About Falon Ballard

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Festival of Holidays

Festival of Holidays is back at California Adventure, and last week Brianna and I ate our way through a whole bunch of it. We will be discussing the Festival in detail on next week’s podcast, but for now, here are some of my preliminary thoughts.

In general, the Festival is much more appealing to me personally than last year’s. There are more food choices that aren’t quite as adventurous as last year, and the drink options seem to be much better (read stronger, and real alcohol) than the previous Festival. I actually bought the AP Sip and Savor pass this year because I am planning on trying way more items than I did last year. Here’s what I’ve had so far:

This is the pomegranate margarita. I actually bought this at Bayside Brews, but they also have a version at one of the Festival booths. It was yummy, and strong, and didn’t taste like a pre-made margarita, so win.

We sampled both offerings the Winter Sliderland booth. This is the turkey with cranberry sauce and stuffing, and it tasted like Thanksgiving on a bun. I am not a huge fan of Thanksgiving turkey, but it was so moist and flavorful. This was Brianna’s fave.

I preferred the ham slider with pineapple relish. This was available last year and I loved it then and I love it now. The ham is so yummy, and the combo of the ham with pineapple is delish.

This might be my favorite new offering this year, the pomegranate mule. It was ah-mazing. Seriously, such a yummy cocktail, and it tasted strong, so bonus. The rosemary is the perfect addition.

We of course tried the mac and cheese from the Holiday Duets booth, and it was just okay. It was a little bland and needed some salt for sure. It would have been vastly improved with a kick of spice like jalapeno, or just something a little more flavorful. But I do think this is a bigger portion than last year so that’s good.

The mac and cheese, pomegranate mule, and these adorable cookies are all at the Holiday Duets booth. I mainly got these cookies because they are so stinking cute, but they also tasted yummy!

And we obviously had to try the mimosa flight from the Making Spirits Bright booth. They were all delicious, but my favorite was the white cranberry. I would drink that all day ery day.

I still have quite a few items to try before the Festival ends. Have you checked out the Festival yet? What should I try next?

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Thor Ragnarok Might Just Be My New Favorite Marvel Movie

After a somewhat heated discussion with Brianna on last week’s podcast about the awesomeness that is Thor Ragnarok, I decided to take some action. Brianna seemed to think the movie was overrated, particularly because Thor is not a witty humor/fun music kind of superhero. I couldn’t fully disagree because I didn’t have enough background knowledge, but I have since completed my research.

First, I watched Thor: The Dark World. And by watched it, I mean I left in on in the background while I was getting ready to go out because the fifteen minutes or so I actually watched of it was boring AF. Sorry Natalie Portman, I love you, but Jane is a flat character and I was so not into it. Then I rewatched Avengers Age of Ultron, which I had not seen since I saw it in the theater. And while I have always paid attention to and appreciated Thor (you so pretty), he was never my favorite Avenger, because hello all the eye candy. But this time, I paid close attention to Thor, and I think Ultron is the set up for Thor Ragnarok. Thor is much more sarcastic and witty with the Avengers than he is in his standalone films. And at this point we all know that audiences like their superhero action flicks with a dash of humor (thanks Guardians of the Galaxy!). So when you watch the Avengers and Ragnarok back to back, Thor makes sense. His character has evolved since the original Thor movies, and since the evolution has brought us hilarity, I’m okay with it.

I went to see Thor Ragnarok in theaters for a second time to complete my study and prepare my final arguments. And guess what? It was just as funny and entertaining the second time around. I literally saw this movie twice within eight days, and I liked it just as much the second time as I did the first. So here is my dissertation on the cinematic masterpiece that is Thor Ragnarok.

Chris Hemsworth. This is the most obvious piece of evidence in support of this film, so let’s just start here. Chris Hemsworth is possibly the most good-looking man ever to have been in a movie (sorry Richard Madden, I still love you endlessly, and you’ll always be my Prince Charming). Thor has always been hot, but in Ragnarok, he is beyond. The muscles, the haircut, the war paint. It is all working for me. Like soooooo working for me. Yum.

Also, everyone else in the movie. Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, and Tessa Thompson are the notable newcomers, and they join an already stellar crew that, along with Hemsworth, includes Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Ruffalo, and Benedict Cumberbatch. These Marvel films are killing it with the casting and everyone was fabulous.

