Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fair(ly cold) weather friend

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week Moma Rock chose the topic: What are some of your favorite colder weather traditions?

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

Our Sukkah a.k.a. The French Bistro
I absolutely love autumn. It's my favorite season. The nip in the air reminds me that it's time to start wearing long sleeves and even--gasp!--sweaters! This past week, we celebrated Sukkot. To me, it's no fun to eat in a sukkah unless the weather is brisk and you can truly enjoy a hot bowl of soup while sitting under the stars. (One year, Sukkot was during a particularly hot week and the heat just took away the feel from the holiday.)

Every autumn, my husband makes Journey's End soup at some point. It's this hearty vegetable soup that we would eat at this restaurant in Illinois that we enjoyed visiting frequently. Since the restaurant was called Journey's End, we naturally had to name the soup after it once we got the recipe and he replicated it perfectly. Of course, the experience is not complete without some oyster crackers.

In the past, we used to take trips to check out the fall colors. We haven't done it as often as we did in the past, but we need to start that tradition again. It's really hard to impress my kids when it comes to just being out in nature and if the leaves aren't in a pile to jump in, they could care less.

I tend to bake more in the winter, especially on snow days, when there's nothing better to do. I also love stocking up on Candy Cane Joe-Joe's at Trader Joe's. They're like Oreos with little pieces of peppermint in the cream filling. So so SO good! And no winter is complete without hot cocoa and mini-marshmallows.

YUM!!!

Our street during
Snowmageddon '10
Winter is usually mild out here and schools tend to close when there's barely an inch of snow on the ground. I prefer there to be enough snow to send my kids out to play and allow them to enjoy building snow castles, sledding down our hill, and having snowball fights. Sometimes I even join in. One year, we had an insane amount of snow here (a.k.a. Snowmageddon) and everything was closed for a week. We'd go to our neighbor's houses for meals or have them over here. It was a fun week of bonding, even though the kids got restless after a while during the day.

While we don't have any set-in-stone autumn/winter traditions, we do look forward to Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. (Of course, they were at the same time last year.) New Year's Eve is pretty low key, but we're happy to spend it with close friends who live nearby. I'm just looking forward to the simple pleasures of the season overall.

"So much fun-ukah to celebrate Hanukkah..."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Curse of the Non-Ghosts

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week Darwin Shrugged chose the topic: Ghosts

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

Darwin Shrugged certainly has good psychic timing with her topics. When she suggested "Ghosts," I just happened to be reading Haunted Ever After by Juliet Madison. It's like a cross between Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella and the movie Over Her Dead Body starring Eva Longoria (based on what I saw from previews). I'm enjoying it so far, but it reminds me how I have had absolutely no encounters with spirits from another realm. I sometimes hear noises in my house, but can't imagine that it would be haunted. Honestly, when I first was given this topic, I thought of two funny stories that hint at ghosts, but don't quite get to that level.

When I was at overnight camp with my BFF, some other girls in our cabin made a Ouija board and decided to see if they could channel any spirits. It was the middle of the afternoon and we were all sitting in our counselor's side of the cabin while a couple of the girls were trying to communicate with someone from above. At one point, it felt like they were getting somewhere and then we heard a loud voice say "HELLO EVERYBODY!" We were all freaked out! I think everyone screamed. Then we realized it was someone announcing that it was time for dinner. Such crazy timing, right?!?

About a year later, I was babysitting for the kids I regularly looked after on Saturday nights. One night, I kept hearing a kid yell "Mommy, Mommy!" When I went to check on the kids, they were either sound asleep or laying there calmly trying to settle down for the night. I asked the older kid if he was calling for his mom and he denied it. I kept hearing the voice though. I finally figured out it was coming through the baby monitor and shut it off. I figured I'd just check on the kids every so often. When the parents got home, I explained what happened and they said that the monitor was switched to another channel and picking up signals from a neighbor. Still...pretty scary at the time!

