Friday, April 29, 2011

Technology Fails Me Every Time

I have not been posting very much lately because of the following:

1. My studio's wireless hard drive is not connecting to our network for some unknown reason. All my photos and work is on there...thank God I make disk copies of everything but it means we have had to work off from DVDs instead of having instant access to the files through a network which has significantly slowed down our work.

2. Did I mention this hard drive is only accessible (at least to my knowledge) when it is connected to the internet? So guess what happened next... my internet has been shut down for 3 days due to some error in Century Link's hardware, not my router or internet box. So even though I messed around with the hard drive, I cant get online to see if I have fixed the problem. Therefore, does anyone have this hard drive or has worked with one like this:

Iomega Home Media Network Drive (1TB)

The hard drive has its own IP address and everything...when I try to connect it to a specific drive on my computer, (it used to be the Z: drive) it says wrong file path name....I have no idea why it wont accept the file namingg. Their tech support wont help me either because it is out of warranty. It only has an ethernet slot and a USB slot to sync it with another hard drive. I connected it to my computer with an ethernet cord and I still could not get access. Seriously, the thing only works with internet.

3. So I tried to bring my hard drive home and connect it to my wireless internet to see if I could set up internet access with a log in and password. I was hoping I could connect it at home and access it at work by logging into it. However, that very same night my little brother slept over and downloaded some kind of super virus that I have never even heard of before which totally destroyed my computer. My husband worked for hours on it, only to give up and do a system restore. We lost everything. I have never got a virus so bad before that my Norton antivirus did not even recognize it. This virus affected everything that had to do with google, including YouTube and access to this blog. Really weird stuff.

Right now I need some advice: What is the most secure hard drive known at the consumer level and what is the best way to connect multiple computers to it? I have had other hard drives that connected directly to a computer and I even had a hard drive computer tower especially built for my company. All of these devices failed me. It is a photography studio and we store photos for easy access instead of working off disks. Because of the previous mishaps I got into a compulsive habit of burning disks right away before I do any thing else, so none of it is lost, but it seriously hinders our work.

Just a really bad week for me :(

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to get rid of snakes?

Is there such a thing as a snake trap, or snake poison? I've got a few of them on my property and of course being a girl (and going outside a lot to garden and walk my dogs) I dont want them around me I dont care what kind they are.

I came out of my back door one fine morning, taking in the early morning breeze over the lake in my back yard and admiring my beautiful blue morning glories. All of a sudden, I noticed a black snake probably 5 foot in length, at the bottom of the steps. We looked at each other...then he lunged at me! The thing flew up the steps at me. Luckily I ran back in the house and slammed the door fast enough. These evil things have no fear.

I thought they were only in my back yard so I moved all my gardening stuff and only walked my dogs in my front yard. However, today my husband found lots of shed snake skin in the front yard. They are every where. They are claiming my yard! What do I do... :(

Instead of helping me with the problem, my husband thought it would be funny to put the snake skin in one of my flower pots. Obviously, I'm gonna have to take things into my own hands.

Therefore I ask, how do I get rid of them? Do not tell me to get a shovel and kill it. I never see them when I have a shovel handy. They probably come from the lake into my yard so I do not know where they live either.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Washington DC Trip

For our honeymoon we stayed at a resort called Massanutten Resort about 2 hours from Washington DC. This resort has it all and the villas are very spacious and comfortable. It is also very family friendly, they have activities planned all day and night so you wont get bored.

 Massanutten Resort

Since we had to take a flight to Washington DC, we decided to spend 2 days looking at everything we can before we drove away in a rental car to the resort.

The best thing about Washington DC is that all the attractions are basically free and are very close to each other. I recommend that you dedicate at least 3 days to exploring Washington DC and George Town. We only had 2 days to spend in Washington DC and we could not finish everything. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History alone took almost a whole afternoon to complete. I imagine if you have kids it would take even longer.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The absolute best advice I can give you if you have never been to Washington DC is to get a map. I could not find any maps anywhere. I am so used to Florida being all touristy where you can find maps along the streets. This is not the case in Washington DC. I finally found a book store and bought Frommer's Washington DC Day by Day which helped me immensely. Seriously get a map, you dont want to waste precious time being lost.

