Monday, January 30, 2012

Muz Loves: Enjoying Media

Hello Blogo-sphere.

You know what I find amazing about human civilization? Media. The fact that we have this whole paradigm that consists of different medium sources that branch out to even more sources. For example:
Print media branch out to newspaper, magazines, stories (fiction & non fiction), blogging, etc.
Visual media can branch out to photos and videos. And those branch out to even more like black and white photos, portraits, television, movies... Really, the different ways media impact our lives are infinite.

But let's get back to movies. Going to the theater to see this week's box office is such a standard part of being American. Even better, there are different kinds of movies you can go to see: horror, comedy, drama... you all know this, but really think about it. I mean, what other kind of animal in God's creation on Earth does that?

So with that being said, I thought I'd give a shout out to one of my favorite media: documentaries. And I'm not trying to sound snobbish in that. I  adore all the National Geographic, Frontline and other documentaries Netflix recently added. They are entertaining and I can always learn something new.  So I thought I would share a few of my favorite documentaries with you. Who knows, maybe you'll watch one tonight on instant queue.

Before we get into this: I claim no ownership over the film images below. And what's listed isn't in any real order. They are also not the "most up to date."

Also, the views I'm about to express are mine, and mine alone. If you disagree, then please let it be. After all, this is my blog. With that being said, if you would like have a healthy debate over any of these topic over a cup of coffee, I'm game.


"The Business of Being Born": Most of you know that I do not have any children yet. But due to my husband's stubbornness, we will one day. Frankly, I'm glad I found this documentary before we decided that we were ready to have children. This is a beautiful film about the classic story of women: becoming mothers. It makes you really think about some of the "standards" of giving birth, like inducing and caesarians. And as a person who does not know much about home births & mid wives, it showed me why some mothers chose to do a more natural birth. Whatever a mother chooses is right for her baby, it's right. But the film is very informative & has us thinking about what we will do in the future.
"Frontline: The Science & Politics Behind The Vaccine War": While PBS knows how to stay controversial, I'm surprised that they didn't shy away from such a debatable topic. While some would argue whether the film is unbiased, I personally (key word) found it to be very moderate and gave both sides on whether to vaccinate your child or not. Once again with children eventually on the way, I found this film informative. In the least, it encourages you to participate & communicate with your family doctor verses just listening.
"Fast Food Nation": Amazing book & a great movie. Both take a deep dive into the local & global impact of fast food companies. While the film is almost five years old and is more of a plot driven movie with actors, it inspires you to think about what's in the happy meal. While some say the book & movie drive them to vegan-ism, I mostly just feel bad for the employees that get stuck in cycle of working at a major slaughter house or fast food restaurant (not that there's anything wrong with that). Needless to say, you get a much darker view of the fast food world.

"Food, Inc.": Similar to "Fast Food Nation", "Food, Inc." takes a broader look at the food in our grocery stores. In fact, the movie inspired a rant-filled blog a few months ago. It motivates you to look at all your food whether it's ground beef or genetically altered soy beans in your ketchup. You would be surprised by what you find. The film has also driven us to aim for a more  simple life. Maybe we'll have a self-sustaining commune one day...
"Waiting For Superman": One goal I have when watching a documentary is learning something. But frankly, this film did more than just that; it opened my eyes to the world of education. I normally joke about my quality of education since I was raised in a modest farm-based town, but that was all in fun. I had no idea of the major issues this documentary brought to my attention. I feel it gave a moderate view of some controversial issues. Unfortunately, I feel lost in what I can do. In most documentaries, you are inspired to just be better informed, but frankly, our education system in America is so broken, it's not going to improve by just me attempting to get the best kind of education for my children. Our nation's education is a huge issue with a lot of separate problems. And there's no easy answer.

So there you have 5 documentaries that I adore. I feel that these films help you make crucial decisions in your life. And hopefully, it's for the better. But mostly, it informs you while making you hungry for more details. As news producer I feel that media should never tell you what to think, but rather what to think about (debating over that fact will be saved for another day, but keep up with me here). That's what these amazing films do. It's so easy to get caught up in our day to day lives that many of us don't take the time to sit and really think about what's going on in this world. C'mon, we have our troops at war in a country that's half a world away, the leaders of our country care more about arguing than to solve any problems, companies are growing larger without caring for their employees or consumers... Not to mention worldwide hunger, debt & violence... There is much more occurring outside our yard, yet it deeply impacts us as a whole.

As for an update in my world: I'm attempting to keep up with everything as the husband & I attempt to find a new home. Yay for first-time home buyer jitters.

Also, don't ask about the French non-diet book. I got so caught up with visiting friends in Illinois & a very busy work week that I... didn't keep track of what I ate... Started again yesterday though. And I recently found out that I've lost a few solid pounds since this time last year. Go me.

