Rolling some balls


I've often mentioned my love of Pinterest and how its prods {that's a nice gentle word right?} me to do things. Its ... just .... so .... pretty. But, often it is also delicious. I saw a picture several weeks ago for these peanut butter pretzels and pinned it instantly. Chocolate? Pretzels? Peanut Butter? Yes please sir.

So, on the celebratory day for the premiere of Keeping up with the Kardashians.... I went to town. It was quite the cooking day {see Sunday dinner post}, but these pretzels were pretty easy. A great activity for kids, should you have any laying around that like to rolls balls and dip their fingers in chocolate.

The recipe is pretty easy {scroll alllllll the way to the bottom} and I'll definitely make it again but perhaps with a few modifications.
peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar... sinful
all ready to roll some balls.... sticky hands.
Ready to go swimming in some chocolate....

All dipped!
So, while I thought these were great they are a "two bite" snack for sure. Also, not portable exactly. I wouldn't take them to work with me unless I had a cooling unit available. The peanut butter part could get a bit melty / sticky / not fun.
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar {I used more than this}
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • Pretzels
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips {I added a bit o' shortening}
I think one thing my mom finds really annoying about my cooking is that I don't keep track of how much I put in of anything. I definitely didn't use a bag of chocolate chips... that's for sure. Specific directions? 
  1. Mix the first four ingredients together {PB, butter, sugars}
  2. Add more powdered sugar until the dough won't be "sticky" when you roll it into balls. For me, this was probably like at least 1/2-3/4 cup.
  3. Smoosh the PB balls between two pretzels and toss them in the fridge to harden a bit, like 30 mins.
  4. Melt the chocolate - either in the microwave or via a double boiler method. I toss in a smidge of shortening to make the chocolate a little bit more smooth and thin. Again, I don't measure but maybe like 1 tsp of shortening for every cup of chocolate chips.
  5. Dip those babies in the chocolate. Cool.
  6. Eat them. Made like 20ish treats.
Simple huh? Next time I do it, I'm skipping the brown sugar all together. It made it just too sweet. I'll use all powdered sugar like I do for my traditional PB balls.

summer food delights


I don't remember the first time I had strawberry shortcake but its one of my all-time favorite desserts. I've often said I'd serve it at my wedding - which by that way is lightyears away. It's like the perfect combination of carb-y goodness, sweet fruit, and refreshing whip cream. We've been a "strawberry shortcake" family for a long time it seems. For a family with a sweet tooth, this certainly fits the bill.

When Baby Sister and I were little, the tasks for strawberry shortcake would be divided up. Baby Sister was always in charge of the strawberries. There is a certain art to getting them juicy and she delivered. Now of course I can't remember whether I was in charge of whip cream or the cake business... but more recently I've been in charge of the cake.... and by cake I mean Bisquick. Let's be honest.... Bisquick is like the duct-tape of the kitchen in my mind.  You can use it for like everything carb based. Chicken Fingers? Check. Pancakes? Check. Rolls? Sure why not. Oh and Tuna Burgers. Yes, that's also true.

You may judge the use of Bisquick but it makes the most delicious nuggets of carb-y delight for this dessert. This time around, I elected to help out with portion control by making them in some Texas muffin tins {why Texas? I have no idea. Let's ask Texas}. My inability to measure prevents me from sharing why my Bisquick cakes are better than yours ... but I can tell you that I sprinkle sugar on the top and its delicious.

Homemade whip cream really steps it up a notch and is for sure worth it too. I'm sure a true baker, would say I've over-whipped the cream - but whatever. Its delicious. {How many times have I said that word so far?} 

Perfect summer dessert.

revisiting walter.


Oh Walter. When I bought my hammock at Lowe's a few weeks ago, I honestly knew I was making a great decision but I hadn't anticipated how relaxing it would be to just swing gently in the breeze of the front yard. Annie {the neighbor's dog} sits as close as she possibly can by "snuggling" under the hammock. Cute no?

Since the big purchase of Walter, I've been tempted to "pimp" him out with other things. The hammock company is willing to sell you just about anything. Attached tables. Bug nets. Swings. Wheels. Canopys. {Of course I can't find the links anymore online... } I was drawn to the table because I kept knocking over my drink... however I just couldn't rationalize an $80 table. My money has better places to go, like cake pops at Starbucks.

