Monday, December 28, 2009

Easy Clam Chowder

My sister recruited me to be her chef at her feast on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). We brainstormed a huge menu that included dips, spring rolls, soup, salad, meat and pasta. The spring rolls sold like hot cakes. I had not cooked for months, so it was nice to know that I still have the mojo. To step up ordinary soup up a notch for the festive occasion, we opted to make clam chowder. I had not made this before, so of course I went to the trusty Martha Stewart website to find a recipe. Leave it to the domestic queen and Everyday Food to create an easy Clam Chowder recipe that was a crowd pleaser at the party.

The recipe was not only easy, but also fresh. I liked it that it didn't call for making a roux to thicken up the soup, which I am a huge fan of - I like thickening soup using potatoes. The freshness in the recipe comes from the fresh clams. Not only did we use that, we also added extra clam meat from my sister's cans in the pantry to make the chowder as clamy as it can be. W e also substituted the water in the recipe with clam juice. The result was rather tasty, and the little bit of soup left over was even more tasty. After having the fresh clam chowder, my husband will likely put an end to having the ones from Campbell's Chunky Soup.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Baking & Cooking

Am currently busy with the move & touching up the place and holiday baking & cooking. To date, I've made 2 pumpkin cheesecakes since Thanksgiving, and am contemplating an attempt on molten chocolate cake. I'll be back with food posts after Christmas.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Letterpress at Home

I found this from a Paper Source email blast a month ago...letterpress machine! I looked into letterpress invitations for my wedding, but it was very costly (I'm talking thousands). I could only drool over the most beautiful imprints that letterpress makes on paper. Now, you can do letterpress cards and crafts at home for about $150!

Apparently, this baby is selling like hot cakes - it's on backorder, all sold out if you wanted to make your own Christmas cards. What I'm most excited about is when the Paper Source lady does an arts & crafts video with this machine!

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Hate Carpet!

The previous owners of our place had wall to wall carpet in the entire house. With 2 kids and no cleaning habits, the carpet became extremely filthy. Unfortunately, the hardwood floor underneath was unsalvageable. After much thought, we came to the conclusion that the budget friendly solution for us was to install floating floors in the living and dining area and carpet in the bedrooms.

We had help with ripping out the carpet, but I had the finger friendly task of taking out the tacking strips and the base moulding. A burn from the radiator, a cut on my finger and damages to my cuticles later, it was finally done.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bathroom Renovation, Week 3

It's finally complete!!! In 3 weeks, we went from dingy white tiles (don't let the photo from afar fool you), pink shell-shaped sink, gold trimmed shower door and faucet, Broadway dressing room vanity lights, a deteriorating medicine cabinet, and last but not least, the urine smell:

to this (please excuse the sticker in the sink):

The frameless shower door really opened things up and made our bathroom appear bigger. To bring the bathroom to 2009 from what looked like the 1970s, we got rid of the gold and opted for brushed nickel. A modern vanity completed the look.

Next up, the flooring chapter of our renovation!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bathroom Renovation, Week 2

I have been very busy with the new house, so I haven't been cooking. The only thing I can share with you until the big move is our renovation. I really look forward to going back to the cooking mode, which definitely beats the sanding and painting I've been doing.

So what went on for our bathroom renovation during week 2? Tiling. This is a big step forward after the demolition and rebuilding in Week 1. Using the lovely inspiration I found and the modern glass mosaics I fell in love with at Home Depot, we worked around the availability of bullnoses and sizes, and picked out the rest of the tiles that fit our budget and color scheme.

We ended up with 12x12 porcelain tiles in a stone color for the shower wall and a darker shade in a smaller size (6x6) for the shower floor to add traction and reduce slippage. For continuity (so as not to make the bathroom appear smaller), the main bathroom floor tiles are in the same color as the shower floor. The darker floor tiles compared to the shower wall will add dimension; the larger size (13x13) will give the illusion of a larger space. We have an 8x5 bathroom, so making the bathroom look larger is a top priority.

I wanted a recessed shelf (or a niche) for soap and shampoo for a custom look, but it didn't work out. Our plan B was to install soap dishes. We stayed away from the glazed ceramic kind, as the finish didn't go with the rough surface of the wall tiles. For continuity, the mosaics that will surround the medicine cabinet (you'll see in Week 3) served as an accent in the shower area

Stay tuned for Bathroom Renovation, Week 3, when the vanity gets installed and the final product is revealed!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Martha's Favs Mondays: The Martha Stewart Show

Last and finally...I can't leave out Martha, the domestic queen, on the list of cooking shows I watch! I must admit though that I watched her more when I was doing wedding planning - a lot of her craft ideas were useful. Nowadays, what keeps me interested is when chefs go on the show to cook their yummy recipes or when she eats her way around the city. I found her latest Brooklyn episode especially fascinating because it featured local ingredients and restaurants that support them.

