Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For an S Gal... There's No Place like "Home"

For those of you who are not S Women yet this blog post may make absolutely no sense to you. I am working on a blog posting that tries to explain what S Factor means to me but it's taking me awhile to write it because it's turned into a bit of a novel!! For those of you who are S Women... I think you will understand....

Have you ever just completely had the wind taken out of your sails to the point that you feel beyond deflated? Your soul sinks and your stomach aches and you feel like someone has punched you in the gut.... That's how I feel right now. Let me explain...

I am in Vegas and Ken is doing some work so I thought I would take in a pole class just for the heck of it and why not since I am here. Jen told me about Fawnia Dietrich (who is apparently the first pole fitness instructor - or such is her claim) and that I should absolutely go and take a class from her. So I was game. I had been to another pole studio before while visiting Annapolis so I knew it was nothing like S Factor but thought that's okay it will still be fun. So off I went to class.

To start with we did about 2 minutes of "warm-up" if you can call it that. And then we dove into pole tricks. They were definitely some cool pole tricks but the point that just did me in was when she did a trick combo to the ground and did a half hip circle to a pole bend and said "this transition {meaning the half hip circle} is what will make you stand out from other pole studio gals." ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? That's a transition? I collected myself and just kept going telling myself that I know their idea of a class like this is totally different than what mine is.... and that's when it hit me like a ton of bricks. (I am pretty sure you could've seen it on my face if you'd been there.)

I am so excited to be moving to Annapolis as most of you know. I am psyched about a new place to live, being in a great town where I can walk to everything, seasons, being so close to DC etc. And I always knew I was going to miss S Factor but for some reason tonight it slammed into me like a Mack truck just how much I am going to miss S Factor. Yes there is a pole studio called Expose in Annapolis but (and for those of you who aren't S Women I know you won't get this but that's what I hope my next S Factor themed blog will explain) but...........
Don't get me wrong - I love the pole. Lately my EC has been completely enamored with the reverse jack-knife. But it's so much more than that. I leave my S Factor class, wether it's my usual Monday night with the amazing Krystal and the most awesome group of ladies ever or if it's another class that I've dropped into with a different instructor and different incredible women, and I feel so happy and fulfilled and at peace and well... whole.

Fawnia is amazing and incredibly talented and I enjoy watching her perform. The class itself is good if that's what you are interested in. And I certainly could learn a lot of tricks from her or someone like her... but that's not what brings me back to S Factor week after week....

I managed through the rest of the class, there was still about 30 minutes to go. Did some tricks that were new to me.... at the end did a 3 minute cool down.... gathered my stuff and headed to my car. I got in my car, closed and locked the door and just sat there. (And no I am not being melodramatic here - I am totally serious.) I began to tear up. It hit me just how big a part of my life that S Factor is for me and how incredibly much it means to me. And in just over 150 days I won't have a studio that is even remotely close to me. The closest studio to Annapolis is the New York Studio which is 4 hours away with no traffic. (And for those of you who have ever visited NYC or the DC area you know the idea of no traffic is laughable! There's always traffic!) The DVD workouts are good but they are just not the same...

So now I am a bit melancholy and what I am in desperate need of is some moving meditation I think....
If only I had a teleporter....

Stay tuned... I promise I am working on my short novel that talks more about my love for S Factor....

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This dog is all legs I tell ya....

He is just so darn cute!! And yes he frequently does sleep on the tops of the back of the couch and chair! In fact he's discolored the leather there - it's HIS spot :)

Late Night Reading...

You would think I would have learned by now... I've had this problem since I was a kid but yet I still haven't learned my lesson...

I love to read but for as long as I remember the same thing happens when I try and read in bed before going to sleep - there's no sleep inducing quality for me (which some people claim to experience) - it is actually the exact opposite. Once I start a book it is very hard for me to put it down if I am enjoying it so I end up staying up WAY too late to read more. The last 2 nights are perfect examples.

Two nights ago I went to bed but wasn't tired enough to go to sleep so I went a grabbed a book off the shelf that I have been wanting to read . (Sadly I don't get to read nearly as much as I would like to anymore.) I hopped into bed and Guinness curled up next to me. (He went to sleep right away!)

I'd bought the Book Without You by Anthony Rapp. Rapp was the original co-lead in the Broadway show Rent. You may also remember him as the friend in the movie Adventures in Babysitting from back in the 80's.

I have loved Rent since the first time I saw it about 10 years ago. (I have since seen it about 7 more times... to be honest I am too tired to count and think of the exact number but I think this is close!) I never saw Anthony Rapp but he was also in the movie version of the show and returned to the stage to finish out the show's epic run at the Nederland Theater in New York City.

