Archive for March, 2013

Road Blur

Photo by Linnell Chang

The road goes on for miles. Bright jagged streaks of light float over it and define its path. On and on it goes, passing one fence post after another, until finally, in a fiery explosion of color, it converges with the setting sun and the heavy night sky. Taken with my cell phone from a moving car, this photo is certainly not an example of my finest work, yet there’s something about it that captivates me. Perhaps its painting-like qualities, the broad brushstrokes of color and the soft fog-like illumination, draw me in. Or perhaps, the metaphoric symbol of the road, with its encouraging guiding light, carries me forward, on and on.

#1 – The Colors of Spring
Spring 2013 Colors Pretty spring colors are not just outside in the garden. They could be in your closet, too. I haven’t included a style or fashion post in a long time, so I thought some of you might appreciate this feature from Stylelist: Pantone Fashion Color Report Spring 2013. How many of these colors do you have in your spring wardrobe?

#2 – Reusing Mascara Brushes
Don’t throw away your used mascara brushes. Possessing an easy-to-hold handle and a small brush, mascara wands make the perfect tool for small jobs inside and outside of the home. Throw away the portion carrying the mascara and wash and dry the brush-handle part thoroughly. Here are a few ideas on how to reuse them that I found circulating on the internet, plus a few of my own ideas. If you can think of more ways to reuse mascara wands, send them to me. I’m always looking for new ways to reuse things!

Ways to Reuse Mascara Wands:

Separate clumpy eyelashes
Brush eyebrows
Exfoliate lips

Clean hummingbird feeders (the brushes need to be really clean for this use)
Clean jewelry
Clean heating and cooling vents (home and car)
Clean fingernails
Clean lint from hairdryer
Clean your computer keyboard
Clean out drilled holes

Unclog sink drains
Unclog soap or lotion dispensers
Paint with them
Get the last drop of paint out of a bottle/tube

#3 – Ice Castles
Harbin Ice Sculptures The Harbin Snow and Ice Festival is the largest ice festival on earth. After looking at these photos of the incredible ice sculptures, you’ll want to visit them in person. Add this festival to your bucket list!

#4 – Recipe Maker
From Fine Cooking comes this fun tool called Recipe Maker. The top of the website page states, “Our interactive tool guides your kitchen improvisation: You choose the specific ingredients and flavors; we provide you with the amounts and instructions.” I clicked on “Versatile and Variable Fritatta,” dragged virtual ingredients into a bowl step-by-step, and ended up with a delicious recipe that utilizes ingredients that I have in my refrigerator.

#5 – Love
“Remember that people are the least lovable when they are most in need of love.”
Sharon Randall

Enjoy your weekend!

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Fresh Banana Sorbet

“Can I throw these away?” my husband inquires. I look at the bunch of dark bananas in his hand and scream, “Noooooooooooo!” Guilt washes over me at the thought of wasting food. I come from a long line of “savers.” Nothing gets wasted, everything is saved. So when my husband sees a bunch of ugly and disgusting bananas, I see something with potential. Normally, if I’m on top of my game and I see brown bananas with freckles sitting on the kitchen counter, I’ll put them in the freezer for future baking projects. But occasionally, I’m too preoccupied to notice their demise and I end up sending them to the compost bin instead. When I came across this recipe for banana sorbet, I was thrilled. The only ingredient in this recipe are very ripe bananas! You’ll need a blender or a food processor – no ice cream maker is required. This frozen treat couldn’t be easier, healthier, and less wasteful!

Fresh Banana Sorbet
Recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini

Very ripe bananas

1. The day before, peel the bananas, slice them, and place them in a freezer-safe container in the freezer.

2. Remove the frozen banana slices from the freezer and process them in a sturdy food processor or blender. At first it will look like a mess, but if you press on, it will soon come together and become smooth.

3. At this point, you could choose to add mix-ins, such as candied nuts, chopped chocolate, dried coconut flakes, caramel sauce or melted chcolate to create swirls, etc.

4. Serve immediately or return to the freezer for later consumption.

Yields: A single medium banana will yield two small scoops or one large scoop.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. My husband likes to eat ice cream while watching television at night. I think this sorbet would be a healthier alternative for him. For the initial taste test, I presented him with a bowl of banana sorbet with chopped candied pecans sprinkled over the top. He gave it a thumbs up.

2. Because this sorbet does not contain anything artificial, it would make a great frozen treat for babies and young children. You could make a large batch and freeze it in small paper cups to make mini fruit pops for the kids.


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Photo by Linnell Chang

The breeze swirls around the daffodils and makes them nod their heads in unison. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” they seem to say with their up and down movement. For a moment I wonder, if the breeze had come from a different direction, would they have said, “No! No! No!” instead? But then I smile and say to myself, “Silly woman. Have you ever seen a daffodil with a negative attitude?” Nope. Never.

