Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stop & Shop Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the Stop & Shop giveaway, it generated a lot of comments. I am happy to announce the winner of the Stop & Shop gift card (courtesy of Stop & Shop, General Mills and MyBlogSpark) - drum roll please!

CHicks - congratulations! Please email your contact info to me at May you be as lucky in the Stop & Shop hybrid car giveaway.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Go Roomba Go!

Our Roomba Geoffrey (chosen in honor of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air's butler) does not coast by on mere looks alone, he delivers:

That's two rooms worth of hair and dust that was picked up while Andrew and I slept.  Well done.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Boop De Boop Be Boop

Andrew and I have welcomed a new toy to the house.

All it took was a few minutes reading instructions for Andrew to get our "pet" running.

He makes delightfully soothing and cheerful (not at the same time) noises to let us know he loves us.

Best of all is when he lets us know he's done cleaning the dining room floor while Andrew and I are sitting on our butts watching TV.

I heart our new Roomba. And now I must think of a name for him.

Different View of the World

I've been riding the T for over ten years, but this was the first time I had a chance to ride the historic trolley that is near our new digs.

I felt like Andrew and I were inappropriately dressed when riding it - suitable attire would've been suits and fedoras out of the forties (I think, I'm horrible with period clothing). But the passengers definitely reflected today's times and the diverse neighborhoods that border where we live.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Another Stop & Shop Giveaway

It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to offer a giveaway, but in celebration of Earth Day, Stop & Shop is offering a chance for customers to win one of two eco-friendly hybrid cars.

To participate, you can either:
  1. Buy 5 participating General Mills items with your Stop & Shop card and use a re-useable shopping bag and you’ll be automatically entered to win. You get one entry per visit.
  2. You can also enter without making a purchase by completing an official entry form at your local Stop & Shop store.
The qualifying items for this week include:
  • Cascadian Farms Cereal  
  • Green Giant Vegetables  
  • Nature Valley Crunchy or Sweet & Salty Granola Bars 
  • Green Giant Boxed Vegetables or Prepared Vegetables, Simple Steam Seasoned Vegetables or Rices  
  • Green Giant Wanchai Ferry Entrees  
  • Yoplait Frozen Smoothies  
  • Totino's Pizza Rolls  
  • Pillsbury Savorings  
  • Fiber One Muffins
  • Pillsbury Crescent Rolls  
  • Pillsbury Sweet Rolls  
  • Yoplait Greek Style Yogurt 
  • Yoplait Kid Multi Pack  
  • Cheerios 14 Oz  
  • Cocoa Puffs 16.5 Oz  
  • Honey Nut Cheerios 17 Oz 
  • Lucky Charms 16 oz  
  • Multigrain Cheerios 12.8 Oz  
  • Reeses Peanut Butter Puffs 18 Oz
So you're probably wondering where the giveaway portion comes in - courtesy of Stop & Shop and General Mills (via MyBlogSpark), Andrew and I were given a $20 gift card to Stop & Shop which we used on our shopping trip today to qualify for the hybrid car drawing. I was also given the opportunity to give another $20 gift card away to a lucky reader!

A random winner will be selected from the comments section below - to enter, in honor of Earth Day, let me know what your favorite "green" food is. At the moment, edamame is coming to mind for me. And mint chocolate chip ice cream. This list could go on forever!

 Deadline to comment is by midnight on Wednesday, April 28 - good luck to everyone!

Healthy Breakfast

I've been trying to eat healthier on the whole with very mixed results.  So after over-indulging in deliciously fatty food on Saturday, I was extra determined to eat something healthy for breakfast on Sunday.

A cup of water and old fashioned oats, along with cinnamon and a dried cranberry/raisin/golden raisin mix turned into a wonderfully gluey meal in mere minutes:
Topped with brown sugar and a little more cinnamon, it turned into a semi-healthy breakfast but tasted great!
My dad wasn't much of a cook as we were growing up (sorry dad!) but one of things I remember him making for me and Amy was gluey oatmeal. And I say gluey as a positive feature because that's definitely the best way to eat it! Another great way he used to serve it was topped with honey or maple syrup, with milk poured on top. The combo of warm oatmeal and cold milk is great!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

I've been heavily involved with Earth Day related stuff at work, so from a selfish standpoint, I'm so glad the day is over!!

On a more positive note, it was fun to get out today and play photographer at three of my company's Earth Day volunteering sites.