While those are fun and harmless stories, I got to thinking about the other ghosts who haunt me. These are also non-ghosts, as they are still alive, as far as I know. However, they are no longer a part of my life, nor am I a part of theirs. I don't need to get into reasons, but that's just how it is with some people. They still find ways to get to me, such as visiting me in my dreams, being around on social media, having doppelgangers in other towns, etc. Either it's because of unresolved issues as to why we're not connected anymore or things just ended badly and couldn't be fixed no matter what. All I know is that these people still manage to haunt me, no matter how hard I try to get them completely out of my mind. I don't have room for them in my mind to begin with and am not sure why they still try to make their presence known when it's not welcome. It's times like these that I wish I could do something similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. However, I wouldn't want to forget other little details from the time periods when I knew these people, such as books I read, movies I watched, other friends I hung out with, etc. I just hope that we can all make peace on this realm so that they can finally exit my subconscious once and for all.

There are some people in my life who have passed on already and I wouldn't mind being haunted by them, especially my late maternal grandma and my late paternal grandpa. I figure this would be the best way for them to see what I've been up to and meet their namesakes. If that ever happened, I would just want them appearing as young and vibrant again.

July, 1998: Late maternal grandma at left and
late paternal grandpa standing next to me

Do you have any ghosts...or non-ghosts?


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Oh, if life were made of moments....

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week Froggie chose the topic: It's that moment where....

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

I'm in Into the Woods mode at the moment. As soon as I heard the word "moment," I immediately thought of "Moments in the Woods," which I talked about a few months ago on my post about favorite lyrics. In lieu of this, I've decided to just list a series of recent moments from my life.

*It's that moment where you realize during Yom Tov that you forgot to return the kids' library books and they were due that day.

*It's that moment where you decide to schedule your kid's dentist appointment for a ridiculous time of the morning so that you don't have to interrupt your work day.

*It's that moment where you step on the scale and are convinced you lost five pounds in the span of a week, only to realize that it was still balancing itself out and you only actually lost half a pound instead.

*It's that moment where the song "Jumper" by Third Eye Blind randomly pops into your head for no reason.

*It's that moment where the first person who pops up in your Facebook newsfeed is the same one you were telling someone else about.

*It's that moment where you realize you need another set of eyes....or a visit to the optometrist already. And in that same moment, you wonder if you'll look cute in glasses again.

*It's that moment where you realize that the behaviors your kid gets in trouble for are the same ones you display, on a different level.

*It's that moment where you end up reading four different books at around the same time.

*It's that moment where you keep getting distracted by sending e-mails and checking Facebook updates and are taking forever to think of more moments to post about here.

*It's that moment where "Jumper" changed to "Mother Nature's Son" (the Sheryl Crow version from the I am Sam soundtrack), and now that you've thought that, "I'm Looking Through You" (the Wallflowers version from the same soundtrack) replaced that song.

*It's that moment where you turn on Spotify to get the previous two songs out of your head. It seems to be helping and a Toad the Wet Sprocket song even came on!

*It's that moment where you wish you were more productive, but aren't motivated in the slightest.

*It's that moment where you just fantasize about laying on a beach all day with a stack of books and unlimited access to strawberry daiquiris.

*It's that moment where you've decided you said enough about moments in your blog post to reach a satisfactory length.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Stand-Up Kind of Gal

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week I chose the topic: Tell us about a time when you were fearless.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

"When I was little I thought I would be a big comedian on late night TV." Nah...I'm just quoting Avenue Q again. Really, though, I love seeing stand-up comedians perform. I am all about humor and laughter and if someone can have me doubled over with tears in my eyes, I know they've got it made. When Last Comic Standing first premiered, I was totally into that show. I liked the fact that people actually had to do more than just sing or dance to win. Stand-up comedy has so many facets...writing, delivery, ability to make people laugh, etc. It's a very intense art form. How do I know this? Well, I tried my hand at stand-up comedy once.

