23 December 2010

Christmas Eve traditions

I'm in Georgia now, and tonight I will be leading B in his first Southern Christmas Experience.  Last year I accompanied him to Indiana to be with his family for my first Midwestern Christmas.  It was alright, but just not the same.

For my family, Christmas Eve traditions have changed over the years depending on our participation in Mass and any party invitations.  The "party" friends moved out of state about 10 years ago, but I still remember when they lived up the street and threw awesome Christmas Eve parties.  (I also still remember the first time I saw my mom get a bit tipsy.  Good times!)

Around 5pm, we'll go to vigil mass with my family, and hopefully see my nephew perform with the church choir.  Hopefully he won't fall off the stage in the middle of it like he did 3 years ago.

After mass, we'll eat dinner.  In my teen years, we usually ordered a pizza!  I loved that tradition and hope we do it again.


Then we'll just hang out, wrap some last-minute presents or whatever, watch TV.  Maybe there's a football game on?  Eventually, my parents will fall asleep, and I'll take B to Midnight Mass.  My friends and I started doing this in college (I had never been since I always sang at the 8pm "teen" mass).  I love Midnight Mass!  It's sooo beautiful!  And I don't mind going to mass twice, since I love my nephew and family and want to share the night with them.  I don't know if any friends will be joining this year, but just B and me is fine this year.

After Midnight Mass, we'll probably be hungry again.  So hopefully we'll head here:

Scattered, smothered, and covered please!
As for Christmas Day itself, I don't quite know what it will be like this year because last time I was home for it (2 years ago), everyone lived under one roof.  My sister has since bought a house and gotten married, and most of Christmas Day will be spent over there with my immediate family and my sister's in-laws.  They're a fun bunch, but it will definitely be a bit different for me.  We're just hoping my sister doesn't go into labor from all the fun!  (She's full-term now, due date Jan. 8.)

I think I'll "play myself out" of this post with one of my favorite Christmas choral songs I've performed.  It's "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" poem set to music, and it's adorable.  Here's the University of Utah performing it with a bit of choreography.





What are your Christmas Eve traditions?

21 December 2010

top 10 highlights of 2010


We didn't end up doing the cards with a top 10 list, but I decided to make one anyway.  Since we spent more than 6 months apart this year, I have a few extra highlights of mine that I had to leave off to balance it out and make it an "us" list.
  1. Celebrating our first anniversary in October
  2. B returning from the deployment in August 
  3. Cat being Matron of Honor in her sister's wedding in June
  4. Exploring Pensacola and trying new classes at the gym together
  5. Thanksgiving trip to Georgia
  6. B leaving the submarine and starting his new job in Pensacola
  7. Cat and B reuniting in Scotland in May, halfway through the deployment
  8. B having the chance to explore Spain, Norway, and Portugal during his deployment
  9. Cat's volunteer work at Norfolk Botanical Garden
  10. Cat donating her hair for the third time
Here's the card we chose.  Happy Holidays!

    20 December 2010

    a public service announcement

    THERE IS NO "E" IN SANTA CLAUS.

    See, there was this cute little movie that came out when most of us were impressionable little 4th graders.  I won't go into explaining the storyline, but I want you to know the title is a pun.  Yes, a PUN.  Thank you, Tim Allen, for screwing up the spelling for an entire generation.

    See how the "E" is hanging off over there in a different color?  Yeah, that's important. 

    In addition, the correct phrase is FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES.  There's no such thing as intensive purpose.  And if you think there is, I don't want to hear about it.

    Thank you, and have a nice day.

    what i've been reading lately

    I love reading about what other people read to get suggestions.  So here's an update on my recent reads:

    The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson & the Olympians Book One) by Rick Riordan
    This first one was recommended to me by a friend who shares my love for the Harry Potter books.  She said I'd like this, and she was right.  It's basically a Harry Potter-type of story using the Greek gods.  A 12 year-old kid finds out that he's a demi-god (half-blood, if you will), and all these monsters are out to kill him.  He's sent on a quest (cross-country road/train trip, really) with two buddies to help prevent a war from breaking out.  I felt it was a lot more action-packed than The Sorcerer's Stone, which at times I didn't like.  (There was no 'year at school, everything's hunky-dory' element like in the first HP book.)  There were two things I absolutely loved about this book though:  it was set in present-day America (I had been to a lot of the places they visited on the trip!), and it put a face on all those Greek myths I never learned quite well in school.  Will I read the next book in the series (The Sea of Monsters)?  Probably, but I didn't go running out to start it any time soon.  Oh, it also was made into a movie this year . . . which I'll probably never see.



