Thursday, May 30, 2013

Alaska Cruise

We're getting on a cruise ship tomorrow with my parents to go to Alaska!  I've never been to Alaska so this is too exciting!!

I'm trying not to think about the recent fire on Grandeur of the Seas or the volcanoes spewing ash in far southwest Alaska.  If I die at sea....well, there are worse ways to go.  Ha!

More than anything, I'm worried about spending a week on a ship with my dad.  Last time, Mr. Higgins' parents were along for the cruise, as well as my parents.  This time, it's just my parents.  Oy.  My mom is a saint to live every day with my dad....  But I'm no saint.  

Let's hope he doesn't bring up wanting grandchildren.  And let's pray my patience is a lot better than it usually is!

Wish me luck!  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bran Muffins: The Search Continues

On Royal Caribbean cruise ships, we love the buffet, especially the pastries and desserts.  Every morning they have delicious muffins, including bran muffins.  I never thought I would like bran muffins but at Mr. Higgins' urging, I gave them a try.  Delicious!!!  

And so I wanted to make my own bran muffins.  So many recipes call for pure bran cereal....and that's not my favorite stuff.  It makes mediocre muffins but nothing great.  I finally stumbled upon a recipe that used real wheat bran and was low in calories (around 110).  Of course, it took some looking to find wheat bran; I finally happened upon it at Kroger, which is quickly becoming my favorite stop for "fancy" foods.  

On Tuesday, I whipped up these muffins.  They're.....okay.  Definitely not anything great.  I ate three over the course of several days and then couldn't stomach anymore.  

And so my search for a yummy bran muffin continues!

Friday, May 24, 2013


For the past two years, I've had a bit of a moratorium on clothes shoppingMr. Higgins and I were saving for our first home together, I was helping with our wedding, we were trying to fill the house with furniture....  Other things, clearly, took precedence.  

So rigid was I in my shopping ban that I frequently frustrated my mother when we would "shop" together.  I would pick something out, only to hang it up again.  

Well, she got a surprise on Saturday.  I'd lifted my ban.  I was in desperate need of clothes - capris, work clothes, grown-up clothes!  I always feel like my everyday clothes are too young  - i.e. something a college student would wear.  I would really like to feel like I'm dressing my age - i.e. more mature....sophisticated.  

I met my mom on Saturday at some new outlet stores nearby.  Oh, boy.  I went a little crazy.  I bought three dresses.  This, for me, is going crazy.  I had ordered some things online prior to this shopping excursion so I felt like a clothes glutton.  But it was great

Finally, I have some cute clothes!  Clothes that don't make me feel sloppy or bad about myself!  It's amazing what a few contribution to one's wardrobe can do! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Ever since I went on Weight Watchers nearly seven years ago, I've tried to eat healthy.  When I stopped counting points, I still tried to eat healthy.  Now, instead of points, I count calories with the Lose It!  app

Though I've always been an omnivore, I'm eating less meat than ever these days.  I never enjoyed handling raw meat, especially beef, and with all the salmonella and pink slime headlines, it's easy to avoid meat in the grocery store.  And it saves a lot of money.  

Along with eating less meat, I'm also trying to avoid processed foods.  I'm trying to shop around the perimeter of the grocery store.  It's not always possible but I'm happy when I spend less time in the center of the store.  

Recently, I was trying to find a use for a bag of baby spinach in the fridge.  I had strawberries...and since I love spinach-strawberry salads, I threw this one together and thought I'd share it with you.  It's super easy!

Strawberry Spinach Salad a là Picky Doniamarie

1 1/2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sliced pineapple (I used canned (rinsed) as it was what I had on hand)
1/2 oz. roasted pecans
2 t light raspberry dressing (I used Kraft's)

I took this to lunch along with a piece of cheese and it was delicious and refreshing on a hot summer day!  And talk about healthy....without the cheese, it's only 200 calories!   

This salad will tide me over until I can get back to Panera this summer.  Have you had their Strawberry Poppyseed Chicken Salad?  Oh, goodness, it's the most delicious thing in the world!  Try it!  Love it!    

