Thursday, December 31, 2009

Almost as Good as "Ice Cream and Cake and Cake"

I like this video almost as good as the BR commercial.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


i came across this wonderful quote from maya angelou today.  i thought it needed to be shared.

"I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God's will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at commensurate speed."

from her book I know why the caged bird sings

L'Oreal Lash Boosting Technology

As a BzzAgent, I often get samples of new products to try (see previous post).  This time, I received a sample of L'Oreal's new mascara with built in lash boosting technology along with the concentrated Lash Boosting Serum.

Here are the facts: (taken from the BzzAgent Brochure)

L'Oreal Paris Concentrated Lash Boosting Serum
- Apply to bare lashes before bedtime for an intensive overnight conditioning boost.  Also apply underneath your mascara for all-day benefits.
- For best results, use daily with Double Extend Lash Boosting Mascara
- Suggested retail price $14.95

L'Oreal Paris Double Extend Lash Boosting Mascara
- Step 1: The Lash Boosting primer, an exclusive serum-infused basecoat, perfectly primes and extends lashes.
- Step 2: The Ultra-Lengthening Mascara Topcoat instantly lengthens lashes up to 80%.
- Available in Black and Blackest Black
- Suggested retail price $12.95

They are also available in a 24-hour Lash Boosting Power System:
- This starter kit contains both Concentrated Lash Boosting Serum and Double Extend Lash Boosting Mascara at a special value price
- Mascara is available in Black
- Suggested retail price $24.95

In addition:
- Ophthalmologist- and allergy-tested, and safe for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers
- Available in the L'Oreal Paris cosmetics section in major retailers such as Walmart, Target, CVS and Walgreens beginning January 2010
- Visit the website to learn more

My Personal Thoughts thus far:

- I've always had short, straight lashes and am looking forward to seeing if this product will actually enhance them or simply fall flat.
- I've heard a lot about mascaras lately that have a basecoat which you apply underneath and then the mascara on top of that, in order to help boost the appearance of your lashes.
- I've also heard about the lash product that Brook Shields promotes called Latisse, which is the first eyelash growth treatment.  I'm skeptical of this product but what to make sure that this product is NOT like Latisse.

I will use the products for 4 weeks and let you know how it turns out.  I've taken some before photos of my lashes and will take some at the end of 4 weeks.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

must be santa

via the wonders of the interwebz, i found out about this video, starring none other than bob dylan.  yes.  that bob dylan.  from what i know of the man, i never would have pictured him doing something like this, but i'm glad he decided to show his humorous side.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reason #797 why I love living in AZ: 6 days before Christmas, its 72 degrees, and I'm in a t-shirt, jeans and flip flops!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

What a difference a year (plus a few days) makes! Last year it snowed. Today it was 70 degrees.

Food Should Taste Good Chip Tasting

Today I participated in another tasting by Tastecasting; however, this time it was a tasting of a product instead of a restaurant.

The company, Food Should Taste Good, provided a wide sampling of their all natural chips.  The chips come in a variety of flavors listed below: (nutritional facts are per serving = 12-15 chips)

- Cinnamon - 10g fat, 210 cal, 120 mg sodium, 5g fiber, 6g sugar, 2g protein
- Multigrain - 9g fat, 210 cal, 120 mg sodium, 5g fiber, 2g sugar, 4g protein
- Sweet Potato - 9g fat, 210 cal, 120 mg sodium, 5g fiber, 3g sugar, 3g protein
- Olive - 9g fat, 210 cal, 210 mg sodium, 5g fiber, 0g sugar, 3g protein- Lime - 6g fat, 140 cal, 80 mg sodium, 4g fiber, 0g sugar, 2g protein
- Potato and Chive - 10g fat, 210 cal, 180mg sodium, 6g fiber, 0g sugar, 3g protein
- Buffalo - 6g fat, 140 cal, 280mg sodium, 3g fiber, 1g sugar, 2g protein
- Jalepeno - 9g fat, 210 cal, 210 mg sodium, 5g fiber, 0g sugar, 3g protein
- Yellow Corn - 7g fat, 140 cal, 85 mg sodium, 3g fiber, 0g sugar, 2g protein
- The Works! - 6g fat, 140 cal, 120 mg sodium, 3g fiber, 2g sugar, 2g protein

The chips come in snack size (1.5 oz) and regular (5.5 oz).