If you had a rental car like me, plan on using public parking garages because parking along the street is basically impossible. Parking garages ranged from $8 to $15 dollars a day. I had a handy parking garage app on my iPod that located all the garages on a map along with average prices. Since everything to see is almost within a 1 mile radius, we parked the car and walked around the whole day. Also to get around town, there are metro stations spread out throughout the DC area, or there is a tour bus that makes regular stops around the city.

Do not miss out on George Town. This section of town is really unique and special. This is the location of the George Town Cupcakes, the bakery shown on the TLC show DC Cupcakes. I'm not a fan of the show, but I thought it would be cool to visit and eat a famous cupcake. We got there exactly at 10am when they opened, and there was all ready a huge line that wrapped around the corner. We decided it was not worth our time and just took a photo.

 George Town Cupcakes

We spent about an hour walking through the streets of Georgetown. It has really beautiful architecture and very unique cafes and restaurants. This is definitely shopping central for those who love to shop on vacation. There is also the National Mall about 1.5 miles away, unfortunately I did not get to visit it. 

The next most important tip I can give is that you can not tour the white house unless you have been granted permission. To get this permission you must contact your states member of congress. I have no idea how your supposed to contact them. Visit this website and figure it out:  I know you have to request permission up to six months in advance and no less than 21 days before your visit. So plan ahead and you wont be sad like me when you walk to the White House and find out. So instead we walked to the back of it (the front is too hard to get close to) which is enclosed by a huge fence quite a distance away from the house. This was supposed to be the highlight of our trip...

 I'm smiling but I was really sad... :(

The U.S. Botanic Gardens was very pretty and a quick to finish. I dont recommend it if you have allergies, it is choke full of flowers. My husband started sniffling. Luckily we hurried through it all and got out before he got any worse.

Also what was supposed to be another highlight of the trip was the Reflecting Pool which is in so many movies. Unfortunately for us, it was under renovations. So instead of the beautiful view I'm sure normally exisists there, we got this:

 Reflecting Pool, with the Washington Monument in the back

Oh well, moving on...The Abraham Lincoln Memorial was cool (and so is my husband).

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Washington Monument are all in a straight line next to each other which is very convenient.

The only thing I regret is not spending an additional day to see the National Mall, explore the Library of Congress and Capital Hill. Also, when I vacation somewhere I usually like to eat at some local hot spot which represents the food of the city/town. We rushed the entire 2 days so we ate quick snacks at Starbucks etc... So that sums up our trip to Washington DC. This is a great vacation if you have kids because like I said, admission into attractions is almost always free. 

One last tip, ALWAYS use Name Your Own Price to get the best deals in hotel rooms. I always bid starting at $45 and increase by $5 every time my bid is not accepted. Usually I get awesome hotel rooms for $55. We stayed at a 3.5 star Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, right across the river from Washington DC for $55. It was very nice. I've use Priceline's Name Your Own Price several times with much success.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Disney Cast Members get in Free at Typhoon Lagoon

Luckily my husband has some Disney cast member benefits. Right now until June he can get in to Typhoon Lagoon for free and get others in at 50% off admission. We took advantage of the offer last week and had a great time.

Typhoon Lagoon is older than Disney's Blizzard Beach, but it is still a very fun park and there is lots to do. I actually recommend Typoon Lagoon over Blizzard Beach if you have problems walking up steps. To get on almost all the rides at Blizzard Beach you have to walk up a bunch of steps.

One of the coolest features of Typhoon Lagoon is it's snorkeling pool. You can snorkel across a huge fresh water tank filled with real sharks and tropical fish.

