Wednesday, July 31, 2013

“Bond didn't defend the practice. He simply maintained that the more effort and ingenuity you put into gambling, the more you took out.” ~ Ian Fleming,

Bruce and I just returned from a few day stay at The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.  I am not a gambler, and don't really know much about casinos - but I do know this - Bruce loves them, and he shares when he wins. He and his golf buddies have gone on several golf/gambling trips over the years - he always comes back happy, win or lose.  He is also a very sensible guy.

He has recently been comped a couple of free nights at the casino, and so we went down for a relaxing stay. It really was relaxing.  We danced; slept late; ate wonderful meals; read by the pool (under the shade); and in general left the day-to-day responsibilities at home.  It was lovely - and I thank him for taking me as opposed to a golfing gambler!  It was a nice reconnection after having been back from Florida for several months.

Some photos below, shots of the gambling sites are discouraged.

~our room~

 ~heading to the deck (dock?) where we both danced up a storm~

~and after the dancing~

~some interior shots~

~and lastly, an iphone shot of the boardwalk at sunset~

~a very nice few days~

Saturday, July 27, 2013

On my needles and on the deck!

I have put aside my baby sweater knitting for the time-being, and am working on a little shawl (scarf) for myself.  I haven't done anything just for myself in a bit.  I actually chose the yarn before I decided on a pattern.  I got some Malabrigo Silky Merino in the lovely "Lavanda" shade.  It looks more blue in the photo than purple, which it is.  I then went to Ravelry, entered the yarn name, and looked for projects that had used this yarn already - all kind of backward from the way I usually do it - but very satisfying.  I selected the pattern 22 Little Clouds, written by Martina Behm, and free on Ravelry.

The pattern is well written and easy to follow.  I am nearly done, with only the ruffly edging yet to do, but I know that it will consist of 5 very long rows, so it will take a bit more time to complete.

Now for a hawk update!  Our hawks are still with us - delighting us with personal visits nearly every day. The mornings seem to be particularly busy - I don't know why this is.  I have taken to keeping one camera upstairs and another down (my smaller point and shoot).  This running up and down the stairs to get the camera was getting to be a bit much.

If you look closely, you will see one on the rail, and the other on the lower branch.

The only downside to having the hawks around is that the songbirds aren't.  The price to pay for our brief summer visits!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Camping is nature's way of promoting the motel business." ~ Dave Barry

The magnet above sits on the front of my refrigerator - and no truer words were ever written.  When I was younger, my family camped every summer on Cape Cod.  I don't know that I hated camping then, but I knew that there were things that I didn't like about it. Sand in my sleeping bag, or rain that mixed with the sand in my sleeping bag.  How damp everything seemed - so clammy, or as we girls used to say, things had "the clams". Having to walk to the common bathroom - never my idea of fun.  I'm not a girly-girl, but I like my creature comforts, and my own bed and private bathroom rank right up there.

Now I know that there are people who absolutely love camping, and I'm not going to rain on their parade, but my roughing it days are long gone.  Recently however, I came across an article that could persuade me to consider not checking into the nearest hotel - this is "roughing it" Tracy style.

"Above: The tents sleep two in king-size beds or two twins. Laura Aviva of l'aviva home masterminded the linens: she cloaked the beds in crisp white cotton duck that echoes the tent fabric and is squared-off to fit crisply over the sheets and blankets. These slipcovers were designed to work well in a rugged setting and to provide a clean backdrop for l'aviva home's frazadas, vibrant traditional blankets handwoven in Bolivia. Frazadas were also repurposed as pillows backed with Belgian linen. Yes, the tents are electrified and have hot and cold running water."://
"Above: The bathrooms are shed-like structures within each tent. They're built from Zipsystem's weatherproof roofing and wall sheathing and are clad in corrugated tin with beadboard ceilings and slate floors. Each has twin vanities (with towel warmers), as well as six-foot-long, extra-deep bath tubs that double as showers."://
Yes - I could do this! For more information and pictures, visit Remodleista!  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"I will not be clapped in a hood, Nor a cage, nor alight upon wrist, Now I have learnt to be proud Hovering over the wood In the broken mist Or tumbling cloud." ~ William Butler Yeats

