Thursday, December 25, 2008

Be back in a jiffy!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas 2008 Festivities

Since the hubs and I won't be here for the actual Christmas Day, we have been spending time with both sides of our family the past few days.

Couple of days ago, we had dinner at hubs' parents' house. It was a small gathering - 5 adults. His mom made a fantastic spread including stir-fry rice noodles (沙河粉), char siu (yum, home-made!), veggies, and bean soup. For dessert, it was key lime pie with whipped cream. I skipped and nibbled on grapes instead. It was cozy and relaxing. Pargo lucked out and had four pieces of wing tips!

Last night, we went to my parents' house for dinner. We had 8 adults this time. My mom made roasted chicken (the meat was so tender after FOUR hours in the oven!), sticky rice, rice vermicelli (米粉), oyster mushrooms (hubs' favorite!), char siu (what a treat to have char siu twice in a week), a couple of veggie dishes, and duck + sour cabbage soup. We had grass jelly for dessert (it was eh, but interesting) and the hubs ate way. too. much. chocolates. A candy apple was cut and served, too.

Despite the overload of sweets, my strong willpower prevailed and I had none of it.

And of course, Pargo loved all the attention (and treats).

Tonight, Christmas Eve, we will go to my parents' house again for a quick dinner. Our fridge is completely empty due to our impending trip. I think my mom is making chicken noodle soup (not the usual Christmas Eve dinner fare). Afterwards, hubs and I will do some last-minute packing before leaving for the airport at 4:30am Christmas morning.

I wish everyone an absolutely wonderful Christmas this year! I hope that you and your family have a lovely time full of scrumptious food, family, love and most of all joy!

(How lame of me for not taking any photos during all these festivities? Forgive me?)

{colorful photo via here}

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

All Caught Up

I braved the frigid weather and skipped out work to have lunch with my friend Christina today. She's visiting her folks for the holidays and we usually meet this time of the year to catch up. We ate at a little Vietnamese restaurant.

We gabbed about nothing and everything. But for the most part, we talked about her upcoming wedding. My dear friend is engaged to be married! Following my footsteps, she's shooting for a September garden wedding. :) Can't wait to help her celebrate.

I offered my help. It has been over an year since my own wedding, but I still have a strong urge to plan.

To tell you the truth, I was feeling lazy to meet C (oh the cold!), but it was incredibly nice to see her usual happy face....and her new bling.

{Lovely photo from here}

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Staying Cozy

It's hard to believe (!!!) that we will be under the Caribbean sun in merely 72 hours.

In the meantime, trying to survive the blistering cold in Virginia. It's bone chilling! The temp outside hovers around 20 degrees, but including the strong wind, it's in the single digit. Brrrrr.

At least I have hot cocoa to sip on to keep me warm.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oh (National) Christmas Tree

The weather called for freezing rain and sleet, but it turned out to be a nice (chilly) day. So today around noon time, we decided to make a trip to see the National Christmas Tree. Going to see the tree has become an annual traditional for us. This year, hubs' sister, Emilie, joined us.

Although most people would say the decoration for the National Tree is nothing spectacular, I like it. I also like the smaller Christmas trees representing various states and U.S. territories around it. I don't get tired of seeing them every year. It gets me in the holiday spririt.

We took lots of silly photos. Too many to post here. But, the picture of Emilie + Pargo below is one of my favorites from the day. Pargo wore his new shirt, but it didn't help him stay warm. He sure looked adorable, though.

After thirty minutes of walking around, my face was frozen. I couldn't even smile anymore! We got into the toasty car and called it a day.

I can't believe 2008 is over. What will oh-nine bring?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Presents Under The Tree

This year, the hubs and I agreed to cap Christmas gift(s) for one another at $25 each. Neither one of us needs anything, yet I still like the idea of presents under the tree. Something to wrap and something to open. After all, it's the holidays!

This morning I went to the mall. I expected the place to be packed with shoppers, but surprisingly, it wasn't at all. And, omg, the news was right - the sales were phenomenal. All the stores offered some sort of ridiculous discount, often seen AFTER Christmas. Despite the good deals, I left the mall empty-handed.

I got in my car and drove to Old Navy. When I walked in, a sales associated handed me a coupon - $5 off of anything. Sweet! I found a present for both Pargo and hubs within minutes. I even got two new sit-around pants for myself. All for a grand total of practically nothing. Ah, I can always count on ON.

Came home, wrapped* the presents (with a little dog running in circles around me), put them under the tree, and snapped a gazillion photos. Pictures of the presents, presents and tree, Pargo and presents, Pargo and presents and tree. And finally, I got something satisfactory (picture above).

And with that, it's a wrap (pun intended) on Christmas shopping for me!

*I want to mention that this year, we used newspaper (the comics section, to be exact) to wrap the presents. Not only it looks cute, but we are also doing our part in saving Planet Earth.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Stamp Yourself

Until 24 Dec, get a free personalized stamp by clicking here.

It takes several days to arrive so it's probably too late to use it for that letter to Santa. But what a great keepsake! I have no intention to ever use this stamp anyway. Nope. It is going straight to my special box of goodies.

I want to make one for hubs, too. Just need to find a baby Luke photo before next Wed.

Read the entire thread here.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cashew Chicken (腰果鸡丁)‏

Cashew Chicken is a very popular dish at Chinese restaurants. According to Rasa Malaysia, the key to a great Chinese stir-fried chicken dish is smooth and tender chicken meat lightly coated with sauce. To make the chicken tender (a secret of many restaurants), use baking soda.

Baking soda
? Who would have thought?

