Friday, November 21, 2008

Holiday Gift Idea - Personalized Cookbook

The holidays are just around the corner and I, like everyone else on the planet, have started to make my shopping list. We all have people in our lives who are impossible to shop for - or for some the average gift just won't do. So when I came across this website and wanted to share this cool idea.

I haven't tried it yet but Taste Book seems pretty cool. I'm always looking to put a personal touch on a gift and the concept of creating a cookbook full of your loved ones favorite recipes - from professional chefs or from someone they personally know and love and has got me hooked.

I actually won't be giving this as a Christmas gift. I've decided to use it towards an anniversary gift for my grandparents this summer. My thought is - would my grandparents enjoy recipes from each one of their children's families? Each family can have a chapter - or better yet we can weave them all together into sections - Apps, main courses, deserts. I think that would make them smile. I can just see myself saying, this one's from me Grandma.

For those of you who have people in your lives who are all about food, and the power it has in bringing families and friends together, I encourage you to check this out. They have a wide selection of recipes online from some of the most popular sites - Better Homes and Gardens, Food Network, Southern Living, Cooking Light and even The price point seems very reasonable to - starting at just $20.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Man Drops 140 Pounds In 11 Months To Join Marines

I came across this article yesterday. Title read, "Man Drops 140lbs in 11 Months to Join Marines." My first thought was . . . now that's a Marine!

This man, named Ulysses Milana, did an extraordinary thing. After deciding to serve his nation, he took on the challenge of losing 140lbs. As if deciding to join wasn't a big enough decision he now faced a weight loss mountain. The Associated Press reports that Marine recruiters could see potential in Milana and worked with him till the finish line.

Now Milana is a Marine and ships off to SC for boot camp on Monday. The difference between this new Marine and all the others - he's had recruiters in his face punishing him for the past 11 months. His body is well trained at this point and the upside is it can only get stronger and leaner. And when he's in formation, he'll be the Marine at the front, ready to lead. And he won't be hazed for not being able to do something.

Military weight restrictions are rough, this is something that I understand personally. Some branches have taken it to the next level and are now trying measurement restrictions - ie if you're a female at this height your waist can not exceed X inches and your hips must remain under X inches. All on top of your regular weight restrictions. Truth is, we are not all the same. We are all built differently.

When I decided to join the AFROTC at LSU I knew I had to drop weight. As a cadet, you can't even wear your uniform until you meet the regulation standard. It is a honor to wear it - not a privilege. So I worked hard and I made weight. But back then, I was very young. Just out of high school and much leaner than I am today. And today, I'm still on a weight loss journey but am miles away from AF regulation.

I can't even begin to imagine the physical pain Milana endured to drop that much weight. How he stood, day after day, in front of those Marine recruiters - - - I wonder, did he ever feel embarrassed? Did he ever want to quit? What motivated him? How did he find the internal strength to push on? The work ethic and dedication Milana showed during his 11 month journey proves to every Marine out there that he deserves to be a Marine, and that he has a phenomenal character. The Corps is very lucky to have him.

Best Wishes on your journey Milana. Don't ever look back. You're going to be one fabulous Marine.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Economic Woes - Troubled Times

Part of my job is to know the news. Due to this simple fact I tend to comb through national newspapers every morning to figure out to get the lay of the land. Specifically the business section. I know it's not just me, who'd like to hear something positive . . . especially now.

The economy is sinking. Thousands of Americans are losing their jobs on a daily basis. Huge industry giants are folding. GM may shut down - do we fully comprehend what that will do to America? How the state of MI will simply fall off the map?

The govt is bailing out everyone and their mom. Okay, not yet, but it seems like that's all I hear about. This constant talk track of doom and gloom is weighing heavily on our nation. It's hard to read, in so many papers each morning, in multiple formats.

It is during these times when I often think of what my parents tried so hard to warn me about . . . being a civilian is not easy. One of the appeals of being military is that you always have a job . . . or it used to be. Over the past few years the military has even begun to off load its members, though it's more often in the Air Force than it is in any other branch. And the truth is so many blue (AF) went green (Army) because they wanted to stay in. It's back to normal now though - iron clad safe.

