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Archive for February, 2014

Ellie's Belly “Arggh! Who put the baby fat back on my body?” I exclaim as I peel off another shirt and toss it on top of the “No-Longer-Looks-Good” pile of clothing. I hate cleaning out my closet. Standing in the middle of my closet with my midriff showing, while in the midst of spring cleaning, I think it would be fair to say that I’m experiencing a midlife crisis. I know exactly who put the baby fat back on my body. Chastising myself for allowing it to happen, I vow to get on the treadmill and lift weights today and I might even do it again tomorrow.

#1 – Get the Hang of It
Closet Organization Cleaning out a clothes closet is a task for the decisive. Don’t assume that things fit. Try on everything, because, not only do styles change, bodies do, too. As you come across clothes that haven’t been worn for a while or items that “kinda” fit, you need to make decisions. If you haven’t worn an item of clothing for a year or more, there must be a reason for that: too small, too large, wrong color, bad style, poor condition, needs to be altered, sentimental attachment, or whatever. Honestly, just get rid of the item. Yes, get rid of it even if it still sports a price tag. It’s taking up valuable real estate in your closet!

If you don’t have a clue which clothes you wear regularly, load all your hangers in one direction on the rod – the necks of the hangers either all facing the front or all facing the back. When you wear something, turn the hanger around and put the item back on it. In a year’s time, after all the seasons have passed, take a look at which hangers haven’t been turned around. Eliminate those clothes from your closet.

The items of clothing that “kinda” fit, ones you would definitely wear if you lost 5 pounds, get a six-month reprieve. Put them on specific-colored hangers. Place a sticky note on the backside of your closet door indicating the date for the final judgment. When that day arrives, try on everything on those hangers and make an honest decision whether they go or they stay.

#2 – Simplify Your World
Clever Tip Looking for ways to organize or simplify your world? Read 40 Clever Life Hacks to Simplify Your World and decide which ones you want to try. Being skeptical about some of them, I did a little online sleuthing and found these amusing “Life Hacks Debunked” videos from Mental Floss.

#3 – Swapping Clothes
Spring-Autumn by Qozop Would you be willing to swap clothes with one of your elders? In his photo series Spring-Autumn, photographer Qozop asked his models, pairs of young and old, to swap clothes. Scroll through the intriguing before and after photos and ponder Shakespeare’s paraphrased line “clothes makes the man.”

#4 – Wall Art From Upcycled Magazines
Upcycling Old Magazines Three words describe wall art made from rolled-up magazine pages: clever, colorful, and customizable. Imagine all the design variations you can make using this technique. I knew I saved old magazines for a reason!

#5 – Clean Your House
“We are used to cleaning the outside house, but the most important house to clean is yourself – your own house – which we never do.”
Marina Abramovic

Now go and spread joy!

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I Love Yin Yin What Do I Call Her?
A few days before the arrival of my father’s mother from China in 1960, I lean on the kitchen counter and ask my grandfather, “What do I call her?” Busy preparing the family’s supper, he pauses, looks at me intently, and replies, “You call her Yin Yin.” In Toisanese, a Chinese dialect, Yin Yin refers to the grandmother on the father’s side. In the Chinese language, every grandparent has a designated title. After decades of political red tape, my Yin Yin, the last of the family to immigrate to the United States, is leaving her small country village in China to be reunited with her family.

Even though I was a child at the time, I remember waiting at the airport for her arrival. As the family watched passengers deplane, my uncles joked, “Is that her?” or “Maybe she’s the one?” Because it had been so long since they’d last seen their mother, they could not recognize her. For my grandfather and for my father, the oldest son, the end to their 22-year wait was nearly over.

Love at First Touch
Standing in front of me, my Yin Yin utters my Chinese name. I fall into her arms as she embraces me for the first time. It is love at first touch. No awkwardness, no shyness – it is as if I’d known her love forever.

Although cancer cut her time with us short, my Yin Yin cherished the days she spent with her family. I became her little shadow. I helped her hang the laundry out to dry, defrost the freezer, pick slugs off the vegetables and water the garden. She taught me to speak Chinese and I taught her to speak English. When she made Chinese dumplings, she popped them into my mouth as soon as they finished steaming. I deem those eight years with her my chubby years.

Yin Yin’s Tea Cozy
Decades later, my sister and I stoop in the dusty attic of my father’s old family home in China. Using a small flashlight, we conduct a final search for any keepsakes that should go back to the States with us. In a dark corner, where the angles of the roof meet, we find an old tea cozy basket. Taking care while opening it, we are surprised by the basket’s contents. Both happiness and sadness flood my heart as I recognize the photos that my grandmother must have placed there for safekeeping. Photos of my grandfather, my parents, my uncles and aunts, and my sister and me – people my grandmother loved, but people she’d not seen in decades or ever met – nestled against the floral fabric lining of the cozy. Standing in the attic, I think about how happy she must have been to leave the photos behind and the joy she must have felt at the prospect of seeing her grown-up sons and meeting her grandchildren for the first time. The journey back to China with my family reunites me, in many ways, with my Yin Yin.

