Monday, February 28, 2011

Review: Date Night Central 214

Guess what! I went on a date!!! For Valentine's day, we usually plan and cook a fabulous meal at home, but for those of you following along, we haven't had the most opportune moment to plan for that outstanding meal, so we said, once we had some time, we'd go on a date. Well, Sunday early evening was the moment! I was ecstatic!

First of all, our reservation was for 5PM. What, are we 60 or something? Ha ha...but really, we knew we were going to over-indulge and be gluttonous and we wanted to take our time. With that being said, we knew we would have to start early if we wanted to be home in time to get the Sugarbean down to sleep for the night.

I wore a simple black dress with a champagne colored sash with matching champagne strappy heels. Why not, right?

Immediately when we walked in, we noticed an awful mildew-y smell. You know when you leave a wet rag in a dark space for too long and then the smell is just rank and you have to run it through the wash a couple of times with vinegar just to get it smelling normal? Well, that's what we were greeted with. Quite a surprise to us considering where we were. Fortunately, we had asked to be seated at the chef's table (we like to watch them prep food!), so we were far from the bar (where the smell seemed to permeate the front of the restaurant) and the rancid smell. This was our view:
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Our server was Terry, he was kind, patient, and very attentive. The water guys were on point (I didn't catch their names), our sommelier was friendly and knowledgeable, and the sous chef personally came by several times to talk about the food and inquire about our experience. The prep cook behind the counter in front of us, Juan, took the time to answer all of my questions about what he was serving/prepping. Remember when I said service matters, well, here at Central 214 it was unmatched. We were VERY impressed with their level of service. This is how we wanted to be attended to, especially after a couple of humbling weeks. It was almost nearly as good as being at the spa!

And now for the main attraction, the food!! Here's their menu:
Menu
First up, we were given our drinks. Don enjoyed a smooth prosecco and I asked Terry if they could whip up a blueberry infused iced tea for me since they had some fresh blueberries that accompanied their specialty drink, The Texas Bluebonnet. They happily obliged...
Blueberry infused iced tea
Shortly thereafter, tasty bread was brought to the table accompanied by tuna, unsalted butter, and a pimiento spread.
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We were then surprisingly presented with a generous amuse bouche, which featured many of their appetizer specialties. Here is where I have to say I was wowed by their attention to detail. I was asked by the chef if there were any foods I couldn't have. So nice! The plates were prepared for us based on that. NICE! Mine consisted of a crabcake, a lamb slider, and a crab stuffed mushroom cap. The mushroom cap was perfection!!! The mini crab cake was cooked well and I loved the texture and crispness of the spinach leaf. Unfortunately, it was oversalted. The lamb slider was a disappointment. It was missing something, I'm not really sure what. It wasn't bad, but it just wasn't good.
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Don's included a mini crabcake, the shrimp and cayenne deviled egg, and crispy prosciutto wrapped cheddar. The deviled egg was so good that we actually ordered a full order! The wrapped cheddar was too greasy for me and just didn't stand out. Then again, I discovered, I don't really like chicken fried anything. Blasphemy for a Southern gal, but yeah. I like fried foods, I just don't like the breading, so I think if this wasn't breaded and fried, I would have liked it more. Don, on the otherhand, really enjoyed it. We both thought the spicy avocado sauce (green) was out of this world!
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You would think that would be enough, but it was just enough to whet our appetite. Remember I said we ordered a full order of the deviled eggs, well, they were yummy. I especially appreciated having the extra cayenne salt to sprinkle on top. yum-my! I ate them entirely too quickly to grab a photo. oops!

We shared the soup, which they were kind enough to separate into individual cups so Don and I wouldn't have to share. (LOVE THAT SERVICE!!) It was a chocolate stout with marscapone cheese. They took a chocolate stout beer, mixed it with the cheese and placed a shaved piece of 75% dark chocolate in the center. I liked it. At first I was skeptical, but it worked, but it worked because of the dark chocolate. MAN, that chocolate really brought out the flavors for me. Part of me wanted to figure out how to make it at home, but thicker so I could use it as a dip or a fun fondue.

