Always Aubrey: October 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Project Runway: I am STILL #pr9viktor

I know this is way late.   But I'm going to write it anyways...  VIKTOR WAS ROBBED.

I'm not going to go into detail, because you've seen the runway and can decide for yourselves.  While Anya has vision, she was one-note all season.  (Come on, I could have placed a bet that I would see deep V-cuts, maxi dresses, jumpsuits, and prints.)  I ranked them Viktor, Josh, Anya, Kimberly.  That's how I think it should have gone.  Viktor really grew over the season, and his designs are classic and accessible to women.  He should become Michael Kors' protege.

I feel like Anya was the judges' darling all along, and even when she sucked they babied her.  I know that the judging is subjective, and I feel the final runway show is EXTREMELY hard to judge.  The designers' unique styles really stand out.  But I feel like the judges are losing their edge... maybe they need to rethink how they evaluate designers.

BTW, Viktor's white jacket is OH. EM. GEE.  Seriously, he is wonderful!

What I'm now interested in seeing soon is what the 'decoy' runway lines looked like, the lines the other designers had to make so no one would know who actually was a finalist in Fashion Week, since the filming took place so long ago.  From what I could see, a few of the eliminated designers did a great job; I think Bert's collection looked pretty nice!

The Anchor Holds


The Anchor holds, though the ship is battered.
The Anchor holds, though the sails are torn.
I have fallen, fallen down on my knees
as I faced the raging seas.
But the Anchor holds; O, in spite of the storm.

The farm
We laid Grandma to rest yesterday, and it was an emotional roller coaster.  The church was filled to the eaves; there were even people sitting in the prayer room.  There were so many friends and family members there, a testament to what my grandmother was to her community.  She was an active church member, an advocate for abused children through CASA, and was known for never saying an unkind word about anyone.  It was so neat to hear from her youngest brother about her love for horses and how she wrote poetry, how she and Grandpa endured three years of floods that ruined their crops but persevered to move and start a dairy farm to make a living.

During the funeral, my cousin AV sang the song 'Blessings' by Laura Story, and we all listened to one of Grandma's favorite hymns, the chorus of which appears above.  When I heard it, I turned to my cousin MS, who sat beside me through Grandpa's funeral, and said, "She was the anchor."  And it's true; she was the glue that held us all together.  I'm not a church-going person, and I don't know if I believe in heaven or salvation, but it comforts me to know that Grandma is with Grandpa now, especially today, on his birthday.

I miss my Grandma tremendously, and I worry about the future for our extended family.  Will we see each other for holidays, without her hearth to gather around?  I just don't know at this point.  I'm glad that I could see everyone, and thankful for the amazing foods prepared by the people of the Lyons community.  Paula Deen's got nothing on those ladies!  I'm lucky to have had such wonderful grandparents and been a part of such a tight-knit family.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More FREE iPhone apps I'm playing with...

I haven't written about the fun I'm having with my iPhone since I got in in March, but the truth is I can't put it down.  I've recently upgrade to the new iOS, and I really love it.  I figured since I've been using it so much, and I'm a total cheapskate, I'll share some of the FREE apps available in the app store that I use the most!

Social Networking.  I use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest (you can pin from Safari!) on my phone, in that order.  These are all free, and something that you should have on your iPhone if you use the sites on your laptop!  Another great one is Bloglovin, which allows me to read all of the latest from my favorite blogs in one centralized location.


Camera.  I love camera apps!  The iPhone is now my de facto point-and-shoot; once I get my DSLR next month, I am giving my old camera to my sister.  I love that the new iOS allows for some cropping and minor editing now, but before I used Adobe's Photoshop Express.  For fun filters and effects, I like Instagram and Paper Camera (great comic book-like effects), and recently tried out CamWow for funky photos.  (CamWow leaves a watermark on its free version.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Rail

Leah Forss Photography
My sister arrived late last night from Arizona, and then insisted that I accompany her to a bar in Bloomington WAY past my bedtime.  Then we got there, and I was in love.

The Rail is a venture by three of our friends.  Located up the hill from House Bar, it is an intimate, stylish bar with kitchen service all night, serving seasonal craft cocktails and small plates of amazing food.  Seriously, phenomenal food.  I drank a Pisco Sour, and we ate the potato pancake (topped with fried quail egg!), meatball (can't begin to describe), and finished with a creme brulee.  As a French major, I am a self-described French dessert snob, and this creme brulee was top-notch.  We gave our compliments to the chef!  The wait staff was attentive and fast.  The prices were good, and the ambience was unbeatable.  Even though all the seats at the bar were full, and there were people at nearly every table, you could actually talk to one another without shouting, unlike so many other bars in town.

I love the neighboring House Bar because it feels like your friends turned a house into a hangout with an awesome cash bar.  (Um, which is true.)  You can hang out in the front rooms, or you can relax in the patio 'backyard'.  It's homey and fun, and it reminds me of college.

But The Rail is like House Bar grew up, graduated, moved to a metropolitan city, and learned to appreciate the finer things in life, like seasonal menus.  It's the kind of place you want to take your date, one of the few bars in Bloomington you would want to introduce your parents to, and the place you want to catch up with all your local friends over the best in food and drink.

If you're in Bloomington, and you haven't been there yet, you need to go.  This foodie wouldn't recommend it if it wasn't wonderful... and it IS.

