Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thirsty Thursday, 101 in 1001 style!

It's Thirsty Thursday again, and thanks to Untappd I have been great about keeping track of new beers I have tried. What makes it all even better is that one of my 101 in 1001 goals was to try 10 new beers :) And now I can not only list them, but give you my personal ratings!

(And in fact, as of last Friday afternoon I had 9 out of 10 new beers...and then Friday evening I went to a great new Belgian restaurant and tried four more. So you get a few extra beer suggestions.)

As a note, I typically prefer wheat beers and lagers. Although I love Magic Hat #9 I have yet to find another pale ale style beer that I truly enjoy, and I really don't care for IPAs. And although I have to be in the mood for them, recently I've really started loving stouts! That said, please note that while I am definitely a beer lover, I haven't been schooled in this so my opinions are just that...opinions, and not really comparable to those of a professional, err, beer drinker.

1) Shock Top Raspberry Wheat - I guess I'd give this one a 2/5. It wasn't the worst beer I've ever had, but the fruit taste was far too prevalent. To the point where it almost didn't even taste like beer. I like Shock Top just fine (though it isn't ever really my first choice) so this one was a bit of a disappointment. But if you're not much of a beer person and like fruity drinks you may enjoy it.

2) Bell's Oberon - 4/5! I really enjoyed this beer. Not much else to say :)

3) Pacifico - 3.5/5...another one I really liked! Far superior to Corona.

4) Sam Adams Coastal Wheat - 3/5. Although the lemon "hints" were a bit too much for my liking, this is a good fresh summer beer.

5) Sam Adams Cream Stout - 3.5/5. Between this and Thomas Creek's Banana Split Stout, I really may start calling myself a stout girl sometime soon!

6) Sam Adams Black Lager - I'm not a huge fan of Sam Adams regular lager, but I'll give this one a 3/5. It had a bit of a dry finish for my taste but I liked it better than regular Sam Adams.

7) Sam Adams Summer Ale - Ugh, 1/5. Maybe. This beer was awful. It had this weird, spicy taste to it that I just couldn't force myself to like. And that didn't seem to fit with this being a SUMMER ale. I have friends who LOVE it maybe I'm just anti-pale ale?

8) Barley's Scottish Ale - This beer is made at a brewery in Columbus, Ohio and I'm not even sure you can get it outside of that city...though I could be wrong. That said, 4/5! This was a red ale but far superior to its mass produced counterpart Killian's.

9) Columbus Brewery Pale Ale - I can only rate this a 2/5, though to be honest I can't even really pinpoint why I didn't like it. Could be because I'm not much of a Pale Ale person, but I also didn't care for the aftertaste/finish of this particular beer.

10) La Trappe Isid'or - 3.5/5; this may sound weird but I have nothing negative OR extremely positive to say about this's just a tasty brew :)

11) Unibroue Trois Pistoles - 4.5/5. I really can't suggest this one enough. I can't even describe how good it is. Maybe it's the high alcohol content? LOL

12) Ommegang Witte - 3/5. This beer was good but not the best Witte I've ever had.

13) Unibroue Noir de Chambly - Another 3/5. Good, but the Trois Pistoles was much better. This one was almost...too sweet (and that means a lot coming from someone who loves wheat beers and fruit flavored wheat bears).

And that's that! Hope you noticed a name on this list and decided to try some of these for yourself...or maybe ignore them, based on my ratings ;) Have a great [Thirsty] Thursday, everyone! Pin It

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reading Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire

For years I insisted that Goblet of Fire was my favorite Harry Potter book. But while I could see, reading it yet again last year, why I've always loved it...knowing what happened in books 5, 6 and 7 forced me to politely retract this book being my favorite. Especially since I had just re-read the first three as well and realized - thanks to Sorcerer's Stone - why I got hooked in the first place.

There are definitely some loose ends in Goblet of Fire that I may have noticed but ended up ignoring before. But I'm not here or doing this to tear apart these books and throw their mistakes to the dogs--I'm sure plenty of other people have done that already :) And I definitely still love Goblet and at least prefer it to Chamber and I waited to see what the end conclusion would be when I'd finished the last three books.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lighthearted? Today I'm anything but. maybe it's a good time to do an entry all about being lighthearted, anyway? :)

A friend of mine took on an amazing project some time ago - to fold 1,000 paper cranes, put a positive word and its definition on each of these cranes, and then to release them all in random places in the hopes of spreading a bit of goodwill and/or positive thought. She keeps track of the cranes she releases on her blog, Sandy and the 1000 Paper Cranes, and recently she released two cranes in two places that are very, very important to me. One of these places was Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, and this crane had the word "Lighthearted", with the definition "(adj) cheerful and carefree" on it.

Why am I not lighthearted today, you ask? Well, yesterday evening I discovered that someone had walked into our garage while people were home and a car was in the driveway yesterday morning and stolen my Trek bicycle right off its wall mount. This follows hot on the heels of an incident late last year - our roommate's boyfriend (now ex boyfriend, obviously) stole about $3,500 worth of stuff from us when she left him alone in our house. Even after we told her not to do so. Needless to say, not only am I not feeling lighthearted at the moment, I'm feeling downright angry and disappointed with the human race in general. People suck, and that's why I stick with pets most of the time.

