Tuesday, December 4, 2012


So I haven't updated in awhile because there hasn't really been anything to write about. I've been cooking a bit, but not really taking pictures. I didn't get much of anything made from my fall baking list. I did, however, actually make an entire Thanksgiving feast since I didn't get to go home. I was too busy trying to get everything made and my apartment cleaned that I didn't get pictures of anything. It was just me and a couple of friends from work who didn't make it home either. I made a turkey breast and some turkey legs (since a whole turkey seemed like a little much for three people), stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie. There were way too many leftovers, but it all came out really well, and I was pretty proud of my first Thanksgiving on my own!

Christmastown at the park is up and running. It was a rough push towards the end, and lots of 16-hour days, but it all looks amazing. You should probably come to the park and check it out.

^ France! The "Noel" has colored lights now, I just haven't gotten a new picture. I helped create the fleur-de-lis snowflake. I think it's pretty cool.

 ^ Escape from Pompeii. Normally it's a big log flume-type ride, but for the winter, the water is all drained and the basin and ramps are covered in net lights and the building is covered with hundreds of strings of lights. I helped do all of this!

^ Peace on Earth, on the train bridge over the river. Despite being one of the projects that I was looking forward to the most, I didn't actually get to work on this, but it's still pretty cool. 

^ Outside of Festhaus. The trees, snowflakes, strings of lights... everything is connected with data cable and it's all a big light show that goes with Christmas music. It's incredible, and I helped to do all of it. :-)

^ Oh, yeah, and there are penguins in France. I have nothing to do with these, but they're adorable!

So that's just a smattering of some of the stuff in the park. I haven't gotten pictures of everything that I worked on. I'm hoping I get a day off while the park is open in the next couple of weeks so I can take a real camera and get some good shots. I'm also dying for some peppermint-fudge hot chocolate, and a s'more. That's right, there are stands that sell s'mores. That alone is incentive to go!

Despite having worked on putting up Christmas decorations for the past month and a half, I've found the ambition to get a couple of things up in my apartment.

I have some more that I want to get up, and I want to go to Christmas Mouse and get a fancy wreath for my door. It's beginning to be festive, though, so I'm happy!

Monday, October 22, 2012


I love pumpkin. Pumpkin anything. Pie. Muffins. Coffee. Doughnuts. Ale. Ice Cream. Bread. Cake. So I got a couple of cans of pumpkin last week and went to town. I made the Pumpkin Bread from my fall baking list and I tried a homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Now there's a story behind the latte. The day I made it, I had been out and about all day, shopping and running errands and such. Well I decided I had a wicked craving for a pumpkin coffee. So I pull up to the Starbuck's drive-thru and order a Pumpkin Spice latte. The man on the other end of the speaker replies that they are out of Pumpkin Spice for the day. Worst Starbuck's ever. So I drove away. I figured I could still hit up Dunkin' for a pumpkin coffee. Wrong, apparently. I came to find out that my Dunkin' had closed and been all but torn down. At that point, I gave up.

So that's my story. I was forced to make my own pumpkin coffee from scratch. It turned out to be a good thing, since both the bread and the latte came out fantastically, if I may say so!

Pumpkin Bread
- 5 eggs
- 1 1/4 C. vegetable oil
- 1 (15oz) can pumpkin
- 2 C. flour
- 2 C. sugar
- 2 (3oz.) pkgs. cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix (not instant)
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. salt

- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs for about a minute. Add the oil and pumpkin, and beat until smooth.

- Combine the flour, sugar, pudding mix, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt with a whisk.

- Gradually beat the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture. Mix until just combined.

- Pour the mixture into 2 greased loaf pans. (I cut the recipe in half, so I only used one.)

- Bake at 325 degrees F for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

- Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pretty simple recipe, but super delicious. It doesn't have great measurements to conveniently cut in half, but it's do-able. The eggs were the hardest, since it's weird to try for 2 1/2 eggs, but I pretty much just used 2 eggs plus one yolk. Maybe it's easier to just make the full recipe and freeze one, or give one away!