The company prides itself on "taking wholesome, all natural ingredients and capturing their great flavors by baking them."  The chips are gluten free, all natural, a good source of dietary fiber, trans fat and cholesterol free, lactose free, MSG free and Kosher.  All of the chips are not genetically modified, no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

The chips have a strong corn presence as they are made with Stone Ground Corn and many of them have corn bran in them.

The chips are sturdy, ones that I wouldn't hesitate plunging into a hearty dip.

My favorites are the multigrain and the jalapeno.  The multigrain has flax, sunflower and sesame seeds, oat fiber, brown rice, quinoa and soy.  They are a nice natural tasting snack.  The jalepeno is a nice red color with a slight kick in the chip.  They have diced jalepeno peppers and crushed red peppers.

I also appreciate that the website, includes suggestions of what to pair with the chips.  Some of the things that I have thought of are:

- crush up the lime chips and serve them as the base in a taco salad;
- spread sweet cream cheese or cool whip on the chocolate or cinnamon chips;
- spread a savory cream cheese on any of the savory flavored chips;
- dip chicken breast tenderloins in egg and then in crushed chips and bake.

I'm sure there are many more possibilities!

I've found the chips (5.5 oz size) at Albertsons and I've heard that they are also available at Bashas.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Silent Sunday - The Beautiful Bean

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

I (heart) Creme Brulee.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

football -palooza

lest some of you think that i'm swinging to the dark side, i wanted to make a quick post about the various football-related events julie & i went to over this past weekend.

i'm sure you've seen julie's recent post about our trip to watch the AZ Cardinals place the smack-down on the MN Vikings on sunday.  i will say it was a great introduction to live NFL matches.  the crowd was crazy-loud from the moment we walked in the stadium, and watching the Cards upset the Vikes was frosting on the cake.  mmm....cake.

but, that wasn't the only football event we took part in.  friday night we joined my fellow CMU alums at buffalo wild wings to watch the CMU Chippewas defeat the Univ. of OH Bobcats.  thanks to that win, CMU now owns their 3rd MAC championship in 4 years.  not bad.  i just wish they had been that good when i was a student there.

saturday was more my style.  as you may be aware, i've become involved with a grassroots group here in PHX called MLS Phoenix Rising.  it's a group that is working to bring a pro soccer team to phoenix.  oh, you know i'm geeked about that potential.  we met with chris from phoenix pro soccer, which is working with some investors to accomplish the same goal.  after that little meet & greet with him, i joined   the group to head to Reach 11 Sports Complex to watch the US Under-17 national team play Brazil.  it was fun hanging out with them & getting to know some of them a little better.  the final score was 1-1.  the US made a good showing against Brazil.

since you already know what happened sunday, i'll skip to last night (monday).  i drove back to Reach 11 to watch another soccer match.   for this one, i had an early christmas present.  the US U17s played the Netherlands!  i couldn't pass it up, even in 40-degree rainy weather.  i was pulling for the Netherlands the entire way.  i even wore my Netherlands jersey.  the Netherlands won, 3-0.  I met a  family from the Netherlands.   their son/grandson (i met the grandpa & mom) is a midfielder for the Dutch side, and plays in the youth division for AZ Alkmaar.  that was awesome.

needless to say, it was a lot of both types of football for 1 weekend, but it was great all the way around.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cardinals vs. Vikings

We went to our first NFL game last night and it was great!  We had fabulous seats (thanks Dad!) in the north end zone and enjoyed the University of Phoenix stadium.  It was extra nice that they beat Brett Favre and the Vikings and are one step closer to securing a wildcard!!!  Go Cards!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fogo de Chao Tasting

Last Monday night we had a tasting at Fogo de Chao, located in Scottsdale, AZ.  The restaurant is an authentic "churrascaria" is relatively new to the United States, originating in Brazil.  This brazilian steakhouse features a 30 item salad bar, signature items such as pao de queijo (warm cheese bread),  caipirinha (brazilian cocktail), and papaya cream.

I (Julie) have seen this restaurant in many of my travels but have not eaten at the restaurant.  I was excited that we were going to try this place.

