Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Top Ten: Debbie Downers

Let's get the bad out of the way. Despite all the great things that happened this year, there were some not-so-great moments. It was a typical winter day in Lexington - gray, cloudy, cold, and rainy. So I'm in a gray, cloudy, cold and rainy kind of mood. Hopefully writing down some of the negativity will serve a cathartic function and help me move on, and enjoy the rest of my night.

Top 10 "Debbie Downers"
*note: if you are unfamiliar with the concept of a Debbie Downer, please go here: to watch a short clip before proceeding.

10. Plane Crash Nightmares
This one requires - wait for it - a flashback. During August 2006, my first month living in Kentucky, ComAir Flight 5191 out of Lexington bound for Atlanta took off from the wrong runway at Bluegrass Airport. It crashed, killing all but one passenger on board. This incident affected me greatly - maybe it's because the plane was heading to Atlanta and I felt that I could have been on it, maybe it's because I was still getting used to my new surroundings and this made me leery of flying out of that particular airport, or maybe it's because the stories about the passengers were so close-to-home, and tragic. Maybe it's because I personally know pilots, and feel like the errors that the pilots made on that particular day sound like something that could happen to any pilot, or to any group of passengers on board the wrong plane at the wrong time. Either way, I blame this event for spurring what has been my recurring nightmare for the past 3 years - plane crashes.

They happen frequently, and are a good indicator that I'm severely stressed out. Not one who's really in touch with my own feelings, I rely on my dreams to suggest what's really going on in my life. (Note: if I start sleepwalking, it's an indication that I need drastic life changes.) If I don't have a dream, it means things are pretty even-keel. Nightmares means I need to chill, and confront whatever is bothering me. I never have good dreams.

It's the same basic dream every time. I am outside. There are people around me, but usually I don't know them. Sometimes, Casey's there (probably because she was here the weekend of the 5191 crash). Each time, we look up and see a plane *almost* crash. We feel better, but then we see another plane crash, right before our eyes. Usually, they crash trying to land on a runway, or they crash by plummeting to the ground (kind of like Oceanic Flight 815). I immediately feel indescribably bad, and either I wake up right then, or I stick around in dream-world for a while to try to run over to the burning plane in order to help save people.

I wish they'd go away. Previous recurring bad dreams involved a big bridge (like the one on I-65 that's over the Tennessee River that is right between the Madison and Limestone County lines, or the drawbridge on Highway 31 in Decatur), that I had to cross, over the ocean, that I could never, ever get across.

9. 23,000 miles
That's how many miles I put on my car this year. I could have driven around the world. The positive thing is that it meant I got to see a ton of people this way. The negative thing is that it meant I spent an exorbitant amount of time in Cindy Ray Vaughn, mostly alone and bored.

8. Burning my hand
If I'm not careful, one day I'm going to chop off something that can't be reattached, or burn something beyond repair, or break something that will take years to heal. I am accident prone. This translates to "not good things" in the kitchen, where I'm surrounded by large amounts of heat, chemical reactions, and sharp objects. This year, my main injury happened when I grabbed the handle of my all-clad stainless steel sauce pan, that had just served as a roaster for a delicious piece of roast, and had just come out of a 500 degree oven. I thought I might have to go to the ER for a freaking burn. Luckily, with the help of Google, I figured out what to do and saved permanent damage.

7. Dave was in Atlanta and I was in Lexington
Long distance relationships are no fun. I know I'm not an interpersonal scholar, but I intend to someday write a book about long distance relationships. And how they should be avoided at all costs. Let's just say, Dave's proven himself a worthy and honorable man many, many times while we've been separated. If he's this wonderful far away, I can only imagine how great he'll be when I see him every day.

6. Doctoral Qualifying Examination
Answering 4 questions that test knowledge and competence on my supposed areas of "expertise" really wasn't so bad, nor was defending my answers in front of 4 legitimate experts (who are all brilliant). What was horrible was preparing for said exams. While taking 2 classes and conducting the pilot study for my dissertation. I can't imagine how intolerable I was from January-April. I apologize to anyone who had to interact with me during that time.

5. Sarah Palin
I usually don't get into political discussions. But. Seeing the "Sarah!" signs while out on my runs this campaign season made me want to stop and barf on people's yards. She is not a modern day Esther (despite what Pentecostal Grandmother thinks). She was not qualified to run for the office of Vice President. And I don't even think she was a feminist. Instead, she confused a lot of men and women out there about what it means to be a feminist. It nauseates me that people take her seriously and want her to run for president in 2012. That's all.