Then came our salads!

Don had the arugula salad: drunken cherries, bleu cheese, sweet fig dressing, arugula, and spinach. The drunken cherries were so good, I proclaimed them the very best cranberries I'd ever eaten (before I realized they were cherries, ha ha ha). Seriously, I liked how this salad blended together well. It was very similar to a salad that our caterer serves at work, but much, much better. The bleu cheese paired with the fig dressing really brought out the complex flavors of arugula, which was further enhanced by the drunken cherries.

I had the frisee and spinach salad: poached egg, pancetta lardons, bacon soaked crouton, champagne mustard vinaigrette, and spinach. Tony Bourdain is right. You can put a runny egg on most anything and it will be amazing! No really, this salad was KICK ASS! I will have dreams about this salad and I will want it again before having Tesla, I'm certain of it. The one and only thing I did not like about it, were the pancetta lardons, which were too large and chewy for my palate. I would have preferred them smaller. The bacon soaked crouton made me want to climb out of my chair and bend the prep cook over my knee and give him a spanking for making something so amazing. Holy mess! I think they put about a centimeter thick bit of bacon fat on the back of a piece of bread and toasted it to perfection! Drizzle a bit of the runny yolk and well, I might not have been doing flips, but Tesla was ON FIRE after I ate it. That sonic boom of happiness you felt around 6PM last night was my soul smiling. I saved half of it for Don to enjoy for lunch (except not the crouton or the egg...there was nothing remaining of those items.)

I'm so happy, look I'm food drunk!

I was so giddy with the food we'd eaten so far, my expectation level was heightened. Don and I were enjoying amazing conversation. The sommelier came by to talk with Don and just to get our general impression so far of our dining experience. I love how personal the whole experience was becoming. We felt like we were dining at a friend's home, not at a restaurant.
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Don ordered the Orin Swift Abstract wine to enjoy with his entree. (in the center is the prosecco)
Don gave me the remaining half ounce from the tasting (right glass). I liked it!

Now for the entrees! I had the diver scallops with pumpkin gnocchi, tangerine glaze, and sage beurre blanc. The scallops were cooked to perfection. My biggest complaint with the scallops was that I wanted more. ha ha! Don thought they were a bit too large, but they were perfect for me. The fried sage on top was crispy, full of flavor, and totally made me happy. And there is where the bubble popped, unfortunately. The pumpkin gnocchi was too soft. It was like eating undercooked pumpkin spice cake balls and there was just too much cinnamon.

Don had the chicken fried kobe steak with slow braised mustard greens, butter whipped potatoes with bacon red-eye gravy. First off, I've only ever liked eating mustard greens once. This time, proved that the dislike streak would continue. Remember when I said I don't like chicken-fried things? Well, this chicken fried kobe steak wasn't any different. It was almost like eating overcooked liver and there was a small part of me that wanted ketchup (I know, shaking my head in shame). Unfortunately, it just wasn't well cooked, because even without the breading, the steak was NOT kobe steak. The one redeeming quality about this dish were the butter whipped potatoes. However, I don't want to think about how much butter went into them. I know it was a lot because it was good and buttery. One thing Don appreciated was the pairing of the wine with his meal. The Abstract pulled out a whiskey flavor for him that brought up an old college memory, which incited a fit of laughter at the thought. Despite the disappointment, we took half of it home for him to have for lunch. He thought it was ok enough.
 