Then of course is the lazy river and the wave pool. For some reason everyone feels the urge to scream every time the wave is generated. Seriously, it shows up like every 3 minutes and people never get tired of doing it.
 Lazy River

Wave Pool

The best ride there was is the newest ride at Typhoon Lagoon, called Crush'N Gusher. It has three lines, each with different tracks to slide down.

The best tip I can give is to purchase the refillable sports cup.It costs only $10 which for a group of 2 or more, it was worth it if your there all day. They have several soda stations throughout the park that scans the cups and lets you fill them up.

Coconut Shrimp Like a Pro

I fail at frying anything, so I was cautious when deciding to try out this recipe that I found on Yahoo! Shine's Food section. The results were perfect restaurant quality coconut shrimp made right at home. I was very impressed, because I had tried to make this before and failed miserably. I think the secret was using breadcrumbs in the mix, and freezing the shrimp for 20 minutes before frying.


18 unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup beer, or in my case I used 1 cup of club soda
1 (7-ounce) package sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
Frying oil, they recommended Peanut oil, bu I used vegetable oil

The recipie on the Shine Food blog paired the shrimp with Maui Sauce. I decided not to make this and tried a copycat recipe for Red Lobster's Pina Colada sauce. I love the sauce in Red Lobster, and even though this one did not come out exactly like it, it still tasted good. My favorite sauce to accompany coconut shrimp is actually the plum flavored one found at Miller's Ale House restaurants. if anyone knows how to make that please let me know.

Pina Colada Sauce: 
1/2 cup sour cream 
1/4 cup pina colada nonalcoholic drink mix 
1/4 cup canned crushed pineapple 
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

To begin, peel, devain, and butterfly your shrimp. Mix the coconut milk, cilantro, and lime juice into the shrimp and let it marinate for 30 minutes.

Next, mix the beer/club soda and the flour together in a bowl. In another bowl mix the flaked coconut and bread crumbs. After the shrimp is done marinating, dip each one into the flour batter and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Try to touch just the tip of the shrimp while doing this.

After all the shrimp is covered, put it in your freezer for 20 minutes. This helps keep all the coconut flakes in place while it fries. Once the 20 minutes are over you can start frying the shrimp in a big deep pot with 2 inches of oil. Fry the shrimp in small batches until they are golden brown. The nice thing about shrimp is that it cooks fast so you dont have to worry about frying it for a long time to ensure the meat is cooked. With my previous frying experiences, I always ended up burning the outer coating because the meat inside was not done yet. So for frying beginners, start with small/thinner pieces of meat.

I served my shrimp with white rice and coconut milk guandules beans. You can buy the guandules (aka pigeon peas) canned within a coconut milk liquid. I loved how the coconut flavor of the beans reflected the coconut flavor of the shrimp. For some this might be too much coconut going around.

The pina colada sauce was easy to make. Just mix all the ingredients and put in your fridge and let it chill until the shrimp is ready to serve.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pasta & Sausage Bake

It has been a while but here is a new recipe.


1 package of Italian style sausage, mine was about 20 oz
1 standard box of pasta, such as macaroni or ziti
24 oz of pasta sauce, I used my favorite mushroom tomato sauce
15 oz of ricotta cheese
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


I started by cutting open the sausage skins and removing the meat essentially turning it into ground sausage. I like my sausage ground because it cooks faster and I like how it mixes better into the pasta. This is just my preference with this particular dish. You could cook the sausages whole and slice them up if you prefer.
Make sure if you choose the ground sausage way, mix the meat up and separate it really good before you turn on the heat to cook. This prevents it from staying together and cooking into chunks. Once the meat is all ground up, put 1 tbs of olive oil and cook the sausage until it is nice and brown. In the meantime, bring a pot of water to boil and start cooking your pasta.
Once the pasta is done, drain out the water and set aside. Gather the other ingredients.
Reuse the same pot that you cooked the pasta in to mix the sauce, because chances are its a nice big pot. Pour the pasta sauce of your choice, and all the ricotta cheese. Mix this together. If you have a hard time mixing it, turn the heat to low to help melt the ricotta cheese.
Once it is all mixed, add your cooked pasta and sausage. Mix everything together and do a final taste test to see if it needs any salt of pepper.

