Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Photo-a-Day: Week 17


Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Girl on the Other Coast: April 27, 2013

Here we go again! Another collaborative post with my west coast friend, G. This time, G is thinking about our favorite hobbies. We'll take a look at hers here. Curious how I answered? (Humor me. Pretend you're curious.) Take a virtual voyage to Little Italy and find out!

What's your favorite hobby?
I love scrapbooking. It's a great creative outlet which combines my love ofphotograpy and my need for preserving memories. I actually get giddy when I've completed a page. It just makes me smile seeing my pictures with cordinating paper and cute little embellishments.

When did you start?
I started back in 1998 after prom. LOVED it. I would spend my weekends creating pages. I was even published in two different magazines!! That was super exciting! But when I started grad school my time became extremely limited and something had to go. It was a toss up between showers andscrapbooking. (HA!) Once I started teaching, I was so overwhelmed thatscrapbooking was the last thing I thought of. For the first few years I was so overwhelmed that I was only able to scrapbook a couple of times. Thankfully that's changed recently!

Who inspires you creatively?
When I first started I really admired Becky Higgins and her simple yet creative pages. I still love her ideas and how they have evolved over time. I think Project Life is a fantastic way to record real life. I'm excited to start creating my own album for 2013.

Amy Tangerine is a huge inspiration as well! In November I was lucky enough to have lunch with her. She is such a delight! She is the one who really encouraged me to start scrapbooking again. And I took her advice seriously! Within the past couple of months I've been able to create more than I have in the past couple of years! And? She included me in her book!! How cool is that?!  

Where do you do it?
Usually at my kitchen table. There's enough room to spread out and get down to business! I'll also scrapbook at Jen's house. We have a lot of fun there as well.

How did you start?
I honestly can't remember...but I know I passed by a local scrapbook store and went in. I was in HEAVEN.

I truly am grateful for a hobbie that I love, friends to share it with, and being able to preserve our memories.

(edit to add my answers)

What's your favorite hobby? I would have to say photography.

When did you start? I've had a camera as long as I can remember. Seriously, my dad got me one when I was probably in second grade? I've always loved photos--looking at them and taking them. I've always had a camera with me at any sort of event, big or small. I started to delve into a little more earnestly about eight years ago when I got my first digital camera.

Where do you do it? Anywhere and anywhere I feel inspired! I I am participating in a great photo-a-day prompt challenge, so I have to be prepared anytime the opportunity presents itself!

Who inspires you creatively? No one specific person. I am inspired by certain angles, lighting, perspectives that I see in other photos. I try to make note of them and use that as a springboard when I am taking my own.

How did you start it? My old family photos have always been a treasure to me. I love looking back on old memories--things we did, places we went, holidays we celebrated, everyday life I cherish--and I wanted that legacy to continue through me. So I took photos. And then I got a basic digital camera where I could immediately see what worked or (far more often) didn't, instead of having to wait while I finished a roll of film and had it developed when I would no longer remember what I did when I took the photo. As I graduated to bigger and better cameras, I have begun to explore, experiment and teach myself how my camera and each of my lenses (I only have two for now) works and how manipulate the settings to achieve the photo I'm hoping for. I haven't used my current camera (a Canon
EOS Rebel XSi) on automatic since I got it (other than to see what the camera thinks is best for a situation in which I am struggling to find the right setting, then I see what it uses and switch back to manual to tweak the settings it used to fine tune for the image I want)! I'm pretty proud of that. I still have a lot of throw-aways (much cheaper with digital!) but not as many as I used to and every once in a while, I get one I am really proud of.  It's fun a hobby, it's challenging, and I have something I value to show for it.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Photo-a-Day: Week 16


Monday, April 22, 2013

Flower and Garden Fest 2013: Round Three

Another weekend, another afternoon of yumminess! And I have to say, I am loving some of the lighter menus, highlighting the produce and falling in step with one's desire to eat brighter, fresher flavors after a winter of hearty dining.

My third trip through the fest started with something sweet and something to drink.


Verrine Charlotte au Peches (caramelized peaches and rosemary and light vanilla cream). La Vie Rose Frozen Slush (Grey Goose Vodka Orange, St. Germain Liquor, white and red cranberry juices).

At first bite, the verrine shocked my palette a little bit. The rosemary was *very* evident. It took a little while, but I adjusted to its presence, and this was a pleasant, well-balanced little treat. Going layer by layer, the vanilla cream was actually heavier in consistency than I expected--I was thinking whipped cream but it was more like frosting. The caramel was thinner, more like a sauce, then there was a layer of light sponge cake with a little more cream, and finally on the bottom, the peaches in their juice. It was a bit decadent, for what was essentially "peaches and cream," but that's no complaint. You only live once! And on that note, I also went for the slush. Excellent flavors. Bright and clean. The menu claims red and white cranberry juices, but it tasted more like grapefruit to me. Also not a complaint.

After confusing my mouth with two very diffrent treats, I decided to take it "old school" with something totally straightforward.


