Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Water for Elephants

I'll admit, pretty much my sole reason for choosing to read this book was because I heard my favorite actor was playing the lead in the movie adaptation. Coincidentally, it's the same reason I read the Twilight series.....

But I digress.....

My mom loaned me her copy of the book, and I started reading a few chapters whenever I had time. About half way in the story really picked up and I found myself really excited to see what happened next. It was never a stay-up-all-night nail-biter or anything, but the plot certainly grabbed me.

Today, while waiting for my car to get it's oil changed, I finished. I was really pleased with the ending too. The way the writer wrapped it all up was nice and pretty much exactly how I wanted it to end.

I'm now looking forward to April (when the movie is set to be released) with even more excitement. My mom and I have plans to go see it when it comes out.

Warning: reading this book will make you want to go to the circus! I pretty much begged Steve to take me when Ringling Bros. comes to town. :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

why I love Petsmart

I called Petsmart today to register Finn for his first training course. He's going to be taking their puppy class to learn some basic manners and get some socialization. He gets some with the neighborhood dogs, but more is always good too.

So I called the store to register him and this is how the conversation went:

Me: Hi! I'd like to register my puppy for the puppy training course starting on September 18th.

Petsmart guy: Ok, great! Let me pull up the form and get some information from you. What's your baby's name?

Maybe this means I'm one of those crazy pet mommies, but I absolutely loved that the guy referred to Finn as my baby throughout the conversation. He also talked to me about all of my concerns about his size in relation to other dogs in the class, his mouthing habit and even what treats are best for training.

Finn truly is my baby, he's my sweet furbaby and he's been a complete blessing to me ever since we got him. I feel safe and protected while Steve is away and taking him on walks is helping me to be much more active. Playing with him is making me feel much happier than I was before too.

I guess it was just nice to have a conversation about my dog where the person I was speaking to seemed to inherantly understand how much my pup means to me. I'm so excited to bring Finn into the store for his first class! I know we will both be in good hands.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

attack of the ducks

On Tuesdays I don't go into work until later in the day. So, after sleeping in a bit, I try to take Finn out for a long walk to get him good and tired before he goes into his crate while I'm at work.

This morning we're doing our thing when all of a sudden, we get dive bombed by the two ducks that live in the neighborhood pond. I seriously had to duck my head (no pun intended) to avoid getting hit. Then, they landed about three feet in front of us and started waddling our direction like we were going to feed them or something.

Finn has a plush duck squeaky toy that he ADORES... so in his mind these duckies are just walking chew toys and he wants to play. He starts lunging at them and alternating between barking at them and whimpering at me. All while I'm struggling to keep him a safe distance and move around them to avoid a ducky massacre.

So I manage to get around them so they are no longer blocking our path home. This is when the ducks start to CHASE US! They are quacking and waddling like I'm running off with their BFF.

This is when I realize the ducks are suicidal and I'm about five seconds away from becoming known as the crazy girl with the duck murdering dog.

Thankfully, before the ducks could catch up to us, the neighborhood maintenance guy drives up on his golf cart, jumps out and starts shooing the ducks away from us. I yelled a quick thanks over my shoulder and took off toward home.

Needless to say, I think Finn's duck toy is going to be replaced with a squeaky dinosaur. If the day comes when one of those is chasing us on our morning walk we'll have bigger problems than what the neighbors will think.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

simple pleasures and new adventures

I'm in the middle of a break up with my grocery store. Food Lion just isn't working for me anymore and I've been scoping out my options. Walmart and I had a nasty break up in November after the ground beef incident. The closest Publix is about 30 minutes away (without traffic). This left me with Kroger and Piggly Wiggly. I remember Kroger being pretty good when I visit my parents so I figured I'd try it out.


I think I'm in love. Their natural and organic food section is HUGE! They carry several varieties of veggie burgers and Greek yogurt. The organic produce section is just as big as the regular produce section!

I've been wanting to try a few different all natural and organic products but couldn't find them before. Kroger definitely has them and I picked up one or two to try this week.

exhibit #1 Purely Decadent dairy free ice cream
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I've been trying to limit my dairy intake lately since it bothers my stomach. I've switched to almond milk in my cereal and coffee, but I was still looking for an ice cream substitute. This brand is made with coconut milk and has some really delicious looking flavors. I'm testing out the Pomagranet Chip flavor first.

I also picked up a package of all natural pad thai to try out. It sounds like it would be really good. More on that later.

Last but not least... the store's floral department was having a buge sale on gladiolas! I got a big bunch of pink ones for $2.50. They are in a vase on the counter so I see this as soon as I walk in the door:
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Between all my delicious finds at the grocery store and my happy bunch of flowers, this week looks like it will be a good one. :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

feeling accomplished

It's Friday and although I have to work this weekend (boo!) I am feeling pretty darn good.

I completed and submitted my mini research paper on the Park 51 project in NYC, finished all discussions and reading required as well.

Somehow I had forgotten how much I enjoy research papers. Call me crazy, but there is something very satisfying about finding tangible support for your opinion and then arranging those sources among your own voice to make a unique and valid argument.

This particular paper was interesting to me because the subject is such a hot topic for debate as of late. Park 51 is much better known in the media as the "Ground Zero Mosque". It's the Islamic cultural center that is planned to be built two blocks from where the World Trade Center towers stood.

I don't want to get into a debate via blog, so I'll just say that my research caused me to completely change my opinion. It is amazing what you learn when you check every resource you can fund.

Monday, August 16, 2010

rainy days and Mondays....

For a variety of reasons, I'm not feeling quite myself today.

Nothing is seriously wrong.... I'm just a bit sad. I'm a bit lonely. I'm a bit tired.

