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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

weekend happenings


mike and i had a fabulous weekend and hope you did too!  our weather in new hampshire was gorgeous...mostly sunny all weekend and around 80 degrees.  my kinda weather!

i had to put in a little work at my part time job on saturday morning, so mike came along to help.  after that, we decided to check out a couple of bicycle shops in the area.  mike has been longing for a bike for awhile...i want to have one too, but he's way more serious about it.  he wants to ride it to work and stuff.  i just want one to take a couple rides a week.

for mike, we figured we were looking for an entry level mountain bike that would cost under $500 (including any essentials, like a helmet).  for me, we figured i could probably use a bike from a place like k-mart for under $100.  (that way, if i find i'm really enjoying my bike, i can sell it or give it away and invest in a more expensive bike then.)

so, to start our adventure, we went to the closest shop first.  i will write nothing negative other than it was a huge disappointment.  we had a lot of questions about size, style, price, maintenance, etc., and it was probably pretty obvious to the salesperson we weren't going to hop on our bike and go for a hundred mile ride...ever.  so with our non-professional-cyclist look paired with our budget needs, our salesman wasn't too interested in actually selling us a bike, so we moved on.

we drove about thirty five minutes to claremont cycle depot.  what a pleasure!

upon arriving, despite there being a tent sale going on, we decided to check out the shop first, since we'd never set foot in the store.  it's a great shop full of all things bicycle.  you name it, they have it!  

within minutes a nice young sales guy came to offer us assistance.  since getting mike a bike was the top priority, we focused on him.  we told the sales guy we were looking for an entry level mountain bike on a budget, but wanted to find out stuff about all the options with shocks and brakes...and eventually, service.  he was so eager to help us, we immediately felt so much better about making the trek down to claremont.  (i wish i had gotten our sales guy's name...i'll be sure to update you if i get it!  but everyone there is so nice, you'd be in good hands with any of their staff!)

since we were budget-minded, our sales guy thought the tent sale would be a great place to start, just to get a feel for options.  all the bikes under the tent were used (and actually there on consignment), and they had wicked cheap prices, so it was nice to see what we could get for less money.  there was one mike was pretty interested in that was marked $250 and he even rode it around the parking lot...



...but he wanted to try something new as well.

as soon as the new bike came out for mike to ride, i knew we would be taking it home.  it was just the look mike wanted:  grey and flat black (read: not flashy).  it had front shocks, but no disc brakes.  and the front wheel came off easily.  it was brand new, and as the sales guy told us, with everything we needed (lube and a water bottle holder, plus the initial tune-up once-over) it would be under $450.  sounded great.  it was under our budget of $500!




well, he did us even better.  once he typed the serial number into the computer, he was very pleased to tell us that the price of the bike had been dropped!  he said, "well, i have some great news...the owner sometimes changes prices without telling us, and since this model is a 2011, the price is actually $380!"  talk about excited!  we were so happy to hear about the recent discount and couldn't wait to try to jam the bike in our little honda civic!



it fit!  thank goodness for that handy front wheel that comes off with two easy steps!

next stop:  lunch.  our tummies were growling with hunger!  we stopped at a cute little place in claremont (that we've driven by a thousand times, but never stopped) called scoop city grill and i wish i was thinking enough to take pictures because the food was excellent!  (my blogger mind must have been suppressed by my hunger!)  i had a yummy haddock sandwich and mike had a tasty turkey and bacon panini.  we shared french fries which were perfectly crunchy, soft, salty, and delicious!  and, of course, we had ice cream for dessert!  mike had a shake, vanilla this time, and i had a fancy flavor:  salted caramel chocolate pretzel.  talk about yummy!  it was caramel flavored ice cream with chocolate covered pretzels and a caramel swirl!  right up my sweet and salty alley!  =)


after lunch we were full, but figured we'd take the opportunity to visit the k-mart in claremont to see their selection of bikes.  we found a couple options, but not exactly what we were looking for for me.  i definitely wanted a mountain bike, not a more casual-riding one like this:


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although that bike is pretty cute!  so, i had a few options at k-mart in claremont, but i felt confident that our local k-mart would have my bike.

in my opinion, k-mart is a great place to shop for bikes, if you're looking for something inexpensive or for a beginner (which i consider myself because i haven't been on a bicycle in over half my life!).  they have a variety of types of bikes and colors and price ranges.  since i consider myself a beginner and want a bike to get back in the swing of biking, i figured for $100 we'd find an adequate bicycle for myself.

back at our local k-mart, we found just what i was hoping for.  i simple mountain bike for $89.99.  (we also got helmets!  safety first!)

here i am with my brandy new shiny bicycle (and helmet):


it's a huffy superia women's bike with 26" wheels.  in the photo above i had not adjusted the seat yet, which needed to be done.  but i'm a happy camper.

i bet some of you are wondering why i didn't just get a better bike or why mike splurged so much on his.  well, i'm just not so sure if my passion for biking will grow, so i didn't want to make a larger investment (than $100) with the possibility of not really using my bike as much as i thought.  i figure that if i do fall in love with biking than the $90 investment in this bike will be well worth it and i can upgrade.  since mike is planning to use his bike to commute to work in addition to casual rides with me, and he had saved his pennies to spend around $500 on a bike, so we were prepared for that investment.

does that make sense?  i know you get what you pay for, so i definitely bought and paid for a significantly cheaper bike than mike, but the thought of spending $400 on a bike that i may or may not use or like didn't sit well with me.  i'm just happier spending less now to keep our options open in the future.  (besides, i'm a learned frugalista, so i don't like spending more than i need to, especially on larger ticket items.)

for now, i feel like a little kid in a candy store without training wheels.  getting the seat adjusted properly was most of the battle, but i'm also afraid of cars, so until i feel a little more acclimated with my new bike, i'll stick to my own driveway or the rail trail, which i have yet to visit, but very much look forward to.  a nice, quiet ride without the danger of vehicles sounds like a fun bike ride to me.

so, long story short, if you're in the market for a nice bicycle and you're from around here, i highly recommend claremont cycle depot.  and while you're in claremont, nh, check out scoop city grill - you won't be disappointed!

what did you do over the long weekend?  any cycle shopping?  or shopping of any other kind?

=) andrea

Monday, May 28, 2012

a memorial day milestone


this is my 100th post!  can you believe it?  after 6+ months of blogging my little heart out, i've hit this huge milestone.  on memorial day.  (well, maybe that was kinda on purpose.)  when i started blogging (on veteran's day, coincidentally, or one may say serendipitous) last november i had plans and dreams and notes and thoughts, but they were all part of the grand scheme of my kinda perfect.  what really gets me through each day, especially the ones when i'm not feeling particularly creative or wordy, is the fact that you're out there, dear readers.  you visit my blog and soak it all in.  you read my posts and comment when you feel compelled.  you visit my facebook page and scour all my pictures...food, adventures, projects, etc.  and you ask when i haven't blogged in a few days or recommend other blogs that you think i'd like.

i'm so grateful.

and i'm so thankful to be able to have the freedom to share my thoughts.

i had a few moments this weekend that gave me that patriotic and thankful feeling.  i hope you did too.

whether you put a flag or flowers out in memory of a loved one...or celebrated your freedom at a parade or a backyard barbecue...or you may have just said a silent prayer for all the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedom... i hope the true spirit of memorial day touched you.

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i love blogging and am so thankful to you readers.  i love america and i'm so grateful for our freedoms.

=) andrae

Friday, May 25, 2012

friday philosophy


sometimes i come across a quote that bears some kind of significance and i want to share it with you dear readers.  sometimes it's based on where i am in life or a certain event, sometimes a quote just reminds me of a friend, or sometimes it makes me think.  it's called 'friday philosophy' and i'm gonna keep it up weekly. (or try to!)

