Thursday, March 31, 2011

Featured: Our love story!

I'm excited to announce that today, Amber at Social Butterfly is featuring ME in her love story series (well, me AND Sean, because it can't be a love story with just one of us!)

Visit Amber's lovely blog to check it out!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Travel lessons learned

Coming home from Turks and Caicos last week was not the best of my travel experiences. In fact, I’ve been pretty lucky in my past travels so I’d go as far as to say this was my worst travel experience yet!

But if there’s any silver lining to this it’s that there are lessons to be learned here people.
  1. Always check your flight status ahead of time.
    When we checked our flights Thursday morning (the day we were originally scheduled to leave), we saw that we had been bumped to a flight an hour and a half later, but we were fine with that. Then, we checked again later, only to learn that all flights had been cancelled because the firefighters went on strike at the local airport in Providenciales (by law, no flights can come in or go out without firefighters on duty). So while we were frustrated that we couldn’t go home that day, at least we were still at our hotel and not stranded at the airport with hundreds of angry passengers.

    This lesson also saved us the next day when we checked our flight status and learned that our connecting flight (from Miami to Minneapolis) was cancelled, too! Knowing this information as early as possible allowed us to begin exploring our options early enough to find a solution that was doable.
  2. Whenever possible, talk to someone in person.We made several phone calls to American Airlines to find out what was going on. Not only did they give us inaccurate information about the reason for the cancellation, but they were not very helpful in finding new options for traveling home. We were essentially told there was no way we could get on a flight out of Provo before 3:00, and no way we could get anywhere from Miami once we arrived there. So we packed up our things and went to the airport, determined to find a way home. Sure enough, the friendly American Airlines agent there had us rebooked on a 1:30 flight to Miami, with connecting flights to Denver and then Minneapolis that same night, in no time at all. She made my day!
  3. Be persistent when you need something.
    When we got to Miami, we had to go through customs, claim our luggage, and then re-check our luggage for our connecting flights. We were told this was going to be tight because we only had an hour between flights, so we came prepared to make a run for it. After what felt like forever, we made it through customs and found our luggage, but then stumbled across a line 100 people deep at the American Airlines counter. There was no way we could get our luggage checked and get to our gate in time.

    We asked a nearby agent if there was any way she could help. She took us to the front of the line where a very rude agent rolled her eyes and refused to help. She said there was no way they could get our bags on our flight in 40 minutes, and she wouldn’t help us find a way to get our bags to Minneapolis unless we waited in line (in which case, we would miss our flight). But we were persistent. The man next to her very nicely offered to help us. He got our bags tagged all the way to Minneapolis (rather than having to claim them in Denver) and pointed us in the direction we needed to go.

    Then, we found another long line at security. A nice TSA woman agreed to let us use the VIP quick line. We made it through security, ran through the concourse, hopped on the train, and made it to our gate with only a few minutes to spare.
  4. If you can swing it, travel with a carry-on instead of checked luggage.This is especially helpful if you’re traveling internationally and/or making multiple stops. Dealing with our luggage put us in jeopardy of missing flights and slowed us down many times along the way. For example, on our way to Turks and Caicos my luggage did not arrive on the small plane we took to the island of Grand Turk. Because there are weight restrictions on these small planes, they can only hold so many bags, so they often bring bags in on other flights throughout the day. It was hardly an inconvenience, as we left our baggage claim ticket with our taxi driver who brought the bag to our hotel a couple hours later. But it was still nerve-racking to wonder whether it would arrive at all.
So there you have it: A few travel lessons we learned the less-than-easy way (not so much hard, but not so much easy either). While getting home was not ideal, the trip was still the experience of a lifetime. I will always cherish the mommy-daughter time, the breathtaking scenery, and the rich history of such a memorable country.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

For one reason or another, I've got lots of people on my mind this week, particularly those dearest to us who have passed away.

I've always loved this song. It's a sweet reminder that we can take a piece of our loved ones with us no matter where we go. It's not always the greatest of comforts because when it comes down to it, nothing can replace their phsyical presence. But when I find myself missing someone terribly, it helps to remind myself that they're always with me in my heart.

Want to know what Tune in Tuesdays is all about? Read more here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Back to reality

I’m happy to say that I’m finally home sweet home.

