Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Give old classics a make-over

I love how this blog allows me to clean out my tabs and save the recipes I love.  Here's what's cooking this week:

Sounds fancy but oh so simple: Goat Cheese Ravioli w/ Broccoli and Parmesan

Give rice the WOW factor with Maria's Rice

You'll want to have grilled cheese sandwiches every night with Fire Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Make a simple classic gourmet: Bistro Mac & Cheese

What will your last meal of 2010 be?

More Portland Love

Yesterday, riding back from snowshoeing on the mountain, exhausted (in a good way) from our adventure, I sat back in my seat and let the satisfaction sink in.  Bob Marley was on the radio, rain was pouring outside, and I was wearing my earflap hat and was just so proud to be an Oregonian, where we take things one step at a time and enjoy the simple things in life.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Zesty BBQ Slow Cooker Chicken

Time to whip out that slow cooker for a meal that will practically make itself.

Zesty BBQ Chicken

6 frozen chicken breasts (4 is also fine for the portions)
12 oz. BBQ sauce
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. Worchester sauce

1. Place chicken in slow cooker.
2. In bowl mix BBQ sauce, Italian dressing, brown sugar, and Worchester sauce.
4. Pour over chicken.
5. Cover and cook 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.

If you have a rice cooker, why not throw in some rice with half water/half beef broth and relax.  Read a book.  Paint your toe nails.  Call your mom.  Or if you want to feel extra productive, do any of these speed cleaning moves.

Shattered dreams and the quarter life crisis

Despite the current state of the world, millenials "remain optimistic, despite a job-killing recession, two wars and the threat of terrorism" (USA Today).

We are also called "wildly optimistic" by the Atlantic.

Yet even with this optimism, twentysomethings are experiencing what is coined the "quarter life crisis." Instilled by teachers and parents that going to college would lend to a rewarding career and a happy life, many are finding that it may be more complicated than that.

OPB's Think Out Loud did a very interesting show on this phenomenon - many interesting perspectives of young adults finding themselves dissatisfied with where their life is at. Listen to it here.

This "quarter life crisis" is riveting, especially as it relates to efforts to keep kids in school. For the longest time, the reason kids who were disillusioned with school were convinced to stay was the promise that it will pay off financially and they will be happier.  I have used this argument countless times with students.  But now that life has proven otherwise - I wonder how this will influence such a philosophy. What motivation is there for students who are not interested to stay? What perspectives/philosophies/strategies in education need to change in order for the educational system to remain valuable? Our world is changing a lot - and youth are watching and finding fodder for their arguments against the system. My belief was that education led to a better paying and more satisfying job - I know my standards in what I want my life to be like are pretty high, and I know many of my peers experiencing this crisis.  Do we need to re-evaluate what we expect from a job? Do we acknowledge that adult life generally isn't as cool as we were led to believe? Or are there deeper issues at play here?

I find this topic and general research about our generation fascinating.  What are your thoughts?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December crafts

A while back, I came across some owl calendars (if you're a regular, you probably remember me talking about them) and thinking they were super cool, wanted to use the free printable for something. And behold, they became our card/party favor at our Christmas party.

The first step was to design the cover. I'm not sure if I found the red bows first and then came up with the idea to have them be part of the cover or thought it would be cool to have the bows and then sought them out, but in any case...I bought the red bows from the dollar store and began designing the cover. I wanted the card to have a worthwhile message/wish for people for the holidays and the new year and figured it was most appropriate to tie in something about wisdom because of the owls (maybe cheesy but hey). I found the passage in Colossians to be most appropriate.

In iWorks Pages I set up the page to print accordingly, leaving enough space for the bow. Then off to printing and cutting (so thankful for my paper cutter!) Then, punched a hole on the top of the front page, inserted bow, and taped it on the back to secure it.

Then after printing and cutting the calendar sheets, I paper clipped the months (in order of course) with a white paper clip to the cover page.

