October 22, 2008

Bipolar Vacationing

In two days Mike and I head west. We'll be spending a week with friends, who all reside west of the Mississippi. While I am incredibly excited for a week away from any office or home responsibilities, I am quite uncertain about one thing. I have no idea what to pack.

I am an over packer by nature. Really though, what woman is not. I tend to pack and repack and unpack and then cram things in at the last second. However, this trip will take more care and mental energy than usual. It is a trip of extremes. My and Mike's vacation is a two-part trip. The first part being 3 1/2 days in hot, arid Arizona. The second part being in 3 1/2 days in snowy, cold Colorado. We will be hiking in 90 degree heat one day and two days later skiing in the Rockies. One day we'll be lounging by a pool and a few short days later curled up by a fireplace. How is it possible to pack efficiently for a trip where you plan on wearing both a bathing suit and snow pants within the span of four days? I have never done a trip like this. Usually, I go to one place and generally face one type of climate.

I have not packed a thing yet. I like to call this procrastination. We will leave Friday right after work, so tomorrow is it in terms of packing opportunities. I cannot stall any longer. I will find a way to make it work because I can't ski in a bikini and I can't lounge by a pool in snow pants. Heck, if I can pack everything I needed for a two-week Moroccan vacation in one bag, I can certainly find a way to cram my bipolar belongings in two suitcases. Thank goodness I'll have Mike to carry them.

* Ed. Note: This trip also means posting will be non-existent until I return. Right in time for the election. So, in closing, vote! (In case I don't have time to say it before Nov. 4)

October 21, 2008

Photo Stories

One of the things I'm featuring with my new, sleek blog (thanks, Kelsa) is a spot to showcase some of my photos. Since I am showing them off, I think it only makes sense to explain what they are of and where I took them. So to begin, let's start with this one.

I took this photo in Morocco. We were a few days into the two-week trip. On this particular day we found ourselves in Moulay Idriss, a small, hilly town located on our way between the capital city of Rabat and one of Morocco's most populated cities, Fes.

Moulay Idriss was one of the more photogenic places we visited. This Moroccan town laced with winding, small cobblestone streets gave off more of a Italian or Grecian feel. I loved it. We walked up small streets and down smaller streets and were met with more small and winding streets at every turn. It was a wonderful little place to explore. Not knowing what lay beyond each curve or turn in the road lent to the feeling of discovery more so than tourism.

As we made our way up one street I looked to my left and there was a street meandering up and to the left. Everything on this street was tan and beige with varying shades of brown. The exception was a bright blue door at its end. It was beautiful and as soon as I saw it, it practically begged to be photographed.

This is of my favorite photos from my Moroccan adventure. I liked it so much that an 8x10 print of it is hanging matted and framed in my living room alongside two other photos I've taken. Chances are, I'll feature those at some point too.

October 20, 2008

One Appealing Appetizer

I ate at a new brunch place this past Sunday with a good friend of mine. I am fairly well versed in the Chicago brunch scene, so somewhere new is cause for mild excitement. Brunch on a Sunday morning may be one of my favorite things in the entire world. Chicago has many a brunch establishment, and I am proud to say have eaten at more than my fair share. As far as dining goes, it ranks right up there with a fresh sushi dinner. In fact, I look forward to weekend visitors because it's almost a given that brunch will be included in the plans.

The brunch place of this past weekend, as I said, was one I had not been to before. I tried to go to Orange once before. The problem is that it's a small restaurant with an even smaller waiting area. When I previously tried to dine there, my friend and I were met with a 45-minute wait in the blustery cold. It was a rookie mistake. We went at the height of brunch hours, so given the weather and the wait we went somewhere else. Not this time though. My friend and I arrived at Orange at 9:00 a.m. I was delighted when we were seated right away. I had heard about Orange's orange infused coffee. It sounded intriguing, and it tasted just as good as I had hoped. There was something on the menu that I had not heard of, however. Luckily, my friend had and she got us a serving for two.

What was it, you ask? It was frushi. Fruit sushi. Before you turn your nose up like Mike did at my description, let me explain there is no fish. Just fruit set atop fruit juice-infused rice. It was delicious. How could I not love it, though. It combines two of my favorite dining options - sushi and brunch. It's worth a trip back, so to my next visitor, I hope you enjoy Orange's frushi as much as I do because we're going. Plan on getting there by 9:00 a.m.

October 18, 2008

Economies of Understanding

I know little to nothing about the stock market or global finances for the matter. I don't even balance my own checkbook. So to say I understand the current financial crisis would be a lie. I do not. However, I listen to NPR all day, every day at work, so in the last few weeks when the stock market has taken a nose dive I knew that people were afraid. I felt I too should probably be afraid, but I didn't know why. I had no idea how bad the market it was, how it had gotten so bad or how much worse it could get.

