etsy bead bracelets

Discovery Thursday (and my blogiversary!)

25 July 2013

On tap this week – a kitchen hack, a hydrangea trick, a favorite bauble, a book recommendation and a music obsession.

And it’s my blogiversary! Time for my annual celebration giveaway – in honor of our three years together, three of you lovely readers will win a prize:

  • Customize a cool bauble of your own, OR
  • Pick a trio of dee-licious St Dalfour juice-sweetened fruit preserves (wild blueberry and raspberry-pomegranate are the bomb), OR
  • Get my latest book recommendation (read about it below!)

I’m also highlighting a few favorite summer recipes from the archives here for those of you who haven’t been around as long.

Three years – thanks for hanging around, my friends.

Life hack: Vacation food storage

At the end of the winter, when all the snowbirds in Florida pack up their condos and return to their East Coast or Midwest homes, the smart ones don’t throw away their extra food staples. Instead, they empty their refrigerators and pantry cupboards into the freezer – cereal, peanut butter, pasta, sugar, cheese – everything except canned goods. And the next winter, they take it all out again.

A helpful trick if you are leaving your home for an extended period this summer, or if you are in a summer place that will be unoccupied again for a while. Because it’s sad to come back to stale food.

freezer storage

Hydrangea trick

I love hydrangeas when I’m in Ohio for the summer, especially because they are not as common in dry California. For those of you lucky enough to live in hydrangea land, Mrs Wheelbarrow has a nifty tip for extending the life of cut hydrangea blooms: dip the stem ends in boiling water for 15 seconds first. Apparently this rids the stem of a sticky substance that can prevent the cut flower from drawing up water to stay alive.

oak leaf hydrangea

Tiny bead bracelets

I bought myself two bracelets from Etsy, made by nice Ana in Madrid, and I love them so much I never take them off. Petite beads on durable, colored waxed thread – I have one with tiny grey pearls and one with tiny square sterling silver beads.

The bracelets, customized for the beads and color of thread you like, cost less than $20, and shipping to the US costs less than $5 per order. They are easy to wear, alone or layered with other bracelets, and they give me a happy little boost every day.

It’s hard to see scale without context, so I took a picture of them on my arm, even though it makes me cringe a little. Here it is, because I love you guys.

etsy beaded bracelets

Mother Daughter Me

I’ve been a lifelong fan of biographies, but Mother Daughter Me, a new memoir by writer and New York Times contributor Katie Hafner, is something different. Instead of the usual timeline of personal and career milestones, this beautifully written book takes on the meat of real life – the hard lessons of emotional growth and personal understanding.

The book begins when Hafner, widowed with a teenage daughter, invites her mother to move in. Hafner thinks she has put their difficult history – her mother’s past alcoholism, her abandonment of her young daughters – behind her and is dismayed to find that she is wrong.

It sounds like a heavy story, but Hafner’s touch is light and true. I marveled at the difficulty of her journey – overcoming such a painful and complicated past, breaking the cycle of dysfunction – but most of all Hafner’s ability to understand it well enough to write with enormous clarity and compassion.

We don’t choose our family, and no life is without mistakes. But to move forward with honesty – that is the real achievement of a life well lived. This book is thoughtful discussion fodder for a book group, or simply for friends or family.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

I am fixated on this hip hop duo – two white guys! – from Seattle, who buck the usual misogynistic, bling-saturated stereotype of the genre to sing about thrift shopping, Malcolm Gladwell and gay rights. Macklemore (real name Ben Haggerty) gives an earnest, passionate, live performance of three hit songs in the NPR Music offices, as part of NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series (there’s a free audio download too), that is so much better than hearing it on the radio. (Warning: they don’t perform the “clean” version, so don’t watch if you find language offensive.)

But aside from the music, this is a notable success story. In an industry still controlled by a few major music labels, these guys built their YouTube audience over years, a following that powered two #1 singles from their first full-length album, “The Heist,” released last fall. “Thrift Shop” was the first independently released song to reach #1 since 1994 – in other words, that never happens.

(And for those old enough to remember, the 1994 song was Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” which gained fans when it was featured in the movie “Reality Bites.”)

I also admire how Haggerty and Lewis have shined the spotlight on fellow Seattle artists. Twenty-five-year-old singer-songwriter Mary Lambert has gotten attention for her soulful vocals on “Same Love”; 22-year-old gospel singer Ray Dalton, featured in “Can’t Hold Us,” has since left his job teaching tennis to pursue music; and 51-year-old Michael Wansley, who sings the baritone hook from “Thrift Shop,” was a software test engineer who had long ago given up on ever being able to have a career in music. A new start at 51 is even more awesome than a thrift shop find.

