End of Summer Photo Diary

I am loving reading LaurenConrad.com these days & she recently posted an End of Summer Photo Diary. This post is entirely inspired by hers. :) 

The summer started with the birth of this cutey, Elijah! We've tried to spend at least one day a week in the company of this gorgeous little man and his mommy and daddy, our close friends, Justin & Catherine. Photo by Catherine.
 We went to an awesome & super patriotic 4th of July Party.
Then, we zipped on over to Shanghai for a day, and then red-eyed it to Manilla.
We took a tour of Zachary's future new school & explored a little of Manila.
Then spent a heavenly week in Bohol...
 where we saw the Chocolate Hills, pet a giant snake, saw the rare tarsier, zip lined, motor biked, snorkeled...
 stayed at this fantastic resort..
 fed monkeys for the first time..
 and kayaked the gorgeous Loboc River.
 As soon as we got back to China, Zachary bought a scooter which has improved our summer immensely.
The scooter has inspired me to start wearing sleeveless shirts, which is, seriously, quite an accomplishment for me. All the Vitamin B is doing my heart & soul some good!
We checked out the pseudo-jazz band at the Himalayas with our good friend & Himalayas GM, Sonny & stuffed our faces at Z1 (Pseudo because there's just a keyboardist and singer, NOT because they don't sound awesome, because they do!).
 We rode our scooter tons!
 And helped Trent and Angie by their own! (Scooter gang in the works, ya'll!)
 We went to a dinner party at our friend's new apartment where they have this view.
 We explored some of Lao Shan's hidden gems, like crystal clear lakes and green tea fields.
 After a few weeks of tutoring, snuggling up with our girl dog & enjoying our new bike, we headed to Beijing, stayed in the Hutongs and hiked the Great Wall.
 Exactly, one week later we jumped on a plane and headed to another famous city in China, Xian.
 Where we saw an entire army of Terra Cotta Warriors!
And to close out this fantastic summer, we are now officially an aunt & uncle, with the birth of my sister's first little boy, Sebastian. 
And here we are guys, 2 days out from our first day back at work. It's been an awesome summer. One of the best, actually. We are feeling so blessed.  What does your End of Summer Photo Diary entail?

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Papaya Salad

I am not a big papaya fan. For some reason all the papayas I have ever tasted taste like smelly feet to me. Anyone else have the same problem? But, I am a HUGE fan of green papaya. In case you are wondering, green papaya is not the same as a regular papaya. I was about to say it was a regular papaya, just green and unripe, but then I used the good ole' google and found out that they are not the same. Good thing I checked, eh? You can find green papayas in Mexican or Asian grocery stores. Green papaya is nice and crunchy & completely non-smelly feet in taste. Score and score. 
This is what those green papaya beauties look like. ^ I love this salad. It's healthy, crunchy and refreshing. But be warned it has a spicy kick!
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1 serving
100 g green papaya, cut into strips
100g carrot, cut into strips
1 tomato, sliced
1 cucumber, cut into strips (if desired)
30g roasted peanuts
1-2 tbs fish sauce
1-2 tsp palm sugar
2-3 red dried chili peppers
1 lime
5-6 grilled shrimp (if desired)-personally, I love shrimp with this!
 extra peanuts and mint for topping (if desired) 
*In the original Thai recipe from our Thai cooking class also called for 2 long beans, cut into 1 inch pieces. But we never tried it with them & Zachary's not a fan of the squeakiness of long beans when you eat them. 

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Cut the green papaya, cucumbers and carrots into thin strips. Slice the tomato into wedges. Combine and put aside. Place garlic, chili and the peanuts into a mortar and pound those babies with a pestle until the chili's and garlic are broken up.  Add fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and pound until the sugar separates. Add to your papaya, carrot, cucumber and tomato mixture. Mix well. To with more crushed peanuts, mint and shrimp if desired. Enjoy!
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Please allow me to introduce you to...

Boo, the Loboc River Resort carabao. Boo, is the name I just gave him, he is a carabao, pronounced like caribou, the reindeer. So naturally, his name is Boo. Carabao is a common water buffalo in Bohol.
This Boo, was awesome, and we had great views of him right outside of our room window at LRR. As you can see he has a very hard life as a water buffalo wading through the water eating lush green plants all day.
He has scratchy skin, like an elephant. I like him because he's cool, ya'll. He's like a prehistoric cow or something. Or maybe just a water buffalo, but I didn't grow up around those, so Boo is very exotic friends.
That is all, Reader. I just thought you should see how awesome Boo is.
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Our Little Get Away

Since having the scooter we've tried to take as many opportunities as possible to go and explore Qingdao before summer is over. We've loved riding it & have explored our city, even in small ways,  like taking a new route to our usual places. 
A few weeks ago we took the thirty minute drive out to Lao Shan Beach & took time to explore the Lao Shan area a little more. After we enjoyed a nice walk on the beach, we turned off the main road and followed a little road through one of Lao Shan's many villages ending up amidst the beautiful mountains with some stunning little lake views. It took less than 20 minutes to 'get away' from the city & car noises, with no one in sight.
2014 Rural Life 
We were amazed by the spectacular water views & the quiet people-less views. It's hard to come by in China.
There were several small dams on the way up.
This water was crystal clear. We wanted to jump in so badly!
After we walked around a bit, we found a tiny tea farm, which also had a few tables, where you could drink tea & have lunch.
They had fresh green tea and fresh vegetables for sale. I had to go to the bathroom and was directed by the little old lady & man, the farms owners, to the back of the shop, towards their house. I walked past a dog, a turkey and a few chickens to get to the small opened roof brick 'bathroom.' It was more like an outhouse but was surprisingly clean.
Green tea is famous here in Qingdao. I'm not a huge fan of it but this tea, nice and fresh, was delicious. Maybe it was the ambiance or my good mood, but I really enjoyed it.
The old lady shop owner let us come into her kitchen and point out which veggies we wanted.
We pointed to eggplant and green beans but she ended up bringing out all of the dishes above plus a huge plate of steamed scrambled eggs and veggies. We were so full! It was all delicious though, fresh and lacking the usual Chinese restaurant oil, which we appreciated.
Can you spot Zachary?
After lunch we rode back through the village & arrived home before we had our afternoon tutoring. It was so cool to us that we could have what felt like a little vacation by appreciating our city & God's creation getting away all in a few hours.
I loved this day. It reminded me that I don't have to buy a plane ticket to get away. Heck! I didn't even need a whole day! I just needed a few hours, with my love, with a grateful heart & a quiet soul, to feel refreshed & renewed! post signature
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