My Review of Roku HD Player

Originally submitted at Roku

The new HD, with built-in wireless, delivers top value in high-definition streaming.

My favorite purchase this year.

By Loves Loves Loves It from Los Angeles, CA on 12/7/2010


4out of 5

Pros: Built in Wi-Fi, Can use comp same time, Easy to set up, Easy to use, Great value

Cons: Cant stream from networks, Want more video choices

Best Uses: Primary TV, Bedroom

Describe Yourself: Don't have cable, Netflix fan

I regretted getting rid of my cable until I got the Roku. My favorite part is that it leaves my computer free to use while streaming from Netflix or Hulu, instead of turning my tv into a giant monitor like I was going to. Very reasonable price and very easy to use!



House of Love

House of Love is an orphanage set in a tiny, poor village just outside of Qing Dao, China.  A privately funded refuge, you can only classify House of Love as an orphanage out of verbal convenience.  Adoption is not something they do 99.9% of the time, as almost every child in the place has at least one living parent.  House of Love takes in healthy children as well as children with physical or mental handicaps whose parents are unable to care for them for one reason or another.  Jerry was abandoned as a baby at a hospital, and his “adoptive” family had decided he’s too difficult for them to handle, so they gave him up.  Caleb, Danny and their older brother come from an abusive home.  Their father is dead and their mother is unable to care for them because of the mental affects the abuse had on her.  Jimmy came home to find his mother dead; she felt suicide was her only way.  These are just a few of the stories that describe their many pasts, but if the staff and Director Chang have anything to say about it, their pasts will not determine their futures.  Filled with passion for each of the children, Director Chang arms herself every morning by crying out to God with a plea for continued grace and favor and with thanksgiving for His love and mercy.  As I sat there listening to her pray in a way I maybe only have twice in my life, I could not think of a better name for this home to the hurting and alone.  The Chinese government should not be allowing a Christian orphanage to survive, the funding should not logically be there every month and these precious children should not have a smile on hand every moment of the day after what they’ve been through.  But this place thrives, the money somehow appears and everything said through the smiles of those kids could fill a library full of books during my short stay there.  All of this is happening because of and in the name of love; House of Love is filled with the love of God.

See photos of our trip to House of Love at my friend Sandra Villanueva's website


Riding Bikes in China

Last Saturday I experienced something surreal. I just got back from almost two weeks in China at an orphanage with a missions team. The entire experience and everything about it was new to me and amazing, but for this post I’m going to focus on one thing we got to do.
Full from dinner, happy from an eventful day with the kids and filled with love for this amazing orphanage and the people who live in it, our team decided to go for an evening bike ride around the village. Five of us from the team - Joel, Sandra, Dave, Erol and I - each grabbed a bike. Rusty and old, most of them were smaller than the adult bike I am used to riding, but they would do the job. Naturally, we had small people jump on the back seats each of our bikes had for this specific purpose. Hong Hong climbed on with me, Sandra had Teddy on hers, Joel pedaled out the gate with Jerry perched on the back of his, and Dave towed the non-existent weight of Danny’s tiny frame. Erol and his video camera documented our journey; Esther, Walter and Jimmy, all children at the orphanage, came with on bikes of their own. Jimmy is one of the older children there; I think he’s 19.

Once we had filled all the tires and made sure everyone was holding on tight, Jimmy led the way out of the orphanage’s main gate onto the uneven dirt road that is so familiar to him. Pedaling through the village past homes, we saw old women sitting on the front step getting some evening air, families discussing the day’s events around a fire, piles and piles of corn cobs and husks from the endless rows of corn that took up what seemed like every available piece of soil, and little dogs that may have had homes, but acted like they owned the streets. We rode passed shops still open for business, young and old men still hard at work even as the light began to fade. If not surprised to see Americans, since Americans visit this orphanage every summer, we at least got curious looks from every person we passed. “Kni How,” we greeted them; most greeted us back with a smile and a quiet, “Kni How.”

Leaving all buildings behind us, the scenery changed, and we found ourselves riding down a long stretch of dirt road bordered with tall trees and corn fields as far as the eye could see. We laughed and made jokes, avoided the potholes in exaggerated, silly arcs and raced to catch up with each other. Exhaust hung heavily in the air each time a car passed us honking it’s horn - some to kindly alert us of their presence, and some possibly to say, “Get out of the way!” The evening was cool after the hot day, and the air that glided in a steady stream over my cheeks was mercifully bug free.

