Archive for April, 2011

Koi fish swim lazily through the pool as dark waters envelope them. Small periscopes of water lilies jut above the water and rest on their large floating leaves. Shimmering reflections of palm trees create a disorienting effect. And busy tourists walk by this beautiful sight without as much as a glance. Their loss, my gain.

#1 – Educate Yourself For Free
Have the yearn to learn, but can’t afford costly classes? Take a peak at this article about 12 Dozen Places To Educate Yourself Online For Free and expand your horizons by taking a class or two. Major educational resources, as well as, well-known universities, such as UCLA, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, and Yale offer these wonderful learning opportunities.

#2 – The Bottom Line About Green Tea
Can drinking green tea prevent serious illnesses? According to an article in May’s Nutrition Action Health Letter, the “jury is still out.” Here’s the article’s bottom line:

Green tea is rich in plant compounds that help protect laboratory animals from cancer and other diseases. But the jury is still out over whether it helps protect humans against cancer, strokes, or cognitive decline.

If you want the full range of potentially beneficial compounds in green tea, drink it freshly brewed and often.

If you drink bottled tea, look for one made primarily from brewed green tea, not tea extracts or concentrate.

#3 – Starry Night
Creating photo mosaics requires time, patience, and an eye for subtle color differences. This version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night was constructed from 210,000 tiny photographs. Zoom into the piece and see the individual photos that make up this amazing project!

#4 – Raindrops Keep Falling!
Another week, another game! Here’s a game that could help strengthen your mental calculations and quantitative reasoning. As each raindrop falls, answer the equation inside the drop. Easy in the beginning, but watch out for the downpours!

#5 – Every Day Happiness
Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.
Groucho Marx

Be happy this weekend!!

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“What can I bring?” I asked my friend as we planned a surprise birthday party for another one of our friends. “Can you bring rice?” she said. “Sure, no problem!” I replied. After all, rice was an easy dish for this Asian gal to prepare. But then my friend added, “Can you bring cilantro and lime rice like they serve at Chipotle?” While trying to remember if I’d ever tasted Chipotle’s rice before, I uttered, “Ohhh, okay . . . !” My friend cheerfully said, “Great!” and I mumbled back, “Yeah, great . . . .” and headed off to find the nearest Chipotle restaurant.

That conversation began my quest for a cilantro and lime rice recipe. Luckily, I found several online and I diligently read through them all. After experimenting with a few recipes, I ultimately found one that needed only a few minor tweaks and that tasted really good. Wanting to simplify the recipe, I cooked the rice in my rice cooker instead of a saucepan and was delighted with the results!

The light and refreshing flavor combination of cilantro and lime just can’t be beat and makes this rice dish a perfect accompaniment for grilled meats and seafood. Particularly, it’s a great complement to any of your favorite Mexican entrees. Serve this easy rice dish at your upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration and be prepared to share the recipe with your guests – you’ll be asked for it!

Cilantro and Lime Rice:
Adapted from a recipe by Rockin Robin

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 cup basmati rice
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 + tbsp fresh lime juice
zest from one lime
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp salt

1. Add the oil and butter in a saucepan and heat on low until butter has melted. Add the garlic and rice (uncooked) to the oil mixture and saute for two minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently and being careful that the garlic does not burn.

2. In a mixing bowl stir to combine the chicken broth, salt, and lime juice.

3. Transfer the rice mixture to a rice cooker (or leave in the saucepan if not using a rice cooker). Add broth mixture to the rice. Cover and cook. (If not cooking a rice cooker, bring rice and broth to a boil, then cover saucepan and cook over low heat until done.)

3. When rice is cooked, add the lime zest and chopped cilantro and stir gently to mix. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. It is easiest to use a rice cooker – both to cook and keep the rice warm. No worries, though, if you don’t have a rice cooker, this delicious rice can be made in a saucepan. See above instructions.