Call Me Yin Yin
All the gifts under the Christmas tree have been opened, but my second son passes out one more to everyone in the family. “You have to open up these presents together,” both he and his wife say. I am suspicious, because his camera lens points at me. We open our little packages and words of excitement flutter out of our mouths. Each of us holds a newborn-sized onesie. Happiness leaves me speechless and then I smile. I’m going to be a Yin Yin! I can’t wait to share all the love that my Yin Yin gave to me with my grandchild!

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Abstract Chard Leaves Line, shape, color and light transform chard leaves into abstract art for me. How do you view the world around you? If you were to paint a picture, would you paint the sun yellow, the sky blue and the trees green? If so, you’d better take a closer look, because sometimes the sun burns a fiery orange and the sky mellows to a soft pink and trees in shadow appear blue. Be cognizant of the world around you. Take note of details. Look for beauty. And be grateful for it all.

#1 – Creative Ways with Fruits and Vegetables
Creative Ways With Vegetables Fruit and vegetable platters don’t have to be boring. Try envisioning empty platters as blank canvases waiting to be transformed into appetizing works of art. Click the link to see more ideas.

#2 – Arm Knitting
See knitting in a different light. Here’s a hands-on project (pun intended) in which you literally substitute your hands and arms for knitting needles! The technique is called arm knitting. By casting stitches on one arm and transferring them back and forth to the other arm, you can knit a chunky scarf in under 30 minutes. It’s hands down the easiest way to knit! For instruction watch the Arm Knitting for Beginners video above or go to this site sponsored by Lion Brand yarn.

#3 – Do You See What I See?
Art by Tineke Meirink The next time you go for a walk, take your imagination along. While out and about, look at something and imagine what else it could be. That’s what Dutch illustrator Tineke Meirink does. She photographs a subject and then cleverly shows it as what she sees or imagines it to be. Check out more of her work on Bored Panda.

#4 – Seeing the World Differently
4 Ways to See Yourself and the World Differently In the article Get Some Perspective: 4 Ways to See Yourself and the World Differently, the author Rebecca A. Watson states, Sometimes it takes getting farther away from something to see it for what it really is. It’s that whole forest-for-the-trees thing. The same is true when it comes to how we see ourselves. If we could each step back in times of stress, confusion, angst, uncertainty, anger, etc. and try to see the big picture, our perspective of situations might change. This particular passage resonated with me, My ego is usually the part of me that doesn’t want me to take risks and see myself for the star that I am. It wants to keep me from submitting my writing or taking that rock climbing class because if I fail, how embarrassing and horrible would that be? Not all that terrible, it turns out. How many passages in this article resonate with you?

#5 – Think Differently
“Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no-one else has thought.”
— Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi

Have a great weekend. Now go and spread joy!

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Jjim-Dak: Korean Vegetable Chicken Stew Whether it’s a pot-au-feu from France, a goulash from Hungary, or a moqueca from Brazil, stews from around the world warm the tummy and soothe the soul. From a cookbook that contains recipes from the best Korean restaurants in Los Angeles, comes this easy to make Korean stew. This fiery and fragrant stew will definitely spice up your stew repertoire!

Jjim-Dak – Korean Vegetable Chicken Stew
Discovering Korean Cuisine, edited by Allisa Park

INGREDIENTS
1½ pounds chicken, cleaned and chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 potato, cut into 1-inch slices crosswise
3½ cups water
5 scallions, halved lengthwise and then cut into 4-inch pieces
1/2 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1/4 carrot, peeled and cut diagonally into 1/4-inch pieces
1 jalapeño chile, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1/4 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch strips
5  leaves spinach, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 ounces Korean sweet potato vermicelli (dang myun), soaked in warm water for 1 hour
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon red pepper powder
1 tablespoon Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 pack enoki mushrooms, roots trimmed
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

DIRECTIONS
1. Soak sweet potato vermicelli in warm water.

2. In a large pot (or wok), combine chicken, potato, water, minced garlic, soy sauce, red pepper powder, hot pepper paste, sugar and mirin.

3. Boil over high heat for about 20 minutes with the lid on (or until chicken is fully cooked).

4. Remove the lid and add corn syrup, scallions, onion, carrot, jalapeño chile, and red bell pepper. Quickly mix together and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

5. Add spinach and prepared sweet potato vermicelli on top and put the lid on (do not mix in). Heat for an additional 2 minutes and then remove from heat.

