Disney pin trading

I started collecting pins when I was about twelve. I bought my first one on an afternoon visit to Windsor, Ontario during a family trip to Detroit where my aunt, uncle, and cousins lived. Since then I’ve collected quite a number of pins from all over the world which, in most of the places I’ve lived, have been proudly displayed on a cork board. Colorful and memorable – I love my pin collection. So on my first trip to Disneyland in 2001 I was excited to discover that Disney pin trading is very popular. There are lots of places all over the parks and in Downtown Disney to buy pins, plus cast members wear lanyards filled with pins that you can trade with them for. (I’ve never actually traded for a pin, but I think it’s a great idea.) I was skeptical about wearing any of my pins on a lanyard for fear of looking dorkier than usual, but a few years ago I broke down and I bought one and it didn’t take long for me to fill it with pins. I got them at the parks as well as online where all the best limited edition ones can be found. The lanyard looked great hanging from a hook on my corkboard, next to the rest of my pins. Then Dan and I moved in to our house. I got rid of my corkboard because it was in bad shape and the lanyard got packed away in a box for the move. As we were settling in to the house, quite a lot of our stuff ended up in one of the upstairs bedroom that we affectionately call the “game room.” “Junk room” is more like it, but that’s beside the point. Stuff like textbooks and action figures were relegated to the game room because they didn’t quite fit anywhere else, so so when I went looking for my pin lanyard I figured that was the most likely place to find it. But despite several searches, until yesterday I hadn’t seen it since we moved in almost five years ago. Every time we went to Disneyland I lamented about my missing lanyard (I know Dan was tired of hearing about it) so I finally bought a new one and a few new pins over my birthday weekend. But then last night after I thought I had looked everywhere and resigned myself to the fact that my old lanyard was lost forever, I finally found it. Apparently I packed in a little box that I don’t remember owning, put it on the bottom of a bigger box, and then covered it up with lots and lots of Legos. Brilliant! The good news is that I didn’t accidentally throw it out. In the above photo my first pin lanyard is the black one on the left, next to a couple of jumbo limited edition pins that didn’t fit on it and a Simba pin that was part of a set that my friend Jamie gave me for my 16th birthday. My favorite one is Lilo and Stitch as Belle and the Beast. So adorable. My new lanyard is the red one on the right. I love the Darth Tater pin. (The combination of Star Wars and Disney might seem strange at first, but it really works as far as I’m concerned, which is why I’m so excited for the new incarnation of the Star Tours at Disneyland later this year). Now that all of my pins are together at last I need to figure out a way to display them. Any idea where I can get a stylish corkboard for our game room?

RIP Steven

One of our Arthur Murray dance instructors, Steven (second on the right in the above photo from May 2008), passed away on Wednesday. He had been battling leukemia for the past year and a half and it finally beat him. When Dan and I were new to ballroom dancing our instructor was Brittney, first on the left in the photo (isn’t she tiny?). But eventually Dan and I graduated from the “new students” division and we started having our lessons with Steven who taught the more advanced students. Steven was the happiest person I’d ever met. He was always bouncing around like a kid on Christmas Eve who could barely contain his excitement. You couldn’t help but smile when he was around. He stopped working regular hours after he found out that he was sick and Dan and I switched to another instructor at Arthur Murray. We thought it was temporary, but unfortunately we never saw him again. We got word yesterday that he had passed away and it really shook me up. Steven was in his mid-twenties – way too young to die. I kept hoping he would be there when Dan and I went to our weekly dance lesson. It’s just not fair. Someone who is that alive shouldn’t be taken away so soon. I’ll always remember Steven’s vibrant personality and I hope he’s at peace now. We sure will miss him.

Third new recipe

Take a look at this bowl of Slow Cooker Marmalade Curry Chicken and rice that was my dinner tonight! And check out the stylish paper bowl it’s being served in! Yes, after work today I resorted using some leftover Christmas potluck bowls because I just didn’t want to wash dishes after the meal was over. So the chicken in this bowl is the new recipe I wrote about yesterday. I used my new More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow cookbook that my parents gave me for my birthday to make it, but it didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked. It was okay, and Dan greatly improved the chicken by adding salt, but I don’t think I’ll make this recipe again without a few substitutions. I do think this recipe has the potential to produce really good slow cooker sweet and sour chicken, but it’s definitely not there yet. Next time I’ll use sugar-free marmalade (or another fruit spread) to cut the sweetness and add more salt and other spices. I’m glad I tried this recipe even if it didn’t turn out that great because trying new things is the only way I’ll ever finding any winners. As an aside, I love the idea of slow cooking, but it never seems to work out that well for me during the week. I’m away from the house for about twelve hours each day and that seems like way too long to leave anything cooking in the Crockpot. And I’ve found that the fastest I can slow cook anything is 3 hours for thin-sliced chicken breasts, but by the time I get home from work it’s already too late for them to be ready for dinner the same night. It’s a little frustrating. However, slow cooking is fantastic on the weekend, and my goal is to figure out how to more effectively use my Crockpot for making weeknight meals. This was just the first of many new slow cooker recipes I’m going to try this year so I’m hoping for better results next time.

