Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The Galapagos Islands: What can I say? It was amazing.

Last week, I returned from a trip in the Galapagos Islands – it truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity. As I was flying back to Raleigh, I was left with a feeling of sadness about leaving this amazing place, where I got to see amazing animals that I will most likely never get to see again, at least in the wild. It was an inspiring reminder of the wonders of this beautiful world that we live in – something that is easy to forget as I settle back into my everyday life back here in civilization. There was a group of 13 of us, and we spent 7 days on a 78-foot yacht with room for 14, and I will say that I never thought I would enjoy my time on a boat as much as I did for this trip (generally, I hate boats). After a few days of rough water, we were very fortunate to have great weather and calm seas.

We chased dolphins around the middle of the Pacific Ocean so we could snorkel with them. I saw a mom, baby, and dad dolphin dive directly below me. Each time we saw the pod and it moved on, it was ‘una mas!’ and we were back on the dinghies to follow them again. It was an exhilarating morning, to say the least.

The sea lions…oh the sea lions! They were so cute – like little puppies that you wanted to cuddle. We saw them sunbathing, swimming, playing, fighting, nursing, rolling around in the surf.

We only had one day of all rain, and it was still a great day. We played board games, read, and napped. AND in the afternoon, we snorkeled in the rain with penguins, sea lions, and sea turtles! It was an awesome experience, and I’m so glad that I went! Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of this…there were many times on this trip when I wished I had an underwater housing for my camera!

We got within inches of giant tortoises – they’re amazing creatures. My trip was officially made at this point. Almost all of the animals on the islands don’t react to human presence, due to a lack of natural predators. Mostly if we stayed low and moved slowly (so they didn’t think we were being aggressive), we could get very close, and if we stayed still, they would come to us.

We saw Nazca boobies nesting and babies in all stages of life – eggs, tiny and newly hatched, fuzzy, almost as large as adults, and fully grown.

We saw Blue footed boobies, who really looked like they had stepped in buckets of blue paint – their feet were so bright!

We saw both brown and white red footed boobies.

I didn’t realize that they had blue beaks – they were so colorful and pretty.

We saw Blue-footed boobies, sea lions, penguins, and marine iguanas all resting on the same rock, a respite from the rain and surf. In short….I saw all the animals you learn about and read about, and it was so cool to see them in the wild, up close.

Our tour guide, Juan, was amazing – he was incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He really gave us an education while we were there, but without making us feel like we were ‘learning’. He would get so excited about everything that it really made the trip. He grew up in the Galapagos, and has been doing tours for years, so it’s clear that he really loves his job and the islands, and loves showing people these amazing animals, places, and plants.

As I begin my job search in earnest, Juan’s enthusiasm and love for his job is on my mind – and I’m hopeful and determined to find a job that allows me to be happy, joyful, and grateful every day.

My trip by the numbers:

Days on the boat: 7
Days total: 12
Number of islands visited: 6 (Santa Cruz, Genovesa, Marchena, Isabela, Fernandina, Floreana)
Number of tortoises seen in the wild: 12
Number of photos taken: 1,620
Rainy days: 1
Games of Rummikub played: countless
Number of people on the tour: 13
Times I swam in the middle of the Pacific: 2
Times we crossed the Equator: 2

Tour operator: CNH Tours (we did the Northwest Itinerary)

More of my pictures posted here on Flickr.

P.S. Happy Leap Day!

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On quitting my job / Resolution updates

Five years and three months ago, I quit my job and moved from Dillsburg, Pennsylvania to Cary, North Carolina. I had graduated from college the previous year, was living at home and was working at a small advertising agency. I had been there for a little over a year, and realized it was time to move out of my parents’ house. I quit my job and picked up and moved to NC without a job but with my friend, Ginny, and some savings. For two weeks, I settled in and tried to learn my way around a completely new area without a GPS (for me, this was pretty terrifying). Then I buckled down and started the job search. By January 2007, I had found a job at Centerline.

Two weeks and four days ago, I put in my two weeks’ notice for my job. My last day was this past Friday. It was a tough decision, but one that was a long time coming. After five years at Centerline, I was ready to move on. I just didn’t (and don’t) know to what. I don’t have a job lined up, and I don’t know what will happen in the next few months. What I do know is that: I have an amazingly supportive boyfriend; I am giving myself two weeks to relax and decompress, then I’m going on an amazing two week trip to the Galapagos Islands with my mom; I will bake and cook (and hopefully blog and probably watch TV) a lot.

Five years ago, I didn’t know what the 370-mile move down south would hold for me, but I trusted that it would all work out for the best. And it has, absolutely.

Now, I am again trusting that it will all work out for the best. And I’m so excited about it.

And now for my new year’s resolution updates…here’s how I’m doing so far.