The final steps are not necessary because the meal is now ready to eat, it just makes it extra special. Turn the oven to 350 degrees. Pour all the pasta into a 13x9 baking dish and cover it with 2 cups of mozzarella cheese. Put the dish into the oven until the mozzarella cheese melts. This takes about 10 minutes.
This recipe yields a lot of food and is quick to make. Enjoy with a crowd.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chicken Paninis

This is my favorite hot sandwich recipe totally invented by me. I found this really yummy sun dried tomato spread at Target which I used in my paninis. It is an Archer Farms brand, so you can only get it at Target. It is in a small jar found next to the marinade section of the store. However, when I went to buy it to make this recipe, they did not have the same exact sun dried tomato spread I usually use. So I used a sun dried tomato dip that I so happened to find while passing the potato chip section. I use dips or spreads in my paninis because they have lots of flavor. Target has a nice variety of flavors to choose from.


Flat sliced bread of your choice, I used some sourdough bread

Dip or spread in your choice of flavor, I especially prefer the sun dried tomato flavors

Cooked chicken of your choice, I always cook mine on my indoor grill. Or if you want to speed things up buy sliced deli chicken.

Sliced deli cheese of your choice, I used provolone in mine

1 tbs of Olive oil for every 2 paninis to be made

1/4 tsp of Dried Italian herbs and 1/8 tsp of garlic salt for every 2 paninis to be made

Condiments such as onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc... that you would like on your panini


I used my George Foreman grill to heat my paninis, melt the cheese, and create nice grill marks on my paninis. If you dont have a grill you can heat them up on a skillet.

Start by cooking your chicken if you have not done this already. After it is cooked, chop it up into smaller pieces. Next spray your grill or skillet with nonstick cooking spray and turn it on to medium heat.

Arrange your sliced bread on a flat surface. Below is a picture of the sun dried tomato dip I used, which can only be found at Target. I'm sure you can find a similar substitute at any other grocery store.

Slice up your condiments. I used roma tomatoes and red onions for my paninis. I decided to try and steam cook my red onions a bit to soften them up. I steamed them instead of cooking them in a skillet because I thought they would be juicier, and it worked.

Next I mixed the olive oil, dried Italian herbs, and garlic salt, in a small bowl. Use a marinade brush or in my case I used a rubber spatula, to spread the olive oil mixture on the back side of the bread slices. Make sure that the olive oil side of the bread touches your grill or skillet. The olive oil will add a lot of flavor and will help crisp up the bread a bit.

Flip the bread slices to the other side. Generously lather up the inside of the paninis with the spread or dip of your choice. Next, I put my cheese slices, tomatos,chicken and red onions on the panini.

It is time to grill them for about 8-10 minutes on each side. You want the bread to be golden and crusty, and the cheese to be melted.

                                                       Before                              After


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Flea Management

I have 2 dogs and I live in Florida. Now that Winter is over, the flea population is skyrocketing due to the nice warm weather. So it is time for me to pull out all my flea killing gear and prepare. I follow a 3 step process to get rid of fleas.

Three steps to being flea free:
1. Treat inside of the home, especially carpeted areas
2. Treat your pets and put them on a regular flea regimen.
3. My dogs go to the bathroom outside so I need to treat those areas too.

Step 1: Treating your home
I steam clean all my carpets and any furniture that is made with fabric. This gets rid of a lot of the fleas. After everything is dry, I spray all the carpets and furniture with this product: Enforcer Flea Spray for Homes, except the one I buy has a spray hose and nozzle attached to the top.

This is supposed to last for 6 months I think. But the fleas are in such abundance here in Florida that I usually steam clean everything and apply this product like every 2 months. Make sure if you use it more often than said in the instructions, that you do steam clean out the old chemicals before adding more to it.

