March 27, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

You have all probably heard about The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Honestly, who hasn't?!  The books have been nothing short of a phenomenon, engaging youth, adolescent, and adult reading audiences around the world.
Interesting sidenote:  The author, Suzanne Collins, graduated from my high school (the Alabama School of Fine Arts).  In this case, it's not six degrees of separation, but more like two!  Pretty cool, huh?!

I, myself, read the trilogy as each book was being released.  I would finish the newest book within a couple of days of its release, and would then have to agonize for over a year awaiting the next installment.  Thankfully, unlike Harry Potter and the Tiger's Saga (each of which have five or more books in the series), The Hunger Games only had three books.  Therefore, the misery of waiting for the next part of the story was confined to a couple of years, as opposed to half a decade.  Hey, book geeks like me have to count our blessings! :)

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she's ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (source)

Last Friday, before leaving to go out of town for two weeks, Bo took me to The Hunger Games movie.  While Lola visited some of her puppy friends in our neighborhood, Bo and I enjoyed our final date night for several weeks.
Note:  This was not a situation where I was dragging my husband to see some chick-flick that I knew he wouldn't like.  On the contrary, Bo read The Hunger Games back in January, and was actually looking forward to seeing the moving almost as much as I was!
Before heading to the theater, I paid close attention to the critical reviews the movie received.  According to Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie review site, The Hunger Games scored an 87% rating...not bad for a young-adult-novel-turned-film adaptation!

I was immediately struck by how precisely the film translated the book into film.  In addition to a true telling of the novel, the movie also visually captured the:

  • despair and poverty in the districts;
  • outlandish and fashionable style of the Capital; and
  • horror of The Games (including the arena, inhumanity behind the scenes, and brutal killings...without any gore).

The Hunger Games film was also successful in capturing the complex histories and relationships among the stories' main characters Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and Haymitch (although much more on Haymitch will be revealed in the second movie).  Katniss, played by the Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence, is a young woman not yet sure of her own heart.  In my opinion, as a result of losing her father in a mining accident, growing up in the poorest district, and being forced to provide for her mother and sister by illegally hunting in the woods, Katniss fears loving others because it opens her up to the vulnerability of loss.

Although Gale is her best friend and most trusted confidant, and she knows that she loves him, Katniss struggles to understand the depth and meaning of that love.

On the other hand, Katniss cares for Peeta; but unlike Gale, she doesn't trust him.   Katniss' affection for Peeta grows only when she begins to see and appreciate his pureness of heart.

In Peeta, Katniss is aware of what she is not: innocent, peaceful, and unselfish.  Although she has the ability to be all of these things, through Peeta, Katniss becomes more aware of her fiery nature, her tendency to think of herself first, and her propensity to quickly judge others.  In this way, Peeta is both her opposite and her equal.

As one critic noted, "while not particularly charming or friendly, Lawrence's Katniss is easy to empathize with, and it is refreshing to see a female protagonist who is driven by more mature, adult motives than adolescent romance, though there is some of that.  Her humanity amid the senseless death around her is what really gets the audience behind her."

Much like A Brave New World, 1984, and Herland - all famous novels in their own right - The Hunger Games presents this generation's dystopian narrative.  Addressing question of power vs. disempowerment, control vs. subjugation, and compassion vs. the selfish desire to live, The Hunger Games is a novel that hits a little too close to home.

Could we ever end up like this?

If Panem is a metaphor for the present, where are the District 12's of the world?

Who/where is the Capitol?

Are there not variations of the Hunger Games going on all the time, albeit on different continents, in different countries, or in different backyards?

Are we the games' audience - passively watching - ignoring the forced suffering of others for entertainment, or worse, calling it entertainment?

Can we all be mockingjay's?

Surprisingly, I found myself thinking that the horrors outlined in both the novel and the movie were not that outlandish; and apparently I wasn't the only one to think so.  In his movie review in the Covington Reporter, TJ Martinell states:

"The police/soldier uniforms looked rather goofy instead of intimidating, which made it hard to understand how anyone takes them seriously, until you remember how goofy the TSA look. The outlandish, over-the-top interviews the tributes have with a ridiculous host could easily pass off as most of the shows I've seen on TV now.  What saddened me the most was that none of it was "shocking" in the sense that I thought to myself, 'That could never happen here!' or 'Glad we don't have to worry about that!'"

Enough of my jibber-jabber.  To close, I will provide you all with a few comments from critics that make their living reviewing films.  If you don't trust my opinion of the film, take it from the experts!

  • The Hunger Games features a functioning creative imagination and lots of honest-to-goodness acting by its star, Jennifer Lawrence, who brings her usual toughness and emotional transparency to the archer-heroine Katniss.
  • It is so much more than a game.  It is a memorable human experience.  Thank the gods for the wonder of literature and the vision of movies.  Some of us still hunger for eloquence on the screen.
  • Finally we have a female lead character who is strong without being brutal, appealing without being objectified, and confident without being female-chauvinistic.
  • People regularly complain that films can't be both entertaining and clever.  The Hunger Games exists to prove them wrong.
  • The Hunger Games has as much to say about oppressive politics and the bloodthirsty, heartless media as it does about the internal struggle among the combatants. (source)

Not to mention, Peeta - played by Josh Hutcherson - isn't too hard on the eyes either.  He's no Edward Cullen, but he's mighty close! hehehe...

