Friday, November 8, 2013

Breaking with burlap

Last Saturday I helped a friend host a baby blessing.  One of my duties was to bring flowers and to make favors. I ended up making "vases" using empty food jars, burlap, lace and ribbon. I also came up with the idea of making burlap satchels stuffed with teabags as the favor. I squeezed in this crafting time during bébé's nap time or during her bedtime. Thus all my break time the week before the baby blessing I spent working with burlap.

Voilà the fruit of my breaking with burlap time:

The food table:

The drink table:
The hostess made a cute banner using felt with the baby's name on it which you can see in the background.

I love how she used quilted mason jars as the drink cups. It gives me an idea of using (DIY decorated) jars as drinking cups for future parties. 

Here is an example of one (of the better) favors that I made:
It was my first time sewing with burlap and lace so some of the favors definitely did not turn out as well.

Overall I enjoyed working with burlap (though my sewing machine did jam up a couple of times until I figured out how to appropriately adjust the stitch length and thread tension). I think I am going to use the leftover burlap and lace to sew a little pouch in which I can keep some items that always get lost in my abyss of a purse.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Mantel" Makeover

Trying to decorate a new home, especially with a toddler, takes an interminably long time. We have already been in our new place for about 6 months now and we are still trying to find the right pieces at the right price for the living room and our bedroom. At least the office is looking better.  It was really important for me to get into better shape especially since as a teacher I do a lot of work from home. I also work from home for my other part-time job which I  started a couple months ago.

In terms of decorating, I love how our "mantel" turned out. We actually don't have a fireplace, so "mantel" is a bit of a misnomer but we placed a floating shelf above a console table to give the feeling of a mantel.

Voilà this is how it turned out:

The Tiffany candlestick holders were a wedding present as were the Japanese tea cups and tea pitcher which I am using a vase. The "window" was actually a picture frame but I took it a part into two pieces (the rectangle in the very back is the other piece) and re-used the glass elsewhere in the house. I love the whitewash of the walnut wood on the "window" and the mirror which gives a rustic feel.  I originally wanted to use the mirror in our downstairs bathroom but it wasn't big enough so now I am on the hunt for a nice and affordable mirror.

Other items we are looking for include an oval shaped coffee table made of distressed wood or a weathered looking trunk that could double as storage and a coffee table. I have been going to second-hand stores since I like the more vintage look. I found the perfect trunk that could have been rehabbed but unfortunately when I called about it later on, it was already sold. 

Once I have a chance I will try to take some pics of the office in order to show the before and after transformation.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sayonara Shampoo

I no longer use shampoo in order to cleanse my hair. I know that must sound really repulsive but actually I have found an alternative that is much more natural, without all the chemicals found in shampoo.  So what is it? Just a simple mix of baking soda and water that I put into an old shampoo bottle. I squirt it all over my scalp and rub each section a bit and then wash it out. Then I spray a mixture of vinegar and water as a conditioner.  It actually works as a de-tangler and I can run a comb through my hair fairly easily once I am out of the shower.

One reason I wanted to try this baking soda "shampoo" is because I wanted to avoid chemicals as much as possible (which is still pretty hard to do considering unnatural stuff is obviously pretty much found everywhere) but also because normal shampoos are like a detergent, they not only get rid of dirt and muck but they also strip your hair of the natural oils. So for me what happens is that my scalp overcompensates and thus produces even more oil and so the hair on top is always so oily and my bottom hair is always more dry.

I was originally hoping that with the baking soda and water, I wouldn't have to still wash my hair everyday but I still do. At least now however, my hair is a lot more balanced. Since the baking soda doesn't strip my hair of the natural oils, my scalp is not longer overproducing oil. My top hair is no longer as oily as it used to be when I used shampoo.  I wouldn't say that I have the beautiful luscious locks of models in magazines and tv ads but at least overall unctous-ness has decreased by a lot.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bébé's backpack

I know some moms are totally against using a harness/"leash" on their toddlers. I never really thought much about them and was pretty much ambivalent towards them until bébé started not just walking but running! I blogged about how one time I was in the parking lot somewhere, trying to dig into my bottomless pit of a bag for my keys while at the same time trying to keep bébé from running into moving cars.  It was nearly impossible but fortunately we survived that incident.

