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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Back-Up Plans

Hubby and I play the lottery.  Every week. Two tickets - one with our "lucky numbers" (I'm not sure what they are - he knows them) and one where the computer picks them.  Just one of those little minor "splurges" we allow ourselves, knowing the odds are completely against us but should those odds ever turn, well, what fun that would be, right?

So, the running jokes in our household center around the winning and/or more likely scenario of non-winning said jackpot.  Hubby will log-on in the evening of the lottery draw "to see if (he) need(s) to show up at work tomorrow."  We also have a great deal of fun dreaming up "back-up plans" - careers we could have in lieu of winning the lottery, that would still perhaps seem more interesting, at least for a time, than the usual Monday-Friday, 8-5.

Here are some of the things we've proposed - travel show hosts (our justification for this - where did Rick Steves or Samantha Brown come from?) or even better, winery travel show hosts; bed & breakfast hosts with a twist - serve yourself (fix your own breakfast, make your own bed, ....); restaurant advisers (this is different from critics - oh, we would be great at that - as advisors we could take the "critics" job to the next level and say, hey, yeah, if your logo and label has wine bottles all over it, let's really work on getting you a wine list to offer.....true story and sadly, in our hometown - and while we're at it, do you really need that 80's disco ball?); news station advisors/managers for smaller markets (again our experience comes from the local area) - there may be a problem if your primetime news programming is featuring a 10 minute segment on how social media is destroying marriages, complete with hidden faces, voiceovers with actors from the waist down (we were waiting for a "kicking boots moment" during the wife confronts other woman in parking lot scene) or a live, confrontational "sting" operation over an unauthorized Craig-listed backyard children's wooden play structure - now, that was exciting) - don't get us wrong - we really appreciate the fact that we live in an area where obviously news is "slow" (overall crime is low hence not a lot to report from that standpoint) - but surely there's another way to go.

Our favorite new "career" opportunity appeared last night.  When hubby and I first began our "wine connoisseurs" journey several years ago (prior to that we were both strictly Chardonnay), we selected our wines using two qualifications - the size of the "punt" (which we had heard was important to the wine's quality - and which we now know makes no difference in today's winemaking) and the label.  If the label caught our eye - was creative, artistic, interesting - the wine might be a winner for us.  Great way to pick wine, huh?  We've learned a bit more now over the years, but we can still be suckers for a good label.

Last night we had a wine emergency.  We knew that we were down to our last bottle of red, a bottle of Dodoma we had brought back from Tanzania, and planned to open that for dinner.  When hubby opened the bottle however, he noticed that the cork came out much too easily, so much so that it almost was pushed into the bottle - it was that loose.  We were immediately very suspicious of what it would taste like but kept our fingers crossed.  Pour - sip - yuck!  Yep, the wine had gone bad - most likely a problem with the corking (we were probably very lucky the stuff didn't leak out inside our luggage on the trip back).  But, there we were with no wine for dinner - wine emergency!  Not really, we aren't that bad, but hubby opted for a quick trip out since I was still cooking.  Options were limited since we do live in a small town, and our favorite specialty wine store was closed - leaving only a Wally World (no!) and a small grocery (close by).

Hubby returned from the grocery with two bottles - reading from the Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon, he said,
"Enjoy with your favorite pasta dish and conversation...(it) is everything a great wine should be. It's approachable, fresh, flavorsome and has a personality all of its own."
Then he held up the Mirassou Pinot Noir and said, "Just drink it and shuddup."  We both started laughing and said at the same time, "That's what we could do - we could write for wine labels!"

One more for the back-up plans.  We opened the pinot for dinner.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday's Tanzania


Our 2nd day of the safari took us into the Sergenti National Park, home to one of the seven wonders of Africa, the Serengeti Migration - which given the time of our visit, we were fortunate to experience.  We were able to see first-hand, and very close-up, large groups of wildebeests and zebras making their "short rains" trek, the longest and largest land migration in the world.

Wildebeests "waiting in line"

"Let's roll!"


Zebras taking a migration break...

 We also saw an incredible hippo pool.

But, to be honest, I think all of us became very quiet whenever we saw hippos at this point in the safari and beyond.  At dinner, the first night, our guide, Swalehe, shared that his brother had been killed three years ago by a hippo when the kayak he was in turned over in a river.  Swalehe  said he was helping to raise his brother's son. 

Having always just experienced these creatures from the safe view of a zoo, I had seen them as gentle giants - how wrong I was.


The Serengeti plains were breathtaking - pictures can't truly capture their beauty.

