Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pioneer Woman

Do any of your guys read Pioneer Woman's blog?  I don't, although I wish I did.  I love the concept of it - that is, she's a housewife with 4 kids who lives on a ranch in the middle of nowhere out West.  Her husband is a "cowboy," and she reflects on how she was a total "city girl" before she met him.  Her blog includes lots of general daily bantering, stuff on cooking and "homemaking," and stuff on home schooling her kids.  It totally sounds like the kind of thing I'd be into.

But my problem with it is the layout.  Maybe someone who reads it often can steer me in the right direction?  Because when I click on her home page, there doesn't seem to be any one place you can go where you get a feed of everything she updates when she updates it.  I guess I'm thinking of something a la dooce.com who has different aspects of her blog (the blog itself, a daily picture, a daily picture of her dog, and a daily picture of "style") but they're all available just on the home page in a feed.  You don't have to click anywhere else if you don't want to.  I think with Pioneer Woman you would have to check every. single. area. of her blog if you wanted to see what she's updating on a daily basis.  I don't like that.

So anyway, I don't read her blog.  But I was excited to watch the first episode of her new Food Network tv show this past weekend.  Did any of you guys see it?

It has to be one of the first first episodes of a FN show I was really, really impressed with.  It was wonderful!  I guess most shocking was how comfortable Ree Drummond was in front of the camera.  It was almost like she's been practicing "teach cooking" for ages.  Hardly ever is someone's first show as comfortable as hers.  Also, they featured her family in a lot of cameos, and they all seemed really normal and down to Earth (also not uncomfortable in front of the camera). It was really nice.

But I guess most impressively was how wonderful the production was on the whole thing.  It was beautiful - they did lots of panning landscape shots of her ranch and showed the animals and the big sky.  And it was set up nicely in layout.  So she would talk about how she was going to cook something, but for some things, instead of showing every step, they would do a little past montage showing some of the more mundane aspects of the process (the chopping, boiling, peeling, etc.).  This saved a lot of time and allowed her to make two meals instead of one.

I was a big fan!  I can't wait to see more episodes (although I worry my Saturday morning food tv marathons might be replaced by Game Day in a week or two).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

RR: Acre Restaurant

I'm not sure if every city is like this, or if it's because Memphis is so small, but it seems like every 6 months or so, there's a new restaurant in town that becomes "The Spot" where everyone has to go.  Jonathan and I like to be on the up & up on the city's fine dining (excuse me while I dust off my shoulder), so we usually try to get out to new restaurants.

Well, currently the hot spot is Acre, a new restaurant in a renovated house in East Memphis.  We decided to hit it up this past Saturday with another couple.

First off, a sort of funny thing about the whole night was that between the four of us, we probably knew 3/4 of the people in the restaurant.  I really liked this, actually, because the crowd was a bit younger.  (A lot of times when these new restaurants become hot, we seem to see more of Jonathan's parent's friends than people we know.)

So we got there almost an hour before our reservation to have some drinks in the bar.  The first thing about the restaurant that is really striking is the decor.  I loved it.  It's decorated gorgeously with really neat touches (like cool floors, mini wooden chandeliers, cool bathrooms, a soothing color palette).  I'm not sure how the decor would be classified - maybe rustic modern chic?  It's not swank or trendy, per se.  Actually, I felt so comfortable in the whole place.  It was really relaxing and inviting.  I hadn't felt that in a restaurant in a long time.  The bar offered some fun/interesting drinks, and we got a nice little corner booth, which was ideal for us to chat and catch up before we went to the dining room.

Our reservation was running slightly behind, but not a huge deal.  Once we were seated, I loved our table in that room, too.  We were in a corner (which was all windows) and half of the table was an upholstered bench, and the other half had 2 wooden chairs.  It was just so comfy and nice at the same time.

The menu came out and it wasn't really enormous or overwhelmingly awesome.  I went with a salad as a first course and the Hawaiian Opah as the main course.  The salad wasn't anything awesome (just greens with beets and goat cheese).  And then the main course was just fine as well.  The opah was possibly a little overcooked.  It came with mascarpone grits which were good, but not out of this world.

Desserts really won me over, though.  I got a "brown butter cake" with lemon whipped cream and blueberries.  It was great!  It tasted like olive oil cake that had been dunked in butter.  Mmm.  And I love lemon anything, so the whipped cream just added to the greatness.

So my overall takeaway?  It's sort of weird because the food wasn't overwhelmingly good - it was fine - just not awesome.  But I DEFINITELY want to go back.  I just loved the place itself so much, I want to go there again.  Apparently they have a bar menu that's coming soon (which will have stuff like sliders/fries/apps/etc. on it) and I think it would be fun to go to the bar and eat there.  Also, I think it would be nice to go to Acre after dinner and have a drink and a dessert at the bar or on their awesome outdoor patio.

So I recommend it, but in a sort of weird way.  Not the best meal you'll have in Memphis by a long shot, but possibly one of the nicer, more relaxing dining experiences you will have.  If you're out East, give it a try!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Weekend

The weekend never lasts long enough, I'd say.  It's not that in the middle of the day on Saturday I feel like the time is just flying by, but by Sunday night, I get the dreading-Monday blues.

Our weekend was great overall - relaxing and fun.  Friday night was pretty standard: we stayed in, cooked dinner (or actually re-heated some leftovers from the week), watched tv, and I fell asleep on the couch at 9:30.

Jonathan decided on a whim to get up Saturday morning and run a 5k race that was through Overton Park. He didn't want any cheerleaders, so I slept in (sort of - although the dog put a kink in that) until he got home.  He liked the route through the shaded park, enjoyed the slightly cooler weather, and was happy with his time.  Winning all around.

Later I took the dog for our own 5k walk through the neighborhood.  And then our afternoon was pretty lazy, that is until I decided I needed to have some baked goods immediately.  I thought Muddys would be a good choice because I could get a slice of fruit pie (which I was craving), and a "shot" of chocolate frosting (because I also had some chocolate cravings going on).  It was going to be a win-win.  But when we got there (after driving alllllll the way to East Memphis), they had the pie - blueberry/apricot - but were out of chocolate frosting.  Wth?  I was so upset I wanted to cry sad they didn't have it and I worried that without chocolate, my craving wouldn't be satisfied.

