Monday, January 31, 2011

Oh hey. Winter professionalism.

How freaking difficult is it to dress professionally for work in the bitter cold of January?

Seriously, I live in South Carolina and I'm still finding it practically impossible. And no, it doesn't help that work is super stressful right now. I work in finance, cash flow is crap because no one is paying us on time, and on top of that I'm dealing with putting together all of the new budgets for 2011.

But hey, I really do like my job. I do. I just wish I was sure of its security at the moment.

Anyway. Here's me trying to be professional, or something.
Turtleneck Sweater: From Target, and I wish you could see the color because it's a nice deep teal! That's what I get for not using my camera flash.
Pants: Cream slacks from Express that are at least one size too big :-/
Black Boots: Candie's, from Kohl's

And now I go back to trying to learn Dreamweaver and HTML, because I'm trying to build a website. Which at the moment looks like crap and I don't know if I'll ever be able to figure this stuff out. In case you can't tell, it's not going well :o( I had a Geocities website in college and that thing was easier to build AND looked better than this thing I'm building in super expensive software. Boo.
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Thing #18: A Passionate Time

Day 18: A time when you felt passionate and alive.
Halloween 2008 - We are super duper disgustingly in love.
I think I've been extremely lucky in my life to have had some amazingly passionate periods. One of the first that comes to mind is when Steve and I first started dating in late 2008, mainly because for the first time since high school I threw myself heart and soul into a relationship, into falling in love. That is probably the most recent time period when I felt passionate and alive.
Cast of the 2004 Longwood University Vagina Monologues
However, I think it goes without saying that when you're falling in love with a person--and letting yourself do so--that you will feel passionate and alive, so I feel the need to point out another time, maybe a more meaningful period--that being the spring of 2004. It was my last full semester in college and I had devoted my entire being to directing my school's production of The Vagina Monologues. My friend was the organizer of the V-Day Campaign that went hand in hand with this production, and I was surrounded by other women who also threw themselves heart and soul into this cause, that being educating people and working to stop violence against women and girls.

To be honest, I often think about getting myself involved in this cause again. It's a deep-seated issue with me, having dealt with sexual/marital violence in one form or another for nearly my entire adult life. And I miss feeling like I was making a difference. I feel passionate and alive now--I have so many amazing things happening in my life--but I would love to get back to a point where I feel as if I'm doing good not just for myself, but for others as well.
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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thing #17: Art

Day 17: An art piece.
Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window by Johannes Vermeer
I have been a big Vermeer fan for a while now. When I went to Amsterdam I insisted that we skip the Van Gogh museum and check out the Vermeer collection at the Rijksmuseum instead (we weren't really there long enough to do both plus everything else). Back in 2005 I was in NYC and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and spent about fifteen minutes studying one Vermeer painting. I'm weird like that.
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thing #16: A[nother] Song

Day 16: A song that makes you cry.
Two come to mind, but I think this is the one that still really gets me, even over 5 years after it was released:
I think it's pretty self-explanatory how this video could make someone cry ;)
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Thing #15: A Person

Day 15: A person you admire.
 My mother.
This is sadly not a very good picture of either of us. Boo.
I not only admire my mother, but she is my hero. She was a stay-at-home mom who raised three daughters while my father left for work at 6:30 or 7 AM and didn't come home until 6 at night. He also had to travel frequently for his job. And she also got on her hands and knees and cleaned other people's houses and doctor's offices when things were tight...all to make sure that we had proper food on the table and a roof over our heads.

(Now, I'm not saying that my dad didn't work hard to provide for us. He did, as is obvious by the hours he worked. But I'm a momma's girl, what can I say, and all my dad did was work--she did, literally, everything else.)

Anyway, my mother cooked hearty meals for us pretty much every night. We couldn't afford to eat out for basically my entire childhood, but there was always roast with veggies, chicken pot pie, shepherd's pie, etc. on our table. Always a meat with at least two sides. Now that I cook--albeit only for two people--I know how much work went into these meals. And they were always delicious, because my mom is an amazing cook.

