Saturday, March 23, 2013

Drink and Dabble

There are art bars popping up everywhere!  Have you noticed?  The first time I heard about this was on The Housewives of Orange County.  It's such a great idea for a girls night out.  You get to paint along with the instructor while enjoying cocktails and snacks.  The closest art bar to me was a little too far, but I found a travelling "art bar" that was going to be at a nearby restaurant.  It's called "Drink and Dabble" and it's run by Charlie Hall, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design.  When you sign up there's a list of dates and locations and a picture of the painting you will be recreating. 

When my friend and I arrived at the Eleven Forty Nine Bar & Grill in Seekonk, Charlie and his assistant were still setting up, so we went to grab a drink.

We were given an apron, a canvas, paint and paintbrushes.

Once we got started Charlie explained how the class works and then we got started.  It was super easy and he was very funny, talented and patient.

We ordered some brick oven pizza and salad and munched on it as we painted.  The restaurant servers were great and very accommodating to all of us and the food was great!  I'd definitely go there again for a night out and they even have entertainment on the weekends.  The time just flew by and before we knew it our paintings were done! 

It's a painting of the WaterFire, which is a great event that is on certain nights in Providence from May - October each year.  If you've never been you should go and if you've never enjoyed a night out painting your own masterpiece, you should sign up!  It was a lot of fun and the painting is a wonderful memory of my night out.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A NovelThis is a laugh-out-loud book!  I can't remember the last book that made me laugh as much as this.  Bernadette Fox, an architect turned recluse, is mother to 15 year old Bee and wife of Elgin, Microsoft rock star.  Bee cashes in on a promise that her parents made to her - good grades in exchange for a trip to Antarctica.  Bernadette, being the recluse that she is, tries her best to embrace the upcoming trip for her daughter, but what ensues is pure hilarity.  

The story is strung together beautifully between e-mails, letters, school announcements, emergency room bills, and FBI reports.  It didn't take me long to embrace this format and I found myself looking forward to the next bit of correspondence shared.  All of us Booktini gals loved the format and discussed how it really worked and that there's actually a reason why the story is written in this format and it's revealed at the end.

The book is written by Maria Semple who has written for TV shows such as Beverly Hills 90210, Mad About You, Arrested Development and more.  She also wrote another novel called This One Is Mine, which also received good reviews.  I am putting that one on my "To Read" List.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Great Treadmill Workout!

Want to amp up your treadmill workout?  Download a workout from on your mp3 player or ipod. 


I just tried one of the 40 minute treadmill workouts and it was really great.  The music had a good beat and was appropriate to the different levels of exertion throughout the workout.  Grace gives instructions for 3 different levels: walkers, joggers, and runners so this workout can be done at every level.  She gives you a starting speed based on walking, jogging or running and then instructs you when to adjust the speed and incline throughout the workout!  In addition to her instructions, she gives lots of encouragement and is very motivating in a "not annoying" way! 
This would be a great tool for those of us who get on the treadmill and tend to go at one speed the whole time or don't challenge ourselves.  The intervals of speed and incline provide a much more challenging workout.  I've tried to do the treadmill workouts that I've seen in magazines or online, but I really don't want to go to the gym with a sheet of paper and try to keep track of when I should be adjusting my speed or incline.  With itrain, I just put on my headphones and follow along.  So easy!! 

There are loads of workouts, videos, routines and so much more on itrain that I haven't even explored yet!  I'd love to hear if you've used one of their workouts or something similar!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Downton Abbey Finale


If you didn't see this season's Downton Abbey Finale read no further!


I need time to recover from this season.  Don't you?  Were you as shocked as I was?  Can't they let this family be happy for more than 30 seconds?  I was devastated over the loss of Sybil and I can't believe that Matthew is now gone.  What is it with childbirth?  We were so relieved that Mary made it through and then they go and have Matthew die in a car accident right after the birth of his son!  Why all the tragedy?

On the bright side, I was enjoying seeing Anna and Mr. Bates together.  They are so cute.

I also loved seeing O'Brien get a little taste of nasty from someone else!  Poor Molesley, but he sure had a good time!  And how did I become to like Thomas?  When did this happen?  I was genuinely happy when Jimmy said he could be friends with Thomas.  I honestly never thought I could like Thomas - not even for a second.

