Visa Update and Airport Observations

Wednesday, 29 December 2010
If you're wondering...

The US Embassy in London updated their list of cases on December 22, 2010 and ours didn't move up at all. In fact, we're farther down the list than we were before.  The web page says to not count the list as moving in a certain order but COME ON. We sent in our application on August 26th. Processing time is 3 to 6 months. It has been 4 months thus far and we've heard nothing. We're in the middle of the waiting madness. 

Really, though, I'll wait another month or two as long as the answer to our waiver application is YES.

Right now I'm at the Knoxville airport people watching. My flight has been delayed (of course) and I'm just killing time by blogging, tweeting and facebooking. 

Airport observations (if you are a regular reader, you know this is one of my favorite things to blog about)

People carry on huge bags now days and try to let three slide by the "carry on two bags only" rule.
3 out of 4 TSA agents (at least in this airport) are obese.
One of the Delta ticket agents I dealt with while checking in was condescending and rude. The other one was amazingly professional and kind. 
New books are outrageously over-priced. 
I can easily imagine what people would look like without all the extra fat. 
I need to make sure I stand/walk with my back straight and head up to look the world in the eyes.
Travel pillows (the ones you buy for $12.99 and go around your neck) aren't firm enough. 
So glad I decided to travel with my fur. Very warm.
Horizontal, wide, colorful stripes on a sweater? No.
Japanese women seem to have the most well-behaved children.

Blond Across the Pond 2010

Tuesday, 28 December 2010
"'Ello. Where's the loo, please?"
"Sorry, can you tell me which way to the tube?"
"I'll have a pint of Peroni, please."
"A'right. Have a go at getting a taxi, mate?"

These are the phrases I'm trying to remember heading over to London. Such a fascinating, busy, historical city. Everyone is polite to a fault and manners are expected even from drunkards on the streets. I haven't been back to London in more than a year. Kingsley and I spent a week there together just before our honeymoon in Barcelona in October 2009.

Our plans include an afternoon at the British Museum to see the new Buhddhist exhibits (showing some artifacts that haven't been on display before) before heading to Covent Garden for a pie/pasty. Kings and I will also eat Thai food at the restaurant he booked for our first date, The Blue Elephant. I was so enamored by the man, I barely remember the food or setting. We may also go to the Oyster Bar at Selfridges one day for champagne and oysters and our New Year's Eve plans with friends sound exciting.

Mostly, I cannot wait to put on our pajamas, cook together, sip wine, snuggle on the couch and watch movies. We're going to act like a "real" married couple without the bickering ... yet...

I'll be sure to update you here with pictures when I have time.

Italian Quiche - No Crust

Sunday, 26 December 2010
This is for Teri. I like to call this dish "quiche" because it is a mixture of eggs and milk, baked in the shape of a pie (9" round glass plate). However, it does not have a pastry or crust. So, for traditional cooks or real chefs, this likely falls into the "breakfast casserole" category.

4 large eggs
3 pieces thick bacon, microwave 4 minutes on high, blot with paper towel, chop into small pieces
1 can (12oz) Italian tomatoes with garlic and oregano, drained
1/2 cup onions, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Cracked pepper to taste
1/2 milk or cream (I used skim milk)

Preheat oven 350 degrees

Heat olive oil and sautee onions until soft, set aside
Beat eggs and milk with wisk
Add bacon and onions, stir
Add tomatoes, gently stir
Sprinkle in salt (about 3/4 of a teaspoon) and cracked pepper into mixture (I did 5 turns of the grinder)
Spray pie plate with Canola oil

Pour in mixture, bake for 1 hour
Dish should be firm but not brown on top.

Top Blog Posts of 2010

I quickly read through my blog posts from 2010. How in the world did this year go by so quickly? While not easy, I narrowed down some of my favorites for you. Here's 5 of the best:

Post that drew a lot of comments: Weight Just a Minute (My opinion on obesity and what it takes to stay out of that category.)

Post about sex: Abstinence (Thoughts on Bristol Palin's campaign to encourage teens to wait until marriage to sleep together.)

Post where I admit I was wrong: Twilight and New Moon (Entertaining, good reads. Critics took themselves too seriously when they first reviewed this book. I bought into it until I actually read them.)

Post about an embarrassing situation: Most Embarrassing Moment #2 (Sometimes I do really strange things. This is the account of one of those occassions.)

Post about the busiest and most expensive day of my life: Quick Recap (Moved to another state, bought a car, bid on a house, all in the same day.)

Bonus post about being back in the South: Bible Belt (Stranger tries to pray the sinner's prayer with me in my back yard.)

