Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 35 - Closet Raider

Julie has taken to raiding my closet with savage regularity lately, and is always gleeful when she comes into the living room wearing something of mine, saying, "Do you like my outfit?!"  Earlier this week I practically had to wrestle my blue Ralph Lauren sweater vest with the red pony back from her possession so I could wear it myself for the first time in months.  So yesterday morning as I was flailing around trying to decided what the heck to wear, I noticed that she had left her closet light on.  This got me to thinking, "Hey, if she can raid my wardrobe, it's only right that I should raid hers."

Later in the morning I sent her an IM.  "By the way, your green Ralph Lauren zip neck sweater with the purple pony looks fabulous on me."  And I even sent a picture to her phone to demonstrate.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 34 - Raffle Ticket and Starbucks Apps

Wednesday is candlepin bowling league night for Julie and me, so off we went.  There's always a 50/50 raffle (the winner gets half of the money from the ticket sales), but we never play.  Tonight, however, we threw caution to the wind and tossed in two bucks for three tickets.  We didn't win, so that new thing didn't work out so well.

On the other hand, some of the raffle proceeds go to fund the weekly competition.  For the second string (we bowl three strings for the evening), whoever beats their own average by the most pins gets fifteen dollars.  With TWENTY-FIVE pins over my average, I won tonight.  My average is a 70, and I got a 95 on the second string.  My first string was good at a 79, but my third string was the big one for me - 104!  One of the other players on our team totally blew out the stops and got a 122 on her third string.  But for the "beat your average," third string doesn't count, so they showed (and gave) me the money.

On the way home, while Julie was driving, I downloaded the two new Starbucks iPhone apps: one to find nearby stores, get hours and directions, nutrition info on food and drinks, etc., and another to manage my Starbucks card account.  Both will come in very handy.  When I travel for work (which is already a lot but will soon be even more), I'm always hunting down the local Starbucks, and this will make it much, much more simple.  The card management app is also nice, because usually I have to remember to look up my balance before I leave home.  Once I get to the store and am wondering how much balance I have left on the prepaid card, it's too late.  Julie often puts one of the cards in my stocking at Christmas, and then I just reload it through the year rather than using my debit card for threesies and foursies that I have to keep track of with my bank balance.

Overall, a good day of new stuff.

Day 33 - Going to Sleep When Tired

Do you remember when you had a mandated bedtime?  I remember when it was 8:30, then I remember when the parents finally bumped it up to 9:00.  That was the coolest!  After that the gloves came off and there wasn't a set time, although the parents would occasionally resist the envelope pushing.

Well, now I have kind of a self-set anti-bedtime.  I just can't bring myself to go to bed before 9:00, no matter how tired I am.  9:30 is better, and 10:00 is more the standard.  Jules, on the other hand, falls in for her evening nap around 7:30 or so.  But last night I was REALLY tired, and when I checked the clock it was only 8:15.  Normally I would have told myself not to give in, and to fight it until at least 9:00.  Usually if I can get that far, I can go a little longer as well.  So for my new thing yesterday, I decided to just go to bed when I was tired.

This didn't work out so well.  I woke up at 1:45 am.  Bing!  Wide awake.  No more early nights for me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 32 - Back Road Reversed

Today's new thing was small, but this effort is about getting out of my ruts (and hopefully not wearing new ones), large and small.

On my way to work, I go one of two back roads: either Nixon Road to Route 20, or Edmunds Road to Edgell Road to Route 20. Then coming home, I either come back on Edmunds, or perhaps take Edgell all the way to Framingham Center. On my way home today I realized that I never go home by way of Nixon Road. So today I did.

It's always interesting to travel a road in the opposite direction than the usual, as you see things that are hidden from the other side. I found myself not recognizing houses that from the southern approach I know very well. It took me out of my semi-automatic navigation and forced me to pay closer attention.

A nice change.

At work I also tried something new: sitting at my desk but connecting to the network via a Veizon air card and the VPN. This was triggered by being unable to lock in a network connection through my docking station and the LAN, despite my various efforts of disabling and enabling network connections, checking all the cables, undocking/docking, rebooting and throwing in a couple rounds of the hoky-poky for good measure. Finally I got a colleague to put in an IT ticket for me (since I couldn't get to the intranet to open my own).

After a meeting I had was done and I still couldn't connect, I got the air card idea. This got me through the day with only a few restrictions (certain areas aren't accessible over the VPN), which was good since IT didn't get to me until around 4 pm. Turns out when the IT staff at the client site in North Carolina were getting me connected to their network, they set my computer with a static IP address. Silly billies! This is not something I would have had any idea to look for, so I was incredibly grateful to our IT guy for figuring it out.

It also gave me a few minutes to declutter my desk, which was sorely needed. I find that when I'm feeling stressed at work my workspace goes to hell, which only increases the stress feeling. So by the end of the day I had a clear desk and a clear connection, and a clear sign that it was time to run away home.

May all of us have a better tomorrow.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 26 - Uber-Homemade Pizza

Last Monday (9/14), Julie and I tackled homemade pizza.  We made the dough, we made the sauce, and we made the cheese.  Julie had made the sauce a while ago and frozen it, so she took out a small container and thawed it in the microwave.  While the pizza dough was rising, I attempted a batch of mozzarella.  I don't know what happened, but it just didn't come together this time.  I ended up with a small palm sized ball of mozzarella.  It was good, but not enough for a whole pizza.  So we converted to a tre formaggio pizza, with the addition of asiago and provolone.  The mozzarella we divided into small chunks that were dotted around the pie.  While I worked on the cheese, Julie cut up and sauteed some pancetta.

Let me tell you, turning pizza dough into a viable pizza is no easy task.  It ended up not so much round as more amoeba shaped.  The good news is that the dough recipe was enough for two pies, so we now have another amoeba-pizza dough serving in the freezer for next time.

But the finished product was ABSOLUTELY delish!  The sauce was sweet and chunky, the cheeses blended together so well, and the crust was faboo!  Another successful new thing.

