Saturday, February 28, 2009

It’s Gone and It’s not Coming Back

This plant was my favorite – I grew it from a couple of branches I snapped from my mom’s plant, and it turned into a luscious beauty with green striped foliage in about a year. It was a happy and low-maintenance plant – a little bit of water once a week, and it flourished in my sunny living room for four years.

It suffered significantly this summer while I was gone for three months. I think the person who took care of my plants over-watered it, and when I returned, 85% of the leaves were dead. I carefully trimmed the dead branches and nursed it back to health over the next four months.

When I left for Christmas break, someone else took care of the plants, and my poor wounded one did not take it well. By the time I returned, its leaves were shriveled up and dry. I tried my best to revive it, but it was too late – it had suffered irreversible damage, and has not grown a new leaf since early January. It looks so sad, yet I can't bring myself to throw it out.

A couple of years ago, I cut a couple of branches from this plant and gave them to my sister. Those branches have turned into a full-grown beauty mine once was! I asked that she do the same for me, so I can have a replacement – it’s a circle of life, in a way…

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Wearables – More Lampwork, Frame Beads and Wire-Wrapping!

Last Friday, I said I wasn’t going to have any new items to show off today because I had finals this week. Well, that turned out to not be the case, because I made – are you ready? – 11 new pieces since then! I swear, as soon as I have all this pressure to study, I turn around and make jewelry – lots of it! No worries, though; I am pleased to report that finals went well for me, and now I get a break for a little while.

Want to see my latest beauties?

The Bluest Ocean Bracelet - Blue and White Lampwork Beads, Sterling Silver and Snow Quartz Bracelet: This bracelet took its sweet time coming to life. I got these incredible handmade lampwork beads from the very talented Kara of idzyne early December and tried to pair them with something a number of times. NOTHING looked good! Then I ordered these fantastic Bali sterling silver beads for another project, and when they showed up, I knew they would look incredible with the lampwork beads. Doesn’t it look like they were meant for each other?

I am really liking wire-wrapping! It’s not a break-through technique or anything, but I’m experimenting more and more with it and love the results. Lady in Red Earrings - Deep Red Swarovski Drop and Sterling Silver Earrings and Purple Princess Earrings - Purple Swarovski Drop Crystal and Flower Vermeil Earrings are each stunning in their own way.

Last but not least, I procured a hefty supply of my favorite components – frame beads! They are the most treasured possession in my supply stash right now. I hoard them and use them sparingly. :)

When the last frame bead piece sold the other week, I knew it was time to temporarily suspend the rationing and use some up! I made these adorable Rain Drop Earrings - Sterling Silver Frame Beads and Blue/Aqua Pearl Earrings. They are the simplest design I have ever created using frame beads, and they turned out so very cute.

That’s it for this Friday – you know where to find the other eight pieces.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Edibles – Guacamole

As you may have guessed, avocado is possibly my favorite fruit (technically speaking – I blogged about it a while back), and I can never get sick of this homemade guacamole recipe I made up by getting a few ideas here and there. I introduced Husband to avocadoes when we were dating (of course, he knew what it was, but never thought of putting it on sandwiches, wraps and salads, like I did – now he is ready to put it on anything and everything!). After I made guacamole for him once, every time I would visit him, he’d have three or four avocadoes sitting on the table. I quickly caught on that he had bought them so that I could make him some guacamole. Then, when we were visiting his family, he had bought the ingredients so that I could make it while we were there. One evening, I made it, put it on the table, and two minutes later he, his brother and his father surrounded the bowl and didn’t even look up or talk until there was nothing left. His brother said, “That made me take a break from my beer!” If you know anything about my brother-in-law, he rarely lets anything come between him and his beer!

Now that I hyped it up enough, you will have to let me know if it lives up to your expectations! :)

3 avocados
1 fresh tomato, chopped
¼ bell pepper, cubed small
Green onions (2-3 stalks), chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 fresh lime or lemon (if you have a citrus juicer, use the pulp as well. Adjust the amount of juice up or down based on how much you like citrus flavor.)
2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
1-2 jalapeno peppers, chopped in thin rings (canned or fresh; if you go with fresh ones, use the seeds too – that’s where all the heat is!)
2 table spoons sour cream
chili powder, cayenne pepper powder and salt and pepper to taste

Cut avocados in half; remove the pits and scoop out the flesh; save the skin if desired and use them later for serving (see below). Combine the flesh of avocados, salt, pepper and citrus juice (and pulp, if applicable) in a bowl and use a fork to blend together.

