Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The 30 Day Photography Challenge

Last year, on January 1st, 2010, I decided to challenge myself by taking one creative picture every day for the entire year. I intended to upload each of these photos to a photo blog, creating a year-long photo journal that my nostalgic self could look back on ten years from now. For about a week, I was all about it. It was all I could think about...I'd be sitting in class thinking of the next creative photo I could take, daydreaming of great lighting, or bright colors, or slow shutter speed techniques. But, alas, life caught up with me and you can probably guess what happened. That's right - I slowly became more busy and sadly, lost interest in the project. A year is just too long!

When I stumbled upon this 30 Day Photo Challenge, I knew what I had to do. Starting tomorrow, June 1st, I will challenge myself to take the designated photo every day for a month. And hopefully, this time around, I will be able to stick with it.

I'm very excited! I should have some interesting options as I'll be in Minneapolis, MN for a week in June, as well as various places in Florida throughout the month. I should be able to get the creative juices flowing in all these unique environments!

Well, folks, this is it! I'll be posting each picture on this blog - wish me luck!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

Good Morning, Friends!

Whether you're beaching, boating or BBQing...

I hope you all have a wonderful, relaxing and fun day off! 

A BIG thanks to our armed forces for all that they do for our country! 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ten Revelations I've Had This Weekend

This weekend, my friends and I decided to have a mini-vacation, you could say, and celebrate my birthday (which occurred a week and a half ago, but so what?) We planned out an exciting day which included breakfast at a hometown diner, relaxing on Clearwater Beach, and finally, snazzing it up for a evening at the Hard Rock Casino. I had a BLAST, but learned a few things along the way...

Casinos are not my cup of tea. My friends and I thought it would fun to head over to the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa this weekend for a bit of birthday celebration fun. Little did we know, we were in for quite the shock. Although I usually love new experiences, this one was...interesting, to say the least. Dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe was fantastic. The company was even more fantastic. But, when it came to the gambling, we were like lost little children who didn't have a clue. Lesson learned - Come to a casino with a budget of $100+ not $10.

Hole in the wall breakfast places ARE my cup of tea. Before heading to the beach on Saturday, we stopped at the Lenny's - an old hole in the wall breakfast diner in Clearwater. Lenny's had the most extensive menu I've seen in my life, and it had that old hometown diner feel - which I love! Not only were the meals delicious, but we also got 5 danishes EACH as an appetizer to our already gigantic entrees. Check out Lenny's if you're ever in the Clearwater area.

Nickel slots don't really cost a five cents. The same goes for penny slots. We learned that the hard way. After excitedly putting in a dollar, and expecting 20 tries at the slots, we were utterly disappointed after two tries left us broke. Warning to all amateur gamblers: 5 cents does not mean 5 cents! 

Everyone knows you can play Poker and Black Jack at a casino, but did you know you could play War? Me either. Although we never got around to table play, if I ever go back, that's my first stop. Go with whatcha know, right?

I'm addicted to pinterest.com. If you haven't already, check this place out. But, beware, you may become shamelessly addicted.

John Travolta is a scientologist. Who knew? I thought Danny Zuko was smarter than that. 

Sun Groves has the best orange-vanilla swirl soft serve known to man.  After a long afternoon at the beach, nothing cures the sunburnt, sweaty, sandy feeling better than an ice cold ice cream cone. 

Casinos are not home to the glamorous and wealthy, but the exact opposite, in fact. Maybe in Vegas it's different? But, in Tampa, uhh, well, let's just say that's not the case. 

I'm extremely gullible when it comes to shows about ghost hunters. Ok, I admit it. I have a minor infatuation with Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel. Not only do I find the personalities of the hosts entertaining, but I also seem to believe almost every ghostly encounter that occurs - making it that much more exciting/terrifying. I swear, that faint scratching noise really did sound like a ghost telling Zak to leave now or face the consequences! 

