Sunday, February 25, 2024

Oscar 2024 Nominated Best Picture Movies with Short Update on Those Watched and What are Left to Watch

The Oscars are approaching on March 10, 2024. I have some movies to catch up on before the ceremony, but I have watched some of the nominees. Here is a break down of those I have enjoyed and what I have left to watch.

The Holdovers
Carrie and I watched this movie during our holiday break. We both really enjoyed this movie. The whole story and the characters. By the same director that did Sideways so I could see some similarities, but I enjoyed this movie a lot. The character development was excellent for all the characters in this movie. This is up there for my best movie from the lot even before I see all of the movies.

American Fiction
I have not seen this movie yet. It is on our list of course to watch. Sounds like an interesting movie that I plan to see in the theater. It will take a lot for this movie to beat out the leader for me, but I am looking forward to seeing this movie.

The Zone of Interest
I did not know anything about this movie until I heard about it on NPR this past week. A movie about a family living next to unthinkable camps. More on this movie after I am able to watch it.

Barbie
I watched this movie in the theater along with the next movie in the list. It was good. I did enjoy the movie. It was not the best movie I have seen from the list of nominees. The cast was great, the set was just how I would see a "Barbie" set. However, it is not my favorite movie from the list of nominees.

Oppenheimer
A long movie at over three hours. A movie that could have been maybe two hours. It was a story I was not familiar with hearing. The movie did a good job of telling the story, but it could have been shorter. A powerful film that was synced up with the prior movie with people watching both movies.

Poor Things
Another movie I have not seen yet. Carrie and I plan to watch this movie. It will be interesting to see Emma Stone in a different type of character. More on this movie later.

Past Lives
I was able to watch this movie recently. It was well done and good. The cast did a good job in this one. I found the movie to be entertaining, but not a great movie.

Anatomy of a Fall
Another movie that I do not know anything about. I read through IMDB on this one and it sounds interesting. More on this movie after I am able to watch it.

Maestro
I really did not know the story about the conductor. I thought Bradley Cooper did a great job and Carey Mulligan was excellent playing his wife. Bradley Cooper throughout this movie and I found myself forgetting it was him that was in the movie. From his appearance to his voice, it seemed like a different person.

Killers of the Flower Moon
Another movie that I was able to watch during the holiday break. I did not know anything about the story until watching this movie. A long movie that could have been shorter. Lily Gladstone I thought stole this movie as Lily did a great job in her role. 

The update for this week is more for myself to track the movies I have watched and what I plan to watch. I do plan to watch the remaining movies before March 10. Some of the movies left for me to watch are still in theaters, so I am hoping to get to the theaters to watch them in style.


Sunday, February 18, 2024

Valentine's Day Dinner at Soliloquy was a Fun Experience

Valentine's Dinner Menu
Menu from Soliloquy

Valentine's Day had Carrie and I at Soliloquy for a fancy Valentine's Day dinner and drinks. We had a fun time. Carrie saw the announcement about the event on FaceBook and had sent it to me a week or two ahead of Valentine's Day. It looked good and different, so I booked reservations. The menu was already set along with drinks to accompany the meal. The picture to the right is the menu from Soliloquy on Valentine's Day. I believe I heard this was the second time Soliloquy had done this for Valentine's Day. It was fun!

When we arrived, we walked in and did not even give our name, but they seated us. Carrie and I laughed as we were not sure how they knew who we were, so we asked the waitress and she told us that she just knew. There were only a certain number of guests as the 6:30 pm seating sold out, so she knew we were one of the couples.

Fluer de Lavende Drink
Fluer de Lavende Drink
Some of my favorite items from the menu included the zucchini salad. The first drink we had which was Fluer de Lavande. The Wellington took the show. It was amazing! I had never had a Beef Wellington before and it lived up to the hype. I have seen it done in movies and even cooking shows, but I had never had it before. the flaky crust with the perfectly cooked prime tenderloin was delicious. To finish the night I had the Irish coffee which was a take on the original recipe which was also very good.

Tiramisu
Tiramisu
As we finished our meal and they brought out the the Irish coffee and final dessert, we were discussing if we would do this again next year if offered. We enjoyed the experience. Some of the food was different, but we enjoy trying different things and experiencing new things. I think we would do it again. 

