Saturday, December 28, 2013

e.l.f. Nail Color in Liquid Metal

As promised, I'm reviewing the items from my recent e.l.f. order! I was in the mood for a winter-y manicure, so the Liquid Metal nail color was one of the first items I tried.

I've had pretty rotten luck with e.l.f.'s nail polishes in the past, but I decided to try one more time, and I'm glad I did! I actually like this one!  I'm not sure if they've improved the formula for their nail polishes, or if I just got lucky with this one color? It's definitely shiny, but in a sort of muted way.

Yes, it looks super shiny there. Sorry, my flash turned my nails into a disco ball. Anyway, these nail polishes are $2 and currently available in more than 50 shades. Note to self for next time: I want to order Garnet, Glamour Girl, and maybe Pot of Gold.

This photo shows the color a little more realistically. I'm tempted to try topping it with another glitter polish. Or maybe small dots of white, like snow? I've had this on my nails for about 3 days now, and I'm just starting to get a few tiny chips near the tips of my most used nails (index finger and thumb.). Pretty decent.

Do you guys have any suggestions for other awesome winter nail colors for me to check out? (Preferably inexpensive ones!)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Tis the Season When I Actually Use My Kitchen

The lovely folks at Plateful Co-Op sent me a couple of coupons for free Betty Crocker mixes so that I could get all festive and bake things. This is the one time of year that my kitchen really gets used, so it was good timing!

I decided to try making their Cream Cheese Swirl Brownie recipe. I ran into a bit of a problem because you're supposed to use a 9" x 9" pan, but all I have is the one below, which is more like 8" x 12". You're supposed to put in 2/3 of the brownie mix, add the cream cheese filling, and then top with the rest of the mix. However, since my pan was a little big, everything spread a bit more thinly than it should so I kinda ended up with this hot mess:

Here's what they're supposed to look like, according to the recipe:

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Annnnd here are how mine turned out:

I think I let them get a tiny bit too dark? I may have to get a more appropriately sized pan and give this another go!

Did you bake anything snazzy for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas List

Dear Santa,
Here's a bunch of stuff I totally need. As long as you drop it off by tonight, I won't even consider it late. Cool? Thanks.
PS- That is totally a different Crystal on the naughty list. Wasn't me.

Ann Demeulemeester Fall 08 Lace Up Boots -  These are basically my holy grail.

Yes, these boots from the Fall 2008 Ann Demeulemeester runway show still top my wish list. Every now and then I see a pair on ebay for a couple thousand dollars, but they're never my size. (And I don't have a couple thousand dollars.)

Think Geek's R2-D2 car charger. He plugs into your cigarette lighter and has two USB ports. Plus, I just feel better driving around if I have an astromech droid with me.

I want Wonderfalls to come back on TV. Sure, it was canceled like a decade ago, but it needs to come back. This is only 24% because of Lee Pace.

But mostly because it was the best.

Argonath bookends. I've wanted these for like a decade. Should have sucked it up and bought the special edition LOTR dvd, I guess.

Fine, fine, I know. I can't actually have a puppy. But we kept seeing Huskies while walking around Lake Eola last week, and I neeeeeeeeeed one, you guys. Just look at that adorable yet kind of badass face! Plus, I could totally pretend I was on Game of Thrones and my dog was a dire wolf. That would change everything.

I think these are all totally reasonable requests.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tuesday Tell... Something?

Happy Christmas eve, blog people!

Normally today would be a Tuesday Tell All, but my cable/phone/internet died yesterday and Mediacom can't come fix it until the 26th, so you are getting this note typed at snail speed on my phone!

I'm in mourning over not getting to watch the Disney Christmas parade or A Christmas Story or anything. And not being able to work or blog blows!

See you guys when I have pretty pretty internet again!

Friday, December 20, 2013

e.l.f. Haul and Upcoming Reviews!

It's makeup time again! I stopped by the e.l.f. website last week and found that they had a holiday promotion running where all orders of $35+ got a free $25 gift card! Um... best deal EVER? I've been wanting to place an order to replace a few items and try out some new products, so I couldn't resist taking advantage of this since it meant that whenever I'm ready to order again, it would pretty much already be paid for! Score!

