34/365: Rum Cake

Arrggghh Matey's! Time to make some Rum Cake, because we are having a Super Bowl Shin-Dig tomorrow and what better to serve than a sweet, buttery, tipsy cake? I even bought a Bundt Cake pan today for one of the cakes.



You see that Captain Morgan's Spiced rum bottle? Well, after making two of these things, the bottle is empty (and no, I didn't make myself a nice mixed drink while I was baking. In reality, just licking the batter off the mixer beater was enough to give me a little buzz).

The other cake:


And I can't post stuff like this without providing a link to the recipe:
Bacardi Rum Cake Recipe - you know you want to make one now!

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Beautiful Amaryllis


All four flowers are now in bloom, and another bud is coming up! It was so beautiful to look at in the sunlight. I love having flowers in the middle of winter.

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33/365: Scrapping Night

I spent some time this evening with pictures from October 2007 and created my Calendar page for that month. I haven't scrapped in a couple of weeks, and I got to use some Felt Lace for the first time!




Maybe I'll get some more time tomorrow evening to finish up the journaling and start on a new layout.

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Friday Fill-Ins #109



1. I'd really like for the economy to improve right now, but fear it may take a couple more months. I’ll keep thinking – This, too, Shall Soon Pass.

2. “Ouch!” is the word you'd most often hear me say if I stubbed my toe, along with lots of hopping around on my other foot and perhaps some cussing under my breath.

3. Possession is 9 /10’s of the law, right?

4. My son loves to imitate Captain Jack Sparrow. He dressed up as him once for Halloween.

5. Marshmallows and fire go together like a young cheese and time. (Applying fire to a marshmallow transforms the marshmallow. Over time, a cheese becomes more flavorful and robust.)

6. No matter what the day will bring us, we need to remember that our lives will continue on and on and we should make the most of it.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to putting together the new kitchen table, tomorrow my plans include planning / shopping for the Superbowl and Sunday, I want to enjoy good times with our friends during our Superbowl party!

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Easier than the 25 Random Things

A new meme going around on Facebook.

1. What time did you get up this morning?
4:50 - it was a "workout" morning.

2. Diamonds or pearls
Pearls

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
The Tale of Despereaux. I thought it was kind of slow.

4. What is your favourite TV show?
I don't really watch TV, but when I do, it is House Hunters on HGTV - I like trying to guess which place they end up buying - usually, I get it right

5. What do you usually have for breakfast?
Coffee, then a snack around 10am - a bagel or cereal / oatmeal.

6. What is your middle name(s)?
Given middle name was Ann, I changed it to Chang when I got married.

7. What food do you dislike
Overcooked vegetables, most organ meats (a little bit of pate is OK now and then). Super sweet deserts.

8. What is your favorite CD at moment?
Still Sara Bareilles' music.

9. What kind of car do you drive?
I toggle between the Toyota Corolla and the Chevy Tahoe.

10. Favorite sandwich?
Anything from the Panini Press, but it has to have cheese in it!

11. What characteristic do you despise?
Inconsiderate, un-friendly, self-absorbed people.

12. Favorite item of clothing?
Any of my cashmere sweaters

13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?
Africa.

14. Favorite brand of clothing?
I'm not that brand conscious. I buy what's on sale....

15. Where would you retire to?
I hear great things about Roanoke, VA. I would love to have a summer home in the Berkshires and a winter home in Florida. Probably not going to happen, though.

16. What was your most recent memorable birthday?
For my 40th birthday, Scott arranged for a limousine to take us around town to dinner and wherever else we wanted to go. The kids had the best time in that thing - they hung out the windows as it cruised around the neighborhood.

17. Favorite sport to watch?
Football on TV, or Illini basketball.

18. Furthest place you are sending this?
Into cyberspace!

19. Person you expect to send it back first?
Don't know.

20. When is your birthday?
May 26

21. Are you a morning person or a night person?
Morning person

22. What is your shoe size?
7

23. Pets?
Our 15 year old cat, Rascal and frisky 2 year old cat, Hannah.

24. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us?
Nothing is really exciting around here - that's good in a lot of ways.

