Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tell-All Thursday

Yesterday's photo might be a little hard to read. It says: Susannah Martin*, Hanged, July 10, 1692.

My dad has done a lot of genealogical research into both sides of our family--his and my mom's side. It used to be a hobby of his, and I see myself getting involved in the research once I have more time in my life (retirement years, perhaps??). History fascinates me, and I actually love doing interesting research. Plus, with so much information on the internet now, tracking down this type of information is much easier than when my dad started researching. I remember him exchanging letters with people all over the country when I was a kid, and he and one of his sisters would always talk about making side trips to courthouses to look through old records on vacation.

Learning stories about my own history makes the idea of genealogical research even more tempting. My dad has tells stories about my great-great-grandmother Agnes Daly*, who came from County Cork Ireland to American with her teenage brother. She was only in her early 20s, but she left the rest of the family behind. . .and brought that part of our family tree to America.

When we studied the Salem Witch Trials in school, my dad had another story of family history to share. He'd determined that our family is related to Susannah Martin, who was part of the group found guilty of witchcraft at one of the earliest trials. She, along with 4 other people, were hung on July 10, 1692, and their bodies were dumped into a mass grave. The photo in the post below is a marker at the site where she and others were hung in Salem.

I'm not exactly sure how we are related to her--I did some quick googling for her family trees and found both my mother's maiden name and my dad's last name (which is a very common name) in different places, so I am not sure which branch of her family ours came from. (I am certain, however, that my mother's side of the family and my dad's side of the family are NOT both related to Susannah Martin!) I did find out that one of Susannah's daughters (Jane) is a distant relation to President Chester A. Arthur*. I should be expecting my invitation to overnight in the Lincoln Bedroom any day now, right?

Anyway, we didn't make it to Salem on our most recent Boston trip, though we did see plenty of burial grounds and other spooky sites on our Ghosts and Gravestones tour. We took that tour our first night in Boston, and it was a neat way to see a lot of the city--even though places look pretty different the the light of day. The tour was fun (I'd taken the tour on my last trip to Boston with girlfriends in 2000), and informative. Our guide was (possibly unintentially) funny, but that helped make it a good experience for us. K is usually pretty grumbly when it comes to things like ghost tours, but he was a good sport and enjoyed it even though I think he initially agreed to the tour just to humor me. He's a keeper, that guy.

*Note: None of the names in this post are even close to my current last name, my maiden name, or even my mom's maiden name, so I felt comfortable posting them while still maintaining a necessary degree of anonimity.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Like An Onion

I can always count on Joyco and MrsMillerTime to have a good meme on their blogs!

Name: MrsMonkey
Birth date: October 19
Birthplace: Huntsville, Alabama
Current Location: Austin, Texas
Eye Color: Blue
Hair Color: Blonde
Height: 5' 10"
Righty or Lefty: Righty
Zodiac Sign: Libra

Your heritage: Scottish/Irish/English
The shoes you wore today: Black peep-toe wedges. One of my favorite pairs.
Your weakness: Dairy products
Your fears: The unknown.
Your perfect pizza: italian sausage, mushrooms, extra cheese
Goal you’d like to achieve: #1 on the big list is #1 for a reason!

Your most overused phrase on AIM: I use AIM for work, but not like a typical AIM user. (i.e., no abbreviations or catchy phrases)
Your first waking thoughts: More sleep please
Your best physical feature: I have nice eyes.
What you miss the most: All of my best girlfriends living in Austin.

Pepsi or Coke: Coke
McDonald’s or Burger King: Neither
Single or group dates: I like single dates for going out, but group dates for things like game night or dinner at someone's house
Adidas or Nike: Neither. DH would pick Nike.
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Lipton.
Chocolate or vanilla: Chocolate
Cappuccino or coffee: Cappuccino. I prefer my coffee beverages to taste like things other than coffee.

Smoke: No
Cuss: Sometimes
Sing: In the car, if I'm alone
Take a shower everyday: Pretty much
Do you think you’ve been in love: I know I am
Want to go to college: Graduated from UT
Liked high school: Didn't hate it, didn't love it
Want to get married: Already done!
Believe in yourself: Usually
Get motion sickness: Nope
Think you’re attractive: Sometimes
Think you’re a health freak: I wish!
Get along with your parent(s): Yes
Like thunderstorms: Not while I'm sleeping, driving, or in an airplane
Play an instrument: I took piano lessons for years as a kid.

