Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kitty Picture of the Week

Apparently Stella thinks it's her turn. Stella, go straight to jail. Do not pass go.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In the Spirit of Giving

It is easy this time of year to get caught up in the consumerism of the holidays. As I did my Christmas shopping, I found myself purchasing things for myself that I wanted, simply because I could. Recognizing that this was a little bit greedy, I decided to turn my attention to a good cause and make a donation that could benefit someone else.

As I debated what to do, I recalled a video that I watched a few months back on from the creator of Kiva, a lending organization that empowers entrepreneurs throughout the world utilizing microloans. Here's the video:

Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money -- and love | Video on

Inspired by what Jessica had to say about changing our attitude towards philanthropy and service from one of guilt towards working together in a relationship, I created an account at Kiva( and began looking through the different individuals and groups looking for loans. I ultimately decided to give my first microloan to Veronica in Kenya, a woman who runs her own beauty salon and is looking to grow her business. I was excited to be the last lender needed to fund her project. The cool part about Kiva is that when Veronica repays the loan, I have the option to re-lend my money to another entrepreneur, continuing the cycle of giving, while empowering additional projects. So cool!

While looking around on , I also found this really great article about the new humanitarianism that is happening through social entrepreneurship. I find this really interesting, since the university that I work at does a smaller social entrepreneur program where students can give back to the community. Definitely worth checking out as you join me in considering ways to give back to the community.

Alpha Phi

 I've taken the lead of some of my friends and colleagues, and used Wordle to create this awesome word cloud of the Alpha Phi creed. Just a little something...

Wordle: Alpha Phi Creed

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bring on the Holiday Cheer!

Between work, homework assignments, and friends visiting in town, I have been missing in action for some time now. With  weekend at home with just a few things to do, I decided to get a jump start on my holiday decorating. While I had out some cute fall decorations, I LOVE Christmas. 

Decorating my tree makes me so happy. I love looking through each of my ornaments and remembering where they came from. This year, I was also hoping to put the tree up early so that I could test out how the new kitty would do. I put up the tree, and then waited a night before putting any lights or ornaments on. Here is the finished product.

It is a little blurry, but the best shot I could get with my phone's camera. I am the most proud of my tree topper - my first handmade bow!

I was also really excited about my cupcake ornaments, which are my absolute favorite, along with the kissing fish that Chris got me last year.

If you are wondering how the cats did - it only took about fifteen minutes before Snoopy was freed from his branch.

The following morning, he actually appeared in that tupperware. Stella has done pretty well though. She and Bucky both enjoy their time under the tree.

She is getting so big! 

Bucky hasn't taken any ornaments off the tree...he prefers to wrestle with the mini tree instead.

After I was able to snag the tree away, I did get to finish decorating it too.

I did several new projects this year, including my advent calendar, which I created from a kit that I found at Archiver's. I put a different fun Christmas to do in each day.

 I made use of another closet door to create a fun holder for all of the Christmas cards that I get. The 2009 cards are serving as stand ins until the 2010 cards arrive. 

 If you look closely, I covered the clothespins with scrapbook paper to make them more festive. 

I also used the paper to create a flag banner to cover some accidental holes in the wall from a failed attempt to put up shelves. 

I previously had up some fall print flags, and am thinking I'll make it a regular thing, rotating each season. They are pretty cheap decoration, since it's just scrapbooking paper. 

Another cheap decoration item was a glass tumbler filled with present bows. I figure, if I need a bow while wrapping, they will be easy to access. I'm interested to see how many disappear...

Without a fireplace, the bookshelf was another great place to hold the stockings. 

So that is how I have spent my weekend. Bring on the holidays...I am ready!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

MVF Adventure: Edwards Drive In

I love food. That's no secret. And I really enjoy shows about food. Shows about big food? Even better!

I have grown to love Man vs. Food, with Adam Richman and his crazy food challenges. One of my missions is to check out the different places that he's been. You're not likely to find me completing the eating challenges, but I'm definitely up for some good eats. Here in St. Louis, I've been to both Crown Candy Kitchen (the place where he did the milkshake challenge), and Pappy's Smokehouse - probably the best BBQ that I've ever had. I've also sampled the Krispy Kreme Burger, which was featured on the Ballpark episode during his visit to the Gateway Grizzlies. Don't believe me? Here it is:

I've noticed that they are now making appearances at many state fairs. 