Good things have happened today:
- I woke up with my sweet hubby and our puppy, safe and healthy
- I started back to school
- I put together an awesome presentation for work

Still.... it's raining... it's Monday.... and life has left me feeling a bit down.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ready to Run

I've really been missing my morning run lately. For a few months I would wake up every morning, go to the gym, and just go on the treadmill for about 30 minutes. Of course, not all of that time was completely running. I did the run/walk thing and I felt really good.

Running the Fallen Heroes of Georgia 5K in April felt incredible. I felt like super woman at the end of that race.

Then for some reason, my morning exercise tapered off to non-existance. I miss it.

As part of my 101 in 1001 I decided to run another 5K in the hopes that another event to train for will get me back into my previous routine. After browsing active.com, I have two strong contenders:

  • 2010 Enmark Savannah Bridge Run - the course takes you across the main bridge spanning the Savannah River. It's the most difficult bridge run in the south as the entire course is at a 5.5% grade incline. Definitely a challenge for me considering I'm definitely a beginner. However, part of me wants to do this because I feel that running across that bridge will help me get closure on all of the issues I've had to deal with since moving here. I heard about this race when they did it last year and I was first starting the c25k program. I remember thinking I'd never be able to do it and then getting annoyed with myself for thinking that.
  • Chateau Elan Vineyard Run for Hope 5K - A run through the vineyard to benefit the Gwinnett County Children's Shelter. If you know me at all, you know how much I love kids. All kids. I'll do pretty much anything to help out a kid and I've got the experiences to back up that statement. If running a few miles will benefit not just kids, but kids in the community where I grew up? I'm there.
The bridge race is in early December and the vineyard race is right around Thanksgiving. I'd have plenty of time to prepare for either of them... or both. Who knows. We'll see how training goes. I might even get Finn to come with me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

back to school

My advisor informed me today that I'm registered and ready to go for my courses this fall! I'm only taking two online courses for now, but two classes is better than nothing.

I feel an incredible sense of relief knowing that I really am going to be making progress toward my degree again. The circumstances that caused me to leave school in the first place came up so suddenly I really had no time to figure out my options and before I knew it I had been out of school for over a year.

I'm so happy to be going back.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chicken Souvlaki

Tonight I attempted the first of the new recipes from my post below. I had never made any sort of Greek food and, although we had both had similar foods at Great Wraps, this meal had some new territory for both Steve and I. He had never had feta cheese and I had never had calamata olives. He wasn't completely jazzed about the onion and I wasn't so sure about the dill/cucumber/yogurt sauce.

In the end, it came out REALLY good! Both of us were sort of suprised at how much we enjoyed it. The combination of flavors was completely different than anything I would normally eat, but it was a welcome change.

The recipe is one I found in the Real Simple recipe index under "meals made easy".

Chicken Souvlaki

.Serves 4
Hands-On Time: 25m
Total Time: 30m (this time estimate is very accurate)

4 pieces flat bread or pitas
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup crumbled Feta
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used Fage brand greek yogurt)
1 small cucumber, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

1.Heat oven to 200° F. Wrap the bread in foil and place in oven.
2.In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, Feta, and olives.
3.In a large bowl, combine the oregano, thyme, pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the vinegar, and the lemon juice. Slowly add 4 tablespoons of the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly until incorporated.
4.Pour 2 1/2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette over the tomato mixture, toss, and set aside. Add the chicken to the remaining vinaigrette, toss, and set aside.
5.Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer the chicken but not the liquid to the skillet and heat, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
6.Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumber, dill, and the remaining vinegar. Spread the bread with some of the yogurt sauce and top with the chicken. Add the tomato salad and fold.

This is how it looks on the plate:

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We are definitely going to include this into our dinner rotation for when we need something relatively light and easy. I'm already planning on using the leftovers mixed with some romaine lettuce as my lunch tomorrow. YUM!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

menu planning - shaking it up a bit

Lately our dinner rotation has seemed a bit boring and lacking in all the yummy fresh produce that's available in the summer time. We're in a bit of a rut really.

So, in the spirit of my 101 in 1001, I am trying FIVE new recipes this week. They are all from the Real Simple recipe index under the "meals made easy" category.

Our planned menu consits of the following (links to the recipes are included for the new ones):
Saturday - pancakes
Sunday - chicken souvlaki
Monday - five spice pork chops with grilled mangoes (edited because Steve doesn't like plumbs)
Tuesday - BLT pasta
Wednesday - ginger chicken with sesame spinach
Thursday - hot italian sausage and tomato pasta
Friday - roast beef and cheddar paninis and baked shoestring fries
Saturday - cheese ravioli in marinara sauce

When I read the planned menu to Steve he seemed really jazzed about all the tomatoes. I'm pretty excited to try these out as well.

Monday, August 2, 2010

One of THOSE people

You know those people who go into Starbucks and their order sounds like an essay? It takes them forever to spit it out and by the time the barista is done writing the order on the side of the cup all of the little boxes are filled in?

I've always given those people the side eye. Seriously, how hard is it to order a cup of coffee?

However, this morning, as I stopped into the Starbucks near my office and placed my order, one of the people waiting in line with me gave ME the side eye. I couldn't figure out why until the barista delivered my drink to the counter and said it back to me:

grande decaf skinny cinnimon dolce latte with soy milk.

It's official.... I am one of THOSE people.

The whole thing made me think of something Tom Hanks says as Joe Fox in You've Got Mail (potentially the best movie of all time in my book):

"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino."

Clearly, that movie is from the 90's. MY "absolutely defining sense of self" was closer to $4. It sure is good though. :)