    The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
    My non-fiction choice for this month.  I FINALLY got around to reading this, and I am so glad.  I had heard of the premise of this book about five years ago.  Basically, it's that each person has a love language that they speak: either words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, or physical touch.  You and your partner may be speaking different languages, and that's why you may not feel loved even though he's trying to express it to you.  The author gives lots of tips for each type and a little test at the back to figure out which one you are.  Another thing he addresses in the book is the "in love" experience (you know that feeling you had when you think you'll never fight and this person can do no wrong?), and how that high is temporary.  He says in the book that it's about 2 years max, but I think in military couples, due to the constant in-and-out of living together and then not seeing each other for months, this can be dragged out even longer.  It's not a terrible thing, but I'm so glad the author put words to that idea that it does fade and then you actually have to WORK at showing your spouse how much you love them.  I would recommend this book to any couple (especially engaged ones that may still be in that high), and I'm even pleading B to read it (he says he will).


    Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
    I've read all the Shopaholic books, and before I started this one, I was sorta hoping that the author would finish the series with this sixth one.  The last chapter made it pretty clear there will be more, but I'm completely okay with that now!  I think one thing that many people who've never read the series don't realize is that there are actual plots in these books that have nothing to do with shopping.  Really only the first one was focused on that.  In this installment, main character Becky is trying to plan a huge surprise party for her husband.  And of course there are side-plots, like their slightly-spoiled toddler, Minnie (born at the end of the last book) getting a visit from SuperNanny as well as Becky's ideas on how to help her personal shopping clients during a crappy economy.  It really was a charming read, even if the main character annoys me sometimes when she gets caught in her own lies (which happens in every book, so it's just comic now).  I will definitely be reading the next adventure, and if you read this book you'll know exactly where it's headed next.


    Have you read any of these?  Feel free to leave reading suggestions for me in the comments!

    18 December 2010

    the myth of a white Christmas

    Why do people wish for this?  Is it just because of the song and the movie?  Whenever I think of someone wishing for snow on Christmas, I think of my sister.  My sister who has never seen snow on Christmas and probably never will.

    Yes, the outlook is bleak.
    Let's think about this now.  The actual start date of WINTER is the solstice, which is on December 21 this year.  That means Christmas is only FOUR days into wintertime.  Yet I start seeing those darn snowflake ornaments and Frosty figurines the week after Halloween.  In Florida.  And also in my home state of Georgia.  But everyone in the Deep South knows that "winter" is just a clever disguise for "experiencing all four seasons in the span of one week."  I'm not kidding.  It only snows about every other year (to the point of actually sticking on the ground), and it's usually not until late January or February.  Y'know, the MIDDLE of winter.  Not the beginning.

    Now let's talk about Australia.  Or Brazil.  It's SUMMER there during Christmas.  I knew a gal in college who spent a large chunk of her childhood in Australia, and she told me that they still sung carols about snow and winter in December.  I find that sad.  Maybe you Aussies need to put down the lagers and vegemite and come up with your own carols?  I'm sure you can work a jolly kangaroo into it while you're at it.

    As for me, I've never wished for a white Christmas.  I guess I sorta got one last year, the first year I spent Christmas away from Georgia.  I was in Michigan/Indiana with B, and yes, there was snow on the ground.  I might've taken a picture, but it just looked like slush to me.  All I remember is that I was cold.  (I'm always cold.)  It snowed a few days later while we were still there, and I built a snowman.  By myself.  After I finished my pitiful snow creation, I ran back inside and stole my husband's wool socks.