Last week, I was in Turks and Caicos (located in the British West Indies) with my mom. She had to go there to take care of some business for my grandma and I decided to tag along and try and be of some help. It was a busy week. We spent countless hours walking between government buildings, wiping the sweat from our brows as we waited in stuffy, un-airconditioned rooms. I’m careful not to describe it as a vacation, because it was not. We were there to work, and work we did.

We stayed on Grand Turk—the capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands—because much of the work we needed to do required government offices that can only be found on this island. We were surrounded by turquoise waters and drenched in golden sun. Contrary to popular belief, the destination is far from luxurious. The streets wind through neighborhoods of dilapidated and often abandoned homes. But the rich heritage and character of the 7 x 3 mile island is breathtaking. And everywhere you go you’re welcomed with a warm smile and a heartfelt greeting. It was everything we could have hoped it to be.

Though luxury may not draw visitors to this popular destination, the spectacular diving, sailing, and fishing certainly do. We met many people who return to the island again and again to revel in the serenity of such a beautiful place. While we weren’t able to try any of these activities this time, we were certainly drawn to the island’s character enough to make us want to visit again (and again).  

Near the end of our trip, we traveled to South Caicos, one of the smallest islands in Turks and Caicos. This island sees even fewer visitors than Grand Turk, but is still known for its exceptional scenery and aquatic activity. My grandfather spent a great deal of time on South Caicos before he passed away and he had a great love for it—the people, the culture, the land. For me, it was a very emotional experience (and even more so for my mom).

Finally, before returning home, we traveled to Providenciales (most often referred to simply as “Provo”). This is the most popular tourist destination in the Turks and Caicos archipelago. I remember reading before we left that people who only visit Provo miss out on the character of the islands, and now I know why. Provo is beautiful, but it’s a stark contrast to the islands on which we spent the majority of our time. It is much more commercialized and tends to cater more to the luxury-seeking travelers, which makes sense given the nature of the destination.

In the end, I’m glad we were able to visit 3 different islands on this trip. I enjoyed them all but found myself having a much greater appreciation for the country because we went beyond the typical tourist stop. It helps that the country also has a prominent role in stories I’ve heard throughout my family for years.

 It was an incredible trip. Our travel home was less than smooth (a story I’ll share later this week), but it’s good to be home. Now it’s back to reality—work, responsibility, wearing socks. But that’s ok with me, because Dorothy had it right when she said, “There’s no place like home.”

p.s. All photos via me!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stuck in paradise

Though I was scheduled to be leaving on a jet plane today, it was not meant to be.

I can't tell you how many times on this trip my mom and I have said, "Ahh, I could get used to this." I guess we should be careful what we wish for.

Today (of all days) the civil service workers on the islands staged a "sick out" in protest of some changes the government has implemented.  I can't pretend to have a complete understanding of what it all entailed, but this article does a pretty good job explaining it. As you can see from that article, some firefighters returned to the job this afternoon and the airport was reopened for non-commercial flights. They are hoping to have regular service up and running by tomorrow, which is good since they have us scheduled on the 3:00 p.m. flight. We just have to hope they actually have room for the thousands of passengers that were delayed today (us included).

So I can't complain. As my mom said, at least we're not delayed in getting to the islands. Instead, our trip was unexpectedly lengthened. And I'd say that sure beats having it unexpectedly shortened.

So while I was ready to go home and looking forward to seeing familiar faces (my boys especially), I can't say it was too bad of a deal to be in the land of this:

Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands, British West Indies

Especially when at home, the temperatures are barely above freezing and they're recovering from this:

{Via MPR}
Despite the stark contrast, we're still hopeful to return home tomorrow (we must be crazy, right?). But home is home, and we'll be happy to be there eventually. Plus, it's always nice to have a couple days to decompress before heading back to work and getting back to the grind. So cross your fingers that we get to travel tomorrow!

Until then, I hope everyone has a great end to their week - happy Friday eve!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The miracle of sunscreen

With the hot sun burning down on my pale Minnesota complexion the past few days, you’d think I’d look like something like a mix between a fresh lobster and a bottle of ketchup right about now. Instead, I’ve been lathering on the sunscreen and to prove it, I have the tiniest of bronze glows. Actually, I look like I never left the frozen tundra.
Then again, when I actually get back to Minnesota—the land of the frozen 10,000 lakes where spring refuses to show its face—I may feel slightly different. It’s hard to feel tan in paradise when you start with a base as white and practically translucent as mine.