Books to read

I was hoping to have the results of a new recipe to share today, but I got home from work later than planned thanks to an insurance hassle at the pharmacy so I’m not done cooking it yet. Actually, I’m not cooking, my Crockpot is. I’ve discovered that thin-sliced chicken breasts take about 3 hours to slow cook on high, but I just didn’t get them started early enough for dinner tonight. So I will definitely have the verdict on my third new recipe of the year tomorrow, but what should I write about tonight? I’m at a little bit of a loss because work has been so busy this week that I haven’t had time to do much worth writing about. Then I thought about what else falls by the wayside when I spend too much time at work and reading was the first thing that came to mind. I try to spend at least a few minutes reading each night before I go to sleep, but it’s never as long as I would like. Reading is one of my favorite leisure activities, and even though I try to get as many books as I can from the library to save money, I still purchase several books each year by my favorite authors. Ever since I got my Kindle more and more of those books have been digital, which makes my already overstuffed bookshelf breathe a sigh of relief. (Have I mentioned how much I love my Kindle? It’s the best thing ever!) My parents gave me an Amazon gift card for my birthday and I’ve already been making good use of it, loading up my Kindle with lots of new reading material. This means that I have a lot of unread books both on my shelf and in my Kindle. And since I keep a steady stream of books checked out from the library, I don’t know when I’m going to have time to read the ones I actually own! I really need to catch up before I buy anything else, but you know that’s not going to happen. Here’s a sample of my books in reserve:

A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane (Hardback)
Artemis Fowl: Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer (Hardback)
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (Kindle)
Glass Houses by Rachel Caine (Kindle)
Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead (Kindle)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Kindle)
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning (Kindle)

I’m in the middle of The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud and I love it. In fact, I’m going to go read right now! Come back tomorrow for my third new recipe review!

Food confession

I haven’t written about food in a while and it’s too bad I have to break my culinary silence with this, but I have a confession to make. Last night I got home thirty minutes before Dan and I had to leave for our ballroom dance class so I had very little time to throw together anything for dinner. Salad was the obvious option because I could just throw some vegetables in a bowl and call it a main course, but I felt like something was missing. Protein, notably. So to go along with our healthy salads I served…sigh…frozen taquitos. in my defense, they were inexpensive (I even had a coupon from the newspaper), they were ready in fifteen minutes, and they were actually pretty tasty. Not exactly my finest hour as far as cooking goes, but I’ve had worse. To tell you the truth, I’ve been making plans to try two new recipes this week, but time hasn’t permitted me to make either one yet. Hopefully I’ll have more than an hour to cook one night before the 21st so I’ll be able meet my goal of trying a new recipe during the third week of the year. I always enjoy being able to make a good dinner for Dan and me, but I usually only succeed once or twice during any given week. Leftovers are very helpful for the working wife. Tonight I made our favorite garlic and basil pasta, which is simple and delicious, but it isn’t anything new to add to my repertoire. The reason I want to try a bunch of new recipes this year is to build up a collection of go-to recipes that I can make anytime. So far I only have a few of those and dinners get monotonous when you have the same thing too often. So here’s hoping that tomorrow I can try my next new recipe – Slow Cooker Marmalade Curry Chicken!

Stream of consciousness on a plane (Part 3 of 3)