Finally, we enjoyed the banana pudding with whipped cream, and vanilla wafers soaked in Maker's Mark bourbon. The bananas were caramelized on top, as was the top of the banana pudding. The vanilla wafers had a Maker's Mark flavor explosion. Another thing I learned is that I seem to drink tequila drinks in the Spring/Summer and whiskey drinks in the Autumn/Winter. Tasting that Maker's made me happy, but also, I realized that I probably shouldn't be eating them because it was so realistic. Not a bad thing, though because I was more than full! We took the rest of it home. This was a nice way to end a mostly spectacular meal.
Another thing to note is that the bathrooms were uber-luxurious. The lighting perfect, the room itself, spectacularly clean, the mirrors were forgiving, and the real towels were fluffy and plush. The rhythmic music had me dancing with myself in the mirror, even doing some of the burlesque moves I'd learned. Yeah, I like to dance in public restrooms with awesome lighting and full length mirrors! (too bad I had to walk by the stinky bar, blech)

In summary, I really enjoyed Central 214 and would highly recommend it as a get together after work with friends, a romantic dinner, and maybe even a small intimate dinner with a handful of friends. The service is phenomenal! The food was mostly ok. The cocktail and wine selection is plentiful. I definitely hope to go back to enjoy that salad and to also try out the chocolate fudge waffle.

**I was not paid or compensated for this review. When we talked with the manager about the disappointing entree, we were not charged for it, which I thought was nice. In no way did that influence my opinion or thoughts for this review. This review is an honest account of my experience.**

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Boutique Baby Gifts

Not only am I expecting a little one very soon, but some of my friends are also expecting their own little bundles of joy. When Mari was born, one of the most plush gifts we received was this gorgeous baby pink and chocolate flannel paisley stroller blanket with satin binding and a pink satin back. It was beautiful and soft and luxurious. I thought, our Sugarbean is a very lucky girl indeed! I wanted to keep the blanket for myself. ha ha! At the next opportunity to give a gift for a first time mom, I wanted to see about giving a similar blanket. You can imagine my surprise when I searched online and found them priced anywhere from $35-$60 dollars. *OUCH* Similarly, matching burp cloths were $30 for a set of 3. I have seen a set of three go for as little as $15, but you would still have to pay $3 shipping. I like to spend anywhere between $30 and $50 for a baby gift. That falls in line with my budget, unless of course I have 4 baby showers in a month and then, well, I'd be stretched a bit too thin. (Sidenote: What about you all? How much do you spend on a gift for a good friend? How about a gift for a co-worker?)

I took Mari's blanket and inspected it. I tried reverse engineering it as best as I could, but I just kept it on the back burner for a bit. Instead, I opted to spend the money for things on their registry and other small things that I have found helpful to have (mylicon, travel wipes, extra baby nail clippers, saline drops).

Next week, I'm hosting a baby shower for a dear friend. This will be her first child and the gender is going to be a surprise. I had some MONSTER coupons for Jo-Ann's for their President's day sale and they had baby flannel on sale too. (the coupon could be used for your sale items too!) I had planned on going to see if I could score some cute flannel to make Tesla some burp cloths and maybe a stroller blanket. I was inspired by this post. I know she uses knit, but I like how flannel is too. Anyway, while there, I fell in love with two different turquoise and brown prints. I added the numbers in my head and figured I would still be able to gift her something off of her registry AND handmake a gift.

I bought a yard of one flannel print, half a yard of another print, a yard of minky fabric, and 1 package of satin blanket binding. I spent less than $20. I would have spent closer to $15, but I gave away my 50% off any regular item coupon to a stranger thinking that everything I had was on sale. It's ok because I saved that stranger $16 dollars and it further warmed my heart when I saw his teenage daughter walk up and give him a hug. Yeah buddy, you need all the savings you can get! I digress. I must say, I have made burp cloths in the past and embroidered them too. Plain cloth diapers seem to always be in my stash. (I usually buy the 12 pack for around $10-$12.) Lucky for me, the house was quiet on the Sunday afternoon because everyone was napping. I was feeling creative, so I pushed off my laundry to do later on in the evening.

First up, the baby blanket:
You can see the chocolate satin binding, the white minky fabric, and the turquoise and brown flannel print. I learned that I need help with mitering the corners, but other than that, it turned out very nice! The blanket cost me about $17. Again, it would have been less expensive, but the I didn't use the coupon on the binding, which cost $7 a package. It took me about an hour to make it. Knowing how much it cost explains why they cost so much, right?

