30 July 2010

and now for a quiz

One of the slightly more useful things I've learned from my husband's military job is the existence of the ICAO alphabet.  We actually just call it the "(standard) phonetic alphabet," and sometimes I annoy B by trying to rattle the whole thing off on my own.  There's always a few I can't remember, and he holds out on me until I cave.  Whether I can remember them or not, I can recognize immediately who knows it and who doesn't when I'm conducting phone business or whatever.  A is not for Apple, and D is not for Dog.  If you know anything about this, check your knowledge with this quiz over at mental_floss.  This picture to the right should help jog your noggin!

And if you know nothing about it, read up on it over at Wikipedia and start memorizing!  It will help your life, I promise.

28 July 2010

muffins that taste like doughnuts

I love making dessert.  I would hazard to say that I'm more of a baker than a cook.  I like the precision and I have a major sweet tooth.  I tried this new one a few days ago, aptly titled "Muffins That Taste Like Doughnuts."  I'm a fan already because of the versatility.  These can be a dessert, a breakfast, a quick snack, whatever.  I love those "old-fashioned" doughnuts, and the texture of these muffins is similar. Kind of a dense cakey feel (have a glass of milk handy!), and they sorta taste like the cinnamon-sugar doughnuts.  But I haven't had one of those in a really long time, so that's a guesstimate.  Next time I make them, I'm think I'll do a side-by-side doughnut-to-muffin comparison.

What's great about a muffin is that you don't have to fry it -- automatically healthier than its doughnut doppleganger.  To do the topping, you dip the muffin in melted butter and then roll it in cinnamon sugar.  I found the recipe on Tasty Kitchen, although really I only found it because your friend and mine The Pioneer Woman mentioned it on her cooking blog last week.  I think what really inspired me to make these is the fact that I already had every ingredient on hand.  (I was surprised that I actually own nutmeg, since this is the first time in my memory I've ever used it.  I might've inherited it from a roommate or maybe even B owned it?)  Check out the full recipe and go make your own.  Stat!  If anything, it will make your kitchen smell amazing.  It cleared out the smell of my attempt at Indian food in a pinch :-)

I have to really love a recipe to type it up and add it to my recipe book, and this one made the cut!  So easy and soooo delicious!

27 July 2010

A-Z Travel Challenge

This is #61 on my 101 in 1001 days challenge.  The premise is to visit a place (city, attraction, specifically-named whatever) starting with each letter of the alphabet.  Here's how I'm doing!

A - Alabama State Capitol - 5/16/11
B - Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA - 2/18-19/11
C - Chicago, IL (12/28-30/10)
D - Dauphin Street, Mobile, AL - 12/27/11
E -
F - Fort Story Army Base Virginia Beach - 7/25/10
G - Gulf Islands National Seashore (Fort Barrancas and Fort Pickens) - 10/11/10 and 11/11/10
H - Historic Pensacola Village - 5/28/11
I - IKEA in Atlanta - 5/17/12
J - Johnny Appleseed Gravesite, Fort Wayne, IN - 10/20/12
K - Knott's Island, NC - 7/26/10
L - Lakeland, FL - Thanksgiving 2011
M - Michigan (B's Family's Lake House) - August 2011
N - Newseum, Washington, D.C. - 1/22/11
O -
P - Pensacola Lighthouse - 8/8/10
Q -
R - Rainforest Cafe, Houston, TX - 5/24/12
S - Siesta Key, FL - 11/22/11
T - Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, Pensacola, FL - 2/26/11
U - USS Alabama Battleship (Mobile, AL) - 12/27/11
V -
W - Wright Brothers National Memorial (Kitty Hawk, NC) - 8/27/10
X -
Y -
Z - Zionsville, IN (12/10)

26 July 2010

two things right quick

A photo from yesterday:

 live crab at Fort Story, Virginia Beach

And a photo from today:
peach at Knott's Island, NC

24 July 2010

#87 thrill me, chill me, fulfill me

I can officially put a giant check mark by one of the activities on my 101 in 1001 list!

87. Go to a Rocky Horror Picture Show showing at midnight.

Well, technically it started at 11:30pm, but close enough for me!  Last night, I met up for a drink with three slightly adventurous ladies, including Elizabeth from The Young Retiree (the only one to bring a camera), and then we headed over to see this twice-monthly spectacle at the Naro in Ghent, as done by Fishnet Inc.

