Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm still here!!

My blog seems to be under the weather... my pics are not posting any more.  Please bare with me as I hold off on posting and figure this out.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Still out of power??


Try this NO Bake recipe

This Halloween storm has devastated so many lives here in CT as well as all over the eastern sea board.  I can't image the heart ache these families are going through.  I was blessed, there was no damage or loss of power to my home.  I wish all of those who are still struggling, the strength they need to get through it all.

This week I thought I might post a yummy No-Bake recipe... enjoy!

Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies
1 3/4 C - White sugar
1/2 C - Milk
1/2 C - Butter
4 T - Unsweetened Cocoa powder
1/2 C - Crunchy Peanut butter
3 C - Quick cooking oats
1 tsp - Vanilla extract

This is a No BAKE, but you should be able to do this on a propane stove top or even your gas grill!

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in peanut butter, oats, and vanilla. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper. Let cool until hardened.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Market Grille

 Restaurant Review

Market Grille
110 Buckland Hills Drive, Manchester CT 06042

Someone has finally taken advantage of that great location with the spectacular view that used to be home to Hops.  With views that extend out past Avon, Market Grille, part of the Mill Restaurant Group moved in last month and brought with it a fantastic American menu.  And when I say American I mean it, if it is not raised, grown or produced in this country they don’t have it.  No Australian lamb or Polish vodka here.  It may have foreigner flair, but it was born here.

A wonderful three meat pasta!!
The entrance has been moved to the far side of the building and they have added on a massive patio with its own bar and a fire place.  This will be a summer destination hang out for sure.  The décor is warm and rich you enter to reception where they talk walk-ins or reservations.  The spacious bar with a cow print fabrics is off to the left, there are side seating rooms capable of holding special events as well as table and booth seating.

But really, let’s talk about the food. They have a little bit of everything, a great array of raw bar choices and unique Small Plates.  The Chipotle Cheddar popcorn and the Pumpkin Feta Quesadilla both sound great.  We skipped the small bites and went right into dinner.  A great selection of seafood, beef, pasta, burgers and salads.  I had the Garlic-Lemon brined Chicken with mashed potatoes with a demi-glaze.  Very tasty.  Our table also had the fish and chips and an a amazing ribbon pasta and a three meat ragout.  With more than half a dozen dessert options it has had to choose, but we tried the cookie sampler, 6 fresh baked cookies and a glass of milk. 

Fish and Chips
Cookies and Milk
My next visit will include trying the cheese assortment with options from all over the country and a gourmet burger, or should it be a dinner salad.  Too many good choices.

All and all the service was great, the location is fantastic and I think that they have brought a great new option to the Buckland neighborhood.  Don't forget to check out their seasonal menu's.  Right now it's Oktoberfest.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A touch of Vages right in CT

Hotel Review

MGM Grand at Foxwoods

Last week my office mate and I got to spend the night at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods as part of our yearly trip to the trade show for WB Mason. As "VIP guests" they put us up for the night, took care of all our meals and presented a great office supply trade show. So this week, I thought I would share with you all my review of the HOTEL part of MGM. The newest of the three casinos in the area and part of the MGM franchise, it worth checking in.

The room looks exactly like the pics on the web site!
When you arrive at the MGM you can utilize the valet parking for free (not counting tip), where they help you unload and move your luggage around if needed then put your car safely underground for your stay. The check in area is just beautiful, lots of open space and great bold colors and a wall of water behind the reservation desk. We were asked if we wanted a low, medium or high room and we opted for the 24th floor. The elevators are a bit of a ways away, past Junior's bakery and along the gaming area.

This was my second stay at this property and I find it to be very quiet once you get off the elevators. Our room, 24105, a deluxe double had two luxurious double beds with super soft bedding and pillows. A desk with an office chair and a spacious dresser with a 32" flat screen on top. You will be charged a resort fee (I'm not sure how much) when you check in, this covers your access to the fitness center, the pool which look gorgeous, 2 mini bottles of water in your room and a coffee / tea maker located in your spacious bathroom. You also get a hairdryer (Not attached to the wall, thank you) an iron (which wasn't great) with a board and thier own G-spa show amenities.

Open the glass shower door and there is
a built in tiled bench for sitting.  Very nice.
Not much of a view from our 24th floor if you looked down, it was mostly parking garage, but straight out it was an amazing array of fall colors through the valley. Well worth being up high.

Love the bathroom in this place, a double wide pocket door brings you into the vanity / shower area. The shower is enclosed with a wall of glass and wonderful tiles. The water pressure was great as was the towels in the room, nice and fluffy. The toilet is in the same space but behind a wall, which is nice, but it doesn't have a door to it, so if you want to pee in private while your roommate is putting on make-up, it doesn't work.

