Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weekend Summary May 29-31

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ireland: A Day In Glendalough

For a ten-day international trip, we really didn't give ourselves a lot of time to plan.

We decided to go to Ireland one day and bought air tickets the next. Luckily, all the B&Bs we contacted were available/responsive and lodging accommodations were confirmed within a week. Then we made car reservation, checked out books from the library, and loosely planned our daily excursions. My coworker lent me a book of maps, hubs gave Homer a brain transplant, I exchanged currency, and bought some new clothes for the trip.

It was a whirlwind of activities and next thing we knew, we were leaving for Ireland!

Day 1: Visited Glendalough. Stayed in Kilkenny.

We landed in DUB on a drizzling Saturday morning. After getting a brand new stamp in our passports and retrieving our rental car, a tiny blue Kia, we were on our way to explore!

To help us ease into a new time zone, the only plan we had for the day was to visit Glendalough in County Wicklow. Glendalough, just an hour south of Dublin, is a monastic settlement in a picturesque natural setting. Using Rick Steves' Ireland 2009* as guide, all I really wanted to do was walk around (leisurely), see the monastic city, and take pictures of the Lower and Upper Lake. I didn't expect to spend more than 2 or 3 hours here.

Thanks to Homer, we arrived without any hiccups. The driving on the left part, on the other hand, was a bit scary. But once we got out of the city - when sheep and rolling hills started to appear - I felt myself relaxing more. Kudos to hubs for learning how to drive the roundabouts so quickly!

Glendalough gives a sense of peace, serenity, and calmness. The air is refreshing and clean. I liked the place immediately. We were surrounded by a thousand shades of green.

We followed the Green Road...

...and approached the monastic city from across a pretty stream.

Monastic ruins included St. Kevin's Church, round tower, cathedral, and Foundations of St. Kieran's Church. We took lots of pictures here, but overall, walked through it pretty quickly.

The two lakes of Glendalough are known as the Lower Lake and Upper Lake. Most of the monastic ruins are located near the Lower Lake so it wasn't a long walk before we were greeted by this view:

Since I really only had 3 specific things I wanted to see in Glendalough and already saw 2 of them within the first half hour, we took it slow and took pictures along the way. Being that it was our first few hours in Ireland, we were in awe by all the greenness.

Hubs taking pictures of three-leaf clovers.

The Upper Lake is the starting point of many trails - ranging from short strolls to demanding mountain hikes. If anything, all I wanted to do was a couple of short strolls to see the waterfalls.

The area around the Upper Lake was very pretty. Since it was probably only around 10:30ish when we got there, we didn't see more than a handful of people.

Another shot of Upper Lake. If you look close enough, you can see a waterfall at the very end. This is when hubs said that he wanted to see the water up close and personal. I didn't have any problems with that. From where we stood, I saw a nice paved road leading to the waterfall. It was flat surface. We started walking.

It took about 30 minutes to get to the point where we could see the waterfall more closely. After we took the pictues below, I expected us to turn around and head back. But hubs wasn't satisfied, he saw a couple of people climbing up along the waterfall and decided that we should do the same.

Reluctantly, I agreed. It didn't look too bad. Little did I know that this would be the start of a THREE hour hike up rugged rocks and down slippery paths. On top of that, the weather was insane - scorching hot one minute and freezing cold the next. Oh, I was not a happy camper. Of course, to make it worse, we were on empty stomach and no sleep.

Highlight of the hike included: 1) Hubs giving me piggyback rides to cross some streams (because the stepping stones were too far for me to hop), but losing his balance and getting his shoes completely soaked, 2) Me huffing and puffing - and occasionally dropping f-bombs - all the way to the top - I really didn't think I was going to make it, 3) Our hands went completely numb from the cold, 4) Feeling invincible when we reached the top, and 4) Me getting mad (all over again) at hubs when I realized that after the top, there were more uphill climbing to do.

A picture of us at the top of the waterfall!

Slowly working our way down. Wicklow Mountains and Upper Lake in the background.

Lower Lake in the background. (Hello handsome!)

