Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Goodwill Hunting: Holidays

Happy Holidays! 

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. We've been through sickness, holiday parties, birthday parties, last minute Christmas shopping, and lice... yeah, a little too much information maybe. Anyway, we got ready just in time for our trip! We're super excited to be spending Christmas in Kansas. I'm excited to be in Kansas just any time of the year. It is such a wonderful thing to be with family and great friends during this very special season. 

I was in Savers back in September shopping for the back-to-school post and found this tin card holder made by Hallmark. The Hallmark name has a special meaning to me. The company is based in Kansas City and I've had various dealings with the company, both on the business level and personal. This holder is just perfect for me. It was brand new and still had the original tag on.  And the price tag was $2.99! Of course, it went straight into my cart. At check out, I was told that there's another 50% off! I love it when that happens.

Merry Christmas!

Let's go over to lili's and see what she found.

Next month, New year resolutions!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The bright, beautiful, colorful world of Marimekko

It's been raining a lot here lately. Our little town just isn't ready for this much rain. Many streets are flooded. After several days of grey, we're ready for some sunshine. Or, you just walk into this "bright, beautiful, colorful world of Marimekko" for a quick fix.

I first discovered Marimekko when I was doing my research for the Floral Trend post over the summer. I was attracted to its bold, colorful and original designs. Marimekko is a Finnish company founded in 1951 by Armi Ratia. I find the name really interesting that it is a play on words. "Mari" is an anagram of the first name of the founder while "mekko" means dress in Finnish. We're so lucky to be one of the 5 cities in the US to have a Marimekko store. My dear friend, sewbee, and I had to make a special trip to visit the store. It was refreshing! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Goodwill Hunting: Thankful

This year, I'm thankful for having families nearby. I have my sister and her family just a couple of miles away.  Over the summer, our cousins moved near us from Seattle. There is just nothing like families. One thing for sure is the free baby-sitting! :)

People move here from all over and, sadly, it's just not that common to have family nearby. I didn't realize this but now I know it is such a blessing to spend Thanksgiving with families. For dinner this year, I'm making a green bean casserole, stuffing, and mash potatoes. And then I found this deviled egg dish from The Shop for $5. I might just have to make some deviled eggs.

Let's see what lili is thankful for this year.

Next month, Happy Holidays.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Vilynx addiction

Happy Thanksgiving week!

I'm super excited to be part of this startup, Vilynx. I know. I'm back in the startup scene. Crazy right? This time around, I'm in the heart of Silicon Valley so it's a bit different. Just a bit.  

These people work day and night, literally. I've never met a group of people that are so passionate about what they do. The company is spread out all over the world: seven in Spain, one in Hong Kong (no, not me, wish it was though), four in the Silicon Valley. You'd think it'd be hard to communicate and get things done. It's actually quite the opposite. I'd send an email to our developers in Spain at 4 pm my time (1 am their time) and get an email back within minutes. With the team all over the world, things actually get done around the clock. What a model.

In the short seven weeks I've been with the company, we've accomplished a lot. We were at two large technology shows: DEMO and GMIC-SV. At DEMO, we launched the iPhone app. We presented on stage and received great feedback from the panel judges. Shortly after, we launched Vilynx for iPad. At GMIC-SV, we won 3rd place at appAttack. Then last Friday, Android arrived!

If you take personal videos (and if you don't you should start), you need Vilynx. It allows you to access your family videos that are stored across your devices. If you're like me, you're taking more and more videos using your phone and storage quickly becomes a problem. I now take my videos using Vilynx, and they're all stored in the cloud account(s) of my choice, automatically.

I would say my favorite part about Vilynx is the sharing option. There's a tab for all videos that my Vilynx friends share with me. I don't have to search everywhere to find a video from an email anymore. They're all there in one place.

Another feature is the revolutionary user interface which displays 4 highlights of a video and plays 5 seconds of each highlight which makes browsing easy.

There is more. And with the holiday season around the corner, you'll just have to play with it. But be careful, it is addictive.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fall boots

Fall is my favorite season of the year. The vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges are just fascinating to me. I don't always slow down to smell the roses but I do pause when I can to enjoy the beautiful Fall colors.

Of course, it's not only the colors, it's also the boots that make Fall so special.

