Archives for April 2010

Thursday Ten: The Taylor Swift Earworm Edition

1. Last week, I had to provide my guitar teacher with another CD of songs I wanted to learn and I decided to finally cave to my daughters’ requests that I learn some Taylor Swift. So, this week…. we started the first one and now I’m of the firm belief that if you are just starting to play guitar, you should probably start with Taylor because basically it’s all open chord downstrokes and so minus any really difficult chords or strumming patterns, it’s pretty easy to pick up. I’m working on “Change”, per The Princess’s request. Here it is. You can get it stuck in your head too.

2. I have spent all week not having a clue what day of the week it is. Apparently today is Thursday, though. Feels like a Tuesday/Wednesday hybrid, but I’m glad tomorrow’s Friday even if it doesn’t feel anything like Friday.

3. I finally downloaded “The Weary Kind” from that movie with the guy who was The Dude. Figured it was an award winner, why not? It’s pretty decent. Also added “Don’t” from Casey James on American Idol. I’m not a huge Shania Twain fan, but I liked what he did with the song.

4. Mother’s Day is coming up – is it a big deal in your house? Breakfast in bed, flowers, gifts? Or… just like any other day? We’re a combination of the two in our house – the kids like to make breakfast in bed for me – peanut butter toast is their specialty.

5. Speaking of toast. I’m curious if there’s a toaster that can have programmable settings for multiple people in the house. I wish my toaster would somehow sense, “This bagel is for Sarah – she likes a golden brown toasted bagel” versus “This is for The Princess. She basically just likes warm bread.” Boy howdy, when I put in bread and don’t realize my kid has turned the toaster down to “mushy warm bread” versus my “so toasted it crunches”, it’s one of those minor grumble, grumble moments. Oh? I can check the dial on the toaster first? Why didn’t I think of that! I know that I can totally check it out first – but I don’t. I apparently just want technology to compensate for my laziness.

6. I picked up this month’s book club selection from the library. Um, yeah. Cough, cough. I think I’m coming down with something in two weeks. Let me just sit here with my brainless beach fluff instead.

7. I MISSED THE SEASON FINALE OF PROJECT RUNWAY. Yes, I’m shouting. Originally the plan was to hit the road for NYC after the finale — well, we left two hours early. Fortunately, people responded for my desperate pleas for an update via Twitter at 11 p.m. Thursday night, but man… I’ll be looking for a rerun of that soon. I’m glad that my favorite designer of the bunch won, though.

8. And if I was anyone else on the planet, I’d just kick back on the sofa, feet up and watch Project Runway on DVR… but we don’t have it. I can’t think of a compelling enough argument for it (though having Glee and the RedWings playoff game on at the same time the other night was a clear instance of when DVR would be appreciated). Sigh. I kick it old school – waiting for reruns, watching commercials.

9. I enrolled Pumpkin in kindergarten. I know, I know – this should have been the FIRST order of business, instead of the whole Taylor Swift deal. It probably also warrants its own post. It’s kind of a big deal. But, yeah. Last week, I turned in forty reams of paper, an eye of newt, and a paint sample from my hallway (okay – that’s only partially true) and ENROLLED MY KID IN KINDERGARTEN. Where’d time go?

10. I am hoping to officially catch up with life by tomorrow. That whole “needing a vacation from your vacation” thing? It’s totally real.

New York, New York Is Everything They Say…

As you could have probably guessed from my Weekly Winner set that I belatedly posted yesterday, I recently spent some time in NYC. Hubby and I have both always wanted to go and finally decided to put something on the calendar. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a long time – and, this probably won’t be a surprise, I was looking forward to New York because I knew that not only would there be a lot to do and to see, it would also be an amazing city to photograph.

I wasn’t wrong.

From the moment we drove into the city (yes, we drove – it was about twelve hours by car from Michigan to NYC – not counting the stop in Pennsylvania at 4 a.m. to nap for an hour because BLEH, driving all night suuuuucks), we were overtaken by sights and sounds and, yeah, it’s kind of a sensory overload of sorts.