    If I had to wish for a certain weather on Christmas, I'd wish for a repeat of what we enjoyed on Thanksgiving Day in Lawrenceville, Georgia.  It was sunny, about 75 all day, and the most perfect day for a stroll/picnic/game of disc golf in the park.  I would also wish for the nights to only get down to about 60 so I could wear my adorably cute teal trench coat to Midnight Mass.  (I have an issue with my winter coats: the 'formal' one doesn't keep me warm and it's too big, and the one that keeps me warm isn't very formal.  But my trench coat is just plain gorgeous, and I get compliments on it every time I leave the house.)

    I don't know, maybe I'm a freak--a freak who is determined to never shovel an inch of snow in her entire life.  I bet there are a lot of homeless people out there who share my disdain for snow and cold weather, so let's not forget them this year.

    All that being said, I told B that I would "seriously crap my pants" if we see any semblance of a white Christmas in Georgia this year.  And he'll have to clean it up. 

    Do you dream of a white Christmas?

    17 December 2010

    millie fille holiday edition

    I liked the questions this week, so I think I'll participate.

    1.  What is the best gift you have ever received or given?
    Hmm, I'm definitely not much of a gifts person.  But I'm super-excited about the Shutterfly book I made for my nephew this year (I got a free one for doing a review on TripAdvisor...awesome promotion).  It's all about him and me (he's 7, in first grade) and how much fun we have together and how much we love each other.  I wrote it so he should be able to read it himself, too.  As for given to me, I really do love the "someone in the Navy loves me" bear that B gave me back when we were dating.  I named it Windy then, but now we just call it "Bear."  B gets annoyed by it now because I sleep with my arm around it (it's really comfortable, what can I say?).  I've even washed Bear's clothes a few times.

    2.  Do you celebrate holidays differently when your loved one is deployed/gone or do you keep tradition?
    Don't be too jealous, but he's never been gone for the December ones.  He had to stay in Norfolk for duty a few times while we were dating/engaged, but I told him I wasn't breaking my traditions with my family until we were married.  However, I did do Easter a bit differently without him this past year.  And it's my favorite holiday, so that was hard but I had some good friends take care of me.  We're still building our family traditions anyway.  And since we're on shore tour and then he's getting out, I don't foresee having him gone for the big holidays now.

    3.  If you celebrate Christmas, do you put an angel, star or something else on the top of your tree?
    If you saw my post from yesterday, there's a picture of our angel ornament-turned-tree-topper.  My family always had an pretty angel, so that's what I want.  I only saw star toppers when I was shopping around this year, so I didn't buy anything.

    4.  What are your three favorite websites?
    Hip2Save - actually I just follow them on Twitter and hit it when I see something I want.  Through this site, I currently have 3 completely FREE subscriptions to Redbook, Whole Living, and Shape.  I've also found some other bargains and freebies.
    Damn You Auto Correct! - I don't even own an iPhone, but sometimes my T9 texting makes me giggle.  This site makes me seriously laugh out loud every stinkin' time.  Also, in the same network of sites, Food Network Humor is a fave.  Even though I don't have cable any more, I still love me some Food Network.
    Hulu - the reason that we don't have cable.  Our lives are so much the better for it.

    5.  On your man do you prefer… boxers, briefs or boxer briefs? Or commando? 
    I'd love to see him in boxer briefs, but I don't think it's ever gonna happen.  And I'm not gonna say what he does wear, because I don't think he wants me posting his underwear preference on the internet.

    16 December 2010

    house tour: our Christmas decorations

    Since we go out of town for Christmas, we don't really do much decorating. Plus, we've only been married a year so we haven't built up heaps of seasonal items. Last year, our tree was actually a Christmas bush. My parents were in town for Thanksgiving, so on Black Friday while my mom was out shopping she stopped by Lowe's and asked them for some scraps (she said they also sell the scraps, but why not ask?).  B was gone on the sub for most of Advent, and I went and visited my family during that time, so decorating was not much of a priority.  But at least we had a bit of that Christmas-tree scent.

    Yes, we still had room for more ornaments.  And yes, I had to water this.


    This year, I decided to move up in the world a bit, so I purchased a 3-foot tree.

    Lighting up our end table, no watering required.

