Monday, January 30, 2012

Beauty and the Beast

This weekend my husband and I took our 3 year-old niece to see Beauty and the Beast in 3D. Prior to the movie, Grace knew that Belle wears a yellow dress, she hangs out with the Beast, and that there is a teapot and cup that is broken. In fact, you point to "Chip" in cup form and she says, "Broken!"

After the movie, she knew Belle wore a yellow dress but she still hadn't seen Belle in said dress. Why? She fell asleep after "Be Our Guest" and before the big dinner scene. She slept through the closing credits and her coat being put on...

So, for Grace, here is the big scene she missed. I think that this scene will always remind me that I  had a successful outing with our little niece who ate popcorn, didn't get scared by the Beast, and fell asleep on my lap and snuggled.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A small work victory

I don't write about work here much - if ever. Today, I would like to share a small story of success and give a little shout-out. Technology came through for me today!

In my capacity as Assistant Coordinator-Communications Specialist I do a little of everything, this includes designing flyers. These flyers don't have to be anything fancy (thank goodness, since I have zero experience in graphic design), but they do have to provide information and get writers into the Center.

Today my first victory was a loose-leaf paper template that Microsoft offered for the flyer background. This allows me to "brand" the Center a bit more and take the themes of our brochures (which we paid good money to have designed) and produce a flyer we can actually afford to reprint. Also, our new website will have same themes in its header. Here's hoping for the launch next week...

The real victory came after my director approved the overall theme and wanted me to add Twitter and Facebook icons instead of the cumbersome writing of "Like" and "Follow us." This sent me into the world of free social media icons. Turns out - graphic designers actually create these for free - and you can use them...without breaking any copyright laws. YES! So, as my way of giving back I invite you (if you have social media icon needs) to visit this clearing house called the Design Cubicle and my savior, Blue Spoon Graphics.

And there is the final (almost) product. It will be in black ink, printed on a yellow/cream page. Enjoy my day's work.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lemons, Lemonade

Here in Wisconsin we have been extremely lucky in the snow department. We didn't get our first real snow until we were well into January. This season contrasts with the not-so-unusual snow on Halloween. There is nothing like dressing up as a ballerina with a parka and snow boots. Despite the late start with the snow, every 3-4 days we have been getting our fair share of snow. My husband takes his snow-shoveling responsibilities very seriously and spends the days leading up to the snowfall grousing over how he will have enough time to shovel, if he will get home in time, etc.

In addition to the 3-6 inches of snow we have been worrying about, we have also had a cold snap. This cold snap has required us to play musical cars. We have one garage space and a driveway space directly behind it. Generally, Car #2 (my car) lives in the garage and is used when I need to drive to work or Stephen is gone. Car #1 is our main car, used the most, and in the best condition. It lives outside. However, it has needed a new battery. We made an appointment for 8:30 am this morning. We parked Car #1 in the garage last night, as we did several nights this week.

Before I get to the drama of the morning, here is one more piece of information. Because of the snow, I packed up all of my work and decided to work from home. This meant sleeping in and working in my pajamas.

So, begin "snow day." My husband's alarm goes off. I roll over to go back to sleep. Even though I only get 20 extra minutes, it made a difference. In my half-sleep I hear my husband go out to start the cars and move them around. Somehow I am dead asleep and cold air rushes at me as I dream of my cup of coffee, the newspaper, and the Today show. I hear, "Meghan, the Honda won't start." Before I know what has happened I am in the driveway trying to start the car - this wouldn't be so bad if I had any kind of car skills and it was a mild 70 degrees.

The irony: we can't take Car #2 in for it's appointment at the car doctor because the car we thought was healthy is now sick, if not dead. The conversation Stephen had with car guys, explaining why he would be late, was priceless: "I have an 8:30 appointment...I can't come in because my other car...."  In the end, the AAA guy came. Turns out, Car #1 also needs a battery (this could be the really lemony part). However, the battery has started to corrode and without having the jump the car, we might have needed $600 cables instead of a $100 batter (enter lemonade). Additionally, Stephen and the AAA guy bonded over Volvos (Car #2). The AAA guy loves them, like my husband. They exchanged phone numbers.

So, more lemons. The Volvo battery costs more. Lemonade: we can get a deal on the Honda battery. Lemons: I have not gotten any work done yet today. Lemonade: It is not snowing yet, I have read the newspaper and am in my pajamas. Even better? My husband is coming home from work early and we are going to hunker down in the snow storm and watch movies. And what is better than that?

Monday, January 16, 2012

My lazy Sunday

My husband headed off to Lambeau field yesterday morning and I had a whole day to myself. I was a little over ambitious. After two hours on the couch watching Sunday morning television I took a trip to Michaels and the Woodmans. I made it home in time to watch the Packer game, even though it was an unfortunate game.

During the game I made my first batch of homemade chicken stock to freeze (thank you Gwyneth Paltrow). I crafted a picture frame/dry erase note board for the house and made paper flowers for decorations. Both of these tasks involved my new LAVENDAR hot glue gun.

