Monday, November 24, 2014

Once Upon A Time


Fairy tales for adults seem to be trending in 2014!  From Angelina Jolie as Malificent to Prince Charming in the hit show, Once Upon A Time, new twists on centuries-old folk tales seem to be the “in” thing.
What more could modern writers say about these old fairy tales?  When you think of it, the villains never had so much character development in the past.  Unlike when Disney’s Sleeping Beauty came out in 1959, this year Malificent gets her place in center stage.


Although it does feature the Sleeping Beauty characters, the current television show, Once Upon A Time, focuses on the Snow White characters.  Just as the movie, Malificent, develops the characters further than the original story did, the television series explains how the Evil Queen became Snow White’s stepmother.  
The show also tells us that Prince Charming wasn’t raised as a prince but is, in fact, a pauper.  
Other characters which have been featured in Once Upon A Time are Pinocchio, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, the Genie from Aladdin, and characters from Alice in Wonderland.


Once Upon A Time isn’t the only show/movie right now revisiting old fairy tales.  Beauty and the Beast puts the characters in a modern detective story, and Grimm’s premise is that the strange creatures of fairytales (like those written by The Brothers Grimm) actually exist!  
And looks like this fairy tale trend isn’t showing signs of ending anytime soon: I’m looking forward to Meryl Streep’s beautiful singing voice in the upcoming movie Into the Woods which releases Christmas Day 2014.


I hope the fairy tale trend continues because I love new versions of old happily ever afters!

Happy Bidding!

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Taste of China



When you think of the Far East, what comes to mind?  


Their painting style?

Their lovely china?

Do you think of the traditional tea ceremony?  Red for luck?  

Do you think of tranquil gardens?  
Imagine breathing in the calm of a Chinese garden retreat while wearing your own conical hat.

Do you think of thousands of years of Chinese dynasties or their literature?

Picture the heroic Mulan, over 1000 years ago in The Ballad of Mulan, riding home on a swift horse, returning to her relieved family.  For twelve years, she had sacrificed a traditional Chinese female life in place of a military life, replacing her aged father and child-brother on the battlefield after they had been “drafted.”  

Now imagine a very different lifestyle from that of Mulan’s.  Envision an aristocratic lady’s life in 1700s China.  A Dream of Red Mansions (also translated as Dream of the Red Chamber) is one of the most famous works of Chinese fiction.  These plates are based on the novel as each features a different female character.  Above, meet Pao-Chai, the ideal Chinese woman--smart, modest, calm, shapely--who the main character, Baoyu, seems fated to marry; but there’s one problem, the essential passionate spark is absent.  

Above right treads the lovely, learned, and distant Miao-yu, whose obsession controls her.

Hsi Chun, the talented young painter, decides to follow a pious life.  

Although she is a favorite of the Emporer because of her virtue and intelligence, Yuan-Chun feels trapped inside the confines of the Palace.

Loud.  Intelligent.  Funny.  Lovely and worldly.  A Dominator.  While usually kind, Hsi-feng has a dark side no one should cross.

Suspected to be semi-autobiographical, A Dream of Red Mansions is said to be one of the finest works of literature the world has ever known, yet, because of the depth of its poetry, it was difficult to translate.  Thankfully, Master Artist, Zhao Huimin, has visually represented some of the Beauties of A Dream of Red Mansions and thus, has helped us better understand the world in which they lived.

Truth becomes fiction when the fiction's true;
Real becomes not-real where the unreal's real.  
--Beginning of A Dream of Red Mansions

Happy Bidding!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guide to Easy Holiday Entertaining


Hosting your own Holiday party can be stressful!  There’s so much to remember, but here at, we’ve taken some of the stress out; we’re here to help!  With this simple festive guide, you can pull off the party and even impress your in-laws without cooking or cleaning for days ahead of time!  (Who has the time for that?  Let the days off really be DAYS OFF!)  So, here’s to a safe and fun Holiday season with this helpful guide. Now, let’s put on our aprons (item 160) and cover the basics:


Some Holiday Favorite Foods:  
  • Turkey or Ham (to save time, you can buy an already cooked and sliced ham--no one will know the difference and it’s impossible to mess up!  Walmart/Sam’s Club sells a great sliced pre-cooked ham in a purple wrapper; it comes with its own sauce packet).  If you use the sauce bag, you’ll want to cook it in a pan like in item 167.
  • Turkey Gravy (dry mix) if you’re having turkey
  • Mashed Potatoes (click here for an easy recipe) or sweet potatoes or yams (yep, you can buy yams in cans)(But be wary of Mashed Potatoes from a box--they have a distinctive taste which reveals your secret--that you didn’t make them fresh)
  • Stuffing (also known as “Dressing” in the South) (Stove-Top is a real time-saver and if you need some pans, you’ll find cooking essentials in items 160, 169, 174, 178).
  • Cranberry sauce (just mash up the canned Cranberry sauce so it doesn’t look like it came in a can)
  • Corn, peas, green beans (if you buy them frozen, they’re fresher, taste better, and have less sodium).  They can be easily cooked, served and stored in Corning Ware (item 170).
  • Dinner Rolls (King’s Hawaiian rolls are soft, sweet, and ready to serve)
  • Pumpkin Pie (or apple pie). After buying a ready-made crust and a can of Libby’s, use this Pumpkin Pie recipe to make your own pie--super easy and you can say, “Oh, yes, I made it myself!”  Or if the oven is already full, make a Jello No-Bake Cheesecake.  Once you’re done making the desserts, display them nicely in cake pans (item 26).