Here's the list of everything I ordered! Most of these will be reviewed on the blog soon. (I'll come back and add links to the list as the reviews go up.) For items that I've reviewed in the past, I've added links to their reviews, too.

e.l.f. Essential Regular and Waterproof Mascara Duo (Not reviewing this because it's a gift for my mom, and I've reviewed it in the past!)
e.l.f. Essential Nail Polish in Liquid Metal
e.l.f. Essential Nail Block
e.l.f. Essential Blending Wedges
e.l.f. Essential Individual False Lashes
e.l.f. Essential Glitter Primer (SO excited about this one!)
e.l.f. Essential Shimmer Lip Gloss in Fantasize
e.l.f. Essential Lip Balm Tint in Berry
e.l.f. Essential Jumbo Lip Gloss Stick in Coco Loco (I've reviewed this in the colors Movie Star and Sangria Starters.)
e.l.f. Essential Liquid Eyeliner in Copper (I've reviewed the black, silver and Stardust in the past!)
e.l.f. Essential Eyelid Primer in Sheer (Previously reviewed here.)
e.l.f. Essential Soothing Lip Balm in Blackberry Creme (Reviewed here, and the orange creme is reviewed here.)
e.l.f. Studio Pigment Eyeshadow in Innocent Ivory (Okay, I feel kinda dumb! I thought I was reordering something I already have, but nope! The one I have is the matte eyeshadow in Pearl. They look identical! It will be fun to compare and contrast!)
e.l.f. Studio High Definition Undereye Setting Powder
e.l.f. Studio Moisturizing Lipstick in Cheeky
e.l.f. Studio HD Lifting Concealer in Fair
e.l.f. Studio Contouring Blush & Bronzing Powder in St. Lucia
e.l.f. Studio Angled Eyeliner Brush (I'm curious about comparing this to a similar Smashbox brush I love!)

That's everything! My order totaled $35 (including free shipping), which isn't bad at all for 18 items. I definitely ordered more $2 and $3 items than I usually do (I mostly stick to the $1 stuff with e.l.f.), so I'm excited to see what's awesome and what's not!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Things I Love Thursday #2

The combination of a cat and an owl…

I missed the last couple of "Things I Love Thursday" since I was in Florida with no time for things like internet access. Might as well pick back up now that I'm home and back to having fewer awesome things to do!

*Amber Adrian has the best Christmas wishlist so far.

*This is a post from last year, but it seems to be making the rounds again. Wal-Mart Called: Your Christmas Photos Are In. I think this one is my favorite of the bunch:

I bneed to know everything about her life. Immediately.

But I am not at all above recreating this one with a cat. If only I had a man handy, too.

*21 images of where children sleep is quite interesting. The little girl in photo #2 looks so much older than her age. I like that they showed a variety of income levels for the US, but it would have been nice to see more of that for other countries, too.

*Nicole of A Life of Less Bullshit has made her life purge e-book available for free! I love the idea of creating a "GTFO" list of things that you no longer want to devote your time and energy to, so that you can make room for new things that make you happy.

What are you loving lately?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Herbal Essences Naked Volume Bundle - Ordering Info and $50 Walmart Gift Card Giveaway!

The brand new Herbal Essences Volumizing Naked Volume Bundle is now available! I'll be reviewing this set soon, but Herbal Essences wanted to make sure that you guys have a chance to pick it up before it sells out, so they're sponsoring a $50 Walmart gift card giveaway right now so that you can pick one up, too! (My set cost around $15 after tax, so you'll have plenty of gift card left over for some bonus shopping! Woohoo!)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Sunday Currently - Volume 2


I did this linkup for the first time last week, and thought I'd give it another go today!

R E A D I N G Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix. Yes, again. 

W R I T I N G blog posts about my Florida trip. So many things to share!

L I S T E N I N G to constant message notifications from my phone. I'm soooo popular. (Or I just got back from Florida and people miss me.) Also listening to: My heater. It's cold. 

T H I N K I N G that I really need to get my Christmas tree and decorations up today before it becomes so late that it's just pointless to do so. I should probably also finish unpacking, maybe? Although the cats are really enjoying the two giant suitcases in the middle of the living room floor.

S M E L L I N G 

I had one of those "Free item with $10 purchase" coupons for Bath and Body Works, so I did the 3 mini candles for $10 and got a jar sized candle of Merry Cookie for free! YAY! I'm currently burning the cinnamony goodness that is the Holiday candle. 

W I S H I N G I was still in Florida. I miss home! And I want Moe's for lunch.