That said, I suppose today is the perfect time for me to talk about a place so near and dear to my heart and the reasons why that place in particular made me feel lighthearted, cheerful, and carefree. Nearly 10 years ago I embarked on my first Walt Disney World College Program, and when I arrived I was assigned to work at none other than Pirates of the Caribbean - the attraction.
With some of my fine co-workers around Christmas time (obviously). Gotta love those snazzy costumes.
To be honest, working at Pirates could be seriously monotonous. Especially when one got stuck at unload for hours at a time. But it could also be really great...such as when I got to be the one who did the end-of-the-night ride-through and I was the only one on the attraction, and it felt both totally awesome and a bit spooky at the same time.

Or when the little local girl named Tara would come by every Saturday and always ask for me because we had the same name, and talk to me about how Pirates was her favorite ride. And how one Saturday it was her birthday and I got to surprise her and announce it and wish her happy birthday(in Pirate speak, of course) over the loudspeaker system on the ride.

Working holidays was tough, but Thanksgiving that year was actually one of the coolest I've ever had - we didn't have to use the computer for rotation and we had so many staff members that we ended up with extra paid breaks, and the managers had laid out an entire Thanksgiving feast for us - including turkey and all the fixings - in their office.

I wish I'd kept some of the crazy doodles we would all leave for each other at the various positions. It was always fun to show up at Greeter and be met with a cartoon about how you had just come up from the depths of hell (a.k.a. unload) or some other hilarious picture or poem.

And at the end of the night when the only people in the park were crowded on Main Street to watch the Fantasy in the Sky show, and we would close up Pirates and walk across Adventureland to the sounds of Disney music and fireworks exploding.

I really could go on and on, but I already feel a lot more lighthearted than I did a little while ago :) Sometimes I miss Disney - working there, specifically, over living in Orlando - so much that my heart aches. I know it's not where I was meant to be, though, so thankfully I'm easily consoled by regular visits.

And now that I've waxed reminiscent, please go check out Sandy's lovely blog, or leave me a comment about...I don't know, a place that makes you lighthearted. Or about Disney. Or about Pirates of the Caribbean specifically. Whatever your heart desires :) Pin It

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Confessions

So. I think I want to make Monday Confessions into a bloghop! Would anyone be interested in participating? There wouldn't be any super specific rules per my rant about bloghops that require you to visit random blogs just to gain "followers" who leave vapid comments ;) All you'd have to do is post your confessions along with whatever button I come up with, then link up here. I think it would be a fun, laid-back bloghop/meme and maybe people could gather more followers. If that's what you're in it for.

I figured I'd throw this out there because I've seen a bunch of people doing random confessions posts lately...and what better day to confess than Monday, the start of the work week, after you've possibly likely (if you're anything like me) just finished with a weekend of debauchery? ;)

That said though...I know how to make a button but if someone with more experience would like to donate their services that would be lovely. Also, if someone could tell me how to make that little code box with the button code come up underneath a button...I'd heart you forever and ever amen. Promise.

Anyway, onto my confessions!

I confess...that I like that I've reached an age where I can go out and enjoy some tasty brews without the "need" to get drunk. I've been in this phase for a couple of years now and it's just great.

I confess...that I bought these high-waisted shorts from Forever 21 months ago and have been super scared to wear them. And I still can't decide if they looked good...because I am not super skinny, and also I have very long legs and a ridiculously short torso. Humph.
White button-down shirt: Express
High-waisted Navy [style] shorts: Forever 21
Tan & Gold wedges: Baker's Shoes
I was also wearing navy and gold anchor earrings from Forever 21 :)
I confess...that I haven't picked up my guitar in over a month and a half. I keep meaning to, and getting distracted. Bad Tara.
I confess...that I am way to excited for my Vegas trip in September. "Too" excited because it's still two and a half months away, and also I have a far bigger vacation coming up before that! Sigh.

I confess...that I have an album on Facebook called "My Life as a Rockstar" and it is filled with pictures of baked goods, my niece's dance recital, and baby showers. Oops?
Come on though...this is a pretty "rockstar" cake, right?
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Reading Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban

Ahh, Prisoner. Once my least favorite HP book, but every time I read it again it gains a few points. I would at least put it in front of Chamber now. I think.

Reading this reminds me of how frustrated I was with the movie. They veered so much from the book with Prisoner; it was highly disappointing at best. And reading it again emphasizes the general things that were different or left out or forgotten. I.E. in the end of this book Fred and George already know how many OWLS they are getting/have gotten...but then Harry and Ron and Hermione don't get their OWLS until just before they start their sixth year. During the summer break. And whatever happened to Crookshanks? Rowling built him up so much in Prisoner, but then pushed him to the wayside and eventually just...left him out altogether. On a different note, I'm still annoyed that they completely left Peeves out of the movies entirely.

Anyway. This is about the books right now, not the movies. Right? Right. And as it were, Prisoner (the book) is good at what it was meant to be good at--revealing more back story and leaving you hanging, wishing for more, more Harry Potter!

