Thursday, April 30, 2009

To-do List

I found this to-do list here (via here), and had to post it.

I am a lover of lists. Especially to-do lists. I get this from my mom. We host Thanksgiving for her side of the family nearly every year. Sometimes it's a big crowd - like 38 people - so it requires alot of planning. My mom usually has a day by day list - I can vividly picture it in my mind. It always seemed to be on a yellow legal pad. I sort of dreaded the list when I was younger, but now that I am older and more fully understand the amount of work that goes into planning a holiday, I appreciate my mom's list making abilities. And I wish I could go back in time and tell my snotty, teenage self to stop rolling my eyes and complaining and just pitch in!

Right now my to-do list consists of many things, such as writing a letter to NWA, grocery shopping for ingredients to make Spanish Rice this weekend, and finish my last MBA Derivatives assignment (woot, woot!).

It's great to have practical lists, but I love lists like these that remind you of the important stuff in life. Because following this whimsical to-do list is certainly going to make you a more happy person and will lead to a much more fulfilling life.

What's on your to-do list these days?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A unique date screening strategy

I must say, I am happy that April 28th has come and gone. That date is a like a mini-landmine for me. Why? Well, it happens to be the birthday of the 2 significant boyfriends I've had. Whose names are Brian and Ryan. Isn't it weird that my 2 significant boyfriends have had similar names & the same birthday?

Every time April 28th rolls around each year, I always seem to take a little walk down memory lane.

I think about the cake I baked for Brian for his 17th birthday. Oh, who am I kidding. I think of the cake my mom baked for Brian... which I passed off as something I made, when all I really did was stand in the kitchen, twiddling my thumbs, wondering when I was going to take over from my mom...

I think about the date I planned for Ryan. We got dressed up and went downtown to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner. The picture we took that night ended up in the family Christmas Card.

I don't get sad on the 28th... I just sort of roll my eyes at the date and will it to pass by swiftly.

And I vow to NEVER, EVER date a guy with a birthday of April 28th. Seriously. Obviously I'm not compatible with people born on this date.

So every time I do go on a date, I somehow work the, 'so... when is your birthday?' question into the conversation. And guess what - one of the guys I went on a date with this spring was born on 4/28...

So seriously, God, stop sending Tauruses my way. It's time for me to date a guy that was born on a different day of the year!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NYC in review

My trip to NYC was quite a whirlwind. I can't believe how fast my time there went. Alissa was such a fabulous host. We spent alot of time, wandering the streets, drinking coffee, and catching up. You should see all the flowers that are in bloom in NYC. Pretty much every street was lined with flower beds with daffodils or tulips - it was beautiful!

Unfortunately I don't have many photos from my trip. I am usually a camera crazy person, but this trip I just didn't pull my camera out of my purse very often!

If you read the other two posts about my trip, then you know about the luggage fiasco. Luckily, I did get my luggage back. When I arrived in Minneapolis on Sunday at the end of my trip. It sat in ground zero of the Swine flu (Mexico City) Tuesday through Saturday, so at my mom's recommendation, I wiped down the handles with disinfectant wipes... just in case. I am happy to have the luggage back in my possession, but am still furious over my experience with NWA. I intend on calling their customer care department this week and writing a letter. Their reimbursement policy only covers $175, but this doesn't come close to what I spent replacing clothes, make-up, toiletries, etc.

That said, I did manage to pull together some cute outfits, with the help of Alissa. Here is one of the outfits that made a few appearances during my trip. I was pretty much a walking advertisement for Gap. Everything I'm wearing, except the shoes, came from that store! Alissa took this pic of me before I headed out to see "South Pacific" which was awesome, by the way!!!

Isn't Alissa's apartment adorable? Their place is in such a great location and there are so many great restaurants within walking distance. Surprisingly, it was actually less expensive to eat out in NYC than it is if you go out in downtown Minneapolis. It helped that I had a local to steer me to the right spots!

On Thursday, Alissa and I took the subway over to Brooklyn and walked back across the bridge to Manhattan. It was a cool experience so I am glad we did it!

On Thursday night, I met up with my friend Jen and her husband Keith. I don't even know when I last saw Jen, but we keep in touch by exchanging mini-novels over email. It was great chatting with her face-to-face for a change, though! I met them at this really cute little French Bistro called Pastis. It was in the Meat Packing District - the area had such a Parisian or European feels. Narrow, cobblestone roads, lots of cute little restaurants. Our meal at Pastis was just fabulous! After dinner, Keith snapped this shot of us!

