Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Five - Blogging

Today's Friday Five is kind of a new one for me - blogging about blogging! I am far from a professional and while there are moments when I would love to be like some of my bloggy friends who get cool free stuff and have these lovely and professional-looking blogs, that's really not who I am and would much rather my little corner of the internet be a reflection on my little corner of the world (although if anyone wants to send me free stuff, I'm happy to share about it!) So without further rambling, here is my friday five about blogging.

When did you start blogging? Who/What prompted you? I started my first blog in May 2003, right as I graduated from high school. I had lots of friends from high school and church camp who were either already at college or were heading that way and I knew I wouldn't be seeing most of them regularly anymore, so I figured this was a good way to keep up with them (since this was slightly pre-facebook) Because I've always been a little behind the times, most of them already had blogs, so I was finally getting caught up!

How often do you post? How often do you visit blogging friends/other blogs? I've gotten to where I'm doing good if I can post more than once a week. Recently, I just haven't been too inspired. I try to check in with the blogs I follow regularly every couple of days via my blogger feed, but I'm probably reading somebody's blog somewhere at least once a day thanks to pinterest!

Why do you keep on blogging? It's a good outlet for me and it's still a good way to keep connected with friends and be a part of a community in a way that (to me ate least) is more personal and honest than facebook.

What do you like to write about? I like to write about the things I love and that are going on in my life that I think would interest others - everything from parties to restaurants to recipes to craft ideas, and an occasional deep thought or two.

Have your blogging habits changed - or are they changing? Yes, my habits have changed. I no longer post every single day (nor do I feel the need to do so!) I also don't use my blog as an avenue for venting as frequently and I am more careful about what I say. I know that when kids come into the picture, things will change even more!

Bonus: Recommend a blog or two - Plain Chicken is a favorite for simple but tasty meals (and she is in Birmingham so I totally get all of her local references!) Kara's Party Ideas always inspire me. Betsy Neely is a dear friend and an amazingly talented photographer. Her website features some of her beautiful work. If you need a photographer in the Chicago area, she's your girl! I want a big print of this black and white lily to hang in my guest room!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Five - Randomness

I haven't done a Friday Five in a long time. The most convenient reason is that I never think to take my computer to nanny with me, and while I have the time before my little buddy wakes up, I hate blogging from my phone/iPad and I don't think about it when I get home. Another reason is that I have kind of been avoiding my RevGal friends because I'm not entirely sure I still fit in because I don't necessarily think of myself as "one of them" anymore, even though I know in my head I am. This whole issue of identity and calling and work and how it all comes together is complicated, and I definitely see it getting worse before it gets better. Alas, I felt myself tugged back into this world and this circle so I'm playing along in the "safest" way I know how and thankfully today's questions feel very safe and exciting, so yay!

What is the best thing that happened to you this week? Definitely my yoga class last night! Not only was it great for me physically, but also mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially!

If you were in a Ms., Miss., Mr. Wherever Pageant, what would your talent be? Since I doubt comedic sarcasm would be acceptable, I'll go with classical piano. Or tuba. I bet nobody else would be playing the tuba, I'm I'm probably still pretty good!

You were just given a YACHT! What would you name it and why? The Miss Penny because when I was growing up my family would collect change on the ground and put it into what was known as "the yacht fund". Apparently this was something my grandfather started when my mom and her siblings were children (maybe even before, I'm not sure) and so whenever we find pennies (or other change) it's "yacht fund money"

If you were to perform in a circus, what would you do? I'm more of a behind the scenes girl, but if I had to perform I'd probably ride an elephant!

What do you have in your bag/wallet/backpack that best describes your personality? I have a zippered pouch with a picture of three cupcakes on the front that holds notebooks, sticky notes, pens, crayons, markers, & paperwork along with change, receipts, stickers, and whatever else gets tossed in it. I think it suits me because it's fun and cheerful but has an important purpose, can stand up to a lot, is much more flexible than it seems, and usually ends up catching junk it doesn't need but holds on to it anyway!

