Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving- What are you making?

My favorite time of year is upon us! I love, love, love Thanksgiving and Christmas and the time in between the two is just so much fun for me.

This year, for the first time in six years, Sean and I are not making the entire Thanksgiving meal.  I feel almost like I have nothing to do, because normally at this time I would have made several to-buy lists, already bought my turkey and other Thanksgiving groceries and would have already started prepping several of my dishes.  This year I'm just bringing one dessert and one appetizer to each of my grandparents' homes. So a total of three things to make is a vast difference for me.

This year I'm making:

A cheese and meat plate

Cranberry and apple crumble via Skinny Taste.  For the record, I taste tested this already and it's really delish. The only thing I'd change is to cut down the honey that's called for in the recipe. It made it a bit runny.

Oreo Bark- it's two ingredients and looks super easy. I'm going to try it out at Thanksgiving and if it's a hit, I'll be adding it to my holiday treats that I'm giving out.

I actually tested these tasty chocolate and cream cheese cupcakes as a possible dessert, but although they were tasty, they didn't have as much of a cream cheese taste as I would like, so I nixed them from my possible Thanksgiving dessert list.

What are you making? An entire Thanksgiving meal? Side dishes? Or dessert?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eshakti.com Review

About a month ago I was contacted by a representative of Eshakti.com to ask if I was interested in choosing an item off of their website and doing a review of it.  To be honest, before this I'd never heard of Eshakti, but once I googled them, I saw that there were many other bloggers out there that had done reviews of them. Most were favorable, some were not, but I myself, had a fabulous experience with them.

One reason why I like Eshakti and their clothing so much is because they will customize whatever piece of clothing you want to your measurements. Also, you can remove pockets, add short sleeves, make the article sleeveless, etc.  Or if you prefer not to customize your clothing, they have standard sizes as well.

I chose a beautiful cream and gold jacquard dress that had a retro Mad Men vibe to it. In fact, I'm considering buying a crinoline slip to wear underneath it. Within a week of ordering the dress, it was delivered to my doorstep. I went ahead and customized the dress to my measurements and was pleased to see it fit perfectly. The material is heavy and feels expensive and well made. Honestly, pictures do not do it justice. It's beautiful in person. I plan on wearing this dress to a dinner we have later this month for WTU and I'm thinking it will be my Christmas dress as well.

I actually did my hair and make-up and took photos in the dress, but after seeing myself in the photos, I was not digging my pale, washed-out self, so instead I'm sharing a photo of the dress from the website.

I highly recommend Eshakti. They have some gorgeous clothes  on their website right now and plenty of dresses that would be perfect for your holiday parties!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Normandy Trip

Considering Sunday was Veterans Day, I thought a post about our trip to Normandy would be fitting.  I've actually been meaning to blog about this trip and several others we took before we left Italy, but I just keep putting them on the back burner.

Although we had a fantastic time in Normandy, there were a few factors that I wish I could have changed.

1. I'd preferred not to have to drive 13 hours each way and instead have flown to Paris Beauvais and then rented a car, but with Boomer (our Min-Pin) and nobody to watch him, we had no choice but to bring him along.

2. We did this on essentially a three day weekend. Although we saw lots of the D-Day sights, there were so many other places in Normandy I would have liked to have visited as well and with our limited time, that just wasn't possible.

That being said, we still had a fantastic time and this was actually our last trip that we took while stationed in Europe.  Normandy, specifically the D-Day beaches and other sights were high on both Sean and I's to-see list, so I'm really glad we got to see such a historic place before we moved back to the States.

Sean and I left for Normandy on a Thursday evening in a rented car. I wasn't comfortable taking our Cobalt that was sans power steering through mountain passes. Turns out, the Fiat Panda we were driving wasn't much better.  We didn't realize until it started raining (driving through those mountain passes) that the windshield wipers would not wipe the rain off the windshield! Sean has awful night vision to begin with, but the car was a manual, so he was stuck with driving it. A few weeks earlier I'd had an awful dream where Sean and I drove off a cliff and I woke myself up as I was dying in my dream. So imagine how scared I was driving in the rain, near cliffs, through mountains, in the dark, with a car that's windshield wipers weren't properly working.  Because of the rain, it made the drive slower and it was 2 a.m. before we stopped on our midway point of getting to Normandy.

I'd reserved rooms at an Etap hotel for both the first night and then the next two nights outside Bayeux.  Normally I try not to stay at chain hotels, but since we had Boomer and they allowed pets and they had good prices, I went ahead and booked them. Let me just say, I was pretty impressed with them.

1. They had free breakfast included. Not to mention the breakfast was nothing to sneeze at. Fresh baguettes every morning? Yes, please.
2. The rooms weren't huge, but they were plenty comfortable for two people.
3. They had air conditioning, TV and free wif-fi. All of those get high marks in my book.
4. Although the Etap was outside Bayeux, it was only about a five minute drive into the town and they gave us a coupon for a percentage off the restaurant that was next door to our hotel.

