Saturday, August 29, 2015

Castle Hill - Part 1

Jim and I visited Castle Hill in Ipswich, MA. A first for both of us! This land was first owned by John Winthrop, Jr., the son of the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony back in 1637. 
Designed by David Adler
Afterwards it was owned and run by farmers. Today there is a mansion on site that was built by Richard T Crane who purchased the property in 1910 building the stately house in 1928.

Back Side
There are many charming elements about the home and exterior decor. Of course there are cranes!
Part of the coastal land has been donated to the state and is named Cranes Beach. I always thought that was due to the crane population in the area but apparently it has to due with the family name!
Inside has some gorgeous wood detailing.

I will be back next week with the grounds which are beyond amazing and immense. It has its own beach on the Atlantic but it was quite a hike to get to the shore! 

If you live in the area, I would recommend visiting. Besides the Great House, there are 4 miles of roads and trails to enjoy.  There is a schedule of concerts, movies and more that take place here. You can even book your wedding!

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Nakd Bars

So this is a different sort of post for me. I was asked if I would be willing to review Nakd bars.  These healthy treats are made by Natural Balance Foods of the UK. They are looking to expand into the US market, hence the review! 

The bars are gluten and dairy free. They are also vegan and 100% natural with no added sugar or syrups. As a health nut with both dairy and gluten sensitivities, I was excited to try these! In addition, they are also iron rich which we need. To learn more about iron rich foods, please click the link.

Nakd Bars
How cute is the box saying Hello Gorgeous?

The ingredient labels are easy to read on the packages and I have listed them below by bar. Dates are used in all. I suppose that is what give them all a perfect, soft texture that also holds the bar together. Besides great texture in all along with healthy ingredients, I love their natural sugar fix. Perfect for the afternoon pick me up!

So here goes with the 14 bars I sampled! These are listed in order of my favorites to least favorite. This would vary for others since we all have different taste buds, but these were my thoughts.

Cocoa Orange
40% dates, 40% cashews, 14% raisins, 5% cocoa with natural orange flavor
This has always been a favorite flavor combo for me and the bar was a win!

Caffe Mocha
55% dates, 26% cashews, 12% raisins, 6% cocoa, natural flavors
This one would be perfect with a cup of coffee. It has that delicious coffee chocolate flavor!

Berry Delight
47% dates, 31% cashews, 17% raisins, 3% raspberries
This was delicious if you love raspberries!

Strawberry Crunch
43% dates 17% soya protein crunchies, 17% raisins, 17% cashews, 4% apple juice, 2% strawberry
Strawberry has always been a favorite fruit for me and this bar was a win with it's strawberryness.  I do like those crunchies too which are also in a few of the other bars.

Ginger Bread
48% dates, 32% almond, 18% pecans, ginger, cloves and cinnamon to spice
Loved! If you love the flavors of typical baked goods at Thanksgiving and Christmas time, this is for you. I loved tasting the holidays!

chocolatey flavors to pick from

Cocoa Mint
48% dates, 29% cashews, 17% raisins, 6% cocoa, natural flavoring
This is very minty with minty after taste. Mmmm! Another thing I have always been a fan of is chocolate and mint together.

Cashew Cookie
51% cashews and 49% dates. Cashews are my favorite nut. I would say the dates overpowered here but I still enjoyed it. It is nice and sweet in a natural way.

Pecan Pie
52% dates, 28% pecan, 20% almonds
This was the most nutty to my taste buds. It has a great sweetness with the dates.

Cocoa Delight
48% dates, 29% cashews, 17% raisins, 6% cocoa
While this was chocolatey it was not like a candy bar. It would satisfy a chocolate craving in a healthy way.

Bakewell Tart
49% dates, 35% cashews, 19% raisins, natural flavoring
Didn't think I would like this one since I'm not a tart fan, but I loved it!
Anyone who loves tart would probably enjoy it. Plus it will wake you up with its sour ways!
fruity flavors to pick from
Rhubarb and Custard
55% dates, 25% cashews, 19% raisins, natural flavoring
Sweet with tart undertones! Another tart treat I liked. Tantalizing on the tastebuds.

Apple Crunch
43% dates, 17%  soya protein crunchies, 15% cashews, 14% raisens, 7% apple, 4% apple juice
I was anticipating a strong apple flavor didn't quite get it. The bar was ok.

Banana Crunch
43 % dates, 18% soya protein crunchies 15% cashews, 15% raisins, 6% banana, 3% apple juice
I'm not a huge banana fan which is why this is towards the bottom of my list. However a banana fan may love this one (my boyfriend did)! 

Cocoa Crunch
43% dates, 16% soya protein crunchies, 16% raisins, 15% cashews, 5% cocoa, 4% applejuice
I did not care for the taste of this one!

Interested in trying them for yourself? You can shop at Natural Balance Foods to have them delivered to your door. You can start with a sampler package to find out which ones you like best. Shipping is free within the U.S.

I hope you enjoyed this review. I certainly had fun with it! No I didn't eat them all yet. I sampled and froze the remainder of each one for later enjoyment. They are great out of the freezer too!

