Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Camping in the Shenandoahs

The rolling mountains!
Last weekend my boyfriend and I went camping in Shenandoah National Park. We had such a fun time, hiking during the day and drinking wine (and toasting marshmallows!) by the fire at night. Here are some photos from the trip:

1. Butterflies: We saw SO many butterflies (the milkweed was in full bloom)! We saw a million Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (the yellow ones) and Spicebush Swallowtails (the black one). We saw some others (the little orange one is either a Pearl Crescent or Northern Crescent), and I think I caught a glimpse of a Monarch!

<-- The two tiny ones in this picture are Common Skippers, which actually aren't butterflies or moths, but a completely different thing. Who knew?

2. Other wildlife: We saw lots of animals on this trip! Unfortunately I do not have many pictures of them. But we saw a black bear foraging in the woods by the road, a chipmunk, a mouse, a deer, and three young barred owls flew around our campsite calling to each other!

I think this was a Timber Rattlesnake. It wasn't aggressive (luckily!).
3. Plants: We saw some beautiful flowers on our trip, too. There were thistles in the Big Meadow (along with blueberry and blackberry bushes. Yum!), and cornflower grew along the road.

-The flower with the butterfly on it is a type of Thistle. I think the red flowers above are Columbine, and these pinkish ones might be Purple-flowering Raspberry.

4. Sunset: We watched the sunset on Friday night, and it was mesmerizing!

5. Waterfalls: We saw a few waterfalls on our day hikes. Personally, these are more fun than the actual views!

I'm not particularly outdoorsy, but I did show off my DC EcoWomen spirit!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Shania Twain "Rock This Country Tour" concert

When I learned that Shania Twain was going to perform at the Verizon Center in DC, of course I had to get tickets! I grew up on her music, and with such a convenient venue, this was a win-win no-brainer!

Gavin DeGraw opened for Shania. I'm not a huge fan: all I can think of is the theme song for One Tree Hill when I think of DeGraw. I also saw him perform at this year's Winter Classic. It's not that I think he's untalented, but I just don't care for his music. He got the crowd going a little bit, but we all know (including DeGraw himself) that nobody was there just to see him.

And then Shania took the stage! Of course she had a big entrance, coming up from beneath the stage (wearing WAY too much fringe!). My parents and I were taken aback by the blonde hair (she looks so much better as a brunette!), so the hair and outfits were a little distracting. But she put on a great show, singing all of her hits punctuated by instrumental pieces when she had a wardrobe change. And the pyrotechnics weren't too shabby, either! I felt like it was the Fourth of July!

This Nascar-like image was during "You Win My Love."
Here is the song list*:

Honey, I’m Home
You Win My Love
Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?
I Ain’t No Quitter (new-ish song; meh)
Love Gets Me Every Time
Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)
Any Man of Mine
I’m Gonna Getcha Good! (I wish she wore the jumpsuit from the music video!)
Come on Over
Party For Two (She sang this with Gavin DeGraw, and I thought the duet was great!)
Today Is Your Day (Acoustic) (again, meh)
No One Needs to Know (Acoustic)
You’re Still the One (Acoustic)
From This Moment On
That Don’t Impress Me Much
(If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here!

And of course the encore was "Man, I Feel Like A Woman." What a great song!

At one point Shania hopped onto this saddle that lifted her above the stage! It was a little much...

One of the best parts of the concert was when Shania invited this little girl to sing on stage. This child kept singing the chorus of "Honey, I'm Home" over and over again, and she probably would have kept going if Shania hadn't finally stopped her. The video is below:

*Most of the song links go to official music videos. Those that don't go to live versions from her recent tour. As you can see, she has always made fashion statements, from way back when to now!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Recipe: Healthy Acorn Squash Dinner (Vegetarian)

Lately I have been trying to think of easy, quick meals to make that are also healthy, and this is now one of my favorites! I simply cut an acorn squash in half, and then microwave one side (face down) for about five minutes (The time depends on the size of the squash. Check on it mid-way!). Once the flesh seems soft, I take it out of the microwave and let it cool for a bit. I fill the center with diced up pepper (I use red but any color pepper would do) and apple, sprinkled with sunflower seeds on top. I think this combination is nice with the zesty-ness from the pepper, the sweetness of the apples, and the nutty flavor of the seeds. And this meal is quite filling! I usually have a hard time finishing everything (probably because I overfill the squash, as you can see in my picture!).

