Sunday, February 28, 2010

So I like taking pictures of my cat...

Today was the first day in a long time I could actually feel the warm sun through my windows. Our driveway is officially melted and as we approach the first day of March, I can almost smell Spring.

I think Jade can too. As I was planted on the floor in the living room this afternoon, watching the USA/Canada hockey game on mute, with Ingrid Michaelson in the background, working on some school work, I watched Jade find the small box of sunlight that streamed through our picture window. First, she took at bath, then she proceeded to be adorable in a number of different sleeping positions. The closer the camera gets to her face, the more 'cover kitty' she looks.

These pictures personify peace in every way on this Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stealing our hearts already...

Everyone told me that being an aunt is pretty amazing. I've always loved babies, but holding Charly Grace for the first time took on a whole new meaning.

She was born late Wednesday night, February 24, at 10:54 pm. This wait made for an interesting night for the anxious family in the waiting room at Covenant Medical Center. A night of prediction, anticipation, and excitement, Forrest Gump, peanuts in 7up, downloading ringtones on our cell phones, and Grandpa longing to take a nap on the overstuffed leather couch in the lactation room. Every now and then, in between Carol's, 'Fat Bottom Girl' ringtone attempt, or Beau's, 'The Good, the Bad, the Ugly,' imitation, Jordan would glide through the double doors of the hospital and fill us in on the news.

"They think it's going to be closer to midnight."
"Kelli has crazy pregnancy strength."
"We're getting closer."

Then, an hour before midnight, Jordan and Kelli welcomed a new baby girl to the world. Weighing 7 lbs. 9 oz., Charly Grace was here. We gave them some time to process the newness of their world before crowding in their room to take a peek. As tears filled the grandmas' eyes, and yelps of joy for a baby girl filled the room, Charly laid still in Jordan's arms, a wide-eyed look of peace and almost boredom covering her sweet little face. It was a moment none of us will ever forget.
The waiting room...need I say anymore???

One proud daddy...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Happiness Project

Sometimes, I think the world around us fuels cynicism. The news, the radio, and even the daily conversations of people on the side of the street seem to dwell on 'the bad.' And at times, if I'm not careful, I find that it's easy to be negative. To end every day thinking about the one negative thing that happened amidst the twenty positive blessings in that same day. It's especially bad in the wintertime, when the world is cold and the earth seems so quiet and still.

Funks are no fun. And, over time, I've learned they don't add a single ounce of relief to an already shabby day. My father-in-law is a man of few words, but I've learned over the years that the words he does use often make a lot of sense. He reminds me of Clint Eastwood in that way. He says, 'the way I see it, you've got two choices in life. You either deal with whatever comes your way, or, you don't.'

Not only do I need to 'deal,' but I need to do it with a bag full of lemons and a half-full glass of lemonade. Because a glass half empty doesn't sound near as fulfilling as a glass half-full.

In August, on my birthday, I started the Happiness Project. Inspired by a book that sits on my shelf at school, I started journaling about my favorite thing that happened every day before I went to bed. Some days, the event was easy to identify, like Beau and I's trip to Northeast Iowa in the fall, sipping wine and taking pictures of pretty fall leaves, or a cozy night in the theater during a downpour of rain. Other times, I have to search a little deeper, sometimes even for something small, like a great hair day, a yummy supper, or a completed to-do list. What I found during this endeavor was that everyday, there was indeed something that made me think back on and smile about. That even on the worst days, there are lemons. Some are big, plump, and super juicy, others are small, but surprisingly sweet.

So...I am going to make it a point to start documenting some of my weekly favorites on one of my favorite displays...this here blog.
This week, it's pretty easy.
Charly Grace brings this whole new definition of love to my world. I've always loved babies, but getting to hold my own niece takes on a whole new meaning. Beau and I went to see Jordan, Kelli, and Charly yesterday and I could have snuggled with her all day. She is so fun to hold. You can put her in almost any position and she just snuggles up right against you. My favorite is holding her by my shoulder. You can smell her and nuzzle your nose against her soft little perfect head of hair. She's pretty amazing.

