Saturday, August 15, 2015

Red cabbage salad

In case you couldn't tell, I took a hiatus from blogging. And I'm transitioning now from being an experimental explorational blogger to using this blog mostly for my own use, to keep track of things I've been doing :)

I was uploading photos from my camera this evening, and came across this beauty from at least a month ago. Tell me this is not the most gorgeous salad you have ever laid eyes on! Thank you so much to Real Housemoms for the recipe.

Also, did you know that there is a gene that determines whether or not cilantro tastes like...well, cilantro...or SOAP?! Read this terribly interesting article from NPR for a detailed explanation.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

3 smartest kitchen products

Hi everyone! It has been a really long time since my last post, and a lot has happened! I finished grad school and got my PhD, and now I'm on an extended break before I start work next month.

A good friend of mine made a request for this post, and I was really inspired by her idea. I picked 3 of my favorite kitchen products that were not super obvious. (For example, everyone already knows a good food processor, sharp knife, and stand mixer are great to have.)

Also a note - as stated in my disclosures page, I do receive a small commission from Amazon if you click on these product links and end up purchasing the product. I would highly recommend these products for any friend regardless of the commission.

Let's start the countdown!

3. Chef's Planet Glass Cruets, available in 30, 16, 8, and 5 ounce sizes.

I love this because the funnel is built-in; for our other oil or vinegar bottles I have to dirty a funnel to fill it, and then put it in the dishwasher, and the dispenser drips or gets gunky quickly (I know, life is really tough). This spout works perfectly, and I honestly don't know if it drips because the funnel thing will catch it if it does. Far superior to any other dispenser I've tried.

30 ounce (the link above): very generously sized, good for oft-used cooking oil.
16 ounce: I don't have this one, but good for cooking oil if you have very limited counter space and don't cook every day.
8 ounce: we use ours for extra virgin olive oil, which we don't run through quickly. I sprayed the bottom with mirror finish spray paint to protect the delicious sensitive compounds from sunlight.
5 ounce: given how small the 8 ounce is, I don't foresee a need for this guy; it only holds a little over half a cup.

Cons: They are a bit pricey, and I kinda wish the glass were a little bit thicker just for peace of mind, though I've never had either of mine crack on me. But most of all, I also wish they made them with square bases with straight sides, so that I could line them up more neatly and they would take up less counter space. (Manufacturer, can you hear me??)

2. Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

Do the math: our household of 2 humans and 2 dogs used to consume a big pack of paper towels from from Costco 2-3 times a year, which means we probably spent roughly $50 on paper towels a year.  Since we've bought these cleaning cloths, I think paper towel consumption has decreased at least a third, so they paid for themselves in less than a year. It's a cheaper and greener way to clean, and they're also good for dusting computers and TVs. Since they're amazingly absorbent, they clean up spills really quickly. Plus the 3 colors are really helpful; we use green in the kitchen/eating areas, blue in the bathroom, and yellow for other furniture and outdoors. I've been washing them with bleach to help sanitize, and they haven't suffered from that even after 2 years of use.

Nitpick cons: the way the fabric has loops often catches debris like dry leaves or little twigs. This is actually good thing for cleanup, but then they're also hard to shake off, though most debris comes off in the wash. Also, if you have an apartment or smaller home, a 48 pack will be pretty excessive, so I recommend splitting with 1 or 2 friends.

1. Cuisinox Drink Markers

My set wasn't ordered from Amazon but rather a great find at a restaurant supply store in Singapore, but based on the shape and colors I'm pretty sure this product is identical to what I have.
You can use them on the stem as pictured on the product page, but the amazing is: you can also put the slit into the rim of any glass. Which makes them infinitely better than your standard wine charms and so great for company. I've seen similar products that have suction cups to stick to the outside of the glass, but reviews for those say they fall off easily and don't stick to plastic cups.

At least one of my friends has been looking for something similar for a long time, and I'm really excited I finally found it!

So there you have it, three wonderful kitchen products that I wish I had started using earlier. I guess in a way, having dogs is also a good kitchen tool too, because they vacuum up food crumbs.  See how clean my floors are?!


Friday, May 8, 2015

Best way to store receipts

Yes, I believe in monsters. I used to have a receipt monster that haunted me, and I went through a couple of different systems (if you could call them that) which didn't work until I finally found one that wrangled my receipt monster!

First, let me clarify: I only keep receipts in case I need to return something later. In my opinion, there's not really any point to keeping receipts for things I'll never return, like groceries, produce, gas, etc. For important purchases of big-ticket items (appliances, electronics, etc.), I attach the receipt to the product manual, warranty info, etc. all together in the filing cabinet. (More on that in a future post, perhaps.)

