Archive for January, 2009

Book Review: Classic Knits

I just saw the most pretty yet subdue knitting book ever. It’s Classic Knits: 15 Timeless Designs to Knit and Keep Forever by Erika Knight. I am not the expert knitter, as I have never successfully knit anything more than a scarf.

If you are interested in classic design and can’t really knit any of the patterns in the book, you can still find ready made items and include them into your wardobe. Personally, I always like the idea of mixing a few classic items with trendy ones. Classic designs are the best since the style will last much longer for years to come. Unlike trendy pieces that can only be worn for a few seasons.

The photography in this book is also very beautiful. The background feels like somewhere in an Irish or English country cottage mixed with Parisian city apartments. Katya de Gunwald, who is the photographer, did a great job highlighting the clothing and setting. At first, it felt a bit solemn, but it’s still bright enough to feel like spring is just around the corner.

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This picture above is a classic, but mix the nice leather boots and it looks modern. I love the combination of polka dot dress and a simple sweater. The decor reminds me of a drafty English home. It could probably use some fresh flowers, or maybe even a sleeping cat.

The three pictures in the photo gallery are some of my favorite from the book. I also like the cute little navy vest. I think I have one like it in wool, but unfortunately it was thrown in the washing machine and shrunk! I love the classic knit messenger bag. Just the right size for all your magazines and books. And finally, the soft caramel color sweater is sweet, but with an air of elegance.

If you like classic designs, I think you’ll like this book. And if you can’t knit, just keep it as an inspirational picture book. Please note, all pictures are copyrighted by Erika Knight and Katya de Grunwald. Please do not take photos without permission of artist. Thank you!

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Loquat Fruit and Leaves

Loquats are one type of fruits that are first to appear in spring. While most other fruits don’t appear or ripen up until summer or autumn. The loquat tree is also considered to be an evergreen, as the leaves do not turn brown and fall, very much like citrus trees.

These fruit trees originated from China, but can bee seen growing in much warmer climates of the U.S., from Texas to California. Even in the warmer parts of Europe too. They are actually fast growing trees and very easy to propagate. The best part is that they are drought resistant trees. So this would be a great time to grow one, especially when water is scarce.

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As seen here, the photo of young loquats and leaves growing in San Jose, Ca. This photo was taken in springtime. The leaves are glossy green in the front but fuzzy in the back. And the fruit itself can be a bit fuzzy like a peach too.

The fruit is tangy to sweet. But it is delicious when it ripens and turn yellow. Loquat fruit and leaves have high concentrations of Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Potassium, Vitamin A and Ascorbic Acid.

The leaves can also be used to make tea. I have made tea with some of the dried leaves and the taste is very light.

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Agave Syrup

I don’t think of myself as having much of a sweet tooth as I enjoy eating fruits more then candy. But once in a while I can satisfy my need for sweets with a cup of fruit infusion tea and add a small teaspoon of agave syrup. I also like to add it to my cup of coffee too. It has a light sweetness to it. But I have not tried it with pancakes or baking yet.

Agave syrup is something new I’ve come across. I have noticed some fruit drinks use agave syrup as a sweetener too. It’s much sweeter then honey and it’s from the same plant used to make tequila. It’s made from the nectar of the blue agave plant, which is grown mostly in central Mexico. In Popular Science’s article, Agave Nectar, A Sweetener for Any Occasion, they described how the juices are expressed from the core of the plants and then processed to produce the nectar. Then after the juices are extracted, they are heated to break down the carbohydrates.

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larryn2009 of flickr.com took this nice picture of blue agave plants at the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens. They look like they are easy to grow in a sunny climate. I might have actually seen a few of these grown as landscaping in California.

Time magazine wrote in it’s June 2008 issue that the future of agave syrup does look promising. It’s interest has grown amongst heath conscious people. And popularity has grown in countries such as Germany, New Zealand, and Japan. And in the U.S. , many food manufacturers want to add it to drinks, ice cream, ketchup, amongst other recipes.

Cane sugar and honey are fine as natural sweeteners, they are better than high fructose corn syrup. But agave syrup surpasses them all. And you don’t need to use as much, as the sweetness is concentrated. And if you are diabetic, the The Chicago Tribune adds, “It scores around 20 on the glycemic index, a measure of how quickly carbohydrates break down during digestion. Cane or beet sugar scores around 70. Agave nectar’s score is so low on the scale that diabetics can use it as a sugar substitute.” Ingested sugar is still burned as energy or stored as fat, so you still have to be careful to not over indulge on agave syrup. It has plenty of calories and you can find yourself needing to exercise more!

products-agaveflavourMadhava Agave comes in different flavors too. Imagine adding this to your morning coffee! Sweet Cactus Farms also sells agave syrup. And Madhava Agave has a great photo gallery of the farm and these interesting looking plants.

