Saturday, December 29, 2007

Good Eats

I am a firm believer in trying local cuisines when visiting new places. However, the cruise didn't offer much of Hawaiian food and since we (okay, I) craved Chinese food and ramen since we got off the ship, we didn't get a chance to sample authentic Hawaiian food until today.

I found out about Ono Hawaiian Food in my Lonely Planet Hawaii. According to the book, it is the place to go for a local meal. I later did some research online and found excellent reviews and ratings. So today, on our last day in Hawaii, we trekked off the beaten path and enjoyed a great lunch at Ono. We didn't know what to order, but the old lady who took our order gave great recommendation. She also suggested ordering just one plate to share, instead of ordering two. I am glad she did because otherwise, it would have been way too much food.

The storefront is unpretentious and inviting. There is a sign on the front that tells customers to wait outside to be seated. They provide benches though.


Our Combination Plate included laulau, rice, pipikaula, onions, haupia, poi, kaula pig, and lomi salmon. My favorite was laulau. The pork wrapped in taro leaves was steamed to tender and had just enough fat. It was so delish! For locals, poi can be substituted for rice. It had a bitter taste so I didn't like it much, but Luke ate it with all the other fixings and said it wasn't bad.


Laulau unwrapped. I could eat laulau with rice all day long. *chomp chomp*


Luke and I posing with our food in this little restaurant. I thought the decor was homey and provided a charming atmosphere. The pictures on the wall are of their customers, some famous and some just regular folks.

Mahalo Ono! We shall return!

---
Ono Hawaiian Food
726 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808)737-2275

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cake in-a-jar

Image from Hallmark Magazine.

I have a subscription to Hallmark Magazine . The magazine is similar to Martha Stewart Living, full of refreshing ideas on living, cooking, entertaining, and home decorating. I saw this idea weeks ago in the latest issue and thought it's a great alternative for those on budget. Even though we are at the tail-end of the holiday season, I think this gift idea works great for all occasions (birthdays, Valentine's Day, Easter, anniversaries, etc).

Recipes and Instructions

I haven't tried this yet myself. Let me know how it works out for you!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mele Kalikimaka!!

{Translation: Merry Christmas}

Currently we are sitting in our hotel room in Waikiki. Luke is on his DS and I am browsing as usual. We also have cable TV. It feels like we are back home. :)

We got off the cruise ship yesterday. The cruise part of our honeymoon was simply wonderful! We did so much and saw many new things. I will be blogging about it for months to come.

Yesterday we walked all over downtown Honolulu and Chinatown. This morning we walked along the famous Waikiki Beach. Although it's Christmas, it doesn't feel like it here. There are some Christmas decorations here and there, but all the shops remain open for the tourists. Except for some occasion light showers, the weather is balmy and really beautiful.

After today we only have 4 full days left on our honeymoon. :( So sad that it is soon coming to an end, but some things to look forward to when I get home...

1) Pargo. I miss the little guy so much.
2) Pictures! Heather should be sending us our wedding photo DVD pretty soon, if not already. I am looking forward in printing them and making an album. Finally I will have hard copies of our photos!
3) Blog. Looking forward in sharing our amazing Hawaiian honeymoon with lots and lots of pictures.
4) House. Will this be the year that we finally buy a house? Our lease ends at the end of Feb..will we buy a place of our own?

Well, gotta go for now. I leave with a pic of us just taken this morning.

Just having fun with my hubby...

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pre-Trip Report Part V

Pre-Trip Report Part I
Pre-Trip Report Part II
Pre-Trip Report Part III
Pre-Trip Report Part IV

Finally, Saturday is here. Hence, my last work day of 2007 was yesterday and we leave tomorrow. =] Right now, the weather is calling for light snow later this afternoon and heavy rain tomorrow morning. Oh I hope hope hope that we will get out okay!

After the cruise ends, we will stay another 6 nights near Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. Unlike the other islands, Oahu is upbeat and built-up, with plenty of restaurants, shops, and nightlife. However, like the other islands, Oahu also has all sorts of water activities, trails, and waterfalls. Since we will have 6 days there, we will be able to explore Oahu a lot thoroughly than all the others.

Some highlights of the island. Images from flickr.

Waikiki Beach


Diamond Head - we will hike to the crater's rim. From there, we will have a bird's eye view of Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean.


USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor


Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay...look at all those ants!