First of all, let me say after three years of living here, I didn't realize there were so many freaks and weirdos in Norfolk!  I felt like I was back home in Atlanta . . .  The "usual" crowd definitely was out in full force and full fishnets.  To top it off, it was apparently "Luau Night," complete with various patrons/genders in grass skirts and coconut bras.

I "lied" and purposely did not volunteer myself as a first-timer ("virgin" as they say) for seeing this show, even though I was.  I really did not feel any need to bend over, grab my ankles, and get whacked in the bum with a frat-paddle in front of a bunch of corseted screwballs.  Nor did I feel it necessary to have a giant red "V" marked on my forehead.  For those of you about to call me out for being an "old stick in the mud," I did indeed stand up and do the Time Warp dance.  So back off.

As for the actual show itself . . . umm yikes?!  According to Wikipedia, this is a "1975 British musical horror comedy/rock opera film that parodies science fiction and B-movie horror films."  That is quite a tiresome list of genres for 100 minutes of film!  The one and only time I have seen the movie was about ten years ago when it was playing on loop during Halloween week on VH1.  This movie apparently has not been very memorable to me after all of the living I've done since then, and I'm still not certain if it has a cohesive plot.  (However, I don't think that really matters to its cult followers.)

At this live showing, the movie was playing on a large screen, and in front of that the live players were acting the same stuff out like an under-funded high school drama group.  Then to top it off, there were the "aisle guys" who were standing around and shouting out innuendo-laden comments the entire time.  They were mostly in unison (many times with other seated audience members), but I could only make about half of it out.  And you couldn't hear the sound on the movie hardly at all, so it was just kinda overwhelming.  I couldn't decide what to actually pay attention to -- I felt exhausted by the sensory overload.  (Luckily, this theatre does not allow the audience to bring props or throw stuff, so I didn't have to worry about being pelted by rice in the middle of my conundrum.)  I did however hear more swear words in the course of two hours than I've heard in the last 8 years combined.

My friend who could stomach my Chicken Tikka Masala apparently could not stomach this cross-dressed absurdity for too long.  She hardly made it 20 minutes before walking out, but all she really missed was audience members (not including myself) running a few laps around the theater in their underwear.  Oh, and Susan Sarandon making the biggest mistake of her career.

 Yes, that's a dude, but he oddly reminds me of
my [female] high school principal.

22 July 2010

adventures in Indian cooking

My husband B doesn't really like to play favorites.  No favorite singer, no favorite book, not even a favorite hooded sweatshirt.  But one thing I have picked up on is his extreme liking for Chicken Tikka Masala.  He discovered this dish when he was studying abroad in London during college, and his passion for it never left.  When I visited him this May on a port call in Scotland, he preferred Chicken Tikka to Haggis 3-1.  When I mentioned taking the feat of making his beloved dish on my own, my one Indian friend (wow, I've really only ever had one?!) told me to just go buy some at an Indian restaurant and pretend I made it.  She's probably right, but I'm too stubborn and frugal for any of that tomfoolery.  So last night, with him still deployed, I decided to attempt it.

Well, actually the whole process of attempting it started a few days back when I was driving all over town to find the ingredients for it.  I guess this was a good reason to finally buy coriander.  I found most of the components at my regular grocery (plain yogurt, anyone?), but the Garam Masala spice mix eluded me.  I was already out in town, so I dialed up Goog-411 (yes I live in the dark ages and am quite content without an iPhone and its accompanying invoice) and found a place called Taj Bazar on the Boulevard (what isn't on the Boulevard in this area??).  Score!  I even found some naan, so we could get the full experience here.

 My carbo-holic self could eat this stuff all day!

I decided to use a recipe featured on The Pioneer Woman's cooking blog.  I love the pictures of each step -- so great for an amateur chef like me.  I obviously did not need 6 servings, so luckily for me, this recipe was also posted at the PW's recipe-sharing community Tasty Kitchen.  And Tasty Kitchen has a nifty converter feature, so you don't even have to do any math!

Or so I thought, anyway.  The water for the rice isn’t listed on the ingredients so I had to do the math for that, along with the Garam Masala spice and some other items.  Check out my hasty fractions to figure out the water for 4 servings of rice:

 I took AP Calc for this?

Also, I would like to say that this recipe's difficulty was grossly underestimated -- it was by no means "easy"!  I haven’t been cooking for very long, and this is probably one of the most ambitious recipes I’ve tried.  Since you have 3 things going on – broiler, rice, and stovetop, I really wouldn’t call it easy.  I will say that this was my first time ever using B's rice cooker, and I'm completely SOLD.  Throwing all the ingredients in this puppy and flipping a switch?  Now that's easy!  The rest of it . . . well, notsomuch.