LAYER SIX: In the past month…
Drank Alcohol: yes
Smoked: no
Done a drug: not an illegal one
Made out: Yes
Gone on a date: Yes
Gone to the mall: No
Eaten an entire box of Oreos: Bleah, no.
Eaten sushi: Yes.
Been on stage: No.
Been dumped: Nope
Gone skating: No
Made homemade cookies: I've made desserts other than cookies from scratch
Gone skinny dipping: Nope
Dyed your hair: No
Stolen anything: No

Played a game that required removal of clothing: Yes
If so, was it mixed company: Yes
Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: Yes. I like to call those times "1996." ;o)
Been caught “doing something”: Doing something, yes. Doing it, no.
Been called a tease: Not to my face
Gotten beat up: No
Shoplifted: No
Changed who you were to fit in: (Sigh) Unfortunately, yes.

Age you hope to be married: Growing up, I wanted to get married at 24, like my mom.
Numbers and Names of Children: None so far
Describe your Dream Wedding: My wedding was pretty much my dream wedding.
How do you want to die: I probably wouldn't turn down immortality.
Where you want to go to college: If I went back to college for some reason, I'd still pick UT
What do you want to be when you grow up: happy with my life
What country would you most like to visit: Italy

Number of people I could trust with my life: 4
Number of CDs that I own: About 175
Number of piercing: One in each ear, plus a third in my left ear that has grown closed
Number of tattoos: None
Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper: I'm guessing less than 5. I haven't kept track.
Number of scars on my body: Lots. But only a couple have a story. Most are old kitty scratches.
Number of things in my past that I regret: Because I can not go back, I live without regrets.

Hit me in the comments if you try this out, too, so I can read your response!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

#9: Weekly Dinners

Seems like it's been a while since I've cooked dinner during the week! Good thing K likes leftovers (from weekend cooking) and sandwiches.

This week is Bacon Week, so earlier in the week I made BLTs for dinner. This month's bacon, Swiss Sugar Cottage Bacon, is made from the shoulder of a pig, which basically means it looks like canadian bacon. It was pretty good, but a little fatty. I'm going to make Bacon Quiche with the remaining half pound.

Tonight, I made a recipe from the August 2008 Real Simple. I only changed it up a little bit, so I've added my revisions in parenthesis below. It was a good, quick recipe. I am a slow chopper, though, so next time I'll pre-chop everything the night before. K, my olive lover, said he was going to kick his up a notch next time by slicing up some olives in his servings.

Summer Pasta Bolognese (from 8/08 Real Simple Magazine)
serves 4

12 ounces fetuccine (3/4 box) (I used wheat pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
kosher salt & pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
(1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped)
1 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes--about 3--chopped (I used roma, couldn't find beefsteak at my HEB, and I weighed them to get the amount right)
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc (I used chardonnay; that's what we had)
1 small zucchini, coarsely grated
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
(fresh parmesan cheese)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the turkey and season with 3/4 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. (I used extra pepper.) Cook, breaking up the turkey with a spoon, for 3 minutes.

Add the garlic and onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and wine and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the turkey is cooked through and the sauce has slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and fold in the zucchini and basil. Serve over the pasta. Add parmesan to taste--about 1/4 cup per serving.

Excellent bonus to this recipe = leftover wine to drink!

Thoughts for Thursday

So I had some issues with Wordless Wednesday yesterday.

First, my brother had sent me a pic of the back of my two cutie-pie nephews walking down the street. The older of the two was in the lead, and the little fella was hurrying to catch up. He called the photo "Where one goes. . ." Adorable! So I posted the pic, looked to make sure it was up, and went about my business. Later, I had a little blog-reading time, so I came back to go through my sidebar list of blog pals. Except, my pic was gone and a red "X" was in its place! Naturally, I filled in with my first thought--"Doh!" Somehow the original pic was a fail on my part.

Later last night, I finally loaded my pics from our Boston vacation off my camera and into my computer. I found the "world's softest magical unicorn" pic, and couldn't resist. I think that was one of the first photos I took on vacation. Our first full day there, we decided to walk around our "neighborhood." As it turned out, our neighborhood included most of the places I wanted to shop. Coincidence? (mwahaha!) We'd already hit Zara, where I'd found a jacket (like a casual suit coat), and two sweaters. K bought a shirt, I think. We were walking down Newbury Street, when I saw the store window packed with yard gnomes. I couldn't help but laugh and laugh (and take photos). Yard gnomes--in fact, gnomes in general--are hilarious to me, but that's a story for another time. The store looked closed, and we didn't make it back by until our last day. I told K that if they had a gnome giving finger guns, I was going to have to buy it and hold it on my lap all the way home like a baby. I had a mental image of a gnome version of Buddy Christ, which perhaps only exists in my head. Turns out there were no finger gun gnomes in the store, although I did buy a couple of small things. (Including a "hanging with my gnomies" magnet.)

We also shopped that day at H&M, which was a little disappointing. Like our last visit to an H&M, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of being old and uncool. Last time (in NYC, August 2007), I couldn't find any tops that didn't look like maternity tops. This time, I couldn't tell if most of the tops were supposed to be shirts or dresses. I did find my way to their accessory section, though, and found a cute necklace, fun cocktail ring, and a pair of earrings. I think my total bill was around $15.

