Thursday, March 29, 2012

Kitty Pics of the Week

These poor little furballs are gonna miss this place...

Sadly, no screen porch at the new place. Which they will find out very soon. Because the moving begins today!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

30B430 Book 14: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

You probably haven't heard of this book, but it is one you should check out. I found it via Audible, and it made for a great listen during our bus trip back and forth from New Orleans.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the debut novel of Alan Bradley and is a murder mystery set in England in 1950, with an unlikely sleuth - 11 year-old Flavia de Luce. Flavia discovers a dead body in the cucumber patch of her family's crumbling mansion. When her father is accused of the murder, she is determined to find the real killer. She rides around town on her bike, Gladys, collecting clues about her father's former schoolmates, a mysterious suicide, and a collection of rare stamps, which ultimately leads her to the killer.

It is hard not to like Flavia, who is 11 going on 40. She is delightfully nerdy, with pigtail braids, glasses, and a face full of braces. Not to mention that she loves chemistry, has a fully functional lab in her house, and "has a penchant for poisons." One of the best scenes in the book is when she injects poison ivy into her older sister's lipstick to get her back for locking her in a closet. Awesome.

The book is the first in a series of Flavia de Luce mysteries. I look forward to checking out book #2:  The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag and the rest of the Flavia mysteries.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our New Place: First Look!

So, I am in the process of writing a post about our trip to New Orleans (and Memphis), but still feel like I need some time to process all of the experiences and emotions before I share them. I will likely do so in a few parts.  Stay tuned...

But for now, here it is....our new place! Warning, if you haven't already figured it out,  my photography skills leave something to be desired.

We came back from our trip a day early, which gave Chris and I a bonus day to swing by our apartment and see how things were coming along. The first time that we were there, the old tenants were still living there, and so we saw the place with their things. It helped give some perspective regarding what furniture might fit in the place, which was nice. But they definitely had different furniture than what we'd have, since they had two small kids in the place.

The second time we were there, our landlord was in the process of painting, tearing down wallpaper, and cleaning. I took some pics, but they didn't really do the place justice. It was definitely messy, for good reason. Beware...gritty iPhone photo ahead!

Check out my giant shadow. Spooky!

A few drop cloths weren't going to scare us off though. How excited am I about those built-ins? Very excited.

Here is the front - I love that although it is a duplex, it looks like a house. I do not know why that matters to me, but it does. Front and back yards! (Also, apparently we are supporting some candidate for something. Who knew?)

So here is our kitchen. I love the red counter tops and vintage cabinets. So fun.

You can see our breakfast nook, which looks like this up close. Say hello seashell wallpaper!

That wallpaper is still up, which I am totally cool with. I can work with it. It's clean and in good shape. It was the other wallpaper that I was excited to see go. This blue striped stuff in the guest bedroom. Not terrible, but not great. Sort of dirty and faded. Yes, that's blue trim and a blue closet door.

Fast forward. Hello tan walls and white trim! You were worth the extra wait! Our landlord is the best. 

By far one of my favorite things about the place....

Okay, two favorite things... Leaded glass french doors and a working fireplace in the living room! Amazing. Oh, and of course the gorgeous built-ins. I like them so much, I'm gonna show em again. Chris suggested that we each get one, for our tchotchkes and things. My built-in is gonna be amaze-balls. Yeah, I said it.

Here are some more views. The (blurry) dining room, which was previously papered on the back wall. 

Freshly de-wallpapered and newly painted hallway. I couldn't even tell you what that wallpaper looked like, but I like the neutral tones. Oh, and that little white door is a laundry chute! We will have to keep the curious little kittens away from that one...

And the bathroom. Because every apartment needs one of those. 

We took over a carload of things, none of which were really functional. Except maybe this one - toilet paper, kleenex, napkins, and paper towels. Thanks Mom! (Haha, she must think we are grownups that  use real napkins!)

Now we are just waiting until Thursday, when the real moving begins. And once we get in all the boxes and the big stuff, it'll be on to the decorating fun. Smile. This is definitely the fun part.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Birthday JerBear

Today would be my dad's 62nd birthday. It is the sixth one that we are celebrating without him.