Sunset Beach at North Shore


Luau at the Royal Hawaiian. There are several luaus near Waikiki such as the one at Polynesian Cultural Center, Paradise Cove, and Germaines Luau. I decided to reserve with the Royal Hawaiian because it's right on Waikiki Beach. All others involve a bus-ride of at least 40 minutes. I also read that Royal Hawaiian is more "classy" where as Paradise Cove and Germaines are similar to college parties.

Luke and I are taking a laptop with us. Our hotel room in Oahu comes with free Internet so we will be able to get online in the evenings. Maybe I will even update my blog in Hawaii! Merry Christmas all sugarlens blog readers! Thanks for your support and I promise to bring more exciting things to blog about in 2008!

aloha,
sugarlens

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thinking Warm Thoughts

As I write this post, the mid west is getting slammed by an ice storm and it is inching closer to the east!! By weekend, the weather is calling for a wintry mix of snow/freezing rain/ice/sleet. Noooooooooo!! We are leaving for Hawaii bright and early on Sunday! I guess all we can do right now is wait and see. :( We are stressed and if we make it to Hawaii, it will be the perfect stress reliever.

From weather.com.

As you can see, the green and pink is heading our way!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Pre-Trip Report Part IV

Pre-Trip Report Part I
Pre-Trip Report Part II
Pre-Trip Report Part III

Same as Maui, the cruise ship will dock overnight in Kauai. However, we only have car rental for the first day. Since we will leave at 2pm the second day for Oahu (*sob*), I didn’t think a car was necessary.

Kauai is the most unspoiled of all Hawaiian Islands. Due to that, there isn’t one major road that connects the island (meaning, we can’t do a loop around the island). And that means, we won’t have time to see all the major attractions.

After much research, I have decided to go this route:

Head north from Lihue (where we dock), go up the Eastside and see sights along the way such as beaches and parks. Continue onto North Shore to Princeville (resort community with hotels, restaurants, golf courses), Hanalei (Hanalei Bay and Hanalei Beach Park), Wainiha, and Haena. The main road then ends at Ke'e Beach (stop here for snorkeling?) and an 11-mile hiking trail (Kalalau Trail) starts.

Kalalau is Hawaii’s premier trail, along the Na Pali Coast. The trail runs along high sea cliffs, and winds up and down across lush valleys. The scenery is supposedly breathtaking, with green cliffs dropping into turquoise waters. Are we going to hike this trail? Heck no. It takes 1 full day for an experienced hiker to complete the trail. Most people take 2 days and camp overnight. For me, I think it would take a week. We will most likely hike the first 2 miles to Hanakapiai Beach.

The following images are from Flickr.

Na Pali Coast


Kalalau Trail, looks steep!

Hanakapiai Beach, only accessible from the Kalalau Trail

However, by going this route, we will miss the Waimea Canyon.

On Day 2 in Kauai, we will spend a leisurely morning at nearby Kalapaki Beach or walk the town of Lihue. Our cruise ship leaves at 2pm and hopefully it will sail by the Na Pali Coast so we can get a different view from the sea.

Next stop: Oahu (aka, the end of our cruise)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Pre-Trip Report Part III

Pre-Trip Report Part I
Pre-Trip Report Part II

Our third port of call is a seaside village of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. It is located in the Kona district, known for its clear waters and sunny climate. The cruise ship will dock at Kona for 11 hours. We won't have a rental car this time because I've read that it's a hassle -- but we will reach the beaches via public transportation. I hope the weather will indeed be sunny that day because the plan is to get in the water!

According to the books, Kona is an ideal walking port, with several historic sites and shopping villages within walking distance. We will do that for a bit once we get off the ship. However, I definitely want to go to Kahulu'u Beach Park for snorkeling. If we can find it, I also want to venture out to Kealakekua Bay (also for snorkeling). I want to swim with sea turtles and see colorful fishies!!

That's going to be me! =] Hahaha, I hope I don't get scared. Images below are from Flickr.

I love yellow tang

Really I don't have much planned for Kona. We will just get on the bus and see where it takes us!

Next port of call: Kauai.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

1/4 of a year

Wow, it has been 3 months already! A++, will marry again oh!

To spice up your photos, click here!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Mid-Thirties

We went home yesterday to celebrate my brother's birthday. My mom prepared hot pot with all the fixings and we brought home an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins.

I love hot pot, especially during the winter. This picture was taken in Taiwan back in 2005 when Luke and I vacationed there for 2 weeks. My favorite ingredient is pig's blood (pork blood with sticky rice). It sounds gross, but really delicious! Pig's blood is not readily available where we live, but on my brother's recent trip to LA, he brought some back. :) So we had pig's blood last night. It was mmmmMmmmmm good!