I (Brian) wasn't sure what to expect going into this.  was i excited?  yes.  simply because we were told there would be an endless supply of meat.  the carnivore in me was looking forward to this.  and I wasn't disappointed.

the service at fogo de chao was nothing shy of amazing.  the management and servers have a big focus on making sure every patron gets exactly what they want, and will go out of their way to make it happen.  we were seated in their private dining area which had beautiful decor and ambiance.  and while this restaurant also had wood walls and low lighting, it didn't have the same feel as the previous tastecasting restaurant, Morton's.  Fogo had a romantic and classy ambiance which paired well with the upscale menu items and superb service!

All but 3 of the menu items are safe for people with celiac disease (allergy to wheat) and those include chicken leg (braised with beer), tabouli salad (made with wheat grain) and salad dressings.  There isn't even any wheat in the bread that is served on the salad bar.

The meat is acquired from the U.S. but the spices come directly from Brazil.

we were 1st served a glass of caipirinha.  it was wonderfully sweet and had a margarita taste to it.  thanks to the sweetness, i enjoyed the caipirinha more than i usually enjoy a margarita.

we then made our trip to the salad bar.  the veggies were very fresh.  with crisp lettuce, wonderfully dark broccoli and a vast array of other veggies to choose from.  there were also several types of cheeses and dressings to make your salad complete.  these photos of our salad bar choices don't do the bar justice.

While we were eating our salads, the servers brought several magnificent side dishes to the table: garlic mashed potatoes, fried bananas, crispy warm polenta, white rice and black beans.

Julie: many of the side dishes were great! I especially enjoyed the polenta.

brian:  the polenta was a surprise for me.  i enjoyed it.  i liked the garlic mashed potatoes, but i think they could have put a smidgen more garlic in them.

as we finished our salads and side dishes, the "gauchos" (Southern Brazilian cowboys who train for over 3 years to perfect not only the practice of roasting the meats but also of the serving of the meats) arrived with the pièce de résistance, the meat.  They arrived one-by-one with the art they created using nothing but skewers, flavorings, fire and meat.  They have 15 different types of meat to choose from, which means it's very likely you won't have all of them in one sitting.   Julie and I were able to sample several of them, 

this is an example of the type of skewer the gauchos would serve the meat on.

(this is not us in the photo, but another tastecasting couple)

Julie: I really enjoyed the Lombo (pork loin crusted in parmesean cheese).  The cheese brought out the delicate tenderness of the pork loin.  the piece I received was just a smidge dry but overall very tender and great flavor!

Next I had the filet minon and Frango (chicken), both wrapped in bacon.  They had a great tender quality nicely complimented by the saltiness of the bacon.  However, they were also just a tad bit dry. Whenever I see or want to order meat wrapped in bacon, I usually decline because the bacon is soggy, fatty and not cooked to my standards.  The bacon was nice and cooked and just a tad bit crispy. 

Lastly, I had the Picanha (top sirloin) with a robust garlic seasoning.  It was very, very tasty and the amount of garlic blew the garlic mashed potatoes out of the water.  I love garlic and it was a very tasty feast with a very tasty, juicy piece of top sirloin.

brian:  i sampled a few more than julie did.  partially because i forgot to follow one of the procedures fogo de chao has in the serving process of the meats.  each customer gets a coaster that is red on one side and green on the other.  when you want more meat, flip the green side up.  as the gauchos come around with their meats, they know they can offer it to you.  the first time around, i forgot about the coaster and left the green side up.  oops.  :)

i first tried the cordeiro (Lamb).  delicious.  as i came to experience with most of their other offerings, it was nice and juicy and full of flavor.  the meat slid off the bone and it had a nice crispness on the outside and left me wanting more.

i next sampled the linguica (sausage).  it had a nice hint of garlic to it and again was flavorful.  it wasn't one of my favorites, since i normally only like the sausage links that come with breakfast, but i noticed a couple other tastecasters really enjoying them.

lombo (pork loin) was next.  it was not as juicy as the other meats i had.  it was dry.  on the other hand, the parmesan crust was great and made up for it.

frango (chicken) was offered next.  wow.  it even came wrapped in bacon!  i've said it before and i'll say it again.  bacon makes everything better.  julie's right.  they pay attention to the details, and the bacon was perfectly crispy.

filet mignon was my final sampling.  fogo de chao added a nice garlic flavoring to this meat, and i enjoyed every bite.

