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Friday, May 28, 2010

Frugalista Find: Groupon

I just discovered an awesome website...Groupon!

It's basically a deal-a-day kind of website, with fantastic discounts (frequently 50% savings and up!) on a variety of products and services, anything from helicopter flying lessons to restaurants to spa treatments to yoga to whale watching to...well, you get the drift. AWESOME stuff.
Anywho, Groupon works out these deals with business owners, who agree to it because they know they're reaching thousands of new customers and creating BUZZ for their company. And there's the catch...the deal is only "ON" if enough people (predetermined as part of the deal) participate in the promo. Apparently your mom was right, there IS power in numbers.
Click HERE to see a quick video explaining how Groupon works.

Groupon is operating in numerous cities, including Boston, and was just launched in Providence.

Give it a gander, you might just find something good!

P.S.-On a completely unrelated note, I just saw a commercial for a new show on the National Geographic Channel called Expedition Great White in which a team of fisherman and scientists actually catch great white sharks with a HOOK and haul them out onto a specialized platform to tag them and take biological samples. (Holy cannoli.) I'm definitely going to have to check it out. Premieres June 6 @ 9pm ET (Additional article about the show HERE)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Simply Breathtaking...

The wait is over. Behold the peonies in bloom:
Thank you, little Italian ladies, for planting tons of these gorgeous flowers once upon a time...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cupcake Rendezvous

I had to go in to work last Saturday morning (boooooo, hisssssss) and to make matters even worse, I took the 7 am train in. BOOOOOOO. HISSSSSSSS. It's unnatural, I tell you.

However, my internal peace was restored by a little cupcake rendezvous with one of my best friends, LB, who just moved to Boston's South End after many years in a land far, far away.

(That would be Connecticut.)

Side note: LB has joined the blogosphere! Go check out her new, sure-to-be-fabulous blog Girl Meets Beantown, where she'll be detailing her Boston adventures, foodie quests, and more.
Anyways, we went to South End Buttery, a perennial award-winning café on Shawmut Avenue. Café, schmafé...we were there for the cupcakes!
LB got the carrot cake cupcake (fantastic), while I got the red velvet (OK). I also picked up a couple to bring home to the hubby (1 chocolate and 1 vanilla), and they were also pretty good. With the exception of the carrot cake cupcake, they were just not as moist as I would have liked. Really good buttercream frosting, though.
*I call this pic "Dueling Bloggers"*
Pretty sure I detected some eye-rolling at the table next to us. Tsk, tsk, tsk...some people just don't appreciate photojournalism. ;) But my excessive camera usage made it possible to catch this covetous expression on the snooty people's dog's fuzzy mug:
Despite being a little underwhelmed by the uber-hyped cupcakes, I'd definitely go back again...after all, we only tasted their "classic cupcakes". There's a whole other "specialty cupcake" menu.

I need to be thorough, you know!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Todd Farm Flea Market Update

We came, we saw, we....meh.

Todd Farm Flea Market was not a quite a hit for me and Steven, and I found myself thinking that I had probably overhyped it in my head, inevitably setting myself up for disappointment.

*Can't you see us riding this to the train station? ;) *
It's not that there wasn't some interesting stuff there...but it was a little more JUNK than I had expected. And I love junk...CUTE junk. This was more like JUNK junk. It reminded me of a messy basement or garage, and I've had more than my fair share of both of those this past year thankyouverymuch.

*Is a caption even necessary?*
As they always say with these type of events, it's hit or miss. And while it was a miss for us, our our friends Susie and Justin CLEANED UP. They found some lovely things for their soon-to-be-rejuvenated home, and left in a content state of victory.

*Our fellow treasure hunters with their beautiful vintage grate*
So for now I'm limiting my hunt to whatever I can do from the couch (hello, Craigslist)...and I've already got a hit:
This settee, listed for $425 by Jarred's Homegoods in Warwick, RI, would be perfect for the smaller of our 2 parlors. I've never heard of Jarred's, but they have a pretty good website, so check it out if you're in the market for consignments.

But don't scoop my settee!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lovely Lupine

Remember this lupine I had to liberate from the weeds last summer?
Lookie what it's doing this year!
Our buddy Mr. Robin, who has a nest in the nearby rhododendron, apparently wanted to get in on the photo shoot.
Notice the big nasty caterpillar he's snagged. (click to enlarge) Is it just me, or does he look proud?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

But I want Raspberry Meringues!!!

