November 19, 2019

Traveling to Malaysia with Kids - Prep

This year, to make it a real challenge for ourselves, we decided to go to the other side of the world. My initial plan was Thailand, but the tourist visa process after 30 days can get a little complicated. So to avoid that completely, we decided to shift our focus a little further south. U.S. citizens can travel to Malaysia visa-free for up to 90 days.

We secured a house-sit for an expat couple in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for 9 days, so we'll get our jaunt up into Thailand for about 2 weeks before heading back to Malaysia.

More on House Sitting abroad Here.

The BIGGEST drag in prepping for this trip has been figuring out vaccination needs.

Yellow Fever is a concern if you're traveling from (or have 12+ hour layovers in) a country with associated risk, as of now that's parts of South America and Africa. So this wasn't a concern for us.

Typhoid: 1 injection or a 4-series oral, Typhoid will run anywhere from $70-$160 and that's not including the travel clinic's consultation fee. Many Walgreens carry this one and if they don't, many can order it and have it in next day for you.

Japanese Encephalitis: I'm so tired of saying this word. A 2-series, each shot costing between $241 and $322, the JE vax was about to run my family $1500. I called 5  clinics, made and cancelled a bunch of appointments and annoyed my family doctor with questions. Then Mr. Go had a brainstorm: What if we waited and got the JE vax when we GOT to Malaysia? It's bound to be cheaper, right? RIGHT!

The Twin Towers Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur offers all the vaccines for a fraction of the price (170 MYR = $41 USD). I emailed them some questions and got prompt answers. No appointment is necessary, but if I Whatsapp message them before coming in, it can cut down on wait time. Also bonus: for reasons beyond my understanding, at the TTMC the JE vax is only 1 shot, not two. Babs was suuuuuuper happy about that. I'll post about that experience in a couple weeks!

We decided to get Typhoid in the states, because it's transmitted by improperly handled food and that's something we want to be ready for the moment we land. We figured we could wait on the JE vax, since JE is transmitted by mosquitoes and in the heart of KL they're not as big of an issue as the more rural areas. The skeeters that transmit JE bite at dark, so we'll employ more caution at dusk until the vaccine takes full effect (about 1 week after receipt).

But finding a clinic to give my 5-year-old a typhoid vax was easier said than done. Walgreens won't vaccinate kids under 7 and the oral typhoid vax is for kids 6 and older. The closest clinic was a 500-mile round trip overnight jaunt. The International Society for Travel Medicine has a directory of clinics, but a Google Maps search of "Travel Vaccine Clinic" will turn up some facilities not on the ISTM list.

Malaysia is pretty much right on the equator, meaning the temperature doesn't change much during the year. Highs will hover around the mid- to high-80s while lows plummet to about 70 Farenheit at night. Oh and being a peninsula on the ocean, it's super humid! That, combined with the cultural restrictions below, means things might get sweaty.

Malaysia is a fairly conservative culture. Metro areas like Kuala Lumpur have fewer implied restrictions, but if you don't want to get stared at in rural areas, women should cover their knees and shoulders. Especially in religious temples.

I plan on bringing a scarf to cover my shoulders and leggings to go under my dress and shorts. Time will tell if that will be enough, but it will be easy to buy clothes, especially in the 32-million-population Kuala Lumpur, once I poke around and figure out from the locals what's appropriate.

I'm in the process of making a spreadsheet, but this blog post has been super helpful and informative. There are plenty of things I'll be waiting to buy until we get there, which is both freeing and stressful. I do like having everything I might possibly need at my fingertips at any given moment, but when restricted to 2 bags, that's not possible.

20 days until we leave from LA on this new adventure!! 😬


November 11, 2019

Pressure Canning Fish (and other foraged foods)

Welcome to my TED Talk: Homesteading 101. While I'm nowhere near my grandma's skills, putting an armful of jars on a shelf satisfies the part of me that acknowledges the U.P. winter is coming. It's alWAYS COMING.

Pressure Canning or Water Bath Canning

Asparagus - After foraging literally 30 pounds of the fibrous vegetable last year, I fridge-pickled 9 quarts (a bad idea--took up so much fridge space), then bought my pressure canner because I couldn't eat another spear for the next two months.

Pressure canning is a great option for this because it breaks down the tough fibrous parts to make them smushy soft and great for pureeing into a creamy soup.

