Photo Friday, so what does one of the world’s largest diamonds look like?

One of my fantasy jobs would be to be a treasure hunter. I would love to find a sunken ship wreckage filled with gold coins, emeralds and pearls.Except, I’m not the best swimmer and I am afraid of sharks…but perhaps someday.

The Star of Africa I photo credit: www.vmbjewlers.com

The Star of Africa I
photo credit: http://www.vmbjewlers.com

In 1905, Captain Frederick Wells stumbled upon a massive treasure while doing a routine inspection of a diamond mine in Africa. During his inspection, he found what he thought was a big piece of glass embedded in the rock;he only noticed it because it reflected the sun’s light. But instead of finding a piece of glass, he found what was then, the World’s Largest diamond. The diamond before it was cut weighed 1.33 lbs and was 3,106 carats! When the stone was sent back to England it was cut into nearly 100 pieces with the largest piece being The Star of Africa I, or also called the Cullinan I (named after the man, Sir Thomas Cullinan, who owned the mine).

The Scepter of the Cross photo credit: Google Images

The Scepter of the Cross
photo credit: Google Images

Today the Star of Africa I is the largest polished white diamond. (The largest diamond is the Golden Jubilee Diamond, a yellow diamond.) It is 530 carats and now is apart of the UK Crown Jewels, in the Scepter of the Cross.

Crazy Fact: The diamond that Wells found that made up the Cullinan diamond collection, was believed to be a broken off piece to an even LARGER DIAMOND that is still yet to be discovered. WOW.

Have you ever found a treasure or a valuable antique?

information/research credit: Forbes, Live Science, Wikipedia

Photo Friday

That’s Photo Friday!

When I was 10 years old, I made the mature decision that my days of playing with toys were over. I was too old for silly toys.I wanted to be “BIG”.

Growing up, I wasn’t much of a barbie/baby doll fan. I was all about animals; my toys were dogs, cats, leopards, zebras, lizards etc.  I had two stuffed animals that I loved more than the rest of my toys. One was a stuffed animal I got from the Disney store (my favorite toy store of all time except the gift shop at the zoo…). It was a Dalmatian, Perdida from 101 Dalmatians. The other favorite toy was one my sisters and I called, “Cow boy” ; it was a ratty version of Wiley the Coyote that we got from the thrift store.

I picked up Perdida, knowing that I must do away with my most favorite toys if my plan for becoming an

photo credit: wiki.org

photo credit: wiki.org

adult was going to work. My fingers were shaking, but I was determined. I knew I had to do something drastic, something that would never make me want to play with her again. I took a pair of scissors and chop chop. Her ears were gone. The poor dog now looked like a speckled alien. I fought back tears and headed down stairs and out the door to the garage. I took one last look at Perdida and tossed her in the outside garbage. Cowboy was next.

Done.

I was an adult now.

Memories of the times I had with Perdida and Cowboy played through my mind.

sid

Sid, from “Toy Story”, “He tortures toys for fun!”

Perdida and Cowboy had been through a lot, but were toys that were loved to pieces (almost literally). Once while playing with Perdida I accidentally dropped her in a puddle. My parents were burning a pile of bamboo (btw…I love bamboo forests!) so I came up with the genius plan of drying my stuffed animal off by putting her near this inferno of burning bamboo. I put her about 6inches away from the flames and tell Andrea, “Let’s run to the end of the driveway and back and then she’ll be dry!” (back then we lived on forty acres…and our drive way was a quarter mile long…) After running a distance of around 500ft I throw my head around, to glance on the progress of Perdida drying. She was dry alright. And also on fire. No big deal. I scream and run back and save her. She survived the incident…but there were scars.And Cowboy had been so over played with his neck no longer had stuffing inside, his head just hung loosely from body like it was only attached with a string.

As the memories poured in, I started to feel guilty, horrible, like Sid from the movie Toy Story. TOY STORY! SID! (I’m pretty sure Toy Story made us all believe or at least wonder if our toys were …alive) Crap! My poor toys! I ran outside and grabbed Perdida and Cowboy wailing, “I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry!”. I sowed Perdida’s ears back on her…and put her back in my room where she belongs. And yup, I still own Perdida today! And I wish I had a picture of her, but she is at my house in Colorado!