Some lovely views on the drive to Normandy

I don't leave home without my trusty Rick Steves guidebooks. We also used Major and Mrs. Holt's  Battlefield Guide to the Normandy D-Day Landings. It was pretty extensive and another great resource to have if you're ever in Normandy and are wanting to visit the D-Day sights.

Our first day in Normandy we stopped by the German cemetery.  Although I've been to several war cemeteries in Europe, I'd yet to go to a German one. It was an interesting change from the American cemeteries. For one, it was less crowded and it was very plain and simple.

This is an unknown German soldier's grave.

We also stopped by St. Mere Eglise, featured in the film and book The Longest Day.  This is where during the night before the invasion of D-Day happened, that a paratrooper was stuck from the top of the church.  They still have a dummy paratrooper hung on the corner of the church, although I've been told it's the wrong corner.  Inside the church are some beautiful stained glass windows dedicated to paratroopers.
This is one of the windows inside the church.

The second day we started out by visiting the floating harbor near Arromanches.This is what is left of one of the two floating harbors that were constructed so that vehicles and supplies could be brought ashore after the invasion.

This one of several gun batteries that the Germans had installed along the coast of Normandy. These are at Longues sur Mer.  It was so amazing to see these huge guns that were left from a war over 60 years ago.  Down closer to the cliff there was a battery you could actually go into and see the view that they had of the sea.

This is the view from the gun battery

Looking down the Normandy coast. Much farther down is Omaha Beach.

This is a map, showing the invasion on D-Day. This is located above Omaha Beach and below the American Cemetery.

Stormy skies above the American cemetery

One of the many who sacrificed their life on D-Day.

Looking out at Omaha Beach

Another shot of Omaha Beach.  To the left, you can see some of the cliffs/ high places that surround Omaha Beach.

Bomb craters at Point du Hoc, where the Rangers scaled the cliffs. The Allies bombed this area for weeks leading up to the invasion.

The Ranger Monument at Point du Hoc

We revisited St. Mere Eglise the second day we were in Normandy, simply because there were several things we didn't get to see the first day, including a paratrooper museum.

We stopped by the 101st Easy Company memorial on the way to Carentan (another episode on Band of Brothers)  This is actually the second memorial we visited dedicated to Easy Company. The first one we saw was near Bastogne, Belgium where the Battle of the Bulge was.

This is the Dick Winters statue (commander of Easy Company) that was dedicated just a couple of days before we got to Normandy.

This was a church in Angoville au Plain where two American medics tended both the wounded Germans and Americans. What makes this church special and kind of haunting, is that you can still see bloodstains on the pews, where the wounded were lain.

These were located outside the museum at Utah Beach.  Seeing some of the obstacles left over from the beaches was honestly, kind of chilling.

On the path to Utah Beach

Utah beach.  Let me just comment on the fact that Omaha Beach was somber, quiet and had monuments on it. Utah Beach was teeming with people (although you can't see it in this photo) sunbathing, swimming and playing ball. It kind of weirded me out to see it. I just don't know that I'd want to treat a beach where many men died, as a recreational area. But hey, that's just me.

Obviously these are just a few photos from our trip. And there are some places we visited, like Brecort Manor (another Band of Brothers site) that there was nothing really to take a photo of. 

Our last night in Normandy we went into Bayeux to eat dinner.  I used Tripadvisor to pick La Fringale, a restaurant with some good reviews. Let me just say, we were not disappointed.  I wish I'd taken photos of our meal, but I was so enjoying the delish food put in front of me, that it didn't even cross my mind.  Sean and I both chose the three course fixed menu, although there was also the choice of a 5 course or 2 course meal.  I had a Kir Normand drink to start out with (fabulous!) fish pate as an appetizer, veal with cream sauce for my entree and creme caramel for dessert. Everything I had was fresh, homemade and tasted amazing. If you're ever in Bayeux, I highly recommend this place.

Normandy was fantastic! I'd go back in a heartbeat. The people were friendly, the area had lots to see, and seeing such a place ingrained in our American history was just amazing. I never though I'd have that opportunity when I first learned about this place back in my high school American history class.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Reviews

I've been awful about doing my book reviews this year. I also took a long break around the time we were PCSing and dramatically cut down on the number of books I read.  However, now that we've been settling into life here at Ft. Sill, I've upped my book reading again.

I'll share a few of the hits and misses I've read the past few months.