Stuart Weitzman Women's 5050 Boot0, $595

These over-the-knee boots are simply timeless. They are the "celeb" boots of Stuart Weitzman and have been seen on Angelina Jolie, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Lindsay Lohan, Demi Moore, Selena Gomez, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, and Fergie. They've been out for several years now (since 2009?) but are still very popular.  In fact, they're often sold out.  Wasn't sure if they'd be too "Pretty Woman" like so I went to the Stuart Weitzman store to try them on.  Of course, they ran out of the black nappa so I tried on the suede. To my surprise, they were very stylish, classy, super comfy and simply timeless. They're definitely on my wish list.

Another one on my wish list is the Paul Green Optimist, $489

With Paul Green, it's hit or miss in terms of style but the quality is exceptional. I walked into Nordstrom's one day and these boots in graphite caught my eyes. I had to try them on and what a mistake. I didn't want to take them off. I've had dreams about them ever since.

First on my "got-to-try-on" list are these 7040. Kate Beckinsale looks so cute in them. 

FRYE Women's Veronica Slouch Boot, $328

As seen on Miley Cyrus, Leighton Meester, Ashley Tisdale and Vanessa Minnillo, the Frye Veronica gets really good reviews.  The Veronica line has quite a few styles, colors, and heights to choose from. These are on my "got-to-try-on" list.

Donald Pliner Danee $350

The Danee is part of Donald Pliner's Western Couture Collection. I've always wanted a pair of cowboy boots but couldn't find one that is subtle and not too Western. The Danee is perfect. I especially like the versatile fold-over cuff.  I bought this at Nordstrom's during their sale over the summer! These have become my go-to boots.

I thought I was done with this post and then I saw these: Attilio Giusti Leombruni (AGL) Double Buckle Boot  $545

AGL's are made in Italy. I'm going to have to make a trip to Nordstrom's to try these on. 

Next time, when you're waiting in car pool to pick up your kids from school, instead of staring at your smart phone, look around and enjoy the beautiful Fall colors.  And, see if you can spot a beautiful pair of boots on another mom walking by.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Toasted pumpkin seeds

I saved the seeds from two medium sized pumpkins this year and toasted them. It turned out very good so I decided to share the recipe. Most of the recipes out there have long baking time (an hour or more) but this one saves time and energy. 

  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds (enough to cover your cookie sheet)
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp garlic salt
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • 2. Rinse and dry pumpkin seeds. I spread them on a baking sheet and let dry for an afternoon.
  • 3. Toss seeds in the melted butter, add garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well and coat the seeds.
  • 4. Spread seeds evenly on a baking sheet
  • 5. Keep an eye on them. Bake for 5 min, check and stir, then bake for another 5 min, check and stir, until they're browned. Depending on size of seeds it'll take anywhere from 5 - 20 min. Mine were ready in 10 min.
  • 6. let cool before serving.
  • 7. Enjoy! Warning... these are addictive.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

I don't bake cake. I never had to. I have a sister-in-law who is an amazing baker and she lived a block away... until we moved. She made my wedding cake and B's birthday cakes every year. I was spoiled. The one time I attempted to bake a birthday cake for my husband was a decade ago and it turned out to be a disaster. 

But today, something changed. Jebu picked a lemon from our lemon tree and he wanted to make a cake with it. Well, it's Friday and for a change, we had the time. I remembered I really liked a cake my friend served at her son's birthday party that used olive oil so I googled lemon olive oil cake and I found one on epicurious.  

I tweaked the recipe a little. I used less sugar and less salt.  Jebu was such a good helper. We had a great time baking together and the result was delish! 



  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for greasing pan
  • 1 large Meyer lemon
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tbsp
  • a pinch of salt

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease springform pan with some oil, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Oil parchment.
  2. Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons and whisk together with flour. Halve lemon, then squeeze and reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.
  3. Beat together 5 yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil (3/4 cup) and reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated). I used a Kitchen Aid Mixer for this step.  
  4. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.
  5. Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with pinch of salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.  I used a hand mixer for this step. 
  6. Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
  7. Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. 
  8. Optional: Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 tbsp sugar. 
  9. Bake until puffed and golden. Use a tooth pick and insert in center of cake to test. It's ready when it comes out clean, about 45 minutes. 
  10. Cool cake in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 hour. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Goodwill Hunting: Halloween

Our neighbors take Halloween very seriously. Every year, there's this unspoken contest on decorating. It's almost stressful to me. I never celebrated Halloween growing up and could not appreciate the whole idea of the holiday, until I had kids. (Well, I still don't appreciate the candies and scary decors.)

This year, our neighbors got their decorations out the very first weekend of September. Now, I thought that was way too early. These are not just spider webs and pumpkins. They are life-size zombies that are crawling out of the ground, mummies hug on a tree, skeletons sitting on a bench, and armless, bloody babies sitting in the middle of the lawn. I'm just surprised I haven't had nightmares yet.