In the past year or so, I've discovered that I have a pretty nasty intolerance to garlic (it makes me nauseous), so I had to skip that step.  That was probably a giant mistake, due to the moisture that garlic can add.  Maybe I should've just added more butter or something in its absence.  But again, amateur chef over here.  Basically what happened was that my pan was too dry when I put in the spice mix and it kicked back at me and my sinuses, sending me into a wicked coughing fit and smoking up my little apartment.  I had invited a friend over to be part of my cooking adventure, and she was on the phone discussing wedding plans with her future mother-in-law during all this culinary commotion.  I was pretty concerned my smoke alarm would go off, but I was able to curb it by immediately grabbing the tomatoes and throwing them in (thank God I’d already opened the can, time was of the essence here!). Next time I make it, I’ll do tomatoes first, then spice and let it simmer.  Garlic problem = solved.  (I hope.)

My finished product didn’t come out in that nice orange color from the picture – it was more like a sludgy toilet brown. It might’ve had to do with how dark my Garam Masala was to begin with?  It’s sort of a deep red/brown.

 You don't even know how happy my apartment is that this does not contain curry.

Overall, it tasted decent, but a bit too spicy for my friend and I, so we chopped up a fresh tomato and threw it in and that helped a bit.  And thanks to the fabulous naan, we ate this with our fingers like real Indians!  Well, for about three minutes anyway, then we switched to forks.

I will be making this again, but with a few tweaks.  Hopefully next time I’ll get it right and not burn the place down in the process.  B and I had discussed having this for his "first night back" homecoming meal, but I think I'll be breaking it to him gently that he's getting tortellini instead.

21 July 2010

i fancy this verb

In these modern times, it seems that any noun can become a verb.  In their infinitive forms, to facebook, to google, to DVR have all worked their way into our current lexicon.  Sometimes our new words are wonderful for providing specificity, sometimes they're wildly unnecessary.    Why do some people need to say "friended" when the perfectly fine "befriended" already exists?  And to DVR something is really just to record it.  Less syllables and less bewildering to those lacking the pricier aspects of modern technology.  (Plus, the Navy has enough darn acronyms to keep up with; I don't need any more in my life!)

But what about perfectly good verbs used in other English-speaking lands?  Why can't we "borrow" some great terms from across the pond, as a way of avoiding confusion?  Case in point: the wordy "fancy" used as a verb.  I'm sure we all remember conversations from our youth that included the following question:  "Do you like him, or do you LIKE like him?"  Or even the rather juvenile, "If you LOVE chicken nuggets so much, then why don't you marry them?"

Both situations could be remedied with the use of "fancy" or even "infatuated with."  Not nearly as serious as love, but a step above like.  And then when you're in your 20's, and it's become just a tad embarrassing to have "a crush on" someone, affirming that you "fancy" this "chap" is probably a "bloody brilliant" idea. 

All that being said, I love my husband, but I fancy some homemade waffles.

20 July 2010

the best game ever: picta-phone

A few weeks ago, I found myself at a friend's house, celebrating her big 3-0, and playing this game that was perfect for our late night crowd.  The people I was with only called it "the best game ever," which is annoyingly nondescript and makes the actual game itself hard to remember.  It's kind of like a pictorial game of telephone, and it's a hoot!

You will need:
  • At least 6 people (8-12 is probably ideal)
  • Enough index cards or quarter-sheets of paper for (number of people)^2  -- we had 8 people, so we needed 64 cards
 These puppies got me through college, so of course I always found bargains!

  • And 1 writing utensil per person 
I love my lambie pen from my '08 Easter basket!

How to play:
1. Each player gets a set of index cards (divvied up evenly, of course)
2. Use the blank sides of the cards, if applicable
3. Each player will write a phrase or a saying on the first card - keep it a secret what it is!
4. Once everyone has written their phrase, each player will keep their phrase card on the top and will pass their ENTIRE STACK of cards to the person on their left.
5. The receiver will then read the phrase and then DRAW a picture of it on the next card.  So, if the card said, "The cow jumped over the moon," then the receiver will draw their best rendering of that.  6. You cannot use words or symbols in the picture.  Move the phrase card to the back of the pile.
7. When everyone is done, the cards pass to the left again, with the picture on top.
8. The new receiver will now WRITE what they see.  Don't look at the phrase card in the back, just write what you see in the picture.
9. Game play passes to the left again, alternating writing and drawing until you get your original phrase back in your hands.
10. Then it's show-and-tell time!  Everyone gets a turn to show the other players the "journey" that their phrase has taken.  This game is probably even better when combined with alcohol* (what game isn't?).

