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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ardeche, Northern Provence



Ardeche, Northern Provence France - entering the "province" of Provence ( that's why everywhere in the world there are provinces named after this state in France) first we came to one of the highlights there, the Gorge of the river Ardeche. In millions of years this beautiful landscape was formed by water.

Monday, February 21, 2011

chasing the sun

coming from the grocery this weekend with my family i was able to coax the hubby to chase the sun

until it was gone...







and as always i was left in awe like a child at play in the sand...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Arf!

"arF"

one syllable that totally melted this woman's heart

and sent her capturing the sight of fur and flow'rs

Savings in Car Repairs

My son Jack’s first assignment in the military was in North Dakota. That was his first time to be away from home. He was excited and worried at the same time. He didn’t have a car. First thing he did when he got to the airforce base was to look for a place to buy a car. He searched online, went to the car dealership, but with his limited income, he couldn’t afford a newer car. One day while walking along the cafeteria area, he saw an ad posted on the wall for a car for sale by owner. It was from another airforce personnel who is getting ready to leave the base to transfer. The owner was originally from Texas and had his car very well maintained by Dallas auto repair back when he was still in Texas. However, he was desperate to sell his Chevrolet Silverado because his next assignment was outside of the country. My son made an offer, gathered all his money and bought his first car that afternoon. He was very excited and proud of his first purchase. Next, he worked on his driving permit and passed it. I could tell he was very happy.

My husband advised him to take the car to the repair shop to get checked to make sure everything was working fine for his own safety. He took the car to the repair shop and the technician told him couple of things that needed to be fixed or replaced – wheel alignment, brake job, timing belt, windshield wiper and the heater. I told my son to go online and check http://repairpal.com/phoenix-auto-repair . The site gives you the option to get a price quote for the work that needs to be done in your car. He checked in, entered all the vehicle information and in a few minutes, there goes the price of the parts. He compared the pricing the technician had mentioned and compared it with the prices he got online. He negotiated and compared prices and the technician gave him discount on the parts that needed to be replaced. It was so worth the time he spent on comparing prices, he saved a lot of money and he felt safer knowing that his car is in good condition.

With the cost of repair these days, shopping around for prices of parts is worth it.

- by Chay-

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Celebrating the Gift of Life and the Gift of Friendship

Red Aloe Bloom, dedicated to Tes of The Craftista
How do I make a special day much so special of a special person who is herself a special gift that I and the other The Salitype Society sisters have experienced? I can never forget day one when I joined The Salitype Society. Upon invitation of my friend Jo to join Salitype, I first browsed what was going on at The Salitype Friendster site. I decided to click the link of the moderator first before joining, that click brought me to Tes page, and was inspired to see her success in teaching. At that time, I was strongly contemplating on shifting to teaching from college to high school, but was a little bit afraid of my inexperience of handling the energy of younger hearts and younger minds. Reading her success brought inspiration and strength to pursue my dreams, of working with younger hearts and younger minds. I was glad I went to The Salitype Society Site, I was glad I joined, I was glad for having met the moderator of the The Salitye Society, Tes, 
Betchai and Tes at Page, Arizona
who has brought so much inspiration not only to me, but am sure, to all her family, friends, and the students whose lives she touches and molds everyday. The pure joys and priceless happiness the friendship and sisterhood brought by TSS can not be compared to gold.  It is a sisterhood and friendship we all wished at TSS to grow old with. 
Tes and Betchai @ Lake Powell, Arizona
And to every year that is added to our lives, we are thankful and happy for another year of friendship that consistently blooms. Perhaps, that is the reason why I chose the red aloe flower above as my first picture in this post, despite I know that the birthday girl's favorite color is not red, but purple. That red aloe has so much meaning why it is the first picture in this birthday post dedicated to Tes. First, I saw in Tes eyes the glow of happiness and excitement whenever she saw that flower blooming profusely in San Diego.  Second, this aloe seems to bloom profusely non stop all year round, and that to me represents each of The Salitype Society's sisters' wishes, of the friendship to continue to bloom beautifully, a friendship we all wish to grow old with. Third, one of my many birthday wishes for Tes is for her aloe to bloom beautifully in their beautiful home as well, a symbol of friendship traveling from San Diego, California to Houston, Texas. 
Anyway, let me share with you my funny "birthday gift hunt" for Tes the past weekend. What to give to someone who has almost have it all? She has the beautiful gift of family and friends, she has a very meaningful career, so I thought of instead sending her more succulent ground cover that we tried to gather together in La Jolla last December 31st :) 
Ice plant growing wildly along the Torrey Pines-Del Mar Trail
So, last weekend, I tried to gather more ice plants of varying colors. I thought of sending the ice plants by putting them in a box, but decided not to since I am afraid how the plant will survive without any air for several days. So, instead, I planted the ice plants in pots and wished to have this birthday present be given in person someday. Plants to me is a symbol of a garden of friendship, a symbol of friendship that grows and blooms. 
The trail where the ice plants where profusely blooming last weekend was actually starting to become a purple dream as well. 
Wild Sea Lavender
Purple is the birthday girl's favorite color, and it was a joy to see them starting to bloom in time to greet Tes probably a happy birthday.
Sea Lavenders Lining the Trail
Purple Against The Sea
Happy Birthday Tes, your birthday was such a special day for the world for having you as a wonderful gift. May you have many more wonderful birthdays to come, to continue to bring joy to the lives of many people you inspire. May God bless you always wonderfully.