We came home one day and there's a note on our door, "You're not in Kansas anymore, get going with your Halloween decorations." Due to peer pressure, we had to do something. I asked the boys if they want cute or scary decorations this year. They said scary. But I didn't care. I want cute. 

We cut out bats from black card stock last year so we reused them on the door (cute). Spider webs (cute). 

Ghosts made with foam balls and white muslin (cute). Skulls windmill (semi-cute, or semi-scary).

The rest is husband's and the kids' doing: a ghost with skull face (scary), a rat with red light-up eyes (scary), a tombstone with a skull and again red light-up eyes (scary). At least, these are much smaller scary objects compared to our neighbors'.

The very last item I added was this metal cat tea light holder with a bat on its tail I found at Savers for $3.99. I thought it fits the "cute" category so I took it home. Now I think the cute outweighs the scary. I win.

Let's see what lili found for Halloween.

Next month, "Thankful!"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Argan Oil

My sister suggested to me a few months ago that I should write about argan oil. She is a world traveler and had learned about this liquid gold when she visited Morocco years ago. It's taken me this long to post because I wanted to do my research and actually experience the product before I write about it.

Argan tree grows exclusively in the southwestern part of Morocco. The oil is obtained from the argan nut. It is a labor-intensive process performed only by native Moroccan women.

After a couple months of googling, I narrowed it down to two companies: Shea Terra and Josie Maran. It's important to me that the oil is 100% pure, cold pressed, certified organic, and the company is socially responsible. I even read about the founders. Shea Terra creator Tammi Umbel's story and legacy moved me a little more but I really like Josie Maran's Giving Back program.  In the end it really came down to pricing. For a 4oz bottle, Josie Maran costs US$96 and Shea Terra costs US$42. Josie Maran, being an ex-model, has definitely done more advertising. She has been featured in various fashion magazines and on shopping sites.
With the huge price difference, I decided to contact both companies and see what they had to say. I received a response from Shea Terra right away. I was impressed by their quick response time but the message was short and impersonal. All it said was that they believe in fair pricing as much as fair trade and that if I'm paying more I'm being ripped off. It was signed by customer service. Eight hours later, I received an email from Iesha with Josie Maran. The message was short and sweet, but personal! She pointed out that Josie's Argan Oil is first cold-pressed to ensure all the nutrients and essential fatty acids are still there.  Now, it just complicates my research even a bit more. I wrote Shea Terra back to find out if her argan oil is first pressed. Customer service replied and said while their product is cold pressed they have never heard of first cold pressed. 

At this point, I just want my argan oil. Despite the first cold pressed issue, I decided on Shea Terra.

I received the Shea Terra oil in the mail pretty quickly. I used it once on my hair but for the most part it just sat in my bathroom cabinet. This changed a few of week ago when I had breakouts on my forehead, lower cheeks and chin. My face was so bumpy that I was afraid to apply any product. Then I remembered my argan oil. After my regular cleansing at night, I rubbed a few drops on my hands to warm it up and gently pressed it all over my face and neck.  I was a little wary at first to put a pure oil on my combination skin. To my surprise the oil was absorbed very quickly and left my face moisturized but not greasy. In the morning, I would splash my face with water and apply my Boots No 7 Protect and Perfect Day Cream with SPF 15. After about five days of this simple regiman, my face cleared up. Now, I'm not saying this oil is magical but it is my personal experience that it works!  It's been about three weeks now and I'm loving it

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Goodwill Hunting: Back-to-School

Happy September! The boys are finally back to school! We had a really long summer this year. One of the schools in our district had some major construction done over the summer which delayed our first day back to September 4th. That made our summer three whole months long. I'm really not complaining though. We did some extensive traveling to visit family and friends and had a wonderful visit from ye-ye and nano.

I'm very excited about this month's post because I found a few things I love and know we'll use.

At Savers, I found these PBteen (Pottery Barn) desk organizers for $3.99 and $6.99.

At The Shop, I saw this table globe for $10. I've wanted a table globe for years and similar ones are selling for hundreds! It's a perfect find for us. The boys will now understand better where the 12-hour plane ride took us. Much more than a flat map, a physical globe can be touched and manipulated in order to understand the Earth. It is much easier for children to learn that the reality we live in is different than how it may appear to us initially.  After all, the Earth is not flat.

Great finds this month! Let's check out what lili found in the beautiful midwest.

Next month: Happy Halloween.

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