Friday, November 30, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Music

Last year I did a review on Michael Buble's new Christmas CD, simply titled Christmas.  You can go back and read that review here.

This CD quickly became one of my favorites and it was the first one I played tonight while making our first batch of Christmas cookies - sugar cookies, in case you're interested.

Another CD that I really enjoy is Christmas With Dino.  I mean, come on, it's Dean Martin.  Dean was the ultimate in cool, and when he sang, his voice was always smooth as whiskey and I can just picture the smile on his face.  Best track?  "Baby, it's Cold Outside" with Martina McBride.

Are you familiar with "Sugarland?"  Jennifer Nettles has one of the best voices in country music and this album "Gold and Green" does not disappoint.  Her voice is so clear and pure on "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel" that I could cry.  My favorite selection tho is "Maybe Baby."  It showcases her singer partner "Kristian Bush" and he really needs to sing lead a little more often.

And the holiday season would not be complete without  "A Cherry, Cherry Christmas" by Neil Diamond.  What can I say?  I love the man and his music!  Sigh......

Another all-time favorite is Mariah Carey's "Merry Christmas" album.  Her "All I Want for Christmas is You" is one of the best Christmas songs ever written.  Unfortunately, my copy is an ancient cassette tape and I no longer have anything to play it on.  Plus, I wonder if it would even work anymore?  At any rate, I'm on the look out for the CD version and as soon as I find one on sale, I will snatch it up.  I can't have Christmas without my Mariah.

So there you have it, my 5 favorite Christmas albums.  I have other holiday CD's, but these are the 5 I listen to constantly.  Who do you like?  Which ones do you recommend?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Point of View

Here's a pretty nice buck that we saw in a field from our deer stand.   Louie and I were sitting about 20 ft. up in a tree and we watched this buck walk out from the woods.....

It's thrilling to see something like that move cautiously out into view.  He was very quiet and kept looking around.  I zoomed out a little with my lens...

Then I finally zoomed out all the way so I could show you how far we were from where the deer was.  You can just barely see him to the middle right of the photo.  He turned and dashed off.

He was in and out of that field in less than 2 minutes.  We didn't even shoot at him.  It was another nice afternoon in the woods tho....

Monday, November 26, 2012

Looking for Kailua Al

I have a fun geocaching TB story to share with you today.  Back in March of 2010 I gave a TB that I named "Bugleann's Hawaiian Adventure" to a friend of mine who was going to Hawaii.  He dropped it off in a cache for me and my hope was that it would travel around Hawaii for a little while.

Enter geocacher "Kailua Al" who retrieved my TB from a cache.  Al asked if he could keep it for awhile and travel around with it.  Well, Al went above and beyond the call of duty on this one.  He ended up keeping that TB for a year and a half, traveled with it to 5 US states and 5 foreign countries, plus all over Hawaii and put over 41,600 miles on it.  Whew!  In the process, he also posted about 100 photos from around the world to my TB page.  How awesome was that??

I was tickled pink that Al was doing such a nice thing for me.  It was really fun to keep tabs on where he was and see the photos from so many cool places.  So I decided to make a TB in Al's honor and release it, with a specific mission for it to reach Kailua Al in Hawaii.

I activated the "Looking for Kailua Al" TB on June 4, 2010 and took it with me when my sister and I flew to Sanibel Island, Florida.  We dipped it into a few geocaches.....

 ....and when we were ready to go home, I handed it off to her to take back to Colorado.  Once there she placed it into another cache....

From there it traveled to Canada, Pennsylvania, Delaware, back to Florida, New Hampshire, Maine, New Mexico, and finally to Washington State where it was picked up by Mazeracer on Sept. 9th 2012.  Mazeracer added a turtle charm and posted this note on the TB page:

It appears that "Looking for Kailua Al" has another nice Hawaii keychain added to the collection, so we decided we should add a turtle charm we picked up on our trip to Maui last February. See how these travel bugs take on a mind of their own? :-) 

We have a caching friend from Maui coming to visit in October. We're planning on having an event while he is here so if you don't mind we can keep this to travel for a bit with us and pass this on to him when he is here October 26th-28th.

On October 27th, Mazeracer passed it off to his friend, Tracerbullet, who took it on a TB tour for a few days and then headed for Hawaii where it was placed in a cache on October 31st.....

I kept a nervous eye on the TB, hoping someone would pick it up and carry it closer to the island where Kailua Al lived.  Imagine my surprise when I got this message from Ancognito on 11-12-12:

Kailua Al is my close geocaching friend.
Talk about a "Small World" ! A little over five years ago, I infected Kailua Al on June 10, 2007 with the geocaching "virus". Since then he's traveled the world looking for caches. 
I was on Maui for the weekend and for some reason I looked at the TBs in this cache. Don't know why I looked in it because had already I found this cache last year. Seems like the TB was calling out to me! 
I will drop off this TB at Kailua Al's home !