So there you have it, my randomness for today. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Best Meal I Ever Ate

I like to think of myself as a foodie. Never mind the fact that I'm pretty picky and not exceptionally adventurous. Most of my grown-up celebrity crushes aren't movie or music stars. There are a few writers, but most of them are chefs. I dream of eating at amazing places and rubbing elbows with these amazing culinary artists. This year, my sweet brother decided to get me a gift certificate to Highlands Bar & Grill for my birthday because I had mentioned it was a place I would like to try. I will admit that, while I did want to try it, there was a little piece of me that was very nervous because I can be so picky. Plus, I like to plan ahead for new dining experiences. Their menu changes every day! We had our reservation about a week and a half in advance so that gave me enough time to check in on the menus for a few days and see what kept reappearing. I was pretty confident that I would have a meal I enjoyed and was excited when the time finally came.

We settled into our little table up front and enjoyed people watching, both inside the restaurant and out the window. I ordered a cocktail and Jeff got tea. Our waiter, Brian, was very nice. He gave us fabulous descriptions of some of the best things on the menu (which was almost everything!) so all of our planning and preparing was pretty much shot to heck because by the time he got done I wanted one of everything. The one thing I had planned for was the baked grits, and they were amazing. I can see why they are one of the "100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die." I'm not a mushroom person but I did try them and while they were ok, they didn't seem to add that much in my opinion so I left most of them. Jeff had previously decided he just wasn't going to get an appetizer, but after hearing the descriptions he got the fried okra. He said it was quite good, but he liked mine better.

While we were waiting and talking and people watching, Jeff looked at me and said "I assume that guy in the white jacket with the thermometer in his pocket is the chef" speaking about an individual standing behind me talking to the maitre' d. I managed to maintain my composure and kept from doing the geek-tastic flip around, figuring it was probably not THE Chef Frank Stitt. When I casually looked over my shoulder I was surprised to find out it was HIM! I think my eyes bugged out of my head a little but I kept it together. Later in the meal I glanced out the front window and saw him walking toward the front door and I think I giggled a little. While texting my brother about the experience later, he asked "Did you tell him you're from Cullman too?" and I replied that I did not talk to him, which was probably best for everyone. I get star-struck very easily and generally get a bad case of the stupids when I open my mouth around someone I admire. I still count this as a successful interaction since we were in the same room and I didn't embarrass myself!

Dinner was out of this world. I originally had planned to order the ribeye and Jeff was going to get the red snapper. We were both kind of playing it safe and I think, in the back of our minds, thinking that we didn't way to pay that much for a meal we might not enjoy. Once again it was Brian the waiter to the rescue because, after his descriptions I decided to step out of my comfort zone and order the lamb. I have eaten lamb before, but never like this. I tried a bite of some my brother had once, and then I had some once when I was in England. This was nothing like either of those experiences or any other experience I've ever had. It was absolutely mind blowing! It kind of killed me to even give up a single bite to Jeff! Jeff got the pork chop, and while it was quite tasty, it was nowhere near as amazing as my lamb. There wasn't much in the way of conversation over dinner because we were both too busy chewing.

We probably should have stopped there, but I couldn't help myself when the dessert menu was offered. We decided to share the sorbet because I was mostly curious about the muscadine sorbet. I was pretty darn disappointed when there was no muscadine sorbet! The blueberry was a little sour, but the raspberry was good and the blackberry was my favorite. Still, I probably wouldn't order that again.

Still, this definitely ranks as the best meal I've ever eaten. I'm very much looking forward to a return trip in the not-so-distant future!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Latest Visit to the Georgia Aquarium

I love aquariums and sea life as a whole. I can't point to anything in particular that fostered this in me but I have a feeling that, like most things in my life, it can be traced through a series of small, seemingly insignificant and unrelated events that got me here. Regardless of the reasons, I love watching marine life. I'm not interested as much in the biology of them except for the social, community, personality aspects of it. I've been to the Georgia Aquarium several times, so when we started planning a trip back to Atlanta, I knew that a return to the aquarium was in order!

