Monday, June 30, 2014

Dayton Date Night

Right on the heels of our Nashville trip, as in, we had to leave Nashville in time to be home for the show....we had tickets to Million Dollar Quartet at the Schuster Center in Dayton. We were gifted these from my parents back in January for our birthdays this year and the time had finally come to see the show.

I took this at the Johnny Cash Museum - how fitting!

If you're unfamiliar, Million Dollar Quartet tells the story of an incredible night in December 1956 when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis met for a recording session at Sun Records. The show itself really follows the story of how Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, brought everyone together and where their careers were headed at that time.

The show is comprised of all their hit songs so it was a lot of fun. Our seats were incredible, third row! We happened to sit next to the mother of the actor playing Jerry Lee Lewis which was neat. If you're a fan of this music, you'll really enjoy this show. We did!

Prior to the show, we had a light dinner at Citilites Restaurant in the Schuster Center. We were a bit short on time so we thought it'd be easier to already be at the theatre ahead of the show. Having eaten much southern food the previous three days, both John and I opted for salads. He had the kale caesar and my Wintergarden salad had mixed greens, blue cheese, cranberries and pecans. Both were delicious and very reasonably priced, especially since they were huge. They hit the spot! We also shared the Beef Tenderloin Egg Rolls which were quite tasty. Service was relatively quick in that we got to the show on time and we were able to get a table without having a reservation. We would definitely eat here again!

All in all, a great night out downtown. We are looking forward to trying out some new-to-us restaurants in Dayton in the coming weeks too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Destination: Nashville

 Do you ever discover a new city on vacation and instantly feel like you could move there tomorrow? That's what Nashville did for me last week. John and I were fortunate enough to be sent there for a convention. It was a great mix of business and pleasure. Because the business side will bore you, here's what we did for pleasure!

We spent three nights at the Omni Nashville Hotel. Our room was $200/night before taxes but it's possible that may have been a group rate. The rooms were modern and spacious with a luxurious feel. Actually, everything in the hotel felt luxurious. The beds were comfortable, the shower was perfect and the room itself was so quiet. I didn't even need my earplugs. TOP TRAVEL TIP: Please tell me you pack earplugs when you travel. It will change your life! Nothing worse than noisy neighbors. There are several restaurants in the hotel and it happens to be attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame. We didn't have time to tour that but plan to do so in the future. Parking was a bit pricey at $32/night for valet but I think that's pretty comparable to other nearby hotels.

Outside the hotel, it was only a short 2 blocks to Broadway. Nashville is known as the Live Music Capital of the World and this is why! Starting in the afternoon and straight on through to the wee hours of the morning, each of these bars, honky tonks and restaurants has live music playing non-stop. It was incredible! If you're not a country music fan, never fear.

Great group at Robert's Western World -- view from the back balcony bar area

A lot of the groups played a mix of some fun, non-country hits sprinkled in. We had the best time at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Robert's Western World and Tin Roof Music Joint. Some of the places even had multiple stages and groups performing. The drinks were pretty pricey ($5/beer and $7+ for mixed drinks) but there are no cover charges. The bands play for tips and boy, do they deserve them.

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge -- awesome fiddler!

We had a fantastic time dancing and singing along with our new colleagues and all the other tourists. We probably stayed out way too late but it was hard to leave! Our last night was just the two of us because our friend, Sarah, and many others had already gone home. It was fun but it's more fun with a bit of a group where you're all enjoying the energy. The whole area has a fun and funky vibe. Everyone is friendly and in a good mood. Please don't miss the honky tonks if you head to Nashvegas (as they say).

Let's talk food. If you are a fan of southern cuisine, you are in luck! If you need lots of green vegetables in your life, you might have a little trouble. We ate at Rippy's BBQ as a group one night with a buffet of pork, chicken, potato salad, and cole slaw. I'm not sure about the cost as it was included in our tour price but I'm guessing it was quite reasonable. We ate at one of the hotel restaurants one night as well, Barlines. Burgers were cooked well and sweet potato chips were crunchy and plentiful. Most meals, however, were eaten during meetings and they were all tasty too. The Omni knows what they're doing, especially with fried chicken. YUM!

