Thursday, July 28, 2011

Date Night with Harry Potter

So, Chris and I had a date night a couple of weeks ago, with Harry Potter. I have always been an HP fan, and thanks to our own Book It challenge, Chris was forced to read all 7 of the Harry Potter book too! (In exchange, I have to read the LOTR trilogy, yea.)

Anyway, with the impending release of the last film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, we decided to both read the entire set and watch all of the movies in time to watch the final movie together. It was a lot of fun for me to watch Chris experience all of what is Harry Potter for the first time! And, of course I really enjoyed re-reading all of the books again and watching all of the movies in a row. It's funny because I hadn't seen the movies in so long that it felt like they were almost new again!

Chris, being an awesome husband, decided we should go all out and bought tickets to view the Deathly Hallows Part 1 at a local theater and then stay to catch the midnight viewing of Part 2! It was a long work-night for us "old people," but definitely worth it. The Potter-style 3D glasses were a pretty sa-weet souvenir too, if I do say so myself.

It was bittersweet to watch the series come to an end. I've been reading the books and watching the movies for probably almost a decade. I've always been waiting in anticipation for the next book, or the next movie, and now the waiting is over. I loved the movie (even though, like most HP book-lovers, I did have a few issues with the interpretation and changes...). I loved watching how much the actors have grown-up, and how much the movies have "grown-up." While this might be the end, I don't think I'll ever get sick of reading the books and watching the movies. Someday, I hope my kids can like the series as much as I have!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SYTYCD Mid-season Musings

As I've already expressed, I absolutely love So You Think You Can Dance. Every season (except for Seasons 1 & 4 which I, for some reason, did not watch) I watch in awe as young men and women take to the stage performing some of the most amazing work. Every season I have my own favorite dancers and routines, and my own gripes and complaints. And, I'm vocal about it to anyone who listens. I'm probably even vocal about it when no one else is in the room... (my cats listen, right?).

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, Chris and I were contemplating what to watch on our DVR queue. The most recent SYTYCD week was listed. I hadn't had a chance to watch it yet, but I was not about to suggest it. Chris does not watch those types of shows, or anything else I like for that matter (unless it is NBC's Thursday night "Must See TV", HBO, It's Always Sunny, or Planet Earth). I was about to suggest popping in a movie or letting him pick when Chris suggested SYTYCD. I think my mouth fell open. I told him that I didn't want to make him watch it, but he told me he wanted to, because apparently my "commentary was fun to listen to." (I guess I do talk out loud.)

