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Archive for February, 2013

Three envelopes with photo transfers

Print, cut, dip, rub, dry, and voilà you’ve just made custom tape! Use your custom tape to personalize greeting cards and envelopes. I first learned about the process of transferring photocopy ink from my oldest son when he was in high school. Back then I thought it was a pretty cool artistic process, but one that I could never see myself using. Now fifteen years later, I’m personalizing envelopes using a technique similar to his. Thanks to the site Lil Blue Boo for the inspiration. I can’t wait to experiment more with this technique and to try using it in other ways.

Supplies:
Supplies 1. Photo images on paper
2. Scissors
3. Clear packing tape
4. Straight edge
5. Bowl of water

Directions:
1. Select the photo image you want to use. Make a photocopy of the photo or print it up using a laser printer, not an ink jet printer. Larger images work better than smaller images that contain a lot of details. Images with a fair amount of contrast will also show up better. If printing the image from your computer, you can format it to have multiple copies on one page, thus creating a strip of photos. This technique also works with images from a magazine. Black and white wedding photos

2. Cut out your image and lay it face up on your work surface. Cut off a piece of packing tape about four inches longer than your piece of paper. Center the tape over the paper with sticky-side down and 2 inches of extra tape at each end. Press tape down gently on paper. Rub a straight edge, a ruler, or a paper boning tool over the entire surface of the tape-covered paper to ease out any bubbles and to make sure the ink is evenly and securely adhered to the adhesive.

Place tape over photos

Place tape over photos

3. Holding the two ends of the tape, immerse the paper-side of the tape into a bowl of water until the paper absorbs water and softens.

place tape with photos in bowl of water

Place tape with photos in bowl of water

4. Using your fingers, gently rub off all the paper from the tape. You may need to dip the paper in the water several times to remove all of it.

Rub paper off of tape

Rub paper off of tape

5. When all the paper is removed, the tape will resemble a clear photo negative (even though it is a positive). Hang to dry.

6. Press the dry tape to your desired surface.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I made custom tape to decorate Valentine’s Day cards for my favorite couples and for anniversary cards, but I think personalized tape would be cute for other occasions, such as baby showers, birth announcements, etc.

2. You are not restricted to photos. You could also create personalized text. Again, just make sure you use either a photocopy or a print out from a laser printer.

3. I also transferred a color image from a page out of a magazine. That opens a whole new realm of possibilities!

4. This process would be a fun activity to do with children!

Enjoy!

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Daphne

Daphne by Linnell Chang

If you walk up to my front door right now, there’s a gift waiting for you. For, at this very moment, the sweet fragrance of Daphne flowers infuse the air. Such a delightful way to be greeted, but how will you reply? Will you bask in the moment or will you move on?

#1 – Tolkien’s Ents?

Methuselah tree

Photo by Rick Goldwasser

From a flower-strewn bush of Daphnes to the sky-high tops of trees, nature’s gifts always impress. Mother Nature Network assembled this photo series of “The World’s 10 Oldest Living Trees.” Looking at these photos of ancient trees, one has to wonder if any of them were the inspiration for Tolkien’s wise Ents?

#2 – A Bright Idea
DIY project: Aluminum Lanterns Here’s a really clever decorating idea that was inspired by a creative person’s shopping trip to Home Depot. These lanterns are made from aluminum sheets and require minimal supplies to construct them. Looks like a fun project for the weekend!

#3 – The Skinny on Salad Dressings
Eating a salad for lunch or dinner is a nutritious and low-calorie meal, right? Well, that all depends on the salad dressing you’re pouring over those fresh greens. Not only do many salad dressings contain fat, many of them are also high in sodium. Here’s registered dietician Joy Bauer’s recipe for a low calorie (59 calories per 2 tablespoons) and low sodium (40 mg per 2 tablespoons) salad dressing:

Joy’s Skinny Balsamic Vinaigrette
Ingredients:
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp mustard
1 tsp honey
1 tsp garlic powder

Directions:
In a jar, combine all ingredients. Shake until everything is well combined. It’ll stay fresh in the fridge for five days.

Makes eight 2-Tbsp servings

#4 – Made Me Smile
Made Me Smile Just looking at this graphic made me smile, but I loved the introduction to Marc and Angel Hack Life‘s post “7 Things Happy People Say Every Day.” The introduction reads, “You have the right words within you to make every day a happy one.” Words have power – say the right ones!

