Can't get enough

Thursday, July 29, 2010 | | 15 comments
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This is one of my all time favorite salads for summer. I have had serious cravings for these yummy ingredients with crunchy on the outside but chewy on the inside bread bites.

I make it a little differently each time depending on what I have on hand. It's a  great recipe for all the veggies that are readily available in garden and farmers markets this time of year. I used roasted garlic ciabatta bread in this salad ~ it was amazing! The dressing always remains the same. Ina Garten has the best one that I've tried so far and, believe me, I've tested out a variety through the years.

A true panzanella recipe doesn't call for lettuce but for my family, I toss in baby romaine. You would never find this in my grandmother's recipe.


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It pairs ever so nicely with lobster right off the boat.This is a huge benefit of living in New England.

A few {non smelly} lobster tips we've learned along the way:

*We boil our lobsters outdoors in our turkey fryer ~ even in the winter
*Remove to a cookie sheet, snip the claws, and make a long cut under the tail. Place on the grill for 5-10 minutes to "dry" them out. This eliminates the liquid from making a mess of your meal.
*None of the cooking takes place in our kitchen so I don't have a lingering fishy smell.


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Panzanella
(a general idea of what I add)

Small loaf of firm bread (ciabatta or french) cut into large bite size pieces
Olive oil ~ enough to coat bottom of pan
Pinch of kosher salt

2~3 large ripe tomatoes cut into large bite size chunks
1 large green pepper cut into large bits size chunks
1 large yellow (or orange) pepper cut into large bits size chunks
1 large red pepper cut into large bits size chunks
2 small fresh banana peppers ~ if you like a little kick
3 gourmet cucumbers
4~5 radishes
3 Tbs capers drained
25 basil leaves (give or take ~ I use more because we have a ton in our herb garden)
small bowl full baby romaine lettuce

Heat the olive oil to coat the bottom of a pan. Add the bread and pinch of salt. Toss in pan until it is golden brown ~ watch so that they don't burn.

Place remaining ingredients in a large bowl, add bread, and toss with dressing.


Dressing ~ Ina Garten

1 tsp freshly minced garlic
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbs champagne vinegar
1/2 olive oil (I use less)
1/2 kosher salt
1/4 freshly ground pepper

Whisk ingredients together

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Sunflowers for Wishes

Sunday, July 25, 2010 | | 21 comments
It all began with a few seeds and a family with a big heart ...

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That were planted and grew into these grand bouquets.Which attract people from miles around to come and support such a beautiful and worthwhile cause.

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Each year for one week in July Buttonwood Farms host their Sunflowers for Wishes. The money raised is donated to Make*A*Wish.

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{Nicholas carrying a few of the bouquets I bought}
 The bright and vibrate sunflowers are sold for $5. a bouquet and 100% of the profit is donated to the Connecticut Foundation.

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Not only do they grow amazing flowers, they also make tasty homemade ice cream! Just in case you're wondering, yes they do make sunflower ice cream.

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It's SO good in fact that people are willing to wait in line for a scoop or two on a 90 degree Saturday just before torrential rain hit.

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{Kevin's ice cream that he wouldn't share}
White chocolate and brownie batter in a homemade waffle cone ~ my idea of a well rounded healthy lunch!

I couldn't get a photo before the ice cream began to melt. Heat and humidity don't play well with frozen treats.

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They began with planting one acre of sunflowers for enjoyment which has quickly grown in size as the demand to support a worthy cause has become popular.

This year they planted 14 acres and expect to sell out before the event comes to a close. I call that a total success for all involved!


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The scenery is the perfect painter's palate.

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The money raised will help make it possible for Connecticut children with life threatening and terminal illnesses to have a wish of their very own come true.

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Sitting pretty in my home, I know that I've helped a little to bring a  smile to a families face that is going through a very hard time.
I hope their son's or daughter's wishes come true and they are able to hold these memories in their hearts for years to come.

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Homeless

Thursday, July 22, 2010 | | 21 comments
Decisions, decisions ....