Now, what is this crazy story line that's right out of a page in Jane Eyre?  A crazy wife in an asylum?  Seriously?  C'mon Edith, you can find a normal relationship with someone who doesn't have a crazy wife locked up somewhere.  Will she ever catch a break?

I am glad that Carson and Mrs. Hughes got rid of that hussy who kissed Branson.  Nothing good could come from her being there.  I hope next season brings the whole Daisy/Ivy/Jimmy/Alfred love circle to an end.  No one is smitten with the right person!  It's pure torture to watch!  I also can't wait to see what kind of chaos Rose brings to Downton next season.  She's a wild one and I don't know how Cora and Lord Grantham will reign her in! 

A quick shout out to the Masterpiece writers for next season - More happy.  Less tragic.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fondue Part Deux

What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than with chocolate.  This was the perfect opportunity for me to break out the fondue pot and create some chocolaty magic! 

I used The Melting Pot's "Flaming Turtle" recipe, but made a couple of adjustments.  I didn't use 151 rum and set it on fire.  I didn't think anything good could come from me trying to do that.  If I have to ask myself "should I have the fire extinguisher handy when I do this?" then I usually decide it's probably not a good idea.  Also, I didn't have milk chocolate, I only had semi-sweet.  I like dark chocolate, but I live in a household of milk chocolate people.  I was hoping the caramel would sweeten things up.  Sadly it did not.  My people tried it and dipped quite a bit into it, but still complained because it wasn't milk chocolate.  They liked it enough, but they didn't love it.

The dipping items consisted of marshmallows, strawberries and chunks of pound cake.  These items were a huge hit!  Next time I think I'll throw some pineapple into the mix and maybe chunks of brownie.  Pure heaven!

Friday, February 15, 2013

All Done with the Snow

When you live in New England you are always prepared snow, but it doesn't mean you necessarily love it or even like it.  I've tried to embrace it and it's never gonna happen.  Never.  Last weekend we got 21 inches of snow where I live, but other parts of New England got upwards of 30+ inches.  Now that's just crazy.  I, like many "grown-ups," found myself talking about "The Blizzard of '78."  I talked to my kids.  I talked to my family and friends.  I talked about it on Facebook.  People were trapped and stranded for days during that blizzard!  People didn't own snow blowers like they do today, so it was all back-breaking shoveling.  Did they even sell snow blowers back then?  I can't even imagine.  I was only 7 years old.  I played in it - I didn't shovel it. 

I helped my son shovel various paths from the entrances to our house.  I whined.  It was heavy.  It was so deep you had to shovel in layers!  Layers I tell ya!  I didn't last long out there.  It was too windy.  And cold.  Did I mention that it was heavy snow? 

Yes, I know he's not wearing a coat.  He's 15.  They apparently don't get cold at 15.  We were just happy that he wasn't in shorts!

To say that the plows didn't do a good job in the neighborhood is an understatement, but I guess they had bigger fish to fry on the main roads and interstates. 

It's now a one lane street.  One lane for cars and one lane for the snow that didn't get plowed.  Two cars can't fit by at the same time.  There was lots of backing up and pulling into driveways to let others by.  It's still like that, but some of it has melted and you can now pull over to the side and let people by. 

I was so happy that it's Friday and then I heard there's snow in the forecast for tomorrow.  Really?  More snow? 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Big Bookclub Getaway

We arrived at our hotel, The Hyatt Place, Friday afternoon.  This hotel is 5 minutes from The Mohegan Sun Casino and significantly less money!  They run a shuttle every 30 minutes to and from the casino and we took advantage of it.  The driver, Al, was super nice and the seats in the shuttle were even heated, which was pure bliss on this cold night in February!!  Our room was very nice, very clean, and my husband loved the 42" flat screen TV.  It's all about the TV, right?  I loved the separate sitting area and the bed was super comfortable.  Also, all the granite counter tops were beautiful.

When we got to the casino, we registered since it was our first time there.  It also happened to be Ladies Night so they put $25 to gamble with on my card.  Woo Hoo!  Love ladies night!  Bill was wishing he was a lady!!  From there we went to the convention center and I registered for the book club getaway and got a great bag of goodies! 