25. What did you want to be when you were little
A Teacher or a Baker.

26. How are you today?
A little strung out - my workplace laid off 15 people today. Some stressful times.

27. What is your favourite candy?
Cadbury Fruit and Nut Milk Chocolate.

28. What is your favourite flower?
Just one? Tulips, Orchids, Lavender, Iris, Lilacs, just to name a few.....

29. What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to?
August - we plan to travel to Colorado.


31. What are you listening to right now?
My daughter as she sings the latest Taylor Swift songs.

32. What was the last thing you ate?
An apple

33. Do you wish on stars?
Occasionally

34. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
I took a blog thing test and the result I got was purple.

35. How is the weather right now?
Cold, but today's 34 degF felt rather warm after the past week with a daily high of 16 degF.

36. The first person you spoke to on the phone today?
I didn't use the phone today.

37. Favourite soft drink?
Diet Coke

38. Favourite restaurant?
Radio Maria

39. Real hair color?
Dark Brown / Black

40. What was your favourite toy as a child?
My Holly Hobbie dolls.

41. Summer or winter?
Fall

42. Hugs or kisses
Both!

43. Chocolate or Vanilla?
Chocolate

44. Coffee or tea?
Coffee

45.Do you want your friends to answer and post?
Sure!

46. When was the last time you cried?
Scott was describing the premise of the movie "The Bucket List" last night. I though about being terminally ill, and that teared me up.

47. What is under your bed?
Luggage.

48. What did you do last night?
Blogged, hung out with the kids and went to bed.

49. What are you afraid of ?
Not being able to care for my kids.

50. Salty or sweet?
Salty

51. How many keys on your key ring?
Depends on the key ring I am using - I have one for each vehicle, which eliminates the single key ring with a thousand keys on it (like my mother's - ha, ha!)

52. How many years at your current job?
6 years with my current company.

53. Favourite day of the week?
Probably Saturday.

54. How many towns have you lived in?
8: Washington, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois.

55. Do you make friends easily?
I think so.

56. How many people will you send this to?
Whoever sees / reads this on my blog.

57. How many will respond?
I think most of them already have!

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32/365: Rite of Passage

Following the genes of her parents, Erica has been "blessed" with too many teeth. Both Scott and I endured braces as adolescents, so it didn't surprise us that she, too, would go through the same Rite of Passage.

The process started Monday, with X-rays and teeth molds. Remember those molds? Guncky, gritty, sticky, clay-like substance they put in a tray and then into you mouth. The top mold always set off that gag reflex. I remember it all too well. Nowadays, the materials set in one minute and they have flavors.

Today, Erica had her Brackets glued on. Again, I had to suffer through banded braces. The orthodontist had the brackets set on the top row of her teeth to start.


Next step: 4 teeth need to be extracted and then the wires go on. They estimate she'll be in the braces for two years. That's the amount of time I had them in, and they were worth the pain and hassle. That's what I continue to tell Erica.

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31/365: Snowy Commute

I have been making a concerted effort to take my camera "wherever I go", which includes taking it to work. Today, with 5" of fresh snow, it was slow going on the highway, except for the semi trailers who were passing and kicking up snow.

When the sun came out, I had to take a picture - but I was very safe - I didn't even look in the viewfinder - I just put the camera lens to the side of my face and snapped away. I didn't even adjust the settings. Thank goodness for autofocus! Here are the two pictures I took.


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30/365: Violin Practice

I have violin lessons on Tuesdays, and I hate to go into them "cold", so I made sure I practiced this afternoon. I haven't been as consistent with my playing since December, due to holidays and an erratic lesson schedule. Now that I've settled into a regular lesson schedule, I'll find time to play every day.



I started playing in 3rd grade and took a 22 year "sabbatical" starting in college. I did retain my basic skills, but I'm sure my fingers were much faster in 1986. But not a big deal - I still enjoy the process of creating music through my violin again.

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25 Random Things

This is going around on Facebook, but I thought I would post here, too. I'm not going to tag anyone because I think everyone I know has already been tagged. (case in point - I was tagged 3 times, just today)

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you.

