Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 2012 Pinterest Inpsirations

My Pinterest discoveries for April 2012.

Pizza Roll Ups - These were super easy and yummy! Sort of like cheater calzones. The ingredients are things we nearly always have on hand, and they will make a great addition to our rotation for a simple and quick dinner on nights when I just don't feel like cooking.

Source: via Erin on Pinterest

Stovetop Mac & Cheese - I've been looking for a good stovetop macaroni and cheese recipe for a while now. I've tried a couple and been disappointed. This one, however, really hit the spot. I compared 3-4 different but similar recipes, and this is the one I chose. I let the milk and egg mixture thicken a bit before adding the cheese, and I halved the recipe, but other than that, I made it right by these directions. I still prefer my favorite baked recipe (they taste quite different), but when I don't have that kind of time, this will do.

Source: via Erin on Pinterest

Peanut Butter Cornflake Balls - These were pretty good. They reminded me of my MIL's rice krispy ball recipe, which I think is a little better. I liked these better warm than when they cooled (though that was easily fixed with the microwave), and I think I actually preferred them without the chocolate.

Balsamic-Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin - YUM!! This was the find of the month. So simple and so fantastic! I've been craving it ever since I made it the first time; just waiting for pork tenderloin to go on sale again. I just baked mine in the oven (didn't even sear it like the directions said), but it bet it is phenomenal grilled like the recipe originally calls for. Maybe one day I'll learn to grill.

Chicken and Dumpling Bake - This recipe was interesting. You don't make the dumplings yourself. You mix up the recipe in three parts and pour them in the baking dish in a particular order, then bake, and the dumplings sort of create themselves. It was good, but not fabulous. Certainly simpler than the traditional way. It didn't reheat very well, though, just FYI, and not making leftovers is pretty much a deal breaker for me with this type of recipe.

Crunchy Beef Casserole - This was definitely different, and I don't mean that in a bad way. It was just a very unusual (to me) combination of ingredients. It was good, though I'm still not quite 100% sure what I thought of it. I do think there was too much pasta in it. I would probably knock it down to 1-1.5 cups if I made it again, or better yet, I think I would substitute rice.