All smiles after we safely arrived to the bottom. At the end of the hike, I decided to go to the Visitor Center (I know, shouldn't we had gone before the hike?) and see a map of the walk we just took. I talked to the guy behind the desk and innocently asked about the trails and their level of difficulty. I found that the white trail, the one we took, was most treacherous and longest of all trails in Glendalough! On that day, the guy said that he would not recommend hiking that particular trail due to weather and high elevation. We did not tell him that we just got back from it.

To be honest, I did not enjoy the hike. I would have preferred easy strolls, especially just having arrived to Ireland. But now looking back, I am glad we did it. It was quite an experience and we were rewarded with rich scenery. I am also happy that we arrived early and didn't see many people along the way. Just as we were leaving, tour buses started to appear.

After Glendalough, we made a 2-hour drive south to Kilkenny, where we were staying for two nights. The drive was not at all easy. We were both tired (and getting incredibly sleepy) and dazed. Once we got to Kilkenny, it took us forever to find the B&B because there were no darn street signs!

When we finally arrived at last, we were greeted warmly by our host, Val. She showed us our room (full post on all the B&Bs we stayed at another time) and gave us hot tea and cookies. She also suggested Bollard in town for authentic Irish pub food. Hubs and I hurried out for some dinner and relaxation.

Dinner was delicious. Hubs had beef stew and I had chicken and mushrooms in puff pastry. It was so good to finally have some real food.

After dinner, we immediately went back, showered, and crashed into bed. Our first day in Ireland was over. And it was quite a day.

*In addition to Rick Steves, I also brought with me Fodor's Ireland. I feel that Rick Steves gives you the highlights (the must-sees), but it's important to complement that with another guide book that has more depth.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, May 29, 2009

BB Two: Four Months Later

Previously: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

It has been exactly four months and five days since the story of BB Two began. I still can't believe that out of 70+ eggs, only one survived. But I am just as shocked that one did survive! It has been so fun watching BB Two grow.

When we first put him into the big tank, he was shy and reserved. He picked out a favorite spot and hid there all day long. Then we got those eight orange tetras that were about his size and all of a sudden, he became a social butterfly. I can just tell that he was happier.

Things are going extremely well for him! Now that he has gotten to a decent size, I think it's safe to say that he will live a long and healthy life. :)

With that said, this is my last update on BB Two - thanks for following his story! Have a fun weekend everyone!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Japanese Ginger Pork

The other day I was on a mission to find new recipes - and came to fruition when I found this one on Closet Cooking. It sounded delicious, I couldn't wait to try.

Ginger Pork, also known as shogayaki in Japanese, is a simple and tasty dish. The pork is marinated in a sweet and salty ginger* marinade and then stir-fried.

I hurried to the store and bought all the necessary ingredients. Unfortunately I couldn't find sake so I substituted it with Chinese rice wine.

In Japan, this dish is typically served with shredded cabbage, but I served mine with sauteed bok choy instead.

The sliced pork turned out delicious. Simply succulent. The sauce was so good over white rice. Next time, I may try it with chicken or beef.

All the dishes I make are easy to prepare, but this one is especially so! Seriously. It's a great weekday meal.

Japanese Ginger Pork:

- 1 pound thinly sliced pork
- 2 tbsp ginger, grated
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sake (I used Chinese rice wine)
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp corn starch
- green onions, chopped (optional)
- sesame seeds (optional)

1. Mix ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sesame oil in a bowl.
2. Add pork and corn starch to the mixture. Marinate for at least 20 minutes.
3. Heat oil in a frying pan. Add pork and stir-fry on medium heat until cooked thoroughly.
4. Before serving, garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.

*It wasn't until recently that I started cooking with ginger, and now I can't seem to stop. Everything tastes a bit fancier with a little bit of ginger, in my opinion.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

my poor pot of cilantro

So much for that Mexican fiesta I was planning...

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Howdy

Hullo! I am back from Ireland!

Ireland is positively amazing. We had a wonderful time exploring the country in our little Kia and documenting the trip with hundreds and hundreds of pictures. We visited castles, walked through ruins, hiked up a waterfall, counted sheep, fell in love with black pudding, survived driving on the left, chatted with friendly people, wrote our names in the sand, and saw beautiful beautiful countryside.