Add the rest of the ingredients; mix gently but thoroughly. Add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve with tortilla chips or soft flour tortillas. As shown in the picture, I saved the avocado skinsand used them as little bowls – it’s a cute way to serve guacamole at a house party!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday Multi-Usables – Pillow Cases

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet.

Here is a great way to make use of your pillow cases while they sit in your linen closet waiting for their turn! To store your sheets sets together, use one of the pillow cases to put the rest of the set in it. Your closet will look neater, too!

I tested it out, and it works great! Here are the before and after pictures.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wanted: more jaC Jewelry!

Do you ever feel like you're gifting the same thing over and over to your friends? As I learned the other day, too much jaC Jewelry is a good thing!

I have a very close and loyal friend. We met almost two years ago and clicked instantly – we discovered that our backgrounds are very similar and we have a lot in common. She is full of personality, and I can tell what she is thinking by the look on her face, even if she doesn’t say it. That, however, doesn’t happen very often – she speaks her mind; it is very much the case of what you see is what you get, and I love that about her!

Back when we first met, she mentioned that she loved the jewelry I wore. I told her that I made it and sent her a link to my website; she wrote back and said that she had a hard time picking her favorite, but she had to have a cranberry keshi and white Biwa stick pearl necklace. It was my absolute favorite – if you don’t already know, I am obsessed with keshi and Biwa stick pearls, and this necklace was my first design using them! I almost didn’t want to sell it (I had it up on my website as an example), but when she asked, I couldn’t refuse her. She wore it daily for the next month!

Ever since then, I have given her jaC Jewelry for her Birthday and a few more holidays, and she had also bought a few pieces. She said that she loved getting my jewelry as presents because I made it especially for her. Creating a design I knew she would love was easy – I had gotten to know her taste pretty well, and every time the pieces came out even better than I had imagined.

Well, this time for her Birthday, I was about to make her a necklace, but was hesitant to give her any more of my jewelry – she already has so much! I went out and searched for the perfect present for her, and was excited when I found what I thought she would love.

I gave her the present the other day, and as I watched her unwrap it, she smiled and said: “Thank you – I really like this! But I thought it was going to be something you made.” Just like that – straight up, no frills. She says what she thinks. She trusts that I will understand, no matter what she has to say.

Although she was a little disappointed that she didn’t get any more jaC Jewelry, I know exactly what to give her in another two months to celebrate a major milestone in her life! Next time I will definitely go with my instinct. :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

jaC Procures on Etsy – Reversible Hobo Bag

I tend to buy a few wardrobe basics and accessorize them with jewelry, purses and shoes. Of course, I’ve got lots of jewelry to choose from; I’ve also got a good number of shoes. Most of my purses, however, are classic leather since I think of my work outfits when I buy them.

A while back, I bought a funky fabric bag that’s too much for office wear, but is great for the rest of the time. Ever since then, I’ve been on the lookout for another fabric bag to spice up my non-work outfits. I really wanted another bag with an edgy design, but never found just what I wanted.

Then, one day, I saw a bag by retrofied on Etsy’s front page. I really liked the styles, especially these beautiful large reversible hobo bags. I contacted Rebecca, the very talented designer and seamstress of these fun bags, to see if I could choose my own fabrics and have her make a custom bag for me. After looking at hundreds of listings, I finally came up with the two Alexander Henry patterns that I loved – Factory Girl (left) and Mirabelle in Slate (right).

The bag arrived last week, and I’m in love with this stylish addition to my wardrobe! When I’m in the mood for edgy, I turn it to the Factory Girl side. Yes, the Girl is borderline creepy, but the funky factor wins! When I am after a softer look, I turn it to the Mirabelle side, and it instantly transforms into romantic and sweet. It’s The Jekyll and Hyde of bags. :)

The bag is practically weightless and roomy, which means I can fill it to the top and not worry about it being too heavy. Last but not least, the colors are so versatile – both sides go great with so many colors, and match a lot of my jewelry (for example, this labradorite and silver bracelet I am wearing in the picture – you can barely see it, but it's similar to this one). Husband was so focused on capturing the bag that he didn’t get my face :). Can’t wait to use it!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Unreasonables - A Funny Thing Happened to Us at Sam’s Club

I always do what makes sense and expect people to apply a reasonableness test in situations when the rules just don’t work. A very peculiar incident gave me an idea for a section called Sunday Unreasonables. (Don't worry - Sunday Winnables, which I agree are way more fun, will still take place on select Sundays!)