4. Havana Sandwich Shop was destroyed in a fire
The southern girl in me appreciates anything fried. Especially if what's fried is latin-spiced chicken or beef, cheese, and peppers. That's what I gorged myself on at Havana Cafe, in Atlanta. At least, until the place burned down this summer. I'm so bummed about it, I can't really say much else about the subject, other than if you went, you understand, and if you didn't get to experience the little shop's wonders, then you missed out. Guess I'll just have to go to Cuba?

3. Writer's Strike
Oh, how I fretted over what would become of LOST Season 4. They had such great storylines going, and the writers went on strike. It was such a depressing season for television, with even more reality shows and everyone all sad that their favorite shows were at a stand-still. I hope the writers are being treated more fairly and that this never, ever happens to us again. Especially not in 2010. When LOST is supposed to have its final season.

2. Auburn football
It's just no fun to wake up on Saturday mornings to watch a football game, when you pretty much know your team is going to lose. I got so many "WTF???" text messages this year from fellow disgruntled Auburn fans. I guess I was spoiled back in 2004 when we had such an amazing season, and at least had bowl-eligible seasons the past several years. But when both Kentucky AND Georgia Tech are both doing better than Auburn, something just ain't right. But...

1. Tommy Tuberville got fired
...the biggest disappointment is that Tuberville won't be around to coach them through another victorious season. At least I know that Auburn football will be back soon enough - I just can't imagine anyone other than Tuberville on the sidelines calling the shots. And no, I don't really care that much about football, but I do really care about Auburn. And you can't care about Auburn and not care about football. I was proud of Alabama and their near perfect season, I really was! But I don't think that Tuberville should have been let go because of one bad season either. War Eagle anyway, and we'll be back next year.

In typing this list of "downers," it makes me realize just how lucky I am that they are all so superficial. Never fear - I'll have a "Top Ten Best Things Ever" list later that celebrates the more positive sides of the year. But, to end on a happy, I'm so blessed that even the downsides in my life are not that bad.

Monday, December 8, 2008

End-of-Year Top Ten: Favorite Songs

So, this isn't food related, but I've been lazy lately and not had the energy to seek out new recipes. Instead, let's take a minute to reflect on the year. The end of the year. On my run the other day, I started thinking about what a monumental year it was, so to recap and reflect, I'll be writing a series of "top ten" lists over the next few weeks.

One of my favorite things about the end of every year was the Casey Kasem American Top 40 end of the year countdown. Not only did I enjoy listening to AT40 every single Sunday (and it's why I'm such a good person to have on your trivia team - anyone remember that night I figured out Purple Rain after 1 note at Loco's?), but the end of the year countdown was THE BEST because I got to hear all my favorite songs that had collected over the year, all at once. So, here is a list of my top ten favorite songs this year.

10. Africa - Toto
It's been one of my favorites for a long time (like, since 1984 maybe?) but I've listened to it a lot this year. It never, ever gets old. I can sing all the words. But I am a horrible singer - and basically sound like a dying cow when I try to sing it.
9. Black and Gold (acoustic version) - Sam Sparro
Sam Sparro is a new artist I discovered this year. This particular song is amazing. Not gonna describe it - just listen to it and see what you think. Is he talking about God? Or a woman? Or a man? Who knows. Who cares! It's amazing.
8. Praying for Time - Carrie Underwood
The Carrie version is the only version of this song I like. George Michael tried to sing it on American Idol after Carrie, and he sounded horrible. The song is beautiful, and when Carrie sang it on Idol Gives Back this year, it almost made me cry. So meaningful! And so true! I immediately went to iTunes and downloaded it. If you aren't a fan of Carrie Underwood, then what's wrong with you? She's the reason I can no longer listen to Jessica Simpson. Jessica sounds horrible compared to Carrie.
7. D'yer Maker - Led Zeppelin
Before the XM/Sirius merger, I fell in love with XM46 - Top Tracks. They played a lot of Zeppelin. Therefore, I fell in love with Zeppelin, and a lot of other classic rock songs. This one is my favorite Zeppelin song. Puts me in a good mood.
6. Just Fine - Mary J. Blige
The night before I defended my qualifying exams, I went for a run in the Johnson Center in order to clear my head and make myself feel better about the next day. This song put me at ease. No one quite like Mary J Blige to remind you not to worry about what anyone else thinks about you, keep your head on straight, and love yourself - even the way you look. Thanks Mary J!
5. Gimme More - Britney Spears (Kaskade Remix)
Don't hate me for putting Britney on here. The Kaskade remix of Gimme More is the very best way to start a workout. If this song doesn't make you want to run 6 miles, or dance, then I don't know what will.
4. Don't Stop Believing - Journey
One of my favorite songs of all time. Hearing it live, in person this year was a highlight of my life.
3. Shine - Luther Vandross (Freemasons Remix)
Another of my favorite running songs; this one doesn't get nearly enough airtime on BPM. I keep the extended 7 minute version on my Shuffle at all times, which means I listen to it nearly every time I run. If I'm running my long route, then I usually switch to this song when I get back to Pepperhill Road, to help motivate me to keep running up that one last hill and not stop till I get back home.
2. Sledgehammer - Dave Matthews Band cover, Peter Gabriel original
Best. Cover. Song. Ever. Heard it live this summer. I never realized how much Dave sounds like Peter Gabriel!
1. Livin' on a Prayer - Bon Jovi
Rose and I went to see Bon Jovi in concert earlier this year, and hearing this song live was an amazing experience. Every single person in the audience sang along. Every time I hear this song, I want to dance. Truly an amazing song, with a powerful message, and a hot singer.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Greek Pasta

