Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Words of Wisdom from the Dalai Lama

I'm not a religious person.

Yesterday, however, I was really struggling with frustrations at work that were bringing me down and making me anxious.  I opened up my Twitter and saw a post from one of my friends retweeting words from the Dalai Lama's official Twitter.

I have always admired Tibetan Buddhism.  There was a monastery near my high school, and also a large Tibetan Cultural Center in town.  Bloomington even boasts TWO Tibetan restaurants, was home to the Dalai Lama's eldest brother  (until his death in 2008), and is often a destination for His Holiness when he visits the U.S.  From the colorful robes to the sand mandalas, their presence in Bloomington always fascinated me.  My cross country team would run by the monastery and see the monks playing basketball!

I was down in the dumps yesterday.  Nothing was going right for me, nothing according to plan.  When I opened up the Dalai Lama's Twitter, suddenly I was inundated with positive messages and simple truths that really helped me...  here are a few words of wisdom!  (It was SO hard to choose so few!)  Maybe they will help you like they helped me.

"The point of our existence is that, as human beings, we live purposeful, meaningful lives."

"Enemies teach us inner strength, courage and determination."

"The practice of love can be expressed in one sentence: ‘Do not harm others’."

"The more contact we have with one another and the more we come to understand each other’s values, the greater will be our mutual respect."

"You must not consider tolerance and patience to be signs of weakness. I consider them signs of strength."

"All good qualities must be sown and cultivated. We can’t expect to change overnight from an ordinary person into one with high realizations."

And just one more... "To control negative physical and verbal actions, it is necessary to get at their root, the mind, and tame it."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

@noreservations Medium Raw

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, is Anthony Bourdain's follow-up to Kitchen Confidential.  Written almost a decade after the first book, it's a must-read if you liked his earlier work or are a fan of Bourdain on TV.

I must admit, I was supposed to be reading books for work... but then after reading Kitchen Confidential, I went headfirst into Medium Raw without skipping a beat.

In the book, Bourdain isn't so much giving a continuation of the linear story he told in Kitchen Confidential, but sharing a collection of essays... some are responses to things he wrote a decade earlier, others are new experiences, and many are his opinions and experiences with other chefs.  I don't know how to explain it, but I suppose if you've ever seen the show No Reservations you know the reason the book is so good...  Bourdain is honest, unapologetic, and a REAL person.  You can tell how he has grown up, tell how his daughter has affected his views, see how fame has changed his life.  And yet in spite of the changes in his world, he has remained himself at the core, with a real gift for story-telling.  I had a blast reading this.

I've starting following Bourdain's Travel Channel blog, as well as his Twitter account, and I am never disappointed.  But it's not that I'm obsessed with Bourdain as a person.  I'm just obsessed with living vicariously through his senses... all the amazing food he gets to taste, the sights around the world he gets to see, the smells, the sounds.  Bourdain has a way with words that really transports me to someplace else.  If I ever got to meet him in person, I would be ecstatic... but if not, I already feel like I know him and will continue to read so long as he continues to share with the world his culinary and life experiences!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Warehouse Deals and Freezer Meals

What a weekend I had!  I was very excited to make my first trip out to Sam's Club to use my new membership.  I know what you're thinking... what on earth could a single gal need from a warehouse store?  Well, I'll be honest... I only go there to buy a few items.  But when I go, I get a great deal on things that make sense to buy in bulk/last me a long time.  Toilet paper, deodorant, Fiber One bars, canned cat food, 12-pack of Greek yogurt, freezer bags, etc.  Another thing they have at Sam's Club that I love is the MEAT.  This time I stocked up on some beef short ribs (to make Korean kalbi), ground beef, top sirloin steaks, and chicken breasts.  The chicken breasts come in a 12-pk., with two breasts each in individual plastic bags, so you can easily freeze everything and use at your convenience.  If you eat a lot of chicken, this makes so much sense; I can thaw two breasts at a time, without continually buying it from the store.  (Sidenote: I ALWAYS treat myself so some delicious snacks at Sam's Club's cafe... you can get a soft cinnamon-sugar pretzel for less than a dollar, and their hot dogs are amazing.)

My friend MC is going to have her baby TODAY, and I decided I would make some freezer meals for her family so they don't have to work too hard when they bring the new baby home.  So it made sense buying all of that meat this time, since I spent almost all of Sunday cooking.  I decided to make small portions of the meals for myself, and larger portions for MC's family.  By the end, I was EXHAUSTED.

I have two freezer meal books, Fix, Freeze, Feast and Make-Ahead Meals Made Healthy.  I ended up using recipes from Fix, Freeze, Feast (the other book uses more obscure ingredients) as well as some I found online.  Fix, Freeze, Feast makes HUGE portions, that is it specifically uses the trays of meat you get from warehouse stores to make three of the same meal at a time.  If you have a big family and a chest freezer, this totally makes sense.  I really, really like a lot of the recipes in this book, and I can see myself using this in the future.

But you don't need a cookbook to make freezer meals.  Just use Google!  There are a ton of resources out there, and if you push yourself to spend a whole day cooking, I guarantee you can make a couple weeks' worth of meals to just thaw/cook whenever you need them.  Put in the work up-front, and your weeknight dinners will be a BREEZE afterwards.  It's like using the slow cooker, but even better since you have a ton of meals lined up.

