Friday, July 29, 2011

Recipe Link Back to Every Little Thing :)


Pictured above are Ntomatokeftedes (Tomato Fritters) with Tzatziki sauce, a recipe I got from my friend Stacy at Every Little Thing. CLICK HERE for the recipe! I really liked the tomato fritters, though I wasn't too pleased with the way my Tzatziki sauce turned out. I know it was my own fault, I don't think my herbs were finely chopped enough. I served the fritters and sauce with a Baby Spinach and Spring Greens mix :) Pin It

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thirsty Thursday & Don't Forget to Vote!

Okay guys...today is the last full day to vote for me as "Best in Category: Life Blogs" over at For the Love of Blogs. All you have to do is go to this entry and find me on the linky list (I'm #32!), then hit the "like" button under my blog name (A Serendipitous Life). It will take you just a few seconds and I'd really, really appreciate it :) :) :) I'm only trailing by something like 10 votes, so please help me out here!

Now, on to the important things...haha




Sadly, I guess Thirsty Thursday isn't a hop this week and who knows if it will be again :( But I still decided to throw the button up and talk about a great get together that we threw this past weekend!

Steve and I are part of a local beer lovers club-type-thing, and last weekend we hosted what we call a "Bring & Share Gathering". Basically, everyone who comes is required to bring one food item/dish to share, as well as either a six pack or a growler of his or her favorite beer. Now, for couples we only required one food item or dish, but they still had to bring two six packs and/or growlers...because isn't running out of beer at a party way worse than running out of food?

The great thing about a get together like this - especially when it's a bunch of true blue beer lovers - is that you get to try a bunch of new beers that you may not have noticed otherwise. For instance, I always said I wasn't big on Amber Ales, but at the end of the night I gave in and tasted a Tap Room No. 21 "Moe's Backroom Amber Ale"...and was very pleasantly surprised!

So if you're looking for an idea for a get together, I highly suggest hosting a Bring & Share! This was our second time doing it - 2nd Annual, if you will - and we will be hosting again next year! Pin It

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens Screening!

Hmm.

Tonight we had free tickets to a pre-screening of the new Jon Favreau movie, Cowboys & Aliens...and I'm already hearing complaints about the film!
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Personally, I know I'm no movie reviewer. Books I can do, but I don't really feel I can judge an entertainment genre that I know next to nothing about. Still, there is something to be said about a movie that doesn't really try to be more than what it is. Plus, Cowboys & Aliens had star power. I'm not a big Olivia Wilde fan (does she only have ONE expression???) but hey - Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, and Sam Rockwell also starred in it :)

And yes, it was entertaining. And there was plenty of action. Character development was predictable (for most of them) and although the plot wasn't the greatest, it was a movie about cowboys...and aliens. What would you really expect from that?

I won't say more because I don't want to give it away. If you're looking for a movie that is just simple [somewhat silly] entertainment, check out Cowboys & Aliens. And hey, it's always good to see Harrison Ford nowadays...even if he did write off my beloved Star Wars ;)

Oh yeah...don't forget to vote for me as Best in Category: Life Blogs at For the Love of Blogs :) I'm #32 on the linky list here, and all you have to do is click the "Like" button under my blog name ("A Serendipitous Life"). Thanks loves :) Pin It

Guest Post Announcement & "7 Links" :)

Happy worst day of the week, everyone! (I don't like Tuesdays. Reasons are numerous.)

That said, I wanted to give a shout out to a friend of mine, Marcy. Marcy has taken on a quest to visit every Steak 'n' Shake in her home state of Indiana, and she writes about it in her pretty hilarious blog, Around the State in 70 Steaks. And Shakes. In general you should check her out because she's funny, but you should even more so check her out if you like Steak 'n' Shake, Indiana, anagrams, Where's Waldo style games...I could go on and on. On top of just being a great girl, she graciously allowed me to write a guest post for her blog...for which I went out and popped my Steak 'n' Shake cherry. So to speak. Thanks to Marcy (again) for the opportunity and I hope y'all will go check her out!

Now, speaking of Tuesdays, I was recently tagged in a blog meme thing that's going around by someone who dislikes Tuesdays even more than I do ;) Full rules for the 7 Links meme can be found here, and make sure you check out the end of this post to see if I've tagged you! Now without further ado...my 7 links!

My most beautiful post.
He loves me even when though I drive him nuts.