Currently feeling: pinned

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - April 25, 2012

Currently feeling: enjoying a lazy Sunday

Monday, April 23, 2012

31 Days of Oscar

Okay, so I'm about three weeks late, but I really enjoyed the 31 Days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies this year. During those 31 days, every film they show either won or was nominated for an Academy Award. I've been aware of it for years, of course, and I usually catch a handful of movies during the month. This year, I did better than that! I saw 36 movies on TCM watched or recorded during the 31 Days of Oscar (some watched during early to mid April), and 31 of them were new to me. (Repeats for me were My Fair Lady, The Nun's Story (an all time favorite), Gone with the Wind, Victor/Victoria, and To Catch a Thief.) Here's what I thought of all those new films:
* The Thrill of It All (Doris Day and James Garner, who I almost didn't recognize; still funny (and even somewhat applicable), even if some of the references are outdated)
* Some Like It Hot (I really enjoyed this movie; great part for Marylin Monroe, and I thought Jack Lemon was fantastic)
* Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (loved every single bit of this film (except the continued use of the word negro, which I know was common at the time); all performances were excellent!)
* The Unsinkable Molly Brown (I really like Debbie Reynolds, but I thought this movie was just okay)
* The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (not really my kind of movie, but such a classic, I felt I had to see it; Humphrey Bogart did give a great performance, though)
* The Spirit of St. Louis (this was just okay; a great typical James Stewart role in an okay to good movie; just a little blah)
* The Philadelphia Story (I actually did not enjoy this movie as much as I expected to, which is odd, considering I adore the three main leads)
* Wait Until Dark (thought this was very good; Audrey Hepburn was excellent, as usual, and boy, does Alan Arkin play a super creepy bad guy!)
* There's No Business Like Show Business (my first Ethel Merman film, and she's a hoot! this was pretty good, and a pretty good role for Marilyn Monroe)
* It's Always Fair Weather (was supposed to be a sequel to On The Town (which I watched later), but Sinatra couldn't do it; they brought in Cyd Charisse, though, so all is forgiven; and leave it to Gene Kelly to very gracefully tap dance in roller skates!)
* Let's Make Love (I generally quite like Marylin Monroe, but I didn't care much for this movie)
* Second Fiddle (my first Sonya Henie film, and I really liked it; she's very sweet, her "aunt" is hilarious, and I'm developing an affinity for Tyrone Power)
* Lover Come Back (my first Rock Hudson/Doris Day film, and I was quite enjoying it up until the last 5-10 minutes; bleh! ruined the whole film for me)
* Boy on a Dolphin (I wanted to see a young Sophia Loren, and I did; this was her first English film, and she's beautiful, but the movie was just so-so)
* On the Town (more Gene Kelly, who I adore; virtually the same cast as Take Me Out to the Ballgame (a personal favorite), and I enjoyed it almost as much)
* The Adventures of Robin Hood (I actually didn't like this as much as I hoped; acting *way* over the top (even for the era), and I found the extreme Technicolor distracting instead of stunning)
* A Room With a View (I quite liked this, though honestly not as much as I thought I might; exceptional cast, though, so worth seeing at least once)
* 42nd Street (I thought this was great fun! really enjoyed both Ruby Keeler and an early (pre-Fred) Ginger Rogers)
* King Solomon's Mines (interesting in its own way, but some parts were just bad; great scenery, though I can only hope they didn't really kill that elephant)
* A Yank in the R.A.F. (another Betty Grable, this one in black and white (shame); it offended my modern sensibilities more than average)
* Down Argentine Way (another film on my quest to see every Betty Grable film; this one was pretty good)
* Fiddler on the Roof (pretty good; pegged Topol from For Your Eyes Only immediately by his unmistakable voice!)
* The Lion in Winter (enjoyed this movie more than I should have; all scenes with Katharine Hepburn were exceptional)
* Captain Blood (I think I liked this Errol Flynn film better than The Adventures of Robin Hood!)
* The Spanish Main (eh; I like Maureen O'Hara, but this was just okay, though not as bad as it might have been thanks to her)
* Grand Hotel (really enjoyed this movie and all the stars in it; one of the first ever "ensemble films")
* Bullitt (quite interesting, definitely the precursor to modern films; I liked it)
* An American in Paris (not as good as I hoped; I prefer several other Gene Kelly films)
* Meet Me in St. Louis (didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would; it was fine, but just okay, not great)
* The Harvey Girls (liked this Judy Garland offering much better; more fun and spitfire, and seeing a young Angela Lansbury as "head saloon girl" was priceless)
* Flying Down to Rio (the first Fred and Ginger pairing, and though ironically they were not the leads in the film, they definitely stole the show)

Currently feeling: much more like a classic movie buff

Will be trying to catch up

As you have probably noticed, I haven't done very well at staying caught up on my blog since late March. I hope to be caught up by the end of April (thought I can't promise a Disney trip recap by then), but we'll have to see. I will post things to appear in the month of April, then back date them to the proper "spot" in early May. Advance apologies for any confusion.

Currently feeling: behind

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Less help, please

Dear car,
I realize that you are trying to be helpful and protect people who tend to forget to lock their doors when they leave the vehicle. However, I had *expressly* unlocked all of the doors when I left you momentarily parked at the end of the driveway. You see, I had an errand to run immediately after picking up Luke from the bus stop. But, there was no need for me to carry the keys with me to wait, so I left them sitting on the front passenger's seat. The last thing I did before closing the door was make sure the doors were unlocked. This was intentional on my part! So you can see how distressing it was to return to the car 10 minutes later and find that you "helpfully" locked the doors on my behalf. While I appreciate the gesture, I wish you would please be a little less helpful in the future. Thank you for your cooperation.

Erin, who doesn't like being locked out of her car

Thankfully, we were still able to get back in the house, but I had to wait for my husband to come home to get back into the car.

Currently feeling: ridiculous

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

RMS Titanic: 100 Years

100 years ago today, on April 15, 1912, RMS Titanic sank into the icy waters of the Atlantic ocean, killing over 1500 people. She was not to be seen again by human eyes for 73 years, but the story has stayed in the public consciousness for a century. I've said for years now that I needed to write about my obsession with Titanic. I've intended to on two other occasions, but I never got to it. I joked at the time that maybe I should just write the entry and hold it for the 100th anniversary. When I realized in January that the day in question was now only a few months away, I did exactly that.