I commented to Bruce recently that it seemed as though our annual summer visit by hawks might not happen this year.  We hadn't seen them or heard them at all so far.  That was until yesterday, when I could hear their familiar screeches not too far away.  Then this morning, while cleaning the upstairs bathroom, I happened to glance out the window, and there, not but a few feet from me, were two hawks standing on the roof!  Of course, my camera was downstairs, so down I rushed and right back up again, hoping that they were still there.  They were, and I managed to grab a few shots before they flew off.  I had to take the pictures through the screen - I knew that if I tried to lift it, I'd get no shots at all.  When they flew off, I could tell that one went in the direction of the deck, so down the stairs I went again, and was able to capture a few more.

I don't know if they are just passing through, or if we will see more of them as the summer wears on.  It's a treat!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

“Grilling, broiling, barbecuing - whatever you want to call it - is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach.” ~ James Beard

BITE seems to have rolled around a bit more quickly this time, but no complaints here!  Our summer theme for this month was "Barbecue".  A perfect theme for a 90+ degree day!  I must confess that I'm getting pretty weary of the hot weather that we have had this summer - and there are a string of 90+ days still in the forecast.  

For our appetizers, Chris prepared two different dishes.  The first was Italian Flat Bread with Roasted Eggplant Spread, and the second was a Corn Dip (please see the BITE page for this recipe).

Delicious and right up my alley!  Served up with chips, I could see taking this to any cookout that I am invited to - fresh and cheesy!

Flatbread with roasted eggplant - I apologize for not getting a very good picture (nor did I get any decent picture of our beverages, strawberry lemonade and peach margaritas!)  The roasted eggplant was in turn tangy and with a bite - just delicious!

As host, Ellen prepared  Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Peach Glaze, a delicious affair.  The sauce was the perfect accompaniment on a hot day!

I was in charge of the side dish and did Barbecue Baked Beans.  I deliberately chose a recipe that I could do in the crock-pot, not wanting to turn on my oven in this weather.  I must say that I was disappointed by this dish.  The only other time that I cook beans from scratch is when I make black bean soup.  In that case, I always soak the beans the night before.  I carefully checked this recipe and did not find instructions to do that.  Thinking that because they were going into the crock-pot for 8 hours, I decided that soaking them might cause them to be mushy.  I followed all of the directions and had everything in the pot and turned on low at 8:00 am.  By 2:00, with only two more hours till they were supposed to be done, the beans were still very firm.  I turned the pot up to high, and with dinner at 6:00, it was able to cook on high for a few more hours. The beans were definitely edible by that time, but I am glad that I got them started earlier.  Also - I was not all that keen on the flavor.  I will admit that when I serve beans at a cookout, I open a can of Bush's Baked Beans, doctor them up with a little bit of brown sugar and bacon, and call it done.  So - I am no bean connoisseur - but I like my quick beans better.  It's all part of the experience though - which makes trying new things worth it.

Lastly, Tierney made Blueberry Hand Pies.

Delicate, buttery crust with a firm, sweet blueberry filling - just delicious.  The taste of summer!

So - all in all - another BITE success on a warm summer's evening!  Next month it is my turn to host again, and in an attempt to continue with our summery themes in ths summery weather, I have chosen "Luau" as our theme.  I think that this lends itself to an endless variety of recipes to try - and drinks as well!  A Blue Hawaiian anyone?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences." ~ Neil Gaiman, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane"

So - I have read one of my top ten recommended summer reads - I have already matched last year's record! At just 181 pages, including prologue, epilogue and acknowledgments, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane", is an easy one-sit read.  Written by Neil Gaiman, it is on nearly every recommended summer book list. 