The second film in The Hunger Games trilogy will not be released until fall 2013, ARGH!  Until then, I suppose that I will have to settle for rereading the books.  In the meantime, at least I have the fourth installment in the Tiger's Saga to look forward to...

Question of the Day:

What is the best book-to-movie adaptation you have seen?!

Ally and Bo

March 25, 2012

Spring Green Overnight Oats

"Do you like green eggs and ham?"
"I do not like them, Sam-I-am.  I do not like green eggs and ham!"
"Would you like them here or there?"
"I would not like them here or there.  I would not like them anywhere."
"I do so like green eggs and ham!  Thank you! Thank you, Sam-I-am!"

Well, since almost all of my cooking is vegan, today's post is not about eggs or ham.  But don't let that disappoint you!  Today's post IS all about green food...and not just any normally green food either.  Today's post is all about green oatmeal!

Angela from Oh She Glows has done it again!  

After reading her most recent post on the topic of Green Monster Overnight Oats, I was inspired!  

As evidenced on my Recipage, I love to eat oatmeal in the morning...especially if it is cold.  But sometimes my same five to six combinations can get a little stale.  So although I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand to make Angela's Green Monster Overnight Oats, I did have something green (kale!), and knew that I could work with what I had to make a NEW delicious breakfast combination.  I find that adding peanut butter (or in this case, PB2) to almost anything is a good idea, and a little drizzle of honey doesn't hurt either.  In the end, my recipe looked a little bit like this:

1 part Oh She Glows' recipe + 2 parts the ABC blog's creativity = 
1 astonishingly delicious bowl of spring green overnight oats!

Spring Green Overnight Oats
Serves 1

1 handful of kale, stem removed
1 very ripe banana
1 1/2 T ground flax
1 C almond milk
1/2 C water
2 stevia packets
4 T PB2 powder, divided
1/3 C oats
honey, for garnish


  • Blend together the kale, banana, flax, milk, water, stevia, and 2 T PB2.
  • In a medium Tupperware container, add the oats.
  • Pour the green smoothie mixture over the oats, and stir to combine.
  • Allow the oats to thicken in the refrigerator overnight.
  • In the morning, mix the remaining 2 T PB2 with 1 1/2 T water.
  • Garnish your Spring Green Overnight Oats with PB2 and honey!

Hmm...mmmm...good!  Doesn't that bowl of oats just look delicious?!  If you are scared of green foods for breakfast, don't let the color keep you from enjoying one of the BEST bowl of oats I have had in a long time!

For more of the ABC blog's PB2 recipes click here!

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite way to eat your greens?!  ( i.e. In a smoothie?  Along with dinner?  In a casserole?  In your oats?  In a salad?)

Ally and Bo

March 24, 2012

Yoga Life Studio: I'm A Business Partner!

For the past couple of weeks I have been hinting that I might have some big and exciting news to share with all of you.  With a lot of patience and prayer, I have kept my mouth shut and my keyboard still until the news was official.  But yesterday, when I signed the contract, things became official; and I am overjoyed to tell you that:

I am the Business Partner and Co-Director of Yoga Life Studio in Jacksonville, FL!

Yoga Life Studio offers a wide variety of yoga classes including Power Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Yogilates, Restorative Yoga, Integral Yoga, and private lessons.  As explained on the website:

[Yoga Life's] goal is to bring our students the best yoga experience possible through high quality teaching, hands-on adjustments, and a peaceful environment to enhance each students experience.  We believe yoga can significantly help you restore balance to your body, mind, and soul.

In my new-found role at Yoga Life (YL), I will be the "hands and feet" of the studio.  In addition to both serving as teachers at the studio, the original owner, Sara, and I will continue to collaborate on big studio decisions.  We will both the the "heart and mind" of the studio, while I will be responsible for most of the leg-work.  My management duties include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • management of staff;
  • maintaining a clean and organized space;
  • ordering retail products and office supplies;
  • managing email and in-coming calls to the studio;
  • providing and arranging on-going workshops and trainings;
  • organizing community events;
  • maintaining the business' image;
  • inputting all student information;
  • writing and distributing the monthly newsletter; and
  • making management decisions.

I could not be more excited about this amazing opportunity!  I feel so blessed that God has put me in this place to serve.  Not only will I be able to continue teaching yoga both at Yoga Life Studio as well as another local yoga center, but now I will also be putting to use my organizational and management skills.  I could never have known to pray for such a blessing, but I feel immensely humbled that I have arrived at the right place, and at the right time.

Providential timing.

Truly, I have my dream family, dream puppy, and dream job...perhaps I should pinch myself?!  

Keep striving for the life of your dreams.  I am evidence that it is possible to achieve!  After all, Eleanor Roosevelt was right, "the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

Next up - a bowl of green oatmeal that will make you want to jump out of bed and welcome springtime (trust me on this one, it's YUMM-O)!

Question of the Day:

What is the most exciting job offer or promotion YOU have ever received?!

