Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What makes a great romance?

It's Writer's Block Wednesday but (and?) today I have a question for my readers, however many of you are out there and actually reading my blog ;)

When you're reading a book or watching a TV show or movie, what type of relationship catches your eye?

I think by now you all know my feelings on Twilight (ugh, blech, no no no and all that), so I was really excited when someone posted a link to this article on truly awesome sci-fi/fantasy romances. It really made me think about the kind of love story *I* like and I'm wondering if I'm alone in this ;)

First, most of them are tragically realistic and do not have happy endings that involve perfect pseudo-vampire babies and shield-generating vamps who have no real thirst for human blood.

Second, they involve strong, smart, independent women - women who don't need a man in order to be accomplished, don't need a man to survive or to lead a fulfilled/fulfilling life.

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Third, though they obviously include some unlikely scenarios (I doubt any of us are going to be time-traveling, vampire hunting, or guiding 12 colonies to safety anytime soon), these couples handle the crazy problems life throws at them in very human ways. They make mistakes, but very often for good reason. They choose love over responsibility and duty. They choose responsibility and duty over love. I've been in both of those positions so yeah, stuff like that happens in real life ;)

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Fourth, they are simply everyday people underneath the titles of princess, captain, president, admiral, king, first officer. That said, they are fully developed characters and not just empty useless shells (::cough::Bella::cough::)...yet we can still identify with them.

So in my mind, these are the makings of a great literary or on-screen couple, but I'm definitely interetsed in hearing what type of couples others relate to!
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Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Confessions



I confess...that I have no good excuse for posting Monday Confessions so late today :-/

I confess...that I went out Saturday evening and by 10 PM all I could think about was going home, putting on my Forever Lazy and playing Old Republic.

I confess...that I'm happy February is almost over. It's been a weird month.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Steak and onions CAN be delicious! ;)


London Broil can be really finicky, but I'm here to tell you that this particular recipe leads to a perfect London Broil :) Plus, the balsamic onions complement the meat excellently. And I love it. Enjoy!

LONDON BROIL WITH SMOTHERED ONIONS & CRISPY MASHED POTATOES

6 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 pounds London broil, tenderized with a fork
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Salt & pepper
1 softball-sized onion, sliced
½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ cup chicken stock
2 egg yolks
2 heads broccoli, cut into spears (optional)


- Preheat the oven to 400. When it reaches 400, pre-heat the broiler and set the rack 6-7 inches from the flame.

- In a medium size saucepot, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring up to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until fork-tender. Drain and set aside.

- While the potatoes are cooking, put the steak on a broiler pan, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through. Remove the meat form the broiler and allow it to rest for 5 minutes, tented with a piece of aluminum foil.

- While the steak is broiling, heat a medium sauté pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, salt and pepper and cover. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring at least every 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar.

- When the potatoes are done, drain the pot and mix in the chicken stock, then the egg yolks and some salt and pepper. Mash immediately. Transfer to a baking dish and place under the broiler until brown on top, about 5 minutes.

- If you want broccoli as well, spread it on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and roast for 10-15 minutes.

- Slice the meat into thin slices and serve topped with the onions and with the potatoes on the side.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Family History Friday: My First Fun Discoveries, Part 2

So I promise that eventually (next week I think?) get into the real gritty family history (haha...it's really not gritty)...but for now I'm still in this "wow look at the awesome stuff I learned in the first few pages of my grandfather's memoir" mode ;)

In case you didn't know, I'm a history geek. Nerd. Whatever. It was my major in college and I love it. To the point where some of my favorite books have been nonfiction history books, and currently I'm psyched to read this new Roger Williams biography that I bought a few weeks ago (and there are "family history Friday" reasons for that as well, but I digress). So. Imagine my excitement when I was typing up Grampy's memoir and came across this little gem:

One of my great-great uncles (Grampy's mother's brother) was a cook for General Patton in WWII.

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This great-great uncle of mine - someone who Grampy saw and talked to on a regular basis (sigh. I only wish I could have met him!) - knew General Patton. This is awesome because I am a nerd. But also it's just awesome. I'm sure they never had a real conversation or knew knew each other, but it's clear that as much as a cook could know a general, my great-great uncle knew Patton. Yeah, I learned this weeks ago and I'm still swooning over it. Deal with it ;)

Also - one great thing about learning about your family is learning about their health issues, because this knowledge can end up being really important later in one's life, you know? And I am happy and relieved to say that my grandfather's family basically had none. The only relative from that line who died of any sort of cancer/illness (i.e. the only one who didn't just pass away peacefully of old age in his or her 90s+) was my great-grandfather (Grampy's dad). He was 82 when he died of lung cancer but that was because he smoked like 2 packs a day (I'm not kidding. I did meet him once when he was in the hospital - I was pretty young - and he was scary - there are stories about how he used to yell at the nurses to bring him cigarettes. heh.) They always say that the more you know about your family's health issues/situation the better, and learning how healthy Grampy's family was has made me feel a lot better about what's ahead for me.