The Rail:
829 N. Walnut St.
Bloomington Owned and Operated!

Tue - Fri: 5:00 pm - 3:00 am
Sat - Sun: 7:00 pm - 3:00 am


Friday, October 28, 2011

Who do you know?

I want to know this girl.
As I was looking through the photos to send for my Grandma's funeral, I found many pictures of her as a young woman...  she's riding horses (fast!), wearing a letter sweater (she told me she played basketball with boys' rules), and with people I don't know and never will know.  Then the photos jump forward to when she became a mother, then a grandmother.  I got to thinking... how cool would it have been to know her when she was young?

(Commence rambling...)  And then I realized, unless you grow up with someone, like your sibling, you only know a person based on who they are during your more specific interaction time in life.  Okay, that sounds stupid, but let me elaborate.  I look at photos of my parents when they were young, and I have no idea what they must have been like.  I hear stories (which you can't accept as 100% truth!), but there's a part of me that wishes I could KNOW them at that age.  I want to know what their interests were, what their fears were, what their friends were like.  Were they like me?  What did they worry about?  Did they think about marriage, kids?  Did they imagine a different future for themselves?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grandma... a farewell

My beloved Grandma Norma passed away tonight.  I can't sleep, I can't think.  I can only sit here, through the tears, thinking about the lady we lost.
Our last hug
I am glad that she feels no more pain, that she has peace, that she is with my Grandpa... don't we always say that?  Glad she lived a full life; 83 years and so many kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, to include her great-granddaughter Maddy, born tonight.  I really think she stuck around to see that newborn picture.  But all those things we always say, they're never enough in the end, are they?  They aren't going to help you think rationally when you're overwhelmed with sorrow.

I'll miss so many things about my Grandma, the amazing cook, the seamstress, the farmer's wife, the nurturing matriarch.  She was a survivor, and she was wonderful.  I'll miss her noodles, and the pumpkin pies she made for me every time I came home.  It didn't matter if it was July, she found pumpkin to make me a pie.  I'll miss the holidays we spent as a big family... will those go away?

I am so lucky to have shared my life with my grandparents... I had all four still with me into adulthood.  I think about how each one has impacted my life, and just how valuable every minute I had with them really was.  I think about my mother's parents, also in their 80s now, and how I wish I could spend more time with them.

Yesterday I woke up hearing the words to one of my favorite songs from RENT... I couldn't help but sing, "There's only us, there's only this... forget regret, or life is yours to miss.  No other road, no other way, no day but today."

I'm reminded just what a gift each day is, no matter how cliche it sounds.  If you're reading this, stop what you're doing and seize the day you are given.  Go outside and think about all you have to be thankful for... honor the memories.  Because in the end, there's only us, there's only this.


Technology in schools... where to draw the line?

Are we going to end up like the folks in WALL-E?
I am a technology addict.  I can honestly say I am more technologically proficient than many of the people who work in my office building.

That said, I wasn't a tech-heavy kid growing up.  I remember using Apple computers in school to learn typing, play educational games (Math Blaster, Oregon Trail, Reader Rabbit) and eventually, once I entered middle school, for typing reports and researching for projects.  I remember using the internet consistently starting in 6th grade.  I watched a limited amount of TV, but we didn't have cable until I was in junior high and all video games were absolutely banned by my parents.  Even in high school, we spent VERY limited time on computers; any typing we had to do was usually homework.

Everywhere I go these days, kids are plugged in...  playing on their parents phones (or even their OWN smartphones), iPads, Nintendo handhelds, etc.  They're even more sucked in than I am.  (And they are increasingly fatter.  Coincidence?)  Some say that the technology is educational, but I tend to disagree.  There is no evidence that things like Baby Mozart help your infant's brain, and I think that books have more value than an electronic 'Leapster' learning toy.  Libraries are an incredible resource!  I hate to see kids have their lives taken over my TV and other 'screens', because they should enjoy their youth while they can; leave the iPhone to the grownups.

The research backs this up.  Medical studies have shown that kids under age 2 shouldn't even be exposed to TV... even in the background.  It just doesn't help them develop; in fact, it may hinder them.  Interactive play is better for them.  When I have kids, I hope to enforce this rule, though it will actually mean sacrifice on my part to watch less television.  I don't agree with TVs in ANY bedrooms, let alone a kids' room.  But I do worry today's youngsters just aren't developing well in this digital bubble.

Monday, October 24, 2011

New TV Review: Once Upon a Time @OnceABC

ABC's Once Upon a Time (credit)
I was looking forward to this one!  I love fantasy, and this was really the show with the best previews for fall!  Once Upon a Time is all about fairy tales meeting the modern world.

Description:  On Snow White and Prince Charming's wedding day, the Evil Queen threatens everyone with a curse, a curse that would land them all in exile: present-day Storybrooke, Maine.  All of the fairy tale characters are stuck, without time moving forward, with no recollection of who they were.  As prophesied, the protected daughter of Snow White, Emma, finds herself unexpectedly in Storybrooke, where the son she abandoned tries to help her break the spell and restore happily ever after.

