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Archive for July, 2012

After this weekend, a new title and role will be added to my life’s résumé – that of mother-in-law. I welcome my new daughter-in-law into our family with open arms, as she becomes another “She” in my life. Please enjoy reading one of my favorite posts from the past.

She, with her copper-colored hair who has survived two breast surgeries and now faces a diagnosis of stomach cancer, hugs me and thanks me for the emotional uplift. I did not know her before she walked into the store looking for clothes to wear for the summer. She is buying clothes for a season she may not see, but is positively projecting her future. I tell her the story of my grandmother who had lung cancer, who denied she had anything but rheumatism, and who managed to live years beyond her original grim diagnosis. She is misty-eyed, yet smiling while listening to my story. We hug again and she leaves the store. I silently thank her for her courageous presence on this earth.

She sits in her wheel chair and waves goodbye from the window. I watch her as she blows kisses to my daughter and me as we drive away from the senior care center. Our hearts are sad that we can’t take her with us, but she does not belong to us and is destined to live in that place for the rest of her life. She has just told us that she “loves us so much.” Her words warm my heart and I silently thank her for allowing us into her life.

She wanders through the store refusing help from others. She approaches me and asks me about the unique sizing. In a matter-of-fact manner I relay the information to her. She looks me in the eye and softly says, “My husband is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.” She tells me of the difficulties of being his caretaker and how she cannot leave him. I tell her she must take time to care for herself. We discuss this matter a bit more. How can I speak of things I do not know? The words seem to flow from my mouth. Then with a look of resignation, she weaves her way back through the racks of clothes and is gone. I silently thank her for her lesson on devotion.

She steps off the plane and my family says, “Is that her?” She is the wife and mother who has not been seen for over two decades. She is the grandmother who only knows of her grandchildren by the photos she’s kept safe in a basket back at home. She comes towards me with opened arms and utters my Chinese name “Lai Jyuh.” Her arms bear the strength of a woman who once hid in the mountains from the Communists, yet, as they wrap around me, I feel the soft tenderness of unconditional love. I silently thank her for sharing her love with me.

These are mere samplings of encounters with women, some complete strangers and some dear to me, that have enlightened my soul. Each encounter is like a shimmery thread that I have taken and gently woven into a beautiful fabric that wraps around my heart. I give humble thanks to each and every “She” who has passed my way.

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Wedding bells will chime this week for my son and his fiancé. As I happily wade through lists and list of wedding details, I offer you a repost of one of my favorite summer salads. Enjoy!

How fortunate it is that tomatoes and basil both thrive in summer heat. When it’s too hot to cook, salads make frequent appearances on the dinner menu in my house and with the bounty of tomatoes and basil outside in the garden, who could resist not finding as many ways as possible to use these two summer favorites? It only gets better – here’s a recipe that combines tomatoes and basil with the healthy goodness of quinoa. In an earlier post Quinoa and Shrimp Salad, I explained why quinoa is a nutritional gem; these tiny seeds contain a balanced set of essential amino acids, making them complete proteins, and are a great gluten-free source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and iron.

Quinoa Salad With Tomatoes and Basil
Adapted from a recipe by Rachel Venokur-Clark

Salad Ingredients:
1 C quinoa
1/2 red onion, diced
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/3 C sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), diced
1/2 C fresh basil, chopped
1/4 C pine nuts, toasted

Dressing Ingredients:
4 garlic cloves
1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 T white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. Measure quinoa into a sieve and rinse with cold water. Drain. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add quinoa. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Set aside and let cool.

2. Whisk together all dressing ingredients, except for the olive oil. Pour oil in a small stream into the the bowl of dressing ingredients, whisking the whole time to form an emulsion. Set aside.

3. Toast the pine nuts in a pan until lightly browned and fragrant. While toasting, keep an eye on them and stir them occasionally so that they don’t burn. Let cool.

4. To the cooked and cooled quinoa, add diced onion, diced tomatoes, diced sun-dried tomatoes, and diced basil. Toss gently.

5. Whisk salad dressing again and pour over salad ingredients. Toss again.

6. Serve on a bed of lettuce and garnish with toasted pine nuts.

Serves 4-6.

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As the doctor looked at my eye through a scope and leaned in with a pair of tweezers to remove one of the filaments that had grown on my cornea, I chastised myself for taking my eyesight for granted. I try to lead a grateful life and consider myself fortunate that I have so many things for which I am grateful, but sometimes it is easy to become aloof towards the most fundamental. My eye is fine now, but that does not mean more filaments won’t form in the future. This past week “opened my eyes” on how my world might change if I could not see.