Here's a shot of me in action sporting some rockin' tinted safety glasses at a park in Manchester, NH. I also loved the fact that our employees got to wear shirts featuring Earth Day artwork from school children.
Hope you were able to go out and enjoy the surprisingly warm weather today. And I'm so glad that Earth Day just celebrated its 40th anniversary - it was nice to see so many random people on the streets (as well as my coworkers) doing a lot of good in some truly beautiful locations.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thai Takeout Trauma

Andrew and I are finding it hard to find some good takeout places in the area. We were in the mood for Thai on Tuesday night, and after being shot down by the closest Thai place to us (who informed us they weren't delivering that night - weird), we settled for another place within three miles that had better reviews on Yelp - Bangkok Cafe. At this point, we were getting hungry so despite the fact that they only offer pick-up, we decided to go for it.

Little did we realize how accurate Anderew was when he joked that the fact that the restaurant was completely empty at around 7:30 pm was not a good sign.

We went with our basic order of pad thai with shrimp (always a good basis) for comparison:

Thai spring rolls, another favorite and an order of the "Wild Boar Basil", a pork dish someone had recommended on Yelp:

The verdict? Spring rolls were short, squat and slightly greasy in flavor. The problem is that we've been spoiled by Jamjuli's wonderfully light spring rolls. The Wild Boar Basil was just meh - it was really spicy but didn't have much flavor. And the pad thai was simply horrible. Most of the noodles tasted plain and the ones that appeared to have been tossed in the sauce had no real flavor. Worst off, this place was pretty expensive for Thai takeout (our bill was $40 for the four things mentioned above), which is a lot more than we usually paid for Jamjuli, which is located in Newton.

I consider this money spent as a lesson learned - we will definitly not be ordering any food from them in the future. And I am glad that my office is still close to Newton. A late day at work tonight allowed me to swing by Jamjuli on my way home (now that the worse of the rush hour traffic had cleared). Did this mean we ate Thai food two days straight? Yes. But we aren't really counting Tuesday since it sucked so much for us.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Alien Invasion?

This is a actually a picture of the Eyjafjallajokull (trying say that three times fast) volcano in Iceland, in the midst of a "dirty thunderstorm".

According to MSNBC, dirty thunderstorms are what scientists believe to be "static charges are ignited by ice particles, as well as ash and rock fragments from the volcano."

To me, it looks like a scene out of a sci-fi movie, kind of like War of the Worlds when the lightening activates the alien pods buried in the ground. I can't imagine how cool it must look like in person!

Photo credit here.

Sunday Felt A Little Like Summer...

Not because of the weather. Because it was cold and rainy and we even had hail at one point during the drive down to Plymouth.

Despite all that, it felt a little like summer due to the restaurant Andrew's dad Tom picked for his birthday dinner - Wood's Seafood on the Plymouth waterfront:
There's some of the aforementioned weather - it made for some pretty dramatic coloring. And although it was still the offseason, you can tell that Wood's attracts a loyal following - by the time we left, every table was taken in the place!
The decor was a little kitschy but fit in with the seafood theme - as you can see, Andrew had fun posing with the harpoon gun (I'm taking a stab - haha - at what it was):
My choice for dinner? Fried shrimp and rice pilaf (my Korean side always come out in the fact that I prefer rice with all my proteins). The shrimp was nice and crispy, not too greasy and the cocktail sauce was awesome!! The little cups they provide you with are definitely not enough:
Phu and Magali joined us to help celebrate Tom's birthday and they seemed to like the food as well (although I caught them mid-chew listening to something Tom was saying):
We headed back to the house for dessert. Charlotte made her signature Baked Alaska and the birthday boy got to help spread the meringue over the mound of pistachio, chocolate peanut butter and vanilla ice cream:
You have to take the time to carefully spread every bit of meringue so there is no hint of ice cream peeking out - that way, the ice cream stays insulated when the Baked Alaska goes under the broiler:

Out of the oven, it was time to sing Happy Birthday so Tom could blow out the candles on his special birthday dessert:

Our contribution? I'm sad to report that I did not bake this weekend but it did give us an opportunity to check out a great new (to us) bakery - White's in Hingham. The masterpiece you're looking at is a Heath Bar cake and it was very good. I also love how clever the bakery was in writing a special birthday message on the cake:
As we sat in the dining room and savored our desserts, I could see the covered pool in the backyard, which made me feel hopeful that the weather would be warm enough in a month to take the cover off and enjoy a meal outside.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

To Have?

Is it sad that I'm loving these ring bearer bowls (vs. a traditional pillow) even though we don't have a ring bearer?