When we played this, my "On Wednesdays, we wear pink" (a quote from Mean Girls) resulted in an old man doing his laundry because he is out of clean clothes, and the phrase "30 and Flirty" evolved into a bawdy scene so controversial that I can't even post it on the blog!  And to think I was playing this with my good lil' Catholic friends!

*Please only drink legally and responsibly!

18 July 2010

a 101 update: blueberry cobbler

About a week ago, I started a new project.  I thought I'd update y'all with my progress.

I have now accomplished 1/5 of my #47: Learn to make 5 new desserts. (edit 7/28:  The number has been upped to 10!  I have over 2 years left here, after all!)

I went blueberry picking with a friend last Friday, and after using my blueberries in muffins and smoothies, I decided to try cobbler.  Well, actually, I was planning on making dump cake, but couldn't find a recipe that fed anything less than the entire crew of B's submarine (due to the use of a an entire box of yellow cake mix, which I am not willing to halve/eighth/sixteenth-ify), so I settled on dump cake's closest relative: cobbler.  The great thing about the recipe I used is that it only made 6 servings, and it was easy to halve and make in a loaf pan instead of a big casserole dish.  I won't be posting the recipe, but I will tell you that it was given to me by an old friend.

In my single-minded focus to get rid of all my blueberries (I only had a pound to begin with, but nobody but myself to eat them!), I forgot to take pictures of the process and even the final product.  Well, lucky for you, I still have 1/3 of it left (to be eaten shortly), so here's my slightly-disgusting picture of my first-ever cobbler.  (That pan is gonna be hell to scrub tonight.)  What I loved about making this was that I inadvertently learned how to make pie filling, which will come in handy when I tackle my #15 (making a pie from scratch).

As for some of my other projects, I have indeed started a coloring book (#46), and I am 8 chapters through Genesis (#27).

I have plans for Friday to knock out a full task, but I'll save the details for then.  Check out the rest of my list here!

17 July 2010

an i-40 road trip

This post was inspired by my friend Elizabeth a.k.a. The Young Retiree, who is about to embark on her second cross-country road trip.  My mom and I (and sometimes other family members) have done THREE cross-country road trips.  Actually, I think my mom was bummed out that Uncle Sam didn't give us our shore tour in our #1 (and #2) pick of San Diego, just so we could've done another one.  Our last trip, back in 2007, was by far our best, longest, most well-planned, and most interesting.

So here are your must-see hits on a journey on I-40 from Virginia (or in our case, Atlanta) to San Diego.  Mind you, this was only Leg 1 of 3 of our monster adventure.  Perhaps I'll post about our other legs and other trips at a later date.  Here's a Google map overview of the route:

View Larger Map

(If you're starting/ending in southeastern Virginia, I would suggest adding Asheville, NC, and Nashville, TN, to your itinerary.  I've actually never been to Asheville, but I hear it's awesome.)

Stop 1:  Memphis.  Graceland, amazing barbecue (try The Pig on Beale St.), National Civil Rights Museum (includes the site where MLK Jr was assassinated), the Peabody ducks, and my favorite part of Memphis - Mud Island River Park--a scale model of the Mississippi that you can really get your feet wet in.  That's where my profile picture was taken:

Stop 2:  Little Rock, AR - just go walk around Little Rock Central High School.  History was made here when the school was forced to integrate and the governor was quite opposed.  Read up on the Little Rock Nine to really appreciate this one.

Stop 3:  If you have time, go a bit out of your way and head down to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  A nice park and a cute place to spend the night.  And get some (hot) water out of the ground while you're at it!

Stop 4:  Oklahoma City.  Especially the Bricktown Canal area.  If you're there overnight, I hear that the bars are neat, and you can ride a boat to hop from one to the other.  Even if you're there during the day, it's really adorable.  We didn't do this because I wasn't too hot on depressing/reflective tourism at the time, but I hear the OKC National Memorial is a good place to go, especially the outdoor part with its Field of Empty Chairs.  Also, the restaurant Sonic is headquartered here, so it would be a sacrilege not to stop and enjoy some tots and a limeade.

Bricktown area during the day

Stop 5:  Amarillo, TX - the Cadillac Ranch.  Get a can of spray paint before you head out here (we found ours for $1 somewhere in OKC).  Spray-paint your deepest feelings on this monument to old Route 66 roadside kitsch.

