Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year

Lots of people in the blog world are doing year-end recaps. But, I'm not going to do that. I can't possibly remember everything that happened over the last year. Like everyone else, I went on vacations, I had some really awesome shit happen to me, I had some really bad shit happen to me and I gained great insight about the direction of my life. Or something like that.

2012 resolutions are going to be to: eat more fruit, take more pictures, get photos hung on my walls, cook from my cookbooks more and destress my life in a major way. Will I fail, will I succeed? Who knows and who really cares after February?

I wish you all the best in the upcoming year! Yay for 2012! I think it's going to be a good one.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Meal...Ever

I really loathe the term foodie. I don't even get what it means. I once was at a restaurant with someone that I didn't know very well who told me point blank that she was a "foodie" and so was her husband. Then she ordered a hamburger at a seafood restaurant. Dumbo.

Anyhow, I enjoy going to really nice restaurants as a treat every now and again. Some of my local favorites are: Forepaugh's (best bread), Heartland and of course Luci Ancora. Some of my most favorite meals, however, have been out of towners. Off the top of my head I'm thinking of this place I went in Beaver Creek, CO that I think was called The Golden Goose, this seafood platter that my mom and I had in Ireland at a little restaurant called The Point, another seafood lunch at a restaurant in Lahaina, Maui, HI with my mom and at Boma in Disneyworld. I also enjoyed every single restaurant that I visited in Charleston, SC with Michael. I'm sure I'm leaving some off the list, but you get the idea. Bitch likes to eat.

When Michael and I decided to go to Vegas for a few days this fall, I told him that I really wanted to go to Bobby Flay's Mesa Restaurant at Caesar's Palace. I have always wanted to try his food and we would be so close. Michael agreed that we should probably add it to our list of things to-do! Yay!

I loved the ambiance of Mesa, although we really had to search for it in Caesar's Palace which is the most jumbled casino of them all! We originally weren't going to order an appetizer, but hey, when in Rome...So, we got the Tiger Shrimp and Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale.

I had never had a tamale before. Let me say right now that people need to be eating tamales more often. I think tamale eating could cause world peace. The shrimp weren't bad either. I scraped every last bit of the tamale filling out of it's little corn husk and had no shame in looking like a complete pig while doing it. Oink, oink I shouted!

Now for the food, Mike had the Sixteen Spice Chicken (at least I think that's what he had, it's the picture above). It was divine. The flavor on everything was amazing. Bobby really knows his shit. As I recall, the meat was also very tender which is another plus because there's nothing worse than dry chicken. I had the Ancho Chile Glazed Salmon pictured below. It was so wonderful. There's something about the sauces that were on each of the plates that really made the dish.

Because the server twisted our arms, we also ordered sides. This corn dish (I can't remember what it's called, but it's corn, cheese and cilantro) and mashed potatoes. If all we ordered for dinner was this dish of corn, I would have been happy. I would have swam in that little dish of heaven. The mashed potatoes were also wonderful, but let's be real, it's hard to eff up mashed potatoes, right?

And that was it. We were too stuffed for dessert. I absolutely loved Mesa Grill. Everything we had was divine, although I think the best was the appetizer and side dishes. The one downside was the prices. I mean, I know fancy restaurants are expensive, but Mesa was a little excessive for this midwesterner's tastes. We didn't even order drinks. So, even though the price wasn't super appealing, I'd still go there once just to say you've eaten Bobby Flay's delicious food.

If I were an Iron Chef judge I'd let him win every time!

Friday, December 23, 2011


Alright, let's finish this series out, shall we. Mockingjay is the last book in The Hunger Games series. The first of the movies is set to come out in March of this upcoming year. So, let's get to brass tacks. Mockingjay is intense and kind of confusing. Definitely the most poorly written and conceived of the three books. But, that so often happens, doesn't it?

Our heroine Katniss is now somewhat safe in the rebel District 13. But, she's finding that the rebel district isn't offering up nearly the type of freedom that she thought it would be. It's a no-fun zone filled with strict rules, curfews and lots of classes. Katniss is all "This sucks", but she's got bigger fish to fry in the form of rescuing that cute buttercup Peeta.

Peeta, however, has been brainwashed into hating Katniss and the rescue isn't exactly what Katniss had intended. And now they are in the Capitol, under full assault, so Peeta's problems take a back seat.