It was fun, multi-dimensional, and I hope useful for the recipients of the card.

Cost breakdown of project:

Nice paper - $5 (50 sheets)
Printing ink - $7 (cartridge refill at Costco)
Bow - $1 for pack of 20 at the Dollar Store
Total - $13 for 15 awesome calendar Christmas cards


For David this Christmas, I made him a special card (with custom wrapping paper out of a paper bag and scraps from our wedding invitations circa 2009).

David also got me an Anthropologie gift card (yay!) and it came with this cool box. I definitely see this turning into a project soon...

Of course, my paper crafts will never compare to the awesome people made out of paper crafts made in Russia. Check them out here (scroll about half way down the page).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Fabulous baby back ribs

(Recipe and picture c/o Food Network)

I served these phenomenal baby back ribs to my family for Christmas eve dinner and everyone loved them including my mom, who is an amazing cook and tough food critic.  Bought the ribs from Albertsons, and two slabs were more than enough for my hungry company of seven. They are fun to make and absolutely delicious.  Although I couldn't get the braising liquid to become thick, and just ended up pouring it on thin - the ribs turned out very tender and juicy.  My favorite part is that they were in the oven hours before the family arrived so I had time to make other deliciousness like glazed carrots and orange-scented green beans without any stress.

In fact they were so good, I made them the next morning for lunch with the in-laws.

Definitely a keeper - will make them again.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why Portland Is Awesome

(Image by littleputbooks)

You've probably already watched the hilariously awesome Dream of the 90's is Alive in Portland video, which is an introduction for Portlandia, a new series coming out in January. I am excited about this show because, quite simply, I love Portland and embrace the oddities that make it always entertaining. The fact that I can look out the window and see a guy riding a segway wearing a Darth Vader mask and a trenchcoast in the middle of June, and not be completely shocked by it, is amazing.

There are many things Portlanders should be proud of like the enormous variety of food carts, the alternative sports scene (hello hiking, biking, ultimate frisbee), and the fact that we are a hub for creativity. The national recognition Portland's received over the years stands as a testament of its awesomeness.

Despite being considered one of the most "godless" cities, there are a lot of big things happening within the body of Christ, like the Compassion clinics, and efforts to fight human trafficking. Mentoring, partnering, and being the hands and feet of Jesus are core values of many churches in Portland. God is doing great things amidst this quirky place. Perhaps its because God likes using the oddballs to dumbfound the wise and put-together.

Every time I drive through I-5 across the river and look at the downtown skyline, I am taken by the beauty of this city. Also when I drive down I-84 and see the beauty of the gorge. Clearly I'm not the only one - there are several CD's devoted to songs about Portland. And a whole line of clothing representing the glorious 503.

We have a lot to be proud of and a lot to laugh about.

What do you love about Portland?

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Favorite Punch + Christmas Dinner

My cousin Olga said this was the best drink she's ever had. Its definitely my favorite punch and its pretty much a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Thank you Linda for the recipe:

Banana Slush Punch
(54 servings - but keep note, people will want seconds)

4 ripe bananas
2 cups white sugar
3 cups water
1 (46 fluid ounce) can pineapple juice
2 (12 fluid ounce) cans frozen orange juice concentrate
1 (12 fluid ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
3 cups water
3 liters ginger ale; the colder the better.

In a blender, combine bananas, sugar and 3 cups water. Blend until
smooth. Pour into a large bowl and stir in pineapple juice. Blend in
orange juice concentrate, lemonade concentrate and 3 more cups water.

If making it in advance:
Divide into 3 plastic containers and freeze until solid.

Remove from freezer 3 to 4 hours before serving. Using one portion at a
time, place slush in a punch bowl and pour in 1 liter of cold ginger ale
for each.


Also excited for my parents to visit us for Christmas dinner this week. This will be the first holiday we will be hosting at our place. My mom is a tough cook to please, but I'm prepared with the following recipes:

I'll leave her the honor of making the dessert. She makes the best Russian pastries - maybe someday I'll learn...