My Review:  First off, I love Ginnifer Goodwin (from Big Love) and Jennifer Morrison (from House)!  They actually look enough alike to play the mother-daughter pair they portray, and they are great actresses!  This pilot episode was obviously the setup, so it moved along at a pace different from what the show will be from now on, but I really enjoyed it.  I think it has great depth, and I can see all of the storybook characters even when they aren't mentioned (innkeeper/daughter=Red Riding Hood/Grandma!).  I think I'll be tuning in to this one on Sundays!  It has the whimsy of another show I loved (that was prematurely cancelled), Pushing Daisies.  Hurray for whimsy and imaginative TV!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

On greed...

The Occupy Wall Street demonstration is now in its 5th week.  The Tea Party and conservative pundits are lashing out against the protestors.  Both sides are making rash generalizations about one another, saying 'Left is [insert pejorative], conservatives are [insert pejorative]' and on and on...  Everyone is pointing the finger of blame at each other, and this 2012 election is heating up to be just as much of a battlefield as it was four years ago, if not more so.
NY Daily News
I'll be honest, I don't have the answers.  Both sides have populist arguments, and both sides want this economic struggle to end and for things to get better.  What I don't understand is why the country can't unite for this common purpose.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

From TED: Graham Hill: Less stuff, more happiness

This is an amazing video that explains why I love the idea of my Whidbey Cottage.



Wounded Military Heroes 5K

This morning I ran a 5K in Savannah, the Wounded Military Heroes 5K!  It was held to benefit wounded veterans, and there was a booth there from the Wounded Warrior Project, a great organization for the cause.
Me and the Wounded Warrior Project guys
Today was a great day to run, definitely a bit chilly but perfect for a race.  I actually ran my personal best for a 5K this year, 25:20!  This also puts me at halfway through my Before I'm 30 task of running ten 5Ks.  I won 3rd place in my age group, and everyone got have a free breakfast courtesy of Wild Wing Cafe.  What a great way to spend a fall morning in Georgia!

My 'dog tag' award!

Weekly TV Rundown

My weekly TV digest!

Afro-Blue on NBC's The Sing Off
Sunday:
Pan Am:  Couldn't get into this episode, and I was on the fence.  I love a period drama, but this one isn't even interesting fashion-wise.  It's off my DVR; I'm just gonna keep streaming Mad Men on Netflix instead.  Bye bye, and bon voyage ladies!

Real Housewives of New Jersey:  My review of the Reunion Part 1 is here.



Our America with Lisa Ling:  I also am excited that Our America with Lisa Ling is back with new episodes on OWN.  I've been a Lisa Ling fan since ChannelOne and her stint on The View, and this documentary-style show really shows some of the subcultures and social phenomena happening in the U.S  From faith healers to meth addicts to registered sex offenders to polygamy, Lisa really chooses thought-provoking subjects and looks at them objectively and empathetically.  I look forward to her show on Sunday night!  This most recent episode focused on amateur pornographers, specifically people who make a living (where they may not have been able to otherwise) doing live-cam sessions, and people who have had it negatively affect their lives.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Perfect Steak @urbanaccents

$7, urbanaccents.com
I have perfected the art of making steak at home.  I LOVE STEAK.  ME CARNIVORE!!!  And guess what?  It doesn't involve a grill.

I read in some books and magazines that the trick to home-cooked steak as good as the restaurants is to pan-sear the steak for 90 seconds on each side (I use olive oil in the pan), then bake it at 450 degrees for 6-9 minutes, depending on how you like your steak cooked.  Then let it REST for 5 minutes.  I'm telling you, this is easy and foolproof.

I also really believe in marinating/seasoning your steak.  I like to take a top sirloin or ribeye (I buy in bulk at Sam's Club) and brush it with olive oil.  I season it with a variety of things, sometimes just sea salt (or a fancy salt like Williams-Sonoma's Wild Porcini Sea Salt)  but lately I am working with the spice blends from Urban Accents.

When I was shopping in Blue Ridge recently, the boutique I stepped into had some of these spice blends. I decided to purchase the Chicago Steak & Chop and the Argentina Steak Rub.  I'm telling you, I am in LOVE.  The Chicago Steak & Chop is just classic, and if you follow the instructions above, you will create a steak that will land you a MAN.  (Or woman.  Whatever.)

I was looking at their site (Shoutout, Chicago!  Midwest love!), and I really love their collection!  I'm having trouble deciding which one I will purchase next.  I'm always looking for something that could possibly do double-duty for steak and chicken, and maybe even work for pork.  Up for consideration are: Mushroom Truffle Hunt, Sonoma Pepper, and Kansas City Classic Rub.  If I hadn't just stocked up on my exotic/Indian spices, I would buy out Padma Lakshmi's line!

If you want to save money by making your own delicious steaks, take my advice... buy this seasoning, pick up some sale-priced steak, and serve it up at home.  You may skip out on pricey steakhouses from now on, because you can eat this stuff at home in your sweatpants!  :)

Project Runway FASHION WEEK #pr9viktor

It's SHOWTIME!

The episode started off with Tim 'Make it work!' Gunn visiting all of the designers at home, commenting and advising them on their collections thus far.  Anya had nothing sewn; all she had to show were fabrics.  FAIL.  Kimberly seemed the long shot, but at least she tries to make wearable pieces.  Josh was ALL over the place.  He lost his ability to edit after he left Parsons, and he needed Tim to tone him down.  It made me wonder if he's been drawing inspiration from others in the workroom all along?

