Friday, July 29, 2011

Flash Bulb Friday

So... for all of those totally offended by my "I hate dogs" rant (HERE) I thought I would post a photo of one of the dogs I actually LIKE!
This is Pearl. She's my father-in-law's adorable dog. I'd tell you what kind she is, but I have no idea! Some type of weird Chinese dog. But I'm pretty convinced I like her for a number of her atypical dog behaviors...
1) She doesn't bark
2) She doesn't jump
3) She still looks like a puppy, even though she's 7 years old
However, Puff, do NOT get any ideas. She still sheds! And we are perfectly content without one of our own!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Travelogue: Part 7

I swear I will wrap up the rest of these travel updates by the end of next week. What's the hurry? We've only been home 2 months! LOL!
Anyway... our second to last city was Helsinki, Finland.
After Puff threw away our one and only map, we lucked out that a bus company was on the pier and handed us one. This promptly lead us to attempting to navigating the streets toward the market square, but misjudging the distance. A few blocks of walking plus a cab ride later, lead us to this place. The Market Square was right on the waterfront and was a ton of fun! We didn't pick up any food or the amazing flowers they had, but we did rack up on lots of good souvenirs! (It didn't hurt most stands took credit cards.) Puff walked away with a keychain and a letter opener made from reindeer antlers.
The Soumenlinna Fortress (hope I spelled that right) is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is in the bay, about a 15 minute ferry ride away. As I've mentioned before, Puff and I had difficulty finding things to do in Helsinki. I was glad we made the choice to check out the fort, as it provided a great way to enjoy the beautiful 70+ degree, sunshiney, day. We popped in and out of old buildings, stopped a creepy Japanese tourist from photographing Finnish school children, and ate homemade lollipops.
Back on the mainland, we strolled just a few short blocks to Upenski Cathedral. Unfortunately, after we hiked all the steps, we realized it wasn't open to tour the inside. ::shrug:: The view of the harbor was nice, and again, since it was a fairly empty day, we just rolled with the punches.
We also checked out another church (HERE) and did some shopping. Lunch along the Esplanade Park was followed by a hike back to the ship, which took well over an hour. No mind to us... we ended up in a cute neighborhood where we stopped at a convenient store and bought lemon-lime sandwich cookies! They're divine!
All told... Puff and I won't be high-tailing it back to Finland any time soon. That doesn't mean we didn't like it. It was clean and the people were nice.
It was just kinda, well... boring.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dining Design Dilemma

Puff and I are currently living with this dreaded situation in The Bungalow...
That's right, we have a dark garnet dining room. As you may have read (HERE) we've already remedied this situation in our bathroom and painted it the ever-so-fab Sherwin Williams, Intellectual Gray. Well, that plaid wallpaper you see in the distance in the kitchen is about to be taken out to the trash and freshened up to the same gray color.
Now my dilemma...
What color do I paint the dining room? Because, Lord knows, it is not staying that retched color!
For one second, I need to pimp the show, "Color Splash" on HGTV. Their brilliant product placement lead Puff and I to a recent Sunday afternoon paint chip adventure to Sherwin Williams. They've got this new line where they have like 15 colors picked out in themes (Rustic, Coastal, Etc.) and no matter which colors you pick, they all match. The not-quite-100%-confident designer in me was thrilled! Especially since the dining room is a transitional room between the not-quite-mustard living room (which will eventually be lightened a bit. It's almost the ceiling color in the photo) and the grey kitchen.
I had intially thought white would be the best. But now we're batting around a light blue-grey (which has always been a dream color of mine) or a more khaki color. Decisions, decisions. But don't fret... the second we've got updated photos, we will be sharing. A fresh white ceiling and a new light fixture from West Elm are in the works as well!
Any color suggestions from the Peanut Gallery?

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Rural Room

Earlier in July, Puff and I made our first joint pilgrimmage to rural Michigan to visit his family. I was not one to hide my animosity for the trip. Nothing against his family... but the incessant talk about the lack of anything to do there wasn't exactly pumping me up for the excursion.