PS........ here is a short recipe of my chicken pho without chicken, I believe, you can use this with beef ( use bones or what we call kansi for better taste). 
Chicken pho 
Since I am busy, this is the lazy version of chicken pho :)

1. Toast onions and ginger until it smells so good and everything is charred.
2. Toast the corainder seeds, cloves, star anise, cinnamon stick, lemon grass in a dry pan until it smells so good :) or Khai's describes it, as smelling Vietnamese food :) ( or you can use the toasted herb, spices and seeds for pho that are available in packets in Asian store, not the bouillon, but they are really all those seeds, herbs and spices that are pre-toasted for you).  
2.  Boil the chicken stock ( hehe, I use the chicken stock in tetra pack since we do not buy whole chicken since we can not finish it) with toasted onion and ginger, and the herbs and spices. Add coriander and daikon when boiling. Boil until the smell is so good and it tastes Vietnamese pho ( sorry, that's how I determine if my soup is ready, I do not time nor use measurements). 
the boiled toasted ingredients after straining the soup
3. Strain to separate the soup from all the solid ingredients. 
4. Bring the clear soup ( now separated from the toasted solid ingredients) to a boil again and add chunks of chicken if you want some meat, otherwise, this soup is good without piece of meat too. Add some salt and pepper for taste. 
5. Garnish the soup with fresh uncooked vegetables before eating.
Thai basil, mint, bean sprouts and red cabbage for garnishing
PS....you can also add sea foods to this soup if you want a sea food soup.

Anyway, as I mentioned, this is a lazy way to prepare Vietnamese pho, somehow, it is good enough for Khai so I think it is good :) haha! Otherwise, there are also many recipes online. 

Again, happy happy birthday Tes. Here is today's shot of the cacti that was starting to bloom when you were here, it is still blooming up to now, holding long, holding strong. Hope yours will bloom soon too.
Aeonium

You've Got Mail(boxes)!


Photo of Teyla staring sadly at the trike she could not ride because it was covered with snow, courtesy of MJ

A couple weeks back, the country's most famous groundhog - whose first name I cannot spell, for the life of me - "predicted" an early spring. I hope to God he's right 'coz I am so sick of winter.

I am so tired of freezing to death anytime I step outside, even for a few moments. Of having to constantly bundle up like a snowman. So tired of my hands aching from the extreme cold whenever I help Rog brush snow off the Jeep. Or being stuck indoors most of the time with Teyla when the roads are a solid sheet of ice and the white stuff keeps falling, falling ... coating the trees, the yard, the pond and just about everything else out there.
Photo of Teyla pointing to the snowy landscape outside our house, courtesy of MJ

I cannot emphasize enough how much I long for spring - that magical time of the year when green comes marching back to town! Close your eyes one night and next thing you know, it's morning. You wake up, throw the curtains wide and marvel at the joyous sight of tiny green leaves sprouting back up on the branches of the stubby apple tree out in the yard. Or the amusing spectacle of chubby robins hopping about beneath the weather-beaten hickory tree down the hill, noisily jostling for juicy worms.

In my little corner of the world, spring (as well as other seasons that don't feature snow and cold) is when Teyla and I hang around outdoors during that special time of the day when the mailman comes rumbling down our dirt road in his little white USPS ride.

On warm, sunny days, it is a joy to watch our bouncy toddler sprint across the vast lawn on those little legs of hers, or giggle as she frolics in the grass, while I sit patiently by the old mailbox next to the cactus garden, waiting for the day's mail to arrive.
Photo of Teyla having fun outdoors in warmer weather, courtesy of MJ

I was just thinking the other day, after I bundled up and walked outside to retrieve the mail, that it's about time to get us a new mailbox. We own one of those decorative mailboxes that I'm pretty sure looked spiffy and gorgeous when it was new. But after sitting out in the elements for years, time has taken its toll on it.

Rog thinks we should replace it with a locking mailbox. One of those heavy built, steel and aluminum mailboxes that will keep the vandals out. I think every little town or city has a few of those troublemakers, regretfully. Our neighbor up the hill complained a few months ago of checks and some other important documents being stolen from her mailbox. We surely wouldn't want the same thing to happen to us, so we have been looking into picking out a sturdy mailbox from the Mailboxixchange, an online company that sells a huge selection of residential and commercial mailboxes.