Continued from Saturday’s and Sunday’s posts…

But back to my original topic of NaBloPoMo. Business travel is very draining and I usually don’t have the energy to do anything after work except watch TV in my hotel room before falling asleep, and I almost failed at my posting goal this week because of it. One night I fell asleep at 6 PM, and when I woke up briefly a few hours later (still in my work clothes with the lights and TV still on) I figured that I had blown NaBloPoMo. But then I remembered how much giving up sucks, so I rubbed by eyes and updated my webpage. I can’t remember what night that was so I’m not sure if I phoned that post in, but the point is that on that particular day I did not fail. And I’m not going to let a transcontinental flight allow me to fail today (even when there’s so much turbulence that I’m hitting all the wrong keys). When I was writing my New Year’s resolutions last week I wanted to add one that said something like, “Update my webpage (with something, anything) every day” but I was sure that I was destined to fail that particular venture because a year is a very long time. So with NaBloPoMo I’m starting with one month and seeing where it goes from there. I remember in sixth grade my English teacher wrote “You should be a writer!” in my journal that she was grading (I always liked journal assignments in school) and that one sentence has stuck with me ever since. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be an engineer starting at the age of five and I wouldn’t give up my career in aerospace for anything, but I think I’ve always had a writer inside of me trying to get out. I hate how cliché that sounds, but it’s the best description I can come up with right now. I remember when I was a kid thinking about the future, all I wanted out of life was to be remembered after I die. At the time I had no idea how I was going to achieve that (although my first thought was to be an astronaut, but I think that’s a dream destined to be unrealized), but I was determined that my life was going to be memorable. Now that I’m older I realize that all I really need to be remembered is people who love me (as clichés as that sounds, it’s definitely true), but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on making my mark on the world. Most of my life I’ve just wanted to keep a steady journal in order to have a written account of my time on this earth, but I haven’t done a very good job of keeping it up for any period of time. Granted, my online diary/journal/blog is nearly twelve years old and I’ve documented some of the most exciting events of my adulthood, but there is still so much that I missed. The most notable time was the first six months that Dan and I were dating. I guess when you meet the love of your life, your number one priority becomes spending time with them, but I really wish I had written more about those six months as they were happening. I was mostly wrapped up in the romance, but I was also worried about oversharing about our relationship online where anyone could read it (not that my webpage gets that many visitors). Because let’s face it, I crossed the line with some of the stuff I wrote about previous boyfriends and the last thing I want to do is repeat that mistake. Not with the most important person in my life. Speaking of oversharing, the flight than I’m on right now has those personal video screens in the headrests of the seat in front of you and before I started writing this little spiel I watched “The Social Network.” (If you’ve seen the movie you’ll understand the “oversharing online” connection.) I remember when Facebook was a college-specific site where you could interact with other students at your school, but since I had already graduated by then I had little interest in it. I had my webpage – a blank slate with no structure that I could fill with whatever content I wanted. I was so proud of the site that I created in May 2002 when I graduated from UF because I wrote every line of the HTML code myself. Right now I’m dependant on WordPress and I hate having such limited knowledge of how to edit my blog template. And although I’m perfectly aware that it was just actors in a movie, I was envious watching all of the of the creative coding scenes in “The Social Network.” I’ve always hated programming and one of my professional goals is to never be a programmer, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t like to know to control the layout of my own webpage. I really should learn CSS.

I alternate between loving and hating Facebook. It’s definitely polarizing and it’s easy to see why. I think despite the fact that personal information is becoming more public by the minute, Facebook offers something for everyone because you can share as much or as little about yourself as you want, as well as accepting or rejecting any social contacts that you receive. Facebook keeps me in touch not only with my closest friends and family, but it’s also gotten me in contact with people that I haven’t heard from in years. It’s wonderful! But then you hear about people who get fired from their jobs because of something they posted online and you wonder if you can trust the site’s security? I have moments where I want to close my Facebook account and password protect my webpage, but it’s never more than a fleeting thought because I get a sense of accomplishment from posting my thoughts online. I really have no idea why it makes me feel so good – everyone on the planet is blogging these days. But I have to remember that it’s not a competition. My goal is just to be a better person today than I was yesterday. I’ve had plenty of days where I don’t like myself for lots of reasons, but each day that I go to sleep feeling good about myself is a good day. Those are the days that I want to make sure to write about because that’s the kind of life I want to be look back on when I’m old and gray. I can definitely see the progression of my personal development over my twelve years of blogging, but there’s no proof that I can attribute that to anything more than growing up (I was twenty when I first started). Maybe it’s all about wisdom, though. I just hope to keep accumulating it every day.

How to be cool

See below for my “official” post of the day (just try not to get bored by the second installment of yesterday’s inflight musings), but I promised I would post this photo of Dave and Matty Berman from last Wednesday night. Aren’t these two of the coolest guys you’ve ever seen? They’ve got it all. Peace sign? Check. Mickey Mouse sweatshirt? Check? Super cool. The sweatshirt, which fortunately fit Matty pretty well considering it was a generic 12-month size, was a birthday present from Dan and me. We hope he gets some use out of it this winter before he outgrows it. I was very lucky to spend an evening with the Berman family when I was in DC and I hope to see them again soon!

