Friday, December 30, 2011

Hong Kong

I flew back to Hong Kong the day after Christmas, where I grew up and where my parents are.
Everytime I am home in Hong Kong, this is what I do: Eat, Sleep, Shopping, Hiking, and Eat. Repeat.

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My parents live on Lantau Island, which is one of the many islands surrounding Hong Kong Island. The other day my mom and I took a little ferry to a different side of Lantau Island and we hiked back.

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The view was amazing. The pictures may look hazy, it's not because I did something with the camera, that's just the way the sky has became due to the pollution. Even on sunny days, it is still difficult see the coastline clearly.  Note the airport in the horizon, that area was once ocean and it has been filled to create that flat land.

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During our hike, we passed by some little fishing villages. Here a family is drying mustard green on their front yard.

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The village house reminds me of the scenes in the movies like Armagenddon and Deep Impact when the asteroid hits Asia. All is missing is the saipan boats, in reality I hardly see saipan boats in Hong Kong.

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Tomorrow my family is flying somewhere Southeast Asia for vacation. I promise to write once I am there, and let's see if you can guess where I am.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sunset in the Fields

I have been staying at my future-in-laws' house in southeast Wisconsin country side. Before meeting Jake, I did not know what silo was and I thought the red barn off the driveway was their house. What a city girl I was. As I spend more time in the country, I begin to appreciate the nature and openness. On Christmas Eve, Lola and I took a walkabout around the fields at sunset.

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Everything outside is brown, tan, maroon, and dark brown. The weather has been around freezing everyday, but I still enjoy the nature. Lola loves chasing the little critters and rolling around in poop.

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When we were driving up north, the land got flatter and flatter, until we were on one straight interstate that took us all the way to Wisconsin. That's the Midwest, flat, endless field, farms, haystacks, and cows. Don't call me a city girl anymore, because I love everything about the Midwest.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011


Last December I moved out of my apartment in Madison, Wisconsin and moved down to Lexington to start another chapter of my life. A year later, I revisited Madison. Even though at the end of my six years stay I was ready to move on to a new place, sometimes I still miss the city. Madison was where I went from living in dorms to in an apartment by myself, it was where I met Jake and where we had our first date, where I adopted Lola, and where I had my first job.

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In Madison, I had lunch at my favorite pizza joint.

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I went to the Wisconsin Statee Capital.

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I passed by Lola and my first home together.

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I miss the biking trails and beautiful lakes, but going back to Madison made me realize that it was a good decision to leave the city. I was ready to move on start something fresh. I love where I am right now in life.

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p.s. I apologize for the poor/ weird photo quality because I don't have my computer with to edit the pictures. I will update again when I am back.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Peppermint Thief

Tomorrow I will be driving back to Wisconsin to spend Christmas with Jake's family, then I will be flying to Hong Kong to see my parents. This means I have been busy the last few days even though I am on winter break. Hopefully I will be able to update during traveling.

Yesterday I made four batches of almond toffee (one batch burnt). Candy making is a form of art and requires lots of patients. Even a few degrees will make a difference. I stood in front of the stove for an hour constantly stirring while watching the thermometer like a hawk.

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The hard work paid off when I see these cute Christmas tins filled with almond toffee.

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 It makes me smile even more when I see a box filled with presents

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Lola, on the other hand, has been quite busy herself as well.
She stole peppermint candies from my desk! Peppermint thief! I could tell she really tried to climb on my desk because my backpack and the boxes around it were all knocked down.

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Now she has to figure out how to get back on Santa Paw's nice list. Probably a little too late now, Lola. Should have thought it through before taking my peppermint candies. Tonight my little family will be doing gift exchange before the big road trip tomorrow. Maybe...maybe Lola will get her n-y-l-a-b-o-n-e.

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I hope you all have a lovely Holiday!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rum Ball

I am finally done with the semester! Woot! Woot!

To "celebrate" my completion of the semester, I spent the whole day yesterday in the kitchen making yummy food. I made pasta salad for my good friend's holiday get-together and for another potluck today. During Christmas I give almond toffee in tin boxes to families and friends, and I started the process yesterday. I will write a post about it later. Finally, I made rum balls. I first had them at Jake's parents' house a few years ago and I did not like them at all. It is Jake's favorite Christmas treat, so I decided to give it a try.

Meet the cast of rum ball, starring cocoa powder, vanilla wafers, rum, powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar), pecan, and honey.

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Crush about 70-75 wafers to get 2.5 cups of crumbs.

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You need 1 cup ground pecans.

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Mix the crushed wafers, ground pecans, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder together.

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In a separate bowl, combine rum, honey, and water; stir into crumb mixture.
By the way, this honey-rum mix is pretty tasty. It may be my new drink now, so long rum and coke from college days.

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Form 1-inch balls and role in additional powdered sugar.
Ever wonder why they call it confectioners sugar?
I googled it and could not fine an answer.
Confectioner is one who sells sweets, so does this mean powered sugar is a candy-salesman's sugar?

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Ta-Da! No baking needed.

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 Let's just say the honey-rum mix won me over. I now like rum ball.
These rum balls also make a great Christmas gift.

