Thursday, June 16, 2016

Wine Cork Jewelry and Succulent Mini Magnets

I've had a growing collection of wine corks sitting around the house for quite some time and decided to try out a couple of crafts that I had seen others post on various blogs in the past.

First I made some succulent mini planters by hollowing out the center of the cork about 2/3 the way down with a regular steak knife. (If you try this,  proceed with caution).

Then I added a tiny bit of sand, pearlite, and dirt. Then I placed a small succulent in carefully and topped it off with a little more of the soil mixture.

Lastly, glue a magnet to the back and enjoy!

The next craft I made were some wine cork charm pendants. I started by twisting eye hook screws at the top and bottom of the wine corks. 

Then I rummaged through my jewelry findings, beads, and charms and attached a variety of items either directly to the eye hook with jump rings or with a varying length of chain to mix up the length of the charms.

This is one that I made for my friend Amber. I made us matching ones for our upcoming travels through New Mexico and Colorado. The most fun I had with this project was using the various charms to tell a story.

This 2 faced charm with a key dangling from it means to always listen to your inner, higher, true self above your ego. This is your key to happiness.

The jar is empty now, but can be filled during our trip with spices, cornmeal (an important symbol in Native American Pueblo culture), or even with dirt from a special location or hiking trail. The glass bead of a chile that hangs from the top of the bottle represents New Mexican culture and cuisine and reminds you to "spice up your life!"

The mini book represents how everyone has a story to tell and that you, no one else, hold the pen that empowers you to "write" or create the life you want to live.  I wholeheartedly feel that one of the highest functions we have as human beings is to tell our story, feel that our voice is heard and to become more compassionate by really listening and hearing the story of others. (The book is small and filled with tiny blank our story is not finished. I wonder what will fill the pages of the books?)

The bells create a light jingle reminding you to listen to the song in your heart. Music is so powerful.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Alexandra’s Chicken Enchiladas (a.k.a. Chickiladas!)

Some of you may remember the blog post from several years ago when I turned a piece of sheet metal into a magnetic spice rack chalkboard.  Over the years, people have grabbed a stick of chalk when no one was looking and added comical names beside the spice names.  For example: "Y'all Spice," "Rosemary's Baby," "Michael Bay Leaf," and well you get the picture!

Since this is the highlight of my kitchen and the one thing everyone seems to comment when they visit our house for the first time, John and I thought it would be fun to give spices in magnetic tins as a gift for guests at our upcoming wedding.  Low and behold we were gifted a bunch of magnetic tins that John's sister-in-law was no longer our fate was sealed! ;)

Since we have a dual Indian and Mexican theme to our wedding, I thought it would be cool to have Indian or Mexican recipes accompany each spice.  You know, so you can SPICE Up Your Life!

My dear friend Alex sent me this recipe to use and I thought I would share it on the blogosphere.  Especially since it's been awhile since I have taken time to blog.  Been a little busy in my world!  I know, always the same story.  Anyway, check out the recipe.

Alexandra’s Chicken Enchiladas (a.k.a. Chickiladas!)

Sidebar: Make your meal extra authentic and save some cash by shopping at your local Hispanic supermarket for ingredients! Their produce is generally beautiful, and you’ll pay way fewer pesos.

Sidebar on that Sidebar: Do not actually try to pay in pesos. That would be ridiculous.


·         28 oz. Jar San Marzano tomatoes, hand-crushed in a large bowl
About 2/3 of it goes in sauce, 1/3 goes in chicken)
·         2 (or more) cloves of garlic, minced
·         2-3 chipotle chilies canned in adobo sauce, minced
·         ½ tsp ground cumin
·         ½ tsp chipotle chili powder
·         1 cup chicken broth
·         Pinch of sugar


·         Olive oil
·         1 cooked rotisserie chicken (skinned & shredded)
·         1 cup (or more) onion, diced
·         1 red bell pepper, diced
·         2 (or more) cloves of garlic, minced
·         ½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
·         ½ to 1 cup chicken broth
·         1 tsp ground cumin
·         ½ tsp oregano
·         Rest of hand-crushed tomato sauce left over from sauce
·         1 hot chili pepper, seeded and diced (jalapeno, scotch bonnet, habanero, whatever you can handle)
·         Juice of 1 lime
·         2 cups shredded cheese (at Hispanic market, the light shredded cheese called “Quesadilla Melting Cheese” is the best, but you could use anything
·         ½ wheel of queso fresco, crumbled
·         10 flour tortillas
·         Extra: scallions, sour cream, extra queso fresco crumbles for topping.