We managed to park, get semi-settled at the hotel (we were very early for our 3 p.m. check in), grabbed some lunch at Dos Caminos on 3rd Street (BEST CARNITAS EVER), before wandering around the city a little. We visited Dylan’s Candy Bar because The Princess and I had seen it on one of those cake shows and I knew she’d dig a souvenir from there (and uh, so would I… I brought home the Everything but the Kitchen Sink Bar).

And then? Central Park.

I could have spent the whole time in Central Park

I loved Central Park. I kept recognizing spots from movies. It’s amazing – this bit of tranquility in a city so large. I was overwhelmed with calm and happiness being there. I know, I know… CHEESY. But, yes, I loved Central Park.

We took in a lot of sights over the weekend – purchasing weekend passes on one of those double decker tour buses seemed like a kind of corny thing to do, but we used it like a taxi cab. We’d hop on the bus near the hotel, go through some of the tour stops, get off the bus where we wanted to visit more, and jump back on the bus when we were done. Sure, the bus moved A LOT SLOWER than a NYC taxi, but… what’s the hurry?

I wanted to see the site of Ground Zero as well as the new WTC construction. We wanted to go to the Statue of Liberty, but didn’t (a 90 minute wait for tickets, and then a 90 minute wait to get on the boat – we weren’t in a hurry, but we weren’t in the mood to stand around for three hours either). Instead of actually going to the Statue of Liberty, we hopped on the (FREE!) Staten Island Ferry where we got close enough to Miss Liberty that I got some snaps with my lovely zoom lens. She was short. Why did I always think she’d be taller?

Saturday evening, we took in a performance of “Phantom of the Opera”. It was breathtakingly beautiful, but… I don’t love the music of Phantom. While the performers were brilliant and their voices amazing, and the production of the show was unbelievable… I realized that I’m not really a fan of the music (I know, I know… ).

A lot of time was spent wandering aimlessly – to FAO Schwarz, Toys R Us, and other assorted random places. Yes, we spent an awful lot of time in toy stores considering we were travelling sans kids – but holy cow, that huge T Rex at Toys R Us was worth seeing, and it made for a fun picture to send Pumpkin.

I had an UNBELIEVABLE time in New York. Sure, I felt frumpy and midwestern among all the black legging-clad women (it’s the standard uniform, it seems – black leggings or very-skinny jeans, neither of which are very flattering on MY midwestern shape, but OH WELL) — there’s nothing like walking around knowing that everything about you screams “tourist!” (and not ’cause I was holding a map, because I promise there was no holding of maps).

I know things now, like: I need to be careful of who I take restaurant recommendations from because someone’s rave review is my “OH MY GOD THAT IS THE GROSSEST SANDWICH EVER”. Like, the cupcakes at Magnolia aren’t really that fabulous. You only think they are because the FROSTING is phenomenal and you are so goo-goo over that supah-smooth frosting that you maybe don’t notice that the cupcake itself is only mediocre. I learned that walking around New York in high heels is painful, and I am calling shenanigans on Carrie Bradshaw and the rest of her Sex and the City friends. I know that New York bagels really are that good, but that I still am on Team Chicago as far as pizza goes.

And that really, it’s a nice place to visit… but I’m glad to be home.

Weekly Winners, New York Style

It’s late because of all the traffic, y’all.

You KNOW I love Lotus’s Weekly Winners and so not being able to post my pics on Sunday kind of made me sad. But, I got over it because I was in New York! That’s right. I was on vacay in NYC, so even though I’m several days late I still wanted to play along.

Light fixtures at the hotel. Funky, no?

Window treatment thingy in the hotel room

I could have spent the whole time in Central Park

You may say I'm a dreamer...

I kept thinking of the movie, ANNIE - "If this floor don't shine like the top of the Chrysler Building, your backside will." Miss Hannigan burned in my brain forever.

She looks much shorter in person.

Thursday Ten: The Happy EarthDay To You Edition

1. It’s Earth Day. Whether it’s a day you acknowledge or it isn’t, in our house we TRY to act as if it’s Earth Day every day. In the past few years, we’ve stepped up our recycling efforts considerably and what a MAJOR difference that has made in the amount of trash we set to the curb each week – our garbage can used to be overflowing and now it’s typically maybe half full (or is it… half empty?). But, the funny thing is, Pumpkin and I went to my guitar lesson today and I came home to realize that she’d left a light on in an empty house for two hours. Earth Day, fail. But, we do the best we can.