We discovered a couple Tennessee delicacies, as well. There were Moon Pies and Goo Goo clusters in our welcome bags. Holy cow! I was not counting calories at all this trip. I'm praying the dancing and walking balanced it all out. And we DID run in the hotel gym one morning (very nice facility).

Besides the food and music, there wasn't much time for sightseeing outside of meetings. We didn't even make it to the Opry or the Ryman. We were able to take a bus tour as a group on Thursday night which took us to some further out areas in Nashville like Music Row and gave a good history of the region. The one place John and I did visit was the Johnny Cash Museum.

It happened to be open until 7:00 pm when all other museums were closing at 5:00. It was also the cheapest entry fee at $15/person. It's a small but well done museum and John is a big fan so he really liked it. Lots of memorabilia and information about his career.

I actually learned a lot about Cash that I didn't know which was nice. One of my favorite exhibits was an ipad that allowed you to hear his songs in all different mediums they were recorded (vinyl, cassette, CD, mp3). That was very interesting and the vinyl really did sound great. The cassettes, not so much. It took us about an hour to go through which was enough time to let the rain outside let up. We had hot, steamy weather all three days but it did rain for a couple hours on Friday afternoon.

Last stop, not to be missed, is Hatch Show Print. This is the letterpress company that prints all of the posters for the artists coming into town for concerts, among other things. This was also attached to our hotel.

We bought a couple prints as souvenirs and I'm excited to frame them in our house. This is one that we bought. I couldn't find the other two online but they are equally cute and will make nice memories from our trip.

I'm already plotting when we can return to this wonderful city. There is so much that we missed that must be seen! I also want to get some cowboy boots really badly. John wasn't into it, but maybe he'd let me go back for this hat?

Even if you're not into country music, I think everyone can find something they'd love about Nashville. It was about a 5 hour drive for us which wasn't bad at all. Very easy for a future vacation......

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Minding Frankie

After powering through the book that was supposed to last me all through vacation, I found myself scouring my mom's bookshelves looking for a nice little beach read.


Amazon's Synopsis: "Baby Frankie is born into an unusual family. Her mother is desperate to find someone to take care of her child and she doesn't have much time. Noel doesn't seem to be the most promising of fathers but despite everything, he could well be Frankie's best hope. As for Lisa, she is prepared to give up everything for the man she loves; surely he's going to love her back? And Moira is having none of it. She knows what's right, and has the power to change the course of Frankie's life ...but Moira is hiding secrets of her own. MINDING FRANKIE is a story about unconventional families, relationships which aren't quite what they seem, and the child at the heart of everyone's lives ..."

What I Thought: The synopsis on Good Reads was so tiny I had to turn to Amazon. Theirs isn't much better but, there you have it. I've never read anything by Binchy before so I wasn't sure what to expect. Was it the most riveting story? No. Was it fine for reading by the pool with enough interesting characters and small plot twists to hold my attention? Yes.

Rating: * * 1/2

Monday, June 23, 2014

StitchFix #6

I got my most recent delivery from Stitch Fix back in May before we went to Florida. With all the travelling I've been doing lately, I haven't had a chance to tell you about it until now. I know it seems like I just got one, and I kind of did (in April). Actually, you can sign up to get them monthly but I don't have that kind of money or space in my closet.

Fair Warning: I didn't have time to crop these pics. Sorry about that extra space!

Collective Concepts, Mara Chevron Print & Colorblocked Tank, $58

I really liked the print and color of this tank when I pulled it out of the box. I had specifically requested some items that would be good in Florida and I think this fit the bill. The fabric is a lightweight chiffon but it wasn't see through.

However, the color block at the bottom didn't do me any favors and it's the same color as a blouse I received and kept a couples fixes back.

