Archive for May, 2012

Waiting in a doctor’s office for a yearly examination can give rise to poetic prowess! Here’s a poem I wrote today while waiting:

Ode to Growing Old

by Linnell Chang


I’m growing so old from my head to my toes,

No part is immune, that’s just how life goes.


I look in the mirror and see same old me,

Though most of my body’s changed ‘bove the knee.


A sleek stylish haircut provides youthful flair,

But, Sharpie pens need to touch up white hair.


My face has no pimples of an eighteen-year-old,

but my age is revealed through wrinkles and folds.


The light of my soul shines bright through my eyes,

But my sight’s changed, fonts need to resize.


A double chin makes a great safety hold,

For keeping those scarves under control.


My upper arms have a life of their own,

Reps of tricep curls . . . I wish I had known.


The darts on my dress are lower than before,

 ‘Cause “the girls” on my chest are nearer the floor.


The abdominal work at the gym that I go,

Does not make a difference to the belly I show.


Smooth shapely thighs are a thing of my past,

Discover a cure for cellulite – fast!


Can’t turn back the clock, even if I chose,

That’s my growing-old story, so I’ll close.


Despite moaning and groaning, I’ve come to learn,

That growing old is a gift, something one earns.


By living and loving, without any restraint,

I’m so glad I’m alive and that’s no complaint!

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Always expect the unexpected. Life is unpredictable. With an open mind, on any given day, you can turn the corner and find hot pink alligators clinging to the sides of buildings. Open yourself to new ideas and new possibilities, for these are the things that make life richer and more rewarding. Friday’s Fresh Five! tries to engage your interest and nudge your conscience by exposing you to things you might not normally come across. Hope you enjoy its unpredictability and keep looking for those hot pink alligators!

#1 – Name Game
Can you name all fifty states in 5 minutes? Test your knowledge by taking this Name All 50 States quiz. Not challenging enough? Try to Name All 50 State Capitals! Thanks to mental_floss for always keeping us on our toes!

#2 – Low Cal Cocktails

Drinking refreshing cocktails can cool you down on a warm day, but they can also add a few extra calories to your diet. Check out these recipes for 200 calories or less cocktails that quench your thirst and help you watch your waistline! Tequila Bramble, anyone?

#3 – Draw a Stickman

Draw a stickman and use your artistic talents to assist him on his adventures. I discovered this cute site and discovered that I can’t draw worth beans. It’s a nice short diversion that breaks up hours of working at your desk!

#4 – Water, Water, Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink
This line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is a fitting description for All the Water on Earth, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution animated clip. After viewing it, you may think twice about ever wasting water again.

#5 – All Great Things
All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.
Winston Churchill

Give thanks to our veterans this holiday weekend.

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We do not remember days,
We remember moments.

Cesare Pavese

The courtship . . .
The ring . . .
The dress . . .

May you have many more unforgettable moments!

Looking for a special and unique card for a bridal shower or a wedding? Why not make your own? Using a paper doily and following the easy directions for an origami paper dress in a You Tube video, I created an origami wedding dress card for my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower. I also fashioned an envelope for the card by using a large square doily. By using any paper with a small print, you can create cute dresses for use on other cards for different occasions, too!

Origami Wedding Dress Card with Doily Envelope
Glue that dries clear
Sticky adhesive dots
Glitter glue or self-adhesive small rhinestones
Foam pop-up dots, optional
Text-weight paper or card stock for printing card insert
Repositional glue, optional
Pretty paper or paper doilies

Small square doily for the dress

Large square doily for envelope

If you cannot find square doilies, you can always attempt to cut a round doily down to a square.

Card Instructions:
1. Watch the video to learn how to fold the dress:

2. On the back of the folded dress, glue down strategic areas to keep the dress together and let dry.

3. Add a little sparkle to the dress by using glitter glue or self-adhesive rhinestones. Let dry.

4. Using sticky dots, adhere dress carefully to the front of a piece of scored and folded card stock. Glue can be used here instead, but I find that sticky dots are more efficient because there is no drying time involved and they adhere well to metallic or pearlized paper.

5. If desired, apply pop-up dots underneath the dress in key areas to help the dress keep its three-dimensional form.

6. Either use the sentiment I used above or select your own. Print it up and trim it to fit the interior of the card. Adhere it to the inside of the card.

Envelope Instructions:
1. Using another card or piece of paper the same size as the wedding dress card, center it in the middle of the large doily and fold all four sides down around it like a diaper: fold bottom flap up first, fold in the two sides, and then fold the top flap down. It is important to use another card the same size or else your pretty paper dress card can be damaged during the process of folding and gluing the envelope.

2. Open up the flaps and carefully apply glue to the inside edges of the lower portions of the two side flaps. Press them down to adhere them to the bottom flap.

