Friday, January 29, 2010

MKE Ladies - Clean out Your Closets!

My favorite makeup store in MKE, Blush, is having a dress drive to benefit the Cinderella Project of Milwaukee. Donate any gently used prom dress during the event (Feb 1-7) and get a free goodie bag and complimentary touch up from Blush!

I don't think the prom dresses that were in style in the late '90s are really going to be popular now, but perhaps I have something else in my closet that would work.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2010 Book List Beginning

So far I have read 3 books in 2010. This puts me well on track to at least match my 2009 count of 30, although I have no set number in mind this year. I felt like I really pushed myself to read a lot last year to make my goal so I'm interested in how much I will read without one.



My friend MS sent me this book after we discussed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, of which she also recommended to me. I really loved both books, although Peony in Love requires you to have a bit more imagination because it deals with ghost marriages and such. That said, I liked Peony in Love a tad better than Snow Flower. Both are beautifully written and I also enjoyed the authors notes at the end detailing how she came up with the ideas.



This book started as a doozy for me. I could NOT get into it. Therefore it stood on my nightstand, bookmark at page 36 forever. I took it along on our vacation and once I got going, I could not stop. I really liked this book, although one of my former colleauges didn't so much love it. The format makes it somewhat difficult as it sometimes has a first person narrator, sometimes you are reading letters/journals and sometimes a third person narrator. The book was a Booker Prize finalist so of course it deals with themes of colonialism.

From two incredible love stories to Push.


Not a love story. This is the novel that the movie Precious is based on. I did not see the movie. I was a little afraid to read the book as themes of sexual and physical abuse and incest are prevalent. It was an easy read in that it is a short book that you could probably get through in one night. It took me two because of the subject matter, I had to put it down it was so out of my comfort zone. Precious is a great character though and I thought this was a great book. I have heard that the movie is easier to get through if you've read the book so I'm eager to watch it now. I'm really looking forward to our book club discussion about this in a few weeks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Confession: We Ate Boxed Potatoes for Dinner Last Night


Last night was sort of one of those nights where I was ill prepared for dinner. Usually i try to plan our meals over the weekend and then we don't have the "what are we going to do for dinner" discussion. That did not get done this weekend so we got home from the Y and stared into the abyss of our pantry.

I made a box of Betty Crocker Au Gratin potatoes. Gross. Nate asked why we even had those in the pantry. "Free Sample", I responded. I would turn my nose up at those in the grocery store, but if Betty Crocker is going to send me a free box, so be it.

To make matters worse, we settled in with our boxed potatoes to watch Anthony Bourdain in Sardinia. I'm pretty sure eating boxed food is a crime in his world. I felt so ashamed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

2010 Crafting Kick Off

I am attempting to continue my resolution that I started last year to make as many gifts as possible in 2010. First up was my friend Ali's birthday in early January AND the arrival of her 2nd son, Felix a week earlier. The gift was a little late due to the fact that the holidays and our vacation did not allow me to get going (oh, and some minor procrastination!).

First up, the boys. You may recall that Ali sent me some organic cotton knit fabric that she won in a blog contest a few months ago. I knew she loved the fabric so I tucked it away. I thought it would be fun to make her boys matching pj pants. So voila - Big Brother and Little Brother PJ Pants were born:



This fabric was from Spoonflower, which essentially screen prints patterns on fabric. This allows you to design your own fabric! The fabric was wonderful to work with - a very soft organic cotton knit. I am curious to see how the fabric holds up with washing. Does the print fade? I also noticed that they stop the print about an inch short of the borders so you have to be careful when working on the fold.

I also had some organic fabric from a request for organic Schlocks that I received, so I made some newborn Schlocks for Felix in a coordinating mustard polka dot:

This fabric is from the new Cloud9 organic fabric line. It was very thin fabric so the interfacing that the pattern calls for was key.

