Monday, June 30, 2014

Clean Eating: Fruity and Nutty Breakfast

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I have been incorporated the idea of clean eating into my diet as of late. Still can't commit to eating this way every single meal but want to keep it a minimum of 3 meals per week while enjoying regular/yummy food.  It is a baby step. I appreciate the concept of consuming minimally processed , seasoned, cooked ingredients in order to receive the full benefits/vitamins/nutrients. It does take some adjustments going from eating flavorful, highly seasoned food to natural flavors bland.

It is difficult to deny that once you hit a certain age, it is incredibly easy to gain weight. I used to be the type of person who stayed skinny and had a hard time gaining weight when younger. However it is not that way at this age and time and especially after having a child. Due to the lack of exercise (laziness that is), I heavily focus on what I am to put in my mouth. Not always the healthy stuff but it is a work in progress.

Chis seeds have become my new addition. Can't believe these little seeds pack so much good stuff like fiber, Omega, protein and other awesome vitamins/minerals.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Asian Style Cool Dessert: Grass Jelly

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If you were born in Asia, you may be familiar with this black jello that is being consumed during the summer months. As far I as I could remember, I ate this dessert more often than I could count on my hands plus my toe fingers growing up. You could probably imagine my delight when I saw a powdered package of this grass jelly at an Asian grocery store. I couldn't help but picked up (many). I prefer the powdered type so I could make mine from scratch instead of buying ones in a can.

It was so easy to whip this thing up, takes a lot less time than American Jello varieties which needs more time to set in the fridge and the best part you can control the sugar intake. It is a matter of stirring powered grass jelly into water, cook on a stovetop until you get a thick consistency. Pour into the molds to cool. Cut up in small cubes and keep in the refrigerator.

If you have not tried this before, you may be curious to know what it tastes like. My husband's reaction when he first saw me make it was priceless and of course he didn't think it looked appetizing at all. Up to this date, he prefers not to eat while my little daughter always gobbles the thing up. It is almost flavorless really (perhaps a very slight hint of bitterness) but it has cooling property which makes it a great addition to any syrup based desserts or even drinks. In my motherland of Thailand, we often mix it with ice, some brown sugar and jackfruit. I had some strawberries and peaches in the fridge the other day so I thought I threw them into the mix. Yummy..yummy!

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Outings

Summer is officially here staring this past weekend in the U.S. Get used to the heat and sweating from head to toe when out during the day. I know the hottest temperature has yet to arrive until July or August. We took an advantage of a beautiful sunny (humid and hot, did I mention that already?) to venture out and explore new flowers in the backyard. I found this cute maxi dress (Children's Place brand) at TJ Maxx awhile back, I just knew the little one would love it. She couldn't stop twirling in it.

I have been inactive on the blog lately. Please excuse my lack of visit to your blog(s). I will slowly make my way there :) Meanwhile, you can also find me on Instagram as I am a bit more active there as of late.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer Cooking: What's for Dinner?

Summer is the time when fruit and vegetables taste best. They are cheaper, crisp, fresh, succulent, beautiful and full of flavors. Although I am not very fond of the heat, I thoroughly embrace the summer fruit and veggies goodness. The corn, watermelon, peaches, name it. It is the best time of the year to go grocery shopping and go crazy in the  fresh produces section or at the farmer's market of your choice. Let's get out and cook away! These ate some of the dishes I have repeatedly made over and over because they are full time working mom friendly recipe and delicious. The most requested items must be peach pie and blueberry pie. So plump, juicy and out if this world yummy around this tine of year. I can eat them every week until summer is over.
What is your favorite/staple dish to make in the summer? 
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Spicy Sausage Pasta adept from here (I added spinach/kale and chicken chucks instead of using all  sausages - less processed food, more fresh goodness)
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Crock Pot Pork Ribs: here
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Homemade Salad with Fruit and Nuts: here
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Peach Pie: here
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Roasted potato with fresh herb

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Banana bread (adept from Banana muffins here)
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Blueberry Pie: here
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Monday, June 16, 2014

Our Kind of Weekend

We did our favorite things this past weekend from horseback riding in the trails to visiting cupcake place and macaron place (again and again). Life is too short not to indulge from time to time.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Living Within Our Means

Having a child is truly a major life changing experience.  It doesn't only change you as a person, it also has a huge impact on your financial statement. My husband and I are classified under middle class just like most people in the US.  Financial life before a child was very flexible and we always had extra money for saving.