We paid for our reservation a week or so ahead as I had mentioned. When they dropped off a card, I thought it was the bill. It was sealed with wax. When I opened the envelope, it had the menu inside. No bill, so everything was done and paid for including the tip for our table service. It was nice as we left and had enjoyed a new experience.

Carrie and I had a fun night out experiencing something different. Food prepared in different styles along with drinks. It as a fun night and so glad I was able to spend it with my Valentine. Love you so much Carrie!

Have a great week and I will talk with you next time.


Sunday, February 11, 2024

Super Bowl Sunday and Kansas City Chiefs are in SB Again... So Excited! Let's GO!

Chiefs Shoes for the Super Bowl
Chiefs Shoes for Super Bowl
Quiet Sunday morning as we prepare for the Super Bowl this evening. It is hard to believe that the Kansas City Chiefs are playing in their fourth Super Bowl in the past five years. It has been so much fun and a good reminder to never take anything for granted in life or sports. I am so excited for the game tonight, I can hardly stand the wait.

Carrie and I attended the Washburn mens basketball game on Saturday. Washburn lost to Northwest Missouri State. It was a good game, but came up short on a three point attempt and let the game slip away. Northwest Missouri State is always a tough game and their #22 player was hitting three point shots like he was doing layups. He had 18 points in the first half. There was a really good crowd at the game, so it was fun. Only a few games left in the season before the post season starts.

Saturday night was the Kansas Jayhawks game who took on Baylor. Got off to a good start, but let Baylor stick around and only won by three points. After losing the prior game to the Wildcats, it was good to get a win. Monday night will be tough going up against Texas Tech. The Big 12 league is wide open this year and it is tough to win on the road so hoping we show up and ready to play Monday night.

Ok, back to the hype for the big game tonight. I shared the picture of my Kansas City Chiefs shoes that I am wearing for today. I actually got the shoes early in 2023, so it will be fun to wear them today for the Super Bowl. Looking forward to taco bar we are doing this evening for the watch party.

Have a great rest of your Sunday and a great week. Go Chiefs!


Sunday, February 04, 2024

Cooked Beef Stir Fry in the Rain on Saturday Night on Big Green Egg Using a Wok ... Turned Out Great!

Peppers and Onions Ready for Stir Fry on Big Green Egg
Peppers and Onions Ready

Saturday night was time to do stir fry in the Big Green Egg (BGE). I believe this was the fourth time we have used the wok on the BGE. It had been raining most of the day, but that did not stop me from firing of the BGE and getting the wok ready. It did take a while to the fire going with the rain. I was finally able to close the lid to the BGE and leave the top open which helped and got the temperature up to around 400 degrees. I wanted the temperature to be between 450 and 500 but with the rain during preparation and then when I was finally cooking the stir fry, the temperature was consistently around 400 degrees.

Marinated Beef Ready for Big Green Egg
Marinated Beef Ready for Wok
The beef was done in a sauce that Carrie had put together. Some spice, soy, and a little more spice. The beef smelled so good as it marinated and I got the BGE ready. With how long it took to get the BGE going in the rain, the beef marinated for about 45 - 60 minutes. Carrie knows that I like to have a lot of sauce, so it was nice a saucy ready for the wok. No, you cannot tell from the picture to the right that it is saucy, but it was very nice and smelled so good.

We had the veggies and meat ready to go and the fire was right. I put the wok on the BGE to let it warm up for about five minutes. The temperature was still right around 400 degrees. Added some oil and then the meat. Immediately started sizzling and a lot of smoke with the coldness outside. Carrie came out to help me and held an umbrella over us while I cooked. I cooked the meet for about five minutes and then spread it out to the edges of the wok. Now it was time to add in the veggies that I put right in the middle. Still a lot of liquid from the sauce, but it worked out great as the veggies kind of boiled in the liquid. 

Finished Beef Stir Fry in Wok from Big Green Egg
Finished Stir Fry from BGE
I cooked the veggies in the middle of the meat for three or four minutes. It was then time to mix everything together and continue starring in the meat to the veggies. For another minutes or two and then it was time for more sauce. We used a packet for the stir fry sauce that needed to thicken up a little after it was added. After about two minutes, I could see the sauce had thickened and it was time to take it inside. 