A couple of weeks ago, Husband bought raw salmon at Sam’s Club. He brought it home right away, and we opened the package to cook it. The problem was it smelled awful! This wasn’t the first time we were to cook salmon – we cook all kinds of fresh fish all the time. It was clear that it had gone bad, so we threw it away.

Yesterday, we went back to Sam’s, and I brought the receipt with me to ask for a refund of nearly $15 that we paid for the fish. The customer service professional said:

“I’ll refund it to you this time, but next time, you need to bring the merchandise back.”
“Really? You want us to bring the smelly fish back?”
“You can freeze it if you want, but we do need to see it to give you a refund.”

Seriously? Freeze the smelly fish and bring it back? Bizarro, wouldn’t you say? Hypothetically speaking, if I were to keep a bad piece of fish, I certainly wouldn’t let this fish sit in my fridge for a week or two – I would freeze it (not that I would be thrilled about having it in the freezer). Then, say, I brought the frozen fish to Sam’s Club as they requested. What would they have done – waited for it to defrost and then checked to ensure it really was bad? Somehow this course of action just doesn’t pass the reasonableness test. What do you think?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to Lose Weight in an Hour

I finally got a much-needed haircut last week. Then, the other day, a male acquaintance asked:

“Did you lose weight?”
“You look like you did.”
“I got a haircut…”
“Maybe it’s the haircut. You look like you lost weight.”

Well, if that is the case, then that’s the best haircut I’ve ever gotten, because I’ve never gotten such a reaction before! The funny part is, I actually gained some (my jeans don’t lie).

In this picture, Brittany Daniel’s haircut resembles my new style pretty closely, except mine is about an inch shorter.

The con? It’s a little shorter than I had in mind (I was all set to grow out my hair again).

The pros?

  1. It’ll grow back soon, so no big deal that it’s too short.
  2. It’s a totally new style for me, and I love the edginess and a slight messiness to it!
  3. This is the only haircut I’ve ever had that does not require extensive styling to look good (I used to ask for haircuts that look good without much work all the time, but they never turned out as such, so I stopped asking!). It takes about five minutes to blow-dry it, use a round brush on a couple of layers at the top and run a little bit of styling product through my hair – done! I love it.
  4. The best one yet... It makes men think I lost weight!

Ladies, if you want a man to think you lost weight, get a haircut! Did you have any idea it was THAT easy?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Wearables – New Pieces in Green and Black!

You asked for more greens and blacks, and I have some pieces in those colors for you! As promised, here they are:

Green Lover with a Twist Necklace - Green Kambaba Jasper and Hammered Sterling Silver Bead Necklace. I love the blend of classic and modern elements in this necklace! The hammered bead centerpiece is one of my all-time favorites, and I only have a couple of them left (I got all the supplier had because I love them so much). Rationing these is really tough! The multiple shades of green kambaba jasper make this pretty necklace versatile and great year-round!

Elegance Necklace - Faceted Black Onyx and Sterling Silver Necklace with Fireworks Jasper Pendant. Sometimes I put two components next to each other and think, “These were meant for each other!” This is certainly the case with Elegance necklace. The superb faceted black onyx coordinates perfectly with a gorgeous fireworks pendant (what a cool name – I wonder who gets to name stones? I want that job!). This piece will go with just about every outfit. One of my customers says that you can never have too much black!

Pine Forest Break-Free Necklace - African Green Opal and Gold-Filled Chain Necklace. This evergreen beauty is made with one of my favorite stones; my pictures don’t do justice to it – the beads are so much prettier in person, and go perfectly with a gold-filled chain. What I love about this longer design is that it is clasp-free!

That’s it for this Friday; if you've got any more requests or suggestions as to what you'd like to see me make next, please don't hesitate to let me know! Next week is finals week for me, and I’m not sure I will get to make any new pieces, but I’ve already got an idea to share something fun with you next Friday!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Edibles – Chicken with Mushroom Madeira Sauce, Sautéed Asparagus and Green Onion and Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

I once had chicken with mushroom Madeira sauce at Cheesecake Factory, thought it was pretty tasty and decided to give it a try. When I finally got around to locating a recipe and making it, it turned out just amazing – except that it didn’t taste anything like the one at the restaurant! Nonetheless, I am thankful to Cheesecake Factory, as this is one of the most delicious dishes I’ve ever made.

