Friday, February 27, 2015

Jim Gaffigan - Food: A Love Story

Jim Gaffigan's Food: A Love Story is not your typical run-of-the-mill novel; rather it's the author sharing his views on a wide variety of foods located in large range of locations. The goal in sharing these opinions, of course, is to get the reader to think about what they are eating in a new light … as well as allowing the reader to laugh at him/herself, the world at large, and Gaffigan, a stand up comedian.

When I first ordered this book, I knew it would be different, but I wasn't certain how different. Reviews online were mixed with some people claiming Dad is Fat is funnier (and thus Food: A Love Story wasn't worth reading) and others claiming the book was captivating, engaging, distracting, AND funny. Having never read Dad is Fat but loving the idea of reading a funny book, I ordered it. Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed.

Here is what it came down to:

1. I'm not a huge fan of stand up comedy. I think you need to be to read this book.

2. I like stories that have a beginning, middle, and end that are cohesive. This book is not; it feels like it was written in short spurts of energy with nothing holding it together more than the author's name and the generic subject.

Overall, I found Food: A Love Story to be funny, but not engaging. It's that book you pick up at the doctor's office or the library, glance through and put back. Maybe if each of the short stories was featured in a coffee table book it might be fun? Or perhaps if it was written as a food encyclopedia, that would work too? Point being: if you are a fan of Gaffigan, you will probably like this book. It is his stand up comedy printed in book form. If you are looking for an engaging book to read, that will require actual thought and analysis, I recommend looking elsewhere.

Buy the book from Amazon here or check out Jim Gaffigan's website to learn more.

* I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for sharing my opinion. All opinions shared in this review are my own.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Throwback Tunes

After yesterday's blog post about love songs, I decided to take some time to think about my current favorite songs – the ones that seem to be getting me through the week. A lot of them are pretty old, but even so I absolutely love listening to them.

1. "Fall of '82" by The Shins

This song reminds me a lot of the Beatles. I haven't always been a fan of The Shins. I started liking their music shortly after "Simple Song" came out. This was my second favorite song by them. As much as Justin dislikes this song, I can't help but turn it up when it comes on. The sound is just so completely different from other artists and I love that.

2. Evanescence - "Bring Me to Life"

I remember listening to Amy Lee back in high school. I saved all of my extra gas change to buy her cd. (Yes, I am that old.) Recently she appeared on my Pandora list and I just couldn't get enough. I love her voice and the desperation in her music. Has she done anything recently? From what her website indicates her style has completely changed in the years since "Bring Me to Life" was released, most likely due to the birth of her first child. Time will tell if that's a good thing for her music career … or not.

Sidenote: Why do we always expect women's careers to go up in flames after the birth of a child? It's really depressing. :(

3. Finger Eleven - "Paralyzer"

Yeah. I've been listening to all of the "old school" stuff. I'll probably start listening to 2015 music in … 2018 or so? ;) Pandora has really been "throwing back" recently, but I've been loving it.

4. Cage the Elephant - "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked"

Don't you love hearing about the privileged singing about the … not? But I do love that Cage the Elephant was bringing attention to the real people behind evil. Y'know … as in they are real people and not just some villains on a tv show or in a movie. I think that's a pleasant change from what we typically see in the media.

5. The Beatles - "In My Life"

*sigh* I loooooooovvvvveee this song. :)

6. The Black Keys - "Gold on The Ceiling"

Some things never change. In the past year my love of this song has remained. There are definitely days when I would consider putting it on repeat and playing it over and over again. (Thank goodness Pandora won't let me!) It's definitely a fun song … always.

7. LeAnn Rimes - "One Way Ticket"

My foundation is country music since I grew up in Georgia … more specifically "good country music" like Shania Twain, Martina McBride, and George Strait since I grew up in the 90s. I'm not much of a fan of the newer stuff. This was my favorite song by LeAnn Rimes way back when she had just gotten into music. (It isn't anymore…) Nevertheless, it still feels like an inspiring song and makes me want to travel the world. Can you believe how much this girl has changed since so long ago? She looks like an entirely new person!

8. Trisha Yearwood - "She's In Love With the Boy"

Yeah. Ollllllllllldddddddddd… That's why I'm posting this list on Thursday! But I do love the story in this song… Plus Trisha Yearwood was born in Georgia AND she went to the same school as me, so I have to like her right? (Note that I know nothing about anything she's done recently.) This song is soooo Southern. I just love hearing about the guy "isn't worth a lick" and how he got "the short end of the stick". Plus the truck bit. Of course he drives a beat up chevy truck; what else would he drive?!

