Time for a new blog

We started a new blog a month or so ago to encompass all of our integrated learning through life…Being in Our Element.  This blog was getting old, but will stay up as it has so much information and links for Mandarin learning used by lots of Chinese Teachers 🙂 Most of that stuff is from years ago, so feel free to browse for ideas for learning Mandarin in the class or at home 🙂

Bye for now 🙂

Mandarin Chef’s Tomato Soup

Lucas has started his new Bilingual Cooking YouTube Channel ‘Mandarin Chef Down Under’

He will upload videos of the yummy things he makes, in English and Mandarin, hoping to help English speaking kids learn Mandarin, and Chinese speaking kids learn English, all through simple cooking 🙂 So click on the link above and subscribe, coming soon will be his Lemonade Scones 🙂

Here is his latest upload, Mandarin Chef’s Tomato Soup (English and Chinese, together with the pinyin transcript to help learners below)

You will need to watch how to make Mandarin Chef’s special spice mix also for the Tomato Soup recipe, but once you have made a batch, it will be a good spice mix to marinate meats, fish, and add to soups 🙂

Transcript of Tomato Soup Recipe:

Peel the onion, then dice, jiāng yáng cōng qù pí  qiè ding 將洋蔥去皮,切丁

Put a splash of oil in the pan, zài guō lǐ fàng yī diǎn yóu, 在鍋裡放一點油

Turn the stove on high, bǎ zào wēn dù tiáo gāo, 把灶温度调高

Put the onions in the pan, bǎ yáng cōng fàng zài guō lǐ, 把洋葱放在锅

Finely chop three cloves of garlic, 切碎三瓣大蒜, Qiē suì sān bàn dàsuàn

Add it with the onions, Jiā shàng yángcōng, 加上洋蔥

Sauté for a little, chǎo yī diǎn, 炒一点

Add one tablespoon of Mandarin Chef’s special spice mix, Jiārù yī tāng chí Mandarin Chef tè bié de xiāngliào, 加入一汤匙Mandarin Chef特别的香料

Watch my special spice mix video for the recipe, 观看我的特别香料视频以获取食谱, Guānkàn wǒ de tèbié xiāngliào shìpín   yǐ huòqǔ shípǔ

chop two zucchinis, qie liǎng gè xī hú lu, 切两个西葫芦

Put it all in the pan, Fàng dào guō lǐ, 放到锅里

Chop Two carrots, Qie liǎng gè hú luó bo , 切两个胡萝卜

Add them to the pan, , 将它们添加到锅中, Jiāng tāmen tiānjiā dào guō zhōng

Chop 750g of tomatoes, 切碎七百五十克西红柿, Qiē suì qī bǎi wǔ shí kè xīhóngshì

Add them to the pan, 加入锅中Jiārù guō zhōng

And mix 并混合Bìng hùnhé

Add a 400g tin of diced tomatoes, 加一罐400克切成丁的西红柿 Jiā yī guàn  Sìbǎi kè qièchéngdīng de xīhóngshì

Add 1L of chicken or vegetable stock 加入一公升的鸡肉或蔬菜汤, Jiārù yī gōngshēng de jīròu huò shūcài tang

And stir it in , 搅拌一下 Jiǎobàn yīxià

Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour 烧改用慢火一个小时 shāo gǔn hòu gǎiyòng zhōng màn huǒmèn yī gè xiǎo shí

Use a strainer to put your vegetables in the blender 使用滤网将蔬菜放入搅拌机 Shǐyòng lǜ wǎng jiāng shūcài fàng rù jiǎobànjī

Then you can blend your vegetables 搅拌蔬菜 jiao bàn shūcài

Mix the blended vegetables with the remaining tomato juice in the pan将混合的蔬菜和剩余的番茄汁一起放入锅中Jiāng hùnhé de shūcài hé  shèngyú de fānqié zhī  yīqǐ fàng rù guō zhōng