Since today is Chinese New Year, I’ll start off with some random Chinese facts about me:
1. I was born in the Year of the Ram. Here are some of the Ram’s characteristics:
Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, creative, gentle, compassionate, understanding, mothering, determined, peaceful, generous, seeks security. Can be moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer, wise.

2. My daughter was born in the year of the Ox. So was my father and sister.

3. My Chinese given name is pronounced “Show-Yi” and I am told it means “Little Spring”. And the name Shirley is derived from it.

4. Although “Chang” is quite common, my Chinese surname character is not a typical last name:



5. I learned to speak Mandarin as a little child, before English. Sadly, I’ve lost most of my ability now.

6. Growing up, I attended Chinese school every Saturday morning.

7. I’ve visited Taiwan once, in third grade.

8. I’ve visited China once, in 2006.

9. I played violin from 3rd grade through freshman year of college. I picked it back up last year.

10. I also played piano. I had the piano I played as a child shipped out from Massachusetts a couple years ago when my parents moved to a smaller home.

11. I met my husband at a work seminar and my first impression about him was “gosh, this guy is a dork”. I guess I was wrong.

12. Just out of college, I went a year without a TV. Dating Scott was my downfall.

13. Scott taught me how to play golf and drive a stick shift. While we were dating. He is one patient man.

14. I love to sing and was in a mixed a capella group in college. I have a CD to prove it.

15. With all my musical background, it shouldn’t be surprising that I didn’t participate in sports during High school. I was a “band geek” (and not even in band!).

16. I once planted over 200 tulip bulbs in my garden. The spring show was absolutely worth all that work. I love plants and growing things, but with other “stuff” going on with my life, it has taken a backseat.

17. My first car was a gold Chevy Station Wagon. The first car I bought myself still resides in our garage - a red Capri Convertible, purchased in 1990.

18. I grew up in Massachusetts and went to college in Cambridge, so I consider Boston to be my home city. But I would never choose to live in that area now. Too much traffic and congestion. We still get to visit and enjoy all that New England has to offer.

19. I have always been a photo buff and photo organizer. I have very organized photo albums starting in high school - all labeled, documented and in chronological order.

20. I started scrapbooking in 1997, after the birth of my daughter, Erica.

21. My love for photography really took off when I bought my first D-SLR in 2004 - my Nikon D70. It is still my main camera, but I plan to upgrade soon.

22. I don’t watch any regular TV series. I don’t have the time with all of this Facebook / Blog / Photography / Music stuff going on.

23. I have very poor eyesight - one eye is negative 7.0 diopters and the other is negative 7.5. Can’t see a thing on that eye chart!

24. I am double jointed in the arms and fingers. I passed this trait on to both kids. They love to freak out their friends by hyper extending their arms.

25. My favorite floral scent is lavender - so soothing.

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29/365: Late Amaryllis

I bought the Amaryllis bulb with the impression it would bloom, you know, for Christmas. For a while, I thought I had wasted $10 on something that resembled an onion. But look at it now.



I don't have a macro lens, nor do I claim to have any skills with close up photography. I think these are just OK when compared to other pictures I have seen, but I am happy with them, and I did enjoy taking the pictures. And I am enjoying the flowers during this cold winter season (yeah, we are due for more snow tonight. great.)



Thanks for looking!

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28/365: New Year's Dumplings

Tomorrow, we ring in the Chinese New Year. As with many holidays, we celebrate with special foods, and for New Year, this means dumplings and noodles. Normally, I buy frozen dumplings, but with help from Erica and Brian, we enjoyed homemade ones.



More pictures are on my personal blog.

Thanks for all of your kind comments, and Happy Chinese New Year!

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Chinese New Year Dumplings

Today's all-day project, with very tasty results:


The Recipe is out of the veritable Bible of Chinese cooking:

My mother used the same cookbook when I was growing up, and I received my own copy when I graduated from college. The recipes are the same after all these years, still delicious.

Normally, homemade dumplings are reserved for extended family gatherings when you have several sets of hands to help with the dough making / rolling / wrapping / cooking. I still remember making dumplings with my Aunties, Uncles and cousins whenever we visited them in New York. It is a tradition we maintain with my sisters and parents - whenever we all get together, we set aside an afternoon to make dumplings.