Let's take a moment, though, to say how awesome the pie was.  Holy crap - absolutely delicious!  The blueberry/apricot filling was awes and the crust was flaky and perfect.

Jonathan had been wanting to try the bakery at YoLo Midtown for awhile, so we decided to cruise over there, after Muddys as I secretly hoped they would have something chocolate and delicious.  He ended up getting a vanilla cupcake....and I got some chocolate cheesecake gelato.  I know.  It was insane and totally unnecessary for me to eat two sweet treats in the same day, but they were so good!

Saturday night we tried a new restaurant (Acre) with some good friend K.C. and Katheryn.  I'll do a Restaurant Review on it tomorrow.

Sunday was pretty standard.  Except that last night we had a little event to attend...  My mother in law Janie spent most of her career doing development for the Memphis Arts Council.  She's a lover of the arts, especially theatre, and has stayed pretty involved in that "scene," even though she's retired.  One of the things she's done for the past 25 years is help produce the annual Ostrander Awards and give an introductory monologue at the ceremony.  This is like Memphis' version of the Tony's for our local productions (awarding stuff like "Best Musical" "Best Play" "Best Actor" etc.).

Well, she decided this would be her last year hosting, so Jonathan and me, his dad, and a few of their friends decided to attend so we could see her final opening monologue (for which she's "famous").  This is definitely one of those events that appeals to a certain crowd (the Memphis theatre community) and not many other people.  We were definitely the "other people" (especially considering the amount of or lack there of local theatre Jonathan and I attend in this city).  So while all many of the jokes were lost on us, it was great to be there.  After Janie's monologue they did a little tribute to her and her contributions to the awards.  And then later in the show, they did a special presentation to her and all she's done for arts in this city over the years; and then they introduced a new award (in her namesake) that will be given to "outstanding contributions to the arts."  Very cool.  They made an awesome metal sculpture for her to signify the new award.  So cool that all her hard work was recognized.

All in all a good weekend.  I have a crazy work week ahead - but at least the 3-day weekend is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Biden Love

I had a dream with Joe Biden in it last night.  (No clue.)  I don't even really remember what it was about, but I woke up thinking about Joe Biden.  (Who does that?)  And it made me think back to inauguration day, January 20, 2009.

Crammed into my office, two of my co-workers and I hovered around my tiny tv to watch the historic day.  All of our co-workers were in the breakroom watching on the big tv, but the three of us wanted to watch separately from all the money hungry Democrat hating "fiscally Republican" people in our office.

While the whole ceremony was lovely and historic and enormous for our country, one of the lasting impressions I have from the whole thing has nothing to do with the new President or the new era of leadership being ushered in. 

It has to do with Joe Biden. 

Does anyone know what I'm talking about before I say it??  Does anyone else remember??

If not - my memory is of this: Joe Biden and the kissing.  That is, after he was sworn in as VP, he happily kissed all his family members...on the mouth...including his adult-aged sons.  On the mouth.  That is, he kissed his sons on the mouth.

Maybe I just don't come from a family of kissers?  And maybe Jonathan doesn't either, and we are the minority?  But I have to say, watching him kiss his sons on the mouth seemed really, really weird to me.  Not gross weird, I mean, whatever, that's just their way of showing love, apparently.  But I just started to think about, say, Jonathan and his dad kissing (on the mouth) if they were really happy about something or when saying hello and goodbye, and the thought almost can't even come into my mind because it would be so awkward and weird.

Please tell me someone else remembers this from that day!

On that note - I hope everyone has fun and relaxing weekends!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Outfit!

Jonathan has been into running, of late.  As you can imagine, given the weather, it's not really the most awesome time of year to run outside.  BUT, our treadmill has been broken for awhile now and the idiot repairman told us he ordered the broken part but in fact hadn't, so we're even farther behind on getting it fixed.  So despite the heat, Jonathan's been hitting the roads in the early hours of the morning/late hours of the afternoon to pound out a few miles.

As you can imagine, he gets pretty sweaty by the end of the whole thing.  He's been wearing normal, cotton tshirts for the most part, but went to the local running store to get some sweat-wicking ones.  Well, they are about $40, and he thought that was a little high for an exercise shirt.

This past Saturday he was having lunch with a friend (a runner who does lots of marathons) and lamented the running-shirt situation.  And the friend told him he had to go to the Nike Outlet in Mississippi, which he (nor I) even knew existed.

So off they went after lunch.  Jonathan called me on the way and asked if I wanted anything.  I figured outlet prices were the perfect time to try some of the Nike running shorts everyone loves so much, so I explained them in detail over the phone and said to just get whatev if it was cheap.

And Jonathan came home with quite the bounty!

He got himself 3 sweat-wicking shirts, a sweat headband, and a sweat-wicking pullover for cooler weather.  And he got me some shorts!  When I was looking at his new shirts, I noticed one looked a little small for him, and when we looked closer, we saw he accidentally bought a kid's large, not an adult's.  Lucky for me, it fit moi perfectly, so I got a whole new running outfit!

The shorts: $14; the shirt: $9 - how awesome!  Jonathan's friend said the merch in the store is very hit or miss and changes all the time.  Apparently it's hard to find average sizes (example: Jonathan said they had some cool women's running shorts - in cool color combos - but all of those were XS).  I'm definitely into my new outfit, though!  I'm hoping we can go back in a month or so to check out the new arrivals!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The End of an Era

Source
Way back in 2005, I was on nytimes.com reading the news (this was eons before they limited your article-viewing to a few a day [unless you want to fork over $x per year for a subscription]).  As I was enjoying my time on the site, a pop-up ad hit my screen offering a subscription to the New Yorker for $19 per year!