Sauté garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat. Add adobo chilies, then spices (chipotle chili powder and cumin), and sauté one minute more.  Add tomato sauce and chicken broth. Salt ‘n’ Pepa. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer; simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add a pinch of sugar if it tastes bitter at all. Set aside.

Sauté onion, red pepper until just soft – add a little salt as they cook; add garlic and fresh chili (jalapeno or other) for the last minute of sautéing. Add cilantro, oregano, chipotle chili powder, cumin, Salt ‘n’ Pepa. Add reserved tomato sauce, chicken broth, and shredded chicken. Simmer about 10 minutes, or until liquid reduces enough to spoon out as filling. Crumble in queso fresco, squeeze in lime juice.
Spray 9”x13” casserole dish with cooking spray. Roll 10 tortillas with ¼ to 1/3 cup each, and place seam-side down in dish. Top with sauce, then with shredded melting cheese.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Top with scallions, sour cream, extra queso crumbles. Enjoy!

"The finest ingredients are brought together with love and care, then slow-cooked to perfection. Yes, the old ways are still best at Los Pollos Hermanos. But don't take my word for it. One taste, and you'll know."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

School Visits in Qijang & Zhonghua Mountain Village

We drove about 2.5 hours Southwest from Chongqing to a beautiful and serene "rural" area called Qijang.  I put the term rural in quotations because the population of this area is a whopping 960,000 and the high school we visited is home to almost 7,000 students and teachers.  Everything is relative here in China and the Zhonghua village we visited after lunch did seem more rural than the part of town where the school is located.  I didn't think it was possible to get any hotter, but I was wrong!  

The schools we visited have entrance exams and are very competitive.  Most of the students in attendance come from surrounding areas and are the children of the growing migrant worker class. They study hard and sometimes, especially prepping for the gaokao college entrance exam in their senior year, they may be at school and studying way into the wee hours of the night.  Getting placed in a university in China is similar to American Medical School residency programs-you can list your preferences, but ultimately the Chinese government and the universities will pick you and you have no final say in the matter.  Performing well on the exam and getting into a good school is one's only hope of fulfilling your parent's dreams of escaping the hard life of a struggling migrant.  Many families are split up as students live on campus at most of the good schools...while their parents travel from city to city lookig for work or stay at home in a smaller town to farm the land.

When we first arrived we met students and they practiced their English with us.  School was already out for summer, but they came back just to welcome us. They were so sad to see us go and both sides waved goodbye until we were no longer in sight.

She is an art teacher too!  You can see the work of her talented high school students below...

School grounds...

After lunch, we visited the Qijang #1 Experimental Primary School. The experimental part is that they are trying out more student centered, small group questioning type teaching methods like we use in the states; as opposed to the typical lecture style teaching more common in China.  The school is similar in concept to a magnet or gifted school back home.  They encourage use of the fine arts (drama, music, visual art, etc...) to make learning more engaging for the students.  Sounds like arts integration to me! :)

The kids performed a scene from Mulan.  They were beautiful and so was their English!

After the performance, some of them shared their hobbies and interests with us...

She and her teacher collaborated to make this ornate costume with recycled milk cartons.

After visiting the primary school, we drove a little further into the countryside...many students come from this area...

Kids performing a traditional percussion and horn show.  This musical tradition has been passed down through families for 18 generations. It dates back over 300 hundred years!

Some of us learn how to play Mahjong...

Grinding beans to make fresh tofu

Spices out in preparation for dinner...

View on the ride back

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dazu Buddhist Rock Carvings

We took a two hour bus ride from Chongqing to see the Dazu Buddhist rock carvings.  They date as far back as the 7th century AD and became enlisted as a World Heritage Site in 1999.  I was flooded with memories of visiting the Buddhist rock cut caves of Ajanta and Ellora in India several years back; yet the imagery here at Dazu was decidedly Chinese for sure. You can see the influence of Taoism and Confuscious teachings within the Buddhist imagery; which gives a glimpse of how linked these three religions were and still are in China.  Again, I was reminded of how Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism seemed to often commingle in India.  The two largest carvings were undergoing renovations, but you can see the grandiose scale of the reclining/sleeping Buddha in the picture above.

Sakyamuni Buddha

The Wheel of Life...birth, death, radiating from the Buddha center...

Inside one of the carved out niches

Look how long and curvy his fingers are!

Giant incense for sale outside the temple by the exit...