March Comes in with a Bang

The saying goes that “March comes in like a lion”, but for us it came in with a loud bang as we enjoyed two exciting yet loud events in Portland. The first was the much anticipated MarchFourth concert at the Crystal Ballroom. This amazing band originates from Portland and were back home to celebrate their 15th anniversary. We were able to see them perform a few songs earlier in the winter, but were super excited to go to their full show and we weren’t disappointed!

MarchFourth does an amazing job of bringing so much energy to the stage. In addition to the fabulous singers and musicians their shows features stilt walkers, acrobats, and amazing costumes. The music makes everyone dance (or at least tap their feet) and you can’t stop humming the songs for days afterwards. The Younger Fives did a great job staying up into the very late hours of the night in order to enjoy the show. They also rocked their new Peltor Ear Muffs (hearing protection at a MarchFourth show is a must), which made mom and dad very happy.

After a night of loud music and dancing we headed off to the Lan Su Chinese Garden for the very last day of Chinese New Year. In and of itself Lan Su Chinese Garden is an amazing oasis in the middle of downtown Portland, but during Chinese New Year it is even more special. The garden was beautifully decorated and there were many celebratory crafts and demonstrations going on.

However, most anticipated by our family was the Lion Dance. The Lion Dance is performed to chase away evil spirits and is occupied by loud banging and often firecrackers. The International Lion Dance Team performed the dance in the main courtyard of the garden and the kids had a great view of the three lions as they danced to the loud drums, cymbals, and gongs. The kids especially enjoyed watching the lions chew and spit out lettuce to bring good fortune for the new year.

It was definitely an exciting beginning to our month. Now we will just have to wait to see how March goes out. Maybe soft cuddly things are in our future.


Year of the Caballo


In our family a sense of longing always sets in during January. December is holiday central for us, with all three of the Younger Fives having their birthdays, as well as Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Needless to say, there is a bit of holiday withdraw when January 2nd comes around. Maybe it is for this reason that we search out holidays from around the world to celebrate, and Chinese New Year has become one of our favorites.




We always start getting ready with some homeschool activities and decorating. The kids really enjoyed exploring the Topmarks Chinese New Year site, which has everything from customs and traditions to an e-book explaining how the order of the Chinese zodiac came to be.There is even a Dragon Game that gave them practice with putting numbers in order (decimals and negatives included). From there we pulled out the red paper and practiced our calligraphy with the character which is traditionally printed on a red diamond and hung upside-down from a door or doorway.




As the New Year approached, chores that can sometimes be a struggle (Aww, Mom and Dad say we have to) suddenly became fun (Yay, it’s part of the Chinese New Year tradition). Five Spice pulled out the hair cutting kit to give everyone a trim, and then we brainstormed a list of chores to clear away the bad luck of the previous year. Everyone pitched in, and soon our casita looked as spotless as the day we arrived (but of course nothing lasts forever, or for more than a few hours in this case).



The night before Chinese New Year the kids were eager to leave an offering to the Kitchen God, and they decided that animal cookies would fit the bill. Then when the big day arrived, we all headed to the kitchen for our New Year feast. Being here in Mexico, it was easy to include lots of lucky fresh fruits, such as oranges (traditional) and mangoes (not so much). Five Ball and High Five snapped the green beans for a stir fry, Five of Hearts arranged the fruit plate, and Five Spice worked her magic in the kitchen preparing Long Life Noodles, Pineapple Strawberry Pancakes, and other delights.


When we finally sat down to enjoy a wonderful meal at the beautifully decorated table, we all were ready to welcome the Year of the Horse (Año del Caballo) with full plates and warm wishes for the New Year. It surely was not the most authentic of Chinese New Year celebrations, but it what it lacked in authenticity it made up in sincerity.

Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival, and Long Life Noodle Recipe


After spending many weeks preparing for the Year of the Snake, it’s hard to believe it is already the end of the Chinese New Year festivities. We’ve learned quite a lot about Chinese culture, calligraphy, and paper lantern making along the way. While we’ve checked out more than our fair share of library books on the subject, a few stood out as excellent resources on the history of the holiday and as resources for New Year themed crafts.

Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Imperial China (Magic School Bus) by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen

Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, Meilo So

The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin


Dressed in our finest red outfits, we couldn’t wait to start preparing our Lantern Festival feast. Noodle soup, fried rice, long life noodles, and tofu prepared two ways (ginger and General Tso’s) graced the table, and we just couldn’t wait to dig in.


If the picture above has given you an appetite, here is the recipe for making your own Long Life Noodles. Long, unbroken noodles are said to give a long life, so by all means, go back for seconds!

3 carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 TBS ginger root, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 pound cooked bucatini
3 TBS soy sauce
2 TBS Kecap Manis (or substitute with a sweetener like Agave Syrup)
1 TBS sesame oil

Saute onion and carrots over medium heat until they start to brown. Add rest of vegetables and stir fry until tender. Add bucatini, and the mix in soy sauce, Kecap Manis, and sesame oil to taste for the sauce.