GO VIKTOR!  (Lifetime)
Viktor...  my beloved Viktor Luna!  He has been competitive all season and he grew to be my absolute favorite.  It was so sweet to meet his boyfriend David, and to see his inspiration for the collection.  He makes stuff that I would want to wear... it bugs me that the judges knock his work because it is so wearable, especially since Michael Kors made a career out of beautiful, but wearable pieces.  We're looking for a fashion designer, not the next head of the editorial Haus of Gaga.  Tom and Lorenzo agree with me, and wrote a great article about the show.

Only three of the designers from the final four will be part of the Final Runway walk.  They show three of their ten collection pieces so the judges can decide who they want to see.  Anya's pieces look like everything she's done before... v-necks, jumpers, prints, maxis.  This is the first time I've really seen her frantic, even more so than the episode where she lost her fabric money.  Thanks goodness Josh edited after Tim's visit.  He actually did some well-tailored pieces.  Kimberly has always appeared to be the long shot to me.  As for Viktor, how AWESOME was it when all of the other designers looked so freaked when they saw his amazing white jacket piece?  His look with the skirt pleated with zippers was so rockin'.  LOVE that his prints are made from photos he actually took.  Viktor's critique was really great; I think the judges were right to tell him to edit a bit, but everything he did was amazing.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Penne alla vodka

I always go big on garlic.  ALWAYS.
OMG, OMG YOU GUYS!

First off, you need to know that Little Italy in NYC ruined my life.  It gave me ridiculously high expectations for standards in Italian food.  (Much like France ruined me for sub-par crepes and macarons.)  Once, during San Gennaro, I ate penne alla vodka at a small restaurant there, and it. was. heavenly.  Since then, I've tried fruitlessly to make it at home, even trying multiple store-bought sauces when from-scratch attempts failed.  No success.

And then, perusing my pal Lacey's blog, I happened upon a recipe she made on '09.  I figured I'd give it a go...  and now I'm in trouble.  In trouble because it may be the only thing I ever eat again!

It's creamy, garlicky, and delish.  The recipe is straightforward and a great weeknight meal.  If you're a penne alla vodka fan, you've got to try it... your waistline won't thank you, but your dinner guests will!

This recipe will feed you for days.  Seriously, I have a Pyrex container full of leftovers!  Next time, I will probably cook less pasta, and per Lacey's advice, freeze the sauce for future meals.

AMAZING.

Bar Rescue with @jontaffer

Spike TV
Have you seen Bar Rescue on Spike?  I liken it to Tabatha's Salon Takeover, but for bars... I happened upon it one day and had to record ALL of the first season's episodes!  On the show, expert Jon Taffer goes to bars/clubs that are going under due to poor management, bartending, and restaurant practices.  I know from reading Kitchen Confidential that the restaurant business is full of failures, so Taffer is giving these guys a stay of execution.

Inevitably, there is conflict.  These guys don't want to admit that they're failing, they don't want to fire members of their staff, and they are emotionally attached to their failure of a bar.  But Taffer has the data to back up the changes he suggests for the bars, and he turns around decor, menus, cocktails, and more.  I especially love to see the talented cooks step up to the plate after they get the help they need in the kitchen.  It's incredible to see just how much he can do in four days; all of the episodes I have seen resulted in profitable venues.  Taffer's an expert in his field, and there's no doubt he knows what he's doing; I just wish the bar owners would accept his advice without question!

I wrote on Twitter how much I liked the show, and Jon Taffer responded back.  You see it right here from the man, folks, Bar Rescue is filming new episodes in January!  :)  Still plenty of time to catch the first season in reruns before setting your DVR to record the new shows.


Life is not about your 'Status Update'

credit
My friend DP posted a great article on Facebook from the magazine Cosmopolitan, entitled "How to Survive a Confidence Crash".  As a twenty-something woman, I could definitely relate to a lot of what they were saying!  Here's a snippet:

“A lot of Millennials experience what I call an expectation hangover anytime life throws them a curveball,” explains life coach Christine Hassler, author of 20 Something, 20 Everything... Experts believe this exaggerated sense of disappointment is due in part to the unwaveringly positive feedback 20 and 30 somethings have been given.

“In the 1970s, only 17% of students got A averages in college. In 2008, 33% did,” explains Jean Twenge, PhD, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of The Narcissism Epidemic. Since the population couldn’t have become that much more brilliant in 30 years, we can conclude that there is a whole lot of grade inflation going on – indicative of a shift in society where praise has become paramount regardless of performance, Twenge says.

While I haven't experienced the career lag that some of my peers have had, I definitely experienced the 'expectation hangover' as I was going through my divorce and working through my depression.  I wondered what I had done to deserve the negative in my life, when 'on paper' my life was so positive and perfect.  I also agree that there is an unhealthy sense of entitlement among some of my peers, because we were built up to think that we're brilliant and deserved our dream jobs right out of college.

But the portion of the article that was the most poignant to me was about Facebook and image.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Brash at @PaylessShoes

Looks like I need to get back into Payless!  I bought the flats I needed to replace my old ones, but now I'm noticing one of the most on-point, fashion-forward lines I've seen since Christian Siriano's line started there.  (Oh, and I can't forget yummy Alice+Olivia and Lela Rose!)

This Brash line of shoes and accessories is awesome.  I've already picked out my top three favorites!

