11.30.2009

I did it!

30 posts in 30 days - Mission complete!

I can't say that my posts were all that thought-provoking and insightful to read, but I have enjoyed writing everyday, such that it was. And the discipline it took has certainly taken hold; I'm beginning to think the day is just not complete unless I've blogged. So, maybe I'll take a little more time in between posts now, but I think the blog bug has bitten, and it's something I'll keep up - hopefully with posts a little more interesting than my plans for the weekend (but I can't promise there won't be the occasional "What I Made for Dinner" post). In any case, thanks for reading.

The Next 23 Days

Well, I got six things (mostly) done of the ten I wanted to accomplish this weekend. Which is pretty good for a staycation. I really, really don't want to go to work tomorrow, but I keep reminding myself that all I have to do is put in the hours until it's time for my next vacation - which is in only 23 days! And there are lots of fun things that are going to happen between now and then: our new Bible study on Daniel starting up this week, the church Christmas party next weekend, Kelly's party on the 12th, Christkindlmarket, cookie baking, present buying, card writing, apartment decorating, and all the other advent preparations. Ok. Bring it on - there's plenty to look forward to besides just going back to work.

11.28.2009

Reading List

I should be finishing up my current book in the next day or so, and it's time to think about what to dive into next. I've narrowed it down to three:

Three Cups of Tea
This has been on my reading list for a while. A couple of my friends have read it and loved it. It's about a man's journey through Afghanistan and Pakistan, establishing schools in the countries' most remote areas and promoting peace through education. It's not a novel, but sometimes I need to remember that just because it isn't fiction doesn't mean I won't enjoy it.

The Art Thief
I saw this in the window of a book shop around the corner and it immediately drew my eye; for some reason I think it would be very cool to be an art thief (you know, if I had no scruples or anything). The book was marked way down so I went in a bought it, but when I looked it up on Goodreads, it had terrible reviews. I think I still want to read it, but I'm afraid the longer it sits on my shelf, the bigger the chance I'll forget about it.

The English Patient
I've read a couple other Booker Prize winners and nominees and have really enjoyed them. This was the winner in 1992 and was, of course, made into a movie (which I loved), so I know it's going to be good. But, I already know the gist of the story since I've seen the movie.



What to read??

11.27.2009

Happy Birthday, Kelly!

Posting live from the Weis household. John's mixing up our second dessert for Kelly's birthday. This one comes in liquid form - frozen mudslides (with chocolate syrup of course)!! For the first round I had some excellent double chocolate torte at Tilli's which followed some of the best tortellini I've had in a long time. After Tilli's we went to see The Blind Side, which was really good! I recommend it as a feel-good Thanksgiving movie, definitely. Well, a mean game of Scrabble is starting - gotta go!

11.26.2009

Thankful


I'm so, so thankful for:
  • My job. Even though I’m frustrated and discouraged on a daily basis, the fact that I managed to stay on despite the company cutting over half of its staff is nothing but God keeping watch over me.
  • For my mom and brother being safely moved to Houston and together with my dad finally. It was not fun while they were apart - for anyone.
  • For my beautiful friend Amy’s (one of the fourths) wonderful news that came yesterday regarding her engagement to a great guy!!
  • For old friendships that find new ways to grow and deepen despite distance and for the friends here with me in the city who make me feel loved daily.
  • For my church and the leadership there who take their role as shepherds seriously. I’ve been blessed to be able to get to know all of them better over this last year and am so encouraged by their humility and their passion for serving MissioDei daily.
  • For my grandparents’ continued good health, despite some scares.
  • For my kitty who meets me at the door every day after work, who keeps me company wherever I go in the apartment, and who makes a room so much cozier just by being in it.
  • For my wonderful Thanksgiving memories with my family of cooking and cleaning and decorating and watching football and shopping and loving each other. Even though I’m not with them this year, I’m thankful that I have these memories to make it seem like we’re not so far away.
  • That I have good friends to spend this Thanksgiving with instead, and this amazingly delicious apple cake cooling in the kitchen that I’m going to take with me to our little feast. (Seriously, guys, this cake will blow your mind. Make it.)
  • For my upcoming trip to Texas this Christmas to hang out with my brothers and parents for 6 days in the (very) mild winter weather.
  • That even though the summer was fairly chilly and not summer-like, the fall weather has been fabulous all the way into late November.
  • For the spiritual growth and deepening that took place in our Bible study as we studied Esther and Ruth. And for the new faces that already feel like they’ve been with us from the start.
  • For Leah’s safe pregnancy and delivery of the very beautifulest of baby girls, Natalie Jane.
  • That I’ve had the opportunity to help lead worship on Sundays every now and then, and that God’s given me a gift that’s so easy (and fun) to give back to Him.
  • For grace I most certainly can’t earn, but that God gives me abundantly and freely every moment of every day.