I was, however, able to score a fantastic room at a "Luxury Michigan Bed & Breakfast" a reasonable drive away from the in-laws. And I'm here to totally pimp the place! It's called The Rooms at Grayfield and it's in a one stop-light town called Jonesville, about 45 minutes from the Ohio border. So, basically in the middle of no where. It's in a gorgeous old train station that has been converted to something straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog. (Rain shower included!)

However... with amazing gardens like these:

And amazing Garden View rooms decked out like this:

What's not to love?

If I were my brother-in-law & sister-in-law, I'd totally be booking a romantic night to get away RIGHT NOW. Sure, it was a bit pricey, but totally worth it. We loved having the privacy of our own place (versus bunking with the fam) and spent a glorious few hours one afternoon with the balcony door open, warm summer breeze blowing in, reading a trashy novel and watching "Finding Bigfoot."

There's nothing like the smell of fresh squatch in the morning. (Classic!)

The wonderful proprieter, Dee, also set us up for a romantic breakfast for two at a small table on the old train platform. The calm, tranquil setting was a beautiful, perfect, getaway. So... if you ever find yourself in need of a place to stay in a small, out of the way place, I'd definitely give Dee a call!

If we ever end up back in that part of the world again... there's no place else I'd even consider staying. And I'm a GIANT hotel snob!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Flash Bulb Friday

Sure, there were lots of pretty places and cool things in Stockholm, Sweden.
But I loved these pastries more.
On a visit to the open-air museum at Skansen, Puff and I stumbled across a humble building on a cobblestoned path that had a golden pretzel hanging outside the door. We ducked in and were overwhelmed with the aroma of fresh baked goods. A woman in period costume told us about the array of sweets that were laid out in front of her on simple wooden crates.
Mine was plain and simple. Light and airy. With a sweep of sugar across the top. But the inside wasn't bland. It had a hint of a savory spice in it. Delish! Puff's was very obvious a giant heap of sugary goodness filled with (what he called) the best blueberry marmalade ever!
Don't worry... we swung by later on our way out to treat ourselves to a second round!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Travelogue: Part 6

I'm seriously slacking on these travel updates, aren't I? Sorry about that! Only two more to come after today's though. So stay tuned!

Anyway... our cruise docked overnight in St. Petersburg, which was fabulous, so we were able to have another full day of sightseeing in town. We chose a tour with a double-decker bus in the morning, which drove us past a lot of cool, old buildings, along Nevsky Prospect, and finally dumped us off. We were ready for some FREE TIME!
The day before, we hadn't really seen any of the fabled canals in the city. So when we were dropped off in the heart of the city, along Nevsky Prospect, we were greeted with beautiful canals, lined with cobble stoned pathways, gorgeous buildings, and my favorite church in the world ahead of us!
Before we'd check out the aforementioned "favorite" church, we stumbled across a giant Russian Orthodox church, which reminded me of a capitol building in a US city. We had lunch at the Singer Cafe, right across the street, and had a panoramic view of this impressive structure.
Now do you see why this was my favorite??? I did a Flash Bulb (HERE) awhile back of the outside, but this is the magnificent interior. It had been badly damaged during the war, but was painstakingly restored. Those are all mosaic tiles. Not paintings. Floor to ceiling, intricate tiles. I was blown away.
While neither Puff nor myself are art connoisseurs, we figured it would be wrong to go all the way to St. Pete and not visit one of the most fabulous art museums in the entire world... The Hermitage. We saw works by Raphael, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Cezanne, and Monet. We were super happy to have a guide as we meandered through the maze-like palatial complex from master work to master work. Puff and I bought a print of this Monet painting to hang in our bedroom. It'll be a nice reminder of our anniversary trip.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I'm a Travel Nerd