Some more tools for holiday entertaining that may be useful:

West Elm's DIY Downloads

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fresh Off the Boat Radio

Driving home from work, not content with the songs on my usual stations of interest, I started scanning and heard Numa Numa playing on 107.1 FM. I had never heard Numa Numa on the radio and was curious - what was this station?! I've never heard European music on Portland's airwaves, and even though it had terrible static (battling for the waves with klove - why is klove everywhere?) I discover:

DJ Siniy with Fresh Off the Boat, a station from Mt. Hood Community College playing Russian/European music Thursdays from 5-7pm.

The actual station is 89.1 FM - for some reason 107.1 was picking up the waves.

Naturally now I'm feeling a smidge nationalist so I'll listen to some Oleg Gazmanov.

Also, can't wait for Eurovision 2011. Lena, the winner of 2010 was great. My other favorites: Turkey, Armenia, and Greece. Russia was something special, to this day I have not concluded how I feel about them. Hope 2011 will be a better one for Russia.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Best book on marriage

Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot is hands down the best book about marriage that I have yet encountered. It goes beyond the oversimplified concept of love and respect, and explores the anatomy of love, importance and differences in communication, as well as the psychology of marriage. The book moves quickly, with many engaging (and relatable) anecdotes and gives practical advice that you can more or less imagine how it would apply in your own life. I've read it multiple times, given it as a gift, and continue to appreciate this book. The writing stye is engaging and the content is intelligent. Even though I have read it before, I still find useful insight/reminders within it. Whether you're in the process of tying the knot, already married for years, or a single trying to prepare yourself - this is a worthy read.

And if you're looking for some interesting research on the topic, check out Gottman. He has done quite extensive research on relationships and his findings are quite fascinating. For example, he has identified several key factors in successful relationships and after observing a couple for 5 minutes can with 95% accuracy predict whether a relationship will last or break. Interesting stuff! I enjoyed learning about him and his work in my Family Communication course. These things never get old.

Monday, December 13, 2010

For the chef or chef to be

Last Summer, while strolling through Portland's Saturday market I came across Cuisine Mentor.

Their concept is brilliant - create ethnic cooking kits which are basically a spice kit with the perfect combination of spices to make authentic international delicacies. The kit comes with a variety of recipes, so you have a choice in how you will use the spice. Also perfect for getting motivation to try something new or to answer that age old groan of planning dinner.

The website doesn't give justice to the well designed packaging - but its pretty enough to give as a gift for the chef or chef in the making.

I've already made Indian Tandoori chicken and a Moroccan dish and they turned out delicious. Looking forward to make some Native American stew one of these cold winter evenings.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bacon Jerky

Bacon Jerky is delicious and everyone should try it sometime in their life. I had the delight this past weekend while at the Holiday Bazaar at the Expo. Bacon Forever was the vendor. Absolute delight - and worthy of a gift for bacon lovers. I also loved their bacon gear for babies.

And if you're coming to the Christmas Sweater party... just a hint, a little bacon jerky may be included in the winning prize for the most audacious sweater.

Feeling Special + More Free Printables

Birthday's really deserve their own week. I've been spoiled with a host of fun for about a month now, starting with David's early birthday surprise for me. The fun continued this week with a family dinner complete with a fox fur fashion show, birthday cards, free coffee from Starbucks and of course the showering of birthday wishes on Facebook - I definitely feel loads special.

Tonight, David and I are going to enjoy delicious world cuisine at Salvador Molly's, one of my favorites that I haven't been to in a long time.

But the joy is in the giving, so here are some more awesome free printables:

Bird Ornaments by Lisa Rupp

Holiday Gift Tags by Camilla Engman

I love printables. I'm in the process of making something awesome using the Owl Calendar - more info to follow once I finish.

