18 March 2013

Yan Can Cook - I'm Not Yan

blue floral

blue floral  blue floral

blue floral

blue floral

Dress: LE pattern modal wrap (same in solid, sim, darker)
Necklace: Emerson Fry (worn here - sim, sim, pricey)
Earrings: Jeweliq contessa (sim, sim, pink, white)
Bracelets: J.Crew & ON (sim, sim, sim)
Bag: Brahmin anytime (sim, sim, luxe)
Shoes: Guess kissani (worn here - sim, sim, peep)

♥       ♥       ♥       ♥

I finished reading Kitchen Chinese by Ann Mah this weekend, which is about an American-born Chinese gal named Isabelle in her mid-twenties who decides to move to Beijing for a new start. Though I was born in Taiwan, my family moved here when I was three and I was raised here, so I felt an easy bond with the character of Isabelle (or as well as person can bond with a fictional character).

There's a lot than can be gleaned from the novel in about how an American-raised child of foreign parents can act and feel very much one way (as an "American") but still be perceived very differently in another way (because they look Chinese or [insert non-Anglo race of your choice here]), but I think I'll hold off on that for another day and probably a much longer post.

What caught my interest initially were all the references to and memories of good home-style Chinese food that the story brought up. My mouth was salivating through much of the novel. So after I finished the book, I felt inspired to try some good ole Chinese cooking for myself and globbed onto the idea of making zhajiangmian.

photo 1

Zhajiangmian is a noodle dish made with thick wheat noodles and a salty soybean paste. It's kind of like Asian spaghetti, you can add in ground pork, diced tofu, carrots, onions, garlic, etc. It's traditionally topped with julienned cucumbers and scrambled eggs.

It's comfort food for me since my parents used to make it for us all the time and they changed the ingredients around on us all the time for variety. The key is the soybean paste (I grew up using the SzeChuan sweet bean sauce, with a bit of hot sauce for saltiness and a kick) and using big thick noodles - all easily found at my local Asian food mart.

I've never made this dish before but I've seen my mom do it a ton of times so I figured I didn't need a recipe (here's an actual recipe) and winged it from memory and used ground turkey which I already had. It turned out ... well it certainly satiated my craving, but I could have used the help of a recipe to remind myself that I didn't need to use a can and a half of the bean sauces - hello, salty city! (The sauce itself wasn't terrible, but considering how "savory" it is, I think I have enough sauce for about 20-30 servings).

Are there foods from your culture and family that you sometimes crave? Do you know how to make any of them? How do you satiate your cravings?

photo 3

82 comments:

  1. Oh Lisa--that looks delish!

    My grandparents were immigrants from Poland and what is now Slovakia--my parents grew up speaking English and I'm Caucasian, so no assumptions about my citizenship or ethnic identity, but THE FOOD! It is so good. So bad for you, but so good. Pierogies and halupkis (stuffed cabbage leaves) and sausages...heart attack city but it's what I crave as comfort food.

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    1. OMG, girl, I love pierogis. Seriously love them. Potatoes and cheese are my hands-down fave.

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  2. Hello Lisa..

    Love the colors..Amazing...

    http://simplysassysstyle.blogspot.com/

    Dawn

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  3. What a lovely dress, it totally has that DVF vibe to it :)
    I have not eaten much Chinese food in my life but this dish looks yummy! Given that I grew up in the processed microwavable food era I would say I don't crave any of my childhood meals. Well, maybe McDonalds, but that's it :)

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  4. I love this bright springy outfit! The food looks delicious too! My sister has a food blog and is always making delicious food, I on the other hand made spaghetti.....
    Ginny
    mynewfavoriteoutfit.blogspot.com

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    1. Ooh I love food blogs, though they're kind of like Pinterest for me - really cool, but then I stare at these pics of things I will either never make or will try to make but they will never ever look nearly as appetizing as the original.

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  5. I thought you were wearing a DVF dress!
    Beautiful combination of colors,very nice outfit!

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  6. Love the blue and purple together!