 A few years ago, I made the decision that March 23 was not going to be a day that I would be sad. Birthdays are meant to be a day of joy and celebration, and so I embrace that. And the best way to carry on his memory is to share with others all of the wonderful things that made him our JerBear.

He was the first in his family to go to college, where he played baseball and had intended to be a coach. JerBear was the jock in the family. I don't know that either Rachel or I lived up to Coach JerBear's talent. He loved baseball, and played at Carthage College (where he also joined a local fraternity, Tau Sigma Chi, the Turtles). He graduated with a degree in Physical Education, and hoped to be a high school coach. Unfortunately, there weren't many jobs in the area, and so he went back to school at UW-Madison for his graduate degree and headed into the world of banking where he spent his whole career. He did eventually get to do some volunteer coaching for Rachel's soccer team. I think it would have been cool to see him coach baseball though. How different life might have been...

He met my mom at a meat packing plant. True story. He was working there during the summer to save for graduate school, and my mom was working in the office as her summer job. He would bring the orders into the office each day (what a meet cute!). He asked her out, and she stuck her nose up at him, until my grandpa dared her to go out with him. When he showed up for their date, driving a red Firebird, and all clean shaven and nice looking (not covered in meat blood), she changed her tune. And the rest is history. 

He embraced living with all women. JerBear was fortunate to have two daughters, which left him constantly outnumbered in our house. He was the kind of dad that would paint his three year old's toe nails or dress up in funny clothes. He never once complained about having to go to dance recitals (which thankfully didn't last long). He did well.

He loved the Badgers.  My parents purchased their season tickets and were loyal Badger fans throughout a lot of crumby seasons, pre-Barry Alvarez. They even kept their tickets when we moved to Iowa for eight years, making it back whenever they could and selling or giving away the rest. I remember going to games with my dad, back when I was a very small child. He would pack lots of snacks for me - the longer I stayed quiet and happy, the more of the game he would get to see. When the Badgers made it to the Rose Bowl in 1994 for the first time in over 30 years, my parents were definitely going - it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. I later found out that they had been planning to take us to Disney World around that time (we didn't go until we were 16). The last game he saw live was a win against Purdue in Barry's last season. He was scheduled to have surgery around the Iowa game, and so I took a friend instead. Knowing his hatred of the Hawkeyes, it is probably a good thing that he wasn't there to see them lose.

He had the best lawn and landscaping in the neighborhood. JerBear took his gardening quite seriously. He watched HGTV for the garden shows, and would speak this foreign language of plants that none of the rest of us would understand. He put so much time, energy, and money into making the backyard beautiful, that he was known to shoot bunnies with a pellet gun if he caught them eating the foliage. I may not have agreed with this, but I knew him enough not to argue. I have to imagine that he would be pretty irritated with all of the watering restrictions we have now, because it would prevent him from achieving his perfect lush green lawn. There is a reason that we have cats and not dogs in our house. Neighbor dogs - go pee somewhere else.

He loved Harry Potter. We all love Harry Potter, but I don't know if anyone can ever match JerBear's love. He would read all of the books, and then excitedly share his own theories for how it would all turn out. Was Dumbledore really dead? Was Snape good or bad? When he told us about his cancer diagnosis, one of the first things he said was "I'm not going to get to read that last damn book." Rach and I considered contacting JK Rowling to see if she would send him an advanced copy, but we knew that was unlikely to happen. While going through chemo, he had to get a special okay to go see HP and the Goblet of Fire in the theater, since he wasn't supposed to be in public places where he would be exposed to germs. He went twice. When I first read the last book, I knew he would be happy with how it all ended.

He could live on popcorn, pizza, and chocolate chip cookies. JerBear wasn't a picky eater, he just had his favorites. And on the average day, he was known to grab a box of popcorn for lunch while walking the downtown area. He also loved pizza, and no place more than Balistreri's. You knew better than to give him Pizza Hut or Papa John's - he liked paper thin crust, loaded with toppings. He also loved cookies (really of any kind). He didn't bake all that often, but when he did, his were better than mom's (No offense Mom!).