These two cuties are up for adoption. We've been asked if we're interested in one or both.

How do you say no?

How do you say yes to only one?

How do you manage a {very, over the top, just shy of neurotic} clean household with 3 bulldogs?

We already have one ... my loyal confidant ... Bozley.


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Brutus ~ 11 weeks


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Bella ~ 11 weeks

Seriously, I'm trying to think with my head and not my heart but they are just too stinkin cute!

I don't want to turn into one of "those" people that you talk about. Oh, you know who I'm talking about. Those animal people that are OVER the top and just plain weird.

Until we got our first bulldog I didn't like animals at all! I tried to convince my son when he was little that animals carried  {really horrible} germs and we didn't want to get sick. I bought him a fish that he pet to death ~ yea, I know, not a good mother.

Now look at me, I'm actually contemplating a small litter of them.

Those sweet little faces are pulling at my heart strings and sucking me in ... my husband  is of little help.

How can I sleep knowing they are homeless? Well, they aren't actually on the street but they do need a home.

HELP! ;)

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Wedding celebration

Monday, July 19, 2010 | | 16 comments
*I was ready to share the lovely holiday wedding we attended with you but Flicker decided to practice their new magic act with my photos and make them all disappear. I hope it's fixed and you can see these photos.

Here on the East Coast we've been experiencing quite the on going heat wave. If you remember, the 4th of July weekend was hot, hot, HOT!

We were thrilled to be invited to our friends wedding day and celebrate with them as they begin their lives as husband and wife.

What lady doesn't get excited about buying a new dress, shoes, clutch and spending a little extra time making sure she looks her very best for the event. Not to mention being escorted by her handsome husband who just happens to be dressed in the suit his wife most admires on him.

Well, the day began sunny and bright. A perfect day for a wedding.

I was a tad surprised that the church was not air conditioned. As it began to fill with family and friends to witness the unity of marriage, the temperature began to rise. I know this is frowned upon but at one point I began to use the program as a fan ~ I couldn't take it any longer. A quick glance over at my husband answered my question of how he was doing. He was trying to discreetly pick his pants off his legs ~ they were stuck on him like glue! Poor guy in his suit and tie in a 100 degree church and the ceremony hadn't even begun!

The wedding was lovely and no one {surprisingly} fainted or passed out.

There was time between the wedding and reception so we decided to go back to our hotel room and "freshen" up a bit. Like start all over!

Cocktail hour began at 6:30 on the lawn of the Ocean Cliff Resort. The view is amazing and the breeze off the water was a welcome relief. We caught up with friends and enjoyed the company of family members.

At 7:45 we were invited into the dinning room for dinner and a little unexpected surprise ... no air conditioning. It hadn't been working well for the past few weeks and that afternoon it finally conched out for good.



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The flowers on each table were incredibly beautiful. Sadly the end of the evening even they were wilting.

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The happy couple ~ Mr. and Mrs. H********
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The Best Man's toast.
Dan had us all laughing and crying with his well prepared speech. Dan and Jim are very close and share a special brotherly bond.

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Our friends Courtney and Mike. We always have a fabulous time when we are with these two. Mike is from South Africa and has the greatest accent. I always giggle when he refers to Kevin {and other guys} as mates.

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Me and Kevin with our healthy HOT glow.

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Courtney and I trying to cool off with a glass of wine ~ it didn't work but that didn't stop us from having several anyway.

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Chrissy was upset that she wasn't in the first photo so we had to take another one with her. She is SO much fun to around.

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No they did not smear the cake on each other's faces. Jim just had to tease her a little.

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They are patiently waiting for the cake to be cut.

Both Jim and Chrissy come from very large families. These little cuties are from Chrissy's side. This little lad was so polite and did his very best during the wedding but when it came time to party he gave it his all. At the reception he stripped off his white knee socks and saddle shoes so he could dance ~ and that he did! The little ladies were all so sweet.