Beyond the cooking, our house was always immaculate. We had dogs and cats growing up, and there were five of us, but the floors and counters were never dirty. The furniture was never dusty. Again, I've been keeping my own house for years and no matter how hard I try it is never as clean as my mom's house is or was.
As we got older, my mom went back to work and built her own business from the ground up. Of course she had the help of others, including (eventually) my father, but I know for a fact that their business never would have succeeded without her. She's extremely intelligent (in fact she was top of her class in high school) and a whiz with accounting. So after all she did for us as a mother, she ended up being a huge monetary provider as well, starting about the time I became a teenager.

I don't know how my mother did all that she did or does all that she does, but on top of everything she was also there to rub our backs when we didn't feel well, to hold us when we cried over lost love, to advise us when she felt that a friend was a bad influence. My mother is beautiful and kind and wise and no matter how much I aspire to be like her, I never will be. She's not perfect, but she is far beyond anything I could ever hope to be. But still I will strive, because of how much I admire her.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Color Career Test

I found this on AOL's main page. Yes, I still have an old AOL email address. It's free now, so chill out. ;o)

Anyway, it's called the Color Career Test and although I'm not quite sure about the accuracy, it was quick and fun! I mean, my best category was as an "organizer" and it says I enjoy mathematics, which I don't, but it also says that I'm systematic and good at accounting...which I hope I am, because I run a finance department...haha. My second best category was a "doer", and I definitely see myself as reliable, practical, thrifty and persistent. And no, I'm not bragging, I have plenty of faults--one of the descriptions of the "doer" is "emotionally stable". That, I am not. :op

Check out the link above to take the test yourself, or see my full resorts below!

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Thing #14: A Vacation

Day 14: A vacation you would like to take.
Ummm...I could go on and on in response to this question. In fact, I do, but I do that over in my travel blog. In fact, having to make this post inspired me to start writing up my travel bucket lists over there :)

However, there is one place that has always been on the very top of my list of vacations I'd like to take:
In case you can't tell, that's Israel. Well, Jerusalem to be specific, but I hope you catch the gist.

Basically, I was raised in a very religious home. Although in recent years my leanings have been far more spiritual than religious (honestly, I was raised a Baptist but some of their ideals disgust me), I still have this almost unexplainable desire to visit the Holy City. It's the one travel goal that I can't ever remember not having, the one travel goal that I've been unable to quench or replace.
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wellness Wednesday: Is it possible to lose weight and keep it off?

My friend Marj over at One Mess at a Time has recently started posting "Wellness Wednesdays", and right around the same time Jacin of Lovely Little Details invited the personal trainer that she used for her wedding as a guest blogger. I knew that following Marj on her Wellness Wednesday quest would be fun, and seeing Jacin's before and after helped me realize what I wanted to use as my jumping off point. Because I definitely have a before and after. To wit:
I'm on the left. I wish I had another picture, a full-length front view would be best, but I was [understandably] a bit camera shy at this time. This particular photo is from late January 2007.
(Oh, and as a side note, I'm 5'8" and fairly big-boned. At my absolute smallest--back in high school, when I apparently had a higher metabolism, didn't drink coffee or alcohol, etc. my average weight was probably 140 pounds.)

I weighed about 185 pounds in that picture, the heaviest I've ever been. It was the product of a severe depression caused by the fact that I gave up my dream career to save my relationship, moved to a city I hated and was jobless and miserable for about five months. I don't really eat fast food or anything, but my diet still wasn't the greatest, I didn't exercise at all other than short walks with my dog, and I drank. Heavily. A lot.

On the other hand, here is me about one year later, and hey...I'm wearing the same shirt!
At this point I weighed about what I do now, which is a fluctuation between 160 and 165 pounds. I actually got down to about 150 by the year and a half mark (July 2008):

While I wish I could have kept all of that weight off, it just wasn't feasible. The loss of those last 10-15 pounds between the winter and summer of 2008 was due to the fact that I got so stressed with my desk job that I quit and went to work doing about 35 hours of manual labor each week...on top of my regular workouts. My new job also had weird hours, which led to me eating small, fairly healthy snacks (yogurt, pretzels, small bowls of cold cereal) throughout the day. Needless to say, once I went back to a desk job and wasn't burning as many calories--and was also not doing such a good job on my eating habits--that weight came back.
Me just about a month ago. Like I said, I guess I sit in the 160-165 range nowadays. (A bit lighter in the summer and a bit heavier in the winter, mainly) Love the strapless bra poking out of this you can see from the super skinny photo of me, more often than not my bra is poking out ::rolls eyes:: Oh and that's my best friend Jonathan mocking my pose. Love him.

