Thursday, January 31, 2008

Look Up, Smile & Keep Moving

Speaking of Grandmas....while I was fortunate to have many, Chris has known only one. His mother's mother - Honey (everyone calls her Honey, her kids, husband, grandkids, everyone). Honey has enough personality to feel like two Grandmas :)

Chris's family collectively decided to enter her into Prevention Magazine's competition to find a woman for 2008 who represents The Picture of Health. They had to write a 250 word essay about Honey as well as submit a one minute video. They did an excellent job on both pieces - Honey may have a chance at winning! You can view both the video and essay here or watch it below:

Sunday, January 27, 2008


I was incredibly fortunate in that when I was born I had 3 great-grandmothers and 2 grandmother's alive. By the time I was about 7 I even had a psuedo-grandma (Mrs. Carter) and I had a personal relationship with them all. Today however, I find myself realizing that out of those 6 grandmas I have only one left.

Doris, my paternal grandmother's, health has been failing ever since her husband, my Papa, passed away two and a half years ago. Her decline has been especially evident over the past 6 months. Last week the decision was made to move her from her home to the hospice center.

Tonight, around 8pm, she finally passed on to join her husband and daughter. Her passing was not a suprise but will still shake my family greatly.
Even though I was very much prepared for this event I'm surprised at it's effect on me. Grandma D was an oppinionated woman (sound familiar?) and very much shared the role of 'head of the family' with Papa - they both set the tone for our family. With them both gone it will take a while to adjust as a family.
I'm really glad that I saw her on my last trip to Orlando. As I prepared to leave I gave her a hug and told her 'Alright Beautiful, you behave!' When I leaned over to hug her she said 'I love you - you're my only grandaughter - I'll always love you' and she squeezed me super hard. It's nice to know that she knew who I was and that we got to say goodbye.
The funeral is being planned for Friday, I'll be heading down to Florida to be with my family as soon as possible.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Media Misgivings

I typically avoid the news. The media has become such experts at exploiting negative angles, blowing things out of proportion and promoting their own biases that I just get tense, stressed and enraged when I watch. So for the past 5 years or so I have essentially boy cotted the media taking the approach 'if something important happens, I'll find out' and the stuff that isn't so important won't get through. I've essentially been using my friends, family and co-workers as a media filter.

My only media weakness is Good Morning America - I like Robin and Diane and occasionally will turn the program on. For the past couple of weeks I've been turning on GMA in the hotel room each morning as I get ready for a day at the office. I'm already regretting it.

For the past week they have been obsessing about the 'recession' that is coming upon our country. Today they interviewed a Wall Street specialist and the author of Freakonomics on to help inform us how we can 'recession proof our lives'. The experts were saying 'this isn't that big of a deal' and 'we have a recession every 6 years or so' and GMA kept trying to say, but, but what about this horrible thing and that horrible thing?!? By continually pushing the issue and encouraging people to go into crisis mode, aren't they actually in essence promoting a recession?

This news makes me very sad. I've long since had a crush on Heath Ledger, I even went so far as to purchase A Knight's Tale in support of him. I was shocked this morning to hear that he is gone. Naturally GMA already had a 2 minute montage of his life and career ready to go. It makes me wonder if they already have footage on all public figures ready to go in case of death or emergency...As usual though I find myself getting angry as the media takes any possible negative angle and exploiting the bugepus out of it. The poor guy hasn't been dead for 24 hours and they're already pushing a suicide angle - isn't it possible that it was an accident?

I will say though that I have learned some useful things during my few weeks dabbling in the media. For instance Dr. Jarvik isn't really a doctor even though he says he is in the Lipitor commercials. I personally hate the prescription drug commercials and think they should be banned - maybe this will be an instance that will help eliminate or at least curb those advertisements

I also learned about the Inter Faith Youth Core which is a group of people dedicated to focusing on the commonality of religion and the opinions and experiences that people of various religions have in common vs. the differences in hopes of uniting. I thought that this was a great idea and refreshing break from all of the negativity in the media. However when I went to find the details of the story I had to hunt for 15 minutes to find the details and video clip...