He rocked one awesome mustache. I think that JerBear's stache was right up there with Tom Selleck's back in the day. It just fit his face so well. I couldn't tell you the date that he first grew his mustache, but I do know that it was before he met my mom. Rach and I had never seen him without one until he shaved his face when I was in middle school. In fact, his mustache was so distinct that he once ran into his mom in the mall, and she legitimately didn't recognize him "without his mustache." She asked her friends who the strange guy was that was trying to talk to her while she was having a cup of coffee. Of course, at that point he hadn't had a mustache in several years, and she had seen him several times without it - she just always thought of him as her son with a mustache.

He was a great storyteller. His eyes would light up with excitement whenever he had a story to tell. One of my favorites was when he would talk about buying his Honda CR-V. He went into the dealer and asked to test drive the car, but made quite clear that he "wasn't buying a car today." After the drive, as the salesperson when to make their pitch, he repeated, "Sir, if there is one thing that I'm not, it's a liar.  And I told my wife that I was not buying a car today. I may buy that very car tomorrow, but I'm not buying it today." Sure enough, he walked out. Went back and bought the car the next day. JerBear: A man of his word.

He was a good boss. We didn't really get to know the work side of our dad, because he was the guy that didn't bring work home with him. When he was at home, that was family time. In fact, when people used to ask us what our dad did, Rach and I would usually repeat what he told us, "he reads and highlights stuff." The true story is that he was a senior vice president at US Bank.  In his time at US Bank (which was his entire career, from starting at First Wisconsin, then when it became Firstar, then US Bank), he supervised a lot of people, and when we met many of them at his funeral, they all talked about what a great boss he was. That he was kind and fair, and that he mentored many of them in their careers. It was a part of his life that I wish we had gotten to see.

His life revolved around his family. My dad was by himself at the appointment where he learned that his cancer was spreading even more quickly than anticipated, and that he likely had no more than a month left. My mom and sister had come to visit me in Ames, because at that point all signs were that he was doing really well. He had gone back to work, and all of the treatments had been deemed successful. The appointment was supposed to be a routine follow up. Although we knew his cancer was terminal, the news came as a total surprise. He spent what was his last good weekend completing a bunch of house chores - tasks to be checked off the list that he didn't want my mom to have to worry about later. If there is one action that really speaks to his character, it is that one. Taking care of us, even when we were supposed to be taking care of him.

I miss him every day. But I know that his spirit shines through in all of us.

Love ya, JerBear.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Best Summer

2007 Graduation - I have a Master's!
My sister is graduating in May from her master's program. For Rachel and her classmates, this final semester can be a nerve-wracking time. You feel like you need to find a position before you graduate in May. You and your fellow classmates are all equally on edge, and so it becomes tense and competitive and sorta icky. Not to mention that you are trying to conduct a job search while you are also still expected to be completing final projects and other coursework and balancing the demands of your assistantship. It is super stressful. To add to your stress, there aren't necessarily a ton of positions posted yet, and you may not be all that excited about those that are posted. So you are questioning whether to just apply for everything or hold out for something better. You feel like you might never have a job.  I remember hating that semester, and just wanting it all to be over. However, I'll let you in on a little secret...

One of my favorite summers was the one between graduate school and moving to St. Louis to start my first professional position. The one where I was unemployed. I did not get a job offer until the first week of July, and then did not start my position until August 1.  So May through August were spent just hanging out in Ames, Iowa. And it was exactly what I needed.

My ELPS cohort - the best people I know
That second year of graduate school had really put me through the ringer. Had I moved immediately and gone directly into a position, I would have started it even more stressed out. Instead, I was able to enjoy what would likely be my last summer off.

I got into a lovely daily routine. I would wake up naturally around 8:00 (to the sunshine and fresh air rather than an alarm clock, what?!), and drink my morning coffee and eat a bagel while watching The Today Show or reading a book out on my deck. At 10, I would head over to the gym for a daily workout. Did I mention that I was the skinniest and healthiest that I have ever been that summer? It certainly helped that I was eating nutritious meals at regular meal times because I had the time and energy to cook (Taking care of myself - who knew?!). My apartment was also spotless, which is not exactly something I am known for.