Then I took her to the mall one time. We had been sick that week so we hadn't had play dates much less really been out of our complex so I had thought the mall would be a good place for us to go. It would be a change of scenery with people to whom we wouldn't be in close contact and thus would unlikely spread germs. Well, when we arrived bébé wouldn't really hold my hand, nor would she stay close to me. She kept wanting to run around (surprise, surprise) especially into stores to hide. She was also quite interested in the escalator which we rode up and down a couple of times together but I was still worried that she would make a mad dash for it and I wouldn't be able to catch up with her in time.

We also had an incident at Target where she would scream while she was in the shopping cart. But when I let her down to help me push the shopping cart (which she likes to do), she would also take off. She thought it was hilarious when I had to chase her down the aisles to try to get to her all the while pushing the shopping cart.

That is when I decided to get the harness for her.  It is not like I don't pay attention to her and where she is at all times but it just gives me a little peace of mind that she can't run/hide too far from me.  The one I decided to get her also doubles as a backpack which I like a lot. Now that she is a little older I don't feel like I have to bring my diaper bag with me EVERYWHERE like I did when she was younger,  since she doesn't need to be changed as often now. So it is nice that I can stick some of her food and water bottle in the backpack and have her carry it.

 Some pics of her with the harness while we were walking around our complex last month.

What do you think? To harness or not to harness?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hot like a jalapeno

One great thing about living in SoCal is the abundance of Mexican ingredients, food, restaurants etc.  We never get tired of the flavors but I do like to mix things up once in awhile.  I am always searching for new recipes and ways to cook.  So I was happy to have found a really easy recipe for stuffed jalapenos that someone had posted on Facebook.

1 lb ground sausage (HOT if ya like! )
22 jalapeños
1- 8 oz block cream cheese, softened
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat over 425. Cook sausage until browned. Set aside. Mix cream cheese with Parmesan cheese. Add cooked sausage and mix well. Rinse jalapeños. Cut each jalapeño lengthwise and remove seeds. Stuff jalapeños with sausage mixture. Cook for 20 minutes until tops are golden brown (cook on a large baking pan).

I had made it already once last week when I decided to make it again a few days later (at hubby's request). The first time I used all the same ingredients according to the recipe.  The second time I decided to use ground beef with homemade taco seasonings instead of the sausage.  It turned out okay but I think I liked it better with the sausage (I used the all natural Trader Joe's kind). How the stuffed jalapenos turned out was not the only thing that was different from before.

The first time I was making the recipe and cutting up the jalapenos I must have been more careful with not rubbing too many of the seeds on my hands.  The second time I must have somehow gotten the seeds/oil on my hands (though I thought I was being careful) because my hands burned for several hours afterwards!  I googled what one should do in such a situation. I tried all the different remedies but none offered immediate relief.  In the end the burning sensation did go away on its own but only after I had endured a lot of pain and discomfort.

Lesson learned: Always wear gloves when cutting up jalapenos (or any hot peppers for that matter)!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Birthday Bonanza

As an extremely practical person, I don't need to receive a present just for the sake of getting it.  I like getting things really only when I really need them or I like to just pick things (especially clothes) out for myself since I can be particular (although usually when friends/my sister get me clothes I do really like them and thankful for the gift). So most of the time when an occasion arises for which most people expect gifts (like birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas), I actually would prefer that hubby and I (and bébé too, now that we are a family) go out and do something.  Growing up my parents didn't really give us gifts so that probably is also a huge factor for me not being as into gifts as other people. 

So for this year's birthday, hubby took off a couple of days last week so that we could all enjoy my birthday long weekend.  One of the days we took a day trip to Malibu (which actually distance-wise is not too far from where we live but traffic-wise seems far away). I had been wanting to visit Malibu for awhile, in particular Adamson House a beautiful home right on the beach owned by a wealthy tile making family. I took a tour (while hubby hung out with bébé on the beach) during which I learned a bit of Southern Californian history while admiring all the beautiful tile around the house. No pictures were allowed in the house but below are some pics we took while waiting for the tour to start.

