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Happy 10th birthday, Miranda!

Miranda turned 10 years old on August 22nd, but she decided to wait to celebrate it for about a month, since our friend Denise was due to arrive then with a suitcase full of presents. As compensation for her admirable patience, Miranda got to choose the restaurant for the birthday celebration.

Her choice: Hot Pot!

Miranda had never had hot pot before moving to China, but had quickly concluded it was her favorite cuisine after having it several times during our Plum Island adventure.

Fortunately, we were able to find a great hot pot restaurant nearby that didn't exclusively serve mutton, since Miranda (out of loyalty to her cute little stuffed lamb named Calisa) refuses to eat mutton in any variation. Even still, as this shot of the menu shows, most of the dishes at a hot pot restaurant are some variation of lamb.

If you look closely at the menu, you'll notice that this section is titled "Swill". I have no idea how they came up with this translation, but it is somewhat accurate.

Here's why:

In a hot pot restaurant, you order raw meat and vegetables, and then place them in a vegetable or meat broth that is kept bubbling hot.
In a traditional restaurant (like the one we went to), this is accomplished via a strange-looking metal contraption that burns coal. In the newer hot pot restaurants, they simply take a large metal pot and heat it on an electric burner (more efficient perhaps, but far less romantic!).
Now that you understand the basic approach, the term "swill" might make more sense. You place the meat and vegetables in the pot, and you "swill" them around. Or perhaps they mean you swirl them around?
In any case, if you're sharing a hot pot with high-energy compatriots who are only too happy to help everyone else with their swilling, you might end up in a hot pot version of the game "Twister"...

We made rapid work of the mounds of meat and vegetables, and soon moved to the evening's main event: presents!

Miranda was not disappointed by waiting for the suitcase full of gifts, which included an entire new addition to her growing Playmobil empire,

and the newly published continuation of her favorite series by Tamora Pierce!

Then, after the presents came the final touch: the birthday cake!

This year (in keeping with theme of unusual cuisines) Miranda decided that she preferred a pie over a cake.

Fortunately a nearby restaurant (appropriately named "Grandma's Kitchen") was only too happy to oblige. Combined with a quart of local (and yummy!) vanilla ice cream, it was the perfect ending to a memorable 10th birthday!

Happy birthday Miranda!



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