Verdict: Return

41Hawthorn, Alessandra Striped & Colorblocked Blouse, $54

This navy and neon yellow tank was like nothing in my closet. I really liked the length and it's racerback. Unfortunately, I didn't think it was very flattering on me. A bit too tent-like.

Verdict: Return

Papermoon, Lupita Colorblocked Cross-back Tank, $48

I really loved this one! The colors were unlike anything in my closet. The style was totally new to me. They included a white tank to wear underneath since it is completely sheer. I loved the cross back detail too.

Unfortunately, the craftsmanship on this one was a bit off. There were some seams that seemed unfinished and if I'm spending $50 on a tank top, I'd like the quality to be top notch. Because I was also trying to be judicious and questioned how often I could really wear this (i.e. not to the office).....

Verdict: Return

Under Skies, Olivina Hooded Slub Knit Cardigan, $58

I've actually been needing an outer layer for summer. You don't always want a heavier hoodie or jacket if it's cool at night. I thought this would be perfect for air travel too. Must have layers on a plane. The slub knit is the perfect weight and I dig the pockets.

Want to see the best part?


 Look, I can also cocoon myself in it.

Verdict: KEEP!

Eight Sixty, Kanni Highlow Printed Maxi Dress, $128

And last but not least, a fancy gown for you!

 I adore the Aztec print on this one and the gold hardware at the neckline. It's something I never would have selected on my own but loved it the instant I put it on. It was pretty sheer and has a cotton underlayer for more coverage.

I also really liked the hi-low hem. You could easily belt this for a different look too. Unfortunately, it was well out of my budget. And $30 over the price points I sent. Stitch Fix -- STOP DOING THIS TO ME! Do they honestly think I'm going to throw caution to the wind and pay more than I ever inteded? I guess so or they wouldn't price these things so high. I see plenty of other fixes at lower prices that I love so I don't know what's happening here.

Verdict: Return

Had I kept all five pieces, the cost would have been $244.50 with the 25% discount. Still well over anything I would pay for one shopping trip. I was glad not to have received any accessories in this one though. I don't need any more jewelry or scarves right now.

Interesting turn of events after I posted my last Fix review......a commenter said she also received a few of the pieces I did not keep because they were too expensive. However, they were priced well below (like $60 below) what they were for me. What the heck, StitchFix? I intend to get to the bottom of this. For now, I'm taking a break from them. I don't need any summer clothes right now anyway. But, I'll probably be back......

If you want to give it a shot for yourself (don't let my few sour notes here turn you off of it), PLEASE use my referral link found HERE. I will be your best friend forever.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Recipe Reblog: Summer Salads and Smores

A couple weekends ago, we hosted my brothers-in-law for a few nights. A good time was had by all! And, good food was eaten by all, as well. Here are the new recipes I tried.......

Southwestern Grilled Sweet Potato Salad: I wanted to do a potato salad that wasn't mayonnaise based. I love mayo but not everyone does. This recipe jumped out at me because it also used sweet potatoes. While I really liked all of the flavors in the corn, black beans, cilantro, etc. it was pretty time consuming. You have to grilled the potatoes and corn first and then mix everything together. There is no real dressing to speak of, just lime juice. I omitted the avocado so maybe that would have added more of a creaminess? It was light and tasty but only if you have the time to put into it by grilling the veggies ahead.

Quinoa Salad with Watermelon and Feta: When I announced this as a potential side, I was met with skepticism. I insisted it would be refreshing and delicious as a friend of mine proclaimed. I cooked the quinoa the day before so it would be cool when mixed but you probably don't have to do it that much ahead. The watermelon and feta played nicely off each other. The light dressing gave it a brightness that was perfect for summer. It was a hit with those skeptics and I plan on making this a lot more throughout these warmer months.