Andrew and I (really, more me) have been grappling about the whole flower girl/ring bearer thing. The problem is not knowing a bunch of cute kids. In fact, all my friends have been blessed with incredibly adorable kids. The thing that stops me is that a lot of these parents are looking forward to an "adult" weekend away from the kids and I really do want them (the parents) to have a good time (in fact, a kick-ass time at the wedding). So I may end up getting one of these just as something to hold my rings on my night stand. And if you're wondering, yes, my wedding planning side is back in full force!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Modern Portrait Artist (whatever that means)

Courtesy of the last Daily Candy Weddings email - an artist who makes adorable (and affordable!) hand drawn portraits based on a photo and personal details you provide her.

I officially heart Nan Lawson. Her drawings appear relatively simple but I love her style. I MUST figure out some way to work this into my wedding plans, although at this point, I've learned that everything you can't cram everything that you fall in love with into your wedding. It'll end up a tacky, disjointed circus if you do! :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Geocaching in the Blue Hills

The old Joyce and Andrew are officially back, as in, we had time for our first geocaching adventure in over a year on Sunday!

The site of our hike was the lovely Blue Hills in Milton, literally within sight of Boston:
I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical of Andrew leading the way using the geocaching app on his iPhone - I was convinced that we were going to wander lost amongst the trees:
But soon we found ourselves on the scenic main trail, enjoying sights like a pair of ducks (for Koreans, a symbol of marriage):
Andrew's keen eyes spotted this deer to the side of the trail - it was the biggest deer I had seen up close and it stood still watching us for a long time:
Reflecting the peaceful nature setting, it was quiet enough to hear the little streams along the trail tumbling over the rocks (although I couldn't help but wonder how big these streams were before all the rain we experienced last week):
One part of the trail was impassable due to swampy conditions and lingering pools of water, but luckily, Andrew was able to pick up a trail that went around this patch and met up with the main trail we needed to be on:
The last 0.1 mile, we relied on the GPS to lead us off trail, over large clusters of boulders and through way too many scratchy bushes (I was praying that we wouldn't find any ticks or poison ivy along the way). When I spotted this in a rock crevice, I knew we had found our geocache!
In case you're wondering about the morbid theme, the creator of the geocache claimed that there were rumors that this site was an old Indian burial ground - Andrew and I were seriously doubting that but it did lend some mystique to the geocache listing. Inside was the standard logbook, along with random goodies other people had left before us, including geocoins and tags that are meant to travel from cache to cache. We signed our names and the date, and carefully placed the geocache back in place, ready for the next person to find it:

On the way back, we noticed fresh horseshoe prints (and droppings) on the trail and were lucky enough to see one pass us by:
It felt like it took longer, but the whole adventure took us around an hour and a half to do a 2.5 mile hike. I'm already looking forward to doing another one soon, as I can't think of a better way to enjoy nice weather and nature with the added fun of a scavenger hunt.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cake Is GREAT For Breakfast

Friday marked the official six month countdown to the wedding! Andrew and I clearly have been occupied with house-related things and it was time to get our heads back into wedding planning.

Cake tastings were something I was equally looking forward to and dreading. Obviously, as a baker, the cake is one of the most important elements of the wedding for me. And who wouldn't look forward to a day of eating cake and more cake? The intimidation factor came in terms of the design. I didn't think I had a clear vision of what I wanted, other than the fact that I wanted it to be completely buttercream frosted (no fondant for me) and few other decorating elements to be incorporated. Turns out, I had a clearer vision that I realized once I started describing my ideal cake to three different bakers. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Saturday morning, we woke up early like kids at Christmas, knowing that we had three cake tasting appointments at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. I had picked three places after doing a ton of research and reading reviews on the bakeries' quality of cake, decorations and level of service.