Next up, the set of three burp cloths:
The one on the left is a plain white diaper with the flannel fabric border. The one in the middle has the white minky fabric back with the same flannel print on the front. The one on the far right has the flannel print running down the center. I really liked how all three of these came out! I used to extra brown ribbon to tie them together. Each burp cloth cost me about $1.25 to make. It took me between 30 and 45 minutes to make them.

I have a bit of extra minky fabric and flannel fabric remaining that I could probably make two more minky/flannel burp cloths and 1 flannel burp cloth.

For around $20 (a little more) and two hours, I was able to make boutique-like gifts that are one of a kind AND handmade. There you have it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Burlesque Baby Shower at The Ruby Room

Yes, you read that right! A burlesque baby shower. Now before you go get some crazy ideas, first go educate yourself on what Burlesque really is. I recently watched the movie and NPR did a feature story on Gypsy Rose Lee. I was totally fascinated. When my best friends told me they wanted to host a baby shower for me, I was so excited, but at the same time I didn't want to seem greedy. There really wasn't anything we needed for baby Tesla. We would like to have a few more cloth diapers, we could always use wet wipes, and I really wanted a car seat cover to give the existing one a new look. See what I mean, nothing we needed. However, I did want to see my girls and it had been far too long since we'd all gotten together and enjoyed one another's company. When one of my friends mentioned a break dancing class she was taking at the Ruby Room, I clicked on it to learn more and saw that they offered private burlesque classes! I mentioned it to my BFF and next thing you know, the invites were sent out!

Nine of my closest gals and I trekked down to Exposition Park to shimmy and shake. We had a warm-up, learned a routine, then enjoyed cake, and opened gifts. I have to stop and admit that I FORGOT my camera. How did I forget it? I had my phone, but totally forgot the camera and tripod. I was really upset with myself for that one. Anyway, all of these photos are from camera phones and let me tell you, I'm grateful we had them and I'm grateful at the quality of them too!! I think I was too obsessed with having my coffee. ha ha

The cake by Cake My Day was a delicious yellow cake with buttercream frosting. Delicious and moist! Don't you love the feather detail and the cute garter around the bottle? I do!

The Ruby Room is a studio space with amazing hardwood floors and such wonderful natural light that I was SINCERELY kicking myself for not having had my camera. Seriously, do you understand how awesome the pictures would have been? This is the view from the furthest corner once inside of the studio:
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And this is the view from the entryway to the studio. See all of that light? delightful!
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This is me with our instructor, Elisa. She is the creator of the Ruby Revue (monthly show at the House of Blues) and the Dallas Burlesque Festival. Not only is she stunning, but she is captivating when she dances and so fun to learn to dance with.

Here I am with the fabulous hostesses. We had so much fun dancing and laughing and best of all, making memories!

And Elisa is the reason a bunch of gorgeous gals went from sassy to...

Va-Va-Va-Voom!
It wasn't just adding some feather boas either. I know I learned some new moves and how to channel my inner dancer.

Oh, and did I mention the gifts? We were showered with enough wet wipes to get us through the first 3 months!!! As well as some uber-cute outfits, socks, washcloths, a bank, and a gift card to Gap (my favorite shop for the girls!). Something you may notice about this photo and the one above are all of the feathers strewn about the floor. Well, we were working those boas!

All in all, it was a blast! I would totally like to take another class, especially when I'm not 35 weeks pregnant!! If I can still move that good at 35 weeks, I know I could do much better without the extra weight! ;)  But seriously, I had a wonderful workout, I was totally comfortable, and it was so much fun being there with my girls! If you are looking for a special girls night out, then I would HIGHLY recommend booking a private class. Bring some wine, bring some chocolate, wear sexy/comfortable workout clothes, bring your sassiest heels, and get your burlesque on! Heck, even as a baby shower, it was fun...especially for a 2nd baby shower!

If you are interested in learning more about burlesque or wanting to take a class, check out The Ruby Room for times. It is totally worth it! Tell Elisa I sent you.

Thanks so much gals for a memorable time!