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i love that as humans we grow, both physically and emotionally, we learn.  we learn to love, we learn to choose, we learn to cope, we learn to live, we learn...well, we learn to learn.

i read this piece today called "25 things i've learned in my 20's" today and highly recommend that you read it, especially if you're in your 20's or 30's...go ahead, click on the link and read it now...i'll wait.

...

...

...

what'd ya think?  totally true, right?

i especially loved #5, #20, and #24.

#10 made me think of my friend nicole's 30th birthday party.  (or what i remember of it!  yikes!)

#7 scares me because i know it's true, despite trying to deny it.

#22 reminds me of several people who i wish would give themselves a better opportunity to grow up.

#13 comes with time, but should never be altered because of the affects of #2.

i learned so much in my 20's and i'm still learning so much at 31.  (31?  what?!  how did that happen?)  and i continue to remind myself daily that we're all just people.  no matter what we do, where we're from, or how much we make, we're all the same...we're just people, fighting similar battles.  we wake up in the morning, we put our pants on one leg at a time, we go to work, and we do our best.  if that's been done, then it sounds like a good day to me.

and you know what?  at 31, i've learned that that concept of 'doing our best' really is good enough.  sometimes we have spectacular days, sometimes boring or mundane days, but most days will be good enough because we tried our best, no matter how spectacular or boring.

so, what do you think?  what have you learned that has stuck with you or helped shape who you are?

for me, it's a smile and my bubbly personality.  i keep a smile on my face all the time because most of the time it makes people wonder why you're smiling.  "let 'em wonder," one of my elementary school teachers told me.

maybe it's because you just heard a hilarious joke.  maybe it's because you just had a brownie that tasted just like your grandmother used to make and it made you feel like a little kid.  maybe it's because you farted in someone else's office and ran.  maybe it's because you received an unexpected compliment.  maybe it's because you got a raise at work.  maybe it's because you hit all the green lights on your commute.  maybe it's a child in your life that just learned how to say your name.

or maybe, just maybe, it's because you're genuinely happy.  whether it's for no reason or a thousand reasons (or any of the random reasons i gave you above that may or may not be true for me), go ahead and smile because i know it will make you feel happier, no matter what.

so, my (31-year-old) advice to you (the potentially 20-something) is this:  

live more and worry less.  (whatever you're worrying about is probably temporary anyway, so don't waste the effort on worry or stress.)  and if you can, do it with a smile.  you may make someone's day or even change someone's life by showing your own positive attitude without speaking a word.

it's why i always sign off with a smile.  i hope it sends my positive vibes to you and gives you a smile too.

=) andrea

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

jamaica mon


i find it hard to believe we've been home from vacation for as long as we have.  a month ago we were there.  we've been home for several weeks.  we've now been home longer than we were even away and i still haven't shared a single bit of our trip with you.

the shame.

but all that is changing today.  =)

mike and i love jamaica.  this was our second trip, our first was april of 2010 and upon returning home, we vowed to go back.  luckily, we got our chance...and we still can't wait to go back again.  and again.  and again.

you can see pictures from our first trip here, here, here, here, and here.  (i sneakily had posts lined up for the week that we were away including photos from our first visit to the holiday inn sunspree resort in montego bay, jamaica.  but since coming home, i've been sneakily busy working like a crazy lady.)

let me give you a little background before i dive into pictures.  (or you can just skip this and go right to the pics below.)  

my dad travels a lot for work...and i mean a lot.  he gets to keep all the miles and points he earns through this travel and use it for his own personal adventures.  or in this case, my own personal adventures.  =)

after mike and i had been living together for awhile we realized that between the two of us, we really didn't need any more stuff.  (and after reading the terrific blog zero waste home, i was more encouraged to have less and do more.)  we have furniture (sure, eventually we'll upgrade, but it's fine for now)...we have clothes (and are very capable of purchasing what we need as we need it)...we have kitchen utensils and tools and gadgets...and really, we just don't need more stuff.  

