Friday, March 30, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey Book Club

The fabulous ladies of Read Between the Wines met last night for book club.

Fifty Shades of Grey. Where do I even begin?

This book was selected by Kat back in February, before it gained so much popularity. Here's a little rundown of what happened over the next month:

Day 1: Kat told us the title and author of her book selection, and a brief summary. No one had ever heard of this book, and Kat didn't know too much about it.

Day 2: I begin to type an email to the book club members, and head over to Amazon.com to find a description of the novel and link it to the email I'm writing.

I see that there is only one copy of Fifty Shades of Grey available. Used purchase price: $999.99.

I'm confused.

I call Barnes and Noble. I'm told by the employee that he has never heard of the book. He puts me on hold, then comes back to tell me that it is only available through the Kindle or Nook.

Frustrated, I tell my book club members that they must own a Nook or Kindle in order to read the book. I offer up my Kindle for anyone who wants to borrow it.

Day 3: I begin to read Fifty Shades of Grey on my Kindle.

Day 4: I'm finished with Fifty Shades of Grey.

Day 5: I'm thinking to myself "wtf."

Day 6-25: I'm hearing more excitement than ever from my book club members. To my shock, the book is getting rave reviews.

Day 30: By the end of the month, this book has literally taken the world by storm. Hard copies of the book are now available for purchase. It is the top seller on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, even topping sales of The Hunger Games.

This book is about BDSM, which stands for Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, and Masochism. Yep, it's all about sex.

Sex sells. Who knew, right?

For the book club meeting, I decided to make "Better than Sex Brownies."

Each member wrote their own original BDSM poem. For the poem, the only guidelines were that the poem had to have four lines, each line beginning with the letters B, D, S, and M.

The poems had me in tears from laughing so hard.

(I will perhaps share them with you in a later post.)

We also divided into 3 teams and played a trivia game. The prize?

In honor of the character Christian Grey, the two winners of the trivia game would also have a chance to be mega-millionaires.....

Each winner got a ticket for the chance to win tomorrow's Mega Millions jackpot of $540 million!!!
I'm sure my book club girls' first purchases would include home renovations. A Red Room of Pain, perhaps? ;-)

This book was definitely nothing like our other book club picks, but it seemed to be a popular one. After averaging all the ratings, it scored an 8.2/10. One of our highest ratings ever!

So there you have it.
Fifty Shades of Grey.

Proceed with Caution.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to Cook Perfect Rice


We eat a lot of rice at my house. (We also eat a lot of pizza and Mexican food, but that doesn't pertain to this blog post).


For the past few months, I've been cooking bad rice.


It came out too sticky.

Too soft.

Too mushy.


I was following the instructions, but something wasn't right.


Brian would always look hesitantly into the pot, forcing me to proclaim "I'm no chef," and then we would both reluctantly pile a heap of mushy rice onto our plates.


I'm not sure why it took me so long to turn to Google for help, but that's exactly what I did.


I learned four easy steps to making perfect rice, and I'm happy to say it worked like a charm!



Four Steps to Perfectly Cooked Rice:


1. Thoroughly rinse the rice before cooking. Apparently this is an important step. Who knew, right?


2. Use less water than instructed. The typically suggested ratio is 1 cup rice: 2 cups water; however, you should use a 1 cup rice: 1 3/4 cup water for the best results.


3. Add rice and water to pot. Once boiling, turn heat to low, cover the pot, and don't interrupt the rice until it's done! It's okay to quickly lift the lid and peek....once!


4. Once the water has been absorbed (it took about 15-20 minutes), remove pot from stove. Leave covered and let rest for five minutes before fluffing it gently with a fork.


*Butter and salt are optional (but usually a good decision!).


Perhaps you already follow these steps, and I'm the only one that has been clueless all this time. Or perhaps, like me, your rice never turned out perfectly. If you've been in my shoes, I hope you'll find this blog post helpful!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What Had Happened Was....

This tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef roast happened tonight....


 This sugar cookie happened tonight too....


