Posted on Aug 14th, 2011 by Allison (Reviews/Recommendations)

Meet my newest addiction, thanks to Ashley.

I’d never tried a Chai Latte before (I know, can you believe it?) but had a sip of Ashley’s while she here a couple of weeks ago. OMG – love at first sip.

How can it be I’d never tasted this delicious hot, sweet drink? I live in Seattle, after all, the coffee shop capital of the world.

Ashley gave me a rundown of the different types of Chai out there, and insisted that Oregon Chai is the best (or at least her favorite). While at Central Market last week, I discovered Oregon Chai concentrate on sale for 2 for $4.00 – less than half the regular price. I bought a couple of each of the varieties (regular, slightly sweet, and caffeine free – made with red tea instead of black). I like them all – but prefer the sweeter varieties (of course).

Because I enjoy drinking this in the evening, the Caffeine Free variety has become my favorite. I always have it in my Laurel Burch cat mug, a favorite gift from my friend, Jana.

And topped with a little whipped cream and cinnamon, it’s simply divine.

What are your thoughts on chai?

Any brands in particular to recommend? Want to write a chai haiku? 🙂

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Posted on Jul 13th, 2011 by Allison (Music / Entertainment)

Virtually every morning for the past 2 weeks, I have awakened with one (or more) of the songs from Book of Mormon, the musical, playing in my head. Brandon had purchased the cd, and we listened to it over and over again while I was in Costa Rica.

The songs are so catchy that they just stick in your head and won’t go away. But that’s ok, because I simply love the soundtrack.

Since it was written by the brilliantly funny South Park boys (who refer to this musical as their love-letter to Mormonism), and the musical genius Robert Lopez (Avenue Q) I expected some profanity and crudeness. They have built their career on crudeness and pushing the envelope, and I can handle most of what they throw out on South Park. But three of these numbers are a bit too much for me and I have them “unchecked” in iTunes so they don’t play. Most songs, however, are simply delightful – catchy, fun, clever, brilliant or just plain silly.

If you love musicals you really need to listen to a few of these songs. Even if… no, especially if you’re Mormon (with a sense of humor), since you’ll get all the inside jokes. Some of the best musical theater music I’ve ever heard.

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Posted on Jun 28th, 2011 by Allison (Costa Rica, In the Garden, Photography, Travel)

Of the more than 800,000 species of insects on the earth, Costa Rica is home to over 34,000 of them. Let me introduce you to a few that I’ve met while here. You’ll want to click on the images to enlarge them for detail.

I spotted this gorgeous blue/purple beetle on the rug on Brandon’s deck. He was about the size of a small ladybug. Sadly he was dead… but on the bright side, he held still while I photographed him : )

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Posted on Jun 25th, 2011 by Allison (Costa Rica, Funny Stuff, Travel)

Since I arrived in Costa Rica two weeks ago, I have been delighted by the little frog who croaks outside my window at night. He makes me smile and laugh.

And I’ve commented on numerous occasions that I really want to see him! I want to see a frog – in the wild – while I’m here!

Well, tonight I got my wish. As we were leaving for dinner, I glanced out at the pool and noticed a dark green blob sitting on the floating lounger. Yes – a frog! It was dark, but I still managed to take a few photos of his royal sleekness.
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Posted on Jun 3rd, 2011 by Allison (Technology)

I love my new iPad 2.

Maybe more than any other gadget I’ve ever owned…

Although I’ve really liked (and still do) my iPhone, I have a hard time reading on the small screen, and can’t stand typing on it. I wanted something that was more portable than my laptop, bigger than my iphone, easy to read on – and fun. And the iPad is it!

I made it through all levels on the free Angry Birds game (a bit addictive).

I created the colorful blue abstract background with the ArtRage App. That program is even more addictive than Angry Birds – plus it’s a great creative outlet.

I’ve discovered Toodeldo for list keeping (which is a pleasure on the large, yet portable, iPad screen). I’ve downloaded Kindle, Pandora, Netflix, NPR, Huff Post, NASA, StarWalk, GoSkyWatch, Xfinity Apps. I’ve discovered Hangman HD (which combines the fun of Hangman with current events).

