Archive | December, 2010

Stella’s Restaurant, Hartland, VT

31 Dec

Vermont is old country roads, small towns, and interesting little shops and restaurants.

Stella’s in Hartland, VT is one the quaint little cafe’s we went to today.

Just for a quick lunch after the “biggest snowball fight in the world!”

We felt bad that we barged into the little cafe at 1:45 (they close at 2:30) with four hungry kids and four hungry adults.  The place is tiny and we took it over.

The owner was very accomadating and didn’t seem to mind our little party getting out of control.

Once the food arrived, there was silence.

The Stella burger was deemed, “The best burger ever!” by The Bean.

The special of the day was a fancy tuna melt with spinach and Vermont cheese.  It got rave reviews!

My falafel was good–not amazing–but I was very glad that it was on the menu.  It was just what I was hungry for.

The kids meals were good-sized and actually looked tasty and were eagerly scarfed down.

But, the pie, oh my!  Their chocolate cream pie was touted as “World Famous” and I knew we had to try it.  And, it was rich and creamy and delicious.  So good.

If you ever find yourself in Vermont, I highly recommend Stella’s.  Oh, and not only are they very accommodating they try to get everything from local sources.  Vermont beef, cheese and eggs, and even local ice creams and sorbets.

Here is how you can find it:  159 US Rt 5 Hartland, VT 05048

Phone number:  (802) 436-3525

Montshire Museum, Norwich, Vermont

30 Dec

We are in Vermont–celebrating New Year’s with my in-laws.  Beautiful, snowy, quiet, and laid back Vermont.  So low-tech that I feel kind of guilty working on my blog here.  This is the kind of place you ask your neighbor for advice—not the internet.

But, we are doing so many neat things that I want to share all of our adventures.

Our first mission was the Montshire Museum —a children’s science museum in Norwich, Vermont–just across from the Connecticut river.  Everytime we are here, we visit the Montshire and the kids always love it.

This particular time was especially fun.  We had never told Grandpa and Grandma that we were coming.  Only my sister in law knew and she was able to keep it a surprise.  The plan was to surprise them all at the Montshire Museum.  This would be a real surprise as we live in Florida and we insisted we couldn’t make it this year.

We watched from the second floor windows as they were getting out of the car.  We watched from the second floor overlook as they walked in and paid.  We sent the kids downstairs to just say “Hi!” to their grandpa. The plan was to play it cool and act casual.

First the kids ran into their cousins.  One of them looked at Rosie and The Bean and said  to their dad, “That looks like the Bean and Rosie!”–their dad responded without even looking at them, “Well, it isn’t.”

I think Rosie and The Bean were a little confused about what to do next.  They just stood there.  And waited for someone to recognize them.

Grandpa walked right past them with no sign of recognition.  And they were a little afraid to approach him.

Finally, Grandpa looked long and hard at Rosie thinking, “That sure does look like my grand daughter.”  Once, he looked left and saw the Bean, he fell to his knees and started repeating, “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.”

It was a great moment.  Luckily, my sister in law got great video of everyone’s surprised faces.

______________________________________________________________________________________

So, the Montshire is a great place to pull off a huge family surprise, or just good place to get let kids run around and learn about science.  We have only gone in the winter but there are a bunch of neat trails that start from the grounds that would be really fun to explore in the summer.

There are all kinds of puzzles, and other hands on activities to keep young (and old) ones occupied.  The exhibits change regularly and while we were there we saw an exhibit on how toys work.  It was a great introduction to electric currents and pulleys.

One of the great things about the Montshire  is it is fairly small so, a couple of hours is the perfect amount of time to see everything.  It has never been too crowded when we have been there so we feel comfortable letting the kids roam more freely than we would at larger children’s museums.

The website for the Montshire is:  http://www.montshire.org/

By the way, my favorite exhibit at the Montshire are the leafcutter ants….I could spend hours just looking for the queen ant and watching them break leaves into bite sized pieces and carry them back to their fungus gardens.

Vegan Cupcakes!

11 Dec

I watched Food Inc. a couple of weeks ago and I was horrified.  I bought the movie about a year ago but I had heard so much about it, I was actually scared to watch it.  But, in my biodiversity class we were discussing large scale farming and agriculture and it seemed the perfect introduction to the topic.

If you haven’t seen it, you should..but be prepared for some things that you don’t want to see or even hear about.

I don’t want to get into it here , since I want you to read this post and get hungery–not sick.  But, I do think it is important to watch.  It is good stuff to know.  And think about.

I was vegan for a long time and vegetarian for even longer.  But this year, I started to eat chicken and turkey–mainly as another quick protein source and it is something the kids like.  Food Inc., got me to thinking about where we get our chicken and other meats and what I am feeding to my kids.

I am on a mission next year to find a supplier of local, small scale chicken and other meats.  I may even attempt to add a couple of chickens to our backyard (for eggs)–although we have lots of alligators, raccoons, and otters–it may not be such a good idea.

In the meantime, I decided to be a little more thoughtful when I bake.  I already buy organic, free range eggs from Jessica’s Organic Farm but what about milk and butter?