The music. The soundtrack for this film is on point. The music is always a highlight in Guardians, and I loved that they brought the same sensibility into Thor. The rock/80’s vibe worked with this movie because of the settings, and it was rocking.

Girl Power. Tessa Thompson as the alcoholic badass warrior trying to escape her past is effing awesome as Valkyrie. But as much as I loved her, Cate Blanchett was absolutely phenomenal as Hela, the Goddess of Death and Thor’s long lost sister. First of all, Cate looks like she is 25, which is just not fair. And on top of that, she is ferocious and fierce and terrifying and I loved every minute of her performance. I love having a female villain and she nailed it.

The settings/backgrounds/graphics, etc. Sakaar, the new planet Thor ends up on, is super cool looking visually. I loved the costumes, the colors, the vibe, the characters, everything. The bright colors of Sakaar and the Bifrost Bridge really work with the humor and soundtrack of the film.

I laughed my ass off. Both times I saw this movie, I was laughing out loud at multiple points. As funny as I found it the first time, it was the fact that I found it equally as funny the second time that impressed me. A lot of times with action type movies, the humor is a one and done, and doesn’t hold up after multiple viewings. This is so not the case with Thor Ragnarok.

Brilliant fight scenes. The final battle was by far my favorite, but all of the fight scenes were very well done. There was something really visually appealing about watching a battle on a rainbow bridge, so that was the standout for me, but as usual with Disney and Marvel, the fight choreography was beautiful (not as good as Wonder Woman, but that’s to be expected).

Brotherly love. As someone who has not really seen the previous Thor films, my experience with Loki is limited to the Avengers, but one of my all-time favorite lines from the brothers is Thor’s quip in the first Avengers about Loki being adopted. Even though Loki had some moments of bad little brother in the film, it was cool to see Thor and Loki fighting on the same side. I guess all it takes to bring brothers together is a psycho sister.

Did I mention Chris Hemsworth? Seriously. So so pretty.

In conclusion, while Guardians of the Galaxy is always going to be up there as one of my favorite Marvel movies, I think that all together, Thor Ragnarok might have it beat (by just a little bit). I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, and guess what, I would consider seeing it in the theater again. I didn’t even see The Force Awakens in the theater three times, so that should tell you something. Even if you take the gorgeous man out of Thor (but please don’t ever do that), I think the other fantastic elements would make it a movie worth watching.

Have you seen Thor Ragnarok yet? What did you think?

 

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I Had a Shitty Day and Was Reminded I Am #Blessed

A couple of Fridays ago, I just had one of those days. At my wedding rehearsal, the mother of the groom was, to put it nicely, a bitch to me for no reason. I left Malibu at 5:00 on a Friday night. The Dodgers were playing in the World Series and I was stuck in my car.

It sucked. So I decided to pull off the parking lot that is the 101 on a Friday evening and find a bar with a TV and beer. Islands was the closest thing I could find, and though I mostly try to stay away from chain restaurants, I figured I might as well park it for an hour or two and let traffic die down (haha). I walked into the bar, found a table with a perfect view of the game, and ordered myself a beer. The waitress carded me, which was ridiculously unnecessary. I am 34. I do not look under thirty. And I was dressed for a rehearsal, which means I actually did my hair and make-up and was wearing something other than jeans and a T-shirt. I showed her my license, and she informed me it was expired. I told her I know, I already paid the fee, I just haven’t gotten my new one yet, but here is the paper that says I paid it and it’s renewed. She then told me she couldn’t serve me a beer because it was illegal. First of all, no, it’s not. Second of all, you didn’t need to card me in the first place, you were just trying to suck up. And now, I’m leaving. And also, I would have been the easiest $5 you made all night. And when I left the restaurant, it was 0-0; mere minutes later the Astros scored four runs and won the game. So basically this dumb waitress is the reason we lost the World Series.

But I digress (shocker). All in all, it was a shitty day. I was talked down to, denied my beer, missed my Dodgers, and sat in traffic for two hours. But by the time I got home, I was over it. I drank some wine, watched some crappy TV, and moved on with my life. As I’m writing this post, weeks later, I am totally detached from the events of the evening. In the grand scheme of life, it was all a bunch of petty bull.

