Wednesday, January 30, 2013

breakfast parfaits - two ways

French Oscar Party Planning Committee

French Oscar Party

I've been trying to put something together for this year's Oscar Party.  I decided on a French theme (Les Miserables) and I've been trying to see if I could make French Macarons (see my instagram for my test runs).  I was going to go straight French with French flags and so forth like this

I already ordered the flags and the poofy white garland.  But then I saw this dress from Modcloth and it reminded me of all the pretty macaron photos I've been looking at lately and I knew that I wanted to go more mint and gold, than red, white, and blue, a more Marie Antoinette version of France.  I'm still working on my invitations but I put a couple ideas in my mood board.

I'm obviously set on desserts and have found some side items I'm interested in cooking but I'm still stuck on a main course.  Part of the problem is I'm such a picky eater, I don't like mushrooms or beans (or most vegetables, who am I kidding), and I'm trying to not cook anything in wine because we don't drink alcohol, obviously I'm not cooking rabbit or duck, I'm trying to avoid fish because it might stink up the house, and I'm quickly running out of French entrees.  If any of my wonderful readers can think of a French entree for me to make please let me know in the comments.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gear video's

I  have made several video's reviewing the gear we will be bringing on our thru hike and the rational for each item. I hope you find some of this interesting and or helpful.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bona Food Mag Summer '13


New Purse!

I've been carrying the same Sac brand bag for years. I think I had it when I got married, over 7 years ago!  In the past couple years I've been really making an effort to find a new purse.  The problem was a) I have expensive taste despite walking around with a fraying purse, and b) I really like the dimensions of my purse, not too big and not too small.  I get loopy looking at racks and racks of purses at TJ Maxx.  I never find anything.  I'm always looking for a bargain and then I tell myself I'll just hold out for a really nice purse (why not, obviously I keep a purse forever anyway).

From time to time I get these emails about some big ebay sale on purses, close to Christmas they had a Kate Spade store and the prices were lower than I could find anywhere else but I kept stalling and missed out.  Then a couple days ago they were having a Coach sale.  I ignored it and then checked it out the other night.  I feel in love with the Brooke bag.

I think it was the lining that really did me in.  Turquoise!

I'm so excited to get this purse I can't even tell you.  I took photos of my bag but it actually photographs quite well.  Look for the fraying on the straps, it's pretty sad.

So. excited.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

House Tour Series: Living Room

I've been meaning to do this for a while and before we put up Christmas decorations I took a bunch of photos of the living room to start off the house tour.

We moved into the blue house in October of 2011 but we have owned this house for much longer than that, 2007?  We bought the blue and the yellow house to renovate and resell and we were early sufferers of the housing debacle licking our wounds while everyone else was in free fall.  We had to sell our "big house" because it had equity and move into these houses.  Originally we lived in the yellow house but when Brian's parents moved down for health reasons they moved into the yellow house and I mini-renovated the blue house (again!) and we moved over here.  The main thing we did to the house was remove the wall that separated the kitchen and dining room to have a very large open floor plan.  I also painted every room and scrubbed the rental nightmare out of the place.  If you are ever going to rent a place and the folks are overly telling you how clean they are, they are not clean.  I think clean people never say they are clean, I suspect, or there's some other generalization to be made here.  Lets just say people f-ed up this house, big time.

My pallet became more subdued, I think.  I'm really becoming a huge fan of just painting a room a light slightly warmish gray and letting everything else speak for itself.  I painted 3 rooms in this house gray, that's huge for me.  The living room is the first of the gray rooms.

This room has 4 windows and when the curtains are down it's like being in a fishbowl.  We're steps from a well used sidewalk and the house next door is probably 5 feet away.  In a perfect world I'd love to get plantation shutters or semi-sheer roman curtains and leave the curtains open but curtain will eat a house budget and I had to get all new curtains for this house (except our bedroom and the bathroom).  These curtains are discontinued from Ikea and I actually bought mine on ebay.  I'd love to get 4 more but I don't see them on ebay anymore.

My sofa is from potterybarn.  This is my second slipcover that I truly lucked out on finding on ebay.  A new slipcover is practically the cost of a new sofa (I really don't understand this).  My 2-3 year old slipcover was fine except it shrunk.  I am very careful to wash it in cold water and dry with as low a temperature as possible and remove before it's completely dry but by accident one of these things fell through and it shrunk.  This one shrunk a tiny bit and I've been perfect about washing and drying it, it's just impossible.  I wish they made them super loose, I actually like the look and they can be as floppy as they want to be and I don't have to struggle trying to get it on the sofa.  It's white too and it gets dirty.  It's bound to get a small stain within 24 hours of washing it and then it does okay for the next month or six weeks and then I'll wash it again.  The tops of the arms slowly get a little dirty.  I think it's because I live with a boy.  I was going to buy a gray slipcover but a white one popped up on ebay for a ridiculously affordable price and I like the way the white looks anyway.