3. Apply repositional glue to the edges of the top flap. Reposistional glue is advised here, so that the envelope can be opened and closed repeatedly. If using a permanent-type glue, there is a chance the delicate doily will tear upon opening.

4. Remove the dummy card and insert the real card. Fold the top flap down and press to adhere.

Have fun designing dresses and making cards!

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Zoom! Zoom! Ka-Boom! Aggression rages outside my kitchen window – thanks to one particular alpha male. With all his speed and might, this guy slams his body into another male. Zoom! He’s back to his guard post. This mighty hummingbird perches protectively on a chain that supports a sweet nectar feeder. A few seconds later, he spies approaching invaders and darts off to give chase. I watch as other hummingbirds attempt over and over again to reach the feeder, but alpha-bird will have none of that. I sigh, “Come on guys. Why can’t we all get along?”

#1 – Love Those Hummingbirds
In order to learn more about this hummingbird’s aggressive behavior, I searched the internet for information. From the World Of Hummingbirds and How To Enjoy Hummingbirds sites I learned:

♥ Hummingbirds are the tiniest birds in the world and they are also the smallest of all animals that have a backbone.

♥ Because hummingbirds can rotate their wings in a circle, they are the only birds that can fly forwards, backwards, up, down, sideways and hover in mid air.

♥ The bright flashing-colored feathers of the hummingbird’s neck is called a Gorget.

♥ A hummingbird’s brain is 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom.

♥ Hummingbirds are very smart and they can remember every flower they have been to, and how long it will take a flower to refill.

♥ Hummingbirds can hear better and see farther than humans, but they have nearly no sense of smell.

♥ A hummingbird’s heart beats up to 1,260 times per minute.

♥ A hummingbird baby is generally smaller than a penny.

♥ Most hummingbirds die in the first year of life, but those that survive have an average life span of 5 years.

♥ Hummingbirds are very territorial and will perch in trees, vines or bushes, between feedings to watch the area . . . and will attack other birds that might try to feed at their food source.

#2 – No Limitations
In another inspirational video from TED, activist Caroline Casey “tells the story of her extraordinary life” and “asks us all to move beyond the limits we may think we have.” Worth watching.

#3 – A Can You Can Hang

This repurposing idea from Brian Jewett is beyond clever. By attaching cleaned paint cans to a wall, he creates multipurpose hooks. A garment can be hung over the can, stuff can be stored in the can (I’m thinking keys), and something, like a scarf, can be hung on the can’s handle! Directions for this project can be found on Instructables. These can hooks would look great in a garage, an artist’s workshop, a child’s bedroom or playroom, etc.! There’s no end to creative ideas!

#4 – Yosemite HD
The talented combination of Sheldon Neill and Colin Delahanty, two young videographers, brings us this under-four-minute incredibly beautiful video of Yosemite National Park. Yosemite HD, a high definition, time lapse video, depicts the majesty of nature. Even if you’ve seen Yosemite with your own eyes, you’ll still want to see it through their eyes!

#5 – Every Moment
Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.
Thomas Merton

Enjoy every moment of your weekend!

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My husband will wonder if I’m throwing an impromptu party when he finds a container of freshly stuffed mushrooms and cherry tomatoes in our refrigerator. Yes, I’m having a party, but just a party for one! With only two months left before my son’s wedding, I would still like to lose some weight. Since my son became engaged, my husband has managed to lose over twenty pounds. What about me? Well, despite the fact, that I eat a small-portioned, healthy diet and work in a mix of cardio and strength training on a regular basis, I’ve not lost a single pound! My trainer tells me not to fret, since I have lost inches and body fat. So what about the appetizers in my refrigerator? Other than at the gym, I hate repetition. Bored with the usual snacks of apples, celery, and carrots, I decided to reward my progress with some healthy gourmet snacks!

Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes Italiano
Recipe as found in Deborah Anderson’s cookbook Easy Gourmet-Style Cooking With 5 Ingredients

36 cherry tomatoes
1 – 15 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained
1 bunch of fresh basil, plus 24 leaves
2 tablespoons garlic-flavored olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Rinse the tomatoes and set aside.
2. Also wash and set aside 24 small basil leaves and chop remaining basil.
3. Cut 12 tomatoes in half, squeeze out all the seeds and juice, dice and set aside.
4. In a food processor or blender, puree the beans, basil, garlic oil and lemon juice until it reaches a finely chopped consistency.
5. Place pureed bean mixture in a medium bowl. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and chopped basil.
6. Remove top 1/4 portion from remaining 24 tomatoes and discard.
7. Slightly squeeze out the seeds, liquid and pulp using a small spoon, so you can create a cavity within the tomatoes.

