New Reading Streak Friends

New Reading Streak Friends

A few months ago, I read Alice Ozma’s book, The Reading Promise.  I was so taken by her story that I blogged all about it .  Next, my boys and I decided to follow in Alice and her father’s footsteps by trying our own summer reading challenge.

We’ve been reading 64 days straight now.  The original plan was to end the streak the last day of summer break… which is coming up real fast… only we’ve decided we’re having too much fun to stop…

And now we’re joining new friends with a reading challenge of their own!

Fourth grade teacher, Katie Hartman, at Sinking Springs Elementary School in PA was so inspired by The Reading Promise that she started a reading streak with her entire class and set up a blog about it and invited parents from her school to make the commitment to read aloud with their children regularly.  Katie also found my posts about our reading streak and invited us to share our reading experiences with her school.

Pretty exciting, don’t you think?  Well… at least I’m all keyed up over this new twist to our reading challenge.  I’ll be guest blogging on the Sinking Spring’s Reading Project.  First introductory post went up today.  If you’d like to take a look, you can find me here.

Reading alone, in parallel or aloud.  Sharing titles, feelings and opinions.  Connecting over a story.  Such a simple, but powerful, wonderful thing.

Soba Snack

Soba Snack

During our recent California trip, my Japanese sister-in-law introduced us to a delightfully refreshing & easy to make snack – soba!

We were long past lunch but hours away from dinner..  Our boys had been swimming in their uncle & auntie’s pool all afternoon.  We were hot, tired and ready for something to munch on.  At my house, I would have just pulled out a jar of almonds or bag of chips or perhaps just a banana… so it was a lucky thing for us that we weren’t at home.  Instead, we were treated to this cool, light, yet satiating semi-meal that Missy whipped up in under 15 minutes.

We enjoyed this dish so much that I took notes so I’d be able to make it for us once we returned to NYC.  Which I did… super easy to make and just as delicious in NYC as in LA.  The toughest part to making this snack is buying the groceries.  I didn’t see the soup base at our local grocery store, so I ended up going to a Japanese grocery store (M2M in NYC) to buy all the ingredients.

Here’s the list of ingredients for this soba dish:

Soba soup base.  No need to heat this up.  In fact, served cold on a hot summer day is perfect.  Just pour a modest amount of this salty tasty broth into a small bowl (think Asian teacup sized).

Seaweed.  Not the salted & roasted Korean version.  Use the Japanese sushi kind.

Wasabi.  Of course, wasabi…

Soba noodles.

Fresh, crispy scallions.

Dice scallions.  Just a dollop of wasabi.  Use scissors to cut up the seaweed (I used just one sheet of seaweed here).

The soba noodles cook up really fast.  So be sure to keep an eye on it & stir as needed.  I took it off the stove as soon as it lost its floury taste.  Rinse thoroughly in cold water.  Toss with ice cubes and drain noodles.

Add any or all of the scallion, Nori and wasabi to the soba soup base.  Mix.

Dip a big chopstick full of soba noodle into the broth and slurp it up (Missy says the slurping part is mandatory).


Thanks Missy – we loved it!  And looking forward to seeing you & Taek again soon!!!

Disneyland 2012

Disneyland 2012

Home at last from visiting family & playing at Disneyland.  We had a blast running about Disney for 5 days, but I am really beat!  I’ve got to say, Disney is not for the faint of heart… especially when your (my) spouse is determined to make the most efficient use out of every Disney moment of the day.

Our typical Disney day went something like this:

5:30 am:  Jin pops right out of bed.  Packs drinks and snacks for us.  Drags Val, Si & E out of bed.

6:15 am:  In line at the Grand Californian entrance into Disney California Adventure (for hotel guests only)

7:00 am:  Early entrance to Disney California Adventure (for Disney resort guests only).  Run about and ride either Toy Story Midway Mania or the new Radiator Springs Racers ride as many times as possible before official opening of park.