#1 – Bottled Water
Many of us who live in the United States take clean water for granted. We should be grateful that potable water comes to us with a flick of the wrist. Even though we have safe drinking water, many people prefer to drink bottled water.  But what are the realities behind bottled water? Here are some facts about bottled water presented by Online Education:
The Facts About Bottled Water

#2 – Workout Food

I show respect and gratitude towards my body by eating healthy foods and exercising it. Because I tend to ignore my alarm clock and wake up late, I usually grab a banana before I workout at the gym. But after reading this article, Foods for Workouts: Cardio from Food Network’s Healthy Eats, I realized that if I woke up earlier I could justify eating a lot more food!

#3 – Forty Photos
The world we live in is amazing and these forty photos prove it. They are among the thousands of photos entered into the 24th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012. Spectacular images were submitted from around the world and the lucky winners will be announced in August. Want to see all of the contest entries? Click here.

#4 – Life According to Einstein

You can learn more than just physics when reading about Albert Einstein. Here’s an article from the site Dumb Little Man called 10 Amazing Life Lessons You Can Learn From Albert Einstein.

#5 – Just Be Grateful
You cannot be grateful and bitter.
You cannot be grateful and unhappy.
You cannot be grateful and without hope.
You cannot be grateful and unloving.
So just be grateful.

Author Unknown

Fill your weekend with gratitude. On Saturday, think about all the people in your life that you are grateful for and then on Sunday tell them how you feel! 

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Wait! You should think twice before you say, “Ewww . . . kale!” and snub this recipe. Try to withhold judgement until after you taste this easy-to-make and nutrient-packed salad. The earthy flavor and color of dark green kale leaves are wonderfully offset by the tropical fruit flavor and bright color of mango. And what makes this salad different from other kale salads is the massaged kale. Yes, that’s right, MASSAGED. Most of us know that a little oil and a gentle massage go a long way to relax tense muscles. Kale undergoes a similar transformation after a short and gentle massage. The tough and fibrous strips of kale become relaxed and tender. What’s not to like about eight simple ingredients that when combined together create a beautiful salad and a healthier you?

Massaged Kale Salad
Recipe courtesy of Aarti Sequeira

Ingredients:
1 large bunch of kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons honey
Freshly ground black pepper
1 mango, diced small (about 1 cup)
Small handful toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), about 2 rounded tablespoons

Directions:
1. In large serving bowl, add the kale, half of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little kosher salt. Massage until kale starts to soften and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside while you make the dressing.
2. In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the honey and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stream in the 1/4 cup of oil while whisking until a dressing forms, and you like how it tastes.
3. Pour the dressing over the kale and add the mango and pepitas. Toss and serve.

Serves 4.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. The easiest way to remove stalks from kale leaves is to hold the stem end in one hand and, in one motion, pull the leaf away and down the stem with the other hand. Repeat until all stems are removed. Wash and dry leaves.
2. To cut the leaves, stack several leaves and then roll them into a cigar. Slice your kale “cigar” crosswise to form thin ribbons.
3. The lemon I used was large, so I added a little bit more honey to take away some of the tartness in the salad dressing.
4. Other fruit, such as peaches or strawberries, could easily be substituted for the mango.

ENJOY!

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With only a few weeks left before my son’s wedding, I am the picture of calm. Why then, does everyone ask me, “How are you doing? Are you stressed, yet?” Each time I smile and calmly reply, “No, no, of course not. I’m fine!” Their questions create momentary panic, though, and I begin to doubt myself. Should I be stressed? Why aren’t I stressed? Have I forgotten to do something? There must be something I’ve overlooked, because I’m not stressed. Then my “To Do” list pops into my head and I mentally review all the things that still must be done prior to the wedding. No worries, I have things under control – at least the things that I can control!

#1 – Room in a Box

For the last couple of years, my motto has been, “Less is More.” This new outlook of mine will shock those that know me as a collector and part-time hoarder, but it developed as I moved child after child out of their apartments and into new ones. When I saw this clever Room in a Box , my first thought was, “Wow, that would be so easy to move!

#2 – Sew and Sew

I could write a book about my recent woes with seamstresses. I ordered and purchased a dress from a bridal store for my son’s upcoming wedding. After two rounds of alterations, the dress was so tight, I could not move in it. When I complained about the fit to the dress designer/owner of the shop, she said, “You didn’t tell me you wanted to move. I thought you just wanted to look good in the pictures!” Seriously! In desperation I bought another dress to wear to the wedding and had the alterations done at the major department store where it was purchased. When I received the altered dress, I was disappointed to discover that one of the darts was noticeably puckered all along the seam. When my other son, the best man, took his dress shirt and wedding suit jacket to yet another place for alterations, one jacket sleeve turned out shorter than the other. The tailor had neglected to measure both of my son’s arms. I’ve learned my lesson and thank goodness I found a skilled seamstress who corrected the others’ poor workmanship issues. If you’re looking for a tailor/seamstress, make sure to read this article 10 Tips for Finding Your Perfect Tailor first!