#5 – Flowery Thoughts
Couldn’t decide, so here are two:

“The earth laughs in flowers. ”
e.e. cummings

“Every flower is a soul blossoming in Nature. ”
Gerard De Nerval

Get out and smell the flowers this weekend!

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spiced chocolate krinkle cookies

Add a little spice to your life and tantalize your taste buds with one of these cookies. At first bite, you’ll discover a rich chocolate flavor with a touch of sweetness, but then, as you’re about to swallow this little bit of naughtiness, a warm and spicy sensation floods your mouth. Ground ginger, freshly-grated ginger, and cayenne pepper provide the cookie with a surprising “afterglow.” A perfect treat anytime, but especially on a cold and rainy day like today!

Spiced Chocolate Krinkles
From The Sweet Spot by Pichet Ong

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons canola, vegetable, or other neutral oil
1 ounce (28 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 ounces/54 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons almond flour or coconut powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1/2 cup (3¾ ounces/106 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (2 ounces/55 grams) confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
1. Put the oil, chocolate, both gingers, the cardamom, cayenne, and salt in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water and melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl if necessary, and cool completely.

2. Sift together the flours, cocoa powder, and baking powder and set aside.

3. When the chocolate mixture has cooled to room temperature, add the egg, sugar, and vanilla extract and stir just until combined. Gently fold in the flour mixture until well incorporated. Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap, flatten into a 1-inch-thick disk, and wrap tightly in the plastic. Chill until hard, at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.

4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Pinch off a piece of dough, form it into a 1/2-inch ball, roll in the confectioners’ sugar until well coated, and place on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, putting the coated balls 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.

6. Bake the cookies until the tops look cracked and are dry to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Linnell’s Notes:
1. An easy way to peel fresh ginger is to scrap off the “skin” with a teaspoon.

2. The cookbook author noted, “Don’t be tempted to make these cookies bigger. They look more appealing when small and the flavors and texture are best enjoyed in a single bite.”

3. My cookie dough turned out to be more loosely formed than a dough. I attribute this to using an extra large egg. The dough did firm up a bit after chilling it for a couple of hours.

4. To prevent the dough from sticking to my hands while rolling it into balls, I repeatedly wet the palms of my hands with water. Keep a small bowl of water nearby.

ENJOY!

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Robert Chang If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then my father-in-law and I certainly came from different galaxies. For forty years our relationship resembled a roller coaster ride with its undulating highs and lows. My touchy-feely-emotional ways and his rigid self-righteous attitude were like oil and water – existing together, but with slim chance of permanently blending. Throughout our relationship, he brought out an intensity of emotions inside of me that I never knew existed. But as I matured and gained a better understanding of his modus operandi, I suspected that his arrogance and bravado masked something deep inside of him. Early Monday morning he passed away in his sleep at the age of 90. How do I go about reconciling my feelings for this proud and highly-principled man? How do I remember a man who made me so angry I screamed or who wounded me so deeply I cried? Despite some rough times with him, my best answer is to remember him with kindness. For in the end he was just a man, a person fraught with human frailties, fears, and insecurities, like the rest of us. He was far from perfect, but I believe he did the best that he knew how.

#1 – Notes from the Universe
Notes from the Universe Every weekday morning I wake up to a “personalized” inspirational email message. Reading these messages, helps me start my day inspired and motivated. It’s a little like having a personal cheerleader. So, if you’re interested in having a little food for thought along with your breakfast every morning, check out and subscribe to Notes From The Universe.

#2 – Ways to Make Your Groceries Last Longer

Freezing and preserving fresh herbs in olive oil

Freeze and preserve fresh herbs in olive oil. From the Kitchn.com

A shopping trip to the grocery store nowadays costs a small fortune. Check out these 27 Ways to Make Your Groceries Last As Long As Possible and get some great ideas that will, in the long run, save you money.

#3 – Left Brain Vs. Right Brain
Mercedes Benz Left brain Right Brain graphic This Mercedes-Benz graphic illustrates the inherent differences between left-brained and right-brained people, but it also reflects two different approaches to life – much like the differences between my father-in-law and me. Click on the image to enlarge it.

