Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

I decided I will just post two photos or videos per month for this review. It's tricky, but a good way to be concise. Here's a bit about 2014:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas 2014

[An awesome card my sister sent my parents.]

I'm in northern California staying with my parents. I've had a wonderful Christmas break and there are lots of pictures I'd like to post here sometime. I'm going through them today since my sister's family has started their 2-day trip home, and now it's just my parents and me (I leave tomorrow).

It was so much fun to spend several days with my parents and sister's family! My nieces and I did Christmasy things like crafts, cookie decorating and looking at lights. Then we had several friends and relatives over and I got to see people I hadn't seen in years. We had a full week. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw a little of it.

Now it's a lot quieter here and I miss my nieces already! :( :( They are so cute and funny and special bonus: they like me! I am trying to not think about it already being over because it'll make me too sad. I'll see them again in a few months, hopefully!

I don't even know where to start with the photos, so here are just a few that initially caught my eye. I'll post more as I work on them.

One morning it was really foggy, so one niece and I went out looking for good photo subjects.

My sister's due in early April!

My nieces looking all cute for our party. It was chilly, but I dragged them outside for a few quick photos. Soon they will have another sister!

Little girls fascinated with the light-up angels in my parents' window.

Sisters being kind of goofy after the party.

Little E (age 3) "putting on makeup." She was basically waving a coaster in front of her face, because she's adorable.

I hope you all had a nice Christmas. I can't believe it's already time to start compiling my end-of-the-year posts!

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Last weekend I baked three kinds of cookies to hand out to coworkers. I thought I'd link you to the recipes since they turned out well.

Lemon White Chocolate Chip Cookies

You can click on that link to go to the page, but I will also paste the recipe below in case that page ever goes away.

I chose these because I had tried the lemon white chocolate cookies at Burgerville (my traditional stop on my way home from Seattle) that were so good I needed to make my own. This recipe turned out very similarly to those cookies. The only thing is they seem to dry out fast, so keep them nice and air tight after they cool. Also, I added a bit more extract than the recipe called for, so you might want to adjust that or the zest.

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest (from about 3 medium lemons)
1 large egg
1 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cornstarch for 20 seconds, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and lemon zest (not until pale and fluffy, just creamy). Mix in egg, then mix in lemon extract and vanilla extract (if you want the cookies a little more yellow, you can add a few drops of yellow food coloring when adding the extracts). With mixer set on low speed slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined, then mix in white chocolate chips.

Scoop dough out 2 1/2 Tbsp at a time and shape into balls (I used a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop and filled heaping). Place on Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 2-inches apart. Bake in preheated oven 10 - 12 minutes (cookies should look slightly under-baked, they will continue to cook slightly once removed from oven). Cool on baking sheet 2 minutes (if desired, you can lightly press more white chocolate chips into tops immediately after removing from oven) then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe Source: Cooking Classy

M&M Cookies

For this, I just used my usual chocolate chip cookie recipe that you can click over to. It has served me well over the years, although this time I made the mistake of miscalculating flour and I had a tray of them come out all flat. But I fixed it!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip (with peanut butter) Cookies

I learned something: you can change a regular chocolate chip recipe to be chocolate-chocolate chip by subbing out some of the flour for cocoa. I read different amounts, but settled on 1/4th of the flour being replaced with cocoa, and that seemed to work well. So I used the same chocolate chip cookie recipe except for that switch. You may want to add a bit more flour, it's up to you. It did change the texture a little, but I thought they were good.

The peanut butter mention is there in lowercase because it was a minor thing. Nestle now has special baking chips with different fillings (they're called Delightfulls). So I bought some with the peanut butter filling. It was a very small amount, but I was in the mood to jazz things up a little.

These weren't traditional Christmas cookies, but people seem to like the old standards. Have you done any baking this season?

Thursday, December 11, 2014


(Just an old photo I found. It was taken in December of 2008 when we strung up some lights in our office, and had a nice sunset one night.)

I have neglected this blog, and part of the reason is that I haven't been taking bloggable photos. But I know I can post even without pictures, so here I am.