Instead of just the sauce recipe, I thought I would share with you an entire meal, so you don’t have to figure out what sides to make. The first time I cooked it was the day before Husband left for his first deployment. It was SO good that he requested the same meal the day he got back! I have made it a few more times since then for special occasions, the most recent being this weekend for Valentines Day! It turns out consistently outstanding every time. As you will notice from the picture, I decided to skip the asparagus this time. This recipe does have a lot of steps, but trust me – it’s well worth it. It has become my family’s favorite!

The meal makes 4 servings.

Mushroom Madeira Wine Sauce

5 tablespoons butter
1-1.5 lb mixed fresh wild mushrooms (shitake, porcini, oyster) (if you cannot find all of these, use any combination of the ones you can find; if no wild mushrooms are available, use baby bella)
2 shallots
2 fresh garlic cloves
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 bay leaf
2 teaspoons tomato paste
250 ml Madeira wine (This can be a little hard to find. The first bottle I got was at Whole Foods. There was a $5 version and a $15 version. I recommend going with the more expensive one; it will make the sauce taste better, and you can use it multiple times. Madeira wine is a dessert wine that is fully oxidized, which means you can keep it in the fridge as long as you want - it won’t turn into vinegar once you open it!)
300 ml light vegetable broth
300 ml heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarsely grated mixed pepper
1.5 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch)
8 tablespoons water

Melt the butter in a pan and add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms for 5 minutes.Chop the shallot coarsely. Cook the shallot, garlic, thyme, bay and pepper in the broth unlidded for 10 minutes. Strain and discard the vegetables. Return broth to pan and add the wine, tomato paste and mushrooms. Continue to cook for 5 minutes before adding the cream. Continue to gently simmer until a little thickened. Adjust to taste, adding a little salt or more pepper.Stir the water into the cornflour to make a paste. Whisk into the sauce and cook gently until thickened.

Chicken (Grilled or Baked)

4 chicken breasts (or as many as desired for 4 servings)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Season the chicken with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake or grill until ready.

Sautéed Garlic Asparagus

1.5 tablespoons butter
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch fresh asparagus
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped or crushed
salt and pepper

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and asparagus spears; add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until asparagus is tender, stirring occasionally.

Mashed Potatoes with Green Onions and Parmesan Cheese

4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large garlic clove
0.5 cups half and half (or heavy cream)
6 tablespoons butter
2 green onion stalks, finely chopped
1.5 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes and garlic clove until potatoes are tender. Drain well and mash in a large bowl. Blend in half and half (or heavy cream) and 3 tablespoons butter.

Sautee the green onions in the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter until the onions are wilted. Add sautéed onions and Parmesan to the potatoes and blend gently. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350F, transfer mixture to a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday Multi-Usables – Photo Album / Recipe Book

On Wednesdays, I will post items that have multiple applications that you may not have thought of! If you have other applications, feel free to share them with everyone.

With the recent shift from film to digital photography and increasing use of online picture albums such as Flickr and Shutterfly, I find myself printing fewer and fewer pictures. When it comes to cooking, I use the internet more and more frequently to search and print recipes. The trouble is, once I find a dish I like, I toss the printed recipe, don’t bookmark the source website, and it takes me forever to locate it online again.

Finally, I found a perfect solution! If you have an old photo album with those sticky pages sitting around without much use, you can turn it into a collection of your favorite recipes! After you’ve cooked a new dish you like, simply place the printed recipe into the album. You’ll save paper and won’t spend valuable time the next time you’re ready to cook the dish!

These pages are great, because they are easy to organize and rearrange (such albums usually come as three-ring binders), and it’s so easy to take out the page you need and use it while cooking and put it back when finished – no need to drag the entire book into the kitchen! Also, the sticky transparent layers will protect your recipe from grease and other miscellaneous cooking debris. It's a win-win situation! I started one of these books in January and love it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Business Cards!

Not too long ago, I changed my e-mail address and personal website URL to make them more consistent with my Etsy shop name. While designing new cards, I've held off on sending business cards with my orders.

My new business cards arrived today, and I love how they turned out! They match my beautiful personalized cards and earring cards, thanks to Alison Kelley, who spent quite a bit of time to make the business cards look the same! Alison, you are the best!!!
Can't wait to send them out with my orders!