First, some non-food related stuff.
1. Still in shock that I got tickets to see Elton John and Billy Joel in Atlanta on March 14. Warning: never open two browser windows when trying to purchase tickets via, hoping that at least one of the windows will work out. I lost potentially amazing seats that way today. But. I'm still going to the show. And I didn't get 3rd tier seats! Merry Christmas to me.

2. Bought Bela Fleck and the Flecktones' Christmas album yesterday. Strange and amazing. I'm looking forward to listening to it over and over on my next road trip to Atlanta.
2.b. Speaking of road trips to Atlanta, I'm done with Wendy's as my fast food burger of choice. Last time I got a Wendy's Jr. Bacon with Cheese, it was cold and disgusting. I'm now a Steak & Shake girl: single cheeseburger with mustard, ketchup and pickles, with a chocolate shake. Mmmmm. I can haz Cheezburger?
2.c. Really wish there was a Christo's Dairy Delite or Dub's Burgers in Lexington.

3. Every time I hear "Sleigh Ride," I think of my brother Heath, and how excited he gets when he hears it. Even in July, he'll sometimes look at you and go, "Did you hear that?" and you'll respond with, "hear what?" and he'll respond with "Just hear those sleigh-bells-ringagling!" It was one of the songs we had on an old 45 record full of Christmas music, and we used to listen to it when we were little. I don't know if that's why he likes it so much. But it reminds me of being little at home at Christmas.

4. Snow day in Lexvegas today. It's not much accumulation for Lexington, but more than enough such that if the same amount fell in north Alabama, all the news stations would be talking about "Blizzard 2008" and things would be shut down for a while. Apartment parking lot is covered with snow and icy patches. I wish they at least laid down a layer of salt to help clear the lot. I'm very paranoid driving in an icy, snowy, crowded parking lot. Another reason I severely dislike living at this apartment.

5. Swam 40 laps today, which is about 1.25 miles. Was a little rusty and almost quit near the end, as it's the first time I've swam since before NCA.

6. Came home starving. Made the following for lunch.
Greek Pasta
Put a pot of water on the stove to boil; salt it, add whole wheat rotini, cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, in a sautee pan heat up 1 TB butter and 1/2 TB EVOO. When hot, add some drained, quartered artichoke hearts, a handful of drained/rinsed chickpeas, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic. Sautee a few minutes over medium. Throw in some chicken stock (and white wine or vodka if you have it; I didn't, unfortunately) and add some drained diced tomatoes and chopped kalamata olives. Simmer over medium until pasta is done. Drain pasta, add the mixture in the saucepan, salt and pepper again, toss in some parmesan cheese, and add a handful of feta cheese. Spoon yourself up a bowlful and enjoy.

7. It's 3 p.m. and I've still not figured out exactly how I want to thematically analyze all these wedding websites. Hm. Oh well. At least I have pasta leftovers and a half pan of brownies for brain food.

8. Go Gators. And War Eagle anyway.