Following the feast of meat, we were delightfully surprised with being served the entire range of desserts, which we were told were not included in the tasting.  Among the options were: Fogo de Chao's signature papayan cream dessert (ripe red papayas mixed with vanilla bean ice cream and topped with creme de cacao), key lime pie, flan, creme brulee, molton chocolate cake and chocolate mousse cake.

Julie: As much as the meat experience was truly a culinary delight, this was THE BEST DESSERT SAMPLING I HAVE HAD IN MY LIFE!  IT WAS TRULY AMAZING!

J: The papayan cream was something I could have piped intravenously into my veins. The rich papaya was so fresh and delicious!

b:  amen and amen.  the papayan cream was amazing.  i couldn't stop eating it.  i could become addicted.  sweet and cold, it was a great desert to end the parade of meat.

J: The key lime pie had a perfect blend of tartness and lime to compliment the sweetness of the cream.  I think I could have eaten the entire pie.

b:  this is the way key lime pie is supposed to taste.  normally i don't go for key lime, but this is the exception.  fluffy with the perfect blend of sweet and tart.

J: The creme brulee was a great balance of cream and sugary crunchy glaze.  And if you know me, you know that I am on the fence about egg dishes.  I don't particularly like eggs (over easy, sunny side up, soft boiled, etc.)  I only like scrambled eggs, when they are mixed with milk and scrambled well.  I don't like the smell of them when Brian makes them bcz he doesn't use milk and the egg smell is too overpowering.  I don't like souffles.  Egg drop soup isn't my favorite.  So it's sort of a surprise that creme brulee is so close to my heart.  Perhaps its because the French have done it justice.  Perhaps it's bcz it's the nice dressed up cousin of flan.  But this creme brulee was delicious.  (Although as a side note, when Brian and I went on our mini-honeymoon after our wedding, we stayed at a resort called Sedona Rouge, where we had vanilla bean creme brulee, and it was the best creme brulee I've ever had. The vanilla bean helped beat the egg taste in the creme which was great for me.  Surprising because even the creme brulee in Paris wasn't as good - too eggy for me.)

b:  i thought there could have been a bit more of the "crust" to the top of the creme brulee.  it was still yummy, but like julie said, not as good as the creme brulee we had at sedona rouge.

J: Molton Chocolate Cake - it was good and tasty and while I'll never turn down chocolate, I think the first three desserts named above were "took the cake."  :)

b:  how can you go wrong with molten chocolate cake?  i don't know, and neither does fogo de chao.  wonderfully warm with that great chocolate oozing from the middle.

J: Flan - see above.  Didn't even try it. Although I'm sure it was good.

b:  i didn't try this one either.  it didn't look too appetizing to me.

J: Chocolate Mousse Cake - Very good, better than the molton chocolate cake.  This would make a nice treat anytime.

b:  this is better than mom used to make (no offense to any mothers reading this).  perhaps this is a new addition to their menu since i don't see it listed on their website.  this cake only added to the feeling that i had died and gone to heaven.

We also were served our choice of white or red wine, water (sparkling or still) and an after dinner drink (coffee, espresso or tea).

Dinner runs $46.50 pp and Lunch $28.50 pp.  Lunch is only served M-F.  If you want the salad buffet only it runs $19.50 pp.  Drinks and dessert are not included.

J: Overall, this was my favorite restaurant in the tastecasting reviews.  The prices are really extravagant and hard to justify, despite the culinary feast. It is sort of a justice issue for me.   I was impressed with the excellent quality of the food.  I love the history of the restaurant and how they are empowering men of Brazil to learn a trade and then return home to be able to support their families.

b:  i agree with julie.  this was my favorite so far as well.  they create a great dining experience and invite you in to the brazilian way of cooking.  i was actually a little sad when i noticed i was full, because i was enjoying the tastes and the experience so much.  i thought it is great that in the 3 years of training to become a gaucho, they also focus on the culture surrounding the profession.   i would unhesitatingly go to fogo de chao again.