I got the little slipper chair from  I had mad coupons and bought it.  The white is a different white than the curtains which is unfortunate and bugs me to no end.  I might slipcover it myself one day.  It also gets stains but I recently kind of spot cleaned it and it looks pretty good.

In the window is a cat perch one of the best things in our house.  I know it's ugly but the cats love it!  There's one in the front bedroom too.  There's usually a cat in both spots looking out watching people and feral cats.  The coffee table was a lucky find at a local consignment store.  I had to replace a large round coffee table from the big house because it was too large for our new living room (the yellow house is an almost perfect mirror image of this house).  Brian took me to this store and I was certain it would be a waste of time and we found this table, it was blue at the time and perfect.  When I got the tv dresser it was aqua and the blue clashed with it so I painted the table white and distressed it a little.  I wish I could remember what paint I used because nothing bothers it.  I don't even use coasters half the time and it does great.

The rug is a hand me down from my mom.

The other side of the room has our television.  Brian found this dresser on craigslist and knew I would love it.  I never look on craigslist because I never think I'm going to find anything but this was perfect. I modified it so the top drawer on the left side tilts down and all our tv components are in there. 

The television is large.  We had a 52" television that my husband really wanted for movies and it was great.  Our house was broken into last year and they stole and subsequently dropped and broke the television.  Brian replaced it with a 46" the size I originally was going for.  It's still pretty big but movies are awesome this way.

I bought the chair from my mom after coveting it for years.  Every time I wash that slipcover it has another rip that I have to mend.  I think I got a pretty crappy deal but I love it anyway.  I made the pillow cushion.  Go me.

I've had this side table forever.  I bought it when I was still in my twenties!  I got the lamp from Home Goods, the floor lamp on the other side is from Home Goods too.  I painted this one aqua and replaced the shade with a shade from Pottery Barn.  About a year ago I hot glued an aqua grosgrain ribbon around the top and bottom of the shade, it's hard to see in this photo.  It gives it great dimension.  The cube in front is from Ballard Designs.  Once a year they have a pretty great upholstery sale and I picked out this one.  I was hoping it would be a foot rest but it's actually taller than the sofa seat.  But it's great for parties and when folks are over.

Also from Home Goods this floor lamp was a must purchase.  Brian was not happy because I really didn't need this lamp (I have an extra floor lamp currently in our bedroom).  I used a gift card to buy the Anthropologie lamp shade.  I wish I had turned that seam around.  Also this lamp shade looks better when the light is off, that's unfortunate but it has peacocks on it and is awesome.

The art is from Rebekka Seale, whom I adore. I have another print of hers in the bathroom.

I'm a big fan of quirky and love anything woodland related so when I saw these owl light switch plates I had to have them, I have one in the hallway too.  The plate was from a local favorite store of mine that carries vintage things.  I added the black ribbon.  There's a lot of light things in this room (besides the tv) and it needs some black to balance it.  Little pops here and there really help that.

Full length shot.  I bought the ceiling fixture from for the original remodel.  It ended up being bigger than I thought it would.  I'd like to move this one to the kitchen and replace this with some sort of pretty fixture.  We only use the overhead light for emergencies: bugs, drink spills, lost keys, so it doesn't have to be very traditional like this one.

Also notice how high my curtains are.  I like to hang curtains as high as possible, I think it elongates the room.  The downsize is you have to order longer curtains, which is an added expense but worth it I think.  If you are curious the front door would be just right of the slipper chair.  If I could add anything to this room I'd want to fix the curtain issue, hopefully with roman shades and always open curtains.  But with 4 windows that's a big expense, so we'll see, maybe one day.

Well, that's the first room down, more to come.

PS - the paint color is Benjamin Moore Moonshine.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Trail Names

For those of you who don't know, trail names are a tradition on the Appalachian Trail and many long distance hiking trails. You can choose your trail name or even better It can be given to you on the trail. The risk of getting a trail name given to you is that it could be for something embarrassing like "Snot Rocket" or 'Monkey Butt".

 Initially I was hesitant about them. In the 5 years we have been hiking the Appalachian Trail, I have changed my thinking. Hiking the trail and the trail community is very special and is something worthy of going outside my comfort zone to participate in.

