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Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 113: Southern Comfort Vanilla Spice Egg Nog


My writer pal Bryonna Nobles is a foodie. So when she suggested I try Southern Comfort Vanilla Spice Egg Nog, I knew I would be wise to listen. If you like egg nog, you will LOVE this. Thick and creamy with a touch of spice, this might just be the best egg nog on the market; it is so amazing it even has its own page on Facebook. Thanks, Bryonna, for the tip!

Day 112: Plenty Of Fish

I met a friend of a friend for coffee Friday night; we shared a few dating tales, and I found out that his dating site of preference is Plenty Of Fish. So I created a profile and spent some time casting my net there yesterday. It was exciting at first; I was deluged with emails and requests to chat. Unfortunately, after closer examination I realized there were only a couple of guys I thought I might actually be interested in getting to know better, so we exchanged contact information and then I deleted my profile.

After ten years of on-again, off-again online dating, I am officially over it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 111: Jewelry Sale


Although I have had an Etsy store for over a year now, tthis morning I set up a table at my favorite hair salon, Shenanigans, and tried selling my wares live and in the flesh. I love meeting new people and it was fun to be part of the the bustle of the shop and make a few sales in the process. I might even consider renting a booth at a craft show or two next year.

After the shop closed, I grabbed a bite to eat and headed to my favorite Creative Memories consultant's home for her holiday open house and card making workshop. I love playing with paper so this was right up my alley. Here is one of the cards I created.

Three dimensions! Texture!
I met some new folks, learned some new scrapbooking techniques, experimented with some great new tools, and ended the evening with 20 beautiful handmade cards to send to family and friends.

It has been a truly wonderful day, filled with new.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 110: Sonic Pumpkin Pie Milk Shake


En route to the post office to mail bracelets for Beading To Beat Autism, I couldn't resist stopping by Sonic Drive-In and sampling their new pumpkin pie milk shake. Rich, thick and creamy, flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg but not overly spicy, topped with whipped cream and pie crumbles, this milk shake is a decadent delight. As it clocks in at 710 calories, I was thankful that my 15yo was in the car to help me polish it off, but it really is worth every calorie. Recommended!

Day 109: Mountain View High School & Red Lobster

Last night, I stepped inside the doors of Mountain View High School for the very first time to hear one of my piano students perform in the orchestra's holiday concert.

These kids did a great job!
Then I met my eldest son and his girlfriend for dinner at Red Lobster. We tried one of their new menu items, Lobster Artichoke and Seafood Dip.

Delicious!
New music, new food. It was all good!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 108: Turkey Berry Brie Sandwich


I am a semi-vegetarian, but when I heard about Atlanta Bread Company's Turkey Berry Brie Sandwich I knew I had to give it a try, and I had one today. Featuring roast turkey, Brie cheese and Swedish lingonberry jam, this sandwich definitely lives up to the hype. Recommended!

Day 107: Beaded Silverware


My friend Linda coughed up big bucks at a craft show recently for a plate with a piece of matching beaded silverware and she challenged me to create something similar. I finally got around to it yesterday. Using a stainless steel spreader from my kitchen drawer and beads I had on hand, I came up with a design I am reasonably pleased with. I bought a couple of large serving pieces and at Ross this afternoon and I am going to tackle them next. Thanks, Linda, for the inspiration!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 106: Bagels and More


I had a routine dental visit this morning. The good news is I don't need a root canal; the bad news is I need a crown. Desperately seeking solace, I decided to stop by Bagels and More, the (relatively) new bagel place I spied en route to Nathan's guitar lesson several weeks ago, located near Hamilton Mill subdivision in Buford, Georgia at the intersection of Braselton Highway and Pine Road.

I received a warm welcome from Beverly and Lisa.


Guided by their expertise, I selected six bagels and a tub of honey walnut cream cheese. I tried the house coffee, too. While I paid for my order, I gathered a little bit of information about the shop. Their bagels are baked fresh every morning; they also offer sandwiches, salads and soups. They have free wifi, too. Sounds like the perfect place to grab some breakfast and do some writing on a cold winter morning, doesn't, it?

This time, though, I opted to bring my goodies home.


I sliced the cranberry orange bagel, popped it in the toaster, and topped it with a dollop of cream cheese.


I do believe that was the best bagel I have ever eaten - hard on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, not "bread-y" like the bagels from the grocery store. I am already looking forward to the apple cinnamon bagel I have hidden away for tomorrow.

Beverly and Lisa invite my local readers to pay them a visit. Mention this blog post and you will receive three free bagels with the purchase of six. This offer expires December 15th, so don't delay!

