My Love for Life-Like Inanimate Objects

I’ve done a few “Look Like a Princess But Don’t Act Like One” segments now. And this month, I’ve concluded that I would be Belle from Beauty and the Beast if I had to choose a “Disney princess” to be. I admittedly do a good number of my postings on book reviews too. And who doesn’t want a sexy beast?

Click here to read the film review I wrote on Beauty and the Beast in April

I’ve been raving to my friends about my recent purchase of forks and knives after I realized that I was down to just one fork (I only started out with two when I moved into my current apartment to start a new life two and a half years ago). And the one and only fork left had a bent tip. Voila, the fork and knives I got from Paris at Pylones (where I stumbled upon during my Paris trip in 2015):

The knives are male and the forks are female. If you take a closer look they all have faces (and booties when you flip them over on the back!) And the knives have a slight bulge for a package. Gosh, it all made me laugh so much!

As some of you also may recall, from that first visit to Pylones I also fell in love with the 58Products Tassen collection and have their tea set and bowls. I mentioned in my book that I would like to eventually collect all of them! This is a portion of my growing collection:

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As you can see from the photo above, I’m also a big fan of having silicone lids for my tea cups. Pylones does usually have a number of choices in stock but I’ve also been fortunate enough to stumble upon on them in other places now too:

Click here to buy the Bumble Bee, the Kitty Cat, or the Bunny Rabbit ones I found!

Eating and tea time should be a joyous time and it certainly has become so for me. As cliché as it sounds, sometimes it’s the small things that make all the difference.

-M

Book Review: Three Souls by Janie Chang

For this month’s book club meeting the ladies honored my book suggestion by reading this novel that was originally gifted to me by another lovely lady and I had been wanting to read it for a while now (when people find out you love to read you become that woman everyone loves to gift books to and you end up with so many that you no longer have to seek new books on your own).

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(For the purpose of privacy, I have blurred out the faces of the other book club members)

And to nourish our own souls, we indulged on high tea. Per tradition, the book club documents the books we read every month with a photo of my gloved hands holding up the book we read so I hand modeled in juxtaposition to beautiful tea cups:

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(Click here to purchase the gloves I am wearing)

The ladies of the book club are in agreement that the novel illustrates the enduring strength women had to go through in being married into families during the time period (the 1920s and 30s) and making the most of their situation or the hardships and consequence they endured when they chose other paths. It does also explore the concept of “what if” in how different each character’s lives would have turned out to be had the protagonist Leiyin not interfered.

Though the story has tragedy (ie. the novel does start off at the funeral of Leiyin so death is a constant overshadowing presence throughout the whole book) I was pleasantly surprised at how the women treated other women and their children with respect and kindness since mother-in-laws are traditionally very mean to their daughter-in-laws in the Chinese culture and even in modern times (regardless of the culture) stepmothers aren’t always nice to their stepchildren either. And while a majority of the prominent male characters turn out to be horrible, Leiyin’s husband Baizhen was thankfully an exceptional spouse (and student) to her and a father to their daughter. In a way, it all balanced out with the dark sides of the story about all the passion, secrets and betrayal.

The book pokes at the age old question about whether it’s better to lead a peaceful but long, dull life or risk a short-lived life of passion and hardships. Though I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people end up having a mix of both to a certain extent. And while some situations are beyond our control we must all live (or die) with the choices we make.

Overall, the book did end up having a good amount of twists and turns even if you know from the very beginning that the main character is dead. And as I was progressing through the book I did keep wanting to know what happens next. In a way, a lot of the book club ladies agreed that we all still felt that way when we reached the end of the book since there were questions hanging around of what ended up happening to this character or that character or how things were going to ultimately happen (like movie endings when it’s ended before you really get a chance to see what actually happens so you are left to imagine what you think would have happened).

I would give the book a letter grade A-

M

The Way I’m Eating Fruit

For the last several weeks, I’ve been trimming down a bit in preparation for a martial arts tournament and promotion exam. One of the things I have started doing is making a tweak to the way I eat fruit for breakfast. I have typically had a small serving of fruit with some mint leaves for breakfast with my oatmeal omelet (as described in my book), but to that I’ve recently been adding/replacing some of it with slices of cucumbers, a drizzle of peanut butter and a sprinkle of chili flakes:

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A lot of people forget that cucumbers and tomatoes are actually fruit too but they tend to be treated as vegetables because they’re not as sweet as what is traditionally considered fruit. And the concept of putting on peanut butter is not that new or revolutionary considering the fact that it’s been eaten with slices of apples or celery as a classic snack here in the states. And the concept of sprinkling on chili flakes is not that weird too since fruits like mango are often dried and spiced up as well.