Danny Curtis is pretty cute when he dresses up and plays guitar. Ok, ok. I already knew that - but it's true! See?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cars: It's a love/hate relationship

Well, it's official: the car gods hate me. I'm currently in the midst of my fifth car mishap in SIX, I repeat, six months. And to be completely honest, I couldn't have prevented a single one. In November, I bought my first real car. Granted, it was used, so I should have known what I was getting myself into, right? Let's take a quick review of the past 6 months with my Honda Accord. 
  1. January 2011 - $400 Major Servicing Required - I'm not very car savvy, but apparently most cars need a major servicing at 90K miles, and that just happened to be about 2 months after I purchased my car. Goodbye Christmas money!
  2. February 2011 - My first real car accident. Caused by a lady violating the right of way, this doozie left me with a rental for 2 weeks! Thankfully, I didn't have to cough up anything for that.
  3. February 2011 - One week after getting my car back after the accident, my air conditioning stops working & my headlight breaks. Another $200 out the window.
  4. May 2011 - Brake light out. Danny Curtis to the rescue. Cost me $8 total. Thank goodness for boyfriends.
  5. May 26th, 2011 - Car overheats due to broken fan motor - major leakage and smoke ensue. This is my largest car cost yet: a whopping $430 between labor & new parts. Although I was able to hang out at the mall while the mystery diagnosis occurred, shopping just doesn't seem right when you know you're about to put down $500 bucks on a repair. I did, however, buy the best thing a girl can buy on a hot Florida day when her car overheats:

an ice cream cone! aka the solution to all the world's problems

So, ladies and gentlemen, that's my automotive history - and what an eventful history it has been. Stay tuned! With my luck, I'll add a sixth mishap to my ongoing list by the end of June.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

So, what's the Pan Mass Challenge, you ask?

Ok, everyone. Brace yourselves. I, Mary Catherine Wickham, have signed up to ride in the PanMassachusetts Challenge. The PMC is a series of bike rides throughout Massachusetts on August 8th, 2011. All of these rides serve one purpose - to raise money to fight cancer. My Uncle Funny Jeff (yes, I, a 23 yr. old, still call my Uncle the name I've used since I was 7) and my two cousins, Sam and Lee, have rode in the Challenge the past two years, and finally, this year, they were able to convince my Dad and I to participate. Conveniently, we have a family reunion up there the week before, so I really didn't have an excuse! But, to be completely honest, I'm totally excited. This is the first time I've taken on a physical challenge as difficult as this one, and it's for one of the best causes I can think of - getting rid of cancer once and for all.

We've all known someone who's died from cancer, or fought cancer, or maybe, you know someone who's fighting that fight right now. Either way, we are all affected one way or another. Personally, my grandfather died of lung cancer a few years ago, and my grandmother has fought and won her battle with cancer. I've had a slew of other relatives who've had encounters with the deadly disease, and quite frankly, it's time to do something about it.

My Dad and I have both set a goal to raise $1,000 before our PMC ride in August. All funds raised will go directly to cancer research and treatment. I'm about 40% of the way there, but I really do hope I exceed my goal. So, if you're reading this, and have in some way been affected, or angered, or frustrated by stupid stupid cancer - donate to my PMC ride by clicking on the link below:

OR you can just check out the super awesome flyer my Dad and I are handing out and just laugh :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Arroz con Camarones, Por Favor

At the request of the ever-changing tastes of Senor Dan Curtis, I decided to attempt a latin dish over the weekend - Arroz con Camarones aka Rice with Shrimp. We decided yellow rice was mucho tastier than plain ole white rice, so I began to search for recipes with yellow rice and shrimp. There is so much variety out there! There are Cuban recipes, Puerto Rican recipes, Spanish recipes - and, frankly, they all looked so delicious. I finally settled on one that didn't look too complicated, but one that had just enough difficulty involved in the process to feel proud eating it.