I L-O-V-E the tone on tone circular design on the sheets, looks just the pattern in the carpet but white. I tried to see if I could buy a set of the sheets the last time I was there, but they are a hotel and they do not use fitted sheets, flats only, so they do not sell them.

Over all it is a great hotel to stay at, especially if you can get it at a comped rate, rack rate ranges from $199-$249, but the more you game the more deals they will send you. If you can get it for less the $100 I would recommend jumping on it, it is a beautiful, clean and comfortable property.



Friday, October 12, 2012

More than Slot Machines


Top 10 OTHER things to do
At Mohegan Sun Casino
1.)        Food:  man does this place have food… 4 fine dining, 15 casual dining, 1 buffet and a food court.

2.)        Hotel stay:  with 1,200 rooms on 34 floors this luxury hotel is a must.  Frequent the casino and they will send you reduced room rates, usually mid week.  Ask for a river view!

3.)        The Spa:  22,000 square feet of pampering.  From massages and facials to a fitness center and pool, and don’t forget the salon. 

4.)        Shopping:  Upscale or down to earth, jewelry, chocolate, knickknacks, clothing.  There is something for everyone.

5.)        Concerts / Comedy:  In the Arena you can see top name tours or sporting events (Home of the CT Sun womens basketball team) and there is comedy in the Cabaret.

6.)        Free stuff:  There is a free concert in the Wolf Den almost every night!  Or swipe your players club card for giveaways. 

7.)        Night Life:  Romantic dinners, dancing, fireworks a few times a year.

8.)        Mohegan Sun Country Club at Pautipaug, about 15 minutes away you can play 9 or 18 holes at a premier course.

9.)        Celebrity sitings:  You can see music groups being inducted into Mohegan’s walk of fame, see what celeb is hosting this week’s summer pool party Vegas style or check out who is signing autographs and taking pics. 

10.)      People Watching:  Wanna just sit back and watch the world go by.  I recommend these viewing points:  the martini bar under the planetarium stars, the bar by the waterfall (in front of the Dale Chihulli glass sculpture) or just outside of Michael Jordan’s on the upper level over the gaming floor.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Seasoned Pretzels… YUMMY!!

My first recipe

Damn these are good!!

So I have been playing with my latest obsession… Pinterest.  If you are not familiar, it is a social networking page that lets you browse pictures posted by your “friends”, and best of all, the pics link to the page where they originated.  So if you found a picture of sexy looking pretzels and want the recipe, click the pic and you will most likely find it.

That is where I found this recipe, posted from a blog , and it looked to good and easy not to try. 

You take one bag of pretzel sticks and spread them in a 13x9 pan. (easy)

In a bowl you mix 1 cup of canola or vegetable oil (sounds like a lot but it soaks into the WHOLE bag of sticks.)  Add a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dry seasoning mix and 1 tsp garlic powder.  Now, she recommended 1.5 tsp cayenne as well, but for the price I skipped it.

Pour the mix over the sticks and mix it well.  Then put it in a 225 degree oven for 2 hours, mixing the sticks every half hour.

I have to say, I tasted them every half hour when I mixed it and the flavor just got better and better as it cooked.  This is a great party snack that is easy to make and very addicting.  ENJOY!!

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The TSA Grope and Shuffle, Or....

Did you know??

Got time to get where you are going?

Ride the rails....
... Skip the Scan
If you are not in a rush to get where you need to be and you don't want to start vacation with a search and body scan after waiting in line for far too long... try taking a train to your destination.  No TSA screening, but the view is better and there is plenty of leg room.

This country was built of the rails and the charm of taking the train is not yet over.  Amtrak offers comfy seating, dining cars with pretty good food, sleeper cars, space to play board games, convenient outlets for your electronics (that they won't tell you to shut off, so as to not crash the plane), roomy bathrooms and even double deckers in some areas.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A side of Lobster Tail

A restaurant review

1135 US Rt. 1, Yarmouth ME, 04096

I like any place where you can get a side dish that is as impressive as an entrée.  Just south of Freeport along the marsh you find the Muddy Rudder with its clean exterior and outdoor seating, the inside is even better.  This tiered space and a wall of glass allows you a view of the marsh, a nice touch.  You can also dine in the bar area which has some TV’s if you want to catch a game or some news.  This seafood restaurant has the decor to match, but it is not overdone.