so, back in the fall of 2009, we decided it would be nice if instead of getting a bunch of stuff we don't want for christmas, we'd encourage our parents (or at least mine) to give us the gift of experience (or contribute to it).  experiencing new places and going on traveling adventures can get expensive and frankly, we can't afford to do everything we want to do without saving for quite awhile to get it.  not that there's anything wrong with doing that, because we do save our pennies, but we also just don't need more stuff...so by encouraging my parents to at least contribute to our adventures, we'd gain less crap and experience more awesomeness.

so with that said, when christmas day in 2009 arrived and our families gathered together, my dad proudly announced that he was giving us a trip for christmas.  (along with a car load of gifts.  you can't stop my mom from gift giving.  even if it is a sweater that you don't want.)  

needless to say, mike and i were elated.  (at the trip and the thoughtfulness of the gifts.)  we had already discussed with my parents the possibility of going to the resort in jamaica because dad had holiday inn points and it's all inclusive.  sounded like the perfect location.  dad booked our trip and we started counting down the days.

then, not too long after christmas, during the winter, the business mike was working for closed.  [enter andrea's panic attack here.]  so, while we were very much looking forward to our trip (thank goodness it was all-inclusive!), we were in a dire financial situation for about a month.  we blew through our savings to make sure every bill was paid perfectly, and luckily, within a matter of weeks, mike had a new job.  (mike felt so bad asking to take a vacation after working for only about ten days, but our vacation was paid for and all-inclusive:  we were going.  end of story.)

we had a blast on our first trip to montego bay.  we were extremely thankful for the opportunity to escape the madness at home to just relax for a week and not worry about a thing.  (well, the thing is, we did worry.  we are worriers.  especially when it comes to money.)  our all-inclusive vacation came at just the right time because we couldn't afford to enjoy anything else.  and our resort was plenty enjoyable.

and you know what?  because of our first experience, we knew we wanted to go back and we also now get to look forward to and plan new adventures for our future trips.

so, what did our second jamaican vacation include?  lots of relaxing, of course, but we also go to explore more of the island.  be forewarned, this vacation will take more than one post.  today i'll show you the resort...then i'll share the day outside of the resort...i'll also share what we ate and the different restaurants at the resort...and of course, there will be lots of pictures!

let's get started, shall we?  (about time, right?!)

we drove an hour and a half to manchester, nh, (where the airport is) the night before our flight.  we were departing at 6:00am and wanted no part of (or even the possibility of) being late.  besides, spending $107 on a hotel room (a couple miles from the airport, with a free shuttle) made more sense than spending $85 on parking...at least to us...especially because it kept us at ease being so close to the airport, even if we overslept, we'd be more likely to make our flight.

we were pretty excited to get on the plane...finally!

mike has been wearing that necklace since our last trip to jamaica two years ago!

when we landed in newark, nj, we got bagels and waited to board the flight to montego bay.  it was about three and a half hours from newark, so the flight wasn't too long.

when we landed in montego bay, because we'd been there before, we were prepared to go through customs and get a taxi to bring us to our resort.  we got to our resort in under ten minutes.  the driver was very nice and made sure we felt welcome in jamaica.  the ride was a standard fee of $30 american.

let me tell you about the money, since i mentioned we paid in american money.  jamaica does have it's own currency, but the american dollar is stronger, so they'd rather have that.  we were told it's about $83 jamaican to $1 american.  we spent a $20 american at a convenience store and got jamaican money back...


$1380?  weird.  i just kept it as a souvenir.

okay, so back to the ride.  in under ten minutes, we were here...




not to shabby, eh?

since we were familiar with the resort and our room was ready, we went right there to unload our baggage and get beach ready.  (the last time we went our room wasn't ready on arrival, but they have a secure storage area for your luggage and a changing room so you can start to enjoy the resort before your room is ready.  we checked an hour later and our room was ready, so generally i don't think there's much of a delay.)

did i mention we grabbed drinks first?






let me say that being repeat guests and being under my dad's super-ultra-platinum-it's-so-platinum-it-glows priority number, was awesome.  we had the best room in the resort.  it wasn't a suite or anything, it was a room with a king size bed, couch, bathroom, and balcony...but it was the location of the room.  the room faced north and as you walked out onto the balcony, you could see this, just to the right:


(that's actually where mike and i had massages last time.  it was awesome to feel the breeze, hear the splashing ocean, and see the fish swimming underneath us.  anyway...)  but our balcony didn't stop at just north-facing...you turned the corner to the left (west) and the first night at sunset, this was our view:






we were so surprised and appreciative of the beauty of the sunset.  it was so spectacular and relaxing to just enjoy the colors splashing across the sky as the sun melted into the horizon...






i can't wait to go back and see that again...

i'm going to go into more detail about the food and the restaurants in another post, because i loved the food and it deserves it's own spotlight.  the first night we went to dinner at one of the specialty restaurants, de terrace, which serves jamaican cuisine.  i had arranged ahead of time (via email) with the resort to have reservations at each of the restaurants, so we had reservations for 7:00pm the first night and reservations for all of the other nights and restaurants at the resort.  (i recommend doing this.)  after dinner at de terrace we went and had a drink at the port royal bar.  we were there a little early for the 'crowd', but were happy to enjoy the quiet ambiance after a busy day of travel.

after the long day, we were happy to call it a night pretty early.  jamaica time is an hour behind ours in new hampshire, so by 10:00pm, we were exhausted and sprawled out in our king size bed.

good night...

more to come, stay tuned.  i've got plenty more to share!  lots of food, sunshine, an adventure out of the resort...and of course, many pictures!


=) andrea

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

it's official.


it's summer!  wanna know how i know?

the dairy twirl is open!!!!!!!

if you're not from the upper valley of nh/vt, you probably have no idea why i'm so excited about this.  but really, the dairy twirl has the greatest soft serve ice cream...and it never changes!  (thanks to owner, roger duhaime!)

every year they open for the season on mother's day, which sounds like a perfect way to celebrate mom!

the dairy twirl offers soft serve ice cream as well as the hard scooped ice cream.  for a long time it was only soft serve -- vanilla, chocolate, twist, black raspberry and then one or two special flavors for the week.  through the years roger has added many flavors of hard ice cream, including the famous moose tracks.

so, mike and i treated my parents to some delicious dairy twirl ice cream on sunday.  it's just the best.  mike always gets a coffee shake (like always.)...i got a small coffee cone with chocolate dip (love that chocolate dip!)...dad got a medium black raspberry cone...and mom got her favorite, medium coffee cone.  (the consensus is that a small really is plenty of ice cream!)

here's the dairy twirl!

 
some of my friends worked at this famous upper valley ice cream stand back in the day and its always fun to go back and reminisce.  (now i see girls i used to babysit twirling cones!!)

mother's day was a fun, eventful day for us...we started off (shockingly, not at the twirl) at edgewater farm.  it's a lovely little family farm in plainfield, nh, that sells lots of flowers and veggies...and you can pick your own strawberries when they are ready.  they have a farm stand on the main road as well as a bunch of greenhouses on their little country road.  for us, we were on a flower mission, so we went straight to the greenhouses.  mom wanted some 'love lies bleeding', which she found...and i wanted a few flowers to brighten up our porch.  (man, i still haven't given you a house tour yet.  i'll get on that.  right after i do my jamaica posts.  wow this is getting out of hand.  okay...back to edgewater.)



i ended up getting this lovely flower, some pansies, petunias, and three herbs: cilantro (my fave), sweet basil, and dill.


after edgewater, we stopped at home depot for a couple of things...



stay tuned for a spray painting project! =)

after all that, we finallllllly went to the dairy twirl and enjoyed our delicious cold treat.

what did you do for mother's day?  did you spoil your mom or get spoiled by your kids?  we had a great time getting mom some flowers and ice cream.  we also spent some quality time with my parents on saturday...but that's another story.  and more pictures. =)

ready for my jamaica post(s) yet?!?!  just tell me to get on it.