Pumpkin Spice Latte
Ingredients (Single Serving)
- 1 C. milk
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. allspice
- 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. canned pumpkin
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1 C. very strongly brewed hot coffee

- In a small saucepan over med-high heat, warm the milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, pumpkin, and brown sugar until steaming (but not boiling!).

- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

- Pour the milk mixture into a large blender and blend until frothy. (Be very careful when blending the hot liquid. It will expand rapidly. As a precaution, take the insert out of the top and just cover the hole with a kitchen towel while blending, so the lid doesn't blow off!)

- Add the milk mixture to the strong hot coffee, in a large mug. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve!

It was the perfect fall day treat! I actually made a pumpkin pie last weekend, too, but I was in a hurry and didn't take any pictures. Oh, well... I'm sure I'll make it again soon! 'Tis the season - go forth and make something pumpkin-y!


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana-Nut Muffins

I've been in the kitchen! A lot lately, actually. I have a few recipes to blog about, I just haven't had the ambition to sit down and write. I made these muffins a couple of weeks ago to share with my coworkers. I was going to make mini-muffins out of them, but it would have taken forever, so I went with normal-sized. Now, I know that these weren't on my fall baking agenda, but I had ripe bananas to use up. They turned out to be pretty perfect, and the recipe is really simple!

In other news, I visited Howl-o-Scream last weekend. I went with a couple of friends from work and we made a day of it. During the daytime, we rode all of the roller coasters and caught a couple of shows. We even stayed after dark, when the scare-actors come out and the haunted houses open. I went through all 6 haunted houses. And survived. I know, I even shocked myself! It was incredibly fun, and everyone in the greater Virginia area should check it out!

 Anyway, with no further ado...

Whole Wheat Banana-Nut Muffins
(Adapted from the Banana Nut Muffins recipe on www.simplyrecipes.com.)

6 overripe bananas, mashed
2/3 C. melted butter
1 1/2 C. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. espresso or strong coffee
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 C. whole wheat flour
2 C. chopped walnuts

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the melted butter into the mashed bananas with a wooden spoon, in a large mixing bowl.

- Mix in the sugar, eggs, espresso, and vanilla until well incorporated.

- Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture, then stir in. Add the cinnamon and stir until blended.

- Add all of the flour at once (all-purpose and whole wheat), then stir until it is just incorporated. (Make sure there are no pockets of flour left, but don't over-mix it!) Fold in the chopped walnuts.

- Line a couple of muffin tins with cupcake wrappers. Fill them about 3/4 of the way full with the batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 dozen muffins. You could sprinkle sugar or cinnamon-sugar on top. You could also probably substitute a can of pumpkin for the bananas and have a much more fall-y pumpkin-nut muffin. Get creative!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Touches of Fall

I know, it's been three weeks since I've posted. No apologies. A) I've been super busy at work, trying to get the park ready for Halloween. B) I really haven't had anything exciting to post about. But. Now fall is in the air. We all know how I feel about fall.

We've been installing Halloween decorations in the park for weeks, so it's seemed like October for awhile. Now that it's getting cool at nights, fairs and festivals are starting, and I have some autumn decorations up, fall is totally here.

Last weekend, I planned on going to the New Kent County Fair and/or the Hampton Bay Days festival, but then I was lazy and had no one to go with, so I didn't. At the end of the month, the VA State Fair starts, and I'm totally going. Since I missed the Harvest Festival back home, and I probably won't make it up for the Bloomsburg Fair, I gotta get my funnel cake and gyro fixes somewhere!

Howl-o-Scream is finally open at Busch. I might go to the park during the day sometime while it's running. The whole nighttime thing with fog and chainsaws and haunted mazes doesn't really enthuse me. You should go check it out if that's your thing, though. We worked hard to get it up and running!

 ^ Ireland. There's a whole "Fiends"/mad scientist thing.

^ Festa Italia. Clowns.

^ England. Crows, and a death shroud on the clock.

^ New France. Spiders. I didn't actually help with the bridge at all. I was in a lift putting them in trees and on buildings. 