But either way, I’m glad to not have battled with severe sunburn this time around. In the past, I’ve conveniently forgotten to be vigilant with my sunscreen application (or perhaps was simply more concerned with coming home with a tan than, oh I don’t know, say getting skin cancer!). I’m proud to say I’m older and wiser now and realize the importance of protecting my skin (doesn’t stop me from still wanting to come home with a nice tan, but I’m willing to sacrifice that if I have to).

The brilliant effectiveness of sunscreen has proved itself to me in the most random of places that I’ve clearly missed covering in my daily lather. A small streak on my neck. The top of only my left foot. Small strips of bright red, tender sunburn. Reminds me that the time I am spending outside would have much more unpleasant consequences if the other 97% of my body wasn’t carefully covered in some good ol’ Coppertone.

I do enjoy having a little color in my face, though. After a long winter of staring at the mirror and feeling almost sunken in, it’s nice to finally see a reflection that reminds me of warmer times. A happy medium. That’s what I’m going for I guess.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

This week's Tune in Tuesdays post comes to you from somewhere in between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

...Except for that cold beer part, because it is only 8:00 in the morning here. Hope everyone is having a wonderful week. Happy Tuesday!

Want to know what Tune in Tuesdays is all about? Read more here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Start Monday with a laugh

None of us probably watch TV for the commercials (except maybe during the Super Bowl). But every once in a while, I’ll come across an ad that really makes me laugh, or at least keeps my attention (and that’s saying something for a commercial).

So, since everyone can use an extra laugh or two on a Monday, I thought I’d share some of my favorites (in no particular order).   

Let’s start with Subway. Sean stopped home for lunch with one of his coworker buddies a couple weeks ago and we were discussing how much we all enjoy their new commercials that feature adults in the workplace talking in kids’ voices. This one is probably my favorite:

I’m also a big fan of the E*TRADE baby commercials. Then again, who doesn’t get a kick out of a talking baby? I highly recommend paying a visit to You Tube and searching for others, because this is just one of many. My favorite part? "Apparently riding the dog like it's a small horse is FROWNED UPON IN THIS ESTABLISHMENT!"

And this one? Oh man I never tire of watching this one. I don’t know that it ever got much TV time, but it sure has been kicked around the interwebs quite a bit. Again – adorable and funny kids can make all the difference.

And finally, a beer commercial. It used to be that beer commercials were among the funniest of them all. Lately, I’ve been rather disappointed in them, but this one (a few years old) always makes me giggle.

Since I work in marketing, I tend to notice ads a lot more, especially ones that I find creative, unique, or funny (or all of the above). These are just a few on my “funny” list, and there’s probably a whole lot more where they came from.

Do you have any favorite commercials?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Yesterday I was reminded that sometimes (not always), it's all about perspective. I can feel entirely different about something just by looking at it in another way.

Sean was telling me about how one of his buddies from work was going on his third date with a new lady friend. They were going to hang out at her place - she was making dinner and they were renting a movie. I was very excited for him. Said friend is a great guy and I was thrilled to hear that things were going well.

So I said to Sean, "That's so cute! Why don't we do sweet things like that anymore?"

To which he replied, "We do!"

And he was right. In fact, we had just done that the other night. I suppose in living together we often overlook the small ways we spend time together as a couple. But when you look at it from a different perspective, we do find time to do sweet things together after all. It just took me thinking about it in a different way to realize it - and to appreciate it.

I bet a lot of things in my life could benefit from a fresh perspective.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

In just 2 days one of my favorite holidays of the year will be upon us!

This year, I'll be spending my St. Patrick's Day on a series of airplanes in route to the middle of the Atlantic ocean. While slightly disappointed to be missing out on the traditional festivities around town, I think the alternative is quite alright with me!