Puff recently forced me to sit down and watch a TV show that I wasn't so sure I would like. The Halogen channel is a bit of a hippie, weird network that I frankly, didn't know existed. But then we found "Word Travels" and I need to take a second to pimp this awesome show!
Taken from their website, this is the gist: "While travelling to exotic locations and writing about enlightening experiences may sound like an adventurous occupation, the life of a travel writer is not always as glamorous as it seems.  WORD TRAVELS is a TV series that follows freelance journalist Robin Esrock and national travel columnist Julia Dimon as they battle deadlines, jetlag, culture shock – and each other – to file the best travel stories possible. Filmed in 36 countries across six continents, each half-hour episode of this 40-part series reveals the real story of professional travel journalism – the truth behind the byline."
But what totally rocks my world about the show is that they go to DIFFERENT places! We've seen episodes in the Yukon of Canada and then to Lithuania and another to Latvia. (This show inspired me to plan a future trip to Vilnius and Riga!) While I love Samantha Brown and a lot of other Travel Channel shows, I just get sick and tired of being forced into believing the only places worth visiting are Las Vegas, Hawaii, and Paris. (God, I hate Paris.) Or that somehow, poker is a relevant travel-based game.
Take a chance. Set up the DVR to catch an episode or two. And hopefully you'll be as inspired as we were to branch out a little bit. Even if our branches were already a little bit more stretched and bent than most peoples.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Flash Bulb Friday

When Puff and I realized our cruise would be taking us to Helsinki, Finland, I think we were both excited about the prospect. However, once we got to the planning out what to do stage, we realized there wasn't all that much there. It wasn't crazy historic and there wasn't any cute old town. We were, however, determined to make the most of it.
Eventually, we had to visit the Lutheran Cathedral on Senate Square in the heart of their downtown. It's one of those iconic places in the city and it didn't disappoint. The gorgeous blue sky was the perfect backdrop for the stark white cathedral. The inside was ho-hum and boring (nothing like the Russian Orthodox churches from the previous day) but nevertheless, we're glad we hiked up all those steep steps to check it out.
We'll probably never go back to Finland, but at least we documented we went.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Wild Side

This post needs a bit of a backstory...

When I turned 21, my long-distance boyfriend, Mr. Smith, made a comment that it would be hilarious to make a t-shirt that read "Lick for $5" on the front of it. Since I was in the midst of the craziest days of my life, I took him up on that deal, had Prina draft in Sharpie those words across my white t-shirted chest, and we headed out to the bars. (While poor Mr. Smith was 500 miles away!)

The night was legen - wait for it - dary.

Flash forward 7 years to my bachelorette party. Since it had been a running joke among my college girls for so many years, it seemed only appropriate to recreate the look. Prina did an excellent job on the new version... even doing it in pink Sharpie that time to coincide with Kimhead's bachelorette party theme colors.

I'm not sure who all knew about the shirt, but I wasn't exactly hiding the story. In fact, it was one of my favorite ones to tell. So a few weeks ago, this happened:

I was standing with 2 guys I know and I was handed a check from someone. There was some banter back and forth about what the check was for. Soon, it turned to a joke, since the check was for only $172.83. Apparently, that became my going rate. I about died laughing when one of them turned out the gem.... "Was the 83 cents to swallow?"

Instantly, the other piped up and shouted, "Hey! That's what you should've written on the back of your Lick for $5 t-shirt!"

Damn straight. Wish we would've thought of it then.

I have a feeling it's too late now. I don't think that would go over too well if Kimhead made me wear it at my baby shower!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Travelogue: Part 5