Marveling at the scenery and the fact that I was riding a bike through a poor, beautiful village in China with a bunch of orphans, Hong Hong quietly began to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” behind me. I joined her song; my voice rising in the air in English, hers in Chinese. I was struck by the beauty of our bilingual melody; each singing the same words but differently, all sounding identical to God’s ears. She got louder when she realized I was singing too, and as we sang together first that song then “Jesus Loves Me” and a couple others, I watched the corn stalks whipping past our unlikely party on the other side of the world from my every day life, and my full heart said a prayer of thanks.

Note:  I did not take pictures on this excursion, but when I get a hold of some from the people who did, I will post them.


Lemon and Chianti: perfect bed fellows

Sometimes after work I like to sit at the bar and enjoy a nice glass of wine. I am a copy editor during the week, but I work at a restaurant on the weekends. Do you what you have to do, right? Tonight was not terribly busy, but there was a steady flow of customers and I didn’t clock out till around nine thirty. I ate my employee meal (filet of sol with a white wine and caper sauce over a bed of lettuce, tomato, red onion and cucumber and topped with avocado), and then I felt the need for something sweet. We have really good homemade desserts at the restaurant I work at, and I decided that I needed a lemon bar. I used to hate all things lemon flavored and now I can’t get enough. Like I’ve said before, I change my mind a lot. My favorite red wine that our restaurant serves is a Pinot Noir; smooth, buttery and warm. I normally drink the Pinot, but tonight I had Chianti. Most of our house wines are from Mont Pellier and this was one of them. It is a fresh red with a hint of bitterness, and it was just what I was in the mood for.
Now, I’ve had lemon bars before and I’ve had Chianti before. The thing that is new about this, the amazing discovery I made tonight, was the combination of the two. The tart lemon of the lemon bar and the bitter ending of the Chianti somehow combined together to make a perfect sweet after taste that hit just the right note. It was delicious!

I know more about wine than the average person since it is one of my loves, but I am by no means a wine expert. However, this taste discovery made me feel pretty cool. I can’t wait to try Chianti with other lemon dishes like Chicken Scallopini and Lemon Chiffon cake. I wonder if the taste combination of Chianti and lemon always works. Any insights?


Butterfly the Chicken

I have many passions. I am often told that I seem wishy-washy and noncommittal because of how frequently I change my mind, but I don’t see this quality as a negative. I admittedly jump from idea to idea, from project to project, but that just means that I have too many loves to simply pick just one for the rest of my life, and that also means that I have a variety of experiences and random skills. I love this about me.

One of my passions is the culinary arts. I love cooking and baking and was, in fact, accepted to the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan for this coming December. I have since decided not to go (shocking, I know), but my desire to be a better cook and learn all the little culinary tricks and techniques has not wavered. With this desire propelling me forward, I thought it was about time I learned how to butterfly a whole chicken. Naturally. Actually, I just wanted to roast a chicken in less time than normal, and making the chicken lie flat makes it cook faster and more evenly. The solution: butterfly it!

After a defrosting snafu in which I accidentally turned my refrigerator into a freezer, I was finally ready to roast my chicken a day late and with a foggy idea of how this butterflying thing works. I am not the kind of person that follows rules and directions to a T (chalk it up to my adventurous, drive till I feel like taking a right nature) so after looking up a couple informative articles online, I took a raw chicken and some kitchen sheers and went to work.
I gathered that the main idea to butterflying a chicken is that removing the backbone allows you to open it up and lay it flat, giving it a butterfly shape. One article I read said to remove the breastbone as well, but that seemed like unnecessary work for what I wanted, so I didn’t do that. First, I removed the neck that they put in the cavity of the bird (yuck!) in case you want to use it to make stock. I did not, so I tossed it. Placing the chicken breast-side down on my brand new only-for-raw-meat cutting board, I cut along each side of the back bone with kitchen sheers. You are cutting through the ribs when you do this, so there was a fair amount of cracking and effort on my part. Once the backbone was detached, I tossed that too and then I cut off the extra skin that was at the neck and bottom. Before I could continue, I also had to dispose of the random chicken parts lying in the center of the bird such as the liver. After they were removed, I turned the chicken over rib side down so that it was laying, spread eagle if you will, on the cutting board. Then I placed my hands on the center and pressed down hard until the breast bone snapped.