I'm still frustrated with media and will likely still continue to avoid it's exaggerated reporting.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Recent Entertainment

The current job has me driving long distances and spending a great deal of time alone in hotel rooms. I have been filling my road trip time with audio books and my hotel time with Netflix's new Instant Watch videos. Here are my quick reviews on my latest entertainment choices:

Audio Books:

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
I have no idea how this one wound up on my 'to read' book list but there it was and the library actually had it, so it found it's way into my collection. Due to limited down time I had been listening to this one for quite some time, over a month. I finished it up on my trip from Cincinnati to Chicago. The book follows the life of two girls born in the 70's from the summer they are 11 through about 30. One of the girls, Caitlyn, comes from a wealth background and spends summers with her father in New England. The other girl, Victoria, or Vix, comes from a blue collar family and becomes Caitlyn's Summer Sister. The book basically follows them as they go through life, coming together every summer. The reader on this was pretty good, her voices weren't great but better than most and her cadence is great. I'd recommend it.

Rococo by Adriana Trigiani
This author was recently added to my list of favorites. She also wrote Queen of the Big Time which I really enjoyed and the Big Stone Gap series which I think are great. The difference in this novel is that the main character is a man, 'B' for Bartolomeo. He is a passionate interior decorator so the book is filled with elaborate descriptions of color and architecture. B's biggest dream is to redecorate his local parish and the book follows him on this mission. Along the way he makes unlikely friends and learns something about himself and his family. Like all of Trigliani's books this one includes a typical, large and boisterous Italian family and digs into their dynamics. I wouldn't say this is my favorite from Trigliani but it was definitely a nice way to stay awake on my road trips

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
I randomly plucked this book off the shelf at the library and I am certainly glad I did. It's about a girl growing up in a very small town in Indiana. The main character is feisty and has a lot of personality. The author has a great, sarcastic sense of humor that to me is slightly reminiscent of David Sedaris's style. I'm only about half way through this one but so far it's kept me chuckling and entertained.

Next on the list:
- Wicked
- Great Gatsby
- Sister Mine
- The Wild Trees

Netflix Movies:

The Children's Hour
I love old movies. This one has Audrey Hepburn (who I think is amazing) and Shirley MacLaine. I am forever surprised by the content and controversial topics covered in old movies – infidelity in The Apartment, services for hire in Breakfast at Tiffany's etc – and this one was no different. The movie is about two college girlfriends that open up a boarding school for girls. One particular student spreads a rumor that the two teachers are 'unnaturally involved', labeled as lovers the two girls are shunned. I like it.

Big Dreams in Little Hope
The Netflix Instant View selection is limited. You can watch old movies, some TV shows and B, C and D flicks. This was an F flick. Don't bother. I'll just leave it at that.

On the list to watch:
Season II of Alfred Hitchcock's Twilight Zone
Season I of Heroes
The Seven Year Itch
Bus Stop
The Desk Set

Saturday, January 19, 2008


This postsecret made me laugh.

Snow & Fire

I'm sitting in my hotel in Chicago. I've been here since Thurdsay night and will probably stay here until the middle of next week (paid for by the company). Since Chris is working all weekend there was no point in going home, plus a major cold front came through this weekend and I was nervous about driving back up Monday morning so I just stayed through the weekend.

This is by far the nicest hotel I've stayed in so far, each room is a bascially a studio apartment. I have a desk, pull out couch, king size bed, kitchenette stocked with dishes etc and a fireplace. Yep - a gas fireplace. It's awesome! :) I worked late Friday night but when I was done I curled up with a glass of red wine in front of my fireplace and watched the snow fall...

Aside from being a bit lonely and missing Chris things are going well. The project I'm managing is just winding up and already challenging which is exactly what I like. It's been a little odd seeing all of the people I used to work with, since I thought that I would likely never see them again, but nice. They've all been very warm and welcoming and some of my old relationships are already coming in handy. Definitly, positivly glad that I didn't burn any bridges when I left.

Aside from work stuff there isn't much going on. Of course that's largely due to the fact that the work stuff is consuming my life for the next few weeks. The nice thing is that we're going to take the money I earn and hopefully take several international trips over the next 6 months. We're hoping to go to Cancun with our Roman friend at the end of March, Greece for Chris's birthday in early May and maybe evn Cairo in June with our friend Dallas.

