Friday, April 25, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Week ending April 25

Did you have a nice Easter?  It was the first one we've had in Ohio in almost 10 years, which was a little strange!   Personally, I liked that we spent time with Michael's side {brunch at ML's} and my side {dinner at Nene's} and we got to spend some one-on-one time at the Indians game!  True, sitting in a stadium may not scream HE IS RISEN but I found it to be fabulous.   I even went to 6 am Mass [during which time paramedics were called to assist an elderly gentleman] in order to get in run.  The best kind of full day


Since Al was in town we did a lot of dessert eating and making.  Also, we watched Frozen.  Yes, we are [supposed to be] grown-ups and no we are not too old to watch children's films.  In less than 6 months the few days Al and I have been in the same place, we have seen Monster's University, Brave, and Frozen.  #adult

Michael celebrated his Baskin-Robbins birthday* this week so we have been eating way too much cake this week.  It's delicious, but MyFitnessPal hates me.

 We participated in our first networking event to support our alma mater.   It was fun to put some alumni names that we usually just see in newsletters with faces, and to promote the summer opening of the store.

In other news, I am impatient.  We still don't have bedroom furniture, no art has been hung, and we have assembled one of two bookshelves.   Yes, I work full time, yes Michael is working on opening a restaurant and yes, we had a major holiday thrown in.  But I am READY for our place to feel 100% like home.   My hope is that this weekend we can take care of some of the smaller annoyances.  Truly it does not look bad but it's not DONE and that drives me crazy.  I know, I know, your home is never done, you can always tweak it, etc.  But until my artwork is out of its boxes and books are unpacked, we are not done with this phase.


Actually we do have 1 item hanging on the wall.   It may keep me doing laundry a little more frequently

In addition to hopefully recycling a lot of cardboard, this weekend will include the North Coast Men's Chorus presentation of VonTrapped.  As if Sound of Music songs were not reason enough to go, check this out:   
Join us as we sing through fabricated Austrian Alps with nuns, soldiers, seven precocious children, a goat herd, and a drag queen baroness!

Auntie and Benita [birthday girl!] are joining us, and we even get to eat at Balaton.   See also #3:
It's delicious, but MyFitnessPal hates me.

*he turned 31

Friday, April 11, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Week ending April 11


The Home Opener did not disappoint!   We were a bit chilly, but nothing layers and a fleece blanket could not fix.   The come from behind win complete with fellow Ohioan Nick Swisher hitting a home run was so much fun.   Michael and I went to Tuesday night's game as well [there were only 9,000 people there] and had a blast.  It was, of course, cold for baseball but we were prepared.  We even discovered that $4 is added to each of our tickets each game.   It is not a coincidence that the freshly popped gourmet popcorn a few sections away costs $4.   Basically, I got free popcorn this week.


We have officially moved!   
Saturday was chock full of activity.   The big strong men unloaded our POD at 9 am and were done just after 10.   Not too bad if you ask me!  So glad we called in for help.  The apartment had tons of boxes, as you might imagine, but we worked hard to whittle that down over the weekend and Monday (I took a vacation day from work)  The kitchen was even ready for dinner Saturday night.   Don't worry.  We ordered pizza.  The photo above was taken at about 8:55, before the fun began

Unfortunately we have no bedroom furniture.   Just a lot of piles of clothing.   We had been considering a *nice* bedroom set that we would have forever... but it's super pricey.   So now we are thinking PierOne might be a good idea, but then we would have to assemble everything.  Ick.


Oliver is settling in as well.   He had a bit of culture shock the first couple days.   No surprise for fellow cat owners.  Kitty found a good hiding spot initially, and has been getting braver each day.   Yesterday he spent some time in my office basking in the sun.   Almost back to normal!

New neighborhood means lots of new places to run!  I had an 11-miler on my schedule this weekend, which was not really on my list of things I wanted to do, with a mess of boxes in here.  But I did it and it felt pretty good, and I discovered how tasty chocolate Gu can be.  The run actually went by pretty fast, since all the sights were brand new.   AND!  I did not get lost.   

Our apartment is configured differently than our house so we are in the discovery stage of learning what organizational items we are lacking to function here.  Am I the only one who has these epiphanies?  Target's shelving section is going to get a workout.


Al is coming for Easter!  YAY   I don't remember the last time we were in the same place for Easter - it might have been high school.  All I can say is, family, WATCH YOUR EASTER BASKETS!   We are sugar experts

Check out Jen's takes!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Work Family

Look at what was delivered to our new place Wednesday afternoon!   

The note reads:

Congrats on your new apartment!  Here's a little something from the Team to help it feel homey and springy;-)
~Your Family

Isn't that the cutest idea?   Among the mild chaos of unpacking, what room cannot use a vase of fresh flowers?  and they are TULIPS!   One of my favorites, and they always remind me of my BFF Pannie.

The moral of the story?   My colleagues are the best!  Even though we don't all work in the same office location we feel connected and supportive to each other.    I love it and consider myself lucky to be part of this Team.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Gift inspiration: A Box of Money

In February, my cousin David turned 14.    For the first time in many years, Michael and I were here in Ohio to attend the party.    I asked my aunt if David had anything in particular on his birthday list.  When I was 14, I am sure I had a list and I'm also sure I got plenty of bizarre items that were not ON the list !   I did not want to perpetuate that cycle :)

What a cutie!