After dinner with Jen and Keith, I met up with Alissa, her fiance, her future brother-in-law, and his wife. We hit up a few bars in the West Village (I think that was the area we were in?).

On Friday night, I headed up to Washington Heights, which is at the tip of Manhattan. My friend Ali lives there. She's going to grad school at Columbia and lives in a really cool area. We went for a run/walk through this really beautiful park. I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera with but I had no idea it was going to be such a beautiful park! It was great catching up with Ali - we hadn't seen each other since my trip to the Dominican Republic in 2006! She'll be done with her masters next spring, so we might go on a trip together to Peru! She is fluent in Spanish so would be a fabulous travel partner!

On Saturday morning, I headed out to Long Island to see the 2 girls I studied abroad with. One of them lives in Long Beach, which is on the tip of one of the fingers of Long Island. Dear God, she lives in a dreamy location! She lives only 3 blocks from the beach. I snapped this picture on Saturday morning. It was really foggy, so the picture quality isn't that great, but you get an idea of how pretty it is! Can you imagine living that close to the beach?

The trip was absolutely wonderful. It was the get away I need, and couldn't have come at a better time. I came back from the trip feeling refreshed. Yes, the luggage ordeal was exhausting to deal with, and ate up 2-3 hours of each of my days, but I didn't let it ruin my time in that fabulous city. I hope to get back out there again soon - maybe even as soon as this summer. We'll see!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Some blog love

I was the recipient from a little blog love from Amber over at Amber Alert. I'm pretty sure some of my friends/family think I'm bonkers for blogging, but I've met so many great people, like Amber, since I started blogging!

For this award, I am supposed to list 5 of my guilty pleasures! And yah, I definitely have more than 5! Here goes...

1. Skim Vanilla Lattes from Starbucks. I used to be a Mocha addicts, but when I found out the caloric/fat content of them, I've since moved over to Vanilla Lattes. I'm trying to train myself to like black coffee so that I can fit in with my family (my parents/siblings are all coffee drinkers & drink it sans cream/sugar/etc!). I'll join their rankings some day.

2. Google Reader. I love this application. I don't even want to tell you how many blogs I read. They run the gamut from gluten free cooking to clothing to books to to wedding planning... Reading them is such an outlet for me. I especially love the blogs of friends/family - I feel so much closer to them by reading about what they are up to!

3. Books. I have a book buying problem. If there is a Book Buying Addicts association, I should probably join it. And possibly be the president. It's not like I a buy book here or there - when I go into B&N, I rarely leave without buying 5 books. Sometimes more. There is this episode of SATC where Carrie realizes how much money she has spent on her shoes... I don't even want to do the math on how much I've spent on books. I do look forward to having a library someday. I just really feel bad for my parents - every time they move me, they schlep a mini library around and probably wish I'd use a library card!!

4. Dark Chocolate. I've never been a sweets person, but I love good, high quality dark chocolate. And it's gluten free so is a sweet I can enjoy! :)

5. Pickles. I love pickles. So much so that when I graduated from college, the mom of my HS best friend gave me jars of pickles as part of my graduation gift! I eat them plain most of the time, but my fave thing to do is slice them up & eat then on top of Corn Tortilla chips. Mmm. Don't knock it until you try it!
My turn to tag 5 people:

3. The Pure and Simple Truth
4. your wishcake
5. Project Subrosa

Thursday, April 23, 2009

One step closer

Well, still no bag. But I am sure it is in Mexico City. I talked to NWA this morning and asked them to pick up the phone and call Mexico City. Apparently this request was equivalent to asking them to move heaven and earth for me. At this point in the baggage recovery process, I lost it and started crying on the phone. The NWA lady said - 'Lady, it's just stuff.'

Really? Oh, thank you. That is so reassuring. It just reflects how much NWA cares about my so called 'stuff'.

Luckily, the person's whose bag I have called me and gave me his baggage claim info so I confirmed my bag is in fact in Mexico City. How I will get it back is a whole other story. I bought an international calling card & called Mexico City, but of course no one speaks English and my 1 semester of Spanish in college wasn't much help. And NWA is standing by their policy of not calling international airports.

So yah. At this point, I've accepted the fact that the bag isn't going to get to me during my trip. So now I am just hoping and praying that I see it eventually and that it has all of my 'stuff'.