I ordered our tickets ahead of time, including parking, so we were all set. We decided to go on Sunday on our way out of town so I got our tickets for first thing in the morning. We arrived right at 10am, so we got a great parking spot not far from the reserved member spaces. We took the covered walkway to the entrance and were able to hop through the "advance purchase" line and there was no waiting, even at security. We strolled right in and got down to business.

There seemed to be a lot more volunteers there today than there were the last time we were there. They were all very nice, but you could tell that a few had worked really hard to learn their little bit and darn it we were going to hear it whether we wanted to or not! The guy at the sea horses probably got on my nerves the most. He wasn't rude, but as soon as we walked up to the exhibit, he started telling us exactly where all the sea horses were located. To me, the game of hunting for the various creatures is half the fun so it kind of killed it when he had already told me where they were!

My all-time favorite exhibit has always been and probably always will be the Beluga Whales. I could sit and watch them for hours. The cool, darkened room with soft music and the beautiful glow coming from their tank is very comfortable to me, and the way they move so gracefully and yet playfully is simply mesmerizing to me. I caught Jeff laughing at me on more than one occasion because I had this look on my face like I was in a trance but I was so calm and peaceful and happy that I couldn't help myself! I also had a "first" when I got to see one of them blow a bubble ring several times. Apparently that is something they learned, but it was very cool. Going early to this exhibit was definitely a plus because it was easy to get a great view and enjoy the atmosphere. When we came back later it was much more noisy and crowded and hard to get a good spot to watch for long. One day I'd love to do the Beluga interaction program, but I don't see it happening anytime soon!

Another neat experience was going through the tunnel under the Ocean Voyager exhibit where they have the manta rays and whale sharks. I always see neat stuff, but this time was probably my favorite because at one point all four of the whale sharks were within view over our heads at the same time! I also saw a lot more of the manta rays than I normally do, including one doing flips (which I learned is how they eat!) The "big tank" is another place I could normally spend a lot of time, but this time there was a dive show happening. It was very cool to get to see all the divers, but the room was so crowded with people who wanted to see the show that we didn't stay long.

Something new for this trip was the Dolphin Tales show. Because this requires a separate timed ticket, I opted for the second show of the day. That way, just in case we got a slow start from the hotel that morning, we wouldn't miss it. I discovered that was a bad mistake on my part. We ended up being done with everything else and having to kill some time waiting for the show. We were told we had to arrive 30 minutes prior to show time to get in, and getting into the theater was an ordeal in itself. It was very disorganized without much structure to the lines to go up the escalator. Then, when you got up the stairs it was tight, hot, crowded, and confusing. I came very close to just leaving if I could have figured out how to get out of there! Finally we came to the actual entrance to the theater, which again was kind of chaotic and involved lots of line jumping, shoving, and rudeness. When we finally got to our seats we were relieved except that we had to wait another 20 minutes for the show to start. I saw the same commercials about different aquarium things I'd already seen several times and a few bits about the creation of the show but that got old very quickly.

The show itself was kind of disappointing. It definitely had more theatrics than most of the shows we'd seen at Sea World, but the "story" was beyond cheesy. There was an "audience participation" part which is not something I enjoy or appreciate simply because there's a reason we're not the ones on stage! Still, we got through that part of it. I am all about the animals doing tricks to music, but at the "climax" the dolphins were doing their thing while there was a lot of other action happening on "stage" and because there was more lighting on the people than the dolphins, the animals kind of got lost at that point. If I had wanted to see a play, I would have gone to the Fox! The "end" when all the dolphins really got to shine was really fabulous, I just wish the whole show had been like that! The trainers really did a wonderful job. There were a couple of points when one dolphin didn't want to do what the others were doing, but with a little encouragement and a treat the trainers didn't miss a beat and just went on to the next thing. The most disappointing moment to me was when about four dolphins and four trainers popped over the front edge of the pool for the perfect photo opportunity. Why was that a disappointment? Because no photography was allowed! I get no flash and I even get no video, but if you're going to say no photos, don't work in the perfect photo-op as a trick of the show!

I guess I'm glad I went to the show because I know what it is but I also know that I don't want to see it again unless it changes! Despite all that, we had a wonderful visit to the aquarium. I will definitely be back, especially to see Baby Beluga!