The Komet platform pump is reminiscent of what you see celebs wear on the red carpet; the tan color in particular will make your legs look lovely and long!  They look like Louboutins... but you can AFFORD them.
Komet, in tan, $34.99


The Josie platform shootie will look awesome this winter with some opaque tights... I think I like the grey the best!  (The raisin color is fierce too!)  And since it's a wedge, you can wear them all night without worry of blisters!  I would wear them with black tights and a skirt or dress.
Josie, in grey, $39.99
But now for my favorite... the Zippy riding boot!  I looked for MONTHS to find a riding boot that I could afford AND love, and frankly the Zippy blows my old pair out of the water.  I love the hardware (how cool to put the exposed zipper on the OUTER part of the leg?), and the color is so versatile.  My skinny jeans want to meet these boots.  Usually they are a very reasonable $59.99, but right now they are on SALE for $39.99!  It is taking everything in my power not to whip out my credit card and hit the Payless website.

Which pair is your favorite?
Zippy, in brown, SALE $39.99

America's Worst Drivers

Bad driving.  (credit)
One of my pet peeves about Georgia, in my driving experience, is that people can't seem to drive in the rain.  Every time there is a rainstorm, I see car accidents on my commute.  And it's no wonder, seeing as everyone follows one another too closely, people drive slowly in the left lane creating backlog, and even the mere threat of frost makes people incapable of driving about 20 miles per hour.

I'm not that great a driver... at least, I'm not that confident.  Traffic intimidates me; I had a panic attack the first time I drove the New Jersey Turnpike, and burst into tours the time I accidentally ended up in Manhattan.  I drive cautiously, and have had one fender-bender that was my fault; I've never so much as been pulled over for speeding.

According to Travel+Leisure, Savannah, Georgia is one of the BEST cities for drivers.  Say what?!  Now, this study was according to a poll, not a test.  So let's look at another study done on drivers per state.

GMAC Insurance has been surveying drivers for the past five years, giving them a 20-question written driving exam with questions taken from real state tests.

"It turns out than many Americans don't really know what it means where there is a solid yellow line on one side of the center line or what type of lights to use when driving in the fog. (No passing and use your low beams.)

If the numbers from the GMAC survey held true for the entire U.S. population, that means roughly 41 million licensed Americans on the road today would not pass a written drivers test exam."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nice guys really finish last?

credit
I was reading the Freakonomics blog, and I came across yet another article on how being nice doesn't pay off... at least, not monetarily.  The original article says that nice guys don't finish last, but they are a clear 2nd place in the earnings race.  What's fascinating to me is that it appears it has to do with conventional gender roles; women who are kind and effeminate and men who are more disagreeable 'alpha males' do better, while 'nice guys' are thought to be less masculine.  The researchers, who apparently didn't take into consideration just how much male stereotypes continue to play into earnings, were a bit confounded by the results.

"Given the increasing reliance of organizations on teams," they write, "it would seem that people high in agreeableness would have at least a slight economic advantage over those low in agreeableness."

And what about 'mean girls'?  Mean girls earned more than their 'agreeable' counterparts, but in general (as is reflected in the study) women continue to earn substantially less than men, and their level of agreeableness makes less of an impact on salary than it does with men.  So whether we're mean or nice, it doesn't exactly help us become top earners, like being an alpha male could.

Again I come back to my Mad Men...  How can the Peggy Olsons of the world compete with the Don Drapers?

What Would Don Draper Do?

I started watching Mad Men on Netflix recently, and I don't know why I never watched it before!  I've always loved the fashion, and I love Janie Bryant's book on the style inspiration... but this is some good drama.
Thanks to The Oatmeal for the most brilliant flowchart ever.
This is how I should solve all my future problems.



Tampa, FL

The Dali Museum
I went on a quick trip to Tampa a while back, but I just realized I never wrote anything about it!  I try to write about my trips in case anyone is headed to that area and wants some ideas/inspiration.

Just a few quick notes on the trip...
Shopping:  International Plaza and Bay Street mall was AWESOME! Just about any store and restaurant I could think of... I had blast in their Forever 21 store.

Food:  I love Brazilian BBQ joints.  Those all-you-can-eat places where it's GREEN CARD GO! and RED CARD I'M STUFFED!  They're pricy, but phenomenal.  I ate at Texas de Brazil and it was delicious.  Seriously, I was in a carnivorous heaven.

Sights:  I did a little day trip to check out Siesta Key, which is a super cute place not too far from Tampa!  I also went to the Salvador Dali Museum, which was gorgeous.  It was an amazing collection, and even the building's architecture was reminiscent of Dali.  I really enjoyed my time there, as well as outside the museum in the small garden.


Melting clocks...
Overall, there was a lot to do and see in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.  I think it's a great place to visit, but a little too far from Savannah than I care to drive for a weekend... Orlando is closer and has a lot to do, but I'm really glad I went once!  The Dali Museum was the highlight of my visit for sure.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apricot-Lemon Chicken... 5 Ingredient Meal!

It's been a while since I've posted a recipe, and since I was deciding on recipes from my Pinterest board to try out, I decided it was time to cook!  Since it's Monday night, I wanted something super easy... so the 5-Ingredient section from Cooking Light was calling my name.  The curry powder on the chicken is a great undertone, and the lemon juice cuts the sweetness of the apricot.  It was a super-easy pan sauce, and I'm very pleased with how it turned out!  I served it with an olive oil & zesty herb pasta, something with a little kick and flavor to balance out the sweet and tangy chicken.