Last night, we also had "salty fried chicken," a popular Taiwan night market snack. We ate it almost on a daily basis during our vacation. "Lilo" made it just like the ones in Taiwan! She gave me the recipe so I will have to give it a try sometime.

Picture from here.

We were full after all the food, but still had cake! Happy Birthday!!

Cookies 'n Cream

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

(big) kids at a candy store

Imagine going to see a movie and have your pick of whatever your heart desires from the concession stand. Well, that's exactly what Luke and I did this morning!! =] My company sponsored a movie day for the employees at the Tysons AMC today. Even though it was at 9am , it wasn't too early for us! The feature presentation was Enchanted (they kept it PG for the kiddies). Honestly thought the movie was a disappointment. The concept was refreshing, but the cast and the story did not deliver. But at least we got free snacks!

We got - popcorn, sour jacks, reeses peanut butter pieces, junior mints, chocolate-covered raisins, fruit snacks, skittles, a hot dog, cherry icee, and a bottle of water. =] Yes, we were greedy. =p

Of course we didn't finish everything. In fact, we hardly made a dent. So in the middle of the movie, Luke had me put some candies in my purse to take home. He then put a bag in his pocket. What he didn't realize until after we got home was that the box of junior mints was still on the tray and he accidentally threw it away, along with the trash. =( Waaaah!!

Overall, a great treat. Thanks Booz!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Pre-Trip Report Part II

Pre-Trip Report Part I

I am so glad we will have almost 2 full days in Maui. One drawback about cruising is that you never get enough time on the islands to explore. I am sure 2 days still won’t be enough to see all the splendor of Maui, but it will give me a glimpse of what I need to come back for next time!

Again, we have a car rental reserved with Budget. Following the same drill, we will try to get up early enough to avoid the long line to disembark. Our agenda for our first day in Maui is simple yet jam-packed: drive the Hana Highway. This coastal highway runs along Maui’s north coast from Kahului (where our ship docks) to Hana. Our plan is to drive all 50 miles of the Highway to reach the Town of Hana. There are many trails, outlooks, and parks along the Highway. I don't have the exact stops planned (I am not THAT organized!), but will definitely have to remember to stop at Halfway to Hana for some fresh-baked banana bread and fruit slices! :)

A view of the Hana Highway, courtesy of Google Image.


However, our journey doesn't' end at Hana because I want to visit Haleakala National Park (the coastal area), where Ohe’o Gulch (“Seven Sacred Pools”) is located. If time allows, I want to hike the Pipiwai Trail and see Makahiku Falls (half mile) and Waimoku Falls (two miles). I read it will take 2 hours to reach Waimoku Falls (a gigantic waterfall drops 400-feet down a sheer lava rock wall), but I’ve seen amazing pictures online and I want to see it in person! In reality though, we most likely won’t make the hike due to time constraints.

The following images are courtesy of Flickr.

Ohe'o Gulch at the bottom...


Pipiwai Trail to reach the...


Waimoku Falls at the end


After Ohe’o Gulch or the hike, we will take the same way back to the cruise ship. Hope there will still be parking spaces…if not, I heard that we will have to take our car back to the rental place and pick up again the next morning.

On our second day in Maui, we will head to the west side of the island. Our first stop is Lahaina. Lahaina is a port (some cruise ships dock there, but ours will duck in Kahului) that is now a center for whale watching throughout the winter. From my research, it is also a small town with unique galleries, boutique stores, and fresh sea-food eateries. We will spend a few hours walking around the town before heading south from there - to Ma'alaea.

The stretch between Lahanina and Ma'alaea has mountain scenery, but in the winter, people look toward seaward for humpback whales! I will be doing the same while Luke drives. :) We will stop along the way, maybe do a little bit snorkeling if the water is calm.

Then we will head up north back to the cruise ship, but stopping at Iao Valley State Park first. According to the books, "Iao Valley is a peaceful lush area with easy hikes, exotic tropical plants, and clear, natural pools. The ridge-top lookout offers a fantastic view of the valley and Kahului Harbor."

Iao Needle at the Iao Valley State Park, image courtesy of Flickr.

This will probably conclude our stay in Maui. Next up, back to the Big Island, Kona.