Stream of consciousness on a plane (Part 2 of 3)

Continued from yesterday’s post…

One thing’s for sure, though, I really need to learn how to type properly. Even when I know exactly what I want to say I still spend way too much time fixing typos because my sloppy finger movements cause me to hit the wrong keys. It doesn’t help that my laptop keyboard is smaller than the one I use at work 8+ hours a day, but I never did learn conventional typing. I remember sitting at an old Mac in my mom’s classroom when I was in fifth grade and trying to get through a typing tutorial program. It was really more of a game, and as with most games I got frustrated easily and gave up, figuring that I would just learn to type through the natural course of time. How wrong I was. But will I ever really need to know how to type? Nothing I’ve done so far in my academic, professional, or personal life has ever required me to quickly transpose words from a piece of paper to a computer. I’m an engineer, we don’t do stuff like that. Not in college and certainly not in our everyday jobs. When I started working full time at Boeing I spent most of my time writing documents, but I was never copying anything so my typing ability only had to be good enough to keep up with my train of thought. And since my mind is erratic at best, my personal method of typing that utilizes only a few fingers was more than sufficient. Even at UF when I was writing my online diary posts I spent more time thinking about what I was going to write than typing so my fingers didn’t have to move that fast.

I use my thesaurus way more often than I’d like to admit, but I’ve found that my brain doesn’t always cooperate when I’m trying to come up with a particular word. Often I know there’s an absolutely perfect word to use in my current sentence but for whatever reason I just can’t think of it. Usually it’s an everyday word that I wouldn’t normally have any trouble finding, but the moment I need it most, it deserts me. Like the word “erratic” a few sentences ago. I just couldn’t come up with it. “Jerky” was the best I could do, but my Microsoft Word thesaurus reminded me that “erratic” was the one I was looking for all along. I like it.

Stream of consciousness on a plane (Part 1 of 3)

I’m about halfway through my month of NaBloPoMo and it’s been harder than I thought it would be. I guess it was silly of me to think that updating my webpage every day for a month would be easy considering how much business travel my job requires, but I figured that since January is traditionally my most productive blogging month (New Year’s resolutions and all) that it would be the best time to give it a try. But it turns out that this particular January hasn’t been all that receptive to the idea. I’m on a plane right now, somewhere between Washington, DC and Los Angeles and I’m acutely aware that this is probably going to be my only chance to write anything before I hit the NaBloPoMo midnight deadline (even midnight in California, which is pretty much the drop dead time for posting on a particular day in the United States unless you live in Alaska or Hawaii). As soon as I get home I want to spend no more than two minutes hitting “Publish” and then focus the rest of my energy on spending quality time with my husband before Saturday is over. Weekends are way too precious to worry about when I’m going to be able to update my webpage. Like last weekend and our epic Disneyland adventure. Weekends like that are what the best memories are made of. (The only way I posted anything more substantial than a photo and a blurb was because I started writing before we left the house on Saturday morning. And since Dan was out bike riding that morning it didn’t impact our amazing weekend.) I’m determined to see NaBloPoMo through, and possibly even extend it into subsequent months, but I also don’t want it to start running my life. Not that I don’t enjoy my time writing. In fact, I think this venture has really helped my improve my writing, even if it’s only been churning our mediocre blog posts so far. Like right now, this paragraph has been flowing much better than anything else I’ve written this month. Who knows if that’s because I’m becoming a better writer or if I’m just worried about what the person sitting next to me on this 767 will think if I spend too much time hitting the backspace button and pausing between sentences. Probably a little of both.

Second new recipe

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to try a new recipe this week because I’m in DC, but I couldn’t give up on my first New Year’s resolution just because I don’t have a kitchen in my hotel room. It took a little bit of searching, but I did find a recipe that required absolutely no cooking or special equipment – Raspberry Honey Mustard Pretzel Dip. So this evening after work I bought the few required ingredients, grabbed some utensils from my hotel’s breakfast area, and mixed up a batch of raspberry honey mustard in a mini pie tin. I actually made two batches because the first one didn’t turn out so well. I refused to buy measuring cups or spoons so I had to estimate the amounts of mustard, mustard seeds, honey, and raspberry preserves to use, and my first attempt was way too strong. It cleared my sinuses! I used Grey Poupon because it’s my favorite mustard, but that might not have been the best choice for this particular recipe. In my second batch of dip I left out the mustard seeds altogether and used equal amounts of mustard, honey, and preserves. This yielded a sweeter, mellower dip that was pretty good with the pretzel rods I bought, but I still didn’t like it all that much. I think with a few tweaks this could be a really good dish for parties, and I would love to have a delicious raspberry honey mustard dip in our Halloween party spread, so I’ll have to work on it before then. So even though I’m not at my house with my kitchen full of tools and ingredients, I did try a new recipe this week. My first resolution is still intact!