This perfectly smooth Royal Icing happened tonight....


 Which led to more sugar cookies happening tonight....


I guarantee you this won't be happening tonight....


Okay, this mess rarely happens (ha!), but it did happen tonight......


I even had to break out my Po' Boy Swiffer....


These flowers leafy branches also happened tonight....


(Brian's failed attempt at getting lucky).


So, how was your night?

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Weekend, My Cookies, and My Realization that Jennifer Lawrence is Probably a Cousin.


I spent most of my day at Duke Employee Orientation, and I've spent most of my evening in the kitchen making cookies! I am exhausted.

I'm planning to spread my cookie making over a number of days, so that I won't get overwhelmed.

Yesterday I made two batches of dough.
Today I baked a few cookies.
Tomorrow I will begin the decorating.

At the moment, the only thing standing between Brian and approximately 2 pounds of sugar cookie dough is a piece of Saran wrap. I can't wait too long to make the rest of my cookies, because I have a feeling that my cookie dough supply will be disappearing over the next few days.

Here are some things about my weekend (in no particular order):

1. I saw the Hunger Games movie.

If you're wondering if I'm related to Jennifer Lawrence, the answer is yes. Can't you see the resemblance? We're practically twins.




Ok, kidding.

But it's definitely possible that we share common ancestry.

2. Last night I told Brian that even though I resemble Jennifer Lawrence, Mila Kunis was my true celebrity look-alike.

Instead of validating my statement, my comment was met with silence.
I could hear crickets chirping outside.
And then Brian said he resembles Kobe Bryant.

3. I'm now addicted to buying cookie cutters.

As of right now, my Sweet Tooth Bakery has sold approximately 5 cakes, purchased approximately 500 cookie cutters, and is seeing a net loss of about $100. (Hence why I spent my day being oriented at Duke).


4.  We went to church this past Sunday at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh. It was a good choice, and Brian and I both enjoyed the service. It was much more traditional than the previous church we visited, and it met most of the qualifications on my list. (Score!)


It was refreshing for me to spend Sunday morning in church, because it really sets the tone for the rest of the week.


(Picture from their church website)

Ok, time for the more baking...Stay tuned for the cookie outcome....

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple, Open the Doors, and Inspect all the People.

I'm assuming Brian won't understand where I got the title of my blog from, since he didn't know the lyrics to "Jesus Loves the Little Children."

So, this picture tutorial is for you Brian and I'll just explain once I get home:

And of course, I changed the last line from "See all the People" to "Inspect all the People," since I've been doing a little church scouting these days.

Yes. Today, I've spent a lot of time doing the impossible: Finding the perfect church.

"Your church is full of hypocrites."
-Random Anti-Church Person to Preacher

"Well, there's always room for one more!"
-Preacher to Random Anti-Church Person

(That little joke is courtesy of our pastor at Greystone).

While I enjoy going to church with my parents on the occasional Sunday, Greystone is over 30 minutes away from where Brian and I live in Raleigh. It's not very convenient, although the sermons are great!

Now that we are back from vacation and Brian has thankfully quit working his weekend job, I feel like it's time to start looking for a church here in Raleigh. I never imagined that this would be a challenge, but once I paused a moment to think about all the things I wanted in a church, I immediately became overwhelmed.

Problem #1: What denomination are we?!
Brian went to Catholic school growing up, so I always assumed he was Catholic. I had no problem with Catholicism, so I thought "Sign me up!"  But then he told me he wasn't Catholic, and that messed up my whole plan of us being Catholic.

I suppose we're both non-denominational Christians, which is cool.

I also consider myself to be a little bit Baptist, so I have to throw some fire and brimstone into the mix. I lean toward the conservative side. Brian doesn't really lean toward any side, but he likes guns, so I'm gonna go ahead and label him conservative too.

I've drawn an illustration:

So we'll need a fairly conservative church.

Problem #2: I am picky.
I've gone ahead and made a list of my church specifications. I think Brian is indifferent to almost all aspects of my church specifications, but I know for a fact that he won't be rolling out of bed prior to 10am on a Sunday morning. So I've made a list for Brian too.

