Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Full House

The past week and a half we had the pleasure of having A.R.'s cousin, her husband, and their three children stay with us during their stay in Connecticut. I hadn't met them before because his cousin had just given birth to her son right before our wedding. They are the cutest family ever. Their three kids (5, 3, and almost 1) are adorable and so well-behaved. It was good to see three little ones running around our house as someday we hope to have three children of our own. It was so quiet after they left yesterday it was actually a little sad.

Having them stay with us also reminded me of our days staying with A.R.'s brother and sister-in-law while our house was under construction...it was nice to come home and chat about our days and catch up on family gossip. On their last day here we went to Lake McDonough for a picnic and afternoon of swimming and dominoes. It was beautiful out all day...not too humid, not too hot. A.R. and I even went swimming in the lake with the kids. It's been a long time since I swam in a lake!

Miss you guys, glad you had a safe trip home!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Garden Fresh & Delicious

We had our first Dixie Squash and some green beans for dinner tonight straight from our garden. I steamed them on the stove top and just put a little I Can't Believe it's Not Better on them. O.M.G. I forgot how good fresh garden vegetables were! The squash was so sweet I probably didn't even need to put any butter on them. I can't wait to pick our first cucumbers later this week. We have 3 that are almost the right size (8" according to the package) and a bunch more smaller ones that I hope to make pickles with.
In the steamer ready to cook!

From the garden to my plate...YUMMY!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cruise Docs are HERE!

Our cruise documents are here! Our cruise documents are here! I'm so excited that our vacation (and our anniversary) are coming up so soon. It always feels more real once the cruise docs arrive like the countdown has officially begun. For those of you who have never cruised before...shortly before your cruise is scheduled to disembark from the port you get a package in the mail with your cruise documents (boarding info, luggage tags, port info & detailed itinerary, etc.) for your trip.

We actually leave for our cruise the weekend before our anniversary and get home on our 1st anniversary. I can't believe that a year has almost gone by since our wedding...time really does fly by when you are having fun. (yes, I'm cheesy) I'm so ready for our vacation now, too.

Typically when our cruise docs arrive we'll wait until we are both home to open them together and get that giddy excitement worked up between us. This time I was out to dinner with a friend and Alexi couldn't resist temptation. I got home to find a large manila envelope on the counter upside down. I flipped it over and saw the return address and immediately knew what it was. I double checked to make sure the envelope was indeed empty. It was! I raced to the stairs to find a very guilt ridden Alexi staring down at me denying he opened them without me. He quickly changed his tune to saying he wanted to surprise me. Then we looked them over. Gosh I love cruising.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Our Wedding Album

I'm so excited we finally received the second draft of our wedding album last week and I just got a chance to look at it this evening. I think it's beautiful, but of course I'm biased on the matter. :)

I have two more possible revisions left and I'm going to use one of them to just switch two pictures on pages 9 and 10 and then I think it's done. We hit the 1 year mark on September 6th and I was hoping to have our album by then. Of course I still haven't even looked into ordering our prints yet...one baby step at a time, right?!

I'm not sure if this link will work, but here it is:


Monday, July 20, 2009

Our New Formal Dining Room Set

I'm so excited we unexpectedly found a beautiful formal dining room set last week. My coworker's mother is selling her beach home and is selling all of her furniture and knick knacks inside of it and thought of A.R. and I. The set is 10-15 years old but has hardly been used (it is covered at all times and in a beach house, so it was only used seasonally) and is in pristine condition. It is a Thomasville set. I'm not 100% thrilled with the chair backs, but figure I can put covers on them or switch them out in a few years. The set (a dresser, china cabinet, buffet, 6 chairs) will come home to our house in October. In the meantime we plan on painting the dining room and installing a chair rail.

This buffet folds out to make a server.

Color ideas for the Dining Room...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Fruits of Our Labor Are Here!

