Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday In My City - #1...There's a City Over There

Well, I had big plans for this, of course, that oft-ignored chore of mine. But lucky for me as I was chopping up veggies for a chopped salad yesterday afternoon, my trusty Wusthof knife revolted and, well, I nearly chopped my thumb off.

So maybe that's not lucky...I don't know, I guess it depends on how much you hate housework.

And maybe I exaggerate ever so slightly...I cut my thumb, but not enough to need stitches, so I guess it's not that bad.

Just enough to get me out of any really heavy-duty cleaning! So, yeah....let's call it lucky!

Today was the day two of a rather dismal, drizzly, cool spring weekend here in Massachusetts, the eve of the esteemed Boston Marathon which I won't be running this year due to my injured thumb (and the fact that, well, I don't run....) and although I'm reading a really good book right now, "Water For Elephants" by Sara Gruen, I was feeling kind of bored. And it wasn't just me...someone else had a touch of cabin fever, too...

So, off we went for a ride, not knowing where to go or what to do. I did have my camera with me, and as we headed north I remembered Joanna from The Fifty Factor participates in a really cool feature called Sunday In My City, inspired by Unknown Mami's Sunday In My City. I always thought it was a cool idea! So, there it was settled - I would set out to do my own "Sunday In My City" post.

Only thing is....I don't live in a city. I live in a town. And while I live in the pretty much residential side of town, near a city, the further north you go, the more rural it gets. I'm talking quaint farmland, unspoiled forest and herds of buffalo roaming the fields.

Oh, you don't believe me?

Here, take a closer look!

Yes, just north of here, off a winding rural road near the center of a small New England town is the Alta Vista Bison Farm. It started out as a dairy farmed nestled on a hillside in Rutland, MA but a while back they sold all the cows and started raising bison. It's a neat place, with a little gift shop that sells bison meat, chicken, fresh eggs as well as Native American crafts and music. I make a pretty mean bison burger, but have not cooked a whole lot with other cuts of meat yet. Visiting the farm made me realize I should do that, supporting a local business and expand my horizons a little bit.

Anyway, it's a quaint little farm with a breathtaking view, even on a gloomy day...

We left the farm and headed back to civilization. I think I'm liking this "Sunday In My City" idea, but my little two-horse town (Seriously. Their names are Lexi and Brandy) surely isn't enough fodder for a weekly blog post, so maybe in the future I'll travel to neighboring towns or cities and capture what's going on there!

Next stop was another quaint New England town, Princeton. This is one of my favorite New England towns - it has the prettiest town center, scenic roads, lots of conservation land, places to hike and even a ski resort at Mount Wachusett. Although you're only 40 miles west of Boston, Princeton takes you back in time when you visit.

In the center of town is a wide, grassy common near the junction of several scenic roads. The shot above is from the top of the common near the library and town hall.

This is the town hall....

...and this is the library.

Isn't it gorgeous? There a lot of granite buildings here in New England - nearly every town or village has a church or historic municipal building built with granite from New England. The bell in the clock tower chimes every hour (we learned that about 7 minutes after that photo was taken).

Across the street from the library is a church.

I don't attend church that often, but churches are perhaps my favorite type of building, particularly old ones like this. The combination of architecture and spirituality always warms my heart.

As you cross the common, there's a gazebo - they do use it for band concerts in the summer time. Today, the only visitors were me and Grace.

Beyond the gazebo there's another church. perched on the side of a hill.

I always liked this one, too. It may be small in stature, but the view behind it is very cool.

Today I could just barely make it out with my eyes - you probably can't see it in this photo - but off in the distance is the Boston skyline. On a clear day you can easily make out the Prudential Center and sometimes even see teeny little birds (airplanes) take off and descend towards Logan Airport.

Funny how my daughter and I could be the only two people standing on a town common, looking at a city 40 miles away where one of the most famous marathons, the Boston Marathon, will begin in less than 24 hours.

That's one of the things I love about where I live. Nothing is far away.

What's your Sunday like? Head over to Unknown Mami and join the fun!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Morning Smoothie and a Not So Smooth Afternoon

I inadvertently resurrected my Sunday Morning Smoothie feature....