What was your favorite childhood toy? Did you do anything drastic to

speed on the process of becoming an adult?

if you are trapped in the past…what’s happening to your future?

This past weekend, I felt like one of my dreams sort of deflated like a balloon that isn’t tied shut and escapes from your hands and flies around the room. I am an incredibly nostalgic person. I will hear a song, smell a smell, or see a random object and it will lead me back to a memory. Me: “Oh my gosh! This shard of wall paper reminds of such and such time when this or that happened.” Oddly, many times smells provoke memories for me the most…it’s kinda bizarre. I will be at a gas station and smell that strong scent of diesel gasoline and suddenly… a vacation memory! Or I will smell a candle and a memory of what a certain person’s house smelled like and the time we got in trouble there will fill my mind. Is anyone else like this? I love to cling onto the good things of the past.

I am really close with my family and when we are all together we just have a ball. We can talk for hours and go on adventures or just sit and do nothing together. There was closeness with my sisters that I had, and I never wanted to let that go. But there was one problem…it’s called GROWING UP. Slowly over the past few years, my sisters and I have spread across the country. It is not cool.

I am the type of person who often has wild ideas pop into my head…and once that idea becomes a dream I lay out a plan on how to make it happen. My dream was to somehow get my family all back together…or at least on the same side of the country. I felt like this fall my dream was finally coming together. I just had to hold on a few more months. This weekend everything changed. I suddenly felt like everyone had moved on. I was the only one fighting for this dream, I was the only one clinging to the hope that we could all be together. I was the only one living in the past.

I realized they had all created lives where they were, in spite of the fact that we couldn’t all be together. Instead of their focus being on all of us reuniting, they lived their lives and built their lives where they were at. And here was I, believing that life would never be really good unless we were all together. I got depressed real quick.

Then I was hit with the idea that sometimes the past can hold us back, even if it is good. The future can be better than the past, but if we spend all of our time thinking about “what was” when we will stay stagnant, never really living. Learn to look forward to something every day and every week and every month, no matter where you are in life. Remember the “good old days”, but don’t live in them. So often I see in TV shows, parents living vicariously through their children’s lives via sports, a career, college or other dreams the Mother or Father wanted to achieve but never did. Instead of enjoying the family and life right in front of them they are depressed and their family and the child they are “living vicariously through” often ends up feeling resentful, disappointed, or like a failure. Instead of focusing on the child’s dream…the parents have literally been focusing on their old dream. Because they have clung to the past so much that they have decided not to live in the future or enjoy the present. And meanwhile their future becomes something they may regret. I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to be the type of person that whether I reached a dream or didn’t, that stays there, trapped. A person that is like, this was it; now everything I lived for is over. I want to be the type of person that is constantly dreaming new dreams, making new goals and enjoying the ride. No matter what age you are you can always have new adventures ahead of you or right in front of you. Make new dreams, have a vision for your future and where you want it to be, and then fight for it. We were made to be people not blown around by life’s fate, but people that carved pathways to make our dreams happen. Life is what you make it. But you’re gonna have to be tough. You’re gonna have to choose to live in the present, be grateful for the past, but don’t stay there…fight for the future.

Family Traditions, Waffles and Supertasters

Having family traditions is important. They make you feel more like a team. They can bring families together. They are memory makers. I thought I would share one of my families traditions and I would love to hear about yours! 

For our birthdays, my Mom would make something she called a “Royal Breakfast”. About a week before, Mom would have us make an “order or wish list” of our desired menu. It could be anything: bacon, omelet, biscuits and gravy, cookies, cake, sausage, waffles, pancakes, whatever! On our birthday or a weekend day closest to our birthday, I remember waking up to that to die for smell of bacon and sausage frying, and waffles baking. A few minutes later you could hear the “Happy birthday” jingle coming down the hall, towards my room. My entire family would be there (except Andrea…she and I have the same birthday!) singing and holding a breakfast tray complete with our fanciest dishes, a flower in a vase, and a candle to blow out. Oh! and I forgot to mention a “bell” to ring when we needed a refill. That’s what I call a royal breakfast. My Mom would set the tray on my lap and we got to feel like royalty for a day. I love this tradition, and I plan on doing this with my kids…someday!