Ally and Bo

March 22, 2012

Getting to Know Lola: Part 2

Lola has been a member of the Behne clan for almost three weeks now.  Although that is a relatively short amount of time, I have a hard time remembering what life was like before we had her.  I have heard new mothers say similar things about their newborn(s) coming into their lives, but I could never quite understand what they meant.

I mean, how could life before your child/puppy be forgotten so quickly?!

What I am coming to realize is that parenthood, whether of a baby or a puppy, fundamentally changes your life forever.  For instance:

  • Since we brought Lola home, Bo and I have not left the house together for more than an hour and a half.
  • Between the two of us, Bo and I get up three to four times a night to take Lola out to poddy.
  • Lola's meals are prepared, devoured, and cleaned up before we eat.
  • Before Bo and I make any decisions (i.e. Can we go to a movie?  Can we go to the outlets? Should we invite people over? etc.), we always think about Lola first.
  • Tricare doesn't cover puppies.  Therefore, Lola's health costs a LOT more than Bo and I's combined!

This week we experienced a couple of firsts with our Lola girl:

  1. we had our first veterinary visit (it was actually her second, but her first with us); and
  2. Lola attended her first night of puppy school!

Since I had to teach that morning, Bo was the one that took Lola to her vet appointment.  Conveniently, our veterinarian is less than a mile from our house!  All in all, the visit went well, and we were pleased with the doctor and his assistants.  Here are a few of the stats from Ms. Lola's appointment:  
  • Since we picked up our little lady, she has gained five pounds (i.e. she now weighs 17.5 pounds...and will apparently triple in size in the next few months!).
  • She didn't cry or whimper while receiving her 10-week shots.  She's a tough girl! :)
  • The vet upped her food intake to 2 1/2 cups a day, given in three different meals.  Lola was elated!!!
  • She was diagnosed with an apparently common form of puppy excema (go figure...she must take after her mom!), and was given several different medications to treat it. 

After just three days of taking the medications, we can already tell a huge different in Lola's skin.  She doesn't seem to be itching nearly as much, and her previously irritated, red, and flaky tummy is healing quickly and beautifully!  Since I know first hand what it is like to deal with excema, I am so happy our sweet girl and getting some relief!

Lola will go back to the vet for her 12 week shots in about a week and a half!  Thankfully, I will also be able to attend that visit.  I'm looking forward to meeting her doctors too.

As for our other first this week, puppy school, Lola proved to be a star student!  Although a little over-eager and excited at times (She loves all people and all dogs, so she was a bit over-stimulated at first!), she is very smart and learned the commands quickly and easily.

This week, our homework is to continue to work with "watch me" and "sit."  We are using a clicker as well as treats, but Lola has already been responding to the commands without treats.  At home, we try to train 15-20 minutes five to six days a week, and during that time we do use the treats.  However, when we are just around the house and use either "watch me" or "sit" we do not, and she seems to respond equally well.  Here's hoping that behavior isn't just a fluke, but a truly trained behavior!

Back at home, Lola continues to love to play!  She has a small collection of toys (i.e. bones, a Kong, ropes, stuffed animals, rings, etc.), and I recently purchased a basket to keep them in.  She was pretty fast at learning how to take them out of the basket.  Now, if only I could teach her how to put them back in...

With all the growing she is doing, Lola tends to nap quite a bit.  Although, I must say, I do find some of her nap positions to be questionable...

Doesn't she get a huge crick in her neck that way?!

She also like to sprawl out with her legs behind her and her arms overhead.  We call this her frog pose.  Maybe she is a yogi dog at heart?!

What about poddy/crate training, you might ask?! Well...

  • Poddy training is going very well.  We haven't had any accidents in almost a week (everyone knock on wood!), and before that, the accidents were our fault (we didn't take her out frequently enough), and she was smart enough to walk to the door that leads outside and pee there.  All in all, I am exceptionally proud of her progress on this front.
  • Crate training has been a little more difficult for Lola.  From the beginning, she has not been a fan of her crate.  Regardless of whether we were home or not, she yelped, cried, barked, and jostled herself around.  HOWEVER, over the last couple of days, Lola has been alone in the crate for approximately an hour, and when we returned, the crate was accident-free and she was calmly lying down.  We are hoping/praying/crossing our fingers that this is not just a coincidence, but is indeed the beginning of a life-long behavior! 

While she is still small enough, we also enjoy cuddling, swaddling, lap-time, and spooning with our pretty girl.  She is learning that she has to be invited into our arms/laps, and we almost exclusively do so on the floor (no furniture crawling for this retriever!).  Sometimes, especially when we first get home, she still get a little too excited and likes to jump, but we are learning the appropriate responses to deter that behavior (i.e. turning around, rotating a lifting knee to the side, etc.).

I can hardly believe that before we know it she will be too big to pick up or comfortable put in our laps.  She really is growing up too quickly!

For now, while she is still small enough, she loves to nap underneath our couches.  In the beginning she slept on her tummy, but now she is too big for that, so she has to sleep on her side...and frequently with a toy nearby!  Just look at that sweet, peaceful face...

Question of the Day:

Did you take you dog to puppy training?  If so, how was your experience?!