During my most recent trip to Indianapolis, we decided to check out one of the MVF restaurants there. I actually haven't seen the episode yet, since I no longer have cable, so we went solely based on what we could find online. The episode just aired during this season, after filming during the Indy 500. (I also happened to be in town that weekend!)

Adam stopped at Edwards Drive In for a giant fried pork tenderloin sandwich. How big is it? It could use multiple buns. The restaurant is an old fashioned diner that still has a few drive in spots up front. According to the articles I found online, they've had quite the boom in business following their MVF appearance, which proved true when we got there. It was definitely busy!

I took one look at the tenderloin and decided there was no way that I'd finish one, but Chris gave it a shot:

He said that it was pretty good. I went for the root beer float, grilled cheese and onion rings, which were delicious!

Gotta love some good greasy food. I don't know how Adam doesn't gain like 500 lbs! 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kitty Pic(s) of the Week!

How cute is he?! I appreciate when they are sleeping.

While he sleeps...she hides in the hamper!

Recipe from TV: Curtis Stone's Biggest Loser 100-Calorie Cupcakes

I spent a lot of time last week catching up on tv, and was excited to see one of my favorite things on The Biggest Loser: Cupcakes!

I am a huge cupcake fan, and was a little nervous when they did a temptation challenge with them, because they talked about the calorie-count in my favorite food. Not good.

However, the contestants also had the opportunity to do some baking with chef Curtis Stone, who provided an alternative cupcake recipe. Cupcakes for just 100 calories!

I haven't had the chance to make them yet, but it's on my To Do list for this week. Here's the recipe for others who would like to give it a shot.

Television can teach some good things!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Recipe to Try: Rachael Ray's Buffalo Chicken Chili

Despite the 80+ temps this weekend, I was in the mood for some comfort food! I decided to make Rachael Ray's Buffalo Chicken Chili - a spicy and suprisingly, semi-healthy soup!

The chili is really easy to make, starting with browning two lbs of ground chicken. After adding some chopped veggies (carrots, celery, onions), and some seasonings (paprika, a bay leaf, garlic, and S/P) and letting them flavor the meat, you add two cups of chicken stock, a can of tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce and some hot sauce (half a cup) top it off. I opted out of the corn chip garnish, but added some corn muffins.

Here is the full recipe right from Rachael.

Be prepared. It's definitely spicy. There were tears. But it was SO good.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kitty Pic of the Week: Home Sweet Home

Stella found a new home inside the Build-A-Bear Box. And she was excited to find that it came complete with an escape hatch on the front. I didn't think she'd fit, but I guess when you have a big cat sneaking in your roof, you make it happen!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Name is Kirstin and I'm a Television Addict...

It's true. I love tv.

Probably too much.

Since I got rid of my cable, I had actually been watching a lot less tv during the summer. With the new season underway, I find myself hooked on the Hulu.

There are my standbys:

House, The Office, Grey's Anatomy, The Biggest Loser, Glee, Modern Family

Plus the shows that I picked up in the last year or so after catching up via Netflix and Hulu:

30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, Community, Rescue Me, Lie to Me, Cougartown,

And then there are the ones that I am embarassed to admit:

Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, The Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor Pad

That's a ton! I find that I spend most of my weekends catching up on the tv that I miss during the week. I think it's time to go read a book.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book #13: Mini Shopaholic

I have been buzzing through those library books!

I could not have been more excited for the latest of Sophie Kinsella's shopaholic books. I've had it on reserve at the library three months before it even came out.

I love love LOVE Becky Bloomwood. She is a fantastic character, who sadly could have been done much better via film. I love Isla Fischer, but the movie was just okay. Why they made her character American in the movie, I just don't understand. Way too many changes. I digress.

The fifth in the series, Mini Shopaholic, finds Becky and Luke living with their two year-old, Minnie at Becky's parents. Minnie causes lots of chaos, as she wants anything and everything (just like her mother). As the city undergoes a financial crisis and everyone tries to reign in their spending, Becky of course struggles with her lavish tastes and over the top indulgences. As she tries to plan a fabulous surprise birthday party for Luke, she runs into her usual blunders and hilarity ensues.