=) andrea

Friday, May 11, 2012

friday philosophy


sometimes i come across a quote that bears some kind of significance and i want to share it with you dear readers.  sometimes it's based on where i am in life or a certain event, sometimes a quote just reminds me of a friend, or sometimes it makes me think.  it's called 'friday philosophy' and i'm gonna keep it up weekly. (or try to!)

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happy mother's day to all you wonderful mothers out there!


to my very own mommy -- thank you for being my mom.  

you're involved and inspiring...

you're busy and beautiful...

you're crazy and commonsensical...

you're logical and loving...

you're ginger and generous...

but most importantly, you're my mom...

and you've always made me feel 

loved

protected

encouraged

supported

and like i was always the most important person in the world.

(even when i didn't act like it.)

thanks for always being my loving, protecting, encouraging, and supportive mom.

(especially when i didn't act like i deserved it.)

i love you!

i hope all you moms out there have a wonderful mother's day and you're children make you feel loved and spoiled and like you're the most important person in the world.


xoxo.

=) andrea

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

{etsy finds} mother's day


with mother's day fast approaching, i figured i'd do some brainstorming.  here i've shared a few of my etsy finds for mother's day!

for those of you who are not familiar with etsy, in short, it is an online 'store', but really, it's so much more.  as etsy says, it's 'the world's handmade marketplace'.  any person, artist, etc., can create their own storefront and sell their handmade masterpieces.  it's a wonderful resource for anything handmade.  it's also a terrific source of inspiration to try to make your own creations!

here are some of my favorite mother's day finds:

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because all moms deserve some chocolate:

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my mom just joined the world of smart phones...this is cute, but i'm gonna knit her a little case it can go in:

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my mom has lost her keys before...so maybe this would be a cute gift...if she hadn't lost her keys while they were stuck in the door!

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and there are always some clever cards on etsy:

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and what mom doesn't want jewelry?  especially if it's personalized!

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my mom loves yellow, so that's why i picked those earrings and this eye pillow and candle holder!

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and isn't this hand embroidered piece adorable?

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and last, but certainly not least, a little something sweet in these lovely colorful french macarons!

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don't those look delectable?!

for all you moms out there -- have a wonderful mother's day.  i hope your children spoil you with all the love they can possibly give you!

to my mommy -- i love you!

have you come up with a lovely gift or something creative to give to your mom this year?  i can't spill the beans on my ideas, my mom might read it! =)

=) andrea

Monday, May 7, 2012

sunday yumday


with all the cinco-de-mayo-ness in the air from saturday, i decided to keep the fiesta going on sunday!  as i mentioned on friday, i was attending a baby shower this weekend, so i made this lovely pasta salad to bring to the get-together!  it was a big hit...and i have leftovers for this week!  (win-win!)

fiesta pasta salad with cilantro vinaigrette

2 cups pasta, cooked and drained (i used gemelli)
1 bell pepper, chopped (i used yellow)
1/2 red onion, chopped (i kept it mild since i was serving a group)
3 roma tomatoes, chopped (i de-seeded mine too)
1/2 c. black olives, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. cheddar cheese, chopped

for dressing:

1 bunch cilantro, chopped (about 1 cup, with a little extra for garnish)
1 jalepeno, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 squeeze of honey
1/4 c. lime juice
a few splashes of red wine vinegar
extra-virgin olive oil (enough to blend well)

1. put the water on to boil the pasta and cook pasta according to package directions.  drain and run under cool water.  put pasta in a large bowl.

2.  chop your veggies and cheese.  mix everything in the bowl with the pasta...like this:



3.  now, onto the dressing...chop your cilantro, jalepeno, and garlic.  


4.  put the cilantro, jalepeno, and garlic into the food processor or blender.  add the honey, lime juice, red wine vinegar, and a little olive oil.  (you'll add more, but it helps to have the liquid to get the mixture moving.)  continue to add the olive oil until the mixture is well blended.


 5.  pour dressing over pasta salad and mix well.  garnish with cilantro.




this salad is delicious!  it's light, yet super flavorful!

i hope everyone had a great weekend!  what did you create in the kitchen this weekend?
 
=) andrea
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