This crisis put me in a panic but I was especially panicked because I didn't know why I should be panicked. It was hard to tell how this financial crisis could impact me personally. I am making the highest salary I have ever made and have more in savings than I ever have. Sure I have some money in my 401K but I consider that a long term investment, so I'm not worried that it's currently in pretty poor shape. Then I saw this article on the Chicago Tribune's Web site. Thankfully, I do not work at either of those firms, but I see in a very real way how I could be effected by this economic fallout. Not to mention, I'll be paying back that $700 billion dollar loan in one way or another.By the way, you're welcome Uncle Sam.

I knew I was angry and frustrated by the financial crisis, but I still didn't know why or if I even had a right to feel the way I feel. I once again turned to NPR and in particular a program called This American Life, produced here in Chicago. It had run two very informative programs about the financial crisis. I listed to both, the first titled "The Giant Pool of Money" produced in May when the worst of this mess was the housing bubble and subprime mortgages. Knowing the public wanted more information, This American Life followed up with a show a few weeks ago with a program appropriately named "Another Frightening Show About the Economy." I now feel more informed then I ever have before. Each show is an hour long, but it's two hours worth your time if you're confused. I recommend listening to each at least one time. This is honestly some of the best reporting I have heard in a long time.


Oh hey, look here. This blog looks brand new. Well it's not really new because it has all the same great content it did before, the content you hopefully know and love. I've just rearranged it a little, made it a little prettier and added a few interesting things. I wanted to link to a few of the blogs that I read pretty regularly as well as add a place to display some of my photos. Oh and a word of the day. I like words. Hopefully you like my updated blog. If so, feel free let me know. If not, well if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

October 16, 2008

The Odds

It looks as if 2009 may be a year of weddings. I am not unaccustomed to years where multiple wedding invites show up in my mailbox. And actually, upon closer review, I realize they often happen show up odd-numbered years. I was in my friend Lexi's wedding in 2003 and attended another friend's nuptials a few months later. Two years later, in 2005, I was in my friend April's summer wedding and Kelsa's that fall. Then again in 2007, I was in my friend Wendy's wedding in May, and Mike and I attended his friends James' wedding that December (in Mexico!). So it really should be no surprise that this coming year, 2009, I already have two weddings to look forward to.

My best friend Jenny got engaged on September 12. I was elated for her and her now fiance Luke. In fact, I was as elated for Jenny as I was for Dorrie. Dorrie, my sister's best friend, had called me a few weeks prior to announce her engagement. I am already looking forward to both their weddings next year - Jenny's in August and Dorrie's in September - as both have been a part of my and my family's lives for so many years. Jenny and Dorrie have both been on more than one family vacation. What's even more exciting is that I'm being asked to be a part of both. Jenny and her mom will be visiting in a few weekends to go wedding dress shopping. As the Chicago resident, I'll be leading the charge to various bridal boutiques and promptly handing Jenny's mom handkerchiefs at each location.

My sister will be a bridesmaid in Dorrie's wedding, and I may play my own special part. Dorrie called me tonight with a few details that she has planned for her big day. One being that she doesn't want to walk down the aisle to a musical recording. She wants to walk down the aisle to live music, specifically a violin - a violin played by me.

This proposition took me by surprise because no has ever asked me to play at anything, let alone one of the most important day's of their life. It seems pretty big, so I'm thinking about it. Dorrie and I talked about music selections. I told her I'd poke around and try to find some tunes she might like and I might be able to play. It would be pretty amazing to be a part of Dorrie's wedding in this unique and special way. So although I'm thinking about it, I'm pretty sure I'm going to do it. Besides, I've got about 10 months to perfect whatever song we choose. Besides, I need to build up my repertoire for whatever weddings I will most certainly be invited to in 2011.

October 13, 2008

Mashing Out Our Roles

My man makes some damn good mashed potatoes. We bought a huge bag of potatoes a few weeks ago just so Mike could make a batch. On Sunday, I reminded him that the bag was still untouched and we should probably make something with all that starchy goodness.

Mike agreed to make mashed potatoes, "but you have to peel them," he said.

"Are you serious?" I replied. "I love peeling potatoes!"

It's true. Little known Amy fact: I like peeling produce - potatoes, carrots, mangoes, cucumbers... you name it. I remember when I was young and my mom got an apple peeler. That thing was the coolest. It did most of the work for you, but I loved how it peeled an apple into long, curly spirals.

"Are you serious?" Mike responded. "I hate peeling potatoes. That's the only reason I don't make mashed potatoes more often."

