Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Promo Codes

Today I finally got my act together and purchased my 2012 planner (5 weddings and three babies due!). Right before I hit "submit order", I decided to do a quick Google search for Promo Codes for the website, and - lo and behold - found one for free shipping.

A sixty second search saved me $6.  

A nice reminder that I should always search for discount codes before ordering something online.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New motto

Be a girl with a mind, a woman with an attitude and a lady with class.

- Anon

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Devil Town - Bright Eyes

This song will forever remind me of my favorite TV show everrrrr.

on the other Scott

When Scott and I were on our honeymoon, we met two other couples that were both married the same weekend.  The six of us did an excursion together (to the adventure park, where we ziplined, swam in caves, etc).  The six of us also ventured in to Playa del Carmen for a day, and had several dinners together throughout the week.

I found out this morning that one of the husbands, Scott (far left in the below photo) was killed in Afghanistan on Monday.

I haven't spoken to that couple since we said goodbye in Mexico, almost eight months ago.  I'm Facebook friends with the wife, and have peaked at her photos several times since June, but we haven't had any actual correspondence.  I really don't even know what to say about this, except that my heart hurts so much for Lauren, and for the future that she and Scott were robbed of.  I've never known someone who was killed in the service, and I am so, so heartbroken for them.  It seems unreal that they will never celebrate their first anniversary, or raise a family together.  And it seems so unfair.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Robert F. Benson: 1935-2012

Scott gave the eulogy at his grandfather's funeral today, and I think it bears repeating:

My name is Scott Special, and for those of you that don’t know me, I am one of Benny’s 13 grandchildren.

To tell you the truth I had a hard time putting all my grandpa’s good traits into writing. No matter how hard I try, I can never do justice to what he overcame and achieved in his lifetime. I know we are all grieving today; and we should be - we have lost a great man. But I also know that wherever he is now he’s happy with his life – and he would want us to be happy too.

Benny was a father, a brother, a grandfather, an uncle, and a friend to all of us. I’m sure each and every one of you here today has something to share on how my grandfather touched your life, and he certainly touched mine.

One of the most memorable times I ever had with my grandfather was in the summer of 2005, when the two of us traveled to Europe together.  We went to Germany, and Luxemburg, and ended up in Amsterdam.  Just picture this - a college student who was drinking his weight in European beer, and his non-drinking grandfather with an E-Harmony account just wandering the streets, enjoying whatever happened to come across their path.   Pretty hilarious at the time, and even funnier now.

My grandfather was an avid traveler.  In addition to traveling Europe with me, he recently got back from a trip to Ireland with his companion, Ann, and my Aunt Diane.  He also joined my family on a Mexican getaway over Thanksgiving a few years back, where he repelled down a mountain waterfall, zip lined through the jungle, and took an insanely treacherous donkey ride up a narrow path.  He loved living life.

In addition to traveling to interesting locations, my cousins and I made many trips to visit him in his beloved Florida, and we will treasure those memories in the years to come.   I keep hearing about what a great man he was, how he was truly one-of-a-kind, and I think that’s a good way to describe him.   He was true to himself – he liked short phone conversations, shirts with two pockets, and a cold Diet Coke. 

Speaking of which, I was thinking the other day, about the amount of Diet Coke that he consumed in his lifetime.  He stopped drinking alcohol in 1980 - that’s 32 years ago. If we assume he drank at least 1 liter per day (and I do think that’s a modest assumption) then he drank 11,680 Liters.  To put that in perspective, that’s the size of a tanker truck filled to the brim with Diet Coke.

He was the kind of person that would think about other people before himself. He never liked asking for help but he was always ready to lend a helping hand to others.  Put simply – he was a good guy, and a nice man.

We may no longer get to see him but we’ll always have the special moments we shared with him. He will always have an important place in our hearts. 

Grandpa – I am so grateful that I grew up with you in my family and in my life.  I will miss you, and all of the fun we had together.  We will never forget you, and we will love you forever.  Rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Project 365: Day 18

Day 18: January 18, 2012
Chicago, IL
There's this amazing house near us that is an old church, converted in to condos.  Scott and I drive past it often to see if there is ever a unit on the market :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Project 365: Day 17

Day 17: January 17, 2012
Special Condo

No explanation required :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Project 365: Day 16

Project 365: Day 16
January 16, 2012

Subtitle: What I would look like as a boy.

