Monday, January 31, 2011

So Unique

Over the weekend, at the urging of a friend, I sat down to play the piano for the first time in a while.  Everything came back to me pretty quickly though and I remembered how relaxing it is to play.  I'll have to try scheduling in a session every week to keep it up now.
Also, check out this incredible crocheted piano.  The details, especially on the legs is incredible, and I love the mix of circular patterns along the top!

(Photo from here)

Friday, January 28, 2011


J and his buddies are participating in the Warrior Dash this weekend, a race/obstacle course which ends with a crawl through a muddy pit.
I'm going to be there along with a couple of the guys' significant others to cheer them on.  It should be a wacky weekend filled with carbo loading, rowdy car rides, and fun with friends.  My goal?  Not to get a muddy hug after the race....

(Photo from here)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vanilla Ice Cream Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate Sauce

Um, yum.  Definitely going to have to try this...

(Dessert originally from 21 Club in NYC.  Photo from Refinery 29)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Delicate Rings

I'm usually a big fan of thick chunky bands that make a statement on my fingers, but for some reason lately I've developed a fixation on thin, delicate rings.  Whether they are stackable or single, I just keep wanting them...
This one is the only one not found on etsy.  I love the simple hexagon.  I suppose loving geometrical shapes is slightly nerdy of me, but oh well.

These are two stacking versions I like.  They are both simple, the first being slightly more so.  Not sure if I'd go with a single "r" on the initial rings, or with a triple initial monogram feel.

This option with simple gold beads is also stackable, though it is sold alone.  In fact, the product page shows it stacked with it's silver twin and they look quite lovely together.
This ring is the most statement making (and expensive) of the bunch, but I can't tear my eyes away from it.  The combination of the thin rose gold band with the lightly blue color of the aquamarine is simply gorgeous...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

See Behind the Scenes at KSC

This incredible video shows a time lapse of the space shuttle Discovery (my baby!) as it is weighed in the Orbiter Processing Facility and then lowered onto the orbiter transporter for it's move over to the Vehicle Assembly Building.  Once in the VAB, the video shows the rarely seen lift of the orbiter onto the shuttle stack, followed by roll out to the launch pad and finally Launch!  It's a truly incredible visual of a month's worth of work (the cool stuff) crammed into 4 minutes.  Be aware that there is no sound until the last few seconds.  Enjoy!!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Local Bridge Accident

Last Friday there was a huge fuel tanker explosion on a highway bridge a little over a mile from my house.  The fire lasted for 2 hours and damaged a good portion of the bridge.  Two people, the drivers of the tanker and a pick up truck that crashed into it died in the explosion.  The whole thing was horrific and hit way too close to home, especially since I was at that intersection a mere 10 minutes earlier.
Today some of the further effects of the accident made themselves known.  The bridge is completely closed down, including the underpass which is the primary road in Merritt Island that leads to Kennedy Space center.  All traffic is being diverted and my drive into work for the next 30 or so days will be taking 45 minutes instead of the 30 it usually does.  It must be especially difficult for the people that live on the other side of the intersection as they have been cut off from the retail area of the island.   Their drive just to get groceries will take an extra 15 minutes as well.  Here's hoping that everything resolves quickly...

(Photo courtesy of Terri Swanson)

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I'd been eyeing this menorah from Jonathan Adler for a couple of years now. It's from my absolute favorite line of his pottery collections called Utopia in which he creates mugs and vases and bowls with two very expressive and detailed faces on either side. I could never manage to spring for it, though, due to the price. Lucky for me it went on mega sale last week and I immediately snatched it up. I just got it yesterday and it is everything I hoped it would be! This menorah is now going to be a year round decoration in my home!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wonderful Weekend

I was in South Florida this past weekend visiting my family.  My parents were in town with a bunch of their friends so I stayed at my cousin's house.  I got to spend some wonderful time hanging out, eating good food, and watching movies with my cousin.  I also got to chill at the beach with my parents and cook up some rice pilaf and green beans to go with the fish my dad and his friends caught on a charter boat that day.  Yum!
 And the cherry on top was I got to play with my cousin's two adorable little girls.  We made a fantastically girly fort in one of the bedrooms complete with care bears and strawberry shortcake sheets.  The finishing touch was a pile of pillows underneath and a girls only tea party :0)

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Last Three Shuttle Launches Ever

NASA review boards yesterday approved new launch dates for what will be the last 3 flights of the space shuttle ever, so if you've never seen a shuttle launch and want to, these are the times to try to be here as of now*:
STS-133 Discovery - Thursday, February 24
STS-134 Endeavor - Tuesday, April 19
STS-135 Atlantis - Tuesday, June 28 **