We had a busy day planned, as we're finishing up cleaning out my late mother-in-law's house, preparing to put it on the market. My job today was going to be to steam clean the living room carpet once they got the last of the junk out to the dumpster. I needed something refreshing to get me going so here's what I threw into a blender:

Chocolate Berry Almond Smoothie
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 cup chocolate flavored soy milk
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
5 or 6 strawberries, fresh or frozen
2 tsp. ground flaxmeal*
1 tbsp. almond butter
1 tsp. honey or sweetener of your choice (optional)

Whizz everything except the honey in your blender - add honey if necessary.

Yum! Usually I toss in a half of a frozen banana, but I was out of stock today. And on the flax, the last bag of flax I bought was Bob's Red Mill Golden Flax, and I love it. It's much "softer" than regular flax, so in smoothies you don't get that gritty texture of milled seeds, it's more velvety. Baked goods I can go either way, but for smoothies the golden flax is my new best smoothie friend!

But not all that starts out smoothly ends smoothly. Plans for steam cleaning were nixed (okay, so that's not a bad thing, really!) and it was decided by the powers that be (my husband and his sister, who is heading back home to Florida tomorrow) that the family was going to take a ride to the happiest place on earth, Kimball Farm. Home of the most awesomest ice cream (sometimes) in the world. German Chocolate Fudge - fabulously chocolate ice cream with ripples of caramel, coconut, pecans and fudge. Heaven in a cone, I tell you!

But what's wrong with that, you ask?


It's our broken thermostat. My husband bought new stereo speakers for himself for Christmas, so he decided to give his old ones to one of his brothers who tinkers with stuff like that. As he carried one through the hallway - WHACK! Blood flowed (only a teeny bit), the plastic housing for the thermostat hung precariously from its perch on the wall and the furnace in the basement roared to life...and started to heat the house to a balmy 85 degrees.

There goes my trip to Kimball's! Maybe....

So as we waited for the service guy to arrive, I went and grabbed an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts and as I drove home I got happy. It's pretty breezy and cool out today, but it feels like spring. Out of nowhere bursts of yellow have appeared, forsythias in bloom.

Ah, the hazy filtering of my filthy windshield.

"You see, officer, I have a blog and wanted to share images of spring with my readers..."

I arrived home to see a loyal pal waiting on the other side of the gate.

I love when Merlin does this, bow down in his "Wanna play?!" stance! He's growling like a polar bear here, a happy playful polar bear.

Since my trip to ice cream heaven may (or may not, depending on how fast Mr Furnace Fixer can get here) be canceled postponed, I took a few minutes to check out some of the sites of spring in my own yard.

The Bradford Pear near our driveway is just about ready to bloom.

Below, our Grape Hyacinths (which I planted here 12 years ago and forgot about...) are about one-third in bloom...

I love the color of these!

The blinding white of our Star Magnolia Shrub contrasts it nicely, don't you think?

(GRRRR! Hey! Who left the camera on "M" for Manual setting????)

Yeah, we'll try that one again later, but not too much later. This beauty doesn't stay in bloom too long.

And in the shade closer to the house, our rhododenrons will soon be in bloom......

We'll revisit this one in a couple weeks!

We've been so busy at my mother-in-laws house that we have not lifted a rake in our own yard, but this little cluster of Forget-Me-Nots doesn't care....

I can't wait to see these in bloom - one of my all-time favorite flowers!

Last Halloween, I dropped one of my decorations, shattering his wing....

As I was holding him over the trash can, I heard the painful cry of a four year old:

"You broke our flying monkey!!! Waaaaaaaah!"

Guiltily, I plopped him on the retaining wall. He will remain there as long as he wants to, watching over the entrance to our home.

And thankfully, protecting Mr Furnace Fixer as he pulls into the driveway...

But is he in time?

The suspense (and lack of ice cream) is killing me!


So worth the wait!!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring Colors

Why is it that I seem to want to take on huge decorating projects the day before a major holiday?

Our house was new - and unfinished - when we bought it, and the first thing that began to get on our nerves as we descended into the realm of home ownership was the fact that every wall, every piece of woodwork, was white. What started out as a bright, clean, crisp look quickly turned into a boring, cold canvas for specks of dirt and fingerprints to appear on. So before long, we had painted every room a different color...and repainted a few. I thought I was happy with the warm, earthy tones we had finally settled upon....golden antique yellow, and array of taupes, deep barn red, a little cool spring green and pale creamy yellow. But suddenly, spring and Easter are in the air and I found myself craving more pastel in my life. So I grabbed a can of base white latex and went about trying to decide what color I should paint the downstairs bathroom...on the eve of Easter.