    This is an ornament we found in the guest bedroom at my parents' house.
    So, first on next year's list: find a true tree-topping angel.  As for this year, my mom made sure we had an actual manger for the Nativity set.  B was apparently given a figure a year to this set growing up (until a certain point, obviously), but he never got the manger itself.  My bargain-shopping mom to the rescue!

    Since we're leaving Sunday, I already put baby Jesus in place.  I'll move the magi closer as Epiphany approaches.

    And what is that you see?  Something on the roof?

    I always loved putting animals on the roof of my parents' manger scene.  Tradition FTW.
     As for the rest of the house, we don't have TOO many decorations (drats, I keep forgetting to buy some mistletoe!), but we have a few.

    Pretty sure I got the table runner at the Dollar Tree a few years back, making it older than the table itself.
    The little candle ring is new this year.  We don't do big clunky centerpieces in this house.

    Most likely another Dollar Tree find.  Man, I love that place.


    I'm not Martha Stewart, but I did do one crafty thing this year:

    Bows made out of magazine ads.  Here's a tutorial.  You can thank me later.

    I also want to give a little shout to my ornament swap partner, Mrs. 2nd Lieutenant at For Where E'er We Go.  She is a gorgeous super "crunchy" Catholic mama of two adorable boys.  I absolutely love her ideas on liturgical gift-giving and will hopefully incorporate some of it when we have kids. (I was gonna try to do it this year, but B's big-ticket (gold) item was bought for him by his parents and shipped to our door last week.  And he's impossible to shop for.  So much for that.)  You should definitely go check out her blog and see what kinds of Catholic craziness she's up to today.

     Anyway, for the swap, she sent me these gorgeous embroidered(?) ornaments.  (I know they're from an Etsy shop, so ask her about them if you wanna know.)  They look really good on our tiny tree!

    Thanks so much!  And thanks to Trying Our Best for hosting the swap.

    B and I will soon be embarking on what I'm calling our "Glad Tidings Tour 2010."  Driving to Georgia, flying to Indiana, driving to Chicago and back to Indy, flying back to Georgia, then driving back here to Florida, all in two weeks' time.  I'm excited, if not a little overwhelmed thinking about all of it.  But I'm sure it will be great to see everyone in our families and treat B to his first-ever Georgia Christmas.

    13 December 2010

    why today is special

    December 13th is a great day!

    1. My cousin's birthday - she'll be 28, which kicks off the deluge of birthdays for the same age in my family (my sister, another cousin, and my husband will all be 28 between now and mid-May)
    2. My nephew's birthday. I can't believe he's 7.  He's the cutest kid ever. (I'm pretty sure all proud aunties say this?)

    Here's him singing with the church choir on Christmas Eve 3 years ago (he had just turned 4). He's got brown hair and in the middle. Watch it 'til the end, and you'll KNOW which one he is, I promise.




    Sorry, my sis had to put the camera down and go get him off the altar steps because he started crying. Next year, they did pretty much the exact same set but all the kids were on the floor instead of up on the steps.  And they have him to thank.

    3. Two years ago, I said YES!
    Here's the story from our old wedding website:
    B had been back from his 7-month deployment for less than a month, but we wanted to take a trip to celebrate and just spend some time together.  We decided to go to Charlottesville, VA, to hit up some wineries and see the land of Thomas Jefferson ("TJ" as the locals call him).  After a fun day touring the University of Virginia, we had reservations at the Clifton Inn for dinner.

    When we got there and B said his name, the host said, "Ah yes, I know that one. Table 5."  I should've been suspicious then, but I just pinned it down to his very memorable last name.  Then they put me right by the fire in front of this big window where I could see out into the winterscape of trees (even though it was dark, it was still very pretty).  We sort of had a competition going to see who could order the better course. But it was all too good; it was the fanciest and best dinner either of us had ever eaten out. As B put it later, "that place doesn't know how to make bad food."


    After dessert (I won that one, at least for me), the staff brought our check and a little after-dinner chocolate/toffee treat.  B then told me not to "dive into that" yet, and that he had something for me. He then stood up (I swear he said "okay here goes" but it might be my imagination), then he said, "Catherine James, I love you very much and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  Will you marry me?"  And then I saw that he was down on one knee and had a ring. I said yes, of course.