But, she was right! The chicken pieces were so tender and yummy. The bell peppers added sweetness. Together with cashew nuts, this dish was pretty darn tasty! There was not a single grain of rice left in my bowl when it was all said and done. Definitely will make it again (in the very near future).

Cashew Chicken:

- 1 boneless & skinless chicken breast, about 10 oz. (cut into small cubes)
- 1/2 cup cashew nuts
- 1 small green/red bell pepper, about 4 oz. (cut into small square pieces)
- 5 slices ginger
- 1/2 stalk green onion, chopped

Marinade:
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- 1/2 teaspoon rice wine

Sauce:
- 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 3/4 teaspoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 dashes white pepper powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon rice wine
- 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
- Salt to taste

1. Marinate the chicken meat with the baking soda for 15-20 minutes and then rinse the chicken thoroughly. (Please make sure that the chicken is properly rinsed clean of the baking soda.)
2. Pat the chicken meat dry with paper towels and then marinate with the rest of the ingredients for 15 minutes.
3. Mix the sauce together and set aside.
4. Heat up a wok with 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and stir-fry the chicken meat until the color turns white or half-cooked. Dish out and set aside.
5. Add another 1 tablespoon of cooking oil into the wok and add in the ginger slices and bell peppers.
6. Stir-fry until you smell the peppery aroma from the green peppers and add the chicken meat back in.
7. Add in the cashew nuts and do a few quick stirs.
8. Add in the sauce and stir continuously until the chicken meat is cooked and well coated with the sauce. Add salt to taste. Garnish with green onion.
9. Dish out and serve hot with steamed white rice.

{recipe adapted from here}

*For more pictures of Cashew Chicken, click here. They all look so different!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rewind {On Hawaii}

Exactly one year ago, the hubs and I spent two glorious weeks in Hawaii.

We boarded a cruise ship and sailed to Big Island, Maui, and Kauai.

On Big Island, we visited the Volcanoes National Park. We picked lava rocks, walked inside a cave, and hiked a bit.

The next day, the ship took us to Maui. The Road to Hana was as wonderful as the tour book described. I wish we had more time to explore the stops along the way. Nevertheless, the unexpected flat tire will always be memorable. The drive was adventurous, thrilling, and fun.

We drank coconut juice and had banana bread at a roadside stand.

We also went to a small fishing village and saw whales! :)

On the Kona coast of Big Island, we snorkeled and I saw a sea turtle for the first time. It was an amazing experience.

Kauai was by far our favorite island. The Na Pali Coast was awe-inspiring and so was the Waimea Canyon. Everything was so lush and green. Fantastically and wonderfully undeveloped. We picked fruits from trees.

After the cruise, we spent six days in Oahu. We went to Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay.

We shopped for necklaces. We took the bus all over the place. We sampled local cuisine. We even had mochi ice cream. YUM!

The weather did not hold up for us in Oahu - regardless, we made everything fun and spent our first Christmas together as a married couple.

Ah, Hawaii. Hope to see you again soon.

Note: I decided to start a new category called “rewind". Every once in awhile, when the mood strikes me, I’ll reflect on something I've blogged about in past. Hope you will join me down memory lane!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So Trendy!

The hubs and I joined two of his former co-workers for lunch at P.F. Chang's last weekend. The wives did not come so it was just me versus the boys.

We ordered four entrees to share - Mu Shu Pork, Orange Peel Beef, Coconut Curry Vegetables, and Cantonese Chow Fun. I really liked the coconut curry dish, which was surprising because I typically shy away from anything coconut-y. Mmm...the tofu was cooked to perfection.

Other than that, the food was mediocre at best.

I don't like the Asian Fusion trend.

The best part of the meal came in the end. Mini desserts! They were delicately presented in these tall shot glasses. Too pretty to eat! Trendy, too! The guys humored me as I gathered the desserts for a group picture. I had the red velvet. It was velvety gooooood!

I left the restaurant satisfied. I had a good time - didn't mind being the only girl present at all.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, December 15, 2008

My After-Christmas Wish List, Installment 1

My Christmas present from the hubs is already under the tree (I have NO IDEA what it is, by the way), but that's not stopping me from making this Wish List. An after-Christmas Wish List, to be exact. I am all about not paying full price so hopefully I can snatch them on a good deal later on.

1. This Winter Wren Tea Set from Anthro is too cute for words. I saw it at the mall this weekend and wanted to bring it home. The price tag scared me -$98 for this five-piece set. It's oh-so-adorable, though. Perfect for tea drinkers. Anthro doesn't have the best sales, but maybe I will get lucky. I will keep my eyes peeled.

2. I don't need measuring spoons. The set I have works just fine and I haven't had any disastrous cooking mishaps from using it. I do believe, however, that these darling spoons with little birdies will bring a smile to my face whenever I use them! They are Baker's Bliss Measuring Spoons. Again, from Anthro. Priced at $18.

3. I already have a fleece jacket from LL Bean, but unfortunately, it's in a color that I don't love. I got it a couple of years ago on-sale. It is also a bit too big. I would like the exact same fleece - just in a different color and one size smaller, please. Wind Challenger Fleece Jacket, $69.

4. I think I have been coveting this Mango Body Butter from The Body Shop for at least 3 years now. But I just can't justify the purchase because I still have several unopened bottles of lotion in my stash. Some in mango scent, too. Maybe if it gets cheap cheap (the magic number is $5), I will finally buy it once and for all. On sale currently - $7 for 1.7 oz, $14 for 6.9 oz.

5. I have always been fascinated with crock pots. I like the idea of throwing stuff in one pot in the morning and coming home to a hot meal after work. What a concept! But, how much electricity does it suck up if left on for 8 hours a day? I don't know, but I imagine a decent amount. So even though it is on my after-Christmas Wish List, I don't think I will ever get it (unless I can get it for, say, under $15). Crock-Pot 6 Quart Embossed Scallop Slow Cooker RS, $54.99.