Try it and let me know what you think! What are your quick and easy healthy foods?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Movie Review: Midnight in Paris [SPOILERS]

Image found here.
Yes, I finally got around to seeing Midnight in Paris. I enjoy most Woody Allen films (I know he's not for everyone), and this one was no exception. For one, it's a beautiful picture. You could watch it with the sound off and you could still love it. Woody Allen said that he always uses "warm" tones for his cinematography, and you really do get a warm feel for all of the colors. And I love the cast! Owen Wilson is always funny, and Rachel McAdams is so gorgeous (she's my second celebrity girl crush, a close second to Blake Lively). I could definitely watch this movie again (and again...).

Yep, that about sums it up. Collage found here.
So the plot goes like this:

The characters played by Wilson and McAdams are engaged, and they are in Paris with her parents. She wants to meet up with her friends Paul and Carol, while he would rather not (Paul, played by Michael Sheen, is a "pedantic" know-it-all mousy-man who clearly has a crush on McAdams' character). So one night when Wilson is alone (at midnight in Paris), an old car drives by and he gets in. He is transported to the roaring 1920's, his idea of the Golden Age (PS: I must never have seen a real preview for this movie, because I had no idea about the time travel part!). He meets Ernest Hemingway and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (I found Alison Pill, who plays the wife of the Great Gatsby author, to be quite annoying with her chubby cheeks and fake Southern accent); since Wilson's character is trying to write a book, he is completely taken with these famous writers. Then for the rest of his trip in Paris, each night he goes back in time. Later he meets Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, etc.! He also falls in love with a girl from the 20's (When he's back in the present he actually finds a book or diary written by this woman, and practically has his future read to him!). He ends up breaking up with McAdams (She is so mean and condescending! She doesn't support his dream of writing, and she's having an affair with Paul anyway.), and though he can't be with the girl from the 20's, he does find love with a modern day Parisian who appreciates the city in the rain as much as he does.

This is a really fun movie! But there were a couple of things that weren't my cup of tea:

1. The long instrumental intro. It lasted forever! We get that Paris is a beautiful city, but we just need to see the biggies: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées (leading up to the Arc), the Louvre, and the Seine River. I appreciate the homage paid to the "City of Lights" (I visited when I was 13), but it just went on a little too long for my taste.

2. McAdams' wardrobe. Why did she almost exclusively wear belted dresses/tunics? Don't get me wrong: she looks great (she would look beautiful in a brown paper bag). But how about some variety? Her character grew up quite wealthy: you know she has lots of clothes, and a good mix of them, too!
I didn't even have to create this collage. Someone beat me to it! Collage found here.

3. The beach cover-up. Or at least that's what I call this dress. I don't care for the drop waist dresses of the 1920's, but at least most of them were quite amazing! This one...Not so much.

Image found here.
 But I did like the other fashions Adriana (played by ) wore:

Notice the glamorous but deadly cigarette. (Images found here and here).

At the press conference for the film in Cannes, Woody Allen said, "Hire great people and let them do what they do...Then when they're great, take credit for it. I've done this for many years and it works like a charm." So funny! Five Stars!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Recipe: Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

Image from Taste of Home
I bought lots of blueberries the other day, so I figured I would bake something with them. I wanted to make a recipe for which I already had all of the ingredients at home. So I came across this one on Taste of Home and wanted to share it!


