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Archive for May, 2013

The Bee and the Blue Hydrangea Bees busily buzz from cluster to cluster of brilliant blue hydrangeas. How’s that for a bit of alliteration? I unexpectedly spent my morning chasing bees. My goal of taking photos of hydrangeas morphed into something else after I saw bees flying around the blossoms. “Wouldn’t it be great if I could capture an image of a bee?” I thought to myself. After a moment of wishing I’d read my camera manual, I took aim at the buzzing noise around me. About a half-hour of truly living in the moment and a hundred photos later, I accomplished my goal. But, wait! What about getting even closer . . .

#1 – Earth Album
Earth Album Get a closer look at the world by going to Earth Album. This site lets you explore the world without packing any bags or leaving home. All you have to do is click on a spot anywhere on the site’s world map and, thanks to Google and Flicker, photos of the area appear. Because the photos come from Flickr, the images will change from time to time – a great reason to revisit the site!

#2 – Eat Your Oatmeal
Steel Cut Oatmeal "Cupcakes" I received an email from a reader the other day, thanking me for sharing my story about having genetically high cholesterol. Six months ago she received a bad lab report. Her total cholesterol was 251 with her HDL at 70 and her LDL at 163. Remember LDL is the “lousy” one. She read my post My Most Requested Recipe and faithfully followed my steel cut oatmeal “cupcake” regime, exercised more frequently, and watched what she ate. It all paid off. Her most recent lab work reflected a 34 point drop in her overall cholesterol and a 29 point drop in her LDL. Her testimony confirms the role soluble fiber plays in the battle against high cholesterol. Eating soluble fiber and making other lifestyle changes can make a difference in your health. Another reader wrote to tell me a similar story after she advised her husband to follow my recipe and months later he “waved his lab report around like it was a medal!”

#3 – Removing Rust Stains
The first sign of lovely spring-like weather leads to one thing: it’s time to spruce up the yard. Last weekend after moving some large potted plants off my concrete patio, I noticed that the metal pots had left ugly rust stains on the pavement. After quickly researching ways to remove rust stains from concrete, I selected a method using natural ingredients that I already had at home. I squeezed some lemons and asked my husband to pour the juice over the spots. About 10 to 20 minutes later, he scrubbed the areas with a stiff brush, and then hosed them off. Most of the rust stains were gone, but a few stubborn areas remained. Since I had run out of lemons, I told my husband to try using distilled white vinegar. He repeated the process using vinegar and it worked like a charm. Two words of caution: Scrubbing can abrade and remove some of the concrete and be aware of the fact that acid can be detrimental to nearby vegetation, so be careful of any undiluted acid running into bedding or lawn areas.

#4 – Happiness Is . . .
What can one learn about himself while living isolated in Siberia for six months? French travel writer Sylvain Tesson lived as a hermit in a hut on the edge of a lake in Siberia for that amount of time. During that time he “discovered space, silence and solitude.” Watch “Happiness is . . . escaping to a cabin in Siberia” and listen to him describe how his life changed.

#5 – You Already Have It
“We all possess exactly what we need to be our greatest selves and it is (about) listening to our instincts.”
Usher

Enjoy your weekend!

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Sushi Casserole Creating extraordinary sushi requires great skill and passion. After watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about Jiro Ono, an 87-year-old sushi master, I’m almost embarrassed to share the following recipe. This recipe is far removed from the precise art of sushi-making, but the rumblings of my imagination wouldn’t let go of the idea of creating a sushi casserole. I searched online, sorted through my notes and newspaper clippings, and reread my sushi cookbooks to figure out what layers I wanted for the casserole. My experiment began and, after a fair amount of improvising, I ended up with a tasty casserole that yielded bite-sized squares of “sushi” that were served with roasted Nori. There are endless possibilities to a layered recipe such as this. And, yes, it is possible to stick a square peg into a round hole!

Sushi Casserole
Sushi Rice
The ratio of vinegar solution added to sushi rice varies with the type of sushi being made. In this case, I’m using a vinegar solution used for making maki-sushi. Normally, the vinegar solution is added to the rice after the rice is cooked. The rice is usually fanned while cooling to give the grains a lustrous or shiny appearance. I cheated by adding the vinegar solution into the rice cooker at the beginning and didn’t fan the rice at all.

Ingredients:
4 cups of uncooked sushi rice (rice must be short or medium grain only)
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) of plain rice vinegar
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Water (approximately 4 cups plus 4 tablespoons)

Directions:
1. Wash and drain rice.
2. Put the rice in the rice cooker.
3. Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl.
4. Add vinegar solution to rice in rice cooker.
5. Add water up to the specified cup level.
6. Start the rice cooker.
7. After the rice is cooked, let it cool to body temperature.