6. Open the lid and gently mix, then transfer to a serving plate.

7. Put the enoki mushrooms on top and sprinkle on sesame seeds to garnish.

Serving size: 2

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. Korean Ingredients Sweet potato vermicelli and the Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang) can be purchased at most Asian markets or ordered online. Here’s a link to a listing of online stores that carry Korean ingredients.

2. Because it didn’t make sense to use just a quarter of a carrot and because I like a lot of vegetables in my stews, I used a whole carrot.

3. I had baby spinach leaves on hand, so I didn’t need to cut them into 2-inch pieces. I used a large handful.

4. In step 3 of the directions, I turned the temperature down to medium, because it had reached a rapid boil. I wanted more time for the flavors to mingle and I didn’t want to overcook the chicken.

5. Not having authentic Korean red pepper powder, I substituted ground red pepper (cayenne pepper). 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper seemed like a lot of heat to me (along with the jalapeño chile and the Korean hot pepper paste), so I cut it back to 1/2 tablespoon. The recipe still had quite a bit of kick. I’m not sure what the heat difference or flavor difference is between cayenne pepper and Korean red pepper powder, but I’ll try it with the authentic red pepper powder the next time I make it. I’d also recommend adding any heat element to taste.

6. I researched enoki mushrooms and found differing opinions on their preparation. Mushroom growers said to just cut off the root end, but some online “experts” said to run it under water and then cut off the root end. The Korean cookbook said, “Sold in plastic bag. Chop off the roots without removing the bag and discard,” so I ultimately followed the cookbook’s instructions.

7. I buy pre-toasted sesame seeds that I keep in my freezer. Before using, I quickly re-toast the needed amount. Toasting sesame seeds brings out their flavor. To toast sesame seeds, put them in a small sauté/frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Stir constantly until they are a light golden brown. Pour them on a plate to cool.

8. Although this dish contains sweet potato noodles, I served it with rice. I wanted the rice to soak up every last bit of the delicious sauce!

ENJOY!

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"Made With Love" Cookies Stamped with words, but made with love. I know this, because I made these cookies. No other day of the year combines words with love as well as Valentine’s Day. It seems tragic to me that some people can profess their love on this day, but not on other days of the year. My philosophy holds that love should be expressed everyday, in as many ways as possible. The challenge for all of us is to discover the hundreds of ways we can show love.

#1 – Show Your Love
Kris Carr On Valentine’s Day in 2003, Kris Carr was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. She then embarked on a passionate journey to enjoy her life more fully. From her blog, comes this post on How to Show Your Love.

#2 – Love Stories images Love has many faces and forms. In 1999, PBS gathered love stories from people across the country and created a series titled American Love Stories. These stories highlight diversity in relationships and tell about love in the face of prejudices involving race, religion, age, gender and more.

#3 – Heart-Shaped Envelopes
Turn a heart-shaped piece of paper into an envelope for your Valentine’s Day card or for any special occasion card, such as an anniversary card or a wedding card. If you don’t want to cut a heart out of paper, use a heart-shaped paper doily! Make an Envelope From a Heart-shaped Piece of Paper

#4 – Another Win-Win Idea
Last September, I repurposed clean and gently-worn t-shirts by making them into scarves and tote bags for the homeless. Now I have another project that again helps planet Earth and the homeless. I recently took a crochet class at my local craft store and will be putting my new skill to a test as I try crocheting plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless. These mats provide a moisture barrier from the damp cold ground and they offer more cushion than a piece of cardboard. To learn how to crochet these mats, watch the video below. Don’t know how to crochet? No problem, just click on You Tube video tutorials to learn how.

#5 – Joy is Love
Joy is love – a joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love, for she gives most who gives with joy.
Mother Teresa

Happy Valentine’s Day! Now Go and Spread Joy!

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Silken Tofu Chocolate Mousse Want to serve your sweetheart a killer dessert for Valentine’s Day that won’t kill him? Instead, present him with this cool and creamy mousse that’s rich in flavor, but not heavy in saturated fats, cholesterol, and calories. Don’t mention to him that the base of this luscious chocolate-orange treat is silken tofu—he’ll never guess. Before some of you utter, “Eww . . . tofu,” make this dessert for yourself and then recognize that silken tofu, with its smooth texture and neutral taste, makes the perfect base for a healthy mousse. Plus, after you check the nutritional data below and see that this dessert has no cholesterol, only 40 calories from fat, and a mere 1.5 G of saturated fat, it might just become your favorite dessert.

Silken Tofu Chocolate Mousse
The Whole Foods Market Cookbook by Steve Petusevsky

INGREDIENTS
12 ounces silken-style tofu, drained well
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup maple syrup (barley malt or rice syrup may be substituted)
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules (decaf or regular)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 ounce almond liqueur (optional)

DIRECTIONS
1. Process the tofu, cocoa powder, maple syrup, orange zest, coffee granules, vanilla, salt, and optional liqueur in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender for 1½ minutes, until smooth.