Our third main shopping stop for the day was Filene's Basement. Apparently, I need to really be in a shopping mood for Filene's, because the aisles and aisles of clothes were totally overwhelming for me. I didn't feel like digging around, so I made a beeline for the shoe department. Hello lovelies! I only bought two pairs--a pair of brown pumps and a pair of black mules. Love my new shoes. I think K bought a couple of shirts there, too. The best way to get him to agree to spend time shopping on vacation is to a) suggest stores that aren't available in Austin, especially if he's already been there and now knows he likes them (see above three examples) b) make sure that the stores have a women's and men's section. He's fairly willing to spend some time just hanging around if I'm in a women's store, but then he ends up pestering me so no one really has fun.

Our last day in town, we wandered around the neighborhood again, and stopped in at Lord & Taylor (just down the street from our hotel). It was too much like any regular department store for me. I entertained myself in the purse section (and admired a gorgeous clutch that was both super expensive and totally impractical for my life, so my credit card breathed a sigh of relief there) while K looked around. I mainly included this store on my shopping recap list because it was K's idea to go there. (!?!)

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is spend time walking around in different neighborhoods, exploring and wondering what it would be like to live there. Newbury Street is different than most shopping areas--much of the street looks like brownstone apartments, except that instead of a tenant's living room, there are boutiques with alluring window displays. There we also visited an olive store (I hope their card is somewhere in my purse), a little kitchen gadget store, and a music/comic book store that reminded me a lot of Waterloo Records. On this trip, I wish we'd spent more time walking around the North End (Little Italy). I hadn't done enough research to know whether any of the shops there would be open on a Sunday, which was our last day in town and our last opening for a walk-about. Exploring that area will be near the top of the list for next time!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Talkative Tuesday

I have been neglecting my little blog.

I've been feeling like I'm under IT lately--under a pile of laundry, a pile of housework, a pile of work b.s. that I have little patience for, a pile of disappointment and life and adult responsibilities. But I'm slooowly digging my way out, and I just happened to turn and see an entire rainbow outside my office window. Brighter times ahead, my friends.

Anyway, backing it up to last week's Wordless Wednesday, that delicious-looking piece of cake is the closest online photo I could find to match the enormous slice I enjoyed as an afternoon snack last week. That sort of deliciousness is currently banned from my diet revolution (diet = eat healthy, avoid sweets & junk), but a cake showed up in the office break room for someone's retirement party and I was tempted. (Pre-cut slices already on plates, darn that organized office manager!) Normally, I won't cave unless the delicacy is a favorite. And my favorite cake is yellow cake with chocolate frosting. (drool) But co-workers were reporting that this chocolate cake with white icing was tasty, and sure enough, it was. The icing was so light--almost like whipped cream. Mmmm. Worth it!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Big Picture

Only slightly related to the Boston vacation. . .

I love to look at photography blogs, and one that I found recently is The Big Picture blog on the Boston Globe site. It's such a recent find for me that I tend to forget to check it every few days, so I'm making a note for myself here. (Hi, welcome to my 'notes to self' blog!) They have some amazing shots from the Olympic opening ceremonies compiled on the site, which I've enjoyed looking at today since we missed the opening ceremony while we were vacationing.

Home Again

Boston was awesome. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that it's actually giving NYC a run for its money as my Favorite U.S. Vacation City. Who would've thought?

To help me remember some of the things I loved/could've lived without about our trip, I wanted to list them here (and in the next few posts) for future reference:

Loved: Our hotel. I really could not have found a better location or price--I found the deal on orbitz and found an internet coupon to give us $20 extra off per night. We paid about half the rate the hotel is charging on their website. We were a block from a subway ("T") entrance, across the street from the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church, and could see the finish line for the Boston Marathon (painted across the street) from our room window.

I knew it would be a nice hotel, but I wasn't expecting a luxury hotel. Seriously, the Lenox pampered us. I knew we were in for a treat when we pulled up to the hotel in our taxi and our bags were immediately whisked away by a bellman. He met us at our room, gave us his little spiel about the hotel & ammenities and disappeared. Later, when we walked out through the lobby, he remembered our names and said hello. And he continued to remember our names throughout the rest of the trip, greeting us every time we saw him.

In fact, every hotel employee we saw was pleasant and helpful. On Saturday night, the concierge hooked us up with a popular nearby seafood restaurant with 30 minutes notice--we were a little behind our schedule and he helped us out quickly. I think we managed to even impress him a little when we got back down to the lobby 20 minutes later, changed out of our grubby day clothes into nicer clothes for dinner & a comedy show. (At least, he acted surprised when we walked past him, haha!)