What I learned:

  • One of the biggest questions I was asked was, what do I wear? We said wear comfortable clothes. After taking the class, I realize that one should wear dance wear or something similar and especially bring high heels, but the kind that are comfortable enough to dance in.
  • Accessories are a plus! My friend brought her own feather boa. Elisa had some there for us, but if you have your own that is softer, I would recommend it. If you have the long opera gloves, totally wear them. They will help you feel that much more like a dancer!
  • Don't be shy. None of your friends are looking at you. They are all looking at themselves in the mirror doing their very best to get the steps down. If you friends are laughing, it is probably nervous laughter at themselves. I know I was laughing at myself...especially because I was completely opposite with the turns, the steps, and the hip shaking. ha ha ha
  • Alcohol would probably help, but having friends that you love and laugh with helps even more! Nothing is sexier than a smile. Wear it!
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate...seriously, you will be working out so much and moving that you WILL sweat. It was like when we would go out dancing all night long and I wondered why I was always parched the next day. This is that type of workout!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Ocean Prime, Stephan Pyles, & Shecky's + a GIVEAWAY

Today was quite a day! It was the beginning of a what will prove to be an awesome weekend of pampering and indulgence. A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling guilty for delighting so much, but since we've had quite a few out of control weeks with sickness, lack of sleep, worry, etc...ultimately, I took pause, reflected on the MANY blessings we have and decided that it was ok to pamper and spoil myself and let others spoil me too! :D

OCEAN PRIME
It's was close to this time last year that I first reviewed Ocean Prime. Anyway, another lunch visit and again, I ordered the crabmelt and again Primo ordered the chicken. This time we tried the truffled deviled eggs. Again, I had the flavored tea (pear) and again, he had a white wine. The pear tea, divine and perfect! The truffled deviled eggs were better with the oil they had drizzled on the plate. I wanted more texture in them, but I like the crunch of relish in my deviled eggs. If you like amazingly whipped filled deviled eggs, then this dish is for you! Next up, entrees. At this point, I must say that my lunch was perfection on a plate! The bread for the sandwich was soft, yet firm in the right spots. The greens fresh, the jalapeno/corn tartar fabulous, the crab plentiful and flavorful, the tillamook cheese, melted extraordinarily. I smiled and the baby flipped with joy! And the lobster bisque was truly bisque! Thick, smooth, and surprisingly hearty. At the very end of eating it, I noticed it had a spicy pop. Nothing obtrusive, but a very complimentary spark of flavor. YUM! Primo was nice to let me have a sip of his wine to taste it with the bisque and WOW!! flavor amazingness

His chicken on the otherhand, the ENTIRE reason we went to Ocean Prime...the dreams of that meal for him...the sole reason for going there over some place else, so disappointing. *shaking head* The chicken, was dry and not juicy like it should have been. The asparagus was over blanched! The truffled mac & cheese...the pasta was too al dente and dry, the cheese not hardly melted and infused with the pasta, the truffles absent along with the flavor I had grown to love. There was supposed to be a hint of a lemon sauce...yeah, no. nothing. And then if the entree wasn't enough of a disappointment, our server went absent. Thank goodness for the assistant server, Matt's attentiveness. He was fantastic! Our main server, on the other hand, yeah...I asked for a flavored tea to go and it never came. It took a while for our bill to come and aside from his initial recommendation of food, that was it. He didn't check up on us after the meal arrived. Service matters folks and can totally make up for the lack of flavor in a meal. Oh well. The manager did give us his business card to have him personally follow-up with our meal the next time we go. That was nice, but man, coming by beforehand would've been better. It was the thought that counts.