Step 2: Treating your pets
I buy all my flea medications from this website:
I like Frontline and I know it works because my dogs have no fleas when I use this. Of course I wonder why is it so cheap? It sells for at least $50 for a one month application in my local pet stores. I have done research about fake Frontline and Advantage being imported from Asia and Europe and sold cheap here in the U.S. I took a chance and tested it out for myself. Even if the product is a fake, it still works. I save tons of money buying from this website, especially since I have 2 dogs. So far my dogs have not had any reactions or complications from this stuff. I have been using their Frontline for over 8 months now. If anyone ever tries this company out please let me know if it worked for you.

Step 3: Treating your lawn

Again, I went to my local Home Depot and bought an insecticidal lawn treatment that comes in small pellets. It looks like fertilizer and your supposed to spread it around your lawn with a fertilizer broadcast spreader.It kills a variety of insects, just make sure you get the one that kills fleas. I could not find a photo of it online, sorry. This is also supposed to last several months according to the directions. But, I live in Florida it rains almost every other day now that summer time is approaching. This stuff does not last that long for me. I've had it on my lawn for about 2 months now and it has worn off by now.

I have tried several products to control fleas and this is the best and proven way to get rid of them.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Smoothest, Creamiest, Alfredo Sauce Ever

Ever since I started making homemade Alfredo sauce I gag at the thought of eating the canned version.  Trust me, a well made Alfredo sauce is 100X better. After making this several times I have finally perfected this recipe and cut down the cooking time drastically. I do not sit there and stir the sauce forever until it gets thick like traditional Alfredo sauce. Anyways, the longer it cooks the higher the chances of over heating the sauce which creates the tiniest "curdle balls" for a lack of a better way to describe it.

My sauce has mushrooms and artichokes in it. If you do not like those ingredients you can skip them.


2lbs boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
Spaghetti pasta, mine was whole wheat
Whatever seasonings you like to use on chicken

4 tbs butter
1.5 tsp minced garlic
8oz white or portabello mushrooms
10 oz drained and chopped up artichoke hearts
3.5 cups half and half milk
1.5 cups Parmesan cheese
one egg yolk

Sauce Thickener:
Mix 2.5 tbs corn starch with 1 tbs cold water

Begin by seasoning the chicken thighs. I used some Italian seasoning, meat tenderizer, garlic salt, and cracked pepper. I practically do this for all meats that I cook. Season to your liking. Then I grilled the chicken on my George Foreman grill...yes I use this grill all the time.
Mine were small pieces, so it took about 10 minutes on each side. My grill is double sided (griddle on the bottom, and one on the top). Because of this my cooking times may be faster than a regular grill. In the meantime, I started boiling my pasta.

Next, I put the butter into a medium saucepan with the minced garlic on low heat. I let the butter and garlic simmer together for about 5 minutes. Do not crank up the heat or the garlic will burn.
 While the butter and garlic cooked, I chopped up my mushrooms and the artichoke hearts.
After the 5 minutes has passed, I added the mushrooms and artichoke hearts to the garlic butter. I let this cook for about 15 minutes. Just make sure the mushrooms are nice and soft. They shrink during the cooking process and brown up.
Then I added the half and half milk, and Parmesan cheese. Stir the mixture. Separate the egg yolk from the egg white and mix the egg yolk with a fork. I do not temper my egg yolk, I'm just quick about this next step. Slowly pour the egg yolk into the mixture while stirring the sauce very fast. Be careful not to spill sauce everywhere. When I do this I dont get any scrambled egg yolk in my sauce. If your worried you cant do it, then temper the egg yolk by adding 1/2 cup of the sauce to it, while mixing it together. Then add the egg yolk back into the sauce located in the medium sauce pan.

This whole time your sauce pan should have been on low heat. At this point bring it up to medium heat. Prepare the corn starch and water. Mix the starch until it dissolves in the water.
Now pay attention. Add the dissolved corn starch while stirring the sauce. From the moment that you added the half and half milk, Parmesan cheese, egg yolk, etc... until now, it should have taken less than 5 minutes. Be quick about it. The longer the milk and cheese cooks, the hotter it gets, and the more chances it will curdle. When it curdles forget it, the sauce does not have that nice creamy and smooth texture it should. Your purpose is to not cook the milk, and cheeses, but to hurry up and mix them together so you can thicken the sauce with the corn starch and the sauce is done.

