Garbage-Picking in Key West (and Other More Conventional Methods of Obtaining Souvenirs)

Friends, my garbage-picking has hit an all-time low. Or high? I’ll let you decide. It all began when we were strolling through the streets of sunny Key West, looking at amazingly cool trees like this…

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…when we came across another wonder that took my breath away: a pile…on the curb….that said FREE. (It has been proven that exaggeration of standard reactions increases by at least 75% when in the presence of free stuff.)

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Now, I’m not one to turn down someone else’s free garbage on the streets of the slightly-less-exotic town that I live in, so I wasn’t about to pass up someone’s free Key West garbage. I wanted that turquoise crate that you can see at the bottom of the last picture, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it onto the airplane without dismantling it and/or pretending it was my hat and/or setting it on fire and bringing it back as ashes, none of which seemed to be particularly effective solutions. So, instead, I found something small that I could easily smuggle: glass tealight holders.

key west garbage

They’re nothing fancy, but they came from a garbage pile in Key West. And that makes them much more exciting. Exciting to me, at least. Rick’s eyes may have rolled once or twice during the scavenging process.


All cleaned up and as good as new!


In terms of more conventionally acquired souvenirs, I bought a $5 sundress in some tourist trap store (what can I say; I gravitate toward high-end merchandise) and two pashminas sans tax on our cruise ship. I’ve never owned a pashmina and mainly just enjoy saying that word. It makes me feel fancy, and not at all like someone who buys $5 sundresses in stores that also sell underwear that says things like “The Fartbeat of America”…


…and t-shirts that say “Shut Up and Fart.” Does that even make sense? It’s not as though farting and gabbing are connected. I mean, I don’t think they are, last I checked. Not that I check.

Moving on.

As far as souvenirs not involving flatulence, we bought these hand-carved wooden animals in Jamaica.



I wanted something authentic as opposed to “authentically Jamaican made in China” and these guys seemed to fit the bill. We even met the artist of the owl! Look, her name and the year are carved into the bottom:


Not that I can read what that says, of course; for all I know, the artist’s name is Cacao Dill and it was carved in, well, China.

Have you garbage-picked outside of your hometown? What’s the best souvenir that you’ve ever gotten? Who’s going to run out and buy “Fartbeat of America” attire for the upcoming patriotic holidays?


Our Second Pilgrimage to IKEA

When you are flying out of Pittsburgh to go on your Caribbean cruise, what is the logical thing to do?

Stop at IKEA Pittsburgh, naturally.

Stop at IKEA, naturally, and meet the IKEA Easter bunny who has unnaturally vacant predator eyes. By a show of hands, who wants him coming to hide plastic eggs around their house while they sleep? Anyone?


You also treat your family to a free lunch with your $100+ purchase. Swedish Fish for all!


Unlike the first time we went there, I was prepared with a list that I had compiled before leaving home in the interest of not succumbing to the gigantic shopping mecca of Swedishness that is IKEA. So my items of interest this time were strictly things that I had a specific plan for, namely 120 wooden hangers for our closet and two 72” floating shelves for above the couch.


We also purchased a step stool for our closet…


faux sheepskin throw rugs for next to our bed…


…this blanket for our bedroom…


…and a little $5 moveable statue man, who I named Bjorn after my family laughed at me for buying such a stupid item, and then they laughed at me some more for naming him at all, let alone naming him Bjorn.


Bjorn traveled with us through much of our trip. Here he is saying “Ahoy mate!” as we board the ship.

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And here he is comforting our towel elephant after I beheaded it.


To be honest, I’m not sure why I bought Bjorn, because he most definitely was not on my list of “things to buy,” and he’s not particularly cute. He’s cheap and quirky, though, and I like cheap and quirky. He also comes with a range of attitudes and abilities.

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Useful, no?

So that about sums up our annual trek to IKEA. (We don’t live near one, otherwise it probably wouldn’t be such a big deal that we went.)

