All About The Books - No Trouble!

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My Bedside Table
It's been awhile since I've bought actual books for myself. As in YEARS! All the books I am devouring currently are on my iPad downloaded through iTunes. I miss it. Books. Real books. The feel and look of the cover, the flipping of pages, and the intoxicating scent of the book's ink, adhesive, and paper combined. Probably one of the big reasons why I can never clear my bedside stack of books. Strange as it may sound, at times I crack one open just to sniff. I should move them to the bookshelves with the rest of books. No, not just yet.

Yesterday I started sorting through them. Organizing them all accordingly between stacks of fiction, business, and self-help. Memories flooded in. I remember excitedly leafing through the pregnancy books as soon as we found out we were expecting, the many nights I stayed up reading a novel, and of course the countless hours spent in bookstores with my husband perusing through new titles to bring home and feed my addiction. 

It's been too long since I've had those feelings. Now I read through the books on my iPad with less emotions. I enjoy them, but it's not the same. It's sad, and I can't make myself go back into buying and carrying bulky books again.

My teen son's collection of books
Naturally when I started having babies my book shopping list has turned me to the children's section. I enjoyed every minute spent reading to them, but longed to read for myself again. They didn't show much interest in reading. Running around, TV, and the computer was king in their heads. No matter how much I tried to make reading fun. What a bummer! I never gave up though. I kept on buying books and even read book reviews out loud, hoping they will decide to finally pick it up on their own. Award-winning kid books piled on and I waited.

When I least expected it, it finally happened. I never thought it would come, but just recently my almost 15 year old teen son has been indulging on great books.  So you can imagine how elated I was to see how content flopped down on the couch to read on.  I couldn't even believe that he's already read about 7 books since school started in the Fall. He just recently finished Eleanor & Park , The Kite Runner, and Night by Elie Weisel. Right now he's reading Bound Feet And Western Dress. I couldn't be more proud on his choices of books! Now, my 12 year old middle son is also starting to show interest and borrowed a book to start with. His older brother always had that much influence on him. I hope it spurs passion for reading more.

My daughter's new love
Without much coaxing, my 7 year old little girl has always shown a lot of interest in reading and writing. Just this past 2 weeks she had her nose planted on her Heidi Hekelbeck books and just began reading The One And Only Ivan. Even surrounded with her most favorite Christmas toys, she's been busy with her new love.

It won't be long now until I start reading my collection of vintage Barbie books with her. Yes, Barbie. But not just any Barbie books. These were 1960s hardbound printed books that I was hooked on in my elementary years. When I was pregnant with my baby girl, I told my husband about my Barbie books obsessions then. Secretly my husband went eBay hunting for them and even completed the collection. It was the sweetest gesture of all!  Right now they're sitting on one of our bookshelves and I can't wait for her to get started with them.
1960s  Vintage Barbie books
Although I can never indulge myself with buying new books ever again, I have the 3 kids to book shop for!  Every penny spent on books is no trouble at all. No trouble!
1960 Vintage Barbie Book - Inside
BTW - if you have any suggestions on books to read, please leave me a comment. I'm always on a lookout for books to read specially for my little girl.

My Girl

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The kids are now home on Christmas vacation and also FINALLY well from the terrible wrath of cold and cough that the whole family endured for over 2 weeks. Glad to finally kick sickness' booty off this household!

So yesterday was truly the first day I was able to take my little girl out all to myself. The boys were busy playing with their friends so off I went to swoop my little miss to our Girls Day. It won't be long now before she find girlfriends to hang out with and so I'm enjoying every single second of this. One day I'd like to go on a mini-vacation with her. Maybe when she becomes a teenager. Sigh.

A photo posted by MJ Tam (@mjtam) on

It's been 20 years but we're just beginning!

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I dreamed of this exact same scenario when we first got married in 1994: to build a memorable family tradition that we will stick with. Our tradition is to travel the same spots we honeymooned in every 10 years of our marriage with our growing family. This is our 20th anniversary and marks our 2nd  decennial family celebration and the whole thing went without a hitch. Well, ok - except with the constant arguing with the kids and kids arguing with each other,  but all in all...it was mission accomplished!

Our trip was to Los Angeles, Hawaii, and then San Francisco before we head back home to Chicago for an almost month-long trip. We were exhausted but content. It was fun to get kids excited and making sure we hit certain marks and stay on plan. And you know, we're really just beginning because 2024, 2034, 2044 are still coming adding on grandkids in those future pictures, too. I'm giggly as I think of what the years ahead will bring.