We spent a long, hot day on the safari trail and were again ready for our beds.  So, we were a bit confused when we arrived late at our site and saw lots of regular tents -- no platforms.  No worries, we first naively thought - must be hiding "our special" accommodations around here somewhere....  That thought was quickly dispelled when we saw our guides pulling similar tents off the top of the jeep along with sleeping bags.  Long story short - I "borrowed" Swalehe's foam mattress pad; the planned 6am safari ride was postponed til 10; it is possible to shower in the dark, using only a mini flashlight which stands up on one end - while hubby watches out for hyenas (and thank you, hubby, for not telling me until we were back stateside about the one you stared down while I was in there); sleeping pills are the over 50s' answer to tent camping; and it is possible to upgrade mid-safari to a lodge stay (our third night, complete with buffet and wine) :)

Next week:  More Serengeti, intro. to Ngorongoro, and just why is that German couple following us around?

Monday, February 25, 2013

And the Winner Is...

It was a weekend of new recipes at the SignatureSterling household, along with the Oscars celebration.

I told you Friday we were looking forward to trying out a new margarita recipe as a tribute to "National Margarita Day" (hubby pointed out to me that yesterday was "National Tortilla Chip Day" - hmm, maybe someone should have coordinated those two?).  I probably should mention that the drink of choice for us is usually wine except when we are at our favorite local Mexican restaurant - then hubby becomes the Dos Equis man and I have my Corona Light.  Once in a while, I'll have a 'rita, but I usually pass as I don't like the mixer used.

So, hubby arrived home with the needed ingredients and pulling out a large bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold, asked, "Will this be enough?" 
"Uhm, yes, that should be plenty."
"Because there was a smaller bottle, but I didn't know how much we would need."
And then he added,  "And I bought limes."  I didn't say anything, but thought to myself, hmm, didn't put limes on the list - not in the recipe....he must have read my mind - he's good at that - because he answered my silence:
"For the tequila shots. Don't we need limes? You know, shot, slam, lime?"
"We're making margaritas, not doing shots.  I'm not doing shots!"
Here's the recipe we used for the dreamy, creamy "Caribbean Dreamsicle Margaritas" -- soooo good!

And a few pics of the drink in process. So easy! 

The finished product.....oh, and those limes? They're still in the fridge.

Last night, for the Oscars, I planned a special menu based around the Best Picture nominations - it was fun coming up with the menu, finding the recipes - and then putting it all together.  Note - next time, a.  we need to invite someone over to help eat the appetizers (looks like we'll be eating "Crabby Snacks" for about a week) b. should probably remember that hubby has never been a night owl so while we had best intentions of enjoying a late night dessert of his beautiful cake and some cafe au lait, he gave up on the show around 10 when we were both still full from dinner. :)  Confession - I did have a piece of the cake and it was delish!


Wine (California - Hollywood) 
Handcraft Cabernet Sauvignon

Appetizer (Silver Linings Playbook)

Entree (Life of Pi)

Side (Argo, Zero Dark Thirty)
Couscous with Cinnamon and Golden Raisins

Bread (Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained)

Dessert (Lincoln)

After Dinner Drink (Amour, Les Miserables)

*Hubby made this beautiful and delicious cake - and, the selection is based on a recommendation from that President Lincoln liked apples.  So, there you go.

**No picture for this, alas, due to a. hubby already calling it a night and b. me already having every pan and dish loaded in the dishwasher.  Enough.  You get the idea.

And the winner is....well, Ben Affleck, of course - so worth staying up late to see that win! Loved Argo and while I don't understand his omission from the Best Director category, I think the Best Picture win more than makes up for it AND his thank-you speech was the best ever. Gotta love Ben :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Feature - The Eclectic Element

TGIF and Happy National Margarita Day! What a combination, right? A little early to start the blender but not too early for the Friday Feature ;)  Remember, Fridays are when I would like to introduce you to other talented artisans and/or bloggers -- so if that applies to any of you reading this and you're interested in being featured, all you need to do is become an official "follower" of MIDGE (right-hand column - Google "Follow" option with the photos) and I'll be in touch.

Today, I'm so happy to learn more about and introduce you to Kayla of The Eclectic Element: Handcrafted & Vintage Jewelry (blog) and The Eclectic Element Handcrafted  & The Eclectic Element Vintage (Etsy Shops).

Explain the story behind your shop name.
Unfortunately due to chronic illness, I haven’t been able to work a ‘real life’ job for more than 3 months at a time, so one day I decided I wanted to do SOMETHING to bring in a little money and keep myself busy (I don’t do idle very well). I had heard of Etsy and wanted to open up my own store, so one night I pulled an all nighter with a pen and pad of paper, writing down and pairing words that described me, my jewelry, and just words I enjoyed until I hit ‘The Eclectic Element.’ It just FIT.
Explain how and why your work has changed in the last  years.
I started making jewelry a little after I got sick 9+ years ago thanks to one of my kind-hearted high school teachers who took me under her wing. Since then, it’s been a lot of learning, experimenting and trial and error. I’ve noticed a lot of change has happened after I’ve been challenged; For example, Lori Anderson’s 6th Bead Soup Blog Party was a big inspiration and changing point for me. 
What influences your work?  How do you find your muse? 
I’ve noticed that I’m mostly inspired by the materials I work with. Since I can’t afford the best of the best, I usually work with a lot of found, upcycled and gifted items and each is so very unique, they all ‘speak’ to me from the beginning of the designing process until the very end!
What do you enjoy most about your work?
While I really enjoy everything that goes into my jewelry, there are two things that I enjoy the most; Firstly, I really enjoy working with found and upcycled materials, not because I can’t afford much else, but because they’re all unique. No one piece of jewelry I make is the same and that’s due majorly in part to my materials. Second is the satisfaction of knowing I’ve created and built something for myself out of what seemed like a nothing situation.
What is your favorite piece in your shop(s) right now and why?
There are not many pieces in my shops, but my favorite so far is my Dream a Little Dream bracelet.

