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Chicken Karaage (Japanese Chicken Nuggets)

While we try to eat healthy in the Dolphin household, sometimes we just want a special treat. This recipe is actually a favorite of Mr. Dolphin, but while Lion will eat it, there are definitely other forms of chicken he likes better. I usually make this the night before chicken nuggets appear on the daycare’s monthly snack menu since, even though I won’t pretend that fried chicken is healthy, we think chicken karaage is more delicious (and less processed) than the nuggets served at daycare. Lion is happy to have a substitute that is similar to what the other kids are being served.

Chicken karaage is basically a really flavorful Japanese style chicken nugget. It’s generally made with chicken thighs, marinated with seasonings and then mixed with potato starch (or corn starch) before being fried.

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Lion actually finished off most of this plate. We try to serve a cucumber salad to accompany the dish first, otherwise he might eat chicken only for dinner.

What I love about chicken karaage is that it is much easier than most of the other types of fried chicken I’ve made. It takes only about 30 minutes total, with about 5-10 minutes of prep time and the rest devoted to frying. I throw the marinade into a Ziploc bag with the chicken and let it sit, then when it’s time to cook, I throw in the potato starch and mash it together. Other types of fried chicken that I’ve made often involve a dry-wet-dry breading technique, or at the very least, a lot of time putting the dry breading on. With this recipe, you are making more of a batter so it’s faster to put together and the potato starch results in a light non-greasy breading. As a bonus, Lion is always excited to get in on the action and likes to squish the ingredients together in the bag.

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Let’s Move to the Country

Ever since we moved abroad, life has been a grand experiment. I know that we are incredibly privileged to play with life this way. We’ve realized that this is a very unique time in our lives and possibly the hardest all at once. Days are stimulating in ways that they simply aren’t if you’re in your native culture. I completely underestimated how challenging it would be at times to live in a country where the language, customs, and daily habits are not natural for me. Simple things are huge accomplishments, like communicating over the phone, catching one of the red taxis or finding natural laundry soap. 

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So if step one in the experiment was relocating, step two was finding a place to call home. For our first year in Chiang Mai, we chose to rent a four story townhouse in the city that checked all my boxes for walkability – something we really missed out on living in a neighbourhood in the US for 5 years that was acknowledged to be a “food desert.” In our neighbourhood in Thailand, I walk to the local food market, any number of restaurants and little noodle stalls, the pharmacy, and even the waterfall at the foot of Suthep Mountain. Over the past 15 months, we’ve discovered new rhythms, figured out where to get organic produce, learned to avoid the afternoon sun or rainstorms depending on the season, and I think my legs have gotten stronger at least from all those stairs! At this point, we are comfortable here… which for the Gumdrops perhaps that means it’s time to try something new!

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Surviving the fourth trimester with multiples

The youngest of the Starfish babies is currently rolling out of the dreaded fourth trimester, and I’m going to be honest that it was pretty brutal. For every surreal and amazing moment that I’ve experienced since Lilly and Audrey were born, there have been just as many maddening and frustrating moments. It’s to be expected, and I knew going in that it was going to be one of the most challenging times in my life. Let’s just say it lived up to expectations!

Fourth-trimester
This picture pretty much sums up the fourth trimester with two babies!

Before the babies arrived, I was desperate to find advice on how to deal with newborn multiples. I spent many lunch hours searching Hellobee for tips and “Day in the Life” accounts. I visited all of my friends with multiples and peppered them with dozens of questions. I joined twins groups on Facebook and gobbled up all of the posts, both good and bad. So much of the advice that I received before the babies were born really helped me out in these first few months, so now I’d like to pay it forward. Herewith, my advice on surviving the fourth trimester with multiples…

The biggest key for me was getting to a mental state of expecting the worst and hoping for the best. The first time that Mr. Starfish went on an errand and left me with the two babies alone, I foolishly thought that they were due for their naps so I would put them down and then I could go take care of some task that had been on my list. When the girls then did NOT want to go down for naps, I reached a level of frustration that is hard to describe. Curse words were muttered as one baby after the other shrieked at me and I could not keep up with their demands. Frustration coursed through me as I thought of how they were not doing what they should be doing, and I was not getting that task accomplished that I figured I would check off my list as they napped. And then I got frustrated at my frustration, irritated with myself that I was approaching feelings of anger toward my babies as they were not cooperating.

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Author Spotlight: Jane Yolen

The “How Do Dinosaurs…” series of books are hands down Jackson’s favorite books ever. We’ve checked them out from the library so many times it’s not even funny, and we’ve finally decided to start buying them all because he never gets tired of them! Mr. Garland and I never mind reading them over and over either, which is a rare feature in a book that Jackson loves.

Jane Yolen is an extremely well-renown children’s book author, who has written over 3oo books! The “How Do Dinosaurs” books are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Yolen’s work – looks like Jack and I have a lot of reading to do! Yolen writes children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction, and is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and she reviews children’s literature.