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How often do you go to IKEA? Do you make a list before you go? Who wants to take Bjorn on their next family trip?


Caribbean Cruise: The Top-ish 10

We have over 150 pictures from our week in the Caribbean. I’ve narrowed it down to 149 to share with you, beginning with about 8 of our cruise ship.


Just kidding.

No, what I’ve really done is try my very best to decide on a Top-ish 10 for our vacation. Top-ish because there were way more than 10 highlights.

Let’s get this photo-heavy list-ish started, shall we?

Our Top-ish 10 Cruise Moments

10. Dancing like fools every chance we got. Well, mainly I danced like a fool. Other members of our party managed to look like they knew what they were doing. My dance moves are limited. Think Madonna at the Super Bowl 2012 halftime show, only less coordinated.


That’s what we did as we sailed away from Miami on day one.


9. Watching my mom win $75 in free spa credit, and then winning $200 in free spa credit myself. $75 will basically get you one toenail filed at cruise ship rates. With our combined money, I got a pedicure (my first ever) and then we went for 25-minute massages, also my first ever. The pedi was significantly less weird than the massage, especially since nobody understood what our massage lady said after the part about removing your top.

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8. Touring Key West, where we walked to the southernmost point of the United States. There was a monument that you could take your picture by, but some middle-aged couple was making out there, so we got creative and made our own symbol of the south. See, we spelled it. Pretend you can tell what our letters are supposed to be, okay?

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This picture gives you some perspective on just how giant a cruise ship is.

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7. Dragging Rick to all of the free dance classes. Here we are ballroom dancing. Or something. I am apparently preparing for a country barn dance while everyone else listens intently to the instructor.

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6. Snorkeling on a basically private beach in Grand Cayman. We saw lots of fishies and a couple barracuda, who we were close enough to snuggle with.


I love this picture of my little sissy.


5. Laughing at all of the terrible photo-ops that crew members offered us. Think faux embroidered backdrop of a cruise ship with a fake moon hovering above it, or a quaint avenue in…Rome. While holding a stuffed armadillo or a pirate puppet. We have no proof of these antics, because if you took a picture of any part of their photo wall you would have to buy the photos that cost only a few dollars less than my pedicure, but this is a very good reenactment of our personal favorite family pose: the Rubber Ducky.


Yes, friends, for a low, low price of a couple hundred dollars (slight exaggeration) you, too, could have a family portrait with rubber ducks on your heads. I wish I was joking.

4. Climbing Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Without a doubt, this was our favorite activity off of the ship. The falls are a little under 1000 ft. in height. If you ever go to Ocho Rios, fight your way through the people trying to sell you authentic Jamaican paraphernalia made in China and climb that waterfall.

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3. Eating. And then eating some more. And in between eating, eating. Rick ate more seafood during that one week than he has in his entire life, I think. They’ll bring you as much of everything as you want, so on lobster tail night, Rick didn’t hesitate to order two.


We also tried a lot of fun new food, like shark langostino, alligator fritters, vichyssoise (which is more fun to say than eat, in my opinion) and everyone’s personal favorite, frog legs. I’m told they taste like chicken, but the possible poultry likeness was, for me, trumped by the fact that they felt like melting tires coated in gelatin. Oh, and they looked like frogs. In a dish. Coated in garlic butter. Gross much?


2. Meeting a bloggy friend on our return trip through Miami! Gail is basically my twin, with a few minor exceptions like…we aren’t the same age. Her post about our whirlwind lunch sums it up so beautifully that I won’t attempt to recreate it—go visit her blog and read it for yourself! I guarantee she will make you smile at least once. :)


Gail is a photographer, so she appreciated the staging tips that I’d learned on the cruise. Here we are practicing the rubber duck pose with alternative props.


