Monthly Archives: October 2014

Game Success: Twister


Who knew Twister would be so much fun for college students?!?!

We’re never sure just what’s going to go over well with our friends here in China. Sometimes the things that our American friends absolutely love are a “fail” with local friends; other times really simple things will entertain guests for hours… and hours! Last night at a girls’ night we hosted here we whipped out a game of Twister we’d bought on Taobao a while back.

The high heels flew off. Girls called each other out for group challenges and one-on-one face-offs. There was laughing. And pushing. And so much fun. These girls played this game for more than an hour… which is a really long time for Twister. Anyway, it obviously depends on your group of friends, but I wanted to take a second and jot this down on the list of things that have officially “worked” for us in the entertaining guests department!

(I just Taobao-ed Twister in English and a bunch of hits come up for anywhere between 10 and 28 RMB. The one I ordered showed Hannah Montana on the box, but the mat inside (thankfully) was just a normal Twister board with no sign of Ms. Montana.)

A couple of practical (and obvious) tips:

  • Everyone should take their shoes off so they don’t damage the board.
  • Have extra t-shirts available if girls have lower cut shirts on and want to change before the game.
  • Best played in single-gender groups (at least with our students).


Germany Date


This month we traveled to Germany for our very own German experience! We really did keep this month simple. Here are some fun ideas for creating your own German experience:

  • Dress up with some sort of German theme. The dress code for our date was “German Awesome.” As usual, we just grabbed whatever we could find around the house. I dressed up in German flag colors; Austin dressed up in some traditional-ish clothing.


  • Listen to some German Music. 
  • It’s October, which hosts Germany’s Oktoberfest, well known for its beer. Austin made up some ginger beer as a non-alcoholic alternative. (That recipe is coming soon… it’s so good!) Or drink soda, or juice, or kombucha, or whatever you want!
  • Decorate with Germany’s colors. I just rolled out some red, yellow, and black paper.
  • Play some form of the game of “Beer Checkers,” substituting in whatever drink you may prefer. We borrowed a checkers board and several small cups from a friend and had to take a drink when one of our pieces was removed from the board.
  • Watch a short documentary on Oktoberfest.
  • Watch a German movie. We watched Run, Lola, Run. It was good, entertaining, not too long. It’s not going to go down as our favorite movie of all time, but I think it works for this date if you can’t find another one. It was also pretty short, just an hour and 15 minutes or so.
  • Learn some German phrases and use them as often as possible during the date. The ones below are from
Hi! Hallo!
Good morning! Guten Morgen!
Good evening! Guten Abend!
Welcome! (to greet someone) Willkommen!
How are you? Wie geht’s dir/ Ihnen?
I’m fine, thanks! Danke, mir geht’s gut!
And you? Und dir/Ihnen?
Good/ So-So. Gut/ So la-la
Thank you (very much)! Danke (vielmals)!/ Vielen Dank!
You’re welcome! (for “thank you”) Gern gescheh’n!/ Keine Ursache!/ Kein Problem!
Hey! Friend! Hey! Kumpel! (only for male people)
I missed you so much! Du hast/ Sie haben mir so gefehlt!
What’s new? Was gibt’s Neues?
Nothing much Nicht viel.
Good night! Gute Nacht!
See you later! Bis später!
Good bye! Auf Wiedersehen!/ Tschüß!
  • Soft pretzels are a staple of a good German Oktoberfest celebration. Make up a batch of soft pretzel dough and have a contest to see who can make the coolest pretzel. Have cinnamon sugar, pretzel salt, sprinkles, etc. available for decorating.
  • Other menu ideas are a roasted chicken, German Bierock, and German chocolate cake. (Our chicken turned out great. I just bought a whole chicken from the local market (minus feet and head), rubbed it down with about 6 cloves of grated garlic, some salt, and some freshly ground black pepper about an hour before cooking, and then baked it at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 60-75 minutes until it was cooked through.)



Taco Seasoning


Taco seasoning… one of those things that used to be at the top of our list to receive in care packages from the States. We’ve recently started making it for ourselves, though, and we can’t even tell the difference. We use this all the time now on taco nights and Mexican quesadilla bar parties!