    I'm Taiwanese American, too, so I loooove Taiwanese comfort foods like scallion pancakes and beef noodle soup. Unfortunately, I am a terrible cook but I am lucky enough to live in Los Angeles, where there are dozens of Chinese and Taiwanese restaurants to hit up if I have a craving. (And there's always the option of hitting up my parents, who are only 15 minutes away.)

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    1. I've tried making scallion pancakes at home before but I can't ever get them as greasy, crispy or as scallion-y as the restaurants do. My current faves are the ones from Joe's Shanghai in NY.

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  7. What a beautiful dress, you look gorgeous!

    Chinese food is my comfort food. I'm sick with a cold right now and all I want is a bowl of steaming hot chicken congee. If you are looking for authentic Chinese recipes, check out the Wei-Chuan cookbooks (which I wrote about here). Before I got hold of these books, every Chinese recipe I tried tasted like it had been Westernized somehow. The Wei-Chuan cookbooks are from Taiwan and the recipes are printed in Chinese with the corresponding English translation. It's a gold mine of information for a banana such as myself ;-)

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    1. Thanks for the rec - I will definitely check them out. My parents love the Wei-Chuan brand products, they buy their frozen dumplings all the time!

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  8. Pretty dress! My family is of Middle East origin so there are a lot of foods that are quite different than the States. Thankfully, my mum is an amazing cook and through her, I've learned how to make a few meals, a few of which I've already posted! One of my favorites is stuffed grape leaves!

    FashionEdible Blog

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  9. Glorious dress Lisa ! and your earrings are gorgeous.
    I am not a cook, if I had to depend on those skills in order to make a living... i'd be out on the streets.

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    1. Haha, I wouldn't get too far in the cooking for a living arena either - I can make a handful of dishes well, but they are by no means things that I think people would pay for!

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  10. I was a mess in the kitchen but a star at the dinning table if you know what I mean BUT when we had to move to Dubai I had to learn or I will be forced to eat take out falafel every night! On top of that my husband is from another culture than mine so for him I had to learn his country's cuisine too.. now I cook but not as well as I wish and yes, I do cook some authentic Malay and Italian just in case we are feeling a bit 'home-sick'

    p.s. That color od the shoes and bag is WOW!!

    GREETINGS FROM DUBAI!
    MRS JACK OF ALL TRADES
    http://mrsjackofalltradesdaily.blogspot.ae/

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    1. I remember having dinner at a hotel restaurant once when I was in Dubai and our waiter happened to be Chinese. We ordered a bunch of Middle Eastern dishes and the guy asked me in a very polite way if I was sure I wanted to try those things. I wasn't ordering any out of the ordinary - hummus and kebabs and things like that, but I remember thinking, poor guy, he must have a heck of a time satiating his Chinese comfort food cravings!

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  11. I'm in love with those gorgeous earrings in the spring colors! That dish looks really yummy too. If I'm craving food from my culture, I just head to my mom's! It just always tastes better when she makes it than when I do. :)

    -Sharon
    The Tiny Heart
    Avon Giveaway!

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    1. I wish my mom lived closer sometimes! But then again, now that my parents are retired, their tastes seem to have changed and they eat lighter and leaner now, which means they don't cook all the same goodies we used to have when I was little. Wah!

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  12. One of my absolute favorite dishes!! I eat the koreanized version, but it is a top 5 fave Korean Chinese dish for me. I hear you about the Asian experience in America. I was born here, my dad immigrated here when he was an adolescent, but the dual cultural identity is an unique experience that I've felt my whole life.

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  13. I absolutely love your earings, they are beautiful!!!!! And your bag, and your shoes are from a really beautiful color too!!!
    By the way, I'm hosting an international giveaway where the winner will win a unique piece which will be created just for her, do you want to be a part of it? :)
    Kiss
    Trendy Bow

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  14. Lisa, you look great, and so does your dish! Salty or not, I want!