I am enjoying NYC, though. I've walked through lots of different areas & ate at great restaurants. Yesterday I saw South Pacific, which was amazing! The MN girl who played the lead was amazing! Today we took the subway to Brooklyn & walked back across the Brooklyn Bridge.

I have one more day in Manhattan. Tomorrow I head up to see my friend Ali on the northern tip of Manhattan, and then head south to Long Island on Saturday morning. My time is flying by, especially since I have spent at least 2 hours each day trying to find my bag... But nonetheless, it's been a great trip!

And seriously - mark my words, I will never fly NWA/Delta again. And I will somehow learn how to pack more efficiently and will never check luggage again.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This is not a good way to start a vacation

If I could single handedly bring down NWA/Delta airlines, believe me, I would.

I landed at JFK yesterday morning to find that my luggage did not arrive with me. I was pretty proud of myself - I handled it pretty calmly. I kind of had a bad feeling when I left Minneapolis because the person who checked me in was super confused - she thought I had 2 bags to check but then realized she was looking at a different person's baggage ticket and not mine. I am kicking myself for not looking down at my suitcase to see what 3 digit code was on my baggage ticket. But I trusted the NWA employee, and headed to my gate.

Last night, the JFK lost baggage person told me that my bag had been found & was being sent to my friend's apartment. It arrived at midnight & Alissa's fiance went down to get it. I freaked out when I opened the door and saw that he was holding this small little duffle bag. It had my baggage claim ticket on it, so the person that checked me in must have put my baggage tag on this bag, and put some random dude's ticket on my bag.

I'll spare you the details of the 15+ calls I've made to various people at NWA's lost luggage department, but suffice it to say it has not been a pleasant experience. I was starting to feel rather hopeless so Alissa & I decided to do some investigation of our own. The duffle bag didn't have any identification, so Alissa handed me some surgical latex gloves and we started exploring the contents of the duffle bag. We found some Medtronic polo's with a division name on them, so Alissa googled the division, found a phone number, and called and left a message. We knew it was a long shot, but at this point, I was willing to try anything.

Miraculously, two extremely helpful Medtronic people called me back. The 2nd person was able to tell me whose bag I had in my position and told me where he was flying to - aka, where my bag most likely is.

Ladies & gentleman, my bag is in Mexico City. Great. Not exactly the kind of place I want my bag sitting around, unattended. Not that I have anything against Mexico City, but I'd feel a heck of a lot better knowing it was sitting in a place like Cleveland, OH or something like that.

So yah. Vacation is really not off to a great start. Despite the luggage debacle, I am having a great time. I just really hope that someone can help me tomorrow - the person I spoke to tonight at NWA said she can't call Mexico City because it's International & she doesn't have their phone number. WTF??

So yah, lessons learned:

1. Don't fly NWA.
2. If you have to fly NWA, don't check your luggage.
3. If you do check your luggage, check the tag they put on your bag.

I promise all further blog posts, which will happen upon my return, will be of a positive nature.

Time to drink a glass of wine. It's been a bit of a stressful/tense day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nineteen Minutes

"In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five.... In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it. In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge."

And so begins the novel, Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult. I've only read one other book by Picoult. I read The Pact back when I was working a part-time job at Barnes & Noble when I first moved to Minneapolis. Picoult was an author that one of the managers recommended. While I enjoyed The Pact, I wasn't totally sold on Picoult's writing. This book, however, has changed my mind about Picoult. I thought it was really well-written and was such a page turner.

The book is about a school shooting that happens in a small town in New Hampshire. The shooter, Peter Houghton, was bullied while growing up. After years of torment, he decides to seek revenge. He comes to school, armed with many weapons, and kills 10 of his classmates.

The book was really interesting. It gave you a glimpse into the life of the shooter - throughout the book Picoult flashes back to various moments in Peter's life when he was alienated and bullied by his classmates. The bullying in no way excused Peter's terrible actions, but it definitely makes you think about bullying and how it should be handled in schools. My cousin is a school counselor & is reading this right now so I can't wait to talk to her about it & see what she thinks.

Today marks the 10th Anniversary of the Columbine shootings, so I figured today was a good day to review this book - I just finished it on Friday and didn't even realize how close I was to the date of the Columbine shooting. I still vividly remember that day - it was spring of my senior year and I was just months from graduating. The 2 shooters killed 12 students and 1 teacher before turning the guns on themselves. I think Columbine really woke up the nation and changed the sense of safety that students & teachers felt in a school.

