Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend 2008

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving weekend has already come and gone. I had a fabulous time! All 5 of us kids were home, so it was a full house! Especially with the 4 nephews running in circles. Well, only 3 were running I guess - Matthew is only 8 months so isn't running quite yet! ;) Soon enough, though!

I started off Thanksgiving Day by giving the boys the scarves that I had knit for them. I put a book in with the scarves since boys usually don't get too excited about apparel!

As usual, there was quite a spread. Mom made the main dishes like Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, etc, and everyone else helped out with the sides. Even me. This was the first year I brought something! I tried a new recipe - Brussel Sprouts! I had never made Brussel Sprouts before, but they turned out really well. Unfortunately I don't have any photos to share. This was a dish that I had to put together during the last 20 minutes before we sat down to eat... and let's just say the kitchen is pretty much Grand Central Station at that point! If I would have pulled out a camera to take pictures during the cooking process, I probably would have gotten some dirty looks (rightly so!). I did get some pictures of some of the food (there was more but I had to quick snap these pics before the gang started to dish up!) Sorry, no pictures of the bird, but trust me - it was fabulous!!!

The 4 boys all played well together. James & Andrew are so close in age, so they are the best of buds. They lucked out & got their own little kids table, which is a small table that was made by my Grandpa McDougall. It was probably made 20+ years ago - I bet he'd be happy to know that it's still being put to use!

Matthew & Kolin are pretty close in age and get along great as well.

I think there were about 25 of us in total! That is alot of people, but not even close to our record of about 38! We always celebrate Thanksgiving with the McDougalls, and when they are all there, it's quite a large, lively bunch!! 2 of my uncles were able to join us - it was great to see them.

My little sister & her fiance, Ryan, flew in from Tucson for the weekend; Ryan's mom, step dad, step brother, and his sister & her husband and son, were able to join us. It was great getting to meet them before the wedding next summer! Ryan's sister could seriously be Abby's twin. They have the same personality!! I didn't get any pictures of them as I didn't want them to feel like they were in the presence of paparazzi! Ryan's family fit in so well with ours; they even took part in the annual Football game and beat the McDougall/Dotzenrod team!!

We had lots of pies to choose from - Pumpkin, Chocolate, Pecan, and Sweet Potato. Yum. Sorry, no pics of this either. I was too busy playing with my adorable nephew Matthew! He has the most beautiful blue eyes!

Thanksgiving Day came & went. The rest of the weekend was full of lots of family time. On Saturday, Mom, Dad, Chad, Emily, Kolin, and I headed to Wahpeton since Santa was making an appearance. We weren't sure what Kolin would think of him...

He was pretty spooked! When Emily tried to put Kolin in Santa's lap, he started to say 'All done! All done!' It was pretty funny to watch. Hopefully he'll be a little less scared next year!

It was pretty cold outside (windy and in the 20's) but we decided to take a sleigh ride! (dad was too cold to smile, I guess!!)

Surprisingly, Kolin was not afraid of the horses. He actually gave one a kiss! You'd think a large horse would be scarier than Santa but I guess not!

After the sleigh ride, we headed to the Wilkin to warm up with some drinks and appetizers. Kolin perked right up as soon as he saw our waitress & became quite the flirt! It's funny how early boys learn how to flirt w/ the ladies! He was all smiles the whole time we were there!

We ended the evening back at mom & dad's with a dinner of leftovers, followed by a dessert that I made - dark chocolate mousse. My aunt Barb gave me the recipe & it turned out great! The mousse recipe called for Brandy, and I had way more than I needed, so we decided to make some Brandy Alexanders! Yum!

All in all, the weekend was wonderful. I barely left the house, which was my goal! It was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Minneapolis/St Paul area. The weekend was full of lots of laughs, lots of calories, and lots of good times. Our family probably won't all be together again until Abby's wedding next August. Given how fast 2008 has gone, 8-8-09 will be here in the blink of an eye!