Another success as it was delicious! Carrie did some rice in our rice cooker and we have enough for leftovers for us both tomorrow for lunch. We had some kimchi in our fridge that went along great with the stir fry. 

Following dinner, I went out to put the BGE back together and prepare it for the night. I noticed that it had cooled down very quickly with the chill in the air and rain. Normally, it takes a few hours for the grill to cool off, but tonight it had cooled down quickly.

Another successful night of grilling with the BGE using a wok. We loved it and I cannot wait to cook again with the wok. Our plan is to do multiple wok cooks this summer so we can have leftovers of various options through the week. Rice works great, but we also want to try doing noddles with with one of these cooks.

Have a great week and I will talk to you next week for Super Bowl Sunday.


Sunday, January 28, 2024

We Made Our First Trip to the Kansas City RV Show on Saturday to Look Around... Thinking About Future and Camping

Explore 2024 NB20.3
Explore 2024 NB20.3
Carrie and I have been tent camping for a few years now. We really enjoy the experience of tent camping although having a travel trailer would help us to be able to camp earlier and later in the season. We do have long-term plans to get a travel trailer, so this weekend we made a trip to the Kansas City RV Show to look around. 

We had a fun time walking around looking at the different options from small dome options to full motorhomes. It is truly amazing how much can be fit into the various options. Still, we are pulled to the direction of a travel trailer because we can hitch it to our Pilot, get to most any location, and leave the trailer while we site see or go to hiking locations.

Explore 2024 NB20.3 Floorplan
Explore 2024 NB20.3 Floorplan
The travel trailer that we reviewing is the Explore 2024 NB20.3. We are a few years out from doing anything about this new adventure, but it is fun to review and look at options. Some things we need to figure out include towing capacity of our Honda Pilot. I see it has a 5,000 lbs towing capacity, but the NB20.3 lists figures over the 5,000 lbs. Futher research is needed to understand if our Honda Pilot could haul this device not to mention also need to get a hitch for our Pilot.

It is exciting to review and think about getting a travel trailer. We are still a few years out before we do get one though. So, who knows, maybe at a future future Kansas City RV Show we will get a trailer once we have figured out hitch, storage, and exactly what we are wanting to buy.

As we look to camping for the spring, summer, and fall, we already have one spot reserved and talking about getting other dates selected for other camping adventures throughout the summer. We only went twice last year, so hoping to double, or triple, the amount of camping adventures this year. One day, we will have a travel trailer and be able to camp earlier and later into the season which will be a lot of fun.

Have a great week and if you are using a travel trailer, I would love to connect and discuss what you selected and why.


Sunday, January 21, 2024

Cold, Snow, Ice, Sweaters, and Spring Right Around the Corner

Oliver Keeping Warm in Sweater
Oliver Sweater
Cold, snowy, and short days the past few weeks but days are getting longer. I did notice this past week when driving home from work that the sun was setting and it was almost 5:30. I had left work late and driving home noticing there was still light in the sky and pink in the western sky. It was beautiful! No, I did not get a picture taken, but I did enjoy the fact that it does mean the days are gradually getting longer.

A few times when letting Oliver out to do his business, he would stand to lift one paw and then the other. He immediately started shivering as it was sub-zero temperatures. Poor guy! Carrie would carry him out to the middle of the yard a few times just to help his little paws. He was a sweater puppy when it is cold and seems to like wearing the sweaters. We did have one day where it got up in the twenties or so and Oliver wanted to spend time outside enjoying the sun. Crazy guy!

It has been below zero multiple days and snow on the ground multiple days which is longer than I recall in the past few years. As a kid, I recall having snow on the ground for days, or weeks, but the past couple of years it seems like it will snow and be gone after a few days. Not with the latest snow falls we have had lately. The temperatures hovering around zero allow the grassy areas, and even some streets/pavement, to keep a covering of snow. 

Last weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs played in one of the coldest games in NFL history. I was glad to watch the game from the comfort of a home and my beer not freezing. It was not a game I wished I was at while watching on television. I spoke to friends who did attend and it sounded miserable although they did say how they can say they were there and stuck it out to the end... well, almost the end. They left partway through the fourth quarter. Stories to tell though of frozen beers, ice for feet, and noses freezing. Good times!