Sassafras  got her trail name last year when we were hiking the first half of the A.T. in Georgia. One of the First big climbs is Sassafras Mountain. All of the new thru hikers we were with were talking about how hard they heard the climb was.  All morning she was asking when we were going to get to Sassafras Mountain and how "Sassy" was it going to be.  In the afternoon we were taking a water break and one of the Thru hikers we had been hiking with, Rainbow Dash walked up. Sassafras asked her is she knew when we were going get to climb Sassafras Mountain. Rainbow Dash informed her she had hiked over it an hour ago. Having started hiking at such a young age on the A.T. in Maine and New Hampshire, she had a different idea of what a "tough climb" was. It also happened that Rainbow Dash knew a lot about the flora of the area and told us we were sitting right next to a sassafras bush. She went on to tell us all about the plant, the three types of leaves and the uses for the different parts of the plant. As she walked away she said "Well I guess you have a trail name now "Sassafras". and that how she got her name.

I guess I got my trail name the first year we started hiking the A.T. when she was 8 years old. Sassafras always wants to be in front and I am always pulling up the rear. A few of the hikers we met said I looked like the Caboose. Sassafras has always like to read the shelter registers and write about her hikes. The first time she wrote my trail name she spelled it "Kaboose" and that the way its been spelled ever since. Until this year when I was asked what my trail name was, I would say I did not have one. As I realized all the wonderful things that the trail has to give, I opened up a little and now can say I am very proud to be the Kaboose on the Sassafras Express.

New Gear page and radio review

I added a new page with our gear list with weights.

I also finally found a pocket radio that I like. I wanted to have a very small/light AM/FM radio to listen to at night on the trail. Last year I used a small MP3 player that had an FM radio. I  guess I am old fashioned and like a radio and not MP3 music. I also wanted it to use one AAA battery and not have to have a USB charger.

The radio I found was a Sony SRF-S84 FM/AM Super Compact Radio Walkman with MDR Ear Buds for $39 fro Amazon. It has a very sensitive analog tuner and gets great reception even out here in the country in Maine. The battery last a very long time. It weighs under 2 oz with one AAA battery.

I could not be happier.

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Conference Room

From time to time my husband will agree to some sort of barter for payment for legal services. Can I just say this almost never works out. The only time I can really think of it working was when we moved from the yellow house to the blue house.

Anyway we have drop ceiling at the office and my husband is not a fan. He's slowly been trying to replace the drop ceiling with a regular ceiling. So far only 2 rooms have been done. He's bartering with a client to do a third room, the conference room.

The first thing that happened was the conference table broke. The conference table was the old dining room table in the old house. When we downsized one of the table sets had to go and shabby chic won out. But we were lucky that we could use the dining room set at the office. It was a little big for a narrow conference room but hey we've made it work for quite a few years now. We've always wanted to replace the conference room furniture but there's a lot of things we want to do. There's always something to do. When the client came in and it was time for destruction Brian helped him move the table and expressed how it was an old piece of furniture and needed to be moved a certain way. Later the client moved the table himself and oops, it broke. So we are now buying a conference table and chairs a little earlier than we wanted.

I searched high and low for sharp, modern conference tables and found a few choices I liked but I could not seem to get the price less than $175 a chair. At the office store where we bought the conference table they had used blue chairs for $39 a piece. I wavered back and forth but in the end I went with the $40 chairs. All 4 of them ended up being less than 1 of the chairs that I wanted.

I also want to get a rug but that may be on the back burner for a little while as well. Here is the mock up I made on Polyvore for how the conference room should look. I'm also going to repaint the room. I've painted quite a few rooms in Brian's office and every single color does something weird in there, maybe it's the fluorescent lighting or the fact that there's very little natural lighting to begin with. I'm keeping it simple and going with a delicate light gray. Can't wait to see what oddity comes out of my simple choice. That gray went totally baby blue! It's brown! It looks like worm poop! Okay, enough of that.

The only thing different in this mockup is we got the table in black. I'm amazed I can't find this table in black anywhere on the internet. We are also replacing the florescent lighting with a regular light fixture and I decided after much browsing to go with a fixture that looks a little industrial. I wish I could get a bigger one to make more of an impact but we'll see how this one goes.

New Conference Room

Monday, January 14, 2013

Phil Stefani 437 Rush Under Christian Fantoni

Almost a decade ago, Christian Fantoni ran the kitchen at Fiamma, a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant in New York City with a big following.  A few years later, he was making wedge salads and chicken parm at a Portillo’s branch in Aurora.  It’s been a strange career, but with knowledge of his early accolades I was intrigued when I learned that he’d taken over the kitchen at Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush, normally the kind of business lunch, try-to-please-everyone place I avoid.  In 3 meals during the early part of 2013, I saw a tiny glimpse of what might have been the Fiamma Fantoni, but for the most part I still see the same Phil Stefani 437 Rush that’s always been there, with perhaps even a slight decline in basic execution.
A delicate bibb lettuce pesto was crisp and bright without overpowering the meticulously-prepared clams and tender cuttlefish that were the stars of the dish.  These ingredients sauced  flavorful potato gnocchi that, while not as light and dreamy as those at places such as a Tavola and Spiaggia, were well-crafted  - not the gummy, leaden balls found at most restaurants.  Textures and flavors worked in harmony here, and I started to see why a NYC Michelin reviewer or James Beard House representative might have taken notice.