Yes, everything really is covered in moss.

As for the weather, we really got lucky. Except for the first day when experienced all four seasons (crazy!), the sun shined at all the right moments and rained when we didn't mind.

As wonderful as Ireland is, there is no place like home. It's good to be back home - where the water pressure is just right, where things aren't outrageously expensive, where a home-cooked meal is only 30 minutes away, and where Pargo sleeps above my head + Pesto sleeps near my feet.

Our landlady had the windows replaced while we were gone, and although we left our little place spotless before we left, we came back to a place covered in dust. Instead of recuperating and spending time with the boys, we wiped, vacuumed, and washed/folded two loads of laundry last night. It was worth it. By the time we crashed at 9pm, our place was once again clean and everything in its place.

I am looking forward writing about the trip and sharing pictures! I am also looking forward in catching up with all of your blogs!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Misty Rainy Days, I Am Ready For Ye

Since hubs and I tend to flock to sunny tropical destinations for vacations, Ireland will be a complete change of scenery for us.

Currently, it is forecasted to be in the mid-50s all week long - light rain is also expected. Typical Ireland weather.

Instead of shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops, our suitcase is overflowing with long-sleeves, sweaters, pants, and socks. Eh, boring.

But, I am super excited about my two new goodies from LL Bean! Hubs and I went shopping the other night and he picked them out for me (yeppers, my husband is my personal shopper).

Here I am modeling them:
The fleece jacket is for cold days, and the red storm jacket is to be worn on top of the fleece jacket on cold and rainy days. Both very light, yet warm. This will, no doubt, be my uniform for the next 10 days.

I just love LL Bean - they are so good at what they do. Not necessary trendy, but all their goods are made with care, durability, and quality. On top of that, all their products have 100% lifetime warranty.*

Although the two pieces set us back a hefty penny, I consider them good investment. :)

We are flying out tonight! Here's hoping that we don't drive on the "right" side of the road!

I hope you all have a terrific weekend, a productive week, and a fun-filled Memorial Day weekend!


* Contrary to what it may seem, LL Bean did not give me oodles of cash to write these awesome stuff about them. I wish they did, though.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

pooch-trait, take 2

We still have a million and one things to do before we leave, but determined to take some nice pictures of Pargo, I took my older boy out for another photoshoot this afternoon.

He just received a small trim from Gumbo Groomers (aka hubs) this morning, and was looking super adorable. Although Pargo will be 4 this year, we always give him puppy cuts to keep his fine hair neat, tidy, and knot-free.

The subject was cute, but he wasn't at all cooperative. Not even three minutes into our shoot, the little guy was over it.

I have a deep newfound respect for pet photographers.


[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Home-Style Tofu (家常豆腐)

Whenever we go on trips, I like to leave the fridge empty of food. Since we are leaving for vacation in two days, I have been busy throwing things together and calling them dinner.

And since I mastered Ma Po Tofu, I have been cooking it all the time and, personally, I need some variety. A couple of weeks ago, I saw tofu on sale at my local Asian market and grabbed a couple, but because I didn't want to cook it the same old way, the tofu had been sitting in the fridge.

So, in the spirit of an empty fridge, I turned to google, hoping to find new ways of preparing tofu.

I came across this Home-Style Tofu recipe from Rasa Malaysia. I had all the ingredients at home. Perfect.

After more digging, I found that there are many ways to make this Home-Style Tofu, with the common thread being the tofu and ground meat. Besides those two key ingredients, the sky is the limit. Some add tomatoes and bell peppers. Some add mushrooms and bok choy. Some spice things up with chili bean paste (although that sounds like Ma Po Tofu to me). It all depends on your own personal preference.

I decided to follow Rasa Malaysia's version, with one slight twist.

It turned out wonderful! Super light and delicious! Hubs commented that you can actually taste the natural flavor of tofu as opposed to just the heavy sauce (found in Ma Po Tofu). Of course, sometimes we all need strong flavors, something not-so-good for you. But once in a while, a lighter dish can be just as, if not even more, pleasing!