**I should add that everything I write here is subject to change once we get there. I have a few key destinations in mind that I'd like to see, but if we see more places while reaching to those key destinations, that would be even better! And if we don't see all the key destinations, that will suit me just fine as well. :) I need to remember that the point is to RELAX.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cruising 101

Luke and I are still newbies to the cruising world. Our first cruise was an 11-day Southern Carribean cruise we took earlier this year with Royal Carribean. It was a blast so we decided to go on another one as part of our honeymoon. I can't believe we will spend almost 3 weeks this year on boats. =)

Cruising can be a lot of fun, and what's fun is different for everybody. Some think the cruise ship as the destination and don't care much about the ports. They book their cruise vacation solely on the ship itself - the amenities, the restaurants, the pools, ice skating rink, spa, etc. I am the exact opposite. I don't care for the ship itself, I just want a clean place to stay and decent food to eat. The ports are the destination for me. I want to see new things and explore new places.

I put together a list of DOs and DON'Ts for myself when on a cruise vacation. This is just from my first cruise experience. Hopefully I will have more things to add after our honeymoon.

DO:

1) Forget formal nights. I wear dresses on vacations (but with sandals) so it's not a hassle for me if I do want to go to formal nights. However, I'd never want Luke to pack a suit! First, we like to travel light. Second, he doesn't even wear suits to work, why would he wear one on a vacation? So for us, we pick a casual meal in our shorts and t-shirts (and eat by the pool) over waiting for service in stuffy clothes.

2) Read the cruise newsletter. Not only you may miss out on cruise activities if you don't, you may also miss important stuff like tea time or ice cream social!

3) Skip the alcohol. Easy for us because we are both non-drinkers and stay away from soft drinks. Our habits saved us tons of extra cash to use for excursions.

4) Book the excursions with the locals. This may be different depending on the destination. However, for the Caribbean, there are always locals ready for your business as soon as you step off the ship. At almost 50% cheaper than the cruise shore excursions, why not? Yes, there may be some risks, but I've heard and experienced no issues. Again, this may be different depending on where you go. I know Hawaii won't be the case.

DON'T:

1) Tip....unless you think they deserve it! I remember the last 2 days of our RC cruise, the cruise channel on TV showed nothing but tipping guidelines repeatably. It was insane. $3 for your cabin attendant, $2 for your waiter, $1.5 for your head waiter, $1.5 for your assistant waiter.... Yeah right! Our cabin attendant left our shampoo dispenser empty for days and we hardly went to the dining room. So how much did we tip? Zero. In our opinion, they didn't earn it and we weren't about to tip just because the TV said so.

2) Buy the cruise portraits. I can take pictures of Luke and I with joby better than the cruise staff can. I can also use Adorma after I come back to print professional prints at 1/10000000000000 of the cost.

3) Eat at restaurants with cover charge. Why would I eat at the Portofino for $20 per person when I can eat at the Windjammer or the dining room for "free"? If I want to spend $20 on food, I'd rather eat local foods on the islands. So, no thanks!

4) Overeat. We pigged out during the first half of our cruise vacation. By the second half, we were on a fruit/yogurt diet. There is too much food and you are not going to be able to eat it all. So don't even bother trying. It will just make you feel bad.

There is an abundant of information on cruise ships, cruise vacations, and everything else you want to know about cruises. I like cruise critics the best. Enjoy and get out there! :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Pre-Trip Report Part I

The final countdown has begun. Our suitcase has been laying open in our bedroom floor for weeks now. Right now, besides holding our snorkel gears, the suitcase is acting as a “hanger” for our dirty clothes. Every night I tell myself (and Luke) to start packing since I hate waiting till the last minute, but every night, I (and Luke) find something I (and he) would rather be doing.

I thought I’d do a pre-trip report on each of the Hawaiian islands we will be sailing to. Not sure if I will be able to finish all 4 islands by the time we leave next Sunday, but at least whatever I do will help me organize my thoughts on what our activities will be on each island.

We leave IAD on Sunday 12/16 and if everything goes smoothly, we will land in HNL around 8pm. We’ve decided to take a cab (vs a shuttle) to our hotel, The Equus. By then, I imagine us dead tired and extremely jet-lagged that we will probably head straight to bed soon after we check in. The next morning is basically a “free” morning. We will have time to explore Waikiki before boarding the Pride of Hawaii around 1pm.

Our magnificent ship, courtesy of Google Image.


Our first port of call is the Big Island (more specifically, Hilo). We have a car reservation from Budget so immediately after we disembark, we will head straight to the Hilo airport to pick up our car. Fingers crossed that there won’t be any delays because I want as much time on the island as possible! There is so much to do.