Before baking:


The finished product:


Day 28 - Emerald Aisle

I flew to Charlotte, NC on Wednesday, for a site visit in Hickory, about an hour's drive from Charlotte.  Generally I use Enterprise, but after hearing wonderful things from my colleagues about National and the Emerald Club, I decided to give it a try.  My company does provide us a code that waives the $50 membership fee, so what the heck?

I'm not going back to Enterprise if I can ever help it.

At the airport, as I approached the car rental counters, I noted that the only line was at the National counter.  I didn't let this bother me, as I knew that Emerald Club members don't need to wait in line.  Sure enough, there was a sign posted directing Emerald Club members to proceed directly to the shuttle.  Out I went, and the shuttle pulled up within 30 seconds.  As I climbed aboard, the driver asked if I was an Emerald Club member (I'm guessing he asked since I wasn't clutching a rental agreement in my hand).  After I confirmed that I was, we headed on over to the rental center.  He dropped me off right on the "Emerald Aisle," which contains a variety of "intermediate" cars, all available to Emerald Club members.  There's also an Emerald Executive option, with larger, more luxurious cars, but my company only reimburses for up to intermediate.

Once off the bus, I just selected which car I wanted from the Emerald Aisle, got in, drove to the gate and handed the gatekeeper my license and the card from the dashboard.  Less than a minute later he handed me back the card and license and wished me a good day.  How easy was that??

Day 29 - "Real" Airport Dining

When I arrived at the airport in Charlotte on Wednesday, I passed an airport restaurant named "Taste of Carolina."  I kept thinking about this place, especially after my sushi experiment went awry Wednesday evening, and I decided I would return there while awaiting my flight home, and perhaps have some delicious North Carolina vinegar-based barbeque.

First I located my gate, bought a couple of North Carolina tee shirts for Julie and myself (and resisted the call of additional ten dollar pashminas), then consulted the airport directory since I hadn't passed the destination dining yet.  Okay, I was on Concourse C, and the Taste of Carolina was awaiting on Concourse B, in all it's tangy yumminess.

At last I arrived, seriously debating the wisdom of remaining in business clothes for the return trip (I thought the extra height of the heels might enable my feet to better rest on the floor from my seat on the plane), and I found a table in the back, near the windows.  I requested a sweet tea from the server (how can you be in the south and not enjoy a sweet tea?), and opened the menu.  It was a freaking California Pizza Kitchen menu with a different name and logo on it.  I looked around, and sure enough the place was connected in the back to the California Pizza Kitchen restaurant that from the concourse appeared to be two stores down.  Damn them!  But I went with it.  I mean, I was sitting down, I would get a decent meal at a table with real utensils and I wouldn't be facing the hungry horrors on the flight home.

I ordered the Chinese chicken salad, which sounded just delicious in the description.  This is what I got:

Airport Food

Yes, the server walked over to the California Pizza Kitchen section, carefully picked a pre-made salad out of the To Go case, and hand-delivered it to my table for my dining pleasure.  After suppressing my astonished giggle, I dug in with my plastic cutlery that was nicely wrapped in my paper napkin, and enjoyed my salad in its plastic container, along with the sweet tea in a plastic cup.

At least I tried.

Day 31 - New Runkeeper Photo Feature, Strawberry Transplants

I haven't been out hiking in my extended backyard, aka Callahan State Park, lately, so this afternoon after gardening I hit it.  Along the way, I tried out the new photo feature on Runkeeper, where you can take pictures along the way and Runkeeper will display them on the route at the spot where you took them.  Here's the link to today's hike.  If you go to it, you'll see two sets of photo icons along the route.  If you hover over one, you'll get a pop up with a thumbnail of the picture.  Click on it, and you'll get a larger pop up of the photo.  It's a cool feature, especially since it does geotag them along the route, and before this if you wanted to take a picture you had to pause the activity, leave the app, take the picture, return to the app and resume the activity.  This way is much better.  You just click an icon on the app screen and you get a second screen to post a status and/or take a photo to go with the status.  Very nice.

I was pleased to find that they have posted laminated maps of the park trails at various trail intersections, with "you are here" markers.  This is a lovely addition to the already well-maintained park, and something which really is in need up in Maine on the Trail to the Sea Path.

New Callahan State Park Signs

I also did some yard work today, including what I hope will be the last mowing of the season.  Then I pulled out some of the vegetable plants that have gone well by, and transplanted some of the potted strawberries into the garden.  This will be my first attempt at developing a perennial strawberry garden, so keep your green thumbs crossed!

Day 30 - Cardamom (Golden) Raisin Almond Bread

The national weather service had a frost advisory out for parts of Massachusetts last night.  Not actually in my town, where it only went down to 39, but cold nonetheless for mid-September.  Seemed like a good night to try out the recipe for cardamom golden raisin almond bread.  I didn't have any golden raisins, only regular dark raisins, but they worked just fine.

This was in the bread machine, which is a large capacity model, but since Julie's away for the weekend I opted for the smaller version of the recipe.  I have to say, it looked very odd while cooking, as it was only 2/3 the size that the loaf would usually be with the full size recipe.  At first I thought perhaps I had screwed up on the yeast and that it wasn't rising, but then I realized it really was bigger than at first, just not as big as a full recipe.

I have to say, once it was baking and the aroma started escaping the kitchen, I couldn't wait for it to be done!  Spicy, nutty, mmm, good.  I thoroughly enjoyed it with Brummel and Brown.  This morning I had a slice of it toasted.  Equally delish both ways!

Cardamom raisin almond bread

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day Something or Other - New Wave Sushi

[Updated to add - this was from Day 29]

Okay, I've been slacking in recording my new stuff tried. I've been doing new things, just not blogging.

I just got back late last night from an away mission to Hickory, North Carolina, where I had very mediocre sushi. So back home, I decided I needed to bump up the Friday Night Sushi. After reviewing the menu, I added New Wave maki to the selection.  "Spicy tuna inside, yellowtai, salmon, avocado outside, tempura crumb with 3 kinds of special sauce on top."  Conclusion: yum!

-- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ratatouille crepes

Made with zucchini and eggplant from the garden.  Homemade crepes surround the ratatouille, and that's rich asiago sauce topping it off.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Day 19 - Metropolis

I get all kinds of facebook invitations for this game or that community, so for my new thing yesterday I tried Metropolis.  This was sent to me by my uber-industrious FarmTown neighbor, so I thought I'd give it a try.  Not so thrilled.  Details later.

Day 18 - Blair Witch Trail

On our final day in Maine, Julie went golfing at a course she had never played, on Deer Isle.  Kathleen and I decided to do the Trail to the Sea hike, as detailed on the Healthy Blue Hill trail map. I'd give you a link, but apparently this trail has either not made it onto the larger Health Maine Walks list, or has been taken off.  But we were working from the recently acquired print map, and there it was.

I'll fill in the details later, but basically we had to search to find the start of the trail, should have been warned away by the "work in progress" notation on the temporary sign, really should have been warned off by the trail markers of deep maroon paint on construction stakes, but were only warned off when we entered a Blair Witch type area of the woods where we could no longer find any stake at all.

So I guess this was two firsts:  attempting the Trail to the Sea path, and giving up on a trail.  If my sister hadn't been there to be the voice of reason, I'd probably still be out there wandering around.

Day 17 - Hiking the Primeval Swamp

More details and photos later, but just a quick note here that my day 17 was hiking the Beaver Flowage Trail on Holbrook Island Sanctuary.  Saw no beavers or any large bodies of water, for that matter.  There was plenty of water just beneath the surface of the mossy trail, however.  For much of the trail, each step was met with the sinking of the shoes into the ground, to be retracted only with much effort and a giant sucking sound.  At one point about half way around, Kathleen and I simply gave up caring about it.  I mean, once the shoes and socks are soaked, does it really matter if they get more soaked?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Day 16 - Kitty and Wii

I began the day in a new and unexpected way - with the neighbors' very large cat staring in at me through the second floor bathroom window. It could have been more startling, as the neighbors' little dogs also know how to get on the roof from the uphill side of the house.

Kitty (yes, that's the cat's name, just like on The Closer) also took part in the next new thing: reading on the rocks. One popular activity here at Kathleen's is walking down to the edge of the property on the shore of the Upper Bagaduce River (feeds into Penobscot Bay) and enjoying the sun, wind and other sights. This activity is countered by the equally attractive draw of sitting in the adirondack chairs on the flagstone patio overlooking the woods and water, sipping tea and reading.

Yesterday we pulled a combo, and Kathleen and I put books in bag and headed to the rocks, with JJ (one of the little dogs) and Kitty trotting along. I've never been for a walk in the woods with a cat, but he had a wonderful time.

We thought we were hitting it right at high tide, but the tide had its own opinion and forced us to relocate a couple of times. While we read, Kitty and JJ roamed, explored, treed chipmunks and found new and exciting things in which to roll. Finally They needed a rest, and while Kitty perched in a very dignified manner on a sun-warmed rock, JJ simply flopped in the dry seagrass next to me and went into a coma.

The plan for the evening was the Blue Hill Fair, where we could see Rosie's Racing Pigs, blueberry pie eating contests and a skillet tossing contest, among other fair fare. We decided to postpone to tonight, when there will also be a "mammoth aerial fireworks display.".

Instead we parachuted into the Wii Sports Resort, where we dueled with swords, jet skied, wakeboarded, bowled and generally had fun. The big new game was 100-pin bowling. We even managed to pull off several strikes and spares.

Kathleen pulled off the upset of the evening by setting a new high score in wakeboarding on her first time out. She liked the similarity between wakeboarding and Cow Racing, her favorite Wii Play activity.

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Day 15 - Sailing Eggamoggin Reach

Despite my exhaustion the night before, I still couldn't sleep in past 6:30. Or perhaps it was just excitement about the upcoming day's adventure: a three hour sailing adventure on the Eggamoggin Reach!

For a picnic accompaniment to the sailing, we also made our own versions of my favorite Panzano (the market that had rum out of bread prior to the road trip) sandwich, with pear, fontina and arugula on ciabatta rolls. Julie took hers sans arugula, as she finds it too bitter.

It was a lovely and relaxing day on the water. There was hardly a breeze in the air, so much of the day felt a gentle afternoon on a hammock, but it was lively nonetheless. Lunch was delish, with Maine Root Ginger beer and homemade tollhouse cookies, and after lunch the forward deck was strewn with napping passengers.

Post nap we continued enjoying the sights as we very slowly tacked our way back to the Bucks Harbor Marina, under the watchful eyes of the seals, seagulls and cormorants.

We wrapped up the night by the firepit on the patio, which all led to another sound night's sleep.

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, September 4, 2009

Day 14 - Blue Hill, Soda and Porcupine

Although I didn't get to sleep until around 2:00 Thursday morning after our late road trip, I still awoke around 7:30 am. First new thing of the day was a hike up Blue Hill with my sister and her husband. Julie was golfing - nothing new there! It was a lively hike, very steep and rocky, with a clearing at the top, with lots of semi-flat, sun warmed rocks in which to recover while taking in the expansive view of the surrounding land and water. I took pictures with the SLR, but I won't be able to upload those until our return home.

One bit of excitement on the climb came on a sunny bit of trail. Kathleen apparentle startled a small, bright green snake who had been basking. Upon seeing me and Rich following closely behind, it determined that the fastest exit was to launch itself directly from the rock, across the path and into the brush trailside. I'm not afraid of snakes, but I'm also not accustomed to seeing them airborne, wih me in their flight path! I responded in the only logical manner, but squeaking, "Ew, ew!" while hopping from foot to foot in alternating high knee lifts. Well, that was something new.

