Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Life's a Beach

Probably one of my favorite days of vacation was the trip to Cocoa Beach. While I like Orlando a lot, I was really excited to get into the ocean and lay out in the sun. Is there anything more beautiful than this?

I had fun hunting crabs which popped out of holes like this.

See, here's one!

We also went to the pier for lunch, where we tried gator bites. Yes, real alligator! When they're deep fried and in dipping sauce, they really just taste like chicken nuggets. Maybe a little chewier.

We met a new friend at the pier. Hey Big Bird!

We also got to watch a lot of surfers. This was a good wave.

I loved the whole day, despite the sunburn that came with it. Could there be anything better!?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Favorite Blog: Catalog Living

If you haven't seen it yet, you have to check out Catalog Living. It's hilarious!

Basically, it makes silly comments on all of those catalog pictures with the incredibly staged shots. Because clearly everyone has a giant tray of apples on their coffee table on the average Monday. Haha.

Time for Souvenirs!

With a whole week in Orlando, I really could have overdone it with the souvenirs. Be proud, I didn't! My only real souvenir (besides my awesome personalized beach towel from the reunion), came from our trip to Downtown Disney on Monday. While we decided to skip the other Disney parks, we headed to the food and shopping area for a fun afternoon.

We stopped at Basin, one of my favorite bath stores that I still remember from our last trip to Orlando. No purchases there, but we did some free hand exfoliation and sniffed all the bath bombs. We also went to Mickey's Pantry, where I really wanted a cute Minnie Mouse apron but said no. We then got stuck for quite awhile in The Art of Disney/Disney Design-a-Tee, caught by a rainstorm that forced us to purchase the $7 Disney ponchos. I don't count those as souvenirs....nothing fun about em.

After a lot of wandering, through a number of other stores, plus lunch, we headed back to D Street to get our Vinylmation figures...our one souvenir from the day. The are different collectibles, all shaped like Mickey, but with a variety of designs. For just $9, we each got our collectible, sealed in a box. You pick your collection, but you have no idea what's inside!

Chris picked the Urban 3 series and wound up with...

Some kinda dino/dragon thingy. I picked The Muppets, and got....

Wait for it....

Miss Piggy!

Now, they say that there are no returns or exchanges, but the cashier offered to let us open them at the cash register and trade them if we wanted. We preferred to be adventurous and waited until we were in the car instead. Of course, now I'm tempted and want more...

Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm Back...from Hogwarts!

I just spent a fantastic week in Orlando, FL with 27 of my relatives (and my favorite boyfriend). Adventures were had!

Our trip included a visit to Universal Studios to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (just 4 days after it opened). And it was AMAZING! It was overwhelming to try to take it all in, it was just so much like in the movies. I took pictures of anything and everything!

Here's a picture of the delicious butter beer that was well worth the wait in line (two hours to get into that section of the park, plus lines for everything else). As my sister said, "it tastes like liquid gold!" Or rather, cream soda with a butterscotch topping. I could drink them all day!

I love that they recreated many scenes throughout the park. This was the singing frog choir.

I also loved going into each of the shops from Hogsmeade. Want a treat from Honeydukes? Care for some Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans? Watch out...there are some dangerous flavors in there.

Curious which house that you'd be in? Check out the Sorting Hat!

It was such a cool experience. I'd love to go back, but maybe in about six months to a year when it's a little less crazy. I feel like there is probably so much that I missed, I needed more time to take it all in.

If you are a Harry Potter Fan, definitely put it on the To Do List!

Stay tuned for more trip highlights!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book #4: The Pact

I headed to the library last weekend and was excited to find that not only did I have a bunch of holds that were in, but I also managed to pick up two Jodi Picoult books. Last summer, I read My Sister's Keeper before watching the movie. I had heard good things about her other books and thought I should check them out.

The Pact is her fifth book, which centers around a supposed suicide pact between two teenagers, who have known each other since birth and seem to be soul mates. Except that as the book begins, one is dead and the other isn't. The book switches back and forth between the present day following Emily's death, and the history of Chris and Emily's relationship, from birth until her death.