Serve it into a bowl 放入碗中 Fàng rù wǎn zhōng

Garnish with some basil, 装饰用罗勒 Zhuāngshì yòng luó lēi

Serve with sourdough  配酸面包Pèi suān miànbāo

And enjoy 请慢慢吃 qǐng màn màn chī

Boiled Egg and Soldiers

Lucas has decided to make a series of bilingual cooking videos, so has started simple…good old Boiled Egg and Soldiers 🙂

He hopes the video will help both Chinese kids learning English, and English speaking kids learning Chinese.  The script to the video, with the pinyin added for Chinese learners, is below,

Put a pan of water on the stove top

在灶上放了一锅水 zài zào shàng fàng le yī guō shuǐ

Turn the stove top on high

把灶温度调高 bǎ zào wēndù tiáo gāo

Cover with a lid

gài shang gài zi 盖上盖子

Turn the grill on high

把烤架温度调高 bǎ kǎojià wēndù tiáo gāo

Put the bread under the grill

把面包放在烤架下 bǎ miànbāo fàng zài kǎojià xià

When the water is boiling turn the heat on medium

煮沸后把灶温度调中  zhǔfèi hòu, bǎ zào wēndù tiáo zhōng

Put the egg in the pan, boil it for around 5 mins

把鸡蛋放在小锅里。煮沸鸡蛋五分钟. bǎ jī dàn fàng zài xiǎo guō lǐ 。 zhǔfèi jīdàn wǔ fēnzhōng .

Get your plate and egg cup ready to go

把蛋杯放在盘子上   bǎ dànbēi fàng zài pánzi shàng

Scoop your egg out the pan

把鸡蛋从小锅里舀出来  bǎ jīdàn cóng xiǎoguō lǐ yǎochūlái

Chop the top off the egg

切下蛋顶部     qièxià dàndǐngbù

Oops don’t forget about your toast

哎呀!别忘了看烤面包  āi yā ! biéwàngle kān kǎomiànbāo

Spread butter on the toast

将奶油涂在土司上 jiāng nǎiyóu tú zài tǔsī shàng

Cut your toast into soldiers

切条像兵一样 qiètiáo xiàng bīng yīyàng

Put the toast on your plate


bǎ kǎomiànbāotiáo fàng zài pánzi shàng

And enjoy

请慢慢吃  qǐng màn màn chī

And don’t forget some salt

别忘了加盐 bié wàngle jiā yán

And it’s also nice to have a cup of tea with it

跟一杯茶一起端  gēn yī bēichá yīqǐ duān


Our Taiwan Zero Plastic Bottled Water Challenge

When we hike around Taiwan later this year, our goal is to do it with


When we hiked the Himalayas in Nepal earlier this year we set ourselves the same goal and we did it! More to come about how to talk about this is Mandarin 🙂 But in the meantime here is a write up from Aurora about why and how we did it in Nepal:

We did lots of reading about Nepal and hiking as we prepared for our trip. We learned about the problems that rubbish is causing in the Himalayas, polluting all the rivers. Because the water is so polluted, it’s not safe to drink water in Nepal, we would need to buy lots of plastic bottles of water, adding to the rubbish problem.

When we first booked our flights for our adventure, we made a team emblem. It was our ‘footprints’ around the mountain representing each one of us, training together and supporting each other as a team, then hiking the Himalayan mountains! But they were also a literal representation too, to leave only ‘footprints’.

Lucas and I made the above picture to show our challenge! We had to help the rubbish problem, have safe drinking water, and leave only footprints, how on earth were we going to do that???????

We watched videos about the ‘mountains’ of rubbish that have been left behind by hikers and climbers in the Himalayas, and it was really sad. Even when it gets moved to mountain dumps it gets burned causing all kinds of toxic pollution.

As we have researched though we also found lots of people doing good things to help the rubbish problem, which was nice to see.

Like this one:

And this one, solving plastic bottle and poop pollution problem in one!

But we asked ourselves what can WE do as a family?

When we hike Australia we always bring our rubbish home. But we can’t do that in Nepal.

