Saturday, April 25, 2009

The long and the short of it

I donated my hair today. Well, I cut it today so I could donate it this weekend. After a little research and talking to my hairdresser Sue, I decided to donate through Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which is involved in a program to donate hair for women with cancer. They need 8" minimum, so I've been working on getting to that point and still having some hair to work with. Today was the day.

I've had short hair before, so this wasn't too big a deal. Once I turned about 6, short hair was my normal look. As a matter of fact, I looked like this in high school (forgive the pic, it's uploaded from a website where someone took a photo of my yearbook)

This was me this morning (again, forgive the photo, it was a DIY job since J was out of the housse already)

To make sure my length was even, Sue cut it all off in 4 ponytails

This was the inspiration picture I took to the salon this morning. I like the fact that it has some flexibility, in that I could go all out like they did with volumizer and a curling iron and who knows what else, or I could do a lot less work and still have a basic cut that looked good. I also liked the fact that the model was a little--ahem--mature, so I wasn't trying for a 20something haircut.

This is me this afternoon

I love it. It has tons of body and volume, and it’s fun to play with. It doesn't look quite like the model, but I don't have an army of hairdressers to get me ready in the morning either.

I think I’m going to keep it for a while.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More craftiness!

In the bits of time I was waiting for things to cook/bake, I decided to finish up a couple of craft projects. Especially since I bought some fiberfill this week.

Behold, my newest duck. I love this pattern!

Lean, mean cooking machine

For a good chunk of last year, I got into a groove where I spent Sundays cooking for the rest of the week. It made it easy to grab a container of yummy, home-cooked food instead of slaving over the stove after a long day at work. I got out of this groove, however, and I missed those Sundays in the kitchen. Though the dinners J made for me lately were really nice.

Armed with my new spices, and some new recipes to match, and a strong desire to utilize every utensil in my kitchen, I got to work today. Behold:

An old favorite, crock pot chicken. I love this recipe, because you can do all sort of things with the chicken: tacos, served over rice, as part of a casserole, the sky is the limit

No bean chili (J hates beans of all kinds, unless they're green). Currently simmering on the stove

Cardamom granola bars. Breakfast for the week--score!

Cardamom mango bread pudding. Dessert for the week--double score!! It turned out better than I thought, since we didn't have any white bread lying around. Double-protein multi-grain bread works fine

A bowl full of yumminess: dried cranberries, and 3 kinds of chocolate chips (white, milk, and semisweet)

And the resulting cranberry chocolate chip cookies, specifically requested by J

If you happen to want any of these recipes, let me know in the comments and I'll be happy to share

Bon apetit!

Lakota Wolf Preserve (lots of pictures)

For my mother-in-law's birthday, we told her we'd take her to the Lakota Wolf Preserve near us. She and the husband are both big wolf fans, and we thought this would be an enjoyable day. Our first attempt in February was a bust due to weather, but we tried again with success this weekend. J's grandmother came along as well, so it was a nice family outing.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was a really neat place. The people who run the preserve have 3 or 4 packs of Arctic, gray, and timber wolves, each with a large spread of land to roam in. They also have a smaller area for foxes and bobcats. All of the animals are rescues from people who either tried to raise the animals as pets (a concept I will never understand) or were in unsavory situations, or in other preserves where pups were born and couldn't be kept permanently. I was impressed at their setup: they made sure they have enough space for the animals, have taken steps to prevent overcrowding, try and provide as natural a habitat and diet as possible, monitor the pack dynamics to limit or prevent injury to the wolves, and they really know their stuff.

Each large area for the wolf packs is surrounded by a double layer of fencing. We were outside the outer layer. If you want to come for a private photography session, you're allowed in the inner layer. Just thought you should know so you'd understand why there is fencing in all of our animal pictures.

Since these are wolves in captivity, they have picked up on a few things. They know what time the tours come, and that means they get to see their keepers and have some snacks, so they were waiting for us when we arrived.

They also know about how long the tour guide is going to talk. Since he ends his presentation by talking about wolf howls, they don't need much (if any) prodding to start calling to each other.