Some examples of the tile:

Hubby and bébé hanging out in the courtyard:

 Examples of the tile made by the factory owned by the family:

I took the next few pics while on the second floor of the house looking out.

A view of the Malibu pier not too far from Adamson House.

The facade of the house: 

One thing I learned from the tour was that because of the efforts of the matriarch of the family who owned this house, there is no railway that runs through Malibu.  She also fought (unsuccessfully) against a highway from going through Malibu as well.

Later that evening we went to grab dinner at some food trucks which are all parked at a high school near us every Thursday night.  One food truck that had been listed was going to be there which I was looking forward to, didn't show up. I didn't get to eat what I had wanted but I still was happy to have had a chance to make it out to there especially since we got 2 free $10 debit cards just for "test" driving the Dodge Dart. I write it in quotes because normally you had to test drive it to get the debit cards but since we had bébé they just had us listen to spiel about the vehicle and take a look inside.

On the day of my actual birthday we went to a restaurant in a resort located a few towns from where we live to take advantage of the free surf and turf that they offer to people on their birthday.  Hubby got the seafood buffet which was a little pricey but totally worth it.  It wasn't just seafood, there was a huge selection of delicious cheese, prime rib, chicken etc.   The surf and turf was good but I also snuck in a few bites of his food.  We plan to go back from our anniversary next month for the seafood buffet. I can't wait.

A pic of me and bébé running around after dinner.

The resort is located next to some cliffs.

The view while we were walking back to our car.

Another day we went to a fair in the next county over.  Bébé is still a little too young to enjoy all the rides. I saw some toddlers around her age crying while on the pony ride and the carousel so we decided to not put her on any of them this year. We think she will have a grand old time next year.  We did enjoy seeing a lot of different livestock.

Some pics we took in the tent for the horses:

We also saw chickens, cows, goats, camels, birds etc.

Goat pic:

 Camel pic:
Apparently camel milk is the most similar to breastmilk. At least that is what was written on a sign that gave information about camels. Also, the droopier a camel's lips are, the more dominant they are.  Thus younger camels don't droop their lips much since to do so would be to challenge an older camel's role.

I had wanted to see the pig races but we missed them because we were getting something to eat. We didn't realize that they would be so popular and that we had to actually wait in line to be let in. By the time we finished eating and made it back, the stands were all full and so many people were milling around that we couldn't even see the races from the side lines. Lesson learned- Next year pick up lunch, then eat it while standing in line in order to guarantee a space in the stands to see the pig races.

Celebrating my birthday didn't end last weekend. This weekend my closest friends also took me out. I went out with one friend for Indian champagne lunch buffet (yum).  I also loved the cute orange lace cami she got me as a present.  I also had coffee, cupcakes and good conversation with another good friend. Now I can start planning what I want to do for my birthday next year!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wedding Win

Bébé is a really easy bébé.  She pretty much sleeps through the night every night, usually from 6PM-6AM.  Even as a toddler she still takes at least 2 naps a day. Sometimes for more than an hour, sometimes even close to 3 hours for one of the naps.  Though we did co-sleep for several months, I did eventually sleep train her (using the graduated cry it out method) which I definitely think helped with her learning how to fall asleep on her own.

So pretty much every evening I can start getting her ready for bed around 5:30 or so and by the time 6PM rolls around I am on the couch resting a bit before I head into the kitchen to start making dinner.  It is really nice since in the evening (when I am already worn out from the day) I don't have to do the balancing act of trying to entertain a baby while also prepping and cooking food.

On special occasions, however, we do keep her up later than her normal bedtime. Sometimes we might go to friends for a potluck dinner which will last till about 10PM.  On 4th of July we went to the beach and watched the fireworks and din't get home until around 11PM. On the weekends we will sometimes stay out a little bit later if we are already out doing something as a family. Even though she has pretty much always done well, I was still a little worried about keeping her up too late for an evening wedding that we had been invited to.  It turned out that I was worried for nothing.

We went to the wedding a couple weekends ago and she did fine in the sense that she did not have a meltdown even though she didn't end up falling asleep until around midnight. The ceremony was outdoors (and very short) so she was able to run around to keep herself amused. The reception was at a church that had a playground.  She loved being on the swing so we kept her on that for awhile. Once we made it inside, she was kind of a zombie. She also didn't like it when other people other than me or my husband tried to interact with her but she didn't have a tantrum or cry at all.