Wondering what I'm going to write about next month? So am I. I guess we'll both find out next week. Until then, take a moment to think about a few things:
- The world outside your home
- What recent accomplishments you can enjoy (Frankly, just being you is astonishing... in a good way)
- What you can look forward to

Monday, January 23, 2012

Muz Love: Besties

Yes, you read that title correctly. "Bestie" is my pet name for my best friends. And friends, this week is dedicated to them.

First off I have to say, I was never really that "popular" in my hometown. I was picked on a lot as a kid, taken advantage of, and took on a lot of anger and pain. But that's for another therapy session. After a lame 18 years, I finally went off to college and caught onto that I'm a decent human being.

The funny thing is that during college, I started talking more to a friend I grew up with all this time. I guess I was just too silly to realize how special she was until after we both moved out of our parents' homes. Then when I got engaged, we grew even closer. She even turned out to be my maid of honor at the wedding.
Pre-Wedding T-Bell = "Om nom nom"
If you've been reading my comments on here, you would know this special woman as "Trampy McTrampy." And she really is amazing with a fabulous, dark humor.  Since we both grew up in the same small town, we can loath the previous jerks and laugh at the "She's now doing WHAT?!" jokes together. She's brilliant and witty. Frankly, I don't know what I'd do without her. So to show my appreciation, her boyfriend and I scheduled a little surprise for her on her birthday last Friday.
What could be better than surprise birthday sushi? Nothing, that's what.
Around the time I first started working in news, I was lucky enough to be trained by another lovely lady. She is also from a small farm town in Central Illinois. And while I've only known her for about 5 years, we've become the best of friends. Since we are in similar fields, it's always good to have someone to rant about news stations these days. In fact, I helped videotape her wedding.
It's a photo of a photo, but it's one of my favorites
Now that I'm showing her wedding photo, I have to add that she's now married to a wonderful man. The two are our first couple friends. And we love it. Through thick and thin, we can always depend on these two. And you can bet that when the four of us are together, we are going to have fun.
Just the four of us
These two lovely ladies (and my mother) are probably the only things I miss in Central Illinois. But I also need to give credit to the amazing friendships I'm developed in Western Kentucky. While they may say other wise, I feel that something beautiful is growing.

So there are three beautiful women that I'm lucky enough to work with here. They are all amazing mothers and are so smart & strong. It's an understatement to say they have made the transition to a new place easy. Outside of an amazing job, I feel that I was meant to meet these ladies. In respect of their anonymity, I will keep it brief. But for the record, I love them like sisters.

While I said I would keep anonymity, I'm still going to post their photos. Just to show how beautiful they are.

I have to say, before all of this, I never knew how inspiring having friends could be. Due to my previously mentioned childhood, I grew a tough skin and became very reserved. But amazing people like my husband and these lovely ladies are working hard to pull me out of that shell.  It feels great & life couldn't be any better.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Playing The Wild Card

I know I only did it once, but I'm taking a quick break from Muz Loves to introduce a new thing I'm bringing to Limelight Musings: The Wild Card. From now on, I'm going to post about a fun project on the third week of every month (give or take). I hope you enjoy it.

I should warn you this week's Wild Card doesn't have any pretty photos since I didn't decide to write about it until afterward. Whoops.

Now that things have settled down from the Holidays, I'm attempting to get back into cooking. And I was able to find a bunch of new recipes to try thanks to pinterest (isn't it amazing?). One recipe that I had to try was the Pork Chops with Apples & Garlic Smashed Potatoes. Looking back on it, I really raised the bar since I've never cooked pork chops or potatoes and tend to mix up teaspoons & tablespoons (don't judge).

But I wanted to change all that and first went to the grocery store. And I think there maybe a conspiracy at my local grocer. One of the ingredients I needed was apple cider, which I was having a difficulty finding. So, I asked a store employee & this is how that conversation went:
Me: "Excuse me, do you guys have any apple cider?"
Clerk: "Actually, we just ran out. It's normally in the aisle one. You could even check, but we're out."
Me: "Darn, do you know when a new supply will be in?"
Clerk: "... So hopefully sometime this week. Once again, you could check aisle one, if you'd like."
Me: "But you're out, right?"
Clerk: "Yeah."
Me: "Ok... Thank you..."

While I picked up a few more items, I kept thinking about that conversation. I eventually headed over to aisle one and you know what I found? Apple cider and lots of it. But instead of enjoying the fact I now have a ridiculously large jug of apple cider (when I just needed 3/4th of a cup), I'm paranoid of some grocery store-apple cider conspiracy.

I'm onto you agent store clerk.