So the other day, I'm rushing through the library (10 minutes 'til closing!) and I randomly pluck this book off the shelf:
I didn't really take time to check it out, but a memoir about "One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker" sounded interesting enough to me.

It ended up being my favorite book in quite a while.

First of all, this author is FUNNY. Not comedian funny, but irreverent smart ass funny. Which I love. Nothing better than chortling and snorting through an otherwise boring commute. Second of all, she manages to write about her love for baking and eating pastries, sweets, cakes, tarts, etc. in a way that makes you want to call out of work so you can spend the whole day baking. And although this self-described "socially retarded misanthrope" is nearly religious about baking the real way...from scratch, with quality ingredients...she still pens a chapter entitled "Ode to the Oreo." Now that's a philosophy I can get behind.

Surprising tidbit? She's Sandra Bullock's sister. It took 2 chapters before it dawned on me that the famous actress sister "Sandy" she kept referring to is none other than America's sweetheart. (Work.It.Out., LT)

But the real surprise about this sassy, generally light hearted memoir is how earnestly the author ties baking to memories of her late mother and grandmother, and how she brings them back with the smells and tastes of her childhood. Choked me right up. Several times. (In fact, I finished the book during my morning commute, and was still feeling all verklempt about it as I went down the stairs at South Station to catch the red line. And what greets me as I make my way down the steps? A busker playing Schubert's Ave Maria--one of the most beautiful and moving songs ever-- on his acoustic guitar. What? I had something in my eye! It's really dusty down there!)

So anyways...I loved the book. And I got all excited because the bakery in question is in Vermont!!! And I'm going to Vermont in a couple weeks!!! And Montpelier is on the way to Burlington!!! It's the perfect pit stop...I can sample the delectable meringues and tarts I've been reading about, and wash it down with a fantastic coffee!!!

Alas, a little googlage informs me that the retail bakery has been closed, and is now a commercial mail-order operation. (Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!)

I guess I will just have to settle for reading the Confections of a Closet Master Baker blog, baking something from the recipe section, and enjoying the results while watching The Proposal. To get a little bit of Bullock, of course. Nothing to do with Ryan Reynolds...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Marinated Cheese

I wanted to share this fantastic recipe for marinated cheese that came my way through a series of recipe hand-offs...and boy am I glad it did. It's really easy and really, really, really good!

1 lb. feta cheese, cubed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. finely minced green bell pepper
2 tbsp. finely minced red bell pepper
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp. Italian flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 tsp. fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. peppercorns
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Mix all ingredients in a glass jar with tight fitting lid. Refrigerate for several hours, or even several days, flipping jar periodically for best results.

Serve with crackers, crostini, whatever. I prefer to serve it straight from the jar using a cute spreader...which splits up the feta chunks a bit and makes it more of a spread as opposed to individual cheese cubes. **Also, don't worry if you're not a HUGE feta fan. Steven loves this, yet doesn't really care for feta**

It makes a great foodie gift, too!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

South Africa Trip!

One of the many reasons for my recent absence from the blogosphere: a 2 week trip to South Africa!

Just like the Paris trip last November, this trip came together rather suddenly, after weeks of trying to put a trip to South America together and not making any progress. I was ready to give up on going on a trip in April and our travelmates had pretty much decided on a "default" vacation to the Caribbean...but Steven (who did not get to go on a trip last year because of his ACL surgery and therefore suffered from the worst case of wanderlust) was all "never say die" and proposed South Africa.

We had plane tickets 2 days later. And flew out of JFK 16 days after that.

Overall it was a great, but exhausting, trip. We spent the first week in and around Kruger National Park doing a "self-drive" safari (read: rent a car and drive around looking for animals) and the second week exploring the Cape Town/Western Cape area. My favorite parts were anything having to do with wild animals...from the game viewing in Kruger to coming face to face (or warm-human-i-have-a-soul eye to cold-soul-less-killing-machine eye) with GREAT WHITE SHARKS off of the South African coast.

I'll blog about the trip some more when we get all our pictures together (and maybe even a video clip or two!), but for now here are some safari shots courtesy of our travel buddies Tom and Robin...

*Rhinoceros crossing the road*
*Lion, as seen through our windshield (!!!!)*
*Spotted Hyena chowing on giraffe bones*
*African Elephant*
Aren't they amazing?