I love nights with great friends. In college, we were together all the time. I'd plan my weeks around nights with friends. Now, these nights don't happen near as often, yet they're almost sweeter that way. Last night, Brooke, Mel, and I ventured out into the cold and into the cold Young Arena for a hockey game. We had a blast. It was an unusually entertaining game: lots of goals, lots of rednecks yelling really loud ("Move the puck in the other direction!), dancing, music, and a really good fight. Brooke has officially declared hockey her favorite sport.

Other 'favorites' to add to this list? Beau and I, and Gabe and Gina managed to talk my father-in-law, Ray, aka, my version of Clint Eastwood, out to dinner Friday night. Now, this may seem like nothing to you, but to us, it was a milestone to be remembered. Actually, in the six years I've known Ray, we've ate out at a restaurant one time...Beau's college graduation. And that was at Toads, so I wouldn't even consider that truly 'dining out.' Cloth napkins, no TVs, side salads, the whole works. We stayed in Hampton and ate at Pakodas, a steakhouse in town. The food was good, but the conversation was better.

4.) My new laundry system in the basement. Since becoming a homeowner, I've taken over my mom's system of hanging damp laundry that I don't want dried all the way in every doorway in our house. The system creates an unhappy husband, not to mention, repeated pick-ups of shirts and pants that fall on the floor in a pile if we happen to brush them with our shoulder. So...Beau's Sunday trip to Lowes inspired a new laundry hanging system in, go figure, the laundry room. Sometimes, the simplest changes make for the best results. I actually enjoy doing laundry now!

5.) I'm officially halfway done with the first draft of my MA research paper. 25 pages in, I'm feeling good. I like my topic, I have so much more to say, and the system I have in place for writing is working rather well. By the end of June, I will officially be done with college for a long while.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A 3-Peat!

"I'm just a simple man. I've got a chili pot and a dream."
-My husband

Well...he did it again. My husband, in this post I will refer to him as, Con Quistador de Chili Con Carne, stole the show at the 8th Annual Toad's Chili Cook-ON. His hot and tasty chili, better known as 'The Farter Starter,' took the People's Choice Award for the 3rd year in a row! In addition to the People's Champion, Con Quistador also took the award for Best Presentation, as well as First Pot Gone. Out of 25 chilis, Beau's chili remained supreme. His picture stays on the Toad's plaque for yet another year and his confidence is ever-so-heightened.
So...if you see Con Quistador in the next few days, weeks, or months (this is quite the celebratory process), wish him a fine culinary congratulations. He might even show you his winning apron :).

His chili is quite good. And for some of us, thankfully, it has yet to live up to its name!
Kelli even made it out to support Beau's chili. The chili is maybe just what she needed to perk that little baby up and out into this world!
Thanks to Chas and Bridgette's son, Jack, Beau was able to adorn his chili pot with an authentic WWF belt.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Although a lot of people refer to it as a cliche` Hallmark holiday, I happen to love Valentine's Day. I've always loved it. I remember Mom setting the table nice for a special Valentine's Day dinner at home, a pretty red candle lit, and red-wrapped gifts for my brothers and I. I remember spending weeks on the perfect Valentine's Day box to bring to a party at school. Even better, I remember taking that box home at the end of the day, overflowing with Valentine's cards, heart-shaped suckers, and silver lined chocolate hearts. I remember designing cards for my friends, saving special colors for special friends, and the best candy for my sweetheart. I remember Dana Shultz, standing at my doorstop in 2nd grade, grinning from ear to ear with a single red rose clutched in his little hand. I remember getting older, secretly longing for a vase of flowers with my name on it in the school office. And...I remember my senior year, dozens of flowers delivered to me, yet still sad, lonely, and empty because my Valentine was taken away from me.