Finally, after all the hard work we've put in A.R. & I are beginning to see the fruits of our labor! Our garden is starting to produce vegetables. We have teeny tiny baby tomatoes, little bitty cucumbers, two dixie squashes growing (so far!), and green beans. I was so excited when I saw the squash as that was what I was hoping for the most. I think I'll have enough cucumbers to do some pickeling as long as we can keep the bunnies away.

Check it out:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Adventures in Gardening- Part 3

Heather, Heather quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Our garden is doing wonderfully now that the sun had come out and I've won the battle of the weeds. We ended up not planting about 4 rows in our garden so I let the weeds/grass stay there to lure the slugs and any other critters into the area away from my vegetable plants. Here are some pictures I took on July 14th of our garden and the first "fruits" (should I say veggies?) of our labor. I have to give all those farmers out there a lot of props. Gardening is a lot harder and a lot more work then I ever dreamed it would be and I barely have anything planted in our plot!
Top L- 2 watermelon plants, bottom left pumpkin, the empty looking row has 3 carrot plants growing, and the tomatoes are on the right.
R-L: Cucumbers (front) & beans, more cucumbers, Butternut Squash, Dixie Squash, tomatoes
The "fruits" of our labor are going to pay off, I think. Here is one of our 3 green beans growing.
Next year we already have plans to add in corn, zucchini, strawberries, and maybe even some peppers although I'm not a huge fan of them. I just hope we get enough cucumbers so I can make some pickles for the winter and enough tomatoes so that I can can some tomato sauce. How awesome would it be to have fresh tomato sauce in the middle of winter? Yum-to-the E!


Friday, July 17, 2009

Some Puppy Love for Your Friday

I haven't posted any pics of the pups lately so I figured in honor of Friday and Lily's great 4-month old checkup this week I'd post a few of her and her brothers. Lily is just shy of 4 months old and now weighs in at 14.04lbs. She is really long and thin and her Cocker hair is starting to grow into the cutest curls on our legs and underbelly. :)

These two are like twins & inseparable. Lily copies Tomas's every move.
Lily's latest sleeping spot after watching her big brother, Sebastian.
Sebastian & Lily starting to bond? I think not. He swatted her soon after this photo.
Tubby and Daddy watching some TV at my Grandma's house in MA

Thursday, July 16, 2009

45 Days

That is all that's left until A.R. and I are sailing the clear blue seas once again to celebrate our first anniversary. We booked this cruise a few months ago when the prices were dirt cheap and still ended up getting a free upgrade to a junior suite last month when the prices fell again. Check out The Cruise Outlet if you are interested in finding a cruise for yourself at a great deal.
Our itinerary

We both LOVE cruising and being out in the open ocean. Prior to boarding the boat we will be spending a day and a half in Puerto Rico to visit A.R.'s family and site seeing on the island most of his family has called home for years. Once we board the boat it is off to the clear blue seas for a week in the Virgin Islands. I'm most looking forward to the tours that involve swimming with sea turtles and riding an ATV. My favorite part of cruising is standing out on our private balcony at night just watching the waves crash against the boat as we slide through the water with the moon bright in the sky and glowing off the water. Not to mention the never ending ocean and sky, food, and ping pong tournaments we established on our honeymoon cruise. We even have a ping pong table now in our basement so I can improve my skills (or lack thereof) and finally beat Alexi one of these days.

I can't beleive our anniversary is coming up so quickly. At this time last year I was a bundle of nerves before my bridal shower (7-19-08) as my Matron of Honor, mother, and sister arrived in town and I was living with my sister-in-law as our house was merely a cement slab with some matchsticks placed on top. For both of us, this trip is almost a little bittersweet. We love taking cruises, but we also really want children and this trip will most likely be our last sans children and our last major vacation (outside of long weekends and get-a-ways by car) for awhile. It's a happy bittersweet, though, and I know we will cherish every moment of our time together as we look forward to what the future brings our little family. I just hope Tomas, Lily, and Sebastian are ready for the challenge!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Riverfest 2009