Nene suggested gift cards to a few retail establishments because evidently the items on his list were pretty pricey, so he was trying to save up.   Excellent!  I am all about gift cards because they allow the recipient to choose whatever he wants, and negates any possible customer service/return counter situations.   But we have a huge family, and I got to thinking how boring it might be to open a bunch of birthday cards with gift cards inside.   I'm not saying he would not want the gift or appreciate it.   Simply that it might become monotonous after awhile.

Luckily, we were able to throw a bit of creativity in the mix.   I decided I would bring a large box resembling a mystery present, but it would actually be full of cash.   Clever, huh?

First, I determined how much money to give.   This is a largely personal decision and often varies depending on your budget and how much you like the person [just kidding!]  It just so happened that the amount we decided on was divisible into 14 bills of varying amounts.  (I did not give him 14 $1 bills, in case you are wondering!)  But you can do whatever you want - if someone is turning 14 but you want to give $30 and would like them to pop 30 balloons, speak to the bank accordingly!

I obtained balloons as well as the 14 bills, in appropriate denominations, and started to fold them up teeny tiny.   This is key because you're going to put a bill inside each balloon, and then inflate.   If you have a spouse or a significant other, or a gullible younger sibling, now is an excellent time to ask for help.   I mean, who wants to blow up that many balloons?  So poor Michael inflated all 14 balloons for me.   (He then rinsed his mouth with Listerine because he was afraid germs from the money might have gotten on the balloons.)

You can see my attempt at a close-up below.   That's money, folded into a tiny square, inside a balloon.  Riveting!

I inadvertently purchased a bag of balloons that was assorted sizes and shapes, which meant some balloons were really too small to put anything in but water.  [Check back in a few months to see how I use those babies!]  But on the plus side, the presentation in the box was that much more fun.

Since my father is known to hoard boxes, and we were still in the Homestead, the basement was basically my oyster.   I found a ginormous box into which 14 balloons would fit, and tossed them in.   Aside from Michael inflating the balloons, he longest part of the process was probably finding wrapping paper big enough to cover such a huge box.

Now, you could obviously leave it at that and let the birthday boy figure out what the box was all about.   But as luck would have it, Michael and I were not able to stay at the party very long, so I added a nerdy sign on top of the balloons, hinting at what was inside.

It was, coincidentally, the ONLY box David had to open.  I'm so glad I did something different, since it was unique and gave the birthday boy an alternative gift presentation, but with the same result as cash in an envelope.

And if you're miles away from the party but still want to be generous, balloons are lightweight and easy to mail.   Even Oliver approves.

Friday, April 4, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Week ending April 4


TODAY IS THE HOME OPENER!   YAY LIKE KERMIT.    It's supposed to rain all freaking day, but we are still excited.   It won't be quite this cold, but we'll look something like this as we deal with Mother Nature's wrath.    GO TRIBE

As if that was not exciting enough, we are moving on Saturday as well.   Such excitement in these parts.  The big strong men are unloading the POD tomorrow morning and we'll be unpacking like crazy.   We did a walk through of apartment on Tuesday and it looks brand new [it's new construction so that part makes sense] and very clean, which is a good start.

The raccoons are still in the attic.   The good news?   The exterminators have set traps baited with peanut butter crackers so now we have to wait.  Sounds to me like raccoons are a lot like toddlers.   They go places they shouldn't be, destroy things, and can be bribed with snacks.

Northern Ohio was hit with a crazy blizzard on Saturday.   We probably got about 5"... two days before April started.   It made for an interesting drive home from the baseball show {Auntie got a killer program from the first baseball game played at Cleveland Stadium in 1932!} and also helped me decide not to stop for an ice cream treat on the way home.   Not because it was too cold, but because the roads were crap.


Michael's grandparents are snow birds who used to summer in Michigan but as of last fall, are now in Ohio.   It's nice for us to be back near family, but so nice to have them here now as well!  This Christmas gave us a taste, since they were 'home for Christmas' for the first time in more than 10 years.  We're having brunch together this weekend (I'll take a break from unpacking!) and I imagine there will be many ice cream dates this summer as well.

Have I mentioned that I have the best sister ever?  I probably have.   This past Christmas she bought me slippers, which were the #1 item on my list.   But the slippers she bought did not fit.  Long story short, I was technically without a Christmas gift.   Not a big deal.   So Thursday afternoon when I got the mail, there was a box from Al.  I had no idea what was going on.   Inside was a note [ode to Elf] reading "I'm sorry for ruining your lives and buying you slippers in the wrong size"  Merry belated Christmas.  I hope this will come in handy once it stops snowing and you can run outdoors.   xo, Al

And inside the box, with the note, was this Sugoi Versa Jacket.  It is amazing!   You see, it's a vest, with sleeves that attach via magnets.   So you start out running with the jacket, but you get warm, so you just take the sleeves off and put them in the little zip pouch on the back.   Genius!


My dear friend Ashley - 1/3 of The Trio - had some pretty major surgery yesterday.  She is in recovery and although she's from hearty midwestern stock, Ash could definitely use thoughts and prayers and happiness if you have a moment.

Want more Quick Takes?  Jen's hosting.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool's!

One thing about being an adult is that in most cases, your day is not set up to learn new things everyday.   When you're in school, it's basically all you are supposed to do.   Learn - and remember- new things.   I like to think I learn new things regularly - like how to solve a work issue better, how to make a new food, etc. but it's probably not the stuff that will help me on Jeopardy!   And really, I'm more of a Wheel of Fortune girl.