I hope everyone else had a great Thanksgiving weekend!!

Advent Week 1: Hope

If you ask my best friend Brooke - 'what is Lisa's favorite season of the year?' - I'd bet that she'd get it right. My favorite season is Advent. Why does Brooke know this? She knows this because we traveled to Germany & Prague together 4 years ago, during the season of Advent. Let me tell you, those Europeans know how to celebrate the coming of Christmas! They had these huge, outdoor Christmas Markets with lots of hand made goods, sweets, and mulled wine (something Brooke loved). While I was there, I was searching for an Advent Calendar. I had heard about them from a friend, years ago. Unfortunately, I didn't know how to describe what I was looking for... and I didn't speak any German... So shopping for that item was a bit of a bust! Hopefully some day I'll find one, though. My understanding of said Calendar is that it is made of wood, with little doors that open. That's all I know though! So if anyone knows what I am taking about, and where I can find one, let me know!! Probably not something I need until I have kids, so I figure I have time to look for it!

Anyways. Back to the Season of Advent. I have so many fond memories of celebrating Advent as a child. Every night during Advent, we'd light the candle(s) and say a prayer. Then mom would play Christmas Carols and us kids would sing along. Seriously. As I type this, it sounds like something from a"Hallmark Special" or something! But that was my childhood. As we got older, that traditional fell by the wayside due to busy schedules and other commitments. I'll never forget those winter nights spent around the Advent Wreath, though, and hope to continue that tradition some day when I have a family.

For now, I am celebrating it on my own in my condo. Each Sunday I'll light a candle and prepare for the week of Advent. The Christmas Season always flies by; with all the holiday parties, baking, and shopping, it's easy for the days to go by in a blur. Hopefully by slowing down on Sunday and thinking about the reason for the season, it'll make time go more slowly!

The theme of the first week of Advent is "Hope." Feeling a sense of hope, in my opinion, is crucial to a person's happiness. If I am honest, there have definitely been times where I've felt a little bit hopeless. I give into those feelings during moments of weakness, but usually snap out of them quickly, most often due to a conversation with my mom, Brooke, or Heidi. If I'm feeling particularly low, I have a bible verse that I like to read. My Grandma Dotzenrod emailed it to me when I told her about my recent break-up with Ryan. I was feeling pretty darn hopeless. Grandma Janet is a wise woman though, and knew the perfect words to help comfort me and give me hope. Hopefully they help you if you are ever feeling down and hopeless.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day 10: Family

I am very thankful to have such a warm, caring family.

I have been looking forward to Thanksgiving weekend for months. All 5 of us kids were coming home, and that doesn't happen very often, especially now that Abby & her fiance live in Arizona. Her wedding is coming up in August of 2009 so we have another reunion to look forward to!

I love spending time with my family - I am incredibly lucky to feel that way. We definitely have our occasional spat - it's inevitable with a family of our size! The older we get, the less we argue!

I had a wonderful time on Thanksgiving Day and look forward to posting pictures with all the details when I get back to MSP on Sunday!

Hope everyone is having a fabulous Thanksgiving Weekend!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 9: Fabulous Friends

I am incredibly thankful that I have such a wonderful circle of friends.

I honestly don't know what I would do without my girlfriends. I have an extremely supportive family, but in my opinion, you always need girlfriends. I have a wonderful group of girlfriends from college - they are almost like family now. We have known each other for nearly 10 years, though, which is a pretty long time! Also, I think those 10 years have had more ups and downs than all 27 years of my life.

We came to college as strangers, and left as the best of friends. Say what you will about sororities, but I did meet the most wonderful women during my years at Delta Gamma. I guess there is something about living in a house with 42 girls (yes, you read that right! 42!). Luckily, many of my friends also moved to the Twin Cities after college, so I have had a great support system. Balancing jobs, grad school, boyfriends, husbands, and wedding planning has made it a challenge for us to see each other as often as we'd like, but we are still as close as ever. Not everyone made the move to Minneapolis or has since moved on to different cities, but the friendships remain just as strong; thank God for cell phones - I can't imagine paying for long distance phone calls like we would have 10 years ago!