I really liked the book, although I would have loved even more of Minnie. After the last book featuring momma-to-be Becky, I figured Minnie would be a more central piece of this story than she was. However I think that the book had a fabulous focus on motherhood, through the stories of the different mothers: Becky, her mother, and Elinor.

I won't give too much more away, but you should definitely check it out. Kinsella writes fabulous chick lit, that is funny without being cheesy or unintelligent. I hope I don't have to wait too long for the next Becky book!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book #12: Julie and Julia

It's been ages since I saw Julie and Julia, which was a great movie. I have been waiting to read the book for awhile, but just hadn't gotten around to it. For those who haven't seen or heard of the movie, Julie Powell was a secretary living in post-9/11 New York when she decided to take on a blogging project to help get her out of her rut. Back when blogging was still relatively new, she cooked her way through Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book follows her kitchen adventures as she makes her way through 524 recipes in 365 days.

I'll be honest. I liked the movie better. The movie actually combines pieces of Powell's book with piece's of Child's autobiography, My Life in France, putting the two stories of the women side-by-side, which you do not get as much of in Julie and Julia, the book. I also felt like Powell was sort of irritating. I had a hard time liking her, which didn't help me get through the book. I love food so much, that I was disappointed that I didn't like it more.

Powell's challenge was certainly an interesting one. Hearing the different recipes, I could feel how difficult and frustrating that it must be to cook classic french meals. She also ate a lot of things that I don't think I'd ever want to try. If I had to do my own challenge with a cookbook, I think I'd try to work my way through Martha Stewart Cupcakes. A recipe per day might be a little much, but I would like to get through them all someday.

What would you cook?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Saving Lids to Save Lives

It's officially October!

Which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While I am incredibly fortunate that my family has not been touched directly by breast cancer, I try to support those who have been impacted. And, since Zeta Tau Alpha is a sorority with whom I work, I try to also support my students in their philanthropic efforts. They engage in a number of different efforts to raise awareness and money Susan G. Komen each year.

One way in which I try to help is by eating yogurt as part of the Save Lids to Save Lives campaign through Yoplait. I stocked up with a variety of flavors to support the cause. I am eating a Red Velvet Cake yogurt as we speak. I wasn't sure how I really felt about the whole "dessert yogurt" thing that they've been pushing, but since I LOVE red velvet cake, I thought it was worth giving it a shot. It's decent, although nothing to write home about. On to more yogurt flavors. Anything to support a good cause!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book #11: Heart of the Matter

I have had some great luck with the public library lately. Just as I was finishing Promises to Keep by Jane Green, I got an e-mail that another book had come in off of my summer list.


Emily Giffin's latest book, Heart of the Matter, focuses on a new set of messy, complicated relationships, revolving around two strong female characters, Tessa and Valerie. Giffin weaves back and forth between the two characters' points of view as their worlds collide following a life-changing accident. 

As in her past books, Giffin creates flawed characters who you can neither love or hate. At times you will cheer for them. And then they will make decisions that you don't agree with, but you will understand the emotions and thoughts behind what they do, and walk with them in their shoes as best you can.

Giffin also weaves in some of her previous characters, this time Dex and Rachel, from her first book Something Borrowed. I've always enjoyed these overlaps between her books.

I also find that although Giffin's work would be labeled "Chick Lit," her writing seems to be at a slightly higher caliber than some of the others. I certainly wouldn't put it in the cheesy category. 

Worth checking out. 

Oh Kittens...

I apologize, I've been too distracted by kittens to post.

Kittens truly are the best thing ever, as evidenced by this cute photo.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book #10: Promises to Keep

As I mentioned earlier this summer, I've been eagerly waiting to read Jane Green's latest book, Promises to Keep. I've read all of Green's other books, and I put my name on the waiting list at the public library as soon as I heard this book was coming out. After twice missing my hold (oops), I finally was able to pick up  it up over the weekend. With no work this weekend (wahoo!), I dug right in.

The book follows a number of different connecting stories, centering around three women: Callie, her sister Steffi, and her best friend Lila. All three women have taken different paths through their adult lives in regards to work, family, and relationships, but are brought together when something big happens.

I don't want to give too much of the story away, but it was a good read and one that I'd recommend. One of my favorite parts was that one of the characters is a chef, and their were recipes included in each chapter. I made the curry recipe tonight, and hope to try out at least a few more before I have to return the book to the library.

