shucking corn

Discovery blogiversary

23 July 2014

I need to start thinking of my birthday the way I think of my blogiversary. Now that I’m on the scary road past 40, I’m not sure what it is I’m supposed to celebrate on birthdays anymore. But as I mark four years of this blog’s existence, the reasons to celebrate are happily clear: another gratifying year of exploring, sharing and growth at chinese grandma – and one more year with you, my kind readers, who cook, laugh, cry, wonder and learn with me here.

Four years! I created this blog in the spirit of giving, but I had no idea how much more I would get back. (There’s probably an enlightening Biblical reference there, but I don’t know what it is.)

To heck with the age thing, I want to see birthdays this way too: pausing to acknowledge the persistence and effort it took to get to this day, appreciating another year of connection and communion with this world, celebrating the relationships and personal joys that sustain us in this life. If we’ve done well, we’ve earned a few badges of maturity and wisdom. They don’t come easy, so it’s nice to take a day to polish them and be glad that we’ve made it as far as we have.

In the past, I’ve celebrated my blogiversary with an annual giveaway of some favorite item or other I’ve written about during the year. This year I can’t really think of any, so I’m just going to give away $25 Amazon gift cards: four winners, one for each year.

Leave a comment below – a favorite recipe or something you found interesting here, or a suggestion for improvement, or an idea of your own to share – and you will be entered to win. I’m on a road trip next week with the family, so I’ll pick winners a week from Sunday, August 3. It’s random selection, because I cannot pick favorites among you wonderful people.

Oh, and my fun discoveries for today…a hilarious app you gotta try, non-flopping Havaianas, summer reads, Apple tech tips, and a peek at food 4000 years ago. I waited too long again and have too many, but you guys know how to scan.

Funhouse makeup mirror…Hilarious amusement for adults and kids, Makeup Genius (free; by L’Oreal) is like a funhouse mirror, except instead of distorting your body it uses your smartphone’s selfie camera and puts makeup on your real live face (alarming, I know!). The girls love to put together a crazy look and then have unsuspecting aunts, uncles or boy cousins look into the phone to see their unexpectedly made-up faces. Occasionally the app will slip and put lipliner on your nose, but overall the technology is eerily good.

90 seconds…This minute-and-a-half dance by an amazingly talented married duo will make you feel better about life. Seriously, I could watch this on repeat all day…and I want to throw my shoes in as appreciation too (you’ll see what I mean when you watch it).

Non-flopping Havaianas…I live in flip-flops all summer, but this year I’m not flopping thanks to these T-strap Havaianas Freedom sandals. I never minded the gum-snapping sound of flip-flops, but these are still easy on and off, and a little more urbane without the thwack.

havaianas freedom

Roger Ebert’s ode to Steak ‘n Shake…Steak ‘n Shake was founded in the late Roger Ebert’s home state of Illinois in 1934, and in 2009 he wrote a fond meditation on this childhood love. I especially love the part in the piece in which Ebert has a knowing moment of Steak ‘n Shake brotherhood with Dave Letterman, who hails from Steak ‘n Shake’s headquarters city of Indianapolis. (Thanks to Saveur’s Helen Rosner for this link.)

My Buckeye peeps will have a special appreciation for this essay, as Columbus, Ohio takes pride in its two hometown fast food empires: Wendy’s, founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1969 and still headquartered here; and White Castle, founded in Wichita, Kansas in 1921 but headquartered in Columbus since 1936 (and, oddly, no longer to be found anywhere in Kansas at all).

Kiddie hotel mixology…The kids and I discovered this variation on hotel-packet hot chocolate last summer, which I’m sure we’ll use on our upcoming road trip: mint tea bag + hot chocolate packet + hot water = minty hot chocolate. We thought it was pretty awesome.

I’m not a coffee drinker but (inspired by Molly) you could also try steeping a mint tea bag in the hotel coffee to perk up your brew.

Offline mobile maps…If you are traveling out of your home cellular network this summer, you can download maps from Google to your phone before you go and use the cached maps offline even when you are out of range. Saves a bunch of roaming data charges and still keeps you from getting lost.

Wise words…Shout out to Psychology Today for this five-lessons-for-living article, especially the parenting guidance of benign neglect. I like to learn by doing, and I know my kids are the same. So I stay out of the way – and just peek.

Science of happiness…Not one of those annoying, fluffy lists, this Inc Magazine piece, “10 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Incredibly Happy”, is surprisingly solid.