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions and Notes

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Add the spice mixture and 2/3 cup water to 1 pound of browned and drained ground beef or pork. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil  and then reduce to a simmer until most of the water is gone.

Tip: If you’re in a hurry, add a little flour if the liquid isn’t evaporating or thickening fast enough.

Cinnamon Sugar Almonds (Or Mixed Nuts)


I’ve been making honey roasted nuts for a few months now in the oven. But I love my crock pot, so this week I set out out to find a recipe for nuts that I could make in it. These nuts were so incredibly tasty! I made them yesterday and they made the house smell absolutely amazing. Now, just hours later, they’re almost gone. This recipe’s a keeper for us!

4 cups nuts or choice (I used raw nuts that I’d already roasted for about 20 minutes.)

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/4 cup white sugar

3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon (yes, that’s Tablespoons)

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 small egg whites

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup water

Directions and Notes:

1. Place nuts in the bottom of a crock pot.

2. In a small bowl, combine vanilla and egg whites. Pour over the nuts and stir until nuts are coated.

3. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pour over the nuts and stir until the nuts are coated.

4. Cover the crock pot and turn it on low. Cook the nuts for three hours, stirring every 30 minutes. After two hours, add 1/4 cup water.

5. After three hours, turn the crock pot off. Remove the nuts from the crock pot using a slotted spoon, and place them on baking paper to cool. Stir the nuts every 3-5 minutes until they are cooled. (If you forget to stir them, you’ll end up with one hardened clump of nuts.)

6. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from: The Recipe Critic

Mexican Rice


I’ve made this Mexican rice twice now for Mexican-themed food bars. It’s pretty mild in flavor, but our local guests absolutely LOVE it. It’s really good for adding to burritos or for making burrito bowls.


3 cups white rice

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/3 cup chopped onions

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 Tablespoon chicken broth granules

4 cups water

Directions and Notes:

Combine all ingredients in a rice cooker. Stir. Cook until rice is done.

Fruit Turkey


This is just a fun holiday idea that we’ve done every year since arriving in China. Our first year here, we were assigned to bring the fruit salad to a Thanksgiving dinner we were attending. I thought that a normal bowl of fruit salad sounded kind of boring and uninventive, so we put together this little guy:

We shaved a little bit off the side of a cantaloupe so it could sit firmly on a baking sheet, plate, etc. Then we used wooden barbecue skewers to skewer fruit in as many colors as we could find.
To make the head, we attached a small pear to the cantaloupe using toothpicks. We used raisins for the eyes, apple for the beak, and red pepper to form the front feet and gobble. Our friends love taking pictures with this thing every year when they come over for Thanksgiving dinner. In a land where turkeys are sparse, this fruit turkey is the only turkey at Thanksgiving dinner, and we welcome him!

Quesadilla Bar {With Printable Labels}


One of the hardest things about planning dinners here is trying to get everything out and on the table and warm at the same time while working with a limited kitchen and guests who show up whenever they like. So for my birthday this year, my friends were coming over and I decided to give myself the gift of less stress by setting up a make-your-own-quesadilla bar where the food would be heated as each person arrived and wanted to eat.

I stir-fried veggies and taco meat in advance, shredded cheese, and made some salsa. When my friends came over, I showed them how to put together their own quesadillas and let them choose for themselves what they wanted to use to fill theirs. Then I had two stations where they could cook up their quesadillas. (I ended up pulling up a chair to these stations and doing the cooking myself, but that was easy.) Because everything was already cooked through, the quesadillas just needed to cook long enough for the cheese to melt and the outsides to brown.

Guests loved them and went back for seconds. I served salsa on the side in little cups for dipping.

Here are some cute, printable labels in English and Chinese to put out at your own quesadilla bar. To download the English and Chinese version, click here: Quesadilla Bar Labels

To download the English only version, click here: Quesadilla Bar Labels- English Only

And here’s a preview of what the English-Chinese ones look like. There are 3 pages total:

And finally, here are just a few basic words and sentences that may be helpful in directing and discussing the activities from this post (Paste any of the characters into to see them converted to pinyin):

Mexican rice-墨西哥米饭
cheese- 奶酪
black beans- 黑豆
onions- 洋葱
green peppers- 青菜椒
tomatoes- 番茄
cheese sauce- 芝士酱/奶酪酱