Archive for July, 2010

July is almost gone now, but it was a month filled with the highs and lows of life. Milestone birthdays of 80, 83, and 88 years were joyously celebrated, but tempered with sad news from friends. July brought the reminder that life is to always be appreciated and celebrated.

#1 – Artistic Skylines
Lately I seem to be posting links to series of photos taken around the world, and, although I promised myself I would not do it this week, I am again linking to another series of photos. It features artistic skylines created out of a myriad of materials. Ever consider Jello as a building block before? Sorry, I find these types of things interesting!

#2 – Anyway the Wind Blows
Every year at about this time, I take a close look at the ceiling fans in my home to see which way they are rotating. In the summer, ceiling fans should rotate in a direction that pushes the air downward. The fan blades should spin with the leading edge up and you should be able to feel this downward air flow by standing underneath it. For most, but not all fans, this means a counter-clockwise rotation.

#3 – Good to Know
My local newspaper featured an article about poison control that had some good-to-know information. The most important bit of information is the phone number for the state’s (California) poison control hotline: (800) 222-1222. “It’s staffed around the clock, including holidays, and language interpreters are available.”

#4 – Lesson Learned
Another recent article in my local newspaper brought back memories for me. I wrote a post in April called What Not to Feed Your Pet and I thought it was a pretty comprehensive list, but the newspaper article listed a category that I had not included in mine. How could I have forgotten this one category?! One day when my little Romeo was just a pup, I came in from gardening and removed my shoes and thin nylon socks. I was reading the newspaper when I heard one of my sons say, “Mom, Romeo is sniffing your socks.” I continued reading the newspaper and calmly said, “Okay, keep an eye on him.” A split second later my son yelled out, “Mom, Romeo just ate your sock!” Well, my little dog was lucky that he didn’t need abdominal surgery, but boy was he a pathetic little thing after the veterinarian forced him to swallow charcoal and throw up the sock.

This is what the newspaper article says:
Socks, underwear and nylons: Unsafe. Keep laundry picked up and in hampers, and always watch what your dog has in her mouth – especially during the chew-everything stages of growing up.

Lesson learned for all of us that day. Please add socks, underwear and nylons to my What Not to Feed Your Pet list. It might save you some money on vet bills, but more importantly, it might save your pet’s life.

#5 – Part of Our Lives
“Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”
Roger Carras

Today is a great day – it’s my dad’s birthday! Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Food always seems to taste better when you’re in Hawaii. Exotic tropical flavors refresh our senses and remove us from our gastronomic ruts. Here’s a salad dressing recipe that has Hawaiian origins, but can easily be made in anyone’s home. Not only is it a cinch to make, it uses normally wasted parts of a papaya – its seeds. Papaya seeds have a slightly bitter and peppery taste which adds an interesting element to the sweet-sour base of the dressing.

My sister, who is a fabulous cook, gave this recipe to me decades ago. She was my “go-to” source for recipes when I was a young bride, and sometimes even now.

Papaya Seed Salad Dressing:
1 cup tarragon vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup salad oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 tablespoons fresh papaya seeds, rinsed and drained

1. Cut the papaya in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds into a bowl. (If not using immediately, cover the bowl and put the seeds in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the salad dressing – hopefully within a day or two).

2. Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend until thoroughly mixed and smooth. Papaya seeds will resemble ground black pepper flakes.

3. Pour into a glass jar and chill for at least one hour before serving.

4. Shake or stir before serving.

Don’t forget to eat the papaya! Put each papaya half on a plate and serve it with a wedge of lime. There’s nothing quite like the fresh taste of papaya and lime! With their buttery flesh, papayas are not only delicious to eat, they are also an excellent source of antioxidants (carotene, vitamin C, and flavonoids), B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and fiber.

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Bruschetta is a popular appetizer and snack served in central Italy. During the summer months, bruschetta (which is pronounced bruus-ket-ta) appears on many restaurant and home menus thanks to the arrival of vine-ripened summer tomatoes and fragrant basil. At a recent family gathering, one of my sister-in-laws brought a bruschetta that was different than most I’d had before. Her recipe uses two different types of tomatoes – vine-ripened Roma tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes. I love the intense tomato flavor that this bruschetta offers! Buon appetito!

Double Tomato Bruschetta
Allrecipes is the original source of this recipe.