Still, I think I did a pretty darn good job losing twenty-ish pounds...and at least keeping that off. So in future weeks I'll use Wellness Wednesdays to describe the "slowly but surely, eat & drink [almost] anything you want" weight loss plan that worked for me. And although it took me a year to lose the full twenty-ish pounds, there were a few things that I should have started doing sooner that probably would have helped me drop those pounds within about 6-8 months instead.

I'm no personal trainer. I'm not even sure I qualify as a health nut. What I am is a normal woman with an average-sized body who wants to be healthy and fit without having to completely forsake the pleasures of food and drink :) So hopefully there are others like me out there who will be interested in what I have to say!
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Thing #13: Guilty Pleasure

Day 13: A guilty pleasure.
I have a lot of interests and hobbies. Too many. Reading being one of them, but despite my varied interests I can't stand books like Twilight (rant on that to come later). However, there is a series that I love and I hate to say it...I feel guilty for loving it. The writing isn't amazing. Some of the books have, well, sex scenes (though not of the grocery store romance novel caliber). I mean, they're historical romance/spy novels.
But I devour them, I can't get enough, and another one was just released and I'm dying to read it. Anyone want to send me a copy?

My guilty pleasure, folks, is the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. There. I've admitted it.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Me likey pizza.

I love me some pizza, so I'm always willing to make my own. I have a few different pizza recipes that are tried and true (and will probably eventually be posted here), but I made a new one tonight so here ya go!

TOC Pizza

(In which the TOC stands for tomatoes, olives, capers!)
1 package Pillsbury or other refrigerated (uncooked!) pizza crust
Olive oil and flour
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
2 medium or large tomatoes, sliced
Loose handful black olives, pitted and quartered
Approximately 6 oz shredded mozzarella or shredded mixed Italian cheese

aaaannnnddd....3 generous tablespoons tomato sauce (I just used canned)!

-Preheat the oven to the temperature called for on the crust packaging. Lightly oil and flour a medium sized baking sheet and press the pizza dough to fit.
-Spread the tomato sauce on the pizza dough and sprinkle about 1/3 of the shredded cheese over the sauce. 
-Lay the tomato slices over the cheese and scatter the olives and capers over them, then top with the remaining shredded cheese.
-Cook according to the pizza crust package directions! (I used the Pillsbury *original* pizza crust and cooked it at 425 for about 18 minutes and it was perfect)

I was honestly a bit concerned about the flavor considering it doesn't call for any spices, but the capers and olives gave it the flavor it needed so yeah...yum!

Anyone else out there pizza obsessed? It's almost bad, with me. I'm seriously picky and the only halfway decent pizza place in my town is Mellow Mushroom, which has some very inventive specialty pizzas and uses all organic (or is it all natural? I can't remember, but they brag about something or other along those lines) ingredients...but it still isn't the best pizza I've ever had! Hence the fact that I end up making it at home on a pretty regular basis.
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Thing #12: Wedding Song

Day 12: A song that you want played at your wedding(or was played).
Well, I'll have to go with "was played" ;o)

When Steve and I started planning our wedding, it didn't take too long to decide that we wanted the ceremony to be all Beatles music. And as we had a completely abnormal reception (no dancing...we had a different kind of entertainment), we only had to worry about ceremony music anyway.

We were back and forth about a few songs that we would use, but I knew from the beginning that we had to have "I Will""

I don't know, I just love this song. It's sweet and upbeat (but not too upbeat). So yes, we did use it--as the first part of our recessional. Because as a side note, we had also decided that we just had to Rick Roll our wedding guests. Therefore, "I Will" started playing, we walked halfway back up the aisle to it, then it "scratched out" and switched over to "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley. ;o) What can I say, we're nothing if not total geeks.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Quick outfit post :)

I want to try to post at least one outfit a week...because one of my goals (made long before New Years, and it was just a general goal and not one for 2011) was to be more fashion-conscious. Especially when dressing for work. You see, I work for a small company and I work in the finance department. There are seriously only four other people at my company and I never see customers or clients or anything (obviously). So yeah, I never had a reason to give a crap...and now I'm forcing myself. To give a crap, I mean.
Sweater: Macy's, no idea what brand
Black leggings: yoga leggings from Victoria's Secret
Gold flats: Payless

I love this sweater. I've had it for almost three years now, I think. It's super comfy and I enjoy the it looks good with leggings. And by the way, I know you can't see it but I'm wearing gold flats because the sweater has gold shot through it.