And so I moved on to what I've always called my favorite Harry Potter book. I hadn't read Goblet in over two years and couldn't wait to see if it would stand the test of time :)
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Feeling pretty darn lucky ;)

Well guys, if you've come by my blog in the past day or two you've probably noticed the new header and color scheme! This came about when I won an AWESOME giveaway from a lovely blog that I follow,

Kate was so great (ha, rhyme) about contacting me and working with me to create a great new look for my blog, as well as helping me put it all together in the end when she realized that my blog design skills were nonexistent ;)

You can check out Kate's prices here. Headers start at just $15 for one without a personalized picture, but for only $21 you can get a header/button package. And speaking of buttons, I now have one (thanks to Kate) and it's super cute!

So my button will be in the tray on the right-hand side of my blog, and if you enjoy reading I'd love to see it on your site! I have avoided adding buttons to my blog because I didn't have one to share, but that is obviously going to change now :)

I hope everyone has had a great weekend, and thanks again Kate for the great new look!

(P.S. Keep an eye out for another "Reading Harry Potter" post later today!)
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Reading Harry Potter: Chamber of Secrets

I started reading Chamber of Secrets one day and finished it the next. And I swear, I did actually go out and do interesting least on the first day! The second day, however, was spent reading. I felt like I'd regressed back to when books 5, 6, and 7 were released. Those were the only ones I actually had to wait for, as I didn't start reading the HP series until 2001. And because I had to wait for those later books, I devoured them when they finally came out.

Besides, Chamber of Secrets (along with Prisoner of Azkaban) is one of my least favorite HP books. I always felt like it was a bit of a mess, you know? The whole diary thing, and Harry pulling Gryffindor's sword out of the Sorting Hat? It all just seemed a bit forced to me. It still does. But reading it again, now that the entire series is finished and we know about the Horcruxes, puts things into better perspective. This still isn't one of the better HP books, in my opinion--but c'mon, who doesn't just love Gilderoy Lockhart in all his hilarity?
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Finally, a Drink Recipe!

That's right, I'm finally giving in and sharing a drink recipe with you. Last summer Steve and I had ourselves a little luau themed party and decided to make Mai Tais...but Mai Tais are in fact SUPER complicated! It took me a while but I finally found the following Mai Tai recipe, by far the easiest one out of the dozen or more that I looked at :)

Pineapple Mai Tai Ingredients:
4 oz orange juice
4 oz pineapple juice
1 oz Rose's lime juice
1 oz dark rum
1 oz light rum
1 oz triple sec
1/2 oz Rose's Grenadine

Pineapple Mai Tai Instructions:
-Mix all ingredients and shake with ice. Fill glasses with ice and strain the drinks into the glasses.
-Garnish with a cherry and a pineapple wedge. (though we left out the pineapple wedges because we were lazy)

And hope that your Mai Tais turn out as pretty as ours did... haha ;)

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: Gracelin O'Malley by Ann Moore

I am truly torn as to what to say about this book and how to rate it.

To be honest, the story is a bit predictable and cliche. I didn't really feel the romance or love between the characters who were obviously supposed to be the picture of those things. And the Irish tone of the novel - the style of language and whatnot - seemed forced, especially at the beginning.

However - and this is a big however - while predictable, the story is not boring. The ending isn't all sugar and kisses, which is a nice change. And Gracelin's story is certainly able to evoke some strong emotions. It has been a long time since I found myself choking up while reading a book - especially numerous times. I absolutely suggest this novel if you are interested in Ireland and even more so, if you are interested in nineteenth century Irish history. 3.5/5 stars.

Also, a note: It would behoove the reader to keep in mind the culture and time period in which the novel is taking place; personally I had to remind myself of this numerous times because Gracelin's attitude toward her Irish lord husband and about their questionable marriage would otherwise be quite maddening when held up to modern beliefs and opinions.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

New Recipe, Sans Picture :-/

Why no picture for this recipe, you ask?

Well, because the night I made it I was so hungry that by the time it was ready I gobbled it up and forgot to take on!

But that was fine, I told myself, because there were plenty of leftovers and I could take a picture the next night!

Except that the next night, when I heated the dish up in the oven, I knew how good it was and was so excited to eat it again that I forgot to take a picture that time too! That's how tasty this meal make it, and enjoy ;)

Roasted Chicken with Garlic & Celery Root

4-6 bone-in chicken breasts with skin
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 whole heads of garlic, skin on, top 1/3 of each sliced off
4 large all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 large celery root (or two small ones), peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
1 overflowing teaspoon of curry powder

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat the bottom of a flameproof roasting pan with the olive oil and place over high heat on the stove top. When very hot, add the chicken pieces skin-side down and cook, turning occasionally, until browned (8-10 minutes).
-Remove the pan from the heat and add the garlic heads, turning to coat with the olive oil and chicken juices.
-In a large bowl, toss the potatoes and celery root with a generous amount of olive oil (at least two tablespoons) and the curry powder. Add to the pan and season the entire dish well with the salt and pepper.
-Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes, stirring the vegetables at least twice, until the chicken is white throughout and the potatoes are golden. Keep an eye on the garlic heads - if they look like they are getting too dark spoon some of the other veggies over them.

