Sunday, February 27, 2011

Get Excited...

...I know I am because I just picked up my new (used) 15 inch MacZBok Pro!!! Do you know what that means?

1.  More photos for you (cause I'll be able to edit more photos faster...which also means I'll watch fewer movies and TV shows)

2. I can watch movies and TV shows on a bigger screen! Better for my eye sight too. What a bonus.

3. I have a highly functioning computer that I actually own versus my work computer (the other mac in the household) and my nearly 6 year old Dell (which is still kicking, just sort of like a 3 legged dog kicks).

4. I won't have to carry my MacBook to work anymore...better for my back and it's obscene to have 3 computers in one small room. It just doesn't look right.

There are lots of other reasons, but I just had to say that I am so thankful and blessed to have gotten this computer. It's going to be so helpful!

More, better posts soon!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Just Finished: A Comparison of Two Books


I recently read two books that had one basic similarity–each chapter focused on a different character and all the novel's characters were somehow intertwined. Books that shift from character to character require a delicate balance. They can be too short story-eque in which each character is too much a separate entity from all the others in the book. It can be too matchy-matchy in which all the characters are so kitsmetically intertwined that their lives crash into one crucial point. They can be so short story-esque and so focused on a particular moral or idea that neither of them end up being worth much or they can be well done with an evenhanded treatment of the characters, their relationship to each other, and the overall story arch.

Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin and Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists, in my opinion, are the good and the bad of character chapter books. I will say that both are well written and insightful however where McCann's novel is a hodge podge of half-told stories Rachman's book is a fairly smooth storyline composed of separate characters's stories that form a whole, compelling narrative.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Just Finished: 4 Brief Reviews

Sitting atop my outdated, veneer covered speakers are a collection of books I've finished over the past two months. Finally, the day has come to review them. I'll keep it short.

Secrets in the Dark by Frederick Buechner: This book is a series of sermons that Buechner has given over his long career as a preacher/writer. I have to say that I was a bit surprised by the collection. Buechner is fairly revered (at least it seems so from the number of endorsements on the book jacket) and has published several works of fiction that have received acclaim. I found that many of his sermons were very thoughtful and insightful but overall he seemed to shy away from making a concrete statement about anything. Perhaps I misread him, but in my view Buechner toed the gray line throughout many of his sermons and I don't think that's the point. I do think he was worth a read, especially to get a different perspective from a thoughtful man of the faith.

Howards End by E.M. Forster: A classic I never read about two very different families colliding and the changes of England at the turn of the century. The novel focuses on the Miss Schlegels, two sisters who are independent and forward thinking, especially about money and class matters but who become acquainted with the Wilcoxes, a family of very conservative ideas in which women have little say. As the back of the book says, Howards End is a novel about England's fate. I can't agree or disagree about that, but it was an interesting portrayal of how people's ideas and ideals get muddled in the carrying out of them. Overall the novel was fairly uneventful, more like character studies, until the end when there are a series of unexpected twists that test all the main characters and their tightly held views. Worth a read, especially if you have someone to discuss with.

About A Boy by Nick Hornby: I think Nick Hornby must be one of the funniest writers alive. I haven't read anything of his that didn't make me laugh out loud. You've probably all seen About a Boy avec Hugh Grant as main character Will. Even so, the book is worth a read. If not, this is a story about an extremely selfish and self-sufficient man who gets harangued into hanging out with a hopelessly uncool middle schooler who doesn't understand sarcasm named Marcus who lives with his single, somewhat depressed hippy mother. I loved this novel because it was funny, human, and honest. The characters are slightly over the top in a way that is fairly believable and the relationships are well crafted. I hate to say it, but it's got heart.

Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman with Ellen Vaughn: Mary Beth Chapman, wife of the famous Christian musical artist Stephen Curtis Chapman, writes this autobiography after the death of her adopted daughter Maria. In 2008, Maria was hit by her older brother Will in a tragic accident that shook the family. Choosing to See talks about the grief of the family in this horrific event as well as Chapman's story of growing up with the moniker "Chubby Chapman", getting married to a man very different from her self (she describes herself as Eeore and her husband as Tigger), dealing with depression, having a family, and deciding to adopt three little girls from China. Throughout the book, which is very conversational, Chapman is open about her struggles and how God met her and changed her through all the trials she has encountered. Chapman's voice rings true as a slightly zany mother of six and her experiences are really of faith in the face of difficult and horrible circumstances is something to admire and strive to follow after.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kitchening: Haitian Chicken Puffs

When I have a catering gig at twocities gallery, I do a massive search to find new appetizers. They're not the easiest thing for me to drum up off the top of my head and I like trying to recipes. I found these Haitian Chicken Puffs on a blog called First Look, Then Cook and they looks delish and something that Chinese and Foreigner taste buds would enjoy. Thankfully, I was right. They had a great combination of spices and veggies that I would never think of putting together on my own. Plus they use puff pastry which pretty much makes everything better.