You can't really tell in this photo, but it rained today, and was in the upper 40s.  All the snow from late last week - poof.

on Scott's grandfather

I've been trying to write this post since Saturday, and finally I decided that I should just hit "publish".

Scott's beloved grandfather died on Saturday afternoon, after a fairly quick decline.  He was in his 70s, I think, but until Thanksgiving or so, was in really wonderful health.  He lived in Florida, but as a Chicago native - with many of his children and grandchildren still living in this area - he came back often.

His name was Robert Benson, but most who knew him simply called him "Benny".  I don't know how to describe him, except to say that he was just plain nice.  I really liked him, and I am glad that I knew him.  I feel especially fortunate that he was able to be at our wedding, and that he even said the first reading.

Scott is doing ok.  He's sad, of course, but I think he is glad that he had as much time with his grandfather as he did.  They traveled together (alone) to Europe just a few years ago, and, along with his cousins and siblings, Scott made numerous trips to Florida.  His grandfather was very important to him, and I am glad for his sake, that Scott had 26+ years with Benny.

I was Benny's (only!) granddaughter-in-law, if that's a thing, and though we knew his end was near, I am more sad than I even realized I would be.  My paternal grandmother died when I was only 9, and then of course Mike died a few years later, but this is the first close death that has really affected me as an adult.  It's times like this, weekends like this, that make you realize how damn short life is, and how important it is to cherish those that we love, while we can.

On this MLK Jr. day, I came across his quotation: "we must use time creatively", and I think it's so appropriate.  Our time is so limited in this place, and we owe it to ourselves to savor every moment that we have.

Video: Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus || Spoken Word

Worth thinking about.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Project 365: Day 15

Project 365: Day 15
January 15, 2012
Lumera Nails, Chicago

Really awkward angle, but I was trying to sneak a picture without being all annoying and obvious.  The highlight of today was treating myself to a mani/pedi at my favorite cheapo nail place in my 'hood.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Project 365: Day 14

Project 365: Day 14
January 14, 2012
Lake Shore Drive Sidewalk

There's something very pretty about fresh snow.

(Especially if you don't have to shovel).

Friday, January 13, 2012

Project 365: Day 13

Project 365: Day 13
January 13, 2012
Haymarket - Chicago

Tonight Scott and I went to a bar called Haymarket (bonus: it's an Iowa bar) and met up with about 20 of our college friends.  We drank cans of Schlitz, which was surprisingly awesome.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Project 365: Day 12

Day 12
January 12, 2012
Special Condo Downtown Chicago

I finally remembered to take a photo before nighttime - yeeaahh!

Today was the first real snowfall of the winter, and I'm already over it :)  Here's hoping this season is shortlived and painless.

Book Review: Anatomy of a Disappearance

I just finished reading "Anatomy of a Disappearance," and I'm happy to say that I really, really enjoyed it.

It was much different from any book I'd read recently, and much... deeper.

Read on for my 2c book review.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Project 365: Day 11

Day 11
January 11, 2012
Special Condo

I came home tonight to warm gingerbread cookies, courtesy of the best. husband. ever.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Project 365: Day 10

January 10, 2012
Special condo (where else, duh?)

You guys - my "project" is beyond boring.  I'm sorry.  Anyway, since it's 9p and I still have yet to take today's picture... well, here's a close up of my favorite candle.

2) Finish Decorating the Condo: Scott's Bathroom Edition

This weekend Scott and I ordered our new kitchen cabinets (eee!) because there was an 11% off sale at Menards.  (Much more on that later!)  Anyway, while we were there, Scott found a faucet for his bathroom which was seriously marked down. 

The finished product looks so much better than before - we may upgrade the tub or tiling later, but for now, his bathroom is done!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Project 365: Day Nine

Project 365: Day Nine
January 9, 2012
Special Condo

Unloading my work purse after a long day - wouldn't be complete without a water bottle and a new book.

(Book review coming soon, obvi).

2012: The Year of Weddings

I LOVE weddings.  Love.  I've probably mentioned here that planning my wedding was one of the personal highs of my entire life (and my actual wedding day was the personal high).  Anyway, I'm so excited because in 2012 Scott and I will attend more weddings then we ever have before.  (Crazy enough, none of them are family weddings!)  