* As always, delays due to weather and damages are possible and so these dates are never set in stone
** Atlantis's final mission is currently just scheduled as the launch on need rescue mission in the event there is a catastrophic damage to Endeavor during STS-134, however there is paper currently undergoing approval in congress to change this to an actual mission.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hair Funk

Lately I've been feeling like I'm in a hair funk.  I'm not really sure what I want to do with it.  Sometimes I love it long and other times I'm ready to chop it all off.  This is approximately what I currently have:
Which, if I motivated myself, I could in theory use to create amazing hairstyles like this:
And if I really decided I needed a change, I could just keep it long and go blonde:
I love the idea of being able to style my hair so diversely, but the fact is, I usually just throw it back in a pony tail or up in a bun as I run out the door.  So the other option is to chop it all off again.  It's been a while since I've had my hair short and I love the shock effect of such a major change.  I find short hair to be flattering on me, and it won't get in the way as much as my long hair does, but it does also limit my styling options...
What do you think I should do???

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Feel Like a Kid Again

I don't usually have time to fully immerse myself in my art habit during the work week.  So when I'm feeling the need to do something semi-creative my latest past time has been coloring books :0)  I get sick pretty quickly of the drugstore and target versions since most of the pages have the same subject matter, but I just recently found this one online and I can't wait for it to arrive!
The pictures inside have the same styling styling as the front cover, but they are all of different things like a woman with a parasol at the fair and cubist looking koala bears.  Stunning!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pale Blue Dot

Due to my fascination with space, I have been drawn to the writings of Carl Sagan.  Most of you have heard of him (he wrote the book Contact that the 1997 movie was based off of), but I don't know how many of you have actually read his works.  The following is by far my favorite excerpt from his novel "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space" and is based on a picture taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 from a distance of nearly 4 billion miles away.  By the request of Carl Sagan, after the Voyager had finished it's mission, NASA turned the craft around to take one last picture of the earth.  The "sunbeam" that earth appears in is actually an artifact of light scattering in the camera lens.

"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Art Attack

When it comes to decorating my home, I'm a huge proponent of using family photos and original artwork.  As an artist myself, this is somewhat easy for me as I had a portfolio of works from over the years to choose from.  For those of you who are less artistically inclined, I have compiled a couple of my recommendations for sites to try. 
Of course there is etsy, but you have to have an idea of what you're looking for otherwise you can get stuck in that site forever.  There are a number of different artistic methods that have caught my attention as of late and one of them, which can be found on etsy, is papercut designs.  They are incredibly detailed pictures that are cut out of a single piece of paper.  The artist who created the papercut to the left creates designs around kitschy quotes and the another fantastic one I found creates papercut maps of large cities like Rome and London.

Another art form I have recently discovered involves the addition of a waxy film to a mixed media work.  One of my favorites artists who use this approach is Rachel Austin.  Her original map paintings are absolutely gorgeous, although a tad pricey.  However, I personally think that art is a fantastic way to splurge on something that has longevity.

Amy Ruppel also works in wax mediums to creates beautiful nature inspired abstract works of hazy paints over wood.

In the event you can't afford/don't want to pay for the original works, many of these artists also offer prints of their originals at a fraction of the price.  Though I personally prefer to invest in the real thing, the prints are an excellent option for those of you who love the look but don't want to shell out the money.

A fantastic mixed media artist I have discovered is Gillian Bates.  She uses freehand machine embroidery along with a mix of reclaimed and new fabrics to create landscapes on canvas and the detail work is truly amazing.

A final source for unique works of art, sometimes of a limited edition original variety, but more commonly for limited edition prints is Tiny Showcase.  They collaborate with independent artists to showcase editions of their work with a portion of the proceeds going towards a charity of the artist's choice.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Some Go-To Recipe Ideas