For her birthday, I made her a Birdie Sling. This has turned out to be a great pattern - everyone I make one for loves it! The "Alison" was my 4th Birdie Sling. (The Amanda was my first, followed by The Sarah, and My Mom's). I love this pattern. It is tedious to cut out all the materials, but once you get all the cutting done and interfacings adhered, it is a breeze. (Disclaimer: Cutting is my least favorite part of sewing.) The bag is nice and roomy too. I present, The Alison:


The Interior:

The fabrics I used for this included some linen (also used for my mom's bag and my mother-in-law's table runner) that I got at Jo-Ann Fabrics. I should have picked up a whole bolt of this as I love working with it and it is a great neutral. The blue leaf fabric is from fabric.com (a minor addiction i have) called Country Fair Leaves in Blue Cotton Duck Cloth (designed by Denyse Schmidt for Free Spirit Fabrics). Duck Cloth (aka Canvas) was a great fabric choice for this bag as you do not have to use as much interfacing. Unfortunately it looks like this fabric is no longer available on fabric.com but there is a messenger bag on Etsy for sale that uses it!

2010 crafting is off to a great start. Now onto those February birthdays...

Girls Girls Girls

What a jam packed weekend!

Friday night we dined at The Wicked Hop prior to walking over to The Riverside to see Anthony Bourdain. Of course we had a fish fry and had to try their Bloody Marys, as The Wicked Hop was voted as having the best Bloody in MKE last year. It came with a bunch of cheese strings - fresh string cheese. YUM YUM YUM.

Anthony Bourdain was spectacular. We did not really know what to expect but from the minute he came out in his white cowboy boots, faded black jeans, black t-shirt and black blazer with a PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon beer - one of Nate's favorites - this may be when Nate's crush on AB began), we knew it was going to be good. He basically talked for about an hour and 15 minutes about random stuff, beginning with a few rips on some well known food network stars (ahem Sandra Lee and Rachel Ray) and confessed that he actually liked Giada and Ina (phew - b/c I love the Barefoot Contessa!). From there he covered trying to make his 3 year old daughter afraid of Ronald McDonald, his love of meat, disdain for vegetarianism, some stories from travelling. Overall, he was EXACTLY like you would expect him to be if you have read his books and/or watched No Reservations. It may sound kinda boring to sit and listen to someone talk, but he is so engaging. Both Nate & I loved it. After the talk, he did an extended Q&A with the audience where people would walk around with microphones and you could ask him any question. Although there were a few good questions, it never fails, that a lot of stupid questions get answered. He confessed that he did not know much about MKE and that he had only spent the day there, had lunch at Bacchus, and about four people asked him what his favorite MKE restaurants are. Good news - they did film some while they were here for an upcoming Heartland show. AHHHH! He noted that MKE had a "great vibe". (We couldn't agree more - I need to get an "I HEART MKE" T).

All in all, we walked out of there loving him even more. I'm now officially obsessed (if I wasn't before).

Saturday morning I met my book club girls for brunch at Birdie's Cafe, a previously unknown (to me) gem of a place. We decided that for our January meeting, we would skip reading a book over the busy holidays and go out for brunch instead. Birdie's is a quaint coffee/sandwich shop set up in an old house. It has a great eclectic mix of linens, furniture, plates, etc and great food. I WILL be going back! It was great to catch up with the girls!

From brunch with the girls to girls night in Madison for me. My three BFs and I planned on hanging out in Madison a while back - we generally try to have a girls night every couple of months. We kicked the night off with food at Brocach - we wanted to eat at the Old Fashioned but the wait was an hour and we had to get to the UW Hockey game! It was a great game - we beat the #1 team in the country! I must confess that I didn't/don't know much about hockey but it was exciting! After the game we headed to the Essen Haus for boots of beer and polka. When in WI...

While I was hanging with the gals, Nate was hanging with some college friends in Madison also. We reunited to meet my dad for lunch at the Nitty Grittty, a former employer of mine. Nate & my dad went to the UW Basketball game (our Christmas gift to him) while I returned to hanging out with the girls.