2. I rarely add the full teaspoon of salt that is called for in the recipe. Depending on the sodium level of your chicken broth, you may need to adjust the amount of salt you add. I use low-sodium chicken broth and find that 1/2 teaspoon is enough for my taste buds even when I make a double batch.

2. After adding the lime zest and the chopped cilantro to the rice, taste and then adjust the seasonings. I often add more lime juice at this point and most of the time will not add the full amount of cilantro.

3. It’s better to add the zest and the cilantro as close to serving time as possible, so that their colors remain vivid and fresh – inevitably their colors will darken as they heat up.


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Today is my Mom’s birthday and I’m wishing her many more: sunny days to warm the freckles on her face, happy memories to fill her heart, big and little reasons to celebrate, moments to laugh with the grandkids, cherished years with my dad, enjoyable times with her friends, hugs and kisses from her children, trays of lasagna and enchiladas, and people to love and be loved by. Happy Birthday, Mom!

#1 – Why I Rule!
Need a little pep talk or just need a daily affirmation or inspiration? It’s as easy as going to Tell Me Why I Rule and clicking on the button. I clicked on the button and this came up: You have learned that everyday may not be good, but there’s something good in every day. A great reminder for all of us!

#2 – Find the Rock
Last week I linked to a computer game that tested reaction time. This week I offer a link to a game that tests your concentration. It’s a shell game – you must keep an eye on which coconut shell is hiding the rock.

#3 – Art Lesson: A Painting Within A Painting
If you appreciate fine art or even if you don’t, you will definitely be impressed with this painting. The amazing details of a painting done by artist Giovanni Paolo Pannini in 1757 are revealed by zooming into the piece frame-by-frame.

#4 – Survival Tips
Would you be able to survive if you were lost at sea or lost in the snow? The site Survive Nature offers survival tips for for six different scenarios. Not being the outdoor-type, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these tips. I don’t know about you, though, but I’m storing the information in the back of my head!

#5 – To Be Beautiful . . .
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Have a beautiful weekend!

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Unwrapping a tied-dyed egg is a little like opening a present – you don’t know what you’re going to get! This fun technique for dyeing eggs uses men’s silk ties as the color source, so these eggs are truly TIE-dyed! If the men in your life will not relinquish any of their ties for this project, just purchase some at your nearest thrift store. I found this technique on Mommy Knows and thought – of course a clever mom would know about this no-mess technique for dyeing Easter eggs! This is a great project for all ages!

100% silk ties
String or dental floss

1. Collect old ties and with a pair of scissors, cut open the back seams of the ties.

2. Cut out the triangular pieces of decorative lining and discard.

3. Cut out the white lining and save.

4. Cut out a piece of fabric large enough to wrap around the egg, wet it, wrap it around the egg, and gather it at the top. Tie top with string.

5. To keep fabric in close contact with the egg shell, wrap string all around the egg.

6. Cut a piece of the white lining fabric and wrap the egg in it and then tie it with string.

7. Put the eggs in a pot of cold water and 1/4 cup vinegar and then cook for 20 minutes.

8. After eggs cool, enjoy unwrapping your creations!

Linnell’s Notes:
1. A good looking tie does not necessarily translate to a good looking egg and, likewise, an ugly tie does not make an ugly egg.
2. I found that the less traditionally-patterned Jerry Garcia ties are great for this project.
3. Pale-colored ties did not turn out as well.
4. I cooked the pale-colored fabrics in a separate pot from the strong-colored fabrics, so the color would not transfer.
5. I didn’t have time to experiment, but the original instructions suggested wrapping strips of fabric around the eggs to create different effects.

Happy Easter!!

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Whether extraordinary or mundane, once a moment in life has passed, it’s gone forever. There’s no getting it back, or is there? When I look at the photo of me taken five decades ago, I cannot give you the exact date it was taken on, but I can give you details about the exact moment – the time of day, the location, the sights and smells, the clothes I wore that day, and even my mood. My parent’s grocery store had closed for the evening and the lights were dimmed. I had completed my chores at the store and was waiting to go home. Grabbing a handful of comic books off the round revolving rack, I plopped down on the magazine display and was quickly absorbed in the lives of Richie Rich and Archie, Betty and Veronica. I heard a voice call out my name and looked up to see Uncle Edgar, one of my adopted “uncles” and a longtime employee of the store, snap the photo. Although much time has passed, the memories of that innocent moment rush back and somehow rejuvenate me.

