A Night with Matthew Morrison: “Finding Neverland” preview (March 18, 2015)

It’s been six weeks since I experienced Neverland, so I guess it’s time I finally tell you all about it!

A couple months ago, I realized that the first week of previews for Finding Neverland coincided with Spring Break at work, so I made a decision to fly out to New York for a few days to see the show and finally hear Matthew Morrison sing live. I was a little disappointed that no one was able to come with me, but it did enable me to buy a 3rd row ticket, so I couldn’t be too mad!

Finding Neverland marqueeOn the day of the show, I got my hair did and got all dressed up for a great night out at the theatre. It was still very cold in New York, but the wind had died down. I wanted to eat at Bareburger, mistakenly thinking it was like Roam, but it was a little fancier than I was expecting and had too long a wait. I grabbed a mediocre slice of pizza before getting my place in line for entry into the show. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long in the cold. I was surprised to see a number of children in line, since it was an evening performance. (There is a moment in the second act when they specifically refer to children in the audience, but it still felt odd to me.)

View From My SeatI haven’t been to a show on Broadway since 1999, so it was definitely a thrill to walk back into a theatre and have a Playbill in my hand. I let the usher walk me down to my seat, which was SO close. When I was debating which seat to get a month before, I wasn’t sure if front row would be like front row at a movie theatre (i.e. not great) or if there would be space between us and the stage. I ended up in the middle of the third row of the third preview, which was perfect. I joked on Twitter that I was close enough to see Matthew Morrison sweat (spoiler alert – I WAS RIGHT!).

I’d never seen the 2004 movie this musical is based on (I can’t stand Johnny Depp), so I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t even seen Peter Pan since I was a kid, so even though I know the basic details, I’m not sure I could give you the whole plot, point for point. But as a Matthew Morrison fangirl, I just wanted see him perform live, however it may turn out.

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35-for-35 Recipes: Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup

I have a chicken tortilla soup recipe that I’m totally in love with, so I was excited to try another similar soup. However, this one just fell flat. The beans are a nice addition, but there just isn’t enough taste to make it worthwhile. I’ve spiced up the tortilla soup by using taco seasoning instead of the multitude of spices listed, so that might be an option for this one. Also adding some Papalote salsa to my bowl made it more palatable. I’m not a spicy food lover, but it need a little SOMETHING to make it more than just beans and chicken in broth.

35-for-35 Recipes: Crockpot Cocoa

A couple weekends ago, we had some stormy weather, so I thought I’d break out this new cocoa recipe. It was fairly quick, though it’s not a set-it-and-forget kind of recipe. You need to be stirring this fairly frequently to keep a skin from forming and to make sure that all the chips melt into the mixture.

It also makes a LOT of cocoa. I had two mugs full fresh out of the pot and was able to fill one of my large Pyrex bowls AND a Glad storage container. I popped the plastic storage in the freezer to enjoy later, which was also delicious. This is way richer than my normal Swiss Miss packet, but I’m sure the calories reflect that as well!

Crock Pot Hot Chocolate

35-for-35 Recipes: Crock Pot Cream Cheese Chicken

The results of this recipe are not attractive. The recipe calls for the chicken to be shredded, which takes a long time. I also missed that this should be served over pasta, so it looks even worse, just sitting on the plate. I think it could totally work without shredding the chicken, which would make it visually more appealing. The flavors are on point, however, and I will definitely be adding this to my rotation.

Cream Cheese Chicken

35-for-35 Places: Mendocino, CA

On Martin Luther King Jr Day, I decided to actually start on my “places” challenge (which is likely NOT going to be completed, but is still fun!). While looking through my waterfall hikes book, I noticed a couple near Mendocino, CA. I wasn’t in the mood for a hike, but thought Mendocino might be a nice day trip. I have friends who frequent it every chance they get, so I wanted to see what all the hype was about.


Welcome to Mendocino, CA

It’s a nice 3 hour drive up US-101 and over Highway 128. I got a late start, which wasn’t ideal, but I thought I’d still have a good afternoon and then stay for dinner before heading back to the City. However, I had no idea just how twisty and dark Highway 128 is. You have to cross three different mountains with the resulting switch back turns and two-lane roads. The last bit is through a MAGNIFICENT redwood forest that looks like it’s out of a postcard. If there had been any safe places to stop, I would have some photos of it. However, those tall trees block any light from above, make it quite dark even though it was still afternoon. I knew that I wouldn’t want to drive back on this road in the dark (though I ended up doing so for the most part), so I didn’t end up staying long.Mendocino Village

I visited a couple of shops on Main Street, including the Gallery Bookshop. I picked up a couple of postcards and met the bookshop cat. But my favorite part was walking along the cliffs and watching the waves come in as the sunset. There’s something about the ocean that just soothes me, which was exactly what I needed after that bare-knuckle drive in. I even took some videos, looking at the waves crashing through the rocks (thought I don’t know why there’s no sound).

Pacific Ocean in the CoveAll too soon, the setting sun meant it was time for me to get back on the road. I realized that I didn’t know how to operate my brights (turns out you have to push the lever away to have it hold), so I spent much of the first hour and a half, holding the lights on. I’d definitely loved to go back and explore more another time when I actually have time to play.

Sunset in Mendocino, CA

35-for-35 Recipes: Crock Pot Chicken Teriyaki

While my parents were visiting last month, my mom had the idea that we could make a few recipes over the weekend. That way, if they didn’t turn out, I had more people to eat it and wouldn’t have to suffer through a week of not great dinners.