Thanks to digital cameras, it's so much easier to capture & save pictures of all the wonderful times we've had together!

Alissa, Amy N., Trish, Amy S., and I at Nicole's wedding

Nicole and I at her wedding

Katie and I

Heidi, Brooke, and I at Brooke's Rehearsal

Heidi & I rocking the dance floor at her wedding!

Thanks, ladies, for enriching the last 10 years of my life!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 8: In-laws I enjoy

I am thankful that my siblings have all married/will marry wonderful people!

You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. But you can't pick your siblings' spouses. But even if I had, I don't know that I could have found a better match for my four siblings. They bring out the best in each other and all have such strong relationships that I really respect and admire!

Each sister and brother-in-law has many characteristics that I appreciate - our family wouldn't be the same without them. And they put up with our crazy family! When you grow up in a family of 5, there's sure to be some drama every now & then, and they all seem to put up with it pretty well!

I am fortunate that all 4 siblings will be home with their spouses/fiance for Thanksgiving - I am looking forward to seeing each & every one of them!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 7: Music

I am thankful for beautiful music!

I started taking piano lessons when I was in 2nd grade. While I didn't necessarily 'love' practicing, I am so glad my parents let me take lessons. It was great to be introduced to music at a young age; Those lessons resulted in an appreciation for music.

My musical tastes are pretty diverse. I'll give almost anything a try, but seem to gravitate towards music with an accoustic sound. I absolutely love going to live shows, but sometimes have a tough time finding people to join me - I can totally handle going to a movie alone, but not to a concert for some reason... maybe I should set a goal for myself in 2009 and try to attend a concert alone if I can't find a +1...

Here's a list of some of the artists I'm listening to quite a bit these days...
- Bell X1
- Damien Rice
- Matt Nathanson
- Jason Mraz
- Ray LaMontagne
- Brandi Carlile

I've been to two Damien Rice concerts - they are the best. He is so talented. I would love to see him in his home country of Ireland some day. How cool would it be to tour the Emerald Isle and top off the vacation with a Damien Rice concert????

I'm heading home for Thanksgiving this weekend and will be doing the 4 hour drive solo. I am very thankful for my trusty side kick, Pete (my iPod)!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 6: Catholic Faith

I am thankful that my parents introduced me to the Catholic Faith.

It is Sunday today so it seems fitting that I give thanks for the faith that was instilled in me by my parents. The Catholic faith has been central in my up-bringing. We attended Mass together, prayed before every meal, and celebrated all of the various Feast Days of the Catholic Faith together.

When I was in France this summer, I visited a few Catholic Churches and attended Mass in Lyon and Paris. Even though the language was foreign to me, the Order of the Mass was exactly the same. I think it's pretty cool that I can travel far away and still feel 'at home' in the church, regardless of the language spoken by the Priest.

I hope to some day visit the Vatican City - possibly with my mom as I am sure she would love to see it as well. In the mean time, I am hoping to visit the Vatican Splendors Exhibit at the Minnesota History Center!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 5: A place to call home

I am thankful to have a cozy condo to call home.

I bought my condo during the summer of 2005. I was only 24 when I bought it - I remember feeling mature and grown up, but now that I am almost 28, I feel like I was so young back then! I am proud of the fact that I bought the place completely on my own. No co-signer. No one to consult but myself. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time. I definitely wish I would have had a crystal ball so I could have seen the crash of the real estate market which has happened in the last few years. But hindsight is always 20/20.

My favorite part of my condo is the wood-burning fireplace. That's sort of the reason I picked this place! I know that's not the most practical reason to buy a condo, but I fell in love with the place for that very reason. I was picturing cozy fires and stockings hung during the Christmas season. Ahhh.