Crab Layer
Ingredients:
1 pound imitation crab
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream

Directions:
1. Chop the imitation crab or place it in a food processor and pulse. Small chunks are desired, not large chunks nor a smooth paste.
2. Combine mayonnaise and sour cream in a medium-sized bowl.
3. Add crab to mayo-sour cream mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.

Spicy Sauce
Ingredients:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce

Directions:
1. Blend both ingredients together.
2. Pour into a squeeze bottle with a small nozzle tip.

Additional Toppings
Smoked salmon slices
Shrimp tempura
Cucumber sticks
Avocado slices
Aji Nori Furikake (a seasoned mix in a jar)

Assembling Casserole
1. In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of water with 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar. Rub this solution on your hands and on any utensils you use to prevent the rice from sticking.
2. Take handfuls of rice and gently and evenly press it into the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch pan. This layer should be at least 1/2-inch thick, but no more than 3/4-inch thick. There may be leftover rice.
3. Spread the crab layer over the rice.
4. At this point I put a thin layer of smoked salmon slices over the crab mixture.
5. The next layer, I alternated between the shrimp tempura, avocado slices, and cucumber strips.
6. Finally, I sprinkled some Aji Nori Furikake over the top of the casserole and then drizzled the spicy sauce up and down the rows of toppings.

To Serve
Ingredients:
Nori/sheets of seaweed
Wasabi
Pickled ginger

Directions:
1. Cut the casserole into small squares. You can either serve the sushi squares directly from the pan or you can plate them on a serving platter.
2. Accompany sushi casserole with squares of roasted Nori, wasabi, and pickled ginger.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Sushi should not be put in the refrigerator, because the rice will become hard. It’s most delicious when served just after making it.

2. I made my rice base too thick, so I recommend using enough rice to form a solid base, but not so much that each bite is all rice.

3. I used frozen shrimp tempura from Costco and baked it in the oven while the rice was cooling.

4. For easier cutting and serving, the shrimp tempura could be cut into bite-sized pieces and placed intermittently in rows across the casserole. Another consideration might be to place the shrimp tempura under the crab layer. The same goes for the cucumber sticks. The cucumber sticks could be diced and sprinkled over the casserole.

5. Instead of toasting sheets of Nori/seaweed and cutting them into squares, I cheated and opened several roasted-seasoned seaweed snack packs. See packages in photo along with Furikake and rice vinegar: Partial Ingredients for Sushi Casserole

Enjoy!

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Photo Mosaic Quilt Card Words communicate thoughts and feelings, but when trying to comfort someone who has lost a loved one, words prove to be inadequate. A few months ago, my family lost a dear friend, one that my mother had known since she was five-years-old. While struggling with composing a note of condolence to my “Aunt’s” children, I reflected on my fond memories of her. Besides her family, quilting was her joy. Lovingly and painstakingly, she crafted quilts to give away to family and friends. Although, she is no longer in our presence, she lives on because the gifts of her joy have become our joy. As a tribute to her, I created a photo-mosaic quilt card and wrote these “inadequate” words . . .

She is part of earth’s patchwork now.
Feel her spirit when you see nature’s patterns and textures around you:
The concentric layers of delicate petals of rosebuds,
The precise symmetry of leaves,
The geometric shapes of snowflakes,
The cotton-like-fluff of clouds above . . .
She’s there.

#1 – An Inspirational Life
Age is not a requirement, nor a factor, to be an inspiration to others. During the last several months, such a story has been shared on Facebook and on You Tube. For those who are not familiar with Zach Sobiech’s story, I share it with you. At the age of 14, Zach was diagnosed with a terminal case of osteosarcoma, a cancer of the bone. He dealt with dying with a wisdom and a peace beyond his years. Although he lost his battle against cancer this past Monday, May the 20th, in no terms was Zach a loser. View this documentary, with tissues in hand, and marvel at the beautiful spirit of this young man. These words, that Reverend Mike Miller said at Zach’s memorial service, “Zach was someone who wanted everyone to know, ‘You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living,'” should be remembered by everyone.
Zach left many gifts behind for the world and one of them is his song Clouds. I downloaded it, so that I can be reminded of living my best life every day. Here’s a surprise celebrity music video presented to Zach of his song:

#2 – Picture This

If different planets replaced the moon

If Neptune replaced the moon in the night sky

Things happen when the stars and the moon align correctly, but what happens when they don’t? Imagine what the night sky would look like, if planet Neptune took the place of the moon. The images from How The Sky Would Look If The Planets Were As Close As The Moon answers those questions. Because I found some of the pictures a bit unnerving, I like our moon more and exactly where it is located!