Anyway - my point is, I learned a lot this weekend when I stumbled upon Twenty Interesting Things About April Fool's Day.   If you're in the mood to brush up on trivia, try out for Jeopardy! or just impress people at dinner tonight, check it out!

My favorite item on the list might actually be something I already knew about.. the Left Handed Whopper.   Those jokesters at Burger King.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Beat the Monday Blahs

Last Monday I came across a pretty awesome list at The Golden Girl Blog.   (She's the one who had the fantastic idea to try 12 new things this year instead of making official resolutions.)

So, because we got FIVE INCHES of snow on Saturday, my Sunday run was interrupted by an infinite number of puddles, and we're moving in less than a week {with hiccups I may address later but don't feel like typing now!}, I invite you to check out Seven Simple Tips to improve your Monday.

Do I sound crabby?   I might be a little bit ;) but the list is truly worth checking out, and I'd send you there anyway.   I'm loving the suggestions* because they start the week off on a high note and are all very do-able.   Easy + Monday = Happy Jules

Happy Monday, friends!  

*Personally I think the Crock Pot idea is fabulous and once I unpack mine, I just might make it a habit!

Friday, March 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Week ending March 28


This past weekend we saw Muppets Most Wanted and it was quite enjoyable.   I might have even liked it more than the previous movie-- you know, the one with Seth Rogan.  Part of that may be due to the fact that I saw it with my 2 youngest cousins, which helped me channel my kid-at-heart self that much more than usual!   Sadly, there was not enough Pepe in the film.  That is my only complaint.

Auntie invited me to attend a sports memorabilia show this weekend and I am totally going.   Major nerd alert.  The chances of me buying anything are slim to none, but it's so fun to see what is out there.  These shows are almost like interactive museums, where if you have enough money, you can literally cash in on history.   I'm mostly there for baseball but I appreciate it all.  We'll also be meeting with Erica to finalize our ticket schedule - YAY BASEBALL

Speaking of my favorite sport, Opening Day is Monday night in Oakland [which is bad for my east coast bedtime], and the home opener, which we are attending {!!!}, is in one week - Friday April 4.   Mother Nature is traditionally not a fan of warmth on such celebratory occasions, but I have already begun to consider clothing options to avoid freezing to death.   Many of them will likely come from my Favorite Winter items, despite the fact that it is spring and this is an Indians game, not a mid-season Browns game.  

Facebook usually leaves me with mixed feelings, and I rarely post on people's status messages that ask for advice or opinions, but I could not resist on Wednesday.  An AU choir buddy asked about FitBit.  As you may recall I LOVE FitBit, and said so on her wall.  We have since become FitBit friends.  I think that means we can see each other's stats, but am not sure.  

Anyway - during the discussion I also used an emoji of a bicycle, prompting one of her friends [who I don't know] to say Julia, your iconography certainly marks you as a prophet of my religion.  What is this magic?  I was highly amused and am thinking I should perhaps comment on more Facebook posts!

Moving day fast approaches, and we have been in touch with the management company, reminding us of tasks to complete before we get our keys.   This list cracks me up.

Needed by lease signing date:
Utility account numbers
Proof of Renter’s Insurance
Pet Photos

Yes, a photo of my cat is a requirement!   Maybe it's to confirm we have a cat and not a St. Bernard.  I don't think they really care about his name or appearance.  For the record, that was the easiest item to check off the list.

Anyone else watching The Cosmos on Sunday nights?   I admit to teasing Michael about it during the first episode, but I now find myself watching along side of him.   It explains difficult concepts very well, and the guy who narrates is almost as cool as Morgan Freeman.   Almost.

If you need a weekend project, here's a suggestion.   My guess is I won't tackle this immediately, but gosh, do I need to.   I try to be organized in my daily life but sometimes I suffer electronically.    This is a great presentation and it uses Mac OS X so I am on board!

Jen's got lots of Quick Takes too!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Week ending March 21

Baseball is just around the corner!   Last Saturday we started dividing up our 1/2 season ticket pack among the three main participants and it was so exciting.   Who needs Christmas presents?  Give me baseball games any day.

On a whim Michael and I went furniture shopping last Saturday afternoon.   We never have had a bed [just the frame from the mattress store] and our IKEA dressers that we built in 2005 were not going to make it through another move.   So our mattresses are in storage but we have no drawers in which to put things.   I sense an organizational nightmare, don't you?   Well, turns out furniture shopping is annoying because these places always have sales and say things like "the prices are listed here but we can do better"  Ugh.   Please just tell me the price so I know if I can afford it or not.   Relatedly, real furniture [yay Ohio Amish country!] is expensive, y'all!

Have you had the new Vanilla Macchiato at Starbucks?  Oh My Gosh.   So, we have an automatic espresso/latte machine at home.   I know, how high maintenance can you get?  Well, Michael kept going out and buying lattes [don't get me wrong I was not complaining] and it's just more cost effective, ultimately, to have your own machine.  The upside of course is not spending money at Starbucks every day.   The downside is you may be missing out on some tasty treats.  Now, when we were at the auto show and test drove a car, we each got a $5 Starbucks gift card.  So while out looking at furniture, we took a FREE coffee break.   Oh goodness.   I must obtain the drizzle so we can re-create this heaven at home.