While I took hundreds of pictures and videos, I also had fun watching my teen son, Christian, create our vacation videos. Armed with his Sony NEX, Go Pro, iPhone5s, and some shots from my Nikon D7100, I watched him handle his devices with ease. He also dabbled with Final Cut Pro and I was quite impressed with what he made from our trip below. You have no idea the kind of relief I feel knowing that he's documenting our trips. That was usually my job! Watch what he made below.


I can't wait to see what 2024 will bring for us but I can truly say that I am grateful and blessed to have such a wonderful husband who created our family filled with so much love.

Below is a compilation of all our social shares during our trip. I enjoy sharing them with my friends and families but for the most part, this blog has always been a place where our family visit ourselves to always remember all the fun.

**More pictures by clicking below

My #DTour of a Lifetime to Asia!

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Disclosure: I am one of the official #DTourist assigned to scour the continent of Asia to inspire travel there. Each of us is assigned a continent. To read more about #DTOUR with DoubleTree by Hilton

In Wanzhou, China - climbed up and down a beautiful mountain!
A couple months has passed since I got back from Asia from my whirlwind #DTour trip but not a day has gone by without me thinking and referencing back to what I've learned and absorbed from my trip. If someone had told me that I will be seeing 7 countries, over 15 cities, 14 flights, and over 28,000 miles (that's like 73 time of flights from NY to LA) within 31 nights in Asia. 31 nights! - I would probably think that it's not possible to do. But I did! That's truly insane. That's not even counting the many hours spent traveling on land and on foot! There were times when I had about 3-4 hours ride to my next destination and oh, how can I forget? There were countless hours spent walking and climbing mountains!


Here are a couple of VERY QUICK videos that will play right after another:

As you can imagine, my schedules were packed. I was guided by a DoubleTree by Hilton employee from breakfast at 7am up to as late as 1am. I spent about 3-4 days in each DoubleTree property scouring everything around it and the I moved on to another property destination. Yes, I was exhausted - but who has time for that when I have the world to see! While I was there to work and document via social media along the way, it didn't even feel like work at all. I was transported to lands I've always just imagined in my head. I've seen them in the news, movies, and read many Asian books romanticizing and it all and I have to say, every single moment was even better than I imagined. In the end, I captured over 4000 photos and of course, took a lot for my Instagram, too. Check them all out below.

My Top 10 Moments with #DTOUR Asia

  1. Visiting two Seven Wonders of The World within my 31 Nights of #DTour to Asia: The Great Wall of China and Taj Mahal.
  2. Walking up the Great Wall of China and realizing the many battles fought on that very spot between the Mongols & the Hans.
  3. Seeing and walking in the Emerald Buddha Temple in Bangkok made me re-watch the Anna and the King movie. Imagined ancient Siam everywhere in Wat Phrakaew.
  4. The mystical sort of emotion that I felt walking thru the Great Falls in Wanzhou and in to the QuanYin Temple and seeing 31 huge buddhas in a row with monks chanting.
  5. Eating in Malaysia! The many culinary choices from the multiple ethnic cultures that makes Malaysia is really exciting. I could live to eat there!
  6. Visiting the Ancient Village of Ciqikou in Chongqing and stepping in a Royal Servant's old courtyard made me feel like I was in some movie set.
  7. Imagining the life inside the Forbidden City while touring it and now planning in re-watching The Last Emperor movie.
  8. Eating (Peking Duck where it all began - Beijing) in a 100 year old restaurant in Beijing.
  9. Seeing and learning more about the old glamour and beauty of Shanghai at a museum inside the Pearl Oriental Tower.
  10. Prayed for my family's health and blessed in a Buddhist Temple, Hindu Temples, and an ancient Catholic Church throughout 4 Asian countries. 

Couple things I learned about myself:

  1. I'd rather not exactly know how we're getting there. If I had known that we will be climbing mountains for a couple of hours, I would've probably said NO - thank you. But glad I didn't get a chance to decide on many things in Asia and just went to do it.
  2. I really love all sorts of food. Unless something is moving on my plate I am bound to try and taste it. I don't have to like it but that's the adventurous part of me thinking I'd miss out if I don't at least give it a chance.
  3. I love hearing locals talk about what they really love about their own city and like a sponge, I notice how much I can absorb and submerge myself in what they see/feel.
  4. I cringe when I hear Americans act like they are the center of the universe when visiting other countries. Those folks do not represent us well in US. 
  5. I don't hate airports! Best place to people watch in different countries.
All the posts I wrote for Chicagonista.com: (Lots of other pics & videos there)

Kuala Lumpur: An Unforgettable Experience in Malaysia 



The Mountain City of Wanzhou, China
Chongqing, China: A Peek in a Royal Servant’s Home During the Qing Dynasty
First #DTour Day in Beijing China: Forbidden City [pics & video]

**Make sure to check out more pictures 

Summer Perfect Spiced Rum Sangria - EASY & FAST

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It's finally starting to warm up a bit here in Chicago and so I thought I'd whip out one of my favorite summer perfect drink - Spiced Rum Sangria.