(I'm not trying to insult your intelligence - but if you don't know what the NYer is, it's a weekly literary & current events magazine.  It features a weekly review of news items [written sort of wry and liberal], a couple Malcolm Gladwell-esque articles, a fiction short story by renowned or unknown authors, book reviews, movie reviews, NY theatre reviews, and lots of witty cartoons scattered throughout.)

Even if you've never picked up a copy, you can probably surmise that $19/year is insane.  $19 is about what you pay for a monthly magazine subscription (even for bad magazines); but $19 for a weekly journal that features a ton of stuff written by famous authors and commentators is c-h-e-a-p.

So I bought it.

And in the six years since I first signed up, I've had an on again/off again relationship with it.  It's pretty clear that you won't read every. single. article. in most issues.  You can try.  But we're talking about some looooong articles.  And, for me at least, as much as I want to broaden my horizons, reading thousands of words about, say, How the Fighting in Tripoli Mimics Ancient Mating Rituals of the Galapagos Turtle, just can't hold my attention for an hour.  (Note that I made up that title, which actually sounds sort of interesting.  Maybe I should look into that...)

Anyway - it's an on again/off again relationship.  Some weeks I have tons of extra time and read many of the articles.  Some weeks, I just read the movie reviews.  Some weeks SHAME!, the inside pages don't see the light of day.  It totally depends on my time and my interest in the articles.

As usually happens with subscriptions, over our six years together, the price has slowly crept up.  And as you can imagine, given the state of news-oriented print media, the past couple years have seen dramatic increases.  When I got my renewal for this year, it was going to be $89.99 for the year.

Do I believe the NYer is worth almost $100/year?  Absolutely.  It's probably worth more, to be fair.  But given my hit or miss relationship with it, I decided $100 was probably slightly out of my comfort zone (especially since the subscription started at $20, you know?).

So after a simple call to Conde Nast, I will say goodbye to my weekly friend.  I know the subscription will end sometime in August, but I don't know the exact date.  I've been trying really hard to read these final issues as they come in, which has been fun, but also (sadly!) confirms that I probably made a good financial decision.

Jonathan gets about 10 magazines each month, so I might read some of his if I'm really itching for some magazine time.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bye Bye Weekend

Again, another lovely and relaxing weekend in M-town, which was good because I have a super busy week ahead of me.

Friday was a stay-at-home-and-do-nothing kind of night (it seems like we usually have these on Fridays).  We just cooked dinner and stayed in and I might or might not have fallen asleep on the couch at 9:30.

Also, a sort of odd thing happened Friday night.  A little backstory is that we ordered an air duct cleaning through Groupon (or one of those discount sites) in early July.  I was randomly thinking about it in early August, and decided to go ahead and set it up.  Well, when I looked at the receipt from the whole thing, one, it said in expired on August 1, 2011!  This shocked me because any other Groupon thing I've ever bought doesn't expire until a year after purchase.  It was August 3rd, so I thought they might cut me a little slack.  Well then, two, another weird thing was the way the coupon was worded.  My directions to set up the cleaning were to "go to the location with your coupon and set up cleaning."  No phone number for the company was listed, and the address given was Redbirds Stadium.  Um...?  So after some extensive google searching (because their website doesn't initially pop up when searching), I found a phone number and called to schedule.  The woman, although slightly hesitant, let me go ahead and set up even though I was after the date.  They had nothing available until this past Saturday the 20th, which was actually fine for us because then we wouldn't have to miss work.

Well, the girl at the place called me earlier in the week and said, "hey, we had some slots open up during this week, why don't we reschedule you?"  And I was like, "well, I appreciate the call, but we might prefer Saturday since we have busy weeks at work."  No problem, she said she just wanted to call and be sure.  (Note that every time I've talked to her, it's been a different phone number, some in Memphis, some in Mississippi, and at all hours - once at 8pm on a Sunday.)  Ok, fast forward to 8pm on Friday night - the guys were scheduled to come to our house at 8am Saturday morning.  I get a message from the girl (on a new #, of course) that says, "hi Jackie, we need to go ahead and reschedule your cleaning because our guys are cleaning their trucks and equipment tomorrow."  What??  Certainly they didn't decide at 8pm Friday night to cancel their Saturday jobs and clean their equipment.  So we've rescheduled for Wednesday morning - I'm curious if this "company" is real.  I'll keep you posted.

So anyway, Saturday morning was cleared up!  I got to watch a slew of cooking shows!  Then in the afternoon, Patti and I had a special 2-hour yoga class we'd signed up for with the awesome teacher who taught my series I took in June/July.  It was fan-tas-tic!  So much fun, but so challenging.  (For example, at one point we were supposed to hold this pose, Side Crow, for awhile.  Not sure my body will ever be able to do that, but it certainly couldn't this weekend.)
Source: www.alexholmesyoga.com
I'm still quite sore in the arms and shoulders, though, so I can only imagine what I'd be feeling if I was able to do that thing!

Then Saturday night was the night I'd been waiting for!  Bye, Bye Birdie at Theatre Memphis!  I was in this show in 7th grade (it was my first musical) and fell in love with it!  The music is awesome and it's totally kitchy 1950s America.  Well, the version at Theatre Memphis didn't disappoint!  In fact, this was one of the best shows I've seen in Memphis, I think (which isn't necessarily drawing from a ton of other ones, but still).  The actors were great (they used 20+ kids from local high schools to play the teenagers), the sets were awesome, the choreography was fun, and the direction was really cool (that is, they held lots of unique poses while they were lit in cool ways and they did some neat stuff with slow motion).  I was impressed.

And to make the whole night especially great, Jonathan "let" us go to Houston's for dinner.  Houston's is a chain restaurant in East Memphis and I adore their veggie burger.  It's soooo annoying to go there, though, because loads of suburbanites flock it at dinnertime because they confuse it with fine dining (example, I called ahead at 5:45 Saturday for a table and there was already an hour and a half wait).  But the veggie burger is worth it!  When we got there, we hovered around the bar and were able to get two seats in about 5 minutes, so we sat and ate there instead of waiting for a table.  It was so yum - love love love the burg!

