Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Love Letter...to Iowa

Ahh, cornfields.
It has been two weeks since we visited Iowa. I already want to go back.

We left after work on a Thursday, and traveled across to Madison, down through Dubuque/Cedar Rapids, and then across I-80. As we started getting closer to Des Moines, I became giddy with excitement. Every other word out of my mouth was, "Ooh, Casey's gas stations!" followed by "Ooh, Hy-Vee - the best grocery store ever!" and "Ooh, Adventureland!" Never mind that it was approaching midnight and Chris was trying to sleep in the car. With each new thing, I could barely contain myself. And then the following conversation happened.

"I love Iowa. It's my favorite place." I said.

"I thought Milwaukee was your favorite place," Chris said, looking a little hurt/concerned.

"I mean, I love Milwaukee, but Iowa is my place. It's where I grew up. It's where all of those important years happened."

"I am not moving to Iowa." A firm response from Chris.

"Iowa can be my favorite place without me living here. I'm not asking you to move here." Silently I was thinking but did not say, "But I do hope that you love it as much as I do because I'm at least going to need to come back for some visits."

Iowa. It is my place. We moved to Urbandale, Iowa when I was 8 years old and stayed through the end of my sophomore year of high school before my dad's job took us back to Milwaukee again. I returned for a summer in college to work at Living History Farms day camp, went back the following summer for a week as a counselor at Catholic Youth Camp and then again for two years of graduate school at Iowa State. Sure, Milwaukee is where my family is, but I consider myself equally from Wisconsin/Iowa, and I don't know if that will change as I accumulate more years here in Milwaukee.

It's hard to put into words just why I love Iowa so much. But I suppose I will give it a shot....

It is my home where I remember playing hide and seek, building Barbie villages in the basement, and swinging on our swing set in the backyard. It's the home where we planted a tree that I grew from a seed in a margarine container. It is where I learned to drive, had my first kiss, had braces put on and taken off, and babysat almost ever kid in the neighborhood.

It is the people. Seriously the nicest you will ever meet. I am not saying folks in other places aren't nice too, or that it's a competition. But I don't know if people are born nicer than the ones that live in Iowa.

It is Hy-vee grocery store. Hands down the best there is. Chris seems to think I'm crazy for liking a grocery store so much, but I think others who have experienced it too and now live somewhere else would probably agree.

It's the corn fields. Not right where I live, but never far away.

Earlier last week, a friend shared this TED Talk from Pico Iyer about "Where is Home?" It made me think. It made me feel things. It was very moving for me, because I consider many different places home. When you ask me where my hometown is, how do I answer? Is it the place where I was born? I only lived in Wauwatosa, WI until I was 8, so the years I remember there are fairly limited. Is it where my mom lives now? Waukesha is great, but I really only lived there for two years of high school, one summer during college, and the seven months before Chris and I found our current place. It feels strange to leave out Madison, WI, the best college town ever. And of course, Iowa.

Iowa is deeply imbedded in me. It's a part that will never go away. And I like that. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Great Closet Challenge

Have you ever taken an inventory of all of the clothes in your closet?

I decided to clean mine out this past weekend, and it was a bit frightening. I found two bags of sweaters and tops that have been waiting to go to the dry cleaners. Some of them have been in there for over a year. Fifteen pieces of clothing that need a little tender lovin' care so they can make their way back into the rotation.

This made me want to go through all of my clothes and assess what I am/am not wearing. Long story short, I have a whole lot of clothes. And I certainly don't need any more for some time. I am not a frequent shopper, but when I do buy stuff, I tend to splurge on a bunch of things at once. That may have caused the current situation.

Enter: The Great Closet Challenge!

I am setting a personal challenge to avoid buying any new clothes for an entire calendar year. That's right - a whole year. I am quite confident that I can make 365 combinations with what's hanging in the closet and stuffed in my dresser, even if I am not wearing my favorite thing everyday. At the end of the year, anything that went unworn will have to go. It will make a lovely donation to the Junior League of Milwaukee Grand Garage Sale, a fundraiser that I am happy to support each year.

So starting today, July 22nd, there will be no new jeans, running shorts, cardigans, or tops. And certainly no t-shirts. How does one person accumulate this many t-shirts?!