The flowers and sashes are really a deep pink but I just can't seem to photograph that color with much success ~ suggestions?

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This childs highchair got my husband in a lot of trouble with the management. Kevin used it to prop the door open {remember, there was NO air condition and several hundred people in the room} and the manager would come and remove the chair. This went on several times. The managers explanation was that the restaurant on the deck would be bothered by the noise. It was the 4th of July. There were only a handful of people out there and they had children. I don't think they would have been bothered. Kevin even offered to buy them a round of drinks. Nope, not happening! I felt so badly for the men dressed in long sleeves and ties. We gave the guys at our table permission to shed the jackets once we were seated. I was more worried about health than etiquette at that point.

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See the fan behind Courtney?
That was Ocean Cliff's answer to our situation. They placed another one on the other side of the room. Newport's finest cooling system.

If you're going to be hot, it's best to be with fun people and we were. Despite the uncomfortable temperatures we all had a wonderful time!

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I love the dress that I wore. The light ruffles at the bottom added the perfect feminine touch.

We wrapped our evening up with friends, laughter and after dinner drinks at the Viking {my favorite in Newport}.

Remember how I just told you I loved my dress? I loved it even more when I was able to peel it off my body and jump in the shower before bed.


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California ~ part 2 It's a l o n g one

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 | | 17 comments
My husband lived in Monterey years ago while in Post Grad. He insisted we visit the Monterey Aquarium. We have a wonderful Aquarium here in Mystic. I've had many "behind the scenes" tours over the years because of my students and we are part of Project Oceanology which gives the students hands on experience in their labs as well as takes them out on their boats to "fish" in their outdoor classroom. However, my husband asks for very little {and I'd already drug him into many shops} so I went along with the request.



I lost total track of time as there was SO much to see. Being on the opposite coast provided a whole new cast of characters and they put on quite the show! My favorites were the sea stars and seahorses. The ham of the day was the otter that cleaned his head the entire day ~ I guess he had somewhere special to go or was trying to impress someone.

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These are only a few of the many divers that gather daily to head out in the Bay. There were all ages gearing up to head out.

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While walking by these handsome fellas gave us an entertaining song and show routine. As luck would have it, the minute I pulled out my camera, they clammed right up. Cute, nonetheless!

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Prior to my arrival Kevin did share that it was cooler in California {like 70} and that I should pack a sweater. Not a problem, I usually do anyway. However, he failed to inform me that it may get as cold as 53 during the day. Cold doesn't begin to describe how I felt ~ I was numb! You'll notice from the photo below that I am modeling the season's finest Monterey wear. Note the pink fleece with the insignia, pashmina, and if you peek real close you'll see the sweatshirt I purchased as well. The sales person expressed more than once that this was unusually cold for this time of year. Great. I am not the type of person that goes on vacation and brings home clothing to advertise where I've been. Well, this trip I was the billboard poster child for Monterey. At one point I was actually contemplating buying character socks to wear with my cropped jeans and Jack Rogers ~ screams fashion statement! No?
Lucky for me I had a glass of wine to warm me up at days end! If only I had packed my flannel jammies ;)

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One morning after lingering over coffee {ahh} we jumped in the car to enjoy the 17 Mile Drive. Unfortunately, there was a very thick marine layer and it was hard to see let along get really nice photos.



The center photo is of Pebble Beach. They were in the process of tearing down from the US Open. Regardless, it was still impressive. So were the homes along this drive!

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Later that evening we had the pleasure of getting together with a friend {and his wife} of Kevin's from his Academy days. Travis went on to play for the New York Giants and from there a team in Canada. He and his beautiful wife, Kristinna, now own a business together in San Francisco. We planned an early dinner so we could catch up and they had a long drive back home. Our dinner lasted 4 and half hours! I have no idea where the time went but we needed more. They are the type of people that are just easy to be with and the stories of years ago certainly kept us all entertained.



This photo cracks me up ~ Travis towers my sweet husband! Truth be told, he is like a teddy bear. He has such a gentle demeanor.