Happy Thanksgiving

Here are some photos from the fun day!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

many, many things...

i'm sure you've noticed the past couple blog updates, but you may be wondering what else julie and i have been up to over the past couple weeks.   i'll try to do this chronologically.  :)

julie and i celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary on november 3.  one of the things we did was go to the tempe improv a few weekends ago and saw comedian ralphie may put on a show.  he was quite funny, even heckling some of the audience members.  that following weekend, julie & i had a fun time in payson, az and flagstaff, az celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary and my new job.   this was my first time to flagstaff.  it was nice and cold there, since it's high up in the mountains.   when we arrived in flagstaff, our 1st stop was at the beaver street brewery for lunch.  we had some great, yummy, sweet chili that hit the spot. we then went to the museum of northern arizona, where we learned about the history of native americans in the area, as well as a bit of cowboy life.  we also ate at a couple places that have been featured on diners, drive-ins & dives.  

we spent thanksgiving weekend here in phoenix.  julie's aunt kathy flew from washington d.c. for the holiday.  it was the 1st time since spring 2006 that we had seen her, when we went to d.c. to see her.  naturally we had lots of turkey in the midst of a very full house.  we also watched the detroit lions do the 1 thing they are very good at...lose.  saturday afternoon we went to the final arizona state football game of the season, when they played their rivals the university of arizona.  what did they do?  they lost, too.  walking into the game was fairly entertaining, as julie's dad trash-talked some U of A fans on our way to the stadium.  and yes, her family is VERY passionate about ASU.  i find it quite entertaining.

julie and i have decided on a church home.  we've decided on dayspring umc.  we've gone there for several sundays, and we like what it has to offer.  julie has known the senior pastor, jane, for quite a while.  i've found that i really like her sermons.  she doesn't do the normal sermon of starting with a story or joke related to the sermon, then transitioning into the meat of her sermon.  she seems to pick a topic or theme, and weave her sermon around that.  today's sermon was based on hope.  which was very topical, considering it was the 1st sunday of advent.   we thank you if you've been praying for us in our search for a church home. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

BzzAgent - Softsoap

I've been part of a website called BzzAgent which is a website promoting products via word of mouth.  Here's how being a BzzAgent works:

1- sign up for agent status at the BzzAgent Website
2- then fill out different surveys based on you and your interests/needs
3- you will then get invites from BzzAgent to sample products and share with friends, family and co-workers
4- the more you share, the more invitations and earlier invites you will get

I've participated in several campaigns and this one is for Softsoap NutriSystems body 's wash. The product was for their newest form of body wash - one with Omega 3s and one with moisturizing complexes in them.

I shared the product with friends and family and had mixed reviews.  I recently tried the product myself and chose to blog about it here.

I tried the Omega-3 NutriSerum body wash and I like the scent - it was very light and smelled good.  While I'm intrigued by the beads in the body wash which are supposed to dissolve/break apart when scrubbing up, they didn't really break up or dissolve for me just floated away with the shower water.

I'm not sure I could tell any difference when using this and other body washes I wish it would have swept me off my feet.

I look forward to sharing more reviews about the products I receive through BzzAgent.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Morton's Steakhouse

Last Wednesday we attended our second Tastecasting event.  This time it was at Morton's Steakhouse in Phoenix, Arizona.  They have locations nationwide, including their first one in Chicago.  John, the Sales and Marketing Manager, was our host that evening.  He told us that when Morton's first opened their doors over 30 years ago in Chicago, they were struggling for the first couple of weeks.  That is, until Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack unexpectedly walked through their doors.  The press heard about this, the word spread, and suddenly they no longer had a problem with not enough customers.

As Julie and I walked into the restaurant, I couldn't help but feel we were walking into a "good ol' boys" club, with the deep mahogany walls and dimly lit atmosphere.  I half-expected us to be ushered in by a server wearing an ascot and a silk bathrobe, smoking a pipe.  This didn't happen and we were brought to a private room in the back for our meal.  John had prepared a long table that included a broccoli flower centerpiece that he had made for this occasion.  

Julie: my first impressions were similar to Brian's and I was disappointed in the treatment (intentional or otherwise) from John.  I felt that he didn't seem to care about our experience and that seemed to play out in different ways throughout the evening.  I was really disappointed because I have always heard great things about Morton's and expected a high quality of customer service as I would expect of the meal/food itself.