This weekend we have plans to head downtown to the Horseshoe Casino in the old Higbee building, to see what the fuss is all about.    When we go to Vegas we are not huge gamblers, but it sure is entertaining.   Michael Symon's B Spot is also at the food court so I anticipate eating some deliciousness as we lose our money.

Mario is participating in a local Dancing With the Stars charity event - he's the star!  He was a bit nervous after practice Thursday but I'm sure he'll be great.  Dance lessons are on our list of things to do... aside from learning 1 dance for our wedding, I am clueless.  

Seems like we have uninvited house guests.   Sunday morning when I fed Oliver, both he and I heard some unsanctioned activity in the pantry.  Something was in there moving around.   Just what you want to hear on a weekend morning, right?   We also heard activity in the CEILING Thursday morning.  Well, due to past issues, my parents have scheduled maintenance with a pest control company.   The guy came out as usual this week, and spent a great deal of time looking for signs of pests and did not find much.  So frustrating.  He put out some bait in various places, but I fear our guests will be here until the bait does its thing [aka kills the rascal]

I'm pretty pumped [as usual] for March Madness!  This year American University made it in the first round, but being up against Wisconsin they didn't stand a chance.   I watched them during lunch on Thursday and things were looking good [well, at least decent] in the first half but then all hell broke loose.   No one really thought they'd win, and to make it to the Big Dance is so cool for a lot of the smaller schools.   I see many more games in my future this weekend and next, for sure!

Don't forget Jen's takes!

Friday, March 14, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Week ending March 14

Each and every weekday morning I eat the same breakfast: berries [rasp-, black-, and/or straw-], Chobani yogurt and a sprinkling of Kashi GoLean Crunch.   This week Michael decided he wanted to taste the Kashi plain.   I advised against it, but he didn't listen.  After making a face he declared "This is what they give to the horses.  It's what is left over after they make Captain Crunch!"   I guess he won't be stealing my breakfast any time soon

Saturday morning, Michael decided, on a whim, that we needed to check out the newly renovated Cleveland Museum of Art and eat some place delicious while we were out there.  Well, turns out he is pretty smart.   The museum is gorgeous.  I mean the building and layout, not the art itself.  Whoa.   I am not the best art museum wanderer, but we spent a little time soaking it in and using ArtLens, a super cool George Jetson type app for the iPad or smartphone that gives you oodles of info about art.  The painting scans are cooler than the sculputure scans, but two thumbs up all around.  And the best part?  It you don't have a device, you can rent one!

As far as the delicious food, Fire did not disappoint.   In fact we learned that the chef is up for a James Beard award!  I can certainly see why.  The salad we shared ended up being a wedge {which I traditionally despise} but they split it and it was scrumptious.   The other appetizer was a sausage stuffed into a PEPPER!  Oh my goodness.   It was so Cleveland and so amazing and exactly what we needed on a chilly evening.  We decided to order 2 separate entrees [after I pouted that Michael almost ordered the same thing as me] which was genius because the entree we both almost ordered was not as tasty to me :)  And DESSERT?!  Everyone should order the Fire Split [fudgey brownie, salted caramel ice cream and brûléed banana]

This weekend we will be cultured in the dramatic department.  We're seeing DeathTrap at Great Lakes Theater and of course, dining at someplace yummy.   I could get used to this.   I also have a hair appointment at a new salon today, so I will have a night out with good hair! 

We hosted Marilyn overnight this week.   It's pretty cool when your former music teacher, who has become a family friend, can stay the night.   As you might expect, delicious food and wine was involved, and she even indulged Michael by playing ridiculous accompaniments for his singing.

At the risk of sounding like an old person, the weather is killing me.  I ran - OUTSIDE! in a T SHIRT! on Tuesday and then less than 24 hours later, we were slammed with snow.   So frustrating.  Can I tell you how strange it felt to run without sleeves or long pants?  And by strange I mean wonderful.

And finally, who doesn't love a good cat video?   Oliver keeps us entertained

Don't forget to check out Jen's Quick Takes

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Favorite Things: Winter Edition

In honor of the March blizzard we are expected to get tomorrow [six to ten inches?!] I have complied a list of my favorite winter items.  I truly hope this is the last time we will need to think about any of these winter necessities, but Ohio will likely stick it to us again before spring sticks around for good.

Sorel boots

Full disclosure: Since they were delivered, it has not really been snowy enough to warrant wearing these!   I will probably get to try them out for real this week to, you know, get the mail.   Or to participate in the Iditarod.   Either way.

SmartWool Liner Gloves

Not only do they act like regular gloves and keep your hands warm but they allow you to use your phone [and other tech devices] too!  Nothing is sadder than removing your gloves to answer your phone or to change a song on your iPod while you are outside.  Part of me wants to buy about 10 more pair - all winter stuff is on sale now anyway - and stash them in every coat I own.  
Note: these are not the warmest gloves on the planet.   If it's Dakota Territory cold, use them as a liner under a thicker pair.

SmartWool Socks

Typically a Feetures! girl for athletic socks, I bought 2 pair of SmartWool socks on sale [even though it is still winter!] and absolutely love them.  They're great for bumming around at home, treadmill running, or even keeping your feet toasty walking from the parking lot to the gym on frigid days.   But most of all they are amazing for outside running [or hiking or snowshoeing or whatever you do] when the air is chilly and your shoes are not wind proof.   I currently own the "Run Light Micro" style but a few taller pairs would probably keep me even warmer on outside runs since my ankles would be 100% covered.   They are marketed as an athletic sock but they are so toasty even couch potatoes should consider them vital.