The combination of all of it is beneficial though:

  • The addition of chili flakes have the benefit of keeping insulin levels low following the meal (aka you’ll feel less hungry).
  • As mentioned, cucumbers have less sugar than the other fruit I’ve been having them with (ie. the photographed examples above from left to right are: mangoes, strawberries, and apples). So instead of completely eliminating these other fruits (which also have their own health benefits) I’m simply replacing some of it with cucumber slices.
  • Peanut butter adds some healthy fat and protein which will also help you feel fuller.
  • There is also a health benefit to my choice of consuming fruit with mint leaves in that mint leaves promotes digestion and also stimulates a digestive enzyme that helps absorb nutrients from food and converts fat into usable energy (as opposed to having it be stored in your body)

While I love having mint leaves with my fruit (to the point where I often think it ends up being more of a mint leaf salad with fruit in it), I’m also going to be looking into getting some basil leaves in the near future too since they have been coming back to the farmers market with the return of the warmer season.

As a form of size/quantity reference, one of the red mini ramekins I used in the photographs above contain approximately 1.5 large strawberries (or 2 small strawberries) chopped + 4 or 5 slices of cucumbers. So it’s really not a lot. And I do more or less the same amount of fruit + mint leaves combination for having with my non-fat Greek yogurt  (with a sprinkle of cinnamon, chia seeds, and nuts) at night as my last meal of the day.

So here’s to a colorful diet and everything in moderation,

-M

St. Patrick Day ~Green Tea Chocolate Chip Cookies~

In honor of St. Patricks Day, I decided to play around with some matcha powder and put them in chocolate chip cookies. The aftermath:

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If you have a favorite chocolate chip cookies recipe, I would just simply add the matcha powder in there, though I would use all white sugar instead of brown sugar to keep the vibrancy of the green color.

Trader Joe’s did start selling match powder recently. I emptied 4 packs into my batter of a 1 egg recipe batch. At Trader Joe’s you do have the option of purchasing chocolate chunks instead of chips but the chips would work better for the same reason I mentioned with using white sugar (to have the green color of the batter stand out instead of having a whole bunch of micro-sized chocolate crumbs blending in).

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So to sum, here’s the gist of what I did:

~Ingredients~

  • About 1 1/2 c flour blend (coconut flour, almond flour, regular flour)
  • 8 oz blend of butter and cream cheese
  • About 3/4 c sugar
  • Drizzle of almond extract
  • About 1/2 bag of chocolate chips (6oz.)
  • About 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 4 packets  (approximately 6 grams) of match powder

Cream the butter/cream cheese mixture with the sugar, matcha powder and almond extract. Add in the egg and chocolate chips to blend. Fold in the dry ingredients. Refrigerate overnight before forming into balls and baking on a sheet for approximately 8~9 minutes in a preheated oven (350 degrees F).

Wishing you all a festive St. Patricks Day,

M

Banana Cheesecake Brownies

Valentine’s Day is coming up and it’s all about chocolate. I recently came across a cheesecake brownie recipe and decided to combine the brownie element with my ever-popular banana bread element and my a take on a classic hostess chocolate cupcake-looking treat. The aftermath:

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~Recipe~ (yields about 2 dozen cupcakes)

For the brownie batter:

  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 c chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp salt + sprinkles of cinnamon + cardamon
  • 1/2 c flour blend of almond flour, coconut flour and regular flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the cheesecake batter mixture:

  • 1 block (8oz) cream cheese
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract or cream cheese extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F)

Mix all of the wet ingredients for the brownie batter together first (though I would mix in the eggs last to prevent the eggs from getting cooked from the heat of the melted chocolate). Add in the dry ingredients to form the brownie batter. Fill each cupcake paper about halfway full with the brownie batter.

Blend all of the ingredients for the cheesecake batter and top each brownie batter-filled cup with a bit of the cheesecake batter.

Bake for about 11 minutes or until done (but not overly done) and let it cool in the oven

Et voila! Bon appétit~

– M

 

 

A Great Way to Use Leftover Halloween Candy

I’ve never been much of a candy person. But I do love desserts. Like how I have never been crazy about Oreo cookies —- but I LOVE cookies n’ cream ice cream.