Waterkist Farms Heirloom Tomatoes with House-Made Mozzarella, Minus 8 Vinegar and Basil.

These are some of my most favorite flavors in the whole world. You cannot possibly go wrong with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and vinegar. It needs no more dressing up than a little sprinkle of salt and pepper. I could make a whole meal of this during the hot summer months. (C'mon, little tomato plants at home, grow grow grow!) The only thing I might have changed here would be to either slice that red onion a little thinner or change it out for some shallots instead. Onion is always a potent flavor for me, so I like to make it as subtle as possible. I only ate a couple small pieces because I didn't want to be tasting onion in everything else I ate.

Off in search of more, the next menu that lured me in was...


Watermelon Salad with Pickled Red Onions, BW Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Reduction. Hot Sun Tomato Wine, Florida Orange Groves. 40 Karat Carrot Wine, Florida Orange Groves.

I was feeling a little adventurous this time. I wasn't at all sure what to expect from *any* of it! Feta, watermelon, pickled onion and balsamic? Not at all flavors I would ever think to group together. But I was game. And it was worth it! There were no onions left in this dish. There was *nothing* left in this dish, actually. That crazy pile of randomness worked in perfect unison. And there was enough there to play with making various unique combinations of ingredients. Where there was something left was in those glasses. They were...odd. The one on the left is the carrot wine. The only way I can describe it is that it tastes like some hybrid between a dry white and an earthy red: looks like a white, starts like a white, finishes like you licked a cellar floor like a red, but without the fuzzy mouth. It wasn't bad, it wasn't good, it was just strange. The darker wine was the tomato wine. It was like...clear V-8 with an acid finish. It actually burned in the back of my throat for a while after a sip. I drank maybe half of each. Verdict: I like experiments with various fruit wines but you can keep the veggie wines. If forced to finish one, I would have opted for the carrot. (Thankfully, no one was forcing me.)

Moving right along to something hopefully more appealing to cleanse the taste.


Panna Cotta al Limoncello (Limoncello flavored panna cotta with wild berries). White Peach Bellini.

First, the panna cotta. I am a sucker for anything raspberry, especially paired with lemon. The lemon was super subtle, not at all overpowering. The panna cotta was simultaneously creamy and a bit gelatinous (in a good way!) with tiny shavings of lemon peel. There were some slightly smashed-and-juicy raspberries hiding out at the bottom, and of course those two beauties on top! Light flavors, light texture -- just right for a warm-weather dessert! And then I sat back with my bellini. There weren't as many bubbles as the rossini from round two or the Desert Rose from round one. The server stirred the prosecco after adding it to the peaches and syrup. I would have preferred a smidge more effervescence, but really, I wasn't disappointed. I started the round with peaches and then I ended it that way. Full circle, full tummy.

Ahhhh, that was a much better way to end the day! I think one more round will tackle everything on my list. I'm certainly ready to give it my best effort!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

TV Loves and Hates: April 21, 2013

Disclaimer: I tend to be fairly behind on my tv watching. Even so, consider the fact that there could be spoilers ahead if you're even further behind than I am. You read at your own risk!

**(Sue wants to change her name from Sue Sue Heck before she gets her driver's license.) "She is not changing her name to Coco Gesundheit." LOL! (The Middle, ep 18)

**A satisfying resolution for the characters on Fringe. And lots to ponder, which was always what Fringe was all about anyway. (That explains how *I* got hooked on such an out-of-character science fiction show.)

**The use of all manner of former Fringe events as warfare against the Loyalists and Observers in the series finale. Bravo!

**How did I not catch that Carrie's "nemesis" is named Donna LaDonna?! Hahahaha! (The Carrie Diaries)

**Whew. Axl and Cassidy survived their fight. (The Middle)

**The season finale of The Carrie Diaries references Stanford! This show has the potential to be so much fun, if it is allowed the opportunity.

**Sarah Chalke on Grey's Anatomy. She was brilliant as a worried single mom of a little boy who just couldn't let it go when she didn't feel like her son was getting the correct diagnosis. (ep 19)

**I cannot overstate just how much I love the way Meredith Grey has evolved. (Grey's Anatomy)

**Scandal. Everything about it. Even how evil Mellie is.

**"I've learned not to let my guard down when something Mellie this way comes." Hahahahaha! Cyrus has the best lines! (Scandal, ep 17)

**Sometimes I am a little confused which direction Revolution wants to go. Sometimes I think this show is a little confused about the same thing.

**NOOOOO!! Not Axl and Cassidy!! (The Middle)

**Saying goodbye to Fringe. No more Peter-and-Olivia. No more Gene the Cow. No more crazy Walter antics. No more Broyles. No more Astrid and her innumerable Walter-given nicknames. When shows I love end, even when it's *time* for them to end, I still hate saying goodbye. These characters feel like old friends now.

