Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Camera Lens

For a while now, I've been saving up for a new lens for my camera. I've had my camera since 2008 with one lens. It's a great lens, very functional. It has such a wide focal range that I can really shoot anything. But it does have its limitations - like low light situations and the focus is not as sharp as I would like sometimes. As with any large purchase I did a lot of research on what type of lens I should get. There were so many questions: What would I want to use it for? What are my priorities? How much am I willing to spend? What do I want my photos to look like? And on and on. How am I suppose to know the answers to all of those questions? I'm just an amateur. I don't have a vision statement for my photography!

Well, after reading reviews and talking to other photographers, I made my decision. On Saturday Chris and I went to three different camera shops to try out different lenses and talk with the salesmen to see if what my online research said was in fact true when I held the lens in my own hands. It was!

I needed one more day to make my final decision . . . to spending money on myself. And today I bought it! It's a 50mm 1.4 lens which means I can take some pretty sharp portrait-style photos. It's also much smaller than my previous lens so my camera looks a little smaller and is much lighter to carry! Check out some of the shots Chris and I took in Japantown this afternoon:

I still have a lot to learn about this new lens but I'm excited to grow in my photography skills!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Brinner and Company

Last month Chris and I invited our friends over for a game night. It was pretty low-key; four people came and we ordered in pizza and I made that delicious salad and chocolate pie. We're hoping we can make this a regular thing -- being a little more intentional with how we spend our time and getting to know people. Community has been a very strong theme in our minds over the past year and we're playing around with what that looks like.

We had our second game night last night. We had breakfast for dinner (Brinner). Pancakes, eggs, bacon, and someone even brought scones! Four guys joined us. I was the only girl. Initially I thought maybe I should just go to my room after dinner and let these guys have a "guy's night." Or spend the evening cleaning up the kitchen so they could play the games.

But we were playing new games that our guests had brought and I really wanted to learn how to play them, so I stayed. I'm so glad I did! We had a blast. One was a German game called 6 Nimmt! and the other was Monopoly Deal (a faster version of Monopoly in card form). Both were easy to learn and really fun.

Two of the guys that came are full-time missionaries currently on furlough/home-leave. We had a great discussion and I really enjoyed hearing stories from "the field." It always reminds me of the experiences I had when I lived overseas and the hard lessons I learned. Most of the time, those memories seem very far away and almost like another life. I'm always fascinated by stories of the things the Lord does through his people.

And what better way to hear these stories than around the "breakfast" table! It's real life, real conversation, real connection, real community!

Looking forward to next month's game night! You're all invited!

My New Kitchen Resource

I was doing my menu planning yesterday after work (I like to get it out of the way before my weekend officially starts) and as I was reading through a few new recipes I wanted to try, I realized that I didn't have half of the ingredients. I had similar ingredients but not the exact ones the recipe called for.

I hate buying ingredients that will only get used for one recipe. Most often it means that half of it will go unused and eventually go bad. Wasted. They also take up valuable space in my "pantry" and I don't have much to spare. So, I've come to terms with the choice before me: a) pass up the recipe and find something else or b) substitute.

So yesterday while I was making my shopping list and realizing that these recipes were just too expensive, I wondered, "Can I still make this recipe work with what I have?" And I found my answer! I did a google search for "ingredient substitutes" and came across this website titled "Cooks Thesaurus." It's amazing! I typed in the ingredient that the recipe called for and it brought me to a description of that ingredient and possible substitutes; it also gives you some information about common uses and tips.

I found that all of the ingredients I didn't have could easily be swapped with something I did have! I realize that the taste may be a bit different, but not entirely; it's still worth trying. I also found out that last month I bought an ingredient that is a total duplicate to one I already had. Bummer! So, I wanted to share this great site with you! Who knows maybe it'll save your sanity and your budget like it did mine!

Give it a try!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


This weekend I suddenly became very bored by the look of my blog. I wanted change. I had been trying to figure out a way to make the tabs at the top of my blog work more functionally for quite some time and today it happened!

For many of you, other than the colors and lack of images at the top of the page, you probably won't notice a huge difference. For those of you who followed my hobby pages regularly, you are the ones who will notice the changes. Let me assure you all that most of the content is still here. (I say "most of" because I have not updated my Indoor Gardening, Photography, or Reading List pages yet.)