Tuesday Irreplaceables – Kiehl’s Lip Balm

I was getting my makeup done for our engagement pictures (the session was also a dry run for the wedding) when the makeup artist said to me: “Your lips are so chapped! Get yourself some lip balm, sweetie.” I knew they were, but didn’t decide to do something about it until she mentioned it. Having chapped lips on my wedding day would be simply uncute!

I remembered that a friend mentioned Kiehl’s lip balm, so I went to the mall in search of it. There it was at Nordstrom! At first, I thought paying $6.50 for a tube of lip balm was a bit ridiculous, but I did it anyway. If you think about it, that’s two Starbucks lattes – I don’t often get coffee there, but still.

Well, after nearly two years, I can tell you that it’s worth every penny! The Lip Balm #1 tube lasts forever, and does wonders to chapped lips. I am not speaking from just my own experience, either. When Husband came out of emergency appendicitis surgery, his lips were chapped. They looked very, very bad. I took out my Kiehl’s balm, put some on his lips, and it fixed it with one application! I know it sounds too good to be true, but it worked.

Now this little tube is a must in my purse; I don’t go anywhere without it! I also like to put a thin layer over lipstick, which adds a little bit of shine!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Carrie Bradshaw is Back…

…and she’s as fabulous as ever in Sex and the City: the movie!

I have been dying to see this movie ever since it came out. Considering I spent the summer in NYC, I really have no excuse, but we did try to go once, and it was no longer playing. Husband promised me we’d watch it one day when the DVD comes out.

On Saturday, I was so excited when he gave me the DVD as a Valentines Day present! We watched it that afternoon, and it was as fantastic as I had anticipated.

If you are a fan of Sex and the City and haven’t seen it yet, hurry – it’s a must! If you don’t want to rent or buy the DVD, it is available on demand, either on TV or computer. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, I will not spoil the plot, but I promise you’ll love it!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hat and Scarf for Husband

Poor Husband has been waiting forever for a hat and scarf. I promised to crochet them for him as a Christmas present, and the the first attempt at a hat went awry. Finally, I’ve finished both a hat that fits and a matching scarf!

He wanted the scarf asymmetrical – I think I’m rubbing off on him! Here they are.

Crocheting is extremely relaxing, and if you have sufficient light in your living room, you can do it in the evening while watching TV. That's what I did when I made quite a few afghans a few years ago when I decided I was going to learn how to crochet. My first crocheted piece was an enormous afghan (my advice: if you're thinking of learning, start with something simple, e.g. a scarf); then I slowly turned to scarves, and now hats! I'll bet I can figure out how to make mittens, too!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday Receivables – Asymmetrical Printed Cotton Coat

One of my best finds at Marshalls was a Cole Haan baby blue coat. I found it one day when I wasn’t really looking for anything particular, and it has been one of my favorite impromptu purchases yet! Not only was the coat magnificent – the price was also unbelievable. I still receive compliments on it, but I think after six years of wear and tear, it’s time for its retirement. It will not be easy, but it needs to be done.

This funky black and white printed coat would be a wonderful replacement! I especially like it because it has an asymmetrical closure, and if you know anything about me, you know that I love all things asymmetrical. I also love the colors and the floral pattern – it will go with just about every color!

What are the chances that Marshalls will have one of these?!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Wearables – Facets-and-jaC Attack!

If you are wondering what I’ve been up to this week – I’ve been busy creating! I just realized that four out of five new pieces I made this week were made with faceted beads. I still have three more necklaces planned from… you guessed it, more facets! You have a wide variety of colors and shapes to choose from; let me highlight just a few, and feel free to visit my shop for more designs!

Wired Elegance in Black Earrings - Faceted Black Onyx and Sterling Silver Earrings. When I wire-wrapped my first bead, it was disastrous. I tried again and again, complained to both Stacy and Alison (thank you for listening!), then tried some more, and finally got the hang of it. That was a few months ago. When I got these stunning faceted black onyx marquise stones, I knew I had to wire-wrap them for an elegant, yet chic look! I am quite pleased with the results – these earrings came out stellar, if I may say so myself. :)

Smoky Skies Necklace - Faceted Smoky Quartz and Crystal Asymmetrical Necklace. I love all things asymmetrical, and when I saw these fantastic 14 mm smoky quartz beads, I knew I wanted to combine them with another faceted stone for an offbeat look. Here is the result – it came out even better than I envisioned! I’ve got two more similar necklaces planned in 12 mm beads.

