Friday, December 28, 2012

A Day Off-Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls is making me happy this week. When I was in college and graduate school, I worked from my apartment, a lot. Because I have watched a lot of Gilmore Girls throughout my life, it is the perfect background noise as I work away on a paper. Or pay bills.

Today I was able to sleep until 9:30 am, throw in some laundry, and curl up with my coffee and paper and watch the 10 am ABC Family airing.

I especially enjoyed it this week (as my pop culture item making me happy) because it reminds me of how things change. I think the episode I am watching is from 2002 of 2003. Clothing and styles have changed, Lauren Graham has a new show, and I am not in school anymore.

This morning the show reminded me of where I have been, traits I admire, and things I am looking forward to next in life.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is my favorite Christmas song. I don’t think there is a version I don’t like, but my favorite has to be James Taylor’s rendition, followed by a close-second with Judy Garland’s Meet Me in St. Louis version—it is the original, after all.

When looking up the history of the song (or using Wikipedia, you decide), I discovered that the song has often been called depressing and the lyrics have a changed a little bit over time. Garland’s version was recorded in 1944 and later Frank Sinatra’s slightly altered version was an extremely popular version. Right after the song was recorded in 1944 it was extremely popular among WWII soldiers, as you can imagine.

 I enjoy the song because it reminds me of the peace I aspire to at Christmas-time, as well as how much a year can bring. When I take stock of my life over the past year, it is amazing how things have changed and grown. If you just have a little patience, time can do so much good. And even if things aren’t the way you imagined, have a nice little holiday with those you hold dear and hope for the best.

So, have yourself a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Parenthood-and Christmas Peace (what is making me happy this week)

As I think about what is making me happy, I find myself imposing rules on my new blogging tradition. For example, because it is Christmas time I could easily compose a post about my friends, family, getting together, baking cookies, etc. However, they are not something you, as a reader, have access to. (Sorry, you can’t have my mom or her Christmas dinner). So, instead I need to write about something in pop culture & Christmas that is making me happy—perhaps I should post the official rules sometime...
For me, Christmas and the winter holidays are some of the best times to watch television. Christmas movies are always on and can be DVR’d and watched at my leisure. As an individual that lives in a VCR-less household, this means I consume the old favorites like White Christmas and Holiday Inn as well as the cookie cutter plots of Hallmark and Lifetime movies. However, my absolute favorites are holiday specials/themed episodes of my favorite prime time television shows.

So…drumroll…the most recent episode of Parenthood from December 11th is making me happy. The episode is titled “What to My Wondering Eyes” (and it is available to be streamed here). For those of you who don’t watch the show regularly, I will provide a brief synopsis (although NBC does a fine job hooking you on-line). The plot focuses on the Braverman family—the parents played by Bonnie Bedelia and Craig T. Nelson and their 4 adult children and their respective spouses and children. You see the families gathering for dinners, taking their children to school, struggling with the challenges we all face in life, and then coming together as the larger Braverman clan.  It is not critically acclaimed in the way that The Wire or Breaking Bad is, but it reinforces that family and community is so crucial to a fulfilling life—in the same way that a show like Gilmore Girls did.
Anyway, back to the Christmas episode that is making me happy and for me, embodies the Christmas spirit. My favorite character, Christina, has been undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and in the most recent episode ends up in ICU with a life-threatening infection. Needless to say, this is an absolutely heart-wrenching episode. A friend of mine created a subtitle for the episode, “Weep, America, Weep.” Christmas Eve becomes the turning point in which we see if Christina lives or dies and the whole family struggles with her health status. Of course, all of this is happening against the backdrop of providing a “normal” Christmas for all the young children in the family—a set of actions that are even more poignant in light of recent tragic events. The narrative juxtaposes Christina’s struggle for life, most poignantly illustrated by a video she leaves for her children in case she passes on, with the desire and need to believe in Santa Claus.