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries 


  1. In a bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine oats, flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the blueberries.  
  2. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.
I actually made the recipe twice, and they taste delicious whether you make them with fresh or frozen blueberries. I will say that online the recipe says it will yield three dozen (~36) cookies, which is NOT true. Granted, the first time I made the cookies VERY large so I only got one dozen, but even when I consciously tried to make them smaller the second time, I still did not get even two dozen cookies. If you need a lot of cookies, I would recommend doubling the recipe (except for the blueberries. Both times I made them there wasn't enough dough to "contain" the blueberries). I would also recommend just placing the blueberries on top of the mounds of dough so that you do not burst the berries (and they don't really mix well into the batter anyway).

My mom said these were some of the best cookies she's ever had. What a ringing endorsement!

Click here to view the recipe online.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Movie Review: The DUFF

Image found on
I had yet another Redbox code for a free movie, so I rented The DUFF. I wasn't in the mood for a serious film, and I thought this looked like a fun, teen comedy. All in all, it was. The plot is that the protagonist (Bianca, played by Mae Whitman) finds out she's a DUFF ("Designated Ugly Fat Friend"), so she loses her sense of self and tries to find a different identity. She goes through this internal journey with the help of her friend/neighbor Wesley (played by Robbie Amell...mmm...). He's helping her become "cool" while she's helping him study for Science (the movie does not tell us which science they are studying...). Not surprisingly, their friendship turns into love and they end up happily ever after. The end.

The movie sends this cliché message: Life's not worth trying to be cool; Don't let the mean girls get you down; Just be yourself. Which, don't get me wrong, is a good message (I was never "cool" and I think I turned out alright). But seeing as this is a movie, reality is a little skewed. I mean, a guy THAT hot would never date a girl like her (she really isn't ugly or fat, but he is in a whole different league). And her hot friends? Yeah, they probably wouldn't have been friends with her in real life, even if they really did want/need a DUFF to make them look hotter in comparison. We live in a very superficial society, and that's just how it is.

Again, this movie was kind of cute and fun, but it doesn't compare to the teen classics like Bring It On or Sixteen Candles. So, I give it three out of five stars.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Play Review: Catch Me If You Can

Image found here:
I love the movie Catch Me If You Can, so when my boyfriend said there was a play version, I definitely wanted to see it! I had never been to the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, so I was excited to see a new venue, too.

The Theatre is very close to the Annapolis waterfront, so it was very pleasant to walk around for a little bit before the doors for the show opened (we saw lots of people enjoying ice cream while they waited). When we went inside, I was very surprised to see that our seats were outside! I guess I didn't really think about what a "summer garden theater" meant, but it means you're watching the play under the stars! Luckily we had beautiful weather: it was a warm night and no rain!

I was very impressed with the talent of the actors, and I thought the parts were well-cast. Ron Giddings was amazing as Frank Abagnale, Jr., and Joshua Mooney (who hasn't even graduated from college yet!) was equally as talented as Carl Hanratty. Alicia Sweeney, who played both Paula Abagnale and Carol Strong, could feign both a French and southern accent! I really enjoyed all of the songs: they were well-written, catchy, and this cast brought lots of energy to every number! And I shouldn't forget the musicians: bravo to them as well!

I think my only complaint would be the ensemble's wardrobe. The high school letter sweaters were ill-fitting and in a garish peach/orange/purple combination. And the things they made the ladies wear! They wore tight lycra pants that gave every one of them camel-toe, and teeny tiny black shorts that should only be worn by athletes (or in a gym); they frequently had to wear shirts as dresses, too. The women also had to wear these high-collared halter tops, and a few of them didn't wear strapless bras, so I was distracted by their bra straps that were showing. And the entire nurse number ("Doctor's Orders") was too risque for me, but I guess that was the point...? It went something like this:

But all in all, I definitely recommend this show and this theater! Five stars!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Movie Review: Inside Out

Image found on
I went into this movie thinking it was going to be a fun kids' movie. I figured, "It's a cartoon! It'll be funny and make me laugh and I'll leave with a smile on my face."