The City of Hartford hosts a festival every 4th of July to celebrate our Nation's independence. There is an area downtown known as Adriaen's landing with lawn steps and a stage along the Connecticut River. It's really beautiful there. Along the walk-way to the landing various vendors set up booths with fun things for adults and kids to do including face painting, henna, radio contests, newspaper contests, bouncy things for kids, and of course food vendors. For some reason (ah-hem budget cuts) they opted to have the celebration on July 11th, a full week AFTER 4th of July. A.R. and I attended anyway and had a great time visiting the various booths, eating Thai food and funnel cakes, listening to the bands, watching the crowd, and then enjoying the fireworks at the end of the evening.
The bridge over I-91 to Adriaen's Landing
The Mayor of Hartford made a small speech which was surprising considering some recent allegations against him late last year. There were a few "boos" in the audience when he was announced. He was actually invited to our wedding as he's an old family friend of A.R's side of the family, but he didn't come. There was a Navy orchestra that performed and there were 3 Army sky divers that jumped from a plane and landed in the river. They are nuts for swimming in the polluted Connecticut river but hopefully their sky diving suits will prevent them from getting Montezuma's revenge!
The Navy band plays with the CT River in the background
A fetching self portrait listening to the bands (Eek!)
We thought the fireworks might be postponed due to some looming thunderstorms, but the city pushed the fireworks up to 9pm and they finished just as the first rain drops were beginning to fall. It was nice to walk back to our car hip-to-hip under the umbrella we used on our wedding day. Here are some of the fireworks taken with my crappy point and shoot. I need to get a new camera stat.

I am figuring out this green thumb thing

Our vegetable garden is starting to thrive now that the sun has decided to return to the Northeast AND I fought and won the battle of the weeds over the last two weekends. The slugs are staying away now and my only looming threat is the baby bunny who is starting to eat the squash leaves (any suggestions?). I'll take some pictures of the new and improved garden soon. Everything (Cucumbers, Dixie Squash, Butternut Squash, beans, tomatoes, watermelon, and pumpkin) are blooming like crazy but no baby vegetables yet.

My new found green thumb can also be seen by the flowers blooming on our porch. Check-out my very first Gladiolus bloom...gorgeous. I'm so proud of it! A.R. loves it and wants me to plant them all along the lattice work on our porch and ya know? I. Just. Might. I have some bulbs leftover, but I'm not sure if they'd still grow. I think I have to wait until the fall to plant them now.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rainbow Connection

This beautiful rainbow was the view we had from our front porch last week after some passing thunderstorms.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Pain in Tomas's A**

Many of you know that Tomas had quite a week and he certainly gave new meaning to having a pain in the ass. On Wednesday morning he woke up with Lily for her early morning puppy potty run which is basically unheard of. Tomas isn't fond of early mornings (much like his owners!), so he usually sleeps through Lily's first potty break. A.R. noticed he had some diarrhea and was straining a big but didn't think anything of it. Sometimes when Tomas gets too many treats or an extra table scrap he gets an upset belly.
He's too embarrassed to look at the camera.
When Lily asked to go out for the 2nd morning potty run Tomas immediately wanted to come along again. I'm in charge of the second run and right away I could see something was wrong with him. He kept trying to poop, but only a teeny bit came out. I noticed his hiney looked funny, so I took a closer look and it was raw like he had been licking it and swollen. I called the vet and they squeezed him in for a late morning appointment. I decided to work from home to be with him until his appointment, but I had to run into the office to get some paperwork. By the time I had showered and dressed Tomas was lying on the bathroom floor shaking from the pain he was in. I rushed to my office and was halfway there when A.R. called to tell me Tomas was bleeding from his hiney.

