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Archive for November, 2013

Romeo

Romeo
December 1998 to November 2013

As Romeo forces air into his lungs, his rib cage rattles and his entire body shivers. While I watch him breathe, tears roll down my cheeks. He lifts his head at the sound of my sobs and starts to lick the tears from my face. The irony is that he is soothing me, not knowing that I cry for him. Chondrosarcoma bone cancer invades his nasal cavity and threatens our precious time together.

That was yesterday. Today he is gone. Some people would scoff at my sentimentality and say, “He was just a dog,” but I could never say that about Romeo. Sure, he was a dog, but he was so much more than just a dog to me. Having grown up alongside of my children, he was the personification of their youth. Romeo exists in their school essays, in their high school senior portraits, and in almost every one of our family’s home videos. And as my children grew up and went off on their own, he was never far from their thoughts. During calls to home, they would always ask about their dog Romeo. This reflects how much Romeo was a part of their lives and a part of our family. Romeo was also my muse, often sitting on my lap as I wrote blog posts, and occasionally the inspiration of a post himself. As the house gradually emptied itself of kids, Romeo remained by my side, a comforting and constant companion. Throughout the day, he was my shadow. We worked on projects together, did the laundry together, watched television together, and every night, he nestled next to me as we drifted off to sleep. Last of all, Romeo was my little love. This smart, long-bodied, short-legged, mischievous mutt managed to capture a piece of my heart that will forever be his.

I’m incredibly sad now that he’s gone, but I’m also very grateful for every day that we shared. As my head and my heart deal with my loss, I sit on the garden swing and say the words I would murmur to him during his last few months:

When you are no longer by my side,
I’ll sit on the garden swing
And rock back and forth,
Just like we used to.

I’ll watch the squirrels play
And listen to the birdies sing,
Just like we used to.

I’ll turn my face to the sun and close my eyes
And savor each and every moment,
Just like you used to.

I’ll long to stroke the fur on your back
And tell you how much I love you,
Just like I used to.

 And then I’ll cry a few more tears,
Just because . . .
I really miss you.

(To My Dog Romeo written by Linnell Chang)

Romeo on swing

Romeo Waiting on the Garden Swing

If you’ve ever loved a pet, please share this tribute to my dog Romeo.

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Autumn Leaf Colors Shorter days and cooler air send signals to leaves to change their colors. As their veins constrict, leaves gradually loose their dominant green coloration, unmasking inherent yellow and orange pigments. Reds and purples, newly produced at the end of summer, make their appearance. But no matter what their color, these leaves ultimately fall slowly to the ground. Autumn is a season of change, revelation, and closure. And so it is with the autumn of our lives.

#1 – Art That Moves
soap, Oil and Ink by Ruslan Khasanov Time, color, and movement are key components of Russian artist Ruslan Khasanov’s work. Like a scientist, he experiments with the properties of soap, oil, and inks, but like an artist, he plays with their colors, shapes, and movement.

#2 – Fabulous Pumpkin Treats

12 Pimped Out Pumpkin Treats

Chocolate Pumpkin Pecan Cupcakes

During this time of the year, a title that reads, “12 Pimped Out Pumpkin Treats You Have To Try” cannot be ignored. If the title doesn’t lure you to click on the links, the mouth-watering photos will!

#3 – Setting The Table
Whether you’re having an informal or formal gathering this Thanksgiving, you might want to review this table setting guideline:

Thanksgiving: Formal vs. Informal Table Setting

#4 – More Christmas Ideas
27 Christmas Decor Ideas In last week’s Friday’s Fresh Five!, I featured a link to 25 DIY Christmas Ornament Ideas. To top that, this week I’m presenting 27 Christmas Decor Ideas. Unsurprisingly, my favorite project is the one using photographs. So many cute ideas, but so little time!

#5 – I Meant to Do My Work Today

I meant to do my work today–
but a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
and a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand–
So what could I do but laugh and go?

Richard Le Gallienne

Now Go and Spread Joy!

This post is dedicated to the memories of Yvonne Hall and Andy Mar.

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Whopper Cookies: Baking with Halloween Candy When Halloween has come and gone, but the Halloween candy has not, what do you do with the leftovers? Do you force yourself to eat them up one by one or do you spare yourself the calories and take them to your spouse’s office? Do you refrigerate them for future use or do you send them off in college care packages? In the past, I’ve done all of the above, but for the last several years, I’ve used the leftover candy for something better. Selecting Halloween candies suitable for baking, I use them to create delicious sweet treats, such as cookies, bars, cakes, and pies. Whoppers, chocolate-covered malted milk balls, turn average cookies into sweet, crunchy, and malted surprises. Trick or treat?