Recipes I made...
Cherry Skillet Chicken from Fix, Freeze, Feast
Habanero and Chili Hamburgers adapted from Fix, Freeze, Feast
Garlic Mashed Potatoes from Fix, Freeze, Feast
Cheddar & Cracker Chicken
Spaghetti Casserole

Another great website for freezer meals:  What's Cookin, Chicago?

Real Housewives: Joe the Jerk, Teresa the Delusional #RHONJ

Caroline and the Manzo kids credit
A couple of things stood out to me in the most recent RHONJ episodes.

The Manzo children work hard.  I appreciate that!  I know they get a lot of financial assistance from their parents, but it is not simply a handout kind of thing.  Caroline didn't just buy Chateau Salon for Lauren; Lauren had to go through beauty school and pass in order to build qualifications to work as an aesthetician.  The Manzo boys grew up working at the Brownstone but want to make their own name, selling BLK black water.  (Jacqueline's husband, Chris, is their investor.)    These kids have good ideas, make it happen, and I'm glad to see they aren't lazy rich kids!

Joe and Teresa need a reality check.  Joe's texts to Joey about his 'fake wife' are ridiculous.  Joe Giudice is a bully and a jerk.  The Gorgas are actually trying to work things out with Teresa for the sake of the kids/family, but Joe is getting in the way.  I can't believe Joe threatened Joey and told him not to go to the book signing, when Teresa asked Joey/Melissa to go.  Joey loves Gia, his goddaughter/niece, and he wants to be in her life.  In Gia, you can really see she adores her uncle.  Joe is a drunken idiot, chipping his tooth and acting a fool.  Teresa was right to be embarrassed.  Joe is feeding Teresa poison about her brother.  It's ridiculous.  Teresa thinks Melissa is poisoning Joey?  She's got it backwards.

Teresa doesn't know how to pronounce 'ingredients' and last episode called a 'Nor'easter' storm a 'Norwegian'.  I don't buy this whole cookbook thing, because I don't think she cooks outside of the show!  Also, her children behave terribly all the time... she needs a nanny.

Teresa's book signing looked sad.  Who promoted the event?  It was practically empty.  I'm glad Kathy went to the book signing, and it meant something to me that Kathy had a copy of the book from when it first came out.  It seems like she legitimately wants peace.  I'm glad Joey/Melissa showed up, and it was really nice of him to buy a bunch of books to hand out to people that Teresa autographed.  It was reasonable of Joey to ask that Joe not threaten him.

Seriously, this fight between the Giudices and Gorgas should end.  And the fault/blame, IMHO, is all on the Giudice side.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dance Moms

This morning, I woke up way too early to the sounds of my cat trying to wake me up.  I ignored it... until I looked at my bathroom floor.  I won't get into it, but it was one of those messes that makes you reconsider pet ownership.  I think almost every pet owner has those a few of those moments, but I will say in the past 15 years with Cally the cat I haven't had very many.  Ugh.

So it's 7:30 am and I'm sitting in my living room, still kind of groggy and probably in need of a nap... time to see what's on the DVR!

The other day I was watching a preview for the Lifetime reality series Dance Moms, and it was like a car accident... I couldn't look away.  Abby Lee is this insanely demanding dance instructor, and the mothers of her dancers are DRAMA QUEENS.  I taped a bunch of episodes, and I am addicted.

These Moms hate Abby.  They love her reputation, love that her military-like style of instruction results in great dancers, love that their girls gain national recognition...  but they hate her as a person, and they are cutthroat in their efforts to make their girls #1.  Abby even ranks the girls against each other every week, which is kind of intense, but at least these girls are learning at a young age that you can't always be the winner and that hard work pays off.

While Toddlers and Tiaras makes you roll your eyes, Dance Moms is a whole different level of ferocious.  I will say that these girls are extremely talented, unlike those pageant dolls.  They even take voice lessons to try to become the whole package for Broadway/Disney/etc.  The girls miss SCHOOL to dance.  I can't say that I feel their mothers have their priorities straight, but it definitely makes for interesting television.

I will never be a stage mom like these women.  It makes you want to hug a child and save them from the crazy people out there that call themselves parents.  Yikes!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

@Penny_Chic Putting Wal-Mart on a Fashion Pedestal

Get Rachel Bilson's style... for less!  credit
I have a confession to make... as much as I love my designer handbags and beautiful clothes from department stores and malls, I am a BARGAIN HUNTER!  I could spend hours perusing TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Ross, you name it... and I've been known to snag items from Wal-Mart and Target too.

There are a lot of people who turn their noses up at clothing from discount stores like Wal-Mart... because they don't realize the value to be had!  I have a black, loose cardigan from Wal-Mart that I get a zillion compliments on, and people always guess it's from Urban Outfitters or the like.  WRONG, it's "White Stag" and was a steal!  MILLIONS of people shop at Wal-Mart daily, and we all know what some of the People of Wal-Mart tend to look like.  But it doesn't have to be that way!

I was watching Good Morning America yesterday, and saw a fashion challenge with Shauna Miller, the author of the awesome blog Penny Chic.  Shauna has a load of fashion experience in the high-end world, but chose to leave that and "put America’s cheapest discount department store on a fashion pedestal and ditch the skinny models for me and my friends".  And she has done an AWESOME job!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lung Cancer Awareness @lcfamerica

I'm going to get serious about something today....  READ ON.
When you think of lung cancer, who do you picture?  Probably someone resembling the Marlboro Man.  We see it as a 'preventable' cancer, and we tend to feel its victims brought their illness upon themselves... WRONG ANSWER.