Rest assured that the days are getting longer and it will soon be spring here in Kansas. The warm weather will be here before we know it and Oliver cannot wait!

Stay warm and I will talk to you next week...


Sunday, January 14, 2024

My Flickr Year 2023 in Review and Background on My Flickr Account Through the Years

MyFlickr for 2023 Stats

The majority of pictures posted on my site come from my Flickr page where I upload all of my pictures. I have been a paid member of Flickr since 2007. I have almost 10,000 photos on my Flickr account and trying to take more and more pictures each year. I often go back and look at past years through Flickr to remember what we did during a specific period of time. Of course I also often go back in my blog to review a trip or what we did during a specific week. 

For 2023, my most viewed picture was from a sunset I took one morning from Washburn University campus as I was walking into work. I entered the picture in a Your Best Shot 2023 group to try and win. I did not win, but it was fun having visitors view and comment on the picture. In the Flickr group, there were over 11,400 members with over 9,000 photos ranging from a variety of photographs. It was the second year I had joined a group for "Your Best Shot" and had fun reviewing all of the member posts with their "Best Shot" for the year.

The picture of the sunset had over 775 views since it was posted on November 3, 2023. The majority of the views coming from being part of the Your Best Shot 2023 group. Overall, I had almost 12,000 views for all of my pictures.

My goal for 2024 is to not only post more pictures to Flickr, but be more active on interacting in groups, other members pictures, and the big one which I have found helps to get views is to include tags on photos. A tag is similar to a hashtag on a tweet but does not necessarily need the typical "#" for a hashtag. Those do show up, but most of my tags are simply "Sunset", "Dog", "basketball", etc. Gives another way for others to search and possibly have whatever was posted show up in their search. I also try to put a title and description on all pictures that I upload. Again, I find that this helps when looking through stats to see how people found a picture.

Brief background into the site that stores pictures I post to this blog that I wanted to share. Hopefully in 2024 I will post more pictures and have more interactions with visitors to my Flickr photos.


My Reading Journey from 2023 with a Goal of 25 Books and I Read 25 Books in 2023... Some of my Favorites in this Update

GoodReads 2023 Goal was 25 Books and I read 25 Books
Goal was 25 and Made 25
I met my reading goal for 2023. The goal was 25 books and I read my last book on New Years Eve. On November 5, 2023, I was at 17 of 25 books (see post), so I had to pick up the pace and read every chance I could get. Even reading every chance I could get, it was close as I was juggling multiple books.

I had a fun time reading this year. The majority of the 25 books I read with my Kindle. Some of the books, I did listen to which I know is debated as whether they count or not in some social media circles. I did find that listening to novels does not work well for me unless I am in the car driving and can focus on the audio book. I decided that audio books I listen to in 2024 will be memoirs or autobiographies as they are easier to follow when around the house and doing other things. I did manage to fit in a few autobiographies this year, so that was fun. 

GoodReads 2023 Books
My 25 Books for 2023

 To the right are the 25 books I read during 2023. Here, I will highlight some of my favorites. Starting at the top which are the earliest books I read in 2023, I enjoyed Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of Women of Pan AM by Julia Cooke. This book entered my queue from a bookclub I belong and I found this an interesting read. I was a good book to start my 2023 reading journey and I really enjoyed the history from the book with facts I had not heard previously.

My next favorite book was Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos. My Uncle Charlie had told me about the movie that he saw and that it was good, but it also included a sequence in the movie that was exactly what my Dad went through when he served in the Navy. I really enjoyed the book and could feel what my Dad went through in that scary moment while reading the section of the book. I was able to watch the movie this past week and it went along exactly how I remember the book portrayed the story.

My first audio book of 2023 was The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl. This book was recommended to me by Carrie. Dave Grohl being the drummer from Nirvana and Foo Fighters. I loved this book! It was even better because I heard the book read by Dave Grohl. It was really good and highly recommend that if you want to read this book that you do the audio book so you can hear Dave Grohl tell his story. Excellent!

A few books later and I was reading another biography The Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizabeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life by Amy Butler Greenfield. Once again, an interesting book about the code breakers, women, of WWI and WWII that I found so interesting. This was one of the books I read during 2023 that I found hard to put down. Interesting facts throughout that I had not heard about before. I believe this was another book from the book club I belong, but I do not recall for sure. It was good nonetheless.