That's it from me for now. I'm going back to my fireplace :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

on the road again

i'm driving through kalamazoo, mi! all of the ponds are frozen's pretty and my car is toasty so i'm enjoying the views. audio books are keeping me company.

(sent from phone while driving)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

6 Week Hiatus

A lot happened over the past week in my life. My old employer contacted me about an opening for a Project Manager that they were struggling to fill. They only needed someone for 4-8 weeks and they needed them ASAP. The only catch was that it would be onsite with a client in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I'm open minded so I got the full scoop from them and after working out the details I decided to take on the challenge.

I was so excited to leave the corporate environment and that hasn't changed, the idea of a short term challenge intrigues me and I think this will be a great way to keep my professional edge and make sure my political skills don't wan. The other perk is that it's great money. The biggest downer is there will be lots of driving in my future and I won't see much of Roger (who is staying in Orlando) or Chris.

So, tonight I leave for Chicago to get briefed on the client and the project. Then Wednesday it's off to Ann Arbor where I will spend the next 4-6 weeks, maybe more. I figure I will either be so busy with the work and checking out the new town that I will virtually disappear or I will be so bored in the hotel and freezing temperatures that I will constantly be online. Either way, I plan to stay connected. I'm also planning to continue improvments and marketing for my business, The PC Coach, so that when the project is over I'll have something to return to.

We'll see which way it goes. Either way, keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Movie Review - License to Wed

License to Wed - four thumbs down

I knew when I requested it from NetFlix that it was a risk, but I had no idea how big. With Robin Williams, Mandy Moore & John Krasinski (from The Office) I figurd it would at least be worth a few laughs and mildly entertaining.


We actually turned it off. The introduction of extremely creepy fake twins was just more than we could bear.

Four thumbs down. I have got to start being more careful about what I take risks on - between this and The Ex, I'm starting to feel like I'm wasting my Netflix membership.

On a happier note, I saw a commerical for Bucket List today and I'm trying not to look forward to it's DVD release. I've found the lower my expectations, the easier it is to exceed them. However since I have had a 'bucket list' since I can remember, I do love the idea of the movie. (FYI, I'm stealing the phrase so don't be surprised when I start throwing it around) I think Jack Nicholson has great charism and after '10 Items or Less' I'm a closet Morgan Freeman fan - so we shall see.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Writer's Strike

I've been wondering what the hubub is all about. I found this handy clip that explains it pretty well:

There's more information here. I know there are two sides to every story but it sounds like their demands are reasonable and I understand why they're holding out. Thoughts?

Movie Reviews - Paris Je T'aime & Once

I had been adding a quick review on new movies I watched and with the holidays I got a bit behind. Here is a quick update.

Paris Je T'aime - 1.5 thumbs up
I didn't really know what I was getting into with this one and I think it negatively impacted my judgement and experience. It's a compilation of shorts by different directors and contains some big names and familir faces. I thought that they would all tie together at the end to have some overall meaning but they don't really. They all do make a comment on a different type of love.

At first I wasn't impressed. Some of the shorts seemed too far out there or just didn't make sense to me. But after letting it marinade for awhile I've decided that it's a decent film. Some of the shorts's meaning took a while to hit me. I will caution that it's a slow sort of film, best watched with friends of similar movie taste.
PS - I think the short I liked the most was titled Ana - you can watch it on YouTube - I especially love the lullabye and it's use.

Once - four thumbs up
Mom and I stumbled upon this one. We had a free rental at the devil's haven (aka blockbuster) and were looking for something new that we new the guys wouldn't want to watch with us since we had the night to ourselves. We gambled with Once - we figured it could be an undiscovered gem or soft porn...but it was free so why not?

We loved it! The disc was scratched so we went back to the store for a replacement just so we could finish it. We learned that it is a modern day take on a musical which means it's pretty much just one long music video. The cast is really talented and I found the songs to be very haunting. I love that the main characters are 'guy' and 'girl'...

Funny that we found out after the fact that everyone around us had already heard of the movie and wanted to see it so we're kind of on the forefront ^_- We watched all the speical features and found that the actors aren't professional actors but musicians that have been friends for a long time. The director wanted the performances to be peak rather than the acting. See a great ad for the movie here, it all makes sense after you've seen the film.