Check it out!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


There is a new member of the family and her name is Stella!

We brought her home over Labor Day weekend and are so excited to have her. Bucky was less excited at first, but he's warming up to her and now has someone to chase and wrestle with. They also spend most of their days napping together under my bed.

Stella is about five months old and has proven to be a sweetie, although she is definitely a handful. I have forgotten how many adventures that kittens have. She gets into everything!

Here are a few shots of her exploring the place. Notice that she is so small and fast that she's hard to capture!

A little scrapbooking fun.

Climbing the mountain of laundry.

Hanging out in a backpack. (I think hiding from Bucky)

At the end of the day, I have two tired kitties. Looking forward to all of the adventures ahead!

I'm Back...

Well, I have finally recovered from the madness that is Sorority Formal Recruitment. When people hear that I advise fraternities and sororities, they say "Oh, that sounds fun!" And I usually respond with, "Yes, it is...most of the time." I know that they don't really care to hear all of the complexities of my job - that it sometimes involves a lot of conversations about students' bad decisions, or that it involves a lot of night/weekend hours on top of the regular business ones. Because there are so many things that are truly fun about my job. It's different every day. And there are a lot of moments where I think to myself, "Wow, I get paid for doing this."

Like when I have to make a trip to Sam's Club to buy recruitment supplies - including over 300 Capri Suns and over 3,000 mints.

It's even more fun when I get to have the following conversation:

Man: That's a lot of mints.
Me: Yes, yes it is. Over 3,000.
Man: Do you run a day care?
Me: (pause) No, sorority recruitment. 

I'll be honest, sometimes it does feel like a day care. Or as my friend Ann would say "A day care, night care, and life care." We really are involved in so many aspects of the students' lives.

And although I'm not in the job for any recognition or rewards, it is really nice when the students recognize that I do care about them and that I choose to give them my time and energy because I really care about what they are doing. After one of the craziest weeks of recruitment yet, I was truly touched to receive a beautiful bouquet of flowers from one of the sororities.

It may not be a high-paying job, and it may bring a lot of stress, but at the end of the day, I really enjoy what I do. Where else would I get to buy nine pounds of gummi bears?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cinnamon Spice Muffins - Yum!

During my lazy Saturday morning/afternoon, I came across a recipe for Cinnamon Spice Muffins on GetRichSlowly.Com. Always open for a new baking adventure, I dug through the pantry for the ingredients, and was off and running.

The recipe is really easy, and you are likely to have all of the ingredients on hand. Plus, as the web site focuses on frugality, they're cheap! Certainly more affordable than buying one of the mixes from the grocery store.

Just be prepared - they are a little messy. After you make the muffins, you will brush them in melted butter and roll them in a cinnamon/sugar mixture. It took me a little while to get the hang of this, especially because I am used to baking using the paper muffin cups, and with this recipe you bake them right in the pan. I had a few that stuck and ended up being separate muffin tops and bottoms....still delicious though.

I'm excited to eat them for breakfast for the rest of the week!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Embracing the Podcast

I can do technology. I'm still young enough to be willing to explore stuff like Twitter, Foursquare, smart phones, etc. New to me: the podcast.

For those even less tech-savvy like me, a podcast is either an audio or video digital media file that can be downloaded or listened to over the Internet. Although they've been around for awhile, I'd never really checked them out. While I was bee bopping around on iTunes the other day, I decided to explore the realm of free podcasts.

A few caught my eye:

HowStuffWorks.Com has a large collection of podcasts including Stuff You Missed in History Class (history...obv), Stuff You Should Know (miscellaneous topics), and Stuff Mom Never Told You (all about men and women). I downloaded a few of each and have been listening on my way to work. Trivia buffs - check these out immediately. The hosts cover a wide variety of topics from "What's So Special about Route 66" to "How Grow Houses Work" (both available from Stuff You Should Know). I did have to turn that one off as I walked into work. I am currently listening to "Five Stars of the Wild West."

This American Life is considered one of the most popular podcast in the country. A show hosted on Chicago Public Radio, it follows a variety of stories, mostly of everyday people, centered around a different theme each week. I was actually looking around on the web site's archives and found a previous show on "The #1 Party School." I will definitely have to listen to that one.

Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips offers short tips to assist people in becoming better writers. Perhaps a good resource for some of the students with whom I work, who seem to struggle with the grammar. Yikes!