Whopper Cookies
Adapted from recipe by Cast Sugar 

INGREDIENTS
2¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cup roughly chopped Whoppers

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350 °F and cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Stir in milk and vanilla, then gradually blend in the flour mixture. Do not over mix; stir only until no streaks of flour remain.
5. Carefully stir in the chopped Whoppers.
6. Drop 1-inch balls onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until lightly browned.
7. Let cool on baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I used unsalted butter and the cookies were perfect.
2. Wanting to have “nice chunks” of Whoppers, I cut each one individually, rather than doing a messy rough-chop on them. This took a little longer, but I liked the end result.
3. I barely had enough Whoppers, so I added some rough-chopped Butterfingers to the mix. These were fantastic!
4. I got 45 cookies out of this recipe.

ENJOY!

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Scarves for Homeless Rainbow lint covers every imaginable surface in my home. T-shirt scarves tagged and waiting to be bagged lie in yard-high heaps on my dining room table. 344 scarves to be exact, an amount that far exceeds my original goal of 100. These scarves and the two dozen t-shirt tote bags will go far to warm the bodies and hearts of the homeless. My right hand and wrist ache from all the repetitive cutting and pulling, but as I view the piled scarves, I am overwhelmed. Many thanks to all those who contributed t-shirts to my project and to my wonderful friends who shared part of their day to help me create some of the scarves. Start saving your clean and gently-worn t-shirts for me, because next year my project will be bigger and better!

#1 – Live Longer
Secrets to a Long Life Knowing the incredible feeling I get from helping others, I’m not surprised that number 13 of Secrets of a Long Life: 25 Simple and Surprising Tips to Help You Live to 100 is “Be helpful and lend a hand to others.” The article goes on to state that “A long-term US study found that people who volunteered regularly over a lifetime lived significantly longer than those who didn’t. Volunteers also experienced less depression, fewer pains and better general health.” Find a way to expand your heart and, perhaps, you’ll live longer.

#2 – One Second of Every Day
Time flies by. Hours become days, days become months, and months become years. How can we remember the many significant moments of our entire lives? Cesar Kuriyama talks in this TED video about his ongoing project of recording one second of his life everyday and why he does it.

#3 – Fall Fantasy
Japanese Garden at Royal Roads University in British Columbia Fall Fantasy is a photo collection that captures glorious fall images from around the world and pairs them with inspirational sayings. Autumn’s beauty is displayed at its height of splendor!

#4 – Christmas, Already?
25 DIY Christmas Ornament Ideas It’s only fall, so this entry may be jumping the gun. However, if you’re a DIY-type-of-person, the time to start holiday crafting is right now! There are so many cute and clever re-purposing ideas in 25 DIY Christmas Ornament Ideas, you’ll want to start a few projects today!

#5 – Relativity of Life

Strange is our situation here upon earth.
Each of us comes for a short visit,
not knowing why,
yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose.
From the standpoint of daily life, however,
there is one thing we do know:
That we are here for the sake of others,
for the countless unknown souls
to whose fate we are connected
by a bond of compassion. Many times a day, I realize
how much my outer and inner life
is built upon the labors of others,
both living and dead,
and how earnestly I must exert myself
in order to give in return as much as I have received.
– Albert Einstein

Now Go and Spread Joy!

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Hearty Lentil Soup “Can you stay for dinner?” an elementary schoolmate asked me decades ago. “We’re having lentil soup, she said. “What are lentils?” I asked. Being of Asian descent, lentils had never passed through my lips before. To my delight, I found her family’s lentil soup to be rich in flavor and texture and I will forever associate lentils with her.

Lentils, like other legumes, are high in fiber and protein and low in fat. But unlike other legumes, there’s no need to presoak lentils and they take less time to cook. The dominant flavors in this robust soup come from the earthiness of the lentils and the fresh vegetables, but the subtle undertones come from two surprising ingredients: Dijon mustard and vinegar. This soup is hostess-friendly, too, because it can be made a day in advance and it tastes even better when served the second day!

Hearty Lentil Soup
Recipe from the Sacramento Bee

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely diced onion
3 large garlic cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup finely diced carrot
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1½ cups French green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Chopped celery leaves and parsley, for garnish

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over high heat. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to color around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, mince or pound the garlic in a mortar with 1 teaspoon salt.

3. Work the tomato paste into the onion, then add the garlic, celery, carrot, bay leaves and parsley and cook for 3 minutes.

