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.

Friday, February 21, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Double Dose!

So turns out when you move your entire house without professional help it takes awhile.  Hence my absence from the blogosphere.  If for no other reason except to keep track of my year, I present a double dose of quick takes

7 Quick Takes: Week ending February 14 
{this should have been posted last Friday morning}

We made another dent in our Oscar movie watching quest!   Dallas Buyers Club and Captain Phillips were both very enjoyable.   I must say, I was a bit apprehensive about Captain Phillips.   I don't really know what I thought it would be like, but it was awesome!  Highly recommended.   I figured Tom Hanks would be amazing and he was.   Totally got hosed on the lack of an Oscar nod.

We had a lovely meal and concert experience on Saturday.   The Cleveland Orchestra did not disappoint, and Michael and I could not decide which part of our meal was the best... his cauliflower and blue cheese soup, my chopped salad, his hanger steak, my chorizo mac n cheese or our amazing cinnamon bread pudding.   #thisiswhyIrun

Tuesday afternoon we headed to Florida to begin our PACK THE HOUSE project.   Nene was kind enough to take us to the airport on Tuesday.    In typical Nene fashion the garage opener wouldn't work, and our iPhone player got stuck in the car outlet, so we could not take it with us for our drive back.   We were all cracking up at the "Nene-ish" situation

So it turns out that packing is a lot of work.    We started Wednesday morning by unpacking the boxes of boxes, and got help from The Moms.

 We worked for hours!   Even though we don't have a lot of stuff, we managed to keep busy

Mom looked like she was hugging a ghost.  It was just a lamp

There were injuries!

Mary Lynn pinched her fingers a few times and I injured myself pulling apart a bed frame.   The worst part?  We decided to LEAVE IT BEHIND!  

Why yes those are Muppet band-aids and yes they helped me heal quicker

Thursday we loaded the pod.    But first I did a little jig to kick things off

It took longer than expected.... about 4 hours to load a 3-4 room POD.   Now, keep in mind we have a 3 bedroom house, so I would say that's pretty good, stuff-wise.    We celebrated by taking a WONDER picture.   

As in, I WONDER why we did not hire professionals.   And that is a very good question to wonder.

What would a move be without Jules in a tall box?

7 Quick Takes: Week ending February 21

A few days in Florida after a frigid Ohio winter really gets you appreciating the sunshine and warm weather.   I could not resist capturing this moment on the patio after running outside for TWO consecutive days (!) including a 10 mile slog with Al.   We both earned our birthday cake that day.

I spoke at my alma mater this past week; I felt so old.   My mission was to speak to the seniors [only 100 days til graduation!] and get them pumped about their transition to LRA alumni.    Despite the free pizza and KLONDIKE BARS they seemed less than thrilled.  I like to think it was high school angst and not me or the others who spoke to them!

Michael and I drove from Orlando to Cleveland Monday and Tuesday.   It about a day and a half.  It was epic - we listened to good music, had lively conversation, and played the license plate game.   What can I say?  We travel in style.   Highlights?  Stopping in Atlanta for lunch with Gabrielle on Monday.   We forgot to take a picture!   But also, we drove past a familiar sight of my childhood.   The Florence Y'All water tower in northern Kentucky

Sadly our moving escapades severely limited our Olympic watchings thus far.  But I am happy to say we arrived at our destination on Monday evening just in time to see ice dancing.  I must say, Davis and White get me every time.   I love that they have been together so long and seem to almost move as one person and know exactly what the other person will be doing.  It's awesome

While we were away, Oliver spent his first session in Ohio kitty boarding.    He was not a happy camper when we dropped him off, but boy was he pumped to be home on Tuesday

I discovered MyFitnessPal this week.    [Thanks Al!] Whoa.   I thought I was OCD with Fitbit....  The fact that Fitbit syncs with MFP is making me ridiculously excited.

My mom turned SIXTY last Friday.   Yes she is a Valentine.    Her request?  To spend the day at the Magic Kingdom.  We were more than happy to oblige.

Relatedly, I almost died last Friday.   Say what?    Well you see...... My mother wanted to ride the damn Tea Cups.  It was her birthday so I couldn't say no.  It's not my favorite ride.

Mom insisted that she did not want any gifts.  But I love giving gifts {much more than receiving them, in fact} so I would have had none of that.  We gave her a pretty awesome gift, which I will be writing about in the next few days.

Friday, February 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Week Ending February 7

We have a big weekend planned

  • Movie Theater trip [I am pulling for Dallas Buyer's Club, personally, but we have to see what's playing when] 
  • Dinner at Washington Place
  • Cleveland Orchestra concert 
  • Prepare for FL flight, which should not take long at all
  • Baseball cookies! [see below]

Friday January 31 was TRUCK DAY.   So of course, this past week we SHOULD HAVE made cookies.   Unfortunately I was not quite as on top of things this year, so I did not bake them - let alone send them - yet.  Hoping I can get my act together this weekend...   Wait, you're not an obsessed baseball fan?  You don't celebrate the official start of spring training?   You're utterly confused?   Catch up here.  GO TRIBE

Along with packing, purging, and changing my shipping address on eleventy billion websites, moving means I have to find a new hair stylist.   I LOVED my Florida stylist.  She's the best and originally from Ohio;  it was like a match made in heaven.  But she lives 1000 miles away now and I cannot afford to fly her in monthly.   Whomp-whomp.   Tuesday I went to a new salon and got my color fixed [bye bye gray!] and a trim.   I never like to dive into a brand new style with a new person.   I have to get to know them first before I take a big plunge.   Maybe next time.... I liked her enough that I booked an appointment for March so we'll see what happens!

Earlier this week Michael and I attended an event talking about the Vision Beyond 50 long-term plan of our alma mater.   It was a group of high-level donors [a group to which I will someday belong!] and a new way for me to learn about the school.   Weeknight events can be tricky for me with my crazy schedule, but it's always nice to meet people and stay up to date with what is going on, especially as Alumni Council chair.

During a previous snow invasion - this was more than just a storm, folks; look at that drift! - I noticed my calf-height winter boots were just not cutting it to GET THE MAIL.    You know you live in a winter wonderland when getting the mail requires you to dress for the Iditerod.   So I scoured for discounted legit winter boots.    And this is what I got.   I am not yet sure if I will keep them.   They seem ginormous and furry but oh so warm and likely quite functional and water proof.  Still on the fence here.  Thoughts?

So turns out I love fleece tights, but the size chart is a wee bit off.   You see, I am 5'9 and weigh more than 130 and less than 175.   According to this helpful information, these tights should fit.   However...... it took a LOT of work.   I jumped and danced and scrunched the fabric and kept pulling.  It was quite a sight.  But when your legs are 39" long, hip to ankle, sometimes there just isn't enough fabric.    Good news is I did finally get them in place, after much effort and wriggling.  Typically this is not my idea of a good time and I'd return the tights immediately, but they were so inexpensive, and are so cozy, I think I'll give 'em a whirl.  [name the 90's movie]

I realize this is no longer a 'current topic' but bear with me if only for the recipe.   Like most Americans, on Sunday we tuned in for the Super Bowl and were, sadly, a bit bored.   I am a football fan and also tend to enjoy the commercials.   This year, though, I was just not feeling it.  The game was ridiculous, and most ads were forgettable.    A bright spot included Michael making Emeril's Spinach and Artichoke dip sandwiches.    Never have we worked so hard for a grilled cheese, but it sure was tasty!