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Local Buzz – Boston: What’s that in the water? It’s CODZILLA!

7 Sep

Last night my company had its annual summer staff outing, and it was a blast! As a quick tip for a fun thing to do on a sunny day, I introduce “CODZILLA!”

It’s a high-speed boat that fits about 130 passengers, and once you’re on-board they take you on a semi-informative / semi-silly (think a handful of history and a heap of corny jokes) ride through the Boston Harbor and beyond. Once you get out far enough, “Codzilla” goes super fast and pulls lots of fun turns, meaning almost everyone on board gets soaked! Don’t worry, they’ll give you ponchos if you ask!

It was about a 45-minute ride overall, with about 15 minutes of high-speed flipping around in the middle. For a large group, this was the perfect not-too-long adventure before heading to the bar. There were lots of children on board, too, but the little ones all ended up crying, so I wouldn’t recommend it for the younger crowd.

Cheers,

Nicole

Boston Harbor Cruises

1.877.SEE.WHALE (733.9425) or 617.227.4321

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Internet Superlatives

24 Aug

In case your Friday is dragging along and you need a little pick-me-up to get you through to the weekend, here’s a little peek at some of my favorite websites and blogs. This is the stuff I look at almost everyday — the stuff that keeps me going when I’m bored and that provides me with new information, creative ideas, tasty recipes, and more than a few laughs. I’m really into baking, home design, crafts, a little bit of fashion, and some clever humor, so that’s the general theme you’ll find here. I’ve selected my top ten favorites in different categories, so take a look and see if any of them become your daily faves too!

Best Home Design Blog: Young House Love – by John and Sherry Petersik

Young House Love follows the Petersiks, John and Sherry (plus their adorable daughter Clara and their cute pooch Burger) through their adventures as they DIY (do-it-yourself) all sorts of crazy home design projects in Richmond, Virginia. What’s awesome is that they give you a whole bunch of information (with tons of pictures) about how you can do similar projects, and everything is on a budget! Seriously, take a look at their home tours (of their old and new houses) — you won’t believe the transformations they’ve accomplished with their own bare hands! If you fall in love with this family like I have, you can also follow their family blog, Young House Life.

A Before-And-After shot from Young House Love – Image via younghouselove.com

Best Celebrity Site: goop – by Gwyneth Paltrow

Through “goop” Gwyneth Paltrow shares incredible tips for travel, cooking, home design, fashion, hair, make-up, wellbeing, parenting, reading, and just about anything else you can think of. I’ve signed up to receive goop e-mail newsletters, and I’m always excited when I discover a new one in my inbox. It’s fun to hear from her perspective, and all of her suggestions are amazing. This is a bit high-brow, though, but I enjoy it even if I can’t afford to buy all of the stuff she recommends.

Best Laughs: Suri’s Burn Book – by Allie Hagan

This clever blog cracks me up every time. Allie Hagan, fictionally writing as Suri Cruise (daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes), judges other celebrities in their children from a hilarious perspective. It’s all completely false, but Hagan’s adaptation of Suri as a lovable/hate-able combination of “mean girl” and “poor little rich girl” keeps me coming back for more everyday. If you loved the movie “Mean Girls” and your favorite section of People or UsWeekly is “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” then this blog was made for you.

A new book by Allie Hagan based on her popular blog, “Suri’s Burn Book” – Image via surisburnbook.tumblr.com

Best Time-Waster: Sporcle

This quiz-site has more quizzes than you could ever imagine, in a variety of topics and difficulty levels. Poke around and see what you can find! Most of them are timed (for that competitive edge), and you can search by category for what you feel like doing. It’s a great way to learn some new facts! My personal favorite is the Harry Potter 200, where you have 18 minutes to name the top 200 Harry Potter characters who are mentioned by name the most times throughout the entire series. My top score on this is 161 — what’s yours??

Best Food Blog: Smitten Kitchen – by Deb Perelman

Do you like food? Great. Check out this site. In her teeny-tiny NYC kitchen, Deb Perelman creates the most delicious meals and treats you can imagine, complete with mouthwatering images that will have you drooling all afternoon. Some of her recipes that I’ve tried are Jalapeño Cheddar SconesRed Velvet CakeBoozy Baked French ToastStrawberries and Cream Biscuits, and Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins — everything turned out totally incredible!

Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins from Smitten Kitchen – Image via smittenkitchen.com

Best Sports Reading for Non-Sports People: Grantland – by Bill Simmons

My boyfriend introduced me to this site in the hopes that I might become an avid sports fan and watch football and basketball with him to his heart’s content. That didn’t happen, but I have to admit that I do enjoy some of the articles. Especially the Hollywood Prospectus section, because I’m a sucker for celebrity gossip and because Grantland writers have invented a Reality TV Fantasy League. This involved each of them “drafting” reality TV stars and getting points every week based on their team’s “performance” in that week’s episodes. “What’s that? Teresa from Real Housewives stole somebody’s husband? 250 points to you!” Oh yeah, and there’s some sports stuff here too, I think.