So my dad had the lobster bisque, rich and creamy with chunks of lobster, a great start.  As was the basket of bread with sweet butter, yummy.  He also got the fried clams, extra crispy as requested and he said they were great.  Mom opted for the 1.25 pound lobster dinner that was on special that night.  It came with corn on the cob and potatoes, you could get it stuffed or lazy for an additional charge but “as is” seemed just right, bib and all.

Killing that Grapefruit Sorbet!!

I opted for the marinated stake tips; I ordered them medium rare, which doesn’t always happen with tips… these were PERFECT.  The marinade was a house blend that they bottle and sell, very tasty.  They were more than happy to switch the mixed veggies for asparagus, and it was good (even to this non veggie eater!)  Dessert was most memorable for me.  They work with a local dairy farm, Toots, and they get their icecream and sorbet from there.  After reading off a laundry list of deserts I tried the Grapefruit sorbet.  Yup, I’m going to say it… OMG!!  It had the more true to taste flavor I have ever had in a sorbet.  It was light and tart and I wanted more!

The service was great and they even had a live piano player.  Though the music was a bit old fashioned I was told they had different entertainment on the weekends that is more modern.  He was very good though.  The place is under new management and seem to be doing well.  I did find it all to be a bit over priced for me to be a regular, but for a special occasion, not a problem.

In the ladies room there was a bowl of sugar scrub; it was great and is also for sale at the hostess station.  A few things I know they offer… a gluten free menu and a Sunday Brunch – looks amazing, might have to go back and check it out one weekend.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Vacation doesn't have to be a marathon!

Did you know??

Slow Down!!

Are you like me... you need a vacation after your vacation?  Try slowing down.  Don't try and fill every minute of every day with activites.  Slow down, explore, window shop, read the plaque infront of the statue.  Not only will you really see more, but you will spend less.

Don't race your way through vacation

Hhhmmm.... note to self:  re-read this posting often and listen to it!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The only US desert, east of the Mississippi

A true American Conundrum

The Desert of Maine
95 Desert Rd., Freeport ME 04032

DESERT noun \ˈde-zərt\ - arid land with usually sparse vegetation;
such land having a very warm climate and receiving
less than 10 inches of rainfall annually.

Me and my wonderful parents in the middle of the desert.
I was most amazed by the pine trees growing out
of the sand.

Thus, the conundrum begins; see this 400 + acres of desert sand found only 218 miles from my front door is defiantly arid with little to nothing growing on it, BUT… Maine gets like 40+ inches of rain every year.  So how can this be?  Well, 11,000 years ago when the glaciers were moving across this country and making those awesome mountains and stuff, desert sand was DUMPED right in Freeport and was covered over till about 200 years ago when this guy Bill Tuttle bought up this piece of land, moved his house and barn to it and tried farming the place.

Bill was not a great farmer, tired potatoes, tried raising sheep yet all he ended up doing was ruining the shallow land the letting the glacier desert sand pop up.  BUT, Bill was a true American.  When he figured out that if he couldn’t make a living farming, he would make a living by having people pay admission to see his emerging desert!!

Inside the barn you will see the proof that this
sandy desert was really once a working farm.

So what is there now and what do you get for your admission price of $10.50 ($6.75 for kids), well you get a great 30 minute tram tour through some of the coolest land around.  Your narrator will tell you the history of this unusual spot, a little bit of a geology lesson (one that kids can help with, hands on.), you will get to tour through a bit of the surrounding woods, see how nature is battling woods for desert, kids can go hunting for gems that they can keep or you can go hiking on the well marked trails.  You can also spend time creating sand art or mining for gems.

You also get to tour the 1783 barn that was dismantled, move and reassembled board by board and now houses original farm equipment as well as a collection of sand from around the world.  A great building for taking pictures I must say.  There is also a new butterfly conservatory that you can go into (again, bring the camera). 

The Desert of Maine also is a campground (good for campers or tenters) right in the heart of Freeport, around the corner from great shopping and food.  They also have a great gift shop.  This is where I got all of my Maine memorabilia; they sell a little bit of everything.

I have to say that this stop was great for people of all ages, interesting, educational and just plain different.  Defiantly worth the stop.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How to tell if that Diner is good or gross...

Did you know??

The sign of a good 24 hour diner is not it's late night volume, its array of desserts of its 8 page menu full of pictures.  Want to know if that diner is any good, then check out its breakfast crowd.  If the locals are pouring in on their way to work, you know that this diner is worth your time, any time of the day.  Breakfast crowds tend to be locals, and locals are much more discriminating in the morning than mid-day or night time.