While cigarette smoking is one of its leading causes, lung cancer also occurs in people who have never smoked a day in their life, like Dana Reeve, widow of Christopher Reeve, who died at age 44 from the disease.  My grandmother is currently battling advanced lung cancer, and seeing her suffer through treatment is truly agonizing for our entire family... and as I read more about it, the more upset I am that there is such a lack of attention drawn to this specific cancer.

Lung cancer is the LEADING cancer death of both men and women in the United States, killing more people die of lung cancer than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.  And yet, in part because of the stigma attached to it, research for lung cancer is one of the LEAST FUNDED.

In 2006-2007, the American Cancer Society gave $29 million toward funding breast cancer research, compared to $7.8 million for lung cancer research.  But in 2008, 161,840 people died from lung cancer, compared to 40,480 from breast cancer.  Why the disparity?  Lung cancer is harder to treat than breast cancer, and we don't applaud its survivors in the same way...  I don't mean to belittle those who have survived other types of cancer, but I truly dislike the negative association and lack of awareness people currently have of lung cancer when over a hundred thousand people are dying from the disease annually.

The Lung Cancer Foundation of America was founded by two lung cancer survivors and a lung cancer widow who all came to the realization that the poor survival rate for lung cancer is a direct result of the lack of funding for lung cancer research.  We need to do our part to help LCFA and other research, not just the 'pink ribbon' crusade we see featured so heavily... let's even out the funding and support cancer research overall.

Project Runway: New Balance Challenge #pr9kimberly

The toughest judge! "Klum of Doom" credit
My comments are all over the place for this episode, but in the end I felt confident in my favorites, even though they differed from the judges' choices!  (Note: my hashtag in the blog title does NOT denote winners, but my favorite look for the episode!)

Debbie Downer Cecilia quit.  Good, because watching her was like staring at a sad basset hound who wants to commit suicide... she was so depressing and not in it.  So good for her for finally quitting and allowing the designers to bring Josh C. back.  He actually did alright, and I'm glad he gets another shot to prove he can sew to fit a woman's body.

What happened, Anthony Ryan and Laura???  I know that it sucks you got stuck working with Bert, but you guys didn't pull it together and your collection was my least favorite.  And Bert's look wasn't your worst!  I actually think Anthony Ryan's look was the worst.  :(  SAD FACE!  The model had a cameltoe and wedgie!!!  I have been pulling for you Anthony Ryan!  Anthony/Laura got what they deserved because they did not treat Bert well, even though he never deserves it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My @ErinCondren Life Planner

I LOVE my new Erin Condren Life Planner!  I found out about it from fellow blogger Lacey, who found it a bit too large/not fitting her needs, but the minute I checked it out on the website I knew it was perfect for me!  In high school and college, I was OBSESSED with the school-issued planners.  I loved them.  They were organized by the weeks, had a spiral spine, and were full of open spaces for me to write notes.
This is the exact planner I bought! credit

It's not for everyone, but I think that we all go through a few failed planner attempts before we find one that works... I have a few "losers"stashed guiltily away in my house.  I am obsessed with writing in the tiny little details of things in my numbers, meeting notes, deadlines, everything.  The Erin Condren Life Planner is pricy (and BIG!), but I love the tabs, stickers, and organization.  Splitting the day into morning/day/night is perfect for my needs, and I like keeping my to-do lists and goals together.  This thing is basically my new bible, so long as I have a purse large enough to tote it!  :)  I keep it on my coffee table and record everything in it, and I carry it around with me at work at all times.  I even bought multi-colored gel pens... I'm like a high school girl again.

I do like to keep alarms and reminders on my iPhone, but I really think writing things down commits them more to my memory, and I like checking the boxes on my task lists.  I also list when I need to take medications, workouts, grocery lists, anything!  I use this thing every day, and it's set up to last me through December 2012.  Perfect to help me keep track of all of my meetings, my transition from the military, and more.


Save 10% on yours using the code "2011OFF"!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Pinterest?

I've written about Pinterest before, but today it helped me de-clutter my coffee table, so I thought I'd share just how it helps!

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard.  Basically you can install a little 'button' on your browser so that anytime you're on a photo, recipe, article, etc., it picks up the photos and you can 'pin' them to your boards.  It also lets you include a description, and stores the link from the photo.

If you love cooking, I think Pinterest is for you.  Not only can I see photos of the recipes I've bookmarked (instead of a bland list of forgotten recipes in my Bookmarks folder), but I can edit the descriptions to type in comments based on the recipes I liked.  I can store recipes in Pinterest without printing them, then print the ones I want to keep.  It's awesome!

Even better, I had a huge folder filled with recipes torn from my magazines: Fitness, Oprah, Rachael Ray, Everyday Food, Taste of Home.... and while tearing the pages out helped me eliminate clutter by ditching the full magazines, I kept forgetting about the folder when it came time to choose recipes for grocery lists and meals.

Today, I went through that stack of magazine scraps and did Google searches for the recipes, adding them to my Pinterest boards.  Now, they are all looking delicious and lovely on my board, so I can simply browse images when I'm looking to cook something!  I tossed the scraps and haven't looked back; it's all safely stored online for me.