H O P I N G  to move home soon. Not getting to move in September like I was supposed to was heartbreaking. 

W E A R I N G  Um... let's not discuss that today. It involves fleece and sweatpants and I am not proud.

L O V I  N G the awesome hot sauce that I picked up at Tijuana Flats while I was home!

It's a local Orlando chain, and one of the best things about it is that they have a ginormous hot sauce bar with like elevnty billion of their own sauces. I'm not very hardcore when it comes to hot things (although to my credit, I have at least *tried* every hot sauce they offer), so their "Smack my sweet ass and call me Sally" sauce is usually my favorite. This is it's slightly spicier, more festive cousin. They had a deal where if you donated $5 to their "Just in Queso" charity, you got a free bottle. SCORE! I'll spend the next couple of weeks putting it on everything.

W A N T I N G a billion dollars so I can move back to Orlando like... tomorrow?

N E E D I N G a few extra hours in the day so I can feel like I'm caught up on everything. And maybe a nap.

F E E L I N G all of the "I miss people!" feelings. Is there a word for that? You can't just be like "I feel all miss-y!" because that sounds dumb. 

C L I C K I N G Catching up on the Tumblr of my pal Nick, mostly because he is endlessly amusing, but also because he sometimes looks like this. (Trust me, you want to click that.) (Hi, Nick. I'm creeping your Instagram again. Excellent handsomeness.)

What are you crazy kids up to this Sunday?

Florida Trip - The Beginning!

I'm finally diving into the silliness that was my over two week long trip home to Florida! Writing about it is making me a little sad, since I would obviously much rather be there than here, but if I don't get around to blogging about it soon, I'm afraid I'll lose all of the details!

As you guys probably know, I am awful at sleeping what I like to refer to as "normal human hours". My sleep schedule is pretty nonexistent, but I most often fall asleep somewhere between 3-5 a.m. On the 25th, though (the day of departure), I managed to fall asleep before midnight and wake up around 4:30 a.m. That's almost normal sleep, right?

So there I was, hanging out in my bedroom, doing some last minute packing and emailing and such. Then I decided to do a last minute check of the weather, and saw that it was calling for freezing rain. Whaaat? I mean yes, the weather has been wintery, but the 40s/50s kind of wintery, not the angry things attacking from the sky variety! Why did the evil precipitation have to wait until the one morning that I had somewhere super important to be to rear its ugly head?

Plus, the Branson airport is in the middle of nowhere. It's about 6 miles off the highway, and those miles are so steep and curvy that you can only go about 35 mph the whole way. The evil weather meant that I needed to leave a good 45 min earlier than I planned, so the whole morning suddenly became a lot more rushed and stressful. Good thing I woke up so early! (My flight was at 11:30, and it normally takes about 45 min to get to the airport. Since it's a tiny airport, you don't need to get there very early, so I was planning to leave around 9:30.)

Yes, I snapped this on my way there. You can judge me for car photography now. But seriously, would you want to do this drive in freezing rain? I somehow made it in one piece, but by the time I arrived the edges of my windshield where the wipers don't reach were covered in ice. I guess that the rain would hit, freeze, and just stay there. Eep! I don't remember much about my pre-flight time in the airport, but I would assume that I basically flung myself at the check-in person with cries of "FLOOOORIDA! PLEEEEEASE!"

Nobody ever believes me when I tell them that the Branson airport is decorated with dead animals. Here's your proof.

This is the glamorous look of a Crystal who is pretty damn happy just to be on the plane, but is exhausted from the morning and wishing they would just finish de-icing the damn plane so I can get to Florida already.
(I totally knitted that scarf.)

I was a little creeped out by how ORANGE this apple juice was. I mean, I'm not a big drinker of juice, but isn't apple supposed to be kinda brown? Did the flight attendant mix me some kind of weird cocktail? So confusing. (Also, Southwest still serves peanuts. Unexpected.)

One unremarkable layover in Chicago and a whole bunch of hours later, I made it to Orlando! I walked as fast as humanly possible from the plane to the monorail, and then met up with Katie near baggage claim. Hooray for reunions! Do I have any photos of this reunion? Nope. But I do have a photo of the airport's half-assed Christmas tree. Oh, Orlando. You haven't changed a bit.

I didn't even stop walking to take this photo. "It's a half-assed photo of the half-assed tree!"