It has also encouraged me to ask my other grandparents to fill me in on their family's health situations and so far it seems that the only big issues anyone I'm related to has had were one case of Alzheimer's (scary) and a lot of diabetes on my mom's side (however that's all due to weight problems/horrible eating habits and out of the three people who have it, the one who actually works to control it is extremely healthy - and that's my grandfather and he's almost 80. so.)

Next week I'll be back with some more, err, exciting/interesting stuff? Maybe?

(Haha, honestly I know that no one is probably reading this. I just enjoy writing about it so I'll keep doing so.)
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Review: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Oh. My. Word.

I started reading this novel at the end of December.

I just now finished it. Well, I finished it last night, but still.

Granted, I was reading another book at the same time, but trust me when I say that wasn't really the problem. Because this book is, in a word, tedious.

Listen, I know it's a classic. I do. And I have read and enjoyed plenty of classics, including ones that used far more difficult language (and were far longer) than this one. The thing is, until you get to about the last three or four chapters For Whom the Bell Tolls d r a g s. I felt like Brian the dog from Family Guy, explaining the Blair Witch Project to the blind person...only with slightly different wording:

"'They’re in the woods...Nothing’s happening…nothing’s happening…something about a bridge.  Nothing’s happening…it’s over.”

Also, I'm not sure how I felt about the relationship between Robert Jordan, the main character, and his lover Maria. At times it felt like something I've experienced before...that idea that someone is perfect and perfect for you and that in just a few days you can completely fall in love with that person. At other times the whole thing felt forced and gave me a bad taste in my mouth in regards to how Robert Jordan thought about and talked to the girl. In the end Maria, poor innocent naive Maria, was the only character I felt anything for or about. The rest of them just got on my nerves.

The thing is, I've read other Hemingway works and loved them, but this one...I just didn't care for. At all. It had a few decent moments but in the end it was just too long and dragged too much to be worth any more than 2/5 stars

Regardless of the fact that it is considered a classic.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bloggers, Please.

I gotta say...I've been putting this post off for a while.

Because I've seen a lot of similar ones throughout the past year and all.

But people, it really is time to stop the madness. I've followed some awesome blogs since I started my first real public blog back in the fall of 2009...and I've ended up unfollowing (or at least no longer reading) at least half of them since then because their content went so far downhill that I just couldn't take it any more.

The look on my face when I suddenly realize that a blog/blogger I've loved has succumbed to the product review and/or giveaway train.
Also, if you follow me and comment on my blog, chances are I'll follow you back - and if I don't, trust me when I say that there's a good reason for it. I'm a small-time blogger. I'm not blogger famous nor do I ever expect to be, because I actually refuse to adhere to so many of those unspoken blogger "rules" (i.e. that every post MUST have a picture or you're just totally not interesting; that I have to use "squee-talk" and words like "awesomesauce" to come across as fun-loving and friendly; etc. etc. etc.). I blog because I enjoy writing and I enjoy reading quality blogs. I'm not hard to please, but I am easy to frustrate - if that makes sense ;)

So please, guys, please...heed the following:

Use the basic grammar lessons you learned in elementary school.

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The thing is, I'm not just talking about proper comma usage...that was simply the most amusing picture I could find :p I'm talking about the fact that I have seen bloggers who don't capitalize proper nouns or the words that start sentences. And a personal pet peeve of mine - not using apostrophes. "Im loving the weather today" makes no sense. What is "im"? That is not a word. *I'M*, however, is a word, and if that's the case, *I'M* also glad *YOU'RE* loving the weather today. Capiche?

If you're going to post a tutorial or recipe, make sure that all of the directions and ingredients are present and make sense.

No lie, I went to make a recipe last night. I'd found it on Pinterest and it was from a blog. I'm pretty careful about printing out recipes from people's blogs, but I can't catch everything. I guess I didn't read through this one carefully enough because the ingredient list was missing TWO THINGS. Neither of which I had in my house when I went to make dinner last night (we're not talking oil, salt, butter, pepper - we're talking recipe-specific stuff). I asked my husband to run out and grab them while I put the rest of the meal together, and when we were eating I made a comment about how *I* should have paid more attention, should have maybe read through the entire recipe to make sure I bought all of the ingredients I needed. Thankfully he told me not to be silly and that it's the job of the person posting/sharing the recipe to make sure it's legit. I gotta say I agree with him ;)

TURN OFF THE CAPTCHAS ON YOUR COMMENTS.
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I feel like a million other bloggers have already complained about it, yet I'd say about 1/3 of the people I follow still have their captchas turn on. I think it may be a default setting, but still, it's not hard to fix. Please, please go into your blog settings and make sure your captchas aren't on. I'm nice enough to still leave a comment even when I'm required to enter a captcha - usually - but today I had to type THREE different captchas on someone's blog before it would accept my entry, because apparently captchas can come in wavy form WITH lines through them AND random punctuation marks included. Oh, and caps count as well now?! WTF is right.