Spiced Rum Sangria Recipe
Makes 6 servings
  • 1 apple
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lime
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 (750 ml) dry red wine
  • 1.5 cup Spiced Rum
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
Dice the apple and slice the lemon, lime, and orange into thin rounds. Place in a large pitcher and pour rum and sugar. Stir and chill for about 2 hours. This will help develop the delicious flavor. When ready to serve, crush the fruit lightly with a wooden spoon and stir in the wine and orange juice. Then serve it on the rocks!

Sometimes I add maraschino cherries and carbonated water for an extra splash. I suggest you try this too. Either way, they are both delicious and easy to make.

Enjoy!

Asia or Bust! #DTour Asia here I come!

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 OMG, it's really here. Someone pinch me! I am heading to a tour of a lifetime as one of the official #DTourist for DoubleTree by Hilton traveling the continent of Asia!

I just literally finished packing and I just remembered that I never got to share this on my personal blog. I will be hitting several countries starting with China and will be sharing lots of pictures and videos via Chicagonista.com and my social networks:

Twitter: Twitter.com/mjtam 
Facebook: Facebook.com/mjtam
Make sure you follow the hashtag #DTour 

You can read more about what exactly I'm doing in Asia here: http://chicagonista.com/category/dtour/ and check out my video below to show you all the other places I am hitting.

Cooped-Up & Souped-Up

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Today's weather news is more of a nuisance. Yes, yes - another snow storm will be hitting us again. Like always, temperatures are going to drop to extreme negatives after a few days of non-stop snow and we're back at it all over again. And like many Chicagoans, I'm SO done! At this point, more snow will not make things any harder than it already is. Roads are iced up and the snow that has been dropping since the start of this year has nowhere to go but look unsightly black on street banks.


There's a sunny side to this winter though. No, really - there is! I'm talking more about my disposition and not so much the warmth of the sun that we are badly needing. I'm thinking positive here because another subzero temp day is almost our normal here in Alaska. I mean...Chicago. Sigh. So while we're all cooped-up inside, we've also souped-up!

Ever since I've signed on to be a Campbell's Wisest Kid Ambassador I've found so many different ways in making some quick warm meals just like my favorite Campbell's®  Tomato Soup with a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.


Photo from the CampbellsKitchen.com
I've also tried a couple of recipes found in the CampbellsKitchen.com and a new recipe that I found recently is our new family favorite called Shortcut Alfredo Lasagna made with a Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. The recipe is easy, fast, and delicious!

Photo from the CampbellsKitchen.com

Another new family favorite is the Creamy Risotto-Style Chicken and Rice. This one is made with a can of
Campbell's® Healthy Request® Condensed Healthy Request® Cream of Chicken Soup. This recipe is also American Heart Association Certified. (Hey, it has rice! Said by my happy Asian family)

I have a feeling that we will not see the end of this Polar Vortex for quite some time so I will probably try a couple more of these recipes.

Wait, I know some of my friends reading this are laughing. Me, cooking more? This is normally a rare occurrence in my home and THAT my friend is what being cooped-up is like for me. So being souped-up is really the sunny side of winter that I've been talking about!

For the next few weeks my husband will be taking over the home. I am off to travel for 31 Night in Asia and so I will be leaving him with Campbell's Wisest Kid in the Whole World to help him along in planning the meals. Good luck husband, you're in good hands!

