Hello everyone!  I’m still alive here after my Week-from-Hell #2.  Done with three midterms, two tests, and three quizzes—score. I only have 1 midterm next week and another the week after, and then it’s back to the regular testing routines.  … Hurray?!  :) (:

My brain has been fried for about two weeks now, and my short-term memory has basically shut down entirely (past cramming biology into my head).  I actually had to think for awhile before I could remember what I wanted to recap for this post.  -_-;

Breakfast on a date that has been shoved out of my brain was this lovely bowl of cereal with my first pouring of original Pacific almond milk.

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It was eh. I forgot to buy the unsweetened kind (if there is such thing), so this tasted really watery and well, unpleasantly sweet.  :/  I think I’ll just stick with Almond Breeze from here on out.

This is a lunch prepped on another random day was a random mixture of leftovers that I was trying to use up.  This had leftover spicy tofu, shredded Mexican cheese from TJ’s, and leftover salad. Obligatory toasted sesame seeds and wakame-rice ball furikake are obligatory.

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Annnd another date stuffed with grainy peanut butter and sea salt.

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Dee-lee-cious.  :)

As for this, there is only one lonely square of this milk chocolate bacon bar left now…

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It wasn’t as good as I expected.  The bacon bit-chocolate flavors don’t really meld together—when I eat it, I just taste bacon, salt, and then chocolate.  Muuuch prefer the goji bar. You can never go wrong with a pink bar of chocolate.  :)

On Friday afternoon after school, I went to a Great Harvest Bread Co. bakery for the first time.  I had actually wanted to go last week, but it closes pretty early (around 5-ish), so we were too late.  :(  This week, we arrived ten minutes from closing time, in which I tried three different types of bread and bought two of ‘em.  I call it my “reward” for getting out of this week alive.  :)  I’ll save that for another post, though, since this one’s picture-heavy enough as it is!  It was really exciting though, since I’ve never bought “real” bread from a bakery before.

The weekly Friday night dinner out was at Bazin’s on Church, which had (mostly) rave reviews on Yelp!.  Though it was a little noisy—it’s a small place, and the bar was just a few feet away from us—the food was très delicieux. :)  I think this was one of the only three-course meals I’ve ever had?!

I loved the decor.  I felt so warm inside!  :)

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The location was pretty awesome, too, with lots of big windows and pretty holiday lights.  Even if the candles were fake.  ;)

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The feast began with a bit of warm bread and butter and the butternut squash agnolotti, which was basically butternut squash ravioli with sage sauce and crumbled amaretti cookies.  It reminded me of the first meal out I photographed (and wrote about), pumpkin ravioli.  Creamy, buttery outside with a surprisingly sweet, fluffy filling.  “Special,” said my father.  :)  But, um, where are the cookie crumbs?

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Maybe they drowned in the sauce.

For my main course, I made a historic decision in the course of eating out [in my life]—I ordered red meat for the first time!!!  I usually go for seafood, salads, or carbalicious dishes, but I’ve never ordered red meat at a restaurant before (not a DE thing—I was like this before all that jazz, too).  I’m not much of a steak person, and I find BBQ ribs annoyingly messy—you could say I’m picky with red meat.  But this… this was amazing.

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The toughness of red meat is the one thing that puts me off about it, so I was surprised and excited by the super, melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of this.  I guess there’s a reason it’s called tender pecan pork?  The pecans added a whole other dimension to the meat with their prevailing, deeply toasted and nutty flavor, and the vanilla sweet potatoes had a real, pronounced vanilla flavor, and they weren’t cloyingly sweet, thank goodness.  :)  Perfectly balanced out the umami of the meat.  The roasted baby spinach was a bit too salty, but I loved the roastyness that roasted foods have (oh yeah, I’m specific), and the fact that it wasn’t a complete pile of mush.  And, as much as I was excited for it, the bourbon-bacon sauce was just average.  Is bourbon sour?  The sauce certainly was…

For a little sweetness to end the meal, my sis picked a key lime pie with coconut-macaroon crust and chantilly cream for the three of us to share:

The coconut-macaroon crust was amazing, even though I’ve never had a macaroon in my life.  Totally stuffed with coconut, and huge shreds of it at that.  The pie itself, on the other hand, was not nearly as sour as the ones I ate by the busload in Florida.  In fact, it was a bit too sweet.  I needed periodic dips into the fluffy and perfectly sweet chantilly cream to cleanse my palate.  ;)

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I was originally planning to post all of this on Friday night, but spontaneously made the decision to see Avatar.  It was a 9:40 PM showing, and being the wonderful three hours that it is, ended at 12:30-ish… thus, I got home around 1:15 the next morning.  o_o  Being the goody-goody that I am, I’ve never stayed out that late before.  I beat my record by more than an hour… whew.

But OMG… it was completely worth it. To see this?

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original image from
here

Heck yes.  I loved, loved, loved this movie.  The fantasy world totally drew me in with the lush CGI and brilliantly imagined flora and fauna.  The whole thing was just explosive with its color and life—immersive and completely believable once you’re drawn in.  I mean, bioluminescent organisms?!  All of them?!  Synapses and exposed nerve endings?!  <3  This was a feast for the eyes (and the mind!) and a thousand times better than Twilight. I think I’m going to become an Avatar geek or something.  Gosh, I’d kill to see this in IMAX 3D!

Q1: What do you look for in a restaurant setting? I like quiet restaurants… can’t stand bars :/  (But I’d go back to Bazin’s on Church for the food!!!)
Q2: What do you usually order at restaurants?
Q3: What’s the latest you’ve stayed out?
Q4: Have you watched Avatar?  Do you love it?!  If not, what’s your favorite movie genre? I normally dislike sci-fi, but this was a whole different story, obviously.  ;)

Alright, I’m out.  :D  Have a happy week, everybody!  Yay food!  And, for Avatar, yay nature and phosphorescent organisms.  :)

I’m taking a break from finishing my lab report to blog because I seriously feel like I’m going to punch a squirrel right now.  Microsoft Word is being totally uncooperative and just… just… stupid.

Shapes can go die.  Online graphs without Excel can go die.  Oh, and parts of a .pdf pasted in Word that make it run ridiculously slow will die. now.

*deep breath*  Okay, I feel slightly better now.  Urgh, doesn’t technology just piss you off sometimes?  :(

As to why I’m doing this at almost 12 PM on a Sunday night preceding a holiday… You see, it was part of the ultimate plan.  I failed to get it done during the day, so I had to work to meet my “deadline,” and that incidentally meant staying up until this hour.  I have a whole ‘nother list of things I need to get done tomorrow and I really don’t want too much of “today’s” task mixing with “tomorrow’s” (aka the “something will explode if this doesn’t get done” stuff).

Today’s tasks also included photo uploading. For me, this is by far the most time-consuming aspect of blogging.  Copying the photos to the computer, resizing and reformatting as a PNG to preserve quality, deleting the old huge files… * 100.  How many photos do you take in a day, on average? I gravitate towards perfectionism, so I’m always trying to shoot the “perfect” angle for a food… and somehow, I end up with like, thirty different photos of the same thing.  Go figure.

Breakfast yesterday was something I’ve been missing due to the cold weather: a yogurt mess!

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With the best canned pumpkin ever. This has so much more flavor than Libby’s and actually tastes like real pumpkin!

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It’s topped with Trader Joe’s country pumpkin spice granola, which I first set my eyes on on Allie’s blog.  It’s awesome.  :)  I can’t resist picking out the pieces of popcorn!

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Of course, studying wasn’t the only thing I did today!  Lunch out was a blessing, honestly.  My mom had company over and, well, having a valid excuse to be out of the house saved me from being bombarded with those adult-to-child questions: “What school do you go to?” “Have you grown taller?” “How old are you?” “Do you speak Chinese?” etc… it becomes quite tiring after you’ve answered the same question five times to five “curious” adults.  Needless to say, I was more than eager to get out…

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This was so much better than Wegman’s party food.