Also, doesn't this picture make it look like I have a personal butler who carries around appetizers for me?

Haitian Chicken Puffs
slightly adapted from First Look, Then Cook 


  • Cooking oil (I used olive oil but you might go for something with less flavor)
  • 1/4  cup  chopped yellow or red onion
  • 2  tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2  pound ground chicken breast (hard to find here so I ground some chicken in my food processor. worked great)
  • 1/4  cup shredded carrot
  • 2  tsp  no-salt-added tomato paste
  • 2  tsp  fresh lime juice
  • 1  tsp  cider vinegar
  • 1  tsp  chopped green onions
  • 1  tsp  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1  tsp  chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2  tsp  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4  tsp  salt
  • 1/8  tsp  ground cloves
  • 1/8  tsp  grated nutmeg
  • Tabasco sauce (or your choice of hot sauce), to taste
  • 1  (14-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1  large egg
  • 1  tablespoon water


Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with a tablespoon of cooking oil. Add  onion, and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add chicken and cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add carrot and cook 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add lime juice and vinegar, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add green onions and next 6 ingredients (through nutmeg); stir well. Remove from heat; cool mixture to room temperature.

Add a few or more than a few drops of Tabasco sauce to the mixture, depending on your audience. Place cooled chicken mixture in a food processor; process until almost smooth (mixture will begin to clump).

Preheat oven to 400°.

Roll puff pastry into a 15 x 12–inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Cut puff pastry into 20 (3-inch) squares. Combine egg and water, stirring with a whisk. Brush egg mixture along edges of pastry squares; spoon about 1 scant tablespoon filling in center of each pastry square. Fold each pastry square in half; press edges closed with tines of a fork. Brush top with egg wash; arrange 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

Makes 20 small puffs.

Two New Likes

I've discovered a few new likes lately and I thought you should know.

1. Parks and Recreation: Although this comedy is in it's 3rd season, I've heard nothing about it. It was on  Netflix Watch Instantly so I thought I'd give it a try. While it did get off to a slow start, I must say it is quite funny. It's got a slight Office feel to it, but definitely has it's own personality. Once you watch a few episodes and get to know the cast, you'll like them.

2. Pinterest: It's a virtual pinboard of ideas...lots of people's ideas. This site is great if you want to drool over good ideas of every sort--photography, fashion, houses, food, books, etc. There are even occasional pins of cute baby animals! (Don't let that deter you.) Pinterest is the Tastespotting/Food Gawker of the creative world. Very addicting. If you want in, let me know and I'll invite you. We can be pinboard friends. You know you want to.

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Pictures

I haven't taken many pictures lately (handing my head in shame). But I have a good reason. For the past week plus (during some very nice above 40 degree weather days), I have been under the weather with the worst cold ever. Ever. I'm well on my way to health now and wanted to post some photos...both new and old but all newly edited. Let me know what you think. Seriously. You are my faithful critics. 

Also, don't expect a lot of new photos coming up soon. It's freezing and very difficult to take pictures with numb digits.

#1–Fresh organic apples from Shandong Province. Are they too specked to be stock photos?

#2–Call me: There are stamped phone numbers all over the city for advertisements I assume. I must say that I question their effectiveness. Also, when I was taking this picture on a cold, rainy day in Shanghai, some strange guy came up to me and started making strange sounds as if he were trying to feed a squirrel and I was the squirrel. At such times I avoid eye contact and watch my bag.

#3–I ventured to the park across the street one cold Saturday morning and there were some elderly folks who didn't shoe me away while I was trying to take their picture. Bless 'em!...cause I'm super timid taking people shots.

#4–Wisteria: I love these flowers. I took this last spring. I feel like the flower doesn't pop out of the background enough despite my efforts. What do you think?