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  15. lisa, you're from taiwan? me too! your zhajiangmian looks just like the ones i had when i was little! please share the recipe! i'm always on the lookout for good taiwanese recipe. i think my go to dish is three cup chicken and pork sauce over rice.

    your outfit is so cute! i love matching accessories!

    modern.girl

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    1. I didn't use a recipe, I kind of winged it, which got me in trouble, hehe! I linked to an actual recipe for the dish in the post above - what I ended up doing was sauteing the ground turkey, adding in some chopped garlic and scallions, and when everything was about cooked through, I poured in the sweet bean sauce and about four heaping tablespoons of the hot bean sauce, with about half a can of water. I mixed it all up and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. After looking at the recipe, I think I would have been fine with just a few tables spoons of the sauces!

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  16. First off, your noodle dish looks so good, you've "styled" in such a mouth-watering way too! And what a fab colour combination, I can't wait until it gets warm enough here for me to try that for myself with my purple shoes and blue dress!

    As for food, my husband was born in Honk Kong but grew up in Australia, and although he doesn't talk about it that much I do get a sense that he and his sisters felt "Australian, but not really". The "home comfort food" he cooks is sometimes delicious and sometimes just revolting, I mean when he eats dried cuttlefish it smells like our flat is full of rotting zombies! But it's reached the point where I actually start craving congee if I'm not feeling well, so I guess I'm assimilating! ;)

    As for me, I grew up 100% Norwegian in Norway, and my husband complains that the food there is a bit bland... but I do like that! My mother makes this amazing thing where she oven-bakes an entire salmon in silver foil, with cucumber salad and boiled potatoes on the side... adventurous spices for us Norwegians is when we put salt on the potatoes! ;) Fish congee aside, my current comfort food is Norwegian brown cheese on Japanese Shokupan bread - how very "multicultural", eh?

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    1. I totally get it - most Asian foods totally differ from Norwegian. I had a lovely Norwegian friend a few years back that invited a bunch of us over to her house for a traditional Norwegian lunch - boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs over dark bread, etc. It was a new experience for us, but it's all about what you're used to! I consider congee comfort food too - maybe I should try to look that up to make ...

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  17. My Filipino comfort food is spam, fried eggs and rice all mixed together. Unfortunately, all three are a potent combination of bad eating so I rarely get to partake of it. :(

    www.myclosetcatalogue.com

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    1. My dad makes the best fried rice - except he hardly makes it anymore because it's like a heart attack in a bowl. Sad face indeed!

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  18. The title of your post brought back some memories. I remember watching Yan Can Cook on the weekends with my mum, growing up. :)

    At times I crave authentic Chinese food, but there isn't really any here near me that's easily accessible. I also crave Malaysian food, but I can satiate that by visiting a Malaysian restaurant although it's not quite the same!

    Love this dress, btw. :)

    fauxionista.com

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    1. My dad and I used to watch "Yan Can Cook" - my dad thought he was hilarious!

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  19. That looks good!! And I think that book sounds really interesting.. I might have to get it and read it myself! :)

    xo – Sheila
    Win a Hana Flat Iron
    Find me on BlogLovin!

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  20. Fabulous dress Lisa! I love that blue & purple together. You are READY for SPRING! Seafood gumbo is a traditional recipe passed down in my family. I wrote down the recipe, but I need to watch my mom make it. She always makes it without me being around. HAHAHA I'm like MOM! I need to see how it's done. LOL
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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  21. That nooodle dish sounds amazing - I really want to work on cooking more traditional Chinese and Japanese dishes actually so I'm going to book mark the idea because it sounds great. I always love the stuff I get in the tradional style restaurants, and in the area I live, I rarely find the dishes I liked so much anymore (smaller city = less culture I suppose?).

    And the shape of this dress is amazing on you! It fits you like a dream!

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  22. Love the dress -- color & print!

    It's amazing how many people still think of others as foreigners just because they aren't white. Hello!