Now, I know celery root is scary-looking. In fact, when Steve saw it in the fridge he actually asked, "What the heck is this hairy brown ball in the fridge? Am I going to have to eat this?" And it is a bit of a pain in the butt to "peel" (we just sliced off the skin as best we could). But it basically tastes like celery, only with the consistency of a potato, and it complements the other parts of this dish very well...I promise :)

Anyway, I'm off on a business trip tomorrow and not sure if I will have a chance to write before Wednesday or Thursday!
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Friday, June 17, 2011

Reading Harry Potter: Sorcerer's Stone

Last year, I decided that I wanted to re-read all seven Harry Potter books before Deathly Hallows Part 1 came out on November 19th. To be truthful, my real goal was to finish all of them in a month--and it took me a mere two days to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Yes, just two days. Let's be honest, these are children's books...they are very fast reads for someone who had been trudging through the likes of Doris Lessing earlier in the year. Still, the last few HP books are so long that although I wanted to finish them all by November 7th, I knew that I would be more than happy to simply do so by November 18th.

There have been so many reviews of all of the HP books that there's no point in me writing another one :) But reading this book (for what was at least the 4th time...but I have a feeling was more like the 5th or 6th time) just reminded me why I fell in love with this series in the first place. I had forgotten how funny Sorcerer's Stone is! I was literally laughing out loud every few pages. But it's also interesting (especially as I re-read books 6 and 7 in the summer of 2009) noticing how juvenile the writing is in Rowling's earliest work. She absolutely grew as a writer as she produced these books, and it having been so long since I'd read the first installment, I'd forgotten about that.
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thirsty Thursday, UNTAPPD!

It's Thirsty Thursday again, but today, instead of writing about a drink or drinks, I'm going to write about a website :)

I recently joined Untappd - and I've been having waaaaay too much fun with it.
 It's free to join (of course) and is basically like...Foursquare for beer lovers/drinkers. You check in by searching for the name of whatever beer you're drinking, going to its page and clicking "check in". At this time you can comment on the beer - some people leave random comments; personally, if I write anything I write about my opinion of the beer. And you can rate your beer on a scale of 1-5 stars!

You can even "friend" people on Untappd, to see what they're drinking, and you can "toast" people as well!

I know, I know, who needs another social network, right? Well, if it revolves around beer, this girl does!

P.S. If you're on there, or if you join, go to the "Friends" tab and do a search for "Greenville, SC". I'm pretty sure I'm the only Tara here who is on the least right now :) Pin It

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And all you're ever gonna be is mean...

For quite some time, I've been meaning to do some writing about my teenage years and how they were a huge part of my becoming the open, straightforward, accepting person that I am. But I've struggled with how to even begin a blog entry like this, because there is just so much to say. In fact, I'm still struggling with where to start - but I figure now's as good a time as any, especially considering that I not only just finished reading Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, but I also recently heard Taylor Swift's song "Mean" for the first time. I guess I figured that these occurrences happening back to back was a sort of sign that it was about time for me to post this, even if I haven't figured out exactly what I should say.

The thing is, I post pictures in here often enough that even if you've stumbled on this blog and don't know what I look like, you can scroll back a few entries and there will likely be enough pictures to tell that I'm not overweight or unattractive. I certainly wouldn't define myself as "beautiful" or "gorgeous" or "sexy" or "thin", but I'm a healthy, happy, decent-looking woman. And honestly, if all you knew of me were these pictures, you'd probably think "Who is she to talk about being called awful things? Who is she to talk about being bullied?" Well, I'll show you.

That's me in 7th grade. Awful haircut. Round face. NO fashion sense. Not the straightest teeth in the world. And the glasses...oh, the glasses. And I'd looked like this, only maybe younger, since at least 4th grade when I got glasses.

And no, it didn't get better for quite some time. Not until 9th grade did I start caring about my clothes, get contacts, wear makeup. And I lived in a really small town, so by then who I was had been carved in the stone minds of my 150-odd classmates in Ellington, Connecticut. Therefore, even when 11th grade rolled around and I had shot up to 5'8", weighed 135 pounds, knew how to apply mascara and wore the same clothes as everyone else, people still went out of their way to find something about me to pick on.

Was I at the bottom of the totem pole? In middle school and freshman year, yes. From sophomore year on, no, but I was also nowhere near the top of it. And despite the fact that I had "friends", much of the time I felt like I was faking it. I felt it deep within me: I didn't belong, couldn't belong, any minute they would realize this and kick me to the curb and I'd be back at the bottom. I did everything in my power to keep this from happening, but even then I would discover when every single one of my friends went to a Wolfpack hockey game in Hartford and didn't invite me. When my "best" girl friend quit answering my phone calls and making plans with me and talked about me behind my back because it meant she would fit in better with our other "friends". And all of this was possibly worse than everything else, because these people called themselves my "friends". No matter who I hung out with, I was still the Tara from middle school:

Four-eyes. Geek. Nerd. Fat. Ugly. Weird.

And then when most of those words apparently didn't fit me anymore, it was worse: the "fat" word was still flung around, but I was also a slut, a whore. In fact, one time when I was still a virgin I was pregnant...according to school rumors. I'm not sure what was worse: people thinking I was pregnant, or having to explain to them that I couldn't be because at 16 I wasn't ready to "give it up" yet.