PS - I think that Glen Hansard would make a great 'Jack' in a Pillars of the Earth, if one was ever made.
The next two I didn't really watch whole heartedly so they don't get as big of a write up:

Fracture - 3 thumbs up.
This was one of Chris's picks. I was pulled away from the movie a few times so I didn't get as into it or see all of the plot twists. Chris was pleasantly surprised. He felt that the twists were creative but not hidden well enough.
Four Brothers - 1.5 thumbs up
This was another of Chris's. I worked on the comptuer while he watched this, so I really can't comment too much. I had some intense graphics and would definitely qualify as a 'shoot-em-up' movie.


My family and I watched the old kids movie, Babe, on New Year's Eve. We were marveling at how time flies - the movie was orignally released in 1995. Back then my family had an affinity for mice seeing as we had several for pets (left over from when we created a mouse far to feed our pet snake, but that's another story) so a movie with singing mice really struck a chord with us. Watching it again together wsa great, we all quoted it an sang along. My brother's girlfriend didn't really remember the movie and think after viewing it as an adult she's as big a fan as we are now.

One scene in particular really rang with Megan - the one where Farmer Hobbit winds up dancing and singing in order to make Babe feel better....

If I had words
To make a day for you
I'd sing you a morning
Golden and true
I would make this day
Last for all time
Then fill the night
Deep in moon shine

She even found the song on iTunes. Then I took it one step further and found a video on YouTube.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Filtered Water

I think this is a great idea.
It is a reusable portable waterbottle made by Brita that includes a replaceable filter. The filter is good for about 80 refills. This means that you can hit any cold waterfountain and have a bottle of cool great tasting water on the go. I think this would be especially good for the airport, take it in empty and fill up once through security and avoid paying $3 for a bottle of nasty airport brand water.
I'm curious if the water has to go through a filter to get into the bottle or if the filter is attached to the spout so that it's filtered on it's way to your mouth. I'm guessing the later.
I think the bottle is well priced at $7 on Amazon but I was surprised to find that the replacement filters go for $6, why not just buy a new bottle? Either way I figure I'll save plenty by using free water and it's a great way to help the environment so I plan to purchase one. I'll let you know how well it works for me.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Restaurant Hoppers

I grew up in College Park where the main strip is Edgewater Drive. My Best Bud Megan too has spent most of her life living near this strip. Edgewater seems to have an endless stream of shops and restaurants opening and closing, though over the past couple of years the movements seems to have settled.

It recently dawned on Megan and I that we haven't eaten at most of the places along the strip in our own 'hood. As our Christmas gifts to each other, Megan and I decided to do somthing new. We went Restaurant Hopping down the strip.

We started around 7pm with the plan to have a four or five course meal, stopping at a new restaurant for each course. Groovy idea huh? We originally joked about pretending to be food critics in order to lessen the blow to the servers that we weren't ordering much. We went so far as to joke about bringing pens and paper and creating alter egos for ourselves. In the end however we went as our boring old selves. The funny part is tha in the end, we didn't need to falsify the facts to get great service and have a blast.

All prices are after tax and tip. Total spent each on the night, $41.

First Course - Appetizers
Location - Taste
Server - Lisa
Ordered - Herbed Goat Cheese Spread with Crackers & Ahi Tuna Tartar
History - Taste has been in College Park for years so we were both really looking forward to trying it out. The interior was nice, but while we weren't shunned, we weren't made to feel especially welcomed. Taste serves tappas (mini dishes) so we figured it would be the perfect place for appetizers and because the menu is set up for it we decided not to tell the server about our plans to hop around.
Menu - After looking over the menu we weren't overly impressed with their creativity. We felt like most of the combinations offered were typical and actually had trouble finding things we really wanted to try. In the end we settled on two dishes.
Food - Both dishes lived up to the restaurant's name and were tastey, but we felt they didn't live up to our expectations. The goat cheese was creamy but a bit bland and there wasn't enough to go around to the small handful of crackers we received. The Tartar was decent but again, not a very large portion and rather bland. In the end we did tell the server about our hopping and she mentioned Julianna's down the street had nice cooks...hmmm, we were hoping for good food but we'll see.
Total Cost - $19
Conclusion - 2.5 Stars