Enjoy and have a great day! I know I will.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday Refocus

Sometimes life gets busy, and by Wednesday all the wonderful spiritual food from Sunday has long been digested. Its easy to lose sight of the source of life and peace while drowning in life's daily grind. This song is beautiful and convicting.

Captivate Us

Your face is beautiful
And Your eyes are like the stars
Your gentle hands have healing
There inside the scars
Your loving arms they draw me near
And Your smile it brings me peace
Draw me closer oh my Lord
Draw me closer Lord to Thee

Captivate us, Lord Jesus
Set our eyes on You
Devastate us with Your presence
Falling down
And rushing river, draw us nearer
Holy fountain consume us with You
Captivate us Lord Jesus, with You

Your voice is powerful
And Your words are radiant bright
In Your breath and shadow
I will come close and abide
You whisper love and life divine
And Your fellowship is free
Draw me closer O my Lord
Draw me closer Lord to Thee


Let everything be lost in the shadows
Of the light of Your face
Let every chain be broken from me
As I'm bound in Your grace
For Your yoke is easy, Your burden is light
You're full of wisdom, power and might
And every eye will see You


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Good Deals on Toys

Right now I'm running a toy drive for Beaverton's low-income and homeless youth, so I'm constantly on the lookout for good deals on toys to maximize our cash donations. I thought I'd share my findings with you.

Top 3 Deals This Week

1. Old Navy $10 for kids & toddlers packable jackets

2. Target $10 for family games like Apples to Apples, Glee, Life, Scrabble & more

3. Toys R Us 60% off PixOs and ChixOs activity sets

***Bonus: $2.99 for 100 piece creatology art set at Michaels!

If you don't have any kids on your list, consider grabbing something for a local toy drive or clothing drive. This year the need is immense and your donation will be greatly appreciated.

To find a toy drive near you:

*Deals listed are valid until 12/11/10

Review: Bull Mountain Dental Images

Imagine a dental office that cares about providing a quality holistic dental experience instead of torture as care. I may have found one:

My fear of the dentist stemmed from a horrifying childhood experience where I was performed dental work while my mouth wasn't fully numb. I was too young to understand or know how to communicate my concern to the dentist, and since then I've had this excruciating fear of the dentist. It didn't help that all the dentist offices I've ever been to have had a sterile, impersonal feel to them. Seemed like dentist offices hadn't changed much in the past twenty years despite the enormous leaps in technological advances.

Until yesterday when I went to a new dental office in my new neighborhood. I chose the dental office because it was the closest one to my home. When I called to make my appointment I warned them of my dental anxiety and they reassured me that they have many patients like that. So I proceeded.

The office is in a new building and looks nice from the outside, but the real test was what lied within. Entering the office, the first thing that caught my eye was the lighting - it was ambient - not too bright, and the furniture was new. They serve water out of goblets not paper cups. I began feeling more like I was at a spa than a dentist office, so I started to relax a little bit. Then I discovered that the dentist chair doubles as a massage chair that is on a very subtle and relaxing setting. Who can complain about a massage chair? The dental offices were also nicely furnished and had a healthy plant in the corner.

The dental assistant was extremely friendly but not in an annoying fake way. She made me feel comfortable in a matter of minutes. The x-rays were painless and results were instant. This office knows how to incorporate technology into their practice. Then I got to meet the dentist. He was very relaxed, confident and friendly. A dentist with a sense of humor! Imagine that?! He asked about my previous dental experience and I did get a little teary eyed sharing my childhood horror experience, but he was understanding. The hunch I get is that he is a dentist because he truly wants to make dentistry a good experience for people because he understands how it feels.

So I think this dental office is a keeper. They totally know how to make a comfortable patient experience, they are up to date with technology, and most importantly, they can make me comfortable. That is quite a feat considering I'm probably the most difficult dental patient ever.