Best Fashion Blog: What I Wore – by Jessica Quirk

Jessica Quirk takes pictures of her outfits everyday and posts them to her personal style blog, What I Wore. It’s sweet and short, and I love her style! You can also find tips on how to put outfits together, how to DIY new trends, and where to purchase the cute stuff she’s wearing. Thanks to The Daisy Chain writer Flávia for introducing me to this site!

Cute outfit on Jessica Quirk – Image via whatiwore.tumblr.com

Best Shopping Site: ShopBop

I have a shopping problem, and when I’m bored, one of my favorite things to do is browse new trends online. ShopBop carries all my favorite designers in one convenient location, plus they have excellent customer service! Hide your credit cards, ladies… You won’t be able to resist!

Pants I’m loving from ShopBop – Image via shopbop.com

Best News Site: Google News

I love Google News because it pulls together articles from several different news sources and organizes them by categories so it is easy to read. You can also tailor it to your interests. For instance, if you have a serious girl-crush on Kate Middleton and are obsessed with her every move, you can set up Google News with a special Kate Middleton section that is consistently updating itself with the latest news on Kate Middleton. Is that weird? I hope not. I don’t know anybody who does that.

Best All-Around: MarthaStewart.com – by Martha Stewart

I love Martha Stewart. I really really do. I don’t even care that she went to prison for tax fraud… Really, I don’t. Her delicious recipes, beautiful home designs, creative craft projects, and brilliant organizational solutions more than make up for it. I subscribe to three (yes, THREE) daily e-mail newsletters from Martha: “Craft of the Day,” “Organizing Tip of the Day,” and, my personal favorite, “Dessert of the Day.” Seriously, Martha Stewart is my go-to for just about anything food or home related, and I could spend / have spent hours perusing her site. Enjoy!

Beautiful party décor idea by Martha Stewart – Image via marthastewart.com

What are some of your favorite sites and blogs??

Cheers,

Nicole

Book Review: “Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel” by S.J. Watson

3 Aug

Most of my childhood friends remember me as an avid reader, which I still am today. Hopefully I’ll have lots of great reviews for you all that I can share on The Daisy Chain. Here’s a recent favorite that I literally read from cover to cover over five captivating hours: “Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel,”  a fascinating thriller by S.J. Watson.

Image via Amazon.com

The book description is brief, but effectively tantalizing, and so I’ll begin with that.

From Amazon.com:

Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.

Are you sufficiently intrigued? I was! Here’s my own description (which was SO hard to write without giving away spoilers!):

The story begins on a regular day for protagonist Christine, a woman who is startled to wake up and find herself in bed with a strange man. After admonishing herself for yet another one-night stand, Christine stumbles into the bathroom to discover another horrifying surprise in the mirror — she is years and years older than she thinks she is. And so unravels her story. Christine’s broken memory prevents her from remembering anything from the days, months, and years before her twenties. She can make new memories throughout the day, but after a night of sleep, it all disappears. As she puts the pieces into place over and over again, day after day, she realizes how many more pieces she is missing, and how vital it is for her to learn as much as possible. The reader is kept in suspense as Christine takes you through the journal she has begun to keep in order to document what she learns with each new day. Throughout the story, shocking discoveries are made that will keep you on your toes all the way to the spectacularly dramatic conclusion — trust me, you won’t be able to put this book down!

It has been a while since a book gripped me so thoroughly, and I can’t recommend it enough. Even a few weeks after finishing, I still get chills just thinking about it. Some people have mentioned that the storyline is similar to the movies “50 First Dates” and “Memento,” and I’d have to agree. That said, though, Watson is a master at drawing out suspense and keeping the reader paralyzed with fear for Christine, so it is definitely worth a read.

So set aside 5-10 hours and sit down with it (you won’t want to take a break!) — I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

“When I Go to Sleep: A Novel”

By: S.J. Watson

You can buy it on Amazon as a book here and as a Kindle book here.

Happy reading!

Cheers,

Nicole

Secret Recipe Revealed: My Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

25 Jul

If there’s one treat that has defined my childhood, there’s no question that it’s my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. They’re chewy, they’re rich, and most importantly, they are chocolatey. When we lived in Brazil, my mom started making chocolate chip cookies as her “American” addition to our International Day at school. For as long as I can remember, all of my friends have been totally hooked — in fact, several of my elementary school friends (including many writers of this blog) still salivate whenever these cookies are mentioned. The cookies moved to the United States with us in 1999, and their fame took off. Seriously, at my high school they started calling them “Panookies” (my last name is Panico!). To be honest, I’m pretty sure these tasty little suckers were responsible for the start of many college friendships as well — thanks for mailing them so many times, Mom!