Not all struggling actors have the writing chops to pen a screenplay for themselves to star in, as Matt Damon and Ben Affleck did with “Good Will Hunting” or Jason Segel with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” And not all musical artists have the savvy to produce and market their own music. But it’s liberating to know it can be done.

Dang Google

I’m behind on my blog reading ever since Google discontinued its RSS reader on July 1. I managed to move my subscriptions over to Feedly, but I haven’t quite figured out how to read it the way I used to on Google Reader.

I’m a Google fan, but it is so irritating the way they start something really useful, like GOOG-411, which I used to use all the time for phone number lookups, and then shut it down without remorse or apology.

Hard to complain about free, though. I’ll have to organize Feedly soon, so I can catch up with the world.

Summer recipes

Some summer favorites here…

Maybe I should also sort recipes by season on my recipes page too. What do you think?

Blogiversary giveaway

Entering the giveaway is easy – just talk to me! Use the comment form below to say something about chinese grandma:

  • A favorite recipe
  • Something useful or memorable you picked up here
  • A suggestion for improvement
  • Or whatever!

Leave your comment by next Friday, August 2. As always, winners will be picked using this fair and geeky random number generator. I’ll contact winners by email to coordinate prize selection and delivery.

Come out of your quiet reading corner and talk to me – you have no idea how excited I get to hear from you. Good luck, hope you win!

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

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

BK 25 July 2013 at 9:12 am

Congrats on 3 years CG! I always click through to your new posts right away. I enjoy your writing style, topics covered, photos, and, perhaps most of all, that I learn something new in every post. Excited about what year 4 will bring!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:17 am

hi bk – thank you…so glad you find the site useful!


VAnessa 25 July 2013 at 10:15 am

I loved the post about Nashville. Maybe we will have a grown up getaway there soon. Also love your salad dressing recipes.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:18 am

hi vanessa – do check out nashville if you get a chance, great food and music scene!


Candace 25 July 2013 at 10:21 am

My favorite salad dressing of all time – simple, delish, olive oil, Dijon, honey, fresh garlic, etc. everyone who eats it says thank you.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:19 am

hi candace – wouldn’t the world eat more salad if everyone had better salad dressing? so glad you are enjoying it and sharing!


Joan 25 July 2013 at 10:51 am

That book sounds wonderful as do the other two prizes. I just read two very good books myself — The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell and Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. They are both written in alternating voices so the events are revealed by characters with different viewpoints.

I love that you mix up your content with recipes, anecdotes, product reviews, and book recommendations. It makes your blog more multidimensional than most.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:21 am

hi joan – so glad you enjoy the mix here. thanks so much for the book recommendations! i’ll have to check them out.


Meera 25 July 2013 at 11:26 am

I like it when you mom makes some recipes!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:23 am

hi meera – yes, my mom is amazing! this fall i’ll try to get more of her recipes here.


Barbara 25 July 2013 at 11:34 am

Hi there and Happy Blogiversary, what fun! and thank you for all your labor and love that is put into your blogs with your very creative thoughts and food ideas/recipes. I am a newcomer and looking forward to many days of good reads!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:23 am

hi barbara – welcome! so glad you found your way here.


Lily 25 July 2013 at 11:59 am

Happy Blogiversary, Chinese Grandma! What I love about your site is that I really enjoy every post. Seriously. And sometimes you have an uncanny ability to write about stuff that I’m thinking about. Like I was just reading about Macklemore after I heard “Same Love” on the radio… and just a few months ago, I discovered I like grits. We must be soul sisters or something. πŸ™‚


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:24 am

oh lily – i am so in your head! =)


Brooke 25 July 2013 at 12:19 pm

Happy Blogiversary (1st time I’ve heard that term)! Your writing style, which always includes great history/background and your delicious recipes keep me coming back to check your blog every week. I have tried several of your recipes and right now the family favorite is the Chicken Green Bean Stir Fry. I also loved the meatballs. Your pasta recipes are always fresh and delicious too!

Thanks for the book suggestion, I’ll have to check it out.

All my best to you and your lovely family.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:28 am

hi brooke – thank you for being such a dedicated reader! i am so glad you find useful recipes here – i know how hard it is to find something that makes everyone happy. =P


Gaill 25 July 2013 at 12:31 pm

Love reading your blog and often use your recipes. My summer favorite now is the quinoa with roasted veggies….such a great side-dish for summer meals.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:28 am

hi gaill – that dish is such a winner! with orzo or quinoa, i could eat it every day.


Lisa C 25 July 2013 at 2:13 pm

I really enjoy your food posts, and have made your Mac and cheese and taco spice recipes several times! Your last post about Nashville really interested me, since I just flew back from there on Monday – I had the exact same thoughts about everyone being so friendly to this out-of-place Asian girl!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:30 am

hi lisa c – how fun that you were just in nashville too! and i am glad to know your experience was similar. thanks for sharing your recipe favorites too!