We stopped by Katie's so that I could change clothes and she could grab a husband (hers, not a random one.) and then we set off for Disney's Polynesian Resort so that we could drink things and possibly watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach. The bar ended up being super busy, so we drank at the pool bar instead.

I tried to capture the spirit of "Hey look! I'm at a lovely tropical resort with my drink, and definitely NOT back in Missouri with all of that freezing rain and stuff!", but that photo turned out looking like this:

Not quite what I was going for. So instead I'll just stick in this photo I took from my balcony when I stayed here in 2001. Just imagine this, but at night, and through a slight haze of alcohol and travel, and you'll have the right mood.

If you squint really hard, you can see Cinderella Castle on the horizon, right near the center!

We sat around sipping drinks and catching up, and I nibbled on the pork nachos that were ordered (not my thing, but I hadn't eaten since like 5 a.m., so I'll take it!), caught the Electrical Water Pageant as it passed (still cheesy and amazing) and then we hopped aboard the monorail to move on to the Grand Floridian so we could visit the giant gingerbread house there! (And also the bar.)

Checking out the holiday decorations at the Disney resorts is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. I'd planned to go around and photograph the decorations at most of the resorts to show you guys, but plans changed a bit and I only ended up with photos of a few. Oops! The Grand Floridian does this awesome gingerbread house every year. There are even people inside (kind of visible through that big window) who you can buy slabs of gingerbread from. Plus, it always smells great.

I've somehow never been to any of the bars at the Grand! I go here for afternoon tea with Katie a few times a year, but it's just never been a drinking destination. Who knew that there were still places at Disney World that I haven't been to? We shared some cheesecake and creme brulee, and then exhaustedly monorailed back to the Polynesian, since that's where we were parked. I was totally wiped out at this point! I'd been up since about 4:30 a.m., it was now after 10 p.m. (by best estimate going from the time stamps on my photos). NAP TIME!

Delightful vintage Harry Potter sheets were applied to the couch, and sleep I did... until about 3 a.m. when I woke up super sick. My body occasionally does this charming thing when I get super stressed where it just shuts down and very unpleasant things happen. I'll spare you the lovely details, but I spent the next 6+ hours throwing up, and then I slept for about 20 solid hours. Poor Katie kept watching to make sure I was still breathing. I had to move to Ashlee's house on Wednesday because Katie had other company coming, so we somehow managed to get my zombie self into the car and to my new temporary home. I basically dropped off my bags, plopped into Ashlee's bed, and slept another 10 hours or so until she got off work. Nothing says vacation like sleeping through the first few days, am I right?

I'll pause my story here, since this is already quite long, and pick up with tales of Thanksgiving next time!

Awesome Gift Idea For History Lovers!

Just a note- This is not a sponsored post, just passing along an awesome deal!

I've posted here a couple of times about the British History Podcast, and I know that several of you mentioned that you were planning to go check it out. (If you have, let me know what you think!) There are almost 130 free episodes available now, and you can listen to them on iTunes, right on the show's website, or through the new (FREE!) app for iPhone! If you haven't listened to any episodes yet, go check it out and then come back to this post!

The snazzy thing is that in addition to all of those free episodes, there are also a bunch of episodes available for those who become members of the site! They're offering a holiday package that would be a seriously cool gift for anyone on your list who loves history, OR who is planning to do some traveling this year, since there's a limited time perk that will come in handy for their adventures!

Photo: Introducing The British History Podcast Holiday Package! 


If you sign up for a yearly membership to the BHP in the next two weeks you’ll get:


Access to the exclusive members’ only episodes (Past, Present, and Future!)

A set of British History Podcast  Buttons (for your bags, jackets and utilikilts) and stickers. 

Membership to the National Trust for Scotland USA - which includes:

A beautiful, full-color guide to National Trust Properties and Sites 
(Perfect for planning your dream trip to or though the UK)

Access to over 400 National Trust Sites around the World (Scotland, Wales, England, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand)

Free subscription to Scotland in Trust, the award-winning magazine

Free Parking at Scotland National Trust sites

and last (but certainly not least), discount admission to Whisky Live, the premier whiskey tasting show held in cities all over the world.

All together, it’s over $150 values for just under $60- plus, you’ll help us keep this podcast going. The lights can’t stay on at the British History Podcast without your support. For the price of a latte a month, you can help ensure that this podcast continues providing ad-free, accessible history every week for years to come.
Introducing The British History Podcast
Holiday Package! 