Ally and Bo

March 20, 2012

Dark Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Berry Compote

I am a morning person.  Perhaps my favorite time of day is right before the sun rises.  In those brief moments, it seems like the whole world is quiet, in a state of expectation, embracing all of the potential of the day that is being born.  Maybe that is why breakfast, with a piping hot mug of tea, is my favorite meal of the day.  I wake up excited to greet the final moments of night, and to devour the meal awaiting me!

Although all mornings are special in my book, I have a particularly special love for Saturday mornings.  Usually there is nothing on the calendar that requires you to rush out of the house before noon.  As a result, Bo and I frequently end up lounging in our pajamas until late in the morning (Yeah...that actually means afternoon, or sometimes all day.  Shhhh - don't tell anyone!), sipping on orange juice or hot tea, and devouring a special breakfast/brunch.

This past Saturday I whipped up something extra special...
...with chocolate...
...dark chocolate to be exact!

As you might remember, last Saturday was St. Patrick's Day.  Although our brunch didn't have anything green in it, per se, I decided to serve our piping hot pancakes on green plates.  So there!  You can't pinch me! :)

It is also worth noting that this is the first semi-baking recipe that I came up with on my own!  As I talked about in this post, I have a certain fear of recipe-creating when it comes to baking.  Baking is a science that I don't truly understand, so it was a HUGE success for me when this recipe actually worked!

A HUGE hit with the hubby, these pancakes hit the perfect balance between being sweet, but not too sweet.  Combined with the berry compote, there is hardly any need at all for maple syrup!

Dark Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Berry Compote
Serves 2

2/3 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C bread flour
1/2 C oats
3 stevia packets, divided
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 banana, mashed
1 C milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 C dark chocolate chips
5 strawberries, diced
1/4 C berries (I used blackberries)

  • Preheat a large skillet over medium heat (about a six out of ten on the heat scale).
  • In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flours, oats, two packets of stevia, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  • Add the mashed banana, milk, and vanilla to the flour mixture.  Mix thoroughly.
  • Dollop 1/4 C circles of batter onto the skillet.
  • Top with chocolate chips (this ensures that the chips will not "bleed" into the batter).
  • Cook until bubbles begin to appear and pop.  Flip, and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, place the assorted fruit, and top with one stevia packet.
  • Microwave the fruit for 1-2 minutes.
  • Top each pancake stack with the berry compote and maple syrup!

Next time - an update on Lola (i.e. her first veterinary appointment, puppy school, and crate training)!

Question of the Day:

White vs. Milk vs. Dark - which type of chocolate do you prefer?!

Ally and Bo

March 18, 2012

3 Steps to a Better Style

I feel like I have been in a fashion rut for the past few months.  When I look at my closet, I don't really get excited about what is in there.  In fact, I don't even really like a lot of the things in there!

As a result, my style choices have been less than exciting in recent months.  Perhaps even more worrisome, when a party, military event, or friendly gathering comes up, I frequently find myself grabbing my purse and heading to the nearest mall to purchase a new outfit.  While new outfits can be fun, and at times necessary, it is not a sustainable behavior to be jetting off to the mall every week or two!  After all, I do have a monthly "Ally's Personal" budget.  I won't disclose the exact amount on the ABC blog, but I can tell you that Ross and T.J. Maxx are my best friends...

So, the questions are:

  • How can I pull myself out of this fashion rut?!
  • How can I use the "3 Steps to a Better Style" challenge to give back, to serve, and to remember that clothes (while fun) are really just necessary shapes and sizes of material to cover the body?
  • How can this challenge help me to reconnect to some of the more important things in life (i.e. giving, serving, and making a difference)?

You must be the change you want to see in the world. - Mahatma Ghandi

(Step #1) - Closet Detox:

For me, the easiest place start was in my own closet.  After several hours of trying on EVERY. ITEM. OF. CLOTHING. from my closet, I identified stacks of clothing that were either:

  • too small;
  • too big;
  • worn out; or
  • I simply never wore. 

I ended up getting rid of much more than I thought I could/would.  Actually trying on every item of clothing really helped me to be honest with myself.  Some of the things that I loved in my closet were just past their due date.  Other items didn't fit correctly, and still others had sat in my closet for months - or years - without being worn a single time!  In all of the above cases, it was time to say good-bye.

In the end, I was happy to clear my closet of the unwanted, unused, and unliked.  Check it out, I was able to free-up over two dozen hangers!  Now, not only does everything in my closet fit, but I actually like all of the pieces in my closet as well.

There is only one problem.  I am missing a few "key pieces" in my wardrobe.  You know the ones, the basics that go with everything that every woman should own?!  Yeah...I am missing quite a few of those...

So I decided to make a list!

The shorts are a must since it is already in the mid-80's here in JAX(!), but the blazer and tunic are "maybe's".  Conveniently, Bo wants to go to the outlets in the next couple of weeks, so my goal is to try and find some of the key pieces at that time.  After that final shopping trip, Step #2 comes into play...

(Step #2) - Charitable Shopping Hiatus:

After shopping at the outlets with Bo, I will not shop for clothing, shoes, jewelry, or accessories for six months.  The one exception to the "no shopping" rule is for underwear, socks, and bras (and even then, only if absolutely necessary).

