Friday, February 27, 2015

Mini of the Month: February

Nothing's better than discovering the new mini of the month flavor from Baked by Melissa each month.  The flavors are always so creative and tasty!

Salted Caramel was sure to be a winner, right?  That flavor is all over everything these days.  A caramel cake with chocolate icing might have been enough for some, but there was also a dulce de leche stuffing.  And adding the salted dark chocolate brittle on top - pure genius!

Unfortunately, I wasn't a fan. The cake didn't seem to have much flavor at all.  As a result, it really lacked the caramel taste.  Maybe a little caramel drizzle or a caramel based stuffing would have given it the punch it needed.  The dark chocolate chunk on top was certainly the highlight.

Are you a salted caramel fan?

Andrea :)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Happy Birthday, Husband!

It's hard to believe I've been celebrating birthdays with this fabulous fella for five years now!  I got a little creative with his "cake" this year - those are tasty rice krispie treats with sprinkles!

We are headed out to a great steakhouse tonight.  SO excited about all the deliciousness!  And we're making use of his birthday tickets to a WWE night of wrestling fun at Madison Square Garden this weekend.  I'll be sure to fill you in on all the highlights of the show next week!

For now, I just want to say happy birthday to my lovely husband.  It's going to be a great year for you...for us.  I am thrilled to be your partner on this journey through life.  Your positivity, easy going nature, and determination keep us grounded year-round.  Looking forward to the ups and downs that lie ahead of us this year.  There's nothing better than knowing we'll be together for them ALL!  I love you!!

Andrea :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Magic of Books

Books are magic.  And certainly portable.  But more than that, it's guaranteed they will take YOU wherever you'd like to go.  This quote from Stephen King immediately brought to mind a familiar tune for all the 80's babies out there... 

Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high.
Take a look, it's in a book, a Reading Rainbow!
I can go anywhere.
Friends to know,
and ways to grow.
A Reading Rainbow!
I can be anything.
Take a look,
it's in a book.
A Reading Rainbow.

Reading has been a priority from day one for me.  My mom is a (retired) librarian so we were always reading and going to fun programs at the library as kids.  We also had a tradition of going to the book store to pick out a new book for our collection each year on our birthday.  And who didn't love Pizza Hut's BOOK IT! program?  Personal pan pizza for reading...yes, please!!  You get the point, reading was important in our house.  And fortunately, I have always enjoyed it. 

On long road trips, I always had a book in my face.  I still enjoy reading books on trips, but now I go for the handy Kindle/Nook options.  It's not exactly the same, but it sure does save space in my carry-on.  Regardless of the method or where I was actually headed, reading never failed to transport me to a place, or time, or situation that I may never experience in the flesh.  It is truly magic.  And I love it.

Do you believe in the magic of books? 
What is the most magical book you've ever read?

Write or Die Wednesdays

Andrea :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's Only A Play

You know it's gonna be a good night at the theater when you literally run into Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones on the way inside the doors.  Honestly, I wasn't too surprised since It's Only A Play has a whole cast full of well known actors/actresses.

I knew going into this one that it was a play about a play so I was banking on the humor to carry it through.  It did...but it also didn't.  I wasn't too excited about it in the first half hour or so, but it had picked up a bit by intermission.  I found myself liking it much more by the final curtain.  Guess it just had to grow on me a little. Its humor and irony definitely carried it through.

Chris actually requested we see this one because he really likes Martin Short.  I thought Short played his role well.  Very funny man.  We attempted to stand outside to meet him afterward, but didn't last long.  It was below freezing with the wind just whipping through the streets.  Ugh.  The picture below will have to suffice...

Andrea :)

Monday, February 23, 2015

NBA House

After all the fun we had at NFL Experience a few weeks ago, we couldn't pass up a chance to see what the NBA had to offer over All-Star weekend in NYC.  We bought $20 tickets for a three hour time frame on last Sunday.