If you sign up for a yearly membership to the British History Podcast in the next two weeks you’ll get:

*Access to the exclusive members’ only episodes (Past, Present, and Future!)

*A set of British History Podcast Buttons (for your bags, jackets and utilikilts) and stickers. 

*Membership to the National Trust for Scotland USA - which includes:
-A beautiful, full-color guide to National Trust Properties and Sites (Perfect for planning your dream trip to or though the UK)
-Access to over 400 National Trust Sites around the World (Scotland, Wales, -England, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand)
-Free subscription to Scotland in Trust, the award-winning magazine
-Free Parking at Scotland National Trust sites
-And last (but certainly not least), discount admission to Whisky Live, the premier whiskey tasting show held in cities all over the world.

All together, it’s over $150 values for just under $60- plus, you’ll help keep this podcast going. The lights can’t stay on at the British History Podcast without your support. For the price of a latte a month, you can help ensure that this podcast continues providing ad-free, accessible history every week for years to come.

Sign up for membership here!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

An Attempt To Brighten A Dreary Day

You guys can not even begin to imagine how much mail was waiting for me when I got back from Florida. I get a lot of mail and packages in general, so given that I was gone for over 2 weeks... yeah. There was a lot.

I had one ginormous box from Platefull Co-Op full of supplies to make Tropical Island Chex mix. Given that the ground is covered in snow and everything outside is grey and dreary, anything tropical sounded pretty great! (If you happen to live near a Publix, my favorite grocery store ever, they have a BOGO deal on several flavors of Chex until Dec 18!)

Ingredient List

So, here's the thing... I live by myself and I don't eat all that much, so I have no idea what I would do with 20 servings! I decided to just make a large-ish mug full for now. I'm also not a fan of math, so rather than attempting to divide all of the recipe ingredients by 20, I just played it by ear.

Ingredients assembled! (Um, except for the coconut. What on earth did I do with it? Oops.)

My improvised recipe went something like this:

*Put a blob of butter/margarine in a cup and microwave until melted. Mix in enough brown sugar to make it kind of syrupy. Add a small splash of fruit juice, since I have no orange or pineapple juice concentrate, and the roads are too gross from the weather to go buy some. 

*Drizzle above mixture over about 2/3 cup of the Rice Chex. Stir with a fork to make sure all of the cereal is coated with sugary goodness. Microwave some more.

*Let microwaved mix cool, then sprinkle in some dried fruit and nuts. Mix up. Eat.


Thankfully it's hard to go wrong combining Chex, sugar, and fruity things, even if you totally ignore the recipe. I'd still much rather be snacking on this on an actual tropical island, rather than in my little snow-covered house!

Disclosure: I received the aforementioned big box-o-ingredients to inspire my post, but was not otherwise compensated.

St. Francis Inn Preview

Happy Weekend, everyone! As you can probably tell, I'm back from vacation! It's taking me a few days to adjust - on the day I flew home (Wednesday), I woke up to 81 degrees, and arrived home to 18! I'd like Florida back, please! I've been unpacking, doing a ton of laundry, and cuddling my cats, but also missing my friends and sunshine and palm trees!

I'm working on posts about my whole trip (there will be several!), but I wanted to do a bit of a teaser post about my getaway to St. Augustine! Although I lived in central Florida for 3 years, I'd never been there before, so it was fun to do something totally new!

I spent my night in St. Augustine at the St. Francis Inn, which has been around since 1791! I knew that I wanted to stay at a Bed and Breakfast, and this one won me over for several reasons.

exterior walled courtyard at st francis inn

First, I liked the location - Most of the accommodations in St. Augustine are located among the shops and restaurants, but this one is in a more residential area. You can still get to all of the sights within a 5-10 minute walk, but being a bit away from it all makes it much quieter!

Second (and this will shock no one who has read my blog for very long) - they have a cat. If I'm going to be away from my own cats for over 2 weeks, I want a kitty I can cuddle on for the day!

Third, I like the design of their rooms. The interior design is simple and relaxed, a lot like a guest room in someone's home. They're not the overly flowery, kitchy designs you might expect in some Bed + Breakfasts. (I always think of the episode of Gilmore Girls where they stay in one and are convinced that the flowers on the wallpaper have multiplied overnight.)