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    1. It's totally weird in one sense but I guess I get it. When I've gone to China for business trips, I often meet up with my co-workers based out of there - and they're caucasian! So I'm often the one that ends up being considered the local in China and gets handed the Chinese menu (and I can't even read Chinese) while my white co-workers who are fluent in Chinese get ignored or get handed forks and English menus or things like that.

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  23. Oh my god, the title of this post gave me the giggles. It sounds exactly like something I would say. I absolutely love Zhajiangmian as well, but as my parents are from northeastern mainland China, the type I'm accustomed to is very salty and maybe a little nutty, but not at all sweet. Your version sounds and looks absolutely delicious though! This outfit is also fantastic. The pops of pink are so gorgeous against the blue. I just can't stop gushing over it all.

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    1. My dad was born in Taiwan and my mom was raised there, so I guess the version I'm used to is more Taiwanese? I always remember the version we ate at home had the sweet sauce in it.

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  24. Your dress is so pretty, and I love your purple accessories!

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  25. I saw that dress on Land's End's website and thought it was so pretty - but it's absolutely gorgeous on you! Looks perfect with the purple accessories!

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    1. Yeah, it didn't look like much on the web site, but I love this dress and have it in green as well. If you end up buying, size down!

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  26. Your noodles look so yummy! Really inspire me to try some more other authentic Chinese dishes. Living in a small town in Canada and being Chinese is torturous. No authentic Chinese food and whenever I have a craving, have to rely on myself. I'm not an excellent cook but like to experiment new dishes and recipes.

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    1. I lived in New Mexico for a few years so I know what you mean about finding good authentic Chinese food. The only versions I could find when I lived there were what I consider "takeout Chinese".

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  27. I really love your color combinations and you sense of style! Your so chic :] I really wish I could wear shoes like that! Those are so pretty. And your noodle dish looks really yummy

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    1. I love these shoes for their shape and color, but I'm not going to lying, they aren't the most comfy! I wear these on days I know I will be sitting at my desk mostly!

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  28. This dress is so gorgeous, and I absolutely love the purple accessories!! I love it!
    Meredith
    createthatoutfit.com

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  29. Omg, I love this look. The print is so vibrant and bold, and I love the purple accents. I'm such a fan of color and you're doing it perfectly!!

    P.S. would you like to follow each other via bloglovin, etc?

    WWW.ROXTHEFOX.COM

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  30. Lisa - this post speaks so close to home for me too. I was born in Hong Kong and moved to Hawaii when I was 8. I will have to read this book. I am the worst Chinese ever - I don't even know how to hold chopsticks properly. There's so many yummy dishes that I grew up with that I am always craving. Luckily, there's a lot of great Chinese restaurants where I live to satisfy those cravings. I am always ready for Dim Sum!

    BTW, I really like the purple pairing with your pretty print dress!

    Alice
    www.happinessatmidlife.com

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    1. Oh dim sum - loooooooooove ...

      Do you still live in HI? I have some friends from there who now live in the SE and I can't say anything about missing good Chinese in front of them, because it's next to impossible to find good Hawaiian food anywhere but HI!

      Delete
  31. I completely need to read this book! I was born here and parents born in Africa. It's funny (or maybe not really) but I loved so many African dishes growing up but no matter how I try it just doesn't taste as good as when my mom cooks it.

    But yeah, I think I have to keep practicing.

    I'm really loving the colors in your outfit! So pretty!

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    1. I know what you mean. Moms have the special "love" flavoring that can't be replicated. ;o)

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  32. aww heart this post! i love love zhazhiangmian! and yours looks delicious! omgosh i was born in tpe too!! i moved to the US when i was 2 but i heart taiwan :)!!

    love that blue dress just lovely on you hon!

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    1. I've only been back once in my teens but my best memories of that place was the awesome food ... and once seeing a family of six on a tiny scooter together going up a mountainous road.