#3 – Deal or No Deal?

A game of chance and a fun diversion from working at the computer, this game is very much like its television version. Deal or No Deal tests your luck and intuition. Select a briefcase and set it aside. Open up one briefcase at a time, hoping that you don’t come across the one that contains $100,000,000 because you want that amount to be in your briefcase. During the process the bank will tease and entice you with different dollar amounts to buy you out. On my first go-round my instinct led me to set aside briefcase #4 and I won a million dollars! If only it could be that easy!

#4 – Career Advice
What if you could receive career advice from someone at the very top of your chosen field? Let’s say a Nobel laureate. In the article, Careers Advice from Nobel Prizewinners, a few Nobel laureates were asked what advice they would give to someone planning a career in physics. Although their exact replies centered on scientific studies, the heart of their advice applies to any person pursuing any career:

1. You need passion.
2. Mentors matter.
3. You have to go out on a limb.
4. A dose of humility helps.
5. You can’t do it all.
6. Pursue your passion.

#5 – Do What You Came Here to Do
It is very important that you only do what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may lose your car, you may have to move into a shabby place to live, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do.
— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Have a great weekend!

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Lightly freckled bananas sit on my kitchen counter and beg to be eaten while still in their prime. A thought crosses my mind, “What about using them in a dessert for the potluck dinner tonight?” Being short on time, I search for a quick and easy banana recipe. Voilà! Paula Deen to the rescue again! This recipe tantalizes me, because it contains all sorts of sinful ingredients like cream cheese, whipped cream and sweetened condensed milk. But what really lures me in is the use of a big-time favorite cookie of mine – buttery Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies. I can’t wait to sample this dessert! Hold on a minute . . . how am I going to taste this luscious banana dessert AND serve it at a potluck? I don’t think anyone will notice a missing corner piece, do you?

Not Yo’ Mama’s Banana Pudding
Recipe courtesy of Paula Deen

Ingredients:
2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
6 to 8 bananas, sliced
2 cups milk
1 (5-ounce) box instant French vanilla pudding
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whipped cream

Directions:
1. Line the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies . . .

. . . and then layer bananas on top of them.

2. Notice that some of the cookies are broken. Eat them.

3. In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer.
4. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies.

4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 12.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Because I like my banana desserts to be full of fresh banana flavor, I cut up eight bananas.
2. To prevent the bananas from turning yellow, I sliced the bananas and, in batches, put them in a strainer over a bowl and poured lemon juice over them. I poured the lemon juice from the bowl back into the measuring cup to use again.

3. For better flavor, I whipped up some fresh whipping cream and used it in place of the frozen whipped topping.
4. This recipe does come together easily and makes a wonderful dessert for potlucks, family dinners, and parties.

ENJOY!

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Zooming in on three bees crawling on a purple thistle flower, I snap a photo and say to my husband, “Do you see what they’re doing?” As we stand in the warm Southern California sunshine, he replies, “Spreading pollen?” I look at him and say, “Yes, but they’re also ‘thistling’ while they work. Get it?”

#1 – Signs of Happiness
If you are happy, you will recognize these signs of happiness. If you are not happy, well, maybe it’s a sign that something needs to change in your life.
10 Signs of True Happiness - Networx

#2 – What About You, Now?
Mick Ebeling, the founder of the Not Impossible Foundation, poses these questions to people he meets, “If not now, then when? If not me, then who?” In this TED video he talks about how he and a team developed an invention that unlocked a paralyzed artist’s lost world.

#3 – Mind Games
Like your body, your brain needs exercise to stay in tip-top shape. After you do your morning stretches and exercises, sit down and play a few brain games. Play Mind Tree every day to keep your brain agile and alert. It will challenge your skills in logic, awareness, arithmetic and memory.

#4 – Love Stories

I’ve previously posted links to the blog Marc and Angel Hack Life and to its sister site Makes Me Think. I love reading both sites because they make me think and they inspire me to be better and to do more. 60 Tiny Love Stories to Make You Smile is a nice combination of both blogs.

#5 – The Best Day of Your Life
“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”
Bob Moawad

Enjoy your weekend!

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