We ate out a lot, up to 5 times per week.

We bought whatever we wanted without being in debt (we lived in an apartment back then).

I changed cars quite often (too often indeed, I wish I kept the first car it would be paid off years ago)

We were able to save for a down payment to build our 1st home

We traveled overseas to visit my family every year

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However life turned upside down after an arrival of a little bundle of joy. Financially we hadn't experienced a significant change until we started paying for daycare. During the first three years I decided to place her in a home daycare run by two very loving and caring ladies highly recommended by my coworkers. I knew I could rest assured since a few ladies at work had their kids there and raved so much about them and they were close to my office. Plus they were pretty flexible to work with. Most daycare establishments have a set weekly rate. Even if your child is there for 4 days, they still charge for 5 days. Back then my husband was off on Monday so he kept her. We only paid for 4 days/week which helped when you added up.

When she was about to turn 4, we were thinking it may be a good time to transfer her to a "formal"daycare establishments which would help prepare her for the future school settings/environment. We visited a few places and of course the best one (as far as safety/quality of teachers' education /cleanliness of place/ curriculum designs/better quality of food/teacher and child ratio and etc.) around was the most expensive one around. We came home, did our math and we knew it meant a lot more $$$ but with the same amount of incomes that we bring home. It costs as much as our monthly home mortgage so it is like we pay for two mortgages every month. We could afford it but we had to significantly cut back on other things. We bit the bullet and went with the place we were most confident about.

It has been two tough years I must say but we have seen the positive learning progress the little has as well which makes us feel better for what we have to sacrifice.

We eat out 1 to 2 times a week

I couldn't afford to go visit my family in the past 2 years (will be 3 years next March)

Sephora disqualified me from a V.I.B status because I no longer spend money there...haha.

We mainly depend on miles to travel/vacation

We cut back on cable/home phone and everything we could think of except food/grocery. I believe in nourishing our bodies with good food. That's our main luxury I am willing to splurge.

Our house doesn't have lovely furniture. We haven't bought a single piece of furniture since 2008 (we moved in 2007 and I was pregnant in 2008, we started saving then).

I never knew what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck until these past two years. It was very challenging and stressful in the beginning when you had to significantly change your spending habit you are accustomed to your whole life from one extreme to another. It is difficult but it can be done.

I have learned to think through before buying anything. My house has less clutters.  There are many things I realize I don't need to have them and I will be fine without them.

We find alternative ways to have fun for less or sometimes even free instead of spending a lot of money buying stuff out of boredom. The way I look at money/life and joy become totally different.

I can't deny that there were times I saw how other people can afford to travel several times a year and buy the luxuries then I started asking myself why we had to be in this financial situation. I wanted to go out and spend too. Then I realized how blessed we are not having credit card debt.
True that we live paycheck per paycheck but we never have had outstanding balance on our credit cards in the past 5 years since she was born. Never once had to borrow money from anyone. We can still put money towards retirement savings.  We learn to live within our means and manage well. I should be proud, it is a blessing. We have a house, a fridge full of grocery. A little one has toys and basic necessities plus she is happy. We have each other. Most of all, my husband and I have each other to thank for for riding out these challenges together successfully and a little one for being a huge encouragement for us. Whenever I think about what we have, it makes me feel content and grateful despite the lack of everything else.

Living within one's mean is all about strong mindset and focuses on what we have instead of focusing on what we don't have. It only makes you feel depressed thinking about everything you want but can't afford.