1. Dearie by Bob Spitz

I'd already read My Life in France by Julia previously, but I'd heard good things about Dearie and wanted to read it as well.  I think I actually liked it better than My Life in France, just because it seemed a bit more comprehensive and covered a lot more than My Life in France.  I really enjoyed reading about the background of Julia and her family, her school years and her life pre-Paul.  Julia was certainly a character and sometimes reading stuff she said or did kind of shocked me because I couldn't imagine the Julia I saw in my mind saying/doing those things, but it wasn't a shocker in a bad way. Just kind of interesting to imagine her in a different light.  This book is a bit long, but it's not hard to get through. I highly recommend it!
2. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I actually just finished this book this week.  I liked it, although at times I was just shocked about what I was reading.  This book is the story of Louie Zamperini, an athlete who competed in the 1936 Olympics and later is a POW in Japan during WWII. I'd never read about how POW's were treated in Japan during the war and I was shocked. Time after time when reading a chapter I'd just shake my head and wonder how these men ever survived.  Although I really liked the book and found it detailed in the material it covered leading up to the war and during the war, I really wish there had been more of Louie's story after the war.  There were chapters about it, but I felt like it wasn't as detailed as other parts of the book.  Louie Zamperini (and the other POW's) story is so amazing and you really must read it.

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This seems to be the "it" book right now.  I was a little late to the game in reading this book, but I finally snagged it at our library a few weeks ago.  This book is something else.  First of all, I've never hated two main characters in a book as much as I did with this book.  I won't give away the story, as there might be others out there that haven't read it, but the ending shocked me. I just closed the book thinking, "How in the world did this book end like this?!"  It wasn't a bad ending, it just surprised me.  I cannot wait to see this made into a movie. I just hope it does the book justice.

4. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

This is the first book in a series and it was probably the best surprise I've had in awhile when picking out a random book.  The series revolves around Flavia de Luce, an 11 year-old obsessed with chemistry and quite proficient in solving local crimes and murders. Basically she's a cheeky, younger British version of Nancy Drew.  Flavia lives in England in the 1950's in a small village with her eccentric father, two older sisters and their crazy servants.  I love Flavia and find her hilarious. If I had a daughter like her, I'd be endlessly amused.  I'm getting ready to start the third book in this series and I am hooked.

5.  First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

This book was a huge disappointment to me. I had a couple of friends tell me they loved it and even the librarian told me how much she loved the main character, how sassy and hilarious she was.  Well, let me just say that I'm surprised anyone liked this book. Maybe my sense of humor or my definition of sassy and sarcastic is different than others? Because the main character just irritated me and I didn't even find her funny. Not even a little bit.  The only redeeming part of this book was a few steamy scenes.  I know this is a series, but there's no way I'll be reading the other books in this series.

6.  Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

This was my other disappointing read in the last few months.  Let me just say, I love the Sookie Stackhouse books, but as the series has gone on, the books have lost some of what made them special in the first place.  I told a friend of mine that Sookie has killed/slept with so many different people that I can't even keep them all straight when I read the books.  Plus, I feel like the plots just keep getting stranger and more out there.  This latest book deals a lot with the fairy world and less and less with the original vampires and werewolves of the first few books. I just think it's time that this series comes to an end.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On My Christmas List

Since it's November, I thought it was time that I could safely feel like I could blog about Christmas, although in real life, I refuse to put up decorations/listen to more than one Christmas song at a time, until after Thanksgiving.

I've been putting together my Christmas list for awhile. Generally I just add stuff to an Amazon wishlist, which makes it ten times easier for me to remember everything throughout the year, so these are a few of the items on that list.

1.  Polar FT4 Heart Monitor

I've been wanting a heart rate monitor for awhile, but after my good friend Annie, told me how much she loved this particular monitor, I had to put it on my wishlist.

2. Bosu Ball

I was actually surprised these babies were $100! I put it on my wishlist anyway, just because I did an abs class that used them back in Vicenza and found it really worked my core. I know there are other fitness things I can use it for besides abs and think it'd be a great piece of workout equipment to have around the house.

3.  Frasier Complete Collection

There are very few shows that make me laugh every episode. Will & Grace is one, Frasier is the other. I usually watch a couple of episodes on Lifetime every morning, but I would LOVE to have the complete set of Frasier.

4. Poster Art of the Disney Parks book

I first read about this book coming out earlier this summer on a Disney blog and I've been excited about the book ever since. It's actually sold out a few times on Amazon, but is currently back in stock and I'm contemplating buying it, although I'll probably wait until after Christmas, just to make sure I don't receive it as a gift.  All the retro poster art of the Disney parks is in here. Considering I want to decorate one of my future childrens' rooms in Disney poster art, this is definitely high on my list for this Christmas.
5. Make-Up Organizer
This little baby comes from The Container Store. I first saw it on Pinterest and thought, "Yes! This is exactly what I need for my bathroom!" Currently my make-up hangs out in my make-up bag and it's annoying to have to dig out everything everyday when I could just have it sitting in this.
6.  Bird print
This comes from the shop of Visualphilosophy. Tons of cute prints for good prices in the shop, check them out!
7. London Bus Print
This print comes from HelenRobin, another great shop for prints. I love London, so this would be perfect in my house.

8.  The Money Pit
One of my all time fave movies, yet for some reason I don't own it. I cannot tell you how many times I watched this when I was younger. Hilarious! And I started calling the house we currently live in The Money Pit when we were having so many issues with it right after we first moved in.

So, there you have it, a few items on my Christmas wish list.  Care to share some items you have on your own list?