In addition, during each of the six months I will give the portion of my "Ally's Personal" funds that I used for shopping to a charity.  Specifically, I will be donating to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), an organization who's mission is very dear to my heart due to my own struggle with bulimia and anorexia.

NEDA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders.  We campaign for prevention, improved access to quality treatment, and increased research funding to better understand and treat eating disorders.  We work with partners and volunteers to develop programs and tools to help everyone who seeks assistance. (source)

In addition to detoxifying my closet (Step #1) and giving to a charity in place of shopping (Step #2), I will also be challenging myself to create style from the confines of my own closet.  Enter Step #3...

(Step #3) - 30 X 30 Remix Challenge:

As I mentioned in this post, I regularly read about half a dozen other food/fashion blogs.  Among those is Kendi Everyday.  Kendi is one classy and fashionable lady, but even she forgets how to style the items in her own closet sometimes.  That's how the 30 X 30 Remix Challenge was born!

  1. Take 30 items in your closet.
  2. Make 30 outfits.
(To read more about the birth of the 30 X 30 Remix you can read the lowdown from Kendi here.)


I, myself, have decided to take the 30 X 30 Remix Challenge TWICE during my six-month charitable shopping hiatus.  I plan to do it once for late spring and once for the summer (probably around May and August).  I hope that taking part in the challenge will help me to reconnect with my own closet, remember to appreciate every item in it, and learn how to make amazingly fashionable outfits from its contents.  Wish me luck!

Question of the Day:

Would you be interested in joining me in either the Closet Detox, Charitable Shopping Hiatus, or the 30 X 30 Remix Challenge?  

If so, please leave a comment below letting me know how you will be participating (i.e. taking part in Steps 1, 2, 3 or a combination thereof).  Just so you know, I plan to do:
  • one post a month updating my experience with the Charitable Shopping Hiatus; and
  • one post a week highlighting my outfits in the 30 X 30 Remix Challenge (when it comes time for that, of course).

I would LOVE to highlight your experience in the ABC blog too!

Just send me a picture, or written testimony, of your experience taking one, two, or three steps to a better style at: 

Ally and Bo

March 17, 2012

Making a House a Home

I changed my mind.  

Today's post isn't about my new style/fashion project (you will have to wait until next time for that one).

Instead, today is all about my effort to make our new house in Jacksonville feel like home.  Over the last couple of weeks, as I have worked to make our house feel comfortable, relaxing, and inviting, I have pondered over the concept of "home".  As a result of our military way of life, Bo and I have already lived in three homes in less than a year! And while we don't know what the future holds, at least now, in the present, it can sometimes be a challenge to establish a genuine sense of home in a brand-new city/job/neighborhood/house.

So what is a home, exactly?!

Well, I did a bit of research, and here is what I learned:

  • Home - a place of residence or refuge. "Home" is also used to refer to the geographical area in which a person feels like they belong
  • Sometimes, as an alternative to the definition of "home" as a physical locale, home may be perceived to have no physical location - instead, home may relate instead to a mental or emotional state of refuge or comfort.
  • Since it can be said that humans are generally creatures of habit, the state of a person's home has been known to physiologically influence their behavior, emotions, and overall mental health.
  • Some people may become homesick when they leave their home over an extended period of time. Sometimes homesickness can cause a person to feel actual symptoms of illness.
  • Furthermore, places like homes can trigger self-reflection, thoughts about who one is or used to be or who one might become. (citation)

Who am I?  Who might I become?  How can the Behne home reflect who we are?!  I don't really have a great answer for any of those questions.  But I think, or rather I know, that who I am - and therefore who Bo and I are as a couple - is constantly evolving.  Moreover, I do know that I:

  • enjoy cozy spaces;
  • like to feel warm and invited;
  • prefer soft, warm light over harsh, neon light; and
  • connect with artistic touches that remind me of someone, someplace, or sometime.

In fact, the most recent Instyle magazine included a "What's Your Decorating Style" pop quiz.  Of course I, as a person who loves quizzes, picked up a pen and jumped right to that feature!  In the end, my style was almost equally divided between two categories: (1) Romantic and (2) Globe-Trotter.
  1. Romantic (10 points)- "a sensuous respite from all.  An inviting chaise, a plush throw, a fireplace, and a thousand books are your definition of happiness.  The only thing that rivals your 18th century poetry collection is your tea collection." (Which is true, because I have over a dozen different kinds of tea in my cabinet!)
  2. Globe-Trotter (7 points)- "You exist to roam...There's no real method to your decor...but the next design crush could come from pretty much anywhere - except the local mall." (I love to connect memorable pieces from places we visit and live.  It makes our home unique, and filled with memories.)
Recently, I have been working on our breakfast nook.  For the first two weeks in our new home, this cozy space off of the kitchen was completely empty.  Luckily, Bo used his deal-making-magic to find this little wood table and chairs on Craigslist for $50.00!  After a good polish of Pledge, they are shining like new!

I also stopped by Ross and found these cute little wall pieces.  Together, I think they make a nice arrangement, and add to the cafe-esque element of the nook.