ERIKA 25 July 2013 at 3:34 pm

I love your blog . The recipes are my favorite. I really enjoyed your kitchen tour! Great tip for the hydrangeas ! My favorite flower . Thank you for all your tips!!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:30 am

hi erika – thank you so much for reading!


Lisa Yuen 25 July 2013 at 4:13 pm

Kevin loves Macklemore and loved all the 411 about him!!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:31 am

kevin is cool. =)


susan 25 July 2013 at 6:05 pm

you introduced us to the tangle teaser, which means your blog is responsible for one of the greatest overall quality of life enhancements of our last 3 years. thank you!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:33 am

ha! we just went on a trip and forgot the tangle teaser…and oh, the tears. never so happy to see a piece of plastic when we got back. =)


Anna 25 July 2013 at 9:41 pm

I’m so happy to have found your blog!
I’ve stolen 4 recipes, several kitchen design
ideas, and have a new interest in Ohio! πŸ™‚
Also, my beautiful amazing mother passed away
5 years ago. Your posts on the passing
of your father are well written and moving. Thanks
for sharing your experience so beautifully.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:37 am

hi anna – i am so sorry about the loss of your amazing mom – 5 years, but of course things are never the same. on a lighter note, my husband will be so pleased to hear i’m interesting people in ohio! thanks so much for reading…and keep stealing away.


mm 26 July 2013 at 3:08 am

Congratulations – still one of my favourite blogs! The bracelets are beautiful, perfect for summer, and I’ve just ordered my copy of Mother, Daughter, Me – can’t wait!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:38 am

hi mm – you don’t waste a minute! hope you enjoy the book, and thank so much for being such a loyal reader and commenter here.


mm 6 August 2013 at 4:06 pm

I’m about 5 chapters in, and enjoying it very much!


Linda Sellers 26 July 2013 at 7:01 am

My daughter in law introduced me to your website by showing me the recipe for the fresh tomato, shrimp and feta dish. I made it for the family immediately. Since then, it is truly a favorite for us and friends. I keep a container of the sauce ready in the freezer, the I can just add the fresh ingredients. So delicious and easy. I’ve shared the recipe with friends who need a dish to “impress”, without all the fuss.
Keep the recipes coming……all are extraordinary and easy to follow.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:40 am

hi linda – your daughter-in-law is a sweetie (your son too)! i am glad she brought you here, and i am so happy you have found it useful. it’s fun for me also to get fantastic recipes – like the shrimp one – from my amazing friends and be able to share them with others.


rt 26 July 2013 at 7:46 am

thank you for so generously sharing your experience and wisdom these last three years. your work inspires me to engage beyond the privacy of my safe places. fresh ‘food’ keeps us in motion…cheers to another nourishing year!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:42 am

hi rt – thank you for being here the whole time! i really appreciate your support and wouldn’t still be at it without my great friends.


Lexi 26 July 2013 at 8:26 am

Happy Blogiversary! I always enjoy your posts about cooking at huge gatherings. Reminds me of my family!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:44 am

hi lexi – it is a blessing to have a big family! lots of groceries, but tons of fun. =)


Patti 26 July 2013 at 10:34 am

Since I do not travel these days, my best treat or “take-me-away” time is spent reading your blog!!! I think I have been your best fan since day 1.
Thanks for all the enjoyment!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:45 am

hi patti – you are definitely my #1 fan. totally unbiased, of course. =P


Eve 26 July 2013 at 10:08 pm

My indian husband and I have been making delicious Adobo Chicken since AnnaK showed me your recipe last year. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful recipes. Love the name Chinese Grandma! So witty!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:46 am

hi eve – so glad you are enjoying the adobo…easiest chicken dish of all time!


cc 26 July 2013 at 11:20 pm

Happy Blogiversary! I enjoy all your posts, but the ones I come back to on a seemingly-weekly basis are the 5-minute chocolate cake and banana bread recipes πŸ™‚ YUM!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:49 am

hi cc – you are a baker after my own heart! those are two of my very favorites too.


Susan 27 July 2013 at 10:54 am

Love the St. Dalfour products, your delicious but easy recipes, your dream kitchen, but most of all, your touching tribute to your father–touches the hearts of all of us who have lost a parent, or who are lucky enough to still have one to treasure.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:50 am

hi susan – it was so hard to lose my dad, but sharing the experience and hearing back from others has been really rewarding. thank you so much.


KathieB 27 July 2013 at 12:46 pm

Happy Blogiversary, and many more. Your roasted cauliflower and balsamic vinaigrette are now in my regular rotation, much beloved by the family. Cheers!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:51 am

hi kathieb – yay, i love that you love the cauliflower! i can’t get enough of that. and of course the balsamic vinaigrette, which is a daily staple here too.