Sunday morning, Jonathan went to church early because he had to usher, and then sent me an urgent text to "STAY HOME!"  Our normal pastor was out and the girl preaching in his place isn't my favorite.  So I was able to beat the church crowds at the grocery store and lounge for most of the afternoon.  What a lovely end to a lovely weekend!

I hope you guys had good ones, too!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Randoms

1.  I had Kettle Chips back when I was in high school (does anyone remember how Jim's mom used to buy them all the time?).  And they were delicious back then - super crunchy and potato-y.  I will say that since then, though, I haven't really thought about Kettle Chips, since full-fat chips are generally off my radar (I always go for baked).  Well, I was in the grocery store awhile back and came across these:
Baked Kettle Chips!  I had to have them!  And let me tell you guys something: they did not disappoint.  They are awesome.  I have no idea how they bake them - because these are 180 degrees different than baked Lays/Ruffles/etc. - they actually look like potatoes.  In fact, they look like real chips.  And they taste like them too, for that matter.  They're thick and crunchy and almost feel a little greasy.  You can have 13 chips for 120 calories, which is awesome in my book.  If you can find them in the store, buy some!  The salt & pepper flavor is particularly great.

2.  I've been interested in buying some loose powder to put over my foundation when doing my makeup (so I can "set" it).  I've always been really happy with the L'Oreal True Match line (because one of their colors matches my skin pretty well).  So I saw this in the store the other day, thinking it was exactly what I was looking for:
I used it a couple times to set my makeup, only it didn't really do what I was hoping.  In doing some internet research, I learned that it isn't, in fact, loose powder but mineral foundation.  I've never really understood the whole mineral makeup craze - as in, I have no idea what it is or why I would choose it over normal, old makeup.  But all the online reviews of this product definitely described it as a straight-up foundation, meaning I wouldn't need to first put on my normal makeup.  So I tried it - and I'm so glad I did!  One, it goes on so evenly and fast - I mean, 15-30 seconds and my skin looks flawless.  Two, I like that it has a slight shimmer to it (maybe that's the way mineral makeup is supposed to look?).  And three, it seems to last pretty well, given that it's only a powder.  I don't think this product is for everyone (ie, anyone who has flaws they're looking to cover and/or anyone who feels like their skin looks "greasy" if it has a bit of shimmer on it).  But if you have relatively clear/even skin and like a little dewiness, try it out!

3.  I bought this at Targ yesterday and am excited to see how it works.  (I'm just a mineral-product machine now!)
I've been using Jonathan's deodorant the past couple weeks since I was out of my own, so I think anything will be an improvement from the manly Old Spice.

4.  I CAN-NOT wait for Saturday night when we'll see one of my favorite musicals of all time, Bye, Bye Birdie at Theatre Memphis.  More on that after the weekend!

5.  We had our volunteer training for Facing History and Ourselves on Tuesday night.  It was cool to learn about the exhibit and it made me excited about my Junior League placement for the year.  (Mind you, there were some overly vocal 70 year olds also in the training who made the whole thing: a) a little annoying, and b) last longer than it probably would have otherwise, but it was still good.)

That's about all I've got.  I hope you guys have wonderful, safe, fun weekends!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Morning, Noon, and Night

Imagine this with me...

You wake up in the morning.  You still have a thin veil of sleep covering your face, such that the world isn't yet 100% lucid.  You roll over and turn off your sound machine (you have a sound machine in this scenario - it creates a "thunderstorm" every night in your room - just go with it).  So anyway, the machine is off and you notice the calming silence of the 6 o'clock hour, the way the early light seeps through the shutters.  Only, one second later, before you can even enjoy the peace of the morning, you hear a dog ferociously barking. Your mind starts to race.  Oh no!  Is it your dog in his crate in the back room?  Is something wrong with him?  Your eyes fly open and you go to check on your dog.

He's startled awake when you walk into the room.  Unbarking.  But the barking is louder in this back room.  Could a dog have gotten into our backyard during the night?  Is he lost and hurt and therefore barking his head off for someone to help?  A scan of the backyard dismisses this theory.  It also confirms that the barking is coming from somewhere else...

The dreaded dog who lives across the back alley from us.

You guys.  This has become a major problem.  This dog barks morning, noon, and night.  He never stops.  The barking is so loud you can hear it from every room in our house.  We ate dinner on our back porch a couple nights ago and he ferociously barked the whole time.  When I get home from work to let Hank out, he gets a little nervous (tail in between the legs) when he's standing on the deck before he goes into the yard, presumably because he thinks an attack dog is in our backyard ready to pounce.  After it's dark, we have to go outside with Hank so he'll leave the deck to tinkle (because again, he's probably scared of being ripped to pieces).  If I ever take him down the alley after a walk (to dump the poo bag in our garbage can), he gets really scared because the other dog goes in-sane!  I mean, this is not just a lighthearted bark.  It's a I-will-kill-you-by-ripping-you-apart-and-then-laugh-about-it bark.

So this other dog's owner is a young guy, probably aged 28-35, who lives alone.  The dog is an enormous, full-sized pitbull who doesn't ever go in the house.  He's always attached to a huge chain in the back corner of the guy's yard (behind a fence, but you can sort of peer through to see him) and has a small doggie house.  I've never seen the dog off the chain (that is to roam around the yard or go on a walk with his owner).  So, I mean, in the most basic sense, I can sort of understand why he barks all day.

Now I get that people have different philosophies about dog ownership.  Some people think a dog belongs outside, and I mean, even if that's not what I think, I get that some people do (I even think these feelings can be more pronounced in different races and ethnicities - and this guy is a different race/ethnicity than us).  I get that some people get a dog for protection - and I wouldn't be surprised if this guy is keeping his dog outside for protection.  But keeping the dog outside vs. straight-up neglect seems like a fine line, and I'd argue this dog is experiencing borderline neglect.  When we were having our al fresco dinner the other night, the owner was outside doing stuff to his car.  As far as we could tell, he never even addressed the dog - there certainly wasn't any playing or petting - but there was also zero notice that the dog was barking his lungs out with no break.  (Can I also say that a sort of odd element to the whole thing is that this man has about 5 ferns on his front porch that are growing well and thriving?  Just seems weird, right?  That he would care enough to water ferns everyday, and yet doesn't do anything about the public nuisance in his backyard?)