Christmas Morning 2010

I had to work on Christmas so Violet and I were alone in the morning. Knoxville saw a light dusting of snow and she went outside to have a look.

I made quiche for breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, onions and Italitan tomatoes with oregano and garlic. It turned out nicely. 350F for one hour. Use Canola oil in the pie plate before pouring in the mixture.

My wreath this year was made out of real materials and held the place of a tree. I decided not to put up a Christmas tree since my sweetie isn't here yet. 

Violet played Mrs. Santa Claus for a little while even though she didn't like her hat. 

Later in the day, my good friend Jamie invited me over to have dinner with her family. It was amazing! Sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, homemade mac and cheese, stuffing, turkey, ham, rolls and appetizers. Wowser.

Nice spread and such kind, considerate people. The kids had some awesome gifts and I fired Nerf guns and raced match box cars down a long, loopy track.

I could've been a little sad and lonely on Christmas but because of someone's generosity, this news orphan had a place to enjoy good food, great company and a new holiday experience. 

Mini Carson-Newman Reunion

Friday, 24 December 2010
When my besties Casey and Angelica were in town, I took them to my favorite "local." Crown and Goose is not only decorated to the nines this time of year, it is also spacious with great service. After much to-do, I was able to secure a reservation for the coveted "red sofas" and many of our friends from undergraduate school showed up to celebrate having Case and Angel in town.

We took a quick photo with some of the ladies that met during our days in Butler and Swan halls. We love our Perri and Amber! No one has aged a day in the 10 years since we went to school together (ahem, I'm sure you agree...).

Kelly was also there. Despite just having baby Lilly, she showed up with her charming husband, Eddie to have a drink and tell us about life with a new baby!

Other Knoxville besties, Adrian and Larsen also attended the soiree. They were out finishing last minute Christmas shopping and stopped to have a drink. Ace knows Casey from my wedding and Angelica from when she lived in Knoxville.

I miss having guests in town. Here's to friends and family visiting in 2011!

Facebook Family Christmas Wishes

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Image from Gail Pan Designs

I have a Facebook page that I use to connect with friends and viewers. Feel free to add me, Denae D'Arcy WATE. Today, I asked viewers and friends, "If you could have one thing this Christmas that isn't a material object, what would it be?" I received some heartfelt responses:

Donna said, "To celebrate Christmas with those special people who have passed on."

Dale shared, "To have my health back and to be with my family."

"Patience," said Samantha.

Melissa wants "A white Christmas!"

Miles said, "Better health and less weight."

Heather gave a funny but honest answer, "Does a husband count? I've been asking for one for years now. Maybe the chimney isn't wide enough."

Julie's answer was sweet. She wants "Love. I share love with family and friends but it's time to settle down (and I want to)."

Jessica would ask for "peace and happiness."

PerSempre said, "All the animals to have good forever homes. It would mean I wouldn't be doing rescue anymore but that would be a great thing."

Carrie wants "more time with family!"

Nicole was also thinking of family. She said, "My family all together!"

Valerie said, "I would love to have Jeremy pain free for Christmas and his kids here with us!!!"

Thank you to all who shared.

If I could have a Christmas wish that didn't include things it would be for my family to be together. Kingsley and I will be apart again this Christmas and his family is all in South Africa. How nice it would be to wake up on Christmas morning and all spend the day together!

What's your wish?

Repeal of DADT

Wednesday, 22 December 2010
I listened to a high-ranking military member interview today on the radio. Air Force Major Mike Almy said his entire career was spent dodging anything that had to do with his sexual orientation. He was terrified that one overheard conversation or email could get him fired for being gay. That eventually happened. He was discharged because of his sexual orientation. After today's repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" Almy is excited to reenlist and serve again.

Gays and lesbians can now be proud to serve a country that doesn't fire someone (or ban someone) because they are not "mainstream." This is a historic day in the United States. Many voters are thankful to President Obama for staying true to his campaign promise.

When a woman is fired for being pregnant or a top-boss-man is fired for having a brain tumor, they each have a legal recourse to get their job back. Gay military members did not have that protection before today.

Equality is imperative in a successful, intelligent, modern society. Now, perhaps the US military, one of the most powerful forces in the world, will gain an influx of new soldiers, sailors and airmen. We need them to replace those being killed and injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Christmas Eve" dinner out

My family moved to Columbus, Ohio when I was in college and our extended family is in Missouri. Since we haven't lived around family in quite sometime, we came up with the new tradition of having a nice dinner out on the town for Christmas Eve.

This year, my parents drove to Knoxville to spend time with me the weekend before Christmas. I have to work on Christmas day and eve and I felt very loved that they would drive 12 hours round-trip to visit me. We decided to go to Chez Liberty for our dinner on the town. I recently went there for brunch and wanted to give dinner a go because my experience was excellent.