It was quite impressive. The tour guide told us that each wolf has its own voice, and all the wolves recognize each other, as well as the tour guide's howl. They'll even respond to a fire siren, thinking it's a rival pack. I loved the fact that they just hung out and howled rather casually as we watched.

After seeing the wolves, we headed over to the small animal area to see the foxes and bobcats.

Cute, no? They were constantly on the move as we heard all about fox behavior, and the personalities of the foxes at the preserve.

Watching the bobcats was like watching Hobbes on a lazy Sunday afternoon. They roamed around for a while, then decided to flop and twist. Look at those paws!

It was a gorgeous day, so we decided to walk back to the base camp instead of taking the shuttle down. Of course, I had to keep my camera out. Good thing too, since we saw some more common wildlife!

The Spice(s) of Life

I like to cook. I don't always have the time for it, but I really like it. Friends and family know this. Dad and I occasionally swap recipes, Mom has been known to send me a box full of recipe books, a good friend sent us a box of spices for a wedding present, another gave me a cookbook at our bridal tea. I love trying new things, too. I have some old standbys, but it's nice to go outside the box sometimes.
We happened to be at the grocery store last night, and I decided to check out the spice aisle. Not usually something I do, since we're pretty good in the spice department, but you never know. Lo and behold, Spice Island (or maybe just my grocery store) is discontinuing a chunk of their spices, and they were on sale TEN FOR $10. I started grabbing bottles left and right. I mean, some of these spices go for $10 or more for just one bottle.
Some of the bottles I bought, like the sea salt and the cloves, are going to get a lot of use. Others I'm going to have to research so I can find more of a reason to use them. But I figure they're all in nice sealed glass bottles in our pantry, so they should keep for a while.
If you happen to have any recipes for tumeric or cardamom, please pass them along. I found a few for cardamom, and my Indian co-workers tell me they traditionally put some in their tea (and I'm a big tea drinker). Not so many for turmeric--at least, not many recipes I could see my husband eating.
Bon apetit!

Single woman's dinner (this one's for you, Mom)

The husband was out and about with after-work activities on Tuesday. Though I love him with all my heart, and we have a good time together, sometimes it's nice to have the house to myself. I can eat what I want, when I want, watch TV shows he hates, and not have to spend the mental energy making sure he's happy and fed.

So I made my second-favorite single woman's dinner (a close second behind a bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine). Fried noodles, a "recipe" handed down through generations of women in my family.

According to my mom, this was a Depression dish that my Nana used to make all the time. It's quite simple--boil up some wide egg noodles, then fry in oil until they're crispy. You can spread them out so they're individual (like french fries), or fry them in globs to make them even more entertaining finger food. Always include a generous amount of ketchup for dipping.

My mom used to make these every so often when I was growing up. My dad isn't terribly fond of them, so they usually had a heavier rotation when he was away doing the Navy's business or just working late. We typicallly ate them with a side of pork and beans or applesauce. I had neither Tuesday night, and it was after 8:30 by time I was done cooking them, so it was just a giant plate of fried noodles.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Marble House, and heading home

The last house we visited this trip was Marble House. Literally a house made of marble, inside and out. On the floors. On the walls. On the ceiling. Unbelievable.

They had a Gold Room, and not because the fabric was gold colored. If it wasn't marble or some exotic wood I'd never heard of, the rest of the room was decorated in gold leaf, from ceiling to doorknob. With glass doors. I can't imagine what the place must have looked like by candlelight.

And the "austere" bedrooms upstairs. The lady of the house had a room covered in lilac silk to die for. OK, a bit frou frou for some, but I've always wanted to cover a room in fabric. Maybe not silk, but it looked SO cool.

And to think, the lady of the house only lived here for 3 years before she divorced her husband. I would have kept the house...

I only got a couple of pictures of the exterior because it was rainy and windy.