And that’s when I realized (or remembered really, not like it’s the first time I’ve figured this out) that I am hashtag blessed. When I was teaching, I had more than one day that ended with me pulled over on the side of the road, hysterically crying to the point where I was unable to drive home. The bitchy parents and administrators I dealt with on a daily basis made the bitchy mother of the groom look like a saint. And how lucky am I that I was able to walk away from that situation? I now have a career I love, one that allows me the freedom to enjoy my son, enjoy flexibility with my time, and enjoy the people I work with. A career that stokes and inspires my creativity instead of crushing it.

So even though I had a shitty day, it was one of few these days. And I didn’t end up huddled in my car sobbing, so it really wasn’t all that bad. It didn’t leave me emotionally scarred, and by the next day (even with MOG continuing to be a bitch) it was over and done with and I was perfectly happy.

So thanks shitty day, for reminding me of all that I have, and how great my shitty days of present are compared to the shitty days of the past. I really am #blessed.

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Target $5 Wine is Delicious AF

Guys, I feel pretty certain that no one was more excited for the release of the Target $5 wine collection than I was. I mean, Target and cheap wine are basically my two favorite things in the world, you know, aside from my husband and kid. But really, it’s basically as if this collection was made for me. Of course, I was a little hesitant to get too excited before tasting these bad boys for myself. I certainly do not have high brow tastes when it comes to wine, but I also drink it enough and have had enough good wine to not be able to stomach two buck chuck anymore. I am delighted to tell you that I have sampled four of the five offerings from the Target wine collection and they were all pretty damn tasty. Here’s the breakdown:

Moscato: This is the only one I haven’t tried because moscato is disgusting.

Pinot Grigio: Brianna and I drank a bottle of this while recording the podcast, and it was yummy. Really light, a little fruity, but not cloyingly sweet. This wine is the perfect wine for summertime drinking. It goes down smooth, and could probably get you into some trouble because it’s so easy to drink.

Chardonnay: This is the only varietal I didn’t love, and that’s probably because I drink a lot of chardonnay and it’s the one varietal where I have expensive taste. I like my chardonnay to be oaky and buttery, and it’s hard to get that without spending a decent amount of moola on your wine. The Target offering certainly isn’t bad, and if you’re a casual chard drinker, you’ll probably really like it. It just wasn’t my fave.

Red Blend: I have to say, this one might be my favorite of the bunch. I am weird with my red wine, and I really only drink it when it’s cool outside (so like rarely), but this blend is light enough that you could drink it all year round. I will definitely be drinking this one all fall and winter.

Cab Sauv: This one was the most surprising because I have had very few (if any) good cabs for cheap. I guess it’s similar to chardonnay in that the best tasting cabs are usually on the higher end of the price point. However, this cab is bomb. It’s not bitter at all, but it still tastes full-bodied and rich. I would bring this to a party, it’s that good. Even though I prefer the red blend, I can definitely see myself drinking this throughout the winter months.

So there you have it. All in all, the Target $5 wine is an amazing deal for some really good tasting wine. I would recommend almost all of these varietals to even the pickiest of wine drinkers. The real beauty of it is you can buy several bottles at once and still not break the bank! Have you tried the $5 wine yet? Which one is your fave?

 

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The Best Books I’ve Read in the Past Three Months

This post contains affiliate links.

So I fell super behind with my What I Read monthly posts, so to catch up I’m going to give you the highlights from the past three months. I’ve already reached my yearly reading goal (woohoo!) and I have read a lot of amazing books so far. The past three months included some good ones, here are my favorites:

Glass Sword and King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard: I’m including both of these, though truth be told, I was a little frustrated by King’s Cage (mostly because I thought it was the last book in the series and it is so not). As I mentioned on the podcast a couple of weeks ago, I am really over all these YA books that keep their main couple apart for the entire series. Just let them get together already. This series definitely falls into the trap, but it is so well-written and such a cool concept that I let it go. But I better get some solid couple action in the end!