We went to an amazingly cute restaurant called Magnolias at the Mill today.  It is, as the name implies, a mill-turned-restaurant.  There’s a big plaque about the history of the mill (built in 1905!) just outside the entrance.  It was quite an interesting read—even my insouciant dad was impressed.  :)

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Lots of rustic charm, as you can see.  :)  I believe the upstairs was reserved for dinner, but I wish we could’ve gone up there…

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I ordered the Thai-inspired steamed mussels with lime & sesame scented jasmine rice, snow peas, and green curry coconut sauce. This was my first time ordering mussels—er, well, any kind of mollusk, at a restaurant!  It did not disappoint, even though there were less snow peas than I would have preferred.  The curry-coconut sauce was a bit salty, but it was perfect for sopping up with with the sticky, fragrant jasmine rice.  I ended up giving about four of the mussels to my dad since he liked them so much, and given how rarely he says he likes something, I just had to.  :)  I got a bit of his dish in exchange, the mahi-mahi with lemon-parsley orzo and sautéed watercress. With some blackberry-based sauce, I believe?

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Besides being absolutely gorgeously presented, it was super delish.  I normally dislike mahi-mahi because it tends to be served tough and dry, but this was an exception!  Very succulent and well-seasoned.  :)

I had an “eating race” with my dad.  Okay, the thing is, my dad eats very, very slooooowly. His style of chewing is comparable to a camel’s (minus the spitting) and apparently, mine is more like a rabbit’s or a squirrel’s.  … Okay, that’s fine with me, but not when I’m eating with him!  I literally finish twenty minutes before he does, and it’s not that fun just sitting around, trying to converse (and conversing just draws it out longer…).  So I’ve decided to learn how to chew slowly like a camel so I can pace myself and not end up waiting for him to finish.  I’ll let you know how that goes… xD

My sister ate an entire (kid’s) cheese pizza, but she was still hungry… so she ordered some dessert that she kindly shared with us.  :)  I love how innate children’s senses are, especially with food—they eat when they’re hungry, stop when they aren’t, and they aren’t afraid to treat themselves to delicious, fancy-sounding desserts!

This is the rustic apple-blackberry pie with cinnamon crème anglais, blackberry sauce, and vanilla ice cream~

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Wholesome and delicious.  The crème anglais was amazing, and I loved the huge chunks of apple and berry in the puff pastry, which, by the way, was fluffy and just light enough to balance out the rich ice cream and crème anglais.

I was lazy about dinner, so I just looked around for some fridge leftovers, mixed ‘em up, and voilà. Asian again, Tat. ;)  There’s white rice, broccoli, and mushrooms down there underneath the huge mound of tofu and furikake

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PLUS a very muddy-looking after-dinner treat.  For once, I was craving chocolate?!  This was the last of my plain yogurt with canned pumpkin, Hershey’s dark cocoa powder, cinnamon, Trader Joe’s kettle corn, and maple syrup.

Pre-mix:

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Post-mix and with trail mix and honey-roasted peanuts (both were party food leftovers).  I was a little scared that it would look like poop, but it doesn’t look THAT bad, does it?

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And a divine Medjool date with crunchy PB:

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Oh, I’ve missed crunchy PB.  <3

Last, but not least, I have a gift for Chocolate-Covered Katie and her awesome giveaway.  ;)  Here’s a real, whole banana hammock—no deconstruction involved!

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On the left, we have a slice with a sprinkling of grain-sweetened chocolate chips.  The contender on the right is topped with cinnamon, kettle corn, pumpkin spice granola, and dried guava slices.  ‘Twas de-li-cious.  ;)

Q1: When does technology make you angry?
Q2: Your favorite dessert?  x)

Have a lovely evening… errr, morning, m’ladies!

EDIT: Did anyone notice the “12 PM on a Sunday night”?!  That’s what I get for staying up late… xD

A desultory post awaits… sorry for the sporadic-ness :(

After all the wonderful things that happened over the winter holiday, I fell into an inevitable pothole. Figuratively, I mean!  You know how I was going ga-ga over my new blender in this post?  Well, it turns out that my blender broke. After one use, yes, the motor is broken. And the worst part?  I can’t exchange it! It was bought in Canada, and none of the stores in my area carry the model—only downgraded ones.  -_-  I’m going to shoot customer service an email today demanding they send me a new blender inquiring about whether I can mail it back and get another one or something.  >:(  It was eighty [Canadian] dollars!!!  I get warranty for that, right?!  Oh, I wanted to make so many things… like more nut butters and puffin pie crusts and babies…

Mehhh.