One item that was always on my “Royal Breakfast Wish List” was my Mom’s waffles – crunchy, fluffy, buttery, mouthwatering goodness. She usually made them on special occasions (like our birthdays) or on the weekends or on days when we all got down on our knees and begged her. Her secret ingredients that made the waffles stand out were using oatmeal in the batter (makes the waffle have more of a crunch) and adding a touch of Mexican Vanilla. When I was a teenager, I went on a Mission’s Trip to Mexico where we bought bottle after bottle of real Mexican Vanilla. I think we had like 15 bottles! This stuff is beyond amazing, it literally sends whatever food it is added to over the top. But my Mom’s real secret weapon to making the best waffles known to man was a special waffle iron that was over 50 years old! BTW…isn’t it amazing how some things really had been made with that kind of quality? It was a bulky and heavy square thing that dished out four waffles in one use. This waffle iron made the waffles cook evenly and gave them that perfect, soft crunch. The only thing you had to be careful of when using it was not greasing the iron enough. If you didn’t brush the iron with olive oil or some other grease, you would end up with waffles glued to the waffle iron! This is the biggest hassle to clean out…uggh…memories…

waffle-iron

an old waffle iron…ours was similar to this! photo credit: Google images

For my entire childhood and up till I went to college our 1950s waffle iron served us faithfully, producing batch after batch of perfect waffles. There were a few times towards the end of its life that the cord would send out some sparks. That was kinda scary. But otherwise, it was still kicking.
When I was in college, hundreds of miles from home, I heard some horrifying news on the phone. My Mom casually said that she had made waffles for my younger sisters, using a new waffle iron. WHAT? A NEW waffle iron???
“Just giving the old one a break?” I asked, telling myself not to panic.
“Oh, no…didn’t I tell you? I threw that old thing away!”
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
It was a crushing moment. And the waffles have never been the same since! RIP Waffle Iron.

How do you top your waffles? What do you top them with? What are your family traditions?

I am really, and I mean really, weird about sweet things. I think it’s called a “Super Taster”; (learn more about it at Smithsonian.com, “A Matter of Taste” by Mary Beckman; if you read about it-I have no problem eating vegetables…fruits are what I have a really hard time eating!) Basically I have a bunch more sweet taste buds on my tongue than most people, so when I eat a bite of cake it tastes like I just shoved a gallon of sugar down my throat. I like the flavor of sweet things but it is literally impossible for me to eat them. My twin sister, Andrea, is the exact same way! Weirdies together! So my waffle is topped with butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. Ya, totally weird, but delicious!

I am a foodie. I love to cook, try all sorts of food, and learn about food. And I have to say, if you have never been to The Cheesecake Factory…you have never lived.

As I was looking up information for the upcoming Baltimore Book Festival at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor,

photo credit: Google images

photo credit: Google images

my mind wondered to the restaurants on the bay, one restaurant in particular lodged its’ way into my brain and I haven’t been able to stop thinking of it since. (imagine angelic music playing) THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY. Glorious! I love this place, and yes they do serve food other than cheesecake. Their menu has so many options, it comes in a book form with a spiral binder. Everything looks AMAZING. (My brother-in-law got a mac & cheese burger…it looked like…heaven) But, I only ever get one thing from the cheesecake factory: Chicken Bellagio. It’s a crispy chicken that sits in a bed of pasta dripping with pesto sauce and then is topped with arugula, Pancetta (Italian Bacon), and fresh shaved Parmesan Cheese. Mouth watering. I am a pesto fanatic. I love it on sandwiches, pizza, pasta, for breakfast, lunch or dinner (well…perhaps not breakfast).

Traditional Pesto is the combination of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, black pepper, Parmesan Cheese and a dash of salt.

*fact-did you know basil is often called the “King of Herbs”?

Pesto is Italian in origin, with its’ name’s basic meaning being “to crush”, referring to how all of the ingredients are blended together (in Italy the ingredients were first crushed with a mortar and pestle). It is similar to a spread the Romans ate called, “moretum”. It is usually paired with pasta but makes a great flavor addition to sandwiches, chicken dishes, pizza and I’ve even tried it tossed with a salad.