Apricot-Lemon Chicken (from Cooking Light)

Ingredients

1 teaspoon curry powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup apricot spread (such as Polaner All Fruit)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

  • Preparation
  • 1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; rub mixture over chicken.
  • 2. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Cook chicken 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan, and keep warm.
  • 3. Add apricot spread, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons water to pan, stirring until smooth. Cook over medium heat 1 minute. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle with lemon rind.

Starbucks taste, penny-pincher prices!


I'm not a coffee drinker, so when I would go to Starbucks I'd always end up with their high-calorie 'milkshake' Vanilla Bean Frappuccino.  Then my friend CG suggested I try a spice chai tea latte... and I got hooked.

And while I love the feeling of that cute little Starbucks cup in my hand, I know it isn't a practical daily purchase.  So while I was at the grocery store, I picked up Pacific Chai's Spice Chai Latte mix.  The Starbucks Latte is delicious, and it's made with Tazo tea, but the Tall version (12 oz.) costs you about $3.  The Pacific Chai mix can sit in your pantry for years, has about 13 servings (8 oz. each) and costs $4.79 per canister.  They even have a vanilla version.  If you do the math, there are almost 9 Starbucks-sized servings in the canister, meaning you save about $23 by buying the powdered mix.  AND it's lower in sugar and calories.
So I still splurge on the Starbucks version every once in a while.  There's peer pressure involved there.  But I know that when I'm home, or in my office, I can heat up some water and make a great-tasting chai latte for pennies on the dollar.

Holy #RHONJ Reunion! (Can you fire Teresa, please?)

Last night the first part (because they always have at least two) of the Real Housewives of New Jersey Reunion special aired.  I look forward to the reunions every season, because they have all seen the footage/interviews and have to sit on a sofa and own up to everything they said and did.

In this case, it was all about Teresa... and for good reason.

Kathy:  I like Kathy, even though I felt like she was portrayed poorly in the beginning.  It seemed like she was inserting herself into drama to keep herself relevant on the show.  Now, I realize she is a good wife and mother, a genuine person, and someone I won't mind hearing about in the future.  She does a good job of being reasonable, and I appreciate it.

Melissa:  I like her now, too!  She really loves her husband, she is very grateful for the luxurious life that she has, and she cares about her family.  Her singing career is silly, but at least she is doing something she enjoys.  She dislikes Teresa for good reason, so I will take her side in a Giudice vs. Gorga battle any day.

Caroline:  Kudos for owning up to being mean to Kathy/Melissa in the beginning.  Caroline is many things, but a liar is not one of them, despite what Teresa says.  Mama Manzo is my favorite, and she is steadfast and strong.  It sucks that she has been hurt and betrayed by women on this show throughout the years, but I can count on her to be honest and mature.

Jacqueline:  True to her weak form, Jacqueline did not participate in the reunion.  She needs to grow a backbone and leave the show, because I don't think she is happy in life and needs to find herself.  She has a great husband and would be fine without it.  She needs normalcy back.

Teresa:  Are you guys ready for this?


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cabin Fever!

Georgia/Tennessee Line! Two places at once!
The Cabin
I recently went on a beautiful fall mini-trip into northern Georgia with my friends VB, LC, and PD.  We rented a luxury cabin overlooking the Toccoa River and really took in the things the area had to offer.  We cooked all of our own dinners at the cabin, one of my favorite things about staying in rental properties vs. hotels.  The ambience was incredible, and the cabin was one of the prettiest places I have ever stayed in my life.

On our first full day, we woke up early to catch the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, linking the two quaint towns of Blue Ridge and McCaysville.  It was a neat trip, but I think most of the passengers were senior citizens!  Still, it was a nice, slow way to see the sights.  I picked up a couple of souvenirs (I'm collecting Christmas ornaments from my trips!) and enjoyed standing in two places at once... the Georgia/Tennessee line!

Wolf Mountain Vineyards 
We grabbed a delicious belated birthday lunch for VB at Harvest on Main, an incredible restaurant in Blue Ridge.  The menu is seasonal, with ingredients coming from a local farm.  We spent the rest of the afternoon walking on the main drag on Blue Ridge, checking out the shopping.  Everything was very cute and had that rustic feel.  On the way back to the cabin, we stopped at Mercier Orchards for some apples and fried pies!  I also picked up a maple praline syrup and apple cinnamon barbecue sauce.  YUM!

The Small House Book @tumbleweedhouse

I received The Small House Book via Amazon this weekend, and I read it straight through in a sitting.  The pictures alone were worth ordering the book for, especially the real photos of little houses across the U.S. and the story of how Jay Shafer came to 'live smaller'.

Now don't get me wrong, this girl will never compost, live without indoor plumbing and AC, or give up her closet of clothes and shoes.  But I am inspired.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

A-Maize-ing Race 5K!

VV and me!
This morning my friend VV and I headed to Jesup, GA to run a 5K to benefit the March of Dimes.  The weather was PERFECT for running and fall!  It was mostly on dirt roads in the countryside, and actually had a few hills to boot.  I ran a minute faster than my previous 5K, and I added one more race to my Before I'm 30 challenge. Woohoo!

