Friday, January 13, 2012

Champagne Friday: Random Style

thank you

I have been conspicuously absent around here this week. I haven't felt great and between catching up on Downton Abbey's season 2 premier on the PBS website, trying to stockpile R.E.D. Friday items, and starting my taxes...well, there hasn't been much of anything bloggy in my life this week. But I can't let a Champagne Friday pass without celebrating. So this week I'm popping a cork and recounting some random events from the past week that never quite made it onto the blog. If you have a little random of your own, be sure to link up with Shana.
1. Neal has started back to school so while he's writing papers about the structure of leadership in organizational leadership in leadership companies (or something), I'm watching 30 Rock...from start to now. That's 102 episodes. I'm on number 70. So far, I've learned that Frank is not that foul when dressed as a Harvard man, Jason Sudeikis is way hotter when he's playing Liz's boyfriend, and that show has a lot of guest stars. Like people who, I would imagine, have to appear due to some unfortunate loophole in their contract (especially any cast members from SNL...except for Seth Myer. How did he get out of it?).

2. A number of my friends opted out of Christmas cards this year and decided to go with Happy New Year's cards instead. And here I thought they just didn't care. Also, we are sending out Happy Arbor Day cards instead of Christmas cards so, y'know, keep an eye open for that coming soon to your mailbox.

3. All of the sports commentators nonchalantly commented on Tuesday night that Auburn wouldn't give UK too much trouble in the game on Wednesday. Thanks a freakin lot, guys. We nearly lost and I would have been all too happy to blame it on you and your dooming predictions. Save them for our opponents, will you?

4. While watching the evening news this week, there was a commercial for a flavor enhancer that you put in your food. It comes in a packet and you add the "chicken" flavor to chicken, "beef" flavor to beef, and so on. What the what? Do I even want to know why companies don't think our chicken tastes chickeny enough for us?

5. The season 2 premier of Downton Abbey got clobbered by the critics. Of course, these are the same people who said I should watch Dances With Wolves (still haven't made it through without falling asleep), How Green Was My Valley (sounds like a porn film), and Titanic (OK, you have me there. Although geez, Rose...can you freaking scoot over so Jack doesn't have to freeze to death?). But I thought it was magnificent. A bit of a twist for Mr. Bates and Anna...a little bit o war to keep it real...and Dame Maggie inserting barbs whenever possible. They will probably not win any awards for their depiction of the English at war, but I don't watch DA (I'm going to shorten it and see if it catches on in the interwebs) for the war scenes. I watch it to see Mrs. O'Brien scheme and Lady Mary pine after Matthew. Because I'm a chick and that's what we do.

6. Lastly, Neal has discovered a pizza place in Macon that is 7 different types of garlicky goodness. They get their crust to puff up like Papa John's, but without the tub of grease floating on the top. But if you don't have anything of the Ingleside variety near you, Papa John's is giving away a pizza every 45 seconds every Saturday until Super Bowl. I guess this is their new marketing strategy...if there's going to be a heart attack every 45 seconds, let's make sure we're the leading cause.

Happy Champagne Friday. A toast to you, wherever you are!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Champagne Friday: The British Are Coming

you're the best

I was actually searching for an image of British royalty casually sipping on champagne for this post. But a complete lack of images tells me one thing: the British royalty do not openly sip champagne. And I just think that's a damn shame. Although, I bet Camilla does a pretty healthy keg stand.

For this Champagne Friday, I am unabashedly singing the praises of PBS's new season of Downton Abbey. No...that is not DownTown Abbey. That would be a McMansion parked squarely in Covent Garden. Downton Abbey is the engaging and soap opera-esque story of the upstairs inhabitants of a country home outside of London and the downstairs staff that keeps it running.

With the exception of Maggie Smith (that's Dame Maggie Smith to you), who plays the reigning Dowager Countess of Grantham (but may be more familiar from her roles in Harry Potter), I recognized none of the cast. But they perfectly execute their roles so that it's easy to imagine yourself falling into the patterns of either the upstairs or downstairs lifestyle. I recently read a review in the USA Today that said one of the reasons Downton Abbey is such enthralling entertainment is because the staff are not treated like third class citizens by the upstairs residents. In the first season, the cook cried on the earl's shoulder and the butler lent comfort to the oldest Grantham sister. Their lives are intertwined and the series shows an easy, albeit occasionally dramatic, interaction between those living upstairs and those working downstairs.

The second season starts on PBS on Sunday, which is why I'm spewing my British love, all the way from the colonies, here today. If you want to get caught up before Sunday, fortunately the first season is only approximately 7 hours long. You can find the 7 episodes of about 45 minutes each on Netflix instant streaming or you can watch them on the PBS website. Another reason to love a hit PBS show? As they are facing a possible cut in government funding, it's so much easier to donate to a station that gives added quality to your life. Also, it's public television and I have yet to hear anyone on Downton Abbey drop an f, s, or h-bomb. And the sex scenes consist of a twee bit of kissing and maybe a hand wrapped around the head. Three cheers for not having to cover Neal's eyes!

I'll leave you with some of the Dowager Countess's more cutting very very witty. They are delivered so precisely and so quickly sometimes that it's hard to get them all!

And some of these could give a bit of the plot away so if you would rather hear for yourself, then I'll leave you here. Happy Weekend and Happy Champagne Friday!

"I couldn't have electricity in the house, I wouldn't sleep a wink. All those vapors floating about."

"Last night! He looked so well. Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else's house."

"Why does everyday involve a fight with an American?"