Do you have an after-Christmas Wish List? What's on the List?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Road to Pesto: Friend Or Foe?

Yesterday was a fun day - we got to see the puppy again! The breeders came to visit and the purpose, as I mentioned before, was to make sure that the two buppies (boy puppies - yup, we made up that word) get along. We weren't expecting them to become best buds, but it was important for them to be civil to each other, at the very least.

Well, I am elated to announce that...

Pargo (and Pesto) passed the test!

The breeders stayed for about an hour. During the first half, Pargo was basically not interested in Pesto at all. Being very puppy-like, Pesto wanted to sniff and play chase with Pargo. Pargo, in turn, would run away, either to me or the hubs for protection. Twice or three times, Pesto got too close and Pargo growled at him, which was a big no-no. The hubs and I made sure to yelled at him whenever he did that.

The hubs and I both played with Pesto. Pargo just sat there and watched everything (very much like the photo in the post). He must had been thinking, "um...I don't like this!".

The second half of the hour went a bit better. Although Pargo was still aloof to Pesto, I could tell he was more relaxed and was okay with having Pesto around. In fact, Pesto drank water from Pargo's bowl and he didn't get territorial at all. I think it was upon seeing that, the breeders realized that Pargo is a good and calm doggy. :)

Pesto is full of energy. The whole time he was here, he didn't sit down once. Always sniffing, biting, exploring, and on the go. He's going to be a handful! He's definitely more outgoing than Pargo. It was his first outing and he wasn't shy at all.

Pargo and Pesto have two very different personalities - both unique in his own way.

I can't wait to bring Pesto home! Because we are leaving for Jamaica soon (8 workdays left!), the breeders have agreed to keep Pesto until after the new year. Come 1/2, the hubs and I are driving straight to MD to pick up our little guy! I will be living with 3 boys. :)

I am not ready to show Pesto to the world yet. ;) Last time I showed you a blurry picture of Pesto's head. This time, you get a picture of his little butt. BUT! I can't wait to show you pictures of Pesto (from head to paws) in the near future!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bolt (and Free Snacks)

Remember last year when the hubs and I went to see Enchanted and had a field day at the concession stand? Well, this morning we met up with friends Su + Jeff and did it all over again! This time, we saw Disney's newest, Bolt.

Bolt is an animated film about a dog who has superpowers and saves his person's life on a day to day basis - or so he thinks. After being duped into thinking Penny was not okay at the end of a scene, Bolt makes a run for it to rescue his beloved person. He ends up in NYC and it's a long-winded journey back to Hollywood - along the way, he learns he doesn't have superpowers and how to be a real dog that chases and begs.

While the storyline is very similar to other Disney movies such as Homeward Bound and Toy Story 2, it was still entertaining, touching, and genuine. The themes surrounding friendship, family, and loyalty get me every single time. Definitely a must-see, especially if you have a pet!

The movie is filled with likable characters; I especially liked Mittens, the stray cat. Her story is realistic because I personally know people who abandoned their cats for various (invalid) reasons. It's sad because pets are like kids. I know kids get abandoned sometime, too, but people are much more inclined to do so with pets and I find that so wrong. I am glad it was an happy ending for Mittens, though. But hey, with Disney, I would be surprised if it wasn't.

Overall I enjoyed the movie a lot! I can't wait to watch it all over again once it comes out on blu-ray.

Now the snacks. We weren't nearly as greedy as last year. :) We got popcorn, junior mints (that Luke made sure to eat it right in the theater this time just to avoid being accidentally thrown away), chocolate-covered raisins, fruit snacks, cherry icee, water, and Dibs. It was my first time having ice cream in the movie theater!

I had a great time! Thanks Su + Jeff for inviting us!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Annoyed

One of my favorite bloggers* is creative beyond means. I really like her chic style and exquisite taste. I visit her daily for a dose of inspiration.

However, she recently launched two new business ventures and I am a smidge disappointed with both.

How come? To put it bluntly, her stuff is a rip-off

First, Pretty Little Things Club. You buy a subscription to the PLT Club on her etsy shop. Then every month she sends you a pretty little thing. What kind of items? It is a surprise. But she promises they will be cool (and also very pretty and little). A 12-month subscription is $100.

Her October item was a set of hand shadow cards. Her latest November item was a set of fake moustaches. Huh? They may be little, and they may be things, but they are definitely not pretty. And they seem utterly not worth the hefty $100 price tag, IMO.

For her second business venture, she’s selling blank labels. You put these through your own printer and customize them how you’d like at home.

They’re priced at $6.25 per sheet. To have one shipped to you will set you back $10. For one sheet of labels.

Why am I mad? Because I can create this sheet of labels in less than 10 minutes using Photoshop. I can easily print the design on Avery labels, which would not cost more than $1 per sheet. And I am sure anybody can do it, too.

I’m annoyed when people overcharge and others buy into it. It's so sad when the markup is so obvious and the ease of making it is apparent.

And because she's popular in the design world, I see several mentions of her business ventures on other blogs. Her label business is just recently featured on MS Wedding Blog. Gah! Don't people know better?

Ugh, her new businesses irk me for some strange reason. I need to get over it.

* No names or links in case of traceback

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Keep Your Fur Babies Healthy For Less

I remember the first time we took Pargo to the vet. It was his first puppy exam - the nice doctor chatted with us while checked Pargo's eyes and ears. I remember her asking if we wanted to buy heartworm and flea medicine.