9. The Temptations - "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"

For a break up song, The Temptations really made it fun and danceable. Every girl deserves a guy like the one singing these lyrics. :)

10. Train - "Drops of Jupiter"

Like I said before, some things never change. The memories this song holds will always keep me coming back for more. :)

Runners Up (Songs I Wish Pandora Would Play):

• Taio Cruz - "Dynamite"

Reminds me of a little girl I used to watch, Ellie. Always makes me so happy to think of her!

• Meghan Trainor - "All About That Base"

This song makes me laugh. I especially wanted to sing it on Thanksgiving due to all of the food we were planning on eating! I wanted a reminder that "boys like a little more booty to hold at night". :-P (The kids I watch know ALL of the dance moves in this song. It's sooo funny to watch.)

What are your current favorite songs? Do you have any that help you get through the week? Or are there any you wish Pandora would play?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Love Songs 101

My husband and I did not have a first dance song when we got married. We couldn't agree on anything. ;)

I wanted Michael Bublé's "Everything".

I can't remember what Justin wanted.

About the only song we did agree on was a song we had Justin's cousin sing during our ceremony… Steven Curtis Chapman's "I Will Be Here".

My ex-bff had also chosen a SCC song for her wedding, so I was pretty adamant that I wouldn't use a song by him. I spent hours upon hours searching google … not only looking for a song that I liked but also a song that was appropriate for the church. I had further requirements I set for myself as well – I didn't want a song specifically about romance nor did I want a song that could not be sung by both genders. Finally, after not being able to find any other song that suited my needs, I sent this song to Justin with one question: what do you think? I just knew he'd say that he hated it and I'd have to start over again; I wasn't prepared for him to actually like it. Luckily, he did and my search stopped. (Thank goodness!) I then sent the song to our singer and the man in charge of music at the church. Even though they both agreed that it was a good fit and acceptable choice, our singer did not have the chance to sing with the pianist until an hour before the ceremony! Stress! Ack! But they handled it well and the song was beautiful … even better than SCC's version. We got so many compliments afterward in our choice of singer. :)

Despite all of the above, Justin and I actually consider the Arctic Monkey's "Baby I'm Yours" as our song.

It wasn't played specifically at the wedding even though it may have been in my playlist. (I can't remember.)

I'm sure I've shared the story on the blog before, but back when Justin was in college, I went down to GA Tech to "help" him paint his room a nasty orange. Really, I just sat and watched. (I didn't want to get paint on my clothes!) Anyway, he was listening to a bunch of music I didn't like … and then this song came on. I was like "wah?!?!" I loved it! I'm a huge fan of older styles of music. I'll listen to jazz (as in both big band and smooth), oldies (50s, 60s, 70s, 80s … and why not? 90s), rock, classical, Christmas (even in February!), and alternative (to name a few). I'm pretty open in music tastes. That's why it stood out to me so much that Justin was listening to stuff I disliked. But when this song came on… <3.

It didn't stop there though. One day as Justin was leaving the house, he used his phone to program the radio to play this song. I was working on my computer in a completely silent house as I heard the car start up and leave … but then some noise started growing in the background becoming louder and louder. You have no idea how many times I pressed mute on my laptop to no avail. I was about to shut my laptop to get the music to stop when I realized it wasn't actually coming from my laptop! I was sooooooo confused!

When Justin returned from the store, he asked me about it. You should have seen the look on my face.

Yeah. That's when it became our song.

And the worst part? We had been dating approximately 3 years at that point. It took 3 years for us to find a song. Crazy, right?

Tell me about your song … whether it's a song you merely share with your partner or your first dance song. What is it? What makes it special? Do you have any fun stories to go along with it? How did you choose it?

** I'm participating in the SITS Girls' February Writing Prompts. Are you?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How To Travel the World On $50 A Day Book Review

A few weeks back Justin and I went to a book talk in Atlanta to hear Matt Kepnes speak about all things travel and his book How To Travel the World On $50 A Day. I had been following his blog for over a year and this was a fantastic opportunity to hear him speak about the one thing I know very little about – travel.

He opened his talk by reminding everyone that $50 a day was an estimate and not a specific value. Obviously a trip to Paris will cost a lot more than a trip to Vietnam. Food is more pricey, hotels cost more, and by far you will not have anywhere near the same experience in both places. Nevertheless, he went on to say that traditional forms of travel – staying in expensive hotels, eating at fancy restaurants, and even paying fees for expensive museums – are not necessarily the only way to travel. He talked about staying in hostels, using AirBnb (and other services like it), suggested researching your location prior to visiting to see when museums offer free days… And really, he just went on and on about ways to not only save money while in other countries, but also the best ways to make money for indefinite stays.