SHECKY'S
Then, I met up with my sister for a Girls Night Out. We had so much fun at Shecky's last year that we wanted to go again. This year, Cointreau was the alcohol sponsor. Everyone was gifted with a mini shaker with measurements of different familiar alcoholic libations. We were also gifted with a plastic shot glass. In the goody bag was about half the stuff of what I received last year. Not to mention, the bag contents weren't really of note. The best thing I got were SEVERAL sample bags of those floss picks. I was also given a copy of a book called Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Since this isn't the type of book I usually read, I will be giving my copy away. All you have to do is comment here for a chance to win and tell me why you would like this book. Simple.  The vendors were really nice, but my favorite from last year wasn't there. There were quite a few bigger brands represented (Maybelline), but I just wasn't feelin' it. Even the free cupcake left an overly sweet taste in my mouth. The drinks were flowing and the music bumping, but I wanted an awesome shopping experience and great girl time. It just felt like I was being massed marketed to and spammed and there was no escape. No thanks. I'd rather have an old fashioned Girls Night Out, which is why after we left Shecky's with me only being there for about 45 minutes, we headed out to Stephan Pyles.

STEPHAN PYLES
I avoided paying for valet for stopping in there for a soda prior to the event and also making dinner reservations. They were surprised by our early arrival (by nearly an hour!), but they still accommodated us.  I wasn't that hungry, so I just wanted a salad. My sister opted for the Lenguado Ceviche (sole with smoked corn and sweet potato) and the Poblano-Asiago Soup with Yellow Tomato Foam. I ended up with Stephan's Original Southwestern Caesar Salad with Jalapeno-Polenta Croutons and Parmigiano Reggiano "Chicharron" and I bought Don a meal to-go because I love him and I wanted him to enjoy some of this goodness. This is what he had: USDA Prime Bone-In 21 oz Cowboy Ribeye (rare) with Red Chile Onion Rings and Pinto-Wild Mushroom Ragout.

The amuse bouche was really delicious. It was short rib with rhubarb, blue cheese, and a sliver of green onion. Oh wow, it was fantastic! My salad came plated with a cylinder shaped piece of fried parmesan, which had romaine lettuce flowering out of it. The lettuce was tossed in the caesar dressing. To the side in a neat stack was the jalapeno polenta croutons. I liked it pretty good and it was the right kind of heat. I didn't taste Sam's ceviche, but she said it was good. And then the soup...well, she was surprised by the heat. For some reason she didn't see poblano and instead read it as avocado. Quite a difference! It had a fair amount of heat and when she tasted it and claimed it too spicy for her to eat, I was not surprised she sent it back. The breads were delicious as was the butter. And Don, well he loved his meal! Our hostess, server, manager, and bread server were AWESOME! All went above and beyond! While the food didn't blow me away like I would have expected it to, the service did.

So there you go. Comment away if you want a free book!

**I was not paid or compensated in any way for any of the reviews. The opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way. I am, however, open to compensated reviews or even free meals. :D**

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

HDMR: Gulliver's Travels, The Fighter, Black Swan, Green Hornet, & Tron

Thank you modern technology and that's all I'm gonna say about that. This week's HDMR is brought to you by my cousin, who just so happens to be our photography intern. Woot-woot! Since I feel like a zombie, I will rate these movies by types of beverages found at a coffee shop.

TRON: LEGACY
First up, Tron. Yeah, this is rated tap water. Why? Well, aside from the fact that I wasn't really into the first one. Let's face it, every time I tried watching the first one when I was younger, I passed out. This one failed to grab my attention. Quite frankly, doing a load of laundry and cooking a meal appealed to me more, so I didn't watch it. It was on, but I totally didn't pay attention. I do remember thinking that I liked some of the music they were playing and was totally fired up that they were going to have a dance off in the club, but they were just getting ready for a fight scene while wearing costumes that resembled something from this year's Super Bowl halftime routine with a nice beat in the background. If you liked it and are offended, I'm sorry. It just wasn't my thing. I bet there are loads of movies I've watched and loved that you probably shuddered at the thought of sitting through 5 minutes of it. moving on...

GREEN HORNET
I went into this movie for fun. I wasn't expecting amazing acting, but definitely wanted some awesome special effects with fun banter. I really enjoyed this movie except for Cameron Diaz. I think she was not a good fit for the part. However, Seth Rogen and Jay Chou's chemistry was FABULOUS!!! The gadgets were great too. I had fun with a movie, like the first time I saw the revamped Batman and like the Joker, I thought to myself, "Where does he get all of those fantastic toys?" Plus, that movie had me wanting a fierce cup of coffee. This is definitely worth the rental. I'm not sure if it is worth going to the movie theater, but worth the rental for SURE! I rate this a double shot cappuccino!