Every night when we returned to our room, the bed had been turned down and there were cookies on our pillow. Our hotel robes were laid out at the end of the bed. Our mini fridge always had two bottles of cold water waiting for us. If we moved one of the little bottles of Aveda lotion/body wash/shampoo/conditioner out of the bathroom (on to the dresser, into the shower, into my purse) there were more the next morning. K was using a little bottle of Scope that he'd brought in his travel kit. He was close to running out about halfway through our trip, and a new little bottle of Scope appeared on our bathroom counter. Nice!

When we were ready to take a cab to the airport, the bellman who'd been holding our bags mentioned that they had a hotel car that could take us for $35--only $5 more than a cab ride. We quickly agreed and were driven to the airport in the Lenox Lexus SUV. And I wasn't afraid we were about to crash even once. . .unlike our cab ride from the airport to the hotel upon our arrival.

If/when we return to Boston, I definitely plan to try to get us booked at The Lenox again. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Trip Planning: Yes/No/Maybe

I am such a travel planning nerd! I put together "presentations" to help us decide where we're going. (Or, ahem, to sway K towards where *I* want to go, hee!) I also put together activity lists before we go so we can narrow down what we want to do most. These are the infamous "Yes/No/Maybe" lists. Making a big list of things we might want to do helps us figure out how to plan for activities in similar areas of town, and also helps us manage our time more efficiently. Plus, who doesn't love a list? K and I were once watching some DVD behind the scenes footage about the press tour the movie stars did for the movie, and K mentioned that he'd love to just visit places without having to worry about planning what to do there. I pointed out that the way we travel now is pretty much just like that--I do all the planning, he shows up and votes yes/no/maybe. We're living like movie stars now! (ha!)

Since I've got some time this afternoon (and we're leaving early tomorrow, yikes!) I'm going to be working on my Yes/No/Maybe list in this space the rest of the afternoon. Fun for everyone, right?

Shopping: (hello no sales tax on clothing less than $175!)
H&M Downtown Crossing (350 Washington Street)
H&M Newbury Street (100 Newbury Street)
Filene's Basement Back Bay (497 Boylston Street)
Zara Newbury Street (211-214 Newbury Street)

Duck Tour
Ghost Tour (too bad we won't have time for a day trip to Salem to visit my ancestor's grave)

Walking Around: (boo to 40% chance of rain each day we're there!)
North End (Little Italy) Markets, etc.
Freedom Trail
Boston Commom (PhotoWalk might be interesting)

Museum of Fine Arts
Museum of Science
Museum of Natural History
Fogg Art Museum
Gardner Museum

Evening Activities:
Comedy Connection (245 Faneuil Hall Market Pl # 2)--website down, not very helpful
Improv Asylum
Hatch Shell Movie/Music
Live Music at Wally's Cafe
Live Music at Regattabar
Live Music at Sculler's Jazz Club
Live Music at Ryles
Blues Barge

Legal Seafood
Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage
Mamma Maria (may be too $$$$ for us, need to look closer)
S&S Restaurant (brunch)

Friday, August 1, 2008

#31 Reading

I forgot to add an update that I'd finished the second book in the Twilight series, New Moon. Gosh, how does a week ago seem so long ago?

I didn't like this book as much as Twilight, but it was still enjoyable to get lost in Bella's world for several hundred pages. I got a little annoyed with Bella in this book when she seemed to be thinking about forcing herself to have romantic feelings for someone, especially since it's been established that she knows a) that character has very strong romantic feelings for her and b) her "soulmate" is someone else. I do think her actions were very typical of a teenager, though, so in that sense the story is true to character.

I was also hoping for more backstory on the. . .(trying not to be too spoiler-y) characters who were taking more of a lead role in this book. Jacob's group, in particular. I'm told that there is more information revealed in the next book, though, so I suppose I can wait to read it there.

I did like how this book seemed to have more action than the last one. Twilight spent a lot of time developing the relationship with Bella and Edward (which I enjoyed--I liked the unraveling of the "mystery"), with the main action towards the end of the book. New Moon has a lot of action throughout, which I thought was a nice addition to the already fast & exciting pace of the overall story. I'm a little bit surprised the author has been able to draw the story out into four books, since this book made it seem like a big step in Bella & Edward's relationship is getting close. I'm guessing things don't go down like I might be imaging they will, though. I'm looking forward to starting Eclipse, and I'm guessing I'll get to the newest book (out soon!) fairly quickly after that.

Incidentally, slightly off-topic: I saw a trailer for the Twilight movie when K & I went to see Dark Knight. I found the movie versions of the characters much more believable than the magazine pictures I'd seen, but now I'm concerned about the acting ability of the gal playing Bella. Perhaps the trailer just showcased scenes where she happened to not display a lot of emotion, and she'll prove me wrong when the movie comes out.