11.25.2009

A Thanksgiving Surprise

I came in to work today to find a memo saying we could leave at 3:00! So, I'm planning on going straight home, taking a nap, grocery shopping for tomorrow, and hanging out with Kelly. Sounds like a perfect start to the vacation weekend!

11.24.2009

Vacationing at Home

So this year I'm staying in Chicago for Thanksgiving. It makes me sad to think I won't be with my family and also extra-nostalgic for all the good, Ohio-holiday traditions that I'll be missing this year, but I am excited to spend four days hanging out in Chicago. I don't think I've ever had that many days in a row off and not gone anywhere to visit anyone. And, in order to commemorate this unprecedented event, I've decided to share with you my list of things I'm dreaming of accomplishing (in no particular order) during this four-day staycation:

1. Deep-clean the apartment (I know it doesn't sound like a vacation, but sometimes a good deep-clean just feels, well, good. And, my place needs it.)
2. Get the new TV all hooked up and in place and take the old one down to the storage unit
3. Take Kelly out for her birthday (it's on Friday!)
4. Help her with graduation party things (so excited!!)
5. Take my dress for the party to the tailor's.
6. Make a delicious apple cake for the Thanksgiving feast at Paige's (recipe coming soon!)
7. Make more food for the next week's lunches.
8. Watch football.
9. Efficiently search and actually apply for, um, better opportunities (if you know what I mean)
10. Get a head start on Christmas cards (so this year I'm not staying up until 1 a.m. a day before I leave for Christmas)

It sounds like a lot - but I love doing all (well, most) of those things, and they're things I never really have time to do or don't feel like doing on any normal weekend. So it should hopefully be a fun and productive four days. And I'll be in my robe and p.j.'s everyday until I absolutely have to change, so it will be a comfy four days, for sure.

11.23.2009

A Wonderful, Stupendous, Splendid, Amazing, Spectacular, Marvelous, Truly Fantastic Weekend

Sarah, Amy, Jath, and Robin - together again. Cleveland, fall 2009

Well, the long awaited reunion weekend has come and gone. It seemed to go by so fast! But I think we spent our time well. We shopped (I bought four pairs of shoes!), talked, stayed up late-late (practically 4 a.m. one night!), hugged, giggled, ate at the Cheesecake Factory (I hadn't been there in forever!), tried our hand at homemade Singapore Slings (very successful), talked some more, hugged some more, laughed really hard, played games, went to church, sat around, reminisced, and hugged and talked and laughed until we were just about to burst.

It was amazing to hear and share our stories with each other - we're all doing such different things and in such different places. Each of these extraordinary girls is on the cusp of something thrillingly new, and I'm so excited to watch it all unfold and to be there for each of them no matter what.

11.22.2009

My Story

I've mentioned before that I love my church (see the little MissioDei link over on the sidebar if you want to know more). Recently, we went through a church-wide partnership process. It was a renewal for some, and for others, like me, a chance to come alongside other members of the body of Christ in a covenant relationship for the first time. One of the steps in the process was to write about your "story" or your journey to life in Christ. So, I thought I'd post mine below.

My Story

I remember being six years old and sitting on my parents' bed one spring afternoon with my mom, sunlight streaming in through the curtained window and spilling across the flowered bedspread and our legs. We were talking about Jesus, and that He loves me and died for me. I don’t exactly remember all the words, but I remember she prayed with me, and I knew even then that something very important and very special had taken place.

That, I guess, is my conversion story. I’ll admit – it’s not very dramatic.  In fact, “conversion” doesn’t quite seem like an accurate description. I was six, and, while I don’t doubt for a minute that God recognized a small heart wanting nothing more in that moment than to be His, I don’t think I was aware of the promise I was making. That realization has been something that has grown out of the last 19 years as I’ve stumbled on and off the path He’s laid out for me. 