I have literally been fascinated with this ship since I was a child, and it all started with a television show. Anyone remember Voyagers? The show where a time traveler and a kid go around "correcting" history? The show lasted only one season due to the death of its star, but one season is all it took. One episode, actually. According to IMDb, the episode "Voyagers of the Titanic" originally aired on February 27, 1983, and I was immediately hooked by the story of this huge beautiful ship that sank so tragically. Years later, that is the only episode of the show I could specifically recall. I actually got to see it again a few months ago, showing on the local retro channel. It really was one of the best episodes of the show. The details of the sinking are completely wrong, of course, but they didn't know that at the time.

The problem with seeing the episode in 1983 is that there wasn't much available on Titanic in the early 80s, certainly nothing a 7-year-old could really grasp. Not long after, we moved to Virginia, which had a wonderful Mariner's Museum that housed a few Titanic artifacts, though I'm not sure I made the connection at the time. (I do have clear memories of the figureheads that were on display, though.) The story of Titanic in general, and that episode of Voyagers in particular, stayed with me but faded over the years, until I stumbled on a book at Sam's Wholesale club: The Deep Sea, by Joseph Wallace, copyright 1987. (I can't swear to when I actually bought the book, but knowing Sam's, it was probably within a year or so of its publication, so I was 11-12 years old.)

The whole book fascinated me; it is where I learned about bioluminescent creatures and tube worms and chemosynthesis around the black smokers. There was also a section on treasure hunting and underwater archaeology, and from that was born an obsession with the deep ocean and shipwrecks that follows me to this day. It was where I first learned of Mel Fisher's Atocha.

Just a few years later (around 1992), we stumbled across a shop selling Atocha pendants in St. Augustine, FL. I purchased a small pendant (about the size of a dime, roughly a half inch (a bit more than a centimeter) across) made of actual silver recovered from the wreck, stamped with a design copied directly from one of the actual coins. I'm not obsessed with the Atocha the way I am with Titanic, but it does represent my fascination with the ocean and shipwrecks in general. I still wear it to this day, and people still ask me about it, most recently at my niece's birthday party this past Easter weekend. It is one of my most prized possessions.

But The Deep Sea book also brought back ghosts from my own past. Of the book's 142 pages, 14 are devoted to Titanic. Flipping through the pages, the memory of the episode of Voyagers from years prior came flooding back, and this book had photos of that same ship sitting on the bottom of the ocean.

There has to be more! I found the back issues of National Geographic that my father had, and both magazines featuring her were there. I still have them (somewhere). Then Dr. Robert Ballard's book The Discovery of The Titanic entered my life. It is also copyright 1987, and I believe it was also purchased at Sam's, likely in 1988 (my copy is from the December 1987 printing).

It's hard to see in the photo, but the cover/dust jacket is battered and creased. I've read it cover to cover countless times in the 20+ years I've owned it. I became a devoted follower of Dr. Ballard's research and work, but for a decade, these two books and two National Geographic magazines were the only writings I could find on Titanic herself. The images haunted me. It was years before I could look at these two images (below) without breaking out into chills, flipping the page quickly to avoid the visceral reaction to such beautiful majesty mingled with the horror of that night.

Over the course of the next few years, I purchased the National Geographic episode "Secrets of the Titanic" on both VHS and (eventually) DVD, and I watched A&E's excellent 1994 Titanic documentary every time it came on television (really wish I could find it (affordably) on DVD!). I was constantly frustrated by the fact that the books were out of print for every author they interviewed, but I kept the faith. One day, eventually, there would be more published about her, even if I had to wait until 2012 and the 100th anniversary, which seemed like *forever* away at the time.

Then came James Cameron. I don't remember when I started to hear rumblings of a Titanic movie, but it was fairly early on, probably late 1995 or early 1996. I was livid! They were going to take my beloved personal obsession and make it some kind of background for a cheesy love story? Could the Terminator guy even *do* a cheesy love story? Please, don't ruin this for me! But, with all of the hype around the 1997 film, suddenly all of those books I had been searching for were back in print, and plenty of new ones were being published. It was heaven! I now own over 30 books on Titanic, and another 5-10 on other shipwrecks and underwater exploration (most by Dr. Ballard).