The front entrance to Marble House

A detail of the fountains at the front entrance

After we saw Marble House, it was time to head home. We stopped for lunch at the White Horse Tavern and had a delicious meal. Then we headed home with our new traveling companion that we picked up at The Elms. His name is Cliff Walker (ha ha):

And here's our parting shot--the Newport Country Club off of Ocean Drive.

The Elms

The Elms, oh how I love thee. The ultimate summer cottage, with a conservatory that opens to the expansive lawn. The connecting rooms that all open to one grand house full of air and light. I can only imagine what a party must have been like back in the day. I'm sad that we had to visit on a gray spring day instead of seeing your grandeur in the midst of summer. But we'll take what we can get ;)

The back of the Elms, leading to the lawn the stretched for miles, or so it seemed. According to the tour guide, local children used to play on the lawn, and the butler would bring them cookies and milk or lemonade. Score!

One of the sphinxes flanking the front door. Hard to see, but there's a cherub on its back.

A gnarly old tree. They were everywhere.

One of many pithy decorative urns along the wall in front of The Elms. I'm trying to imagine them filled with flowers.

Day 2--mansion tours

Newport is famous in part for its amazing mansions built by the rich and famous of the late 1800s and early 1900s in America. Think the Vanderbilts, who were responsible for more than one of these homes. We toured 4 of them while we were in Newport, and this is a snippet of Day 1.

Sadly, no one is allowed to photograph inside the mansions. Which is a shame, since I would have likely used up all my memory cards and a couple of camera batteries in the process of trying to capture the opulence. Instead I'll send you to the homes' websites and you can check them out for yourself. I can only give you exteriors *sigh*

We started the day walking to the Cliff Walk. It's a path several miles long that runs literally along a cliff above the Atlantic Ocean. On the other side of the path are several of the mansions that were built back in the day. We were taking it slowly, since we had walked ALL DAY the day before, and we're both out of shape, to put it mildly. Plus I learned that spending the entire day walking in a pair of Converse sneakers isn't the best idea if you don't like pain.

But I digress...

A view of the ocean from the Cliff Walk, and my rugged husband enjoying the view

The Chateau-Sur-Mer. Built in the 1850, added on in the 1890s by a couple who were on a 10-year honeymoon. Must be nice to have that kind of time...

The Breakers. Tied for first as my favorite mansion (so far). The stone and mosaic tiled patios were unbelievable. Can you believe this was only used as a "summer cottage"???

More Newport

On our first day in Newport, we decided to just walk around and get a feel for the place. J went to Newport years ago, but it was time to see what was new since his last trip.

If you've never been (or even if you have), there were basically 2 main drags we spent time on: Thames Street, which runs along the waterfront, and Bellevue Ave., which is close to our apartment and leads to all the old mansions that make Newport famous. Here are some pictures of our day:

At the beinning of our walk. I think I see the ocean!

The Newport Museum of Art

The original Naval Academy

The Isaac Bell House, one of the mansions that's open for the summer to tour. Not quite open yet, but we got to learn about it during our visit.

Spring is coming to Newport!

So, watcha been up to?

We just got back from a trip to Newport, RI. It was my first time there, and I can't wait to return. We stayed at a bed and breakfast called the Marshall Slocum Guest House. I would highly recommend--great rooms, nice owners, delicious breakfast, and the location is perfect. Not too close to the hustle and bustle, but within walking distance of town.
We got the Great Little Apartment, which is actually connected to the neighboring property. J wants to try the front room next time, with the 4 poster bed and the rumored Jacuzzi tub. But the apartment was really enjoyable.

Our entry and daybed. The room was flooded with light in the morning.

Don't worry, we had this to share instead of the daybed...

Our cozy living room. J liked having a TV

Our kitchen. The perfect place to store drinks to have after a long day of walking in town.
In the hallway by the bathroom, there was this lovely nook with a writing desk.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009


The car came home last Thursday. Good timing--the window on my Civic broke Thursday morning, so it was a race between fixing that and finishing the paperwork for the Fit. The Fit won ;)
Feel free to vote for a name for our new addition, on the right side of my blog.
Now excuse us while we take this puppy on the road!