Spaghetti and meat sauce and laundry rounded out the weekend for us! Hope yours was as great!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Anthony Bourdain TONIGHT!



The day has finally arrived - tonight we are heading to The Riverside to see Anthony Bourdain Live! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Somehow I will make it through this day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

School's Back in Session

My first class on the semester was on Tuesday night and it went much better than last semester's class. I don't have nearly as many spastic emails from students freaking out so I either have a more mellow group of students or I did a better job of explaining the course. (I'm going to go with the latter.) Our University also moved to a MUCH more user-friendly online classroom interface, which when teaching a hybrid class (half-online, half-classroom), is paramount. I also enjoy the fact that class is on a Tuesday evening versus last fall when I had Thursday evening. I am much more gung ho and able to deal earlier in the week compared to later. (Plus, Thursday night television is amazing.)

Although I was kind of not looking forward to starting back up again with teaching, it seems to be much easier the second time around. Much of the curriculum and format is staying the same and I already spent a lot of time crafting all of that. Of course, there are still some changes, updates to be made, but so far, Spring 2010 is a thumbs up.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Spectacle

If you tell enough people about something you love, they start to look out for you. This happens often with a blog, which is one of the main reasons that I keep doing this even though I've thought about stopping numerous times.

Example for the day:

My mom called me this morning to tell me that Elvis Costello would be interviewing Bruce Springsteen on his show on the Sundance Channel tonight. What? Elvis Costello has a show? So turning to one of my best friends, Google, I found that Elvis Costello has a show, Spectacle, in which he interviews musicians. Bruce (Part 1) is up tonight and Part 2 will be next Wendesday evening.

Ok, so this may not be the best example given that this is my mom, who probably encouraged Santa Claus to give me my first Bruce Springsteen cassette tape at age 6, but still. Love it when this happens!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Red Velvet, Red Dresses and Sequins..These are a few of my favorite things!

My friend, AB, posted that Magnolia Bakery had a cookbook at the same time my aunt J scanned the red velvet cupcake recipe from HER Magnolia Bakery cookbook and emailed it to me. AWESOME! We still have about 8 cupcakes left to eat, but I am excited to try the MB recipe. I also got a bunch of suggestions via Facebook too. Thanks everybody!

Speaking of red, I am also excited at the FIND from Target yesterday. During the holidays, Target came out with about 15 limited edition dresses for $40. They were featured in a lot of magazines, tv shows and blogs because of the low price. $40 wasn't exactly low enough for me. I have this threshold for buying target clothes - and $40 is way above it. Yesterday, I found the red holiday dress on clearance for $9.98! I scooped that puppy up as it was the only one left and brought it home. It fits great! What do I have to wear this thing to? Nothing at the moment, but we already have 3 weddings on the docket for 2010 so I'm sure it will work for one of them. This is also how I got my favorite party dress - I found it at Target for super cheap and bought it figuring I would find somewhere to wear it to and it has become my go-to party dress. Here is a pic (disregard the black dress) that I was able to find on The Budget Fashionista:

I think the length is a little strange so I may hem it a bit. I REALLY wish that the Slyvia Belted dress (see below) was there, but beggars can't be choosers.


Now, speaking of dresses, did anyone else watch the Golden Globes? Yeah, I was going to work on stuff for class, but the RED carpet was calling my name. (See how this is all tying together? Red Velvet, Red Dress, Red Carpet...welcome to my ADHD mind, folks). The red carpet was not up to par because it was raining so I actually did more of my dress critiquing during the ceremony. Some thoughts -

I actually really liked Cameron Diaz's RED dress (RED IS ON MY BRAIN I GUESS!). I am not the biggest CD fan, as my friend (not Cameron Diaz), CD, would say, she is Fugly. But she rocked the dress last night, in my opinion.