From this point forward, all updates will happen on the main "home" page but the posts relating to cooking and crafts will also be available via the buttons on the top of the page. The plus side to doing it this way is that you can now comment on the individual posts! There is one down side to this -- it makes it look like it all happened on September 18th! Yes, today was a busy day, but not nearly that busy!

Hope you like the new look!

Handmade Cards

I've been making greeting cards for quite a while. You may have even received one for Christmas or a birthday! Here are a few I recently sent off in the mail.

Party Invitations

I had my first go at making party invitations. They were for my sister's bachelorette party (which was a lot of fun). I got the idea on; I was going to order them and have someone else do the dirty work but then I figured that I could probably make my own and keep the price down. I made nine invitations for less than $10.

I also made matching thank you cards for her to use after the party . . . but I didn't take a photo of those.

Thank You Cards

My newest set of thank you cards --

Salad and Dessert for Dinner

September 4, 2011

Last weekend we had our first "Game Night" -- which will hopefully be a monthly occurrence. We ordered in pizza and I used the occasion to make a strawberry salad that my aunt had given me a recipe for (years ago). I had never tried it but it didn't look all that hard.

Here's the recipe for this Strawberry & Lettuce Salad:

Salad: one head of romaine lettuce (I used a little spinach too) and 1 pint of strawberries
Dressing: 3/4 cup white sugar, 1/3 cup white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 whole shallot diced, 6 large strawberries, ad 3/4 cup vegetable oil. (This will make about 2 cups of dressing)

Wash and dry the strawberries and lettuce, slice the strawberries and cut the lettuce into bite size pieces.
In blender, add all the dressing ingredients except for the oil and blend until smooth. Add oil in slowly, blend until mixed. Add the amount you like to the salad.

Add chopped pecans if desired.

At the last minute, I decided to make a chocolate pie. I had a pie shell in the fridge and needed to use it up. I found an amazing recipe on the Tasty Kitchen website by Ree (The Pioneer Woman). It was so delicious!

Kitchen Update

August 26, 2011

One of my lovely blog readers asked me what kind of hook I had found for my cookbooks (see post from August 20th). It's just a simple easel that Chris attached to the wall.

I had been trying to figure out how to use that space, and this hook worked perfectly! Now, my recipes are at eye level and they won't get full of flour, water, or whatever else I'm throwing around my kitchen when I'm cooking! I love this!

Pineapple Ice Cream

August 18, 2011

My second attempt at making homemade ice cream was this Thursday . . . Pineapple Ice Cream. It turned out well, it's not as sweet as I was expecting. It's actually very creamy and light . . . kind of like flavored cool whip.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

My birthday present from my husband this year was an ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer! I had been saying, "I want . . . " for a long time now, I had been saving up for it with the plan to get one later this month. But my husband surprised me and got it for me!

For my first attempt I found a fairly easy recipe for peanut butter ice cream! Yum, right! Peanut butter is one of Chris's favorites and this recipe didn't call for any eggs which made it a little cheaper!

This is basically soft-serve, I was too impatient to freeze it! It was rich and creamy and the texture was just about perfect. Not bad for my first try. I haven't tried it after freezing it yet -- but I'm hopeful!

Chris decorated his a bit more -- whipped topping, chocolate syrup and chocolate chips -- yeah, he knows what he is doing!

Homemade Granola

July 2011

Tried a new granola recipe today -- oats, walnuts, almonds, coconut, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and wheat germ. This recipe called for applesauce, agave nectar, cinnamon, and ground ginger for some healthy flavor.

Healthy Test Kitchen Cooking

June 2011

I posted a blog about using a new cookbook from the library called "America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook." I had forgotten that I took a few pictures throughout the week of what I made (okay, maybe it was just two.) Anyway, here they are!