Remember to follow basic food safety.  For example, if something (a cutting board, knife, pan, etc.) has touched raw meat, don’t let the item touch anything else until the item gets washed in hot water and soap.  Also, make sure to cook raw meat thoroughly and to a high enough internal temperature.  A thermometer (item 167) takes the guess-work out.  Finally, here’s the disappointer: if you’ve used raw egg in a recipe (like cookie dough), resist the urge to lick the mixing spoon or bowl, as there is a small chance of getting Salmonella since the egg has not been cooked yet.


Make It Sparkle
While your items are baking, pull out the vacuum cleaner (items 34, 73, 103, 147) and give it that just-vacuumed look.  Then, clean surfaces (item 83, 162) which are most-likely-to-be-seen at close range (like the sinks, toilet, mirrors, and glass at kid-levels (I’m thinking hand-prints)).  Also, wiping a disinfectant cloth on handles and light switches should keep guests healthy.


Prepare the Table and House
Then, prepare the table.  A tablecloth (items 112, 114) is a great way to hide a scratched table or to help protect a table (items 1, 19, 33, 40, 66) from getting this way.  When setting out each place setting, put out your place mats (items 112, 114) and then your plates (items 22, 154, 166, 164) in the middle in front of each chair, drinking glasses (items 30, 154, 166, 175) on the top right, and bread plate on the top left.  The fork (item 23, 177, 182) goes on the left of the plate (remember this by the F: Fork goes on the leFt), and the napkin on the far left.  The spoon (items 23, 177, 182, 183) goes on the far right of the plate, and the knife’s blade (items 23, 177, 165) is right next to the plate.  Dessert utensils get placed above (but not on) the plate.  Remember that when eating with utensils, you work from the outside in; this means that the utensils further from your plate in the place setting get used first, and then you work inwards as the meal and courses progress.

Don’t have enough space for everyone to sit at a table (items 1, 19, 33, 40, 66)?  T.V. trays (item 32) and lap trays (item 175) are the answer!  Need some more seating (item 68, 90)?  How about folding chairs that look like fancy dining room chairs (I love these!) (item 33)!  What about an air mattress, a bed (items 92, 132), or extra bedding (items 101) for the guests who need to stay over?  You don’t want guests leaving who are still inebriated or who will be driving on ice.

The Decor (item 75, 105, 152) is sure to impress!  Putting out decorations puts everyone in the festive spirit, too!  I always like to cover my Christmas tree in garbage bags before I bring it in the house; this keeps the trail of pine needles to a minimum.  And don’t forget safety: a handy step ladder (item 73) and/or regular ladders (item 143) which are well-grounded will help.  

Don’t even want to get on the ladder?  Buy a small Christmas tree (which is cheaper than buying a large tree), put lights on it, and then set it on top of a coffee table in front of your front window.  This tree will serve as inside and outside Christmas decorations with minimal effort.


Some Holiday Drinks:  
Don’t ruin your good mood: Serving white wine or sparkling apple cider can mean a less obvious stain than spilled red grape juice or red wine--in case a glass breaks or tips over.  (I remember accidentally dropping a mug, and my mom replied that people were more important than things--which is so important to remember at the Holidays).  Besides, turkey pairs well with white wines anyway.  White Zinfandel (sweet), Sauvignon Blanc (dry), and White Burgundy (dry) go well with turkey, and ham goes well with Moscato.  My sister-in-law loves sweet Cupcake Moscato.  Designated drivers and kids can drink delicious chilled Sparkling Apple Cider.  Just keep your corkscrew (item 177) and bottle openers handy.

Also, some people love coffee with dessert or a warm drink during the cold holidays.   
Make sure you have a coffee or tea pots (items 20, 36, 153) and mugs (item 168) just in case.  Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate or hot Apple Cider is also a great option.

Holiday Fun
No holiday get-together is complete without games (items 61 and 80) to bring the family together!  This also keeps the Fam distracted from bringing up those embarassing questions (like, “What do you want to do with your life?” and “When can we expect wedding bells and/or the Stork to visit?”).  

During the meal (and even during the tedious cleaning and prep), I like to have some music playing to help lighten the mood.  If Grandparents or in-laws are coming, a sure way to win them over is with timeless Christmas music from their era that we still enjoy today:

After dinner, an extra T.V. (item 95) to entertain the kiddies while the parents watch what they want is also helpful (item 5)!  Of course, some movies are so good that kids of all ages can agree they’re great: A Charlie Brown Christmas (from 1965--an oldie but a goodie), Frozen and A Christmas Story.  

Want more Thanksgiving-themed entertainment?  How about A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (from 1973) or Miracle on 34th Street from 1947 (movie begins at Thanksgiving), and click here for some background to play during Thanksgiving dinner.


These simple ideas are sure to lay the groundwork for a wonderful Holiday--a Holiday that you’re not too tired to enjoy.  From our family here at to yours, enjoy your Holidays, and thank you for your patronage!

Happy Bidding!