Now that I've built up my boards, I'm proud of what I've pinned, and the resource it is for me!  Just one more use for the funny little site that is Pinterest.

My Food Boards:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Real Housewives: More ridiculous behavior! #RHONJ

My thoughts for three of the women after I watched this most recent episode...

Jacqueline.  Please don't act like your child.  Seriously, that is how you came off tonight.  I know you were upset, but not letting anyone else speak, even your husband?  You're only helping Ashley's case that you are as emotionally immature as she is.  You can't keep cutting her off and yelling and expect her to respond.  I know you're fed up, but it's time to take the high road, be silent, and ACT.

Ashley.  MOVE OUT.  Seriously, you have been begging for a 'tough love' lesson and now hopefully you're going to get it.  You are twenty years old, and your parents would totally pay for you to go to college full time, let you stay at home at the mansion while you work full time.... take advantage!  And don't screw your cousin over when she tries to hire you for a legitimate job.  How irresponsible and immature can you get?  The excuses you are making about being age 20 are excuses that only stay for a 16-year-old, not an adult.  Grow up.

TERESA.  Seriously?  Kudos for keeping a straight face in the midst of your financial difficulties, but why are you trying to rain on Melissa and Kathy's parades?  Why are you trying to steal Kathy's thunder talking about your restaurant, which you obviously know nothing about running?  (Read Anthony Bourdain's books, please.)  You're the last person on earth that needs to start a restaurant, because those have a terrible rate of failure.  Stick to writing books, and tell your bum of a husband to get a legitimate job.  You've been touched by an angel financially, so make it right.  And stop tearing other people down and "Keeping Up with the Gorgas" okay?

As for the others, nothing big to report.  I think Kathy is a good mother, based on how her kids act.  Teresa and Jacqueline could learn a thing or two.  I'm glad Melissa is more mature than Teresa in dealing with the drama.  Also, I still love Caroline, she's the best!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Movie Night: The Help #TheHelpMovie @helpmovie

Kathryn Stockett's first novel The Help is already a bestseller.  I read it last year and loved it...  The Help is the story of African-American maids working in the households of white women in Jackson, Mississippi during the volatile 1960s.  It's also the story of one of the white women, Skeeter, who isn't your typical Southern belle and who was essentially raised by her maid, Constantine.

It's a heartbreaking, emotional book, but also one that will make you laugh!  So when I heard they were making it into a movie, I was torn... would they ruin it?

Happily, they did NOT!  I went to see the movie last night with my girlfriends, and we all laughed and cried.

The cast was PERFECT.  Viola Davis as the steadfast, patient Aibileen, my beloved Emma Stone as Skeeter, and the INCOMPARABLE Octavia Spencer as Minnie were awesome.  Also, Bryce Dallas Howard was perfect as the evil Hilly, and she played it perfectly.  With this cast, you felt like Kathryn Stockett got to pick her exact 'dream team' of actresses for the film adaptation; these roles were written for them.  It had to help that the director is a childhood friend of Stockett; she was there every step of the way.

It's definitely a movie worth seeing, but I highly recommend you read the book first.  I really am of that camp that says the book is (almost!) always better than the movie, so pick up a copy before you head to the theater.

Kitchen Confidential @noreservations

I've been a fan of Anthony Bourdain for years, but it wasn't until recently that I picked up his book (published back in 2000!) Kitchen Confidential to read during my time off work.

I couldn't put it down.  No, seriously, I just kept reading!  I felt like Bourdain was reading the words to me in the voice I'm so familiar with from his television series, which is perpetually on my DVR.  They were definitely his words, something so honest and unpolished yet genius.

I will never work in the restaurant business.  Period.  But this book was so (dare I say it!) educational!  Bourdain is so open about his humble beginnings in cooking up through his stint at Les Halles.  I don't think I will ever look at a restaurant the same way.  I also cringed when I realized I commit some of the 'cardinal sins' he lists (I keep a jar of minced garlic in the fridge, eek!) but I also love my chef's knife and could really relate to some of the advice he gave.  His chapter describing the scars and calluses on his hands cataloging his journey as a chef was just beautiful.

If you're not put off by his drug, sex, and rock 'n' roll journey or swearing, and you're a Bourdain fan, you'll love this book!  I really think I'll be reading it again and again on my Kindle.  :)

Oh, and I'll never order fish on Mondays, or order a steak well-done!

Thanks, Tony!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Project Runway: Nina Garcia's Challenge #PR9viktor

Becky's Look, I would wear it! credit
This week on Project Runway, the designers had a DAUNTING task... design a day-to-night outfit for Marie Claire's Nina Garcia, who is also one of the show's judges!  Nina has a VERY particular style... very monotone, geometric, no prints, tailored, and so on.  She was an extremely tough client, and the designers were visibly stressed!  I didn't have time to rate all the outfits, so the ones who were "okay" aren't really mentioned here.

I had high expectations for Anthony Ryan this time... and was SO disappointed.  When he and Becky picked the same fabric, I assumed he would 'school' her in its usage.  But I HATED his look and actually think it belonged in the Bottom 3 this week.  The skirt kept bunching and seemed ill-fitted, and the look was boring.  Becky's dress is one of the ones I would actually wear myself, which shocked me!