#1 – A Father’s Creative Photos
I discovered these photos taken by photographer Jason Lee of his two adorable daughters. They are so cute (both his daughters and the photos) that I had to share them with you! These photos sure beat the one taken of me! You can see more of Jason’s photos here.

#2 – How Fast Are Your Reactions?
Well, mine were not as fast as I thought they were! Although I did manage to graduate from “Sluggish snail” to “Ambling armadillo” in a few tries, I’m not going to stop there. This old body is aiming for “Turbo-charged cheetah.” Test your reaction speed by hitting the button when you see a sheep making a mad dash for freedom. Easy, right? Just don’t blink!

#3 – The Positives and the Negatives
We live in an amazing country, but each state in the nation has its strengths and its weaknesses. Check out these “infographs” and learn a different kind of geography lesson.

#4 – Homemade Half & Half
The other day I was testing a recipe that called for half & half, but I didn’t have any. Having only milk and cream, I wondered if I could make my own. But is half & half really a 50:50 ratio? I found my answer on Ochef. According to this site, you can mix either:

3/4 cup whole milk + 1/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup skim milk + 1/3 cup whipping cream

#5 – Happiness Is a Journey
“For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin, real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”
-Alfred D. Souza

Try to capture a moment this weekend!

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In a disarray of discarded plants and flowerpots, a neglected, but tall and proud-looking amaryllis caught my eye. Surprised by the sight, my heart rapidly filled with emotion – first sadness and then happiness. With its sturdy, solitary stalk and two huge Christmas-red blooms, this plant reminded me of a dear friend I once had. Her name was Martha, but I knew her as Marty.

About ten years ago my daughter and I volunteered to paint fingernails at an assisted-living care center for senior citizens. Walking through those doors that day we could not know how our lives would change. It was fate. Of all the women in the room we could have helped, my daughter chose the feisty, diabetic, and wheelchair-bound Marty.

For six years, we regularly visited Marty at the center. In an attempt to make her life better, we brought her books to read and movies to watch, as well as holiday decorations to bring cheer to her room. And whenever we went on vacation, we made sure to bring back a souvenir for our friend. As many a great time we shared with her, we also endured difficult ones. Witnessing her decline from an opinionated and independent woman to a bedridden and silent one challenged our spirits, but never our commitment to her. Towards the end, we braced ourselves whenever we entered Marty’s room. One thing was for sure, though, no matter what physical condition she was in, Marty’s bright blue eyes always lit up when she saw our faces and we, in turn, always tried to smile, covering up any alarm we might have at seeing her situation.

Four years ago, in the month of November, the phone call came – Marty was gone. After hanging up the phone, I looked at the potted amaryllis bulb that sat on my kitchen counter. It was to have been Marty’s Christmas gift and my daughter and I had been eager to see the expression on Marty’s face when we presented it to her. Sadly, I picked up the plant and carried it outside and placed it amongst a pile of old flowerpots. I stood there remembering an earlier Christmas that Marty received an amaryllis from her son and how she spent the following months marveling at it. After the giant blooms faded, she had asked me to take the bulb home and replant it for her. Regretfully, I never had the opportunity to do that, because the plant, pot and all, disappeared from her room. That’s when my daughter and I decided we’d buy her a new one  –  one that she’ll never see.

Following Marty’s death, bad weather ensued, months passed by, and soon the plant was completely erased from my memory. Then one gorgeous early spring day, when the warm sun beckoned me out to the garden, I walked over to my garden shed. That’s when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a patch of bright red. There in the heap of garden rejects was Marty’s Christmas gift! A magnificent red blossom, in all of its glory, was swaying in the breeze and calling out, “Don’t forget about me.”