"It tells the story of a man who returns to Sussex for a funeral and then finds himself driving "randomly" to the scenes of his childhood. He is drawn to the Hempstock farmhouse wherein, he remembers, there lived three generations of powerful and mysterious Hempstock women. The youngest of these, Lettie, used to call their duck pond her "Ocean" – later revealed (in a beautiful passage) to be a metaphor for what might best be described as the cosmic life force. And it is by this Ocean that the narrator sits down and recalls the magical and traumatic events that befell his seven-year-old self."

 Described as "mythical"; "a fairy tale for adults", and "magical", I was not entirely sure how I would like it.  When I was much younger (much, much younger) I loved all of the Tolkien books, and enjoyed fantasy stories very much.  As an adult, it has not been the type of thing that I have been interested in.  This book has come so highly recommended and reviewed however, that I felt compelled to "give it a go".  Now that I've finished it - I am still not sure how I feel about it.  The writing is lovely - mesmerizing actually, and I found myself frightened by the descriptions of things that were meant to frighten.  I also found myself enchanted by the notion of "snipping away" unwanted memories, and by the view of the adult world through the eyes of a seven year old.

As a young teacher in Texas, I worked with small reading groups in an elementary school.  One year I gave my third grade group the choice of what book to read next.  I was somewhat disappointed that they chose "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".  Again - I have not been a fan of fantasy as an adult, even all those years ago.  Since I had given them the choice however, and since I had not read the book myself (how foolish to judge a book by its cover!), we began reading it together when we met once a day.  It did not take long for me to be caught up in their enthusiasm - the kids loved this book, talked about it, drew pictures of it, brought in Turkish Delight to eat as a snack!  I grew to love the story through their eyes, and went on to read the remainder of the chronicles on my own, and then years later with my son.  In fact, "The Magician's Nephew", the first in chronological order in the Narnia series, reminds me very much of "The Ocean at the End of the Lane", with its ponds and its "beings and varmits" that enter the world of humans - where they do not belong.

So I think that what I need is for someone that I know (or several) to read this book - I would love to talk with others about it.  I want to feel the enthusiasm that I see in nearly every review that I've read.  I think that I just don't quite get it through my own eyes.  One reviewer's description of the book as "a bit of an odd duck" (a phrase which I often use myself by the way) seems to sum it up pretty well for me.  I'd love to hear the thoughts of others who may have read it!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Success is steady progress toward one's personal goals." ~ Jim Rohn

Time for a studio update! I have definitely made progress since I last posted on putting up shelves and getting started - I have plinked away and have been very grateful that I have a window air-conditioner in the room - it has been terribly warm and humid here for a couple of weeks running now.  I am afraid that this may be our "new normal" for summer in the northeast.

Below are several recent shots - some with explanation, and others just on their own.  I'm still deciding what, if anything, I do in terms of window treatment - I am thinking that less-is-more is the way to go.

One of the two windows in the room. Our backyard is also sort of a front yard, sloping right down to the cul-de-sac of the street below.  Because of the studio being on the second floor, and then the slope down, I really do feel like I'm in the trees - it's wonderful!
We do have a fenced in deck and small yard off to the side, so we are able to find some privacy if we want it.
At the entrance to my room is a picture, presented to me by my students and teaching assistants upon my retirement two years ago - notice the knit-covered frame!

One of eight bins of yarn - yet to be sorted out!
While the T.V. is not hooked up, I am able to watch my "Call the Midwife" DVD's!
Creations made by my dear friend Tierney of Silver Trumpet.

Tired of opening up all of my bead boxes to find what I have - I numbered each box and then photographed the contents.  I then printed out the photos and have put them in a binder for easy access.  I guess that this is where I play true confessions, and admit that I have 59 boxes of beads - it's true.

I am in the process of getting a top to my new cutting table (IKEA baby changing table!)  In the meantime, my cutting mat sits atop it - waiting!
So, as you can see - I'm coming along - and loving every minute of it!