No me gusta Jennifer Aniston's dress. I am getting bored with her. She always picks the same dress for every function.

In my next life, (I think I've mentioned this already), I want to be Kate Winslet.

What was the train wreck of Chloe Sevigny? I usually apprectiate her wacka-doo sense of style but wasn't feeling this.

I liked the long, body hugging sequiny dresses. They sort of worked for me this year. I thought Jennifer Garner looked great from the neck down (did not like her Jersey Shore hairdo) and I thought Toni Colette rocked it. Maybe this was influenced by my own experience wearing a sequined dress, but I really liked these two dresses. I thought Anna Pacquin looked great wearing sequins as well, but my view of her was limited to her sitting in the audience. I just saw a full on shot of the dress online and wasn't as enthusiastic about it.

I liked Julia Roberts' dress, but it reminded me of something we (as in normal folk) would wear to a wedding or something. It was a little casual.

And Nate & I thought Christina Aguilera had a wardrobe malfunction when she walked out wearing her dress. Oops! On second look, that's just how ugly her dress really was.

I loved the color of Sandra Bullock's dress (plum/purple) but didn't really like the guazy part of the lower half.

SOOOOOOOO to wrap it up, I would say my favorite was Toni Collette rockin' the sequins and the worst dressed was a tie between Chloe and Diane Krueger's ruffle contraption.

Here are some of the dresses. I haven't found the best slideshow yet. Usually Elle does a pretty good one. GoFugYourself.com is going to be good today!

Happy Monday folks!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

TCB

I love weekends at home!

Last night we had pizza and watched Julie & Julia since Nate had not seen it yet. I still loved it the second time around, but I do have a minor crush on Julia Child. Nate liked it as well.

Today we "TCB" - took care of business. (Or "bidness" if you are a fan of Stringer Bell on The Wire). Elvis Presley used to wear a gold ring with TCB on it. How do I know this? Because my mom, sister and I took a detour through Graceland on our way back to WI after touring my grad school in Atlanta. But I digress...

Nate usually does breakfast on Saturday mornings. Today was homemade bacon, egg & cheese sandwiches on english muffins with coffee. After that, I finished up a care package for a family that just had a recent addition. (Pics will be forthcoming once I know they received and opened it.) Nate also built another shelf for our office/craft room closet since it was again getting a little out of control. The extra shelf definitely made room for my growing fabric collection. Our house had not been cleaned in over a month so we got that done, laundry is almost done and the outdoor Christmas lights are officially packed up.

We finished off the night going out for sushi! I haven't had sushi since NYC so it was really great. I also made red velvet cupcakes. I used a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook since hardly any of my cookbooks had a recipe (and I have a lot of cookbooks). I made them with cream cheese frosting. They were good, but a little on the dry side in my opinion. Nate thought they were really good. I think I am going to try to find a different recipe - if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know. I keep tasting the Magnolia Bakery ones in my mind....mmmmm! Oh and I beat Nate at Phase 10. I also kicked his butt on the 60 second plank position on Wii Fit, MWAH-AH-AH.

Tomorrow I have to suck it up and prepare for class which starts Tuesday. I am sort of regretting that I agreed to teach another semester...mostly because I feel lazy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The basement saga continues

Last night we had a woman from a carpet store come and look at our basement. We are pursuing the carpet replacement through our homeowner's insurance. We're not sure if we are going to get it replaced this way, since we don't know if our premium would go up after such a claim, but in order to process everything and figure out if that will indeed happen, they proceed as if we will be doing it this way.

We found out last night that the insurance will not only get us new carpet, but will pay us for the carpet removal, disposal and water removal. Nice to know that we could get compensated for those days in between Christmas and Vacation spent with shovels, box cutters and lawn bags! It never occurred to us that we could PAY a service to do this, so we were pretty excited to hear about that option. We will find out next week exactly how much we would get from the insurance company and exactly how it will affect our annual payment.