I My parents are very thankful that I haven't moved since purchasing it. They are such troopers - they moved me about once a year for the first 3 years I was out of school. The book collection I rave about isn't so fun to schelp from place to place. I am pretty sure my dad wishes I used my library card more often... Last time I moved, my dad asked that I not move again until a company was relocating me and paying for the move!!

I like my place even more now that I have laminate flooring - it's amazing what a difference it has made!

I'm looking forward to decorating my tree in a couple of weeks - hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 4: Poetry of e.e. cummings

I am thankful for the poetry of e.e. cummings. I wouldn't consider myself a 'poetry person'. I've never written a poem, and I probably never will, but I love reading e.e. cummings's poems!

I was introduced to poetry at a young age. Grandma and Grandpa Dotzenrod love to recite poetry. I think it is the coolest thing, actually. I vividly remember our road trip out to California to visit my aunt: Grandma and Grandpa had taken turns memorizing stanzas of their favorite poems and would recite them for us. What a great way for a couple to stay entertained on long road trips! I can't say that I see my parents doing this, but who knows! Maybe if when they finally retire, this is something they'll pick up... hard to see my dad doing that, but who knows!

Back to e.e. cummings, though... The language of his poetry is very sparse, but each line carries so much meaning. He definitely has a very unique style of writing - I can always tell when I am reading something he's written!

Today I am including two of my favorite poems. The first will be familiar to you if you've seen the movie, "In Her Shoes" - it's the poem Cameron Diaz recites during her sister's wedding. The second is a poem I have loved for years - in fact, I love it so much, I have it printed out & framed. It hangs in my bedrooms and serves as a reminder of the kind of love I want in my life!


i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)


somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 3: A community of bloggers

I am thankful for the blogging community and the writing outlet it has provided.

I am, and always have been, a numbers girl. My degree is in mathematics, and I love solving problems. The gray areas of life are uncomfortable for me - I prefer black and white. Right and wrong. No in between, no 'maybe that's the answer, we aren't sure and may never know.'

That said, I love to write. I actually forgot how much I loved to write... until I went to France and blogged about it. Every day, I looked forward to recording the events of the day. I was sad to see that trip end for many reasons. Most surprisingly, I was sad that it meant the end of my blog. 'An American Girl in France' couldn't foray into my adventures in Minneapolis. It just didn't make sense.

Luckily, I was encouraged by a few people to keep blogging. I took their suggestion, and started this blog, and am so glad I did. There is something about the putting your thoughts, feelings, and actions into written text.

It makes my day every time I see that I have a comment (keep them coming, please!). Knowing this, I try comment as much as possible on the blogs I read on a daily basis. And now that I blog, I read a ton of blogs every day. Their topics range from single parenting to weddings to travel to fashion to relationships. They run the gamut and keep me entertained and inspired.

10 years from now, I look forward to reading these posts. It'll be great to refresh my mind & remember how I was feeling and what I was doing. And hopefully I'll be able to laugh over some of the stuff I was obsessing over... time will tell I guess!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 2: Basic Human Needs

I am thankful that all of my basic human needs are met; clean water and electricity are things I take for granted.... until I travel to an area where these needs are not met. Then I realize how lucky I am to live in America.

I never thought about electricity and clean water as resources to be thankful for until I traveled to the Dominican Republic for 10 days in March of 2006.

When I mention the Dominican Republic, it conjures of visions of this for many people:

With its beautiful beaches, it's a popular vacation destination. While I did go there to take in some sand and surf, the main reason I went to the DR was to visit my friend Ali, a Peace Corp volunteer. She had been in the country for just over a year by the time I came to visit and was fluent in Spanish so was a great tour guide. She also showed me a side of the DR that I might not have seen otherwise.