I will definitely add this to the dinner rotation.

Home-style Tofu:

- 1 block of fresh or boxed tofu (soft or silken)
- 2 oz. ground pork
- 6 shrimps, peeled and deveined
- 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 stalk scallions (chopped into small rounds)
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil

Pork Marinade:
- 1 tsp Chinese cooking wine
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- salt to taste

Brown Sauce:
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp water
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp sesame oil
- 2 dashes white pepper powder
- 1 tsp corn starch

1. Cut tofu into medium-size pieces. Mix brown sauce mixture and set aside.
2. Heat up pan and add cooking oil. When the oil is heated, add garlic and stir-fry until light brown. Add in ground pork and shrimps.
3. Stir-fry to break ground pork into smaller lumps. When thoroughly cooked, add tofu (if you use silken tofu, be gentle with the tofu when you stir). Do a quick stir before adding the brown sauce mixture.
4. Gently stir-fry the tofu and bring the sauce to boil. Dish out, add scallions, and serve immediately over white rice.

My other tofu recipes: Ma Po Tofu and Steamed Tofu with Ground Pork

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

pooch-trait

Parents always say that you take most pictures of your firstborn. I think that's absolutely true and it applies to dogs, too.

We took a gazillion pictures of Pargo when he was a puppy. Pargo eating, Pargo sleeping, Pargo chewing, Pargo running. Now with Pesto, we hardly have any pictures! On top of that, most pictures we do have are of him indoors, which translate to poor lighting and boring background.

Tonight while hubs is in class*, I took the boys** out for a photoshoot. Except for my constant calling for them, they had fun sniffing around.

I thought I got some good photos, but it turned out I didn't. So I (once again) faked it with Photoshop. The resulting color is both vibrant and soft. Not too bad, if I do say so myself.

*Hubs is in his last class for the semester right now. After tonight he's off until 5/30. Only two more semesters to go, people. Hubs is really piling on the classes and kicking major booty. So proud of my little student.

**Unfortunately, no photos of Pargo to show and tell. Photoshop isn't that amazing.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Spain Trip: Something Memorable

Previously: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7

I mentioned it before that, although it takes a lot of time and effort, I really enjoy writing about my trips! It helps me to reflect and remember the little details. And boy, do I remember this particular detail that I am about to share.

According to Rick Steves: You are most likely to get pick-pocketed in Barcelona, especially on Rambla, than anywhere else in Europe.

I am sure you know where I am going with this.

I was almost pick-pocketed. In Barcelona, on Rambla.

The incident happened on day 4, my mom and I had just made the 3-hour journey from Madrid to Barcelona. As usual, instead of hailing for a cab, we hopped on the metro from the train station and found our way to Liceu Metro Station (one of the 3 stops along Rambla). The thing about any metro station in Barcelona is that - although there are signs everywhere - it's a maze. You have to walk a long way and up many flights of steps just to get outside.

I had on me my backpack (see picture here) and a carry-on size luggage. Not heavy or unwieldy by any means, but enough for me to struggle a little when going up the steps.

So there we were, two tourists trying to find our way out of the metro station. I led the way, my mom lagged behind me.

We finally reached the last set of steps. Once we get to the top, we would be outside, on Rambla.

Grabbing my luggage with both hands, I walked up the steps carefully, with my eyes looking down, making sure I don't trip.

Out of nowhere, I heard the sound of zippers opening behind me.

I turned around just in time to see 4 young people (teenager maybe?) walking past me, avoiding eye contact. Then it dawned on me what just happened. Holy $&%#!

I saw my mom steps behind me and yelled for her. "Are my pockets open?!" I felt myself getting flustered when she confirmed yes.

We quickly got outside, and I did a thorough check to see if anything was stolen.

Nothing.

Whew! Thank goodness I didn't put any valuables in the front two pockets. I was surprised that they didn't take the pouch (that carried a lip gloss and mirror) that was in the front pocket since they had no way of knowing that it wasn't money inside.