This book is not light reading since it deals with a heavy subject, but I would recommend it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

NYC, Here I come!

It seems like I've been planning my trip to NYC for awhile now... And I'm using the word 'planning' lightly. Because this is probably my least planned trip that I've taken in years. I usually have some sort of excel spreadsheet with a tentative itinerary and a guidebook that has been highlighted & tabbed to death.

Yah, not this trip. Maybe it is because I am visiting a city where 5 of my friends live. Don't get me wrong, I'm super excited to see the city & check out the sites, but I am more excited to re-connect with the ladies that live there.

These 5 friends represent 3 different periods of my life.

I met Alissa & Jen through Delta Gamma. Alissa moved to MSP the same summer I did, so has been part of most of the memories I've made over the past 6 years I've lived here (side note: I can't believe I've been out of college for 6 years! Oy!) Alissa moved to NYC this past November - she is definitely missed by my group of girlfriends. She's been back a few times since moving, but I am looking forward to catching up with her on her turf!!

Then there's Ali. I met Ali when I spent the summer of 2001 working out in Steamboat Springs, CO (my little slice of heaven here in the US, by the way). We both worked together at a hotel and quickly bonded. We were both studying abroad that next year - she was going to Spain & I was going to Australia, so we were both so so excited for our upcoming international adventures!! Flash forward 5 years, I visited Ali while she was working with the Peace Corp in the Dominican Republic. That trip was 3 years ago and that was the last time I saw her, so I can't wait to see her again and get all caught up. Neither one of us are phone people, so aside from exchanging emails or texting occasionally, we've spoken very little over the last 3 years - but we have the kind of friendship where you pick up right where you left off!

Last, but not least, are the Amandas. Yep, that is plural. I met these 2 girls when I studied abroad in Australia. They are from Long Island and were the first New Yorkers I had ever met. We also clicked right away when we met & did lots of traveling together. Our most notable trip was the week we spent in New Zealand in April of 2002. That was probably one of the best weeks of my life! One of the Amandas is getting married this summer, but unfortunately she's getting married on the same day as Abby, so I have to miss her wedding. :(

So yah, I have lots of catching up to do with these 5 fabulous ladies! In addition to all the chatting we'll be doing, I plan on seeing South Pacific (the lead female is from MN & my aunt was her choir teacher!!), checking out Ellis Island, walking the Brooklyn Bridge, shopping at this store which sells this scent, and going to the NY Public Library on 5th Ave where there is an exhibit on the French Occupation. Oh, and that's also where Big & Carrie were supposed to get married in the SATC movie!

I fly out at 7 am on Tuesday morning so am trying to pack tonight since I won't get home from class until around 10 tomorrow night. I am sort of kicking myself for picking the 7 am flight... because the airport shuttle is picking me up between 4:15-30. Ouch. I guess that probably means I won't have trouble sleeping on the flight...

Have a great week! I'll be sure to post a trip re-cap when I get back!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter 2009 - Part I

We had a fabulous Easter here in Minneapolis. The weather was in the 50-60s and the sun was shining. Finally, spring is here to stay! (I sincerely hope so at least)

My family came to Minneapolis and my brother hosted at his house in Maple Grove. Last year I hosted and while it was a lot of fun, my tiny one-bedroom condo is WAY to small to accommodate a family of my size!! So I definitely enjoyed just being a guest this year!

The family all stayed at the Holiday Inn in Maple Grove. They had the nicest water park. It was designed to look sort of like the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The pool area was so cool. On Saturday morning, I went over to the hotel and watched Andrew & James swim. They definitely had a blast!

The boys have really become quite the water babies! I can't wait for this summer at the lake! They definitely are the best of buds and get along so well. After they got done swimming I showed them how to wrap their heads in towels like their auntie does when I get out of the shower. They thought it was the coolest thing ever since they are so used to seeing me with a towel on my head! I love how they are amused by the simplest little things!

After that, we got ready to head over to my brother's for my nephew's Birthday party. Little Matthew turned one last week. It's hard to believe he is already one - the last year has just flown by.

He's gone from looking like this

To looking like this

It's kind of amazing how much a child changes in their first year of life. I have been so blessed to have such happy, healthy nephews. I think sometimes I forget how much of a miracle each child really is. I have been reminded of this lately as a good friend from college had her baby a few weeks ago. She was born at 24 weeks; so far she is doing well and hanging in there, and I am praying that things continue to progress well for her. Watching my friend go through this has definitely made me even more thankful for the healthy kids in my life! Please say a little prayer for baby Ella - hopefully she continues to make great progress in the NICU!