Cecilia seems have caught the Fallene disease.  Her "woe is me" defeatist attitude the entire challenge was painful to watch.  Her work was hideous, and I really thought she would be eliminated, not Julie...  Julie's exit was surprising to me.  I knew she wouldn't make it to the end; everything she has made seems the same combination of athletic wear and asymmetric cuts.  I don't doubt her talent, just her ability to hang on Project Runway.  But she really wanted to be there, and Cecilia should have done the right thing and requested to go home instead of Julie.  I have a feeling all the other designers hate her for not doing so.
I was disappointed in Anthony Ryan. credit
Kimberly finally got some good screen time!  She was the challenge's winner.  Kimberly is known for her awesome tailoring of pants, but this time she tried to go in a different direction with a dress... only to have Nina steer her towards pants again, which led to victory!  Good for Kimberly for creating a ready-to-wear look that suited Nina and looked great.   She even styled her model like Nina, which was a smart move!  It wasn't what I would wear, but that's not the point for this challenge.

I liked Viktor's futuristic separates piece the best.  It was the winner in my mind.  I can't understand how everyone like Anya's jumpsuit; the accessorizing with the belt was all wrong.  The color was improved for Nina's tastes, but I don't see why Anya is such a fan favorite except for the fact that she's beautiful.
Viktor's Look credit

A controversial part of the show was a few of the designers "helping" each other.  Viktor in particular was miffed by this.  Laura helped Anya a bit (though from what I could see, it was mostly advice and basic cutting, not sewing) and Cecilia helped Julie.  I am happy Viktor didn't rat them out; he was right, their lack of sewing skills will shine through eventually.  No one likes a rat, and it's better to have Tim Gunn discover the unfair practices than lose popularity amongst the designers.

Okay, so here's the rundown...  I think Viktor should have won, Cecilia should have been out, and Becky kicked Anthony Ryan's butt with that fabric.  Also I still don't get why everyone loves Anya so much.  There you go!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Test Anxiety

I suffer from test anxiety.  I've always excelled academically, but I put so much pressure on myself to achieve high scores that tests always brought on 'the symptoms'...  racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, scattered attention.

When I took the SAT, I almost had a panic attack.  I remember both times I took it, I was suffering from a cold; no doubt it was an illness brought on from studying too much and worrying the weeks prior to the test.  My scores really didn't improve that much, at least, not for what my parents had to shell out for me to take the exam... those test companies sure make a pretty penny!

Today, I retook the GMAT.  As you may remember, I failed to finish the math section last time, resulting in an average score that frankly disappointed me.  I felt like I hadn't studied enough, that I hadn't pushed myself hard enough... but I also knew that I absolutely PANICKED during the exam and felt horrible throughout.  It's a long exam, which can be stressful, and it's not easy stuff.  This time, however, I am happy to report that my *unofficial* score from the test is NINETY (90!) points higher than when I took in May.

Looking back, I can't say that I studied that hard over the past few months.  What I DID study, however, was focused on what I messed up the last time.  I think the book that helped me most was from the Manhattan GMAT collection, on Word Translations.  Don't let the title fool you... it was ALL math, the sort that stumped me the last go-round.

For the past week, I've got to say, I did all the right things for myself... which brought on this super exciting improvement!  I'm not a GMAT genius by any means, but 90 points from one test to the next is really exciting to me.  I didn't do ANY of these things the last time, and look where that got me.  So read and heed, fellow test-takers!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summertime: @20SB Blog Swap #9!

When you’re younger, summer means the world to you. From summer vacations, to playing in the swimming pool, to not having to get up at 7am for school at 8. When you are a kid, summer vacation means the world to you. So what happens when you’re an adult? When college is over, there are bills to pay and vacation is only the two days a week you don’t have to get up at 7am to be to work at 8.

Hi my name is Sarah Hall, and I am Aubrey's blog swap partner for 20SB's Blog Swap #9! I'm the blog author of The Crazy World of Sarah Hall.

I graduated college over a year ago, and this was really my first summer being spent as what I call an “adult.” Summer as an adult though doesn’t have to be boring. It can still consist of vacations, swimming pools and at least for two days a week not having to get up at 7am for work at 8.

The summer for me always starts in May when it officially hits 100 degrees in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The summer started off for me with moving. My husband and I moved out of our old duplex into a new one to help out a friend for a couple months. The London Bridge Resort here in town, where my mother-in-law works, opened a new slide and pool area. So my husband, roommate, and in-laws went swimming at the pool one day. Cory and I took a week long summer vacation in California. I went camping for the first time ever; got to touch the Hollywood Walk of Fame; we went to Six Flags and even made an unplanned trip to Hurricane Harbor which extended our vacation by an extra day. A little over a month later, I went back to California with my mom to visit family. And the summer ends the way it begins – with me and my husband moving into our own place September 1st.

So even as an adult, summer vacation can be filled with adventure and fun. So just because most of us have graduated high school and are close to or already have graduated college, summer can still be fun. The days of being able to sleep till noon 7 days a week for a good two months are over, but no one is ever too young to have a fun filled summer.
Thanks, Sarah!
You can see my post on Sarah's blog HERE.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

Seasoning and Garlic Naan
I never thought I would like Indian food the first time I tried it.  (I'm still not that into veggies.)  But now I'm trying to cook it at home, using some seasoning I've found at Publix and World Market.  I also pick up some garlic or regular naan at the grocery store... they even carry it at Walmart!