How cool is that and what are the chances??

The next message I received was on 11-13-12 from Kailua Al himself.  Here is what he had to say:

Bugleann, The Looking for Kailua Al Travel bug finally found me. It traveled over 13,000 miles on the way but the first cache it was placed in when it arrived in the state it was found by the same person who originally introduced me to Geocaching in 2007. He is from Oahu like me but was on Maui taking care some things and took a little time off to cache. He had a feeling he should check on a cache he had found a year before to check out the TB’s inside. He was very surprised to find the Looking for Kailua Al Travel bug. He gave me a call to let me know and he dropped it off at my house for me to make the grab. I now have it and will take it caching with me for a while. It has acquired three more Hawaii key rings on its journey and is looking good. Thanks for releasing it and the fun as I’ve watched it make its way to Hawaii. 

Here's the final photo's of the Kailua Al TB.  It looks like a couple a nice geocachers added a few good luck charms to it along the way ....

And here's Kailua Al himself:

So, it took almost 2 1/2 years, traveled 13,464 miles and due to the kindness of many geocachers along the way, it finally landed in the hands of its namesake.  Ownership of the TB has been passed to Kailua Al, who can now do whatever he likes with the TB.

As for me, I had a lot of fun tracking the TB.  Because of geocaching I got to cyber meet Kailua Al, who is a really great guy.  Oh yeah, the TB that started off this whole thing - my Bugleann's Hawaiian Adventure TB - it's still going strong. It's now in the hands of another Hawaiian caching family who have taken it under their wing.  The Brownie Family has taken up where Kailua Al left off and so far they've traveled with it to Oregon, Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee.  Currently my TB has logged 67,670 miles.

It's all a pretty amazing story and just goes to show you how nice geocachers can be!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving 2012

The holidays are upon us and it can be a very joyful time of year. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring thoughts and loving prayer right now.  Please take some time to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. 

I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday, filled with love, joy and family.  Thanks for stopping by Snug Harbor Bay and for being my friends.  You mean more to mean than you'll ever know.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review - La Cucina Italiana

Rizzoli Publishing has just released "La Cucina Italiana, The Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking"  by the editors of La Cucina Italiana.  The encyclopedia is based on the popular Italian Magazine "La Cucina Italiana" which has been in publication since 1929.  Do you like to cook Italian?  Would you like to learn to cook Italian?  Do you just plain like to eat Italian food?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this book is for you!

Don't let the word encyclopedia throw you because this book is so much more.  It contains over 3000 step-by-step photographs and more than 500 recipes that will delight and excite the beginner as well as seasoned chefs.  La Cucina Italiana is geared towards many levels of cooking expertise - easy enough for new cooks, more challenging levels for those who want to try something more difficult, and finally, chef secrets and new techniques for those who are more experienced in the kitchen.

The encyclopedia consists of 21 chapters, ranging from basic ingredients to complete dishes and contains lots of history about the different cuts of meats, cheeses and pastas.  I particularly liked the way each chapter is broken down into different sections:
  • Ingredient Guide
  • Essential Methods
  • Feature Recipes
  • From the Experts
  • The Right Tools
Each recipe name is listed in both Italian and English with Italian words sprinkled throughout the book.  This  lends a fun sense of authenticity while providing me a chance to translate using my meager Italian skills.  The recipes go quite in depth on ingredients and technique.  The gorgeous accompanying photos are guaranteed to make your  mouth water while they easily demonstrate how to do something or what it should look like.  This book is like having a cooking school in your hands and is very user friendly.

Some of my favorite chapters included...
  • Breads and Flatbreads.  If you're a bread lover like I am, this is where you will begin.  The very first recipe I tackled was the Focaccia and I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was to make because the directions are so well explained.  More on this later.
  • Sauces, Stocks and Broths begins with a brief history on the different types of each and the regions in which they originated.
  • Vegetables.  This chapter will show you ways to use vegetables that you never imagined, as well as introduce you to some that I bet you've never tried.  This chapter is extensive.
  • Legumes. One of my favorite things to eat is traditional Italian beans and now I know how to make them properly.
  • Pork & Pork Products. It's mind boggling to read about the wide variety of ways that pork is used.  Nothing goes to waste.
  • Dairy.  Italy produces over 450 different types of cheese.  I enjoyed reading about how to make homemade Ricotta and I guarantee Chablis is going to want to make the Pasta Ai Quattro Formaggi.  Anyone??  That means pasta with four cheeses.
  • Cakes, Cookies & Spoon Desserts.  Enough said!
I decided to put the book to a little test of my own, just to see how easy or difficult it was to follow.  My husband will be the first one to tell you that my cooking skills are adequate, yet uninspired.  He is quite fond of saying that I am the "one pot wonder."  As such, I was anxious to try my hand at a few of the recipes.