    We talked for a bit after that, and then the staff/busboy came to get our check, which we had completely forgotten about. Our waiter came back out with champagne for the two of us and we drank, and I tried to eat the chocolate-toffee thing, but I couldn't get it down. So I'm really glad B waited until after dessert because he totally would've spoiled the food. I also busted him on forgetting my middle name--he said it was going through his head the whole time, it just didn't come out of his mouth. 
    He bought it on Black Friday and kept it a secret for over 2 weeks!
    Reflecting on this now is interesting.  I think a lot of us ladies had it in our heads how we wanted a man to propose to us one day.  I was never one of those 'planned my whole wedding before I met the guy' types, but after I met B and we got serious, I did give some thought to a proposal.  I had kinda wanted it to be outdoors, in private.  (Actually, my dream proposal was to take a hot-air balloon ride followed by a picnic where he would pop the question.)  And I always thought he would ask one of my friends for ring-shopping advice.  But he did none of those things, and y'know what?  It was awesome.  I love my engagement ring, and I loved his proposal, even those neither of them are what I "had in mind".  I may have planned the wedding, but the proposal was entirely his.

    There is one thing that did happen that weekend that still makes me laugh.  A work buddy of mine knew we were heading to Charlottesville for the weekend, and she had already asked me if I thought he'd propose.  I really didn't think he was gonna do it until the spring.  But as we were driving up there on Friday, my work friend texted me saying something like "Have fun in C-ville; I'll be waiting for the special text!"  B and I don't keep things from each other, but there was no way I was gonna let him see that.  And I also knew they'd never met each other (they never did after the fact either).  So anyway, B proposed Saturday night, and on Sunday morning when I started making the phone calls, I sent her a text that simply said "special text :)"  Two years later, I still have it saved in my phone.  (Okay, yeah, I need a new phone.  T9 isn't awesome anymore?)

    12 December 2010

    EM:HE tips and myths busted

    Tonight is a big night!  The episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition filmed here in Pensacola that I helped with is airing!  Check it out on ABC at 8/7c.  In the meantime, I present you with some myth-busting about the show, followed by some tips for volunteering.

    Myths disspelled:
    • The on-screen personalities spend a lot of time actually building stuff for the house: FALSE.  Everything they did was planned and scripted.  They grabbed some of us blue-shirt volunteers as extras, and told us what we should be doing (sweeping, pretending to measure something, NOT looking at the camera, etc.)  I'm no stranger to being an extra (see my blog post from a few months ago), so this really didn't phase me.  But we were in big crowds for it, so that was new for me.  I did learn the term "cinema veritae" as a few people were asking about the whole "don't look at the camera" deal.
    • The scenes are shot in order:  FALSE.  We shot what the production crew calls the "Braveheart March" (lots of volunteers running in to start working on the house) on Day 3.  The house already had windows, drywall, and a roof at this point.  We did the March up the street.
    • Ty is talking to the family directly via live-feed satellite when using the Ty Cam:  FALSE.  We did a few scenes of Ty talking into the Ty Cam with us in the background, and while it is a working videocamera and I'm pretty sure it was on for some of it, he definitely was not via satellite with the family at Disney World simultaneously.  Ty is close to a one-take wonder, but not quite.  All of the on-screen personalities were pretty good at ab-libbing though.
    • They only film one location at a time, and Ty and the crew are around it the whole time:  Probably FALSE.  I'm pretty sure Ty flew to another location on either Day 3 or 4, to be back in time for the reveal on Day 7.  Also, in some of the pictures I took of him with the megaphone, I could hear him yelling into the camera addressing a different family than ours.
    • The family really doesn't know they were chosen until Ty shows up to surprise them:  SORTA TRUE.  I believe the family knows that they're "finalists" for the show.  Nobody in town knew which family or the location of the build until it was officially released, but rumors certainly abounded!