**NOOOOO!! Not Sue and Darrin!! (The Middle)

**Colin Sweeney is one of the creepiest characters on tv. Every time he resurfaces, I feel like I need a shower. (The Good Wife)


Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Leftovers: April 19, 2013

** Wow.

I’ve had a rash of negative missives lately (see: Facebook), and it’s had me thinking for weeks. Questions like, when did we become so mean? And, have we lost all semblance of kindness? And, is criticism the plague of our generation?...
So I turned those questions inward and didn’t like what I found. I struggle with an impulse to critique, to deconstruct, to dismantle. I too easily write people off and assume the worst. I am undoubtedly my own worst enemy. I see sharp edges that need softened, and I realize every problem has the same answer:
More grace.
This just might heal the world, mend relationships, sooth our inner turmoil. It could grease the machine of humanity and keep it running rather than grinding to a halt, stalled out for lack of mercy. It reminds us we are brothers and sisters, not demigods over one another.
... I will name the little lovely things, the beautiful moments, the good parts. Small victories deserve noticing. None of us are good at everything, but all of us are great at something. No rule requires focus on the parts we get wrong. There is always, always something worthy to honor if we’re brave enough to live like that.
... take away the need to be right, to be the winner, to nurture the injury like a little pet, keeping it safe and thriving and growing. Now add grace – undeserved maybe, unexpected perhaps. Persistent, warm, selfless mercy can turn even the biggest ship around. (Jen Hatmaker)
**Another quote that really resonated with me.
Life is a constant series of navigations. Figuring out what makes sense, directing, recovering from mistakes, celebrating success, opening vs. closing, riding the waves, surviving the lows, listening, learning, choosing, taking action. (Ali Edwards)
**I read these words -- "So yes, it all disappears quickly but it leaves behind a moment more fully lived and relationships more deeply realized." -- about the true beauty of cooking and sharing a meal. It made me think back on all the times I've sat down and enjoyed a meal with loved ones -- whether its a five-course culinary extravaganza, a special holiday tradition, or a simple tomato sandwich. The food may be long gone, but the feelings and memories are alive, building blocks of my life. The tables where I've sat. The people who've shared those tables with me. The conversations, the photos, the tastes. They get trapped in my mind, resurfacing like treasure chests, sometimes making me crave a particular dish, other times prompting me to seek out someone who shared that meal with me to "remember when." The food nourishes the body in the immediate, but it nourishes the soul in the long term.

**It is apparently "leftover quotes from blogs" this time around.
I feel like lately I've been hearing so much about how you're supposed to be "real" when you blog/tweet/instagram/facebook and it seems like most people think "real" = "negative"... but it's not necessarily so.  At least not for me... I'm authentically not negative by nature. (Kim, "Just My Type")


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Flower and Garden Fest 2013: Round Two

Guess what it's time for? More deliciousness from Flower and Garden Fest! Let's dig right in.

I headed back, this past Saturday, for the second tour. While I tried to decide where to start my day, I got something to sip.


Blueberry Blue, Blueberry Wine from Florida Orange Groves.

It was sweet and mild, and the most beautiful color. I loved it...but I enjoy a sweet wine anyway. I've tried blueberry wine before, so I had some idea what to expect.

Sipping and strolling, I decided that some cheese would be a good place to begin eating.


Baked Goat's Brie with Kumquat Chutney.

Now, frankly, I find brie to be brie, regardless of the milk from which it is made. It's good, but it's not the first cheese that will ever catch my attention. What intrigued me was the kumquat chutney. I have never tasted a kumquat before! The cheese was nice--mild and melty, no complaints there--with a bit of a crispy outer layer from being baked. The chutney is where things actually got interesting. The kumquat tasted sort of like a tart peach or an apricot, and it really livened up the dish.

Now we've got the ol' tastebuds awake!


Tostada de Jaiba (crab tostada served with chipotle mayo and valentina sauce).

WOW. So many flavors! The crab was cool and creamy. The lime juice brightened up the seafood and I enjoy a good chipotle mayo, but the valentina sauce was a tad spicy for me. I ended up eating around it as much as I could.

I was ready for something a bit more "hearty" now, so off we go again!


Spring Pancake with Grilled Chicken and Green Apple.

I have to admit, I was a bit underwhelmed by this one. The flavors were nice but nothing special. The apple, which I expected to shine, got a bit lost behind the seasonings used on the chicken. And, well, the whole thing was kind of awkward and messy to eat. Oh well. You can't win them all.

I was ready to sit in the shade with a little beverage.


Strawberry Rossini.

Too pretty to take just one photo! Also? Too tasty to share. You cannot so wrong with some bubbles (Prosecco) with some strawberry syrup and fresh chopped strawberries. In fact, just thinking about this, I wouldn't turn down another if you offered one.

Time for dessert. I was originally heading in one direction, but the strawberries from the Rossini had me craving more berries so I changed things up on a whim!


Angel Food Cake with Macerated Florida Strawberries.

It was looking like rain, so brought my dessert to a favorite little quiet spot under cover, and then proceeded to devour it. The cake was light and really just a vehicle for those scrumptious berries and that cream. And I ate every last bite!

I am already planning my next visit! Still more on my list, especially after a couple of rounds behind me and seeing some of these dishes live and in person.


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