Shepherd's Pie

Last week, we had guests! Sharon and her youngest daughter Samantha came to stay with us for the week. I had scheduled our meals out so that we could take her to a few of our favorite restaurants but also spend some evenings at home so I could cook. Here's a few pics of my shepherd's pie.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe

April 2011

The other night I made a balsamic vinaigrette and someone asked me for the recipe -- it was actually one that I had found online but I thought I would repost it here for those interested. It went really well with a spinach/romaine salad with walnuts and crasins (feta cheese would be wonderful too!).

Makes 1 cup:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon garlic 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

The oil and vinegar separate very quickly so its best if you can stir it right before pouring it on the salad. I would recommend using a spoon rather than pouring it so you don't end up with mostly oil. You don't need a lot so this one cup recipe will go a long way!

Good Morning: Banana Nut Muffins

It has been a while since I have had an occasion to bake, but when my small group announced that the monthly food-night theme for tomorrow's get together was "Breakfast," muffins immediately came to mind. Not only do I really enjoy eating muffins but they are also much easier to transport than say, pancakes or eggs (which probably would have been Chris's preference).

One of the recipes give to me at a bridal shower (almost two years ago) that I haven't tried yet was for "Banana Crumb Muffins." The recipe wasn't signed so I have no idea who to thank for this one (if it was you, please confess!). It sounded delicious so I gave it a try!

Best Pancakes Ever

March 2011

Weekends are our time to go "all out" for breakfast. Our usual weekend-breakfast is pancakes and an egg scramble with onions, spinach, and cheese but sometimes we do breakfast burritos, biscuits and gravy, bacon, french toast, eggs benedict and well, you get the idea. We love breakfast! I must admit that over the course of six-months I have tried many different recipes for pancakes. I try to make them healthier, fluffier, or just better. I've used whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, blueberries, cornmeal, the list just goes on and on.

Crocker buttermilk pancake recipe handed down from my mom when I moved away from home. It was perfect!

These were by far the fluffiest pancakes I've ever made. And with my husband's request to add chocolate-chips, they were even better!

Betty Crocker Buttermilk Pancakes - makes 10 4" pancakes
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1 cup buttermilk 
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips (my own addition)

Beat the egg, add remaining ingredients (except chocolate chips) in order and beat until smooth. Now mix in the chocolate chips.  Grease griddle. Pour batter on to hot griddle. Turn pancakes when puffed and full of bubbles (but before the bubbles break).  Enjoy!

Project 4: Christmas Stockings

September 2011

Since December is only 3 months away, I had to get started on my next Christmas project: Stockings! I wanted them to match the quilted tree skirt I finished early this summer so I had to do some "design" work with the pattern I found. We'll see how it turns out in the end but from the photo below you can sort of see what I'm aiming for.

On Saturday, my friend Lauren and I went to a fabric store in Berkeley, I didn't really need much but it was inspiring just to go! This store carries designer fabrics, which of course are more expensive, but are really cute and trendy.  They also had really cute project ideas displayed throughout the store. Like I said I didn't need anything like that but was inspired to be creative none-the-less.

It was a busy afternoon of sewing when we got back. Lauren came over and we worked on our projects for four hours straight. It was good to get a good portion done; especially since not sewing much at all during August.

Project 3: Doll Jumper

I was working on something a while back but wasn't able to post the photo because, well, it was a gift. My niece turned 4 this week and I thought I would attempt to make her some clothes for her baby doll. It turned out to take much longer than I had anticipated, as does almost everything in life. I made a little brown jumper -- for a first attempt I think it turned out pretty well. I hope to add to her collection in the future!

Happy Birthday Mia!

Stocking up on supplies--enough for the rest of the year

June 2008

I seem to have a running list of things to make in my head so when I went to JoAnn Fabrics this afternoon, it was hard to stop myself from buying a little bit of everything.

The rotary cutter and mat were half off otherwise I wouldn't have even looked twice.  It's super hand to have as I've had to borrow them from friends for my previous quilting project.

I picked up a few patterns for the projects I'd like to do this year -- Christmas stockings and doll clothes for my niece (I need to at least try!) I'm hoping to get a good start on them by the end of the summer.

I also picked up a few things for making more cards. I splurged on color pens since sometimes I get the urge to color and I couldn't resist getting a new stamp. And since Father's day is next weekend I need to get busy making a couple cards for my dads. (That was the whole reason in going in the first place.)