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  33. I love the blue and purple together!! I can never make certain dishes as good as my father did.:)
    xoAmy
    www.dreamingincashmere.com

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  34. Yan can cook and so can you! Love watching him when I was younger! Noodles look delish! I always have a variety of cravings - I love my mums Pork buns :) and I'm sure she has tried to teach me on a number of occasions - I'm sure if I needed to - I would wing it to make it or I would just go buy one :)
    Great dress

    katattack2000.wordpress.com

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    1. My mom and grandmom have long since given up making dumplings from scratch (like dough any everything) - I think I've lost that chance in ever learning to make dumplings from them.

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  35. I love Armenian food and I wish I could could.....but I couldn't if my life depended on it! Bake ok. Cook no. LOL:)! Love the purple accents in this outfit! So pretty Lisa!

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  36. I actually just started to enjoy cooking - but it took a good 30 years :) Love the pops of pink with that gorgeous dress! Oh and I too have left my computer at home countless times... sigh!

    XO
    Pearls & Paws

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    1. Re: the laptop, I literally once drove to work, went to find parking, smacked myself in the head, circled the lot and drove right out of there. Nothing like some quality time with myself driving to/from/back to work.

      Delete
  37. So many things I love here...your blue print dress, the blue in combination with the purple, food, books about food...that book is going on my list of must-reads!

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  38. LOVE those colors together. So great. Thanks for the inspiration :)

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  39. I absolutely LOVE that dress, but what I love even more is the way you paired it with the purple! I would have never thought to put those colors together, but it looks so good!

    I'm half Thai, so I love it when my mom visits with a few noodle dishes. I've cooked some Thai food before from recipe books, but it's never quite the same, you know?

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  40. I put the book on my to read list. It reminds me of the Joy luck Club and that book shaped my childhood/adolescence. You've also given me a craving! I'll try making it my own, but if that doesn't work out... I'm running to mommy.

    7% Solution​

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    1. Well this book definitely isn't as heartfelt as the JLC but it was good. Shoot, I remember when the JLC movie came out - I watched it on DVD and the first scene had me bawling already!

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  41. You look amazing in this dress and I just LOVE those statement earrings :) I love bold jewelry :) My family doesn't cook special things from other cultures really :) we eat things most families around here have for dinner. Unless pizza's count as Italian? Than we sometimes eat Italian ^^ x

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    1. I think I need to be made honorary Italian for the amount of pizza and pasta I've consumed. And gelato!

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  42. oh god- reading all of this has made me very, very hungry! I don't come from much of a cooking family, so I've had to add things to my repertoire rather gradually! I prefer baking!

    love the lavender!

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  43. Love the color pairing here! So beautiful!

    xo, Kenya

    www.kenyaldesigns.com

    Kenya L Fashion Blog

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  44. Your earrings are gorgeous, and I love the blue and purple together!

    xo,
    Angela
    headtotoechicblog.com

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  45. More food posts, please! I want this bowl of deliciousness right now!
    I try to wing things all the time, that my mom made for us growing up. Doesn't work out so well. :/

    The Fashionable ESQ
    http://www.thefashionableesq.blogspot.com/

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  46. I agree withnthevcooments about the great color pairing but what lip color are you wearing? It is gorgeous!

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  47. That looks so tasty!! And I love the bright color pairings, you wear it so well!!

    xo,
    Evani
    http://www.simplyevani.com

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  48. I totally get thinking you can cook something because you've seen your mom do it a million times. Why does that never work out? Haha.

    Loving your bag and earrings - so pretty and spring looking!
    Chic on the Cheap

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  49. such a pretty look! loving the pops of purple to the outfit ad that dress is just so gorgeous!

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  50. I love the color combination! The purple gives it a spring and Easter feel. :-) I'm not really big on Chinese food but I have to admit that the dishes look yummy.

    Mo
    WhoisthatgirlMo

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  51. i love your outfit! Probably my favorite one I've ever seen you in!

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  52. You look gorgeous dear. Love that blue and purple combination


    http://theshortiesfashion.blogspot.co.uk/

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  53. WOW, where did you come up with purple and blue in one combination? Soooo good.
    I have to visit your blog more often. You give me lots of inspiration. (Not really, that is too much honour for me... I mean: perhaps I can copy you LOL.)

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