First stop was The Icing on the Cake in Newton. I'm kicking myself for not visiting this place before we moved out of Newton! We met with the owner Paula after waiting around 15 minutes. She had the schedule of wedding appointments listed on the door and it looked like she had couples spaced out 45 minutes apart. We were impressed by her professionalism and demeanor - talking with us, she immediately starting sketching out her vision of our cake, based on what we (really me) telling her on the cake design. Midway through the meeting, we got to pick five types of cakes and fillings to try out, the most generous of all the places we tried. At the end of the meeting, we got a Xerox of the sheet on which she took notes of the flavors we tried, the sizes we discussed, clear pricing for every aspect of it and a rough sketch of the cake. This was all without having to make a commitment to go with them. Very cool, I wish all vendors had this level of transparency.
Next, we headed to a boutique bakery that I knew would be the most expensive out of the three - Cakes to Remember. I was going in with the view that if the cake was that good, it would be worth the extra cost. Based on reviews I had read online, I knew that they were only open by appointment and only made cakes for large parties.  Out of the three places, Cakes to Remember really made the best impression with their cake flavor list. The other places had you mix and match your type of cake and filling, which is usually what you want. But this list made me drool with its descriptions of custom cakes - and this is only a sampling of the overall cake list that is emailed to you after you schedule an appointment.  We met with the owner, Ellen and found her to be very nice as well. There was definitely a different feel to the appointment, it was more of a casual conversation with a general outline of the cakes you were looking for after flipping through the cake books. Maybe it was a wise vendor tactic not to get too involved until you have a commitment, but I did get a strong sense that the second consultation (after signing with them) would be the detailed one. Unlike the other places, Ellen sent us home with the four cake types we had selected ahead of time and gave us detailed instructions on how to let them warm to room temperature before sampling (more on this to come later). As this was a relatively quick consult (I would say 30 minutes, we had time to kill before we headed over to the last bakery, Party Favors. We parked in Coolidge Corner and decided to have lunch at the Upper Crust.  Finally, I could take my camera out and take pictures!

First, the very cool "dropped" ceiling of pizza pans:
A shot of my favorite dining companion and our custom pie of roasted peppers, feta and bacon - yummy if a little too droopy to eat by hand (you had to use a fork and knife for the bottom half) and a deliciously crisp crust:
We were careful not to fill up too much since we knew we had more cake waiting for us.

Andrew and I really enjoyed the hands off aspect to the consultation. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't neglectful in anyway - rather, it was more chill while still being informative. The consultant (correction: her name is Cynthia) sat us down with the books and immediately grabbed us our two pre-selected cake options and glasses of water. I was disappointed when I first made the appointment that we only got two cake choices, but they gave us each a generous size slice of each flavor (rather than having us share a slice of each).

Cynthia left us mostly alone as we flipped through the books and sampled the cake, but would come back periodically to talk with us. She sat down and listened to our design concepts and like the previous two places, was very clear in terms of the different size cakes that were available (three tier vs four tier) that would serve our wedding size. She also also sent us away with a preprinted brochure with some of things we discussed written down. Even more impressive than the HUGE pieces of cake they sent us home with was the fact that Cynthia heard me teasing Andrew that I should've picked a chocolate type of cake for him to try (having gone for a white cake and a marble cake as our two chosen flavors) so she added a chocolate cupcake for Andrew and a white cupcake for me - now that's customer service! I also have to add that Party Favors was the only bakery out of the three to feature fresh fruit in its fillings as opposed to jam.
When we got home later that night, you think we'd be tired of cake after a day of tasting it. Think again! We were dying to dive in to get our first taste of the cake from Cakes to Remember. This is what the box they sent us home looked like - all four of our choices were clearly labeled:
To make it feel more like a tasting, I put all four choices on a cutting board and we dove in with our forks.
What did we think? Very tasty, but we didn't love the cake flavors enough to justify the higher price tag. We did fall in love with the Almond Joy flavor, which made me wish that they did smaller birthday cakes. I guess that will just have to be one of my next baking challenges, trying to replicate their flavor.

And what did we do with the leftover Party Favors cake? We had it for breakfast the next morning (sorry mom and dad), thus making it a weekend of having cake for breakfast, and it literally lasted us until today when I ate the last cupcake.  I have to say it was a very smart idea for the bakeries to send cake home with us - not just for the obvious goodwill and sugar high feeling but because it was really useful to taste the cakes side by side and compare them.

The verdict? Icing on the Cake won out. I loved that fresh fruit in Party Favors cake, but found their frosting to be a wee bit too sugary and piled on too thick (I can hear all you frosting lovers out there protesting, but I like a good frosting to cake ratio). Regardless, the great customer service we received there has definitely convinced me to buy some cakes in the future from Party Favors.

Overall, we liked Icing on the Cake because of Paula's professionalism, her design concept for the cake, and most importantly, how the cake tasted. An added bonus is the fact that they will make you a free one year anniversary cake if you give them a professional photo of your wedding cake. No need to freeze that top layer, I told Andrew that our tradition would be to eat the top layer after we get back from the honeymoon!

