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It’s been an eager, enjoyable, and encouraging week.

Sunday, March 23: Lee and I got a coconut from a restaurant earlier in the week. A coconut! All we had to do was poke a straw through and start sipping. Coconut water isn’t my beverage of choice, but it was refreshing.

Coconut!

Monday, March 24: Signs of spring! Wahoo! Well, maybe the algae is getting a little out of hand.

City Creek

Tuesday, March 25: Another sign of spring. I love daffodils! They are so cheery, even in rainy spring weather.

Daffodils!

Wednesday, March 26: Lee was making his second batch of drinking vinegars. Apparently, I shouldn’t have disturbed him. Just kidding. He doesn’t smile until I am done taking the picture, the punk!

Why are you bothering me?

Thursday, March 27: I’m taking a beginning Illustrator class and we were checking out all the vectors that were created on this picture of Elmo. Elmo looks like he is covered in blue bugs–disturbing!

Friday, March 28: We went to the St. Vincent concert at The Depot and it was AWESOME! Annie Clark kicks butt and it was such a fun show. I also have a new hero–Toko Yasuda. She is St. Vincent’s backup singer, keyboardist, and bassist and she kicks butt too!

So close to St. Vincent!

Saturday, March 29: I took a Growing Medicinal and Gourmet Mushrooms class taught by the Biocentric Bros through Lifelong Learning. We got to take home a inoculated wood block and learned how to start a straw bucket. I’m so excited to give it a try.

Getting instructions on how to start growing my own mushrooms at home

Anyway, we hope you have an extraordinary upcoming week!

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It has been a dandy, daring, and diligent week for us. How was yours?

Sunday, March 16: We’re taking the Financial Peace University classes (Dave Ramsey) again with my brother, and this week, we were talking about leaving a good legacy and we went over insurance and how we should have a will. Lee decided to quickly draw up a will during class. On the back of his hand. According to his hand will, I get everything.

Handmade will

Monday, March 17: Happy St. Patty’s Day! We celebrated it by going to the opera about a Chinese woman with a heart of ice, who finally understands love in the end.  Totally a great way to celebrate St. Patty’s. The Utah Opera did an AMAZING job! I absolutely loved Liu and Turandot–they are some seriously talented women. By the way, you should listen to this version of Nessun Dorma for fun.

During intermission at Turandot at the Utah Opera

Tuesday, March 18: I just had to take this picture to show how light it’s been lately when I walk out of work. The Walker Center light wasn’t even on yet! I love Spring.

I heart sunny days!

Wednesday, March 19: I saw this sunset on my way back to my car; you can’t help but feel lucky to catch this kind of light. Plus, I can’t believe how awesome my cell phone camera is! Gorgeous!

Sunset in Bountiful

Thursday, March 20: Because we’ve cut out a lot of TV lately, we have gotten into the habit of sitting and talking on our bed when we get home. I love the time with Lee. (We had finished eating dinner and a popsicle for dessert, that’s why Lee has a stick in his mouth.)

Chatting and hanging out

Friday, March 21: Our dear friend, Gem, once again pulled off an amazing play at the the Jr. high school she teaches at. They did Aladdin this year and it was a crazy fun play. Our favorite character, hands down, was the flying rug. The kid who played it was hilarious and we had to get our picture taken with him.

With the flying rug kid at Alladin

Saturday, March 22: I somehow convinced a bunch of people to sign up with me to do a bike ride in June called the Little Red Riding Hood–it’s all an all-women ride, and I’ve done the 50-mile version before, but now I’m training for 70 miles. I figured I should start training or all of my friends will ditch me.

After riding back from the University of Utah

Anyway, we hope you have a dazzling upcoming week!

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It’s been a really great week and we have been busy, so we don’t have an extensive list of what is making us happy.

We did want to share this totally awesome TedTalk by Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut, who showed up on my radar a while back, tweeting with William Shatner and making awesome videos where he’d answer questions from space about being in space.

Then he played this crazy duet with the Barenaked Ladies

This guy is so cool.

I might have to get his new book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything. It sounds like my kind of book.

Anyway, enjoy and have a great Friday!

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Growing up, the only form of bread my Chinese family made on a regular basis was banana bread.

Fancy banana bread with ginger and chocolate

When our mom passed away, we all found ourselves in the kitchen making food for each other while our dad was working crazy shifts either driving a bus or running community education classes in the evening. We all picked up cooking pretty quickly, but baking was a challenge.