Jane works with a variety of different illustrators for her books, but the common theme is that her books have colorful, engaging, and not-too-cheesy illustrations and all of her books have a very distinct feel to them. Yolen utilizes rhymes a lot in her books, and all of the books I’ve ever read from her are rhyming (though I’m sure she has some that aren’t)

I’m going to highlight some of our favorite Jane Yolen books and series, as well as a few other books from her that we haven’t tried yet – if you haven’t read any of her books yet, I cannot recommend them enough! If you want more details, you can see a list of all of her children’s books here.

Jane-Yolen

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My Fast Fitness Solution!

A little over a year ago, I made a commitment to myself to start incorporating some exercise into my daily routine. It wasn’t really about losing weight — I just wanted to feel better and feel like I was more physically fit. However working 30 hours a week, taking care of my home, and keeping up with a two year old makes working out each day pretty challenging. I don’t have a lot of spare time to give towards an exercise routine. Somehow though, I’ve been able to maintain working out 4-5 days a week for a least 30 minutes…sometimes 45 minutes. I’m lucky enough to have a treadmill in our basement where I’m able to run some days. On the days that I don’t run, I do other workout videos through YouTube on my phone or iPad. So I thought I would share with you 3 of my favorite YouTube channels that help me squeeze some fitness into my busy day!

Blogilates – This one is probably my most favorite! I love Cassie’s upbeat and bubbly personality; it really helps to motivate me during the workouts. Another thing I love about the Blogilates channel is the fact that she creates a workout playlist for each day of the week. She’ll have a playlist titled “August 21- Killer Arms Day” and then a list of 4-5 videos based around that. Normally there is one warm up or cardio video, and then the rest will be all about exercising a particular body part or area. Depending on how much time you have, you can do the entire playlist or just pick a couple you want to do. The best part about her videos though is that they are quick and effective! Most of her videos are less than 10 minutes, and I don’t think I’ve seen any that are over 15 minutes. This makes it perfect for a busy schedule because I can just turn on a short 5 minute video whenever I have time and get some exercise done.

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Finding Childcare

About 9 months before I got pregnant with LeLe, I put our names on two wait lists for daycares near where I work. By the time she was born, we had barely moved up the list at either place, so for the first 9 months of LeLe’s life, she was with my mom and my mother in law for most days. I finally found a babysitter and LeLe started going there two mornings a week. About two months before Little Bug was born, the babysitter moved to a nearby town, which meant that I had to drive 40 minutes to drop off and pick up. This was seriously cutting into my work time, so we had to find another solution.

I asked around to a bunch of friends, and one of them recommended a nursing student who was taking a leave of absence from school for a year. This was last November. B came over for an interview and Little Bug was immediately in her lap and happy and LeLe was intent on showing B every single toy she owned. The kids loved her and I liked that she was medically trained and had flexible hours. Well, we are now almost a year into the arrangement and our beloved B will be going back to school at the end of this month. She has Mondays off, so we will still have her on Mondays, but it means that we will have to find another arrangement for some of our mornings.

LeLe is starting preschool in September on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I work from home Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, my mom has both kids on Fridays, and my mother in law has both kids on Wednesdays (she drives 2 hours each way just to have the day with them. We love grandma T!). My mom agreed to have Little Bug on Tuesday mornings while LeLe is in preschool. I am actually pretty excited about this because he has never really had one on one time with my mom and I think it will be really good for him.

So that leaves Thursday mornings to figure out. I’ve looked into a number of options, but I haven’t found a good solution yet. Ideally, I would want a person who can come to our house and stay with Little Bug there, but I would also be fine taking him somewhere for the morning. The hardest thing about this is that we do not have a ton of extra money for childcare. The daycare centers we initially applied for are way out of our budget (even with subsidies for working on campus), and in home daycares around here typically don’t have spots for a single morning.

Having two young kids in childcare and juggling our schedules is hard. I look forward to the days when I can drop both kids off at school and not worry about it for the whole day.

What are your creative child care situations?

Desert Island Makeup Picks for Moms

Although I’ve never been great with makeup and hair, the rise of beauty vloggers on YouTube has given me the resources I need to up my style game. It started with learning how to curl my hair with a flat iron, and now I love watching videos to learn about makeup application techniques and versatile products that I want to get my hands on. I don’t wear makeup every day, but when I do, I like to think I’ve developed some decent skills and an arsenal of products I love over the last few years.

Here are my top makeup picks in each category. I chose products that are moderately priced to inexpensive, as well as ones that are easy to apply (some with a bit of practice) and versatile. As a mom, it’s important to me that I can do my makeup in five minutes or less, and all of these products fit the bill.

Desert-Island-Makeup-Picks

1. Foundation: L’oreal True Match Lumi Healthy Luminous Makeup

For medium coverage and a healthy glow, this foundation can’t be beat, especially for the price. It also comes in a cushion compact version, but I prefer the bottle. I like to apply with a beauty sponge or a flat synthetic brush.

2. Highlight: Champagne Pop Shimmering Skin Perfector by Becca x Jaclyn Hill

This highlight is a fun shimmery gold-hued pressed powder that is perfect for summer. (It was created by one of my favorite beauty vloggers, Jaclyn Hill!)

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