Summer movie…A true story about art, science and obsession, Tim’s Vermeer is a cool documentary about a man who spent five years of his life investigating a theory on how 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer produced his lifelike paintings. Surprisingly fun to watch, and it’s like, whoa…really?

Summer books…I was mesmerized – and half horrified – by the story of Korean-American food truck chef Roy Choi in his memoir/cookbook L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food. It’s a well-told and fascinating insight into the highs, lows, divides and temptations of Los Angeles. Choi, inspiration for Jon Favreau’s recent movie Chef, is a lucky cat with nine lives.

In a completely different universe, I also loved Jacques Pepin’s memoir, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, a story of Pepin’s childhood in wartime France and his journey to becoming one of America’s most-beloved food personalities. A star talent, Pepin tells his story with great humility and shows how perseverance makes its own luck.

My head just exploded last night when I found out that Chris Colfer, author of the bestselling Land of Stories series – best books ever, according to my kids – is the same Chris Colfer who plays Kurt on the Fox series Glee. The kid is 24 years old – sings, has a Golden Globe award for acting, and has written three bestsellers in as many years. Phenomenal.

Blog love…The Saveur food blog winners I met in Vegas have become my favorite blog reads. The 20-somethings are fun, whimsical and outrageously creative: Josh, profane, brilliant and utterly unique; Molly, crazy cute but smart and sharp; prolific Stephanie and her stunning blog; Cynthia’s and Valentina’s evocative photography.

The freshness of the younger bloggers makes me happy and nostalgic, but the circa-40-year-old bloggers have soul. I love Cheryl’s wonderfully creative writing, Naz’s California take on beautiful Persian food, Maureen’s Midwestern approach to fresh Lebanese food, Sarah’s uplifting introspection. These are women who live with care and thought, and they have so much to share.

Why I’m done with iTunes…It’s no secret that I’m an Amazon fanatic, but it took me a couple of iTunes song purchases to realize that my kids, who share my iTunes library, cannot sync songs I’ve purchased on iTunes the way they can with songs I’ve purchased on Amazon. Amazon downloads, on the other hand, are just like songs I’ve ripped from my CDs – I can share them with others.

A better way to use iPhoto…If you use iPhoto, all your camera and iPhone/iPod pictures get dumped into a giant library file, making it hard to access individual photo files. In order to get a single jpeg, you need to export it out of iPhoto. Fortunately Apple includes a free program that is much better for transfering photos from your camera/phone to your computer. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t tell you about it.

Image Capture is a nifty little application. Just use the search for it in the upper right hand corner of your screen (the magnifying glass) to pull it up, and it looks like this when you open it:

image capture screenshot-2

Image Capture allows you to import both photos and videos, selected or all, and put them in your Pictures folder or anywhere else you specify. Then you can get to them whenever you like, to copy, transfer, etc.

iPhoto is still a great way to view the pictures, but instead of hiding your photo files in a monolithic iPhoto library, it can simply view the photos you’ve already filed away with Image Capture.

Food…4000 years ago

I keep meaning to share these pictures from my trip to New York City last fall. I was giving my sister-in-law a quick spin through the Metropolitan Museum of Art when these remarkable models from ancient Egypt called us to stop and linger.

It’s always fascinating to think about life thousands of years ago, but the Egyptian artifacts that remain (eg mummies) are more often related to the rituals of death. These incredibly well-preserved models give a rare insight into daily life in ancient Thebes, where the production of food was not so different from the farm life of our near past.

These models, dating back to 2000 BC, were discovered in 1920 in a small chamber hidden in the floor of a long-plundered tomb of a royal chief steward in Thebes (current day Luxor). Of the 24 models found, 11 are in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and the rest are at the Met. I love the artistry in these figures, and the stories they tell.