Of course, I can't forget the time that I cut my hair short, just before my senior year - because then I was a dyke. And as someone who now professes to be solidly pansexual - although I really only see myself with a man, it's easier for me to find women to be attractive - I have to admit that the first time someone actually walked up to me in the cafeteria and said, "Nice hair, what are you, a dyke?" I felt sick to my stomach that this was the newest slur about me. If someone called me a dyke today, or three years ago, or seven years ago, etc. wouldn't have bothered me in the slightest. But in high school? You bet your ass it did. It scared the shit out of me. I didn't want people to think I was or may be or could be a lesbian.

I won't pretend that I learned my lessons immediately or that I never talked crap about people behind their backs; I am very much guilty of the human condition. But all it took was that biting reminder - my conscience - saying "You remember what it felt like, don't you?" And when I was still in college I vowed not to ever be that person who said rude and most of the time untrue things about people who had never wronged me in any way.

The thing is, I am some of those things they said I was. I'm definitely weird, and I'm a total geek. But instead of being proud of who I was, I hid it. Even after high school. I joined a sorority. I married someone who was senior class president at his high school, and a running back on their football team. I went years without watching a Star Wars or X Men movie because the couple times I tried to tell him about my love for them, he basically scoffed at me. I may have been the one who left him, but I knew long before I did that I just wasn't "cool enough" for his liking. I had nothing in common with his friends and my friends were too geeky for him.

At 25, I'd spent the majority of my life trying to be invisible and the rest of it pretending to be the person everyone thought I should be. And neither one of those felt better or easier than the other, so I stopped trying to be anything other than who I am. I detached myself from people like my ex husband, who held me back, and I fostered relationships with people like my close friend Jonathan, who accepts me for exactly who I am. I found a relationship where I could combine my desire to go to a baseball game nearly every weekend in the summer with the need to spend wintery weekends having Star Wars and Lord of the Rings marathons and never feel as if my significant other thought I was a freak, never deal with him trying to stifle my interests.

I'm no Taylor Swift, for sure. I don't live in a big city and I'll probably never hear myself singing a song like "Mean" least not on the radio ;) But sometimes I see an awkward little girl with her nose in a book and a look in her eyes that says "please just...don't notice me" and I want to wrap her in my arms and tell her that all she needs to do is grow up and do what she wants and be exactly who she is, and things will fall into place.

And those people? The ones who said those horrible things to and about me? Let's just say that I've seen where most of them are (thanks to Facebook), and whereas their lives may not be horrible and mine may not be better (at least not on the surface), none of them are more than what I am: happy, healthy, with a comfortable home in a city that I love, close to my family and with at least half a dozen amazing friends that I could call at the drop of a hat and tell anything to, in a healthy relationship, holding down a good job, with money to pay my bills and to see the world, which I've always dreamed of doing.

Above all, I am the thing that matters: I am ME. And those people who called me those names are a big part of what gave me the strength and will to be here, so maybe I should thank them for being so damn mean and awful ;) Pin It

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

This is the first Jodi Picoult novel I've read, though I did see the movie My Sister's Keeper and didn't care for it. Because of that, I really wasn't expecting much from Nineteen Minutes. However, from the moment I picked up this novel I didn't want to put it down. Although I think that there was a lot of repetitive filler dealing with some of the main characters' feelings/issues (Alex Cormier and Lacy Houghton in particular), the back and forth between present and past certainly kept me guessing regarding the ending...for a while. Unfortunately, I disagree with other reviewers that the twist in this book was amazing. Although I hadn't figured out the exact details, it becomes pretty obvious that a certain character or two knows something they aren't revealing and one can certainly, as I did, hazard an educated guess as to the nature of said secret. 3.5/5 stars

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Lots of Monday Confessions this week!

I confess...that I felt pretty darn cool Saturday night when we had at least six random people join our pub crawl halfway through because "we looked like so much fun".
Steve and I at the pub crawl Saturday :)
I confess...that I started reading Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult Saturday morning and haven't been able to put it down. As a note: this is the first book of hers I've ever read, so yeah, I'm behind the times.

(In fact, I also confess that I really wish I could have called out of work today and just stayed home and read.)

I confess...that I was totally weirded out about cooking with celery root (hello, that shit looks nasty!) but I did it anyway and it was waaaay better than I thought it would be.
source - And by the way, when roasted it has a slight celery taste but the consistency of a potato.
I confess...that 99% of the time I have to force myself to go to Sunday afternoon yoga. Because I'm hungover. But then I go and feel 1,000 times better afterward!

I confess...that I bought a gorgeous $125 dress at Macy's last week, and I don't really need it. Or have any clue when I'll get the chance to wear it. But it was on clearance (originally $209). So. Pin It

Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Review: Big Sex Little Death by Susie Bright

I wanted to like this one, really I did.

My knowledge of the feminist movement is far more existent that my knowledge of Susie Bright, but I received this memoir with high hopes. I assumed that she would have one heck of an interesting story to tell - and whereas I don't think that assumption was wrong, per se, the fact of the matter is that Ms. Bright is far too evasive in this memoir and that really harms its quality.

As other reviewers have mentioned, Ms. Bright glosses over some tales that must have been extremely interesting. What really happened when she was expelled from the IS? Where are the details about her relationship with Honey Lee? Etc., etc. Beyond that, there just isn't much organization to this memoir - although it is split up into three separate sections about her childhood, her formative/teenage years, and her time in San Francisco, she seems to jump back and forth without warning. To be honest, about halfway through the book I simply started wishing it would all be over soon. I've rated it two stars rather than one because at times Ms. Bright's writing style was exemplary and she was quite open about her relationship with her parents and her daughter, but those are just a couple shining points in otherwise far below average memoir. 2/5 stars

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: More Beer. Deal with it.