Project 2: Place Mats

May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day! As I've been in a crafty-do-it-myself mood lately, I decided to make my Mom her Mother's Day gift this year (you know, like back when I was 7). I decided to make her place mats for her gorgeous oak dining room table. I wanted them to be something spring-y, pretty but not too pretty since my dad would have to use them too and functional (something she wasn't afraid to actually use). And since I had to keep this a secret while I worked on them over the past couple weeks (so my faithful blog-reading Mother wouldn't find out), you'll be getting the full story and how-to pictures all at once.

I decided to make them reversible so that she could have a couple choices depending on the occasion or meal. I headed to JoAnn fabrics with a few ideas in mind only to be quite overwhelmed and disappointed in my options. I probably spent 45 minutes just wandering the store looking for what I had in my mind. After coming to the realization that they just didn't have it, I started actually looking at what they did have . . . in the end, Chris actually helped me pick out a green, blue and brown striped pattern along with a solid brown for the opposite side.

It's Finished

April 18, 2011

It is finished! I was able to get a lot done on my tree skirt this weekend, it had actually been almost three weeks since I had even touched it. I didn't expect to finish it, but after work this evening I was so excited to be so close to the end that I just had to keep working on it. And I did it!

Sewing the batting in between the backing and the front was a little more time consuming than I had thought. I have never done batting before. And the binding was a little more complicated. If I had followed instructions I had read online, it might have gone better but I didn't . . . I mean, it still worked out but I ended up doing part of it one way and the other part another! I didn't plan it that way, but I made a mistake that I couldn't reverse so I had to improvise. This was definitely a learning experience.

I am pretty pleased with the end result. If I look too closely I can quickly become discouraged with the edges of the binding and the corners but it will look great under a Christmas tree and by December 25th, it will be covered with packages anyway!

Here are my final photographs!

Making Mistakes--Tree Skirt Continued

March 27, 2011

Chris was out of town this weekend so I took the opportunity to have my friends come over again. We spent almost four straight hours working on our projects! The time went by fast since we were so focused.

I finished sewing all six of the large triangles . . . and made one noticeable mistake . . . one of the triangles I had made backwards! So the red and yellow were reversed!

Yes, I had to rip it out. Next time the plan is to sew all the triangles together and work on the back. I can't wait! (And Christmas is 8 months away!)

Project 1: Tree Skirt

March 19, 2011

I was sitting at my sewing machine starting to sew my last pieces of fabric together for my tree skirt when I remembered that I had promised to take photographs next time I worked on it. So, as promised, here are some photos!

I was so excited to get to the point where I could lay out the pieces and actually see what it would look like! Up until now, this has all been in my head and to be honest, I just couldn't completely picture it. I'm finished making each of the small triangles; the next step is making the big triangles, which I know won't be as easy as it looks. I would love to say that I am a master at matching my seams, but sadly, that is just not the truth.

I know you probably don't see a tree skirt in any of these photographs, but I promise you, when I'm finished you will! (Here's a hint: There are six large triangles that will be sewn together in a hexagon) More to come . . .

Let the Sewing Begin

March 6, 2011

A few of my friends and I have recently gotten into sewing. We had talked about starting projects for a while but hadn't actually gotten very far. Then one day I got a post card in the mail advertising the Sew, Craft and Quilting Expo in a nearby city. Well, that was the only push we needed! The three of us attended this Expo having no idea what we were getting into. Our eyes lit up and ideas started forming as we saw booth after booth of beautiful fabrics and project samples. We came home with more fabric than we knew what to do with and were excited to start.

We got together this last weekend to work on our various projects. I must admit, that sewing with a group is way more fun than doing it by yourself. I had hoped to take a few photos to document the party but I was so caught up in my project that I completely forgot. So, words will have to do for now. (My apologies.)

My first project is a quilted tree skirt. Last Christmas, I kept my eyes peeled for Christmas decorates since we now have our own place, but I couldn't find one that I really liked. And since I had watched my mom sew our tree skirt and matching stockings when I was a little girl, I knew I could do that too. I had seen an sample of one at this expo we attended and thought it would be the perfect project to get 1) get me back into sewing, 2) introduce me to quilting (yikes!) and 3) provide me with a tree skirt for next year!