Coffee Break Spanish, produced by the Radio Lingua Network offers conversational Spanish lessons in short, ten to thirty minute segments. As someone who hasn't taken a foreign language class in eight years, I'd love to brush up again.

There are a variety of other free podcasts. If you have some free time, give them a listen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Movie to See: Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love is one of my favorite books, and so I was so excited when I heard that they were making it into a movie. And with Julia Roberts portraying Liz Gilbert, I knew it had to be good.

I talked a friend into going with me on Saturday night, and I was not disappointed. The movie stayed true to Gilbert's experiences that she shared in the book as she journeyed through Italy, India and Bali, hoping to find herself again although the way. The supporting characters were equally superb.

Liz Gilbert's story is definitely inspiring. Go see the movie if you have the chance!

Book #9: Total Money Makeover

Okay, this may have thrown you off, especially after I said that I wasn't going to have time to read anymore. When I took my books back to the library, it just so happened that I had a hold waiting for me - Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. Looking for a little financial advice, I dove right in and finished it in a day.

I wrote about it on my other blog. Read more here.

I've also been listening to his podcasts. Totally motivating to make some changes in my spending and saving practices.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book #8: House Rules

Yes, another Jodi Picoult book. This time, her most recent release, House Rules.

The cast of characters in House Rules include a teenage boy with Asperger's, his mother and younger brother. Jacob's fixation on crime scene investigations eventually finds him as a suspect in one, bringing his young lawyer and a police detective into the story as well as everyone tries to piece together what exactly happened.

I found this story really interesting, especially after taking a course on students with disabilities earlier this summer. Picoult's characters provide great insight into what it's like to have or live with someone who has Asperger's, a disorder on the autism spectrum that is not very well known. 

At a few points in the story, eighteen year-old Jacob talks about wanting to go to college and his dreams of a future career. It made me think about what it might be like for a student with Asperger's in the college setting, a place where I work every day. With the accommodations that are available today, I know that there is more access for students with Asperger's to attend college and have careers. 

I've been a Jodi Picoult kick lately, and this book certainly didn't disappoint. 

I'm recognizing that my time for leisure reading is coming to an end. I'll be turning my attention to reading for class and work very soon, which is likely to cut down on my library trips until next summer. It has been a good one.  

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bucky Shot of the Week

Bucky enjoys life without cable.

It gives him a new quiet place to sit. 

The End is Near

Summer is officially over.  When August 1 hits, there is a total shift in mindset, as we scramble to get everything done before the students return. They'll be back Wednesday. Yikes. This is my last weekend without any work commitments for a really long time.

So what to do with my last free weekend?

Well, there is the part of me that wants to do nothing - to lay by the pool one last time while finishing the last of my library books. To go see Eat Pray Love before I don't have time for fun things. To just sleep.

And then there is the part of me that freaks out about all of the errands and other things that I won't have time to do. That I should be scrambling to get the laundry done, so that I have at least a month's worth of clothes. And vacuuming and cleaning every inch of the apartment that I basically won't live in other than to sleep for a few short hours here and there. To get things to where it looks like I have it all together before the storm hits.

Or should I be doing work? Getting ahead on work projects so that I'm less crazed next week. I do always bring the bag of it home, although it doesn't often get touched.

Perhaps I should be doing a little of everything.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A PostSecret Adventure!

Back in graduate school, one of my good friends introduced me to an amazing blog: PostSecret.

The site was created by Frank Warren, who wanted to create a community art project, and passed out postcards, leaving them in public places for others to find. One side was blank, while the other side had the following instructions:

"You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything - as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative." 

Both the number and the content of the postcards that Frank received back were overwhelming. He then began to post them on his web site which attracted significant attention, and became a community of sorts, also adopting an important message of suicide prevention. One of the best parts of the site is the dialogue that happens between those who look at the postcards and react. Frank shares some of the responses in an ongoing conversation on the site.

Frank receives hundreds of postcards each day, mailed to his home address in Maryland, which also appears on the front cover of his first book (there are four total). Each Sunday, he posts new secrets on the site, choosing just twenty-some to share with the world. Some are funny, some are really weird, some are sad and painful, some are inspiring. Here's one of my favorites from the secrets posted today:

I so agree with this one!