Then I tried the butternut squash soup and imagined a multi-gallon vat of premade glop adorning a Portillo’s quick-service counter.  It was thick like spackle and utterly devoid of flavor, but for some crumbled cookies used as garnish.  It was a vile bowl of food. 
Two more pasta dishes failed to invoke any of the joy I felt with the gnocchi.  Orecchiette with rapini and sausage were cooked pleasantly al dente, but the advertised broccoli puree was either non-existent or flavorless.  Neither the rapini nor the sausage had much flavor either.  It was the kind of bland, inoffensive dish you’d expect to find at a place like this.  Nothing more.  Worse yet were ravioli, advertised as being stuffed with ricotta and herbs, then sauced with some kind of lettuce pesto.  The filling was indeed green as if herbs had been used, but I tried really hard and failed to taste anything beyond plain ricotta.  The pesto was a vile, separated mess of flavorless green oil in a massive pool, and flavorless clumps of dry greenery with sliced almonds that hadn’t been pulverized at all.

Fantoni hasn’t been at the helm here for too long, so there may be some hope that he will influence the menu and execution in a positive way.  My confidence about that isn’t high though, and after the dreadful soup and ravioli it’ll be a while before I try again.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Many surprises today

There were many surprised today.

1. The 2013 AWOL A.T. Guide arrived in the mail box. We received two copies, one to use for the trip and one for my wife to have to keep track of our location and support us as needed. I recommend the A.T. Guide very much, they are well written with the most detailed info of any A.T. guide and elevation profiles. The 2013 guide is even better than the 2011 guide we were using the last two year.

2. My wife finished up two hats for our hike. The are really nice - THANKS JOYCE!

3. Today was a big day, I spent the day retraining as a staff nurse on the unit were I am the Nurse Manager . It was my fist time in many years where I was able to just be a nurse. The staff I work with were great and helped me a lot.  The last time I regularly worked on the floor the medications were stored in a rolling med cart and the patients meds were written out by hand by the nurses on paper med administration forms. Today the meds are in a computerized machine and all the documentation is on the computer. Thank goodness that actual patient care is the same. I will be stepping down from my managers position in 8 weeks when we leave for our adventure and when we get back will be working a a perdiem nurse at the hospital I have worked for for 14 year. I am very grateful that the hospital's nursing administrators have let me stay on as a staff nurse.

Every step of the way on this journey has been enlightening. I was surprised when I was told by many people that once I made the decision to quit a good job, take my daughter out of school and go on this adventure that every day I would be more and more certain that it was the right choice. This has been the case. Today I realized how much I missed actually  nursing, working with the patient and not worried about the politics, problems and headaches that my current job entails. I am proud to be a nurse and will be  very much looking forward to returning and getting to be able to do the work I started out loving almost 30 years ago.

Feeling Sad

I'm really doing a terrible job with this blog.  I keep thinking it will get better but mostly I kind of like being away from it.  I've been pretty active with twitter, instagram, and pinterest and I enjoy those things but to come here with something valuable to say seems off right now.  I'm sure it will pass.

Our cat Aidan has been sick forever and by forever I mean years now.  We'd bring him to the vet and they'd give us stuff pretty much saying it wouldn't really work and more and more things worked less and less until he was just sick all the time.  All the kitties in the house got sick, Grayson getting the brunt of it, and one by one they got better except Aidan who now was twice as bad as before.  I remember seeing him during our Christmas party wondering around dazed among like 30 people, cats don't really do that, and he'd circle around and look very confused.  It was so weird.

Days past after that and we talked about bringing him to the vet, it's a difficult decision and I'm still racked with guilt.  The vet told Brian they could pull all his teeth and see how that goes, thinking the root of his problem might be his teeth.  But we were past might, past spending too much money on maybes, making the poor cat suffer while we wait some more.  Trust me I feel so bad, so guilty and so awful.  Brian said after the vet he went to his office to cry for about a half hour.  Then he came home to me.  It's really just completely horrible.  But it is what it is.

It's taken me some time but I finally finished a video slideshow sort of thing about Aidan.  It's long, I tried keeping it interesting.  Aidan was a great cat and we'll really miss him.  I really miss the Aidan of a couple years ago who would cuddle with me and sleep with me and play with the other cats and toys.  It seems too long that Aidan would just rest, isolated, looking very sad.  I have issues with the god thing but I hope there's a kitty cat heaven and I hope he's with Bella.  I don't think he was ever the same after Bella died.

I hope things get back to normal soon.  But until then feel free to look me up on twitter and pinterest.