Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Makes a House a Home

Read the most beautifully written and very inspiring post on one of my favorite blog Centsational Girl. It actually woke me up, and dragged me back to reality. I, like lots of other women, love those design magazines, and constantly search for interior design inspirations for our home. We try to find our own style while following 'design' trends. Those designer rooms do look amazing on the magazines, perfectly arranged, photographed, and printed. I always thought that is what a home should be like. It never occurred to me once that they are too perfect, not "lived in". In another word, they are just NOT a HOME! I cannot deny that some people might live that way, and to them that's home. But those are not my home! And they can never be! Why get angry when DH messes up the perfectly folded cloth pile I just made, or always leaves his shoes or coat in the wrong place, while he's working so hard to take care of the family? True, I have to clean up some of his mess, but I also depends on him a lot, both physically and mentally. I love the way one of the comment put it, home is "perfect….perfectly imperfect!" Why should I always get angry on little things, and overlook the fact that I have a loving husband (sometime not so lovely, sorry honey! =) ) and a beautiful and healthy baby, a very supporting family, and lots of wonderful friends. I should change my way of looking at things. Why didn't I thought about it this way, "the sink is full of dishes because it means my children and husband had a healthy dinner last night and breakfast this morning" or "beds are unmade cause it means my family had somewhere warm and dry to sleep last night"? Chasing perfection actually chased away lots of family fun and sweet moments, and may also left some scars in our hearts. What's it for, perfectly arranged pillows on the sofa? I am truely thankful for this post, it reminded me of all the blessings in my life and in my home

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Life Without Internet

My network connection somehow got disconnected at work last night. So, this morning when I came to work, I cannot check email. I thought my firefox crashed, which happened before, so of course - restart! Then I cannot log back into the network. Called help desk, and was told they will put me on high priority list. Then I waited for 3 hours! During that time, I felt somewhat helpless. I can work on my computer locally for short time, but I really need to connect to the server to test and I have a report to finish, which need lots of database queries. I think the worst part was not being able to check email. So I cannot help but wonder, what our life was like before the Internet? We were quite happy, less information available, but less stress too. Nowadays, it feels like our life depends on it, we work online, get education online, manage our finance online, even date online. But the most important part, I think, is the instant connection with our family and friends. I felt miserable just 3 short hours without Internet. Cannot imagine how I will handle life if it's permanently gone.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Felt Fantastic!

Recently I have been thinking about making my baby girl some nice handmade toys, so did a lot of research online. Of course, there are lots of fabric ones that are very nice. I can sew a little bit, so those are not too surprising to me. But then, I found something very exciting, a whole world of softies and other items made with felt. You thought I was going to talk about feelings, huh? Got you!

Here are some wonderful pieces I found on flickr, and some of them are sold on Etsy as well.

The amazing poshplushies is creating a fantasy world with felt, buttons, and thread. It sounds so simple and blah, but everything she made is far from that, is MAGICAL! I felt like Alice in Wonderland. You can purchase the tutorials from her etsy shop, and make these little magic tree/mashroom houses of your own.

The hanging ornaments created by kirakirahoshi are so adorable. All her girls are so sweet, and unique. She also makes paper dolls, and cards. Her etsy shop is temporarily closed now, but you should bookmark it and check back later.

Look at this cute mashroom keychain from L♥valizious. How adorable is that? She also makes beautiful outfits for Blythe dolls. Check out her creations at her etsy shop.

How about introducing your child to healthy diet by letting them play with felt vegetable instead of those plastic toys? I bet your little ones will feel hungry when they see these from welshkaren. Don't know whether she sells them or not, you just have to ask her that.

This little guy is just too cute! It's from mkjn0206. The colors are so soft, make you just want to hug it.

Aren't this little girl adorable? Her name is Matilde, and she is made by Silva Leite. She also has a lovely friend, Emily. And also lots of yummy cookies, cakes and veggies.

There are just so many wonderful pieces and very creative people on flickr, just go and check it out for yourself. I am soooo in love with flickr!

Monday, January 18, 2010

For All Soymilk Lovers - Part two

Today's recipe is for "Lily Petal, Lotus Seed, Green Bean Drink". It has calming and anti-aging effects, and great for your brain. It's a excellent alternative for soymilk.

Tiger Lily Petal 10g
Lotus Seed 10g
Dried Snow Fungus 10g
Dried Green Bean 40g (not the green bean you buy from grocery store as vegetable)
Crystal Sugar some

1. Soak tiger lily petal, lotus seed and snow fungus in hot water until soft. Tear snow fungus to smaller pieces.
2. Soak green bean 6 - 16 hours.
3. Add all ingredients into soymilk machine, and press "Start".
4. About 15 minutes later, when it's done, pour over filter.

See other great soymilk recipes at part one.

Friday, January 15, 2010

For All Soymilk Lovers - part one

Most of free Chinese newspaper have one page of good recipes every week. The most recent one is all about soymilk and alternatives. I love soymilk, and make my own at home using my JuYang soymilk machine. So, naturally I want to try them all and share them with you guys. I will translate them, try myself, and post them one by one.