So, here's what I had tried in the past...
Shoebox: yeah right. Let's not even go there.
A single receipt file in a filing cabinet: receipts fell out all the time, were hard to find when I needed them again, and just got too disorderly. They also just accumulated forever until the next time I moved homes, when I'd just toss out all the contents of the file.

Then I got this mini expanding file folder from the Container Store a few years ago, and I love it! The new system is:
  • File the receipt away in the month that you made the purchase.
  • At the beginning of every month, flip through that month's receipts from the previous year, and toss them out.
It's easy enough that the hubby happily complies! No more random receipts lying around the house. If you're not near a Container Store, here's a similar (dare I say cuter) one from amazon:

That's all for today, folks! Starting the 2 week countdown today until my last day as a grad student. The little monsters will be happy to have me home all day every day when I take a break after that, but for now they're doing a lot of this:


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Teeny tiny ribbon roses!

Don't tell anyone...I should be working on my thesis right now! But procrastinating writing can be exhausting, so I needed a break from finding excuses to take breaks from work ;) Plus, this post has been in the works for almost a week, so it's time to set it free!

So here's my tutorial for making tiny ribbon roses, which I need for a little project I'll share in a later post. I sought high and low online and didn't quite find what I wanted, so I kind of cobbled a hybrid from tutorials from Ravings of a Mad Crafter and Solo Un Tip. (Just giving credit where it's due.) Enjoy!


  • thread
  • cloth onto which you will build the rose: I found felt to be a great material, but you can also use organza, or a bulky fabric that is easy to make large holes in.
(I am using contrasting colors in my materials here so it's easier for you to see, but you will most likely want to use the same color of ribbon and thread.)

Part 1: Make the star-shaped frame

1. Cut a 10" piece of each width of ribbon, at an angle so it'll be easier to... 2. Thread each ribbon through a needle. 3. Pull the thin ribbon through the fabric:

4. On the back side, tie a simple knot so it stays put:

5. Flip the fabric over. Sew the ribbon back to the other side by making what will be the center of the rose, so that you have a stitch that is roughly 1/2" long. It will look like this; you are looking at the front side of the fabric where the rose will end up:

6. Use something like a ballpoint pen or dull pencil to make the center hole bigger:

7. Continue sewing the ribbon in and out until you form a 5-sided star. Each arm of the star should come out of that center hole. I found it best to go in this order (you're looking at the front here):

8. When you're done forming the last arm of the star, you can sew or glue down the end of the ribbon on the back side of the fabric:

Part 2: Form the rose

9. Insert the wider ribbon through the center hole of the frame until it peeks through. If you're having trouble, you can use a needle to pull it through:

10. Pull it all the way through. On the back side, make another knot to keep it in place:

11. Now the fun part! Twist the needle around several times:

12. Wind the part of the ribbon that is coming out of the frame into a tight little circle, and you'll find that the ribbon forms a nice little rose center all by itself:

13. Making sure the center stays put, take the needle under one of the arms in the frame and pull it all the way through:

14. Continue building the rose by making 1 or 2 twists in the ribbon, and pinning it down to an arm of the star. Skip everyone other arm as you go around so that the "petals" are big enough.
15. After about twice around, it'll look something like this:
Then this:

16. There are a couple of ways to finish this.  You could glue the end of the wide ribbon down with hot glue, but I chose here to sew it in place with a bit of thread again:

17. Trim your ribbon and step back to admire your work!

You can see the frame ribbon is already pretty well hidden here, but it looks great with matching colors:

I haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure this wouldn't be too hard to scale up using wider ribbon to make larger roses.

So I wrote most of this during our long flights when we took a trip to Boston this past weekend for a wedding, while our brother- and sister-in-law (bless them!) watched the little monsters. They couldn't be happier, especially because it means they had their big fluffy monster friend Blue to play with all weekend! Hope you all enjoyed your weekend as well...the next one isn't too far away now!!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Homemade mayo

Here's a mayo recipe & re-purposed jar double whammy for this terrific Tuesday! Over the weekend, I had a craving to re-create the olive oil mayonnaise hubby and I made a couple of months ago, using a recipe we pieced together from others so that we could use the whole egg instead of just the yolk (because we're too lazy to deal with a lone egg white).

It's really easy, but definitely use a food processor if you have one.

Ingredients (and acceptable substitutions)
1 egg
4 tsp white wine vinegar (lemon juice or regular white vinegar)
1 tbsp dijon mustard (1/2 tsp dry mustard powder)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup oil or oil blend of your choice: the first time we did this, we used all extra virgin olive oil, but it was a little too much like being smacked in the face with an olive branch in terms of olive intensity level. This time, I used 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil with 3/4 cup virgin olive oil, and thought it was just right. I really want to try sesame oil next time, so get creative! Or, use vegetable oil or something neutral like veggie oil for classic mayo.