I didn’t even get to finish making my pumpkin seed butter.  :(  So now all I have left is a bunch of pumpkin seed dust chunks.

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… Hurray.

Oh, but I can’t forget about the wonderful jar of roasted pecan butter… great for dipping dried calimyrna figs in.  I snapped a pic this time :]  I also gave it its own recipe page here.

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100% heaven.  Happy tastebuds = happy girl.  Works the other way around too.  ;)

Alright, I know it’s pretty ridiculous to get worked up about a blender, and I admit that I’m exaggerating the severity of this for humor’s sake.  I was blessed far beyond my expectations over the holidays, with great company, food, gifts, and no stress, so I’m really not that upset about this.  But alas, being the cheapo and human being that I am, I want my aunt’s money’s worth in the form of a new blender.

Oh, and here’s another reason: I like food and eating and photographing and writing about it. Me want new kitchen appliance.  Now.

Amanda of seek generously awarded me again, this time with an only-for-the-blogger award.  ;)  I love these types of memes—they’re a counter to my intrinsically pessimistic outlook.  Even though my pessimism isn’t really the super “negative” kind, doing things like this is just happy food for the soul :)

happyaward

1.  Friends. On the weekdays, they’re basically the only people I talk to (besides teachers, which is unavoidable, haha).  I’m so exhausted when I come home from school that I just don’t have the energy to talk.  If I didn’t have friends, I would probably be as good as mute.  And I would probably collapse from the stress that gets let out when we complain together. :)

2.  Photography. Especially now that I have a cool camera, I’ve been taking photos like mad, of everything: nature, landscapes, people, food—if there were pretty architecture where I lived, I’d take photos of that, too.  ;)

3.  Music. A universal language.  There are few things more pleasurable than curling up under the covers with Bose headphones and an iPod, completely immersed in a different world.

4.  Blogging. Even though I’ve only been blogging for about two months, but it’s been making me happy so far!  Venting leaves a more relaxed –> happier individual.  :)

5.  Restaurants. Going out to eat used to make me a nervous wreck.  How many calories are in that?  Which one has the lowest amount of calories?  What if the website lied?  What if the chef added extra oil?! etc. etc.  Now, though, I’m able to appreciate restaurant food as a) tasty, b) an opportunity to try new foods, and c) a “challenge” in some ways.  ;)

6.  Homemade baked goods. If someone bakes me cookies on my birthday, I’m basically ecstatic.  Someone likes me enough to remember my birthday and takes the effort to bake something for me?  From scratch? *_*

7.  Grocery shopping. I also like accessory shopping, but definitely not as much as grocery shopping.  It used to be the other way around—I used to go to a Korean grocery store just for the little accessory shop inside!  Well.  This is a product of DE and reading food blogs, I guess?

8.  Nut butter. Maybe the only food that I super duper loved as a young kid, and still love now.  Mmmm… rich, creamy, nutty goodness, and so many different kinds, too!

9.  Dawn. I love the color of the sky at dawn.  It’s such a deep, beautiful blue color, almost like a darkened azure.  Streetlights are still on at dawn, but they take on a mystical glow.  In short, gorgeous.  :)

10.  Working efficiently. Hahaha, I had to put this!  :P  Working efficiently and being productive definitely makes me feel good.  Makes me feel… errr, not lazy and not useless.  Plus, the faster I get work done, the faster I can do what I want.