BLACK SWAN
This movie was creepy. Definitely one of those more psychological thriller types and I wasn't really sure what to make of it. Natalie Portman definitely did a wonderful job. She plays that special kind of crazy normally reserved for the Winona Ryders and Angelina Jolies. Seriously, she would win Best Actress because there's a part of me that wonders if the sweet person who I thought was Natalie Portman is actually teetering on the edge of the looney bin. One thing that I really appreciated and stuck out for me were the ballet scenes. I could totally just watch their practices and then the actual ballet. We watched the first part of it with Mari, and my brother would warn us when there were some more inappropriate parts that could potentially freak her out. Turns out that she really seemed to enjoy the ballet and now I not only want to enroll her in dance class, but also take her to go see a performance. That was totally an aside. Anyway, I rate this coffee black. If you like artistic films and appreciate a good performance, then you will enjoy this film. If you crave action and adventure, this is not for you.

THE FIGHTER
I have wanted to see this movie ever since I saw that Christian Bale was attached to it. He's another one of those actors that is so darn method and interesting to me that I can't help but gravitate to anything he's done. Then, when I saw that both Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams would be a part of the cast too, nombre...it was on! Unfortunately, it took a bit longer to add it to my I've-watched-this list, but that's ok. First off, Christian Bale...holy cow! How much weight did he lose for this role? And seriously, I more than did his research for his character Dicky. There was an awards ceremony where Dicky had gone up to give Christian a hug and I remembered it. In that one moment, I recognized something on the screen of his portrayal. Incredible to catch that sort of thing. Not just the mannerisms, but the essence of a person. I don't know Dicky personally, but I think he approved. Amy Adams did a great job too. I loved seeing her a bit grittier...quite a contrast from her Giselle character in Enchanted. Then Mark Wahlberg, ahhh...he managed to portray that splitting sensation we get when we are pulled in two different directions of things we love. You know that tough, part where you feel guilty if you go in either direction, but you feel guilty for not making a choice to go in either direction? Yeah, good stuff. I loved all of the sisters and the mother too! She was awesome! Definitely check this out! This is one that I want to own. I rate this a grande caramel macchiato!

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
We saw this movie more for Mari's sake. We'd gotten our adult fix, so why not let her enjoy some fun too. However, this movie has Jack Black in it, and well, like to admit it or not, we are fans of him and his silliness too. This was a really cute movie that had us laughing together and adopting another signature Jack Black catch phrase. If this happens to be on TV on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon and you are tired of watching Yo Gabba Gabba or Wonderpets, then this will be a welcome break for you! By the way, Emily Blunt and Jason Segal are absolutely adorable. I rate this a kiddie hot chocolate.

Have you seen any of the movies I mentioned? What were your thoughts on them?

Monday, February 21, 2011

And now for the Mari in Wonderland with a Chance of Meatballs birthday recap

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Yes, you read that correctly...that was the theme of the party this year. Here's the awesome invitation that I created on pingg.com:

I know it wasn't really evoking the theme, but I just wanted kids to come dressed up using their best imaginations and if it went along with the theme, then awesome! Lucky for us, we had quite a few participants! Tweedle-dee, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, the Red Queen, and Spaghetti!
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Sharing candy:
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Alices collecting candy:
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With her godmother from San Diego, the Cheshire Cat.
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With her Nina, the spaghetti.