I purchased a few tools and some material at the expo and finished up my fabric purchases at JoAnn Fabric the following weekend. I have learned that I'm not at all confident in picking out fabric; I find it challenging to find complementary prints and shades that will look good when pieced together. It's very hard for me to visualize the end product when looking at numerous bolts of fabric.

Also, I realized that this would end up being the most expensive tree skirt I'd ever seen. I just have to remind myself that this is about learning how to sew (again), hanging out with friends and developing a new hobby; it's not all about a tree skirt or an end product.

Friday, September 9, 2011

SF Walk for Life

Many of you have probably heard of "Walk for Life" in the  midst of all the other walks for . . . fundraising. I first heard of it when my roommate in Colorado Springs was volunteering for the local crisis pregnancy center and their Walk for Life event. The following year, I joined her. I didn't do the walk itself but I helped with the kids program. It was a blast.

When we moved to San Francisco, I met the director of the local crisis pregnancy center. She goes to my church. And the center is actually just down the street from our apartment. The director got up in church one Sunday to share about the needs the center had and inspired us with some really amazing stories. She shared with us that the number one reason they hear as to why the mother of an unborn child would consider an abortion is that they can't afford to take care of the child. That is a very real concern. I too think about how Chris and I will afford having a family in the city; but I don't think I had ever realized just how serious this concern is for some women. They are facing a literal life and death decision based on their financial need.

Thankfully, the Alpha Pregnancy Center and others like it are there to help. I was amazed when I heard just how much help they offer to both women who are going through an unplanned pregnancy and those raising kids under the age of 12. With the number of services Alpha Pregnancy Center offers (all of which are free), the concern over not being able to afford their baby should no longer be an issue. PTL!

The annual "Walk for Life" event is a way for the center's programs to continue. Without funds they can't do a whole lot. This year, I have decided to participate in the walk and to raise financial support for the center. I'm really excited about this opportunity as not only can I help raise funds for their programs, but this walk sounds really fun too. We will be split up into teams, given an arm load of presents and will then walk to the homes of families who have been blessed by the center! (The gifts are for the kids in the family.) How neat is that!

My goal is $250 -- and I have 29 days. The walk is on October 8.

Can you help?

I'm still working out a way to do online donations, but if you'd like to sponsor me in this walk -- please send payment to: Emily Babiak; 3812 Mission St Apt 1; San Francisco CA 94110 (make checks payable to: Alpha Pregnancy Center). All donations are tax deductible and Alpha Pregnancy Center will send you a receipt.

please check out: for more information and consider sponsoring me!

402 Miles -- I think I can, I think I can!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The End of Summer

Last week I posted a poll about how often I should blog. The majority (of all 9 votes) said "Weekly." And I would agree. I know I can come up with something to share with all of you on a weekly basis (not including my little hobby pages).

I can't believe summer is seemingly over--in SF the weather should continue to be sunny/half-way warm for a while still. So I'm not complaining about the weather so much as the mindset of Summer being over. The buses are more crowded with school kids, traffic is worse, and generally speaking everyone seems to be more "busy."

It's funny how to many people Summer = vacation no matter what kind of job they have. Even for me-- though I am still working full time, I tend to stay up a little later during the week or do more after work as far as hanging out with friends/date nights, etc. And the weekends tend to be a bit more adventurous like taking day trips to the beach or having picnics in the park. (Doesn't my life sound a little too crazy . . . come on, going to the park . . . on a Saturday! Yikes!) I might even "forget" to do the laundry! Summer is also a time for travelling. We had four visitors this summer and we traveled to Minnesota and Hawaii.

There's something about summer that reminds us to loosen up and have fun. Maybe it's the extended hours of sunshine or the heat that most of you have during these three months of the year. It's freeing isn't it . . . to have Summer. To relax. Breathe. Take a break. It's not just for kids you know!

Now that September is here, our routines go back to normal. Our small group will get back into "study" mode, and our travels will end until Christmas. We do hope to make it the beach a few more times if we can. I'd like to keep the mindset of Summer for a while yet. I'm not ready to give it up. Are you?