I think holidays like Valentine's Day are important because they give us a reason to remember. To sift through life, remember, and celebrate all of the feelings that mold us and shape us into the people we are today. Feelings of love and belonging, friendship and heartache. It's too easy to go through this life with blinders on and I'm thankful for holidays to help me stop and reflect on how much I've learned and how much I've been blessed with.

Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate all the love in the world, as well as an excuse for a fun date night. This is Beau and I's sixth Valentine's Day together. As we continue to add more chapters to our little love story, I am repeatedly reminded of how blessed I am.

"all, everything I understand, I understand only because I love." -Leo Tolstoy

1st Valentine's Day: I don't remember a whole lot from this one, just sitting on Beau's bed at his old apartment, being showered with gifts from Gina's store (that she helped him pick out), as well as a big teddy bear and box of chocolates.

2nd Valentine's Day: Beau and I got dressed up and went to eat at Ferrari's, a fancy restaurant at the Pipac Centre. It had just opened and they were advertising a special Valentine's Day Dinner for Two.

3rd Valentine's Day: This was a good one! Beau and I made dinner at home. We set his Grandma J's old card table and chairs up in the middle of the living room floor of the duplex, turned off the lights, and lit candles everywhere. We made a 'fancy' meal, some type of pasta, grilled baby shrimp on skewers, and a red velvet cake mix. Even though we sat at a card table, in our far from glorious duplex, eating dinner from hand-me-down plates and unmatched silverware, I remember feeling as if I was in another world.

4th Valentine's Day: This was a Valentine's Day to remember! For Christmas, Gabe & Gina had given me a pretty silver fondue set. I wanted to use it for Valentine's Day, so I planned a romantic night at home, complete with a roaring fire, bottles of wine, and lots of finger foods. I cut up fruit, made a homemade pound cake, and cut up lots of meat and cheese. It turns out we should have practiced the chocolate and cheese fondue first! The beer-cheese fondue was inedible and the chocolate burned to the bottom of the pot. It was a disaster!
I went to Hy-Vee for about the third time that day and bought microwaveable chocolate.

Favorite line of the night? (A line I still get grief for)...
Me: (back from Hy-Vee for the second time that night, throws a bag of chocolate chips on the counter)
Beau: The important thing is that we have each other.
Me: No it's not!
Needless to say, the chocolate turned out the second time around and the night ended in bliss :).

5th Valentine's Day: Brown Bottle. Red Velvet Cheesecake. Toads. Wine at Indulgence.

6th Valentine's Day: Beau and I went out to eat at Cu. It is a beautiful little restaurant in downtown Waterloo with even better food. We had their famous Shrimp & Lobster Bisque, pork medallions, hazelnut chicken, and my favorite, creme brulee`. After dinner, we saw the movie, 'Valentine's Day,' in the UltraScreen at the theater.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Little Spring Fever...

Okay...I'm officially sick of winter. Remember those posts, a couple months ago, when I was embracing the pretty snow, flickering fires, and cozy nights at home? The posts when I felt lucky to live in a place with the changing seasons? Well...I realize that was written at a time when the snow was still new. Now...

and wind chills later...

I'm ready for winter to thaw.

The winter is officially mocking me.

So, as I sit hear tonight watching the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, piled under blankets, blowing my runny nose and nursing my chapped lips, I'm drifting to a land that is sand, sun, and surf. A land where my skin is tanned, body is warm, and mind is relaxed. I'm drifting to a bali bed, a good book, and a frozen drink in hand. I'm drifting to sundresses, sunglasses, and real, Mexican guacamole.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Just another snow day...


Receiving this text message is possibly one of the best ways to wake up on a cold, blustery, winter morning. My bed feels a little warmer after this text. My pillow a little softer. It's the word 'relief' in a very big way.

Although we are now rearranging our schedule at school to account for the many snow days we've had, I'll graciously accept a snow day anytime. It's an opportunity to relax and put some much needed check-marks on my to-do list.