8 am – 2 pm:  Continue to play in California Adventure.

2 pm – 6 pm:  Back to hotel.  Swim.  Lounge.  Nap.  Eat.

6 pm -10:30 pm:  Head over to Disneyland Park.

10:30 pm:  Walk the shopping gauntlet known as Disney Main Street.  So tempting to buy stuff.  Any stuff.  Every single time.

11:15 pm:  Drop face first into bed.  Definitely asleep before head hits pillow.

Be ready to repeat the schedule the next day….

We had an insanely good time together.  Our boys were finally big enough to keep up with us all day.

We explored the new Cars Land.  Amazing.  It really did feel as if we’d stepped right into the Radiator Springs.  Loved the racing ride…

But our family’s favorite ride remains the Toy Story Midway Mania.  Talk about complete immersion… this interactive 3D ride rocks!  We actually went on this ride 12 times total.  By the end of our visit, some of the Disney cast members working the ride recognized & would greet the four of us as we walked by this attraction…

Simon discovered a passion for roller coasters.  He & Jin made it their mission to get on every roller coaster in the parks.

Ethan was still too short to be allowed on the rougher rides.  And I was too chicken.  Instead…

 E’s rendition of Oswald the Rabbit

We learned how to draw different Disney characters at the Animation Academy…

Wandered about exploring stores and looking for folks we could trade pins with…

And went on rides that didn’t make me want to vomit or have an anxiety attack (yes, I really am a coward when it comes to roller coasters).

We were just as excited to eat our favorite park foods as we were to go on the rides.  Corn dogs.  Churros.  Those great big turkey legs.  Talk about indulgence!

All in all, we had an exhausting but truly splendid family adventure.  What a great way to finish the summer.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

This has been one challenging read aloud week!  We’re still on the road.  And now our reading time has had to go head to head against 11 hour days at Disneyland…

I’m proud to say we are still reading; even if it’s just the minimum daily amount specified in our summer reading challenge.

We’re a bit of a sight… we’ve been reading at 6:30 in the morning as we wait in line to enter Disney California Adventure.

Actually, Jin is the one holding our place in line at the special entrance from our hotel into the park.  The boys crouch over their cold “breakfast” (can we really count sugared cereals as food?) while I slurp coffee and read to them.

We are just one chapter away from completing our seventh read aloud this summer:  The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.

I picked this book for myself.

It’s the story of two little cousins.  Sylvia, orphaned and gently reared by her poverty stricken aunt, sent to live with her wealthy cousin.  Bonnie, privileged and beloved only child of Sir Willoughby and Lady Green.  Her fairytale childhood shadowed her parent’s imminent journey to warmer climates in hopes of improving her mother’s poor health.  It’s about what happens when their supposed governess turns out to be an evil villain.  Bonnie is made an orphan.  Faithful servants are thrown out of Willoughby Chase.  The girls are sent off to slave away for a cruel woman hiding behind the guise of school mistress.  How can there be a happy end to this terrible string of events?

I adored reading this story as a child.  Can’t recall what brought this story to mind but I had a yearning to read it again with the boys.  I didn’t see it in the bookstores, but I was able to order a copy from Amazon.

The first few chapters were rocky ones.  The language in the book is more sophisticated than the boys are accustomed to.  The setting completely unfamiliar (19th century England).  We had to stop numerous times to discuss new ideas and vocabulary.  Why was Sylvia so poor?  Why couldn’t her Aunt Jane just find a job?  How could she just be sent off to live with a cousin?  What did it mean that Bonnie’s father was a “Lord?”  Why did Bonnie live on a “Park?”  And how big as that park anyway?  Who were all the other people living in Bonnie’s home?  Servants?  What?  And why were servants called only by their last names?

Their questions were endless.  I was starting to think I’d made a poor book choice.  But somewhere during Sylvia’s terrifying wolf haunted train ride to Willoughby Chase, the story clicked into place for us and my boys were hooked.