I did decide the I needed a "device" to help me swing myself in the hammock. After unsuccessfully trying to explain this to several people, I even drew up a plan in a Google Doc. Simple no?
The hard part? Learning to tie a "monkey's fist" for the end. I felt this was essential as I wanted some weight to the rope but no wood or real handle. A trip to the local hardware store proved successful as I walked away with like a bazillion feet of rope {despite needing only like 15} and a stake to hold the end in the ground. My dad instantly volunteered to do the Fist, but I protested that this was my project.... however I would take a quick instruction. Thanks to a few YouTube tutorials {and Dad} .... and about 45 minutes of fussing with rope.... I had my fist.

I'm pretty proud of the fist.... as you can see. I point it out to anyone that admires Walter in the yard. "Hey ya, the hammock is great. His name is Walter. BUT, did you see the monkey's fist?!?".

Just as I was uploading these pictures to my computer on Sunday, I looked out my bedroom window and saw this sight below. If that isn't the best reason for the hammock, I'm not sure what is.
Dad relaxing with Walter after a long day in the yard

hello there mr. goat


Oh hello Mr. Goat!
Last weekend, I went to the Glastonbury Abbey {and the nearby Organic Farm} and roamed the property during their annual fundraising garden show. Having never been, I was really excited to see some of the gardens that I'd hear about from family and friends. I'd seen on Foursquare that there was a stone labyrinth and I had these visions of getting a little bit lost in it... in an awesome way. Spoiler alert? I was a little let down by the labyrinth as you'll see below.

I've always thought of gardens I guess in the really traditional sense of "flowers" but many of the gardens on the property were Asian inspired and sporting some serious evergreen action. A nice change of pace. 

This is me in the labyrinth. Not exactly a place to get "lost", but still interesting none the less.

This was the view from the Monk's private garden looking up. Its not the best picture since the despite the bright blue sky day isn't reflected in the least... but perhaps it shows just how shady and serene the private garden was.... and how much tree cover there was. I'd love to sit in their private little tea house and watch the rain fall some day.

Just another suburban adventure under my belt.

Note: I used the tips that AJD posted on her Boundless Fille post this week to edit the goat picture above. I loved the picture before, but the after is just so much better. {Thanks for the tips!} Here is the original.

More US Air Hate.


As a continuation of yesterday's non-love letter to US Air, I thought I would share some of the performance statistics that shed a little light on travel frustrations. Now, admittedly, I'm a little bit crazy and spent the time to do this research ... instead of say, sleeping ....but, I kind of needed to validate the feeling of perpetually late flights.

Now, a few clarifications:
- I only looked at US Air, no other airlines
- I only looked at Boston / Philadelphia route
- I'm not a statistician. I just love numbers.

I have a few favorite sites that make travel a bit easier, or at least more organized. TripIt is awesome for organization, but I use FlightStats to see whats actually happening with my flight. They also have some great historical data which is what I used for this.

I looked at on-time performance two ways: (1) specific flight numbers and (2) time of day performance in an effort to see a full picture of performance. Flight numbers are repeated over different days in the week so the use of both methods offer a perspective of what you'd experience say at 7pm on a Thursday in Philadelphia. 

These obviously aren't all the flights that US Air has on this route, but they are the ones that I could potentially be taking each week. I typically take book the 8:30 AM (#1811) for Monday mornings, but get on the 6:30 (#1239) or 7:15 (#1555). For this time frame, you can see that these flights are on-time 65-72% of the time. The amount of delay is not insignificant either. That lovely 7:15 flight? When there is a delay, it averages at over an hour.

I've left all the nitty gritty details below for you but one note... Philly travel for Wednesday is more delayed than Thursday? Philadelphia is a significant "consulting" destination which operate on M-TH schedule. Who is screwing up the system on Wednesday?

So, today I'm supposed to travel home to Boston on that beloved 7:15 flight that is on-time never. Let's just see how late it is today. Feel free to surprise me US Air. I'll love to arrive home on-time.

