Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

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Around February or March, Melbourne holds a huge food and wine festival with opportunities to taste various dishes, visit restaurants, bars, and food stalls, take part in classes with famous chefs, tour restaurants, and relax in a variety of dining experiences. We love all things food, so we decided to “travel” to Melbourne for our very own festival on one of our at-home dates this year.

Here are some ideas for creating an at-home Melbourne Food & Wine Festival atmosphere:

  • Watch a commercial, documentary, etc. about the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

  • Provide a spread of fun and/or fancy foods. We kept ours really simple, probably the kind of thing actual chefs at the real festival would cringe at, but it was good enough for us! We had shrimp with cocktail sauce, a small pizza, bruschetta and bread chips, some fresh blackberries that happened to be in season, and some bacon-wrapped asparagus.

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  • Watch some cooking videos. You can choose some of the videos that were filmed at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival or any other cooking shows or clips. If you want, have the ingredients laid out for cooking one or two of the recipes, and cook together as part of the date. There’s a huge variety to choose from. If you search for “Melbourne Food and Wine Festival MasterClass” on YouTube, you’ll get lots of hits.
  • Our dress code was “kitchen classy/ hipster tourist.” We like to just choose a fun dress code and then look around the house and get creative in finding our costumes.
  • If the cooking videos aren’t enough to keep you busy, find a movie with an Australian theme.

Antarctica/ Ski Lodge Theme Date

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With a busy three months of house guests, friend drama, and other unexpected twists in the plot of our life, we were running a little behind on our monthly “destination” dates. So back around April, we finally got around to our January date, which was an “Antarctica/ Ski Lodge” theme… basically, we needed a destination, which was Antarctica, but we obviously didn’t want to sit around on icebergs freezing to death, so we pretended there was a ski lodge there and we were cozily bundled up inside!

Here are some ideas for a fun date with some theme along these lines:

  • Dress up in winter gear. It was legitimately about 40 or 50 degrees in our home on this particular date night, so it felt good to bundle up.

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  • Decorate with throw blankets, hats, scarves, gloves, and boots. Pull up a space heater as a “fire.”

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  • Drink hot chocolate or simmer apple cider or apple juice on the stove top with cinnamon sticks and cloves to make the house smell warm and wonderful.
  • Make some kind of comfort food… chili, grilled cheese, some kind of your favorite sandwiches, etc.
  • Set up a sauna and massage center. Run the hot water in the shower as hot as you cana get it, close the door and block the space underneath the door with a towel to let the steam build up. In about 10 minutes, you should have a decent steam room.
  • Watch an Antarctica documentary.

  • Watch a movie with an Antarctic or winter theme. We settled for Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Other options include 8 Below or The X Files- The Movie.

Thailand Songkran-Themed Date

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In April/ May we had an at-home date with a Thailand theme. Songkran is the Thai new year festival.

A little background on the festival: The celebration traditionally involved sprinkling of water to signify respect, welcome prosperity, and was away bad luck. In modern times, this sprinkling has turned into water fights in the streets.

Here are some ideas for visiting Thailand and/or celebrating Songkran at (or near) your home:

  • Dress in Thai clothing.

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  • Fill water balloons or water guns for a battle outside your home. (If you live on China, the roof of your building may work!)
  • Eat pad thai, satay, papaya salad, green curry and/or cucumber in vinegar. Unfortunately, I don’t have any “tested and approved” recipes to share here; we were in the process of moving, and I ran across some packets of mixes for preparing Thai food, so I just used those.

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  • Watch a documentary about Songkran.

  • Listen to Thai music.

  • Watch a movie set in Thailand. Some options include Anna and the King of Siam, The King and I, and The Impossible.
  • Watch an instructional video about doing Thai massage and then practice.

New Caledonia Avocado Festival Date

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Our date-around-the-world dates this year have been much lower key than last year’s but have been lots of fun. Most of them have lined up with some kind of festival or holiday that’s going on in a given country in a given month. In early May we “traveled” to New Caledonia for the Avocado Festival, which was held there from April 30 through May 2 this year. We mostly celebrated through food. Here are some ideas from creating your own Avocado Festival experience:

  • Have lots of tropical fruits for eating and making various drinks and dishes together.
  • Watch a commentary or other video about New Caledonia.

  • Dress in something tropical or beach-themed.

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  • Make guacamole. Serve it with corn chips and fresh veggies.