Rapp's book Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss and the Musical Rent captivated me from the moment I picked up the book. It's not just about the musical, it's about the journey of life - often rough- that he has been on.

I started the book 2 nights ago and stayed up reading til past 3am. I was excited and interested to read about his friendship with Jonathon Larson (the creator of Rent) and touched to read about his relationship with his mother who raised him pretty much on her own.

Last night I knew I shouldn't start to read because I needed to get to sleep but I couldn't help myself. The second half of the book kept me engaged but also brought me to tears. I started off by just getting out of bed (and disturbing Guinness in the process because of course he was curled up next to me fast asleep - he was not pleased to be woken up!) and then after another chapter or so I gave in and just grabbed the whole darn box! I simply had to finish the book because I was so engaged. Once again I didn't get to bed til past 3am.

I highly recommend reading Without You if you are open-minded. It's a highly evocative book that touches on many taboo topics but it is all written in a heartfelt manner with a unique insight into Rapp's thoughts. He talks about the musical, his mother and her illness, his relationships and in the beginning his struggles with living and working in New York City. He is a bit of an underdog who even if you weren't already a fan you would be rooting for him as you read. The book was a New York Times bestseller and is available in paperback. If you're really nice I'll be happy to loan you my copy.

Hopefully now I have learned that I absolutely can not take a book to bed with me if I want to be able to go to sleep at a decent hour.... of course one might have thought I would have learned that AGES ago!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Breakfast Casserole - YUM!

I have decided that my absolute favorite thing for breakfast is a breakfast casserole. Besides being tasty there are some other great advantages to this kind of dish including that you can prep it the night before (I am not a morning person so being able to do the "hard" part of the cooking the night before is key for me) then just pop it in the oven in the morning and it's great for feeding a crowd. My favorite breakfast casserole is one that I got from my friend Anne and I have made many many times and it's always a hit. If I get her permission I'll post that recipe too but she's got to give me the go ahead :)

I found a French Toast Casserole recipe before this trip and decided to bring it along for a second morning of breakfast casserole. We made it last night and had it this morning - the pan was cleaned out entirely so I am inferring that it was a big hit :) In case you're in need of some easy breakfast recipes for a group here ya go!

2 tsp butter softened
8 slices of white bread cut into 1-in cubes
7 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 Tbsp sugar (divided into half)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup chopped pecans
maple syrup for serving

Night Before
Grease a 9x13 dish with butter. Fill the dish with the bread cubes - distributing evenly.

Whisk together eggs, milk, cream, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 2 tablespoons sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom. Pour this mixture over the bread cubes and press down over the surface of the casserole with a spatula to help the bread soak up all the liquid. Sprinkle the top with the remaining sugar. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Morning Of
Preheat oven to 350F. Place casserole covered in foil in oven to bake for 30 minutes. Remove the casserole and remove the foil. Bake for an additional 30-35 minutes until the casserole is puffy and brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before covering with warmed maple syrup and chopped pecans. Cut and serve!

Notes of Note from Me
We didn't have cardamom so we omitted it and it tasted just fine. Also we had a few drinks prior to prepping the casserole so we missed that we were supposed to put half the sugar into the mix and sprinkle the other half on top. Again it tasted just fine that way too :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Guinness Picture of the Week (A day Late) - 21 November 2011

Guinness loves to lounge and nap and one of his favorite places are these rugs we have throughout the house. Ken's mom made all of them and I am guessing she didn't expect them to be doggie lounge pads! :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Breaking Dawn

I will make no apologies for the fact that I love the Twilight series! It's brain and eye candy and I find it entertaining! So of course I had to go catch the latest movie as soon as it came out. Me and some girlfriends (most of whom will remain nameless because they were at "Very Important Meetings" at work during this time) decided that instead of going to the midnight showing (like we have done previously) we would catch the 11am show at Star Cinema so that there would be less screaming teenagers and we could have a drink while we watched the abs I mean movie.

Well I have to say that once again the movie did not disappoint. Being a big fan of the books it's always questionable as to wether the movie can live up to the book and I have to say overall this one did (as have the other ones). Obviously they have had to cut some stuff out due to the length and also because quite frankly if done fully by the book this movie would be impossible to keep PG-13. (I am hoping they will put out a director's cut with the DVD which I am sure would be rated R because allegedly they had to go through and cut out tons of stuff they shot in order to keep it acceptable for the lower rating of PG-13.)

I won't give away any details but I will say the only thing I was disappointed in was that Jacob (Taylor Lautner) didn't take off his shirt nearly enough. I'll be honest I am an equal opportunity fan of Team Jacob and Team Edward!