Fleece tights

Again, ordered on sale in January.   (If you can time it right, you really should never pay full price for winter gear!)   My initial impression of these tights was not good because the size chart blatantly lied.   But I kept stretching them and they finally are long enough for my tall girl legs.    They look like regular old black tights, but the inside is fuzzy, like a sweatshirt.   Whoever thought of this idea is a genius.   They are much cozier than regular nylon tights, and when paired with knee high boots, you could stay outside for quite awhile without freezing.  Despite my initial hesitations, two thumbs up!  I will keep my eyes open for other colors.

Running Tights

Part of the Ninja Suit, Sugoi Mid-Zero tights are pretty much the best thing ever.   They are a lot like regular running tights but, as with my fleece babies above, are lined with a sweatshirt type material.  Except it's a fancy sweatshirt and does not absorb sweat while you run.   I don't know what magical unicorn hair concoction they use, but it works.   The tights are comfortably snug, like you're getting a lower-body hug from a fluffy creature as soon as you put them on.  And gosh are they comfortable!   I have thought about wearing them as lounge pants in the house more than once.   So far I have not done so, but am not ruling out wearing them indoors, either.   More running gear recommendations [for foul and fair weather] will be coming in a future post.


Soon after moving to the Buckeye State, Michael and I noticed our skin was very dry and itchy.   Duh it's winter, right?   Right.   But it was worse than that.   Like, keep you up at night itchy and dry and red and GROSS.  Part of the problem is that the outside temps were single digits and the furnace ran constantly, drying out the air to humidity levels of about 25%.   Hello static! 

So after a little bit of web searching we {Michael} stumbled upon this relatively unattractive but very effective humidifier.   Pretty much any type will do the job, but we found this Honeywell that works up to 2300 square feet, so the perfect size for our current home. We even found a coupon and paid way less than the MSRP.    It's been running basically non-stop and works beautifully.   During very dry days we do have to refill it regularly but that means it is working!  I don't anticipate living in a large space over the next couple years so it should serve us well in upcoming winters.  

Flannel Sheets

For some reason, flannel sheets are a polarizing topic.    My mother hates them.  Really, hate is not too strong a word here -  she really cannot stand them.   Last month Mom told me to take the sets in her house when we move since she will never use them.   YAY!   You see, I think flannel sheets are the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Probably even better.   I have had flannel sheets on the bed since the day we moved to Ohio.   There are 2 sets here in the linen closet so I throw one in the wash and can immediately make up the bed with a new set.  They are so darn cozy.   You can buy them just about anywhere, but Target likely has them on sale this time of year, and Home Goods probably has them on sale year round!  

Friday, March 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Week ending March 7

We are off to the Auto Show today!   We are not looking to buy a new car {I will likely remind Michael of this at least once} but it is fun to look, and they even let you test drive!  Surprisingly, I don't think I have EVER been.   Ridiculous, considering how long it's been coming to Cleveland.  So I guess this will be on my list of trying new things in 2014.   We are also heading to a Fish Fry with Nene and company today and I don't know if I have been to one of those either.   Talk about crazy.

Registration for the Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon opened yesterday and I am officially registered.    You know you are crazy when you register for a race while training for another.  I am so excited to run this one a second time.  The route is exciting because you get 3 Disney parks, it's a night race, and there is food and booze when you're done.  What's not to love?   Mary Lynn is for sure running and I am trying to get Al signed up too.   Al's initial response to my announcement?  "We would both need costumes that incorporate light up headgear. Those are my requirements for participation"
SIDE NOTE: I am realizing now that I did not blog about this amazing event in 2013.  So I will consider 2014 my mulligan and try to do better!

Blame the magazines and organizing blogs, but I have gotten the spring cleaning and organizing bug.  The only problem?  Our stuff is mostly in storage!  As a compromise, I may sort through some clothing so when we move next month there is less to haul around.   I do love a good purge.  And honestly, we have been in Ohio since mid-December.   If I have not worn a sweater during that time, I probably do not need it.  Ah the perks of working at home.... no worries about repeat outfits.  Relatedly, have you heard about Project 333?  I'm not sure if I am ready to take the plunge, but this could be a great trial run.   And if I had access to a full house full of stuff I would definitely do the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge!

We had another lovely weeknight dinner away on Monday.  Mary Lynn made No-Peek Stew which is delicious and when consumed with a big red wine, really hit the spot during a single-temperature cold snap.  We've had a lot of those lately, so I think that basically means we should make more stew and drink more wine.  Yeah.  That's it!

Living at my parents house has its perks.  This week's highlight?  Dad's tire pressure gauge and air compressor!  This saves us time and money and a trip to the tire place.  Win - win!   Something tells me this will continue to happen even when we live in a nearby apartment.   "Hey Dad do you have a ___ we can borrow?"   I like the sound of that.

So, we are now officially in the Lenten season.  {See also: fish fry}  I have not given up anything in a VERY long time.  In fact the last time I did, it was chocolate.   It was HARD [which I suppose is the point] but I stuck to it and felt quite victorious at the end.   Mom reserved a box of Tagalongs for me so I would not miss out that year, and the Easter basket was a real treat after my fast.  I had not thought of anything to give up, but recently came across this list as an alternative way to be aware during the season.   I know I won't follow it to a T but it was inspirational and got the wheels spinning.  I also like this non-stuff 'clean out' idea.