Growing up (and coming from a huge Irish family), St. Patty's Day has always been a traditionally fun day for us. We used to get dressed head to toe in green flare and march in the St. Paul St. Patrick's Day parade, led by my fiercly proud aunt Kelly. After the parade, we'd pile into a limo and make a run through the McDonald's drive-thru for Shamrock Shakes. As we got older we didn't always do the parade, but our family would almost always gather together on the big day. Another of my mom's sisters, my aunt Erin, started having an annual Shamrock Shake party at her house and for the past few years, you can always find us there.

Last year the holiday was especially fun because I ran for Miss Shamrock, the "queen" of the St. Patrick's Association of St. Paul. This association puts on the parade, hosts many events leading up to March 17, and raises lots of money for local and national charities. In running for Miss Shamrock, you become a Shamrock Princess, complete with your very own sash!

For 6-8 weeks leading up to St. Patty's Day, you attend events with many people from the association and raise money for the association by selling the annual buttons. Each button gets you an entry in a drawing for a trip for 2 to Ireland. It was an incredible way to meet incredible people who are immensely welcoming, caring, and downright proud to be Irish. It was the experience of a lifetime. I consider myself very lucky to have met these wonderful people.

This winter has been so busy that I haven't gotten out with the "crew" but I'm still excited to see who our next Miss Shamrock will be. So while I'm bummed to miss out marching in the parade with them, I'll definitely be celebrating my Irish pride in my own small ways.

So, after that long winded explanation, I give you this week's song. A classic Irish song, a sweet message, and a fitting theme for this holiday week!

Happy Tuesday (and Irish or not, happy St. Patrick's Day soon)!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Separation anxiety

On Thursday morning I’m leaving for a trip with my mommy. We’ll be gone for a week, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the first time my mom and I have gone anywhere just the two of us, so it will great to have some quality mother-daughter time. Plus, I’m beginning to forget what sun and warm temperatures actually feel like, and the weather where we’re going will be the perfect reminder. By the time we get home to Minnesota, I’m hoping winter will officially be winding down and temperatures here will be on the up and up.

So while I’m thrilled about the trip, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little sad to be leaving Sean and Oliver. In fact, I’m starting to get a little anxious about it.

I can’t remember the last time Sean and I were apart for more than a couple of days. A few more isn’t the end of the world, I know, but I’ll still miss his company. We’ve been living together for 2 ½ years, so we’ve gotten into a pretty good routine that involves spending an awful lot of time together. And I kind of like spending time with the guy.

Ultimately, I know it will be good for us. We’re independent people in our own ways, but it’s easy to forget how much we rely on each other in our day-to-day lives. And being away from each other can only make us appreciate one another even more. Plus, absence makes the heart grow fonder right? Lots of positive ways to look at it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly excited for this trip. And I know the week is going to fly by and I’m going to be sad to leave paradise to return to little ol’ Minnesota. But I’ll be coming home to my boys!

Tell me, do you miss your partner/best friend/children/etc. when you go away? I know I’m not alone here!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The joys of being a doggy's mommy

When I got Oliver as a Christmas present 4 years ago, I was overjoyed with the idea of finally having my very own puppy. So overjoyed, in fact, that I seemed to overlook just how much work it would be and just how little I knew about training a puppy.

I went through a lot of the motions—enrolled him in a puppy training class, used treats to reward him for going potty outside. But the truth was, I was terrible at it. We didn’t have a steady enough schedule to make things run smoothly. Having moved so many times (and living with different people) made it difficult for him (and me) to really feel settled into a routine. And honestly, in many ways, I was plain lazy with following the rules with him (especially in the early years, when it mattered most).

Early on, I started letting him sleep in my bed. But after Sean woke up in the middle of the night covered in puppy pee, we decided to “follow the rule” that puppies should sleep in their kennel. I’m a softy, so it broke my heart putting him in there whenever I left the house or went to bed. No matter how often people told me it’s what puppies expect and what puppies need, I still melted inside. I’m not quite sure how or when, but eventually he came back to bed with me, and he’s never gone back.

I love love love snuggling with him in bed. I know the dog whisperer would be terribly disappointed in my dog mommy skills, but I’m not giving it up for anything.

But here is where we have a problem: Oliver has almost completely stopped sleeping through the night! I swear I remember a time when he did, but Sean claims it’s always been this way. Either way, it’s getting old! Lately, it seems like it’s been more and more often—not just once or twice but sometimes three, four, or even five times!