I started thinking about becoming vegan again.  Could I do it?  The best way to decide was to experiment with vegan cupcakes.

Luckily, it was the last week of class for my students and I thought they could use a little vegan sweets to liven up their tired bodies.  I used recipes from “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” and made both vanilla cupcakes with cocoa buttercream and chocolate cupcakes with white buttercream. I was on a baking mission…..It was great-the house was quiet, it was cold outside, the kitchen smelled heavenly.

And the cupcakes were so good. I ate three.

If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t be able to tell that they were vegan.  Especially the chocolate cake and the frosting.

Serve this right away to starving artist (or starving anyone) and know that you are doing something nice for someone and for the planet.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

1.  Mix soy milk and vinegar together.  Whisk around and let it froth a bit.  Add the sugar, oil and extracts.  (I only used vanilla since that was all I had. )

2.  In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.  (Once again, I had no baking powder so I added 1 tsp of baking soda instead-and it seemed to work just fine.)

3.  Fold the dry ingredients into the wet.  Stir until combined.  Lumps are OK!

4.  Scoop about 1/4 cup into pre-lined muffin tins.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes.

6.  Let cool completely before frosting with the Vegan Buttercream.

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes

From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Follow the same steps as you did for the chocolate cupcakes!  (Steps 1-6 above)

Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting

From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

This recipe make A LOT so if you only need enough for 12 or so cupcakes–half it.

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine

3 and 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 (or a little less) of soy milk or soy creamer

1) Beat shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy.

2) Add sugar and beat for 3 minutes.

3) Add vanilla and soy milk and beat until fluffy (about 5-7) minutes.

4) Fill up a pastry bag and pipe piles of frosting on your cooled cupcakes.

Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

1/4 cup  shortening

1/4 cup margarine

2 and 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 T soymilk

1) Cream together the margarine and shortening.

2) Add the cocoa powder and mix it up.

3) Add the confectioners sugar (not all at once but a little bit at a time).

4) Splash in a little soymilk and finally add the vanilla.

5) Whip it up for 5-7 minutes and pipe it on to cooled cupcakes.

6) I topped mine with crushed candycanes (festive!) but you could do whatever you want to make them look even prettier.

***Oh, by the way the book that I borrowed these recipes from “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” was written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  You can  buy it here.  But, I wanted the mention their other book that I absolutely LOVE, “Veganomicon“.  I am not vegan but the recipes are written so well and the many I have tried have been amazing.  I highly recommend it.  (This is not a paid announcement—just me proclaiming my love for a cookbook.  That’s normal, right?)

Guest Blogging in Kissimmee

10 Dec

We will be on our way to Kissimmee this weekend–exploring all alot of the holiday activities in and around Kissimmee.  I will be posting here to Forty Cakes and to the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau blog at i.seekissimme.com.  Their posts may be delayed a couple of days–but check them out.

Our plans include:

Candlelight Processional at Epcot

ICE! and SNOW! at Gaylord Palms Resort

Arabian Nights Dinner show

Osbourne Family Lights at Hollywood Studios

and lots more…….

We have so much exploring to do and we are all so excited to get in the holiday spirit.   Be sure to check it out.

I love Christmas cards…….

10 Dec

and last year only received one.  I was so disappointed–my own mother didn’t even send me a Christmas card.

And, I realized that to get Christmas cards–I would need to send Christmas cards.

It’s not that I don’t want to send them out but I just have never gotten into the habit.  I don’t think I even have most of my friends real home addresses.

This year it will all change.

I am going to send out Christmas cards (before Christmas!) (I hope.)  I realize this does not give me very much time but I work best under pressure.  And the pressure is mounting.

I started looking at all of the card options on Shutterfly and there are a ton of options.

I  am having a VERY difficult time deciding.

Which one do you like best?

This one is great but all of these photos were taken last Christmas…a little dated, don’t you think?

With Love Chartreuse Christmas 5×7 folded card
Create modern Christmas photo cards at Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Or there is this one which is hilarious to me.The card reads, “Be Merry” but the kids couldn’t be any less Merry.  Too sarcastic?

Goody Garland Christmas 5×7 folded card
For hundreds of Christmas card designs, click here.
View the entire collection of cards.

Why can’t I decide?  This one contains photos of my nephew.  Is it weird to send Christmas cards with other people’s pictures on them?

Peppermint Bliss Christmas Card
Create modern Christmas photo cards at Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

This one is probably my favorite because I love this photo of the kids (with Grandma and Mar Mar in NYC). And, it highlights one of the great trips of the year.

Color Me Merry Christmas Card
View the entire collection of cards.

But still I need help. Please help me decide.

If you have any interest in driving yourself crazy with endless options for cool holiday cards, calenders, and even holiday thank you cards. —follow these links to the Shutterfly site.

And just to let you know, even for us procrastinators, it is not too late!  And, Shutterfly will mail them out for you too….(I may have to take them up on that.)

Disclaimer:  I received a voucher for 50 free Christmas cards from Shutterfly for writing this post.  So, 50 people will be getting Christmas cards for me in my inaugural Christmas card sending year.