* 6 roma (plum) tomatoes or other fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
* 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), diced
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* 1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 French baguette
* 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat the oven on broiler setting.
2. In a large bowl, combine the fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Allow the mixture to sit for a minimum of 10 minutes to let the flavors meld.
3. Chiffonade the basil by stacking the leaves, rolling them together lengthwise (like a cigar), and then cutting across the roll to create thin ribbons. Add to tomato mixture.
4. Cut the baguette into 3/4-inch slices. On a baking sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly brown.
5. Divide the tomato mixture evenly over the baguette slices. Top the slices with mozzarella cheese.
6. Broil for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Makes 12 servings.

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As I studied this photo taken in my garden of a Peace rose, I began contemplating on, how like the petals in this rose, achieving peace is a layering process. Whether it be inner peace or world peace, it takes layer upon layer – layers of the soul, layers of compromise, layers of human effort etc. – to collectively achieve the beauty of peace. Not one layer alone can create the same harmonious effect.

#1 – Hallucinogenic Computer Art?
My cousin left a comment for me about the computer doodling site I posted about in last week’s Friday’s Fresh Five!. She said it was hallucinogenic. Well, if that one made your mind swirl, check out this one!

#2 – Mental Floss
I used to subscribe to a magazine called Mental_ Floss, but dropped my subscription because I was drowning in magazines that I wouldn’t throw away. Now I pop in on its website to peruse the many fun articles aimed at tantalizing my brain! Here’s an article called 10 Notable Staircases you might enjoy.

#3 -Paper Roses
On Cut Out and Keep, another set-by-step craft tutorial site, is a tutorial for making handmade paper roses. Sheet music was used in the tutorial and the finished project was very cute. The directions are quite simple. Photos of other versions are also posted. My mind exploded with the possible uses for these roses and the types of papers that could be used for different effects! What about using these roses in lieu of bows on gifts – bridal shower gifts, wedding gifts, Mother’s Day gifts? Make these roses larger or smaller – the size is dictated only by the size of the hearts you cut out for petals. How about using Chinese newspaper for an Asian flair? To make cutting out the hearts/petals easier, I would recommend tracing around heart-shaped cookie cutters or using paper punches.

#4 – What About This? Subscriptions
I’ve been asked by many people about ways they can receive What About This? regularly. I certainly appreciate the dedicated followers of my blog! Thank you all so much! I’ve listed a few options below for you to choose from. If you have any problems with any of the options or have followed the steps and still do not receive What About This? in your email, please feel free to contact me.

A. On my homepage on the upper right column is a box with “Subscribe and Get Email Updates!” Click on the link/small green words that say, “Subscribe to What About This? by Email.” That will take you to a window where you will type in your email address and a cryptic word. Click on the “Complete Subscription Request” button and you are done.

Or . . .

B. Email me with the subscription address(es) that you want W.A.T? sent to and I will submit the information for you.

Or . . .

C. Email me and ask me to put you on my mass mailing list, so that you will receive an email from me with a link to W.A.T? every time a new post is added.

#5 – Something to Ponder

If you woke you this morning with more health than illness, you are more
blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of
imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are
ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest,
torture, or death, you are more blessed than
three billion people in the world.

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead,
and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish
someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If your parents are alive and married, you are very rare.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful,
you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder,
you are blessed because you can offer a healing touch.

If you can read this message you’ve just received a double blessing in that
someone was thinking of you, and furthermore, you are more blessed than over
two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.

Have a good day, count your blessings, and pass this along to remind
everyone else how blessed we all are.

Copied from Poetic Expressions, WWW.POETICEXPRESSIONS.CO.UK

Have a peaceful weekend!

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Bad news blares like an alarm and shakes my very existence. Within a short span of time I’ve received bad news from several people I care about. Too much all at once. Each person’s news is a reminder of the fragility of life and the ever teeter-tottering balancing act of happiness.

These bits of news are wake-up calls that cry out for life lessons to be revisited. In the blink of an eye, life can change. I’m acutely aware of that – savoring joy and living in the moment are underlying themes in many of my posts. Still, I let my guard down occasionally, complacency slides in and auto pilot takes over allowing life and happiness to be taken for granted. I’m sure there are countless others like me who need to be shaken awake from time to time by life’s wake-up calls.