Before we left that night, Justin bought a copy of How To Travel. While I wasn't entirely sure the book would be helpful (Matt Kepnes and I have different views on travel), it's always a good idea to support the people you enjoy hearing – authors, musicians, and artists alike.

I started looking through How To Travel at dinner that night (a very late but delicious dinner at Sweet Auburn BBQ. YUM!).The book is broken up into two sections – very generic travel advice in section one and advice more specific to the region you are traveling to in section two. Obviously I read all of section one and only glanced at the advice pertinent to me in section two.

Here's what he claims you'll learn from the book:

Now let's take an in-depth look at those claims…
Learn how to make your money work for you and never pay overseas bank fees again.
He does talk about this in his book. He lists one bank, Charles Schwab, that this works for. He also lists a few others that will reduce your banking costs. Will you never pay a bank fee again though? It depends. Will Charles Schwab always remain free? Will you lose your debit card while traveling forcing you to use another bank? I would take this statement with a grain of salt.
Learn how to use travel credit cards to gain hundred of thousands of free frequent flier and hotel points.
How good is your credit? Don't buy into this thought process if your credit isn't good or you struggle to pay back your debts. There are definitely ways to get points for free without signing up for a credit card, but saying you can get hundreds of thousands of points is definitely a stretch of the imagination. 
Master the ways to get FREE airline tickets and save thousands – yes, free! 
Once again, how good is your credit? Assuming you aren't relying on credit, you can spend thousands of dollars to obtain a Southwest companion pass (or $300 if you are in Atlanta and can take advantage of their most current promotion of flying 3 times before summer). Needless to say, don't buy this book if you are trying to get a freebie without getting some credit cards. 
Learn the ins and outs of round the world tickets (and whether or not you need one). 
True. He does cover this. 
Discover what to look for in a backpack so you get one that lasts forever (and is always comfy). 
Ummm… His instructions are pretty generic. Go to a store, find one you like, buy it. 
Find out where to find travel discount cards that can save you 40% or more on your trip. 
Truth. He covers this. Just keep in mind this is about attractions, museums, and the like. It may save you money, but it might not. Saving money with some passes just comes down to how many museums you can visit in one day. Other passes require pre-planning where you buy the pass in the US and then travel since the pass is cheaper here. All of this info can be found online though, so a book isn't necessarily necessary unless you are trying to support the writer. 
Learn where to send your mail and what to do with your stuff before you set off on your adventure. 
Because this is so confusing… *cue eye roll* Ok, so basically … 
1. Have your family and/or neighbors get your mail daily.
2. Contact USPS to have them hold your mail until you return.
3. Sell everything you own OR put it in storage OR have your family check on your home/apartment while you are away. 
I know. #Mindblown, right? ;) 
Get demystified about what travel insurance is, why you need it, and how to pick the right coverage. 
This is definitely something he covers well. He explains what you need regarding health coverage as compared to product insurance and he recommends a few places to get it. I'm not sure if it's really necessary or not, but you really don't want to be in another country needing it and not having it. 
Get the secrets to eating cheaply in any city in the world. 
Let me share that secret: go grocery shopping. Cook your own meals. Eat picnics. I guess he also recommends having lunch out rather than dinner because it's cheaper. Either way, none of these are truly secrets. You just have to put a little thought into it. 
Learn why tourism cards are the best kept travel secret and how to use them to save hundreds in any city you are in. 
See point #6. 
Discover all of the ways you can get free accommodation – from someone's couch to luxurious mansions – when you travel. 
You know the saying "nothing is for free"? Same here. You may be required to do some work and the likelihood of you staying in a mansion for free? Next to none. The author says he's done it, but I wouldn't place all my hopes and dreams on it. 
Find out how I manage to cut my transportation costs by 50% and how you can too. 
Easy. Walk. Use public transportation. Taxis (and in some instances) cars are for the rich. 
Get stories, tips, and interviews with other travelers not found on my blog. 
I'm not an obsessed fangirl and I don't really care about whether or not something is or isn't on a blog. Kudos to you for writing a book, but I despise being "sold" to. 
Get a comprehensive list of all of the best companies to use from around the world. 
Very generic, but true. He recommends insurance companies, places to book a room, places to work while traveling, where to find tourist discounts, and so much more!
Is this a book worth getting?