Of all the places in the world, I can't say that Russia ranked very high on my "Must Visit" list. Sure, it was on there. Most places are! Who are we kidding? Yet, when I got the opportunity to go, I couldn't pass it up. This cruise itinerary provided us a reliable option for how to take in this mysterious place.
My first impression of Russia was, "Dude, you are WAAAY too serious!" Probably because it took us over an hour to go through customs to get off the boat. I was surprised I didn't get a pat down! Then, the first buildings we see are these. Yeah... real welcoming, right? Ha!
Don't worry... things started to look up after we got to Peterhof Palace, just outside town. The gorgeous, mammouth sized palace with these amazing gardens and fountains was something very European. It definitely rivaled Versailles. (I actually liked it better since it wasn't in Paris, a city I hate!) We spent a good while learning all about the czars of the past and meandering down tree-lined paths to secret parts of the garden.
After all the serenity of the Peterhof gardens, our tour guide decided to jolt us back into reality by putting us on a Russian-mechanic maintained hydrofoil to skip across the Gulf of Finland. You could see the terror in Puff's eyes as we boarded the rusty beast and took our place in worn out old, repurposed airplane seats. The funniest part of that excursion was me trying to climb steep, metal stairs to cross an open-air bridge to the back part of the boat to pee on a glorified bucket. All while moving. Hilarious!
That afternoon, following a city driving tour with a few photo stops, we ended up here, at the St. Peter & Paul Fortress. This cathedral marked the center of the fortress and was glorious against the bright blue sky that had appeared.
Everyone seems to know the story of Princess Anastasia, so when they started jabbering on about The Last Romanovs, I finally (kinda) knew the story! Apparently within recent years, through crazy scientific DNA tests, they were able to confirm some remains that were found in Siberia to be those of the infamous family. Their tomb was located in an out-of-the-way chapel area inside the above St. Peter & Paul Cathedral, within the fortress.
The day ended with some more photo stops (and a pee emergency at a swanky hotel - gotta love my bladder) complete with an aching lower back and sweaty, stinky, sore feet. All told, our first day in Russia was pretty cool. The next day would prove to be even better!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Show 'Em Some Leg

I like to push the envelope.
Why? Because I'm pretty much convinced I can never be wrong. I blame it on being an only child.
My latest crusade? The mini-skirt. It's not for any particular reason, other than Puff and I were recently at the outlet mall and I fell in love with a navy skirt with a zipper up the back. Sadly, they didn't have my size, but J.Crew is genius in having their "factory" items available on line each weekend, so I was able to rush home and snag that puppy!
Now I'm debating whether or not it's work appropriate. Perhaps I should've thought about that before plopping down $40 on this skirt and a subsequent $30 on a shirt that just looked SO CUTE with the skirt. Minor details. I've always had a bit of an issue with the whole "work appropriate attire" schtick. I distinctly remember my first grown-up job that required me to not wear the shorts & t-shirts I had relished while working through high school at a summer camp. I went to Old Navy and bought what I thought was OK. No one ever said anything to me about it, but in hindsight, that jean skirt with skin-tight halter top (worn with no bra, mind you) probably wasn't the best idea.
Over subsequent interim jobs in the years immediately following college graduation, I found myself on two different occasions, with two different bosses, having the "your clothes are not to my liking" discussion. Still, to this day, I think they were a little ridiculous. One instance had a male boss telling me you could see my "midriff." Um... Sir... I have a nice little muffin-top thing going, so I'm pretty confident you're seeing things, since I would never, not even on the beach, show off my stomach. Mandatory fleece vests were issued shortly thereafter. I then made it a point to wear sleeveless blouses the rest of that summer, under my ugly fleece vest, so that it looked like I wasn't wearing a shirt. One point for me!
The next boss was just an overall bitch and hated me from the get-go since I would stand up to her if necessary. (I will interject myself for a second to state that I have always been, and always will be, a dedicated employee who gets her shit done.) She didn't like my shoes (open-toed sandals = flip flops to her) and I was showing too much clevage. (Hey... sometimes, it's hard to reign these girls in!) But I was wearing polo shirts and khakis and dress pants with blouses. I didn't understand her concern. Shortly thereafter, mandatory uniforms were implemented. These uniforms included "slouchy socks." When I came to work a few times without said "slouchy socks" I was confronted. When informed that I did not own such outdated attire, I found some on my desk the next morning. One point for the crappy boss. Boo. (She was replaced shortly thereafter and the uniforms went out the door with her.)
I've gotten a lot better over the years since I've been at my current job, yet I can't help but slip up sometimes. Like the day I didn't realize my cute new wrap-dress was WAY too boobalicious until I was already sitting at my desk. (Or maybe I did realize it but didn't care since the girls looked so good!) Our entire female staff force was called into HR once to discuss showing too much chest and about visible tattoos. Um... could it have been any more obvious it was a meeting directed at me? Since I'm pretty sure the 65 year old lady next to me isn't rocking any low-cut shirts! Although my tattoo is 90% hidden on most days, which falls under the approved corporate guidelines! Thankyouverymuch!
Perhaps it's rebellion or just a little bit of ignorance, but I haven't really changed my wardrobe. I would, gladly, if they included a clothing stipend in my salary. On the flip side, I also don't think seeing a little bit of camisole peak out from the top of a button-down, very work appropriate, blouse is the end of the world. I keep the tube tops for the weekend.
But maybe I'll save the mini-skirt for a Monday!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Flash Bulb Friday