I would typically spend a few hours searching for positions, submitting job applications, and following up with potential employers. I made a point to set the time aside, but didn't let it consume my whole day. Afterwards, I might head to the public library to pick up some more books, to the farmer's market to get some fresh produce, or I might decide to hit up a matinee movie. It was that summer that I discovered I actually enjoy going to the movies by myself. And I read a lot of books. A lot. Plus, I enjoyed those last few months that I had with some of my closest friends. This was leisure, and I liked it. I was okay with being a stay-at-home person, at least in the short term. 

Phil and Me. He worked with me at the call center too that summer.
To help pay my bills, I picked up a part-time position working at the student call center. Yep, that awful position where most people only last for a few weeks. I didn't make it much longer either, but that is because I had to leave for several on-campus interviews. I had enough stashed in savings, that I knew I would be okay through the end of the summer, as long as I lived very frugally. Which I did. I didn't go out to eat. I didn't step foot in a mall all summer. I would sneak my own snacks into the movie theater. I spent a lot of time, just hanging out on my deck. And it was still awesome.

I feel it is important to share that I am not saying unemployment is easy or fun. I applied for well over 60 jobs that summer, and only heard back from a fraction (maybe 10?). I had a total of three campus interviews. And I am thankful that one turned out to be the right fit for me. If I hadn't gotten the position by the end of July, I would likely have had to move home with my mom and sister. That would have been significantly more stressful, and a lot less leisure. But thankfully, I found my new home in St. Louis. I was searching for just a few months, but I understand that for many, unemployment can be much longer and more painful. I am very grateful that I did not get to that point of panic.

The day that I picked out Bucky and brought him home.
I also acknowledge that there is a huge amount of inherent privilege in my story. I still had my student health insurance through the end of the summer. I did not have any car payments, and was still on my parent's auto insurance because I was driving one of their cars. I also didn't have anyone to feed other than myself. Well, I did adopt Bucky during my last week before moving and snuck him into my apartment (because it was a really great idea to then go through a six-hour move with a cat...). But, basically I was only responsible for myself and had very few expenses other than rent, utilities, and food.

I share this story mainly for my friends and sister who are going through their search process right now. Know that it is okay if you do not have a job before graduation. Not many of us did, except for the crew looking at live-on positions. Also do not feel like you have to take something that is not a good fit just to have a job by June 1. There are many positions that will not post until later in the summer - many individuals in those entry-level positions are searching right now too, and their position won't post until after they accept something. If there is one thing that I have learned along the way, it is that hiring processes take a LONG time. Be patient. And, of course, if you do find that you have a little bit of time in between graduation and your first job, make the best of it. You may never have another chunk of time like that in your career to just enjoy yourself. If you are anything like I was in graduate school, you probably need time for some self care too.

You are almost done. Enjoy this last semester, and congratulations!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Top Ten TV Characters

I watch a lot of tv. I mean, a lot. There are many other things I should be doing with my time, but most often, I prefer to catch up on some of my favorite shows. I think this is because there are so many great tv characters. Here are my top ten.

1. Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation

You cannot argue this one. Ron Swanson is the best character on TV. Hands down. With each season, he continues to get better. This season started off with a glimpse into Ron's past as all three Tammys showed up - his first wife, second wife, and his mom. Yep, all named Tammy. You also couldn't help but love Ron Swanson as a no-nonsense wilderness camp leader. I am constantly craving more Ron Swanson and his mustache.

2. Jess Day on New Girl

Why has Zooey Deschanel not been on tv until now? There are quirky, nerdy little girls (and big girls like me) who need to know it is okay to be quirky and nerdy. Jess is our role model. Plus, she has this awkward yet loving relationship with her three male roommates. By far the best Jess line so far:

"I brake for birds. I rock a lot of polka dots. I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children. And I find it fundamentally strange that you’re not a dessert person. It freaks me out.  I’m sorry that I don’t talk like Murphy Brown. And I hate your pants suit. I wish it had ribbons on it or something just to make it slightly cuter but that doesn’t mean I’m not smart and tough and strong."
Glorious. I want to be more like Jess.