Anyway, this weekend we received a super fun wedding invite that was like nothing I'd ever seen before, so I just had to share:

If you look closely, you can see that the invite showed a funny and entertaining history of the couple:

And the response card was a mad-lib!

The bride is very artsy, and this really has their personality wrapped in it.  Can't wait for their wedding!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Project 365: Day Eight

Project 365: Day Eight
January 8, 2012
Special Condo

I'm officially registered for the 2012 Shamrock Shuffle 8K.  (Scott is, too)!  I was feeling pretty good about it based on my treadmill runs, and then I ran outside for the first time in 2012 and, um, it wasn't pretty.  Let's just say I hope the weather stays dece so I can continue my outdoor runs for the next three months.  (Fat chance, huh?)

(Above photos taken before and after my run - no coat in January?  AMAZING).

Regardless of how painful the run is, it will be another item crossed off the 28 by 28 list!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Quote of the Day: Oprah Edition

"There is no easy way [to exercise]. Believe me, if there were, I would have bought it. And it would be one of my favorite things!" - Oprah

Project 365: Day Seven

Project 365, Day Seven
January 7, 2012
Special Condo

Best. Saturday morning. EVER.

I'm lounging on the guest room bed, watching a Kardashian rerun (don't judge), strawberry banana smoothie in hand and blogging.   Love.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Project 365: Day Six

Project 365: Day Six
Friday January 6, 2012
DS Tequila, Chicago

Margarita and Budweiser - guess which drink is Scott's?

Quote of the Day: Ricky Gervais Edition

"It's a lot.. more confident than me.  I take a deep breath and go out with swagger" - Ricky Gervais, on his public persona

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Project 365: Day Five

Day 5
January 5, 2012
Special Condo

My go-to nail color - ballet slippers.

2) Finish Decorating the Condo: Guest Bedroom Edition

As I've mentioned, our condo needed needs a lot of TLC to bring it up to a modern look.  We are doing each project one at a time, and slowly but surely getting everything set up the way we want it.  Here is our final - completed (woot!) - guest room.

As a point of reference, here's a photo of how the room looked when the previous owner was listing it:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Project 365: Day Four

Project 365: Day Four

I just picked up three more books from the library - can't wait to read them!

20 New Year's Resolutions for Twenty-Somethings

I normally don't copy-and-paste blog entries from other people, but this was too good not to share:

  1. Before you status update, Tweet, Tumble or Instagram, pause and say to yourself, “is it entirely necessary that I share this morsel of thought with my entire social network?”and if the answer is not, “yes, I absolutely must,” then step away from the Internet.
  2. Know which candidate you’re going to vote for in the upcoming presidential election, and know why.
  3. Enough with the 14-day juice cleanses. If you want to lose a little weight quickly, eat less and exercise like crazy. If you want to lose a lot of weight slowly, do whatever Jennifer Hudson did.
  4. If you really like the person you’re hooking up with and would like them to be your boyfriend/ girlfriend, find a way to tell them, and hope for the best. If you don’t and wouldn’t, stop.
  5. Find a way to save approximately 300 dollars and spend it on a flight to see a friend or family member who lives far away.
  6. Please stop liking the Kardashians, all of them. It’s not helping anyone, least of all the Kardashians.
  7. Spend less than or equal to the money you earn each month.
  8. Wear clothes that fit you, especially to work.
  9. Call someone on the phone at least once a week, and speak to him or her for at least ten minutes.
  10. Start preparing now to get over the fact that Facebook is probably going to change again in six months. You’re not going to deactivate your account. You don’t know how.
  11. Wait 30 seconds before you look up a fact you can’t remember on your phone, and try to remember it using your brain. This is what the olden days were like.
  12. Replace one terrible reality show you’re currently watching with one wonderful scripted show currently available on television.  Swap suggestion: Real Housewives of Anywhere for HBO’s Enlightened.
  13. Try that food you think you don’t like but have never actually tried, unless it’s brussels sprouts. They really don’t need any more attention.
  14. Cut one person out of your life who you truly do not like and add one person who you truly do. Note: not on Facebook, on Earth.
  15. If you’re still blacking out regularly, you should stop.
  16. Volunteer once over the next 90 days.  You’ll feel really good about it, and probably end up volunteering again over the next 275.
  17.  Tell someone who you love that you love them on a more regular basis. To their face, not in a text.
  18. Back up your entire online life onto an external hard drive, especially your photos.
  19. Crap or get off the pot. This applies to whatever thing you’re not doing that you should just sack up and do already.
  20.  And in the eternal words of Tom Haverford, “TREAT YO SELF!”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Project 365: Day Three

Project 365: Day Three
Special Condo

Scott and I read all three books in the "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" series, and now we're watching all tree of the Swedish movies.  The movies are long, so we're watching a little bit each night.  None of the books or movies are bedtime material, exactly, but they are so good they are hard to put down.