Nature's Touch Necklace - Red Jasper and Sterling Silver Necklace with Fossil Coral Pendant. Fossil coral is one of my absolute favorite stones. It is so uniquely beautiful and rare to find. What I love about this necklace is the contrast between the 6 mm delicate red jasper faceted beads and the bold pendant. They are so distinct, yet they coordinate perfectly, as if they were made for each other!

I’ve got a few more designs planned this week – check back next Friday for some more jaC Jewelry Wearables!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday Edibles – Spicy Red Lentil and Chicken Chili

I adopted this wonderful recipe from Wegmans (if you’ve never heard of Wegmans, check back - it deserves a post of its own, and I’ve got one planned!). The original recipe is vegetarian; I’ve added chicken to it, but it’s optional.

This soup is perfect for the winter, and I love to serve it with a wrap or sandwich for lunch or dinner.

Ingredients (makes 7 cups)

1 cup red lentils
1 boneless skinless chicken breast and 4 cups broth resulting from cooking the chicken
4 cups + 2 tbsp water, divided2 tbsp butter1/2 cup onion, peeled, 1/4-inch dice1/4 cup (about 1 stalk) celery, trimmed, 1/4-inch dice2 tbsp fresh garlic, chopped1 medium (about 1/2 lb) tomato, cored, 1/2-inch dice (1 cup)1 tbsp Tabasco sauce1/8 tsp turmeric1/8 tsp cumin1/8 tsp cayenne pepper1 tsp sea salt1/2 tsp black pepper1/8 tsp chili powder2 tbsp cornstarch1/4 cup finely diced sweet green pepperSalt to taste


1. Boil the chicken breast in 4 cups of water until chicken is cooked. Cool the chicken and cube it. Set chicken aside and save the broth.

2. Bring lentils and 2 cups water to boil on HIGH; turn off heat. Remove half the lentils and liquid; place in food processor or blender and puree, about 1 min.

3. Melt butter in stockpot on MEDIUM-LOW. Add onions; cook, stirring, about 2 min, until soft but not browned. Add celery and garlic; cook, stirring, 5 min, until soft but not browned. Add tomato; cook 5 min.

4. Add the 4 cups of saved chicken broth, Tabasco, turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper, sea salt, black pepper, and chili powder. Bring to simmer.

5. Add reserved whole and pureed lentils plus liquid, and cubed chicken breast. Cook about 15 min, until lentils are tender.

6. Combine cornstarch and remaining 2 Tbsp water in small bowl. Bring soup to boil; add cornstarch/water mixture. Stir 30 seconds to thicken slightly. Turn off heat; add green peppers. Season to taste with salt.

Tip: For a milder flavor, just use less Tabasco sauce. Enjoy it on a cold winter day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How to Make A Pompom - Tutorial

You remember my failed attempt at making a hat from last week, don’t you? Well, the good news is that I finally finished my very first hat – the one that fits Husband just right. An even better news is that I also made him a matching scarf, as originally planned – and he loves them both. The bad news is that it’s now 70 degrees outside! Don’t get me wrong – I love the warm weather in the middle of February, but it renders both the hat and the scarf unnecessary. OK, this really is not what this post is about!

One morning last week, Husband was excited to see his hat almost finished and asked, “Are you going to make the fluffy ball now?” It took me a minute to process and realize that he was talking about a pompom. I must admit that I’m gradually getting pretty good at deciphering his language – at first, it took me a while to realize that he was talking about swans, whom he referred to as “those white birds with long necks”. I digress again… I went ahead and made the pompom, and documented the process. If you ever need/want to make a pompom, here is how! It’s very easy and fun to make.

1. Cut two identical circles from paper. Light cardboard works well – it’s sturdy enough, and easy to cut. Then, cut a small circle in the center. The wider the diameter of the circle, the bigger your pompom will be. As you can see, I didn’t do a very good job of cutting perfect circles, but if you use a geo compass, it’ll be a LOT easier!

2. Place one circle on top of another. Holding both circles, start wrapping yarn around them.

3. You can use as many or as few colors you as like. As you can see in the second picture, I switched from blue to white.

4. Keep going until you have a good amount of yarn wrapped around the circle. The more yarn, the fuller or denser the pompom will be.

5. Cut yarn all the way around along the outer edges of the cardboard.

6. Place a piece of string between the two layers of cardboard, and wrap it around until both ends meet. Tie the string in two tight knots (I like to tie more than one knot to ensure the first one doesn’t come apart).