After resting at the top, my sister and I both declared that hunger had struck. Rich knows our genetic tendency toward losing both logic and emitional control when burdened with low glucose levels, so he immediately suggested descending the trail abs hitting Barncaster's, a local inn and restaurant. Good call.

Barncaster's carries Local products, including ginger beer, but instead I chose the blueberry, since I've never had blueberry soda. Mm. I'm not a huge soda drinker, as they ate usually over sweet, but the Bar Harbor Blueberry was light and refreshing. Last night during dinner at a waterfront restaurant in Cadstine I got the Maine Root blueberry for comparison. Also good, and a bit darker flavor, more blueberry-y.

I also chose the salad with spinach, goat cheese, pine nuts and dried apricots rather than the apple-cheese-walnut choice I normally would make. Also yum!

I also saw my first porcupine yesterday, at my sister's house. We're way out in the woods, and the closest neighbors have two Jack Russells (one is part Ray terrier) who have a doggy door of which they take full advantage. They have adopted my sister as an aunt, and play up here often during the day. JJ, the boy, has already been shot up by porcupines at least seven times, bur that didn't stop Jim from treeing another one last evening. he wouldn't be dissuaded, so Kathleen picked him up, I picked up Jasmine and we carried them on the ten minute walk back to their house, where they were put on lockdown for the night.

As I am writing this, they have bounded onto the flagstone patio seeking playtime. Julie is also seeking a partner for Wii, so I'd best wrap this up. This afternoon: a three to four hour sailing trip on a forty-footer!

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Details Tomorrow

Too tired to write about Day 14 right now. Must sleep. Details tomorrow: hike, blueberry soda and porcupine!

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day 13 - Night Road Trip

We're on the road, heading for a visit to my sister in Maine. Usually we plan on setting out first thing in the morning, but one thing leads to another and it tends to be mid afternoon by the time we get going.

This time, we decided to try something new by driving up after work, to maximize our visit time. One catch- Julie had already scheduled a cut and color for 6:00. No problem, with some planning and organization. We would have the car all packed, meet at home after work, and I would drop Julie off at the salon. She said it would take an hour, so I would go to our favorite Italian market for some (relatively) healthy sandwiches and other gourmet road food. Then I would bring two travel mugs and two thermoses to Starbucks next to the market and get hot foamy caffeine for the five hour drive, swing back by the salon and off we'd go.

When it was time to head to the salon, I had realized I had forgotten to buy cat food, the gas tank was at less than a quarter and I had forgotten the over the counter allergy pills. I had placed my phone refill for Allegra on Saturday, but they hadn't arrived by departure. Still no problem. I would drop off Julie, get gas and cat food, run home to fill Mischief's dishes, get the drugs, THEN get the sandwiches and caffeine.

Cat food - check Gas - check. Back home, feed the cat, get the pills - check. Half hour left until salon pick up. Italian market - out of bread, so no sandwiches. Shit. At least they had Jukie's favorite chickpea salad, so not a total loss. Five minutes to salon pick up.

Okay, so I'll pop over to the salon, pick up Julie and we'll figure out what food to get.

Waiting, waiting. The stylist comes out for a cigarette break. Tells me Julie's "almost done." I'm wondering how she will get done when the hair artist is outside. Round about 7:30 Julie emerges.

Back to where the market is, and we split up. Julie heads to Quiznos for sandwiches, I hit Starbucks, and by 8;00-ish we're underway. Which brings me to the picture below. 9:00, 220 miles and just under four hours to go.

At least we tried.

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day 12 - Bushwacking

We had a new walker join us on the lunchtime walk today.  Tammy and I had told her about our various forays around Horn Pond, including Mount Towanda and the sand cliff, but we only had enough time today for walking in the area around the office.  So we hiked on over through the ball fields, up across the Northeastern University Burlington Campus parking lot and into the main part of the Mary E. Cummings Park.  Now, Tammy and I had done this walk before, but never like today.  It's not as well-traveled a park as Horn Pond, and the paths had become rather overgrown in these summer months.  But we decided to boldly go further, even when we had to push, pull and wrestle our way through thorns and burrs and balance our way around huge puddles on the path. At one point, just where the brush was thickest and just before we finally reached the clearing, Tammy says to Joanne, "See?  I told you she's trying to kill me with this new stuff!"

Oh, and I also tried out my red pashmina.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Day 11 - Soy Latte

Still out of milk this morning, so no smoothie for breakfast.  Starbucks!  Walking in, I noticed one of the sure signs of autumn approaching: "Pumpkin Spice Lattes are Back."  Mm, hot foamy autumn goodness.  Tip from me, however: do not drink one of these out of the paper cup with plastic lid while using your notebook computer.  I had to ship mine back to Dell because of a related incident in which 20 ounces of the stuff dumped all over my notebook in the middle of class.  Thank goodness for accidental damage protection!

Anyway, I was standing in line contemplating whether I wanted to try a new syrup flavor but thinking that none of the ones I hadn't tried really appealed to my, when the guy ahead of me at the next register ordered a soy latte.  That's it!  Five minutes and one grande decaf soy latte later, I was walking out the door with today's new stuff in my hand.  Mmm, creamy.

Later in the office I nuked a brioche for 20 seconds and enjoyed it spread with mango peach jam.  My cube neighbors were impressed and rather envious.

One of my colleagues brought in a box of italian pastries this morning, which I managed to avoid until mid-afternoon when I went to the kitchen to wash out my jam container.  I made the mistake of peeking in the box, just to see, when I spotted a sfogliatelle - my favorite pastry!  I had to give in and have it.  I believe a short while later I may have appeared as if I had been doing blow in my cube, as the sfogliatelle is covered with powdered sugar, and are very crispy, so that when you bite into them it tends to whip up puffs of powdered sugar into your face.  So worth it, though.  I highly recommend Maria's Pastry in Boston's North End - they ship anywhere in the US!

I have to start thinking of some new things to do in Maine, where we are heading Wednesday night for the long weekend.  First thing I'll do is break with my decaf habit, as we're planning on starting our five hour drive around 7 pm.  We'll see what else comes our way.