Overall the entire evening was a win! We got to enjoy a night out and bébé did fine. She even had fun running around and enjoyed being pushed on the swings. She slept in a little later the next day which was good for her to catch up on sleep and it was nice for us too.

See below for some pics from the photo booth that the bride had arranged to have at the wedding. We had a ton of fun wearing all the different props and posing for the camera.

Family pic :

Group pic with some of our cooking club friends:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tiramisu Tip

My favorite dessert is tiramisu. I have had a hard time finding a place that makes it according to my liking. Usually there is way too much whipped cream and not enough of the ladyfingers, if there are included at all. Sometimes bakeries make a tiramisu flavored cake and try to pass it off as tiramisu but I can't be fooled. My favorite part is the ladyfingers soaked with just enough of the coffee and rum. 

Since it was my birthday this past week, I decided to make myself some tiramisu. I had made it before with a friend but this was my first time making it on my own. It turned out decently.  While I was making it, I felt like the ladyfingers needed to be soaked in more of the coffee and rum. I decided to just follow the recipe exactly. It was my first time using this recipe and I didn't want to deviate especially since it got good reviews. Also, when I tried one of the ladyfingers that had already been soaking, it did taste delicious. In fact I realized that for next time I am craving tiramisu, all I need to do is just eat ladyfingers soaked in rum and coffee. My taste buds were perfectly satisfied by just that combination!

I brought the tiramisu to church later on that evening and everyone seemed to like it. There was only a tiny sliver left by the end of the evening. But when I tried it, I felt like it did indeed need more of the coffee and rum. So next time I will add a little more of both. I had also made bread pudding for the kids and I actually liked it better since the bread was very moist due to the milk, egg, sugar, vanilla mixture in which it was soaked.  I think next time I will splash a little bit of rum into the bread pudding especially if it is for just adults.

I learned two things while making desserts on Sunday:

1. Ladyfingers soaked in rum and coffee make a perfectly good substitute for tiramisu (at least for my taste buds).

2. Coffee and cream spiked with a little bit of rum is very tasty! I decided to try the spiked coffee drink while I was making the tiramisu since I had a big bottle of rum on the counter staring at me in the face, begging to be used in something. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fruit Flip Flop

Do you like my new flip flops below which I bought on Saturday at Target? I couldn't resist since they were on clearance (the price I paid is actually less than the price online) and I haven't bought a new pair of bought flip flops for many years.  The ones that I have been wearing (similar to these except less white on the tong part and more blue and brown), I have had since before I moved to SoCal which was about 6 years ago. Considering the fact that most people live in flip flops here, I consider it quite a feat (pun intended) that I have managed to keep the ones that I have for so long. I love wearing stuff till they absolutely cannot be worn anymore (and even then I try to revive it by patching holes up, glueing stuff back on, etc.)

Anyway, the flip flops don't really have anything to do with this post except for it being in the title. Below is what this blog entry is really about.

So for the longest time I had the hardest time getting bébé to eat fruit.  She liked vegetables instead and would eat kale, broccoli, peas, tomatoes, spinach, carrots etc.  I tried to figured out different ways to get her to eat some fruit such as making smoothies (didn't really work), making blueberry waffles (this worked), making oatmeal and banana bites (this worked) and getting her to eat raisins and dried apricots (this worked as well). Only recently did she expand her fruit eating repertoire to include strawberries, blueberries, peaches cantaloupe and grapes. 

I only discovered that she would finally eat these type of fruit because I had made a fruit salad for our weekly Sunday potluck at the evening church we have been attending at the pastor's home. On a whim I decided to spoon some of the fruit salad on my plate to try to feed her some, not expecting her to eat any of it. To my surprise she loved it. I am thinking it has to do with the natural sugars that come out when strawberries are cut up which had coated the rest of the fruit. We had some leftover at home so I gave her some more the next day and she gobbled it down. 