Here’s the cattle stable, where cattle are being fattened for slaughter. One is so fat he can barely stay upright, and the cattle are being fattened with grain – perhaps not so different from corn-fed cattle today.

cattle stable meketre

This is the slaughterhouse, with cuts of meat hanging to cure.

slaughterhouse meketre

The granary, where some workers measure the grain into buckets, and others tally the harvest on wood tablets and papyrus.

granary

Here workers pour grain into bins.

granary meketre

This is the brewery and bakery. In the brewery they grind flour, make mash, ferment the grain and pour it into jugs. In the bakery, they grind grain into flour, make dough, shape it into loaves and cakes, and put in oven to bake.

brewery bakery meketre

Food here is being prepared for death offerings. In this model, bearers on foot carry offerings for the afterlife of the deceased. In Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, there are awesome models of boats bearing the deceased to the afterlife.

figures tomb of meketre

Food is eternal. As it turns out, so are sandals. These from ancient Egypt aren’t so different from my T-strap Havaianas. A style that stands the test of time.

sandals ancient egypt

Four years – thank you so much for being here. Take a minute to tell me something, and I hope you win a gift card to buy yourself a summer read, or some shareable mp3s, or eternal sandals in modern-day rubber.

(And if you want to walk back in time, here I was at three, two and one.)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Slammie 23 July 2014 at 10:20 am

Love seeing your kitchen remodels and love the recipes!

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:22 am

thanks slammie – appreciate you celebrating my blogiversary with me!

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Rae 23 July 2014 at 10:24 am

Happy blogversary! My tip: Did you know that your scones can be baked in a toaster oven? I had a bit of cream left over from some recipe or other, and so I made a half batch of scones. Seemed like a waste to heat up the whole big oven for 8 scones so I just tried them in the toaster oven. Worked out great!

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:22 am

hi rae – it’s so cg of you not to waste the cream or the oven electricity – love it! you get a cg resourcefulness award. =)

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Sharice 23 July 2014 at 11:21 am

I love reading your post.. We are renovating our home so I love reading all about your experiences. I use your balsamic vinegar dressing recipe so much and love to make the green beans too! Thank you for sharing!

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:20 am

hi sharice – you are a doll for sharing back! thanks so much, and good luck with your project!

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Ouida Lampert 23 July 2014 at 11:23 am

I love the “Discoveries” that you post (well, the recipes, too – the Discoveries are just unexpected delights).

Thank you for all that you do to share with us.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:19 am

hi ouida – i am so delighted you enjoy the discoveries! thanks so much for celebrating my blogiversary with me. =)

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Patti Panuccio 23 July 2014 at 12:39 pm

Happy blogverary! I found you about 4 months ago and I enjoyed your one,two and three links.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:16 am

hi patti – so glad you found me, and thank you for sticking around! =)

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Flossy 23 July 2014 at 3:02 pm

Happy 4 years! I enjoy reading your Discovery Tuesdays. You have such a way with words! I also enjoy reading the recipes while looking at all you beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing and making our dinner table colorful and healthy!

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:15 am

hi flossy – i’m so glad to know someone makes it through my rambling discovery posts! i am so glad you find useful recipes and info here – thanks so much for reading!

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Carol 23 July 2014 at 5:14 pm

I am doing a new kitchen this fall and have been saving “ideas” to incorporate into my design – little did I know that I had gathered pics of your fab kitchen (different views, etc.). When I found your blog there it was – all together! Too funny.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:14 am

hi carol – haha, i love the kitchen pictures story! that is great. good luck with your project, very exciting!!

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Kathie Boucher 23 July 2014 at 7:22 pm

Greatly enjoy your blog and your recipes. Several are now part of my regular rotation. My fave so far is your roasted cauliflower–sensational!

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:13 am

hi kathie – thanks so much, love having you here!

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girdtmom 23 July 2014 at 7:56 pm

Happy Blogiversary!
Your Apple Snacking Cake and Pumpkin Cake have both become breakfast staples at my house. I make half batches in a 9″ square pan in my convection toaster oven -so much nicer than using the real oven during the summer! The snack cake recipe has been fun to try with other fruits as well (I made it last week with blueberries and sliced almonds). Thank you so much for these recipes. Oh, almost forgot. I also loved the lemon cake with buttercream frosting -made it for two family birthdays this spring.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:13 am

hi girdtmom – cake for breakfast, you are my kind of girl! and the toaster oven is a great idea for summer baking. your blueberries/almond version sounds fantastic. i just told my 5-year-old about how you loved the lemon cake – she is excited because it was her birthday cake request! =)

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Hannah 23 July 2014 at 10:40 pm

I discovered you recently in the Saveur website because I am a Chinese grandma. I love your insights on life, family and food.My family enjoyed your balsamic vinegar dressing. I hope to make your blondies which we call caramel cuts in Hawaii.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:10 am

hi hannah – a real chinese grandma, i love it!!! very glad you found me via saveur. caramel cuts – cool to know, thank you!