Soft and Gooey Loaded Smores Bars: Not interested in pulling out the fire pit but still wanting the smores flavor, I decided these bars would fit the bill. These mixed up very quickly in one bowl and were gooey-ing up in the oven in minutes. I ended up adding about 10 minutes to the baking time because I didn't feel like they were setting up. I also refrigerated them prior to cutting into squares. They were gooey and GOOD! The pan was quickly devoured and I will definitely be making these again in the future.

What have you been making lately? Any recipes I must make? Do tell!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Me Before You

Once again, I forget where the recommendation for this book came to me. Either way, here it is.


Good Reads' Synopsis: Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

What I Thought: While that is a very flimsy explanation of the plot, this is a great summer read! It kept my attention all throughout traveling a couple weeks ago when I was in Florida. Thwarting distractions in the airport is not an easy thing to do but Moyes' story succeeded. Lou and Will are intriguing characters that play well off of each other. If you're looking for a bit of an off-beat love story (I suppose you can call it that), this is a good one!

Rating: * * * *

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Beer Me: Point Ybel Brewing Company

Having been to Ft. Myers close to 10 times in my life, it's growing increasingly difficult to find new places to explore. But, you didn't really think I'd go somewhere without checking out the local brew scene, did you?

A little help from Google led me to Point Ybel Brewing Company just a few miles down San Carlos Blvd. from my parents' condo.

I meant to take a picture of the board of beer offerings but after we were served our flight, I plum forgot about it! Luckily, our friendly bartender wrote them all down for me. I hate when a flight is plopped down in front of you and you can't remember which 5 beers they rattled off in order for you so kindly.

I loved the Sanibel Red, the YAY! (which was a saison) and the No See Um, an extra pale (not hoppy) ale. Everything else was pretty heavy on the hops so John had a good time with those. I really wanted to like the Black Mangrove but the IBU's were way to high for me. Everything was really smooth with good depth.

Prices were very reasonable at about $7 (I think) for all 6 offerings. On the "nearly finished" side of their board, they listed a key lime wheat beer. I was bummed that wasn't ready yet. Guess we'll have to go back!

Also on point was their snack game. Pretzels AND cheese and caramel popcorn. My request for both was obliged, much to John's embarrassment. I didn't hear him complaining as we plowed our way through the bowl though.

I also loved my souvenir!

It's a pint glass shaped like a can. Unique, only five bucks and it survived the flight home. Winner winner chicken dinner!

There were plenty of seats at a long bar as well as a couple tables and jumbo Jenga all in what they've dubbed the Hurricane Hole. Sure, I'd ride out a hurricane there. We will definitely be back next time we're in town!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Skippy Dies

This book, by Paul Murray, was recommended by another blog I read as a funny read. If it's funny, it's for me!


Good Reads' Synopsis: "Why does Skippy, a fourteen-year-old boy at Dublin's venerable Seabrook College, end up dead on the floor of the local doughnut shop? 
Could it have something to do with his friend Ruprecht Van Doren, an overweight genius who is determined to open a portal into a parallel universe using ten-dimensional string theory? 
Could it involve Carl, the teenage drug dealer and borderline psychotic who is Skippy's rival in love? 
Or could "the Automator"--the ruthless, smooth-talking headmaster intent on modernizing the school--have something to hide? 
Why Skippy dies and what happens next is the subject of this dazzling and uproarious novel, unraveling a mystery that links the boys of Seabrook College to their parents and teachers in ways nobody could have imagined. With a cast of characters that ranges from hip-hop-loving fourteen-year-old Eoin "MC Sexecutioner" Flynn to basketballplaying midget Philip Kilfether, packed with questions and answers on everything from Ritalin, to M-theory, to bungee jumping, to the hidden meaning of the poetry of Robert Frost, "Skippy Dies "is a heartfelt, hilarious portrait of the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of adolescence, and a tragic depiction of a world always happy to sacrifice its weakest members. As the twenty-first century enters its teenage years, this is a breathtaking novel from a young writer who will come to define his generation.'