Like our previous post about our other TasteCasting experience, Julie and I will each write about our individual experiences with the various courses that we sampled.  The focus for this was the Morton's Power Hour, when they focus on smaller, quick-serve portions that are individually priced to reach a more varied clientele than they typically serve.  The options vary by location.  We were served a total of 11 different items at this one.  It challenged us a bit, since we wanted to give each item a fair chance.  

Prime Mini Cheeseburger
Brian:  I immediately liked these.  They are very tall, juicy and warm mini-cheeseburgers served with all the fixings.  The steak was a bit pink in the middle, so it wasn't quite well-done.  I did enjoy the taste and I had to stop myself and eat just one.  Two of these would easily fill me up.
Julie: I like the idea of these upscale sliders and would have liked this appetizer if it had been cooked to my liking (well-done) and didn't have blood in the middle of the burger.  It was also a bit greasy. Aside from the undercooking, I think it would have been good since it had a small slice of tomato, lettuce and a red onion.  The cheeseburger was shaped more like a meatball and looked a little dwarfed on the bun.

Miniature Crab Cake
Brian:  The first thing I noticed about these is the size.  They were a good size for what I was expecting. As I bit into one, it tasted more "fishy" than I like my crab cakes to taste.  I had a hard time getting past this. 
Julie: I like the bite size portion and the cake included very large chunks of crab.  It was a bit mayonaise-ey and had a hint of nutmeg but it was a nice option on the menu. 

(no photo)

Petit Filet Mignon Steak Sandwich
Brian:  The filet mignon between the bread was, again, a bit pink in the middle.   It was quite juicy, though, and I felt this more than made up for the slight rareness.  They make these with a hint of nutmeg.  I wholeheartedly believe this is a great idea.  In my opinion, they could have used smaller bits of bread for it.  The bread overpowers the sandwich.
Julie: The size of the sesame seed bread/roll compared with the slice of steak was enormous.  The steak tasted good but was, again, not cooked to my own personal preference.  (This is not meant to be a slight against Morton's, simply a difference in how I like my steaks cooked and how probably real foodies enjoy and appreciate the taste of meat.)

Mini Wedge Bites
Brian:  These are little lettuce slices garnished with tomato cubes and dressing.  The lettuce was a bit dry and wilty, and to me they were a little tasteless.
Julie: I like the concept of iceberg wedges and I think that this would be a fun appetizer.  The portion that I received had a wilted piece of lettuce, but the taste of the blue cheese dressing was good.

Spinach Crab Artichoke Dip
Brian:  I didn't taste this, so I can't give an opinion on it.
Julie: This dip was quite tasty despite the large chunks of artichokes within the dip.  The small crispy breads that were served with it were scrumptous and could well have been eaten on their own.

Blue Cheese French Fries
Brian:  I'll admit, I'm a fan of french fries.  As long as their a bit crunchy on the outside and soft & warm on the inside, I'm sold.  I was on these fries.  In place of ketchup, these are served with blue cheese dressing on top.  It adds to the moistness and makes for a great comfort food.
Julie: I thought these were delicious and would make for a great comfort food as Brian said.  The fries were slightly greasy and the blue cheese wasn't overpowering.  The melted cheese went well with the bacon, chives and peppers.

New York Strip Steak
Brian:  Morton's seems to have a theme with their steaks, serve them so their slightly pink in the middle.  I really didn't mind this.  the NY strip steak was delicious.  Nice and juicy, but it was a bit chewy.  My taste buds enjoyed this steak rolling around on them.
Julie: I really enjoyed this entree as the taste was very good and had a slight cripsy edge on the top of the steak. Again, flavor was delicious.

Macaroni and Cheese
Brian:  Yes, you read that right.  Macaroni & cheese in an upscale steak restaurant.  This was, undoubtedly, my favorite part of the meal.  Not only was it wonderfully creamy and rich, like macaroni and cheese should be, but they make it with a hint of chili.  Magnifique!  I could go for some right now.  If only they delivered...
Julie:  YUMMY! This was the most magnificent comfort food ever!  So totally outweighs Kraft in the box.  Even the fancy Kraft in the box.  I loved the cavatapi pasta, and the nice blend of cheeses (parmesean, cream cheese, swiss and sharp cheddar).  It was topped with panko and had a nice crust on the top.  I also enjoyed the hint of chili taste.