So for all you Twilight fans out there - go check out the movie. You won't be disappointed in the entertainment! I'm just irritated they are making us wait a whole year til next NOvember for Part 2!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

2011 Commandant's Marine Corps Ball

2 years ago we were fortunate enough to be invited by our wonderful friends Don & Anne to the Commandant's Marine Corps Ball. We meet them a few years ago on vacation and became fast friends. Don is an Naval Academy grad (a few years ahead of Ken) and retired Marine. We had such an amazing time at the Ball in 2009 that we just knew we had to go again and share the experience with more friends. In 2010 - it's a long story - but the short version is tickets sold out in about an hour which we didn't expect so we did not get tickets. We decided there was no way we could allow that to happen in 2011 so I set 3 alarms and was ready to go 10 minutes before they were supposed to go on sale online. As time got closer I started clicking even though it wasn't time yet til the order finally came up! Score! Tickets purchased!

We had a much larger crowd this time so we ended up at 2 tables - Don & Anne with some of their other friends at one and then us at a table with 8 friends of ours who were newcomers!  We all decided to stay at the Gaylord because it's just too convenient not to! Since the ball is there it just makes sense!

The day of the ball us gals lucked into me finding a gal who would come to the hotel to do our hair and make-up so we got to lounge about and get all dolled up in the comfort of our hotel room.

The pre-party started in our room at 4:45. You all know what a party planner I am so this was no different. We had a bunch of food to snack on and of course a few options for drinks. (Luckily Anne loaned us some serving plates cuz I couldn't exactly pack that kind of stuff in my luggage and I didn't exactly want to buy that stuff there!)

Official cocktail hour for the ball was from 6-7:30 near the ballroom but it's cash bar so we figured what the heck - we've got our own party going on up here! There were some birthday festivities as well as an unofficial pinning for Jared which added to the fun.

We enjoyed getting to know the people who we didn't know before and getting to catch up with the folks who we hadn't seen in ages til about 6:30 and then headed down to the ball to mingle with 2,982 of our closest friends :)

We got in line for pictures even though it was ridiculously long in hopes that we would get to the front of the line before it was time for dinner. Luckily we made it and in addition to the formal couple portraits we also got a group photo that I have the feeling could turn out to be pretty funny!

There are Marine Corps Balls all over the country (and even the world) but this is the Commandant's so you can imagine that it's pretty spectacular! This was the 236th Birthday and boy do the Marines know how to celebrate!

We entered the ballroom just in time for dinner and oh what a beautiful spectacle it is! It's huge and just oozes class and patriotism.

There are 300 tables of 10 so you can imagine how immense the room is. Down the middle is an aisle for the entrance of the band and dignitaries etc. Luckily they have drop down screens that show what is going on in the front of the room or else it would be impossible to see unless you were in the front couple rows.

The tables were elegantly decorated with flowers in the middle and each table got 1 bottle of red wine and 1 bottle of white wine. 

As is customary we also got a memento of the event - this year it was a miniature mameluke (the customary sword of the Marine Corps). Very appropriate I thought.

The ceremony began with a video message that was filmed all over the world from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The video literally made everyone - men and women alike - tear up if not openly cry. They talked about the sacrifice of the military (obviously especially the Marines) and the 10 year anniversary of the attacks on September 11th. We ladies all struggled to dab our eyes so as not to run our painstakingly applied make-up!! After the video message the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps Concert happened. I get the chills just typing this! It was really neat they marched up the middle aisle and played a few songs.

These guys and gals are absolutely amazing! After this it was time for the National Anthem which was sung by a fantastic baritone.

Then General LeJune's Message was read. This message from the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1921 directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published to every command, to all Marines throughout the globe, on the birthday of the Corps. This began this fantastic celebratory tradition that is equalled by no other service.

Next in came the Commandant and the special guest - Defense Secretary Panetta. At first I was unsure how he would be as the speaker but he later proved to be quite fantastic!

One of the traditions is for the Commandant and the Special Guest to cut the birthday cake. The special guest takes a bite of the piece that was cut and then here's where the really cool part comes in. The oldest Marine at the event takes the next bite of that first slice of cake and then he passes it to the youngest Marine at the event to take a bite. As you can tell the cake was in the shape of the Pentagon to keep with the theme of 10 year remembrance of 9/11.

The Commandant spoke a bit and then presented the special guest. Panetta was a great speaker who made everyone laugh, smile and think with his remarks. Truly a good choice for this.