Thanksgiving was great! I went to the Seattle area (like last year) and every day was different, but I think I got to experience a nice balance of activities. It snowed a little, and was generally FREEZING for most of my visit, but that made it fun and memorable. I really hated leaving to go back to normal life after the nice 5-day break.

But normal life hasn't been so bad! Last Friday I got some good news and it seems to have given me a jolt of Christmas spirit. I was feeling overwhelmed by all I wanted to accomplish this month, but now I'm feeling much more on top of things. I've shopped, baked, hung lights, sent a bit of mail, wrapped gifts and lots of other little things. I LOVED Christmas when I was a kid (like most kids), but then I started feeling stressed and sometimes bummed about it for part of my adulthood. In the past few years, I've been getting some of my childhood excitement. I can point to some possible reasons, but I don't really know why. Life just has its phases with things, I guess.

Anyway, I am glad that Christmas gives us an excuse to do special things for people. It gives me the push to step slightly out of my comfort zone and contact old friends or try new projects. Sometimes I think Christmas is dragged on too long when I see stores decorating before Halloween. But then as the day approaches, it feels like there's never enough time to do everything I'd like to do. (Like go to the Festival of Lights at The Grotto in Portland. I just learned of that this year, but I don't really have the time/energy to go. How cool does that sound?)

I have several more things to accomplish in the next two weeks, but I am trying to enjoy each step of the process instead of just dwelling on the list or wishing it would all be over.

And oh yeah, I just remembered I've taken some pictures and wanted to share some recipes with you! I'll try and get to that this week. We'll see, chickadee.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite Christmas songs:

We listened to a lot of Mannheim Steamroller when I was younger, so it has a lot of good memories attached. But the choir version of this song is great, too.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


I meant to blog this past week, but I've been fairly tired and unmotivated in the evenings. I was also overwhelmed by how many ice photos I had and didn't know how to narrow them down. To be honest, most aren't very fabulous; it's the subject matter that I find really interesting, so I still wanted them to do more than sit on my hard drive. So I made a slideshow! Fading photos in and out to music is one way to make them seem a bit prettier. ;)

This might seem kind of long, but hopefully it's entertaining. There's music, but feel free to watch without--it's not pertinent. I did want to give a shout-out to my friend Michael, though, because his music is the soundtrack. He composed and recorded these years ago and I've been wanting to use his music in a slideshow for awhile now.

Here's the video, and then scroll down after it so I can tell you about some fun paper snowflakes!

Ice from J M on Vimeo.

The other day my 15-year-old niece, L, learned how to make these snowflakes at school. Then she came home and made some for her bedroom, and her mom instagrammed them. I loved them and wanted to learn how, so last night we Skyped and she taught me. It's pretty simple once you get the hang of it (it took me a few tries to cut the paper correctly--I felt so incompetent since my 7-year-old niece got it on the first try). You can make all sorts of sizes and colors depending on what paper you have on hand. I used some cheapy (better, since it's thinner) scrapbook paper to make the one above (seen above my couch), but you can use printer paper, origami paper, maps, newspapers, anything.

A friend on Instagram said she wanted to teach her daughters, so I thought I'd link to a few videos that teach you how. You can also just do a search for "3D snowflake tutorial" and find some options. Here are a few: - This has the woman actually talking to explain, whereas the others are set to music.

I really enjoyed doing a craft via Skype and I think we'll have to do that again soon. I've also learned how to make rubberband bracelets from my niece N via Skype, and my friend Dan was even able to tutor L in math! It's obviously way better to hang out with my nephieces in person, but since we live a few states apart, I'm really glad I can still see them and spend time with them.

Have you ever made these snowflakes? My friend Dania said she made them at work one year, and they hung them all over the office!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pictures of everything (4)

I have a few more photos to finish off this series, which is good because I'm ready to move on to the next! (More on that in a minute.)

This feels like forever ago now. Why was I here again? ;) Okay, I think I already talked about how I dropped by the winery when I noticed all the yellow vines. Plus, Willamette Valley Vineyards has an awesome view. I love that place! Maybe it needs its own label.