"Well this is a win-win situation," I said. "I'll peel them, you make 'em."

And that's our deal. This household's mashed potato intake just increased ten-fold. And that is awesome, because my man makes some damn good mashed potatoes.

October 12, 2008

Working For It

I tried to keep my promise to join a new gym Friday. Mike and I came home from work, changed, gathered our gym necessities and hopped on our bikes. The beauty of my new gym is that it is less than a mile from our home. I had been planing on this workout all week. It was the first time all week I could make it and it was finally time to start taking better care of my health.

We locked up our bikes, and as we walked in I reached in my backpack for my wallet. No such luck. In my rush to leave, I had forgotten the one thing I needed most. My wallet had not only my debit card and ID but also my last free pass, which Mike was going to use. I was angry, oh so angry. But of course the only person I could be angry with was myself.

As I pedaled back home, I thought about my commitment to get back into shape. I didn't want to let my forgetfulness best me. I also didn't want to turn right back around and pedal back there. I had lost Mike in my failed mission. His only mission now was dinner.

I was frustrated when we got home. The only way I could stop beating myself up was to go for a quick run. I told Mike I'd be back, and I'd be happier when I did. Mike, not wanting to put up with surly Amy all night, agreed to this idea, but tried to make me take a knife as protection. It was already really dark outside and running the Chicago streets alone isn't the best idea. I took my iPod instead.

As I headed out our front door I turned on my iPod, only it wouldn't turn on. I pressed every button on the freaking thing but nothing was making it display my musical options. It was dead. No doubt because I had unknowingly turned it on earlier and let the battery die. At that point, I became even more frustrated. This was yet another obstacle standing in my way of my fitness goals. I hate running without music, but on Friday that's just what I did. And as I ran I thought about how easy it would have been to cop out on working out. I had been given a couple prime example to throw in the towel and chose not to. And as I ran, I felt better because if that's not a sign for my re-commitment to working out then I don't know what is.

After my run, I came home and did some strength training exercises. In total, I biked 1.5 miles, ran .75 miles (it was a little too dark out) and did strength training for about 25 minutes. Not too bad of a start. And in keeping promises to myself, I did join the gym yesterday. I even saved $100 on the initiation fee because they were running a special this month. I'd like to think this monetary reward was my prize for not giving up yesterday.

October 7, 2008

A Taxing Political Season

I am watching the second presidential debate right now. There is a lot of talk of taxes, and with so many figures being thrown around it is hard to determine how either candidate's tax plan will directly effect your wallet. I was reading of the many political Web sites I peruse these days, and I stumbled across a page about the candidates' tax plans. This Web site lays out in black and white how McCain's tax plan will benefit you versus Obama's. Check it out: http://www.electiontaxes.com/.

Plug in your numbers to see what the candidates will (or won't) do for your bottom line. Seeing as I own nothing nor am really invested in anything, this page was easy for me to fill out. If you happen to own things or have a lot of money invested, it may take you longer, but I think it is worth reviewing.

Also as a note, while watching the presidential debate I have this page open. It helps keep things light. Plus fodder is always fun and really goes hand-in-hand with politics.

Still Trying

It was going good. And then it wasn't. I tried to recommit myself to a healthier life and a new gym a few weeks ago. I got four free passes, and I used three of them in one week. I really enjoyed being in a gym again (especially one that has individual TVs on the cardio equipment!). I was feeling really good about beginning to whip my butt back into shape. I went to two classes, used the cardio equipment and even tried my hands at some free weights.

And then the following week hit. I had plans to see a friends' new baby on Monday, fiddle class on Tuesday, Wednesday night I worked, and then I packed on Thursday night so I could head out of town for the weekend. My life got in the way.

Now I know that's not a real excuse. If working out was my priority then it would get done, regardless of my busy life. So while on a week when I had little going on, I was able to get to the gym. When I had a lot going on, it was not.

This week, it's been more of the same. I cannot get back to the gym until Friday, so that's when I'm going. Working out on a Friday night seems less than desirable, especially when contrasted with my and Mike's typical Friday night - pizza and a movie. But this getting back to the gym has to start somewhere. My somewhere is Friday night at the gym, and then hopefully again Saturday morning.

I should mention though that I was active this past weekend. So much so that my muscles were sore Sunday and Monday. Mike and I met my family at Gintaras Resort on Michigan's west side. With a six and an eight year-old nephew to entertain, my family was on the move. We held an impromptu family Olympic games. We played tennis, soccer, basketball, rode bikes, took walks and had a marshmallow fight on the beach. It was a ton of fun, but it left me sore. And remembering that it is indeed time to head back to the gym.