I love the creative ways that people share their secrets. And that sometimes the the smudges and damages done to the postcard in transit add something to the site.

Frank also speaks all across the country about the project, and I had the privilege to help bring him to Iowa State while I was in graduate school. See:

Frank is just this totally awesome person. It was really interesting to see how many people truly trust him because of this project - so many walked right up and whispered their secrets to him that they had never told anyone before. In his book, he's referred to as "The Most Trusted Stranger in America."

As part of our experience while at Iowa State, we also created our own project, where members of the Iowa State community could share their secrets. My coworker and I were the lucky ones that got to collect and read all of the secrets first, before posting them (I do have a few on the board).

And...this weekend I got to see some of the PostSecret postcards in person! I was in Indianapolis, and the current exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art was the postcards used in the most recent book: PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God. The exhibit was awesome, and free! I didn't take any pics (not usually kosher in museums), but I will tell you that it was really fascinating to see the postcards up close, especially because some I had seen in the other two books that I own, including one that really jumps out at me: "I don't know what to say to God anymore." They all tied into themes of faith: loss of faith, spirituality, a search for meaning, disbelief, religious experiences, many different secrets expressed in so many ways.

If you haven't visited the site, do so right away. And do it weekly! There aren't any archives, so you need to become a regular. Perhaps you might even decide to send one in.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bucky Shot of the Week

Imagine his disappointment when I moved my bed away from the wall. 

Let's Learn a Little!

So I have a new favorite site to share when you want to learn a little something.

TED Talks shares videos of talks from the Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) Conferences, held across the world. TED's focus is "ideas worth spreading," and so all of the videos are free online. The speakers come from all disciplines, and their lectures cover a variety of topics. The talks are grouped into a variety of different themes. You can hear from Bono, Bill Clinton, JJ Abrams, or John Wooden, or any number of amazing other people.

The first TED talk that I watched was from Aimee Mullins about her 12 pairs of legs. She offers a really fascinating look at prosthetic legs as art and beauty.

If you have the chance, definitely check it out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Book #7: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

Yes, I am a Twilight fan. I saw Eclipse this summer, and put my name on the waiting list at the library for The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, an Eclipse novella by Stephanie Meyer.

Yes, it's definitely geared towards the teens and the tweens. But the short (175 pages) novella was an interesting story, which added to the Eclipse experience. It's set from the perspective of Bree Tanner, a newborn vampire who was created with the purpose of attacking the Cullens and Bella, although she is not in on the plan. In the short time of her vampire life, she befriends a fellow vampire, Diego. Their relationship is cute and sweet, although short lived (as the title gives away). 

For Twilight fans, it keeps the story going and is a good, easy summer read. I finished it in just three nights. On to the next one!  

Saturday, July 31, 2010

New Specs!

Today was an exciting day!

After two and a half years with my favorite red specs, I headed to Lens Crafters to purchase a new pair. While I do love the red ones, they were getting pretty worn out and the coating was starting to wear off, leaving me with some blurry spots.

While I could have kept the same pair and just purchased new lenses, I decided it was time for a change. After trying on a few different pairs, I settled on a cute pair of tortoiseshell frames. Check them out!

The tortoiseshell isn't too bold, and the frames are super lightweight and fit my face well. They are also significantly cleaner than my current pair, so I can actually see. Love em!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Looking Back...

Last March, I was fortunate to have the experience of going on a week-long mission trip with 33 of the students with whom I work, and a co-worker. We spent their Spring Break together doing home repairs in Appalachia, one of the poorest areas of the country. The poverty there is not due to a natural disaster, it's present all the time. It's a place that seems to be forgotten by the rest of the United States, yet one that's filled with love.

When we returned from the trip, I marked my calendar for today to send all of the students the letters that they wrote while on the trip. They've been in my desk drawer for the last four months, waiting to be sent at a time when the students will be both physically and mentally preparing to come back to school. Our goal was that they'd get there letters and return to campus with a renewed energy about our trip, ready to encourage others to share in the experience this year. It felt really good putting the envelopes in the mail.

I then opened my own letter, written on bright orange paper. It was interesting to read and reflect on the experience and where my mind was at while serving there. One of the main things that I wrote about was wanting to live my life more simply - focusing on the things that really matter. I am glad to say that it wasn't just a thought that came up while serving and then was left behind in Appalachia. Ive really made an effort to focus on simplifying my life. Some of this has been due to my goal to eliminate my debts, but it has also been with an attempt to focus on my relationships and my family. I am inspired to keep working towards this.