Yes, it was gross and yes, it was messy.  But it was completely worth the ick.  The result: a perfectly flat, butterflied chicken. Ah, sweet success and one more piece of knowledge to tuck in my skill belt.


I Was Not Made For Here

I was recently privileged to be a part of a photography project my friend, Sandra Villanueva , is working on. She is using her company, New Village Photography, for a purpose and to make a difference in the world. One of her projects is to take quotes, scripture and words that have made a difference in people lives, the way they think and what they do, write them on each person’s body and photograph them in a striking way that brings attention the meaning of these words.

I am inspired by the way Sandra sees the world and by the way she is using her passion and art to bring awareness of issues that are important. This was the first time that I “modeled” for a photography project, and I am excited to be a part of Sandra’s future work.

See what other project’s Sandra is working on and check out more of her work at http://www.newvillagephoto.com/


A Stamp in my Passport and A Crocodile

Today was full of firsts and fun times. I arrived in Cancun this afternoon for the first time ever! After a quick four and a half hour, non-stop flight, my sister and I exited our plane to a room FILLED with people waiting to get their passports and forms checked. Seriously, the room was packed; I thought for sure it was people waiting to check in at first. My sister and I spent the next forty five minutes in a snaked line cracking jokes that only we would ever find funny, behind a family of four with a little girl who spent the entire time not quite crying, but making it quite clear that she was not happy with the situation. Me either, kid, but pipe down.

When it was our turn at the customs counter, the gentleman working there quickly checked our forms without smile or ceremony and, wait for it….gave my passport its first stamp ever!! First number TWO for the day! I’ve been trying to use my passport for years with no luck, so this was a pretty exciting moment for me.

Fast forward an hour or so later and my sister, Jaimie, and I are greeted at the condo with a huge hug from our other sister, Jessica, who arrived yesterday with her husband. We were all starving, so we decided to go to a seafood restaurant right on the water directly across the street from where we are staying. I had the lobster tacos, which were good, but not terribly impressive, and my sisters both had filets of some sort. Just as we were finishing our meals, our waiter, who introduced himself as a Mexican Danny Devito (the resemblance was definitely there), came over to our table to tell us there was a crocodile in the water just off the deck of the restaurant. I was confused. There are crocodiles in Cancun? We rushed over to the railing of the deck, where there was already a family with four or five little kids, and sure enough, there was a crocodile just hanging out right there! He was sitting right under a sign that said “Beware of Crocodile”, so I’m guessing that is his regular table (no joke). From out of the kitchen came a couple of fish heads, which two children immediately grabbed and threw into the water, one by one as the crocodile ate them. We stood there “wow”ing and “whoa!”ing as the crocodile lifted his head out of the water to crush the first fish head in his strong jaws, then the second, the sound of cracking bones clear in the evening air. Adding crocodiles to my list of ocean fears along with sharks, we headed back to our table to pay our bill and wonder aloud if there were any crocodiles in the water in front of our hotel.

Fast forward again another hour and find the three of us, me and my two sisters, walking around downtown Cancun at night. We had gone to Wal-Mart for breakfast and sunscreen and stuff since we were told not to buy anything around the hotels because of the inflated tourist prices, but when we left the store looking for another bus, there were none to be found. We walked the dark, mostly empty streets of downtown Cancun, darting across roads at inconvenient spots and constantly refusing expensive taxi offers looking for a bus stop for about half an hour. Finally, we came across some sort of security check point and asked the officer where the next bus stop was. He said it was about two and a half kilometers further. I’m not going to lie, I don’t know exactly how far that is, but we were carrying bags and had already been walking for half an hour in the dark in a strange Mexican city (which I secretly liked since it was so adventurous feeling), so it sounded far. The nice officer offered to flag down a bus for us. He did and even with our crazy, super speedy bus driver who I’m pretty sure almost crashed three times, it still took us another half hour to get back to our hotel.

First day in Cancun: Success