Usually he just wants to go outside or needs a drink of water. It’s a quick trip downstairs, one I do almost in my sleep nowadays. And I rarely have any trouble falling right back to sleep as soon as my head returns to the pillow. But it’s still terribly frustrating.

I’ve always been fine taking the responsibility on. After all, he is my dog and I can fall back asleep much faster than Sean. But now I’m going to be out of town for a whole week, and that means Sean is going to be in charge. He’s not thrilled about it.

So we’re troubleshooting. How can we get this dog to sleep through the night?

There are lots of ideas on our list:
  • He needs to eat earlier in the day. For some reason, the weird-o usually only eats when Sean and I are around, and preferably when Sean and I are eating, too. So he usually eats in the evening. But we’ve noticed that the later he eats, the more he gets up in the night. The other day (a weekend) he ate mid-afternoon and slept through the night. So we need to find a way to get him to eat earlier in the day, even though Sean and I are gone.
  • More exercise. In the brutally cold Minnesota winter, the last thing I want to do is spend time outside voluntarily. Unfortunately, that means the dog gets a lot less exercise. Thankfully spring is creeping up on us and there will be a lot more opportunity for evening walks.
  • Later bedtime. He sleeps through the night more often when we go to bed at a later hour. Sometimes we’re like grandma and grandpa and go to bed really early (ok, more than sometimes). So it’s no wonder he gets bored lying in bed all night when it’s what he does all day while we’re gone. Another reason for more exercise.
  • Better potty training. Just like I mentioned above, I was not great about training Oliver in his earliest and most formative years. Consequently (and to no one’s fault but my own) he still has some potty training issues. I know they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I do believe you can teach and old dog to hold his bladder through the night and quit pissing on the kitchen floor! So no matter how much hard work it will take, we need to get better about that, too.
Ahh, the frustrating joys of being a dog owner (and a crappy one at that). I will say this: I may not have been great about training him or following all of the puppy owner rules, but I love him something fierce. And boy does he love his mama. So while we’ve got a few kinks to work out, I assure you he doesn’t go neglected or unloved. He’s our baby!

Do you have any doggy advice? All suggestions welcome!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A little bit of crazy

I might be a little crazy. And sometimes I can only laugh at myself for it.

I tend to have an irrational fear that something bad is always lurking around the corner. I am wrong most of the time. Thank God for that! But if I call someone in my family and they don’t call me back within a reasonable amount of time, all sorts of terrible scenarios start running through my head. And if my phone rings at an odd hour my stomach jumps into my throat and I prepare for the worst before I say “hello.” 

My mom is much in the same way. If I’m not near my phone or am unreachable (and she doesn’t know why) she will call multiple times, sometimes even resorting to call Sean or someone else to make sure I’m OK. I used to laugh about it, but now I’m turning into her.

Every morning as I leave the gym and make my way to the bus stop, I call Sean. He’s still sleeping when I leave in the morning so this is our first conversation of the day. It’s routine. But if he doesn’t answer, and doesn’t call me back within 20 minutes, I start to panic, my mind riddled with lots of big and small possibilities. Did something happen to him at work? Did he miss his alarm and he’s still sleeping at home?

I’ve always known that I had these weird and quirky tendencies, but last night I realized it was getting a bit ridiculous. I was awakened by a strange whimpering sound. I shot up in bed and looked at the clock. 2:32. I patted the covers around me, gently searching for the dog, who always sleeps nestled between us. I felt him stretched out near my legs and placed my hand on his back. He didn’t even stir, and I remained still as I waited to feel the rise and fall of his chest. I had convinced myself I couldn’t feel anything, so I tucked my hand underneath him and waited some more. I started to panic, so I shook him gently, finally feeling the pitter patter of his heart beat underneath his soft fur. Then I turned to Sean, carefully placing my hand in front of his face to feel the hot breath escaping from his mouth. All was well. My boys were breathing.

But seriously, who does this kind of thing? Apparently this girl! It reminds me of my babysitting days when I’d repeatedly sneak into the babies’ rooms to make sure they were ok. I can only imagine what kind of paranoid mother I will be.