Growing up, I lived in a home with two parents who loved each other and who loved the Lord, which is probably the greatest earthly gift God’s given me. I’ve never been someone who’s doubted God’s love for me or struggled with accepting it, and probably the main reason is that I’ve constantly known my parents' unwavering love in my life. Even through those rocky adolescent years, I knew that there was nothing I could do that would make them stop loving me – something they often told me when I’d come apologizing after the many times I disobeyed, thinking I knew better than they did. I’m so abundantly thankful for my mom and dad dedicating their “parenthood” to mirroring the love Christ has for His church and specifically for me. I know my journey with the Lord has been largely shaped by their influence and love.

There are times when I can tell that God and I are working in sync and that the choices I’m making are honoring Him. But, of course, I’ve often felt far away from Him, mostly during situations where I couldn’t see how He was working and have taken things into my own hands, and there have been plenty of times when I’ve even chosen to ignore His will. He eventually reveals my sin; sometimes gently, other times in harsh realities. I guess this ebb and flow has in more ways been the story of my salvation than that day in the spring 19 years ago. But as difficult as it is to be refined and die to myself again and again, that’s when I’m discovering and learning just how needful I am and just how deeply He loves.

11.21.2009

The Easiest, Yummiest Homemade Pizza Crust


I saw a link to this on a friend's blog, clicked on it, and was taken to Enlightened Cooking, where I met this recipe. I love making homemade pizza, especially as a quick, last minute meal to use up stuff I already have. The problem is - I don't usually have pizza crust dough lying around or in the freezer. And I certainly don't have time to go the whole fermenting and punching-down route. So when I tried this recipe and was astounded at the simplicity and the fact that I already had all the ingredients in my house, I was sold. Please do try it!

Scone Crust:
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup nonfat milk
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in Parmesan. Whisk the milk and egg in a small bowl, then add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Turn dough out onto a floured surface; pat to 1-inch-thick circle. Lift onto a non-stick baking sheet or pizza stone, then press out to a circle about 10 inches across to make the pizza base.

Top with your favorite pizza toppings. (We used LaRosa's sauce, Italian sausage, diced green peppers caramelized onions, and lots of cheese) for the one up top - very tasty.)

Bake for 15-18 minutes until crust is golden and cooked through. Makes 6 servings.

11.20.2009

I'm going to be Will Smith!

Not really. But isn't he the one who put Ray-Bans back on the map in Men in Black? Well, anyways. It's high time I got some new glasses (haven't had any since I was a senior in high school), and so after careful searching, I think I'm going to get these.
I know...they're not black. But I think the black ones look too severe on me. And these match my hair. Mostly, I only wear my current glasses from my bed to the bathroom and vice versa every morning and night because they're quite out of date prescription-wise and style-wise. I think these will be a nice update and a fun accessory to wear out of the house every now and then.  

11.19.2009

Going strong!

Off to Cleveland today! But never fear - thanks to Blogger's fancy scheduled posts feature, I'll be "posting" all weekend. Hopefully my time away from day-of posting won't cause me to forget once I get back home. But, I've made it this far - already over half-way through the month and still in the running for all the NaBloPoMo fame and glory!

11.18.2009

A Jonah Day

Today was a Jonah day (a term from one of my fave books, Anne of Avonlea). Basically, things started out sour with a not so great note on my desk from my boss and just progressed from that point on. I messed up (nothing big), and had to swallow my pride and admit that I dropped the ball. Boo. But, tomorrow's another day. So, I'm off to pack and then get to bed.

11.17.2009

Next Door Baby

This little girl has just captured my heart. Natalie is the first baby of two of my best friends here in Chicago. Ever since they announced they were pregnant in January, my city family couldn't wait to meet her. Now, she's been here almost two whole months, and I am just as smitten as I thought I would be.

I've lived across the street from the Hoopers for over a year, which is awesome because living so close to your friends is just like being in college - we're back and forth between each others' places constantly, we know where everyone keeps their glasses and if they keep their Britta pitcher full ;). We're comfortable and like each other enough that we can just lounge around, not even really talking, and still have a good time. But now, I also have such a sweet little baby to visit every time I go to see Leah and Jimmy.