It’s the last bracelet I made and I just LOVE the way it turned out. I’m sure the piece I make next will be my next favorite. LOL

You can find and follow Kayla and her work here:
The Eclectic Element Handcrafted (Etsy shop)
The Eclectic Element Vintage (Etsy shop)
The Eclectic Element: Handcrafted & Vintage Jewelry (blog)
The Eclectic Element: Handcrafted Jewelry (Facebook)
The Eclectic Element (Twitter)
jeanne1789 (Pinterest)

Thanks for sharing, Kayla!

Next week - meet one of my oldest beading pals (and I don't mean by age! definitely clarifying that, Vicki!) ;)  from Orion Designs.  Until then, get those blenders warmed up and let me know what margarita recipes you might be trying out tonight - we've got a special one all set to go - I'll let you know on Monday how it turned out!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Now, Where Were We?

Need to follow-up on a couple of things....first, whatever happened to that promise I made to keep you posted on my project to get my filing organized?  Remember this?

Yeah, me too! But, I'm happy to report that I did follow through - all of the above has been sorted, trashed as needed, filed appropriately, and now for the big reveal:  

Have to say I'm pretty proud of myself and it has been done for a couple of weeks now (no, it did not take just a day or two as maybe suggested by the original link in the post - in fact, I did go back to my traditional sort, stack, file approach - seems to work best for me when I get myself in a big mess like this).  But, the goal now is to keep this clear -- motivation is that we'll be ready for grandkiddos to visit at any given time.  ;)

Second, I totally failed at pulling off that Valentine's menu on February 14th - and now I know it's a very good thing that I didn't attempt it.  If I had, we never would have made the concert that night or I would have been very frustrated at leaving a half-prepared meal and kitchen in chaos behind.  I know this because I did prepare the dinner, with the help of my talented sous chef/Valentine/hubby this week, when we didn't have any time constraints.  Good thing!  Apparently the recipe tags "quick & easy" only apply if you are preparing ONE recipe at a time - not three....

But I promised pictures so here they are.  First ~ the Beef Tenderloin with Morels and Tarragon Marsala Sauce  and Tomato Bread Salad with Herbs.

Now the dessert, Coffee Souffles with Mocha Sauce...first, let me say, I really wish I had taken a picture when I had taken these out of the oven - they were gorgeous - I've never made a souffle-anything before so I was very skeptical, but they were beautiful - really, they were!  But, now I know why the recipe says "serve immediately."  Yeah....

But, the mocha sauce was delish and covered a multitude of souffle sins - so hubby and I decided it was still very light and luscious.

All in all, a great dinner - "easy" maybe, but not quick and definitely messy.  Very thankful for my sous chef who volunteered for clean-up while I enjoyed a second glass of pinot noir and put my feet up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday (Look Closely)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesday's Tanzania

A big part of our trip was a 4-day, 3 night safari through three of Tanzania's incredible national parks - Tarangire, Serengeti, and Ngorogoro.  We were accompanied by our guide, Swalehe, and cook, Bakari, both pros at the "safari game."  When booking the trip, we had a choice of tent camping (platform tents with beds in sites with full bath facilities, etc.) or lodges - we chose the tents (more on that next week). :)

Our first day was a trek through Tarangire where we found very dry conditions - the "short rains" season had just begun - but a variety of animals were still active.  The animals appeared to be very accustomed to the safari jeeps as they did not get skittish or avoid us at all although we were clearly warned that getting out of the vehicle was not an option.

We were greeted by a very playful group of elephants.

Well, at least they were playful until this one thought we were taking a few too many pictures.
Note:  flaring elephant ears may be cute, but not a good sign.  Time to hit the road.

My favorite shots from this day were the giraffes. 

We tracked this lioness for quite a while.

Swalehe explained that she probably was looking for food for her cubs as from her looks she was a nursing mama.

We never did find her cubs, but we did discover another pride deep in the grass.

That night we enjoyed an incredible camp-cooked dinner (leek soup, chicken, best instant coffee ever....) by Bakari and after a long day in the sun on the safari road, were glad to find our beds waiting for us!

Next week:  Serengeti and wait, where did the beds go?