Poppell Farms is a hidden gem!  Their intricate corn maze (hence the race name, A-Maize-ing Race) was amazing, the animals were adorable, and it was an enjoyable, small race that actually gave out trophies and medals to age group winners.  I really love races like that... there were also a bunch of middle school cross country runners that reminded me of my younger self!

What a great way to spend a fall morning in Georgia!


Corn!

Goats!

Weekly TV Rundown

My weekly digest of the shows I watch, and new shows I'm trying out! 

Colette, from ABC's Pan Am

Sunday:
Pan Am:  This episode kept me tuning in, but I was kind of disappointed with Maggie's obsession with seeing President Kennedy.  It made her seem very weak and effeminate, when I viewed her as more of a rebel stewardess who was more in tune to current events/whatnot.  It made her seem weak.  I also didn't care for the spy thing going on, it is becoming too much of a storyline.  What I DID appreciate was Colette's back story, and her emotional trip to Berlin.  It seemed a bit overly dramatic, but it was still moving to watch.  If it continues this way, I'll skip the show.

Real Housewives of New Jersey:  My review of the season finale is here.



Monday:
Terra Nova:  I had already decided this was Terra Nova's last week to win me over before getting deleted from the DVR.  Well, due to some baseball game, I only got to watch about 10 minutes recorded... and decided it didn't bug me I didn't have to stick around.  Terra Nova is getting deleted from my DVR.

The Sing Off:  This show is too long.  I hate to say it, but it's true!  Two hours?!  It should be an hour maximum.  I still skip everything but the performances, fast forwarding the whole way through.  There are too many groups this year; this back-and-forth thing sucks, and one set of groups was definitely stronger than the other, making the eliminations seem unfair.  I liked the 'Edge of Glory' performance by the Deltones.  The old guys in North Shore were cute on Bruno Mars' 'Lazy Song'!  But these guys were pretty fun.  The 60s songs I liked less, because people don't take as much risk in the arrangements... it's very literal.  The North Shore guys kicked BUTT in it though, because that's perfect for them!  I think they won the lottery on song choice for the episode.  I wasn't surprised when Sonos got voted off, because they are overly dependent on pedals to synthesize performances and therefore had trouble translating to straight a cappella.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Project Runway: Who's going to Fashion Week??? #pr9viktor

GO VIKTOR!  Pay no attention to the
 models on the right... (credit)
I actually liked plenty of things in the collections presented to see which 3 of the remaining 5 designers would move forward to Fashion Week.  I've never been a huge Josh or Anya fan, but I did guess that it would be Viktor, Anya, and Josh on the final runway.  I didn't care for either Anya or Josh's collections in this most recent challenge, but the judges have always liked Anya.  Josh is lucky he toned it down, but I am worried about his final collection when he has time to overdesign and go crazy.

Then they tossed in a twist.  Laura and Kimberly were told that ONE MORE designer would move on to create a collection.  I think Kimberly had more potential.  And Laura just choked.  Close, but no cigar.  It was neck and neck between her and Kimberly, but Kimberly was just a little bit better.  I didn't see either of them at Fashion Week in my mind.

Going into Fashion Week, I am still TEAM VIKTOR!  I think he will do something that I would love to wear, tailored and lovely.  I hope he wins, but even if he doesn't, I have the highest hopes for him.

Did you know that during Fashion Week, since the show airs so long after, they made ALL of the designers that would be 'remaining' on the show at that point walk collections... so you had to guess who was a 'real' finalist and who wasn't.  Fun game, right?  I could cheat and look up photos of the contestants' looks, but where's the fun in spoilers?  I'm waiting anxiously for the finale; I love the final episode.

I'm excited to see who shows up for Project Runway All-Stars!!!  Having a bunch of people used to the kinds of challenges on the show, competing neck and neck...  that will be awesome.

Too fat to fly?

You may have seen this viral photo online,
supposedly taken by a flight attendant. (credit)

I don't like to fly anymore.  There's just nothing GOOD about it except accomplishing long-distance travel... I hate the endless lines, the body scans, the overpriced food, additional fees for bags, the fight for overhead bin space, the dreaded middle seat, and my own personal issues with motion sickness.  I watch ABC's Pan Am on TV and imagine what it must have been like to fly in the glory days of airplanes, when it was glamorous and comfortable and all about good service and class.

But it's a necessary evil, this flying thing, so we bite the bullet and let the airlines shove us in line.  And those seats aren't comfortable... in fact, even for someone of my stature (5'4", average build) they are uncomfortable and lacking legroom with a bag under the seat and someone reclining.  They simply aren't the size of normal office chairs, movie seats, etc.

That said, I *was* one of those people who initially jumped to the conclusion that someone who is too large to fit in an airplane seat should have to purchase TWO seats, because I have been seated next to someone very large who essentially maintained skin-to-skin contact with my arm/side and 'spilled over' into my seat.  It was uncomfortable and angered me as much as annoying babies/kids on planes bug me... but what I didn't consider is how the person beside me felt.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Inspired by the Duchess

If you've ever perused my style pinboard on Pinterest, you'd know I'm a sucker for whatever Duchess Catherine (Kate Middleton, whoever) is wearing.  And this DVF silk dress she actually wore TWICE.