This challenge also includes accessories - specifically scarves and jewelry. I have more of both than I know what to do with. Nineteen scarves, people. That's just excessive.

There are a few exceptions to this:

Any items specific to Wedding/Honeymoon festivities. I already have my dress, but there may be other items that I am going to need to purchase to go with it - not optional. And I already know that I am going to need to get a rain parka for our honeymoon. So that's a go. I am going to try to pull from my current wardrobe for engagement photos as well, which could get interesting. I may have to make an exception there. Don't worry, I won't go overboard.

Shoes. For a girl who has so many clothes, I actually have very few pairs of shoes. And some of them are looking quite sad. As in, they should probably already be in the trash. So I will allow myself to buy work/casual shoes, within reason.

Gifts. If someone is so kind as to give me a clothing or jewelry gift, I reserve the right to keep it. As any good recipient would do. : )

To keep myself sane, throughout the year I am going to keep a clothing wish list. I think it will be fun to note the things I wish I had throughout the year, and see if I still really want them at the end.

I am also going to take a daily picture to assist me in remembering my outfits and to track what gets worn (and what doesn't). I don't plan to post them here, but will let you know how things are going. I am excited to see how much money that I save and if I can get creative with what I have.

Anyone interested in joining me for this one?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer TV

What do you watch during the summer months? Do you get into the reality competition shows? Do you watch the reruns of your favorite?

We definitely get out a bit more during the summer, but it's nice to have something to watch during those super hot days when we don't want to go outside. We haven't had many of those yet, but I bet they are coming.

Since we don't have cable, we rely on Netflix for summer tv options. I think it's a lot of fun to pick a new show and watch all the way through. We are currently in the middle of season three of Sons of Anarchy. Who knew that I'd be hooked on a show about a motorcycle gang. Excuse me, a motorcycle club.

Here are a few others that I'd recommend for summer tv:

Downton Abbey. Obviously. But you've probably already watched it, so in that case, watch...

Call the Midwife. Season One is on Netflix. You'll have to hunt around for Season Two because PBS just pulled it. You may think a show about nuns and midwives sounds stuffy, but trust me, it's not. It does a wonderful job at looking at the complexities of healthcare, gender roles and poverty. And the characters are totally charming.

Sherlock. Because let's be honest, British tv is amazing. And I think Benedict Cumerbach is spectacular.

Elementary. Same character, totally different take. I actually don't know if it is on Netflix yet, so maybe check CBS. I watched the first half and am going to try to finish the first season this summer.

How I Met Your Mother. This is probably our favorite show. If you haven't seen it, the next season is going to be the last where we will finally see how Ted and the mother meet. Catch up on the show now and make note of all of the clues!

House of Cards. I watched the first season in just a few days. It's that good. Kevin Spacey could probably be a politician in real life. I'd vote for him.

Friday Night Lights. Why not go back and rewatch the whole show? It was that good - who could ever get sick of it?

The Walking Dead. I don't like scary stuff, but I have been hooked through every episode.

The West Wing. We watched the whole series over the winter. I had actually never seen it until now. But now I'm on the Aaron Sorkin bandwagon.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Painting is my favorite

So this is a pretty belated post, but too fun not to share!

Have you heard of Splash Studio? Okay, if you don't live in Milwaukee, probably not.

It's this awesome painting bar. You heard me. Painting bar.

They do classes during the evenings and on weekends where you can paint along with an instructor, or you can just go to the bar, pick out a canvas and freestyle it. I have now been there four times, which I guess makes me a regular. If I wasn't minding my fun budget, I might be there once a week. Except then I would have to start paying people to take my paintings because we'd run out of wall space for em all.

Anyway...rather than give my mom a traditional gift for Mother's Day this year, I wanted to give her an experience. Something that we could do together. We are both fairly busy, and so it's nice to set aside time to hang out. And what would be more fun to do than painting and drinking?

I let her pick out a painting that she wanted to do and she picked the poppy fields painting. Very pretty. And surprisingly not too hard.

Mom is ready to paint!

The model painting - Poppy Fields

My happy clouds. The best part. Thank you Bob Ross.

How amazing is this? She added in the Wizard of Oz characters, and the Emerald City!
Sorry for the super blurry photo, but too cool not to share.
Mom, with her finished painting. I love it!