Most of us let the details of our every day lives consume and control us to the point were life’s big picture is no longer in focus. We sweat the details and deny ourselves moments of joy. In my post On a Need to Know Basis I wrote about learning a life lesson when one of my cousins fell ill and passed away. I tell many of my friends, who fret and worry over their children’s grades, S.A.T. scores, and such, about how my cousin’s story has always helped me keep life in perspective. My cousin was close to finishing his freshman year in college when he became ill. Before he slipped into a coma and died he told his dad that he was sorry about his grades. My aunt and uncle are not unreasonable people. Like most of us they had hopes and dreams for their child and they pushed him to study hard. They never imagined that his last words to them would be about grades. We would all probably agree that in the big picture of life, grades aren’t really that important, but yet we can all probably relate to getting caught up in the details of grades. Put the details of whatever makes you angry, sad, frustrated, worried etc., into proper perspective  – or whole life perspective – and see if that doesn’t change your outlook on life a little.

Paint the big picture of your life in your mind and what do you see? What is important enough for you to include? What should you be grateful for? It takes practice and daily awareness to live a grateful life. Life is all about making choices. We have no control over certain aspects in our lives, but we can choose how we react and interact. As we go about our everyday tasks or write out our daily “To Do” lists, we must make sure we don’t forget to find some way of showing gratitude. Acknowledge people that support you in your workplace or in your community, find the positive in your job, be grateful for your health, tell your kids you are proud of them, and so on. We should make sure that the messages we are sending to those we care about come out loud and clear. The “unsaids” should be said more and the “saids” should be said less. The best intentions left undone are often ” I should of . . . ,” “I wish I had . . . ,” ” I was going to . . . .” Don’t miss the opportunities in life to show your thoughtfulness or gratitude or that you care. Don’t wait to be shaken awake again.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Steve Strann, a loving husband, a doting father, a fun neighbor, and a most wonderful friend who’s forever changed my outlook on pelicans, squirrels, orchids, and all things electronic.

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Crisp and colorful are words that easily describe this salad. Two bright colors of cabbage are combined with vibrant greens of pea pods and green onions and then topped off with the textures of Shitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, and toasted almonds. Drizzle and toss with an Asian vinaigrette and you have the perfect Asian summer salad! This is my adaptation of a recipe I received from a sister-in-law more than a decade ago. Enjoy!

Asian Coleslaw

Ingredients for Salad:
4 cups green cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons
1 cup red cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons
1 cup fresh Shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 cup snow pea pods, sliced thinly on diagonal
1- 8 ounce can of sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Ingredients for Asian Vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
2-3 teaspoons sesame oil
2-3 teaspoons minced ginger root
pinch of salt

1. Combine the vinaigrette ingredients into a glass jar and set aside to allow flavors to meld.

2. Cut cabbages into quarters and slice off core. Thinly slice each quarter into very thin ribbons. Measure and put into large bowl. Note: You will have more cabbage than you will need. Reserve it for another dish or make a double batch.

3. Slice the stems off the Shitake mushrooms and discard them. Slice the mushrooms into thin slices and add to bowl. Note: if you cannot find fresh Shitake mushrooms, you can rehydrate dried Shitake mushrooms instead.

4. Slice the snow pea pods into diagonal strips and add to bowl.

5. Drain can of water chestnuts and add to bowl. Note: Even though I buy sliced water chestnuts, I sometimes slice these into strips to keep all ingredients uniform in appearance. Whether I do this or not is usually dependent on how much time I have!

6. Slice green onions and add to bowl.

7. To bring out their flavor, toast sliced almonds by spreading them out in a baking pan and toasting them at 350 degrees for about five to ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Cool completely before adding to salad. Note: If you don’t like almonds, you can always sprinkle the salad with toasted sesame seeds.

8. Toss salad components together. Shake jar of vinaigrette and pour a small amount on top of salad ingredients. Toss. Add more vinaigrette if necessary. Note: You will likely have leftover vinaigrette.

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It’s the middle of summer already and a couple of 100+ degree days are coming my way. All this heat must be good for something, right? I’m taking advantage of the heat by drying my laundry in my oven-of-a-garage. I have five large drying racks out there and my laundry dries quickly and without wrinkles. Heat brings good and bad news for me; on the one hand, my vegetable garden is thriving in this weather, but on the other hand, it’s too hot to turn on my oven, so no baking for awhile. Haven’t yet convinced my husband that solar cooking is safe!