It has been several years since I made dumplings by myself, but now that the kids are older, they expressed interest in helping, so I bought the ingredients yesterday and made the filling last night. Erica's horse riding was canceled today, so I had a willing helper all afternoon.

We started by making the dough for the wrappers - mix boiling water with flour until it forms a soft dough:



Then knead away. Brian and Erica did all the kneading this year:




After letting the dough rest (rest time for us, too!), I divided it into 4 pieces, then took one piece, formed a snake and broke off 10 pieces of dough. These pieces are formed into little rounds:


Roll the rounds out into flat circles. [yes, those are my wrinkly looking hands - picture taken by Erica]


Fill the wrapper with meat filling and crimp. Erica was a big help here. I rolled out the wrappers while she filled them:


Pan fry (sorry, the picture I took didn't come out very nice).

Enjoy with dipping sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, green onion and sesame oil.


I really enjoyed making today's dumplings - first, I wasn't in any sort of rush (I had no plans to leave the house, and with the snow and the cold outside, we just stayed in). I enjoyed watching the kids immerse themselves into the process - they commented how smooth the dough felt, how the filling smelled so good. The ultimate comment - when they declared that "homemade dumplings are the best".

Happy Chinese New Year!

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27/365: Suprised and Stunned

Brian took a shot to the chest during today's indoor soccer game. I just happened to snap this picture right after he was hit. He shook it off and was OK, although after the game he said he wanted to throw up after being hit.



Difficult exposure - he was in the direct sun and the background was very dark, which I lightened up, but there's some noise. Oh yeah - I forgot to reset my ISO settings from last night, so that added to the noise. Oh well.

Some other random shots from today's game:


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26/365: Tea Time

I am hosting our ladies' book club discussion tonight, and since Chinese New Year is just around the corner, I am serving tea in my cute Chinese tea set. I figure the tea will be a nice compliment to the decadent Rum cake I made yesterday.



I love the cute koi painted on the cups - they were the reason I purchased this particular set. The sad thing? I purchased the set in China 2 1/2 years ago, and tonight will be its first use. I guess we need to take more time out to steep tea and enjoy it with our friends and family.

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Friday Fill-Ins



1. Oh, I am so not looking forward to more cold after yesterday's glorious day!

2. I'm trying to do my part to make changes, big and little.

3. During Chinese New Year, I celebrate by making noodles and dumplings. Chinese New Year is on Monday - so make sure you eat some noodles for long life!

4. Our last power bill was more than $400; are you kidding me??? And my kids complain that the house is too cold - they need to put on more clothes!

5. Right now I'd like to be somewhere tropical and warm.

6. My iPod is my favorite gadget, even if it is almost 4 years old. I don't plan to replace it until it dies (really!).

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to hosting our Ladies Book Club (we probably won't talk that much about the book we read - A Separate Peace, it was a little boring), tomorrow my plans include taking Brian to Soccer and Sunday, I want to chill out!

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25/365: Grain Elevators

Trying to keep with the theme of Technology, today's pictures are of the large grain elevator that I drove by today coming home from violin lessons:



The company that runs the facility proposed building an ethanol plant in the adjacent fields. I'm fairly certain these plans have been scrapped. It is still an impressive facility, though, maybe the largest in the county.

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Scott's New Work Computer

complete with Webcam!

Mary, our IT Specialist was showing Scott how the Webcam worked and he snapped a photo. Of course, he was so pleased with himself, he had to email it to me!


I won't receive my new computer for another month or so (I passed on receiving one this month because there were others with greater need), but I can tell these will be fun features to play with. And for the record, we didn't specify the Webcams - they just happen to come standard now with the model we have been using. If you choose to have them removed, the laptop costs more!

Maybe this weekend we'll play with the Webcam to shoot a little video!

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Beautiful Winter

As cold as this winter has been, I still enjoy the beautiful winter scenes each morning as I drive to work. On cloudless days, the rising sun casts a golden glow on the snow, causing brilliant sparkles.

There is a highway Rest Area along my route to work and yesterday, I pulled into its parking area to take pictures of the glittering prairie.