Pre-First Away Mission Photos

I started mulling over trying new things during a recent away mission (aka business trip) that included four nights in Dallas/Fort Worth and then an overnight in West Palm Beach.  I used my new gear backpack, did a little evening sightseeing, and tried some new kinds of sushi.  If you're interested, click on the photo from the Fort Worth Stockyards to go to the full set.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 10 - Brioche and Sleeping In

Yesterday I noted that my various allergy symptoms were troubling me since I had run out of Allegra.  As I was getting ready for bed, I recalled that there was an old bottle of Benadryl in the medicine cabinet, so I took a couple of those.  This led to my first new thing of today: sleeping in.  Man, that stuff really knocks me out!  But I have to say, my stuffiness was much reduced this morning.  I took two more when I woke up and spent much of the rest of the morning feeling clear but fuzzy.  Julie was nice enough to pick up some non-drowsy stuff at CVS for me today, to tide me over until the Allegra refill arrives in the mail.

Once my brain cleared out the morning Benadryl, I took on my big new thing for the day: brioche!  The recipe for this is just a couple of pages over from the beignet recipe, and it had been on my list of things I should try for just as long.  As if brioche aren't rich enough, I discovered that we didn't have any milk.  We did, however, have plenty of half and half, so that went into the dough.  I contemplated one of the variants, where you hide chocolate or jam on the inside, but decided to go for the simple form first.  There's another option where you can fry up the dough and make little brioche donuts, but that seemed a little over the top.

They came out delicious!  Another item for my, "that wasn't so hard" list.

While the dough was rising or baking, I finally watched Dune, the 1984 version with Kyle MacLachlan and pretty much the rest of the acting world.  Trippy, trippy movie.  I'm glad I waited until the Benadryl wore off before approaching it.  Now I see that David Lynch directed - that really explains everything.  Perhaps I'll read the book sometime.  

Photos from Birmingham Trip

I've uploaded all my Birmingham pics, including the many, many from the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.  Click on the picture to go to the full set.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Day 9 - Rainy Day, Tea, Kennedy and Movies

It was a quiet day at home today, with the tropical storm moving through and Senator Kennedy's services on the tv.  While Julie said I should take a day off each week from the new things, I still did try out a new tea rather than my usual earl grey (of course) or chai.  Today it was Tazo Organic Spicy Ginger.  It was a nice rainy day tea, but I think I'll stick with my usuals for most days.

When we weren't watching the Kennedy services, we also watched some Amazon downloads on Tivo: Valkyrie, 17 Again and New in Town.  All very good.  Tom Cruise looks good with that curly wave to his hair.  Julie felt that since we had never seen any of these, they should count as new things.  Somehow I just don't think I can count, "hung out and watched movies" as new stuff.

I also ordered a refill for my Allegra, which I've been taking daily and now realize that this is why I haven't been sick in over a year.  I've been out of them for several days, and now the various sinus symptoms including raging headache are back in full.  Ah well, the postman will bring the magic elixir of clearness in a few days and all will be right with the world.

On a side note, during 17 Again two of the characters were discovering the geekness of the other when Gandalf the White came up in conversation.  The other pointed out that he was Gandalf the Grey during Fellowship of the Ring and then returned in The Two Towers as Gandalf the White.  I had to pause the movie so I could reach to my side table and hold up the two books sitting there for Julie to see.  Yes, Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.  "Geek," she responded.  Some things will never change.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Day 8 - Espresso and Other Folks' New Stuff

Not a huge day today for new things, but I did get in my minimum.  Usually when I go to Starbucks I get a grande decaf nonfat latte.  I actually don't go to Starbucks as much as I used to since now I tend to make smoothies before work each day.  In the past, however, Starbucks was so much a part of my routine that just as with the sushi order, the barista knew what I wanted as soon as I walked in.  For a while I did mix it up a bit and went back and forth between the latte and the London Fog Latte.  One day the barista said I should come up with a hand signal so that as soon as I got out of my car in the parking lot (this was usually very early in the morning, and that Starbucks is at a big box plaza) I could alert them to which beverage I was getting.

But this morning we had no milk or soy milk, and no OJ, therefore no smoothie.  I drove off down my usual back roads I take, and pulled into the Starbucks along the route to get a latte.  Then it occurred to me that I had an opportunity here.  Trouble is, I've tried many of the beverages over the years.  Nonetheless, I perused the beverage board and there it was, the unknown hot foamy froth:  Espresso Truffle.  Since something likely that rich should be enjoyed full bore, I forewent the nonfat and got whole milk.  Crazy, I know!  I did opt to downsize to a tall rather than a grande to balance it out.

Yum.  Rich, hot, foamy, chocolaty goodness.  Just the thing to balance out driving with the car top down on a 59 degree fall-preview morning.  Cool breeze, hot coffee/chocolate and just a little bit further out of my comfort zone.  Felt pretty good.


In other news, my work walking friend and I were on a midmorning lap around the parking area when she mentioned that since I started the whole new things project, she has found herself trying new things as well, either intentionally or just because it worked out that way.  Often she goes for an hour-long walk in the morning before she gets her daughter ready for the day and herself ready for work, but today for a change the two of them went for a shorter walk to a nearby Panera for a couple of bagels and some morning mother-daughter time.  This is something they do sometimes on a weekend, but never on a work day, and she said it was a nice way to start the day before going to the office.

I encouraged her, as I encourage anyone else reading this, to come here and post comments sharing what new stuff you've tried.  You might give other people some ideas.  Like me - I'm going to need some ideas soon!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 7 - Scarf and T-Shirt

Continuing on from yesterday's first, wherein I purchased five pashmina style scarves, today I wore one to dress up the new Birmingham Botanical Gardens t-shirt I acquired earlier this week.  I chose the beige scarf, as it would match the lettering on the shirt, and spent a bit of the morning trying the scarf in various modes.  I finally went with draped around the back of the neck, then wrapped around the back, with one end wrapped back around the front and hanging down from my left shoulder.  I even broke out the Teva sport sandals rather than wearing the stand-by white Nikes.