Every year since Marty died, the amaryllis has bloomed. And today as I stand here and admire its beautiful spring offering, I can hear Marty’s soft voice say, “Isn’t that something!” Picturing Marty’s face and thinking about how she graced my life, I reply, “Yes, Marty, it most certainly is!”

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Bright, eye-catching circles of color made a pleasing display on my family room floor. The circles were really ceramic plates that I laid out to photograph for a color reference chart. Reminding me of a giant keypad, I resisted the urge to push these buttons!

#1 -When Someone Pushes Your Buttons
It happens. Someone pushes your buttons or gets your goat and now you’re annoyed and bent out of shape. Here’s an article that offers six ways to cope when that happens. Negative events often afford us the best opportunities to glimpse into ourselves and learn some life lessons.

#2 – Things You Should Never Share
Pushing buttons with your fingertips and then touching your face is a good way to spread germs. Sharing personal items is another way. Dr. Oz has some obvious and some surprising recommendations about items that should not be shared. For example, did you know that “keyboards have as many germs as your toilet”? Ewww. . . !

#3 – Kaleidoscope
Play with shapes, colors, lines and angles when you create your own computer kaleidoscope on this site. Oh, how I love creative distractions!

#4 – To Attach or Link?
Occasionally, I’ll see something on the internet that I want to share with someone and instead of sending the person a link to that site, I’ll convert it into a PDF first and then send it as an attachment, which can be saved, printed and replicated regardless if the website changes. Here’s a site that converts webpages into PDF documents. Just fill in the URL and click “convert.” It’s as easy as that, plus it’s free!

#5 – The Upside of Things
Now, when anything ‘bad’ happens, I remember that everything that ever happens to me has within it the seeds of something better. I look for the upside rather than the downside. I ask myself, ‘Where’s the greater benefit in this event?’
Jack Canfield

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Scones are harbingers of happiness to me – they always remind me of Carmel and of my mom. As a child I spent many a lazy-crazy family vacation in the Monterey Bay area. Those carefree days of summer were all a kid could ever ask for. Dad would pack up the family Buick and drive leisurely down the coast while we all sang “On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese, I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed . . . . !” As we pulled into the parking lot of our ultimate vacation resort – a Travel Lodge motel – my sister and I would debate on what to do first. Invariably, within five minutes of our arrival, we would don our chic bathing suits, our “stylish” Playtex swim caps, and a pair of rubber zories and run outside to the pool. Esther Williams we weren’t, but we didn’t care! The following day always brought the promise of a visit to Carmel. Window shopping in Carmel was a favorite pastime and after passing pastry shop window after pastry shop window, my mom would finally select one to go into and would treat us to anything in the shop. My sister would pick her usual favorite and my mom would always get a giant scone studded with currants for herself. She’d pick off pieces and study the crusty exterior and the tender interior before she put them in her mouth. Then she’d say, “These are almost as good as the ones Eppler’s sells in the City.” And what did I always choose for my treat from the bakery? A scone, just like my mom, of course!

Scones are not difficult to make and require ingredients most of us have at home. But sometimes when we’re in a hurry, convenience wins out and that’s okay. Here’s a recipe for quick scones that utilizes a baking mix. This recipe calls for dried cranberries and currants, but there are a myriad of other flavorful ingredients that could be substituted. Other dried fruit, such as cherries, raisins, blueberries, and apricots, work nicely, as well as, white and dark chocolate chips, lavender flowers, and lemon or orange zest.

Devonshire cream is a nice accompaniment to hot scones, but it’s not easily found. Below is a recipe for a mock Devonshire cream that’s rich and simple to make.

With Easter and Mother’s Day just ahead, you’ll want to try these simply delicious recipes!

Quick Cream Scones and Mock Devonshire Cream:
Adapted from a recipe by Ana Robello

3 cups baking mix, such as Bisquick
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried currants
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream or half-and-half
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, melted for brushing on

Mock Devonshire Cream:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream or half-and-half

Directions for Scones
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Mix the first six scone ingredients together in a medium bowl. Drop 2-1/2-inch mounds onto 2 nonstick, greased, or parchment-covered cookie sheets.
3. Brush tops of scones with melted butter.
4. Bake until lightly golden, 8-11 minutes.