I rushed back home and by the time I got there Tomas was dripping blood although he wouldn't let me close enough to see where it was coming from. He had just been groomed on Sunday, so I immediately thought of his anal glands. Once I saw the blood, I said the heck with his appointment time and rushed him to the vet where they saw him right away. The nurse made me feel like an overreacting fur baby mommy upon initially examining him by saying she thought he just had a hot spot that he'd licked raw. Then the vet took him to the back room for a closer examination and came back right away to tell me she suspected a ruptured anal gland and that he would need surgery to drain, clean, and pack the gland. I was speechless.
A very sleepy Tomas when he got home
I signed the release for surgery and then the vet (LOVE her!) let me say goodbye to our Little Bit before he was put under. A long 4 hours later I called and found out he had done well in surgery and was just waking up. We brought him home a few hours later and set him up in our bathroom (so he wouldn't bleed/ooze on the carpet) for the night. He now has one of those totally "hawt" collars so he can't lick the healing wound and is on two pain killers and an antibiotic. We (insert "I" here as A.R. has been a bit squeamish) have to apply hot compresses and hydrogen peroxide twice a day to keep the wound open so it drains and heals from the inside out.

Today, Tomas is doing MUCH better! He has enlisted Lily to chew on his collar to bust him out of it (I swear they are going to gang up on us one day and take over rule of the household...) and is starting to try and play again. Watching him with the collar on is painful and funny. He walks into walls and furniture constantly (I cringe with a 1/2 smile every time- poor guy!) and when he sniffs the ground outside he gets caught as the terrain shifts. We had to switch his original collar out for a larger one because he managed to maneuver and still lick his boo boo. While he was at the vet, she took a look at his wound and said it was healing perfectly.

Thank God my baby boy is feeling better and also I'm completely relieved that just last month A.R. and I got pet insurance through VPI, so his illness and surgery is covered after a small deductible. Pet insurance is by far one of our better investments and I'm so thankful our little guy received the best care possible!


Friday, July 10, 2009

I Want To Be a Pampered Chef

I hosted my very first Pampered Chef party yesterday and now I want to be Pampered 24/7. No, I'm not talking about becoming a sales consultant (at least not now anyway, but it does sound like an intriguing way to be able to stay home with our kids in the future!). I'm talking about wanting one of just about every cool kitchen gadget and beautiful bamboo serving platters from the catalog. My show was only the second Pampered Chef party I've attended and I'm in love. I ordered the food chopper and a cake decorator from the first show I went to and have been hooked since. My wishlist is long, but I'll be able to cut it down quite a bit after receiving the rewards for hosting my own show (yay!).

My party was luau themed and so we made two tropical themed Pampered Chef recipes and both were delicious. I made Pineapple Salsa (so we could demo the pineapple slicer) that got gobbled up before I could even take a picture. The colors of the salsa were beautiful together. The main demo recipe was called Paradise Dessert Pizza and there wasn't a scrap of it leftover. Check out these yummy recipes below:

The Pampered Chef ®Fresh Pineapple Salsa Recipe
2 plum tomatoes
1/2 small red onion
1 4-in. piece seedless cucumber
1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
1 jalapeño pepper (I omitted this because I don't do spicy.)
1 medium pineapple
1 lime
1/2 tsp salt

1. Hull and remove seeds from tomatoes. Dice tomatoes, onion and cucumber. Chop cilantro. Combine tomatoes, onion, cucumber and cilantro in bowl. Cut jalapeño in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Finely chop jalapeño; add to bowl.
2. Dice 1/2 fresh pineapple (at the party my host demonstrated the Pampered Chef pineapple slicer which was so cool!). Juice lime to measure about 2 tbsp juice. Add pineapple, lime juice and salt to batter bowl. Mix thoroughly until combined.

Yield: 16 servings (3 cups)
Nutrients per serving: Light (3 tbsp): Calories 20, Total Fat 0 g, Saturated Fat 0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrate 5 g, Protein 0 g, Sodium 75 mg, Fiber 1 g

Paradise Dessert Pizza

1 package (18 ounces) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 container (8 ounces) vanilla, strawberry or banana low-fat yogurt (I chose vanilla)
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple in juice, well drained (we used 1/2 of fresh pineapple)
1/4 cup flaked coconut (optional)
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup red grapes, cut in half
1 can (11 ounces) mandarin orange segments, well drained
2 tablespoons whole, unblanched almonds, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Form dough into a ball and place in center of Classic Round Stone. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Bake 16-18 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Carefully loosen cookie from Baking Stone; cool completely.
2. Combine yogurt, pineapple and coconut; spread mixture evenly over top of cookie. Slice kiwis and cut grapes in half using Paring Knife. Arrange mandarin oranges, kiwi slices and grapes in a circle over yogurt mixture.
3. Chop almonds with Food Chopper; sprinkle over fruit. Slice and serve.