Philadelphia > Boston Flight Status by Day and Time

Boston > Philadelphia Flight Status by Day and Time

Flight Status by Route / Carrier
Flight Status By Time of Day / Carrier

A non-love letter to US Air


Dear US Air,

How are things? Good? That's great.

I saw that you recently were ranked 3rd to last in a consumer satisfaction survey. Congrats. You must be proud.

I've complained a significant amount about traveling to Philadelphia each week. But, I've largely kept my complaints from you as an airline. Primarily, I've been annoyed by the Philadelphia airport, Philadelphia traffic, thunderstorms, slow people, etc. Things that I had largely deemed out of your control... however, I think I was forgetting that every Monday morning the 6:30 am flight is delayed because you can't schedule the crews right. May I repeat, every Monday morning. Also, the Thursday 7:15 flight is on-time 40% of the time. In what other business, is 40% acceptable? I willingly took your flights because the other option was Southwest and frankly, I like knowing my seat in advance even if that means picking a middle.

But I digress.

Every Monday, I always got to the airport earlier and put myself on the standby list for earlier flights (except for the very first week when I was waiting for a coworker). May I repeat that, EVERY MONDAY. I also put myself on the standby list for return flights on Thursday, however I never made it off the list. So yesterday morning I got to the airport just before 6 am and inquired about putting myself on standby for earlier flights. Almira, the US Air Lady, curtly told me that it would be $50 to board an earlier plane. Really now, Almira? I politely explained to her that I have been flying this route for nearly 10 weeks and not once have I been told there is a fee, and nearly every week did I board any earlier flight. Almira's response? She wasn't sure what to tell me. Now, Almira had me in a good position. She knew I wasn't going wait 2 1/2 hrs for my flight. As I begrudingly paid the fee, I really want to ask Mario* the super friendly nice guy next to her to help me out.... after all he had not charged me for WEEKS. Not, that I expected him to remember me, but come on... "oh Almira, yeah maybe you are new? we don't charge people to board an earlier flight because we are constantly late here". Alas nothing.
So US Air, I've been rambling - but the point is, if you want to charge people to board earlier flights, pay for exit rows, upgrade, etc .... you need to be consistent. If you aren't charging people all the time, it becomes really annoying as a customer when you decide to arbitrarily impose fees equal to 40% of the ticket cost. Hell, even 50% of the time would at least make me feel like I was playing the lottery instead of being artitratily targeted... cause that's what it feels like.

Please don't start charging me for oxygen.

Thanks for "everything",

*I made up these names. I name this witch Almira, because well she's a witch and Almira is the name of the Wicked Witch's character in the Wizard of Oz. Why Mario? He's lovable, shorter, and just plain nice. Oh, and he looks like a "Mario", I guess.

P.S. Stay tuned, I've been doing some analysis on on-time flights. Anger makes me break out Excel.

Farm Time.


I think that one of the fastest ways to make poor decisions is to go to a grocery store hungry... or stand in your pantry. I've been known to impulse by anything from prosciutto to Cheezits to loafs of French bread. A much safer place to go? An organic farm.

After roaming the Glastonbury Abbey garden tour for a few hours on Saturday, I was starving. I was honestly craving a BLT from Circe's Grotto, but I've recently been protesting the establishment. I was tired of the slow service and inconsistent pricing. I felt like I was enabling the customer service by continuing to buy BLTs and not saying anything. Instead of saying something, I just stopped going. I guess I'm an avoider of conflict.

Anyway. The Holly Hill Farm didn't have BLTs but they had gorgeous sugar snap peas. According to the girl working, they were picked less than a hour before I started popping them in my mouth. I just love that.

I picked up some butter lettuce and sugar snap peas. On the way home, I managed to eat HALF of the peas. I'm sure that this snack is better for me than Cheez-Its.

The Farm is very "nature"-y. I guess that comes with being organic. They have this cut flower garden that hasn't quite bloomed yet, but when it does I'm sure it'll be gorgeous. I did manage to see a few blooms, but a few weeks from now I'll have to come back. I'm already looking forward to watching parents take pictures of their annoyed children in front of the flowers. Hello Christmas Card 2011!

While I wanted a BLT, the butter lettuce from Holly Hill Farm along with Friday night's leftovers mixed in, was quite tasty. It was definitely a summer meal.