This is so cliche, but I feel that my most "beautiful" post is the thank you letter I wrote to my husband Steve. He only reads my blog sporadically but when he found that post (I want to say a month and a half or more after I actually wrote it) he called me into the living room and was basically at a loss for words - in a good way. I figure if I can write a thank-you letter to someone and render him speechless, it must be a damn beautiful thank you letter ;)

My most popular post.
Kenny Chesney Concert, May 2011
Although there aren't necessarily a ton of comments on this post, my stat recorder tells me that I get numerous hits a day from random strangers who Google outfits for country concerts. And honestly, the outfit that I posted wasn't even some amazing themed outfit...so I'm pretty sure a lot of these people don't get what they wanted when they read this post. Ah well.

My most controversial post.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
Hmm...to be honest, I'm surprised at some of the things I've written that haven't caused ridiculous debates and comments from rude internet trolls. I wrote over at LiveJournal for years and years, and I long ago lost count of the number of dramatic arguments spurred by things I posted on that blog. So although I've written some controversial things here, none of them have actually spurred real controversy. Still, I guess one of the more controversial posts I wrote was about how I believe geeks are better people than non-geeks ;)

My most helpful post.
That outfit. Those shoes. Those socks. And those GLASSES. Maybe I did deserve to be bullied...NOT.
Though I'm not sure if this particular post has helped anyone yet - I certainly haven't heard word that it has - I'd like to think that it is a helpful post, and that someday it will help someone: my post about my past as a bullied pre-teen/teenager and how I moved beyond what I went through at the hands of my peers.

A post whose success surprised me.
These two [ahem, super-competitive] guys love beer pong. I, on the other hand, do not.
I don't know if "success" is the right word to describe what happened with this post, but I was seriously surprised that so many people agreed with me that beer pong just sucks.

A post I feel didn't get the attention it deserved.
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This one is hard. My blog is still fairly new (less than a year old) and doesn't get a ton of attention in general...but I have to say that I thought my post about not celebrating Valentine's Day deserved a bit more notice than it received ;)

And finally...the post I am most proud of!
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Not to toot my own horn, but I thought I did a really good job with a post from one of the 30-day meme/challenge things that I participated in earlier this year. Basically, I was only supposed to post a quote that I liked - but I took the quote that I chose and built a much bigger entry out of it, an entry about the people who were both negative and positive influences on me and who therefore made me who I am today. I was able to list some things that I like about myself, but also admit some of my major (and numerous) flaws. I think this is probably one of my top three blog entries that says the most about who I really am as a person.

Now let's see...I apologize if you've been tagged before as I haven't read any blog entries posted yesterday, but I tag:

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Confessions

Here we go again...please join in!


I confess...that I've taken on WAY too much and need to scale back. I'm going to start said scale-back attempt to say. We'll see how it goes.

I confess...that apparently I'm a bad pet mommy. My dogs have fleas. Not a terribly awful case (most of what I saw was dander though there were definitely one or two live ones as well...ugh), but I don't even know how they got them as all of our pets spend the majority of their time indoors (with the exception of Ducky, who doesn't like to be inside) and they are also all on Frontline. Every month. :-/

I confess...that one of the things I'll be scaling back on is my involvement with Greenville Meetup groups. I feel bad leaving some of them because I'm actually friends with the organizers, but I just don't have time. On the other hand, one of the groups I'm leaving I can say nothing but "good riddance" to - because in the past six days I've received about half a dozen emails about the same freaking event. And honestly, most of them are pushy. They sound like someone hawking wares in a straw market in the Bahamas. I didn't exactly say that when asked why I left, but really...not every event you have is going to fill up and have a waiting list and emailing me every other day isn't going to make me change my mind about attending, you know?

Last but not least, I confess...that we had a big party at our house Saturday night, and it was fun, and everyone was gone by 1 AM...but Steve and I stayed up until nearly 3 talking. Because we're good like that :)
<3 <3 <3

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Another awesome recipe sans picture...oops

This is another meal I made that was literally so good that I forgot to take pictures of it! I just wanted to eat it...haha. My mom found this recipe at Publix but I changed it up a bit...it originally called for microwaving the veggies to soften them? Um, no. And it called for cream of chicken soup, which I don't like (the chicken bits in it are gross), so I replaced that with cream of broccoli.