Friday, September 14, 2012

56 Years of Charm on the Side of the Road!!

Food Review

Bob's Clam Hut
Route 1, Kittery ME

So, on my first ever trip to Maine my folks and I made a food stop at Bob's.  The place has been there since 1956 and my folks hadn't been there in over a decade, but they loved it so much they knew we had to go this time around.  It is located right in the heart of all that great Kittery shopping and is an open air restaurant with a beachy feel to it with tons of out side seating.  A bit deceiving from the front, but the seating wraps around the back.

Well, you walk up to the menu board in the open area, they have it all but mostly seafood with lots of options to fit every appetite.  From full dinners, sandwiches, baskets that include fries to great things on rolls.  You place your order then check out the awesome decor of facts, signs, photo ops and more while you wait for your number to be called and you pick it up at a window. 
Now,  I'm boring and I just got a hot dog, as I don't do seafood.... it was plump and juicy and yummy for sure, with fries and they have a condiment bar around every corner that has half-sour pickles, my favorite!!  But you want to know about the seafood... well my mom had a scallop roll basket, it came out over flowing with scallops and lots of perfectly cooked fries.  Dad opted for the lobster roll basket, there was tons of lobster and just the right amount of mayo. 

Dad's Lobster Roll

Even though they were packed we were able to find a picnic table in the back under a shady tree.  A hot spot for families for sure, they have painted cut outs where you can take your pic in a clam or a lobster!  The staff is very friendly and never too busy to chat or help. 

For a girl who doesn't do seafood, I was still pleased with this stop, I am glad that I didn't miss out on this charming hot spot that lets you finish off your meal with cool soft serve!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don't get lost without your pants

Did you know??

Spead the clothes around

Taking a family trip?  Spead the clothes around for each person in everyone's suitcase.  Going for a week, how about 2 days worth of clothes for each person in every suitcase.  This way if once peice of your luggage goes missing no one is left without a change of clothes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Morbid? Maybe...

Did you know??


This famous New Orleans Cemetary sprawls throuh the
Garden district, tours available.

Want to learn more about a city you are staying in?  Check out their local cemeteries.  You can learn about the history, art and religion of an area.  Find local (and famous) celebrities and avoid the crowds.  Bigger cities might even offer tours.  (New Orleans and Boston have great tours.)  Also a must place to stop if you love to take black and white photos.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Connecticut Science Center

 For kids of all ages

Making Science Fun
250 Columbus Blvd.

The view from the rooftop garden

Right in the heart of downtown Hartford, overlooking the Connecticut River sits a tower of glass housing hands on fun, education and adventure.  I have been a few times now and I have to say, I have mixed reviews.  From the hands on educational part of things they got it going on.  Tons of stuff for kids of all ages to touch and learn about, the exhibits are well maintained and there is plenty different things so the lines are never too long to try thing out.  Starting from the top of the building, they have a small but pretty rooftop garden.  Level 6 is all about nature, and I like the fact that they have live animals and talk about nature in our area of CT including our vast rivers.  A great 4-D movie tells you all about global warming that doesn’t make you feel bad about being a consumer.  This is also where WFSB (Ch. 3 Harford) lets you do your own weather reporting right from the green screen.  FUN!!  You can video yourself and have your video e-mailed home to you!  You can also make magazine covers and a few other fun things and review them later when you get home.

Level 5 lets you smash a dummy head with a mallet, okay you get to see how helmets protect your head at impact, but it is cool to smash the head anyways.  They have a great exhibit about the local company Stanley Tools in the invention area.  Not to be missed is the exploring space area, with the cool loungers that let you watch short films about the universe.

This time I went to see their special exhibit on Level 4 – Dinosaurs invaded Hartford this summer and it was pretty awesome!  Starting with the one that was outside across the street, the animatronic dino was amazing.  Converting their traveling exhibit gallery into a prehistoric home for over a dozen dinos was pretty cool, well painted backdrops with skeletons, stationary and moving dinosaurs for you to view.  I think it was a very well done exhibit! 

Don’t miss the music area for the Forces in Motion room on this level also, you get to race boats, make paper flyers, shoot hoops and race magnetic trains, a great hands on area.

So here is where my mixed review comes in, there is nothing on level 2 or 3 that is open to the public, on top of that the entire center of the building is wide open, all seems like a strange use of space to me.  I have been too many science centers around the country and I think that there is so much more they could do if they used the space better.  One of the highlights though is the glass front wall of the building, from every floor you get a floor to ceiling wall of glass where you can enjoy watching the river, the weather and the traffic go by.

Steve and Keith watching stuff
about the universe...

So let’s talk price, regular admission is $19 for adults, $14 for kids.  Plus parking can run from $10 to $19, depending on how long you stay.  That is an expensive day for a family.  I got tickets as a gift (thanks Steve!!) so that was helpful, but it is a pricey day.