Then it was time for dinner which was quite tasty. The main dish was steak and sea bass. Now is when the fun really ramped up again! We ate, drank and chatted. We enjoyed getting to see all of the people there celebrating. There are so many folks that it is definitely some good people watching! After dinner it was time for some dancing! You gotta love a formal event where the dance floor is packed! There was a band for some time and then it switched to a DJ.

Everyone had a blast! We danced and laughed and then when we'd had all the dancing our feet in heels could take we headed back to our friends' boat to finish off the night.

The Marine Corps Ball is an amazing (and fun!) tradition that we feel so honored to get to be part of!

Monday, November 14, 2011

National Harbor Area Trip Report

I promise a full report on the Marine Corps Ball but wanted to get this one out there separately first since I think I will be able to write this one much more quickly!

National Harbor is very conveniently located to Washington, DC area as well as Old Town in Virginia. Happily for us it's only about half an hour from Annapolis too!

Gaylord Hotel - National Harbor
I am not exaggerating when I say that this hotel is one of my favorite hotels in the world and I think it is hands down my favorite hotel in the US. Pulling up to the hotel it is very striking as it sits on the water and the beautiful enormous glass atrium is impossible to miss. At this time of the year everything is especially beautiful because they are in the midst of decorating for the holidays. Sadly we don't get to see the full festive decor because it's still too early but I look forward to going there after Thanksgiving once we move to the area so I can fully check it out!

The hotel is huge! And it all surrounds a beautiful indoor atrium which has shops, bars, restaurants and places to sit and admire the view.

We got a hotel room with a balcony overlooking the atrium which was a real treat. (I can't imagine ever booking anything different from now on because we enjoyed it so much!) The first 2 nights we were there they were testing the lights and such so we got to see some of the spectacular decorations.

The rooms are very nicely done with great bedding, wonderful shower and clocks with iPod docks. The suites (which we had) also have a living room area with a couch, a second TV (there's one in the bedroom as well) and a table. This made the room absolutely perfect for our pre-party for the Marine Corps Ball. 

Perhaps one of the best things about the hotel though is their attention to customer service. Anything you need they will be sure it is taken care of and any issue that you might have they will ensure it is resolved right away! If you are ever in this area - especially around the holidays - I HIGHLY recommend spending at least 1 evening at the hotel.

Columbia Firehouse
Thursday night Ken, Jared and I headed into Old Town to check out one of Jared's favorite places for dinner - Columbia Firehouse. The ambiance is fantastic - it's an old firehouse as you might have guessed by the name. The wait staff were very attentive and very knowledgable about not only the food menu but the drinks as well. They have an outstanding selection of draft and bottled microbrews and it made me very happy to not see a single crappy beer on the list of beers offered!! We started off with some mussels that had ground mustard as part of the dish and they were delicious! They also have a wine based mussel appetizer that I fully intend to try the next time we go back there! For dinner the Hangar Steak came highly recommended and we were not disappointed! The meat was tender and delicious! I would absolutely go back to this place for dinner again!

Chick & Ruth's - Annapolis
Friday we had to pick up the Van Dykes from the airport so we decided to take a quick trip into Annapolis to show them around. We were in desperate need of lunch so we headed first to Chick & Ruth's Delly which is an absolute institution of Annapolis. (and yes they do spell Delly that way!) It's an old style dinner/delly with an enormous menu of nearly anything you could possibly want. We got a variety of sandwiches and all of them were very tasty! Definitely take them up on their offer of a bowl of pickles. Those are fantastic too!

Harrington's - National Harbor
That evening we had fun Happy Hour-ing on Don & Anne's boat. Afterwards we headed to Harrington's for a bite to eat. It was rather sleepy when we came in. (It's an Irish restaurant and bar.) I can't speak too much to the food cuz I wasn't too hungry but I think everyone enjoyed what they got. After they kicked us out of the dining room we hung out in the bar which picked up tremendously after about 11:30pm. All in all an okay place to hang out.

Rosa Mexicano
We were in desperate need of some brunch Saturday morning (I know this is so shocking to many of you) so we headed to Rosa Mexicano in National Harbor. Great views and they offer brunch options on the weekends. The drinks were definitely not anything to write home about. In fact they offer 3 different types of Bloody Marys and 2 types were tried at our table and neither was any good. They are allegedly well known for their pomegranate margarita which was also short of fabulous. The food was tasty but definitely different than we expected. I think I would be willing to give this place one more try but I am still not entirely sold on it. 

Pienza Italian Market
Sunday morning was a bit of a struggle for most of us so we just hauled ourselves downstairs for a quick breakfast in the hotel itself. Pienza has a great buffet as well as good general menu options. All of us who had the Virginia Ham & Cheddar omelet were quite happy as were those who ordered the American Breakfast. Would definitely recommend this place!