Spaghetti & Meatball

Look, it's a very pregnant me! I'm Absolem the blue butterfly that was once the snarky caterpillar. Why yes, that's a Mexican Coke in my hand. I kept losing it and I only had half of it. *sigh* BTW, do you like that awesome pink flamingo? I do!
Now for some details from the day. First off, here she is in her costume, which she wore for a whoppin' 20 minutes. Woot! (sarcasm font)
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First off, a must at a Mari-birthday is a bounce house. This year, since she is quite girly, I opted for the princess bounce house. Aside from the pink castle facade on the outside, the inside was quite fun and even had a basketball hoop! All of the kiddos seemed to really enjoy it. The Sugarbean must've bounced for 5+ hours!
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Remember the epic cake fail? Well, my mom salvaged the top with some excellent icing skills that I clearly have yet to inherit.

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Because I wasn't sure if there was going to be enough cake with the cupcakes, I opted to buy another cake. Since I hadn't ordered one, I had no choice but to buy a full sheet. We still had 2/3rds remaining. Ooops!
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Here is the room layout. We use our dining room to keep all of the food and decorations. The weather more than cooperated with us, so most of the party would be enjoyed outdoors, here, or in the living room where we were showing Tim Burton's Alice.

I made some specialty drinks with "drink me" on them. These are the juice boxes and water bottles.
We also had some adult beverages in the fun fridge.
Not shown are the Dublin Dr. Peppers, Mexican Cokes, and two flavors of Izze sodas.

Remember I mentioned cupcakes? Well, I made a cupcake tower and positioned them on top. The cupcake toppers said "Eat Me." They were assorted cupcakes from Society Bakery. I scored an awesome Groupon which made these cupcakes significantly less expensive than they would have been.

And what party is complete without favors? I didn't want the kiddos to be sent home empty handed, but I also didn't want to fill their homes with awesome trash either. Granted, these may very well have ended up in the trash, but I know they had a lot of fun with them at the party. They are ribbon wands (turquoise and white with a flower, and brown and green). It warmed my heart to see some of the little ones not being gender specific to the color of the ribbon wands. They just wanted something to shake! Also, in the plastic baggies are crayons that I had melted down from other crayons. They came out, um, interesting, but they work really well!

The pinata!
There's a story for this pinata. It traveled all the way to our home from Tijuana, Mexico. Mari's godmother and one of my besties commissioned a guy to make it per my request. Originally I told her 17 inches. I figured that would be a good travel size. Well, I guess the guy really likes what he does, because this thing was easily 2 feet tall by 2.5 feet in diameter. You may be asking yourself how in the world did she get it on the plane? She cut it in three parts and boxed up the top portion and filled it with some of her clothes to use the box as one of her check-in items. AMAZING!! We used a lot of tape to put it back together, but it was so awesome!

Then for the food, we had hot dogs, sliders (OMG...to die for sliders, WTG babe!), chips, infinite amount of cake (ha ha), cookies, chocolate peanut butter balls, candy
I didn't get any photos of the activities available for the kids, except the bounce house and pinata. But, we did have croquet available (which ended up turning into glow-in-the-dark midnight drinking croquet, long after the party) and print outs of white roses to be colored red...or any other color. This shot, is one of my favorite action shots of the pinata.
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Here's one of Mari revving up for a hit. She actually busted the base right off.
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My friend Hayley caught me shooting the pinata action. Yes, I had a bit of a difficult time getting back up to standing. ;)
After the pinata, we sang to her, and this year she didn't cry. She actually seemed to enjoy it! Guapo even jumped in on the singing action.
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Personal upside down pineapple cake (which I was later complimented on my sloppy cake by the brave who ate it. despite the ugliness, it really was quite delicious!)
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We were happily overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and friendship with everyone's presence. We are truly blessed by all of the special people in our lives. I'm especially grateful to family who traveled a great deal to get to us. Also, I'm grateful for my best friends Lindsey, Ada, and Michael. When I was younger, it was difficult to imagine I'd get to the point where we would be grown and we could celebrate these milestones of the next generation, but here we are all together. (with two more on the way inside both mine and Lindsey's bellies)

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Happy 3rd Birthday Sugarbean! Mommy & Daddy (and so many friends and family too!) love you very much! I know you'll remember it because you are still talking about it. :D

Let me know if you want more information about the details of the party or my planning process in general. I'd be happy to write more information about those in a separate post.

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