CHICKEN CONFETTI SPAGHETTI

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 oz spaghetti
One package chicken breasts, diced (I used 4 smallish chicken breasts)
Montreal Chicken Seasoning, Jane's Mixed up Salt, or similar seasoning
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 medium to large onion, diced
1/2 regular bell pepper, diced (I used orange for the different color)
One 4 oz jar diced pimentos, drained
Salt & Pepper
One 10.5 oz can cream of broccoli soup
One 14.5 oz can chicken broth
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup panko style bread crumbs

-Preheat the oven to 425 and bring water to a boil for the pasta. Cut the butter into small pieces and set side to soften.
-Break the pasta into 2-inch-long pieces, add to the boiling water, salt and cook for 5 minutes. Drain.
-Heat a large skillet and add a thin layer of olive oil. Put the diced chicken in the pan and season with Montreal Chicken Seasoning or Jane's Mixed up Salt (to taste). Cook over medium high for 5 minutes.
-Add the celery, onion, and bell pepper to the skillet and cook an additional 3-5 minutes, until veggies are tender and chicken is cooked through.
-Pour the chicken broth and soup into the skillet and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 2-3 more minutes and then transfer this mixture and the spaghetti to a 2-quart baking dish, stirring to combine.
-Mix the butter, bread crumbs and cheese until crumbly and spread evenly over the chicken and spaghetti mixture. Bake 15-20 minutes; let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Trust me, you won't be disappointed ;)

(And please don't forget to go vote for me as "Best in Category: Life Blogs"...please? :) I'm #32 on the list and all you have to do is click the "like" button beneath my blog name, A Serendipitous Life.)
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Back off the wagon!

The first two Thirsty Thursdays this July were non-alcoholic, but as the title of this entry says I'm back off the wagon and ready to share an actual drink recipe with you :)




I found this particular recipe way back in 2007 when I had a pirate-themed 25th birthday party and wanted only rum drinks. Personally I'm not a huge fan of rum but this drink is delicious...its name speaks for itself!

CHEESECAKE MARTINI

2 parts Vanilla Rum
1 part Cranberry Juice
1 part Pineapple Juice

-Mix everything in a shaker, add ice and shake well. Pour into a small glass (such as a martini glass) without ice. Garnish with a cherry if you desire :)

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It's easy and delicious and all you need is rum!


Also...PLEASE vote for me as "Best in Category:Life Blogs" I'm # 32 on the linky list and all you have to do is "like" the link! Just click here to view the contest entry and linky list :)
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An awesome giveaway win, if I do say so myself...

I have to preface this entry with the caveat that I do not enter giveaways unless I really want whatever is being offered. I am something of a packrat (and as much as I love him Steve is, if anything, worse) and just don't need any more "stuff" cluttering up my house.

But when my friend Kim from college - who writes over at A Little Bit of This (formerly Fashion Momma in Training) - hosted her "Ginormous 400 Follower Giveaway", I couldn't say no.

(The only thing that wasn't in this giveaway that I would have loved to receive were 300+ more followers. ;) No, but seriously.)

That said, I was honestly shocked when I won! And when I win giveaways I don't usually "brag" about it...but this particular giveaway included so many awesome items from so many great bloggers that I simply had to tell y'all about them! I know that Kim is giving them all their due on her blog, but as the actual recipient of the fruits of their labor I wanted to make sure they got double the love for being such talented, giving ladies (and gent) :)

First...a whole slew of awesome accessories!
  • A beautiful Kanzashi style flower hair pin (top center) made from dupioni silk courtesy of Nikki @ Woven Camillia
  • Handmade "tough but pretty" beaded bracelet (exact center) thanks to Rochelle of Rochelle Approved
  • A sweet handmade flower necklace (second from left) from Meredith at Yours, Mine & Ours
  • Gorgeous three piece accessory set (bottom right) from Anika Burke Eclectic Boutique
  • 2 great accessories from Kim herself (blue and silver necklace, far left; green and silver earrings, upper right)
And a handful of other great, useful items!
  • A signed copy of Murder on the Boulevard (the book toward the right) by Kori Donahue of Blonde Episodes
  • A $25 gift card to one of my favorite stores...Target! This is thanks to Kim's brother Ryan :)
  • Everything else pictured - the iTunes gift card ($15!!!), the notebook, picture frame, pen and nailpolishes, also from Miss Kim :)
But that's not all! Not pictured (because, well, two of them kind of can't be) are...
  • A standout print of a personal picture courtesy of Jackie Ranson Photography (I've been working with her and she's been great and quick to get back to me and I'll have my print in hand soon!)
  • Fit & Pretty Session with Katy of Think Pretty Thoughts - Katy has also been super nice, though to be honest I know I couldn't utilize her knowledge as much because I'm already big on working out and eating...well...sort of right. She has given me a few ideas though and I guarantee she'd be a great help to anyone looking for some insight on losing weight and being healthy in the right ways.
  • And the thing I probably needed more than anything else (even the Target gift card!)...a Personal e-style session with Leslie, who writes over at A Blonde Ambition. Despite being in the throes of planning her wedding Leslie was quick about working with me and sent me an awesome portfolio that gave me just the information I needed...though it may be a month or more before I get around to taking her advice, due to my current schedule.
I also wanted to take a moment to say that this is what blogging is all about.