1. Pasteurize your egg to be safe. (Yes, it's up to you if you want to skip this, but it doesn't take that long and I'd rather not deal with food poisoning! Thank you to Saturday night dinner company for suggesting this.)

  • Combine all ingredients except oil together, and whisk together well. Microwave for 10 second intervals, whisking with a new fork each time, until the mixture is piping hot and gets really frothy, like this:

  • If you have an infrared thermometer (I love the cheap-o one I have), this is the perfect use for it - make sure it hits 140°F. Don't dip a regular thermometer into the egg mixture more than once, as this could re-contaminate it.
  • Let it cool for about 2 minutes before moving on.

2. Add egg mixture to a food processor. Process alone for about 30 seconds.

3. The fun part!! Slowly add your oil in a very thin stream, while the food processor is running. About halfway through, you'll actually be able to hear things sounding different as it thickens, when contents turn from the runny egg mixture into a thick, creamy emulsion: teeny olive oil droplets in the water phase, with all the proteins in the egg stabilizing things so it doesn't turn into a salad vinaigrette. It'll also turn from yellow-ish translucent in color to more white and opaque, since the emulsion scatters light:

This batch has a lovely green tint because of the olive oil:

4. Taste your creating! With a pita chip or whatever else you have around:

You know I'm going through spray paint withdrawal already, so I took this clean old mustard jar with label removed:

Taped off the edges to keep the pretty design:

And put a couple of coats of spray paint on the top, let dry while eating a fresh steamed artichoke with my mayo, filled the jar, and assembled:

Wow. Writing about this makes me want to go eat some. The little monsters wish everyone a great week!

Visit Yush's profile on Pinterest.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Circuit board coasters

Yeeeessss weeeeeeekennnnnnnd!

Moving on...

A really long time ago, the hubby brought these circuit boards home from the office because they were going to throw them out, and he thought I could do something cool with them. Bless his heart, he knows me so well!

They were the perfect size and shape to turn into coasters, but then thought twice when I learned that a lot of circuit board solders and other components have trace amounts of toxic materials that are bad for you to come into direct contact with. (Which I should have already known, considering I learned about some of this stuff in college learning materials science.) So these sat in a junk box for a couple years.

But I finally just got around to ordering these self-adhesive laminating sheets from Amazon so they could be sealed up for safe use! I just cut the sheets to size and sealed them up. (I may not have retained much from my MIT education, but I'm sure enough that a layer of adhesive and plastic will keep me safe in this situation.) There's a slight hint of some air bubbles because the surface isn't smooth, but it's pretty hard to see unless you really look for it.

You could really use these adhesive sheets to make coasters out of anything that isn't already waterproof; even just pretty paper. Uh oh, watch out - nerd alert! My desk has some spiffy new coasters now.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

A fresh coat of paint in our master bath!

Oh my goodness you guys...finally finished my first draft of my PhD thesis today and I am EXHAUSTED. Especially after the big dinner and wine hubby and I had. So what better way to celebrate than to show you my before & after paint job in our master bath! (I know, I'm always super logical.)

A few weeks (months?) ago I slowly started to re-paint my master bath. I'm so excited this is the last bathroom in our house to get a new coat of paint! (Though, in these photos I am hiding the fact that the ceilings need some TLC too.) Here's the "before" in Behr Orange Glow. This is one of the realtor's photos from the last time this house was on the market because I'm too scatterbobbed to take photos before starting projects:

I think cool colors work so much better in bathrooms, which are inevitably smaller than other rooms. For this space, since it's oblong-shaped, I thought I'd give a color theory trick that I read about a shot: darker colors on the further away walls (Behr Grant Gray here) to make them appear to advance, and a lighter color on the closer walls (Behr Pewter Vase) to make them appear to recede. I'm pretty happy with the results!

For edges, I like to use a technique called "cutting in" rather than using painter's tape, which I find to be expensive, time-consuming, and pretty annoying to use. I'd explain further, but I instead refer you to youtube...others explain it way better than this amateur ever could. I also use a skinny craft paint brush to get into little corners I can't do precisely with the fat paint brush.

I'm planning on fixing these curtains up a little better, but I really like "Lill" curtains from Ikea and cutting or draping them to size. And I swear, it's not just cuz I'm extremely frugal and they're only $3.99! I also like the way they diffuse and scatter sunlight, and they're lightweight enough to easily hang with a tension rod without installing hardware.

What do you guys think of my little toilet paper roll art? I had it elsewhere for a while, but the silver paint it got looks way better with the color palette in this room than the warmer yellow in the rest of the house. (Again...mounting evidence that I am possessed by a little spray paint demon that makes me use it in every possible situation...) Plus, having art made out of toilet paper just makes logical sense located in the bathroom :)

Happy almost Friday, everyone - weekend is almost here!!! I'm now gonna go from this... this.