Yield: 16 servings Nutrients per serving: Calories 160, Total Fat 6 g, Saturated Fat 1.5 g, Cholesterol less than 5 mg, Carbohydrate 26 g, Protein 2 g, Sodium 135 mg, Fiber less than 1 g

Monday, July 06, 2009

CT Wine Trail

A.R. and I both enjoy a nice glass of wine. Early on in our relationship we used to pack a picnic lunch, Tomas (when he was a teeny pup), program the wineries in our GPS, and then tour the Connecticut countryside tasting wines produced in our own state. Our state has something called the Connecticut Wine Trail. Each year there is a contest where you can win a trip to Italy to go wine tasting. The wineries participate on the trail and you are issued a passport that you can get stamped after you visit each winery. After 14 stamps you can submit it into the contest to win the trip.
J, R, me, & A.R. at Hopkins Winery
Completing the wine trail is fun. You learn about wine, different types of grapes and other fruits used to make wines, aging, fermentation, and you get to drive the beautiful Connecticut countryside while tasting what Connecticut has to offer. Many of the wineries have won awards for their wines and sell them at liquor stores throughout Connecticut. For a minimal fee you typically get to taste 6 or more wines and keep the glass you tasted with. There are festivals in the summer where you can enjoy local wines, food, art, and music. In June, A.R. and I went to 4 wineries with two friends of ours and had a fabulous time. One of our favorite wineries is Hopkins. Their wine is delicious and the view from the property is gorgeous.
A.R. & I learning about wine at Haight-Brown Winery
So, if you're ever in Connecticut check out the wine trail. It's too long to do all in one day, but we easily do 4 wineries in an afternoon.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

The aroma of cupcakes baking is wafting through the air as we get ready to go to my sister-in-law's for an evening of family, food, and fireworks. After spending last weekend with my family I'm looking forward to spending this evening with A.R.'s family. As crazy as our families are I'm so glad we have them in our lives. I can't believe this year is half over now...it is flying by! This time last year I was doing frantic last minute wedding preparations, psyching myself up not to be terrified at my bridal shower, and our house was just a cement foundation poured into a mound of mud. Crazy, huh?!

Last night after the thunderstorms passed we did some serious weeding in our vegetable garden. The grass and weeds were starting to take over and it was hard to see our vegetables. This morning we woke up early to beat the heat and the storms and did two more hours of weeding. I was so excited to see the tiniest baby bean staring to grow! Our squash, watermelon, and one surviving pumpkin are growing well with the lack of sun and tons of rain. The tomato plants are catching up and the cucumbers are now blooming. After weeding both days our garden actually looks like a garden again. I think after one more weeding frenzy tomorrow I'll beat the weeds at their own game of course I'm not sure my legs and back will forgive me. I must say that gardening is hard work and I got a good workout the last two days digging all the roots up. Who knew that weeding was really a great workout involving squats and lunges?!