After I compiled my list, I forgot to add one more.

16. Not too much arm raising, if you know what I mean.

Problem #3: Finding the Right Church
Obviously, no church is going to fit the bill. Some churches may hopefully come close.

Here's what I've done:
I've Googled almost all churches in the Raleigh area.
I've visited websites.
I've listened to audio sermons and videos.
I've looked at pictures, trying to get a feel of what exactly I can expect.

Who knew it would be this difficult?!

I thought I had come close to finding a good place to visit this Sunday, but then I saw mention of "Silent Prayer Circles and Meditation," so I immediately tossed it into the Hell No Pile that I have going.

We don't have many (or any?) friends in Raleigh who are church goers (heathens, all of them!), so I can't exactly find out much by word-of-mouth.

It's hard to find motivation to visit a lot of churches. It's tempting to just not go at all, but Brian and I both feel compelled to start going regularly each Sunday.

So begins our search.....

I'll let you know if we have any luck!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It was Traumatic. I'm Still Recovering.

The past two times we have gone to Florida, Brian has reserved us the cheapest rental car possible. The companies are off-site from the airport, making the car pickup process inconvenient. We have never arrived at the airport and not had some sort of mishap.

When it came time to make arrangements for this trip, I was put in charge of booking flights and a rental car.

I insisted we use one of the on-site, more reliable rental car companies so that we wouldn't start off our trip with a headache.

Brian insisted we go the cheap route like always. (He's frugal like that).

So I caved, of course, and booked a car with Economy Rent-a-Car for less than $20/day. (Seriously? So cheap I shoulda known better).

We had an awesome plane ride down to Miami.

We had only carry-on luggage, so we left the airport with no hassle.

I had called the Economy headquarters earlier in the day, and they had provided me with the local number to call once we landed, assuring me that someone would come pick us up promptly when we arrived.

So I did just that- I called their local number.

I spoke to a nice gentleman, told him we had landed, and he told me to head over to Shuttle Stop 2 at the airport's rental car center. Once there, we were to call him back and he would come pick us up.

Ahhh...."Finally!", I thought to myself, "A painless rental car experience!"

I was so happy we were finally there and everything was going smoothly.

So we get to Shuttle Stop 2 and I call the guy back.

It rings, and rings, and rings. No answer.

So I give it another minute, and try again. Still no answer.

In total, I called Economy over thirty times, confused because I had spoken with someone only ten minutes prior.

Brian gave it a try using his phone (Maybe the guy was trying to ignore my number?).

When Brian called, he got a message that their phone line had been disconnected. I tried with my phone again, and sure enough, I began getting the same message that their phone line had been disconnected.

I called the company's main headquarters that I had called earlier in the day. I told them what was going on, and they told me to wait for a minute and they would see what the problem was.

I was put on hold for about 15 minutes. I hung up, called back again, and was put immediately on hold once more.

After waiting more than an hour, we finally decided to just take a taxi to Economy since we had their address.

When we got to our destination, which was in a back alley of Miami, we saw a sketchy building, a gated door, and a dark window. The place was completely empty.

This is pretty much what the building looked like:


This is pretty much what I looked like:


Yes, I lose my composure at times, as hard as that is to imagine.
Yes, I still have tantrums.
No, it wasn't fun...for Brian.

So we took the taxi back to the airport. (The taxi driver didn't speak English and was thoroughly confused at this point).

The 0.5 miles we had driven in the taxi cost $20.

We went inside the airport and rented a car from a different company for $350.

We had wasted two hours of our time. It was almost midnight. We had both not eaten since lunch.

Tired and hungry and angry. Never a good combination.

I was mad at Economy rental car for the hell they had put us through.
I was mad at myself for reserving a car with them in the first place.
But mostly (because isn't this how relationships are?)....

I was mad at Brian.

Because he had convinced me to go cheap in the first place.

I never had to tell him "I told you so."
I just had to give him the look.