This week one of my coworkers asked me when my birthday is.  So I told her:  May 8.  Her response?  "Let me guess?   You'll be 26 this spring"   So I already liked this girl a lot, NOW I LOVE HER!    I have nothing to hide, so I told her 31.    "Wow really?  You look young!"   I personally don't think I look young but I will take it!

Don't forget, Jen has more Quick Takes!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Weekend Wrap: Baseball tickets, Apartments, and more!



Since Auntie is a season ticket holder, she had access before the general population so we quickly logged in and procured 4 seats.   As surprising as this sounds, it's in an area of the stadium we have never sat in before.   We have our fingers crossed for decent weather and of course a TRIBE WIN!

We will soon have a more permanent place to live!
Michael and I decided to visit some apartments on Friday.  While I finished up work, he did a bit of internet research - mostly to find the hours for the places we were thinking of.   At the last moment, he saw a listing for new construction apartments that open in April.   Well - they were the best ones!  I am glad he stumbled across that on Friday.   We visited an existing property, saw the floorplan of the new apartment, and put down a deposit.  We should get the official confirmation that we qualify [in other words that we have enough money and no criminal record] later this week.   Even though it's a pain to unload all of our stuff, it will be AWESOME to have a more permanent place to call home.

Award shows are entertaining
Sunday was Oscar Day for us, and I've got to say, it is much more fun to watch the awards after seeing almost all the movies!  As luck would have it, we got our hands on Gravity Saturday, so by the time the Oscars rolled around, we had seen 8 of the 9 movies nominated for Best Picture.  Of course, the one we did NOT see, Twelve Years A Slave, won that coveted award.   I have mixed feelings on wanting to see it.  On one hand the performances look absolutely amazing, and it WON BEST PICTURE for crying out loud.  But on the other hand, I think it would be a very tough movie to watch.   Not that sharing the stories of those who suffered should not happen.  Definitely not saying that.   I just do not know if I, personally, want to watch those images.    Time will tell.

 But you know when they are announcing the nominees for a particular award?   Say, best actress?  We had seen those clips in context!  It was so cool.  I am a huge nerd with no life.  I realize this.  But what I am trying to say is that during this cold midwestern winter, I enjoyed having something to work toward [I do love a list!] and it helped me to appreciate the movies and performances that much more.   OK enough movie talk.

Our own red carpet
For the first time EVER we were in town to attend the American Cancer Society fundraiser and it was a lot of fun!   Michael and I got all glammed up for the black tie optional ball.   {I forgot to take a picture, boo hiss}   Many kind people complimented me on my hair [!!!! seriously I am not a hair person] and my dress, which is always nice.   Let me tell you I am far from a fashionista.  When you work at home and 'go out' to the gym during the week it can mean a lot when strangers see you as a real person!  We even went home with three items from the silent auction.   If I had presented you with a list of all the items up for auction, I'm pretty sure you would have picked these three for us.   We bid on a lot more, most of which went over our price range pretty quickly.  So what did we win?

  • Two Level A tickets to a Great Lakes Theater performance [we chose DeathTrap later this month]
  • A basket of homemade pasta sauce, pasta, and delicious Italian wine
  • A gift certificate to the Tree House Gallery and Tea Room [where I had my bridal luncheon!]

Between all of our events, it was a busy weekend!   It is, however, rather enjoyable to not get bored during the Long Winter.  (To clarify I meant the season, not the Laura Ingalls Wilder book)  We are all counting down the days til we can get outside again!!

Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Week ending February 28

Why the big kitty to start things off?   Well, as of Thursday morning [when I started this post] it looks like March is coming in like a LION. 

Why am I not surprised, Northeast Ohio?   To cope with Mother Nature's trickery I will continue to:

Rock my fingerless gloves at work

Wear layers

Drink lots of tea

Another full weekend ahead!  As we dodge March's lion we will be

  • attending LRA's high school musical - Crazy for You- with Donald (and also enjoying a tasty dinner beforehand)

  • possibly checking out a place to live [!]
  • celebrating 14 years of this guy

  • attending the American Cancer Society fundraising gala.   

Basically, this means I will be fixing my hair and makeup for 2 consecutive days.   Get excited, y'all! 

Of course, Sunday we will be tuning in to the Oscars and for the first time ever, we have actually seen most of the movies!    For the record, because I will reference this next year [nerd alert], we have seen the following movies that appear in one or more major categories:  
American Hustle, August: Osage County, Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Despicable Me 2, Frozen, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

If only Drug Mart could keep Gravity in stock long enough for me to rent it, I would be 8 for 9 in Best Picture!

Speaking of movies and all things cinema... we actually saw The Wolf of Wall Street and Blue Jasmine this past week.  The Wolf of Wall Street was good.   Honestly I was prepared to hate it and I really did not.  It was better than I was expecting.   Leo was fantastic [though I still feel like his best performance ever was in What's Eating Gilbert Grape?] and the movie was long but did not feel interminable.  AND!  I did not have to take a bathroom break.  I know, I was surprised too.   Side note: I love our Regal card.  In the past few weeks we have obviously seen quite a few movies, but also gotten rewards - Free movie ticket!  Free beverage!  Money off popcorn!  They know how to keep us coming back

While I am not usually the world's biggest Woody Allen fan, but I was glad we saw Blue Jasmine.  Both women are deservedly up for awards this Sunday so I am that much more invested in the show!   And also pumped to see Ellen again.