Ali spent her first of 3 years with the Peace Corp living in a "campo" up in the mountains of the DR. We were hours away from the beach resorts visited by many tourist, but her campo was truly worlds away from those lush, exclusive resorts. She didn't have electricity, but had running water thanks to an aqueduct project completed by the previous Peace Corp volunteer. Her project was teaching the Dominicans how to build a stove - previously the women were cooking over open fires. I spent about 5 days with Ali in her campo before we headed to the coast for some relaxation; those 5 days were very eye opening!

Ali didn't seem to mind not having electricity. She said once you got used to not having it, it really wasn't a big deal. Her days began and ended based on the setting of the sun. Many areas of the DR have electricity, but it is very unreliable, so she said it was actually better to not have it than to have unreliable electricity.

She had a little kitchen in one part of her house, where we made lots of great meals. I actually never got sick on this trip - we just had to be careful about washing everything with sterile water. Ali is an awesome cook and is great at working within her means - one night she made an excellent curry dish on her camping stove that was seasoned with lemon grass that grew in her yard!

Ali was quite the celebrity in the campo. We had lots of visitors during my time there. Even though I wasn't able to talk with them due to my limited vocabulary, we still found ways to communicate.

They kicked my butt EVERY time we played Dominoes...

and they had lots of fun styling mine & Ali's hair.

There was also a little girl that was a bit of an outcast in the Campo. Ali wasn't sure, but thought she probably had some sort of developmental disability. She never talked when she came to visit - she'd just come and sit by me while I read my book in the afternoons/evenings. The first day I saw her, she was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but after that first day, she wore a little dress every day that she must have been pretty proud of. She really enjoyed getting her pictures taken - especially when she got to see it in the viewing window on my digital camera.

Towards the end of my stay, Ali took me to see the school. She warned me that it would be a quite a hike. She wasn't kidding! It probably took us about 30-40 minutes to get there, which involved following a narrow path through the forest, crossing a couple of rivers before arriving at our final destination.

We didn't stay long since we didn't want to interrupt their day. As I was walking back to Ali's hut, I couldn't imagine what American kids would think if they saw how far these kids had to walk to get to this small school house. I can't say for certain, but hope that they would realize how lucky they were to have things like school buses, paved roads, and school supplies!!!

These pictures and stories don't even begin to tell how much this trip impacted me. When I got off the plane in NYC, I wanted to get down and kiss the ground. I'm not kidding. I came back feeling like a spoiled American. There are so many times when I let myself give into feelings of self-pity when I should just be thankful to have been born in a country that affords me so many opportunities. My eyes were also opened by the amazing spirit of the Dominicans that I met. They have next to nothing but are so thankful for all that they have and want to share it with others. One day Ali took me to visit some of the people in her Campo - they all invited us in with open arms and insisted on serving us coffee and a treat of some sort.

I don't reflect back on this trip nearly enough. Ali ended up extending her Peace Corp commitment for an additional 12 months. After those 12 months were up, she worked for a Non-Profit Organization called "Infante Sano" which loosely translates to "Safe Baby." The organization improves the health and well-being of mothers and newborns in Latin America and the Caribbean. It's a pretty cool organization - you can sponsor a mother's birth for only $25!

Now Ali is working on her Masters in Public Health at Columbia University. She's fallen in love with the DR (and a Dominican man!) so I am pretty confident I'll have future opportunities to visit that country! I'm lucky to have a friend that has opened my eyes to a part of the world I wouldn't have seen otherwise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The 10 Days of Thanksgiving

I saw a cartoon on my aunt Barb's blog this morning that got me thinking...

Thanksgiving is one day of the year that everyone is reminded to remember what they are thankful for. The other 364-365 days are often spent thinking about what we don't have. What we can't have. What we shouldn't have. We are a goal-driven society, so it's only natural that once we accomplish something, we check it off the 'list' and set our sights on the next mountain to summit. I am guilty of this myself, so there's no finger pointing coming from me! I take things for granted, from my accomplishments to the simple pleasures that keep me going on the tough days.