^ Scotland. Pumpkins, scarecrows, and hay bales. There is still hay all over my life.

I actually didn't work in Italy, France, or Germany at all, so I don't have pictures. Italy is the "Lady of the Gardens", France is rats and skeletons, and Germany is vampires. It all looks really good and I have comp tickets left. Just saying.

I haven't started to decorate my apartment for Halloween yet. I have some fall decorations up, though.

Right now, I have 4 different fall-scented candles burning. It smells amazing. Like Yankee Candle threw up in my apartment. That's a good thing. Trust me.

I also have my fall baking list figured out. Now, under the best circumstances, I only get about half of my list made. This year, with my lack of time in the kitchen, I'll be lucky to get a quarter of it done. I have a normal schedule for awhile now, though, so maybe I'll get some stuff made.

- Georgia Pecan Pie
- Caramel Bread Pudding
- Sweet Potato Brownies
- Maple Cream Tart
- Maple Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel
- Pumpkin Bread (I've totally never made plain old pumpkin bread!)
- Apple and Berry Crumble Muffins
- Everything Caramel Corn
- Caramel Apple Pudding with Gingersnap Crust
- Spiced Pumpkin Doughnuts (These have been on my list for the past 3 years. :-P)

It's a little ambitious, and unless I take some of it to work, I'll gain about a hundred pounds, but I'll get some new recipes tested and blogged about if it kills me! I've actually been cooking some, but nothing fancy or blog-worthy. Just stuff like sausage and fried potatoes, strawberry shortcake, tacos.... Nothing that takes effort, basically. Now with a normal person's schedule, hopefully I'll make myself get back in the kitchen more!

So to recap... fall is here. It's glorious. Get out and enjoy it!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Good Times at BG

Today was my first day off, after a 7-day stretch. I did nothing. I'm back on an overnight shift, so with my sleep schedule, I didn't get up till 5PM, and at that point there's not a whole lot to go out and do. I tried to go grocery shopping, but the store closed at 8PM instead of 9PM like the website says, and I got there at 8:15PM. I did stop at Kmart for some spot remover for my carpet, and some insoles for my work boots. Exciting.

Since I have done nothing exciting lately, and have cooked and baked even less than usual, I guess I'll just fill everyone in on what I've been doing at work. I'm not sure what I'm actually allowed to tell people, since they're weird about social media and revealing company secrets and stuff.... But, I don't think letting people know what I actually do, and posting a few pictures of public park stuff will hurt.

         ^ Rhine River Cruise boats, covered in net lights and twinkle lights.

So when I got this gig, I'm not really sure what I was expecting. Some kind of park-wide backstage work, I guess. Which... is kind of what I do, it's just not really at all theatrical, and most of the time it feels like I'm on a construction crew or something. I basically work with an outside contractor that they bring in to do all of the decoration for the big park events. We just finished up Illuminights. It was 50 days long, with about a month of set-up before, and a week of strike after. It was kind of a celebration of light and an end-of-summer kind of thing, with fireworks at the end of every night. We covered trees, buildings, bushes, boats, and bridges in strings and nets of lights. Set up a few bubble machines. Blew up some big hot air balloons.

^ France! I spent half of install here, screwing in bulbs and hanging garland and Fleur-de-lis.

Once everything was in place and the event started, I was on the maintenance crew. We basically just walked around the park and replaced bulbs, fixed problems, plugged and unplugged stuff, etc. It was mostly just a lot of walking. I would say the loop in the park is over a mile and we would have to walk the whole thing anywhere from 5-10 times a night. Now you see why I didn't join a gym!

                             ^ Ireland. There was a bit of a rainbow theme.

A lot of the lights and decorations are on the sides or tops of buildings, so I spend a lot of time in aerial lifts, 30-60ft off the ground.  I also drive forklifts, and 12-, 16-, and 24-foot flatbed trucks. See where the whole construction crew comparison comes in?

^ Giant chicken coops in Germany. We had to replace strings of lights constantly. Pain in the butt.