#3 – The Best Time
According to this infograph, based on the body’s circadian rhythm, there are better times to play a tennis match against a formidable opponent, to study for a big exam, and to paint, write, or solve problems. To have a more productive day, check out this information:

A Productive Day

#4 – More Amazing Ideas
Storage Solutions For those idea junkies out there, here are 16 Amazing Do It Yourself Home Ideas. On my why-didn’t-I-think-of-that scale of 1 to 10, some of these scored a 10.

#5 – How to Live
“The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”
― Elizabeth Edwards

During this Memorial Day weekend, please take the time to honor and to thank those who have died in our nation’s service.

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Strawberry Agua Fresca

Luscious in color and bright in flavor, this refreshing strawberry agua fresca makes the perfect summer drink. Agua fresca is Spanish for “fresh water” and this beverage is just that — light and fresh! With its ease of preparation and its ability to be made ahead, this beverage invokes effortless summer entertaining. Try adding a splash of tequila to make an easy strawberry margarita or try experimenting with other flavors, such as watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, or cucumber. This agua fresca will make you long for the hot days of summer!

Strawberry Agua Fresca
Cooking Light, May 2005

Ingredients:
4 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
6 cups hulled fresh strawberries
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)

Directions:
1. Combine water and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Place strawberries in a blender, and process until smooth.
3. Combine the sugar mixture, strawberry puree, and juice; stir well.

Yield: 8 cups (serving size 1-1/3 cups)

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I used Splenda in place of sugar with great results. Because the strawberries I had were farm-ripe sweet, I used less sweetener than the recipe called for. The original recipe states that there are 71 calories per serving, so by substituting Splenda, there will be even fewer calories!

2. Because the two limes I had yielded only 1/8 cup juice, I added 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice to the mix.

3. This beverage should be served well-chilled.

Enjoy!

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White Mum by Linnell Chang One thing always leads to another: While putting a colorful Mother’s Day bouquet in a vase of water, I decided I should snap some photos of the flowers before they passed their prime. The following morning, I got out my camera and looked at the flowers from different angles. As my camera lens zoomed closer and closer to the delicate chrysanthemum petals, I became intrigued with their spoon-shaped curves and concentric rows. Soon I found myself “Googling” chrysanthemums on my computer. I learned from Symbolic-Meanings that Dreaming of chrysanthemums indicates an unfolding of the inner self, during a tumultuous time of life. More specifically, it may represent a time of deep personal growth forged by hardship or conflict. The result leading to a stronger, more realized self. At another site, I found out that John Steinbeck wrote a short story in the 1930s titled The Chrysanthemums. After reading the story, I sought more information about Steinbeck’s use of symbolism and how they relate to the development of his characters. As the morning passed, and as one discovery lead to another, all I could think of was how the beautiful bouquet of flowers was a gift that kept on giving.

#1 – Humanity

Act of Kindness

A man giving his shoes to a homeless girl in Rio de Janeiro

Reading the newspaper or watching the news every day can be a depressing experience when story after story highlights crimes against humanity. View this series of 35 Photos That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity and remember that acts of kindness can set a chain of positive events in motion.

#2 – A Two Minute Respite
Need to relax, unwind, take a break, de-stress, recharge, or refocus? If so, go to the Do Nothing For 2 Minutes site. Close your eyes or gaze at the photo of the sun peeking over the horizon. Relax and listen to the sound of ocean waves while the timer ticks down. Breathe in deeply and exhale slowly. The instructions state, “Just relax and listen to the waves. Don’t touch your mouse or keyboard.” If you dare ignore these instructions, a red “FAIL” appears on your screen. Give yourself a gift of 2 relaxing minutes.

#3 – One Sentence
After taking a 2 minute break and recharging your creative juices, how about trying your hand at writing a true story in only one sentence? That is the challenge of the site One Sentence. The site says, “One Sentence is an experiment in brevity.” The entertaining part of the site is to read what other people have submitted. If Ernest Hemingway could write a six word short story, you can write a story in one sentence!

#4 – One Recipe, Two Uses
The May issue of the Nutrition Action newsletter features a versatile recipe for a “Greek-inspired topping for grilled or roasted salmon or other fish — also doubles as a delightfully tangy salad dressing.” For more healthy recipes check out the “Healthy Recipes” section at Nutrition Action.

Yogurt-Dill Dressing:
Combine 6 oz. of fat-free Greek yogurt with 1 cup of fresh dill sprigs, 1 Tbs. of lemon juice, 1 Tbs. of Dijon mustard, 1 small shallot, and 1/4 tsp. of salt in a food processor. Process until smooth.

#5 – Happy to Be Grateful
In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.
Brother David Steindl-Rast

Wishing you a weekend of grateful happiness!