The episode embodies what I value in Christmas: family, faith, and a renewed look to the future. It also reminds us that Christmas is not just a time to be charitable to those who may have less than us (although that is admirable and necessary to live in community) but to also keep in our thoughts and prayers those who are struggling over the holiday season because of health or personal tragedy. You don’t need to a lot of money or presents to celebrate the holidays but I do believe Christmas requires peace—peace within yourself, especially. And this year, especially in a small town in Connecticut, finding peace may be nearly impossible.

So perhaps this episode doesn’t necessarily provide joy, but anything that can provide the Christmas spirit that comes without, as the Grinch would say, presents, packages, boxes, or bags, is making me happy this December.
PS A previous version of this post stated that Glen Hansard of Once fame was on the show. My husband kindly pointed out that Glen Hansard made his appearance the week before. I apologize for the confusion and now urge to watch that episode and the one that I waxed on about in this post!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What is making me happy this week

Every week I listen to a pop culture podcast entitled Pop Culture Happy Hour. At the end of each episode all of the hosts, who are a variety of editors and writers from NPR, go around and choose a pop culture item that makes them happy. There is a catch, it has to be something that the average person has access to.

So, I am going to spice up my blog and try a similar thing every week. This week's item: the pop culture podcast. Today I caught up on two weeks of episodes and I was struck, again, by how it makes me feel intelligent and well-informed while also challenges me and provides some thoughtful stimulation that does not often happen post graduate school. Check it out!

PS. On a side note, if the visual effects of this post seem a little clunky, I apologize. I am trying out composing posts in a new app. As you can see, links don't look too great!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Christmas Checklist

My Christmas shopping is almost done...just 2 gift cards left to purchase. Mom and I shopped at Mayfair while Stephen and my dad went and got our Christmas tree last Saturday. Friday we pasted the final stamp on our batch of Christmas cards. This past week we decorated the tree and today I put the finishing touches of ribbon on it. This morning we had Christmas brunch with Stephen's family. So, we are all feeling festive.

Next on my list? Wrapping the presents and Christmas baking. Ginger snaps and puppy chow are must-haves, but I am looking for something else besides fudge for this year. Any suggestions?

Our stockings are hung with care (no chimney, sorry)

We have trees big...

...and small. Enjoy your holiday preparations!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fall Favorites

As the holiday season is officially here and I am dismally behind in blogging, here goes my top five (or so) fall moments.

1. My sister's wedding. Although it rained, and was windy, and overall worse weather than we had in November, it was a beautiful day. Weddings are such wonderful and joyful occasions, and Elizabeth and Aaron truly had a memorable day.

2. French onion soup. It is my favorite soup, hands down. I made it once last year, and Stephen and I tackled it again this fall. It really is ridiculously easy and fairly healthful (alright, low in calories). I am sure a night on the couch watching a movie followed our soup feast. Here is my favorite recipe. Now I am not sure how traditionalist people are about the cheese that goes into the soup, but in my experience there is nothing better than a good Swiss cheese.

3. Fall colors. I love when the leaves change colors. Because of our unfortunately dry summer, we were graced with beautiful leaves this fall. Silver lining, huh? This year I was able to enjoy them in Door County, for my sister's wedding, at our friends wedding in Rockton, IL. The leaves were spectacular.

4.Sherman Alexie. Look him up, read his work, run to the next event he has in your town. If you like to laugh, you will love him. If you enjoy reading works that are thought provoking yet accessible, read him. And if you like getting outside your bubble for a new and culturally diverse view point, read everything he has ever written. Stephen and I were able to see him speak for two hours at the public library, and it was not long enough. And we laughed...and laughed...and laughed.

5. Crisp runs. Fall gives way to cooler weather, which is more enjoyable for this runner. In particular, I remember one, lovely 5 mile run along the lake, to Lake Park, and back. Another highlight, the Shorewood Fowl 5k. We didn't win a turkey, or duck, or chicken, but we ran for our community!

6. Thanksgiving. The day and the sentiment. Fall really encourages thought--looking back, taking stock. Another year gone by and so much to be thankful for. Stephen and I were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with both our families throughout the Thanksgiving weekend. And we ate. A LOT.