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador compensated by the Campbell Soup Company -The Wisest Kid in the Whole World. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

Shaking Up Breakfast

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It's been a couple of weeks now that I've been truly vigilant in getting the proper breakfast to start my day. While it is still quite a struggle most mornings, I have seen the difference in how I feel when getting my proper breakfast. I used to run out of the house without any breakfast and by 10 or 11am at work, I'm usually starving in the worst way. I easily lose focus and patience very easily. I'm quick to make rash decisions and in need of nourishment. So now I make the extra effort in making my breakfast that keeps me satisfied all the way to lunch time. Thanks to my Registered Dietitian partner +Victoria Shanta Retelny , I've learned to shake up my breakfast! Something different! For me, anyway. In fact, I'm finding that my kids enjoy doing this as much that they make an effort to get dressed and ready to make their own shake before heading to school. Heck, if I knew that this was the magic I needed in the morning to get things going - I would've done it a long time ago! One example Victoria shared was the:

One cup milk + frozen cherries + handful semi-sweet chocolate chips + a mint leaf

Sounds delicious, right? For more shake recipes - check out Victoria's blog here: http://victoriashantaretelny.com/blog/shake-up-your-breakfast/


Photo Credit: http://Instagram.com/vsrnutrition
Now if you knew that you can be more focused at work (or school) by maintaining in eating a proper breakfast with the protein that your body needs, would you make the changes too?

According to What America (Tw)eats, there are more than 1.6 million number of tweets on skipping breakfast. Just imagine 1.6 million grumpy office workers everywhere! This could mean budget miscalculations, poor judgement calls, etc. So, let's change the culture together and get your protein in the morning!

Free Milk Every Minute The Got Milk Got Protein campaign is also helping Americans win their own free gallon of milk every day. The promotion – at GotMilkGotProtein.com – is designed to encourage Americans to get into a healthy routine by starting each morning with milk’s high-quality protein. To instantly see if you’ve won a buy one get one free milk coupon go to GotMilkGotProtein.com.

Disclosure: I’m a paid spokesperson compensated by The National Milk Mustache "got milk?"Campaign. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

Polar Vortex Yummy: Crunchy French Toast

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One thing I realized is that I don't do well just hibernating (#Chibernating for Chicagoans) when Chicago shuts down for what we have learned here in Chicago as Polar Vortex dubbed as #Chiberia on Twitter. We all know that Chicago is not a stranger to extreme cold but this is something new. Crazy snow and winds brought in as low as -45F windchill! In fact, just in January alone, the city and schools closed down TWICE! Unbelievable.

So what do I do instead of taking advantage of the time off with the kids? Well - cook, of course! If you know me at all, you are probably laughing at this. Me? Cook? Well, well, well....look at my creation below.

Introducing my Crunchy French Toast! (and yes, that's my own picture)

I first had it at a local hotel restaurant for breakfast and I knew I had to get the kids get there to try it. Polar Vortex part deux came along and so I gave in and made it myself. No, for real! Check out the the recipe below to warm your tummy!


Crunchy French Toast
Ingredients:
  • 2 or 3 slices of bread, cut into quarters
  • 1 large cornflake cereal
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 drops of vanilla
  • Butter and pancake syrup
To follow the step by step instructions here's where I found that recipe: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/crunchy_french_toast/

Oh, and here's my other Polar Vortex Chocolate Goodness - a microwave lava cake recipe

Let's Talk Soup!

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January is a National Soup Month, so let's talk soup!

I don't know about you but the thought of soup warms me up especially with the kind of winter we're experiencing here in Chicago. But truly in this household, winter or not - my kids are soup monsters! Yea, just like me.

Chinese HotPot
My kind of girlfriend outings lately are done over hotpot. There's nothing like sitting and gabbing with a group of my girlfriends over steaming Chinese hotpot that keeps our conversation going on for hours. HOURS!

Filipino Sinigang
When my kids visit my parents (gramps), they request that he makes Sinigang. A tamarind flavored soup that my kids love and enjoy.

Chinese Hot & Sour Soup
And my husband also always make Chinese tofu or winter melon soups for us.

All of which are quite an undertaking just to prep and make a pot of these soups. But cooking is simply not my cup of tea...or my BOWL of sugar. (Going with my blog name here). So when it's left to me to keep my family all souped up, I turn to their next favorite thing in the world. Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup! And did you know that Campbell's Condensed Chicken Soup turns 80?! Yes! Here's a quick fascinating fact that I learned about the Chicken Noodle Soup.
"Introduced in 1934, it was originally called "Chicken with Noodles" and enjoyed only moderate success. Later that same year, an innocent misstatement on a popular radio program caused sales to sky-rocket. One of the famous on-air personalities misread his copy and accidentally called the product "Chicken Noodle" soup. Suddenly, Campbell started receiving large orders for their "new" product. The soup was formally renamed "Chicken Noodle" after the erroneous turn of phrase caused high demand for the soup."
Happy Birthday! 


 Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador compensated by the Campbell Soup Company -The Wisest Kid in the Whole World. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.