They quickly realize that the Capitol's President Snow means business. Creepy, disturbing business. And people die. I'm warning you now that people you don't want to die will die and it will be sad. Sad to a point where you need to put down the book and have yourself a good cry about how terrible the future world is. But, then pick that book right back up because there's no crying in baseball and futuristic war stories.

Okay, back to the Capitol. Katniss finds President Snow, but then she realizes that he isn't the ultimate enemy and that District 13's President Coin is actually worse. So, she serves up some justice Katniss style and then life is perfect for basically everyone but her and Peeta. Their lives will forever be haunted by The Hunger Games.

And that's the ending. This series is short, dramatic and sweet. Although, I'm not going to lie, there's a lot of plot twists in the end that were not fully fleshed out and got super contrived and confusing. So, in hindsight it's like "Is this the best you got?"

I'm still giving it high stars because I couldn't put it down. 4/5 or 8/10 stars.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advice From an Old Bat

When I first started in the working world, I remember being totally unprepared for the fact that my Christmas break was shortened from three weeks to one day. Since I was the newbie in the office, I had to work on Christmas Eve day which seemed sacreligious to me since Christmas Eve was my more favorite of the two days. I worked a full day, went straight to my mom's house where relatives were already gathering and had to jump from my working girl grumpiness to a festive holiday mood in eight seconds flat. It sucked. Then I had the next day off, but it was so busy that it didn't really feel like a vacation day. Then the following day, the 26th of December, I had to jump out of bed and go back to work. All of my Christmas joy was shattered.

Since that time I have realized how precious Christmas break truly is. It's 2-3 weeks of doing absolutely nothing. You can go to a movie at 11:00 A.M. You can go to the mall anytime you feel like it. You can spend several hours at lunch with friends. You can stay up late curled up in an armchair reading Pride and Prejudice and sipping hot chocolate. You can spend an entire day in your pajamas playing with your new toys.

Kids (and college students) don't realize how lucky they have it. Christmas break is the most awesomest thing in the entire world. If you have it, use it wisely.

P.S. Is it too late to become a teacher?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa Was Here

This Saturday, I spent the afternoon wrapping gifts. I am a terrible gift wrapper, so it takes me a long time to get everything all wrapped up. Part of the problem is my anal retentiveness. All packages have to be wrapped in only red, white and green.

I'm really particular about wrapping paper. This year I couldn't find exactly what I wanted, so I had to settle for what I could find. I'm not sure it all meshes together as cohesively as in year's past.

When I had them all stacked up, I couldn't even see the Christmas tree over the top of the stack. I wanted to lay them out to get a better picture.

Voila! Here they all are. The photos turned out a little bit dark. I've been experimenting with camera settings and obviously this was a fail. But, you get the idea. Can't wait for everyone to open up their gifts and see what they got! I had some really good gift ideas this year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tis the Season

Some may remember that one of my majors in college was Marketing. I think my specialty was retailing. I wouldn't be a great face-to-face salesperson due to my extreme awkwardness, but I'm really good at the more subtle types of marketing. Things like product placement and atmospheric marketing. Those things I'm really good at.

In college and law school, I worked for a small retail store and I liked to do their window displays. I'm not sure anyone else really loved for me to do them, though. I kind of obsessed over them. I'd create a theme like "Limes and Lace" where everything had to be lime green or white lace. It was probably super obnoxious, but I got a lot of sales with those window displays. More than once someone called the store and said "I was just driving by your store and I'd like you to put the outfit in the window on the right on hold for me." Now, that's good marketing.

Anyhow, a good friend of mine snapped the above pic of a recent holiday window display. What the duck were these people thinking? Nothing says holiday spirit like two well-dressed and polished mannequins holding a large red phallic object right at their crotches. I'm not sure that this imaging will help with their sales either. Then again, sex sells.

The lesson here is that when creating a window display, sometimes it's a good idea to take a step back and actually look at what we've created. And if it's what's seen above, maybe find a different spot for that random red oblong package.

Photo credit: My friend Christina.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Am a Crafty Bitch

Recently, my friend Grace and I got a bug up our rears to do some crafting. We decided on Christmas wreaths. There were many decisions before us, do we use jingle bells, candies, natural things, large balls. Based on pinterest, the possibilities seemed endless. We decided on pine cones and I spent a few days in a local park picking pine cones, which I'm not really sure is legal. But, I did it anyways.