I went back and picked up two books by C.J. Box as I continue to enjoy reading the series. I read Out of Range and In Plain Sight. The story continues with about 25 books in the series of game warden Joe Pickett. I will probably read a few more from this series during 2024. Easy reads that move quickly and hard to put down.

Finally after many years and multiple friends colleagues telling me I should read the book, I finally read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Nope! It did not disappoint. I could not put it down and read it fairly quickly for my reading routine. I am so glad that I finally checked it out from the library (e-book of course), waited for it to arrive as there was a wait, and read it thoroughly enjoying the book.

Carrie recommended I listen to the audio book of The Woman in Me by Britney Spears. Once again, hearing the book read by the author was a good way to "read" the book. Once again, I recommend if you want to read this book that you do the audio book to hear Britney Spears tell her story. Worth it!

My final book of the year which also happened to be an audio book was Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry. Hearing Matthew Perry read after passing away not long ago (October 28, 2023) was a bit eerie but again it was good to hear it in the authors voice. To start out the book, Matthew Perry says "Hi, my name is Matthew Perry, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead." Eerie feeling as I listened to Matthew Perry speak this on the audiobook. If you have the chance and can get on the waiting list, be sure to listen to the audiobook of Matthew Perry.

Those are the highlights of my books from 2023. I barely made my goal of 25 books for the year. For 2024, I did another goal of 25 books although I hope to be closer to 30 books on the year as it comes to a close a year from now. I make it a point to read every day and so far I have been able to keep that streak going for two years straight. Even on days where I listen to an audio book, I still make sure to open my Kindle and read a page or two from one of my many books on my shelf.

If you have a recommendation for a book based on those I read or referenced above that I said I enjoyed, I would be interested to hear from you in the comments of those post. Of course you can also reach out via social media to share with me too.

Enjoy your reading journey and if we have not connected on GoodReads, please follow me on GoodReads


Sunday, January 07, 2024

Washburn Basketball, Movies, Weather, and NFL in this Update to Start the 2024 Year

Carrie and John at Washburn Basketball Game on Saturday, January 6, 2024
Carrie and John at Washburn Game

Carrie and I attended our third game of the season. We have missed a number of early games in the season, but hope to make the remaining games of the season. With traveling, holidays, etc., we were unable to make games earlier in the season. We had a great time on Saturday. Washburn came away with the win. We attended the Washburn game on Thursday too and we won that game too.

While we were at the game, we decided we are going to attend one of the home track meets Washburn plays through January. I have never been to a track meet although I have watched them online, so I am looking forward to attending our first track meet at our very own Indoor Athletic Facility on the Washburn University campus.

Friday night, we stayed home and enjoyed watching movies. During the holiday break, we watched a movie, or two, every night. There were a few we did not get to, so we watched on Friday night. We were able to watch The Holdovers and it was fantastic! We watched The Holdovers on Peacock, but I know it is playing at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, KS. Worth checking out as the whole cast did a great job. From the same director who did Sideways (2004), Alexander Payne put together a good story that was heartwarming and brought tears to my eyes. After watching The Holdovers, we decided we would watch Sideways as it had been a long time since we had seen Sideways. Fun low key Friday night for us.

Trees and Lights After Snow in Topeka, KS
Trees and Lights in the Snow

Friday also brought our second snow to Topeka. It was not supposed to amount to much, but it did snow all day long and left the trees and shrubs looking pretty. A wet snow that covered trees, so Carrie snapped a picture of our trees and lit up snowman in front of our house as it was pretty. The forecast is for significant snow fall Monday through Tuesday, so we will see what happens. 

This is the last weekend of the regular season for the NFL. Many teams are playing backup players to save their starters for the playoffs which includes the Kansas City Chiefs who are not starting Mahomes and others to keep them fresh for the postseason. So I am looking forward to watching football all afternoon although Carrie is not thrilled as she will be happy when the season is over and no more football. 

A wondering ramble of topics for this week. Short week last week with New Years Day on Monday, but it was back to work. It was a good productive work week. I hope your year started out well and I will talk to you soon.