7. Carefully remove the two pieces of cardboard. Voila - you just finished a pompom!

Pictures of the hat and scarf are coming soon!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why Do Dogs Bark? Contest Winner

Thanks to everyone who participated in Why Do Dogs Bark? contest! The winner is Michelle!

She chose the Raspberries in the Snow Earrings - White Biwa Stick and Raspberry Pearls and Sterling Silver Frame Beads Earrings earrings as her prize.

They were a little more than $16, but she had her heart set on them, so we decided that she'd pay me the difference. :)

Check back for more fun contests!

Tuesday Irreplaceables – A Really Cool Garlic Peeler!

If you’re anything like me, you’ll really appreciate this simple gadget that peels garlic amazingly well! We use fresh garlic daily in just about every kind of meat or fish dish and soups. I love the flavor it gives, and I also know that it’s excellent for your health.

I first encountered these peelers overseas, when my aunt bought one for my mom as a present. I couldn’t believe how simple it was – a piece of soft rubber! I finally procured one for myself last month, and both Husband and I love it. It is remarkably easy to use, and produces great results!

If you’re wondering what exactly you’re supposed to do with it, check out these directions from Chefs website:

Slip a clove of garlic inside this ridged rubber cylinder, then rub to remove
the skin quickly and easily. Rinses clean. Dishwasher-safe.
You can also read the reviews and purchase this neat tool at Chefs for $5.99. Although I didn’t look much elsewhere, these may be available at Bad, Beth and Beyond and other home goods stores!

Monday, February 9, 2009

jaC Procures on Etsy – Sparkly Pink Kitty Mirror

What do you do when you forget a dear friend’s Birthday? The only sensible thing to do is to get her a present you know she’ll love and beg her to forgive you.

In search of that perfect present, I headed to Etsy, and there it was: this adorable Pink Kitty Swarovski Crystal Rhinestone Compact Mirror from jeweltrinkets!

It arrived over the weekend, and I am in love with this cute sparkly creation. My friend loves pink, Hello Kitty (note: this product is not associated with Sanrio), and Swarovski crystals, so this mirror is perfect on all these accounts, not to mention practical!

I know that my friend is going to love it! Cross your fingers that she forgives me…

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hapiness Earrings Giveaway Winner!

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in Sunday Winnables - Happiness Earrings giveaway! The winner is Holly!

Check back for more giveaways to be posted on select Sundays. For additional giveaways on other blogs, check out this schedule.

A Failed Hat = A Neck Warmer

Husband asked to make him a hat and scarf for Christmas. We went and picked out yarn, bought a book with the design he wanted, and I got started. I made the cap and was about to make the crown, but when he tried on the cap, it was WAY too big on him!
I was back to square one. I was about to undo the cap and re-use the yarn, when he said: “Wait, are you going to destroy the cap?!” Then he took it from me, pulled it over his head and onto his neck, and said: “This can be a neck warmer!”

So, he made out well – instead of a two-piece set, he’s got all three! Here he is, modeling his new neck warmer for everyone.

Pictures of the hat and scarf are coming soon!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday Receivables – Boots!

I love boots. Wearing them makes me feel cozy on cold winter days. I especially love tall boots that you can wear with skinny jeans, not only because they look adorable but also because most jeans are too long for me, but if I tuck them into tall boots, nobody will know. I have a number of boots (I’m afraid to count), but here are two pairs that I wouldn’t mind adding to my wardrobe (even though there is no room for any more right now).

Cole Haan Air Lucie Tall boots – I found these on Zappos, and it was love at first sight. Yes, these red patent leather beauties are pricey even on sale, but if I keep my eye out for them at DSW, I may get lucky! I’ve gotten unbelievable deals at that store. The trick is to go there and not expect to find any cute/good/cheap footwear or be looking for anything in particular. When I m on a mission, I will find zilch! When, however, I walk into that store just to pass time, all of a sudden I find a pair that has been discounted 80%, and it’s the only one in my size.

Then there are these BCBGirls Petler boots, in Driftwood Rich Coco color (translation: brown). I spotted these on Zappos as well. They look so comfortable, albeit cost about three times more than what I’d like to pay for them. Wish me luck – maybe I’ll see these in DSW, waiting for me in the clearance section in the back of the store!