      Wanna get in on the action?  Here are some Tips for volunteering:
      •  Pay attention to the news and the ads on broadcast TV in your area.  If the construction company has even a slight clue what they're doing, they should be putting the word out and running ads a month or two before the scheduled build date.  Once you have the company's name, take to the internet and see if they have any volunteer info up.  
      • Try the middle-of-the-night or super early morning shifts.  This really is a "round the clock" build, so spare hands are needed any time of day or night.
      • Don't expect that all (or any) of your volunteer hours will be spent actually working on the house.  There are so many other ways they need help, and the house is pretty much built by professionals (subcontractors, professional roofers, electricians, brick layers, etc.)  The most I really did on site was pick up trash and move some bricks.  Otherwise, I was just in the way.  Expect a lot of standing around and waiting.
      • Bring a camera, put it in your pocket.  Take pictures, and try to find a celeb without being to intrusive.  But if the television cameras are rolling, keep it in your pocket.
      • Don't be afraid to be a walk-up volunteer.
      • If you are a skilled construction worker, let them know and get on a crew.  Most were sent by their company, but random drywallers did show up to do that part.
      Enjoy the episode and look for me!  I'll be wearing a blue shirt and Santa hat, just like everybody else :)

        09 December 2010

        faux tagalongs

        I decided to participate in this blog hop since I'd been planning on making some yummy goodies anyway!
        CookieBlogHop

        Click the picture to see what everyone else made, and maybe link up your own!  She promised to keep it open for the whole month, too.

        I don't usually do a ton of holiday baking -- it's about on par with the amount I do the rest of the year.  I guess that means I don't get invited to enough parties?

        Anyway, I wanted to try something that my friend back in Virginia had made for me before.  So I sent her a message through Facebook that read:
        So the past 2 years you did some holiday baking, and I was a lucky recipient of some of it!   And there was one thing that stuck out to me, and I can hardly remember it, but I want to try to make it this year.  I think it was some type of chocolate and peanut butter creation, because that is usually my favorite.  It might've been caramel though.  I remember eating some on our plane ride last year, and then after we got to Indiana, one of the dogs got into my stuff and ate some of it and I had to throw the bag away. Not sure if I told you about that, but I was really sad!!
        And I was really sad.  Especially because those dogs are usually very well-behaved for, well, dogs.

        Anyway, my friend responded in a timely manner with the easiest recipe ever.  Actually, it's not even a recipe, it's more like an edible craft project.  Especially because they have no name.  I was gonna call them "cracker-doodles" because that's essentially how I name things, but I think the term "faux Tagalongs" is more accurate.  Tagalongs have been my favorite Girl Scout cookie for the past 20 years.  The first time I tasted that precious combination of peanut butter, chocolate, and cookie at the tender age of 6, I knew it was my manna from heaven*.  And I should know a thing or two about those cookies, since I stuck with Scouting all the way up.  (Actually, I'm a lifetime member now.  I have a card and everything.)

        So here is how to make these wonderfully fake, no-baking required cracker-thingies.
        You will need 3 ingredients.  Yes, only 3!  Club Crackers, peanut butter, and chocolate almond bark.  And leave your measuring cups in their happy homes, none needed today.


        I cheaped out and got the store brand Club crackers.  But then the store didn't have the almond bark (it is a seasonal item, but I guess both Publix and Winn-Dixie forgot to order it this year), so I ended up at Wal-Mart anyway where real Club crackers were the same price as the Publix brand ones.  Sigh.

        After your wild goose-chase for the ingredients, the fun begins.  Spread (however generously) peanut butter between the crackers to make sandwiches.

        This just looks like a good afternoon snack!

        Then stick them in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to firm them up.

        Yep, right on top of the frozen bread.
        Meanwhile, start melting down that almond bark.  There's directions on the back of the package for microwave, oven, and stove-top.  I chose stove.

        I definitely had to add more pieces.




        This was my first time ever using almond bark, but it behaved like most chocolate.  And by that I mean, she sure is a fickle mistress when it comes to temperature.  At one point, it started seizing up on me, and I didn't think it was ever going to be smooth.  But I gave it some encouraging words, a few stirs, and maybe a 10 degree temperature change, and we worked it out.  It never really got perfectly smooth, however.

        Okay, chocolate, we can compromise.
        Now comes the mess part of trying to figure out how to dip these suckers in the pool without getting it all over the kitchen.  If I had been paying more attention, I probably would've used a fork.  Dip them in, get them coated, then put them on wax paper (or parchment paper, in my case) to cool for about an hour.