4. Add the lentils, 2 quarts of water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, 24 to 35 minutes.

5. Stir in the mustard and vinegar. Taste and add more of either as needed.

6. Check the salt, season with plenty of pepper, remove the bay leaves and serve, garnished with the celery leaves and parsley.

7. The longer the soup sits before serving, the better it will taste.

Serves 4 to 6

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I use Italian parsley when I make this soup.

2. Because I like the way French green lentils hold their shape, I prefer using them in this soup over brown lentils.

3. The second time I made this soup, I used vegetable broth in place of the water. I can honestly say that there was no noticeable improvement in flavor using the broth, so I don’t recommend spending extra money on vegetable broth. This is not to say, though, that homemade vegetable stock wouldn’t have added a richness to the soup.

ENJOY!

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Quince and Persimmon The golden morning sun sneaks in through a kitchen window and kisses the autumn fruit. Three kisses to be exact. One, for being so sweet. Another, for being so perfect. And the third one . . . well, just because.

#1 – Autumn Around the World

Kamikochi, Japan

Photograph: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

Seeking to enjoy autumn’s lovely glow in other parts of the world? After looking at the photos and reading the descriptions in Top 10 Autumn Destinations: Readers’ Travel Tips, you’ll want to get out your suitcase and start packing.

#2 – Impossible Photography
Swedish photographer Erik Johannson is a self-taught photographer who received his first digital camera when he was fifteen-years-old. Feeling that photography limited his imagination, he decided to take his craft to another level. His photographic and Photoshopping skills help him to create unrealistic photorealistic images. In his own words: I don’t capture moments, I capture ideas. To me photography is just a way to collect material to realize the ideas in my mind. I get inspired by things around me in my daily life and all kinds of things I see. Although one photo can consist hundreds of layers I always want it to look like it could have been captured.

#3 – Room For Improvement
19 Genius Improvements to Everyday Products Daily life will never be stagnant, thanks to people who convert “what ifs” into “why nots.” 19 Genius Improvements to Everyday Products proves that good ideas can be become even greater ideas.

#4 – Breathe
zenhabits blog From zenhabits come this wonderful post by Leo Babauta about the transformative powers of breathing.

Breathe.

Breathing can transform your life.

If you feel stressed out and overwhelmed, breathe. It will calm you and release the tensions.

If you are worried about something coming up, or caught up in something that already happened, breathe. It will bring you back to the present.

If you are discouraged and have forgotten your purpose in life, breathe. It will remind you about how precious life is, and that each breath in this life is a gift you need to appreciate. Make the most of this gift.

If you have too many tasks to do, or are scattered during your workday, breathe. It will help bring you into focus, to concentrate on the most important task you need to be focusing on right now.

If you are spending time with someone you love, breathe. It will allow you to be present with that person, rather than thinking about work or other things you need to do.

If you are exercising, breathe. It will help you enjoy the exercise, and therefore stick with it for longer.

If you are moving too fast, breathe. It will remind you to slow down, and enjoy life more.

So breathe. And enjoy each moment of this life. They’re too fleeting and few to waste.

#5 – Share a Kiss
“Happiness is like a kiss. You must share it to enjoy it.”
Bernard Meltzer

Now go and spread joy!

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Lemon Tea Sugar Scrub Cold winds, dry heat, yard work, cooking, cleaning, etc. all contribute to making your skin rough and dry. Without spending a fortune and in only a few minutes, you can make a deliciously moisturizing scrub for your face and body. Keep containers of this wonderful scrub near your kitchen and bathroom sinks or your shower stall for whenever your skin needs a little tender loving care. To give away as gifts, put the scrub in cute jars, add labels, and tie on little spoons or scoops. Its fresh natural fragrance appeals to both guys and gals!

Lemon Tea Sugar Scrub
The Big-Ass Book of Crafts by Mark Montano

INGREDIENTS AND SUPPLIES
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Epsom salt
10 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
3 green tea bags
1 lemon to zest
Grater or zester
Large mixing bowl
Beautiful container

DIRECTIONS
1. Grate your lemon rind and set aside the zest.

2. In the large mixing bowl, combine and mix the sugar, Epsom salt, and loose tea (just rip open the bags and sprinkle the leaves in).

3. Add in the olive oil and mix.

4. Add the honey and combine well.

5. Add the lemon zest.

6. Mix everything in the bowl, then fill up your container.

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. Instead of using tea bags, I used loose-leaf green tea that I had at home. I estimated the amount of leaves that would be contained in three tea bags and I crumbled them into a bowl.

2. The next time I make this, I think I will try using a lemon-infused olive oil.

3. Little jars of this scrub make lovely hostess gifts or party favors.

ENJOY!

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