I figured, if Chris can stand my SYTYCD commentary, so can all of you! I know that we are already down to the top 10 dancers and the season is more than half way over, but here are my thoughts thus far...
  1. Everyone says "Sasha Fierce" will win. And everyone is rooting for her to win. Not me though (not yet, at least). I don't know if it's because I liked her sister, Natalia, better or if I find her personality grating and fake, but as of this post, she hasn't won me over yet. And, she's definitely not even in my imaginary top 3.
  2. Speaking of grating personalities, at first I found Jess super annoying. Again, I don't really know why -  was it his height (or lack thereof) or his cheesy smile - who knows? Unlike Sasha though, he's starting to grow on me. I mean, he is an excellent Broadway dancer. And, if he can sing and dance you can count me in to see one of his shows. I am a sucker for good musical numbers. (He's not in my top 3 though yet either.)
  3. Who is in my top 3, you ask? Definitely Melanie and Tadd, although the 3rd spot is up for grabs. Maybe Marko or Caitlynn? (I mean, Marko has a BULLET in his shoulder!) Each season I have that one "favorite" - Travis (S2), Kayla (S5), Kathryn (S6), and Robert (S7) - and this season none of them have jumped out at me yet. We'll just have to wait and see now that the competition is becoming fiercer. (btw, anyone else notice that none of my favorites have won? Maybe I should say my favorite is Sasha...)
  4. Also, I wasn't too much of a fan of Ryan, but I think the producers wanted us to be a fan of her. Don't get me wrong, she is a GREAT dancer and she is probably suuuper nice in person, but she just did not connect. I'm kinda bummed she got the boot though because I think she is more talented than Jordan and Clarice, but, oh well, that's the game.
  5. Now on to Cat. Love her. I think she completely deserved that Emmy nod last week, and I am really hoping she wins it! But, who is dressing her for some of these episodes? Yes, she oftentimes looks Awesome (with a capital A), but one week in particular I thought she looked like a hot mess:
  6. Adam Rose/Fox for InStyle
    The strange rhinestone/bedazzled multicolored fake-tatoo-as-a-necklace "skin jewelry"? The strange rat-tail braid amongst her wavy hair which usually looks lovely? And, the very purple eyeshadow? HOT. MESS. The poor Catherine Malandrino dress was overshadowed by all of the other ridiculousness going on. (I think I talked more out loud that week about her "look" than about the dances.) Here's to better outfits on our Emmy-nominated host!
  7. Judges. First, I'm super glad Mary Murphy is back! It's great to have a ballroom expert on the panel. Secondly, I'm suuuuper happy about the guest judge arrangement they've made this season with a mix of celebrity judges and/or choreographer judges. Not only do we get the expert opinions from the likes of Tyce Diorio and Lil C (along with his vocabulary lessons), but we get a little slice of celebrity along with it. My favorite so far was last week's Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family. Not only was it incredibly endearing that Ferguson was SUCH a fan of the show (I love TV stars that watch TV), but he was HIL-LARIOUS. On another note, Carmen Electra was a dud. She might have dance cred, but she could not articulate a single sentence. 
  8. Lastly, formatting. I have to be honest and say that I was not a fan of the changes made in Season 7. I did not like the "All-Stars" format since I love watching the pairings of newbie dancers attempting to rock out their dances and create chemistry. (I love the drama of great dancers being paired with the not-so-great ones too!) And, I did not like starting the competition with only 10 dancers. But, this season is my favorite format thus far. I get my 20 dancers, I get the paired contestants, AND, I'll get the All-Stars (which grew on me). Plus, is it me, or are the producers really trying to give viewers more of a taste of the dancers' personalities and talent through more group dances and interviews? Liking it so far!
Well, that's my musings on SYTYCD so far. Maybe next time I shouldn't wait 6 weeks to comment. Or, I should keep my comments to myself, and my cats.

Monday, July 18, 2011

No green thumbs in this house.

Well, Chris and I have realized that neither of us are green thumbs, and that "urban gardening," as I like to call it, is hard. Or, at least hard for us.

We* started off well. Back in March we cleared out our jungle of a front yard, digging up all of the ivy, replanting the monkey grass, and laying grass seed. See how nice it looked back then, full of potential, *sigh*...

Front Yard - March 2011
And, in our back "yard" we planted a lot of herbs, marigolds (because I read they ward off mosquitoes, who looooove me), lettuce, tomatoes, and even strawberries for fun. We were pretty excited for what this summer would yield...

Buuuuut, then the first big heat wave wiped out half of the grass in our front yard and probably about half of our herbs in our backyard. I guess we should have asked our neighbors to water all of it since we were out of town. Oops...We salvaged what we had, and trudged on.

Front Yard - July 2011
See, the left side and my hydrangeas are pretty pitiful... boo.
(As a side note, in the meantime I manged to kill two sets of flowers in the hanging baskets in our front yard and an umbrella tree, orchid, and another plant inside. Ironically, while I let the flowers outside fry from the heat and sun, I pretty much drowned our indoor plants, including the orchid. Maybe I am not the green thumb.... hm.)

As first-time "urban farmers," it has been a learning experience for us. For example, we just recently realized that our oregano was not actually oregano. Yup, they were probably weeds, or something else. Bummer. Also, did you know that dill grows craaazzy fast? Too bad we didn't need much of it, because it was probably one of our most successful herbs. Also, for awhile we couldn't figure out why our strawberries were rotting before they were ripening. Yup, we needed to lay some hay or plastic (or something) down so that the baby strawberries weren't touching the ground to avoid "soil rot." Again, oops.