I mean, what does one do in this situation?  The guy hasn't lived in the house all that long.  Jonathan met him once and he seemed friendly enough, but it seems pretty intimidating to go talk to him about it, especially given that this guy most likely isn't going to change his behavior.  That is, if we talk to him, he's probably not going to unchain the dog and instead keep him in the house.  Calling animal services seems passive aggressive - but also seems like it might create some kind of war between us and this guy (even though he wouldn't know exactly who called, there would only be a few options).  But at the same time, imagining months, even years of this day in/day out barking seems absurd, right?

I hate that guy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fun Weekend!

This past weekend was lovely!  It was the perfect mix of activities and relaxation time.

Friday night I went with some friends to see The Help at the Paradiso.  We had all read the book and were excited about seeing it on the big screen.  Overall, I really enjoyed the movie!  I have to say, it has probably been a year and a half since I read the book, so I didn't remember much about it.  (Not much at all.  Apparently there were a couple big scenes in the book that were left out of the movie and I was none the wiser - I didn't even remember them in the book.)  So maybe that makes me less critical of the book-to-screen adaptation, but I thought it was great.  Really well cast.  And I wasn't distracted by awful attempts at the southern accent (a la True Blood).  Seeing it in Memphis, there were definitely some, ahem, "vocal" people sitting in the audience I could've done without, but I guess that comes with the territory.

The movie was a whopping 2 and a half hours long!  We went to the Paradiso because they offered an earlier showtime (6:45), so we could grab dinner afterwards.  We went to Swankys - mmm - and enjoyed good food and conversation.  About the time we all finished eating, we noticed there was a torrential downpour outside.  While the Swankys people maybe weren't too jazzed about our extended stay, we enjoyed more chitchat and movie debriefing.  Overall a great night!

Saturday during the day, Jonathan and I went to the gym together.  Then we got home and bummed around for a little bit (I even caught a small afternoon nap), before we went to the 6pm Redbirds game.  This was another super-fun night!  We went with some friends from church (most of whom we don't hang out with on a super-regular basis), so it was fun to be with different people.  Per our usual style, there were fireworks after the game, which made the whole thing that much more fun.

My big dilemma at the game was what food to get.  So Autozone Park was listed in the top-10 of vegetarian-friendly ballparks in the country (how exciting!), so I love eating there.  Well, my go-to is the veggie dog plate - it's a grilled veggie dog and chips; but the beauty is that the dog itself is awesome, and the whole thing only costs like $5 (for a totally filling meal), which seems unheard of for ballpark food.  One thing I had never tried at the park was the black bean burger, which I'd heard was homemade.  But it was such a toss-up what to get because I didn't know if I should go with: 1) what I know, or 2) something new.  I weighed everyone's opinions, and decided I would figure out if there were any sides with the $8.50 burger.  When the girl told me french fries came with it, I was sold.

The verdict?  The dog is better.  The black bean burger was fine, but maybe a tad too greasy?  Also, it came with lettuce & tomato, but nothing else - so what sauce should I put on it?  Ketchup didn't seem right.  I don't like plain old yellow mustard, and there was no mayo.  I ended up walking over to the bbq tent and asking the girl to squirt some bbq sauce on my burger (which wasn't ideal - it needed either mayo or sour cream/guac), but whatev.  It'll be the dog plate next time.  (Is the lesson here go with what you know?)

Sunday was a usual Sunday.  Jonathan worked for most of the day, so I ran errands and watched a lot of Oprah Season 25 Behind the Scenes.

The most glorious end to the weekend, I must say, was Monday when I walked Hank in the morning and the weather was so chilly (low 60s) I needed a long-sleeved t-shirt!  Fall is just around the corner!  I hope you guys had good weekends, too.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Totally Random

I'm so very glad it's Friday!  And I'm glad the weather has cooled off a little this week (please, please stay cool as we foolishly? attempt to go to the Redbirds game on Saturday night!).  We have a sort of busy but fun weekend coming up, so I'm excited about that!

And actually, Monday at work is always an interesting day as well: it's the day our semi-annual bonuses get deposited into our bank accounts.  It seems innocuous, but in fact it's one of the most popular quitting days of the year.  Since the bonus is such a big part of the analysts' annual earnings, if they're going to take another job, they're silly not to wait until after bonus time to do it.  Some of us like to take guesses about who we think will leave (yeah - work can get boring sometimes - anything to keep the time moving).

Another thing that kept the time moving yesterday was a water-cooler conversation around the new candy machine in the breakroom!  It's one of these deals, but with 4 candy dispensers.
Source: www.gumball.com

I have to say, it seems a little dangerous to have a candy machine on our floor.  It only costs a quarter, and all the money goes to charity!  I mean, who can turn down charity candy?  The four candies are Mike & Ikes, Reeses M&Ms, gumballs, and Skittles.  Yesterday I had the Reeses and they were pretty good.  I'm glad there are no regular M&Ms, because I would be helpless against their siren song, but really, the only ones I'm interested in are the Reeses and the Skittles, so maybe I'll be ok.  And the fact that I never have cash or change might help as well.

Anyway - I don't have much more randomness to share.  Happy Friday and I hope you guys have a good weekend!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Towel Troubles

Friends, can I ask you a personal question?  I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable or dig too deep, but...

Do your towels smell?

So I'd never really known about the mildew-y, gross smell that towels can take on until I was a freshman in college and, when faced with doing my own laundry for the first time in my life, wasn't quite on top of my game.  What on Earth is this smell my towels have taken on?  Ah yes - it's mildew, and it's because I haven't done laundry all semester.

As my college years went on, I got better with the laundry situation in general, and also learned to air out my towels better between uses.

But lo and behold, after I graduated college I was reacquainted with the smell - at Jonathan's house! Now, ok - when we first started dating, Jonathan had lived alone for awhile and hadn't yet learned to be the neat, tidy man he is today.  So maybe we'll chalk the smell up to less-than-ideal laundry practices.