On our last hike in China, we bought bottled water from the guest houses along the way. We had to, as you can’t drink the water in China either. Although we didn’t throw the empty bottles along the trails, we did leave them in the guest house ‘bins’. But where did they go after that? When we were in Nepal, we saw how many of the guest houses in the mountains throw all the rubbish that the hikers leave behind into the river. When we were in Kathmandu, we walked along the river and saw all the mountains of rubbish that had flowed all the way from the villages. Here are some pictures of the rubbish we saw.

As you can see, sometimes we saw rubbish piled in holes along the mountain tracks, this gets ‘burned’ which is not good for the environment. Or we saw rubbish thrown from the guest houses into the rivers, which ends up in Kathmandu rivers.

We watched this TED ED video as a reminder that there is no throwing ‘away’ of a plastic bottle…

The third bottle in the video helps save the planet by being recycled…but in Nepal there is no official ‘recycle’ program.

The water being unsafe to drink in countries like China and Nepal has left hikers with no other option but to buy bottled water…which means several plastic bottles per day per hiker…with 100s of thousands of hikers …it’s not hard to work out the huge problem! The ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ slogan isn’t helping in a place like the Himalayas…

…So we decided to add another ‘R’…


The challenge for us on our adventure in Nepal was


So how do we do this when the water is not safe to drink?

A bonus is that as we have already hiked so much in the wilderness, so we already know a little about the different ways, and their pros and cons of treating water. We also read about what other trekkers in Nepal are doing.

There are a variety of ways to treat water, such as boiling, iodine tablets, pump filters, straw filter bottles, UV light etc., each one has its pros and cons. Here is what we plan to do on our hike in the Himalayas:

We are fortunate we already have a SteriPEN we bought few years ago when Mum and Dad started taking us on long hikes.

Here’s me using our SteriPEN to treat creek water on our Hinchinbrook Island hike.

The UV light of the SteriPEN kills bacteria, parasites and viruses in the water You have to fill a special litre water bottle, then put the pen in the water for 90 seconds. Usually we then fill our drink bottles of water bladders for the day.

The downsides are that the pen requires batteries, spare batteries can be heavy while hiking on long hikes. The pen kills stuff, but doesn’t filter…so the floaty bits and sediments will still be in the water. It could break, in that case you need a back up!

So for our trip to Nepal, we also bought a water filter bottle each. They were dear, but when we weighed up the cost of bottled water, and saving the environment, we thought the price was OK. So when we steripenned our water, we then poured the water into our filter bottles.

The filter bottles are a 2 stage filtration system. They filter out bacteria, Protozoa, gets rid of any dirt particles, reduces odor, bad taste and organic chemical matter such as pesticides. They can’t kill viruses, but our steripen does this, so we are covered by using both!

So here are the tools for our water treatment plan:

The time to treat everyday, and the extra weight to carry the Pen and spare batteries,were a little inconvenience. But we felt worth it to do our little bit to reduce the plastic pollution in this area of the world. Many other hikers are doing this too…if every hiker did this imagine the reduction in rubbish on the mountains!

Here is my Dad treating the first bottle of water when we arrived at our Kathmandu apartment. We were really scared to trust it at first!!!!! We had to trust the UV light was killing all the bacteria and that the filters in our bottles were working!

Here are a few piks of me on the trail, and Lucas in a Katmandu restaurant with our life saving life straw bottles! They went with us EVERYWHERE! We were able to fill our treatment bottle from the same source as the local villagers, treat with the steripen, then put in our own filter water bottles. Even though we were a little scared at first, Mum told me that this water would probably be better for us than our tap water in Australia, as the filters also filtered out the chemicals that would be used to treat our water in Australia! Can you spot our water bottles in the pictures??? One picture even has our steripen waiting to treat our water at our lunch stop for the afternoon!