I know this probably isn't the hottest outfit ever, but as sad as it's one of the cuter things I've worn to work. Not just lately, but ever. Heh.

And since this blog isn't just about clothes and fashion, here's a current favorite snack of mine: 
 Pita bites, Drunken Goat cheese (a hard, somewhat lighter-flavored goat cheese) and hummus. Although the Athenos pictured above wasn't that great...not sure if it was the brand or the roasted pepper flavor, but I think I prefer original hummus or hummus with tomatoes in it. (Oh, and excuse all of my paperwork under the plate...I think that may be my passport stuff now that I'm finally changing the name on the darn thing.)
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Thing #11: A Recent Photo

Day 11: A photo of you taken recently.
New Year's Eve...the most recent picture of me and only me. I am unsure about the name of the bar that we went to ;o)

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Review: The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson

Books read in 2011: 3

Although much of this book is outright fabricated (which the author admits quite graciously), I thoroughly enjoyed it. Do I think it's a work of art? No. But it was refreshing to read a different take on the story of Marie Antoinette. The diary style that it is written in make it a quick read; my one complaint about that are the many large chunks of time that pass between "entries". These time periods are glossed over with comments about Marie Antoinette being fearful that her diary will be read, but I feel that there could and should have been a better solution to those periods of time that were skipped. I do think, however, that character development is a plus for this novel--Erickson does a good job with not casting these people who actually existed in black and white. For example, you see Antoinette's stubborn side, some of her waste, and her sometimes rude thoughts about her husband; while at the same time seeing her presented as a mother who loves her children, a wife who is a caring friend to a husband who was thrust upon her, and a woman who was trying (though maybe not hard enough) to do what she could for the poor and starving peasants of France.

If you like historical fiction (as I do) and especially if you want to read a somewhat fictional take on the story of the tragically interesting Marie Antoinette, I definitely suggest picking this up. Still, as books go it rates a mere 3/5 stars, mainly because of those missing time periods, some pretty big fictional stretches, and writing that was at times stilted. Pin It

Things 9 & 10: Photos

I missed yesterday as we went out of town for the night, but days 9 and 10 are similar and short anyway, so here you go!

Day 9: A photo you took.
View from our hotel room on my most recent Vegas trip. One of my favorite places! Plus I like the way the clouds look in this shot.
Day 10: A photo of you taken over ten years ago.
I chose this one because it's one of the oldest pictures I have up online...and I love me some Disney!
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Thing #8: A Thank You Letter

Day 8: A thank you letter to someone who has changed your life.

At the risk of being cliche, this one absolutely has to go to Steve.

Myrtle Beach, August 2005. Gross jello shooter take #1.
If someone had told me way back on October 31, 1998 that I would be meeting my soul mate that evening, I would have been really freaking confused. Partly because I was 15 and partly because I was scheduled to hang out with a guy I liked that night...but obviously I had already met him. And if someone had clarified later, after I'd been introduced to you, that you were in fact my soul mate...I can't imagine that I would have thought anything other than "You've got to be kidding me."

Myrtle Beach, August 2008. Gross jello shooter take #2.
Fast forward nearly seven years, to 2005, and the only thing I can say about that time period is that I should have allowed myself to fall in love with you right then. I should have thrown my inhibitions to the wind, and I should have told you, the moment I realized you were more than a friend, how I felt. I did nothing of the sort. I teased and played games and in the end I took the "safe" course. The one that didn't involve you.

We're officially a couple! (9/20/2008)
I don't know what possessed you to give me a chance--a second chance--in 2008. That's my first thank you. That after nearly three years of no contact at all, you laughed in the face of caution and spent hours on the phone with me over the course of a single weekend. That you spent your hard-earned money on a rental car and a hotel room and drove something like 15 hours to see me. That when you went home after just a couple of amazing days, you continued to make it very clear that I wasn't just some fling, some girl, and I certainly wasn't just a friend.