Being new dog owners, Luke and I innocently nodded yes. We wanted our puppy to be healthy!

Shortly, we found ourselves in front of the cash register, paying a $200 vet bill. Ouch.

I looked at the bill more carefully when I got home and found out that the heartworm medicine was $50 and flea medicine was more than $80! I soon realized that I probably could've bought the medicines online for half the cost.

I was almost right. I could've gotten them for at least a 30% discount.

I chalked up to lesson learned and never bought anything from the vet again.

Today I found a $20 off coupon for http://www.1800petmeds.com/. Using "creative" ordering, I got a year supply of heartworm medicine for less than $20 shipped. That's a 60% saving from the $50 I paid years prior!

The coupon code is 420RX. I don't know when it expires so take advantage of it now. It appears that the coupon is only good for medications, though. Read the entire thread here.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

IMAX Night - Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Yesterday I came home from work, expecting the usual quiet evening at home. Around 4:15pm, the hubs checked his email and found out that he had won two tickets to see Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. For a 7pm show. In IMAX.

We made the decision quickly that we wanted to see the movie and were out of the door by 5pm. We fought the rush hour traffic all the way to Alexandria.

Aside from the IMAX shows I've seen before in science museums, I have never seen a real movie in IMAX. The hubs has taught me several times the picture quality difference between dvd and blu-ray, but to this day, I still think they all look the same. Well, even for someone like me, I was wow-ed by the picture quality of IMAX. So shape, so bright, so nice!

The first Madagascar movie was one of my favorite animated movies because it was original and outright hilarious. The penguins were a riot. ("Hey, higher mammal, can you read?")

Madagascar 2 was no different. There were so many good parts throughout the movie! The penguins were, as ever, brilliant, and they stole the limelight in every scene they appeared in. I found myself laughing out loud, along with the rest of the audience. I have to say my favorite character is Alex, though. I find his personalty enchanting! A dancing lion!

Madagascar 2 bears a resemblance to The Lion King, both in setting and characters, with the lost son, manipulative lion, and wacky sidekicks. The Lion King is one of my favorite Disney movies, so it's no surprise that I really like this movie, too.

This is a fun, upbeat movie. Highly recommend!

And this weekend, we are going to see Bolt!

As you can see, we may look like grown-ups, but really, we are just a bunch of 5 year olds at heart. =p

PS. Traffic wasn't too terrible. We actually arrived at the theater well before 6pm. So we sat around and took self-portraits, such as this one.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Cactus

Many many moons ago, a friend gave me a small baby Christmas cactus that came in a plastic square container. She probably thought I couldn't keep it alive past January. I thought the same.

Well, I proved both of us wrong!

SEVEN years later and counting, the cactus has morphed into something healthier and bigger! Under Luke's care, of course. :P

And every year, around this time, the cactus blooms red flowers. Just in time for the holidays, just when we need a splash of color around the house.

This year, it's blooming extra bright. I think it's because of Miracle.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cooking Disney: Mom's Meat Loaf and Mashed Potatoes

More often than not, whenever I am at Disney World, I choose my entrees base on whether or not they come with a side of mashed potatoes. Yes, I am a bit obsessed with it. :) Today I finally got around to testing out some Disney recipes I blogged about before. And of course I started with mashed potatoes.

This recipe for mashed potatoes is from Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge, which I have never actually eaten there. I used a tiny bit less butter than it called for and half the milk. It still turned out creamy and delicious and lumpy - just the way I like it.

What goes better with mashed potatoes than meat loaf?

The Mom's Meat Loaf recipe is from 50's Prime Time Cafe, which the hubs and I frequently eat at when we visit Disney's Hollywood Studios. We never had this meat loaf at the restaurant, but I thought I would give it a try. The glaze rocked so I ended up making more to be brushed on top. I really liked the sweet and tangy flavor. Without it, I would say that the meat loaf is nothing special.

I presented the dish restaurant-style with mashed potatoes at the bottom and a slice of meat loaf on top. Overall, the dish was okay, but not as good as I had expected. The hubs loved it, though, so it was all good!

Mom's Meat Loaf:
(recipe)

- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup diced onions
- 1/4 cup diced green peppers
- 1/4 cup diced red peppers
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Pepper and salt to taste
- 1/2 cup Meat Loaf Glaze (recipe below)

Dice peppers and onions and set aside for later use. Combine meats and seasonings. Add vegetables. Place meat mixture in oiled loaf pan. Bake at 350ºF oven for 1 hour or when meat is no longer pink at the center.

Brush meatloaf with meatloaf glaze. Bake another 10 minutes. Let meatloaf set 10 minutes, cut loaf and serve.

Meat Loaf Glaze:

- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients until mixture is smooth.

Mashed Potatoes:
(recipe)

- 3 lbs Yukon Gold Whole Potatoes
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, bring the water to boil.
2. Add the potatoes and cook until cooked through, about 40 minutes.
3. After the potatoes are cooked, remove and strain. Remove the skin.
4. Place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl.
5. Add butter, milk, salt, & pepper. Mix well until smooth and creamy.
6. Adjust milk and seasoning to taste if necessary.
7. Serve hot.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dear Santa

by Pargo
Just the other day, mom told me that Santa asked for my Christmas wish list. Honestly, I don't need anything other than my family, roasted chicken, and peace on earth, but since the big jolly guy asked, why not?!

Dear Santa, I want a new bed. I know dad got me one earlier this year, but I want a fancier one. And really, I want a new one to replace the old stinky one, which I think is just a regular cushion pillow with no support whatsoever that dad used for himself before they had me. You can see a picture of the bed here. Mom and dad just covers it with a blanky. Bah! So ugly!
This one, from LL Bean, caught my eyes. Ohhh, it's so nice looking! According to the description online, this bed is as comfortable as it is durable. The mattress has thick cushioning with a supporting nesting area! And at $59, it really isn't wallet-breaking. And it comes with a lifetime warranty. And the smallest size is big enough for me and the new puppy (I got my paws crossed that he will be here next year) to share.