I can't wait to head back to ASP again this spring!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Meet Me at the Muny...The Muny in Forest Park!

The hills are alive...

That's right, you know it..."With the Sound of Music!"

I finally got over to The Muny this week to see The Sound of Music. It was fabulous! I haven't seen the movie in forever, but the musical totally brought me back to all of the fantastic songs. Plus, we sat in the free seats, so it was a totally budget-friendly outing. We may have been too far back to make out anyone's face, but we could certainly hear - which is really the important part.

As we were waiting in line to go in, we happened to be standing next to the little girl playing Gretl, and her crowd of adoring fans. She was super cute when she explained to her posse that "When I'm on stage I really just want to smile all the time, but it's really hard because in the beginning I'm supposed to be all grumpy and have a frownie-face." Life is so hard when you're a little child star, right?!

We also met a lovely 91 year old who sat near us. She told us all about her 11 year old cat and her 90th birthday party. She also shared her binoculars with us. So sweet. If only I could remember her name.

Perhaps my favorite part of the show, outside of the actual show itself, was the little boy sitting in front of us. He was probably six or seven, and was there with two women and a handful of other kids. While the friend/brother/cousin next to him sat and read Where's Waldo the whole time (probably pretty challenging in the dark), this little boy was on the edge of his seat the whole time. When Rolf sang "You are 16 going on 17," he leaned over and told his friend/brother/cousin, he leaned over and said "he's 17," in just the most precious way. Love it!

Overall, the show was amazing. Maria was outstanding at her part, as was the nun who sang "Climb Every Mountain." I had chills. If you have the chance to see it, definitely do!

Bucky Shot of the Week

Look at this cutie!

Three years ago this week, I picked up Bucky from a farm in Central Iowa. This was the shot from when I first put him into the carrier to drive 45 minutes home with him crying the entire way. He didn't have a name yet because I didn't know if he was a boy or a girl. Would you have been able to figure it out? 

Just a few days after I got him, he drove 6 hours in a U-Haul with me to St. Louis, again crying the entire way. Ahh, the adventures that we've had together. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fruits and Veggies...YUM!

I've been trying to get back on track with fresh, healthy eating and to prepare more of my meals. Thank goodness that there are so many delicious fruits and veggies available this time of year!

Last week (before the conference started), I made a delicious veggie meal with a grilled portabella mushroom cap covered in goat cheese, a steamed artichoke heart with a lemon butter dipping sauce (okay, less healthy), a mini-pita, and a spinach salad with dried cranberries (oh, and more goat cheese). Okay, maybe not the healthiest, but certainly much better than the crap that I eat most of the time.

Look at all those colors! Need a close up?

So, of course this delicious meal was followed by a whole week of excessive eating and lots of indulgences. Feeling like my body needs a cleanse, I headed to the farmer's market this weekend and stocked up on a whole lot of goodness - delicious wheat bread, garlic, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, peaches, green beans, and fresh corn. 

For dinner tonight, I started off by making a delicious heirloom tomato salad, with a variety of tomatoes, red wine vinegar, olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and oregano. I topped it off with a handful of goat cheese for a beautiful, colorful salad.

I also added some hummus, pita bread, and a whole bunch of sliced cucumbers for the following:

Yum, yum, and yum! So good.

I don't necessarily eat like this all the time, but it's so great when I can!

A Delicious New Find

I'd been hearing about a really cute little place near where I live, Winslow's Home right on Delmar. I'm excited to say that Chris and I had the chance to check it out this weekend.

It's sort of part-cafe, part general store. The menu is small, and the foods are simple, but delicious. The ingredients come mainly from their own local farm, which is also really cool. The tables are surrounded by a variety of items for sale - fresh produce, kitchenware, cute kids stuff, and a whole lot more. 

Since we went for brunch, I got the rolled omelet, which was filled with tomatoes, basil, and fontina cheese. As a side, I had some delicious potatoes and onions. Chris got the grilled cheese, which looked amazing too.