Despite all of our mishaps and mistakes, we've learned our lessons. Even if at the end of this summer the only things that have survived are my marigolds (which are CHAMPS) and some herbs, we definitely learned our fair share of gardening life lessons to take into next year:

First, water is essential. We do not have much shade on our yards, so we have to be diligent about watering. And I know what you're thinking, we should be have been smart enough people to figure that one out. Nope. Lesson learned.

Secondly, research is essential. Using the strawberries as an example, I've never grown strawberries or known someone who has (which is a common thing with both of us) so, I should have researched to know about "soil rot" when berries touch the ground. Lesson learned.

Thirdly, gardening is work. I've come to the realization that I'm lazy when it comes to yard work. Probably because I want to avoid getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Tearing out all of that ivy back in March should have been an indication of what was to come in our forays in gardening. Granted, it hasn't been back-breaking hard, but there is not room for laziness, that's for sure. Even watering the plants ever day is hard for my lazy butt to remember to do. Bummer.

Marigolds are supposed to ward off mosquitoes,
although I'm pretty sure I got bit just snapping this photo.
From front to back: cilantro, rosemary, lavender, Japanese maple,
lavender, and pineapple sage. All Successful so far.
 I'm still on the hunt for that magical garden that trims, weeds, and generally maintains itself. If you know of it, puh-leeeeaase let me know! Maybe it's a good thing that we only have 200 square feet of green space...

*Also, please note that sometimes (read: most of the time) when I use "we", I probably mean "I". But hey, it's a team effort, right?!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Life is short.

Let's just say that the month of June was a roller-coaster ride that I am just now recovering from (hence, my blogging hiatus, again). It started off well, with half-day Fridays at work, a lovely 2-year anniversary dinner at Restaurant Nora, and a much-needed trip to Table Rock Lake, but then it quickly became exhausting. The day after we returned from our trip to St. Louis and Table Rock, Chris got a call about the loss of a friend. Not just any friend though, a friend who was also a soldier killed in action while defending our country.

That week was really rough. I'm sure I was in a daze - not only was I not sleeping well, but my mind was constantly racing with thoughts that oftentimes left me on the verge of tears. Even the thought of going to two baseball games, one of which was my beloved Cards, did not really cheer me up. Going to the games only gave me a slight reprieve from the thoughts that continued to play across my mind. I knew our friend had died doing his job, and what he loved, but I was heartbroken for his family - his amazing wife, and precious son.

At the end of the month, we traveled back to Kansas City for our friend's funeral. I know it might sound odd to say that a funeral changed my life, but I don't know if there are any other words to describe how that weekend affected me. Actually, it wasn't necessarily even the funeral that changed my life, but the experiences I had over those few days... Witnessing the Patriot Guard escort and honor someone who had fallen risking his life for us, changed my life. Observing grown-men in uniform who, on any other day, would be stoic and intimidating, break down in sheer sorrow at the loss of a friend and a brother, changed my life. Watching people in stopped cars put their hands over their hearts as the procession passed for a soldier that they did not even know, changed my life. Winding through the streets of Ft. Leavenworth lined with hundreds of military personnel and civilians saluting, standing at attention, and holding American flags thanking him and his family for their sacrifice, changed my life. Seeing his wife grieve all the while still being the best mom to a precious little boy, changed my life.

These people became my inspiration - the people who took time out of their day, even just for a minute, to honor someone they've never met who died protecting our freedoms... the people who risk their lives every day defending the ideals of America and making our lives safer.... and, most importantly, my inspiration comes from his wife, and others like her, who sacrificed any semblance of a normal family life for the sake of our country with the utmost humility and strength.

Experiencing a soldier's life being mourned by his family and friends was, and still is, gut-wrenching. Experiencing a soldier's life and sacrifice being celebrated by his family and friends was, and still is, inspirational and life-changing.

Please remember that while we are all tucked away in our homes, complaining about a bad day at work or how hot is, there are thousands of men and women fighting abroad for our freedoms and many families at home separated from their loved ones all so that we can continue to go about our normal lives in the comfort of our own homes.

And, remember that life is short - sometimes shorter than you or anyone else wants.
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