No no no - not giveaways.

The people.

I've been "blogging" in one form or another since January 2004 and I've met countless amazing people, some of whom have become close friends of mine. Kim is on the other end of that spectrum - she and I met in college, lost touch, were reconnected via Facebook and I've been following her blog from its inception in late 2009. The fact that Kim was able to gather gifts from nine people other than herself for such a huge giveaway speaks for the impact she has made among her blogger friends.

Now, I know that the people who participated in the giveaway are getting something in return - exposure. I understand that; I know my marketing. But donating an item for a singular giveaway certainly gets you more exposure than donating one item that will be placed in a box with a dozen or more others; still these people gave. And they did it to support Kim, their blogger friend.

So kudos to you, Kim, for being so successful - and successful in such a positive way. And thank you for hosting this giveaway!

And for all the wonderful people who added items to this package...thank you as well! I love everything and can't wait to have a chance to wear or use each and every item :) Pin It

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: France, A Traveler's Literary Companion edited by William Rodarmor

Admittedly, I'm not big on short stories, so reading a collection of them was possibly not the best idea I've ever had. However, when traveling to Alaska a few years ago I picked up a similar book - a collection of stories written by Alaskan authors or by outsiders regarding their visits to this beautiful state - and loved it. And especially loved reading it while I was there. This book I chose to prepare myself for an upcoming stop in France on a much bigger Eurotrip, and I'm sorry to say that I struggled through it. This particular collection consisted of not one story that left me with a positive feeling. Not one. They were all sad or awful or good until I got to the last page and read an ending that left a bad taste in my mouth. I'm left wondering whether the editors just chose a terribly depressing bunch of stories, or if terribly depressing stories are the only kind of stories French authors write. 1.5/5 stars and I obviously do not recommend this book - though some of the stories, for example The Lottery of France and The Ladle were by themselves fairly decent.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Confessions: It's been a long week.

As usual, the only "rule" of this blog hop is that you post the button in your entry. I'm not going to go around policing whether or not you follow people or leave comments from this hop...that's just not my style ;)


I confess...that Friday meant two months until my next Vegas trip, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since it was booked months and months ago!

I confess...that when they stopped selling alcohol at the Miranda Lambert concert on Saturday at 9:30 PM (!?!?!?!)...I was really annoyed. Granted I'd only had one large beer and it wasn't like I needed to drink, but dammit, why does South Carolina not get that people probably want to drink a beer when they're at a country music concert? (I've run into this problem before, if you can't tell)

I confess...that I am super duper excited that the new Harry Potter movie beat out the Dark Knight opening weekend ticket sales, and I think it's ridiculous that people are making the argument that "if inflation were taken into account Dark Knight would still be in the lead". First of all, if we had taken inflation into account when Dark Knight beat the previous record of...what was it, Spiderman 3?...maybe Dark Knight wouldn't hold the record. And maybe Spiderman 3 wouldn't have beat out I think...Pirates 2? Which wouldn't have beat out whatever movie came before that. Catch my drift? And beyond that, Dark Knight was one of the most boring movies I've ever forced myself to sit through. I wasn't a huge fan of the new HP flick, honestly, but it was far better than Dark Knight at least.

And last but not least, I confess...that I lost my Steak-n-Shake virginity next week! In this case it was all for the sake of blogging, but I'll get into the details on that at a later time ;)


Hope y'all had as good of a weekend as I did!

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Should anti-depressant commercials amuse me this much?

What is the message here? Why does the depression not go away? Why does it turn into a floating blue porkchop and hang out with you and your family? And why do I feel sorry for it when it melts into a puddle at the end?



(Please note that I am in no way making fun of depression or people who have it; Lord knows I've had my fair share of fights with it over the years. I simply can't help but giggle at this ridiculous commercial.) Pin It

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Midnight Showing

I'm exhausted. I'm simply too old to be up until 3 AM on a work night.

But...it was totally worth it!