2. I am now totally and madly in love with Fage 0% Greek yogurt topped with honey. You would think fat free yogurt would have a puny consistency – but seriously? So rich and creamy and totally awesome. (And no, no one paid me to say that, but if they did? I’d say it again. Louder. YUM)

3. Guitar lesson went well this week. Last week was a Grade A fiasco – Pumpkin just did NOT want to be there. This week, I hooked her up with my iPhone and some headphones and the Dr. Seuss apps, and she listened to The Lorax for 20 minutes. PURE awesomeness.

4. So, apparently, there’s a girly-bidness-cycle-tracking app for men. It’s called Code Red. Ladies – do you wish the men in your life had an app like this or does it just seem weird? Men, do you wish you had the opportunity to track it and stock up on Hershey bars in advance? I’m curious.

5. I am LOVING my new camera. LOVE LOVE LOVE. The downside? Do you know how many amazing things you can buy for a camera? How many amazing lenses? The adorable camera bags (I’m lusting after that Belle bag – y’know, in case you wanted to buy me a present for… uh… May Day. Yeah. May Day)? I don’t wish I picked a cheaper hobby – I LOVE photography. But whoa.

6. I saw a snippet of “Food Inc” this morning and I’m definitely going to have to watch the whole thing. Between Food Inc and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I’m definitely doing a lot of thinking lately about the food supply and what we as a nation are feeding our families. Have you seen Food Inc.? Has it changed the way you shop and prepare meals for your family?

7. This morning, we dropped by the store before taking the kids to school. Had to dash in and get coffee — on the way out, the girls said they wanted a cantaloupe. I didn’t have time to stop and buy one then… but I did this afternoon. Any time the girls have wanted to try a fruit or veggie, I’ve made a point to do it. Even the mango that they took one bite of and decided they didn’t like it (I’m pretty sure it was out of season – that was NOT a good mango). I loved going back for a fruit run this afternoon. And, yeah, I love cantaloupe too. So having one in the house feels very springlike for me.

8. Last night, I finished reading Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One (affiliate link). I have loved Anna Quindlen’s stories since I read Black and Blue several years ago. I love the way she weaves a story, and Every Last One was gripping and unexpected and heart wrenching… and very well-told. Loved it.

9. Project Runway tonight! I was bummed, actually, when Mila won that third slot to show at Bryant Park. I’m not really a fan – but I had a hunch that she’d be the one to get the opportunity.

10. Since getting a new camera, I’ve handed one of my older digitals to The Princess. Holy moley. That girl loves to take pictures. Over 100 pictures in a day. She’s definitely thinking some of her shots through. It’s interesting to see what she sees and how she sees it.

Smartypants, Revisited

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the parent-teacher conference we had with The Princess’s teacher and our concerns for what we would be able to do to help her remain challenged, engaged and frankly, unBORED with the process when she is so far ahead of her classmates academically.

I was able to speak with a coordinator of gifted programs and I felt well-prepared when Hubby and I went to meet with the school principal today about what kind of resources the school could or would use to help us help our daughter. Frankly, I was prepared to have to present a lot more information than I really needed. We ultimately decided skipping a grade entirely wasn’t the magic answer (and honestly? I heard SO MANY grade-skipping horror stories! Yikes!) and hoped that with some of our other ideas, we could present a compelling argument to the principal for putting something in place for The Princess.

We were pleasantly surprised.

Not only was he receptive to our concerns and our ideas – he had already started doing some legwork of his own to research ways an “OFFICIAL” program could be put into place. My daughter certainly isn’t the first smartie to walk through their door, surely she won’t be the last — and the potential benefits of developing a program for gifted children extend beyond just our family.

Not only had the Principal been brainstorming ideas of ways the curriculum could be differentiated to help The Princess, he’d already been thinking about what teacher would be the best fit for our daughter next year. He was already in the process of scheduling a sit-down with the superintendent to speak not just of our daughter, but the school district at large and how the lack of having a clearly-defined program could potentially hurt kids at risk for becoming bored with the lack of challenge in their school day.