And ten bloggers that make me happy (in no particular order):
Amanda (seek)
Stef (More to Life than Lettuce)
Tatianna (Tatianna Lives)
Coco (Balance, Joy and Delicias!)
Allie (Live Laugh Eat)
Sophia (Burp and Slurp~)
Natalie (Counting Down to Life After ED!)
Shelley (Finding Happiness and Health)
Mitri (All in the Oats)
Eliza (nourishing mornings)

I tag thou, if thou hath not been tagged already.  Actually, this is just a general list, haha (sinced I tagged my tagger).  ;)

Ah… but that’s not all!  I have to make up for five days of missed posts, after all.  ;)  The real reason this post is titled “happy food for the soul” is…

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Pecan-date cake with cranberry goat cheese cream, the latter of which became practically invisible after its stint in the oven, but you can still taste it!  ;)  This was the first cake that I have ever baked from scratch!  Sure, I’ve made cupcakes from cake mix and (tough) muffins before, but this is the first time that it was 100% me.  Not saying that it was my recipe, of course—I’m not that good!  I adapted this recipe and threw in the cranberry goat cheese cream as a last minute, personal twist.  I had seen it used as filling in these muffins, so I thought, “I have a log of cheese just waiting to be used.  OH!  I KNOW!”  That’s how all great ideas are born, right?  :P  I actually refused to tell my family members the “secret filling” until after they ate it because I was afraid they would gag if they knew what it was.  Yeah, not a very open-minded foodie family I have.  My sister wouldn’t even eat it because she saw me blending the goat cheese… –_-

Oh, and for the flour, guess what I used?…

… If you guessed the pumpkin seed dust from my failed pumpkin seed butter experiment, WHOO HOO for you!  You are awarded a slice of cybercake.  ;)

I’ve put the full adapted recipe on this page if you’re interested.  :)

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Yum!  Err, we actually didn’t have any baking powder, so I left that out completely.  o_o  I think it might have been a little less fluffy due to that, but it was still pretty delicious!  Purrrfect with a dollop of whipped cream.  ;)

Okay, I’m off for now.  No restaurant tonight, surprisingly.  I guess it’s time to be productive and happy, so I should start working efficiently now… ;)  Have a wonderful evening, loves!

Giveaway: Enter to win delicious greek yogurt on Faith, Food, and Fitness!

The morning my aunt’s family left, my mom had to wake me up to say good-bye to them (oops), and apparently, my cousin cried again.  :/  He’s an only child, so I guess he’s lonely?  My mom said that he was tying his shoelaces and tried to cover it up with the age-old, clichéd, only-in-the-movies excuse: There’s sand in my eyes. :(  Poor thing… He’s such a boy.  Wouldn’t even let me hug him, so I went with the shoulder-pat.  :/

I was an only child for the first eight years of my life, and I practically begged my parents for a sibling (specifically, a sister).  Now that I have one, I feel like I don’t appreciate her half as much as I should.  I need to improve on that.  Later on in life, I want to be as close to my sister as my mom is to my aunt.  They have the ultimate sibling relationship—growing up in a poor household (and only being a few years apart…) really squishes a family together, I guess?  I suppose it was the same with everyone in China at the time…

2010 Goal #1: Be a better sister.

Apparently, our house is funhouse, because we have MORE company now.  Wahoo.  They brought us a nice gift basket from Florida and homemade treats!  :)

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Organic citrus and jams and locally-made candies!  I think they’re mind-readers, because I LOVE this kind of stuff.  I’ve already eaten two of the chocolate-covered coconut patties, and they’re deeelicious!  The citrus, although ugly, is super sweet, too.  :)

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I think there were chocolate-covered cookie bars, peanut butter bars, and hello dollies.  I had my first hello dollie last night, and it was good, although a little too sweet.  I love anything with coconut.  :)

And now’s the time for random.eats!

Noodles in chicken broth with sesame seeds and a single carrot slice was consumed for lunch.  I had some nice slurping action going on here.  That’s the best part of noodles, am I right?!  Vermicelli is no fun at all unless it’s in a salad.

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With a baby apple, the iconic fall fruit.  I’m just a tad late for the season, I know.  I saw Stef stuff her apple with nut butter the other day and thought it was brilliant, but I really just needed something fresh and juicy today.  (Gotta find me some blood oranges!)

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And a fab snack: half-banana + Maranatha crunchy peanut butter + sea salt.  Get this: I do not like Maranatha PB anymore.  o__o  I used to be obsessed with the stuff!… but now I really crave sugarless, super-peanutty peanut butter.  Weird.  Thus, I needed extra salt to counter the sweetness here.  Warning: food porn barrage coming your way.  Normally, I choose a few pictures to post from a selection, but this time, they all looked equally good!