The inn has 17 rooms, each with its own name and style. I stayed in the Garden Hideaway, which is in a separate building from the main house. I'll have my own photos up soon, but for now here's a peek at it from their official website photos!

Garden Hideaway

See? Clean, bright, kind of beach-y. Love it!

Finally, the inn has great amenities! I'll cover them in detail when I write about my trip, but let's just say that being able to order delicious handmade seasonal lattes totally influenced my decision on where to stay! When I was telling a friend about my upcoming visit, I think my exact words were "They have free wine, gingerbread lattes, wi-fi and a cat. I may never leave."

Given that I'm blogging from home, I obviously did leave eventually. Are you curious yet about if the place lived up to the hype I just built up? Check back soon for all of the details! If there's anything specific you're curious about, let me know in the comments and I'll be sure to cover it!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friends and Limited Edition Beer. YAY!

“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Millennial Central for Budweiser. I received a product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

I am pretty much the luckiest girl ever - not only did I get to spend Thanksgiving with a bunch of friends this year, but Budweiser sent us a box of their limited edition small batch beers to enjoy over the holiday, too! 

Friends + Free Beer = Excellent holiday!

We did run into one small snag when it came to enjoying the Project 12 beer with our Thanksgiving celebration - there was some kind of shipping problem and my box-o-beer didn't arrive until December 5th! Oops! Oh well, beer is good any time, right? The change in date meant that I didn't have a big group of friends around to share with, but my friends Katie and Dan (who I was staying with at the time) were more than happy to jump in and give these a try with me! (There's a post about my actual Thanksgiving with friends coming up soon, too! The fact that the beer didn't arrive in time ended up being fortuitous, as my friend Ashlee, who I spent Thanksgiving with, was moving the next day, so we spent the evening trying to drink up everything in the house so it wouldn't have to go in the moving truck!)

If you didn't figure it out from the infographic above, the beer that Budweiser sent us were the limited edition winners voted as the favorites in their Project 12 contest. Each beer hails from a different part of the country, and has distinct flavor characteristics. 

Hi, Beer! I love that the labels are printed with the signature of the brewmaster that created them!

So, here's what you should know before we get into the taste testing: I pretty much NEVER drink beer. Katie does occasionally, and Dan is the most beer-savvy of our trio. You should also know that my desktop computer, on which I do all of my photo editing, kicked the bucket right before I left for Florida, so all I could do with these photos was resize them in Paint. High tech!

First up was the North Pacific Style Lager. I'll confess here that since I'm not really a beer person, I didn't expect to like any of these very much, but I was surprised to find that I actually kind of liked this! It's still not something I'd chug a bottle of, but I enjoyed sipping on my glass for a while. I must like hops, because this one is full of it! We were all pleased by the fact that there was no bitter aftertaste, and that it was smooth to drink. Of the three varieties, I'd rate this one the most beer-y (which is totally a word). 

Cheers to beer! (That's my hand in the foreground. Apparently I am "Sir Not Appearing In This Film.")

Katie would insist that I mention that she "helped". 

Up next was the Vanilla Bourbon Cask, which was the lightest and sweetest of our trio of beer choices. This was Katie's favorite of the three, and my second favorite. Judging by this photo, it is best when served with a side of peanut butter and Dan's hand. I enjoyed this beer, too, and we overall voted it as being a little heavier and smoother than the first. 

Check out this action shot! Oooh, ahhhh!

The Beechwood Bock was our third and final beer to try. This one ended up being Dan's favorite, but Katie was not a fan.

We tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to recreate Katie's "Noooooo!" face that happened upon tasting it.

Thor, however, thought it was great.

This beer is brewed with chocolate and caramel malts. I definitely picked up on the caramel, but not the chocolate. However, I tried a friend's chocolatey beer earlier this week, and it had a very distinct chocolate flavor, so I guess I was expecting something less subtle. If you're a fan of dark beers, this may rank high for you (as was the case for Dan.) 

We all had a great time sampling the three beers, and I thought it was interesting that each of us chose a different one as our favorite. (Thor only tried one, so he didn't get a vote.) If you dig beer (and hey, most people do!) I'd definitely suggest checking these out while they're available! I also suggest rewarding friends who let you sleep on their couch with a big box of free beer, but that's probably a given, right?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Birthday Dinner at Cafe Tu Tu Tango - Great Friends, Good Food, Awful Service!