I remember trying to make French bread with my sisters and it just didn’t work out. What do you expect from a bunch of kids who all could make rice like a champ (in a rice cooker, of course)?!? Our bread never did rise–we were good at killing yeast.

Me and my crazy siblings

But banana bread–we could make that. It was pretty simple. We always had a couple of bananas that were a little too ripe. Plus, it didn’t involve yeast.

There’s no way we could mess it up.

We made a basic banana bread. It was good and sweet. I can’t remember where we got the recipe, but I think we used our mom’s stained copy of the Better Homes and Garden cookbook.

I discovered this recipe a few years ago from Molly Wizenberg and fell in love with it, because it reminded me of the banana bread we made when we were kids. Even better though is that it has a little bit of an Asian flavor with the addition of crystallized ginger.

Go Asians!

Crystallized ginger = fancy and unexpected

Oh, and did I mention it has chocolate in it?

Go Oompa Loompas!

Let’s add some dark chocolate chips, m’kay?

And when you brown the butter, it adds a deeper flavor and a little nuttiness without adding nuts. It seems like the ginger is brighter against the browned butter.

Beautiful, beautiful crust

I’ve got to be honest though, it takes a long time to bake. I put a loaf into the oven once thinking I had plenty of time and realized I had to pick up Lee at work about when I was supposed to take it out–oops! He had to wait a little bit. That’s poor party planning on my part.

Besides stranding your husband at work, you get this dark amber crust and your home smells like you’ve been baking all day. Lee forgave me for when he walked in the door.

 I heart ginger + chocolate

So, got any bananas lying around?

Browned Butter Banana Bread with Crystallized Ginger and Chocolate
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

Ingredients
6 tbsp unsalted butter, browned
2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 c finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c mashed banana
1/4 c sour cream (full fat)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a standard-sized loaf pan with cooking spray.

Brown butter and set aside to cool. Here’s a great resource on how to brown butter.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips and ginger and whisk together. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs lightly using a fork. Add the mashed banana, sour cream, browned butter, and vanilla, and stir well with that same fork.

Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and combine ingredients using a rubber spatula, making sure not to over-mix. The mixture will be lumpy, but all ingredients should be wet. Scrap the batter into the greased loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until a inserted toothpick comes out clean. I would recommend not disturbing it  for at least 60 minutes because it may sink in the middle. There is a lot of moisture in this loaf, so make sure to let it cook completely or it will come out doughy in the middle.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in a pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely.

It’s hecka good, promise.

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This week has been a dandy, difficult, and diligent week. Weird combination, but it’s true!

Sunday, March 9: We had a couple bunches of our tulips eaten, but our Anti-Deer Mix (a combination of paprika, chili powder, and cayenne pepper) sprinkled on them deterred the deer from eating more. Wahoo!

Our tulips are still here!

Monday, March 10: We were watching some soccer, and Lee looks annoyed that I’m taking his picture. He’s not annoyed. He doesn’t smile in pictures–it’s something he brought back from Russia.

Lee doesn’t like getting his picture taken sometimes

Tuesday, March 11: My good friend, the Tall One, and I had a little bit of a “fist fight” at the church with these handy word vector bubbles.

Zap!

Wednesday, March 12: Lee had spring break this week, and one of the things he did was try his hand at making a couple of batches of drinking vinegars. Aren’t these SO beautiful? We’ll let you know how it turns out in about a week.

Pretty colors!

Thursday, March 13: We had our friends/relatives over for dinner this evening. They had invited us to their home a few weeks ago, and when we were over at their home, Lee got a little freaked out by this old child’s shoe that was displayed in their home. It was hilarious when they brought it with them to dinner and placed it somewhere for Lee to discover. Lee freaked out again.

Lee is grossed out!

Friday, March 14: We went to a life celebration of my coworker’s husband who passed away this last week. This man loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so there were ingredients to make sandwiches to honor and remember him. It was beautiful and touching celebration.

In remembrance…

Saturday, March 15: My good, good friend, the Hot Scot, and I went out for a session of hot yoga and brunch afterward at the Roots Cafe in Millcreek. We ate in the yurt! And the food was delicious! It was such a wonderful morning!

Happiness is a good friend

We hope you have a delightful upcoming week!

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What a crammed, crazy, and cool week it’s been.