The first thing I tried was the Focaccia recipe...

1) Easy to follow directions and look at the gorgeous photos in the book....

2)  So far so good.  It's ready for the oven.

3)  And here we have the finished product.  It didn't sit on the cooling tray for long....

Tony and Alex spied the book on the counter and in no time at all they were flipping though the pages and making a list of recipes they wanted to try.  I urged them to make something for dinner and they immediately rolled up their sleeves and tackled Gnocchi.

Gnocchi is another favorite of mine and for those who aren't familiar, gnocchi is made from potatoes and flour.  First you boil potatoes until they are just done....

Do you have a "potato ricer?"  It's sort of like a huge garlic press.  I love mine!

Alex and Tony shaping the gnocchi....

The finished product, with butter, olive oil and parmesean cheese.  It was excellent!

In conclusion, La Cucina Italiana is a book with something for everyone.  I found it to be filled with traditional Italian recipes coupled with beautiful photos and easy to follow directions.  Nothing in the book looked to be too hard to try.  I thought that the "From the Experts" sections were the most interesting.  These "words of wisdom" are practical and helpful.

The holiday season is just around the corner.  "La Cucina Italiana, The Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking" would make a wonderful gift for anyone who enjoys cooking.  This is a book that will get used - a lot!  Plus, you'll get the added benefit of eating the meals that get cooked because of this book.  That sounds like a win-win to me.


As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.   Get your copy here

(cover photo property of Rizzoli Publishing.  Do not reproduce)

I was provided an advance copy of the book for review purposes and asked to give an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Where I Blog

A couple of weeks ago my blogger buddy Claudia from over at Mockingbird Hill Cottage put up a post that was laugh out loud funny to me.  She talked about what a mess her blogging area is and I thought it was hysterical because it was so me!  I even had to drag Chablis over to the computer to read the post and we were both rolling on the floor.  If you're not familiar with Claudia's blog, go on over, read the post I'm talking about and stick around for awhile.  I love her blog.

Anyway.....  I told Claudia I was going to copy her idea and do a post about my blogging area.  I mean, don't you sort of wonder sometimes where people sit when they write their blogs?  I know I do.  I read so many great blogs, inspiring blogs, creative blogs, beautiful blogs and I always picture the writers sitting at their desks (their organized desks) fully dressed with their hair and makeup done and gentle music playing in the back ground and perhaps their dog is napping by their feet while their children are nicely sitting at the kitchen table doing their homework and a nice dinner is cooking on the stove.  Hmmmm....  That's what I imagine anyway and I wonder how close or far I am from the truth?

That is so not my house or my blogging area.  I prefer to think of mine as "organized kaos."  So I'm going to show you.  This is my corner of the front room where I am camped out most evenings.  I usually have my sweatsuit on and the foot rest is kicked up on my chair.  My black lab crawls under the foot rest and my dachshund jumps up and lays across my legs.  I lean over and grab my laptop off that pathetic looking TV tray table and sit all evening and read blogs and type posts while my husband has the television blasting and my kids are in and out of the front room a hundred times.  I'm so packed into my chair that if I want a cup of tea I have to grab whoever is breezing through the room and ask them to go get me one.

So lets take a look at all my little "have to have them around me" treasures.  My book on Italy which I flip through all the time because I'm obsessed with going there and the Ocean book that is too interesting for words.  See the 2 GPS units plugged in?  That's because they have to be charged at all times in case we want to go geocaching.  Then I just have to lean over and grab them to load up with geocaches from my laptop program.

Ok, remember awhile back when Chablis and I made this totally cool looking Sanibel Island table?  This one....  Yeah, well that would look so awesome sitting right here with my laptop on it, but she won't give it to me.  How rude is that??

Instead I have this crappy looking TV tray table that I use.  But notice the picture that is my screen saver.  My good friend Karen, The Essential Beachcomber, took that picture.  It's one of my favorites!  Underneath the table is "La Cucina Italiana" which I'm reading for an upcoming book review.

Now let's explore my end table.  In the back is a rock and a piece of lava that a friend of mine brought me back from Hawaii, a container of peanut M & M's because I'm addicted to them, notes and flashcards for the Spanish class that Chablis and I are taking, 2 notepads because I'm an obsessive note taker and list maker.  One pad is full of notes on the book I'm doing the review on.  Say hello to "Miss Birdy" my troll.  I love her.  I bought her because she reminded me of myself.  She's a tiny little thing and her hair is always sticking up in all directions, kind of like mine does.  My kids call me "Bird" so it just kind of fits.