So I tried to think about how to address the fourth general resolution I listed previously: cleaning.  And I have to admit this is not my or J's forte.  I usually go on cleaning binges now and then, but I'm hardly one to be offering advice.  So instead I've decided to expand upon yesterday's post and provide some meal ideas and recipes to kick-start your health eating resolutions.  
  1. Tacos.  I know this doesn't sound nutritious at first, but hear me out.  We use ground chicken breast or low fat ground beef with low sodium taco seasoning.  The meat is low fat and the seasoning is pretty much just standard spices so no major offenders there.  Then we use corn tortillas, which have no processed ingredients.  We top our tacos with a small amount of monterey jack cheese, fresh salsa, avocados, and fresh chopped cilantro.  This is by far one of our favorite meals.
  2. Stir Fry.  Cook up the veges first.  We usually  use only 3 or 4 to keep is easy.  Onions always and then two or so of the following: carrots, celery, snap peas, mushrooms, turnips, green or red peppers, bok choy, green beans, or spinach.  Use only enough oil to coat the inside of the wok or frying pan and heat the pan on medium high.  Add the hardest veges to the wok first (beans, turnips, or carrots) and then work your way down to the softest vegetables last (spinach and mushrooms) so that everything cooks evenly.  Season with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and a shot of soy sauce.  Cook the meat next.  We use sliced chicken breast, pork chops, steak, and occasionally shrimp for the meat products and season them with just salt and pepper before adding to the pan.  Once again lightly coat the inside of the pan  with oil and cook the meat through (since it's sliced this won't take too long).  Then season with the onion powder, etc.  Serve with a packet of Uncle Ben's 90 second brown rice.
  3. Slow cooker meals.  These are awesomely convenient - mix up the ingredients in the pot the night before and place in the refrigerator over night.  Before you leave for work/class in the morning put the pot in the slow cooker and set on low for 8-10 hours.  When you get home, voila! Dinner is ready!  Our favorites are: Chili - use cooked ground beef or ground chicken breast with a chopped onion, chopped green pepper, 3 cans of beans of your choice (we use usually use some sort of white bean like great northern or canellini and then red kidney beans), one can of diced tomato, 2 Tbs of chili powder, and then some salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Beef Stew - cubed beef, diced potatoes, diced onion, chopped carrot, halved mushrooms (we like the baby bella variety), a can of Campbell's beef consume, a can of diced tomatoes, half a can of V-8 tomato juice, a dash of wine, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and some Mrs Dash Italian seasoning.  Or you could forgo the potatoes and add some cooked barley after the rest of the stew has cooked.  Shredded Beef - season a chuck roast with salt and pepper and place in the slow cooker.  Fill the slow cooker with enough water until it is just below the top surface of the meat.  Cook all day.  In the evening remove the meat from the water and pull away any remaining fat.  Then shred the meat and mix with your favorite barbecue sauce.  Serve with brown rice and a salad or some microwaved frozen veges.  Easy!
 Those are just some of our easy at home recipes.  Here are a few that we've tried and loved from other sources.  One of our go to TV chefs is Alton Brown of Food Network's Good Eats.  Here are a few of our favorite recipes:  macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi, broiled spiced salmon, overnight slow cooker oatmeal, edamame dip, protein bars.  
 We also like Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame: roasted pears with blue cheese, peach and raspberry crisp, pesto which is great with bowtie pasta, defrosted frozen peas, and diced fresh tomato, and Greek salad.  Here are a couple of others from random sources: corn on the cob with an olive oil parmesan topping, baby bran muffins, plum, oat and rosemary crispleek, butternut squash and potato soup.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Guide to Better Eating

J and I consider ourselves foodies more than health nuts (see earlier post about Nutella...), but we are nutritionally conscious and we pay attention to how we fuel our bodies.  We'll cave now and then with an extra pat of butter in our egg white omelets, a scoop or two of ice cream, (me) or a Doritos binge (J), but for the most part we follow these self imposed rules:

  1. Avoid processed foods - this includes fast food, chemical ingredients you can't pronounce, and processed white grains.  We try to stick to somewhat natural forms of food, i.e. fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, fresh fish and meat products, canned beans and tomatoes, whole grains (like 100% whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, barley, and steel cut oats), plain yogurts, cheeses, eggs, organic cow and almond milks, etc.  And when I do cave in on ice creams, I go for Breyers as it only contains real ingredients - not chemical additives.
  2. Cook your own foods as much as possible instead of going out to eat.  We do enjoy going to restaurants, but most, especially the chain ones, want to reel you in with taste and not nutrition.  So we go out in moderation and try to follow the above rule as much as possible when choosing our entrees.  Most of the time we cook our own meals and try to cook enough to also provide us with homemade lunches for the following day at work to avoid buying cafeteria lunches or going out for lunch.  This way we know exactly what is going into our bodies.  Not to mention, it is more cost effective.
  3. Use Sundays to pre-prepare foods for the week.  This ties in a bit to the making leftovers into lunches deal.  We have time on the weekends to cook to our hearts content, but during the week we have work, exercise, errands, band practice, etc so there's not always time to cook our nutritious meals.  If we prepare a couple of items on Sunday (i.e. stir fry, ground chicken breast taco meat, a batch of stew or soup, or a large tray of roasted vegetables) then we have easily accessible healthy foods for the week.  This is also where frozen vegetables and basic salad ingredients are handy as well.
  4. Mid-day hunger strikes should be addressed with healthy snacks.  A few of my favorites are roasted almonds or other nuts, apple slices, 100 calorie popcorn, carrots and hummus, veggies and homemade ranch dip (use a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk dressing powder in a container of low fat or fat-free sour cream),  yogurt, low sugar oatmeal, or a square of dark chocolate.  Have these handy in your purse/briefcase/desk during the day so they're easily accessible.
  5. Avoid sodas, fancy coffee drinks, and store bought juices.  Drink lots of water, teas, and homemade fresh juices.  We have a juicer at home and try to use it almost every night.  The juices are delicious and far more nutritious than the sugary, pasteurized store bought varieties.  Our favorite: carrot, green pepper, parsley, and apple - yum!
  6. Don't obsess about it.  We cave in every couple of weeks on an order of our favorite pizza, but we make sure we add a large spinach salad on the side so we don't overindulge.  When I go home to visit my mom, you can bet that I'll partake of her egg white only chocolate chip cookies, but I've learned to limit myself to 2 or 3 a day (it used to be closer to 10....).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Working It (Out)

On to resolution #2 - getting in shape.  Which isn't really my forte as I greatly dislike exercising.  J and my mom are both pretty into it, so I make them try to motivate me and drag me to the gym.  Once I get into a schedule it becomes easier.  Having easy exercise options at home, even better. 

Before J and I went to Greece two summers ago we embarked on an exercise regime that sincerely whipped me into shape.  I went down a jean size and truly felt that I was "fit".  You've probably heard about it from other people or seen the infomercials, but it's not unjustified hype: P90X.

P90X is a DVD exercise program that involves a small initial investment, doesn't require a monthly fee for a gym membership, and actually delivers results.  It is a 90 day program that comes with 12 DVD's that you mix up and follow according to the provided schedule.  The idea behind the program is called muscle confusion and involves working out multiple muscle groups within one session in such a way that the muscles have time to recuperate during  the following exercise so constant movement can be maintained.  You won't necessarily feel worn out after the workout, but you'll barely be able to move the next day.  It also comes with yoga and cardio DVD's including a kickboxing type workout called Kenpo X that J and I love, as well as a fantastic stretch video that I use frequently even when I'm not using the rest of the program.

The only equipment you'll need at home is a yoga mat (you can get them for $10 at walmart), a pull up bar (we have one installed in an infrequently used doorway), and some free weights or resistance bands depending on your strength level.  I use 5 and 10 lb free weights and resistance bands, J doesn't require the bands and uses some adjustable free weighs that go up to 50 lbs.
So like I said, there is an initial investment from $250-300, but it's like having a personal trainer in your home that actually provides results.  Plus you're not paying a gym membership...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

FEED Foundation

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year!  Mine was fantastic - after the colored foliage display north of us, J and I headed south to visit with my family.  We had a delicious meatloaf dinner at my grandparent's house (it's my grandma's specialty), played family games with my parents, brother, and his girlfriend (yahtzee was the game of choice this year), and then came home to celebrate the New Year with friends.  I apologize for not keeping up on the blog during that time, but I was without computer access for most of it.  One of my new year resolutions is to maintain steady blog posts 5 days a week. 

Speaking of new year's resolutions, I know most people's range all over the place with the typical ones relating to working out, eating healthier, cleaning the house, being more charitable, etc.  I'm going to try to address a few of those this week to give everyone a leg up on the year!  Up first: charity.

I've always been a huge fan of the FEED foundation, whose mission is to supply handmade products made by people in disadvantaged areas with the proceeds supplying food to needy children of the world.  The products they make not only provide anywhere from 2 school meals to a year of nutrients for hungry children in the USA, Rwanda, Guatemala, Kenya, Haiti, etc through the United Nations World Food Program's (WFP) School Feeding operations, but the products themselves are stylish and made with sustainable materials.  I finally went ahead and bought a bag and some bracelets.  Here's a sample of some of their products:
This bag is one of the standard designs and will provide one child in Africa school lunch for an entire year.

These bags supply 1 to 3 children of Guatemala with nutrients for a year.  This product is in association with UNICEF and can be purchased only at Lord & Taylor.
These bracelets are offered through Forever 21 for only $4.80 and each one sold will provide 2 school meals for hungry children.