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We quickly stopped by the base so my husband could check on something. The Naval Post Graduate School hasn't changed all that much in the many years since his attendance. Below is the Dole Mansion. I didn't take my camera inside but the interior is most impressive. The hand carved wooden ceilings are amazing.

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This resident of the grounds certainly wasn't the shy type. Mr. Personality strutted right up for a photo shoot ~ he was honestly posing. It was hilarious. I so badly wanted him to spread his plumage but being a typical male, he had his own agenda and that wasn't on it! 

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Before heading back towards Los Angeles, we decided to fit in the Hearst "camp" Castle. The story of how it came to be is interesting and the talent behind creating this work of art at its location is behind imaginable.



We went on the basic tour for those visiting their first time. You are bused up to the castle and met by two tour guides ~ one at the front of the line and one behind. There was neither wandering nor peeking off the set path. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and provided in-depth background on the owner, his family, and the guests that visited. While it was very informative, I would have enjoyed seeing more of the castle.


The architecture was well thought out and implemented. The tennis courts had "windows" beneath the nets which provided skylights for the indoor pool built beneath. The estate has the largest known silver collection ~ there were many pieces I'd love to own. The decor of the rooms depicted the areas of the world Mr. Hearst visited with his mother when he was a young boy.

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I hope you made it to this point. If you did, I'm impressed! I put many of the photos in collages to keep it somewhat short. 

I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of the wine we shipped home. I see a wine tasting of our own in the future ;)

*We purchased a Garmin to use in our rental car. This helped us immensely to navigate our self guided tour of California. It proved to be priceless! This saved us hours of not getting lost or turned around.*


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California ~ part 1

Saturday, July 10, 2010 | | 17 comments
Every time I sit down to catch up something calls my attention and I'm off. I feel like summer is half over and I'm running in circles. Please tell me I'm not the only one feeling like a hamster on a wheel going nowhere fast.

Let's try this one more time ...

This trip was not like any of our others we've taken together. There was an element of magic flying into an airport, having your husband waiting for you and spending the next few days with no agenda. I vaguely remember something similar to this ... I believe it was called dating :)

The first day we went to Santa Barbara. A friend of mine told me that we had to go see their farmers market. It's huge with street after street lined with the most amazing fresh vegetables, fruits, plants and flowers. I've never seen anything so beautiful. We bought strawberries that I'm positive were grown in fields of sugar ~ they were the sweetest strawberries I've ever tasted. To our bag we added peaches, cherries, brie and bread. Our little picnic for the car ride ahead.

The beaches were huge! I love the colorful life guard stations ~ each one is just as bright but painted differently. Kevin told me if I ate all my supper he would take me down to the pier for the carni rides. Sounded tempting but we opted for another glass of wine and a local jazz band. What a relaxing way to wind down the day ~ I could SO get use to this!


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Bright and early {as in 3am} I was awake and ready to start the day. Yea, that time change did play a few tricks on me. A few hours later my husband {who had already adjusted to the time} joined me in my excitement to head to Paso Robles.

I've never been to California so I didn't really know what to expect. It's very brown with the exception of the very green leaves on vines and trees and then there is the amazing hilly background.

We hit our first vineyard and met the nicest people.

**I have to stop here and tell you that every single person we met in every single place we went were so incredibly nice!  One does not find this in New England. It was an unexpected delightful treat that I missed horribly the minute we returned home.**

Back to the vineyards ...

Each and every one was different and had their own little niche. I was surprised to learn that there are 6 different micro climates in Paso Robles. This affects the grapes and their flavor, hence the flavor of the wine.

Long ago Kevin and I learned to split a tasting if you're going to visit more than one vineyard. As hard as this is to hear and do, discard wine that doesn't suit your pallet.