Last night I had Chicken Tikka Masala, served over white rice and with some garlic naan.  YUM!  I prefer the stuff at Indian restaurants, because it is just so much more flavorful... but I do my best when I'm home.

Bon appetit!  You should give it a try.

Chicken with rice and cooked naan

Monday, August 15, 2011

Real Housewives: A filler episode. With parenting. #RHONJ

Am I the only one who thought this episode was one of those 'filler' episodes that moves the season along? Here's what you missed...

Kathy thinks she needs to give her 16-year-old daughter 'the talk'.  News flash, Kathy, she's 16.  You needed to have that talk back in 7th grade.  You're late.

The Intervention credit
Teresa vs. Melissa.  For one, I can't believe how fake Teresa's cookbook photo shoot was.  Not surprised at all that her children acted like the total terrors that they always are... she doesn't parent!  I also thought it was incredibly rude not to invite her brother's family over for the shoot.  If her parents were there, she should have had her one and only sibling there.  Melissa was venting about Teresa's reaction to her singing, but it almost seemed justified.  Let her have her little one-hit-wonder... if the Countess and Kim-fake-hair form Atlanta can have fake singing careers, let Melissa do it.  She sings better than both of those broads.

Caroline's daughter wants to lose weight.  And Caroline is right in telling her the fad diets don't work, and that she needs to exercise.  The gym scenes were lame though, but at least Lauren is trying.

Okay, now for the IMPORTANT part of the episode.  FINALLY Jacqueline's daughter Ashley gets what was coming to her.  Not only is she always behaving TERRIBLY towards her mother, but she's the most immature and entitled 20-year-old I've seen in a while.  She lives at home, works part-time (max 4 hours per day!), gets a car from her family, and parties all the time.  She doesn't help around the house.  So they finally stage an intervention with Ashley's biological father, because she is constantly playing with both sides and they needed to present a united front.

I cannot believe Ashley said the things she did to Jacqueline.  Does she not realize how lucky she is that they haven't kicked her out and that she has so much privilege and money?  There are people who work during high school, who pay their own way through college, who don't have the luxury of sleeping in all the time while they make half-assed attempts at 'ideas' on what to do with their lives.  The minute Ashley moves to LA, she'll be calling home for $$$.  It's just the way it is.

Maybe she'll grow up.  Let's be honest, Lauren admits to being like Ashley in the past, but now that she's worked through beauty school and started her own boutique, she is really working hard.  (Granted, all of this was funded by her parents, but she WORKED HARD and they rewarded her with the means to pursue her dreams.)  THAT is how is should go.

The episode ended TO BE CONTINUED...  and I'm really interested to see if the parents all stand united with a real backbone this time against Ashley.  Because I'm of the opinion the girl needs some tough love, to see what it's like to not have everything handed to you.

And the winner is...


Please check your e-mail so I can mail you your birds' nest jewelry set, handmade by my friend Sophie!

How it works:  There were 13 total entries, and the Random Number Generator chose #9... and Cali had the 9th comment.

The odds of winning my giveaways are AWESOME, so keep coming back!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Project Runway: #PR9anthonyryan

(Every blog post, I'm going to include the hashtag for my favorite designer of the week!  And, as always with my TV review, SPOILER ALERT!)

My favorite looks!  Credit
It was a group challenge this time, outfitting models on stilts!  Sometimes the challenges are gimmicky, and I really want to see more ready-to-wear clothing... but group challenges are so interesting to watch.  The group challenges really force the designers to clash, because each designer is so (generally) narcissistic in their feeling that they are the best/expert/genius, resulting in the biggest conflicts and drama.

The pairings just seemed so lopsided.  There was the supposed dream team of Anya/Olivier, the latter who won immunity last episode.  Then there were some really explosive pairings.  Viktor/Bert resulted in a tense episode for those two...  everyone else was relieved not to work with Bert, because he is a TERROR (so arrogant!) and I can't believe I loved him so much in the first episode.  But the WORST pairing was Fallene/Bryce, because they have both been in the bottom before and it was depressing from the beginning.  Bryce's outfit was one of the worst last week, but Fallene really failed him in the team effort.  Boo.  She just GAVE UP.  FELL APART.  Cried on Tim Gunn.  BLAH.

The rest of the pairings had arguments/conflicts, but those designers never really interested me to begin with.  With this challenge, I really had a difficult time seeing the total outfit on the mannequins... usually I have an idea of what's going on before the runway show, but this episode focused on the personal conflicts instead of the design it seemed.  I had to wait for the runway show to give my opinions, but I had a feeling Fallene was headed home even before then.

My favorite designer, Anthony Ryan, was paired with Laura Kathleen... and I really had high hopes for them.  They are both good designers, so I felt it would result in an upset against Anya/Olivier.  That said, I immediately liked the Joshua/Julie matador outfit.  It was really fitting to the competition, I felt... great detail on the jacket and the black/white vertical stripes REALLY played up the stilts.  Anthony/Laura had a great outfit, the red was stunning, and the feathers were very couture.  I didn't like the clear fabric on top, I wish it had been more translucent, but it was definitely one of the best.  SO many of the outfits were BLAH though.  Really... just didn't like it.  It's the group challenge problem, the visions don't mesh and result in chaos.