My mom and I both have vintage mink furs (I would never buy a new fur product if that makes you feel better, ours are 'recycled') and wear them usually once a year. This was the perfect occasion because it has been in the 20s at night in Knoxville and if you have never worn a fur, they are surprisingly warm.

In my dreams, I am a true "foodie." Not necessarily someone who is a food snob, but a person who can take a bite of a dish and notice it was prepared using EVOO, white wine and cilantro without a second taste. I enjoy interesting taste combinations and a restaurant with a great wine list. Patrons will find that at Chez Liberty. We settled on a Spanish '05 Tempanillo from the winter wine menu. It was surprisingly delicious with a slight spicy aftertaste.

Dad doesn't drink wine but he did a bit of tasting with us. Our waiter brought out several Pinot Noir varieties for us to try including two amazing selections: DuMol and Clark and Telephone. I prefer DuMol, mom liked the Clark and Telephone.

For our appetizer, we ordered the Fall Provence Platter. Listen to this: pumpkin goat cheese pesto, cheese, balsamic arugula, sweet potato salad, honey balsamic reduction, herb and olive oil poached turnips, tatsoi (type of greens), and mustard greens.

My diet has changed drastically over the years and I rarely eat meat, although I'm not a vegetarian. This was a great opportunity to try something new and I enjoy dark meat poultry. Therefore, the seared duck breast was the perfect option. I couldn't resist the description: broccoli rabe, goat cheese grit cake, bourbon Clementine preserves. Wow. It was adorned with a Johnny-Jump-up (Viola).

I wish I would have taken a picture of dad's ribeye. It was served with red potatoes, grilled asparagus and garlic root. Also wonderful. Mom and I shared the duck. The portion was huge.

To add to the amazing food and wine, the head chef, Robert (trained at Le Cordon Bleu Atlanta) and the restaurant owner, Ross Young stopped by our table. Chez Liberty is a small restaurant and the two are very involved in the "community" of their space. Ross sent over a taste of a different Spanish wine and even dropped off biscotti for our coffee the next morning.

To top it all off, Johnny Swingette played jazz which increased the festive atmosphere. Young guys with an excellent, smooth sound.

Jamie's Holiday Jam

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Great idea for a holiday party - Jamie asked all the ladies to bring a wrapped ornament. We started out with the birthday closest to January 1. That person chose the first ornament, unwrapped it and birthdays after that could either chose one of those that had been unwrapped or a new package. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The food...

Ah yes... the food. The choices were amazing. Someone brought some type of ham-wrapped dill pickle dish. Amazing. Also, Jamie makes a fabulous pastry using crescent rolls, sausage pieces and cream cheese. She bakes them and WOW. They were delicious. I was also a big fan of the simple wasabi encrusted, dried peas. Tasty.

The drinks flowed, music pumped and there was lots of giggling from the all-ladies night. So much fun!

Imperfect Holidays

Friday, 17 December 2010
I read an article in a magazine about a mom who was so fed up with her sister doing everything "perfectly" over the holidays. Cards were out by Dec. 3rd, cookies were baked and iced without one smear, presents were wrapped with long, flowing, florist-like bows. She declared she was "giving up" on Christmas because she couldn't compete.

After talking to friends who discussed their "real" Christmas follies, the mom decided the holidays weren't about perfection but instead memories. In the spirit of that realization, I wanted to share some of my imperfect holiday memories. Please share yours too.

1. Christmas dinner at my dear friend Ace's house. All co-workers and TV news "orphans" were invited. Amy brought her little dog along and he lifted his leg and peed all over the Christmas tree and presents underneath. Priceless.

2. Kingsley and I invited 10 friends over for a holiday dinner. We put the pies and turkey in the oven and the power went out. After 45 minutes of no power, Kings walked to the store to get wood and matches. He was going to "braai" (grill) the turkey. Thank goodness the power came back on when he got home.

3. One of the first years I shipped presents to my grandparents, I literally sent them in flimsy a "shirt" box. I taped the edges and mailed them off. What was I thinking? They were so destroyed by the time they arrived that some of the presents had fallen out and the rest were sort of duct taped to the remains of the box. Ooops.

4. I was helping my mom bake Christmas goodies in her lovely designer kitchen in Columbus, Ohio. She is very good at everything and I tend to be a bit clumsy, especially around her. I placed walnuts in the small nut chopper device and started going to town on them. I whacked the plunger a couple of good times on the granite counter top and it took a flying leap off onto the floor shattering and scattering walnuts everywhere. After seeing my face crumble, my mom took pity on me and laughed. I bought her a new nut chopper and I always put a towel under it now for traction.