Alright with those five six highlights, I am ready for Christmas!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Door County

Toward the end of October, before Halloween, Stephen and I spent the weekend in Door County with our good friends, Aaron and Emily. We did a lot eating (for example, Al Johnson's breakfast, Wilson's lunch, Pasta Vino dinner), shopping, wine tasting, and mini-golfing. I got a start on my Christmas shopping. Most importantly, we were able to spend an entire weekend with good friends!

The 4 of us, ala fun house mirror at the mini-golf course.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A concert a month or so ago...

I am now so far behind in blogging that I am writing about events from nearly a month ago. I know that this can only be a losing battle, especially with the holidays approaching.

Last month, Stephen and I went with our good friends, Tom and Maria, to see Brand Carlile in concert. It was a wonderful show at the Riverside Theater. It was our first time seeing Carlile as the main act and our first time at the Riverside (a landmark for Milwaukeans). Carlile and her band are extremely talented, and the song they did a capella and unplugged was very unique and awesome. Even the pouring rain before and after the concert couldn't dampen our just made us that much more thankful to be in a city with cabs.

Impromptu photo concert photo. Thank you iphone.
We had been anticipating the concert since August, and it was well worth the wait. Who knows when/what our next concert will be! In the meantime know we will be at all the home Marquette men's basketball games and it will be March Madness time before we know it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Run Don't Walk

I know I am way behind in blogging. Alas, that is what happens when your sister gets married. Anyway, I am catching back up with life, and hopefully you will hear more from me.

In the meantime, go check out the Gillian Flynn novel, Gone Girl. I finished this book a few days ago and was absolutely wow-ed. I had been hearing about it for a while and finally I was next up at the waiting list at the library.

Here's a hint: if you are at all inclined to purchase books, either in paper or e-book form, do it. It is a satisfying read and the waiting lists are insanely long. A friend of mine is number 480 on the waiting list at here local library. That means over a year of waiting.You need to read it before then.

My other reason for urging you to read this book is because it is going to be made into a movie. I just found this out. I do think it will make a great movie, but I also think that you can never get back the first experience of this novel--without seeing any previews or having preconceived ideas of the characters.

Oh, and what's the book about? Marriage, kidnapping, crime. You need more than that? On Nick and Amy's fifth anniversary Amy goes missing. Both are unreliable narrators. No need to know more than that.

Cover image courtesy of W magazine.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Aaron and Elizabeth's wedding

If you have noticed, quite a few of my blog posts this fall featured pre-wedding events for my sister, Elizabeth. We had the wedding shower and then the bachelor(ette) parties. Well, this weekend was the wedding! It was wonderful, beautiful, and exhausting. The best part? Seeing these two so happy.

Enjoying their first dance before the little cousins rush the dance floor.
Congratulations and best wishes, Aaron and Elizabeth. We love you.

Monday, September 24, 2012

First Fall Weekend

This weekend Stephen and I headed home to Edgerton and continued the wedding preparations/celebrations for my sister Elizabeth's wedding. Here is the bachelorette ready to hit the town! We had a great time celebrating with you, E!
And two of the bachelorette party goers--me and my best friend from college, Caitlin. She is also a good friend of Elizabeth. Stay tuned for her musical stylings at the wedding.
It was so much fun to see Caitlin--both Saturday night and then Sunday for brunch (just like college). And then we capped off the weekend watching Luke score 2 goals in his soccer match. Here he is post goal--just to the right of the goal celebrating!
I am looking forward to a few new recipes this week and some fall inspired baking. Here's to fall weddings and all of their celebrations, crisp mornings, and pumpkins!

PS As a fall resolution (if there is such a thing) I will find a more creative way to post pictures!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ernest Hemingway

My two readers out there (I am estimating here), will have to forgive any typos or formatting errors. I am typing away on the iPad as my husband holds the computer hostage. I am long overdue for a post so I thought I would dive in and type.