Our method was to get Styrofoam wreath outlines, wrap them in ribbon and then hot glue pine cones to them. Easy enough. All of the supplies came from Michael's. As you can see, we snacked on Triscuits, hummus and cheese.

This is my wreath in production. I used some of the larger pine cones mixed with smaller ones. Grace focused on the smaller cones. I ran out of ribbon, so there is a large portion of my wreath that isn't covered, so don't look too closely at it if you see it in person.

Here is Grace's in the midst of completion. It's coming along very nicely. The pine cones were pretty easy to glue on with the hot glue gun.

This is Grace's finished product. We added a wide red velvet ribbon to attach it to the door and then a red sparkly bird. The bird was an impulse buy at Michael's, but I think it adds a little more pizazz to the wreaths.

And here is my completed product. I got one of the sparkly birds in green and glued it to the bottom.

I love how the wreaths turned out and they were so easy. They were not as cheap as I thought they'd be, but the big expense was the glue sticks and I won't have to get new ones for the next time I make a wreath. We also bought some large pine cones that we ended up not using because they were too big and bulky.

Next up for my crafting adventures will be a Valentine's Day wreath. Anyone have good suggestions for materials?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bulk Buying

Recently, I bought a membership to Sam's Club. Is Sam's Club a universal thing? It's basically a big warehouse of food and other household necessities that only come in bulk sizes. The theory is that this saves you money. They also seem to be ALWAYS giving out food samples, so you can go there for lunch.

I have found that I am saving a lot of money in one key place of my life. Fake butter. The only thing that I use fake butter for is toast and sandwiches. I never cook with it. Don't ever cook with fake butter. The same goes for Miracle Whip and low fat cheeses. Don't ever try to melt these things or you will vomit. I actually have a really funny story about how in college I didn't know that Miracle Whip was not in fact actual mayonnaise, so I made my mom's artichoke dip recipe with Miracle Whip and stuck it in the oven to bake. All of these globules of Miracle Whip floated to the bottom and this oily layer floated to the top. Somewhere in the middle of all of this was cheese and artichokes.

Anyhow, even though I only use fake butter on toast and sandwiches, I seem to go through a lot of it. Enter the five pound tub of Country Crock that I found at Sam's Club. That's a lot of fake butter! A regular tub is one and a half pounds (or something like that). When I saw this 5-pound tub at Sam's Club, I told Mike that we needed fake butter because we were almost out. We went back and forth about whether people would make fun of us if they ever saw the 5- pound tub in our refrigerator and figured that very few people look in there, so we might as well go for it.

It was only $5.99. I wasn't sure if I was getting a good deal or not because I didn't know how much a regular tub of fake butter cost. When we left Sam's, we went over to Byerly's to buy our fruits and vegetables and I checked on the 1.5-pound fake butter tubs. $3.49! I then gave myself a special hug to commend my money saving techniques.

Now, if anyone wants to come over I can make you some sandwiches and you don't have to worry that you are breaking my budget by asking for extra fake butter.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Maharajah Jungle Trek

Animal Kingdom really is all about the animals. But, sometimes, in between all of the rides and multiple visits to Flame Tree BBQ, you realize that you haven't seen many of those darn animals. Maharajah Jungle Trek gives you a good chance to see creatures up close and personal. It's kind of hidden, though, so don't forget to seek it out. You won't be disappointed!

One of the first animals you will see is this komodo dragon. At least, that's what I think this is. Let's just pretend that I am right. Look at him creep and crawl. Okay...moving on...

At some point you will stumble upon the tiger's den! This is my absolute favorite. The tiger is not like the lion where it's lazy and sleeps all day. The tiger's are often out walking around and doing crazy things like drinking water and looking terrifying! Honestly, though, look at how close you get to see the tiger! I could stand there for days just watching him.

The tiger is probably the best part of the whole Maharajah Jungle Trek. I will warn you that there is a BAT HOUSE! And I believe there is also another REPTILE HOUSE. I do not look at these things and instead just run through them screaming!