Makes 16 scones.

Directions for Mock Devonshire Cream
1. Beat all ingredients together in a medium bowl with hand-mixer.
2. Transfer to a serving dish.
3. Refrigerate any unused portions.

Makes 2 cups

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Separate the sticky dried fruit by tossing them in the baking mix before adding the other ingredients.

2. Because I wanted my scones to be heart-shaped, I put some Bisquick/flour on a pastry board and kneaded the dough a little bit. Then I rolled the dough out and used a cookie cutter to cut out the hearts.

3. Because the oven temperature is high and because the tops of the scones are brushed with butter, keep an on on the scones as they bake. If you find them turning brown before they are fully baked, turn down the temperature by about 25 degrees.

4. These scones are on the sweeter side. You can always decrease the amount of sugar.

4. The Mock Devonshire Cream can be spooned into a pastry bag and be piped into little serving dishes. If you don’t have a pastry bag, just snip off the corner of a Ziploc-type bag and attach your decorating tip to that instead.


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It all started with burning the cookies – then the day proceeded to deteriorate rapidly. Somehow the parchment paper on the cookie sheet caught on fire, which set off the smoke alarm. In an effort to get relief from the loud, high-pitched shrieks coming from the alarm, my freaked-out dog tore out of the house, ripping through the family room screen door in the process! To make matters worse, once outside he spied a squirrel sitting on the bird feeder and decided to give it chase. I had no choice but to leave my smokey house and chase after my four-legged friend. Breathless and without shoes, I found my dog a block away and hauled him back home – just in time to see a fire truck pulling away! As I climbed up my driveway I saw a note taped to my front door which was curiously wide open. The note read: April Fools! None of the incidents you just read about actually occurred (thank goodness!) as they were just a product of my over active April Fool’s Day imagination! Happy April Fool’s Day!

#1 – Extraordinary Things
This is not a matter of imagination. People who believe in miracles see them all the time. Others are blind to the many special or extraordinary moments that fill their everyday lives. Reading 40 Extraordinary Things Happening Right Now reminds the reader that everyday occurrences are really small miracles, that these moments need to be appreciated, and suggests that the potential of mankind is in the small things we do everyday.

#2 – Tennis, Anyone?
I’m the only one in my family who doesn’t play tennis. Well, that’s not completely true – lately I’ve been practicing my tennis skills at my desk! Sometimes when I need a short breather from the computer, I play a quick game of tennis. Beating the computer is my goal, so I practice keeping my eye on the ball and calculating the angles of the bounce! With the crowd cheering me on, how could I lose? Tennis, anyone?

#3 – Reuse It!
The next time you go out for a scoop of gelato, don’t throw away the colorful plastic cup it was served in – reuse it! I find these small cups make perfect scoops for dog food, bird seed, flour, rice, and so on. Not only are they a good size to use for scoops, they are also durable and cute!

#4 – Salt Warning
After eating a sodium-heavy meal, I can usually see the effects on my body the next day: the scale reports a 1-2 pound gain; the pants won’t button; the wedding ring won’t come off. But what I can’t see is even more disturbing. From the latest issue of Nutrition Action Newsletter, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, come these scary tidbits of information:

“A high-salt meal can stiffen your arteries within 30 minutes. Arteries that lose their ability to expand when they need to can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and cognitive decline.”

In the same issue, but in a different article, the nutritional breakdown for a Wendy’s Baconator Double and a Burger King’s Triple Whopper with Cheese is mentioned. With 1,590 mg and 1,550 mg of sodium, respectively, these burgers provide a full day’s supply of sodium in just one sandwich. Like I always tell my kids, “Choose wisely!”

#5 – Two on Strength
“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.”

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Enjoy the sunshine and your weekend!!

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