3. Temperance Brennan on Bones

Those Deschanel sisters are awesome, right? Bones is not on right now due to Emily Deschanel's maternity leave, but I cannot wait for it to come back. I think her character is perhaps one of the most under appreciated on tv. She is basically brilliant, but terrible at reading social cues, which makes for some interesting moments. Plus she gets to solve murders and hang out with a hot FBI agent. Now that's my idea of a good time. Smart girls are awesome.

4. Cam on Modern Family

I am pretty sure that Cam is on everyone's list. How can you not love him? Especially when he was laughing as his daughter dropped f bombs. Wouldn't we all want to do the same? Best cold open this season - his sleep clowning. Funny and frightening at the same time.

5. Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory

I'm a little late to the game on The Big Bang Theory. I just started watching this year, and went through five seasons in just a few months. How on earth had I been missing out on the delightful geeky awkwardness that is Sheldon Cooper? The episode when he loses it and is popping around in a kiddy ball pit was perhaps the funniest thing I have ever seen. And of course, I love "Soft Kitty."

6. Emily Thorne on Revenge

Most of what I watch is comedies, but I happened to start Revenge earlier this year and was immediately hooked. That Emily Thorne is so stinkin smart and crafty. Plus she's uber wealthy, so she gets to wear fancy clothes and go to fancy parties. That would be pretty cool...  

7. Alex on Whitney

I know there are a lot of Whitney haters, but I enjoy the show. It has gotten tons better since it started. Mostly I keep watching because I love Alex, and his relationship with Whitney. He puts up with those times that she is totally neurotic, which is most of the time, but he also messes up sometimes too. I like that their relationship is a little more equal than most that you see on tv. The episode that showed how they met was the one that stole my heart.

8. Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation

At first, I found Tom kind of annoying. Probably because he is supposed to feel like your immature little brother, that somehow grew up and has a big kid job, yet still acts like he is five. Eventually though he grew on me. I think it was when I heard all of his variations on food names (if you don't know what I am talking about, see this website.Who doesn't want to eat Chicky chicky parm parm (chicken parmesan), or apps and zerts (appetizers and desserts)?

9. Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother

Barney is my standby for a good laugh because you know that he is bound to say multiple inappropriate things in each episode. But there is also that softer side of him that comes out every once in awhile. And I can't help but want him to end up with Robin in the end. I'm hoping we will figure that one out before the end of this season.


10. Zoe Hart on Hart of Dixie

Laugh if you want. I watch a CW show (or two or three...), and I enjoy Hart of Dixie. Back in the day, I loved The OC, mainly for Rachel Bilson's character, Summer, and her sweet/dysfunctional relationship with Seth. I am so excited that she is back on tv, and appreciate her new character and the silly circumstances she gets herself into in her small Alabama town.

Who almost made the list?

I am a big Sue Sylvester fan, but lately Glee just hasn't been my thing. I still have the last three episodes waiting in my Hulu queue. And yet I seem to keep picking other shows to watch first. Also why Brittany didn't make the list.

If I were to pick a second Modern Family character, it would probably be Luke. That actor (who is actually Mensa smart), is really good at playing a dumb kid. He has some of the best one liners.  

I may be one of few people that is sad to see House come to an end. I understand that it is time, but I have held on all this time, and will missing watching Hugh Laurie be a  totally mean and nasty, genius problem solver.

There were several shows that I love, but could not pick out one character over all of the rest. This is true for both Parenthood (love those crazy Bravermans), and Once Upon a Time. I'm not enough into any of the fairytale characters stories to have a favorite yet.

I should mention that I do not have cable. So I hear lots about Breaking Bad and a variety of other shows that I will likely never see. My list may not be comprehensive of your favorites, but that is okay. It is mine. : )

Who would be on your list?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...