#1 – Garden Tips
Here are two gardening tips I used last weekend while planting flowers and vegetables. They’re not earth-shattering (pun intended), but they make life easier and reuse things that normally go to waste.

The Scoop:
Digging deep into bags of soil with my hand trowel only seemed to bring up small scoops of dirt at a time. Thinking there had to be a better way, I went into the kitchen and brought out a large, empty, plastic container that once held imitation whipped cream. It scooped up substantial amounts of soil well, but it was awkward to hold within the confines of the bag. What I needed was something more like a scoop, something that I could grip better. I had another idea. I went back into the kitchen, grabbed a pair of kitchen shears, and I cut a 3/4-inch wide slit halfway down the side of the plastic tub. It worked perfectly! Now my thumb sticks insides while my remaining fingers support the outside. I have better leverage and control while scooping. Because I wear thick gardening gloves, I’m not worried about cutting my hand on the plastic edges of the tub. DIY garden scoop

Coffee Filters:
Container planting can be messy. As you are pouring dirt into the container, some of it comes out through the bottom hole. I use paper coffee filters to cover the holes in my planters before I add soil. They let water through, but not dirt. Even better, you can place used coffee filters on the bottom of your planters – your acid-loving plants will be most appreciative! using coffee filters in the garden

#2 – Toy Stories
For his collection of photographs titled Toy Stories, photographer Gabriele Galimberti photographed children from around the world with their toys. Galimberti says his project revealed that, “The richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them.” As for poor children, he says, “In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.” More importantly, Galimberti says, “Doing this, I learnt more about the parents than I did about the kids.” By studying these photos, you’ll recognize how family values affect children’s playtime.

#3 – Something Good
Something good happens when you share your heart with another – in this case, a cute rescue dog! Watch this two-minute video that is “dedicated to all rescues” and encourages the adoption of pets. Even if you don’t love dogs, you’ll love the feel-good spirit of it!

#4 – Art Lessons
This week I told a friend that I’d love to paint, but that my creative bent did not bend in that direction. All my previous attempts to paint have been disasters. She reminded me that there is no right or wrong in art and that I’ve judged myself too harshly. So with renewed spirit and brush in hand, I will try again. Before I start, I’m going to watch painting videos for additional inspiration and motivation. The internet is a wonderful source for “how-to” videos. Here’s a link to 100 Awesome Art Lessons on YouTube that will help the artist in you get going!

#5 – The Gift
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
Pablo Picasso

Have a lovely weekend!

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Egg Cups As Mini Vases

To justify collecting “stuff,” I try to think of as many ways as possible to use my collections. For example, every March and April, I use my eclectic collection of egg cups to bring spring joy to my home. I fill them with sweet treats, flowers, or candles and use them as decorations. If you don’t already have a collection of egg cups and you’d like to start one, now is the time to start looking! Egg cups are normally inexpensive, unless you buy rare antique ones. Most of mine were treasures found at peddlers’ fairs, flea markets, antique stores, import stores, department stores, and discount stores, such as Tuesday Morning, T.J. Maxx, and Marshall’s. If you have any ideas or suggestions on other creative ways to use egg cups, I’d love to hear about them!

Egg Cups as Individual Candy Dishes:
Egg Cup Candy Dish Whether you use egg cups that match your china or you use a variety of egg cups, they are the perfect size to fill with sweet treats for your guests. Don’t feel restricted to filling them with jelly beans – a single chocolate truffle would add elegance to your table!

Egg Cups as Candle Holders:
Egg Cup Candle Holders Start by spreading a small amount of paper grass on a platter, tray, or serving dish. Arrange your egg cups on the platter, trying to vary the heights and colors of the cups. Put tea lights inside each of the egg cups. If desired, sprinkle Easter egg candy on the grass around the egg cups. I particularly like Cadbury’s Mini Eggs!

Egg Cups as Mini Vases:
Egg Cups as Mini Vases This is my favorite way to use my collection of egg cups. After arranging the egg cups on a tray, again placing the taller ones in the center and surrounding those with shorter ones, I use a measuring cup to fill them with water. Then I go out into my yard and look for small flowers and little bits of greenery. I try to keep the flowers and greens to scale with the size of my egg cups. Obviously, putting a camellia blossom inside an egg cup wouldn’t work, because the blossom would topple over. Most herbs work well in this case, because they have small leaves.

Decorating with egg cups is eggs-tremely fun!

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weeping cherry

Photo by Linnell Chang

Tucked away and wrapped around the scars of sawed off limbs, lays an oasis of flush, verdant growth. Young leaves glow brightly as the sun weaves its way through heavy branches and highlights this little piece of heaven. Despite its injury and its scars, this tree found the strength and the resiliency to prove that it’s still alive and beautiful. Alexander Pope said it best, “Hope springs eternal.”