Have a Happy 4th! I'm off to frost some cupcakes for dessert.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Mango Pork Chops

Despite the incessant rain and over 3 weeks without more then a 1/2 day of sunshine, it is summer time and one thing I love in the summer is mangos! Tonight I got the idea to make some pork chops topped with mango salsa; however, I was out of tomatoes and too lazy to go to the grocery store so I tried this recipe instead. It was delicious! The only thing I'd do differently next time is use the lighter raisins instead of brown ones. They did add in some color to the chutney, though. It took me less then a 1/2 hour to prepare and cook the meal. I actually grilled on the counter top using my Cuisinart grill/panini/griddle because yet another thunderstorm was passing through.
Mango Pork Chops (it may not look good, but it was delish!)
Recipe is courtesy of Recipetips.com

- 4 pork chops
- 1 large mango, divided
- 1 small onion (I used a red onion for color)
- 1/2 cup raisins, preferably golden raisins
- 2 cloves garlic, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1/2 cup water
-salt and pepper to taste

*Peel the mango and then slice half and dice the other half. Set the slices aside. Chop onion and garlic.
*Mix diced mango, onion, raisins, ginger, cayenne pepper, garlic, salt, pepper and water in a saucepan. Simmer until onions are soft and mixture is thick, but not dry, about 10 minutes. Add a little more water, if necessary. Set aside (this can be prepared ahead, if desired).
*Preheat the grill. Trim excess fat from the chops. Lightly salt and pepper each side and grill to desired doneness. Briefly grill the mango slices, if desired. (They are good either grilled or not).
*Serve chops with sauce spooned over and around them with slices on top.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Family Ties

I have to admit I was a little hesitant while anticipating my family gathering this past weekend for my Grandmother's burial and memorial service. My hesitation was uncalled for as it turned out to be a pretty great weekend despite the circumstances warranting our meeting. When my parents relocated to the South I was only 10 years old and we have only gathered together, in the same state, once since then...when my great grandmother turned 100 (I was 17) in 1997. On Saturday, I saw some cousins that I hadn't seen in almost 12 years! It's funny when you haven't seen someone in such a long time yet you can pick up right where you left off. I wish my family was closer, especially seeing how close-knit A.R.'s family is. I remember gathering every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter when I was a little girl with everyone and being so excited to see everyone...especially my two older (high school age at the time) cousins.

The burial service was for family members only and was a very intimate and reflective moment for me. I shed a few tears, but I still haven't had the "good cry" I thought I would. My grandmother was laid to rest alongside her husband and infant son who passed away in 1960 and next to my great grandmother's grave (which I don't remember existing!). After the service we went back to my uncle's house for pizza and while the boys talked smack and played around with my younger cousin's go-karts a few of us went through two huge boxes of photos my grandmother had left behind. It was such a treat to go through the photos and see her memories and rehash who was in the photos and what we were doing. I discovered that I rocked a nice mullet in the 80s (thanks Mom!), my grandmother rode horses in her teens, my dad was a band geek, and it's a good thing the hair perm era has ended!

We found photos dating back as far as the 1930s (I didn't even know they had cameras back then!) including my grandmothers prom photo, senior portrait, a shot of her at probably about 10 years old with her 1/2 sister and parents, photos of my grandfather (who is a spitting image of my dad) who I never got to meet, and her wedding photos. Each of us took a little bundle of photo treasures home to scan and burn to DVD so that we will always have them even as the photos age. I'm actually surprised at what good quality the photos are, too. After going through all the photos we made collages for the Memorial Service and called it a night.

We stayed at the Renaissance in Brockton, MA and it was really nice! I even had fresh waffles for breakfast on-the-house in the morning. Sunday morning we went to the memorial service which was part of the normal church service and I was doing well holding back the tears until the organist played Amazing Grace. I think I cry every time that song is played let alone if it's at a funeral! I only teared up again when the final hymn was one of my grandmother's favorites:
In the Garden I remember her humming it clear as day.

After the service the church held a reception for us and I got to see some old church members that hadn't seen me since I was 10 years old. One thing I noticed was that not one of them had to ask what was going on in my life. My grandmother had already informed them...she talked about all 6 of her grandkids regularly and was so proud of us (insert thoughtful smile here). Once the reception ended we went back to my uncle's house for awhile longer before making the drive back to CT. I think we are all at peace now and I know that my grandmother is in a much better place with her husband, son, mother, and 1/2 sister playing the handbells, singing, and teaching the children of Heaven like she did here on Earth.

I love you Gram, may you rest in peace!