Music on blogs/websites - the kind that automatically plays when the page opens - is something everyone complains about. But I'm here to say please also stop the madness when it comes to crazy large headers (please make sure your header fits on the blog page and doesn't add a horizontal scroll bar. PLEASE)/pictures/tons of ads and banners/FLASHING GIFS (omg seriously on that last one) that cause your page to load at an abominably slow pace.

 I actually had been following a great blog. Recently the blogger re-did their page. They added some sort of flashing gif. Now when I try to view the page - in Firefox (my usual browser), Chrome, even Internet Explorer - the only thing that loads is a blank white field with that stupid flashing gif in the top left-hand corner. I've tried contacting the person, because I'm sure I'm not the only one having this problem, but to no avail. Also, another blog that will remain nameless now has a random little box that floats across the page whenever I visit. Wanting me to join some network or website or other, I don't know. The damn thing floats around the page until I physically click on it and close it out. THAT IS NOT COOL. Maybe I'm just about the only person in the blogosphere who doesn't care about monetizing my blog, but why would you want to do so at the expense of your readers' enjoyment???


***STOP WITH THE PRODUCT REVIEWS.***

Okay, that's a bit blunt. I'm not saying you should NEVER accept and review free stuff. In fact, The Bargain Blonde said it best - if it is relevant to your blog theme and readership, go for it.

*To an extent.*

I've received a few PR pitches (the first one was back in April of last year and the most recent one was just last month), both just general products for me to review and also stuff for me to give away. I've accepted *two* of these pitches - both book reviews. Not that I wouldn't accept anything else, but all of the other pitches I've received were for things I just wouldn't use personally and that's that. Regardless, I think the general unwritten "rule" for posting product reviews (and for that matter, giveaways) on your blog should be that they shouldn't make up more than half of your blog posts. Honestly part of me wants to say that they shouldn't make up more than a THIRD of your blog posts, so trust me when I say I'm even being a bit generous here.

I mean really - if your blog consists of 10 product reviews and 3 *actual* blog entries in a month, do you really think people are going to read it? Also, the people sending you the shizz you're reviewing must be pretty freaking stupid to think that anyone is paying attention to your review of their product when it's buried amongst 9 other reviews of 9 other products.

Moral of the story: Free stuff is nice, but please don't compromise the quality of your blog for it - unless of course you are strictly a review/product review blog.

But if that was the case, I wouldn't have followed you in the first place. So.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Confessions



I confess...that I got some tattoo work done yesterday, and for the first time ever (this would in all technicality be my 9th tattoo) I had to ask the artist to stop. Which means I'll have to go back to get it finished. To be fair this tattoo is at least 1/3 bigger than my next biggest piece, but...ugh. Point of pride, lost.

I confess...that I got sucked into Star Wars Old Republic this weekend. Hard core. Now if only I could get my character leveled up enough to get off Ord Mantell....

I confess...that I really need to get my priorities back in line. I've been avoiding working on stuff that I *really* need to get done, and it's not good.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Family History Friday: My First Fun Discoveries, Part 1

Today's Family History Friday is probably more of a second part to last week's post...basically just a general rundown of all the awesome things I discovered just in the first five or so handwritten pages of my grandfather's memoir.

When I was younger I remember being told that I was Swedish, but the only person in my family who seemed to have a Swedish last name was my Great-Great Aunt Mae...and that last name was of course her husband's last name, and he wasn't a blood relative. My father was always kind of vague about where our Swedish ancestry came from, so to be honest there was a time when I thought maybe we simply weren't Swedish at all. I mean...my obvious German ancestry (my mother's maiden name was extremely German) could just as well account for the fact that I'm tall and athletic and blonde ;)

Swedish? German? Swedish AND German? You decide.
 (I'm kidding, really. Promise.)

So I was in fact a bit surprised to start typing Grampy's memoirs and immediately come across the information that his grandparents on the maternal side - my Great-Great Grandparents - were in fact both Swedish! Very, very Swedish in fact, but I'll get into that at a later time ;)

Another thing that my grandfather mentioned was that on his father's side of the family he was descended from someone who came over to the States on the Mayflower. You know, the one with the pilgrims and Plymouth Rock and all that. Unfortunately the paperwork - which my grandfather actually saw - has long since been lost.

