Abby and Ethan’s Corner

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With all the technology available today, we are able to stay in touch with family as if we all live in the same town. My nieces and nephews are a source of joy and laughter so I am starting a series to feature them. This is a guest post from my brother Eric who writes about 3-year old Ethan. The artwork above was a masterpiece created by Abby.

Over the years the kids have provided us a hearty laugh over the things that they say or do. Here are some anecdotes I’ve been able to recall. We’ll start with Ethan.  This boy is really something else.

Upon turning 3, Ethan somehow got into thinking that he is more mature than we give him credit for. One day at the local play area another boy referred to him as a “baby”. Ethan with personality that matched his dad, blurted back… “I’m not a baby! I’m a kid!”

One day I asked Ethan “What are you going to do if a bad guy comes into the house?”  Ethan full of confidence stated “I will hit him on the leg with my bat then Abby will come and sing “Do you want to build a snowman…(from the movie Frozen)!”.

Whenever Ethan starts getting tired and ready for bed he would ask his mom to sing.. “Meme na Ethan, Meme na baby boy, Meme na Witheart.” You’d better get it right because he will set you straight!

One day Abby and Mom were having a discussion. Ethan interrupts and says “then you will say Lupra”.   The next most logical question then is… What in the heck is “Lupra”?   Ethan brimming with certainty says “Oh it’s Chinese!”

One day while waiting in the car for mom who was grocery shopping I tried to engage the kids in a conversation to alleviate some of the boredom. I said to them “Mommy is taking too long. Let’s go home”. NO!!! Mommy can’t walk that far!  Said the kids in unison. Ethan still furious that I would even consider leaving mom at the store says “How about you stay here Daddy?” I responded that it’s too far from home. “You can walk Daddy” Ethan says.

One day Abby was whining about something and was getting to be really irritating. It seemed like Ethan was getting irritated as well. Ethan with no warning slaps (gently of course) his sister in the face and says “snap out of it!”   Once we were done laughing we asked him where he learned that. He says “Oh I saw it on the Bee Movie”.

How fun it is to remember these anecdotes as they grow up!

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Tiramisu Cupcakes

This is a re-post from my former food blog Purple Yamhill. I finally decided that I am not cut out for food blogging. I like the freedom of writing about anything and everything I can think of rather than about just one topic.
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Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts but whenever I order it in a restaurant, there is usually something not right about it. By this I mean my personal preferences, not an error or lack of skill on the pastry chef’s part.  My typical complaints are – not enough espresso, the cream is too sticky or thick, maybe the ladyfingers are dry. I’ve had some awesome ones in Italy but this recipe is not meant to be authentic. It is simply what I like.
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Although it involves a lot of steps, my version of tiramisu is still fairly easy to make. This recipe was inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in the book Baking: From My Home to Yours. There is barely a resemblance but this one is just as delicious.
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I like soaking the cupcakes in a lot of espresso – two tablespoons each. They are barely held together by the liners but this makes for a moist cake without falling apart.
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I used Wilton tip #1M to frost the cupcakes this time but I had to make another bowl of frosting as there was not enough. Usually, I would frost them with a spatula at about 0.75 ounces each. Two portions of frosting makes a lot so feel free to pile it on.
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My co-worker Joyce let me borrow her craft punches so I can make the heart-shaped toppers. I had so much fun cutting them!
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I made a lunch portion for my husband on Valentine’s Day using the tops I scraped off the cupcakes. As always, he loved it.


Tiramisu Cupcakes
Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours
Makes 24

Cake:
Any yellow cake recipe that yields 24 cupcakes. Smitten Kitchen made a version of this.
I am happy with Dr Oetker’s Organic Vanilla Cake Mix. It tends to be on the dry side so it holds up very well to the espresso.

Espresso:
4 shots of espresso (1 ounce each) or more up to 8 shots
10-12 ounces of water
2 tbsp rum (or similar)
1 tbsp cane sugar
Note: All of the above should add up to 16 ounces or 2 cups of liquid. I have an espresso machine at home so I gauge the proportions by color.