Happy Birthday to me! Yep, the 11th was my birthday and since I knew I'd be spending all day traveling, I made plans to celebrate the night before with a few friends at Cafe Tu Tu Tango, a funky tapas restaurant on International Drive. It seemed like a good choice since I've been there before and liked the food, it's located in a spot that's fairly equidistant for my friends that live near Disney and those that live on the north side of town, the atmosphere is fun, and since the portions are small, you can easily still join the party while only spending a little money if you're on a budget. (I always hate when people have parties at a restaurant where I know I'm going to have to spend at least $20 just to be there.) I made a reservation for 8 people, some of whom I hadn't seen yet on this trip, so I was totally excited!

Katie and I took a quick photo before leaving her house for dinner.

Parking was horrendous - they mostly had the parking lot blocked off by the people doing valet, but we managed to come in the back way and find a fairly close spot. We checked in right on time, and the hostess let me know there was a bit of a wait. I told her it was no problem since we were still waiting for 2 people to arrive, and she took my cell phone number and said they would call or text when our table was ready. Since the weather was so great and there were a few other groups hanging out in the lobby waiting to be seated, we all went outside to talk and wait for the rest of our party.

Slideshow Image 2

After about half an hour of waiting, we started glancing around at the other restaurants within walking distance, wondering if we should just go somewhere else. At about 45 minutes, we all started pulling out our phones to complain via social media. When we hit the point of having waited an entire hour, we decided to go stand in the lobby and stare at the hostess until something happened. As you can probably guess, we were seated after less than 10 minutes of that. I know it can be tough to predict when you'll have a table open, but they must have known we'd have a long wait, and I feel like we should have been given some kind of warning about how bad it would be so we could have made an informed decision about if we wanted to wait or go somewhere else. Some small gesture of apology would have made a huge difference, ie "Sorry about that crazy wait even though you had a reservation! Here's a free appetizer in apology!" Just *something*, you know?

I do have to note that I and a few others in my group have been to Tu Tu Tango before, and we've always had good experiences in the past. Not sure what went wrong tonight, but the service was definitely bad enough to put me off going back anytime soon!

I can't even remember all of the weird things that went wrong with our service, but there were a ton of them. Our food started arriving before we got our drinks (A few people were splitting a carafe of the sangria, while others had ordered separate drinks. I went with the passion fruit sangria which was awesome). That wasn't so bad since we had water, but we also had no silverware! We had to ask at least 4 different people before we finally got some. I can't help but wonder if our waitress was brand new, because she seemed to have no idea how to take care of a table. For instance, once she came over to clear the plate of the person across from me, and he asked for another beer. Rather than doing the obvious thing of asking if anyone else would like another drink or menu item (it's tapas, so most people order several courses), she started to walk off! We had to call her back because a few of us did want more food. The carafe of sangria went pretty quickly since it was being split, but I don't recall her ever asking if we wanted another. I also don't remember anyone being asked how their food was. Basically all of the normal restaurant service things that are so commonplace you never notice them were missing, and it was super weird!

Group photo, minus Katie (who should be across from me) and Dave (who took the photo). Can you tell which one of us no longer lives in sunny Florida?

Bonus pic w/ Dave since he wasn't in the group shot. Yes, I seriously am that pale.

In addition to the awesome passion fruit sangria I mentioned above, I ordered the hummus (Which was okay, but basically just a big blob of plain hummus with some crackers and pita bread. Smaller portions of a few different flavors would have been much better.) and the cheesecake pops (awesome). A big part of the fun here is sampling the dishes that your friends order, but since nobody's food ever came out at the same time, it made doing that a little awkward. When I've gone in the past, we'd all order a round of food, each grab a few bites of each dish, and then order another round. The timing was just off this night, I guess.

We originally intended to go to Player One video game bar after dinner, but since we weren't seated until about 9:30 and service was slow, most of us weren't really up for another stop afterwards, so we just called it a night. Probably a good thing, since I needed to be up early-ish to head to the airport the next day!

Spending time with my friends was awesome, drinks were great, most of our food was good, but we were all pretty grumpy about the service and the crazy wait. I'll probably go back here eventually, but it will definitely take a while for the grudge I developed on this night to fade. There are so many awesome places to eat in Orlando, why keep going back to a place that let us down in such a major way?