Second Course - Salad
Location - Harmoni Bistro
Server - Kelly
Ordered - Spring Mix Salad with almonds, goat cheese, manderine oranges topped with tahini, honey and orange juice dressing
History - Harmoni is a bit controversial around College Park. You see it sits on the ground level of a new condoplex that was recently built right on the main strip in the small quaint College Park district. The condos are large, imposing and required the destruction of some neat old buildings. For this reason the locals have been a bit hesitant to explore. Meg and I decided to check it out and were extremely imperssed. Ther is a market adjacent that provides and ecclectic and fun selection of food and affordable wines. The Bistro had a really nice vibe with a high ceiling and gorgeous stained wood beams exposed. The somehow managed to keep in intimate and not too loud though. In trying to decribe the atmosphere we could only come up with 'The new College Park' which should be taken as a huge compliment.
Menu - The menu was full of delectible choices. In fact we had to remind ourselves that we were there for salad and even then we had to really work to narrow it down to one. We told the server up front that we were hopping and she was very excited for us and even offered to split our dish in two.
Food - The salad was perfect. The goat cheese nice and fresh, the salad dressing really made the whole thing work though. So creamy and sweet. We found ourselves developing a whole menu around the salad dressing alone, pizza, ahi tuna, yogurt popsicles...yum! We told our sever of our addiction to the dressing and inquired about buying a supply to take home. She returned with the news that it's not currently for sale but as a consolation prize she had two take home tubs of the dressing all bagged up for us - free of charge. I was able to make five more salads with my dressing alone!
Total Cost - $10
Conclusion - 5 Stars

Third Course - Entree
Location - Julianna's
Server - Mike
Ordered - Shrimp, spinach and three cheese tortellini in a portofino sauce
History - Julianna's used to be a tea room and neither of us had paid it much attention until it was commended at both Taste and Harmoni. The atmosphere was cozy though our server was awkward and lacked personality.
Menu -We struggled with our choice to have our entree at Julianna's because of their lack of vegetarian friendly dishes. We found a few options though and narrowed it down to one. We told the server of our evening of hopping and while he seemed a bit miffed he did split our dish into two plates without our asking.
Food - While they made our pasta we received compimentary bread and hummus which suprised us. The hummus was tastey though we agreed probably best in small portions due to the heavy garlic. We're sad to say that we really weren't impressed with our main dish. For starters the portion was very small for an $18 dish. We each received three shrimp and less than ten small tortellini. We agreed that the tortellini tasted like it could easily have been the kind you can get frozen in bulk at Costco. The saving grace was that the owner came out as we finished our dish to ask how his place compared to the rest of our hops. We were honest and told him that the salad was the best so far. He proclaimed "ahh, that is because you didn't have my salad dressing! I will bring you a sample of my home made dressing." And he did. I tried it later and again, wasn't too impressed - sorry :( We do want to give this one another chance though.
Total Cost - $22
Conclusion - 2 Stars

Fourth Course - Dessert and Drinks
Location - K
Server - TJ
Ordered - Apple Pi a'la mode, Lava Cake & Alliance Australian Shiraz '05
History - Megan had heard of K before and had tried their sister restaurant, Nonna before. There have been many eateries located on the corner where K now sits, all of which I had found to be over priced and unimpressive so I was a hard sell from the start. We knew though going in that K was going to be pricey, Nonna is a bit cheaper and seems to be where the owner experiements on ideas for K.
Menu - The dessert selection was actually very tempting. A nice mix of fruit, excellent chocolates and other various sweets. We followed the servers recommendation though and went with a classic and of course chocolate. We briefly browsed the rest of the menu and both saw several things we would like to be able to afford to try.
Food - The applie pit was yummy, not too many apple chunks, lots of gooeyness. Though we agreed the chef was a bit heavy on the crust to filling ratio. The lava cake was the real gem though. Chocolate cake with a gooey hot sauce center, served with raspberries and mint it was irresistable. We agreed it was a close contender with my Mom's brownie pudding. We also ordered a glass of Shiraz (what girl can have chocolate without some red wine!?)
Total Cost - $31
Conclusion - 4 Stars

Megan and I always have a good time, no matter what we're doing. But this night was an especially memorable event, at least for me. I'd love to go back and try all of the places again to see how they rate the second time around. We've already discussed making a habit out of Restaurant Hopping - if we do I'll be sure to let you know. Thanks for the great gift Meg!