If you are in St. Louis, definitely check it out! 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Movie to See: Despicable Me

Chris was in town this weekend, and we had the chance to go see Despicable Me, the new Steve Carrell animated movie. Steve plays Gru, a villain, who just can't seem to find success in his feats nor meet the expectations of his mother. He is further troubled by competition from fellow villain Vector, who is played by Jason Segel. To assist him in stealing a shrink ray from Vector, Gru adopts three young orphan girls and finds himself with a whole new life as villain dad, while also managing an army of minions.

It is definitely a new story that we haven't seen before. The preview does give away some of the better moments, but I'll just say that there is a great scene with a kids book that made me tear up at the end. I won't give the rest of the story away, but will just say that it is super cute and worth a trip to the theater.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bucky Shot of the Week

Is it football season yet?

Book #6: Vanishing Acts

Yup, more Jodi Picoult. Although this time, I ended up getting an audio book. With those long car rides across various states, it made sense to use the time with something productive, rather than listening to the same CDs over and over. With 14 CDs, at about an hour each, I finished the book in roughly two weeks. Not bad at all. I have a second audio book - it'll be interesting to see how long it takes me to finish this one during regular daily trips.

As per the others, this book focuses on a variety of different character's viewpoints, and includes challenging topics like kidnapping, alcoholism, and love triangles. Picoult includes interesting settings and themes....there is a whole Native American storyline in this book, the main character does search and rescue with her bloodhound, and one character even gives a detailed description as to how to make meth. The scenes from prison were probably the most difficult to listen to, but contributed to the overall story. It's amazing the things she ties in.

Vanishing Acts was good, although not necessarily my favorite of the Jodi Picoult books I've now read. (I think I'm partial to My Sister's Keeper, or The Pact so far). I found it more difficult to like most of the characters. Perhaps that relates back to a main theme that seems to appear in her books - everyone is flawed.

On to the next book.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Watch This: Food Inc.

I just took the opportunity to watch Food Inc., a documentary by Eric Schlosser (who wrote Fast Food Nation) and Robert Kenner that looks at the food industry in the United States. It takes aim at the large corporate farms that produce almost all of the food that we consume. The large-scale industrial production is shown to be harmful to the environment and to the people eating it.

Beyond that, the film shows that it is cheaper to eat unhealthy food like fast food, soda and candy, than it is to eat fruits and vegetables, contributing to the obesity of our county, especially among the lower economic classes.

It was also interesting to see that many of the organic companies that we see at our grocery stores have been bought out by the larger agri-business companies. Did you know that Kellogg owns Kashi and Morningstar Farms? Or that Tom's of Maine (organic soap) is owned by Colgate-Palmolive and Burt's Bees is owned by Clorox? Odwalla is owned by Coca Cola. Even Ben and Jerry's is owned by Unilever. It makes sense that the giant corporations would want to buy out these products, which are seen to be the good ones. But it is important to know that's where they are coming from.

The film, although controversial, does raise a lot of questions about what we are eating. The answer seems to be a lot of corn. While I don't do a very good job about eating organic and eating local, this does make me want to make more of an effort. I have great resources around me, including a great Farmer's Market. While it may take a little more effort and a little more money, it seems to be a much bettter choice in the long run.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book #5: The Tenth Circle

So I had originally planned to read The Help by Katherine Stockett, as it is all the rage right now. Unfortunately, I had to take it back to the library before I was finished. So I instead turned my attention to The Tenth Circle, another book by Jodi Picoult.

This book revolves around a family that is torn apart by a rape accusation. Similar to her other books, there are a variety of different elements thrown into the story, including Dante's Inferno, the Alaskan Wilderness, and graphic novels. The father draws comics and graphic novels that feature a father and daughter. It was interesting to see the pages included in the book.

Overall, I thought this was a great book. The different view points in the story keep you on your toes, waiting to hear what happens next. I've heard that it was made into a movie, which I'm hoping to find via Netflix. I believe it was of the made-for-TV variety, but it could still be good. I do love a good Lifetime flick every once in awhile.

Monday, July 12, 2010

12 Days Later...

So I disappeared again! This time, home to Milwaukee for the 4th of July and a few Dave Matthews Band concerts. After that, a six-day detour to Indiana to assist in facilitating a student program before heading back to St. Louis. Lots of adventures to share! Unfortunately, I'm exhausted, so they'll have to wait...

A belated Happy Fourth of July!

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