That's me contributing to a study in ever-evolving art

Stop 6:  Albequerque, NM.  Walk around the adorable Old Town area, and if you have the time, take the world's longest cable-car ride to the top of Sandia Peak.  Absolutely gorgeous.  A gal I knew in college even got engaged there.

San Felipe de Neri Church in Old Town Albuquerque

Stop 7ish:  Once you're in Arizona, check out the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert National Park.  This is definitely a 'drive-through' park.  Do it.  Get out a few times and walk the paths to see the old hieroglyphs.  But don't take the petrified wood - buy some legally in the store on your way out.

 The beautiful Painted Desert

Stop 8?:  If you don't have time to swing north at Flagstaff and hit up the Grand Canyon's south rim and Vegas (that was a different trip for us), head down just a bit by the CA-AZ border to Lake Havasu City, AZ, and stretch your legs and practice your phony British accent at the London Bridge.  No, it's not the pretty Tower Bridge you're thinking of, but London Bridge was falling down (just like the nursery rhyme says) and the big city sold it to this town in 1968.  Which was good for Lake Havasu, since before us schmucks came into town to see this wonder, all they had were their seasonal lake people.  I will say, now that I've seen both the new London Bridge in London and this one, I much prefer the 'American' version.

The flag directly up and to the left of me is a Union Jack

From this point, we went down toward Yuma, underwear drenched in sweat from the 110° temps, ready to get our bums as quickly as possible to temperate San Diego.

The other way to go is toward Joshua Tree National Park, which is probably worth checking out.  As for us, we were trying to beat my dad to the airport to pick him up in San Diego, so we were booking it but still trying to get a good glimpse over the fence to our left that (we're pretty sure) separated us from Mexico.

And for those of you wondering how we afford these road trips, check out our plush accommodations:

$20 a night, thanks KOA!
(Some families have a Winnebago, mine has a Coleman . . .)

Happy summer travels to everyone.  And remember that I am considerably jealous!

15 July 2010

"no man is an island, but this woman is"

One of my favorite television shows of all time is "Gilmore Girls."  I actually own all 7 seasons on dvd (the only tv show that I actually own), and decided a while ago to watch them all through in order.  When I moved to Virginia almost three years ago, I started from episode one.  I have at last made it to the final season, and I think I'm on track to finish it before B gets back and we move.

I love the witty, intelligent, fast-paced humor of the show, and I think every fan has a love/hate relationship with the character of over-achiever Paris Geller.  But whichever side of the fence you're currently standing on, you gotta admit that she has some GREAT lines.  Something about the combination of sarcasm, condescension, and impeccable timing really grows on you after a while.  Everything out of her mouth is said with such severity that it can only be comical yet always possesses a large chunk of truth lurking behind it.  The actress who played her (Liza Weil) actually auditioned for the part of Rory, but she didn't get it.  Instead, they wrote the part of Paris for her, which I must admit is a pretty awesome form of flattery.

Here are a few of my favorite Paris Geller quotes (in addition to the title of this post):

"You don't fall in love with people that make you want to crap your pants."

"Well, how nice it must be to be you. Maybe someday I'll stumble into a Disney movie and suddenly be transported into your body, and after living there for a while I'll finally realize the beauty in myself. "

"Hey, you know, not everybody can be smart. As my mother always says, 'somebody has to answer the phones.'"

"If you need love, get a hooker. If you're having a bad day, find a ledge or a way to deal."

"I can't even read my own handwriting. What does this say? Whoever wrote this should be dressed in a clown suit stuffing bodies under their porch!"

"I can scare the stupid out of you, but the lazy runs deep."

13 July 2010

ode to the airblade

When I traveled around the U.K. back in May, I got to experience first-hand (literally, in this case) the newest and best restroom hand dryer in the world. This even beats paper towels.  Ladies and gents, I present to you the Dyson Airblade!

To use it, you basically move your hands up and down for about 10 seconds (like in this video), and when you walk away, your hands are pretty much completely dry.  No wiping your hands on your jeans afterwards, no water dripping up to your elbow. 

I don't know what took so long for the laws of gravity to incorporated into the act of drying your hands, but it's good to be living in the third millennium now that the engineers have figured it out.   It also apparently uses up to 80% less energy than other dryers, and it's pretty hygienic.  Also, the "blade" of air is not nearly as painful as those super-powerful (and super-loud) XLERATOR dryers.  I always feel like I'm gonna get blown into the next town over when I use those.