While this whole thing might not be quite what I expected, at least it's close to my field, and I'm getting lots of new experiences. I like most of the people that I work with, and there's rarely a dull moment! I have come to realize that this probably isn't what I want to do with the rest of my life, but it'll be good for a year or two, and I can keep expanding my skill set, making connections, and looking for my dream job. Gotta start somewhere, and I do love the area. I think I'm where I need to be for the time being.

 ^ Fireworks! I didn't have anything to do with these, but they were pretty. :-)

Now that Illuminights is over and everything is taken down, we start install for Howl-o-Scream. None of that has gone public yet, so I can't reveal anything or post any pictures. It's pretty creepy, though. If you like the whole Halloween thing, you should probably come check it out. It runs Sept. 14-Oct. 28. If I like you enough, I could even get you a comp ticket. :-P

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Big River

Time. is. flying. I'm not sure how August 9th happened. It still feels like June.... My life is basically just work and sleep. I could get up in the morning and do stuff... cook and/or bake for example, so I would have recipes to post here. But I usually end up sleeping till at least 1PM, then I have to get up, eat something quick and easy, shower and dress, and leave for work from 3:30PM till midnight or later. So I eat a lot of PB&J's, tuna salad, and chicken nuggets. Also a lot of fast food. I've lost 20 pounds since I moved to VA, but I've also started to eat a lot more fast food and junk food. If I could get my diet under control, I would look like a super model by now. (Or at least be down a few more pounds.)

I get one day off a week, and this past weekend I actually got out and did some stuff. I spent most of the day shopping... TJ Maxx, Wal-Mart, JoAnn Fabrics, some Sweet Frog froyo. Then Saturday night, I went to the Peninsula Community Theatre to see their production of Big River. I'd had the soundtrack for years, but never paid it much attention. It was only half an hour away, cost $16, and seemed like it might be fun. I'd like to share my thoughts about it. I don't have any pictures or anything since it wasn't allowed, but I don't talk about theatre nearly enough on here.

The show itself is good enough... I'd probably appreciate it more if I'd ever actually read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. (It's on my list, I promise.) But I don't think it made it onto my list of favorite musicals. This production in particular was pretty spectacular, though. The kid that played Huck Finn, and the guy that played Jim should both totally be on Broadway. They were amazing. If you know me, you know I don't hold back in my criticisms of theatrical productions, so if I thought they were amazing, you know they had to be great.

Almost everyone in the production was a great actor, and everyone had great singing voices. Some were better than others, of course, and Huck (Cory Steiger) and Jim (Rico Robinson) were by far my favorites. They both had incredible voices and stage presence. When Jim sang Free at Last, I had chills the entire time.  The girl that played Mary Jane did a little too well with You Oughta Be Here With Me. It's about her father who has just passed away, and no matter how lonely he might be wherever he is, he can't be as lonely as she is without him there. Wasn't quite prepared for that. There may have been a few tears.

I couldn't call myself a techie if I didn't comment on the technical aspects of the show. The set was actually pretty great. It took up a lot of the stage, but there were platforms made to look like docks at several heights, and all of the areas on the stage were very versatile. They used the space well, and the set looked great and very professional. My only criticism (oh, you knew it was coming) is that one of the platforms was a ramp made to look like a dock, on the end of the set towards the audience. Well, they could only build it out so far and make it so steep... so the end of the ramp was still at least a foot off the stage and they didn't put a step at the end. So in the very first scene when two older ladies came down the ramp and had to stop to try to step down to the stage without taking a header into the audience, it was a little distracting and awkward, not to mention unsafe. If they had just done something different with that, or even just put one step at the end, it would have been a near-perfect set.

The lighting was also pretty great. I mean, I would have done some of the design differently, but that's pretty much any show. My biggest complaint is that most of their fixtures are floods, so there were no shutter cuts off the curtains, and lots of bleed into parts of the set that may not have needed to be lit in certain scenes. For what they have to work with, and their lighting inventory, though, it was done well, and very pretty. The choices they made with regards to color were excellent. A few scenes, I was concerned when I looked up and saw bright yellow gels, but because of the colors they mixed it with, it worked really well.

