Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Arizona Weekend

We spent three wonderful days in Scottsdale, Arizona for the long weekend.

Obviously a majority of our time was spent in the lazy river at the Westin Kierland.

We enjoyed reading, drinking, and relaxing poolside as well.

Yes, my husband reads "Foreign Affairs" poolside. Super light reading, right? :)

We also had dinner with some friends of mine from work in Phoenix one of the nights, which was a blast.

On our final day we hiked Pinnacle Peak.

It's a 3.5 mile hike through a really cool desert mountain.

We saw tons of wildlife. Lots or rabbits, birds, and lizards. We managed to capture a picture of one huge lizard lounging on this rock. Can you spot him?

We also saw lots of great desert plants and cacti. Like this crazy Saguaro Cactus.

There are also some amazing views of Scottsdale.

If you're ever in Scottsdale I highly recommend this hike.

How was your Memorial Day?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona

Errr, I mean Phoenix, Arizona.

That means we're off to our fourth annual trip to Phoenix!

I've blogged about prior trips here and here.

We love to escape LA during the May Grey/June Gloom phase and get some fun and sun in the desert.

We'll be lounging by this pool...

At this resort...

But I'm guessing a majority of time will be spent in the laaaaazy river!

Is anyone else obsessed with lazy rivers like we are?

Have a great long weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What We've Been Watching

The Mr. and I love to watch movies and TV series together on Netflix. It's something nice we can do after work with a glass of wine to unwind and reconnect.

We do however occasionally make it to the theater to catch a new movie.

Like this past weekend I (somehow) got the Mr. to see Bridesmaids with me.

It was so nice of him to go with me because this was SUCH a "girl movie" but he tolerated it and even had a few laughs. It was pretty funny, but not amazing. I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

It definitely wasn't as good as some of the Academy Award nominated movies we've been watching on Netflix Lately.

We recently rented The Social Network, The Kings Speech, The Fighter, and Blue Valentine.

We LOVED The Social Network. For me, this should have won Best Picture. Great acting, great music, and a socially relevant story line. I give it 5 stars out a 5.

The King's Speech was very good. Fantastic acting. I still give it 5 stars out 5, I just don't think the subject matter was a relevant to our society as the Social Network.

The Fighter was good. It was pretty much the same as every other movie about boxing/sports/bad neighborhoods in Massachusetts/dysfunctional families ever made, but we liked it a lot. I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Note: We've now seen 9/10 of the Best Picture Nominees from 2010. Not bad!

Finally, Blue Valentine. I had such high hopes for this movie. I'd heard it was poignant and superbly acted. Well, The Mr. quit watching at about the 40 minute mark. I soldiered on and in the end wished I had not. The movie was depressing, disturbing, and left me with nothing to take away from it. I give it 1.5 stars out a 5 (redeemed only by some good acting ).

We've recently also been watching some older TV Shows on Netflix: Rome, Twin Peaks, and Nip/Tuck.

Rome is fantastic! Great acting. Great history (esp. if you're a history geek like me).

Twin Peaks is a early 1990s show. It's a thriller/mystery filled with quirky, funny characters. We really enjoyed Season 1. But now Season 2 is disappointing us.

Nip/Tuck was also good for the first couple of seasons, but now that we're several seasons in, it's kind of jumped the shark. I think we may quit watching it.

Have you seen any of these movies or TV shows? What did you think? What have you been watching lately?

Monday, May 23, 2011

"You'll Wear it Again"

One of my best friends and I were talking about how we have these pink bridesmaid dresses from weddings we have been in hanging in our closets, but we never have an occasion to wear them.

So we decided to make an occasion... Sunday Champagne Brunch on the Queen Mary!

Yay for bottomless mimosas!

And yay for actually wearing our bridesmaid dresses again!

Have you ever worn a bridesmaid dress again?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Healtier PW Chicken Spaghetti

This recipe is my "healthier" take on the famous Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti Casserole.

Basically I increased the chicken and the veggies. And decreased the noodles, the cheese, and the cream of chicken/mushroom soup.

The Ingredients
  • 3 cups Cooked Chicken
  • 2 cups Dry Spaghetti, Broken Into Two Inch Pieces
  • 1 can Cream Of Chicken Soup
  • 1/2 cup Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 Green Peppers Finely Diced
  • 1 Red Pepper, Finely Diced
  • 1 Finely Diced White Onion
  • 1 Cup of Mushrooms, Finely Diced
  • 1/2 cup Reserved Chicken Broth From Pot
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • ⅛ teaspoons (to 1/4 Teaspoon) Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Additional Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
(And if you have extra veggies like lying around the house, like green onions, squash, or extra onions or peppers, you can finely dice those and throw them in the mix. Extra veggies = extra goodness!)

For pretty pictures of chicken and veggies being chopped up and mixed be sure to check out the original recipe.