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  • Make smoothies with tropical fruits and avocado.
  • Play tropical music or something from New Caledonia.

  • Relax with avocado facial masks (or a different green avocado-wanna-be mask). We opted to eat all of our avocados rather than using them on our faces, so I can’t recommend a certain “recipe” for making a face mask, but there are lots of simple ones out there on the Internet.

Ice Cream Sundae Party

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We invited one of our groups of friends over to let them know we’d be having a baby (news they’d long been waiting for!), watch “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (we love theme nights), and eat ice cream sundaes! We had a wonderful, special evening together and left feeling quite full of all the sugar you could imagine. Here are some pictures of our evening:

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To download the PDF, click here: Ice Cream Sundaes And finally, here are just a few basic words and sentences that may be helpful in directing and discussing the activities from this post with local friends:

  • Ice Cream Sundaes- 新地
  • Ice Cream- 冰激凌
  • Oreos- 奥利奥
  • Snickers bars-士力架
  • sprinkles- 装饰彩糖
  • chocolate syrup- 巧克力酱
  • bananas- 香蕉
  • whipped cream- 鲜奶油
  • ice cream cone- 蛋筒
  • almonds- 巴木旦
  • walnuts- 核桃
  • chocolate chips- 巧克力丁
  • caramel sauce- 焦糖酱
  • shredded coconut- 椰丝
  • Choose any toppings that you like to put on your ice cream.- 选择任何你喜欢的装饰配料放到你的冰激凌上.

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Fruit Sculpture Contest

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We had another good term with students. One girls’ night we hosted was a fruit sculpture contest. We all went out for dinner first, and then 16 girls came back to the house to compete in a flurry of cutting, skewering, and designing. It was a wonderfully simple event; all we had to do was buy the fruit and provide knives and cutting boards.

We told the girls they should work in teams of 3-4 and that they had 30 minutes to complete some sort of fruit sculpture. They had a lot of fun; some teams built vertically, and other teams made elaborate pictures more horizontally across their plates. When the time was up, we gave each team a chance to explain their creation, any symbolism, etc. I think they had as much fun with that part as with making the sculptures in the first place. We recognized each team and let the girls choose prizes from our prize table (which was conveniently filled with things we were getting rid of as we moved anyway.) Here are some pictures we took that evening:

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And finally, here are just a few basic words and sentences that may be helpful in directing and discussing the activities from this post with local friends:

  • fruit sculptures- 水果雕刻
  • Use the fruits provided to make a sculpture out of fruit. Please work slowly and carefully. Put any edible parts of the fruit that you are not using into the big bowl for making fruit salad. You have 30 minutes to complete your sculpture.- 用所提供的水果来做一个雕刻。请小心谨慎进行。把任何用不上但可食用的水果部分放到这个大碗里做水果沙拉用。你有30分钟来完成你的雕刻。
  • cutting board- 切菜板
  • knife- 刀
  • fruit- 水果
  • toothpicks- 牙签
  • first prize- 第一名
  • second prize- 第二名
  • third prize- 第三名
  • Most Elegant Sculpture- 最优雅雕刻
  • Most Creative Sculpture- 最具创意雕刻
  • Most Colorful Sculpture- 最具色彩雕刻
  • Most Special Sculpture- 最特别雕刻

Japan-Themed Date

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Well… It’s been a while. Earlier this year we had several house guests, some short-term and others not-so-short-term, which kept us busy. Then there was my computer breaking, which has made it a major task to even check e-mail, never mind uploading pictures, linking posts, and blogging. Then there was finding out that we’re going to be having a BABY and the traveling and appointments away from our city, so yes, I’ve been adequately distracted. However, I’m back and ready to continue sharing some of our China experiences, ideas, resources, etc. from time to time.

We’ve been continuing with our second year of date-around-the-world monthly dates. In June we traveled to Japan. We had a whole lot of good food & a great time.

Here are some pictures of our experience and some ideas for creating your own at-home Japan date:

  • Wear some sort of Japanese-themed outfit, something that looks like a kimono (or a bathrobe will work, too!)

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  • Decorate with paper fans or lanterns.
  • Sit on the floor with a mat. We used an old bamboo mat that came with our apartment.
  • Watch a karate documentary and do a karate lesson together.
  • Do origami. This site has lots of great printable instructions.
  • Listen to Japanese music.