at Oxbow!) and moved out of state.


Toddler Action Art! Painting with Toys

Toddler Action Art made these Thank You cards….

Action art! is where it is at. Easy to do and a fun way to spend a rainy day. We also use art to create cards.  In preparation for Teacher Appreciation week, we used cars and some balls to roll around in colored paint. Place the paint on flat plates.  Put blue painters tape down randomly over the cardstock  for design and to also hold down the blank paper while painting. The toys left interesting designs on the cardstock, which we later cut and folded into a card shape. When the tape is removed it leaves a nice clean blank space for writing or stamping (Thank you! in this example)

The toys are easy to wash when done (use washable nontoxic paint) and so is the kiddo, maybe. Enjoy!

ngọt: gingery sweet beans dessert recipe / chè đậu gừng

Hopefully I did not lose you at beans for dessert. Stick with me on this.Bean desserts are common in Vietnamese cuisine (che đậu). Lots of variety and add-ins (pandan, coconut, tapioca pearls). They likely started with digestive benefit in mind, which for this recipe is hypothetically applied given the ginger (gừng). You should just eat them because you like them or maybe your mother in law made them and it gets you brownie points (mmm, brownies).


chè đậu gừng / gingery sweet beans dessert recipe

Ingredients for generous 4-6 servings in a bowl or lots of spoon-sized bites (~ 40)

  • 1 cup dried beans
  • 4 cups of water plus a lot more for overnight soaking
  • Crushed ginger  in a jar or smashed whole ginger, about 2 tablespoons
  • at least 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt to balance out sweet at the end
  • Crystallized ginger for topping
  • re-useable tea bag or holder if using crushed ginger


  • Soak the dry beans at least overnight, 12 -16 hours. Rinse beans and discard the soaking/rinsing water.
  • In a saucepan, add 4 cups fresh water and beans. Bring to a boil and then let them simmer for about an hour. Stir occasionally and check to see how they are softening up. You could also do this in your pressure cooker and dramatically reduce the time but I like to taste and adjust as I go with this recipe.
  • Add in the sugar and ginger. I put the crushed ginger from the jar in a loose tea bag (the paper kind) but you could use a tea ball etc. Basically you want to be able to remove the ginger before serving. Stir and keep simmering for another 30 minutes. Add in some additional water 1/2 cup or so if it has evaporated.
  • Taste and see if the balance of sweet and ginger is how YOU like it. Add a little salt. Mix last again. If you want sweeter, add more sugar, a little at a time, maybe a teaspoon or so. More ginger, add more or let it steep longer.
  • If you have the time, make the day before and after simmering leave the ginger bag in to steep.
  • When ready to serve, remove ginger, stir well and either heat back up and serve hot or serve cold.
  • Optional but nice touch, add some sliced crystallized ginger either on top or mixed in.
  • For this recipe I used mixed dried beans from my CSA box. Suggested beans to try include: black-eyed peas, kidney, broad (hyacinth) or red beans. Do not limit yourself. You can also use canned beans but need to watch the cooking time to avoid mush.
  • Recipe is adapted from Diana  My Tran’s book The Vietnamese Cookbook.

Other Vietnamese Dessert Recipes:

Trio of bite sized Vietnamese desserts: coffee jello, ginger beans and banana cake.

ngọt: sweet Vietnamese coffee jello recipe / thạch cà phê sữa đá

thạch cà phê sữa đá / sweet vietnamese coffee jello recipe

Cà phê sữa đá is basically jet fuel with sweetened condensed milk. Big on flavor, caffeine and sweet. Decidedly Vietnamese for sure.  Cảm ơn / thank you / to Amy at for posting her recipe. She had way prettier cubes than I did but the flavor is spot on.  I topped mine with sliced almonds, cocoa nibs and a dusty of cocoa powder for looks a little mocha nod.  Served up in single spots, they were great for sweet ending for a meal and I might have had some for breakfast too.

Vietnamese Coffee Flavored dessert recipe


  • Do not hold back on brewing strong coffee or making a lot of espresso shots.
  • Three packs of gelatin is the correct amount and not too stiff.
  • I  used Starbuck’s via packets 4 per 1 cup of water.
  • On double batches: I did try  doubling the recipe, but actually do not recommend it for this recipe. First, this is pretty rich gelatin, two, I grew weary of stirring to get the heavier sweetened condense milk and gelatin dissolved and it did not seem to set as firm as the original batch size.

Other Vietnamese Dessert Recipes:

ngọt: Vietnamese banana cake recipe / banh chuối nướng

This recipe is all about the banana and is more ‘bread pudding’ than cake. Ideally eat this treat while still warm with maybe some whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream but it is still good once cooled. No matter what though: cut yourself some crusty edge pieces right out of the oven, tell everyone you are trimming off the ‘burnt bits for them because that is how much you care’ and then eat them all up!

banh chuối nướng / banana cake recipe

Vietnamese Banana Cake recipe / banh chuoi nuong

I have used frozen bananas (such an easy way to store them when overspending on counter), fresh and even dried (but not the chips).  For frozen slice them while still mostly frozen to avoid mush. For the bread, I have used bagels that were going stale mixed with regular white bread. The amount of bread does not have to be exact but close with an err towards a little more.