So, I decided to take some Halloween candy and turned them into cookies. It’s not too far of a stretch from the classic M&M cookies. But I decided to take inspiration from the names of the candies themselves:

Case #1: Snickers Snickerdoodles 

People LOVE my snickerdoodles and everyone seems to have a favorite flavor/version of the varieties I make. While my pumpkin snickerdoodles are a fall favorite, this is a great way use up those snickers bars and have fun saying “snicker” twice. You can take a basic snickerdoodle recipe and simply incorporate chopped up pieces of snickers bars in there, which is what I did below:

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Case #2: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookies

So I actually didn’t have Reese’s peanut butter cups. I bought the dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s (which is my personal preference). But you can use any peanut butter cups and use it in a peanut butter cookie recipe as I did. While you can chop the peanut butter cups and incorporate it into the cookie dough like I did with the snickerdoodles, I decided to also insert whole peanut butter cups into the dough balls before baking them in the oven and this was the aftermath:

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I did notice that there was more moisture in tact with the whole peanut butter cup version most likely due to the melting effect that took place on top of the cookies. It did obviously make it a bit more difficult to stack those ones without smudging the tops. So for practicality, I would recommend the incorporating chopped up pieces method.

I often will store cookie dough balls in the freezer upon making the dough to make it easy for me to be able to pop them in the oven whenever I need them in a hurry. That way you will also be able to stretch the life of the halloween candy without making people feel sick of eating it months later.

Et voila! Bon appétit~

– M

 

 

Whole Foods Market vs Sprouts Farmers Market

Up until recently I was primarily a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s gal when it came to grocery shopping for items that I did not get at the farmers market. However, I had begun to go to Sprouts Farmers Market in the last few months ever since I started making my own protein bars as I was told that the ingredient I was interested in purchasing was sold at that store. It turns out that Whole Foods sells the item too for the same price.

However, I started looking at and comparing price tags between Whole Foods and Sprouts and here were my findings:

1.) Water  refill

Winner: Sprouts (hands down)

I used to go to Whole Foods so frequently because I would go there to go refill my water jugs at the refilling station. Consequently, this is now the reason why I go to Sprouts so often now. Sprouts costs only $0.25/gallon vs Whole Foods is nearly twice as much at $0.49 per gallon

2.) Laundry detergent

Winner: Whole Foods

The laundry detergent I use was on sale at both stores the same week. And even with the sale price Whole Foods beat out Sprouts by $2 (the non-sale price difference was $3).

3.) Oatmeal (in bulk)

Winner: Sprouts

This is another item I used to get primarily at Whole Foods but have now switched over to getting at Sprouts. Like Whole Foods, Sprouts does carry all 3 varieties of oats (steel cut, regular, quick) and even with sale prices, the price tag at Whole Foods is over $1 vs the regular non-sales price at Sprouts is $0.99 per pound.

4.) Facial care products

Winner: Sprouts

I’ve been using the brand Andalou for my facial care. Again, they were on sale the same week at both stores and the sales price tag at Sprouts was slightly lower than Whole Foods. And I did also find that at Sprouts the store clerks were less particular about which coupon you were using for applying towards getting a discount on the product.

5.) Alternative fat spreads

Winner: It’s a tie

At both stores, the regular price for these Earth Balance coconut butter spreads is at $4.99 and was on sale for $4.49.

6.) Paper Products

Winner: It depends

I do a lot of baking so this is a section I would go to for aluminum foil, parchment paper and cupcake tin liner paper.

With the cupcake tin liner paper, Whole Foods wins for the same exact brand I get as their non-sale prices are at $1.79 vs the $1.99 at Sprouts (note: in the photo taken below Whole Foods has it on sale for $1.39.

Sprouts won for better aluminum foil price and parchment paper for the same brand with the If You Care brand of parchment paper priced at $5.49 vs $5.99 at Whole Foods. BUT Sprouts did not carry the parchment paper in the brand Paper Chef, which I tried for the first time today after seeing it on sale at Whole Foods and the quality was superior to what I’ve been using.

7.) Tea

Winner: Whole Foods 

Again, both stores had a sale on the Yogi Tea brand. If you were to compare the prices of the sale prices of this particular popular brand, then Whole Foods won as each box was $3 compared to the sale price $4.49 at Sprouts.

However, both stores have tea brands that the other store does not carry. So in that situation, you can’t really compare. I previously did a blog entry on chocolate rooibos tea and at Whole Foods they have it in the Numi brand whereas at Sprouts they have it in Zhena’s Gypsytea brand.

With the exception of the water refilling stations and the oats in the bulk stations, these comparisons are juxtapositions of prices on the same brand items. So when it comes to other items such as deli, bakery, meat or produce items the quality can obviously differ. In terms of quality and variety, I would say that Whole Foods definitely ranks superior when it comes to their bakery, hot food bar, and selection of cheeses.

It might seem exhausting to some to go to different stores for different items. Luckily, I’ve become better about decreasing the frequency in which I go to all the stores with better planning. And when it comes to clothing and I am still primarily an online shopper. If you do go to either of these stores and shop for these items, I hope I was able to provide some helpful insight.

One thing I will note is that depending on the store location, things vary and I am basing my comparison notes on stores that were local to me.

-M