It is a very intense read, where the reader knows more than the characters in the book, one of my favorite styles. One of the main themes of the book is truth, and how each person approaches a story from their own truth, with no one really having the absolute truth, if there is such a thing. I don't want to give away any more of the story, so I'll just say that it's definitely a worthy read. I'm looking forward to reading a few more of her books over the course of the summer, next to the pool of course. 

Next up on the list though is The Help, by Katherine Stockett.   

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to my Favorite!

Chris celebrates his birthday today! (I won't say how old)

What did I get him? is one of his gifts that I think is super cute:

Haven't you always wanted to make pancakes shaped like Darth Vader, Yoda and the Storm Troopers? Haha. For the Star Wars fan, Williams Sonoma has some very special pancake molds.

I will of course offer to make the pancakes. : )

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all of the dad's out there. I hope everyone takes some time to spend with family today.

Here's a little tribute to my dad, who passed away four years ago. This is one of my all time favorite photos, despite the fact that I have a giant band-aid on my chin covering a nice crop of stitches. My younger sister is less excited than I am, yet still super cute. Something must have been funny. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact we were sitting on a blue velvet couch. (Yep, that happened).

Miss you dad!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Best Friends

Although Chris disagrees, I thought this photo was too cute not to share. I think Bucky likes him better than me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Best Brownie Mix

Earlier this week we had a staff picnic and I offered to bring dessert. Forgoing my usual cupcakes, I decided to make brownies. Now, others may disagree, but I believe that brownies from a mix are delicious, and can taste just as good as those made from scratch. And I swear by this mix:

The Ghiardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix is heavenly. (Okay, the Triple is even better, but harder to find). The key to making them even better? Let them cook through enough that they are safe to eat, but take them out before they are completely cakey. It's best when they are still really fudgy on the inside.

Sadly, they are all gone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Where Have I Been?!

Sorry for the sparse posts! I've been very busy between work, finishing up a summer class, and preparing for an upcoming vacation. Lot's more to come in the next few weeks. But for now, here's a cute pic of Bucky, being his cute Buck self.

Oh how he loves watching the birds while sitting in the window sill.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Book #3: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The third book that I read this summer has perhaps one of the longest/strangest titles, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. (Side note: I find it really intriguing when a book has two authors and I'm curious how it works). 

I came across this book randomly on a recommended list online, and wasn't quite sure what to expect. Set in London 1946 in the aftermath of World War II, the story is set up through a series of letters between Juliet Ashton, a thirty-something writer, who became famous for her wartime essays written under the penname Izzy Bickerstaff and her publisher, friend, suitor, and a host of others. She is in the process of looking for her next project, when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a man who stumbled across her used copy of a book. She begins a correspondence not only with him, but the other members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a strange group that formed on the island of Guernsey during the war while it was occupied by Nazi Germany. The story follows the relationships that she forms with the islanders, all through letters.

You can't help but like the different characters that you meet throughout the story. Particularly charming is Isola, an eccentric woman who has a range of crazy hobbies from making tonics for various ailments to phrenology, reading the bumps on peoples heads.  

The book also provides a really interesting historical perspective. I'll be honest that I had to look up Guernsey while reading, as I'd never heard of it. Sadly, the descriptions of the Occupation and some of the truly awful things that happened in this fictional tale did happen to real people. There is a particularly heart-wrenching story during the book in which a few of the members of the society take care of a teenage Todt worker (slaves that were shipped to the island to work), who tried to steal a potato from a garden, but was too weak to eat it. There are other sad stories, but also some very uplifting ones.  

It was a fast read, and one that I would definitely recommend.   

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I Need to Step it Up!

Wow, I'm really not as active as I thought.

In these last few days of our Walk To Madrid Program, I have discovered that I spend a lot of time being sedentary. I managed to get in over 10,000 steps on Tuesday, the first day of the program, but that was mainly because I went to the grocery store, and took a walk.