For those lucky ones out there, we can't wait for you to see and try the cake at the wedding! And yes, I've deliberately tried to keep the flavor(s) under wraps.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cheesecake, Take Two

This is a quick look at the second cheesecake I've ever attempted.
The first attempt was such a disaster in my old oven that I vowed never to try again until I had a newer oven. A coworker's birthday request gave me the opportunity to try a new recipe from the Food Network. It took forever to bake, cracked and was much fluffier in texture than I was anticipating. The homemade strawberry sauce to go with it was yummy, but a little too liquidy for my tastes. Which is why all you're going to see of the whole process is this slice. Next time, I'm going to find a tried and true recipe and devote all day to making it come out perfect!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Meet Our New Dining Room Table!

Meet our new dining room table:

I can't tell you how much we love this table and how excited we are to have scored a great deal on it since we got it at an outlet store (after lusting over it in a catalog for weeks). This is also the reason why we had to rush through Easter dinner, since the guy delivering it ended up being able to stop by with it the same afternoon we bought it.

In terms of furniture stores we've visited in the past month:

  • HomeGoods

  • Jordan's Furniture

  • Ikea

  • Bernie & Phyl's

  • Crate & Barrel

  • Restoration Hardware

  • Pottery Barn

  • Boston Interiors

  • Building 19

  • Cardi's Furniture

  • Gardiner furniture outlets

  • Wrentham outlets
After all that, the furniture count is at 1. That's right, just the dining room table. We don't even have chairs for it yet, since we didn't like any of the chairs on display at the store where we bought it. I'm thinking we may be a tad too picky. And I never realized how hard it was to find a nice, unstuffy rug for a reasonable price. Andrew and I may be furniture shopping until next year!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Someone Has A Shoe Fetish...

I'm just sayin' - he liked my stinky sandals...
Loved them, in fact...
Can we even mention Magali's flipflops? He was practically burrowing under her foot to get at the straps (note the splayed back legs to get a good grip on them):
Andrew's sandals were heavenly for him - enough room for both paws!
Phu's shoe as a new hat? Yes, please!
And yes, A.J. was charming enough to seduce all of us into offering him our shoes.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Progress Comes In Small Steps

Behold the fruit of Andrew's labor - specifically an hour removing and take apart a boxspring:

This may not look like much but what you don't know is the picture was taken upstairs. Yup, the boxspring made it up to our second floor after forcing it around a bend in the stairs and some careful maneuvering around protruding nails. That's right, we're one step closer to setting up our beds, all without having to cut our boxsprings. Of course, this is all dependant on Andrew's skill with his newly acquired staple gun! And we still have one more boxspring left in our dining room.

UPDATE: Woohoo! Andrew managed to successfully put the boxspring back together after using a drill and screws. The first morning we slept on our a newly elevated bed, I promptly forgot how high up we were and stumbled off of it when my alarm went off in the morning.  A clear sign that we spent way to much time sleep on a matress on a floor.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

2010 Easter Dinner

Andrew's parents graciously hosted us, Phu and Magali for Easter dinner this year. As I promised Tom and Charlotte, we're due to have them over once we actually have a dining room table and chairs for everyone to sit on!

The scene: a beautifully set table with bowls of candy for each of us at each place setting. No Easter bags with tinsel this year, since it would end up in A.J.'s mouth!
Charlotte took the time to match each napkin to the napkin holder, the origami crane set that we got her as a Christmas gift:
The entertainment? Literally hours of watching A.J. scamper around things, on people and into shoes:
The best part? The food, of course. Ham with a tarragon mustard sauce and a roasted spring vegetable mix of radishes, asparagus and sugar snap peas:
With scalloped potatoes and caesar salad with homemade dressing on the side (with delicious fresh romaine in the salad):
A close-up of my loaded plate (yes, there are potatoes underneath that big heap of salad and I had seconds of both!):
With fresh pineapple salsa as a garnish for the ham. I thought the overall meal was perfect for a warm spring day, since each bite of the meal brought a fresh, light taste of fruit or vegetable with the ham representing Easter tradition:
A.J. was going nonstop the whole time and finally passed out on Andrew's lap:
Dessert was a bit rushed since we had to make it back home for an unexpected delivery (more to come on that in a later post). Oreo ice cream cake (our contribution, sadly not homemade), a chocolate macaroon torte by Andrew's mom and some of my Cadbury creme egg cookies from the other day:

Since poor Amy had to work today, she was the beneficiary of the meal's leftovers and she assured me that everything tasted just as good hours later, so she felt as though she was there in spirit.

I think Andrew and I may need to hold off on buying furniture indefinitely since his parents always do a great job of bringing everyone together and stuffing us full of good things.  Here's hoping that your Easter was filled with as much family, friends, fun and food - everything good!