But it was that tidbit that sent me to ancestry.com. Thankfully I received a free six month membership with some software (their Family Tree Maker software), and I started plugging away...and quickly became obsessed. I'm still searching for that lost connection, though, and hopefully I'll be able to get past the point at which I'm stuck and figure out the facts.

That said, the family tale that has lived on after the loss of the paperwork is that we were related to someone on the Mayflower who was a sort of "thief" or "pirate". Honestly my family can sometimes not be, well, the sharpest knives in the drawer, so a bit more digging told me that most likely they should have been describing our Mayflower ancestor as a sort of sellsword or mercenary.

Which can only mean one person: Myles Standish.

source

Of course, this information could be hearsay. It could be downright incorrect. So that's my mission at the mo' - to find out which pilgrim we were related to. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I'm a bit stuck at the moment. I've hit a roadblock, if you will. It involves people on ancestry.com who taint actual information with entries that are either due to (1) silly mistakes because they're not paying attention or (2) willful ignorance of dates that don't match up because they want to claim ancestry that isn't really theirs.
I gotta say, though: Myles Standish was really badass so I'm pretty much hoping it was him. ;)
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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Getting to Know You & Me with "how i met your father"

Little Miss Can't Be Wrong over at how i met your father posted this on Valentine's Day, and I've finally found the time to participate :)

Basically I answer 11 questions, then I *ask* 11 questions, and then I tag 11 people to answer those questions. But to be honest, I'd rather not tag anyone - if you want to answer the questions that I ask at the end of this entry, just go right ahead and then link back to my blog as the one you started from :)

1. Are you a righty or a lefty? I'm always curious to know!

Righty fo sho!

2. What was the color of your first car?

A sort of pastel yellow. Here ya go...
1999 VW New Beetle <3
3. If you could be any Disney Princess who would you be? Why?

Oh man, that's tough! Either Belle or Ariel. Belle because she loves to read and I just think hers and the Beast's love story is the most beautiful one of all. Ariel because she sings and well...so do I. Plus she's a redhead and for whatever reason I've always wanted naturally red hair. Not true ginger hair, mind you. Red hair like my BFF's or some such similar red.


4. Smart Phone or no? Iphone or Droid or Blackberry? What is your "go to" phone of choice?

Yes, Smart Phone, and iPhone all the way! I had a BB before my iPhone and there is seriously no comparison.
One reason I love the iPhone: Disney attraction wait time apps!
5. What is your favorite show on television right now?
GAME OF THRONES!!!!!!! (source)
6. Polka dots or stripes? What is your favorite pattern this season?

Polka dots...I guess. I'll wear stripes if they aren't horizontal but even that is pretty rare. And I don't think I have a favorite pattern...this season or any season...because I'm not the most fashionable person out there. haha
 
7. What is your favorite family tradition?

Sadly...we don't really have any traditions, anymore. For the longest time it was the big vacation we'd take together every year...Cape Cod and Amish Country PA when I was little...later Maine, Disney, and other random trips like Colorado and a cruise...but nowadays we all kind of have our own lives, and I'm married and spend some holidays with my husband's family...so traditions have kind of fallen by the wayside :-/
Last true family vacation - June 2005 on the Carnival Valor (my dad was taking the picture) - My mom, middle sister Christy, youngest sister Jenni, and me...the oldest :)
8. Mac or PC?
My friend Jamie and I with our pretty Macbooks Pro (lol)
MAC! There are things about it that annoy me, I can't lie (iPhoto is NOT as user friendly as they would lead you to believe, for instance) but in general the thing just works. SO glad I splurged and bought myself a Mac a few months ago when it came time for a new laptop.

9. Jackie or Marilyn?
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Marilyn. I just admire her spark, how she strove to educate herself, and sorry...she was simply the more beautiful of the two.

10. What is the furthest you've ever traveled from home?

I'm going to hazard a guess at...BUDAPEST! (Hungary. it's the farthest "east" in Europe that I've been, and in the other direction the farthest I've been is probably Fairbanks, Alaska)
I found this ad in Budapest hilarious. Also, that is a bottle of wine purchased from a subway/tram station liquor store. Classy.
11. Favorite "boy band" - are you an *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, NKOTB, 98 Degrees, The Monkees -- who is your boy band go to? Do you have one? 

All-time - The Beatles, of course! In high school, though, I was an *NSYNC girl. I think. Though I want to say that I thought the BSB's music was in general better.

Now for my 11 questions, should you choose to participate!