Thanks, Bagels and More, for being the bright spot in my morning!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 105: Jewelry Essentials Glass Beads


Hoping to add some variety to our bead selection during today's work session for Beading To Beat Autism, I ran to Michael's in search of size 6 seed beads. Alas, their Toho selection was dismal, so I decided to try a new brand, Jewelry Essentials, which came generously packaged in a variety of pretty colors. 

To say I was disappointed in their quality is an understatement. These beads are poorly made and inconsistently sized, and they are going right back where they came from. Only the best are good enough for this special project!

Day 104: Mistake Rib Scarf


I started another scarf yesterday, and decided to try the Mistake Rib Scarf pattern from Wendy Knits. However, since I am using worsted weight yarn, I adapted it slightly, using size 9 knitting needles and casting on 23 stitches, then following Wendy's instructions to K2, P2 to the last three stitches, then K3, and repeating every row. I completed only about three inches before exhaustion overcame me and I haven't had a chance to get back to it today. But I love the way this variation of the rib stitch lays flat and am very pleased with the yarn I selected, Patons Classic Wool in Good Earth. I will keep you posted on my progress!

Day 103: McDonald's Eggnog Milk Shake


I love egg nog and all its incarnations: egg nog lattes, egg nog ice cream,  even egg nog bread. So when I heard that McDonald's was offering an egg nog milk shake on its seasonal menu, I had to give it a try. Topped with whipped cream and a cherry, it looked festive and inviting, and it made my taste buds happy, too. If you are a fan of egg nog, you definitely want to give this a try before before the holidays are over!

Day 102: Wendy's Chicken Sandwich

On Thursday I had a Wendy's Monterey Ranch Crispy Chicken Sandwich for dinner. 

One thing is for sure: at 99 cents and 400 calories, it wasn't my typical Thanksgiving fare.

But it wasn't bad.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 101: Pineapple Salsa

After the deck party Tuesday midnight, I partook of the midnight Mexican buffet and tried several new dishes, the most notable of which was the Pineapple Salsa. I didn't have my camera with me so I wasn't able to take a picture, but I found this recipe online, which looks and sounds very much like the salsa on the ship. I plan to try making it soon, and bring a little bit of the Caribbean home.

Day 100: Senor Frog's, Cozumel

Tuesday, parched after spending several hours at Playa Mia Beach in Cozumel and not quite ready to get back on the ship, we made a stop at Senor Frog's for a bit of refreshment. 

Sol Beer!
Very funny...
 In case you can't decipher the wording on the back of the shirts, it reads as follows:
"I don't speak English but I promise not to laugh at your Spanish." HA!
But we forgave everything when we saw our plate of nachos.

We ate every bite!
I hope to go back to Senor Frog's in Cozumel again soon. 

Day 99: Margaritaville, Grand Cayman

Margaritaville, Grand Cayman
Our ship docked in Grand Cayman on Monday. Lacking the funds to book a shore excursion, my son and I walked from one end of the cruise port to the other, finally landing at Margaritaville for a bit of refreshment.

A local brew for me, a soft drink for my son.
This was my first visit to one of Jimmy Buffet's famed establishments, but I'm hoping it won't be my last!

Day 98: Alligator Fritters


On Sunday, I had alligator fritters as an appetizer at dinner. They weren't bad, but I wasn't sure where the alligator ended and the breading began. Later in the cruise, however, I had calamari fritters for lunch; they were out of this world. As soon as I can locate the ingredients, I am going to try making them, using this recipe. I love trying new foods, both cooking and eating!

Day 97: Carnival Inspiration


On Saturday, I boarded the Carnival Inspiration for the very first time, 
eagerly anticipating five days of fun in the sea and the sun-and countless new things to try!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 96: Fried Dill Pickle Chips


I am in Tampa, Florida tonight, looking forward to boarding a cruise ship tomorrow and spending five glorious days sailing the deep blue sea. But this evening I had dinner at Square 1 Burgers and tried fried dill pickle chips for the very first time.


Served with ranch dressing on the side, these were a decadent delight. Our server said she doesn't even like dill pickles but she loves fried dill pickle chips. Why is it that everything tastes better fried?

I won't have online access again until Thursday, but I look forward to catching up with you when I get back home. I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 95: Starbucks Gingerbread Latte

Today I tried a gingerbread latte at Starbucks. It was a tough choice because I could have had an eggnog latte--my absolute favorite Starbucks beverage of all time, and it comes but once a year. But for the sake of this blog, I went for something new. It was fine, I guess, but probably my least favorite of all the drinks I have ever tried at Starbucks. Next time, I'm going for eggnog.