Everything he talks about can be found online since he does have a blog. In fact, what you find online will ALWAYS be more up to date than what can be found in a book. With that being said, if you plan on travelling soonish and you want the list of websites he recommends available to you for quick and easy access, it may be a book worth purchasing, especially if you have very little experience with travelling or researching for travel.

Your Turn

Do you follow Matt Kepnes' blog? Have you read his book? Do you think any travel book is worth owning? Share! I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Analyzing My Style

Image 1:
• Aeropostale lace cami in white

Image 2:

Image 3:
• Brandy Melville Sweater in grey

Recent purchases:

How would you describe your style right now?

• Currently I find myself wearing lots of layers. I really like wearing sweaters over dresses with leggings and knee-high boots. Is that particular enough? I'm a big fan of all things Free People and Anthropologie.

image from

Who’s style do you admire?  Why?

• When I think of fashion that I like I tend to think of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy. These are the women that today's generation looks back on and admires despite the numerous changes that have altered the clothing industry in the time since.  Grace Kelly, in particular, really stands out to me as being gorgeous and wearing clothing that is down-to-earth.

What is your current style saying on your behalf?

• First, let's talk about my style, so that I can think about this…

I wear a lot of Anthropologie and Free People. When I go shopping, I try to focus mostly on dresses or tops to wear with jeans. I typically buy whole outfits at a time … or plan to buy whole outfits at a time purchasing each piece as it goes on sale. I follow Effortless Anthropologie and use Free People Me to see how other people are wearing the clothing I like.

I'm pretty sure my family and many of my friends would be appalled (or surprised?) at how much I spend on one piece of clothing. Over the past 3 years I've gone from clearance and thrift shopping at low end stores to sale shopping at higher end stores. I prefer the fantastic customer service and easy returns.

I don't focus all of my spending on expensive stores though. I bought $12 flats from Target 5 years ago that I intend on getting re-soled and wearing for another 5+ years. My favorite leggings cost $3 from Forever 21 … and I only buy cheap camis too.

With regards to jewelry, I wear the same things over and over again. The oldest piece I consistently wear is my 10 year old bracelet Justin's aunt and uncle gave me when he and I had just started dating. Justin won't allow me to remove my wedding rings since I have a bad habit of losing jewelry … And I'm constantly getting him to fix my favorite necklaces. They are always breaking, but I keep wearing them and fixing them because they are my favorite.

So what does this say about me and my style?

I think it suggests that I am a contradiction. I like nice things, but I don't want them to look too nice. I don't want people thinking "she spent how much??!" or even taking much notice in my clothing choices. I like to just "fit in". But beyond that, I like to be able to go to my closet and find something that fits my mood and that I want to wear on a particular day. The more uncomfortable I am with my clothing choices, the more fidgety and moody I become. I just feel out of place all day … even if I get a few million compliments on an outfit.

What do you want your style to say on your behalf?

• If my style could say anything on my behalf, I'd want it to suggest that I am fashion-conscious but also down to earth. Anne Hathaway's style at the end of The Devil Wears Prada is a place I would love to get … even though my current style more closely resembles her outfits from the beginning of the movie.

How does your current style need to change to say more of what you want it to say, or to say it better?

• Shoes. I wear flats and flip flops. I'm pretty sure throwing in some heels would make a huge difference … as well as wearing tights, learning to do my hair and make-up, and buying jackets to match each outfit. But I suppose becoming rich and being able to afford all of the things could work too…

Have you ever stopped to consider what your clothing choices say about you? Are you a down-to-earth jeans + t-shirt + sneakers kind of gal? Or do you prefer more fashionable options?

* Questions from My Year Without Clothes Shopping
** I'm participating in the SITS Girls' February Writing Prompts. Are you?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Saving Money on Food: The Box of Blood Oranges

Justin and I tend to be pretty frugal with regards to food. Yes, we buy some things in mass quantities and pay more for things we really like, BUT we also only buy what we know we will use. We rarely splurge on a large box of fruit, because there is no way you can possibly eat that much before it goes bad.

But sometimes we make an exception.

Last weekend while Justin and I were shopping at the farmer's market, I questioned whether or not blood oranges were in season still. They are my absolute favorite type of oranges and bring back so many memories of preparing for my wedding day that I knew if they were still available, I was going to get some. As it turns out they were! Justin and I looked at the piles and piles of oranges contemplating how many we should get until I had the brilliant idea of buying a carton. In my opinion, the blood orange season never lasts long enough, so, by buying a carton of oranges and making some delicious treats with the oranges that wouldn't go bad super quickly, I figured I could almost make the season last longer.