I am glad that she flip flopped from not really eating much fruit at all to now eating all kinds of fruit, but it turns out that what I should have been even more concerned about is her iron intake. We went to her the pediatrician last week for one of her wellness visits and it turns out her iron levels decreased since last time we went. Now I am trying all kinds of ways to get her to eat iron-rich foods (at the right time). Not that I wasn't doing it in the past but I remembered the fact that calcium prevents absorption of iron, after the doctor mentioned it to me at the visit. I realized that all that milk she was drinking was probably causing her body to not absorb as much iron as she would have if I had just timed giving her the milk differently. So now I am trying to get her to eat foods rich in vitamin C when I give her iron-rich foods since vitamin C actually aids in the body's absorption of iron and giving her milk later on.  Hopefully at the next visit, her iron level will be way up!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

DIY-T-shirt transformation

Update- Voilà a photo of the transformed T-shirt:
I had sewn a cinched waist so as to hide my post-partum belly bulge. Unfortunately, it is still a little too big to be hidden.  Ideally if I lose the extra skin/fat around my stomach area, then the shirt will give me the illusion of more of a waist.

Original post below:
For the longest time I have had a purple skirt with an Indian fabric inspired motif for which I have been trying to find the perfect top to wear.  Because it is on the conservative side length-wise, I wanted to have a funkier top to balance it out. I could have worn a plain regular gray T-shirt or even a tank top but I wanted something more visually interesting. So I had been on the lookout for a gray off-the shoulder top that is cinched at the waist. I found some possibilities here and here. But the first one was not the right color and the second one was not the right price. Plus I was thinking of something short sleeved.

For a couple months now, I have had an idea brewing in my mind of transforming an oversized gray T-shirt that I already own into what I wanted. The image below is similar to my original T-shirt (I forgot to take a picture before I started sewing).
First what I did was to cut around the collar to give it an off-the-shoulder look. Just google off the shoulder t-shirts DIY and there is a plethora of videos to show you how to do it. 

Then I pinned the sides (wrong side out*) as seen in the photo below. I know it is very faint; I need to improve my photo taking skills. The image below only shows one side pinned but I pinned the other side as a mirror image.

Close up shot which hopefully you can see a little better:

A couple days later I finally had the time to do some sewing (life with a toddler means time most often is not your own) and this is what it looked like wrong side out. 

Overall I liked how it turned out except when bending over, my entire front would be exposed. I wanted an off-the-shoulder look NOT a see-down-my-shirt look. So I toyed with the idea of making the collar an elastic one. But then I realized all I had to do would be to sew the top of the sleeves a little bit in order to make the neckline a little smaller. See below for how I pinned it (wrong side out). The image below shows only one sleeve pinned but I pinned both sleeves the same way.

*Note-When I say that I pinned my shirt wrong side out, it was actually not inside out. My original T-shirt had a design on the front that I didn't like so I actually wanted my transformed shirt to be worn inside out (I don't mind the "deconstructed look") so that it would be a plain gray shirt as opposed to a gray shirt with a design on it. Thus if you don't like the deconstructed look, then you should pin and sew your shirt inside out so that all the seams will not be seen when you wear your shirt right-side out.

Stay tuned for a photo of the transformed shirt once I have a chance to wear it and have my hubby take a photo.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


A few months ago I told my husband that I had a confession to make.  He was all ears and so I said it, "I think Anne Hathaway is annoying." He said that that was not at all what he was expecting to hear. Hehe, I am sure he was glad that it wasn't something else that I had to confess. Anyway, a few months ago, I was watching one of those entertainment shows and I learned that apparently I am not the only one who sees the Academy Award winning actress in the same light. In fact some people actually really hate her so much that there is a nickname for them "Hathahaters".

The NY Times article that I linked and which talks about the "Hathahaters" says that people hate her for the following reasons, "She is not a real person." "She is so affected and actressy." Also she is too perfect and “We simply don’t find successful ‘perfect’ women all that likable.” I realized why  one reason I find her annoying is because she seems like an eager beaver, one who tries too hard. 
As I was thinking about it though, why should I find someone who is eager and tries hard to be annoying? If anything shouldn't we admire people who are passionate about something and try really hard for it? 