Of course I followed through with my plan to dress up as Luna. I had purchased her wand some time ago knowing that I would do so...

...same with the Spectra Specs. Both were purchased on sale ;)

And the rest of it? I bought the skirt at Old Navy, but I'll wear it again so no biggie. The button down shirt, bag, tights, socks, and sneakers I had; the tie is Steve's. The radish earrings are made from fimo and courtesy of my wonderful mother in law :) And Steve and I spent about $10 at Michael's to make the "Butterbeer cork" necklace!

And the Quibbler was homemade too.

In case you can't tell, I was pretty darn proud of my costume!

I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't get more/better pictures :-/ But I didn't want to be constantly bugging Steve to take them, and I didn't want to interrupt the other people who were dressed up...though I would have loved to get pictures of the really awesome Tonks and Bellatrix costumes I saw, and there was a cool Voldemort outfit as well...complete with a stuffed snake wrapped around the person's neck!

It's all good though, because I'm pretty sure this is the perfect Halloween costume for me this year :) We will be Drinking Around the World in Orlando ON Halloween...comfort is key and this outfit is pretty comfy, so there ya go!

As for the movie...well, let's not lie: the only HP movies that were true enough to the book to not be seriously criticized by, well, everyone were Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Goblet of Fire. Personally, after a major rant over Prisoner of Azkaban (the movie), I gave up outright complaining about the HP movies and therefore won't do so with this one either.

(I'm giving y'all a slight spoiler alert right now!)

Some things were great - Mrs. Weasley's classic line, the actual moment when Neville cut off Nagini's head...and Snape's death. Which doesn't happen exactly like it does in the book, but it is - if anything - better. But as usual, they cut out huge chunks of the storyline, pieces that are extremely important in the book, and added in random scenes that were - to say the least - completely unnecessary.

As a whole, I was pleased by not amazed. Still, I've long since given up feeling disappointed in these movies and instead just taking them for what they are - good entertainment, and a piece of a wonderful world that teaches true courage and friendship to younger generations. Pin It

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thirsty Thursday Harry Potter style :)

Today is Harry Potter premier day, folks, so I'm going to write about those drinks that they always talk about in the books...Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice!




Last summer we visited the newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and you bet your ass that the very first thing we did was try the drinks they created based on the ones mentioned in the books and movies.

Pumpkin Juice - A spiced drink that reminds one of fall, and delicious! Though one is quite enough, thanks.
And BUTTERBEER! Also an amazingly tasty drink, but very sweet and rich.
And even though Universal isn't giving out the recipe that they use in their theme park, you can recreate something akin to what they mix up!

BUTTERBEER

Start to finish: 1 hour (10 minutes active)
Servings: 4
1 cup light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
Four 12-ounce bottles cream soda

-In a small saucepan over medium, combine the brown sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240 F on a candy thermometer.
-Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar and 1/4 heavy cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
-Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the rum extract.
-In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened, but not completely whipped, about 2 to 3 minutes.
-To serve, divide the brown sugar mixture between 4 tall glasses (about 1/4 cup for each glass). Add 1/4 cup of cream soda to each glass, then stir to combine. Fill each glass nearly to the top with additional cream soda, then spoon the whipped topping over each.

Granted, that's not the awesome frozen version you can get in the parks, but maybe I'll try my hand at remixing this into a frozen drink recipe and share it with y'all ;)
Is anyone else going to see Harry Potter at midnight tonight? Obviously I'm totally stoked about it!
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reading Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows

At the end, I feel much the same as I did when I read the final Harry Potter book for the first time. That it was good, great, amazing, even...but not perfect. As much as I hated to say it then, and still hate to say it now - not enough important characters died. And although Rowling wrapped things up, there are a lot of frayed ends on some of the answers she gave. Of course, who am I to say that Rowling was maybe rushing a bit to finish the series, that maybe there were things she kind of pulled out of nowhere that didn't make much sense? She wrote something that I could never write, could never match.

And at the end, it was really interesting watching these books go from a late elementary school/early middle school reading level to a high school reading level (at the very least). There were absolutely words(in the last few books at least) that I wouldn't have known the meaning of when I was a child. Not to mention ideas or themes that I couldn't have even begun to understand at, say, 8 to 10 years old. I used to be a bit sad that the Harry Potter series was published so "late" (as it were) in my life...but now I think that I'd rather know it the way I do than have read the series as a child and not even begun to truly "get" it.