But about a year into our relationship, I bought him a whole new set of towels.  And from that point, it was decided they would be properly aired out after use and washed on a regular schedule.  And!  Well...  They still started to smell after a couple months!

It is the weirdest thing, you guys, and I don't know what causes it or what to do about it.  But our towels, despite how often we wash them or if we completely air them out to dry after each use, smell like mildew.  So much so that we still don't use the nice, new set of towels we got as a wedding present because we don't want to ruin them.

The circulation in our bathroom is really bad.  It also holds humidity a lot after each shower.  So I'm wondering if that has something to do with it?  But the weird thing is that Jonathan's denoted "towel drying spot" is outside of the bathroom, so wouldn't his at least be free of the smell?  And on the same note, I keep my terrycloth bathrobe hanging on the back of the bathroom door and it doesn't smell, which, you would think it would if the bathroom itself was the problem.

So, do you guys deal with this too?  If not, how often do you wash your towels?  Do you replace them the second you start to get the smell - and if so, how often are you replacing towels?

Never never never did the towels at my house smell when I was growing up, although my mom was pretty much superwoman when it came to home cleanliness, so I wouldn't really expect they would. But also, our house was relatively new (compared to our house now), so I'm wondering if circulation was better there than it is here?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good Old Fashioned Teen Angst

This past Sunday, Jonathan and I had high intentions to take Hank to "Dog Day" at the Memphis Botanic Garden.  Dog Day was going to offer pet portraits, pet contests, other dogs to play with, and some kiddie pools set up for cooling off.

Unfortunately, with a 115 degree heat index, I had zero desire to stand out in the blazing sun watching the "best dog costume" or "most aptly-named dog" judging.  Does that make me a bad dog owner??  To be fair, while I think Hank would've enjoyed the puppy pool, I'm pretty sure he would've been overheated as well.  And just to redeem ourselves, I'm 100% positive had this whole deal been offered during the Fall, we would've been there with bells on (maybe even a costumed puppy dog?).

So once that got ruled out, I decided to have a lazy day on the couch playing with my computer (playing CHESS, Lb) and watching tv.  There are only so many Diners, Drive Ins, & Dives episodes I can watch until I feel like I've seen them all too many times to mention twice.  So at one point I decided to flip to good old ABC Family for The Princess Diaries (the charming Anne Hathaway movie from the early 2000s).

And can I just say how refreshing it was to watch?  The movie illustrates teen angst at it's finest, and yet it's teen angst like I remember it.  Mia wonders if (as a 10th grader) she'll get her first "real kiss."  Lily shows a little jealousy of her friend by trying to boss her around and/or bring her down sometimes.  There's the "in crowd" and the "losers."  Once Mia becomes the princess-to-be, she gains some frienemies from the in-crowd.  Totally lovely, innocent teen drama.

What was missing from the movie?  Well, first off, any mention of sex, especially teenagers having sex.  Texting and "sexting."  Cyber bullying.  Underage drinking and drug use.  Facebook slurring.  Online harassment.

I'm not saying I don't understand that these are very real concerns for today's teenager, but I guess it just makes me sad.  Given that the biggest drama in my own teenage life was who I was going to go to the school dance with, I feel sad for kids today who seem to deal with so much more grown up stuff than they should have to.  And just generally?  Kids seem meaner; and it seems easier to be meaner since there's so much texting and Twittering and Facebooking, vs. just classic face-to-face time and phone conversations, which was all we had.

I guess I'm slightly down-playing my own teenage angst - there was definitely drinking/drug use/sex/meanness happening in my high school, but I guess it maybe felt less present?  Like, in no way was every student (or even the majority) drinking all the time or having sex.  And I guess they aren't now, necessarily, either.  But all that stuff seems so present.  Like, there are constant newscasts about today's youth, tv shows illustrating all this stuff, movies showing it...

Geez - or maybe I'm just getting old!  It's kind of like our parents and that "rock n' roll music," whatever that is.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Big Night!

Does anyone remember reading this post about a year ago?  Well, it was written in September, and from that time until now, I've been diligently saving my money, as planned, so I could make my big purchase.

Well, after 11 months of saving and a generous contribution from Jonathan's gas-reimbursement money from work, Friday was a big night...

We went to dinner at Swanky's (my new fave) and then headed over to the Apple store!  There was about a 30 minute wait (which made us so thankful we went Friday night instead of during the day over the weekend, where the line would be that long [or longer] but would be in the 115 degree heat index).  Once we got inside, I bought my new computer!!

I decided to go with the new 13" MacBook Air - and I love it!  Jonathan also has a MacBook Air (but his is 11" and the first generation one), so I sort of knew what I was getting myself into.  But basically - it's awesome!  The Flash memory makes everything move so quick, and in addition to normal computer functions, I can download apps from the apple store.  Also, it came with the new Mac operation system, Lion.  The mouse/trackpad is its own little computer (it seems) and has all these crazy swipes that do different things - I'm still trying to get the hang of it.

This is the first new computer I've had in 10 years, and I couldn't be happier!  Here's to writing my novel and writing awesome blog posts and playing chess and video chatting and everything else awesome I'll be doing!

(Anyone have any app recommendations for a computer?  I have an iPhone, so I know all the apps I use on that, but I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas for a bigger machine.)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Randoms

1) We've had record high heat the past few days.  Yesterday, noaa.gov said in parts of Memphis it could "feel like 117."  Sick.

2) And on that note, our house hasn't been able to "catch up" the past couple days - ie, it never reaches our desired temperature (even by the morning, it's not caught up).

3) Our treadmill has been broken the past few weeks and it's driving me insane!  I hate that if I want to do cardio, I have to either do a video or go to the gym.  (So partially, I also hate that it's too hot to walk outside after work.)  It's made me big time slack on my workouts the past few weeks.