  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (unless your butter was salted and then omit)
  • 1 cup coconut milk ( you can freeze the remaining for the next time you make)
  • 2 cups milk, skim to whole is fine
  • 8 bananas, sliced lengthwise into strips 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick
  • 10 slices of white bread, about 12 ounces total after removing crusts
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour


  • Heat the oven to 375 F. Prep your loaf pans by greasing and lining with parchment paper. Recipe makes two large loafs but you can also bake in smaller loaf pans just shorten the baking time to 30-40 minutes. I prefer the smaller loafs for easier sharing and freezing.
  • Prepare the bread by removing the crusts if they are more touch or darker in color. chop into cubes about an inch around.
  • In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the eggs and sugar well. I found the 1 1/2 cups of sugar to be almost too sweet. I think it depends on your taste and your bananas.
  • Melt the butter and stir it into the milk before pouring into the egg-sugar mixture.
  • Add the coconut milk and salt. Mix well. Add the flour. Mix
  • Add the bread and mix but no too much, you still want some chunks. If you have time and especially if some of the bread was more stale. Let the bread sit and soak up the batter.
  • Start layering in the banana slices and batter. Put a single layer of bananas the bottom of loaf pan. They do not have to cover every open bit of space.
  • Using a ladle or spoon, pour some batter over the banana slices. You don’t need to add a lot because there will be several layers of bananas. Keep repeating this until bananas and batter are gone. If you find that the last loaf was a little short on banana. No worries, just top off with batter. Each of the loaf pans should be filled up to within about 1 inch of the top. This does puff up when baking but sinks when cooling.  Also the edges will get pretty dark brown and are really tasty.
  • Bake in the oven for about an hour for full size loafs, less time for smaller loafs.
  • When done, run a knife around the edges, let it cool for a minute or so and then remove it from loaf pan to a cooling rack.
  • Enjoy! Ideally eat this treat while still warm with maybe some whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream but it is good at room temp or can be reheated.
  • Optional add-ins to batter: brandy or rum, nuts, cinnamon, raisins.
  • Recipe is adapted from Diana  My Tran’s book The Vietnamese Cookbook.

Some of my other banana recipes: Does too many bananas spoil the bunch?

Other Vietnamese Dessert Recipes:

Trio of bite sized vietnamese desserts: coffee jello, ginger beans and banana cake.

Barney Google and the Applesauce Cake: Vintage Recipes from my Kitchen Today


This is a tale of two baked goods whipped up on different days but from the same awesome vintage cookbook, courtesy of Trinity Treasures (from Trinity Episcopal in Everett, WA a la 1965). I love love love cooking out of vintage recipe books, it is a something of a challenge, in part that recipes are written assuming a lot more kitchen knowledge than you find today and the ingredient ratios are different and often they are more simple but still flavorful. There are also some that are just not that tasty. Both the Barney Google Cake and the Applesauce Cake (I made it more like a quick bread) were selected to help use up some of my canned jams and sauces in the pantry. This makes them quite versatile.

Barney Google Cake or Bars


Bottom Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2  eggs (I used 1)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, optional


  • at least 3/4 cup jam, not precise per se. I used fig jam!


  • 1/4 cup softened or melted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (white is fine too)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Lightly grease or line with parchment paper a 9×9 square pan or if doubling a 13×9
  3. Mix together the bottom crust ingredients. Sugar is optional.
  4. Press into the bottom of the pan. It is a bit like shortbread.
  5. Spread the jam on the crust. or dollop allover.
  6. Mix together the topping ingredients, except coconut until smooth. Then add and mix in the coconut.
  7. Spread topping over the jam filling.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Need to let cool a little bit before diving in.

Note: easily doubled to fill a 9×13 pan. Use any jam you want. Also simple to use gluten-free flours, such as GF oat bran flour. I also added 1 tablespoon to the shortbread like bottom crust and use unsweetened coconut flakes.

Applesauce Cake/Bread



  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups applesauce or ‘purees’
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup flour
  • Optional: nuts, raisins, cranberries, 1/2 cup oatmeal, fresh or frozen berries


  • Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare either a cake pan or loaf pan/pans with parchment paper. I doubled the recipe and made a full size loaf and three mini loaves.
  • Mix together all the wet ingredients. Adding the flour and then finally hand mixing in the add-ins like nuts etc.
  • Pour or spoon batter into pans. I had a little of this left over unsweetened plum and  pear puree that I was canning, which was used instead of applesauce, and I also drizzled some on top of the dough before baking.
  • This version has some random frozen raspberries, dried cranberries and plum/pear ‘sauce’. Feel free to change up your spices too.
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes until a tooth pick comes out clean.