(Ugh, also - I know all three of these first photo of the day posts take place about twenty feet from each other inside my apartment.  Sorry.  I'm not yet in the habit of taking a photo of something interesting that happens during my day, so at 10p I'm scrambling.  Hey, at least I'm trying!)

Book Review: The Mistress's Daughter

I just finished reading the book "The Mistress's Daughter" by A.M. Holmes.  Here's the summary from the inside cover of the book:

A.M. Holmes was given up for adoption before she was born.  Her biological mother was a twenty-two-year-old single woman who was having an affair with a much older married man with children and a family of his own.  The Mistress's Daughter is the riveting story of what happened, when, thirty years later, her birth parents came looking for her.

First of all, the book was all about character development - not plot.  If you like reading books where a lot happens, this book is probably not for you.  I probably do prefer books where there is a lot of action, so I definitely struggled through a few parts of this.  That was the downside - the upside was that the idea behind the book (a woman searching for details about her biological family) was fascinating to me.

Here are a few lines that I found interesting: 

To be adopted is to be adapted, to be amputated and sewn back together again.  Whether or not you regain full function, there will always be scar tissue (p54).  

I am glad I am there, alone, among strangers.  I cry throughout the service.  I am crying not just for her, but for myself, for every accident that has been a part of this, for every failing on everyone's part, for the damned fragility of being human, for being afraid, ashamed.  This is my atonement; I am confessing my sins, beating my chest, asking for forgiveness for what I have said and for what I have not said, for what I have done and for what I have not done, for those I have hurt or offended knowingly or unknowingly, for my errors of omission... I am crying for how isolated I am, how alone, and how I have to go through life like this (p117-118).

Every family has a story that it tells itself, that it passes on to the children and grandchildren.  The story grows over the years, mutates; some parts are sharpened, others dropped, and there is often debate about what really happened.  But even with those different sides of the same story, there is still agreement that this is the family story.  And in the absence of other narratives, it becomes the flagpole that the family hangs its identity from (p156).

Another thing I found interesting was the mention of DAR - Daughter's of the American Revolution.  Through her biological father, Holmes is eligible to come a member (which she wants to do for the lineage aspect).  This was a relatively small detail within the book - but since I have family ties to this organization, my interest was piqued and I played around on the DAR website a bit.  Any woman 18+ years old who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution is eligible to become a member. But it's all based on biological lineage - though I am eligible for membership, if I adopted a daughter she would not be. 

I'm having trouble putting in to words why this bothers me, but it does.  I do not believe in biology as a determiner to family.  I don't believe it bloodlines as being a requisite for ancestry.  Your child is your descendant - period.  As someone who is from a family that doesn't all share biology, this is very important to me.  While organizations like DAR may have their place, I had a hard time wrapping my head around why Holmes wanted to be a member; I do not want to be part of an organization that places such importance - the only importance - on bloodline.

The idea of searching for your ancestors - your bloodline - was both the part I enjoyed most about the book and the part I struggled with most.  

Iowa Nice

I'm sure many of you have read Stephen Bloom's article "Observations from 20 Years of Iowa Life".

Here's one of my favorite rebuttals:

(Full disclosure, there's R rated language, especially at the very beginning)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Project 365: Day Two

Project 365: Day Two
Special Condo

Scott loves succulents, and we just added a little dish of them to our guest room.  Cute, eh?

Wine of the Month

Every year for Christmas, my brothers and I try to come up with a cool group gift for my parents.  Last year, we did a year of Netflix - which was fun because it was kind of the gift that kept on giving throughout the year.  

This year, we were stumped.  We considered a "cold beverage chiller" (a gadget that chills any beverage very quickly) and a couple of other household knickknacks, but we kept coming back to last years idea - the gift that keeps on giving.  After some internet searching and brainstorms, we finally came up with a custom, hand-selected wine of the month.