Sunday, March 2: Our friend introduced us to a GPS-based game called Ingress on Sunday, where you capture “portals” that are tagged at actual locations. There was a “portal” located at this monument near our church, so we drove by and “hacked” it to collect stuff. We were so naive when we started…

Ingress shows us around the town

Monday, March 3: Lee and I decided to go out and capture some more Ingress “portals” in downtown Salt Lake City, hoping to level up. We ended up at the Capitol Building and we had SO much fun! Plus, we found all these monuments we’d never seen before. We were officially addicted.

There are a ton of Ingress portals at the Capitol Building

Tuesday, March 4: Lee picked me up after class and we headed to a relatively new restaurant for dinner, Spitz SLC. They serve some pretty awesome doner kebabs and sweet potato fries. This was also the place we decided that maybe we should uninstall Ingress because we were addicted. So we have uninstalled the game. For now anyway. More to come…

Spitz SLC–love the funky decor

Wednesday, March 5: I was waiting for the bus and spied this bit of gorilla art and typography plastered to a pillar. Strive on with diligence, people!

Strive on with diligence

Thursday, March 6: When I first moved up to Salt Lake, I lived a block and a half from this church and attended this church too for several years. I was sad to see it was being torn down, but they are building an American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in its place, where traveling cancer patients can stay when getting treatment. There’s a time and season for everything.

Only the door remains to the old church on 1st South and 4th East

Friday, March 7: There must be destruction in the air, because another building was being torn down in downtown Salt Lake. It looked like a perfectly good building to me!

Another building going down

Saturday, March 8: Warning: the following picture is not for the faint of heart.

After work, Lee was thinking ahead for Sunday and got ready to shave. Of course, he came in with his shorts hiked up to his armpits and posed like an old timey boxer to get a laugh. Yes, I laughed. A whole lot! He is such a crack up!

My old timey boxer husband of mine

Well, we sure hope you have a calm upcoming week!

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Happy International Women’s Day!

Vosmova Marta (translation: the 8th of March) is the best celebration in Russia in my humble opinion. I always tell people that the 8th of March is like Mother’s Day, but for all women and girls.
Flowers are the best!

This is the one day where all the men lavish extra love, attention, flowers, chocolates, gifts on all the women in their lives, young and old. The couple times I’ve either been in Russia or Belarus for Women’s Day, I loved seeing all the women and young girls walking home, carrying flowers they’d received that day. 
I think we need to embrace International Women’s Day and celebrate it in the United States, not because of the gifts and flowers (though those would be nice too), but because it’s a day to celebrate and thank all the women in your life.
I loved this video that Dove made for International Women’s Day. These are my people!

And to my mom, my mom-in-law, my sisters, my sisters-in-law, my grandmas, and my best girlfriends: Thank you for being so amazing–you rock my socks! You make me a better person.

Happy Women’s Day!

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It’s been warm in our neck of the woods this week, making for rainstorms and thunder and lightning in February and tulips in March! Big fan.

Stormy backdrop to the Walker 

What’s making Lee happy:

  • Real Salt Lake’s new kit came out. The new kits are fun because they’re new kits.
  • Winter and I are thinking about making up our own micro currency for our home.
  • Ha ha ha ha! They’re just cute.
  • If anyone has $17,000 to spare and wants to get this watch for my birthday…
  • With the support of my wife, I was able to overcome this weakness. I am still unsure of myself.

What’s making Winter happy:

  • I wish I could move my eyebrows like this guy.
  • People are so talented when wielding a small pair of scissors.
  • Discovered Zen Pencils this week and fell in love with this quote/cartoon from a commencement speech that cartoonist Bill Watterson gave a few years back.
  • I got a little teary eyed watching this. Wow!
  • My trivia tidbit got shared on one of our favorite podcasts, Good Job, Brain! Wahoo! And they just celebrated their 100th episode.
Anyway, we hope you have a nice weekend.

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I gotta be honest with you.

You know that ever popular Pinterest Fails tumblr site? Well, that’s me pretty much all the time.

I get SO excited to try a new recipe or craft that I see on blogs I follow, but when I actually go to make it, it’s a disaster. A disaster.

Balsamic strawberry sundae with salted caramel croutons

When I discovered this recipe for Caramel Brioche Croutons on the Shutterbean blog, I wanted to try it. It looked good. Like messy good, not Pinterest-perfect good. You should pop over to Tracy’s blog and look at that first picture–good and messy.