Anyway, panicked we were, but at least no harm done.

Later as my mom and I retraced what happened - we concluded that those four people cut in between the gap between me and my mom to block my mom's view of me. They knew that I wasn't paying attention, trying to walk up the steps while carrying luggage. I was the perfect target. In fact, they probably followed us the entire time while we tried finding the way out.

Although nothing got stolen, I was burning with fire for the rest of the day! It irked me SO MUCH that I had a hard time falling asleep that night. We heard about pick-pocketing from friends and family, but always shrugged it off. It will never happen to us, we said. Little did we know.

As for the remainder of the trip, I was on my toes. I avoided putting anything (even the non-valuables) in my front pockets.

Instead, I wrote this note for fun:

No other attempts were made, though.

So this is it! My most memorable moment and the end of my recaps!

Muchas gracias
for following my travel stories and your nice words about my photos*! I really really appreciate it!

Espana, hasta luego...

* All photos were taken with my trusty Canon point-and-shoot and enhanced using Photoshop.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Hubby Is Creative

Hubs made pancakes this morning. When he brought the plate to me, I was expecting regular round pancakes. Then I saw this instead:

Hehe!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Shortcut to Europe

Once a year, Embassies of the European Union host an open house. On that day, from 10-4, each Embassy offers a unique program featuring the country's cuisine, its music and special events. We visited Spain, Germany, France, and Sweden last year.

I thought the event was worthwhile and decided to join the fun again this year - with Ireland and Greece being my two top countries to visit.

A group of us drove into DC and parked at Dupont Circle. The parking meter told us that parking is free on Saturdays, but with a two hour limit. We kept that in mind and started our journey around Europe!

Majority of the embassies are clustered on Massachusetts Avenue, known as the Embassy Row. Embassies of Ireland and Greece are located at the beginning of the Embassy Row. In fact, they are across from one another. We decided to go up further and tackle UK first, and work our way down.

At the UK Embassy, we toured the residential gardens, sampled drinks, and grabbed some free stuff. I snatched up a Mini Rough Guide to Wales.

Then we went to Denmark for chocolates and apples.

By the time we finished, the two hour was almost up - so we hurried back to the car. On the way there, we saw long lines at Ireland and Greece. Miles and miles long.

Once we made sure the car was okay, we agreed not to wait in the lines of Ireland and Greece and changed our journey to include Spain instead (because when we went there last year, there were yummy treats and no lines).

So we drove to the Spain Embassy and found a parking spot. Talk about luck. But, oh my god, the line to get in was just as long. Once inside, the line for food was even more ridiculous.

But since we were already there, we just waited...and waited...and waited. For ONE WHOLE HOUR! Just for some paella and potato omelets. Granted, they were pretty good.

By the time we finished, it was nearly 2pm. I was tired from all the waiting and felt crazy for standing in line for so long for practically nothing.

I tell myself: Never Again.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Current Obession: Fascinators

From L to R: Duchness Headband, Honeysuckle Headband, Primrose Fascinator, Spectral Jessamine Headband, Serpentine Shimmer Headband, Rosamond Headband

Fascinators are all the rage these days. They are everywhere and I am intrigued!

What they heck are they, you ask? Well, they are basically anything you put in your hair. Barrettes, combs, headbands. They can range from simple ones with beads, to uber fancy schmancy ones with flowers and feather!

(I remember wearing plastic ones with teeth in grade school, but nothing this fashionable!)

I am not a feather accessory type of girl - I'm far too simple and just don't think I could pull it off - but I would love these cute headbands (especially the top left, but not so much the top right).

I will have to try some on the next time I am at the mall. (If they don't look too weird on me - now that I am no longer 7, maybe I can make my own?)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spain Trip: Lets Talk Money

In late January when my mom and I started planning our trip to Spain, we first looked at a package on TripMasters.com. We were quoted roughly $1700 for the two of us, including airfare, transfer between Madrid and Barcelona, and hotels. However, we didn't like the flight schedules, nor we wanted the hassle of flying between cities, and lastly, we didn't care for the selected hotels. Of course, all that were customizable, but by then, the quote was up to $2000.