1) If you had to pick one movie as your all-time favorite...preferably one that you ALSO loved when you were younger...what would it be?
2) Here's a personal one...when you're in a relationship, do you tend to fall fast or remain guarded for a while?
3) Do you have a bucket list or do you ever plan on having one?
4) What kind of traveler are you (do-it-yourself, you'd rather go on a tour, like to rough it, want to be comfortable, luxury, etc.)?
5) Are you into anything that you'd consider "geeky"? If so, what is it?
6) Do you believe in the term "the one that got away"? (what can I say, I have the Katy Perry song stuck in my head right now)
7) Photography or writing? Why?
8) If you could recommend one book and one book only, what would it be?
9) Are you a cat person, a dog person, or neither? Why do you identify with whichever you chose?
10) Do you think there are just a ridiculous number of rude people trolling around on the internet nowadays?
11) If you had to pick one site and one site only to use out of these, which would it be: Twitter, Pinterest, a blog site (your choice, i.e. blogger/wordpress/livejournal/tumblr), Google+.
(yes, I left out FB on purpose assuming that if anyone answers these that would be first choice every time, haha)

Again, the only rules are...answer the questions and link back to me, ask your own 11 questions and tag others or just generally ask others to answer them :)
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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy "I don't celebrate Valentine's" Day!

Here is something I've been working on for a while. I had a lot of fun with it and I hope you enjoy! Please feel free to share so long as you link back to my blog :) I put a lot of work into this and I'm kinda proud of it.


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Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Confessions



I confess...that it was so cold out Saturday night, the only reason I left my house was because we had plans to celebrate my sister's birthday.

I confess...that today is actually said sister's birthday, and she's 27, and that (this is the actual confession:) makes me feel old. When I was 27 I traveled to three new US states, got engaged, planned 30th birthday celebrations for my significant other, went on my first solo business trip, and got married. I can't imagine my little sister doing any of those things, especially not all in one year, and yet she already has a child. Gahhhhh.

I confess...that I started a sort of project thing on Saturday, and I'm hoping it comes out okay and that I'll feel comfortable sharing it ;)

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

But it's so PRETTY!

Well, it's been a while since I posted a recipe and for that, I'm sorry! I honestly cook at least 4 or 5 nights a week (and we eat leftovers the rest of the time, usually - we rarely go out to eat), and I'm pretty good about taking pictures of my meals...it's just sitting my butt down and typing the recipe into my blog that's a problem, I suppose ;)

Aaaanyway. Today's recipe originated from Stacy at Every Little Thing, but from what I remember she didn't have the best results with/from it, and I can't find it in her recipe index...plus I made a couple of [minor] changes...so I don't feel bad posting it here rather than doing a link-back.

SAUTEED CHICKEN & RADISHES IN MUSTARD SAUCE

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (please, please buy the all-natural, hormone free SMALL chicken breasts)
Salt (coarse/kosher) & Pepper (fresh-ground)
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
Olive oil
1/2 of a shallot, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon (max!) chopped fresh tarragon
approx. 20 radishes, trimmed and halved/quartered (depending on the size of them)


- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet with a thin layer of the olive oil, over medium-high heat.

- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Saute until browned and cooked through. If you use small or small-medium chicken breasts (4-6 oz each) they will take 5 to 7 minutes per side.

- Transfer chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.

- Add the shallot to the same skillet and stir over medium-high heat for about 1 minute. Add the wine to the skillet, then the broth; bring to a boil. Whisk in the mustard and chopped tarragon; boil until the sauce thickens enough to coat the spoon lightly and is reduced to about 1/2 cup (this will take about 5 minutes). Stir in 1/2 tablespoon butter and set aside.

- While the sauce is reducing, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet with a thin layer of the olive oil, over medium-high heat. Add the radishes and sprinkle with the coarse/fresh ground salt and pepper.

- Cook without stirring until the radishes begin to brown (about 3 minutes). After the first few minutes, continue to cook the radishes until they are crisp outside (but still tender inside!) - making sure to stir occasionally! This will take about another 5 minutes or so, depending on how you have cut up the radishes.

- Serve the chicken breasts whole, over white rice, topped with the radishes and some of the shallot & mustard sauce :)

As you can see from the picture, this meal is very pretty! The reddish-purple radishes make it so, of course. It's also a fairly "light" dish and we really really enjoyed it.
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Friday, February 10, 2012

Family History Friday: An Introduction

Some time ago my dad shared with me that my grandfather had been writing a sort of memoir. Nothing to be published; just a sort of rundown of his life story, because he'd always been sad that he knew next to nothing about how his parents and grandparents grew up. When I heard about it I offered to type them up for him - I type on average 89 WPM (though I've been known to fly through a typing test with a 104-105 WPM result, haha) so I knew it wouldn't be a really long or difficult job for me.