There was this restaurant in the Chicago suburbs that was similar to Portillo's or Dengeo's in terms of the food they served and how you had to get it up at the counter. However, they had live bands performing upstairs, and on certain weeknights, they had a comedy club downstairs. At this comedy club, there was an amateur night every week. I first learned about it from a friend who had performed there a few times and invited us to see him in action. Then I decided to give it a go. I took improv comedy classes over the span of a year and wasn't so afraid of being on stage and trying to make people laugh. However, I wasn't about to "wing it" when it came to doing a stand-up routine. There's really a lot that goes into making it just right. I can't even remember most of my routine, but I definitely had fun writing it. I even ran it by the friend who had experience at these amateur nights and he helped me fine tune it a bit. That was definitely helpful. Then I rehearsed it until I had it memorized and wasn't tripping over my words. I do remember starting off by singing "Dancing Queen" and then saying that I thought I was at the live band karaoke that the restaurant had going on upstairs. I think I also talked about how Y2K was a total let-down and about my upcoming 10-year high school reunion (shows how long ago this was). Everything else is a blur to me. Apparently, people thought it was funny. My BFF even brought it up when she visited, and even though she's probably biased, it was nice to hear that I was able to make people laugh.

These days, I am not into public speaking all that much, but I like to put humor into my writing and I still like to make people laugh, even on an individual basis. I'd rather be told I'm funny than that I'm attractive. I recently took a quiz to see which female comedian I am and the result was Tina Fey:
Creative, reserved, and highly intelligent, you are most like the darling of the entertainment writing world, Tina Fey! Others see you as shy and a bit naive, and you may be at times - but at your core are a deeply intuitive and wise individual. Others seek comfort in your advice and company, and you're just glad to have the companionship. You give a lot to everyone and are ok with little in return.

Even that description says I put my humor into my writing. Validation! It's definitely an honor to be compared to Tina Fey. I respect and admire her comedic talent. I also wouldn't mind having comedic writing talent on the level of Mindy Kaling, but one can only dream.

So maybe I won't jump out of a plane or go deep sea diving, but writing a comedy act and performing it in front of a mix of friends and strangers is the most fearless I have ever been.

Side note: Since stand-up comedy is a hard field through which one can become famous, I wanted to give a shout-out to a comedian I saw a couple of times in 2012...Brian Parise. He was just hilarious and had great material and delivery. If he's ever performing in your neck of the woods, you should definitely go see him! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Girls' Night Out

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week Moma Rock chose the topic: Tell us about your first homecoming/prom/formal... and don't forget the photos! If you didn't go to any high school dances, why not? What did you end up doing instead?

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

A few years ago, I was asked about something I regretted from the past. I decided to talk about not asking a friend of mine to go to prom with me because I was hung up on what people thought. You can read that post right here.

This time around, I will share about a positive memory that came out of not going to a dance. When I was a senior in high school, I did not end up going to the Homecoming dance (amongst the many others I didn't attend). Instead, I went out with two girlfriends for the evening. One of them was a close friend of mine from school. The other was a family friend who had moved to a nearby neighborhood. We saw For Love or Money and then went out for dinner. I just remember hanging out for a while at the restaurant and laughing about random things. The family friend did a great impression of Jack√©e from 227 and my high school friend and I found it hilarious. It was just a pleasant evening overall and I didn't even feel bad about missing the dance. I'm still friends with both women, even though we mostly talk through Facebook these days.

Sorry this is so short, but I figure that since I said a lot in the post from a few years ago and I don't really have any other positive or negative memories of what I did instead of going to a dance. I probably just babysat when I was younger or stayed home and did nothing. It's all a blur to me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Let's go to the movies....or not?

When I wrote my post last week about stuff I enjoyed in the past but don't enjoy now, I didn't include "going to the movies" as one of the items. It's something I go back and forth about because going to the movies these days is nothing like it was when I was younger. I still enjoy going to the theater--sometimes--but there's a price to pay, and I don't just mean from my wallet.