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Monica 23 July 2014 at 11:18 pm

I like the fact that you make complex seeming recipes simple and that you tip us off to things like the Image Capture app. I am pinning your recipes on my pinterest page and have made several of them. Please keep on thinking of new ideas to share with us all.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:09 am

thanks monica, i really try to keep things easy here…because food porn is enticing but doesn’t really make people’s lives better. i am so glad you find useful info here, nothing makes me happier!

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Monica 23 July 2014 at 11:23 pm

I also want to share a recipe. Its not original so I will just point you to the website. So delicious and fairly easy. You can reduce the butter as you wish – its not really needed.

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/04/braised-chicken-with-apricots-olives-couscous-recipe.html

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:07 am

ooh monica – that recipe sounds awesome…and you are awesome for sharing!

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Kathleen 24 July 2014 at 2:42 am

What a banner 4th year you’ve had, Chinese Grandma! I use CG for so many “go to” recipes but the top three are your roasted vegetable and orzo salad, roasted cauliflower, and cream scones. All total crowd pleasers and so easy to put together!

Thank you for so enthusiastically and beautifully sharing your culinary prowess, household insights, and life wisdom with us!

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:05 am

kathleen! thank you for sharing your favorites – and for being such a loyal reader here! xoxo

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Patricia 24 July 2014 at 8:43 am

Happy 4 years! I had a CG cooking Sunday last week: Flaxseed pancakes for brunch and taco salad for dinner. Not to mention the 5-minute best chocolate cake ever for dessert. Thanks for the good recipes, great reads, and for sharing a loving philosophy of life by remembering the wisdom of grandmas everwhere….

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:04 am

hi patricia – love your cg sunday!! that is too awesome. you are sweet for sharing back here – thank you.

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Simplylee 24 July 2014 at 10:47 am

Happy, happy 4 year! You have such a refreshing blog – your recipes are the best, your take on life is an inspiration, and I always check out your gift selections for my grandkids that you post each Christmas. My oldest granddaughter still loves the alarm clock with all the bright lights. I look forward to many more years reading your blog.

Thank you!!!!

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:03 am

hi simplylee – really appreciate your kind words! thank you for celebrating with me here!

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Marie 24 July 2014 at 4:59 pm

I just discovered your blog from the kichn! I love your stories and relate as I too am chinese married to a non chinese. I have my own version of your balsamic vinaigrette that I’ve been making forever but uses a tiny bit of sugar instead of honey as my honey never seems to be in liquid form! Going to make your chocolate cake this weekend for company.
Thank you for the wonderful stories of your family and travels. Look forward to more to come.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:02 am

hi marie – yes, my honey never wants to stay liquid either! but i’ll use it crystallized too – just takes a bit more mixing. glad you found me via the kitchn! thanks for celebrating my blogiversary with me. =)

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Gail 24 July 2014 at 9:49 pm

I just made your taco salad recipe…what a great find….it is kind of a greek-mexican mix. Great as a taco salad, wonderful over greens, and yummy over some grilled chicken or fish. Love it!

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cg 6 August 2014 at 10:00 am

hi gail – so glad you enjoyed the salad! i’ve eaten it a LOT this summer. =)

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Kathy 25 July 2014 at 11:19 pm

Ah! I saw Tim’s Vermeer and was amazed by Tim’s patience and perseverance! I’m so glad to have stumbled upon your blog earlier this year. If I could cook and take great photos, I’d love to have a food blog. oh, well, I will live vicariously via yours… haha– Congrats on 4 years!

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:59 am

hi kathy – haha, it’s not too late to start cooking and taking pictures! like everything, it’s all about practice. =P glad you found me – thanks for reading!

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sandy s 26 July 2014 at 6:56 am

My family has enjoyed the sloppy joes with ground turkey. Enjoyed sloppy joes growing up and really like your recipe as a “grown up” – thanks.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:58 am

hi sandy s – yes, it’s so funny when i make kid food for a party – the grown ups always want to eat it too! sloppy joes make everyone happy. =)

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Megan 26 July 2014 at 11:01 am

Happy Blogiversary! I enjoy your writing so much — here’s to many more!

Your balsamic vinaigrette is a staple in my fridge, and the orzo with zucchini has become a summer regular. (It’s my “fancy” dinner salad.) Several more of your recipes are still languishing away on my pinterest board, but they will be tried. Oh yes….

