Wednesday, August 29, 2012

37? In a Row?

I'm 37. Today is my birthday. I am now in my late 30's. But my maturity level is still right around 18. Because every time someone asks me how old I'm turning, yes, people still ask that question, I think of this scene in Clerks. Clerks, if you haven't seen it, is a raunchy, hilarious film from Kevin Smith, it had a non-existent budget so it's gritty and kind of ugly but you don't care. It's clever and weird and filthy. Set in the early 1990's, following one day in the lives of two charmingly vulgar young men in their 20's, as they work shitty jobs at a convenience and a video store. You can tell how old this movie is because actual video stores still existed. Warning, like I said, vulgar, sexual, don't watch if you don't like that. Oh, come on, live a little. Watch it.

Every time I start to say 37, I just hear Dante in my head, shouting at his girlfriend: "I'm 37? 37! My girlfriend sucked 37 dicks?

So I may be getting older, but I'm still ridiculously immature. "37? In a row?"

I spent my birthday like a mature adult though. An early morning jog, then work, tasty lunch with one of my favorite ladies, more work, followed by a brief appearance at a client's event, which included the chance to meet two women business owners that I deeply admire for the work they do for nonprofits in our community, and for the fabulous shop they own, Stuff, in Brookside, where Joe bought my birthday present actually!

And then a relaxing dinner and berry beer with the husband. It was a good day. Not to mention the ego boosting delight of having my Facebook page explode all day with birthday wishes from friends near and far. I'm lucky. I'm spoiled, and I couldn't have had a better day. The dog has been walked, the work clothes traded for an old tshirt, now to relax on the couch with a couple of episodes of the addictive Luther. So thank you, dear friends, for making today a gem. Can't wait for the next 37.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Oh, How I've Missed You

Oh, yeah, hi. I took a little blogging hiatus. Sorry about that. I forgot this happens. I get into a month of daily blogging and then I start to hate the sound of my own voice. It's too much every single day. But I like the big goal. I've written more this month than I have any other month all year, so there's that. What's a few days off anyway? I was out living a lovely weekend, celebrating with family and friends, debating gay marriage and The Daily Show, and I'm sure absence makes the heart grow fonder. Admit it, you were getting tired of me every day too, weren't you?


But I missed you, so I'm back. And that's not the only thing I've missed lately. Since all this healthy eating and exercise this year, I've hardly baked a thing. And I love baking. But I'm also powerless against the pull of homemade peanut butter cookies and muffins and cupcakes and Snickerdoodles and brownies. I love them. I don't want to make light and not particularly tasty versions. I'd rather just buy a delicious and appropriate serving size from a charming cozy shop and enjoy the hell out of that small indulgence. So I have not baked. It's easier to just avoid it and thereby avoid the intake of ridiculously tasty and massive portions of delectable treats. I mean it, I have very little willpower here.


But I baked on Sunday. I just wanted to. So I did. And I didn't gain a pound or eat two dozen cookies. I puttered around the kitchen, lined up my ingredients, pre-heated that oven, watched the season finale of the dumbest season yet of True Blood, and I baked up a storm. It was a blast. I found this recipe on Pinterest, which was originally inspired from a Smitten Kitchen recipe and Joe and I have had it for breakfast the last two mornings. Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Loaf. It's moist, it's tangy yet sweet, it has a sticky perfect glaze on top. Oh, it's good. And I haven't devoured the whole thing yet, yet. I miss baking. I may need to find ways to add it back into my life and just give away most of what I make, so it's not sitting around the house calling my name. But I gotta go now, there's a slice of something in the kitchen and it needs my attention. Yummy.


Friday, August 24, 2012

The One with the Floppy Hands

Off and on over the last four years I've tried jogging. I've tried Couch to 5K. I've gotten to week four or five, jacked up my knee, lost my motivation, found it boring and painful on the treadmill, and managed to talk myself into walking instead, or just not working out at all for month long stretches. But it's different when you run outside. It's different. Really. I can't believe I'm saying this. It's harder physically, but it's better somehow. The monotony of a treadmill placed smack in front of a TV is gone. I don't feel like a hamster on a wheel. Though I still tend to lick the top of my water bottle like a dehydrated rodent now and then.