I do believe it was a success, as I had several positive comments about it at work today, where I never get comments on my outfits.  Of course, my outfits are usually a polo shirt, shorts and sneakers, so there you go.  People even noticed the sandals.  

I did opt to leave the scarf in the office when I went out for the lunchtime walk at Horn Pond.  Speaking of which, we even varied our route and walked around the main pond rather than staying on the side trails.  Not for the first time, but the first time in quite a while.  

So my foray into fashion had good result.  I always wished I could be one of those people who could pull off a scarf as an accessory rather than just keeping the snow off my neck. Perhaps I'll try it again.   I do have four more scarves to go.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 6 - Scarves and Unintended Firsts

I'm back from Birmingham, and it was a long day.  I started off by unintentionally setting off an elevator alarm for the first time.  I had my hands full, so I reached out to press the lobby button with my knuckles, and it wasn't until after I retracted my hand that I noticed the Alarm button was just below the LL button.  Lo and behold, the "help is on its way" button was flashing.  I had my camera bag in my right hand, and it had bumped the alarm button.  It was rather comforting that within about ten seconds a voice came through the speaker asking if everything was okay in the elevator.

I was hoping to get to the airport nice and early as I always do, but it wasn't to be.  I arrived just in time to board, so no breakfast in Birmingham.  That's okay, because I had an hour between flights.  Until the first flight was delayed and we had to sit out on the runway for about a half hour.  Land in Atlanta, make my way from Concourse D to Concourse B and they were boarding the flight to Boston.  No breakfast in Atlanta.  This has the potential for disaster, as my sisters and I have very sensitive moods in relation to our blood glucose levels.  Julie calls it "being in that place."  That's her euphamistic way of referring to when I haven't eaten and lose my ability to make decisions or handle any kind of stress without bugging out completely.  I usually have some sort of Clif bar or other emergency snack with me for just such an occurrence, but not on this trip.  I thought about purchasing one of the in flight snacks, but after looking at them in the Sky Magazine, I decided that I'd rather go hungry than eat that crapola, so I stuck with the peanuts they handed out, and a cranapple.

This time the small children (I always seem to have small children sitting in my vicinity these days) were on the other side of the aisle, and I was in the window seat.  This is good, as it wasn't me who was assaulted by the flying police bear.  The guy sitting in the aisle seat of our three seat grouping was leaning over, reading a magazine he had opened up on the tray table, when all of a sudden this teddy bear in a police uniform came whizzing across the aisle, both landing on his magazine and smacking him in the face.  He managed to keep his cool, which was admirable, but the mom didn't apologize nearly enough, which was not admirable.  She gave him a passing little, "Heh, sorry," and seemed more concerned about getting back the damn bear.  If that had been me and I hadn't had the saving peanut protein, the bear might have gone back in pieces.

At last we landed in Boston.  I was exhausted, having not slept well last night, and hungry, having only had a handful of nuts and a few ounces of juice, so I was highly susceptible to the pretty things that caught my eye in the shop directly across from our arrival gate at Logan.  The bright colors drew me right over, where I was pleasantly surprised to find a varied assortment of pashmina style scarves/shawls.    I've been intrigued by these things for about a year, ever since I read several articles touting their versatility for travelers.  Last fall I did purchase a similar weight shawl in my family's tartan (internet purchase from a shop in Scotland - it's the Henderson MacKendrick tartan), thinking it would be stylish and oh so practical, but it just didn't look as good as it did in my head.  Perhaps a tartan isn't as versatile as I was shooting for.  But it did keep me warm on Thanksgiving.  Plus, it's provided Julie with endless hours of entertainment.


In my sleep-deprived, glucose-starved mind, these colorful items were just the thing, so I went ahead and got a varied selection at only ten bucks per shawl.  I do believe this was my first fashion-oriented impulse purchase, and they are definitely my first pashminas, so I've gotten in my firsts for the day.

Pashmina Shawls

Upon arrival back home, I talked on the phone with Julie and she recommended I get some sushi, to which I rapidly agreed.  I called it in, didn't give my name, but was nonetheless told, "Okay, see you in ten minutes, Julie."  Back in the comfort zone at last.


Oh, they always call me Julie because the first time we placed a phone order, Julie placed the call.  They took the phone number and her name, and now her name is forever associated with our number in their computer system.  But that's okay, as long as I get my usual order.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 5 - Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Fine Dining Solo

I spent the bulk of the day at a client site, while my rented PT Cruiser was parked in this interesting hospital parking garage that is built into the side of a rocky hill:


When the work stuff was done, however, I drove back to my hotel and changed into leisure wear more suitable to exploring Birmingham in 89 degree, humid weather.  Then off I went to my first new thing of the day, a visit to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.  I haven't visited botanical gardens as an adult, and even as a child it was not voluntary.  But now I'm a homeowner and have dipped my toe into gardening, so I thought I'd give it a go.  Wow!  I wandered around from area to area and just found myself smiling while looking at this or that.  One minute I'm wandering through Alabama Woodlands, then I come around a turn in the path and am facing a Japanese Garden, complete with a raked sand garden and a large pond with many turtles and the largest koi I've ever seen! 


Other areas included the Southern Living garden, ferns, bog (didn't spend long there - it featured mosquitos, apparently), herbs and vegetables, roses, formal areas and woodsy areas, rainforest (in a greenhouse), and lots and lots of paths on which to wander.  They also have various gazebos with benches, as well as hanging bench swings throughout, on which you can sit back and enjoy the surroundings.  I took tons of pictures on the Canon Rebel - I'll load these up when I return home.  For now, here's an iPhone shot of a very large bunny I came across in the herb garden:


And to top it all off, admission is completely free!  The are open until sunset, and you can just wander in and out as you please.  They also host events, and a wedding party was just arriving as I was departing.  The bride was lovely.  She looked totally out of place in the Nissan beater from which she emerged, but that's neither here nor there.  Once out of the car and into the gardens, it was perfect.