::Sigh:: This is my life. I chalk it up to the fact that too many times the outcome has been bad—the unexpected news or devastating blows. But as much as I’d like to blame history for making me this way, it’s time to get a grip. No more assuming the worst. No more checking the dog’s breathing patterns or panicking over return phone calls. Time to start weeding out some of the crazy in me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

In my opinion, these lyrics say it all on their own:

Friends really are an extra special blessing in life. Friends from childhood, high school, college, work, and of course blogger friends, too; they have a way of making every day a little brighter. Love to all my wonderful friends!

Happy Tuesday!

Want to know what Tune in Tuesdays is all about? Read more here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Yesterday's Eats

Almost every Sunday night we have dinner with Sean's family. Since his mom and one of his brothers are out of town right now, we were on our own for dinner this Sunday. It's been a while!

So I decided to take the opportunity to make something for dinner that isn't one of our weekly staples. We settled on Shepherd's Pie. I've been wanting to try this new Weight Watchers recipe I came across. Before I met Sean, I had never heard of Shepherd's Pie. His mom makes a delicious one, though, and it's definitely one of his favorites.

The WW recipe is a little different than Sean's mom's recipe, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out. I modified it just a little. I think it tasted great (Sean gave it his seal of approval, too) and it's really not terrible in the nutrition department either (7 pts, if you're a "counter"). Shepherd's Pie typically calls for ground beef, but this recipe calls for ground turkey. We've been susbtituting ground turkey for almost every meal that calls for ground beef (burgers, tacos, sloppy joes, etc.) for over a year now. Some people may not like it, but we actually really enjoy it. You can hardly tell the difference, and it's much better for you.

Anyway, on to the recipe...

Here's what you'll need:
  • 2 packages Simply Potatoes traditional mashed potatoes (you can make homemade mashed potatoes, but I was lazy and used these instead)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced (I didn't use this either, but added a dash of minced onion instead)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 pound ground turkey (we use extra lean)
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary, fresh (we didn't have any, so I skipped this ingredient)
  • 1 Tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups canned chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 400°.

Dice the onions, carrots, and celery.

Put the Olive Oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook until soft (about 3 minutes).

Add the ground turkey to the pan and cook until brown; breaking up the meat as it cooks.

When the meat is browned, add flour, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper; stir to coat. Then add the broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the mixture thickens a little (about 3-5 minutes).

Transfer the turkey mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish and spread it evenly across the bottom.

Stir the simply potatoes and spread them over the top of the turkey mixture evenly.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until potatoes are golden. I got a bit impatient and took it out before they were completely golden (after 30 minutes of baking), but it still tasted great.

Serve and enjoy!

There are lots of variations of Shepherd's Pie (and you can really add whatever vegetables you like), but I found this to be a light and tasty recipe that we're sure to make again.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Weekend Recap

Sunday night comes around much too quickly if you ask me. We had a very nice weekend—all the more reason to be disappointed that it’s over. Now for the highlights...

  • Had a crazy busy day at work, but the silver lining was that the day flew by.
  • Had dinner with Sean’s family because his mom and youngest brother were leaving for trips the next day (Costa Rica and Ireland, respectively).
  • Went with some friends to see G.B. Leighton (a great locally based band) play. Since Sean had to work early Saturday morning, he stayed home and I went with some girlfriends. I stayed out till after 1:00 in the morning; it’s been a long time since I’ve done that! We had a great time!

{Some of my very best friends (at the GB Leighton show)! Can you tell which one of us has been lucky enough to escape this never-ending winter with a recent tropical vacation?}
  • Caught up on some DVR’d shows in my PJs.
  • Cleaned the house.
  • Hung out with Sean and one of his coworkers who stopped by to have leftover pork sandwiches for lunch.
  • Went to the mall. The downside of the Mall of America being one of the closest malls is that it takes 20+ minutes to find a parking spot on a wintery Saturday afternoon. The plus side? Almost every store I could ask for! Got a few cute things for an upcoming trip I’m taking.
  • Grocery shopped (and ran into an old coworker/friend who worked with Sean and I at the child care center where we first met. So great to catch up with her!)
  • Went to mass with my mom.
  • Had a mini-date with Sean—a quick dinner and a movie. We saw Hall Pass. It was pretty funny; a bit raunchy at times, but entertaining (and had quite a few points where I found myself saying, “THAT IS SO TRUE!”).
{Via Old Navy. One of the outfits I got this weekend.}
  • A blissfully lazy day. I’m usually one to go-go-go and feel like I should always be out doing something. Not today. Sean and I (and the puppy of course) lounged on the couch watching TV and movies all morning. The Goonies was on—one of my favorites—and Sean has never seen it. We started watching it but then…
  • We fell asleep. I rarely take naps, but today I fell asleep on the couch for almost 2 hours. It felt wonderful—I think my body really needed it!
  • Laundry day!
  • Went to a local Borders bookstore that is going out of business to scan the closeout inventory. I looked at quite a bit, but for most things I decided to wait until they get discounted a little more. I did get a book for the aforementioned trip and Sean got a Green Bay Packers Super Bowl magazine.
  • Made dinner (tried out a new recipe, more on that tomorrow).
  • And I didn’t put makeup on all day! I’m getting to the point where I’m a little self conscious to go anywhere but the gym without makeup on (a bit vain, I admit, but it’s usually not a pretty sight). So this was a nice break for me.