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Corn and Caucuses (or what I learned from Wikipedia this morning)

This is what I know about Iowa:

1) It is in the midwest.
2) They grow corn there.
3) When I was 10 years old, the love of my 5th grade year, Jeremy Woodford, moved with his family (as if he had a choice at the ripe age of 10 to stay behind and live out his days with me) to Des Moines and left me clutching his elementary school football jersey in the gym after a dance.
4) Every 4 years, the candidates flock to the state to duke it out and win over the undecided voter.

The Iowa caucus generally falls on the first Tuesday of January, which means you probably missed most of the hype due to the month-long excitement of office Christmas parties and watching the Yule Log on Netflix. But even when you aren't tuned in, it still happens.

Iowa seems to be a rather random choice for candidates to attack and conquer. A more rational decision would be Texas. Look how many people live in Texas. That's like half the country. Seal up the Texan vote and you are as good as inaugurated. Or what about Maryland? Those folks live so close (and sometimes intertwined with) the D.C. set that surely they would only vote in someone they deem worthy as a neighbor.

But, nope, Iowa it is. All because Georgia governor, Jimmy Carter, used his "win" in Iowa to catapult him into success in New Hampshire and ultimately to 1600 Pennsylvania. Ever since, candidates have traveled to America's land of corn and Jeremy Woodford to hold court in places like The Pizza Ranch. These town hall meetings, which sometimes happen in a town hall but more often than not take place in someone's colonial home living room (decorated with Queen Anne coffee tables and a roaring fire) are called caucuses. I love the word caucus. I think it sounds like a rowdy party of cactuses (except, technically it's cacti and when you say it like that it just doesn't make sense any more). So these cactuses get together on a Friday night and, fueled by Captain Morgan rum and the hopes of bumping pricklies with a cactus from Economics class, throw a toga party in the basement of a city hall building. By midnight, the DJ is grinding jams while the cactuses are grinding trunks and that is called a caucus.

Or it's "a smoke-filled room where candidates for public election are pre-selected in private", according to the diary of James Adams. Although James Hammond Trumbull suggested that it comes from the Algonquin word for counsel. And other sources claim it is derived from the Latin word caucus, meaning "drinking vessel".

Regardless of whether they're getting counseled or getting drunk, Iowa gets the first stab at it every 4 years. But the Iowa caucus is not without its fair share of controversy.

Winning the Iowa caucus does not always equate to presidency.

Apparently, the Democrats must vote publicly in an Iowa caucus, which is just lunacy. Even a Kindergarten teacher can tell you that closing your eyes and raising your hand is the only legitimate way to take a vote.

Absentee voting is not allowed. Our deepest apologies to all of the Iowan military serving abroad. You are basically Washington D.C. during the Iowa caucus.

The equation for calculating votes is apparently very complex and not as easy as "1 for Bachman, 5 for Gingrich, 19457436368474 for Romney."

Speaking of complex, my hat goes off to whomever wrote the breakdown for the Democratic and Republican processes for Wikipedia. I got hopelessly lost somewhere around the 2nd paragraph and started thinking about how I was so hungry for strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. But I think everyone would agree, you know your political shit.

So, today is a big day for the corn-fed. They will close their eyes and raise their hands (being Republican and all) and later tonight someone will emerge victorious. I hope it's Rick Santorum in those ridiculous v-neck vests. I see a fashion trend there that's just itching to emerge.

And now that I think about it, maybe substitute the word "potato" for every time I used the word "corn". Hard to keep my starches straight.

Do you live in Iowa? Do you have some light to shed on the matter? Are you offended that I called you corn-fed? Don't take it personally, so am I.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Oh the Difference a Year Makes

When I awoke this morning, it could have been any other day in any other year. We were in bed and asleep by the time 2012 rolled in and only the excessive news coverage of last night's celebrations reminds me that it's a new year with new plans, new expectations, and new dreams. Otherwise I would still be writing 2011 at the top of my checks.

So, obviously I am returning well in advance of my anticipated February 1 date. And if I had come back when Neal's deployment was done, I would have been moved back over here around the middle of November. But I waffled about leaving behind new readers and returning to a blog full of good times and the saddest of sad memories. Ultimately, Magnolias & Mimosas best describes my affinity for the full white petals of the deep south trees and justified drinking before noon. And, of course, my enduring love affair with the ampersand.

I would do a year in review, but a) I am not much inclined to spend vast amounts of time and energy reciting the past and b) I think you would be less inclined to read it. Suffice it to say, Neal and the 352 were integral in closing down Iraq (and, consequently, in the quietly televised ceremony of troops crossing the Kuwait border and American flags being lowered for the last time) and I spent my time and our money trying to distract myself from his absence and my loneliness. But I also grew the business to a point where I am now able to pay myself a salary and I very nearly finished our wedding scrapbook...5 years in the making. We learned how to endure involuntary separation with more patience, understanding, love, and humor than ever before. We remembered how to depend on one another again.

And we are leaving 2011, the Iraq War (although, technically, it is termed Operation New Dawn since Congress never sanctioned the thing to begin with), and Skype as our only means of communication behind. We are looking forward to finishing our tour in Georgia and expanding our family when the time comes. But I don't think of today as The Beginning, filled with hope and promise and all that is fresh and new. I closed the door on 2011 the day the 352 arrived home. I welcomed the new year and all that it offered on a sun-toasted day in the middle of November. The Beginning doesn't have to always land squarely on 1 January. It's convenient for calendar sales and comparing resolutions around a break room plate of fiber squares, but it is not wholly necessary.

Therefore, for us, it's just another day. Except for these Paleo eggs that Neal urged me to try...just as I was reaching for the waffle maker.