Eventually, I would like to find some cute seat cushions for the breakfast nook chair.  If I could find something in the right color palate, it would bring the whole area together nicely.

In another room of the house, the master bathroom to be exact, I had been looking for a vanity stool/bench.  Although our master bathroom only has one sink, it does have a nice vanity area for me to sit and do my hair and makeup.  Up until recently, however, I hadn't been able to use the space because I didn't have anything to sit on!  Now, thanks to a cute Ross find, that problem has been solved!

We found this stool for $45.00.  It was a little bit pricier than we wanted to pay, but I thought the design on the top went well with our shower curtain and color-scheme.  It is also very comfortable, and fits perfectly underneath the counter-top.

Much to Bo's chagrin, a home is always a work in progress.  For now, we are going to take a little decorating/budget break.  All of the big stuff on our list has been purchased and put into place.  Eventually, I would still like to:
  • purchase chair cushions for the breakfast nook;
  • either re-cover the existing decorative pillows, or purchase new decorative pillows, for the living room couch and loveseat;
  • buy curtains for the office/yoga room; and
  • find unique pieces of art to go over the television in the living room and in our bedroom.

And one day, when we own our own home, I CAN'T WAIT to paint the walls!!!!!!!

Next time - a style/fashion project with a charitable spin.  Maybe some of you will be inspired to join me!!!

Question of the Day:

Other than the people that live in it, what makes your house a home?!  Is there a piece of art or furniture that really says/means "home" to you?

Ally and Bo

March 16, 2012

Creamy Energy Power Salad

In addition to writing here on the ABC blog, I also regularly read about half a dozen other food/fashion blogs. I am pretty selective in my reading, so these elite five-six blogs must be pretty good to have made the cut!  If you haven't noticed "My Blogroll" before on the toolbar to the right, you might like to check it out sometime.  These ladies come up with amazing vegetarian/vegan cuisine, and frequently do it in style as well!

With that being said, it isn't uncommon for these blogs to serve as my inspiration for recipes, outfits, and home decor on a regular basis.  In fact, the dressing for today's Creamy Energy Power Salad is borrowed from Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows.  Angela is one creative cat in the kitchen!  She comes up with so many delicious and healthy recipes that have me drooling every time.  When I saw this Creamy Avocado Lime Dressing, I knew right away that I had to come up with an original way to use it!

For me, avocados frequently = Mexican cuisine.  Blame it on living in New Mexico for so many years, but you say "avocado" and I think salsa and chips, enchiladas, green chile, refried beans, chile rellenos, and quesadillas!  Since we didn't have any tortillas at the time, I decided to use what we had on-hand to create this protein-packed and energy-filled salad.  Trust me, it didn't disappoint!

Full of healthy fats and protein-rich beans, this salad will keep you energized and mentally sharp for hours!  With the perfect balance of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, protein, and fat, this salad is a champion of health and nutrition.

Creamy Energy Power Salad
Serves 2-4

1/2 can black beans, rinsed
1/2 can hominy, rinsed
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 red bell pepper, sliced and roasted
1 tsp EVOO
1/2 C rice, cooked and chilled
2-3 handfuls of Spring Salad Mix
1/4 C Creamy Avocado Lime Dressing from Oh She Glows


  • Cook the rice on the stove-top (i.e. 1/2 C rice + 1 C H2O + 20 minutes on the stove-top = perfectly fluffy rice!)
  • Place the black beans, hominy, tomatoes, chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper into a medium mixing bowl.  Toss to coat.

  • While the bean/hominy mixture is marinating, slice your bell pepper, toss it in olive oil, and roast at 450 degrees for 5-10 minutes.
    • Note:  You will want the bell pepper to blacken around the edges, but you do not want it to burn.  Watch it closely for the last couple of minutes in the oven!  They should end up looking something like the picture below.

  • Add the rice, bean/hominy mixture, and bell pepper into a large salad bowl with the Spring Salad Mix.  
  • Toss gently.
  • Begin by pouring 1/8 C dressing onto the salad and incorporate fully.  
  • Add more, up to 1/4 C, until you have reached your desired coating.
  • Due to the avocado, this salad is best served immediately.  
    • Note:  Leftovers of this salad will not be very good.  Therefore, I would suggest either halving the recipe or eating it all in a single day.

Next time - I will share the beginnings of a new fashion/style project.  Maybe some of you will even be inspired to join me!!!

Question of the Day:

If you need lots of energy for the day, what is your go-to meal?!

Ally and Bo

March 14, 2012

Dancing with the Carnival Magic Cast

I have saved the best of our cruise posts for last!  In this post, I will share perhaps the most exciting (for me at least) part of the cruise!  So what's the big news?!  Well...

I was selected to be a part of the dance cast in the cruise's finale show!

This might not seem like a big deal to you, but it was exhilarating and exceptionally exciting for me!  

For those of you that have known me for ten years or more, you know that I grew up dancing.  As I explained in this post, my mom is a ballet teacher.  Therefore, I grew up in the dance studio learning the various techniques of ballet/pointe, tap, jazz, and modern dance.  From the ages of 3 to eighteen I danced approximately 5 days a week, competed in dance competitions, performed in full-length ballets and recitals, and ultimately graduated from the Alabama School of Fine Arts' (ASFA) Dance Department.