I highly recommend Bull Mountain Dental Imaging & Dr. Rod Johnson DMD

P.S. I was also told that they have this laser technology that takes care of small cavities without the drill. This is exciting because I hate the drill.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Perfect Pair of Trousers

They say a diamond is a girls best friend, but I would argue that for the working girl, a pair of flattering and comfortable trousers are far more valuable.

Seriously, how difficult does it have to be to find the perfect pair of work pants? They are always either too long, too short, too loose or too tight. Men have the blessing of finding their perfect fit by combining two sizes - us ladies only one. Tailoring dress pants is fine, but there is something extremely satisfying when trying on a pair of pants and when looking in the mirror seeing exactly what you want to see, no alterations needed. Its magical and I would argue that it increases motivation and consequently productivity.

Have you found your perfect dress pant?

I found mine, and now I understand why, some people have multiples of the same item. I may have to get these pants in different colors because heaven knows how hard it is to find something that fits right.

And thank you to the wonderfully kind and patient woman at Ann Taylor Loft who helped me find this treasure.

Ann Taylor Loft - Marisa Modern Trouser Leg w/ Stretch 2P

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chiles, Cilantro & Monterey Jack Cheese

Monday: Slow Cooker Layered Enchiladas (30 minute prep - you can brown the beef the night before, then in the morning before heading out for work set-up the crockpot - 5 hour total)

Tuesday: Chili Chicken Soup with Cilantro Dumplings (20 minute prep, 40 minutes total)

Leftover Wednesday - eat leftovers from previous meals or make something using ingredients you already have on hand

Thursday: Chile, Potato & Cheese Omelet (25 minutes)

Shopping list:
1 lb ground beef
4 eggs
3/4 cup frozen potatoes or diced cooked potatoes
chicken breasts
2 onions
1 jalapeno chile
5 cups chicken broth
4 scallions
1 can (10.75 oz) condensced cream of mushroom
2 cans (4.5 oz) green chilies
1 can (10 oz) enchilada sauce
corn tortillas
Monterey Jack cheese

*Shopping list does not include ingredients like spices or oils. Check the recipe for the complete list of necessary ingredients for these recipes.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Birthday Week Off to a Great Start

Today I celebrated the beginning of my birthday week with some much needed shopping. Technically, the day was supposed to be filled with task oriented type of shopping - you know, the basic mundane things of life like toothpaste and soap, but it quickly turned into something much more colorful.

As I was on my way to run these errands, I noticed Tigard high school was having a craft fair. I decided to stop by and see what all the excitement was about. It was a fundraiser for the school band and the cafeteria was filled with all kinds of vendors selling handcrafted items. There were even several jewelry vendors that caught my attention - which is pretty special because I am hard to please when it comes to the over-saturated market of handmade jewelry.

Then I got a call from a friend to go to the Holiday Bazaar at the Expo Center. First time at this expo and it proved to be useful. Met some awesome people doing great creative work, collected a couple business cards, ate some bacon jerky, and walked away with a super adorable purse.

Driving home I was tempted to stop by the mall and boy am I glad I did. Cozy sweaters at the Gap 50% off - yes please! I even bought a paper cutter for my paper crafts. This is what I call a holistic shopping spree.

Now I'm home with a cup of hot chocolate in hand, enjoying our pretty little Christmas tree all lit up and the soothing scent of pumpkin spice. Oh yes - happy birthday to me from me. Just the way I like it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Preview: Weekly Meal Planning

Life is busy - and after a long day of work scrambling to figure out what to make for dinner can be draining. We often opt for our regulars, which is great, but the palate does get bored.

Therefore, I am starting a series on weekly meal planning, which is really just sharing what I already do on a weekly basis and making it available as a resource to simplify the wonderful world of meal planning for busy people. Although in future weeks the plans will be fuller (4-5 days worth), this week is a preview, and is for 2 days. Enjoy!


Rotisserie chicken tonight, Mexican hominy soup tomorrow!