Preparation Instructions
  • Cook 1 cut up fryer (chicken) and pick out the meat to make three cups.
  • Cook spaghetti in same chicken broth until al dente.
  • Combine all ingredients except 1 cup sharp cheddar in a bowl.
  • Place mixture in casserole dish (or multiple smaller casserole dishes for smaller serving sizes) and top with remaining sharp cheddar.
  • Cover and freeze up to six months, cover and refrigerate up to two days, or bake immediately at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly.
  • I like to freeze one serving and cook another right away. Double your meals!

This is how it looked right before I put it in the oven.

So delish! And packed full of yummy veggies!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Things I'm Loving... Clothing & Blogs Edition

Lately I've been doing a little bit of shopping for spring clothes. I've found a bunch of adorable dresses (like the green one I wore on Mother's Day, the brand is Max & Cleo by the way) and some other fun items.

Here are some my other finds that I am loving right now!

Halogen Cardigans from Nordstrom

I own this cardigan in two colors and I just may have to go back and get more! They are the perfect sweater to wear to work with slacks or skirts in the Spring. And they are really reasonably priced.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Swim-skirt-suit from Lord & Taylor

I hate shopping for swimwear as much as the next girl but I loved this suit from the moment I tried it on. It's perfect for a more "pear-shaped" girl like me. I even got several complements on it from strangers at the pool in Palm Springs last weekend.

Gap ribbed tank tops

I own this tank top in five colors. I loved it so much when I bought it that I went back and bought four more. They are so soft and definitely long enough, even for longer-torsoed girls like me. I pretty much spend my whole weekend in these tops. Running errands, going to yoga, lounging around the house, hanging at the pool, you name it, these tanks work.

Skinny Shirt

I read about Skinny Shirt in a magazine (I think it was Self or Shape). They are collared tank tops made of cotton on top and spandex on the bottom to put under sweaters to make a basic sweater look more professional without the bulk of a button-up.

Check out this demo:

So cool right?!

Anyway, the shirt is not cheap (the Mr. had a heart attack when he found out I spent $70 on a tank top). But as I explained to him this shirt will expand my work wardrobe by making some of my older sweaters look different and classy. I've wore it a couple of times to work now and have really liked the look of it!

Switching to blogs now...

I read SO many great blogs. Some of my favorites are listed on the sidebar and you should definitely check those out. But I wanted to highlight a couple that I have loved lately.

The first, Tips on Triplets

This blog is written by my real-life friend Jeremy. I've been good friends with him and his wife for about 5 years now, ever since we were in the same Life Group at Church. Well he and his wife, Carey, are pregnant with identical spontaneous triplet boys! Jeremy is hilarious both in real life and on his blog. Plus following their journey is fascinating. I can't believe they are going from a family of two to a family of five sometime this summer/fall! I'm so excited to meet their boys!

The second, Long Distance Love and the Magazine that Saved Her Life

{AV} wrote about finding a suspicious mole after comparing it to 2-minute skin cancer test in Glamour. She went to her dermatologist and it turned out to be melanoma. Melanoma is the #1 cancer that kills young women. Yesterday I had two suspicious freckles removed at my dermatologist. Probably nothing, but better to be safe than sorry, especially since both of my parents have had various kind of less-serious skin cancer.

What are you loving right now?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Required Watching for Americans and Required Reading for Californians

I don't get political on my blog a lot. Which is kind of odd, because in "real life" I am very interested in current events and politics.

I think that's because I don't want to offend anyone. I tend to be a peace-maker in political discussion, even though I have my own opinions. I pretty much have to be -- my Dad is a passionate Democrat and my husband is a Republican. Basically I had to register as an Independent so as to not pick sides. That, and I actually am an Independent.

That said, I think the most important thing any American can do is be an informed citizen and vote. Even I don't agree with you, I will 100% respect you if you are informed about the issues and vote based on that. I don't like it much when people are apathetic or when people are "single-issue voters."

So in the spirit of being an informed electorate. I thought I'd share a couple of things that I personally think should be required watching and reading for Americans, particularly Californians.

The first is the documentary, Waiting For Superman.

I think this documentary did an excellent job exposing the problems with America's educational system. I think American teachers truly are a national treasure. I had so many life-changing and amazing teachers. But I think that teachers are often surrounded by a broken system.

Does this documentary address every issue in American schools? No. But it does a great job of giving a fair look at American education. Therefore, I declare this "required watching for all Americans."

The second is The Economist, particularly the special report on California and direct democracy gone awry.

The Mr. and I subscribe to the Economist and read it every week at our breakfast table, in bed, and on airplanes. If you're looking for a balanced and informative news source, subscribe to The Economist.

A couple of weeks ago The Economist did a special report on California that was particularly good. The report covered the history of the "failed state" and the unintended consequences of direct democracy gone haywire.

Therefore, this report is "required reading" for all Californians, but I strongly suggest that everyone read it considering 1 in 8 Americans are Californians.

The Special Report had several articles. Here are the links to them all:

And for statistics/graph nerds like me, you'll be excited to know that the articles contain great charts and stats like these:

(from The Economist)

If you saw Waiting for Superman or read this Economist special report, leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts. I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mother's Day, Luau Bridal Shower, and my BFF is Back!