However, after graduating from ASFA, I decided to leave dancing and pursue other academic pursuits.  In the end this turned out well.  I obtained both my B.A. and M.Ed. degrees, and used both in the professional and legislative realms for a number of years.  Regardless, I do find it interesting that I eventually found my way to yoga.  In many ways, the things that I loved most about dancing I know find in my yoga practice (i.e. feeling in tune with my body, feeling strong AND flexible, and having a very personal physical experience while being in a group environment).

Nonetheless, I am straying a bit from the topic at hand.  My point in giving you a page from my past is to exemplify my love of dance, and my past experience with it.  Therefore, when the Cruise Director announced a "Dancing with the Cast" segment on the third evening of our cruise, I was all over it!

The "Dancing with the Cast" class took place in the main theater of the ship.  In our daily activity brochure, it was explained as an opportunity to learn short routines in various ballroom styles, including the:

  • Cha-Cha;
  • Tango; and
  • Samba.

I was quite surprised to see that over 100 people showed up for the class!  To begin, we each chose a dance partner.  I paired up with Jillian, a sweet 11 year-old girl from Iowa who had been taking dance classes for a couple of years.  After looking around the stage I quickly realized that Jillian and I were one of the best couples on the dance floor!  Let's just say that there were a LOT of left feet in the room...hehehe!

I apologize for the poor picture quality.  Bo was in charge of photography, and it looks like he couldn't quite figure out the flash.  Oh well! :(

After learning short routines in all three styles, the dance cast announced that they would be holding a "dance-off" for participants 18 years and older that would like to perform in the finale show: Carnival Legends.  Initially, two individuals in each style would be chosen by a member of the dance cast.  Afterwards, the two finalists would square-off in a final dance-off to be decided by the about nerve-wracking!  By this point the theater was COMPLETELY full (I'm talking over 1,500 people here)!

Regardless, I was all in!  Almost all of the participants (around 120 by this point) stayed on stage to audition.

First came the Cha-Cha...

We danced.

I waited.

I wasn't chosen.

Second came the Tango... 

We danced.

I waited.

I wasn't chosen.

Finally, it was time for the Samba.

We danced.

I waited.

A girl nearby was chosen.


WHO-HOOOO!  I was SO excited!  But then again, I couldn't be too excited because I still had a dance-off to win!  So, off the stage to wait our turn we went.  After agonizing my through the Cha-Cha and Tango rounds, it was finally my turn to take the stage with my fellow competitor.

The music started.

I danced.

Then the emcee held her hand over my fellow dancer's head and asked for the audience's was loud.  "Bummer"..."Oh well"..."I had a good time at least"...(these were all things that went through my mind in that moment).

And then...

...the emcee held her hand over my hand and asked for the audience's applause.  It was LOUD

I couldn't believe it! 

 I WON!  

I was going to be in the finale show!  Bo was SO proud of me too!  Little did I know, but he had been asking everyone in the theater around him to cheer for me!  He was so excited for me that I thought he would burst!  I can't imagine what he will be like when it comes to our childrens' ballet recitals/ballgames/etc...

Afterwards, I was led back stage to learn about the rehearsals, costume fittings(!), dress rehearsal, and show time.  It all felt a little surreal, but very exhilarating at the same time!

My first rehearsal with my partner (Tiago, from Portugal) was on Thursday afternoon.

Since the show wasn't to be held until Saturday evening, this would give me enough time to learn the routine, become comfortable with it, and prepare for Saturday's dress rehearsal and finale show.

The only bummer was that I was still feeling a little under the weather from the food poisoning I had contracted the day before in Jamaica.  Regardless, I still gave it my all; and in about thirty minutes time, I had learned the whole routine!

In the end, I left the rehearsal feeling confident and excited about Saturday night!

So why aren't there any pictures from my big debut performance?!

Well, sadly, Saturday was the only day on our whole cruise that we didn't experience perfect weather.  On the contrary, as we followed a cold front back up to Galveston, the ship rocked steadily and extremely throughout the entire day.  Not only did I not get to perform in the finale show: Carnival Legends, but the entire show was cancelled.  It was quite the disappointment, I must say.  I was pretty bummed about it, and I think that Bo was equally let down.

Oh well, maybe we should go on another cruise so that I can live out my dream of performing on a cruise ship!  After this experience, it is on my bucket list!

Next up - a powerful and protein-packed salad that will keep you energized and full for hours!

Question of the Day:

Have you ever been a star for a day?!  If so, tell me all about it in the "Comments" section below!

Ally and Bo

March 13, 2012

BBQ 1/2 Chicken and Cauliflower Pizza (BCCP)

Your patience has just paid off.  

After two days of unfulfilled promises, today is the day that you will learn how to make delicious BBQ pizza at home!  This recipe was the result of total spontaneity and creativity.  I had been craving pizza for a couple of days, and finally it reached the point that I couldn't hold out any longer.  But instead of dialing 1-800-Domino's or 1-888-PapaJohn's, I decided to use what I had on-hand and make my own pizza pie. :)

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That's amore
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine
That's amore

Bells'll ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you'll sing "Vita bella"
Hearts'll play tippi-tippi-tay, tippi-tippi-tay
Like a gay tarantella

Ahhhh...Dean Martin and the 1950's...wait, where was I?!