2. Pour the mousse into wine or champagne glasses or dessert-type serving dishes, and chill overnight.

3. Serve the mousse with fresh orange sections, toasted almonds, or shaved chocolate garnish over the top.

Serves 4

Per Serving:
Calories 240
Calories from fat 40
Calories from saturated fat 15
Protein 13 G
Carbohydrate 35 G
Total Fat 4.5 G
Saturated Fat 1.5 G
Cholesterol 0 MG
Sodium 70 MG

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. In general, but depending on brands, tofu is a good source of calcium. Look for brands in which the tofu has been set with calcium sulfate.

2. Because a rich chocolate flavor is critical to this dessert, use a good quality cocoa powder. I used Sharffen Berger Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder.

3. Amaretto is the almond liqueur I used. Rather than add the full amount of liqueur at first, I would add it to taste.

4. Adapt this recipe using other flavors. Raspberry, mint, or coffee liqueur would be interesting variations to the recipe.

5. I filled 3 champagne glasses to the brim with one recipe’s worth of mousse. If I had not filled them to the top, I probably could have gotten 4 servings out of the recipe.

ENJOY!!

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February 7, 2014 Edition The figure of speech “Jack of all trades, master of none” suits me to a T. It refers to a person who shows competency in many skills, but is not particularly outstanding in any one. I recently learned some of the reasons why I am this way. Last week, in an astrology class, I learned that I possess something called Cardinal Quality. The site Astrology.com states: “Individuals possessing a Cardinal Quality like to get things going. They are active, quick and ambitious. Many projects get started, thanks to Cardinal initiative, although a good deal of them are never finished. That’s because Cardinal folks are much fonder of starting things than finishing them.” Adding to that, I also learned in class, that my zodiac sign’s temperament is that of air. Astrolibrary.org says this about those who have the of element of air, “They love learning, but bore easily . . . Air signs are into ideas and people. They are communicative; they must share information, interact with others, and influence society.”

Let me share an example of the Cardinal Quality-Air Element combination: In November, I decided to knit my son an afghan for Christmas. Having only knitted scarves in the past, I don’t know why I took on a project of that magnitude. After many “do-overs” and calls to my daughter-the-knitter, I completed the project, but ultimately decided that knitting was not for me. In January, I took a crochet class and decided to make a throw for my daughter. Again, with multiple “do-overs” and a bit of ad-libbing, I completed the project. Crocheting was easier, but again not for me. To make a long story short, I yearn to learn, but I lack the temperament and interest to stick to a single subject for very long. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck in the photography class I start next week!

#1 – Are You a Creative Person?
12 Tendencies of Creative People Have you ever considered yourself a creative person? Check out the 12 Most Striking Tendencies of Creative People and see how many of these traits you share with other creatives. For better descriptions of these tendencies, read the entire article, but in a nutshell they are:

1. Are bored easily
2. Are willing to take risks
3. Don’t like rules
4. Ask “what if . . .”
5. Make lots of mistakes
6. Collaborate
7. Are generous
8. Are independent
9. Experiment
10. Motivate themselves
11. Work hard
12. Aren’t alone

#2 – Valentine’s Day Printables and Love Quotes
The best Valentine’s Day cards or gifts do not have to come from a store. Homemade cards, treats, or gifts carry more love because of the sweat equity involved. Making homemade Valentine’s Day cards and treats are a cinch, especially if you use free printables. Whether it’s finding the right words for your Valentine’s Day card or making/assembling treats for school or for the office, you’ll find some creative assistance below:
Valentine's Chalkboard Printables Valentine’s Chalkboard Printables
75 Awesome! Valentine’s Day (Free Printables)
Free Valentine’s Day Bag Toppers
Treat Bag Toppers
Love Quotes for Valentine’s Day Cards
Valentine’s Day Quotes

#3 – An Extraordinary Gift
Extraordinary Graduation Gift
Because of its inspirational message, the book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss makes a nice graduation gift. When one man’s daughter graduated from high school, he gave her the book and, as she opened the book to read it, he told her, “Every year, for the past 13 years, since the day you started kindergarten I’ve gotten every teacher, coach, and principal to write a little something about you inside this book.” Why am I sharing this story with you months before graduation season? This is a wonderful gift idea that obviously requires some advance planning. Even if you did not start this project at the beginning of your child’s academic career, you still have time to get your child’s teachers and coaches to write something in the book for this year!! Click here to read more about this story.

#4 – Smart As A Dog
Watch this video and fall in love with Misa, a tiny Yorkie. This little pup is not just a ball of adorable fluff. Judging by the number of tricks in her repertoire, she’s pretty darn smart, too!

#5 – Learn
“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.”
Thomas Huxley

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
Pablo Picasso

Now Go and Spread Joy!

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