Take tonight: I went over to make some pizza and watch SYTYCD. Natalie was awake when I got there and once the pizza was done Leah and I got down on the floor with her while she flailed and looked around. After a bit she found my face and just looked at me and smiled. Smiled! A little later I held her until she fell asleep and she stayed in my arms until it was time to leave.

Needless to say, I'm one of Natalie's biggest fans. I've loved watching her grow more beautiful every time I've seen her over these past two months. And I've loved watching Leah and Jimmy grow, too - into careful, loving parents who die to themselves everyday as their little one needs them constantly. I'm so blessed to have the Hoopers in my life, and I'm honored that because of that, Natalie's there, too.

*Photo credit to Leah, whose Facebook album I stole it from.

For Today

I can't quite settle on what to write about tonight. I've been thinking all day and nothing's struck me. So, after poking around on some blogs I frequent, I found this little fill-in thingy called The Simple Woman's Day Book. It seems like a good thing to get my mind out of the rut of thinking of, like, the same three things over and over again.

Outside my window...
the city is quiet. It's close to 11 p.m., and I can hear a car starting, a dog barking down the street, some people walking by, talking softly. The chilly fall wind is shaking the old panes against the window frames and slipping crisply in through one I've cracked open.

I am thinking...
that I wish I was more inspired to write better things, that I wish the cat would sit on my feet because they're a little cold, that I need to schedule a dentist appointment - and a doctor's appointment, that I want to join a gym but don't know how cost-effective it's going to be, that I miss walking around IWU's campus at twilight on brisk fall evenings, that I should get to sleep soon, that I should try not to hit the snooze so much tomorrow morning, that God is good. 

I am thankful for...
my warm bed and fluffy pillows and the two quilts that will cover me up to my nose when I'm done writing this post.

From the kitchen...
nothing really exciting tonight, although tomorrow, I'm planning on making stuffed pumpkin. Basically it's just a roasted pie pumpkin covered in cheese and garlic. The recipe's received rave reviews around my office, so I'm excited to try it out.

I am wearing...
a 2004 Bear Lake Camp Staff t-shirt I got when I was serving on a traveling ministry team one summer in college and the most comfy flannel pajama pants ever with red and white snowflakes on them. I believe they were a Christmas present a couple years ago.

I am creating...
nothing, I guess. I'm not a very crafty person - I think I get my "creativity" fulfillment from trying new recipes, and pulling together a classy outfit, and planting things, and writing the occasional sparkling piece of prose. So it's hard to think of something I'm actively creating that's taking more than the short amount of time the things above take. But I'm going to think about this one and get back to you on it. Suddenly I'm wondering why. Hmmm.

I am going...
to Cleveland on Thursday!!

I am reading...
Mansfield Park. After I finished my last book, I picked it up again and am actually starting to get interested in it. I wasn't sure if that would ever happen, but those scheming Crawfords are just too conniving to ignore.

I am hoping...
that tomorrow's work day will go by quickly and with little drama, just like today.

I am hearing...
the radiators clank on throughout the apartment. It seriously sounds sometimes like 8 extremely noisy tea pots.

Around the house...
my roommate's gone to bed, and I've gone to mine, too. The lights are all off and my kitty is across my feet, keeping them warm. I love it when she's useful like that.

One of my favorite things...
gathering friends together on a Sunday night for a homemade dinner and some games. The good feelings from that tend to last me at least through Tuesday.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
of course, there's Cleveland. But more immediately, there's cooking my pumpking tomorrow night and then heading over to the Hoopers' for a So You Think You Can Dance viewing. And then on Wednesday, probably some packing and last minute cleaning so my place isn't a wreck when I get back from the weekend.

A picture I am sharing...
is of Stella keeping warm tonight.