Day 94: David Nevue Sheet Music


David Nevue sent me six new pieces of sheet music to rate according to level of difficulty; I played through them yesterday. These pieces will be released soon and ranked along with his others. I love David's music, both to listen to and to play, and my students enjoy learning it, too. If you are a pianist, I recommend you check out his website (click HERE) and give his music a whirl!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 93: Duncan Hines Decadent Classic Carrot Cake Mix


I brought home a box of Duncan Hines Decadent Classic Carrot mix on Saturday, and my son baked the cake night. According to the Duncan Hines website, "this is the most moist, delicious carrot cake you'll ever bake," and it is definitely the most moist, delicious carrot cake I have ever tasted that came from a mix. It even comes with a pouch of grated carrots and raisins, which really makes it seem like homemade. Casey chose to bake the cake in one thick layer; then he frosted it before it was fully cool, so it looks a little unconventional. But I had a little sliver for breakfast this morning, and it really hit the spot. Have you tried any of the other Duncan Hines Decadent mixes? What do you think about them?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 92: Victoria's Secret


If you saw Oprah's bra episode, you know what a difference proper fit makes when it comes to this particular undergarment. And apparently my size changed along with everything else when I hit menopause. After several futile attempts to fit myself, I decided it was time to consult with the experts, so this morning I went to my local Victoria's Secret and threw myself at their mercy. It turned out to be a very positive experience; now I know not only which size is right for me and but also which styles will work best for my particular body type and wardrobe needs. I came home with two new bras, three pairs of matching panties, and a whole new outlook. Ladies, does your lingerie need some updating? Spend some time at Victoria's Secret. You deserve it!

Day 91: Amy Janelle


My pal Joseph Akins did a drawing for door prizes at the house concert on Saturday evening, and I was delighted when my name was drawn for the first CD given away, Shining True, Amy Janelle's debut release. I listened to it yesterday during my second Beating To Beat Autism gathering; a combination of solo piano and vocal music, the music is alternately soothing, haunting, peaceful and contemplative. My favorite track is the last one, a song called Live Your Dream; I considered it to be my own personal message of encouragement. If you enjoy solo piano music, you will love this album. Recommended!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 90: Warm Spinach and Shrimp Salad


On Saturday I used the last of the gift cards I received for my birthday and had lunch with my fifteen year old son at our local Macaroni Grill. I decided to try the Warm Spinach and Shrimp Salad, a tasty combination of baby spinach, fennel, prosciutto and pine nuts tossed and a delectable vinaigrette dressing and topped with grilled shrimp. I practically licked my plate clean!

Day 89: Beading To Beat Autism


On Friday I hosted a small gathering to begin work on my commitment to create and sell 300 beaded bracelets in 30 days to help Michala Rigga's organization, Beading To Beat Autism, raise $300 million to build an autism research and treatment center in Louisville, Kentucky. After the other two participants left, I stayed up and beaded until the wee hours; you can see the fruit of our efforts in the photo above. 35 bracelets down, 265 to go! The suggested donation is $3 per bracelet; they are available in a variety of colors and lengths (6, 7 or 8 inches). They come attractively packaged in a plastic zip lock bag with a trifold color insert explaining the details of the project and would make great teacher gifts, party favors, and stocking stuffers. Please contact me if you would like to contribute to this worthy cause!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 88: Wilfred

A bad combination cold remedies chased by a new thyroid medication made me sick, sick, sick yesterday afternoon. By the time I finished teaching last night, I was limp as a dishrag and capable of nothing more than stretching out on the living room sofa with a pillow and my favorite blankie. So when Nathan asked me if I wanted to watch a "new" television show with him, I said yes. He shared a couple of episodes of Wilfred, an FX series. This video, created by the cast and producers of Wilfred, does a better job of explaining the plot than I ever could.


Caveat: the show is raunchy and raucous and there is rampant pot-smoking, so it isn't for everybody. But I found Wilfred to be funny and insightful, unique and refreshing. I hope Nathan will share some more episodes with me soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 87: Easy Pumpkin Bread


I subscribe to King Arthur Flour's blog; I love their products and have never failed using one of their recipes. Yesterday, I finally got around to trying their Easy Pumpkin Bread. Click HERE for detailed step-by-step instructions, or simply follow my abbreviated version of the recipe.