Here is the first one - "Red Date, Lotus Seed, Soy Milk".

red Chinese date 15g
lotus seed 15g
soy bean 50g
sugar 50g (optional)

1. Soak soybean 6-16 hours. Soak lotus seeds to bigger and soft. Wash dates, remove the hard cores.
2. Put soybean, lotus seeds, dates into soymilk machine, add water, and follow the instruction just like you are making a regular soymilk.
3. About 15 minutes later, pour over the filter came with the machine.
You got your own freshly cooked, very nuturious soymilk. You can add sugar if you like, but I find it just as good without, and healthier too.

See other great soymilk recipes at Part Two.

Children Folding Chair Before and After

Thrifted a children's folding chair a while back. It's very sturdy, just had some cuts on the seat, and some paint chipped on the frame. Found a small piece of sample fabric with cute design from my fabric stash, that matches the hot pink almost red frame. Totally forgot to take a before picture, here is one I found online.
And here is the after picture. I think mine is much cuter now. What do you think?

While I was searching for the product picture online, noticed a couple of recalls for the red chair (2004) and all the chairs (2005). In the 2004 recall, the problem was because of excessive lead levels in the red paint. In the 2005 recall, the problem was the safety locks. Checked the label on my red chair, doesn't have any of the listed numbers. So, guess my chair was made after 2005. Will look into this deeper. If there could be any problem with this chair, I will definitely not let my girl use it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hmm... Jasmine

(Sorry about the quality of these pictures. I was running out of the house to catch my train.)

These are what I saw and smelled this morning when I came downstairs. My "Belle of India" and "Maid of Orleans" both opened. There were 8 flowers in total. The smell was so very nice and strong. What a wonderful way to start a day! They were not so happy after I took them back in before winter, but com'on, it's New England, they won't survive even one day outside. They lost lots of leaves and branches, due to the low humidity and less sunshine indoor, and I kept forgetting to water them. I felt sorry for ignoring them, but I have to take care of the new baby and myself first. I thought they were going to die. So, I gave them a BIG haircut. They didn't do anything for a while, and then all of a sudden, they are happy again, sent out lots of new growth, and many flower buds as well. I am glad I don't have to throw them away. They remind me of my childhood all the time.

DIY Magnetic Organizer

Saw this one on blog, got so excited, have to share it with you. It's really simple to make your own magnetic organizer, you can go buy a cheap frame as the article suggested, or if you are my kind of people, you can also go thrift a gorgeous frame, and paint it whatever color you like. Anyway here is the tutorial. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

False Alarm

Last night, I was exhausted, so I went to bed really early. Then around 10pm, I was woke up by the smoke alarms. Our house was built 5 years ago, in these newer houses, all alarms are linked together, one of them detect something, all of them go off. It's a good thing, because you will know there is a fire in the basement even if you are in the attic. But it's also troublesome, since you have no idea which one started it, so you have to run up and down the stairs to check. If it's a false alarm, you have to figure out which one to take off so they can all quiet down.

So, back to my last night story. It turned out to be a false alarm. Our nanny accidently turned the humidifier, which is in the baby nursery, up to 65%. When DH opened the nursery door, it was so steamy, like a sauna inside. He finally turned that one off after a couple of minutes checking around the house. Our poor baby girl got so scared, she forgot to cry during this whole ordeal. Half minute after the alarms turned off, she started screaming. Poor thing, must be terrified. We had to hold her, walk her, talk and sing to her, trying to calm her down. Finally I had to turn on the faucet. It took us 45 minutes to help her relax. So much for going to bed early! I almost got a heart attack.

So first thing this morning, I went online to google about smoke alarm. There are two types of smoke detector, ionization and photoelectric detectors, and they are both effective. In either type of detector, steam or high humidity can lead to condensation on the circuit board and sensor, causing the alarm to sound. I didn't know that before. That's why they don't install detectors in bathrooms! If you are like me, don't know too much about smoke detectors, here is something you can read about. Tonight I am going home to change all the old batteries. You should do the same thing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Making a Bed (International Way)

Read a very interesting post from one of my favorite blog, Chez Larsson this morning, Making a Swedish Bed. If you read all the comments, you will see all different ways to make a bed in different countries. We are Chinese living in US, so the way I do it is a mix of two styles.

Typical Amercian bed has a metal frame, then a boxspring, and then a matress on top. On top of the matress is a matress protecting pad, fitted sheet, flat sheet, blanket or comforter. Oh, almost forgot, there is a bedskirt covering the spring box and metal frame, so you don't see them and whatever mess you have under the bed.