In a lot of things in life I have a very blasé attitude almost to the point of being jaded. I want to get more excited about things but then I am afraid of getting disappointed so I keep my emotions at bay and avoid getting involved.  In comparison, I would rather be one who gets excited about something and puts my heart into it because then at least something great could come out of the effort. But because of my blasé attitude, I know I am missing out. 

Another reason why I have had a hard time liking her is because my judgmental (and probably jealous) self doesn't think she deserves all the attention and the fuss since she does not have the classically glamorous Hollywood actress-look.  To me she seems more like the "drama geek" type that the NY Times article references.  I am not saying that this is right but I am making a confession after all.  Examining my (wrong) attitude toward her, obviously reminds me again of how God wants us to see people through His eyes as opposed to our eyes which have been corrupted by worldly opinions. And not just her, but everyone that God has put in my life, He wants me to see through His eyes. The hard part is to figure out what seeing people through His eyes looks like and how that translates into practical interactions with people such as family members with whom one has not always had the best relationship. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Coupon crazy

I ended up eating the leftover ice cream that we had saved in our fridge and it actually tasted a lot better. Maybe it just has to be put in the freezer and get more chilled for the flavor to come out?

Original post below:

I love saving money using coupons. I am all about getting stuff for free too. Last year I found out that for your birthday if you sign up in advance to get on different store/restaurant mailing lists you can get all sorts of coupons for free stuff.  So I made a little note on my calendar for this year's month of July to do just that since my birthday is coming up in August. So a couple weeks I googled "birthday freebies" and I came across this blog entry and this blog entry both of which have similar lists of all the different mailing lists you can get on.

Since we had gotten a $10 gift card to a certain national ice cream chain (let's call it "Chillyrock" Creamery), I was happy that "Chillyrock" Creamery was on the list as one of the places that will offer a freebie. So I signed up for a My "Chillyrock" Account and received an email stating that I could buy one "creation" and get one free.  It didn't even have anything to do with my birthday. So even if your birthday is not coming up, you can still sign up for different mailing lists that are found on the blog entry links above and receive offers/coupons for free stuff. I wish I had known that last year.

Anyway I convinced hubby that we had to go to "Chillyrock" Creamery in order to finally use our gift card (we got it last year after bébé was born as a thank you for when we went to speak at our Bradley Method teacher's class about our home birth experience).  We went and both got different "Chillyrock" creations. Unfortunately just like my previous experience with this particular ice cream chain, which was years ago, I was pretty disappointed in the taste of the ice cream.

Actually hubby and I both didn't actually really like the ice cream from this place last time we went (which is why I had to convince him to go this time).  I wanted to go again though since we had the gift card and the BOGO coupon, plus I thought maybe if we got one of the "creations" (their special combinations of ice cream flavors and other add-ins)  it would be different. Last time I think I just got the chocolate ice cream with a nut topping mixed in.  The description of the "creation" sounded delicious: German chocolate, coconut flakes, brownies, pecans. I am especially a fan of chocolate and nuts, with which you can almost never go wrong.

Well I was wrong because pretty much the "creation" tasted pretty bland except for maybe the taste of just sugar. But of course I kept eating it up anyway since I am still learning how to have self-control around food. Anyway I didn't feel so great after eating about half of a medium sized cup, I think all that sugar and not so great quality ingredients were getting to me. Hubby had the same experience with his apple pie à la mode "creation". Oh well, at least we didn't have to spend any money on this "Let's give it a second try" experience.

Lesson learned-Just because you have a coupon and gift card for something you don't have to use it, especially if you didn't have a good experience a previous time with the same place. In hindsight I probably should have just given the gift card away to someone who actually likes the ice cream from this establishment.

Tip- Start a separate email account (what I call a coupon account) to use when you sign up on different mailing lists.  That way all that mail won't clutter your personal email account and you can check your coupon account only when you are already going to a certain place to see if you there are any special deals/offers.

Chip Trick

I have tried several times to make kale chips. The first few times did not go so well. The chips were either soggy or so crisp to the point of being almost burnt and it tasted as such. After reading this blog entry I realized what I was doing wrong. The trick is to dry the kale as much as possible before baking them. Because I wasn't drying the kale enough, sometimes the same chip would be soggy and burnt because only part of it was dry while the other part wasn't and so the dry part would crisp up much quicker while the other part remained soggy.