Halloween in Disney World - exactly 10 years after we first [officially] met!
You knew that I was broken and you didn't try to fix me, because you didn't have to try. You fixed me just by being you. Because you are honest and intelligent and affectionate and caring and kind and down to Earth and you don't play games. I would be remiss if I didn't thank you for all of that, as well as thank you for not being afraid to be yourself...even when it meant being a total geek around me, or when it meant opening your heart and allowing for a chance to be hurt. I was never anything but honest with you about the awful choices I had made in the past, but you trusted me anyway, when many others probably wouldn't have.

The first theme party we threw together :)
And the thing is, as time has passed these things haven't changed. You haven't changed. Of course our relationship has, of course it has evolved, as relationships are bound to do. But even when there were people out there telling you, either by actions or by words, that you shouldn't be with me, you didn't fall prey to their manipulations. Because although their actions were obvious and their voices were loud, they were just a few among the many who knew that we were right together.

The biggest blow of all, of course, was the inevitable end of my time in Connecticut and the fact that I had to schedule a date to move back to South Carolina...or else give up my job. But instead of trying to convince me to stay, you simply started looking for work in South Carolina. I know that you always wanted to get out of Connecticut, and I know that you wouldn't have moved to Greenville if you'd hated it here when you visited...but what matters is that you didn't think twice about coming with me.
9/20/2009 - Our one year anniversary in Walt Disney World.
You left a job you'd held for years, friends you'd had since elementary, middle, and high school, and your family...all so that we could build a life. Together. That is a volume of sacrifice that too many people out there would never make, no matter who was involved. I of all people know that.

I think you saw our future together so much longer before I did and were more set on it than I ever was. Not because I love you less than you love me, but because only you could know the lengths to which you would go to catch and keep me ;o)
Our geekiness knows no bounds.
You are my hero. You saved me. You are my anti-anxiety drug. Just being in the same room with you causes this wave of calm to wash over me. You are my soul mate. My geeking out over Star Wars, dressing up for theme parties, jamming out on our guitars, giving our pets (all six of them) crazy nicknames, Greenville Drive game frequenting soul mate.

Of course we aren't perfect, our relationship isn't perfect, but I'd rather have imperfection with you than anything else in the world. So thank you, thank you, thank you for being mine. For being you. For being the best man I've ever known.

This is just the beginning :o)

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Art of "Fixing" a Recipe

Last night, I made ratatouille for the first time. I used a recipe in my new cookbook, The Illustrated Quick Cook, courtesy of the in laws (Christmas present) :o) Unfortunately...we weren't that impressed. Which is sad, because I've already made a good half-dozen awesome recipes from this book (and can't recommend it enough!)

Still, tonight when we had the leftovers we made a few changes.
Above are the veggies I used for the ratatouille. Note the two cloves of garlic, the parsley nestled between the zucchini, and on the far right, a giant leaf of Swiss Chard.
If you've never had Swiss Chard (as I hadn't, at least not before last night), here's a hint: it tastes like licorice. And personally, I hate the taste of licorice. I'm not talking Twizzlers, I'm talking true blue black licorice. Yuck.

And the two weeny little garlic cloves? Not nearly enough! Not to mention that the original recipe called for them to be "thinly sliced?" To that I say BOOOOO!

Needless to say, when reheating the ratatouille tonight I picked out as much of that Swiss Chard as I could find and replaced it with a generous handful of spinach. I also added two more cloves of garlic, minced rather than sliced. The parsley was added last when I first made this last night, as a sort of topping, and I personally didn't agree with that flavor mixed with the other flavors, so I left it out entirely. The recipe I'm going to post below reflects my changes, of course.

Also, I added cheese. Because everything is better with cheese. So without further ado...

Cheesy, Chunky Ratatouille!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
pinch of fennel seeds
1 eggplant, cut into chunks
1/2 cup dry red wine
2/3 cup tomato juice
2 small/medium zucchini, cut into chunks
3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
large handful spinach leaves
salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere per person
Basmati rice to eat with the meal

-Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and bay leaf, season with salt and cook for about 5 minutes.
-Add the garlic, oregano, fennel seeds, eggplant and wine. Turn up the heat and let bubble for a minute, then add the tomato juice and lower heat to medium-low/medium and cook for about 10 minutes.
-Next, add the zucchini and chopped tomatoes and cook for about 7 minutes. Stir in the spinach and continue cooking for 10 more minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
-Serve each person a pile of white rice, top with a generous helping of ratatouille and scatter 1/2 cup of shredded Gruyere over it.