Wednesday through Friday have fared far worse. I managed to get in about 6,500 steps on Wednesday, but for the last two days, I haven't even topped 5,000. That's less than half of what I'm supposed to get. Bummer.

The bottom line is that I don't get nearly as much activity in my regular daily routine as I might think. In order to be active, I'm going to have to put in a lot of extra added effort. This might require a renewal of my gym membership. 

Two Blogs for the Price of One!

Another blog?

Yes. I've decided to record my year of not spending/buying anything new in a separate blog, My Simplicity Experiment. Since that one will focus more specifically on the challenges of not spending money on a daily basis, I've made it it's own thing.

Feel free to check out both.  

Cost of Pets

Check out this really interesting post from Get Rich Slowly about the cost of having pets. Would you ever consider getting rid of your pets during a financial crisis? How much are you willing to spend on your pet? Especially if they require significant medical care? All interesting questions posed by the blogger.

Bucky, my cat, is now three years old and I've had him since he was a kitten. He was "free" when I got him, minus the fact that he was sick and required immediate vet attention which left me with a few hundred dollars in bills. That wasn't counting his later appointments for neutering (sorry buddy), getting his from claws removed (sorry again), and the several trips to try to figure out why he kept peeing on my bed and then, even worse, my roommate's bed (he owes me an apology for this's was definitely behavioral). That also meant significant costs for replacement bedding. And of course the regular things like food and litter aren't cheap either. As sweet as he is, he is definitely expensive.

But he's a part of my life, and he brings me joy every day, especially when I come home after a long day of work. He is by far my favorite, even if he is a little bratty sometimes. More often than not, he is loving, entertaining, and more than willing to share this little apartment with me. I'd look to cut a lot of other things before I'd cut him out of my life. He's worth every penny.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Recipes Galore from the Grocery Store

One of my goals for the summer is to do more cooking at home and to try new things. I have a whole collection of cookbooks and a lot of recipes saved in my online sites. I spent last night going through and found some really interesting recipes from Schnucks, the local grocery store.

They've started a program this past year to promote cooking at home called Schnucks Cooks. They have a variety of recipe cards at the store and a station where they cook different recipes each week and give free samples. Their fridge section has all of the ingredients for whatever they are making. Plus the recipes are available on their web site. It's pretty cool!

I'm excited to try the Thyme for Blue Burgers, Balsamic Skirt Steak, Chicken Pot Pie, and the Fresh Corn Chowder.

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cable Free is the Way to Be

My cable has been off for one week, and I'm not really missing it yet. I'm thankful for some summer shows like So You Think You Can Dance, The Bachelorette (love Ali!) and of course, for the last few episodes of Glee!

I've taken advantage of the shows available online via Netflix and Hulu. I watched the entire first season of Lie to Me, which is a totally awesome concept. I feel like I want to watch people now to see if they are lying and use the signs that they look for on the show. It reminds me a lot of House, but in a different setting that is new and interesting. And House has just been okay lately, so I'll gladly check out something new. I've also been catching up on several seasons of Friday Night Lights. I've seen a few episodes here and there, but this is the first time that I've really watched straight through. It's an awesome show!

Strangely, I've actually turned off the tv! I typically have it on all the time just for background noise. Lately, I've spent some time without any noise at all, reading books, going for a walk, playing with the cat, and just listening to myself think. I'm trying hard to become comfortable with the silence. It's refreshing!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Walk It Out....

We have started a new challenge at work called SLU Walk to Madrid. Run through our recreation center, the goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle for everyone on campus, while together virtually walking the 4,415 miles from here to our campus in Madrid, Spain. There is a virtual map tracking our progress along the way here

I signed up, and received a pedometer and a sheet to track my steps for the next 12 weeks. We are each encouraged to get 10,000 steps per day (roughly 5 miles), which is considered an active lifestyle. It's harder than you might think! Thankfully I went to the grocery store tonight, which definitely upped my steps. As of right now, I'm only at 8,621. 

Time to step it up!  
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