So how 'bout it, Santa? I have been a really good boy this year - even mom said it herself.

I look forward in seeing your coming down the chimney (I won't bark, I promise) and this bed under the tree. I will have kibbles and water waiting for you. Thanks you!

xoxo, P

PS. I know you are busy with a mile-long shopping list for other doggies, so to make it easier on you, just click here to purchase! I like it in Burlap, please.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree

The Friday morning after Thanksgiving, we continued our annual tradition and put up our Christmas tree!

We hauled the boxes from storage, unwrapped the ornaments, and decorated the tree together.

Our little tree is lovely...and fake. Before you say cheesy, let me explain. As endearing as going to a farm and cutting down our own tree sounds, we really don't see the reasoning behind letting something grow for YEARS and then cutting it down only to display it for a couple of weeks. Besides, by going the fake route, we get to use this little tree for decades to come!

I look forward in plugging in the lights every evening and what an instant mood enhancer! The sight of our Disney-themed tree all lit up brings a little bit of holiday cheer to our place. :) And I, for one, need a bit of holiday cheer so I can keep truckin' along at work for the rest of the year.

And Pargo, he's so good! Even though some ornaments are hanging low and he can easily nip at the tree, my boy doesn't mess with it at all. What a angel.

Have you decked your halls yet?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

On Owning A Property

The hubs and I are house shopping. Although the asking prices are still obscene giving the direction of the economy, the sellers are starting to face the reality and more willing to negotiate. It's definitely a buyers market.

This post, though, is not about the houses we have visited or what we look for, but about my thoughts and feelings on making the biggest purchase of our lives.

I've always thought that I would be excited (that is, excited without having reservations) when Luke and I go through the process of purchasing (and owning!) our first property. Don't get me wrong, I am excited! I am looking forward in moving in, fixing it up with our four bare hands, and having something that's truly ours. I look forward in decorating.

But, there is a part of me that is freaking out a bit. Let me just preface by saying that we are currently looking at single family houses instead of townhouses that we originally favored. Buying a house (but even more so with a SFH) means we won't be saying these three things for a long time:

1. "I want to quit my job!". Once we make that purchase, both of us must be employed at all times. Scary.
2. "Lets move to the west coast!". Luke is one year away from finishing his MBA and we always thought that once he finishes, there will be nothing holding us back in moving to the west. Well, a house will, especially a SFH.
3. "How 'bout taking LWOP for 3 months and see Asia?". Once we have a mortgage, we can't miss a paycheck.

So why don't we just buy a TH to ease the burden? The hubs likes land. And he has convinced me to like it, too. Land allows for expansion. A TH is a box, what you see initially is what all you will get. A SFH with land, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. The opportunities are endless! Of course, there is that annoying HOA, but we won't get into that.

Anyhoo, while I am happy to be a potential homeowner, or a mortgage-owner like hubs eloquently put in his previous post, I do have these thoughts flying in the back of my mind. I am wondering if what I am feeling is normal. Don't people usually get this way when the life as they know it is about to change? Or in our case, the freedom we have is about to change?

I know owning a house with Luke will a bliss. And to make sure we still get out to see the world, we will always travel.

Regardless, owning a place just seem so permanent and having that responsibility will definitely be new for us. But prehaps good for us.

Anyway, thanks for reading peeps. I know this post is incoherent and all over the map, but I guess it accurately reflects that my feelings are all over the place, too.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What A Great Use Of Space!

I think...

Even if I lived in a big house with room for an office, I would still prefer this charming "closet office" over anything with a big shiny mahogany wood executive desk.

The space is just the right size for keeping those important files (insurance, tax records, bills, etc). Put in a small desk, pull up a chair, and you have yourself a little workstation. And best of all, conceal everything behind a pretty curtain after you are all done.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Road to Pesto: Say Tease!

What's this, you ask? Well, this little fuzz may be joining the fam early next year!

The hubs and I ventured to Potomac MD this weekend to meet this puppy. He's tiny, cute, and all around irresistible. We wanted to put him in our pockets and take him home right then and there.

But, we (or rather Pargo) need to pass a test first.

The breeders will bring the puppy to our place to meet Pargo in two weeks for a house visit. The purpose of the visit is to see how Pargo reacts to the little guy. If Pargo plays nice, then the puppy is ours! If not, then we probably won't ever think about getting another dog as long as we have Pargo.

Just a side note: Responsible breeders are very careful about where they place their puppies. They don't want their puppies to get picked on and/or left out - both very possible when adding a second dog to the family. (of course we will love both dogs equally, though!)

For the next two weeks, I am putting Pargo through a rigorous Manners 101 course. By the time I am done with him, he's going to be a super polite doggy when we have our guests!

Keep your fingers crossed for us! I will update again after the house visit.

Related posts: Friday the Thirteenth and The Plan That Didn't Pan Out

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thoughts from a DINK

by Guest
According to Investopedia, Joyce and I are DINKS.

Dual Income, No Kids - DINKS - A household in which there are two incomes and no children (either both partners are working or one has two incomes). DINKS are often the target of marketing efforts for luxury items such as expensive cars and vacations.

Joyce would probably take issue with the "no kids" label, after all, we have Pargo! And I'm not so sure about the second part of that description either. We only pull in north of 200k and almost none of that gets wasted on luxury items. We live a happy, simple, and frugal life. Regardless though, with no mortgage and no two-legged kids, we don't get much sympathy from Uncle Sam.

As she posted earlier, we spent a good bit of our Thanksgiving break getting rid of junk and clearing things out. The first thing to go was her Gocco printing contraption. After our wedding, Joyce started browsing some wedding sites and got all caught up in the whole Gocco craze. While I think the device would've been handy before the wedding, she really didn't have much use for it now. So we packed it all up and shipped it out to a bride-to-be in California for a few bucks. And when Black Friday came around, instead of going out to buy more junk, we turned our attention to the stuff clogging up our little apartment.

So why am I wasting time going over these seemingly pointless bits of information? Who cares about our penny pinching, zero debt lifestyle? Well, apparently, we are doing everything WRONG! Financial freedom is bad. According to Uncle Sam, we should be up to our eyeballs in debt. Every action the US government has done in the past few weeks, if not decades, have encouraged people to spend money they don't even have. So let me vent for a bit...

"We must stabilize home prices before the economy can recover."
-I don't know how many times I've heard that stupid statement. The basic laws of supply and demand dictate prices. Messing around with this natural system is a big mistake. And besides, what the hell is wrong with affordable housing!? Who wouldn't rather pay $300k for a house instead of $600k? I'm positive Joyce and I are not the only ones who avoided the stupid housing bubble and am sitting on the sidelines with cash in hand to buy a fairly priced piece of property.

"We must help homeowners from losing their homes."
-WTF is this all about? One, the term "homeowner" is completely invalid. A real homeowner wouldn't need any help because they would actually already OWN their home. The ones that are in trouble are "mortgage-owners." Two, screw those people for buying something they couldn't afford and for signing documents they were too greedy to read over. Three, screw the lenders/bankers that gave these mortgage-owners the money to buy crap they couldn't afford. All these dumbasses did was drive up home prices to dizzying levels.

I guess I could go on and on but what's the point. We should just go out and take advantage of all the credit that the government (I mean, taxpayers) have infused into the financial system. It looks like we really can afford that million dollar house down the street after all! Besides, if anything goes wrong, someone will be around to bail us out anyways. sigh...There is a lesson to be learned here, but I can't seem to see it anymore.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chicken Stir Fry w/ Black Beans and Bell Peppers

I actually made this dish a couple of weeks ago, but never got around to post it. This chicken dish is awesome because it only requires two "real" ingredients - bell peppers and chicken (boneless breast or thigh - you pick). I always have pieces of chicken breast in the freezer and I am starting to buy bell peppers every time I go grocery shopping.

This recipe also doesn't take long to cook at all. I call it a tasty meal in a hurry. It is a deliciously homely and pleasing stir fry dish. Super easy to make. A perfect weeknight meal!

Chicken Stir Fry w/ Fermented Black Beans and Bell Peppers:
(Serves 2)

- 1 large chicken breast, chopped into small pieces
- 1 green bell pepper, cut to wedges (or any other colors or a combination)
- 2 tsp fermented black beans (rinsed and finely chopped)
- 1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
- Salt to taste

Marinade:
- 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
- Dash of white pepper
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 1 tsp olive/vegetable oil

Seasoning:
- 3 tbsp water
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp oyster sauce
- a heaping tsp corn starch

1. Mix chicken with marinade and leave on for at least 10 minutes.
2. In a pan, heat oil and stir fry bell pepper wedges until cooked and side aside on a plate.
3. Using the remaining oil, stir fry fermented black beans, onion and garlic until fragrant.
4. Add in chicken pieces and stir fry for 2 minutes. Sizzle cooking wine, cover the lid and cook for 3 minutes.
5. Pour in seasoning slowly and stir until the sauce is thick.
6. Return cooked bell peppers to pan and stir evenly.
7. Serve immediately over rice.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008


[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spring Planting: Basil Seeds

Part I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII

Last time I updated, I talked about basil flowers blooming. Remember? Around October when the weather started to get cooler, we decided that the season was over. We stopped watering the plants, and eventually they dried up.

This past weekend, we (read: Luke) finally sat down and picked the seeds from the flowers. It was a painstakingly process - crushing each flower buds individually to retrieve 3 or 4 seeds inside. I helped him (read: kept him company) while watching Kill Bill Vol 1 -- movie is awesome, btw.

I suspect we got at least 50-60 seeds. A package of basils seeds is only, like, 97 cents at Walmart. However the seeds we have are priceless. :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gone Gocco Gone

Times are tough. To help pay the bills, I sold my Print Gocco.

Okay, not really. About the bills, that is.

I was a DIY bride all the way. After the wedding, I started developing withdrawal symptoms where I wanted to create something. My hands were restless, trembling, and I felt the sweat pouring. And around the same time, I was introduced to the wonderful world of Weddingbee and learned about this magical machine called Print Gocco. So I bought the freakin' machine, despite the astronomical cost of the unit itself and supplies. And despite that I didn't have any projects to work on.

I used the machine a total of four times.

The thing about Print Gocco is that it's for mass production. Every time you "flash" a design, it's best to print 100+ prints to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Unfortunately for me, I didn't need 100+ prints of thank you cards, hello cards, or personalized note cards. Plainly put, I didn't have projects that require mass production.

And honestly, I just wasn't that into it anymore. It had been sitting in storage, collecting dust.

But perhaps the biggest reason of all was this:

"U. S. Gocco dealers received a communication on July 1, 2008, from the President & Chief Operating Officer of Riso stating that "the manufacturer will be discontinuing ALL Print Gocco products, including supplies. The letter continues, "the Print Gocco production technology will thereafter be unavailable and there will be no manufacturer of Print Gocco products. Finally, no more supplies will be filled (for U.S. vendors) after December 31, 2008." Stay tuned. Get supplies while still available and affordable."

Eventually, Print Gocco will become obsolete when supplies are no longer available.

So I decided to sell it while it's still highly in demand. I listed on Craigslist and posted a link to it on Weddingbee. A bride-to-be in So Cal snatched it up on the same day.

Whew! I felt a sense of freedom.

I am glad I had the experience of playing with Print Gocco. I had fun making the new year cards (I will find a new way to continue that tradition next year). And I also have a set of my own note cards.

But ultimately, this machine is too expensive for just "playing".

Goodbye Gocco! Hope you are put to better use by your new owner!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Part-Time

Yesterday morning the hubs showed me a free t-shirt he received from school. He showed me the front first and I thought to myself, "Not bad. Simple and tasteful. Finally you are getting something back from all the tuition."

Then he showed me the back.

And it confirmed for me that Maryland is the dumbest school out there. No offense hubs.

Please hurry up and finish.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Korean BBQ With Friends

I went out with some of my girlfriends from college for a Korean BBQ lunch.

When we first graduated from college, we hung out all the time. Nowadays we are all too busy, so get-togethers are few and far between. Whenever we do though, it's always nice to catch up.

We gossiped about the men in our lives, trips we have taken, and our plans for the upcoming holidays.

In between all of the chatting, we ate and ate and ate.

Good lord, I think I ate way too much. I felt so sick. I ate too much meat.

There was a raw meat buffet and the servers cooked the meats at your own table. I had slices of assorted meat, kimchi, cold noodles, spicy miso tofu soup, and a bunch of other Korean dishes that I can't name.

It was nice to try a different cuisine, although I have to say that I am not a fan of Korean food.

We went to Heebeen Restaurant in Alexandria, VA. The interior was traditional and stylish. They even had private rooms for bigger parties. The wait staff were excellent and helpful. Nothing to complain about!

Anyway, I think I’m going to eat only plain lettuce for the next few days. I doubt I will be successful with Thanksgiving in 4 days, though. Oh well.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Visit to Hillwood

Almost two weeks ago, before the cupcakes, my mom and I visited Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens near Rock Creek Park in DC.

Hillwood is the former home and garden of Marjorie Merriweather Post, daughter of the man who founded the Post Cereal Company. After her father died, she became a multimillionaire and had all the money in the world to build and design a pretty place to 1) live and 2) house her collection of art and objects. She was a very avid collector!

There are two parts to Hillwood - the mansion and the gardens. No photography is allowed inside the mansion so all my pictures are of the gardens.

Each garden room has a distinct character and yet fit into the estate as a whole. The French Parterre is the formal garden - designed to transport the visitor to a small formal garden of the 18th century. The garden is divided into four quadrant using gravel footpaths, channels moving water, and a central pool.

Because Post had everything, for her birthday, her friends involved her gardener and landscape architect and built the Friendship Walk as a present! The walkway is lined with low plantings.

In the Rose Garden is a nice place to sit, relax, and...well, smell the roses!

The Japanese-Style Garden is my favorite! It's small, but well-designed with sculptures, lanterns, cascading water, and a bridge. I enjoyed walking here and taking in the ambiance.

I like it so much that I can't choose between the above two photos so I am posting both.

The Dacha, tucked into the wooded area, is an interpretation of a small peasant house. The architecture features many elements typical of authentic Russian peasant dwellings, such as log construction and the carvings around the windows and door. Inside the Dacha is Hillwood's changing exhibitions. The Russian Porcelain exhibit was on display when we went.

The tour of the gardens took under and hour and was probably less than a half-mile walk. Very tiny!

Then we went inside the mansion and were forced to check in our cameras at the entrance. They even took our coats, too. The mansion was more like a museum. It houses Post's extensive decorative arts and objects collection, lots of porcelains, paintings, intricate furniture, and more. Yawn. I liked the gardens part better.

Hillwood isn't a must-see in DC, but my mom wanted to go so I accompanied her. I learned something new and we spent some time together. Definitely better than a day in the office. :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Honey Walnut Shrimps (核桃虾)

The first time (that I can remember) I had Honey Walnut Shrimps was at a friend's birthday dinner. We sat with 10 other people, but I was probably responsible for eating half of that dish. It was so good. I like shrimps okay and usually not a fan of sweet dishes, but somehow, I was hooked by this one.

I never thought I could make it at home. I mean, it was so good and looked complicated. But then, I saw the recipe on Rasa Malaysia and Nook & Pantry. I saw the everyday ingredients that are used to make the dish and knew I had to try.

I combined the two recipes and concocted my own version. It was a success! It tasted just like I remembered from the restaurant! I really liked the semi-crispy shrimps covered in creamy honey sauce!

The recipe is easy to execute, but it does take a little bit of preparation (I asked my sous chef to help with peeling and deveing - thanks hubs!) and good planning. The result, though, is so worth it. This is definitely one of my favorite recipes.

Honey Walnut Shrimps:

- 1/2 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 tbsp rice cooking wine
- 1 egg white
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- cooking oil for frying

Sauce:
- 1/4 cup miracle whip
- 3 tsp honey
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1/4 tsp salt

Glazed Walnuts:
- 1/3 cup walnut halves
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water

1. Heat up water until it boils and add in sugar. Boil for 2 minutes. Add walnuts. Keep stirring until it turns thick and golden color. Boil for 1 minute. Drain and place walnuts on a cookie sheet to dry.
2. Beat the egg white until lightly foam. Toss the shrimp with rice wine, white pepper, beaten egg white and salt. Let marinate in the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes.
3. For the sauce, whisk all the ingredients together and set aside.
4. Coat the shrimps with a thick layer of corn starch and then fry in hot oil until golden brown. Remove the shrimps from the pot and drain on paper towels. I didn’t deep fry the shrimp, I just pan fried them.
5. Fold the sauce with the shrimps.
6. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish the candied walnuts on top of the shrimp and serve immediately.

*For more pictures on Honey Walnut Shrimps, click here. My dish looks comparable!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dan Dan Noodles (擔擔麵)

I have been finding new and interesting recipes lately! There are so many delicious food blogs out there and I find each of them eye opening.

I first came across this Dan Dan Noodles recipe on Closet Cooking and after further research, I found a very similar version on Appetite for China. Some versions I found don't require peanut butter and, instead, call for oyster sauce. For the majority, however, peanut butter seemed to be one of the key ingredients so I decided to go with that.

MmmmM good! I liked the hot+spicy peanut sauce and the Sichuan peppercorns gave it an extra numbing sensation! The hubs enjoyed it too, which made me happy. A perfect meal on cold winter days!

And, the next day when I heated up the leftover at work, people in the kitchen said something along the lines of, "wow, that smells awesome!" and "when are you going to cook that for us?". That brought a huge smile to my face! I shared the recipe with them. :)

Dan Dan Noodles:

(serves 2 people + 1 lunch)

Marinade:
- 8 oz ground pork
- 1 tbp soy sauce
- 1 tsp corn starch

- 4 tbsp onion, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp chili oil
- 2 tbsp chili sauce (or to taste)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Sichuan peppercorn to taste (toasted and ground)
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 pound noodles (any kind that you like)
- 1 handful peanuts (chopped, optional)
- 1 green onion (chopped, optional)

1. Combine pork, soy sauce, and corn starch in a small bowl and mix well.
2. Heat a large skillet until hot. Add cooking oil and stir-fry the pork, stirring with a spatula to break it into small pieces. When the pork is lightly browned and cooked, remove and set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of water to boil to cook the noodles. While the water is heating, go to the next step.
4. Reheat the skillet, add cooking oil, and stir-fry the garlic, ginger, and onions until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add peanut butter, soy sauce, chili oil, sesame oil, Sichuan peppercorn, and chicken stock and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. Add pork into the sauce. Turn the heat down to low.
5. Meanwhile, when the pot of water has come to boil, toss in noodles and cook until al dente or slightly chewy. Drain the noodles well. Plate the noodles.
6. Ladle the sauce on top and garnish with green onions and peanuts. Serve while hot.

*For more photos on Dan Dan Noodles, click here. There seems to be two different ways to serve it - with broth or without. All the recipes I found were the without.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

T Minus 34 Days

This picture from Oh Happy Day is so awesome.

To my best travel buddy (aka hubs): Please take note - I want a picture just like this when I jump off the cliffs in 34 days!! And I will take one of you, too.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More Updates

I've been fiddling with my template again, peeps. I redesigned it in hopes of creating a more grownup web presence. Not to be mistaken for more grownup content, though.

For starter, I shocked myself the other night when I managed to pull off that navigation bar at the top. Impressive? I think so! Follow instructions from here, here, and here.

Then I changed my blog header using one of my favorite pictures of hubs and me, taken in Puerto Rico. It was a purely spontaneous moment that I leaned over to kiss him just as the camera clicked. Unfortunately, the original photo was under-exposed. I used Photoshop to make it more artistic-looking. I imagine I will get bored with the header in a few months so don't be surprised if you see it changing a couple of times a year.

Lastly, notice the little footer at the bottom of the page? Just something extra.

Do you like the font? It's Disney Simple. Gotta dust some magic 'round here whenever I can!

That's all for now. How do you like my new design? The hubs already raised his voice, but now I like to hear yours!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You Said Hello

Read about my first DC Cuppy Cake experience.

Last Tuesday, Veteran's Day, my mom and I found ourselves driving past Dupont Circle and making an unplanned stop at Hello Cupcake. I wanted to visit Hello Cupcake since it opened in late Aug 08. So glad I was able to check that off my list!

With charming little touches like indoor and outdoor seating, pink packaging, a flashy pink chandelier, and perfectly crafted cupcakes, Hello Cupcake is all about details. According to a recent series of articles by The Washington Post called Cupcake Wars, Hello Cupcake comes in second to Georgetown Cupcake. Having been to Georgetown Cupcakes before, I must say that as far as cupcakes, I love them both equally – I adore light, airy, pretty, not-too-sweet cupcakes.

Hello Cupcake, however, offers the customers a place to sit and enjoy their cupcakes whereas Georgetown Cupcake is a to-go place, as I mentioned it before. Having that space for the customers is a huge plus in my book. I even saw at guy with his computer at Hello Cupcake so I assume WiFi is available, too.

We ordered two cupcakes to share. Princess – a vanilla cake with pink strawberry buttercream frosting and a sprinkling of pink sugar and You Tart! - a lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting and yellow sugar on top.

We sat on the stools by the window and enjoyed our cupcakes.

Both cupcakes were delish!

The cake bits were moist, light, and tasty. But what really blew me away was the intensely flavorful and rich-without-making-you-feel-ill frosting. The frosting didn’t overpower, which was unexpected, because the cupcakes came topped with a mound of frosting. Wowee. I thoroughly enjoyed them.

The cupcake is $3 each, tax already included. Yes, unbelievably expensive. Which is why treats such as these will come far and few in between. :) So DCers, if you like cupcakes and haven't done so, I highly recommend a trip to Hello Cupcake!

--
Hello Cupcake
1351 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

[+/-] Extra Sugar!