Several of those books were acquired when my brother and I went to see the RMS Titanic Inc. exhibition at The Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee. I'm sure the timing of the exhibit was no coincidence, only a few months prior to the release of a certain movie. That was such a cool trip! It is one of my most cherished memories, not only because of Titanic, but because of my brother. Memories of Memphis (and his and my trip to New York in 1994) will remain with me forever. I had just turned 21, but Jacob would have been 16 because he was still a couple of weeks shy of his birthday. He and I flew into Memphis separately, each by ourselves, met up at the airport, and spent the night at a hotel. The next morning, we caught a cab to the exhibit, then flew home together. I can even tell you the exact date we saw the exhibit: August 16, 1997. Why do I know that? Because we flew out the day of the 20th anniversary of Elvis's death! Remember, we were in Memphis (you know, where Graceland is); it was absolutely bonkers. We had no idea of the significance of the date when we booked the trip, but it does explain why we had such difficulty finding a hotel room, and why we eventually made the trip on Friday instead of Saturday.

Sorry, back to James Cameron. I wasn't sure at the time that I even wanted to see the movie itself. The people who were the focus of the film weren't even real! It didn't even have any big name actors in it. I'd heard of DiCaprio, but I wasn't much of a fan; he's just that little kid from Growing Pains. And there was some new British chick I'd never heard of before. Why bother? But if it got all of these books republished and spurred new documentaries and information, then I was all for it. The more I learned about the movie, though, the more impressed I was regarding Cameron's dedication to detail. When they started releasing production stills, they literally took my breath away. Sure, the clock and the dome of the grand staircase were right; that's not too difficult. But the floor tiles were right, too! He didn't have to go to that kind of trouble, but he did. I finally decided to go see the movie just so I could *see* the ship recreated. It was as close as I could ever come to seeing her in all her glory and in living color. Turns out the movie itself was pretty good, too.

The problem, of course, was that Titanic became incredibly popular once it became the highest grossing film ever (at the time). That shouldn't be a bad thing, but it irritated me. I had been at least mildly obsessed with this ship for about 15 years by that point, and all throughout school, I was the only one who knew about her. Then comes the movie, and suddenly *everyone* is a fan. Yes, I enjoyed talking about Titanic with actual people, but the problem was that people only wanted to talk about the movie, not the ship! Or, they would find out I was a Titanic fan and assume that it was a recent thing simply because of the movie. It just ruffled my feathers that I had worked so hard for so many years to learn about her, and these people just waltz into my personal niche and act like it was all their idea.

Image from NOAA and is public domain.

I've had two amazing Titanic encounters since the movie. The first was in 2007 (dang, that was 5 years ago?!). A certain friend of mine with the significant birthday of April 14 was in town. She is a fellow long-time Titanic fan, and she was visiting Atlanta when that same Titanic exhibit from Memphis happened to be in town. Of course, it had been 10 years since Memphis, so there were new things to be seen. I wasn't sure if The Big Piece, a roughly 25-by-15 foot (7.6-by-4.6 meter) section of hull that was recovered from the bottom of the ocean, was part of this particular exhibit, but I had to find out. Annette and I had made it nearly all the way through the exhibit, and I hadn't seen any mention of it. I was so disappointed. I had decided I would ask the next docent I saw which other touring show had it and where it might be traveling to next.

I rounded a corner into a large room and felt like I'd been punched in the chest. The Big Piece was right in front of me. I truly could not catch my breath and had to sit down. It is one thing to see pictures or artifacts the size of a plate, or even as large as a barrel. To be suddenly confronted with a huge physical piece of something I had only dreamed of for 20-ish years was overwhelming. It took me several minutes to gather myself together and walk closer to it. On my way into the room, I spotted a crowd of people hovering around a plexiglass case off to my left. Inside was a small hunk of metal, perhaps half a square yard/meter in size. As the group that surrounded the box walked away, I was left alone at the display containing a piece of Titanic's steel plates. There was a small hole in the top of the plexiglass, with a sign that said "Touch Me." So I did. It was slightly cool to the touch, and very smooth. A sign elsewhere in the room explained that the metal was protected from further corrosion by a coating of special wax, which explains why it didn't feel as metallic as I expected. I was overwhelmed by the sheer fact that I was actually *touching* a piece of Titanic, something I never ever expected to do, and in that moment, I started to cry. Not sobbing or wailing, but an unstoppable slow and steady stream of tears. To literally be touching this piece of history I had studied for so long was almost more than I could take.