Um, no. This is the most depressing kids' movie I've ever seen. Basically, the film is about the feelings inside this little girl's head: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness (because those are the only feelings that exist...). The majority of the plot focuses on when the little girl loses Joy (i.e. her parents made her move away, her dad's at work a lot, etc.). So for most of the movie, the little girl is miserable, and you have to watch her become more miserable, and you're made to contemplate when you were the most miserable in your own life...It's like a drawn-out commercial about depression (without the anti-depressant medical solution at the end). AND the film even comes to the conclusion that you can't have happiness without sadness, so you should just embrace your sadness and wallow in it. It was awful! I do NOT want to cry while watching a kids' movie! The film tried to end on a happy note, but it was too late: I was already sad and was not planning to change my mind on how I felt about this movie.

I'd give it two out of five stars, and that's only because the idea of anthropomorphizing your feelings is pretty new and creative. But in general, I'd say that if you don't want to feel shitty for the rest of the day, don't bother watching Inside Out.

PS: The "Lava" short beforehand is anything but short. And the song isn't even that good! Listen to the video below:

Monday, July 13, 2015

My 4th of July Holiday

For the 4th of July, I went out to Kalamazoo, Michigan (yes, Kalamazoo is a real place!) to visit a friend whom I hadn't seen in about six years (!). I was there for five days, and we packed a lot in!

Right after I landed in Grand Rapids, we headed straight for the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, which wasn't too far from the airport. It's was beautiful! We had a lovely day to enjoy the new Japanese Garden, and the indoor exhibits (including the aviary) were wonderful as well! Here are some photos:

We were greeted by this sculpture. The two in front were labeled "Fred" and "Lena" for the couple who established the garden.
This made me think of the "aviary" in Jurassic World...
From the desert section. Lots of cacti: do NOT touch!
"The American Horse" by Nina Akamu. It's HUGE!
Some bonsai trees in the Japanese garden. The Japanese garden only opened recently, so we saw it brand new!
There were beautiful hydrangeas throughout. I took so many pictures of them!
The Pink Lady Slippers reminded me of home, since they grow in Maryland, too.
This bird was sucking the nectar out of these little flowers. 
Then we had some time to relax and stay more local. We did a lot of grilling (it was Independence Day, after all), and my friend's dog was quite pleased with the bone I got him as a housewarming gift!

We spent one afternoon in downtown Kalamazoo. Unfortunately most of the shops were closed, but we did find a souvenir shop that sold ice cream; my key lime pie scoop was delicious!

You can't read it, but my shirt says, "Just another animal in the Zoo."
We both like movies, so we watched several while I was there. We went to a full-service movie theater (the kind that has a restaurant and there are waitresses who bring over your food!) to see My Neighbor Totoro. It is a cute children's movie, but I did learn that animated kids are just as annoying as some (most?) children in real life. We also watched The Lego Movie (which I thought was quite funny, even if I did fall asleep during some of it...), and Cinderella (which I really enjoyed and thought was SO much better than "Into the Woods").

One day we visited the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing. I love zoos, and this one was very nice! We arrived right when the zoo opened, so we didn't have to deal with any crowds (other than the mosquitoes flying around). Here are some pictures:

Interesting bottle cap art at the zoo.
How appropriate that we were greeted by a bald eagle on this holiday!
The Gray Wolves were the newest addition to the zoo. They are really big!
There was a petting zoo. These goats felt like the troughs are the perfect place for a nap.
We caught a glimpse of the tiger!
It's no wonder how the Spider Monkey got its name: It looks like it has lots of legs!
Meerkats are so adorable. Am I right?
This King Vulture was my favorite of the day. I don't think I had ever seen one before, and he is so beautiful!
Cute little penguin butt!
There were peacocks all over the zoo! Everywhere you turned, they were walking around.
These Patagonian Cavies were quite interesting. They're like rabbits, but with really long legs, and much bigger!
This lovely lioness was taking her morning snooze.
It makes sense that this little guy is called the Bat-Eared Fox.
Other highlights included an art festival in South Haven, the "hippie hash" at the Fleetwood Diner, and my first trip to a Steak 'n Shake. The only downside to this trip was the MAJOR delay I had at the airport flying home. Otherwise, this was really the perfect vacation! :)