Last Sunday was a clear but chilly day.  The perfect day to get in a quick run [says me] and eat brunch [says Michael].   We love The Feve for brunch - their menu changes weekly - but were wanting to check out another local establishment's brunch options as well.  This place has amazing dinner so why not expand our horizons?   After walking in we saw a short line but lots of open tables.  As we neared the front of the line, the hostess blatantly ignored a couple in front of us and asked Michael how many were in our party.  As he was saying "They were here first" she interrupted and said "ALL I NEED TO KNOW IS HOW MANY".   So he told her, but as soon as he did, we locked eyes and I said "Would you like to go somewhere else?"   Maybe I was overreacting, and maybe I should expect that type of blatant rudeness in a college town where there is little competition, but I was appalled.  We walked out and headed over the The Feve where we enjoyed a tasty meal and decent service.  Imagine that.


FINALLY got around to making baseball cookies on Sunday and they were darn tasty.   I sent what equates to an entire roll of cookie dough to Al because:

a) I am the greatest sister ever
2) We both love frosting
d) All of the above

Answer: D

Ten points Gryffindor if you can name the movie that lists A / 2 / D as multiple choice options.

Turns out my timing was perfect because this week we were able to watch and listen to NOT ONE BUT TWO Tribe games!  YAAAAAAAY like Kermit.   Let the Opening Day countdown begin - 34 days   GO TRIBE

Wednesday evening we were invited to dinner at Glenda and Marty's.   (Maybe this should be called 7 Quick Takes About Eating!)   Anyway, food cooked by these two is always delicious, but I am not sure I was prepared for the Cleveland feast that was presented.   Lake Erie Perch [fried in a delicious family batter recipe], pierogies from Sokolowskis and homemade coleslaw.  It was a great way to channel summer on the North Coast during yet another cold snap.  And a heck of a way to liven up Hump Day!   Many thanks to our gracious hosts.  We will be back for more soon - consider this a warning

My 12-week Half Marathon training has begun.   I am following a new schedule this year which, at first glance, seems like more running on each day, but not necessarily more running on a weekly basis.   The Saturday runs are longer, sooner, but there are more rest days.  So - we will see how it goes!   My goal is to shave off more minutes of my time.   I shaved 11 minutes off from race #1 to #2.   I am pretty sure I cannot shave 11 minutes off my time from #2 to #3 but I am going to try to shave 'a few' and work with it. 

Don't forget to check out Jen for more Quick[er] Takes.   Maybe if I posted more regularly I could write about this stuff in less detail on the 'quick' page.  :-) 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Celebrating in style

For posterity's sake I wanted to recap how we celebrated for Mom.    I wrote all about her gift here, but there was more to the day than that!

Quite awhile ago, Mom dropped many hints that she wanted to spend her 60th birthday at the Magic Kingdom riding the TeaCups.  

Once we determined we would be in town due to our house closing, I agreed that I would ride with her... just once.

Needless to say, I regretted that decision immediately

Why do I look like I am at death's door?

Mary Lynn wanted to give a birthday kiss to the Queen of Hearts in front of the castle, so we got that out of the way early on as well!   

Due to the ongoing construction in Fantasyland, construction walls are set up in various locations.   One is in front of the TeaCups.   Get it?  They are painting the roses RED?   Mom sure got it

Glenda was in town and was a Magic Kingdom ROOKIE so we had tons of fun not only getting Mom's favorites in for her birthday, but determining what Glenda absolutely had to see.   On the agenda [aside from the aforementioned TeaCups] were: Space Mountain, Buzz Light Year,  Pirates of the Caribbean

The Haunted Mansion, The Hall of Presidents [tissues were distributed],  a walk along the river to get to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Its a Small World [we got stuck in the last room for several minutes and contemplated making a swim for it!], a tour of the Dumbo area, and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority which offered a scenic view and a place to rest tired legs.

Sounds like a good day right?

Well, we were not QUITE done with the Disney magic.   You see, Mom found the most perfect birthday headwear!

She even wore it the next day; it went perfectly with other gifts she received!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

60 Years of Adventures

Mom's 60th birthday had to be special.  Al and I have known this for awhile.   Each 'milestone' birthday has, traditionally, come with a party full of family and friends.    But now the friends who posted the party are no longer in the area.  And Mom is smart enough to spend winters in Florida, thus making a local party a little trickier.  Mom has mentioned over the past few months she may host a pool party this summer to celebrate after the fact, which is an idea I 100% support, but that did not solve the "What to do on Mom's birthday" dilemma.

Well, it turns out we sort of had the answer all along!

The amazingly talented and creative Holly posted about her Dad's 60th back in 2011.   She had the absolutely brilliant idea of reaching out to people from her Dad's past to collect memories [60 total, of course] they have shared along the way.  I showed the idea to Al and she thought it would be perfect for Mom; we filed the idea away.   Flash-forward to the end of 2013.   Al and I were still on board and ready to start on our fun project.