So earlier this week I figured out what I have to do. The evening before the day that I am about to make the chips, I spin dry the kale several times with my salad spinner (the one I have is comparable to the one I linked) which was a wedding present and so we have had it for the past almost 7 years and use it all the time.  The I lay out the kale (already torn into small pieces) on my jelly roll pan and let it continue drying over night. In the morning I toss the kale with some oil and then baked it in the oven for about 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees (always watching the kale closely so that it doesn't burn).

It comes out so much better now after learning how important it is that the kale be as dry as possible. The best thing is that bébé loves eating the kale chips which are healthy and a great source of vitamins and minerals. I have been feeding them to her as her mid-morning snack and she just gobbles them down. I actually did not add any seasoning other than the olive oil though the recipe I linked does include a secret ingredient. If bébé ever decided to not eat the kale that I have been making, then I will probably try the linked recipe with the special seasonings.

Below are the tasty, crispy, nutritious kale chips baked and eaten all in one morning. There was more but I took the picture after most of them had already been eaten.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Walnuts work

*Second Update* Today I made a new batch of the pesto using more parmesan than before, spread the pesto on half of a soft whole wheat tortilla, folded it in half and then put it in the toaster oven to toast for a few minutes. I fed it to bébé and she loved it. It was like eating a souped version of a quesadilla but with more protein (from the walnuts) and vitamins/minerals (from the basil).

*Update* We just got back from a walk on the beach and I needed to prepare something for bébé for lunch. I decided to add more oil and the parmesan to the "spread".  I mixed in the now full-fledged pesto with some small shell-shaped pasta and bébé ate a lot of it. I was happy because nuts are a great source of protein especially since she doesn't eat as much meat as she used to.

Original post below:

We went to a potluck sometime last year where someone brought this delicious basil pesto.  I couldn't stop dipping veggies and pita chips into it. I really enjoy eating pesto but one of the times I had bought bottled pesto at the supermarket it tasted weird and I didn't like it. Normally I prefer to prepare food from scratch but the idea of spending close to twenty dollars a pound for pine nuts was not appealing. I wouldn't have bought a whole pound of pine nuts anyway, but even just a handful would have been close to five dollars.

Anyway, while I was reading the ingredients of the pesto at the potluck I realized that the nut used was not roasted pine nuts but walnuts instead.  Now walnuts, as well as most nuts, are not cheap but at least it is a more economical substitute for pine nuts. So yesterday I decided to make some pesto using all the basil leaves from the potted plant I got from Trader Joe's a few weeks ago and some walnuts that I picked up from the bulk bins at my favorite supermarket.

I used this recipe for inspiration.  I rarely follow recipes exactly and this one was no exception. I ended up using much less oil and no lemon juice. I forgot to throw in the parmesan (it was later in the evening and I was tired). The consistency ended up being similar to pecan and herb  spread that I had used under turkey breast skin (from a Rachel Ray recipe I found years ago) for our first Thanksgiving dinner here in SoCal the year we moved here. It was just hubby and me since we didn't really know anyone here and all our family is back East, which is why we only needed to have turkey breast instead of the whole turkey.

Anyway I realized this evening that I had some leftover chicken drumsticks which I needed to bake before they went bad. So I decided to spread the "pesto" under the skin and bake them. It turned out decently. I should have used more salt and pepper so that it would have been better seasoned which I will try to remember to do next time.

Friday, July 19, 2013

DIY Decor (on a budget)

I love Pinterest. It has really expanded my mind to all different ways to decorate and how to decorate, especially on a budget. Even before we moved I had already started pinning many many ideas for our new home. I was really excited to especially decorate bébé's room, which was originally a plain white color. From Pinterest I got the idea of using gray as a neutral color. I like it because it is not a usual neutral color like white or beige, but an out-of-the-box neutral. I like to think of it as a sophisticated neutral. It took a little convincing but hubby agreed to it, though he was hesitant at first.