Well, months and months passed with no more word about it, so I just figured that my offer had been forgotten. But then my grandparents came to visit a couple of weeks ago and my grandfather - I call him Grampy - brought a big old folder stuffed full of papers for me! I seriously can't describe how honored and excited I was/am to be given this opportunity. I am extremely lucky to have all four of my grandparents still living, though I have lost great-great aunts and uncles who were like more grandparents to me (around just as much and just as awesome as any one of my official grandparents), but to be completely honest Grampy has always been a favorite of mine and also one of the biggest mysteries.

Not the best picture of either of us, but this is my grandfather and I at my wedding in August 2010
I've already learned so much about my grandfather, and I've only typed up about 20 of his handwritten pages. His memory is amazing, which hopefully means good things for me when I'm his age ;)

That said, though, typing up his story has renewed an interest that I've had for quite some time now - to build as much of my family tree as possible, going as far back as I can, for one. So not only am I learning about him while I type this, but I was able to use some of his information, and I also got in touch with my other grandparents, and I've started putting everything together on ancestry.com.

I've already made some really awesome discoveries, but as it is this is a long entry and it's only supposed to be an introduction, anyway. For the next few weeks at least, I'm going to be posting some of my fun discoveries on "Family History Friday". Let's face it - we are all a product of who and where we came from, whether we embraced those things or turned away from them. I know that I for one need to learn to have a little more pride in my family history, and I have my wonderful wonderful grandfather to thank for that :) Pin It

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Beer Cans vs. Bottles vs. Drafts

Did anyone else go through that time period when being able to drink a bottled beer was just about the most exciting thing in the world? You know, "holy crap I have a little extra money and instead of buying a sucky Miller Lite draft or a dollar Bud Light draft I can buy a BOTTLE of beer!" ???

Well...I know I did. Steve and I started having a conversation about this a couple of weeks ago. It came about because when we went to North Carolina for New Year's we brought cans of Yuengling. Normally we would buy bottles, but the cans were obviously easier to transport. Before that weekend I guarantee you I hadn't had a can of beer since Memorial Day weekend 2010 (I was at a NASCAR race, so sue me).

See? May 2010. NASCAR race.
The thing is, for whatever reason those cans of Yuengling that we bought were like gold. It was like we woke up and suddenly understood that all we needed was a cold can of beer. I'm not saying we'll switch back to cans for good, but you know what? Sometimes it feels good to pop a can in a koozie and feel like maybe you're back in college again.

All that said, though, in recent years we've been drinking so much craft beer that I've learned how much better a draft beer can be than a bottle. Because it's not exposed to oxygen, for one, and also...you never know how old that six-pack sitting on the shelf of your grocery store is. Recently I was searching out some Duck Rabbit Milk Stout for a friend from Boston (you can't get it up there) and I had to go to numerous stores before I found one that actually carried the stuff and could tell me that it wasn't six months old or more! And when it came down to it, the bottled version was nowhere near as amazing as the draft of Duck Rabbit Milk Stout that I had at a beer festival in Asheville, North Carolina last year.

I guess I at least FOUND it, though...
So this is getting long - too long - and I'm going to wrap it up ;) The fact of the matter is, if you can find a decent canned beer (i.e. the aforementioned Yuengling), sometimes it's nice to take that trip back...but in general it's not hard to understand why we all loved splurging on those bottles back in the day ;) Still, if you're drinking the right kind of beer - you know, truly good beer - a draft is seriously the way to go. Trust me on this. If you've only ever had draft Miller or Bud or similar mass-produced brewskies, you're missing out. Pin It

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Today we're going to talk about customer service.

Normally I relegate any and all travel-related posts to my travel blog (for obvious reasons), but I've decided that for once this is worth posting here. Because it's not really exclusively about travel, but rather about the experiences I had as a Disney cast member (and on past Disney trips) versus today's Disney cast members and the experiences I've been having on more recent vacations to "The Most Magical Place on Earth".

So today I'm going to use the words that I'm sure any current Disney cast member hates to hear. They're similar to those words that you scoffed at when you were a child and your parents would compare how difficult things were when they were young and how easy you had it. They are, "You see, when I was a Disney cast member, we actually had to give a crap." About our job, about the "Disney Way", about the guests, about customer service. And honestly, I doubt that even 10% of the cast members who I've encountered on my past few Disney trips care about any of the above.

With my fellow usual "Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party" cast members (I'm the one at the top left)
I left Disney in the summer of 2006. Sometimes I regret it; most of the time I don't. More than often I simply miss working a job where I felt as if I was making a difference. I like my current job just fine, but I highly doubt I'm making anyone's day when I call them to remind them that they owe my company money, or when I have to write up a time clock policy for employees who haven't had to use a time clock for years.

The thing is, it appears that the difficult yet rewarding job that I fell in love with isn't the job most of Disney's current cast members are experiencing. I can see it simply from the way I'm treated as a guest - it is no longer about pleasing people, but rather it's about the bottom line.