Typical Chinese bed is like a very tall platform bed, with a metal or wooden frame and solid wood boards connected together like one big piece of plywood on top. Then we have several layers of pads, filled with 100% cotton, and normally about 1" thick each. Depends on how firm you want your bed to be, you can use more or less pads. Some people use down pads for a more fluffy feeling, but most of us prefer firmer surface to sleep on, gives you extra energy in the morning. On top of those pads is a flat sheet, tucked in at the headboard and footboard, but overhang on the sides to cover the view of underneath the bed. Normally this sheet is what people see during the day, so, they are pretty in general. Our comforters are also made with cotton fabrics and 100% cotton filling in the middle. Traditionally, people use them as is, but then everytime you want to wash the cover, you will have to take out all the stitches, and wash the two pieces of fabrics, then you need to sew them back together. That is lots of work, so people used to wash them less often. Then don't know since when, maybe 30 years ago, we started using duvet covers. LOVE them! The comforters will be folded, and put at the head of the bed, where you normall put the pillow, then, the pillows on top. To protect our pillow, we put it in a pillowcase, then use something like a washtowel on top, but they normally has more designs. When it's bedtime, each person will open their comforter, put on their side of the bed like a big long envelop, and sleep inside. Yeah, you don't share your comforter with your spouse, so no fighting at night, and since the comforter will be tightly wrapped around you, it's much warmer too.

Since we live in US, sleep on amercian bed, I prefer the the mixed style. Bedskirt covers the boxspring and metal frame, fitted sheet and matress pad protects the matress. On top of the fitted sheet, I have something special, a big square double sided sheet, basically like a huge pillow case sewn shut. It's smaller than the bed, covers 2/3 of the bed surface. Best thing about it is it is easier to twist and turn during sleep, since this smaller sheet thingy just slides on the fitted sheet. This helped tremendously during pregnancy, since I was sweating a lot, turning and getting up a lot. It made the turns much easier for me, with a very heavy belly. Next morning you get up, you don't have to redo the whole fitted sheet, just pull this smaller one flat, much easier. And you don't have to wash your sheet as often. We don't use a flat sheet, since I find it very annoying and never stay still. We use comforter with duvet cover. No bed spread on top. I got to choose different covers for different seasons, or to fit my mood. In the morning, I just pull the comforter flat, equally hanging from both side, fast and easy. Of course, you have to let the matress and comforter air a little bit first, to let the warmth and humidity out. You can do your morning routine during that time.

One of the comment on that original post was complaining she cannot find many duvet covers in US. First of all, there are more stores carring them now. And even if you cannot find one you like, it's super easy to make, if you have access to a sewing machine that is. I will talk about how to make that in another post. And I will also teach you a easier way to put the comforter into the duvet cover by yourself, nice and flat.

OK, there you go, the American, Chinese and my own way of making a bed. Like you have nothing else important to do today than reading this. =)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Beautiful Orchids

Several AK's orchids are blooming in the office. Snapped some pictures to share with you. Enjoy! Check out my flickr set orchid for more. The new pictures are at the end.

Phphiopedilum barbigerum

Phalaenopsis Schilleriana

Den. maiden charlotte

Den. bigibbum

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Best Thrifting Finds

Told you I will show you my best thrifting find ever! Finally took some decent pictures. Here they are.
These two babies for only $40! Yeah, $40! That was not a typo. And then I found the marks in a couple of drawers, "KINDEL Grand Rapids". Went to their website, found out these are apparently quite high end furniture. They are made of solid walnut and walnut veneer. They do have some veneer missing, mainly the front edge of the top, and the big dresser is missing a brass handle (at least I think they are brass). Now how to repair these? Originally I wanted to painted them, but when I found out the quality, I want to restore them. I am wondering whether I should email the company and ask some questions. It looks like they are quite proud of their products, I might be able to buy some veneer and a drawer pull from them. That will be the best scenario. So for now, they are proudly standing in my master bedroom as it is. I have to learn how to wax them first, and cannot put anything on top of them. The other day, I dropped some handsanitizer on it, OH! Really bad! The finish turned milky white immediately. On the label I found on the bottom of a drawer, it says it took them 27 steps to get this finish, and it gets better when aging. So, how on earth can I match that? Well I will just have to do my best, and ignore the difference. Now I just need to go find another one for my side. They were originally a set, a dresser with two nightstands, but someone broke the set and bought one. I am guessing that one was in perfect condition. The chance of finding a same one is almost zero, so I am not dreaming about that. I will just go get something that goes great with these two, without the matchy-matchy feeling.
This is what I have on my side, a unfinished pine nightstand that I found on the side of the road 4 years ago. It was clean, with some scratches on top, and the bottom drawer was broken. I simply put on a couple of layers of polyurethane on it, and have been using it ever since. It was great then, since it was my first nightstand, and much better than those plastic boxes I used before. But now I think it's time for it to retire. But since it's solid wood, I probably will try to refinish it. I won't feel bad to paint, since it's only pine. But what color should I use? If I paint it chocolate brown, and get some stainless steel drawer pulls, it will look quite contemporary. But it won't match these other two pieces. If I painted it like this one, it might work great in my little girl's room. Hmm, have to think about it a little more.