In a few months a little one will become a kindergartner and go to a public school. It is a huge $$$ difference in paying for a full time daycare program versus after school care only. I will continue with this living below one's mean concept for as long as we could because i appreciate certain perspectives of it but will be more flexible with money/spending.  We are going to have a financial break, say bye to living paycheck to paycheck life and hopefully catching up on saving for stuff we have wanted for years, visiting my family and putting money towards savings again.

{Warning: don't be surprised if this blog temporarily turns into a shopping blog later this year. I have to celebrate our financial freedom before she goes to college in 13 years}

Counting down to the last check to daycare on 8/18/14 with me. Amen!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

3rd Time is A Charm: Macarons

When this fancy little French dessert made its first debut in the US a few years back, I had always wondered what the fuss was all about but of course couldn't find any Macaron Boutique here where I live (and now there are shops specialized in these delicate delights all over town). I am obviously very late in hopping on the macaron bandwagon but better late than never right?

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One day I had a chance to visit the famous Jean Philippe Patisserie in Vegas and in my mind I was determined to try the macarons. I had my hope up that it would knock my feet off but so wrong the macaron was rather...meh...bleh..and sooooooooo bland. I was so disappointed and thought heck why this dessert had nothing special yet became so popular? Was it famous because of its cute look? There's no way I would pay for stuff that tasted like this.  Little did I knew, I had yet to experience a good macaron. Two years later, more Macaron Boutiques popped up around town I thought I wanted to give it a try again. I randomly picked a fancy Macaron by Patisse in a high end River Oaks area based on good reviews on Yelp. I was so excited and couldn't wait to try. It cost $2.25 something per piece and we got 4 different flavors. Two were "meh" to say the least and the other two had good flavors, not enough to convince me to go back though. At least that gave me a hope that a good macaron boutique must exist somewhere out there. Don't give up yet. Keep trying. Unlike my husband, he rolled eyes every time I said let's go try more macarons.

Recently I came across a deal on Groupon that led us to discover a small but awesome macaron place "Oui Dessert". The establishment appears fairly new. The minute I walked in, I had mixed feelings. No high hope but I was willing to give it a shot, nothing to lose with those deals (except for $11 + some taxes). I picked 8 different flavors + one choc chip cookie + one chocolate covered eclaire with Groupon deal for three of us. OMG, their macarons
totally blew my mind away. Each bite was a heaven sent. Oh gosh, that lavender..hazelnut..strawberry...raspberry...chocolate...pistachio and more. It was that good!! Even my husband who insisted he no longer wanted to try after two attempts and made an assumption that all macarons suck and were ridiculously overpriced mutually agreed that each bite packed a full punch of pleasant flavor and you could tell what flavors they are without having to guess (not like artificial flavoring). If you love macaron and happen to be in Houston, check them out.
Third time is truly a charm! I want more macarons!! Blow that diet!!
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Monday, June 9, 2014

Grow with love: I have a green thumb

As far as I could remember, gardening was somewhat the least exciting thing on earth I could ever imagine. The thought of digging my hands in dirt, inhaling cow manure, picking worms, seeing wiggling earthworms sounded pretty gross to a city girl by birth like myself. Shopping and hanging out in the town's hottest spots sounded much better back in the days.
{I have yet to overcome my fear so I always wear gloves though}.

Never once in a lifetime thought I would end up living in a big Texas and over the years transform myself into an avid gardener who gets excited about growing any kind of plants/veggies/flowers. Having lived in an apartment briefly upon arriving the US made me appreciate a house with backyard even more. I knew I couldn't wait to move from an apartment into a house with a backyard of course. It is quite a delight and an accomplishment to be able to grow something from seeds and witness them blossom into something beautiful and edible. Best of all, they are as organic as you want. Organic soil, organic seeds and no pesticide of any kind.

I have three green bean plants which I grew from seeds awhile back. I harvested my first crop of my (five) green beans today. They are so perfect and beautiful. It was strange, last year I tried to grow them but they didn't thrive at all. I have a better luck this year so I planted 4 more. Looking forward to harvesting more green goodness!

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