Mascarpone Frosting:
Note: Double the portions if you want to use a decorative tip or like lots of frosting. The original recipe instructs you to add espresso but I like to keep the white color for contrast.
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
8 ounces heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp rum (optional)

Chocolate:
4 ounces 70% Dark Chocolate coarsely chopped
Alternatively, you can use good-quality mini chocolate chips

Bake the cupcakes per the directions on the recipe.
Prepare the espresso mix by adding the sugar and rum to the espresso shots. Fill the rest of the 2-cup container with hot water.
Let the cupcakes cool completely.

Mix all frosting ingredients together on medium-high speed until light stiff peaks form. Some recommend that you whip the cream first but I’ve never had problems with it not setting up using my stand mixer.

To assemble:
Brush the cupcakes with the espresso mix. Use about two tablespoons each. Allow to cool completely.
Frost with the mascarpone mix using Wilton tip #1M or equivalent.
Top with the chopped chocolate.
Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to meld together.

TIP: I bake the cupcakes 1-2 weeks in advance and freeze them in airtight bags. I brush them with espresso, frost them, and top with chocolate the night before the event. They rest in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to meld together.

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Travel Hacking

Machu Picchu

Marcel and I earn a lot of airline miles without actually flying. As a result, we rarely have to pay for tickets these days. Many friends and family have asked me about this and I finally got a chance to write some things down about how we do it. Enjoy!

Summary: Travel hacking is a way to travel at a significantly low cost using miles and points earned mostly without actually flying.
Some people get really serious and earn millions of miles. We try to maintain a hundred or two hundred thousand miles with minimal effort.
Personally, I just enjoy accumulating miles like a savings account.

Here are some reference websites but if you get overwhelmed with all the information, skip them for now and read our method below.

http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/beginners-guide-to-travel-hacking/

for inspiration and ideas

http://thepointsguy.com/

to find the latest deals

http://www.flyertalk.com/

forum for general questions

This is how we did it for the last 2-3 years:

1. We signed up for two frequent flyer programs to access the most frequently used airlines.
American Airlines with partners listed here: http://www.staralliance.com/en/about/member_airlines/
United Airlines with partners listed here: http://www.oneworld.com/member-airlines/overview
The partner airlines are very important because you can redeem your miles from any of the listed airlines.

2. We checked out the best credit card deals http://thepointsguy.com/top-deals-3/ that would give us miles on either American or United. We both applied for a card each but with some spending requirements you may have to spread it out.
For example:

https://creditcards.chase.com/sapphire/

Chase Sapphire (points transferrable to United)
Earn up to 45,000 bonus points – 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months and an additional 5,000 bonus points when you add an additional cardholder and make a purchase within the first 3 months.
In this example, you might need to wait until you meet the $3000 requirement before applying for another card. If you can spend $6000 in 3 months then feel free to apply at the same time.

Rinse and repeat the above 2-3 times per year or more and you will have 100K to 200K miles or more. In the fall, British Airways offers the best deal – 100,000 miles sign-up bonus. Again, you can use the said miles on any of the partner airlines. And yes, you can buy multiple tickets for a family from one account. This should not affect your credit score. Ours were not affected, even after we closed some due to the annual fee the 2nd year.

NOTE: Most annual fees are waived the first year. Before it renews, call them and ask them to waive the fee. On one of our cards the Citi AA, they waive the fee every year if we use the card 3 times a month.

3. Other ways to earn miles:
United Shopping Assistant – Click on the link within the United website, shop online using your United credit card to earn miles, pick up the item at the store or ship it.
For example: I bought a laptop for $450 from Best Buy. At that time, they have a 3x program. I earned 1350 miles. Some stores do 6x miles.
Dining – One time registration of your card on the United website and every time you dine at one of the listed restaurants, you automatically earn points. Usually 3x.

4. Other benefits: My United credit card gives me priority boarding, free checked bag, and free access to the first class airport lounge (2 passes per year), just by having the card. Some of these lounges have spas! All free. No kidding.

5. Hotels: We did not sign up for any as we prefer low-grade hotels such as Comfort Inn etc. If you like luxury, apply for the Starwood Card which gives you access to the Sheraton family of hotels. The bonus points of 25K will give you about 5 nights free. https://www262.americanexpress.com/apply-card/spg/007/spg-001

With a little work, you will be traveling in style – for free! Just make sure your credit card spending is under control.