Oh, and did I mention how much I love cooking with wine? ;o)

And with my couple little changes, this was an absolutely delicious meal...if I may say so myself. Pin It

Thing #7: Five Things!

Day 7: Five things you couldn't possibly live without.
I actually don't like this question. Or whatever it is.
Because it implies inanimate objects, I think, and even if it doesn''s kind of an absolute. Whereas it would be awful to lose certain inanimate objects, those being: my laptop, my camera, my iPhone, my car, and...we'll say my Kindle...I can't say that it would be the end of my life if I lost any of those.

Same goes for my loved ones. I can't imagine a day on this Earth without my amazing mother, my soul mate Steve, any one of my six pets, my sisters, my niece or nephew, or any of my awesome close friends (of whom there are more than just a few). But life goes on, you know?

Just something to think about in these frivolous times ;)
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Review: Mousetrapped by Catherine Ryan Howard

Books read in 2011: 2

I feel it necessary to start this review with a simple statement: This book should not be called Mousetrapped.

Instead, it should be called "Unprepared Irish Girl Lives in Orlando for a Year and a Half"...or something along those lines. And just as an FYI, this is coming from a woman who worked for Disney in some capacity or another for about five years and lived in Orlando for a combined total of 15 months (and continues to visit at least once a year, many times more than that).

I'll give the author some credit: Nowhere on the front or back cover does it say that this book is supposed to be mainly about Disney and its inner workings. Unfortunately, the title and the fact that "working in Walt Disney World" is the first thing mentioned in the "what this book is about" blurb on the back cover are a bit misleading. Because first of all, although Ms. Howard worked on Disney property, she worked for an operating participant. And not even in a park. To be specific, she worked for the Swan & Dolphin hotels, and working there didn't even get her free access to the Disney theme parks.

Consequently, it shouldn't be surprising that there is very little about Walt Disney World (and in fact, very little about her job) in this memoir. What few things she does write, she tends to get incorrect--for example, she refers to Walt Disney World as the "happiest place on Earth". Constantly. Disneyland is actually touted as "the happiest place on Earth". Disney World is actually deemed "the most magical place on Earth". And yes, it has always been that way. Another example is when she writes about the Jungle Cruise skippers on page 97, claiming that Disney hires amateur comedians (incorrect: anyone who walks into casting off the street and is hired for attractions could end up at the Jungle Cruise). And just to put a nail in the coffin on this one, Ms. Howard writes about the time she rode Thunder Mountain "while a biblical thunderstorm unleashed hell directly above" her. As this is an outdoor ride, it shuts down during thunderstorms. For the safety of the guests. So.

Of course, Ms. Howard sums up her own memoir in one sentence on page 80. "A cursory glance at my life might lead you to believe that I had arrived in Florida recklessly unprepared and thus found myself in an unfavourable situation designed by my own hand." This is, in fact, exactly what happened. Because who in the world moves across the Atlantic ocean without studying what needs to happen once she gets to the US in order for her to actually have the ability to go to work? Who, with four months to prepare, doesn't get on the internet and look for a place to live? Because had the author done either of these things, a good third--or at least a quarter--of this book would have gone unwritten. Because it wouldn't have happened.

On the same topic of mistakes, this book needs a new editor. Just a few times I noticed spelling, grammar, or general mistakes include at the bottom of page 78, where the word "taunt" is used when I'm pretty sure she meant "taut"; pages 186 and 190, when she spells the last name of the astronaut William Oefelein "Oefelien"; and on page 159 when she names the architect of the Swan and Dolphin hotels and actually calls the hotels by their proper names, despite the fact that throughout the rest of the book she refers to them as the Duck and Tuna. I could go on regarding more issues--mainly spelling and grammar--but I think three examples is plenty at the moment.