8. Fill tomatoes with the bean mixture.
9. Garnish each tomato at the top with 1 basil leaf.

Makes 2 dozen.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Having large ripe tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter, I decided to dice those instead of the cherry tomatoes.
2. I used a little bit more lemon juice than called for, just to give it a fresher flavor.
3. I added half a shallot, a little salt and freshly ground pepper to the food processor before adding the beans.
4. You don’t want to over process this bean filling. It should still have small chunks of bean in it.
5. The recipe confusingly adds the basil twice – once to the food processor and then again to the pureed bean mixture. I ended up adding some to the food processor, and added in a bit more with the tomatoes. Although I love basil, I would probably not add as much the next time I make this recipe.
6. I did not discard the tomato tops as instructed in step 6. Instead, I diced them and added them to the bean mixture. I hate to waste food!
7. I used the small side of the melon baller to scoop out the tomatoes and then inverted the tomatoes on a paper towel to drain. A small demitasse spoon was used to fill the tomatoes and the mushrooms with bean filling.
8. Garnishing the tomatoes and the mushrooms in the photo are tiny Globe Basil branches from my garden.
9. The bean mixture is also delicious in baby bella mushrooms.


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Running with unbridled joy, Buster, my “grand puppy,” leaps into the air and performs his signature belly-flop into the water. Quickly, he locates his float-toy, snatches it with his mouth, dog paddles back, drops the float on the ground, sprays water over everyone as he shakes it off, and then barks a resounding “Let’s do that again!” Sitting in the cool shade of a tree, I watch Buster repeat this series of actions for almost an hour. During this time, my thoughts shift from “dog hair clogging the pool filter” to “what a joy it is to live in the moment.” This is just another life lesson I’ve learned from a dog!

#1 – Gelato or Ice Cream?

My family would leap in the air for a bowl of good gelato. It started several years ago, when my husband made it his job to find us the best gelato in each city that we visited in Italy. Thanks to him, we tasted some of the freshest-flavored and creamiest gelato we’ve ever had. Finding good gelato back here in the states is more challenging, so we soothe our demanding taste buds with ice cream. Both gelato and ice cream are delicious, but have you ever wondered what the primary differences between the two are? Here’s what I learned from TravelDudes:

1. Gelato is made with mostly milk, whereas ice cream is made with mostly cream. Therefore, ice cream has 2-3 times the fat content.

2. Gelato is made using a slow churning process, whereas ice cream is whipped. This means gelato has a lower air content making it denser and richer.

3. Gelato is served at a warmer temperature than ice cream, and freezes at a lower temperature, so it is soft from the first spoonful.

#2 – Don’t Just Sit There
During an NPR interview, Gretchen Reynolds, the New York Times PhysEd columnist, discusses the importance of standing up every two minutes of sitting. If you sit at a desk for the better part of the day, you might want to read or listen to her interview as she details “simple ways you can combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle” and other health and fitness issues.

#3 – Take the Mystery Out Recycling Plastic
If recycling were made simpler, more people would do it. Storing recyclable items at home until enough accumulates to warrant a trip to a recycling center is a minor inconvenience compared to the problem of figuring out what is accepted and what is not accepted at recycling centers. The Daily Green’s helpful article, “What Do Recycling Symbols on Plastics Mean?” takes some of the mystery out of recycling plastic.

#4 – The Net Worth of Imagination

Artist Janet Echelman took a leap of faith fourteen years ago when her paints went missing and she was forced to create an art piece using an unfamiliar medium – fishing nets. Years later, hers is a story of pursuing and adapting her vision and creating building-sized, billowy, volumetric sculptures. The nine minute TED video is inspiring, but what I found most inspiring were the TED conversations regarding “Creative vision – how do you develop and hold onto it, especially when obstacles appear in your path?” Look for these conversations under “Comment On This Talk.”

#5 – Make the Leap
“Leap and the net will appear” ~ Zen Saying

Enjoy your weekend and Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms!

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A long embrace and a quick murmured, “Love you. Take care of yourself,” and he was gone. My firstborn, who has always marched to his own drumbeat, is moving on with his life. Although I am extremely grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that awaits him in New York City and for the fact that he is not moving out of the country, I allow myself to experience the bittersweet feelings that stir within.

With less than four adrenaline-fueled days to adjust to the idea of him leaving and to tie up loose ends here, I didn’t have time to sit, feel, and acknowledge the rumblings of my heart and brain until now. My brain confirms all the positive aspects of this transition, but my heart stubbornly refuses to let go of that last bit of apron string tied to him. I remind myself that he is following his dream, something that I endlessly supported. But in this mother’s mind, at this moment in time, I can’t help but think that this wonderful opportunity is carrying him far away from home and family. His hard work and perseverance paid off. He held fast to his dream even when his life didn’t go according to plan – when life’s zigs and zags carried him their unpredictable ways. How could I not be happy for him now?