I'd mostly seen these in Edinburgh and London, but if you'll be around D.C., they have them in the Museum of the American Indian restrooms.  I even made it a point to show my mom when we were there.  Not sure she was as impressed . . . maybe I'm the only one that gets excited about washing and drying my hands.

Can you imagine what the future might look like if we adapted this type of thing to our household drying situations?  No more need for bathroom towels, just stand in this contraption for 10 seconds and you're done!  Or what about as a hair dryer or used in your dishwasher?  The future is simply dripping with possibilities!

Has anyone else out there had the privilege to experience the wonderful Airblade?  Whaddaya think?

11 July 2010

he's singing this song for you

This past week, I got to do something amazing.  And not only did I get to do this amazing thing once, I got to do it AGAIN the next day.  Yes, I had the chance see and to hear the angelic voice of Michael Bublé in concert not once, but TWICE.

NOTE: This post may have some "spoilers" - so if you have tickets to his show and want to be surprised, check back later to read my review!

Basically, I entered a contest to win good seats online sponsored by Nordstrom, and to up my chances I entered for both Norfolk and Richmond.  Well, holy smokes, I won the Richmond tickets!  My friend Charlene and I had already bought "cheap seats" (Row Z, of course) tickets to the Norfolk one, which pretty much sold out two days after they went on sale.  Here are both of my tickets, and note the $0.00 above that FLR2 on the top one:

I will forever KICK MYSELF for not bringing my camera to the Richmond night.  We were in the 11th row!  Amazingly close.  I'm pretty sure that the last time I was that close at a concert, I was getting pushed around in a mosh pit by my fellow high school sophomores.  When we got to our floor seats, there was a middle-aged couple sitting next to us, and the man asked my friend Monica and I if we were gonna hoot and holler and scream when MB came on stage.  "No," I replied, "but I just might throw my panties."  His wife got quite a kick out of one of my best-timed one-liners ever.  (Note:  I did NOT actually throw my panties, but I probably could have.)

The concert started out with this FABULOUS opening act called Naturally 7.  I've seen a lot of a capella music performances in my day, but this blew them all out of the water.  They mimicked instruments flawlessly (even an electric guitar), and they pretended like they were playing them, even going so far as giving the vocal percussionist his own drum stool.  My favorite was their "bassist" - his name is Hops, and he is super skinny with a ridiculously deep voice.  He's on the far right in this shot:

As for Mr. Bublé's set . . . whew.  Well first, let me go back in time and tell you about when I started listening to this boy sing.  I was in my last semester of college, the year was 2006, and I was taking a class called Voice for the Non-Major.  It was a great class for "recreational" singers like myself.  And in that class, the professor would often play a song or two by a famous or sorta-famous singer, and then he'd have us discuss what makes that singer good and what sets them apart.  One day, he played some MB, I believe it was his cover of "Moondance" (which ended up being me and B's first dance at our wedding, btw), and what I really recall from the discussion is the fact that you can hear his PASSION through his voice.  I know that all my past choir teachers had emphasized emotion, but I never realized just how well it could be done until that day.

And that passion that I heard through the speakers of the class stereo came through ten-fold at a concert with him there live.  I guess if you were to classify him, he's a jazz singer, and he had all those fun jazz moves and a great band.  He slid down his sloped stage, he twirled his microphone, and he gave witty commentary in an accent that I can only describe as "Old Hollywood."

  And his stage looked pretty cool, too.

 One thing I really like about MB and his concerts (or "parties" as he tells the audience to think of them) is the multi-generational appeal.  Gals my age were there with their mothers, ladies could take their husbands, and at the Richmond show, a 20-something guy two rows in front of us even proposed to his girlfriend during an adorable love song called "Everything."  You just don't get that at a Hannah Montana concert, folks.

I wonder if my husband would look that good in a suit with a skinny tie?

 As any of his fans can tell you, MB just seems like that boy-next-door kind of likable guy.  I loved the excitement he has for his band.  He goes through and introduces each member to us, saying insanely funny things about each guy that are hopefully untrue for the most part.  And for being such good sports, MB gives us a chance to just hear what they can do.  Here he is enjoying a solo from his trumpeter:

A real crowd-pleasing part of the evening is when he comes out into the audience, accompanied by our new friends Naturally 7 (they back him on one of the tracks on his Crazy Love album).  He involves the entire audience in the singing of his biggest hit "Home" - a song with which I have had quite the interesting relationship.  That song got a lot of radio play during that spring of 2006 time that I first heard of MB.  During that class discussion, I remember one of my classmates explaining that he also sings the song "Home" (which I had already heard but hadn't cared for much).  I still didn't like it--it wasn't in his jazz style, it was too sappy for me, I couldn't dance to it, and I really didn't relate. 