11.15.2009

Four Fourths

As much as I'm sad to see the weekend go, I'm still really, really excited - because this week is a four-day work week for me! I'm leaving on Thursday after work for Cleveland and a long weekend with my best friends from college. These three girls are people who know me - really know me - and love me despite it. We've been there for each other through break-ups and first dates, weddings and personal tragedies, spring break road trips and late-night Taco Bell runs. I was immeasurably blessed to have them in my life on a daily basis for three years in college, and am continually blessed as our friendships go on growing even though we're all so far apart now. This is going to be the first time we've all been together since Jathniel (one of the fourths) got married over two years ago. And even then, it was her wedding extravaganza, so we had to share her. This weekend it's just the four fourths of us, so basically, it's a big deal. Can't wait!

  Jath, Sarah, me, and Amy - Spring Break in Florida, 2005

11.14.2009

The Gift Card Goods

Successful shopping day today - Kelly and I went because I had some gift cards to spend and she had some products to buy. We started off at Target, where I found some awesome earrings for a certain soiree I'll be attending in December. Then we headed downtown to Williams-Sonoma so I could get my knife. Best story of the day: The knife I got was, like, $30 off which I didn't know until I went up to the register and found I had $20 left on my gift card. Awesome! Then we went to J.Crew to ooh and ahh over all the loveliness, and then headed up to Banana Republic (which is where my second card is from). After trying on multiple things and dithering over whether to put the $$ towards a new bag instead of clothes (I wasn't a big fan of any of the purses they had there), I ended up buying one sweater and saving the rest of the gift card for a rainy day.

Then we finished up at Macy's after going through some of the stores in the Water Tower Place (including Sephora). Kelly bought a bunch of Origins goodies, and the dude who was helping her was very cute, but very, um, well kept. I suppose that happens when one works at the Origins counter. All in all - a success! (The only fail: I wasn't able to find a new TV stand at Target for the new, HUGE TV I inherited (seriously, the TV is epic - it's like a story in itself.).)

Now it's off to Caesar's for some yummy margs and then to a friend's house for more Saturday night fun and revelry!

Here's a strange shot of me in my new sweater holding my new knife...this is for you, Mom! Thanks!

Next Steps

These last two days I've had a lot on my mind regarding what's next for me. A couple opportunities have presented themselves, got me thinking through some things - and I guess what I need right now to pursue them further is courage.

I like my life in Chicago - I love my church, my friends, my city. It feels like home to me. I mean, I've even gotten used to falling asleep to the sound of sirens in the distance (or sometimes very close) and people talking and laughing as they walk down the sidewalk outside my window. And, as much as I struggle with finding joy and purpose in my job, it's like home to me too. I'm good at what I do, and I don't have that "I don't know what to do" panic if a crisis comes up.

So it's easy for me to be complacent here in my present circumstances. I know there's something next for me - something great - but I can see myself just letting these opportunities slip away because of the unrest I feel when I think about all the unknowns.

I'm praying that I don't lose courage and motivation because of complacency and apprehension. I'm asking God to be with me in all my decision making. And I'm thanking Him for always going before me, making my paths straight and blessing me no matter where I go or what I do.

11.13.2009

Chicken in Riesling

 
Made this tonight - so absolutely good. It's kind of like the white wine version of coq au vin. Definitely French, but not what you'd expect. The leeks and the crème fraîche make the sauce the best part of the whole dish - the perfect thing to soak up with bread after the rest of the food is gone. Mmmmm....
1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 lb), cut up into pieces 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
3 tablespoons beurre Français (French butter), divided 
4 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped (2 cups) 
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot 
4 medium carrots, halved diagonally 
1 cup Riesling
1 1/2 lb small (2-inch) red potatoes 
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley 
1/2 cup crème fraîche 
Fresh lemon juice to taste
  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
  • Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and a rounded 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a wide 3 1/2- to 5-quart heavy ovenproof pot over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning once, about 10 minutes total per batch. Transfer to a plate.
  • Meanwhile, wash leeks and pat dry.
  • Pour off fat from pot, then cook leeks, shallot, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in remaining 2 tablespoons butter, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until leeks are pale golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add chicken, skin sides up, with any juices from plate, carrots, and wine and boil until liquid is reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Cover pot and braise chicken in oven until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • While chicken braises, peel potatoes, then generously cover with cold water in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain in a colander, then return to saucepan. Add parsley and shake to coat.
  • Stir crème fraîche into chicken mixture and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, then add potatoes.
    Serve with a sliced baguette and a green salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

11.11.2009

ATED in HL

So, in the vein of explaining things on this blog, I thought I'd talk a little about the title, "All This Every Day." Really, I lifted it from the novel Hard Laughter by Anne Lamott. At one point in the story, the narrator and her father are driving through a particularly scenic stretch of northern California and she mentions a friend's book with the title All This Every Day and how she loves to think of it as a sort of mantra. And then she says her friend, Joanne, said that there are other ways to think of it, too - like "all this every day" or all this every day," and so on. Anyways, I liked it when I read it and thought it would be a very appropriate blog title.