Our first stop was Sprite's Quench Your Thirst station.  They were hosting a Battle of the Burroughs recording studio.  We took a picture with the Queens backdrop before Chris totally killed it on the mic.  Check out his rap HERE.

Next, we headed over to the more interactive area.  Chris tried his hand at some trivia.  We watched a shootout.  And I managed to find my way into a line for Horace Grant autographs.  Remember him from the Bulls??  Loved those goggles back in the day!


We discovered just exactly how small my hands are after all.  Ha!  And just generally walked around and checked things out.  It was fun, but not near as involved or expansive as the NFL Experience.  Still a fun few hours for sure though!

Did you watch any of the All-Star events last weekend??

Andrea :)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Oscar Picks!

Oscar night is one of my favorite nights of the year!  I love every single part of it.  Well, I'm not really much on the fashion end of things...and I know that is a BIG deal to a lot of people, but otherwise, I soak it all in.  And I live for those speeches! 

Without further ado, here are my picks!  For Best Picture, I have ordered the movies according to how much I enjoyed them.  I have also linked each movie in the list to my review of it.  I had a pretty distinct bottom three.  The others were quite difficult to rank.  Particularly my favorite as I really enjoyed a number of the movies this year.   

Best Picture
7 - Birdman
5 - Boyhood
2 - Selma

This list reflects my own preference.  
I believe the Academy will choose Birdman to win Best Picture.

Actor in a Leading Role
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

Actor in a Supporting Role
J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Actress in a Leading Role
Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Actress in a Supporting Role
Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

Best Directing
Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman

Who do you anticipate will win?  Do you enjoy watching the show?

 Andrea :)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Review: Wild

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

I won't lie, I had to really push through the first few chapters of this book.  However, once I made it about 75 pages or so in, it really took hold and began to resonate with me.  Initially, I didn't care for the flashback writing style that Cheryl used, but over the course of the book it actually grew on me.  It was nice to be able to escape the trail for a look back on her life before this epic adventure began from time to time even though I did prefer the stories and people of the trail. 

I have no interest whatsoever in packing up and going on a several month long hiking adventure, but I certain could relate to Cheryl's need for escape from her current world.  It is truly refreshing (no matter how scary it might seem) to get out of your comfort zone especially when life has you stuck in a predictable or unhealthy rut.  I admire her for striking out on this journey.  And I absolutely loved the way her book ending with a look ahead to the life that awaited her, but in a unique and fitting manner.  I highly suggest reading this book! 

On the other hand, I recommend skipping the movie.  I didn't really like it at all.  Not only did it not really match up with the book in several ways, but it also just simply wasn't interesting.  The book FAR outshines the movie.

Have you read this one?  Seen the movie?  What did you think?

Andrea :)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Best Picture Review: Whiplash

Summary via Fandango:

A talented young jazz drummer experiences a trial by fire when he's recruited by a ferocious instructor whose unyielding search for perfection may lead to his undoing. For as far back as Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) can remember, he's been watching his father fail. Determined to make a name for himself no matter what it takes, Andrew enrolls in a prestigious east coast music conservatory where his talent quickly catches the attention of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an esteemed music teacher who's notorious for his caustic approach in the classroom. The leader of the school's top jazz ensemble, Fletcher promptly transfers Neyman into his band giving the ambitious young drummer a shot at true greatness. He may achieve it if Fletcher's methods don't drive him to madness first.

My Thoughts:

This one was a big disappointment for me.  I had high hopes for it, but it didn't meet them at all.  Perhaps if I had been a part of a band or gone through the rigors of learning how to play an instrument (or any skill) at a professional level, I would have had more interest or understood the film in a different way.  But from where I sat, it was just an hour and a half of pure abuse and torture.  Nothing at all was appealing to me about how it ended or perhaps any lessons learned because to be honest I don't believe anyone learned anything.  An abusive man continued to be abusive not only in spite of being called on the carpet for his behavior, but quite honestly right in the face of it.  I didn't get it.  I didn't like it.  I wouldn't recommend it.  However, I can see how J.K. Simmons was nominated for supporting actor.  He played his role with perfection.  His superb performance may have been the only redeeming aspect of this film for me.