It was good to be able to take action and do something to help reduce the pollution in Nepal’s rivers. We saw lots of other hikers using the LifeStraw filter bottles, and we met another Australian family using a steripen. We were the only ones using both! We hope that more and more hikers can spend a little extra money on a filter bottle, it will save them money having to buy bottled water and save the environment!

Learning spoken Nepali

None of the online Nepali courses or YouTube channels are working for us!  We were trying to find a ready made, kid friendly course…but all we could find were random phrase memorisation style programs, or isolated grammar videos.

There was one free course, developed by the Nepali Peace Corp that does seem to scaffold Nepali in a way that helps you build on sentences…and explains the grammar so that you can learn how to put a sentence together and substitute words to say what you actually want to say!!!  But it is so old it looks like the pdf download was actually scanned from a document typed by a typewriter!!!!  It is not a kid friendly course at all.  I originally dismissed it for this reason….But it may be all we have to work with to help us build our Nepali!

SOOOOO…….I have spent the last week following the course myself, learning the aspects of Nepali grammar and memorising the sentences, and starting to get a feel for Nepali word order, and how the pronouns and verbs work in different sentences.  I’m a language teacher!!! So I am learning 1 step ahead of the kids, and creating our own resources to learn together in a more kid friendly way! 

I am creating our own documents as we go through the course, colour coding grammar aspects so that we can clearly see which word in the sentence is the pronoun, noun, verb, question word, adjective etc., so that we can start to substitute words in the sentence patterns as we learn them.  We have colour coded flash cards for games.  Kids are writing the conversations in the same colours, and memorising them.  We are learning vocab through kinesthetic gesture, props and music, what we call a WAM session, (words, action, music).  Most of the gestures in the above video are taken from Auslan Sign Language.  We use these to teach Chinese too, so we are already familiar.  Gestures help link meaning and aid in recall.  The music provides a rhythm and focus, plus the kids get to listen to their fave songs while learning Nepali 🙂

We are finding our way together, and relying on poor quality sound files for pronunciation.  So our plan is to learn as many conversations as we can each week, then hope to practice what we have learned via Facetime with a Nepali speaker 🙂

Below are the sentence patterns we are learning first, and the tables below that contain the vocab for those first sentence builders.  We have colour coded these on our files as Verbs-Red, Nouns-Blue, Adjectives-Green, Question words-Orange, Pronouns-Purple, Conjunctions and Other words-Black.  Sorry I cannot upload tables in colour on this blog 🙁 But you can see from the piks above how we have coloured our own learning materials 🙂

Conversation 1 

  1. namaste.
  2. namaste.
  3. tapaaiko naam ke ho?
  4. mero naam Aurora ho.
  5. wahaako naam ke ho?
  6. wahaako naam Lucas ho.
  7. tapaaiko ghar kahaa ho?
  8. mero ghar astreliya ho.
  9. wahaako ghar kahaa ho?
  10. wahaako ghar nepaal ho.  

Conversation 2  

  1. yo ke ho?
  2. yo kalam ho.
  3. yo kasko kalam ho?
  4. yo mero kalam ho.
  5. tyo ke ho?
  6. tyo kitaab ho.
  7. tyo kasko kitaab ho?
  8. tyo wahaako kitaab ho.
  9. yo ni?
  10. tyo tapaaiko kitaab ho.  

Conversation 3  

  1. tyo ke ho?
  2. yo kitaab ho.
  3. tyo kasko kitaab ho?
  4. yo mero kitaab ho.
  5. kitaab kholnus. tapaaile ke gareko?
  6. maile kitaab kholeko.
  7. wahaale ke gareko?
  8. wahaale kitaab kholeko.  

Conversation 4  

  1. Lucas!
  2. hajur.
  3. tyo kalam ho?
  4. hoina.
  5. tyo ke ho ta?
  6. yo kaapi ho.
  7. tyo kasko kaapi ho?
  8. yo mero kaapi ho. 

Conversation 5  

  1. tyo ke ho?
  2. yo kalam ho.
  3. tyo kasko kalam ho?
  4. yo mero kalam ho.
  5. tapaaiko kalam kasto chha?
  6. mero kalam kaalo chha.
  7. kalam dinos. tapaaile ke gareko?
  8. maile kalam dieko.  