But then I did a little research when I decided to post on the subject; maybe this book she referenced is a real book. And it is! It's actually a collection of poems written by Joanne Kyger. Joanne! I know! The narrator even says her name in the book. And then I thought well, maybe Joanne Kyger and Anne Lamott are good friends, and Anne thought she'd help Joanne out by giving her a little shout out. But, I couldn't find anything that says they were friends - just contemporaries (ATED and HL were published four years apart). Except that Joanne had written lots of poetry already, so I suppose that since Anne's first novel was HL, maybe it was kind of a shout out more to role model a than a friend.

Well, I find this all very fascinating, obviously, but regardless, I love the idea of the title as one of gratitude for the abundant blessings God pours out for me every single day. And I also like that the title reminds me to look for those blessings (count them, if you will), even when things are going not so great, because they're there. All of them. Every day.

11.10.2009

Identity

Some people have asked the significance of the “missysusie” in the blog web address. So, I thought I’d fill you in tonight in case you were wondering (if you weren’t wondering, well then, now you’ll never have to. You’re welcome.)
I have a little brother who is 14.5 years younger than I am. I love him. Nick has been, ever since he was a little, little boy, one of the most friendly, thoughtful, fun kids I’ve ever known. And it’s an absolute joy to see how he grows more and more in character every time I see him, which is unfortunately very rarely now that my parents have moved to Texas. But one of my many favorite memories from Nick’s early childhood requires another little back-story.
My middle name is Carrie. A lot of my extended family members like to call me Robincarrie (like it was all one word) except for one – my mom. For some inexplicable reason (besides that she likes the way it sounds) my mom started adding a “Susan” in there. Like Robin Susan Carrie. And then sometimes just Robin Susan. And occasionally Missy (another childhood nickname) Susan.
So, when I was in high school, sleeping until the very last minute before I absolutely had to get up and get ready, my mom would sometimes holler up the stairs any one of those combinations. The best, though, was when she’d tell Nick to wake me up, and he’d stand there, at the bottom of the stairs, and holler up in his perfect three-year-old’s voice, “Missy Susie!” I have yet to find an alarm clock tone that wakes me up with a smile on my face like that one did.
Nick as a little dude.
 Me and Nick last fall. (He's looking very serious here, which is unlike him. But, alas, I don't have many recent pictures of him for some reason, so this will have to do.)

11.09.2009

Things I Love About My Job


There aren't many, but one of the things I love about my job is the rare opportunity I get to write brochure copy. There's something so satisfying to me in gathering the information about each particular site and then conveying it in a way that not only is logically and grammatically sound, but also interests the reader and makes him or her excited to hear more (i.e. go on the trip). Unfortunately, I don’t get much time to write when I’m actually at work (hence, my red-eye stop in Caribou this a.m.) And so, I present the fruits of my labor this morning:
Russian Grace: Ballet in the Hermitage
In 18th-century Imperial Russia, Catherine the Great reigned supreme. Her love for the theater prompted the design and construction of one of the most lavish and exclusive court theaters in the world during that time, the Hermitage Theater. Commissioned by Catherine, the relatively unknown architect Giacomo Quarenghi set out to build a grand performance hall fit for an Empress. The sketches and plans for his austere Neo-classical design launched Quarenghi into European architectural renown, and his theater became one of Catherine’s most prized possessions.
Concerts, ballets and dramas unfolded across the stage for over 130 years, some even written by Catherine herself. But in 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution put an end to the magnificent productions, instead using the space as a lecture and conference hall and administrative offices for the State Hermitage Museum. Only within the last 20 years has the theater re-emerged as a home for the arts, following an extensive reconstruction and modernization of the venue’s interior and stage equipment. Now, returned to its former grandeur, the Hermitage Theater offers its attendees a glimpse into Russia’s rich Imperial legacy.
Experience the opulence and grace that was formerly seen only by Imperial courtiers as you take in a world-class ballet performance in the elegant Hermitage Theater during your stay in St. Petersburg.
Complete details will be provided with your cruise reservation confirmation.