Image from

I'm always amused to see celebrities who can't cook...aren't I mean! I'm no worse than Martha Stewart though - she can definitely intimidate her guests who don't cook since she's so fast to correct them. What's important though is that her recipes are always dependable, unlike those from the Food Network.

Friday, December 11, 2009

No Tree for Christmas :-(

Yup, no Christmas tree for us. I was hoping to have our first tree together in our first new home, but I don't even know if we'll be moved in by then. I can always resort to admiring the Rockefeller tree, which, by the way, came from Connecticut this year. Go CT!

Image from

My next hope is to have blossoms for a very romantic Chinese New Year (it falls on Valentine's day this year) in our new home. The popular flowers for the lunar new year include peach blossoms 桃花 (below) and the very fragrant narcissus 水仙花.

Image from

Here are our family's beautiful blossoms many years ago, decorated to the nines with lucky red envelopes ("lai see" 利是)
by my mother. The yellow blossoms resemble gold, and literally showers us with gold when these blossoms fall onto the ground.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Joys of Tile Shopping

Picking tiles for our bathroom renovation was like getting my teeth pulled...painful. We are tiling our shower (walls and floor) and half tiling the rest of the bathroom. So as the head (and only) designer, I had a huge task of finding the tiles that fit our budget and style. My aim for the bathroom design is one that is contemporary, but not too modern as to turn off potential buyers when we decide to move. This meant no drool worthy glass tiles, since they are expensive and are hot now, but what about later?

We crossed off going to tile stores after we checked out a good number, most of which were without price tags on display. I soon found out that I have expensive taste. Off to Lowe's and Home Depot, where I fell in love with a beautiful mosaic with hints of metallic design that went well with green, gray, cream or brown, and thought it was flexible enough to work with other tiles. I immediately thought it was the perfect accent tile. The problem was, it looked better with darker tiles as it made the mosaic pop out more, and my husband was of course gravitating towards those. Unfortunately, darker tiles can make the bathroom look smaller.

We put the mosaic against lighter colors and it didn't pack a punch like it did with the darker tiles.

Then, it came to the issue of whether the tiles come with different sizes (we needed smaller ones for the shower floor) and bullnoses. This changed our game plan quite a bit. Our contractor still hasn't finished our bathroom after 2 weeks of work, but I'll definitely share with you the final product when the time comes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Martha's Favs Monday: So Good ("蘇Good")

So Good ("蘇Good") is a cooking show in Hong Kong where So (蘇) gets to the bottom of every day Chinese recipes with a bit of scientific explanation and visits the local producers behind the star ingredients. She also has ordinary housewives make their own versions of their recipes and critiques them - in an effort to help them become better cooks of course.

So (蘇)
, a former radio show host, has got quite a mouth. Whatever comes out of her mouth is quite entertaining. That aside, I have learned so much from her in just a few episodes - the production and variety of traditional Chinese ingredients and how to cook them. Unfortunately, episodes from this show only streams within Hong Kong on the internet. :-(

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dream Bathroom Design

I love glass tiles, and would like to tile the entire bathroom in our renovation, but neither is budget friendly. So I'll have to put my dream on hold. I love the transparency and soft colors that glass tiles create. Wouldn't this bathroom be great for our place?

Above image from Waterworks

The below bathroom was my next inspiration for a budget friendly renovation. I love the simplicity of this design - pretty mosaic around the vanity area (we can allow ourselves to splurge here since it's a small area), darker floor tiles to ground the bathroom, and lighter wall paint to add dimension. Our bathroom isn't as grand and airy as this, so there will be no soaking tub or chandelier. We'll also stay away from dark dark floor tiles to avoid making our bathroom look smaller than it is. We'll stick to a neutral color to play it safe for future sale. Sounds like a plan!

Image above from Metropolitan Home

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bathroom Renovation, Week 1

I am happy to announce that a much needed bathroom renovation is underway in our new place! What do we have here that's got to go? Dingy white tiles (don't let the photo from afar fool you), pink shell-shaped sink, gold trimmed shower door and faucet, Broadway dressing room vanity lights, a deteriorating medicine cabinet, and last but not least, the urine smell.

We've gone from that to this during demolition (day 2

After that, some electrical rewiring work was done and the medicine cabinet area was resized. Sheet rock and shower pan were installed during the remodeling (day 5):

Things are going relatively smooth so far, aside from the demolition causing sheet rock to fall into the apartment one floor below us that nearly hurt our elderly neighbor. Up next, my vision for the bathroom, tiling and the finishing touches on week 2 (hopefully the final week).