First, we selected the 12 bottles of wine.  We wanted each wine to be different - obviously a mixture of red and white, but also different varietals, wines from different geographical regions, different price points, and all different brands.  Another factor we considered was which month we were placing that wine in.  For example, our January bottle was called "Clean Slate Riesling".  Each month had an "appropriate" kind of wine.  (Get it?  Clean Slate for the new year?).   We also made sure that the November bottle was white (white wine pairs with turkey) and the December bottle was red (cause red is a Christmas color, obvi).  

Our final list included wines from Oregon, two different vineyards in Iowa, Tuscany plus a different region in Italy, two vineyards in France, Germany, Napa Valley, Santa Barbara and Spain.

Then, because every few months I like to get all crafty-like, we decided to make custom (read: homemade) labels for each bottle of wine. 

Necessary supplies to make the labels: two colors of construction paper (each color a different size), double sided tape, a hole puncher, ribbon, a pen/marker.  (Those are the materials I used - the paper was leftover from my wedding guest book, and the silver marker I had on hand from my scrapbooking days.  For a hole puncher, I used one hole of a 3-hole puncher.  Any and all of them could be easily substituted for any craft materials that you have on hand).

The first thing I did was figure out how I was going to form each label.  I had exactly 25 green cards left from the wedding, and so I paired 2 smaller, green notecards with each larger navy one (so a total of 24 green, 12 navy).

Then, I figured out what info to include.  The front side of the finished notecard would contain the month (ex: JANUARY) in large, pretty handwriting.   After doing a little interneting, I decided that the back side would include:

- vineyard name and wine varietal, with the region it was from
- any interesting details about that particular vineyard
- tasting notes

Going with my January example, here is what the back of that label said:

Clean Slate Riesling (Germany).  
Slate stones are used to ripen the grapes because they reflect light and retain heat
Tastes of peach, crisp lime, minerals

Once I finished writing the wine details on the green notecards, I used double sided tape to smoothly affix them to the larger navy notecards.  (Note that I did them in this order - writing THEN taping - because each green notecard had two sides, so I was able to use the backside as a do-over if I messed up on the front side... since it was going to be taped down, no one would be the wiser).  

After taping the notecards together, I used a ruler to figure out where my hole should be punched.  (In hindsight, this wasn't necessary - eye balling it would definitely be sufficient).   After I hole punched, I used silver ribbon through the hole to tie each label around the neck of each wine bottle.  

Here's the finished project, all laid out on my parents Christmas mantle:

Overall, I loved this project.  You can make it (nearly!) as cheap or expensive as you want, depending upon wine selection.  My parents sure seemed to love it, and I know they will think of us as they open each bottle throughout 2012.  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Project 365: Round Two, Day One

I really, really like the Project 365 idea (that's why I started doing it in the first place).  I'll be honest - I didn't follow through.  I'd like to blame it on my camera cord (which WAS mysteriously misplaced) but it's more than that.  I just didn't make it happen.  I was behind by 20+ days, and couldn't remember which picture went with which day... and that was that.  Whoops.

But the beauty of blogging (and, um, LIFE) is that it's never to late to start over.  So, without further adieu, I'm reinstituting the project.

Project 365: Day One
Chicago - Special condo

This long weekend left me with lots of free time, and not too many plans.  To me, that equals a perfect weekend to get everything set at home.  We did an apartment deep clean, did laundry, grocery shopping, ordered new appliances (more on that later!) and even tackled some of the obnoxious tasks on our list - like reorganizing my closet.

There is something that feels so good about having most everything crossed off the old to-do list.  

Aveda Tea

There's nearly nothing better than a quiet night at home, with "You've Got Mail" on the TV, and my new Aveda Tea in my mug.

(I received this tea for Christmas, and I LOVE it.  It's not cheap - and I am going to be savoring it throughout these cold winter months - but it is absolutely fabulous).  

2012 Resolutions

Happy 2012!

My birthday serves as a sort of make-shift clean slate, a time to take stock over what I did the previous year, and what I hope to accomplish in the coming year.  Much like this, the start of a new year (2012, yeah!) can signify a fresh page, a new start.

I came across the Lululemon manifesto the other day, and I think it's the perfect reminder of what I want for 2012.

Here's to making 2012 the best year yet.