Beyond these issues, I was under the impression that even if this isn't a book about Walt Disney World or working there, it is a book about Orlando, but instead of describing places like Universal and Sea World in detail (try extremely brief mentions of them, maybe half a page apiece), Ms. Howard spends approximately 35 pages of her 237 page book writing about the Kennedy Space Center/NASA/the Apollo program/shuttle launches, most of which is information that could be found on Wikipedia. Still, imagine my surprise when she tacks on a chapter about one of those lesser-known Orlando attractions--The Holy Land Experience--and instead of just using those pages to write boring descriptions of what goes on there (a la her chapters on Kennedy Space Center), she uses them for her own atheist diatribe.

To make a point, I am not an atheist. I am a Christian. But I have friends who are atheists and whereas our religious/spiritual views obviously differ, I don't appreciate being lumped into a "people of faith" category that (a) supposedly thinks atheists are all horrible people and (b) is apparently "abnormal" per this gem from page 209: "...they all seemed pretty normal. Outwardly, at least.", which was written about the people who were visiting The Holy Land Experience because they believe in it, not because they think they're some sort of undercover journalist. Ms. Howard, being raised a Catholic--in Ireland, no less-and then coming to the States and watching a few Kirk Cameron specials and Bill O'Reilly shows does not make you an expert on Christianity any more than I am an expert on atheism. I'm not one, and I do not think atheists are horrible people nor am I some abnormal freak of nature simply because I choose to believe in God and Jesus Christ and that there may be something better than the ups and downs of living a few years or decades or more on this Earth.

Ms. Howard writes, "When people of faith discover that you're an atheist, they inevitably adopt a tone of two parts incredulity and three parts condescension..." Pot, meet kettle.

The thing is, I probably could have sucked it up and given this book 2 or even 3 stars were it not for the fourteen pages the author spent haranguing not just The Holy Land Experience (which may or may not be authentic at all; I've never been and therefore wouldn't know) but Christianity and all Christians in general. I honestly can't even rate this book because I can't imagine ever condemning a friend of mine--Christians and atheists alike--to reading it.

My suggestion? Before this book goes into much heavier circulation, Ms. Howard should re-write the whole thing. She is interesting and funny at many points. Her story isn't a completely boring one. But she does need to learn a bit of accountability.

And she can leave the 35 pages on space programs and shuttles and the 14 pages on atheism out of it. Maybe replace them with the story of how she and her brother got to travel to the airport in a stretch limo that we were teased with but not told.

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Thing #6: A Moment

Day 6: A moment you wish you could relive.

Okay. I'm going to assume that this means a moment I would like to relive because it was amazing, not a moment I'd like to relive so that I can change any part of it. In which case...I've had some great freaking moments and I have no idea how to choose! Part of me would love to relive the moment I was introduced to Steve for the first time (on October 31, 1998), but I'm afraid that reliving it--and knowing that he was my soul mate--would make me pretty smug and self-satisfied and something would inevitably be changed because of that.

Therefore, I'll choose a just-for-fun moment. The moment the Saints won their first Superbowl and Bourbon Street just...exploded. I mean, I was more happy for the team and the people than anything (I'm a Patriots fan), but was amazing to be there and to witness that moment in New Orleans history. And I was there with three of my favorite people in the world (Steve, my sister Christy and my best friend Jonathan). If I could relive that moment once a year I'd be absolutely ecstatic :)

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thing #5: A Quote

Day 5: A favorite quote.
"I am what I am both as a result of the people who respected me and helped me, and of those who did not respect me and treated me badly."

I have a lot of favorite quotes, and I really had to contemplate for a bit as to which one I would choose for this post. I picked this one because it's a quote I can comfortably write about...because what's the point of doing this meme/challenge if my readers don't really learn anything about me through it, right?

I've certainly had my fair share of friends and family members who hurt me without meaning to do so. I've accepted plenty of apologies and moved on with those relationships, in positive directions. However, I've also been beyond blessed with amazing people who, as this quote states, respected and helped me: my mother, my best friend Jenna, my husband Steve, my "brother" Chad, my amazing man-friends Andy and Jonathan, my former cast members Adrian and Larry and Marty etc., my fellow geek-in-arms Mike, my wonderful confidante Ali, my crazy/beautiful "twin" Becky...and I really could go on. These are the people who have made my life easier, made my life fun, allowed me to be my weird and nutty self and loved me all the more for it. Without people like them in my life, I wouldn't have been able to be myself. I could and maybe would have drowned in the vat of mediocrity that is filled with those people who do nothing but try to conform. No thanks.