Conversation 6 

  1. tyo ke ho?
  2. yo jholaa ho.
  3. tyo kasko jholaa ho?
  4. yo wahaako jholaa ho.
  5. tyo jholaa kasto chha?
  6. yo jholaa seto chha.
  7. tyo jholaa dinos. tapaaile ke gareko?
  8. maile jholaa dieko. 

Conversation 7 

  1. Aurora!
  2. hajur.
  3. tyo kasko kitaab ho?
  4. yo mero kitaab ho.
  5. paDhnos. tapaaile ke gareko?
  6. maile paDheko.
  7. tapaaile kasko kitaab paDheko?
  8. maile mero kitaab paDheko.
Verbs Nouns


Is (to be )

(to locate things and people) eg. the pen is on the table, He is at home

Also quality of something or somebody




home, house





To give




shoulder bag





To do




note book





To open









To read







Is (to be)  (define something or somebody) eg. This is my house

Kathmandu is the capital








Is not

(negative of ho)







Is not

(negative of chha)






Questions Pronouns








my, mine























What colour, How? (Qualitative)









your, yours


Adjectives Conjunctions /other








Yes (polite)









then /so









and how about…?


Getting fit- Thilba Thalba 1 night hike

Santa brought the kids their very own hiking tents. So we thought we would test them out with a short but steep 6km 1 night hike up Gheerulla Bluff to Thilba Thalba remote bush camp, which forms part of the Sunshine Coast Great Walk 

Kids have been on quite a few extended hikes now carrying packs, including Hinchinbrook Island earlier this year.  But while they have been little people, we have had a really light 4 man hiking tent to enable the 4 of us to do these hiking trips, and distributed the weight of all our gear and food so that the kids only had to carry about 5kgs each, gradually increasing it as they got older.  This is the first time that they have had their very own tent to carry, so they were pretty keen this time to carry all their own gear, clothes, food and water!

They packed their own packs, didn’t weigh each item (like we did for a maths activity when we packed for Hinchinbrook), just used their common sense and spatial awareness learned from previous hiking adventures. Their packs ended up being about 8kg each.

Kids also pitched their tents, and pulled them down to pack into their packs themselves.

The Walk is a grueling climb, but awesome views at the top, and a nice lookout at the camp area to have cuppas 🙂

Great little, but still challenging hike for the kids’ next level of hiking 🙂

They won’t need to carry their tents on our Himalayan Trek, but all the little training adventures add another layer of experience and fitness  🙂


Traveling on a budget….shopping challenge part 2

So now Lucas’s turn…$100 cash for 5 days worth of meals, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the whole family 🙂 Click on the link for full details of the challenge.

His menu plan nice and healthy and tasty, and costs calculated from Woolworths website

His list for stuff he has to buy, and stuff already in our cupboard he needs to pay proportionately for.

Just like his sister, he made a video of his shopping trip. He’s made lots of animation videos before, but this was his first time chopping and editing video footage in iMovie.

He’s only 11, but I totally stepped back giving no help in his menu planning, budget calculations or shopping list.  I thought that he would make a few mistakes, to learn from of course, but he walked me through his plans and calculations and they were meticulous.  He spent $80.50 at the checkout, owed me $8.40 for items that we already had in the fridge/cupboard, and was reimbursed $10 for proportions of food that he did not need in his shop.  He’s planned a pumpkin soup that will do 2 dinners, making a new Persian dish but substituting the lamb for cheaper chicken, making his own chicken stock for his chicken and corn soup, and made changes during his shop to take advantage of the specials.  He ended up with $21.10 change that he gets to keep…as long as we don’t need anymore food for the 5 days.  I am really impressed and looking forward to his dinners….I already know he is a good cook and will deliver on his plan…

Will post a review on both of their challenges at the end of the week 🙂

Traveling on a budget…our shopping challenge

Preparing for our Annapurna adventure and recording all our learning from it is helping the kids learn how they can achieve their own goals.