Legendary Hot Chocolate Cake
Brian:  This was, as expected, yummy.  And true to it's name, it was hot.  This is a chocolate lava cake served with raspberrys and ice cream.  A nice chocolatey ending to any meal.  
Julie: I was excited about this cake and my expectations were pleasantly met.  The cake itself has a texture reminescent of a flourless cake, which I'm not sure if it is or not.  The chocolate inside was good and a bit gelatenous texture.  The creamy vanilla ice cream and raspberries and mint were nice accoutrements.

(no photo)

Lemon Souffle (Grand Marnier Souffle)

Brian:  I don't have a lot of experience with souffles, so it's hard for me to really compare it.  It did have a nice lemony taste, and was soft and sumptuous on my tongue.  However, I felt the lemon was a little weak and didn't really stand out.
Julie: I also don't have much experience with souffles although I do know what they are supposed to taste and look like.  I think I was mostly disappointed because John had substituted the original option with these two souffles.  One of the original options was creme brulee which I was completely looking forward to!  Oh well.  Back to the souffle - the flavor was good (grand marnier not lemon!) and had a nice presentation.  It was served with a scoop of rich cream.  The texture of souffles kind of turns me off, however.

(no photo)

Raspberry Souffle
Brian:  In a blind taste test, I think I would have minor bit of difficulty telling the difference between the lemon and raspberry souffles.  The flavoring is a bit weak to me.  The actual souffles were great in their wonderful fluffy-ness, I think the flavors could use some boosting.
Julie: The raspberry souffle was very light in taste but not bad.  Again, texture issues, but the presentation was nice.  Too bad souffles weren't my fave!


Brian: One thing I noticed as John was handing out the plates, specifically for the desserts, was that I was turned off in the way he handed them out.  He held them against his suit and had his hands all over them.  I know servers are trained to not do this in an effort toward cleanliness.  I'm sure the regular servers don't do this, so I won't count this against Morton's on the whole.  On the whole, our Morton's experience was good.  They have great tasting food that obviously has a lot of care and skill put into it's preparation.  
Julie: I am probably not the type of clientele in which Morton's would hit the spot for me.  I don't enjoy sparkling water, nor do I jive with the atmosphere of Morton's.  I think they do some things well (appetizers and steaks) and I hope that others are willing to check them out.  They do have wifi available and do a great verbal menu presentation.  They also do great charity work with Make-a-Wish and other local charities.  Thank you to Morton's for the hospitality and opportunity to check you out!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

yay! employment!

the past couple of months have been a bit tough for julie and i, as we have traversed the landscape of unemployment, searching for that oasis that is a full-time job.

as of today, that journey is done for me.  i accepted a position at a hospital outside of phoenix in their business office doing medical billing.  for the 1st 3 months it is actually a "temp to hire" position.  i will be working there via the placement agency that connected me to the hospital.  this hospital opened about a 18 months ago and is the flagship hospital for a healthcare corporation that has a string of hospitals across the country.  by some coincidence, the corporate headquarters is literally just a block up the road from star physical therapy, where i worked in nashville.  another fun coincidence is this hospital is where our nephew jalen was born a year ago to the day of my interview there.

i start work on monday, november 16, when training begins.  julie, in the meantime, is still looking.  we are still hoping she lands a job at ASU.  it's just taking a bit of time due to 3 things:  1) the bad economy, 2) ASU is a large organization, so it takes them a while to confirm decisions and 3) it's difficult breaking into the higher-eduction industry.  like the music industry in nashville, it really helps if you know someone.

i'm looking forward to this new challenge, especially because it's normally a bit tough to get employed by a hospital when (like me) you don't have any hospital-employment experience.  

note:  edits

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

2 Years and Counting...

As we are sure you know, we celebrated our 2 year anniversary on November 3rd. We decided to take some time to remember the good and bad things that we have experienced as a couple that have brought us to where we are today, and we thought we would share some of them with you.