On the opposite end of that spectrum are those who, yeah, didn't respect me and to be completely honest treated me like shit. Ex, for one, who made me feel as if I wasn't as good as him because...I don't know, because I was younger. Because I was smart but in his eyes, not smartER. Because I was only a woman, only a wife, and he was Husband and not just a man, but Man of the house. Fake "friends" in my church youth group and in high school who made me feel as if I wasn't cool enough by leaving me out of cliques and activities and whispering behind my back. Sorority sisters who mutinied against me because my sorority wasn't the only or most important thing going on in my life during college. Co-workers and people one rank above me when I was a restaurant manager at Disney, who saw me as just some 23-year-old girl who certainly couldn't or wouldn't take my job seriously. People in Steve's life who for whatever reason came to the conclusion that I wasn't good enough or right for him and did their best to come between us and were in fact probably trying to ruin or end our relationship outright.

Because of these people--all of them--I am who and what I am. I started this blog because for years I kept one on LiveJournal, but it was under lock and key. I'm done being under lock and key.

I am doing my best to not filter this, here, my most personal little spot in the blog world.
I will reclaim me, and damn anyone who feels the need to think they are better or more than all I am.

Because at the risk of sounding more stuck-up than self-confident, I know that I am
a great wife
a fantastic friend
a survivor
and a good person...

Despite the fact that I'm
a sinner
and yes, sometimes, a little too harsh.

But if I refuse to be all that I can be, as the cliche goes...then I will never again make a difference.

Approximately two years and three months after I was raped, I sat on a stage during a production of The Vagina Monologues and screamed "CUNT!" for three nights in a row in front of an average audience of 150 people per night. Weeks later, I had to justify why I did this to people who basically said I wasn't "good enough". I was open and brave and I didn't censor myself.

That was almost seven years ago.

I will be that woman again. I am that woman again. Because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter won't mind.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Please excuse me while I brag about my husband.

I had a really shitty day today, to be honest.

I'm still going through that BS with Ex. It's not getting any easier or better and today was something of an epic low.

On top of that, when I finally got out of work and went to pick up Wendy from her haircut, she wasn't ready yet and I had to wait about fifteen minutes for her. Not much, really, and normally it wouldn't bother me, but it was just that little something extra to top off a bad day.

Then I came home, and tonight Steve took over dinner and made his famous crepes, and that made [almost] everything better :o) You see, Steve spent a year in France as an exchange student, and while there he learned to make classic crepes. And they always turn out uh.may.zing. So while I have something of a recipe for you, it's only for what to fill the crepes with, because Steve's recipe is his little secret and I'm not allowed to post it ;o) But here he is, in all his glory, making me delicious crepes!
Action shot!

Isn't he handsome?
Anyway, we filled these crepes with the following recipe:

12-15 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into thirds
One 6 oz. container feta crumbles
Generous handful of fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper

Steam the asparagus and mix it immediately with the feta and dill (while it's still hot!) and season with salt and pepper, as desired. Spoon about 2 heaping tablespoons of the mixture on a crepe, roll and eat immediately! This recipe makes enough filling to stuff about 6 crepes.

I know that it doesn't look particularly appetizing, but I promise you that these things were delicious! And yes, you can use store-bought crepes or even store-bought crepe mix...or you can find an actual crepe batter recipe and make them yourself, which are far better ;o) NOTE: Having a crepe pan and a small, thin wooden spatula help as well!
In conclusion, the best part about having crepes for dinner?
Why, because you can save a few of those crepes and have them for dessert!
I prefer Nutella, but you could also do, say, strawberries and cream ;o)

Moral of the story: A bad day is a bad day and nothing helps make it better like an amazing husband...and some homemade crepes!
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Thing #4: A Television Program

Day 4: A favorite television program.

I fell into the Gilmore Girls trap a bit late thanks to the re-runs on...oh I don't know, now they're on ABC Family but I think when I started watching they were actually on the WB (now CW). I love everything about this show--the ridiculous characters, the quick and witty dialogue, the numerous pop culture references. And of course the fact that it's set in Connecticut (my homestate)...even though the creators truthfully didn't do the best job of recreating Connecticut weather (umm...there are no green leaves on trees in Connecticut in February, nor is it likely that people will walk around a Connecticut town during that month wearing only jeans and a cute sweater and scarf).
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