#1 – Desk Travels
Even though my international travels are done for the year, I can still see other parts of the world. The internet is filled with breathtaking snapshots of wonderful worldly sights, that for the most part, most of us will never see in person. Here are two photo essays that transport you to amazing sights without the need to leave your seat: The World’s Most Spectacular Roads, Vol. 2 and the World’s Most Extraordinary Swimming Pools.

#2 – Daily Limits
I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my favorite monthly reads is the Nutrition Action Health Letter. Once a month it provides easy to read, relevant articles about nutrition and health. For example, are you aware of what the daily limits of sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar are for a basic 2,000-calorie diet? With today’s dining-out lifestyle it’s easy to exceed those limits. In an issue of the Health Letter there was an article called How Many Sugars? that provided a breakdown of several no-no ingredients found on menu items from popular dining spots. Here’s a quick look at daily limits and a sample menu item from the article:

Daily Limit of Sodium: 1,500 milligrams.
One McDonald’s Sausage, Egg, & Cheese on a Croissant contains 1,250 milligrams.

Daily Limit of Saturated Fat: 20 grams.
One Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee with Cream Coolata contains 22 grams.

Daily Limit of Added Sugars: 25 grams or 6.5 teaspoons.
One Starbuck’s Green Tea Blended Creme Frappuccino with whipped cream has 13 teaspoons.

Choose wisely when you dine out!

#3 – Thumping Watermelons!
According to several sources (my local newspaper, produce guides, and my dad, a former grocery store owner) to select the best watermelon you must consider these characteristics:
1. Shape – Look for a symmetrical shape (no flat sides or dents)
2. Weight – Since watermelons are over 90% water, select ones that are heavy for their size.
3. Sound – Several sources recommend lightly thumping the melon with your knuckle and listening for a hollow sound.
4. Appearance – Besides being firm and having a dull-colored skin, look for the spot where it sat on the ground. This area should be creamy yellow and it indicates the melon was vine ripened.

#4  – Mindless Computer Doodling
Sometimes when I have writer’s block, I look for interesting ways to refocus. I found this site that allows you to spend endless, mindless minutes doodling. The fun part is that the colors change on their own as you scribble and the squiggles move constantly. All you have to do is move the finger icon/cursor around. After doodling for a couple of minutes, I was back to writing!

#5 – Set Sail
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain

Set your sails this weekend to explore, dream and discover!

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Call it taking a risk, call it following my heart, or call it just plain stupid for quitting my job. I recently quit my job at the clothing store where I worked for almost two years. I enjoyed my work there and I learned a lot about the world of retail and much about myself. As hard as it was for me to leave my friends at work, it was harder for me to stay. My soul kept crying out like Oliver Twist for “more.”

I’ve quit jobs before and, as a matter of fact, I’ve quit a profession before. For more than a decade I toiled as a dental hygienist before I chose an even more difficult job – that of a full time stay-at-home mom. But this time it’s different – I quit because I need to focus on myself. Selfish? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely. With the support of a loving husband, I’m continuing on my journey of finding out more about myself and learning what more I can offer the world. I know what I am – a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and friend. But the question remains, who am I?

I’ve never been a risk-taker. Maybe it’s because I’m a middle child and I like everything all neat and tidy. Probably the riskiest thing I’ve ever done in my life was to go for a walk at night with a man I’d met minutes before at a college street dance. What was I thinking? I was following my gut instinct – the guy seemed nice and he seemed harmless. As it turns out, I married that nice man who offered to take me on a tour of the campus. Taking risks can sometimes pay off.

I’m following that gut instinct of mine again and it’s telling me there’s more out there for me. It’s already led me in new directions. Creating What About This? involved taking another risk for me. In creating a platform for my creative endeavors and the desire to spread joy, I knew that writing a blog about my ideas and thoughts would be putting myself out there for the world to see and judge. I always encouraged creative writing in my children, but I was never an active writer myself. However, in the process of writing my blog, I’ve realized that maybe I can write and maybe my writing can help people.