There are things happening out there in the world, early in the morning, when I'm jogging. Things to look at and pay attention to: People in bathrobes, and cars headed right at me, and foxes slinking across front yards, and baby deer, and cats (Jesus, my neighborhood is overrun with cats lounging in driveways or on the hoods of cars dismissively glancing at me as I jog by) and other runners, and swirly orange sunrises and cool breezes, and potholes filled with gravel trying to sabotage me, and huge sticks that I like to jump over like a very klutzy hurdler, and cicadas leaping from trees to drop on my head. There's stuff happening out there, and I'm in the middle of it all.

This morning I nearly ran smack into a baby deer. Not in a car. On my own two feet. I was starring off into the woods just listening to some awful Maroon 5 song (I might have been singing that I had moves like Jagger, I do, I really do) and then about 6 feet in front of me, as I came around the corner, was a baby deer, her mom and sibling across the street yards away. They all froze. I stopped short. And we stood there for 10 seconds looking at each other, before this little spotted baby ran off with his mom and equally spotted sibling. I like that about jogging outside. I like nearly plowing into baby deer.

I also had a bit of a jog epiphany this morning too. I've been reading a few articles online and glancing through a couple of running books, looking for some advice on running form. My form feels awkward and harsh and tight. Basically I feel like Rachel running on Friends. No idea what I'm talking about, stop, go here. Ok, I feel all uptight and strict, shoulders held too high, face frozen in a grimace, fists clenched, like I'm attacking the run or myself. But when I'm running I want to feel like Phoebe running, loose and fun and a little flailing limbed garnering curious stares, like I've been let out of the asylum on a day pass.

My epiphany was simple, and maybe that makes it less of an epiphany and more like a common sense realization brought on by basic reading and research, but I'm going with epiphany, because it sounds more dramatic. My epiphany was two fold. First, I shouldn't run like I'm about to defend myself in a bar fight. Clenching and holding those sparring fists up in front of my chest as I ran made my shoulders tight and raised them up near my ears.  So I simply unclenched my fists. I let my hands and wrists go floppy. They just dangled around like my hands were made of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. Hanging and bouncing and flopping about as I ran. I'm sure it looked ridiculous. But my shoulders immediately dropped. I felt suddenly lighter and looser. It was fun to feel liberated, to not take all this running and training so damn seriously like I have a tendency to do, ready to make a mistake at every turn. There are no mistakes. I'm out here. I'm moving, more and more every week. So suddenly running was fun-ish.

Second part of the amazing dramatic epiphany, think about my thighs more often. Oh yeah, you're thinking about my thighs right now, aren't you? My knees and calves and ankles were doing too much of the work of running. But the minute I actually started thinking about my thighs, I changed my leg position just enough that those beefy thigh muscles started working more efficiently and gave my knees and ankles and calves a break.  I bent my knees a bit more, I used my thighs to propel myself forward. It felt better.

I don't want to give the impression that I like running yet, I don't, but I hate it less. It helps to listen to cheesy throbbing music and dance along and smile and give in to the music. I danced. I shook my butt. I made up silly hand moves that I could see reflected in my shadow on my warm up walk. It was fun. And those floppy hands were fun. So maybe I'll like running next week, or the week after, or the week after that, but at least I'm out there. And quickly memorizing the words to all songs by Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Flo Rida, Rhianna, Lady Gaga and Carly Rae somebody or other. I need to make some new playlists and stop listening to Pandora before I turn into a 13 year old girl.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'd Rock that Scarlet Letter

As a panelist for Blogher's Life Well Lived series, I've loved writing and reading the prompts and answers shared by experts and fellow bloggers on topics ranging from: how to get organized, top beauty must haves, healthy lifestyle ideas (fewer cupcakes more veggies), fashion ideas for all body types, creative style resources and now dressing for success on your first day. Maybe it's school, maybe it's a new job or a new committee you're serving on, or a first date, but having a go-to outfit for those firsts always calms my nerves. I know what clothes and colors make me feel powerful, but Blogher's expert advice is excellent, so take a minute and head over to read How to Combat First Day Fashion Worries and share your best tips, and don't forget to sign up for their Life Well Lived sweepstakes and win some fabulous prizes that are certain to make you feel less nervous about the first day of anything!