I have no comments on sound. Mostly because there was none. I mean, I saw some angel mics hanging, but no one individual was mic-ed since it's a fairly intimate venue, and they all projected just fine. I think I would have been annoyed if they had been mic-ed!

Costuming was good. The clothes were all good choices, good colors, period appropriate. The make-up was a little iffy. When someone was supposed to look dirty (pretty much most of the cast, most of the time), they would just have a big brown splotch or two on their face. The amateurish make-up just seemed out of place when everything else about the production was so professional. Also, I just have to mention it because it drove me CRAZY... there was one little girl in the cast who had her glasses on the whole time she was on stage. Which would have been fine if they were at all period-looking. But they were thick black plastic frames with a bright blue and white design on the temples. The second she stepped out for the first time, it was all I could look at. I was personally offended on every level by those glasses. I know first hand that it's difficult to try to be on stage without your glasses, if you need them to see. I did it for 5 or 6 years. You just get used to not being able to see anyone and deal with it. Okay, sorry, end of rant. It's just... THOSE GLASSES. Ugh! Moving on.

So despite my few criticisms, I immensely enjoyed the show. When I see a community or school production that I don't like, I'm not afraid to say so. I will freely admit that I'm a bit of a theatre snob. So when I say that this is a great production by a great cast and crew, in an adorable little venue, in an adorable little part of town... you know I liked it. I would love to look into volunteering with them, but I have no idea when I would have the time. I'm sure they do most of the tech stuff in the evenings, when I'm at work. All of their shows are in the afternoons and evenings, when I'm at work.... So I will settle to just patronize them as often as possible, and to spread the word that they're doing great theatre there. Big River is playing on the weekends, through August 25th. If you're in the Newport News area, you should totally check it out. I'm thinking about seeing it again! Their next show is Blithe Spirit in October. I'm secretly hoping Angela Lansbury will be in it. Probably not. I will try my best to go see it anyway! Check out their website here.

I'm going to challenge everyone to find a local live theatre production to go see. This one was a great experience and only $16. I'm sure most people have a local community theatre, or a college nearby that does productions, or high school, or even a professional theatre. Get out there and patronize the arts!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I cooked again! This time, I even have a recipe to share. But first let's talk about my day off. I usually have Saturdays off, but I had Friday this week. So today, I had planned on getting up early, going to the New Kent Winery, then driving back down Rt. 60 and hitting every thrift store/antique store/second-hand shop along the way. Wellll, I slept a lot later than I intended to, and then this huge storm hit and everything got a little screwed up. But. I did make it to New Kent Winery in New Kent, VA.

It's a gorgeous building, and there are pretty extensive vineyards all around it. I got there right after a tour had ended, and the next one wasn't for 45 minutes, so I just did a tasting. For $6, I got to try 10 wines and keep the wine glass. Not too shabby. I ended up buying a Vidal Blanc and a White Merlot. I fell in love with the White Merlot at Victoria Valley Vineyards when I was in South Carolina, and this one is almost identical. I'll definitely be stocking up on it!

After the winery, I headed back down 60, and that's when the storms hit, so I didn't stop at every antique store that I saw, or any for that matter. I did stop at the Williamsburg Pottery Factory, though, as well as the Yankee Candle Village. I wrapped up the day with some Carside-to-Go from Applebee's, coming home to eat, and watching the movie Waitress, which turned out to be pretty good. It turned out to be a decent day off, and I found a fantastic winery that isn't too far away!

Now on to my new recipe. It's adapted from the Chicken Enchilada Pasta recipe from Taste of Home. There was a lot that I didn't like about their version, though, so here's my own Chicken Enchilada Casserole:

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

12 oz. pkg. of pasta (I used mini shell macaroni)
1 lg. sweet red bell pepper - seeded and finely chopped
1 lg. green bell pepper - seeded and finely chopped
1 C. finely chopped red onion
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 - 5 oz. cans chunk white chicken, drained
15 oz. can refried beans
1/2 of a packet of taco seasoning mix
16 oz. jar of enchilada sauce, divided
8 oz. package of Mexican or taco-blend shredded cheese
tortilla chips
sour cream

- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Rinse, and drain again. Set aside. You'll want to stir it every 5-10 minutes while it sits, so it doesn't congeal into a big pasta blob. Trust me. It happens.