Today, my snow day went a little like this...

wake up. stayed in pajamas. powdered donuts. chocolate milk. saved by the bell. today show. online shopping. talked to mom on the phone. cleaned living room. lit candles. cleaned coat closet. sorted kitchen cabinets. bubble bath. graded papers. food network. facebook. shopping on main street. made monster cookies. crock pot french dip. blogging. american idol. played with camera. hung out with beau.


Feline Frenzy

Beau surprised me with a new camera last weekend. Yes, he spoils me. I think this means he has finally accepted the fact that he will never escape my family's obsession with pictures. I've been eyeing the Canon Rebel since our wedding in 2007. Yes, they are big, bulky, and not exactly purse-friendly; however, they are perfect for someone who prefers natural light in pictures. The auto-focus and zoom are amazing! My favorite part, however, has to be the shutter lens. I can take about 20 pictures in a matter of seconds. The camera also comes equipped with HD movie maker capabilities (if only I could figure out how to play them).

Needless to say, I've been experimenting. A LOT. So far, my cat, Jade, has been a purrrrfect model. She may be scared of my vacuum cleaner, blow drier, and Ugg boots, but point a big, black, gun-like device a foot from her face, and my kitty turns into a model for the cover of Fancy Face. I must say, the camera (and the photographer) love her!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dear John

I love going to movies in the theater. The excitement of the big screen, the coziness of the dark surroundings and intimate seating, and of course, the taste of buttery popcorn and crisp Cherry Coke, all work together to create a place of comfort for me. We don't go to movies too often; however, it's always an event I look forward to.

I remember my first theater experience, popcorn clutched tightly in my sweaty hand, crying uncontrollably when Petrie falls off the cliff in 'The Land Before Time.' I remember the crazy, edge-of-your-seat thrill-ride that 'The Departed' created, a three hour movie that seemed to last no longer than an hour. I remember being scared to go to the bathroom during 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose,' or 'Saw,' on Halloween night. And of course, I remember the gorgeous faces of Heath Ledger and Leo, blown across the big screen during 'A Knight's Tale,' and, 'Titanic.' I saw Titanic six times in the theater, thus beginning a deep love affair with Leonardo Dicaprio.

I especially love going to warm, cozy theaters in the dead of winter.

That is, unless you have to wait outside in the dead of winter for tickets to the warm, cozy theater.

This almost became part of our night on Friday when Melanie, Drea, and I decided to see 'Dear John.' The show started at 7:15, so we decided to stop by to get our tickets before dinner. At 6:00, we thought we would have plenty of time; however, the ticket lady politely recommended we get there early so we'd be able to sit by each other. So...we decided to skip dinner and walk through the mall instead. We didn't need anything, but browsed the summer shoes at Von Mauer, tried on jewelry at Younkers, and talked together. When we got back to the theater more than a half hour before showtime, the line was clear out the door of the theater!

I've never seen so many women in one place in my life! Luckily, we were the last group able to wait inside the theater. The line stretched beyond the width of the place, both inside and out by the time they let us run to our seats.

The movie was good. Channing Tatum is a beautiful man and Nicholas Sparks did not disappoint with the love story aspect of the film. The acting wasn't phenomenal, the story was predictable, but there was beautiful scenery (in addition to Channing Tatum), a lot of steamy kissing, and of course, lots of crying. Imagine a sold-out theater, full of women, all crying, some literally sobbing. Titanic all over again.

The last five minutes of the movie were the most disappointing. It was one of those movies that ended too quickly. When we left, the line for the 9:30 show was even longer!

Afterwards, we shared our reviews over yummy Old Chicago. It was a fun night with the girls indeed.

Together, we will wait until May to get 'Carrie'd Away for Sex and the City II. We'll have to get dolled up for that one though!

Monday, February 1, 2010

It's February!!!

Today is February 1st, 2010.

That means, sometime this month, I will say hello to my very first niece or nephew!

I can't wait!


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