So here's this week's question:

How do you dress for success on your first day?

Power red!

RED. Maybe I've got some kind of Scarlet Letter complex, but I choose red. To the Puritans it indicated vast amounts of sin, to the Pope it's the perfect shoe color to match every outfit, to some it's racy or slutty, or too much, too bright, too everything, but I choose red.  Every time. Just like the Holy Father. It's probably the only thing we have in common.

Red makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel bright and bold and ready for anything. Guarantees I won't feel like a wall flower. It almost guarantees a good first day.  Or at least I can focus on my shoes if the rest of the day is going to hell. I don't always wear red clothing, usually it's just red accessories. Red shoes, jewelry or a scarf, or hell, like today, maybe it's all three. If I don't know what to wear, if I wake up late, or if I'm even slightly nervous about the day ahead, I always default to red. It's my favorite color and it just feels like right. It makes me feel exactly like myself. So that's my answer, red.

So what's your go to outfit or color for first days?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Welcome to 450!

The Bravely Obey 450!

It's my 450th blog post! I'm going to celebrate (clearly a word I use often) by taking a break from all this writing, and instead let someone else do the writing tonight! I love these little word clouds. This one courtesy of Tagexdo. They pull a random smattering of words from any site you want and drop them together into these pretty little pieces of word art. The bigger the word, the more often it shows up in my blog.

So I just want to say thank you for stopping by over here off and on for the last three years, reading and commenting and laughing at me (with me, at me, whichever, it's still a laugh.) I still love writing this thing and can't wait to write the next 450 posts. So stick around, I'd miss you if you left!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ta Da!!

Six things on this Sunday:

1. Day 2, week 2 of Couch to 5K, again. I'm a slow learner so I had to repeat a grade, I mean, a week. Outside running, really running of any kind, is still crappy. It still feels awkward and hard and mean, but I like running outside so much more than on the treadmill. And the fact that my opinion on that has changed also means that if I just keep trying, eventually my opinion on running in general may change. Or at least that's what my wise father-in-law told me this morning.


2. Finished the third book in the series of Hannah Vogel mysteries by Rebecca Cantrell. I love these books and can't wait to read the fourth one. Thanks for the recommend from the lovely Kristen.


3. Most importantly, I finally finished the scarf I began knitting about 13 months ago. Yippee! I love how it turned out. And huge thanks to my mother-in-law Sherry for being my knitting guru and teaching me all the steps I needed to start, keep going, fix my mistakes and finish it off today. I plan to wear that damn scarf every winter for the next 50 years and then leave it in my will for my children. We're going to get damn sick of this scarf. It's probably the only scarf I'll ever knit. But I did it.


4. We had cupcakes for breakfast. That's just like a donut, only better.


5. I got sunburned. From sitting in the car.


6. Took a virtual tour through Germany, complete with a German themed meal full of kraut (turns out I like kraut now when I always thought I hated it, running could be my sauerkraut!) and sausages and curried ketchup and roasted potatoes and then a full on slide show from my parents' vacation to Berlin and Hanover.


How was your Sunday?


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Celebrations Covered in Parmesan

If I had to guess, your family probably celebrates events like ours does, with food. Special occasions deserve dinner out with a little wine and some high calorie delights. And what says celebration better than Italian food?