The awesome weekend was worth it.

Need to get to bed quick tonight. Tomorrow morning I'm getting up eaaaaaarrrrlyyy to do some work that I just couldn't seem to fit in this weekend. So, at 6:30 a.m. it's off to Caribou for $1 coffee and a French toast muffin and some fun, fun brochure copy on the Hermitage Theater in St. Petersburg. Anyone been there?

11.08.2009

Beautiful Day in November

Today was great day! And I spent it doing just what I love - nothing - with people I love - Leah and baby Natalie. We took a long walk through the park and along the lake in the gorgeous weather. We made sandwiches and had Phoebe's cupcakes for dessert. We watched some shows, read, did a lot of baby-holding, a lot of chatting. Then, to top it all off, we headed to Greek Town for dinner! I guess that doesn't really sound like nothing, but still - a seriously good day.

11.06.2009

Thanks Mom and Dad!

For my birthday, I got a gift card from Williams-Sonoma from my parents, and I think I'm going to spend it this weekend. The question is: what to get?

This Le Creuset 3 1/2-quart braiser is what I'd love to get, but I would have to supplement the gift card with my own funds significantly. So, probably not this.



This 12-inch skillet is a more likely option - still have to supplement, but definitely not as much. But, I don't know that it's actually what I need. Then again, it's Le Creuset. Does it even matter if I need it or not?


I'd also like to get a really good knife like this 8-inch Wüsthof. Just thinking of all the chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing I'll be able to do with this gets me really, really excited. 

So...thoughts?

Slowly, Slowly*

One year ago today I met up with my now-roommate in Peru, where we explored Cusco and then hiked for four days along the Inca trail, finally ending up in Machu Picchu exhausted, but immensely proud of ourselves. I’m going to post some of my favorite shots in honor of our excellent adventure (and also because I want to practice adding photos to the blog).

The main plaza in Cusco and one of the beautiful cathedrals.


Marissa and I have our trusty walking sticks and are ready to hike!


Here we are cuddling at the highest point on the trail.


Which was 4,215 meters high. That's 13,829 feet. And we climbed over 1,000 of them just that afternoon. It was hard work.


But it's worth it because by the end of the four-day hike, we arrived at Machu Picchu - which is magnificent.

*The post is named for what our guide, Ivan, would say as we climbed and climbed. He was so patient and never rushed us.

11.04.2009

Bedside Stack-up

Well, it’s before 10 and I’m in bed already. Tonight’s just been one of those nights where I don’t have a plan – I just know that eventually I’ll end up in bed, and here I am! I’ve got some chamomile tea steeping and a stack of books that need reading, so it should be a good time. I think, for tonight’s post, I’m going to give a quick rundown of the literary choices I have within reach:

1) Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons, on page 481 of 612. My mom gave this book to me when she finished, saying “You have to read this before you read anything else!” So I gave it a shot. I won’t pretend that I wasn’t skeptical at first; it has a kind of Danielle Steele look about the cover. But I’ve found myself genuinely interested in the story inside. It’s not action-packed by any means, but still I’ve been drawn in and find myself really affected by the characters. The story is told by an elderly woman who married into a wealthy East Coast family who has always summered in a coastal “colony” in Maine. She spends the early part of the book describing how, as a young wife, she learned to navigate the politics of summer retreat life and how she dealt with all the stuffy, aristocratic, old customs. Then the story moves on to tell of her children and grandchildren and of the struggles and joys they faced through the years, which are all tied to the retreat in Maine in some way. It hasn't changed my life, but one of the reviews on the back cover, which says “One doesn’t read Siddons’s books; one dwells in them,” pretty accurately describes how I read Colony.

2) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, on page 554 of 759. Harry Potter books are always just as good to me the second (or third, or fourth) time through as the first. And though I read voraciously through them when they were brand new, I kind of like taking my time on the rereading, picking it up every now and then and just enjoying Rowling’s great storytelling.

3) Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, on page 155 of 558. I really enjoy reading Jane Austen, and have read all of her books now but this one. I have to say, it’s definitely the one I’ve had the hardest time getting into. I’m not a huge fan of Fanny Price so far. She just seems too much of a goody-goody, kind of a wet blanket. Eh. I don’t know. Maybe someday I’ll pick it up and won’t be able to put it down – it’s happened before with other books less deserving.

4) Esther and Ruth, Reformed Expository Commentary by Iain M. Duguid, on page 165 of 192. My Bible study’s been reading Esther and Ruth along with this commentary for the last couple months, and it's been so good! I’m not sure if it’s the Reformed Expository series, or just this particular author, but this commentary sparked some really good discussion in our group and has brought out some truths in the actual scripture that I would have never noticed on my own. We’re actually finishing up with Ruth this week, so I guess this is what I’ll be working on tonight!

11.03.2009

Best Friends are the Best

And I’m so lucky to have one of mine here with me. Sarah lives in Spain, so needless to say, we rarely see each other. Even though this is a quick trip for her, we’ve been able to eke out some quality time to talk and talk and talk and just have a good time being around one another. Like this morning, I woke up, and while I got ready for work, Sarah sat on the couch drinking her coffee and chatting with me while I ran around the apartment making my lunch and doing my make-up. And then she met me downtown after work for a beer and then we went and had really yummy Italian food and it’s just been so, so great to hear about her life and see her face.

So, short post tonight. But I’ve just been blessed all day today having someone so close to me so close to me!

11.02.2009

The Challenge


Yesterday I decided to do (or sign up for, or join, whatever) the NaBloPoMo. That’s short for National Blog Posting Month. A couple blogs I read have done this before and continue to and only have good things to say. It’s apparently a goal you set to post everyday for a month, and if you do, you’re eligible for prizes of some sort.

Sounds like no big deal, right?

I think I mentioned before that I'm not a diligent journaler, so this could get a little rocky. What will I find to say for one whole month? Will I even remember to do it? Truth be told, I almost forgot about posting today – one day in. But, it was a big day for me (prayer meeting at church at 7 am, work until 5, errands, and then one of my best friends flew in from Spain to stay with me for 3 days!!). Obviously, not every day is going to be crazy, but sometimes there’s a lot going on; blogging isn’t always going to be easy to remember, especially when it’s not a part of my routine anyway. So why did I decide, on the inaugural blog post, to take the NaBloPoMo challenge? I guess I like the idea of starting out with goal. This is something I want to do, and one of the best things to keep me accountable is to have a benchmark to hit. And one month of daily writing can only be good for me. So we’ll see. Now, if only I could feel this motivated to work out.

11.01.2009

First Things First

So here I am with a blog. It feels a little new, a little forced, a little self-serving. But I’ve been tossing the idea around in my head for about a year and a half, always coming up with reasons why I should and shouldn’t start one. A big reason why I haven’t started blogging until now is because I’m a terrible journaler. Journaling seems to come so easy to some people, but most times I’ve tried, I’m irritated at how trite and vapid and useless my writing sounds. This is pretty discouraging, as I’m supposed to be a writer, and great writers have tomes upon tomes of old journals shrouding their enigmatic, impassioned thoughts and collecting dust. So I’ve never thought myself worthy of blogging since I can't get my act together in an actual journal.

I finally decided to attempt it because a number of blogs have challenged me by bringing new thoughts and questions to my mind, causing me to be deliberate in how I decide to live and love on a daily basis. Equally, I’ve been encouraged and heartened by people who are trying to follow Philippians 2:12 and 13 (“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”) and writing about the struggle, the “work” of finding confidence and meaning in God’s promises. I'd like to think that if I can offer a little encouragement to someone who happens across this blog, then there is some reason for my writing.

And, of course, blogs are a great way to keep up with people I don't see very often but wish I did. I really appreciate the sites my far-flung friends have set up, highlighting their achievements, vacations, families, life changes, and day-to-day goings on. I want to offer something to share and to keep in touch with friends this way, too.

So that’s my statement of purpose. Hopefully, this first post will help keep me accountable to what I really want this blog to become. And it won’t hurt for me to write on a regular basis either.