A trip to the Big Island won’t be complete without visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Right now, we are planning a drive the Crater Rim Drive, but won’t brave down the Chain of Craters Road. The chances of seeing molten lava are slim and there are other places we want to visit, so the plan is to skip it. Of course, things may change if the volcano is active that day. The drive from airport to HVNP is roughly 45 minutes. I hope we can see everything and be at our next destination after 4 hours.

HVNP, courtesy of Google Image.


Our next destination is to drive along the Hamakua Coast, a scenic coast of plunging waterfalls, with many outlooks and parks along the way. At the end of the drive is Waipio Valley. The drive will take 1.5 hours from Hilo to the end without stopping (one way), but it will be longer for us since we want to take in as much as we can, we will stop often to hike along the trails. I am not sure if we will have time to make it all the way to Waipio Valley. If not, it will just give us more reasons to come back again next time!

Waipio Valley from a distance, courtesy of Google Image.


Akaka Falls, one of the waterfalls along the Hamakua Coast, at Akaka Falls State Park, . Image from http://www.terragalleria.com/.


Our ship departs for Maui that day in the evening, but we will be back to the Big Island a few days later (this time, on the other side of the Island, Kona). Next up: Maui.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What's today's date?

Now you never have to ask that question again!

Check it out, I found this on How About Orange. I created a desktop wallpaper with a calendar using one of my favorite Pargo pictures. This is uber cool. I suggest you give it a try too! No need to sign up for a new account, which is an added bonus. Have fun!

12/5 Update: I tried it out and now I have this great wallpaper/calendar on my work computer desktop. It really brightens up my little boring cubicle. =)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

An Early Wish

I wish I could be as good as her. So, my goal for 2008 is to improve my skills in Adobe! =] In the meantime, a wish is a wish. No matter how simple and plain mine may be, it's from the bottom of my heart!

(PS. "marry" because we just got married!)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, December 3, 2007

my version of pho

Luke and I share the same love for a good bowl of pho. He always says, “There is nothing like a warm bowl of noodle soup on a coooooooooold winter day!” He’s right! There is plentiful of pho houses where we live, but we don’t frequent them often, maybe once every couple of months. Between those months, I make my own version of “pho” at home. It’s easy, delicious, fresh, economical, convenient, and always super hot (the way I like it). And we can eat in our jammies.

Pictures from Wikipedia.

Typical beef pho



A chicken-based pho



I don’t follow a recipe. Basically, I fill up my soup pot 85% full with water, add a cube of chicken bullion, 5 or 6 chicken drumsticks, a couple of carrots, bring the soup to a boil, and then turn the heat down to simmer for an hour or two. I add salt, HonDashi, and fish sauce to the soup to make it more flavorful. I pulled the chicken meat off the drumsticks so it’s easier to eat and serve. Around this time, Pargo is a happy dog because he gets all the chicken scraps. =]

My favorite part of pho is the noodles. The noodles are called bánh phở in Vietnamese. It is cut from wide sheets of fresh rice at the restaurants, but I use dried noodles (also called "rice sticks") at home. It tastes a bit different, but just as good.

For garnishes, we always have cilantro. However, sometimes we go all out and have basil (mmmmm….love that smell) and hot green chili pepper. As for Luke, hoisin is what he grew up with and it’s a must for him. I like Sriracha in mine. At the restaurants, bean sprouts are common, but we pass on that because we both dislike it.

Fresh ingredients - basil, cilantro, rice sticks, and Sriracha



Our home-made pho!! Looks yummy, no?



I love cooking pho because it makes our home feels homier. It is a dish I cook time and time again because of its simplicity and deliciousness. It warms our tummy on cold winter days. Yup, there is nothing like a warm bowl of noodle soup on a coooooooooold winter day!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Catch-All Part II

Catch-All Part I

Some random updates to finish catching up.

Shortly after we settled back to our old routine after the wedding, I started planning our Hawaii honeymoon. We will be gone from 12 /16 to 12/31. Honestly can’t wait to cruise around the islands and then stay in Waikiki for a week. Before the wedding, we have already booked the cruise, air, and hotel part of the honeymoon. So basically all the major items are booked. Since then, however, I canceled the Hilton reservation and booked at The Equus. The review on TripAdvisor is excellent and it’s a lot cheaper and as I mentioned before, we are all about cutting costs where we see fit. With the extra money saved from the hotel, we will be able to do a lot more excursions and buy souvenirs. I used Priceline and reserved rental cars so we can drive around the islands on our own instead of booking those expensive cruise excursions. This Hawaii trip actually won’t be as pricey as I thought it would be. We also bought our own snorkeling gears from Amazon too so we won’t have to rent (since we are planning on snorkeling more than once!).