So I planned to go shopping for brioche Saturday morning, but alas, sometimes you can’t find brioche at your local grocery store. Surprise surprise.

But, I discovered that King’s Hawaiian Bread is a perfect substitute. Necessity is the mother of all invention!

King’s Hawaiian bread = nice substitute for brioche

Cut the rolls and toast the pieces a little.

These are so tempting!

Then you make your caramel. You need to be vigilant–do not let the caramel boil too long! Watch it go from pale creamy color to a light brown color. Once it turns a slight tan color, remove from heat and start dipping STAT. The caramel will cool quickly and it will be harder to dip.

P.S. You will make a mess.

Gently toss those croutons

Because I wanted more salt with the sweet, I sprinkled some kosher salt on the parchment paper before I started putting the croutons down.

Then you let them cool–see how pretty that sugar looks.

And when you pop one (or twelve) into your mouth, you will think that you have died and gone to heaven. Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. It’s hecka good.

Blobs of caramel everywhere!

Now if you want to turn up the fancy, you need to pair these croutons with vanilla ice cream and strawberries that have been tossed in balsamic vinegar.

Easy and pretty dessert

You add a sprig of mint for color and voila! You have a beautiful, delicious dessert that makes you feel fancy, not like you failed at Pinterest.

Fancy, yes. Pinterest-fail, no.

Now go to it and feel like Martha Stewart with this fancy dessert.

Eat me!


Balsamic Strawberry Sundae with Salted Caramel Croutons
Recipe adapted from Shutterbean
Serves 4 to 6

For croutons: 
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 c sugar
1/4 c water
2 tbsp cream
4 King’s Hawaiian rolls
Kosher salt

For the sundaes:
1 c thinly sliced strawberries
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Vanilla ice cream
Mint for garnish

Set oven to low broil. Cut the rolls into 3/4 inch cubes (you’ll get about 8 cubes from each roll) and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast on middle rack for 1 minute, then flip and toast on another side for 1 more minute. Remove pan and set aside bread cubes in a bowl.

Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle a couple of pinches of kosher salt on the parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, sugar, water, and cream. Put on medium heat and stir till butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.

Allow the mixture to boil, without stirring, until the mixture turns a light amber color. While waiting for caramelization, set up the baking sheet and bread cubes near the saucepan and get two forks. Remove from heat and immediately start dipping the bread cubes in the caramel using the forks. Place each crouton on the parchment paper, making sure they are not touching and let cool.

About 15 to 30 minutes before you’re ready to serve the sundaes, toss the strawberries with the balsamic vinegar. Place a few caramel croutons in dishes or cups and scoop some ice cream on top. Garnish with more croutons and strawberries.

Enjoy and feel fancy!

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This week has been a bodacious, boisterous, and beautiful week.

Sunday, February 23: We had a long week, and the perfect cure for a long week is a Sunday nap. And playing your ukelele.

Lee is pooped!

Monday, February 24: I am over the moon about the weather lately. It’s been rainy and warm and the air has been clear–I love it. While I was waiting for Lee, I watched this sunset happen and it made me so happy.

Spring sunset in Utah

Tuesday, February 25: Lee buzzes his head pretty often because he gets too hot. We haven’t watched Breaking Bad, but I felt like he was channeling Walter White with his freshly shorn head and glasses.

Walter White look-alike

Wednesday, February 26: My tulips from the Lifelong Learning Bulb Forcing class are doing well! A couple of my other bulbs didn’t work out, but this set did, so I’m excited to see them bloom soon.

Grow, little bulbs, grow!

Thursday, February 27: My sister is obsessed with cats and every year, I look forward to the birthday card she will send me. She embellished this one and I love it!

Cat crazy!

Friday, February 28: We went to a baby shower for Lee’s cousin and spouses were invited to come. All the guys were required to drink a baby bottle full of apple juice without using his hands, and Lee won. He got smart and propped the bottle up on the refrigerator and chugged!

Lee’s victory face!

Saturday, March 1: We headed to the State Capitol for my Digital Photography II class field trip to the Utah State Capitol Building. While everyone started taking pictures of inside of the building, I went out straightway because of these clouds. It was a magnificent day to take pictures!

Utah State Capitol view

We hope you had a beauteous week, and we hope even more that you have a balanced upcoming week!

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