Other Nominations:

Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons)
Film Editing
Sound Mixing
Writing (Adapted Screenplay) 

Did you see Whiplash?  What did you think?

Andrea :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Our Valentine's Day Celebration

I'm a holiday person.  I get into it.  I like finding the perfect card and putting together a fun gift.  It's like a little mini-birthday every few months.  And you all know how I feel about birthdays!!  No matter the holiday, I have always found it fun to celebrate.  Valentine's Day this year was particularly exciting because we celebrated as newlyweds.

On Friday night, we went to an amazing Italian restaurant with a group from our church.  The meal was fantastic, but the company was great as well.  We enjoyed the night and came home with some tasty homemade cookies to boot.

Chris surprised me with some yummy chocolate covered strawberries and a gift certificate to get a massage.  I was very happy with his thoughtful gift.  And I can't wait to go get the massage!!

I put together some sweet messages for Chris fortune cookie style and gave him a frame with our last name on it.  I plan to fill in the letters with some scenic honeymoon photos, but wanted his help in deciding which to use.

We mostly relaxed and caught up on some TV shows, but we did manage to find some time to get a little festive and decorate cupcakes.  Definitely confirmed which of us has the sweet tooth in this relationship.  I put SO much more icing on the cupcakes I was decorating.  Nevertheless, we had fun icing them together.

Did you do anything creative to celebrate the holiday?

Andrea :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Best Picture Review: The Theory of Everything

Summary via Fandango:

James Marsh's biopic of the celebrated scientist Stephen Hawking stars Eddie Redmayne as the famous figure. Enrolled as a graduate student at Cambridge, Hawking establishes himself as one of the leading minds of his generation and begins to win the heart of Jane (Felicity Jones). After one of his earliest breakthroughs, Hawking is diagnosed with ALS and becomes less and less able to control his own body. With the loyal Jane at his side, he continues his work. However, as the years progress, Jane starts to feel more like a nurse than a wife and Hawking begins to have feelings for a woman who is hired to care for him.

My Thoughts:

I was blown away by Eddie Redmayne's performance in this film.  He was excellent!  There were SO many times when I struggled to believe that he didn't actually have ALS himself.  A truly extraordinary performance.  The story itself was also quite interesting.  I found myself very caught up in it from start to finish.  I wasn't too familiar with Stephen Hawking's life story so every twist and turn was new to me.  I actually had no idea that he was still living so I kept anticipating news of his death for much of the film...but it never came.  The movie was rightfully packed with much emotion, too.  It is certainly not an easy task to be the primary caregiver for your ailing husband as well as your three growing children.  Similarly, I can't imagine having such a debilitating disease like ALS.  I enjoyed the perspective from both Jane and Stephen's point of view and thought the film did a great job of portraying both well.  This one is certainly worth a watch!

Other Nominations:

Actor (Eddie Redmayne)
Actress (Felicity Jones)
Music (Original Score)
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Did you see The Theory of Everything?  What struck you as most amazing about Stephen Hawking's incredible life story?

Andrea :)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX: The Media

No matter where you turn in this day and age, you simply can't escape the media.  There is no place that statement rings more true than at the Super Bowl.  It is unbelievable to me that over 5,000 members of the media cover the events of the week leading up to the game.  Pure craziness!

I managed to break away from my desk at the accreditation center on Media Day this year.  The crowd was overwhelming.  I was tasked with finding a couple of my counterparts that were working with the teams.  Not an easy task at all.  It was like Where's Waldo? in there.  Remarkable, but an absolute circus!