Almost eleven years ago, Joe and I tied the knot in Omaha. We had a fairly casual outdoor wedding, but all of the weekend festivities began with a wonderful evening spent at Lo Sole Mio with 80 of our closest friends and family. I have no recollection of any food from that night, but I vividly remember walking into the party room and realizing that nearly everyone I knew and loved was there, waiting to celebrate with us and spend the next two days with us as we joined our families together. It was one of the best nights I've ever experienced. Relaxing, joyful, filled with speeches and memories from everyone in the room. Joe's parents, Sherry and John, were so generous and hosted the evening, invited every out of town guest and all of our close relatives and friends. It was perfect.
So I was thrilled when Sherry and John suggested that we have dinner at Lo Sole Mio this weekend to celebrate Sherry's birthday and mine, and our joint wedding anniversaries. I'd actually get to try the food that I remember everyone raving about! Notorious for a two hour wait on weekend nights, it's that good, we headed over a little early and were seated right away.
Red wine, delicious homemade salad dressings, fried artichokes, more red wine, and then overflowing plates of pasta and seafood, veal in rich Marsala sauce, and delicate angel hair pasta. I can totally understand the two hour wait. The food is traditional American Italian. It's not trendy, it's not organic and free range, but it's delicious. Perfectly prepared, excellent waitstaff, and cozy faux Italian decor complete with columns and Roman statuary looming at you over your table. It was a great night. We chatted and laughed and shared memories of that night eleven years ago when we were all here together.
Kim was delicious. Full bodied, slight woodsy notes with a hint of laminated name tag.

And since we were celebrating about four occasions, we had to have dessert. And it had to be tiramisu. It was one of those simple, merry evenings, tied to our past, tied to memories of our friends and family celebrating together and tied back to the beginning of our lives together. The perfect place to celebrate. And now I get to actually remember the food!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wind in Our Hairs


We are traveling. We are eating cupcakes. We are loving on some friends and family. So I'll catch you later. I'm sleepy and happy and my fingers are sticky from frosting. Sleep well, friends.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Bit of Boating, Followed by Some Death


Let's venture back to mid-June, 2012. Our Scene: Chicago, IL, the last full day of our fabulous extended weekend vacation. It's a Saturday. Last night we hit some avant-garde late night theater and Italian for dinner. We got home super late. Jon Sands split his pants during the show. He was pissy about this so he bailed on our Saturday morning boat ride plans (plus I think he needed a break from the Sands), but Joe and I persevered. We pushed through the lack of sleep, properly bathed ourselves, dressed, and hopped a cab over to the the touristy docks for our 9:00am architectural boat tour on the Chicago River.



I wasn't particularly excited about this boat trip, and pretty much agreed to go just because Joe has wanted to for a long time. I was wrong. Yes, I said that, I was wrong. It was one of the best parts of the trip. Though I'm amazed by how many people they can cram on one of those boats. We stood there near the back of the line of people waiting to board and I genuinely wondered whether there would be room for everyone on board. Who am I to wonder? Like the boat operators don't know exactly how many bodies fit on their boats? We loaded on, grabbed a couple of seats up top and dove into the touristy fun.




Our volunteer tour guide, through the Chicago Architecture Foundation, was very knowledgeable and clearly enjoys her job. She was full of historical facts, anecdotes, and interesting tidbits about the spectacular buildings that fill downtown Chicago and pop up all around the river. We spent nearly two hours cruising around, taking photos, feeling tiny under these soaring towers, and sweating, because it was friggin hot, again. But the slight breeze on the river helped a little bit.


There are just so many statuesque, unique, graceful, and varied buildings in Chicago. It's like the land of experimentation. Gothic next to art deco next to modern next to straight tall shiny glass post-modern. I love the variety and the view from the river is pretty much perfection.  I got a crick in my neck from staring up at all of the buildings and taking a ton of photos. It was so beautiful you had to. Totally worth it.





I love this building covered in ivy. It's just so incongruous in the middle of the city.



Oh, and there's the photographer. He took these spectacular shots.



People love boats. People love waving at people on boats. All I kept thinking when we passed under each of the many bridges was, please don't let Dave Matthews Band's tour bus be traveling over us this morning. We left unscathed.



After two hours of fantastic boating and gawking and photographing, I'm a little sweaty, ready to walk around a bit, and desperate for some coffee, as the lack of sleep and proper caffeine consumption is catching up with me. We met up with Jon and headed over to grab some iced coffees and do a little shopping. Jon Sands is even more of a bargain hunting Marshall's addict than Joe and I are. It's impressive. Anytime we visit we always make a Marshall's or TJ Maxx visit. We hit TJ Maxx, found a few cute things,and then headed out back into the heat to track down a little Chicago style lunch at Gold Coast Dogs.