So here's what we did:

Several months ago I took a screen shot of all of Mom's Facebook friends and cross referenced with mine to see who we were connected to.   I also scoured my inbox for emails that had been sent to me in the past, on which family members were copied.  For those not online, I found their actual mailing addresses.   I put them in a folder on my computer called Mom 60 [obviously they went into a folder.  Remember, I love folders of all sorts] and mentioned the idea to Dad this past fall.

Right after New Year's, Al and I were ready to move forward and finalized a list of people to contact.  I reached out to a bunch of people who were, in some way or another, connected to my Mom.   Family, friends, friends who should be family, in-laws, former colleagues, neighbors, and even students she knew via 20 years working at a school.   (To get an idea of what I wrote, check out Holly's example.)

The responses came in almost immediately.   The same day I sent out the email, in fact, I heard from a former colleague who said "Great idea!  I'll mail mine on Monday" and she did.   The notes came in pretty steadily, actually.    The first couple arrived in the mailbox less than a week after the initial email, and there was only one day in all of January that I did not find at least one memory waiting for me in the day's mail, and of course I got emails daily.    February continued the fun, and we ended up with more than notes from 70 people.   The US Postal Service should thank me, really.    I mean, I am not even managing wedding invitations here, but my mailbox bursting every day!

It is absolutely humbling to receive notes from people who appear at different parts along Mom's timeline.    We heard from the usual suspects: siblings, my grandma, some cousins.  But we also received notes from extended family, including cousins on both sides of the family who we probably have not seen since Bill Clinton was in office..... serving his first term!    Friends from elementary school, high school and college chimed in.  Also in the mailbox were notes from a former boss, faculty and staff who worked with mom at my alma matter, and students who had not spoken to my mother since graduating high school 20 years ago.   Family neighbors who have known Mom since the 1950s contributed [and we had not even reached out to them initially!] and one of my cousins' friends who was able to go to the zoo for the first time ever thanks to our mom.  

Notes came from down the street, neighboring states and even far away places like New York, Massachusetts, Florida, California, and Washington.   We even had memories sent in from London and Prague!   Some people sent photos.   Some hand-wrote multiple notes.  Others typed a brief thought, or in some cases, lengthy recollections.   Notes arrived written on scrap paper, on personalized stationery, and in one case, written in a "Happy Valentine Birthday" card.  A few of the notes were laugh out loud funny, and a few were tear-jerkers.  Quite frankly, neither Al nor I have personally met everyone who sent in a note.   And yet they were more than willing to set aside time in their busy lives to let our mother know they were thinking of her.

To me, that's the best birthday gift of all.

So in the days before we flew down to Florida to celebrate with Mom, I figured out who had sent memories and decided in what order to arrange them.   I wanted a mix of emotions alternating, and wanted to rotate between family, friends, colleagues, etc. to touch on all facets of Mom throughout her life.   I even created a spreadsheet so Al could weigh in on the fun.  [Yes, seriously] My initial plan was to number the envelopes 1 - 60 and insert one memory in each.   However, due to the fact that 70 people responded, I included all memories for each person in his or her own envelope, and occasionally included memories from 2 people in one.   We had to improvise!

At Al's suggestion, I sealed the [very bright] envelopes with fun stickers, instead of using traditional colors or boring gold circles.   Anyone who knows Mom realizes that this was a fantastic choice!


As if the gift wasn't personal enough, I wanted to really make it MOM before she even opened an envelope.   Coincidentally I came across an Alice In Wonderland quote while I was collecting memories and knew it would work perfectly with this project.   So, using my mad PrintShop skills I made a card with the quote on the front, and on the inside explained what we had done.   I sent a PDF to Al and she was game.   

So I tucked these beauties into my carry-on Tuesday afternoon, Michael and I flew to Florida and packed up the house.  Al arrived late Friday, and Saturday the whole fam-damily headed to a scrumptious dinner at Primo, 

came back for Zuccotto cake and sang Happy Birthday.  

After we cleaned up the kitchen and put the cake away [such willpower] Al said "Actually, Mummy, we have one more thing for you."

At this point, for some reason, Mom got nervous.   "Is it bad?" she asked.   "No," we cried, "it's fun!"  Mom once again reiterated that she did not want any gifts.   To which we honestly responded, "Well, we did not buy you anything"  Al sat Mom on the couch and I ran upstairs to get the bundle.   You guys--- she was SHOCKED.

As expected, the card did her in before she even got to the memories!   That was not our intention, but once she read what Al and I had done, she started to cry.   Luckily, the laughter far out-weighed the tears.

It took Mom more than 2 hours to open and read all the memories.  The subjects varied widely, but we did notice a few common themes illustrating that Mom:
  • is an excellent listener
  • is extremely fun  
  • owns the dance floor 
  • loves books  

We, of course, have known all of this for years! 

I also want to point out that more than once in the course of walking down memory lane, Mom shouted Oh My Gosh I forgot about this! or Oh I'm so glad she did not write about some of the other crazy things we used to do or How did you get ahold of ______?   I have not heard from ____ in years!

Selfishly, this is probably the best gift we have ever given to anyone.   It was so much fun to collect these memories and re-live legendary stories, but also learn about our mom.  Many memories took place long before Al and I were born and gave us an even more detailed look at Mom.   And it's weird that despite being on this earth with her for so long, this project allowed us to learn so much.

So, if you ask me, the best gift you could give our Mom was not only a lifetime of adventures, but the chance to remember so many of them again.