        I'm obviously not a perfectionist.

        After about an hour or so, they will cool down.  You can tell because they won't be as shiny.  Aaaand, that's it!  Time to eat!


        I could probably eat these every day for the rest of my life with no complaints!

        *Please don't confuse my hyperbole with sacrilege.  A year later, I received First Eucharist, and it has trumped any cookie ever since.

        08 December 2010

        are you watching it?

        I am in LOVE with this show!


        Being a singer, this is obviously my cup of tea!  I've been in love with a cappella music since high school, when Noteworthy, the women's group at UGA came to my high school and gave us a concert (our student teacher was a member).  I was hooked!

        And since I know you're gonna ask, YES I did audition for the group in college.  Twice.  And twice for a relatively new co-ed ensemble too.  My voice is decidedly "not a pop voice."  Even B hates it sometimes when I sing along to the radio because I have to go up in my head voice and it just doesn't sound right, even though I'm hitting all the right notes.  I have come to terms with my "classical" voice, although I'm still a bit scared of karaoke.  While I know I can't belt out some BeyoncĂ© like some of the fantastic talent on this show, I also know I can bust out a darn good "Ave Maria."  Even though I never got into the groups, I was still a huge supporter of the Athens a cappella scene and went to the concerts whenever I could, especially Noteworthy (they were in Women's Glee with me . . . and they were the best). 

        One of the greatest aspects of a cappella, especially on the collegiate level, is the hilarious (and punny) group names.  Like Pitch Slapped.  Or Nothin' but TrebleAural PleasureGentleman CallersOne Note Stand.  The Logarhythms.

        As for The Sing Off, if you missed it Monday, you should definitely tune in tonight on NBC!

        07 December 2010

        day three with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

        This is the third in a series about my days spent with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition back in October.  This post can stand alone, but the other ones are pretty cool.  Here are the preceding parts: day one and day two.

        As I said on my previous day, it was for Day 3 I decided to pick a different shift.  My goal was to have a lot less standing around and a lot more doing.  I mean, that's why I was volunteering, right?  So I got a very SMALL taste of what my husband's submarine life was like.  And by that I mean that I had a 6-hour shift and then 12 hours 'off' and then a 6-hour shift again.  On Day 2 I finished at 6pm and woke up at 5am to get there at 6am the next morning.  Obviously doing this for ONE day was a lot better than doing it for 180 DAYS.  At least I didn't have to sleep under my coffee table.  Yeah, I don't think I'm cut out to be a submariner.

        Anyway, once I arrived it was still dark out.  And there was nobody manning that sign-in table.  No numbers waiting to be called, no formalities.  My altered shirt that worked so great in the Florida noontime the previous day wasn't quite cutting it for me this particular morning.  I was cold!  So I grabbed the smallest shirt on the table (size XXL, I believe?) and threw it on over my other one.  Much better, except now I was wearing a Muumuu.

        Since there was no one telling me I couldn't go down there, I went straight for the house.  There were some other friendly volunteer faces that I recognized, standing around waiting for something to do.  The skilled labor was busily working in and on the house.  We soon got asked to move some bricks and devised an easy system for doing so, finishing in no time.  After that, we were all called over by some bigwig or another and told we were taking a "field trip."  We were gonna go help renovate a gym!  Hooray!  And the gym was only a few miles up the road, so that was a nice bonus.

        The basic premise of why we were renovating a gym is that the guy the house was being built for was being given a job at this gym.  You'll have to watch the episode to get all the ins and outs of why -- I do know that they were moving him to Pensacola from a farther-away town because the city donated the land.  Anyway, all that to say we got to go move a bunch of beams, roll up some floors, and jump in the foam pit!
        If I ever did that during my gymnastics heyday, you can rest assured it wasn't intentional.
        Gymnastics was my activity of choice during my elementary school days, so this gym brought back loads of memories.  It took every ounce of willpower not to jump up on the bars and start swinging to see if I still "had it" (my guess is not).  I also learned just how complex a gym floor is!  We took up the top three layers, down to the wood.  There were springs underneath that and who knows what else.  The gym owner was there along with a few employees, and we got to talking and I learned that a gym floor costs over $10,000!  (A mental note has now been made to not whine about the cost of a future child's gymnastics lessons.)