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the chopped peppers and onion, as well as about a 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook until vegetables are tender, 5-8 minutes.

- To the vegetable mixture, stir in the chicken, refried beans, hot sauce, taco seasoning mix, and 1/2 C. of the enchilada sauce. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes. In a large bowl or pot, fold together the chicken mixture and the pasta. Fold in half of the shredded cheese, until melted and well incorporated.

- Take a 3-qt. casserole dish. Spray it with nonstick cooking spray, then spread half of the remaining enchilada sauce on the bottom. Spoon in the pasta mixture evenly on top of the sauce. Drizzle the remaining enchilada sauce on top.

- Cover the whole thing with foil and bake, covered, for 30 minutes. After the half hour, uncover it and sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes more, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

- Spoon out onto plates and serve with crumbled tortilla chips sprinkled on top, and a dollop of sour cream!

It's delicious. You can use more or less hot sauce, depending on your taste. If you don't have the time or patience to let it bake for 35 minutes, you could always skip the pasta, just make the chicken mixture and eat it in flour tortillas. Then you're just cutting out the casserole part and having chicken enchilada wraps.... You could also use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of canned chicken. Just cook it up and shred it. Canned chicken is just cheaper, faster, and easier. (Read: I'm lazy.)

It's such a great recipe to play around with. You can make it as complicated or simple as you like and substitute/add/subtract ingredients. It's super versatile, and can be made to fit anyone's tastes. So have at it!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Random Thoughts

I cooked tonight! Not a new recipe, though... or a recipe at all for that matter.... I fried up a piece of ham, sprinkled it with some black pepper, and drizzled it with some honey. I steamed some veggies, and baked some sweet potato fries. It was fast and easy, yet delicious. Plus, the whole meal cost about $3.50.

Besides my scrumptious supper, I had a few random thoughts and quotes that I wanted to share. I recently started subscribing to Whole Living magazine. It's totally aimed at women, but I was hoping to get some healthy recipes and advice out of them. While I haven't actually found any worthwhile recipes yet, there's a page in each issue with 10 Thoughts. They're just random little quotes and pearls of wisdom. I'm not going to post all of them, but I want to share some that really struck me.

June Issue:
#3 - Think about the places or environments that bring out the best in you. Now figure out a way to visit them more often.
#7 - Time you enjoy wasting isn't wasted time.
#9 - The upside to grand failures: they make great stories.

July Issue:
#2 - When our life stories start to sound predictable, it's time for a rewrite.
#4 - Summer tomatoes: the universe's way of reminding us that good-for-you food tends to be delicious. (While I don't like tomatoes, I like the idea. Just substitute "peaches" or "strawberries" for "tomatoes".)
#7 - Perpetually good advice from James Brown: "Get up offa that thing and dance 'til you feel better!"

The July issue also had a Summer Bucket List of 30 things to do this summer. Again, I'm not going to re-post the whole thing, you'll have to go out and buy the magazine if you want it. I will post some of the things that I think you should go out and do, though!

#1 - Prep all of your meals for a day without using a stove or oven.
#4 - Run through a meadow, a la The Sound of Music.
#6 - Be the first one at the farmer's market.
#7 - Take more pictures, without feeling weird and self-conscious.
#8 - Re-read your favorite novel.
#9 - Get caught in the rain and like it. Dance in it, even!
#10 - Take a road trip.
#14 - Nap so hard and long that you can't remember where you are when you wake up.
#18 - Smell like salt-water all day long.
#20 - Build a campfire.
#22 - Grow something green.
#24 - Hike to the summit of a mountain.
#25 - Stargaze.
#27 - Eat all the plums, peaches, cherries, and watermelon that you possibly can.
#28 - Watch a sunrise and a sunset. And it doesn't count if you do it just to post pictures on Facebook.
#30 - Keep a journal, collect seashells, or do something else to remember how much fun you're having.