A good sense of humor! I like that girl. :)

But the #1 event, hands down, was…

1. Spending time with each other, and our family. Absolutely the very best part.




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So: thoughts on cruises, the price of pedicures, exotic food, climbing waterfalls, rubber ducks? Spill. :)


Strawberry Raspberry Galette Slab Pie

I know what you’re thinking. What? Erin is posting a recipe? The same girl who proclaims to make brussel sprouts that taste like battery acid? Yes.That girl is posting a recipe—sort of. “Sort of” because it’s not my recipe—it’s Faith’s of The Stirring Place, who generously agreed to guest post over here. Read on for Faith’s drool-inducing berry dessert!

You and I are about to go somewhere special.
(No, not the Caribbean like our girl Erin, but someplace just as great.)
It's a little place I like to call nostalgia.

See, once upon a time there was a girl who loved berries and summertime.
They were ultimate companions and the berry best of friends. (har har)

One day this girl found an effortless berry recipe whose first bite brought back wistful memories of warm June afternoons.

Let me take you there...

There are a lot of recipes out there that claim ease but leave you flour-dusted and fuming.
This isn't one of them.

Although it gives you results of which Martha Stewart would be proud, it's truly as simple as 5 ingredients.

That's right, FIVE.

Break out that apron girl.

Strawberry & Raspberry Galette (Slab Pie)
slightly adapted from The Family Kitchen

  • 1.5 cups each fresh strawberries and raspberries (total 3 cups)
  • 1 prepared round of pie dough
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup sparkling sugar

    Place the round of pie dough on a parchment lined baking sheet. Wash and dry the berries, then place them in a heap right in the center of your pie dough. Carefully fold the edges of the pie dough around the berries, pinching it together to keep the edges in place. Melt the butter and drizzle half of it over the berries. Whisk the egg white into the remaining bit of butter. With a basting brush, spread the butter/egg mixture all over the edges of the pie crust, then sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Bake in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve piping hot with giant scoops of vanilla ice cream.

    See, I told you it was simple.


    1. I used fresh strawberries and raspberries but any combination of fresh berries will work. (Oooh, just think of the lovely color combinations!) Use one kind or three, just make sure to keep the quantity at 3 cups.
    2. Buy a good quality pre-made crust. This is important.
    3. If you have cracks in your unrolled pie crust use a dab of water and your fingers to pinch the cracks together. You want a completely crack-free dough, otherwise your fruit will ooze out while baking.
    4. I divided the butter and let one half cool a bit while I drizzled the other half on the fruit. I wanted it to cool a bit before adding whisking w the egg white (curdling is bad.)
    5. I didn't use the entire 1/4 c sparkling sugar. I just covered the crust completely and discarded the rest. *This step is very important though so don't skip it, otherwise your galette will be tart as there's no other sugar in this recipe at all.*
    6. I used a pizza cutter to cut and serve my galette as I would a pizza. It worked great. (see above photo)
    7. You must, and I repeat MUST, serve this with ice cream (vanilla is my fave.) It takes this dessert from great to AMAZING. Don't skip it.
    8. Anyone else like the word "galette" as much as I do? It sounds so impressive and French. I mean you ARE a baking rock-star. No one but us needs to know that fancy can be easy too.

    Thanks so much Erin! Anyone else as ready for summer as I am now?

    Yes! Summer, I am ready for you! Eight weeks from today is the last day with students. Not that I’m counting, or anything. ;)

    What’s your favorite summer-y dessert? I’ve always been a shortcake–with-peaches-or-berries-or-even-both girl, so Faith’s dessert is right up my alley. :)

  • 4.16.2012

    Guess where we were!

    Want to know where we were last week?

    I’ll give you a hint:




    I’ll be back later this week with more pictures and details of our first-ever cruise. In the meantime, we have to unpack and readjust to the fact that dinner will no longer consist of lobster and chilled strawberry bisque and the occasional frog leg.




    Hope everyone’s week is off to a great start! :)

    Want to read more?

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