Back in the day, movies were reasonably priced. Usually about $4.00 for a matinee. And if you had a coupon from the Entertainment book, it was $4.00 at night too. The only time it's $4.00 to go to a movie theater now is if you get some major deal from Groupon for Fandango. Otherwise, it's $12 for an adult to see a matinee. At least it feels that way. It's not any less expensive for kids. Maybe $10 instead? There are NO second run theaters out by where I live. We have the big name ones like Regal and AMC. When I lived in Illinois, the dollar theater was around the corner. I loved it there. Sure, we would see these cheesy ads before the movie started and the seats weren't super comfortable, but it was nice for a date night where we didn't feel like we were spending a fortune. It reminded me of being in college and all the inexpensive options for seeing a movie on or off campus. Also, snack items were way more reasonably priced back then. I don't even bother getting snacks at the theater these days. After spending my life savings to see a movie, I am not inclined to go into debt over snacks. What bothers me the most is that theaters show a billion ads before the movie starts, but they're somehow not getting sponsorship for these ads or they would be able to charge more reasonable prices overall.

The next factor is how RUDE people are in the theater. They get up and walk around. They talk during the movie itself. They kick my seat. They play with their cell phones and text all their friends. And I won't even begin to tell you what one of my friends caught someone doing when she went to the theater once. I'll just say that the movie should have been rated X for the behavior it elicited. I also hate when people bring babies or small children to a movie that's clearly for adults. Someone brought a BABY to Les Miz. Seriously! And even when I'm at a family friendly movie, people practically encourage their kids to talk and scream. If your kid is screaming, TAKE THEM TO THE LOBBY!!! I didn't pay half my college tuition to see a movie where the soundtrack is someone's child throwing a tantrum. I'm sorry they're throwing a tantrum when the parents probably paid just as much as I did to see this movie, but if they weren't ready for the theater, they shouldn't have brought them. And now that they did, ignoring them is not going to stop the tantrum from getting worse. I was a kid once too and I remember not allowing my parents to see Mary Poppins in the theater because I was too scared of the dark. That was when tickets were 50 cents though....

I'm still somewhat traumatized by an experience I had while watching Monsters Inc. the first time in the theater back in 2001. Some man came in toward the end and was looking for his wallet. Instead of waiting an extra five minutes for the movie to be over and the lights to go up, he decided to get into our row and practically lean on top of me to look behind me for his wallet, blocking my view of the screen. He ruined an emotional scene for me and also freaked me out considerably. He was breathing really loud the whole time he was leaning over me, so you can imagine why that would be super uncomfortable.

It's also a matter of how great vs. how much of a letdown the movie is. More often than not, I have been disappointed by the movies I've been excited about seeing in the theater (i.e. Les Miz, Frozen, Brave, Avatar, etc.). Maybe one out of every three times I go, I actually enjoy the movie throughout (Monsters University, Wreck-It Ralph, The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted, Turbo). Still, there's an imbalance of movies I didn't like vs. movies I enjoyed. I do want to see Into the Woods and The Last Five Years in the theater, but worry about being disappointed by both.

I still like the feel of being in a theater, where the screen practically overtakes you and the sound fills the room. I may not like the ads before a movie, but I'm a trailer junkie. I love finding out what movies are coming soon and getting a glimpse into them. I like the comfortable chairs that are way better than the ones I sat in at the theater when I was a kid. And stadium seating is amazing. I resent when a theater doesn't have stadium seating and I have to look up from below the screen. There's something intoxicating about the smell of popcorn as you're going into the theater, along with the lights, colors, sounds, etc. It's something that the price, rude people, and caliber of movie can not take away from me.

There's a theater by my parents' house (in the west suburbs of Chicago) that does something awesome...every Tuesday, they charge a flat rate of $5.00 per ticket all day, along with FREE popcorn. We saw Mr. Peabody and Sherman there and got to sit in this auditorium that had really comfortable lounging chairs with lots of room between our row and the row in front of us. It was probably one of the best theater experiences I've had in a long time and I enjoyed the movie too!