So there are your random thoughts for the day. Just a few things that I really liked and thought that I would share. Make the best out of your summer!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My New Life

Wow.... Three weeks since my last post. That is just unacceptable. I feel like all I do anymore is sleep and work. I'm really going to try to get back into cooking and baking and all that jazz. Lately, I've been doing a lot of PB&J's, Easy Mac, and buying supper at work. I'm going to attempt to start trying one new recipe a week and blog about it. Ideally, I'd be doing two or three posts a week, but come on. At this point in my job, that won't happen. One post a week is a heck of a lot better than one post a month, right?!

It's not even that I'm working 12-hour days or anything... well, most days. I'm scheduled till midnight, 6 days a week, but some nights there's nothing to deal with and the park clears quickly and I get out at 11PM. Some nights there are major things to fix or the park takes forever to empty, so I don't get out till 2 or 3AM. The whole issue is that no matter what time I get done, I end up sleeping till noon or later the next day, and I have to start getting ready for work around 2PM, so there's just no time to spend in the kitchen. Hence the lack of recipe-sharing. I do have a Christmas project that I've been working on that I'll share once I'm finished. (I know it's July. Shut up.)

So until I make myself get on as normal a sleep schedule as possible, and get back in the kitchen, I thought I'd share some stuff that I've been doing. My mom and her friend came down to visit me for a few days and we went and saw some sights on my day off and in the mornings before I had to work.

On Saturday, when I had the whole day off, we visited some wineries in Yorktown. The Vintner's Cellar Winery and River Fruit Tropical Wines. They were just wine shops, not vineyards, but we got to taste about 25 different wines at Vintner's for $10, and we got a free tasting of as many as we wanted at River Fruit. I ended up getting a Pineapple Riesling at the first one and a Florida Grapefruit wine at the second. I'll definitely be going back to River Fruit. They had a Banana wine that tasted like Laffy Taffy and a Kiwi wine that I need in my life.

In Yorktown, we walked along the river for awhile and checked out some shops.

It's beautiful there. There are little shops, restaurants, museums, coffee shops, the winery, and a beach along the river. It's just a little ways from colonial Yorktown. I'll definitely be going back there to poke around. The day we were there, it was over 100 degrees, so maybe I'll go back when it's not so boiling.

The rest of their trip, we went shopping, tried some new restaurants, and went to the Lee Hall Mansion.

It's an old plantation that was used as a Confederate base during the Civil War. I'm not a big Civil War buff, or big on the whole history thing, but I love old houses and stuff like this. It was pretty great! The basement is kind of a walk through the war and what was going on in the area and with the soldiers who occupied the house. The top two floors are a restoration of what the house might have looked like, so there's reproduction wallpaper and period furniture and it's all set up like it might have been at the time. It's definitely worth a look if you ever happen to be in Newport News and looking for something to do!

My mom is coming back down in August with my cousin, so I'll have to start looking for more stuff to check out. Anyone familiar with the Newport News/Williamsburg/Yorktown area and have any suggestions??

Monday, June 25, 2012

Last Weekend Curry Chicken

This past weekend was my last full weekend off for the rest of forever. Starting this week I go to 6 days a week, probably until January. I tried to make the best of it, and had a pretty good time. Saturday night, I had some awesome Chinese, a Blizzard at DQ, and went to the movies to see Brave. Excellent movie, by the way. I highly recommend that you go see it!

Yesterday, I went to the outlets to look for some work boots and a rain coat. I found a great rain coat at the Columbia store. I might have found some boots if all the store clerks hadn't been annoyingly incompetent. There were only two stores that even had work boots, the Hush Puppies/Merrell outlet and the Sketchers store. The former had about 6 employees that were all over me as soon as I walked in the door. I appreciate clerks being readily available and offering to help, but they literally swarmed around me and nagged me about what I wanted, what size I needed, what I needed boots for, if I wanted steel toe, if I wanted hi-top or regular.... I said several times that I was just looking, but they just hovered there staring at me and asking what they could get me. Luckily, my mom called just before I started killing people, and I ran out of the store, never to return.