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 Driving along I was in awe of how the vines are planted. It's like a patchwork quilt. They are in all direction and terrains ~ if there is an available spot, there is a vine! Most vineyards have roses to control the pests but Justin’s had a quaint rose garden in front of their tasting room.
 We visited lovely vineyards and sampled many fabulous wines during our stay. My favorites {so hard to only share a few} were:


Maloy O'Neill ~ smooth and elegant


Jada ~ fun family story


Justin ~ gorgeous inside and out.


Sculpterra ~ must see just for the art sculptures


Cass ~ great little bistro on property for lunch and a glass of wine ~ yum!


Chateau Julien~ my favorite chard


Tobin James ~ a must see; must taste; must experience!
This was hands down the liveliest vineyard. The tasting room staff was a hoot. I didn't want to leave. Everyone we talked to LOVED this place. They have 3 events a year and yes, we are going back to attend one (someday) just on word of mouth.


After such fun I asked my husband if he would buy me a vineyard for Christmas ~ you can guess the answer to that one!
We did however learn that most owners fronted the money for the vineyard and learned along the way. The first lesson, and a financial one at that, is to hire a very knowledgeable wine maker. This is the person that will get your name out and make your wine marketable


During our stay in the area we collected a phenomenal sampling of local wines that we cannot acquire in Connecticut. Not all California vineyards have licenses to ship to Connecticut so we collectively put a few cases together of our featured wines and shipped them home.


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Black and White Wednesday

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 | | 14 comments
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On a hot Sunday morning with a flurry of action, this beauty sat quietly and calmly amongst the chaos.

It struck my attention with the realization that this is what it is like some days in my own life if and when I don't let "things" get to me.

 It is possible to maintain a tranquil inner peace while the outer layers are spinning out of control if your mind is centered.

Take a peek at Lisa's for more Black and Whites.

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Celebrations

Saturday, July 3, 2010 | | 9 comments
This weekend will be filled with celebrating. We are packing our bags once again for an exciting event.

Our dear friends have invited us to be a part of their very special celebration in Newport, RI.

My husband I are looking forward to partaking in all that the New England coast has to offer in the summer. Such a delightful treat to all the senses.

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As we toast to our sweet friends Jim and Crissy on their wedding day and wish them many, many years of happiness!




Whatever your plans may be this weekend, I wish you and your families a most enjoyable day of celebration!
 
Happy 4th of July!


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Time well spent ...

Thursday, July 1, 2010 | | 17 comments
My husband does a fare amount of traveling related to his career. There are so many times I've wanted to accompany him on location. Due to my job, our family and just plain bad timing, it hasn't worked out.

I knew that if I begged waited long enough, my time to travel would come.

Well, it did and I went!

Before school ended for the year my sweet husband called me while on land and asked if I wanted to fly out and meet him in California for a little wine tasting ...
Gee, let me think about it.

I guess he knew my answer before asking because had already been working out the details. He can be the sweetest and most romantic man when he puts his mind to it; and that he did.

All the arrangements were made and I had nothing to do with them. My only requirement was to pack for myself. Yep, I call this romance at it's finest! If you've been married for a while you totally get this ~ if you're newly married I'm certain this sounds so lame.

He booked my flight in first class and told me to relax and enjoy. Not a problem!

When I departed the plane I had butterflies in my stomach. It was just like dating again. I was nervous and excited to see him. Absence does make the heart grow fonder {until he unpacks his dirty laundry bag}

Our trip began in Los Angeles and ended in Monterey with lots of stops peppered along the way.


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My favorite fruit :)
Nothing like starting your day with a taste or two of local wines.What a fabulous way to spent an afternoon!

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There are grapevines growing in all directions. It reminded me of a patchwork quilt.

I can think of very little that isn't beautiful with such a background.


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The green is so lush looking due to all the surrounding brown.

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Definitely one of my new favorite Chardonnays. It's aged in an oak barrel with just a hint of fruit and a light buttery finish. Sitting in the vineyard with the warm sunshine on our shoulders may have enhanced the flavor just a tad ;)

I have so much more to share with you but laundry is calling my name. We are off to Newport, RI this weekend for a big holiday wedding.


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