Oh yes!

Giving you a BBQ pizza recipe, now I remember!

This pizza is a BBQ lover's dream!  It has a thin, crispy crust that is piled high with healthy and flavorful toppings.  The rosemary and thyme are a MUST, because they lend a depth to the flavors that would otherwise be missing.  If you don't like cauliflower, feel free to substitute it with zucchini or sweet potato.  Sliced red onion might also be a great addition!

Note:  I have my own bread-maker (thanks Aunt Linda and Uncle Paul!) that includes, among its numerous features, a dough setting.  Therefore, I followed the recipe included in the bread-maker cookbook for pizza dough, and added 1 tsp dried rosemary and 1 tsp dried thyme during the "mix-in" cycle.  After a little less than two hours in the machine, I had perfect and aromatic pizza dough that required almost no effort, kneading, or clean-up!

BBQ 1/2 Chicken and Cauliflower Pizza (BCCP)
Serves 4

cornmeal, for dusting
1/4-1/3 C BBQ sauce
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 head cauliflower. chopped
1 small chicken breast, baked and diced (optional)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4-1/3 C shredded cheese (I used Daiya)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • After buying or making your own pizza crust, sprinkle a large baking sheet with cornmeal and evenly spread out the dough.
  • Distribute an even layer of BBQ sauce over the dough.
  • Decorate the pizza with the tomatoes, cauliflower, chicken, garlic, cheese, and seasonings (in that order).
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is crispy, but not burned.
  • Cook for five minutes.
  • Serve alone or with a garden side salad.

After devouring the entire pizza in less than 24 hours, we decided that the only thing we might do differently next time would be to add a chopped red onion.  The red onion would really offset the BBQ flavors nicely.  Other than that, this is homemade pizza perfection!

Also, if you're wondering why this recipe is called "BBQ 1/2 Chicken and Cauliflower Pizza" its because, since I am vegan (and therefore don't eat animal products), I only put chicken on half of the pizza.  Ta-da!  

Up next - the final cruise post.  Don't miss it!!!

Question of the Day:

What are your favorite pizza toppings?  Only cheese?  Pepperoni and cheese?  Supreme?  Do tell!

Ally and Bo

March 12, 2012

Yucatan Excursion

I know I promised you BBQ 1/2 Chicken and Cauliflower Pizza today, but instead you are going to get one of the two final cruise posts!  Since I already had the pictures for this post edited and ready to go, I figured that I could type this post up relatively quickly, and still be able to cook dinner and get ready to teach my first class at the local yoga studio this evening...YAY!

What can I say?!  

Life is falling perfectly into place here in Jacksonville. :)

Sometime this week I plan to write a post updating you all on my journey into the yoga community here in JAX.  However, there is one exciting prospect "in the wings" that I would like to solidify before sharing everything with you all.  As a result, just keep holding your horses, and you will know all about my yoga-life here in Florida before you know it!

Now, back to the Yucatan Excursion:

Our final port stop on our honeymoon cruise was in Cozumel, Mexico.  Unlike the other ports in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, we actually scheduled an excursion that day.  Specifically, we booked the "Deluxe Sail, Snorkel, and Beach Party:"

Celebrate sea, sand, and sky on this Deluxe Snorkel, Sail, and Beach Party shore excursion.  Sail Cozumel's sparkling waters with other Carnival cruisers aboard a state-of-the-art Fury Catamaran, and snorkel off the boat in an undersea wonderland.  Hit the sugary sands of a private beach to lounge, sip refreshing drink and dance, or join in a spirited game of beach volleyball.

The weather was PERFECT for our excursion day!  The sky was crystal-clear blue, the breeze was light, the water was refreshing, and the heat was warm...but not burning hot (like Jamaica).  Approximately 50 people joined us on the catamaran, so while the vessel was full, it was not overly crowded.  We even found a few people to snap pictures for us!

A fellow excursion group cruised by us on another catamaran from the Fury fleet.  With this shot, you can get a better view of the type of vessel we were on.  The catamaran included a bar, two heads (i.e. restrooms), a small deck, and lounge chairs.  It was the perfect size for a day on the water/beach!

Speaking of the beach, here we are pausing to pose! :)

My favorite part of the excursion, by far, was the snorkeling.  Although we were in the water for almost an hour, it felt like just 10 minutes!  I think that I could have easily stayed in the water and continued to explore for another couple of hours.  The water was so beautiful, and I think we saw over 100 different kinds of fish!  It was unforgettable, and easily one of my top five memories from our trip.

I still have one more cruise post to share with you, and I saved the best for last!  Keep checking back this week for this not-to-be-missed finale!!!

Next time - you will get that BBQ 1/2 Chicken and Cauliflower Pizza recipe!

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite part of being on vacation?  Is it the food?  The relaxation?  The adventures?  The family time?  

I would love to hear from you!

Ally and Bo