It's probably a good thing I don't live here, as I could easily fall into another habit.  I can picture myself coming here every day at lunch or after work.  As I've mentioned, once I find something I like it becomes part of my routine.  Just ask my facebook friends who are sick of seeing my lunchtime Runkeeper post and map link of my walk around Horn Pond in Woburn.

Usually when I'm on a work trip by myself, I end up getting some fast food crapfest and taking it back to my room.  If I'm with colleagues, I'm all over TripAdvisor and Urban Spoon, finding the coolest, most hip and best-reviewed restaurant for us to try.  Not by myself, though.  So tonight, while relaxing on one of the many benches scattered throughout the gardens, I pulled out the iPhone, fired up the LocalPicks app from TripAdvisor, and checked out nearby eats.  I selected Veranda on Highland, a Cajun-Creole, local foods, fine dining kind o'place.  I rang them up, and was on my way in with a reservation for a tavola per uno, armed with Julie and Julia for reading.  When dining alone, it's important to have something to read so that it's not obvious that you're spending much of your time observing the other diners and doing "the restaurant thing," as my wife calls it, which involves unobtrusively overhearing bits of conversations from other tables. I highly recommend this book, but not for dining.  It's hard to be unobtrusive when you're actually laughing out loud.  It wasn't a guffaw, but it was a very noticable giggle. 

As for the food, I considered the turtle soup since the server highly recommended it.  Then I recalled all the wonderful turtles that had been sunning themselves in the pond at the Japanese garden, and I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  Instead I had the Crispy Appalachacola Oysters with Grilled Sweet Corn Vinaigrette, Basil Oil and Corn Relish for my appetizer, and the Creole Seasoned Gulf Fish on Sweet Corn Succotash Drizzled with Lemon Herb Oil (today's catch was red grouper) for the entree.  Oh my god, I was on the verge of picking up my plates to lick off the remaining sauce.  Now, these choices were also new things for me.  I like oysters, but I like my oysters raw.  Preferably plucked out of Welfleet harbor within minutes of serving.  These were batter dipped and fried up, but not heavy-greasy fried up.  Just crispy coated and light.  And the corn relish was light and bright and fabulous.  As for the entree - I pretty much never order fish in a restaurant.  I don't think Julie (wife) has ever seen me order fish, and we've been together for over ten years.  And I've never had grouper anywhere.  The mere mention of succotash brings back childhood memories of this canned combination of corn, peas and lima beans heated up into a hot mushy substance that vaguely resembled vegetables.  Veranda did not serve my mother's succotash.  The veggies were fresh and slightly crisp, each with their own distinct flavor but that all blended together so very nicely.

To wrap it up, I made an effort at caving to an old habit by ordering the creme brulee, but the restaurant saved me by being out of it.  So my final new thing for the evening was key lime pie.  Up in New England, at least wherever I've seen it, key lime pie is akin to jello pie.  It's this whipped nothingness that is face puckeringly over-tart, and once it's cleared into your stomach it doesn't really leave anything pleasant behind on your taste buds.  You may imagine that with these kinds of associations in my head, I don't order it.  But tonight I did.  I have to say, it's still not one of my favorites, but it was a lot better down here in the south than what we yankees can get at home.  It was creamy, slightly tart but not overbearingly so, and rolled around nicely on the tastebuds.

So all in all, a good day of firsts.  On the way back to the hotel I caught sight of the illuminated Vulcan, the largest cast iron statue in the world.  I'll have to go to Vulcan Park on my return trip this fall.  In case you haven't followed the links, it's Vulcan the Roman god, not the live long and prosper type.  Although I would not hesitate to see a 56-foot cast iron Spock.  T'Pol would be even better.

Tomorrow, it's back to Boston.  I haven't thought of what my new thing will be, so I'll have to keep my eyes open for opportunities.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 4 - Birmingham, Cajun Dog

Today has brought me to a new city and state - Birmingham, Alabama.  I've never been to the state before, so that's my big new thing for the day.  En route I had two additional new things, one inadvertant and one deliberate.

The flight from Boston to Atlanta was a full boat, and things were looking grim when the young family with several children roughly seven years old and younger, slowly maneuvered their way into the row directly behind me.  However, once we were underway I couldn't hear a peep from any of them due to the ambient noise level of the plane.  It wasn't until we were nearing Atlanta that I happened to glance out the window behind me that I discovered the reason - I was seated about four feet away from one of the engines.  I've never had such a clear view of one, and it looked very cozy.  Seemingly still, smooth, round and roomy.  Looked like a nice place for a snooze, like a riveted metal hammock.  Of course I know better, having seen the pilot episode of Lost.  Not to mention that Firefly episode.

So, sitting next to the engine: inadvertent new thing.

After this morning's complete failure to vary from my Starbucks routine, I determined that such would not be the case at lunch.  After walking for a bit and exploring the food options, I decided to hit the Oscar Mayer Hot Dog Zone for the enticing Cajun hot dog.  It had cajun-spiced cheese sauce, onions and relish, and it was a gooey, spicy, yummy mess!  And I ate the whole thing.  My mouth tingled all the way to Birmingham, and unfortunately my stomach was starting to tingle a bit as well.  Just a tingle, though.  Nothing major.  Although as I was waiting in line at the Enterprise car rental counter I was beginning to think perhaps it was a caffeine hot dog, as I felt like I had caffeine jitters.

Once I dropped off my stuff at the hotel and checked my work email, I went out for a walk around downtown Birmingham, which is quite nice.  The restaurants are all geared towards business, and are only open for lunch, so that was a downer.  I did get some nice pictures of the library (view from my hotel room) and park across the street, and also of the Museum of Art.  Most are on the SLR, which I'll upload after I'm back home, and I'll update this post.  For now, here's the view from the room:

Usually my hotel views are of parking lots, fast food joints and strip malls, so this is a nice change.  Now if only there were a nice restaurant in walking distance!

