Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Little Shaken Up & A Little Wet?

So the other day there was an earthquake near Washington DC. Mostly everyone in the US has heard about this or experienced the tremors 1st hand.

I was sitting on my couch here right outside of Boston and felt as if my couch was swaying, my plants shaking, and my laptop moving on my lap. It was strange and I considered my house falling apart. I even blamed it on vertigo.

Many people felt far more than a little sway and it shook them up big time. They went home and counted their blessings. US North Easterners are not used to earthquakes. That's a west coast thing right?

So now we are expecting a hurricane? What? In the same week as an earthquake? I thought that was a southern thing?

Okay, I know about global warming, I even know about Armageddon. But seriously, what the heck is going on?

I won't lie to you... I'm a bit scared. My sister is in Florida on vacation and driving back to NY right smack in the middle of this thing. This Saturday I'm slated to take a bus back down to NY. Sunday I'm supposed to pile into the minivan with my Mom, Grandma and baby Brother & Sister and drive to Canada.... but how will all that happen safely with a hurricane coming our way?

So I did what I do... I prayed to God to protect us. To help us have a successful family get together and not to lose tons of money. I also prayed that He would keep my husband safe and sound in our old home rental while we are apart. I hope God protects all our families for the next couple of days.

Zombies, nightmares, witches & vampires be damned... nothing is scarier than a natural disaster.

Yogurt Round 2

So I thought my 1st batch of yogurt was delicious, but I thought it could be a little thicker or at the very least, separate less.

Changes to the original recipe:
I decided to make another batch today since we had just finished our last jar from the 1st try. I wanted to make a few changes to see if it would improve the texture. The 1st change I made is to purchase Yoplait yogurt as a starter rather than Dannon. I also read this Melissa's Food Blog for some advice. What I did try from her method was to warm the milk to 190 degrees and keep it there for 30 minutes. Most recipes call for heating it to 190 and immediately bringing the temp down to 120 degrees. She says she does this to thicken the yogurt. In addition to those changes, I also added another Tsp. of Pure Vanilla Extract as compared to the recipe. I wanted a very obvious vanilla flavor and scent.

The yogurt was great. It was slightly thicker, more flavorful, and smooth (less grainy). The differences were noticeable right away. The yogurt still isn't thick like a greek yogurt, but still satisfying. Paul noticed the change in flavor right away... it must have been that added tsp of vanilla. We both noticed a better texture. I don't know if this is because of the yoplait or because of the 30 minute heating at 190 degrees. My next batch will use a cup of yogurt from this batch as a starter and I guess we'll see how that goes.

Here are some supplies that I use.

I begin by bringing a pot of water to a boil to clean my jars. I toss the jars and caps in there and let it come to a boil. Then I use a pair of thongs to fish them out and lay them on a clean dishtowel to dry. I usually skip this process if the jars came strait out of the dishwasher. In this case, they were new and came out of my basket in the backroom of jars.
I pick up mason jars when they are on sale and save most of my glass jelly jars for reuse. I even keep olive and pickle jars, but those need a bit of sunlight and a good wash to get the smell out.

I also make sure I have my cooler in the kitchen nice and handy (and clean).

Next I bring the milk to temperature in a second pot. I use a candy thermometer to keep track of the temperatures.

After about 30 minutes at 190 degrees, I place the entire pot into a sink of icey cold water to bring the temperature down to 120 degrees. Be careful not to place a cast iron or ceramic pot of hot liquids into ice water... it will crack.

Once at 120 degrees, I add the vanilla, sugar & yogurt starter. I stir till combined and ladle into my clean mason jars.

I place the jars into the clean cooler. So here is the step where I deviate a bit. I've already heated water to clean my mason jars. Rather than heat another gallon of water, I add a couple of cups of cool water to the already hot pot of water until it reaches a temperature of 120 degrees. Once I'm sure it's cool enough, I add approximately 1 gallon (probably more actually because I don't measure) around the jars into the cooler. Close the cooler and set my oven timer to 3.5 hours. I let them sit there to give the cultures time to make this warm sugary milk into yogurt.

After 3.5 hours, I pull the jars out, dry off the outsides, let them rest for a few minutes, then add them to the middle of my refrigerator. I make it a general rule to keep dairy in the center of my fridge away from the door where the temperatures are more consistent and cooler.

You can click on any of the photos to enlarge.