My masterpiece. Went for a little whimsy.
My trees look like ice cream cone tops. 
We had so much fun! Painting is definitely more fun with a glass of wine. You just have to be careful not to mix up the wine glass with the dirty paint water. Almost did that. Twice. 

If you live in the area, you should definitely Get Splashed!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Adventures in Gardening

I have a new hobby. And I'm obsessed.

Check out these babies!

Our baby seedlings before planting.

Freshly planted.

Boy have they grown!

Cilantro for days!

Lots of basil.


Two kinds of kale.

One of our free spirited tomato plants.
Our jalapeno plant finally is starting to show signs of future peppers.

Tomatoes are coming soon!

The Food and Garden Club on the campus where I work has a number of garden plots that they let students, faculty, and staff rent out each year. For a small fee, you get to grow whatever you would like in a 4x4 plot.

I have always wanted to start a garden, but wasn't really excited about trying to build something at our apartment. We also have a heavily shaded yard thanks to some big trees, which would make it pretty challenging to grow anything that requires full sun.

So I was so excited to give gardening a shot, especially with a group of folks who know quite a bit more about gardening than I do. Lots of experts to share tips and tricks.

And, even better, I have a gardening partner! My friend Claudia also wanted to give beginner gardening a shot. We like to head out over our lunch hour and check on the veggies and herbs and do a little weeding and watering. Maybe grab a few extra salad toppings too!

We have already learned a few key things:

Tomatoes need to go in cages, almost right away. We thought we could wait on this one for a few weeks, but then our tomato plants had a major growth spurt and got all long and gangly. We had quite the adventure trying to weave them into the cages, and lost some branches along the way. We are hoping that they will straighten out a bit, because they are pretty heavy on one side.

Watering. It's a daily thing. We haven't lost any plants yet, and thankfully, we've had a LOT of rain so watering hasn't been as needed as you would expect for the summer. But we know moving forward that we are going to have to schedule time to get out there every day.

Cat hair and coffee grounds can help keep the critters away. We don't use pesticides at the garden, so we are trying everything we can to keep the bugs and the bunnies out of our goodies. Some bunny loves our kale!

Through the club, I am also trying out composting for the first time. We have a compost area near the gardens, and so I've been saving my veggie scraps, egg shells and coffee groups to take in each day. Way better than having a stinky compost area at home! Plus all of the compost that we make can go back into the gardens.

So that's where you can find me this summer. Digging in the dirt!

Do you garden? What tips can you share with us? We'd love advice!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Yeah, I Run.

I have run two races in the last month and am still walking. : )

Last year Chris and I ran the Rock n' Sole 5K together in celebration of his birthday. This year, I decided to push myself to get ready for the quarter marathon. Approx. 6.55 miles.

This year's race was nothing like last year. We woke up in the morning to gloomy skies and rain. We drove down to the lakefront, and my goal was to stay as dry as a I could for as long as I could. Unfortunately, my shoes were wet almost immediately.  It wasn't warm, but also not exactly cold. Kinda sticky. I also had a gross feeling in my stomach that I was hoping would go away by race time. It didn't. Not how you want to start a race. I started out with long sleeves on, but had to stop about halfway through to take off the top layer.

The Rock n' Sole goes up and over the Hoan Bridge. I don't know if others get excited about this. It's alright. Sort of one giant hill. Honestly, it was one of those ugly races that you just want to finish and get out of my soggy shoes as soon as possible. And I did! All things considered, I was pretty proud of my time. I think if they fall the same day next year and if I'm ready, I might choose The Lighthouse Run instead.

Fast forward to this week. I started off the Fourth running the Firecracker Four - a four-mile race through the neighborhoods of Hales Corners. Completely opposite day. Warm and very sunny. With so many cool days lately, it was a pleasant surprise. But of course, I am the idiot that left the sunscreen in the car. Thankfully I didn't get too red. I started this race quite a bit faster, and had a pretty great time again - 38:28. It felt really good to finish. I would definitely do that one again.

I have been having such a different running year than last summer. We have really only had a few hot days so far. I anticipate I'll have quite a few more hot runs moving forward, but it's been nice to actually be able to get outside.

Up until now, I have been creating my own running plan. From here on out, it's official half training for the Brewers Mini Marathon!

Next up: Another fun run, followed by a 10K. Wish me luck!
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