Add on if you hit the gift shop or the café AND… they have 3D movies that are an extra charge as well.  $7/$6, for a 40 minute movie.  Though we did not go to one this time, they are usually a great show, well made movie with comfy seats, but again – for a family of four you could be looking at a ticket price of over $100 for the day.  Now there are membership packages that will help with the pricing and worth checking out if you want to go a few times a year.

This is great place to go, and a must to check out at some point if you have kids who like science.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Create a central charging station

Did you know??

Ever leave a charging cord behind?

When we took that road trip down south this summer, we had three cell phones, a tablet with detachable keyboard, a plug in cooler (for meds), and cameras with rechargable batteies.  This is about normal for a family on vacation.

In this day of traveling with electronics it can be easy to leave things behind when vacating a hotel room.  Bring a power strip with you.  Make a central station to recharge all your devices.  This way you wont forget the Ipad charger in the outlet behind the bed.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Across the Pond

A memory...
My first trip to the British Isles
April 2001

In 2001, I was 27 years old and had never left North America.  I had only seen a bit of this great country, I had never been on a cruise and had never been on an airplane that held more than three people.  But I applied for a passport, recruited a travel buddy and planned my first amazing vacation.  I don’t remember why we picked the itinerary that we chose but we sure did pack a lot into those ten days, from castles and beef-eaters to famous cities and museums, B&B’s and European transportation. 

We spent a few days in London, a day trip to Paris, a stay in Wales and wrapped up in Ireland.  There are so many things I can (and along the way, WILL) tell you about in regards to this trip, but today I want to tell you about my first days in a foreign city – London, England.  I had wanted to go there for as long as I can remember and I was so excited to get there, despite my fear of flying and nervousness of being so far from home.

While researching for this vacation I found this thing called the London City Pass, brand new at the time, it could only be bought on line.  But the promise of being able to see over 55 attractions and avoiding the lines to these top attractions gave us a great jumping point to map out our days in the city of double-decker buses. 

We stayed in our first B&B, a small room with two beds.  There was little heat and even less space in the charming room and a bathroom with limited hot water, but I remember the stay fondly as it was my first European B&B stay.  The British food stood up to is reputation, lets just leave it at that. We wanted to hit all of the iconic things, double-decker buses, London taxi cabs and all the famous stops.

We started at the Tower of London; I am always amazed by a bustling city with a sprawling castle in the middle.  It was Easter weekend and the line wrapped around one wall of the castle and down the sidewalk.  But our London City Pass told us to go to the “Will Call” window.  We walked past all the folks waiting in a misting rain, we showed our pass and were immediately ushered to the front of the line.  The $70 US we spent on the pass was worth every penny.  We got to see Yeoman Wardens, the White Tower, the Crown Jewels, Medieval palace and the ravens while the line outside continued to grow. 

Yoeman at the Tower of London,
Not to be confused with

Backed up to the Thames River and that two level London Bridge, the city was meeting all of my expectations.  That famous subway system, The Tube, so efficient and clean with that mind numbing chant you heard every time the doors opened, “Mind the Gap” – something I think of every time I exit a subway or train to this day.  We visited a few different churches along the way including Westminster Abbey.

There was afternoon tea at the British Museum, we had tea after we saw the Rosetta Stone, ancient mummies, Greek statues missing their heads and so much more.  London is truly a city full of history that has met the modern era.  You will find palaces next to offices and West End theatre mixed with shopping and dining.  (We loved to watch The Witches of Eastwick on stage!  We got last minute tickets and had seats "in the stalls")  We even shopped at Harrod’s.  Friendly people, cobblestone alleyways, looking right instead of left to cross the street, Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare and reminders of Jack the Ripper (a sign to watch for criminals while in White Chapel).

Some of the headless Greek figures.
We actually found of display of just heads...
I don't know if they fit these bodies.

It is hard to believe we saw and experienced as much as we did in only 4 days of being there.  Some people think that London is too rainy to be a vacation destination, but for me it was a great starter city to fuel my love of exploration.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

2 tips for dining in at the bar

Did you know??

Dining alone in a Bar?

1.)  Get friendly with the bartender.  He or she will help you make good menu choices, and make you feel welcome in their bar.  Also, they might save you from bad conversation with strangers.

2.)  Bring a book to dinner.  Looking to strike up conversation, it is a great way to invite people to talk to you.  Want to end an unwanted conversation, you can always say you want to get back to your reading.

.... I used to work in a hotel bar, both of these tricks were used by men and women who were staying at our hotel.