So we decided to do-it-ourselves for two reasons: 1) save money, and 2) make the entire trip just the way we wanted.

Here is the breakdown of our 6 nights/7 days trip to Spain, money-wise:

1. Airfare. We flew Delta and it was $972.44 for two. Our flights to Spain and back home were both delayed for several hours. It caused a lot of headaches and frustration. I am sure the overcast weather had something to do with it, but now I know to avoid JFK and ATL!

2. Hostals. As mentioned before, hostal is a Spanish word for a category of lodging. Hostals tend to be somewhat nicer than youth hostels, but cheaper and more personal than hotels. Hostal Cruz Sol in Madrid was $230.83 for 3 nights and Hostal OperaRamblas was $258.69 for 3 nights.

I have nothing but good things to say about both hostals. Both are clean and convenient and reasonably priced. Both have friendly and helpful staff! They provided exactly what we needed. Highly recommend!

Hostal Cruz Sol is located steps away from Plaza Mayor. Our room was on the second floor.

The room is small, but clean and adequate. The TV didn't really work, but we didn't have time to watch much anyway.

The room at Hostal OperaRamblas is bigger, but does not provide any basic toiletries. It is located right at one of the side streets of Las Rambla.

3. Renfe Operadora. Instead of flying between cities, we opted to ride the train. Although a bit more expensive, it was worth the price. We didn't have to deal with the hassle of going to the airport or the potential of flight delay. Our train ride was 3 hours long and it included lunch. If the train arrived at destination more than 30 minutes later than scheduled, there is a full refund. Our train arrived two minutes ahead of schedule.

We bought the tickets at home several weeks prior online for $257.69 (First Class) for two. With First Class tickets, we were able to wait in style at a posh lounge.

4. Etc etc etc. I love to experience local cuisine, but I must say that I am not fond of Spanish food. We had a few sit-down meals, even ate at a tapas bar, but nothing impressive, not to mention expensive. At the tapas bar, a small plate of calamari was 11 euro!

So instead, we had a couple of quick lunches at McD. To save even more, we bought stuff from supermarkets and made our own sandwiches. Once we got to Barcelona, the Boqueria Market was our go-to place for fresh fruits and baked goods. We had the best snacks there.

This tuna pizza with roasted bell peppers and drizzled with (a little bit) of cheese was probably the most tasty thing I ate in Spain. Only 1 euro! We got the last two pieces, just when the vendor was about to close for the day, at Boqueria Market.

Our typical breakfast in Madrid. Coffee and pastry. We ate at the counter, standing up, like the locals!

We bought water and fruits at a supermarket in Madrid to keep our diets healthy. I don't remember us having any veggies during the entire week, though.

We tried another seafood paella at a restaurant in Barcelona, recommended by a family friend. Unlike the one we had at Plaza Mayor, this one was way. too. salty.

On the last night, I had a few euro coins left to spend, so I bought two scoops of gelato while strolling the Gothic Quarter for one last time.

In all, we spent $362.91 on food and other miscellaneous things such as metro and entrance fee to various places.

Grand Total: $2082.56

My mom and I are both budget travelers so staying at hostals or not having a 3-course meal every night suited us just fine. We don't feel that we missed out on any experience because we were on a budget. In fact, I will say that we probably had a more authentic experience by doing everything on own own!

Oh, one last thing, we exchanged for euros before the trip at our local bank. The exchange rate at that time was 1 euro to 1.3266 usd. We paid in euro for the hostals upon arrival.

I hope this post is helpful to those who may be planning a trip to Europe! It goes to show that a trip to Europe need not be expensive at all, if you are willing to forego some luxuries, that is. :)

I have one more post to share on Spain. I will talk about my most memorable moment - but at the time, that moment made me so mad that I had trouble sleeping that night!

Stay tuned...

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another Reason Why I Love Google

Because now I finally know what hubs' classroom looks like!

It's Tuesday night and hubster is in class once again. Before his class started, we had some fun with Google Talk. I never knew about the video capability. It's awesome, especially when you have a built-in webcam on your laptop. Easier to use than Skype and most definitely more reliable than MSN, IMHO.