So, welcome to the inaugural edition of "The 10 Days of Thanksgiving." It's a tradition I hope to continue in the years to come... even if I am the only one reading this blog 2, 4, or 10 years from now!!

So here goes...

I am thankful for the love of reading which was instilled in me by my parents, siblings, and grandparents who took the time to read to me when I was young and impressionable.

This blog was inspired by my love of reading. As I've said before, "my cup runneth over" when it comes to books. I have a pretty small condo, yet have made room for 4 bookshelves. I bought a 5-shelf bookshelf last summer; at that point, my 'overflow collection' of books filled 2 shelves. Just over a year later, and it looks like this...

Hi. My name is Lisa. And I am an addict.

My love of books and reading has resulted in all of the obvious benefits; but it's also gotten me in some trouble. Most memorable is the year I almost ruined my Mom's brand new stove. It was Christmas Eve. My mom had a long list of things to do, so decided to delegate the basic tasks. We were making some homemade ice cream and the batter was simmering on the stove. My mom asked me to just sit there and stir the batter. Simple enough, huh? Yah, that's what I thought, which is why I decided to multi-task and read my page-turner while stirring. I was pretty proud of myself until I glanced up to turn the page and saw the batter rising up and over the edge of the pan. Ahhh! Crap. I tried to do some damage control, but unfortunately, the batter ran over the edge of the stove, into the oven vents. Its final destination was between the two panes of glass of the oven viewing window.... Yah, not good. Did I mention it was a new stove/oven? Like a month old?

I won't go into all the wonderful details of what ensued, but here are some highlights. The door of the oven was taken off. My mom sliced her finger (badly) when 'jimmying' a knife w/ paper towel between the two panes of glass and refused to get stitches since it was Christmas Eve and she had way too much to do before the next day when we would host my Dad's side of the family.

Luckily, it all worked out. The unreachable batter did not burn and create a visible black residue in the viewing window as my mom had feared. No one accused her of being a terrible house keeper. And the story has been laughed over and used to illustrate a) my short attention span for tasks like stirring, and b) how much of a book worm I really am.

I've had a fantasy of reaching for a book when a tall, dark, and handsome young man is reaching for that exact same book. We touch hands, our eyes met, and the rest, as they say, is history. Highly unlikely. However, a friend recently told me about an organization called, "Books and Bars," which is probably a better avenue to meet a fellow bookaholic like myself. Each month, people from across the metro area meet at Bryant Lake Bowl to discuss a book. There is a social hour after the discussion, so who knows what could happen. I'll keep you posted...

Stay tuned for tomorrow's counted blessing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Today I'm reviewing a book that's outside of my typical genre... But its popularity is sweeping the nation, so I just had to check it out. Plus, it's being made into a movie, which comes out next Friday so I figured I better read it before hearing about the plot line in a movie review! Let me tell you, the book did not disappoint! I breezed through its 500 pages in about 5 days! The characters and plot line are wonderful. And yes, the premise of the book is unrealistic since it involves a young girl who falls in love with a Vampire... but I was able to get past that. The book was written for a teen audience so is kept very clean and innocent, which is nice to see.

I've heard that many parents use this book to talk to their teenagers about abstinence. I wasn't sure how they could get that message out of this book, but it kind of makes sense. While the main characters, Edward & Bella, do have a chaste relationship, I think the parallel message is found in the discussion of whether Bella should become a vampire. Bella really wants to so that she can have the same lifestyle and immortality that Edward has, but Edward does not want to change the course of her life. Throughout the book they engage in debate about this decision. It might be 'reaching' a bit to come up with this message, but somehow it kind of works.

I have moved onto the next book in the series, "New Moon" which has been equally engaging thus far. I recommend checking this book, even though it means shopping in the Teen section of the bookstore!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Vacation on the brain...