What I Thought: I really like a character driven novel and this wasn't short on characters at all. I enjoyed Skippy's interactions with everyone but sometimes it felt a bit slow and wordy. The main twist came a bit late for me. The book was over 600 pages and at times, it really felt that long. Still, this coming of age story is one worth telling and reading. It wasn't really as funny as I wanted it to be but I'm a sucker for stories set at boarding schools. I don't know why. Still, if the synopsis intrigued you, give it a try.

Rating: * * *

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

May Running Round Up

I found my stride again this month after 4 rough months of running (and not running). I also rounded out the month's miles in a new territory. The last three were some hot outdoor runs in Florida. I tried to get out before 8:00 am and I think I succeeded every day but it was still steamy. My new visor helped to soak up the sweat though.

I also ran a new personal record during a 5K this month, if you'll recall my post about the Furry Skurry.

5/1: 4 mi, 34:30, 8:55/8:36/8:36/8:27

5/4:  5 mi, 43:38    9:11/8:42/8:36/8:36/9:36

5/6: 4 miOUT, 36:56, 9:15 avg

5/10: 3.1 race, 28:19, new PR

5/11: 3.4 mi, TM, 30:02

5/13: 4.1 mi, OUT, 37:23, 9:07/9:03/8:48/9:31

5/15: 4 mi, TM, 34:41

5/18: 6 mi TM, 53:10, 8:52 avg

5/20: 4 mi TM, 34:36, 8:39 avg

5/22: 3.4 mi TM, 29:39

5/25: 4.5 mi OUT, 40:51, 9:05 avg

5/27: 3.7 mi OUT in FLA, 32:56, 8:54 avg pace

5:28: 3.3 mi OUT in FLA, 30:01

5/30: 3.5 mi OUTin Fla, 31:37, 9:02 avg

56 miles

Hands down, I'd have to say the most memorable run of the month was on May 25th. John and I were back in our hometown before flying out on vacation. I always like running around town and passing the houses of my friends that I rode my bike to countless times for sleepovers. Past the elementary school and my old Junior high. This time, after running a few miles in the park, I headed over to the high school track. I lucked out of gym class in high school because marching band counted as gym but in 7th and 8th grade, we had to go run on that very track. It was daunting. I was fat. And slow. We had to complete a mile in under 14 minutes. This was always a struggle for me. I started out with good intentions of running the entire mile but would end up walking just a few minutes in and ending towards the back of the pack. It was embarrassing and I hated it, but isn't that what gym class as a 13 year old will do to you? 

This time, knowing I'd be able to run that full mile as at 31, I cranked up some tunes and picked a lane. Finding my stride, how fitting that a Guster song came on as they have been one of my favorite bands since high school. It made me think of the chubby teenager that has now kept off a 50 pound weight loss for more than 8 years. I finished that mile in a respectable 9:02 pace, well under what would have been the 14 minutes cut off. I had a smile on my face the whole time. Proud and sweaty, I ran home.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Back in Action

Coming back from a vacation is always difficult. John and I spent a lovely week in Ft. Myers, Florida soaking up the sun and hanging out with my parents. It was the perfect mix of relaxation and calories. 50 SPF was my best friend and I didn't burn at all. This is a huge for my fair skinned self. I reapplied like a boss which meant I didn't get as tan as I might have liked but there again, it's not so healthy for you either.

I thought, perchance, I might break my coffee fast on this trip. Here to report that I did not and am still going strong 5 months in. Funny coffee related story though......

I accidentally tipped $5 for my chai latte at a coffee shop last week. I thought it was a one dollar bill I threw in the jar until John alerted me to my error. He told me to switch it out while they weren't looking, which I thought was rude. Plus, I only had a twenty. I'm not sure where I spent that one dollar bill but I left the five in the jar like a good person. Those baristas don't make very much money. Hopefully my five made them smile.

Back at the homestead, my garden mostly survived despite my not lining up anyone to water. More on that another day. Now, I'm ready to face the super summer that has now commenced.