Where can you buy pesto? I don’t recommend the stuff you buy in jars in the store-it is nasty! The only store bought pesto I like is Bertolli’s Pesto. It is bright green in color and the flavor is excellent. You can

find it at Wall mart near the Deli in the refrigerated specialty foods section. 

If you are like me and like to make things from scratch here is a good pesto recipe to follow:

2 cups of fresh basil

2 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

a dash of sea salt and black pepper

1/2 cup of fresh shredded Parmesan Cheese

Blend the first three of the ingredients together in a food processor with a small amount of the olive oil. Once the ingredients are crushed, add the rest of the olive oil, the pepper and salt, and the Parmesan Cheese. Bon Appetite!

I suppose you can guess what I’m having for dinner! Have you ever been to the Cheesecake Factory? What is your favorite thing to order? Do you have a family pesto recipe?

pesto facts credit: “A Brief History of Pesto”-Examiner.com, Wikipedia, and The Food Network

Close encounters…

I have never watched Shark Week until this past week. It really is fascinating material…except I feel like I was left hanging on the three episodes I watched. I never really knew for sure if “Megalodon” existed or the submarine shark,or if the whole idea that flipping a shark on its’ back made it defenseless actually worked (with The Great Whites-the little sharks it seemed to work with).  What I did get confirmation on is that people are INSANE. In one of the shows of shark week this diver jumped into a feeding frenzy of tiger sharks…on purpose. I just…wow. Never.

 SHARK WEEK- I wish shark's teeth were like this...  photo credit: www.andrew.cum.edu

SHARK WEEK- I wish shark’s teeth were like this…
photo credit: http://www.andrew.cum.edu

This made me ask myself the question: what’s the closest you’ve been to a wild animal? (animals at the zoo don’t count!)

The closest and scariest encounter I’ve had with a wild animal was during a game night at a friend’s house. One of my friends lived in this rich neighborhood right on the side of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. A group of about 6 of us were chilling in the game room that led out to the back yard through a glass sliding door. BOOM! We all jump. What was that? The sound had come from the backyard somewhere. A couple of us peer out the glass door and a rush of brown fur whizzes past us. “What the heck!?!”

A few feet away sitting on a bar stool was Sam, who lived at the house. He says nonchalantly, “It’s probably just a bear.”

Just a bear? There is no such thing as “JUST a bear” in my mind.

“Yeah, I’ve seen one a few times hanging out back,” Sam says nearing the window.

After a few moments of silence we get back to our game playing. Then someone yells, pointing at an object on the other side of the glass door. Brown, thick fur. Sharp black curled claws. Huge. The bear. The only thing separating us from it was a thin piece of glass. All the guys rush over to the door gawking at the beast that is inches from their faces. The bear is just staring at them like they are a huge pile of crispy bacon, hot and ready to eat. I had been sitting just a few feet away from the glass, and I raced to the far end of the room, near the stairs to make a quick exit. After about a minute I left my “post” and walked over to glass door along with the others to look at the bear; I knew I probably never would get the chance to be this close to one again (which is OK!). He was still there, still debating whether he should try and break down the door and get dinner. He was amazing and terrifying to look at…just inches away.

The bear groans and then runs off into the night. All I can say is the experience was wild.

What’s the closest encounter you’ve had with a wild animal?

What do you think of shark week? Would you jump into a swarm of sharks?

Photo Friday: Amazing Art made of…. Food

Today’s photo Friday  blew my mind in the best of ways! The artist who creates these amazing art pieces is Malaysian artist Hong Yi, who is nicknamed Red Hongyi. Red believes in using natural elements to create art. “She wants to continue to use mundane, ordinary & often overlooked objects to make beautiful art & through her art and the internet, connect people throughout the world.” -from her website http://www.redhonyi.com (CHECK IT OUT and BE AMAZED!) It’s not about the tools and supplies…it’s about what  the artist can do with his tools!

I also checked out her blog and you should check it out to: http://www.ohiseered.com. She has lot’s of awesome artwork using the most simple elements. The blog post I read she was creating a picture of Jackie Chan (MUST SEE!)

I hope you enjoyed this Photo Friday!

photo credit: Artist, Red Hong Yi

photo credit: Artist, Red Hong Yi

louis vuiton

I love Louis Vuitton!

hong-yi-food-art-3[3]

Beautiful!

Photo FridayThat’s….Photo Friday