#1 – From the Brink of Extinction
Imagine your excitement if you were an exploratory botanist and you noticed a tiny plant that had been thought to be extinct for the last 60 years growing on the steep slope of a volcano. Read the article about this amazing discovery on Mother Nature Network.

#2 – A Poet Who Knows It  
Whether you have a daughter or not, you will appreciate poet Sarah Kay’s heartfelt, sometimes rambling, but always thought-provoking TED presentation titled “If I Should Have a Daughter . . . “

Here are some examples of her thoughtful prose:

“Getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.”

“Put the star in starting over . . . and over.”

“There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away.”

#3 – Art and Nature

Artwork by Moki

Painting by Moki

German-based artist Moki combines humans with nature in some of her artwork. Learn about this talented artist and see more of her incredible art by clicking here.

#4 – With a String of Lights . . .
With a string of lights you can do a ton of fun and interesting things – well, at least the 46 Awesome String-Lights DIYs For Any Occasion that are shown on BuzzFeed. I really think the doily wedding garland is cute, but there are just too many clever ideas for me to choose a favorite!

#5 – The Negative Is the Positive
“Life is like photography. You need the negatives to develop.”
– Unknown

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Irish Cream Bundt Cake

Stout? Liqueur? Guinness? Baileys? Stout? Liqueur? Guinness? Baileys? The debate went back and forth as I tried to decide which Irish beverage to highlight in a recipe for St. Patrick’s Day. The moment I found this recipe, for a cake that has Irish cream in the cake batter and the glaze, the decision was made. Want a better visual of this culinary delight? Click on the photo above and you’ll get a tempting close-up of a moist cake soaked with a buttery glaze that glistens over toasted pecans. It’s so rich, the leprechauns in your home will surely think they found a pot of gold!

Irish Cream Bundt Cake
Recipe by RecipeNut on Food.com

Ingredients for the Cake:
1 cup chopped pecans
1 (18½ ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 (3½ ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup Irish cream

Ingredients for the Glaze:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup Irish cream

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.
3. Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly over bottom of pan.
4. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and pudding mix.
5. Mix in eggs, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup oil, and 3/4 cup Irish cream liqueur.
6. Beat for 5 minutes at high speed.
7. Pour batter over nuts in pan.
8. Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
9. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a serving platter.
10. Prick top and sides of cake.
11. Spoon glaze over top and brush onto sides of cake.
12. Allow to absorb glaze. Repeat until all glaze is used up.

To Make Glaze:
1. In a saucepan, combine butter, 1/4 cup water, and 1 cup sugar.
2. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup Irish cream.

Serves 8

Linnell’s Notes:
1. To bring out the flavor of the pecans, toast them in the oven first.

2. Thanks to deceptive shrinking packaging, both the cake mix and the instant pudding did not contain the specified number of ounces required in the recipe. The cake mix had only 16.5 ounces and the instant pudding box contained only 3.4 ounces. I used these down-sized portions with good results, though.

3. Instead of using butter and flour separately to grease the pan, I sprayed the pan with a cooking spray that contains flour – so fast and easy!

4. My cake was done at the end of 50 minutes, so you may want to set your oven timer to check the cake after 45-50 minutes.

5. Temporarily place strips of waxed paper under the cake/on top of the serving platter to catch dripping glaze and to help keep the serving platter clean.

6. This cake serves way more than the 8 servings the recipe states!


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pink spring bud

Photo by Linnell Chang

Spring promises hope with its mix of weather. Rain washes away dusty days and dim outlooks. The sun hastens growth and invigorates. Renewal and rebirth for all  – inside and out. Life is transformed on many levels.

#1 – Women Unite!
Global Mom Relay Women unite! We have the power to change the world! By sharing a daily post on the Global Mom Relay site everyday, we are helping a woman or a child somewhere in the world.

The United Nations Foundation states this about its Global Mom Relay:
From now until May 8, moms are powering an online conversation about motherhood to unlock donations. Every time you share a relay post on Facebook, Twitter, or email or donate $5 or more as part of the relay, a $5 donation (up to $8,000 per day) will be donated by Johnson & Johnson and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to one of four initiatives that are helping women and children lead healthy and happy lives – Girl Up, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), and the Shot@Life campaign. Led by co-chairs, Arianna Huffington, Jennifer Lopez, Lynda Lopez, Elizabeth Gore, and Sharon D’Agostino, the relay is in support of Every Woman Every Child, a movement launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015.

The first step is easy. Read this article, Mothers Rewriting the Future and share it!

#2 – The Joy of Books
Hey book lovers – you know how books have a way of coming alive? This video is for you!