The first one I tried was this crock pot chicken teriyaki. I love teriyaki ANYTHING and the photo looked delicious. My mom took the task of cubing the chicken, which is probably the most pain in the ass part of a lot of these recipes.

It smelled great when we served it, but it was WAY runnier than the photo on Pinterest. The taste of teriyaki wasn’t quite as strong as I would have liked, but the “optional” ingredients definitely weren’t necessary, so it was nice to have a simple ingredient list. I’m not a rice person, so I served it over mashed potatoes, which worked well to soak up the sauce.

It was a nice dinner, but I’ll keep looking for a teriyaki recipe that I enjoy more.

Teriyaki Chicken

35-for-35 Recipes: Creamy Italian Chicken

I’m using my flight to catch up on all my 35-for-35 posts. It’s so easy to get behind – I guess one of my resolutions should have been to write more!

I got this recipe from one of the crock pot cook books that my mom gave me for Christmas last year. It’s pretty simple with only about 4 ingredients. I’d done a simple one with chicken broth instead of cream of chicken soup and this really makes all the difference. The addition of the cream of chicken soup keeps the flavor in the finished product that the broth just didn’t have.

I do hate that cream of chicken soup, even the healthy version, has so much sodium! I’m sure I could probably make my own, but c’mon, I’m not gonna do that.

This is a nice, easy recipe that’s more hit than miss, so I’ll add it to the rotation for dinner.

Creamy Italian Chicken

35-for-35 Progress Report

It’s now been two months since my birthday (seriously – what the hell?!), so I thought I’d check in with where I am, what I’ve done and what’s left to go.

The Books challenge is going the best at the moment. With two weeks off at the holidays and less stress at work, it’s been easier to stay ahead on this challenge. I figured this part would be the easiest for me to accomplish, which is why it’s here. I want to feel like I’m making some progress in this ridiculous challenge!

The Recipes challenge isn’t going as well as I thought it might. Turns out, when I get home at night (or when it’s time to cook on the weekend), I’d much rather make something that I know I like rather than experimenting with something that might not turn out well and then having to eat it for a week. And since I’m not much of a cook, a lot of even the “simple” recipes call for ingredients that I just don’t keep in the house, making this a bit more expensive than I had anticipated. But I’m hoping I can branch out into some new and different recipes (mug cakes or other microwave-related things), instead of just concentrating on dinner things.

The Places challenge, well, it really hasn’t started yet. Due to family things, I wasn’t able to travel during the holidays and it now seems like I probably won’t be going to Oregon for Spring Break like I had originally planned. So I’m going to have to get more creative during the weekends (which are already filled with errands, chores and other local stuff) to take day trips within California. I still hope to go on my summer vacation, but that will only knock off a couple of new cities, so I’ve got my work cut out for me. I need to visit 3.5 new places a month from now on to stay on track. Yikes!

35-for-35: Copycat Chik-Fil-A Nuggets

I had very high hopes for this recipe, since I can no longer eat at Chik-Fil-A (for moral reasons), but miss their nuggets VERY much. I was intrigued by the recipe‘s call for pickle juice in the marinade and my mom was game enough to buy a jar of dill pickles just for the juice.

The recipe recommends marinating the chicken in the mixture for 2 – 4 hours, but trying to complete two recipes in one evening, we didn’t have time to leave it for 4 hours. Coating the chicken with the breading mixture was my favorite part because it’s just fun to shake stuff in a ziploc bag!

I’ve never fried anything before (have I mentioned that I’m generally afraid of my kitchen?), so I was a bit apprehensive about throwing these bites on my mom’s skillet and letting them sizzle in oil. It was also RIDICULOUS trying to flip each little chicken over to fry on the other side. But I managed to accomplish this without burning myself or the chicken, so I’m counting it as a win.

The final result was tastier than the pretzel chicken bites, but I didn’t really think they tasted like Chik-Fil-A. Perhaps marinating it longer would help and we used vegetable oil instead of peanut oil, which may also have contributed to the difference in taste. I’d definitely eat this recipe again, but only if someone else wants to do the frying!

Copy Cat Chik-Fil-A

35-for-35: Pretzel Crusted Chicken Bites

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Bites ready for the ovenLast month, I realized I probably should have made this challenge to try 35 new restaurants, given my fear of my own kitchen appliances and my basic lack of patience and counter space. But when I realized I was going to be at my parents’ house for two weeks over Christmas, I figured I’d spend some time cooking to catch up on the first month of this part of the challenge. Well, God laughs when you make plans, so it wasn’t until the last night of my break that I finally made it into the kitchen.

Though I have a very diverse and delicious-looking Pinterest board, I asked my mom to help me narrow down what would actually be possible for me to complete without burning the house down. I settled on Pretzel Crusted Chicken Bites to start. Mom helped me cut up the chicken pieces, while I got all the bowls of ingredients ready for dipping. This was WAY messier than the blog post makes it out to be, and I could only dip about three pieces before I needed to rinse the flour/egg/pretzel gunk off my fingers. It was also WAY harder to crush the pretzels than I expected.

The dish turned out fine, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. It tasted best with barbecue sauce, though ranch dressing was also good. Using regular pretzels instead of the pretzel thins the recipes recommends probably contributed to the difficulty I had with getting the pretzels to actually stick to the chicken (my mom reports that by the second day, all the pretzels fell off). Additionally, plain chicken breast and plain pretzels are pretty bland, so using a flavored pretzel would probably kick this up a notch.

Final product - Preztel Crusted Chicken Bites

All in all, it wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t a revelation either. Thanks to my parents for being my guinea pigs as I started this adventure!