I had to walk away, but the only choices were either out of the room, or towards The Big Piece. So I got closer. I walked all the way around it several times, very slowly. The engineer in me took over for a bit, and I was much more fascinated by the "back side" than the outside. The support structure and rivets were amazing. I sat on the wall that surrounded it (it looked like a bench to me, though a very anxious security guard very politely informed me otherwise!), and I could have easily reached out and touched the piece, but I didn't. I was transfixed by the way the light came through a fragment of glass still caught in one of the portholes. (I would have done nearly anything at that moment to have been allowed to take photos!) How was the room formerly encased by this wall decorated? What did the linens and floor look like? Who was the last person to look through that very same glass in 1912? (Probably whoever had prepped the room before sailing; it was unoccupied during the voyage.) What was the last thing that porthole had seen before sinking into the icy darkness for almost a century? The feelings of those precious moments, seeing The Big Piece and touching an actual piece of the hull, linger with me even now. I still get chills to this day, and it is an experience I will always remember.

As wonderfully amazing as that day was, Titanic and I still had one piece of unfinished business. During my 1997 Memphis trip, they had a bollard on display. It was still very corroded and stood in the section of the exhibit that discussed conservation efforts and techniques. It looked very much as it does in the photo above at the time. If I recall correctly, the sign in Memphis mentioned that it would be many years before it would be ready for display. I looked for this bollard in 2007, but it was no where to be found. I thought perhaps it was still being restored, or it had been appropriated into other exhibits that I would likely never see. Then came a new small exhibition called Titanic Aquatica that premiered here in Atlanta at the Georgia Aquarium, which I visited in 2009. At the start of the exhibit, you enter into a small room with the ship's bell suspended in the center and hear a little spiel on what you are about to see. When the doors opened into the actual exhibit, the first artifact that greeted me was that same bollard, fully restored. I couldn't believe it was actually there, looking all spiffy and fresh. It was like seeing an old friend!

As thrilled as I am to see real items from the Titanic, I am also very conflicted about the whole thing. I don't mind the non-personal items that they picked up from the debris field so much, but the shoes and suitcases and jewelry really bother me. One of the things Dr. Ballard has discussed is how there are pairs of shoes strewn all over the ocean floor near the wreck. Pairs, because that is where a body had landed, and all that remains is the tanned leather that ocean organisms do not consume. Someone may have gone to the bottom holding that suitcase to stay afloat; someone was probably wearing that necklace when she died. If you want to pick up a plate or a bottle from a stack out in the debris field, I'm fine with that. It is unlikely that those items mark the final resting place of someone. However, I feel that the personal items should have stayed where they were. I know going to see the exhibit (which I've seen 3 times now in various incarnations) funds the work to bring up more things, potentially more personal items, but I simply cannot stay away, either. The lure, particularly of The Big Piece should I ever be near it again (I think it is currently in Las Vegas), is just too strong.

This past week marking the 100th anniversary of the sinking was a flurry of Titanic television programs, many of which I had seen, but some new ones as well. It has been absolute bliss! Luke has sat through over 8 hours of Titanic programming with me this week. For the first one, I think maybe he was humoring me, but for the last three days in a row, he has expressly requested to watch a Titanic show. I had tried showing it to him over the last couple of years, but he wasn't very interested. It struck me quite hard yesterday that he is now almost exactly the same age I was when I first learned of and became interested in the great ship. "Mommy, I love these exploring shows!" Passing the torch, perhaps?