#4 – Whose Life Is It Anyway?
If your life is not how you imagine or dream it should be, you need only look at who’s in the driver seat – you! Writer and blogger Shelli Johnson wrote a post called, “Need Permission To Follow Your Dream?” regarding her own moment of realization that she needed to take charge of own her life.

#5 – Live a Life Worth Remembering
The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.
Bruce Lee

Enjoy your weekend!

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DIY jar and jute candleholders

Get out those skeins of macrame cord you’ve been saving since the 1970s and pull out those empty glass jars from underneath your kitchen sink. It’s time to upcycle them into retro-chic candle holders! I made these candle holders in just one morning. Their relaxed vibe makes for great centerpieces (outdoor or indoor) or thoughtful gifts. For a morning coffee gathering or a brunch, put a base layer of coffee beans in the jars and let the candles help release the aroma of freshly-roasted coffee!

Materials:
Glass jars (for a more interesting arrangement, choose jars of different heights)
Jute, twine, or macrame cord
Hot glue gun
Assorted lace trim
Bamboo skewers
Tealights
Nonflammable base material such as rice, beans, coffee beans, sand, etc.
Scissors

General Directions:
1. Remove labels from jars. If some adhesive remains, use a solvent such as Goo Gone to remove it.
2. Wash and try jars thoroughly.
3. Heat up your glue gun.
4. Place a little bit of glue on the twine and press it down on the glass jar using a bamboo skewer or your fingers. Using a bamboo skewer prevents burning your fingers on the hot glue. Putting the glue on the twine versus directly on the glass prevents globs of glue from showing up on the glass or getting all over the glass.
5. Because you’re not using a lot of glue, it will set quickly, so work fast. It helps to have a design in mind before you start.
6. Rub off stray glue “threads,” fill jars with base material, and insert tealights.
7. Tie a bow or wrap twine several times around the top of the jar for a more finished look.

Heart Jar:
Laying down a little glue at a time, create a heart-shape perimeter with the twine. Gradually, coil the twine around and around inside the heart-shape, putting down small spots of glue on the back side of the twine as you go. I coiled small circles in between the hearts to balance the design.

Lace Jar:
Starting at the “back” of the jar, I tacked one end of lace to the jar, wrapped it around the jar cutting off the right length, and glued it down on top of where I started. Twine was then centered on the ribbon in between the lace and glued down on the back of the jar. Lace jars in of themselves are pretty, but I felt twine had to be incorporated into the lace design to create a cohesive design grouping.

Loopy Jar:
I started at the bottom of the jar and just looped the jute in a free-form pattern around the jar. When making the loops, it is easier to glue the contact points of a loop before tacking it to the jar.

Love Jar:
This was created in a similar fashion as the loopy jar, except I spelled out the word “love” on the front and back of the jar.

candle holders made from glass jars and jute

Enjoy your candle holders!

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photo of cockapoo

Romeo by Linnell Chang

“Romeo may be old, but he still has a big dog mentality,” I mused as I watched my 14-year-old cockapoo struggle up the stairs with a large rawhide chew in his mouth. At the top of the stairs, a pile of small chews reflects his dissatisfaction with treats meant for his size. Yesterday, on a whim, I gave Romeo a large chew left behind by my son’s black lab puppy. From the look in Romeo’s eyes, I could tell he was thinking, “Now this is more like it, Mom!” As he drags the large chew from room to room, he’s living proof that size is all in our heads.

#1 – Rules for Being Human
photo of person lean against tree Many misconceptions or beliefs fill our heads and convince us of what we are or what we are not. We are often guilty of perpetuating inaccurate self-perceptions; it’s incumbent on us to combat this form of negative mind control. Since my teen years, I’ve kept a collection of philosophical thoughts, motivational writings, and inspirational quotes to help me channel my thoughts and to empower me. Some passages from Marc and Angel Hack Life have earned their way into my collection. Here’s an example of some of their introspective reflections, “12 Rules for Being a Human Being.”

#2 – Help For Hands
foam sleeve on glass for arthritic hands Watching my father-in-law try to grip his glass of juice with his gnarly arthritic fingers, I thought to myself, “There’s got to be something out there that can help him.” While driving home from my visit with him, an idea popped into my head: why not slip one of those foam fruit protector sleeves over the glass? It will provide him with a softer and more malleable surface to grip onto and will help prevent the glass from slipping through his not-so-dexterous fingers. If you try this idea, make sure you use a glass with the proper diameter, so that the foam sleeve is snug and cannot slip off.