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Sharpie Art:Painting T-shirts

Photo by Linnell Chang

“Sorry kids, but Grandma can’t knit and Grandma can’t crochet.” This is my apology to my future grandchildren. Unless a miracle happens, they won’t be receiving lovely knitted sweaters or soft crocheted blankets from me. Odds are they will receive one-of-a-kind creative gifts from this funky Grandma. They might even get colorful tied-dyed-looking garments decorated with Sharpie Pens. But don’t worry, future grandkiddies, Grandma is practicing her technique!

Supplies:
Sharpie Art Supplies
1. Rubbing alcohol
2. Liquid medicine dropper
3. Small bowl
4. Plastic cups in varying sizes
5. Rubber bands
6. Sharpie Pens
7. Prewashed white cotton t-shirts
8. Old t-shirt to practice technique
9. Paper towels

Directions:
1. Select a spot on your practice t-shirt. Place a cup underneath the spot, smooth fabric, and secure with a rubber band. Sharpie Art: Painting a t-shirt

2. Select the Sharpie Pen colors for your design. Keep in mind that primary colors are red, yellow, and blue and that secondary colors are any two primary colors combined. With that in mind, be careful not to blend too many secondary colors together or else you will end up with a muddy brown mess.

3. Draw a small design on your fabric area. Like watercolors, the ink is going to flow, so you want to keep your design on the smaller side. Your design could end up double its size when finished. I tried to keep my drawings between 1/2-inch to 1-inch in size. Sharpie Art: Painting a t-shirt

4. Pour rubbing alcohol in a small bowl. Fill the medicine dropper with alcohol and place drops strategically on your design. Think about where you want the colors to flow. For a circular design, like a tie-dye style, start in the center. In the case of the small circles I drew, each received a its own drop. Sharpie Art: Painting t-shirts

5. Take off the rubber band and let the design dry. Sharpie Art: Painting T-shirts

6. Practice, practice, and practice. When you feel you have practiced enough, repeat the same steps using your good t-shirts.
Sharpie Art: Painting T-shirts

7. Heat set the colors in your dryer. Wash separately at first to make sure the colors do not run onto other fabrics.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I used a small medicine dose cup, when I was working on an infant t-shirt.

2. In some cases where I did not want my design to be round, I did not use a cup under the fabric. I folded a piece of paper towel into quarters and placed that underneath the top layer of the shirt, to prevent colors from running on to the back layer. After smoothing the surface of the shirt, I drew my design on the front and then dropped alcohol on it.

3. This art form is fun, but unpredictable. I experimented with color combinations and practiced my technique on an old t-shirt before creating a design on the “good” t-shirt.

4. After my designs were dried, I went back with the Sharpie Pens and added embellishment and definition where needed – fish fins, bubbles, etc.

5. This would be a fun project to do with children!

Have fun and let the colors and your imagination flow!

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Plein Air painting in Santorini

Photo by Linnell Chang

Wouldn’t it be fun to travel the world and become a plein air painter? If I close my eyes, I can envision myself sitting in front of an easel with a paintbrush in my hand. The only problem with that idea is that after taking a couple of painting classes, I realize that my destiny and my talent does not extend in that direction. I haven’t completely given up on learning to paint, but in the mean time, I’ll just have to paint my world with words.

#1 – 12 Things to Say to Yourself
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: WORDS HAVE POWER. Reading the sentence, “Every breath you take is in sync with someone’s last,” from the 12 Things You Should Be Able to Say About Yourself, forced me to pause and reflect. Every second of every day people all over the world die, but I had never considered the synchronicity of our breaths. Acknowledging that my next breath is in sync with someone’s last breath, gave me a different perspective on life and an increased gratitude for being alive. Marc and Angel Hack Life have written another food-for-thought list that is well worth reading and thinking about.

#2 – Battle of the Potatoes
White Potato versus Sweet Potato There’s a lot of hoopla over sweet potatoes. Many restaurants serve sweet potato fries and many dog treats now contain sweet potato. Even my husband is on a sweet potato binge. Are sweet potatoes that much more nutritious than regular white potatoes? Compare their statistics on Food Face-Off: Which is Healthier? and decide for yourself.

#3 – The Heart of a Teacher
Teachers make a profound difference in the world every single day. With the school year coming to a close in many areas, I would like to share this video, based on the poem by Paula J. Fox, as a tribute to teachers around the globe.

#4 – Gifts For Teachers
Gifts for TeachersTrying to think of a nice way to thank your child’s teacher? iVillage’s 19 Homemade Teacher Gift Ideas: Thank-Yous They’ll Really Use – and Love! has some clever ideas that might be just what you’re looking for. The fact that your child can assist in making many of these gifts is a bonus, too.

#5 – Daily Motivation
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.” —Zig Ziglar

Enjoy your weekend!

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