With the temperature dropping and the days getting shorter, I've got one thing on my mind... VACATION! Add to that the fact that I entering the home stretch of my MBA program, and, well, you've got a one-tracked mind gal...

Vacation planning is one of my favorite things to do. My mom once commented in a Christmas letter that if I could find a way to travel the world and go to school for a living, that's what I'd do!! True observation, Mom. I have the travel bug. I caught it back in the spring of 2001. I went on my first overseas trip to visit my friend Nicole in London. Despite many 'inoculatory' factors (Yes, I think I just made a word up... what's up, Webster's Dictionary!), from 9/11 to buying a home to running out of single friends to travel with, the bug is incurable. 7 years later, and I am still going strong!

So, I will finish my MBA program in May. I have worked really hard, balancing work, school, and family obligations. Pepper in a couple unsuccessful forays into finding Mr. Right, and you've got a veritable smorgasbord (orgasbord) of stress, anxiety, and moments of self-doubt. And yah, I did go on a kick-arse trip to France, but that also involved 2 weeks of putting up with the bureaucracy that is the French education system. So I've earned another trip right (go ahead, nod along with me). Does this sound convincing or what?

So while visions of these

(sugar plum fairies) dance in the heads of other during this Holiday Season...

I'll be dreaming of these potential trips:

Contestant #1: Machu Picchu, Peru

Contestant #2: Cinque Terre, Italy

Contestant #3: Croatia

Contestant #4: Algarve, Portugal

I'm open to suggestions... I'm just in the 'option gathering' phase right now. I don't have a lot of parameters for this trip. Just these: Not super far away (Asia's out) , not a country I've been to (Germany, UK, Czech Rep, France, Switzerland), NOT romantic. The not romantic is probably the top one on the list, actually. I'll likely be doing this trip solo, which I am pleased as punch about since I discovered this summer that I actually LOVE traveling alone (although I could use a personal photographer so I don't have a disproportional number of scenery photos that are interesting to only me...)

So suggest away!!

Monday, November 10, 2008


I finished reading "Barefoot" by Elin Hilderbrand on Friday night. I was in need of a light-hearted read after the heavy subject-matter in both "The Zookeeper's Wife" and "The Road". The book delivered in that sense, but was pretty disappointing in general. It would be an ok beach or vacation read, which I should have picked up on judging by the book cover. Aside from that, it didn't really do much to warm up the cold October nights I spent reading it.

The book is about 3 women from the NYC area who spend a summer at a cottage in Nantucket. I have a fascination with that area of the US so that is what drew me to the book initially. Each woman is battling something different from cancer to marital infidelity to career problems. They basically go to Nantucket to get away from their problems. I found it pretty unrealistic, though. If I was battling Lung Cancer, I don't think I'd leave my husband for the summer; even if it would offer a change of pace/scenery, I'd rather spend all my extra time with my husband in case I wasn't able to win the fight against cancer....

Early on in the vacation, the women meet a young man who is in his early 20's. He signs on to be the 'manny' since the two women who aren't battling cancer can't find the time to help watch the kids... Again, a bit bizarre in my opinion...

All in all, it was easy, 'chic-lit' reading, but not very satisfying. There are many more 'beach reads' that I'd recommend before this one.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Feeling under the weather...

It's not even winter yet and has been unseasonably warm lately, yet I somehow managed to get a cold... Really bad timing since I have a really busy/important day tomorrow which will require me to have my 'A game' on for 10-12 hours...

And I don't want to hear anything about not getting a flu shot. I know there are a lot of great reasons to get one, but I got my first one last year and was sick more often than I've been since I got my tonsils out... So I'm skipping out on it this year. Plus, even if I was going to get a flu shot, I wouldn't be getting it until around the 17th since that's when my health care provider comes to work to give us flu shots (one of the perks of working for a ginormous company....)