EASY PUMPKIN BREAD

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin 
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 1/3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts 
  • Coarse white sugar for sprinkling on top, optional
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9" X 5" loaf pans.
  • In a large bowl, beat together oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin and water.
  • Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add nuts.
  • Spoon batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle tops of loaves with coarse white sugar, if desired.
  • Bake 60 to 80 minutes or until bread tests done. Allow to cool completely on wire racks. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.
  • This is the best pumpkin bread recipe I have ever tried - definitely a keeper!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 86: Dropbox

Yesterday I got an email from a piano teacher friend offering to share her file of photos from the GMTA Conference on a website called Dropbox. Never heard of it? Neither had I. Here is a short video explaining a few of the features.


It was easy enough to set up an account and grab those photos from my buddy's file. But I already have a Flickr account. Most of my pals do, too. Wouldn't it be easier to share photos there? As a matter of fact, I can't think of a single reason why I really need Dropbox. But I welcome all you techies out there to correct me if I am wrong!

Day 85: Godiva Pumpkin Spice Coffee


My Pumpkin Spice K-Cups were gone and there were no more to be found at my neighborhood Kroger. So I decided to try Godiva's Pumpkin Spice ground coffee instead - pricy, to be sure, but more economical than the K-Cups, and even better-tasting. When I make my mid-week stop at the store, I'm going to buy more; I want to make sure I have enough of this wonderful stuff to last me through the holiday season and beyond!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day 84: Selling Hand-Knit Items


I finished the Slouchy Hipster Hat I blogged about several weeks ago. It turned out great but it's a little big on me, so today I decided to add a section for knitted items to my Etsy store in the hope that I can find a good home for it. Click HERE to see the listing for the hat, and check out some of my jewelry designs while you are there. Happy shopping!

Day 83: Veggie Burger


I got to try lots of new foods while I was at the Georgia Music Teachers Association State Conference in Columbus, Georgia. My roommate and I enjoyed the food at the Houlihan's restaurant adjoining the Columbus Marriott so much that we decided to have lunch there before we left town. I chose the veggie burger and Asian slaw. Handmade from black beans and garbanzo beans and topped with cheddar cheese and veggies, the burger was one of the best I have ever had. The slaw was delicious, too. If you are ever in Columbus, Georgia, I recommend a visit to Houlihan's!

Day 82: Skinny Raspberry Mojito

 

After the Georgia Music Teachers Association State Conference banquet and artist recital Saturday night, my roommate and I were ready for a drink. We hit the hotel bar and I decided to try a Skinny Raspberry Mojito. After all the excesses of the conference - starchy food and too many desserts - it seemed like a good idea to go for one of the low-calorie choices. Turns out I was wrong. Made from Bacardi, artificially sweetened raspberry syrup, mint, lime and soda, this drink was a big disappointment. I might as well have poured cough syrup over ice and added a spritz of soda water. Next time I won't worry about the calories.

Day 81: Teaching the Transfer Student


On Thursday, I had the experience of speaking at the Georgia Music Teachers Association State Conference held at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. My topic was Teaching the Transfer Student. I will admit to a slight case of nerves before I walked onto the stage - especially after renowned composer and pedagogue Dennis Alexander introduced himself and said he planned to listen in for a bit - but after thirty-plus years of teaching, I felt confident enough about the subject matter that, once I got started, I was able to let go of my fear and speak from my heart. The truth is I love public speaking. I hope to do more of it in the future.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 80: Lobster Roll and Sake

About 8:00 tonight, after a long day of NaNoWriMo'ing, finalizing preparations for my presentation at the GMTA conference tomorrow, and errands (a trip to the music store, grocery shopping, and a visit to the ATT store to get a new phone for one of my sons), it occurred to me that I hadn't tried anything new today. I was in the mood for sushi, so my boys agreed to accompany me to our favorite Asian restaurant, Fusion in Dacula. Based on the server's recommendation, we tried the Lobster Roll.


While I was being experimental, I decided to have some sake, too.


It was nothing like I expected, but the warm, bold brew hit the spot on this chilly fall evening and was the perfect foil to the lobster roll.

Have you had any culinary adventures lately?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 79: Godiva Dark Chocolate


In addition to a check, the nice folks from Athens Music Teachers Association gave me a Godiva Dark Chocolate Bar as a thank-you for my judging efforts on Saturday. I saved it for today, knowing how much it would mean at the end of my very first writing session for National Novel Writing Month. Am I glad I did; it was the perfect reward for 1678 words written. I limited myself to just one square; a little Godiva goes a long way!

Day 78: Goal, Motivation and Conflict


In preparation for National Novel Writing Month, Monday I took the time to write Goal, Motivation and Conflict charts for the main characters in my new book, as explained in the book Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. When I first began fiction writing, I fancied myself a "pantser" - that is, an author who writes "by the seat of her pants," or without an outline. Unfortunately, the result of that was characters that fell flat and a story that had little plot or conflict. So this time, I decided to try a different approach. Now it is Tuesday; I wrote 1678 words today, exceeding my daily goal of 1667 words. Most important, I feel that I have a strong start to a well-crafted story. I'll keep you posted!