Undoubtedly ‘money’ is a necessity if your goals are adventures like going to Nepal to hike around a mountain!

Kids have been working hard to save money for the gear we need to hike safely in Nepal, and have already saved over $500!

But we will also have to think about a daily budget for meals and accommodation while we are on our trek….to make this trip affordable for us we must set a daily limit.

Kids have both really enjoyed watching the ABC series ‘Teenage Boss‘ with Eddie Wu, where kids get to manage the family’s budget for a month.  So they set their own little challenge:

Planning and managing our meals/snacks for the whole family from a Monday to Friday, with $100 budget.

Aurora’s challenge:  Mon 10th Dec to Fri 14th Dec
Lucas’s challenge:    Mon 17th Dec to Fri 21st Dec.

Challenge guidelines :

  • Plan breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for 5 days (Mon -Fri), with $100 budget.
  • Shop for the food for the 5 days’ meals.
  • Manage the food allocation to all family members, including cooking dinners, allocating lunches etc for the 5 days.
  • If food that we already had in the fridge/cupboard was used, the cost of the item will need to be added to the expenditure.
  • If spices/condiments used, then a proportion of the cost added eg. spoonful of curry powder might be 20 cents…as it is impossible to buy new condiments for all meals within the weekly budget.
  • Kids get to keep any money left over!

Here is Aurora’s menu plan, she figured even on a budget she could make the food desirable and healthy, catering for everyone’s diet needs,  lots of veg, and a little treat of an After Eight Dinner mint each at the end of the day:

Here is her shopping list, she looked on the Woolworth’s website for the cost of each item, so that she could estimate the cost and ensure that she didn’t go over budget:

Aurora was given $100 cash, and off she went to the shops (with Lucas helping her).  Her shopping bill was $61.80.  She calculated that she was going to use $16 worth of food we already had in the cupboard.  So she came well under budget…and has $22.20 as a buffer over the week in case she underestimated the amount of food we need 🙂 …or gets to keep it if we don’t need anymore food!

She also edited this little video of the shop trip, ‘Teenage Boss’ style:

Awesome job up to now, but how will she go over the week with the food that she has bought???? Will we starve? We will have to wait till Friday to find out….

In the meantime, Aurora came home from a track session at 6.30pm Mon evening and got straight into making our dinner, then prepared Dad’s lunch for him to take to work…I think she has this better than Mum 🙂







Getting fit – Gherulla Falls

We are ramping up our training for Nepal, this weekend pulling up a little sore after a 22 km walk in Mapleton National Park.

We decided to do a 22 km circuit that forms part of the Great Walk, and part of the Blackall 50/100 trail run. Here is the National Parks’ map for this section of the Great Walk.

And here is a map Lucas mapped for us with google maps to map the section that we would be tackling this weekend.

We parked our car at the end of Sam Kelly Road, so that we got to conquer the daunting ‘Gherulla Bluff’ right at the start with fresh legs, shade and morning temperatures.  Last time I ascented this Bluff was during the Blackall 50, after already running 20kms and in 11am heat…it took me 2hrs to reach the top!

This time it took us 1 hour to reach the top, and 6.5 hrs to complete the whole circuit, including a couple of refreshment stops, and potato salad to give us some much needed energy!

The track is unforgiving, hilly and hard on the feet in many sections.  It’s uneven and rocky, needing a mental alertness each step to place feet in the best position, the impact giving your whole body a physical workout.

Creek crossings were a bit dry, but enough water to dip our hats in to cool down 🙂 After rain, crossings require good rock hopping balancing skills, or just wading through.

But still enough water in the water holes for a swim at the end to cool down 🙂

A great circuit to do every now and then to test endurance and resilience 🙂

Australian Curriculum Links

Too tired to map them this time 🙂 but you can imagine the geography, maths, health outcomes, and those core values we learned through experience together 🙂