P.S. A quick reminder that today is the last day to enter the Hapiness Earrings giveaway! Hurry if you haven't yet entered!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Wearables – Lampwork Beads and More Pearls!

Just in time for the weekend, I added two fantastic pieces to my Etsy shop! The inspiration for them was the comments everyone left in the Sunday Winnables post (I am going to get to all of your suggestions, I promise!). Here they are:

Cherry Vanilla Necklace - Sterling Silver Chain Necklace with Burgundy and Cream Handmade Lampwork Pendant: this versatile, yet striking necklace looks good enough to eat! I am in love with these lampwork beads, and am going to buy more from their creator, beadgoodies, as soon as I can!

Little Mermaid Earrings - White and Blue Peacock Pearl and Sterling Silver Earrings: these little earrings are so adorable! I just love the teeny peacock pearl and round white pearl combo. These will look so great with either a dress or jeans.

There are a few more new pieces in my Etsy shop – check them out!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thursday Edibles – Chili

This recipe is quick, easy and so delicious! It came from my mother-in-law; whenever she makes it, I have to have at least two servings! I love this soup especially in the winter.

1-2 lbs ground chuck
1 chopped onion
2 or 3 14.4 oz cans Diced Chili Ready Tomatoes (or any other canned tomatoes – crushed and part-diced also work. If using 1 lb of ground beef, then will only need about 1.5 cans tomatoes. If 1.5 lbs, then 2 cans; if 2 pounds, then 3 cans. The more tomatoes, the thinner the chili will be.)
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
3 table spoons (add to taste) chili powder
1 15 oz can Pork and Beans (Van Camps or Bush brand, or any other brand you prefer. If you use 2 lbs. ground beef, may need 2 cans. You can use 2 cups of dry beans instead of canned beans, as long as you remember to soak them 24 hours before making the chili!)

Brown ground beef with onions until ground beef is done. Break up as it cooks so as not to get chunks of beef. Drain if lots of grease. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and chili powder. Bring to boil and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Taste and add more chili powder if needed. Add pork and beans and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Stir and serve with shredded cheese!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Tribute to the World’s Greatest Cat

Meet Mika – the best kitty to ever live. My mom got her for us when I was 10, and it was one of the most memorable days in my life. Mika did not have a name for a while, because we were inexperienced with pets and weren’t sure if she was a girl or a boy. When we finally figured out she was a girl cat, we named her Mika.

She was an extraordinary and mischievous kitty. At just a few months old, when nobody was home, she somehow managed to fall out of a window that was on the 6th floor of our apartment building (perhaps chasing after a bird?). We were lucky to find her, brought her back home and never left windows open wide enough for her to repeat the trip. She fully recovered and lived the rest of her life without major incidents.

She was full of personality, liked to chase large dogs outside and never let you forget who was in charge in our house. She liked things her way, and we always gave in. She quickly became a member of our family, and even my mom, who showed no visible signs of affection and pretended to not care much for Mika, secretly loved her to death.

Eventually, Mika’s age got the best of her; she barely ate or moved, sleeping all day on the couch. A year ago this month, at almost 17 years old, Mika was put to sleep. I miss her so much and think of her every day. She was and always will be the World’s Greatest Cat.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday Irreplaceables – Chocolate

Need I say more? Here are my three absolute favorites:

1. Almond in the Coconut from Trader Joe’s – Crunchy almonds and a creamy coconut center enrobed in milk chocolate. Delicious (if not too nutritious)! A recent discovery for me, and my mom-approved! Not for kids - for herself, that is. :) As you can see, the container is half-full – picture time couldn’t come fast enough for me!

2. Dark Chocolate Roasted Pistachio Toffee, also from Trader Joe’s – simply fantastic (but beware – if you get carried away with these, you can easily break a tooth. Now that I warned you, go ahead, try these!). This container is also half-full, and I’m again the culprit.

3. Bounty (manufactured by Mars Inc) – Moist tender coconut covered in thick milk chocolate. This one is an old favorite of mine! If you live in the U.S., your prospects of sampling this delicious goodness are not great: it is only sold in limited locations, and the only place I have been able to find it is World Market, and even there you have to play detective to find it amid hundreds of other chocolates. Actually, this is not such a bad thing – the less people buy it, the more there is for me! If you live in Canada, Europe, Australia, you can enjoy ample amounts of Bounty. I can’t speak to the rest of the cities, but when I was in London a few years ago, I was delighted to find Bounty ice cream!