I was really surprised that the judges didn't like the matador look, but it was a bit costume vs. couture.  I didn't think it was 'tacky' but cool.  I didn't agree with Danielle/Cecelia's chiffon outfit being so great.  I'm glad they agreed with me on Anthony/Laura.  I'm glad they won, and I'm proud Anthony Ryan basically was responsible for Laura getting immunity by praising her on the runway... he hasn't had immunity but has always been in the top, so he is just winning more points in my book.

I can't believe Bert threw Viktor under the bus on the runway.  They fought the whole time, and Bert wouldn't own up to choosing that hideous fabric.

Side note: I LOVED Heidi's look at the outdoor runway show!  All black, with a tight but beautiful updo...  gorgeous!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Friends and Food (and Shopping!)

I didn't blog about last weekend, even though I had a lot of fun... and now it's almost the weekend AGAIN!  So I'm playing catch-up.

Saturday, I met up with my local BFF LC and grabbed lunch at our favorite local Mexican chain, Jalapeno's.  I can eat there for under $6, and it's delish!  I like the Mexican Egg Burrito, with chorizo.  Then we headed to the Hilton Head Island outlet mall to hit up some sales, especially since I was in the market for two new business suits and coordinating shirts for future job interviews.

The mall was a MADHOUSE, but I got two new suits (a black one from Ann Taylor and a grey one from Jones New York) plus three beautiful solid shirts.  I got a 15% coupon and a 20% coupon from the stores for my total purchase, and with sales I really saved a bundle!  So exciting to have some professional clothing for the next chapter of my life!

LC was a trooper, having endured a sprained ankle but braving the mall for an entire day with me... so we celebrated a job well done with a delicious dinner at Sam Snead's.  We love their flatbread, and I had their delicious steak sandwich.  I ate so much I was positively stuffed!

CG making kitchen magic!
On Sunday, I went over to my friend CG's house for a Caribbean cooking lesson!  There were a bunch of girls there learning to make jerk chicken, rice with beans, and flan.  CG is Puerto Rican, and her husband HG is Jamaican, so their kitchen is a Goya paradise of goodness.  It everything was DELICIOUS.

After I got home, I really thought about what a fun, yet relaxing weekend I had.  I'm really looking forward to taking some time off next week from work to myself, but I also want to make sure to see some friends and spend a little quality time with them while I can.  I am a lucky girl to have so many awesome people in my life!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Real Housewives: Really, Teresa? #RHONJ

Okay, we all know I never really liked Kathy, but I will say that I have completely changed my opinion of Melissa and Teresa.  This episode, plus the Watch What Happens Live episode featuring Teresa as a guest afterwards, really made me cringe.  TERESA... REALITY CHECK.

She is so determined to think everyone is against her, everyone is wrong but her/her husband, everything is someone else's fault.

I loved the Manzo family in this episode...  I would feel lucky to be a part of their Brownstone New Year's Eve celebration!  I also appreciated Caroline's wishes for everyone for the new year; she truly is an amazing matriarch and the RHONJ I would like to be friends with/have as my adoptive mother.

Other than that, I didn't get much out of this episode...  just more respect for Melissa, a little forgiveness for Kathy, and no pity whatsoever for Teresa.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Water for Elephants

I just read Water for Elephants... started it last night and finished it today, because I couldn't put it down!

Has anyone else read this, or seen the movie?  I'll have to check out the film!

I've also read recently...
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After
Lover Unleashed (Black Dagger Brotherhood Book 9)
Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse Book 11)

And professional reading begins...
PCS to Corporate America
Good to Great

Friday, August 5, 2011

Project Runway: #PR9anthonyryan

(SPOILER ALERT!  Read and heed.)

I have got to tell you, I have COMPLETELY changed my tune in terms of who I'm rooting for on Project Runway.  Seriously.

Just when I'd declared that I was rooting for old man Bert, he COMPLETELY blew the unconventional pet store materials challenge.  It's like he didn't even try, and he had a bad attitude about it.  The judges are going to think twice about letting him win another challenge; while they do try to judge based on the individual challenge, I know they definitely take past work into account in terms of consistency; if you are always a top competitor, and you have a bad day, they're more likely to keep you than send you home.

So Bert is off my list.  I can't support him.

Also, I disagreed with the judges choosing Olivier's look over Anthony's AMAZEBALLS birdseed dress.  I agree with Heidi, his look was tops.  So it was a little short... designers send those kind of dresses down the runway all the time!  I really thought that Olivier's dogbed top was just too bulky and made the model look like a linebacker.  In addition, the eyebrows were just too much.  I like the effort to create drama, but save it for the couture challenge.  I really questioned Anthony's hot-glue-gun seeds because I thought it lacked construction, but when I realized where he was going with it, I couldn't believe the craftsmanship he displayed!  WINNER.  #PR9anthonyryan!!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Reality Recap

I've been so wrapped up in The Mommy vs. Non-Mommy Divide, I haven't been writing about my favorite reality shows!!!

Real Housewives of New Jersey:  I watched the Christmas morning episode, and it was alright.  I loved the Manzo Christmas, and I want to be an honorary member of their family!  That said, JOE GIUDICE, WTF?!  I mean, Teresa is trying to make peace with Joey and Melissa, and he's spewing poison about them?  And then he's too lazy to get up for Christmas morning with his kids, refusing to put a shirt on and videotaping them from the sofa without even looking through the viewfinder.  He's gross.  Seriously.  Every episode, I like Melissa/Joey more.  Oh, and I like Kathy less.  She wants to stay on the show and so she's brewing a feud with Teresa... very Kim G. of her!