 Bébé's room: Before shots

Voilà bébé's room: After shots

For the crib area I re-used the Japanese tree blossom decals that we had up from our old apartment. I had saved the original packaging and when it came time to move I carefully took off each decal and placed it on the sheet on which it came. I sewed the curtains myself. I got the idea of using ribbon as the ties up top from a blog (which I unfortunately can't find anymore).

For links to general inspiration shots, see herehere, and here.

For the opposite wall I hung up some Japanese lanterns that I found at the Japanese $1.50 store that opened up a couple years ago in our town using this image as inspiration. I also did some DIY decorations. Hanging on the door is something I made using scrapbook paper, with the meaning of bébé's first and middle name and including one my favorite photos that I have taken of her. This was something I originally made for a little party we had after her dedication ceremony at the church we attend.  I decided to re-use it by hanging it on the outside of her door which is opening into the room in the shot above.

Here are some close up shots of my DIY projects:

I painted a canvas white with gray chevron stripes (using a stencil I found and printed from online). I used cardboard, yarn and some flower embellishments to make a pretty letter "A" which is the first letter of bébé's name. 

This is something I made after bébé's dedication ceremony. I printed out the prayer and blessing we had read over her, pasted it on some scrapbook paper, added a flower embellishment, and framed it.

For the "shadow box", I found a random birch colored box we had lying around and painted it white. I decided to wrap an Eiffel Tower statue with pink ribbon to give the feeling of ballet shoes tied up. This particular Eiffel Tower statue has special meaning because it was part of the decorations of the wedding shower that my sister threw for us. I also decided to tie a pink ribbon around the neck of the koala bear an Australian friend gave bébé.   Originally I was going to hang the frame and the canvas on either side of the "shadow box" but I realized I actually like the look of everything together, with the frame and canvas on top of the "shadow box" and canvas overlapping the frame a little bit. 

See here, here, here for the inspiration photos. 

There are still some more things I would like to add to bébé's room but for now I am liking how it is coming along.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Star Skater Spotting

I found out from one of the moms in my playgroup that the LA Kings practices in a town nearby. We had originally wanted to have a playgroup outing there so that we could watch them since it is open to the public. Unfortunately the weeks that we had wanted to go, they weren't practicing because they hadn't advanced in the playoffs. Later on, one of them moms found out that we can actually watch world class ice skaters while they practice their routines there. So two of us moms went (though our playgroup has four moms it is always hard to coordinate nap schedules for everyone to make it) and got to see several ice skaters one of whom was Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympic Gold Champion.

Though I stopped following ice skating a long time ago, I still really enjoyed watching the skaters do their jumps and spins just a few hundred feet away from us.  The most memorable part of the outing though was when I was walking to the parking lot and trying to get my keys out of my black hole of a bag at the same that bébé (who is now quite a walker AND runner) wanted to explore the area which included cars driving by. It was nearly impossible to hang on to her while also digging through my bag. My lesson learned that day was to always get my keys out BEFORE heading out of a building.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Back to Blogging

So after a very long hiatus, I have decided to finally start to try blogging again. One of the main reasons for why I stopped blogging was because we went through a very long, difficult and stressful escrow.  Thankfully we ended up getting the mortgage.  After doing some work on our place, we were able to move in this past March. The whole time we were so stressed though and I really didn't know how we were going to get through it all but with God's help we made it.  Some reasons for the stress-our lender pretty much lied to us about not having to pay mortgage insurance but it turned that we did have to because we put a down payment 5% rather than 10% (though he knew the whole time that we were only going to put 5% down and still originally said we would not have to pay the mortgage insurance), The bank also took forever in approving us for the loan thus jeopardizing our chances of getting the condo since the owner originally wanted a 30 day escrow which ended up becoming a 60 day escrow.

We also had a very stressful move since our 1 bedroom apartment was too small for us to pack in advance since there was no where to put the packed boxes. We had started sleeping on a blow up mattress in the living room so that our almost 1 year old daughter could sleep through the night. Then the actual day of the move was hard since we were packing and moving at the same time, while also taking care of a baby.  We had issues with the contractor who was doing work on our place too.

But anyway, like I wrote before, God got us through all the difficulty. We survived!  The lesson I learned was that no matter how difficult and stressful a situation/circumstance is, with God's help everything will work out in the end.