Tomorrow, after wrapping up my site visit: Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

New Destination, No Preflight Change

I'm awaiting boarding for the flight to Atlanta, where I'll connect to Birmingham. I've never been to Birmingham, or even Alabama, so that's new. What's not new: my airport Starbucks breakfast of a decaf nonfat latte and a cinnamon scone. I did get a tall, rather than a grande, though.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 3 - Beignets to Make and Eat

Last fall we took a week's vacation and went on a road trip to Kitty Hawk, NC. We both tried hang-gliding and loved it. What we didn't get to try were the beignets at The Left Bank in Duck, NC. While they were listed on the menu and described in mouth-watering detail, something was wrong with their frying equipment and they were unable to comply with our order.

After we had returned, I was looking through the bread machine cookbook and noticed a recipe for beignets. Since then, I've pondered giving it a go, but was a little intimidating. Its been almost a year of not trying it, do this year of new stuff seemed like a good time to jump in. Turns out it wasn't so tough, and yummy too!

Day 2 - App, eggs, Bruce

I started off the day by trying the BlogPress app for posting. Okay, I really started with Farmtown and Smiley, but right after that I tried something new. I've been using Shozu, but I figured what better time to explore my options? Glad I did, as I like this one much better.

Poached eggs were the next new thing. I've made them before, but thanks to Julie and Julia I now know that I wasn't doing them quite right. I always used a shallow pan, and the yolk wouldn't be covered. Today they went into a saucepan in water over their heads, and wouldn't you know they were much better!

Finally, we went to see Bruce Springsteen at the Comcast Center in Mansfield. I've never seen him before, and it was a great show. His audience isn't aging - they're all my age. Oh, wait. Yes, we were a middle aged mob pumping our fists and shouting, "Tramps like us, baby we were born to run!". Then everyone went back to their midsize sedans out in the parking lot. Or Mini Cooper, in our case. Oh yeah, born to run.

An unexpected new experience was going to an outdoor concert with a tropical storm waiting in the wings.  We came prepared for bivouac, but lucked out.  The downpours held off until we were on the road home.  We did try some new roads in the Mansfield/Wrentham area when we ended up in the wrong lane and got off the highway for about 20 minutes.  Unfortunately, this was when the downpours were upon us, so that wasn't such a great new thing.  But the rest of the day was fabulous!

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, August 22, 2009

New Concert Experiences

Planned portion: my first Bruce Springsteen concert. We're at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA, in an area with assigned seats but open air.

Unplanned portion: Open air seating under threat of Tropical Storm Bill. The stage and some of the sections are covered, so the show will go on. We are prepared, with rain coats and rain pants in our bags.

-- Post From My iPhone

Missed Starbucks Opportunity

We stopped into Starbucks for hot foamy beverages on the way to the Comcast Center, as is our custom. Before I thought about it, I had ordered my usual decaf grande nonfat latte instead of trying something new. Next time.

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 1 - Photos, Sushi and Clockwise Walking

I'm a creature of habit. I get into routines, I find something I like and I stick with it. To the point that the last time I changed my Friday night sushi order and the new person took my phone order, they thought she had screwed it up and they made my usual order anyway. Recently I called and said, "Order to go..." and they greeted me by name and told me it would be about ten minutes.

I found a nice back route to work, so every morning I get up, play FarmTown and Save the Planet on Facebook (Smiley is my game), shower, make a smoothie (part in the travel cup, part in the thermos for later) and head off on the back road. Every day at lunch I go for a walk, usually around a particular pond near the office, and I upload the route and other stats to Twitter and Facebook. Just an excuse to use the iPhone app.

This week my wife Julie and I went to see Harry Potter in Imax (we see each HP at the Imax theater), then did a double header and went to the nearby theater for Julie and Julia. I came out of that really missing my old blog, which got me through law school but which kind of sputtered out since then. I realized then that it was because I didn't have a theme. The Julie of the movie had her "year with Julia" for her blog, and I had had my travails of law school for mine. Once I passed the bar and was sworn in, it became a rambling collection of whatever.

I needed a new theme. So here it is - I'm going to get out of my routines every day. Maybe small, maybe large, but it will be something. At least one new thing per day for a year. If you'd like to join in, feel free to leave a comment about what new thing you did today.

Day 1, new thing 1: Morning photography at Wayside Inn. On my way to work, I detoured to the Wayside Inn and pulled out my good camera rather than the iPhone, and walked around the old grist mill taking a series of photos at the request of a dear friend who moved away from this area when we were kids. It was pleasant being out there in the early morning, and I really enjoyed indulging my inner shutterbug. Click on the photo below to go to the full set:

Day 1, new thing 2: Sushi variant. In the face of overwhelming heat and humidity, my walking friend Tammy and I opted to eat out rather than walking. Okay, we walked to the restaurant (Ginger Pad), but then sat inside in the AC. I then broke out of my sushi routine and ordered something totally new for me: the Hoppin' Jalapeno roll and the Spider Roll. Usually I get the Phoenix roll. Totally yummy. Tammy decided to hop on the new stuff bandwagon and tried the rolls. Liked the Spider Roll, not so much the jalapeno. Click on the picture for a larger view:

Spider roll and Hoppin' Jalapeno roll from Ginger Pad.

Day 1, unintended new thing: going to lunch with no means of paying. As we were waiting for the check, I realized I had left my wallet at my desk. Tammy didn't have quite enough cash for the whole bill, so I got to throw in a mid-lunch fast paced walk back over to our office building to retrieve said wallet and rush back to pay the check while Tammy stayed at the table drinking more iced tea. At least it was a break with routine.

Day 1, new thing 3: For our afternoon break walk, I suggested we walk around the office park parking lot clockwise instead of our usual counterclockwise. Crazy, I know. Tammy at this point declared that my new stuff kick is going to kill her. We'll see.