Hey hubs, lets do this more often - like, even when we are at home together.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Personal Goals: May Oh-Nine

It's the beginning of a new month. That means, it's time to visit my April goals and set new ones for May.

In April, I vowed to:

1) Try (once again and again) to eat well. We had good days and bad days. During one week, our local grocery store had an amazing sale on fresh bagged spinach and sliced button mushrooms. Every night for dinner, I simply sautéed the spinach in olive oil + garlic and stir-fried the mushrooms with green onions. Hubs and I were feeling good about ourselves.

But then on the weekend, we ordered pizza and all the good work went down the drain.

However, it's all about balance, so I will say that we did okay on this goal in April.

2) Continue to learn the functionalities on my dSLR. I most definitely played a lot more with my camera this month - whether it was just taking picture of flowers in the neighborhood or ventured out to the White House Gardens and Grounds Tour. I am still learning - it's an on-going process, but I do know that hubs and I need to get a tripod. We don't have the steadiest hands.

3) Focus on work. Umm...I didn't do so well on this one. It seems that I would always rather be doing something else than anything work-related. I did attend one Community of Practice meeting and have reached out to my task lead and offered my assistance in team activities/administrative items. We have a couple of things for me to work on in the coming weeks.

I am attending a Working Group meeting tonight. I am not doing this for my health or enjoyment, but it's just something I have to do once in a while to be a "dedicated team player and employee". Bah.

I wish to have my own little business, but I also love steady paychecks.

4) Do taxes! We sent one big, fat check to Uncle Sam. Boo.

Overall, I give myself a solid B for my accomplishments in April.

There are 31 days in May, but we will be hopping around Ireland for 10 of them. So instead of making new ones, I will continue to work on my first three April goals. In addition, I will add this as my forth goal: Have a stupendous, fun time in Ireland!

Do you have any goals you wish to accomplish this month?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Photoshop Actions Of My Own

Before I post the pictures you see on my blog, in addition to some light editing, I like to re-size them to a lower resolution for easier uploading. I also like to keep the image size consistent.

More often than not, I don't remember the re-size step or, when I do, I am just simply too lazy to bother with it. As a result, all my pictures are of different sizes and it was driving me crazy!

So today, I decided to end the craziness and make my own Photoshop Actions.

Now with two clicks, my photos are perfectly cropped and stamped with my {sugarlens} label-thingy.

I have been downloading and using Photoshops Actions for months, but never attempted to create my own. I am so glad I gave it a try. It wasn't hard to do and now it will save me heaps of time in the future.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

My First Pizza Trial

Yesterday we invited Pearl & Darren over for dinner. We hadn't seen them in a while and with them just recently came back from Hawaii, we had a lot to talk about. I decided to keep things easy with pizza and soup.

It was my first time making pizza.

In the morning, I made a batch of pizza sauce. I found a couple of recipes online, took bits + pieces from each of them, and came up with my own recipe.

I combined olive oil, pureed onion + garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste, crushed red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. I let it simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Super simple.

Then in the afternoon, I made my favorite, Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana.

Since it was my first time making pizza, I decided to go with Pillsbury Pizza Crust. Hubs rolled out the dough just before the guests arrived.

Once they arrived, all we had to do was pile on the toppings and bake. The topping choices were sausages, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and a combination of cheeses.

The soup was a winner, as always.

The pizza, on the hand, was just so-so. The crust was a disappointment. I think the crust really makes a difference in how good the pizza is, so without a good crust, my pizzas were kind of blah. Everyone was so sweet and still had a few slices each, though!

However, I really liked the pizza sauce I made. And I love the freshness of all the ingredients. Next time, when I precook the sausages, I need to remember to season it with salt.

We finished the meal with some ice cream. (thanks guys!)

Between all the food, there was a lot of fun chatter. It was great evening!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Circus Fonts

I am not sure when I will use these circus-inspired fonts, but when the occasion is right, I have them all saved to my computer and ready to go.

Thanks Magic Jelly for making it so easy for us lazy folks.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!