 This first picture is a whole bowl of the flowers. They are made out of pages of an old novel. You cut a scalloped circle, spiral it, roll it tight and then hot glue it. I got the idea from this blog via Pinterest. Check out the link for more thorough instructions.

 Here is what single flower looks like. I had grand plans of making enough for a few decorative bowls and my hurricane jar. Instead I made about 20, enough to barely fill a bowl and few to sprinkle around the base of a candle around the hurricane jar.

After the Packer game (and I lost my will to make flowers) I finally relaxed a bit and watched the 2 hour season premiere of Downton Abbey. It took all my will power to not start the next one - it was amazing. Luckily, I am all about delayed gratification. Instead, I baked pumpkin bread - I had to get the chicken smell out of the house. I also cruised through the Golden Globes.

As I fell into bed exhausted at 11:30 last night, I told myself that I was so productive because I have the day off today and can recover. This morning, I popped up and got dinner in the crockpot and paid bills. While this sounds like the same insane level of productivity, I hear Barbara Kingsolver calling my name. Yesterday, I did not finish The Lacuna. I think that is a noble goal for today.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Downton Abbey

I have recently discovered Downton Abbey. I watched the last few episodes in Season 1 and I have the first episode of Season 2 saved on the DVR. I am husband-less on Sunday and am anticipating two hours of escape to WWI England.

This week I have been trying to get my Downtown Abbey fix without finding out what has happened in the first episode. I stumbled across this article by Julie Bosman from The New York Times about the increase in similar genre book sales related to the show. Not only do I love Julie Bosman (I no longer hear her weekly on my Times Book Review podcast), but the article satisfied my Downton Abbey fix for a bit.

Although I enjoyed the article, I am not sure I jump on a bandwagon so much so that it is all the reading material I consume. I have not been yearning to find out more about early 20th century England. For me, I enjoy being consumed by the world in the show without analyzing it too much. For further evidence, right now I am reading Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna and looking forward to The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Although, I must admit I turned the pages of Middlemarch the other night (for the British part) and looked at images of World War I fashion (for the time period). Needless to say, I am not looking for a corset to wear.

For your own Downton Abbey fix, here is a short clip and preview for the new season. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cauliflower and Pinterest

In the past few days I have discovered a few new things. I stumbled upon a college friend's blog - she blogs a lot about food and family (aren't they the two best things?). I like how she highlights daily moments or quotations. Needless to say, I am inspired.

I also, finally, obtained an invitation to Pinterest. All I can say is that I have found my inner-crafter. In addition to a zillion DIY (Do it Yourself) crafts, the site collects so many wonderful ideas. For me, the most useful aspect of the site is the "boards" feature. You "repin" ideas. I just repinned lots of different ideas for my sister's wedding shower, and they are saved - and not on a sticky note I will lose on my desk. In four months I won't wrack my brain trying to remember what I saw and how to do it. I will try to keep you posted on any crafts or DIY projects I attempt.

I have also been having fun with my Christmas presents. I got several new cookbooks and a new food processor. For the past week, nearly every night has had a new meal or more efficiently processed sauce or side.

Tonight was one of those glorious nights where you start dinner, open a bottle of wine, and plod through laundry. A glorious night at home my husband. My night was made even better with the success of a new recipe. Stephen grilled steaks and I made Giada's Cauliflower and Pancetta Gratinata. It tasted delicious and goes well with something easy like steak because the it creates many dishes to wash.

Here is how it turned out:

You can get the recipe by either Googling it or following this link to Giada's cookbook. I did halve the amount of pancetta - it is rather salty, and we had plenty using just 4 ounces. The recipe also calls for 2 cups of breadcrumbs, but I believe 1 cup is more than enough. Finally, I nixed the capers. Does anyone really like capers?

Please let me know if you try it - bon appetit.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Clara and Mr. Tiffany (and Walt Whitman).

I just finished my first new book of the year: Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland. The novel is based on a recent (2007) discovery that Clara Driscoll invented/designed the first Tiffany lamps (not Louis Comfort Tiffany) for Tiffany studios. I won't go much more into the plot but direct you this New York Times article which broached the issue for the first time. For me, Vreeland's novel was the perfect blend of history, narrative, and entertainment.

The article gives you the nuts and bolts of the historical Clara Driscoll, but the novel is all Clara's perspective which makes it historical fiction. As the reader, you get to live Gilded Age excess through her eyes in a boarding house in lower Manhattan. With Clara, you fall in love with art, flowers, the first skyscrapers, and the subway.

I loved the history and the character development. What made this novel practically perfect was Vreeland's use of poetry, especially Whitman. One of my favorite Whitman lines from "Leaves of Grass" appeared near the end, "And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier." Whitman always leaves me thinking (and hoping).

And, one of my favorite Whitman poems, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" also made an appearance! This poem holds a special place in my heart. It is the first poem I remember diving into in college. I remember reading it again and again, breaking it down and discussing it in class. It was the first time I felt that I had made it as a college student and as a scholar. I never tire of it and here it is, for your own edification. Please listen - it is how poetry is meant to be enjoyed.