So… any other “must have” apps you can recommend?

(9) Comments   
Posted on May 27th, 2011 by Allison (Recipes)

This week I tried a new recipe. Turned out DELICIOUS and I decided to share…

Black Bean (Mint) Brownies

  • 1 15oz. can of UNSEASONED black beans – drained and rinsed
  • 4 eggs (extra large)
  • 1 cup Sugar (I used xylitol)
  • 3 1/2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. oil or butter
  • 1 Tbs Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup ricotta or cream cheese
  • Chopped nuts – optional (I used walnuts)
  • 4 – 5 drops Peppermint Essential oil (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients but nuts in a food processor or blender- blend very, very well. If you want them even more chocolaty, you could toss in some chocolate chips with the nuts at this point.

Pour into an 8×8 baking pan sprayed with cooking spray or oiled with canola or olive oil. Bake for 30-40 minutes. (til toothpick pulls out clean).

Who knew black beans could taste so moist and chocolaty!
I recommend these highly if you’re trying to go gluten free for cut down on carbs.

By the way… Black Bean Brownies do not cause gas. Because the black beans are pureed, the fiber is broken down before you eat them. Yeah!

Try them and let me know what you think.

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Posted on May 11th, 2011 by Allison (Costa Rica, Family/Friends, Photography, Travel)

So where were we? Ah yes. My last post from Costa Rica.

Ashley, Justin and Kennedy arrived on Friday (day 16 of my trip) – and there was much rejoicing. It’s the first time all of us have been together in over a year… and we had more fun together than ever before.

After a grueling 22+ hours of travel, Ashley & Justin were exhausted. But not too exhausted to stop at the local market, where we were given samples of (and then purchased) the most delicious mangoes I have ever eaten. I didn’t realize I love mangoes but I do. At least fresh Costa Rican mangoes. And not too tired to stop for an early dinner and sweet roll and Cafe Delicias. Yum.

We left for La Paz Waterfall Gardens early the next morning. This is an incredible place and well worth it’s price.

We saw butterflies, exotic birds, snakes, frogs, hummingbirds in iridescent colors, an ocelot, and a beautiful Jaguar (who did NOT like it when I meowed at him) and coati.

The golden chrysalis of the Mechanitis Butterfly is breathtaking. No jeweler could create anything more beautiful.

We saw mist, bamboo, traditional ox carts – and the oxen pull them, a traditional Costa Rican home, and waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls! The photos hardly do any of them justice.

Sunday, was even more fun than the day before. After what was a walk for everyone else, but a hike for me, we reached beautiful Los Chorros waterfall and natural springs.

We learned it was not safe to drink the water from the river, but the fresh spring water tumbling from the rocks was absolutely delicious and very refreshing.

We traversed the riverbed and, around the corner of the canyon, discovered another big waterfall.

The water was cold but we all got in and had a great time. The “big kids” jumped of cliffs, swam and got crazy. The little kids didn’t appreciate the cold water much…

The Bustillos family joined us for dinner and socializing on Sunday afternoon and evening. All in all, a great day.

Early Monday morning we headed off to our final adventure of my trip – the Monte Verde Cloud Forest. We really saved the best for last.

Day 19 – Zip Line through the Cloud Forest

All 8 of us geared up at Selvatura park and went on the incredible adventure! We literally flew both above and through the lush green forest… and yes, through clouds. It was so much fun… though it took me a bit to get the hang of it..

This is one of the (if not the) largest canopy tour in Costa Rica – covers nearly 2 miles.

Here I am (pic on the left) sailing down one of the 15 zip cables… and the closer arrow is about where I slowed and got “stuck” and basically was hanging there like a sack of potatoes. And I actually had to be rescued by one of the guides…. TWICE! Really embarrassing…. but still worth it.

At the end of the last cable – which was 1000 meters through the clouds (awesome) – was a big “Tarzan” swing. The older kids had a blast on this and Brandon sang out his best Tarzan call.

Just an awesome day.