My Favorite Part of Taking the Summer Off

After leaving HBO, I decided to take the summer off. I've worked my butt off all throughout college and started working in public accounting only 1 week after graduation. I essentially haven't had a "summer vacation" since my Freshman Year in 2001. It's hard to imagine not having a few weeks to just relax in 10 years. So Paul supported and encouraged me to take the time here in Boston to experience that.

So far I haven't exactly taken advantage of it. I haven't traveled around the city. I haven't visited museums and aquariums like I had thought I would. So this week I said that has to change. I decided to drive out to Revere Beach on Monday which was great. Then on Tuesday I took a ride to Whole Foods and on the way back, read my book at the park. Yesterday I hit up Mystic Reservation for a picnic, but today... the weather is iffy and I'm still home... but that's okay.

Because breakfast is my favorite part of taking the summer off!

I don't cook a gourmet meal. I make an english muffin with some cream cheese and some strawberry & rhubarb jam from a local farm. I cut up some fresh local peaches and I make a cup of coffee. I read my blog reader... and I enjoy the leisure time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm Topsy Turvy

A few weeks ago Paul and I were in the store and we saw the Topsy Turvy on sale for $5. We figured we'd give it a go. 2 Tomato plants and 1 Pepper plant later... we were staring at it, the finicky colder weather and gave up. It seemed silly to waste those plants to the cool air. I mean it's already late August. What were we thinking.

So I decided to buy some indoor planters, sit them on our diningroom sitting window that gets TONS of awesome southern exposure and see what happens.

I have the pepper plant and my faithful basil plant in 1 planter and a yellow cherry tomato and patio tomato plant in the other. They may not make it, they may not produce any fruit, but I figured it was worth a try. We already had the plants and if anything else, they smell great!

I purchased this basil plant at Trader Joes in NY and it has been with us all summer. I snip it constantly to add great flavor to our meals. So far so good =)

Here is the window seat. Our blog has no trees and we are the highest house on a hill so we don't have anything but clouds to obstruct the sunlight on any given day. Hopefully they pull through. The yellow cherry tomato plant is starting to flower... I guess we'll see. I may need to throw another steak in there.

And this patio tomato has been there since we bought the plant, but suddenly after planting it in this pot, it began to turn red. I hope this means it's a happy tomato plant and will produce more than 1 tomato... but even if we only get one, we'll enjoy it (with some fresh basil or some course salt).

Picnick @ Mystic River Reservation

I had enough of sulking in my living room, laptop on lap, TV on, sweating, not enjoying my life. So I decided that each day (weather permitting), I'm going to explore something new in my new home town of Medford, MA... AKA, just outside of Boston.

Today I grabbed some fruit, an iced tea, bought a little something something (more substantial in the food department, packed my camera and kindle and headed off to Mystic River Reservation which is far larger than I thought. Yes, you are right, I wrote that I stopped there yesterday, but I was in an entirely different part of it... and they really are different despite being only a little bit apart.

Let me break it down for you:

I was a little hesitant about checking this place out. I mean yelp reviews suggested creepy people hiding in the weeds stalking others but I actually found it to be quite peaceful and a perfect spot to take a walk, read a book, eat a snack, go for a jog, etc...

There was a hill with a great view of the water. It had just been mowed (actually the lawn mower was still going a bit down the hill) and it smelled divine. Freshly cut grass may be one of my favorite smells. I took out my blanket, a book and my lunch and enjoyed some relaxing time outside.

After a bit my tushy was getting sore so I rolled over and I had this beautiful site behind me. The American flag, flapping in the breeze, the smell of fresh water and cut grass in my nose, and my book by my side.

The clouds and wind started to come in and it was getting a bit chilly so I got up and decided I'd take a walk and explore. I headed strait toward the water and had to capture this gorgeous weeping willow. This photo does it NO justice.

Then I found myself looking at the river seeing the Prudential Center in the background. I little urban beauty sticking out right there.

The reservation is home to a wildlife habitation which is kinda cool. These signs were everywhere letting visitors know where they needed to keep out.

The only wildlife I saw was this bunny who sat happily allowing me to take a picture while he chomped on whatever it was he was chomping on.

And an abundance of honeybees on all the different flowers still in bloom... or blooming.

And this blurry dragon fly who swooped in while I was taking a photo.

The flowers were everywhere... I love flowers.

Book Review - Heaven Is For Real

Hi folks, I write occasionally about a book I've just read. Sometimes I write because it's terrible and sometimes because it was good. This time it's because it was good and touched me.

I just read Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back written by Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent.

I'm a Christian... more specifically, I was raised Catholic and now... I find myself believing in Christ and doubting the church. I'm confused and I'm empty because I feel as if I'm missing something spiritually in my life. I believe that is fellowship. However, Catholics really don't have much by way of fellowship. But regardless, that is neither here nor there.