Now it’s back to the grind tomorrow. How was your weekend?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spicing up our curb appeal

Not too long ago I told you a little bit about our home. But now I have a confession to make: I’m not in love with the curb appeal. The siding is pretty old (and I’m not loving the color). The plants that we do have are pretty overgrown. There is a lone rosebush, but it feels a bit out of place to me. And we’re in desperate need of some decorative vegetation.
{You'll have to excuse the quality of this picture - we don't have one of the outside of the house yet so I grabbed it from Google Maps}
This photo was taken when the previous owners lived here so the flowers along the retaining wall (which I like) are no longer there. The lilac bush in the corner (which is actually part of the backyard) is a nice touch, I'll admit. (And one of the first improvements we made was painting the orange mailbox black.)

It’s not bad; I certainly don't think it's ugly and I definitely don't hate it. I just think it could use a little love. We closed on the house in the middle of April, so by the time we finally got settled we had missed the window for spring yard work. And quite honestly, the outside of the house wasn’t top on our priority list as we were setting things up in our new home.

So this spring (and summer), I’m really looking forward to getting started with some outdoor projects. Even if we only do a few small things this year, I think it could make a big difference.

So I’ve been searching the interwebs for inspiration. I’ve found lots of great ideas, even if some of them don’t apply to a house and location like ours. It’s still fun to see what great things you can do to welcome guests (and even just passerbys) to your home.

{Via Better Homes and Gardens}
 This photo shows the power of a dressed-up walkway. I love the idea of lining the walkway with some plants or flowers (even though our walkway is much shorter, and straight).

{Via Home Depot}
 A nice planter by your doorstep or along the walkway can really liven things up. I think it would look good to add one on each side of our door, or one on each side of the retaining wall.


I think this is done very nicely. A complementary mix of colors and greens. Well laid out. Goes very well with the structure and style of the house. I also really like this dark gray siding color (see below for another example of siding color I love).

{A house in our neighborhood, via}

I think this house is adorable. I think the tan siding and crisp white trim really makes the house pop. The window boxes provide an opportunity for color and add depth and texture to the front of the house. I'm definitely looking into window boxes!

{Source: Realtor Magazine}
This door wouldn't go with our house, nor would it work since we have an enclosed porch on the front. But I just L.O.V.E. this door! I also chose this photo beacuse I like how they've placed two beautiful planters on either side of entryway.

A few of these are far-fetched dreams, but most of them are very real possibilities. Adding some color and dimension to the front yard through flowers, plants, and general landscaping will be a great addition to our first home.

The backyard is another area with some great potential, but I'll save that for another day.

Can't wait for spring to start so we can get started!

p.s. In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you that I don't know a lick about gardening. I'm going to have to learn pretty quick. Earlier this year I won a gardening gift basket at work, complete with a book about gardening and a $75 gift card to a local lawn and garden store. Both will come in handy this spring. Do you have suggestions for gardening and landscaping? Do you love your curb appeal? Do share!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

This week's lyrics come from one of my favorite musicals. I was lucky enough to see this play on Broadway in New York City with Sean and one of my best friends.

I find it to be great advice for simply living in the moment.

Make every day a great one - start with today. Happy Tuesday!

Want to know what Tune in Tuesdays is all about? Read more here.