Have a great week! ~Val

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Up to Lately

We are still enjoying the lazy days of summer and the hard to pull away from Netflix!
We see the occasional really cool sky!
I love when it is fire-like!
Our Boston ivy is out of control! The birds love it. Many little ones are born in here each year. It is amazing where they can build a nest.
This photo does not do the dragonfly justice. Each time the sun hit its wings, they shined gold. Stunning. Of course the camera did not pick up the shine in any photo!
There is tons of hawk activity here. They are really high up but sometimes can get quite close to us (when I don't have a camera handy). 
Mommy rabbit going for an itch. I see a bunny from time to time. Between the hawks and neighborhood cats I don't think many of her litter survived. 
This bug is super neat. Sort of dragonfly like.
Thank you for stopping by! Enjoy those beautiful days! ~Val

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Vegetarian Tacos

Jim came across these handy tofu packages that have inspired me to experiment in the kitchen.
I have always purchased tofu in a tub of water but these are in tidy boxes with no refrigeration required!

I have made a couple of things with them, but they weren't home runs. However, these tacos came out quite amazing! 

The "meat" is a combo of crumbled tofu and portabello mushrooms.

I used the following:

(1) 12.3 ounce package of tofu crumbled (any texture of tofu should work fine)

6 ounces of portabello mushrooms chopped into bite size pieces
1 green bell pepper
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes (I use canned since most of the time the fresh tomatoes lack flavor in the grocery store)

  • avocado, shredded lettuce and shredded cheddar cheese for garnishing
  • 12 taco shells (my shells are funny looking flat ones but they were the only ones without strange ingredients listed in them)

Heat the oil then add the tofu, mushrooms and pepper cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add the spices, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cook for another 3 minutes. That's it!

Then scoop the filling in the taco shells and top with avocado, lettuce and cheese.

Those who have been following me a long time know I leave out onions and garlic due to tummy issues but they would be amazing additions!

Thank you for stopping by! Wishing you a creative week ahead. ~Val

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Up to Lately

An Anklet
This custom order was for an earthy brown gemstone anklet. I used tigerskin jasper and chrysanthemum stone finished off with a sterling silver lobster claw clasp.
A Gemstone Lanyard
This request was for a multi gemstone lanyard in a long 40 inch length to accommodate height. A breakaway magnetic clasp was added at the bottom by the link by request. 
In certain work environments, a breakaway clasp is important since the lanyard can get caught on something. This way is comes off easily without injury.

So I have worked with resin for the first time in my life! I had some of my photos printed up in wallet sizes to make them easier to work with.

Each was cut and sealed with packing tape.
So far I have only done 5 as an experiment to get comfortable. You can't see by the photo but some are not filled with enough resin....lesson learned! The resin is very shiny which makes the finish beautiful in person. 

I was concerned there would be an issue with air bubbles. Many use a heat torch to remove bubbles but I read somewhere that simply blowing lightly on the resin will do the trick. It did! I imagine on larger pieces a torch would be needed.
I'm not happy with the composition on this one. I was going for shabby chic.
I will be trying again with a different part of the photo. The subject is a patio umbrella base with a little rustiness. 

The project is on the back burner until I have more time to work on them when it is not super hot and humid outside! 

Thank you for stopping by! Have a creative, fun week ahead! ~Val

Saturday, July 25, 2015

DeCordova Museum Sculpture Park - Part 2

The DeCordova Museum has wonderful architecture. The 3 leaf pieces you see in the foreground are The Endangered Species of New England by Alan Sonfist created in 2011.
The view are stunning from its 6th floor terrace. I wish I got a better photo of the whimsical white column with the rabbit ears to the right. It is titled Children of the Corn by Terence Koh created in 2011. This artist is very inspired by the writings of Stephen King.
Flints pond is next door.
The roof is full of charm.
These hearts in the distance were created in 1985 by Jim Dine title Two Big Black Hearts
Up close they are massive and you will find all sorts of objects cast into its bronze.
Below is Vision created by Blane de St. Croix in 2003. It is a bleached and stained Australian pine tree covered in glass eyes for as far up as you can see! 
A few more sculptures I enjoyed.
Eve Celebrant by Marianna Pineda created 1991
This one was in a beautiful wooded area.
Maiden's Dream by Isaac Witkin created 1996
This rock garden includes a tranquil water feature!
Rain Gates by Ron Rudnicki created 2000
I hope you have enjoyed this tour of the DeCordova Museum sculpture park. I have only showed about half the pieces. I didn't have time to tour the inside of the museum but I'm sure that would be a treat too!

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val

Saturday, July 18, 2015

DeCordova Museum Sculpture Park - Part 1

The DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is located in Lincoln, MA. This place is family friendly and perfect for exposing children to art.
My favorite part is the garden with sculptures throughout.
Eternal Presence by John Wilson created 1987
This head sculpture was one of my favorites! There it is off in the distance.
I did think Mad Hatter when I saw this one.
A Mile From Any Neighbor From Walden by Christopher Frost created 1999
This one looks like she is hiding in the grass.
Figure From the Sea by Elliot Offner created 1964
Feral Goose by  Kitty Wales created 2005
This sculpture stands tall and proud!
Venusvine by Richard Rosenblum created 1990

Time at the Museum by Robert Schelling created 2002
I'll be back with part 2 next week! This gem of a museum is 1 town away from where Walden Pond and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery are located.

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val