What most people don't realize is that you can save yourself A LOT of money by blending your own paint. We always have basic white on hand for various touch up work, and I've successfully produced perfect matches to colors we previously had custom-blended at the paint store. So easy, and kind of fun, too!

Yesterday, though, I was working with a plain canvas, so to speak, and divvied up five bowls of white paint, tinted each one a different pastel shade and brushed a little of each on the wall to see if I could decide which one I would go with.
The dyes I used are non-toxic, made from all natural sources (green from kale extract, pink from beets, yellow from turmeric and ground mustard seeds...). This particular paint is not only biodegradable, environment-friendly and made from sustainable products, it's even edible!

In fact, you could pour it into paper liners, bake it at 350 for about 25 minutes and eat it....'s actually cupcake batter!

(April Fool's!)

No, I don't really think I fooled's just MBG (Me Being Goofy). Too much sugar in the house does that to me!

Anyway, we're having a pretty low-key Easter so we opted for cupcakes. Allrecipes' Rainbow Clown Cake (affectionately known as Clown Vomit Cake) recipe, to be exact!

The recipe is for 2 8" layers, but I got 18 cupcakes out of it. For cupcakes, you place about a teaspoon or two of each color in the paper liners.

You can swirl with a toothpick, or leave as is for a "rainbow" layered look. I did swirl a little.

Now for the fun part!

Traditionally, we use two designs for Easter - Bunny Cupcakes and Easter Basket Cupcakes. Neither are my idea, and both are easy enough for a four year old to assemble.

Make your cupcakes, frost and dip in some shredded coconut, if you want that fluffy bunny look. Then, ask a grown up (or me) to help with the ears.

Take a large marshmallow and cut it in half lengthwise/diagonally with a pair of scissors.

Then dip the sticky inside of the marshmallow halves ...

into colored sugar crystals...

and voila'! Bunny ears! Actually, cat ears, but you can squeeze the marshmallows to make them look longer, thinner like bunny ears.

I spread a little frosting on the bottoms to help adhere to the cupcakes better - stick two on each cupcake like so....

Then make the faces....there are lots of choices. Jellybeans or M&Ms for the eyes, string licorice or icing for the whiskers. We were limited so I used jellybeans for eyes, two mini-marshmallows for the bunny "face" or cheeks, I guess, and icing for the whiskers and mouth.

Cute and fun!

Here's what the cupcake looks like on the inside...

I thought they came out very pretty! And they are pretty tasty, too.

(Ahem....You in the upper left corner! STEP AWAY FROM THE CUPCAKES!)


The other design is oh-so-simple....Easter baskets!

Frost the cupcakes, then dip in coconut tinted with food coloring, a few jelly beans and a stick of licorice. I found brown Hershey's chocolate licorice this year...

Another easy and pretty Easter treat!

Enjoy your Easter, everyone! :)

P.S. ....I really DO feel like painting now!

Saturday, April 3, 2010


We used to always see this commercial on television when we were younger. The theme song has been going through my head all day...

See, here in New England, we pretty much only see white eggs around Easter time. The rest of the year you tend to avoid them because, well, they must be sub-standard, rejects, overstock from some far away place because...

Brown Eggs Are Local Eggs, And Local-Eggs-Are-Fresh!!

Yes, I have no idea if it's true or not, but I always lean towards the brown eggs because brown-eggs-are-local-eggs-and-local-eggs-are-fresh. It's been drilled into my head since infancy.

Now THESE! ...I have no idea where these came from....

I'm going to guess this one is from the midwest, where amber waves of grain blow in the breeze...

This one? Hawaii...

This has got to from the Amazon, so I'll say Brazil....

Who Dat?! Hello, New Orleans....

Ah, some place in the Caribbean, maybe Aruba ...

This one? It reminds me of the ocean, so I'm going to say somewhere off the coast of Maine...or maybe the Azores...

This one reminds me of Arizona for some reason...must be the turquoise in it!

THIS is my favorite one....

All the way from Romania, where one of the Weasley brothers is working with dragons....

It looks like a dragon egg, doesn't it?

Just for the record, we did nothing special to achieve this special effect...we just plopped this one in the blue dye and, um, forgot about it...for about an hour.

I'm doing that again NEXT year!

Happy Easter, everyone!