And as I type this and recount it all, I am still giddy.

Do I expect the PERFECT plan? Nope.

Do I imagine it will all flow smoothly from Day One? Nah. Nothing ever does.

But the dialog has started and both sides are listening – and the fact that this impact may be broader than I had originally hoped, well, it IS exciting. To know that the schools are looking to identify these kids who require more challenge and possibly a little  tweaking to their curriculum to keep them engaged and eager to learn – and that they may have a plan in place to more readily help these families and keep those kids loving school? I could not be happier right now.

Weekly Winners, Middle of April Edition

Lotus’s weekly winners is definitely one of my favorite parts of the week. First of all, as you can CLEARLY see from her site, the woman takes AMAZING pictures. And then? So many people join along – and I love hopping from blog to blog to see what kind of week other people have had. So, head on over to Lotus’s place and check ’em out.

This week has been an interesting one for me – I’ve jumped back and forth between my lovely P&S and my new DSLR. Admittedly, habit makes me wanna grab the lil camera – it fits in my purse so easily. BUT BUT BUT, I love the shots I’m getting with the Rebel – and can’t wait to figure the shtuff out on that camera a bit more.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the two cameras.

Sunday morning coffee on Orleans Street in Chicago

For a few weeks a year it blooms. Here we go.

Birthday flowers for my sister

Mother Nature's color palette blows my mind.

Slow like honey and heavy with mood.

Frame the day

Thursday Ten: Did You PhotoHunt YET? Edition

1. You probably know that TODAY is the deadline for the photoscavenger hunt to raise moohlah for fighting breast cancer and kicking it in the bootay. Have you entered yet? No? Why not? Read more about it HERE.

2. New music for the week: Um, stuff from Glee. Yeah. I’m unashamed of my love for this show. I am also not at all embarassed that I now have at least three different versions of “Hello” in iTunes – including Lionel Richie’s original. I love that song and remember vaguely the video from way back when – wasn’t he blind in that video? Or the girl was? Whatever, I was too busy singing along.

3. The Princess lost another tooth over spring break. These two teeth falling out have left her with that adorable gap in the front of her mouth. I love it. I wonder if her dentist will give me a discount at her cleaning in a few weeks – clearly she has less teeth for him to check.

4. Project Runway night TONIGHT. I’m kinda curious which of the two-tied-designers ends up going to Bryant Park (I hope it’s not Mila). Oh, the suspense. Also, I’m pretty pleased with the other two who are definitely heading to Fashion Week – I’ve been pretty impressed with them all season. While this season is better than last season, I think Lifetime still has a way to go until it’s up to par with what the show was on Bravo.

5. Today is tax day. Are your taxes all done? Were you pulling your hair out getting things wrapped up last night so you could get ’em in today?

6. Today was my first guitar lesson in two weeks (due to spring break and what not). Admittedly, I have hardly picked up my guitar in that span of time and was more than a little concerned how badly it would go today. BUT… it didn’t! In fact, it went pretty well and I somehow managed to have made some progress. Things were fine til Pumpkin decided to smack my (very surprised) guitar teacher on the butt on the way out of the studio. Whoops.

7. My guitar teacher also let me know it was about time to pick more songs I wanted to learn to play – so if you have any ideas (NOT Freebird), drop me a comment. The request line is now open.

8. It’s 80 degrees in Michigan today. The sun is shining. The flowers are blooming. The air outside smells like cow manure. Michigan spring in full effect.

9. I went to book club last night and we had a pretty decent discussion stemming from the reading of Irreplaceable* – mostly regarding the topic of organ donation which was a primary theme in this novel. Then we chose next month’s selection out of the jar, and, DANG. It sounds like not my cup of tea. A non-fiction book about the oppression of women. GRANTED – I know the topic is important, and it actually has excellent reviews on both Amazon and Good Reads – but heavy lifting is not why I’m in a book club. I’m more than a little “meh” about that selection.