So I told myself I wasn't really going to participate in a bunch of blog hops/memes. Why, you ask? Well, because some of them got boring really fast. And then yesterday when I went to join in on Semi Wordless Wednesday, there was a big PSA about how participants are basically "required" to visit and comment on three other blogs in the hop. I disagree with this. I don't participate in blog hops/memes to gain a bunch of "followers" who never read or comment on my shit. I participate because they give me something regular to write about (though I prefer the ones that don't fence me in, obviously) and I participate because sometimes another blog name on the list will catch my eye and I'll find a great new person to follow. But I'm not going to just click on "the three blogs directly above mine" or three random blogs on a blog hop/meme list just to not read their entries and leave vapid "I came over here from such-and-such blog hop, visit me at blah blah blah blog hearts hearts hearts!!!" comments.

I don't like when other people do that, and I'm not going to do it. And to be honest, I don't always have the time to do it, because I'm too busy actually cultivating relationships with bloggers I'm truly interested in.

But I do like Thirsty Thursdays, dammit, because I like to drink. So I will now step down off my soapbox and talk to you about a beer that I avoided for a long time but now love, that being

Now, to be fair I'm still not a huge fan of their "Boston Lager". It's okay, but not my first choice. Of beer in general or lager, specifically. That said, recently I have tried so many other kinds of Sam Adams - and liked them all so much - that I think I must officially declare myself a Sam Adams beer fan.

It all started with this six pack of heaven:
I have since tried the Coastal Wheat and the Blackberry Witbier, neither of which is as amazingly awesome as the Cherry Wheat, but they're both great in their own right :) And then last night I enjoyed one of these babies:
...and I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. Now, it's not as absolutely awesome as the Thomas Creek Banana Split Stout I mentioned last week, but for a more mass-marketed beer...I really have nothing bad to say. Of course, I've only recently become a stout fan (my tastes are changing, to say the least - I was a Miller Lite poster child for a good 4 years) and probably don't have the best idea of what a stout should be/taste like. But for a stout newbie, Sam Adams Cream Stout is a great option!

And of course if you can't already tell - I highly suggest the Cherry Wheat for any and all wheat beer fans out there. You'll never look at a Blue Moon the same way again ;) Pin It

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I. Love. Sandwiches.

If I could just continually eat sandwiches in all different forms, I'd be completely happy. So in the future I have a couple of sandwich "recipes" to share with y'all, and here's the first (and so far my favorite...possibly ever).


Sourdough bread in 1/2 inch slices
Sharp white cheddar cheese, sliced thin
Apple butter

-Spread a thin layer of apple butter on each of two slices of bread; top with 4 thin slices of cheddar cheese.
-Melt butter in a pan and cook as you would any old grilled cheese ;)

As you can see, I served mine with some roasted potatoes and garlic. I know it's a lot of carbs. To be honest I really don't think about/pay attention to that kind of thing nine times out of ten...I have a love/love relationship with carbs. I've learned that as long as you're active and in general eat healthy foods, carbs don't have to be an enemy. Just sayin ;)
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Houses that Built Me: 7 Country Farm Lane, Ellington CT

In September of 1998, I knew one simple thing: I hated our new house. I wanted to be back home, at 10 Stein Road, in my room with the emerald green carpet and the stupid tiger border. When we moved into 7 Country Farm Lane, that monstrosity of a house, there were no mirrors. No door knobs. And no phone line.

This was before the days of affordable cell phones, mind you. I was 15-going-on-16, starting my junior year of high school, with friends and a boyfriend and OMG NO PHONE TO SPEAK OF. Pardon the pun. Ish.

The thing is, this was my mother's house through and through. The one that nearly perfectly fits the lyrics, "Mama cut out pictures of houses for years, from Better Homes & Garden magazine...plans were drawn and concrete poured and nail by nail and board by board, daddy gave life to mama's dream..." My father may not have built this house with his own two hands, but my parents worked together every step of the way to make my mother's dream home a reality. To this day her eyes glaze over whenever she talks about this house.

To me, 7 Country Farm Lane was where I became an adult. Not a grown-up, just an adult. It was here that I lost my first real boyfriend, here that I fell in love for the very first time, here that I experienced what true heartbreak really feels like, here that I perfected the art of sneaking out of the house (silence the alarm panel in my parents' bedroom earlier that day, turn off the switch for the motion sensor light, take off your shoes and just...try not to breathe too heavily). It was here that I learned what it was like to be part of a neighborhood and to befriend fellow teens who lived just steps away and to walk home from school with them, give them rides when I was the first to get my license, trick-or-treat with them and even write, produce and star in neighborhood plays with them; here that I graduated from high school.
My surprise 16th birthday party, November 1998. I don't talk to 99% of the people in this picture, anymore. My friend Scott - the one laying on the floor toward the front left of the picture - died of a brain tumor in 2006 :' (
This was the house that I left when I truly left home. The house where I spent my last night as a "single" girl before entering my disastrous first marriage. The last place my parents have lived where I would go back to visit and feel comfortable, feel as if the place was a part of me. But not necessarily the last place I could return to and feel like I was going home--because the main thing I learned from living at 7 Country Farm Lane was that a house does not a home make. Because as much as I wanted to return to 10 Stein Road in the early days, it really wasn't all that long before I realized that home was where my family was, no matter what house they were in. And I later realized that home was where my family was no matter what town or state they were in, as well.
My blood sisters and our "brothers", January 2001 - sending my middle sister Christy and our bro Bryan off to the Ellington High School Snowball