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Rum Balls

(Recipe from Taste of Home)
2.5 cups crushed vanilla wafer
1 cup ground pecans
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoon of baking cocoa
1/4 cup rum
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons water
Additional powdered sugar

Combine wafer crumbs, pecans, powdered sugar, and cocoa. Combine rum, honey, and water; stir into crumb mixture.
Shape into 1-inch ball and roll in powered sugar.
Yield 3.5 dozen

Friday, December 9, 2011

This Week

From my lack of posts this week, you might think that I overdosed on the snickernoodles. Well, I almost. Here is a list of what I did this week:

I got up early to cover someone at work, meanwhile I took a moment or two to enjoy the sunrise.

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I went to a multicultural fair at a middle school...

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...where I learned about Ireland, had German food, tried Ukraine cake, and indulged in homemade tacos.

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At the fair, I came upon these cute little Christmas trees. Then I wonder why I can't be as creative as the sixth graders who made them.

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Through mid-week I realized that finals are next week. Next week!
No, I did not take power naps under the warm winter sun like my slightly-overweight-dog here.  Her weight-in this week revealed that those extra munches during Thanksgiving didn't help with the weight-loss process.

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I also realized that I have lots of presents to wrap. So in between studying, I did this while hoping there would be a rerun of Elf on TV.

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The Holiday is just around the corner, a couple more weeks then we are almost there!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tree Lighting

This Saturday we went to the first Christmas tree lighting at Henry Clay Estate. The tree is over a hundred years old and stands at 120 feet tall. It is believed to be the second tallest live Christmas tree in the world. The event started with a local school choir singing Christmas carols while the audience joined them. Families, young couples, grandparents, canine pals were standing all around tree counting down to the lighting. It felt like the event brought the community together. A sweet moment to be with my love one.

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Even the resurrected Mr. Henry Clay would agree so.

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To save myself from some trouble, I decided not to bring my tripod.
Amazingly my camera was still able to capture in pitch black. But I had to set ISO sensitivity above 3200 at Hi1 and the picture quality decreased substantially. It would have been a great time to practice night photography.

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The estate was all lit up for a Dickens candlelight tour and I was able to stand in between two lawn lights to take this picture.

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I ought to go back there again with my tripod. Until then I am busy wrapping Christmas presents and listening to holiday music (after I study for my finals, of course).

Friday, December 2, 2011


I am in the Christmas spirit. I want to make all kinds of Christmas cookies while listening to holiday music, and that was exactly what I did Friday afternoon. I made snickerdoodles. I envy those who have the time to make beautiful and delicate cookies. All those sugar cookies with colorful frosting decorations that are just too pretty to be eaten. Me on the other hand, is all about the delicious factor and what ingredients I have in my pantry.

Remember that lighting class I attended? I decided to put what I learned in good use. I moved my desk light into the kitchen.

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The cookie dough finally get some spot light.

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Except when I tried to take these, the picture came out looking orange.

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By the time this picture was taken I have already eaten three cookies and listened to Elf soundtrack for the second time. I love the holidays. Shopping and flashy sparkling decoration, what's not to like about it?

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Snickerdoodle Recipe
(Recipe from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion Cookbook)

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup vegetable shortrening
1.5 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Coating: 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400 F and put in your favorite Christmas jam.
2. Cream butter, shortening, and sugar in a bowl. Add eggs, beat until smooth. Add salt and flour, ixing slowly until combined.
3. Make coating, combine sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow bowl.
4. Use a cookie scooper and dip out tablespoon of dough then roll it in the sugar mix. Or put the sugar cinnamon mix in a zip lock bag, put few dough ball in the bag and shake the bag until all coated.
5. Bake the cookies for 8 minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Red River Gorge - Gray's Arch

Instead of Black Friday shopping like millions of American, this was what we did the day after Thanksgiving:


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We went to Red River Gorge again and this time we took a detour at Gray's Arch.

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The hike up to the arch was quite adventurous.
I kept thinking "don't do some crazy jump and get my arm stuck", like that guy 72 hours who ended up cutting his own arm off.

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We climbed over rocks underneath this cave-like structure.
Lola was quite a mountain goat that day.
It was pretty sweet to watch Jake helping Lola up and down the rocks. He would climb down a three feet drop first then turns around and catch Lola.

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 Almost there!

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We had delicious leftover turkey sandwich up at the arch before continuing on our hike.

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It was a beautiful day to spend with my family, it was more than what I am thankful for.

p.s.  I signed up for a half marathon for end of March!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Finish Line

On Thanksgiving Day I ran towards the finish line (I am the girl in blue long-sleeves. Photo credit: Jake).

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Not just the 5K finish line, but I crossed the finish line of my cooking marathon.

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My sister had a brilliant idea that we should stuff the turkey.
I was going to make the classic bread "stuffing", or more like bread dressing.
This stuffing is awesome, it had wild rice, fresh cranberry, and all the good stuff.

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My own finish line consisted of mashed sweet potato, garlicky brussels sprouts, fresh cranberry sauce, herbed bread dressing, berry strata, and pumpkin pie. Along with endless refills...

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Yum yum yum! I conquered my own finish line.
(or num num num as my sister would say)

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