Let's get one thing straight - I was not necessarily the biggest cheerleader of Disney's "the guest is always right" adage. Countless times i watched fellow cast members essentially get abused - either by a guest or by his or her managers - because of Disney's almost insane concern for not pissing anyone off...no matter how little right that person had to the free food, merchandise, line cuts, etc. that they received.

"Queen of the Closers" - the getup my cast members made for me when I was a manager. Because they loved me. :)
When I finally worked my way off the front lines and became a manager, I think I did a pretty good job of both pleasing the guests and doing my best to help my cast members feel better about what was essentially a really crappy job. Seriously - dumping tubs of turkey leg grease, frying chicken tenders, busing tables...none of that was glorious. Especially when you consider the long hours and low pay involved. But at that time there were still places in Disney where the cast members were appreciated; I'm not quite sure that's the case anymore. And we were also still allowed to fill special food orders for guests, still required to know the answers to almost any question that could be thrown at us and if we didn't know, do our best to find out.

I don't ask for much when I travel. Really, I don't. I expect decent food when I'm paying good money for it. I expect my hotel room to be clean, that's it. I make my trips/vacations fun, even when things go wrong once in a while. I by no means had a bad time this past weekend - in fact, I even ended up with an awful sinus infection halfway through my trip, but I drank some Emergen-C, took some ibuprofen, and maybe kind of even downed some tequila in hopes of numbing my throat ;)

Well, this was a margarita rather than straight tequila. That came later but the picture I have is crappy and SO not going on my blog ;)
The point is, I enjoyed my time in Orlando even though things didn't go quite the way I planned. But that doesn't change the fact that every time I return to Disney I notice more things that the company has let fall by the wayside. For instance, in 2009 it was mostly the food - the more popular the dining plan becomes, the less quality the food has, be it at the sit down restaurants or the quick serve restaurants.

Though I've had crappy experiences with Disney cast members before, they were always few and far between and this weekend it was like one thing after another.

First it was the housekeeper copping an attitude with us because we were still in the room at 10:30 in the morning on Saturday. Then it was the incorrect information from the concierge desk about annual passes, which led to us waiting in a ridiculous line at guest services at MGM. Toward the end of the day at Magic Kingdom, I walked into a store to ask where I could get hard ice cream...the cast member wasn't busy at all, yet when he couldn't answer my question he basically shrugged and just suggested that I walk to the front of the park and see for myself if the bakery was serving ice cream while the usual ice cream parlor is closed for refurb.

Seriously - I had to go all the way back to our hotel to get regular (as in, not soft serve) ice cream.
To me, though - probably because I worked at Disney restaurants from 2002 to 2006 - the fact that when one of my friends asked for a sandwich with just turkey rather than turkey and ham and they refused was the worst. It sounds silly, maybe, but just before she asked someone else who wasn't even with us tried to order the same sandwich without cheese - due to lactose intolerance - and the answer was no to that, as well. The excuse is that the sandwiches are "pre-made", but it was basically the same sandwich we used to make at one of the restaurants I worked at and though they were pre-made, they weren't frozen or anything and therefore of course it was possible to remove certain ingredients before running them through the oven. Why is that all of a sudden an impossibility?

And though they apparently "can't" fill special orders (which is hilarious because even Burger King will give it to you "your way"), it appears that they think nothing of throwing random free food at you if you have to wait more than a couple of minutes. No lie, I got free cake because I had to wait for my sandwich to cook? And my friend waited in a bit of a line to get a bottled soda and got a free churro? yet they can't take the ham off a sandwich for her?

I hate that it sounds as if I'm doing some hard-core complaining here, but the thing is I was proud to work for Disney back in the day and I'm just not sure if I'd feel the same way now. They built a name for themselves, after all, and it's not cheap to vacation there...so it almost hurts me, in a way, that they seem to simply not care anymore :( Because let's face it...they seemed to be one of the last companies that did care. Pin It

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Confessions...late again :-/



I confess...that I'm late on this because I was out of town all weekend and didn't have time to write it and schedule it before leaving :-/

I confess...that I was supposed to go back to work for a half day today and couldn't do it :( I think Florida gave me a sinus infection...or rather, the weather change did.

I confess...that as much fun as I had in Orlando, I was very very happy to come home. I missed my bed and my pets and above all, Steve!