So that's just what we did.

The first order of business was a delicious sorbet.

Molly Moon's sorbet to be more exact.

image and recipe from here and included in Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream book

In making a sorbet (or being with Justin while he made it), I learned a lot about the process … and the differences between a sorbet and an ice cream. The end result was a delicious, sweet treat that is now sitting in our freezer.

Next up: Marmalade.

image from here

I have to be honest, I didn't watch Justin make this. I got to experience the process anyway though. After beginning it the same night as he mixed the sorbet together, he came to bed soooo tired. Apparently, the recipe called for 40 minutes of orange softening on the stove. (It was 10pm when he started this process.)

No matter how much sweat and tears went into the sticky, sugary process of marmalading, Justin came out in one piece with a delicious spread for breakfast breads … and I imagine it would be downright delicious with cheese too. Four jars later, I'm pretty sure that we won't have to worry about running out for a loooooooooonnnnnnngggggg while. :)

Finally, we made Valentine's Day breakfast Mimosas with the remaining oranges.

image from here.

One, two, three glasses in and I was in heaven. :) The concoction was sweet, sour, and sparkly. No mimosa made with grocery store orange juice (or regular oranges for that matter) even compares!

Before we ended our blood orange making party, I did ask on twitter what we should do with our remaining blood oranges (at the time we had 20). Friends recommended so many things that I'm considering possibly buying another box and having a second go at it to find other delicious treats (and actual meals) worth making.

Have you ever considered buying a product in mass quantities and experimenting with it? What did you buy and how many things did you make? If you haven't, would you ever consider doing it?

* I'm participating in the SITS Girls' February Writing Prompts. Are you?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream At Home Book Review

I got my first taste of Jeni's ice creams on small business Saturday in December 2014. Using the Amex deal, Justin and I went in to buy a $10 gift card essentially for free. We were just hanging out around Decatur waiting for a 'Friendsgiving' to start and I was a tad bit hungry. I usually try to eat something before going to a new restaurant (unless I've chosen it) or to a friend's house for dinner or a party; I'm a picky eater and I don't like going hungry simply because I didn't like any of the food available to me. (Plus, I always have the excuse of "I just ate" when the host or hostess ask why I'm not eating…) So anyway, long story short, Justin and I hadn't had time for me to grab something to eat so when we walked into the store with the smell of handmade waffle cones overwhelming our senses, we certainly couldn't say no to one of the most delicious treats in the world – ice cream. :)

Needless to say, that was the beginning of the end.

We bought a scoop of milk chocolate and salty caramel to share, but, honestly, it was not something either of us really wanted to share. The ice cream was creamy and thick, much more delicious than any ice cream I had ever had.

So when Amazon had a sale a few days later on books I knew which one I had to get.

By Christmas time I had convinced Justin that ice cream was far more important than croissants, side dishes, turkey, ham, or any other dessert. It was even more important than the Yule Log I've been wanting him to make for years. Plus, the concept of making ice cream was a new scientific endeavor for him. And making caramel without ruining the pan? It was a feat that needed to be conquered!

When we went to purchase dry ice and the cashier asked why, we weren't given too weird of a look because we live in the southern US. Perhaps if we lived further north, she would have voiced her concerned opinion and determined that we needed to go to a mental institution for even considering making such a cold dessert during such a cold time of year.

While mistakes were made (like not putting sugar in), Justin conquered the caramel, milk chocolate, and Ugandan vanilla recipes with ease. I admit I was a bit confused by the use of cream cheese, but it all turned out wonderfully with the cream cheese barely (if at all) noticeable. In fact, the ice cream was so much like what we bought that fateful day in December that Justin has made many more batches since, getting better with time and practice. Our favorites are the vanilla and salty caramel, but we are looking forward to trying the others!

I highly, highly, highly recommend trying a few recipes from the Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream At Home book or taking a mini trip to a location near you (3 locations in Atlanta and a few in other parts of the US as well). The recipes are fairly easy to follow (as far as ice cream recipes go) and work well if you have an ice cream maker that actually freezes you concoction. (Kitchenaid does not.) There are so many unique flavors that you will never get tired of trying different and exciting recipes! And as I said about Justin, the more you practice making the delicious desserts, the better they get.

The Kitchn has a recipe from the book that you can try before purchasing the book if you'd like. :)

Have you ever had Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream? Will you be purchasing it in the near future? (Hint: the answer is YES!)