Fast forward two years to Summer of 2008, and there I am in my car, crying to this song, thinking about my Navy boyfriend who had been deployed for three months with many more to go.  I ended up including it on my "Deployment 2008" mix CD, and have appreciated the song so much since.  I'm sure the Norfolk concert was chock-full of current and former Navy spouses, and I hope Michael and his band know just how much that song has probably meant to every single one of us.  It was definitely a more emotional experience in Norfolk than Richmond.

 Me and Charlene, both wives of deployed submariners!

For those of you who think MB will be singing you to sleep every night as your future husband, I have some bad news.  He's actually engaged to this Argentinian bombshell.  Oh well, maybe Hops is single for ya.

Each night, Michael Bublé sang his pipes off for two glorious hours, and we're all left wondering how he can even squeak a word out the next day.  And how could listening to his silky-smooth, clear, and passionate voice be anything less than awe-inspiring?  I think my personal highlight is how he ended the night - his un-miked voice, nothing else, filling the entire arena.  It'll give ya chills, folks.  So nice I loved it twice!

And even though he dropped an F-bomb (or two), he's still a class act to me.

a new project

I have decided to start a 101 in 1001 project. I've had a running bucket list saved on my computer for a while with only about 30 tasks on it. Most of those activities made it onto this new list, which I am supposed to accomplish in 1001 days.  I'm officially starting July 11, 2010, so my end date is April 8, 2013. I guess we have to survive that whole Mayan apocalypse thing first though . . .

I got this idea from fellow blogger and Navy wife Marj over at Raising Roscoe.  She just started her list and has already crossed one off!  It's actually called the Day Zero Project, and you can check that out here.  For my list, check out my tab at the top or click this link.  I'm sure I'll be blogging about some of these as I complete them.

p.s.  If anyone can help me/show me how to make my tabs look purty, I would be forever grateful. I might end up changing my whole template (this one is kinda cluttered in my opinion), so good [free] template sources are appreciated as well.

09 July 2010

friday happy hour q&a

I know there's a MilSpouse Friday Fill-in floating around, and I know that I had started doing a Follow Friday, and I know that I still need to share my review of the Michael Bublé concert(s), but I mostly know that I get bored of consistency, and it's my blog, and I will write whatever the heck I want when I want.

So today, I am using the Friday Happy Hour questions from Jason English over at mental_floss.  Because I like the questions.  Well, some of them.  I think I might throw in one of the MilSpouse questions just for kicks.  My blog, my way, right?

1. What’s the longest you’ve slept at a time? And the much more interesting follow-up: what were you doing beforehand to make you so tired?
When I was studying abroad in Italy, I did a bit of weekend travel by myself (which I will never do again in a country where I don't know the language).  I can't remember exactly which (mis)adventure I had come back from, but I got back Sunday morning, went to church, and then immediately went to bed.  All I remember was a huge thunderstorm, my roommate walking back in, and then sleeping all the way up until class on Monday morning.  So I guess that's about 18 hours or so?

2. If we sponsored a Housework Olympics, at what event would you excel?
Just put me in the decathlon, I do it all! 

3. I was talking with someone yesterday about how “Where do you think LeBron’s going?” had seeped into our conversational lives, temporarily replacing “How about this weather?” (A common follow-up: “That Nets owner sure is tall, huh?”) With James headed to Miami, I guess it’s back to chatting about humidity. Is there a specific topic you use as conversational filler? What do you talk about when there’s nothing to talk about?
Well, no one asked me about LeBron, but I love to tell people that he's my cousin!  (My maiden name is James.)   But as for this question, I may talk a lot (so usually there isn't a lull), but I'm not a fan of small talk.  I usually just look away or start asking specific questions about that person's baby/job/house/etc.  However, I think my stock conversational filler should be "Did you know the gestation period of an elephant is 22 months?"

4. Tell us one interesting fact you learned from whatever book you’re reading.  
My current read is Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live: 85% Of a True Story and I've learned two things: 1) Minneapolis is home to a lot of rock critics and 2) the "American Pie" airplane went down somewhere in Iowa.  Oh, make that three things - I also learned that this book isn't nearly as good as the author's previous one, Sex Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.