5. While living as a graduate student in student housing in Harrow, UK, I became attached to the resident cat. The Resident Assistants even made a Christmas card with his picture on the front. He was old but gorgeous. Sadly, on Christmas Eve, I went down to share a present with the big guy but he had passed away overnight. The moment was heartbreaking but I'll never forget how much comfort the International students got from that animal. Something loving and warm, so far from home.

6. Our flat in Putney was small but we wanted to have my best friend, Thabang over for dinner, have her spend the night and enjoy presents and Christmas brunch in the morning. We set up the air mattress in the "lounge" for her and it took up all the floor space. Instead of complaining about living in a match box, we all plopped down on the mattress and while it slowly deflated, we opened presents together. It was a special morning, albeit lacking in sophistication.

Brunch at Chez Liberty

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Give Chez Liberty a chance for great service and excellent food. Angelica, Casey and I enjoyed brunch there on Sunday. I tried the smoked salmon frittata with cream fraiche and dill (amazing!).

Angelica ordered the French omelet which she enjoyed and Casey tried the brunch specialty, chicken and waffles. The chicken was coated in corn flakes and served with soft triangles of waffle, all drizzled in pure maple syrup. The taste combination was surprising but delicious.

The atmosphere in Chez Liberty was nice and diners can wrap up in wool blankets while they eat and recline on down pillows. I also enjoyed the music and Mark, our server, made us feel special and important. Lovely experience!

Chef's Choice

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Over our girls' weekend Casey, Angelica and I took advantage of call ahead seating at Nama Sushi downtown and waited while one of the 6 booths cleared out.

Our server (wish I remembered her name) was attentive, knowledgeable and understood the menu. She suggested we choose 3 "Chef's Choice" sushi rolls among others and took note of our likes and dislikes before buzzing off to speak with the Chef.

One of the Chef's Choice rolls came out with kiwi, fresh tuna and cilantro oil drizzle... an amazing taste combination. This one had more of a "fruity" taste and had just a touch of ginger to give it some spice.

Our next Chef's Choice roll came out with a creamy cucumber relish and avocado topping fresh salmon ribbons. I especially liked this one because the rolls contained a little bit of cucumber as well which gave it a slightly crunchy texture.

Put your taste buds' trust in your Chef next time you are at a top-notch sushi joint. We were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the mystery of discovering new taste sensations.

Condoleezza on her childhood

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

My father recommended Condoleezza Rice's book, Extraordinary, Ordinary People and let me borrow it when I was home over Thanksgiving. She writes about growing up in segregated Birmingham and overcoming the challenges of her parents' illnesses and her mother's early death from Cancer. Rice also talks about her rise to power and outstanding education.

Love her or hate her, Rice has an interesting story, is genuinely intelligent and has achieved more than most women at an early stage in life. She forfeited the stay-at-home-mom and wife role to earn a doctorate degree and become an expert on Soviet culture. Later, she earned tenure at Stanford and agreed to participate in political roles.

Rice began life with an excellent base. Both of her parents were educators and cared about culture and music. They raised their daughter to be an accomplished pianist, at times even sacrificing dreams such as owning a house to make sure she went to the best schools and had competent instructors. Rice was even pretty good on the ice rink. There's a funny yet deflating moment in this memoir where she admits to herself she's just too tall to be a competitive ice skater. (Did she ever try ice hockey?)

While the book is mostly void of overt political overtones, I'm still surprised that she became a fierce Republican. Most of the right leaders during her segregated childhood fought to keep "blacks and whites separate." Her father, clearly a strong influence throughout her life, was a conservative Christian and also voted as a Republican.

If you need a bit of inspiration in your own life for greater things, check out Extraordinary, Ordinary People. Rice's book is a quick, interesting read.

Hitting the Ice

Sunday, 12 December 2010

If you want some good, old-fashioned fun, try ice skating this winter. My girlfriends from undergraduate school were in town this weekend and Casey and I decided to slough off the wrinkles of maturity and get wet on the ice rink floor. Okay, luckily we didn't even fall down once but I wasn't so sure while we were waiting in line.

Casey is a good sport but I found out later this isn't her first whirl around the rink. Angelica, who you will meet in the next post, decided not to venture out on blades because she has a small child to care for (hard to do if you are in a body cast I assume). We waited for our skates and became increasingly aware of a gaggle of children running to and fro in front of us. The entire arena was full of tiny children. (Notice exhibit A below - children that are just a blur behind Casey.)