#3 – Bubble Therapy
In need of a little child-like oooing and aaahing to lift your spirits? Take a minute and enjoy the wonder of giant bubbles being blown on the beach and carried away by the wind.

#4 – Calcium Supplements Bad for Men?
graphic of pill bottle I wrote a post a while back about the push-pull of advice I was getting from my doctors. One doctor was adamant about my taking calcium supplements for my bones and another doctor advised me not to take calcium supplements because they irritate the heart. Obviously the heart trumps the bones, so I don’t take calcium supplements anymore, but I try to eat a diet that is high in calcium. Knowing that, I wasn’t surprised to read about the controversy over calcium supplements in USA TODAY’s article, “Calcium Supplements May Be Bad for a Man’s Heart.” The article also includes the recommended calcium amounts by age. Please consult with your doctor if you have questions regarding calcium supplements.

#5 – Cherish The Good Times
“Life rolls by in fits and starts, weeks, days, years and months, moments good and bad. You can’t help noticing bad times; they have ways of getting your attention. It’s the good times that are easy to miss, hard to recognize until they are gone. You have to slow down and watch closely for them. And when you see one coming your way, reach out and grab it. Clutch it to your heart. Stand in awe of your good fortune, and be thankful. And before you let it go, lift it up for your children, point it out like a shooting star and let it shine. Make sure they see it. Remind them, lest they forget, that they are loved and life is good.”
Sharon Randall

Enjoy your weekend and Happy Chinese New Year!

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five spice pork belly Before you say, “Eww, gross!” at the mere mention of pork belly, consider this: other countries in the world make their bacon from side and back cuts of pork, but here in the United States, we choose to make our bacon from the pig’s belly. In other words, bacon is none other than cured PORK BELLY, so if you’re loving your crispy bacon in the morning, you are eating pork belly!

Dining on pork belly has become a food trend from coast to coast. Chefs at some of the most popular and fashionable restaurants have put their own unique spin on preparing it. For example, Chef Zak Pelaccio of New York, makes a signature Coriander Bacon. His chefs “cure their heritage-pork belly in a mix of palm sugar, coriander, Thai chiles, and salt, smoke it over hardwood, then braise it to melting, candied softness.” That sounds delicious, but the procedure is more complicated than the average home cook wants to undertake. Here’s an easy and interesting pork belly recipe. It’s similar in taste to the Chinese red-cooked pork belly, but with a Thai twist. The addition of chopped tomatoes, fish sauce, and lime juice provides a sublime depth of flavors. This dish will be part of my Chinese New Year’s feast this weekend!

Pork Belly with Five Spices
From The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Thai Cooking by Judy Bastyra

Ingredients:
1 large bunch fresh coriander (cilantro) with roots*
2 tbsp/30ml vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp/30ml five-spice powder
1¼ lb/500g pork belly, cut into 1-in/2.5cm pieces
14oz/400g can chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup/150ml hot water
2 tbsp/30ml dark soy sauce
3 tbsp/45ml Thai fish sauce
2 tbsp/30ml granulated sugar
1 lime halved

Directions:
1. Cut off the coriander roots. Chop five of them finely and freeze the remainder for another occasion. Chop the coriander stalks and leaves and set them aside. Keep the roots separate.

2. Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the garlic until golden brown. Stirring constantly, add the chopped coriander roots and then the five-spice powder.

3. Add the pork and stir-fry until the meat is thoroughly coated in spices and has browned. Stir in the tomatoes and hot water. Bring to a boil, then stir in the soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar.

4. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the chopped coriander stalks and leaves. Squeeze in the lime juice and serve.

Serves 4

Linnell’s Notes:
1. This dish is not intended to be served as a solo main entrée, but as one among several entrée-type dishes served at dinner (Chinese style).

2. Five-spice powder is said to encompass the five elements of flavor: sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, and salty. Use Chinese five-spice powder, which is normally made from cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise, and Szechuan pepper, and not the Indian five spice known as Panch phoran, which is made from fenugreek seed, nigella seed, cumin seed, black mustard seed and fennel seed.

3. *I did not have coriander with roots and I understand it can be hard to find, so I cut in a few more stems to make up the difference. Coriander/cilantro stems have a slightly more intense flavor than the leaves.

ENJOY!

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