Back to the party. Julie, my sister-in-law, did a great job with the cake. The pictures don't do it justice!

Matthew even had his own little teddy bear cake.
Matthew didn't have much interest in it, though. Unfortunately he has a molar coming in so the little guy was in pain!

After eating some birthday cake, the kids got to dye Easter Eggs. They had a great time and managed to stay pretty clean. Which is impressive for a 3 and 4 year old!

After the party we headed back to the hotel. I hadn't planned on going swimming but everyone else in the family was going so I figured I better suit up and join them. I had a great time playing in the water with the kids!

And that was our Saturday! I'll post about Easter day later this week! Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

For the Love of Libraries

As you all know, I am in love with books. Which means, I also love libraries. My cousin found this wonderful article that pays tribute to the most beautiful libraries around the world.

My heart seriously skips a beat when I look at these pictures. The architecture is amazing.

Here are a few of my favorites!

Abbey Library St. Gallen, Switzerland

Boston Copley Public Library, Boston

Handelingenkamer Tweede Kamer Der Staten-Generaal Den Haag, the Hague, Netherlands

Real Gabinete Portugues De Leitura Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Ok, I'll stop there, but of course I could go on and on. I need to start visiting libraries when I travel! And later this month when I am NYC, I am going to try to make it to this perfume store to check out their "In the Library" scent. My friends jokingly refer to me as the librarian, so I think this just might need to be my signature scent!!

Oh, and if/when I get married, I think this would be the perfect reception site for a booklover like me.

It's the James J. Hill library in St. Paul. Doesn't it look like the coolest reception site?

* Sigh* Time to return to reality and get back to pouring over numbers in an excel spreadsheet. I totally should have majored in Library Science. Too bad I've sworn myself off of getting anymore degrees...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tuesday's To-Reads

I often get emails or comments from people, asking if I have any book recommendations. If the books I've reviewed haven't piqued your curiosity, here are a few books that are on my to-read list on

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir - I haven't watched Gran Torino, but have heard nothing but great things about that film. The people I've spoken to have said they walked away walking to know more about the Hmong culture. This book would be a great way to learn more about that culture. The author, Kao Kalia Yang, chronicles their move from the jungles of Thailand to St. Paul, Minnesota. It sounds like an amazing book. I was suprised to learn that Yang was born in 1980 - which makes her only one year older than me! Our Diversity Committee at work just purchased this book; I am hoping to read it this month!

A Fine Balance - I also have yet to see Slumdog Millionaire. It's in my Netflix queue, so hopefully I will see it soon. This novel, by Rohinton Mistry, tells the story of 4 individuals who are living in India and struggling to "maintain a fine balance between hope and dispair." I see this is an Oprah book club selection.

Those Who Save Us - This is the debut novel of author Jenna Blum. The novel alternates between the story of Trudy, a history professor at a Minneapolis university collecting oral histories of WWII survivors, and Trudy's German mother, Anna, who left her war torn country during WWII by marrying a US soldier. Anna tells the story of her past which includes a relationship with a Jewish doctor and an abusive relationship with a high-ranking Nazi officer.

These books are all a little on the heavy side, but all sound very interesting! I am going to try to do a post like this once a month - there are at least 150 books in my to-read list, so I definitely have plenty of books to feature!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

From Blog to Book

I finished "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenberg over the weekend. Molly is a well-known blogger - her blog, Orangette, is quite popular and has receive accolades from publications such as The New York Times and Chicago Tribune. I stumbled upon it a few months ago so was excited to see that she was writing a book. The book is basically a collection of essays and short stories. Each recipe has a story and she uses these stories to tell the story of her life. It's a super quick read and is packed with recipes that I plan on trying.

I love Molly's voice - it really shines through in her writing, both in the book and on her blog. Which is probably why her blog attracted the man who is now her husband! It's such an unconventional love story, but a great one.

Oh, and it certainly doesn't hurt that Molly also loves Paris. She traveled there as a child and returned to the City of Lights to compile research for her dissertation. For a Francophile like me, it was wonderful reading about her time in Paris and how it has shaped her relationship with food.

I definitely recommend this book. Hopefully you''ll love Molly and her writing as much as I do!