Combining my love of making things and helping people has also led me to crafting pieces of jewelry with selected words hammered into metal. I’ve been told more than once by well meaning people that there are other companies out there making this kind of jewelry. That may be true, but to me the value in my jewelry is really the process I take with my clients to reveal or uncover their specific words of affirmation. Often times affirmations are not self-evident. In my creative mind, I see many positive applications for my jewelry and it brings me joy.

As Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes, another opens . . . .” The journey I’ve chosen to take feels so right, at least for now. There will be twists and turns and maybe even u-turns in the road ahead of me, but at least I can say I tried and took a chance on myself.

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A bag of limes sits in my refrigerator waiting for me to decide whether to whip up some limey confection or to drink a couple of Corona beers. Since it’s only 9:30 in the morning, I opt for the first choice. Here’s a recipe I tested from an ancient newspaper clipping I found in one of the stacks referred to in my “Attack the Stack!” post.

This recipe makes a light, refreshing, creamy cheesecake. It’s easy to make – especially if you use a store bought graham cracker crust and aerosol whipped cream! Sometimes practicality and time constraints need to push aside food snobbery and perfectionism! If you use a store bought crust instead of a springform pan, you will have a little extra filling leftover. No worries, just put it into a little ramekin, chill, garnish, and you have a little lime dessert for one!

(Original source unknown – adapted by Linnell)

1-1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
1/3 C butter or margarine, melted
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 T grated lime peel
3/4 C fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)
1 package (1 T) unflavored gelatin
1/4 C water
1 C whipping cream, whipped (for filling)
Additional whipped cream for garnish
Lime slices for garnish

Whip 1 cup of whipping cream and set aside in the refrigerator. Combine graham crackers crumbs and butter. Press into 8-1/2-inch springform pan building up sides; chill. In mixing bowl beat cream cheese and condensed milk until smooth. Stir in lime peel and juice. Soften gelatin in water; warm over low heat to dissolve. Gradually stir into cream cheese mixture. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into crust. Chill to set. Garnish with additional whipped cream and lime slices.

Makes 8-10 servings.

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Hearts and flowers and joy and excitement fill the air at bridal showers. Generations of women gather to shower the bride with wisdom, laughter, and gifts. Thoughts of times passed for some mingle with hopes of the future for others. Women coming together to support one another is always a good thing!

#1 – Champagne Punch
2-12 ounce cans of frozen lemonade or limeade
1-46 ounce can of pineapple juice, chilled
2 bottles of champagne, chilled
1 quart orange juice, chilled
Fruit for ice mold

Dilute one can of the frozen lemonade/limeade with 1 can of water. Pour into tube pan or any mold of choice and add fruit slices, berries or mint leaves for decoration. Freeze until solid.

Mix the remaining frozen lemonade/limeade, pineapple juice, orange juice, and champagne. Place extracted frozen mold from mold pan and put into a punch bowl. Pour mixed beverages into bowl.

#2 – Explore the Sistine Chapel From Home
If you’ve ever visited the Sistine Chapel, you were probably awestruck by the it – you and the other couple hundred visitors crammed into the Chapel with you. It’s difficult to appreciate the magnificence of the art there because of the wall-to-wall bodies. Here’s an interactive site that lets you take a leisurely virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel. On your computer screen the Chapel is completely devoid of people and is available for your complete exploration. Using your computer mouse, you can navigate to any area – the walls, the mosaic floors, and of course the glorious painted ceilings. You can even zoom in on any particular area of your choosing to see details. I wish I had taken this virtual tour, before I visited the real thing!

#3 – Chilling Drinks Quickly
Chill beverages quickly for a party by placing beverage containers in a ice bucket/ice chest and adding layers of ice alternating with layers of salt until almost to the top. Fill your ice bucket/ice chest with cold water just below the top of the ice.

#4 – Instructables
Instructables is a site where do-it-your-selfers can search for step-by-step instructions for a myriad of projects. I came across this interesting project the other day – How To Hide Your Stuff In A Tissue Box. Although it seems easy enough, I’ve not tried making the project, yet. I like the idea, but my biggest problem would be preventing my hubby from using up the tissues and throwing the box away! Maybe one of you could benefit from this idea, though!

#5 – From Within Your Heart
“Find the seed at the bottom of your heart and bring forth a flower.”
~ Shigenori Kameoka

Have a wonderful weekend!

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