Salad Contents
Butter lettuce
Garlic Cous Cous {leftovers from this dinner}
Lemon Chicken {leftovers from this dinner}
Honey Goat Cheese
Homemade French Bread Croutons {broiled with olive oil and garlic salt}
a bit o' dressing {olive oil, honey, balsamic}

All the business in a bowl


Sometimes without much planning a nice meal comes together. Normally when I invite people over for dinner, I have something in mind. But on Friday, I had nothing in mind and I invited our dinner guests over on Monday... yes, a full 5 days in advance.

After a little brainstorming, I knew I wanted goat cheese and grilled chicken but not together. I ended up making Lemon Chicken and French Bean Salad, but with a little pizazz of course :)

Its difficult to cook on Fridays sometimes because all I want to do is curl up on the couch, put my hand in a bag of pretzels, and drink water through a bendy straw. That sounds pretty pathetic, but I'm being honest .... and its accurate. The recipe I found called for a 2 hr marinating time - who has time for that? Not me, at least not when I'm planning at the last minute. So instead I just like doubled the amount of herby goodness that it called for... that's that same as marinating for less time right?

If you look closely, you can see the "hunks" of garlic just hanging out on the chicken. I call that DELICIOUS.
oregano, rosemary, lemon ... on chicken. light and delish.
Don't pretend to be surprised. I love cous cous.
french cut beans {freezer bag style}, goat cheese, lemon juice, and olives
This meal came together really quickly too. I know because I didn't leave for the grocery store until 5pm and I had to get Baby Sister at the train station at 6:33 pm. In that time window, I grocery shopped and did all the work except grill the chicken. Impressive? Oh, and that includes getting pits out of the olives before putting them in the salad.... which by the way is a bitch.

Shopping List {served 5 with a wee bit of leftovers}
freezer bag of french green beans
goat cheese
2 lemons
fresh oregano
fresh rosemary
olive oil
salt / pepper {of course}
chicken boobs {obviously}

For the chicken. 
2 tbsp. lemon zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
1 T of olive oil {this is approximate, essentially enough to get all the herby goodness over the chicken}
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
 Throw all the ingredients in a bag with the chicken and marinate for 2 hours. Then toss those babies on the grill. 

For the bean business.
French Cut beans
Like a dozen-ish black olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon
fresh cracked black pepper
goat's cheese
Again. Put all this business in a bowl. Then eat it. 
The dinner was a hit and as you can see I got rid of that flowered table cloth and threw a few candles for ambiance - yep, I'm fancy. 

Quiet Weekend


That is all.

Ok, maybe just a little bit more.
I'm really excited for this weekend. Tomorrow, I'm going on a garden tour to benefit the Glastonbury Abbey. I've heard that the Abbey itself has gorgeous grounds {rumors of stone labyrinth?} so I'm pretty excited about it. I'm really hoping the weather is "sundress worthy"... because that would just be the 

Also, the "boys" are out of town camping so its just the ladies home this weekend. You  know what that means? No pee on the toilet seat. For reals. I plan on spending some quality time on a porch or in the yard reading Bossypants by Tina Fey.

Done and done.

Sunset Flights


Let's be honest. You knew this was coming. I didn't post any airplane pictures on Monday ... and it happens pretty much every week... so it was inevitable. But yesterday was a little bit different for a few reasons.... 
(1) my flight was on-time... this happens like never from Philadelphia. Philadelphia airport might be my least favorite airport ever
(2) I got to come home a day early
(3) It was a seriously gorgeous evening flight

I fall in love with Boston every time I see the skyline during sunset.... especially from a plane. Although to be fair, we know I love to see the aerial landscape. I'd probably fall in love with a swamp.
But... that isn't a picture of a swamp. Pretty much the entire coast line you see in that picture above is my hometown. I'd almost apologize for the bright sun spot in the picture but I feel like it makes it better.... except for the fact that it gives me a little headache when I look at it. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but whenever I fly to Philly I always sit on the right side of the plane {if possible} but that gives me a better chance of flying over home. Same goes for flying back home to Boston.... except I sit on the left side obviously. The past few weeks my flight home as been so delayed that I could not really tell what I was flying over... so the combo of an on-time flight, flying over home, and sunset .... p.e.r.f.e.c.t.