We browsed through their site last night and were blown away by the thousands of mailbox products they offer. I urge anyone else who is thinking of getting a new mailbox to visit http://www.mailboxixchange.com/. I'm pretty sure you will find the mailbox of your dreams 'coz they have so many on sale!
Photo of Teyla sprinting down the sloping lawn, courtesy of MJ

Yep, I'm counting the days before spring makes its long awaited arrival around here. It will be a delight to see Teyla once again laughing happily as she runs around the yard. And maybe then I'll be sitting by a brand new mailbox while watching her play.

Come on, spring! Hurry up and get here!

- by MJ

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My First Taco

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of TABASCO® Original Red. All opinions are 100% mine.

Easy to make kidney bean tacos, courtesy of MJ


Do you remember the very first taco you had?

I do. And I don't guess I'll ever forget it either, because the day I bought my first taco was also the day I slipped on some grease on the floor of a Mexican fast food place in town while carrying the tray - with my very first taco - over to a table. Imagine my feet and legs going out from under me as I landed hard on my rear end in front of a stunned crowd of college kids chowing down on tacos, burritos and the like. Let's just say I completely lost my poise that day. It flew out the window, along with my taco. Well, OK, my taco didn't really fly out the window. But it did land on the floor a good ways from me.

I remember being surrounded by three cute college boys in the seconds following my mishap. They all looked concerned, and no wonder! After I slipped and landed on the floor - and I landed hard! - I made no immediate attempt to get up (my back part hurt bad, is why). I simply sat there in the middle of the grease spot on the floor of that fast food taco place (which, by the way, has since shut down) with a look on my face that was a mixture of shock, sadness, hurt, embarrassment and puzzlement - as in, "Where the heck did my taco go?"

I remember the three guys (who reeked of cheap imitation cologne) gently helped me to my feet after making sure I hadn't broken anything. One of them (who uncannily looked a lot like Adam Sandler) marched over to the counter and bought me a replacement taco despite my protests. He then delivered the taco to where I was sitting and instead of leaving me to eat my very first taco in peace, asked if he could join me. What could I say but, "Sure!" The dude had bought me a taco. And he looked like Adam Sandler. I gobbled the taco down. I thought it was OK, but the sauce lacked heat. He asked me how I liked my taco. I said it was perfect, that I loved it, and thank you. In the end - and I knew it was coming, so I was ready - Mr. Adam Sandler bashfully asked if he could call me. I smiled and said, "Sure!," scribbled a random number on a crumpled, old receipt he gave me, shook his hand and walked out the door. Naturally, I never heard from him again. I never returned to that fast food place with the greasy floor either.       

Instead, I learned how to make my own tacos. I've been making them for 10 years now and funny thing, the ingredients tend to vary, depending on the contents of our refrigerator. Below is a very simple recipe for:

Kidney Bean Tacos

Ingredients:

- half a cup of kidney beans (This is for two tacos. If you plan to make more, increase the amount of beans) 
- butter lettuce blend (or any kind of salad greens you fancy)
- scrambled egg crumbles (you can go without this if you can't find any scrambled egg leftovers in the refrigerator)
- handful of carrots sliced into slivers
- whole grain crunchy corn taco shells
- some cilantro, if you like
- TABASCO® Original Red

Now this is how I throw this taco together. And believe me, it's such an easy taco to put together - even a young child could do it!

Photo of our toddler Teyla playing "cook," courtesy of MJ

First, I sprinkle TABASCO® Original Red Sauce on the inside of the taco shells. Use a generous amount of sauce if you really want your taco to rock, in a FIERY way! Or sprinkle on just a tiny bit. It's all up to you! I then fill the taco up with the ingredients in this order:

- butter lettuce (or any salad greens) first, at the bottom of the taco shell
- kidney beans next. Just spoon them over the greens.
- scrambled egg bits next. Just sprinkle them over the beans.
- then carrot slivers
- some chopped cilantro, if you prefer, over the mixture of beans, scrambled eggs, carrots
- and most importantly, for the finishing touch, a huge splash of Tabasco Original Red sauce over everything!

I love heat, and Tabasco Original Red sauce gives my simple taco just the kick it needs! Because it is such a versatile sauce, I turn to Tabasco whenever I want to add flair to some of my favorite foods, such as fish balls ...


Photo of fish balls, courtesy of MJ

... or when I want to add some pizzazz to an otherwise plain pizza.


Photo of homemade Pizza Perfected, courtesy of MJ (both the pizza and this photo)

 
Tabasco Original Red sauce can also transform regular salmon patties into a fiery seafood delight!


Photo of salmon patties that Rog cooked, courtesy of MJ
 
And as long as I have the signature little red bottle up on the spice shelf at home, I know without a doubt I can always throw together tacos that will put a smile on my face anytime I want them. No more slipping on greasy floors at those yucky fast food places whenever I get a taco craving! No more having to deal with Adam Sandler look alikes:) Don't forget to visit TABASCO® Original Red website to learn more creative recipes and more Game-Day Party Menu.

I wish you all many happy taco-making days ahead!

- By MJ
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