I really enjoy the Maharajah Jungle Trek. I don't know what Disney zoologist's secret is to keeping the animals in their little areas, but they do a great job. You are usually guaranteed to get a really great viewing of all of the animals. I'm sure that the optimal times to go, though, are during the animal's feeding times, but that's also the most busy. I also think that the jungle trek is good because you can do it at your own pace. You could spend 15 minutes or 2 hours. There are very few things in Disney that are up to the guest, so take advantage of this one!

I will give this one a 3/5 or 6/10 stars. I feel like it's kind of hard to find and could be advertised more. Sometimes you also have to deal with those annoying bastards (i.e. little children) who won't move their pudgy faces from the glass so that the adults can get a good look at the animals.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Catching Fire

The last time I talked about The Hunger Games series, I talked about how I was worried that the movies would be crap. Well in between then and now, a trailer has come out. And peeps, that trailer was awesome. So, I'm going to hope for somewhere in the middle of crap and awesomeness.

I don't want to give up too much about this book mostly because my mother is currently in the middle of reading the book and will be upset if I spoil details. So, I thought about doing a review OUT OF ORDER, but then the OCD part of my brain that says I can do nothing out of a very rigid order would not allow me to do it. I seriously think that to do something out of order would cause my head to explode. I figured that my mom would prefer to be spoiled than to have my head explode. But, I will be careful.

We return to the story with Katniss and Peeta winning The Hunger Games. There aren't actually supposed to be two victors and the evil government is hella pissed that there are. The country, however, is excited! So, the evil President is running a tight line of punishing Katniss and congratulating her. There's a lot of tension.

This evil President is no dummy and he creates a nefarious plan that puts Katniss back into the danger that we love so much. Katniss is a pretty badass government rebel and she puts the evil government and President in its place. The book is tense and gripping up until an explosive ending that basically leaves you hanging until the third book in the series.

I loved Catching Fire, but didn't love how the ending made the immediate continuation of the third book vitally necessary. You see that a lot in series books. The Two Towers, Eclipse, etc. The middle books give no satisfaction besides advancing the plot towards the heroic ending of the series. It's a necessary evil.

So, I rated the book mediocre. 3/5 or 7/10 stars. I cannot wait for these movies.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Magic

How insanely awesome does my mom's Christmas tree look this year. Well, she has me to thank. I am kind of a genius at lighting Christmas trees. My secret is that I wrap each branch individually with lights. The tree above has 750 lights on it. My mom says it hurts her eyes. But it looks amazing. I've been experimenting with my camera a lot and this was the best shot that I got. I love the way the lights glow. I'm going to have to go back at night and see if I can intensify this effect.

Christmas is officially here. Every year it sneaks up on me, but this year I'm hoping to be ready for it. I've got my own tree up, half of my gifts purchased with the other half already decided upon and my Christmas card list made. Plus I am stressed out! The holidays are here!

Here's a list of my most favorite holiday traditions:

Looking at Christmas Lights. I love driving around to see how people have decorated their houses. The area that I live in always has lots of decorated houses. This year the weather was really nice the weekend after Thanksgiving, so I'm expecting there to be more lights outside than usual. Yay!

Baking. My mom and I go nuts with baking cookies. I'm pretty sure that if you dug in her freezer you'd find some cookies from Christmas 2010, Christmas 2009 and probably a couple of stragglers from Christmas 2008. We are currently nailing down our cookie list for this year.

Christmas Movies. So far, the only Christmas movie that I've watched is Grumpy Old Men. I'm hoping to get in Christmas Vacation, Home Alone & Home Alone 2, The Santa Clause, The Grinch, Elf, Charlie Brown, Rudolph and Frosty. I love sitting down with wine, popcorn, candles and a good Christmas flick.

Wrapping Gifts and Writing Cards. Nothing gives me quite so much joy as writing Christmas cards. I have always loved it. And I love displaying cards that I get, although this year I'm looking for a new method of displaying them. Any suggestions? I also love wrapping gifts and having a tree full of gifts underneath.

I am excited to celebrate this holiday season with my wonderful family and friends!

Quote of the Day

Coworker: What's going on with you and Julia? Ed. note: Julia is another coworker, but I changed her name to protect her identity.
Me: Well, we are in a cold war right now over the Tuesday afternoon calendar.
Coworker: Yikes. I'd keep that war cold. She's much larger than you.