I didn't stick around long, but managed to snap a quick photo of Revis since he used to be Chris' fave when he played for the Jets.  Hail to Pitt...right, sweetheart? :)

My next venture into the world of media at Super Bowl was over at Radio Row.  A surprisingly less crazy experience, but equally as interesting.  The room was literally set up in rows with various radio stations or media groups occupying each table.  Various guests...some more famous than others...ventured from table to table being interviewed.  The most famous non-football personality we spotted was Montel Williams.

Surrounding the room there were some larger areas for Sirius, NFL Network, and other more global groups.  That is where we caught Jimmy Graham of the Saints.  And later saw Clay Matthews of the Packers.

Chris loves checking out this area.  He used to have a podcast of his own actually.  Maybe he'll bring it back soon.  I think he'd make a great addition to radio row next year!!

Andrea :)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Best Picture Review: Selma

Summary via Fandango:

David Oyelowo stars as Martin Luther King, Jr. in this historical drama set during the height of the American civil rights movement.  Its focus is set on depicting the marches from Selma, AL, to the state capital of Montgomery to secure voting rights for black people.

My Thoughts:

I thought this movie was phenomenal.  Very moving, relevant, and important.  I (along with many other Americans) was stunned by its limited Oscar nods.  Particularly for Actor.  Given all the recent race turmoil in Ferguson, Staten Island, and many other less publicized areas of our country, this movie was released with perfect timing.  I enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes strategy and conversations that took place around the march.  After seeing All the Way - a broadway show focused on LBJ's time in office - last year, this movie served as a wonderful compliment allowing me to see the same time period in history portrayed from a different viewpoint.  It was so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that this moment in history was not so long ago.  My parents remember it.  Truly unbelievable how our country could still be stuck in so many of the same mindsets when it comes to race.  I don't get it.  Likely never will.  But I am glad that this group of artists took the time to make a film that captures so well what this particular time in history meant for SO many people.  I would not only recommend, but also ask that each and every one of you watch this film.

Other Nominations:
Music (Original Song - "Glory")

Did you see Selma?  Were you surprised by its limited Oscar nominations?

Andrea :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX - The NFL Experience

Ever wonder how a Wilson football is made?  Curious to see what it feels like to make the call as a referee?  Or just simply love Skittles??   Yes to one...or all??  I certainly have the right place for you - it's NFL Experience!!

This was my first year getting the full NFL Experience...and all I can say is WOW!  It is an extremely impressive layout of the some of the jewels of the NFL (literally...they bring the Super Bowl rings and trophy!) as well as some of the most exciting interactive elements of the game.  I had a blast...and I wasn't even able to stay and play all day. 

Mom and Dad gave passing and kicking a try.  I didn't have on appropriate shoes for kicking, but I did manage to give passing a shot.  I wasn't terrible.

The second photo captures the Art McNally Game Center in our NY office.  I work here on Sundays throughout the season.  You can only imagine how crazy it can get when it's full of people with different games going on every monitor.  I really enjoy this aspect of my job.  Never a dull moment in this room!

Skittles was my favorite interactive area at the event.  SO fun.  And you certainly didn't leave empty handed.  They were passing out bags of Skittles in there like they were going out of style!!

This is how each football begins...

They are then sown almost all the away together...

Pounded with a hammer to firm up the seams...

A "bladder" is inserted and the ball is filled with just enough air to keep it pliable...

It is laced in the next to last step...THIS was amazing to watch!

And finally, pumped full of air!

Who knew making a football involved so many steps and people?  It was incredible to watch this process.  All of the staff at this station actually work at the factory in Ada, Ohio, that makes footballs for the NFL year round.  One employee was even telling us that she was on overtime most of the year just to get them done in time for the season to begin.  We stayed at this station for a long time taking it all in.  I was very impressed with each and every step of the process.

What do you think?  Would you enjoy NFL Experience?

Don't forget to check out my Super Bowl giveaway HERE today!  It ends soon!!

Andrea :)

PS - If the Super Bowl is ever in your home city, I highly suggest checking it out for the day.  They sold $35 tickets...and it was totally worth it from the couple of hours I spent checking things out!