My first and fave book so far of the summer has been Crystal Paine’s Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. Great, practical tips for slowing down the hamster wheel a little.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:56 am

hi megan – thanks so much for the book rec! and thank you for celebrating my blogiversary with me!

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Carol at Wild Goose Tea 26 July 2014 at 1:18 pm

Hi, I am relatively new to following your blog. However, let me still offer congrats on your effort over the years. I can appreciate that. Pats on the back and Hip Hip Hoorays sometimes get the short end of the stick. Well here is the long end. Ha.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:54 am

hi carol – very glad to have you here, and thanks so much for celebrating my blogiversary with me!

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bk 26 July 2014 at 4:39 pm

Thanks for another year of great writing, thoughtful commentary, and delicious food!! Best wishes for year 5!

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:54 am

thank you, bk!

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susan 27 July 2014 at 8:16 am

Thank you for another year! Now I’m off to download google maps of the Yellowstone area to my phone. thanks! 🙂

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:53 am

hi susan – smart thinking, i hope the offline maps worked for you! until i’m on a road trip, i forget how many areas around the country don’t have cell service.

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Christine 29 July 2014 at 8:21 am

happy blogiversary!! your fennel sausage pasta is a staple in our household. The toddler also loves it!

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:50 am

hi christine – we love that fennel sausage pasta too, kids and adults! thanks so much for celebrating my blogiversary with me. =)

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Lingling 30 July 2014 at 5:11 pm

Happy Blogiversary! Your blog is a bookmark on every device I own! My extended carnivore family will happily try a “Chinese grandma” recipe, no matter how strange and new the produce may be to them.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:47 am

hi lingling – lol about the bookmarks, you rock! thanks so much, i am very glad to help bring vegetables to your carnivore family! =)

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Brooke 31 July 2014 at 7:38 am

Happy Blogiversary CG! I really have too many favorite recipes to list them all. I cook them so often that my husband now says “Is this a Chinese Grandma recipe?” One new recipe added to my rotation this summer is Spaghetti all’amatriciana. So easy, fulfilling, and delicious! I am also loving the Taco salad and shrimp and tomato tacos when it is too hot to cook. Most of all, I appreciate your writing and I adore you as a person too! xo

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:46 am

brooke – you are so very awesome!!! as part of this community and as a real live person. =) thank you for being such a dedicated reader and cg cook! i always love when your name pops up here. xoxoxo!

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molly yeh 31 July 2014 at 8:11 am

eeee!!!! happy blogoversary!!!!!!! yayayy!!! i’m so freaking glad we got to meet in LV! what fun. i hope we get to hang out in real life again someday!!! love all of your links and thanks so much for the shoutout 🙂 🙂

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:45 am

molly!! i hope the stars align for us again – you are so much fun!

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Lynn 31 July 2014 at 12:00 pm

Happy happy blogiversary CG! Thank you for sharing your life, recipes, outlook and fun finds in your blog. How else would I have discovered Jeni’s, North Star and more when visiting Columbus! Finding your 5 minute chocolate cake for my lactose intolerant niece was a bonus! Looking forward to celebrating #5.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:27 am

hi lynn – i’m delighted you found good columbus tips here! it’s such a great, underrated city – i hope you had a wonderful visit! the 5-minute cake is such a lifesaver, and the egg-free, dairy-free is real bonus. thank you for celebrating my blogiversary with me!

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Misscali 31 July 2014 at 3:50 pm

I can sense your groundedness and calm maturity through your posts. And I am drawn to that as much your fool-proof recipes. On my dinner rotation from CG: shrimp with feta and tomatoes and your teriyaki recipe.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:22 am

hi misscali – thank you for this lovely comment. i am so glad you’ve found recipes here you can count on!

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Kristy Rose 31 July 2014 at 4:31 pm

I’m glad you created this blog and share life lessons and wonderful recipes. I think the first post I read was a tribute to your dad. You wrote it with heart and passion. Got teary myself reading it. Throughout the years, I enjoyed your balsamic vinaigrette, chicken adobo and last but not least, your banana bread. Here’s wishing you a many many more great blogging years to come.

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cg 6 August 2014 at 9:19 am

hi kristy rose – thanks so much for your nice comments! my father-in-law once famously ate my banana bread WITH the chicken adobo – and proclaimed it a delicious combo. but this was a man who would squirt ketchup on already-sauced pasta. he was a laugh.

thank you so much for reading and celebrating my blogiversary with me!

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