My parents used to drill that point of security into our head's as we grew up. I know that my father won't lose his job because of the economy. It won't happen to my Army contracted brother either. But my sister and I - we are another story.

My first job out of college wasn't a first job at all. I'd put myself through school and was used to the 40 (sometimes 40+) hours and working towards a degree. I rejoiced when I graduated - I could finally just work, without the added burden of school. But it was an important job, and I put my all into it. I was good at it - I had potential and the company recognized that.

And then the day came out of the blue. One after another we were pulled into the owner's office and were given the speal. The controller said, we must let you go to survive. We are sorry. I was 23 years old.

I remember not being able to breathe. Telling myself this could not be possible. Didn't this only happen to older people? Why me - how could they cut me? I worked for next to nothing and devoted an insane amount of time to my job. Coming in weekends, staying till 9pm. All on a measly salary.

It took me quite some time to realize that it wasn't about me. It was about them. Their financial status. Their future. And there I was, left on the other side of the fence . . . without a job. Not knowing what my future held.
This moment in my life changed me forever. It rocked me to my core. What my parents had warned me about . . . actually happened. REALLY happened. At 23. First job. I was a civilian and I would never be safe. It was a slap in the face and made me understand that nothing is for sure. Only the military, but that wasn't what I wanted. But this experience, almost made me change my mind.
They say that things always happen for a reason and my lay off led me down a path of success. A sweet freelancing gig helped me further build my resume, which helped me land a spot at the firm I'm at now. I guess it did happen for a reason.

But during times like this, when I see friends and loved ones narrowly escape rounds of lay offs and some who don't - I worry about my safety as well. I somehow transport back to years ago. In that room. In front of those men, who took my job away from me.

My best wishes and best thoughts go out to all of those who are affected and left standing breathless. Those who have to worry about paying their heating bill or feeding their children. May your situation lead you to a much better and brighter one.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Muppet Update! Whoot! Whoot!

As you know, I'm the ultimate Muppet fan and promise you updates as soon as I get them. It is my DREAM job to work for the Henson company, as Jim is one of my idols. So today, for Muppet news, I have quite a lot to report. The team has been hard at work, and their popping up everywhere!

- The Muppets took over the Today show this morning for 30 minutes. Seriously! They promoted the Muppet WhatNot Shop that I had mentioned a few posts back. They built custom Muppets for Meredith, Matt, Al, Ann and EVEN Willard Scott. Check this out. You MUST watch their work. They hang out with everyone. See them interact with Harry Connick Jr., build their own Muppet WhatNots and watch Miss Piggy tie up Christopher Meloni. Piggy also takes on Hoda and Kathy Lee. I'm a huge fan of Hoda, and not a fan of Kathy. I loved watching Piggy stick it to her.

- Pepe, the stellar king prawn, appeared on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on Oct 28th to promote his new book AND himself, of course

- Kermit the Frog, the balloon version, will be appearing again in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.

- For the first time ever, Jim Henson's 1977 television special Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is available online.

- The Muppets have wrapped production of "Letters to Santa: A Muppets Christmas", one-hour television project is set to air this holiday season! It's scheduled to air on Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 8:00PM on NBC

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Today is a special day for America. Today is Veterans Day.

As a military brat this day calls for special reflection. My father still serves today. My grandfather served. And in about a year, my brother will graduate from the University of Oklahoma and become an Army officer. It's what my family does, we serve.

My father has been to Iraq and Afghanistan. It's only a matter of time before he goes again. My brother will also go. My grandfather was drafted during World War II.

I have many friends who are in the service, and even friends whose parents still serve. I have friends who are deployed. While I never fully made it to "signing on the dotted line" I spent my life (and still am) as a military brat. I've seen first hand, year after year, the sacrifices that men and women make around the world.