I'm not a big fan of pickles, and I hate to admit this but I love ketchup on my hot dog. But if you're in Chicago, don't you have to try a Chicago style dog? It was really good. All the combination of tangy and zesty and vinegary, yum. But I still like a little plain with mustard and ketchup, but dill pickle good.





Based on a recommendation from the classy Bonnie Tierney (my sister-in-law Katy's aunt who lives in Chicago) our gang headed over to the Chicago Cultural Center to take in a little bit of art, and death. First, the building itself is insanely beautiful. Two huge Tiffany domes, mosaics everywhere, lots of galleries, lots of stairs and places to stare at the dramatic and detailed interiors. Entry is free. The air conditioning is frigid. It was a perfect place to spend a few hours.


And they had several galleries filled with small art exhibits. The first we stopped into was a photography exhibit of decaying and damaged buildings in places like Detroit. The decay and ruins are bizarre and sad and still kind of lovely, to see the incongruity of a majestic old theater with snow drifts over the seats and stage because the roof has collapsed. It's a little depressing. But moving too. We build these massive buildings to meet our needs during the 1920's and 30's and then as times and needs and communities change, the spaces become outdated, hard to maintain and what was once a gem on Main Street becomes an albatross.



The main art exhibit, and the main reason we made a visit, at the Cultural Center was the Morbid Curiosity exhibit, a collection gathered by Richard Harris of the art of death from different cultures and centuries. Pieces depicting war, rape, violence, death and also the glamorizing of death. Skulls and violence, bits of bones, images of ghosts and the deceased. It was a superb collection.


It was one of the most intriguing and strange art exhibits I've ever visited. I loved it. All three of us did. The other cool thing that they offered was a phone self guided tour, dial a phone number, type in the exhibit number and learn a little bit about the art piece in the artist's own words. Some of the imagery is unsettling, and even gross. But having all of the pieces in the room together, one after another showed the wide range of ways that humans express and communicate about death.



After the exhibit, we spent more time just wandering around the building and taking photographs. I can't stress enough how stunning the domes and building truly are. It's one of those places that may not be on your radar when you visit Chicago, but it should be. Standing under one of those domes with the light pouring down in through each small colored glass piece, the ceiling glows. You glow too, just standing there. The majesty of this type of space is somehow both soothing and stirring. Stop by, visit, take it in, get some art. It's free. If my words don't convince you, Joe's photos should.





See! Getting cultured is fun!


Who designs ceilings like that anymore? No one.


After our relaxing and morbid little trip through the Cultural Center, we were ready for a break. We headed back outside, caught some entertaining street performers, a wedding, some more architecture, and then we headed back to the apartment to crash for a bit. We watched a few more episodes of The League, laid around on big fluffy couches, and eventually got hungry again. It happens. We walked a lot. We wanted more food.





Jon suggested we grab a solid American meal over at Rock Bottom Brewery, just a few blocks from our apartment. The food was excellent pub food.  Joe had lobster mac and cheese, Jon dove into a plate of chicken mac and cheese and I had thin crust pizza and a beer, delicious delicious beer. We walked home. Sent Jon off on his merry way to recover from all the fun, and we headed back to our apartment to pack and prepare to head home.

And that was pretty much our vacation. We crammed in the action. We crammed in the fun. Some touristy stops, some off the beaten path sights, all of it exactly what we wanted, all of it. Chicago, you will always be one of my favorite places to visit. So stay put, Jon Sands, stay put. We'll be back.



One final note, on our drive out of Chicago on Sunday morning we stopped in Joliet, IL to grab a quick breakfast and had one of the most bizarre experiences in a Burger King. As we stood by the counter waiting for our order this old man handed us each a couple of Starlight mints and proceeded to tell us this story,  "Here, take some. Mints marinated for 24 hours in 6,000 proof alcohol, a secret Polish recipe so secret, that I'm 1/4 Polish and they won't even tell me." We did not eat the mints. But thanks anyway, sir.