Lunch Box Project Paints My Vanilla Cupcakes

9 Dec

I’m sure you all know about Lisa of The Lunch Box Project, right?  If you don’t–you should.

She paints pictures of food on playing cards and does all kinds of interesting food art (not art with food-but art of food).

Right now she is working on a poster of cupcakes featuring various bloggers cupcake recipes.

And I feel so proud, because she painted my cupcakes!

Remember when in the middle of a detox cleanse I made 100  mini cupcakes for the Bean’s school party?

Well, she painted them!  She is so talented–I wish I had some of that ability. I can’t wait to see the final poster.

You can check out all of her other cupcakes at her site.  Check out her store as well–there are lots of neat prints that could be the perfect gift for that last person on your shopping list.

McLane Creek Nature Trail, Olympia, Washington

4 Dec

We went on a quick trip to Seattle/Olympia to see my dad for Thanksgiving.  It snowed before we got there and we were lucky enough to see snow on the ground before Thanksgiving!

Even with the snow, I knew that I needed to make sure to go to my favorite little hike in Olympia, McLane Creek Nature Trail.  This short, relatively flat hike (about two miles) winds across a few beaver ponds, crosses McLane Creek (or ‘crick’ as my dad likes to say), and has loads of boardwalks and bridges to cross.   My sister, brother and I love this hike and always try to do it when we go home.

The air was cold and wet but the kids didn’t complain at all.  Grandpa was the only one grumbling about the adventure.

I had to beg him to get bundled up and get outside.  “It’s raining.”, he whined.  “Wear a rain coat.”, I said.

“It’s cold,”  he cried.  “Walk faster, ” I said.

“My feet hurt,” he complained.  ” I’ll give you chocolate when you finish your hike,” I said, and that was enough to keep him quiet.

I know that he had fun though—the Bean was so excited about all the dead salmon that we found in the river.  Salmon that had died either after spawning or on their way to spawn.  It was the perfect opportunity for grandpa to teach the kids about his favorite subject—fish!  After a quick discussion of the salmon life cycle we kept hiking.  At the next crick crossing, we even saw a couple of salmon struggling to make their way upstream.

Grandpa was also very excited to point out all the mushrooms.  Too bad we couldn’t eat any of them.

If you are in Olympia and need some time outside, here is a map to the trail head.

Don’t let the winter weather keep you away.  The canopy keeps you fairly dry in the rainy weather.  It was about 40 degrees, gray and rainy when we were there but the parking lot was full.

Washingtonians don’t let a little wet ruin their day.  And neither should you.

Quilted Advent Calender

1 Dec

(Okay, before I even write this post I have to tell you about the horrible thing that happened on our quick trip to Seattle.  As I was waiting for my rental car, I had my purse perilously perched on my suitcase.  One second later, it crashed to the ground.  I didn’t think anything of it at the time—I drop my purse all the time.  Later, I remembered that my brand new camera was in that purse without any protection.  I was scared to open the bag.  And, cried when I did—-my brand new camera lens had broken off the body and was completely ruined! So, not only did I break my brand new toy—I had nothing except an iphone to document our vacation to Seattle.  What a bummer!)

Anyway this post is not about broken cameras or trips to Seattle—-it is about my love for the holidays.  Especially Christmas.

Last week when everyone was doing their Thanksgiving stuff–I was thinking and planning and scheming for Christmas.  And, this advent calender is part of that plan.

You see, I wanted an advent calender that I could fill up myself.  Not one of those cardboard ones with the gross chocolate inside.  I wanted one that I could fill with good candy, small toys and little envelopes announcing some new Christmas activity for the day.  I want the build up to the big day.  Luckily, I was visiting Grandpa (my dad) and Grandma Debbie.

I do not sew.  I am actually kind of scared of the sewing machine.  However,  I mentioned to Grandma Debbie that I wanted  a quilted advent calender and she worked super hard to make sure we had one to take home with us.

Grandma Debbie sews all the time–she has multiple machines and a whole room filled with materials, scissors and other things that come in handy when you want to make a quilt on the spot.  She has awards for quilts she has made and she even teaches classes.  She knows her stuff.  And, she likes it. (It amazes me that we did not need to run to the store for anything to make this quilt.  We used whatever she had in her sewing room—she just happened to have a lot!)

We found a pattern on SewMamaSew.com and got to work.  It might hard to tell from the photos but each little square is a pocket that can be filled.  Today, I put in some chocolate covered frogs I secretly bought at the Harry Potter Exhibition.  I need to figure out what will go in the other pockets.  Some days will be a note like, “Let’s walk to see all the Christmas lights in the neighborhood.”  Another might be, ” Let’s decorate sugar cookies.” or ” Go Ice Skating.”

Debbie did all the work.  I just checked in every once in awhile to make sure she wasn’t getting lonely.  She worked into the wee hours of the night and completed the quilt just before we were to leave.

It turned out so well.  The colors are perfect and it is so well made.  I can’t wait to fill it up with goodies………