Next time I will describe how we redeem miles. The idea is you want to maximize the valuation of the miles. Stay tuned…

Disclaimer: Travel hacking is not for everyone. Make sure you read the fine print. Your mileage may vary.

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Salty’s on the Columbia River

Last weekend we were on a hunt for seafood. Marcel’s mom who is currently working in Portland this winter was looking for a good place for dungeness crabs. That is always a tough question for us because there is none in the sense of what people imagine to be a good seafood restaurant. When we visit her in Florida, there are fish restaurants everywhere. My idea of a seafood restaurant is some kind of shack where they serve the catch of the day etc. The closest one we found in Oregon was Tony’s Crab Shack in Bandon. Sure, there are places like Jake’s Famous Crawfish, McGrath’s, SouthPark etc. but to me they feel like restaurants you can find anywhere in the country except that maybe the salmon and dungeness crabs are fresher. In which case, you still have to pay a lot of money. So, our favorite way to enjoy seafood is to cook it at home. I like to get live crabs from Uwajimaya where they have them all year round. They have three sources – Alaska, Oregon, and California depending on the season. We also like the wild Copper River Salmon from Alaska which Costco sells occasionally. Albacore Tuna is readily available in Astoria, OR. Marcel once had tuna fish and chips there and it was excellent!

We went back and forth picking a place but finally decided on Salty’s since it has a nice ambiance and view.

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Complimentary House-made Potato Chips.

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Lobster Bisque

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Calamari, Crab Cakes, and Coconut Shrimp

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Fish and Chips

Not shown here, we also had some seafood chowder and dungeness crabs. We had a nice leisurely meal on a Saturday and hope to find more places like it.

If you are looking for the best Fish and Chips in town, head over to the Frying Scotsman food cart.

Do you know of any good seafood places in Portland?

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Happy New Year!


Here is our annual collage for 2013.

I know it is now February (almost March!) but there is always room for more positive thoughts. I wish you a wonderful 2014!

Over the holidays I’ve been thinking about this blog and the direction I wanted to take it. I was posting on Facebook for a while and have neglected this site. As many of you know, Facebook has its limits and really more appropriate for quick updates. Well since it is a new year, I decided now is a good time to launch a “new” and improved JavaFoto.

When I first logged onto WordPress in January, I discovered that something was wrong with my Dashboard. All I could get was a blank screen and it didn’t even allow me to write a new post. I searched the WP forums and could not find a way to fix it. Then I had a light bulb moment…I decided I would start over with a new installation, theme, and whatever else I can come up with. I like the current format of the blog but I thought maybe I can do more. I’m still not quite sure what more means. I want to find a balance between writing something meaningful, at least to me without taking up too much time and we’ll see how it goes from there.

With the help of my brother Francis I was able to import all my posts into a new directory. Currently I am working on the theme and all the minor details that go along with it. Soon, all the hard work will be done and I will be back to posting like I used to but hopefully this time with more inspiration.

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Francis and Marie’s Wedding

It’s been a very busy summer as always but this year my brother’s wedding made the season special.

The wedding was held on July 14th in Dallas, TX where we also had a big family reunion. It was so much fun dressing up for the “Mad Men” theme. It was a beautiful wedding full of love and awesome entertainment! One of the highlights of the occasion was my brother singing and playing the guitar with the groomsmen. I’m so proud of him!

Marcel, his Dad Rejean, and I. My fabulous hat was from Classic Collection. I added feathers to match my dress.

The cousins and brothers

The “Mad Men” ladies

My brother Francis and new sister-in-law Marie. More pictures are here.

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Mississippi

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Shopping for cool sunglasses in the MISSISSIPPI neighborhood.

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Amnesia Brewing

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Paper balls

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Blues Fest Etc.

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Chicken Souvlaki Plate from Dorio Greek Cafe

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CSA Share this week

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Fireworks

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Blues Fest

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Happy Sunny Day!

Mulder tired from his morning W.

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Meat, Cheese, Bread on SE Stark

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Coava Coffee. Delicious cold brew

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Cake Fest

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My new friends Leny and Jon showed me how to make Ube Cake while I showed them how to make Tiramisu Cake.

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