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Mr. Higgins bought a new camera with a fancy zoom - well, maybe not so fancy but fancier than any camera zoom we have.  He's enjoyed finding things to take pictures of that require the zoom...including the cats when they're stationary for long enough. 

Dooku is always photogenic and proved to be a good subject.  

The new camera will come in especially handy on our Alaska cruise in two (!!!) weeks.  I'm getting really excited and slightly nervous about that trip.  Eek!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

GOT Season 3

Are you watching HBO's "Game of Thrones"?  

It really is amazing to me that HBO is capable of producing such amazing TV.  The books transfixed me; the show blows me away each week.  How do they do it?!  How do they write such great episodes?  

For people who haven't read the book, I'm sure it's a confusing show. There are so many characters, so many families, and lots of places to keep straight. Somehow, though, the writers keep it all wrapped up in a tidy package - if you pay close attention each week.  And I love hearing the reactions of viewers - the surprise, the awe, the disappointments....

George R. R. Martin has written five books in A Song of Fire and Ice, with two more books planned.  We have to hope he gets these two books written, that the series is finally finished.  In case he should die, the writers of the HBO series were told what Martin planned for the last two books.  The TV series is currently dealing with material from the third book.  So, Martin needs to write - quickly!  

If you're not watching the show, I highly recommend it.  Actually, I would say to watch the first season and then read the books.  There are so many characters that it's good to see the show first to be able to keep them all straight.  And remember - HBO has to have lots of gore an sex.  This is HBO - not Martin.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Winter Palace

I've just finished a fantastic book: The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak.  Once again, I've fallen in love with historical fiction.

My short and sweet review on Goodreads is this: 

I've always been fascinated by Russian history, ever since my first class on the subject during my undergrad years. Catherine the Great was always an interesting figure, in my mind, and so I did not hesitate to buy this book.

The story is told from the point of view of Barbara, a Polish girl in the Russian court. Barbara - Varvara in Russian - soon becomes a skilled spy and from her we learn all kinds of juicy tidbits about life as a Russian courtier.

Catherine's story is an amazing one and I hope Stachniak continues her story. This is very good historical fiction!

If you're wanting to add a Russian novel into your reading mix, I highly recommend this one!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May Page

I still can't believe it's now May!!  To welcome in the new month, I give you my May page.  This is the first time I've not used Graphic 45's monthly line; the colors they used just did not work for me.  So, I pieced together some My Mind's Eye papers and like the result.  

I love purple!  Even though I see it all the time at work - or maybe because I see it all the time, it's now my favorite color, I think.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Clark Gardens Revisited

While my in-laws were in town, we took them to Clark Gardens.  I had been there recently with my mom....but, this time, everything was in glorious bloom!

The lily pads were so pretty!!  The waterfall was so serene.  And all the trees, vines, and plants were brilliantly green!

Clark Gardens is quite big and we saw more of it this time around than on my first visit.  We all adored the picturesque lakes and bridges.

And pansies!  They won't be around much longer but thanks to a cool spring, they're still gorgeous!

Have I ever mentioned how much I love pergolas? 

And the best part: fields of bluebonnets and poppies.  I was in awe!  

We even learned something new: bluebonnets are not always blue....they can also be pink or white.  Who knew?  Anyone who has been to Texas in April or May knows how much we Texans love our state flower.  And for good reason - it's so unique.  

If you haven't been to Clark Gardens, I suggest you hurry on over there while the bluebonnets are still blooming!  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Two Years

Two years ago today, I married my soul mate.  

Looking back on that amazing weekend on Jekyll Island, Georgia, it seems like a dream.  I remember snapshots from the day, family and friends....  It was one of the happiest weekends of my life.

But what came after it was even better.  Two years of traveling and building a life with my best friend.  We've made so many memories together that I'm already forgetting some of the things we've seen and done!  (Thank goodness for Project Life, let me tell you!)  We've been extremely blessed in many ways and I thank God everyday for the gift of this man in my life. 

And there's so much more we want to see and do together.  Our adventures will never cease, I think.  Marriage itself is an adventure full of hurdles and pressures but always filled with fun.  

To those of you who were there two years ago, know that I'm thinking of you fondly today.  Thank you for making that weekend one of the best of my life.