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Central Station (Central do Brasil)

Central Station is a movie made in 1998 from Brazil. Winner of Best Picture at the Berlin Film Festival. Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at Golden Globe. Directed by Walter Salles and written by Marcos Bernstein and João Emanuel Carneiro. It is one of my all time favorite movie and I thought I should make note of it here. I think this film is worth watching and remembering. I just wish there were more films like this is in production these days. centralstation

Despite the fact that it is 10 years old doesn’t even take away from it. The story itself is timeless. The story begins in the busy central bus station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s very interesting to see the diversity of the people living in the city. Each one of them has their own story, but this movie is the story of a boy in search of a father he has never known. In a twist of fate, his mother dies in a bus accident and a retired school teacher working at the bus station becomes his only friend. The retired teacher then agrees to help the boy find his father in the outskirt of the country. And that is where the real journey begins.

There is a magical chemistry between the young boy and the retired teacher. The casting was perfect and the director did a great job. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone, so get the DVD and watch this movie for yourself. But there is a bitter-sweet ending, and I think that is what makes it unforgettable.

Here is a trailer on Youtube. And nice soundtrack too.

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Happy Chinese New Year

These are very beautiful paintings by Caroline R. Young. Caroline’s works can be seen at the permanent collection of the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, and the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. Chinese New Year is on January 26th. If you have a girl born in 2009 – she will be Year of the Ox. This one is funny, the ox is trying to eat her hair. Playful ox and girl. I also really like is the purple morning glory, one of my favorite climbing flowers. I think it would make great art wall for a child’s room too.

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There are more fine arts and selection from this website: “Zodiac Children’s Series Girl Year of the Rabbit. All the beauty, wonder and magic of childhood come alive in the paintings of the renowned Chinese painter, Caroline R. Young. This exquisite limited edition print is done on ceramic coated polyethylene paper using hand embellished giclee.” This one represents “Year of the Rabbit” which represents prosperity.

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I really like the varieties of flower arranged in the vase. This cute little girl and her black and white rabbit are very expressive. So if you have a little girl born in the year of the rabbit, I think this would make a really great framed gift.Each 9X12 print is signed and numbered and has been given some individual touch by the artist so that no two prints are exactly the same. The print run is limited to 88. But they are very expensive from about $200 to $700 each! Copyright © 2004, Caroline R. Young Studios, LLC

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Book Review: Nice to Come Home To

I haven’t been reading much fiction lately, but I do try to read one once in a while. I think the last fiction I read and enjoyed was by Margaret Atwood. The latest fiction that I’ve read recently is Nice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers

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The story was pretty simple and reminded me of something Lifetime TV would produce. Or even along the line of Gilmore Girls, but for the over 30 year old crowd. It was well written, the characters are believable and lovable. Especially the main character, Prudence. She would be someone you could see as a friend or sister. She makes you want to cheer for her all the way and see that things turn out well for her. And in the end everything did wrap up nicely, despite a few pitfalls.

There isn’t much to contemplate after reading this book, but merely entertaining.  But I did come out thinking that there are second chances in life.  It reminds you to not be too hard on yourself if the plans you made didn’t turn out exactly as you wanted.

Actually I only picked out the book because of the title and the book cover design. Especially with the pretty dress boutique. I know it’s funny, I’m judging a book by it’s cover. The cover is actually more stylish then the book itself. So that was a good marketing move from the publishers.

Here is nice little synopsis from Publishers Weekly:

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Caring for Wool

This is an update from my “Caring for Cashmere“. I wanted to add how to care and wash wool and cashmere blend sweaters as well.mensweater
Washing by Hand: Do not use hot water as this will “felt’ the wool. Soak in warm water and add mild soap. I think shampoo or dish washing liquid (Palmolive) should be fine. Soak garment for 5 minutes. Do not use warm water wash followed by cold water rinse. Rinse clean in warm water several times until all the soap is gone.

Squeeze out as much water as possible, but do not twist the garment. Wrap the sweater inside a towel like a sushi roll and squeeze to remove excess water. Unwrap the garment from towel and lay it flat to dry . You may want to first lay down a dry towel before laying down the wet sweater. When finish, shape garment to proper size. Do not hang to dry or put in dryer, as this will shrink the wool.

Storage: It’s best to air out your sweaters for at least 24 hours between wear. After washing, you should store in plastic containers. Do not use plastic bags as it does not breathe well. I do NOT recommend using moth balls, they are toxic. You can make your own natural herbal moth repellent. It’s very simple, see below for recipe.

For cotton/cashmere blend sweaters, you can easily wash by machine and lay flat to dry. If you like things easy, just go for the cotton/cashmere blend. The nice blue one pictured above is from Land’s End. I have one similar to it by Sebastian Cooper in navy. It is very comfortable, light, and warm as well.

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Herbal Moth Repellent Recipe: Mix the herbs well and fill them in empty tea bags or just wrap in cotton fabric and tie with ribbon. Tuck these into your sweater drawers or plastic containers. Or hang in your closets.

8 ounces whole cloves
2 ounces each dried rosemary
1 ounce ginseng
2 ounces dried mint

Photo: Wikepedia Rosemary Sprig

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