I long for a day when we can get back to old school prices for seeing a movie (even just once a week), or at least have some second run theaters established nearby. I don't think either will happen anytime soon. Until my fantasy becomes a reality, I'll just hang out on the couch and watch a DVD in my pajamas, with a bowl of microwave popcorn. That's the ultimate movie experience for me these days!

Friday, September 12, 2014

I'm too old for this "stuff"

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week Darwin Shrugged chose the topic: Write about 3-5 things that you used to love, enjoy doing, etc., in the past but now you don't like. Or, write about stuff you used to not like but have grown to enjoy. And feel free to throw in one thing you've always loved and always will.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

This topic got me thinking about stuff I wouldn't normally give much thought to. I've come to realize that as I have gotten older, I have less of a tolerance for certain things. Sometimes it's just due to a lack of patience and other times to a lack of interest. Since I can't think of anything I have grown to enjoy, I will share things I used to love and now don't like.

Side note: My subject line has to do with an episode of How I Met Your Mother, where Ted is telling his kids about some behaviors he has outgrown. However, instead of saying the "S" word, he says "stuff" each time.

A pic my older son recently drew
Drawing: When I was a kid, I loved drawing pictures. I had this huge pad of paper on my desk at home and would spend time drawing scenes with people, backgrounds, etc. I wasn't necessarily good at it, but I found it relaxing. I would even doodle in my notebooks at school when I got bored. As an adult, I have absolutely no desire to draw anything. My older son likes art and it's fun to see his drawings, but I just can't share his enthusiasm for the activity.

Riding my bicycle: I mentioned before that it took me a long time to learn how to ride a bicycle. Once I did, however, I would ride it all over the place. I always felt so free and it was great exercise. The last time I rode my bicycle was shortly before I became pregnant with my first child. Now the only bicycle I ride is stationary and sits in my basement.

Me at 14 with our first two cats
Having pets: At one point in my life, my family had four cats and a dog. I loved having them around and especially treasured the time I spent with our beagle, Buddy. I even had a cat of my own until my son developed allergies. Thankfully, we found her a new home. And now I actually like having a pet free home. My kids keep asking me if they can get a pet that won't cause allergy problems, but I don't even want that. There's a lot of responsibility involved and if they get attached to the pet and it dies, I know they'll be devastated. And really...I just don't want a pet in the house. I just don't have the patience to worry about it. After reading Moma Rock's post about her new kitten, I stand my ground even more. (Not saying ALL pets are that much work, but still...) I love other people's pets though. I don't know if this will be set in stone as I get older, but this is where I stand for now.

Me at 15 with Buddy


Going to the mall: Unlike Robin Sparkles, I do not want to go to the mall today...or any other day. The only reason I go to our local mall is for Target. Being spoiled by thrift store prices, I see no point in going to the mall anymore. The malls these days seem overwhelming and I find most of the stores to be pointless or even sketchy looking. When I was a kid and even through my college years and a bit beyond, I enjoyed going to the mall and had certain stores I had to visit each time. I think after moving out east, the malls just don't have the same feel they did in the midwest. (And some of my favorite malls have changed so much since then.) I don't even know how to explain that, but just take my word for it. Even so, when we were in Chicago and went to Water Tower Place, I was just so unimpressed and wanted to spend as little time in there as possible.

Carnivals: The only reason I go is for my kids. The exciting feel I had over carnivals when I was a kid is replaced by annoyance at the prices, how loud and crowded they get, the fact that I get sick from rides that go any faster than a carousel or ferris wheel, etc. I remember when I'd love to go to the local carnivals or state and county fairs as a kid and ride the craziest rides and eat lots of junk food. I probably romanticized them at the time. Now I just get overwhelmed.

Mini-golf: It was so much fun to do as a kid (I especially loved this one course by Randhurst Mall in Illinois) but now I find it boring. If I can't get my ball into the cup after a certain amount of taps, I just give up. I don't even keep score anymore. A few weeks ago, I just let my husband take the boys mini-golfing at a park while my daughter and I did other stuff.

* * *

As for something I'll always love...well, isn't it obvious by now?!? If not, visit my other blog.