It seems at times, to me, that we can never fully comprehended what our nation's forces do for us on a daily basis. Regardless of what your opinion is, you should always support the troops. They are where they are because they are fighting to protect us. In the Land of Sand. In a country that ends with "stan." In places you've never heard of and never will hear of.

So on today, I ask you to pause. Reflect on what you have. You have peace on your shore lines. Think of the men and women that are deployed throughout the world, and their families who are left waiting at home for them to return. And remember all of those who came before them, some of whom never made it home. For without them, we would not have the freedoms that we have today.

My love and admiration to my father, brother, grandfather and friends who have stood for us. My love and continued support to their family members. We owe you more than we could ever give you back. You mean the world to me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pixar's New Film

Pixar recently released a teaser for it's new film Up. I just found it today and was sad to hear that it's been out in cyberworld since Wall-E's release this past summer. Word on the street is that the film focuses on an elderly man who lives in a house and takes on (and defeats) villains throughout the world. Details are sketchy, as most Pixar teasers are, but I'm confident that it will be a good one.

Up will be Pixar's 10th animated film and is scheduled for release on May 29, 2009. The film is directed by the usual suspects at Pixar, including Pete Docter, who directed Monsters Inc. Also investing time and brain power is Bob Peterson, who is the film's screenwriter. Peterson also wrote Finding Nemo, or as I like to call it the BEST film Pixar has made to date.

I can't wait to see this film. Okay, well, I traditionally can't wait to see any Pixar film. I can't help it. The company facinates me and I hope very much to be a part of it one day. Stay tuned for additional details on Up, and don't forget that Toy Story 3 is just on the horizon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ne-Yo's Miss Independent

So I have to tell you that I'm in LOVE with Ne-Yo's new song. If you haven't heard it, you need to listen to it. Especially if you're a female. This man is speaking my language. Great words. And great respect for women. If you don't already have his new record go out and get it and visit his website!

Here are the lyrics from his song . . .

Birthday to Remember

So last weekend I celebrated my 27th birthday in style. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays - naturally- my birthday is just days before it. When I was growing up it was very easy to use it as a great theme for my birthday parties!

This year was extra special. I've lived in NJ for three years now. Next year will mark the longest I've ever lived anywhere since I left Ireland. Moving, as I've mentioned before, is never easy. For military brats it's always about rebuilding and moving to NJ was exactly the same as moving when I was younger.When you're a military brat with other military brats, you can make friends much easier. Being a military brat surrounded by civilians is another challenge. It's harder to break into friendship circles - despite my age.

The first year I lived here I flew back to Michigan to celebrate my birthday. I wanted to be with my friends and at the time I had yet to make one in NJ. The second year was different. By that time, I had switched jobs, had a very close friend and a group of solid friends. I took a leap and stayed in NJ and celebrated in a local town. It was a great night and I remember going home and thinking that I my rebuilding process was starting to work! I could have faith.

Today I am happy to tell you that my friendships here have grown leaps and bounds. I'm happy with them and feel confident that they will last. The past year has helped me realize who I really want as a friend and luckily those friends have felt the same way about me.

So this year for my birthday, I chose again to stay here. . . and throw myself a birthday party. Big step for me. The deal was sweetened when my two BFFs from high school promised to roll in to celebrate - Heather traveling from MI and Amanda from PA. They are pictured below.

Heather made my birthday cake. The front said "Happy Birthday to Melissa."
The back said "Happy Halloween Everyone Else!"

Amanda and I posing in costume! Don't we look great! Yes, I went as a birthday girl!

These girls mean the world to me because they carry my world in them. Sound odd . . . to you probably. These girls lived with me in Japan. Out of my friends, Amanda is the person I've know the longest. These girls are the girls I grew up with. They know what I was like in a world I can never return to. This is why I say that they carry my world in them. When I'm with them, I'm home. Having them join me for my birthday and meet all of my NJ based friends was incredible. And I'll be forever grateful for them flying and driving in from many miles away to be with me. Like old times. Except now it's legal to drink. And we have cooler clothes. And no one speaks Japanese. And we are in NJ. Love you babes and miss you every minute of every day.