The scene was just "OK" to me. It was cold (5degF) and I had to walk through the snow to get closer to the prairie preservation area. I decided to leave and as I trudged back to the car, I walked under a pine tree and discovered some lovely pine cones above my head:


So you never know where you might find something beautiful to take a picture of - it might be right above your head!

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24/365: Kitchen Technology

This week's Project 365 theme at 2peas is Technology, so I decided to take pictures of the technology used in the kitchen.

Brian is now old enough to procure and even prepare his own food. He was getting some milk out of the fridge when I snapped this. He was happy because I didn't take a picture of his face (he tends to blink anyways).



Brian can use this modern marvel of kitchen technology, the microwave. I recently tried to recall how we used to re-heat leftovers before the microwave. I think we put everything in the oven! I do remember our first microwave - we received it as a "gift" for renovating the kitchen back in the early 80's. What a boat it was, and not very effective. I didn't think it was very "high tech" back then, but I can't imagine a kitchen without one now.


I know the picture is blurry, but that was the best I could do without dragging out the tripod!

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23/365 - History in the Making

I was unable to watch Obama being sworn in as the 44th President of United States live, so this is my commemoration of this historic event:



And while the word Hope has been used throughout his campaign, I pray President Obama puts his Trust in God and is guided by His hand.

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Sleeping Beauty

I took these pictures by chance, after being chastised by Erica for taking her picture earlier. Erica insisted that I delete the picture of her (I did), but then I needed another picture for today.

Brian wasn't very helpful, either. Fortunately, I found a willing and oh so cute subject:




You can't help but feel relaxed when watching a cat sleep.

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22/365 - That's the Appreciation I get

Erica has been complaining all winter long about the winter coat she has been forced to wear. She outgrew last year's coat and refused to wear the bigger coat I purchased several years ago (PSA - NEVER buy in advance) because it was too "poofy". I offered up one of my spare fleece jackets (it was the least poofy thing in the closet), and I have been on the lookout for something on sale.

Yesterday I found a nice Columbia three-in-one jacket that didn't cost an arm and a leg. We went to the store today and she approved (Hallelujah!). We purchase. We drive home. Then what does she do? She separates the inner fleece jacket from the outer shell and wears it. It looks *just like* the other winter coat she has been complaining about.

I took her picture and she wasn't happy about it. She thinks I am the meanest mother. Too bad.



Gotta LOVE this age.....

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21/365: New Toy for Scott


That's an air compressor. So he can add air to the car tires without traipsing out to the gas station. I think he just wanted one for the manly factor. Apparently this model has enough capacity to run air operated tools, and hopefully it won't turn into additional "toys"!

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A High Five for Erica

Erica's Report Card - way to go, hon!



(The blanks indicates that class was not taken this quarter - the students are only required to take one quarter of Health and World Language classes)

It shouldn't, but I am always amazed with her abilities - it all just seems to "click" upstairs. Hopefully, it will remain this way!

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20/365 - You Sunk my Battleship!

That's what I said as Brian whupped my tushie in a game a Battleship this afternoon!





It's no longer bitterly cold outside, but as a result of the cold front / high pressure system leaving our area, the clouds have rolled in, giving us another gray winter afternoon. Thank goodness for fun board games!

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19/365: Hit by a Coyote

Scott encountered a crazy coyote on the way to work this morning. He appeared from the East and crossed the Northbound highway without being hit, but wasn't as lucky crossing the Southbound highway. That's where he ran into the Corolla's rear wheel. Apparently dazed, the animal ran back to the East, crossing the Northbound highway again (without harm). The impact damaged the hub cap, and on the close up, you can see remnants of his fur hair.




Fortunately, Scott wasn't hurt and the damage to the car seems minimal (certainly much less than the time I ran over a deer in the convertible!).

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18/365 Frosty cold

The thermostat read minus 12 degrees Fahrenheit this morning. That's really cold. The cold temperatures, coupled with our crappy, cheap, drafty windows result in the formation of frost on the inside of the windows.




Did I mention the crappy, cheap windows? Oh, yeah. I did. At least I got some cool pictures.

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