The dish?
Arroz Con Camarones

The ingredients?
  • 1 lb. of shrimp, fresh or frozen - peeled and deveined
  • 1½ cups of uncooked rice
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of red pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of carrots, chopped
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/3 cup of oil (vegetable or canola)
  • 1/2 cup of frozen green peas
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2¾ tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of pepper

The instructions?

Begin by chopping the onions, tomatoes, red pepper and carrots. Heat the oil in a large pot, then add turmeric. Add onions and garlic, saute till tender. Add carrots, tomatoes, and carrots. Saute for 10 minutes. Add shrimp, salt and pepper. Saute for another ten minutes or until shrimp is pink. Finally, add the rice, peas, and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Muy delicioso!

    Helpful Tip
    I used brown rice instead of white rice - which required a different ratio of water to rice. For your dish, make sure you use the correct ratio of water to rice! It will save you a lot of time to check that before you begin. I didn't and ended up adding water and waiting, and adding water and waiting. Never again!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ma Pa Tofu - Ma & Pa's new favorite!

I think cooking may just be my new favorite hobby/stress outlet. So much has been going on, I've had to scramble to find fun little hobbies that help keep me in check. Cooking is challenging, fun and rewarding! Driving home from work the other day, I suddenly had a craving for a dish my Aunt Carrie made while I lived with her in Boston. It was healthy, delicious and different. I made it on my own once, and then decided to share it with my family. Needless to say, I got perfect tens all around. Thanks, Aunt Carrie!

The dish? 
Ma Pa Tofu

The ingredients?

  • 1 pound (1 package) of firm tofu, cut into six slices
  • 1/2 cup fat free, less sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce (hoisin sauce can be substituted)
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 - 2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • 4oz. lean ground pork
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh peeled ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups hot cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/2 bag of frozen peas (*secret ingredient!)

The instructions? Relatively simple. 
  1. First, slice the tofu into 6 pieces. Place the tofu on 2-3 paper towels on a plate. Cover the tofu with 2-3 more paper towels and another plate. Let tofu sit for 20 minutes. Then, cut tofu slices into 1/2-inch cubes.
  2. In the meantime, mix chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, corn starch, and chili garlic sauce. 
  3. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat & add the ground pork. Cook for 4 minutes or until done.
  4. Add ginger and garlic to ground pork, cook 1 minute. Stir constantly. 
  5. Add tofu. Cook 4 minutes, or until golden, stirring frequently.
  6. Cook & drain half a bag of frozen peas.
  7. Finally, add broth mixture & peas. Cook 1 minute or until thick.
  8. Serve tofu mixture over rice, sprinkle with onions and voila! A tasty asian dish.
I've never been a huge tofu fan (interestingly enough, I used think it was "squishy chicken"),  but this recipe may have just undone years of hatred towards tofu. Let the tofu lovin' begin! 

Serve with a fresh salad, and some white wine, 
and you've got yourself one fine meal.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Funday

What better way to spend the most perfect Sunday afternoon than cooking and crafting. With my crazy busy schedule these days, I rarely get time to myself. So when the time comes where I have a few hours to spare, I take full advantage! Today, I decided I'd make one of my favorite dishes. I've only made it once before, and boy, was it a hit. Originally found on my favorite new time waster, pinterest.com, it combines my favorite vegetables to make a schmorgesborg of tastiness.

The dish?
Southwest Black Bean Salad

The ingredients?
  • 1 can of black beans (rinsed and drain)
  • 1 can of whole kernel corn (drained)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 an onion - either red or white
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 tbsp cilantro
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ground pepper & salt
  • a few pinches of mexican chili powder

The instructions? Simple.

Combine black beans, corn, tomato, avocado, onion, scallions, and cilantro in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine lime juice, olive oil, salt & pepper, and chili powder. Pour lime/oil mixture over veggies. Mix. Voila! A fresh, easy and delicious summer concoction. And great with tortilla or pita chips!