So I am trading in this

for this
Here's hoping this cup of tea will magically boost my immune system overnight, leaving me sniffle/sneeze/sore throat-free tomorrow!
It doesn't help that it is rainy and cool outside... but at least it isn't snowing! I heard that South Dakota is getting hit hard! Please, God, please. No snow yet. I'm not ready for this (old man winter)

Hopefully this little bug is short-lived! Hope no one else is battling the flu or a cold!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

"The Road," written by Cormac McCarthy, was a struggle for me to get through. It's the first book I've considered giving up on in a very, very long time. The average rating on was 4 out of 5, and a friend of mine raved about it. Plus, it's an Oprah Book Club book, and while I am not as gung-ho about Oprah as your average female is, I still think she has good taste and has selected some good books for her book club. This book disappointed me, though.

The main thing I did not like about the book was the style of writing. It features lots of short, choppy sentences, and that is just not my thing. The book is about a father and son who are traveling down the road after a grave disaster has occurred - possibly an Apocalypse? I have no idea. The reader never learns why they are alone, why the earth is covered with ashes and is being ramshackled by robbers and murderers. All you know is that they are walking down this road, fighting for their survival.

Some of the writing style reminded me of Ernest Hemingway's book, "The Sun Also Rises." It's heavy on dialogue with little, to not identification of the speaker. So it gets pretty confusing. I really liked "The Sun Also Rises" but didn't care for this writing style in McCarthy's book. Here is a small sample of what you'd find on about 70% of the pages:
You walk too fast.
I'll go slower.
They went on.
You're not talking again.
I'm talking.
You want to stop?
I always want to stop.
We have to be more careful. I have to be more careful.
I know.
We'll stop. Okay?
We just have to find a place.

So you get the point. I am sure the author used this desolate style of writing to underscore the landscape the characters were walking through, but this 'bare bones' style of writing just doesn't appeal to me unfortunately.

I knew my sister-in-law Emily had read the book this summer, so I asked for her opinion - she also struggled through it, so I know I am not alone. Luckily I only paid $.25 for this at our company's United Way Book sale, so didn't invest much into it. The subject matter was very heavy, so I will be reading something much lighter next...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween 2008

I went over to Kevin's last night to celebrate Halloween with 2 of my 4 nephews. I must admit, I am a bit of a 'fun-hater' when it comes to Halloween. I don't really enjoy dressing up. I must have when I was a child, but have left that aspect of my personality in the past with my childhood. Now that I have nephews that are old enough to trick-or-treat, I really enjoy the holiday. It's fun to see them get all dressed up in their adorable costumes. I can't wait to see pictures of my Godson James in his Optimus Prime costume!

Here's Kolin in his Monkey costume! My sister-in-law's mom made it - I am super impressed!!!

After work, I went over to Kevin and Julie's to see Matthew and Andrew. Andrew had gone to work with my brother since they had a little Halloween Party for kids at his workplace. One of Kevin's co-workers had a little something for Andrew...

His very own Blackberry!! It's an old one that didn't work, so is now a toy for Andrew. I think Andrew is going to follow in his daddy's footsteps! Andrew asked if I had one and I said, unfortunately not yet, but most likely some day. He said,

"You can get one if you go to daddy's work!"

I thought that was pretty cute. If only that was true! I'd be there first thing, Monday morning!

After hanging out for a bit, the boys got into their costumes. Andrew was so cute as Spiderman! He loved showing off the built in muscles!!

I was able to get them to sit still long enough to get a picture with the Pumpkin & Spiderman. They both looked so cute!!

Kevin, Julie, the boys, and I met up with the couple next door who also have a 3 year old and we hit the streets. I was impressed by how much candy the kids got in the short amount of time we were out shopping! The boys had a blast running from door to door and picked up on the concept of only going to house w/ lights on very quickly!

It was a wonderful night! I am so lucky that my brother lives a short 30 minutes away. Now if only Kolin and James lived as close!!! I'm looking forward to seeing them at Thanksgiving!