Planning books and binder. I put all our reservations, cruise itinerary, research, maps, etc, all in this binder. I even put all the important docs in sheet protectors! =]





I think this is the first time in the last few years that I did not go to the mall on Black Friday. However, Luke and I did wake up early to get a paper trimmer from Michaels. I had been meaning to buy one for a while and when I saw the deal, I just had to wake up at 5:30am and get my hands on it! Once we got there, there were still lots of trimmers on the shelves that I bought 2. Thanks babes for coming with me!

My baby with a new bag I bought weeks ago from here.



Luke and I went to the mall a month or two ago and saw this mirror at Bath and Body Works. For obvious reasons, Luke immediately got it for me. =]



The shopping spree continued with a purchase of this pretty little ginkgo plate from this seller. She actually created a customized plate for me, but after sending me the pictures, I didn't like it. She was so nice and understanding and told me that I didn't have to buy it. I didn't end up buying that particular plate, but since I still like her work, I bought this yellow ginkgo plate instead. Now we use it to hold our rings. This is an upgrade from the paper towel we used before!

Missing Luke's ring because he wasn't home when I took the picture.



A friend introduced me to baklava last Christmas. She gave me a box from Shatila. They were absolutely heavenly. I love the flaky crust, soaked in honey. Luke loves it just as much, if not more. This year, instead of hoping she would get us another box :), we took the matter into our own hands and purchased a couple of boxes right before Thanksgiving. We got boxes for both of our parents and more for us. Since then, we have long finished the variety pack and a full tray of fingers is now sitting in our freezer. We will work on the fingers after we come back from Hawaii. Something to look forward to after our honeymoon! (PS - you can see me eating baklava at Tangierine Cafe at Disney here :))

I highly recommend baklava as holiday gifts to your friends/family/coworkers!!

The tray takes up half of our freezer space.



That's all folks! Thanks for reading!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday Night Dinner

The Food Network used to be one of my favorite channels. It was only 1 or 2 years ago when I watched nothing but that channel - I watched it while I ate, before falling asleep, or whenever I just wanted background noise. Nowadays though, I rarely watch it. Once to be my favorite celebrity chefs, I can't stand watching their shows anymore. Namely, Rachael Ray and Paula Dean. I feel they have taken their fame a step too far. Talk shows, magazines, commercials, releasing a new cookbook every month...a bit too MUCH!!

Case to point, 2 or 3 months ago, I saw in the paper that Paula Dean was going to speak at a Food/Cooking convention in DC. The ticket to the event itself was roughly $30. Not bad and it would be interesting to hear Paula speak (even though she always says the same thing..."I was newly divorced with $100 in my pocket..."). Anyway, as I read more, I learned to reserve a seat to hear Paula speak would be an additional $50!! I thought that was outrageous! Not only she was already making money for coming to the convention, she wanted to charge extra for those who wanted to hear her speak. Needless to say, I passed.

I don't watch the channel nearly as much as I used to. Still, my current favorite is Ina Garten. In fact I have 4 cookbooks from Ina that I purchase last Christmas (haven't tried any of the recipes though =P).

Cookbooks sitting on the shelves.



The other day Luke and I watched a Barefoot Contessa episode together. Ina was cooking for her husband Jeffrey. It was a Friday night and Jeffrey was coming home from a business trip and she was making their usual Friday night chicken dinner. I thought it was incredible sweet and cute. Luke couldn't stand it.

Well, this week Luke was away for business in Canada and he came home on yesterday (Friday). Inspired by Ina, I made a It's a Friday Night Again meal! :) I didn't make chicken, but I did make one of our favorite meals.

Ingredients -- carrots, green onions, shitake mushrooms, bean thread noodles, and spring roll wrappers. Not pictured: ground pork, green cabbage, dry shrimps, and sliced egg omelets.



Our simple, yet delicious, home-made dinner. This is my mom's recipe, my personal favorite as a kid. She did it the fancy way with deep frying after wrapping them one by one. For Luke and I, we wrap as we eat using the Vietnamese spring roll wrapper I discovered from Luke's mom. It's much easier and healthier. It also makes the meal more hands-on, more fun.



Ready to wrap!



Pretending to be Rachael Ray here..."Look at that gorgeous green color plate, it really brings out the orange you see inside the wrapper!"



After a big bite



By the end of the meal, we were both STUFFED. =] Great to have you home ahbow!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!