Buy a rotisserie chicken on your way home from work, pair it with some mashed potatoes and veggies (or whatever else you need to get eaten from your pantry). Save the leftover chicken for the next day.

Tomorrow, make it a holiday with this quick, 30 minute easy soup recipe. Serve with tortilla chips or make your own cumin-lime tortilla chips.

Shopping List:
  • Rotisseri chicken
  • 1 jalapeƱo pepper
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) hominy
  • radishes (1/2 cup) (This week at Fred Meyer 2 bunches for $1)
  • cilantro
  • lime
  • tortilla chips
* The shopping list does not include staples that I assume are already in your pantry - including spices, peppers, oils, etc. Check the recipe to make sure you have the basics on hand.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Confession: Why I Blog

Some of you may be wondering why I blog. Then let me tell you a story...

Last night, as I was falling asleep I was reflecting on how much fun I've had blogging and how closely it relates to my silly childhood dream.

You see, when I was a young girl I had this little dream - a dream to someday have my own media conglomerate under the guise Twinkle Maroon. In the secrecy of my room I would record tapes of myself reading the newspaper, creating news of my own imagination and recording songs on the radio combined with my commentary. Sometimes I would convince my brothers to be guests on the show. Sometimes I would invite my Barbie's to participate on the radio show. Other times, without even recording, I would take a random object in the house and explain what it is and try to sell it to the audience of my imagination. I would create stories about the object, usually beyond what the object was actually was. Obviously, it didn't take much to keep me entertained - this was my favorite past time.

Then as I got older and started enjoying magazines, I had a dream to start my own magazine. I conspired and even got as far as interviewing a student from the Art Institute of Portland to be a graphic designer for the magazine. But at 16, I didn't have the discipline nor the content to fulfill what I imagined the magazine would be. My vision was to create a magazine that was a cross section of all things local, combined with issues of faith and culture, primarily geared towards youth. It was supposed to be called Intersection. I had the design in my head, but didn't have the skill or encouragement to make it come to full fruition so the dream dwindled.

Now I'm an adult. I still remember my silly childhood dream, and although disillusioned by the concept of media conglomerates, thanks to my PSU media literacy courses, I still have the yearning to share things that seem interesting to me and to create stories. With the blog, I essentially can do what I have been doing throughout my childhood, but now I can share these things with the public in an easy, accessible way.

But the main reason for blogging, I realized as I was falling asleep last night, is to catalog sites and information that stands out to me in a given time. This month I have referred to several of my previous posts for my own information multiple times. Blogging is a great way to save links and the context of why they are of interest. It's also fun to see the progression of my interests - reflect on what was on my mind in the past and see how I will organize my life in the future. If someone gains something from it that is great - if not, I have gained from it. In a way, its a continuation of my childhood dream, but it is now actually useful in organizing my life.

And thus, I've had two strong months of blogging and I am excited to continue. I have a couple of plans on what I would like to blog about that might be even more beneficial to you, the reader. Sneak peek of the plan coming out this weekend!

Thanks for visiting and reading my blog, if you are finding it interesting and engaging, I am glad. Please comment on anything that stands out to you! If you are not, that's okay. I am still getting out of it what I would like.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Most Elegant Gingerbread House

This is the most elegant gingerbread house I have ever seen. Also looks like the most difficult one to make. I'm definitely not at this level - nor will be anytime soon, but I can still admire it. If you're incredibly patient and artistically talented, detailed instructions are here. If you want to have a baking party and invite me - I will watch you do it with complete awe and admiration.

If you admire a well designed gingerbread house and would like to check it off your "things to do before I get too old" list, but can't get the guts to try it on your own, Sur La Table in Portland is hosting a Gingerbread Decorating Party on December 12th. Although the point is to let the sweet tooth in you have the time of its life, with the help of guided professionals and all the right tools at your fingertips, your gingerbread house might turn out to be something admirable too.
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