Luckily for all of you, my sweet mama is not one of those bakers who won’t share her secrets. What’s funny is that her recipe is really just the Nestle Tollhouse recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag, with a few very important alterations. For instance, three times the recommended amount of chocolate chips. YUM.

Here it is, folks:

3/4 cup tightly packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

1 tsp real vanilla extract (no fake stuff!)

1 cup margarine (best is Land O’ Lakes)

2 eggs

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (Nestle!)

*** Note – Cookies are best when dough is made the day before and refrigerated overnight ***

*** Other note – My mom mixes the dough by hand, using a large spoon or spatula. Follow her lead and end up with some mad arm muscles like hers! ***

1) Combine light brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla extract and margarine in a large bowl.  Mix well, and when smooth, add eggs. Mix well again.

2) In another bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly mix the flour mixture into the sugar mixture until it is smooth. Add chocolate chips, and mix until they are all blended in.

Here’s my friend Jackie enjoying some raw dough! My mom would say not to eat it (salmonella and all that), but hey, if you can’t resist, then you can’t resist!

3) Once the batter is mixed thoroughly, cover and refrigerate over night.

Perfect consistency!

4) Next day, preheat oven to 375 degrees (F).

5) Using a cookie-scoop (my mom uses one from Williams Sonoma that is 1 1/2 ” diameter), scoop dough into balls by filling scoop with dough and pressing firmly on the side of bowl to compact the batter. Place cookie balls on a cookie sheet and put in oven for approx. 10 minutes.  Rotate the pan about halfway through. Check frequently near the end to make sure they don’t burn!

Make sure all the cookies are the same size!

6) Once they are brown on the sides and golden on the top, remove them from the oven, loosen them with a spatula but leave them in the pan to settle (they actually cook a tiny bit more right on the pan). Once they look done, remove them and put them on a rack to cool.

Loosen them, but let them sit on the hot pan a little longer.

7) Eat them up!

THE MOST IMPORTANT SECRETS OF THESE COOKIES:

-All cookies should be exactly the same size so they cook evenly. That’s why it’s important to use a scoop.

-Ingredients: Use the right margarine, and use REAL vanilla extract.

-Refrigerate the dough so that it’s firm when it gets rolled into balls.

-And, finally, what my mom considers the MOST important: BAKE THEM RIGHT BEFORE YOU WANT TO EAT THEM. The fresher, the better!

YUM.

Some tips from my mom on making these cookies in Brazil:

-The best brown sugar to use is lighter brown, and not the darker one. Try to find one that sort of sticks together in the package. Might be found in two sections of the grocery store: near the sugar, or also in the health foods section.

-Use the brand Doriana as your margarine.

-Real vanilla extract is expensive in Brazil, but worth it because it is so much better than the fake stuff!

-You will have to cut the chocolate chips yourself. Use large bars of Nestle Meio-Amargo and cut them up into small bits.

-If you can’t find a cookie-scoop, use a 1/8 cup measuring cup (or 1/4 cup and then cut it in half)

I hope you all enjoy. Good luck baking!

Cheers,

Nicole

Cirque du Soleil “Totem” — Mind blown. Mind blown again.

13 Jul

My boyfriend and I went to see the Cirque du Soleil show, Totem, that is currently playing at the Boston Marine Industrial Park (right by the Harpoon Brewery) on Wednesday night. All I can say is, “Wow.”

It was set up in a huge blue and yellow tent right on the waterfront (sorry, I was too overwhelmed to get a picture of the outside!). Here’s what the reception/waiting area looked like inside:

There was a cool gift shop (I’m a huge sucker for gift shops) and everything was colorful and whimsical and fun. I didn’t purchase anything, but I did have fun trying on a few different masks and hats.

The performance was absolutely incredible. I wish I had more pictures to share with you guys, but photography was not permitted inside the tent, and besides, I was way too busy trying to raise my jaw up from the ground to think about taking pictures. Luckily, I was able to sneak a photo of the interior of the tent before the show started. It didn’t look nearly as incredible as it did later, but was still a fun set-up to get the audience amped up.

I’m still not sure what the theme of “Totem” was all about, because there was really a lot going on. The show included sparkly performers dressed as animals, disco balls, stereotypical Italians, clowns, Native Americans, and aliens. All the costumes were done with Cirque du Soleil’s signature style, and the effect was beautiful. Without giving too much away, I can safely tell you that this show includes all of the Cirque du Soleil essentials — over-the-top theatrics, silly humor, phenomenal stunts, dazzling visual effects, ladies on 6-ft unicycles, plenty of people flying through the air, and more bulging muscles than you can imagine.

All in all, we were blown away — well worth a trip to the Seaport! They’re still selling tickets for Totem, which will be in town until August 5th.

Enjoy the show — You won’t regret it!

Cheers,

Nicole

Cirque du Soleil – Totem

Boston Marine Industrial Park on the Waterfront

1-800-450-1480

Buy your tickets and learn more about the show here.

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