I loved this story enough as a child to remember it 30 years later.  Although I didn’t have the same reaction to it as an adult, I’m so glad I had the chance to experience the book again with my own children.  It’s also been interesting to discover how much writing styles have morphed over time.  I read this quite effortlessly to myself years ago.  In the present, my boys struggled to fall into the rhythm of the words.  Especially glad that we did this one aloud.  I’m sure they would have given this one up in frustration if they’d tried it on their own first.  But here we are, at the end of the story and both boys are eager to discover what happens to Bonnie, Sylvia and that terrible Miss Slighcarp at the end of the story.

Midway Mania Rematch

Midway Mania Rematch

Would you believe we were one of the first guests to enter Disney California Adventures this morning?  Is that not completely crazy?

Determined to avoid the 2-3 hour wait in line for the Radiator Springs Racers ride (the hottest new attraction on the parks), Jin dragged us out of bed at 5:40 this morning.  We were in line to enter the park by 6:20.  And no, we were not alone in our insanity.

Disneyland resort guests were allowed access to the park one whole hour before everyone else today.  We triumphantly entered at 7 o’clock sharp…

…Only to discover that due to maintenance, Radiator Springs Racers would have a delayed opening…

No worries.  We were, after all, in Disneyland!  It took us only a split second to decide our back up plan.

We jogged over to Paradise Pier and were the first to ride Toy Story Midway Mania.

We’re wild about this attraction.  We play in teams.  “Team Tuck & Roll” (Simon & me) versus “Team Chip & Dale” (Jin & Ethan).  We play as many times as we can stand to wait in the queue (usually at least 45 minutes each time).  We then tally our team scores to determine the winner.

Sixteen months ago in Florida, Team Tuck & Roll kicked Team Chip & Dale’s butts 2 rounds out of 3 and had the greater cumulative score.  It was time for a rematch.  We had high hopes to win once again…

 Team Tuck & Roll (Si & Val)
Do you know what it means to be at California Adventure one whole hour before the official opening?  It means we got to play 4 rounds of Midway Mania with absolutely zero wait time.  It was awesome!
Here’s are Simon & my scores:
Round 1 – 67,300
Round 2 – 108,100
Round 3 – 96,200
Round 4 – 116,000
Round 1 – 114,700
Round 2 – 129,900
Round 3 – 145,700
Round 4 – 126,600
We had to stop after the 4th ride because our arms were starting to cramp…
Our cumulative score was 904,500.  Not bad… or so we thought… until we tallied the other team’s scores…
Team Chip & Dale (Jin & E)
Round 1 – 178,000
Round 2 – 208,000
Round 3 – 200,200
Round 4 – 218,300
Round 1 – 42,200
Round 2 – 64,200
Round 3 – 66,400
Round 4 – 66,000
A hands down victory for Team Chip & Dale.  They beat us in every single round and of course, took the overall win with the cumulative score of 1,043,300.
We (Team Tuck & Roll) were distraught.  What on earth had happened?  How could we have been crushed by such a wide margin?  True, Jin is the one power player in the family… but we’d managed to beat him before…  Si & I gnashed our teeth and ripped at our hair as we looked the scores over again… was there a math error?  Had our performance been that awful?  What….?
Ahh…. yes… of course.  Our eyes fell on Ethan’s scores.  He had finally figured out how to aim.  His scores were about 10 times better than the last time we’d played.  Little boy had tipped the scales on us.  Good for him… but a complete bummer for us…
All this, and the park had yet to officially open.  It was a grand morning.  And will be an even grander evening.  We’ve rested up during the afternoon heat & should be ready to go another round once the evening breezes roll in.
Will most definitely have more to share about this summer’s Disney adventure.
One final thought.  If we can get out of bed early enough, we get to enter the park at 7 tomorrow morning as well.  Wonder if we should hold just one more Midway Mania rematch?