For now the basement is just cement floor throughout, but it smells a million times better. Even pre-flooding, the carpet was not very attractive smelling. It just smelled sort of like an old person's house, if you know what i mean.

We likely will re-carpet the basement. Mostly because we have no carpet in our house, it will provide some warmth to the room, it is inexpensive and good for what the room is used for - an extra tv room with a pool table and an assortment of our college-days furniture. We don't use our basement a ton (hence why we never replaced the flooring to begin with) so it didn't make sense to us to put a ton of money into a different type of floor. Also, as I have mentioned, this is the first time this has happened in the lifetime of the house. We do not have consistent flooding issues. I'll keep you "posted".

Monday, January 11, 2010

Happy New Year!

We arrived back from our cruise on Saturday night. I think I am still swaying (a la the motion of the ocean) a bit, although it is getting better.

We flew to Orlando on New Years Eve and spent the first two nights of our trip at my in-law's condo in Celebration, FL. My brother-in-law got us free passes to the parks so we went to Magic Kingdom and Epcot on New Year's Day. It was a tad chilly, as no doubt, wherever you live in the US, you have felt in the past week.

Luckily, we boarded the ship at Port Canaveral, FL on Saturday. We were aboard the Disney Magic. We did not take off until 4 or 5 PM that day so the first couple of hours on the ship we got into our stateroom, which was bigger and nicer than I expected, and explored the ship, which was easy because my brother-in-law was a Gold-level cruiser, meaning he had been on 5 other Disney Cruises. I also took advantage of the track around the boat (3 laps=1 mile) to get a run in before we took off -this turned out to be a SMART idea as I was only able to run one other time while we were moving. After we took off, we had to do a mandatory evacuation drill so that if we did pull a Titanic, we would know what to do.

Each night on the cruise roughly followed the same formula - we went to the live show and then went to dinner. You eat with the same group at the same table with the same servers each night and rotate through restaurants. In our case, we rotated through three different restaurants, but there were 7 different menus. There was a fancy, adult only restaurant on board the ship too that we went to as a group for brunch once and Nate & I went for dinner once too. All over the ship, the food was really good and you could order whatever you want, however much you wanted. Several times I ordered two different entrees. The service was OUTSTANDING as well. I was sad to say goodbye to our two servers, Marcellito and Daniella, and our stateroom host (aka maid) Loyd.

Our first 3 days were at sea followed by one day in St. Maarten/St. Martin, one day in St. Thomas, another day at sea, and a day at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas. We had great weather for the most part on the cruise. The one morning that it rained, we took advantage of the spa :)

My favorite port stop was definitely St. Thomas, where we hung out at the beach at Magen's Bay for most of the day. Apparently Magen's Bay is one of the top 10 beaches in the world, according to National Geographic. It certainly was the best beach we have ever been on. Here are some pics:





Here are pics from St. Maarten/St. Martin. We did an island tour that went around the entire island visiting both the French side (St. Martin) and the Dutch side (St. Maarten).



Finally, here are some pics from Castaway Cay. Nate & I snorkled here and it was amazing - I could not believe how many fish we saw!



We arrived back in Orlando where it was 32 degrees! We spent the day at the condo and then flew back later that night. Thankfully we had hired the neighbor boy to shovel our driveway while we were gone! All in all, it was a nice getaway in some beautiful locations with some much-needed SUN! I think our entire family (12 people total) had a great time together. I did get a little seasick on the boat, so days on the boat were a little rough for me, but the nice teak chairs by the adult pool in the sun certainly helped. :)

While we were gone, we left a dehumidifier run in our basement and it is completely dried out. No more smelly basement! Woohoo! We aren't really sure what type of flooring we will get for the "living part" of the basement. It may seem silly to put in carpet again given what happened, but really, one flooding in over 40 years isn't that bad. (Trust me, that was OLD carpet). However, we are considering a non-carpet floor as well. Just one of the home-related chores on the list for 2010!