This book helped to reaffirm for me that God is good. That Jesus is my savior and loves me. That the Holy Spirit is with me always. And that truly, childlike innocence is the most beautiful gift in this world.

I'm glad I read it. It put a smile on my heart and I look forward to my life and my future... trying to figure out God's plan for me... working my way until one day, he holds me in his protective arms and tells me all is well.

Also, God, thanks for taking care of Papa. I know he's up there with you and you are filling him up with love.


So with friends in town and the desire to go whale watching... I tried my hardest to convince everyone to walk up early to go Whale Watching. No one bought it. No one was down... except me. So we didn't go and I missed out =(. Oh well. We still drive up to Glouchester to check it out and it was way worth it.

Driving on Rt 128 we saw signs for a waterfront festival so we figured we'd exit and check it out. It was great, there were tons of local artists, foods, and just friendly people. We checked out the sites and the booths at the park there and it was a lot of fun.

The festival signs lead us to Stage Fort Park. It has a beautiful quaint beach with few waves, picnic areas with amazing views & tons of other fun things to see. It's most prominent feature is a giant rock. It was used as an ancient ritual stone by Native Americans. Glouchester is where the 1st colonial settlers landed. It is kinda cool.

When we got there we found parking and walked directly to the ocean.... we all craved it.

We followed a walking path to a large hill which overlooked the ocean.

Overlooking the ocean were cannon's facing almost all directions. When you are climbing back inland from a large overlook this is what you stare at... it's kind of disconcerting.

From the overlook you can see lighthouses in the distance.

You also get a great view of the actual town of Glouchester. It's a working town and you see tons of fishing vessels.

Here is Paul & me a top one of the overlooks. It was all fun and games till...

Your husband tries to throw you over a cliff

Richi and his girlfriend actually looked pretty sweet and innocent

And then Maria decided it was time to push Richi off. That is real fear on his face. He was not expecting it at all!

While walking on one of the paths I stopped to take this photo. Paul asked, "did you just take a picture of a tree?". I said no, I was taking a picture to capture the view. He glanced at the LCD and replied, "I like how you say no, then I look and it's a picture of a tree." haha

We saw pirate ships... I mean come on... that's so cool!

He's my pretty pretty princess. This was actually when we 1st parked the car. I think it's adorable though.

Here is a view of the beach... it's in that little cove. So sweet.

Once our tummies began rumbling we took the short drive up to Rockport which is more of a pedestrian tourist town. It's completely adorable and I'm glad we left Glouchester to check it out. Unfortunately the weather was being a little unpredictable so I don't have pictures. Our 1st stop was the Ray Moore Lobster Shack. It was a true shack serving up fresh lobsters. You were welcome to find a bench out back to enjoy your feast. I had a lobster and a chowder. Paul had a lobster roll, smoked salmon, and a 1 1/2 lb lobster... true fat kid day! Richi and Maria also partook in the feast having a lobster, shrimp cocktail and smoked salmon. We had a lot of fun! Then we just walked around and explored. And of course I couldn't leave without having some homemade ice cream!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mystic River Views

Today, I loaded my backpack with my kindle, my camera, and my phone and headed to wholefoods to buy some tomatoes, peaches and coffee. On the way home I stopped at a park along the Mystic River and sat on a nice bench to get some sun, read my book, eat a local peach and finish my iced coffee. The views, the quiet, and my increasing feeling of God in my life made me realize that I live in a beautiful place with the man of my dreams. I may not think Boston is as beautiful as NYC but that's because my family is not in it. Home is where your heart is... and my heart is with my family... but ... it's getting better. It's hard not to when you know your also with your husband and God... well God's everywhere... but you get me ;)

There were black eyed susans everywhere... these are easily one of my favorite wild flowers!

The river was home to a canoe, kayak & pontoon boat today. The kayak and canoe was a grandfather grandson duo I believe. It was nice... and beautiful to see.

The local peach was delicious. Peaches should always taste like this... not a bitter rock!

Buy local people!

And the book I'm reading... not pictured is Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven & Back by Todd Brupo & Lynn Vincent. It's a great book and I highly recommend it. It is centered around Christianity... just a heads up.

Site Seeing Boston

We had a friend and his girlfriend up for the weekend. It was nice because it really got us out the door doing the tourist thing and learning more about Boston.