 I'll never let Brian talk me into renting from a cheap, off-site rental car company ever again.

....or until our next trip.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

...And We're Back!

Actually, we have been back since Sunday. I just have yet to blog.

I have been slammed at work the past two days and will likely be busy all week! Sheesh. Not exactly how you want to return from a vacation!

Our last full day in Florida was St. Patrick's Day!

Everyone in Key West took this opportunity to drink a little more and act a little crazier. Hundreds gathered on Duval Street for an early morning pub crawl!


Brian and I met his dad for lunch at the No Name Pub on No Name Key, so I guess it shoulda been no surprise when no name came up on the GPS.

.....We eventually found this hole in the wall joint, and we enjoyed a lunch of pizza and beer!

The afternoon was spent lounging on the beach.


Since we've been back, I've had at least five people say this to me: "You don't look like you've been to the beach."

That's code for "You're still pale."

Oh well. Less wrinkles for me, I suppose.

Overall, we had a really nice time and I am bummed to be back. It always goes by too fast! Tomorrow I'm gonna try to recap the rental car disaster story. Perhaps, looking back on that event, I will be able to take a comedic approach.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Florida Keys: Day Three

We arrived in Key West around lunchtime and checked into our beautiful motel, The Almond Tree Inn.


We ate lunch at Amigos, an outdoor Mexican restaurant on Duval Street. I loved their slogan: "Once you've ruined your reputation, you are able to live quite freely."

One of my favorite stops was a the Key West Butterfly Museum. The walk through the butterfly gardens was so neat! They had over 1,000 species of butterflies (I think) and a lot of tropical birds.



This picture is the wing of the Owl Butterfly....




After walking around for a bit, we headed back to the hotel for a poolside happy hour.


In the evening, we headed aboard the Caribbean Fury for our sunset cruise.


The cruise was complete with a live band, free beer and margaritas, and two hours of sailing. It was so much fun!




Ok, I'll have to post Day Four tomorrow. As you can tell, I've gotten a day behind.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

We're off to celebrate at the Sunset Grille, one of our favorite spots in Marathon, and maybe tonight we'll make it to the Brass Monkey bar to hear some live music from my friend Freddie.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Florida Keys: Day Two

Yesterday was a pretty uneventful day around here.

I lounged around in the morning, content with my coffee and magazines, while Brian slept the day away.

After lunch, we headed to Hawk's Cay Resort on Duck Key. This high-end resort had a huge pool, a private beach, a lagoon, and a dolphin enclosure.







Unfortunately, the dolphins never wanted to come in for a close-up.

Today, we are heading to Key West. The weather looks great and I've booked us a sunset cruise!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Florida Keys: Day One

We're here!

We started our trip off with a wonderful flight down to Miami.

We had the whole plane to ourselves....basically.

The flight attendant told the few of us aboard the plane that we could spread out.

Brian told me I should take advantage of the empty seats and move far away from him.

Like that was gonna happen!

Once we landed around 9pm, our arrival took a turn for the worst.

Since I'm in a good mood at the moment, I'm going to skip over our rental car disaster story for now.

....(insert Rental Car Disaster story at a later time)........

At midnight, we were finally on the road to Marathon, Fl and arrived around 2:30am!

I went to bed cranky and irritable.

Luckily I woke up to this view and forgot all about the previous night's mayhem:

For those of you who don't know, the Strawberry's bought a house in the Florida Keys back in 2009, conveniently around the time I started dating Brian.

Though I didn't start dating Brian for access to his parents' beach house, it may or may not be the reason I've stuck with him this long! ;-)

Today was a gorgeous day!

Of course, if you know Brian, we had to find a Mexican restaurant for lunch.


We then went out on the boat for a couple hours....


Oh wait...not that boat.....

This boat......


Today we took out the little boat! It was a lot of fun!

Here's Brian and his dad testing out the water before I hopped aboard:


Alright, time for Happy Hour, so I gotta run!

Oh, and Charlie says hello....


See you tomorrow!