I caught the end of Dr. Gary Small, a UCLA neuroscientist, discuss his book The Alzheimer's Prevention Program.  He was very engaging and personable and I wished I had heard him from the beginning.  The next speaker was Amy Newmark, publisher of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books.  They are a local company right in Connecticut and you could tell she loves her job and is passionate about the company.  They receive thousands of submissions and read them all before selecting which stories to publish.  Each Chicken Soup for the Soul book contains 101 true stories.  She was quite an inspiration!

Next they had a discussion on how to enliven your book club and offered a lot of great tips and answered questions from the audience.  It was great to hear how other book clubs run their meetings and the struggles that some clubs face.  The audience then participated in a discussion of Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  I haven't read that book, but enjoyed listening to the discussion. 

I also enjoyed the after-hours party at Bobby Flay's Bar Amercain where Jeff Kamin of Books & Bars led a discussion of the book The Other Woman by Hank Phillipe Ryan.  The crowd was very lively and the atmosphere was fun. 

I only went to the events on Friday night.  Bill and I were planning on leaving early Saturday and we wanted to spend a little time together Saturday exploring the casino before we left.  I enjoyed the casino and couldn't believe how big the place is. There are also loads of restaurants and shops.  I don't gamble, but I played the slot machines and ended up winning $150.  Go figure!  Then I just HAD to spend my winnings on some stuff for the kids!  We had such a great time and will definitely go back! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Downton Abbey, How Could You?


If you haven't seen the new episode that aired Jan. 27th then read no further!!

It has taken me a few days to be able to write about poor Lady Sybil's untimely death.  Oh, creators of Downton Abbey, how could you do that?  Talk about needing a box of Kleenex!!  I never expected something like this when I settled down Sunday night to enjoy my favorite British people.
Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley from Downton Abbey. (       
(Image Source)                                                 (Image Source)

Of all the sisters, how could you not love Lady Sybil best?  Surely they meant this affliction for poor Lady Edith, right?  That woman can't catch a break!  I still love Lady Mary, but not in that warm, fuzzy way that I did for Lady Sybil.  Oh, I fear Downton will not be the same without her.  And what will happen to the baby?  I can't see it likely that the ladies of Downton will let Tom take the baby away to Ireland.  Oh, and how will the Countess ever forgive the Earl that he did not listen to Dr. Clarkson.  So many questions!!

If you love Downton Abbey as much as I do, then you should read An American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin.  It's one of my favorite books and hopefully you will love the main character, Cora Cash, as much as I did

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So, I am heading off to The Big Book Club Getaway at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut this weekend.  There's going to be over 45 authors at the event and should be a great time.  I won the tickets through the Eastern CT Chamber of Commerce and couldn't be more excited to attend!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Search for a Great Wine

So, I am far from a wine connoisseur, but a girl's gotta start somewhere, right?  I've been getting tired of my same old "go-to" value wines so this year I am going to try some new wines each month and let you know what I think.  I'll confess that the first wine I tried I bought for the name and the label.  I'm a sucker for cute marketing.  The Beach House white wine is from South Africa.  It was a value at only $12.99/bottle.  I thought this wine was good, but not great.  It has a nice citrus flavor, but I didn't love it. 

The second wine I tried was Wizards Cranberry, which is from Les Trois Emme winery in western Massachusetts.  I chose this wine because it's local and sounded appealing.  It's their Cayuga White that has cranberry flavoring added to it.  At first taste I thought it was pretty tart and the tartness seemed a bit overwhelming.  I couldn't finish my glass and was very disappointed.  This wine too, was only $12.99/bottle and if you like a really tart wine, then you'd probably like this. 

So, this month's selections were a bust, but I have high hopes for next month!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Do You Fondue - Part II

After making fondue at home with the kids, I just had to go to The Melting Pot!  I loved the atmosphere and modern decor.  The low lighting and intimate seating enhanced the experience and the smell of the restaurant was mouth watering.  Our server was super nice and patient explaining the menu and the four courses.  The drink menu was a variety of specialty martinis.  I got the yin and yang martini, which was both delicious and beautiful with vanilla vodka, white chocolate liqueur, chocolate shavings and a bit of ice cream. 