The Sketchers store was the complete opposite. I walked in and some very apathetic tween muttered in my direction that everything was buy one, get one half off, and then wandered away. There were only two people working and both looked like they were about 15 years old. I actually found a pair of boots that I was interested in, but they didn't have my size out, so I stood there for about 10 minutes trying to get one of them to come over, and I swear when I waved the shoe that I wanted at the apathetic tween who greeted me, he turned and walked away to the other corner of the store.

Soooo, long story not-so-short, I did not get boots at the outlets and everyone who irritated me should be fired... and set on fire. After the outlets, I stopped at the Yankee Candle store just because I like it in there and it smells good.... I then got some groceries and came home to make Curry Chicken stir-fry. It was pretty excellent, so I thought I'd share the recipe. It's a slight variation on a Taste of Home recipe. 

Curry Chicken Stir-Fry
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. chili powder
1 C. reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp. lite soy sauce
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast - cut into cubes
2 tsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 C. sliced carrots
2 garlic cloves - minced
3 C. fresh broccoli florets
4 green onions - thinly sliced

- In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, curry powder, red pepper flakes, and chili powder. Stir in the broth and soy sauce until smooth, and set aside.

- In a large nonstick skillet, stir-fry the chicken in 1 tsp. oil for about 6 minutes, or until it's no longer pink. Remove and set aside.

- In the same pan, add remaining tsp. of oil and stir-fry the carrots and minced garlic for about a minute. Add the broccoli and green onion, and fry for about 4 minutes more. 

- Stir the broth mixture, then add it to the pan with the vegetables. Cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and heat through. 

I made some brown rice to go with it. It's just the right amount of spicy, it's super simple, and nice and quick. It made two meals for me, so I'll have the leftovers for supper tonight!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Gains and Losses

I know. It's been almost a month since I've posted. A lot has happened in the past few weeks. I moved to Virginia. I started an awesome job at Busch Gardens. I got all set up in my new apartment. And I lost my dad.

Four months ago, Dad had his esophagectomy and we were told that he was cancer-free. Then, a couple of months ago, dad started having pain in his hip and we found out it was bone cancer. They said that he might have a year left. Then it was six months. Then three. Then weeks. Then days. His oncologist had never seen anything like it, it spread so quickly and aggressively. He wasn't in much pain at the end, though, and I got home to see him last weekend. He died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday morning.

So I just thought that I would share some pictures of my dad and end with a story of something amazing that happened tonight. 

Dad as a toddler. Probably around 1950. ^

Dad's senior portrait. Class of '67.  ^

Dad, my tricycle, and me. Maybe 1990ish? ^

 Dad and me by Seneca Lake in New York, last summer. ^

Now for my story.... Dad had built a grape arbor up on the hill last year and planted some grapes. Well, this year he didn't really get around to tending to it before he got sick again, and some big storm had knocked it around, and it finally fell completely over a few weeks ago. Today, I went up and re-built it, made it a little sturdier, and got rid of all the weeds that were trying to strangle out the grape vines.

After I got it finished, I took a load of tools back down to the garage and went inside for a minute. When I came back out, I started to walk up the hill and saw something brown moving off to the side. I look over, and there's a deer in the trees. 

I walked over and stood there and talked to her for a couple of minutes, and snapped some pictures. Then I backed off and just waited for a second and she walked out in the open and just stood there looking at me. I talked to her, took a bunch of pictures, and we stood and looked at each other. After a few minutes, she just turned and walked away.

I firmly believe that it was Dad telling me that I did a good job on his arbor. If you knew my dad and how much he loved deer, and if you had seen how calm and fearless she was, you would have to agree.

So... sorry I've been absent from the blogging world lately. As soon as everything has calmed down in my life, I'll try to be more regular again.

Rest in peace, Dad. I love you.

Gary L. Drum 1948-2012