Day 77: 57th Fighter Group Restaurant


Late Saturday night, I went with a friend to 57th Fighter Group Restaurant for a nightcap; we arrived about midnight. There was a deejay and dancing; people were wearing costumes and having a good time. It's a place I would like to visit again, maybe have dinner, maybe do some dancing with a REAL date. 

In other words, I think the place has potential.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day 76: Statham, Georgia


I judged a Sonata Festival for the Athens Music Teachers Association today. It was a delight to hear so many wonderful students performing classical music to a high standard, meeting their teachers, and commiserating with my fellow judges. 

Driving home on University Parkway, eager to get home but my gas tank nearly empty, I grudgingly decided I had best get off the beaten path and find a service station before it was too late. So I followed a sign pointing to historic Statham, Georgia (never noticed it before) and a couple of short miles later I was there. I filled up my gas tank and followed Atlanta Highway and was rejuvenated by new sights and scenery (it looks just like the pictures) until I got to Winder and familiar territory.

Sometimes it's good to get off the beaten path.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 75: Ippolitos

I have dined at Ippolitos before; the last time was on my birthday, the weekend before I started this blog. But tonight I tried a new dish, Salmon Gabriela: salmon sauteed with fresh spinach, fresh tomatoes, and artichoke hearts in a lemon butter sauce.

The sauce was great for dipping garlic rolls in.
I also tried a glass of one of the featured wines, Ferrari-Carano chardonnay.

After a few sips.
Molto buono!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 74: Avon Anew Ultimate Gold Emulsion Night Treatment


I recently used the last of my favorite nighttime moisturizer and don't have the funds right now to buy more. However, I found an unopened jar of Avon Anew Ultimate Gold Emulsion Night Treatment under my bathroom sink - I don't even remember where it came from - and tonight seemed like the perfect time to try it. Following the instructions, I smoothed the glittery gel over my freshly cleansed face and neck. Since I have sensitive skin, I was a little concerned about the possibility of "tingling" occurring, but I experienced no negative sensations. If I keep using this product for 14 days, I am promised skin that looks up to five years younger. We shall see!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 73: Farewell to Stromness

There have been a handful of times in my life when, driving and listening to the radio, I heard a piece of music that I connected with so deeply that I literally had to stop the car so I could really pay attention. Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings. Muse's Butterflies and Hurricanes. Kimya Dawson's I Like Giants. It's an eclectic mix, to be sure. My musical mind works in mysterious ways.

Well, a few weeks ago, it was Peter Maxwell Davies' Farewell to Stromness that stopped me cold. I couldn't find a piano rendition on YouTube that I liked as much as the one I heard on public radio, but I did enjoy this arrangement by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.


Anyway, I ordered the sheet music that afternoon; it finally arrived today. So this evening I spent a very pleasurable thirty minutes or so attempting to play it for the very first time. When it is polished and ready, I may record it and put it on YouTube myself. I think it might make a lovely mandolin solo, too.

Have you ever been so distracted by music that you had to pull off the road to listen to it?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 72: Pillsbury Mocha Fudge Brownies


I love all things chocolate, especially with a cup of coffee. So when I spied this box of Pillsbury Mocha Fudge Brownie mix at Kroger over the weekend, I found myself unable to resist. This afternoon, I pulled out my edge brownie pan and made the batter, adding 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts to the recipe.


Fudgy and delicious, with just the faintest hint of coffee flavor. Bet you can't eat just one!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 71: Tazo Calm Tea


My habit is to unwind with a glass of wine or two at bedtime. But I think this might be contributing to some of my sleep disturbances and I know it isn't helping me lose this ten extra pounds I am carrying around, so tonight I decided to make myself a cup of Tazo Calm Tea instead.

I am ashamed to admit that the lovely tin was a Mother's Day gift from my son and his girlfriend - has it really been four months already? The tea bags themselves are small works of art, soft pillows stuffed with chamomile blossoms, hibiscus flowers, spearmint leaves, rose petals, blackberry leaves, peppermint leaves, safflower, lemon balm, lemon grass and natural flavorings. 


I heated a pot of water, I dropped the sachet in my favorite coffee mug, an end-of-year gift from a long-ago piano student, and let it steep for five minutes. Fragrant and delicious - and no calories!

I think I'm gonna sleep like a baby tonight.