Oh. Hi Boston. Nice to see you again. I really do love you.

Another point for Amazon


I often buy music when I need inspiration... or just something to distract me from the current task at hand. So yesterday afternoon when I was in need of some extra kick in my cubicle, I procured Jason Aldean's album from Amazon MP3. I rarely buy music from iTunes anymore since the prices are just nearly always higher than Amazon's. I love Apple but I pay enough for their products, I don't need to pay $2 extra to listen to Jason Aldean woo me with some country beats.

But, as I was loaded my new Amazon tunes to my computer I saw Owl City had a free song available on iTunes. I elected to wait until I was back at my hotel to download it to my iPad {fondly referred to as Mr. Darcy}. SO, when I went to download it last night I just opened the app and clicked on the image you see here:
Which opened this screen:
So that's pretty obvious. You can see which song is free right? Yes, iTunes I'd like to download "Deer in the Headlights" for zero dollars. Yes. Please. Thank You.

BUT. That's not what I saw when I first opened the app. Because the top section of the iTunes window scrolls, I saw that bleach blonde girl Christina Aguilara and the Voice promo. So, I clicked on the smaller Owl City block below{as designated by my friendly and helpful red box... I'm so fancy}
Now, when you click on this box ... it totally by passes the "free song" offer and just shows you the album ... which would be totally fine if iTunes didn't try to charge to buy "Deer in the Headlights".
As if it was bad enough that iTunes wants to take advantage of its customers who don't click the right box... they are also going to charge them the premium price of $1.29 for doing so. As you can tell by the fact that I wrote about it, this pricing stuff drives me crazy. I'd love to know how many people have inadvertently bought the song that is also being offered for free...

I'm sure by this point you are in one of three states {or perhaps more than one}... (1) tired of screenshots, (2) rage or (3) confusion. But, I just wanted to share one more... All the while iTunes is potentially profiting off this pricing confusion.... Amazon is charging less for the album and less for the song.
One more point for Jeff Bezos.

Sunday Dinner


As a bit of a rarity, I actually cooked twice this past weekend. I l.o.v.e. cooking and spending time in the kitchen but traveling every week makes the weekend more for resting than for measuring and mixing. It also doesn't hurt that its GRILLING SEASON! I'll grill anything. I've seen a few good desserts recently that are based on grilled fruit {peaches / pineapple} and I'm going to try those out soon.

Anyway.... on Saturday I made the Cilantro Lime Chicken for dinner to more rave reviews. The tomato, avocado salsa is just salivatingly delicious... even now first thing in the morning.... I'd eat the whole bowl.

When Sunday came around, I saw we had a few extra tomatoes in the fridge and felt like it was the perfect opportunity to try out these Parmesan tomatoes I'd seen on Pinterest. I combined that with some garlic cous cous {couldn't find my favorite Parmesan version!} and more grilled chicken {i'm sure you are surprised.... we are a chicken family}.

The tomatoes were very very easy to make and pretty tasty. Although a few notes for the next time: (1) less "juicy" tomatoes and (2) the recipe totally underestimates the amount of Parmesan required to match the picture. I did substitute fresh oregano with dried oregano from the cabinet and threw on some capers.... well because I love salt.
freshly grated parm ....
ready for the oven ...
out of the oven... and ready for my belly...
When we first made the Cilantro Lime Chicken is was mere coincidence that the chicken got a bit chopped up before grilling. Ever since then it's been on purpose. It such a great way to cook more quickly, eat a less at the table, and have the leftovers more ready for consumption. Baby Sister looooves leftovers for lunch... and I love helping her. I seasoned the chicken with olive oil, a small bit of salt, and my favorite Penzey's Southwest seasoning and then slapped those babies on the grill.

Here is the finished product! I hope you love our classy tablecloth :) Its one of my mom's favorites but perhaps we can replace it with something a little more photogenic if these Sunday dinners continue....

Done. Done. and Done.

Shopping List
- chicken boobs
- Penzey's Southwest Seasoning
- Cous Cous
- Tomatoes {pick less juicy ones, like Roma or Plum perhaps}
- Freshly grated Parmesan {totally makes a difference}
- oregano
- capers {if you so desire}
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