Well that wraps up the general National Harbor and such stuff... next blog will be about the ball itself I promise! :)

Guinness Picture of the Week - November 14th, 2011

This photo is not at all staged - Guinness loves to cuddle with his toys... it's so darn cute!!!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

I hope everyone takes at least a moment to stop and thank a veteran for their service today. We enjoy a lot of freedoms in this country and they are all thanks to the men and women who were and are willing to sacrifice for all of us. My Grandpa was in the Army, as was my Dad. Obviously Ken is still active Navy. Some days I feel a little guilty that I opted to go to regular University instead of a Service Academy (as I at one time considered doing). But I would likely have gone to the Air Force Academy and I don't think Ken could ever have forgiven me for that so maybe it's for the best ;)

If you enjoy your rights of
Freedom of Religion (including the freedom to choose no religion)
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of the Press
Right to Bear Arms
The right to have a drink!
The right to pursue our lives as we so choose...

Take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice so many make to ensure that these rights stay in place... Say Thank you! Or take a little extra time and do something for the troops who are deployed currently. If you need ideas of what that can be or how to do it let me know and I will be happy to help!

Happy Veterans Day to all who have served or are currently serving! And thank you to all their families because you too sacrifice for our country.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Guinness Picture of the Week - November 6th, 2011

Guinness has some really funny ways that he sits... this is one of his favorites :) He has no kidding worn the leather down in certain spots on the top of the couch and chairs. He also has a bare belly from this way of laying since he rubbed the hair off! (Don't worry the vet said he's totally fine!) I sometimes call him the bare belly sneech. When he really yawns it's almost like an anteater's tongue! Sometimes I just can't help myself and I have to lightly grab his tongue when he yawns :)

As usual - he's just so darn adorable!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

United/Continental (Whatever they are called!) response to my letter..

As you may recall I wrote a letter to United/Continental (Whatever!) a few weeks back. I underline and bold "I" because Continental/United demonstrated to me just how much they don't pay attention to detail. I wrote the letter including all of my contact information, Onepass number etc. I also wrote about one instance of issue that Ken specifically had in addition to all my other issues (included Ken's Onepass number as well). I signed the letter - only me! Well a return letter came in the mail yesterday.... to Ken! Really?! The written response is less than desirable but they did issue both of us some Continental Credit towards a flight so that part I am happy with. What kills me though is it's this type of lack of attention to detail that is such an issue in general! Priceless huh?!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What in the World are some Parents thinking?!?!

NOTE - Definitely politically incorrect stuff in here....

Ever hear the saying "Mirror Mirror on the Wall, I've become my Mother after all?" Well I have to say Mom was right many years ago and I have grown to fully appreciate it in my adult life. About what you ask? What is appropriate attire for a teenage girl to wear.

So yesterday we wandered about looking for a back-up formal dress for me for the Marine Corps Ball. (Don't ask why a back-up it's a long story!) Sadly we ran into the same thing we have before when shopping for a nice formal dress - you either look matronly or like a $2 hooker! We spent most of the day picking out dresses and taking pictures to laugh at them because they were so bad! Many of these dresses were ridiculously short! At David's Bridal there was a semi-formal dress that literally would barely have covered my butt check!! Many of these dresses were cut in ways that I find to be absolutely unacceptable for a teenage girl to wear. There is absolutely no reason that a high school girl should be wearing an extreme plunging neckline or even quite frankly a strapless dress intended to show off cleavage. Because that is just what they are - GIRLS. These are not grown women they are girls and they do not need to be dressing like bimbos. Most appalling to me is that clearly there are lots of parents not only allowing their daughters to wear these slutty dresses but most of them are buying them for their daughters! What the hell has happened to this world?

I am glad I don't have a teenage daughter because I would ground her just for asking if she was allowed to wear some of this crap that so many consider acceptable.

You all know I am anything but a prude; however, I don't find this to be a prude topic (well it could be but not the way I am talking about it.) I have no problem with girls wearing dresses that look fabulous. I am not saying they should wear something that covers their knees and their arms. But they shouldn't be wearing dresses that aren't even as long as their fingertips when they are at their sides and I sure as hell shouldn't be seeing all their cleavage. Here's my next unpopular comment on this - when young girls dress like this they are asking for trouble. Guys who don't realize that these girls are jailbait are probably more than these girls can necessarily handle and there's no telling what trouble will come from that.

Bottom line - quit dressing your teenage girls, or quit allowing them to dress themselves, like whores!