On Saturday we walked about 1/2 the Freedom Trail and then ended up in Quincy Market and the Harbour. It was great because I got to see so much old architecture and beauty up close. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so I have nothing to share with you. My favorite stops were definitely the cemeteries and churches though. Those are always my favorite parts of our history.

Our legs were aching and our feet were sore so we called it quits and sat by the water for a bit. Once we got our 2nd wind we walked through north end where there was a street festival. Richi had his 1st zepole which... really? never?! He loved them! Maria had her 1st Lobster Roll which she devoured. And we shared a frozen banana. It was definitely a fat kid day. We met up with AWu adn his friend and walked Newbury street and eventually ended up by the Prudential where we went to the Whiskey bar for some beers. It was a long day and we were tired so we headed for a sushi dinner, walked around Harvard and went home. We were pooped.

Actually I have one picture from ... the car of the Monument at Bunker Hill

Here is an excerpt from NPS.Gov
"Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!" This legendary order has come to symbolize the conviction and determination of the ill-equipped American colonists facing powerful British forces during the famous battle fought on this site on June 17, 1775. The battle is popularly known as "The Battle of Bunker Hill" although most of the fighting actually took place on Breed's Hill, the site of the existing monument and exhibit lodge. Today, a 221-foot granite obelisk marks the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution.

The Battle of Bunker Hill pitted a newly-formed and inexperienced colonial army against the more highly trained and better-equipped British. Despite the colonial army's shortcomings, it was led by such capable men as Colonel William Prescott, Colonel John Stark and General Israel Putnam, who had experience fighting alongside the British in the French and Indian War. Although the British Army ultimately prevailed in the battle, the colonists greatly surprised the British by repelling two major assaults and inflicting great casualties. Out of the 2,200 British ground forces and artillery engaged at the battle, almost half (1,034) were counted afterwards as casualties (both killed and wounded). The colonists lost between 400 and 600 combined casualties, including popular patriot leader and newly-elected Major-General Dr. Joseph Warren, who was killed during the third and final assault.

The first monument on the site was an 18-foot wooden pillar with a gilt urn erected in 1794 by King Solomon's Lodge of Masons to honor fallen patriot and mason, Dr. Joseph Warren. In 1823, a group of prominent citizens formed the Bunker Hill Monument Association to construct a more permanent and significant monument to commemorate the famous battle. The existing monument was finally completed in 1842 and dedicated on June 17, 1843, in a major national ceremony. The exhibit lodge was built in the late nineteenth century to house a statue of Dr. Warren.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I have no patience for racism. Forget about violent acts that are racially motivated. That is something no one should have patience for. The people who do such things should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I've noticed that mean and horrible words are used all the time to describe people of all races. You know the words I'm talking about. I refuse to use them here. I've also noticed many people making racial generalizations and spreading rude stereotypes. These comments aren't said in jest. They aren't said to get a rise. They are said in malice. And it's wrong.

I'm sad to say that many times I hear these comments from my own friends. I think it proves their ignorance. It's sad really. I'm proud of my family for bringing themselves above such behavior and I hope to surround my children (whenever it is we have children) around positive roll models. Racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, and all types of slander will not welcome in my home, nor will the people who utter it.

My friends will need to change their ways or I'm afraid they won't be having much of a relationship with our family in the future. Impressionable minds... and all that.

New Apartment Tour

So we've moved and we are sorta kinda settled. There are a few pieces of furniture missing from the office/craft room/ game room and then some accent furniture around the house. But hey, I'm not ashamed check out our bare walls and bland non-existent decor. Maybe you all can give us some pointers?

So here is the layout so you can refer to it to get an idea.... not the idea of robbing us I hope. We have nothing you'd want ;).

As you can see, we have the space. I know that these are not drawn to scale, but it's a nice and large apartment.

So let's start with the least finished room. This is the office/ craft room/ game room. I like it, but I'd like it more with a couch, maybe chairs, a sewing table, and table for the fame room.

Here is the living room. It needs an accent table, but otherwise I like the openness of it.

Here is the dining room which probably can use a larger dining table but for now, we'll make due.

Here is the kitchen, please excuse the mess. I haven't tidied it up yet today.

You get a little glimpse of the back door in this one. That leads out to a back stairwell that leads to the backyard and an enclosed deck we use as a closet for bulk items and sports equipment.

This is a photo of our very ugly bathroom... but it's clean and that to me is the best part!

Here is the blue room, which is our bedroom. We need some bedside tables and a linen cabinet, but until then... this is it.

This is the grey room, our guest room. I originally thought it was brown and dubbed it the ugly brown room. You may remember this.