I have been in a bit of a Ernest Hemingway mood. For those of you who know anything about my literary tastes, he is not my cup of tea. His buddy F. Scott is great, Hem, not so much. I picked up The Paris Wife  at the library not too long ago. It was a wonderful character development of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson. It grappled with issues of feminism before the character herself was aware she was grappling. Plus, it had all the romance of that living in Paris in the 1920s does.

So I came off my book high and re- watched Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. The film is truly a pleasure to watch if you have any knowledge of the art and literature scene in the 1920s. Then I rode that high right back to the library and picked up For Whom the Bell Tolls. And now a week and three chapters later I am stuck. At first I was relieved the novel is not like The Old Man and the Sea. Now I wish I could fight the good fight.

So, do I keep fighting or give up. I have read the Italian to English version for middle schoolers of a few different Hemingway novels (think readers digest for language learners), the aforementioned good fight novel and a handful of short stories. There are so many books and such little time, so should I stick with Hem or move on like I have oh so many wives to get to?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Homemade Ice Cream

This past weekend the husband and I made homemade ice cream, twice. It is so easy! And delicious. If you don't have an ice cream machine, you are probably remembering some horrible 2nd grade experiment where you made salty, slightly chunky chocolate milk and your arm was tired from turning the crank.

Well, this experience was not like that, at all. We made Reese's peanut butter cup ice cream.

1. First we mixed the base. Peanut butter and sugar, anyone? And the recipe explicitly denigrated all natural peanut butter, so Skippy it was.
2. Then we added cream, and more cream, whole milk, and a pinch of vanilla.
3. We poured the creamy mixture into the machine and 30 minutes later came back to ice cream!
4. Oh, and we added chopped up peanut butter cups right before it was done.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the finished product...but it was delicious. And so was the chocolate ice cream we made on Monday. So much better than baking, I loved it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bridal Shower

This past weekend I gave my sister, Elizabeth, a wedding shower. I would say host, but I am not sure that is correct as we used my parent's lovely home. Either way, it was the first event I have ever hosted--ah, that word seems to be a must in this context--that included invitations and RSVPs.

After we settled on a date and mood--the bride could pick if she wanted girls only or a couples shower--I planned the menu multiple times in my head and looked at Pinterest repeatedly for decorations and DIY projects. As shower date drew nearer, the DIY projects were weeded out but a lovely theme came together: outdoor chic with sage and pink accents. The colors were greatly aided by my mom's wonderful collection of antique green and pink depression glass. The majority of the decorations were paper lanterns, pictures, farmer's market flowers, and of course, the food and drink.

I tried to make the food colorful and beautiful--an economical way to decorate. Of course, I don't have a lot of pictures to show off, because as I began taking pictures of my hard work, the guests began arriving (but they were the whole reason for the affair, so I can't complain.) So enjoy the few pictures I least I got one of the beautiful bride! And I will post my menu, because it never hurts to have a few ideas rattling around for the next occasion to entertain.

The shower was at 1:00, so it was not a lunch but I made sure to have substantial snacks (and it ended up being my lunch!) The menu include:
  • Caprese skewers
  • Cucumber sandwiches
  • Pickle roll-ups (the bride's request)
  • Spinach pasta salad
  • Watermelon slices
  • Strawberry muffins
  • Cake-pops (topped with sprinkles, coconuts, or cashews)

I read somewhere to keep the drinks simple, and so I did. Two options. I offered to get everyone I could a drink, but the delightful idea behind the set-up included having everyone help themselves. My drinks:
  • Sangria
  • Lemon and strawberry infused water (it's so pretty!)
I absolutely loved using mason jars and real depression glass. Of course, all had to be washed by hand afterward (thank you to the husband!) but really were instrumental in creating the ambiance.
My drink table

Was supposed to be the first of many pics. Note the framed invitation for decoration.

The bride and my sign from ETSY.