#3 – An Eight Letter Game
Get those cobwebs out of your head. Play Eight Letters!  It’s a little like playing Boggle. You must create as many words as possible with the eight letters you are given, in the allotted amount of time. There are extra challenges, too. Each level has a target amount of points for you to reach, plus after every five levels there is a bonus anagram to solve.

#4 – Find Your Passion
find your passion test There are only ten questions in the Find Your Passion exercise. The first one reads, “When I was a kid, I dreamed of _______.” Working through these questions, I surprised myself with some of my answers. The answers were so obvious, but evidently not to me, until now. It’s taken me decades to come around full circle and to finally see that the things I have passion for are the same things I enjoyed doing as a kid. The Find Your Passion exercise is part of O’s 4-Step Guide to Discovering Who You’re Meant to Be.

#5 – Dare to Bloom
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Anais Nin

 Enjoy your weekend! Bloom!!

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whitebean, shrimp, and arugula salad

In my best “Fretalian,” my own blend of French and Italian, I asked my waiter “Scuzi, qu’est-ce que c’est?” as I pointed to the menu. He obviously did not understand “Fretalian,” because he looked at me questioningly. While traveling through Italy, I noticed an oft-appearing item on menus and I wanted to find out what it was. I tried again, this time in English. “What is rocket?” The young Italian waiter continued to give me a puzzling look, so I tried gesturing. I pointed to the menu and then shrugged my shoulders with my palms facing up to the ceiling. “Ah,” he said and motioned for me to wait and then ran off to the kitchen. A minute later he came out with a green leaf in his hand. I looked at the leaf and smiled as I nodded my head in recognition. “Rocket,” the mysterious menu item, was none other than arugula. “Grazie,” I said to him as I placed my dinner order. This little story came to my mind, while I was preparing this low fat and impressively nutritious salad. The arugula or “rocket” adds a nice peppery punch to the salad and it texturally balances the other ingredients.

White Bean, Shrimp, and Arugula Salad
From the Essential Low Fat Cookbook by Antony Worrall Thompson

1 (14 oz) can cannellini beans, drained
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 mild long red chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, mashed to a paste with a little sea salt
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 stick celery, thinly sliced
6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
16 cooked jumbo shrimp, peeled
2 handfuls of arugula leaves

1. Heat beans with a little salted water for 3 minutes. Drain and then tip into a bowl.

2. While they are still warm, combine beans with olive oil, lemon juice and zest, honey, pepper, and chili.

3. Allow to cool and then combine with remaining ingredients.

Serves 4

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Instead of using a mild long red chili, I chopped up half a red jalapeno to give the recipe a little kick.

2. Not being a big fan of raw onions, I used less than half of a red onion and found this amount to be perfect for my taste.

3. I used large shrimp that came de-veined.  I cooked them in water and Old Bay seasoning, drained them, and then peeled off their shells. Do not overcook the shrimp or else they will be dry and tough.

4. You might have noticed in the photograph, that there are no mushrooms. I had a mental “blip” and totally forgot to add them. It’s too bad because the mushrooms would have been delicious in this salad, not to mention the added nutrients they would have supplied!


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pink camellia

Photo by Linnell Chang

The sun, like a shot of whiskey, warms my face and soothes my bones. My old dog Romeo sits on the deck and squints his eyes to block out the bright light of morning. A choir of birds provides background music, while a red-bellied worm snake slithers slowly across the pavement. And providing color to an otherwise monochromatic canvas, camellia blossoms command attention. With the spring equinox only a few weeks away, spring’s potential is poised to reveal its splendor. I appreciate this lovely first day of March and hope that the month brings many more joyful moments.

#1 – Life’s Detours
“A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.” This anonymous quote opens an essay titled, “Circumnavigating Life’s Detours,” written by Alina Williams, M.SC. Everyone faces detours in life, but some people seem to navigate around them more skillfully. What characteristics and skills are needed to help us navigate challenging moments? Read the article and find out.

#2 – Re-Purpose Those CD Cases!
CD case wall art I love this DIY CD Jewel Case Frame project I found on the site Photojojo. Who doesn’t have a stash of CD cases taking up space somewhere in his home? I think the key to this wall art is to have a cohesive element in the CD cases, whether it be color or subject.

#3 – Beautifully Imperfect
This three-minute promotional film, made for Think Family, reminds us to appreciate the small imperfect things that exist in a relationship. The message is told through a humorous and touching eulogy a wife gives for her husband.

#4 – Go Fly A Kite!

kite festivals

Semaphore Kite Festival

It’s almost spring, so get your kites ready! To get in the mood, check out these 23 Huge Kite Festivals Around The World.

#5 – Open Your Mind
“The mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”
Frank Zappa

Enjoy your first March weekend of the year!

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