Patricia 27 July 2013 at 3:43 pm

Congrats to Chinese Grandma on your third anniversary!

Loved the link you had last summer to Atlantic Monthly article on Why Women still can’t have it all!

Also loved the iPod/iPad app cleanup advice you gave in June. It really helped!!!

Love ALL your recipies. Thank you and keep up the good work!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:52 am

hi patricia – very glad you find my random tidbits helpful! thank you.


Meg 27 July 2013 at 4:18 pm

Well, Happy Blogiversary! I enjoy your posts so much, and the famous balsamic vinaigrette is pretty much all I ever use for salads anymore. In fact, several friends of mine now have you to thank for their favorite dressing — once they try it, they’re hooked, too. Also, the orzo salad with zucchini has been my “fancy” side dish of the summer. So tasty!

Keep ’em coming, Grandma! πŸ™‚


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:53 am

hi meg – thanks for sharing the balsamic vinaigrette with friends! and i love that orzo salad with zucchini too, so great for summer.


NZ 27 July 2013 at 5:11 pm

I love that you constantly get me to try new recipes (not my strongest suit!) and that your recipes always work ( so my family thinks I am a better cook than I really am). I just made the meatballs this week and was very happy that I did – they were delicious and everyone loved them.
I am a big fan of the idea of recipes sorted by season although so many of your recipes have become year round staples around here.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:14 am

hi nz – so glad to know your household liked the meatballs! the funny thing is, the blog gets me to try new recipes too. you guys are my excuse. =)


kristy 28 July 2013 at 10:48 am

Happy blogoversary! always a joy to read. You draw people in, entertain and inform in such a natural way – it’s like sitting with you in the kitchen over a cup of tea and listening to you chat. love ak


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:13 am

hi kristy – thanks for commenting! we need more time to sit for real and chat, so i can hear you too. =)


Slammie 28 July 2013 at 6:59 pm

Congrats!! Will have to remember the hydrangea tip for next year. Cut them back in early spring (when we moved in) when still sticks only to find they are the light pink version and only flower on old growth. DOH! White ones I had in Seattle didn’t have that issue.


slammie 29 July 2013 at 5:27 am

And, yes, Macklemore does rock!!!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:12 am

hi slammie – next year you may be able to change the pH of your soil to make your pink hydrangeas blue…


mm 6 August 2013 at 4:08 pm

Eggshells in the soil will make them blue.


jamie @ green beans & grapefruit 29 July 2013 at 7:23 am

Awesome post as always, Lilian. That book sounds really interesting. I used to loveeeeee the hydrangeas we had outside in Long Island when I spent a few summers there….one of my favorites.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:10 am

thanks, jamie! sending you hugs.


Jo 29 July 2013 at 12:32 pm

New to you.. found you because of your fresh tea post. Read through a bunch more & found I MUST try your awesome looking tea eggs. Thanks G’ma


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:07 am

hi jo – i am bummed that i don’t have mint this summer for tea! hopefully you do. =) the tea eggs are so great too.


Alexandra 30 July 2013 at 7:54 am

I learned how to make the most delicious oatmeal lace cookies from you. I really like your recipes – they’re so wholesome and simple. Keep them coming! Oh and pics of your kitchen (old and new!) as well any decor/design tips. Love your easy, breezy style.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:06 am

hi alexandra – thank you so much! i am overdue on some house posts. sometimes i have to wait until i’m out of the trenches to write about it. but i promise they’re coming.


Gabriela 30 July 2013 at 3:34 pm

Your balsamic dressing. Hands down! I usually have some on hand, have shared your recipe countless times because everyone who tries it, loves it! I’ve made it as a hostess gift (on your suggestion.) It. Is. The. Best.


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:04 am

hi gabriela – what an awesome guest you are, bringing homemade balsamic vinaigrette! you are welcome at my house anytime. =)


Anne 30 July 2013 at 7:18 pm

I’ve been making the quinoa salad with arugula and feta cheese for a while now. Just served it to guests today. Love it!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:01 am

hi anne – so glad you are enjoying it, i love that one too!


Lee 1 August 2013 at 4:33 pm

Congratulations! I love seeing your mail in my inbox. The thing that I always have in my refrigerator is your balsamic dressing. I cannot remember how many people that have tasted this and asked for your recipe. Thanks!


cg 4 August 2013 at 8:00 am

hi lee – thanks for being a balsamic vinaigrette evangelist! i love that.


Nance 1 August 2013 at 10:56 pm

You are the definition of generosity–freely sharing your wisdom, discoveries, and talents with others. Thank you, CG!


cg 4 August 2013 at 7:58 am

nance – you are a gem yourself. thanks. =)


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