Puff and I are currently wrapping up some travel time in The Fort visiting family. Since I'm on a foreign computer without my stash of pictures, I thought I'd do something a little different for today's Flash Bulb entry!
We all know I love taking photos, but I'm by no means a professional. Nor would I ever attempt to be. It's a crazy fun hobby that I enjoy. But I can appreciate the pros too, ya know! So, here are a few of my faves that I check out pretty regularly.
He updates his blog fairly regularly with crazy awesome photos of people & places. It doesn't hurt that he's got a bunch of kids with cool names either. In fact, that's how I ended up finding it... from my baby naming friend, Trish!
She shoots lots of awesome concert photos that totally make me jealous. And I've got one of her photos framed in my dining room. It's the one with the knuckles that read "Rockstar." So... A) that guy is so cool for having that and 2) it was a perfect photo to break my "I don't buy other people's photography" rule!
She is a god when it comes to shooting newborns! I'm not even sure how I stumbled across her site, but I "like" her on Facebook just so I can see all the amazing shots she gets of the wee little ones. I'm jealous I don't live close enough for her to shoot our unconceived children!
Know any great photogs you think I'd like? Be sure to share!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I'm No Betty Crocker

If I'm posting this, then it means Puff and I successfully survived Pure Michigan. Although I'm pretty sure that the crazy-ass rural, one-blinking-light part we saw was NOT featured in that commercial. Such false advertising!

So, I know you're not used to coming here for recipes or anything, but I've found a super yumm-o cake that is pretty much Gail-proof. And that's a hard feat. Plus, it's butterscotch flavored, which is one of those not-everyone-likes-it flavors that I just happen to drool over!

What do you need?
1 box yellow cake mix
1 4oz. box of butterscotch pudding (cook & serve, not instant)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Cream cheese frosting (which I've found is the best combo)
Chopped pecans & butterscotch chips (for garnish)

And it's crazy ass simple too! Make the pudding according to the box. Dump the cake mix in a bowl & then top with the pudding. I usually stop stirring the pudding before it gets too puddingy (still sorta liquid) and you don't have to wait for the pudding to cool. In fact, DO NOT wait for it to cool or it will jack it up! Then throw in the oil and stir.

Once it's all smooth, pour it in a 9x12 pan (I think that's the size... have you realized I'm doing this from memory? LOL!) You know... the rectangular one! And bake it at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Once it's cooled, plop on some icing and put the pecans & butterscotch chips in a pretty ol' pattern on the top!
Word of wisdom: I attempted to make this in cupcake form and it did NOT turn out too great. They were much drier than the cake normally is. I've made this cake before and still been eating on it almost a week later and it's still moist! Can't beat that!

Happy baking!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Flash Bulb Friday

Puff and I went to Russia.
And it was pretty damn cool.
Although, St. Petersburg was definitely much more European than I expected. Lots of pretty palaces and gorgeous cathedrals. While the people weren't necessarily the most accommodating and helpful and friendly in the world, I didn't ever feel unsafe or weirded out being there.
Especially when we finally got to this place; The Church on Spilled Blood. We had purposely booked a tour through the cruise that would bring us to this place and allow us free time in the city. (It was the only tour that did that!) It was well worth suffering through being herded around that afternoon by a lady with a white sign held above her head while we wore headphones to hear her.
Not only was the outside quintessentially Russian, the inside was a mind-blowing sensory overload of floor-to-ceiling tiled mosaics. We saw lots of neat places and things in that town, but this was, by far, my favorite.