Fish - The process is the same for most fish (except tuna) and is so easy! No liquid required, just jam the fish in the jar with some salt and a clove of garlic if you're feeling fancy. The only downside is the processing time is 100 minutes. That's right: 1 hour and 40 minutes of watching the pressure gauge to be sure it doesn't dip below 11 PSI because you REALLY don't want to have to start over again.

It's totally worth it, though. Instead of having to fillet out the Y bone in Pike, canning cooks the living daylights out of it and the bones just dissolve! (Plus it makes a killer fish dip with cream cheese and fresh garden dill.)

Blueberries & Blackberries - Hot Tip: Use your blackberries to make wine. Canning them just turns them to mush. The blueberries hold up a little bit better, but tend to turn your muffin/bread batter a bit purplish when you mix them in.

Apples - Hot Tip: Canning apples makes them pretty mushy anyway, so save yourself a step and just can them as applesauce. You don't even have to peel them. Chunk them, cook them down with some cinnamon and ladle them into jars.

Venison - The same process as for fish, but only 75 minutes at 11 PSI. That's right, chunk up all the subpar cuts for canning. They will become soft and moist.

Beets - I use my Instant Pot to pre-cook them to tender-crispness, then either hot water bath or pressure process pints for 30 minutes. Use a pickling brine instead of plain water for a snappy snack.

Radishes - Can them in a pickling brine. It's great on salads for a vinegar/salty flavor that's totally unique.

Carrots - Chunk them, ladle boiling water, add 1 tsp salt and process for 30 minutes for quarts. Garden-fresh carrots for your hearty winter soups? Nothing could be better.

Tomatoes - Blanch, peel and chop them with green peppers, onions and vinegar for salsa. (I hybridized these two recipes.) Then when you're full up on salsa and STILL have 45 pounds of tomatoes, can stewed tomatoes with a couple basil leaves. Use in lieu of tomato sauce in chili and pasta dishes. So flavorful!


Let your jars cool gradually under a couple towels for insulation. Once cool, REMOVE THE BANDS. Tug gently on the lids to be sure they're sealed. If any didn't seal, store in the fridge and use them within a couple days.

Once you get past the fear of blowing up your kitchen (read and understand the instruction manual first and you'll be perfectly safe), canning is super fun. The more you do it, the easier and less messy it gets. And sending friends home with a jar of home-canned salsa (especially when using home-grown tomatoes and cilantro) is super satisfying.


November 3, 2019

Ariel The Little Mermaid Bedtime Story for Kids

Don't miss these other stories!
Beauty and the Beast

Once upon a time, there lived a little mermaid named Ariel. Her father, King Triton, told all the merfolk they were never to go up to the surface, because he thought humans were dangerous. But Ariel was fascinated by humans. She loved exploring the old shipwrecks on the sea floor, even if she had to get past sharks to do it!

One day, while Sebastian the crab was trying to tell Ariel to keep her head in the water where it belonged, she saw a ship pass by overhead. She went up to the surface to get a closer look. She peeked over the side of the boat and saw a man playing with his dog. It was Prince Eric and his dog Max. As Ariel watched, Prince Eric's man Grimsby gave him a birthday gift: a statue carved to look like Prince Eric.

Just then, a big storm blew in. Lightning cracked and lit the ship on fire! Eric was thrown overboard and hit his head. He was sinking, but Ariel swam down and scooped him up. She brought him back to shore and sang to comfort him. He woke just enough to hear her voice, but didn't see her face. When Grimsby found him, Prince Eric vowed to search the kingdom and find the girl and marry her! He searched and searched, but didn't find her. Because she wasn't in the kingdom. She was under the sea.

Ariel swam about, humming, in a daze. King Triton noticed. He asked Sebastian who was the lucky merman Ariel had fallen in love with. Sebastian accidentally let it slip that Ariel had been going up to the surface.

Meanwhile, Flounder surprised Ariel by bringing the statue of Prince Eric that had sunk with the ship to her cave of human treasures. Ariel was delighted! But then, King Triton appeared. He only wanted to protect her, so he decided he'd have to crush her attachment to humans. He used his magic trident and smashed all of her human treasures to pieces.

Afterward, the eels Flotsam and Jetsam came and whispered to her. "Poor, lonely little mermaid. No one understands. Ursula can help you."