As it were, my order of favorites is as follows:
First, Order of the Phoenix.
Second, Sorcerer's Stone.
Third, Goblet of Fire.
Fourth, Deathly Hallows.
Fifth, Prisoner of Azkaban.
Sixth, Half-Blood Prince.
Seventh, Chamber of Secrets.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Second Monday Confessions blog hop :)

Join in with the button below!


I confess...that I went to Old Navy for one thing yesterday and left with four. And spent way too much money. Oops.

BUT...I also confess...that I loved every single thing I bought and needed at least two of the four items.

AND I confess...that one of them was so that I can put together an outfit like this and be Luna Lovegood for the Harry Potter premiere on Thursday!
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Last but not least...I confess...that I'm re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in preparation for this movie, and I've already cried three times. And admitting that makes me feel like a loser, but whatever.

What do you want or need to confess on this fine Monday? ;)



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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Reading Harry Potter: Half-Blood Prince

Note: I am trying not to reveal any spoilers in this entry (in case there are actually people out there who haven't read the HP books but want to do so), but feel free to comment and for those of you who haven't read these books, I can't speak for any spoilers that may or may not exist in the comments ;o)

I remember reading this book when it was published...it must have been the summer of 2005, because I was living in Lynchburg. I read it in something like two days, and when I got to the last few chapters - most specifically, the end of the chapter entitled "The Lightning-Struck Tower" - I couldn't believe what Rowling had written. I started crying on the last page of that chapter, and I didn't stop until some time after I'd finished reading. I'm not afraid to admit it. I was lying on my couch, facing the back of it with the book propped up against the cushions, trying to read with tears literally streaming down my cheeks. I was shocked, appalled, but I also knew that what happened at the end of Half-Blood Prince had to happen. If not in this book, then in the next one.

A lot of HBP frustrated/annoyed me. I feel like there was some dragging out of the story itself, crap that could and should have been cut out. This is probably the first time I felt this strongly that Rowling was adding drivel in just to make the book longer. But I'm not a published author whose books have made every best seller list in the world and won God knows how many awards, so who am I to talk? And I actually did like HBP. Not as much as Order of the Phoenix, Sorcerer's Stone, or Goblet of Fire...but HBP did make me feel like we were finally getting somewhere - with what was going to happen to the [main] characters, to Harry, to the whole "Voldemort problem". I think I liked it a bit less reading it last year, which was, I don't know, my fourth or fifth time doing so...but the respect is still there.
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Friday, July 8, 2011

You know me and my sandwiches ;)

A while back I was reading an article about sandwiches that simply listed off some different combinations that the writer had loved. One of these combinations involved pears and blue cheese...and of course I made a note of it, did a couple Google searches, and combined a couple different recipes that I found to create this bad boy. Which was, in a word, delicious.


GRILLED BLUE CHEESE & PEAR SANDWICH

Sourdough bread in 1/2 inch slices
Butter, softened
Sour cream
1 ripe pear, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup shredded Havarti cheese

-Combine the blue and havarti cheeses in a small bowl and thinly spread sour cream on one side of each piece of bread
-Add the sliced pears and cheeses to your taste (I had one layer of pear slices and plenty of cheese!)
-Preheat a skillet and melt the softened butter in it
-Cook for 2 minutes, remove sandwich, add more butter to pan, flip sandwich and cook for 2 minutes on the other side - you want the bread to be brown and crisp and the cheese to be melted :)

As you can see, I threw some roasted broccoli on the side (you can find the broccoli recipe here). And again, the sandwich was just a great mix of ingredients...the sour cream and more "bland" Havarti toned down the sharpness of the blue cheese, and the crunchy sweetness of the pears was perfect!
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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Coffee Cubes!

Okay. I'm taking a step back from what I'd normally post for Thirsty Thursday (that being...beer. or alcohol in general. whatever), so get ready to be shocked and amazed!




Okay, maybe not "shocked and amazed", but at least...interested?

Back in May we had some friends visiting for our [awesome, if I do say so myself] Kentucky Derby party, and on "the morning after" Steve made his infamous iced coffee. Now, a little over a year ago I posted the "recipe" for his iced coffee in our Greenville blog...and he promptly told me that I didn't have it right. As in, "my" write-up/version of his iced coffee was okay, but it wasn't the best way to do it. Perfectionist.

Still, there was one thing that both of our versions had in common - coffee cubes.
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And making coffee cubes is easy! Just make sure you have an extra ice cube tray (or two) and make some extra coffee in the morning. Pour said coffee into a shaker and stir in an appropriate amount of sugar, then pour it into the ice cube tray and let it freeze...then use the coffee cubes to chill your coffee later that day or the next! Voila...amazing iced coffee!