The skates were fairly new and not as uncomfortable as I remembered back in the day. Seems like skaters used to basically wear tight-fitting, wooden/leather shoes that sat atop butter knives of sorts. Ours were high-tech but alas, did not match our outfits.

Angelica stood outside the rink laughing but took cute pictures. I'm trying to pose without falling down while children perform death-defying moves all around us. Best $10 I've spent this week.

Girls Weekend

Casey and Angelica are in town and we are having a lovely time together. Friday night I made a great asparagus, mint and lemon risotto, pumpkin spice cheesecake and chocolate, walnut fudge. Yummy. The risotto turned out to be tasty - not too hard, not too mushy.

Saturday we went shopping on Market Square and ice skating on the Knoxville on ice rink. Nama Sushi for dinner Saturday evening and drinks at Crown and Goose. We had a great time and will post pictures soon. Now, we're getting ready to go to brunch at a French restaurant, Chez Liberty.

How was your weekend?


Wednesday, 8 December 2010
I am not being very good this year. I haven't even begun to order or address Christmas cards and it is already December 7th. I wanted to do a photo card but all of my recent pictures with Kingsley are in tropical locations and it just doesn't seem right to mail out cards of us wearing swimming suits.

Are you sending out cards this year? What do you think is the best kind of card to receive? My mother-in-law makes amazing cards every year with pictures of all the nieces with her and John.

I enjoy holiday "letters" that tell about what's going on with the family/person/couple for the past year.

Some people also send out Happy New Year's cards because they procrastinate just long enough to miss the holidays. Maybe we could do that...

Help Someone Out

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Image sourced from this site

I was lucky enough to be selected to be a part of the board for Friends of Literacy Knoxville this year. We're a charity that helps adults learn to read or get free tutoring so they can pass the GRE and get a job. I'm passionate about the cause because I can't imagine what my life would be like without the ability to read.

As a little girl, I would hide books under my pillow and stand on my bed at night (which was next to a window) so I could read by the light of the street lamp. Bed time meant reading time for me so after learning how to read, I wouldn't make a fuss at 9pm.

This holiday season, Friends of Literacy asked for a volunteer to host a book drive for one of the prisons we serve. I volunteered. We need paperback, non-fiction books in English and Spanish. If you would like to donate books (cleaning out your office?) or a small amount of money, please let me know and I'll pick them up. On the 3rd weekend of this month, all of the Goodwill stores have half-off shopping and I can purchase paperback books 6 for a $1. That goes a long way. I have a moderate goal, 50 books, would should be easy to gather.

Are you able to do something for someone this holiday season?

I usually buy items for the Empty Stocking Fund each year but decided to do the book drive instead. Our church usually sponsors a family in need with help from parishioners. You can also take part in an international program I heard about last night, Heifer International. For a fee, you can purchase a cow, goat, chickens... for a village in a 3rd world country. Interesting!

Disclaimer: Thoroughly research any charity you might donate to. Make sure the corporation stands for the values you subscribe to AND that it is legit.

The More Information the Better

Thursday, 2 December 2010
I am in support of Wikileaks publishing documents related to the United States government. As a journalist, I believe the more factual information we have access to, the more informed and therefore, educated we are.

When I worked at KVAL in Eugene, Oregon one of my major projects was to challenge Lane County judges on their refusal to allow cameras in the courts. Oregon state court rules clearly allow cameras in the courts in most situations. A few Lane Co. judges who were older and admitted they didn't even have TVs in their homes took it upon themselves to make up their own rules. This, in my opinion, hindered the justice process. Why? Lane County citizens could not witness what goes on inside the courtroom in major cases unless they were able to get a day off from work and sit in on it themselves.

After taking the refusal to the District Attorney and 6 months of hard work, we were finally allowed to bring our camera inside the court.

Should US Citizens know what their government is up to around the world? Should they know what happens in the depths of US-run prisons in Afghanistan? Our country has sacrificed lives, military stability and financial security for the war in Iraq. Why shouldn't we know what is happening?

It is trendy now to complain about "big government." Many people have rallied across the US to ask for less involvement from the government. Then, I wonder, why are people so angry when someone releases documents showing how the United States government conducts itself? Shouldn't there be a check and balance? Perhaps some of the statements from US diplomats about world leaders should be public anyway. Maybe they'll learn something when hearing of the impression they make on other countries.

In  modern day media, there is little privacy. Why should an entity supported financially by tax payer dollars be so protected from the public eye?

I plan to learn from the documents released and hope that in the course of disclosure, the efforts of the current administration to achieve diplomacy (a platform I support) will not be set back.

Disclaimer - my opinion is just that, my opinion. I know this is a controversial subject and respect your opinion as well.