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Blogs from the past: 8/29/2004

As it stands, usually when I post these "blogs from the past" I don't edit them - but I did tone this one down a bit, because it was originally something only a handful of people would see and therefore included language that I...don't use every day, to say the least ;)

The fact is, a lot of people walked *all* over me when I was younger. In high school especially and then once I joined a sorority it was like all of the progress I'd made in that department came to a grinding halt. Even took a step (or few) back. I only have vague memories of what broke me and caused me to write the following, and that's probably a good thing - but I am proud to say that I made this decision, I wrote these words, and somehow I've actually stuck by them. And honestly...that makes me kind of proud :) 

I had a revelation today. It's my last semester here at Longwood, and I have decided that if someone or something pisses me off, I'm going to act on it. Every time LU's theater department has treated me like a nobody, every time a person has walked all over me or just been a jerk because they hated their own life in the past couple of years, I have allowed it to happen. I haven't acted upon my well-deserved anger. I've either been too busy or too worried about getting others involved with me in trouble. From now on, you want to know how I feel, I'll outright tell you. You talk crap to me, and you'll get it right back - and you'll wish you hadn't messed with me in the first place.

No, nothing in particular brought this on. I realized last night that something in me, the part that allows me to deal with people and stick up for myself and others who get the shaft, has been awakened. Pin It

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Monthly 101 Update: January

This month was actually probably average at best as it pertains to my 101 in 1001 list, but I suppose they have to happen once in a while :)

I did make a big step toward accomplishing one of my goals - that being to visit 3 new states. I added Ohio to my visited states list back in June of last year, and in January I added another state - Idaho!

Not too shabby of a map, I think :) Though as you can see I really need some help with those prairie states if I'm ever going to reach my general life goal of visiting all 50. Sigh.

As for fully completed tasks, however...

Have another Star Wars marathon - we did this on Saturday 1/28. Check out the blogs: Part 1 & Part 2

aaannnddd....

Run a 5k I ran in the Greenville News Run Downtown 5k on 1/21/12! My time was okay - 31:28.3 according to my own stopwatch - but more than anything I was actually pleasantly surprised at how fun it was :)

Don't mind the crappy cell phone picture.
That's it for last month but hopefully (fingers crossed) I'll get back on the ball and accomplish more this month! Pin It

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Star Wars Marathon, Part 2

Just in case you were wondering, we started off the new trilogy juuuust right ;)


Our late lunch/early dinner included the aforementioned C3PO Potato Salad, of course, as well as a casserole and a saucy onion dish. What were their names, you ask?

HAN-BURGER CASSEROLE

1 lb lean ground beef (uncooked)
6 oz beef stock or broth
One 10-ish oz can of cream of celery soup
One 14.5 oz can sliced carrots, drained
One 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, not drained
2 oz (1/4 cup) Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons dill relish
Instant white rice - fill one of the empty 14.5 oz cans as a measurement
1+ cup shredded cheddar cheese


- Mix all of the ingredients EXCEPT for the cheddar cheese in a 2.5+ quart baking dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, stir well, then bake for another 15 minutes.
- Take the casserole from the oven and top with the shredded cheddar, place back in the oven and bake another 15 minutes or until cheese is melted (it should seriously be melted after 15 minutes though)

OBI-WAN ONIONS

Olive oil
2-3 large white onions, sliced
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon water


- Add a couple tablespoons olive oil to a skillet (so that there is a thin layer on the bottom) and heat over medium-low. Add the onions, cover and let simmer for 7 minutes.
- Remove the cover, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Replace cover and reduce the heat to low/simmer and continue to cook for 40 minutes.


I have to admit, I was a little unsure about the casserole and onion recipes especially, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised! Also, those two dishes along with the potato salad actually complemented each other very well :)

We continued our lightsaber game and came up with 6 that are definitely lost/ruined (Obi Wan's & Darth Maul's in Ep. I; Anakin's in Ep. II; Yoda's & Mace Windu's in Ep. III; Luke's in Ep. V), one that is almost lost (Anakin's at the beginning of Ep. II), one that is lost but picked up by someone else (Anakin's at the end of Ep. III), and one that may or may not have been lost and I suppose we'll never know (Obi Wan's in Ep. IV) ;) Let's just say we had fun keeping an eye out for them! Possibly almost as much fun as you just had reading this paragraph...haha...kidding. No, but really.

Anyway. So. we had one more dish to try and we used this one as a late night snack...and it was delicious! (Though part of that was likely the Wheat Thins Tuscan Herb Flatbread Crackers that we used to complement it...)

R2 CHOKE SPREAD

28 oz. quartered arthichoke hearts, *not marinated*
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
Paprika for garnish


- Add the artichoke hearts, mayo, Parmesan cheese and garlic to a food processor and combine until coarsely chopped.
- Pour into a lightly greased baking dish and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with the paprika and serve hot!

We did end up having a couple of interruptions to our marathon, which led to us not finishing until around 3 AM...ugh. But it was so nice to sit and watch Star Wars and reminisce all day, for sure. And hey, the cats enjoyed it too!


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