But lets go ahead and get to cooking dinner. First off, I never knew how easy garlic smashed potatoes are to make. Seriously. You boil some potatoes with a couple cloves of garlic, drain out some of the water, add some buttermilk & spices, then smash. That's it. And it's healthier to include the potato skins. Needless to say, I'm making garlic smashed potatoes more often from now on. You should too.

Now when it came to the pork, it was pretty simple, despite my fears. The worse part was trying to rub the spices on freshly butchered meat. Don't get me wrong, I love eating steak, ribs, you name it. But actually holding a dead animal's muscle in your hands (with some left over blood) is intimidating. But I eventually got them sizzling in the skillet.

I do have to say this about skillets. I don't know what it is with the Food Network's recipes, but they seem to think I have a skillet the size of Texas. This recipe calls for two apples and one large red onion. And they seem to think I could grill all four pork chops, the chopped up apples & onion, and be able to still stir in one pan. I ended up dividing the portions into two. I also suggest you use one apple and a medium onion. Depends on how much you like onion. There was a lot left over.

Despite the portions, I greatly suggest you try this recipe. I even got a high five from the husband as he went off to get seconds.

Also in the news, I'm trying out a new non-diet, but still a diet book. It's called "French Women Don't Get Fat," by Mireille Guiliano. It goes beyond counting calories and helps instruct you of how to approach food in a French way. And if you consider the French paradox, it's tempting enough to try. With me admitting that I'm reading a diet-based book, I hope my documented experience will help anyone else considering a non-American way of losing weight.

I've read a few chapters so far and am currently recording what I eat each day. That way I can take a broader look at what I am shoving into my mouth. The book itself is a good, easy read. It even throws in a few French words for you to look up; like dinde. Go ahead and Google that. I'll wait.

Next week, I'll bring back a Muz Love. And it will be just in time for a trip to the homeland. We will see what comes out of that.

Monday, January 9, 2012

January & Muz Love: Ancestry

In my attempt to bring a bit more personality to Limelight Musings, I decided to share with you all a few more loves in my life. While I have shared a few previously (mostly cooking, gardening & knitting), I figured I'd try to open up more outside of projects. So get ready for some Muz loves!

Ok, so let's be honest. Being a Caucasian girl growing up in a farm town as an only child in a small, spread out family was pretty bland. We don't have any time-honored family traditions and kept things pretty simple around the holidays. Plus my family is old. My grandfather Moses would of turned 100 in 2011. So all of my grandparents were far into their golden years by the time I came along. In fact, I missed out even meeting one grandmother.
I never met Grandma Moses, but I remember Grandpa Moses as a true gentleman.
 Looking back on my childhood, I think I knew I was missing something. I remember as a kid, I would dream of being Hispanic and have a huge family with a long list of fun traditions, art & culture. As a teen, I even considered converting to Judaism to become part of a tradition, community & family based religion. Obviously neither of those make sense now, but oh well. And while my mother reiterated a few family myths & lore she heard from her mother, we were far from remembering our ancestors in any special way.

Then, right before I graduated from college, I interned as a producer for a 9pm newscast that would have feature interviews I had to set up. I don't remember how I became in contact with Mike Wendel from Bishop Hill's Heritage Association, but together, we prepared a great interview. For the show, a history reenactor came to talk about Saint Lucia night & some of the special things the Bishop Hill's community does during the holiday season. She brought chocolates, wine, a wooden Lucia tree & even two kids dressed up as Lucia & a tomte. It was an amazing interview, looked great, and we all enjoyed the edible props afterwards.
Looking back on 2008
At the beginning of my ancestry journey, I knew my paternal grandfather was 100% Swedish. While his family did not go to Bishop Hill, the whole experience began this ancestry drive. While my father never expressed much about family traditions, this was a chance for me to look into my ancestors & possible traditions they followed.
So that's what started it all. At first, it was slow. Due to working so much in Central Illinois, I didn't get to far. That is until about a year an a half ago. First, I was contacted by one cousin, Annette. Here is the beginning of our conversation through email:

Annette: "My name is Annette... I am wondering how you are connected to this family."
Me: "... I'm the daughter of Bill & Barb..."
Annette: "Hi Amanda!!! I wondered if this was you...."

Turns out Annette was a cousin that was close to my grandparents & even visited my parents & me when I was a child. She was able to provide a lot of information about my Great Grandfather, who we are related through. She was also very helpful in my attempt to slowly put together a tree through I then spoke with my Mother's brother who shared all of his work through the same site. He even showed us my Grandfather Moses' military ID during WWII.

 Since we moved, I've had a bit more time. I've heard back from three distant cousins through various family branches. Through them,, and, I was able to extend new branches, and learn new stories. I do feel bad that I debunked two stories that my grandmother told my mother. But it's so fun & addictive.