High Points
Our trip to Paris and Amsterdam in October 2008.  See our posts here and here.
Our trip to Hawaii in July 2008.  See our post here.
The house we rented in Nashville this past year that was a great home for us.
Driving home in a snowstorm in Nashville after hearing Tim Wise speak in March 2008.
Seeing "Romeo & Juliet" in Atlanta.
Our trip to Memphis, where we discovered the incredible story of Stax Records.  See our post here.
Seeing U2 on their 360 Tour last month here in Phoenix.  See our post here.

Low Points
Brian's Grandpa passing away in February 2009.  See our post here.
Leaving many good friends behind in Nashville after our recent move to Phoenix.  See our post here.
Julie losing her job with the United Methodist Church due to the economy in June 2009.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

not really an american?

i came across this article that shows another element of the racism that is still (sadly) running strong in this country. mebrahtom keflezighi won the legendary new york city marathon this year, and is the first american to accomplish this feat since 1982. the problem is, some people are claiming that mr. keflezighi is not an american. if he were white, this debate wouldn't be happening.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day

as julie & i settle in to our life here in phoenix, one of our goals is to find a church home. For the past few weeks, we've attended Dayspring United Methodist Church as part of that search.

we attended there this morning, and witnessed an interesting tradition that the methodist church carries on. all saints day. all saints day is the day after halloween, when churches celebrate the lives of those we have lost in the past year. dayspring commemorated this by reading off the names of those from their congregation who have passed on, one by one, while one of their loved ones stepped up to the front of the sanctuary and lit a candle in their honor.

i found that this moved me. it was a solemn reminder of how important our past is, and how important those who have gone before us are. it's those memories and traditions that shape individuals and cultures, and remind us of who we are deep inside. it also reminded me of my grandpa, who passed away this past february. i'm thankful for the role he played in my life, and the man he was. the way he would tell stories of his childhood growing up on a farm in mid-michigan with his 10 (yes, ten) siblings. the memories of him making oliebollen when my 3 siblings & i were kids and the 4 of us running around his yard playing tag. i remember he used to scare me when i was young when he would take out his dentures. i hadn't realized there was such a thing a fake teeth.

i'm grateful for the reminder that the tradition all saints day gives.

grandpa, this candle is for you.

Friday, October 30, 2009


we've had a few adventures lately, including last week's trip to southern arizona. see julie's post from earlier today. so tonight, since it was halloween eve, we decided it was time to carve pumpkins. julie's sister sarah and her boyfriend dustin joined us in the fun.

we thought it would only be fair for you to see what our pumpkins look like, as well as some pics from the work in progress.

digging the pumpkins out

our pumpkin

sarah's pumpkin

dustin's pumpkin (and julie's spaghetti squash with mr. potato head halloween decor, courtesy the creativity of sarah)

Southern Arizona

Last weekend we took a trip to the southern part of Arizona to see Kartchner Caverns, Willcox, AZ, Chiricahua National Monument, Tombstone, AZ and Auntie Annie's Apple Orchard.

It was a great trip with wonderful weather. Here are some highlights from our trip:

Kartchner Caverns - which had wonderful rock formations such as stalagmites, stalactites, turnip shields, and helictites. The story of how the cave was discovered is pretty cool as well! Unfortunately, we couldn't take any photos of the cave, however, the website has come cool video and photos.

Willcox, AZ
- this was my hometown when I was in the 1st-3rd grade. In that time, my dad was appointed to Willcox UMC and we "acquired" my two younger sibs, Matt and Sarah. When you're younger, the city seems large and cool. Upon our recent trip back, the reality of it being a small, run-down town set in. But at least they have recycling and Rex Allen Days.

Chiricahua National Monument - is a great mountain range with awesome rock formations to the south of Willcox.

Tombstone, AZ - the famous city that's "too tough to die" which has the OK Corral and many gunfights.

and finally, we paid a visit to Apple Annie's Orchard and picked some great granny smiths and red delicious. We also visited their produce orchard and picked yummy green beans and spaghetti squash. The apple crisp that we've made was DELISH!

Here are some pics from our trip!


one of my childhood homes

Willcox UMC

Willcox Hospital - where my sister Sarah was born

Chiricahua Nat'l Monument