4) I had two nightmares this week, which is pretty out of the norm.  So I was thinking about it, wondering if anything had changed in my routine, and I realized I'd had TCBY the night of both nightmares yes I went to TCBY twice this week what's it to you?.  I wonder if there's any correlation.

5) Speaking of TCBY, for some reason I've been preferring it to YoLo of late.  I know - total blasphemy!  But the thing I love about good, ole TCeeb is that they offer two sugar-free varieties everyday.  YoLo only ever has NSA Strawberry.  There's something about the sugar-free ones that I really like - they're sweet, but not over-the-top sweet.  I also like that at TCeeb you can get a "shiver," where they blend the yogurt with your toppings.

6) It's tax-free weekend in Tennessee!  Does this exist in other states?  I don't remember it in Missouri, but then again, I'm not sure it would've excited me when I was a kid as much as it does now.  (Also, maybe MO doesn't have a high sales tax?  Again - not something I ever paid attention to.)  But basically, sales tax is withheld on most purchases for this weekend only.  Stay tuned, because I might or might not be utilizing the weekend to make a big purchase...at the Apple store...

7) I've been craving a bagel with cream cheese of late.  Have I ever mentioned on the blog how Memphis doesn't have bagel places?  It's a complete tragedy.  And the breakfast restaurants that bake them in-house don't quite do it right.  There's one actual bagel shop, but it's all the way out in Germantown, so I've never been.  (Although, actually, it just dawned on me as I typed this that we now have a St. Louis Bread Co. Panera - so that could totally help fulfill my craving.  I might need to head out there this weekend!)

8) Has anyone seen what the stock market has been doing this week?  Wow-y!  It's going dooooooooown.

9) Last weekend, when we were having dinner in Oxford, Jonathan got into a conversation with a somewhat cocky heart surgeon who was also in our group.  When Jonathan told him what he does (which is represent doctors when they're sued [not sure I've ever mentioned that]), the surgeon said somewhat cockily, "so, basically, you want doctors to get sued?"  And my husband's response was just classic - it made me remember why I like him so much sometimes (wink) - it was, "well, you basically want people to get sick, right?"  Love it.

On that note - I hope you guys have a good weekend!  Drink lots of water and stay in air conditioning if you're in a blazing part of the country.  And if you're not, I hate you enjoy the wonderful summer weekend.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Country Clubbing It

I had a sort of funny flashback the other day to my job the summer before I went to college.  I worked at a country club in a halfway house on the back nine of the golf course (for non-golfers, "halfway houses" are located between the two nines so golfers can get food and drinks before playing the next half). 

There were three posts I could've had with the job: the pool (which was air conditioned, but gross because it was a tiny space with a deep fryer and was constantly packed with customers); the snack building on the front nine of the golf course (which was the same concept as my halfway house, but much more busy and more closely monitored by our awful boss); or my halfway house.  Because our mean, awful, terrible person boss actually really, really liked me, she let me choose where I wanted to be, and it was always on the back nine.

The halfway house on the back nine was awesome for many reasons:
1) I got to work with my friend Mike;
2) We were located really far away from everyone else, so a) the boss came out to see us less often, b) we had a nice long drive in and out on our golf cart everyday, and c) when anyone would drive out, we could see them coming (so if it was the boss, we had some time to clean everything up really quick before she arrived);
3) We were in this gorgeous setting - tons of beautiful, old trees and rolling hills; and
4) It was never hectic busy (because we would essentially only serve one foursome at a time as they played through).

It was also un-awesome in many ways:
1) It wasn't air conditioned...think about that for a second;
2) Because it was out in the woods, we occasionally had some critters "visiting" us and eating inventory; and
3) If it started to rain (and the course closed), we had a long, wet drive back to the clubhouse.

One sort of funny aspect of the whole thing was that our job was to make food for other people, but we were really restricted on what we could eat.  Each day, every employee was allowed a sandwich, one soda, and a bag of chips or a sweet snack treat (we had prepackaged cookies, candies, stuff like that).  Nothing else.  Well, we learned ways you could cheat the system a little...

1) Bread wasn't counted in inventory, so you could have that in unlimited amounts.
2) Cheese wasn't counted in inventory, so you could have that.
3) If you put 1 & 2 together, you could cook grilled cheese on the grill as a freebie.
4) Chicken salad and tuna salad were measured in a really loose way, so as long as you had a couple customers order some everyday, you could eat a bit yourself and just claim you "must have made those sandwiches too big."
5) Iced tea wasn't counted.
6) Coffee and creamer weren't counted - in fact, I think I drank more iced coffees that summer than I've ever drank any other time in my life.
7) At the end of the day, you threw out food that didn't get eaten (awful - I know).  Well, one thing we would do so that food would be ready when people came through was cook a few grilled items (like chicken breasts, hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, etc.) and put them in a warming container so they'd be ready.  Well, at the end of the day, if you really wanted, say, a hamburger for dinner, you could cook one at the end of your shift, put it in the warmer, and then just tell the boss that you had cooked one and no one bought it (then you could eat it as you were closing down).

Because we hated our boss so much, we loved eating more than we were supposed to, since it felt sort of subversive towards her.  We would also do things like race in our golf carts when no one was around; drive our golf carts up to this hill where we could lie in the sun, but still see down the hill if the boss was coming (and then haul it back to the snack shop if she was); read books and magazines; and time each other doing little obstacle-type courses.

I remember the summer sort of fondly.  But I know at the time I absolutely hated it.  The heat was unbelievably oppressive (it was a tiny little building and there was a huge grill that was on all day) and the boss (I know I've said this 100x), but she was an awful human being.  She'd yell at everyone all the time; she'd try to catch people doing stuff they weren't supposed to so she could yell at them; she'd get sort of aggressive in her rage - like, if when loading new drinks into the fridge, you didn't put the new ones in the back and she caught you in the act, she'd be known to throw them onto the ground or kick them around while screaming at you. 