In other reality news...
Project Runway Season 9 premiered on Lifetime!  It's been a long time since I followed a Project Runway season, but the concept itself is part of what inspired me to start sewing.  I really enjoy the candidates this year for the most part...  I'm absolutely rooting for the 'old man' Bert (I love a comeback!) and was really shocked by Anya's incredible sewing ability.  When she said she'd only been sewing for months, I rolled my eyes and counted her out from the beginning... until she won the first challenge with some AWESOME trousers!  Looks like a season full of surprises.  Oh, and Kathleen is annoying, but not as bad as the (thankfully cut) Amanda Perna.

I've also been watching some Ice Loves Coco, the occasional Toddlers and Tiaras episode, random My Fair Wedding with David Tutera and Say Yes to the Dress episodes, and pretty much anything on Bravo!  Yes, I am a TV addict... but it's just so much fun!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Mommy vs. Non-Mommy Divide (Conclusion: Aubrey's Lessons Learned)

 Struggling with own my feelings over the Mommy and Non-Mommy Divide, I asked over a dozen of my girlfriends to weigh in...  with some interesting revelations!  Here's the conclusion of this mini-series.

Conclusion: Aubrey's Lessons Learned

I'll be honest; I don't know how many people actually read this.  I do know that this mini-series went from being a planned single entry to a much larger entity, something I ended up spending hours on without intending to!  I want to thank my friends, who range all over the age spectrum, are single/married/engaged/divorced, working/students/stay-at-home, Mommies and Non-Mommies, never-want-to-be-moms to those struggling to become them...  I am fortunate to have them in my lives, and I celebrate that there is such diversity there!  They were open, candid, and honest with me... which made this mini-series what it was.

I'm not a journalist.  I'm just a blogger... but I learned SO much from reading all of the words they wrote.  I'm not a mother yet, but I gained so much perspective throughout.  And this is what I learned.

The Mommy vs. Non-Mommy Divide (Part 5: Healing the Divide)

Struggling with own my feelings over the Mommy and Non-Mommy Divide, I asked over a dozen of my girlfriends to weigh in...  with some interesting revelations!  Here's Part 5 in this blog mini-series.

Part 5: Healing the Divide

So far we've discussed the possible existence of a Mommy vs. Non-Mommy Divide, friendships between the two sides, identity, and parenting in public...  so now what?

One of the best things about this blog series, for me as the blogger, was reading the candid, honest answers the ladies sent me.  Knowing it would be anonymous, they were able to speak their minds in a way they may never have done with their Mommy/Non-Mommy friends across the divide, some letting out emotion and frustration that they've been holding in.

For me, this series was about opening up a dialogue for women who have different experiences and backgrounds, and perhaps promoting some understanding between the two.  Let's be perfectly real: motherhood is a choice.  It may not be planned, but we all make the decision to (and I am trying not to be crude!) put ourselves in a position where it becomes a possibility.  Others do not have to like our choices, but they should respect them, and that is where healing the divide comes into play.

One of the ladies didn't feel we can fix the separation: "I don't think this is a fixable problem. Its a part of life. You pick your team (Mommy or Non-Mommy) and you move on."  But both sides had messages for each other on how to coexist peacefully.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Mommy vs. Non-Mommy Divide (Part 4: Parenting in Public)

Struggling with own my feelings over the Mommy and Non-Mommy Divide, I asked over a dozen of my girlfriends to weigh in...  with some interesting revelations!  Here's Part 4 in this blog mini-series.

Part 4: Parenting in Public

With news stories about the "no-kids-allowed" movement spreading across the country as restaurants and even airlines discuss banning children from their services, I'm personally torn over how I should feel about it.

Not too long ago, I was verbally attacked on Facebook for complaining that a parent allowed their child to babble loudly for an hour during a (non-age-appropriate) movie before removing them from the theater, and that it was poor parenting not to remove the child earlier.  While some of my Mommy friends came to my rescue and supported me, I realized that I do judge parents by how they handle their children in public.  I appreciate the lack of kids in places like bars and certain all-inclusive resorts.  But do I support banning children from restaurants or first-class cabins?  NO.  Kids have to eat, kids have to travel.  There's a time and place for everything... I'm not going to get mad if I go to a G-rated movie or fast food restaurant and have to deal with unruly kids.

The ladies, for the most part, were in agreement with me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Mommy vs. Non-Mommy Divide (Part 3: The Mommy/Non-Mommy Identity)

Struggling with own my feelings over the Mommy and Non-Mommy Divide, I asked over a dozen of my girlfriends to weigh in...  with some interesting revelations!  Here's Part 3 in this blog mini-series.

Part 3: The Mommy/Non-Mommy Identity

I wasn't going to write about this initially, but I got so much feedback from my questions that this whole idea merited a section of its own in the series.

One thing that kind of bothered me initially when my friends started to become Mommies was the replacement of their Facebook profile photo to be a solo picture of their child.  If you haven't had a picture of yourself as your main photo in a year, what does that say about your identity?  You could take a photo WITH your child and post it, right?  And then there were all the posts about breastfeeding, cervixes, potty-training/diapers, etc.  I just didn't understand it at all.  So for me, I felt there was something going on there with identity and motherhood... and I wasn't the only one who had something to say on the subject!

Are Mommies losing their own identities?  Responses varied on this one...

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