Notes: Thank you Marilyn T. for submitting this simple and flexible recipe. It easily doubles and can use a variety of ‘sauces’ and add-ins. I halved the sugar from her recipe given the fruit’s natural sweetness and my desire to make this more of a ‘breakfast’ bread vs. dessert.


So Google was a word before Google was the web? Yes! Some sleuthing revealed Barney Google was a likable but fallible rumpled top hat horse jockey type cartoon character with goggle eyes (google is a play on goggle), who eventually was usurped by his sidekick Snuffy Smith, a bodacious hillbilly (by Billy DeBeck). Barney was married briefly to the formidable Mrs. Lizzie Google.  His cartoon theme song also inspired the memorable rice-a-toni jingle apparently. I guess he liked cake or found himself in ‘jams’ (one of the ingredients? ) Does anyone have other information, I wish I could ask my Grandma.

Other vintages recipes on this blog



Reach & Read: Cleared for Takeoff!

Cleared for Takeoff: The Ultimate Book of Flight by Rowland White


Yankee – Echo – Sierra! I recommend this book. Note that I am not an aviation expert, aficionado, hobbyist but I have flown in a few different kinds of planes, use aviation examples/learnings in my professional work with healthcare quality and safety, and appreciate a well written book with a variety of comparisons and contrasts paired with pictures, diagrams and activities to illustrate points. This book certainly hits that mark. Is it truly the Ultimate Book? That is not for me to judge alone.  Some of my favorite sections are the to-scale picture comparison of airplane size, all relative to the Hindenburg blimp (A380 looks like a toy), a word map of what planes are frequently named after (mammals, birds and meteorological phenomenon rank high), the activities to support concepts built in (like how to skip a stone in the section about dam busting strategies, origami), insignia reference and pictographs on how to land an airliner (you never know).  Aviation is important in my family and will make a great addition to our future bookshelves. While this is categorized as children’s non-fiction, I found the stories to be informative, well written yet able to stand alone so you could flip to sections of interest.  Note: there are several other books of the same/similar title. Here is my affiliate link for the right version, available October 2016.


A quick google search found me some of the downloadable activity sheets! Yay! I hope more will be available after book is published.

I received a electronic copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated, nor required to say something positive, in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my experience and observations while reading this book. I haven’t yet purchased a hard copy because it not yet released.


PEPper Prepper Party : Like a cookie exchange but with waterproof matches.

all the disaster memes (thank you, I take no credit other than collaging them)!

I do love a theme! The disaster preparedness party idea started this summer when one of parents in our PEPs group shared an article on being ready for 9.0 earthquake in our near future (remember time is relative). In my last professional position, disaster preparedness was one of my bailiwicks, and I must have just been in a mood but therein sparked the September get together with our awesome PEPs group. Seriously, salt of the earth and surprisingly many had some form of disaster kit or at least a hint of a plan “a bunch of water in our garage and hope for the best”, so there was actual enthusiasm to get together and update now that our families are bigger by at least one. That and we like hanging out, eating and letting our kids play together.  Our first annual (because you need to update your kits) PEPper Prepper party was this September, which is National Emergency Preparedness Month (#notacoincidence).

Snapshot of some our kit contents to share.

Host your own Prepper Exchange Party

  • Create a list of basic items for guests to sign up to bring. Some examples:
    • Non perishable food items (think soup, vegetables, fruit, peanut butter, powder milk)
    • Can opener
    • Corkscrews (just kidding, sort of)
    • Whistles
    • Thermal emergency blankets
    • Moist towelettes
    • Garbage bags and ties for personal sanitation
    • Household bleach (for cleaning or water purification)
    • Water purification tablets
    • Duct tape (because if you can’t duct it …… )
    • Candles or flashlights
    • Lighters, matches
  • Suggest a minimum quantity to share with each family
  • Have guests sign up to bring 1) a dish or drink to share (potluck!) and 2) preparedness items to share


You might also want to have people bring boxes or find some 5 galloon food buckets to store items in. On a whim, I asked our local PEPs office if they had any swag that would be appropriate for disaster kits. Surprisingly, they had the perfect tote for us – electric lime green! [thank you for the other items too!]

Fortune cookies aka hope in a disaster and note the jam – must make room in my pantry!

Congregate, eat food, play with reckless abandon, assemble kits.  Another in the group found a cute coloring book to download about Pepper the Prepper Cat. There are others but this was a better fit for our toddlers (big picture, not a lot of words, they just eat crayons anyways). I also found a spooky vegetable page, a homage to our veggie-phobic brood. However, the large punch balloons were the big hit. Note: we live dangerously, since the balloons are labeled for ages 8 and over.



Check out this awesome repurpose/hack to portion out bleach using Medela storage containers. The label with instructions makes me smile.


Some helpful resources for filling in the rest of your kit: