Friday, October 31, 2008

My Mickey Ears!

by Pargo
Trick or Treat! Do y'all like my Mickey ears? Mom "photoshopped" it just for me! Don't feel sorry for me, I like this much better than a real costume!

What are your plans for tonight? I am staying in with my parents, which is the best thing in the whole wide world. :)

xoxo, P

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Etsy Shop, Round 2

Okay, so my first attempt with selling on etsy didn't work out. I had a grand total of zero customer. But guess what. I've decided to resurrect my shop from the dead. I mean, I can't do any worse, right?

To get me pumped, I spent a good part of last night getting inspired.

I didn't have to look further than The Multiple Occasion Gift Card, created by annarubyking. So so so clever! It's a perfect all purpose gift card. The card covers greetings such as Happy Birthday, Be My Valentine, Bon Voyage, I love You, Congratulations, and so on. Just locate the greeting you need in the word jumble, circle and you are done! The photo you see here show how it works. The card will come unmarked. *swoon*

Blue Umbrella Screen Printed Wooden Card from madebykeli is pretty igneous, too. Instead of printing on paper, she printed on a wooden veneer card! I think I would be thrilled to receive this card in the mail. Of course, I have tons of paper supplies that I need to use up so don't expect to see any wooden cards in my etsy shop. ;) Cool idea, though.

With all the hype about "going green", these cards may sell big to those who are environmentally conscience. I, too, jumped on the bandwagon not long ago and I have a handful of recycled cardstock and envelopes already at home. I really like the simple design of this card. It's definitely doable for me. (Owl Christmas Cards on Kraft by owlbot)

So I am totally inspired! I am ready to get the show (um, shop?) back on the road. But truthfully, my shop won't be back from the dead overnight, in the next month, or even before the end of the year. However, it will return! Please stay tuned...

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fall Colors

As you may recall, the hubs and I were married at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, VA. Meadowlark Gardens actually didn’t hold any significance to us prior to 9/9/07. I sort of found it one day while researching for a venue.

Isn't this place gorgeous?! Le sigh.

The first time we visited the place was on a bone-chilling day in March. We quickly walked around the garden and agreed that the gazebo on the lake was a pretty location to get married. And given our small guest list, it was perfect. I think we left within 30 minutes.

We met our photographer at the garden for a quick walk-through several days prior the wedding. Again, we didn't get to see much of the place.

The third time we were at the garden was the wedding day. We walked around with Heather to take bride + groom pictures, but needless to say, we didn’t do much exploring.

We always knew that we wanted to return to the place where we got married. Not just to reminisce, but also to take our own photos of the beautiful place. We also want to really explore the garden and enjoy it when time isn't an issue.

It took us more than a year to go back, but we surely picked a good day! This weekend, we captured some fall colors and the weather was super nice.

Some highlights:

Pargo hanging from a tree! The little guy was shivering the whole time while his mom + dad had fun taking pictures. Thanks for being a good sport, my son!

Walking one of the many trails inside the garden...taking pictures along the way.

Getting giddy with shots such as this beauty.

Exploring parts of the garden that I never knew existed.

Taking self-portraits.

Meadowlark Gardens has an entrance fee of $5 per person. Although not steep, it's not a place we will visit frequently. We will probably come back again next spring, to see the garden in a different season.

Meadowlark is truly a fabulous place and I am so glad to have found it. It will always be a special spot to us now. :)

I am happy with my photos, but the season is far from over for me. I am planning on one or two more photography excursions in November. Are you taking any fall pictures? I just love all the colors!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feeling A Font Out, Part 2

I have been on a font frenzy as of late. What do you think of this one? Pair it with a simple typeface and you got yourself a winning combination!

(buy it here or get it for free)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Miracle Baby: Rest In Peace

The Miracle Baby Story: Part I, II, and III.

Saturday, October 25, 2008, was a dark day at sugarlens.

That morning, the hubs and I were in high spirits. It was his day off from school. And seeing that it was raining outside, we planned to spend the entire day on house arrest. He gave Pargo a haircut and I gave him a bath. He wiped down the bathroom and I did three loads of laundry. Together, we made our little place squeaky clean.

I noticed that the water level in the fish tank was getting low, so I decided to fill it up. (click here to see what I mean) Little did I know that I filled up the water way too much that Miracle could easy swim out from his high rise building. And that was exactly what he did.

Poor guy was nibbled to death by his own father, Easter. We didn't see what happened, but saw enough after the fact that Easter was indeed the murderer.

I feel so bad about what happened. I blame myself for filling up the tank. It was fine the way it was, but I wanted it to look prettier with a full tank of water. I was so excited when we found Miracle. We were going to watch him grow. He was special because his life started in our tank. No store-bought fish could ever replace him.

We put his carcass in the Christmas cactus plant. His body will eventually get decomposed and become part of the plant.

Rest in Peace, Miracle. You are missed.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Sneak Peek

[Font: Girls Are Weird]

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Still A Level 2

Two days ago, I received feedback on my annual performance assessment at work.

Apparently, I have excellent analytical, written, and research skills. I get things done and I get them done right. I am dependable, responsible, and personable. The client sings praises about me. In other words, I walk on water.

But, this only granted me a mere 3% raise. And I did not get promoted.

The reasons, my manager told me, are because while I have ideas, I don't readily share them. I don't speak up in meetings. "A Level 3 may not have all the answers, but they have the ability to identify gaps and get the team together to close the gaps," my manager added. Per my manager, at Level 2, I lack that and I am just a worker bee.

There were other things said, but I don't want to talk about it. During the meeting, I wanted to tell her just how incompetent the task lead and team lead really are. I wanted to tell them that the new Level 3 is a joke. I wanted to tell her that the project is more or less dead. But I didn't. Because 1) I didn't want to talk badly about others just because I was upset and 2) I was getting too emotional to speak coherently.

I am mad at myself for getting emotional. I hated that my eyes watered. I was such a girl.

Over dinner, I spilled it all to the hubs. He made me feel better.

Although I may be soft spoken, but that doesn't mean the company should not recognize me for my work. Not everyone is outspoken, but they should still find ways to promote those who contribute behind the scenes.

So here is my plan. I will continue to do good work for the client. I will perform just as I did last year. I will look into certifications. I will not, however, join firm activities after-hours. I will not do the things that they want me to work on so they could (possibility) promote me next year.

It's not my priority anymore.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lucia's Italian Ristorante

The hubs and I kicked off the weekend with dinner at a small neighborhood restaurant last night. We have been to Lucia's Italian Ristorante several times before. Oooh how we love that place! The interior is nice and cozy. There is never a long wait for the food. Friendly staff. We return again and again.

We go all out with appetizers, subs, and desserts. The whole nine yards. The large portions always guarantee a meal for another day.

As usual, on top of our favorites, calamari and hot wings, we ordered the famous Carnavale. The sub was piled high with assorted meats and topped with onions, tomatoes, mayo, and crushed peppers. Mmmmmm GOOD! I finished the meal with mango gelato and the hubs had a big slice of cheesecake.

It was a great meal!

Okay, now here is my secret. Go here and buy a $25 gift certificate for $10. We actually got it for $2 because of a coupon code. The catch, though, is that there is always a minimum purchase to use the coupon. So beware and read the fine print carefully. For Lucia's, it is $50 (but when we bought it, almost a year ago, it was $35). We calculated it perfectly and spend close to, if not exactly, $35.

There are lots of options to choose from on Maybe you will find something in your own neighborhood. Just rememeber to look for additional coupon code to make the deal even sweeter. Just sayin'.

Lucia's Italian Ristorante
(Fox Mill Shopping Center)
2531 John Milton Dr
Herndon, VA 20171

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Usually on any given weeknight, I am glued to my laptop and the hubs does his own random things (studying, playing, or movie-watching). Last night we decided to spend some quality time together.

We watched Kung Fu Panda, and omg, it was so cool. We laughed and smiled and enjoyed it so much. I have the attention span of a 3 yo, but I actually stayed in my seat throughout the whole movie. There were some little lessons sprinkled throughout the movie, too.

The humor was universally funny, the culture was dead-on, and the story hit home with me. Not only the movie was visually appealing (the animation and scenery was breathtakingly beautiful), it was also well written (you'll find a deeper and more engaging story than merely Po trying to master martial arts). Po proved that heroism comes from the heart, not from exercising kicks and hits from dusk till dawn, and, by extension, that there's a hero in each of us ordinary folks.

I dare to say it was even better than Wall-E! It was really delightfully entertaining. One of the top movies I've seen in years!

I give it five stars. I was indeed “blinded by its awesomeness”. It had us doing some kung fu kicks of our own in the living room. Haha.

So go. Make a movie night out of it. You won't be disappointed.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Picture Perfect

Those with pets know just how difficult it is to get good shots of your fur babies. This picture, taken by the hubster, makes me happy. The golden yellow sunlight from the sun room gave that perfect lighting. And the flowers, wonderfully fragrant and colorful, made the picture extra special.

Good jobs babes for capturing the moment! I've taught you well. ;)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween 2008

This cartoon brought a smile to my face.

It didn't even dawn on me that all the foreclosed homes will rain on the Trick-or-Treaters' parade. I am thinking kiddies in these states will have a very gloomy Halloween.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Free Downloads

Are you a avid coupon-clipper like me? If yes, have I got a special find for you! Print this out on cardstock and you got yourself a nifty lookin' envelope to stash all those coupons. I am retiring my plain old mailing envelope this second. I may print out more than one for my top-secret documents, too. Shhh...

Compliments of 16 Sparrows - Valuable Document Envelope

Want to get even more organized? This little print-out not only gives you a place to menu-plan your heart out, but it also includes a shopping list section. I am saying "no thanks" to this one, though. I don't keep a shopping list for groceries. I buy only the sale items and base my cooking on those ingredients. Still, it may work for you!

Compliments of Russell & Hazel - Menu Planner Sheet
And lastly, just something silly and maybe excessive. Download and print some bookplates for the little ones...or yourself!

Compliments of Emily Martin and available at CraftSanity - Bookplates

Gotta love the wonderful world of Internet!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shopping For Jamaica

If you are going on a tropical vacation this winter like me, then don't miss this sale. The options are limited -- you probably have to be flexible on the colors and be willing to mix and match but the good news is they are at rock-bottom prices (roughly 75% off). I honestly don't believe they will be marked-down further.

I haven't bought a bathing suit in years so I went ahead and got two. I was fortunate enough to find matching ones, too! I’ve never tried on bathing suits from J.Crew before so I got them based on the size chart. I hope they fit. If not, I am stuck with them anyway because final sale items are not returnable.

Use code RCLK for an extra 10% discount.

Oh, and we also bought his and hers waters shoes this weekend.

Can you tell we are so psyched for Jamaica?!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Miracle Baby: The Brave One

The Miracle Baby Story: Part I and II

Four weeks and counting! Miracle is surely growing. I need to do a better job of updating! It's not due to laziness, but mostly because Miracle likes to hide under the rock. When I took this picture earlier today, it was the first time I've seen him swimming about. It's like, he's not afraid of the other fishes anymore. He knows he's safe in his little high rise building. Miracle is also good at digging and picking on rocks. Just like his father, Easter. He eats well, too. Whenever he finishes a meal, he tummy gets very prominent.

I think it will be another 4 to 6 weeks until he will be big enough to join the rest of the clan in the big tank.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Three States

I went to Harpers Ferry (a historic town in West Virginia, situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers where Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet) with my parents and a family friend today. I was really hoping to catch the peak of fall foliage, but alas, our timing was off probably by a week. While there were some fall colors, for the most part, it was still all green. It was another gorgeous day, though. The cooler fall weather has definitely arrived and it was pleasant to be outdoors.

We entered from the Harpers Ferry National Park entrance in West Virginia. From there, we took a shuttle to Lower Town, where gift shops, small boutiques, restaurants, cafes, ice cream shops, are located. Oh, and because of Harpers Ferry's tie with the Civil War, there are also restored historical buildings and exhibits.

Really there are only three major roads in the town. Unless you are a history buff, it doesn't take long to see everything. We finished rather quickly. =p

The St. Peter's Catholic Church is probably one of the major icons of Harpers Ferry. I managed to capture some of the fall colors even though they were sparse.

We then walked over the Railroad Bridge to Maryland. It was very pretty! The whole time we were there, we tried to figure out whether or not we were looking at the Potomac River or the Shenandoah River. Now that I am at home, sitting on the couch, looking at the map, I know that it was the Potomac River that we saw.

After we crossed over the bridge, we walked the trail a bit and turn around to go home. I am kicking myself now for not exploring further. We missed the best view of all. Go ahead, click on the link. Nice, right? The view gives you a panoramic picture of the Lower Town, both Rivers, and (I think you can see) all three states. The thing is - I knew about the view, I wanted to see it. But when we were there, we just didn't know where to find the trail that leads to it.

On the other hand, the hike to the top is at least several miles incline. My dad was ready to go after we took this picture anyway. :)

I will save the hike for next time. And next time, I will know exactly where to look.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My First Real Tag

Remember how silly I was wanting to play, but no one even tagged me? Boo.

Well, the lovely owner of Dry As Toast took sympathy and gave me my first real tag! Thanks, D!

The game goes like this: I tell you four things about me for each of the four categories. Pretty simple and easy. Lets get started.

Four Things I Did Today

1 Because the weather has been wonderful and the fall colors are vibrant, took Pargo out for an impromptu photo shoot after work.
2 Fed the fishes. Miracle is growing. Pictures to come soon. I promise.
3 Waited for my husband to come home. He worked late today.
4 Went to work at 7. Came home at 3. I love my job.

Four Things On My To-Do List

1 Tomorrow I have a meeting with my manager. Finally getting debriefed on my annual assessment. Wish me luck.
2 Take more pictures of fall foliage! Today was only the beginning.
3 Buy a bathing suit for Jamaica. Anyone know where is a good place to look? I haven't gone bathing suit shopping in ages.
4 Make chicken noodle soup and honey sesame chicken.

Four Of My Guiltiest Pleasures

1 (Stolen from Miss D) Blogging. About total randomness. All the time. And reading other people's randomness.
2 Desperate Housewives. Grey's Anatomy. One Tree Hill. 90210. Survivor.

(Sorry, but I have to cheat on this one, my mind is drawing blank.)

Four Random Facts About Me

1 At age of 16, I gave myself my own English name. I was tired of people butchering my Chinese name or calling me "Chia-Pet". Kids can be so cruel. But now, I like my Chinese name better. I am glad I kept it as my middle name.
2 I am a home girl, but I feel guilty if I stay home on a perfectly sunny gorgeous day.
3 I get really careful (and excited) when I see my dog eat. Seriously. I tell my husband to walk quieter or stay still so he doesn't distract the little guy.
4 I suck at standardized tests. SAT, GMAT, GRE. I took them all and scored miserably. But, I am the first in the family (2 older "smarter" brothers before me) to have a job out of college. What does this tell you? GPAs and test scores don't mean much. It's all about appearances. ;)

I can count my blogging friends (okay, friend. Singular.) with one finger. So I don't have anyone to tag, but if you want to play along, then you are it!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!


We have been blessed with crisp fall weather. Before the cold front moves in tomorrow, I took Pargo out for a (very short) photo shoot. It went more or less like this: "Pargo, stay", click, "Pargo, come", click. I did get a couple of imperfectly perfect shots. Like this one in the post.

Don't you think Pargo was actually smiling?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Spicy Szechuan Peppercorn Chicken

Hmm...I wasn't disappointed with this dish, but it didn't knock my socks off either.

Some background: There is this restaurant (Sichuan Village) nearby that I looooove. We give the place way too much biz (very deserving though!), so I thought that if I learned to cook Sichuan cuisine at home, it would be the coolest thing. The other day I found this. It looked delicious and easy. Perfect for my first Sichuan dish. The very next time I was at an Asian market, I bought some peppercorn.

Overall, I liked the dish. It had the right amount of ginger and garlicky flavors, but it wasn't spicy enough. I didn't have any whole dry chili peppers, so instead, I used chili flakes. Maybe I should have used much more because it wasn't spicy for me at all. Next time though, I am cooking this dish with whole chili peppers.

Luke didn't like the peppercorn part of the dish. The peppercorn doesn't add any spiciness, instead it gives out a really unique aroma to the dish, and when you bite into it, it creates a tingly numbness in the mouth. The numbing part didn't fly with the hubs. I didn't mind, though.

I will definitely give this dish another go. More chili and less peppercorn!

Spicy Szechuan Peppercorn Chicken:

- 1 piece of chicken breast - cut into 1/2" cubes
- 1 TS of rice wine
- 2 ts light soy sauce
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 egg white
- 1 TS of cornstarch

- 5-7 dried chili - cut about 1/2" long (I used chili flakes)
- 1 clove of garlic - thinly sliced
- 4-5 pieces thinly sliced ginger
- 1 stalk spring onions - cut small
- 1 TS of soy sauce
- 1/2 ts of sugar

- 2 ts of szechuan peppercorn - crushed
- Salt to taste

1. Marinate the chicken with rice wine, soy sauce, and salt for 30 minutes. Then add in the egg white and cornstarch and mix well. Heat up some oil to deep fry the chicken.
2. Fry the chicken for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. Dish out and drain well and set it aside. Remove all the oil from the pan and leave about 1 TS in it.
3. In a medium heat, stir fry the garlic, ginger, and dry chili. Be sure not to burn the chili.
4. Stir fry until it is fragrant and add in the chicken. Stir well and add in the soy sauce, sugar, and szechuan peppercorns. Stir well. Add salt to taste, if necessary.
5. Add in the spring onions. Give it a quick toss. Serve!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Feeling A Font Out

The font reminds me of walking down Main Street USA…it’s so happy and fun! It is keeping me up at night.

Only drawback - I can't get the font to display properly in Photoshop. So while I troubleshoot, I play with it in Illustrator and MS Word.

(get it here)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Stuffed Cake With Pork (猪肉馅饼)

My earliest memory of 牛肉馅饼 (stuffed cake with beef) was from family trips to Flushing, NY. They were absolutely delectable but also expensive (if I remember it correctly, nearly $3 a piece). But still, I couldn't get enough of the soft chewy dough and the juicy meat inside. I hardly make it to Flushing anymore so it has been a while since I had them. I am sure they are available somewhere in DC, but I just never looked.

I have been meaning to make these stuffed cakes for months now, ever since I saw the recipe in one of my cookbooks. This recipe makes four medium-size cakes. The flavor was definitely delicious, just like the ones in NY, but for improvement, I would make the dough thinner and fill with more meat next time. However, Luke liked them regardless and that was enough for me!

Usually, the recipe calls for ground beef, but I prefer pork.

Stuffed Cake With Pork:
(makes 4 cakes)

- 1/4 lb ground pork
- 1 stalk scallions, finely chopped
- 1 ts ginger, finely chopped
- 1 ts salt
- 2 ts soy sauce
- 3 ts sesame oil
- 1 ts corn starch
- 1 cup Wheaten Flour (all-purpose flour will NOT work)
- 1/4 cup and 1 TS water

1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients except flour and water. Mix well. For best results leave in the fridge overnight.

2. Mix flour with water to form dough. Cut into four pieces. Roll each individual pieces into balls. Flatten the balls and place a generous amount of filling into the middle of each dough. Fold the dough over the filling into a ball shape and pinch the edges to seal. Again, flatten the balls.

3. Heat some oil and simmer the cakes over medium heat for 10-13 minutes. Once it is almost done cooking, turn up the heat high to give the outside a golden color.

4. Eat with hot sauce!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

10 Promises to My Dog

This movie had the both of us bawling like babies.

Pargo, we love you!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

I Saw Stars!

Hey - hey, you!

Pssst, guess who I bumped into yesterday?


Okay, not really.

But I did go to the famous Madame Tussauds. I actually didn't know there was a Madamn Tussauds in DC until my mom told me about it the other day. To celebrate its one-year birthday (at the DC location), ticket price was slashed to $1 from $17 for three days. We made it on the very last day.

I walked passed by the one in Vegas inside The Venetian Hotel once, but the $20-something ticket price was a bit too crazy for me, so am glad I caught this one in DC. Madame Tussauds also has branches in cities such as Hong Kong, London, New York, and Shanghai. The wax figures are different based on the cities. For examples, there are Asian star figures in Hong Kong and Shanghai while figures of the royal family are on display in London.

In DC, we saw the usual political figures - from Washington to the current president. But then there was one room dedicated to the celebs! So many photo options and so fun. I really enjoyed it. It was a nice change from the other "educational" museums in DC. =p

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Salty Crispy Chicken (鹹酥雞)

I am not sure if these tasted exactly like the ones in Taiwan, but they were pretty darn close. The only thing missing was the salty/peppery/spicy seasoning - usually sprinkled on at the end. For extra authenticity, I put the chicken pieces in a brown paper bag (I cut the paper bag a little bit more than half off the top) and ate them with a toothpick. Totally Taiwan style!

Thanks Yi-Hsin for the inspiration!

Receipted adapted from here and here.

Salty Crispy Chicken:

- 1 large skinless chicken breast, pounded and cut into bite-size pieces
- Yam flour
- Basil leaves
- Oil for frying

- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
- 1/4 tsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
- 1/2 spring onion, green parts only, finely chopped

1. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and add the chicken pieces, turning to coat. For best results leave in the fridge overnight.

2. Coat the chicken pieces in yam flour. Heat a wok or pan and add the oil. Add the chicken and fry lightly for 5-6 minutes until the meat are golden brown on all sides. Drain the chicken of any excess oil on paper towel.

3. Drop the basil leaves into the hot oil and drain immediately.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cutting Back

With the economy plummeting, news are all over that families need to spend less than what they bring in. Duh, right? Luke and I don't need the failing economy to tell us that; we have always been pretty savvy when it comes to living way below our means. Here are some ways we do it:

- Pets. Some people say that owning a pet is expensive. I say not so! We do all the grooming and washing in-house. We get coupons in the mail for free dog food (again, can't emphasize the awesomeness of FatWallet and Slickdeals). My parents baby-sit the little guy when we are away. Except for his medicine (flea and heartworm - can't scrimp on those two), we hardly spend any money on Pargo. In return, he gave us tons of happiness. We take him out for walks. That activity is not only free, but health benefiting too.

- Groceries. Just a few words about cutting your grocery bills. Clip coupons. Never pay full price. Research + compare. Plan ahead. Buy fresh produce. Avoid pre-packages items. Embrace tap water (but do buy a water filter pitcher). Above all else, even if you do splurge on your groceries, it's always cheaper to cook at home than going out to eat.

- Hobbies. Have an inexpensive hobby. Blogging provides me endless hours of fun. Photography is relatively cheap too - the initial investment may be steep, though. Cooking is pure enjoyment for me, especially budget cooking. Luke buys a video game every quarter. A video game doesn't usually take that long to finish, but Luke stretches out the fun by collecting all the coins, gold medals, etc. Yes, he could just rush through all the stages and beat the game, but he's maximizing his playing time. :)

- Transportation. I could never use public transportation as my sole source of getting around. However, I do drive a very economical car, and so does Luke. My car is a method of getting me from Point A to Point B. I don't need a fancy car. I don't want a fancy car. Avoid buying new expensive cars and you will save on insurance, car tax, and gas.

- Utilities. Good habits save money too! Turn off the light when you leave the room. Lower the heat and put on more clothes. Unplug the plugs when you go on vacations. Save the water you wash vegetables with for watering plants (ok, a little drastic here).

- Rent. I don’t have any good advice here, except Luke and I are always very mindful about the money we spend on rent. I understand if you have a mortgage, the number is less flexible. However, the rule of thumb is you should never spend more than 25% of your combined take-home income on housing. For us, we spend a bit more than 10%.

Living cheaply (or I prefer the word smartly) doesn’t have to compromise the lifestyle you desire. We are living proofs.

How do you save money?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chicken Parmesan

Whenever I am at loss on what to order at restaurants, Chicken Parmesan is always a safe bet. It may not be my favorite, but it is familiar and comforting. However, the ones at restaurants are usually too dry and too cheesy for my taste. I like this version I found on Simply Recipes. The chicken breast is cut into smaller pieces. Not only the chicken cooks much faster this way, the ratio of buttery, crunchy coating to meat is much higher.

To be honest, I still like store-bought meatballs (Mama Lucia Frozen Meatballs is my fav!) better on my spaghetti, but home-made chicken parm is a cheaper alternative. :)

This recipe is basically a copy of the one found on Simply Recipe. I changed up a bit because I didn't have some of the ingredients (ie. I substituted basil for parsley, garlic salt for garlic powder, etc). I also cut the recipe in half.

Chicken Parmesan:

- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 1/3 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs, Italian style
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- A pinch teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 lb of skinless, boneless, chicken meat, cut into pieces no larger than 2x2 inches (optional: pound the chicken meat to tenderize)

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.

2. In a bowl, combine the minced garlic with the melted butter. In another bowl mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan, basil, salt, garlic salt, and pepper.

3. Dip chicken pieces into garlic butter, then into crumb mixture to coat.

4. Place coated chicken pieces on to a baking dish. Try to leave a little room between each piece. Drizzle with remaining garlic butter and bake uncovered 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. Note that the chicken will get much more browned on the bottom side than on the top.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!