The happy couple.
 Thanks to all who attended. It was a lovely afternoon. And to my mom and the rest of the crew who stayed at the Engsberg homestead this past weekend, thanks for everything! Who's excited for October 13th?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Life is good...

...when two of your best friends move to Milwaukee--and you live in the Milwaukee area. Yesterday we helped our good friends unpack their life in their new apartment in downtown Milwaukee. Somehow we managed to get out of the heavy lifting!?

To show you how good life is: you cheer and stare eagerly at the television when you realize get more analog channels than you had in Eau Claire.

Watching the channels register.
And you eat scones. I made chocolate chip scones for a little breakfast snack. I hate to bake, but these scones are delicious and easy. Thank you, Brown Eyed Baker. We don't have any pictures, because they are so delicious and nearly gone.

So that's a little glimpse into the excitement in our lives. Welcome to Milwaukee, Tom and Maria. We'll try not to smother you with our excitement.

Friday, August 10, 2012

One Year Anniversary

This past weekend, and on Monday, August 6th, my husband and I officially celebrated our 1-year wedding anniversary!

It's been a year since I walked up the aisle...
and we kissed as husband and wife...
and all these wonderful people we were in the same place at the same time...
and we danced the night away.

They say the best is yet to come, and I looking forward to growing old with my beloved and all that is yet to come. BUT, August 6, 2011 was one amazing day and my first year of marriage was truly lovely.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My favorite athlete...

is Michael Phelps.
Best Butterflyer, EVER! Photo courtesy of ESPN
I love the Olympics, and I love Michael Phelps. I remember coming to my Olympic consciousness in 1996. I remember Michael Johnson, the bombing, Gary Hall, Jr. and hearing the stories my babysitter told after she attended the games.

 However, since then Michael Phelps has dominated "my Olympics." Being a swimmer growing up and all through high school, hands down swimming is my favorite part of the Olympics. I love watching the sport, and it is always under reported and televised. Slowly watching the Olympics and Michael Phelps became synonymous. I remember him coming on the scene in Sydney, coming to be well-known in Athens, dominating in Beijing, and now in London he had the time of his life.

Although I love my football and basketball, I love that the best athlete, most decorated Olympian is from my sport. As much as I would love to continue watching Phelps swim over the next four years and in Rio, I respect his ability to know when to exit (ahem, Brett Favre, Michael Jordan etc.).

So for right now, Michael Phelps is my favorite--and has been for sometime. I do see Missy Franklin swimming into the 2nd favorite spot.

And now I am off to catch up on my sleep after a week of watching every single swimming prelim, semifinal, and final race.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Last Confession

For those avid readers out there (and I don’t just mean of my blog), have you been using A friend of mine recommended it, and I recently downloaded the app. I am horrible at updating what I am reading, writing reviews, etc. I think the only thing that is working well for me is the “To-Read” shelf I have created. When I hear about a new book, or think of a new book I want to read, I try to add it to the shelf—kind of like my Netflix queue. Except Netflix sends me the movies…maybe I should talk to my local library about some kind of similar set-up ;) Anyway, here is a quick review of a novel I gobbled up over vacation. 


Over vacation I read an excellent crime/detective novel entitled The Last Confession. I first heard about it on NPR’s Crime in the City series where they profile an author who writes crime novels focused on a specific city--truly, the city acts like a character. Author Solomon Jones writes about the city of Philadelphia. In the The Last Confession, Jones weaves together a mystery involving the Catholic Church, heroin addiction, and the Philadelphia police department. It is truly a thriller that satisfied the parts of my brain that loved watching The Wire and reading Lillian Jackson Braun mysteries (two very disparate series of works.)

Right now I am going to add more Solomon Jones novels to my to-read shelf. 

Over vacation I also read the first novel in Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap trilogy. I have most of her other novels, but never the trilogy. I am looking forward to finishing the series, but first I have Erik Larson's newest non-fiction narrative focused around the rise of the Nazi party to be tempered with a Nicholas Sparks novel I have been saving. 

I guess you can say I have varied literary interests.