Ariel went with them to meet the sea witch, who said she could turn Ariel into a human for three days. She had to get Prince Eric to kiss her by the end of the third day. If she did, she'd remain a human. If she didn't, she would wither away and become part of Ursula's collection. To pay for the spell, Ursula took Ariel's voice. While Ariel sang, Ursula captured Ariel's voice in the magic shell she wore around her neck.

Ursula worked her magic and Ariel's fin turned into legs! Sebastian and Flounder helped her up to the shore. Ariel loved her new legs, but she had to learn how to use them! Scuttle the seagull came by and dressed her up in the tattered old sail from a wrecked ship.

Just then, Max came bounding down the shore and greeted Ariel. Prince Eric followed. When he saw Ariel, he exclaimed, "It's you!"

Ariel nodded, but when Prince Eric realized she couldn't speak, he said, "Oh, nevermind. You couldn't be the girl I'm looking for." But he brought her back to his castle anyway because he thought she'd been in a shipwreck and wanted to help her.

The castle servants gave her a bath and a new dress and she was invited to have dinner with the Prince. Sebastian almost got cooked up and served on the platter, but he escaped with Ariel's help.

The next day, Ariel and Eric took a carriage ride. Ariel was fascinated by everything and curious to know how it all worked. At the end of the day, Eric took Ariel out on a rowboat in a lagoon. With Sebastian's help, he guessed her name. He allllllmost kissed her, but Flotsam and Jetsam were watching and they tipped the boat over!

Ursula had been watching in her crystal ball. "Drat!" she said. "At this rate he'll kiss her by tomorrow and my plan will fail!" So Ursula turned herself into a beautiful young human named Vanessa and cast a spell on Prince Eric to make him think he was in love with her.

The next morning Ariel went downstairs, but saw Prince Eric together with Vanessa. He announced that he and Vanessa were going to be married on their wedding ship that very evening! This was terrible! Poor Ariel was going to lose her family and Prince Eric, too.

Scuttle was flying over Eric's wedding ship when he looked into a porthole. He saw Vanessa getting ready for her wedding. But when she looked into the mirror, the mirror showed her true reflection and Scuttle saw that she was actually Ursula! He flew back to tell Ariel.

Sebastian swam down to tell King Triton. Flounder helped Ariel swim out to the ship while Scuttle told all the sea animals and birds to stop the wedding. Dolphins jumped up and squirted Vanessa, birds dove at her and starfish leaped up and stuck all over her.

When Ariel climbed over the rail of the ship, Scuttle pulled Vanessa's shell necklace off and it crashed at Ariel's feet. Ariel's voice floated back into her.

"Eric, it's me!" she said.

When the shell smashed, it broke the spell Ursula had over Eric. He ran to Ariel. "Ariel, it was you the whole time!" He went to kiss her, but the sun dipped below the horizon and Ariel turned back into a mermaid.

"You're too late!" Ursula cried as she turned back into her octopus form. She grabbed Ariel and dove into the water.

Eric grabbed a harpoon and went to jump in after her, telling Grimsby, "I lost her once, Grim, I'm not going to lose her again."

King Triton showed up to stop Ursula, but Ariel had signed a contract and King Triton knew he had no other choice. He offered himself in Ariel's place, which of course, was what Ursula wanted all along. King Triton withered away and Ursula got his crown and his trident.

She used its magic to make herself huge and swirled a whirlpool in the ocean, with Ariel at its center. She zapped at Ariel with the trident. But Prince Eric had a plan. The whirlpool had brought up all the old shipwrecks from the bottom of the ocean. Eric climbed aboard one of these and steered its jagged bow straight through Ursula's heart.

Ursula disappeared and all her bad magic was undone. King Triton, and all the other poor unfortunate souls Ursula had tricked were freed.

Prince Eric returned to his place on land, but as King Triton watched Ariel stare longingly at him on the beach, he said to Sebastian. "She really does love him. There's just one problem: How much I'm going to miss her."

He used the magic of his trident to turn Ariel human again. She ran out of the water to Prince Eric and he spun her around and kissed her. Soon after, they set sail on their own wedding ship. Ariel's friends and family gathered in the water around them. King Triton raised himself up on a wave to kiss his daughter.

Ariel would miss her family and friends, but she visited them at the water's edge. She got to live on land where she felt she belonged. And they all lived happily ever after.

The End.