Hey, beautiful!

It feels like I already posted this, but I've tried not to overlap. Though I'd be surprised if I didn't accidentally post a photo in two different entries.

My favorite shade of green. This makes me think of the dress my mom sewed me for my 8th grade graduation. The fabric was dark green, but had black in it too so that it kind of changed shades a bit with the angle. Sort of like iridescent. I don't know what you call that, but it was awesome and my friends all admired it. :)

I photographed that little spider without knowing he was there! He was so tiny, and I was trying for droplets.

There's some sort of oozy stuff on the mushroom and I don't know what it is. Snail slime?


The tiny tiniest of mushrooms.

Yay! You have reached the end of my Mushroom-Dew Obsession photos.

What's next on the agenda?

I'm glad you asked! We had some freezing rain, and the neighborhoods near mine were coated in ice. It was BEAUTIFUL, and I was fortunate enough to be able to take lots of pictures. I'm still narrowing them all down, but I hope to post them over the next week. If you follow me on Instagram, you're probably already tired of it! Too bad so sad.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pictures of everything (2)

Back with some more photos. Read a little explanation in my first post, if you haven't seen it already.

I need to think of a better word than just "Enjoy!" as my little send off to see the photos. Thesaurus time. Okay, I've got it--luxuriate in these!

Wow, is that an electric version of pink for everyone? Once again, the photos look different in Picasa than when I edited them in Photoshop. Sunglasses possibly required.

Aw! How romantic. Also, do you see the fly on top of the taller mushroom? He's coated in some droplets, so it's hard to tell.

A little grainy, but considering this was ISO 2500, it's not bad.

More to come! I hope you're having a nice week so far.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pictures of everything (1)

I've been so lazy today. Yesterday morning I got up and out of the apartment much earlier than I usually would on a Saturday because I was eager to take advantage of the foggy conditions. I ended up at the Ankeny wildlife refuge, and then at Willamette Valley Vineyards, hiking around in the wet grass taking a picture of anything with a dew drop on it. Dew drops are photo ops, that's what I always say! (Actually, I only made up that incredible rhyme just now, believe it or not.) Meanwhile, I had an invite to play games that evening, so I went home and cleaned up before having friends over. My point is that I was pretty active all day (and it was a very good day!), so today I guess I'm making up for it. Let's just say, I've stayed very caught up on my Words With Friends games today. (I'm Greengatephoto if you want to play.)

I have taken 895 pictures on my new camera (that arrived Tuesday last week). I wanted to see what everything looks like in a picture by this new camera, even if I've taken the same photo ten times before on the old one. I've narrowed down a few to show you, though I wouldn't say they are necessarily the best. I chose some just because they're kind of interesting, even if not perfectly composed or edited. Some may be really uninteresting--it's hard for me to know at this point. I lose perspective the more I look at them, and the more I take. Hopefully your fresh little ojos will enjoy these.

Anyway, I'm not going to caption or explain everything (but you know I'll say a little something here and there!), so I'll just tell you that these were all taken either: at work, at the refuge or at the vineyard. And you're going to see a LOT of droplets, along with some mushrooms, plants and insects (specifically cucumber beetles, in most cases). Also, I'm mixing these up a bit, so they aren't in order and they'll switch back and forth between subjects.

I just thought this was funny how you can see the parking lot in the droplet. Ah, so majestic! Cars.

I've said this on Instagram and stuff, but there are just soooo many mushrooms at work right now. We had all the right weather conditions and they are everywhere you go. I tried to capture the different kinds.

I'm not sure how many of the insects I photographed were actually alive. Just pretend they all were, if you prefer.

A little knob mushroom.

It looks like a fishing poll with a fly holding on.

Not the clearest shot, but I thought you might like to see it up closer.

I didn't spend much time on these uglier mushrooms, but wanted to show you some variety.

Alright, that's enough for now. I have several more that I'll be posting throughout the week (hopefully!).


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