Of course, I thought I was just so grown up when I moved out of 7 Country Farm Lane...for school at Bay Path, for the Walt Disney College Program, when I transferred to Longwood, when Jason and I moved into our first apartment together. But as I mentioned before--I was an adult, as age goes. I graduated from high school and moved out, sure. But I wasn't grown up. Yet again, there was so much more to come... Pin It

Monday, June 6, 2011

More Monday Confessions.

Actually, today I really only have one confession, that being: I have way too much going on in my life right now. I haven't picked up my guitar in almost a month - my callouses are peeling off and that depresses me (and no, I don't care of it grosses you out). My house needs to be cleaned and I don't foresee when that will happen. I haven't been to band practice (I'm the singer) in nearly 4 weeks and I'm nervous about going tomorrow night. I'm behind on reviewing the Amazon Vine products I've received. And on top of everything, I just can't seem to make myself focus lately.

So settle in for a wordy, picture-less entry, folks.

At the end of last week I had to force myself to take a step back and try to remember why I started this blogging thing in the first place. I got some good advice from a friend and fellow blogger, but - and absolutely no offense meant to her because she is far more of a blogging success than I ever expect to be - it didn't really jive with me. With me, and with what I expect from myself and my blog, I mean.

I started blogging in October 2009 with a sort of couples' blog, you see. That kind of died down after we got married, but less because of the marriage and more because it just became a blog about the fun things to do in and around our city. Said blog still exists but is attached to my Greenville website and wouldn't be a fun read for anyone who isn't living in, moving to, or visiting this area.

Next came my travel blog, which unfortunately does need to be its own entity simply because if I combined it with this blog, you would be seeing at least 8-10 posts a week from me and that's a bit over the top. I know I'm awesome and all, but I don't want people to start skipping over 90% of my entries simply because my name pops up every other second in your reader, capiche?

This particular blog was born because I wanted to showcase both my writing and my wifely skills (i.e. cooking, I'm not good at much else). I guess it's something of a lifestyle blog but I still haven't really found my niche. I'm not particularly funny. I don't stick to a specific type of meal/cooking (i.e. vegetarian, organic/all natural). I enjoy posting my cute outfits and outfit fails, but I'm by no means a fashion blogger (nor do I want to be). To me, my most enjoyable posts are the ones where I ramble about my beliefs, my past, and the things I love about my life right now. I tried participating in some of those weekly meme things, but honestly I just felt fenced in by most of them (with the exception of Semi-Wordless Wednesday)...and while everyone enjoys new followers, I want to connect with people. I have 51 "followers" and I doubt 45 of them have left more than one comment on this blog. I'm not complaining, really, but if I follow a blog I do it to connect with the interesting person who writes it. And I don't understand the appeal of doing it, otherwise.

I'm rambling, I realize I'm rambling, and to be honest I'm known for my rambling. Or I was. And I need to get back to that, in a way. Because my forte is telling my stories. I'm all for posting fun pictures and I love sharing recipes, don't get me wrong, but my writing, my actual writing, is where it's at. So maybe this is less of a lifestyle blog from now on, and more of an...advice blog.
Well...maybe not that kind of advice.

But I'll try my best to be interesting, at least ;) And I'll continue writing series like The Houses That Built Me, because although my life is obviously incredibly awesome it took a lot to get me here and that knowledge is very, very important. I mean, who wants to listen to advice from someone who lives the perfect life?

(note extreme sarcasm)

Anyway, for those of you who choose to stick around despite the fact that I will be far more wordy and less vapid in the future...thanks in advance! and <3 <3 <3 Pin It

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tried & True Recipe: Coconut Mango Chicken

I am so backed up with posting recipes! That's what comes from being good about actually taking pictures of the things I cook and then never getting around to actually posting them along with their recipes. Oops.

This is a great summer recipe, anyway :)

Coconut Mango Chicken

Vegetable Oil
1 pound chicken tenders (boneless, skinless)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup coconut milk
1 mango, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Salt & Pepper
1 cup uncooked white basmati rice; cook to package directions
Grated/Shredded Parmesan Cheese

-In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of vegetable oil over high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until browned (about 3 minutes). Add the coriander and stir for 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth, lower the heat and simmer for 3 minutes, scraping up any brown bits. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
-Add the coconut milk to the skillet, increase the heat and boil to reduce by half (about 4 minutes). Stir in the mango and chicken and cook until warmed through (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper.
-Serve the chicken, mango and sauce over a bed of white rice and sprinkle to taste with the Parmesan.
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Book Review: Berlin 1961 by Frederick Kempe

This book is full of meticulous research and, thanks to access to newly unclassified documents, a bit of intrigue as well. From beginning to end, even knowing what is going to happen, Berlin 1961 tells an interesting story. Personally I think that some of the asides that included personal facts about Krushchev and Kennedy (especially Kennedy) were a bit unnecessary, as were the additional short chapters on random people of the era - the sniper, the beauty queen, the would-be refugee smuggler, etc. In general I would normally enjoy reading excerpts about everyday people dealing with life in Berlin, but I think the ones in this book were a bit disjointed and threw off the general story that Kempe was trying to tell.