Underneath my end table is a tray with a ton of books.  I bought "60 Hikes within 60 Miles" because two of my favorite hikers, Linda over at Linda's Lens, and Cris over at Here There and Everywhere inspire me to take better hikes than the ones I do.  One of these days I'm going to get out to Portland and/or Spain and go hiking with both of them!  That would be awesome!!  The 3 of us hiking together would "rock it!"

I haven't had time to read any of these books yet except for the National Parks one, which is also the only one I paid full price for.  The rest I got at the library used book sale or at garage sales.  Average price?  A quarter.  Who can beat that?  I love books and always have stacks of them everywhere.  I should show you my bedroom, but I won't.  LOL!

Moving around to the back of my throne is this little collection...  Current magazines waiting to be read, a container of trail mix, my crochet bag with a blanket I'm working on, 2 tubs of yarn and our phone.  Why is my phone on the floor?  Because I hate the phone, I despise talking on the phone and more often than not I refuse to answer it when it rings.  I really only have it for emergencies but I think it's a waste of money.  I really should get rid of it.  Maybe I will.

So there you go, now you know that I'm writing my posts from an easy chair, with my dog and my laptop perched on my lap, surrounded by my family and all the things that matter most to me.  I think I'm more creative kicked back in my chair with my legs sticking up in the air. (altho not in the good way).  Ha!   I like the drone of the television in the background and my kids telling each other they are stupid and my husband asking me for the 10th time "what's for dinner and when are you getting out of that chair and making it?"  I doubt I could write a blog post if I had to sit at my desk in my office - that's just not me.

Ok, I showed you my blogging world, now show me yours!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Audubon State Park

A couple of weeks ago I did a book review of  "AUDUBON’S AVIARY: The Original Watercolors for The Birds of America," by Roberta J. M. Olson, Skira Rizzoli, 2012.  This is a fabulous book and reading it sparked my interest in John James Audubon.

Co-incidentally, the John James Audubon State Park is located in Henderson, Kentucky and is about 90 miles away from our lake house.  Last weekend we had a forecast for a nice day, so Chablis and I decided to do a little road trip and visit the park and museum for the day.

Did somebody say "nice day?"  

Audubon lived in Henderson from 1810 - 1819.  One of his greatest pleasures was exploring the surrounding forests and sketching the wildlife in the area.  In 1934 this parcel was selected to become the Audubon State Park.  Today it contains the museum, a gift shop, a nature center, a 9 hole golf course, campgrounds, cottages and 2 lakes.

I was particularly interested in visiting the museum....

The museum charges $ 5.00 per person admission and it was well worth it.  Just as we walked in, the receptionist told us that the docent had just started a tour and if we hurried up, we could join them.  Was I ever glad we did!

The tour took about 45 minutes and we got to see a lot of Audubon's personal items such as diaries and journals, clothes, dishware and silver services, and his books.  The walls are adorned with Audubon artwork and no pictures were allowed inside the galleries.  Shhhh... don't tell anyone, but I sneaked in one picture of my favorite painting by Audubon "The Tufted Titmouse."  I didn't use the flash, so it's a little dark....

It was amazing to get to walk around and see this stunning artwork.  I was especially excited to  see one of the original copper plates used to make one of the prints.  We learned that after Audubon's death, his widow, Lucy, was having a hard time making ends meet and sold many of the plates for scrap metal.  How horrifying to think that these beautiful copper plates had been melted down and destroyed.  The surviving plates are valued for hundreds of thousands of dollars each.  Many of the plates are still unaccounted for.  Maybe you have one hidden away in your attic???

At the completion of the tour, our docent asked if anyone would be interested in climbing to the top of the tower.  He seriously didn't know who he had in his group - my hand shot up so quickly that I almost slapped Chablis' head off her shoulders.  Most of our group opted for the walk up the steep steps, including the 92 year old woman who climbed up and down like a champ.  Here are some views as we go up the stairs.....

This is looking up to the top of the tower....

...and looking out from the top floor window....

Afterwards we stopped by the nature center which had huge, sun splashed windows looking out over the property...

We soon headed outside where you can see the tower behind me.  The niches in the tower walls were placed there with nesting birds in mind!

We headed out to explore one of the lakes and a trail and to find a couple of geocaches....

As we were leaving the park, I stopped to grab one last geocache and came across this grave marker that I told you about here.

After stopping at Sonic for a couple of cheeseburgers, we headed back to the lake.

If you're not familiar with the work of John James Audubon I urge you to find out more about this extraordinary man and his legacy.  His "Birds of America" is a shining example of book art and his paintings are unsurpassed in the field of ornithology.  With the holidays just around the corner, "Audubon's Aviary" would make an excellent gift.

(photos used with permission of Rizzoli Publishing.  Do not reproduce without permission)
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