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And a date stuffed with Crazy Richard’s creamy peanut butter, my next love.  Well, that is, until I use the jar up.  Then I’ll be making my own peanut butter… and THAT will be true love.  ;)  Topped with course sea salt once again, since Crazy Richard’s is just plain ol’ peanuts:

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Love!  <3 And speaking of making nut butter, that was precisely my very first adventure with my new toy!

How to Make Nirvana: A Step-by-Step Guide

You will need:
*
~2 1/2 cups pecans
* ~1/4 tsp coarse sea salt

(Errr… like I said, I don’t exactly measure.  ^_^;)

Step 1: Microwave pecans until perfectly roasted and just slightly burnt.  I would’ve used an oven to roast a whole batch at once (I had to microwave twice), but last time, I completely burnt the pecans beyond recognition, so I won’t be trying that again.  :|  I microwaved for 4 minutes total (mixed them up after 2 minutes to even out the roasting), but I have no idea whether the setting was on high or medium or what.  Sorry!

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Step 2: After the pecans have cooled (important!), pour them into the blender and start whizzing.  I had mine on the “nuts” setting.  Here they are half-pulverized:

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Step 3: Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape the edges down if necessary.  The butter comes pretty quickly with pecans, since they’re oily, though not so much with certain other nuts/seeds.  *coughpumpkinseedscough*

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Step 4: Add coarse sea salt into the blender with the luscious pecan butter it’s created for you.  Pulse for a few seconds to fold in the salt crystals.  They’ll add a delightful crunch in the final product.  :]

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Step 5: Pour into a jar and devour (not necessarily with something).  I promptly had an unpictured dried calimyrna fig dunked in nirvana.  I’ll be sure to catch that sneaky hand of mine so I can snap a pic next time… ;)

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Sorry for the dark/crappy action shot + final pic—I’m still working on shooting motion (holding a heavy blender while trying to focus is not very easy), and I was anxious to try the pecan butter at the end.  Forgive this amateur.  :|

Q1: Are you an only child?  If so, do you ever wish you had a sibling?
Q2: What is one goal you have for 2010?
Q3: What’s your favorite type of nut/seed butter? Me?  I like allll of them except for bitter tahini.  ;)
Q4: Thin or thick noodles?

Off to an Asian party today.  Have a great post-holiday day!  :)

Get ready for a photo-heavy, sparsely-worded post…

With Christmas presents just two days away, I try to remind myself about of the less fancy schmancy joys in life.  As Katie pointed out, the simple, thoughtful gifts are the most precious ones.  I appreciate a jar of homemade cookie mix tied with a pretty ribbon much more than a carelessly purchased box of fancy chocolates.  Sunlight glittering on snow is entrancing, as are the wonderful blue-green hues of early morning.  The view from a rooftop in the midst of winter darkness—


Pre-snowstorm.

Indescribable.  Now, why can’t I be so easily pleased when it comes to myself?  -_-

Well anyway, today, I immersed myself in simple pleasures.  :D



I love me some dried fruit, especially when I’ve dried my own (the banana and bartlett pear slices).  Just stick ‘em in the oven for more than a couple hours @ 175*F, and voila, the notion never to buy dried fruit again comes up.  :]  Why buy flattened bananas when I can make my own?

Though I’m absolutely in love with TJ’s dried calimyrna figs.  So chewy and meaty and crunchy from the seeds… love fleshy dried fruits.  This one has a nice coating of creamy almond butter.

Q1: What are your simple pleasures?
Q2: What’s your favorite dried fruit? Persimmons and figs are mine, definitely.  <3
Q3: Less words and more eye candy?  Or vice-versa?

G: What are the implications of the word “X-Naut”? I’m thinking tissues, personally.  (Get it?  You get it??)

Oh, and punny things are another one of my simple pleasures.  :o)  Have a wonderful holiday, my dear blogpeeps, if you celebrate it.  If not, have a wonderful December 24th + 25th!  :]