Some people like their sauce more ""loose" or "watery" so skip the corn starch step. Maybe the curdling happens more easily because I use half and half milk instead of heavy cream? I have a hard time getting heavy cream at Aldi's thus why I use half and half. But to me, it tastes the same. I also use corn starch instead of flour to thicken things. I like how I can dissolve the starch into water which gets rid of all the lumps, making a nice smooth sauce.

After the sauce thickens turn off the heat. Add some freshly cracked pepper. Taste the sauce, and see if you would like to add more salt or pepper. By this time, the chicken and pasta should be ready. Drain the pasta, and I like to chop up the chicken.
I chopped up some fresh basil from my herb garden to garnish the dish.

Friday, April 1, 2011

So Easy Grilled Chicken & Shrimp

I made this awesome dinner the other night with grilled chicken, shrimp, and asparagus with a side of baked potato. It was so easy on my George Foreman grill because all I had to do was flip the skewers every 10 minutes or so.

2.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 lbs raw shrimp
1/2 cup of soy sauce total, divided into 1/4 cups
lemon pepper seasoning
garlic salt
olive oil
lots of red or sweet onions, your preference
lots of wooden skewers, make sure you pre-soak them in water for at least 15 minutes.

For the Side Dishes:
frozen asparagus
baking potatoes, I used red potatoes and it turned out great.
Some butter & sour cream for the baked potatoes

I got boneless skinless chicken thighs (I like dark meat better, it has more flavor), and RAW shrimp. Please, oh please, do yourself a favor and never cook with precooked shrimp unless your making one of those cocktail with shrimp sauce appetizers. You loose so much of the shrimp flavor if you buy it precooked. So I placed each meat in its own bowl with 1/4 cup of the soy sauce each. Add 1 tbs lemon pepper seasoning, 1 tbs garlic salt, and some cracked pepper to each of the two bowls of meats. I let this marinate over night which made it extra yummy.
Next, I cut the onions in large pieces.
Then I began to cut the chicken in smaller pieces. I took about 4 pieces of chicken, or 4 pieces of shrimp and added one piece onto a skewer, followed by a large onion chunk. I alternated the meat with the onions. If I had green or red peppers I would have added chunks of that as well.

I tuned the grill to high and coated it with some nonstick cooking spray. I added the shrimp to the grill. After the first 5 minutes I flipped each skewer and let it cook for another 5-8 minutes. In the meantime I took a knife and poked several holes into each potato after they were washed. I used red potatoes which are small and take less time to cook. They cooked for 10 minutes in my microwave, then I flipped them and cooked them for another 10 minutes.

I used frozen asparagus as a side. To prepare it for the grill I added the asparagus into a bowl and drizzled olive oil on them. Then I added some salt, freshly cracked pepper, and a pinch of the lemon pepper seasoning to reflect the flavor of the grilled chicken and shrimp. I mixed everything together to make sure the asparagus was nicely coated.

By now the shrimp was done and I took them off the grill. Next I grilled the asparagus for 5 minutes, then moved them around the grill, to cook for another 5-8 minutes. Once I took them off the grill I started cooking the chicken. This took a little longer, maybe 15 minutes, then I flipped the skewers, and cooked for another 15 minutes. Everything grilled so nicely on my grill.
 Check to make sure that their are no more pink juices coming out of the chicken. Cooking times vary according to how big or how small you cut up your chicken. The finished meal was really tasty and considerably healthy.
This whole meal probably took me 50 minutes to make just because my grill is not very big so I had to grill everything separately. But it was still an easy meal because I did not have to keep watching or stirring things. I love to leave food baking in the oven or grilling because there is less I have to do.