So this post is a few days late. I hate when bloggers complain about not being able to blog, but seriously work has been kicking. my. butt. So bear with me...

Last weekend was Mother's Day. I was so glad I got to spend the day with my Mommy!

This is one of my new favorite pictures of us -- taken on Mother's Day 2011.

This is what I gave my Mom for Mother's Day. A Blurb Photo Book of all of the trips her and I have taken together. Just our mother-daughter trips.

It includes trips to Lake of the Ozarks, Quincy IL, Chicago, Boston, Salem, San Diego, and New York City.

She loved it!

This Mother's Day was a tough one for me, so I was happy that I was distracted by co-hostessing a bridal shower for my God-Sister (my God-Mother's daughter) on Mother's Day. My Mom and I co-hostessed it with another Mother-Daughter that we're all good friends with. And the shower was mainly Mothers and Daughters that we're close with. Very fun.

Here's some of the fun food and decor. Reminded me a lot of my own 2008 Luau Bridal Shower.

The food was so good and my Mom made amazing Mai Tais!

Here are the hostesses, the bride-to-be (in black and white), and her Mom.

Also, my best friend in the whole world (aka my childhood playmate/maid of honor/almost sister) is BACK from her 2.5 years in Ecuador for the Peace Corps. I missed her SO much. I got to spend a lot of last weekend with her. I am so glad she is back! Sadly, she is moving to Washington DC in August, but I know I'll see her a lot more when she's in DC rather than Ecuador.

Reunited and feels so good!

Are you still best friends with someone from your childhood? Do you see them a lot or a little?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Book Reviews: The Help, GWDT, The Pact

I am still chugging away on my 2011 reading plan.

These are the books that I read in February, March, and April.

The Help

I loved this book! The characters and their stories totally sucked me in. It was such a great way to understand more about the South and race relations in the South in the 1960s. I'm not a Southern girl, so I think I related less to the stories about Junior League and sweet tea, but I loved this book just the same.

My rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I may have been the last person in America to read this book and I may be one of the only people that didn't like it. The first 100 pages were so boring I almost quit. Then I started to get interested in the story on the Vangers which kept me going. I enjoyed uncovering the mystery of the Vanger family, but the amount of sexual violence depicted turned my stomach. At the end of the day the book was just OK for me. I will not be reading the rest of the books in the series.

My rating: 3 stars out of 5

The Pact

I think I am done with Jodi Picoult books. I've enjoyed several of them (especially 19 minutes and Plain Truth), but now I realize that all of the books follow the same formula (crime --> lies --> courtroom drama --> truth). This was by far my least favorite Picoult book I've read. I found the characters to be completely irrational and unbelievable. I just wanted to smack some sense into half of them. And the themes of the The Pact are seriously HEAVY. Pregnancy, suicide, molestation, marital strife, and the loss of best friendships. I literally felt sick reading most of this book and tried to finish it as quick as possible just to find out how it ended.

My rating: 2 stars out of 5

Did you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Delicious Wine... and a Dress giveaway!

You all know that the Newlyweds Next Door love wine.

So I was really excited when the super nice people at FlipFlop Wines contacted me to sample two of their wines.

I had a chance to try the Pinot Grigio and the Riesling and I really enjoyed both of them.

What's great about FlipFlop wines:
1. Their wines are a fantastic value. They cost just $7.00 a bottle. For the price, this wine is terrific! It's perfect for a glass after work or bottle with friends on the weekend. There is definitely some crappy, cheap wine out there, but FlipFlop Wine packs some serious bang for your buck.
2. The wine is"idiot proof". The back of each bottle tells what it tastes like (for example the Pinot Grigio says it tastes like tropical citrus and ripe pear), if it's more sweet or dry, and what food it pairs well with. So if you're new to drinking wine this will help you to figure out what flavor/body you like and how to pair wine with food (as I learned it Italy, "you have-a the food, you have-a the wine!")
3. The wine supports a good cause. FlipFlop Wines partners with Soles4Souls, the international shoe charity dedicated to providing free footwear to those in need.They will give one pair of flip-flop sandals to Soles4Souls for each bottle of FlipFlop wine purchased. How cool is that?

My thoughts on the Riesling:
- The FlipFlop Riesling is a great "sweet wine." For me it could almost be a dessert wine.
- It's well balanced with a very smooth finish (not acidic at all)
- It's great for drinking in evening by itself or with a spicy Asian meal.
- A good wine for the price.

My thoughts on the Pinot Grigio:
- The FlipFlop Pinot Grigio is light-bodied and refreshing.
- It's a perfect "Summer Afternoon" wine.
- It tasted great with gourmet pizza from Trader Joe's.
- A fantastic wine for the price. I need to pick up more of this, stat!

Want to read more about FlipFlop Wine? Check out and "like" their Facebook page.

*Note: I was not paid or compensated by FlipFlop Wine for my review. They provided the wine to sample for free in exchange for a honest review.

And, because I love you guys, I have another NEW giveaway happening for a beautiful "North Shore" dress from Shabby Apple. Go to my Giveaways Blog to enter now!
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