I now have even more leads thanks to my parents. For Christmas, my mother bought me a year subscription for's international access. It's already helped tremendously. My mother's side has been in America for a very long time. Before Christmas, they were either from Ireland or in America. Mom insisted she heard her family was also from England.  Through the subscription, I finally found that possible English connection which continued all the way to the 1500's.

Also through out this process I've received more photos from father and mother. My Dad gave me my Grandpa Swanson's WWII book which has all the photos my grandfather took while serving his country.

There were so many other photos, including my grandparents as children, great grand parents, etc. I'm slowly in the process of making digital copies of everything. I hope one day to redo Grandpa Swanson's war book since the book itself is crumbling. And you know, I'll do that sometime in between work, cooking, knitting, blogging, gardening, and whatever other hobby I come up with in the meantime. No pressure. I'm on it.

Not only is this journey through my family tree enjoyable, but it's also important. While it can teach possible stories and traditions, it also helps my ancestors live throughout history. You could be the only person that connects the dots between your father and a Revolutionary War soldier. And decades from now, your great, great grandchild may try to learn about you.

On a lighter note, looking up your ancestry could help come up with funny baby names (like Truls Lawson Barger... it's funnier if you say it with a Swedish accent).

I hoped you enjoyed my little testimonial about my family tree. It's a fun, addictive way to remember and honor the thousands of people that met at some point of time for me to be born. I figure I owe it to them. Cause you know, I wouldn't exist otherwise.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Ok. I'm not going to lie. This is a shameless plug. In hopes of me winning an amazing giveaway. So, I'm sorry readers, but it's for my own good.

As many of you know, I am starting to fall in love with herbs in border-line unhealthy way. Things got a little crazy when I made essential oils, a homemade cleaner, or even the alcohol based essential orange oil.

With that being said, I wished I had found The Mountain Rose Blog before I tried any of those ideas. It's nothing short of amazing inspiration for the at-home herbalist. I can't wait until spring & to garden again so I can try some of their fantastic suggestions.

With this shameless plug, they are holding a give away that I can only dream of: a package of ingredients for home-made cleaners. That even includes essential oils that are much better than my own. And one of the ways I could enter is by blogging about it so, ta-da! I hope my number is the randomly selected magic number!

And even if I don't, this really is an amazing blog that you should check out sometime. There are so many ideas I can't wait to try this spring. Like growing calendula or using local bees wax to make any of their lip balm recipes.

I think that's my limit of shared links for the day. Thank you for dealing my my shameless attempt at winning a great giveaway. For the rest of the month, I plan to share with you a few of my personal loves. Can't wait.

Oh, and I doubt this will increase my chances but... mountainroseblog, mountainroseblog, mountainroseblog. Maybe if I can cut this down to thirty seconds, they will let me into the advertising wing of the station... doubt it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Days After Festivus

Well, it came & went. Festivus is over... in my mind anyway. And while I am blessed to have one last day off from work, there is plenty to do. First off, we had several lovely guests stay in our home through out the holidays. So we need to get things back in order from that.

Oh, did I mention that I hosted a fabulous New Year's Eve Party ?!
Yeah, the party turned out amazing.
It was an uneventful, but awesome party. I'm so happy to see so many people stop by & ring in the new year with us. But, needless to say there's quite a bit of post-party cleaning to do. Add that to taking down Christmas decorations, and I'm spent.

But enough of me wallowing in my mess. There are a lot of good things that come with the beginning of a new year. First off, there is post-holiday sales! Half of the New Year's Eve food was 50% during a huge day-after-Christmas sale of Holiday merchandise. Plus, I was able to purchase proper storage for our decorations along with ornaments for next year. And all of it was at least 50% off.
I love Target sales <3
So thanks to that sale, we are more prepared for next year. Which I need. Especially if I'm going to attempt to continue this... thing. I don't even know how to describe this new craft, gardening, social identity I am trying to create.

Speaking of the new storage we attained, I use the days after Festivus as an excuse to organize & clean out the house. Thanks to our family, we have some great gifts that we need to make room for. And with items like new clothes, we now have a reason to go through our closet & see what older clothes we don't wear. While I am not attempting another yard sale, we will donate whatever we find.

At least I can say with my need to purge, the husband doesn't have to worry about me becoming a hoarder...

Another perk to the days after the Holidays: I can finally get back to every-day life. Don't get me wrong. I love Festivus. But after more than a month, I am ready to get back to work & return to a "regular" schedule. I need to get back to working out, cooking & all the fun things I was able to do any day after work. It's time to get to those New Year resolutions!

So there's my first blog post of the year: fears of the mess in my house & the readiness to get back into the swing of things. That sounds about right. Plus the "How was your Holiday?" small talk is getting redundant.