Note that we did try to add a layer of half and half on top of the coffee cubes at one time, but it never did freeze correctly...so keep in mind when you mix your coffee that you'll probably want to add a little extra half and half to keep up with the melting cubes of straight coffee. Also, we will usually chill some of our fresh coffee in a shaker (after adding sugar while it's hot!) in the fridge/under cold running tap water before pouring it into a glass and adding the coffee cubes...otherwise it just never seems to get cold enough.

And damn, now I've given you some half-assed version of Steve's iced coffee recipe. Oops? Here's the one I wrote up for our Greenville blog, but keep in mind that Steve's iced coffee really does always come out better than mine (though mine isn't bad by any means!). Pin It

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gratitude...I need to have more of it.

Last week I wrote about my friend Sandy and her blog, Sandy and the 1000 Paper Cranes - she had placed a crane in a place that was very special to me and I decided to write about the word on that crane, "lighthearted". But it just so happened that Sandy placed a second crane in another place that was important to me. Maybe not "special", per se, but it is a place where I learned a lot. That crane had the word "gratitude" on it and she placed it and she placed it at the Pizzafari restaurant in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

You see, I've never really had a terrible job, but if I were to list off every single one I've ever had from best to worst, Pizzafari would have to be at the bottom of the list. I admittedly complained a lot - too much - about working at Pirates. Because yeah, it was boring at times. And when I had 10-12 hour shifts and spent next to none of it in the Tower (the one position that allowed sitting), my feet would hurt. A lot. And honestly, it was a bit disappointing that only one of my fellow Pirates cast members was a CP.

But looking back, I have a lot of fond memories from that experience - some of the fondest being from crazy 12-14 hour shifts, back-breaking parade duties like clipping and rolling, and getting to know some great full-time cast members.

Of Pizzafari, though, I can't say that I really have "fond memories". So it may surprise you to hear that despite not having memories like that, I have an immense amount of gratitude for the time I spent working food prep and counter service detail at this quick service restaurant.

Even if the costumes were horrendous.
Seriously. (There was also a hat, but I never could find one that fit my giant head, & I mean that literally, not figuratively)
Not being able to fit the required cloth hat on my head meant I had to wear this paper thing - but trust me when I say that it could have been worse.
Pizzafari - and working there - taught me about food. Yes, I know it was only a quick service restaurant, but it taught me that the strangest combinations can be the most delicious. Like ham, turkey, provolone, swiss, tomatoes, pesto, romaine lettuce and caesar dressing on muffaletta bread. And that adding sugar to marinara sauce really gives it that extra OOMPH. I never cared much about cooking and was extremely picky, but working here helped me to brush off my fear of trying new foods and combinations and I will forever be grateful for that.

I also learned that your bosses truly make or break your work environment. There were very few truly likeable managers at Pirates, but at Pizzafari they were great. Helpful, caring, understanding. Working in quick service foods (at Disney or anywhere) is not a glorious job, and these managers really seemed to understand that and they did what they could to make it better.

And for the first time in my life, I truly understood the value of hard work. Yes, I'd worked long shifts and spent a lot of time on my feet at Pirates - but this was an entirely different animal. Standing in front of ovens blasting hundreds of degrees of heat for hours at a time. Working drinks back during lunch rush and literally filling dozens of sticky, cold sodas every minute. Scouring every stainless steel surface in an industrial sized kitchen when the day was done.

It was that learned respect for food, for good managers, and for hard work that pushed me to finish school and then risk everything - my career life, my marriage, and most of my savings - to return to Disney years later and do some good. Even though I eventually moved on, managing at Sunset in MGM was the best work experience I've ever had (because of both the positive and negative things that happened)...and without Pizzafari, I never would have even considered applying for a restaurant management position at Disney.

So in retrospect, it would be really difficult for and silly of me to not feel this immense amount of gratitude for a job that in and of itself, I didn't love. Pin It

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Reading Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix

I think I was on the cusp of this realization for quite some time, and after reading the first five Harry Potter books back to back in such a short time (just two and a half weeks!), I had to make it official.

Of the first five books, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is my favorite.

Yes, even over Goblet of Fire.

