31 January 2012

Traveling Pets: Trying Something New

In a few weeks, I'll be heading to Williamsburg and Yorktown to meet with some wedding related folks.  Normally, I just board Ellie for that type of thing.  There are two problems with this.  1) I always want Ellie to be better about traveling, better interacting with people, etc. and 2) Boarding pets gets expensive when you go out of town a lot.  Since I travel so much for work, I'd like to spend my down time with the people and animals that I love.

I am trying something new - I'm taking Ellie with me.

Although information about it is hard to find, Williamsburg has two pet-friendly hotel options - 1) Williamsburg Inn (high-end) and 2) the Cascades Motel.  The Williamsburg Inn requires a $500 pet deposit...and your dog must not bark.  The Cascades, which have no dedicated website, require no pet deposit, are inexpensive and don't much care if your dog barks.  Trip Advisor has reviews here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g58313-d1059984-Reviews-Cascades_Motel-Williamsburg_Virginia.html. It doesn't sound like it's going to win any awards, but having the option to bring your pet always warms my little heart.  In addition to getting a nice room with a decent view for you and your pets, you also get breakfast at the Woodlands and you can take your pet with you all over the colonial section.

I also stumbled upon this website: Dog Jaunt, which actually has a post which details a visit to Colonial Williamsburg with dog in tow!

I'm excited to check out the place and see how Ellie likes it.

How could you ever want to leave this behind?

30 January 2012

Productivity Abound!

Such a productive weekend:
  • Taxes - done and filed!
  • Seeds - started!
  • Bread - baked!
  • House - tidied!
  • Laundry - done!
  • (Hated) Grocery Shopping - accomplished! 
  • Impromptu baking - finished with flying colors thanks to my neighbor's butter!

The Classic French Bread that I tried...was maybe not so classic.  I accidentally used whole wheat flour instead of bread flour.  I'm not sure how I did it, but I did.  I think they turned out just fine, but ultimately it produced a coarser texture than I had wanted.  That being said, I'm glad I tried it and I will be doing the recipe again the correct way later this week.  Blerg.

Who doesn't love a little added productivity to their lives?!?  Later this week, I'll be traveling to NYC for work.  I had thought about tacking on a day so that I could look at wedding dresses from two designers that are based in NYC.  Money's a little tight for me to be dropping $150 to change a flight and stay up there for an extra day.  Looks like I'll be making another trip up to NYC sometime soon for that purpose.

And last, but certainly not least, on a whim last night, I decided to bake a chocolate cake.  We probably didn't need additional baked goods in the house, but sometimes, you just need a pick me up.  Mid-evening, with no sweets in the house, I found out that I'd missed National Chocolate Cake Day.  To remedy that, I found an easy recipe.  The complication: I'm out of butter! Blasphemy.  Mine was a little dryer than the one in the picture on Smitten Kitchen, but nonetheless, it was well received.  Here's the recipe: http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/08/everyday-chocolate-cake/


29 January 2012

Garden 2012 Commences

This year's garden will hopefully be an improvement on last year's.  Last year's, of course, wasn't bad, but I'd like to continue moving forward.

Yesterday, I got started with my seedlings.  Neutral seeding medium, accidental purchase of several new seeds.  Why can't I just be satisfied with the 50 different types of seeds I have??  I did get some stuff to work on growing beets in containers.  I haven't been successful at growing beets in the past - radishes, yes; beets, no.  Some googling helped me to find some good advice.  This site suggests planting radishes next to your beets.  Radishes germinate faster and so that helps to mark where you've planted beets.  It would be easy enough to get 9 beets into a square foot in the raised beds, but I'd prefer to do them in containers.  I've got a few containers ready to go for both beets and carrots.  Here's hoping that works out well.

I got all of my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants started...along with a few other extras.  I've streamlined the process this year.  I've started them in 4packs under humidity domes and under our replica-of-the-sun grow light.  Now, I will have to fight the urge to sit next to them and wait for them to grow.  No, really.  I want to do that.

Additionally, I started my next loaf of bread.  This week, dad and I are doing the Classic French Bread recipe in order to do an Épi de Blé, which means wheat sheaf in French.  I modified the recipe only in that I used active dry yeast and had to rehydrate it first.  I have both types of yeast, and I'd like to deplete them evenly.  The dough was ridiculously easy to do.  It only took me about 15 minutes to get it together and into the frig for the cold rising.  This morning, it's looking great.  I can't wait to bake it!  Tonight and tomorrow, I've got dinner with friends, so I'll be baking it to share with others.  I hope it turns out well!  I've loving (loaving - haha) baking fresh bread.  It's so delicious and easy!

Initially the dough seemed a bit too dry and craggy.  I added a tiny bit extra water, and I think that evened things out.  Only the baking remains!

And lastly, for dinner last night, I stumbled upon this excellent recipe: Hearty Lentil Soup Recipe With Carrots, Tomatoes, & Smoked Sausage. I made a few changes - added less liquid to make it even chunkier.  It was excellent.  This one's going in my recipe file.