        The wood part of the floor, which is underneath a bunch of foam and at least one layer of carpet
        We did everything the gym owners wanted us to do, and we were done by 9am.  (Yes, our crew was alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic, to say the least!)  Around then, a guy from the show crew told us that the film crew would be coming at 10, so we just had to sit around and wait (ugh!).  The worst part of the waiting is that I was HUNGRY.  I'd eaten some cereal at 5am, but that wasn't cutting it at 9.  The show guy had said that the crew would bring food, so I was crossing my fingers.   What was really awful was that I KNEW there were doughnuts at the other site because there were always extra ones around that I saw during the afternoon shifts.  I had bummed a ride to the gym.  If I hadn't done that, I would've hopped in my car during our wait, drove back to the site, and snagged a few boxes.  I'm sure they wouldn't have been missed.

        Besides my hunger-induced crankiness, the rest of the day was gold.  We sat around and watched a morning talk show while waiting for the crew, and one of the young guys laid in the foam pit.  When the crew showed, we carried some tables for them, setting up the place to eat lunch.  But, um, NO FOOD.  Not even one measly doughnut.  Gahhh.  I soon saw on-screen talent Johnny Littlefield, so I pretty much knew we were about to get put to work with no food in sight.

        We were given Santa hats for our construction helmets once again (although during our actual work in the gym, we definitely did not wear the hats!).  We also got out the gym's assortment of Christmas decor and were told to "stampede" into the gym carrying our decorations.  We had to do it about three times, and it was actually pretty fun!

        Me with my holiday gear.  Not sure if the hat stayed up during the stampede!
        We then did a couple more shots helping out around the gym - unloading wood, cleaning mats, carrying stuff, etc.  They did actually need more help, but by that point it was past noon and my stomach had some fightin' words for me.  I had planned on a six-hour shift anyway, so I called it quittin' time.  A lot of people stayed, and they hopefully got fed a nice meal.  Before I officially walked out, I made sure to get this:

        Johnny Littlefield and me!
        I never got to see the fully renovated gym, so I'll be watching this Sunday night (Dec. 12) to see it!  Oh, and to look for myself, OF COURSE.  I'll be blogging some myths busted and tips and tricks for volunteering later this week to lead up the episode's premiere.  And next week after it has aired, I'll hopefully be able to post some screen shots of my pretty little face on national television!

        01 December 2010

        my favorite christmas movie

        I know I've said on here a dozen times that I'm not a movie person.  But I do have the few movies that I like, and most of them are animated.  Which is totally AWESOME come Christmas season!  I love watching the movies that the networks are running.  And last night, without even scheduling it in, my favorite one was playing . . . How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

        How can you NOT like this movie?  (No, I'm not talking about the live-action remake with Jim Carrey.  I've never seen it, and the makeup job freaks me out anyway.)  It teaches little kids that Christmas isn't about the "stuff," and that nobody can steal it!

        A friend of mine has an adorable daughter, and when she posted a picture of her on Facebook holding a ball with her blond hair and a sad look in her pretty blue eyes, I immediately thought of the lovable Cindy Lou Who, ("who was no more than two").  Well, my friend ran with it, and said daughter became Cindy Lou Who this Halloween.  Wires in her hair and a homemade pink dress.  So stinkin' cute.

        There are only two movies I can quote out of the blue: one is Mean Girls, and the other is this one.  I sat there watching it tonight and quoted nearly every line.  Even I was impressed with myself, even though I know the whole thing is only 26 minutes long.

        I also know every last word of the wonderful "You're a Mean One" song, and I've used a few lines of it in general conversation.  (My favorite being, "I wouldn't touch you with a 39-and-a-half foot pole.")  My favorite cover of the song was a rock version done by a band called Hip Heavy Lip.  I discovered it back in high school from a holiday music sampler the local rock station released.  I was hoping to find it on YouTube to share it with y'all, but it's not there.  After scouring the internets for half an hour, I've decided that this band is defunct but you can listen to a clip of the song on iTunes and pay for the download if you wish.

        What's your favorite Christmas or holiday movie?