I don't know if I can even give a good explanation as to why...maybe it's my fondness for the fact that Phoenix is the Empire Strikes Back of the Harry Potter series. It angers and depresses me from beginning to end. As evil as Voldemort is, as bad as Bellatrix Lestrange is, as frustrating as Snape is...Umbridge is, in my opinion, the worst Harry Potter villain. And as much as this should maybe make me hate this book, it appears to have the opposite effect.

Then there are the good parts, the really good parts--the formation of the D.A., Christmas in St. Mungo's, Fred and George's glorious exit from Hogwarts, and even the chapters when they are in the Department of Mysteries.

My point is...I can understand, what with the length and the depressing aspects and above all, Umbridge...why many people wouldn't or don't like this particular Harry Potter installment.

But me? I love it. I was still refraining from calling it my overall favorite HP book until I'd finished the final two installments--but I absolutely knew it was my favorite out of the first five.

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

First Monday Confessions Bloghop!

EDIT: I was exhausted when I posted this just after midnight last night (an entire day in the sun with my niece and nephew will do that to a person) and forgot about the whole point of the bloghop...linking up! Duh. So I've added that info :)

Okay everyone...here are the [eh-hem] "rules":
  1. Post the button below in your entry
  2. IF you decide to check out other blogs who enter the hop and leave comments (which is not a requirement, BTW!)...please don't leave copy-and-paste comments a la "check out my giveaway!" or "I've followed you PLEEEAAASSEE follow me back!" They make people uncomfortable. Seriously. Just don't do it.
  3.  Add your link to the list below :)
And that's it! Format your confessions any way you like. Post any type of confessions you want to post. Just have fun with it!


I confess...that I ate McDonald's tonight. (or rather, last night, depending on when you're reading this) I never eat fast food. Ever. I ate it just about an hour ago and I already feel gross. Sigh.

I confess...that I'm harboring some pretty nasty feelings toward the person who walked into our garage WHILE PEOPLE WERE HOME and stole my $500 bicycle. I know things could be worse and all, but I was planning on doing a ride tomorrow (specifically) so I can't stop thinking about it :(

I confess...that I have at least a dozen recipes to post here in my blog and I have no idea when I'll get around to doing so.

I confess...that I should be posting pictures of some sort...either along with these confessions (somehow?) or along with different confessions that actually deserve pictures...but it's late and I'm tired and I just don't feel like it :-/

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Book Review: A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Warning: This book will make you hungry! Hungry for travel, hungry for a visit to Provence, hungry for wine and hungry for food whose mere descriptions made me drool.

Although it's obvious that Mayle ran together interesting tidbits so that they sounded as if they all happened on the same day or within the same week, this is still one of the better travel memoirs I've read. It may not have the depth of self-discovery that one reads in Eat Pray Love, but it is far superior to the Frances Mayes's over-written Under the Tuscan Sun. Overall, A Year in Provence was a great quick read and a good introduction to this area of France, its food and its people. I will definitely be making a point to read more of Mayle's Provence memoirs. 4/5 stars!

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's official!

Monday confessions is on! My wonderful husband helped me create a button. It's not spectacular but I think it will work for now. If anyone has pointers on how to start a blog hop/meme I'd really appreciate them...I can definitely do the button thing but I'm not sure about the link up list...I'd love to get this all together for Monday...I know it's 4th of July but hey, no rest for the [blogging] weary! ;)

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Monthly 101 update: June

Even though I didn't get started on many of my goals last month, I still finished a few! Here are ones that I started making some progress on:

-Visit 3 new states in the US (1/3 - Ohio)
-Watch an entire TV series (started The Tudors, June 2011)
-Watch 2 foreign language films (1/2 - Taxi)

And the ones I finished! Only four this month, but still decent progress. Doing the math, I would have to accomplish approximately 3-4 goals a month to finish everything on time and I'm already ahead of schedule with that :)

- Organize a charity event (charity pub crawl on 6/11/2011)
- Donate at least $25 to charity (done along with my charity pub crawl)
Being all organizer-y at the start of my safari themed charity pub crawl (proceeds went to Greenville County Animal Care Services and we raised $375!)
- See a legend in concert  (BB King on 6/4/2011) 
This is actually Buddy Guy, who played at the same festival with BB King. I didn't get any good pictures of BB because it was dark by the time he took the stage, but even though it's blurry I love how this one of Buddy turned out!
 - Try 10 new beers I wrote about this one just yesterday :) 

I hope everyone has a great 4th of July weekend! I'm going to try to have a button and corresponding code made up for Monday Confessions before, well, Monday, but I can't promise anything...it's a holiday for me too you know! :)
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