In reality, he’s not lived at home for a while, but he’s always lived in the same state as the rest of the family. As he heads to the opposite coast, I take comfort in the marvel of today’s technology, which will help to appease my motherly worries. I worry about this son of mine because he has a different approach to life than my other children and because things seem to happen to him that don’t happen to the others.

His decision to drive across the country with his girlfriend rather than fly, a decision that baffled many, did not surprise me. I asked him why he wanted to drive for five days and arrive at his new job road-weary and tired. I asked him why he wanted to drive a car that already has 150,000 miles on it and risk it breaking down in the middle of nowhere. I asked him why he was making things so complicated. He told me calmly, “It’s only complicated to you, Mom.” And then he added, “In my line of work, you draw on life’s experiences for ideas.” I understood what he was telling me. It’s my fault, I thought to myself. Throughout the years I reminded my children about “life being a journey and not a destination.” It’s no wonder that they yearn to do more, see more, and experience more.

For three decades my identity has been wrapped up with my children. It’s inevitable that as they transition, so must I. With one child moving away and another getting married in a few months, the focus of my life must shift away from them. It is only natural. My time is coming again. My children’s growth and good fortune affords me the time and energy to fulfill more of my life’s dreams. It is now abundantly clear to me, that my children are not the only ones moving on.

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They’re finally here! After a seemingly long wait, the little strawberry stand down the way from my home finally reopened. Baskets overflow with big, red, ripe, juicy strawberries and customers eagerly stand in line to get some of the first-of-the-season beauties. They are just one of the reasons I love spring!

#1 – Strawberry Trivia – True or False?
A. Strawberries are the only fruit with the seeds on the outside.
B. The average strawberry has about 200 seeds.
C. Strawberries were once used as a toothpaste to clean teeth.
D. Strawberries are the most valuable fruit crop in the U.S.
E. Strawberries will continue to ripen once picked.
F. Strawberries are part of the rose family.
G. Strawberries offer more Vitamin C than any other berry.
I. Strawberries are the second fruit to ripen in the spring.

Answers: A (T ), B (T), C (T), D (F – strawberries are in fourth place after grapes, apples, oranges), E (F – strawberries will not ripen once picked), F (T), G (T), I (F – strawberries are the first fruit to ripen in the spring.

#2 – Berry Beautiful
Forget about drinking your strawberry smoothie! Slather it on your face instead! Because strawberries contain salicylic acid and antioxidants, you can use them to make beneficial and natural face masks at home. Go to Strawberry-Recipes to read about the benefits of strawberry facial masks and try its recipe below:

Homemade Strawberry Facial Mask

4 to 5 very ripe, medium size strawberries
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon honey

Rinse the strawberries and dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. In a small bowl, mash fruit with a fork. Add cream and honey, mixing well. Apply immediately and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse of with lots of warm water.

#3 – A Wall to Watch
Friday’s Fresh Five! is all about sharing, so when I came across Wall to Watch, an “online gallery of undiscovered content,” I knew I had to share it. It’s a site that presents nine interesting articles a day. Check it out and enjoy!

#4 – Berry Good For You
Eating blueberries and strawberries are one of the nine things listed in the article “Boost your brain: things to do, eat and drink which could stave off Alzheimer’s.” I already feed my husband nutrient-packed strawberries and blueberries; now if I could only get him to follow tip number 2 and clean the house for his own good!

#5 – Love Is A Fruit
Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.
Mother Teresa

Have a wonderful weekend!

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“Mom’s going to love these,” I thought to myself as I whipped up a batch of French Breakfast Puffs. Cinnamon-sugar coats tender, buttery mounds of baked perfection. Although their exteriors are golden, one bite gives way to a moist and tender muffin-like texture. I know my mom will really enjoy nibbling on these while sipping her morning coffee. Serve these delicious morsels at any brunch, but why not plan ahead to Mother’s Day?

French Breakfast Puffs
Recipe from The American Country Inn and Bed And Breakfast Cookbook

1/3 cup shortening, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin cups.
2. In a large bowl cream together the shortening, sugar, and egg.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
4. Stir flour mixture into the sugar mixture, alternately with the milk.
5. Fill the prepared muffin cups 2/3 full.
6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.
7. In a small bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon. Roll the warm muffins in melted butter, then in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Serve hot.

Makes 12 muffins.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. If you don’t like the taste of nutmeg, you can leave it out. One time I accidentally left the nutmeg out and the puffs still tasted great. Nutmeg does lend more depth to the overall flavor, though.

2. I melt one cube of butter (8 T) and always barely have enough to coat all the puffs.


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