The picture above shows my current collection of books and magazines. As you can see, there is one full shelf (bottom), and my two most recent magazine acquisitions from this past week on the shelf above (in front of some non-Titanic books). I'm sure I'll be picking up a few new books as well (not that I really need anymore, LOL). Everyone asks me "how many books on the same thing can you possibly have?" Well, every time I read one, I learn something I didn't know! I also have A Night to Remember on the DVR, and I intend to see the James Cameron movie (in 3D) at the theater some evening next week. In the last couple of years, I have learned that the exhibition group that owns RMS Titanic, Inc. and the artifacts is actually based here in Atlanta. To commemorate the centennial anniversary of her sinking, they have launched a new exhibit here in town. DH and I plan to go see it in the next couple of weeks. Originally, we did not intend to take Luke, but given the interest he has shown in the past week, I may change my mind. I can't wait to see what Titanic has in store for me next! I envision many more fascinating years together.

Currently feeling: as enthralled as ever

Friday, April 13, 2012

Riding the Bus Home

This is Luke getting *off* the school bus at home for the first time. He's ridden the bus almost every day to school since he started Kindergarten in August 2010, but he's gone to after care at Kindercare on their own bus. He had attended that Kindercare nearly every day since September of 2006, over five and a half years. The director there has become a close personal friend of mine. We miss everyone there terribly, but I really think the break will be good for Luke. (He'll be attending their summer camp program once school is out, at least on a part time basis, so it's not like we'll be gone forever; really just a few weeks).

He's been riding the bus home for a week now, and so far, he absolutely *loves* it! We even discovered that a classmate of his lives in our neighborhood. We didn't know that before now because this friend doesn't ride the bus in the mornings, only in the afternoon. The friend and his mom even stopped by on Wednesday to invite us over to play next week. I'm embarrassed to say that this may be his first ever official play date. Amazing how things have changed in just a few short weeks.
Currently feeling: happy he's happy

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wrong Day to Oversleep

As most of you know, I am not a morning person. It has always been one of my fears that we would oversleep on a school day before something important, like a required state test or a field trip. So far, I've managed to either forget to set the alarm, or just slept right through it (or turned it off without realizing it) about once a year, but not on an important event day until today.
When I opened my eyes this morning, there was daylight streaming into my bedroom, the first sign that something was very wrong. Then, within a few seconds, I remembered they were leaving for their field trip that morning. Within about 15 seconds of waking up, I was out of bed and wide awake. It was just before 7 AM. I got Luke up and moving, and I called his teacher at school to explain what had happened and request that they please not leave without him! I didn't think we were going to be late enough for that to be a risk, but I wanted to be sure. Turns out, we actually made it to school before he was even late technically late (dropped him off around 7:35, and you're not late until 7:40). Whew!

Currently feeling: cutting it close

Wordless Wednesday - April 11, 2012

Currently feeling: ride 'em, cowboy!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

A Ladybug Birthday

We were thrilled that things worked out again this year for us to spend Easter weekend celebrating our older niece's birthday. This year's theme was a ladybug horse party. Niece N, her mom, and I got there a little early to set up. N occupied herself with brushing a pony while she waited for her guests to arrive.

The party was held at a local farm and horse park. There were all sorts of animals there.

All of the kids had a great time riding in the horse drawn cart.

And Luke got to ride a horse for the first time.

Niece N rode twice, including once with Luke. She was not afraid at all and loved every minute of it!

Niece M and Jennifer also got a ride on the horse cart, albeit at a slower pace than the bigger kids went.

M will be two next month. I love to watch her exploring the world.

The peacock was one of the star attractions. We all had a great time feeding and photographing it.

And of course, everyone got excited when it decided to show off for us.

(This is my favorite peacock photo of all 100+ that I took.)

These cupcakes were entirely the idea of my sister-in-law Jennifer. She and I spent most of the day Friday working on them. She made the cupcakes and icing (I helped with coloring), she iced and I put on the chocolate chip spots, I cleaned the mini-Oreos and she made and applied the faces, I made the antenna and she placed them. I think they turned out absolutely adorable, even if I do say so myself!

This may be my absolute most favorite photo of the entire trip:

Here are some more fun pictures from the day.

We had a really great time! It is always such a pleasure to see and spend time with them. I wish we could do it more often. If all goes well, we should get to see them at least twice more this year. Can't wait!

Currently feeling: family love