It tasted more like a dessert than a martini and I couldn't taste the alcohol at all.  It also didn't taste very sweet, which I was happy about because it looked like it had the potential to be super sweet.  I liked it a lot and will definitely try to recreate it at home because it looks so impressive!

Our first course was the spinach artichoke cheese fondue and it was out of this world.  Super gooey, super cheesy and something I will definitely make at home in our fondue pot!  We had bread, veggies, tortilla chips and apple slices to dip.  This first course was a huge hit with everyone!

The second course was salad.  We got the Caesar salad and it was delicious.  My husband had the tangy house dressing on his and said it was the best dressing he's ever had.  We also enjoyed the Parmesan encrusted pine nuts that were on the salad.  They were surprisingly sweet and crunchy and were a nice addition to the salad.

The third course was my least favorite and I honestly think I would skip it next time.  They have a variety of combinations of chicken, shrimp, beef, duck, pork, pot stickers, etc. that you cook in the fondue pot.  You choose your cooking style and we went with Coq au Vin which is burgundy wine infused with fresh herbs, spices and mushrooms.  We got the land and sea selection, which was chicken, shrimp and beef.  I was impressed with the different sauces they give for you to dip your cooked food in because otherwise the food would have been far too bland.  This course was just o.k. in my opinion and I could've done without it.

Dessert was phenomenal.  I mean, truly outstanding.  It "wowed" all of us!  We got the basic milk chocolate to dip and we were presented with strawberries, bananas, marshmallows, cheesecake, brownies, red velvet cake and rice krispy treats.  Oh my goodness!  Delish!!

All in all, I really enjoyed my night out and would definitely go there again.  It's super fun and super yummy and I would also encourage anyone who really enjoys this restaurant to purchase a fondue pot of their own and recreate the recipes at home!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Home Front

Home Front  by Kristin Hannah

Let me start by saying a big thank you and Kristin Hannah for providing such a great book club contest. We were so happy to win and it was the perfect kick-off to the beginning of our 5th year of Booktini Book Club.

We’ve read a couple of Ms. Hannah’s books in the past, Night Road and Firefly Lane, and while we enjoyed those books, we agreed that this book was even better! The story is about a woman named Jolene and in addition to being the mother of two young girls and the wife of an attorney, she is also a pilot in the National Guard. Her marriage isn’t what it used to be and before she has a chance to work on her relationship with her husband, she is deployed to Iraq.  The only thing that makes this bearable for Jolene is that she is there with her best friend Tami, who is also a pilot in the National Guard.

There is so much that civilians, like myself, do not know or understand about war. After reading this book I realized that soldiers who survive their tour and come home, need to continue to survive that tour for the rest of their lives. They don't come home and get the luxury of forgetting everything they've seen and experienced.  I always thought of myself as a strong woman like Jolene in a lot of ways and to see her so broken and her family so helpless was heartbreaking and very eye opening.

This was a story about love and loss and finding the courage to pick yourself up when you think you’ve lost all hope. And yes, I needed a Kleenex at the end.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pillars of the Earth

I love reading historical fiction. The first time I read a book of that type, I was a junior in high school and my history teacher assigned the class to read Centennial by James Michener. Oh, how I loved that book and those characters. I enjoyed it so much that I don’t know why it took many years after reading Centennial to start reading other books like it!

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I just recently finished Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I chose the audio book version (32 CDs) since I was in the midst of reading a couple of other books at the time. On the surface Pillars of the Earth is about the building of a cathedral, but you don’t have to look too deep to see that it’s about so much more. The novel follows 3 different groups of people: 2 noble families, a Prior and his monks, and a builder and his family. All of their stories manage to seamlessly intertwine into a wonderful novel that spans several decades in the lives of these people. I enjoyed all of the characters who were so well developed by Mr. Follett, that I felt I knew them as well as my own family. A recurring theme throughout the novel is the balance of power between church and state, rich and poor, and the righteous and the immoral.

I am planning on renting the DVD to watch the characters I feel I know so well come to life. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!!