That said, if one is looking to learn more about the Cold War period and especially the situation in and regarding Berlin - which I have never seen described in such detail until this book - I highly recommend Berlin 1961. 4/5 stars

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Thirsty Thursday, Featuring a Local Brewery!

Apparently Blogger has restored my missing post from a couple of weeks rather than post it out into oblivion with the date as May 17th, I'm reposting it today :) It's not like anyone had time to see or comment on it anyway. Way to go blogger, for that, but least this means I'm not struggling to come up with a Thirsty Thursday topic this week ;)

For last week's [okay, like three weeks ago now] Thirsty Thursday, I wrote about mint juleps...because of the Kentucky Derby, of course. But one can only drink so many mint juleps, so while I baked my little heart out Saturday morning [May 7th] I sent Steve to one of our local breweries (Thomas Creek) for beer :)

We have two true local breweries, Thomas Creek in Greenville and RJ Rockers in Spartanburg. I actually prefer the types of beer that RJ Rockers brews over Thomas Creek beers, but I do love me some Thomas Creek River Falls Red Ale, Stillwater Vanilla Cream Ale, and Banana Split Stout.

Unfortunately, the Banana Split Stout is not always imagine my excitement when Steve returned home with a growler of it! (as well as a second growler of my other favorite, the Vanilla Ale)

The thing is, I stumbled upon Thomas Creek completely by chance way back in 2007, when I found a six pack of their beer at our local Total Wine & More here in Greenville. I found RJ Rockers through a beer lover's meetup group here in Greenville. But a simple Google search may render you some great local breweries to check out! So put away that Miller Lite (or Bud Light, or Coors Light, or whatever crappy beer you may be drinking), get out and discover some local craft brews :) After all, you'll also be supporting local businesses by doing so. And it's better for you. (okay, I have no proof for that last bit, but one can hope) Pin It

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Monthly 101 Update: May

I somehow accomplished a whole hell of a lot last month. I say "somehow" because with everything going on in my life, I'm still not 100% sure how I did it all! But I made progress on more of my goals (outside of the ones I already had in progress at the beginning of May, I mean):

-Drink Around the World at least 3 more times for 15 total :) (1/3 as of 5/21/2011)
-Return to 3 places I've loved (2/3: Orlando, Vegas)
-Go to 5 concerts (1/5)
-Put away $5 for each completed task (do this at the beginning of each month - $15 so far)

That may not seem like much, except for the fact that I beat last month's three finished goals by accomplishing SIX MORE in May!

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo(5/5/2011) I really didn't think I'd get to do that this year, seeing as it took place on a Thursday and I obviously had to work that day and the next day. But I sent this Cinco de Mayo out in style! 

Attend a major league baseball game again (San Francisco Giants vs. Florida Marlins, 5/26/2011) This was another one that was up in the air until about a week before it actually happened. You see, I enjoy baseball, and as much as I love the Red Sox I also love seeing different stadiums around the country. I hadn't been to an MLB game in over a year but the Giants have a gorgeous they won the World Series last year! So once Steve agreed we could go to a game while in San Fran last week, it was a no-brainer!
Giants vs. Marlins at AT&T Park, 5/26/2011
Bake something from scratch again  I'm pretty sure the macaroons I baked on 5/7/2011 count for this one. I baked a pecan pie that day too, but I used store-bought crust because I'm lazy. The macaroons were messy, but not too hard...and delicious! I got the recipe from Stacy at Every Little Thing but had to use plain milk chocolate eggs rather than the ones with the pretty candy shells, so people kept asking why there were olives on the cookies. Thanks a lot, guys.

Stay up all night (at least until sunrise)/Stay up for 24 hours straight (accomplished on 5/29/2011). Another goal that I really didn't expect to accomplish so soon, but I got up at 9 AM on Saturday 5/28 and didn't end up falling asleep until...oh I don't know, 3 PM (at least) on Sunday 5/29. Don't ask how I did it; you don't want to know (though I will say that there were no illegal drugs involved; that's not my style). I know this isn't really "proof" but here is a picture of me just as I was beginning to crash, having one final beer at the Vegas airport and wearing my awesome panda hat from San Fran. I changed out of my cute dress from the night before but I'm still wearing all my makeup. Classy.

Play a hand of Blackjack at a casino (again) (played several hands at Binion's in Las Vegas on 5/28/2011). Steve and I played with $50 each (so $100 total). He lost all but...$5 or $10. I was better at keeping track of my "winnings" and in the end we had $95 total, so that means I won something like $35 or $40. And even though we "lost" $5, we did get two gin and tonics and a bottled water out of the deal. I'm happy.
I'm not sure why this picture was blurry; it appears that the flash was on?
Inspire someone else to do 101 in 1001 As of 5/13 I'd already had two people tell me that I inspired them to make a 101 in 1001 list! I think that counts for crossing this one off. Pin It