I remember one time, it was the end of the day and the phone rang in my hut.  It was the girl who worked at the other halfway house and she was asking for the boss.  I said, "what do you mean, she's not out here?"  And the girl was like, "PLEASE, please don't tell her I called - but just so you know, she's coming around to check on you to make sure you're doing everything you're supposed to - but PLEASE, I'm begging you, don't tell her I called looking for her!"  The girl was just terrified because I'm sure when the boss left her halfway house and said she was coming to mine, she must've instilled some awful fear like "don't you DARE tell anyone I'm coming to check on them right now OR ELSE."

Oh summer jobs when you're 18...  Life was so different back then.  Did you guys have any fun ones, or is it pretty much accepted across the board that if you're 18, your job is going to suck?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

(im)Perfection

Last week was suuuuuper busy for me at work, which was why I didn't really blog much.  But in my lack of blogging, I didn't have a chance to tell you about book club Wednesday night, which was so much fun!  So we'll just discuss it now instead!

For this past meeting, we read The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman.

I absolutely loved this book (as did all the ladies in my group)!  It's essentially a collection of short stories, and each story has a different main character.  But the fun thing about it is that each main character works at the same international newspaper based in Rome, so while there isn't a ton of overlap with what's going on in each person's life, other characters are mentioned in the different stories, and there's the constant backdrop of the newspaper to mesh everything together.

Another sort of brilliant part of the whole thing is that each story is just a little snippet of the person's life.  None of the stories really start or end in any epic way, they just kind of fade in and fade out.  It's written beautifully (Rachman has incredible talent - especially given this is his first book), and reads easily and quick.  Given the short-story nature, it was great to read because you didn't necessarily need to read the stories in a speedy way - you could read one vignette, wait a couple days, read another (although I didn't really do that because I enjoyed sitting down with the book).

The setting in Rome also added a lovely, quaint touch to the whole thing.  It's such an exotic city, and yet working for an English, international newspaper totally contrasted with the romanticism you would've expected from Italy.  The combination was great, though.  Really, I don't have many bad things to say about the book.  I highly recommend!

(And for Memphians reading this, our book club host got all the food she served from "Uptown Grocer."  Apparently it's a woman who makes these take-&-bake dishes that she sells at different [sort of random] locations across the city including the dtown farmer's market and Palladio Cafe [and I'm sure a bunch of other places - but these are the only ones I know.]  Anyway - the food was great!  We had a lovely crawfish/cheese dip to start and then enchilada/burrito things for dinner - they came in a casserole dish and all she had to do was pop them in the oven.  I'm very interested in looking at some of her other available dishes.)

Read The Imperfectionists - you won't be disappointed!

Monday, August 1, 2011

RR: McEwans Oxford (& the weekend)

First things first - IT'S FINALLY AUGUST!  Which means, it's almost Fall!  Woooo hoooo!  I cannot wait for Summer to be over!  I'm hoping August will bring us a small respite from the heat.  (Actually, even if it brings us lows less than 80, I'll be happy.)  So stay tuned - you might notice my attitude getting better and better as the month goes on.

So this past Saturday, we had a sort of interesting night.  We chatted with another couple about possibly doing something that night, and they invited us to come along with them and some other friends to Oxford, Mississippi to try dinner at the new McEwans.  McEwans is a well-known, nice Memphis restaurant located downtown.  They just expanded to Oxford (as in, a few days ago), which, for those who don't know, is where Ole Miss is.  I had never actually been there, so I was definitely on board for a dinner trip.

We loaded 6 people into our friend Patrick's Tahoe and headed down.  It was a fun ride of good conversation, music, wine, and general road-trip giddiness (it's about an hour away).  We arrived with a few minutes to spare before the reservation, so we ventured into Square Books, this iconic book store on "The Square."

My first impression of the restaurant was how cool the interior was!  The space itself is neat (with lots of exposed brick) and a nice layout, and they have decorated it wonderfully - kind of rustic meets posh, but totally comfortable.  Our table for 8 was in the very front of the restaurant such that we had full-on windows facing The Square (making for fab people-watching).

We talked to the owner (a friend of our friends) when we first walked in, who warned us they were still ironing out some kinks.  But overall, in my opinion, it didn't feel like a restaurant that had just opened - I was impressed.  The menu is essentially the same as the Memphis one, but abbreviated.

Our table started with some crab & gruyere dip.  I only had one little piece of cracker dipped in it, but it was lovely - crabby and cheesy and flavorful.  Then instead of a salad, I opted for a small plate of lobster risotto.  The flavor was great (definitely white wine and butter going on), and the lobster was cooked well.  The risotto, on the other hand, wasn't; it was a little too al dente for my taste (which makes me think "al dente" wasn't their ultimate goal).  But overall, the rice didn't kill it for me - the dish was pretty good.

But my entree - oh my goodness - my entree was delicious!  There were quite a few good looking fish dishes on the menu, but I decided to go with the catfish.  Catfish is never my go to dish (and in fact, it often gives me heartburn), but because of the preparation and the sides with this one, I couldn't resist.  The fish itself was encrusted in sweet potato and then drizzled with a light honey mustard sauce.  Oh. My. Gosh.  I'm not sure if that sounds awesome, but it most certainly was.  And the sides?  Macaroni and cheese and spicy collard greens.  Love.  In my opinion, macaroni and cheese from a nice restaurant is almost always awesome - and this one absolutely didn't disappoint.  And the collards actually were spicy, which I loved, and were cooked really well.  It was such a delicious dinner, I wasn't unhappy with any part of it.

Note that I was super full at this point.  But given that we'd driven all the way down to Mississippi (for goodness sakes!), I decided to get dessert.  I went with the McEwans classic, banana cream pie.  It had been awhile since I'd had it, and while this one was most certainly delicious, in my mind/memory, it was a little bit better.  But that's ok.  Obviously bananas and cream and chocolate and an awesome crust (maybe made with some pretzels?) are going to be good no matter how you fix them.  And the pie was.

So overall, I'd recommend McEwans Oxford.  The drive down was fun (the drive back, not so much), but it made for a more festive night than just going downtown to our local one.

And really, that was the highlight of the weekend.  We didn't do much else (because, as previously mentioned, it's too hot to do anything).  Hope you guys had fun ones as well!