5. What canceled TV show do you miss the most?
"Gilmore Girls," hands down.  I'm still mad at the creators/head writers for leaving before the 7th season.  It's awful how all that workplace drama can affect the outcome of your entertainment.  That season wasn't very good, and it's one of the worst series finales ever.

08 July 2010

what i want to be when i grow up

This morning, I attended a Career Planning workshop at Fleet and Family Support.  I love the fact that I can pretend that I'm still in college and go to stuff like this - I always loved the Career Center at UGA.  And when I get preggers, I can take a gabillion more classes offered there.  But for now, I'll stick to the career and financial management stuff.

At the beginning of the class, we were asked to draw a picture of us in our dream job.  Ummm...I still don't know what my "dream job" is--isn't that why I'm at this workshop?--but I do know some components of it, so here is my drawing:

There's the sun, and that's me (with smudged eyes because my pen got a little excited), and those squiggly things are grass blades representing The Great Outdoors, and there's some people over there of all different ages (the one on the right even looks vaguely like my father).  And I'm telling them all something fantastic, I'm sure, or perhaps I'm singing this song.  You can see my energy in my big open-mouth smile.

This picture is the reason that I will 1) never work in a cubicle environment again and 2) never be a classroom teacher, no matter how much my aunts (and bank examiner mother, strangely) try to push me into it.  I recently had given thought to maybe teaching Elementary Phys. Ed., but after all the assessments and whatnot in this class today, I just don't think I'm meant to educate.  At all.

My highest scores did come in for the Hospitality, Tourism, Recreation field.  Which was no surprise to me.  I think being a tour guide or docent is probably my dream "career."  Fun environment, interacting with people, no overly-air-conditioned cubicle trap, possible good hours even.  But how is that really different from teaching?  I had to ask myself today.  I think the difference here is that a) people you're instructing are there willingly (usually) and b) you're not responsible for whether they learn anything or just walk away and don't give you a tip.  I have no tolerance for brats.

I've had a lot of wonky jobs (and duties within jobs) in the past 10 years, from reading books onto tape to writing rejection letters to reviewing infomercials.  But the best job I ever had was a part-time summer gig supervising teens on a High Ropes Course at an adorable Catholic Life Teen camp in north Georgia called Covecrest.  I loved being outside, I loved watching the teens learn to trust and discern their own physical and mental capabilities, and I loved teaching and encouraging them.  I would love to work on a ropes course again (even though I'm scared of heights!--I spent almost all of my time on the ground at the camp), and it might be a more available job in Pensacola than a tour guide, but we'll see.  And, no, I'm not set on working with teens, so please don't ask me to lead your youth ministry.  (I'll save the rest of that rant for another post!)  Corporate team-building might be a viable option as well, but only time and the economy will tell.

Let me know if you have a job or know of one that you think would suit me!  I'm always open to suggestions since I can't really foresee myself doing this full-time housewifery business forever.

07 July 2010

bestest brownies ever

Before I got married, I had this great roommate here in Virginia Beach. One of the best gifts she ever gave me (besides affordable rent and a stable living situation) was her recipe for the most amazing brownies I have ever had. And that is what I am sharing with you today, Pioneer Woman-style with pictures and all!

  • 4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1 cup butter or margarine (2 sticks)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 12oz (regular-sized bag) chocolate chips
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows (best if fresh, so you don't have to pull them apart -- learned from experience on that one)

Preheat oven to 350°
Melt chocolate squares and butter over medium heat on stove.

Eventually, it'll start to look like this:

Once it is all melted (including the butter, unlike in that picture above), remove from heat.
Add sugar and then each egg.  Stir after each egg.  (Sorry, I don't have a picture of that step because I was too busy fishing an egg shell out of the batter.  Maybe I'll just stick to Egg Beaters from now on.)

Add vanilla and flour:

Fold in the chocolate chips, then the marshmallows.  (The marshmallows will mostly melt in the oven, so you won't be eating chunks of them, I promise!)  If it looks like a dirty diaper, you're doing it right:

Drop that beautiful mixture into a greased 9x13 pan and bake it at 350° for 30-35 minutes.

Don't forget the most important step--I call this 'Clean Up Part One':

Test with a cake tester/toothpick.  Yes, your brownies will look like they have some type of skin disease when they're done and ready.

Mine came out slightly undercooked, so they didn't cut as easily.  They were still delightfully delicious, and the brownie crumbs make a good ice cream topping so I'm not complaining!

 Enjoy!  And let me know how your attempts come out!