10. And in what is my most exciting news of the week: I finally got a big girl camera. I’ve been drooling over the Canon DSLRs for a long time and finally took the leap and got one. I’m kind of excited. I love it and I think it needs a name so that I can pat my camera lovingly and murmur sweet nothings to it. And if you’re gonna murmur sweet nothings to your camera it should totally have a name.

*affiliate link like whoa

Weekly Winners, Chicago Style

I sure do love Chicago – so my weekly winners are a few of my favorite snaps from the Windy City. For more weekly winner awesomeness, visit Lotus, and the other participants of Lotus’s Weekly Winner carnival.

I got the Windy City Martini. Up 96 floors, a drink was kind of in order.

This is what a windy city martini looks like. Isn't it pretty and pink and fun?

Breath taking, nausea inducing view.


Lovely view. Chicago is one of my favorite places to be.

Thursday Ten: Spring Break And Expecting Snow?! Edition

1. The kids are on spring break this week. It was beautiful Monday. Then it rained Tuesday. It rained yesterday. Today the skies are heavy with clouds, the air outside is cold and there’s a chance of snow in the forecast. Yuck. Also, it would have been a good idea to venture towards warmer weather over break.

2. Of course, as luck would have it – Spring Break happens to have fallen during an incredibly busy week for work. Crappy weather and being wicked busy? DOUBLE WHAMMY.

3. Yesterday, I baked a cheesecake – a turtle cheesecake. I’ve never made one before, but it involves peeling plastic wrappers off an entire bag of caramels so you can melt the caramel down to make a sauce to pour over the Oreo crust and then over the cheesecake before serving. I think actually making caramel from scratch would have been easier than unwrapping all those candies. And as I opened them, I kept flashing on the dialogue between Will and Skylar in Good Will Hunting. LOVE that movie.

Just as arbitrary as drinking coffee.

4. No guitar lesson this week which is probably a good thing because I haven’t even picked up my guitar this week to practice. I can tell when I haven’t practiced enough – the calluses on my fingertips are softer, almost like they used to be. Maybe I better write “PRACTICE GUITAR” on my to do list in big print, and then UNDERLINE IT. I like to write things on my to do list, because I like to cross things off my to do list (Like this: Eat breakfast).

5. I’ve been reading a lot lately. Last week, I polished off The Art of Racing in the Rain, which I adored so much. This week, I have started digging in to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society*. Admittedly, this is not normally a kind of book I enjoy, but I am liking it so far. I haven’t slammed the cover shut and thrown it across the room yet and I’m a third of the way through, so that’s a good sign.

6. New music of the week? Jack Johnson’s new single You And Your Heart*, which actually sounds like classic Jack, though I’ve read that his new album coming out soon is going to be more “rock-flavored”. Meh. I’m a lil bit nervous about that. I like beachy-acoustic Jack. Will I like rock Jack? I dunno. But, this single isn’t really a departure from the sound I expect from him. And I like it.

7. Apparently tomorrow is “NAME YOURSELF DAY”. If you were gonna choose YOUR name, what would you pick? Would you stick with the name that you were given or would you choose something totally different?

8. Have you joined our Photo Scavenger Hunt yet? Raising money for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer – so if you have bewbs, or know of someone who does – you should probably enter and maybe win some awesome prizes -some of which will be given randomly and THAT MEANS, even if your every shot is photo-bombed by your thumb, you could still win things. Cool, right?

9. We took the kids to see “How to Train Your Dragon” last weekend – and they loved it. I don’t normally like stuff like that – dragons and whatnot, but it was pretty cute. Not cute? The cost of admission and snacks to take a whole family to a movie. Oy.

10. So, the iPad. Did you get one? Do you want one? Despite being a total Apple fan girl, I’m holding off for now. Perhaps it’s because I’m currently crushing on a Canon DSLR, and that is where my next big gadget expenditure will be. Don’t get me wrong, if someone handed me an iPad today and said, “Here! Take it! It’s YOURS!”, I’d take it and be happy. But I don’t want to spend my money on one just yet.

*Yes, affiliate links. I’m saving up to buy a pony.

Remembering Maddie: A Purple Photo Collage

In remembrance of Maddie Spohr, I am thinking purple today.

My thoughts are with the Spohrs today on this one year anniversary of Maddie’s passing.