That evening, I stayed with the girls at the Monteverde Villa Lodge (great value!) so Brandon, Jennifer, Justin and Ashley could go out on a double date… I think the first they’d ever been on.

Our hosts served a delicious breakfast the next morning and then we headed back to Monte Verde for the bridge walk through the forest. Was beautiful – but I missed the clouds from from the previous day (they usually show up later in the day).

I took lots of photos… and I’ll let them tell the rest of the story. View the slideshow below (if you hover over it you can choose to view full screen), or browse the photos at your own pace here.

We stopped at a lovely outdoor restaurant on our way back to Grecia for our last night together. Did a little shopping, Brandon modeled a womans’ sweater and Justin got fresh with a giant breasted mannequin.

Got up before the sunrise the next morning and headed to the airport where I bid my kids farewell and they continued on for a few days adventure without me – which you can read about on Ashley’s and Brandon’s blogs.

It was such a wonderful three weeks… beautiful, relaxing, exciting… and the best part was just spending time with my awesome kids and darling grandbabies. I’m looking forward to my trip back next month.

Yes – I’m going back for a little over two weeks in June to be there when my newest granddaughter makes her grand entrance into the world! Bet you can’t wait for those photos 🙂

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Posted on May 6th, 2011 by Allison (Music / Entertainment, Whatever)

I’m really and truly almost finished with my final Costa Rica post. Just so many photos to go through (don’t worry, I won’t post them all).

But in the meantime, I have a question.

Who the hell are the Kardashians and why should I care???

I keep hearing and reading about “The Kardashians” and see them on tv advertisements.

Can someone please fill me on just who they are and why I (or anyone) should care? Why they are the recipients of so much attention?

And are there other “celebrities” or current public figures out there that have you as befuddled as the Kardashians have me?

(11) Comments   
Posted on Apr 12th, 2011 by Allison (Photography, Travel)

I’ve spent the past 8 days in San Diego and head home in the morning.  It’s been lovely.   Fun with friends, good food, successful photo shoots, a little beach time, a major sinus infection, awe of the flower covered hillsides, the discovery of an amazing patisserie…    

Head cold notwithstanding, it’s been a really great trip.

During my two “beach” days, I became fascinated by natural beauty in the sand.

First up:  Coronado Beach…  I just loved the golden flecks of iron pyrite that glistened in interesting patterns in the sand.

Beach #2 was in Camp Pendleton, Oceanside.    While intending to shoot photos of Kimo surfing, I got completely distracted by the iridescent foam bubbles on the beach…

The waves were awesome as well – but for some reason it was the sand that held my attention this visit.

Is it just me, or are those bubbles and gold patterns really cool?

P.S. I’m still intending to post my final Costa Rica installment…. hopefully before I return for another visit in June!

(10) Comments   
Posted on Mar 11th, 2011 by Allison (Family/Friends, In the Garden)

Yes, I still have one more Costa Rica post for you. But not yet.

You may, or may not, be aware that I’ve had a rough week. Schizophrenia is such a cruel disease – one that has robbed me of my father – and dealing with its repercussions and impact is emotionally draining. And very frustrating when decisions need to be made and there are no good solutions to be had. My siblings and I just keep going around in circles trying to determine what action, if any, we should be taking for our father’s emotional, mental and physical well-being since he is refusing any treatment…

But through it all I’ve felt very supported by family and friends and appreciate the concerned calls and emails and messages. Thank you.

And, I’ve taken comfort in the simple joys of my spring garden. Like the tiny tête-à-tête daffodils blooming among the bright green moss.

And the sweet little bushtits that swarm my suet feeder several times a day. And the cute chickadees, juncos and and other birds at the seed feeder.

And the fat squirrel that won’t give up on trying to find a way to reach the suet feeder. I felt kind of bad moving it where he can’t reach it so tossed him some raw almonds… I think I’ve made a friend for life. (See video)

And discovering this cute garter snake warming himself in the sun. I’m so happy to see him – because it means I have a healthy ecosystem in my garden…. plus, he’ll eat the slugs!

Simple joys are simply the best.

So, how are you doing?

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