DVF Dress, $398
Well, being a working gal without $400 to spare on a green dress, I put it out of my mind.  But then I spotted a dress on ASOS with a similar design and fell in love... and it's under $62!  That's right, you can have a similar look as the Duchess for a fraction of the price.  It's chiffon and not silk, and the color is a little different, but the aesthetic still looks like what Kate would wear.  So I bought it... it's payday after all!

I love a good fashion deal.

ASOS dress, $61.11

Now Pinning: Whidbey!

I now have a Pinterest board dedicated to design ideas for Whidbey Cottage!
Come, obsess with me.  :)

Click here!

My Uterus, My Choice

Nicknamed the "Let Women Die" act, HR358 is the 'Protect Life Act' currently before Congress.

"[It] would allow hospitals that receive federal funds but are opposed to abortions turn a woman seeking an abortion away in all circumstances, even if an abortion would save her life. It also proposes to outlaw any federal funds from going to health plans that cover any abortion services. Finally, it would make it impossible to block federal funds from going to health organizations that don't support abortion rights, hence the hospitals' freedom to "Protect Life" by refusing to perform a procedure that might save a woman's life."  -Jezebel

credit
This is one of those blog entries I wrote in a fit of passion, then had to sleep on it and rewrite so I wouldn't offend too many people.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Whidbey Cottage Dreams @tinyhouseblog @tumbleweedhouse

I want a tiny house.  Ever since I read about Tumbleweed Houses, Tiny House Blog, and the tiny house concept in a New York Times article a few years back, I've been dreaming up my own tiny houses in the country.  And I have always been in love with Whidbey.

No, Whidbey is not my boyfriend.  But I do dream about him.  I think if someone gave me the plans for Whidbey, I would cry...  I'm actually tearing up thinking about it; it's been a long, tough year for this dreamer.  I'm a 26-year-old dork, I know, but having the plans someday would be the first step towards Whidbey.  I've actually started a savings account called Whidbey Cottage, where I put $20 every paycheck just to see where it goes.  I know it isn't much, but maybe one day it will be the realization of some dream of mine.

http://tinyhouseblog.com
I can already envision my Whidbey, set in the woods or the country on a small plot of land with trees...  I would even have a little sign by the door that says 'Whidbey Cottage'.  How nice it would be to tell people, "Oh, I'm going to the cottage this weekend.  It's a Whidbey weekend."  I can't imagine naming it anything else.
 
It would be the perfect home away from home, with every space maximized for practicality (stacked washer/dryer) and simplistic aesthetics and beauty (minimalist decor).  I'd have a wood-burning stove in the great room like my grandparents used to have.  I can see myself cooking in the tiny kitchen and drinking hot cocoa on the sofa in the great room.  How romantic and simple it would all be.  I wouldn't have a care in the world.  And with two bedrooms and loft space, I could bring a couple of (quiet, well-behaved!) friends along to join me in my personal paradise.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Project Runway: For the Birds! #pr9viktor

Sorry this episode recap is a bit late, but I was traveling and had to DVR the episode!

I want Viktor to win!  He's my favorite!
Okay, first off I was annoyed by the huge L'Oreal product placement again.  Birds, eyeshadow, makeup... but the combination of head-to-head design battles, a $20,000 prize, and TWO looks made it all very high-stakes!  I like all six of the designers left in the competition at this point in their own way, but I like Josh the least.

I was kind of tuning in to Lifetime's coverage of the designers, because in the past they have featured the designer most who is going to be kicked off the show.  Initially, the camera was all over Kimberly's meltdowns, so I predicted she'd get the boot.  She was a total Debbie downer and all over the place this episode.  Then they started focusing on Anya's lack of sewing skills showing through, and her decision not to share fabric even though most of the designers helped her WIN the last challenge.  Viktor was right after all... everyone needs to just look after themselves.  And everyone DOES use similar ideas as Viktor! They draw inspiration (cough cough) from what he's doing!

I think it's really torture that they had the designers make two looks, then 'cancel' one.  But it's actually a realistic and good challenge, forcing them to make some decisions.

Real Housewives: #RHONJ Season Finale

FABULOSER.  I will never buy this crap.  (credit)
I'm going to keep this pretty short, because I feel like we've had our fill of our favorite New Jersey housewives this year, so the season finale wasn't a big surprise.  We all know it's all about the REUNION specials with our beloved Andy Cohen.

I guess my sentiments that Punta Cana wasn't the peacemaking event that was depicted between the Giudices and the Gorgas/Wakiles.  Of course it was FAKE.  It was as fake as the vow renewal Joe/Teresa later had, followed by his bankruptcy/fraud issues and possible infidelity.  (By the way, aside from 'Ashlee' being a loser, my opinions here are all about the Giudices.

Teresa's second cookbook was a dud.  No wonder, since it was filled with gossip and lies about her fellow housewives.  She is a terrible person, and her husband is a crook.  I love the Wakiles, I love the Gorgas, and I seriously harbor a TERRIBLE DISLIKE of the Giudices.  Teresa is delusional... don't EVER go after my Mama Caroline like that!  She is real and awesome, and Teresa's book is just evil.  You can tell she wrote it all just to sell books, and even that didn't work.  She needs to lay off the fake tanning because I think it's killing her few remaining brain cells.

I really want to see what this finale is going to be like.  For real.
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