             

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: Okay, first of all, the cover of this book is to die for. I’m so glad I didn’t buy the hardcover version because the paperback cover kicks ass. I love Rainbow Rowell, and this book is kind of a spin off of Fangirl, which is amazing. In Fangirl, the main character writes fan fiction, and Carry On is the book that she ends up writing. It’s basically Harry Potter, if Harry and Draco fell in love and there was swearing and cell phones and modern technology. It’s amazing and I loved every second of reading this book.

Ember in the Ashes and Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir: You know a series is good if I read two of the books in the same month. I am really enjoying this series, though I am feeling the same frustration as I did with the Red Queen series (in fact these books inspired my podcast rant). But again, love the concept, love the characters and the writing is beautiful so I’m gonna give it its due.

              

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: This was just a fun book to read, and it was a nice relief from some of the heavier, darker books I’ve been reading lately. This is the kind of book that makes you smile. I connected with the characters, I was interested in their plights, and I love seeing body image issues dealt with in an unassuming way. I breezed through this one, and loved every second.

How about you? Read any good books lately? Let me know what to pick up next!

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Super Cute Bridal Shower Gift

Okay, so full disclosure here: I should have posted this months ago, but I totally forgot until I was recently going through my iPhone pics to clear out some space. I found these and remembered that I never shared this bridal shower basket I put together for my sister back in like April. So yay me for being on top of things!

But I did want to share this idea with you because it’s super cute and such an easy gift to put together, and it’s awesome for any bride who likes coffee and champagne (and if you don’t like those two things, then you are no friend of mine…no offense, just literally all my friends like coffee and champagne).

For the first part of the gift, I bought two champagne glasses which I then decorated with Mr. and Mrs. gold decals that I found on Etsy. You can also find these champagne glasses on Amazon or at many retailers (including Home Goods, whose wedding section is the shit). I picked up a bottle of champagne (prosecco if we’re being specific) and attached a tag that reads “To celebrate married life”. I made the design in Microsoft Word, used a tag punch to cut it out, and attached it with gold washi tape.

The second tag reads “For your first morning as husband and wife” (it rhymes!) and I fashioned it the same way as the prosecco tag and attached it to a bag of coffee.

The highlight of this box is these mugs I found that are perfect for my sister. We’re huge fans of the TV show Friends, and these mugs reference the episode where Phoebe is changing her name after getting married. If you don’t know Friends, the mugs are weird, but if you do, and you love it like my sister does, they’re awesome. You could always do some cute Mr. and Mrs. mugs too if your friends don’t like Friends.

Put all together, this is a super cute little basket perfect for any bride-to-be. It got lots of awwwwws at the shower and it was lots of fun to put together.

Do you have a go to bridal shower gift? Fill me in on your secrets!


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We’re Going to New York!

Guys, I have been in the mood for New York something fierce, and I finally found the perfect opportunity to take a trip: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming to Broadway, and I. have. tickets. Hells to the yes!

The whole process for being able to purchase tickets was crazy, and I seem to be one of the few lucky ones who had an easy time with it. A couple of weeks ago I registered for the chance to get an access code. I found out at the beginning of the week that my code would be sent to be on Wednesday morning, and that tickets went on sale at 8:00 am. I woke up at 7:45, logged into my computer, and waited. At 8:00 I entered my access code, selected the date I wanted, and bought my tickets. The show itself is in two parts, so technically you’re buying tickets for two shows. Not only do we have orchestra seats for both shows, the TOTAL for two tickets to both shows and fees was $200 Word. The whole thing took less than five minutes. According to Twitter, this was not the experience for most, so I guess I had some good karma going for me or something.

So our tickets are for July, during our birthday/anniversary week and we are leaving the kid with grandparents and heading to the Big Apple. I haven’t been to New York in a couple of years, and I have been having withdrawals like nobody’s business. But now with a trip on the horizon, I can focus on planning instead of jonesing. My last two trips to NYC have been with students, so I am looking forward to you know, going to a bar. Since I am forcing Matt to go to Harry Potter and Mean Girls (!!!!) I will be accompanying him to at least one jazz bar while we are there too.

Other must dos for me include: Strand Bookstore, a martini at a rooftop bar, and some big ass pizza. What are some other experiences I should check out while in New York? Leave me your best tips!


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