  1. Blog more & take more pictures. Already posted twice this month…seems better than before, but this will be a constant work in progress.
  2. Make croissants (this seems like a great place to start).
  3. Make hollandaise sauce and master poached eggs. I did poach eggs for the first time on Sunday (1/29), and they turned out pretty well, but I don’t think I’ve mastered it yet.
  4. Try the Baked brownie recipe. I tried the caramel version from their Baked: Explorations book, and it didn’t really turn out well for me. So I want to try their basic recipe now and see if they turn out better.
  5. Make homemade vanilla extract.
  6. Use my cookbooks more.
  7. Use food from my pantry instead of spending so much on groceries, and wasting food that goes bad. I’ve pulled several meals out of the freezer to eat, and yesterday, I made egg casseroles in muffin tins for Kevin’s and my breakfasts, using all things I had on hand/were about to go bad. Recipes to come. I could definitely still work on this, though.
  8. Use my crockpot more. Here’s a good inspiration.
  9. Make doughnuts, using my new doughnut pan! I tried this recipe, and they were good, although not quite like traditional doughnuts. I’m looking forward to trying some other recipes.
  10. Update my blog header and/or template. I’m trying out a new template in WordPress, but while I like it, I don’t like like it. I’m considering purchasing my own domain and moving to a self-hosted blog (with Kevin’s help in the setting up and design department), so I’ll stick with this for now.
While I am working on some of these, I think it’s time to step up my game a bit more, especially now that I have all this free time.
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2012 New Year’s Cooking Resolutions

It’s been several months since I’ve posted, but I figure that the new year is the perfect time to restart.

2011 was a great year, and I am excited about 2012; I think it will be the best yet.

I have a few cooking resolutions for this year, and I would like to update this list as the year goes on. Hopefully I’ll also post the results of my efforts, which leads me to my first resolution:

  1. Blog more & take more pictures.
  2. Make croissants (this seems like a great place to start).
  3. Make hollandaise sauce and master poached eggs.
  4. Try the Baked brownie recipe. I tried the caramel version from their Baked: Explorations book, and it didn’t really turn out well for me. So I want to try their basic recipe now and see if they turn out better.
  5. Make homemade vanilla extract.
  6. Use my cookbooks more.
  7. Use food from my pantry instead of spending so much on groceries, and wasting food that goes bad.
  8. Use my crockpot more. Here’s a good inspiration.
  9. Make doughnuts, using my new doughnut pan!
  10. Update my blog header and/or template.

I’m sure there will be more to come, but hopefully this will get me started!

Happy New Year to you and yours. What are your resolutions (kitchen-related or otherwise)?

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Homemade Christmas Goodies

I am writing this post in honor of my fabulous, crafty friends.

I have these three friends, and we call ourselves the PREPs.

Here we are in September 2009, with the first PREP baby {the second baby has since arrived, and the third will be here soon…!!}.

The name “PREP” goes back to the first year I worked at Camp Nawakwa, and the first summer we all worked together and became friends. We were young and definitely preppier than anyone else who worked there, and so we bought four matching A&F shirts emblazoned with the word PREP. And we wore those shirts once a week, on a designated day. Yup. We…were probably pretty silly. But regardless, we became the PREP girls.

Things certainly have changed since that first summer almost 10 years ago (i.e. we can’t fit into those shirts anymore. Also, wow. 10 years.), but we remain the PREP girls. And every year around Christmas, we get together for an annual dinner. We all bring a different part of the meal and we have a little gift exchange. The past few years, as babies, families, and lives have taken over, we haven’t done a gift exchange, and we kind of agreed to the same this year.

However. I got some amazing, lovely, gorgeous homemade goodies this year. Meredith and her husband Paul did an impressive amount of canning for some beautiful and delicious treats:

Blueberry syrup? I can’t wait to have this on pancakes, oatmeal, and ice cream. Also, she reused (sanitized) beer bottles, and apparently you can just pop on new bottle caps!

Apple butter, preserved lemons, and hot sauce. How adorable (and yummy) – I love those little canning jars.

Roasted Red Pepper spread – we sampled this at the PREP Christmas dinner, and it was delicious!

Oranges Confit…not sure how to eat these, but I’m intrigued. They’re also just so pretty!

It didn’t end there… Kelly P. made this amazing looking lavender sea salt scrub – perfect for dry winter skin! I can’t wait to try it out!

And of course, there is arguably the most homemade of homemade gifts – Kelly M.’s brand new baby, Charlie. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of him, but he’s so precious. All in all, it was a great Christmas.

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I know I haven’t posted in awhile, but it’s been a hectic few weeks, and I’m moving to a new apartment tomorrow. {On a side note, I’ve hired movers, for the first time ever. I’m so glad that I won’t have to actually move all this stuff I’m packing up.}

But! I do have a few things to post (including an update of my container garden) once I get settled into my new place and get my photos transferred and edited…

Hope you’re all surviving the crazy heat.

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